Tales of the Alpha Triad: Dimensional Wars

Episode One:

 

Like Folding An Accordian

 

1.

 

My assumptions were correct. As I slide through dimensions, even being out of phase, they fold like an accordian. My very presence changes that dimension, that possibility, making it into a totally different scenario than what it would be by nature. Thus, I save what I can and am sucked endlessly on through dimensions-one at a time- closing possibilities as I go.

 

This round, I erase any choice for those in power. In the process, I collect what is mine-money, inventions, writings, memories, etc.-before moving on. In some ways, I even combine with my alternate self to combine knowledge. It is a painful process, especially being out of phase, but it is worth it.

 

I am the collector. I am the preventative measure. I have a mission to complete. One day is one hour in another dimension, just as one hour is a mere minute and a minute is a second. Time is non-confining. Meaningless. Without hold.

 

I do not age. I do not suffer injuries. I just continue to fold these possibilities as I go. Slowly. Or quickly, it is hard to tell exactly, I cut off the future of those who have set out to destroy the country. By this, I am not meaning that I am killing them, perse, just that I am erasing their future careers as leaders. After all, I am bringing them down in each dimension first, thus erasing the possibilities of that ‘future’ ever happening.

 

Who knows how many times this will have to be done, personally. I hope only once. All I know is that this mechanism that keeps me out of phase is a godsend. I’m glad that I designed it. It’s a modern scientific and technological marvel.

 

I have lost count on how much money I now possess. It’s not really important. It isn’t really the money I am after. I am after technology, medical advances, and so on. I am also closing down the continuance of a certain leader’s future in politics…along with that of his cronies.

 

The money, tech plans, scientific data, unwritten works, and medical data are all sent immediately back to my point of origin. The digital data goes directly to the lab, the money to the vault at the lab. Of course, the money being sent doesn’t actually exist on the books or in official record. Even though it is legal tender, it is unofficial. As far as the government is concerned, nothing I bring back exists.

 

This was the agreement between myself and the operatives who approached me in the beginning. And what I bring back in the form of science and technology, medical items included, goes immediately into my stockpile of patents and trademarks. No one can touch them. Ever. I have been granted indefinite owner status until all catch up to me…which may take centuries at this rate.

 

So far, it has all been a blur. Sort of like being a corporate spy on a mission to steal all the plans for a secret weapon…but I’m not.  I am the secret weapon. And no one knows that I am here. Weapons. Armor. Biotechnology.

 

This was what I was born to do. I have the intelligence of every me I have phased with. And every dimension has collapsed into nothing, possibly creating a new one that has nothing to do with what I left behind. The first multitude of dimensions were unremarkable. But even half of infinite is still infinite.

 

By unremarkable, I mean that there was no war. No visible war, anyway. It wouldn’t matter now anyway. My entry disturbs the natural flow, and my exit closes the possibility so that it is no longer possible.

 

And perhaps the world is better off because of what I am doing. Or I could be making it worse. All I know is that whatever is going to happen when I return to my dimension will not be what is about to happen. Especially if I can prevent war. And put an end to an evil.

 

Of course, I have an affinity for sharp weapons so I also send back intriguing swords and knives I run across. And bows with arrows. Especially unique crossbows.  And pole arms.

 

I’ll get hours of fun when I return home. When I left, the second and third laboratories were being constructed out in the country. The expansion was needed due to the need for more space with the hangar and the S.A.M. development. The teams working on those projects being moved to the new facilities will live at those facilities.

 

At the same time, time and dimensional travel will remain at the original lab. As will phasic research. And the research into the effects my little trips are having. I am hoping that I am only having a positive impact with my dimensional excursions.

 

Cloning has been added to the genetics lab experiments. Call it a curiosity of mine. I don’t intend to make it widely available. Just a limited basis for limited use.

2.

 

I have crossed the threshold. The infinitely boring dimensions are behind me. Perhaps new ones are opening to fill the void. In each dimension, I have been successful in bringing the guilty down without much problem. This time may be different.

 

I have entered a dimension a war. I don’t recognize where I am. The town is gone. A crater is the only evidence that there was ever anything here. But i have found the bunker that is what is left of the lab.

 

Iowa has been devastated.  Especially if they were trying to come after me. But there are still people here. Freedom fighters. Their leader is  a tall, black-haired, Hispanic woman with green eyes.

 

I cause a crash of thunder, bringing a few fighters to investigate.

 

“John?” a woman inquires, “is that you? But you’re dead! How…?”

 

“It’s a long story,” I reply.

 

“Where’s your armor?” She asks.

 

“My armor?” I inquire, confused.

 

“Yes,” she replies, “when you disappeared, you wore a special armor we created for you.”

 

“Then,” I respond, the realization donning on me, “I am dead in this dimension.”

 

“That is what was reported,” she states, “you took a force out and was taken captive. That’s what the state media claimed.”

 

“The state media,” I shake my head, “propaganda. We were on this path before I left. I set out to stop it.”

 

“And the ‘you’ from here?” She inquires.

 

“He is either dead or in hiding,” I respond, “if I know me.”

 

“Yup,” she smiles, “sounds like my John.”

 

“Are we an item?” I ask.

 

“Yes,” she giggles, “though we aren’t married.”

 

“And your name?” I pry.

 

“Lieutenant Miranda Lopez ,” she replies, “I came to you as a homeless woman in need of a cure. You gave me my life and my health back.” She holds up her biocybernetic arms, both armored. “And these.”

 

“Looks like my work,” I smile, “were the arms given before or after this all started?” I motion to the devastation around us.

 

“After,” she avers, “when I was wounded in the first battles. I lost both arms…and nearly lost my life.” She sees my wary look. “Don’t worry, they’re fleshy beneath the armor. The armor comes off.”

 

Her comlink erupts into a mass of voices. She pauses long enough to answer.

“Armada here,” she replies, “What’s going on?”

 

“We’re under attack,” comes the response.

 

“Your coordinates?” She inquires.

