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Frames of Reference

                                        Jonathon Pierce

The TGTS Susan Smith sped off toward Pluto and utter utopia. Mij Slochin stared at the Tiara, twirling it in his hands. Taft's son was a fool; it had been so easy to steal his only possession. He leaned over and touched the button that activated the intercom. "Send in Jack!" He ordered.

Several minutes later, a young man entered the room. He was riding in an anti-gravity wheelchair. The young man was completely normal, except for the obvious lack of any limbs. Mij remembered the tragic incident that had caused his disfiguration. Jack mumbled a greeting and started his report. He crossed his eyes, and the optical sensor converted his simple gesture to a complex command. The lights dimmed and a holochart appeared on the wall. "These are the known locations of the energy drain." He blinked his eyes rapidly five times, then winked. Several hundred spots on the holochart began to flash. "The source of the drain is not known, but the Susan Smith has been effected."

"Well I want to know why, what, where, how, and who!" He pressed the intercom button again, "Chester, bring in Taft II." He turned again to Jack, "I want those answers, mister, and I want them yesterday!"

Jack nodded and optically guided the grav-chair out of the room. Taft II, wearing a rather tight straight-jacket, was pushed into the room. Mij immediately pounced on him, "Taft, are you the cause of this energy drain?"

"Wouldn't you like to know....Perhaps we could make a deal..."

Mij stared at the Tiara. He could give it back to Taft, but would the information be worth his trouble? Perhaps he should make the deal...

* * Shattered Images * *

Jonathon stared at his computer screen. He slammed his fist onto the table and shut off the computer. The colony on Ceres was reporting a severe energy drain. The drain was not, then, restricted to T'mir. If the generators on Demeter failed, the entire colony would be lost. It was not too intelligent placing a colony on an asteroid.

He stalked out into the hall to confront Richard. Only the Domain could have created this diabolical weapon. He noticed Richard by the stairwell. "What kind of treaty is this? We let down our defenses in friendship, and you respond by attacking us with some energy drain weapon. "

"I was about to ask you about the same subject. We have nothing to do with it, but we do have reason to suspect you, dear Jonathon."

"I suggest that you and your troops leave T'mir now." Jonathon replied.

"You realize that this will annul our peace treaty, don't you?"

"I am quite aware of the connotations. Now I demand that you leave. You have one hour." He turned and stalked down the hallway. He hoped that he was doing the right thing.

* * Distorted Images * *

Ralle, the land of beauty and mystery, stretched out into distance, coalescing into a blue strip on the horizon. Iffley, Adena, and Quiffy appeared on a vast plain. Iffley quickly scrutinized his surroundings. A large ranch stood defiantly on the horizon, its dormers aimed toward the sky. A delicate picket fence guarded the ranch, its gate stood open. With a wave of his Sceptre, Iffley transported the group to the ranch. The moment the group formed in the courtyard, a business-like man approached them. "What do you want here? I am Taft and you are trespassing on my territory. If you don't..." He glanced at Iffley and began to tremble. His brown eyes shifted to the ground to avoid Iffley's gaze. He touched a small crown that he had been carrying at his side, and vanished. "Go away!"

"You have the Diadem. I need your help." Iffley said calmly.

His kind words fell on deaf ears. A streak of green slime zoomed toward the unsuspecting party. Iffley, however, altered the water vapor around them and created a shield. The slime struck the shield and splattered with a loud slosh. The green slime dripped and oozed onto the ground. Iffley dissolved the shield and the slime, allowing Adena to bathe the entire area with a low-powered laser attack.

"Do you think you can hurt me?" Taft laughed. He reappeared, but his form flickered and flashed with non-substance. Iffley transformed the grass around Taft into a cage. Taft simply laughed and passed through the trap. "I told you that you couldn't hurt me."

Iffley simply smiled at his childish behavior. He pointed the Sceptre at Taft and transformed the air around him into a vacuum. Taft stared at his attacker in alarm. He tried to scream, but the words would not pass through the void. He tried to phase through the void, but found that he was unable to move in any direction. He then realized that the pair had simply been toying with him. He clasped his hands together and started to beg. Iffley tapped the Sceptre, and the void returned to normal air. Taft returned to normal substance, and began to shake violently.

"I hope that you have had quite enough." Iffley glared at Taft, hoping to scare him into joining their party. "I don't understand, the Sabre can't...none of the Keys can...How did you do that?"

"I am the Restorer, also known as Iffley. This is Adena Ludit; and this, Quiffquaff. We are from another universe, and have come to rescue your universe from the terrors of the Maelstrom." Taft gave Iffley a don't-try-to-pull-the-wool-over-my-eyes look. Iffley ignored this, and continued his explanation, "These are our Keys. I possess the Sceptre. Adena has the Amulet and Ring. We are on a journey to the Maelstrom's territory. We have enormous power, but I still think that we will not be able to defeat him. Would you like to join us and rid Ralle of this menace?" Iffley examined the Diadem closely. It was silver with a large, centered diamond surrounded by several sapphires and emeralds. The diamond seemed to glow from an inward presence, giving the entire Key a mysterious aura.

Taft glanced uneasily at the Sceptre. He knew the fury of the Maelstrom, and decided not to challenge him. He replied firmly, "No."

Suddenly a corpulent, homely woman stormed from the house. "NO?" She screamed at him. "After all that weasel has done to us, you don't want to finish him off?" She raised her hand in a threatening manner.

Taft became quite uxorious, "Well, Dear, what I meant was..."

The woman interrupted her husband, "Of course we will go. My name is Amanda Taft: I wear the pants in this family." Her statement was true, she wore a tight, black pair of slacks that bulged in several places from the layers of flab that she had carelessly arranged.

Quiffy uncoiled himself from Iffley's arm and bounced over to Amanda. It changed into a small animal (part dog, flower, hippotamus, and tractor). It raised its little nose-exhaust pipe and sniffed her. It shrieked, and plowed back to the safety of Iffley's arms. Taft stepped out from behind his wife's protective back--all that width had to be good for something--and said, "What was that?"

"That's just my pet. It's quite harmless." He comforted Quiffy, who began to coo softly again.

"Well, what are we waiting for, honey?" Amanda said, while smacking Iffley on the back.

Iffley smiled weakly and wondered if bringing Amanda was a good idea. "We need one more Key, where is the Periapt?"

"It's about 500 miles west of here in Adena's possession." He glanced at Adena, "Wait a minute, she's right here!"

"She's from my universe--remember?" Taft, after a moments deliberation, nodded. Iffley concentrated on the location of the Periapt. He raised and waved the Sceptre. The group vanished into nothingness, and a new loneliness filled the once occupied ranch.

 © 1985, 

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

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