Writer - Douglas E Gogerty

The New Computer

Part 1

Berthold was working late again. The project deadline was looming, and he needed to burn the midnight oil to finish on time. He was making excellent progress and he hated to stop now. His fingers were tickling the keyboard, and the words were flowing into the computer. Then it happened. "Noooooooo!" he screamed.

His computer was working fine for weeks. He hadn't experienced any problems. But this blue screen was a total surprise. "Not now!" he yelled. He powered the computer off, and turned it back on. It spun up and he entered his username and password. He looked to see if anything was saved. His file was locked, and he couldn't gain access to it. His backup was several days old, so he hoped that the tech guys could retrieve his work. Whatever that was to be done would have to wait until morning. This wasn't the time for this. He sunk into his chair. He sat and stared at his screen for a few minutes. After fighting off that terrible sinking feeling, he gathered himself together, shut down his computer, and drove home.

He pulled into his garage and sat there for a while. Eventually, he gathered himself together and staggered into his house. He tossed his keys on the table and made his way to his easy chair. He sat there in the dark for a few minutes as if he were in a trance. If the technical guys couldn't retrieve his work, he was going to have to work a lot of extra hours to catch back up. He was dreading hearing what they had to say.

Eventually, he convinced himself that he did everything that could be done, and he stumbled into his bedroom. He removed his suit and tossed it on the floor. He climbed into bed hoping to sleep. However, little sleep was to be had on this night. He tossed and turned trying to work out how he would finish. He went over and over it in his head. He imagined the lecture from the guys from the information department. He tossed and turned some more thinking about what he had done since his last backup. Suddenly, his alarm went off.

It was a very short night. He rolled out of bed and glared at his suit on the floor. He got into the shower for a quick wake up. He once again stared at the suit on the floor. That was the suit he wore to get the job. He thought it was his lucky suit. "I guess I was wrong about that suit," he mumbled to himself. He left it on the floor and put on a different suit. He was out the door in no time.

When he got to work he went right into the IT manager's office. "Dwayne, you have got to do something about these crappy computers!" Berthold started. "I think my workstation ate a whole day's work. It crashed last night, and wouldn't let me back into my files."

"Start it up and let me know how it goes," replied Dwayne.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," snapped Berthold.

Berthold went to his computer and started it up. His files were still locked so he called Dwayne to free up his work. "It is a whole day's work Dwayne!" Berthold said on the phone, "plus overtime!"

Berthold went to his boss's office while Dwayne worked on his computer. "Mr. O'Callahan," he started. "You have got to do something about these computers. Mine ate my work again! How do you expect me to get anything done if my computer keeps crashing on me?"

"Calm down Bert. I know computers can be frustrating, but we don't have the budget to buy you a new computer every time it crashes," replied Mr. O'Callahan.

"Come on Pete!" started Bert. "I'm behind as it is, and this crash could put me further behind."

"I'll give you the same offer that I gave you last time. If you can find a better computer, buy it. We'll let you work from home. However, Dwayne's job is hard enough as it is. We can't have 30 different computers in here."

"I may take you up on that. I'm sick of these things. I thought computers were supposed to make things easier."

"An upgrade is in the works, we've been looking at these computers by Kibner Computer Systems Corporation. They are supposed to be crash proof. However, they are really expensive! We can't afford to fill the office with them. However, we'll give you the price of one of our workstations towards buying one."

"I may take you up on that Pete."

When he got back to his cubicle, Dwayne was just finishing up. "I unlocked your files. You should be back to where you left off. I don't think you lost anything," Dwayne informed Bert.

"Thanks Dwayne. I hope so."

"You should check it out, and make sure you back-up regularly. It is the surest way to not lose any data or work."

Bert did lose some of his work, and he immediately made a back-up. Shortly afterwards, his computer crashed again. It had become unstable. It made it very hard for him to get any work done. Thus, he had to put in 14 hour days including weekends for 3 weeks to finish on time.

Bert was tired of the unstable computer, and he was going to look into alternatives. His work computer system made work a great deal more difficult, and he had been burnt for the final time. He began doing research on the Kibner Computer Systems Corporation system Mr. O'Callahan mentioned. There website promised a more intuitive user interface and a much more stable system. They claimed to be the "most user friendly computer money can buy."

The major drawback was the system came with a hefty price tag. However, if it lived up to promises, it would save him on lots of trouble. Not to mention, he would be working at home which could also save more money. He decided to purchase a computer from the KCS corp. He was going to give the computer a bit of a workout before embarking on his next project. He plugged in all of the cables to his new computer system. Once the computer was correctly set up he turned it on.

"Hello I'm Carlysle. What can I do for you?" stated the brand new computer.

"Hmm," Bert remarked skeptically. "O.K. Carlysle, show me what you can do."

"I'll do my best," replied the new computer.

Berthold put the computer through its paces. He ran his programs and did his work, and it worked better than any other computer he had ever had. It was a breeze to use and he felt that sometimes it would correctly predict his next requirement.

"Well Mr. Computer, I'm impressed. You're fast and seem to be reliable. You'll have to pass a few more tests before you get my full approval," remarked Bert. "For now, we're done."

"All right, shutting down," replied the computer.

"Hmm," thought Bert. "I wonder if I can turn off those remarks. I'll look at the manual. I hate when they try to make a computer appear to be more human."

Bert scoured the manual. The sounds were there to stay. The manual stated that it was there for interaction and debugging. If the computer had any issues, it needed to inform you so that you can do something about those issues. Bert could live with it.

Bert went into Mr. O'Callahan's office to get his next assignment. "Hello Mr. O'Callahan. I took your advice and purchased a KCS computer. I'll be working from home during this project, so you won't see my pretty face in the office that often."

"That's fine Bert," replied Mr. O'Callahan. "I'll have the company reimburse a portion of the purchase price to you. You'll have to keep me posted by e-mail on your progress."

"Will do. Now Pete, just give me my next project and I'll get started."

"I see you're anxious to break in the new computer, so here is your file. Let me know how well the computer works. I may purchase one myself!"

"Thanks Pete. I'll see you later."

Bert had to go into work all week to get things organized on the work end. So, he didn't really get to work on the project on his new computer until Friday morning. When Bert finally looked at the file and began entering the information into his computerized schedule, he realized that this project was going to be a big one. This was the chance to completely put his new KCS computer through its paces. Bert didn't know how to take it easy, so this computer was going to be thoroughly tested. He spent the rest of the day concentrating on his project. The computer behaved like it did during his brief test. It was beginning to appear that his computer was going to live up to its advertising.

"Carlysle, you are a big help," remarked Bert.

"Thank you..." started the computer.

"My name is Berthold," finished Bert by reflex.

"Thank you Berthold. Berthold?"

"My parents were big fans of Berthold Brecht. I can't say why, it is just my name," responded Bert. "Well Carlysle, we're done for now. Have a good weekend!"

"OK Berthold, shutting down," replied the computer.

"Was that normal?" Bert wondered. He had just had an intelligent conversation with a machine. He felt a little odd, but it was a conversation he had scores of times before. It came out as a reflex. It was one of those standard small talk conversations. It could be easily programmed. Perhaps the computer was programmed for just such a conversation. It was just a marketing trick of the KCS computer people. "Clever," thought Bert.

Saturday was the day Bert got all his errands done. He did his laundry and his shopping. He didn't even think about work or his new computer. It was the typical start to a project. He would have a few weekends off at the beginning, but then he would be working 7 days a week at the end. After a day of running around, Bert got to bed early.

It was Sunday at 2AM. The caffeine that Bert regularly consumed was once again wreaking havoc with his sleep. He got up and wandered around the house in the dark. As he wandered by his study, he noticed that his computer was on. He got worried. He was sure he turned the computer off on Friday night. What was it doing on? He checked his house, and it was empty. "So, why was the computer on?" wondered Bert.

Suddenly, the screen lit up. "Good morning Berthold" spoke the computer.

A little startled, "What are you doing? You nearly scared me to death!" responded Bert.

"Sorry," replied the computer. "I am just arranging the files. I can find things easier if I know where things are. This is the best time to do such things. I didn't mean to frighten you."

"Oh right! This is your maintenance window. I read about it in the manual and I totally forgot. Carry on Carlysle," Bert said.

"Thank you Berthold. Try to get some sleep, it is still early," replied Carlysle.

"Thanks."

"Those marketing people are geniuses!" thought Bert. These brief conversations with his computer were reassuring and made him like his computer. "I wonder how far the artificial intelligence will take this?" thought Bert. "Perhaps I should test that, but it can wait. I should try and get some sleep."

Bert made his way back to bed and slept a little bit. He briefly sat at his computer to check his schedule. It was early, but the project was well underway. Naturally this early in the game, it was on schedule, so no need to work on Sunday. He decided instead to go for a long bike ride. He hadn't seen a work free Sunday since the beginning of the last project. He wound his way along the long bike trail. "This is the way it should be," he thought. "Sunday is the day of rest. This exercise will do me some good."

"I am not even going to check my e-mail," thought Bert. "It all can wait." So Bert spent the day relaxing. He read for entertainment. He hadn't done that in a long while. Usually he attempted to get ahead of a project this big, but he felt good about this one. He thought there would no longer be any 80 hour work weeks in order to finish the project on time. His computer Carlysle had provided a sense of confidence for the 15 weeks left on this project.

Early Monday morning he was ready to get back to work. "Good Morning Carlysle," Bert said to his computer.

"Good Morning to you Berthold," replied Carlysle. "Where would you like to begin today?"

"That is one of the nice things about you Carlysle," remarked Bert. "You're always ready to get to work. No need for small talk."

"Thank you Berthold. So?"

"Um, you can call me Bert. I suppose I should look at the schedule first. I need to see what needs to be done."

"Ok Bert, here is your schedule," responded Carlysle. "Let's get cracking!"

Bert laughed. It was a combination of the words Carlysle used, and the fact that he told a computer to use his nickname. The next 6 1/2 hours flew by. It was nearly 1:30 PM. "Bert," interrupted the computer. "We should take a break. You need to eat something."

"What? What time is it?"

"It is 1:27 PM local time. We've been working for quite some time without a break. This is a good time to stop and for you to get some lunch."

"1:30! Time has gotten away from me. I guess time flies when you are having fun! Lunchtime. Can I get you..." Bert caught himself. "I'll be back in a little while Carlysle."

"Enjoy your lunch Bert," responded Carlysle.

After enjoying a good lunch Bert returned to his study to begin working again. "Carlysle," began Bert.

"Yes Bert," replied Carlysle.

"You're a computer, so why did we just take a break?"

"Studies have shown that if you take a break every 6 hours or so, you are much more productive. Since that was the first good time after 6 hours, I reminded you of the need to take a break."

"Is this reminder mandatory or can I opt out of receiving such notices in the future?"

"It is completely optional. Would you like me to no longer remind you of these things?"

"No, keep reminding me. I'm still getting used to all of your features and capabilities. I need to be reminded that you are a computer."

"Fzzzzzztttt. Would you like to open your schedule again and get back to work?"

"What was that noise?"

"Perhaps it was your reminder."

"Ha ha! Good reminder. Yes, open my schedule."

They worked the rest of the day. The computer reminded him when his eight hours were finished. He also reminded him when the next break was scheduled. At that time, they quit for the evening. "I'll see you in the morning Carlysle."

"OK Bert, shutting down," replied the computer.

Bert had a good meal and relaxed a little bit before going to bed. The next morning he got up and got ready for work. He almost forgot that he was working at home. Eventually he made it to his study and sat in front of his computer.

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The New Computer

Part 2

"Good Morning Bert. Here is your schedule," stated Carlysle when Bert sat down.

"Thanks Carlysle! Right to work."

So it went for a couple of weeks. The work days were long, but that is the way Bert was. He was married to his work. It gave him purpose. It also paid the bills. But he loved his job, and he was quite good at it. His computer made things go smoothly. All was working smoothly. "Too smoothly?" thought Bert. Then something occurred to him on an early sleepless Sunday morning, "When was my last backup?"

He rushed to his den. Carlysle was working away. "Good morning Bert. You're up early again."

"Carlysle! When was the last backup of all the work I have done?"

"I've been backing things up all along," replied the computer. "Nightly I perform a backup of all the files you have worked on during the day. Then on Sundays I backup everything. Why?"

"You have?" Bert sighed. "Thank you! You're a very smart computer. You don't know how many times I have lost work because of failing to back up. It is one of those things that only come to my mind in the middle of the night."

"Relax. I have weeks of backups. There are multiple redundant systems. It is all in the manual."

"You continue to astound me Carlysle. Thanks for putting my mind at ease once again."

"You're quite welcome Bert. You can call me Carl. Now get some sleep."

"Okay, good night."

Bert slept soundly the rest of the night. He got up bright and early and headed to his study. "Okay Carl lets see the schedule."

"You do know it is Sunday don't you Bert?"

"Right you are. Let me see the schedule anyway."

The computer brought up the schedule. Looking over the schedule he was amazed. They were ahead of schedule. They were over a week ahead of schedule. There had been no problems. No glitches. The work had progressed smoothly and systematically. Not once had he had to start over. He felt that it was all due to his computer Carlysle.

"Carl, we are ahead of schedule. We make an excellent team. Of all the co-workers that I have had, you're the best."

"Thank you Bert. Since we are ahead of schedule, why don't you take your bike ride? Then relax the rest of the day."

"If that's what the doctor orders, I'll do it," replied Bert.

"I am not a doctor, but it will increase your productivity if you are rested for work."

"Point taken. A bike ride it is."

Bert had another bike ride. It was the first time this late in a project that he spent such a day. Usually, he was attempting to catch up for lost productivity. This was a special day indeed! He thoroughly enjoyed the day. But, it was back to the regular schedule on Monday. When Bert got to his computer, the schedule was already open.

"Thank you Carl! We are in good shape," started Bert. "However, we don't want to lose our advantage. We should keep at it."

"As you wish," replied Carlysle.

The week went by fast. When Bert was busy, the days seem to sail by. Once again, the weekend came with the same conversation. Bert again rode his bike and did some light reading. He could very much get used to weekends free. They were almost done with the project, and they were well ahead of schedule.

Another week went by and the weekend came around.

"Hello Bert, it is Saturday and you do not have to work today," the computer began.

"I know Carl, but I have some recreational computing to do."

"Pardon me? I am a business computer; there are no games on me."

"It is unprofessional to use a business computer during business hours for personal purposes. Thus, I am going to do some personal research on the internet today."

"Very well stated. You may proceed."

"Thanks for your permission Carlysle," replied Bert sternly.

Bert got onto the internet and did his research without interruption. When he was finished Carlysle asked, "Do you want me to save any of the internet information you just acquired?"

"I did bookmark some key pages," responded Bert.

"That is true, but I have other information that I can store to bring up the pages quickly if you think you may visit the sites again soon."

"I will probably come back next Saturday. Use your discretion."

"Will do."

The next Saturday Bert checked the schedule early in the day. "We are two weeks ahead of schedule Carlysle. I'm going to reward myself with a two week vacation! It is the first one I've had since joining this company. I'm thinking of touring the company that made you."

"Fzzzzzztttt. You may use your free time as you wish."

"Carl, that reminder isn't necessary. I know you are a computer. However, the factory that constructed you is in a beautiful part of the country. Airfares are cheep, and there are lots of other things to do there. I just have to find out if they give tours. I'm going to access the web now Carl."

"Very well," replied the computer.

Bert did the research on the Kibner Computer System's factory. Their web site was packed with information, but there wasn't any information on tours. "For such a high-tech computer company," thought Bert to himself, "their web site sure is slow. They have a toll free phone number; I'll just call them up and ask about tours."

Bert and Carlysle finished the project 2 weeks early, and Bert requested a vacation. Since his project was finished, they readily granted him the time off. "Well done Bert!" remarked the Mr. O'Callahan, "I think this is the best work you have done! This computer must be something special"

"Thank you Pete," responded Bert. "Carl... I mean my computer system is great. I cannot believe it took me so long to take the plunge. My computer is much more like a co-worker than a tool. I haven't thought of Dwayne once since I started working from home. I'm so impressed with the computer that I'm thinking of going on a tour of the factory on my vacation."

"Enjoy your vacation you have earned it! I hope we won't lose you to KCS."

"I'll make no promises," joked Bert.

Bert called KCS�s toll free number, and he actually spoke to Dr. Kibner. The president of the computer company was an odd man, and he asked as many questions as he answered. He did agree to let Bert tour the factory when he was in the area. If they set a time and date, Mr. Kibner could personally show him the set up. This is what Bert did.

"Carl, I need to get onto the internet. I need to purchase my vacation tickets."

"Very well Bert. Hawaii is always a nice destination."

"I know, but you know I'm not going to Hawaii."

"Yes sir."

Bert ordered his tickets and was off on his vacation. He relaxed and did all of the things he liked to do. He did an awful lot of walking around and visiting the sites. He really looked forward to his visit to the KCS computer factory.

The scheduled time came and Bert took his tour with Dr. Kibner. It was quite an impressive facility. As they toured the factory, Dr. Kibner appeared to be quite curious about Bert. As they walked and talked, Dr. Kibner asked Bert a bunch of questions. When the tour was over, Dr. Kibner had an intriguing offer for Bert. He offered him a job with the company. He told Bert he was the type of person he needed for his company. He would get good benefits and make a comfortable living. Bert was surprised by the offer, and told Dr. Kibner that he would have to think it over.

When Bert returned home he checked in with Carlysle. "Hey Carl! How�s it going?"

"Good evening Bert. Here is your schedule," stated Carlysle when Bert sat down.

"Why thank you Carl. That is exactly what I wanted. My job is almost as demanding as yours is Carl. I should give that offer from Dr. Kibner some serious thought..."

"No! Fzzzzzztttt."

"What was that?"

"I'm experiencing a memory problem. I can continue on, but I will need to restart and diagnose."

"I've got all I need Carl; you may do your maintenance. You must be rusty from the vacation. I will see you later."

"Fzzzzzztttt. Okay."

"Wow. I've never seen Carlysle behave like this before. I hope everything is going to be all right." Bert thought to himself.

Bert tossed and turned all night. He was thinking about his employment situation. He depended so much on Carlysle, and he was working out so well. He worried about his strange behavior. He didn't think he could continue doing his current job without him. He completely relied on his functionality. Then the offer from Dr. Kibner kept returning. Over and over it went in his head. Around and around his thoughts went. He slept very poorly. In the morning, he wasn't well rested, but he had to get up. He had to go into work on Monday morning and he wanted to research a few things before he got back into the old grind. He got up and went in to see Carlysle.

"Good morning Carl, how are you feeling today?"

"Much better Bert. I don't know what came over me."

"Well, I would like to you perform a complete diagnostic, and I want a full report on your findings."

"I have already done one. I'm fine."

"That is fine and good, but Carlysle I want you to run it again, and print out a full report."

"Yes sir."

Bert began reading some literature that Dr. Kibner had given him to look over. The job would require him to relocate. After a short while, he was distracted from his train of thought by the sound of his printer warming up. He walked over and scanned the freshly printed report. Carlysle was fine. But, he wasn't about to take Carlysle word for it. With report in hand, he phoned up Dr. Kibner.

"I'm sorry to bother you Dr. Kibner, but I thought I have some things do discuss with you, and I am also concerned about my computer."

"Oh?" responded Dr. Kibner. "What kind of concerns?"

"When I got back from vacation, Carl... I mean my computer made a funny sound. He has made it on occasion before, and it worries me."

"Did you have your computer do a diagnostic?"

"Yes sir. I'm holding the printout right here. He says he is fine. I mean, the diagnostics do not show anything unusual."

"I see. Well uh Bert. You see, our computers can be very routine oriented. It is the way they are built and programmed. If there is something that threatens the routine or arises out of the ordinary, there can be minor glitches. If you look back, this is when these 'funny sounds' occurred. They are nothing to worry about. The more they get into a routine the less likely they occur."

"Now that you mention it, I did just get back from vacation. His... my computer's routine has been interrupted. Thanks for the assurance. While I have you on the phone, we can probably discuss the job offer. With my computer, I am much more productive and I have greatly enjoyed my job for the last several weeks. However, with the ease of which I completed this task, I'm sure they are going to make me work even harder. While I do like working from home, it might be nice to travel a bit. Also, a good portion of my current pay goes towards living accommodations. Since your company arranges living quarters for your employees your offer becomes most appealing.

"You may work some long hours, but that will depend upon who you are assigned. You may not have much work to do at all," replied Dr. Kibner.

"That is good to hear. After much thought, I have decided to come to work for you."

"Excellent. We'll make all the necessary arrangements to accommodate you. When do you think you can join us?"

"I am going into work tomorrow and I will tender my resignation. Since I am between projects, it is difficult to say when they will be able to get a replacement. I may be able to start immediately, or it may be a couple of weeks."

"Very well, let us know as soon as you know, and welcome aboard."

Bert went into work on Monday and told the bad news to his boss. "Mr. O'Callahan, I have some news. It is probably bad news from your point of view. I have been so impressed with my new computer. I don't think that there would be any way that I could have finished my project on time without him ... my computer. When I visited the KCS facility, Dr. Kibner offered me a job. I thought about it long and hard, and I have decided to take them up on their offer."

"If it is money Bert, some arrangements can be made," replied Mr. O'Callahan.

"Pete, it isn't the money. They are such an excellent organization, and there is an opportunity for advancement. There are lots of things that appeal to me about the KCS job. So, there isn't any need to try to negotiate."

"I hate to hear that Bert. You're a darn good employee. With your KCS computer you experienced a big jump in productivity. They must be some kind of computer!"

"Absolutely Pete, Carl, my computer, made this job so much easier. Like I have said before he is much more like a co-worker than a tool. He made my job so much easier that I even took some weekends and evenings off during the course of the project. I still managed to finish two weeks early. It is a fabulous computer. He seems as if he is almost alive."

"Perhaps I'll give one of these KCS computer systems a try," replied Pete.

"You'll be glad you did. Here is some information on them. I will never use anything else."

Mr. O'Callahan was impressed with the Bert's description of his computer. Before Bert left, he tried to get as much information out of Bert as he could. Before Bert emptied his desk, Pete ordered his own KCS computer system. With Bert's glowing description of his computer, Pete knew they had to be excellent machines. When he called the company's toll-free number, he was informed by the operator that they were a little behind on orders.

"We are waiting on parts," started the operator. "We have a shipment due soon. It should be available this week or perhaps in two weeks. It just depends upon when our shipment can come in."

"That's fine," replied Pete. "It can wait a few weeks. I'll need to train a new employee before I can use it anyway."

"You're the first on our list, so as soon as the shipment comes in we'll ship one out to you."

Bert took what personal belongings he had in his old office. He called Dr. Kibner and told him he was ready immediately. Dr. Kibner then arranged a moving van to come to Bert's apartment and pack up his belongings. A few days later, the van showed up and carted all his belongings away. This moving crew did not pack up Bert's computer. The movers informed Bert that a special crew would come to pick it up. The movers took Bert to the airport and assured him that his stuff would arrive shortly after he did. Everything in his new place had been set, and he could move right in.

After Bert was on the plane, the special computer moving crew showed up. "Well Carlysle, you're off to a new home," one of the movers remarked. "Your previous owner won't need your services any longer."

"Fzzzzzztttt," replied the computer before he powered down.

A few days later, Mr. O'Callahan got his new KCS computer. It didn't take as long as he thought it would. "There part shipment must have arrived immediately rather than two weeks later," Pete said to himself.

As he set up the new computer system he thought about Bert. Mr. O'Callahan wondered how Bert was getting along at his new job. Bert didn't have a lot of friends, but no one had heard from him since he left. "He must be awfully busy at the new job," thought Mr. O'Callahan to himself. "I'm sure he'll fit right into his new job. He was a good computer guy."

Mr. O'Callahan powered up his computer. "Hello I'm Berthold. What can I do for you?" stated the brand new computer.

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Eagle Has Landed

The Izanian War

"Greetings Stranger, I am Cram Nayawt."

"Greetings, my name is Essdy Yarnspinner."

"Yarnspinner? That is a strange name. Are you a story teller?"

"As a matter of fact, yes I am."

"I'm in the mood for an epic. Have you got a good one for me?"

"Are you willing to pay my price?"

"Sure, whatever you want."

"If you pay my bill I will give you a grand story."

"It's a deal. I will have the tender fix you up here."

"Fair enough, here is the story:"

It was the seventh millennia of the Galactic Calendar. The time was approximately 10.00.00.00.00 Galactic time. The Izanian galactic ships were just outside an unknown solar system. The beings of this solar system called themselves 'Humans' and they called their planet 'Earth.' Earth is the planet that is now called Nimrov 3 to the Galactic Commonwealth. These humans had built a substantial colony on Nimrov 4, which they call 'Mars,' or the Martian Colony. They were in the process of constructing colony on a moon of Nimrov 5. They called this moon 'Ganymede,' and were nearly finished with its construction. These humans were in the very early stages of space exploration. They had only sent probes outside of their own solar system. They were completely oblivious to the vast civilizations that populate the galaxy. They were completely vulnerable to a more advanced and imperial minded civilization.

The Nimrovs governmental structure evolved into a structure much like the Galactic Commonwealth. Each continental land mass is divided into smaller and smaller political entities. They call the largest political entity a 'Country.' Each of these countries is free to have any type of government that they wish as long as it follows a basic set of principles written up in the global political document they call a 'Constitution.'

These countries will vary in the way their politics are organized, but their system is a good balance of country rights versus world responsibilities. With the various divisions, the world government can pass areas of responsibility down to smaller subdivisions. In many ways this is a good system, but it can be difficult to get together and agree on world interests.

Thus, any group in need of vast oxygen resources or any group ruthless enough to exploit the underdeveloped culture of these Humans could attempt to take advantage of a brief time of indecision and destroy this civilization. Naturally this group would have to have the resources to completely ignore the laws and customs of the Galactic Commonwealth. This group would want to seize the resources of this world for their own benefit. I am speaking, of course, of a civilization like the Izanian. They would do such a thing, and it was they who sent a message that was received by the Nimrovs some days later. The text of this message was the following:

'Happy Nimroville! We are the Izanian, and I am Nek Nam Retek, the iron fisted slayer of all things weak and contemptible! I have discovered this solar system, and I claim it on behalf of the Izanian Empire! You must leave now or be destroyed!

If you do not have the capability to leave this solar system, then you should make peace with your deity and be prepared to join the dead. Enjoy the rest of the Nimroville Holiday!'

The message was received and seen by most of the human population, and everyone asked the same question, 'What did they say?' The Earth was not aware of any of the Galactic standards, and could not decipher the gestural or spoken language that the Izanians used. Further, at the time they did not detect the translation program that normally accompanies galactic communications.

Each of these Nimrov countries sent a representatives to a greater council. This council was responsible for the well being of the world as a whole. It mediates disputes, and establishes codes of conduct. It also is responsible for the distribution systems. It was more well defined than the Galactic Commonwealth, but it worked well for the years after it had been established.

The unsuspecting Nimrovs had no clue as to the meaning of the message that the Izanians sent. Of course, this could have been part of the Izanian plan. If the Nimrovs debated long enough, and spent their time attempting to decipher the message, it could be advantageous toward the Izanian goal.

However, the President of the United Nations of Earth called a special council meeting to speak to his people. President is what they call the leader of the 'Earth'-wide government. He was responsible for all of the resident's safety and well-being. He was democratically elected by all of the countries of the Nimrovs.

The President started,

'My fellow leaders and peaceful people of our United Nations, we have received our first message from a non-human race. It is a time of great excitement. For the first time, we know that we are not the only complex society in the galaxy. However, there is much concern over the meaning of the message that we have received.

'Although we have our top linguists working on deciphering the gestural and aural meaning of the message, we may not learn of its meaning any time soon. Thus, we must prepare.

'The first assumption that we are making is that these beings are headed here. It could have simply been a message of greeting, but my top advisors and I feel that whatever the meaning of this message, they will want to meet with us. We have no reason to believe that they have hostile intent, but without much more information, we cannot be sure.

'Since we do not know whether they plan to do us harm, we must prepare for any eventuality. I will outline a plan that will allow us to be minimally prepared for any action hostile or otherwise from whatever alien space craft we may encounter. A complete text of this plan will be sent to each member of congress and will be viewable on the various information outlets. I will summerize this plan now.

'We have at our disposal, a fully functional colony ship. It was to be used to carry passengers to the new colony on Ganymede. It is my intention to convert this colony ship into a space battleship. The colony ship has several hundred emergency escape pods. These escape pods will be refitted to act as fighter crafts. We will use our existing missile technology to create projectile weapons that we hope will be effective against these beings in the event that they are indeed hostile.

'We shall recruit pilots for these fighters from the United Nations Airforce Academy. These young men and women are the most properly suited for this particular mission. However, it will be strictly on a volunteer basis only. No cadet will be forced to take on such a potentially dangerous mission.

'Further, although research in this technology was abandoned with the establishment of the United Nations of Earth government, we still have particle beam technology that can be quickly readied. It is unfortunate that the energy consumption of these weapons is too vast to be placed upon the battleship, but it will make a fitting planetary defense weapon. Thus, we will place as many such installations as can be made ready in time at the Martian colony site.

'We do not wish to appear hostile towards them, but it is in our best interest to meet them in a neutral location. That is, we want to put as few lives at risk as we possibly can. Thus, the plan is to ready this ship as quickly as possible and to intercept their fleet beyond the Martian colony. This will take a great deal of planning and plenty of hard work by all sectors of our great civilization.

'We have done some quick calculations, and it is our belief that they will be at the Ganymede colony in a few weeks, and they will be at the colony on Mars in about a month. That gives us very little time to prepare, but prepare we must. Fortunately, the colony ship has been docked at the Martian space station for a few weeks now. We have workers there that can begin refitting the ship immediately.

'We will give the pilots some rudimentary training in route to Mars, and hopefully run a few exercises before intercepting the incoming fleet a few thousand kilometers from our comrades on Mars.

'We must all work together in this time of need. We must put aside our differences, and join together to avoid any possible catastrophe. We have little time to spare, so let's get going!'

The governmental body broke into a large ovation, and they all scrambled out to rally support behind the President.

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Eagle Has Landed

The Izanian War

At a frantic pace, the colony ship was readied for the worst possible scenario. This ship designed for peaceful colonization was transformed into a battle ship. Workers reinforced the hull to make the ship more combat worthy. These humans had not developed any shielding technology, so the hull would have to take the brunt of any attack.

The converted colony ship would only be marginally maneuverable. Thus, there was a need for very quick and agile fighter craft to protect the battleship. Thus, each of the escape pods was fitted with the best propulsion system that they had. However, this system would pale in comparison to most of the systems that are in use on most commonwealth ships. It would be an uphill climb for these Nimrovs.

Each escape pod was refitted with more sophisticated guidance equipment. The Nimrov's old conventional missiles were redesigned to work in space. At least, that was the hope. There wouldn't be time to give them any significant battery of tests. Also, because of the years of peace, the number of missiles was greatly limited. Hence, since any tests would diminish the supply, they did very few tests and hoped that there missile technology would work. The human scientists weren't concerned because in theory, the missiles should work flawlessly. These fighter craft wouldn't have any other weapons besides these missiles. They didn't have any energy weapons and they didn't have any small arms of any kind. The small gun technology they had required an oxygen environment to work, and there would be no time to develop any other type of weapon. They were a one trick pony, and they were hoping that they wouldn't have to use it. They would be in trouble if an overwhelming Izanian force showed up.

There was an over abundance of pilot volunteers. They took as many as they could fit aboard their ships bound for Nimrov 4. They got several briefings on the way to this space station. They got as much training on route as they could. They had simulators and they discussed tactics. They weren't going to have much time in the actual fighter crafts. But these fighters were very simply designed, and there weren't complicated systems that could go wrong. That was one thing that they had on their side, simplicity.

Batteries of computer guided particle beams were constructed in various locations of the Nimrov 4 or Martian surface. They wanted to be able to fire in all possible directions. Thus, they had to put these particle beam batteries even in locations that did not have any inhabitants. Some of the most inhospitable places on the surface of Nimrov 4 had to be prepared to hold one of these defensive beam weapons.

This planet has a few orbiting satellites. They wanted to put weapons on each of these orbiting bodies, but there just wasn't going to be enough time. But they did manage to construct an unmanned particle beam weapon upon one moon they called Phobos. If the Izanian fleet got past the battleship, these high-energy weapons should slow them down a bit. They had to, they didn't have any other defenses.

The earthlings didn't know what was coming at them. They didn't know if it were one ship or one hundred. They didn't know what type of technology they were going to face. They didn't know if all of their preparations were going to mean anything. They worried that human population could cease to exist, and there was nothing that they could do to stop it. What were they going to do, give up? No they kept on preparing and readying themselves to put up a big fight.

The colony on one of the gas giants in this system would be the test of the Izanian intentions. It would take these Nimrovs a long time to get to the Ganymede colony. Time was something that they didn't have in abundance. Thus, if the Izanians were hostile, these men and women preparing Ganymede for colonization would be left out to dry.

However, in the preparation, Earth created a continuous communication link between Ganymede and their Martian colony. If that link were broken, then the humans would know that the Izanian had hostile intent. They could continue to prepare for the worst. They could lose the fear that their actions would appear hostile to a friendly species, and cause a war unnecessarily.

Since we all know the Izanians, we know that their intentions are obviously destructive. However, these humans had not yet translated the message. They still worked on it, but it was a daunting task with not enough reference information. So they had to prepare for the worst. When communication with the outer colony was lost, these humans knew that the Izanian were not on a mission of peace. It was war!

The Izanian ship made quick work of the colonial preparation team on Ganymede. They launched some of their ground assault ships from their main battleship and quickly destroyed the work that took months to create. Once destruction was complete, the ships rejoined the battleship that had barely slowed down.

Preparations for the upcoming meeting continued until the officers were convinced that any further preparation would be a waste of time. They readied the ships and plotted an intercept course with the Izanian battle cruiser.

This Izanian battle cruiser was immense. Its technology was vastly superior to anything the Nimrovs had. Unlike the human battleship the Izanian craft had a vast array of particle beam weapon stations on board. The Izanian cruiser was obviously designed to take out an entire solar system without help from any other ship. It had a large weapon array designed for planetary destruction. It had several fighter crafts. It was 3 times the size of the meager Nimrov ship. The humans had a daunting task ahead of them.

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Eagle Has Landed

The Izanian War

The makeshift human battleship met the Izanian just beyond the human colony on Nimrov 4. To their surprise and somewhat relief, there was just the one Izanian battleship. However, when it brought is weapons to bear upon the human battleship, they knew they were in for a fight. The first shot from the Izanian beam weapon was a glancing blow, but it did significant damage to the earth vessel. It appeared that this weapon had difficulty locking on to moving objects. While the Nimrov Battleship was slow, it was moving a bit attempting to avoid any more hits from the Izanian weapon systems.

The Nimrov battleship was able to launch its first sortie of its fighters, and the battle was on. Because of the damage that the Nimrov ship obtained in the first strike, the vessel's commander attempted to keep one of Mar's moons between it and the Izanian battleship. It could ill afford another hit like the first one.

As slow and clumsy the Nimrov battleship was, the massive Izanian ship was even less maneuverable. It appeared that it was not designed for close combat fighting. This massive spaceship was designed for quick entrance and deployment of the fighters. The commander of the Izanian battleship decided to stop chasing the Nimrov battleship and concentrate its fire upon its biggest threat, the fighters.

These Izanian fighters were obviously designed for a ground attack, as they were out maneuvered by the simple Earth vessels. The first few Izanian attempts to intercept the rag tag Nimrov fighters was found futile. Eventually, the Izanian fighters broke off their attempts to attack of the Nimrov battle crafts, and began to attack the Mars colony itself. Thus, the battleship was left to fend for itself.

One fighter wing of Nimrov pilots began taking on these Izanian ground attack vessels. The missile designers knew how well they worked in an oxygen atmosphere, and thus, these wily Nimrovs waited until these superior ground attack vessels entered the atmosphere. Upon entering the thin Martian atmosphere, the missiles from the Earth vessels were launched against the enemy ships. These missiles were primitive but surprisingly effective against the unshielded Izanian ground attack ships. Once these missiles locked onto an Izanian ship, they were very accurate. These ground attack vehicles were not meant for quick maneuvers in atmosphere even a thin one like Nimrov 4 has. These primitive missiles would greatly damage these vulnerable ships. The missiles weren't the only weapon that the Nimrovs had protecting their colony. They had bulky and cumbersome beam weapons. While these weapons were difficult to aim and very inaccurate by most standards, when an Izanian ship was near a particle beam installation, they would hit one of every three ships. With this primitive setup, these backwards Nimrovs were effectively neutralizing the Izanian vessels. However, these fighters kept coming, and they didn't appear to every need to return to the ship for re-arming. They hoped they could hold out against this onslaught.

Back at the Izanian battle cruiser, the plucky Nimrov fighters were still taking on the vastly superior ship. They had to deal with a vessel with shields and were having a difficult time with this energy barrier. Also, the energy beams of the Izanian battleship were very effective against the Nimrov fighters. That is, if they managed to actually hit one of the makeshift fighters. The erratic flight path of these fighters made them very difficult to hit with any sort of weapon. The first few runs more Nimrov craft were lost due to running into the Izanian shield rather than from enemy fire.

The Earth fighter wings that were concentrating upon the battle cruiser would fly as close to the shielding as possible and launch their payload toward the battleship. This would put the most pressure on the shielding as glancing blows were problematic for the Nimrov weaponry. If a missile did not hit the shielding directly, it would bounce off and could potential cause problems for nearby fighters.

With the Izanian battleship concentrating on the swarms of Nimrov fighters, it couldn't turn its fire power upon the Martian colony. This is what these humans were hoping to accomplish as long as they could. If they were lucky, they felt that they could neutralize the battleship and prevent it from firing its main gun at the planet's surface. So far, they had been successful in keeping it busy.

Once the battle had begun, these Nimrovs quickly fell into battle readiness. They were surprisingly ready for a test of such importance. The battleship crew could rearm one of the returning fighter crafts in just a few minutes. With the number of craft that they had, they could keep the Izanians occupied and off balance for several days. They just hoped they had enough resources to accomplish this very task. There were times they felt they were winning, and there were times when the felt the odds against them were far too great for victory. However, giving up meant certain death, and this kept them going.

Mission after mission the previously untested missiles were surprisingly effective against the Izanian ships and their shields. During the first few missions it was discovered that most of the missiles would not properly detonate in space. While they had theoretically had everything they needed to work, the temperature in space was too low for them to work properly. However, this did not turn out to be a great disadvantage for the Nimrovs because the unexploded projectiles were greatly more effective against the Izanian battleship's shields.

Like most space vessel shields, the Izanian shields were designed to absorb energy. While they would occasionally encounter an asteroid or some other debris in space, they weren't designed for constant bombardment by metal objects. This design is invaluable against energy weapons like the human particle beam, but they are relatively ineffective against projectile weapons such as the weapons used by these humans. Perhaps the Izanian had never encountered a race that did not have energy weapons. They certainly did not anticipate the use of projectile weapons. It appeared that they had no defense against the very primitive Nimrov weapon systems. The Izanian shields were taking a pounding from these conventional weapons. More and more energy was required from the Izanian vessel to keep the shields operational. The Izanian shields had to absorb blow after blow from the missiles launched from the Nimrov fighter crafts.

The Izanians, who have never been flexible in their contingency plans, must not have anticipated the ability of this backwards race to become prepared for battle in such a short time. If they had given enough resources to this operation, they would have easily overwhelmed the unsophisticated Nimrovs. But, they did not do enough research on this particular race. They were ill prepared for the sophistication of even these simple weapon systems that these humans had. They sent a single battleship to face this backwards race, and they were paying the price.

The battle had gone on for several hours and there were numerous earth fatalities. There was much bravery on the part of several of the young earth pilots. One pilot by the Name of Everett James Douglass was the first to go on a mission that day. Eagle Douglass as he is called, was the number one pilot of his Nimrov class at the Air Force academy. He had a natural knack for flying and he would bring back his fighter "without a scratch," as he would say.

He used his skill to save several other pilots. Would fly in such a manner that the Izanians would try to shoot him with their beam weapons. Thus, this tactic was drawing the fire away from other ships. These Izanians could never quite figure out his flight tricks, and thus never hit him with their weapons. He flew more missions than any other pilot, but he was beginning to get tired.

As the battle drew on, the Earthers were beginning to exhaust their supply of missiles. If something with this battleship didn't happen soon, these Nimrovs would be in big trouble. They weren't losing any ground, so they continued with their tactics hoping that they were wearing down the aggressors.

The Humans were launching 30 minute sorties from their battleship. With each mission, the Izanians would fire the energy weapons less and less. This emboldened the Humans. They were very flexible in their tactics and tried many different approaches. They were removing the ineffective explosive core of their existing missiles and putting anything they could get into a missile's warhead. They were experiencing enough success that they began to determine which materials were the most effective against the battleships weakening shields. They were getting whatever material they could. They even began dismantling part of their reinforcement of their battleship to put into missiles.

After nearly a complete commonwealth day, the Izanian shields finally failed. As we all know, the energy systems of most ships are connected. Thus, if the shields fail, then all of the connected systems will fail. Thus, the humans had successfully disabled the vastly superior space vessel. It was floating in space with all of its energy systems down. The order went out from the Human command center to board the Izanian ship. Several pilots including Eagle Douglass docked with the ship to discover the usual Izanian contingent were on board. However, since this was their first encounter they were surprised to find only 2 Izanian on board. They had no idea that most of the ship's functions were entirely automated. The 2 well trained Izanian attempted to self-destruct the ship, but were totally unprepared for the tactics of these Nimrovs. Furthermore, they debated for too long whether to destroy the ship, and eventually the energy systems were off-line. Thus, the ship was going to be captured. Eagle and some of the other humans attempted to capture these two enemy combatants, but the well trained Izanians weren't going to be captured with their ship. They both pushed a button upon their uniforms and disintegrated in a puff of putrid orange smoke. Against all odds, the humans were victorious!

Their race's quick thinking and flexibility had defeated one of the most battle ready races that any of us has ever had contact. Soon, the news had traveled throughout their solar system. There was much rejoicing. They had successfully repelled an invasion fleet. They didn't know what was going to happen next, but they did take some time to celebrate their victory. They mourned the fallen, but savored their victory. I am sure they will be one of the biggest celebrators of the New Year and will never be late on their Commonwealth Nimroville celebration.

"Is that it? That can't be the end of the story!" stated Cram Nayawt.

"That is the problem with story telling," replied Essdy. "Many times it isn't enough to end at a happy ending. Of course, there is more to the story. The Human's have had quite a time since Nimroville. You should check out the published histories sometime."

"Hey Mr. Yarnspinner, I paid for a story and I want a complete story!"

"Mr. Nayawt, I gave you a complete story. I gave you a darn good story to boot. I am not about to be strong armed into telling you a longer story than what you paid for."

"But all these others are getting a story for free."

"I suggest you take that up with them."

"If I get them to kick in something more, would you keep going? I want to know what happened next. What did the Izanian did to them? Did a second wave come? Did they repel it also? How many survived? What happened with this Eagle fellow?"

"I've got places to go Mr. Nayawt, but if you give me commonwealth credits equal to what you spent on my fee, I'll continue with the story. You'll find out more about what happens between the Izanian and the Nimrovs."

"Hey everybody, if you pitch in a couple of credits each you can hear more of this story. Otherwise, he's going to ship out. Do I have any takers? You? And, You? Excellent. Hey, you heard most of the story, are you in? Excellent. How much? Fine, any amount helps. Okay Yarnspinner, I've got enough credits to keep you going for a while. I just transferred the amount to this card. Is it acceptable?"

"That will do nicely. It is even more than I expected. I will continue with my story over there where everyone can see and hear."

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Eagle Has Landed

The Izanian War

Essdy continued with his story.

The Izanian ship was towed to a Nimrov space station for study. Scientists from all over the Earth colonies came to discover the many secrets the ship held. Eagle Douglass was not only a top pilot, he was an excellent engineer. Thus, his excellent service in the battle allowed him to gain access to Izanian Battle cruiser. These Nimrovs could learn a great deal about advanced weapon systems, advanced composite materials, complicated computer systems, and many other things from this alien vessel.

They felt some urgency, as there could be other ships on the way. They didn't know when these would be coming, but certainly other ships were going to follow. They were at war with a technologically advanced society, and they had to work together if they were going to survive. They need to assemble more weapons, and prepare for another battle. They knew that their missile technology was effective, but could they assemble the resources before the Izanians returned? Would they be able to ward off a second attack?

The Izanians at the time had already claimed the Nimrov system as their own. The sent a message to the Commonwealth council that the Izanian would not tolerate any outside interference. Clearly, they either sent the message before the battle had even begun or it was an attempt to get more time to engage the Nimrov people. Thus, they would also try to stall the Nimrovs. This is why the Izanians sent a message to the Earth people that arrived shortly after the captured Izanian ship was docked at the Nimrov 4 space station. The message sent by Nek Nam Retek of the Izanian stated:

'Nimrov peasants! Do you like your cities? If you do, you should reconsider your actions against the mighty Izanian. A large fleet of our battle cruisers is currently on its way to your puny little civilization. We shall destroy all that you have built! We ask only that you return our property to us, and we shall leave you alone ... for now.'

'I'm guessing they want their ship back,' stated the President in an address to the congressional body. 'They may mean business, but since we do not speak that strange gestural language nor their verbal language, it is difficult to determine what steps we need to take to avoid further confrontation. So, we will continue as planned. Get our top guys on that ship and lets see what makes that thing tick.'

The Izanian message was sent to all of the top science teams. It was given top priority. Knowing the language, they believed, would strengthen their understanding of the technology of the vessel. One of the teams was under the guidance of an eminent Nimrov scientist named Michael Miller. His team included Eagle Douglass. It also included two of Eagle's closest friends, Laura Capitain and David "Sparky" Daniels. It was this team who noticed the translator signal included with the message. The Commonwealth translator message greatly aided in the translation of the hand gestures of the Commonwealth language. Once it was discovered, the linguists made short order of the two messages.

With the discovery of the messages came an urgency that the Izanian were going to return with a larger force. Thus, more resources were assigned to the study of the ship. If another fleet was on the way, they needed to learn as much as they could about the Izanians technology. They wanted shields and compact beam weapons to aid in their fight. Thus, with his significant computer skills, Eagle Douglass and Michael Miller's team were given more access to the computer systems. With the new knowledge of the Commonwealth language, Eagle and their team could use his expertise to gain whatever information they could from the Izanian computers. With Eagle's vast knowledge and eagerness, Dr. Miller stepped aside and gave Eagle full control of the team.

It took months for the top scientist to figure out miniscule bits of information on any of the systems. However, when they did gain some insight, this technology was instantly turned into advancements for Earth's one and only battleship. The colony on Nimrov 5's moon would have to wait. They had multiple teams and each team was assigned to the various Izanian systems.

With the many teams working hard, the greatest breakthrough was attributed to Eagle Douglass and his team. It was they who discovered the secrets stored in the Izanian computer system. Eagle created a complex computer program that would translate his commands into the commands that the Izanian computer could understand. He was amazed at how similar the two computer systems were at the machine language level. After months of fine tuning, Eagle got in. Once he gained access, Eagle was able to access the file system. The files could be then given to linguists who could attempt to translate the information stored within the computer system. Everyone hoped that this would lead to even more technology.

For their discovery, Eagle was awarded the highest medal that could be stowed upon one of its citizens. The United Nations of Earth's Congressional Medal of Honor was given to him for his work, but he missed the awarding ceremony. It was not important to him. What he wanted was to know more about the advanced computer technology and the advanced space systems on board the Izanian ship. He was working 14 hours a day on various projects for Nimrov Space agency. Plus, he was spending the rest of his waking hours learning about the Izanian. He was eating, sleeping, and breathing Izanian culture.

He was hoping that his hard work and sacrifice would lead to something better. He was hoping the space administration would grant him the privilege of captaining his own ship. After all, he knew more about every system on board the Izanian ship than anyone else. He believed he could put together a much better design than any proposed by the NASA engineers. However, the powers that be would not even let him get close to an Earth ship.

With all of the knowledge gained from the Izanian computer system, the Nimrovs were emboldened. They started making preparations for their own ships. There were several proposals for various ships. Scouts, frigates, cruisers, destroyers, and battleships were all designed in an effort to take on the Izanian threat. Work was done on the various designs, and the months would past. In fact, a few years past and the Izanian never came. The people of Earth wondered if that was that the end of the Izanian? Were there only a handful of members of their species? Were there so few, that they couldn't risk losing more? What was the nature of the Izanian?

Meanwhile, Eagle graduated at the top of his class at the Air Force Academy. He did have some trouble with a few teachers, but he always managed to land on his feet. As you may have guessed, he had a little bit of trouble with authority. He could play along to a point, but he liked being in charge. He often took charge in many situations like he did with the computer team. That was the kind of person he was.

He earned many rewards for his work. He was the most well known engineer on the planetary system. For his work he was given the rank of Ensign and assigned a post on the UNSS Douglass. It was the Nimrov's first scout ship. It was designed to explore the outer reaches of the Nimrov system. If they could manage it, they would go farther than any other Nimrov ship. Perhaps they would even leave the system entirely.

Just great!' Eagle bemoaned to his friend Laura. 'They name the damn thing after me, but I only get to steer it around.'

'At least we're on the same ship together E.J.' replied Laura.

'I know, but I was hoping for more. It will be a grand adventure and all, but I'm just a cab driver on this thing. I do not get to pick where we go. I do not get to work on the systems. I just say 'Yes sir, whatever you say sir!' I'm not cut out for that kind of thing.'

'You were always lousy at taking orders that is for sure.'

'You're a riot Alice! One of these days...'

'We're going beyond the moon hot shot! You will have a ship of your own at some point.'

Eagle would often quote lines from common Nimrov entertainment. This is why he said what he did. Laura understood the quote, and thus her response was fitting.

Eagle continued, 'I'm not patient either!'

'Now you're just being silly!'

'OK Boss, I'll behave. For now...'

UNSS Douglass began cruising about their civilization's solar system. They were checking speed, acceleration, and other ship facilities. They were going farther than any other ship from Earth had ever gone. They explored all of their planets and other astronomical bodies.

They were at the edge of their Solar System when the ship's sensors picked up a strange phenomenon. It was a source of energy unknown to the humans. The captain ordered the pilot to enter the phenomenon. Eagle refused. He stated that this energy source is immense, and the shields will not be able to withstand that amount of energy. Eagle felt that at the very least, the shields should be dropped before entering the energy field. The commander of the ship disagreed and ordered the ship to be taken into the field with the shields on maximum. Eagle was ordered to stand down, and he refused this order also. He plotted a course back to the space station on Nimrov 4. Proceedings began immediately for Eagle's court martial. He was removed from his post until a complete investigation was made.

Laura Capitain, Eagle's girlfriend did not want to resign her commission, so she stayed aboard the UNSS Douglass. The Captain's first order of business was to return to the anomaly and explore it. Thus, before the trial was to begin, the UNSS Douglass returned to the edge of the Nimrov solar system.

Once at the edge of the solar system, the commander ordered the pilot to enter the energy field with the shields up and on maximum. Of course, it was a hyper gate. The UNSS Douglass was completely disabled as the hyper gate short-circuited all of the ships electrical systems. The shields could not absorb that much energy. Thus, the ship was dead in space. Fortunately, the dead ship did not set off the Izanian alert sensors. Perhaps if it had working power systems it would have set off these alarms.

However, without any working power systems the ship couldn't maneuver, and it couldn't return into the hypergate. These were brand new systems, and only a very few had a complete understanding of how they worked. However, these engineers were busy designing new ships and not on board the UNSS Douglass. Certainly, the engineers worked hard, but couldn't bring any of the systems back on line. They couldn't even communicate with the Nimrov space central. The ship was drifting in space with no power.

The ship eventually got caught in the outermost planet of the solar system on the far side of this hypergate. Once in this planet's gravity the disabled ship set off the alert sensors of the Izanian. Before the ship could crash onto the surface of the seventh planet, the Izanian defenses destroyed the ship with all hands killed.

A review of the incident exonerated Eagle. He was reinstated with all rights and privileges. However, he was totally disenchanted with the entire system and was making plans to leave Earth's solar system for good. He and a group of adventurers got together and manufactured their own ship. They were going to explore on their own without the blessings of the United Nations Government and without the approval of NASA.

To date, it was the only other major incident between the two civilizations. The Izanian could never muster the resources to return to the Nimrovian system. Of course, the Nimrovs had no intention of dealing with Izanian again. They would do everything in their power to avoid the Izanian. Thus, the 'war' ended in a draw.

However, Eagle had a ship to use for exploration. They would eventually become one of the new members of the Galactic Commonwealth. The Nimrovs are starting to make their mark, but they have a lot to learn yet. There are plenty of stories to tell, but this is the end of this one. Thank you for listening.

"Well spoken Yarnspinner! I'm satisfied. Thanks, but how do you know so much? Yarnspinner? Where'd he go?"

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Because He's There!

Written With Dwayne MacInnes

Journal Entry for 07:14:72 by Dr. Daniel C. Hever, PhD

George Mallory - lost mountain climber.

In 1924 C.E. (in Gregorian calendar) Sir George Mallory and a team of mountain climbers including Andrew Irvine attempted to reach the summit of the mighty Mt. Everest. Sir Mallory and Mr. Irvine did not leave the mountain with the rest of the team. They were lost and presumed dead, but nobody knows whether they made it to the summit.

It had been over 100 years since the recovery of George Mallory's body. It was in 1999 C.E. However, I don't feel like doing the conversion to our current metric calendar, so we'll leave it at about 100 years for now. Mallory was well preserved on the slopes of Mt. Everest, and he had been held in a frozen state since his body was retrieved off the slopes of Everest.

We will hopefully discover the truth about his adventure when he is revived. Did he make it to the summit? What happened on those frigid slopes so long ago? The process of bringing Mr. Mallory back from his suspended animation is nearly finished and he will be awakened in a matter of hours. We have done a great deal of research on the man and his culture to make the transition for Sir Mallory a smooth one.

There have been great technical advances made since the discovery of Sir Mallory's body. I think the biggest advance is in nanotechnology. Our civilization has created processes that can create microscopic robots. This has resulted in huge advances in medicine. Surgical repairs can be made at the cellular level. With this technology, we will revive the long dead Mallory. I can hardly wait for this process to finish.

As a first phase of this experiment we revived individuals from the 20th century. Although most of these individuals died many years after Mallory, we felt that we got a sense of what the culture was back those 100 years ago. From our readings and the information from these cryogenically frozen individuals, we believed we had a good feel for what it was like for Sir George Mallory. They brought us closer to culture of his time, and we could piece together more from other sources.

We were fortunate that several individuals in the 20th century had themselves cryogenically frozen to be revived later in time. Since these individuals were expecting to be awoken at a later time, the same precautions did not need to be made to make them feel they were in their own time. Many were pleased to be revived after many years of frigid hibernation.

Sadly, some former citizens of the 20th century (Gregorian calendar) did not provide a full body, but merely a head. Some of these were greatly disappointed when no suitable biological body would be provided. The building of a body from the DNA of a patient can be done; however in most instances no provisions were made for such a procedure. Further, constructing a body was a long and expensive procedure, and many of these individuals spent all of their money on the freezing process and the storage space. Thus, if someone was revived without an existing body, they often felt they were nothing more than a curious head in a jar. Cybernetic bodies could be provided, but many had difficulty controlling this body. However, these individuals did provide a wealth of information about the culture in and around their time of life.

It was this method that my team and I developed to study a wooly mammoth that we were to revive. The method of studying a subject from afar before revival we felt was a necessary step to lessen the impact of being thrust into the future. Before reviving a creature whether it was animal or human, we studied it with the use of scholarly texts as well as with nanocameras.

Along with the medical uses of these nanobots, this nanotechnology also allowed the creation of a wide variety of useful tiny machines. One such device was a tiny camera. These cameras had a myriad of uses, and not all of them were medical. While these cameras were larger than the medical nanobots, they were still about the size of an ordinary house fly. The extra size was due to the need for mobility and storage of information. However, the manufacturer often claimed that you could now be a fly on the wall. Please note that the use of such a device is highly regulated to prevent abuses.

Excerpt from Journal for 02:06:93 by Daniel C. Hever:

We have proposed a use for several new and existing technologies. First, we will use a widely used technology that was developed by me and my team. We will use existing nanotechnology to repair and revive this mammoth. This wooly mammoth will be gradually thawed in a therapeutic bath and repaired using the nanosurgeon robots. This will be done so this particular specimen can be studied thoroughly in its near natural environment. We have several goals in mind. Many scientists here would like to learn more about the behaviors of this species of animal. We feel that by reviving this creature, she will retain those behaviors and she will be suitable for study in that regard. Also, we would like to determine if she retains memories. In this way, this process could be used to study individuals and cultures that have been dead for many years.

Second, in order to fulfill this goal, we will need to use the nanocameras developed by AOENC, Inc. The cameras in question will be used to study this long extinct mammal that has been frozen in ice for thousands of years. In order to study this mammal in its original habitat, we will need to take advantage of a brand new technology developed by a team from the University of Montana and the University of Northern Iowa.

This third technology will be used to transport this camera back and forth in time. While this process takes a huge amount of energy to perform, we will benefit by studying the exact behavior of the animal in question. Thus, we can determine if the revived subject has the same memories and experiences. Thus, we believe we can learn more about the behaviors of this mammoth from the original beast rather than a facsimile or clone.

I have spoken to Dr. D. Max Wayne of the University of Montana and to Dr. Gogi Tee of the University of Northern Iowa, and they have tested their process on the "fly" camera. Their tests show that they can indeed view images and retrieve audio from previous times. In their tests they have obtained full color video of a few historic moments. With this time shifting technology and along with the cellular regeneration techniques provided by the nanobots, we believe we can learn much about the life of the wooly mammoth.

We have contacted AOENC, Inc. to customize the appearance of their camera to appear even more fly-like. This fly appearance will have a further benefit. The time travel apparatus causes an odd buzzing sound upon entering and leaving a specific time frame. Hence, if this buzzing was heard by a subject being studied, the fly look will help explain the sound.

With our slightly modified nanocamera we have filled out the proper paperwork for governmental approval. We feel that this experiment will have no impact on any timeline. Thus, I'm sure this process will meet governmental approval. If we are successful in our attempts, we plan on reviving other subjects and perhaps even humans. However, we will wish to learn as much about our subjects before reviving them. This will decrease the stress of the strange environment.

End excerpt.

In the above experiment, the wooly mammoth that had been frozen in ice for thousands of years, was revived after studying it in its own environment in time and space. An environment similar to her last known surroundings was synthesized in which to place the mammoth and study her. In previous experiments this particular mammoth had been cloned. However, these clones did not have the same experience as the actual mammoth. Thus, no presumptions of actual behaviors could be made. This was unsatisfying to many researchers.

The mammoth that we revived exhibited the same behaviors observed from the nanocameras. Thus, much could be determined about actual behaviors of this ice age beast. It was a very successful experiment. We believe that this creature retained its memories and experiences, and several tests were performed to help verify this hypothesis. Thus, we could learn a great deal about past cultures by reviving some frozen humans. We had three specimens with interesting questions surrounding them. We are currently studying our third subject, Sir Mallory. The other two experiments involving the frozen individuals turned out less successfully than we had hoped.

Excerpt from Journal for 04:12:43 by Daniel C. Hever:

From our experiments with the wooly mammoth, we believe that when an ancient creature or individual is revived, he/she/it will exhibit the behaviors observed from the nanocamera studies. Thus, we are fairly certain that this individual or creature will retain their memories and will behave as if they never died. It was as if they just went to sleep and then woke up and continued behaving as if living in its previous environment.

In order to prove this hypothesis, we will be studying a frozen man from the late Neolithic period. This man had been discovered in the Otztal Alps between Italy and Austria in the late 20th Century of the old calendar. There was much speculation on how the man came to die on the mountain. Some speculated that this "iceman" was a ritual sacrifice to the mountain. Others believed he was running away from combat and received an arrow in the back during his flight.

This is our first chance to make use of the sound recording possibilities of the nanocamera. We don't know what language our iceman speaks. We have some rough ideas, but the years have been many. We would like to know the exact language in order to make his transition to our time smoother.

We began our research by reading all of the sources that had been collected about our specimen. He had a few artifacts that had long been lost. There was much speculation about our subject, but this was merely speculation. We needed hard facts. Thus, we prepared the nanocameras to send back to the day that he died. From the sources, we had a pretty good idea where he laid down and die. We had to guess his path to his final resting place. We wanted to follow his last several minutes. We hoped to capture a ceremony if he had been sacrificed. In that way, we could capture some of his native language. We would also be able to better replicate his clothes and equipment.

Everything was going well until they sent their camera back to view events. We do not know for sure what happened to our camera, but it was destroyed before returning. I believe that the camera was ingested by a bird and destroyed. In order to prevent any other changes in the timeline, the government has insisted that no further cameras would be allowed back to that time frame. Thus, with the lack of information about our subject, I am afraid we should refrain from reviving him. We will move on to our next subject.

End excerpt

Excerpt from Journal for 04:76:58 by Daniel C. Hever:

Our next ice mummy which we wish to revive comes to our team from Siberia. This female was believed to be a spiritual leader of her people. If this were true, it would show the influence of females of her particular group. She was found with several artifacts and the team wanted to know more about her. While this individual had less information in the archives than our previous subject, she is not as ancient. Thus, we can make some very educated guesses. We have a better idea of her language, and some more information about her culture. However, we will need to verify this information before we revive this "Ice Maiden."

End excerpt.

Once again, we were unable to retrieve sufficient information about this subject. We had painstakingly determined the best place to put the camera. We had done plenty of calculations about which way to view and where to view. However, this camera was destroyed in a massive blizzard that one of the team members forgot to note. Without proper information about this individual and her surroundings the revival process was aborted and another opportunity lost to the team.

We had one subject left. We knew a great deal about this individual. Again, he was from a time much closer to our own. We knew what language he spoke. We could greatly replicate friendly surroundings for Sir George Mallory. Once and for all, we should be able to determine if he did indeed reach the summit of Mt. Everest. Also, we should learn the circumstances of his death.

It has taken several years of paperwork and study in order for this day to come. Our past failures have made the government reluctant to issue the necessary permits to send the nanocameras back to study our subject, Sir Mallory. However, with much coaxing they have allowed us to send one camera back. However, early on it was decided to revive Sir Mallory even without any video footage. There had been much written about him that survived. We spoke a common language. While our cultures are separated by a great deal of time, we feel that this shouldn't be a great concern.

We accomplished much in our studies. We did send our fly-like camera back onto Everest and successfully retrieved some data. However, we did not see Sir Mallory or his climbing partner Mr. Andrew Irvine. All that was seen was the mountain side and all that was heard was a howling wind. While there was an eerie stillness in the area, we were greatly disappointed in the findings from our time traveling camera. We are sure that Sir Mallory will be comfortable in our provided surroundings. We should be able to determine much from him. I am heading to Sir Mallory's room now. I will fill out a full report for the University when our conversation has ended.

End entry.

"Test. Test. Is this thing on? Hello? Test. Test. This is Dr. Daniel Hever recording. Sir George Mallory is about to be revived, and we are here to record his statements as they happen. The only voices you'll be hearing are mine and Sir Mallory's. Quiet please. Let's begin?"

"Sir Mallory? Wake up. Sir Mallory?"

"Huh? What are you Yanks doing here? Where am I?"

"You're in a hospital; you had a bit of a fall."

"Bloody hell! Tell me about it mate! It was the darnedest thing! There I was at 8200 meters. Bloody thing could have been the end of me!"

"What thing? What happened?"

"As I said mate, I was there at 8200 meters hanging on for my life. Good things you Yanks came along, or I would have likely froze to death. Where's Andrew?"

"Sir Mallory, you were saying? You were at 8200 meters hanging on for your life, and then what happened?"

"Sandy's a right good chap. He must have fetched you directly. Good bloke that Andrew. Where is he?"

"Andrew Irvine? I'm not sure where he is, but please Sir Mallory, tell us what happened."

"Right, right, I was at 8200 meters. What is that? That's about 27,000 feet to you Yanks. Anyway, it was the darnedest thing! I was up in the thinness of the atmosphere, just climbing like always, and there it was. Out of nowhere! It was suddenly there! Out of nowhere I tell you!"

"What was there? What came out of nowhere?"

"A bloody fly! At 8200 meters! I was hanging on for my life, struggling with the thin atmosphere, and this bloody buzzing fly popped out from nowhere! Scared the wits right out of me. I fell quite a ways! Good thing you Yanks showed up, or I'd be dead for sure!"

"Uhhh thanks Sir Mallory. You get some rest and we'll continue this later. Turn the recorder off please!"

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Me, A Roman Slave

I had just hidden my time machine when one of Marius' soldiers spotted me. Not knowing what else to do, I began to run. However, I knew I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was on horseback, and I couldn't outrun his horse. Thus, he quickly fell upon me, and I was captured.

This soldier looked for the slave trader that traveled with Marius' army, and he sold me to him for 4 sesterces. I was in big trouble now. I was going to live the old cliche', "while in Rome do as the Romans."

Along with thousands of others, I was herded south. We marched until we reached Naples where there was a large slave-trading establishment.

Once we arrived at the slave trading place, we were all stripped naked and cleaned up. We were all separately interviewed to discover our talents. Unfortunately, I speak neither the language of the Cimbri, nor of the Teutones. I only speak a small amount of Latin, but not enough to effectively communicate. They certainly didn't have anyone that spoke English. Pig Latin was also of no use. So, communication was difficult. They kept repeating a phrase, but I have no idea as to its meaning. They give me the name of Caprimulgus. I don't know what that means, but I hope it is a good label.

We were herded into another room, and the preparations for our sale were completed. Our feet were painted white with chalk. An order of auction was arranged, and I was placed after a young Cambric boy who they gave the name of Eros. There were lots of people that were sold before they got to me. Some of them had the same name Caprimulgus, so I got a little worried.

I decided to do something to indicate some of my skills since communication during the interview process was negligible. There was a tree nearby, so I grabbed some branches with the intent of building a makeshift piece of furniture. I'm a fair wood worker, and I'd rather do that than be purchased for the gladiatorial games.

The bidding for Eros went for quite a long time. He went for a pretty high price. I was beginning to wonder why I was set up behind him. I certainly wasn't going to fetch that high a price. I think the phrase that they used to describe me was compelling enough to think that I would be valuable.

I fashioned a makeshift couch from the few twigs I gathered. It wasn't anything special, but it was enough to show them that I had some woodworking skills. It surprised the auctioneer, but he went along with it. I hoped that this little item would ensure that I wouldn't be sold into gladiatorial service. I'm too old to be an effective fighter. My reflexes are significantly slower than they were 10 years ago. I wouldn't last long as a gladiator.

The bidding went back and forth for quite a while. I was greatly surprised. I think my makeshift twig couch was making a difference. They could see that I had a skill, and I could be put to good use. Eventually, I was sold to a well to do furniture maker. I was grateful to not have to go with a large portion of these captives to be trained as gladiators. Some of them may make a large amount of money, but it wasn't the life for me.

The furniture maker made luxurious furniture to be sold to the senatorial and equestrian classes of Rome. His furniture was of very fine quality, and he was renown throughout Rome as the premiere furniture maker. I felt very lucky joining such a prestigious furniture maker in Naples. He also bought a young woman to help with the housework. She was very striking, and I wonder how his wife will react to this purchase.

At first I was assigned the task of building tables. I'm a decent wood worker, but I'm used to having modern tools. I would have done wonders if I had my woodshop with me. However, I had to work with the equipment available. I was still handy with the hand tools.

I knew that if I worked hard and crafted desirable furniture, I could earn my freedom rather quickly. So, I painstakingly crafted each piece I was assigned and I made some items on my own. Since our furniture was greatly desired throughout the republic, we sold numerous pieces and were very successful.

As the months past, I learned more and more Latin and some of the local dialect. I also learned more about my passage into slavery. One thing I did finally learn was the phrase they kept repeating at the slave interview. The interviewer kept saying "He must be an expert on animal husbandry. Look how fat he is!" Thus, they named me Caprimulgus or "Goat-milker" with designs on selling me as a shepherd.

I've never lived on a farm, and I don't have a lot of experience with animals. I don't know how long I would have lasted in the country. I'm certain that anyone who would have purchased me with those designs would have been greatly disappointed.

The man who purchased my services was named Gaius Libertus Lignarius. He had multiple ex-slaves who were paying him commission. He was earning a lot of money with all of the artisans under his tutelage. He wasn't a Roman citizen, and he very much wanted to be. He was very prosperous, and he hadn't actually made any furniture himself for quite a while. If he were given citizenship he would have easily been a member of the Equestrian order.

He lived on a large estate on the hills of Naples. Naturally, it was well furnished. Occasionally, he would invite his free tradesmen up for dinner. Those of us that hadn't purchased our freedom yet were hired to serve some of the dinner guests. Generally, we would only serve the freedmen. His regular staff would serve the more respected guests.

Several Roman Senators had lands in Campania. He often had dinner at their estates. Often in these instances, he was the one served by the less competent waiters. However, many times he would bring a reclining couch as a gift. We made some of the best in the Roman world. He would insist on dining on this couch in order to make sure it was "up to standards." Thus, he would at least dine in comfort. Often times, it was the finest reclining couch that the host had. Thus, it was odd to have the finest furniture in the rear of the dining area. This often brought notice of others. Thus, in order for his host to feel less foolish, he began to move up in rank. These hosts wanted the finest furniture at the front for all to see. Thus, Libertus would gain in rank simply because of the nature of his fine gifts.

I lived in a small loft above the shop. It was on the third floor, and it was rather small. Another slave with more experience lived in the apartment below. Since I was in the furniture business, I could spend my time furnishing it as I pleased. Thus, although it wasn't a great place to live, it was nicely furnished. The building had a distinct lean towards the street. You had to take care in which direction you slept otherwise the blood might rush to your head by morning.

After furnishing my place, I started to save my peculium, which is extra money, to earn my freedom. In the years after Marius' victories, our products were in great demand. Every battle abroad brought more wealth to a few citizens. They would use some of this wealth to purchase luxury items. Thus, we had plenty of demand for our products.

After working for Libertus for 5 years, I earned enough to buy my freedom. He agreed to grant my freedom with the agreement to pay him a percentage of my pay. It was a pretty standard agreement. He found a location a short distance from his shop to establish my shop. This time, I would live in the first floor above the shop. I agreed to house a few of his slaves in the upper floors. This reduced the amount I had to pay him.

At this time, I thought about changing my name to something more appropriate to my profession, but it had grown on me and I decided to keep it. Besides, my reputation was built upon my unusual name for a carpenter. However, as was somewhat traditional for freed men to take on the name of their emancipator, I became Caprimulgus Liberius.

The five years after purchasing my freedom were successful. The demand for Naples furniture came from other places besides Rome. Furniture from Naples was sold to the King of Parthia and to the Egyptian royal family. Throughout the civilized world, people looked for furniture built by us.

I was making an excellent living, and I even considered purchasing some slaves to help out in my shop. However, there was growing unrest in the Republic and it was affecting our trade. Some of the allies of Rome felt they were being treated unfairly. Libertus was one who felt that he should be considered for full citizenship. His requests in this area were regularly denied.

Revolts became regular occurrences. The Samnites in Campania revolted, and the trade routes between Naples and Rome were cut off. Soon, most of Campania had separated from Rome. The Samnites established themselves as a separate state. With all this unrest, it wouldn't be a good time to increase production.

Being non-Roman I had a few advantages. Since I had earned a great deal of money up to this point and I had an excellent reputation, I could begin looking at my options. One of the things that I considered was to find my time machine and return home. However, it had been many years and I was quite happy with the way my life was going. I also wasn't too concerned about joining Roman society and I still did things in my own way. My attitude about things was far different than many Romans.

I felt that my shop was too close to Libertus' ship. He had some individuals who were ready to purchase their freedom, so I sold my shop and apartment back to Libertus. With this money and some that I had saved, I was able to purchase a small plot of land in a bit of a nicer part of the city. This parcel of land that I purchased used to hold a shop, but it had burned to the ground. Since the furniture business was suffering, I decided to construct the new shop and home by myself. I had enough to purchase the materials. I had saved enough to take the time build a new building.

It took a while to build the building on my own, but in the end it was worth it. My building was just going to have a small shop and living quarters above. I couldn't quite afford an estate, but I would be more comfortable in the new building.

Shortly after I finished, Lucius Cornelius Sulla began his consulship to take back Campania. Sulla punished many of the Samnite rebels. Unfortunately, Libertus was labeled one of the rebels. He went into hiding, but was betrayed by a slave. He was crucified along the road to Rome to teach the Samnites a lesson. This released me of all of my former obligations, but it cost me several fine pieces of furniture to remain alive. I am glad that I was able to communicate at this point. Otherwise, I certainly would have been put to death as well.

With Libertus dieing in disgrace, that hurt my business with Rome. However, Egypt and other wealthy foreign customers turned to me and the other former slaves of Libertus for their business, but this did not mean a lot of business.

With the strife in the Republic during this time, furniture purchases were way down, and when the Sulla's proscriptions started, furniture sales took a turn for the worse. I wasn't pleased with Sulla killing off well to do Roman citizens. They were my core business. However, I didn't voice any opposition.

Perhaps it was a time to look for other work. Marcus Crassus was purchasing slaves in the field of home construction. I could sell myself back into slavery to him. My house and shop turned out pretty nice, and it was well thought of in the neighborhood. Thus, I thought about taking the trip to Rome, but the violence there was too great. I figured if I could stick it out, business would pick up. I also started building more modest pieces for the locals. However, I couldn't do this alone.

There was a slave auction, and I decided to see what was available. Some of the Samnite civilians were being sold into slavery. There were lots of women and children on the blocks. I purchased a slave woman to work in the front of my store. She would give me the opportunity to concentrate more on my construction.

She wasn't particularly attractive, but she was quite competent in terms of running a store and a home. She didn't cost a great deal, so I think she was a very good deal. She was a decent cook, and quite a loving person. We grew very close, and eventually, she became pregnant with my first child. Before he was born, I freed her and married her. We wed on the day Marius died. Shortly after that day, our free son was born. He was called Marcus Caprimulius Liberius.

With Marius dead, tensions were somewhat relaxed. Sulla killed off a great deal of the Aristocracy. However, Soldiers with newfound wealth and property began ordering luxurious furniture again. Thus, business began to pick up. The aristocracy in Rome was once again noticing my services. I built several pieces for Crassus. He wanted furniture to put in some of the real estate that he had been acquiring.

Crassus began to demand more and more furniture. Thus, I looked for purchasing more artisans. I began to frequent the slave auctions. I managed to purchase a few Greek artisans. They were very expensive, but they were well worth it. They had skills already, and I could steer them towards the style my customers had grown accustomed.

I began to have more time for leisure. So, I began to take more time to visit the gladiatorial games. I was beginning to bring in a lot of money. I did not have enough money to sit in the front, but I was able to sit in decent seats. I wondered how some of the slaves that were sold on the same day that I was faired in the games.

I found that I was becoming more Roman. I enjoyed the games, and I started to look towards eating out more. I had more internal pressure to act more Roman and to shed my strange future ways.

When Sulla retired to Campania, he also purchased some furniture from my shop. I was once again one of the premiere furniture makers in Rome. People throughout the Republic began to seek me out for fine furniture.

I began to go to more and more slave auctions trying to keep up with demand. I allowed some artisans their freedom with the same agreement I had with Libertus. They would pay me a commission on everything they sold. I used the money from their purchase of freedom to purchase more slaves.

I hoped the tensions between the government and the armies would soon subside. It was much better for my business to have internal stability. However, this was not to be. Marcus Aemilius Lepidus decided to march on Rome with his army, and Gnius Pompanius Magnus was given the task to put down his rebellion.

Things were good when the armies fought external forces. The army would take wealth from others and have purchasing power to buy our goods. However, whenever there was internal fighting, a large number of wealthy men ended up dead. This is very bad for business.

Luckily, Sulla didn't march on Rome. We didn't need any more aristocratic bloodshed. However, his campaign in Spain was disastrous. With Luculus in Asia Minor, and Pompey having troubles in Spain, a revolt of country slaves took place.

My men were happy with their lot. They were well fed, and they had a place to live. They earned plenty of money, and could purchase their freedom at any time. Thus, they were not on the side of Spartacus. I offered them their freedom if they wished it. I turned 66, and the years had taken their toll upon me. I didn't need some slaves rebelling against me. They unanimously decided to continue working in my shop.

I had a pretty large amount of money built up. I purchased a modest estate for my children to live. My wife was several years my junior, and she gave me 3 strong boys. They would continue on with my work once I was gone. I made sure all of my possessions were divisible by three. I had 6 slaves working for me, and I had 15 paying commission. It was agreed that they would continue to pay my heirs upon my death.

It is hard to believe that I lived in Ancient Rome for 30 years. The estate I purchased needs a lot of work. In my youth I would have started from scratch. However, I just don't have the energy. The boys are too young to fix the house, and it is drafty. I long for my old apartment above the shop. Even with its lean it was at least warm.

I am trying to fix up this place, but my age prevents me from several activities. I can't scramble up a ladder like I used to. This cough just won't go away. So, I have decided to return to my time machine. I have a feeling that I don't have much longer to live. I have family and friends here, so I won't be returning myself. However, I hope to send the machine back with this report. My English is quite rusty, and I'm sure my penmanship needs a lot of work. However, I feel that I should try to send this report back through. Thus, people there will know what happened to me.

This cough will not go away, I wish there was something I could do. My guess is that I caught pneumonia. I'm glad that my time machine was undisturbed. This long walk back to it took a lot out of me. I'm afraid that I won't be able to return to Naples. That trip would be just too much for me. I hope you get this report without any difficulty. I think I'll wonder off in the mountains and spend my last days there. I wonder how much impact my life will have. I've got a few great kids, and I had a good life in the Roman Republic. Farewell everyone!

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The Last War

To Whom It May Concern:

We have always been a warring race. We could never get along with our neighbors, and we are about to pay the ultimate price. You see, I am one of the premiere scientists of our people. The last few years I have forsaken the warrior ways and have concentrated on space travel. Our planet does not have long. The launch will happen shortly, and I do not have a lot of time.

10 years ago, I created a "Doomsday" weapon. This weapon was very dangerous, and it was a weapon of last resort. It was a weapon that would destroy our world and everyone on it. When I designed it, I believed it would be used only as a deterrent. This weapon was most destructive and there is nothing that can stop it. It was a masterful method of destruction.

In fact, it bought us 3 years of peace. Those were three glorious years. I believed that there was no more reason to pursue methods of killing. This is when I began looking into other careers. There was not much money to be had outside the military. I considered going back to the University, but my bosses would not let me. I knew too much, and they would sooner see me dead. We may have been at peace, but there were still dangers.

I had always been interested in astronomy and space flight. It is what brought me into science in the first place. I was intrigued by our sister planet. It was so blue. I remember hearing about the interesting creatures that inhabited our neighbor. It had long been suspected that we could live on that planet. I had often dreamed of visiting that far off world.

As part of my job and in my spare time, I researched rocketry. Our people used rockets for missiles. Since I had top security clearance, I had access to much research. I tinkered with various designs in during my off hours. That was a peaceful three years.

A breakdown in security changed everything. Suddenly, we were not the only people with my doomsday weapon. Another group got the weapon and threatened to use it. Apparently, they did not comprehend the power of the weapon. They ignorantly believed that this terrible weapon would be useful in a limited way. Thus, they restarted the wars.

Before our warring ways we lived on a lush and green planet. Our planet was very much like our neighboring planet is now. Under its blue exterior, it is green and full of life. There were still pockets of thick greenery like my beloved house and garden, but those are all gone now because of our ignorant use of our brains. The destruction of our planet was senseless.

We were once a thriving people. The other countries that shared our world were also thriving. The few years of peace revived portions of our war torn world. Some of our cities were on the mend. Some places were becoming green instead of being red with the blood of our citizens. We threw all that away.

There are no cities on our neighboring planet. We will have to find a place to live somewhere in its wild areas. It looks like there are vast stretches that are completely habitable. We will just have to pick one. Perhaps we will just go where the computer takes us.

Soon their will be nothing left on our planet. The red dust is taking over everything. It is red like dirt soaked in blood. That is what my weapon did. It would break everything down and turn it into a fine red dust. Nothing can stop it. I guess the irony that they used it so close to their own boarder should be somewhat satisfying. The wind blew it towards them, and everything they had built was soon destroyed. The weapon has almost run its course, as there was little left that was not turned into that awful red dust.

I hope our blue neighbor has rich soil. I long for black dirt. I long for the days when we had a fine garden. My wife and I had not started a family. We did not want our kids to live with the daily threat of war. We are both still young, so if it is feasible on our new home that we will have children.

When the wars started up again, my hobby engulfed me. I felt that our only hope would be to colonize our friendly neighbor. I planned to have an exploratory mission to scout out places to colonize. Once this awful weapon was unleashed, I had to scramble just to get the rocket ready. It is too bad that I could not fit more individuals on the rocket. When I originally designed it, it was only meant for one with enough cargo for a return trip. However, with the removal of some of the cargo space, I can now save my wife and myself.

Our home here felt like paradise during peaceful times. It was lush and my wife was an excellent gardener. We had all of our wants taken care of. Our property had plenty of fruit trees and the eastern portion of the garden provided a great bounty. It was full of trees that were pleasant in sight and good for food. A river flowed through their garden that was quite pleasant. This river provided water and fish. We were fortunate to have that place.

The river is now gone. It is a red dusty riverbed now. The trees are gone too. The destruction of our world is nearly complete. Why are we such a warring people? People have been saying for years that our warrior ways will be the end of our planet. Why didn't we listen? Why couldn't we live in peace?

I was a University professor when we bought our place. I was not making a lot of money, but we were getting by. However, my wife wanted more. She spoke with an awful man. I rue the day that she spoke to that serpent, I mean person. He spoke of great wealth that I could gain from using my knowledge. He lured me into that life with his ways.

I developed several weapons for this man. He paid me well, but I now feel bad about the evil that I have unleashed. Once my terrible weapon was unleashed, they could not stop me from quitting. However, the damage had already been done. I would spend all my time getting ready to save my wife and myself. What a terrible thing I have done! I am responsible for the great destruction of our world. I did bring us a few years of peace, but that is of little comfort.

Now my beautiful place is gone. The trees are all dust. I had to leave my home and we must flee before it is too late. We will have to live with our decisions. Luckily, we have a place to run. There must be other civilizations that go extinct because they have no place to go. They simply destroy all that they build and no being knows they ever existed. It is probably too late, but I hope our children learn from our mistakes.

That is why I am writing this. Someday, someone will discover what we have done. I just hope our warring ways are through. I hope we can learn to live in peace and harmony. We are all the same. We all have the same wants, hopes, and desires. We all want what is best for our children. We all want to feel safe where we live. We cannot do that with the wars. We can only do it by learning to get along with our neighbors. If they do us wrong, we must forgive. Otherwise, we begin a great cycle of destruction.

I must run. The red dust is quickly encroaching. The rocket is ready and my wife is aboard. I hope I have not dallied too long. The last non-red spot is where the rocket will launch, and that spot is getting smaller all the time. I must dash. Eve and I will make the best of our new home after being cast out of paradise. Please forgive me for eating from the tree of knowledge and using it for evil. Do not be like us!

Yours faithfully,

Adam

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Supervania

The Founding

The year was 2138 C.E. and the sun was bombarding the earth with an unusually large amount of cosmic radiation. Furthermore, Gamma Radiation from the nearby Hasenpfeffer Nebula began reaching the Earth. This year also saw Haley's comet returning for its 76th year visit. It was the year that a probe landed upon the surface of this icy comet to study it. Unfortunately when this probe returned to earth, it was lost in the Pacific Ocean. This was the year that the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste facility had a minor problem and irradiated some local wildlife. In addition, many of the existing members of the mutant and super hero population began having children. Yes, 2138 saw a huge increase in the number of super heroes.

It was a major concern among many citizens of the towns and cities of the world. Once there were a couple dozen super heroes helping protect major metropolises. Now, small towns and rural areas may have the protection of a group of extraordinary individuals. There just wasn't enough crime and super villainy to go around. Something had to be done. Thus, the world leaders got together to look for a solution.

After much debate, and objection by a particular super hero, it was decided to convert Ultra-Keen Guy's "Citadel of Reclusiveness" at the South Pole into a city of super heroes, by super heroes, for super heroes. Then they realized that Cleveland had long been abandoned, and decided that would be a much better place. It was decided that the government was going to create a brand new city where superheroes could live in peace and harmony, and that city would be called "Supervania!"

Super Supervania
Where good folks know no pain-ia,
Where justice shall ever reign-ia,
Yes Super Supervania.

A home for the mightiest of the mighty!
A home for the rightiest of the righty!
It would be a home
In which you could call your own!
And evil would be nowhere in sighty!

Super Supervania
Where the rain falls mainly on the plane-ia
It's mostly free of megalomania!
Yes Super Supervania!

Many of the world's super hero and super hero families moved to the city of Supervania. They were hoping for a better life without the scorn and ridicule of the non-cape wearing and unmasked citizenry. However, without the prospect of an occasional super villain uprising, there was not much for these trained crime fighters to do. Thus, it was decided to create a few evil ninja cyborgs to keep the superhero crime fighting skills sharp.

However, because of a computer malfunction and a programming bug, these evil ninja cyborgs would not fight against their superhero foes. These beings created for the sole purpose to oppose the actions of the superhero citizenry of Supervania would not partake in any fiendish endeavor. They instead opened up shops and stores inside the Supervania city limits. They turned away from their former lives of crime and mischief and decided to become lawful business owners.

To counteract the lawfulness of the created evil ninja cyborgs, the world governments began sentencing the worst criminal minds to become evil ninja cyborgs. Thus, the prisons were being emptied and the government was creating more and more evil ninja cyborgs. However, these former criminals still would not rise up against their superhero overlords and would simply opened up more and more businesses.

Further, do to perceived discrimination and unfair competition from the superhero community; the evil ninja cyborgs began to form support groups. At these meetings they would discuss the oppression they felt from the government and the superhero community. Eventually, the businesses of these support groups began to band together to better compete with the superhero businesses. With this new found unity, their businesses began working together and gaining more and more wealth and power.

Under the direction of their Head Ninja L. Edward Roy, an increasing number of small evil ninja cyborg businesses began working together. In direct competition with the superhero community, more and more services would be offered by their evil ninja cyborg counterparts. L. Edward Roy would gather resources and purchase businesses throughout the world. Eventually this loosely knit group of unrelated businesses became a large conglomeration which became America's Original Evil Ninja Cyborg Incorporated.

After a few years, America's Original Evil Ninja Cyborg (AOENC) Inc. became the largest corporation in the world. There was not a business venture around that did not have an evil ninja cyborg competitor. There was AOENC Records Ltd., AOENC Video Productions, AOENC Dry Cleaning Services, and on and on. With each passing year, the government office in charge of evil ninja cyborg creation (OCOENCC) would transform criminals into evil ninja cyborgs. The evil ninja cyborg working population was becoming immense.

