The evil men pounded down the door. Somebody screamed, and the four ment brought up their

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The evil men pounded down the door. Somebody screamed, and the four ment brought up their standard issue laser rifles, switched them to stun, and mowed down the entire family...sixteen brothers and sisters, my mom and dad, and our two guards. Ten or eleven kids went down on the first pass, along with both of our guards. Jennifer, one of our sisters, let out a horrible shreik as one of the men smashed my mom and dads heads together. Our guards were killed. Everybody else was taken away that day. I, Jupiter Reahynaldo, can still exactly how everything happened, as I watched through the my hiding place in the attic. The single most detail I remember however, was, just as the dead boys were leaving, one of them looked straight at me, and winked. I shall never forget that face, and sometimes I feel like Ill never find out what that gesture meant. Had he not really seen me at all? Just sort of looked in my direction and saw something else? No. He had seen me, and he knew I lived here. Maybe there was something different about this man. Maybe he really wasnt cut out to be a killer. For some reason, the Coalition never came back to claim the house. Maybe it had something to do with the mysterious dead boy. I really felt guilty for letting the Coalition take my family away, but what could I do? The Coalition guards are called dead boys, a slang term used in the slums. A skull was painted on the helmet of each soldier. Of course, the men werent really dead. That was just the name given to them by the common people. A dead boy is the lowly grunt that was the main force of the Coalition. The Coalition is the tyrannical government that is slowly absorbong other countries until it rules the world. You see, after the first neuclear war, millions of people were killed, and all of the magic and physic energy bottled up inside each one of them let loose. The combined power was nothing that this world had ever seen. Huge lines of pure magic ripped across the Earth. Where they met were nexus points, and at these nexus points, rifts--tears in the fabric of space and time itself opend up. These were portals that led to other dimensions. Hundreds of D- Bees, or Dimensional Beings, came through, trying to take over the new planet they had found. New wars started up again, and three more neuclear wars erupted. This, as you can imagine, let even more magic into the air, making the ley lines and rifts florish as never before. Out of all this chaos, the Coalition was formed. At first it was designed to help the people, but soon power got into the wrong hands, and more and more people every day find out what the Coalition really is. Rebel groups were formed immediatly, and from the very start, the Coalition was riddled with attacks and things like that. Now there are few people who dont know the Coalition for what it really is. Most of the world as we know it is gone, and what is left has been changed forever. The entire west coast is gone, under water. What was once fertile land is now choking desert, unlivable because of radition. Huge uncharted jungles cover a lot of the land, and many D-Bees and other foul creatures live there. The Coalition also suspects that there is an operating plant making robots for use against them around Nevada. This is one secnario for the future that may come true. Unluckly people, like Jupiter Reahynaldo live their now. Jupiter was a young teenage girl whos family had been abducted by the Coalition years ago. She does the best she can to keep herself alive and well. She hadnt even done such a good job at that either. Once, in a fight, her left eye had been shot out by a laser. It was a wonder she didnt die. Her friends took her to a cyber- doctor, and he surgacly implanted a mechanical eye. But it wasnt ordinary. As a gift to the rebels, the cyber-doc put a new twist to it. A small slit in her skull enabled her to put in a mini-video disc, and Jupiter could record anything she saw on to it. The disc lasted two hours, and another can be put in at any time. Jupiter was very grateful for this gizmo, and worked hard to repay the doctor. But, now, even with her new eye, Jupiter will never see the same as her real eye saw. About a year after Jupiters family was taken away, she was still living in the same house. One day, there was a knock at her door. Jupiter opened the door and freaked out. There, two feet away, was the same man that haunted her dreams for a year. It was the dead boy that had helped abduct her family a year ago. Hide me, he said. Sh-sure. Jupiter answered, half in a state of shock. The man looked at Jupiter with a funny look, then ran past her into the house. He ran through the living room, hall, den, and up the stairs to the attic. Jupiter could see him looking down from her old hiding place. There was no doubt that this was the same man who had helped take her family away. What did he want? What had he done to be in such a state of nervousnes? Pardon me maam, but have you seen this man? Jupiter