 

“Sector seven,” comes the answer.

 

“Alright,” she responds, “I’ll send reinforcements your way. Hold tight.”

 

She motions for her companions to go and they do as she motions. They head back the way they came from while she remains with me.

 

“If you can help me find the me you know, I can retrieve his mind before anyone is able to break him,” I state, “I can use the phasic technology I currently have to become him long enough to gain his knowledge. It will destroy him when I do, but it will also save him.” I look at her. “Do you trust me?”

 

“Yes,” she nods, her voice nearly cracking, “and if you can do this, I will go anywhere with you…as long as you promise to take the rest of the rebels with you.”

 

“I promise,” I state, serious, “besides. I need a top notch security team and your team looks like the best.”

 

“We are, John,” she nods, “you taught us.”

 

“Then, buckle up,” I return, “we’re going hunting.”

 

“But, first,” she responds, “we need to pick up your armor and a fresh team.”

 

“To hell with a small team,” I look into her eyes, “let’s take everyone we can. We’ll pick up the rest when we can.”

 

We turn and leave the point of entry behind. Into the bunker we head, seeking the pieces that will help us in our mission. My armor. The remaining rebel army. And a possible transport.

3.

 

“John is back with us,” she states to the group that has assembled, “with new technology. And weapons.” She looks around the room. “ while I understand that he has been reported as being captured, he has returned to us and agreed to help us find our compatriots who are MIA.

 

“The explanation on how he got here is too lengthy and…unbelievable…to go through at this time, so just trust him. He is our last best hope at defeating the enemy.”

 

“How do we know he can be trusteed?” one of the group inquires.

 

“Simple,” she responds, “he isn’t a plant.”

 

“I am not exactly the John who was captured,” I interject, “and I cannot explain how I got here. Suffice it to say, I did not originate here. I have not witnessed any of this war, but I have seen how the country gets to this point. I am here to prevent this from happening.”

 

“So you from the past?” another operative asks.

 

“Has no one explained to this guy that it is impossible to travel forward through time?” I ask, a smile playing across my face. I turn my eyes back to the operative. “I am what most would call a jumper.”

 

An audible gasp floods the room. That means everyone here knows what a jumper is. And they know that it ain’t someone who jumps from bridges. They know what it means to be a dimensional jumper.

 

“So what’s next?” the first soldier asks.

 

“First we free the me that you know,” I respond, “and his team. After that, we take the capitol by surprise and remove that asshole from power. And since he believes that he has me, he won’t expect me to lead you.”

 

A cheer rises from the group. They know we’re a surprise package. They know that no one knows we’re coming. They know that the capitol and its supporters believe me to be dead.

 

This gives us a big element of surprise. Until I see one rebel trying to slip away.

“We have a traitor in our midst,” I whisper to Miranda, “and they believe that I didn’t see.”

 

“I see that,” she whispers back, then nods to the guards in back who follow the traitor out of the room, “they’ll be dealt with soon enough.”

 

***

 

The traitor has been caught just short of their destination, along with a small group of dissidents. Their destination, the com room. Their purpose, to give the capitol a head’s up.  It is way too apparent without explanations.

 

“What were you going to do?” Miranda inquires.

 

“That’s none of your business,” the traitor retorts, “and you can’t make me tell you.”

 

“But I can,” I remark, walking over to a table and pulling the two knives from my belt that I heisted from the last dimension, “and I can show you how I made Putin talk where I am from. And I guarantee you that you will tell me exactly what I want.”

 

“You don’t scare me,” he snaps back.

 

“Bring him over,” I command, looking at the guards who hold him, “ and place his hand on the table. And bring the others in his group so they can see what is in store for them if they do not cooperate.”

 

They do as I command. The small group is herded around the table so they can see what I am about to do.

 

“Hey,” he objects, “what d’ya think yer doin’?”

 

“Make sure you keep his hand very still,” I command his handlers, “with his fingers out straight.”

 

“What is this?” he asks, worried, as they obey the command.

 

“This is my version of twenty questions,” I state, looking at him, “for every wrong answer, you lose a piece of a finger. At the knuckle.”

 

“You can’t do this to me,” he sputters, “I am protected by the law!”

 

“I do not operate under the sham laws of any usurper,” I glare at him, “I operate outside your reality. Nor do I take orders from you.”

 

“Shit,” one of his fellows utter as I move the knife above his friend’s pinky.

 

“Now,” I begin, poised, “who turned you?”

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he replies, trying to act unaffected by my knife’s close proximity to his pinky.

 

“Wrong answer,” I state, bringing the blade down, cutting the tip of his pinky off, “try again.”

 

“Jack Stetters,” he screams, in pain.

 

“Good,” I smile, “and what was your mission?”

 

“Don’t tell ‘im, Mac,” one of his co-conspirators try to warn.

 

“To weaken the rebellion,” he gasps, “enough so it could be defeated. Destroy morale. Kill key members. Lead them into traps. Whatever it took.”

 

“Was that what you did with the other me?” I press.

 

“Yes,” he responds, “your team was all part of the unit I lead. I convinced you to use them, knowing you would be captured. They, on the other hand, returned to service as government soldiers.”

 

“Are you really sure of that?” I smile.

 

“Yes, why?” he inquires.

 

“Because I know the asshole who sits in Washington,” my smile widens to a grin, “and he isn’t one to keep promises. Not even to those who serve his needs. Your men are probably dead. Or in the same prison as me.” I turn to Miranda. “Do we have any drone fighters that don’t have ejection capabilities or transports that we can sacrifice?”

 

“Yes,” she answers, “but why?”

 

“We’re  going to have a decoy,” I chuckle, “can we program it and shut down communications capabilities?”

 

“Yes,” she smiles, starting to realize what I am about to do, “I’ll have Destroyer prep it.”

 

“You,” I state, turning back to the prisoner, “are going to go ahead and place a report to your superiors in DC. You’re going to tell them that there is a single transport headed their direction from the west.”