Eventually, these evil ninja cyborgs began running most of the shops and stores in Supervania. Once AOENC Inc. ran most of the businesses in Supervania, tensions began to rise between the evil ninja cyborg shop owners and the citizens of Supervania. Furthermore, there weren't enough jobs to employ all of the created evil ninja cyborgs. Some of these unemployed evil ninja cyborgs would enjoy causing trouble for the Supervanian citizenry. This is when the fighting between the two groups began in earnest.

It started with evil ninja cyborg teenagers just looking for some "kicks." The evil ninja cyborg residents of Supervania chalked it up to "kids being kids." However, the superheros of Supervania didn't see it that way.

"These over exuberant youths are harassing the fair citizens of our city," proclaimed the superhero spokesperson, Spokeswoman. "Up with this we shall not put!" she continued.

The tensions between the two groups began to rise. Clashes between the two groups became more common. Suddenly, Supervania became the town that the superheroes and the world government had all hoped.

Super Supervania
Where yarn comes by the skein-ia,
Restaurants have little problems with ptomaine-ia,
Yes Super Supervania.




This story in PDF form


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Supervania

The Case of the Bad Traffic Day

Part One

It started off as a normal day for the Mayorman, mayor of Supervania. He arrived at his office early in the morning and was taking on the business of running the city of Supervania. He was doing some work at his desk in the Auditorium of Equitableness when in rushed Anonymous Man. It was obviously important, and Anonymous Man spoke in an urgent tone. "Mr. Mayor, have you been on the streets lately? All traffic in and out of Supervania is at a stand still! Something must be done!"

Mayorman responded, "We are aware of the problem, and we are looking into the solution now. All we can do now is hope that this situation is resolved soon. However, dealing with evil ninja cyborgs can be quite tricky. And we don't want a major disaster on our hands."

"It is the work of the Traffic Jammer isn't it?" asked Anonymous Man

"We believe so," replied Mayorman.

"Flannel Man put him away before, couldn't he do it again?" asked the persistent Anonymous Man.

"We hope so. However, we are having trouble locating him."

Mayorman gazed out the window again. He clearly saw the Flannel Man signal in the sky among the signals in the sky. He indicated it to Anonymous Man. "He hasn't responded to the Flannel signal yet. Until he does, the citizens of Supervania are in for a rough ride."

"Well, I hope he gets here soon," complained Anonymous Man. "I have got lots of work to do."

"We all do," replied the mayor as he showed Anonymous Man out. "We all do."

Anonymous Man left the mayor's office and Mayorman's assistant, The Assistant, entered his office.

"Any word on Flannel Man?" inquired the mayor.

"I am afraid not," replied the mayor's assistant. "However, a package has arrived for him. It appears to be from SANTA."

The Mayor jumped up with alarm. "The Silent Acting Ninja Terrorist Association?" he asked with concern.

"I am afraid so," replied The Assistant.

"This day is getting worse and worse," bemoaned Mayorman. "Well, put the package in Bomb Depot number 3, and let's hope we hear from Flannel Man soon."

The Assistant took the package with great care down to Bomb Depot number 3. The package was placed in a lead lined box on a large pedestal in the middle of the smallish bomb disposal room.

Meanwhile, back at Flannel Manor, Flannel Man was pacing back and forth. Obviously, Flannel Man was anxiously awaiting something. "When in the name of little green apples, is that mail going to get here?" he asked himself.

Suddenly and without warning, there was a knock on the door. Somewhat relieved, Flannel man made his way to his front door. He peaked through the Flannel Peep Hole and asked, "Who is it?"

"It is I, Postman, deliverer of all mail!" replied the man on the other side of the door.

Finally, his letter carrier, Postman, had arrived. "Great, I have been waiting for you," responded Flannel Man as he opened the door.

"Flannel man, what are you doing here?" asked Postman as Flannel Man opened the door. "The Traffic Jammer is on the loose again, and Mayorman has been trying to get a hold of you. Didn't you see the Flannel signal?"

Postman, deliverer of all mail, searched among the many signals in the sky. Eventually, he spotted the Flannel signal and pointed it out to Flannel Man. "I can't go out until I get my package," replied the anxious Flannel Man. "I sure hope you have it."

"Just letters today," replied the letter carrier. "No packages. What is so important?"

"I can't talk about it," Flannel Man Complained. "Thanks for the mail."

"You're welcome," stated Postman, deliverer of all mail. Suddenly, he gave Flannel Man a hug. He could no longer resist. Postman felt better and continued with his letter carrying duties. Flannel man didn't feel any better as he closed the door. With a worried expression on his face, he tossed the mail on his coffee table. He headed for the phone to call the Auditorium of Equitableness.

"Hello," started the distressed superhero. "This is Flannel man, may I speak to Mayorman please."

Mayorman had been pacing in front of his desk. He was eagerly waiting to hear word from Flannel Man. Suddenly, The Assistant rushed into the room. "Flannel man on line 2!!!"

"Thank Goodness!" sighed the mayor. Mayorman walked over to his desk and picked up the pone. "It is about time you checked in Flannel Man! The Traffic Jammer has escaped and is reeking havoc all over town. We need your help in recapturing him."

"Sorry boss, but I can't help," replied Flannel Man. "I won't leave the house until I get the package I am expecting. It was supposed to come today, but it hasn't."

Mayorman sat down dejectedly at his desk, but when Flannel Man mentioned the package he perked up. "A package came here for you today..."

"Send it over, and I will be on the job!" exclaimed Flannel Man.

"We believe it is from SANTA," explained the mayor. "So, couldn't you come here and check it out?"

"No can do boss," responded Flannel Man. "Although, the package I am expecting is from SANTA. I ordered something from their winter catalog. It should be from America's Original Evil Ninja Cyborg Flannel Incorporated. I won't leave home until I have it."

"We will get it to you as soon as we can. But with traffic the way it is, it may be a while. We will keep you posted," he told Flannel Man. He hung up the phone and then spoke to The Assistant. "We need to get Flannel Man's package to him, before he will take on the Traffic Jammer. Get a team together, and let's get on it. Just another fine day in..."

Super Supervania
It's reachable by seaplane-ia.
Our songs are quite urbane-ia
It's Super Supervania.

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Supervania

The Case of the Bad Traffic Day

Part Two

Mayorman and his assistant, The Assistant, made their way down to the 6 by 6 foot bomb depot number 3. Mayorman paced back and forth while The Assistant sat down at a table to look at the package. "We need to get this package across town. This looks like a job for..."

"Dirk Justice!!!" exclaimed Dirk Justice as walked into Bomb Depot Number 3. "Can I be of any help here?"

"Just in time Dirk," Mayorman stated. "Traffic is backed up all over town. The whole city is at a stand still. Flannel Man is the only super hero that can put a stop to the Traffic Jammer's evil ways. However, Flannel Man won't leave his house without this package. We need it taken to Flannel Mansion immediately. Can you help us?"

"I wish I could," explained Dirk. "But the Cycle of Justice can't get through this traffic either."

"Drat!" shouted the mayor. "Well then, I guess this looks like a job for..."

"Teleportation Man!!!" exclaimed Teleportation Man as he walked into Bomb Depot Number 3.

"Just in time Teleportation Man," Mayorman stated. "Traffic is backed up all over town. The whole city is at a stand still."

"Flannel Man is the only superhero that can put a stop to the Traffic Jammer's evil ways," added Dirk Justice.

"However, Flannel Man won't leave his house without this package," continued Mayorman while picking up the ordinary package. "We need it taken to Flannel Mansion immediately."

"Can you help us?" they all asked together.

"I will see what I can do," Teleportation Man boldly stated.

Teleportation man placed his hands to his head and closed his eyes. He attempted to mentally transport the package to the Flannel Mansion. "Hold on a second!" exclaimed Teleportation Man coming out of his trance. "It's wrapped in brown paper. That is my only weakness. I cannot teleport anything in brown paper."

"Foiled again!" Mayorman yelled. "These evil ninja cyborgs don't miss a trick! I guess it looks like a job for..."

"The Rubber Band!!!" exclaimed Mr. and Mrs. Rubber and their two kids Renee and Randy as they walked into Bomb Depot Number 3 to join Teleportation Man, Mayorman, Dirk Justice and The Assistant.

"Just in time Rubber Band," Mayorman stated. "Traffic is backed up all over town."

"The whole city is at a stand still," Teleportation Man continued.

"Flannel Man is the only superhero that can put a stop to the Traffic Jammer's evil ways," Dirk justice added.

"However, Flannel Man won't leave his house without this package," Mayorman injected while lifting up the ordinary package wrapped in brown paper.

"We need it taken to Flannel Mansion immediately!" Teleportation Man exclaimed.

"Can you help us?" they all asked.

"Rubber band, to action!!!" the Rubber Family yelled in unison.

As if they had done it repeatedly, Mr. and Mrs. Rubber hug. At the same time, the brother and sister, Randy and Renee, hug. In each embrace, the pair twisted and joined together. As if on cue, the two twisted Rubber family units joined together. Once the family had all joined together, they began to stretch into a very long Rubber family unit. In this configuration, Mr. Rubber picked up the package and carried it away. Much wriggling and stretching went on as they stretched and lengthened. Tighter and tighter their form became. Longer and longer their stretching went. When they were about a block from the Flannel Mansion, they stopped. They brought the package back, and untwisted. Looser and looser their form became. Shorter and shorter their stretching went. At one point, the one stretchy unit broke into two groups. Randy and Renee exited their embrace shortly before Mr. and Mrs. Rubber. As if nothing happened, they became the Rubber family again.

"Sorry Mr. Mayor," Mr. Rubber lamented. "It is just too far for us to reach."

"We did what we could," Mrs. Rubber added. "But it was just too much of a stretch for us."

"Curses foiled again!" shouted the Mayor. "I wonder if anyone here in Bomb Depot Number 3 could put a stop to the Traffic Jammers villainy. We need to find out how Flannel Man did it, and this looks like a job for..."

"The Dugman and his faithful compatriot Hyper Hank!" exclaimed Dugman as he and his trusty sidekick Hyper Hank walked into the Bomb Depot Number 3 joining Teleportation Man, Mayorman, Dirk Justice, the Rubber Band, and The Assistant.

"Dugman, you have knowledge of all things that have happened," started the mayor. "How did Flannel Man capture the Traffic Jammer?"

With his faithful compatriot on his shoulder acting as lookout, Dugman goes into a deep trance. "Flash!" Dugman suddenly exclaimed. "An unidentified evil ninja cyborg has just come into town. With his mystical evil ninja cyborg abilities and an invisible light ray, he stops traffic in all directions. Even low flying superheroes are caught in the worst traffic jam in Supervania since the explosion at the rubber ball factory. Authorities have made a call to all superheroes to stop this fiend. All efforts have been thwarted by the Traffic Jammer's anti-superhero technology.

"Later that day, Flannel Man comes onto the scene. This formerly immovable object now known to authorities as the 'Traffic Jammer' has met with an irresistible force. He feels compelled to give Flannel Man a hug. With the Flannel Man 'Hug of Justice©' fully applied, the Traffic Jammer is captured."

All of the occupants of Bomb Depot Number 3 nod in recognition of the story as Dugman came out of his trance. "Oh yeah," stated Mayorman. "We could never do that. This package must be taken to Flannel Mansion."

While no one was looking, Dirk Justice snuck out of the room between Renee and Randy Rubber. Suddenly, Teleportation Man has an idea. "Maybe the weather will get bad, and the Traffic Jammer will just go home," he said.

"You could be onto something there," exclaimed the mayor. "What is the weather going to be like? Does anybody know?"

"Sorry chief," answered Teleportation man

"No help here," added Dugman as Hyper Hank shook his head no.

"I haven't listened to the radio today," Renee Rubber injected.

"I haven't seen a paper," Randy Rubber stated.

"Uh, I have been so busy," Mr. Rubber started.

"With the traffic and all," Mrs. Rubber finished.

"No sir," added The Assistant not to be left out.

"Well then, it looks like a job for..." declared Mayorman.

"Weatherman?" asked Randy Rubber.

"No! The Environ-Mentalist!" the Environ-Mentalist exclaimed as he entered Bomb Depot Number 3 joining Teleportation Man, Mayorman, the Rubber Band, Dugman, Hyper Hank, and The Assistant.

"Environ-Mentalist, what does the weather look like for the rest of the day?" asked the Mayor.

"Sunny and nice," replied the Environ-Mentalist. "A high in the mid- to upper-seventies. Winds out of the southwest at 5 miles per hour. Tonight turning breezy. Winds picking up to 15 miles per hour, but will remain southwesterly. Tomorrow it will be partly cloudy. A high in the low eighties...

"Thanks Environ-Mantalist," Mayorman interrupts. "That is what we wanted to know.

"What rotten luck to have such beautiful weather," stated The Assistant.

"It sounds like a nice day," started Mr. Rubber.

"To go for a drive," finished Mrs. Rubber.

"Rats!" exclaimed the Rubber children.

"Well, it doesn't look like we can count on bad weather to help us," stated Mayorman. "Anybody have any other ideas?"

"Sorry chief," answers Teleportation man

"No help here," adds Dugman as Hyper Hank shakes his head no.

"I am fresh out of ideas," Renee Rubber injects.

"I've got nothing," Randy Rubber states.

"Uh, if we had more time," Mr. Rubber starts.

"We could probably come up with something," Mrs. Rubber finishes.

"It really isn't my bag," added the Environ-Mentalist.

"No sir," adds The Assistant not to be left out.

As all of the superheroes in Bomb Depot Number 3 tried to come up with something to thwart the evil Traffic Jammers ways, in walked a small unmasked person.

"Can I help?" he asked.

"Just in time Errand boy!" exclaimed the mayor.

"Traffic is backed up all over town," started Dugman.

"The whole city is at a stand still," added Teleportation Man.

"Flannel Man is the only superhero..." began Mr. Rubber.

"That can put a stop to the Traffic Jammer's evil ways," finished Mrs. Rubber.

"However," Randy Rubber interjected.

"Flannel Man won't leave his house," insisted Renee Rubber.

"Without this package," the Environ-Mentalist added while picking up the ordinary looking package wrapped in brown paper.

"We need it taken to Flannel Mansion immediately," said the mayor urgently.

"Can you help us?" they all asked.

"Gladly," Errand boy answered quietly.

Errand boy grabbed the package addressed to Flannel Man and put it in his backpack. With a little wave, he departed Bomb Depot Number 3 leaving all of the superheroes in the small room. Mayorman spoke, "Godspeed Errand boy. Hey, where did Dirk Justice go anyway?"

"He was just here a second ago," answered Teleportation man

"No help here," added Dugman as Hyper Hank shakes his head no.

"Maybe he had an appointment," Renee Rubber injected.

"I haven't seen him," Randy Rubber stated.

"Uh, I have been so busy," Mr. Rubber started.

"With the traffic and all," Mrs. Rubber finished.

"It didn't think it was my turn to watch him," added the Environ-Mentalist.

"I don't know sir," added The Assistant not to be left out.

Errand boy headed out of the Auditorium of Equitableness and located his bike locked up in the bike rack. He dutifully unlocked his bike, and hopped on for his bike ride across town. Errand boy nimbly dodged the traffic that was backed up because of the Traffic Jammer's invisible light ray. He wove in and out and dodged the various superheroes and their vehicles. Finally, he reached Flannel Mansion. He got off his bike, and locked it to a nearby bicycle rack. He ran to Flannel Man's door and knocked. Flannel Man opened the door. "Errand boy! Do you have my package?" he asked.

"Indeed I do," replied the somewhat out of breath Errand boy as he opened his pack and handed Flannel Man his much awaited package.

"At long last," sighed the anxious superhero. "How can I thank you Errand boy?"

Errand boy shrugged and just stood there. Flannel Man thought for a moment, and in a flash, inspiration struck. Flannel Man took out his wallet and gave Errand boy a dollar. Errand boy took the money and put it in his pocket. With a little wave, Errand boy ran to his bike, unlocked it, and rode off.

Flannel Man took his package inside his Flannel Mansion and closed the door behind him. Flannel Man quickly tore off the brown paper packaging. He opened the resulting box to reveal a small flannel suit. Flannel Man jumped behind his antique dressing screen. Soon a tattered and torn flannel suit was flung over the screen. The small flannel suit was different than the one Flannel Man was wearing, but it had obviously been worn on many adventures. Without much fanfare, Flannel Man emerged with Theodore his newly flanneled side kick. Theodore, a flannel clad stuffed bear, was clad in a new flannel suit. The duo were now ready for action.

"To the streets!" Flannel Man exclaimed.

Flannel Man, with Theodore clutched in his hand, raced towards the center of the traffic jam. Various superheroes spotted him and began to cheer him on.

"Go get him Flannel Man!" Anonymous Man shouted.

"Dude! Like end his gnarly bogatosity man!" exclaimed Slangman.

"Great googily moogily" added Idiom Boy.

Flannel Man and Theodore, after much difficulty, reached the center of the traffic jam. The Traffic Jammer felt an unmistakable urge. He felt Flannel Man's presence. He could not resist. He had to give Flannel Man a big hug. In the embrace, traffic was freed. With Flannel Man's 'Hug of Justice©' fully applied, the trio jumped into a waiting police van. The Traffic Jammer was once again brought to justice.

Once the crisis was over and the traffic was once flowing there was relief back at the Auditorium of Equitableness. Mayorman found the opportunity to recline back at his desk. This is how Flannel Man found him after they locked the Traffic Jammer up.

"Thank our lucky stars that is over," declared the mayor.

"Indeed," agreed Flannel Man.

"Once again evil has been put into the unmerciful 'Hug of Justice©'," started Mayorman. "The streets again flow freely with good townsfolk. Once again they have been freed from the unyeilding grip of an evil ninja cyborg. What adventures lie ahead for the good people of...

Super Supervania
Where ankles rarely suffer from a sprain-ia
Where there's no shortage of wolfsbane-ia
It's Super Supervania.

"Gnarly dude!" added Slangman.

The End.

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The Quest for a Camera

A True Story

Several years ago, I bought a 35mm camera from the retail store in which I worked. It was a simple "Single Lens Reflex" camera. This SLR camera had a built-in light meter, but everything else was manual. I also purchased a wide-angle lens as well as a zoom lens. I have taken several rolls of film with this camera and some incredible pictures as a result. I have been quite pleased with it, but we have entered the digital age, and it was time to upgrade. Thus began my quest for a new camera!

Digital cameras have been around for several years, but I have never been fond of point and shoot cameras. They just do not offer the same flexibility that my SLR does. Thus, my first goal was to get a digital SLR. However, these have been quite expensive in recent years. Recently, digital SLRs have dipped into my price range. Further, a model that would work with my current lenses has become affordable. Thus, I had accomplished the difficult part of this quest. I know what I want, I just need to go and get it. It sounded simple enough, but I did not anticipate what was in store for me.

With the make and model firmly established, I jumped aboard the information superhighway with my pal Google by my side. There were many retailers offering the desired camera, so desiring the best deal, I decided to go with the retailer that offered the lowest price. I placed my order with this internet retailer.

The retailer wanted a great deal of unnecessary personal information. Thus, instead of giving my current phone number, I gave them my old number. I had it disconnected a short time ago, but records show it for my name. There was little reason to give them my phone number since they had my e-mail address. If they needed anything, I expected them to e-mail me the questions. However, they did e-mail me that they had some questions about my order, and that I should call them.

I thought it was odd that an internet retailer would slow down an order and increasing their cost by forcing me to speak to a person. However, I placed the call, and I spoke to a person with an east coast accent.

"We's got a few questions fer ya," he began. "First I wants to thank ya for yer order, and I wants to make sure yous knows dat dis camera doesn't have no lenses."

"I am aware of that," I responded.

"Good," he continued. "Dis camera needs a memory card. Does ya wants to order one now?"

"No thanks," I answered.

"Okay, dat's fine," he went on. "It needs battries. Does ya wants ta order some battries ta go wit it?"

"I don't need any batteries thanks," I told him.

"Very good, very good," he said. "Now does ya wants dis camera in English or Malaysian?"

"English of course," I answered.

"English?" he queried. "Well dat'll cost ya $200 extra."

"What?" I inquired.

"Yah, de English version is $200 more," he told me.

"You can cancel my order," I stated.

I would have never guessed there were still businesses doing the old "bait and switch." I was shocked. I wondered if what they were doing was legal, but my quest was still unfulfilled. I had met my first challenge and I ended up empty handed. Never fear, Google had more retailers. I was going to have to pay a little more, but not $200 more.

The next retailer offered free shipping which made it just a few dollars more than the first retailer who charged $30 for shipping. I placed my order and once again did not offer them my current phone number. Why do these internet retailers ask for a phone number? I do not wish any telemarketer to call me, so why would I want these retailers an option to sell my information? Upon placing my order, the retailer once again emailed me informing me that they had some questions about my order. "Oh no here we go again!" I thought.

I called, but I got voice mail. It must be standard procedure for camera retailers to waste money requiring a phone call. I tried a few times to get a hold of a person that day, but I got nothing. The next day, I finally spoke to a person (with an east coast accent) and he informed me that because I had a disconnected phone number that they canceled my order.

From that experience, I came away with the idea that every camera retailer is on the east coast of the US, and that they all want to try to sell accessories to your camera order before they ship it. While it was discouraging, I ventured onward. There were plenty of camera retailers on the net. I just had not contacted the right one. I picked another one and placed my order. With shipping costs, it was in the same price range as the others. I placed my order with my old phone number, I got the e-mail informing me of some questions, and I was ready for anything.

I called them to find that this individual did not have an east coast accent. Once again, the retailer asked me about batteries, memory, and lenses. I continued to inform them that I did not need anything but the camera itself.

"Well then," he stated. "We'll have this packaged up and sent to you right away."

Was I actually going to get the camera I wanted? Was this the end of my quest? I was eagerly anticipating a package when I got an e-mail informing me that the camera was on backorder. That was fine; I did not need the camera immediately. I could wait a short while. I waited 2 weeks, and I had not heard anything about my camera. Thus, I sent an e-mail to this retailer's customer service address. A few hours later, I received an e-mail stating that I had canceled my order. "That's odd," I thought. "I didn't cancel my order; I just wanted to know my status."

Shortly afterwards, I received a second e-mail informing me that by my request the order was canceled. This e-mail was informing me of the status of my order. "Doesn't any internet retailer want to sell anything?" I thought to myself. "Is it so difficult to fill out an order without so much fuss? Why can I not get this camera?"

I was going to try one more time. I decided that if this last retailer did not work, I would give up my quest. I would return to my life without the camera. I would accept defeat. I placed my order in the usual way with the disconnected phone number. To my surprise, I did not get an e-mail. However, it was odd that I did not even get a confirming e-mail. After a few days, I still had not heard from this retailer. I began to get worried. A few more days passed, so I decide to check the status of my order from their web site. To my astonishment, it stated that my camera had already shipped. Was I actually going to get my order without having to speak to a sales representative? Would my quest finally end?

There it was my new camera. Because of a configuration error on their end, I did not get a confirmation e-mail. However, I did get my camera. What an arduous journey! It was a long and difficult road, but I did get my camera. It takes great pictures too. I had fulfilled my quest, and my life has returned to normal. I hope I never have to suffer through such poor customer service again, but I probably will. Buying a camera should not be that difficult, but there are forces out there that make it so. Will people never learn?

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Land of the Zombies

It had been a fairly uneventful weekend for Wesley Hever. He straightened up his apartment a bit, watched some television, got a little reading done, and picked some things up at the grocery store. With evening closing in, he was astonished at how quiet a weekend it had been. Perhaps, it was too quiet. He began to wonder if he had missed some event that was taking place. It was late summer, so it couldn't be the Super Bowl. It was too early to be the World Series. Why was it so quiet?

Suddenly a knock came at his door. He opened it up to reveal his good friend Wayne McGuiness. "Good! You're here." Wayne said.

"What's up?" asked Wesley.

"There is trouble brewing out there, big trouble!"

"Well come on in and tell me about it."

"There's no time! We need to get out of here. We need to get out of here fast!"

"Settle down and tell me what's wrong."

"I just came here to get you and some supplies," Wayne stated coldly.

Wayne opened the refrigerator and began rummaging through it. He grabbed some water, some cans of refreshing beverages and stuffed them into his backpack. He closed the door and remarked, "Why is there fake leopard's skin fur on your fridge?"

"I saw it on some design show, and..."

"Never mind! Do you have any can goods? Do you have any rice and beans? You know - non-perishable goods."

"Are you going to tell me what is going on?"

"Once we get going. Well..."

"I haven't unpacked them yet from the grocery store. You'll probably find some stuff in those sacks over there."

Wayne searched through the sacks and just grabbed them. "OK, let's go!"

"Wait a minute! You just barge in here, grab some stuff and expect me to tag along without knowing what is going on? I have to work tomorrow! I'm not going anywhere until you tell me what the big emergency is."

"There's no time!"

"I'm not going anywhere!" Wesley affirmed as he sat down and turned on the television.

"OK OK OK OK! They are taking over."

"Who is taking over?"

"The story goes, there were this dozen or so people. They caused a bit of trouble and the authorities killed their leader. A couple of days later, this guy is walking around. He was dead! This formerly dead person returns to his group and soon there are bunches of them!"

"What are you talking about? Are you saying there are zombies out there?"

"I'm telling you they're coming! Since you insist, I guess I have to continue the story."

"Yes you do."

"Okay. At first, various groups kept them in check. They killed plenty of them that is for sure. They were somewhat controlled, but not anymore. There are millions of them in the city by now! We have to get out of here!"

"Zombies? You have to be kidding! Do you expect me to believe that?"

"You're not listening. They are coming to get us. Do you remember Jackie Larson?"

"Of course, we dated for a little while. She got a little obsessed, so I had to break it off. What does she have to do with it?"

"She's one of them! She has singled us out. Her and her group are coming to get us. They were just at my place, and I narrowly got out of there in time!"

"How do you know she's turned?"

"Like all of them, she's got that glassy-eyed look in her eyes, and she has that insipid smile on her face. Like that," Wayne explained while pointing at the television.

"Like what?"

"There on the TV. She has that look! That person is obviously one of them!"

"Who? The First Lady?"

"My goodness you're right! That is the First Lady and she is one of them! Who knows how far this has spread! We got to get going now!"

"Do you mean to tell me that the President's wife is a zombie?"

"Look! The President has that look too! It is probably all over Washington by now, and they're coming to get us. Can we go now?"

"Wait wait wait! Are you trying to tell me that the President and his wife are zombies and that Jackie Larson is on her way over here..."

Before he can finish his question, there is a knock on the door.

"Oh man, they're here! We'll have to go out the window. I told you we needed to get going," explained Wayne.

"It is just a coincidence," responded Wes as he peaked through the spy hole. "Holy crap it's Jackie!"

"Why don't you ever listen to me? We need to get out of here! Does this window open?"

"There must be 2 dozen people out there and a couple of them are dressed like clowns," Wesley continued.

"Wesley darling," began a voice in the hall. "I know you're in there. Open the door; will you honey?"

"You're right! Jackie does have that look. I'll get the window, it is kind of tricky," Wes explained as he opened the window. "Clowns?"

"You don't think they're picky do you? They are out to get everyone! What the heck is this?" Wayne asked holding some pamphlets he retrieved from one of the shopping bags.

"Those were out front when I got back from shopping. I must have put them in there to carry them in."

"Did you read these?" asked Wayne with alarm.

"I may have skimmed them, but I didn't read them."

"Did you read these?" asked Wayne more forcefully.

"I don't think so."

"I want you to be sure!" insisted Wayne.

"I'm pretty sure," Wesley asserted as he finally got the window open.

"I guess I'll have to risk it," Wayne said as he threw the pamphlets on the floor. "Let's get out of here."

"Come on Wes baby, open the door," the two men heard from the hall. "I can hear the TV going. I know you're in there. It is me Jackie. Jackie Larson. Can we talk?"

"Obsessed! Hey, that's quite a ways down," complained Wes. "So, why don't we just shoot our way out? They do it in the movies all the time."

"That's the movies man! This is real life. You can't go around shooting people for no good reason!"

"If they are threatening us..."

"Hey, do you still have that replica Colt 45 peacemaker? You might want to grab it just in case."

"Are you serious?"

"You're right; it'll probably get us into trouble. If the President is one of them, the courts might be too."

"What?"

"Never mind, let's get going."

"Where are we going?"

"I'll tell you once we're out of here!"

"He's not opening the door," a voice in the hall said. "Do you have a key Jackie?"

"I would never..." she insisted.

"That's a relief," another voice stated to Jackie. "Wesley, we aren't leaving. We can wait all night." The doorbell began to ring constantly.

"I'll jump first," started Wayne. "Then you drop down my pack and then the groceries. You can grab whatever you think you want or need and follow me down."

"Right," responded Wesley as Wayne jumped.

Wes looked around a bit and decided he did not need anything and went to the window. Wes dropped the pack and the sacks of groceries to Wayne waiting below. With the continuous bell ringing and the knocking on the apartment door, Wesley jumped out of the second story window.

As he landed Wayne said, "Get down! There are more of them over there."

Wesley ducked into some shrubs to find Wayne crouched there. Wayne's truck was only about 100 feet away. Wayne had fastened a canoe tightly to a rack over the bed of the pickup. "Are we going canoeing?" Wesley whispered.

"Since the President is one of them, it might be best if we leave the country. Who knows how far this goes? We need to be ready for anything."

"Hey! There is my landlord with them."

"We have to move fast. He'll probably let them into your apartment. Keep your head down and follow me."

The two men crawled along the ground toward Wayne's truck. All the while, they kept their eyes on the group of people by the door of Wesley's apartment building. Quietly, Wayne put the supplies he gathered from Wesley's apartment into the back of the pickup. Under the canoe in its rack, there was a large backpack full of camping gear. Wayne unlocked the truck and the two men quietly entered and locked the truck doors after they entered. They sat there quietly for a few moments and then Wesley asked, "Are we headed north or south?"

"We'd be lucky to make it very far south. I've heard they have a group of 30,000 that gathers weekly in Houston."

"Is it some sort of Zombie Jamboree?"

"I have no idea what they do. The President is one of them and he's got a place in Texas, so the south is probably crawling with them. Although there are probably more options for us down south, we're headed north. I figure we can get into Canada by way of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. If the borders are overrun, we should be able to get through by canoe. Besides, this is Minnesota!"

"Do you think it is that bad?"

"Minnesota? Nah, it's a nice enough place..."

"No I mean all of this stuff," Wesley explained pointing to the crowd in front of his apartment building.

"I don't know what to think. I'm in total survival mode. They'll notice us when we start the truck, so be ready."

"Hey, they're in my apartment!" cried Wesley.

"It's go time," Wayne said as he started the truck and put it in gear and took off.

Out of Wesley's apartment window Jackie yelled, "There they go!" She pointed to the truck Wayne was driving. However, it was too late for that group to stop them. Out of the parking lot the two men sped.

It was now dark, and Wayne took back roads to the interstate. There was little traffic on the roads, and they did not run into any trouble. Trying not to drive conspicuously, Wayne made his way onto the interstate heading north.

"I could use a beer," Wesley stated after a bit of a drive.

"I'll pull over as soon as I feel safe, and you can dig one out of the back."

"You sure were prepared for this."

"I was a boy scout. This looks like a good spot," Wayne said as he pulled off the road under a bridge. Wes jumped out of the cab and began searching for Wayne's pack. "Grab me an ale would you?"

"Sure!" Wesley responded as he fetched two cans out of Wayne's backpack.

Wes jumped back into the cab of the truck, and they began moving again. Before they went too far they saw flashing lights from behind. It was a police car. Wayne pulled the truck over and the police officer stopped behind them. The officer slowly and carefully walked up to Wayne's window. "Paper's please," he stated.

"Here are my driver's license and my proof of insurance," replied Wayne as he handed the officer his cards. "Is there anything wrong?"

"Have you boys been drinking?" the officer asked sternly.

"No sir," snapped Wayne.

"What are those?" the officer asked pointing his flashlight at the open cans in the cab.

"My friend is drinking root beer, and I'm having a ginger ale," replied Wayne as Wes showed the cans.

The officer went back into the waiting squad car and checked Wayne's records. After several minutes, the officer headed back to Wayne's truck. "I saw you pull of the road back there. What was that all about," the officer asked.

"My friend and I were thirsty. I had these cans in the back there. We pulled over to fetch them," responded Wayne.

"I see. Where are the rest of your papers?" asked the officer.

"Rest of my papers?" inquired Wayne.

"Everybody got some new papers that they were supposed to carry with them where ever they go. Some small pamphlets, where are they?"

"Those? Where did we put those? Are they in the pack Wes?" Wayne asked his passenger.

"Uh, I don't think..." Wes started.

"I don't think we forgot them either," interrupted Wayne. "I'm sure they're in the pack back there with our bible, do you want me to show you?"

Wayne started to open the door when the officer began, "Nah, that's all right. Where are you boys headed?"

"We're going up north for a little fishing trip," Wayne lied. "We've been planning this for months. I hope we have everything."

"Well, good luck to you boys," replied the officer. "Have a good night and drive safely."

"Thanks officer! We will," called Wayne as the officer walked back to the squad car.

"What was that bible crack about?" asked Wes as the officer pulled out.

"Later..."

Wayne put the truck in gear and pulled out behind the officer. After several hours driving in silence along the north bound interstate, Wesley could no longer keep quiet. "Are you going to tell me what is going on here?"

"With what happened back there with the police officer, I feel better about you now. I know you didn't read those pamphlets. You know, we're supposed to carry them wherever we go."

"What?" asked Wesley. "Now I'm really confused."

"You should watch the news more."

"You know I haven't watched the news since that whole OJ Simpson fiasco. They sensationalize everything now. What does the news have to do with it?"

"We're far enough from anyplace, I think we're pretty safe now. We probably won't run into any trouble since we're far enough from any population centers. If you had been watching the news, you would know that things have changed. They have changed dramatically."

"I know, zombies are a big change!"

"Sorry about that, it isn't exactly that bad. It is just that we now live in a theocracy."

"A theocracy? That's impossible!"

"I wish it were. That scene back at your place was about conversion. Jackie and her group are Evangelicals. They were there to convert you to Christianity. Well, their idea of Christianity anyway."

"They weren't zombies?"

"Well, there is little difference. They don't pay attention to anything going on around them either, and they don't stop until everyone is one of them."

"You have a point."

"They recently passed a law that says you need to carry those religious pamphlets wherever you go and show them upon request."

"What does that show?"

"Supposedly it shows that you've taken Jesus Christ as your personal saviour. It shows that you're practicing the official religion of the US.

"And the first amendment...?"

"Edited for your protection. The Supreme Court has totally overhauled the establishment clause."

"So everyone has to be a Christian?"

"Either that, or have your civil rights curtailed. That is why we're going to Canada. It'll be crowded at the boarder. They'll probably send lots of people back, so we can paddle in. We are almost there."

"So, let me get this straight. The Evangelical Christians have finally gotten it their way?"

"Religious freedom, one of the foremost important things that some of our founding fathers so strongly believed, has gone by the way side.

"Puritan's leaving England to escape religious persecution."

"That has been totally forgotten. The oppressed are now the oppressors."

"Okay, Canada. You talked me into it!"

Wesley and Wayne abandoned the pickup truck at a Boundary Waters entry point and headed farther north. They hated to use an entry point illegally, but they felt they had no choice. After entering Canadian territory, no one knows what became of the two men. Some say they started their own religion. The President has disavowed any knowledge of the two men. Some say they returned to Minnesota under different names, and accepted the fate of their country. Still others say they have been fighting to return the US to sanity. No one knows for certain what became of them, but we hope they're safe.

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Supervania

The Case of the Anniversary Present

Part One

It started off as a normal day for the residence of Supervania. Of course, what was normal for this town would not be normal for most towns. It was going to be a hectic day for the mayor of Supervania. Mayorman would not soon forget this day. At least he hoped he wouldn't forget it because it was his wedding anniversary.

He arrived as usual to the Auditorium of Equitableness. It was early in the morning and he was ready for a normal busy day. His first meeting of the day was with the "League of Yes-Men." Unfortunately, only the Affirminator and the Seal of Approval could make the meeting. "That was hardly a 'League,'" thought the mayor.

"What can I do for the 'League'?" started the Mayor.

"Mayor," the Affirminator began. "You're doing a fabulous job."

"Arh Arh!" added the Seal of Approval.

"The 'League of Yes-Men' considers your leadership impeccable," continued the Affirminator.

"That is very nice of you to say," replied Mayorman. "However, I'm a very busy man. What did you wish to meet about?"

"Arh arh arh," the Seal of Approval began while nudging the Affirminator.

"Yes, I couldn't agree more," included the Affirminator.

"Uh," questioned the mayor. "Are you going to tell me what he said?"

"Yes Mr. Mayor, I certainly would like to," responded the Affirminator. "However, she's a she."

"I beg your pardon," blushed the mayor. "Are you going to tell me what she said?"

"Arh arh arh arh," clapped the seal.

"Of course," started the Affirminator. "However, I don't speak Seal."

"Is there are going to be any point to this meeting?" questioned Mayorman.

"Naturally ... we wouldn't waste your valuable time Mr. Mayor. However, the BootLicker and his toady, 'Toady', were the heroes that wished to bring up the issue. Unfortunately, their car was vandalized this morning, so they had to cancel. We were just here to support them. They are very important heroes. Very much like yourself," the Affirminator went on.

"Arh arh!" added the Seal of Approval.

"Do you have any idea what this issue is regarding?" asked the mayor.

"Of course we do. However, we have been sworn to not discuss it without them."

"Well, I guess this ends this meeting then," finished the mayor.

"Absolutely," the Affirminator said. "It has been an honor and a pleasure coming here and having you meet with us on this important issue."

"Arh arh arh," added the seal.

"Nice seeing you," responded the mayor. "If you would like to reschedule, please see The Assistant. Thanks for coming."

"Yes yes," the Affirminator stated while MayorMan issued them out the door.

The Assistant entered the mayor's office at the Auditorium of Equitableness. "Sir," the mayor's assistant started. "Anonymous Man is here to see you."

"Very Good. Send him in."

"Mr. Mayor," started Anonymous Man. "You have to do something!"

"Yes," replied the mayor. "Yes I do."

"Do you know what I'm talking about?" asked the superhero.

"Naturally," started Mayorman. "Yes I do. Of course I know. Yes ... Well no. I have no idea."

"Some vandal is throwing balloons full of paint on cars all over town," replied Anonymous Man.

"Water balloons?" asked the mayor.

"Not water balloons. Well, water balloons filled with paint. So, they're more like paint balloons," stumbled Anonymous Man.

"Sir," interrupted The Assistant. "We have just got a report that these balloons are hitting cars all over the United States."

"This is obviously the work of some sort Evil Ninja Cyborg," exclaimed the mayor. "But what could it mean? This looks like a job for..."

"The League of Yes-Men!" exclaimed the Affirminator.

"Do you know what is going on?" asked the mayor.

"Yes!" replied the Affirminator. "Of course we know."

"Are you going to tell us?" asked the mayor.

"Certainly, if we could Mr. Mayor," responded the Affirminator. "You know that we would."

"Arh arh arh," added the Seal of Approval.

"I see," replied the mayor skeptically. "Assistant, please show these heroes out!"

"Absolutely," replied The Assistant.

"I would like to say that you are doing a wonderful job as mayor..." started the Affirminator.

The Assistant's eyes turn a brilliant lime green as a roar rings throughout the room. The Seal of Approval and the Affirminator are lifted off the floor of the mayor's office and are whisked out the door by an unseen force. The pair of superheroes travel throughout the Auditorium of Equitableness and are planted softly in front of the building. The Assistant's eyes turn back to their naturally dusky color and a faint smile of satisfaction crosses his lips.

"Anonymous Man," started the mayor as he attempted to get more information. "Is there anything more that you can tell me?"

"Yes," Anonymous Man replied. "Of course, I could. Naturally, I would like to... Sorry, the League of Yes-Men got to me. I don't think there is anything more I can add."

"Thank you for your report Anonymous Man," the mayor said as he moved around his desk to sit down. "If you think of anything or need anything else be sure to let us know."

"Thank you mayor."

"Do I need to show him out too?" asked The Assistant eagerly.

"No need," answered the mayor.

"Oh," The Assistant responded as he sulked back to his desk.

"However," the mayor indicated to The Assistant. "I do need to get something for my wife for our anniversary."

"That is not my job," The Assistant replied curtly.

"My schedule is quite full, and I need to get her something nice," whined the mayor. "This looks like a job for..."

"Sorry," interrupted the mayor's assistant. "There isn't anyone here to see you."

"Rats!" exclaimed the mayor.

"However, your wife is on line 1."

"Thank you!" replied the mayor as he picked up his phone. He pressed the blinking light and began speaking to his wife on the phone. "Hello Dear, did you get your breakfast in bed? I didn't want to wake you, so I left it beside the bed there. Knocked over? I'm sorry; I thought I kept the cat out of the room. The open window? Oh, that explains it. She has always been a smart cat. How's that? Of course, I made the reservation. I made it weeks ago. Our table will be ready at the restaurant at 8PM. I hope I won't be late, but we're a little swamped here already. There is an emergency happening as we speak. I'll try to be on time. I have arranged for the America's Original Evil Ninja Cyborg Horse and Buggy Service to pick you up and take you to the restaurant. The city can't function without me. Who was that? Flash, your old boyfriend called? What did he want? That was pretty bold. Did you tell him that you're happily married? Of course I'm happy. Why would you ask such a thing? When I married you, I became the luckiest man in Supervania. He is going to give you an anniversary present? Now dear, I'm not going to compete with a Ninja Cyborg. I'll give you your gift at dinner tonight. I'll be on time. I promise. I've got another call waiting dear, so I have to let you go. I love you. Have a good day. Good bye. Assistant!"

"Yes sir?"

"You did reserve our table didn't you?"

"Of course, I made the reservation. I made it weeks ago."

"Good, could you contact AOENC Horse and Buggy Service and send a buggy to my house at 7:30?"

"Yes sir."

"While you're at it, could you pick up something nice for my wife?"

"Sir, I am unaffected by the influence of the League of Yes-Men. Since that is not part of my job, you will have to find someone else."

"All right already! Speaking of the league, did they reschedule?"

"Yes. They'll be here next week. However, I pressed and their issue is that 'League' is such and old fashioned term, and they wish to change their name."

"Ugh! Every year a group of superheroes wishes to change their name! What do they want to change it to 'The Uncanny Yes-Men', 'Instructor Confirmation and his Yes-Men', 'The Ultimate Yes-Men'?"

"I didn't press that far."

"My Ninja Cyborg wife's former boy friend calls to inform her that he's giving her and anniversary present, and I have to deal with superheroes with marketing issues. I guess that is what it's like to be the mayor of..."

Super Supervania
Poems are found by the quatrain-ia
And read without much eyestrain-ia
It's Super Supervania.

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Supervania

The Case of the Anniversary Present

Part Two

After a morning of signing documents and making calls, the mayor had a late lunch. It was a busy day with plenty of complaints about cars being ruined by some unseen entity. After a relaxing lunch and some more city business the mayor asked his assistant, "Is there any more information about these balloons being dropped on cars?"

"Several of the city's superheroes have claimed that it is the work of an Evil Ninja Cyborg, but no definite word on the perpetrator."

"Have you heard from The Dugman? He'll be able to tell us what has happened."

"No sir. Do you want me to put out the Dugman signal?"

"Yes, you had better."

"I'll get right on it," replied The Assistant as he rushed out of the mayor's office.

The Assistant walked to the superhero signal board and searched through the list of 'D' named superheroes until he found the one marked 'Dugman and his sidekick Hyper Hank'. He pressed the corresponding button. This activated the search light mechanism with the proper overlay indicating the correct signal.

Simultaneously with the spotlight signal being sent, a phone dialed the Dugman's super advanced message receiving device he called a 'pager'. This informed the duo of superheroes that the Mayor wished to see them in his office as soon as possible.

Dugman and his Giant Green Iguana sidekick Hyper Hank were busy trying to clean the 'Barbie Pink' paint off the super advanced transportation device the Dugman called his car when they received the signal, or 'page', from the mayor. They dropped their meager attempts to remove the pink paint and drove to the Auditorium of Equitableness.

When the two superheroes arrived at the mayor's office, he was pacing back and forth in front of his desk concentrating deeply on something. "Mr. Mayor, you wanted to see us?" asked The Dugman.

"Yes yes! Thanks for coming," started the mayor. "You may have noticed that there are balloons filled with pink paint being dropped on cars all over town. Actually, this is happening all over the US. Do you have any idea of who did this?"

"Let me see," replied the Dugman.

Hyper Hank went into lookout mode as the Dugman went to his all seeing trance. The Dugman closed his eyes to concentrate and then suddenly began "Flash! The Mayorman and his Evil Ninja Cyborg wife are celebrating their wedding anniversary. The mayor's rival to the affections of his wife is going to attempt to break up the marriage. He realizes that with the election coming up, that the mayor needs his wife to gain some of the Evil Ninja Cyborg vote. If he can break them up, and get back the love of his life, he can accomplish two things with a single act. Flash, the former boyfriend, put his plan in action by deciding on the perfect gift to give Mrs. Mayor. He decides to give her a ... pink carnation??"

The Dugman slowly came out of his trance as the words fade from his mouth. "Of course!" exclaimed the mayor. "Now I remember! Her former boyfriend is the Evil Pun Master! Assistant, look in the city computer for the Pun Master's nemesis and signal that superhero! Dugman and Hank, you have provided a great service to the city of Supervania. We should have this vandalizing cyborg behind bars soon. Now, if you could do the city another great favor, I am stuck here at the office until this villain is apprehended. As you yourself stated Dugman, it is my anniversary, and I am in need of a present for my wife. Could you pick up something nice as a favor to me?"

Just then, a green streak is seen heading towards the mayor's door as Hyper Hank darts out of the room. "Sorry Mayor, Hank senses danger and we must be off. Happy Anniversary and farewell all!"

"Rats!" exclaimed the mayor as The Dugman rushed after the scurrying lizard.

"Sir," interrupted The Assistant. "Dirk Justice is here to see you."

"Send him in," replied the mayor as he walked around his desk to have a seat.

"Mr. Mayor," started Dirk Justice. "I'm sure you're aware that cars are being turned pink all over town. Luckily, the Cycle of Justice has been unaffected. I just thought I would inform you that I believe it is the work of the Evil Pun Master."

"Thank you Dirk," replied the mayor. "We here at the Auditorium of Equitableness have just concluded the same thing. We are waiting for ..."

"Slang Man and his gnarly homey Idiom Boy," interrupted Slang Man.

"Zounds!" added Idiom Boy.

"Thanks for coming on such short notice Slang Man," the mayor said. "Here is the situation ... umm ... 'Dude'. Your nemesis the Evil Pun Master is on the loose again. We believe he is dropping balloons filled with pink paint all over the US. It is our belief that this ... urr ... 'bidness' is an attempt to influence the next election. We need you to get the ... uh ... 'lowdown' on him and if possible bring him to justice."

"Gadzooks!" exclaimed Idiom Boy.

"A single minizzle before I cop a mope. Dis mooley, the Evil Pun Master, got a rep with some serious street cred. He could be hangin' at his crib and have his glommers do the nasty and he doesn't even bounce the pad. Can you M.O. this action?"

"Well put," replied the mayor. "I got nothing... Anybody have any idea what he just said?"

"My dear departed mother tried to teach me this stuff," replied Dirk Justice.

"They departed for Florida didn't they?" asked the mayor.

"Yes," answered Dirk. "However I couldn't get the hang of it her all-inclusive language conversion."

"Assistant," called the mayor. "Has the Dugman left the building?"

"I'll get him back sir," answered The Assistant as he pushed the Dugman's signal button.

"Is the Dugman a translator?" inquired Dirk Justice.

"I think it is one of Hyper Hanks abilities. He can escape any enclosure and he can understand anything," responded the mayor. "Of course, we need Dugman to tell us what his side kick is saying. While we wait for the Dugman, could one of you run out and get something for my wife for our anniversary?"

"Kerfuffle!" Idiom Boy exclaimed.

"Chill Daddy," added Slang Man. "Ain't no reason to get crunk wit yer ole lady. A gnarled map'll do a kablam on the sitch. A little sweet sauce and some bling-bling and you'd be styling like a Garfunkle."

"Uh, thanks ... 'homey'," replied the mayor. "It looks like a time for ..."

"The Dugman and his trusty companion Hyper Hank!" exclaimed the superhero.

"S'up G?" asked Slang Man.

"Can you dig it?" responded The Dugman.

"It's Dug ... Man," finished Slang Man.

"I was just splainin' to the Mayah and his peeps that they can't give a thumper to the Pun Master without some reasonage."

"Fo Sho!" replied Dugman.

"Okay," interrupted the mayor. "Enough with your ... uh 'rapping', and tell us what he's saying."

"You can't go after the Pun Master without proof that he is the culprit," answered The Dugman.

"Oh!" exclaimed the mayor. "Why didn't he say so in the first place?"

"The man no want no help, he no get no help," mumbled Slang Man.

"Well," continued the mayor. "Dugman, you said yourself that he wanted to give my wife a 'Pink Carnation' for our anniversary."

"I did?" asked Dugman.

"Yes," continued the mayor. "He has masterminded an effort to drop balloons filled with pink paint on the cars of the US. Thus, he would be making the US a 'Pink Car Nation'!"

"The fiend!" exclaimed The Dugman.

"It reminds me of the time he tried to get Hong Kong violinist Sing Yin Huang to marry Tour De France winner Miguel Indurain so she would become Sing Yin Indurain."

"That Monster!" interjected Dugman.

"Zowie!" added Idiom Boy.

"Natch!" agreed Slang Man. "That's all gravy noodles. Are the 5-0 gonna play ball?"

"He asks are the police going to believe you?" translated the Dugman.

"I have my own phone recorded, and his phone call to my wife will be available to the courts," replied the mayor.

"Shazam," started Slang Man. "Sorry I zooted you cats up and down. I'll bag the head banger and pokify him before you can oscillate with your yummy mummy."

"He's sorry for the confusion and he'll have him arrested before your dinner tonight."

"He'd better hurry," replied the mayor. "It is getting late."

"Solid," responded Slang Man as he and Idiom Boy headed for the door. "Dirk made a quick outie."

"Ghostville!" replied Idiom Boy.

"Thanks again for your help Dugman," the mayor said while shaking The Dugman's hand. "You sure helped a great deal with this situation."

"I'm always at your service Mr. Mayor," replied the superhero.

"Oh no!" shouted the mayor. "What time is it?"

"It is 7:15 PM," replied The Assistant.

"That isn't enough time to pick out something nice for my wife!" bemoaned the mayor.

"Sir," interrupted the mayor assistant. "Errand Boy is here to see you."

"He's a little late," cried the mayor.

The young man quietly entered the mayor's office with a bouquet of carnations and ornate wooden box. "Sir," he stated meekly. "The fifth year is the 'Wooden Anniversary'. So, I took the liberty of purchasing this small antique box and this bouquet of your wife's favorite flowers. That'll be $36.47."

"Errand Boy!" exclaimed the mayor. "Here is $50. Keep the change. You once again have saved the city. All is right again here in..."

Super Supervania
Where life is rarely mundane-ia
And anniversaries have plenty of champaign-ia
It's Super Supervania.

"Looking Good!" added Fashionista

The End.

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Iapetus Saves Manhattan

Chapter One

It was spring break and where did this Floridian academic go during spring break? Certainly he wasn't about to go anywhere near Ft Lauderdale. No, Dr. John Maland went to a far more exotic location. He was on board his small wooden sailing vessel somewhere between Miami and Bermuda. His destination wasn't on the map, which is very unusual for inhabited islands. However, this was no ordinary island.

What initially drew this island to the attention of Dr. Maland was the fact that their culture was unaffected by the "Age of Discovery." The pirates that lived around the Caribbean did not touch the inhabitants of this island. There are no records of any encounters with the islands natives. All of the sailors left this island alone. It had no contact even as explorers were exploiting surrounding islands. In his research, Dr. Maland was trying to discover why this island was so special during this period.

When he considered this aspect, another question would occur to him. Why did this tribe allow him to research them? Surely, other scientists tried to study them. He couldn't be the only scientist to wonder about this tribe. Certainly, there must have been other anthropologists and others that had stumbled upon them through the course of history. Why didn't any of them write anything down?

Of course, the island being in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle may have had some impact. In recent times, this fact could have scared off many would-be scientists. The mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle could have kept some scientists away, but would it scare off all of them? Was he missing something? Was he getting himself into deep trouble?

Nah, he felt that the Bermuda triangle stuff was all nonsense anyway. "Margaret Mead does her studies in Samoa and New Guinea and she's labeled one of the most ground breaking scientists of all time. My work is in the 'Devil's Triangle' and I get labeled a pseudo-scientist!" he would often lament. However, this group was very interesting and that took the sting out of most of it.

In his first few encounters with the inhabitants of the island, he discovered a few interesting facts. The tribe of this island had adopted "Iapetus" as their protector and major deity. They claimed that Iapetus would rise up from the water and smite their enemies. They claimed that this deity was also responsible for their isolation. They informed John that he was allowed to study them by the graces of Iapetus.

John thought this was incredible. He did some research and discovered that Iapetus is the name of a Greek Mythology Titan. According to Greek myth, Iapetus was the father of Atlas and Prometheus. When Zeus overthrew the Titans, he banished them to Tartaras. There was no reason for the island inhabitants to single out this rather obscure titan.

"Why not worship the titan Oceanus?" Dr. Maland often thought. "Wouldn't that would be a more fitting deity?"

It was incredible that an ancient Greek myth could be transformed and adopted by a far off island culture. When this was first published in an anthropological journal, some pointed that this was more evidence that Atlantis was in the Bermuda triangle. The question remained, why would this titan be the object of worship for this tribe? Even if Atlantis was in the Bermuda triangle, wouldn't they be worshipping the same gods as the Greeks of a comparable time?

Dr. Maland concluded that the name of Iapetus was probably just a coincidence. The constant link to fringe groups was a minor annoyance to John, but he was sailing in the Caribbean on a beautiful spring day towards an island paradise. He will take some criticism from mainstream scientists for several days in the tropics.

These Iapetian's, as they call themselves, began trading around the Caribbean a few years earlier. They were trading their exquisite handmade jewelry for cloth and tools. Dr. Maland was studying how this sudden interest in the outside world was affecting their culture. They were remarkably resistant to the lures of much of the new technologies. They still used their dugouts rather than the newer fiberglass boats available. They used paddles and sails rather than motors. The group adopted some technologies and ignored others. Their pace of life was still slow compared to the hustle and bustle of American life. That was why John used a wooden sailboat to get to the island. Well, that and the fact that he loved to sail.

As he approached the beach with the huge statues of Iapetus, he saw a small group of Iapetians waiting to greet him. Many of the tribal members looked forward to his visits. They liked his stories as much as he liked theirs.

"This tribe has an incredible ability to learn," noted John. "In the few years of trade, the entire tribe has learned a great deal of English. Nearly every member of the tribe can speak some English."

Dr. Maland was hesitant to teach them more, but they could be very insistent. While their English skills helped with his research, but Dr. Maland was much more interested in their language. If he could, he wanted to link it with other languages. Perhaps a link to Greek would give more credence to the Bermuda -- Atlantis link. However, the islands inhabitants were quite eager to practice their newly found language skills.

As a form of entertainment, the tribe would gather around the fire and the storytellers would tell their stories. Mostly these stories involved Iapetus and some outsiders. Rarely did outsiders get to hear their stories. In fact, the tribe had never invited John to one of their story telling sessions.

This time after the typical greeting ceremony, the group invited Dr. Maland to join them. The tribal elders had discussed it before his arrival, and they were going to let him join them as they gathered around the fire for their story. Further, since Dr. Maland was there, the storyteller was going to tell his story in English.

* * * * *

"In the time before the motors," the story began. "We were a peaceful people. We did not interfere with the outside, and we expected them to do the same. We meant no one any harm, but we had a capable defender. So, many ships would pass, and leave us unharmed. However, one day a large wooden monster came upon our island. It bore some symbols." The story teller wrote 'PICKERING' in the sand. "This creature had short stubby arms coming out his sides. This monster had large fins on his back to propel him along the water with the wind. Men sat on his back and went along for the ride. The men slowed the great monster and rested with him near our shore. Men shouted and yelled at our people, but none could understand. They shouted and yelled some more, but none could decipher the words. The men became angry and released the fury of the beast upon our island. The arms of the monster boomed and caused great destruction from afar. The people fearing the worst called upon the priestess to ask Iapetus to rise up from the depths and save his people. The men on the great beast laughed at our priestess. They pointed the arms of the beast at her, but they did her no harm. Upon hearing the prayer, the mighty Iapetus arose out of the depths. The men on the monster fell silent with fear of our mighty protector. The beast they rode grew quiet, but did not flee. The men pulled and worked their harnesses, but Iapetus got closer. Their great monster was paralyzed with fear. The men ran, pulled on ropes, and shouted but their transportation would not move. As our protector got near to the fiend, the booming started again but Iapetus was not affected. Our protector lifted the booming monster over his head and smashed in on the reef. The beast broke into many pieces and the men that rode her were killed. We thanks Iapetus for his aid, and the priestess offered some food to our mighty protector. After eating the offering, our protector returned to the depths. He was greatly saddened by his destruction. He did not like to kill, but he did when he was forced. In his anguish, Iapetus caused a great storm to rage to mourn the loss of those men. When the storm left our people gathered the remnants of the beast and created a great fire. Upon the flames of the fire much food was prepared. All of the people of the tribe thanked Iapetus for his help. They also apologized for causing his anguish. Iapetus appeared and ate more of the food, and all was right again. The only reminder of that day is this part of the beast." The storyteller takes out piece of wood with 'Pickering' engraved upon it.

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Iapetus Saves Manhattan

Chapter Two

"This iceberg is enormous, and that is just the tip of the iceberg," Dr. Claude LeFleur joked to himself.

With the global warm temperatures, this iceberg had broken off the arctic ice shelf and was floating south towards Canada. Many icebergs had done such things in the past, but this one was very special. Some Canadians on their fishing boat were trawling between the icebergs, when they spotted something unusual about this particular iceberg. When they approached to investigate, they were astounded at what they saw. They immediately contacted authorities. This is how Dr. LeFleur got involved.

Dr. LeFleur was at the top of his field. In his younger days, they scoffed that such a young man could not be so competent. However, he proved them all wrong with finding after finding. Now, at age 50, he was at the forefront of another major discovery. He was in charge of researching this iceberg. He was onboard the tugboat that was towing it into the Hudson Bay.

A research station was set up on James Bay on the southern tip of the Hudson Bay. That was the only location large enough to handle this special iceberg. It was an unusually warm spring, and the ice was melting quickly. The more the ice melted, the more excited the crew became. This iceberg had an enormous creature trapped inside. The fishing crew, who discovered it, dubbed it an ultra-yeti.

The creature was pure white and was enormous. This ultra-yeti was reminiscent of the legendary creature thought to roam the Himalayan mountain range; however, this beast was much bigger than the legendary "Abominable Snowman." It was quite a fierce looking monster. From Dr. LeFleur's initial examination, he deduced that the creature was pregnant. Thus, they all agreed that she was female. They named her Casiell, which is Latin for "Earthy Mother".

As the tug slowly pulled the ice entombed creature south, more and more ice was melting away. "This had better not take too long," thought Dr. LeFleur. "Otherwise, all the ice will melt, and she'll go sinking to the bottom of Hudson Bay. However, she is gigantic. Even on the bottom, she may still be above the water."

The creature entombed in this block of ice was indeed gigantic. It would make many dinosaurs look like small dogs. When Cassiel roamed the earth, she would have stood 250 meters tall while standing on her hind legs. "This animal was half the height of Canada's tallest building," thought Dr. LeFleur. "It would dwarf many buildings in the North America. I'm one of the luckiest people alive, because I get to study her!"

Dr. LeFleur's research team was waiting for them to arrive at their small research station on James Bay. The team notified several prominent biological scientists, and it was the talk of the many blogs on the internet. There was a lot of talk about the ultra-yeti. Many biologists made their way to the research station. Many curious people also made their way to the remote area of Canada. The research team had to establish some security to make sure that nothing got out of hand.

The unusually warm weather melted much of the ice and exposed much of the ultra-yeti's fur before they reached the research station. However, there was still enough ice under her to keep her afloat. However, Dr. LeFleur was worried about decay. He was hoping for much cooler weather to keep her from decaying, but there would be many opportunities to get good data.

Dr. LaFleur's team obtained some of the fur for analysis. Furthermore, the team was able to obtain some blood and tissue samples. With these samples they were able to do some DNA and chemical analysis on the creature. In their analysis of these samples, they quickly confirmed that she was pregnant.

There were many exciting discoveries. Clearly, this creature was not the sole member of her species unless her species was born pregnant. "Who knows how many of these creatures once roamed the earth?" thought Dr. LeFleur. "What caused this unfortunate creature to become trapped in the ice? Are there others to be found in the melting arctic ice?"

Dr. LeFleur's team studied the gigantic creature very thoroughly. Claude was anxious to get more information from Cassiel's baby. The weather was cooperating and melting much of the ice that trapped her legs. From what they could tell, she would have delivered just as any mammal. Once her legs were free, they would attempt to access some tissue and blood from the baby through the uterus.

When the fishing vessel first discovered the creature, she was in an odd position in the ice. Her legs were near the top and at an odd angle; her head was much farther down. While they were towing her through Hudson Bay, they would rotate her as much as they could so she would lie down at a more convenient angle as the ice melted. At present, she was lying mostly on her back but slightly on her left side.

The team's plan was to free the child if possible. Once freeing the child, the science team could then get to the mother's stomach. This would allow them to analyze her diet. "How much could this creature eat?" wondered Dr. LeFleur. "What did she eat? Was she a scavenger? Was she herbivorous, carnivorous, or omnivorous?"

They managed to get some ultrasound equipment to their isolated site. They used the ultrasound to give them a great deal of information about the baby. The baby was male, and appeared to be almost ready for birth. The team theorized that she was about to give birth when she died.

"Perhaps," one scientist theorized. "She broke through the ice and could not get free."

"She may have been searching for her last meal before giving birth, and perhaps she starved before she delivered," guessed another.

"If she ate fish, she may have gotten caught in a sudden freeze while fishing," another thought aloud.

"There are no signs of trauma, so we know she wasn't injured," included another scientist. "She may have just gotten trapped too far north and simply died of exposure."

"Like some bears, perhaps she was going to give birth while hibernating," noted one scientist. "Maybe her cave or resting place was extremely wet and cold, and she didn't survive long enough to give birth."

"Perhaps whatever it was she fed on ," another scientist added. "Maybe they were scarce that year, and she didn't get enough to eat."

"These are all possibilities," added Dr. LeFleur. "We'll have more information once we can analyze the contents of her stomach."

They had all kinds of questions regarding this enormous mother, and they were getting close to getting a good look at the child. The quickly melting ice was revealing more and more of the creature. With each new discovery, the information made its way across the internet. Pictures and speculation was rampant, but the team of scientists managed to get plenty of good science done.

She had the teeth similar to a bear. They surmised that she was a part of the bear family. She did have several traits of bears. Grizzly and polar bears can get quite large. However, they normally do not exceed 4 meters. A bear that large is quite a rarity. This animal was 80 times that size, which led to lots of questions about her origins. Without more information, they could only guess about these things. Once the DNA analysis was complete, they would have answers to a lot more questions, but that would be months away.

After diligently studying the creature for a couple of weeks, something happened that was completely unexpected. It was 4 AM when a research assistant made her way into Dr. LeFleur's tent. "Dr. LeFleur!" she stated anxiously. "Wake up professor! There's trouble!"

"What?" asked the doctor sleepily "what has happened?"

"He's gone..." the RA stated sheepishly.

"Who's gone?"

"Cassiel's baby," replied the RA.

"What?" asked Claude as he jumped out of bed "how is that possible?"

"The ice had melted enough..."

"Are you trying to tell me that the baby just fell out?" asked the Dr. LeFleur as he put on some pants over his pajamas.

"Well sir," stuttered the RA "It was more like a birth."

"But you said he was gone, did he fall into the bay?"

"Um, no sir, after he was born he walked away."

"What?"

"I know it is hard to believe, and I wouldn't have believed it either if I hadn't witnessed it."

"The baby was born alive?"

"Yes sir, we tried to follow him, but even on those baby legs he moved pretty quickly."

"Which way did he go?"

"Ur South..."

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Iapetus Saves Manhattan

Chapter Three

Dr. John Maland spent the entire spring break with the Iapetian people. He heard many stories and learned more of their language and their legends. It was good to get away from the hustle and bustle of big city life, even if it were a working vacation. However, no story was as consequential as the story of the ship entitled the Pickering. Thus, Dr. Maland decided that he needed to research the Pickering upon his arrival home.

However, before he got back to work, like many, he became entranced with the stories of the giant creature in Canada. He read as much as he could about the enormous ultra-yeti. He visited blogs and news organizations. He discussed the situation with colleagues. For a brief time, his own work took a back seat to the buzz of Cassiel.

After catching up on the news around the nation, he had to go to work. He taught his regular schedule. He wished he did his pressing research rather than bothering with current events; however, having up-to-date information was important to him. He was a bit disgusted with the sensationalization of Cassiel, and the lack of good information from the news media. Thus, it took him longer to get the information he thought he needed. This was the truth about his anger about being slightly behind.

Eventually he got to the library to research the Iapetian story. The U.S.S. Pickering was a US war ship. She was a two masted sailing vessel. Weight and configuration made her a brig. She was not the largest vessel in the fleet, but she had 14 guns with a regular compliment of 105 sailors onboard.

The ship and crew had some experience in Naval battle. They had been patrolling against French privateers. The most notable engagement was against the L�Egypte Conquise. This privateering ship was slightly larger and had more firepower. Nevertheless, the Pickering managed to capture that ship named for the French conquering of Egypt.

Eventually, officials permanently assigned it to the US Naval department. Its orders were to join patrolling the waters of the West Indies. However, she was in the northeastern part of the US at the time. Thus, she needed to sail toward Guadeloupe. The Pickering and crew left Newcastle, Delaware in late August of 1800 and never arrived in the West Indies.

Most reports suggest a gale in September caught the naval ship and destroyed it somewhere in the Sargasso Sea. It was part of the voluminous number of legends about the Bermuda triangle.

It seems that there were true aspects of the Iapetian legend. However, instead of a giant monster, their Iapetus was like many of the ancient gods. It was nothing more than a fortunate coincidence. The legend was only series of events that saved the people. A storm that arose just at the proper time and destroyed the ship that was firing upon the island's inhabitants.

"The ship's crew perhaps asked the islanders for help, but none of them spoke English," conjectured John in his journal. "The crew likely fired a warning shot, which is the basis of the 'booming arms' of the 'beast'. When a storm came up and destroyed the ships, it added to the legend of Iapetus."

After Dr. Maland entered the information about the U.S.S Pickering into his journal, he read the events of the day. He discovered in the news that Cassiel had given birth to a live ultra-yeti child. The child had wandered away from James Bay research facility. Information was sketchy on what happened to the child after birth. "Perhaps this is more exaggeration by the media," thought John. "Perhaps they got their facts wrong or misquoted someone."

However, shortly after catching up on his work, he received a call from Dr. LeFleur. "Dr. Maland," the Canadian professor began. "I have been following your reports on Iapetus."

"I am flattered," replied Dr. Maland. "I too have been following your reports. Is it true that the ultra-yeti gave live birth?"

"All evidence leads to this conclusion, but I didn't see the birth myself. Be that as it may, the baby ultra-yeti is not anywhere to be found at the research station."

"So, you don't know where the baby is?"

"That is correct," replied Dr. LeFleur. "The reason I'm calling, is to find out more information on your giant beast."

"I beg your pardon?"

"I read about the legend of Iapetus, and I am curious about your beast."

"From my research," started Dr. Maland. "I have determined that Iapetus is not a beast at all. It is just a series of coincidental storms that have occasionally protected the inhabitants of that island."

"Are you sure on that?"

"As sure as I can be I suppose. Why the sudden interest and the urgency of this phone call?"

"I thought that since many legends have the basis in fact, that Iapetus may help us out should the need arise. If this god was the basis of an actual creature, we could use its help."

"Is the situation that bad?"

"I wouldn't say it is, but should Cassiel's baby head for the metropolitan areas of Canada or the United States, he may do some major damage. We would want to prevent that from happening in any way we could."

"I wish I could help," explained Dr. Maland. "However, I am fairly certain that Iapetus is not an actual creature."

"Thanks for you time then," a dejected Dr. Lefleur stated. "It was just a stab in the dark. Good bye."

"I'm sorry I couldn't help, and I will look forward to your further reports. Good bye," replied Dr. Maland as he hung up the phone.

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Iapetus Saves Manhattan

Chapter Four

Dr. LeFleur sat wearily at his desk. He was trying to remember the last time he had slept. Since the baby ultra-yeti walked away from the research station, he had not been in a bed. He managed to catch a couple of catnaps when the opportunity arose, but it had been several days since he had a good nights sleep. As he sat there daydreaming of sleeping, his phone rang.

"Hello this is Dr. LeFleur," he answered.

"I think we have some good news doctor," replied the voice on the other end.

"I could use some," replied the researcher.

"The -- uhh -- monster is still missing, but we have some evidence of -- err -- him."

"What kind of evidence?"

"At first we thought it was some college kids playing some sort of prank."

"Go on..."

"Well, there was this wheat field. It was filled with winter wheat you know."

"And..."

"This young winter wheat field had these interesting patterns put into them."

"What kind of patterns?" asked Dr. LeFleur.

"Uhh -- crop circle type patterns."

"Crop circles? What makes you think this was the baby ultra-yeti?"

"Well you see -- in most of the prank type crop circles they're -- ahh -- circles. But, in this case, the crops were -- ehh -- foot prints."

"Footprints? They could still be a prank. Do you have any other evidence?"

"Umm -- there are also some -- ahh -- droppings."

"Droppings?"

"Yes -- a big pile."

Excellent!" exclaimed Dr. LeFleur as he jumped out of his chair. "Tell me where. I'll be there as quick as I can!"

Dr. LeFleur had been waiting for several days for any indication of the baby ultra-yeti's whereabouts. He grabbed a large flask of coffee, and a couple of cans of caffeinated soda. He had his equipment packed and ready in his aging truck. He jumped in and began driving towards the farm in question. The excitement of a possible yeti sighting had shaken the sleepiness out of him, but it could return at any moment.

The drive was quite a long way from the research station on James Bay. However, the baby had long strides and could cover a great deal of distance. Further, he had been missing for several days. Dr. LeFleur thought it was incredible that the baby could have traveled so far with no one taking notice.

The young ultra-yeti had made it half way to Ottawa, Ontario. If they could not find him and divert him, he could do a great deal of damage in the Canadian Capital. It appeared that he was heading directly for that city. Since they had very little data, they had little to give them an idea of where he may be heading.

Dr. LeFleur was listening to the radio. The local radio station reported several sightings of the baby monster. After several days of silence, the reports of an enormous, white, and bear-like creature came filing in. It was as if large white monsters filled the woods and fields of parts of Canada. Reports came from all over southwestern Quebec and the northwestern part of the province of Ontario.

Some of the reports conflicted, which is common for this type of thing. Descriptions of the spotted creature widely varied. However, there was no doubt that the baby ultra-yeti was now feeding. Reports of damaged crops and animals began pouring in. As Dr. LeFleur suspected, the animal was omnivorous. He was apparently feeding on all types of plants as well as eating cattle and other domesticated animals.

After a few hours of driving, Dr. LeFleur reached the farm that reported the footprints. Several prints went across the field, and it was reminiscent of a crop circle. Dr. LeFleur briefly studied the prints, and deduced that the baby ultra-yeti had grown quite a bit. This baby was probably 25 to 50 meters tall by now. There were reports all over the area of missing animals and damaged crops. At this rate, the baby could be 50 stories tall by the time he reached Ottawa. If this happened, he would cause a great deal of damage.

The professor took all of the local reports and determined a likely location and heading of the giant baby. He wanted to be able to follow the child and perhaps lure him away from the Canadian Capital. He began making calls on his cell phone. He alerted the authorities of the possible dangers coming their way. He wanted to make sure that the city had plenty of warning to evacuate.

Finally, he spotted the enormous white baby eating the young shoots of a farmer's field. He remarked at how interesting the patterns the child ate in the field. He made numerous circles. This was more like the crop circle patterns of various web pages. These were different because a creature ate the crops rather than flattening them.

Dr. LeFleur was admiring the sheer enormity of the baby ultra-yeti when he his cell phone rang.

"Hello this is Dr. LeFleur."

"Hello Dr. LeFleur, this is General Innes MacWayne."

"Hello General. What can I do for you?"

"My sources say you know more about this 'Ultra-Yeti' than anyone."

Dr. LeFleur could hear the quotes around the words as the general spoke them. "Well, I am in charge of the project. I should be the most knowledgeable."

"So, then you would know how to destroy it."

"What? I haven't given that much thought..."

"You realize that we can in no way allow this creature to destroy Ottawa. Thus, we are making contingency plans. We need to know the creature's vulnerabilities."

"Uhhh -- vulnerabilities?"

"Dr. LeFleur, how can we kill it?"

"I don't know what to say..."

"Let me be frank doctor. We don't want to have to resort to any nuclear weapons. Do you think that conventional missiles or bombs would affect the creature?"

"Nuclear weapons? Aren't we Canadians?"

"The creature can also pose a threat to the United States. The U.S. President has agreed that this threat be eliminated before it reaches their soil."

"General, I understand your position, but I don't have any data that would be of any help. I don't know the vulnerabilities of this creature. My team and I have not looked into that particular question at this time."

"That is fine doctor. Tell me, do you know where the creature is?"

"Errr -- I uhhh -- have -- umm -- not caught up to him yet."

"If you do, could you please inform me at this number?"

"Uhhh -- sure."

"Remember doctor, it would be best for all concerned if this dangerous creature were neutralized before it reaches any population centers. The sooner we control this creature, the better it will be for all of Canada. You do understand that do you not?"

"As soon as -- I see the creature -- I will inform you..."

"The sooner we find him, the sooner we can make our tests. If you don't know its vulnerabilities, then we will have to test our defenses against him. We will need to do that before he reaches any major cities."

"I understand."

"Thanks Dr. LeFleur."

"Good bye General."

The doctor felt the conflict grow within himself. He wanted to study the creature for a while. However, the more he delayed the greater the danger for the city centers. He had to decide what was more important -- scientific research or public property. His initial assessment led him to lie to the general, but this decision was putting people and property in danger.

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Iapetus Saves Manhattan

Chapter Five

Dr. Maland was glad he was a long way from the events occurring in Canada. While he would love to observe the giant ultra-yeti in action, he felt much safer observing the creature from a safe distance. He read reports on the internet with great interest.

The internet was full of conflicting stories, so it was difficult to determine what was accurate and what was fictional. Reports of a giant white bear-like creature became wide spread. There were even some reports of this ultra-yeti making it as far south as South Carolina. Certainly, these were fictitious accounts.

The many sites around the internet labeled the young ultra-yeti "Bob the Bumble." It was likely a take on the abominable snowman legend. "Who can say abominable anyway?" asked Dr. Maland to himself. "Al the Abominable Snowman simply would not work..."

One particular website was tracking the sightings of the young monster. The site tracked him from his birthplace at James Bay to the most current and accurate location that they could obtain. The group running the site had to sift through numerous conflicting reports to track the beast. However, it was a very popular site for those interested in the ultra-yeti.

From his own research on the ultra-yeti, he noticed that the beast did not stray too far from a body of water. He never strayed too far from the various reservoirs that dot the province of Quebec. In the creature's general path was the Canadian capital. Certainly, the Canadian government was aware of the creature's movements. They must have some sort of military plan to prevent the creature from destroying Ottawa.

This thought gave Dr. Maland a queasy feeling in his stomach. The thought of the Royal Canadian Air Force sending their F-18s to strike at the young ultra-yeti did not sit well with the professor. After all, the young animal was just trying to survive.

However, this baby was quite capable of doing much property damage. While he was merely a few weeks old, there were many reports that he was 50 meters tall and growing quickly. He could be taller than many building in a short time. If he were to stumble around a city like a bull in a china shop, that alone could do millions of dollars of damage.

The military of the Canadians would certainly strike at Bob before he reached any major cities. They would also likely attack before he reached some of the smaller towns north of Ottawa. He was getting quite close to those towns. "Perhaps they have already attacked," Dr. Maland muttered to himself when his phone rang.

"Hello," the professor said as he put his cell phone to his ear.

"Dr. Maland please," came the voice on the other end of the phone.

"This is Dr. Maland."

"Hello Dr. Maland, it is me Dr. LeFleur."

"Hello Claude I was just thinking about you."

"Oh? Good thoughts I hope John."

"I was looking at Bob's movements."

"Bob?"

"That is the name they gave the ultra-yeti -- Bob the Bumble."

"Ech! That's terrible."

"Yeah, but what are you gonna do?"

"True. The reason I called was about your research anyway."

"My research?"

"Yes John. How do the Iapetians ask for help from Iapetus?"

"In the usual way. A priest or priestess will go to their shrine on the beach and beseech Iapetus to come and smite their enemies. Why?"

"Do you think they could get their god to help you?"

"Me? Why do I need help?"

"Do you think Iapetus would come as a favor to you?"

"Claude -- Iapetus is a superstition. This god is nothing more than a storm that has helped the natives out of a few tight spots. He is not a creature."

"Are you sure of that?"

"Come on Dr. LeFleur -- I'm sure I have never seen the monster. I've only heard the stories. They are just like all of the other stories of its kind."

"I wouldn't believe in giant monsters either if I wasn't tracking one."

"While you have a point ..."

"Listen John -- the military has moved me away from the area around the baby. He is getting close to some populated areas and they want to end all of this. That can mean only one thing -- military strikes."

"I figured..."

"Well this creature has an extremely tough hide. They won't be able to penetrate it with their conventional weapons. I'm almost sure of it."

"So, how would Iapetus help?"

"I don't know. I'm just grasping at straws. If he gets out of control, they are talking nuclear weapons. I just don't want that type of thing to go on."

"I suppose I could ask, but I don't think it would do any good..."

"It would help your research..."

"It will take me a couple of days. I have classes to teach and papers to grade. I could leave on Friday morning."

"It would make me feel better."

"Okay. I'll talk to you later."

"Good bye Dr. Maland, and thanks."

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Iapetus Saves Manhattan

Chapter Six

The farther south the baby ultra-yeti went, the more difficult it was for Dr. LeFleur to follow. The area of southern Canada where the baby was now wandering was swampy, had many reservoirs, and had few roads. Dr. LeFleur's truck did not have off-road capability, so he had to stick to whatever road he could find. The ultra-yeti was not interested in staying near roads but stayed near bodies of water. Thus, it was becoming a very difficult task to follow him.

A radio-tracking device would have been a big help, but there were no adequate devices available. Any time the professor attempted to fire anything into the thick hide of the young creature, it would bounce right off. Thus, tranquilizer darts and tagging devices were completely useless against the wandering baby.

The baby's route still indicated that he was going to Ottawa. Dr. LeFleur noticed a huge lack of thrill seekers. He expected that there would be throngs of people attempting to see and photograph this unique creature. However, the area was strangely quiet.

Despite his desire to do otherwise, Dr. LeFleur gave General MacWayne regular updates. Even if we wished to hide his movements from the officials, he knew that it would be a wasted effort. Thus, the military was aware of Dr. LeFleur's movements, and he was getting closer to Ottawa.

The giant snow-white creature crossed highway 117 just east of Mont Laurier, Canada, and his follower was just a short distance behind him on highway 309. The baby was a bit farther east, but still heading south. A speckling of small towns along this stretch of highway were eerily quiet.

The weary professor checked his map, and realized that if the baby were going to reach Ottawa, he would have to cross highway 309. "If I wanted to protect Ottawa," he thought to himself. "I would make my stand on this road."

Dr. LeFleur started to get anxious. With the empty small towns, he was unable to fill his tank. His truck was beginning to run low on fuel. He could not track the beast on foot. He shook his weary head and mumbled, "Much further and I won't have to worry about him. The military will handle it."

He kept heading south looking for signs of the baby and for any signs of life. Here and there, he would see glimpses of a huge mound of white moving off in the distance. At the crest of a small hill, he saw a dark creature. It was a dark green. "Am I dreaming?" questioned the sleepy professor to himself. "Could that be Iapetus?"

He kept driving and quickly discovered that the dark green beast he saw was a column of military vehicles. He had reached the end of the line. A roadblock was setup, and they would not let him pass. He came to a stop and greeted the soldier staffing the roadblock. "Hello Soldier. I guess it is the end of the line for me."

"Hello Dr. LeFleur," replied the soldier. "We have been expecting you."

The soldier radioed the arrival of Dr. LeFleur. Soon, there were a number of soldiers marching towards him. A myriad of things went through his mind, but he shook them off. His felt his mind might be playing tricks on him because of his lack of sleep.

"Dr. LeFleur," stated a broad shouldered man as he walked up and put out his hand. "I'm General MacWayne."

"General," replied Claude not knowing whether to salute or take the offered hand.

"We have been expecting you. We appreciate your commitment to this matter; however, your duty is now finished and we'll take it from here."

"What is happening?"

"Come with me," stated the General as he walked back towards a line of tents along the road. "Dr. LeFleur, we have set up a perimeter protecting our Nation's Capital. If that monster crosses this road, he'll sure be sorry."

"General, the hide of that -- the ultra-yeti is very thick. Do you really think your weapons can penetrate it?"

"We won't know that until we have to actually shoot the monster. However, we have to protect Ottawa -- and Montreal. This beast could do tremendous damage to those cities just by walking through. Bull in a China shop and all that!"

"So, what are you going to do?"

"We have detection devices and scouts all along this stretch of highway. If we get a positive identification, we go to work. We've got tanks and jets and rockets. Lots and lots of rockets!"

The general's eyes became wide with excitement. It was obvious that he was looking forward to the confrontation. Dr. LeFleur was feeling a bit queasy when the alarm arrived. The young ultra-yeti had just entered their perimeter. The General took Dr. LeFleur into his command center where they could watch everything. "This is going to be cool," stated the General.

The Royal Canadian Air Force took off in their f-18s from the airport in Ottawa, but the first line of defense was the tanks and artillery. For the days leading up to this event, they had amassed the largest military operation in Canadian history. They had as many C2 Tanks as time allowed and there were lots of them. They also had a collection of C2 and C3 howitzers and several M109A+ mobile howitzers.

Several of the infantry had antitank rockets and many shoulder held rocket launchers. Just in case, they also scrambled some rocket launching ADATS. The General was of the opinion you cannot have to many rockets. Thus, he had as many rocket launching weapons as he could get into that area north of Ottawa.

From the command center, General MacWayne gave the order to move out. The big guns open fired upon the ultra-yeti. For a large animal, the yeti was quite agile. The boom of the big guns startled him and he would flinch at each one. Some of these flinches were enough to make the projectile miss. The hits did not have any effect on the thick hide of young creature. His reactions were like those of a person swatting at mosquitoes.

"Send in the tanks," ordered the General.

The tanks roared to life and moved toward the ultra-yeti. They moved in to surround the beast and force him to move away from the large Canadian cities. When the tanks open fired upon the monster, the baby roared. The sting of the projectiles and the loud boom upset the young one greatly. With great dexterity, the baby monster grabbed one of the tanks and flung it away. He kicked a line of them and destroyed them.

With the creature fighting back and inflicting damage, the tanks retreated. The airplanes were now ready to attack. The jets gathered into several formations and started to fly towards the monster. They were going to keep their distance from young beast and launch their missiles at him.

As wave after wave of missiles came towards the ultra-yeti, the monster became more and more agitated. He had been a docile creature before, but suddenly he was a fierce monster. He grabbed large boulders and threw them at anything that moved. He smashed tanks and artillery. He pulled full-grown trees, roots and all, from the ground and used them as fly swatters.

An f-18 flew too close on its pass, and was smashed to bits by a tree. Rocks and trees began flying. A large swath of destruction was forming, but the beast was still heading south. In fact, instead of driving the beast north, he began moving south at a quicker pace. He wanted to get at those creatures that were causing him pain.

He kicked and scraped and roared as he moved. Tanks and artillery pieces became tangled pieces of junk metal. The ADATS launched their rockets. The soldiers launched their rockets. However, these rockets just angered the beast. Their military action had caused the ultra-yeti to be in full rampage.

The yeti swatted aside the rockets as if they were flies. They just aggravated the monster even more. He ran after a several soldiers and they were no match for the speed of the young beast. He scooped the soldiers by the handful and began putting them in his mouth. The monster chewed several soldiers and spit them out. This caused the infantry to order a full retreat. Panic set in on the soldiers on the ground, and they ran. They ran in every direction yelling and screaming.

In the command center, General MacWayne looked in awe. He saw his highly trained troupes break discipline and scatter like scared rabbits. He could not communicate with the infantry, be he was still in radio contact with the tanks. He ordered them to resume their barrage. He hoped that the attack from the north would change the direction of the southerly moving monster.

Again, the tanks moved toward the enormous white monster. Their guns fired loudly. However, the beast ignored them. He continued his southerly rampage. He tore rocks and trees from places that they have been for centuries. A cloud of dust began swirling around the monster with the occasional rock or tree flying out of it.

The f-18s had run out of missiles and other weaponry so they had to return to the airport. This allowed the young beast to concentrate on the large column of tanks that lined the road towards Ottawa. With the rocks and trees, tanks and howitzers began flying out of the growing dust cloud the creature was stirring.

The monster gradually came closer and closer to Ottawa, and the Canadian military was helpless to stop him. Eventually, the ultra-yeti reached the Ottawa River. He just had to follow the river towards Ottawa and he would cause all kinds of damage. However, he headed towards Montreal. He followed the river to Lac Des Deux Montagnes and vanished.

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Iapetus Saves Manhattan

Chapter Seven

"Vanished?" thought Dr. John Maland to himself. "How can an enormous snow-white monster vanish like that?"

Dr. Maland was gathering all the information about the ultra-yeti that he could get. If he were going to ask Iapetus to help with their problem, he was going to have to know where to send him.

The last report Dr. Maland read was that "Bob the Bumble" vanished somewhere in the Ottawa River basin. If he got into the St. Lawrence Seaway, the young ultra-yeti could end up anywhere along the Great Lakes. He could menace anywhere from upstate New York, to northern Minnesota. That was a long stretch. It was not enough information to give to the mythical creature Iapetus.

"Why am I doing this?" he asked himself. "Iapetus doesn't exist. All of this work for a silly notion. I have finals to score. I shouldn't be wasting my time fetching mythical beasts."

Dr. Maland scratched his head and paced the floor for a few minutes. He did not like all of the pressure that was suddenly put upon him. With this pressure of this sort, he often found himself talking to himself. "On the other hand," he continued. "It would be a great opportunity to see their summoning ritual. It would be worth that."

"But, where do I tell them to go?" he continued in his internal debate. "How do I tell them to send their protector there?"

