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THE PERIODIC PASSAGE OF PERPLEXITY

Dedication: To all those poor fools just starting Volume One.

Good Luck!

The day somberly passed into the infinity: The cool, dry air slowly bruised the precepts of time. A single voice whispered into the night. "Are they gone yet?"

"All but one."

"Okay. Let me out."

**T. G. Taft**

The burning wood in the fireplace crumbled into one thousand, three hundred and fifty three infinitesimal splinters. The flames arched higher: They seemed to touch the windy flume above. Taft looked at his rather plump wife sitting on the couch next to him. He felt the warmth of his ranch house come into his body; he felt a strange feeling of calm enter his head as he realized that the menace of the Maelstrom had finally been alleviated. He calmly altered his glance as he stared towards a now barren couch: And he immediately realized that his wife had gotten up for a little bedtime snack in the kitchen. He sighed to himself. He was now, finally, one of only two rulers in all of Ralle: And he held half of the existing Keys. He could finally settle back and live a simple life on his little ranch. Or, as an alternate plan, he could attack, destroy, and completely exterminate Adena and became supreme ruler over all of Ralle. Hmm. Hmm.

Suddenly he heard a very intense, low-pitched scream, originating from the huge ranch kitchen, as it whistled past his ears. He looked toward the door, and stared in dismay as he saw a piece of flab come flying through the keyhole.

He rushed up and hopped into the kitchen: "What happened, dear?"

He could hardly believe his eyes as he entered that ghastly kitchen, which had blood stains everywhere, and he gasped in horror as he saw the remains of a mangled body lying in the middle of the room. He approached the body, but, before reaching it, looked up and saw the creator of this blood-curdling event. "And now for you," it said with a strange, evil twang in its voice.

Taft quickly grabbed the Diadem which hung at his waist. He waited for the shimmering effect to take place: He quietly paused for the ghostlike form to take him into safety. But it did not happen. With one fatal swoop, the Maelstrom grabbed Taft and pinned him to the wall. The Diadem at Taft's waist quickly transformed into the body of James Kirkson.

James quietly handed the Diadem, which he held next to his side, into the awaiting hands of the Maelstrom. Taft flinched as he saw the four Keys hang from the Maelstrom's crude belt. "How... You were killed by the Witch..." Taft said, glancing at James.

The Maelstrom spoke up. "The witch killed his twin, a man named GAmes (Genetically Altered) Kirkson."

Taft turned his sight to the man with the auburn hair. "But I saw you desintegrate..."

"What you saw, sir, is the usage of something that I had hoped I would never have to employ." He paused for a second. "I see you do know James, do you not?" He pointed at James Kirkson, and Taft gave a small nod.

"He was, at one time, one of my most faithful helpers." Said Taft waringly.

"But he came to work for me."

"You mean his body did. He, that is, his soul, is inside the Staff."

"Whatever." The Maelstrom twisted Tart around and pinned his hands behind him. "Taft, you knew that James was an inventive type of person. He always wanted to work on some new gismo of his. Did you not have any idea of what he was working on before he left you?"

"Kirkson was always into heavy stuff that I had no ralle'an idea as to what he was talking about. He called some of his inventions 'the wave of the future'. The guy should not have become a farmhand."

The Maelstrom grunted beneath his breath. "That 'wave of the future' as you happened to have called it, refers to his greatest invention: A machine called the Shrinking Ray. And when he perfected it, the fool tested it on himself. He shrunk down to a size smaller than an atom, and, having done so, figured out how to rearrange such tiny particles. He learned how to transform himself, and anything he touches, into any object that he might desire. And that, Taft, is where I came in. You see, James happens to have been my castle's moat for quite some time. When I saw that the outworlders apparently were causing me more trouble than they were worth, I simply pretended..."

Taft noticed that the Maelstrom had begun to take a lot of interest in bragging about himself, and was not paying attention at all to keeping him pinned. Waiting for the right chance, Taft suddenly noticed that the Maelstrom's guard was down, and he made a fast break for the kitchen door. It would have been a perfect escape, too, had he not slipped on a tiny sliver of greasy flab.

The Maelstrom rushed toward the fallen Taft, and quietly took out the Sabre. It turned into an axe as he brought it up over his shoulders. Kirkson turned his hand into a trumpet and played a Ralle Funeral March known as Spat.

**T. G. Taft**

"Stop!"

In, through a door that led to the entry hall, came Fred, the Caretaker of Remembrance. "You will not undo what the Restorer accomplished: I will see to that. How you survived without my knowledge is beyond me, but..."

Fred whipped around as he heard someone come through the doorway that he had just passed. "It was because of me."

A young man, about Fred's age, stood in the threshold, looking back at him. He was the same height as Fred, but just a tad better looking. The man noticed the look of perplexity on Fred's face. "Follow me and all will be explained."

The people in the room were completely stunned: The Maelstrom, Kirkson, and Taft were still wondering who this first person was, but the second one completely threw them off guard. Fred also stood shocked. What had this person meant, 'because of me?' Could this be one more powerful than he?

The strange man walked across the kitchen and proceeded out the back door. Taft quickly followed behind, knowing that this may be his only chance for escape. The Maelstrom followed only out of curiosity: He knew that he had four Keys and that no one could defeat him. Fred was obliged to come along, for he wondered how this person could exist since he had never detected him before. James just sort of tagged along.

The strange man led them to a clear opening in a bunch of overgrowth on the west side of Taft's ranch. He tapped the ground thrice: And suddenly the area surrounding the group began to sink into the ground. The group was amazed as they saw an entire city rise out of nowhere: And apparently underground! The man looked at his surprised followers. With a wave of his hand, he introduced the habitat. "This is the City of Reminiscence, my friends."

The Maelstrom looked up from his intense stare. "And who are you?"

"Why, I am Clifford, the Caretaker Of Reminiscence." He said, with an evil 'what else?' shrug.

**T. G. Taft**

Clifford led them to a strange fountain on the East side of the City. With a brush of his hand, the water cleared and a strange black line appeared in front of them. Fred stared at it. "What is that?" He said aloud.

The Maelstrom looked perplexed. "What do you mean, 'what is that?' That is an ordinary fortenmik. It is used to measure one's height. How come you didn't know that?"

Clifford spoke up. "Where he comes from, Maelstrom, there aren't any fortenmiks. You see, Maelstrom..." with that he entered the fortenmik and pulled the Maelstrom with him.

The rest of the group crowded around, wondering what had happened. But Fred pushed the group aside and listened intently into the fortenmik. His dismay widened as he heard a few familiar words:

"And remember. They don't have fortenmiks. So don't lose that one..." The hologram of the fountain reappeared. A drenched Fred looked down as he realized that the Maelstrom, along with four more Keys, had entered his own, doomed, universe.


 © 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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