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THE FOUR KNIGHTS' GAME

The darkness appeared eternal as the great metal hulk continued its orbit around the earth. The doctors slowly pushed the cart away; the giant crowd staring blankly after them. Many of the women were crying; the men trying to console them and themselves of the loss of their leader. T. G. Taft the II was alone in one corner, thinking about the past few minutes: Those minutes that he had seen his father's dead body. He would never forget the twisted and mutilated corpse of his daddy just lying there in the middle of the room....

***l P--K4  P--K4***

The Committee Head arose, and addressed the crowd that had collected there. The makeshift podium inside the Taft Towers did not seem to her to be exactly the greatest place to make the Decision, nonetheless the Towers were the center of the Government of Taft's Domain. This Decision, she knew, would be the most important one ever made by the Committee: The appointing of Administrator of the Domain.

"We have eliminated," she started, "the leading contenders down to a choice of four. We will now ask each of the remaining to give to us, the Committee and the people gathered here, a speech on why he believes that he should run the Domain. I..."

"Just a moment." Cried one of the people in the audience. "Some of us don't know even who was or is competing. Before they make the speeches, tell us who they are and why you've accepted them this far."

"I was getting to that." She cleared her throat, and started again.

***2 N-KB3  N-QB3***

"The first of the four is our beloved T. G. Taft's only son, T. G. Taft II. He has been accepted thus far primarily because he is Taft's heir, and because he is very intelligent. There is some question, though, about a matter of treason about a year ago...

"The second is a man which has impressed us with his charisma, his intellectual capability, and his fluent and dynamic personality. He is much like Taft was," she cleared her throat again, "and has a good sense of leadership. His name is John Jemason.

"The third is a man well-known to most common people: Mij Slochin, the Head of Project Exodus. He is a scientific genius, and served as a secret agent many times under Taft. He would make a fine leader.

"The last, but not least, of the contestants is a man whose origins are speculative, however he has led the province of Alifor into new-found allegiance, and transformed it, in relatively two short months, into economic prosperity. Known only as 'Archie,' he is respected by many people." She pointed to a rather well-built man in the corner of the room with wavy brown hair and sapphire blue eyes. He smiled at her, and then to the crowd.

"Now that you know who the people are, we will have them each make a short speech so as to finalize our decision."

*'**3 N-B3  N-B3***

The auditorium deep within the Second of the twin Taft Towers was not big enough to hold all the people that wanted to attend this meeting, but it was the only place the meeting could be held. All other, bigger places were either located too far from Taftville, where the lesser Domain officials had to stay, or else were deficient of all the equipment that was needed at a complex decision like this. But perhaps this was good; the selected people that were asked to attend represented every part of Taft's Domain; and the group was more orderly than the groups that would have formed had there not been any specific selection.

T. G. Taft II approached the podium and looked around the audience. He had never expected this. He had just naturally assumed that he would become Administrator after his father died. But he was wrong.

"Ladies and Gentlemen of the Domain; my father, the late great T. G. Taft wrote in his will that all of his possessions, save a few paltry items, would be willed to me. Was not the Domain one of his possessions? Yes! Also, consider this." He reached into a sack that he carried, took out the Tiara of Phumos, and held it high over his head. "Do you not want an Administrator with one of the Keys?" The crowd beheld the famed Tiara, and gave many ooohs and aaahs.

"Now I know that my age has brought about many questions. Yes, people, I should be eight years old right now. And explaining my speedy growth is not easy. But you see, I was involved in a... an..." He cleared his throat. "An experiment. It was a secret experiment by the Taft Lab to better help science. Now I was never supposed to say anything, so I will deny I said anything from now on. And the Taft scientists will too: So if they deny anything, it's because it's still a secret. Thank you." Taft left the stage and sat on a sofa bench to the right of the podium. The crowd cheered and cheered and cheered: But Taft could tell that they were not cheering for him, but for his dead father.