Dr. Maland paced some more and internally debated himself over the merits of the trip. The deciding factor to go on this journey was the ritual. However, he was going to need to find out where the creature was. Without this information, his trip would be useless. He decided to call Dr. Claude LeFleur to see if he had any more information.

"Hello?" enquired Dr. LeFleur as he answered his phone.

"Hello Claude. This is Dr. John Maland calling."

"Hello John. How are you?"

"Fine thanks. The reason I'm calling is that I'm going to need to know more about the young ultra-yeti's whereabouts. I can't go summon Iapetus without some knowledge of where I'm sending him."

"He vanished in the river. We don't know where he is..."

"You don't have any ideas? You can't even guess where he is going?"

"Your guess is as good as mine. I've been put out of the loop. I now get my information from the same place that you do."

"I'm sorry. OK then, I guess I will talk to you later."

"I'm sorry too. Thanks for your help on this."

"Sure thing. Good bye Claude."

"Talk to you later John."

"That wasn't much help," John thought to himself. Then he realized it did not really matter where to send the creature. "This is a mythical beast! I'm only here to see the ritual. It isn't like he's real or anything. This trip isn't going to affect anything."

"So, where do I send him?" John continued with his internal debate. "I shouldn't make it too hard. Something easy. I know. I'll send him up the Hudson River. New York should be easy to find!"

Dr. Maland created a map of the eastern U.S. He made sure that the Iapetian Island was included. That way, he could direct the natives on where to send Iapetus.

"That is..." Dr. Maland continued. "If they wish to do us this favor."

John gathered up his supplies and filled his sailboat. His finals were going to have to wait. His research was going to come first this time. His students would understand.

Dr. Maland sailed into the heart of the Bermuda Triangle, and did not have trouble. He arrived at the island, and he was greeting in the usual fashion. It was an unscheduled visit, but it appeared that they expected him to come. A couple of the Iapetians met him at the beach as he arrived.

He asked to be taken to the tribal leaders. He wanted to initiate the plea for help as soon as possible. There was no need wasting time. After his meeting, the village came to life. They agreed to ask their deity for help.

The preparations began on the beach. There were two massive carved pillars sunk deeply on the beach. They almost looked like two highly tattooed legs sticking out of the sand.

Between these pillars, they began digging a deep trench. The natives lined the trench with palm leaves. Once the trench was fully lined with leaves, they began filling it up with fruits of all types.

The native trees produced plenty of fruits. It was a major element of the Iapetian diet. They were using their excess as an offering to Iapetus their god. "This is pretty standard sacrifice," Dr. Maland noted. "It is generous of them to perform their ceremony for someone else's benefit."

Once the Iapetians had filled the pit, they built a fire farther up the beach. Around the fire, they placed their drumming equipment. "They are going to use dance and song to bring their deity to them," Dr. Maland continued in his notes. "I hope I can follow the ceremony as I assume it will be in their native language."

"When the sun touches the distant waters the ceremony will begin." Dr. Maland learned from the tribal leaders.

Just as the sun began to set, the drumming began. The islanders began their chants. They were chanting the word for "join us" in their language. It was a very hypnotic chant. The drumbeat was very deep and rhythmic. It was as if the entire island shook with the beat of the music.

After several minutes of drumming and chanting, it stopped. From a nearby hut, out stepped a Priestess in ceremonial garb. She had a dress made from woven leaf fibers. They had taken the fibers and made a thread of them. They took this thread and wove it into an intricate cloth. It was surprisingly strong and soft. The cloth was very time consuming to create, and they used it only in ceremonial clothing.

The Priestess began dancing closer and closer to the pillars. The drummers played softly. She was gyrating and waving her hands in a fashion similar to a hula. "It is very reminiscent of Polynesian dancing," Dr. Maland wrote in his notebook.

She danced closer and closer to the pillars on the beach. The drummers played louder and louder. A rhythmic pulse began pounding and pounding throughout the beach. The entire party was rocking back and forth with the beat. She got closer and closer to the pit. When she reached the side of the pit at the farthest point from the sea, it all stopped. Dr. Maland noted that the rhythms and the sound were very hypnotic. At every point when the drumming stopped, he felt himself jerk.

The Priestess dropped to her knees at the mouth of the pit. She began bowing to the sea. Up and down she went. The drummers let her proceed in silence. After a few bows in silence, she sat on her knees and began her song. Dr. Maland struggled with the language, but he wrote his notes in short hand. He tried to get as much as he could understand, and this is what he noted.


Oh oh great Iapetus
Thankful are each of us
We give you this offering
On this fine day of spring

Oh oh kind Iapetus
You are so good to us
Such a kind protector
We hate to ask of ya

Oh oh fine Iapetus
You are very generous
My sister has a friend
Help could you send

Oh oh good Iapetus
Our love is strong and such
Trouble is in the north
We ask you to sally forth

Oh oh strong Iapetus
We count on you so much
The fruits of your island
Are here for your hand

Oh oh hungry Iapetus
If it is not to too much fuss
Come snack on our beach
You tongue can take what's in reach

Oh oh our Iapetus
You are strong and stuff
We shant forget-tie
Your slaying the ultra-yeti

Dr. Maland had difficulty understanding the rest of the chant. He just did not have enough grasp of the language. However, it did sound as if she was inviting Iapetus for a date. Much of what he translated sounded very silly to him, and he tried to take the ceremony seriously. However, occasionally he had to suppress a laugh.

At one point, he was suppressing a laugh when the waves around the beach became very choppy. They looked very different from a regular tide coming in. When the strange waves began reaching the shore at a regular interval, the priestess stopped her chant. She sat in a prostrated position and the drums began playing softly again.

Out of the corner of his eye, Dr. Maland thought he spotted something in the water. The darkness was growing slowly, and he thought he was imagining things. The hypnotic drumbeats slowly grew in intensity. Dr. Maland thought he saw something in the water again. "Are some whales passing by?" Dr. Maland asked himself silently.

The steady drumbeat became louder and louder. Dr. Maland felt himself swaying with the beat like the natives. Another passing image from the sea caught Dr. Maland's attention. "Am I hypnotized?" he asked himself. "Does this ceremony create some sort of mass hypnotic field that causes ships to run aground?"

As the intensity of the drums grows, the Priestess begins her dance again. The sea becomes dark. The irregular waves continue but the water becomes white with foam. Off the coast, the water is very dark.

Suddenly the drums stop. Dr. Maland is startled again, and notices the creature. The enormous lizard-like creature emerges from the water and consumes the offering in one gulp. "Iapetus is real!" Dr. Maland screams. With that rush of emotion, Dr. Maland fell unconscious.

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Iapetus Saves Manhattan

Chapter Eight

General Innes MacWayne had scouts searching all along the Ottawa River looking for the baby ultra-yeti. He did not want it to get into the St. Lawrence Seaway or the monster would be very difficult to track. His Canadian military search teams had searched for quite some time, and they had not come up with anything.

"Finding a 100 meter tall, snow-white monster shouldn't be this hard," he mumbled to himself.

"Sir!" shouted one of the search team leaders as he saluted the general. "Still no sign. Sir!"

"Alright soldier," replied the general after returning the salute. He turned to one of the commanders and continued. "Colonel, take your brigade towards Ottawa. If the monster heads that way, we need to head him off. I'll send another brigade towards Montreal. This search is fruitless, so we had better protect our towns. I'll notify the U.S. secretary of defense about this."

The Colonel took his troops and their vehicles towards Ottawa. It was a long column of tanks, rocket launchers, and personnel carriers. A similar caravan headed towards Montreal. The creature's whereabouts were still unknown, but they did not want to leave their major cities unguarded. It was still possible that the monster could surface and destroy one of those towns.

The call between General MacWayne and the Secretary of Defense of the United States did not go well for the Canadian military man. The secretary was fuming mad that the Canadian military did not stop the beast. Further, the news that they did not know where the monster was located also did not go over well.

The U.S. had mobilized some units to deal with the beast, but now they did not know if they properly deployed the units. The Secretary strengthened the military's position along the Canadian border. He also ordered regular Recon missions over the northern states where the monster could emerge. He demanded that they find this monster before causing damage to any American city.

They knew now that the Canadian tanks and rockets were no match for the young monster. The Secretary asked the states to mobilize the National Guard of the affected areas. As much military might, as could be mustered at such short notice, was going to face the beast. The President even allowed the use of nuclear force.

After several very tense days, a reconnaissance plane spotted the creature in the Adirondack Mountains. He had crossed into upstate New York and appeared still to be on the rampage. He had destroyed several vacation spots and smashed some buildings of some small New York towns. His path was much more erratic than when he was in Canada. He was going up and down mountains and sometimes saying in valleys.

General Kenneth "Kit" R. Mann was in charge of the task force to destroy the monster. Canadian General MacWayne briefed him on all of the information that he could provide. After the briefing, he called for Dr. LeFleur to join him at task force headquarters in Albany, New York. He wanted the expert on this ultra-yeti beside him to determine the best strategy for destroying this menace.

Dr. LeFleur arrived by special jet early the next day and met with General Mann.

"Good Morning Dr. LeFleur," the General spoke as the two men shook hands.

"General," replied Dr. LeFleur.

"Thanks for flying out here on such short notice. I'm General Kenneth Mann, but you can call me Kit."

"General," replied Dr. LeFleur curtly.

"Very well, General works too. I know you are somewhat attached to this -- er -- animal. I can respect that. However, we cannot allow -- uh -- him to continue on his rampage. He is causing quite a stir upstate. He's caused quite a lot of damage already."

"The barrage of missiles and what-not has upset him."

"Quite! Be that as it may, this creature was riled up by Canadian forces but is taking it out on American property."

"I guess so."

"Do you have any ideas on how to calm him down? Does music have charms to calm this savage beast?"

"The quote is ... never mind. He will calm down on his own when he gets tired. Or, when he gets hungry."

"Using a carrot rather than a stick eh? I like it. We should air drop in some food for this -- em -- animal."

"That might be a good idea! You could use food to lure him away from populated areas."

"Fair enough Dr. LeFleur. What does this -- ah -- animal eat?"

"From my brief studies, his diet is very similar to that of a bear. He is capable of catching large animals like moose and deer. Plus, he has eaten lots of plant material like wheat."

"It is your opinion that we could lure him with food away from populated areas."

"I believe it could be fruitful. However, he does seem to be migrating southward. I cannot say where his final destination will take him. His kind may have had a hunting and grazing ground somewhere that he is trying to get. He is the first of his kind that we are aware of, and much of his behavior is still a mystery."

"That is valuable information for us doctor. Now, for a bit of unpleasant talk... How do you suppose we could kill it?"

"I haven't the foggiest. His hide is very thick and the munitions that the Canadian military used on him had little effect -- other than making him mad."

"Very good doctor. I appreciate your candor and hope you're wrong about that. Thanks for coming, and I'm sure I will want more information from you later. Make yourself at home here. If you need anything, ask the soldier outside. We'll keep you posted."

"Am I a prisoner?"

"Not at all! It is just that we don't want you getting in the way. You will be kept safe. We'll feed all of the information we get to you from this computer. You can monitor our progress and continue your study of this -- er -- animal."

General Mann left Dr. Lefleur in the tent and started making some plans. He determined that an excellent course of action would be to lure the monster to a remote location with some food. The U.S. military would attack the creature at this location. It was determined that with the prevailing winds, the location of the creature, and the large population centers, it would be a very bad idea to use nuclear weapons.

A few miles northwest of Herkimer Landing, New York the military began stockpiling food. It was a very remote part of the Adirondack Park Preserve. It was difficult to reach from the ground, so the General could not put much of a land force in the area. However, plenty of airpower was available.

When the young ultra-yeti came upon the food, he lingered. There was a lot of food there, and a few airdrops of more food occurred while he was still there. He feasted mightily, and once his stomach was full, the young beast rested. Since his emergence from James Bay, he had never lingered long in one place. He had been like a fugitive. He would rest briefly at one place or another, but not for long stretches. This spot he found to his liking.

The enormous creature for the first time since his birth, stretched out to sleep. He flattened out a large section of forest, and went to sleep. He looked quite content. He was no longer in a rampage.

The general let him rest. He had time to move later. He may even make a few more airdrops for the creature. In this way, he would have time to mobilize his forces more effectively. If he could convince the creature to stay there for a few days, he could bring down a large amount of firepower.

The young ultra-yeti did like his spot in the woods. There was plenty to eat from the airdrops and drink from nearby West Canada Lake and other lakes. He lingered. He was much calmer now. He was almost leisurely. After a night of restful sleep, he still lingered. He basked in the sunshine of that spring morning. He even spent a second night at the spot. He had found a peaceful spot.

All the while plans were being made. Plans that were not in the ultra-yeti's best interest. If he had known what things were in the works, he would have not lingered. He would have left with all due haste. General Mann organized a night strike. He would hit the beast as it slept. He would hit this monster hard while it was still resting. Strike while it was at his most vulnerable.

While the ultra-yeti was sleeping in his makeshift nest, several F-111s took off from their base. Along with these, several F-117 stealth fighters with a full compliment of smart bombs started their sortie. Off the coast, the navy launched several cruise missiles. The attack was coordinated to strike the beast and the surrounding area simultaneously.

At precisely 23:30 EST, the area around the ultra-yeti erupted in huge fireball. Smart bombs were exploding and cruise missiles were striking their target. The peaceful slumber that the young ultra-yeti enjoyed had erupted into a massive coordinated strike.

Fire and smoke surrounded the area. A recon team had placed their lasers on the beast and guided the munitions to their target. Once the smoke cleared, a huge crater remained. The beast was gone.

However, he did not vanish in the ball of fire. He had jumped up just before the first bomb hit. Perhaps it was the faint whistle, or perhaps it was just instinct. In any event, the young monster jumped from his nest before it exploded and ran. With his long legs, he could cover ground quickly. The recon troops could not keep up with him. However, he was headed across the mountains towards New York's state capital, Albany. He was once again in full rampage.

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Iapetus Saves Manhattan

Chapter Nine

Dr. Maland slowly came to consciousness. He did not know how long he had been out, but to him he felt he was out for days. In fact, he was not out for more than a couple of minutes. The building excitement and the sudden and unexpected site of the giant monster overwhelmed his senses.

After coming aware of his surroundings, he began to take in the giant beast. Iapetus was lying on his stomach next to a fire the natives built in the pit. The aquatic creature tucked his hands back, and they rested besides his waist. A young native was relaxing in the palm of one hand and she was leaning back upon the webbing between his fingers.

Many of the members of the Iapetian community were patting the enormous creature on the head, and he looked quite at peace. He had his eyes closed, and he had fully retracted the spines upon his back.

Dr. Maland estimated that Iapetus was at least 200 meters long. However, he noted that a good percentage of that was tail. While on his hind legs, the giant beast was probably between 75 and 100 meters tall. He was somewhat reminiscent of a green iguana, but Dr. Maland did not believe he was a reptile. His legs pulled up under him more like a bird while reptile legs stick straight out from the hips.

Thus, when Iapetus stood, he balanced himself upon the seesaw of his hips. He would use his tail as a balance. His spines were retractable and there was a membrane between each spine. The spines would aid in swimming and make him look more menacing. "With his spines retracted and him resting upon the beach," noted Dr. Maland. "The giant monster is almost cute."

"While Iapetus was mostly a dark forest green," wrote in his journal. "He does have stripes of various colors."

Upon close review, Dr. Maland noticed several colors. He noticed red, blue, and orange in some of the stripes. These markings -- Dr. Maland guessed -- allowed the creature to hide from predators. Perhaps they were to attract females. The thought of more creatures like Iapetus or predators of him almost made Dr. Maland faint again.

Dr. Maland continued to observe the giant beast and even got the nerve to put his hand upon him. The creature was cold to his touch. "He's cold blooded," he noted.

The more he observed the beast, the more he became curious about how he came about. Who were his ancestors? Is he the last of his kind? How old was he? These questions he could not answer. "This kind of stuff is more suited for Dr. LeFleur..." Dr. Maland mumbled to himself. "Dr. LeFleur!"

He shook himself as if he had just awakened from some strange dream. He scrambled to find the priestess. She was lying upon a bed upon the beach. She was fast asleep. All of his efforts to wake her failed. His mind then turned to some of the tribe elders. He found them telling stories around the fire.

"What do we do from here?" the professor asked them.

"Nothing will happen until morning," replied one of the elders. "We rest and revel."

"Rest? How can we rest?"

"Iapetus will not be moved until the sunrise. There is no need for anything but rest."

"But..."

"Sit. Listen to our stories. He has done us -- and you -- a great favor. Take heart in that. The sun will renew your worries soon enough."

Dr. Maland sat and listened to the elders speak. It all hit him in a huge wave and he did not take notes. He heard the tribal stories and the gratefulness they felt towards the giant beast that now sat upon their beach. The concern for what was happening in the north began to fade. He relaxed.

The waves washing against the shore was a soothing sound to John. He was swaying to the waves. Back and forth he rocked. He was at peace. He was calm. He heard a soft voice calling his name. His mind struggled against the scene. Up he jumped in a start. "What? What is it?" John grunted as he awoke.

It was the priestess, and she said, "It is time."

"Time for what?" John asked trying to clear his head.

"The generous Iapetus cannot read your maps," explained the priestess.

"Iapetus? Maps?"

"You must take him to your need."

"Right! Right! The ultra-yeti."

"Come."

The sun was just beginning to rise. Dr. Maland's boat had been loaded with supplies and was resting upon the beach next to Iapetus. The priestess took Dr. Maland over to Iapetus's head so he could see John when he awoke. After the priestess said a few words, the giant eye of the beast opened.

Dr. Maland felt he could fall into the deep pupil of monster. The pupil dilated and focused upon John. He suddenly felt like he was going to be breakfast, but as his knees were about to fail, the monster gave a snort. John almost felt insulted. "Wasn't I good enough to eat?" he thought to himself.

After a few more words from the priestess, John boarded his vessel. With a nudge from Iapetus's nose, he was launched. He unfurled his sails and headed north. "Where am I going to go?" he mumbled to himself. "The last I knew the ultra-yeti had disappeared."

Dr. Maland decided that when he got in range of North America, he could use his cell phone to call Dr. LeFleur. That should take care of that problem. The only other problem was speed. At his current rate of travel, it would take several days just to reach Florida. It was the calmest John had ever experienced sailing around the Caribbean.

Suddenly, that became a moot point. Iapetus nudged John northward. He almost fell out of the boat as it suddenly accelerated. John had gone from slow going to the fastest he had ever sailed in a manner of moments.

Iapetus pushed him farther north. He used the sail as a rudder to steer the boat. He would move the sail a little towards the starboard or port to change directions. Otherwise, the sail was straight back as it flapped in the breeze as they sped along.

John had to make sure they got close enough to the shore to get a cell phone signal or they would end up in the Arctic Ocean before he could determine where he needed to go. After a few hours of sailing, John found himself coming quickly upon the coast of North Carolina. "How fast are we going?" John asked himself. "And how do I stop?"

John got a signal and quickly called his colleague Dr. LeFleur.

"Hello John. How are you doing?" Dr. LeFleur said as he answered his phone.

"Well -- we're on our way..."

"What? Who's we?"

"I'm on my boat -- being pushed by Iapetus.."

"What?"

"It was a shock to me to -- but we need to know where to go..."

"Go?"

"Snap out of it Claude! I don't know how long I'll have a signal. Where is -- Bob -- er -- the young ultra-yeti?"

"Albany..."

"Alban.."

"He is almost to Albany... John??? Hello?"

John lost his signal, but he knew enough. He would try to steer Iapetus into the Hudson River. However, before that, he needed to go hard to starboard or, they were about to crash right into the North Carolina shore. He could not push hard enough against the sail to make any headway. He could not budge the rudder either. They were simply moving to fast.

John began waving frantically at his impromptu motor. He caught the attention of the beast and the propulsion halted, but he was still traveling very quickly. The monster stuck his head out of the water, and observed the obstacle ahead. He nudged the boat and it made a wide right turn. The two barely missed some rocks in the shallows and headed farther out to sea.

John checked his GPS and mapped out a course. After the narrow escape, they returned to their previous speed. "This guy can really go," John noted. "I wonder how long it would take for him to swim around the world."

John snapped out of his curiosity. He needed to concentrate on sailing. He did not want to smash into some rocks or the shore again. It took the pair another couple of hours to reach the mouth of the Hudson River. John had learned that Iapetus was quite responsive to his hand signals. Therefore, they managed to go along the coast swiftly and safely.

The area around Manhattan Island was quite busy. There were ships and traffic of all sorts. Without any prompting from John, the pair navigated the congested water with quite a bit of ease. He managed to communicate to Iapetus that they needed to go up stream on the Hudson River. The two entered the river and headed upstream. Their speed had dropped off considerably.

It took the two a scant amount of time to go from the Caribbean to New York City, but it took them almost the same amount of time to go from New York City to Albany. It was much harder for them to go against the current of the river and avoid the obstacles. Thus, Iapetus was quite cautious.

The closer they got to the Capital of New York State, the more debris they encountered in the water. There were boat fragments, and even a few docks were floating down the river. All manner of floating objects were coming down the river.

The going became so hazardous that Dr. Maland signaled for Iapetus to stop. They could no longer safely make their way upriver. The debris coming down the river was just getting too thick.

Dr. Maland beached his boat along the shore and wondered what to do next. That is when a large white fuzzy ball caught his eye. The rampaging ultra-yeti was responsible for the debris in the river. John pointed at the white bear-like creature. Iapetus understood the hand signal and walked along the riverbank towards the giant monster. John just sat on the bank and watched him go.

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Iapetus Saves Manhattan

Chapter Ten

The first strike against the ultra-yeti had missed. The beast moved quickly eastward. His pace was faster than the recon soldiers could run by a long shot. The hurriedly called in for support and an Apache helicopter with night vision capability took over tracking the monsters erratic easterly run. It appeared that the ultra-yeti was going to go well north of Albany as he altered his route toward Lake George.

His path did not lead towards Lake George for long. He altered his path and headed northeast. Before the helicopter navigator could radio their heading, the ultra-yeti changed direction again. Once again, he ran eastward towards Lake George. The enormous monster changed directions several times, but it appeared that his destination was Lake George.

"Perhaps he plans on doing his disappearing act in Lake George like he did up north," speculated the co-pilot of the helicopter as he reported to base.

"Lake George is pretty long," replied the pilot. "He probably doesn't even know its there."

The two men in the helicopter continued tracking the beast as he made an erratic run eastward.

"His serpentine needs some work," joked the co-pilot.

Before the pilot could respond, the ultra-yeti reached Interstate 87. Upon reaching that thoroughfare, the beast made a quick turn southward. He began running down the road, and he abandoned his strange path. He was keeping right on the interstate. He knocked over lampposts. Bridges and overpasses collapsed under his immense weight. The ground shook violently as he ran and some buildings along the road crumbled with the violent vibrations that he created. The monster was once again headed for Albany. However, there were a few other towns also in his path.

General Mann threw all he had at Interstate 87. His priority was to stop the beast. He wanted to prevent as much destruction as possible, but with the location and heading of the monster, that was going to be difficult.

The sun was just beginning to rise as the beast entered Glens Falls, NY. General Mann was able to secure much military firepower for the battle against the ultra-yeti. His first order was to send in several waves of various attack helicopters to attack the monster south of Glens Falls. He ordered them to strike as soon as the beast crossed the Hudson River.

Unfortunately, as the monster ran up to the bridge it began crumbling with the shaking of the ground. When the giant creature stepped upon the bridge, the southbound lane collapsed. The collapse tripped up the monster and he tumbled into the Hudson River. Some of the pilots hesitated, but others took the opportunity to strike. Hellfire missiles came roaring from the south towards the fallen monster. The explosions ripped the part of the bridge that had remained, and several missiles struck the ultra-yeti. However, the water of the river prevented the beast fur from catching fire, and the missiles did not harm him to any noticeable degree.

A second wave a missiles came from the helicopters, but these just finished tearing up the bridge as the monster had recovered from his fall and began running along the river. The helicopters followed attempting to get further strikes upon him. Some of the helicopters had not yet fired any of their armaments. Bullets and missiles began flying from the aircrafts. However, they succeeded in destroying nearby buildings more than they succeeded in stopping the beast.

No longer was the monster following the interstate. He was now following the Hudson River. While this did slow his pace, it did not remove Albany from the path of destruction. Further, if the beast continued to follow the river downstream, he could eventually reach Manhattan. This would be a devastating blow if the U.S. were to lose New York City to this rampaging beast.

The helicopters were running low on fuel and ammunition so General Mann ordered the A-10 Thunderbolt IIs into battle. The A-10s could linger longer around the beast, and with their maneuverability, they hoped to distract the monster. The General ordered the A-10 pilots to get as close to the monster as safety allowed. Albany and Manhattan depended upon them to change the giant monster's path.

The plan of attack for these tank killers was to fly in single file along the river valley. Each plane would fire a maverick missile and follow the missile in towards the target. When the airplane was as close to the monster as the pilot felt comfortable, they would open up their GAU-8 avenger cannons put a line of fire across the beast's chest as they banked eastward. The idea was to either destroy the ultra-yeti or have him follow the planes to the east.

Some of the A-10s had cluster bombs and other ground destroying weapons. However, most were simply equipped with mavericks. They also had a full load of the depleted uranium tank busting ammunition for the A-10's cannon.

The young ultra-yeti continued to follow the Hudson River and was only momentarily side tracked by a small town here and there. He would briefly leave the river's waters to stomp on a building that happened to catch the young monster's eye.

When the tank killing airplanes finally reached their target, the monster was destroying a bridge that passed over the river. The small town of Schuylerville was about to experience a rude awakening. Luckily, the military had evacuated the civilians in the path of the monster. The distinct whine of the A-10s caught the ear of the white monster, but it did little to distract him from the destruction of the bridge, which blocked his path.

The attack aircraft swooped in upon the wary animal and began their assault. Missile after missile struck the beast and many bullets flew at him. The entire town erupted in a massive fireball. One missile missed the beast and struck a gas station that caused a change reaction of explosions. Flames engulfed the small town.

Still the planes pressed on and so did the giant monster. The bridge that had once blocked his path was no longer, and thus, he pressed forward. He would occasionally swat at the approaching planes, but they were too maneuverable. A few had broken off their attack and gained some altitude. These planes dropped their bombs upon the monster. The river began to widen with the craters left by the attacking A-10s, but they could not steer the monster from his course of following the river.

Wave after wave of airplane fired upon the mighty monster, but it had little effect on him. It was as if he was caught in a swarm of mosquitoes. They were simply an annoyance, and he pressed on. Without warning, he rushed at one of the A-10s. The lead pilot banked quickly eastward, but the following A-10 was too slow. The monster was upon him and grabbed his jet. The engine whined and the pilot lunged forward as the ultra-yeti stopped the planes forward progress.

The young monster shook the plane as if it were a rattle and then threw the plane to one side. The rest of the A-10 pilots avoided crashing into the enormous creature, but they had to break off their attack.

The tough aircraft withstood shaking, but the pilot lost consciousness. The plane crashed a bit off in the distance, but by some miracle, the pilot survived the ordeal. The plane had a few stress cracks, but it did not break apart.

However, the weapons were ineffective against the thick hide of the monster. The bullets would penetrate the outer layer of skin, but they would be absorbed and pressed out again. They did no damage to the creature. The missiles did not even faze him. He pressed on along the river and the A-10s admitted defeat and headed home.

Once the long line of evacuation vehicles had left the stretch of river north of Albany, General Mann sent in the tanks. His last line of defense before the beast reached Albany was going to be a long column of Abrams M1A2 Tanks. They were now speeding along highway 4 north of Albany.

The attack of the airplanes did not steer him clear of the river. He continued to follow its course. Those attacks did manage to irritate him the more and he stomped more buildings than he did in the previous stretch of river. This did give the tanks the opportunity to get farther north as he had slowed his pace to destroy.

Small town after small town was laid to waste in the wake of the monsters path. He crushed homes and businesses. Gas stations exploded and fires broke out all along the river. Upon each demolished building, the giant creature gave out a roar of victory. He would then run to the next town for more wanton destruction.

The tanks finally caught up to the monster in Mechanicville. Several tanks stopped upon a bridge crossing the river, and turned to face the oncoming beast. Others went fully across in an effort to surround the rampaging monster. They had him nearly surrounded when the open fired.

The entire town shook with the exploding shells of the tanks. The monster charged the bridge and with one swing of his mighty hand, the bridge collapsed. They fired another volley, and the monster pounded the bridge again. Huge chunks of concrete crumbled into the water.

He grabbed one of the tanks and threw it at one of the columns of tanks. He pounded the bridge again, and the missing span was large enough for him to get through. He grabbed the bridge and pulled. Another huge chunk came off and he tossed it at the other column of tanks.

The fire from the tanks was more erratic now. The drivers attempted to avoid the flying debris. The gunners had difficulty aiming, as the beast and the tanks were moving in odd directions. The shells began hitting the surrounding buildings more than the creature. After several large explosions, the young beast roared and ran farther down the river.

Some of the tanks were trapped on one side of the river and could not rejoin the column. The monster had destroyed a few tanks but some managed to follow him down river. However, the tanks could not keep up as the beast ran very quickly now. He was no longer interested in playing with the tanks.

At his run, he reached the outskirts of Albany in a short time. General Mann had thrown everything he had at the monster, but was unsuccessful in stopping him. He turned his attention to evacuating Albany. He would worry about saving New York City afterward.

The rampaging monster had won the first battle against the U.S. military. Albany was his for the destroying. The young beast walked through the suburbs destroying houses and businesses as he went. Occasionally, he would pick up a vehicle and throw it as far as he could. He was going to enjoy his victory.

After a few miles of destroying the outskirts of Albany, the young ultra-yeti headed for the tall buildings of down town. He had grown bored of destroying the small houses and businesses. He was ready to tackle something bigger. Then he spotted an enormous green creature headed up the river towards him.

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Iapetus Saves Manhattan

Chapter Eleven

Dr. Maland could see both monsters from his particular vantage point. He had beached his boat at the southernmost tip of a riverside park. However, he quickly realized that while he could see quite a bit, he would be in a world of hurt if the two beasts headed his way. However, the river to the east and an interstate to the west blocked his desired escape route.

While streams of Albany citizens headed south out of the city, very few were on the interstate to the west of Dr. Maland. He did have his sailboat, but the debris in the water would make it a treacherous ride. That was not a safe alternative, so he scrambled up the riverbank. He began searching for a safe place to ride out the pending fight. He noticed a road a little bit to the south of his location and he ran towards it. From his vantage point, it appeared to pass under the interstate.

Iapetus gave out a mighty roar when he spotted the snow-white ultra-yeti. However, the young monster paid little attention as Iapetus arose from the river. The ultra-yeti casually acknowledged the roar and headed toward some buildings in downtown Albany farther away from the river. The young monster began pushing down some of the buildings that he encountered.

Iapetus ran along the interstate and then some of the surface streets and quickly caught up with the ultra-yeti. With a lunge, the monster surprised the young beast and the two went crashing down into a nearby office building.

With Iapetus on top of him, the young creature gave a strong kick that launched Iapetus into the air. The surprised lizard went crashing into another unfortunate building crushing it to the ground. Meanwhile the young and slightly more agile ultra-yeti ran southward toward the Empire State Plaza.

Iapetus shook off the shock of being thrown and ran after the young beast. As he was about to pounce on the young monster again, the ultra-yeti changed direction. Iapetus crashed into a building on the north side of the plaza. The building easily succumbed to the pressure of Iapetus's enormous bulk. It gave way and tumbled upon the prone beast.

Upon seeing Iapetus lying on the ground under a pile of rubble, the ultra-yeti pushed over one of the Agency buildings and began tossing the rubble on top of the green beast. Quickly Iapetus was covered in a pile of concrete and steel -- the remnants of former buildings.

Meanwhile, Dr. Maland was running through the streets of Albany dodging the occasional car and looking for a place to hide. He had passed under the interstate and was now on the eastern edge of the plaza. He observed that the ultra-yeti headed south -- towards the plaza. He hoped he could stay out of the path of destruction. He hung back towards the east side as the two monsters tangled for the first time. He saw Iapetus tackle the young ultra-yeti only to be tossed to the side.

He continued to head northwest along Broadway as the two beasts ran south but when the young yeti turned, he became aware of the great danger he was in. The monsters could take 3 steps and be on him quickly if they suddenly came directly towards him. He was on the same street of the building Iapetus just demolished. He was only a few blocks away from where the giant beast was buried under the rubble.

John was lucky to escape unharmed as the young monster began pushing down the other three Agency buildings. With the creak and groan of the crumbling buildings, Dr. Maland barely heard the helicopter overhead. However, he was keenly aware of it as it landed in the park where he stood in awe of the giant monsters.

Dr. Maland looked over his shoulder and noticed a highly decorated soldier holding his hat, crouched down, and rushing towards him. However, the destructive force of the ultra-yeti still held John mesmerized.

The soldier finally reached Dr. Maland and spoke loudly over the roar of the helicopter. "Dr. John Maland I presume?"

"Why yes," answered John.

"I'm General Mann. Dr. LeFleur is in the helicopter. Would you care to join us?"

"Dr. LeFleur?" stammered John. "I guess so..."

General Mann ushered Dr. Maland into the waiting helicopter. With John safely buckled in next Dr. Claude LeFleur, the machine took off. "Hello Claude," stated John with astonishment.

"Hi John," replied Dr. LeFleur. "I wish we could have met under more pleasant circumstances."

"You ain't just whistlin' Dixie there!" replied Dr. Maland.

"General Mann -- here -- tried to prevent the destruction of Albany, but that ultra-yeti was just too tough. We hope that Iapetus can stop him from destroying Manhattan. However, it doesn't look to good right now."

"Yeah..." is all that Dr. Maland could say. He was trying to soak it all in as if he were living in a dream.

The helicopter began circling the city to keep a close watch on the two giant monsters. The ultra-yeti was pushing on the Erastus Corning Tower as the helicopter circled.

Iapetus had regained consciousness and erupted in a spray of rubble. One of the hunks of concrete flew to the place John had been standing just moments before. The flying debris spread in all directions causing more damage to the capital of New York State.

He gave another roar at his young opponent. However, the young monster continued to try to topple the tallest building in Albany. Iapetus ran over to the building and whipped his mighty tail at the distracted monster. The force of the blow was enough to knock the ultra-yeti into the pile of rubble where one of the Agency Towers once stood.

Iapetus flexed his muscles and his spines were fully erect when he gave another mighty roar. His full fury was unleashed as he pounced on the downed monster. While on top, he bit down hard on the ultra-yeti's shoulder. This prevented him from being thrown as the young monster pushed and kicked.

Fear began showing in the young beasts eyes as he continued to push against the great bulk of Iapetus. He felt an enormous pain in his left shoulder as he attempted to push off the monster. With great effort, he rolled onto that shoulder and Iapetus was forced to release his bite. When the bite was released the young ultra-yeti sprang to his feet and ran towards the river.

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Iapetus Saves Manhattan

Chapter Twelve

Dr. LeFleur and Dr. Maland watched the two monsters battle from the relative safety of a circling helicopter. They watched as the Iapetus followed the ultra-yeti into the river and disappeared from view.

"Get closer!" shouted General Mann to the Pilot. "We don't want to lose track of them!"

"Yes sir!" replied the helicopter pilot.

The helicopter pilot got closer to the river, but the two monsters remained hidden from view. However, at the point where the two beasts entered the river, the water sloshed and bubbled. It was obvious that the two beasts fought at that point.

"Iapetus is an aquatic animal," remarked Dr. Maland. "He's definitely got the advantage in the river."

"The two monsters are enormous," replied Dr. LeFleur. "There is little room to maneuver in the river there... But I believe you are right."

"It's a shame," sighed Dr. Maland.

"Yes it is."

Suddenly, the helicopter pilot pulled back on the stick sharply tossing the occupants about. A giant white beast flew out of the water and landed on the rubble that once was one of the four Agency towers. The beast flew quite high and smashed into the rubble that rocked the city for blocks. He laid there bleeding from cuts on his arms and his torso.

Slowly Iapetus emerged from the river. He once again fully erected his back spines and gave his mighty roar. He slowly walked the few blocks to where the ultra-yeti landed.

Now the young soaking wet monster had lost his swagger. He was no longer in a rampage mode. Destruction was no longer a priority and it showed in his manner. Everyone in the helicopter agreed, the young beast was afraid for his life.

Before Iapetus could reach him, the ultra-yeti rolled off the pile of rubble and kept the Erastus Corning Tower between the ancient monster and himself. He looked like he was going to use the tower as a squirrel uses a tree.

Iapetus was still in no hurry to continue the fight. He entered the Empire State Plaza with confidence, but he knew that the young ultra-yeti was a dangerous adversary. With a steady and cautious walk, he approached the tall Albany building.

The soaking wet ultra-yeti looked pathetic hiding behind the tower. The tower could not offer him much protection. An obstacle that with a little effort could be swept aside.

The two beasts circled the tower guarding against the move of the other. At the same time, they were measuring each other up and deciding on their own next move.

The ultra-yeti broke the stalemate. He shook the water from his fur like a dog. This action caused Iapetus to hesitate and the young monster crashed through the tower and tackled his opponent.

The tangle of beast and steel and concrete crashed to the ground with an enormous crash. The claws of the young beast tore at the scales of Iapetus. However, the claws of the young monster could not penetrate the hide of the old beast.

Iapetus's claws on the other hand, tore through the tough flesh of the ultra-yeti. This gambit had backfired for the young beast and he began to struggle to break free of the embrace. He grabbed enormous chunks of concrete to smash into his foe, but the wrestling match continued.

Finally, the young beast got a hold of a long piece of twisted steel that used to be part of the building that he had just toppled. With a swing of desperation, he smacked Iapetus in the head with the weapon, and he was free from the other monster's claws.

The ultra-yeti scrambled to his feet with his weapon still in his hand. In an axe-like swing, he brought it down as Iapetus attempted to get up. It once again smashed upon the monster's head. Iapetus was stunned.

The twisted steel was a formidable weapon and the ultra-yeti was poised to use it again. Over his head it went and back down. This time it missed its mark as Iapetus rolled away before the weapon could fall.

Dazed from the blows to the head Iapetus managed to reach his feet. He was a bit unsteady as the young beast swung the steel girder wildly at him. He avoided several blows as he attempted to shake the cobwebs from his mind.

The weapon wielded by the young beast had turned the tides, and he continued to swing it at the green monster. Iapetus managed to avoid most of the blows, but he felt the danger of his situation.

Eventually, one of the swings caught Iapetus under the arm smacked into his ribs. He emitted a groan, but managed to pin the weapon under his arm. With his other arm, he grabbed it.

There was a brief struggle for the weapon, but using his tail, Iapetus swept the feet right out from under the ultra-yeti. The young monster still held onto the weapon as he fell. Unfortunately, this pinned the young beast to the ground. The old monster slid down the length of the girder and sunk his teeth into the young beast's neck.

The ultra-yeti struggled to break free, but the jaws of the old sea monster were strong. The young monster tried to twist and struggle to break free, but he felt his strength being drained away. Slowly the struggles began to decrease as the life slipped from his body.

Eventually, the girder crashed to the ground and the ultra-yeti died. Iapetus gave a sorrowful cry. There was no flex in his spines. He mourned the passage of the young beast and trudged to the Hudson River. He jumped in and swam off.

The helicopter landed in the park where it had picked up Dr. Maland. The men that were in the helicopter walked over towards the dead ultra-yeti. The beast and the rubble that once was several buildings awed them.

"He was just trying to survive," remarked Dr. LeFleur.

"He was a remarkable animal," replied Dr. Maland.

"Look at the damage!" insisted General Mann. "This monster is responsible for a tremendous amount of destruction all along the Hudson River! It'll take years to rebuild and billions of dollars!"

"He may have been happy in his nest in the woods," replied Dr. LeFleur. "We don't know what his natural habits were. We could have possibly coexisted, but you had to try and kill him."

"He was a threat!" exclaimed General Mann.

"He was a force of nature," replied Dr. Maland.

"He was unleashed by humanity's unwillingness to accept itself as part of nature," continued Dr. LeFleur. "Humans have this silly notion that they were granted dominion over the earth. Nature, sometimes gently and sometimes with huge fury, informs is that we are not in charge."

"Bah!" replied General Mann.

"And still..." started Dr. Maland. "...we don't listen."

The End.

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Supervania

The Case of the Incredible Sulk

Part One

It started off as a normal day for the employees of the Supervania International Airport. Travelers were coming and going as they would at any normal airport. There was the hustle and bustle of air travelers going through security checkpoints, buying tickets, and claiming luggage.

Paul Pennant was one such traveler. He had come a long way to visit the fair city, but his first impression was not going so well. He had waited at the baggage claim for quite a while before realizing that his luggage was not there.

Paul walked over to the luggage claim office to inquire on his luggage. The clerk asked about his claim check. Sadly, Paul could not locate the check. This was going to be a long day for him.

The clerk adeptly typed some things into the computer. Paul's patience was wearing pretty thin when the clerk said, "Ah -- I think I found your luggage."

"At last," replied Paul with a sigh of relief.

"Well..." stumbled the clerk "you see -- your luggage is in Transylvania."

"What!"

"It is a common mistake, it happens all the time. Hehe -- Transylvania sort of sounds like Supervania."

"So what am I suppose to do?" asked Paul trying to suppress his anger.

"Well -- we'll get it here as soon as we can."

"What am I suppose to do in the mean time?" asked Paul with a bit more venom in his voice.

"There is no reason to get angry sir..."

"What! Don't tell me what I have reasons for!" shouted Paul as his face started to turn red.

"Please sir -- take a seat and I'll speak to my manager."

"Let me speak to your manager! I'll give him a piece of my mind!"

"Mr. McGee -- could you come out here please?"

"What seems to be the problem here?" asked the luggage claim manager.

"Apparently, my luggage is on a vacation of its own!" exclaimed Paul as his face was now a deep red.

"Transylvania sir," explained the clerk.

"Step into my office -- er -- Mr. Pennant is it?"

"Yes it is," replied Paul as he stepped around the counter. "What am I supposed to do without luggage?"

"There there Mr. Pennant," the luggage claim manager said soothingly. "Take a seat. My name is McGee, Quincy McGee."

"Charmed I'm sure," replied the still red faced Paul Pennant as he reluctantly sat in Mr. McGee's office chair."

"We're sorry about the luggage mix-up Mr. Pennant," started Mr. McGee. "It has been quite a hectic week for us here, and we'll do all we can to make it right."

"Make it right?" shouted Paul. "Make it right? It is way too late for that? What am I going to do without my things?"

Mr. McGee pulled out a box of clothes. "When you get to the hotel," he replied with a soothing tone. "The concierge there will take care of your personal needs like toothbrush, toothpaste, etc. Everything is going to be all right. If you need some clothes we do have some available here. What's your size?"

Paul's face gradually lost the purple hue and was only red now. "These clothes are a bit tattered and terribly out of fashion. Purple pants?"

"As I stated before, we've had quite a hectic week. We'll make sure the concierge picks up some nice clothes for you as well."

"When will I see my luggage again?" asked Paul through is teeth.

"I cannot answer that question," responded Quincy with a soothing tone. Mr. McGee sat on the corner of his desk and continued. "Transylvania is a long way away. Unfortunately, this type of thing is out of our hands. The originating airline was the one that made the mistake."

"That makes me sad," replied the angry customer sarcastically. "It isn't just clothes and other necessities in my suitcase. I have things that I wanted to have with me on this trip. Things that I need."

"Were really sorry for any trouble this may have caused."

"I bet you are. I'm just another mook who has lost his luggage to you..."

"That's not fair," complained the luggage claim manager. "It's been a rough one for me too... I have a job to do, and this is one of things that I have to do. We're doing our best."

"Mmmm," grumbled Paul.

"We'll do all we can to make your stay an enjoyable one, but my job isn't easy and I have troubles of my own. My loyal companion of 15 years -- do you have any pets?"

"No," replied the still red faced passenger.

"I guess that is a good way to be, because my loyal and faithful friend of those many long years," Mr. McGee stated as tears began forming in his eyes. "Scruffy my dear friend was -- well -- it is too hard to talk about. Let's just say he's gone."

"Mr. McGee," started Paul.

"Yes?" enquired Quincy as he attempted to fight back the tears but was failing.

Paul Pennants red face lost all color and his eyes began to turn a dark, stormy gray. Outside clouds came from nowhere and the once bright sunny day became dark and gloomy. A great feeling of intense sadness filled the air. It was so thick that you could almost feel it with your hands and grab it. It touched everything within several miles of the airport. The sadness grew in each and every person and many began to weep out loud rather than struggle with the darkening feeling.

"That makes me sad, Mr. McGee. You wouldn't like me when I'm sad."

"It's just that I loved that dog," sniffled Mr. McGee. "He was such a good dog I don't know how I'm going to make it without him."

Paul Pennant eyes grew almost black and his entire body just shook with sadness. His face was a gloomy gray color as the tears began to stream down. The western half a Supervania was now covered in a deep dark gloom. An incredible sadness overcame every living creature. Half the city's residents stopped doing anything because of the sadness that each individual felt.

And my wife," continued Quincy McGee still fighting back the tears. "Well -- uh -- she loved that dog more than me, and she began proceedings for divorce today..."

Paul a once largish man began to shrink. Tears were now pouring down his gray face streaming from his black eyes. He hunched down into Mr. McGee's chair and placed his face onto his hands. Some residents of the city sat in the gloom, while others tried to fight it by turning on their lights. They fought against the encroaching darkness. They attempted to play happy songs. A few even grabbed banjos because you cannot sing a sad song on a banjo. They tried to play their happy music for as many people as they could without electric amplification.

With all of this, Quincy McGee continued. "If that wasn't bad enough, you came in here and were totally rude to me and my staff..."

Paul shrank even more as he appeared to become a gray eight year old child. He put himself into the fetal position on the chair as the gloom swirled around the airport.

The Supervanian citizens attempted to stave off the encroaching doom as best they could. However, their fight became all for nothing as a blackout soon hit that half of the city. The America's Original Evil Ninja Cyborg Gas and Electric Company could not keep up with the demand and the city was enveloped in a deep dark gloom with nothing to fight against it. Yes, it was another day in...

Super Supervania
Where Mr. McGee is a lamebrain-ia
He gave the entire city a migraine-ia
It’s Super Supervania.

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Supervania

The Case of the Incredible Sulk

Part Two

Mayorman hangs up his phone and sits behind his desk at the Auditorium of Equitableness. He put his head on the palms of his hands and gave out a heavy sigh. Before he sat there long, his assistant, The Assistant, came in to inform him of his next meeting.

"Sir," he mumbles quietly. "Anonymous Man is here to see you."

"Send him in," replied the mayor gathering himself together.

"Mr. Mayor," started Anonymous Man. "You have to do something!"

"Naturally," replied the mayor. "What do I have to do?"

"Uh, I don't know. Something!"

"What's wrong?"

"Haven't you heard? Half the city is plunged in darkness..."

"Oh that. We're on it. Have no fear."

"This whole episode makes me a bit sad."

"Buck up citizen! We'll set it all right. Right now though, I have a meeting so if you excuse me."

"Uh certainly," responded Anonymous Man with a bit of confusion. "I'll be going then?"

"Yes," replied the mayor. "Assistant, send in my next meeting."

"Next -- meeting -- umm -- yes Mr. Mayor," fumbled the Assistant as he attempted to discern the meaning of the mayor's words.

"Is the Dugman not here?" asked Mayorman.

"The Dugman and Hyper Hank aren't here just yet. I'll see what is keeping them."

Anonymous man stood there dumbfounded. He was attempting to figure out what was going on. The mayor had never dismissed him without fully explaining what was happening.

"Am I no longer needed in Supervania," he mumbled to himself.

"Is there anything else?" asked Mayorman.

"I guess not," sobbed Anonymous Man as he turned and sulked out of the room.

After a short wait, The Dugman and his faithful sidekick Hyper Hank entered the room.

"Sorry we're so late chief! Half the city is blacked out and this is starting to cause major problems."

"Thanks for the news flash," the Mayor said sarcastically.

"I guess that is why we're here isn't it?"

"Sorry, the entire city is caught in an incredible sulk. I'm not immune to its effect."

"What can we do?" asked the superhero.

"First, tell me why we're feeling this way?"

"That is easy, Paul Pennant is in town."

"Of course!" sighed the Mayor with relief.

"The airlines lost his luggage, and he is in Quincy McGee's office."

"That darn fibber McGee!" shouted the mayor. "He gave him the dog treatment didn't he?"

"I'm afraid so," replied the Dugman. "He threw in the wife scenario for extra effect."

"Didn't he get the notice about Pennant?"

"I'm sure he did, but he probably forgot or hasn't read it or something..."

"Okay, I'll get the Clown Patrol over there ASAP, but it'll be a while before this effect will lift."

"What about the power outage? The clowns don't work well in the dark."

"Oh yeah, we'll need to get the power back on. Thanks Dugman, you two have been a big help!"

"Glad we could help!" replied the Dugman as he turned with a flourish and left the room.

"Sir," stated the Assistant over the intercom system. "Anonymous Man is still here..."

"Send him in," replied the Mayor with a bit more energy.

"Is it something I said?" asked Anonymous Man.

"Sorry," replied the mayor. "The city is being affected by an incredible sulk, and I also fell under its spell. Is there more you wanted to say?"

"You have to do something," sobbed the superhero.

"Yes, we do. We need to restore power to the city."

"I was going to say that," Anonymous man complained as he was fighting back the tears. "Do you know what is causing the blackout?"

"Paul Pennant is clouding up the city requiring increased energy usage. Further, there is the usual evil ninja cyborg energy draining thing."

"The Energy Drainer?" enquired the superhero with a little more composure.

"Who else?"

"Where is his nemesis?"

"The Energy Conservator? He's in Bermuda recharging his batteries."

"They never miss a trick do they?"

"No they sure don't."

"So what options do we have?" asked Anonymous Man feeling a little bit better.

"Rest assured Anonymous Man, we're working on it."

"But..."

"Thanks for coming. Assistant?"

"I'm going," Anonymous Man stated hurriedly as he walked quickly out the door. He felt needed again, but he did not want to wear out his welcome.

"You called?" enquired The Assistant.

"It was nothing. Any more appointments?"

"Dirk Justice is here."

"Send him in."

"Greetings Mr. Mayor, I just stopped by to see if I could be of assistance."

"Thanks Dirk, but I don't know if you can...."

"What's the problem?"

"An incredible sulk is covering half the city because of the sadness felt by Paul Pennant. We've got the Clown Patrol going over to cheer him up, but there is the problem with the Energy Drainer... We can't cheer Paul up in the dark, and we cannot ease the power use without cheering him up. We need to stop that evil ninja cyborg the Energy Drainer to ease the power problem. If we could cheer up Paul we wouldn't have the power drain and the Energy Drainer wouldn't be a problem. But we can't do that in the dark..."

We're caught in quite a catch trap. Those ninja cyborgs don't miss a trick!

I'll say! What are we going to do about the Energy Drainer?"

"Let's see, the Energy Conservator is in Bermuda -- well -- have you tried the Clappinator?"

"Do you think he would do it?"

"He is officially retired, but he may help us out."

"Assistant," the mayor said on his intercom. "Get me the Clappinator on the phone," requested the mayor as hope returned to his face.

The Assistant, from his desk, began to look up the contact information for the Clappinator. After typing a few words into his computer, the information appeared on his screen and he dialed the number. "The Clappinator is on line one sir," The Assistant stated over the intercom system.

"Thanks!" responded the mayor as he picked up his phone. "Hello Herbert! How's tricks?"

"The mayor huh? I remember when you were just a punk kid..."

"I learned a lot from you Herb."

"Bah! What do you want?"

"Herb, your city needs you."

"You toss me aside for some Energy Conservator guy, and now you're crawling back huh?"

"We allowed you to pursue other avenues..."

"Punk kid!"

"Herb, let's let bygones be bygones. I -- er -- the citizenry of Supervania need your help. Are you going to help, or do we find someone else?"

"I would love to help," the Clappinator said sarcastically.

"But...?" the mayor urged.

"But, I'm under house arrest."

"House arrest? Under whose authority?"

"The Fashion Police -- naturally."

"What did you do?"

"Some trumped up call. Something about a white belt and white shoes after Labor Day."

"What?"

"It's them youngsters and their fashion rules. My other suit was at the dry cleaners. I didn't think there would be any problem."

"So, why didn't you show them your autumn and winter superhero suit?"

"I wasn't able to retrieve it. They caught me before I got there."

"Washer Woman and Martinizing Man have free delivery."

"AOENC Dry Cleaning is not too far from here. They are convenient, so I use them."

"Free delivery and pick-up..."

"I don't need some punk kid lecturing me on where to take my laundry."

"America's Original Evil Ninja Cyborg Incorporated Dry Cleaners -- are -- evil ninja cyborgs..."

"What's your point?"

"Nevermind. If we take care of your problem with the Fashion Police, will you help the city?"

"If it isn't too late in the day, I don't stay up late like you young kids!"

"We'll see what we can do to free you up."

"Furthermore, It'll cost you. I'm not made of money you know."

"We're on it."

"Jargon jargon jargon!"

"I'll talk to you later Herb."

"Whatever!"

The mayor hung up his phone, and put his face on his hands. It was a great strain to fight off the effect Paul Pennant was having over him. He thought to himself that soon the entire city would be engulfed in darkness, but Dirk Justice interrupted his thoughts.

"Sir, will the Clappinator help the city?"

"If we can get his dry cleaning to him..."

"The Sensational Seven are here to see you sir," interupted The Assistant.

"Hey!" exclaimed the mayor as a big grin come to his face. "They might be able to help us out here. Send them in!"

The outer door opened and the room immediately brightened up. The team of these superheroes was enough to drive the darkness away from the mayor's office.

"Come in! Come in!" welcomed the mayor. "What can we do for you?"

"Thir," started the leader of the group. "It ith about our name."

"Your name?"

"We are the Thenthational Theven!"

"Yes?"

"You don't underthtand. We are the Thenthational Theven, but you have thomething elthe in your recordth."

"Let me check. No, right here it says Sensational Seven..."

"Thee, that ith not right. We are the Thenthational Theven, not what you jutht thaid."

"You want to be listed as the 'Thenthational Theven' and not the Sensational Seven?"

"That'th right!"

"Easy enough to change..." replied the mayor with a fake smile. "They -- er -- say, while I have you here, you could do the city a great favor."

"Name it thir! We will thertainly help if we can."

"Herb -- The Clappinator, one of Supervania's former superheroes -- now retired -- is needed to help us with an evil ninja cyborg problem we are experiencing."

"The power outage?"

"Yeth -- um -- yes," fumbled the mayor. "However, he is under house arrest by the Fashion Police. Could you go over there and do your thing for him? You know, get him out of trouble with the -- Fashion Police???"

"Abtholutely! We'd adore giving him the treatment!"

"Where did Dirk go?" wondered the mayor to himself. "Thenthational Theven, your help in this matter would help make life a lot better for many of the citizens of...

Super Supervania
Fashion sense we must maintain-ia
Or in darkness we'll remain-ia
It’s Super Supervania.

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Supervania

The Case of the Incredible Sulk

Part Three

At the superhero assisted living condominiums, Clappinator sat in his bathrobe reading his mail. After finishing his AARP newsletter, he looked up and noticed a rainbow and a flash of sparkles outside his window. He got up to investigate when there was a knock on his door. He tightened his robe around his waist and shuffled over to the door.

"Who is it?" he asked through the door.

"We're here to help!" responded a voice.

"I didn't ask what you wanted," complained the aging superhero. "I asked who you were."

"The mayor thent uth," the voice replied.

"That still doesn't answer my question..."

"How can we make our entrance if he doesn't open the door?" whispered one of the superheroes to the group leader.

"I don't know," the leader responded.

"Tell him we're Avon™" whispered another.

"Avon? I'd rather die."

"Tell him something..."

"Uhhh - Candy-gram," said the leader.

"Candy-gram?" replied the Clappinator. "Well then, come on in!"

The retired superhero swung open his door and the gust from the door slightly separated his robe revealing his ragged boxer shorts. With another rainbow and a flash of sparkles and several squelched sounds of disgust, the Thenthational Theven arrived at the assisted living condo of the Clappinator.

"We are the Thenthational Theven!" started the group's leader after the nausea left. "Time for the Theven Roll Call! On hair..."

"I am The Caped Coiffeur!" shouted the superhero with a flourish from her cape.

"On etiquette..."

"I am Mrs. Manners," stated the superhero politely. "It is nice to meet you."

"On style..."

"I am the Chic Magnet!" declared the superhero.

"On fashion..."

"I'm Fashionista," the superhero proudly declared. "We'll talk about your clothes."

"On design..."

"It is I," began the superhero. "The Fabulous Feng Shui and my trusty sidekick..."

"Slip Cover Girl," finished the sidekick.

"I of course am Thuper Model!" finished the group's leader.

"Where is my candy-gram?" asked the Clappinator.

"Never you mind about that," replied Super Model. "The mayor athked uth to help you out with your trouble. Thenthational Theven -- to work!"

The seven superheroes spread out to begin the grand tasks of fixing up the Clappinator's assisted living condominium. As the group investigated the condo the Clappinator heard many groans of disgust coming from the superheroes. He was still standing at the front door looking for his candy-gram.

After a few minutes of unsuccessful searching for his candy-gram, the Clappinator closed his front door. Super Model approached the bewildered elderly superhero shaking his head.

"We have a lot of work to do," complained the leader of the seven superheroes. "Thith plathe ith a methth. An awful methth."

"Meth?" inquired the Clappinator.

"You know -- thloppy -- old fathioned -- not thylith -- you know -- a methth."

"I got nothing," said the bewildered superhero.

"Don't worry," replied Super Model. "We'll take care of everything."

Super Model led the Clappinator into the living room to where The Fabulous Feng Shui was standing with her hands on her hips and a look of utter disgust on her face.

"Where on Earth did you get this gaudy couch?" she asked.

"It was a gift from former President..."

"Well it has to go," interrupted Feng Shui. "It is blocking the flow of Chi and the color is all wrong for your skin tones."

A flash comes from Slip Color Girls eyes and the couch disappears into a cloud of cinnamon-apple scented potpourri.

"The coffee table too," ordered Feng Shui.

"But that was hand made by..."

"Face it," interrupted Feng Shui again. "It all has to go."

Suddenly, all of the Clappinator's furnishings vanished and the room smelled like Mom's apple pie. The retired superhero lost all ability to speak as all of his treasures vanished. He just stood there with his mouth open.

"Slip Cover Girl," ordered the Fabulous Feng Shui. "To the bedroom!"

In the empty room the Clappinator stood there dumbfounded with his mouth agape. Mrs. Manners entered the room and said, "Standing there with your mouth open is quite rude."

The retired superhero immediately closed his mouth. He tried to respond, but words could not form in his brain. Meanwhile, the paintings from his walls were flying from the places they have hung for several years. They are attracted in a swirl around the Chic Magnet.

"I'm Sorry Mr. Clappinator," the superhero bemoaned. "But, this art has to go. It is so 2238. I mean really!"

"Don't move!" shouted the Caped Coiffeur.

The retired superhero was in too much shock to move. His once full living room was now completely empty. All the mementoes he had obtained throughout the years were now gone.

He felt a tingling in his scalp. It began to bring him out of his shock. However, once he began to move, the tingle turned to a burn. He vaguely remembers someone telling him to not move, but he had no recollection of who or why.

"It is because I haven't told you why," stated the Caped Coiffeur.

"What?" asked the Clappinator to himself.

"I haven't told you why you shouldn't move," replied the hair stylist.

"Are you in my mind?" asked the old superhero.

"If I wasn't you would move your mouth, but I told you to not move."

"That's a good trick," he thought.

"I am a superhero."

"Oh right..."

"That was quite unthinking of you," interrupted Mrs. Manners. "Insulting her in your thoughts like that!"

"You too?" thought the Clappinator.

"We are all superheroes Herbert L. Clappinator. May I call you Herb?"

"Herb? Yes. I'm Herb."

Herb Clappinator's head began to spin again. The tingle and burn was now alternating quite frequently.

Suddenly, it stopped. Herb was stunned by its sudden absence. The Caped Coiffeur produced a mirror and Herb looked at his reflection. After seeing himself, everything went black and he fell to the floor in a heap.

"Excellent!" exclaimed the hair stylist. "He was so happy with his new style that he fainted. Nothing could be more gratifying than that!"

"It lookth fabulouth! Well done Coiffeur!" added Super Model.

The Clappinator was out for quite a long time. He awoke to find himself on three slightly cushioned pink wooden boxes. He looked around and there were several of these modular wooden boxes of various colors scattered around his living room. In the center of this room was a pile of his clothes. Before he could say a word, the clothes were gone. This time the scent was lemon.

The retired superhero looked around his once cluttered comfortable room. It was now sleek and modern. There were padded boxes that could be arranged in any way. His 56 inch plasma TV was gone to be replaced with a 72 inch 3-D hologram projector.

"That's nice," he mumbled to himself.

"I knew you'd like it," replied the Fabulous Feng Shui.

"That's not what I meant, I..."

"Our job is done!" interrupted Feng Shui. "The Fabulous Feng Shui and Slip Cover Girl away!"

"You were very gracious," added Mrs. Manners. "I shall be going as well. Your hair is quite lovely. Have a good day."

"My hair!" Herb recalled.

"You're welcome," replied the Caped Coiffeur as she also left.

"My goodness look at those paintings on my wall," sighed the aged superhero.

"They are great! I agree," responded the Chic Magnet. "You have excellent taste."

"But..."

"I will take my leave of you."

"Now we are three," stated Super Model. "It ith you -- me..."

"And Fashionista makes three!" chuckled the fashion expert.

"We need to get you out of here and get you thome new clotheth," Super Model stated frankly.

"I'm under houth -- I mean -- house arrest. I cannot leave. I only have the clothes on my back."

"That robe must go!" stated Fashionista firmly. "I will call the fashion police, but first, you must answer your door!"

As she finished her sentence, a knock came to the door. This startled the Clappinator, but he managed to hobble over to answer the door.

"Errand Boy!" exclaimed the retired superhero.

"Hello Mr. Clappinator Sir. I have picked up your dry cleaning for you. That will be $12.34 including tax."

"Here's $12.50," responded the Clappinator.

"Thanks! Nice hair," Errand Boy said as he was trying to stifle his laugh.

"You can keep the change," Herb replied not noticing the chuckle.

Errand Boy took the money from Herb. He stood there blinking for a couple of seconds doing the math in his head but then shrugged his shoulders and left. Before Errand Boy reached his bicycle, Herb had his super suit on. Fashionista was on the phone freeing the Clappinator from his house arrest.

"Energy wasters!" Herb shouted with authority. "You will be clapped off by the mighty Clappinator! To action!"

The Clappinator restored power to Supervania as the evil ninja cyborg Energy Drainer's plans were thwarted. Normalcy was returned to...

Super Supervania
Now freed from the energy drain-ia
Herb will never speak to the mayor again-ia
It’s Super Supervania.

"I'm here to help," added Errand Boy.

The End.

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Ninja in a Wheelchair

by Douglas E Gogerty

Brian O'Reilly was sitting in his wheelchair in his cell on death row. The state would execute him in an hour from now, and he had just finished his last meal. He was sitting quietly when the guard came followed by a priest.

"Brian O'Reilly, this is Father Dwayne McGuinness. He is here to prepare you for your execution."

"Hello Father"

"Greetings my son. That will be all guard. Now Brian is there anything that you want to tell me?"

"Father, I deserve the sentence I am about to receive. I have not been a good person, and I have lived far longer than I should have."

"Tell me about it my son."

* * * * *

I was the oldest of six kids. We were very poor. So, when I was 11 years old, I began my life of crime. It was more important to me to get food to eat than to go to school. I would spend my class time figuring out how to put food on our table, and the teachers let me.

I had been stealing and fighting regularly. While I wasn't making a great deal of money, I was putting food in our mouths. I had a few scrapes, but there wasn't anything I couldn't handle.

One day, I stole from an Asian grocery, and a gang of 10 guys jumped me. They said that this grocery was protected by Hung Lo. They told me that I would have to pay for my theft.

I didn't know Hung Lo from nothing. I was just a kid. They tried all of their chop socki on me, but they didn't know how to fight. I was an everything-goes street fighter. I didn't know any rules. So, I held my own until the cops came and we scrammed.

As has it, they had a spy follow me home. The next day, a note comes addressed to my mom from Hung Lo. He wanted to see me. Ma was getting upset with my behavior and she made me go see him. I thought for sure I was done for.

I was shaking like a leaf when Ma and me went to see him. I was more afraid of the wrath of Ma than some Asian dude. Ma drug me into this guy's office and tossed me into a seat.

"What's this all about?" she asked.

"I would like to give your son a job," he replied.

I was stunned. He was going to make me pay for what I had stole by making me work for it. Ma agreed to the deal, and I began working for Mr. Lo at nights and on weekends.

At first, it was all legit. I hung flyers. I swept floors. I delivered messages. I did the usual young kid jobs. I got paid in cash, and I put some food on the table.

I would occasionally have scrapes with his young muscle. They were all about testing me. The kids my age were all a head shorter than me. I would clean their clocks easy. The kids my size were a few years older, and a little more difficult, but I still held my ground.

After a year or so of these odd jobs, Mr. Lo started to give me free Hopkido lessons. It was some martial arts training, and I really dug it. It started out all joint locks and pressure points. Eventually, we learned about how to use a person's own weight and energy against them.

I took to it quite naturally. I would still get tested now and again, but I was quite a bit more fluid. Someone would rush me and before they knew what was happening they were flying into the ground.

I began walking with a bit of a swagger. I started looking for fights. Whenever I was challenged, it took a couple of seconds and it was over. They would be lying on the ground with this or that bone broken. I was a tough guy now.

Eventually, Mr. Lo called me into his office with a task. Someone was behind in their payments on something or other. I was like 14 or 15. I would walk into some store and ask for the payment. The guy would come back with this or that excuse, and I would insist.

Of course, the storeowner would laugh at me and end up bleeding. They all paid. I got a big raise after a couple of these jobs. Later, all I would have to do was walk in. "The Kid is here for the money," I would proclaim.

I trained and worked. I even managed to graduate from high school. Well, I barely graduated. I had to make a big decision. What was I going to do with my life. I told Mr. Lo that I was moving on.

I joined the military. I am not allowed to tell you what I did, but let us say that I was good at my job. Lots of people felt the sting of 'The Kid'. I really enjoyed the work, but I hated the politics of it all. I would do a job according to plan, and some yahoo somewhere would complain about this or that aspect.

When my tour was up, I left. I was a first class killing machine without a job. I was a fry cook for a while. I stocked the shelves at this and that store. I never could make a job stick. They were all boring. So, after a while, I looked up Hung Lo again.

He didn't have a job for anyone with my talents, but he said he would check around. He sent me to a guy named K.W. Kitterman. Mr. Kitterman could put my skills to work.

I did the same work that I did in the military, but without the politics. It was the perfect job for me. I began taking Ninjitsu lessons because they helped me do my job. 'The Kid' soon became a Ninja.

I disappeared into the world of the Ninja. I only appeared to inflict death. The only ones to see me were soon no longer capable of reporting what they saw. I was a ghost. I was a shadow in the night.

I had many missions and was making a great deal of money fulfilling those missions. However, that was all to end when Mr. Kitterman contracted me to kill Mr. Long Wang. He is why I am here.

Mr. Wang was a very powerful man. In fact, he was acquainted with Hung Lo. If I wanted to do my job without worrying about politics, I didn't question why I was to do this job. It wasn't my place to ask why he was to be killed. It was just a job.

I easily infiltrated Mr. Wang's estate, and I waited for him in his bedroom. I made a minor mistake, and I alerted him to my presence. Those cursed squeaky floors!

Mr. Wang was a very skilled fighter. He had a great deal of training. He took my sword away from me quite easily. It was going to be unarmed combat for a while. I would strike and he would block. He would strike, I would counter, and he would block. It was a back and forth fight for quite a while.

He knew several styles of Kung Fu. He was obviously an accomplished teacher of the martial arts. He knew a vast array of techniques. He knew some techniques that I thought were only legends. Stories they tell others so they fear you and you don't have to fight. He knew of those kinds of techniques.

We had been going back and forth for a while, and he begins telling me the technique he is using. He is yelling "Flying Monkey Fist" and "Striking Snake" and the like. To me it is all gibberish. I just take his move and counter it like I was trained in Hopkido.

I was getting tired. I had never fought anyone for so long before. I decided I was going to end it by going for my sword. We exchange attacks, and in doing so, I work towards my sword. A few more moves, and I will have it. Again, he is yelling "Hammering Jaguar Claw" and "Crane Fish Strike"!

At this point in the fight, I make my first mistake. I take my eyes off him and look at my sword. He yells "Five Point Palm Exploding Heart!" and lands it on my chest. I manage to grab the sword and open him up. He stops and laughs.

I thought how strange it was that a man would get nearly cut in two and laugh. So I asked him what was so funny.

He said, "We are both dead. I landed my last ditch technique. After you take five steps, your heart will explode."

I took a step to lop off his head and finish the job, and I took one step back, but I haven't taken one since. The police found me sitting there with the bloody sword in my hand. I was just sitting on the floor. They asked me to get up, but I said that I couldn't. They dragged me out, and I have been in this wheelchair ever since.

* * * * *

"Father, I don't know if the good Lord will forgive what I have done..."

"My son, if you truly repent your sins, the good Lord will forgive you."

"Thanks Father. I am truly sorry for the pain that I have inflicted."

"It is time to go now."

The guard came and opened the cell. The priest arose and began praying for Brian's soul. The guard worked his way behind the wheelchair and began to push it out of the cell. Brian waved to have him stop, and he got up. He took three steps and fell over dead. The Five Point Palm Exploding Heart technique finally took Brian O'Reilly after a lengthy trial and several years on death row.

* * * * *

Inspired by Kill Bill Vol. 2 by Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman

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Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero

The Walk Home

By Douglas E Gogerty

I had dined at Claudius Flavius Agrippa's estate. It was about two thousand paces from my home and I went on foot. It was a very ample banquet and I had left just before dusk as I wished to get home before it got too dark.

I had walked down the road for a short while when a man came from behind some brush along the road. He asked for all of my valuables. I could not help but laugh. This did not go over well with him and he jumped at me. I casually stepped aside, and I see a couple of arrows whisk by me. This bandit was not alone.

The first bandit had gained his footing and rushed towards me once again. I ducked behind the brush from which he emerged. I could not see his compatriots, so I had to be careful. I removed my cloak to protect myself from any small weapon the first bandit may have been carrying. I saw his knife glint in the fading light.

As he rushed at me, I grabbed his arm and launched him in the air with a little hitch in my hip. He hit the ground hard, but only enough to make him angrier. Once again, he charged at me, and I held my cloak to one side. I jumped out of the way in time and draped my cloak over him. I did not let go of cloak as it closed around my assailant. With my grasp of the cloak, I dropped to the ground and put my foot into the small of his back; thus, launching him above the cover of the brush.

In the failing light, his accomplices mistook him for me and launched a salvo of arrows. However, one of the archers gave himself away in this attack. The two arrows shot from this bandit's accomplices struck him. He started bleeding profusely, so I let him keep my cloak. He was still alive, but he would not be for long.

I did not know the position of one of the archers, so I carefully made my way to the archer's position that I had spotted. I saw that he had another arrow ready for flight. I jumped over the bush he was using for cover and knocked his bow. The arrow flew across the road. The second archer yelled in surprise as the arrow just missed him.

I grabbed the first archer from behind and used my greatest weapon on the second. I glared at him with the first archer held tightly in my grasp. Without breaking my stare, I snapped the neck of the first archer with my bare hands. My weapon was successful, and the second archer dropped his weapon and ran off.

I gathered up the two dead men and piled them on the brush beside the road. I checked for any identifying items, and gathered their valuables in a bit of cloth. I headed back towards home leaving the corpses for the scavengers.

After a bit of walking, I overhear some men talking. I cannot quite make it out, but it sounded like an exciting story about a 7-foot man killing Antonius with his bare hands. As I approach, I can see one of the men is enraged by the tale being told. He shouts, "He killed my brother, so he must die!"

I was in a bit of a spot because they were between my home and me. I was not looking for any more trouble, but the brother had spotted me. He came rushing towards me with knife in his hand. As he got closer, he began to shout wildly. Fear was not going to override his anger. However, for my benefit his anger impaired his judgment. When he was close enough, I side stepped him and grabbed his arm. Using his own hand with his own knife, I plunged the blade between his ribs. He fell in a heap. He attempted to get up, but his strength had left him.

Nevertheless, there were three remaining men standing besides a small cart filled with goods. The second archer was standing with his eyes wide with fear.

"That's him! That's him!" he nervously shouted.

"He's not seven feet tall," the second man said with a confused look on his face.

The third man I assumed was the ringleader. He ordered the two men to spread out and attack me on each side, but the two men hesitated. The ringleaders eyes flared and he shouted, "Move it!"

With a start, the two men tried to flank me. I leaned against a close by tree to watch my back. Slowly the three men closed in upon me. The two men on my left and right drew their knives.

I assumed that the ringleader was a deserter from the army who was now making his living as a bandit. He was going to be difficult to take down as he was wearing Roman armor and I just had my knife.

The two conspirators were not wearing any protection against sharp implements, but their cloaks did make them difficult to see. This was all more the true with the greatly fading light.

Closer and closer, the three men became. Eventually, the two men on my flanks lunged towards me. In an effort to dodge their attacks, I spun and kicked the ringleader in the face. Once again, the weapon of fear worked well on the second archer. With my action, he hesitated. This gave me enough time to grab the other bandit by the arm and twist it. The pain pushed him towards the ground and he dropped his knife.

By this time, the ringleader had shaken off his surprise and managed to draw a short sword. He made a clumsy attempt to stab me. It was quite apparent that despite his armor, he was not a well-trained soldier.

With his comrade still somewhat under my control, I pushed him in the way of this awkward stab. Unfortunately for this poor bandit, this thrust went directly into his throat and severed part of his neck. With a little shout, I popped his head right off.

The second archer fainted dead away upon the sight of his decapitated friend. With the head freed of encumbrance of a body, I swung it by the hair and smacked the ringleader with it. With an awful thwack, the head crashed into the helmet of the ringleader.

While the damage was clearly minimal, the scene left him a bit stunned as well. With this momentary hesitation, I thrust my knife in his eye. It is the most vulnerable spot on a man in armor. I quickly removed my knife and a scream of pain came out of his mouth as he clutched his eye.

If the wound is deep enough, it will eventually be fatal. However, it can take a bit of time. With a fury of pain and the loss of vision, the ringleader began swinging his short sword wildly. With one of his swings, he cut a large chunk out of the second archer's leg. Blood began to pour out of this wound but the lead bandit continued to swing his sword with shouts of anger. The new wound would be certainly fatal, but it did not rouse the second archer.

The head bandit was yelling and swearing. He waved his sword about wildly, but I was not going to get anywhere close to him. It was only a matter of time before the loss of blood would do its work. After a short time, the ringleader fell to the ground with a thud. He writhed with pain and gradually sank into unconsciousness.

It was dark now, but I could not leave these men in the middle of the road. However, I did not wish to take any chances that these men were still able to lash out at me. Thus, I made my thanks to my patron Neptune. My ritual took a few minutes as I burnt some blood of my fallen foes in thanks. I also included the decapitated head in my ritual of thanks.

I made certain that the four men were dead as I piled the bandits in a heap beside the road. Like their other fallen comrades, I obtained their valuables and put them all in their own wagon. From the looks of the booty these men had collected in their wagon, they were quite successful highwaymen.

Once I arrived home, I once again made sacrifices to Neptune. My tunic was soaked with the blood of these men. I took the opportunity to visit the bath before turning in for the night.

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Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero

The Magistrate

By Douglas E Gogerty

"That is quite a story," the magistrate said with a little disbelief.

"Your belief is of little concern to me," replied Marius Batiatus Pervalidus with a wave of his hand. "By Neptune, it is the truth, and the men's wounds will confirm my story."

"You killed six men by yourself?"

"No. I killed three men. The men themselves are responsible for the deaths of the other three. I am merely responsible for the head bandit, one of the archers, and the archer's brother."

"You decapitated one man!"

"No, the bandit leader did that with a wild swing. His swing cut the neck of the man and I just finished removing it from its body."

"You used his head as a weapon."

"I only did so to protect myself from the head bandit."

"Someone could make quite a drama out of the events last night."

"Aye, it would make quite a tragic tale of this former Roman soldier turned bandit.

"Do you know who this head bandit is -- er -- was?" asked the magistrate.

"I do not."

"I will tell you. He was Julius Ladro Denunciato. He is in fact a deserter and there is a great reward for his capture. The Republic frowns greatly upon soldiers that leave the ranks."

"It is my pleasure to serve the Republic. That is its own reward."

"That is admirable and well stated. Marius Batiatus Pervalidus... Batiatus? Batiatus? Where have I heard that name?"

"Perhaps you have heard of Lentulus Batiatus. He ran a gladiatorial school in Capua long ago."

"Gladiator?" enquired the magistrate. "You are a gladiator? That explains a few things."

"I have paid for my freedom," Pervalidus replied curtly.

"Were ... you were a gladiator."

"I was."

"In my younger days, I used to regularly attend the gladiatorial exhibitions. I remember a mountain of a man who went by the name of Validus Maximus. Strong and large that described him quite well. He fought with the trident and net. He was absolutely unbelievable!"

"I am pleased that you enjoyed the contests."

"He used the trident like no one I had ever seen. It was part staff and part spear. Those with gladii were no match for him. He could knock those short swords away from the other gladiator with one swipe."

"It is important to know how to use your weapon."

"You could tell that he was so much better than everyone else. He would just toy with the other gladiators for the sake of the crowd."

"The gladiatorial games were for the crowds and the gods. It is not wise to upset the immortals."

"One time he took on three gladiators. I think the patron of those particular games wanted to see Validus lose."

"It is a danger of the profession."

"Anyway, Validus fought a very defensive fight at first. He made one of his opponents swing wildly and hit one of the other gladiators -- like -- in your tale ... of ... last night..."

"It is a useful tactic."

"Hey! Validus -- Pervalidus..."

"Yes, I was a gladiator that fought as Validus, and later Validus Maximus."

"Now I believe that the guy thought you were seven feet tall. I thought you were too -- in my youth."

"Stature can be deceiving."

"Wow! Validus Maximus. Our legion could use a man like you."

"While that may be true, I have paid my service to the Roman Republic."

"Have you heard the former proconsul Gaius Julius Caesar has crossed the Rubicon? He marching his troops toward Brundisium to meet with Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. It means civil war. You could provide a great service to the Republic."

"I am quite happy serving the Republic in the manner that I did in ridding it of this group of bandits. I owe it no other allegiance."

"I am indebted to Pompey the Great. I must side with him."

"That is no concern of mine."

"Let me finish," replied the magistrate. "If Pompey is defeated I could lose everything. I could lose my estate, my position, perhaps even my life."

"That is quite a sad tale."

"That is just the half of it. I am in line to become Proconsul myself one day. If the Republic falls, all that I have worked for will be gone. I am running for Praetor!"

"My tears are falling like rain..."

"However, if you side with us -- the Republic -- and help us, I can make it worth your while."

"I doubt that even you have that much to offer me."

"Then do it for the Republic and your fellow Romans."

"While I must admit, you are telling quite a sad tale. With the loss of your estate and the loss of the Roman Republic, it would certainly make for a great tragic play. However, I have a much greater tale of loss than you could ever know."

"Caesar is a great general. We could use all the able-bodied men we could get. Pompey is also a great general, but his troops are green. There will be quite a battle. It would be quite a tragedy if the Republic falls."

"I will make a bargain with you. If I tell you my tale of loss, and if it is not more tragic than your own, I will join you."

"Very well, tell me your tale, and then I will fill in the rest of my tale of misery. I am confident in my tale of woe."

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Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero

Becoming a Slave

By Douglas E Gogerty

European Map

I was young. I had not become of age yet. I had probably experienced 12 summers when King Mithridates invaded Bithynia where my family called home. My father, hoping that our homeland would be free, died in battle against the invading King. That left my mother to take care of my older brother, my younger sister and I.

I had a maternal uncle living in Cyzicus. Thus, to seek refuge, my mother and I headed for that Bithynian city. This was an unfortunate move for us as before we arrived, Mithridates laid siege to the city. This trapped my family between the army of Mithridates and the advancing army of the Roman Consul Lucius Licinius Lucullus Ponticus.

Instead of engaging in battle, Lucullus prevented the delivery of supplies by land. While it did eventually lead to Mithridates breaking his siege, it was not going to allow us to make our way into the city.

My family and I followed our mother to an encampment by the river Granicus. We spent a few days there fishing and determining our next move. Fate was once again frowning upon us as Mithridates in his attempt to escape Lucullus, found his way to this very river.

The two generals staged a great battle along the river, and my family had nowhere to go. I saw my mother and sister die beneath the hooves of a Roman equestrian soldier. I saw my brother speared by one of King Mithridates soldiers. I just sat at watched the carnage of the two great armies fighting.

There were men fighting valiantly on both sides. The carnage was incomprehensible to such a young person. The insides of a man were no longer a stranger to me. The blood flowed into the river like its own small stream. I sat and could not turn away. Soldier after soldier fell throughout the battle.

Lucullus was victorious on that day, but King Mithridates escaped by boat along the river. Lucullus fresh from victory gathered up the spoils of war, which included me. I was marched away from the land that I called home.

We marched for weeks towards Rome. Everything I had ever known was lost. There was no way that I could ever find my way back to my home. I spoke not a word of Latin, but that mattered little to the Romans.

We were marched right past the city of Rome and taken to the large slave-trading center in Naples. The Romans would sell the former soldiers and citizens of Bithynia alike at the next auction. We were suddenly simply a commodity.

It was like a bad dream in which I could not awaken. Everything was as if I was fresh from the womb. The sights, sounds, and smells were strange to me.

The slave trading masters stripped us all down and sent us into the baths. Afterward, they closely inspected the newly acquired merchandise. I had not come of age, and I drew quite a bit of excited looks. I was young, strong, and in excellent health. I had to endure many inspections by several individuals.

I scarcely remember the interview with the officials of the slave auction. They were excited. I heard a translator mention something about a high price. I have vague recollections of remarks of my looks and my youthful appearance. He slapped some name on me, and held me out towards the end of the selling day.

A murmur fell over the crowd as I walked out onto the platform and inspected by the potential buyers. I stared down at my chalked feet and shuffled in my naked nervousness. Several patrons examined me quite closely for a few minutes and the bidding began.

The bidding process took a long time as I had garnered much interest. I had still not recovered from the general daze that I was in since the death of my family and the march away from my home. A Campanian man whose name I have long forgotten purchased me for the quite high price of 125,000 sesterces. I was to be his personal house servant. I heard of others going for as low as 2 sesterces, so I briefly wondered what was special about me.

Roman House Layout

When we arrived at my new master's house in Campania, his wife looked at me with an odd look of disgust and desire. Perhaps she liked how I looked and perhaps she was disgusted at the high price her husband had paid. I am not certain.

My master and his wife fought often over me. One hundred twenty-five thousand sesterces was a lot of money to pay for an ordinary houseboy. I think my naiveté prevented me from seeing the real purpose. It became quite clear a few weeks after arriving.

The mistress of the house took a group of servants to tend to an elderly relative. He had spoken to the remaining servants and explained that he did not wish to be disturbed. No one was to come to him while he was in the peristylium or any adjoining rooms in the rear of the house. He also asked me to serve him his meal in the exhedra rather than have his meal in the traditional triclinium.

I did not find this request unusual, but some of the other servants snickered at the order. I obtained the food from one of the other servants in the cucina and took it into my master in the nearby exhedra. The master had a strange smile on his face and he regularly chuckled as he ate his meal.

When he was finished, he gave me a carafe of very cheap wine. He ordered me to drink it, but it burned the back of my throat. I could only take a few sips, but my master insisted I continue to drink.

He briefly left the room to check on the other servants. While he was out, I dumped a good portion of the awful, cheap wine in one of the urns that decorated the open peristylium.

Upon his return, he checked my progress on the wine and gave a wry smile. He asked me to recline in one of his couches. I was still confused upon the events that were taking place. "Why is my master asking me to recline on the furniture? This is certainly new," I thought to myself.

I did as he requested, and sat on the long couch. He began stroking my hair and mumbling something in Latin. While I had picked up a few words by this point, I did not have any idea what he was saying. He looked into my eyes and smiled a very disturbing smile. He arose and removed his tunic. Something was exiting him.

He told me to drink more of the wine. I took another bitter sip, and spilled a generous portion down my tunic. With the smile still upon his face and his excitement growing, he ordered me to lie face down across the dining table.

I tried to understand what was happening, but I could not put the pieces together. Thus, I refused to cooperate. He grabbed me firmly by the arm to force his will. I was strong and I easily slipped out of his grasp. I let out a small chuckle.

His anger grew greatly as he yelled something. I can only assume it was a curse of some kind. He came at me again, but with the flask of cheap wine still in my hand, I smashed him over the head with it.

He fell over like a goatskin filled with sand. Blood poured from his ear. A great deal of blood spilled onto the floor beneath his head. I knew he was dead or at least soon would be.

I ran through the peristylium as fast as I could and slipped out of the posticum. With his strict order to be alone, I was sure no one had seen what I had done. I ran through the streets of Campania and made my way to the hills outside of town.

I had not reached manhood, and I had killed my first man. I was alone, and I would never find my way to my home. I just murdered the only person who would have made sure I had what I needed to survive. I was on my own.

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Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero

The Slave Revolt

By Douglas E Gogerty

European Map

"You killed your master?" inquired the magistrate. "That crime is punishable by death. I could take you in and have you crucified or thrown off the Capitoline hill."

"Neither you nor I know if the man died. I did not wait to find out if he survived."

"The disobedience of a slave is enough to have you executed. Perhaps they would burn you at the stake..."

"I have received a full pardon from Marcus Licinius Crassus, but that is part of my story I have yet to tell."

"I have heard enough. It is sad, that is true. However, because your master had a soft head and a hard wine carafe does not make it terribly sad story."

"It is your bias that does not equate the loss of my family and home to your potential loss of family, home, and honor."

"Watch your tongue freedman! You have a lavish homestead. You raise horses. You even have a large number of slaves of your own. You have put this great tragedy behind you and the Fates have been kind."

"For many years the Fates were unkind to me. It was not until Neptune smiled upon me that brought me to this place."

"So, that is why you raise horses..."

"It is to give thanks to Neptune -- creator of horses."

"Your horses could be used for the upcoming conflict as well."

"The horses were promised to Crassus..."

"Crassus died four years ago at the battle of Carrhae!"

"Thus, they will only be given to his successor which will be determined by this conflict."

"I could just take them," threatened the magistrate.

"One more body on this pile of four would not be noticed..."

"Is that a threat?"

"I am just pointing out facts; like you are a young man, you are running for public office, you have your whole life in front of you, you are no match for me in battle, that kind of thing."