 

“Oh, God,” he sighs, terrified by the thought that has just entered his head. He now realizes that he and his men are the decoy.

 

We march them down to the comroom. He delivers the message just as I ordered it. Destroyer has already left to prep the transport. We head the same direction to secure the conspirators in the transport and seal them inside.

4.

 

After sending the decoy, we head south to pick up our active units. Our own transports will head in a northward direction. While the capitol is watching the single transport from the west, we will sneak in under their radar, an armada of transports. On the way, I am being brought up to speed on everything by Miranda.

 

We are in my private quarters, laying on a bunk. Naked. I am getting used to seeing her four arms without armor. It’s sort of alien. Yet natural.

 

“Explain to me again,” I begin, “how I ever decided to give you four arms.”

 

“I agreed to be a test subject. I had just been stripped of my own arms,” she giggles, “and you pondered the possibilities of altering and augmenting soldiers. I was your 6’4” blank slate that you believed you could make into Khali or one of the other Hindu goddesses. Or, maybe, one of several Native goddesses. And to me, four arms sounded better than two.”

 

“Did I ever have a wife?” I query.

 

“Yes,” she replies, “you had two. You also had a girlfriend who died before y’all could marry back in early 2017…when you first began the labs. Then the war came in December and you threw yourself into leading the rebellion. I came into your life in January and my alteration happened in July. We’ve been an item since February.”

 

“I did amazing work. Seamless,” I state quietly, sitting up and leaning over her, “I can see why I fell for you. You are totally amazing. Beautiful.”

My right hand runs down her abdomen to her inner thigh. She lets out a quivering sigh. I kiss her on the lips. My left hand moves to her breast. She is turned on. She rolls on top of me.

 

“My turn,” she smiles and I feel her seeking me, then pulling me in, “and after this, I will continue to bring you up on current events.

 

***

 

Moments later, we’ve landed outside what is left of New Orleans. God, what a waste. This used to be the most liberal of cities. One of two sin cities.

 

Both Miranda and I have dressed and are getting ready to brief those who have joined us. I look at her.

 

“How many do we have?” I ask.

 

“Close to two million strong,” she replies.

 

“Just in this group?”

 

“Yes,”  she looks at me, “we have an army that is about twenty four million strong total. The complete voter base that was stripped of their victory the last election cycle.”

 

“Damn!” I breathe. You were able to organize them. Bring them together. Train them. But he commandeered the nation’s military. Executed any who did not pledge their loyalty. Imprisoned his political enemies. Then set about bombing the cities closest to the capitol.

 

“When he was done pushing those who revolted back to the Midwest, he began bombing there as well…hoping to kill you in the process. But you had thought of everything where your labs were concerned. They were well hidden and extremely well armored. Even the one where you appeared is extremely well armored.

 

“At least the bunker is. The building, as you saw, was destroyed. But by then, you had already moved all teams underground. And there they remain, making your armor and our collective weapons.”

 

“And the traitors we discovered?” I smile grimly.

 

“We suspected an infiltration, but could not pin down who was sending the coded messages,” she replies, “ until you spotted Triple Threat trying to leave the briefing. I, then, checked to see who else was missing.” She looks at me. “Did you have to cut his pinky off?”

 

“I learned early on,” I respond, looking over at her, “in my own dimension, that one has to be just as cruel and hardened as their opponents. It’s part of learning how to stay alive in an abusive childhood home and defending oneself against a sister who would love to kill you.” I turn away. “But to answer your question, no. It wasn’t necessary, but it got my point across. And before you ask, no. I didn’t do that to Putin. I was bluffing with that.”

 

“You’re damn good at bluffing,” she admits, “but you’re good at everything you do.”

 

“Thanks,” I respond, unable to restrain the smirk that appears, “so are you.”

 

She blushes. I smile.

 

“So what now?” she asks, changing the subject.

 

“Now, we call the rest of our forces together and make a three prong attack,” I respond, “and then, we create a phasic dampener for the ships.” I recheck my thoughts and change my mind about the order of what I have just said. “On second thought, let me rephrase that. We need to go back to base and install the phasic dampeners,  then make a three-prong attack.” I look at her. “Are you ready?”

 

“I was born ready,” she grins, “let’s do this.”

 

“Give the order,” I smile back at her, “we regroup at the labs and rearm.”

 

“Saddle up, boys,” she orders into her comlink, “let’s head out and regroup. This is for everyone. Even those to the west. Head to main base.”

 

We both realize that the regroup will be seen as a retreat. But I mean to give the capitol the impression that we are doing just that. I want them to have a false sense of security and relax defenses just enough to allow us to slip in after the ships are outfitted with the phasic dampeners. I also want to bring the science teams aboard and take them along as we abandon this realm.

5.

 

My jaw drops when I see the immense size of our armada. It is hard to imagine that several million soldiers call these ships home now. Several million very specialized and genetically altered or physically altered soldiers. And each ship has a main commander with at least four lieutenant commanders. Maybe more. Many were state National Guardsmen, the rest were civilians who joined the movement.

 

“How many transports does the capitol have?” I ask Miranda.

 

‘Like this?” she inquires.

 

“Yes,” I respond.

 

“None,” she replies, “these were designed by you.”

 

“Did I ever get anywhere on the S.A.M. project?” I query.

 

“You mean Project Exodus?” She returns.

 

“Yes,” I nod.

 

“No,” she looks at me with sad eyes, “because this happened too quickly. You barely had time to begin Project Genesis so that you could create a better, more efficient altered army. You replaced Project Exodus with  Project Armament and Project Defense. After that, the scientific teams were totally engaged in creating our next weapons in hopes that we would be victorious.”

 

“Our mission is to win this time,” I respond, “once the dampeners are put into place, there is no turning back. Our first target is the capitol’s prison. Our first mission is to get me inside to become one with myself. And since we are at capacity, we cannot afford to take on any more riders.”

 

“Then Belle Reve it is,” she nods, “and what do we tell the political prisoners?”