came back to reality with a jolt. Maam? came the voice. Standing on Jupiters doorstep was another dead boy. He was holding up a picture of the man that had hid in her house. N-no Jupiter answered with a quiver. Well, please be careful if you do. He is considered armed and dangerous, Thanks Jupiter closed the door and leaned against it and shut her eyes. What was happening? Was some god mad at her for some past crime? I just have to take it one step at a time, she thought Sorry for giving you such a scare the man interruped. Shouldnt you be hiding? Jupiter asked. Naw, the danger is passed, the man said. My name is Jeff. Please, dont be afraid of me. My past actions have not been of my own free will. I have just ran away form my home. My father is the head operator of the East section of Chi-Town for the Coalition. All of those years as I grew up, I thought the Coalition was the greatest thing in the world. When I was seventeen, my dad took me to his office and before my eyes, he ordered the deaths of three hundred people in what was later known as the Bakersfield Butcher. When that day ended, I was all for running away from home. But for some reason I stayed, and it was a good thing too. I spent some years building up my strength and finding things that exploited the Coalitions weaknesses. I snuck away yesterday, and I stole five hundred credits (1 credit = 1 dollar) from my dads house. Then I left as fast as I could and- Whats wrong? Noth-Nothing Jupiter replied, only to realize that she had been spaced out for the last few minutes, reliving that one night of horror. What were you saying? Jeff repeated the story again for Jupiter. They talked for a while more, with Jupiter becoming more and more at ease with Jeffs presence. They became pretty good friends after the months that that followed, but Jupiter could still never let her guard down when around Jeff. Around that same moment, there was a young man...a master thief sneaking around the same building that Jeffs dad commanded. He was trying to locate the armory in the center of level three. He was out for a glitter boy power suit. The glitter boy got its name from its shiny, laser resistant armor. A pilot gets inside a padded compartment where he controls the armor. It fits like a huge exoskeleton--every move of the piolts is carried out by the glitter boy. He stands ten feet in the air, and a seven foot rail gun is mounted on its left shoulder. The gun, one of the most powerful of its kind, is nicknamed the famous Boom Gun. This man, his name was Kraum was not evil. He just hated the Coalition with a passion so deep, he would give his life to get his revenge on the Coalition. He has no friends, and nobody knows his life story, which must be an interesting one. If he didnt use the power armor himself, (which was doubtful), he could sell it for a pretty fifty million credits--more money than some countries had. He was on the first story of the building, and he sort of had the map of the place memorized. He walked down one corridor, and turned to the left. He knew that there was a secret door here, on the blank wall he faced. He went to work, his hands probing away at the wall, feeling every part of it, as quickly as he could. He searched every possible place for a secret door, and finally his fingers closed on a carefully hidden button that held it closed. He pressed down, and a section of the wall slid open with a hum. Unfortunitly, a small trap was placed there, which shot a small dart out at Kraum. It popped through his tough plastic armor and into his neck. Kraum felt the needle prick him, and he immediatly knew what had happened. Poison was a favorite weapon of the Coalition, and he cursed himself for being so careless. He pulled the needle out and sniffed it. Diluted knock out poison. Not too bad, but he would feel the effects in a little while. But he thought Why come this far and stop just because of a little needle? Who knows, maybe Ill get lucky somehow, He stepped through the secret door and into the new room. Immediatly, a guard shot a laser beam a Kraum, but it missed, because of the sucky aim of the dead boy. In one movement, Kraum whipped out his force sword, and flicked it on. But this gave the dead boy more than enough time to aim and shoot again, this time hitting Kraum squarely in the chest. His armor took most of the blow, but the raw force of it knocked him back against a wall. The arm holding his force sword shot out, expertly slashing and faking, first disarming, then cutting the straps of the standard dead boy armor. He then stuck the sword between the legs of the dead boy and tripped him. Kraums sword shot out once again, ant the dead boy had no head, it being gruesomely cut off at the neck, with blood squirting out everywhere. He took the body and head, and dragged them into a corner, and covered the bloodstain with a rug. With some help from his map, Kraum walked down a new hallway, leading (he hoped) to the weapons room. Seemingly by coincidence, Jupiter and Jeff were heading toward the same building. They were both heavily loaded down by backpacks full of