***4 B-N5  B-N5***

The next speaker, John Jemason, approached the podium from the audience, where he had been shaking hands with a couple of thousand people. He cleared his throat and began. "I wish to comment on a couple of things my opponent, T. G. Taft II said. First of all, the late great T. G. Taft did not say that he willed all of his possessions to his son, but merely all of his material possessions. Now although the Domain may seem to be a material possession, the power to rule it is not. Also, I would like to show you this." He held up a huge metal keyring with a single thin key on it. "This is the very key that he locked up his father with, precisely one year from next Tuesday, and proceeded to take over the Domain. Is this the type of man you want in office? The type that, after failing at a revolution against his own father, tries to take over the country legit? No Way! Come on people!"

"As for my other two opponents, what do we really know about them? Look at that guy in the corner." He pointed to Archie. "What do we know about him besides his nickname? Ask his background. Ask his education. Ask about his childhood. He will answer with nothing. Can you trust a man like that? And how about Mij, who was a school bully, do you want him as Administrator? I know many adults, perhaps some that are here, that were personally swindled out of lunch money for his 'protection.' 'Oh, but he's changed.' You say. Into what? He hardly ever has time to talk. He probably won't even be here today, sticking his nose into some scientific equation. All be it, this may be good for a scientist, but not for the Administrator of Taft's Domain.

"In conclusion, I can only hope that you have come up with the only true person eligible for this job. Jemason for Administrator. You won't regret it." A great cheer, greater than Taft's, resounded throughout the Auditorium.

***5 0-0 O-O***

After Jemason took his place next to a sulking Taft II on the couch, there was a long lull before the Committee Head arose and talked. "Apparently Mr. Slochin is still involved in studying the mysterious death of our beloved ex-Administrator. He said that if he found a lead he might not be able to make it. Let's just go on with Archie and if Mij makes it, great, if not, well, he's a great guy...."

Archie, for the first time that afternoon, removed himself from the corner of the auditorium and proceeded up to the podium. He addressed the audience. "Fellow people of Taft's Domain. I've got some bad news for us. You probably think that we're number one in the space race, right now, right?" A great cheer rang throughout the hall. "Wrong. The country of Alarius already has an established colony on Saturn's moon Titan complete with a space fleet. And guess what. I have inside news that they're going to attack the Susan Smith. People, look at that flag." He pointed to the north corner of the building, to the Flag of Taft's Domain. "Do we owe allegiance to that? Do we owe allegiance to the man who stood beside us and that? We must attack Titan before they attack us! If I am not appointed, I promise you, none of these other appointees will give a spit to strengthening our arms! The Domain will be attacked, destroyed, and become a subjugate of Alarius. The name of Taft will be wiped from the history books, and we will become just another of the conquered tribes of Suralio Iffley, leader of Alarius! Don't let this happen, please! I don't want to be a slave to that tyrant! Convince this Committee to appoint me. For him." He pointed to a picture of Taft, and started the Taft National Anthem. The crowd stood up, continued the hymn, and, after a great finale, Archie took his seat next to Jemason. The crowd yelled and screamed and frantically chanted: "We want Arch! We want Arch!"

***6 P-Q3  BxN***

The crowd still had not settled down by the time the Committee reached its decision, almost two hours later. The Committee Head reached the podium and turned with a gloomy look to the cheering audience. The Committee Head, by the way, was none other then Susan Smith IV.

"The results have been counted. The Committee of the Domain of Taft has reached a decision about the new Administrator. Of the twenty one votes on the Committee, one from each of the twenty one provinces in the Domain, only one went for the rightful heir, T. G. Taft II. There were five votes for John Jemason, and zero for the great Dr. Mij Slochin. Archie, therefore, received fifteen votes. I now announce to you that the new Administrator of the Domain of Taft, as declared by the Committee of the Domain of Taft, is--Archie." She sighed, and sat down.

"No, wait!" The cry came above all the cheering; above all the celebration. In through the west entrance came Mij Slochin, carrying a sheet of paper. "I..." He saw Archie and stopped. By now the crowd had turned their attention to him, and had gotten quiet. "People, that man is..."