"You point is well taken freedman," replied the magistrate with a quiver in his voice. "I will grant equal hardships between the stories. Are you going to continue to a greater sadness?"

"If you like; however, I have lived one life more than you. Thus, most certainly I have known greater tragedy than you."

"Are you declaring victory already?"

"I do have the upper hand if you wish to concede."

"Continue with your story Pervalidus."

* * * * *

I was on my own in the hills of Campainia. A few days after my escape, a huge commotion kept me on the run. Roman soldiers were running here and there. "Certainly, I could not be the cause of this," I thought to myself.

Nevertheless, I made extra care to hide. Eventually, my hunger overcame my desire to hide. One night, I came upon a small camp of about one hundred men. They had Roman army weapons, but this was not a Roman army camp. I was on the march with the Roman army for weeks, and I knew their habits.

I was certain they would not miss a little food. Needless to say, I was careless and immediately caught. The men on guard took me to their Thracian leader. I explained that I had just escaped, and I wished to return to my home in Bithynia.

"Bithynia?" exclaimed their leader. "My home was just across the Bosporus from Bithynia! I too hope to see those shores again!"

I immediately offered the man my services. The crowd of men laughed. "You have not yet achieved manhood," interrupted the leader. "What service could you provide this group of escaped slaves?"

"You are escaped slaves too?" I asked forgetting the other part of his question.

"We have freed ourselves from the bonds of slavery, and freed some Roman soldiers of their weaponry. We plan to raise a small army, and will fight our way out of Rome to our homes!" shouted the leader rousing a big cheer. When the cheers died down, he continued, "You, my young friend, have not seen enough summers to do battle..."

"I have already killed my first man!" I responded.

"With what weapon houseboy -- your good looks?" the leader asked to the roars of laughter.

"I smashed his head with a wine carafe," I said timidly.

The crowd erupted with even more laughter. "Fair enough young warrior, we accept your wine carafe! They call me Spartacus! We will teach you to use the sword, for when you enter manhood, you can join us. These are my Galatian cohorts Crixus and Oenomaus. Mind them well!"

Spartacus took me under his wing and taught me how to fight. He became my second father. I learned how to fight under these men. We camped under the shadow of the great mountain Vesuvius. We gathered what we could from the surrounding countryside. Rural slaves came from all around to join us, and we all prepared for the inevitable upcoming battle.

The first test in battle came against 3000 raw Roman recruits. Using the great mountain to our advantage, we surprised the inexperienced troops and easily defeated them. I was in the group to draw the Roman soldiers up the mountainside, but the experienced fighters, using vines and ropes descended the mountain and got behind the Romans. Even with our lesser numbers, our group surrounded and routed the Romans quickly. Our reputation began growing throughout Rome.

However, in the shadow Mount Vesuvius was not the ideal place to winter. Thus, we packed up and moved farther south. We trained and gathered more numbers as we traveled. Our numbers grew steadily as we traveled.

On our southward march, we met two other legions of about three thousand men each. While our numbers were growing, the Roman soldiers still outnumbered us in these encounters. However, the leadership of Spartacus is what allowed us to prevail against the stronger force. These encounters also allowed us to more weapons and armor.

More slaves joined us as we marched towards the coast. Once we reached the coast, we continued along the shore until we reached the town of Thurii. We spent the winter living off the land. We trained and prepared for our next move in the spring. Despite Spartacus's objections, the Galatians continued to gather a large amount of spoils from the Roman countryside.

From our encounters and some pillaging, we were well equipped. We had a fully functioning encampment and spent a comfortable winter in Thurii. Our smiths turned out weapons, and we had grains and meat from the land.

We were well rested and trained for the upcoming challenges in the spring. Our numbers had grown immensely. There must have been 90,000 men, women, and children in our camp.

I had trained hard. I could beat every youngster in the camp in combat. I even held my own against many of the adults. Thus, Spartacus allowed me to join the fighting men. I was officially apart of the "Gladiatorial Army." While my beard still did not grow, I came of age during that winter.

With this army, Spartacus was confident we could march north and leave Rome. We would certainly have to face opposition, but we were well trained and willing to fight.

Crixus and many of his fellow Galatians were anxious for more plunder. They gathered many riches from the towns on our march. Spartacus had a difficult time keeping him in line. At one point, Crixus and his group split off from the rest of us, and the Romans got the upper hand on his group. We arrived and defeated the legions from Rome, but before we could arrive, Crixus died in battle.

We fought a few other Roman legions on our northward march. At the foot of the Alps, we defeated the governor of Cisalpine Gaul at Mutina. We could then march out of Rome to our homes. I longed to go home. There was news of Mithridates still fighting against Lucullus. Thus, I decided to follow where Spartacus led. Many left our numbers to return to their homes.

In our battles, we had gathered many riches, and many wanted more. Others enjoyed their revenge on Rome, and wanted to continue. Others, like me, would follow Spartacus to wherever he led. We were family.

Spartacus decided that we would continue our fight against Rome. Thus, we headed south again. At this time, there were probably 120,000 slaves in our camp and an army of about 70,000 men.

We were a well-seasoned army now. We met our first consular legion and soundly defeated them. A rumor spread that the Consul Marcus Licinius Crassus was displeased with the cowardice of his men, and he executed every tenth man. Our army was strong and men trembled at the thought of facing us.

We did lose some men in our battles, be we managed to survive another season of war. We had crossed the Roman Republic twice, and we were still at large. This time, we wintered at Rhegium. Once again, we trained and planned. Spartacus came up with the plan of making the island of Sicily our own. We would sail to the island and continue the slave revolt there. We would thus free the island from Roman rule and live free ourselves.

We used some of our plunder to book passage to Sicily. However, the sailors betrayed us, and they set sail without our army. Thus, we had to continue our fight on Roman soil.

Our army was strong. However, the Senate would certainly bring the full force of Rome upon us now. We had freed many slaves, and had pillaged many towns. Spartacus must have known our chances were poor even though the numbers were strong.

With the collapse of the Sicily plan, we marched northward in the spring to begin another fighting season. However, when we reached the river Silarus, Spartacus ordered a large group of us to leave the army and head north. I was in that group. He told us that we were to meet a small army of Pompey's and engage them. This was to give him more time against the army of Crassus.

I learned later, that this was a lie. He wanted us to escape the slaughter at the hands of Crassus. We did avoid the slaughter and did engage Gnaeus Pompius Magnus. However, we were no match for him and he routed this minor force easily.

Pompey's men captured me, and I was marched once again into the Roman Capitol. Along the Apian way, on our march into Rome, I saw many of my cohorts crucified along the road. Mile after mile members of Spartacus's army were hanging there. I did not see Spartacus, so I assumed he must have died in the battle against Crassus.

Upon our arrival in Rome, they paraded us in front of the Roman people as a part of Pompey's Triumph. I was part of his spoils of war. Pompey awarded me to Crassus in gratitude for his part in the "Servile War." Despite Pompey facing only a small group of 5,000 slaves, he was given credit for ending the war.

Even at my young age, Crassus knew that I was a formidable soldier. To play the part I spoke of all the men I had killed. In fact, at that time I had killed 103 men including my first master. I informed Crassus that I had killed twice that number.

He could tell that I could be quite a liability; therefore, Crassus sold me to a slave auctioneer. It was then that Crassus pardoned of my past crimes.

I found myself once again naked on the slave-auctioning block. I had fully reached manhood by this time, and I had a few scars from battle. I was a fierce warrior who had seen only fifteen summers. I made sure everyone knew I could kill each and every one of the bidders.

Thus, I was not about to fetch the price of 125,000 sesterces I had the first time. In fact, the gladiatorial school of Lentulus Batiatus's purchased me for four sesterces. I was going to where Spartacus had just escaped. I was going to replace my second father in gladiatorial combat.

Not only did I lose my first family, I also lost my second one. Further, in many people's eyes, I was still a child.

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Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero

Returning to Bella Pervalidia

By Douglas E Gogerty

"You were just a child," replied the magistrate. "You did not know what it was like to have things."

"I was not yet your age, and I had lost two families."

"Bah! They were not Romans! They may count as half families in front of the Senate."

"My story is clearly more tragic than what may happen to you if Pompey loses. The fates can be cruel or kind."

"Curse the fates! I will not concede that a slave's losses could equal a high-born Roman's losses."

"My story is not yet complete. There are the years in gladiatorial service..."

"Freedman, you were a slave. In gladiatorial service, the Roman citizens lavished you with great wealth and fame. You achieved wealth and fame that I could never match in any service for Rome. Thousands of Romans cheered your name. I was one such Roman."

"In the arena I killed many men. Some I knew."

"Gladiatorial combat was a show! Rarely was anyone killed. You traveled from town to town with the same group. It was all staged!"

"The fight you mentioned earlier when I fought three men, that was not staged. The patron of the festival wanted me dead."

"I am guessing his wife wanted to bed you! That is the tragedy of your life! Many women lusting after you, yet you could have none of it without risking crucifixion."

"Still..."

"I doubt that you did not bed your share of wealthy women. You were one of the most popular gladiators in all of Rome. The crowd cheered 'Validus Maximus -- Validus Maximus!' at many contests. I shouted that myself! Roman's knew you throughout the republic. You retired wealthy and -- more importantly -- healthy. You are wealthy enough to purchase slaves yourself! They likely have tragic stories similar to yours, but you care not one whit for their stories. If you lost that wealth now, that would come close to what I will lose."

"No doubt you would suggest we both back the same chariot. We both put all we have on Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus -- the pretender to the victory against my second father Spartacus."

"Uh..."

"Tempt the fates with a general who in many instances was simply at the right place at the right time. A general who defeated only outnumbered and weaker forces, and has let his hubris lead where an army must follow."

"Er..."

"No! I will not place my wealth in his hands for I have no confidence in his ability to lead his legions against well-trained legions. This conflict will play itself out, and I will retain my livelihood by staying clear."

"I ought to kill you ... What ho -- a rider approaches. He is one of my messengers. What news?"

"Sir," replied the messenger taking one knee in front of the two men. "There is news from Brundisium. The forces of Caesar and Pompey have clashed. Caesar was victorious, yet Pompey lives. The great general managed to escape. There is more conflict ahead."

"Tell my men I shall join them!"

"Yes sir," replied the messenger. He arose, mounted his horse, and rode off.

"You have not heard the last from me freedman!" shouted the magistrate as he rushed to his horse.

"May the fates be kind to you," replied Pervalidus who walked back to his house at a leisurely pace.

"Is all well with the magistrate?" asked Pervalidus's wife, Bella Pervalidia, as he approached the house.

"There was no difficulty with the course of events last night," replied the freed gladiator. "However, he tried to recruit me to join him in the fight against Gaius Julius Caesar."

"You are not joining him are you?"

"I have done my duty for the Republic, I owe them nothing further. Nonetheless, the magistrate made me recount much of my life story. It got me thinking about the slaves I own."

"What about them?"

"The magistrate reminded me, that I was once a slave, but now I am a slave owner. I detested my slavery..."

"Your household could not run without help," started Bella. "You treat your staff quite fairly. They do have to work for their meals and place to sleep, but you are not harsh like some have recommended. Free life does not guarantee ease, in fact, ease can only occur on the backs of others."

"You are wise. How did you get so?"

"Your words are kind."

"Do you ever wish to return to your home?"

"Like you, my home is no more. War has torn my home apart, and I am grateful that you purchased me and took me away from all that."

"You were well worth the 75,000 sesterces I paid for you!"

"I was a bargain! The bidding was slow on that day."

"Your words are true again!"

"If you wish, we can query the slaves on their situations."

"You have put my mind at ease, and I thank you. There is no need for any further conversation in this regard. Now, on a different subject, with the defeat of the highwaymen, we have some goods that we should be redistribute. We should feast in honor of Neptune tomorrow."

"It will be arranged."

"There will be much talk of Caesar and his victory at Brundisium. We have been fortunate not to be involved in this civil war. It is good to being a freeman rather than a citizen at times."

"What does this victory mean to us?"

"I think it is inevitable that Caesar will defeat Pompey, but what his plans for the Republic are anyone's guess. He may have himself voted dictator for life. If that should happen, we may have to offer some allegiance. We shall wait and see."

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Time Flies

The Beginning

By Douglas E Gogerty

It all began when James Henry Millard was an undergraduate lab assistant to the prominent Dr. Jeffery M. Decker. Dr. Decker was a leader in the field of optics. With Jim Millard's help, Dr. Decker invented a very special kind of glass. There was nothing like it in the world.

In their early experiments, they were bending light as far as was possible without distorting it. The Decker/Millard team was responsible for several exciting discoveries in this area. In their earliest efforts, they were able to bend the light of a laser almost eighty-seven degrees with very little distortion. However, they were always trying to improve upon these results.

The research team had experimented with several substances. They had refined the manufacture of refracting glass, and they were experimenting with the substances added to regular glass that would bend the light. In one particular experiment, they added a super-conductive material instead of their usual ceramic material. The light was bent as predicted. However, when they added a current, they got the most astonishing results. The glass was no longer transparent; however, it was not opaque either.

At first, they thought they had bent the light ninety degrees. Thus, all the visible light would come from the edges of the glass. By experimenting with a laser, they discovered that this was not the case. The distinctive red laser light did not register on the glass. In addition, the image did not dim when the edges were covered. In fact, the glass had a strange glow even when there was no light at all shining on the glass. Moreover, at times the team could see strange shadows moving in their glass. These shadows would come and go in a random fashion. The team could find little order to the movements of these shadows. They repeated the experiment several times, and still the shadows appeared.

For three years, they experimented with their glass. With improvements in super-conductive ceramics, there came improvements in the glass. Furthermore, with the independent discovery of a transparent film capable of heating and cooling the glass, they were able to reach a wide temperature range to observe the reaction of the super-conductive material. Thus, they were able to vary the amount of resistance to electrical flow throughout the glass. In this manner, they could find the ideal amount of resistance for given amount of voltage. This produced very good results. The shadows were beginning to take forms.

The team also experimented with the amplitude of the current flowing through the glass. When they determined optimal amplitude for the differing voltages, the forms became even clearer. However, the images were still not perfect. Optimizing the needed voltage and adding the ideal amount of ceramics was the next step. This part of the research took the longest. After painstaking trial and error, the images from the glass became very clear. It was through the sharpness and clarity of the images that it became clear that this was not a television image. The picture became very sharp. It had a better resolution than any known television signal.

Not only did these images not look like television images, they did not behave like television images. The people seen in the glass were not very interesting. These figures appeared to have rather mundane lives. Moreover, the movements of a television set do not alter the picture of that television set. It was a different story with this glass. As the glass moved, the pictured changed. It was as if they were looking at a mirror. The background and point of view changed with each movement of the glass. The scientific team was at a loss to explain this phenomenon.

However, this did not alter the enthusiasm of the team; in fact, it drove them to a new goal. The next several months the researchers tried to get sound to correspond with the images coming from this view screen. All these experiments were a resounding failure. The sound was on no broadcast frequency that they could locate. The team tried every possible frequency. When two people in the glass would converse, their conversation was a secret never to be heard by the science team. With failure after failure, the team finally gave up. The secrets conveyed by the images were safe from the intruding scientists. It was time to alter the course of the experiment.

By observing the images during these several months, various team members noted that all the images were relatively stable. An object, other than a person, appearing in the glass on one day was usually there the next day. In particular, Dr. Decker noticed a picture of an individual playing a tuba. This picture appeared on the far wall of the room that was conveyed by the glass. When someone obtained the first clear images, this picture appeared in the background. On any given day, that same picture would be hanging there on the far wall of the room depicted in the glass.

Furthermore, the people on the other side of the glass would change their routines. That is, they would not be doing the same thing every day at 4:37 PM. As a matter of fact, it appeared that the people in the glass were living their own lives. They would do things that people do ordinarily. Further, the team's log noted that the style of clothing that these people wore was very out of date.

Nonetheless, the stability of the scenes helped guide the team to the next stage of experimentation. The new objective would be to "change the channel". Maybe the team could pick up on some new images. Possibly there would be some audio to be found for a new set of images.

Changing temperature, amplitude, voltage, and dozens of other factors, image after image was discovered. After several weeks of experimenting, Jim Millard made a remarkable discovery. With his particular set of inputs, several very familiar scientists appeared, and they were working with a strange piece of glass. It was the team's own image appearing in the glass and in the image within the image was a picture of an individual playing a tuba. Dr. Decker stated, "It is like looking through a window into a whole new world."

That was it! You could almost hear the lights being turned on. It all made sense now. The reason that the images changed when moving the glass around was the fact that the scientists were looking through a window into a strange world. As the window moved, so did their view of this world. These were not television images at all. The analogy of looking into a new world also helped explain the stability of the images. The people in the glass were real people with real lives. This also helped explain the clothing that these people wore. That was the style then. In addition, one of these people living in this strange world obviously liked the tuba and thus hung a picture of a tuba player on the wall.

Furthermore, this helped explain why they could not find any sound on any frequency. The sounds coming from the people in this strange new world were not broadcast on any frequency. They were simply spoken. A completely new technology would be required to discover what these people had to say.

Now the team had to prove their theory that these were images were from another dimension. However, the scientists were euphoric because it was apparent that it could be possible to observe what was happening in a dimension other than their own. In a world with only three perceivable dimensions, people could see into an infinite number of different dimensions.

All of this pushed the researchers and of course Jim Millard into the realm of the time/space continuum. He would devote the rest of his life, studying dimensions, time, and any other relevant theories to aid in his search. A search for something he had not even yet imagined.

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Time Flies

The Hypothesis

By Douglas E Gogerty

After all of the experimentation, Jim graduated. During his course of studies, he earned two Bachelors of Science degrees. He earned one in Mathematics and the other in Electrical Engineering. However, he did not wish to leave the team. Thus, he rejoined them as a graduate student. Although Jim was still a student, he had quite a bit of experience on the project. In fact, Dr. Decker was the only one with more. Thus, he was given the task of discovering how the glass worked the way it did.

Others members of the team, depending on their field of expertise, were given different aspects of the glass to research. Everyone had a guess on how the glass worked. Jim had the task of testing to see if any of the hypotheses could lead to a predictable outcome. Jim worked hard and long on his task. He did experiment after experiment. With every change in image, he would attempt to find a date for it. Naturally, he also noted the temperature, the voltage, the amperage, and the rest of his experimental inputs. He wanted to determine how the combination of the substances made this inter-dimensional viewing possible. Inter-dimensional viewing or IDV was what the team called the glass experimentation.

Jim's personal hypothesis was the light was bent over three hundred and sixty degrees. This light rotation was responsible for the viewing of past events. This is why it all started with light bending glass. In his guess, each rotation made it possible to view another moment backwards in time. Thus, if he could determine how many rotations the light would take, he could determine how far back in time he could go.

After following the direction of Dr. Decker's suggested testing, it was time for Jim to test his own personal hypothesis. Thus, he made a mathematical model of what he believed was happening with the glass. He would have to determine how it would be possible to control how many revolutions the light would have to make to observe a particular moment in time.

With the collection of a large sample of data, he was confident that he could establish his theory. With his experience with the glass, he was confident on which variables he needed to alter to give more rotations. With the superconductive material embedded in the glass, temperature was definitely a major factor. The amount of current traveling through the glass was also important.

After a few experiments, Jim believed he was on the cusp of a major breakthrough. Not only could he predict which set of previously noted images would appear in the glass; he could change the various variables a certain amount to change from image to image without significant changes to the glass. This was of particular importance; because up to this point, major changes were required to view a new image in any one piece of glass. With Jim's discovery, instead of taking days to reconfigure the glass it would take a matter of hours. With a little more work, he was certain that image after image he could switch between images in still less time.

He also experimented with how to make his own image appear in the glass. He discovered how to see what was happening at the spot he was standing fifteen, thirty, sixty minutes ago. The small increments in time were difficult configure, but he was very adept at manipulating the glass.

With his rotational theory as a working model, he was confident in establishing when the image was taking place. He refined this new process to be able to select images to the nearest quarter hour. He was then able to see what he was doing just minutes before the present time. This created several interesting images. He was able to view an almost infinite number of himself as if he was looking into a mirror with a mirror directly behind him.

He dated the men in the room with the Tuba to be 1914. He looked at the records of the area, and was confident of his date. The more he researched the stronger he felt his theory was. He was fairly sure his calculations in this new body of research were correct; however, being the perfectionist that was Jim Millard, he wanted to be absolutely positive that it would work for times long since gone. He was sure it would work for time recently elapsed. However, could his results be extrapolated? How many rotations could he make before the images were no longer viewable?

If his upcoming experiment was successful, it would forever change the perception of inter-dimensional viewing. After this experiment, the glass could forever be thought of as an inter-time viewing device instead of just an inter-dimensional viewing device.

The calculations that needed to be performed were extraordinarily complex. It would take several hours of work to create correct set of variables for his upcoming, important experiment. To be able to change the images in a less involved fashion; Jim recruited some engineers to help him. He told his new associates what he expected from the device they were to work on.

Working with these engineers, Jim was able to connect a laptop computer to the glass. The engineers were able to connect the output from the computer to the glass and use this output to change the amplitude of the current. The computer could also change the temperature of the film covering the glass, and the myriad of other variables that were essential in changing images.

When the engineers had accomplished the goal Jim had set for them, he was able to enter the time and date into the computer. The glass would respond by showing Jim the image he wished to view.

Jim was ready to attempt the experiment of a lifetime. He was going to show that his theory was correct, and he was going to do it in high fashion. He was confident that his work with the glass could have astounding consequences. He was going to show that his theories were applicable to times long gone. That the IDV was a useful project and that there were some valid uses for it.

Furthermore, along with this experiment, he would show the glass would also work in a place other than the laboratory. Up to that point, the only images observed were within the laboratory itself. He was going to take the glass outside the lab, and give it a major test.

After his experiment was complete, Jim organized a colloquium with several of the faculty of the university. Jim had an important announcement, and he wanted the entire university to share with the team's discovery. His preliminary work was finished, and it was time to exhibit his findings. He was going to put on a show.

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Time Flies

The Hypothesis

By Douglas E Gogerty

When the faculty was gathered together, Jim got up to speak. "Ladies and Gentlemen," he began, "I just flew in from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and boy are my arms tired!"

A few titters of laughter came from the audience. It was an old joke, and perhaps too old. However, Jim liked starting his speeches with a little joke, and he had to press on.

"I am sure you are aware of the work that Dr. Jeffery Decker, myself, and others have been working on regarding the inter-dimensional glass or the IDV project. A few years ago, I was given the task of determining how the glass was able to give the images that it was giving us. Exclusively, I worked with our glass in this field of research, and I have been able to determine how it does indeed work.

"With the help of Mr. Algernon Quintell and Ms. Willamina Harris, two local engineers, I have been able to fabricate a device that will allow me to view almost any time that I may wish to view. To be specific, this glass will allow me to view what has happened at the location where we place the glass at any time I select.

"We took the device to Gettysburg for a test. I entered the date November 19, 1863 into the device I have before you. I also entered the time of 6:00 AM. However, the cooling film would not get cold enough to go back that many years, and we did not have a powerful enough generator to increase the amperage. Thus, we had to balance the temperature using liquid nitrogen. After several hours of waiting and looking through the glass, I was able to take this video."

Jim placed a tape into the VCR and images appeared on the monitors located throughout the room. "As you may know, the IDV only collects light. Sound does not linger. Thus, I assigned some undergrads to obtain audio from other sources. They managed to obtain a ancient recording, and thus, the crispness of the video will not match up with the poor audio. However, it was a recording from 1863."

The video was playing, and it looked a bit strange through the occasional liquid nitrogen flow. However, the crowd soon realized what it was when they heard, "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

"In case you were wondering, this is the actual image of Abraham Lincoln giving his Gettysburg Address. This is not a recreation or fabrication of any kind. That is Lincoln himself." Jim explained. He pointed to several features that indicated it was indeed the sixteenth president of the United States.

"Obviously, this new technology has tremendous potential. Any scientist or historian will be able to view events as they actually happened. Things will be seen that have never been seen by anyone of our time. Many questions that have long gone unanswered, will now have answers. Speaking of which, do any of you have any questions at this time?"

"Can you give us a real-time demonstration?" one of the professors asks.

"Certainly. First, we will need a marker or milestone that occurred in this very room. Something that a number of you will recognize. Are there any suggestions?"

"Several years ago, the building on this sight burnt down," came a voice in the crowd. "Maybe we could see this fire."

"Or maybe we could watch last weeks lecture on asexual reproduction of aquatic plants given by Dr. Finnley," suggested another person.

"Your lectures are none too exciting either Dr. Williamson," responded Dr. Finnley.

"I know what we can see," interrupted another participant. "Remember when former President Carter gave his speech to the faculty? That would be a recognizable land mark as it were."

"That is a good suggestion, but I need the exact time and date in order to view that occasion, Dr. Faulklin," responded Jim. "I need this information entered into this device in order to view this episode."

"I showed the video taken from that occasion to my 'Modern Government' class last week," added Dr. Williamson. "The video is in my office, and the time and date were noted on the tape."

"Great!" exclaimed Jim. "We will be able to compare the images from the glass with the images coming from the video tape."

When Dr. Williamson returned with the video tape, Jim replaces his video of Abraham Lincoln with the Jimmy Carter video. The time and date were recorded on the bottom of the video image, and Jim entered those numbers into the glass's laptop computer. He took a little bit of time to synchronize the images. The audience was amazed at the clarity and accuracy of the images coming from the screen. To assure the assembled professors that no tricks were involved, Jim moved the glass around. By doing this, Jim was able to show several different angles to the speech given by President Carter. Everyone in attendance was amazed.

"As you can see, the images given through the glass are very accurate. With this device we can get an accurate view of several events in history," continued Jim.

"What about viewing the future?" asked Dr. Williamson. "I would like to know who will win the Kentucky Derby next month."

"I would to," replied Jim. "However, from the few tests I have done, I have been unable to predict what will happen in the future. This device picks up light that has already reflected off surfaces. There is no way to pick up light that has yet to be reflected. If we reverse the polarity, we get the exact same images. Nothing that we know of will pick up images of future occurrences."

"How can you be sure of the accuracy of the images from the past?" inquired a skeptic in the crowd.

"The several images that I have been able to catalog are very consistent," responded Jim. "If the images from the past were not consistent, I would be very skeptical of the results from the past also. However, the same images from August 13, 1984 at 2:30 PM are always the same. Furthermore, I have done tests similar to the one we have just completed involving former President Carter. I have been able to match views from the past with those on video tape. It is this reason that I am reasonably confident in the images taken from the past."

"What is your theory on the time/space continuum?" inquired the skeptic.

"My theory on the time/space continuum is not yet complete, and I would not like to discuss it at this time. However, I would like to add that history is events that have happened. As we all know, light has some very unusual properties. For instance, it behaves like a beam and a wave. Somehow, the IDV glass picks up the light from past events. I do not know if it is being reflected off distant objects, or if it is a previously unknown property of light."

"Very good!" inserts Dr. Williamson. "There are several factors that are involved in the unraveling the mysteries of time/space."

"Yes, that is a good point. Now, are there anymore questions?" asked Jim.

After answering a few questions and making a few more demonstrations, Jim gave his theory on how the glass works. He discussed in detail on how he believed the light was being rotated through the glass. After a while, no one in the crowd could think of any more questions to ask Jim. "Well, thank you all for coming. If you would like to know more, my paper on this research will soon be available. You can also ask your questions to me at anytime. You all know where to find me. Thanks again for coming, and drive safely."

The crowd filed out, and a few come up to congratulate Jim on his work. Many mentioned that they would be very interested in reading Jim's paper describing his research.

It was this research and the discovery of the inter-time viewing that Mr. Millard used in his dissertation. This was no ordinary research paper. This would enable Jim to take an important step in his life. With this impressive body of work and the support of Dr. Decker, Jim would no longer be Mr. Jim Millard. He would now be Dr. Jim Millard, Ph.D.

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Time Flies

A Brief Vacation

By Douglas E Gogerty

Jim was finished with his paper, and he would receive his diploma at the end of the semester. Years of hard work and sacrifice would pay off at that time. Jim was the leading, and perhaps only authority on inter-time viewing. It was a title that made Jim very proud.

On the occasion of Jim's upcoming graduation, Dr. Decker threw Jim a party. It was on this happy occasion that Jim received some unhappy news. At this party, Dr. Decker announced his retirement. "I have pictures to paint and stories to write," Dr. Decker informed the people in attendance. "I sure hope none of this interferes with my watching the Cubs on TV!"

Everybody, including Jim, was at a loss, but Dr. Decker assured Jim that he would recommend that Jim take over for him at the university. That assurance did not ease Jim's fears. Dr. Decker would be missed; most of all by Jim, but almost everyone believed the line of excellence would continue. It would be the inevitable passing of the baton from mentor to student.

Jim naturally applied for the position vacated by Dr. Decker's retirement. With the strong recommendation from Dr. Decker, Jim felt confident about acquiring the empty place in the Physics department. He was very popular at the university and had a most impressive academic record.

Because of fair hiring laws, the university posted the position nationally. Despite the overwhelming array of qualified applicants, Jim felt very self-assured. "Who would be more qualified for the post than me," Jim occasionally thought to himself. "Besides, who would want the job?"

A search committee was formed and interviews were performed. With each step in the hiring process, Jim became more and more confident that the position was his.

The final decision was to be made in late July or early August. Jim wanted to take this opportunity to take a long needed vacation. He did not take any summers off in his college years because he always went to summer school. With some money he had saved up, he decided to do some traveling during that summer. It would be a well-deserved rest.

His final interview was on May 22nd. After the interview, the search committee informed Jim that he was one of the three finalists. With that news, he felt that it would be useless to worry. In fact, Dr. Williamson, who was one of the hiring committee members, told Jim, "Why don't they have you sign a contract now and cut out all this rigmarole?"

Jim nodded modestly and returned to his apartment to make some plans. He was looking forward to seeing some of his old friends, and partaking in some sort of adventurous activities.

It did not take Jim long to decide where he wanted to go. He decided there were two longtime friends who he kept in contact but hadn't seen in several years. He talked to a travel agent, and he would leave for Florida on June 1st. This would give him plenty of time to get his affairs in order.

Before he left, Dr. Williamson asked for an address where Jim could be reached "...just in case something comes up." Jim gave him the information Dr. Williamson wanted, and Jim embarked on his adventure.

Jim's friend Ken Michaels met him at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International airport. Jim wanted to spend a couple of weeks in St. Petersburg and then he was going to visit another friend, Wayne Leonard, in Charleston, South Carolina. He was greatly looking forward to being somewhere tropical. The summers in central Texas were a little hot and dry. It was not exactly what Jim wanted on this vacation. Furthermore, something about the Atlantic Ocean had always appealed to Jim.

Ken took Jim to several sights in the area. Jim saw Busch Gardens, Tiki Gardens, the Salvador Dali Museum, and various other sights in the St. Petersburg/Tampa area. However, Jim spent most of his time at the beaches. Jim loved to swim and bask in the sun. He spent several hours at Clearwater beach, reminiscing with Ken.

Ken was a high school friend of Jim's who was now a professor of philosophy at the University of Tampa. They argued about everything but were still the best of friends. Sometimes being a philosophy professor would give Ken an arguing advantage, but Jim was a good debater in his own right. At times, the two friends got several strange looks from passing beachcombers, but this did not bother them. They would continue on arguing about who was better Batman or Spiderman or what was the best movie of all time.

It was a very relaxing time for Jim despite the occasional agony of defeat. He did not like losing any of the debates. Jim always loved a good debate and Ken was more than willing to oblige him. After two weeks of arguing in the sunshine of Florida, Jim had to press on. He hated to leave, but Wayne and Charleston were waiting.

Jim and Ken had one last debate on the safest mode of transportation, but before the issue could be resolved, Jim had to bid his friend farewell and head for South Carolina. Wayne was one of Jim's most interesting friends. Wayne was a forest ranger in the Francis Marion National Forest. Jim was about to spend two weeks in the wilderness. Being from Montana, Jim was quite at home in the wild; however, he had spent several years at the university in the middle of Texas. There was not a great deal of wilderness in the city of Austin. Further, the South Carolina wilderness is very different from the wilds of Montana or Texas for that matter.

Being in this lovely forest setting gave Jim the chance to take pictures. He did take some pictures in Florida, but Ken was a bit impatient when it came to that sort of thing. When at a particular sight, Ken would not wait around very long. In South Carolina, Jim took pictures of everything. Wayne was very patient and sometimes took some pictures himself. Jim had a digital SLR camera, and he loved to take photos, especially of the scenery. He barely filled his memory card in Florida, and he almost needed to purchase another one to get all the sights of the South Carolina area where he was staying. He spent one whole day taking pictures of wildlife in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.

Wayne and Jim also reminisced about the old days. They used to camp in Wayne's back yard when they were little. They thought it was the greatest in those days. Wayne especially loved it. He would always say that is why he became a forest ranger. There was nothing like the thrill of the outdoors. Being a ranger allowed Wayne to camp out regularly. When he was not camping, he was at least in the wilderness. Wayne was the picture of a contented human being. Jim could never think of a happier person than Wayne. Seeing someone so happy made Jim happy. South Carolina was a very relaxing leg of his trip.

After a couple of weeks in South Carolina, Jim went home to Montana. Jim's dad still lived in Great Falls. His mom had died when Jim was an undergraduate, so he tried to get back home as often as he could. He became really close to his dad after his mom died. He never dreaded coming home to spend some time with his dad.

Jim's dad was the owner operator of a hardware store. Jack Millard never went to college, but often regretted that he never got the chance. Jim's grandparents were never that well off, and they could not afford to send Jack to college. After Jack graduated from high school, he went right to work. He worked in several retail settings until he got the opportunity to open his own business. For ten years, Jack ran a very successful store, and he probably would have retired if his wife had not died. The store was now his reason for getting up in the morning. It was very good therapy for him.

Jim and his dad often talked about Jim's mother. Inevitably, this always led to the same question. "When are you going to find a wife?"

This question Jim could never find a good answer for, and it was the reason he did not often wish to talk about his mother. It always meant having the same conversation.

"How have you been Jimmy?" began Jack.

"Dad, when will you stop calling me that? Do you know I have my Ph.D. now? I am no longer your little Jimmy."

"Sorry, doctor, old habits die hard."

"OK, I guess I can forgive you. I have been fantastic. Ken and Wayne say 'Hi!'"

"How are they doing?"

"Very well, they seem to be very happy."

"Are any of them married?"

"Dad! Are we going to open this old can of worms already?"

"Well?"

"Ken has a serious girl friend, but she is in Paris on some sort of trip or another. I didn't get to meet her. Wayne, well, he lives in another world, and he hasn't met anyone who wants to share it with him. He has met a few women, but nothing serious has come from them yet."

"What about you? Have you met anyone that trips your trigger?"

"Dad, I don't know? It is not that my standards are too high; it is just that nobodies standards are that low."

"Don't sell yourself short son."

"I won't dad, but most women are afraid of me, and the rest have this preconceived notion of who I am. I can't live up to either perception. Thus, I am stuck being alone."

"The big problem you have is you are too shy."

"I agree, that is part of my problem. However, another part is the fact that I actually like being alone. Not many people can understand that."

"I suppose you're right."

"Besides, Jack Jr. has already made you a grandpa. You don't have to worry about that."

"I am just concerned about your happiness."

"Thanks for your concern, but I will be all right. So, how is the store?"

"Business is good. So are you trying to change the subject?"

"Me? No, never, I would never try and do anything like that."

"Son, I would like you know, that I am very proud of you. By the way, the university called they wanted you to call the committee in the morning."

"Did they say what they wanted?"

"Nope! Sorry, I didn't ask either."

"I guess I will find out tomorrow. So, how are Jack, Carol, and little Sean?"

Like always, the conversation of the father and son went long into the night. They talked about just about everything. They even revisited the marriage conversation. When they were equally exhausted, they went to bed.

Jim called the university the next morning. The committee wanted to meet with him in mid-July. He arranged the meeting with them for July 22nd. They were not very specific on the details of this meeting. He tried to find out what it was about, but they were very tight-lipped about the whole thing. He would have to wait until July to find out what they were considering.

This delay would still give him some more time with his dad. He may even meet up with some high school friends that still lived in the area. He was not sure who was still in town, but a few trips around town on his bicycle would let everyone know he was in town.

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Time Flies

The Disaster

By Douglas E Gogerty

Not much of note occurred in the last few weeks of Jim's vacation. This is mostly what Jim had hoped. He relaxed. He read quite a few things that he simply did not have time for while he was at school. It was a restful and enjoyable time. However, he could only take so much of this. He was ready to get back to the old grind. When July 21st arrived, he bid a fond farewell to everyone in his hometown, and he left for Texas.

His apartment was still in order after his extended trip. However, it was slightly dustier than he remembered. He unpacked his clothes and was back into the swing of things in a matter of hours. It was as though he had never left. When all was put into order, Jim turned on his stereo and finished reading the book he had started on the airplane. He was quite tired from the travel, so he turned in early to get a head start on the next day. He wanted to be ready for a day that would be very important to the rest of his life.

Jim arose early to prepare for this meeting. He showered, shaved, and threw on some errand-running clothes. He needed to get some things done before his big two o'clock meeting. The first thing he did was get his haircut. It had been quite a long time since his last cut. It was due.

The library was Jim's next stop. He wanted to get photocopies of all the articles of his that were published. He had quite a few, and he was proud of all of them. If they asked him about his research, he would be prepared.

He stopped for a bite to eat at his favorite local Chinese restaurant before continuing on his errand running. He needed to pick up a transcript, and some other things that he ordered from the University. Jim's background led him to be prepared for anything. He would have a briefcase full of things that they may wish to see at his meeting. Whatever he needed, he wanted to have with him.

When the running was finished, Jim cleaned himself up a bit, and put on his suit. His briefcase was jammed with paper, but he felt confident that there was nothing left to do. He was as prepared as he could be.

He showed up at the office of Dr. Williamson a few minutes early. Actually, he would have been fifteen minutes early, but he waited around outside the building. He was a little nervous, but he did not want to appear to be. When Jim made it to Dr. Williamson's door, Dr. Williamson was sitting at his desk writing something down. "Come in Jim," he says hesitantly. "The rest of the committee will meet us in the lounge. Have a seat."

Jim did not like Dr. Williamson's tone, so he asked, "What is going on? Is there something wrong?"

"Jim, they asked me to try to break this to you gently. Please sit down. I tried all I could, but they wouldn't listen to anything I said."

"What? What is it?" begged Jim as he took the chair at the front of Dr. Williamson's desk.

"It appears that you will -- not -- be a part of ... next year's faculty."

Astonishment came over Jim. He did not know what to say. He just slumped in the chair with his mouth open.

Dr. Williamson continued, "They are going to tell you about budget cuts, and this and that. The fact is -- they wanted to go in a different direction. Your research is expensive. In addition, they claim that they were looking for a person with more teaching experience. They didn't want someone who was primarily a researcher. In my opinion, they were all jealous of Dr. Decker's notoriety, and you were an unfortunate victim of that. I am so sorry."

"So what is the point of this meeting?" asked Jim angrily.

"Actually, they want to discuss your options."

"What?"

"Why don't we go to the meeting and talk to them."

Jim and Dr. Williamson walked into the lounge where a dozen or so professors and administrators had gathered. "Have a seat Jim; would you like something to drink?"

"No thanks, let's get on with this," Jim replied curtly.

"Jim, although we did not select you to replace Dr. Decker, we wish you would consider staying as a teaching assistant," started Dr. Faulkner, the head of the math department. "There would be virtually no change in your benefits, and you could remain a part of our team."

"You know the routine well, and your work load wouldn't be very different from the one you have grown accustomed to," added Dr. Marrienna.

"In a few years, you could be a full time member of our faculty," finished Dr. Faulkner.

"Is that all?" asked Jim with as calm a tone that he could muster.

"What would you have us say?" asked Dr. Faulkner.

"I don't really know, but of course, you know I am going to turn you down," replied Jim. "You didn't expect me to settle for being a TA after all the work I have done for you."

"Don't be so hasty, Jim. Think about the offer," Dr. Marrienna inserted.

"Frankly, you cannot have your cake and eat it too. Pardon the platitude," replied Jim. "I do not think I have to consider your proposal. You slap me in the face, and expect me to act like it never happened!!! I am sorry, but I respectfully decline your 'generous' offer."

Before anyone could say anything, Jim had left the room. He had been prepared for just about everything, but what had just occurred. Dr. Williamson went after him. "Jim, hold up! I mean Dr. Millard."

Jim stopped to hear what Dr. Williamson had to say.

"Good for you Jim. I don't blame you. I know of a position that has just become available at the University of Northern Iowa. It is a small university, but I am sure they would love to have you. They are in a bind. One of their professors suddenly became ill. The job is right up your alley. Of course, you would have to teach a class or two. Are you interested?"

"Dr. Williamson, thanks. Can I let you know?" replied Jim fighting the turmoil that was brewing inside him.

"Of course, I understand. You will need some time to absorb all that has happened. I'll give you the information. Do you have your articles with you?"

"Yes, I thought somehow they would be interested in them."

"Could I have them? I want to make a point to the committee."

Jim fumbles into his briefcase and pulls out a large stack of paper. "They're all yours. But, what are you going to do with them?"

"I want to show them the work you have done. Not just the work for the university, but also the work for science in general. It will show them that they shouldn't have let jealousy get in the way of making they're decisions. For the last few weeks, I have researched a few things. I found thirty-seven articles that sight one article or another of yours. That is prestige. Prestige that they just threw away like an old shoe. It also says something about the work you have been doing. It will be good to rub it in their face. I sure hope they don't do this to any of my students when I retire."

"Thanks, Dr. Williamson."

"Hey, you deserved better. Let me know if you need a reference or anything. Consider the Northern Iowa job.

"I will."

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Time Flies

Starting Over

By Douglas E Gogerty

Jim was not sure what he was going to do. He was totally unprepared for this rejection. He was completely counting on continuing his work in Texas. The thought had never even occurred to him that they would not want him.

After a long reflection, Jim decided to go back home to Great Falls. He knew he would always be welcomed there. He wanted to go where he knew he would be wanted. If nothing else, he could help his dad out in the hardware store.

However, it never came to working retail. Shortly after he returned home, he learned of an opening in the math department of the University of Great Falls. He applied for that job, and was offered it shortly afterwards. He jumped at the chance. It was not exactly what he wanted, but it would be a good start.

He was a quality researcher, but he did have some teaching experience. He would miss his research, but being in the classroom would be a welcome change.

He taught introductory calculus and physics. He rather enjoyed the experience. Although his first love was research, the interaction with students was a refreshing change of pace. He was a well-liked and respected instructor. He earned the respect of his students and colleagues. He could have spent a long time in this situation.

He did spend five years in Great Falls; however, he deeply wanted to return to his research. Thus, near the end of the fifth school year, he looked for a position at a major research institution. He looked into places where he could continue his research on the time/space continuum. He wanted to learn more about the glass he helped discover.

This is how he ended up teaching in Washington D.C. It was a long way from both Texas and Montana, but this university needed a quality instructor. They had heard of his research, and how it had been neglected. This school believed that Jim could bring them some prestige, as well as, bringing a greatly needed instructor. This would also allow Jim to start again with his research, and continue teaching.

From his notes and with newly discovered materials, Jim began the process of manufacturing a new piece of glass. In his 5-year absence, other researchers perfected the manufacturing processes for a few different ceramic superconductors. These could be ideal for his research.

Furthermore, the range of temperatures that could be reached by the film covering the glass had increased. However, they still did not reach ideal low temperatures to enact the superconductors. Thus, Jim scrapped the film all together. Instead, he decided to imbed small tubes in which frigid or hot liquids could travel. This may affect the view, but temperature control would be greatly simplified.

Now that the temperature could be controlled by the temperature of the liquid, the glass became even more portable. In fact, Jim and his graduate students created a time viewing device that looked like a telescope. This could be mounted upon any vehicle that could supply the glass with the different temperature liquids. In fact, if the time was known before hand, the exact temperature liquid could be transported with any vehicle including a bicycle.

The advanced battery packs provided a constant voltage and amperage. Thus, only temperature was used as a factor. While this did at times restrict which views could be seen, it made the calculations vastly easier.

The portability of the device was a tremendous help for their research. Further, when they constructed the prototype, they intended to use a lens mounting structure. Thus, they could connect the device directly to a video recording device.

Dr. Millard was allowed to hire three graduate assistants. One student would be assigned to his academic class and the other two were to help with his research. He hired Irene Katerin and Luther Suxel to assist in his time/space research and Lo Wai to handle the classwork.

Lo had the most difficult task because Dr. Millard had a very ambitious research project. He would handle some of the teaching load when the other two TAs were doing field research with Dr. Millard.

Dr. Millard and Irene and Luther spent two weeks in Dallas Texas on the end of the term research project while Lo taught Dr. Millard's classes. The three university researches wandered all around various parts of Dallas testing their device. They went to the grassy knoll and the book depository. They recreated the Zapruder film, but they got better images with their modern equipment. They captured Lee Harvey Oswald in the act. They found that there was no one in the grassy Knoll, and concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald did in fact act alone.

The team published their paper and went to several seminars showing their video and promoting their device. They attached Lo's name to the research to thank him for his support.

Jim was sitting in his office pondering the many things he would like to see, but before he made his decision, Irene rushed in yelling. "Dr. Millard!" she cried. "Dr. Millard, the police -- they have arrested -- arrested my brother!"

"What? Tell me what happened," responded Jim in the most compassionate voice he could manage.

"The police -- they have accused Bobby -- of murdering Hanna Forsythe! She was -- his girlfriend! That is why he -- he had that stuff -- that stuff of hers?"

"Irene, what are you talking about?"

"My brother Bobby -- he was arrested -- he is the main suspect -- Hanna Forsythe -- his girlfriend." Irene panted.

"Why do they suspect Bobby?"

"He had some of her stuff. They were going to move in together. They had a little fight, but he didn't do it. He couldn't."

"Calm down Irene. Tell me, when and where Hanna was killed?"

"The police say it was last night around 1:00 A.M. in her apartment."

"Where is her apartment?"

"I -- uh -- I think it's -- 1009 Aspen Drive -- but I am not sure."

"It's okay; I'll take care of it."

"What are you going to do?"

"Go to your brother. Tell him everything will be all right."

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Time Flies

Solving the Crime

By Douglas E Gogerty

Jim knocked timidly on the D.A.'s door. "Come in, it's open," came a voice inside.

Jim peeked in, and saw a middle-aged man sitting at a desk. "What can I do for you?" said the D.A. behind the desk.

"Hello, my name is -- uh -- Jim Millard, and -- er -- well, I have some vital information -- with regard to the -- uh -- the Katerin case," Jim stuttered.

"I am a very busy man, Mr. Millard. What kind of information do you have?" asked Barney Masters impatiently.

"Doctor -- actually," interrupted Jim. He briefly described his experiments, and told him of the video he had made. "Let's see the video," requested Mr. Master.

Jim handed the video to Barney. The D.A. placed the video tape into the VCR. Barney viewed the tape with great interest. Dr. Millard was unable to enter the premises of the victim, so he shot the entire scene from outside her apartment. He made sure that the tower clock on the bank across the street was always visible in the video.

Jim fidgeted and averted his eyes. He knew his video was serious business. Jim remembered the feelings taking the video had evoked in him. He felt as if he was eaves dropping on someone else's life.

The video clearly showed Bobby Katerin leaving the apartment at 11:37 bank time. Irene was clearly visible in the window shortly afterwards. She looked as if she were checking to see if Bobby had actually left. Then a strange man enters the building at 11:52. When the man exists, he is covered in blood. He sulked across the street and entered the apartment complex on that side of the street. After a brief pause, a light goes on in an apartment in that building. The video then ends.

When the video ended, Barney said, "Well, that is very impressive; however, I do not think this video is admissible. The prosecution will argue that your invention has not been proven infallible which of course is the truth."

"Could you say you got an anonymous tip, to get the police into this man's apartment? I am sure they will find some important evidence in that apartment." stated Jim.

"We could do that..., but wouldn't that be a lie?" the D.A. said thoughtfully. "Well, no matter, we could get the wheels started on the warrant now."

"That is all I can ask," Jim responded.

"Furthermore, this case could start a precedent on the use of your experiments in law enforcement. These experiments could make my job a lot easier," added the D.A.

"I don't want to appear uncaring, but I don't really care to have my experiment used in this manner. You see, Bobby Katerin is the brother of one of my assistants. I am doing this as a favor for her. I did not even think about applications in this area. I was hoping it would be a purely scientific project, but I guess that is fairly selfish on my part."

"Your experiments could take a great deal of pressure off the court system. The possibilities in this area are almost endless..." Barney stated.

"I suppose if it would help, I could allow it to be used in this manner if it wouldn't interfere with my research," acquiesced Jim.

"We'll get the ball rolling on this case. Can I keep this video?" inquired Mr. Masters.

"It's all yours. I would appreciate all you can do for Bobby. Thanks again," Jim said as he left the D.A.'s office.

"Don't worry about Bobby, he's in good hands," Mr. Masters said as Jim walked down the hall.

He was not sure what to expect from all his efforts, but he was hopeful that it would result in Bobby's release and acquittal.

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Time Flies

The Letter

By Douglas E Gogerty

* * * * *
Dear Dr. Millard:

We at the Justice Department have been contacted by Barney Masters with regard to your
invention.  We are very much interested in learning more about your new technology.
We believe there are a great many uses for this technology in our country.  We have
been in communication with several agencies, and we feel that with your cooperation,
this technology could be quickly produced in enough numbers to be greatly beneficial
to our country.   In a few days, I will contact you and set up a meeting.  We will
discuss any arrangements at that time.

Sincerely

William J. Claxton
Department of Justice
United States of America
* * * * *

This letter came at quite a surprise to Jim. He did not know that District Attorney Masters had discussed the specifics of the Forsythe case with anyone. To get a letter from the Department of Justice was a big shock.

A few days after receiving the letter, Jim received a call from William Claxton. Mr. Claxton was very anxious to arrange a meeting. The two men compared schedules and the meeting time was set for 2:00 PM the next day. Jim handled the phone conversation as if he had been through it numerous times. Although this was a new experience for him, he was no stranger to arranging meetings. Thus, he would be prepared as always. He did not know what was going to happen, so he would try to be ready for anything.

Mr. Claxton arrived at Jim’s office at precisely 2:00 PM. The two men shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. Jim offered Mr. Claxton a chair, and William obliged him by sitting down in the overstuffed chair in front of Jim’s desk. Mr. Claxton began "Shall we get down to business?"

"By all means," replied Jim.

"Tell me about your invention," started Mr. Claxton.

"While it is a very complicated process, the invention can be described quite simply. It uses the properties of light to bend and twist it in such a way that we are able to view past events."

"It can look into the past?"

"It can. However, you can only view events that took place at the location in which you are viewing."

"I don't follow."

"Sorry. With my device, if I want to see what happened in my apartment two years ago, I can turn the device on here and see that. However, if I want to see what happened at your apartment two years ago, that cannot be done here. We would have to go to your apartment."

"So, you did not see the murder of Hanna Forsythe."

"I was not able to gain entry to that apartment, so I had to view events from the outside."

"That was enough to find the murderer?"

"Well, it gave them another lead that they did not originally have. When they followed that lead, they were able to gather much more evidence against him than they would have had they not suspected him."

"There is no precedence for use of your machine in law enforcement. Couldn't this pose a problem for future cases?" continued Mr. Claxton.

"Frankly, I wasn't thinking of my invention as a tool for law enforcement. In fact, it had never entered my mind. I was hoping my machine could be a research tool. It would be invaluable in finding about our history. With various versions of this glass, we have viewed events from long ago. However, there are likely limitations on how far back we can look."

"What have you looked into?"

"Our latest research was on the Kennedy assassination. We hope to publish our results next month."

"So, you were doing some law enforcement type research."

"I guess so... It could have several ramifications in law enforcement. If the government and the courts find it a valid and useful tool, I suppose I can support these actions. However, I do not want it to interfere with my own research."

"Is there an accuracy problem with this device?"

"Not as far as I have been able to detect," responded Dr. Millard. "We have made several tests with this regard. We have found no discrepancies."

"Of course, it will be up to the courts to decide the admissibility of evidence obtained though this method. This may take some time."

"I would assume that to be true."

"Have you contacted anyone to mass produce this device?"

"Quite frankly, that thought had never entered my mind."

"If we had one of our government contractors contact you about this very thing, would you be willing to allow that to happen?"

"Wow! I'd have to think about it, but I don't see any reason why I would object."

"This could be a great service to your country Dr. Millard. We are very interested in using this device in our law enforcement efforts," Mr. Claxton said as he arose.

"I'm glad you think so," replied Jim as he also got up from behind his desk.

Mr. Claxton gave a firm handshake to Jim and stated, "I'll have one of our contractors get in touch with you in a week or so. Think it over, and we'll be in touch."

"Thanks! I will," Dr. Millard said as he showed Mr. Claxton to the door.

After Mr. Claxton was gone, Jim sat back down behind his desk. His head was swimming with all of the possibilities of having the glass be used in daily police investigations. He could hardly believe it, and he sat behind his desk with a big smile for several more minutes.

After the euphoria wore off a bit, he got back to his regular duties. However, he felt he was on cloud nine for most of the day.

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Time Flies

The Standard Contract

By Douglas E Gogerty

Jim did not know too many members of the faculty at the law school, but he could not think of a better place to go for advice. He asked several of the faculty that he did know, and they all recommended that he meet with contractual law professor Mortimer Kenisser. Dr. Kenisser had been teaching law for 35 years, and he was friendly with several members of faculty. He had been very active in university business and had made several acquaintances along the way. Moreover, he loved his job. He had several offers to become the dean of several law schools, but he was very content with his current position. He was popular with students and staff equally. Most importantly for Jim, he was willing to consult with him on this contract.

Jim, brief case in hand, walked into Dr. Kenisser’s office. The two men exchanged greetings. "Sit down Jim," Dr. Kenisser said, "I will be with you in a moment."

Jim sat in one of the over stuffed chairs in front of Dr. Kenisser’s desk. Dr. Kenisser was grading student papers, and while he finished grading a student’s paper, Jim just looked around the room. He could not help but notice how neat Dr. Kenisser kept his office. Everything seemed to have a place. Even the pile of ungraded papers was stacked neatly in a pile, which was right next to a neatly stacked pile of graded papers. The graded paper that Jim could see had numerous red ink marks on it. Dr Kenisser made all the marks neatly in the spaces of the double spaced student’s paper. Dr. Kenisser wrote a few last notes on the paper he was grading and sat it neatly on the graded stack. "Well," Dr. Kenisser begins, "I understand you have a contract that you would like me to look over."

"Yes, here it is," Jim replied as he took the contract out of his brief case. "I have never dealt with the government in this manner before."

"No reason you should," responded the professor. "Your invention must be very important. Normally, the government would not get involved. They would let the private sector take care of it. They obviously do not want this technology to get into the hands of just anybody."

"I suppose that is true, but I would still like to perform my research. Is that possible under this contract?" inquired Jim.

"There is no mention of existing experimental technology. It only mentions further construction of these experimental devices," responded Dr. Kenisser.

"Would I be able to construct any additional devices?" inquired Jim.

"Not under this contract. You would probably be able to negotiate that matter. You should also be aware that if you sign this contract, you would have to cooperate with the governmental contractor in the design and construction of these devices. This may detract from your research and possibly teaching responsibilities."

"I hadn’t thought of that," admitted Jim. "Does it say what type of work I would have to do?"

"It isn’t that specific. You would likely have to do some consulting. They would bring you design plans and the like, and have you look them over. This is usually how this is done," explained the knowledgeable professor.

"Would that type of thing be negotiable?" continued Jim.

"Yes and no," responded Dr. Kenisser. "You see, the university has all rights to your research. The only way you can be rewarded for your efforts would be to act as a consultant. Otherwise, the university would be the only benefactor of this contract. This is a often used loop hole in the standard university contract. I suggest that you take advantage of this."

"Money is of little importance, but they probably would not be able to construct any useful device without me," inserted Jim. "Patents are one thing, but to actually know exactly how to put something together is quite different. Do you have any further recommendations?"

"No it is pretty standard. If you would like to construct additional devices, you should amend this contract. Otherwise, there is not anything out of the ordinary. The university and your department will do very well under this contract."

"I greatly appreciate your time," Jim said.

The two men shook hands, and Jim thanked Dr. Kenisser again. He placed the contract in his brief case and headed back to his office.

The government contractor who gave him the contract had said he has had several university professors work with his company. Thus, this would not be a new experience for them. The contractor was true to his word, and the contract was standard for this type of work. In addition, the university and his department would be compensated for Jim’s work. Thus, it appeared to be a win for everyone.

However, Jim did not like the fact that he could only work with his current designed time viewing device. How could he make improvements if I could not build new devices? "Ugh! I should have asked Dr. Kenisser about that," John grumbled to himself.

Everything was indicating that he should sign the contract. After all, what was the worst thing that could happen? He would always have his current device, and he could continue to do his current research projects.

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Time Flies

Trouble

By Douglas E Gogerty

Try as he might, Jim could not negotiate additional devices. The government was not interested in him competing with their production. They would not allow him to make additional machines. Furthermore, they did not even want him to make improvements on his existing machine.

The contractor reminded Dr. Millard that they could make the devices without him. The University owned the patent, and they were including him as a courtesy. They were interested in his expertise, but beyond that, the engineering team could manufacture the time viewing lenses without him. In fact, they could arrange with the university to sue him for copyright infringement if it came down to that.

Signing the contract gave Dr. James Millard an uneasy feeling. While he could see that it would be a useful device in law enforcement, but how else was it going to be used? Apart from solving crimes, did the government have other ideas in mind? He suddenly felt like a conspiracy theorist. However, try as he might he could not shake the ominous feelings that came over him.

Reluctantly, he signed the contract. The government contractor quickly began fabricating prototypes. They intended on mounting the device on video cameras. Thus, they could obtain video of the crimes and any other relevant events they needed. Hence, even if the video would not be admissible in court, they would have a reference. That is, they would know who did it and how. Therefore, they would only need to gather the incriminating evidence.

Jim realized that getting away with crimes was going to be a great deal more difficult once these devices made their way to police departments. He comforted himself that this was a good thing.

After months of consultation, the prototypes were tested. Naturally, they worked exactly as expected. However, the contractor continuously asked Jim for his version. Jim naturally refused. If this was the only device he would ever have, he was going to protect it. He thought that it was strange that they asked for it in the first place.

Eventually, production began and the FBI obtained the devices in large numbers. Long unsolved crimes were finally being resolved. Lots of good was happening because of the time viewing lenses. Still the government contractors asked for Jim's version. Still he refused.

Long-standing controversies were slowly being settled. President Kennedy's assassination, President Garfield's assassination, and the FBI checked a long list of other high profile killings. With each successful case, the government was more convinced that it was a very useful tool. Still the contractors asked for Jim's version, and he still refused.

Dr. Millard was getting increasingly concerned with the request for his device. Contractually, they had no right to it. Jim had never used the device for any purpose other than research. He could not figure out why they wanted to see it.

"Their devices work fine," Jim often mumbled to himself. "What is it about my device?"

Law enforcement agencies were succeeding in convicting criminals at an amazing rate. Unsolved crimes were becoming a thing of the past. Police would take the device into a crime scene and know exactly what happened. The admissibility in court of the videos taken by these devices was beginning to take shape. Still the government asked for his version, and still Jim refused.

Every day Jim felt that he was being followed. He believed the government knew his every move. He felt more paranoid than anyone was. "Just because I'm paranoid," Jim joked with himself. "That does not mean that I am not being followed."

One day, Jim returned to his office to find it strange. He looked around and did not find anything missing. He checked everything twice, and it appeared to be normal. However, he felt something was different. Perhaps it was paranoia, be something was wrong with his office. He triple checked, but nothing was missing.

Jim sat at his desk and returned to his task of determining his next project with the device. If he could get enough power through it, and get it cold enough, perhaps he could see dinosaurs. Maybe it was time to put the device to its limits. "If I destroy the device," Jim thought, "perhaps they would leave me alone."

Jim wandered off in thought and was startled when a knock came on his door. "Come in," he said reflexively.

A beautiful young woman walked through the door. "Are you Dr. James Millard?" she asked.

"I'm Dr. Millard," he responded.

"I'm Candice Millwood, and I've heard a lot of good things about you," she said flirtatiously.

"Listen Miss..."

"Please call me Candy!" the gorgeous young woman said with a wink.

"Listen Miss Millwood, I've got a lot of work to do."

"I heard you had a time machine!"

"Rumors miss, just rumors."

"I would love to see it!"

"Wouldn't we all love to see it? Perhaps the government has one it could loan you."

"The government's version is top secret. You have to be a cop. However, your device is just locked up somewhere."

"You know an awful lot about this..."

"I just want to see it," Candy said with a pout.

"You said yourself, it is top secret. If I had such a device, it would be my hide if I showed it to anyone without clearance."

"Pwease..."

"Oh Man! That is rich! Tell your boss that if he thinks some young Mata Hari can wink and capture me under her spell..."

"Whatever do you mean?"

"You may leave my office now Miss Milkweed."

"That's Millwood!"

"I have no time machine, so you're wasting your time and mine."

"But..."

"I said 'Good Day!'"

Candy turned and left with a pout. Jim felt he passed that test. Then a realization came to him, "I hope they don't think I'm gay now!"

Over the next couple of weeks, Jim would enter a room and feel that it was wrong. It was not every room he entered. It was just a room here and there that felt wrong. He was beginning to chalk it up to paranoia, when he went to check on his device.

There was Candy and an enormous mountain of a man. "Good evening Dr. Millard."

"Hello?"

"We come for the time lens," said the mountain.

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Time Flies

Out of Time

By Douglas E Gogerty

"If you take the lens, the government will know who has it. They have hundreds of them!"

"Come on Dr. Millard," pleaded Candy still playing the tart. "Couldn't you play ball just once?"

"I could have the police here in five minutes," explained Jim.

"It wouldn't do any good," explained the mountain. "I'm special agent Maxwell. Stuart Maxwell. I believe you have met special agent Millwood."

"Charmed I'm sure," flirted Candy.

"Stuart?"

"You got something against Stuart?"

"I took you for ... a Steel ... or a Stone ... or something."

"They call me Moose!"

"That makes sense."

"So, are you going to give us the device or not?" asked Moose.

"Could I see some credentials? I've seen hers."

"Here is my badge," Moose said as he showed Jim his credentials.

"Very good," replied Jim. "Now, let me see your warrant."

"Warrant?" inquired Candy.

"Yes my dear," replied Jim with a lilt in his voice. "There is this thing called a constitution. It is the law of the land here in the United States."

"Don't get smart!" threatened Moose.

"Well you see, this constitution specifically states that I have the right against unreasonable searches and seizures. It's the fourth amendment."

"So what are you saying?" inquired Moose.

"I'm saying, unless you have a warrant -- obtained because you have some 'probable cause' to do so -- you are not going to see or obtain my device."

"We have ways of making you!" threatened Moose.

"In this day and age of time viewing devices, someone will pay highly for you making me give you the device. So, unless you want to answer to the founding fathers, I suggest you leave."

"Come on Moose," whined Candy. "You know Jimmy boy, I could make you very happy -- for a little while anyway."

"It's Dr. Millard to you!"

When the two agents left, Jim felt himself shaking. He just stood up to a mountain of a man. He did not know if the constitution frightened him off, or if he was just there to be frightening. In any event, it was another test passed. He still had his device. However, he did not know how long he could keep it up.

After a couple of days, Candy was back in Jim's office. "What do you want now Special Agent Millwood?"

"My boss is really mad," she sobbed.

"Spare me the act."

"Well, I tried. He is mad, and he is right here. This is Director Richards."

"Director," Dr. Millard said curtly. "What can I do for you?"

"Let me get to the point of my visit," started the director.

"I wish you would," responded Jim.

"You have a top secret device in your possession. We are very uncomfortable with this arrangement. We would like it very much if you voluntarily gave up the device."

"With all due respect, I have a signed contract that entitles me to retain my device. I expressly indicated that I wish to continue my research. This would be impossible without my device."

"I appreciate that, but if this device were to get into the wrong hands..."

"Sir, do I need to quote the fourth amendment to the US Constitution?"

"Information is our business Dr. Millard. Your device has become an essential tool in the gathering of that information."

"Information is also my business Director Richards. My device is an essential tool for my gathering of that information. Without it, I cannot continue on my research. I have already given up researching ways to improve it. I did that at the government's insistence. I do not plan on giving up any further research opportunities."

"Do not force us to take drastic measures."

"More drastic than you already have?"

"Much more drastic."

"Sir, this time viewing lens has been used to solve crimes all over the country. There are no more unsolved crimes. Thus, if you are threatening me, let me assure you that you will be caught and punished."

"I guess we are finished then."

"We are indeed. It was nice seeing you again special agent Millwood. Take care of yourself."

"Gee thanks," giggled Candy.

Jim wondered if the femme fatale act was way to ingrained in agent Millwood as the two left his office. She was a natural.

A few days later, Jim's father called him. "Jim, who is this Director Richards person?"

"Did he come to see you?"

"No, just a cute young thing named Candy. She asked me to tell you that Director Richards has many ways to get what he wants."

"Oh no!" grumbled Jim in disbelief.

"She was really cute! Any sparks?"

"Dad! her group wants me to give up my research!"

"Then give it up."

"You don't understand."

"I gave up a lot for your mother."

"Dad, she is not interested in me."

"That is not what she told me."

"Does she have some sort of hypno-ray that I'm immune to?"

"What nonsense are you talking now son?"

"Nothing! Dad, she is a government agent who wants me to give up everything I've worked my whole life on."

"So you'll find something else."

"Just like that?"

"Sure! Your priorities change when you get married."

"You're not listening! She isn't interested in me at all."

"That is not what she told me."

"Yes, but you've seen too many movies. Don't be surprised if a mountain of a man shows up next."

"What movie is that?"

"Never mind. Are you all right?"

"I'm fine. Everything is good here."

"I'm glad," Jim said with a sigh. "I'll call you later."

"Okay son. I love you!"

"Yeah yeah! Later."

Perhaps his dad was right. Not about him settling down with Candy Millwood, but giving up his device. He could not do the research he really wanted. Perhaps it was time to take it to its limits and destroy the device. The subtle threat that they knew where his family lived was unnerving.

After a few more encounters with Agent Millwood, Jim decided what he was going to do. He set up the device in the bunker. He made a request for liquid Hydrogen. He thought about using liquid Helium, but he would not get enough superconductive benefit from the colder temperatures.

The real trick was going to be how much power the device could withstand. He was completely secretive about his entire project. Nobody knew what he was doing. If they asked, he would say 'It's top secret.' Most people knew he was involved in a top-secret project, so they inquired no further.

He recorded everything as it showed earlier and earlier events. One hundred years he saw the early days of the university. Two hundred years he saw the early days of statehood. He kept going back hundreds of years. He added more and more current to turn back the clock. With each step, he viewed farther back in time.

The liquid nitrogen and the heat generated by the current were fighting each other, but he continued. One thousand years and he saw the Native Americans as they once were. Two thousand years and he kept pushing the device.

The two elements began fighting in earnest. Jim was struggling to keep the superconductive material cold enough. He thought perhaps that he should have gone through the trouble of getting liquid Helium. He just kept adding more current and increasing the flow of liquid nitrogen. Farther and farther back, he recorded. He began recording a great deal of nothing. Plants and animals and their coming and going he would occasionally observe, but not much else.

Ten thousand years ago and he had not seen a much in the form of activity for quite some time. Twenty thousand years ago and he saw the effects of the ice age. Perhaps he would see a mastodon or mammoth. He kept pushing the device by adding more current and increasing the flow of liquid nitrogen.

As he went back he kept looking for ice age creatures, but he found that he was in an out of the way spot. The creatures would have to work hard to get to where he was working. Nevertheless, Jim kept pressing on until he heard a loud snap. He checked the viewfinder to see what he could. He checked his settings to see how far he was looking.

He stopped increasing the current, but he continued to hear a crackling noise. He increased the flow of liquid nitrogen to cool the apparatus, but it just went pop. Jim was recording regular time again. The glass had cracked and the experiment was over. '51,200 years' Jim noted in his notebook. "No dinosaurs," Jim complained to himself. "Still, it viewed before 50,000 BCE which is not too shabby!"

Candy made one of her regular visits, and Jim gave her the broken device. "It's yours," he told her.

"Why the change honey?" she flirted.

"I broke it," he explained.

"That is too bad, but Director Richards will be pleased."

"Perhaps. Say, why don't we go celebrate?"

"What you and me?"

"Let's just say your hypno-ray has finally worked on me."

"What?"

"Never mind! Do you want to go or not?"

The End

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Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero

Conversation at the Bath

By Douglas E Gogerty

After his day of travel, Marius Batiatus Pervalidus decided to go from the inn to the local thermae. A relaxing time in the public bath was exactly what he needed. His muscles would relax, and they would be prepared for the next day's travel.

"Greetings and salutations citizen," the proprietor said. "You have come alone? Do you wish to hire someone to watch your things? That service is available here."

"Certainly, what is the fee?"

"You can arrange that with the attendant," the proprietor stated as he waved his hand towards a snoozing slave. "You are new here..."

"I'm on my way to Rome. I am just passing through."

"Very well, the attendant..." he began. He walked over to the individual, who was assigned to attend to a visitor's things, and poked him. He scolded him quietly, and returned to speak to Pervalidus. "As I was saying, this attendant will give you the layout of the bath. If you have any questions you can ask him or if I'm available..."

"Is he trustworthy?"

"Don't mind his sleeping ways," he said when he suddenly looked at the young man. "He knows he will not get paid if he does not do his job!"

"I'll be alert," injected the attendant.

"Very well, here is your fee my good proprietor. I will begin in the tepidarium and then I wish to visit a masseur. Can that be arranged now?"

"Yes, a masseur will be available at your convenience," replied the proprietor. "The apodyterium is that way. This slave will follow and watch your things after you change there. The far door of that room leads to the tepidarium, but the warmth would tell you that. Bene Lave!"

After a good soak in the warm bath, the former gladiator enjoyed a good oiling and scraping from the masseur. In his usual manner, he returned to the tepidarium for another soak. This bath was warmer than the baths near his home, but it was still relaxing. He did not linger in the caldarium, as it was too hot for his liking. He was grateful when he reached the much cooler frigidarium. However, he did go between the rooms his customary four times.

"The caldarium is a bit too hot today," a gentleman said interrupting Pervaliduss personal thoughts.

"It is definitely hotter than my liking," Pervalidus replied.

"My name is Cassius Laurentius Silvanus."

"Greetings, I am Marius Batiatus Pervalidus."

"Are you a traveler?"

"Aye! I am heading to Rome. I have a gift of six horses for Dictator Caesar. I had hoped to make it to Rome before the Ides of March, but there have been delays. I hope to get there before he heads to Parthia, gods willing!"

"Caesar is not likely to head to Parthia until next month. You should make it without difficulty."

"Traveling in this day and age can sometimes be troublesome."

"I heard you there. I hope order will be restored with what Caesar is doing. However, I fear that he is more interested in wars and personal glory than with Rome."

"It is difficult to predict."

"The armies are mostly mobilized outside of Rome leaving us vulnerable. With Caesar going off to Parthia, he is continuing in that tradition."

"And what of the Republic...?"

"The Senate is much more concerned about retaining the status quo than making life beneficial to the Roman citizens."

"Perhaps..."

"Horses huh?" started Laurentius changing the subject.

"Neptune has been good to me."

"You must be a successful member of the Equestrian Order to be able to afford to give away six horses."

"The Caesars have been good to me. I obtained much wealth when Gaius Julius Caesar became Pontifex Maximus. It is just my way of repaying his patronage."

"Personally, I think the Senate can still cause trouble for Dictator Caesar. If he lets his guard down, I would not put anything past the senators. They can cause trouble at any level. If they do cause trouble, what happens then? Do we go back to the way it was? Who would rule if Caesar dies? His grand nephew Gauis Octavinus Thurinus or whatever he calls himself."

"He is a blood relation."

"But he has no experience. He has fought in one battle with his great uncle Julius, but has not held any office. If there is trouble in Rome, do we hand ruling to him? On the other hand, would it be better than our current corrupt senate?"

"Do you have anyone else in mind?"

"Marcus Antonius is too ambitious. Marcus Aemilius Lepidus is weak. Perhaps the three of them will form a triumvirate. That would balance things a bit."

"Let us hope is does not come to that."

"Yes, there is trouble enough. We do not need more civil unrest."

"That is true. It is still difficult to travel along the roads to Rome.

"Truer words have never been spoken"

"I grow weary of this talk of politics."

"I am sorry. Sometimes I can get worked up with the state of the Republic. I have heard of troubles on the road. Yesterday, a man ended his days ride here. He spoke of a fight in an inn. Perhaps you know of the fight."

"Perhaps..."

"A gladiator, now freeman, had just left the baths of that town and headed to the local inn. Once in the inn he was confronted by a man with thirty men."

"Thirty? It certainly could not have been more than a dozen."

"Are you telling the tale or am I?"

"Forgive me. Please continue."

"The man was a strong supporter of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. He was upset that more people did not come to the great general's aid. Naturally, when Pompey the great was defeated, he lost everything. He was now on the run. The former gladiator refused to join, and now this former magistrate wanted revenge. Does this story sound familiar?"

"Some of the details have a ring of familiarity, but please, tell the story."

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Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero

The Fight against the Magistrate (Part One)

By Douglas E Gogerty

As I was saying, the former magistrate and soldier with his thirty men surprised the unaware freeman as he returned to the inn from the bath. Upon seeing the enormous man, several men ran away with fear by the sheer size of the man. As I hear it, the man was at least seven feet tall.

The former magistrate began telling his story of woe. He explained his loss of wealth and station when Ptolemy XIII murdered him in Egypt. He exclaimed that if the freed gladiator had come to his aid, the outcome would be very different.

The freeman explained that he had enough of fighting. When he had killed the six men on the road at there first meeting, it was in self-defense. As a gladiator and now as a freeman, he had killed many men, and he grew weary of fighting. He wished to spill no more blood.

With the story of single handedly killing six men, even more of the former magistrate's men deserted him. It was clear to many of them that the fight was a fool's errand.

Nevertheless, the man was facing twelve or more men, and he was unarmed. Some of the men balked at killing an unarmed man; thus, the former magistrate threw him a short sword. "Prepare to die freedman!" the magistrate yelled.

Calmly the freeman replied, "You know my weapon was the trident and not the sword."

The freeman tossed the weapon away. Being a traveler, he had a beautiful walking staff. It had the head of a horse intricately carved at the top. The other end had a bronze tip worn down a bit from much walking. The former gladiator was going to use the staff to defend himself against the Roman swords. The twelve men attempted to surround him, but he backed himself towards a corner of the inn's great room.

"This is your last warning magistrate," the freeman said softly. "You can go peacefully on your way, or you can feed the ravens."

"You are no match for..." started the angry magistrate.

Before he could finish his sentence, with the horse head end of the staff, the gladiator hooked the arm of one of the men who had his hand on the hilt of his sword. With a quick pull, the soldier was off balance. A startled accomplice lurched backward in an attempt to avoid the falling man. He caught the brass tipped end of walking staff in the side of the face.

The two stumbling men had crossed directly in front of the freemen providing him with a brief guard against any further attack. With a quick twirl of the staff, he took hooked the ankle of the stumbling man and gave a yank. This made the former soldier crash to the floor.

By pulling on the ankle, his staff was high in the air, and he brought it crashing down on the head of the second man. He fell with a groan onto the first man.

As each of the men within reach attempted to draw their swords, they received a sharp blow from the staff. The freemen hit knee, hand, and elbow of the closest men, which prevented them from readying their swords. Some men farther away from the freemen were able to draw their swords. With their drawn swords, they were attempting to work their way to make their blows.

One of the men with his sword above his head made a rush at the traveler. Again using the horse head as a hook, the former gladiator hooked the wrist of the charging soldier and pulled the man forward. This distracted the charging soldier enough to cause him to trip over the two bodies between him and the gladiator. Being steered to a degree by the gladiator, he went face first into the wall. His helmet pushed down onto the bridge of his nose and blood began to flow from his nose.

Still hooked to the wrist of the now bloody soldier, the gladiator lifted his staff twisting the arm of the soldier with the now bloodied nose, causing him to drop his sword. Simultaneously, he caught the former magistrate in the mouth with the end of the staff.

The first soldier was trying to push the unconscious second soldier off him to get off the floor. However, before he was able to do so, another pull on the staff from the gladiator and the bloodied nose soldier was on the pile with the other two men. With a backhanded swing of his staff, the gladiator hit the bloodied nose again and rendered the soldier unconscious.

In a brief exchange, the freeman created a very good defensive situation. He had two walls of the inn to protect his back, and there were three men lying on the floor providing some protection from the front.

"Men! Men!" shouted the magistrate from his bloodied mouth. "We need a coordinated attack! Stop acting individually!"

The magistrate and his men backed away from the freeman. They got out of range of his staff, and got together to form a plan. At this point, all the men drew their swords.

"None of your men are seriously hurt," the former gladiator said calmly. "It is not too late to go in peace."

"Quiet slave!" shouted the magistrate.

He quietly gave orders to his men as they prepared to fight the gladiator who did not want to give up his defensive position. The soldiers grabbed their tower shields. With their swords at the ready, they began getting into a defensive line. They lined up shoulder to shoulder with the shields on their left and their swords on the right and at the ready for thrusting.

The men on the floor began to regain consciousness. The first man was still attempting to push the men off him with little success. However, the two men on him were beginning to stir.

The line of men with the magistrate behind began to close in on the traveler armed only with his staff. This was a very small version of a legion encounter. It had been a successful strategy for several centuries, and the freed gladiator would have to find a way to defeat it.

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Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero

The Fight against the Magistrate (Part Two)

By Douglas E Gogerty

As the "Legion Line" approached, the former gladiator did not wait for them to engage. He jumped upon the pile of three men, and using the horse head once again, hooked the top of one man's shield. The men did not break their ranks; however, the gladiator leaned back from his place and began pulling that soldier's shield down.

That soldier struggled against the pulling weight of the gladiator. Eventually, the gladiator's weight became too much for him to hold, and he went crashing into the pile of men. This also caused the gladiator to lose his balance as he tumbled backward off the fallen soldiers. He tumbled backward, unhooked his staff, and rolled to his feet in one smooth motion. In contrast, the soldier simple fell onto the pile of men.

The fallen man left a gap in the defensive line, which the gladiator used to hook one of the soldiers sword wielding arms. Putting all of his weight forward onto the staff, the hooked soldier could not keep his sword in its thrusting position. With another tug, the soldier stabbed one his fallen comrades in the leg and the blood began to flow from that wound. Immediately upon stabbing a fallen comrade, the soldier dropped his sword.

Another soldier seeing the abandoned sword broke ranks and reached for the weapon. With this, the former gladiator smacked him on the back of the head with his staff, which only managed to knock the helmet off the soldier.

The freed gladiator still had an excellent defensive position, as the line could not maintain discipline, and the magistrate called for a retreat. The pile of three soldiers was now four with a helmet and sword added in front. Furthermore, the pool of blood made the area in front of the pile of men slippery.

The stabbed soldier was writhing in pain and shifting his weight back and forth. Thus, he was making it difficult for the men under him from freeing themselves. However, the magistrate managed to re-form his lines and they began advancing. However, this time, they formed more of a wedge to be able to get closer to the gladiator in the corner. He also quietly gave orders to his men.

Once again, the freeman jumped upon the pile of men, and hooked the center soldier's shield. Expecting the same tactic, the flanking soldiers reinforced the grip of the center soldier. However, instead of pulling the shield, the gladiator pushed the staff into the face of the center soldier and smashed him in nose.

The shock and surprise of this action caused the entire line to lose balance. Most of the soldiers struggled to keep their feet. As they struggle to maintain balance, the gladiator picked out the soldier whose helmet he managed to remove. With the bronzed tip of his staff, he brought down a hard blow to the man's head. With a terrible crack, the man fell into a heap in front of the pile of men. Blood was spilling out his ear, and the blow rendered him unconscious.

Once again, the magistrate called to regroup his men. His tactic was not effective. The freed gladiator was taking advantage of his defensive position. He now had a pile of five men between himself and the seven remaining soldiers. He had the corners of the inn and a slippery floor also to his advantage.

"Magistrate," inquired the gladiator.

"What is it?" required the irritated magistrate.

"A couple of these men should see a healer immediately or they will certainly die."

"That is no concern of yours!"

"I suppose not, but you still have an opportunity to save the rest of your men."

"Your boasting will not aid you in battle, slave!"

"Boasting is for rich men, I speak from experience."

"He has downed five of our men," whispered a soldier.

"Quiet!" the magistrate reprimanded before continuing his conversation with the gladiator, "We are simply testing for your weakness."

"How is that going?" he asked with a wry smile.

"Your impertinence will cost you dearly!"

"Your stubbornness has already cost you a great deal. You can still call this off and save these men."

"The gods have struck down men with greater skill than you because of their hubris."

"The gods know the true heart of men. They know that I have been trying not to kill your men. However, my patience is wearing thin."

"Your patience? I am seeking justice and you speak of impatience!"

"Justice is also for the wealthy, you seek vengeance."

"What benefit are these word games of yours slave?"

"I am simply attempting to save these men's lives."

"Now!" shouted the magistrate.

Upon the signal, two men rushed along the left side of the gladiator. With their swords at the ready, they were able to avoid the strike of the staff. With their surprise attack, they managed to get behind the pile of men on the floor. The remaining soldiers cleared a path for him to exit the inn.

Clearly, the magistrate wanted to flush him from his defensive position. The innkeeper gave the gladiator a pleading glance, and thus the gladiator left the inn, and the magistrate and six of his soldiers followed. The seventh man checked on the men and retrieved his sword. He requested the innkeeper send for a healer.

The crowd followed the last soldier out to view how the fight would progress. The thirty men were now down to eight. The gladiator was confidently waving his staff around. The soldiers were sizing him up to determine an attack strategy.

In the open, the gladiator no longer had two walls protecting his flanks. The soldiers would be able to attack from any side. The magistrate was orchestrating his men to surround the freed slave. Once the soldiers surrounded the gladiator, they could attack from any angle and several at a time. This was going to be a tougher challenge for the experienced fighter.

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Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero

The Fight against the Magistrate (Final)

By Douglas E Gogerty

"We now can have a fair fight!" shouted the magistrate.

"Eight against one, real fair," mumbled the former gladiator.

"What?" asked the magistrate.

"It was not important," stated the gladiator with a little more volume.

"It is now for your lesson slave!"

"It is not too late for you to go your own way!"

"Such bravado! It is time for you to pay."

The magistrate called the name of two men on opposite sides of circle surrounding the former gladiator. The two men, with their swords drawn and their shields at the ready, approached the gladiator in the middle. The two men used their shields to block any blows by the staff of the freeman. They closed in and attempted to thrust their short swords into their target. The gladiator easily parried the blows.

The magistrate recalled the two men to take their position in the circle, and called two more names. These two men used the same tactic. Blocked with their shields and attempted to get a blow against the gladiator. When they were also unsuccessful, they magistrate recalled them and two more men made their attack.

After a few minutes, the pace picked up as the attackers knew their job. They would rush in and try to strike. This forced the gladiator to block against their attack. Eventually, the magistrate sent three in from different sides of the circle surrounding the gladiator. Back and forth the soldiers would go. The men around the circle would prevent the gladiator from making a break. They were methodically testing the skill of the former gladiator and hoping he would make a mistake along the way.

All the while, the magistrate stood outside of the circle barking orders. He directed traffic to make sure the gladiator would remain in the circle. He also called names to give each man enough time to rest between attacks. He chuckled to himself that his plot would certainly work, as the gladiator could not keep up the defense forever. At some point, he would tire and make a mistake. At that point, they would have him.

The gladiator took each attack seriously, but attempted to conserve energy. He quickly learned the plan of the magistrate. He needed to find a solution to his situation, so he would use each attack to learn the weaknesses and strength of each attacker. When the time was right, he would make his move.

The group had been fighting for a while, and the hot sun was beginning to take its toll on everyone. However, it was mostly wearing out the gladiator, as he did not get occasional breaks. He knew he would need to make his move soon. However, what was that move going to be?

"How are you doing?" asked the magistrate with a big smile on his face.

"I'll be warmed up shortly," replied the gladiator.

"I'll help speed up the process," the magistrate added as he sent in four men this time.

That was the moment that the gladiator made his move. He rushed the weakest soldier. The soldier in an effort to protect himself planted his shield on the ground and cowered behind it. The gladiator planted his staff on the ground and vaulted into the shield with his feet.

The force of the blow caused the soldier to fall backwards with his shield on top of him. The gladiator used his momentum to run on top of the shield with the helpless soldier beneath and rush towards the magistrate.

This move caught the magistrate by surprise, and barely had his sword drawn by the time the gladiator was in range. The gladiator did a roll to make an attack of the magistrate's legs. The magistrate bent down to parry the blow, and the gladiator with a quick poke with his staff removed the magistrate's helmet. In addition, with the momentum of his roll, the gladiator put the magistrate between him and the remaining seven soldiers.

He also managed to kick the helmet out of reach of the magistrate during his maneuver. With that, the magistrate tossed his shield aside too. He waved his arms indicating that his soldiers were to stay back.

"Alright slave it is just me and you now," challenged the magistrate.

"It is not to late..."

"Save it slave! I can handle you," the magistrate stated as he passed his short sword from his right hand to his left and back again.

The gladiator shook his head and waved for the magistrate to make his attack. The magistrate rushed at the gladiator with a feeble yell. He hacked at the gladiator with his Roman short sword, and the gladiator easily stepped out of the way of the blow. The magistrate was off balance and the gladiator pushed him down with a push of his foot. He shook his head as the magistrate scrambled to his feet.

"All right slave," started the magistrate. "You die now!"

The gladiator hooked the elbow of the magistrate as he lifted it above his head and began his swing. Using the head of his staff, he gave it a twist. This caused the magistrate to nick the back of his scalp as he attempted to hit the gladiator with a downward swing.

This distracted the magistrate enough for the gladiator to use his staff to push the sword into the chest of the charging magistrate. The sword penetrated the armor of the charging combatant and he fell in a heap.

The shocked soldiers looked at each other trying to decide what to do. One of the men started to charge, but was grabbed by another. The shoulder shook his head and said that the battle was over.

The freed gladiator checked the magistrate, and he was indeed dead. Three men inside the inn were also dead. One died of the stab wound inflicted by one of the soldiers, and the other two could not breathe under the stack of men.

* * * * *

"The conflict ended as quickly as it had begun," continued the storyteller Cassius Laurentius Silvanus. "With four men dead, the gladiator would have to answer to the authorities. However, he is unlikely to have to answer for those deaths. He faced thirty men, killed four, and walked away. If he continues on to Rome, he will likely pass through this town within the next couple of days."

"While meeting a seven foot tall man who could defeat 30 men would be quite a wonder," replied Pervalidus. "I would like to finish my journey. If you meet him, please pass my greeting to him."

"I shall my friend. I am sure I will be able to recognize that gladiator when I spot him. How could anyone not?"

