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THE RANIERIAN CONFLICT

The two hurried outside without meeting anyone and drove back to the airfield. Carefully Pa-lil laid the fruit atop the pyre. They quickly realized that the police were being purposely mum about the pistol and the woman's shoe. Then, as they say, light dawned. (Confused yet?) Minds were meant to live and be conscious...

Enad the Great stirred on the small throw pillow that he was lying on. "Ooooh... what happened?" He said, scratching his bald spot.

Enad the Encephalon walked over to his father's body that he had propped up against the Cantible's hull. "Bronson attacked us, took the Tiara, and sent us speeding off towards a nearby blackhole. He injected us with a drug, but, thanks to an element in my Knophisghtian blood, it had no effect on me."

"But... the last thing I remember... we were speeding off towards Earth to take the Belt of Excho in order to use its abilities to find my other child...."

"The drug apparently erased your memory. Anyway, we are approaching Pluto. I thought you might want to rest in The City."

Taft's Utopia had become a well-known spot on the outer rim of the solar system. Though the actual Utopia--The Commune, as it was called--existed and was thriving, it was The City that was more populous and, by far, more popular. The City had been formed by several entreprenuers from the Commune as a tourist spot: Gambling, drinking, and wild party making were highly encouraged. Enad the Encephalon figured that The City would be the perfect spot for his father to find the rest he needed to recover.

**T. G. Taft**

The orange and white sparkled off the silver plating, and Doug fell to the floor, whimpering. "Marlin... my baby brother. What have you done to my bubba...He can't be a traitor." Wayne sniffled a bit.

Marlin straightened his back. "The Domain makes more sense than Ranier, Doug. It is more democratic, and..."

Doug looked up, tears flowing in his eyes. "What? Have they brainwashed you? Bronson has done so much for us."

Marlin laughed at him sardonically. "Like what? The Domain has made me a Rear Admiral--I was an enlisted man in Bronson's navy."

"Do you forget? What about your birth defect? Thank's to Madison's handy Nose Surgery Spell you look normal now."

"Listen--brother. I don't need your memories. All I want to know is the location of RAFLEB. That's all. Then you can go, and, if you wish, take me with you."

Doug retained a spark of professionalism. "No. RAFLEB is classified only to senior personnel of Ranierian command. You know that."

Wayne signaled to one of his guards. The guard draw his laser pistol and shot Marlin in the back. Doug immediately cried out.

"No! Brother!"

Wayne smiled, his eyepatch wiggling. "Tell us the whereabouts of RAFLEB, or he's dead next time."

Doug cried. "Spotbase..." he said, throwing himself onto the floor.

**T. G. Taft**

Enad the Great rolled the dice once more. "Come on, lucky lady! Give me a seven!" The two dice spun a dozen or so times; and, ironically, one turned up a three and the other a four. Enad's eyes lit up as he prepared to take his winnings. But suddenly he watched in vain as the two dice rolled over, each displaying a one. Enad watched his money depart as, far away from his eyes, two hustler's whispered in a corner, "That Snake Eyes Spell we borrowed from Ranier sure works good."

He walked away from the table, a tired and penniless man. He relaxed on a nearby bench, and, as normal, thoughts began to bump around in his mind--bump as if a memory was trying to fade in. Utopia. That name sounded familiar. Utopia. Utopia Malazia... no... Uthrae... Enad began to get confused. Not exactly sure which of him to listen to, the two sides of his brain became intermixed. "Where Kwamkut, did where I are hear you? Utopia? I You put heard him of on it auto a pilot long two time hours ago. past." All of a sudden something stuck--the phrase "You put heard." Enad repeated it, speeding up his vocal cords. "Jouputher." "Jupiter." Enad rushed out of the casino to find his son and returned to the Cantible, anxiously revving its engines.