Archie stared at the man who had interrupted his celebration. He noticed him as a man from the past: The only man in the entire Domain that could tell about his own true background. This man, he noticed, was none other than the doctor that he had fired almost a year ago. "Seize him!" Cried Archie. "He's a spy from Alarius!" The crowd rushed him.

"No!" Cried Mij, but it was too late. He saw that he had little time remaining to prove anything, so he handed his sheet of paper to a young boy that was standing by the entrance. "Run! Now!" He cried, just as he was seized.

***7 PxB  P-Q5***

Archie sat way back in his big custom-made chair, talking with his new secretary, a centurian-looking man named Richard. "I want all the defeated politicians thrown in jail, along with the Susan Smiths, the Bobs, and the Slosh Gorshkins. Prepare Mij Slochin for a trial. We'll get him on treason. Any reports?"

"The seven new Susan Smith class starships are under full development; along with the five new Pacemakers. We should be able to attack Titan within the next six months."

"Concentrate on making it three months, you hear me?"

"Yes, sir."

"You may leave. Oh, wait. How about that boy. Did you find...."

"No, sir. But we'll keep looking..."

"Very well. Dismissed."

As Richard left, Archie slowly got up and looked out the window. "Well, Adena. Just a little longer. And then we'll be together forever."

THE DEATH OF T. G. TAFT

                                 by Mij Slochin

T. G. Taft Senior passed from this life on December 15, 476 AP; the cause of death a stroke. This report centers on the reasons that such a healthy man as Taft would pass away in such an unhealthy condition, apparently going through hyperventilation and a form of internal mutation, as well as stroke. Let me start by stating the basis of this information; recently in a highly secret excavation site in Furanose a small book was found with the word "Diary" printed upon it. It was written by none other then the Wizardress Wisdym herself.

The book finally settles the questions of the origins of such things as the Plague, the Shard, the Power, and most importantly, the Wizards. The book is written in a foreign tounge unknown to us; only through much study have I and I alone been able to read it. The Diary is hidden and its whereabouts are known only by me.

Since this report is only about the death of Taft, I will skip most of the book and write about the other history later. What I wish to center on now is merely the history of the Wizards.

Four of the Wizards, exceptions being Aven and Wisdym, were born in a country known, before the Plague, as the United States of America. Wisdym was born in a small city by the name of Cambridge Bay, Canada, and Aven was born in a tiny town known as Uruapan, Mexico. They were brought together by a selective mission made by what was then the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the United States' program of space development. After the mission, which took them to Mars, they came back to a Plague-filled world. Only a small part of the world, a small area in what was then East-Central Brazil, survived, and the group decided to land there. They knew not why this single place had survived, but when they landed they detected a huge amount of radiation. It was harmless radiation, yes, but very, very powerful. The group together took a room at the Victoria Inn in Curvelo, Brazil, and proceeded to find the source of this strange radiation. After weeks of searching, they came to an open area and found that the radiation was coming from underneath the ground. They began to dig: Apparently it was this radiation keeping the Plague away, and they had to know its source. After they had dug deep enough, they found the Crystal.

The Crystal contained the Power; and once the Crystal was released from the earth's pressure it shattered, there in their midst, throwing its Shards allover the earth and, more importantly, throwing the Power onto them. Thus they became the Wizards; created the Keys, and stopped the Plague.

It was during the week of digging, however, that the Act happened. Wisdym, betraying her husband Ozino, fell in love with Aven. In Wisdym's last entry in her diary she says:

"I hate to betray Ozino, but my love for Aven is just too overwhelming. We must be together, forever. I will not let him depart. I will destroy all that gets in our way."

Now, what does all this have to do with Taft's death? I believe that Taft did try to get in the way of Wisdym and Aven. When his body was found he was holding the Tiara; perhaps he used it to try and stop the Act. I know not. But one other piece of evidence remains. Unknown to most, Taft's autopsy showed that there was a tiny bit of scratching just above his heart. It was burnt into the skin, and it read simply "Av+Wi & Bl+Ad."


 © 1984, 

K. Blaire, L. Charles, D. Conrad, Enad the Great, J. Pierce, B. C. Randolf, and T. G. Taft

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