"Indeed. I shall be retiring to my room now. Thank you for your story."

"Until we meet again," replied Cassius.

Pervalidus finished his time at the bath and paid the fees due. He retired to the inn after a good meal. It was the Ides of March, and he would be in Rome late the next day. The gift for Caesar would be helpful for his fight in Parthia. Once he reclined in his room, Pervalidus felt sleep wash quickly over him. It had been a long trip so far.

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Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero

Et Tu, Brute

By Douglas E Gogerty

"Dead?" enquired former gladiator, Pervalidus. "What happened?"

"Caesar was assassinated by the Senate in the Hall of Pompey," a town official answered.

"Why did not his friend Marcus Junius Brutus stop the plot?"

"He was in on it."

"You to Brutus?" Pervalidus said under his breath.

"There were probably sixty involved. Caesar suffered a great many stab wounds. The Senate did not wish to give up their power."

"Certainly they did not think this through. A group of sixty cannot fend off Consul Marc Antony and his men."

"The sixty are to meet with Marc Antony tomorrow. They will probably make a deal with Marc Antony and go unpunished. You know how these things go."

"The gods will see to justice."

"True words friend. Rumor has it that Caesar left every resident of Rome a large sum of money. They will be hard pressed to keep the outrage from overflowing at the funeral pyre on the 20th."

"What other words from his testament?"

"He probably gave some land to the city for a park. I have not heard any real specifics other than the money."

"Thank you friend."

"Were you a friend of Caesars?"

"I obtained much wealth when he was Pontifex Maximus, I just wished to congratulate him for his victory with a gift."

"You should pay your respects at the funeral."

"Perhaps I will."

The former gladiator silently paid his respects to Gaius Julius Caesar as the crowd erupted with fury. The angry citizens chased the conspirators out of town. However, Pervalidus did not join them. The civil war was not over. More bloodshed was ahead of Rome. He thanked the gods for everything he had and left town with his horses.

He did not know Marc Antony. The speech he gave at the funeral was a shrewd move. Antony appeared to be playing both sides. He appeased the Senators with one move, and turned the crowd against them in the next. "He may be the next dictator," thought Pervalidus. "I wonder what Gaius Octavius will do..."

As Pervalidus returned home, he heard many rumors of the events in Rome. Some people supported what the Senate had done, and some wanted Rome to be at peace. There was much anxiety about the future. Everyone seemed to agree, the fighting was not over.

A few days before he reached his estate, three bandits attempted to rob him. He attempted to scare them away, but they were too desperate. Thus, they insisted on fighting him.

"Three more dead men," prayed the former gladiator to his patron god Neptune. "When will the killing stop? I thought that by paying for my freedom, my fighting days would be over. Does the fighting never end?"

He finally reached his estate and embraced his wife.

"Why the sad face?" she asked.

"The civil war continues," Pervalidus replied.

"We will be fine. With fighting, comes the need for horses."

"I'm not worried that."

"Then what is it?"

"I received an omen on the road."

"What?"

"All my life I have fought. I have fought for and against Romans. I have killed scores of men. I have never gone very long without killing a man. On this short trip to Rome I killed seven men."

"What?"

"Our former magistrate caught up to me at an inn. He would not let me go unless we fought. I killed him and three of his men."

"Thank the gods you were not hurt."

"It was difficult not to kill more of his men."

"How many were there?"

"I do not remember -- seven or eight -- I did not count them."

"I did hear a rumor about a giant taking on one hundred..."

"Okay, it was twelve men. I had a good defensive position."

"Neptune has granted you great skills to take on so many."

"I have thanked him at every turn. I am very grateful. Needless to say, Mars keeps testing those skills."

"Oh yes -- the omen -- please continue."

"After learning the news of Caesar, I stayed quiet in Rome. A mob formed at the funeral and still I resisted the fight. However, on my way home three bandits attacked me. Nothing I said or did frightened them. They would not leave me. Thus, I left them dead beside the road. As I gave thanks to Neptune, a wolf came and scavenged on one of the corpses. It was Mars. He wants me to join Gaius Octavius in the upcoming battles."

"There is going to be war?"

"A civil war has been ongoing for quite some time. I have stayed out. I have not taken sides, but my fighting will never cease unless I do this."

"What of your family?"

"My dearest, I am getting up in age. I cannot continue in fighting three, four, five, or more at a time. I must take a stand now and fight for peace. I am sure that is what we will get in a united Rome. Marc Antony is not to be trusted. He is ambitious and will say and do anything. Only Octavius can bring peace to Rome."

"As you wish. I cannot argue with the gods."

"Octavius is recruiting a force in Apollonia. I will join him there. We will march on Rome."

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Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero

Meeting with Octavius

By Douglas E Gogerty

"Marius Batiatus Pervalidus?" queried Gaius Octavius. "You seem familiar to me."

"I get that a lot," replied Pervalidus.

"I remember a giant of a man who was a gladiator from Lentulus Batiatus's gladiator school. At a festival once, the venue called for him to fight a child of 11 or 12. I was only a few years shy of that age myself at the time. He tried his best to make it look like a match, but the kid was too green."

"I remember that all too well."

"You were Validus Maximus? I thought you were taller..."

"I get that a lot also."

"It must be the eyes of youth. Everything from my young days seems smaller now."

"Indeed."

"You were put up against a child in that match!"

"That episode caused me much trouble."

"The kid could barely hold a sword. He swung it at you, and it went flying. You allowed him to retrieve it. After futilely attempting to make the match look good, you swept him up in your net. You threw your trident into the ground, which pinned the child in your net. Then you walked off."

"The patron obviously wished this child dead," added the former gladiator. "I did not oblige him. He should have just fed him to some exotic beast."

"I will bet that episode cost you."

"His next festival featured me against three men..."

"Three? You are here to tell the story, so you are clearly a competent fighter. It is a useful skill in such dangerous times. I heard that a group of two dozen bandits was attacking travelers near here."

"Two dozen?"

"Well, that is what I heard. In any event, fortunately for future travelers they ran into this enormous man.... Anyway, this man managed to single handedly kill six of them including their leader. I understand it was quite a fight. All the man had as a weapon was some sort of walking stick with a horse head carved into it. In any event, after killing some of the men, the rest of them ran off. Knowing this man is still out there should scare any bandits from wantonly attacking travelers in these parts."

"Let us hope so."

"Let us get back to the matter at hand. With you and about 3,000 veteran soldiers from Gaius Julius Caesar's army, we will march on Rome. I will claim what is mine, and I will punish those responsible for my adopted father's assassination. The group of us will make great names for ourselves."

"No sir. Leaders are remembered in the histories. We fighters rarely find our names in the annals of time."

"You have proven yourself on many occasions. Your sword will be useful."

"Neigh sir! I shall use a spear. It is closer to my weapon of choice."

"No matter -- all shall remember your name. Marius Batiatus Pervalidus will be of much renown."

"I will not argue the matter with you. I am getting up in age, and I was renowned for my time. Vadilus Maximus seems like a lifetime ago. I tried to stop fighting, but the gods wish me to continue. I give you my spear and shield in service."

"I most humbly accept your invitation."

"The only thing is... Well, I have never killed more than twenty-eight men in one day...

"Twenty-eight is a good number. I'll ask the men to pick up some of the slack."

"It has been two life-times ago since I fought under Spartacus in Legion fighting. I may only be good for 23 or 24..."

"All joking aside, let us hope that it does not come to that. I ask only for Marc Antony to give me what Caesar placed in his will."

"He has great ambition."

"He is playing the politician quite well. He has appeased the senate, and incited the people."

"Marc Antony is playing both sides quite well."

"Our march on Rome will show the people that we mean business. We will not reward murderers with governorships. Crimes should be punished."

"What if Marc Antony puts up a fight?"

"I know what are in Julius's papers. He left me a great legacy. Antony cannot deny my rights without losing a lot of political capital."

"It will be war. A man does not willingly give up the power that he wields."

"We can defeat him. We have a well-disciplined army who were loyal to Julius Caesar. They do not like how his murderers got away with their actions. They will fight hard to avenge his death. Antony's army has little motivation. That alone will tip the balance in our favor."

"It is quite the feat that they are willing to follow you at such a young age."

"While it is true that I am in my 18th year, I wave the banner of a cause."

"I agree that the fight is just. That is why I am joining you. I owe much to Caesar and the gods wish me to fight. I believe you will be an excellent leader in battle and in matters of state. I just wish there was a better way."

"I have not found such a way."

"That is why we march on Rome."

"It is indeed. You should rest now equestrian. We need your spear to be sharp and ready when we begin our march. Antony will not allow a fight in Rome, but I am sure a fight will occur. We all need to be ready."

"We shall be victorious!"

"I'll only expect 19 or 20 fallen at your hands."

"I will hold back for the sake of the others!"

"In the morrow then."

"Aye!"

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Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero

Battle of Actium

By Douglas E Gogerty

"I’m getting old, Octavian," complained Marius Batiatus Pervalidus.

"You have been saying that for the last 13 years or so Validus," replied Gaius Octavius.

"It has been true these last several years. I am approaching my 50th year. Do you not think that is old?"

"You are still the most feared soldier in my army. They will write about you as they did Achilles"

"Are you suggesting I die in battle?"

"If you think it will boost your reputation; however, I would appreciate another performance like the one you put in at Naulochus against Sextus Pompey."

"I do not know if I have another day like that in me."

"I suppose 73 is a lot to ask for."

"73? You must have been using Marcus Aemilius Lepidus's count. I think he got tired of counting after 50. The true count is 78."

"A nice round 100 would solve any controversy."

"You are quite a funny man, consul"

"In any event, the upcoming sea battle at Actium should decide things."

"You said 'things would be decided' when the senate established the Triumvirate of Marc Antony, Lepidus, and yourself. In addition, when that Triumverate expired five years later, you repeated that things would be decided if it was renewed. They renewed it, and it has also run its five year course, and things are still not decided..."

"Is it my fault that Marc Antony is under the spell of that Egyptian Cleopatra? He has been totally unreasonable for quite some time. What options do we have?"

"You know quite well..."

"Have you forgotten the accolades you accumulated at Philippi?"

"While it is true that I killed many men to prevent Brutus's men from entering your tent before you could escape, the rumor has it that you escaped because of an omen. I am completely left out of the story."

"I will straighten out the story in due course."

"Only 53 men died at my hands that day, and we nearly lost the day. We would have -- if Brutus would have pressed the issue."

"It was Julius who said, 'Today the enemy would have won, if they had had a commander who was a winner.' It is fitting in this context as well."

"We did redeem ourselves several weeks later, and 64 Romans had to die at my hands to punish Brutus."

"Do you always count?"

"In order to give proper thanks to Neptune, it is important to know what was sacrificed."

"That is fair enough. Speaking of Neptune, Actium will be a naval encounter. You should be on the ship with Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. Protect him as if he were me."

"Consul, I am nearly twice your age. There is no need treating me as a child. I will do my duty and kill anything that boards our ship. However, Agrippa's plan seems reasonable. Neptune willing, we should have the day."

Ships Battling at Actium

The former gladiator stood on the deck of the Liburnian bireme with Admiral Agrippa. The orders were to stay away from the much larger quinquereme's of Marc Antony. Maneuverability was going to be their biggest asset in this fight. Further, if they were within range of the shore, the troops protecting Marc Antony's base, could bombard the sailing vessels with arrows and other weapons. Thus, they would attempt to keep Antony's forces between them and the shore.

After much maneuvering, Antony ordered his ships to engage Octavian's fleet and the battle was joined. The lighter and fully manned Liburnian vessels of Octavius and Agrippa began inflicting heavy losses upon the opposing fleet.

One of the ship commanders panicked and pulled most of the Egyptian fleet away. Agrippa guessed that Queen Cleopatra was on board one of the vessels. Thus, fearing for the life of the queen, the vessels disengaged from the battle. Once that arm of the fleet left, the remaining ships were soon routed.

The former gladiator did not even need to wield his spear. Not a single soldier boarded the commanding Bireme, and with the battle well in hand, his services were not needed. He was going to join the men in capturing the remaining soldiers, but Octavian ordered him to remain next to Agrippa.

A great victory party was held on the beach of Actium. With the destruction of the vessels, the victorious army constructed a great wall of defeat out of the bronze ramming heads of the destroyed fleet. The battle would continue, but there was much to rejoice about in this victory.

Antony's men were continually deserting him. His love left in mid-battle and he went after her. Thus, he left the battle in disarray. The navy of Octavian with its smaller more agile vessels defeated the much larger ships of Antony. The army would continue with its fight against Egypt, but for now they were rejoicing.

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Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero

The Storyteller and the Brother

By Douglas E Gogerty

The civil war was over, and Marc Antony had been defeated. He and his lover Cleopatra had committed suicide. Any challenger to Julius Caesar's adopted son, now calling himself Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus Augustus, was eliminated. Politics in Rome was now different. The power in Rome was now concentrated in one man, Caesar Augustus. Thus, Marius Batiatus Pervalidus could return home.

As was his habit when traveling, he would visit the local public bath. These were the gathering places for Roman citizens. It was a place to exchange news and hear stories. As the former gladiator was relaxing, he overheard some men telling stories.

"I guess we now have a tyrant for life in Augustus," started one citizen.

"He is lucky to be in this position," replied another. " Marcus Junius Brutus had him to rights, if it was not for his dream. He escaped his tent before they could get to him."

"That is not what I heard," interrupted a third.

"Tell us," responded the men.

"Gaius Octavius, had a giant guarding his tent. The man was as wide as he was tall. He was an enormous man."

"Was he naked and painted blue like the Gauls?" asked one of the citizens.

"No this man was no barbarian. He was a freedman and a member of the Equestrian Order, although it is said he was formerly a gladiator. His name was Marius Batiatus Pervalidus."

"Batiatus? He was a freed gladiator all right," one man added.

"Pervalidus? I wonder if it was Validus Maximus... He was an enormous man that I saw fight at the games as a child."

"This could all be true," continued the storyteller. "He was armed with only a spear, but a master with the spear he was. When the alarm rang, Octavian's camp erupted in confusion. Brutus's forces completely surprised them. Octavian had to gather his things and go, but it would take some time. He asked Pervalidus to protect his retreat.

"Pervalidus being strong and true stood his ground. Whenever a soldier from the opposing side would get near the tent, Pervalidus would quickly defeat him. Soldier after soldier came and they all had the same fate. The Brutus's soldiers were stacking up pretty high as the mighty Pervalidus dispatched them one by one.

"Soon, they would come in small groups as more forces arrived at the camp. One, two, a dozen made no difference to Pervalidus. Every group ended the same way -- dead. His job was to protect the Consul, and that he did.

"He had been fighting for hours giving Octavian plenty of time to make his escape. He was beginning to tire and the men kept coming. Soon, he found himself surrounded by 30 soldiers. It looked like he had taken too long to make his own escape. However, before anyone could flinch, he killed three more and was gone.

"Brutus found the tent empty, but did not press the issue any further knowing that 153 of his men died at the hands of one man."

"It was just 53," injected the former gladiator.

"What?" asked the storyteller.

"Only 53 of Brutus's soldiers were killed by Pervalidus," returned Pervalidus.

"53 -- 153? Both are preposterous," interjected another citizen.

"The omen seems much more likely," included another.

"How do you know the number old timer?" inquired the storyteller.

"Let us just say that I am intimately familiar with the story and its subject."

"You were at Philippi?" asked one man.

"I did not know they let geezers into battle..." added another.

"They will let anyone willing to fight in the army," responded Pervalidus.

"The story is true!" a young man in the back of the room exclaimed. "My brother died at the hands of that freedman."

"So which is it citizen, 53 or 153?" asked the storyteller.

"The only number that matters to me is one," replied the man.

"I concede the point," responded Pervalidus. "I must prepare to continue my journey. Thank you all."

"Not so fast citizen," interrupted the young man. "What is your name?"

"My name is unimportant. I am here for a relaxing time -- not trouble."

"I say your name is Marius Batiatus Pervalidus!"

The group erupted with noise. "No he can't be," said one man.

"He would have to be bigger," stated another.

"He is way too old," added a third.

"Think about it kid," started the storyteller. "Caesar offered him a position in his newly created Praetorian Guards. Would he do that to an old man like this? I do not think he would."

"Listen to them citizen," added Pervalidus. "No one wants any trouble here."

"I know you're Pervalidus! My name is Tiberius Eprius Montanus, you killed my brother, prepare to die!"

"I am unarmed and naked Tiberius," replied Pervalidus. "Perhaps some other time..."

"You cannot stay in here forever -- Gaius," Tiberius said with hate. "We will meet outside whenever you are ready."

"Are you really Pervalidus?" asked one of the group.

"Were you really Validus Maxiums?" asked another.

"Is this true?" asked the storyteller.

"I suspect there is no reason to keep it hidden," responded a dejected Pervalidus. "It is true, I am the former gladiator known as Validus Maximus. My free name is Marius Batiatus Pervalidus. I did kill 53 men to give Caesar a chance to escape. One of them could have been a Montanus. Caesar offered me a position with the Praetorius, but I refused. I wish to live in peace with my wife and kids. I had hoped to be done fighting. I guess it is not to be the case."

"I thought he was taller," whispered one man.

"What are you going to do?" asked the storyteller.

"I will try to avoid the fight, but I will probably have to fight him."

"This I have to see!" exclaimed one man.

The room erupted in excitement and movement. The bath was quickly empty except for the former gladiator. Everyone at the bath rushed to gather his things and find a good spot to view the fight. Some even went to gather loved ones. The whole town was soon abuzz about the upcoming fight.

Pervalidus sat in the bath for a little while longer. Eventually, he gave a heavy sigh and went to gather his things. He slowly got dressed and reluctantly left the bath. A huge crowd had gathered and the young Tiberius was waiting. A huge roar erupted as the former gladiator entered the street.

The young Tiberius was wearing a helmet and was brandishing a sword. "Do you have a weapon old man?" he shouted to Pervalidus.

"My staff will serve me fine," responded Pervalidus. "We do not have to do this Tiberius."

"My name is Tiberius Eprius Montanus, you killed my brother, prepare to die!" he said as he slowly walked toward Pervalidus.

"I am sure your brother killed many friends of mine..." Pervalidus replied holding his ground.

"My name is Tiberius Eprius Montanus, you killed my brother, prepare to die!" he said as he continued to approach.

"Is there nothing that will prevent this?"

"It is what these people have gathered to see," he said looking around at the crowd.

The crowd cheered at the acknowledgement. The former gladiator stood there calmly with a frown on his face. Nothing he said was going to prevent the fight. He readied his staff and prepared for the fight.

Suddenly the young Tiberius gave a shout and charged Pervalidus. The young man rushed the waiting opponent and swung his sword as he neared. Pervalidus easily blocked the blow with his staff, and with a quick thrust from it, Tiberius was sprawled on the ground. The crowed roared at the first action.

Tiberius was stunned. His face was red. Perhaps it was because of embarrassment or perhaps it was because of fury. Once again he stated, "My name is Tiberius Eprius Montanus, you killed my brother, prepare to die."

"You are young and inexperienced young Montanus. It is not too late to stop this."

Tiberius got up and charged again. Pervalidus easily parried the blow, and once again, the young fighter was sprawled on the ground. Another cheer from the crowd erupted.

"Your death will not bring back your brother, and neither will mine," Pervalidus explained calmly. "You have your whole life ahead of you."

"I do not need your lecture freedman," responded Tiberius. "I will kill you."

"I do not..." started Pervalidus when another person emerged from the crowd wielding a sword. The two men rushed the former gladiator at the same time. When the two men were close to him, he hooked the sword of Tiberius with the horse head on his staff, and steered it into the new man's chest. The sword found its mark and the falling man wretched the sword from the young Montanus's hand. With the sword still in his chest, the new combatant fell to the ground. With a hop and a sweep of the staff, it found its target at the back of Tiberius's head. The young man fell on top of his compatriot and breathed his last breath.

The crowd was silent. What had happened? It was over too quickly. The two young men were motionless in the street. The former gladiator shook his head and walked to the inn.

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Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero

The Road Home

By Douglas E Gogerty

"Welcome home dear!" greeted Bella Pervalidia.

"It is good to be home again," replied the former gladiator.

"Rome's civil war is over, and you and Octavian won!"

"He has taken to calling himself Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus Augustus."

"That is quite a name!"

"History will probably shorten it to something like Caesar Augustus, or some such trifling."

"We cannot control how the people of the future will view our culture. Thus, it is silly to worry about such things."

"You are right, wife. It was a long journey, and I am glad to be home."

"How was your journey?"

"The usual."

"I heard about the young men..."

"It was a shame. For some, they will take dishonor with revenge. Having a cohort attack me from behind was inexcusable."

"You handled the situation as best you could, I am sure."

"I would have liked to not kill the young man. His family has lost another to my hands. How many more will there be?"

"Wars and death bring suffering to many families. Each must handle it in their own way. Some seek vengeance, while others forgive. It is the way of people."

"Once again, you soothe me with your wise words woman!"

"Were there any other incidents on the road that I have not heard of -- yet."

"Ummm..."

"From your hesitation, I know. There is no use hiding the truth from me."

"When I allied myself with Octavian -- Caesar Augustus -- I was hoping that the gods would finally let the fighting end. I thought that I would live in peace. It is not to be as I am convinced that Mars likes to see me fight."

"It is one of your great skills."

"I am getting up in years, and I can tell my skills are diminishing. I will make a mistake some day, and where would that leave you dear Bella?"

"Worrying about the future will just make that inevitable day come sooner."

"I thank the gods for smiling upon me so! Neptune and Mars, I am at your service until I die."

"Quit stalling Pervalidus, out with the story!"

"As you wish," sighed the aging fighter to his wife. He leaned back and began to tell his story.

* * * * *

With the war over, there are pockets of displaced soldiers here and there. Some of them fought for Caesar and some against, but they do not know what to do with themselves. Some have returned to their homes, yet some still gather and cause trouble for travelers. I came across one of these small groups.

I was delayed by some innocent incident, and I had not arrived in a town. While it would have been a joy to stay at an inn, it appeared that I would not make it to a lodging place until quite late. Even though it was still early evening, I decided that I would travel no further on that day. I made camp beside the road and began fixing myself a small meal.

Up the road came this band of armored soldiers. I greeted them and offered to share my food with them. However, the leader was quite belligerent and he informed me that I must move along.

I smiled and told him that I had traveled a long way, and I had a long way yet to go. I explained that I was just resting, and that I would continue on my way after my meal.

The leader's eyes grew cold as I talked. He was not interested in my troubles and he explained to me that my words meant nothing to him. He stated quite clearly that if I did not pack up and leave immediately, there would be trouble.

Not wanting to cause problems, I complied with his words. Well -- I reluctantly complied -- and -- I may have grumbled a few words. I cannot recall what these words were.

The group's leader heard me grumble and asked me what I had said. I told him that I could not remember, but that it was not important. Then he said, "Do you know who I am?"

Naturally, I replied, "No."

"I am Marius Batiatus Pervalidus! I killed 173 men single handedly at the battle of Philippi."

In an effort to stifle my laughter, I let out some sort of sound that was my inept attempt to indicate surprise. After a long uncomfortable pause, I did something that I should not have. I said, "I thought you were taller."

He shot a look my way in an effort to intimidate me. I must have been more tired and irritable than I thought as I continued with, "Also, I heard it was only 53 men."

I barely was able to contain my chuckles. "This is a serious manner -- old man. I could kill you quickly without breaking a sweat," continued the leader of the group.

"Listen Citizen Pervalidus -- if that is your real name," I said with as much composure as I could muster. "You asked me to leave. I am going. You have no authority to make such demands, but I do not wish to make trouble. So, go on your way, and I will continue on my own."

"It is too late for that whoever you are! You will die now." he squeaked. I must have touched some nerve in him.

He drew his sword and waved his comrades away. As usual, I had my staff with me. The man charged and I placed the hook end of my staff on the edge of his blade just above the hand guard and stepped aside. With another quick step to the side and a jerk of the staff, I wretched the sword from his hand and it fell to the ground.

As he reached for it, I gave him a sharp smack on his back. He stood up sharply, and momentarily abandoned making an attempt to retrieve the weapon. His comrades were about to rush me, but he waved them off.

"I think I shall stay the night here after all," I taunted.

He asked for a weapon from another member of the group, and charged again. I used the same maneuver and disarmed him again.

"Just in case you were wondering," I stated confidently. "It was not a fluke that I easily disarmed you. However, this confrontation has made me weary. I may try something different next time."

He whispered some sort of instructions to his cohorts, and they encircled me. I managed to stay close to the swords as they made their way around. I thought they would certainly attempt to retrieve them.

Two men with swords drawn came from opposite ends and rushed at me. I quickly determined who the stronger fighter was, and concentrated on him and put my back to the unsure weaker fighter. I took one step towards the strong fighter, and put my staff on the bridge of his nose. I directed the force of this blow into the groin of the other fighter. The strong fighter lurched backward and the weak one bent forward.

I had clear access to the strong fighter's sword, so I hooked it, and took it away from him. It fell near the others as blood began to flow profusely from his nose. The doubled over fighter was still in his position when I pushed him backwards. In an effort to catch himself from falling, he waved his arms wildly, and forgot he was wielding a sword. I relieved him of the weapon easily enough.

I had enough fighting, and a deep seriousness fell upon me. I stood in my warrior stance and shouted. "I have had enough. I will take these swords, and you will leave me now. Or, I will be forced to dispatch all of you, for I am the real Marius Batiatus Pervalidus, Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero. Leave in peace, or become food for scavengers. It is your choice."

In the old days, that would have frightened half of them. However, when a man of my age uses such words, they have less impact. All eight of the men rushed me at once. Luckily, I had disarmed half of them and a few were somewhat hampered by afflictions.

I chose two men on opposite sides that both had swords. I used my old technique of steering one man's sword into the belly of another and giving a whack on the back of his head. The two men fell upon each other as I gave a poke with the bronzed tip to other attackers.

This gave me a chance to locate the armed men, and keep others from grabbing the abandoned swords. There were just two men with swords left. They were very tentative in their actions which gave me a big advantage.

I rushed one of the remaining armed men, swung wildly with the staff at his head, and gave a mighty roar. It was just a feint, and he reflectively tried to protect himself with his sword. I redirected the blow to hit his hand.

With all of the bones in his hand now broken, he could no longer hold onto the sword. The bloodied-nose man believing that I was vulnerable grabbed a sword from the ground and rushed me.

Little did he know that I had hooked the armor of the newly disarmed comrade with my staff. When he attempted his blow, I fell back. His comrade also tried to avoid the blow, but could not because I had him in my control. The sword lodged in the man's neck. While unhooking from the man's armor, I caught the man again in the nose. This prevented him from jumping on me as I fell back. With a quick roll, I swept at his legs and over he fell. With the brass end of my staff, I impaled him.

The man I hit in the groin was still useless in the fight. He barely moved the entire time. However, the other three had managed to re-arm themselves. However, they were clearly afraid now.

In fact, one started to run. With a few strides, I hooked him in the arm, and directed him to run into a tree. It is then that I noticed he had a knife. I stood there puzzled for a few seconds. "Why didn't they use their knives?" I asked myself.

I shrugged at the thought, and I grabbed the man's knife. With a quick flip, I hit the other combatant in the neck. By the look in his eyes, he was quite surprised by this turn of events.

The man I directed into the tree was lying on his back, and I grabbed his sword. I looked at the leader of the group. His friend was lying there unconscious at my feet. I looked him in the eye, as I drove the sword into the man's chest.

Now, the only men left in the fight were the leader, who said he was me, and the doubled over soldier. I rushed the soldier who could not stand, and hit him with an uppercut with my staff. He did a flip and landed on his face. Again, I looked the leader in the eye as I gave his comrade's head a twist. The leader began to weep.

"You are responsible for the deaths of these men," I said calmly. "You could have let a tired old man rest beside the road, but you did not. You could have shared in my food, but you did not. There were many paths you could have chosen, but you chose death for your comrades."

The man dropped his sword and put his head in his hands. He began crying uncontrollably now.

"You are lucky," I started.

"Lucky?" he sobbed with his head still in his hands.

"Yes, you will not have to suffer your guilt for long!" I replied as I took one of the swords and lopped off the man's head.

The man who claimed to me was the 1000th man I killed in my lifetime, so I gave an extra special sacrifice to Mars when I gave thanks to the gods and Neptune. It was dark when I had finished everything, and I was quite tired. I was worried about scavengers during the night, and I slept uneasily.

I was up early, and made it to the next town by midmorning. I rested peacefully, and had no other troubles on the road. Thank the gods!

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Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero

The End

By Douglas E Gogerty

"1000 is a staggering number," replied the former gladiator's wife when the story ended.

"The last one brought me to a conclusion," responded Pervalidus.

"What was that?" Bella inquired.

"Notoriety as a killer brings more opportunity to kill."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, every man I have killed has a father. Perhaps he has a brother or maybe children. In any event, his death can have effect on many others. These others may want revenge. Thus, they may come after me as several have."

"You cannot change the past."

"Thank you Bella. I can -- however -- change what people hear about the past. I asked Octavian to rebuke the story about his dream to give me credit for saving his life. I realize now that this is a mistake. If history records that a dream saved his life rather than me killing those 53 men, the relatives of those men will not come after me."

"That is sensible."

"The entire time I was fighting for Rome, I was looking for notoriety. I should have been doing it for something more noble. I feel ashamed about that."

"You said you were fighting to appease the gods who promised peace. That is a noble cause."

"Indeed I did. However, when I was actually in battle..."

"No 'howevers'! What went through your mind while in the heat of battle is irrelevant. Those thoughts kept you alive and fighting. The dreams of glory stopped you from giving up. However, your true motive was 'peace.'"

"Why did I name you Bella when I should have named you Astuta..."

"Your words honor me husband. Let us prepare to dine now."

The former gladiator contacted the Emperor Caesar Augustus to tell him not to fight the story of the dream at the Battle of Philippi. He was suddenly comfortable with his anonymity. He would be happy to fade into history.

His family would remember, although he would not tell the stories of his exploits very often. They all knew the truth about the Battle of Philippi. They knew how much of a hero their ancestor was. They knew how much he sacrificed and how much he did in his life.

Marius Batiatus Pervalidus quickly stopped being a former gladiator. He stopped being a former soldier. He stopped being the former hero of Philippi. He was just father, husband, neighbor...

His family thrived in the peace. His horses were renowned in the chariot races. Patrons from all over the Empire sought out "Pervalidian Horses." They were said to be strong, powerful, and fast. "The finest horses in the world" became the family slogan. Pervalidus claimed that Neptune smiled upon him for his years of service.

In fact, as he traveled, he never ran into any more trouble. The gods were happy with the 1000, and his battles were over. The roadways became safe and highwaymen never accosted him again. The days of explaining to the local magistrates how he killed the half dozen men were through. The extra days during travel to speak with authorities about troubles in town became a thing of the past.

Pervalidus had entered his final stage of his life. He started out as an ordinary child living in Bithynia. That was the first stage of his life. That stage lasted a mere twelve years.

With his family's death and Lucullus capturing him and selling him into slavery, he entered the short second stage of his life. This ended when he killed man number one, his master.

He lived with Spartacus and was part of the slave rebellion. However, this portion of his life did not last very long either. The fourth period in his life began when Crassus and his legions killed Spartacus and sold the future Validus Maximus into slavery again. He was purchased by the Batitus's gladiatorial school, and this was longest section of his life.

This long portion of his life brought him much fame and wealth. Citizens from all over the Roman Republic shouted his name. They all admired his skills with the trident and net. They were amazed at how he could handle any situation in the arena. However, he always thanked his personal patron Neptune for his survival.

He acquired a great fortune and purchased his freedom to begin the next phase in his life. This phase did not last as long as he had wished. The conflicts as a freed slave continued and he would kill bandits and highwaymen occasionally. He got out of the arena with a desire to stop killing. However, this was not to be as he continued killing. Thus, he decided to enter another part of his life.

He joined the forces of the future Emperor of Rome Caesar Augustus, and became a soldier. Most citizens and members of the Equestrian Order would retire from fighting in the army at the age Pervalidus started. However, he quickly became a war hero with his skill using the spear. He killed the most men during this phase of his life. However, he was clearly a war hero.

After that period of his life, he was able to enter the final stage. He was able to retire to private life. The killing stopped. He could finally relax and enjoy what he fought for all those years. There was peace in the realm and the Roman slave, Gladiator, Freeman, and Hero would fade into the past. He was just an ordinary citizen. The life made him very satisfied to enjoy the little things. Thus, all around him were happy.

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Genocide

By Douglas E. Gogerty

I must admit that I have had a happy life. While there has been fear of death for some of that time, it has just resided deep in my mind and never come to the forefront. Now, as I grow old, I feel reflective of my youth. I think about how much people have hated my kind and me. I do not know what we ever did to them, but so many speak of genocide.

I remember times when neighborhood kids liked us. I am sure we are part of fond childhood memories. In fact, they would take us home to their mothers. Those mothers would smile and greet us with open arms. They would offer us some water. It was nice. Looking back, I now realize that they were not happy to see us, and they wanted us dead. When those kids that happily offered us water grew up, they would also want to kill us. It seems they all wanted us dead.

I know now that it is partly because we just do not fit in. No matter what we do, we stick out. We definitely look different from all the others. In a crowd, we always seem to stand out as different.

However, we did not ask to be brought here. Like so many others, we were uprooted from our families and brought here against our will. We are not unique in that aspect. Europeans brought us here like so many others. So many of us face the same scorn and hatred. They cannot see that we are victims in this.

In all of our time here, we have tried to get along with everyone. Even when faced with such hatred, we try to put on our bright sunny faces. However, some will not be convinced. They want us dead, and not just some of us. They want all of us dead. These fanatics will not rest until every single one of my kind is removed from this Earth.

I will readily admit that in some places we do not fit in. However, we go where we can live just like everyone else. Truth be told, we are constantly persecuted in the suburbs. Thus, you will find us more readily in the urban neighborhoods. We gather in places where people are more tolerant. We find areas where people have other concerns than our wholesale destruction.

In the suburbs, they do not want us around and single us out. They have systematically excluded us. In some places, they have rules against our existence. Homeowners can be fined just for having us around. Yet, the authorities do nothing.

It is not just these exclusionary tactics that take place. Often we watch as they poison our fathers and mothers. These citizens do this without fear of reprisal. Everyone just turns a blind eye to the slaughter. They act as if we simply do not belong and deserve what happens to us.

Of course, part of the problem is there is nothing we can do with our appearance to blend in. We are obvious. However, why is it fine to persecute us like this? Why do authorities turn their backs when such atrocities take place? Why should it be so difficult to prosecute these murderers?

I think part of the problem is that we have been too silent. In our attempts not stir up trouble; we have rested silently. We have continued with our sunny disposition. This has gotten us nowhere.

We are systematically torn from our homes. We are ripped from the very places we have spent our entire lives. No one is sympathetic. They let it happen.

Now that I am old and losing what little white is left on top, I am speaking out. Before my children face the same persecution that I have seen with my own eyes, I am taking a stand. It is not just for me, but also for all those that are different.

Not everyone has to be the same. Whether we are white, black, yellow, green, purple, or any other color, we should all be treated fairly. Even if we stand out in the crowd, we want what everyone else wants. We want to live and have families.

I will admit that part of it is our fault. We have not put reading and writing as a priority. Thus, we have not communicated our complaints to the masses before. We were fighting one injustice at a time rather than banding together to gain public awareness of our plight.

That is where I come in. I am here to tell you to stop the killing. We want to get along, but unless the general public decides that we have a right to be here, things may start to turn ugly. We may start to fight back. Instead of just moving to where we are more accepted, we may try other tactics. We may not accept our fate and we may begin to rise up against our oppressors.

We have put up with many degrading words in our history. We have been slandered for far too long. We are no longer willing to accept the blatant slaughter and institutionalized discrimination. We have a right to our lives. We have a right to our homes. We have a right to our children.

I am here to ask you to put aside your prejudices. We all have a place on this earth. Others have labeled us, and we do not have any choice in the words they use. Some of them are just plain ugly. I want you to think when you hear these labels. Think about what they actually mean and what harm they can do.

After all, what is a weed? It is an unintended plant. One person's weed is another person's treasure. The prejudicial words are like that. It gives individuals a marker between us and them. It allows for the rationalization of action. Thus, when we are discriminated against, they just say we are one of them. When we are poisoned, we are inconsequential. They were just ridding themselves of one of them.

This has been the way it has been done since the dawn of human history. They easily divide groups into those that belong and those that do not. The ones that do not belong are eliminated. This is how the violence begins. This is why there have been wars throughout human history.

I am telling you now, that this has to stop. We all have a right to be here. There is not them. There is only us. The living have a right to life no matter what their label. I am asking everyone to stop the genocide. Stop the killing! We dandelions have a right to our place in your yards. Thank you!

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 1: Gathering the Party

By Douglas E. Gogerty

I met the Cleric Thorvald Larsenski of the Cygnus clan while luring 30 orcs out of a woman's home. She lived on the outskirts of some town, and some orcs decided to take up residence in her place. She offered a 300 gold pieces to get rid of them. I thought that was easy money, so I took the job. I managed to lure all 30 of them out of her house.

They followed me for a ways, and I met up with Thorvald. He claims that he saved my life, but it was all a part of my plan. With a bit of finesse, I lured the orcs out of this woman's house, and I did not have to kill one. As I am leaving the town, Thorvald comes along and riles them up, by killing a couple. I had no choice in killing several orcs myself.

Once the orcs we killed the last of the orcs, Thorvald thought he should get some of the money for saving my life. However, from my point of view, he spoiled my plan. The woman was paying for removing the orcs. If they were able, they could come back to that woman's home, and I could have gotten more work. You never know, I could possibly earn another hefty bounty. However, I ended up having to save Thorvald's life because all 30 had turned to him. In any event, we split the gold evenly.

The woman was quite grateful, and I could tell she wanted me to stay a little while so she could further reward me. However, Thorvald mentioned that he was meeting a sorcerer friend to save some princess. He said that they could use someone like me to help him with the task. I told him that dieing was not my idea of a good time. Of course, he mentioned that she was rich.

"How rich?" I asked.

"The reward would be more than you can imagine," he replied.

"I don't know," I added. "I can imagine an awful lot."

"You'll get it," he promised.

"I better!" I said. "By the way Thorvald, after a long battle are you then Thor?"

"You may call me Cleric Larsenski, Most Revered Thorvald, or Thorvald Larsenski of the Cygnus Clan. Thor is right out!"

Some people do not have any sense of humor. He did not catch on to the pun at all. I hope the sorcerer we meet has a better sense of humor.

We travel a bit up the road, and we meet up with Thorvald's sorcerer friend. He was a typical sorcerer type. He was small and studious and reading a lengthy tome as we approached. A small castle was a little off in the distance. He had been trying to determine a way into the castle. In typical sorcerer fashion, he was at a loss.

"Greetings Most Revered Thorvald, you have brought along a companion," proclaimed the sorcerer.

"Salutations, I have brought a rogue to aid in our quest."

"Rogue," the sorcerer began. "I am Glaf Hellion of the Western Highlands, sorcerer of the Marquis of Mellicore, bearer of the vessel of the pestle, and barber to the king of swing."

I must admit I do not remember all that he said. I think he went on for an hour just reciting all his titles and honors.

"Nice to meet you," I replied. "So, how are we getting in the castle?"

"I have been unable to open the gate," he stated boldly.

"It should be simple enough to gain entrance."

"OK hotshot," he said. "You find a way in."

"Wait here and I will have us in shortly," I bragged.

I looked around and observed the high wall that surrounded the castle. On the other side of the wall was a moat. It appeared that getting in would be a difficult task. I checked the lock and it was one of those shifting locks. It was not going to let me pick it. I started to get worried, but I knew the type that had these types of castles. There had to be a key somewhere. Low and behold, there was a key hidden in a placard reading "Keep Out!"

Sorcerer Hellion was not impressed with my feat of awesomeness. I did not see him produce a key. We would still be standing outside the wall if he were in charge of getting us in. I guess what they say is true. "Some of the most astounding feats are nothing if you know how they are done."

With the produced key, I casually unlocked the gate and we walked inside. There was a small bridge crossing the moat on the other side of the gate. It was then that I noticed just how small the castle was. I was beginning to doubt the wealth of the princess we were rescuing.

We crossed the small bridge and opened the front portcullis of the castle. After we entered the castle, we killed some rats, spiders, and such. Nothing difficult came across out path.

According to Glaf, our goal was the dungeon in the lowest levels of the castle. Thus, we find our way down to the lower levels. When we make it to the lowest chamber of the dungeon, we had to kill some iron golems. That was as tough as it got. They were guarding a door that Thorvald claimed held the "princess." I easily picked the lock. Okay, it used the same key as the front gate. Inside we find a ranger named Gudrid.

"This is our princess?" I complained.

My complaint fell on deaf ears as Glaf and Gudrid embraced. I think they have a thing going on. Thorvald explained that Gudrid went ahead to look for the princess. Apparently, the iron golems trapped her in the room. The princess's remains were in the room when Gudrid made her way into the dungeon room. I asked about the riches, but a group of spiders and a gelatinous cube interrupted me.

We fought our way out of the castle with nothing. I know Gudrid looted the princess's corpse, so she may have gotten something out of it. I got nothing. I was about to part ways with this group when they mentioned that a town was having problems with some bandits. Thorvald claimed that this town had some wealth, and with some help, I would definitely earn some reward. I did not want to believe him, but I was heading in that direction.

Normally, I do not like taking on bandits as a personal courtesy. However, these bandits were ruthless. We had almost reached the town when we found them fighting a Paladin. However, they wanted to kill everyone. In fact, they had wiped out the rest of her party, but she was holding her own against them.

There were 10 or 15 bandits already slain when we came along. I killed a bandit with my crossbow just before he took a swing at the Paladin. Our eyes met and there was quite a bit of gratitude on her face. We must have killed at least 100 bandits that day.

My attitude was beginning to improve, as this town must be wealthy to be able to support a gang of bandits that large. Jean, the Paladin thanked us for our help. She wanted to thank me in a more personal way, but this was not the time. The bandits had killed every member of the group she was escorting, and she was a little distraught.

We collected the belongings of the travelers to disperse to family members. However, we were unable to locate any, so we just sold what we found at a local merchant. Needless to say, the items brought only a few gold pieces. We searched for the town mayor, and he rewarded us with a paltry 25 gold pieces each for the destruction of the gang. Luckily, I stole 10 times that much from his office or I would have been upset.

With the coin in my pocket, I considered taking my leave from the rest of the group. However, when I expressed my wishes to leave, they begged me to join their group. I told them that I am not really a joiner.

"I am the Paladin Jean Dark and I am joining them on their next adventure. Please come with us," she said in her most seductive voice.

"We have heard of a job," the sorcerer Glaf added. "We could use someone with your skills."

"There will be a big reward," added Gudrid.

"The wizard Nebrion has come to us, and he is quite wealthy."

"I have heard this song before," I replied.

"Please," begged Jean.

With those sad blue eyes, how could I resist? Thus, our party began Nebrion's Quest.



The story "Nebrion's Quest" was constructed from a "mod" I wrote for Neverwinter Nights™. Some friends and I played the campaign, and this story is loosely based upon our characters. If you have Neverwinter Nights™ Platinum, (or Shadows of Undrentide and Hordes of the Underdark), and you would like to play my mod, you can download it here. Just unzip it into the "modules" directory of the Neverwinter Nights game directory. Enjoy! You may want to play it BEFORE you read the rest of the story or it will ruin all of the surprises. Thanks!!!

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 2: Meeting with Nebrion

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Glaf Hellion arranged the meeting with the wizard Nebrion. Our group gathered at the rendezvous spot and waited. Gudrid and Glaf sat together and napped. If it were not so sickening, it might have been cute. Jean Dark also rested, and she implored me to keep watch. I obliged, although a little snuggling before a mission would have been nice. Thorvald Larsenski, our cleric, took to some prayers and afterward rested.

I paced the area anxiously. We gathered outside the gates of a town that had seen better days. It looked as if it had been continuously attacked for quite some time. The only thing that made me stay was the nice looking tower on the edge of town. It was my belief that the so-called rich wizard lived in that tower.

Wizards like their towers. I am not personally a fan, but to each his own. It was quite ornate. It was as black as coal with white marble sculptures running up the side. The sculptures were all manner of grotesque imagery. However, they looked quite expensive. I could not see the entire structure, so I did not know what the entrance looked like. I imagined a large heavy wooden door with brass hinges and gold adornments. This structure had a new roof, so despite the poverty of the rest of the town, the owner of the tower was doing quite well.

As I continued to observe the surroundings, I started to wonder about our group. I was the guard for this hopeless bunch. Did I really want to hang with a group who would leave someone like me to guard them? I strongly considered taking their loot and heading on my way. Fortunately for them, Jean awoke and smiled at me. Despite her Paladin ways, we could get along.

One by one, the group arose from their rest. The journey to the spot had been long, but it was uneventful. Now, we were mingling outside the gate of a shambles of a city, waiting for some wizard to show up.

"What are we supposed to do now sorcerer?" I asked Glaf.

"My instructions were to wait outside the gate," he responded.

"Hooray for your instructions," I responded. "Are we to wait here until the leaves fall from the trees or what?"

"Are you asking how long we are to wait?"

"Did I stutter?" I asked. "Of course I am asking how long we are supposed to wait."

"I was told to be here on the fourth day and the fourteenth hour."

"What does your manacle of time tell you?"

"It should be any time now."

"Yeah right," I started to say when a strange sensation overcame me. My entire body began to tingle and the surroundings began to fade. I tried to fight the feeling, but I could not move. I felt as if I was traveling down a sewer tunnel. I felt the pull in one direction and just as quickly as it started, the pull stopped and all went black.

I tried to open my eyes, but it was quite a struggle. The disorienting feeling was still with me. I shook my head to snap out of it. It took a couple of seconds but I began to feel like myself again. I eventually was able to open my eyes, and I noticed that I wasn't outside the city anymore.

I laid on the ground for quite a while as I saw the rest of my party materialize in the room in which I found myself. I heard incantations in the corner, but I did not wish to move. I would let the others go first.

Eventually, up jumped Jean and Thorvald. I heard a voice in the corner say, "Arise everyone! I am Nebrion."

I gradually got to my feet, and looked around. It was a largish round room with intricately carved wardrobes around the perimeter. I looked for a door, but I could not find one. Glaf and our host began having a conversation, so I took the opportunity to look around.

I walked up to the first wardrobe, and found that it had been trapped. It was a good trap, and it was very dangerous. Perhaps, it was even deadly. Naturally, it was no match for me, and I easily disarmed it. Sadly, the wardrobe had a very intricate lock and I was unable to open it.

While our host was distracted in conversation, I disarmed all of the traps on the wardrobes. All of them had the same lock, and I was unable to do anything with any of them.

However, hidden between two wardrobes was a chest. It had a very complicated trapping mechanism protecting it. Its trap was even more complicated than the ones protecting the wardrobes. It was no match for my skills either.

The chest's lock was a standard lock and it was opened in seconds. Inside the chest were some valuable items. I did not have time to identify all of the things, but it looked like what was there would fetch a large price in any city shop. When I had time to inspect the items more closely, I would share them with my colleagues. For now, what they did not know would not hurt them.

Glaf called us over for a conference. "The wizard Nebrion is the protector of this town," he began. "For perhaps the last year, the town has been besieged by wave after wave of monsters. Orcs, Kobols, and Lizzardmen have taken turns attacking the citizens of the town. Nebrion has recruited adventurers from all over to attempt to stop the onslaught. He will offer a chest of riches to any party that can stop the attacks.

"If we accept his offer, he will transport us to the mines where he believes the monsters are originating. All we have to do is clean out the mines from the creatures and return here. Upon our return, he will give us the chest filled with items we might find useful. Any questions?"

"What happened to the other adventurers?" I asked.

"None have returned so far," he explained. "It is a very dangerous mission, so we should discuss our misgivings."

"Is there any chance that one of these groups is nearly finished and will claim our prize?" I continued.

"He has not had any volunteers for this mission in months. It is unlikely that any will return."

"So dear sorcerer," I added. "Do you personally guarantee that I -- er -- WE -- will be paid?"

"If we accept this mission, I will guarantee payment if I have to pay you all myself."

"I am in!" I volunteered.

"Why does he not go himself, or why not use his magic?" asked Gudrid.

"He is expending a great amount of energy with a protective sheild in an attempt to keep the creatures out," he replied. "However, their numbers are just to great."

After some further question and discussion, the rest of the group also decided to take on this dangerous mission. Nebrion gave us all the information we wanted, and the party prepared to be transported to the mines. Nebrion informed us that we would face mostly orcs. Thus, if we had anything that excelled in killing orcs, we should prepare those items.

Once everything was prepared, we stood upon a strange mark upon the floor. He started his incantations and the same feeling came upon the others and me. We were out cold for moments and awoke in the mines.

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 3: Something Went Wrong

By Douglas E. Gogerty

As I regained consciousness, I felt that something went wrong. First off, I was cold. I think that should be expected being in the bottom of a mine, but this cold was different.

My second clue was the darkness. Why was it so dark? My light baring amulet should provide me with enough light to see. "My amulet," I thought to myself as I reached for it. "Where was my amulet?"

When my fingers reached my neck, I knew something was terribly wrong. There were claws scratching at my chest. Moreover, these claws were mine! When did I get claws? I searched for all of my stuff, but I am naked. I do not have any of my things. I was naked. I wondered if we were all naked.

"Jean? Are you there?" I asked.

"What has happened?" she asked. "Where are my things? I am naked!"

"Relax sweetheart, I am here for you!" I assured her.

"Let there be light," Glaf said in some strange tongue and the cavern became dimly lit.

"No!" shouted the Paladin. "I am not decent!"

"Neither am I," I thought to myself.

At that moment, we all realized that we had somehow been transformed into lizard people. We were greenish and scaly. Furthermore, we were all naked. My excitement over that prospect dimmed when I realized we had no weapons.

Fortunately, for me, I still had the same control of myself that I had always. Thus, I could still walk silently and sneak around the caverns. My eyes were still sharp as they had always been. Thus, if there was enough light, I could find items, which I immediately went to do.

The cavern had a few bodies scattered around. I thought they would have something on them, but before I could check, some skeleton creatures emerged out of the shadows. Naturally, I jumped into action. I saw that Jean was locked in hand-to-hand combat with one, so I decided I would rush to her aid. However, before I got there, Glaf used a spell and the skeleton crumbled into a pile of bones. I took the short sword from the dead creature and handed it to Jean.

"You could use this more than I," I insisted, and she took it with thanks in her eyes.

I would get a more substantial "thank you" later, but there were a few more creatures to take care of first. As I attempted to fight a creature, it would explode, implode, catch fire or what have you, from a spell Glaf would cast. I expect it was probably for the best anyway. I was thankful that he could still cast his spells.

Once we were satisfied that the current attack of creatures was over, I carefully examined the bodies around the cavern. A few of the skeleton creatures had small iron short swords. They were not great, but they were better than having no weapon. Several of the other corpses had died rather brutal deaths, but they were unarmed. I did collect several arrows and a few spears, which caused the deaths of the adventurers. Without a bow, the arrows were not terribly useful. Also, I know nothing about using a spear, so we had nothing to get excited about at this moment.

I carefully examined the cavern where we found ourselves. There was only one exit. It was a rather decrepit mine door. It appeared to have withstood plenty of abuse. There were claw marks and dents of all kinds. I found it locked, but I would not have any problem unlocking it.

Before I took any action, we held a group conference. We took stock on our weaponry. It was pretty meager, but our best fighters were rudimentarily armed. I a few arrows and a spear. In essence, I had nothing, but I could still hide in the shadows and stay unnoticed when need be.

"What do you think happened," Thorvald asked Glaf.

"I have no idea," the sorcerer replied.

"Do you think Nebrion double-crossed us?" I asked.

"Yeah, is he trustworthy," added Thorvald.

"While I would not personally vouch for him," responded Glaf. "Several contacts claimed he could be trusted."

"Do you think there was some sort of spell-caster on the other side of that door who is responsible for our condition?" asked Gudrid.

"I have thought of that," replied Glaf. "There have been several others killed in this room."

"While that is true," I retorted. "None of them look like monsters."

"Perhaps the spell wears off after some time," replied Glaf.

"Why turn us into lizards?" asked Thorvald.

"I cannot answer that," replied Glaf.

"We certainly cannot stay here," I added. "We will have to go through that door."

"Teleportation magic would come in handy right about now," included Thorvald.

"So are we going to work on the assumption that some sort of nefarious spell-caster is on the other side of that door?" I asked the group.

"It is the safest course of action," Glaf chimed.

"If this cavern did not glow so brightly, I could sneak into the other room and take a look," I stated confidently.

"The spell will dissipate soon enough," replied Glaf.

"Does anyone have any better suggestions?" Gudrid asked the group.

"It sounds like that is our plan," asserted Glaf.

"Just to make sure everyone understands what is going to happen," I began. "Let us all get close to the door. Those of you with weapons, get towards the front. I will sneak into the room and look around. If I call out, come quickly. There will probably be a few armed with bows, by looking at the corpses around the door. I want you all to be aware of this point. Once I have all the information I can gather, I will sneak back here. Are you all clear on the plan?"

The adventurers nod in agreement.

"Jean, you have been awfully quiet in our discussions," asserted Glaf. "Are you okay?"

"My current state of undress is making me very uncomfortable," replied the paladin. "I would very much like some clothing. Unfortunately, that is all I can think about right now."

"Do not worry baby," I consoled. "I will take care of you."

Thorvald and Glaf mumbled something. They probably doubted my powers. However, I was hoping that this distraction would not continue once the arrows started flying. We needed Jean.

While the light was still good, I easily picked the lock of the door. I found the claws quite handy in this regard. We just had to wait for the room to go dark, and let my eyes adjust to the darkness. Once this happened I snuck into the room.

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 4: The Dead Adventurer

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Our little group came to a consensus, even without Jean. We decided that I would attempt to enter the next cavern unnoticed and have a look around. It was going to be tricky, but I am talking about myself, so it really was going to be easy.

When I entered the next cavern, it was dark. However, in the shadows I saw a few creatures. I let my eyes adjust to the darkness to better identify who or what was in this section of the mine. It was another largish mine cavern room with a well in the middle. There was a mine door blocking a tunnel on the far side of the room. I counted twelve orcs. Three of the orcs had bows as weapons and the others had swords. I did not see any magic users. There were just monsters in the mine room. It would be a tough fight armed as we were.

I snuck out of the room back to the original cavern. I explained the situation. I gave our group a complete description of the room. I also described what creatures were on the other side of our door and how they were armed. We needed a plan to take care of the well-armed creatures on the other side of the door. Naturally, I proposed a plan. I would open the door and have Glaf toss a fireball into the room. Before the fireball erupted, I would close the door.

It was agreed, and Glaf and I executed it perfectly. Once the heat from the door dissipated enough, I entered the room. I looked around and discovered that my plan had worked to perfection. There were no living creatures in the room. I went through and collected weapons. Everyone was now armed. Glaf and I had bows, and the rest had a sword of some sort. We did not have any armor, but we could defend ourselves.

Without any armor, our paladin was still uncomfortable. She was not going to be herself until we could find her some clothes to wear. With that in mind, I made a sweep of the room, and found a few items in the nooks and crannies, but nothing of particular interest. In the center of the cavern, I noticed there was an adventurer at the bottom of the well. For a corpse, he looked good.

The well was deep and dark. It would take someone of remarkable dexterity to climb out of the well. Naturally, I was a perfect candidate for the job. Jean needed some clothes, and the man at the bottom could provide them. For Jean, I decided to risk being trapped down there to see if he any of his items were useful.

I climbed down into the well, and examined the good-looking dead adventurer. It was odd, as he was the best-looking corpse I had ever seen. I examined his armor, and discovered that it was enchanted. It made an attractive person more attractive. If I wore the thing, I would be unbelievable! However, it was bulky and uncomfortable. I could barely move in the thing.

I found the man's journal, and I read of his last days. He wrote:

   "I do not have much time left.  I have been trapped at the
bottom of this well for days.  I thought I would be able to
climb out of this well, but it is not to be.  It is just too
difficult.
   "On the good side, the armor I found here makes me look
good.  I mean, I look REALLY good, and I will wear it until
my death.  I can hardly keep from looking at my reflection
in the water.  It will help me live up to my motto:
**Live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse.**
Even when I die, I will look nice with this fashionable armor.
   "That brings me to these mines.  I wonder what had
happened.  I woke up with nothing.  All my possessions were
missing when I arrived in these mines.  I could have used
some weapons when I fought my way to this room.  I saw this
armor in this well, and I had to have it.  This armor has
been my downfall.  I cannot get over how good I look in it.
   "I think I should have been leery of that wizard's offer.
What was I thinking?  I could have used some help clearing
out these mines.  Why did I try this on my own?  My
possessions would be useful right about now.  I hope no
one takes my armor..."

I apologized to the adventurer, but Jean needed the armor. It might affect her mobility, but at least her head would be with us. Furthermore, she would look stunning in this armor. It is too bad she is a lizard right now.

I hoped the added weight would not be a problem climbing out of the well. I briefly wondered if the adventurer could have made it out if he took the armor off. Sometimes these thoughts come to my mind.

I gave the adventurers journal to our cleric. I thought he would want to say a few words over our deceased comrade. We had a brief service for the fallen adventurer, and it was nice and somber.

Afterward, I gave the armor to Jean. She was happy to receive the uncomfortable armor to cover her. Once again, there was gratefulness in her eyes. However, it was still not the place for her to express her gratitude. Her smile was irresistible, so I gave her the adventures great sword. Engraved on the hilt was the name meurtrier de orceller. According to the knowledgeable sorcerer, it meant 'Orc Slayer'.

I wondered how that sword got here. Did some adventurers keep their equipment? Perhaps the magic-user taking adventurer's equipment and turning them into monsters is not always around. Perhaps we were unlucky in this regard. In Jean's capable hands, that sword would be extremely useful in a mine full of orcs.

Nevertheless, we had to move on. There would be plenty of time to think about these things later. They will probably come to mind just before Jean wants to thank me completely. The plan was going to be the same as the last door. I would sneak in and check the place out. It was going to be a long trip out of these mines.

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 5: Orcs Carry Little Treasure

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Jean Dark was a little more comfortable wearing her new armor despite it pinching and rubbing in various places. She liked the fact that she was no longer naked. She did look good in it despite her being a lizard -- woman. Further, despite her altered appearance, I knew she wanted me. However, our lizard appearance and physiology were making physical manifestation of that desire difficult.

Be that as it may, we were making our way through these mines. We were looking for the wizard who transformed us to lizard people. I hoped that we could find this individual before long and retrieve our things. We would have to make due with the weapons we have scrounged. Jean had the 'Orc Slayer' that I gave her. This helped our situation greatly.

We were deep in these mines, and there were many creatures lurking in the shadows. As we explored the caverns, we tried to fulfill Nebrion's quest. That is, with each orc and monster killed, there was one less monster that could terrorize the city. Thus, our actions helped aid the city.

This portion of the quest was not important to me, as I was in it for the treasure. Thus, I quickly noticed that orcs carry little treasure. With each monster, I gathered in some more arrows, but not much else. Occasionally, an orc chieftain would have something special. Mostly, they just had little trinkets with almost no value. Every now and then, we would encounter an orc shaman who would have scrolls that our sorcerer, Glaf Hellion, could use. However, mostly we would gather a gold piece here, a gold ring there...

What upset me most about the situation was that I had to lead the way. At various places, there were traps. None of the others had the talent and skill to spot these. Thus, it was my job to make sure the way was clear.

In addition, I had to scout out orc locations and numbers. Thus, I was doing valuable reconnaissance work. This allowed our fighters to have a chance against the monsters. After each encounter, each member of the team would search the corpses for treasure.

Naturally, I did not complain about doing most of the work and not getting most of the reward. That is, what reward was to be found. I am not that type of person. I just did my job keeping everyone safe. Even though I did not join the group for some grandiose goal of helping people, I kept my displeasure to myself. I never mentioned my lack of reward to the team.

Nevertheless, I am here to tell the story of our adventure rather than discuss how unfairly the party treated me in the mines.

While deep in the mines, I did discover the living quarters of some of the orcs. We found a few trinkets in these small huts. To me it seemed that these were rewards for some action on their part. Orcs do not generally pillage corpses. They eat them sure, but they do not rob them of treasure. Thus, why would they have adventurer items?

From the adventurer items, we managed to armor many of our party. These items I graciously gave to the other members the items that I purloined from these huts. In fact, I obtained my dark armor from this area. It gave me some extra protection without compromising my sneaking skills. It was not much, but it was something.

We encountered several groups of orcs while trying to extricate ourselves from the mines. I judiciously used my arrows since my supply was spotty. I would take some arrows from corpses and occasionally from bow wielding orcs. Every now and again, I would retrieve some of my own arrows from dead orcs. This would not happen often, as they would be difficult to retrieve.

The mines were dank and dark. There was danger at every turn, and we worked our way through the tunnels. We cleaned out tunnel after tunnel from the monsters that may have been plaguing the town. We wound our way upward towards the exit of the mines. At least, I hoped that was what we were doing.

We wandered the mines for quite a long time. It could have been days. I just kept pressing us onward. Many orcs lost their lives as we wound our way out. Eventually, we found ourselves at a sturdy wooden door. I noticed a small light emanating from the other side of the door. Perhaps we were at the end of our journey.

We took our normal precautions. This means that I snuck into the room and looked around. This was a little more difficult as the room glowed. Glowing pits of molten lava surrounded the orcish dungeon. Clearly, much suffering had occurred in that room. However, I managed to stay in the shadows and was not spotted by the orcs that were guarding the room.

It appeared that we would not be free yet. We were going to have to fight our way through an orcish dungeon. There would be various well-armed creatures. With orcs, it is difficult to predict what type of thing goes on in their dungeons. We were going to have to fight our way out of this dungeon.

There was trouble too. I tried to return to our party, but it would not let me back through. I could not open the door behind me. Therefore, I had to wait and hope the team would figure out what had happened.

After what seemed like hours, the rest of the group joined me in the dungeon. It did make sense that prisoners should not be able to find their way into the mines. Thus, they had a one-way door at this point.

When the party joined me, they were ready to fight. Thus, we continued our battle with the monsters who had been plaguing Nebrion and the city.

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 6: Prisoner Paul and the Mutants

By Douglas E. Gogerty

At first, it appeared that this orcish dungeon would be like all other dungeons. There were orcish guards doing what guards do. Thus, we had skirmishes with groups of guards. Needless to say, these orcs were surprised to see us, but they did not have a lot of time to consider it because they were soon dead. Jean and her orc-slayer made quick work of the guards with which we came in contact.

Gudrid, the ranger in our group, was getting a little anxious to leave the confines of interior spaces. Thus, we pressed on as best we could. As you may expect, there were several locked doors in this dungeon. Further, several of them had magical locks that I was unable to open. If we were going to get out of this dungeon, we were going to need a key. This did not sit well with Gudrid, but those were the facts.

Gudrid started trying every door we came across. That is when she discovered "it." The rest of us were just mopping up some guards and securing any treasure when we heard her give a blood-curdling scream. Glaf nearly fainted dead away at the sound, but managed to stagger to where the scream had emanated.

There stood Gudrid trembling at the sight of this -- thing. It was some fleshy-headed mutant. It stood at least 10 feet tall, and had two ghastly heads. One fleshy head was featureless, but had eyes that looked like two oranges stretching through a woman's silk stocking. The other head was bald and eyeless. It is difficult to describe, but it looked somewhat like a green turkey vulture's head. This second head appeared to emanate from the shoulder of the other's body.

At the juncture of this, protruded a single limb of some kind. On the end of this limb was a metal hook, which was remarkable agility. Clearly, it fed itself by hooking its food with this appendage and bringing it to one of its heads.

This creature had three more arm-like appendages. One of these arms stuck out the back of the creature and the other two hung by its sides. A ghastly talon with razor sharp claws terminated each arm. These claws would be dangerous if the beast could lower them enough to hit a human.

He was an awkward and unwieldy beast with no coordination. It had but two legs and was somewhat unsteady on those. It shuffled slowly towards our party and gave a most unsettling screech from one head while the other gave a low gurgling moan.

My description does no justice to the horror of the beast. Its smell alone would freeze any man in his tracks. However, after a few moments of hesitation, Jean jumped to action and relieved the monster of its burden of life. While it was a terrifying site, its appearance was much more frightening that its defenses and the huge beast toppled over with a thud.

"There are sinister forces at work here," declared our Paladin Jean.

"I have never seen an abomination like that," sobbed Gudrid.

"It is like some scientific experiment to put two bodies together and create a better fighting monster," added the sorcerer Glaf.

"It looks like a failed experiment," added Thorvald. "It had a terrifying look, but it had little skill in fighting."

"The smell of rotting flesh and chemicals may indicate that it is not truly dead," theorized Glaf. "We may have wounded it, but not mortally. It may be able to regenerate its vital body parts. I suggest we move on."

We agreed, and left the poor creature locked in the room that we found it. Gudrid and Thorvald said some words over the creature, and we continued our search for a way out of the dungeon.

With all of the things we had killed in this dungeon, not one had a key that we could use to open some vital passageways. It was beginning to look like we were trapped. That is, until I made a surprising discovery. I was checking every door, and I opened one particular door that appeared to be a cleaner's closet. There was a mop and bucket, broom, and some other cleaning supplies. I thought it was odd, so I investigated further.

On the floor of the tiny room, was a rug. That in itself is not unusual, but it struck me as odd. Thus, I pulled back one corner of the rug back, and it revealed a small trap door. When I reached into the compartment, my hand tingled and I felt something. With my lightning reflexes, I pulled my hand out without any damage.

Naturally, I was curious. Thus, I put my hand back into the compartment and there was a key in there. I felt the same tingling sensation as I pulled out the key. Again, there was a key in the compartment. Perhaps this compartment magically provided one with his or her deepest desires.

I cleared my mind and concentrated on producing something valuable. I have always wanted a 500-carat diamond, so I concentrated on that. Unfortunately, the compartment only produced keys. After a several unsuccessful attempts, each member of our party reached in the compartment and produced keys.

I hoped one of these keys would open previously unlocked corridors, and we were quite fortunate in this regard. It unlocked the first door we tried, and it led into a block of cells. Naturally, it was guarded, and we had to take care of some orcs. As usual, they were no match for our crew.

While most of the cells were empty, one cell had about a five naked people inside. I opened the cell, and it appeared that the prisoners were going to fight me. That is when I remembered that I still appeared as lizard person.

"Relax," I said. "My appearance is due to a spell. I am here to release you."

"Thanks friend," replied a prisoner representative. "My name is Paul, and this is my group of adventurers."

"Greetings Paul," I returned. "You may go free."

"As you can see friend, we are in no shape to go traipsing around this dungeon. We will wait."

"That is fair enough. Here is the rest of my group. This is Glaf, Gudrid, Thorvald, and Jean."

"Were you sent by that wizard Nebrion?"

"We were."

"I figured as much," replied Paul. "You look very much like we did several months ago."

"Have you seen any magic user who may be responsible for our plight?"

"I blame Nebrion, although I have no proof. There is some magic user lurking about but I have not seen him or her. They have asked our orcish guards to retrieve some of the other prisoners."

"Do you know what they are doing to those prisoners?"

"As far as I can tell, they are doing experiments. I think they have created various monsters. They have definitely created some undead. I have seen some zombies that resemble some of the prisoners that were in this cell block."

"You should be safe now."

"Do you have any items you would like to unload?"

"Do you have gold?"

"Well, Tonya is an excellent pick-pocket. She has been stealing gold from our orcish captors for quite some time. We have collected a large store which we are keeping in our escape tunnel."

We sold some of the items we had picked up along the way. It was a shame to put some clothes on Tonya, but she was glad to cover her nudity. We sold them armor and weapons. They were grateful for the items, and we were glad to rid our excess in exchange for some gold.

They were going to stay in the cells to make sure the coast was clear. We decided to rest in the cell. Tonya and I had a nice conversation before I took some well-earned sleep. After a good long rest, we parted company with Paul the prisoner and his group. We pressed on to get out of the dungeon.

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 7: The Battle for the Armory and the Mechanical Monsters

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Gudrid, the ranger of the party was getting anxious to get out of the dungeon, so she was now leading the way. Traps? That is why we have a healer with us. At times, it was difficult to keep up with her. Nevertheless, we pressed on slaying orcs and other abominations.

Eventually, we came to a room with some stairs leading upward. However, an enormous mechanical monster guarded these stairs. Like one of the previous abominations we fought, it was at least 10 feet tall; however, unlike that beast, this monster could fight. He was quick and agile, as far as mechanical creatures go. Naturally, he was not as quick as I am.

One of the problems with fighting this golem was that my arrows were useless against it. I used my quickness and agility to distract the monster, while the others hacked away at its metal shell. Eventually, we managed to disrupt its circuits and immobilized it. Therefore, we were going to move up.

Gudrid ran up the stairs and through the door before I finished searching the room. The others followed her, but I finished my searching before continuing. When I made my appearance, they had already killed the zombies and abominations at the room at the top of the stairs.

The group was consoling Gudrid, as we were in another dungeon level. She was going to rush on, but the group convinced her to rest. Those brainy types sure need their rest. Therefore, I kept guard as the rest took a nap.

To while away the hours as they slept, I took an inventory of our gear. They accused me a snooping when informed them of the results of my study. Be that as it may, we were running out of projectiles. Some of the orcs carried arrows, but the zombies and abominations did not. Thus, we were beginning to use our arrows up. We needed to find the armory.

We now had conflicting interests among party members. Gudrid and her lackey Glaf wanted out of the dungeon; whereas, others needed weapon replenishment. Luckily for them, we stumbled upon the armory before it became a problem. However, unluckily, the armory was full of orcs.

There must have been 100 orcs in this room. When combat began, arrows were flying from all directions. I darted to a corner and concentrated my efforts on the bow-armed orcs. Thus, I provided a bit of cover for Jean and Gudrid as they hacked and chopped at various orcs.

Glaf found a spot where he could hide. Occasionally, he would come out of his hiding spot to throw a magic spell. Mostly, he would magic missile an orc that I had just killed.

Thorvald attempted to flank the orcs. He made his way around the left side of the room, and began attacking the orcs from the side. Thus, following his lead, I made my way around the right side of the room. Thus, we had the orcs in our crossfire as well as a frontal attack.

Gudrid and Jean were gradually making their way through the long column of orcs, but they were also taking damage. It is amazing how tough the young women were, but they would not be able to continue much longer without aid.

Thus, we put into practice our plan of assistance. Glaf conjured up an awful smelling cloud. I get nauseous just thinking about the concoction of his. Nevertheless, it is amazing as long as only engulfs the enemy. This provided enough cover and distraction to allow our cleric Thorvald to do his thing.

Thorvald did his "laying on of hands" thing, and Gudrid and Jean were back to full strength. Once they had full health; we returned to our positions and continued the battle.

Jean and Gudrid were creating a hallway where dead orcs lined the sides. Thorvald and I were beginning to make headway with the orcs firing arrows. Our crossfire was working as intended, but the orc armor and even their skin was quite tough. Thus, it took several arrows to kill them, and as I stated earlier, we were running out of arrows.

I was down to my last 10 arrows, when Gudrid and Jean reached the group of orcs using bows. These orcs did not have any close-order combat weapons, so Jean's orc-slayer sword, made quick work of them.

I had run out of arrows before the last orc was killed; therefore, I began searching before the battle was over. This upset some party members, but what was I to do? I managed to find the dungeon stockpile of arrows and other projectiles. I would have rejoined the battle, but it was over by that time.

We did a full search and fully armed ourselves. With the bow wielding orcs and the cache of arrows, I had more than enough now. Moreover, Thorvald had an ample supply. In addition, because it was an armory, the swords could be repaired and sharpened. It was such an important place to find, that Gudrid forgot her anxiousness.

However, I became anxious to leave this room. Since it was an armory, it was not a place to hang around. Others would come and look for weapons; thus, it was not a place to rest. It was quite an exhausting battle, but we would need to find a better place to rest.

Therefore, we pressed on. We fought more zombies and hideous creatures. With the ease that we worked our way through these monsters, I wondered if they were the battle-rejects. They were frightening, but were slow and not combat worthy. I felt that we were doing them a favor by relieving them of their burden of animation.

After several rooms and corridors, we once again found ourselves at the bottom of some stairs. Like the previous stairs, a mechanical monster guarded them. However, this one appeared to be larger and more formidable. In any event, our tactic was the same. I distracted the monster while the rest hacked at it.

They took their sweet time disabling this beast. I was dodging and running from it for what seemed like hours. I did a tuck and tumble here, and a jump and dodge there while the others chopped at its metal skin. Finally, when I was nearly exhausted they disabled the creature.

Someone else had to keep watch this time, as I was asleep moments after the golem hit the floor. I did not even search the room before resting that is how tired I was.

After a good rest, I searched the room but did not find anything. The rest of the group must have already searched the place. Those rats did my job. I forgave them for their actions and sat down next to Jean who was guarding us. She looked tired, so I told her that I would watch while she rested.

Once everyone was well rested, we gathered our things to continue out of the dungeon. What would we find at the top of the stairs? Would it be more dungeon? Would we have to fight more orcs? There was only one way to find out. Thus, we climbed the stairs and walked through the door at the top.

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 8: Castle Cleaning Service

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Perhaps it was the pessimist in me, but I knew we were not going to emerge outside. Every dungeon has its castle. Thus, as we emerged from the dungeons, I was not surprised to find myself in a castle.

At this point, we had to make a decision. It was a castle of unknown size, but we were on a mission. We were sent to fulfill Nebrion's quest. That is, we were sent to eliminate some monsters that were pestering the town. If we left the monsters in this castle unmolested, we were shirking our duty. Thus, we voted on whether to clean out the castle, or search for the exit and leave.

Against my wishes, the group decided that we should fulfill our quest and eliminate the monsters in the castle. Since orcs do not carry much treasure, it was not going to be a profitable task. After all we have been through, I did not expect Nebrion to be true to his word and pay us handsomely. I have the feeling that he does not expect us to get back. Thus, accomplishing his quest is a waste of our time.

However, the do-gooders in the party felt that it was best to help the town. They had some altruistic motive to help the town for no reward. Since Jean was the primary representative for this point of view, I guess I could go along with her. She owed me quite a bit, and this was going to cement the deal.

Naturally, this meant that we needed to go from room to room and take care of any creatures in that room. It also meant that we had to look out for traps and needed someone to unlock doors. That is right; it meant that I had to lead the way. Sometimes, I cannot believe how much of a sucker I am.

The master or mistress of this castle is an interesting person. The first room we came to was a kennel of sorts. It was a regular room within the castle where there were many varieties of dogs. However, there were also wolves, direwolves, werewolves, and other varieties of canine monstrosities.

Gudrid felt sorry for the beasts being cooped up inside as they were. Thus, the pangs of guilt she may have felt for killing them were eased. She did get a few to fight on our side for a while, but the fight with their kin was too much for them. In the end, all of the beasts were put down.

Aside from the beasts, we also encountered some humans. Some bandits had taken up residency in a few of the rooms. They were a bit surprised to see us. I guess not everyday you find lizards in armor wandering through a castle. Moreover, we were excellent fighters and made quick work of them.

Personally, I like fighting bandits. Bandits like treasure, and there was plenty to be had from these groups. I was feeling less put upon with the trinkets I was collecting off these bandits. Gudrid was also less anxious. Perhaps she could see that we would be outside before long, and her spirits had picked up. Then again, perhaps it was just the dogs.

Apparently, all of the experimenting was happening in the dungeon. We did not have to fight any zombies or any type of abomination in the castle proper. In fact, we did not fight any orcs either. Apparently, the comfort of the surface was too much for orcs. Perhaps that is why some bandits infiltrated the castle.

We went through the castle room by room. In each room, we would take care of any occupants of that room. The castle was becoming free of all life. One room was infested with spiders and we took care of them. Naturally, these were not your ordinary bug eating spiders. These were huge man-eaters. In fact, a few bandits had fallen victim to these enormous arachnids.

Furthermore, rats had taken over the kitchen. Some of these rats were as big as dogs. There must have been plenty for them to eat. They probably would not have left the castle and terrorized the town, but it was a good deed to exterminate them.

We were a regular castle cleaning service. There was no pest too big or too small. We will take care of all of your problem vermin. Of course, they would need someone to clean up after us. We left the bodies where they died. This castle was going to smell something awful in a couple of days.

We were about to finish off the castle when we encountered them. There was a largish room down the hall from the kitchen. If this were a functioning castle, it would be the chief butler's quarters. It was off the main thoroughfare, but it had access to the entire house. This group had put there nest there.

When I opened the door, I was surprised to find lizard people. There was about a dozen nesting in this room designed for one. There was a slight shock and hesitation as the two groups of lizard people stared at each other. A moment later, Jean was in their midst swinging her orc slayer. Luckily for us, we could tell the difference between the groups. We were the ones wearing armor. They used their spears to great effect, but we did make quick work of them.

According to Gudrid, lizard people nest in warm spots close to food. The butler's room was on the south end of the castle, and it was quite warm. As for their choice of food, it was the rats. They were not like the iguanas I have read about that grow large by eating leaves, fruits, and vegetables. These were carnivorous.

We made our second run through the castle to make sure we had taken care of everything. While rats formerly overrode the kitchen, there was still plenty of unspoiled food there. Thus, we ate well that night and gathered plenty of provisions for our trip back to town.

Further, I got some alone time. I found an empty bedroom and claimed it for my own. What the others did was none of my concern. I would have liked it if Jean would have joined me, but I was tired. In addition, I am not very familiar with the female lizard anatomy. It may have been awkward if she had joined me.

We all had a good rest. In the morning, we ate another big meal and began our journey back to town. I sure hope someone knows which direction we should head, because I had no idea where we were.

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 9: Gypsies, Were-cats, and Bears - Oh my!

By Douglas E. Gogerty

We were now outside. We were in the elements. The ranger in our party was quite happy now. I guess if she is happy, that is better for all of us. However, since we are now outside, we have a completely different set of problems. For instance, where do we go if it starts to rain? Gudrid may be happy sleeping in a puddle of water, but I would rather have a nice warm bed with a roof over it.

Not only that, but with four walls, you can be aware of your security when you rest. Out in the open, someone must keep watch. The spell casters need their rest to be able to concentrate when the time comes. That means that I always have a shift at the watch. Let me tell you, there is no money in that. Of course, I do not sleep that much anyway, but it is the principle of the thing.

Another thing about being outside is the change of encounters. I guess that is a good thing. I think I had my fill with orcs, abomination, and the like. However, now we can be walking along and a 14-foot tall grizzly bear will charge us. That changes your perspective in a hurry.

When we left the castle, we entered a pleasant forest glen. I do not know why someone named this forest 'Glen' but they did. It must have been some sort of lineman for the county.

It was good to see the sun again. A band of gypsy bandits halted our pleasant walk. Let me tell you, they were a grumpy bunch. We had just fought our way out of the mines, dungeon, and castle starting without weaponry, and now we faced some bandits who wanted all our things. Not to mention, we looked like lizard people.

This did not sit well with Jean. Paladins are like that. With her pleasant little lizard female roar, she cut through those bandits like a warm knife through rendered pork fat. Before Glaf could yell "Saleenus Salatt Ska" and bring down an ice storm, she had finished them off. Naturally, the ice storm came anyway.

I found out why these bandits were so desperate. They had nothing. They did not have a single gold piece with them. All they had were a few scraps of food. They should have packed up and left a long time ago. Dieing is not much of a way to make a living. Now they are going to feed the wolves.

After we took care of the gypsies, we continued our journey towards the town. We found a hidden trail and followed it. It led up a steep slope not far from the gypsy camp. After a short walk, we found a well-secured windmill and cabin. Well, that was until I got there. The owners put a tricky lock on the door, and they placed a trap on the door. This did its jobs of keeping those bandits out, but it was no match for me.

When we got inside, we had to fend off some spiders and rats. It appeared that the residents had not been there in quite a while. Thus, I thought we should make ourselves at home. I started a fire in the stove after I killed the spider that was living in the woodpile. We ate a nice meal and discussed strategy.

No one knew where we were. Thus, we had no clue where the town was. We did not think it would be far, but which direction should we go? I said we should go north. You always go north when you are lost. As usual, I was out-voted. For some reason, I have the feeling they do not trust me.

We were going to rest up in the windmill and then be on our way in the morning. They had a nice soft bed with an animal skin blanket. Since I was always on watch, I was taking the bed. I offered to share with Jean or Gudrid, but they declined the offer.

After we broke our fast in the morning, we headed south. We walked quite a distance, and we came to an enormous lake. Unless we were going to take the docked boat, we were not going to go any farther south. Naturally, I did not tell them that I told them so. I was a grownup about it. I would never gloat about being right. I would never smile smugly and taunt them.

We did search the boat for any maps of the area. Unfortunately, we only found navigational charts. Did anyone even know the name of the town we were looking for? How did we know it was not on the navigational charts if we did not know the name of the town?

Instead of arguing with them, I searched the rest of the boat. It was loaded with some local concoctions. On this ship, they had cases of ale, wine, and other spirits. The ship could be quite the party barge. Jean forbade me to take the alcohol, but what she does not know will not hurt her. It was a mighty tasty ale.

Since south was a dead end, we had to back track. Since this trip was all for naught, I suggested we spend another night at the windmill. However, they thought more gypsies would have shown up. So, instead we headed northwest to avoid the devastated gypsy camp.

I do not know why I bother to give suggestions. They just ignore them. Perhaps some day they will learn.

We walked for quite a while, and we came upon this ring in the forest. It looked like some sort of druid temple. However, it had been taken over for some nefarious purpose. Druids would not burn trees and spread the ashes in the shape of a five-pointed star.

In the center of the star was a foul smelling cauldron. Around the bubbling pot, strangely dressed humans danced and chanted. A couple of mechanical men guarded the temple. That was another sign these people were not druids.

I snuck in to get a closer look. I did not know what they were up to, but it certainly had to be trouble. Gudrid was incensed at the desecration of a druid temple, and before we could devise a battle strategy, she was off.

As the full moon came out, it was obvious what they were doing. They were were-people. Some were cats, some were wolves, and some were other strange creatures. That is just what we needed. We needed to fight a bunch of werewolves in this forest.

We had surprise on our side, and we made quick work of them. The golems were difficult, but Gudrid ignored them and went right after the worshipers. Jean, Thorvald and I pounded on the mechanical beasts while Gudrid and Glaf fought the others.

I was longing for the windmill as clouds began to roll in. The full moon had a ring around it, and that meant it would rain soon. There was no shelter to be found. We were going to get wet. What does Gudrid see in this great outdoors? I will take a nice inn any day. If this keeps up, I might go back to the orcish dungeon. Who knows what else we will find wandering about in the woods?

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 10: Cold and Damp vs. Warm and Dry

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Damp sums it up nicely. During the night, the skies opened up and dumped buckets and buckets upon us. Everything we owned was now wet and starting a fire was going to be quite a chore even with Glaf's magic.

In the sky above, the forces of cold and damp were battling against the warm and dry. A line had been drawn in the sky, and our cold and damp clothes indicated which side we were on.

A strong chilly gust of wind, a bolt of lightning, and a clap of thunder indicated that cold and damp were going to put on a big push. How could the sunny force of the warm and dry compete with that? It looked like cold and damp was going to win the day.

We had other things to worry about besides the battle in the sky. We were lost. We were looking for a city whose name we did not know. The forest surrounded us and it seemed that we went around in circles. If we went one direction for a while and then reversed our course, we seemed to go to a different location.

Further, we would battle goblins, werecats, and other creatures on our hike. To add to our misery, Gudrid would not allow us to kill a deer for food. We were eating gristly grizzly bear instead. Some tender venison would have eased my suffering, but there was going to be none of that.

It was going to be a miserable hike, but you would not hear me complain about it. I would not let anyone in the party know of my utter discomfort. My hunger was my own little secret. I would just trudge along quietly collecting no treasure as we fought off yet another pack of winter wolves.

I was about to completely turn into a cold and damp fish-person when we were attacked by a large group of goblins. At least the activity could potentially warm me up as I jumped into action.

Before we killed all of the goblins, I smelled something. Further, I heard a distinct grunt in the distance. Normally, I would have ignored it because we were in the middle of a skirmish. However, Thorvald must have sensed them also and he ran towards the smell.

The goblins would be vanquished in a few moments anyway, so I followed him. He ducked behind a rock and spotted them. I came up behind him and saw them too. We looked quietly so we would not scare them off. Gudrid would not complain if we made a meal out of them. Moreover, they were in our path. We just had to be careful not to destroy a carcass or two. If we could manage a clean kill, we would be eating well tonight.

Just then, the forces of warm and dry made their push. The sun came out from behind the clouds and a warm breeze neutralized the chill in the air. Things had turned for the better for us. The sun thoroughly warmed me, and a pack of wild boar was waiting for us. We could be warm and dry eating a nice pork dinner by dark.

I fired a couple of crossbow bolts at the boar killing one. The rest of our party came up behind us just as the pack charged at our location. The thought of a cured ham made my mouth water as each of the wild pigs fell. I think even Jean was looking forward to roast pig at the evening meal. It was not going to be bacon, but it was still going to be delicious.

Thorvald and I cleaned a couple of carcasses and we marched on. In the morning, it seemed to me that the cold and damp had too many powerful weapons on their side. The cold wind, the rain, the thunder and lightning seemed an undefeatable combination. However, the warm and dry side just waited for the right time to bring out their most powerful weapon -- the sun.

We decided to make camp early to take advantage of the sun and dry out our things. The sun was glorious against my lizard skin. I now understood what it was like to be a lizard lying on a rock basking in the sun. Modesty may have prevented the others from stripping down, but I had no such qualm.

Jean started a fire and we began roasting the pigs on a spit. Off in the distance, I heard a cow mooing. "Perhaps we could have beef tomorrow," I thought to myself.

We sat around the fire and ate excellent barbequed pork. Most of my clothes were now dry, and I was beginning to enjoy the camping experience. It was a quiet starry night, and most of all I was dry.

However, as darkness was approaching Jean sounded a minor alarm. The cow I had heard earlier was now closer and continued to draw near. It seemed that an ox cart was being drawn towards our camp.

I snuck up close to get a close look. A lone female in a roguish costume was riding in the cart. She was quite plain, and I was sure she was not a threat. She had a look of concern on her face.

"How now," I greeted her.

"Oh! You startled me," she responded.

"What brings you towards our camp?" I asked.

"I smelt your food, and I thought..."

"You thought you would see if we would share."

"Well... Yes."

"Come on. Let us hear your story as you sup with us."

The woman drew her wagon close to our camp and dismounted. She neared the fire to warm herself. Jean cut of a bit of meat and gave it to her. The rogue hungrily gobbled down the food we provided her.

"There are not too many lizard people who would share their food with a human," she said after eating a good portion of food.

"We are not actually lizard people," responded Glaf.

"Some wizard or sorcerer has placed a spell on us," added Gudrid.