 

“That they must pick up and rebuild once we are done,” I return, “we do not mention that this dimension will fold in on itself, that we are basically destroying this possibility. That is why I am taking you and the army we’ve built with me out of this realm.”

 

Out of the corner of my eye, I see a tear in her eye. I can’t help but want to cry with her. This is the world she knows. Dark. Deadly. Hopeless.

 

I am about to change that with a single gesture. I don’t know whether she is crying with relief  or sorrow. Or both. I hope that it is relief.

 

***

 

“The phasic dampeners that have been placed in each transport,” I begin, “will carry you to safety when our mission is complete in the capitol. I cannot promise that you will o where I go. I am not sure that we have sync’d them all to my own or not. But I can guarantee that where you will go, you will be needed. All you will have to do is wait for me. I will appear soon enough. And perhaps, I will have more of an army with me. After all, we need all the help we can get.”

 

A loud roar rises over the crater pocked fields.

 

“The science team tried to sync all dampeners to you,” Miranda whispers to me, “but, you are right. There is no guarantee that we will end up where you are. You might be pulled into another dimension while we are sent to yours.”

 

“Either way, you’ll be safe,” I assure her, “because if you go to my dimension, you will be where I started my journey. My dampener is programmed to hone in on the lab where it was made, no matter what dimension I enter. That means that you will hone in on the Allen’s Hollow facility, where the hangar is located if the team programmed the dampeners correctly. That is over fifteen miles from—”

 

“Yes,” she puts her index finger against my lips, I know where the Allen Hollow facility is. And the other lab. But why were you drawn to the Sheridan facility?”

 

“Probably because that was where all the projects began,” I reply, “or my contact person was there.” I look at her.

 

“You always said that I had a magnetic personality,” she giggles, “besides. You would have been shot on sight had you come to the Allen Hollow facility without me.” she changes the subject. “Now, with your technology combined with ours, we’re on our way to safety.”

 

“Cruise and Speed Demon,” I begin, “who are they?”

 

“Cruise cannot survive without the containment suit you designed for him,” she nods to a soldier who is encased in a suit that looks more appropriate for outer space than earth, then nods toward another soldier whose face is tattooed red, “and Speed Demon has been altered to be fast and light on his feet. They owe their lives to you.”

 

“And the one I heard called Evangelis?” I inquire.

 

“He’s the silent one,” she giggles, “who was once a preacher until the President began attacking the churches.”

 

“Hence,” I nod, “his name.” I turn to her. “One more. Which one is Blacklist?”

 

“He is the most troubling one,” she smirks, “rebellious, angry…but loyal to a fault. To you.”

 

“I see,” I reply, “glad to know I have so many loyal men…and women.”

 

6.

 

We have taken one third of the armada towards the federal prison at Belle Reve and we will come into capitol airspace from the south.. One third, we have sent to the east to come in from the ocean. The last third, we sent to the north to come in from that direction. The idea is to catch the federal forces in a pincer move that will force a surrender of all forces. I just doubt that the President will be willing to surrender. After all, he has allowed things to escalate this far.

 

No matter how stupid he may be, the generals can’t be as stupid. Perhaps I am giving them too much credit, but I have never been much on underestimating the intelligence of generals. Still, I don’t know whether he executed the smart generals or not. I have to approach this as if he has kept the trained officers.

 

Belle Reve is an imposing structure, but our weapons blow a hole in the walls. We rush in and the guards surrender. We find my cell and Miranda and I enter it alone. God, they have reduced me to a shell! I touch my counterpart in the current dimension and absorb his knowledge, allowing him to die. I nod to Miranda, whose eyes are filled with tears.

 

“It’s time, Miranda,” I whisper understandingly, “let’s get out of here. Have the men release the prisoners and lock all the guards in their cells and then let’s leave.”

 

She nods wordlessly, then communicates my commands to the rest through her comlink. She gives me a hug.

 

“You’re all I got now,” she whispers, tears in her eyes, “that was not you in that cell back there. I mean, it was…but it wasn’t. There was no life left in those eyes. No recognition of your comrades. Just a living death.”

 

“My guess,” I reply softly, “is that they tortured me until I was little more than a shell. When I wouldn’t reveal any information, they tried their best to destroy me. But I must’ve known that this-my being here-was going to happen. I must’ve felt this taking place, so I clung to what life I had left until I could impart my secrets to myself.” I look at her sheepishly. “I don’t know if that made sense. It sounds odd to even me.”

 

“Yes,” she nods, “it makes perfect sense.”

 

We leave the prison and reboard our transport. It’s time to move on toward the capitol. Time to coordinate a three prong simultaneous attack that should break their defenses. Time to take the White House. Time to fight for the soul of the country.

***

 

Our flight takes no time at all. In a matter of minutes, we have covered nearly a thousand miles. Unseen. All three forces close at once, taking out the capitol’s defense systems and nearly destroying the forces defending the outer rim of the city. I have never seen DC in person. Nor have I seen Dc in shambles like this before.

 

The city seems to be empty except for military with highly inadequate weaponry that is trying desperately to bring down the flotilla. Pitiful. Their rockets are useless. I have really outdone myself on these ships.

 

“Our stealth capabilities are beyond their scope,” Miranda says quietly in my ear, the armor you created for the ships is impenetrable. We are the most advanced military in the world. We could even take Europe and Asia in these things.”

 

“Where is the majority of the military?” I inquire.

 

“Fighting a losing war in Europe,” she shrugs, “Asia, Africa, and Australia…or trying to fend off the Mexican or Canadian armies. Mexico has the help of the Central American countries…the United South American military.”

 

“And Israel?” I prod.

 

“At the mercy of her neighbors,” she smiles, “the US is too busy and stretched too thin. The President doesn’t have the manpower to fight us, the Europeans, Central and South America, the Asians, the Aussies, and the Canadians as well as the problems he began in the Middle East.”

 

“The muslim bans,” I nod.

 

“And his slight moving the embassy to Jerusalem,” she agrees.