explosives! Jeff knew the building pretty well since he had helped his father there for a few years. The two entered through a back door Jeff knew about. It was rarely used, if at all, and only a few people knew about it. Jeff and Jupiter were going to take a tour of the building. Every important room would have a small amount of potent explosive called Nitrate four. Once it went off, all traces of the building would be gone. It and everything inside would be completely vaporized. But they werent going to blow it all up at once. Jupiter had thought of a plan to get more weapons than ever for the cause against the coalition. Each story of the building would be detonated at a different time. The first to go would be the 5th floor. All of the high-ranking officials lived there, and their destruction would be a big step against the coalition. Next would be the 4th floor, the barracks of all the off-duty dead boys. At that time, some of the third, second, and first stories would be blown up, but not all of them. The remainder of the building would then be stormed by rebel fighters. Three groups would go in, one to free all prisoners and slaves in the dungeons, one to recover all weapons, ammo, money, armor, and anything else of value, and the last group would either kill off all survivors, or take prisoners, who would be very useful as hostages or as informers. All of the groups were equally important and none of them was riskier than another. Perhaps the most important part of the plan was going on right now, the planting of nitrate four around the building. Right inside the door was a hallway with two doors about twenty feet down. You go right, Ill go left. Meet back here in five minutes, Jeff instructed Jupiter. Inside the left door was a room full of computers. Jeff made a mental note of this and walked over to a corner. Computers were a hobby of his, and he knew a little bit about using them. He expertly opened one and placed a high-density plastic block, holding a modest amount of nitrate four, into the main cpu. Jeff carefully put the computer back together and stuck a radio-detonator on the computer. He then calmly walked out of the room and into the door where Jupiter had gone. Kraum came to a flight of stairs and climbed up, hugging the wall, with his laser pistol out. He came to the landing and looked through a window in the door going to this floor. He saw a robot head see him and ducked aside just in time. The doors burst open, followed by about fifty rounds of automatic fire. The robot walked in, its gears whining with the sudden flurry of activity. There was little room in the stairwell, about five square feet, and stairs going up and down. You an intruder! No one is allowed on the weapons floor! the robots mechanical voice droned. The weapons floor. Kraum had to go up one more floor to get to the armor room. He grabbed a small glass vial and hurled it on the floor, it broke, a horrible smelling cloud of smoke rose up, and Kraum ran up the stairs, throwing caution to the wind. He came to the top, pushed open the door, ran by the robot, into two more doors and he was in the armor room. Boy, that robot was nicer than the other one, Kraum was thinking. Wait a second, a ROBOT!?!? Kraum looked back in the door he came from. He could hear tromping and stomping footsteps coming towards him. Jeff met Jupiter after she had planted the bomb in the meeting room. Together they planted nitrate four in the rest of the first floor and started up the second floor stairs. They got to the top, and it looked like a bomb had gone off. The walls were black and charred. Robot parts were strewn all around. The ground was slick with oil and grease. An awful stench filled the air. It looks great in here, Jeff remarked, and they went inside the floor. There were aisles of guns, ammo and other weapons. The two planted enough explosives to take care of the floor. Afterwards, they climbed the stairs again to the armor floor. Once again they climbed the stairs up to the next floor. At the top there was no guard, which made them cautious. They walked through all of the security gates. The armor floor was much more important because power suits like the glitter boys were stored here. There are other power suits also, like the SAMASs, which were a cut above a normal dead boy grunt. Because of the expensive equipment, this building was very vital to the coalition. The robot stomped down to the armor room, mad that a human could outsmart him. A HUMAN! This human would suffer for his crime. To think that a lowly piece of meat could just run past him like that. Only twenty yards away, Kraum fretted over how to escape the wrath of the guard, who must be steaming by now. He knew a few things about robots, and how they worked, and a plan was forming in his head. Kraum ran around a shelf a few times, then hopped up onto another shelf. He climbed over it, and kept up his misleading steps. Robots are not perfect, and sometimes can be tricked if you know what to do. Kraum hoped that this particular robot didnt know this trick. The guard burst into the room, his miniture rail gun pumped