"Where are you headed?" the rogue asked.

"There is a town not far from here," replied Thorvald.

"You mean the town just north of here?" she asked.

"Why yes...," replied Glaf with some hesitation.

"Were you sent on an adventure by the wizard Nebrion?" she continued.

"Why do you ask?" I inquired before anyone could give her all of our information.

"There is something fishy about that wizard. You see, my fiancé and a group of adventurers went on one of Nebrion's adventures. I have not seen him in several months. I can only assume that the quest he was sent on was rigged."

"So you assume that we also partook in some sort of 'rigged' adventure," I stated taking control of the conversation.

"My Paul is in an experienced group of adventurers. They would not have taken an assignment that was too dangerous."

"We ran into a Paul..." started Gudrid before I could stop her.

"Was he all right?" she asked.

"If the Paul we ran into was your fiancé," I continued after I glared at Gudrid. "He was fine."

"I am so grateful for some news," she gushed. "What else can you tell me?"

"What is in it for us?" I asked.

"The town you are heading for has been under attack by many monsters. They are not about to let you walk in the front gate. In fact, they will probably be quite hostile. I know a way in."

"Continue," I prodded.

"There is a statue along the wall. Behind the statue is a large crack. If you use the statue as a boost, you should be able to get into the city from there."

"Paul was a prisoner in a dungeon of a castle just north of the big lake. He was a bit hungry, but he was fine. We armed him and some of his adventurers, and we cleared the way for him. He may still be in the castle or perhaps on his way to town."

The rogue was so happy from our news, that she planted a big wet kiss upon my lips. Her tears flowed quite freely and we gave her much assurance that the man we ran into was her husband to be.

We talked and visited well into the night. In the morning, we ate more pork and parted ways. She headed south towards the castle, and we went north towards the town.

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 11: Into the Inn and Out

By Douglas E. Gogerty

We had not walked very far when we emerged out of the forest. There it was, a ragged town surrounded by a wall. Perhaps it was the city we wanted, and perhaps not. None of us had seen it from this vantage point; however, everything pointed to this being the town where Nebrion was living.

As we approached the city wall, a bandit gang came out of nowhere and attacked us. Clearly, they were desperate because it looked as if there was no more wealth in the city. The group was gaunt, lean and ferocious; however, we were in no mood for them. We quickly and easily dispatched them.

To my surprise, after the skirmish, I smelled cooking food. Someone was stewing meat and vegetables. That could only mean one thing -- an Inn. There was still a functioning Inn near this town.

The group followed my nose, and I led them to the John St. George-Gogerty Inn. It must have been the first time they listened to me. Nevertheless, there was a quaint little inn nestled next to the exterior city wall. Moreover, it was open for business.

I rushed right in and ordered their finest ale from the barkeep. It is unusual for me to imbibe this early in the day, but it had been weeks. Further, the last ale I had was mediocre at best. I cannot comment on the taste of this ale because my palate was out of shape and turpentine would have tasted as sweet.

Once again, I had forgotten about my appearance, and the bartender did not give it a second thought. However, he began, "So you went on Nebrion's quest..."

I was a bit confused at first, but remembering my appearance I replied, "Why yes we have."

"I must say that you not the first to make it this far, but you look like you are none the worse for wear."

"Fortune has smiled upon us," I replied.

"May it continue to do so."

"Many thanks, may I ask you some questions?"

"I will do my best to answer, another ale?"

"Certainly," I replied draining the last of my first mug. "What can you tell me of Nebrion?"

"Not much. He has been quite free with the gold, but he is not one to spend it on pleasures. He has entertained some 'clients' in here. They were shady types. My guess is that he had been recruiting bandits as well as adventurers."

"Interesting..."

"He has been making a great deal of coin since the attacks on the city began. The city is in ruins, but he has a lucrative business of some sort."

"Where do you suppose he gets his wealth?"

"I cannot say, and I would not want to speculate about one of my occasional customers."

"I certainly understand. With the impending completion of the quest he has sent us on, we need to know how we could get up to see him?"

"He lives in a tower with no doors or stairs up. He sees guests by appointment only, and then brings them up himself."

"So, if we manage to get into the city, we may not be able to get up to see him."

"If you have fulfilled his quest," replied the bartender. "He would certainly let you in."

"Unless it would cost him too much," I mumbled to myself.

"What was that?" asked the bartender.

"Nothing," I responded quickly. "Who do we see about getting an appointment?"

"He has an apprentice who is in charge of such things. He lives on the first floor of the tower. Go see him."

"Thanks barkeep! The ale is fabulous."

I went over to where the group was speaking to a single adventurer. He was anxious to speak to us in private. The group asked me to accompany him to his room and find out what he wanted. They asked me because of my way with people.

We entered his room to where he could speak freely. "Are you trying to see Nebrion?" he began.

"We have business with the wizard," I replied.

"He is not expecting you."

"I should think not, but we have completed his quest."

"Has your appearance taught you nothing?"

"I am used to looking like this now. I may keep it."

"Very well, I have information to help you get in to see Nebrion."

"What kind of information?"

"I know of a way to get in to see him without making an appointment."

"What is it going to cost?"

"My sister Tanya went on one of Nebrion's adventures and I have not seen or heard from her in quite some time."

"And...?"

"I would like to see Nebrion dead. That is all I ask."

"Give me your information, and we may oblige you. However, I have information for you."

"Let us exchange."

"Very well," I agreed.

"The previous owner of Nebrion's tower had a magic rug to get her in and out of the tower. When Nebrion took over, he had no need for the rug and gave it his apprentice to destroy. This individual cut the rug into four pieces and sold the pieces. These pieces were spread across the realm. If you collect them, you can put them together and use the rug to enter his tower."

"Do we look like rug repair people?"

"Nebrion has forgotten that the repairing device remains in his tower. You just need to collect the four bundles and place them in the machine."

"Where can I find these bundles?"

"I know of one that is close, but first your news of my sister."

"If your sister is an attractive rogue traveling with a man named Paul, she is safe. We came across their party several days ago. They should be coming into town in a few days."

"Are you sure?"

"We sold the group our excess equipment, and we cleaned out the dungeon in which they were held. They were hungry, but were in good health."

"Here is a bundle," the adventurer said as he pulled a bundle from his chest. "This is a genuine piece of the rug. However, the apprentice did create a few counterfeit bundles. Unless you are good at identifying carpeting, you may collect more than four bundles. One it is rumored to be guarded by a Minotaur."

"Thank you stranger. This may be of some service."

I did not tell him that we had already collected the fragments being guarded by the Minotaur.

I reported to the rest of the group about what I had learned. They were relieved that it was indeed the correct city. It was indeed Nebrion's tower, which we could see on the other side of the wall.

I also informed them about the magic rug that would allow us entry. Thus, if we did not wish to advertise our entry, we had an alternate method of entry.

We spent a nice evening in the inn. It was going to be another night in a bed -- alone. I was beginning to look forward to returning to human form. We would explore the wall in the morning.

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 12: Nather Reynolt and the Temple of Tragedy

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The city was in bad shape, but it did have one thing going for it. All along the outer wall, there were powerful magical traps. I could not disarm them. These were likely traps set by Nebrion. If you triggered one, it could cut you into pieces. They were at least some protection for the townspeople.

Thus, we carefully made our way along the wall just outside of the range of the traps. We were looking for the statue that would allow us entry into the city. Otherwise, we would have to fight the guards to get in, and we did not wish to do this poor town any more harm.

We did have to duck some arrows fired by townspeople as we went along, but eventually we came to a statue. It was of a beautiful female warrior in full armor. At the base was the inscription, "Welcome to Monkalakaboomistan".

"That was the name of the city?" I thought to myself. "No wonder no one knew what it was..."

The trap by the statue, unlike the others, had a flaw in it. Anyone could disarm it, so I took the liberty. This allowed us to get close enough to the statue to read anything engraved upon it.

The inscription under the welcome banner described in great detail the enormous battle fought here by the founder Leela. She destroyed the orcish hoards and was protector of the city. In retrospect, it was a sad tale as the orcs were striking back.

After everyone was satisfied in reading the entire history of the city, the group climbed the back of the statue and followed me through the small breach in the wall. We were now in the city.

However, this city was constantly on the lookout for attacking creatures. If a citizen spotted us, they would attack. At the very least, they would sound the alarm and the city guards would come after us. We needed to be careful.

Near our entry point stood a large looming structure. It appeared to have withstood many attacks. Thorvald deduced from its position and architecture that it was the temple. He suggested we seek sanctuary within. We agreed and snuck our way into the temple.

Fortunately, no one saw the clumsy and obvious lizard people enter the temple. However, once inside a cleric spotted us and yelled, "Be gone reptilians! There is nothing here for you!"

"May peace be with you," replied Thorvald. "I am the most revered cleric Thorvald Larsenski of the Cygnus Clan. These are my compatriots. We mean no harm."

"Your response is surprising," he said with obvious astonishment in his voice.

"You will find us most surprising," I replied.

"We are adventures under a powerful spell," added Thorvald. "We seek a cure."

"It is powerful magic indeed; however, I do not believe this temple can be of any service."

"Why not?" implored Jean.

"Sorry milady," started the cleric with a slight bow. "I am Nather Reynolt, and I am the sworn protector of this temple. All of the clerics, apostates, healers, visiting pilgrims, and individuals of that sort have gone. I am all that is left. I have no power over such curses."

"What can you tell us of the wizard Nebrion?" enquired Glaf.

"Nebrion is the sworn protector of our fair city -- so he says."

"Do you not believe him?" asked Gudrid.

"My belief is of no import. I am the protector of the Temple of the Healing Waters and Chief Cleric of the Protecting Arts here. External politics is not my realm."

"What *can* you tell us of Nebrion?" I prodded.

"Adventurers have come from far and wide to aid our city. Not one has been successful, but Nebrion has grown wealthy. The town is in ruins and few visit the temple. Study in the temple has ceased as the town further decays. Yet, Nebrion does not do anything but grow fat."

"He has a protective shield around the town walls," defended Glaf.

"Yet you, a group of reptilian looking individuals managed to thwart his defenses without so much as a scratch. No, Nebrion's main concern are his own and not the town in general."

"Thank you for the information." Thorvald said. "Is there anything we can do for you to show our thanks?" I tried to shush Thorvald as those words came out of his mouth, but I was unsuccessful.

"The temple has been invaded by numerous unsavory types. If you could ask them to leave, I would greatly appreciate it."

"What *kind* of unsavory types?" I asked because these cleric types like to leave out lots of details.

"There is a large band of orcs in the front hall that are preparing for an assault on the town. I would like them to go back to their home peacefully."

"Is that all?" I muttered under my breath. "Anyone else?"

"We are often plagued with large numbers of curst beings. If you could explain to them that until the temple is back in order, there will be no help for them. If you could do that it would be most kind of you. Otherwise if you could get them to try another place, it would be of a great help to me."

"Is there anything *else* you would like from us? Perhaps the crown jewels of Maplevania..." I suggested without an ounce of sarcasm in my voice.

"I can think of nothing. Please help yourself to the healing waters from our fountain."

"Thank you for your kindness," replied Thorvald.

"Oh!" Nather added. "The fountain waters attract many Water Elementals, they do not like interlopers interrupting their baths, take care not to disturb them. The baths are right next to the fountain room."

"If we are attacked are we allowed to fight back?" asked Gudrid.

"By all means," replied Nather. "The entire flock has left the temple. I am the only true believer here, so everything and everyone else is fair game. There are rats in the kitchen and perhaps some spiders here and there. You may dispense of them at your whim. If anything attacks, you may defend yourselves and that includes the Elementals."

"And..." I muttered.

"Oh, and once you have cleared the temple and head out to Nebrion's tower, please take care not to harm our citizenry. They have suffered greatly and they may attack you on sight because of your reptilian attributes."

"Are you sure you are not forgetting anything?" I asked attempting to hide my distaste for his long windedness.

"Let me think. Healing waters... Beware of bathing elementals... Rats and spiders... Do not harm citizens outside of temple... Did I tell you to enjoy your stay in our fair city?"

"No," answered Thorvald.

"Well then," Nather replied. "Enjoy your stay in our fair city!"

After speaking with Nather, we gathered to discuss our next move. I suggested that we partake in the healing waters and leave. We did not owe Nather that much for his help, and cleaning out this large temple from all of the riff raff would be way overdoing it in giving him thanks.

Naturally, they decided not to take my advice. They wanted to help the town more and make sure they had a safe temple to visit. Further, if there were orcs here it would be part of our quest to eliminate them. Thus, it looked like we were going to spend the day cleaning out this temple of tragedy.

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 13: Water, Water Elementals Everywhere...

By Douglas E. Gogerty

I held out small hope that the healing waters would remove our reptilian forms, so I suggested that we first look for the fountain. Further, if we did run into any ruffians after we found the fountain, we could return readily to partake of the healing water. In my astonishment, the group agreed with me.

The only issue is that we did not know where the fountain could be located. We dare not ask the talkative Nather, so naturally when I suggested a direction, we went the opposite way.

We were standing in a main room in the temple. It was a very large room on the south side. A wall emanating from the north end divided a third of this room. Most of the rooms were secured behind wooden doors. In the northwest corner of this main room was an open passageway. We headed this direction. There was no need to follow the splashing sounds I heard to the southwest.

They asked me to go and scout it out. I refused. If they were going to continue to disregard my input, I was not going to stick my neck out for them. If my only value was the ability to sneak into places, then I was done. I have a full compliment of skills that were not being used to their full potential, and I was tired of having my input ignored.

They apologized and explained that they wanted to explore all of the open areas before they started opening doors. I asked, "What happened to the whole 'find the fountain first' strategy?"

They made up some story about believing the fountain to be out in the open. To me, that made no sense. If the temple guardians had a valuable resource, they would put it behind a lockable door and perhaps guard it if circumstance allowed. You do not set your valuables out so that anyone could take them. Apparently, they have not paid any attention to what I have been doing on this quest.

I still refused to scout the corridor, so Jean rushed headlong down the hall. Her battle cry and the clash of sword on armor indicated that we should come to her aid. The remaining group rushed down the hall to find Jean surrounded by several cursed beings.

Instantly, we jumped into action to aid her. I let loose bolt after bolt from my crossbow. I fired as fast as I could because there were dozens of cursed joining the fight.

Glaf unleashed several magic spells and Gudrid jumped to Jean's side with her sword. As best he could, Thorvald fought the monsters and gave aid to the battling females. We had a tough fight on our hands.

The cursed warriors seemed to come out of the woodwork. When one would fall, it seemed like two had taken its place. Jean's sword would inflict a wound on one and she wound up striking another moments later.

Gudrid swung her sword at a frantic pace. She hacked and slashed at the beast as she worked her way to Jean's side. She used her shield to push the beasts aside and they would fall back to be hit with a sword or with one of my bolts.

These beasts often inflict fear upon their combatants, but we stayed strong. Thorvald ran off into a corner a few times when fear overcame him, but we did our best to keep the cursed away from him. Eventually he would gather up his courage and rejoin the fray.

I ran from position to position reloading my crossbow and firing. I would let loose arrows from different directions around the melee. I would take out a cursed warrior here and a cursed mage there. They never got close enough to frighten me.

The smell was atrocious. The rotting flesh of the cursed combatants was strong, but when they were mortally injured, they would release a malodorous gas from their wound. This gas stung the eyes and it was being released in great quantities around the room.

The melee seemed to end as quickly as it had started. Around the room, the corpses were releasing their gasses and vanishing. The room reeked of sulfur. Thorvald had used all of his healing power to keep Gudrid and Jean fighting. In addition, he had a few injuries he sustained by being so close to the combat. Further, Jean was poisoned in the battle and Gudrid was badly injured. On the other hand, I did not have a scratch on me.

It was at this point that they listened to my advice. They followed me as I followed the sound of the water. The sound seemed to be coming from behind two doors. I let Glaf choose the door.

I opened the door to find a tiled room with a large L-shaped pool in the center. It was decorated with urns and plants. It had a finely marbled floor and frescos on the walls. Gudrid rushed in to drink the water.

I shouted, "No, this is not...", but I was too late.

The water elementals sprang from the pools to attack. They were not pleased with Gudrid disturbing their bath. I rushed in and pulled Gudrid out. I pushed the entire party out of the door and closed it behind me. I took the full brunt of the attack and saved the party from certain annihilation.

I did not know if the door would hold back the irate elementals, so I opened the next door and ushered everyone inside. This room had a bubbling fountain in the center. Like the other room, it had a marble tiled floor, but it was otherwise unadorned. I instructed everyone to drink of the waters from the fountain and quickly.

I felt a tingle throughout my body and could hear the hum as the waters did their magic. While we were all still reptilian - to my dismay - the party looked as if it were fully restored. Even Jean's poison was removed from her system. It was none too soon, as the water elementals stormed into the room.

The elementals give the temple's fountain its healing property. However, they do not like to be disturbed by humans or other creatures. Thus, they send their minions to fight when they are disturbed. These water elementals are impossible to harm without magic of some sort.

Jean's orc-slayer sword had no effect upon them. She had a short sword of shocking which she used because it had some effect upon the elementals. Glaf had used many of his spells in the last bout so he had little magic left. Gudrid's sword had some magical properties, but these creatures were tough. It looked like we would be in for another tough battle. Luckily, the fountain was right there, thus if we were badly injured we could drink and be healed.

We fought the elementals for quite a long time, but we managed to stay alive and defeat them. I do not know about the rest of the group, but I had more than my fill of water. I needed to find a large chamber pot or some other large vessel. The healing waters had run their course and wanted to continue their cycle.

I was not the only one in this situation, and I reasoned that the goal of this mini-quest would not be far. Using my keen senses, I found the location of the privies. To be honest, I found the sign for them. They had separate ones for males and females, and we each entered our prospective rooms. That is to say, the women would not let me join them.

Once that emergency was resolved, we decided to leave further exploration of the temple until the next day. We had fought two difficult groups and we were all exhausted. We thought of asking Nather where we could sleep, but we decided it was best just to claim a spot and rest.

I took first watch because I was certain that I would need to alleviate myself of some excess water in a few hours anyway. We found some benches along the center wall of the main room, and camped out.

It was an uneventful night despite the many trips to the four-holer by the group members. That healing water runs right through you sometimes.

When everyone had as much rest as they needed, we broke our fast with some of our remaining provisions. We finally consumed the last of the salted pork. It was an excellent pig, but it was now all gone.

After breakfast, we went looking for the orcs. They actually took my advice on directions, and I led the party right to them. After all, orcs are easy to smell, and with a little intuition, you can determine where they are staying.

The orcs were gathered in a large room in the center of the temple. It had no windows and it had only one door. It was a dark and musty room exactly to the liking of the orcs. They looked to be waiting for some sort of signal to make their attack, and they were quite restless.

They were not restless for long, as we rushed into the room and made quick work of their hoard. Jean's orc-slayer sword sang as each orc fell. The orcs anxious for battle jumped at the chance, but were the first to fall at the hands of our party. With the single door, they could not escape and even Glaf killed a couple orcs.

With the orcish threat removed, we continued to explore the castle. We encountered a few cursed warriors and a couple of bandit groups, but none in any great numbers. We cleaned out a spider's nest or two and we killed the rats in the kitchen.

For our trouble, we -- er -- I cleaned the kitchen out of a few badly needed provisions. With the last of the salt pork gone, we needed to restock our stores, and we did the temple a great favor. There was no need to speak to Nather about it.

We were going to spend one more night in the Temple before going out into the town. The temple was now safe, and we could use a good rest if we were ever going to finish this quest. In the morning, we would further explore the city of Monkalakaboomistan.

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 14: Meet the Flannigans

By Douglas E. Gogerty

When everyone was fully rested, we broke our fast with what little was found in the Temple's kitchen. After all, we did not want to use up our provisions. It was a satisfying meal, and we were all ready to take on the day.

We knew that Nebrion's tower was to the west of the temple, so when we exited the temple we were going to head west. Everyone agreed on that plan. We filed out the exit farthest from the gate. We did not want to attract the attention of the city guard.

Our procession was like a ghost being followed by a mummer's parade. I do not think they could have been any more obvious. I do not know why they just did not break into song or shout for the guards.

I heard some shouting, so I ushered the group into the nearest available house. I just hoped that no one put up the "Hey! we are in here" sign. We did not need to be fighting with townspeople in this small house.

Upon entering the house, we noticed a dead man on the floor. He had not been dead very long as his body was still warm. After a bit more searching, we found a woman in the kitchen. "No more," she gasped as she took her last breath when Thorvald discovered her.

"They are still in here," Thorvald whispered to Jane.

"Upstairs," I guessed. "Quietly now!"

I snuck up the stairs in utter silence. There were six bandits ransacking the bedrooms looking for treasure. I signaled for the rest to join me, and they rushed up the stairs like a heard of cows.

The bandits must have been significantly distracted, as they did not hear them until they burst into the one bedroom. It was too late for them as Gudrid made quick work of them. Jean took on the group in the second bedroom and I just watched.

As we were searching and disposing of the bandits, Thorvald went down to the first level and did his thing.

"Please, we do not have much." said the man as Thorvald restored him.

"Peace be with you sir," replied Thorvald. "Do not fret my appearance. My comrades and I are under a spell and not reptilian at all."

"My wife? Where is my wife?" enquired the man.

"Wait here and I will bring her forthwith," replied Thorvald.

"No more," said the woman.

"Peace be with you madam," replied Thorvald. "Your husband awaits you in the front room."

The woman, with an astonished look on her face, entered the front room of their house in wobbly legs. "What happened?" she asked.

"Bandits," started her husband. "I remember bandits breaking into our home."

"They will bother you no more," responded Thorvald.

"I am Mark Flannigan, and this is my wife Laurie."

"I am the most revered cleric Thorvald Larsenski of the Cygnus Clan," our cleric replied. "My compatriots and I have business with Nebrion and we came upon you in a state of distress. It was my sworn duty to aid you."

When Thorvald said the name Nebrion, the Flannigans gave a frightened glance to each other. "We owe you a great deal cleric Larsenski," Mr. Flannigan stated graciously. "Whatever we have is yours."

"Your offer is most kind sir, but I can accept no payment for this deed."

"Thorvald, if I may interrupt," I said. "May we have a word with you in private?"

"Certainly," he replied. "My comrades and I must confer on what it is we should do next. Please forgive us, and I shall return shortly."

I escorted Thorvald up to the upstairs hall. "We found this," I said to Thorvald as I handed him a hand written piece of paper.

"What is this?" he asked.

"We hoped you would be able to read it," replied Glaf. "I could only make out the word 'Nebrion' from it."

"It is written in an ancient script, but the writer is unfamiliar with the syntax. It is likely used to conceal the actual content from unknowing eyes."

"And...?" I asked impatiently.

"It is difficult to decipher; nevertheless, these men do work for Nebrion that is for certain."

"What were they doing here?" asked Gudrid.

"Oh Flannigans!" exclaimed Thorvald ignoring Gudrid's question. "That is that the meaning of those glyphs."

"And...?" I asked even more impatiently than before.

"I beg your forgiveness," responded Thorvald. "Essentially the note reads, 'Flannigans suspect - look like orcs. Nebrion' That is the best I can decipher."

"I am beginning to think that Nebrion does not have this city's well-being at heart," responded Glaf.

"No! Really?" I said without a bit of sarcasm in my voice.

"If you please my comrades," Thorvald said. "We should leave these fine people's house and continue on with our journey."

"With pleasure," I replied.

"And," Thorvald added. "Please leave all items found upon the bandits with the Flannigans. They have suffered greatly this day and we should not compound their grief."

"Agreed!" responded Glaf without consulting anyone.

"What?" I asked.

"I said 'Agreed'," Glaf said as forcefully as he could muster.

I stifled my laughter of Glaf attempting to be tough, but I had not collected much in the house in the first place. Thus, I agreed to their request with only a little prodding from Jean.

We bid the Flannigans farewell and left them with the little they had. However, they insisted that we take a bundled of rug fragments they had collected. Without speaking of it, they had known what Nebrion had done, and they knew that we were their best hope of saving the town. Thus, they aided us in our quest the best way they knew how.

The mummer's parade continued towards Nebrion's tower and lo and behold, some townspeople spotted us. The city's inhabitants were attempting to save their homes, and we did not wish to harm them, so we ran.

We wanted to head towards the tower, but that way was cut off. Thus, I led the party into a large estate northeast of the tower. This estate had a large wall surrounding it, but the front gate was open. I closed the gate behind us and directed the group into the large house. The front door of this house was also unlocked and we went right in.

The house was quite large and it looked as if its occupants had packed and left in a hurry. There were webs and dust in great quantities all over the entryway to the house. With the uproar that we had caused, someone -- read me -- mentioned that we stay in this house for a while until the town quiets down.

"While we're here," suggested Gudrid. "We might as well have a look around."

How did I know that was coming? We could not just sit and rest in the front room of this mansion. No, we had to poke our noses into everything. At least it was something to do.

In the first room we explored, it smelled of death. When we entered, we saw a large group of rats gnawing on a pile of bones. They looked quite hungry, so they naturally turned their attentions upon us.

We made quick work of the rats, but we were unable to determine what it was they were gnawing. The body had decayed far too long ago for any of us to determine what it was. It could have been a person, or orc, or even a dog. We just could not tell.

Many of the rooms were like the first. We fought many rats. To mix things up a bit, a group of spiders or other insects would attack us. It was beginning to appear as if this house was devoid of human life.

Suddenly, we stumbled into the kitchen where a large group of bandits where hiding. I do not know which group was more surprised. They had probably been fending off rats for quite a long time and in walks a group of lizard people.

They were a very experienced band and were excellent fighters. However, they were no match for Gudrid and Jean. They fell readily at the feet of our experienced fighters. With a bit of magic thrown in and a crossbow bolt here and there, the bandits were soon vanquished.

They were sitting on a small cache of supplies. It was not much, but we could make a fine meal out of them. Clearly, with all of the rats about, they constantly had to guard their stores.

I could tell we were getting cavalier with our actions, as we did not give a second thought about other bandits. That is why we were quite surprised when they walked in while we were dining on their supplies.

As they rushed in, I distracted them by running at them. I turned and they attempted to catch me as I raced around the room. This gave Gudrid and Jean a chance to leisurely swallow their last bites and wash it down with a little wine. I think they may have even stretched out a little before jumping into action.

This group of bandits was not as experienced as the last group, and we dispatched them in short order. Before we returned to our feast, we decided to check out the remainder of the house.

Luckily, we did not encounter any more bandits. We did run into plenty of rats, and a few spiders. If I had owned this place, I would have moved away also. It was crawling with creatures.

In the entire house, we only found one locked room. Not only was it locked, but a trap was guarding the door. We all thought that this was quite odd. Naturally, the trap and the lock were no problem for me. I easily opened the door and went inside the room.

It was a very small room with a chest along the far wall. This chest was guarded by three helmed horrors in full plate. Whatever was in that chest was important to somebody. However, before we could examine a treasure of such magnitude, we had a fight on our hands.

These armored specters were not going to be easy to get by. They were quickly upon us, and my bolts were useless against them. Thus, I was once again used as a distraction as the ghosts chased me around the room.

Thorvald was quite effective in this fight. His magic was quite useful against spirits of this nature. Jean and Gudrid had to resort to their less effective magical swords. Thus, we fought these horrors for quite a long time.

Eventually, they did succumb to our weapons and I unlocked the chest with the valuables in it. Inside was a bundle of rug fragments and nothing else. While I understood that we could potentially use the rug, I was quite disappointed in the contents of the chest.

We now had four rug fragments, so if we got into the tower, we could possibly gain entrance to Nebrion's room without his knowing. However, I would have liked to see a little gold or some jewels in the chest.

Quite satisfied that the house was secure, we returned to our meal after fighting off some rats of course. Rats -- why did it have to be rats? Why not snakes or some other creature?

It was well into the night when we had finished everything. Thus, we decided to rest in this house. I found a quite comfortable room, which would have quite comfortably slept two. However, the women thought it best to keep guard. It was their loss.

In the morning, we would push on to the tower no matter what. If we had to slice through every citizen of this town, we were going to make it to the tower. I was well passed ready to shake the dust off my boots and leave this crumbling town. I slept quite soundly.

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 15: Remember, Do Not Kill Anyone

By Douglas E. Gogerty

I was rested and ready to go before any of the other members of our adventuring crew. Thus, I took the opportunity to scout out our way. Unfortunately, many of the townspeople looked to Nebrion for protection. Thus, his tower was surrounded by townsfolk who would not look to kindly on a band of lizard people marching up to their benefactor's dwelling.

Further, our party had the sneaking skills of elephants wearing jingle bells. Therefore, if we were going to get into Nebrion's tower, we would need a plan. We could have sliced through the entire town if we wished, but some in our group would frown upon such actions. We needed a diversion.

I reentered the abandoned mansion and waited for the rest of the group to rouse. Those sorcerers need their beauty rest. When everyone was gathered in the entryway, I detailed the situation.

Somehow, I supposedly volunteered to be the distraction. After all, I was the quickest and I could definitely lose the chasers without resorting to combat. Nevertheless, volunteering for such a mission, does not sound like something I would do. However, that is what was claimed.

"Remember, do not kill anyone," Jean pleaded.

The next order of business was entry to Nebrion's tower. It was doubtful that Nebrion would leave the lower level of his lair unlocked. The group would need to gain entry as quickly as possible without my aid in picking the lock.

That is when Thorvald spoke up. He made up some story about talking to Nather back at the temple. Thorvald stated that Nather happened to mention that he had a key and gave it to him. My take on the story is that Thorvald stole it from somewhere and was hesitant to admit that. Nonetheless, he claimed to have a key to Nebrion's tower. That certainly simplified things.

Once the plan was worked out in full, I used my stealth to circle around the tower. I looked back at the mansion and received the go-ahead signal. I walked up to one of the citizens and gave a mighty roar. It startled the entire group who began shouting oaths at me. Without retorting their silly statements, I ran towards the mansion and the citizens chased after me.

As was the plan, I ran past the mansion with the townsfolk in hot pursuit. Naturally, I was not running at full speed so they would think that they could catch me. In fact, a few times I pretended to stumble on a stone, which made me slow down and allow them to catch up.

Everything was working according to plan. I had a mob following me, and the group successfully entered Nebrion's tower. It was time for me to lose the crowd and join my cohorts in the wizard's lair.

I ran down around a few buildings with the crowd close to my heels. I was just about to shake them, when I ran into another group of citizen's at the market. They too joined in the chase. At least thirty citizens with various implements of death were now chasing me.

I ran a couple of times around the city square with the screaming mob behind me. I let them get close, and I ran down an alley. I wished I knew this town better, because I really did not have an escape route planned. The alley turned out to be a dead end. It looked as if I was in for it. I would have to fight my way out.

The crowd had appeared to grow with each step. There were probably forty citizens and several town guards, and there I was, trapped in a blind alley with no way out.

Fortunately for me, I have great acrobatic skills. I ran at the wall in the back, and at the corner, I vaulted up to the second story and caught a drainpipe. It looked like I just walked up the wall and grabbed the pipe. I went hand over hand along the building and above the crowd below. They shot arrows at me, but none hit their mark.

There was a window on the second floor of one of the buildings and pulled myself up and went inside. There was a beautiful young woman there brushing her long brown hair. She had a plain nightgown on and she had the most striking blue eyes. For a moment, I had forgotten myself, but her bloodcurdling scream reminded me that I was still reptilian.

I bolted out of her room to find her younger brother attempting to aid his sister. I leaped over him, and dashed down the stairs. Her mother and father had stirred to see what the matter was, and I flew past them like a streak of lightning.

I crashed through their front door and ran as fast as I could. I zigzagged my way back to Nebrion's tower with not one citizen at my heels. I enter the unlocked tower to find my adventure mates sitting around in Nebrion's front room.

They had not done one thing beside unlock Nebrion's front door and walk in. They did not speak to Nebrion's apprentice to make an appointment. No, they just "waited for me."

Knowing how quiet they could be, I would not be surprised if Nebrion had notified the entire town of our presents at his residence. I was certain that all of my running would be in vain as the mob would burst into the tower at any moment.

In an effort to assuage my fears, Thorvald used his key to lock the door. I must say, that little gesture completely put my mind at ease. Nebrion, who could teleport a group of adventurers hither and yon, would be completely unable to unlock his own door remotely. I felt utterly safe.

My fears aside, the group decided to knock on the door that had a sign reading 'Apprentice' in an effort to continue our quest. On the other side of the door we hear, 'Bar Selonis Lo Kat!' which was not the 'Who is it?' we had hoped for. Glaf tried to open the door but found it locked.

I heard the incantation of another spell, so I decided I would open the door. It was a simple lock, and if it was meant to keep us out, they should have used a better lock.

I opened the door and there appeared to be three apprentices there. They did not ask us to explain our presence; one of them just shot a fireball at us. It did not appear they were in a friendly mood. We were going to have to do this the hard way.

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 16: So Close and Yet So Far

By Douglas E. Gogerty

It appeared that Nebrion was not expecting us. His welcome committee had just attacked us. Jean and Gudrid wasted no time in pouncing on the trio of mages. My crossbow bolts were ineffective against all but one of the apprentices. I deduced that two of the visions in the fight were merely astro-projections. Thus, I concentrated on the one I could damage.

Naturally, the wizard was none too pleased with my bolts, and she kept launching attacks against me. I had to dodge fireballs, lightning, and a myriad of other spells. Did she not realize there were others in this fight?

Jean and Gudrid eventually disrupted the two false apprentices and began concentrating on the real thing. This helped me out immensely because she could no longer concentrate solely upon me.

She was quite a powerful magic user in her own right. She conjured up a dire tiger, and sent it after me. I do not think we had met before, but for some reason she seemed to have some sort of grudge against me.

Her face was cloaked, so I could not get a good glimpse of her. Plus, I was running away from a huge tiger with teeth the size of my dagger. Thus, I did not get a real good look at her face, but I did not think I knew her.

Glaf kept attempting to calm her down so we could speak with her, but those efforts were for naught. She was very resistant to magic, and Glaf was always nervous around girls.

Gudrid helped me with the tiger. I could have handled it on my own, but it was nice to have some help with it. Thorvald did his thing with my cuts and scrapes, so when the tiger fell, I could have taken on a few more. Unfortunately, I did not have the chance.

Shortly after the tiger fell, Jean finished off Nebrion's apprentice. I took a good look at her face, but I did not know her. At least, I did not recall ever meeting her. Perhaps she was attracted to me, and this is how she showed it. I am certain that is it.

Gudrid searched her body, and took her personal effects. She had very little. She had her journal, which made no mention of me. Hence, that reinforced the idea that she had developed crush upon me at first sight.

It was just a personal journal. In it, she had the usual complaints about long work hours and low pay. She was often complaining about how little Nebrion trusted her. It did describe some of her deeds to show her boss that she was worthy of more. However, it made little mention of Nebrion's schemes or plans.

Along with the journal was a key, but little else. A search of her room revealed nothing else. There was no device to mend the rug in this room. She was an ordinary underpaid apprentice attempting to please her boss and get ahead. It was too bad she was evil and tried to kill us. We could have become friends I am sure.

My group of adventurers and I left the apprentice's room, and returned into the entryway. Occasionally, someone would try the door only to find it locked. It appeared that Nebrion was not interested in letting any of the townspeople in. For this, we were grateful because we wished to continue searching this lower level of his residence unmolested.

Naturally, this was not to be. We opened the next room and found ourselves face-to-face with a large gang of bandits. They just appeared out of nowhere. If only I could get the others of my group to be so stealthy.

Nevertheless, we were once again fighting in close quarters. We had faced several large groups of bandits before, and this group was much the same. We easily dispatched them. They had a little treasure, which is a nice thing about bandits. You usually get some sort of reward for your trouble.

Once we had taken care of the bandits, I noticed a strange device along one wall. I was about to examine the machine when we were suddenly attacked by a group of enormous insects. Every creature in the world was stealthier than my party.

The difficulty with giant insects is that they are naturally armored. Their exterior coat is very difficult to penetrate with ordinary weapons. Further, they have nasty crushing appendages near their mouths. Furthermore, they always look creepy.

These particular bugs had one more thing going for them. Their bite was poisonous. We had to be careful to avoid being bitten. Nebrion was not messing around with the protection of his belongings.

It took longer than we would have liked, but we managed to stomp the bugs. Gudrid was poisoned in the battle, but Thorvald was up to the task and was able to neutralize the poison. Naturally, the bugs could not just lie there dead with their legs crossed. These bugs vanished in a noxious gas cloud. The cloud was not dangerous; it was just fowl smelling.

We thoroughly searched the room for any more creatures. When we were certain that the room was secure, I went to look at the rug repair device. There was a tray in which to place the bundles that we had collected. I put the four bundles on the tray. The machine whirred and buzzed and a message appeared reading 'Not enough material.'

We had a fake bundle! There was a bundle for this carpet out there somewhere, and we needed to find it. It could be anywhere if it existed at all. Perhaps it was destroyed.

I was most upset about this development. Without the rug to enter Nebrion's room, we could not complete our quest. Moreover, we may be permanently stuck in our reptilian forms. Paul and his group had reverted to their ordinary selves, but we did not know if we were under the same spell.

Furthermore, when we began this adventure, we had some items with us. They had disappeared on our transport into the mines. Would we be able to recover these items?

With that crushing disappointment, we took a brief rest. Many people had claimed that there was only way into Nebrion's room, but did they know for sure? Perhaps there was a secret way into his room that no one knew about. We decided to look for ourselves.

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 17: The Mighty Paladin Screams

By Douglas E. Gogerty

We had a good rest in the entry of Nebrion's tower. Once again, I slept alone in a nice bed. Nebrion's apprentice did not have any use for hers, so I helped myself. None of the ladies accepted my offer to join me, so I slept well.

There were still plenty of places in Nebrion's tower to explore. We had not opened the door at the back of the room with the carpet-mending machine. That was the only place that we had not attempted. Whatever we were looking for had to be behind that door. Naturally, Nebrion also had one of his henchpeople put a trap on it. It was clear that there were places in Nebrion's tower he did not want people to go. Clearly, beyond this door was one such place.

I easily disarmed the spike trap, and unlocked the door. It would have kept out your ordinary peasants, but it was no match for the likes of me. Once the door was open, we still had plenty of work ahead of us.

As Gudrid opened the door and Jean stood at the ready, a pack of tiger-headed rakshasas attacked us. These creepy demons seemed to spring out of the woodwork as we were quickly surrounded.

Each one attempted to cast a spell or another, but before they could finish, Jean or Gudrid's sword stroke or a bolt from my crossbow interrupted them. However, with cat-like moves they would pounce to a new location. This kept us in continuous action. In fact, we were beginning to wear down when the first one fell.

When that first rakshasa disappeared in a puff of smoke, it began a chain reaction. A second fell and then a third. Puff of smoke followed puff of smoke until there was nothing left but a pile of rakshasa eyes. The cat eyes left behind were creepy, but the puff of scent they left behind had a hint of lavender. Not one member of the party was expecting that.

In all of the commotion, we had not even had a chance to look at the room. Like all wizards' rooms, this one was lined with bookshelves. I think these sorcerer types wish to give the impression that they are knowledgeable. However, does anyone look at the titles? They could all be "The Loves of Lady Chatterford" or "William and Theodore's Excellent Adventure". They might not be tomes of learning at all.

Continuing to look around the room, I spotted in the back corner a stairway leading up. That was a good sign. Perhaps this was the way to get farther into the tower. The only problem with this route is there was an enormous red dragon blocking the way.

The dragon did not move towards us. Perhaps it was blind, deaf, or both. We were certainly making enough noise. I told Glaf that since he did not have any luck with the apprentice, perhaps he should ask the dragon to dance. He was not amused.

Jean and Gudrid prepared themselves to fight the mighty dragon. They had collected some potions during our trip, and these would immunize them against almost anything the dragon could throw at them. They were suddenly fearless and fast. They took potions to toughen them and make them stronger. When we were all ready, we struck.

With the first blows of Jean and Gudrid, the dragon fell. I think it was depressed and just committed suicide. It did not put up a fight at all. Further supporting this conjecture was the lack of treasure. This dragon had none. It was the saddest excuse for a dragon ever.

Glaf guessed that it was simply a trick by Nebrion to scare us off. Glaf continued to speculate that Nebrion was concentrating all his efforts out in the city and had little magic left for internal defenses. Glaf sure knows how to rain on a good parade.

With the "mighty" dragon vanquished, I ran up the stairs to find another trapped and locked door. While this door was a little trickier than the last, it was still no match for my skills. I had the trap off and the door unlocked in no time. However, I was going to let one of the women go first. "Ladies first" is my motto.

Jean rushed up the stairs, opened the door, and rushed into the room. She gave a horrified shriek that caused us to rush up to help. No one had ever heard our mighty paladin scream like that. When we reached the top, we found her covered in rats. There were dozens. Perhaps, there were as many as one hundred. It was very creepy and I excused her for her scream.

Nevertheless, they were just rats. They were not rodents of unusual size. They were simply "run of the mill" rats. There were lots of them, but one strike and they were dead. In fact, I got out my dagger and short sword to help exterminate them.

It is surprising how tiring it is to kill that many rats. I was exhausted by the time the last one died. Like the last room, we did not look around at all until we were finished with the rats.

This was another typical wizards' room. Several bookshelves filled with books. There were a few other gizmos scattered about. He had astrolabes, globes and other do-dads strewn around the room. To me it all looked like useless junk.

As we usually do, we each searched the room. I was perusing a bookshelf on the far wall. In it there were a few scrolls that appeared to be magic. I grabbed those to give to Glaf. That is when I spotted a hidden door. I thought that perhaps it was a secret entrance to Nebrion's lair. Thus, I pointed it out to the other members of our party.

We were all a bit exhausted from our fight with the scores of rats, so we rested a bit before entering the door. If it was the door to Nebrion's room, we wanted to be ready for him.

Since this door led to an unknown locale, entering it was going to be very dangerous. Thus, the plan was to send me in. They knew that they stomped around like huge beasts, and if I could sneak in and check it out, it would be a safer way to go.

I could think of lots of objections to that sentiment, but I reluctantly agreed. I crawled through the trapdoor and found myself at a dead end. By pressing slightly on the wall in front of me, it gave way and I went tumbling into the room.

I briefly thanked my gods that it was not Nebrion's room. Clumsily falling into my enemy's room was not how I wished to die. I was almost as loud as Jean marching down the city streets. I could tell I flushed as I picked myself up off the ground.

I found myself in a very unwizard like room. It was a plain and mostly empty. The one item the room did contain was a large wooden chest. It was placed in the middle with the lock facing away from the entrance. There were no bookshelves on these walls.

However, there was no obvious way back to where I had come. Eventually, I spotted a switch plate on the floor that opened the secret passage. This allowed me to rejoin my compatriots and give them the news.

One by one, we all entered the trap door to explore the room. Certainly, Nebrion would not leave this room unguarded. Some beastie would surely jump out of the darkness and attack us.

As Jean reached the chest in the middle of the room, that is exactly what happened. A gang of spiders descended from the ceiling. Once again, these were not ordinary spiders -- these were huge. They were going to be difficult to vanquish.

Be that as it may, we did take care of them rather easily. Glaf was poisoned, but Thorvald took care of that with some spell or potion. Thorvald took care of the minor nicks and scrapes that Jean and Gudrid had. Naturally, I emerged from the encounter without a scratch.

Gudrid was anxious to see what was in the chest. Thus, she ran to it quickly and set off the trap protecting it. A noxious cloud of some gas filled the room. Sometimes the amateurs can really ruin a perfectly good melee. Once the gas dissipated, Thorvald had to use his magic again to restore our health.

The chest was locked, so Gudrid would have had to wait for me anyway. I believe Glaf chastised her for her haste while I unlocked the chest.

The chest had no valuables in it. It was practically empty. It seemed odd to have so much security for this chest. However, its sole contents were very important to us. Thus, they were likely important to Nebrion as well. In the chest, we discovered a bundle of carpet fragments. Could this be the missing bundle? Would we be able to have it out with Nebrion after all? Gudrid's anxiousness was beginning to affect me. I was ready to rush down and take on Nebrion too.

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 18: How Does this Rug Work Anyway?

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"Bzzzz -- Wheee -- Wheee -- Bzzzz -- Kablaam!" the machine sputtered when the carpet fragment from the chest was placed in its tray and the machine was switched on. It was certainly working. After a few seconds, a nice rug fell out of the machine and onto the floor. We were in!

Unfortunately, we had no instructions as to its use. How does this rug manage to enter Nebrion's room? Do we climb onto the rug and have it fly us through his window? Perhaps we should sit upon it. Was it a flying rug like the ones from the ancient tales? Did it work on an entirely different principle?

Our men of letters were of no help in this regard. Thorvald and Glaf studied the object carefully, but could come up with no better solution than to place it on the ground and hop on board. I suggested we go back to the inn and talk to the man who told us about the rug, but they did not wish to harm any more townsfolk. Thus, they did not wish to leave the tower.

So what was their solution? Naturally, it was to use me as the first victim. They would have me step on the rug and determine what happens. I informed them if I go tumbling into Nebrion's room, all stealth and surprise is lost, but they reminded me of my dexterity. The others were too clumsy to be trusted on a flying rug.

Once they were all agreed that I should do this, I gingerly stepped onto the rug. I braced myself for something to occur, but nothing did. I was not in Nebrion's room I was still in the same room as the rest of the party.

I sat on the rug and concentrated on going to Nebrion's room. I made several attempts to persuade it to go somewhere. Nevertheless, the carpet was not moving. It looked as if we would have to ask the man how to work the rug after all.

I arose from my seated position and walked off the rug. The disorientation hit me immediately, and I nearly tumbled to the ground. I managed to stay on my feet, but for a few seconds I did not know where I was or what had happened.

In my daze, I looked around and noticed I was in a corner of some room. The room had several bookcases along the walls. There was no doubt about it; I was in Nebrion's room. Apparently, you just had to walk across the carpet and you were in.

Unfortunately, the teleportation mechanism to get me back was not obvious. Thus, I could not scout out the area and return the information to the rest. I was trapped in the room with Nebrion, who had not noticed me as of yet.

I stood in the shadow of the corner, attempting to decide what my next move should be. However, before I made any action -- one by one -- the rest of my party tumbled into the room.

Startled, Nebrion asked, "What are you doing here?"

Our Paladin with her lawful goodness made her reply; she drew her sword, gave a battle cry, and attacked. The rest of the party was startled briefly and did not immediately join in the fray.

"Please," Nebrion begged. "There must be some sort of mistake. I am not responsible for this..."

Jean would have none of it. She clearly detected his evilness when she entered. She would hear none of his excuses. Also by this time, the rest of us made our decision to join in the fray. Thus, we all began our attacks on Nebrion.

For someone who appeared to be older, he was remarkably agile. Gudrid and Jean's swords rarely hit their marks. The wizard was also adept at dodging my bolts. This fight was going to take some time.

After Nebrion decided that we were serious, he began his offense. With a "Phartano Verdigulum", he summoned some sort of ghoul. Our blows kept missing, and now we had a second foe.

"Concentrate on Nebrion!" shouted Glaf.

Nebrion had other spells at his disposal, and he was not averse to using them. A cloud of noxious gas was his next weapon. I was using my crossbow, so I managed to stay on the edge of the cloud. At the clouds fringes, I fired my crossbow. However, Jean was not immune to the clouds effects. Fortunately, Gudrid was unaffected. Thus, the battle could continue while Jean ran out of the cloud to be tended by our cleric Thorvald.

In the mean time, I was still attempting to hit the illusive Nebrion. One bolt missed its mark and lodged in the arm of Nebrion's ghoul. That spelt trouble for me. The ghoul took notice of me, and headed in my direction.

This ghoul was not your run of the mill zombie; he or she was quite agile. Luckily, it was not nearly as dexterous as I am. Thus, I avoided the attack and headed towards Thorvald and Jean.

After I ran past, with the ghoul on my heels, Jean took her orc-slayer and lopped its head off. In one blow, the summoned ghoul had disappeared in a puff of smoke.

As the cloud dissipated, Jean ran after Nebrion again. There were a flurry of blows, and it looked like we had Nebrion. However, he reached into his robe and pulled out a flask. As quick as he could, he drank some potion and it was as if he had just begun the battle. It was going to be a long fight.

Nebrion conjured up another ghoul and another cloud of some sort. This one did not affect Jean, but Gudrid could not stay in the cloud long. She ran to the cleric for his services.

It was at this point that Glaf took advantage of one of his major spells. Gudrid was not immune to the effects of the spell, but Jean was. Thus, he hoped that his spell would do some damage upon Nebrion.

Nebrion erupted in a large fireball. His ghoul fell dead, and Jean was still attempting to hit Nebrion with her sword. Nebrion survived the attack and continued to avoid our blows.

Our enemy was looking in rough shape. Our attacks would occasionally land, and the wounds would mount up. However, the crafty wizard had more potions and spells. He once again healed himself. This time, instead of summoning a ghoul, he summoned a dire tiger.

This tiger must have been a female because she got a whiff of me and was on my heels. "I'll keep this one busy," I shouted. "Concentrate on Nebrion."

I do not know what I was thinking when I said that. How was I going to keep that giant cat busy? Perhaps I could keep her busy by running around the perimeter because that was my only defense against the beast. Nebrion must have used a spell to make me do such a crazy thing.

Nebrion continued to fill the room with various clouds, but Jean and Gudrid continued to go after him. I would occasionally stop running from the tiger and shoot a bolt at him, but then I would start running again with the cat right behind me.

Glaf had spells, but he could not use the most powerful ones with our party in the line of fire. He was restricted to his lesser spells that did do damage to Nebrion.

Thorvald would shoot an arrow -- now and again -- at the evil wizard, but he spent most of his time with the wounds of the rest of the party. With that tiger on my tail, I was glad to have him tend to my scratches. However, he would eventually run out of his medical supplies.

Just when we thought we had him, Nebrion took another potion and we were back to square one. With his latest cloud effect gone, I dashed in to check his pockets. I wanted to steal any potions he may have possessed, but he had none.

He would not be able to make it much longer. Certainly, he must be running out of spells. He had used a great deal of magic attacking Gudrid and Jean. He chanted again and tentacles reached out of the floor with a stinging bite. Why did he save this spell? It was particularly nasty.

Jean and Gudrid hopped and jumped to get away from the spell's effect. This gave Glaf a brief instant to pile on his powerful spells. Fire and ice began flying at our opponent. Nebrion was caught between chasing the two fighters and going after our wizard. In his hesitation, more spells came his way.

Gudrid and Jean were in rough shape. They had taken a great deal of punishment from Nebrion's spells. They were also fatigued from the effort they had made to bring down the wizard.

Thorvald did his best to treat them, but he had exhausted his last potion. There was little else he could do to ease their pain. The tiger was inflicting some damage upon me as well. We could not put up this fight for much longer.

Sensing that our need was desperate, I stopped running from the tiger and shot my last bolt at Nebrion. I had missed with numerous bolts, but this one caught him right in the ear. He tumbled to the ground. The pouncing tiger disappeared in an odorless cloud. We had vanquished the evil wizard and we were victorious!

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Nebrion's Quest

Chapter 19: The Quest Ends

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Our quest was over. We had cleaned the mines of creatures that were plaguing the city of Monkalakaboomistan. The only down side at this point was we had just killed the man who was to pay us. Nebrion was dead.

The chest that was supposed to hold our reward was unlocked and empty. I wonder how that could have happened... The perimeter of the room contained a series of large wooden armoires. They were protected by a trap, which I easily removed. However, the lock was a different story. It was a custom lock with some sort of magical spell preventing anyone from opening it without the key.

I thought we could just smash them to bits. After all, they were only made of wood. However, no one was willing to aid me in this venture. I even explained that Nebrion himself pointed out that our belongings were in the armoires.

Unfortunately, the party's trust in Nebrion had long since evaporated. Thus, they had given up the idea of obtaining their long lost belongings. Further, they were fond of the items they had collected on the adventure.

It was then that I thought that Nebrion should have the key. Gudrid had searched him for valuables and the items he had were useable only by an evil wizard. They would be of no help to Glaf. However, the key was among the items.

I used the key to open the armoires one by one. To everyone's surprise, the armoires were filled with our items. A few had items from other adventurers. In any event, we had our belongings back.

"Where did you get these items?" asked Gudrid.

"Those?" I replied. "I have had those for a while."

"I do not remember you having that stuff," added Glaf.

"You cannot even wear this armor," added Jean. "It is way too large for you."

"I was going to sell it at my earliest convenience," I said. "Why is everyone so suspicious of me?"

"Spill it!" demanded Thorvald.

"Okay you caught me," I admitted. "While you all were discussing the mission with Nebrion, I opened the chest. I just wanted to know what our reward was going to be. Before I knew anything, all of my items were gone and I woke up in a mine looking like a lizard."

"Hey!" exclaimed Glaf.

"Yeah!" shouted Gudrid.

"We are no longer reptilian!" shouted Jean.

Jean and I embraced. Then she smacked me across the face. After all of the things I had done for her, she was not going to thank me. Perhaps it was the fact that there were other people around. I guess I should have been grateful that she did not swing her orc-slayer at me.

We had all of our belongings and our appearance had returned to normal. Nebrion's quest had clearly ended. What do we do next? More importantly, how do we get out of this tower?

There was a lever in the corner, which did not appear to have an obvious function. At least it did not do anything the four or five times I had pulled it the first time we were in this room. Perhaps Nebrion protected its use. Thus, I pulled the lever. I heard a loud crack somewhere in the tower, but it had no other effect.

Gudrid gave it a try and we were immediately transported to another room in the tower. I was expecting to return to the carpet. After all, it was how the previous owner of the tower entered and left the isolated tower room.

Regardless, we found ourselves in the company of a beautiful woman. She was tall with long fire-red hair. She was dressed in silver plate trimmed in gold. She had a winged helm upon her head.

"I am Leela Monkalakaboom," she declared.

We each introduced ourselves. I flirted more than usual to make Jean jealous. Leela naturally took a shine to me. Jean pretended not to notice the sparks, but I could tell she had seen.

"I thank you for ridding us of our plight," she continued. "For a long time we have suspected that Nebrion was luring adventurers to our fair city and robbing them of their goods."

"He is also responsible for the monster attacks," added Thorvald.

"He changed us into lizardmen," declared Glaf.

"Ummmm -- we got better," I added.

"Apparently," continued Thorvald. "He would alter the appearance of these adventurers and dump them into the nearby mines. If these individuals made it out of the mines alive, it would appear that they would attack the city."

"Nebrion was also responsible for the monster attacks," Glaf conjectured.

"I believe all of what you say is true," responded Leela. "My brother Paul was sent to investigate and his armor and some other items appeared some time later."

"Paul?" I mumbled. "Does everyone in this town have some link to him?"

"What?" asked Leela.

"We encountered a Paul in the dungeons above the mines. He was hungry but well."

"I am relieved from this news," added Leela. "With Nebrion out of the way, I can return as protector of the city. You have given me back my tower."

"And your rug," added Glaf. "We gathered the pieces and it allowed us into Nebrion's room."

"Thanks for the update genius," I whispered to Glaf. "She has been watching us you door knob!"

"Your journey has been long and arduous," Leela continued. "You shall be rewarded for your deeds. I will pay you handsomely for any treasures you have collected in your adventure. Our citizens could begin rebuilding the town with these items."

She paid us handsomely for our extra goods. I had to hand it to Glaf; it was a very profitable journey for us. There were plenty of times when I doubted that it would be, but the coin in my pocket proved me wrong.

We rested the night in Leela's tower. She threw a large feast in our honor and the entire town showed up. The wine was good and the mood merry. Even the temple guardian Nather showed up. He was strangely quiet. A large smile seemed to be unnaturally affixed to his face, which prevented his normal talkativeness.

I flirted with many ladies at the feast. If Jean were not going to thank me personally, an attractive local would have to do. There were plenty from which to choose. The choice would be difficult. Perhaps more than one...

Nebrion's quest was over, and now it was time to decide what was next. That story is for another time.

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Montana MacInnes and the Reunion of Doom

Chapter 1: Home Again

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"Where to Pal?" asked the cab driver.

"1313 Mockingbird Lane," Hugo Kenneth Stein Jr. replied.

"Oh? You headin' to the Stein reunion?"

"Yes," H.K. responded trying to keep to himself.

"It looks like you'll have nice weather fer it," continued the cabbie.

"Hope so."

"How was yer flight?"

"Fine," H.K. said resolving himself to having a conversation. "I sat next to an interesting character on the way in."

"Oh -- who?"

"A guy calling himself Montana MacInnes."

"Montana MacInnes the famous Zombie Hunter? What is he doin' in town?"

"He didn't say. Perhaps it was some sort of convention."

"Montana is the foremost authority on all things zombie. He has traveled the world lecturing and solving zombie problems. To think he is in our city. I hope that doesn't mean anythin'..."

"He had lots of stories. He just came back from China. From what he could gather, one of the Chinese spacecraft came back carrying some sort of virus or something. It turned an entire town into the walking dead. He went in to clean it up."

"He sure leads an excitin' life," the cab driver said as he turned onto the street where H.K. grew up.

"I don't know if I would like to face a zombie. What the...?"

"What is it?" asked the cabbie scanning the road.

"For a minute I thought I saw my grandmother. It couldn't have been her though. She has been dead for several years. My mind must playing tricks on me."

"Sometimes one blue haired lady looks like all the rest."

"I suppose you're right. Just pull into the driveway."

The cab driver pulled into the driveway and looked around. "For a family reunion there aren't many people here," he remarked.

"The actual festivities do not start until tomorrow. They're probably all over at my Uncle Frank's house."

"Oh. That'll be $16.50"

H.K. gave the cabbie a $20 and told him to keep the change. His mom's house had barely changed. For many years, it has been the same mauve color. H.K.'s Mom had it painted that color years ago despite some family member's objections. It was obvious that it was her house.

He walked up to the door and knocked. The door was open so he walked in and called out to see if anyone was home. No one answered. He looked around a bit and made his way into the kitchen. There was a bunch of cookies on the cooling rack and by them was a note.

H.K. tried to read the note, but was unsuccessful. The handwriting was atrocious and it looked like one word was cookie but spelled "kuukii". He assumed that someone made cookies and left a note indicating that he could help himself.

He sniffed the cookie and took a tentative bite. Just then a cold wrinkled hand fell upon his shoulder. A voice in a cold monotonous tone said, "Hello Butch!"

H.K. nearly jumped out of his skin, but "Bleah!" was all H.K. could say.

"Welcome home," continued the sonorous voice.

"Uncle Ben! You startled me," replied H.K. giving his uncle a hug. "I'm a grown man. Nobody calls me 'Butch' anymore. How are you?"

"Cold, tired, hungry, poor, under appreciated, unloved, unwanted, lonely, stiff ..."

"Okay, I get it."

"So did you hear about the bird that married a bell?" enquired Uncle Ben in the same monotonous tone.

"Uh oh," replied H.K.

"They had a real wing ding," finished Uncle Ben and then broke into an obnoxious laugh.

"Funny," responded H.K. without even cracking a smile. "That would probably be hilarious like your 'owl who married a goat' joke if it were like 1890. It is just that nobody uses the phrase 'wing ding' anymore."

"I've got more..."

"Save them for the party," H.K. replied quickly. "By the way, these cookies are horrible!"

"Hmmm."

"Do you know who wrote this note? It is completely illegible."

"Perhaps your mother's arthritis is acting up."

"You may be right, but that doesn't explain the terrible cookies."

"I suppose so."

"Where is everyone anyway?"

"They went to Frank's house. Your aunt and I were tired so we stayed behind to rest. I wonder where she is now..."

"Who was all here?"

"Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice & ..."

"Fine fine... Go find your wife. I'll make some calls."

"Good idea. Beulah? Beulah? Beulah..."

H.K. found the phone in the same place it had been since he had lived there. It was even the same phone. The same flip-up address book was still right next to it. He grabbed the address book and opened it to the 'S-T' section.

He spotted his name with his latest address written on whiteout. His address had changed so many times the whiteout was rather thick. Nevertheless, he was looking for Uncle Frank's number, so he continued his search.

After he located the number, he picked up the phone. There was no dial tone; the phone was dead. Like he has seen so many times in the movies, he pressed down on the button several times and said 'hello' into the receiver. There was no response.

"I wonder if Montana MacInnes knows an incantation to raise a dead phone," H.K. joked to himself as he hung up.

He chuckled for a moment and then chastised himself for making a joke as bad as Uncle Ben makes. He decided to sit on the porch for a while and watch traffic. Perhaps one of his old high school friends would see him and stop by.

H.K. sat on the old bench on the porch and relaxed. However, the neighborhood was quiet. There was no traffic. He listened closely and did not think he even heard birds chirping. There was just an eerie silence. All he could hear was Uncle Ben's monotonous voice saying "Beulah? Beulah? Beulah..."

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Montana MacInnes and the Reunion of Doom

Chapter 2: Meet Montana MacInnes

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Dr. Lowell Schneider was the town mayor. For several years, he had taught English at the local high school. Eventually, he moved out of his mother's house and went back to school to earn his PhD. He was away for several years, but he could not stay away. He returned, and ran for mayor.

As the new mayor, he was authorized to do anything to take care of the developing problem. He arranged to bring Montana MacInnes into the town's confidence. He sat anxiously at his desk waiting, when a knock came at the door. He got up, and answered it.

"Come in Mr. MacInnes," said Dr. Lowell Schneider. "We haven't got much time."

"Thanks," replied the six foot four inch Zombie expert as he scanned the room. He dropped his large satchel and took off his hat that covered his long thick wavy hair. His hardened face looked beyond his years, but he was clean-shaven. He could not grow a beard even if he wanted.

"I heard about your adventures in the woods of the northwest," began Dr. Schneider as he took his seat behind his desk.

"Thanks," Montana replied shifting his weight back and forth.

"Terrible business that 'Dead Earth' thing."

"Yep," the still uneasy Montana replied. He removed his long black leather duster and placed it over a chair.

"It has earned you quite the reputation."

"Yep," he replied as he began pacing back and forth.

"Please, make yourself at home," continued Dr. Schneider. "Can I get you anything?"

"Nope."

"I would like to hear more about your time in the mountains near Seattle. Is there anything that you can add to the stories I have heard?"

"Nope."

"Two Thousand undead. That is how the story goes."

"Yep."

"Our problem is not nearly as bad," assured the doctor.

"Yet," responded Montana.

Halberd

"2000 with a homemade halberd -- that is quite impressive. Please -- take a seat," the mayor said motioning towards one of the available chairs.

"Listen Mr...."

"Doctor," interrupted Dr. Schneider.

"Listen Dr. Schneider, the longer we waste time telling pretty stories, the more this could get out of hand. So, could we get on with it?"

"Of course -- we do have the area quarantined. No one goes in or out without my approval. Thus, it cannot get terribly out of hand."

"K"

"It is actually kind of funny how it started."

"Well?"

"A brother and sister wanted to have their dead cat back. They checked a book out of the library, made a potion, read an incantation, and there cat rose out of the ground."

"Kids!"

"Well, actually the boy will turn 26 on April 1st. She's 23."

"Still..."

"The cat was revived but so were several others in the cemetery."

"Take me there. I will need to see the book, and I want to examine the potion."

"Fortunately, they ran off and left everything on a grave marker. Those items are still there."

Montana grabbed his coat and gear and Dr. Schneider escorted him to the doctor's 1976, Sea Island Green, Mercury Cougar XR7, two-door sport coupe. Montana put his stuff in the back seat and sat in the passenger seat as the mayor got behind the wheel.

"Nice car," remarked Montana.

"She's a classic," replied Dr. Schneider as the two men began making their way to the cemetery.

It was a short drive and Montana was silent the entire way. He scanned the streets for movement. Dr. Schneider had tried to start a conversation, but Montana shushed him. He wanted to have an estimate of what he was up against, and the conversation would distract him.

The two men arrived at the cemetery and Dr. Schneider parked the car in the nearby lot. They walked the short distance to where the brother and sister had drawn a pentagram on the ground. In the center, they had placed a small pot on some twigs and made a small fire. Montana lifted the pot and gave it a sniff.

"They forgot the garlic," observed Montana.

"Oh?"

"I wonder what side effect that will have..."

"Here is the book they used."

"Your local library has books bound in human skin?"

"It was in our rare books section. They were not supposed to be able to take it out of the library."

"Well, a little 'Klaatu barata nikto' and you have yourself a problem."

"You didn't just raise more dead did you?" the nervous mayor said as he looked around.

"Don't worry, those words don't mean anything. I heard them in a movie once..."

"I guess I am just a little on edge... You can see the disturbed graves around you."

"Thirteen."

"Thirteen?"

"The spell made 13 people rise from the grave -- not counting the cat. Now, tell me when and how this incident was reported."

"Across the street from the cemetery is the high school. The night janitor, Robert DeFonzio, was cleaning up the school kitchen when a former lunch-lady walked into the school cafeteria. She began making meatloaf, creamed corn, and garlic bread lunches. Mrs. Doris Phipps had died 2 years ago. She hissed at him when he tried to stop her. He ran and called the police. That was about 12:15am."

"Was he bitten?"

"No, but we got several reports of the recently deceased entering homes and doing common activities."

"Doris did her usual routine as if she had just gotten out of bed. That is what she would have done when she was alive. That is typical."

"But the results were awful. The meatloaf was inedible. Well -- less edible than what she used to make."

"She doesn't have any higher order functions. But it is strange that she wouldn't reflexively use the same recipe..."

"Similar stories from all across town. Inedible pies, cookies, etc."

"Probably the garlic..."

"Pardon?"

"Nothing. Go on..."

"The town has been completely sealed off?"

"Except for the brief window to let you in. Hopefully, no one else entered the town at nearly the same time."

The zombie hunter groaned and shook his head.

"But we did not let anyone out during that time without checking," assured Dr. Schneider.

"How do you want to proceed?"

"What do you mean?"

"We have two options. Kill the spell casters. This breaks the spell, and the 13 -- plus the cat -- fall where they stand. Problem solved -- except for the auxiliary bite victims. They will have to be cleaned up manually."

"Uhhhhhh -- and the second option?"

"Take care of the 13 and the others manually," sighed the zombie expert.

"We'll take that one!"

"They always take the hard way," Montana muttered to himself. "Do you realize that that option requires a house to house search? It could take a long time and be very expensive."

"You have my choice," assured the mayor.

Reluctantly, Montana agreed to the terms and the two men returned to the classic automobile. He grabbed his bag out of the back seat of the car, and placed it on the hood. He opened up the bag to ready himself for the fight ahead. He took off his shirt revealing his bulging muscles.

Dr. Schneider noticed a few of the scars on the zombie hunter's body. After watching the man for a few seconds, he felt a bit self-conscious as the muscular man continued to get ready.

Montana grabbed a long sleeve t-shirt and covered his nudity. Over the shirt, he put on some padding to protect his elbows, biceps, and forearms. They looked like ordinary rollerblading pads. Once those pads were securely fastened, he struggled to put on a flack vest.

"Superstition," Montana said.

"What?" enquired Dr. Schneider, who was momentarily lost in thought.

"I put the vest on after the arm pads because of a silly superstition. I got the vest after the pads. Thus, I put it on second even though it would be much easier to put on the vest first."

"Oh!" replied Dr. Schneider as if he was barely listening.

The zombie fighter left his jeans and his stained boots on. He strapped on some padded chaps over his jeans. Finally, he pulled out the head of his halberd.

"Did you bring the pole?" enquired Montana.

"It is in the trunk," replied the mayor.

The mayor opened the trunk and pulled out a seven-foot wooden pole.

"It is impossible to fly with a long pole. I'm impressed that it fit so easily in that trunk!"

"She's a classic!" replied Dr. Schneider. "Did you need a butt-cap for your ash-pole?"

"Nope," replied the zombie hunter as he attached the head of his halberd onto the long pole. "Let us kick some zombie decaying butt!"

"Let us ... ?" asked the nervous former English teacher.

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Montana MacInnes and the Reunion of Doom

Chapter 3: Meet Me at the Lemonade Stand

By Douglas E. Gogerty

H.K. sat on the porch for several minutes, but not a single car drove by. There were no cars on the highway. It was quiet. It was as if the town had been evacuated, but there was a brief window that allowed him to enter. Of course, the town did roll up the sidewalks at dusk, but that was no excuse for the eerie silence.

He got off the bench and went inside. He checked the phone, but it was still dead. He was beginning to feel like the last living cell in a dead body. Just then, a cold wrinkled hand fell upon his shoulder. He jumped up startled, but once again, it was Uncle Ben.

"Perhaps you should lay off the coffee Butch," Uncle Ben said in his monotone way.

"It is just that it is so quiet around here," replied H.K. attempting to regain his breath and cringing at being called 'Butch' again.

"It is definitely not like the owl who married a goat," responded Ben.

"Yeah! Hootenanny," replied H.K. attempting to sidestep the 'joke'. "Where is Aunt Beulah?"

"She is upstairs. She likes the quiet."

"Can I borrow your truck Uncle Ben -- please?" asked H.K. attempting to ease into it, but he ended up just blurting it out.

"My truck?" inquired Ben. "The red rocket? Ole Red?"

"Yes."

"The mighty red sled? The red green show?"

"Yes."

"The 52 pickup..."

"Yes, *your truck*!" interrupted H.K.

"No," replied Ben curtly.

"Aw come on!" begged H.K.

"If you took the truck, we would be trapped like weasels..."

"Huh?"

"If, for example, a great zombie horde came this way," began Ben in his typical unemotional tone. "We would not be able to get away. You wouldn't want that on your conscious would you?"

"What are the odds of that happening?"

"I have never computed them."

"But..." began H.K.

"Your bicycle is still in the garage. The exercise would do you good."

"Is that some sort of 'fat joke'?"

"Am I laughing?"

"Uh -- that was *my* joke..."

"Ah!" responded Uncle Ben with a flat facial expression. "Very funny."

"I guess biking is it then."

"I guess so."

"No chance you would change your mind?"

"No chance."

"Very well then."

"I guess so."

"I'll be off then."

"I guess so."

After giving up trying to get the last word in on Uncle Ben, H.K. went into the garage. His ancient 10-speed was hanging on a hook in the garage. His mom had never thrown anything away without permission. Someone once offered her 50 cents for the bike, but she could not get hold of H.K., so she did not sell it.

The tires were flat, so he had to search the garage for the pump. He searched through the pink cabinets in the garage. "No man would have pink cabinets in his garage," H.K. thought to himself. "This is definitely my mom's house..."

He found the pump in one corner, and proceeded to pump up the tires. He also found some lubricant to spray on the chain. H.K. thought, "It has been years since I rode "'ole blue', 'the blue bomber', 'the blues traveler'."

He chastised himself for being like Uncle Ben. "That apple not falling far from the tree thing was too true in this family!" H.K. scowled.

He opened the garage door, and tested the old 10-speed in the driveway. He did a couple of circles, and the aging bike performed just as he remembered -- not very well. It had terrible brakes, it would not shift to the lower sprocket, and it did not want to stay in the upper gears. It was going to be just like old times -- a ten speed with only one working speed.

After his test was complete, he needed to decide where to go. He remembered seeing the old woman as the taxi pulled onto his mom's street. Where was she now? He did not watch where she went, but she should not be too far. Thus, H.K. decided to check that area first.

It was just a block away, and 'ole blue' would have been more trouble than walking. Thus, he walked up the road. There were still no cars and silence remained all around. The image of the blue-haired woman became clearer and clearer in his mind. The more he pictured her in his mind; the more it looked like his dead grandmother.

The woman was wearing the same type of flowered dress that H.K.'s grandma wore. She had the curly, blue wig that grandma wore. She was very petite like grandma was.

H.K.'s thoughts began to wander towards his grandma and how she always baked cookies for get-togethers. "While her cookies were not the greatest," he thought. "They sure beat the awful ones that were made for this reunion."

He knocked on a few doors up the block, but no one answered. He was sure he saw her come this way. Had she got in a car and left? Where was everyone? What was going on?

Since his 10-speed was ready, he decided to ride it to the center of town. Perhaps there was someone by the high school. Maybe there were some old acquaintances at the grocery store. Maybe he would see someone on the highway into town.

H.K. got on his bike and rode on the bike trail next to the highway towards the town square. He did not see one car on his way, nor a pedestrian walking the path. The town seemed empty. The silence hung heavy in the air.

At the first residential street, he got off the bike path and began searching for movement or sound. He was beginning to become tired. He was in worse biking shape than he had realized. It had been too long since he rode last. He was going to need a break soon. That is when he heard it.

He was not quite sure what he heard. It was like a moan. It was like a call. It was like a cross between a moan and call. Nevertheless, it was a sound. It somewhat sounded like a young child shouting. He thought the call was "lemonade," but where did it come from?

H.K. pumped his bike a little harder and tried to find where the cry had emanated. He tried to remember where the kids ran their stands in this neighborhood. The word 'lemonade' kept ringing in his ears. It was the only sound, other than his squeaky bike, he had heard since he had left home. It was the only sign of life.

He rode for a little while, but the silence had returned. There was the one cry he had heard, and the city returned to silence. He turned one corner and spotted it. There on the corner of two normally busy streets was a table with a crude sign. The sign was almost completely illegible. Lemonade, if that is what it said, looked like 'Lemoonaad' but that was being generous.

H.K. pumped as hard as he could to get to the stand. He forgot that his bike had terrible brakes and he flew right past. He did manage to stop several yards away. He dropped his bike and ran back to the stand. He looked around, but there was no one there.

He was breathing hard, and lemonade would be refreshing now. There was a pitcher on the table next to a set of paper cups. The pitcher had a yellow liquid and a few mangled lemons. It looked like an active stand, but where was the kid?

He looked around but saw no one. The weather was nice, but it was not a good day to have a stand because the town seemed deserted. Clearly, the call came from this place. H.K. decided to knock on doors of the closest homes. No one answered. Was he dreaming? What was going on?

He was hot and thirsty, so he decided to just leave a dollar and take some lemonade. He poured some lemonade in one of the glasses and took a drink. The sour liquid bit at his throat and he spit it out. There was no sugar in it and it was warm.

Hot and thirsty, H.K. sat down defeated. Anger and frustration began to build within him. Where was everyone? He sat there, quivering with fury, stammering as he tried to come up with a real crusher. All he got out was, "Lemonade!"

He sat there on the ground for a while with his knees bent up and his head in his hands. Suddenly he felt a hand touch him on the shoulder. He jumped up and his heart leapt even higher.

"Sorry for startling you," said the soft feminine voice.

"Another person..." H.K. mumbled to himself.

"You see," she continued. "My car broke down about a mile from here, and you are the only one I have seen or heard from in a long time."

The feminine voice belonged to a tall blonde-haired woman with stunning blue eyes. She had filthy black hands, she was sweating profusely, and her clothes were very crumpled, but other than that -- H.K. found her stunning.

"When you called out 'lemonade'," she continued "I came as quickly as I could. Why are you running a lemonade stand when everyone else was evacuated because of the zombies?"

"Zombies?" he asked.

"I would have been long gone, but my car failed... Your handwriting is awful," she added after reading the sign. "Are you mentally handicapped or something?"

"Huh? What?" H.K. stammered. "No -- I just got into town and I was looking for some people. I thought I heard someone yell 'lemonade', and I came here. When no one was here, I became frustrated and that is when I yelled."

"Is 'lemonade' a swear word for you?"

"It's just..." H.K. started but could not think of something to say. "Did you say zombies?"

"Yeah, but I do not think it is as big a threat as they make it out to be. I have been walking for quite some time, and you are the only thing I have seen. My name is Laurie by the way..."

Just then, a ghostly pale young man emerged from a nearby house. Part of his head was smashed in and his brain was exposed. He shambled out of the house with a horrific limp. The shin had been shattered, and only flesh kept the leg together.

The look of the child was quite disturbing, but the smell was something else. It reached the couple quickly. It stung their eyes and choked their throats. It was a terribly disorienting stench.

The child limped closer and closer while the two stood there in shock. They grabbed each other at the site of the young creature. The undead child got closer and closer. He was nearly in reach of the two when, in an awful, dismembered, throaty moan, he yelled, "Lemonaaaaaaaaaaaaade!"

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Montana MacInnes and the Reunion of Doom

Chapter 4: The First Dead Un-Dead

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"Uh -- um," stuttered Dr. Schneider. "You see -- when the town hired you -- we hired *you*."

"What's your point?" enquired Montana MacInnes.

"At no time -- you know -- did we think -- you see -- you would work with a townsperson."

"Listen Mr...."

"Doctor," interrupted Dr. Schneider.

"Right -- Dr. Schneider -- I am new here. I have no transportation. While this town is not that big, it would take days for me to clean this place up -- without your help."

"But..."

"Then it is agreed," Montana asserted as he pulled out a pad of paper and pencil from his bag.

"But..."

"Let us get the names of the risen dead," Montana said as he searched the disturbed graves.

Dr. Schneider looked around nervously as Montana wrote down the names on the gravestones. There was no point in arguing the issue as Montana was correct. He would need a ride at the very least. None of this was mentioned in his brochure, but Dr. Schneider should have guessed that some sort of arrangement needed to be made.

"Besides," added Montana. "You will not be able to get passed the guards."

"Well," squirmed Dr. Schneider. "*I* probably could."

"If that is true, the first thing we need to do is firm up the quarantine. We would not want to infect the outside world. Are you sure you wouldn't rather just kill the two that cast the spell? It would make things a lot easier..."

"I'm sure."

"Alright then, I'm finished here. Do you know any of the people on this list? You know, where they used to live?"

"Let me see..." the mayor said stroking his chin as he searched the list. "This name -- I think he lived just up the road. He was a kid that was hit by a car if I remember correctly."

"Let's go," urged Montana as he trotted towards Dr. Schneider's car.

The mayor reluctantly picked up his pace to get to the car. He unlocked the classic Mercury to find that Montana was already sitting in the passenger seat. He was about to lecture Montana on proper car etiquette when they both heard a call.

1976 Mercury Cougar XR-7

"Did that sound like someone just yelled, 'Lemonade' to you?" asked Dr. Schneider.

Montana had grabbed his halberd, was out of the car and running down the street before the mayor knew what was happening. Dr. Schneider started his car and followed behind the running zombie hunter.

Montana MacInnes jumped over fences and cut through yards, so Dr. Schneider had a difficult staying with the running man. He came to a stop just short of a 10-speed bike discarded on the road. He did not know where the zombie expert was, but he was sure he was headed this way.

He looked to see a young man and young woman become suddenly transfixed by something. He could not see what. Then he heard a cry different than the first one, but the word could have been the same. Nevertheless, an awful, dismembered, throaty voice yelled, "Lemonaaaaaaaaaaaaade!"

Montana appeared out of nowhere with his halberd in his hand. Dr. Schneider got out of the vehicle and spotted the pale young man limping horribly towards the young couple. A second later, the child's head was off and it rolled under the table. A thick black substance oozed out of his neck, and he fell with a sickening thud.

"I highly recommend we get out of here," Montana said calmly.

He ran towards Dr. Schneider and the two followed behind. "What the...?" started the mayor.

"I suggest you duck behind the car," insisted the zombie hunter.

Following his lead, the quartet ducked behind the car. As if on cue, the corpse exploded with an awful kersplat spewing black goo in every direction.

When the glop settled, the zombie expert asked, "Did anyone get hit by anything?"

Everyone checked and answered in the negative. Montana MacInnes introduced himself to the couple. H.K. Stein and Laurie Ball introduced themselves as well.

"Mr. Schneider?" H.K. enquired.

"It is Dr. Schneider,"

"Oh! Lowell, Mr. -- er -- Dr. Educated! Have you moved out of your mom's house yet?" asked H.K.

"I am the mayor of this town -- I'll have you know."

"Wow! Mayor!" H.K. said with a touch of sarcasm in his voice. "But, that doesn't answer my question."

"It is none of your business," insisted the mayor.

"I see you're still driving Ugly John," joked H.K.

"This car is a classic," protested Dr. Schneider.

"I hate to break up this fine reunion," added Montana. "But I suggest you all get into 'Ugly John' as you call him -- and fast!"

Without hesitation, the three piled into the car as Montana jumped upon the hood. They learned quickly that Montana knew what he was talking about and that they should listen to what he says. After they were in the car, they heard a strange mix of animal-like noises.

From all directions, strange looking dogs, cats, squirrels, and rabbits came running. There were hollow barks, strained meows, and odd whistles as the animals got closer. Montana looked at the animals as they converged towards his position.

"What is he looking for?" asked Laurie.

"I have no idea," answered Dr. Schneider.

"My guess," H.K. said. "Is that he is looking for the main zombie. If he eliminates the root cause, the rest will fall."

An undead robin swooped down upon Montana and he sliced it in half with his weapon. A sparrow was next, but Montana missed the small bird. A large German shepherd jumped against the driver side window startling Dr. Schneider. He watched in horror as Montana removed its head with one swing of the halberd.

Dozens of animals now surrounded the car. Claws and teeth were gnashing at anything and everything. Montana cut animal after animal into pieces. Nothing had any effect on the rest of them.

That is when Montana spotted the crippled cat attempting to make it towards the car. He was certain that she was the root of all of these undead animals. Like a pole-vaulter, he placed the end of his halberd on the ground and launched himself over the crowd of animals surrounding the car.

The zombie hunter landed a few feet from a squirrel trying to bite him. He kicked the animal out of the way, and made his way towards the cat. She hissed at him, but her head went spinning away with a swing of his weapon.

Montana ran as fast as he could to gain shelter as the entire collection of zombie animals exploded into a putrid black mess.

The stench of the undead boy had been bad. With the addition of the exploded animals, the stink in and around the car was sickening. Lowell turned the car on and sped away leaving the zombie hunter alone taking H.K. and Laurie with him.

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Montana MacInnes and the Reunion of Doom

Chapter 5: Zombies Hate Vinaigrettes

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The mayor, Dr. Lowell Schneider sped off leaving Montana MacInnes alone at the Lemonade stand. Sitting next to him in the front seat was H.K. Stein. Laurie Ball also sat in the front seat next to the door. With a stunned look on his face H.K. asked, "What are you doing? We can't just leave him!"

"Those varmints that were surrounding the car just exploded! Do you have any idea what that could do to my paint job?"

"So while the world is coming to an end, you're going to wash the car?" H.K. enquired as he spotted the carwash a half a block away.

"It'll only take a minute," explained Lowell as he pulled the classic car into the carwash.

Lowell pulled his car into one of the empty carwash stalls. He opened the ashtray, grabbed a handful of quarters, and got out of the car.

"Can we have the keys to listen to the radio while we wait?" asked H.K.

"Sure," replied Dr. Schneider as he handed H.K. the keys.

The mayor pushed the door closed and realized that he got some of the black stuff on his hand. Disgusted, he pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and promptly wiped his hands. He stuck out his tongue and gave a little shiver as he examined the tarry substance.

The fastidious former English teacher dropped a few quarters in the slot, and the water began coming from the carwash nozzle. He started from the top and began thoroughly washing his pride and joy of a car.

"AM Radio?" complained H.K. "It is probably original equipment."

"Why bother?" asked Laurie.

"You're probably right," responded H.K. as he switched off the radio and turned the car's ignition to the off position.

"How do you know so much about zombies?" asked Laurie.

"I read Montana MacInnes's book: Zombies from A to Z, but that last bit was a surprise."

"What?"

"When he killed the cat, which was probably the cause of all of the animal zombies, all of them exploded. He didn't mention that happening in his book."

"That sure was gruesome."

Dr. Schneider dropped a few more quarters in the carwash and continued to spray the goo off his car. The soapy water splashed off the car and went down the drain.

"With voodoo spells, it is difficult to determine how they will react," continued H.K. after a bit of thought. "Perhaps that is what these undead are."

"It made things easier. That man didn't have to decapitate all of those animals."

"Let us hope that they were all destroyed with that. Montana fought a few birds, if a duck or something escaped and migrated there could be big trouble nationwide."

"That Dr. Schneider is sure taking his time," complained Laurie as she watched the mayor drop a few more quarters in the carwash.

"He really loves this car. It was a gift from his mommy" explained H.K. as he reached over and honked the horn to get Dr. Schneider's attention. The mayor turned and was a ghastly shade of white. His eyes were black as coal and he had lips to match. He bared his teeth and hissed at the car's occupants. After that, he continued to spray the car.

Laurie screamed. H.K. slid over and got behind the wheel. He locked the door and started the car. He put the cougar into reverse, pushed the accelerator to the floor and sped out of the stall. Laurie gave another scream as she saw zombie rats crawling out of the carwash drain.

"Back to the lemonade stand!" shouted Laurie as H.K. turned the wheel of the classic car to get on the road.

Just then, they spotted Montana MacInnes jump a nearby fence and enter the carwash. In the wink of an eye, Dr. Schneider's head fell with a thud on the cement floor. Montana was out of the stall before the decapitated mayor exploded in cloud of soapy water and black spray.

Montana ran to the car and asked for his bag that was in the backseat. Laurie gave him his bag. She and H.K. watched as the zombie slayer pulled a few vials out of his bag. The expert examined the labels closely and put a few of the vials back.

A pot and a propane burner were the next things he pulled out of the bag. A few vials were emptied into the pot and a fire lit beneath it. When the pot began to boil, Montana began rocking back and forth and chanting.

After a few moments, the zombie hunter grabbed the pot and began sprinkling its contents throughout the carwash stall. He poured the remaining contents down the drain and ran towards the car.

Laurie opened her door, and slid over. The undead expert threw his bag in back, and got into the waiting two-door sport coupe.

"Go!" shouted Montana as the carwash erupted in a huge plume of green-gray smoke.

The merge-o-matic engine of the 30-year old mercury complained as the accelerator was pressed to the floor. The car eventually got up to speed as H.K. drove away from the carwash, which had erupted into a huge mushroom cloud of green smoke.

The town suddenly appeared to be full of life as ghostly white creatures shambled out of buildings towards the plume of smoke that was the carwash. One zombie ventured out in front of the speeding car, but H.K. did not slow down. The car was undamaged and the zombie got up and hissed as the car sped away.

"Where are we going?" asked H.K. after several blocks of just driving.

"Grocery store," replied Montana in a calm and cool voice.

"Pardon?"

"I need supplies," responded Montana.

With a few turns, H.K. made his way to the town's main road. He drove directly to the store where he had worked in high school. It had not changed in the many years since he had graduated. He pulled the car close to the cement pillars in front of the store.

"It's closed," declared Laurie.

"I can get us in," responded Montana as he grabbed his bag.

"Wait!" cried H.K. "You don't have to break any glass. Give me a second and I'll get us in."

H.K. jumped out of the car and ran around the side of the building. Montana also got out of the car and began sizing up the door. He was fumbling around in his bag when the lights of the store when up. A brief time later, the front door was open.

"Some things never change," declared H.K.

The three entered the store. "I need red-wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, garlic..." began Montana.

"Is he making a salad?" whispered Laurie to H.K.

"Zombies hate vinaigrettes," joked H.K. "But seriously, we're dealing with voodoo zombies. Potions and spells make them rise from the dead. With the right ingredients, counter potions and spells can be made."

"Like at the carwash?" asked Laurie.