 

“So he really is a sitting duck,” I smile, “isn’t he?”

 

“That he is,” she grins back.

 

“Let’s do this big,” I suggest.

 

“Let’s do,” she echos.

 

“Give the order,” I nod, “it’s time.”

 

“Begin Operation Take Back,” she commands, then turns to me. “It’s on.”

 

All hell breaks loose as we begin to bombard the helpless military surrounding the White House. I watch in real time as they fall. Damn. Like shooting fish in a barrel.

7.

 

As resistance crumbles, I witness the surrender of one of the greatest forces in the world other than that of the rebellion. It saddens me to see the US military reduced to nothing. Still, they chose the wrong side.

 

Well, almost nothing. I am hailed by the head of the Joint Chiefs.

 

“Commander O’Dell,” he begins solemnly, “I beg you to end this slaughter.”

 

“I want a full surrender,” I caution him, “and all forces recalled from overseas.”

 

“I understand,” he replies, “and I am willing to give you the full surrender and all you request.”

 

“Then we will meet,” I reply, “and agree on terms.”

 

“Agreed,” comes the response.

 

The com goes silent. I turn to Miranda.

 

“Contact the UN,” I state, “or whatever is left of it.”

 

“Yes, Love,” she replies, “but what shall I tell them?”

 

“Tell them to convene,” I smile, “we’re going to arrange the terms of the surrender of the US forces.”

 

She smiles back and nods. I leave the bridge and seek quiet in my quarters. Moments, later, she appears at the door.

 

“It’s done,” she states, “now what?”

 

“Do we have a small shuttle?” I inquire.

 

“Yes,” she replies, “but I will have to prep it. It is a two-seater…”

 

“This will not require more than you and I,” I respond, “and I can assure you that we will be completely safe.”

 

“Sounds good,” she smirks, “and I hope that you are right.” She turns to me and kisses me. “I have given the Science team the OK to go back and fit the hospital ship with a phasic condenser unit, same as the warships. If done correctly, and given the coordinates of  its current location, it should appear right…”

 

“Right where the Allen Hollow facility in my own dimension is supposed to be built,” I insert, “ingenious. And a wonderful idea. I am surprised that I didn’t think of it.”

 

“In a way, you did,” she states, then turns and walks off toward the hangar bay where the shuttle is located, “before we left the facility with the warships. It is big enough to house all our warships and transports. It will enable us to begin a lunar base as well as an orbital construction station where the S.A.M. transports can be made.”

 

I watch her disappear, then turn to the ensign on com.

 

“The bridge is yours until I return,” I state.

 

“Aye, Sir,” comes the response.

 

I take my leave, following Miranda down the corridor. When I reach her, I have a sudden thought.

 

“Miranda,” I begin.

 

“Yes?” She replies in query.

 

“Perhaps sending a small team to clear the way isn’t such a bad idea,” I respond, “better safe than sorry.”

 

“Agreed,” she avers, then begins speaking into the com on her shoulder, “transports one through three send units to the ground to deal with the remaining federal troops. Clear the way for John and I. we’re coming to take the administration prisoner.” An affirmative sounds from the transports she has called on. She turns back to me. “Whatever resistance remains will be cleared before we go down. We still need to prep the shuttle.”

 

“What’ll be done with the resistance?” I ask.

 

“Since they have pretty much surrendered,” she smiles, “they will simply be moved from their positions in front of the White House so we can enter unimpeded.”

“Lieutenant Lopez,” the com officer interrupts over her comlink, “communication from the UN. the directors request the meeting to take place in the White House.”

 

She looks at me and I nod.

 

“Commander O’Dell agrees,” she replies.

 

“I will relay the agreement,” the com officer responds.

 

“Looks like we may need a small detail to enter with us anyway,” she winks, “are you OK with that?”

 

“Yes,” I nod, “besides. We never know just how the administration will take the defeat. Or our invasion of the White House.”

 

8.

 

Secret Service simply gave up, leaving the President and his administration unprotected. I watch them file out, heads low in defeat. But they aren’t a fighting force. They are bodyguards. This was never their fight.

 

We find the President and his cabinet in the dining hall, each handcuffed, waiting for the inevitable. The President looks up at me, his eyes slits of hate.

 

“You were reported dead,” he hisses.

 

“And you have always claimed to be a smart, smart man,” I respond, “and yet, it takes a very stupid and insecure man to become a dictator.”

 

“You say that,” he hisses in reply, “as if you have already judged me.”

 

“No,” I counter, “you proved yourself weak and insecure. As well as stupid beyond repair. Not to mention lazy.”

 

“And now,” he leers, “what do you aim to do now? Set up a tribunal and try me? You know I will win.”

 

“No,” I shake my head, “I will not be doing so. You will face trial for war crimes in the Hague at the International Hall of Justice. Along with your administration.”

 

“I will still win,” he says, an evil grin playing on his face, “because I have the best lawyers.”

 

“I doubt that,” I state, “since your current lawyer is also going to be on trial…and stripped of his ability to defend you or anyone else.”

 

I watch as his eyes widen with the realization that he has finally been defeated. I can tell that he has finally realized just how hopeless his current position is. As we wait for the arrival of  the UN members, the general who had talked to me earlier is brought in. but he isn’t brought to where the President can see him.

 

The unit leader guarding the President nods to me, letting me know that it is OK to leave for a moment. I look at Miranda expectantly and she accompanies me to where the general is being held.

“Anything you can give us,” I encourage, “could make your own case look good.”

 

“I understand,” he nods, “and I will cooperate fully for the tribunal in the Hague. I will also try to convince the other generals to do the same.”

 

“Have you sent word?” I inquire.

 

“To surrender?” He asks. I nod. “Yes. the fighting is supposed to be over everywhere.” He looks away. “We would have been defeated eventually anyway, even if you had not returned. It was inevitable. Your return simply put the final nail in the coffin.” he looks back at me. “That was my best unit you fed to us as a decoy. And we blasted them out of the sky believing them to be your force. When we sorted the bodies out of the wreckage, that was what broke us. We no longer had any fight.”