up and ready. He carefully scanned the room, looking, hearing and smelling for anything out of the ordinary. The smell of meat was fresh, that was for sure, and the robot could follow the trail. It walked along, down one aisle, around the corner, back down, around another corner, back down again, around the same corner, back down the same aisle, around the corner, then back around etc., etc., etc. Meanwhile, Kraum was hurredly disassembling a glitter boy, so he could get inside it. He could hear the robot guard walking around in circles. Pretty soon his logic would figure out the trick, and a robot never falls for the same trick again as long as it exists. Kraum pulled off the helmet from the rest of the robot and tried it on. Perfect fit! Right at that moment the guard whipped around a row of Power Suits and fired directly at Kraums head. The shot would have disintegrated Kraums head, but he had the helmet on. The helmet deflected the projectiles, but the force threw him back on the floor. The guard advanced, firing more shots. Bullet holes and streams of blood appeared along Kraums right arm as it was pumped full of lead and the side of his body twitched and quivered, spazzing. With his remaining strength, Kraum pulled out four remaining stink/corrosion bombs and threw them all at the robot, at the same time ducking behind a power suit. The combined explosion from the four bombs was brilliant. The guard robot was blown to kingdom come. Right at that moment, the poison kicked in and Kraum passed out, both from the pain of his injuries, and from the poison. Jupiter and Jeff walked in right after that. Their guns were out, but they were taken by surprise when they saw what happened. A corner of the room was black with ash. Once again, robot parts were strewn about, mixed with armor that was blown up. Laying behind a power suit was a young man, his hair singed, his clothes torn and falling apart. His dura-plastic body armor was shattered in many places. His whole right arm was gone. The bloddy stump lay a few feet away, riddled with bullets. His shoulder was slowly leaking out blood into a big puddle on the floor. Hes a mess, Jupiters said. Weve got to get him some help. Obvisouly he was left for dead here for something he did. Good idea, Jeff replied, But what about our mission?. Ill take him to a hospital, you keep going with the planting of the explosives. The next two floors are filled with people. It will be easier for only one of us to sneak around than for both of us. Sure, but how will you get out of here? Jeff asked. Oh, Ill use a hanger like the one there, she replied, pointing at a row of top quality hang gliders. I can use it to sneak away and get to a doctor. Okay, Ill see you later--I hope. Jeff said as he walked out of the room. Behind him he heard a boom, as Jupiter blew a hole in the wall so she could get out. So much for sneaking away. He started to run when the thought him that pretty soon somebody would come, wanting to know what the boom was all about. Jupiter flew down into the lower levels of Chi-Town, where the young man could be healed. She was very concerned about him. His life was slowly drying up, and she was the only one who could stop it. Maybe he could get a cybernetic arm to replace his. Back in the building of the Coalition, Jeff was hurrying along his job. Hed better be gone when the hole in the wall was discovered or he would be in deep trouble. On one side of the room, he put a black box in the corner of a cabinet. On the other side of the room, he concealed one on the ceiling. He then went up to the nex floor, which held about forty or fifty off duty dead boys. This would be the forth floor--only this and one more to go. All of these bombs had to be strgically placed to ensure the maximam potential of the Nitrate four was used. Jeff stepped out of the stairwell and walked down a hallway, which wnt the length of the building. When it curved, he hid a black box on the floor. He snuck down a few more hallways, the walked into one of the barraks. It was a regular room, whit bunkas, a wardrobe, a desk and two dead boys on the bunks. One was reading, and the other was asleep. Jeff quietly pulled out a silenced laser pistol, and fired at the dead boy who was reading. There was a soft whine from the weapon, and a beam shot out. It hit the dead boy on the forehead, where sparks flew and a hole was burnt through the poor man. The sleeping man jerked up, then started to mumble. Naw, just a dream. A dream. He then jerked his head up in suprise just in time to meet another laser from Jeffs pistol. He fell back on the bed and didnt move. Right away Jeff went to work setting a black box . He continued on to the shower room where he set a black box in the corner. Then it was one more in an unoccupied room, and he was done with the floor. Back into the stairwell he went and up the last flight of stairs. He came out and ran straight into an old man walking along, with a twinkie in his mouth. Jeff recovered first, and gave him a swift sock to his gut. He was coated with whip cream and cake in return. The man started to choke, and