**T. G. Taft**

Wayne snickered to himself as the huge planet of Jupiter grew larger in the distance. The Red Spot, known primarily as a place of mystery and romance created in Pierce's A Blemish in the Red Spot, and also a place of comedy in Jameson's parody, A Flemish Blotch: Spot Revisited, reminded Wayne of his past days as a librarian. But that was a long time ago. He snickered to himself as he came back to the present and saw the Adhesion's scanners concentrate on the area around Jupiter, searching for a Ranierian ship. Wayne's mind flew at the importance of this mission. His huge front had worked so far: Doug had actually believed that the Adhesion was only the flagship of a huge fleet. In actuality, of course, no one country could build an entire fleet in that short of time--the Domain had been lucky to build one ship--any country except Ranier, that is. But that's what RAFLEB was supposed to be for. RAFLEB was the nickname for the RAnierian FLEet Builder. Where it was, no one knew. But what it did was obvious. Bronson's fleet was unparallelled in the galaxy.

Wayne's viewscreen began to show the spot growing larger now, and he could make out the shadow of a metal outline. "Magnification higher."

The screen faded out and in again, this time showing a larger, more detailed view of Spot Base. Wayne gasped in horror as he saw Bronson's newest projects: Five huge, metal bulks, approximately in the shape of the Madison but at least three times as huge loomed to the left of Spot Base. Wait--he glanced up and noticed another metal structure. Wayne now understood. The object to the south was not Spot Base. It was RAFLEB.

**T. G. Taft**

The soldier slammed the slave up against the highly polished yellow and gold wall, deep within Spot Base. "I told you to mop that floor while scrubbing the walls, idiot!"

The slave stood quiet, sweat forming on her brow. Her long, light brown hair flew back as his hand struck her chin. She whimpered but said no word. "If I catch you goofing off again," the guard said, leaving, "I'll have to use a spell on you."

The girl fell to the floor, whimpering. Nonetheless, she carefully got out her tiny sponge and her thin toothbrush and began to work on her mandatory slave labor. She was only one of the many of her people, the Viranians, that had been enslaved when their satellite was turned into Spot Base. She spoke no words, for the Viranians had no vocal cords; yet she had a way of communicating that was superior to anything Bronson could ever imagine. The Viranians, you see, could speak with their hair, much like sign language BP, but by moving hair instead of fingers.

Enad the Great stood behind the corner, watching the poor Viranian cry as she scrubbed. His thoughts brought back a time to when the Viranians were a perfect society; to when they each took what they wanted and did what they were supposed to--a Utopia much like Taft had imagined. Enad wondered back to a time when he had fallen in love with this society, and with the lovely girl that now stood before him. He could wait no longer. "Toni," he said, turning the corner and walking into her sight.

Toni flicked around, her hair waving emphatically. And then she saw the body of Enad, her lover of years ago, aged through space and dimension travel. She ran to his open arms. Enad felt almost mute as she touched his shiny, smooth bald spot....

**T. G. Taft**

"You have been identified as a Madison class warship. You will proceed to dock with starbase Spot Base on vector 23-B." The voice was feminine, and obviously that of a computer.

Wayne smiled wickedly, clearly happy at the over-mechanization of Bronson's forces. "They haven't detected that we are abnormal; they think we belong here. Laser set on the first of those five monstrosities."

The weapons person looked through a little dial, matching two computer photographs until they were in focus with each other. "Optimum firing time in twenty seconds." He said, grinning.

Wayne waited patiently, absorbing the words printed above the viewscreen, "Ion-wave gun capable of destroying only a planet the size of Neptune or Uranus, or taking a decent hunk out of planet like Jupiter." He lauged aloud as he realized that the shields on the base and the ships would not be at full capacity, that is, if they existed at all since the ships were not complete and they were not expecting any trouble. But all he could for now was to wait.

Suddenly a communication came in. "You have now been identified as a non-Ranierian ship. Your transmission codes are not the correct frequency. You will be destroyed in ten seconds if you do not send the proper delete code over frequency R/F/5.

Wayne screamed at his weapons person. "Range?"