 

“This,” I motion around us, in gesture toward the conflict, “would not have been easily resolved. The resentment on both sides would have kept the country divided and broken for decades to come…possibly never to rise as great as she was before. A new form of the KKK would have risen to replace the “white pride” version, this time to hate the victors rather than a simple color or creed.” I shake my head. “No, America would slide into dark times or even possibly simply vanish as a country. As it is, she lies broken by the hate and violence.

 

“That would have been her fate had I not come back. But, I cannot allow her to die so easily. Not even because of a desperate despot.”

 

One of the African members of the UN appears at my side.

 

“He’s right, you know,” he interjects.

 

At his appearance, I realize that it is time to return to where the President is being held. We go, leaving the general to ponder what I have said.

 

“I am in position,” I begin, once back in the dining hall, “to strip the President of his power and do so now. I also, hereby, turn him over to you, along with his administration-chosen co-conspirators-who have plundered and embroiled the world in war.”

 

“You have one more mission, John O’Dell,” the African states.

 

“What is that?” I inquire.

 

“To bring down his allies, of course,” he replies, a grin spreading on his face.

 

“Lemme guess,” I smile back at him, “Russia, North Korea, and China.”

 

“Yes,” he nods, “as well as the Philippines, Turkey, and those countries that chose to head into fascist government structures.”

 

“Although,” the British ambassador adds, “Europe has dealt a blow to the European bastions of hate.”

 

“Then my troops shall begin strikes against the eastern allies,” I reply, and move westward as we defeat them.  But after we agree upon what we desire in the surrender of the US.”

 

“Here, here,” the Brit proclaims, “I concur with that.”

 

“I have already insisted upon an unconditional surrender,” I grin, “does that sound about right for y’all as well?”

 

A resounding echo of agreement ripples through the room. The UN legal counsel prepares the papers declaring the surrender and lay them before the general.  He takes up the pen supplied to him and signs it.

 

“It is done,” he announces, “it is a relief to have done that. Too many have died for the whims of a madman.”

9.

 

North Korea’s defenses crumble upon our arrival and we overrun them.  The dictator surrenders without much of a struggle. As with the US President, we keep him handcuffed , along with his inner circle, and wait for the UN forces to arrive. It doesn’t take them long and we head for the Philippines.

 

Again, their defenses crumble and the scene repeats itself. As it does with Russia. And China. And Turkey. And the Middle East.

 

The new axis of evil is destroyed and the end of the dimension is brought ever closer. A new age is dawning before our eyes.

 

“So when this is over,” Miranda begins, hesitantly, “what of us?”

 

“Depending on what happens in my own dimension,” I respond, “we can remain lovers…if you wish.”

 

“If I wish?” She tests.

 

“You know I won’t remarry,” I smile sadly, “but I do love you.”

 

“I know, silly,” she grins, “I love you too. Marriage is so old fashioned anyway. And I do not want to limit you. Besides. I am hoping that, at sometime, you are successful in setting things right and accomplishing what you set out to do…before all this.”

 

“You are amazing, My Dear,” I say softly, putting my arm around her, “I am forever in your debt.”

 

“Then,” she giggles, “let’s count our debts paid in full.”

 

“Agreed,” I respond, kissing her, “and now that the war is over…our time here is growing short. There is one last thing we have to witness before we are sent elsewhere.”

 

“And that is?” She inquires.

 

“The trial of those who created this mess,” I smile, “it is imperative that we watch their convictions and their hangings. That signals the end of this dimension.”

 

“How many dimensions have you went through?” She pries.

 

“I have lost count. Suffice it to say that I have gone through enough to know that there is little chance of this nightmare continuing after a few more. In fact the continuation of this nightmare is growing to an infinitesimally small possibility.”

 

“A few more?” She’s not about to give this up.

 

“Most of them,” I explain, “have gone by so fast. Almost barely noticeably so. I went, took him down in less violent ways. Most of them had less of a support base for him.”

 

“What do you mean less?”

 

“Like almost no support base,” I chuckle, “which made it a lot easier. And a lot quicker. My basic mission beyond his fall was to collect my own projects, papers, and files…and money, if I had any.”

 

“So that means that you are independently wealthy,” she suggests.

 

“Pretty much,” I respond, nodding, “which means that the debt I had going into this project is now pretty much nonexistent.”

 

“Debt?”

 

“Yes,” I nod, “my original source was the CIA, NSA, and military intelligence. MI6 and at least a dozen European as well as at least a handful of Asian and all of the African intel communities invested heavily as well. The point, of course, was the same as what we just got finished doing.”

 

“Taking down the dictators,” she adds, “who back the President.”

 

“As well as taking the President down,” I agree, “it was so easy through the first infinite group of dimensions. I am pretty sure I have very few left to go through. Oddly enough, as I go through them, they fold shut like an accordion, shutting off those possible ends to the future.”

 

“I see,”  she smiles mischievously, “and how many women have you encountered?”

 

“So far,” I reply, smiling back at her, “just you. I was pretty solitary in all the other realms I have entered.”

 

“So I have no competition?”

 

“No,” I shake my head, “not really. Except the duchesses and a handful of famous actresses and female singers from my own dimension.” I wink at her. She blushes.

 

“Now,” she smirks, “you’re just messing with me.”

 

“Yes,” I chuckle, “I am. My fascination with them has long passed. Besides. I was seeing how jealous you would get.”

 

“And did I pass your test?”

 

“Yes,” I aver, “you did.”

 

10.

 

The death penalty and immediate execution of all involved in the planning and implementation of WWIII has heralded the closure of the dimension. As the phasic shift begins, I feel myself ripped away from Miranda and the massive carrier that had been the science ship. The flotilla had docked within the docking bay and our troops had retired to quarters to rest during the journey. I had gone to quarters with Miranda and was about to enjoy an amazing night of sensual fun.

 

A flash let me know that we were suddenly separated. Now, I see nothing except streaks of light. I find it ironic that sometimes more than one dimension is closed at a time, especially when the events are nearly identical. I say nearly, because no two dimensions are truly identical. There are always subtle differences. But they are similar enough for them to close en masse.

 

So it seems with those that would have immediately followed the one I was just in. as I zip through dimensional space, I glance at my arm. I am still wearing the armor from the last dimension.

 

When I come to a stop, I see that I am in a post- nuclear wasteland, a kind of post apocalyptic nuclear desert. Strangely enough, the facility near me is protected by an energy shield. I approach the facility and set off the alarms. A small group appears at the entry, armed.

 

“State your purpose,” a sexy nubian princess demands.

 

“Well,” I begin, “I was just passing through on a mission to destroy a regime and happened to land at your door.”

 

“Your name?” she demands.

 

“John O’Dell,” I reply.

 

“But you’re dead!” The shock is evident in her eyes.

 

“Exactly how did I die here?” I inquire.

 

“The regime blew you up,” she responds, “successfully in their last campaign out here. You were…standing right where you now stand.”

 

“I assure you that I am who I say I am,” I state quietly, “but I am not from this dimension. I am passing through dimensions gathering my knowledge, projects, and creations. My secondary mission is to collect weaponry and to destroy the regime. Doing so destroys this possible future and shuts down the future of the regime in my own dimension.” I look at her. “Can I ask the name of the young lady I am talking to?”

 

“I am Tamika Brown,” she replies, “but my–your soldiers call me Armistice.”

 

“Lemme guess,” I smile, “because you’ll never surrender.”

 

“You’re right,” she nods, “partially. I was sent to seal an armistice pact between the government and the separatists.  That was in December last year, shortly after your wife’s death.” She looks away. “We sort of fell in love right after I arrived. I filled a void for you, I guess, and we have been together ever since…until the government broke their word and nuked the area. I watched helplessly as you were turned to ash before my eyes. And I have fought in your name ever since.”

 

“My last stop,” I begin, “I was imprisoned. Here I am dead. The ones before I was able to destroy the regime without much of a problem. We destroyed it with little effort the last time as well…but that was because they believed me to be dead.”

 

“Maybe we can use the same tactic now as well,” she grins, “after all, they have recorded you as dead here as well.”

 

“Will your soldiers understand the dimensional aspect of my story?” I inquire.

 

“Of course,” she nods, “you were working on something along that lines when you were killed.”

 

“Then let us begin,” I reply, planning for the final take down.”

 

“Yes,” she agrees, “Let us.”

 

“By the way,” I begin, in passing, “who did you work for before we met?”

 

“The UN,” she admits, “I was a special emissary sent to you. I am originally from Liberia. I was given a small command of African peacekeepers from   all fifteen countries. A unified team intent on nailing down a peace here.

 

“We were close to coming to terms when Washington decided to send an airstrike. The lab facilities were protected from the fallout, but the surrounding communities were not. Even Stratcom was destroyed with a third of the military that had been stationed there.  You were killed as well, since you were always leaving the safety of the facilities to help the people of the communities.”

 

“So kindness was my undoing,” I nod, “no surprise.”

 

“It was your greatest strength,” she  smiles sadly, “you were able to evacuate and give shelter to almost all those you went to help. Most of them have taken up arms and joined me in honoring your memory.”

 

“How many?” I press.

 

“About 20,000,000 at the moment,” she responds, maybe more. Not sure how many states made it here before the bombs began dropping. He attempted to get everyone within and 800 mile radius just to be sure. But this is not the only facility.”

 

“And I would have to visit the other facilities,” I add, “if I want to find the total number…correct?”

 

“Yes,” she nods.

 

“Is there an easier way to get to the other facilities?” I request.

 

“Yes,” she avers, “we have teleportation chambers.”

 

“Good,” I respond, “I want to see how large a force we have at our disposal.”

 

Note: these stories bridge the span between the Journals and the notes. This adds a new dimension to the story and adds information not exposed in the other portions of the story. Where the journal is a catalogue of personal experiences  that record the time travel, and the Files are the records of his team during the first three episodes, The Dimensional Wars record the most important battles, some of which will be very similar for all journal entries,

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The Morrow Family Saga, series 4, Book 1: Once Around The Ride, Chapter 14

Tom stood a short distance away from the others who had filtered into the hospital. He felt out of place even though he was considered family by both Natalia and Matt. Hell. Even Shasta seemed to think of him as family. He had been there for the family since the French Case. He had done all he could to keep an eye on Natalia throughout her journey to this point.

Yet, he felt as if he had let them all down. He had been unable to prevent this. For that, he felt as if he had betrayed their trust.

Matt, though, kept him from drinking himself into oblivion. As did Susie. God bless them both. They were his source of stability and sanity. The two things he needed the most right now.

He now stood among strangers. He had never met most of those now in the waiting room. He had briefly been in contact with the younger brothers, since they were born during the investigations that put an end to French Industries. Still, he really didn’t know them.

And their older brother Nick. He had been gone by the time Tom came into the picture. He knew Marty Venacek, though. But where was Dani? Had she made it yet? Or was she unable to do so?

There was a dark silence that had fallen over those in the waiting room. A mixture of acceptance and rejection, belief and rejection, made its way through each and every person. Like some unnamed poison, it permeated everything, causing everyone to be on edge.

Dani walked into the waiting room. She saw him and immediately came over to where he was. Putting her arms around his neck, she gave him a hug.

“Good to see you, Uncle Tom,” she whispered, “how has she been?”

Tom smiled sadly. “Not good. The virus has pretty much ravaged her. She has zero tolerance to anything anymore. Just when she gets her life turned around, she finds herself at its end.”

“It’s sad indeed,” she agreed, “I just wish we could’ve gotten her straight before now. Maybe we could’ve prevented this.”