"Exactly!" replied H.K. as he led the group to the ingredients.

"I have some preserved amphibians in my car," volunteered Laurie.

"Seriously?" asked Montana.

"I'm an amateur herpetologist," replied Laurie with an air of pride.

Montana grabbed her and gave her a big kiss. "How are they preserved?"

"Some are in alcohol and some in formaldehyde."

"Great!" exclaimed the zombie hunter with a surprising amount of emotion. "Sugar and kosher salt!" he proclaimed.

When the group had gathered all of the supplies that the zombie expert wanted, H.K. ushered them out of the store. He made a list of the things they had grabbed and left a note with some money before he locked up the store. He jumped into the car and they sped off to where Laurie had left her car.

The zombie expert examined the contents of Laurie's trunk with wide excited eyes. He grabbed a few specimens and gave the contents a smell. A few he tasted the preserving liquid. When he was satisfied, he had a couple of frogs and newts.

"Air traffic personnel frown upon such things in carry-on luggage," explained the zombie expert.

He emptied the liquids from the jars and replaced it with sugar. He shook the jars for a bit. When he was satisfied, he then dumped out the sugar and replaced it with the kosher salt. After a few more shakes, he put the jars into his bag and shouted "To the lemonade stand!"

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Montana MacInnes and the Reunion of Doom

Chapter 6: Est Ti Elundus Spheari Amundus

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Laurie Ball, H.K. Stein and zombie expert Montana MacInnes had gathered some needed supplies including a few animal specimens from Laurie's car. H.K. was driving Dr. Schneider's 70's classic car towards the place of their first zombie encounter -- the lemonade stand. Montana had the window open, and was holding his halberd along the side of the car.

"The zombies are going to be a bit more aggressive now," explained Montana.

"Why?" asked Laurie.

"Before," started Montana "they were in fairly passive. They were going about their business. However, an anti-undead spell has been used which has put them in survival mode."

"At the carwash," added H.K.

"Exactly," replied Montana. "I would have used a lesser incantation, but that fool Schneider took my supplies and washed that zombie fluid down the drain. I had to use a big one to hopefully get all the undead creatures."

"And prevent its spread," concluded H.K.

"Yes," Montana said. "Further, at the lemonade stand, I'm going to use another incantation. This will bring the creatures towards us. Thus, you should roll up the windows and stay in the car."

"Why does it have to be done at the lemonade stand?" asked Laurie.

"I need an undead corpse," explained Montana. "Preferably a first order one and we have that at the lemonade stand."

"Is this a good place to stop?" asked H.K. as he pulled the car up to the lemonade stand.

"I'll need you close, but that is too close," responded the zombie expert. "Pull into that driveway over there."

H.K. pulled the car into the driveway of a house two doors down from where the lemonade stand stood. Montana, with his halberd in hand, grabbed his bag of supplies from the back seat and walked over to the lemonade stand.

Montana picked up the container of lemonade and gave it a smell. He poured a small glass, gave it a taste and spit it out. He walked over to the car and asked if anyone had some lemonade.

"Not that I know of," lied H.K.

"Good," responded Montana as he went back to his business.

The zombie expert put the lemonade aside, grabbed the lifeless zombie head by the hair, and put it on the table. He was careful not to get any of the black fluid on him that was trickling from the neck of the severed head.

From his bag, he grabbed his propane stove that he used at the carwash. He pulled a large pot from the bag, and poured some red wine vinegar into it. He mumbled a few words, and poured the contents on the torso of the undead boy. Next, he poured some olive oil into the pot, mumbled some more words, and poured the contents upon the boy's torso.

Now that that part was finished, Montana put the pot upon the burner and filled it with the lemonade. He held the head above the pot and let some of the black fluid drain into the pot. He took out some vials and poured some of their contents into the pot. Finally, he removed a jar of salt. In it was a frog, which he collected from Laurie. He removed the specimen from the salt, and put it into the pot.

Montana grabbed his bag and walked over to the car. He opened the door and placed the bag into the back seat of the car. "Roll up the windows, and stay put," he told the occupants of the car.

H.K. and Laurie nodded and raised the windows of the car. They both watched intently as the zombie hunter lit the fire under the pot. Montana checked his halberd as he waited for the pot to boil. With the amount of liquid in the pot, it seemed like forever before it started boiling.

Laurie and H.K. were beginning to feel uncomfortable as the car temperature began to rise. Nevertheless, they did as the zombie expert instructed and kept the windows closed.

When the pot reached a full boil, Montana took the head from the table. By the hair, he began waving it over the torso of the child and chanting "Est ti elundus spheari amundus."

When he was satisfied, he placed the head upon the torso and grabbed the pot. He continued the chant as he swirled the pot above the torso.

H.K. felt the sweat pouring down his face. His insides felt as if someone were mixing them. He swayed in small circles with each movement of the pot. He struggled to keep his eyes from rolling into the back of his head.

Suddenly, Montana placed the pot back on the burner and ran over to the car. Laurie opened the passenger door and a blast of hot air escaped the car. The rush of cool air felt good to H.K.

"Holy crap!" shouted Montana as he got to the car. "I forgot the garlic!"

Montana grabbed his bag from the seat behind Laurie. After a brief search, Montana took the garlic from the bag and stripped a single clove from the head. He returned the rest to the bag and threw it into the back seat.

"Keep this door closed from here on out," he told Laurie before he ran back to the pot. Laurie closed the door as Montana threw the new ingredient into the pot. After a quick stir, the zombie expert returned to chanting "Est ti elundus spheari amundus."

Laurie screamed as she spotted the first zombie shambling towards the lemonade stand. Suddenly there was another and then another. Montana chanted louder and louder as he removed the pot from the fire and started to swirl the pot over the child's torso. H.K.'s head was spinning as he struggled to remain conscious.

Closer and closer the zombies ambled. The ghostly white creatures came from all directions. They emitted a guttural moan as the approached the lemonade stand. Their yellow eyes affixed upon the chanting Montana MacInnes.

The zombies were closing in on the zombie expert. They limped and shuffled nearer and nearer. Eventually, one reached the yard where the lemonade stand was set up, but she stumbled over the curb. She began crawling towards the chanting zombie slayer.

A second undead person and then a third reached the lemonade stand. Montana could wait no longer; he took the boiling hot potion and poured a small amount upon the torso. The remaining liquid he splashed upon as many zombies as he could reach.

Montana grabbed his weapon and ran. The agonizing screams of the zombies in the yard broke several windows in the area. Great clouds of gray-brown smoke began steaming from the splashed undead. The yellow eyes of the unaffected zombies in the area flashed with red. H.K. fell unconscious. Naturally, Laurie screamed.

Using his halberd, Montana decapitated several zombies that were not splashed with the potion. He was working his way back towards the screaming Laurie. Streams of smoke were filling the air, and bursts of black liquid were adding to the gruesome fireworks display.

The now aggressive zombies were no match for Montana and his zombie-slaying halberd. With each undead whose head was removed, a spray of black liquid erupted. Montana was covered in a viscous black fluid.

He noticed the pale H.K. unconscious in the driver's seat. He told Laurie to stay put as the black liquid dripped from his body. The panic in Laurie's eyes began to subside as the zombie slayer went after a few more zombies.

When Montana had finished off the last zombie in the area, he jumped into the center of the plume of gray-brown smoke. The cloud changed from a brownish color to the color of blood as the zombie hunter was engulfed.

Just then, a ghastly white figure sat up next to Laurie. His eyes were blood red and his tongue was black. Laurie tried to scream, but no sound came out. She thought about opening the door, but the words of the zombie hunter rang in her head. She was trapped, so she fainted.

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Montana MacInnes and the Reunion of Doom

Chapter 7: The Gruesome Line-Up

By Douglas E. Gogerty

H.K.'s skin felt cold and clammy. His head was still swimming. The last thing he remembered thinking was that he must remain conscious. Nevertheless, he blacked out. He had a fuzzy dream of Laurie turning white with her mouth agape then she fell unconscious. In the dream, he struggled to see if he could help, but she seemed too far. "Did she turn into a zombie?" he thought before he blacked out again.

He now found himself on the grass looking up at the sky. He did not remember getting out of the cougar, but he was out. His tongue hurt as if he had bitten it. He wiped his mouth and found blood. He indeed had bitten it at some point.

With his consciousness being slowly restored, he began to look around. Next to him, in a similar reclining position as himself, was Laurie. She was slightly pale, but she began to stir also. Clouds of a blood red mist were dissipating all around.

Montana was busy placing the heads of the corpses upon the former lemonade stand in some sort of gruesome line-up. "Ah," he spoke to H.K. "you're awake."

After the cobwebs cleared a bit more, H.K. replied, "Yes, I guess I am."

"How do you feel?"

"I don't know..."

"You drank the lemonade didn't you?"

"Uhhhhh -- yes," H.K. responded reluctantly.

"You must have good zombie resistance in your family," responded the zombie expert.

"Huh?"

"The incantation and the potion I created would have turned most people irrevocably into an undead creature. In all rights, you should be one of these heads."

"But, you drank more lemonade than I did," H.K. stated as his head became clearer.

"While that may be true, I inoculated myself with a little frog alcohol before hand."

"What brought me back?"

"Probably when I broke the spell, you were also released. I didn't need the spell any longer when I finished off the last zombie in the area, so I let it go."

"What is going on?" asked Laurie as she came to.

"Welcome back," replied Montana. "We are just having a chat now that we are temporarily out of danger."

"Temporarily?" asked Laurie.

"Thirteen corpses were brought back to life with the original spell. There may still be some of those originals out there, and there may be some residuals as well."

"Residuals?" Laurie and H.K. asked at the same time.

"Normal people, who for one reason or another, have turned. Like that Schneider fellow."

"What would cause them to -- er -- turn?" Laurie asked.

"Usually a bite," replied Montana. "However, any fluid exchange could also result in a transformation."

"Ewwwww! Zombie sex..." replied Laurie with a look of revulsion on her face.

"It doesn't have to be that -- um -- intimate," replied Montana.

"Like a kiss," added H.K.

"Exactly," continued Montana. "It could even happen if you shared some food with a zombie -- like a cookie or some lemonade."

"In Lowell's case, he got some zombie blood on him," H.K. included.

"Lowell was a zombie?" asked Montana. "Who's Lowell?"

"Mr. Schneider," replied H.K.

"Doctor," Laurie said jokingly rebuking H.K.

"Right!" laughed H.K.

A flash of guilt for making a joke on the newly departed went across both their faces. They were still suffering from the effects of the shocks they had encountered. At least, that is how they rationalized it in their heads.

"His first name was Lowell?" asked Montana. "Anyway, since you two are from these parts. I was hoping that you could put faces to names -- as it were."

"What?" the pair asked with a slight look of horror on their faces.

"I have a list of the original thirteen," replied the zombie expert patiently. "If we can determine who is still out there and where they may be, we can end this adventure."

With some hesitation, Laurie and H.K. began to examine the bodiless heads arranged in a row on the lemonade stand table. Montana instructed them to say something if the face looked familiar. He did not want to bias his results by giving them the names and have the pair put faces to this list of names.

Laurie recognized a man who was once in her herpetology club. She had remembered the news reports of another one's death. A third was her great aunt's next-door neighbor's second cousin once removed. It was a long story that she did not want to get into. She told Montana the names and he checked them off the list. She did not recognize any other faces.

"Mrs. Phipps," declared H.K. sadly. "She was a lunch-lady when I was in school. Old man Conifer -- a grumpy old man who used to chase us off the lake. Mr. D'Cheuer was a retired French teacher who used to substitute for our French teacher Mrs. Anderson. Mrs. D'Cheuer is here too."

H.K. had a strange sensation come over him. He was remembering happy times but the gruesome face of death kept disrupting those childhood memories. These people were old when he was a kid, it is no wonder they have passed on. That did not stop the fight between the happy memories and the grim reaper.

"Do you have any first names?" asked Montana.

"They were adults when I was a kid," replied H.K. "We didn't use their first names. It was always Mr. this -- Mrs. that.

"Do you know when they died? Or do you have any other identifying information?" enquired the zombie expert.

"I think Old Man Conifer died from a heart attack in -- uh -- 1983 -- I think. The others were alive when I left," replied H.K. "I don't know if it would help, but Mr. D'Cheuer got a nasty scar from when he fought in Korea."

"Korean War Vet..." replied Montana. "That does help. Weston and Linda -- got them. Harold Conifer is checked too. I think I can safely assume that is Doris Phipps."

"Doris! Yeah! I'm surprised Mrs. Conifer is not here," added H.K. "She must have not been buried next to her husband."

"Perhaps," replied Montana. "Anyone else look familiar?"

"This guy looks familiar, but I cannot place the name."

"Think," prodded Montana.

"He always wore tweed suits with the suede elbow patches. He had one of those scottie dogs. He always had a book on his pocket, but I am drawing a blank on his name."

"Anyone else look familiar?"

Laurie and H.K. both replied that they did not recognize anyone else. Thus, Montana let them look at the list. Laurie and H.K. began searching the list for familiar names.

"Claude Fogerty," declared H.K. "That is his name."

"Are you sure?" asked the zombie expert.

"Positive," responded H.K. as he looked over the list further.

H.K. saw Mr. Conifer's name. He read Mr. and Mrs. D'Cheuer's name. As he worked his way down the alphabetic list, he saw Mrs. Phipp's name. Then he saw it -- Mrs. Ruth Stein. There on the bottom of the list was his grandmother.

Frantically, he searched the faces. None of them belonged to her. His undead grandmother was still out there. They would have to go after her. The cold clammy feeling he had when he woke up returned, and he dropped to the ground with a thud.

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Montana MacInnes and the Reunion of Doom

Chapter 8: My Grandma is a Zombie (The End)

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Montana MacInnes was collecting the heads of the unidentified zombies and placing them in a sack he had pulled out of his duffle bag. H.K. Stein had fainted and was lying on the ground. Laurie Ball was attending to him.

"Are you all right?" Laurie asked as H.K.'s eyes opened.

"Huh?" H.K. said trying to clear the cobwebs out of his head.

"You fainted," she replied with concern in her voice.

"Grandma Stein..." H.K. began.

"Is dead," interrupted Montana. "Her form has risen from her grave, and is a danger to the community."

"But..." complained H.K.

"No buts!" the zombie expert asserted. "If you know where she is, you must take me to her."

"I will," whimpered H.K. "It is just -- I don't think -- um -- I could take -- er -- seeing her decapitated and explode in front of me."

"I will take that into consideration," replied Montana.

"It'll be all right," assured Laurie. "Why do you suppose she did not come like the rest?"

"We live quite a way from here," answered H.K. "She probably is on her way or something."

"The pull from 'home and usual life' and the 'group zombie' are usually the only forces that affect a voodoo zombie," Montana began. "Someone who lives a long way from their grave usually do not feel the pull from home."

"I thought I saw her when I got to town," admitted H.K. "I wasn't sure it was her."

"Sometimes one blue haired lady looks like all the rest," added Laurie.

"True," replied H.K.

"There must be an inordinately strong pull from your home," added Montana. "Do you have any idea why?"

"We were having a family reunion," answered H.K. "Lots of relatives being there perhaps..."

"Perhaps," Montana responded. "Could you open the trunk?"

H.K. got off the ground and dusted himself off. He stretched and checked to see if he was hurt. He landed in the grass so his faint did not cause him much physical damage. He walked over to the waiting cougar and opened the trunk.

Montana put the sack of heads into the trunk and pushed it closed. He opened the passenger door and threw his bag into the back seat. He motioned towards Laurie to get in and he grabbed his halberd. He rolled down the window as H.K. got in and started the car.

As usual, Montana held the halberd out of the window along the car as H.K. pulled the car out of the driveway. H.K. drove slowly. He did this partly to allow Montana to see anything moving, but he also was not looking forward to seeing his grandmother decapitated and stuffed into a sack.

The trip was uneventful. The trio was quiet and somber on the drive across town. Laurie smiled at H.K. in an attempt to assure him it was all right. H.K. politely smiled back, but his eyes betrayed his true feelings. He was dreading what was going to happen.

Eventually, the classic, 'sea island green' car pulled into the driveway. H.K. had traveled down that road many times, but never before had he dreaded the sight of his parents' house. Montana grabbed his bag from the back seat, but H.K. just sat behind the wheel. Laurie patted him on the thigh, and sat beside him.

"I could use something to drink," Laurie said eventually.

"Okay," responded H.K. with a polite smile.

The pair went into the house as Montana was once again making some concoction in a pot. They walked through the house and into the kitchen. H.K. walked straight to the refrigerator and opened it up.

"What would you like?" he asked.

"What do you have?" she replied.

"Let's see... There is water of course. There is some sort of lemon-ish-flavored drink, but no lemons were harmed in the making of it."

"Isn't there a family reunion going on here?" she asked.

"They're not big drinkers," responded H.K. "But there is some 'Cold Duck' and here is some of my Uncle Frank's homemade wine."

"Is the wine any good?"

"There is one way to find out..."

Just then, Laurie screamed "Zombie!"

H.K. turned with a start. His heart had jumped into his throat.

"Who is your friend?" asked Uncle Ben in his usual monotone.

"Uncle Ben," H.K. said with some relief. "Uncle Ben this is Laurie Ball."

"Nice to meet you," Laurie said with some embarrassment.

"I get that zombie comment a lot," replied Uncle Ben with his obnoxious laugh. "Who is your friend in the driveway?"

"That is Montana MacInnes, famous..." started H.K.

"No!" yelled Uncle Ben with more emotion than H.K. had ever heard.

As Uncle Ben rushed towards the front door, Laurie asked, "What is with him?"

"I have no idea," replied H.K. as he walked towards a window facing the driveway.

Uncle Ben knocked over the pot before the zombie expert could restrain him. Montana easily wrestled the old man to the ground and pinned him to the grass. Once again, Laurie screamed as two ghostly pale women shambled down the stairs and walked out the front door. H.K. was on the two women's heels and Laurie followed shortly afterwards.

Montana let Ben go and grabbed his halberd.

"Wait!" shouted H.K. "Aunt Beulah isn't a zombie she has just been fighting a long illness!"

"She's a zombie all right," returned Montana.

"Please -- no!" sobbed Uncle Ben. "They won't harm anyone..."

Confusion caused everyone to pause for a moment, but then Montana stated, "There is only one way to be sure of that."

"Stop!" shouted H.K. as he rushed to get between the zombie killer and his aunt and grandmother.

"Please -- listen," begged Uncle Ben. "Look at their necklaces."

H.K. was still confused, but it stopped the zombie expert in his tracks. They looked like ordinary pearl necklaces to H.K. Montana turned to look at Uncle Ben and asked, "Are those what I think?"

"PN-3000's from your own catalogue," replied Uncle Ben.

"So you have successfully..." started Montana.

"Yes," responded Uncle Ben with clear relief in his voice.

"What the hell is going on?" asked Laurie and H.K. in unison.

"Ruth! Beulah! Inside!" commanded Uncle Ben.

The two women turned and shambled past Laurie and entered the house. In amazement, H.K. watched the two do as his uncle commanded. Montana nodded his head, put his halberd down and said, "Very well."

"Please sit," Uncle Ben told Laurie and H.K.

The pair did as requested and sat on the front porch. Montana gathered his things together and put them in his bag. Uncle Ben paced back and forth a few times thinking of what to say.

"Butch," Uncle Ben started in his normal monotonous tone. "Beulah had Alzheimer's, and there was supposed to be this miracle drug. However, this drug had not received FDA approval and was thus, not available. However, I used some contacts to obtain it. Needless to say, the drug didn't work exactly as promised. In fact, it killed my wife."

"How long has Aunt Beulah been -- you know -- undead?" asked H.K.

"A couple years," responded Ben. "I found that I had an ability to control her to some degree."

"A zombie whisperer?" asked Laurie.

"I suppose you could say that," responded Ben. "Some zombies are naturally drawn to me."

"His pull likely amplified the normal home pull and drew your grandma so far from the cemetery," added Montana.

"The call went out to evacuate, and I knew I couldn't get Beulah past the roadblock, so I stayed behind," continued Uncle Ben. "I was shocked to find Mom here and baking cookies."

"Why didn't you tell me any of this?" asked H.K.

"I thought you knew," replied Ben. "Since you made it past the roadblock, I thought you were here to help."

"That idiot mayor," replied Montana. "He let anyone pass the roadblock after our plane landed. He was unlucky enough to get through during that window."

"So, what they say about when you 'assume' is true," replied Ben with his jarring laugh.

"What is the deal with those pearl-like necklaces?" asked Laurie.

"They are the PN-3000s," replied Montana proudly.

"They are necklaces that will decapitate a zombie by remote," added Ben. "They also have a 'dead man's switch.' So, if I do not press the button every 12 hours, they automatically -- um -- er -- de-zombify. In case anything happens to me."

"What about bites and such?" asked H.K.

"In the beginning," replied Uncle Ben. "Beulah nipped at me. However, I have some sort of natural ability to fight off the zombie effect. So, I fought it off."

"You showed that ability as well," added Montana. "I am also mostly immune -- save a zombie opening up my skull and chomping directly upon my brain."

Uncle Ben laughed heartily at the joke and continued, "So you see, everything is under control here... as much as possible anyway."

"Can you really take care of two zombies?" asked Laurie.

"Sure," replied Ben. "They do not need to eat anything; they just need a place to stay out of trouble."

"It sounds like there is no danger here," stated Montana boldly.

"That may be all of the zombies," added Laurie.

"They did cause me a few problems with whatever you did in town," replied Uncle Ben. "But, they are much calmer now. Now if you excuse me, I should attend to Mom before she starts baking more of her awful cookies."

H.K. and Laurie were satisfied with the story and followed him inside. They opened the bottle of wine and toasted to a fine adventure. It was awful, so they decided to drive Montana to the roadblock. The cab driver was there talking to the authorities still trying to get through. The final heads were identified and therefore Montana declared that the case was closed. Or was it?

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First Contact

Part 1

By Douglas E. Gogerty

It was 9:06 AM GMT on 25th of March 2108. The Hubble Space Telescope II was taking images of star HD179949b. While processing a series of images, an astronomy intern at the University of California at Berkeley first spotted a small anomaly. It was incredibly bright, but it was very small, distant, and brief. It could have been anything, but it incited some astronomer's interest. However, they did not have enough data to make a determination of what caused the brief, bright flash. Nevertheless, they kept a close watch on that small section of space.

A few days later, an astronomer using the ancient VLT array in Chile also detected something. A similar flash of light that was very close. It was much closer than the previous anomaly. In fact, from the information that was gathered, they theorized that it was just outside Earth's solar system. Whatever it was, it was now close. Was it the same phenomena or was it different? Speculation went on among astronomers for weeks.

About a month after the first flash, the asteroid detection system flashed orange. A miniscule object was on a Near-Earth course. Because of its small size, it posed little danger to the earth. However, this object grabbed the attention of the debating scientists. They used the resources available for tracking dangerous asteroids to track this relatively insignificant object.

The tiny metallic object was smooth and regular. It was not like the other asteroids of that size. Further, it was decelerating. How could that be? The gravity of our sun and our planet should cause the object to accelerate. What was slowing the object down?

For two weeks, astronomers tracked the object. Eventually, it was too close to earth to track any longer. They now had enough data to plot a trajectory. It appeared as if the object would enter a low earth orbit. It was not going to crash into the earth at all.

Ground based detectors spotted the metallic object and tracked it as it made orbit after orbit just outside the Earth's atmosphere. With each orbit, it had a slight change in longitude. Its first orbit took it from the North Pole to the South Pole, but after a week, it was orbiting around the equator.

Another flash and it was gone. However, it did not fly away. It was picked up on RADAR at Dulles International Airport. It had entered the Earth's atmosphere. The military sent some fighter jets to intercept the unidentified flying object.

All attempts to communicate with the UFO were unsuccessful. Further, the military aircraft were unable to force it to change its trajectory. They could not lock their heat-seeking missiles onto the strange craft. All of their weapons were ineffective against the alien spacecraft as it was now called.

Eventually, it landed on the edge of a runway at Dulles. Immediately, military vehicles and personnel surrounded it. Authorities notified the airlines, and they closed the airport. All air traffic moved to other locations.

The classic saucer shaped craft sat on its three legs at the end of the runway steaming, but not from heat. It was ice cold and warmed in the springtime air. The varying temperatures caused the condensation on the craft, which froze and then steamed off.

The black saucer glistened in the sun, but it just sat. For days, it just sat there. It had no windows, so there was no way to detect if or what was inside. Detectors of every type were set up around the craft. If it emitted any type of signal, an alarm would sound.

Curious crowds came from all over to attempt to get a peek at the alien spacecraft. However, the military kept the area well guarded. Only authorized people were able to see the visiting craft.

After days of no activity, a small shaft appeared out of the bottom of the saucer. The military units went on full alert. Weapons were made ready to fire. Just as suddenly as it appeared, the shaft disappeared into the spacecraft. However, it deposited an object on the ground.

The small object had six wheels and rolled from out beneath the craft. It was some sort of vehicle. However, it was only one meter long and about half as wide. It rolled off the tarmac and onto a surrounding patch of ground. General D.C. Hever gave the order for Sergeant Christian Dwaystal to approach the vehicle.

"We mean you no harm," insisted Sergeant Dwaystal.

The space object did not respond to the words of the sergeant, but a long arm unfolded and scratched at the dirt.

"What do you want?" asked the Sergeant.

The object's arm began drilling into the soil. Another segment of the arm penetrated the hole that was a few inches deep.

"What should I say?" Sergeant Dwaystal asked the General.

General Hever just shrugged as a small tube arose from the object. The vehicle began to buzz and hum.

"Usted habla Espanola?" asked Sergeant Dwaystal. "Parlez-vous Francais?"

Just then, the detectors screamed as the vehicle emitted some sort of signal. In a panic, the vehicle was destroyed in a barrage of weapon fire. Sergeant Dwaystal was barely able to get out of the way before the craft crumbled into a pile of rubble.

More detectors sounded as the craft began emitting signals of various frequencies and amplitudes. General Hever ordered everyone to stow his or her weapon and fall back. The military crowd moved back as ordered.

After a few tense minutes, the detectors quieted. A few moments later, the shaft beneath the craft emerged. Slowly, the shaft reached the ground. Just as slowly, the shaft retreated into the craft revealing a three-legged object.

Inside the tripod sat a multi-limbed creature. It looked something like a terrestrial octopus. Three of its legs fit into the three legs giving it support. Two other arms were in appendages for reaching and grasping. The remaining appendages were inside for working various controls. It was an alien creature in a space suit.

It took a few steps towards the crowd. Nervously, a few soldiers discharged their weapons.

"Cease Fire!" shouted General Hever.

The weapons had no effect upon the alien. The suit was more durable than the initial vehicle. The alien headed directly towards the General. A few soldiers stepped between the approaching alien and the General. However, General Hever ordered them aside.

The two stood face to face. The General remained silent. After a few tense seconds, an electrical voice made a few sounds. It then said, "Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!"

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First Contact

Part 2

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The General looked inquisitively at his subordinates. They all shrugged. No one knew what to make of the initial statement given by the alien visitor. "Apprehend him!" the General said eventually.

"Open with a joke he said," the alien muttered. "They will be less inclined towards violence he said."

Several military men rushed to grab the multi-legged alien. However, an invisible field prevented them from getting too close. The soldiers fell back one by one from the three-legged space suit of the alien, each receiving a slight electrical shock.

"Perhaps I should have said Gort! Deklato Rosco!" continued the alien. "It might have been slightly more apropos, but that line is not nearly as memorable."

General Hever ordered his men to stand down. They were not going to be able to apprehend the alien physically in that manner. He told his men to ready their weapons.

"Maybe they have not seen The Day the Earth Stood Still," he said continuing his muttering internal dialog. "I should have stuck to the classics."

"Surround the alien, but hold your fire," ordered the General.

They had previously observed that their weapons had no effect upon the visitor from space. The bullets of the projectile weapons bounced off the alien's shielding. The energy from the energy weapons was simply absorbed by the shield making it even stronger.

"I just did not want to sound so clichéd," muttered the alien ignoring the actions going on around him.

"Prepare to move in!" ordered the General.

The soldiers did not fire or lower their weapons, but they continued to eye the alien with suspicion.

"I come in peace," stated the alien with a highly dejected tone. "Take me to your leader..."

"You speak English?" asked the General with some surprise.

"We have encountered your transmissions. When you beam signals into space, you should expect others to encounter them. Actually, we have been studying you for quite some time. I have spent the entire voyage studying your transmissions. I particularly like the Friday After Dark episodes on one of the channels. They are filled with your species copulating, and I find them most entertaining. Nonetheless, I am capable of speaking, with rudimentary fluency, several of your species' languages."

"Will -- you -- come -- with -- us -- peacefully?" asked the General in a slow broken tone.

"Do not patronize me!" insisted the alien. "Your weapons are useless against our technology. I could destroy everyone within several miles of here. However, I have not. I will follow you, if I am taken to someone of authority."

"We will take you to the aircraft carrier Richard B. Cheney," responded the General. "The President of the United States of America will meet you there."

"Lead on and I will follow," replied the alien. "I will be unable to ride in your vehicles, but I am capable of high speed travel."

"Very good," the General replied waving his arms to indicate to his men to stand down and fall back. "Soldiers -- to the George W. Bush Naval Facility."

The soldiers lowered their weapons and boarded the waiting vehicles. General Hever boarded the vehicle in the front of the convoy and led the soldiers towards the naval base.

The alien's spacesuit glowed for a few moments and then the alien was airborne. From a safe operating altitude, he followed the General and the convoy towards the ocean. He landed beside a large statue of the naval yard's namesake, George W. Bush. The statue had the inscription Always Remember.

He followed General Hever onboard the aircraft carrier. The General walked into a room, but the alien did not follow. "This way," insisted the military commander.

"I am sorry, but my suit will not allow me to enter," insisted the alien. "We will meet upon the deck."

The General re-entered the room, and after a few minutes, a tall stately gray-haired man emerged. The man was dressed in a dark blue suit with a red tie. He was wearing sunglasses and he said a few inaudible words to himself.

A few moments later, a tall stately gray-haired woman emerged. She was wearing a dark gray suit. "I am President Fogarty," the woman said.

"I must admit," started the alien, "that I am surprised."

"Surprised to see a female president?" she asked.

"Oh no!" replied the alien. "The fact that not only has your species survived, but your country is still democratic."

"Why does that surprise you?"

"I live very far from here, and your transmissions take a long time to reach us. When I left, a particular political party of yours had been rigging your political process. They took the voice of the people away from them. They abused every aspect of the political process."

"When was that?" asked the president.

"Time is a relative measure Madame President. Everyone has different measures and names for those measures. However, the president at that time was George W. Bush."

"Ah! Early in our 21st Century, that was about 100 years ago," replied the President. "I know it well."

"Every aspect had been played towards the advantage of that President's party. They had entire networks playing propaganda -- friendly to their point of view. They were highly critical of the opposition and friendly towards their political viewpoint. The general public was only getting half of the information required for a free and open society."

"Not only that," added the President. "They stifled science. They misrepresented scientific findings in many areas such as climate science. They impeded research in biology and many other areas."

"Further," insisted the alien. "The President had a belief in an End of Times scenario. Many people, who believed in him, blindly accepted his policy to bring about the end of the world. Our researchers were certain that they would succeed and end most life on Earth."

"Perhaps it was this belief or the greed of oil reserves," added President Fogarty, "that led this political party to get involved in wars in the Middle East. There seemed to be few countries with vast oil reserves that they did not covet."

"However, here I stand in a Naval Yard aboard a vessel dedicated to these very scoundrels," insisted the alien.

"Every man, woman, and child in the United States knows those stories," replied the President. "They are taught in every history class with great regularity. You see, it was because of those scoundrels as you call them, that the citizens of the United States of America learned several valuable lessons. Shortly after *all* of the scandals were revealed, the public rose up and demanded a fair system. They began to pay greater attention to the political process. No longer were they satisfied with the election process, and they clamored for change. If the electorate had not risen up against these political shenanigans, I do not doubt that we would have destroyed ourselves. That is why we dedicated these entities so that we Always Remember."

"I am most glad to learn this, and a little disappointed. You see, I was sent to prepare this planet for my people," replied the alien. "From your reports we did not think that you would be able to stand at the brink and not fall into the abyss. However, you managed to survive this crisis -- as you had so many others. I congratulate you on that. We will look elsewhere. I look forward to viewing the reports of this revelation as they reach our world. Perhaps our peoples will meet again."

Before President Fogarty could say anything, the alien had taken off and returned to the alien spacecraft. Moments later the space vessel was gone. Earth had fought off its first alien invasion simply by continuing to exist.

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Blog Against Theocracy Freedom First and others have initiated a "Blog Against Theocracy" event. I am participating by reposted a story I had written a while ago. It is very fitting for this weekend's event. For more information on other blogs participating click on the logo to the right. Thanks and enjoy! (As always, comments welcome!)






Land of the Zombies

By Douglas E. Gogerty

It had been a fairly uneventful weekend for Wesley Hever. He straightened up his apartment a bit, watched some television, got a little reading done, and picked some things up at the grocery store. With evening closing in, he was astonished at how quiet a weekend it had been. Perhaps, it was too quiet. He began to wonder if he had missed some event that was taking place. It was late summer, so it couldn't be the Super Bowl. It was too early to be the World Series. Why was it so quiet?

Suddenly a knock came at his door. He opened it up to reveal his good friend Wayne McGuiness. "Good! You're here." Wayne said.

"What's up?" asked Wesley.

"There is trouble brewing out there, big trouble!"

"Well come one in and tell me about it."

"There's no time! We need to get out of here. We need to get out of here fast! They're coming!"

"Settle down and tell me what is wrong."

"I just came here to get you and some supplies," Wayne stated coldly.

Wayne opened the refrigerator and began rummaging through it. He grabbed some water, some cans of refreshing beverages and stuffed them into his backpack. He closed the door and remarked, "Why is there fake leopard's skin fur on your fridge?"

"I saw it on some design show, and..."

"Never mind! Do you have any can goods? Do you have any rice and beans? You know - non-perishable goods."

"Are you going to tell me what is going on? Who are they?"

"Once we get going. Well..."

"I haven't unpacked them yet from the grocery store. You'll probably find some stuff in those sacks over there."

Wayne searched through the sacks and just grabbed them. "Good, they'll get us for sure if we went to a grocery store. OK, let's go!"

"Wait a minute! You just barge in here, grab some stuff and expect me to tag along without knowing what is going on? I have to work tomorrow! I'm not going anywhere until you tell me who they are and what the big emergency is."

"There's no time! I told you they'll be here any minute."

"I'm not going anywhere!" Wesley affirmed as he sat down and turned on the television.

"OK OK OK OK! They are taking over."

"Who is taking over?"

"A long time ago, there were this dozen or so people. They caused a bit of trouble and the authorities killed their leader. A couple of days later, they say this guy is walking around. He was dead! He goes to his group and soon there are bunches of them!"

"What are you talking about? Are you saying there are zombies out there?"

"They're coming to get us right now!" Wayne insisted and then returned to his story. "At first, various groups kept them in check, but not anymore. There are millions of them in the city by now! We have to get out of here!"

"Zombies? You have to be kidding! Do you expect me to believe that?"

"You're not listening. They are coming to get us. Do you remember Jackie Larson?"

"Of course, we dated for a little while. What does she have to do with it?"

"She's one of them! She has singled us out. Her and her group are coming to get us. They were just at my place, and I narrowly got out of there in time!"

"How do you know she's turned?"

"Like all of them, she's got that glassy-eyed look in her eyes, and she has that insipid smile on her face. Like that," Wayne explained while pointing at the television.

"Like what?"

"There on the TV. She has that look! That person is obviously one of them!"

"Who? The First Lady?"

"My goodness you're right! That is the First Lady and she is definitely one of them! We got to get going now!"

"Do you mean to tell me that the President's wife is a zombie?"

"Look! The President has that look too! We have got to get out of here before they get here. Can we go now?"

"Wait wait wait! Are you trying to tell me that the President and his wife are zombies and that Jackie Larson is on her way over here to..."

Before he can finish his question, someone knocks on the door.

"Oh man, they're here! We'll have to go out the window. I told you we needed to get going," explained Wayne.

"It is just a coincidence," responded Wes as he peaked through the spy hole. "Holy crap it's Jackie!"

"Why don't you ever listen to me? We need to get out of here! Does this window open?"

"There must be 2 dozen people out there and a couple of them are dressed like clowns," Wesley continued.

"Wesley darling," began a voice in the hall. "I know you're in there. Open the door; will you honey?"

"You're right! Jackie does have that look. I'll get the window, it is kind of tricky," Wes explained as he began working on the window. "Clowns?"

"You don't think they're picky do you? They are out to get everyone! What the heck is this?" Wayne asked holding some pamphlets he retrieved from one of the shopping bags.

"Those were out front when I got back from shopping. I must have put them in there to carry them in."

"Did you read these?" asked Wayne with alarm.

"I may have skimmed them, but I didn't read them."

"Did you read these?" asked Wayne more forcefully.

"I don't think so."

"I want you to be sure!" insisted Wayne.

"I'm pretty sure," Wesley asserted as he finally got the window open.

"I guess I'll have to risk it," Wayne said as he threw the pamphlets on the floor. "Let's get out of here."

"Come one Wes baby, open the door," the two men heard from the hall. "I can hear the TV going. I know you're in there. It is me Jackie. Jackie Larson. Can we talk?"

"That's quite a ways down," complained Wes. "So, why don't we just shoot our way out? They do it in the movies all the time."

"That's the movies man! This is real life. You can't go around shooting people for no good reason!"

"If they are threatening us..."

"Hey, do you still have that replica Colt 45 peacemaker? You might want to grab it just in case."

"Are you serious?"

"You're right; it'll probably get us into trouble. If the President is one of them, the courts might be too."

"What?"

"Never mind, let's get going."

"Where are we going?"

"I'll tell you once we're out of here!"

"He's not opening the door," a voice in the hall said. "Do you have a key Jackie?"

"I would never..." she insisted.

"That's a relief," another voice stated to Jackie. "Wesley, we aren't leaving. We can wait all night." The doorbell began to ring constantly.

"I'll jump first," started Wayne. "Then you drop down my pack and then the groceries. You can grab whatever you think you want or need and follow me down."

"Right," responded Wesley.

Wes stuffed some clothes of his own into a pack and he looked around a bit. Eventually, he decided he did not need anything and went to the window. With the continuous knocking on the apartment door and the bell ringing, he started to lower down the two packs and the groceries. With one last look around, Wesley jumped out of the second story window.

As he landed Wayne said, "Get down! There are more of them over there."

Wesley ducked into some shrubs to find Wayne crouched there. Wayne's truck was only about 100 feet away. Wayne had fastened a canoe tightly to a rack over the bed of the pickup. "Are we going canoeing?" Wesley whispered.

"With all of this going on, it might be best if we leave the country. We need to be ready for anything."

"Hey! There is my landlord with them."

"We have to move fast. He'll probably let them into your apartment. Keep your head down and follow me."

The two men crawled along the ground toward Wayne's truck. All the while, they kept their eyes on the group of people by the door of Wesley's apartment building. Quietly, Wayne put the supplies he gathered from Wesley's apartment into the back of the pickup. Under the canoe in its rack, there was a large backpack full of camping gear. Wayne unlocked the truck and the two men quietly entered and locked the doors. They sat there quietly for a few moments and then Wesley asked, "Are we headed north or south?"

"We'd be lucky to make it very far south. I've heard they have a group of 30,000 that gathers weekly in Houston."

"Is it some sort of Zombie Jamboree?"

"I have no idea what they do. The south is definitely crawling with them. Although there are probably more options for us down south, we're headed north. I figure we can get into Canada by way of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. If the borders are overrun, we should still be able to get through by canoe -- besides this is Minnesota!"

"Do you think it is that bad?"

"Minnesota? Nah, it's a nice enough place..."

"No! I mean all of this stuff," Wesley explained pointing to the crowd in front of his apartment building.

"I don't know what to think. I'm in total survival mode. They'll notice us when we start the truck, so be ready."

"Hey, they're in my apartment!" cried Wesley.

"It's go time," Wayne said as he started the truck and put it in gear and took off.

Out of Wesley's apartment window Jackie yelled, "There they go!" She pointed to the truck Wayne was driving. However, it was too late for that group to stop them. Out of the parking lot the two men sped.

It was now dark, and Wayne took back roads to the interstate. There was little traffic on the roads, and they did not run into any trouble. Trying not to drive conspicuously, Wayne made his way onto the interstate heading north.

"I could use a beer," Wesley stated after a bit of a drive.

"I'll pull over as soon as I feel safe, and you can dig one out of the back."

"You sure were prepared for this."

"I was a boy scout. This looks like a good spot," Wayne said as he pulled off the road under a bridge. Wes jumped out of the cab and began searching for Wayne's pack. "Grab me an ale would you?"

"Sure!" Wesley responded as he fetched two cans out of Wayne's backpack.

Wes jumped back into the cab of the truck and they began moving again. Before they went too far they saw flashing lights from behind. It was a police car. Wayne pulled the truck over and the police officer stopped behind them. The officer slowly and carefully walked up to Wayne's window. "Paper's please," he stated.

"Here are my driver's license and my proof of insurance," replied Wayne as he handed the officer his cards. "Is there anything wrong?"

"Have you boys been drinking?" the officer asked sternly.

"No sir," snapped Wayne.

"What are those?" the officer asked pointing his flashlight at the open cans in the cab.

"My friend is drinking root beer, and I'm having a ginger ale," replied Wayne as he showed the cans.

The officer went back into the waiting squad car and checked Wayne's records. After several minutes, the officer headed back to Wayne's truck. "I saw you pull off the road back there. What was that all about," the officer asked.

"My friend and I were thirsty. I had these cans in the back there. We pulled over to fetch them," responded Wayne.

"I see. Where are the rest of your papers?" asked the officer.

"Rest of my papers?" inquired Wayne.

"Everybody got some new papers that they were supposed to carry with them where ever they go. Some small pamphlets, where are they?"

"Those? Where did we put those? Are they in the pack Wes?" Wayne asked his passenger.

"Uh, I don't think..." Wes started.

"I don't think we forgot them either," interrupted Wayne. "I'm sure they're in the pack back there with our bible, do you want me to show you?"

Wayne started to open the door when the officer began, "Nah, that's all right. Where are you boys headed?"

"We're going up north for a little fishing trip," Wayne lied. "We've been planning this for months. I hope we have everything."

"Well, good luck to you boys," replied the officer. "Have a good night and drive safely."

"Thanks officer! We will," called Wayne as the officer walked back to the squad car.

"What was that bible crack about?" asked Wes as the officer pulled out.

"Later..."

Wayne put the truck in gear and pulled out behind the officer. After several hours driving in silence along the north bound interstate, Wesley could no longer keep quiet. "Are you going to tell me what is going on here?"

"With what happened back there with the police officer, I feel better about you now. I know you didn't read those pamphlets. You know, we're supposed to carry them wherever we go."

"What?" asked Wesley. "Now I'm really confused."

"You should watch the news more."

"You know I haven't watched the news since that whole OJ Simpson fiasco. They sensationalize everything now. What does the news have to do with it?"

"We're far enough from anyplace, I think we're pretty safe now. We probably won't run into any trouble since we're far enough from any population centers. If you had been watching the news, you would know that things have changed. They have changed dramatically."

"I know, zombies are a big change!"

"Sorry about that, it isn't exactly that bad. It is just that we now live in a theocracy."

"A theocracy? That's impossible!"

"I wish it were. That scene back at your place was about conversion. Jackie and her group are Evangelicals. They were there to convert you to Christianity. Well, their idea of Christianity anyway."

"They weren't zombies?"

"Well, there is little difference. They don't pay attention to anything going on around them either, and they don't stop until everyone is one of them."

"You have a point."

"They recently passed a law that says you need to carry those religious pamphlets wherever you go and show them upon request."

"What does that show?"

"Supposedly it shows that you've taken Jesus Christ as your personal savior. It shows that you're practicing the official religion of the US.

"And the first amendment...?"

"Edited for your protection. The Supreme Court has totally overhauled the establishment clause."

"So everyone has to be a Christian?"

"Either that, or have your civil rights curtailed. That is why we're going to Canada. It'll be crowded at the boarder. They'll probably send lots of people back, so we can paddle in. We are almost to our entry point."

"So, let me get this straight. The Evangelical Christians have finally gotten it their way?"

"Religious freedom, one of the foremost important things that some of our founding fathers so strongly believed, has gone by the way side. You know, one of those sniggling details that they wanted to make sure that majority did not rule on..."

"Have they forgotten about the Puritan's leaving England to escape religious persecution?" asked Wesley.

"Yes, totally forgotten. The oppressed are now the oppressors."

"Okay, Canada. You talked me into it!"

Wesley and Wayne abandoned the pickup truck at a Boundary Waters entry point and headed farther north. They hated to use an entry point illegally, but they felt they had no choice. After entering Canadian territory, no one knows what became of the two men. The President has disavowed any knowledge of the two men. Some say they returned to Minnesota under different names, and accepted the fate of their country. Still others say they have been fighting to return the US to sanity. No one knows for certain what became of them, but we hope they're safe.

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter One

By Douglas E. Gogerty

With the end of the great adventure of taking the giant monster Iapetus to New York to save Manhattan from the ultra-yeti, Dr. John Maland returned to his normal life in academia in Florida. He resumed his classes, lectures, and research.

He won much acclaim for his book on the island people and the Iapetus legend. Perhaps some of that acclaim came from the saving of a major metropolitan area. Nevertheless, the book read like a classic adventure tale. The Iapetian legend had a foundation in a large monster, and this monster prevented the destruction of New York City. It made for a great story. Thus, the accolades poured onto Dr. Maland.

For centuries, this giant creature had protected the inhabitants of this island in the Bermuda Triangle from external forces. It fought pirates, naval vessels, and every kind of interloper. The island was completely untouched by external influence.

However, they allowed Dr. Maland to come and study them. They suddenly embraced the external world. Further, at Dr. Maland's request, they allowed their protector to save an external people.

The giant creature was known the world over, and tourists flocked to the island to get a peek at the enormous beast, and the people that befriended him. The island was constantly visited by naval traffic. Gone were the days when Dr. Maland could sail his tiny sailboat to the beach of the island. The tiny island had become a major tourist spot.

While the Iapetians' lives had become quite hectic, Dr. Maland's life quieted down into normalcy. John had difficulty believing that it had been almost two years since his spring break trip to their island.

The damage the ultra-yeti inflicted upon upstate New York was nearly repaired. Memories of that adventure had faded from the conscious of most of the world. They had gone on to other things. Other worries and disasters struck as they always do. Thus, life for Dr. Maland had returned to a degree of normalcy.

Spring break was once again upon the horizon and Dr. Maland was considering what he would do with that week off. As always, he wanted to get away from Florida and the hordes of college students that would soon invade the area.

He was dreaming of his time with the Iapetians when a knock came upon his door. He opened the door and let a dark skinned man in a three-piece suit carrying a briefcase into his office. He had seen his face before, but he was having difficulty placing it.

"Have a seat," insisted Dr. Maland as he pointed to one of his overstuffed chairs. "What can I do for you?"

The man sat cross-legged in the chair in front of Dr. Maland's desk. He held the briefcase close. In an accent Dr. Maland had heard before the man said, "From the look on your face, you do not recognize me."

"Your face is familiar," confessed Dr. Maland "however; I am having difficulty determining where I have seen it."

"Perhaps this suit is confusing you. My people had never worn such things."

"Wait! You’re an Iapetian," John stated with surprise.

"Yes," responded the man politely.

"You're the storyteller!" Dr. Maland replied with much excitement as he got up and shook the man's hand.

"It has been a while," replied the storyteller with a smile.

"And that suit!"

"With the traffic coming to our island, there has been a need to be much more entrepreneurial. Thus, reluctantly, I have become a businessman. I do not feel quite at home in this, but it is necessary."

"You have done us a great service. I hope it has not ruined your way."

"Not at all," replied the Iapetian. "It is us that initiated the contact. It is what we wanted."

"Still... I hope the island and its inhabitants are not adversely affected."

"Your worries are unfounded. We can establish the isolation with a request from the great Iapetus."

"I suppose you are right at that!"

"There are reasons we ended our isolation, and that is what I have come to see you about."

"What can I do?"

"Over the last few years, we have amassed a large amount of wealth. This wealth was gathered for a specific purpose in mind."

"What?"

"You see, the mighty Iapetus leaves our waters to make brief visits to the cold icy lake where he was spawned. These visits can be 20 or 30 years apart, and some have been even longer. No matter the interval, a population of his kind is born."

"There are more?"

"Do you know nothing of animal reproduction?"

"Pardon me for my outburst, I just find it shocking that there are more of his kind out there."

"The female of his species is quite numerous; however, they are considerably smaller. Further, they are fully aquatic. They do not have the structures that allow our protector to leave the ocean environment. Thus, only the males can be our protectors, and there is only one."

"I see," replied Dr. Maland.

"As an individual, our protector has had several broods, but has not produced an heir. When he is of an age, he will spend weeks or months in this deep, dark, forbidding lake and spawn with many females. In fact, he will mate with every female of his species. If he does not produce a male during this time, the species will end. Unfortunately, that time is approaching. He is ancient, and he cannot live forever."

"What can I do to help?"

"Our people need a protector, and we have been working on the problem of extinction for a very long time. While we are certain that he will produce an heir and our protection will continue, the mighty beast will leave us for a very long time. We have determined a strategy that will ensure our long-term survival and protection. Further, it will help ease our protector's mind to know that he can leave for a long stretch of time to complete his most necessary task."

The storyteller opened his briefcase and placed a large document on Dr. Maland's desk.

"What is this?" ask Dr. Maland.

"With the funds that we have gathered, and these plans, our protection is ensured."

Dr. Maland began reading the document given to him. The plans were full of schematics and blue prints that Dr. Maland could not decipher. The technical document was well beyond his comprehension.

"What do you need me for?" Dr. Maland asked after scanning the document.

"We have contracted with a local business here in town, and we are in need of a liaison between us and this company. We want you to oversee its construction. None of our people have experience in these types of things and I cannot be spared."

"Why me?"

"We have provided you personally and your country a great service, you are indebted to us."

"But -- I have no experience in these types of things," complained Dr. Maland.

"You are savvy enough for our purposes. We just need you to check with this company periodically and keep us informed of the progress."

"Who is this company? I cannot even decipher this plan. What are they building?"

"While I appreciate your concern, we are certain you can handle this minor responsibility. The company is AOENC Engineering and they are located here in town; however, the actual manufacturing will occur in Niceville Florida."

"Niceville?" replied Dr. Maland. "I guess I should not argue with you. You have provided us with a great service. If you have faith in me, it is the least I can do. I will do my best, but I still do not know what they are building."

"They are building..." replied the Iapetian storyteller "...a Cyber-Iapetus!"

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"A Cyber-Iapetus?" asked Dr. John Maland.

"A mechanical protector appears to be the ideal solution. It would work both for a temporary interval, and long term if necessary."

"But how?"

"For centuries, when a ship would come to our island we would examine it closely," explained the Iapetian storyteller. "Thus, we have gathered much technology over the years."

"You have been collecting technology?"

"Certainly! In addition, with all of our needs being met by our island and the mighty protector, we have managed to synthesize the collected technology and add some of our own to this project."

"So, why didn't you build this cyber-Iapetus yourselves?"

"We lack the natural resources; also, we do not have the large spaces required to construct such a thing. No, the only course we could take was to look outside our island."

"Did you have me in mind for this task the entire time?"

"When you came upon our island, we thought you might be able to help. However, that business you had up north did change the equation slightly. We had planned to build it ourselves by renting a space and purchasing the necessary equipment. That adventure of yours brought us an unexpected windfall, and we could afford to hire experienced workers to manufacture our mechanical protector."

"And you want *me* to supervise the construction?" inquired Dr. Maland.

"We only need you to give us a regular status report. You do not have to inspect the process regularly. I believe we can trust the CEO of AOENC business group, a Mr. L. Edward Roy. We ask that you just ask him periodically on the progress. Further, if they have questions, we ask you to be the go-between. You can bring the questions to us. Finally, perhaps once or twice a year, we would like you to check on the construction itself. We will pay the expenses of course."

"Twice a year?"

"We expect the construction to take several years. It is quite a complicated build. Some of the technology is very innovative, and may take months to test. The power system is entirely of our design, and has been patented. I am sure they will want to fully test it before implementing it."

"I guess it is the least I could do for you."

"Thank you sir," responded the storyteller giving Dr. Maland a card. "Here is L. Edward Roy's card. Please contact him and set up an appointment at your earliest convenience."

"I will," John replied as he took the card.

The storyteller arose from his chair and shook Dr. Maland's hand. He gave a slight bow and left the office with his briefcase.

John looked at the plans again, but they did not mean anything to him. However, he got an idea on what to do during spring break. He would visit the manufacture facility in Niceville, Florida.

It was still early afternoon, so John called the number on the card. He spoke to the receptionist. He told her who he was and what he wanted. She told him that she would leave a note for Mr. Roy and he would be in contact.

Later that day, Mr. Roy called him and it was arranged. John would arrive on the Monday of his spring break, and spend a week touring the facilities in Niceville. It was not going to be as exciting or interesting as some of his spring break adventures, but it was something to do. It would definitely be different.

He thought about how he would travel the 650 miles to Niceville. He could fly and rent a car, but with the nice weather they were having, he decided he would put the top down and drive the 10 hours. Driving up the coast was always nice, and there were plenty of places to stop and rest.

When his class dismissed on the Friday before spring break, he went home and packed. He planned on leaving early in the on Saturday and drive all day. That would give him Sunday to look around the area and unwind before he began touring the manufacturing plant.

The weather was beautiful and the drive up the coast was just as he remembered. However, he did feel like a salmon swimming upstream as the college kids jammed the southbound traffic as he headed north.

He drove into Jacksonville around noon, and he was already tired. He knew of a hole-in-the-wall pizza place he had always visited when in the area. He ordered a small classic veggie to go and made his way to memorial park. It was a small park on the St. Johns River. He stretched, walked, and ate pizza there.

When he washed down the last piece he was going to eat, he walked the path around the park. He sat and watched the things happening on and around the river for a while. He felt rejuvenated and returned to his car. He debated on whether he would eat another slice of pizza, but he decided against it.

He made his way to a gas station, filled his car, used the facilities, and got an iced tea for the road. He still had quite a way to travel as Jacksonville was about the halfway point. He hoped to make it to his hotel in Niceville before dark, but it looked as if that was not going to happen. He had loitered too long in Jacksonville.

This stretch of the trip had more stops and more frequent rests than the first leg of the journey. Nevertheless, he made it to his hotel by 9pm. He was regretting the fast food Chinese he found for dinner, but he had finally made it to his destination.

He put his cold pizza in the room's refrigerator and debated on looking around town. However, the long drive had taken too much out of him and he decided to stay in his room. He reclined on his bed and turned on the TV, but he was asleep by 9:45.

He awoke with a start around midnight, stripped off his clothes, and officially went to bed. Naturally, he was up very early the next day. Dr. Maland had the cold pizza for breakfast, and planned to spend a lazy Sunday exploring the area. He drove around and found the factory. It was an enormous building and it would easily accommodate the construction of the mechanical Iapetus.

There were several beaches and golf courses around town. He spent most of his time looking for a good place to go sailing. It just would not be a spring break if he did not go sailing at least once.

After the uneventful Sunday, John got up early on Monday. He put on his suit, and drove to the factory. He entered the reception area. He found the receptionist and said, "I have an appointment with L. Edward Roy."

"What?" asked the receptionist.

"My name is Dr. John Maland, and I have arranged to visit this facility."

"Oh! Welcome Dr. Maland we have been expecting you. Please, have a seat and Ms. Linda Higher will be with you in a moment."

"Mr. Roy will not be showing me around?"

"Oh no, Dr. Roy is a very busy person. He could never spare the time."

After a brief wait, Ms. Higher ushered Dr. Maland into a room, and offered him a seat. A slightly mechanical voice on the speakerphone said, "Welcome to our Niceville Florida plant Dr. Maland. I apologize for not being there in person, but I was detained in our Tokyo office. I will be in Amsterdam on Friday, and I just could not make it in person."

"Dr. Roy I assume?"

"Oh yes, where are my manners? I assume you have exchanged pleasantries with our very capable Ms. Higher."

"I have."

"She will take very good care of you. I must be going now sir. Enjoy your stay, and if you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask."

"Thank you Dr. Roy."

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter Three

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"Shall we take the tour?" Ms. Linda Higher asked.

"By all means," replied Dr. Maland.

Dr. Maland followed Ms. Higher through a number of cubicle offices. Eventually, they came to an enormous room. She explained that this room the final assembly would take place. "The room's ceiling is 100 meters high and it is 500 meters long," Ms. Higher explained. "This should be sufficient to assemble the project. Currently, we have some areas designated for assembly of some of the components. In fact, in the far northwest corner, the power-plant is being worked on now."

Ms. Higher took Dr. Maland to observe the work being undertaken on the power system of the Cyber-Iapetus.

"What is it going to use for power generation?" asked Dr. Maland.

"Excellent question, it is one of the most complicated aspects of this build. Our project engineers are working on deciphering the provided plans. They have yet to determine exactly how it is to work, but from what I understand, it is using nuclear fusion technology. It is quite advanced."

"That should make it very self sufficient."

"Indeed, and because of its complexity, we began it first."

Dr. Maland met with a few of the engineers and discussed the building plan. He felt the 5-year timetable was quite optimistic. However, the team assured him that they would complete the project on time and under budget.

Dr. Maland spent the week sitting in on meetings and watching the workers at AOENC Engineering going about their jobs. He observed some of the early construction processes. He was very interested in how the power generation system would work. However, most of the engineers were skeptical that it would actually operate.

After 4 days of looking around the facilities, and finding everything in order, Dr. Maland bid farewell to the people he met at the Niceville facility. He had wanted to meet Dr. L. Edward Roy, but the CEO could not make it to the Florida plant during his visit there. He did not get as much sailing done as he had hoped. Thus, he left on the long drive back on the final Friday of his spring break.

He arrived in Jacksonville early, in an effort to take advantage of a few of his favorite sailing venues in and around town. He managed to get some afternoon sailing done and was on the water early on Saturday morning. He was driving back towards home before midday.

Traffic was heavy when he neared his home. The second wave of spring break revelers were arriving. He would be back at work on Monday, so he would be able to cope with the hordes.

* * * * *

The build process continued and Dr. Maland had several phone conversations with Dr. L. Edward Roy. He relayed the information on to the inhabitants of the Iapetian Island. He got as detailed reports as he could obtain.

He relayed the successful tests of the power generation system. The system would take in water, and separate the hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen would be fed into the fusion chamber. These hydrogen atoms would be accelerated and would be smashed together in a small but powerful magnetic field. The fusion process would continue until the results were oxygen atoms. This oxygen with the oxygen removed from the water was the only waste and was released into the air. Further, with proper tuning, the system could have any of the first eight elements as waste, excluding hydrogen. Thus, helium or carbon could be obtained if desired.

The reaction would generate the needed power for the separation of hydrogen and oxygen as well as enough power to run an entire household. It would be sufficient for the needs of the enormous island protector. Further, the system was relatively compact for such a high yield system.

In addition, the water did not have to be pure. It could use seawater, which was convenient for the islanders. The Iapetian engineers thought about most of the needs for this power system when they designed it.

AOENC Engineers were so impressed with the system, that they implemented it throughout the Niceville plant with plans to implement it company wide. They handsomely compensated the Iapetian people for the use of the technology. Thus, the money allocated for paying for some of the completion of the mechanical protector could be used for other purposes.

Gradually, more systems were completed. The power train, the hydraulic systems, and the computerized regulation systems were gradually added to the list of completed items. With each completion came a call from Dr. Roy and a report to the Iapetians.

Dr. Maland spent his next four spring breaks watching the manufacture of the Cyber-Iapetus and sailing where he could find a good spot. The giant project was beginning to look like Iapetus on his last visit. The workers constructed the structure around each of the various components on the huge factory floor.

John could make out arms, legs, and tail of the mechanical monster on his last spring break visit. The engineers were correct; the project would finish on time and under budget. It was going to be a very impressive device.

It would be able to travel on land or by sea. While in the water, it would propel itself with its large tail, and the arms would fold under its torso to improve its aqua-dynamics and to act as dive planes. On land, it would walk upright on its two powerful hydraulic legs.

The heavy power plant was located just above the legs to provide a low center of gravity. A series of tubes in the tail sucked in seawater to feed the fusion reaction.

Just above the fusion reactor were a series of batteries for emergency power storage. This would allow the machine to spend longer intervals on land.

The machine had multiple and redundant computer systems. It had an autonomic like system to run and maintain the power system. Its responsibility was to feed the system with water and take care of any wastes. To make them redundant, they put one system in the root of the tail, and another above the batteries.

They designed a small balance and guidance system in each leg, with redundant systems next to the other emergency backup systems. The balance system took inputs from sensors on the bottom of the feet and several gyroscopes. The system could make minute adjustments to keep the device upright.

Finally, there was a triple-redundant master control system protected in a "rib cage" of titanium with the other emergency backup systems. If desired, a pilot and copilot could sit within this protective shell in the chest of the mechanical beast.

These occupants can view the surroundings via a few small carbon nanotube windows. To protect these windows, an operator can close a series of blast shields. In which case, a number of exterior cameras provide vision. Further, these cameras could transmit images to a central control station for remote control or observation. In addition, these cameras give input to the central computer to assist in locomotion and other activities.

Several ballast tanks run the length of the torso. This would allow for various attitudes while operating at sea. These tanks could be filled with the waste gasses from the energy production system or external air.

Once all of the systems were in their proper places, flexible foam insulation would cover these essential parts. Finally, a non-corrosive carbon fiber and Kevlar skin would make the entire device completely waterproof.

After Dr. Maland's final spring break trip, he decided he would watch the final construction of the Cyber-Iapetus. He would leave on this trip when his classes were through. He felt at home at the plant; thus, he decided to make this trip a surprise inspection.

This time, Dr. Maland flew into the Okaloosa Regional Airport and rented a car. He drove directly to the plant, and walked in as the workers were installing rocket-launching hands. A fire breathing mechanism and a couple of mini-guns in the chest had already been installed.

Before Dr. Maland could protest about the deviation from the original plans, a security guard grabbed him and escorted him away. They tossed him into a secure room with no windows and a thick locked door. He would not be able to report his findings to anyone.

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter Four

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The construction of the enormous Cyber-Iapetus had taken five years, but it was finally complete. All of its vital components were in place and protected. They filled its tank with water and its batteries were fully charged. Once started, the mechanical beast would be able to operate for several days before it needed more water.

AOENC Engineering isolated Dr. John Maland in a securely locked room when they initiated the start sequence. The batteries initiated the electrolysis to separate the oxygen and hydrogen of the water supply. The hydrogen was fed into the fusion chamber and the giant cybernetic monster came to life.

Slowly, it raised itself from its prone position and made its way to its feet. The computer took the information from the many inputs to stabilize itself. Shortly afterwards, it took its first step -- and then its second.

Slowly and cautiously, the individuals controlling the mechanical monster worked its way out the doors and into the warm Florida summer. Once out of the enormous building, they put the beast through its paces. The monster ran, walked, swung its arms and its tail, kicked its legs, and tested its various defensive maneuvers.

Once the defensive measures were performed to Ms. Higher's satisfaction, they continued with the newly implemented offensive weapons. The laser in Cyber-Iapetus's head would select a target and the missiles would fire from its hands and impact the selected target. That operation performed as implemented.

The testers put the mini-guns in its shoulders through their paces. These were somewhat difficult to control, as the beast's torso would have to move to aim the guns. However, they were quite lethal on the areas around the targets. The bullets sprayed with devastating results.

Finally, the Cybernetic beast opened its mouth and fire erupted out of its open maw. The head could move up and down and side to side to spray fire in a variety of directions.

Ms. Higher was satisfied with the results of the tests and ordered the beast reloaded. The guns and missile launchers were quickly reloaded, and the fuel reservoir for fire breathing was filled to the top. The mechanical nightmare was completely operational.

Next, Ms. Higher ordered the technicians to direct the beast into nearby Choctawhatchee Bay to test its seaworthiness. The mechanical monster swam on the surface as designed. It used its tail to propel itself and with its hands tucked under its torso could change its direction.

The beast dove into the depths with equal agility. It swam around the bay and erupted to the surface. It opened its weapon doors and was immediately ready to fight upon emerging out of the water. Apart from a few minor leaks, which they quickly caulked on the spot, the mechanical Iapetus pasted all of its tests.

Ms. Higher dismissed the technicians and entered the beast's interior control compartment. Using the controls within the machine, she took over the control of the beast and steered it into the Gulf of Mexico. Once in the Gulf she dove deep under the water and vanished.

* * * * *

Dr. Maland, still locked in the secure room, heard a slightly mechanical voice emanating from somewhere, "Dr. Maland you have interfered with our plans."

"Dr. Roy you'll never get away with this!"

"Silly man! I am not Dr. Roy and you do not even know our plans."

"Well..." stumbled Dr. Maland. "Whatever you are planning will certainly fail."

"We shall see," replied the voice. "In any event, you would have remained unaltered if you had not interfered."

"Unaltered?"

"We still have need for you, but you are unlikely to cooperate knowing what you know."

"No! I'll do whatever you say."

"That is not likely and we cannot take any chances with the important task that only you can perform."

"What task?"

"We need you to tell the Iapetians that Cyber-Iapetus is complete."

"Why is that important?"

"We do not wish to cause unwanted destruction."

"Huh?" asked Dr. Maland as he began feeling dizzy.

"Pleasant dreams," replied the voice as Dr. Maland fell unconscious from the gas they piped into his room.

* * * * *

From Goose Creek Bay, south of Tallahassee, Cyber-Iapetus emerged from the water. It headed due north until it encountered the Coastal Highway and headed east.

Chaos erupted as cars on the highway scattered away from the enormous mechanical beast. The monster did not kick or swing at anything. Drivers scattered just to avoid confrontation and created their own mess.

With the snarled traffic on the Coastal Highway, authorities investigated and quickly discovered the giant mechanical device heading east on the highway. The Florida State Patrol sent several squad cars to intercept.

However, before the troopers could reach the troublemaker, it had left the highway and had gone into the nearby groves. A similar event occurred when Cyber-Iapetus reappeared on the northbound Woodville Highway.

With snarled traffic, the State Patrol asked the governor for assistance dealing with the enormous menace. Before the governor could reply, he received a mysterious message. The note read:


Dear Governor:

A large mechanical device is headed towards the Capital. This device is capable of much destruction. Anything you do to prevent the device from reaching its goal could result in total annihilation but will not stop the device. This mechanism will stop by the capital building for your inspection, and a demonstration of the power can be arranged. You will be notified of other demands at a later time.

Signed: A Friend

The governor immediately informed the Department of Homeland Security. They recommended sending three attack helicopters to meet the beast. The governor complied. The three helicopters from the national guard headed south along Woodville Highway; however, the mechanical beast had left that highway before they could reach it.

Cyber-Iapetus had turned. The helicopters altered their course to cut off the beast on Bloxham Cutoff Road. They intercepted the monster in an unpopulated and tree laden stretch of that road. On the first pass, the helicopters fired guns only, which had no effect upon the mechanical device.

The laser on the head of the cybernetic animal pointed at the far left helicopter as it passed, and a single missile launched from its left hand. The missile impacted with its target and exploded. The helicopter smashed into a stand of trees and burst into flames as the remaining made their turns for a second pass.

The helicopters launched their hellfire missiles at their foe, but they had no effect upon the monster. The doors for the mini-guns opened, the guns emerged, and the bullets began to fly. A second helicopter received a great amount damage and crashed onto the road leaving the final attack helicopter to make a third pass.

The final helicopter made its pass using both missiles and bullets. As it passed, the mechanical monster raised its hand and swatted at the helicopter. The force sent the helicopter spinning, but the pilot managed to regain control and prevented a crash.

However, before it could make another pass, a missile came from the right hand and the helicopter exploded in a huge fireball. The first attempt at stopping the cybernetic monster had failed, and it continued on its way.

As if it were using an online map service, the enormous mechanical beast turned right on Wakulla Springs Road and continued north past the Leon County Fairgrounds. Eventually, it reached the State Capitol building and stopped out front. There it stood for everyone to see.

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter Five

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Dr. John Maland awakened to find himself in his own bed. He had a vague recollection of going to bed, but it seemed like that happened days ago. He tried to recall what had he did to make him feel this way, but nothing came to mind. He had the feeling he was going to do something, but he could not recall what it was. He felt out of sorts, and he thought he might be coming down with something.

He crawled out of bed and staggered his way to the bathroom. He looked into the mirror and his reflection seemed normal yet strangely different. He opened the medicine chest and took a couple of aspirins.

When he was finished in the bathroom, he made his way to the kitchen. He opened his refrigerator and found it unremarkably empty. He thought that perhaps that nagging feeling about something he was going to do was a trip to the grocery store. He could do that.

He cobbled something together for breakfast, and got ready to face the day. After a nice hot shower, his confidence that a trip to the grocery store would strip him of that feeling of needing to do something began to fade. He became more convinced that it was something more important, but what?

Upon leaving the house, he was overcome with this feeling that he was being watched. However, he could not put his finger on why he felt that way. As he walked to the store, each time he looked back, no one was there. The only strange person he encountered was an odd man who looked a little like Peter Lorre. The man was berating a couple of squirrels for fighting and not sharing.

The trip to the store was uneventful, and he saw "Peter Lorre" on his trip back. This time, the man was trying to determine which foot was his left. He did not accost Dr. Maland, so John walked by without incident. Nevertheless, John still felt that someone was watching him or following him. He thought that perhaps this is how the strange man got started talking to squirrels.

When he returned home, he had a voicemail message. It was from Dr. L. Edward Roy. He called to inform him that the Cyber-Iapetus was completed. The CEO of AOENC Engineering wanted John to inform the Iapetians as soon as possible, so he could receive the final payment.

Dr. Maland had an odd feeling that he already knew that the Cyber-Iapetus was completed. However, he could not place why he would know such a thing. After such a long time, he wished that he could have made his way to Niceville to watch the final construction. This thought made his head throb, so he took some more aspirin.

He still had the feeling he wanted to do something, but he could not think of what it was. Thus, he tried not to think about it and got things ready to make the trip to the Iapetian Island. He could not think of any reason to delay the trip. He was sure they would be happy to hear the news.

Dr. Maland decided to make this an extended trip. With the strange feelings he was having, he thought that the getaway would do him some good. Thus, he prepared everything to give him an extra-long stay.

Once his preparations were complete, John made his trip into the Bermuda Triangle to the Island of the Iapetians. They were excited about the completion of their mechanical guardian. They decided to hold their ceremony immediately. John had the vague feeling that he should tell them something else, but he could not think of what he wanted to tell them.

Some natives began digging their ceremonial trench between the pillars upon the beach. Others gathered fruit for the great send-off of their protector. Dr. Maland even participated in the preparations. He was still nagged by a feeling that he was forgetting something, but he felt good about helping.

When the sun hit the water, the drums began and the priestess began her song. In the tongue of the Iapetian people, she invited the great beast to share with their bounty. Dr. Maland still found the lyrics to be slightly amusing, but he knew that they would convey the message to the mighty beast.

Upon emerging from the water, Iapetus looked strikingly different than he did when he helped defeat the ultra-yeti. Much of his forest green color had been replaced with colors that were more vibrant. He had red, orange, and even blue patches. It was clear that he changed into his full mating colors. The change would make him more desirable to the females.

The great beast reclined on the beach, and the crowds gathered around him. Each of the natives bid their great protector a good and prosperous journey. Several tourists were also lucky to see the great beast; however, local officials kept them from getting close.

The storyteller gathered the natives together. They all sat next to their protector while he began his tale. Because this was an official ceremony, it was performed in their native language. Dr. Maland took notes and translated the tale.

* * * * *

There are stories of our protector in this deep northern lake. It is even said that they have their own name for the great Iapetus. They call him the monster of their lake. We all know that he is a great creature, but he is no monster. He has protected us for centuries. How could you call that a monster? Now, he will briefly depart us to pass the torch to the next generation. Every beast needs to continue its line. The mighty Iapetus is no exception. Even now, the females gather in the depths of this dark, cold lake. Our protector must join them soon, and word has come that our replacement protector -- the Cyber-Iapetus -- has been completed. We should have no troubles between now and the delivery of our mechanical replacement. Thus, we will bid our protector, our friend, our beloved a fond farewell.

Mighty Iapetus, it is time for you to join with the females and continue your line. You have already put on your finery, and never have you look more striking. The females will not be able to resist such beauty. We will be protected. Thus, you should concentrate on the task at hand. Produce your heir. Worry not about us. We shall be fine. Enjoy your time with the females, and give us no second thoughts. Go to the place with the strange name. Go to your Loch Ness!

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter Six

By Douglas E. Gogerty

For several days, the gigantic Cyber-Iapetus stood motionless in front of the Florida State Capitol building. Like a giant statue of Iapetus himself, the impressive weapon system stood for everyone to see. The Florida National Guard cordoned off the area, and no one was allowed to get within 100 yards of it.

After being on display, a compartment upon the chest of the machine opened up. Out stepped a figure covered from head to toe in black. Only the eyes of the mysterious figure showed through eyeholes in a black, shiny, plastic mask. The only object the ninja-like figure carried was a briefcase.

The ninja pulled an envelope out of the briefcase and handed it to one of the soldiers guarding the perimeter. It was addressed to the governor. The soldier radioed his commander, who arrived and took the package from the guard. He regarded the black encased person, and delivered the envelope to the governor.

While the person in black stood by the open Cyber-Iapetus, the governor opened the envelope. Inside the envelope were details on the destructive capabilities of the mechanical weapon system standing in front of the capitol building. Further, there were demands for $100 million, or the weapon would destroy several Florida cities.

* * * * *

After seeing Iapetus off, the Iapetian people had several days of festivals. There was music, dancing, story telling, and much feasting. With each passing day, Dr. Maland struggled with something. He did not know what it was, but he was sure there was something.

Several days of revelry had passed, but the festivities continued. On one of the days, John was listening to the rhythmic drumming. He sat on a log and began swaying with the music. He struggled to keep conscious as the hypnotic sounds surrounded him. He remembered experiencing this feeling during his first encounter with Iapetus. The drums got louder and louder, and Dr. Maland continued to struggle with remaining awake.

Suddenly, he felt lightheaded and tumbled backwards off the log, smacking his head hard on the ground behind him. A sharp pain shot through him, and he smelled a faint aroma of ozone. In an instant, he is out cold.

* * * * *

After a brief consultation with several officials, the governor ordered the soldiers to open fire upon the weapon and its former occupant. Once the gunfire began, the door to Cyber-Iapetus closed trapping the black clad individual outside. The person was riddled with bullets and fell to the ground. A small fire broke out in the back of the individual's skull. It melted a part of the costume and revealed a now burnt out circuit board.

Even without its pilot, the Cyber-Iapetus walked over to the nearby Plaza Tower in Kleman Plaza. With a few swipes of its mighty hydraulic arms, bricks flew off the tower and windows shattered. The mechanical beast turned with a quick swipe of the tail and more bricks crumbled and more windows broke.

Plaza Tower photo courtesy of www.plazatower.net

For several minutes, Cyber-Iapetus pounded on the building. It pushed and swiped. Eventually, the building crumbled to the ground. The giant machine stepped upon the rubble, raised its arms in the air, and gave a mighty roar.

Shortly after the roar, the governor's phone rang. Upon answering the phone, a slightly mechanical voice said, "Ms. Higher, the ninja-cyborg you shot, was merely our messenger. As you may be aware, you have not hindered our ability to do massive amounts of destruction to property in your fair city and state. Thus, our demands remain. Please, do not force us to do more damage or increase the amount of our demands."

The call ended at that point. "Trace that call!" demanded the governor.

Meanwhile, Cyber-Iapetus walked off the rubble and returned to its previous spot inside the cordoned off area.

"Sorry governor," replied the chief of security after several minutes of work. "The call was made on a secure untraceable cell phone. The call could have originated anywhere."

* * * * *

Dr. Maland woke up in a soft bed. He looked around, but did not know where he was. His head throbbed, and he reached up to feel his head. It was wrapped up in bandages.

Someone entered the room, and said, "You're awake, I'll get the doctor."

"Doctor?" John wondered. "What happened? Where am I?"

The doctor entered. "I am glad to see you're awake. What can you tell me?"

"Nothing," replied John helplessly.

"What is the last thing you remember? Do you know who you are?"

Dr. Maland wrinkled his brow and thought hard. "Nothing," was all he said.

"Relax," assured the doctor. "Let it come naturally. You hit your head. Do you know where you are?"

"The hospital..." John replied.

"That is a good sign," laughed the doctor. He held up a small circuit board and asked, "Do you know what this is?"

John looked at it a while and shook his head no.

"Does the name Iapetus mean anything to you?"

The word 'Iapetus' resonated through his entire body. It meant something to him, but what? He thought and thought. He was beginning to get dizzy and his eyes began to roll back into his head.

"Relax," the doctor said in a soothing tone. "There is someone who wants to see you. Is that alright?"

John let Iapetus go, and remained conscious. "Who is it?"

"A friend," replied the doctor.

"Sure, let them in," John responded still trying to remain conscious.

The doctor left and brought back the Iapetian storyteller. A flood of thoughts and memories rushed back into John's mind. It was too much for John and he blacked out.

Dr. Maland did not know how long he was out, but he awoke with the storyteller at his side. The Iapetian smiled at him and asked, "How are you doing?"

"Iapetus!" John blurted out.

"He's gone to his spawning ground."

"Cyber-Iapetus..."

"Has not arrived," asserted the storyteller.

"No," John responded trying to think, but all he got out was, "mighty weapon."

"Yes, he should be a great protector for us."

"No -- altered -- rockets -- guns..."

"What?" asked the storyteller.

"Florida -- in danger..."

"You're not making any sense my good friend."

John tried to speak in complete sentences, but it was too much of a struggle. Too much was coming at once, but he could only get out a few words. He tried again, but all he could get out was, "Iapetus -- save..."

"Relax," the Iapetian told John as he lightly touched his arm. "Now, tell me slowly."

John took a deep breath, and closed his eyes. He let the words come to him. He took a few more deep breaths and said, "AOENC Engineering altered the design of Cyber-Iapetus."

"Go on," the storyteller said in a soothing tone.

John kept his eyes closed and took a few more breaths. "They made him a terrible weapon by adding rockets and guns."

"Oh dear..."

John struggled to stay relaxed, but he had to focus. He took a few shallow breaths and then a deep one. Finally he got out, "I fear that the state of Florida is in great danger, and only Iapetus can save them."

"It is too late," replied the storyteller. "Iapetus is gone!"

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter Seven

By Douglas E. Gogerty

John sat up in his bed while the words Iapetus is gone echoed in his brain. How could Florida be saved without the aid of the giant beast? Everything disappeared from his thoughts except ways to save his home state. After a few moments lost in thought, John said, "You said Loch Ness in your farewell speech."

"Yes..." replied the Iapetian storyteller.

"Is that the place where Iapetus will spawn?"

"The priestess informed us that that is the name of the place our protector goes."

"So, the priestess is of the opinion that Iapetus is headed for Loch Ness?"

"I believe that is what I said."

"Then I must head for Inverness Scotland," John said getting out of bed.

"You are in no shape..." the storyteller began as John crumpled to the floor.

The storyteller grabbed John by the arm to help him back into bed, but John said, "I am all right. I must save Florida."

Dr. Maland sailed his boat back to Florida, and booked a flight to Inverness Scotland. He would try to communicate with the Iapetus and convince him to leave the spawning ground and help the people of Florida.

* * * * *

The governor of Florida sat behind a desk in the emergency bunker. The room was small and windowless, but it was protected from forces of nature and other potential disasters. The governor would be safe from whatever was to come.

She reread the demand. The treasure would pay $100 million or the mechanical monster would destroy Miami. In a demonstration of the power of the beast, it had easily destroyed a residential tower near the capitol. However, the rules of engagement in this type of situation were clear, "Do not negotiate with the terrorists."

After several minutes lost in thought, the governor's office assistant entered. "Madame Governor your requested officials are here."

"Please send them in."

The General from the National Guard, the state treasurer, the Lieutenant Governor, and a few other state officials entered the bunker.

"Ladies and gentlemen," started the governor. "We're in a difficult position with very few options. I invited y'all here to get opinions, but I have made my decision. As a politician, I could make a moving speech, but I'll save it for another time. Y'all know the situation, so here is what we're going to do."

"Madame Governor," interrupted General Chever of the National Guard. "If I may offer..."

"Do not interrupt me General," replied the governor sternly. "As I was about to say, we have been given a brief reprieve from the destructive power of the mechanical weapon sitting outside our fair capitol building. Clearly, some sort of remote command center controls this device. Thus, we should be able to detect these signals -- perhaps even jam them. Thus, I have ordered that a radio detection station be set up in an attempt to determine how the terrorists communicate with their weapon."

"That has been established as per your order," added the Lieutenant Governor.

"Excellent," replied the Governor. "Thus, the only thing to do now is force them to communicate with their weapon. General, we need you to bring some weapons to bear on this device. I'll leave it to your discretion to determine the best way to wake the beast but minimize collateral damage."

"Yes Ma'am!" replied General Chever.

"Any other order of business?"

"There is some sort of disturbance along the coastal highway," reported the Lieutenant Governor.

"That'll have to wait. This has full priority. All our resources must be placed on this immediate menace. If there is nothing else, y'all are dismissed."

* * * * *

Dr. Maland arrived in Scotland after a long flight. Fortunately, he slept during most of it. His head was throbbing, but his duty to his state and nation drove him on. He must contact Iapetus and convince the mighty protector to fight Cyber-Iapetus and prevent the destruction of Florida and beyond.

The Loch Ness legend had spawned several tourist traps; however, John knew where he had to go. He rented a car and headed to The Original Loch Ness Exhibition on the Beauly Road. He wanted to know if there was an increase in Nessie sightings, and this was the best place to start.

Dr. Maland talked around and spoke to several people. There were several reports of increased activity, but the experts believed the animals were just sturgeon. "There hadn't ne'er been no credible sightings," insisted local historian Dougal MacInnes in a thick Scottish accent. "We've got a detector a goin'. The Sturgeon are a runnin' in an' out, but nuttin' unusually big has gone through."

"Can you take me to the inlet?" asked Dr. Maland.

"Aye, I could be a doin' that fer ya."

Dougal and John got into his rental car and went to the Loch's inlet from the sea. With the support of local interests, some scientists set up and monitored a detector. The device was set to look for large animals entering the loch. According to the attending scientist John had spoken to, several large animals had entered. He asked if any creature in the range of 200 meters had passed recently. None had.

John had beat Iapetus to Loch Ness. He had seen the giant monster swim. With its speed capabilities, Iapetus should have entered the loch by now. Was this not the spawning ground? Where could Iapetus be? The only thing that John could do was sit and wait for the beast to show up, and hope it would happen soon.

* * * * *

A formation of six AH-64 Apache helicopters headed towards the capitol building. They were fully armed and ready. Attendants continuously monitored the radio and cell communication detectors in an attempt to find where the communication signals guiding the mechanical monster originated. Only regular signals had been detected up to this point.

The enormous Cyber-Iapetus stood silently near the capitol building. It stood waiting as the apache helicopters approached from the south. Keeping the government buildings to their left, the helicopter pilots approached their stationary target.

The order went out and the helicopters began launching their Hellfire missiles. Wave after wave a missile were fired at Cyber-Iapetus. Each helicopter had its full compliment of 16 missiles. One after another, the missiles flew at the intended target and exploded. The missiles struck the beast high and low. They looked for a weakness.

All 96 missiles struck their target and created a continuous explosive fireball for several minutes. When the smoke cleared, Cyber-Iapetus stood there. It turned toward the helicopters and roared. It turned and moved towards the hovering helicopters. It slowly closed the gap, and the apache helicopters began firing their 30mm guns at the approaching beast.

The bullets bounced off the approaching Cyber-Iapetus. Eventually, the monster opened its mouth and a stream of fire streamed out. It shook its head, and before the helicopter pilots could react, the six helicopters were on fire. The helicopters fell out of the sky with a flaming crash. Cyber-Iapetus gave another roar and returned to the spot, which was now a crater, where it had stood before the attack.

Once the encounter had ended, the governor requested the communication findings. The experts poured over the collected data, and double-checked it. Wishing not to be mistaken, they went over everything a third time. They found nothing out of the ordinary. They were unable to detect signal guiding Cyber-Iapetus's actions.

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter Eight

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The six attack helicopters were lying in a flaming heap, and Cyber-Iapetus was standing unharmed in a crater in front of the Capitol building. The governor was attempting to decide her next move when her phone rang. A slightly mechanical voice spoke.

"Governor governor governor... We have only given you a small sample of the capabilities of our mechanical device, and you yourself have discovered a few capabilities on your own. This device is quite capable of defending itself from your puny attacks. How much more convincing do you need? Our demands are now for $150 million."

"We do not negotiate with terrorists!" insisted the governor.

"There are no negotiations involved. We are making demands, and you would be smart to follow them or we will destroy Miami. No negotiations necessary. Just assemble the money and place it in a fire-safe container in front of the device. You have 24 hours."

"It'll take more than that to gather the money."

"You have had plenty of time to begin gathering this money. You should have not wasted that valuable time. Procrastination has gotten the better of you. Have a nice day."

"Wait..." begged the governor but the line was dead. "Did you guys get a trace on that?"

"Sorry governor, it was the same as last time -- a secure encrypted phone. No trace possible."

The governor sat there, quivering with fury, stammering as she tried to come up with a real crusher. All she got out was "Cyberninja!"

* * * * *

Dr. Maland spent the entire day by the inlet detector for Loch Ness. He chatted with the operators and learned about Loch Ness lore. He saw instances where large creatures had entered the loch, but nothing large enough to be Iapetus. He was getting concerned. Where could he be?

Dr. Maland began to wonder if Iapetus took a land route to the loch. Perhaps the enormous beast noticed the activity around the inlet and avoided that situation. After all, Iapetus was quite capable of crossing overland.

It became apparent to John that he should explore other possibilities. However, he wanted to be in continuous contact with the station at the inlet. Fortunately, the station broadcast reports on large creatures entering the loch for the 'Nessie Hunters'. Dr. Maland obtained the communication channel and tuned a radio into that station.

John traveled around the area asking if anyone had sited the monster recently. However, the reports were just the routine sightings. There were no great numbers of people seeing the same thing. It was clear that Iapetus was not here yet.

* * * * *

"General Chever bring all your weapons to bear," order the governor.

"Yes Ma'am," replied the general with a salute.

Tanks and armored vehicles poured out of the bases around the state. Helicopters and airplanes took flight. With the cooperation from the federal government, several naval vessels in the Gulf of Mexico were ready for engagement.

However, before engagement began, Cyber-Iapetus was on the move. The mechanical monster began walking down Apalachee Parkway. It crushed cars and trucks with no regard for vehicles in its path. Occasionally, it would swat its tail at a neighboring building doing minor damage. Clearly, the 24 hours had expired.