"Five seconds, sir."

The two clocks, one the Domain's and the other Ranierian, fought against each other, but Wayne's was destined to go off first. "Fire!" He screamed.

A stream of red issued from the tip of the Adhesion, hitting the first of the monster ships. The surge ripped through its hull, causing it to explode on contact. It was the ship that had been least completed, and the only one which had no shields.

And now it was Bronson's turn. The same shade of red came from RAFLEB, hitting the Adhesion on the port side. The shielding held, but, as had been shown from the destruction of the Mercury, it would not withstand another blast. "Sights on RAFLEB itself!" cried Wayne.

Again the red streak of light issued from the Adhesion, but this time it hit the floating satellite of RAFLEB, instead of a starship. But RAFLEB had shields. And they held tight.

Then something strange happened. The third ship in the line began to expand. Growing larger and larger, it pushed on the second and fourth ships, who were unable to move since they were being held by one of Bronson's powerful tractor beams, until finally they caved in under pressure. The third ship continued to expand, and then, as if its span had come to an end, it popped. The explosion took the two ships that had been indented with it, causing even a bigger explosion.

The fifth ship, whose name Excho had been firmly painted on its side, released itself from the tractor beam. It was almost completely built, and felt the need to strut its stuff. It rotated until its huge laser pointed directly at the Adhesion.

**T. G. Taft**

Enad calmly watched these happenings from Spotbase's viewport, a sad, captured man. He was very proud of his son, who had, by himself, destroyed three Ranierian ships, but could not help feeling helpless as he saw that the Domain was about to be destroyed. He looked about his surroundings: The viewport room was a rather large yellow and gold room that was shaped like a ship's bridge. Guards guarded the rear, where all the exits were, and there was also one formidable guard to his right. It was then that an idea stuck on him, something that happened only rarely. He blinked at Toni, who stood at the other side of the room, and attempted to move the little hair that he had, a trick that he had learned over five years ago when he had made Virania his home. She read his hair movements in a way that parallelled listening to a football player stutter, but finally she understood his meaning. She glanced at the guard standing to her left, and, noticing his eyes staring attentively at the view in front, moved her long hair around his neck and squeezed.

This was just the diversion that Enad wanted. Toni's guard collapsed, and, with the other guard caught unaware, Enad punched him in the leg. The guard fell, grasping his leg (apparently it was a Viranian guard, and you do know what a Viranian has in his leg) and Enad reached for a nearby fire extinguisher. He quickly sprayed all the guards in the Control Room, and reached through the confusion for the laser controls. Setting the aim for RAFLEB, he pressed a small, blue button to his right....

**T. G. Taft**

RAFLEB exploded multi-colorously when a strong red laser hit it from the top. Having all of its weakened shielding concentrated in the front to prevent shots from the Adhesion, RAFLEB offered no protection to a laser it didn't expect. The huge explosion caused the Excho, the Adhesion, and Spotbase to fly off in all directions.

Enad the Encephalon beamed his father back onboard the Cantible, and, after later beaming Toni aboard also, proceeded to turn toward Earth. Enad the Great thought to himself. "I must know who my other child is. Adena said I had one, and I must know..."

The Excho settled into a steady movement, its captain flustered. "What happened? Proceed to Earth to talk to Bronson. We will have our revenge." But deep down he knew that Ranier had been severely wounded. It had no manner, now, for making starships. Its endless production line had finally come to a halt, and Ranier would only have to trust what they already had. Too bad--what happened to Bronson. He got stuck with the biggest and most powerful fleet in the Universe.

Wayne cheerfully celebrated aboard the Adhesion, wondering what had happened to cause the victory. "Chalk one up to Richard's ghost," he screamed, giving orders to turn toward Pluto, figuring his men needed some rest and relaxation. He stopped for a moment at what he thought was the twitching of an eyebrow and a faint, feminine laugh. He shook his head. "It couldn't be." He said, leaning back in his chair.


 © 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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