was put out of his misery with another whine of Jeffs laser pistol. Jeff dragged him back into the stairwell, and threw him down the center. Jeff walked out of the staiwell, only to see two more guards coming. He rushed back in the stairwell and up the stairs to the very top. He opened the trap door, and hopped out onto the roof. He ran to a far corner, taking care not to step in the puddles of tar. Jeff dumped out the contents of his backpack onto the ground. Four black boxes,two smoke grenades, an extra E-clip for his pistol, two S/C grenades (stink/corrision), and a portabel laser torch. He hurredly got to work setting the four black boxes, and getting ready to meet the guards. He hid behind a big metal box and the trap door opened. A string was tied to the trap door which pulled the needle to a smoke grenade, which went off. Jeff kicked the smoke grenade down the trap door, and clouds of smoke billowed up. A guard came out of the door with a gas mask on, but as soon as he did, Jeff shot him. He fell back down the door, dead. A grenade flew out of the trap door, and Jeff jumped behind the box. The grenade blew up with enough force to move the heavy box back, and squish Jeff. He pried himself out of his hiding place and started for the trap door. As he crawled to the trap door, he started moang, like he had been hit by the explosion. When he got close, he crouched down. All of a sudden, something heavy flew out and hit Jeff on the head, and everything went black. Jeffs father came out of the door and stared at his unconsious, runaway son. Jeff woke up with a start. A fist came at him and he felt a stinging pain in his jaw. He couldnt feel his arms or legs, and one eye was swollen shut. He could see his father staring at him. So, the little boy comes home to his daddy. What have you been doing here? When I found you, you looked like you had been busy, but I couldnt figure out what you were doing. Two robots are dead, and 5 dead boys are missing. Theres also a pretty hole in the armor room. Let me go, you tyrant. Youre so crooked, you sit on the front porch and can count weapons in the backyard. Jeff spat. Ha, ha. Very funny, said Kyle Wilport (Jeffs dad). Youre so stupid you need crib notes to breathe. Yeah? Well is that your face or did your neck throw up? Jeff shot back. I wouldnt talk, you little... Oh shut up, stupid Dont call me stupid! he yelled. Kyles fist shot out and hit Jeff in the nose. Blood gushed out and made a puddle on the floor. Youre a rotten human! yelled Jeff as he thrashed against his chains. Let me fight you, you coward! Bully! Wimp! Dork! Geek! Dweeb! Youre just afraid of me! STUPID!!! Dont call me stupid! Then fight me! Fine. Kyle unhooked his sons chains. Then Jeff pulled out a laser pistol. No, drop it, Kyle said. This is my strength against yours. Okay, but Ill have you know I was the college boxing champion. I could knock out anybody, Jeff replied. Well I used to kill for the Death Squad! said Kyle, as he circled around Jeff, picked up the laser pistol and aimed it at Jeff. So much for your plan, Kyle said. All of a sudden a wall caved in, and a ten-foot robot pounded in, almost scraping its head on the ceiling. Hey, what the... both men said. The robot, which was moving towards them, could now be clearly seen as a glitter boy with his shining crimson and black armor. I-I-Bu-But-B-I-I-U-I-But-- stammered Kyle as the glitter boy towered above him. The Glitter Boy reached down and picked up Kyle with two hands. He slammed Kyles head through the roof and let him go. Kyle hung there, yelling and shouting, waving his legs, helpless. Then the glitter boy pulled his helmet off and Jeff saw that it was the same man that he and Jupiter found a little while ago. The two stared at each other, interrupted only by the sound of Jupiter picking her way through the rubble. Jeff, this is Kraum. Kraum, this is Jeff, Jupiter said. Kraum stole this glitter boy with the help of me, and when we found your stuff on the roof, we figured you had been captured. So then we came down here to the dungeon and found you. So thats where I am, Jeff said, I was just starting to worry about what I would do. Yeah, right, Jupiter said with a smile. What about my dad? Jeff asked, pointing to the man hanging. Your dad?!?! Yup, and he didnt seem too happy to see me, Jeff replied. I say we just leave him where he is. Hell get down soon enough. Jupiter suggested. Yeah. Whatever, Jeff replied. Lets get out of here, Kraum said. Good idea, Jupiter and Jeff said at the same time. The three rebels left the room this time through the door. Hey wait! Come back! They could still hear Kyle Wilports screams. Half an hour later, with minimal trouble, Jupiter, Kraum and Jeff were back at Jeffs hideout, resting and cleaning up. After a little while, they would go to rebel headquarters, and start the bombing. No matter how their mission went, these three people would always remember how skill, quick thinking, coincidence, and sheer luck saved their lives. The End

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E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank