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POWER IS PRICELESS

Dedication: To all those that wanted to see me write a terribly mean story against someone who probably didn't deserve it. I just want everyone to remember, however, that this loophole, unlike most, was created before it became a noose...

Microbes buzzed about each other, seeking freedom in this carbon-oxygen based atmosphere. Some were acting like foremen, others like builders, and the rest like building blocks.

"Okay. Now, you. There. And you, On top of him. You should be at a 45 degree angle..."

**T. G. Taft**

Bronson woke the next morning to a bright and shiny day in Furanose. The birds were humming, the hummingbirds singing; all was in perfect harmony with nature. All, that is, except for the planet Earth.

"Bronson! Bronson!"

The voice was one of Bronson's many friends, Marlin Exeter. He carried with him a portable viewing set. On the tube was a real picture of a dragon. Bronson stared at the set, his emotions changing from passive to emotional as he realized that what he was watching was real. "Where did that come from?"

Bronson watched painfully as the dragon breathed a huge flame and scorched his palace at Paradise. He winced as the huge reptile stepped on the ashes and twisted his foot.

"Bronson, they're are litterally hundreds of them, and they're multiplying faster than we can count."

"Well, what the heck are they?"

"Bronson, it's... the Plague."

Bronson looked at his friend. Somehow he knew that he was not lying: That somehow, the Plague had once again returned. "Where's Madison?"

"Bronson... he's missing. He went to try and save his hometown from a dragon and hasn't returned. He's presumed dead. I'm sorry. He said he was sick when he woke up... But, Bronson! There's no time to lose. We must flee!"

"Madison... gone." Bronson closed his eyes in reverence for his dead friend. "Where could we flee?"

"Into space."

"Never. Have the A-51's attack them."

"We have, Bronson. They're hide is impervious to lasers of any kind. They have destroyed Alarius and Ranier. Only Furanose and the Domain remain... we must leave!"

The camera on Marlin's TV changed positions. Bronson and Marlin became involved as it depicted a set of eight teenagers on a picnic. A nearby dragon slowly walked over to them and separated the boys from the girls. Picking up the four boys in his right hand, he made them watch as he squished the girls beneath his left foot. The boys squinched as they saw the blood ooze from between his scaly toes. The dragon, smiling at his work, then took the boys and threw them against a nearby rocky hill. Their bodies dissassembled on impact.

Bronson turned his attention back onto other matters. "All of Ranier and Alarius are destroyed?" Bronson was dumbfounded: All his hopes, all his dreams...

"All but one small part of Alarius: The City of Remembrance; apparently the Plague cannot get to it."

Bronson quickly thought for a moment. "Then that would be the safest place, wouldn't it? Prepare transportation." Bronson didn't want to leave Earth. He hated space compared to the lush beauty of his home. Too bad he would never see it again.

"No! It wouldn't! Space would be the safest place!"

Suddenly a loudspeaker came blasting through the halls. "There is no more transportation to the starships. Repeat. All shuttles have been used, and none are coming back."

The TV suddenly pictured another view. This one showed the house of a small village house in South Furanose. A beautiful lady came running out, carrying a tiny baby at her breast. A dragon turned and saw them moving. It ran away from what it was doing, squished the tiny shack, and continued after the mother. Finding her hiding beneath a tree, it yanked the birch out of the ground and threw the twig into a nearby river. Then he picked up the lady and placed her and her child in its mouth. Bronson closed his eyes as he saw the huge monster bring its teeth together and saw the flesh slobber out its gums...

"Any more ideas?" Repeated Bronson. With a twist of his ring, he, and Exeter, reappeared in the City of Remembrance. Bronson was happy when he learned that the City of Remembrance still existed. He had heard of its ancient history, and hoped it would have some answers.

**T. G. Taft**

The time was 9:52 PM, May 22, 26 BP (1967 anno domini). A small baby had just been born in Seattle's St. John's Hospital. Named Michael Jay Ozino, he would live to see the world tumble; to see human nature in strife as never before. Ozino would live to see the worst event in all of the human race's history besides the Fall itself: And come away the Victor.

Michael grew up in an average upper-middle class family living just on the outskirts of Seattle, Washington. He was very intelligent, ranked first in his class, and continued his education at the University of Washington. He majored in psychology, and from the start it was evident that he was above a normal college student. He became involved, at the age of twenty one, in an international search program which was to find worthy people and develop them to become the astronauts aboard the NASA "Red World" mission. The Red World mission was to send a group of six people to Mars, in hopes of winning a race that the United States was involved in with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Ozino was one of the six accepted. The others included three from the U.S.: Patricia D. Phumos from Tallahassee, Florida; Steven H. Excho from Salt Lake City, Utah; and Christopher I. Ranet from Detroit, Michigan. One was picked from Cambridge Bay, Canada; her name was Felicia O. Wisdym; the remaining was born in Uruapan, Mexico: His name was Miguel P. Aven.

The group hastily embarked on a three year training mission; during that time many relationships developed. The most obvious of these was the marriage of Ozino to Wisdym; however, there were many others. Ranet and Ozino became the closest of friends; Phumos and Wisdym also became very close. Excho, who typified the clown in the group, was friendly to all and was generally accepted. Aven, however, was the craftiest; the men trusted him 1ittle, and Phumos preferred to be with the others. Wisdym was another story.

Operation Red World began on February 17, 1 BP. It was a hastily thrown together project, and, once it had began, many things began to go wrong. The Russian Project, "Red meets Red," had begun only a month before, and, according to United States experts, would be passed by Red World on the second week. They were wrong. Two of the seven engines aboard Red World went out on the very first day. Still undaunted, the group continued to Mars.

The mission was to take a total of six months: Two and three quarters getting there, the same amount returning; and two weeks surveying the land. However, during the seventh and eight weeks more engines blew out. With only half of their original power left, Red World looked hopeless to beat the Russians. And it did not.

The Russian landing on Mars was heralded as the greatest human event since the famous Apollo missions. Red World, at the time of Red meets Red's historic landing, was still ten weeks behind her. NASA, noticing that it had been beaten, finally took the well being of the astronauts into account and called off the mission. Red World made a complete turn back for Earth; its mission incomplete. Ozino, as head of the mission, blamed himself; Wisdym tried desperately to control him but could not. If only Ozino knew that Red World's failure was one of the greatest things to ever happen to the human race.

Red meets Red, after its three weeks of surveying Mars, returned to orbit and began to face Earth once again. Its engines, which, though slower than Red World's, were all in place, and they had no trouble with manueverability. Perhaps getting a little too vain, Red meets Red did a loop around Red World to show off. Red World continued its slow passage home.

After another eight months of travelling a seemingly endless void, Red World recieved a strange NASA signal at 0200 hours. Now only four days from home, the signal depicted horror for each and every one of them.

"Red World. Repeat. Red World. Emergency, Code Purple. Earth in danger. Dragons bearing across the Atlantic Ocean. This is not a joke. Dragons exist on Earth. Scientist can deduct only one thing: They are a species which had laid dormant on Mars for centuries, and, once put into our atmosphere by the Russians, began to grow. Guys, I hate to tell you this, but... (click)... the dragons are going to destroy the human... (click)... race..."

**T. G. Taft**

The Caretaker calmly smiled as he reread what he had scribbled out. He didn't usually venture away from the waterfall, but he felt that now was a time when he had to. This essay that he was writing would come in handy later, as other generations can learn about the first plague. The second plague will be mystery enough.

Suddenly he was interrupted by a gentleman. The caretaker did not bother to even turn around. "Hello, Destoyer." He said.

Bronson Colt Randolf took offense at this statement. "Why do you address me so?"

"Was it not you who brought the Plague upon the Earth the second time?"

"Me? I don't know anything about it."

The caretaker took the papers that he had assembled thus far and threw them at Bronson. "Read."

After Bronson had finished, he looked solemnly at Fred. "If you mean Atlantis, I did not know about this."

"Of course you didn't. But then you weren't careful either, were you? You see, Bronson, the Plague is the evil in this Universe. The good is the Power. The Plague cannot be destroyed without the Power. And the Power no longer exists in this Universe. Translated: You have destroyed most of the human race, including Richard's, Adena's, Iffley's, and your peoples and nations. Because of your lust for power, you have killed. Whether or not you intended to is irrelevant."

"Me? Not me! I didn't do it on purpose! Besides, a simple restoration spell will cure all, won't it Marlin?"

Marlin looked down. "Our magic is useless against the Plague. As he said, Bronson, the Plague is the evil. Only the Power can stop it."

Bronson joined Marlin in his down-look. "I'm sorry. But what could I have done differently?"

"You could have not been so powerful Bronson. But don't worry about it. It's only the lives of 3.5 billion people."

Bronson looked at a poster that was hanging against a wall in the City. It had a big picture of his smiling face on it. Drawn across it was a blood-stained V.

**T. G. Taft**

A dragon quietly burned up Bob XXII. It mumbled to itself. "Thanks, Bronson."


 © 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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