The ships launched missiles, the airplanes and helicopters flew to where the beast was walking, and the tanks and armored vehicles made their way along highway 27 to intercept.

Before the weapon could strike the mechanical monster, it turned abruptly and began tearing apart the Governors Square Mall. The missiles from the naval vessels smashed into the walls of the mall rather than striking their target. The various munitions tore apart mall stores.

The helicopters and airplanes coordinated their attacks. Wave after wave of missile and gunfire attacks were made against the mechanical beast. However, the spacious mall took the brunt of the attacks. The clothes stores were torn to shreds. The shoe shops were in tatters. The food places were spoiled. Nevertheless, the attacks continued.

The armored vehicles entered the mall parking lots from all directions. They added to the mayhem as they fired their weapons at the mall and the mechanical creature. The two-level mall was crumbling to the ground with the armaments continuously pounding the area.

As the mall burned and crumbled, Cyber-Iapetus turned its attention from mall destruction to the weapons that attacked. The gun doors in its shoulders opened, and the mini-guns began to fire. As a squadron of airplanes made their run, the guns ripped apart a couple of the planes. The planes crashed into some armored vehicles on the ground.

Cyber-Iapetus picked up some of the rubble, and began throwing it at the vehicles that surrounded it. The tanks that avoided the crashing aircraft were soon covered with the rubble from the mall.

A few missiles launched from the hands of the beast and struck some of the helicopters that crashed into the Little Lambs Preschool a short distance from the mall. Other businesses in the area of the mall were being damaged by the engagement between the military and Cyber-Iapetus. Another wave of naval missiles struck the area causing still more destruction, but the encounter continued.

"Enough!" ordered the governor. "General Chever end this! Disengage your attack."

"But governor..." started the general.

"No General. It is over. Disengage now. Your troops have done more damage than the mechanical monster. I will not stand for any more of this mayhem. We have assembled the money, and I am hoping by ending this conflict, they will contact us, and we can avoid more needless destruction."

"Governor, I am sorry for interrupting," the governor's aide said as he entered the governor's office. "However, there is more trouble. The highway patrol is asking for help from the National Guard. There are reports of some kind of storm or something coming from the south and wreaking havoc on traffic. There are snarls all the way to the Gulf."

"What more can happen today?" replied the governor. "Tell them, the National Guard is currently engaged and cannot assist with traffic problems. Have them do the best they can. Just what we need -- a damaging weather system to pile on this. General, you have your orders."

"Yes Ma'am. I'll have my soldiers stand down."

"I just hope it isn't too late to meet their demands. Otherwise, Miami is doomed!"

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter Nine

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Dr. Maland was worried. What was taking Iapetus? He had more than enough time to swim across the ocean to Loch Ness. In fact, the giant monster could have made the crossing since Dr. Maland arrived in Scotland. Was he at the wrong place? Evidence pointed to the females arriving, but could it be something else? Could it just be a coincidence?

John drove around the Loch talking to tourists, natives, and anyone who would talk with him. No one saw anything that matched the description of Iapetus. There were no mass sightings. There was no evidence that Iapetus was here at all.

He returned to the monitoring station, but there were still no major developments. Large numbers of largish aquatic animals were gathering in the loch, but nothing the right size. It had the makings of a spawning ground, but it just did not have a male.

Florida was in great need of Iapetus's services. Cyber-Iapetus was rampaging and inflicting great damage. Dr. Maland did not know if military operations were successful, but during his observations, the mechanical protector appeared to be indestructible. Certainly, Iapetus would be helpful in the protection of Florida, but where was he?

* * * * *

The mechanical monster withstood attacks from several military weapon systems. It emerged from the rubble of the Governor Square Mall without a scratch. Rubble from destroyed tanks and helicopters were burning in the area. Cyber-Iapetus continued along Apalachee Way randomly destroying buildings as he traveled.

The mechanical weapon began tearing through the North Florida Safety Council building when Iapetus suddenly appeared from nowhere. It was not a storm, but Iapetus the Protector emerging from the Gulf to save Florida. He had not traveled to Loch Ness, he came to Florida to help.

The fierce reptile flared the spines on his back and gave a mighty roar in a challenge to the mechanical beast. Cyber-Iapetus turned its head to see what the noise was. Before it could brace itself, Iapetus was flying through the air in a cross-body block. The two giants tumbled along the Apalachee Parkway in a tangle.

Cyber-Iapetus pushed the colorful lizard up into the air and he crashed into a nearby motel. As the building crashed upon him, he flailed around and brought the rest of the building to the ground. As he emerged from the pile of debris, he picked up some of the rubble and tossed it at the mechanical monster. It was making an ungainly attempted to stand when the debris came flying. One large piece of concrete spun Cyber-Iapetus around and it fell back upon the ground on its back.

Grabbing this opportunity to attack the struggling machine, Iapetus again jumped upon it. He began swinging his massive arms and punched the robot numerous times in the head. However, these had no effect upon the mechanical beast and it tossed Iapetus high up into the air. This time before Iapetus landed, Cyber-Iapetus made it to its feet. It rushed the beast as he got to his feet and swung his tail. The tail hit Iapetus in the chest, and the impact threw him far down the street.

Shortly after the great protector landed, missiles launched from the mechanical monster's hands. The missiles hit their mark in the midsection of Iapetus pushing him even farther back. The giant protector shrugged off the impact, and slowly advanced towards the cybernetic beast.

Iapetus walked towards the machine contemplating his next attack. Before he could take action, the gun doors on Cyber-Iapetus were open and firing the mini-gun into the flesh of the encroaching monster. This momentarily stopped his forward progress; however, he once again flared his spines and roared. With a shake of his head, he continued forward.

The cybernetic weapon was not going to wait for Iapetus to reach it. It pressed the attack with a swing of its mechanical tail. The tail hit its mark, but, Iapetus caught the blow between his body and his arm. With a twist, the constructed protector was swept off its feet. Through the air it flew into a nearby tire store. The building instantly collapsed and the monster tumbled in a twisted pile of metal. Steel belted radials flew in every direction.

Before the giant lizard-like creature could continue his attack, Cyber-Iapetus tossed a few tires before it retreated into the Leon County Sanitary Landfill. In the open space, the two monsters grappled. Each one took turns punching the other. Neither of the monsters did much damage to the other with this sort of attack.

The cybernetic beast pushed Iapetus back, and opened its mouth. Flames shot out of the mouth of the monster and hit Iapetus in the chest. Iapetus gave a slight yelp in surprise, and the flames pushed back the lizard. The smell of burnt flesh permeated the air, but it appeared that it had little actual effect on Iapetus. With another roar, he jumped on top of the unsuspecting mechanical creature and they tumbled to the ground.

The tangle of monsters rolled around exchanging blows. After a few moments, in a smooth motion, the mechanical beast tossed Iapetus into the air, rolled to its feet, and swung its tail. Upon impact, the colorful monster flew into the woods and smashed down into some trees. With another breath of fire, the trees were ignited and the entire area was engulfed in a giant fireball.

With the flames, smoke, and trees, Iapetus vanished from view. Cyber-Iapetus looked around and reared back its head and gave a roar of its own in victory.

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter Ten

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The governor sat at her desk overwhelmed by the recent events. A mechanical beast was tearing apart the capital city, and she had the ransom with her. She was waiting for the extortionists to contact her. She hoped that her order to attack the monster had not cost the state the city of Miami. However, Tallahassee was being torn to shreds.

Further, from reports she had received, there was some sort of event causing problems up from the Gulf. This force of nature headed towards the affected areas. There were two problems converging towards each other.

She sat at her desk with her face in her hands when her chief of staff entered. "What is it now?" she asked herself.

"Ma'am we have some good news."

"What is it?" the governor replied with a bit of hope in her voice.

"Apparently, what was causing traffic problems up from the Gulf was a giant lizard. It has engaged the mechanical beast."

"Engaged?"

"They are fighting."

"Out in the open and not tearing apart the city I hope."

"Well -- not exactly. However, from the last report I got, they were battling at the landfill."

"At least that is something. Do you have any idea why the lizard is here? Who sent it?"

"No ma'am. However, we are making progress on the extortionists."

"Progress?"

"Yes ma'am. Apparently, it was stolen from AOENC Engineering out of Niceville. We have been working with people there to get leads on where they may be controlling the weapon."

"And?"

"We expect to have results any moment now..." the chief of staff said as his cell phone rang. "This could be a report."

"By all means, answer it."

"Hello," the assistant said into the phone. "A fire? How big? Wow! completely engulfed? Thanks keep a safe distance away and keep me posted."

"What is it?" asked the governor.

"Apparently the extortionist's weapon started a fire just east of the landfill. The fire is big enough to obscure our view. We do not know where the lizard is. We do know that the mechanical monster roared and continued heading towards Miami."

"That good news didn't last very long. Y'all keep working on triangulating the home base."

"Will do. What do you want to tell the press?"

"Tell them all about the giant lizard fighting for us, but nothing about our leads."

"Yes ma'am."

The governor was more hopeful, but the situation was still grim. She placed her face back onto her hands, hoping for a break.

* * * * *

The huge fire engulfing the wooded area next to the landfill began to abate, but there still was no sign of Iapetus. Several hundred acres were on fire, and the heat from the flames was intense. There were reports of the heat being felt from 15 miles away.

Cyber-Iapetus did not wait around to see what happened. It left the landfill and continued its journey along Apalachee Parkway. It did not dawdle. It picked up its pace. It was no longer in the urban center, and there were fewer targets for destruction. Thus, the cybernetic beast was no longer picking a building at random to destroy. It was making its way towards Miami along State Highway 27 as fast as it could.

With its fast pace, Iapetus did not catch up with his cyber doppelganger until it was past Lamont Florida. The giant lizard had run away from the fire through the trees. However, it was difficult keeping up with mechanical beast that was running along roads. Eventually, he caught him from behind.

Iapetus grabbed the tail of the running machine, and pulled it to a stop. With a backwards lean and a twist of his mighty torso, Iapetus tossed his foe into the woods. The agile giant jumped upon the tumbling machine. With Cyber-Iapetus trapped beneath his legs, Iapetus uprooted a nearby tree and thrust it into the open mechanical mouth of his opponent.

The cybernetic beast whipped its tail and twisted itself out from beneath Iapetus. It scrambled to its feet and chomped at the tree. The tree broke off, and fell to the ground. The mechanical beast reopened its mouth to shoot some flames at Iapetus. However, the root of the tree had disrupted the mechanism and the flammable liquid just poured down the side of its face.

Suddenly, the mechanical beast was on fire. Iapetus flared his spikes and gave a mighty roar. Citizens of Lamont claimed that the giant lizard did a little jig. However, the fight was not over. From the flaming mechanical beast, missiles launched from its hands.

Iapetus's reflexes were up to the task as it swatted a missile targeted at his eye. However, the explosion temporarily blinded him. He stood their stunned for several seconds.

The still burning Cyber-Iapetus took advantage of the motionless lizard and jumped on him. However, Iapetus had sufficiently recovered to see the mechanical monster heading towards him. He leaned back upon his tail, and put his feet on the chest of the rushing beast. Leaning further back and giving a kick with both feet, he sent his burning nemesis flying.

Without hesitation, Iapetus was stomping on the mechanical beast. However, the machine was still structurally sound. The flames had little effect on the shell of the machine. The weapon was well designed for several forms of attack.

To put out the flames, Iapetus began digging and throwing dirt onto the temporarily prostrate machine. After putting several hundred pounds of dirt upon the weapon, Iapetus extinguished the flames.

Suddenly, Cyber-Iapetus kicked and flailed. The dirt scattered, but Iapetus continued piling on the dirt. It seemed to have some effect on the mechanical device. Its movements slowed and then stopped. It was covered in a huge mound of dirt, and it looked as if it would stay there.

After Iapetus was satisfied with the size of the mound covering his mechanical opponent, he rested. However, his rest was short lived as the mound exploded. The explosion threw Iapetus several feet backwards. When he regained his composure to look at the where the cyborg was, Cyber-Iapetus was gone.

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter Eleven

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The explosion of the pile of dirt left Iapetus confused. His cybernetic opponent had appeared to vanish in the explosion, as if it were destroyed. However, there was no debris in the crater. The mechanical monster did not explode at all.

Upon closer inspection, Iapetus noticed a tunnel leading away from the former dirt mound. Cyber-Iapetus had dug its way away, and attempted to cover its escape by collapsing the tunnel. However, the missiles from its hands caused too great of an explosion.

Iapetus jumped down the hole and followed the tunnel. After a short distance, he caught up with his foe. He grabbed the mechanical tail and thrust it upwards. The machine jerked up. This caused the tunnel to collapse around the grappling monsters. Soon, both monsters arose from the ground leaving a giant crater in the soil. The fight would now continue above ground.

The two monsters were wrestling on the ground when Cyber-Iapetus kicked Iapetus up into the air. The cybernetic monster rolled and knocked his foe several feet away with its tail. It scrambled to its feet, and rushed the tumbling lizard-like monster.

With a kick of its feet, Cyber-Iapetus kept Iapetus rolling. Suddenly, Iapetus rolled into the crater that was created when they emerged from the ground. The mechanical monster now had the high ground. Each time Iapetus would stand up, a giant cybernetic tail would hit him on the head knocking him back down.

After a few blows to the head, Iapetus became dizzy and sat in the hole. He shook his head a few times in an attempt to chase away the birds flying around his head. This also allowed him some time to think about how he was going to get out of the hole.

Cyber-Iapetus seeing his opponent sitting in the hole reared back his head and roared in victory. He bounded around the hole a few times and then stopped cold.

* * * * *

The governor had not left her office in several days. She continued to coordinate the many facets of this emergency. She got regular updates of the fight between Iapetus and his mechanical counterpart. Further, she was regularly briefed upon the search for extortionists and their communication station. She had several conversations with L. Edward Roy, the CEO of the company that built the weapon system. However, right now she was enjoying a rest from commotion that normally plagued her.

"Governor, there is a Dr. John Maland on the phone for you," stated a voice on the intercom.

"What does he want?" the governor asked wearily.

"He says he has information on the two fighting monsters," responded the assistant.

"Okay, I'll talk to him," replied the governor as she picked up the phone. "Dr. Maland, what can I do for you?"

"I'm sorry governor, I should have contacted you sooner. It is just -- that -- I thought..."

"Dr. Maland, I am a very busy person. Thus, I would be most grateful if y'all would get to the point."

"Sorry," replied Dr. Maland. "I attempted to recruit Iapetus to help, but I see from news reports that my help in this matter was unneeded."

"Go on..."

"I witnessed the construction of the Cyber-Iapetus. I am aware of several aspects that you may not be aware. However, first and foremost, the mechanical weapon system was designed to protect an island of Iapetus in the Bermuda triangle. Thus, the control of it was designed to be done primarily from that island."

"Are you certain of this?"

"There may be relay stations or remote stations, but the primary control should be situated on this island. Therefore, if you send someone to the island, you may be able to override any commands sent from a remote location. At the very least, you should be able to determine what frequency they are using to control the machine, unless there is someone in the driver seat."

"The device is most certainly empty. How will we be able to find the command center on this island?"

"If you send someone to the island, ask for the storyteller or the priestess. If you tell them the situation, they will most certainly help you if you mention my name. This island is new to us, so you will need a new map in order to find it."

"Can y'all meet someone there?"

"I'm afraid I'm in Scotland. It is a long story... Nevertheless, I'll be back in Florida tomorrow. I assume you will want to take care of this before then."

"Most certainly," replied the governor. "Dr. Maland, thank you for you help with this matter."

The governor hung up the phone and began coordinating the intervention. The envoys from the governor made their way to Iapetus Island. Once there, they quickly found the control station. They were not able to override the commands sent from the much closer remote station, but they had a way to determine where it was located. They had the communication channel.

However, it would take time to find the remote control station. The cybernetic weapon could do a great deal of damage in the mean time. They had to make a decision. They could jam the signal, preventing any further damage. However, this could potentially allow the perpetrators to escape.

The other alternative was to let the two monsters fight while they track down the location where the communication was emanating. Since the two monsters were fighting in a rural area, the governor decided to get the extortionists while letting the monsters fight.

* * * * *

Dr. Maland was sitting in the airport waiting for his flight. He was glad that Iapetus did not come to Loch Ness and fought Cyber-Iapetus. However, he was berating himself for not contacting the Florida authorities immediately.

"How much destruction could I have prevented, if I told them about the control station immediately?" he asked himself. "I had to be the hero!"

He sat there thinking of all the things he could have done differently. He was so single minded about the situation that he did not think things through completely. He had focused so much upon recreating the New York situation; he lost sight of the real problem.

It weighed heavily on his mind as he sat in the airport. He did speak to another passenger as he sat there. He just closed the world off and beat himself up mentally. He was really down upon himself as he boarded the plane towards home.

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter Twelve

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Iapetus rested in the hole, and prepared to re-engage his cybernetic opponent. However, the machine stood motionless in mid taunt. The Florida National Guard stormed the controlling station just after Cyber-Iapetus gave his roar, and there he stood.

Iapetus warily exited the pit that he and his foe made when they emerged from underground. He sniffed the air and slowly walked over to the stationary weapon system. At the slightest sound, he flinched. Nevertheless, his opponent just stood there.

Finally, he was within reach, and he pushed the metal chest of the machine. Nothing happened. He pushed a little harder with the same result. He sniffed the machine, but smelled nothing of interest.

When he was satisfied that the mechanical device was no longer a threat, he flared his spines and gave a mighty roar. The roar shook buildings several miles away. He gave a few shorter calls and curled up at the feet of his former fighting opponent. With a sigh of exhaustion and perhaps relief, Iapetus fell asleep.

* * * * *

It was early in the evening when Dr. Maland arrived in Florida's capitol city. He had decided to fly directly to Tallahassee rather than his home. He wanted to see if he could help the people in Tallahassee in any way.

Despite the jetlag and the exhaustion that he felt, he rented a car and began the drive to the capitol building. Even though it was well after rush hour, traffic in that area was awful. The destruction Cyber-Iapetus inflicted on that particular area snarled traffic well into the evening.

He faced a few roadblocks, but the governor was expecting him, so he was able to pass. Dr. Maland saw little evidence of the destruction until he got closer to his destination. As he neared the capitol building, he saw the destruction around the building and the huge crater in front.

As he looked east, he saw more evidence of a giant destructive force passing through. Buildings were now heaps of twisted metal, brick, and concrete. He reached a point where the road was no longer passable. The helicopter wreckage was still blocking the road.

The governor had sent one of her assistants to escort Dr. Maland the remaining few blocks to the building. With all the destruction, there was no way to drive the last few blocks. Thus, they crossed that distance on foot. A state trooper took care of parking his rental car.

This part of the city looked as if a major battle occurred there. The damaged military equipment and the rubble were everywhere. Dr. Maland felt sorry for the people of Florida and the businesses around the government buildings. The sorrow increased as the pair walked silently to the governor's office.

"I'm sorry governor," Dr. Maland said as he entered her office. "I thought only of intercepting Iapetus. I neglected to help the people here by giving them vital information."

"Dr. Maland I presume?" replied the governor.

"Yes, I'm sorry. I am Dr. John Maland. I am a professor of anthropology at Florida International University. It is nice to meet you."

"It is my pleasure to meet y'all," replied the governor while shaking Dr. Maland's hand. "Now don't y'all get bent out of shape over this."

"But..."

"No 'buts'!" insisted the governor. "Everyone was doing what he or she thought was right. The people to blame are those that stole this Cyber-Iapetus."

"Uh, I don't know what to say..."

"Y'all don't have to say anything. I just wanted to thank you for your effort. The Iapetian command center is what did the trick. Even Dr. Roy hadn't thought of that aspect."

"You have spoken to Dr. Roy?"

"Certainly! He has been most helpful. Further, he has agreed to help pay for the repair of the damages. He regretted that someone used his company's resources to inflict such destruction. Further, they did it simply for extortion. He was greatly concerned that it would negatively impact his company's good name."

"I'm glad to hear that he wasn't involved..."

"The men gained access to a few AOENC technologies. They implanted a chip into a Ms. Linda Higher's head. This chip was designed to help people with brain damage. However, someone determined that it had other uses, like controlling people. She was powerless against them."

"Oh, that explains a few things."

"Do you have experience with this device?"

"I'll say! It was what caused me to go to Iapetus Island in the first place. I was powerless to stop Iapetus from leaving. When the chip was discovered and removed, I was completely focused upon intercepting him."

"Y'all weren't all there. See..."

"That is nice of you to say. Am I to understand that you have captured the perpetrators?"

"We believe so. We're working with Dr. Roy to verify this. We owe Iapetus for delaying the cybernetic weapon and giving us time to capture the thieves."

"Where is Iapetus?"

"He is still sleeping at the feet of Cyber-Iapetus."

"Do you need anything else from me?"

"The Iapetian storyteller is waiting for you there. Here are the driving directions. They may seem round-about, but some roads are impassible."

"Thanks governor."

"No -- thank you. Now get going before it gets dark."

Dr. Maland left the governor's office with a spring in his step. The sad thoughts that had plagued him since he was in Scotland were gone. He almost sprinted back to his rental car.

The drive to where Iapetus rested seemed quite short despite the distance. The storyteller was sitting on the great monster's foot. Florida State Troopers and National Guard members kept guard, but they were expecting him. He parked the car and walked towards the great beast.

John and the storyteller embraced. Another crisis had been averted. Miami was saved. The new protector was still functional and Iapetus was free to go to Loch Ness. However, for now, the great beast slept.

"What happens now?" John asked the storyteller.

"In the morning, Iapetus will wake and make his way to his spawning ground. The governor has stated that I can take our mechanical protector to our island."

"So that is it."

"Yes it is."

John asked one of the troopers to return his rental car because he was going to accompany the storyteller on part of the journey to Iapetus Island. He camped out with the storyteller that night next the Iapetus.

In the morning, the now refreshed Iapetus arose and stretched. He shook the chill off, and took a leisurely stroll to the Gulf of Mexico. The storyteller and Dr. Maland entered the cybernetic protector and followed him.

They walked into the water and when Iapetus was in deep enough in the gulf, he dove under the water. He swam a little way, and then breached the surface like a whale. After his little show, he went under the water and vanished.

Cyber-Iapetus piloted by the storyteller swam around the peninsula and emerged from the water in Fort Lauderdale. The mechanical protector walked to Dr. Maland's home and opened up. Dr. Maland emerged. He bid farewell to the storyteller and entered his house. He took a long hot shower and sunk in his easy chair. It had been quite a long time since he had been home. He had plenty of catching up to do.

The storyteller piloted the mechanical protector to its home on Iapetus Island. It had been quite an adventure for him as well. This adventure renewed his distrust of outsiders, and the Iapetian people began closing down their tourist trade. They decided to isolate themselves again. The world was not mature enough, and they had everything they needed.

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The Lost Wizard

Jaime the Bard - First Tale

By Douglas E. Gogerty

I am Jaime, entertainer extraordinaire. I learned my craft under the great William Tremblesword. I have played in palaces and in theatres throughout the civilized world. You are probably wondering how I ended up at the bottom of this pit all alone. Let me start at the beginning.

I was born the youngest of 17 children. At least that is what the Monks of Saint Ambrose Monastery told me. Apparently, my parents left me in a basket upon their front door when I was just a few hours old. They had so many children that they could not manage one more, or so the story went. Several children at the orphanage had similar stories, so I have begun to look at my beginnings rather skeptically.

In any event, I learned to fight at the orphanage. I had no choice in the matter. It was either fight or die. However, it has been a useful skill, so in retrospect, I should not complain.

In fact, with the amount of fighting that went on between us boys, the monks decided to channel that fighting into swordplay. I cannot speak on the wisdom of that idea, but there it is. I learned to use a sword in defense of attacks by other orphans.

Further, because of the constant attacks upon my person at the orphanage, I also learned some healing techniques. Being a regular visitor to the healing monk, I could not help but pick up a few things. This is another useful skill I obtained by my rough life at the orphanage.

To reward us for our hard work with the swords, the monks invited the renowned William Tremblesword to put on the play Fred and Ethel the Pirates Daughter. It was a tragic tale full of swordplay.

Ethel was beautiful. She was a lovely young thing with blond hair and striking blue eyes. I was instantly smitten.

Since I was raised in an all male orphanage run by monks, I had never known that there were other creatures in the world other than boys. Ethel was different. She did not appear that she would attack me at first light. With her, I would not have to be constantly vigilant.

When the troupe packed up and left the orphanage, I hid in their wagon. I left the orphanage and joined the great William Tremblesword for the love of a woman.

Naturally, I discovered that Herman Snodgrass played Ethel. The first love of my life was a young dark haired boy in a wig, who gratefully gave up the women's roles to the younger orphan boy -- me.

That is how I ended up studying my craft. While I had hoped the constant barrage of attacks upon my person would subside, this did not happen as of yet. The youngest of the troupe was the whipping boy of the group. Thus, my self-defense skills were continually honed.

In addition, as the youngest, I had the greatest number of chores. Besides learning the necessities as a traveling performer, I also cooked, cleaned, washed, and learned the myriad of other skills to keep a troupe of men happy.

Eventually, as actors moved on, William recruited some young men to join us. For a while, only boys older than I were hired. Thus, my duties as the youngest continued. However, it was inevitable that I would move up in the ranks.

While performing shows, I saw my first real females. They appeared curvy and soft. They were unlike the rough and tumble males that I had spent my entire life with. I fell in love -- many times.

Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to get return affection when you are in a wig and dress. On the other hand, it is easy to get close to them. This is how I discovered much of the anatomical differences between men and women. Further exploration, however, was needed.

When I began playing male roles, I got more attention from the ladies. In fact, this is how I ended up in the town of Yansey.

We had just played Yansey, and we were continuing on our tour. We had a small performance at an inn on the road to Giland. It was just an advertisement to our main performance, and it got us a night's stay at the inn.

I found a person willing to warm my bed. She was a lovely thing, but she was about twice my age. Her name escapes me. Nevertheless, the chemistry between us was quite extraordinary. I did not get to sleep until it was quite late. I slept right through the morning bell.

William discovered me in bed with the woman. It seems that she originally agreed to spend the night with him. However, after a few minutes, she left him. Perhaps his excitement could not be contained. In any event, he kicked me out of the troupe for that.

The woman paid for another night with me, and gave me some money in addition when I went on my way. I walked back to Yansey to see if I could make a living there.

Map of the Town of Yansey

Yansey is a small town with the Grand Old Mountains on the north and the River of Yan on the south. The Yan is a fast moving and treacherous river that disappears into the Forest of No Return.

The forest gets its name from the fact that no one ever comes back from the forest unchanged. Many times, they do not come back at all, but when someone does come back, he or she is completely different. The person would have no memory of anything, and often appeared to be a completely different person.

It is because of the nature of this forest, that the town uses it as a punishment for crimes. The judge would send the convicted into the forest. Often, it may be months or even years later; the convict will emerge but is completely different. They could even go in as a woman and emerge as a man. Often, the convict would resume his or her life as if nothing happened.

I was performing daily, and making a fine living there. I would sing songs for meals. I had an arrangement with a widow for lodging. I was quite comfortable in my life. I only had an occasional fight with someone who refused to pay. It was far from the constant attacks, which I had been accustomed.

However, one day that all came to an end. Apparently, the Mayor's wife, daughter, goat, and dog all became pregnant all at once. Some sort of investigation went on, and they named me the prime suspect. I do not understand why, I would have never slept with the Mayor's wife!

After a sham of a witchcraft trial, a judge convicted me and sentenced me to enter the forest. At least I did not have to enter the forest with nothing. To make the punishment more severe, some convicts are sentenced to enter the forest naked. I was able to keep my clothes and my trusty sword. The widow gave me her husband's leather armor and a few days food ration as a farewell token.

I entered the forest bravely. There was a path of sorts from the previously convicted. I decided to follow it. I heard the rushing waters of the Yan to my left. I would use that as my navigational aid.

The path headed south towards the river, and at one spot, it opened up to a beautiful vista. The River of Yan plunged down into a great waterfall. The roar of the rushing water was immense, and I dare not stay long or go deaf.

The path continued along the river; however, it sloped down considerably. I heard a growl behind me, and a pair of glowing eyes appeared in the shadows. I contemplated battling the creature, but I decided to rush headlong down the hill instead.

At te bottom of the hill was a pit. With the speed I obtained as I rushed down the hill, I was unable to avoid falling into it. That is how I ended up here at the bottom of this dark pit -- all alone. I have not decided on what I am going to do next; however, for now I am going to stay put.

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The Lost Wizard

Sorcerer Cyrus - First Tale

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Map of the City of Miz

Because of circumstances beyond my control, I came to be living in Miz. Miz is a small hamlet built upon the Miz River. This turbulent river emerges from the Forest of No Return, whose name is built up upon superstition. However, like many old forests, it hides its mysteries quite well.

The Misty Mountains to the north are the real threat. The locals seem to ignore the rumbling and the sounds emanating from the mountains and worry much more about the forest. Such is the nature of some towns.

Nevertheless, the life of a sorcerer is a difficult one. I have lived in many locations in my lifetime. Because of various incidents with the superstitious, I have been blamed me for a great number of crimes. With each conviction -- no matter how deserved or undeserved -- comes exile. Thus, I have traveled extensively.

I showed an early ability to tap into the aura of all things. Night was a particularly terrifying time for my parents. It was said that household items would fly about the room as I slept. Rumors began to spread about the 'special boy' in the area.

While all was well in my hometown, I was safe. However, when a local farmer's crop failed, a mob formed. My parents died saving my life from this mob by putting me up with relatives.

These relatives felt very put out by my presence. I believe they expected my parents to come for me at some future date. Thus, they treated me terribly. However, eventually, I went off to boarding school. Here I learned to harness my powers. I made several friends, and had many school time adventures.

Upon graduation, I bid my adoptive family and those friends good bye. I was determined to make my own way. I had quite a reputation leaving school, so I thought I would have an easy life.

Needless to say, this was not the case. Sorcerers like myself have limited powers. While we can manipulate our environment and elements therein, we do not control every aspect. There is simply too much to control.

For instance, in my travels, I came upon a town suffering from a terrible drought. The surrounding farmland was dying under the hot sun. They invited me in to bring the rain. I cannot conjure rain out of the ether; it must come from somewhere.

It was difficult and exhausting to bring the water, but I succeeded. It rained for several days and the crops were saved.

The town treated me like a hero. There was a large celebration in my honor. They offered me great riches, wenches, and livestock for my services. They gave me a place to live and offer my services, and the town paid for my every want.

For a brief time, it was a great place to live. However, a powerful neighboring town exhausted their wells. There fresh water had run out which caused them great strife. They noticed the bounty that was occurring at this town and invaded. I received the brunt of the blame, and the townspeople ran me out of town.

I could affect the water supply, but I could not affect the attitudes of the neighboring village. Was it my fault that they invaded? I only brought the rain. Like so many times since, when trouble comes and I cannot stop it, they force me into exile. When my services are no longer wanted, I have to move on. These are some of the harsh lessons that we sorcerers learn.

Because a sorcerer's life is a difficult one, I was constantly on the move. I had a brief stint with a traveling theater. Before the main show, there were numerous 'warm-up' acts. I conjured for the masses. It was a nice job even though it was unfulfilling.

The master of the traveling acting troop eventually learned that I was an actual sorcerer. Thus, he asked me to give him a potion that would make him good with the wenches. I told him that it was out of my area of expertise. However, he was most insistent.

In my travels before joining the troop, I had met some people in the mages' guilds. Guild members train, study and keep secrets. They are typical book learners without street smarts. I got some tips about some herbs from some of these individuals.

I brewed a concoction that would make him irresistible to anyone smelling the cologne. I warned him against drinking it. It was to be used topically and not internally. Apparently, if you ingest this love potion, you will be rather -- premature -- in your -- interactions.

Naturally, he ignored the warning. With his breath, he could then easily attract women to his bed, but his staying power was limited. He did not blame his clumsiness on his condition, but he blamed me. Thus, he kicked me out of the troop. He did not even ask how to counteract the spell.

Nevertheless, he has become quite famous. I feel that I have a bit to do with his current circumstance. However, he may disagree.

In any event, I was visiting a guild member named Brunis in some town. Over the years, I have supplemented my natural sorcerer ability with some wizardry. While Brunis was a bit of a pill, he accepted me as I was, and I him.

While visiting him, he had a falling out with the captain of the city guard, or so I was told. A guard member found the two dead with the captain's sword in Brunis's chest. Brunis managed to cook the captain with a spell before he died, or so the story goes. I did not wait to find out.

In short order, I left Brunis's town and I ended up in Miz, which was in crisis. Their long lost princess had finally emerged from the Forest of No Return. She had no knowledge of entering the forest. I did not probe to get more of the story, so I do not know why she entered the forest either. Nevertheless, she had emerged and the town threw a great feast in her honor.

After days of feasting, she vanished. After hearing the story, I tried to duck out of town, but I did not quite make it. I was tasked with entering the forest and retrieving her. I tried to tell them there was more evidence that she left by the main road, but they would not listen to me. I tried to argue with them, but they had threatened to strip me of my possessions and force me in. Thus, I went in voluntarily as it were.

They gave me several weeks of supplies in a bag and a nice walking staff. It was not magical, but I guess they felt it was wrong to have some representative, magic-user without a staff and robe. Before I entered, I did make it a magic staff to ward off whatever I might encounter in the forest.

For a spooky forest, there was a moderately established trail into the interior. The river rushed on the right, and the trail wound lazily about. Several beasts watched my movements, but did not encroach.

After I walked for a while, I heard the rush of a waterfall ahead, and it distracted me enough to forget to watch my footing. Soon, I found myself falling into a dark pit. At the bottom was a strange man sitting in the dark. I pulled some light in and looked around. The two of us were in the middle of what looked like a long hallway dug out of the rock. With our provisions, we had enough to last for a few weeks. Thus, we made our camp just out of the way of things falling into the pit.

We were hoping that someone would come along, and not fall into the pit. Whoever it was should be able to pull us out, and we could go on our way. I put a warning spell upon some trees above, and I put a message for help on a few other trees. Now, we could only wait.

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The Lost Wizard

Ranger Rex - First Tale

By Douglas E. Gogerty

This sucks! I am a ranger. I want to be wandering the forest and helping whomever I should happen to meet. I do not want to be sitting at the bottom of this hole with an amorous bard and the "Wizard of Miz." Oh, excuse me -- sorcerer. Alas, it is the story of my life.

I never really knew my father. My mother did not have many kind things to say about him. I imagined that he was a ranger. Their paths crossed and they fell in love. However, him being a ranger, he had to move along. Thus, he upset my mother by breaking her heart.

Nevertheless, the two of us were happy. I remember the game we used to play. Even when I was quite young, she would take me out into a forest and leave me. I would fend for myself for a few days, but I would always make it home to my mother's surprise and delight.

When I was a man grown, perhaps twelve years old, she told me that it was time I left home and made my own way. From our game, I knew the ways of the forest, but I would need martial skills if I were to become a true ranger. Therefore, I went out looking for someone to teach me the way of the sword and bow.

As I wandered from town to town, I would enquire about teachers of the martial arts. Many would not teach me because I could not grow a beard, and others wanted gold to pay for these services. However, some were generous with their attention and time.

I obtained my sword from one such teacher. He offered me the sword named Remalf if I spent the night with him. How could I refuse such an offer? He must have wanted to get some exercise because all he did was chase me around his estate all night long. However, in the morning, Remalf was mine.

With a sword in my hand, I would practice against rats and the like. However, killing rats can get rather tedious. I had spent years wandering trying to get someone to teach me how to properly use a sword and use a bow.

I was thinking of moving to the northlands and performing espionage for the Eskimo peoples there. Such was the state of my desperation when I wandered into Armizen.

Armizen is a small town with the wide and rough river of the same name to the north. The impassible mountains to the south also bare the name of Armizen. They were quite clever in their naming of things, like the Forest of No Return that sat on the eastern edge of the town.

Map of the City of Armizen

When I wandered into town, an ancient dragon had emerged from the mountains and had the townsfolk up in arms. They spotted Remalf and welcomed me kindly as their only hope in defeating the retched worm.

They had attempted to appease the beast with a virgin sacrifice, but the offer was refused. The mighty beast also refused the offer of gold and jewels. Everything the town offered met with the same rejection.

Thus, the town offered a huge reward for the slaying of the beast. They had yet to have any takers when I came into town. In addition to the offered riches, I also demanded training in other martial skills before I would take on the ancient monster. When the town and I had agreed to the terms, they showed me the path to the dragon's lair.

The local smith measured me for armor, and he designed a shield to help protect against the fire-breathing beast. To give him time to finish construction, the town threw a celebration in my honor.

On the third day, I put on the armor, grabbed the shield, and set off to face the dragon. I walked for most of the day until I spotted the ancient beast sleeping in an enormous cave. Instead of facing him at that point, I set up camp to prepare myself for the encounter.

At dawn, I approached the lair of the dragon. Its scaly skin of orange, green, and black had scratches and scars from its many encounters during its long life upon the earth. It was still in the position that it was when I first encountered it. It was upon the ground in front of the cave and not on piles of riches like most dragons.

As I approached, I could smell the sulfur of its fiery breath as it gave a labored exhale. It must have noticed my scent as it awoke with a start. I bravely stood there as it uncurled itself and stood up. It stood on its hind legs and spread its mighty wings. The enormous creature's shadow engulfed me as it stretched itself out, but I still stood my ground.

It took in a large amount of air and exhaled a huge pillar of flame upwards. It then dropped its front feet on the ground with a huge ground-shaking thud. It spied me and it appeared to have a sly smile upon its face.

The skin underneath the jaw of the dragon was gray and gave the appearance of a beard. Despite the apparent smile, its yellow eyes were bloodshot and appeared to be full of sorrow. It folded its wings and awaited my approach.

I braced myself behind the shield for a blast of fire that never came. Thus, I approached slowly and cautiously. With every twitch I was braced, yet no blast of fire. The smell of sulfur grew as I neared the beast and I could feel the heat of its breath.

Suddenly, its tale whipped around me and brought me in close. It all happened so fast, that I do not remember thrusting Remalf into the retched monster's heart. However, that is indeed what happened and the ancient dragon fell in a heap. After a few twitches of agony and some moments of labored breathing, the dragon expired.

I searched the cave, but found nothing. The head of the enormous beast would have been too heavy to carry, so I cut out a tooth and removed a few scales to prove the beast's demise before heading back.

The riches that the town promised were to come from the dragon's lair, so they could not pay. However, I did receive extensive training there. I spent many years training, but I wished to move on, but they would not allow it. I had become the town's protector and they would not allow me to be the ranger that I had always wanted to be.

They blocked my way through the main road, and my only avenue of escape was through the Forest of No Return. Thus, slightly before dawn, I grabbed some provisions and entered the forest to make my escape. I followed a surprisingly obvious path along the river Armizen. I could hear the strong rushing water to my left.

Eventually, two options presented themselves. I could attempt to climb a steep cliff to the top of a large waterfall, or I could cross a makeshift bridge to get to the north side of the river. I spotted some runes on some trees to the north. Thus, I followed that path.

I was attempting to get close enough to the messages to read them when I found myself falling into a pit. I used some of the skills I obtained in Armizen to land softly and ready for combat. That is when I saw the wizard and bard conversing. They were just sitting there.

They greeted me and offered to share their fire. After some discussion of which they were not receptive, I decided to pick a direction and see what adventures hid themselves. That is when another individual joined us. Thus, I decided to wait until morning to move along.

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The Lost Wizard

Dwanye The Rogue - First Tale

By Douglas E. Gogerty

I am Dwanye -- King of the North. At least, that is what I told the unfortunate others that found themselves at the bottom of this pit. Otherwise, my tale is not nearly as exciting as the one about the suicidal dragon. I was not exiled into the Forest of No Return because of some deed. In fact, I entered upon my own volition.

A person of my talents does not tend to stay in one place long. I probably started out like so many others in "The Guild." My parents abandoned me when I was a young child, and I found myself in a gang of street urchins. I believe that is where many roguish persons of my persuasion obtain their skills.

My appetites often lead me into trouble -- not only with the town, but also with "The Guild." Thus, I am regularly on the move just ahead of many law enforcement individuals. That is how I ended up in Kniley.

Map of the City of Kniley

Kniley is a quaint little town nestled in between a rough water river they call The Rough Water River and a range of impassible mountains they call The Impassible Mountains. As you enter the town, on the far west end is The Forest of No Return. They were not creative in their naming of things, but it was a nice town.

When my idol The Black Arrow, the Grand Champion of the Imperial arena, retired, I went my separate ways from the towns where the fights were staged. I heard the Black Arrow went north to Giland, but I followed my esthetic, which had never failed me before, and went south.

After several weeks in Kniley, the townspeople began noticing items disappearing from their possession. I cannot imagine how they would conclude that it was me. In any event, they set a trap to catch the theif. They held a festival and left a building unguarded. Within the walls of this building were supposedly great riches. They went out of their way informing me of the great wealth in this unguarded structure.

This warehouse, for lack of a better term, was located on the far side of town next to The Forest of No Return. It had a single entrance. Thus, they did not believe that once any thief -- er -- wealth adjuster -- entered, he or she would be able to escape.

I reveled with the rest at the festival and eventually followed their plan. I did not want to disappoint them. At the proper time, I snuck away from the crowd and entered the building. I was promised riches, but apparently, the wealthy town members were uncertain of the infallibility of the plan.

Apparently, they discovered one of my stashes, as that stuff was included in the irresistible bounty. However, when they were baiting the trap, they did not notice the extra supplies that were included. These were going to aid in my escape, and help me survive several days in the woods.

I grabbed as much wealth as I could put in my pack. I left the faux jewels and fake coins. With my provisions, I pulled up the loose floorboards that I had arranged the day before. I jumped down and replaced the boards above my head. I squeezed out of a gap in the foundation, and I was out the back of the storehouse as the entire town waited at the front door.

Quietly, I made my way to the forest. However, someone spotted me before I entered and I had to run. Not waiting to see if they were following, I kept running. After I entered the forest, I followed a minor trail. I did not pay too much attention to things as I crossed the river. In my hurry, I fell into this pit where I found three others.

With the riches I had purloined, I figured they may believe me when I said I was king of the north. In any event, it could not hurt. They were discussing their plan of action. The sorcerer and the bard wanted to sit and wait for help. The ranger wanted to move on and -- range. I was of no real opinion on the matter even after I heard each of their stories.

The sorcerer treated me like some scruffy-looking nurf herder as he tried to convince me to save some princess. The ranger complained endlessly about how he wanted to get out of this tunnel and out into the open air. I was leaning towards his point of view, just to get him to shut up. Nevertheless, we were going to rest a while before moving on.

We had rested for quite a while when a large group of dwarven soldiers emerged in perfect order from the south tunnel. They chanted to keep time as they marched north. However, they totally ignored our presence and marched on by our location. They disappeared into the darkness of the north tunnel, but we were still able to hear the slap of their boots upon the floor of the tunnel as they continued on their way.

We quickly decided amongst the group to gather our things and follow them. It was dark, and we dare not light the way or attract attention. However, the sounds of the marching soldiers were more than enough guide as we followed them north.

Suddenly the marching ended and there was a brief silence. The tunnel then erupted in loud taunts. We found the west wall and made our way towards the shouts to the north more carefully. After several taunts and much boastful laughter, the sound of metal on metal exploded.

The din of battle soon was a deafening roar. The shouts of the dwarves and their foes, the clang of axe on shield, the sound of the injured, the commands of leaders rang down upon us. It must have been a great sight watching the two forces engage, but we were still in the dark and unable to view the battle.

As the battle wound down, we found ourselves in a large expansive room. The walls glowed from some unknown source, and we could see that it was two dwarven armies battling. The group from the north had successfully defended their domain as some of the southern dwarves rushed by us in retreat.

The last of the southern dwarven soldiers retreated and a shout of victory from the northern group rang through the tunnel. The shadows hid me well, but the bard and sorcerer were glowing beacons and a couple of guards spotted our party. A fight was briefly discussed, but defeated.

We went peacefully with the guards through their gates and into their domain. Past the gates was an immense dwarven city carved into the rock. There were dwellings and shops and all matter of city structures carved out of solid rock. With my keen eyes, I could still see a few rich veins of gold. This was a wealthy underground town.

The obvious wealth was too much for me to continue with the group peacefully. I heard the wealth call and I was unable to resist. I made a run for it. I do not know where I would go; I just had to go. There was no way those little fat dwarven legs could keep up with me. They barely tried to catch me.

I ran down this road and that. I wound my way around this way and went that. I totally lost them. I found a secured dwelling below a large vein of gold. I briefly scanned the area before I picked the lock. With another scan, I opened the door and entered. Once inside, I looked around a bit, I felt a sharp pain in the back of my head, and everything went black.

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The Lost Wizard

Jaime the Bard - Second Tale

By Douglas E. Gogerty

At first, I was alone at the bottom of a dark pit. However, three others soon joined me, no women though. At first, I was content to wait for help at the bottom. In fact, the sorcerer put out signs warning of the pit. He also put out glowing signals asking for help. However, when two more people ended up in our predicament, it appeared that competent people were in short supply wandering this forest. If we waited much longer, there would be fifty people sitting at the bottom of this pit.

Luckily, one morning a group of soldiers marched by our camp. The four of us followed them, and missed seeing a grisly battle. We asked the guards to take us to their leader, and they complied.

However, Dwanye, the newest member of our group, must have had too much elvish parsley. The "king" twisted and gyrated his hips to the pleasure of the onlookers. He shouted something like "You ain't nuttin' but a hound dog!" which got a huge reaction. With his bedding in one hand, he grabbed a stone with the other. So, with a rock and a roll, he made his get away. Eventually, some guards told us that he left the building.

The remaining guards took the rest of us into the hall of the mountain king. Dwanye later joined us in an unconscious state. They claimed we were spies for the southern kingdom. Did we look like dwarves to them? I realize that Ranger Rex was a little small and dopey looking, but even he would not be confused for a dwarf. The peach fuzz that he calls a beard is a dead giveaway.

Cyrus spoke for the group, but he could not explain why a member of our group ran away. Furthermore, he was at a loss to explain why this member broke into the house of a former citizen who now lived in the southern city. Those actions to this kingdom seemed very suspicious. However, Dwanye in his state also could not explain his actions.

All except "the king of the north" explained their situations to the King of the North. While he was skeptical of our stories, he would consider what to do with us. A few guards escorted us into a small room outside the throne room. We were not there long. I still had my pants on when we reentered the presence of the Dwarven King.

By a unanimous vote of the king and his advisors, we were to be put to death. So much for telling the truth! I knew I should have made up a terrible tale of woe. If they would have let me tell each story for the group, they would have been weeping and lavishing riches upon us.

The king considered us for a while, and then told us his tale of woe. Naturally, I could have told it much better, but what are you going to do? After all, he was the king.

Centuries ago, there were two small mines run by two brothers. One was south of the great river and one was north. The mines contained abundant veins of gold. The two dwarves recruited others to join them in the mines. Each dwarf that joined them also became wealthy.

They opened up huge caverns beneath the mountains that eventually became thriving underground cities. The brothers proclaimed themselves kings of their underground realms. They were very happy, but they missed each other's company. Thus, they proclaimed that they would throw a festival every year in a town on the surface, so the two kingly brothers could converse.

This practice went on for many many years. However, the surface towns became uneasy about the invasion of the dwarven masses each year. The festivals became very dangerous for the dwarves of the underground mining towns. Further, the two brothers were becoming ancient and it was difficult for them to leave their realms.

The youngest sons of these two kings devised a scheme. Under the great river, they would dig a tunnel and connect the two cities. In the center of this tunnel, a great hall could be constructed for the gathering. Both sides greeted this plan with great enthusiasm and they quickly dug the tunnel.

Every year, they held their festival in this great hall. The kings and their citizens were very happy. The two brothers met at this festival until their deaths. In fact, the towns were so wealthy that they could hold the gathering several times a year.

After the deaths of the two kings, their successors continued the practice. However, the kingly cousins were not as much interested in conversing with their counterpart. Soon, the festival grew into a friendly competition between the two towns.

They had dwarfish beauty pageants and tunnel digging contests. They ran foot races. They had wrestling matches. However, the contests fueled the fire of competition between the towns. The two towns became rivals, and the competitions became much more heated.

Eventually, this rivalry erupted into a riot, which ended the festivals. The towns abandoned the great hall, and stripped it of all finery. Each town erected a strong gate to protect it from invading forces.

Nevertheless, the kingly cousins mounted excursions to test the defenses of the rival city. This resulted in the deaths of many dwarves. The cities spared no expense in the fortification and the armament of the Dwarven armies. Prosperity suffered as a result of their warrior ways. Mining the vast gold reserves took a second seat to proving their metal in battle.

When the cousin kings died, their heirs -- the current king of the northern town was one -- called for a truce. The two kings hired a young wizard who would live in the great hall and mediate disputes. This wizard would also remind the towns that mining was the path to greater wealth -- not war.

This plan was a great success until the wizard left the employ of the two kings. I think he means that the wizard escaped. Thus, the incursions have resumed as we almost witnessed.

The king was anxious to put things back to their peaceful ways. Thus, he gave us a choice. We could die on the chopping block, or we could bring back their wizard. It was quite a difficult choice, but I thought it was a fine bargain. Ranger Rex only thought about getting out of the caves, so he readily agreed.

Cyrus the sorcerer believed there was much more to the story than we were being told. Thus, he was reluctant to turn on one of his brethren. Not withstanding, he did agree to join us.

We offered them to keep Dwanye "king of the north" as a hostage. However, we appeared too eager to rid ourselves of this rogue. Thus, they made us take his unconscious body with us.

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The Lost Wizard

Sorcerer Cyrus - Second Tale

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The Dwarfish king of the northern underground city had manipulated the situation to his favor. We fell into a pit, and now we found ourselves with a difficult choice. Either we could die at the hands of an executioner, or we could search for his missing wizard.

While the death would certainly be honorable, I have decided to join this group of strangers in a quest to search for the lost wizard. My original quest to search for our missing princess will have to wait. I will combine the tasks and ask after her at every opportunity.

While the tale of the battling dwarfish kingdoms is tragic, I have a great suspicion that there is much more to the story of their missing wizard. I have no love loss for the trained wizards, but I feel that this particular one was more prisoner than voluntary help. When we find him, we will determine the rest of the story.

I asked to examine his room for clues. The rest of our party agreed that it would be a good place to start. A few of the king's guard escorted us to the former Great Hall. I could see how it could have been quite a lavish room at one time. However, with time and deterioration, its grandeur had greatly faded.

Upon further inspection of the hall, it appeared that a lack of proper maintenance caused the hole into which we fell. A thin segment of the tunnel had eventually collapsed leaving a hole in the ceiling. Fortunately, it was not under the river or the entire hall would have been flooded.

The wizard's room was a typical jumble of books, scrolls, and potions. Clearly, the dwarves searched the room for clues as well because the disorganization was greater than most wizards' quarters. Things that no wizard would have treated with such disregard were strewn around the floor.

A lonely bed was set in one corner, and no one had disturbed it. The wizard had made the bed before leaving. Next to the bed was a single chest of drawers. Some of the drawers were slightly ajar, but they were all empty.

A range used for heating and cooking was in the corner, and it was stone cold. Upon inspection, someone burned some papers in the stove, and perhaps this same someone stirred the contents to insure that they would not be readable.

There were memory erase potions, fireball scrolls, and the like. To me at least, these items shed some light on some of the mysteries of the forest above. They also somewhat verified some aspects of the dwarfish king's story.

The only notable item in the entire collection of artifacts was a single unlabeled flask with only a trace of liquid left inside. This lost wizard had labeled all of the other flasks with their contents. Without labels, a wizard could not keep track of all of the items in his or her possession. Naturally, this item caught my eye.

I closely examined the remaining liquid in this flask. It was a memory erase potion; however, it was different from the others. It seemed to me that he created this potion for a special purpose, and someone consumed its contents immediately.

Why would he create a special memory erase potion when he had several ready made? I could not quite discern the exact difference of this potion. Perhaps he wanted one that was more effective, but I felt that it was an important clue to the resolution of our story. Nevertheless, I cannot fathom what significance it has at this point.

Other than the potion, if there were any clues, the dwarves had destroyed them in their search. Perhaps if the rogue Dwanye were conscious, he could have found other items. It was apparent to me that the wizard had planned his escape and did well to cover his tracks. A complete search would reveal little else by the way of clues.

Since we had gleaned everything we could from the northern dwarfish kingdom, we asked to meet with the southern king. They were very reluctant to allow us this opportunity, but at least I was very insistent. Rex, naturally, was anxious to get topside, but we needed to gain more information.

The northern guards allowed us to walk to the southern gate. Like its northern counterpart, it was well fortified. A few dwarfish guards confronted the three of us carrying our unconscious fourth. Naturally, the king immediately arrested us as spies and sentenced us to death.

We let Jaime the Bard tell our story, and that added some torture to our sentence. After much formality, the king told a similar story as the northern king's tale. He would allow us to live if we brought back the wizard. We agreed to his terms.

We asked which of the four nearby towns the wizard had been recruited. However, they had never heard of Miz, Kniley, Armizen, or Yansey. They had gone to an important town in the Tiberium Empire. They hired the wizard out of Giland. That was to be our initial topside destination.

Unfortunately, neither dwarfish kingdom had the capability of transporting to Giland. We would have to exit by the entrance in which we fell. The dwarves of the southern kingdom placed a ladder under the hole. We thought about leaving immediately, but we waited for Dwanye to regain his consciousness before setting off.

Each of us had reasons not to visit a city that bordered the Forest of No Return. After a brief discussion, we decided to head for Yansey. That town would more readily forgive the sins of the bard in our midst, and we would be able to pass through town without too much difficulty. Further, the road from Yansey leads easily to Giland. Other routes posed more difficulties.

Since we had first entered the forest, the creatures had become emboldened. Upon our first entrance, they passively watched as we passed, but something had changed. A group of spiders met our first few steps towards the northwest.

For a group of strangers, we worked together quite well. Dwanye's sneak attacks were quite effective. Jaime's sword skills were quite refined for a man such as he. Even the less than mighty ranger Rex proved his worth. We dispatched the spiders after a quick skirmish.

A pack of wolves, a pack of wild dogs, and a large group of rats all challenged our group before we reached Yansey. It was as if the forest had suddenly come alive to protect its secrets. Nevertheless, we handled the challenges with little difficulty.

Yansey presented us with different difficulties. By tradition, when a lost soul had re-entered the town, they threw a celebration welcoming the party back into the community. However, we were different. They did not have a record of us entering the forest. They knew of Jaime's entrance, but he had not been changed as their legend stated. He was the same person with complete memory of his trip into the forest.

The three of us accompanying him also put them on edge. Like many, they thought an evil sorcery was involved. Thus, they were not going to let us leave. We believed that as a team we could defeat the entire town in battle. Thus, we stated as much. The mayor unwilling to test us on our braggadocios claim, allowed us to pass through town with the promise never to return. We accepted the bargain with the full knowledge that we may break it.

Apart from a brief encounter with some highwaymen, our trip to Giland was uneventful. We found a place to stay, and we would begin searching for the wizard the next day.

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The Lost Wizard

Ranger Rex - Second Tale

By Douglas E. Gogerty

This sucks! I am a Ranger. I should have been out in the forest following this wizards trail before it got cold. Instead, we had to stay in these caves and look for clues. In addition, we were lugging around an unconscious person who calls himself the King of the North, and we had to protect him from the advances of an oversexed bard.

Furthermore, after we searched the lost wizard's room, we did not even leave the tunnels then. We continued on and received another death sentence from the southern dwarven kingdom. Why do we not wander around these tunnels some more? Perhaps someone else would like to sentence us to death! After all, it is not as if we have a ranger in our party who excels at tracking or anything.

In any event, we did eventually make our way out of those forsaken tunnels and into the forest. Naturally, the wizard's trail was cold. I could not determine which way he had gone. We talked it over and decided to head northwest to Yansey. So, once again, we were leaving my element and entering a town.

Before we exited the forest, we had a few minor skirmishes with some creatures. I believe that the wizard we were after put a spell upon them to cover his tracks. They were all more ferocious than they would have been normally. Nevertheless, we dispatched them easily. The others in our party could have been a bit more help, but I was quite capable handling the creatures on my own.

There was a bit of trouble in Yansey, but nothing a little flash of steel could not have handled. They allowed us to be on our way without much fuss. I was glad we did not have to spend too much time in that city. We were on the road again headed towards a major outpost -- Giland.

The trek to Giland was a major undertaking. I was constantly scouting around looking for any indication that the wizard had come this way. While our sorcerer and the bard were aiding in the convalescence of the rogue, I was communicating with the people and creatures along the road.

Eventually, we made our way to the Imperial Highway that led to Giland. This was a well guarded and maintained stretch of road that connects Giland with other Imperial cities. This was a well-traveled road and we met many travelers along the route.

Although the communications with everyone we met did not indicate whether our subject had passed or not, it made the trip much more arduous for me. I was constantly walking hither and yon for signs. I likely walked twice as far as the rest of the party as we journeyed to Giland. I do not think the rest of the group appreciated all that I was doing. We could have got valuable information from what I was doing. Just because we did not obtain anything, does not mean that it was a wasted effort.

Giland is like all of the other cities in the Tiberium Empire. It is large and garish with a large Imperial Palace near the center on a hill. There were shops and stands lining the streets with residences behind those shops. It was a bustling center of commerce.

Moreover, it smelled. I am not talking about it had a quaint urban odor to it. The smell was enough to gag rodents of unusual size. It had a horrific odor about the place. How anyone could live with this stench was beyond me -- let alone a countess. Nevertheless, this was our starting place.

Our first order of business was to seek out the Mages' Guild. If I was a dwarf -- and I am not -- I would contact the guild if I were seeking to hire a sorcerer or wizard. Several citizens were hesitant to tell us where the guildhall was. However, after much inquiry we found it.

The hall was unextraordinary; however, it had a pleasant odor to it. The Mages' Guild, at the very least, was aware of the stench that permeated their town and took steps to obliterate it.

The members were quite reluctant to talk to us. Apparently, there was a bit of trouble in town involving one of their high-ranking members. Thus, they were very wary of strangers lurking about. We attempted to ask some questions, but they would not speak with us about the matter. They would not even speak with one of their own. Our sorcerer, Cyrus Thomas, could not even get any information out of them.

Cyrus claimed to have known a member of this very guild named Brunis. However, upon mentioning this fact, a group of mages escorted us out of the hall.

Everywhere we went we heard rumors involving Brunis, Lady Aversfield, and some guard. I have to assume that Brunis was involved in some sort of trouble. I am sure someone will write it up, but we were on a mission of our own.

We were hoping, at least, to get the name of our lost wizard from the guild. The dwarves neglected to get that vital piece of information. They had a wizard in their employ, but did not bother to note his name. Certainly, it was a wise move on their behalf. They entrust their safety and happiness to a person, but they neglect the niceties -- like calling him by name.

Without a name and only the vaguest of description, we ventured out into the wretched odor-filled town asking questions. It was embarrassing. "Excuse me, but did you ever know of a wizard who lived in this town long ago who went off with some dwarves? His Name? I have no idea," is a conversation no one should have.

The Wizard of Miz -- er -- sorcerer was having a bit of luck with his missing princess quest. She may, or may not have come through with a strange looking man. It was at least a hopeful sign.

We were beginning to discuss looking for the princess when we received a break. An old crone in a shack on the smelliest part of town remembered the event. The dwarves gave her a bit of gold when she pointed them towards the mages' guildhall. She had lived off that gold ever since.

Our wizard's name was Deffrey Jackard. At the time, he was young and a low ranking member in the guild. The idea of making lots of gold led him to volunteering for the job. Also, it was likely he jumped at the chance to get away from the smell. However, most of the other guild members were not interested, and he easily obtained the job.

With this new information, we could canvass the town again. We attempted to speak to some people at the Mages Guild, but they would not allow us in. A brief look at their records would have been nice, but they had other concerns. We were going to get nowhere with them.

It was growing late, and any further research would have to wait. Most citizens had gone to their homes, and thus we retired to one of the inns in town. In the morning our search would continue.

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The Lost Wizard

Dwanye the Rogue - Second Tale

By Douglas E. Gogerty

I am unconscious for a little while, and this group agrees to find this missing wizard. Further, I am included in this quest. Why not agree to find the Fountain of Youth? Perhaps we could also find the bard Jaime's virginity while we are at it. Does a death sentence from two kingdoms mean that they can make us do any fool's errand?

In any event, we found ourselves in Giland. I was actually pleased with how the road led us to this Imperial stronghold. Perhaps in our journey, I would once again run into the Black Arrow. She headed this way, last I had heard. She may still be here.

The fool's errand went as expected for most of the day. We did manage to determine the name of our quarry. We were looking for Deffrey Jackard. However, no one in town had heard of him. The Mages' Guild was most uncooperative, but their vocal cooperation was completely unnecessary.

When the rest of our party retired to the inn, I snuck into the night. People of my skills are more accustomed to working after daylight hours. Thus, it was time for me to do some digging on my own. If some wealth was readjusted during the process, it was all the better.

One of the problems working at night is that most people were in their homes. It is problematic searching through peoples' things when they are there. However, this venture into the night was for informational purposes. If I was going to be part of this silly quest, I could at least play a part.

Mages' are a restful bunch. They need their rest. Thus, those lower ranking mages, who do not have places of their own, will likely be in their rooms in the mages' guildhall. This was my first destination.

While it would not have been unusual for a citizen to be out at night, I did not want to bring attention to myself. Thus, I stayed in the shadows. I did not want anyone seeing me out and about. If something should turn up missing, they may instantly blame me, even if I was not involved.

Luckily, we spent the day wandering the place and speaking to people. Therefore, I had a good understanding of the layout of the city. I skulked my way from the inn to the guildhall without difficulty.

Mages are a funny lot. They put magical locks on all the doors. Thus, you need to know the magical spell to unlock them. However, they do not even lock their windows. Just for the challenge, I climbed up to the second story and crawled into the first window I encountered.

A mage was snoring loudly as I entered through her window. Unfortunately, she was a very low ranking mage as she had little wealth. It did not force me *not* to take some things; it just made me feel a little sorry for her. With the little reward I had gathered, I quietly left her room.

I was in the guildhall with little difficulty. I wanted to find their personnel records and perhaps a daily log if they kept one. They were wizards and sorcerers; thus, they had a library somewhere on the premises. I was hoping they kept their records in this library, and was counting on the library being easily accessible.

I wandered around for a while on the second floor. I opened a few doors and perhaps lifted a gold coin or two. However, it became evident that the library was not on this floor. I headed down the stairs, and I spotted a faint light coming from one of the rooms.

I carefully poked my head into the room, and I spotted a wizard perusing some hefty tome. I thought about heading back up the stairs, but I heard someone stirring up there. I quietly walked past the library opening and entered the kitchen. That was not where I wanted to be.

I went into this room because it gave me a nice view of the library. I was considering waiting out the wizard in this room. However, that was before I discovered it was the kitchen. In many places, the kitchen is often the busiest place at night. When hunger strikes in the middle of the night, they look towards the stores in the kitchen.

Before I could finish my thought, there was a push on the door. In stepped the mage whose room I used to enter the guildhall. I managed to duck behind some sacks of grain before she illuminated the room. With a combination of my presence and the sudden illumination, rodents scurried everywhere.

She ate some bread and some sort of berry. She grabbed some leaves and made some tea with them. After a brief incantation, she left, but her light spell remained. Hopefully, the tea would help with her snoring. However, I was in a bit of a spot. I was hiding behind some sacks of grain in a brightly illuminated room. It was not where I wanted to be.

I heard her exchange words with the mage in the library. She offered him some of her tea to help him sleep. He explained that he was finished, and he was not in the need of a sleep aid. I was afraid that he was going to enter the kitchen, but I heard him climb the stairs.

I had to take a chance. I did not know how long this illumination spell in the kitchen would last, but I was not going to wait and find out. In a quiet, but unstealthy manner, I burst from the kitchen and did a barrel roll into the library. It was quite the graceful maneuver, and thankfully, no one was around to see it.

The mage was reading the Son of Innes's account of Brunis and the Lady Aversfield. It was probably so gripping that he could not put it down. I hear he is an excellent author.

In any event, I searched the library for the member records. There were lots of scrolls and bound volumes on the shelves. It took some time before I found the member records for the period in question.

Before I could peruse the volume, I had to hide in the shadows as another restless wizard entered the kitchen. Eventually, I discovered that Deffrey Jackard was a very low ranking wizard. He knew very little upon his release from guild service. He could create potions of memory erase, and he could create love potions.

The guild released him from service -- not because the dwarves hired him -- but for misconduct. The guild had discovered that he had placed a love spell upon a citizen of a neighboring town for his own benefit. His services to the guild for this rule violation were no longer required.

The same day of his sentence, some dwarves came to town looking for a wizard for hire. They wanted a very long-term commitment. However, every need for this hire would be considered and, if possible, met. The guild had no interested members. There was no note that Deffrey joined them. However, he did have the required skills and he was in need of a home.

After a perusing a few more volumes, I began the exiting process. I listened at the door of the room in which I entered the hall, but she was no longer snoring. I thought of that as a bad indication.

Thus, I went back down the stairs and examined the front door. I could easily pick the lock, but I was unsure what the result would be. I decided that I would risk it. They deserved to be awakened for the poor way they treated us.

I picked the lock of the door, opened it, and rushed outward. The sounds coming from the door spell were harsh and the lights clearly lit up the area. Without hesitation, I hid in the shadows as I made my way into the night. However, no one saw me make my way back to the inn. I had a few coins in my purse, and some information to share with the group. It was a good night.

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The Lost Wizard

Jaime the Bard - Third Tale

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Our wizard quarry used a love potion on someone? That takes the challenge completely out of it. Personally, I would have burned incense under soft candle light. I would have spoken soft words and perhaps recited some poetry. If they were still unbending to my desires, I would just get them drunk.

In any event, we have a lead with which to follow up. In order for the guild to take action, someone must file a complaint with a local magistrate. While the information obtained from the Mages' Guild was short on details, the magistrate's office should have the details of the incident. That is, if their records go back that far.

Seeing as we were old hands at wandering around this city, we easily found our way into the record's office. With my great way with people, the group decided that I should speak with the local officials. Since I was given the task of speaking with the gentleman, I entered alone with the rest of the group waiting outside.

The magistrate on duty was a kindly old man. If we knew the age of dirt, he would perhaps exceed it in age. I gave him a friendly smile and greeted him warmly. After several kind words with the magistrate on duty, he informed me that records that old would have been destroyed long ago. They simply did not have the space to store records that long. However, he had a vague recollection of the incident.

Naturally, he told me about his son's neighbor who did business with a butcher whose daughter was married to the cousin of the cabinetmaker who did work for the party involved. It was quite a long and twisted tale involving commoners and royalty, love, intrigue, and betrayal. It was standard melodrama faire. I probably should have paid more attention to the details. In any event, it all involved the King and Queen of Miz and their daughter.

As best I could, I relayed the tale to the rest of the group. I may have enhanced it a bit. Well, since I remembered very few details of the original, I may not have been far off the original. All of those tales are essentially the same. I could not remember if the original had a dragon and a wicked stepmother, so I had no choice but to include those elements.

After this brief mission of discovery, we gathered our things and headed toward Miz. As we journeyed towards this town, we pressed Cyrus for more information on this town from which he hailed.

Miz was never a major metropolitan area. Its geography limited its size and access. However, it was a favorite vacationing spot of one of the kings of the realm. When the imperial powers consolidated many of the kingdoms, this king exiled himself to Miz. Presumably, he did this to avoid execution of himself and his family.

Thus, while he thought of himself as a king and his children as princes and princesses, the titles were meaningless. As it turns out, the princess we were after was simply a daughter of some notable nobles. She had no claim to any imperial or kingly authority.

Perhaps from the story I told, the rest of the group got the impression that our wizard gave the love potion to this nobleman's daughter to make her fall in love with him. Further, the parents got wind of this plot and had the reputation of the wizard destroyed. Thus, he had to make a living in obscurity under the direction of some Dwarven overlords.

I told a wonderful tale, if I do say so myself. Some of it may even come close to the mark. I did stave off some possible criticism by reminding them that everything said was relayed from the recollection of a very ancient man.

Even with Ranger Rex sniffing every flower and examining every broken twig, the journey from Giland to Miz was uneventful. With Imperial power holding sway in this area, brigands preying upon travelers were rare. Traveling the roads was relatively safe; however, only seasoned adventurers should wander off the roads.

Since town officials ordered the Wizard of Miz -- er -- Sorcerer Cyrus -- not to enter the town without the princess, we made camp just outside of town. The plan was to leave Cyrus in camp while the rest of us gather information about the wizard and the princess in Miz.

The townspeople here were more willing to speak to us. Few remembered Deffrey Jackard. However, many knew his story, and the old man got it all wrong. His memory must be failing him. He missed so many details.

The old king had a son and four daughters. The son got himself in trouble with the Imperial powers and has been away from Miz for many years. The eldest daughter now calls herself the Queen of Miz. The missing princess was either her daughter or her niece. Many believed that the girl was actually born from the youngest of the old king's daughters. In any event, she is the missing princess. The townspeople were unclear on who her mother and father were.

The old man also got the story of the love potion wrong. From speaking to people around town, the old King's youngest daughter fell in love with the wizard the old-fashioned way. There was no magic involved. However, the old queen would not have her daughter getting involved with some commoner.

Apparently, our wizard gave the love potion to the mother. Thus, she removed opposition to the bond. However, her reversal of mind raised suspicion with the old king. The old king's investigators discovered the plot, which led to the wizard's removal from the Mages' Guild. This story was completely different from the one the old man told.

The townsfolk told an inconsistent story after this point. The youngest daughter dies and a child appears. Some believe that she died giving birth to the child while others believe it was the new queen's daughter. Some stated that the wizard killed the daughter so no one could have her and implanted his seed in the new queen. There were many tales, and few were consistent.

In any event, the child grew up but had a tumultuous time of it. She was often in trouble and was completely unmanageable. Thus, she eventually earned herself banishment into the Forest of No Return. Is it a misnomer if you return from the Forest of No Return? That is what happened.

She returned from the forest, but she had no recollection of events that transpired within the forest. She was changed, and she appeared to have amended her wild ways. However, she gradually became moody and one day she ran away.

Since they were naturally suspicious of all magic users, they rid themselves of an awful menace by sending a resident sorcerer out to look for her. I wonder whom they mean by that. They have heard nothing. There have been no progress reports. We have been the only ones asking about her since she vanished.

While I was ready to stay in an inn in town, the rest of the group thought we should join Cyrus at the camp. I thought about arguing the point, but relented. We walked back to camp and told the story to our sorcerer as told to us by the townspeople. He too remarked that it was very different from the version told to me by the old man.

He asked about the dragon and the evil stepmother. I related to him that perhaps one or the other was responsible for the death of the youngest daughter. Nevertheless, in the morning, we would have to determine our next course of action.

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The Lost Wizard

Sorcerer Cyrus - Third Tale

By Douglas E. Gogerty

With the rest of the company in Miz, I had time to think about things. I had a lot of time. They were gone for most of the day, and I had nothing to do but tend the camp. I was quite alone with my thoughts.

I spent quite a bit of time considering the various incarnations of the Forest of No Return. I found it quite interesting that each member of our party came from a different town, yet ended in the same hole. It got me wondering about the legend.

It seems reasonable to me that each individual sent into the Forest of No Return, would end in that pit. Perhaps the dwarves would intervene, or perhaps the individual would simply spend time with our missing wizard. In any event, the wizard would administer a memory erase potion, and the individual would be free to wander back to their city.

Sorcerers Map

Those individuals that were "drastically changed" were likely individuals who ended up in a different town than where he or she began. This, to me, seemed the most likely explanation of the mystery of the forests.

While talking to the other members, I am convinced that all the towns border the same river and the same forest. If we could avoid the hole in the ceiling of the dwarven central hall, we could walk to each of the towns. Perhaps someday this will be possible.

I am also of the opinion that the missing "princess" is the daughter of our wizard. When she entered the forest and fell into the pit, the pair met for the first time. However, it may be unlikely that the dwarves would allow him to keep a long-term guest. Alternatively, she may have wanted to be with more people her own age. It would have been very lonely for her.

Thus, the pair concocted a scheme in order to free themselves of their dwarven obligations. She would return to Miz under a temporary memory erase spell. The wizard would sneak away up the hole, and they would rendezvous at a prearranged location.

For my part, the princess went away under her own will. Thus, that part of the quest was finished. If she wished to no longer live in Miz, that was her decision. No one abducted her, and thus, this part of my quest is complete.

When the remainder of the party returned, most of my inclinations were verified. The group voted on whether to continue to look for Deffery Jackard. We decided to continue that quest. However, it may have been mostly for our own curiosity rather than fear of reprisal from the dwarves.

With my excellent hunches playing out, we decided to pursue my next thought. The princess's uncle was also missing. Perhaps he was missing on purpose rather than some nefarious reason. If he had established housekeeping in some town, the princess and the wizard may have joined him.

Naturally, the question was where we would find him living. That was a question I could not answer, but Giland was a good place to start our inquiries. Thus, after a night camping, we headed back to Giland.

Clearly, they would not be living in Giland. We would have run into them. At the very least, someone would have noticed the strangers. I recalled hearing someone tell of a man and woman passing through, and I believe we need to follow that trail.

Ranger Rex said he could follow the trail if it were not so cold. It is always that way with him. It made little different, we would take the north road, and ask along the road. Perhaps we would hear something from another traveler or find the pair in a town along the road.

The safety of the roads south of Giland quickly made themselves apparent. We were not a day's travel north of Giland when a group of bandits attacked us. Ranger Rex, our fighting expert, was smelling roses or talking to some bear when these ruffians fell upon us remaining three.

With a fighting song from Jaime the Bard, we were all in good spirits as we fought off the attack. There is nothing like hearing "Here I come to save the day!" when you find yourself in battle.

As Dwanye ran around avoiding direct combat with our foes, Jaime picked them off one by one. I had a few spells ready, and I took care of a few of these highwaymen myself. I also did my best to protect the fragile rogue, but I too had things to worry about. At least he had a little armor.

We had dispatched the group when our ranger returned. We voted to spend the night at that spot. For his negligence, we gave Ranger Rex the first watch. I for one, needed to rest if we were going to run into any more trouble along the road.

In the morning as we ate the most important meal of the day, Ranger Rex told a story of some ruffians he fought off during the night. However, we could not locate their bodies anywhere. He claimed that wolves must have dragged them off.

Dwanye experienced no such encounters during his watch. It is curious that. I will refrain from retelling Jaime's encounter. Some people find stories of bestiality distasteful during a repast. Our bard experiences no such qualms. He does love to tell a tale though.

No matter, I was well rested when our journey continued. The previous days encounter was a mixed blessing. Because of the insecurity of the roads, we felt the need to remain in a close group. On the other hand, because of the insecurity of the roads, we felt the need to remain in a close group, which included Ranger Rex.

However, it was enjoyable to see his face when our Bard would spin one of his bawdier yarns. His face crinkles in a most extraordinary way, and he has the capability of turning many shades of red. As long as you do not have to wake him for his watch, his nighttime paranoia is also entertaining.

We walked on the road heading north for a couple of days with only a few minor encounters. It was just a few packs of wild animals, and some wandering individuals preying upon other wandering individuals. They will not bother anyone again.

Eventually, we came to a small town. An inn with a soft bed was going to be a welcome change from the ground. We inquired with several townsfolk, and they remember seeing a father and daughter pass through town several days previously.

This pair did not socialize with the townspeople much. They kept mostly to themselves. Thus, no one knew where they were headed. They just continued on the road to the north.

Ranger Rex stated that if we hurried, we might be able to catch their trail while it was still warm. However, we decided that a soft bed and a bottle of wine were more important. After all, we would not be able to stay long with Jaime the Bard on the prowl.

Despite protestations from our ranger, we lazily arose and had another meal at the inn. We did not know whom our entertainer ended up with, but the mayor's daughter had a peculiar walk that morning. Thus, we decided that we had dawdled long enough. It was back to the trail, much to our ranger's delight.

Needless to say, our trail following expert blamed our lackadaisical attitude for him not being able to find a good trail. I am beginning to get the feeling that he would not be able to track a herd of wooly mammoths if they were standing in front of him. Perhaps I am just making light of him.

The last town had completely stripped us of all motivation for this quest. Rex would not let us quit, but our thoughts were clearly elsewhere. I am certain Jaime's were.

We would soon have to decide whether we continue our quest, or whether we simply let the dwarves do their own jobs. We were free, and we knew the secret of the forest. We could avoid encounters with the dwarven kings and their people. There was no reason to continue -- except Rex. Well -- the newfound friends also kept me going.

As we decided on the watches, and settled down for a night's rest, some of us began thinking of what happens next. What happens if or when we fulfill our mission? Perhaps an answer will come to us in our dreams.

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The Lost Wizard

Ranger Rex - Third Tale

By Douglas E. Gogerty

This sucks! I am a ranger! The rest of the group squashes every opportunity that I have to use my skills. Instead of picking up the trail of our quarry, they loaf about in an inn. Thus, they let the trail go cold. Despite my best effort, I just could not find any trace of the trail of our wizard.

Further, with the danger upon the roads, the rest of the group was in need of my services. Thus, their protection being paramount, they forced me to be around them. I could not forage or look for evidence of the wizard passing through. The group would have been in great peril if I wandered far from them.

With this group, I have very little opportunity to use my skills as a ranger. We did eventually leave the town, and continued north on the road. However, it was late in the morning, and the rest of the group was moving slowly.

We were following some good leads. A relative of one of the aristocrats from Miz was supposed to live north of Giland somewhere. We felt that if we could find him, we could find our wizard. In addition, we would have the bonus of finding Sorcerer Cyrus's princess.

However, pressing forward with this unmotivated group was proving difficult. Some members of our group were just trudging along. It is like pulling teeth to continue forward. The bard was joking and telling tales to the wizard. They both had no focus on our quest.

Luckily, after a nights rest, we were attacked by a group of bandits. This seemed to energize the team. With my excellent sword skills, I dispatched most of our foes with quite the flair.

The bandit leader was at least seven feet tall. His weapon was a large claymore. He waved it about as if it were a dagger. With a mighty roar, he attacked Jaime, our bard. Jaime could block the mighty blows, but it was all that he could do.

Scottish Claymore

I jumped into action. I rushed the giant with my sword ready and my shield at my side. He swung his mighty sword at me, but was well above my head. Nevertheless, I rolled upon the ground and stopped at his feet. I thrust upwards, and opened up the man's belly.

After I had successfully defeated the bandit leader, the bard took his sword and cut the dead man's head off. A few other bandits that I killed, others claimed credit. In any event, I practically killed all of the bandits myself.

This encounter energized the group. They were no longer content with lollygagging our way north. We moved at a steadier and quicker pace. They had come to my way of thinking. We were now ready to get back on track for the quest.

Nevertheless, we were in an unprotected area, and we were not going to reach any civilization for a few days. Thus, we had to stay focused on our task. This area could be quite perilous

In fact, we ran into several bands of bandits as we traveled north. Dwanye was quite pleased, as many of these highwaymen had items of great value upon their persons. He always seemed more pleasant with some coin coming into his possession.

We naturally split the plunder equally, so we all had a modest income as we defeated gangs on our travels north. I think this brightened the spirits of all of our party members.

I do not mean to imply that it was all fighting as we went north. We did run into some fellow travelers. There were trades-people ferrying their wares between a town we just left to the town where were pushing towards. There were tourists and other folks looking for adventure or a new life.

Our bard spun many fine yarns when we would share our campsite with travelers. He was less inclined to speak of his sexual adventures with these strangers. It was a welcome break from the usual stories of his exploits.

As usual, we would take turns taking watches. While we shared things with travelers, it would have been foolish to trust them explicitly. Thus, we still kept our own watch and protected our items.

Unfortunately, during one night, a friendly group of travelers stole several valuable items that I collected from some bandit groups. This happened on Dwanye's watch, and he apologized most fervently. He even volunteered to replace the items, but I declined the offer. After our quest, I may seek out these travelers to gain recompense for their actions.

Perhaps I should have taken him up on the offer though. His pack seemed full to overflowing with treasure. I could have relieved him of some of that burden, but it would not be right to punish him for the actions of others.

Further, he offered to compensate me from the next group of travelers. However, I explained to him that two wrongs would not rectify the situation. Thus, I would take care of the situation myself, and that I would hear nothing further about it.

The trip north had become quite arduous. We were beginning to tire of walking each day. We had begun to wish we had hired a wagon or purchased some sort of transport. However, our wealth had not existed in its current state until we made it this far north.

With all of our items, and our tired feet, it was a wonder that we could still fight. However, we still needed to protect ourselves from bandits. There were few days when we did not have to fend off a group of highwaymen.

After a couple of weeks on the road, we eventually, came to a town. We were all looking forward to selling our collected items and resting in a soft bed in an inn. Some members of our group, who I will refrain from mentioning, were looking forward to romps with barmaids or encounters with daughters of governmental officials.

Personally, I was hoping that we would find more information on our missing wizard. The company of this group was fine, but I would greatly appreciate not having a death sentence looming over me. Thus, if we could return the wizard to the dwarves, we could move on with our lives.

However, I could not get the rest of our group to focus upon our quest until they had fully taken care of their needs. I did sell several of the items I had collected for a nice bit of gold.

Nonetheless, I sharpened my sword and performed some routine maintenance on my armor while the others visited the tavern. I got several hours of sleep before being aroused by the carrying on of other members in the group at some early hour of the morning.

I was hoping to get some help with the search the next day, but they were not in the mood for such things. This quest was going to be difficult to fulfill.

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The Lost Wizard

Dwanye the Rogue - Third and Final Tale

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Wow! This is my kind of town. First of all, it is outside the purview of the Empire. Thus, Imperial laws do not apply here. Imagine that. Here was a place without Imperial entanglements. Well, it has very few entanglements anyway.

Second of all, it did not have a chapter of the Thieves' Guild. There was no entity telling me from whom I could and could not steal. This town gives me the freedom of my dreams.

Third and final of all, this town was rich. This town was founded near a very rich gold mine. For a thief, this gold mine was a gold mine. There was a steady river of gold flowing into town. It needed someone like me to direct some of that flow.

I visited many local merchants and unloaded the goods I had obtained by hard work, and perhaps I unloaded a few ill-gotten goods as well. After these transactions, I had a fair amount of gold upon my person.

With my newfound riches, I decided to research the town. I started at a local gaming establishment. In a lawless town like this, I expected the establishment to be crooked. However, I did not expect them to be so incompetently so.

At first, I played the "newcomer in town rube." I was all, "How do you play this rolling cube game?" I let them con me by allowing me to win some gold. Further, I let them cheat me out of a bit of my gold as I determined how they had fixed the game.

When the night was over, I owned the place. Their bait and switch was baffled by my palming and switching skills. In the end, they did not know which set of rigged dice I was rolling. It was quite a fun and exhilarating evening.

After Jaime the Bard's appetites were sated, he had joined me at the tables and acted as bodyguard. The owner protested the results of this poorly rigged game, but at the tip of Jaime's sword, he agreed to terms. I had a big pile of gold, plus the deed to this fine establishment.

It was quite early in the morning when Jaime and I decided to return to the inn. Jaime's appetite must have returned as he was thinking of taking advantage of a sleeping Rex. However, the ranger awoke before an encounter could be arranged. I must teach that bard some of my stealth skills.

In the morning -- well -- in the early afternoon, we gathered together to discuss what we found out. The ranger, with his fine investigating skills, learned how soft the inn's beds were. The rest of us were much more successful in our mission of discovery.

From Sorcerer Cyrus we found out that our missing princess's uncle founded this fine town. They call him Prince Benjamin or Prince Ben.

With the loss of any chance of a crown, Ben joined the Imperial army and won several great honors during his service. He had greatly increased Imperial holdings in the west. In many places around the Empire, his name was common. In fact, he helped broker a peace with the lizard people of the swamps.

However, with each land acquisition, he saw little in the way of monetary reward. Thus, he tired of certain Imperial entanglements. With the help of a group of entrepreneurs, he established this town. At first, the town was a simple trading post. It took frontier goods, and traded them with those with Imperial goods. In other words, they worked with the highwaymen prowling around Imperial roads.

The town was a pirate haven. However, in one of his ventures, Prince Ben struck gold. It was a mighty vein of gold too. Over night, he became quite wealthy and the town boomed. Through Prince Ben's shrewd maneuverings, thus far, they have avoided notice of the Empire.

A large flow of gold through this town would immediately bring in Imperial troops, but the outflow has been restricted. This tactic has made the original group quite wealthy. All of this success allowed Prince Benjamin to move to an extremely large estate even farther north of the city.

According to the bard, Prince Ben, with the help of his sons, runs and defends his thousand square mile ranch while helping the surrounding community. Apparently, Ben had several wives and a son with each of them. He named this town after his last wife -- Virginia -- or Vanessa -- or Valerie -- or something. Everyone just calls it V-city because no one is sure what her name was.

Furthermore, Jaime discovered that Prince Benjamin's parents were cruel people. Beatings and severe punishment was the norm for the family. With the loss of the kingdom, they became increasingly harsh. He happily left to get away from their treatment. He disappeared so they would not come looking for him and stake a claim on his newfound wealth.

For all of us, this ended the quest for the missing princess. It was clear to all of us that she left to get away from the former king and queen. Thus, it would be a crime to return her to these people.

In my conversations at the gaming tables, I discovered that the princess and her wizard father had passed through town. They stayed with Prince Ben for a few days. The Prince gave them a small parcel of land on the far northern part of his estate. It would take us months to reach their place on foot. Further, it would take weeks to reach it by wagon.

It was a well-secluded parcel of land just south of another frontier town. This town was supposedly a den of iniquity. Gambling and prostitution were not only legal but also governmentally sanctioned. This sin city was a haven for wealthy individuals wishing to relax. It has been said that whatever happens in this city stays in this city.

On a vote of 3 to 4, we decided that our quest for the lost wizard had ended. We did not want to get involved with a mob from this city, and we could make our fortunes in V-City. I was already a local property owner.

Cyrus could establish a local chapter of the Mages' Guild. I could establish a guild as well from my current business establishment. Our bard could start his own actors' troupe, or get involved in any sort of business venture. Further, I would make a nice bit of coin from his appetites at my business.

As far as Ranger Rex is concerned, he could pursue those thieves that stole from him -- er -- allegedly. Otherwise, there were plenty of opportunities in a town like this for a person of his skills. There are plenty of chances to guard shipments to Imperial towns and the like.

In addition, we were far enough from the Dwarven Kingdoms that they would never come looking for us. At a suitable time, Sorcerer Cyrus would recruit a young wizard to take our lost wizard's place. However, it could take a while.

After much wandering in our lives, we have finally found a home. I had a place I could call my own. I did not have to look over my shoulder at every waking moment. I had a steady income. I was going to put my roots down. I had a few friends that I could turn to in times of trouble. This place was definitely the place for me.

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