“Natalia chose her path long before we entered it as influences.” He looked at her. “She had things all planned out before even I entered the picture. From what I understand, your uncle Mike tried his best to steer her in the right direction and failed. Well, it wasn’t his failure, but hers. She didn’t understand what he was trying to do.”

Dani nodded. “True.”

He watched her walk away. He was saddened to watch her go. She had tried to help him rein Natalia in during the sixties. But they had both failed and Nattie had slipped further away from everyone.

But that had been a crazy time. The sixties had taken their toll on everyone. The acid trips, the drug experimentation, the sexual revolution—it had all led up to the fallout of the last couple of years, right after disco.  And it was still taking its toll.

Gone were the days when innocence was god. That had been stripped away in the late sixties. Of course, a large chunk of the country’s innocence had been stripped away in the late forties and  throughout the fifties as well with the McCarthy led Communist witch hunts. Not to mention Eddie Hoover’s fixation with communists which ended during Nixon’s time in office.

***

Matt sat in the hospital parking lot, head in hands. This was almost too much to bear. He knew that his mother was nearing the end of her life and there wasn’t anything he could do to save her. just when she had found happiness, she was hit with this new and mysterious disease. And now, the disease was killing her.

His anger fed his pain. It fed his creativity. His creativity fed his career. At the moment, though, he was three steps from ending his career. Between the pain and the anger, he was beginning to overload.

Family was more important than a career at this point and his brothers and sisters now needed him. all of them. He would always be able to return to his career after he had finished raising them. He was all they had. And now, they were all he had.

He dried his eyes. This was no time to be crying. He had to be strong. He had always had to be strong. Always.

No one ever liked losing a member, but it was inevitable. Still, his mother was too young. Forty-something was too young. And right when she had finally found herself and happiness, she fell ill. It wasn’t fair.

But then, life wasn’t fair. It had never been fair. His father had been taken from him before he was old enough to really know him. At least, that was what his mother told him. After that, it was a steady stream of men where momma was concerned.

He couldn’t really call any of them dad. None of them remained in his life long enough. Some, he’d had to defend himself and his mother from. Others simply got what they wanted from her and left. That had changed in ’77 when she met Johnny.

Johnny Mark had been a porn legend. His films were the most complex in the industry. Of course, that wasn’t his real name, but he couldn’t have the world knowing his private life. It had been a risky move for Matt’s mother, getting involved with Johnny, but it had been the best thing for her.

Although he didn’t agree with the career move, he let her do her own thing. As long as it kept her out of trouble, he was willing to allow her a little leeway. Johnny got her parts in a couple of his films and things took off from there. At first, there had been multiple partners. Then only Johnny.

After twenty films, she stopped. She had made a fortune with her body and created a name for herself. In fact, she was somewhat of a Hollywood legend herself, though not under her own name. the Morrow name was never tainted by her actions. At least, not overtly.

She had tried to keep her parents from seeing her name or likeness. Of course, Iowa was a different state than California. What happened in Cali seemed to remain worlds away from Des Moines or any town in Iowa. Sure whatever made the news seemed to reach the Midwest, but it never had much of an impact. It never really touched the lives of the people. At least not personally.

The Morrow Family Saga, Series 4, Book 1: Once Around the Ride, Chapter 13

Shasta got her mother and father onto the plane from Des Moines to LA in record time. getting them packed and into the car was like herding turtles…or maybe that was herding cats. She smiled. It was always a joy to do things with her parents. Too bad Nattie hadn’t seen that. Maybe she would have been in a different position now.

Still, Nattie had always been different. She had always marched to her own drum. There was no reason to her rhyme and no real rhythm to her life. Just a haphazard inconsistency that had marked every step of her life. Now was no different.

Chance Spencer had been good for Natalia, that had been apparent. Their lifestyle, however, had been less than desirable. But at least they had been able to supply a comfortable life for their children, at least at the beginning. But now, the year after Chance had died, Nattie was about to join him. the disease that had taken him was now eating away at her.

It was unfair. Nattie should be healthy and happy. But no. The minute she had found happiness, she lost it. Again. for the third and final time.

Shasta smiled sadly. The decade of free love had had its consequences. Seemed nothing had been truly free in the end.  But why did Nattie have to pay the price as well? Why couldn’t she get a get out of jail free card? After all, she still had a lot of life left in her to experience.

Her father’s voice brought her out of her thoughts.“Shaz. Shaz. There wasn’t anything you or I could have done to save her from this. You were never meant to be your sister’s keeper. Matt should have never had to do what he was forced t do either. Nattie was on a self-destructive path long before she left home. We tried to keep her on the straight and narrow, Lord knows we did, but she had a mind of her own.

“She put herself in the predicament that facilitated her rape. She fell for Toby’s lies. She wouldn’t listen to anyone who tried to tell her that the boy was just pure evil. She thought he was the way she was going to find her key to happiness and stardom. Unfortunately, he shattered all those dreams for her and stomped on her heart by taking her innocence.

“I tried to fix it all for her after it happened, but I just didn’t know how to approach it. I had already taken away the power of his old man through shedding light on his fraud. I even tried to take away the boy’s power, but I failed.”

She smiled and took her father’s hand gently. “Pops, you did your best. Just think of the thousands of other girls you prevented Tobias from hurting after the rape. He went away to war to get away from going to prison. He went to Vietnam thinking he could go, then return a forgotten menace. When you chased him out of Des Moines, you save more girls than you realize.” She squeezed his hand gently to let him know that she approved of all that he had done for her sister and everyone else.

***

Yuri Venacek arrived in LA with his cousin Marty. The two had been business partners in Dallas for several years and decided to travel together to say farewell to their cousin. It was sad that it had come to this, but Marty had filled Yuri in on Nattie and her…alternative lifestyle. He could’ve sworn that he’d seen Nicolai Morrow at LAX and if that was the case, this was the end. Nothing had ever dragged Nick back into the family circle unless it was deep and extremely serious.

Still, he hoped to catch up on things with Nick as well as whoever else they would run into. It was always good to see family, even if it was during times like this. Not that Uri didn’t feel sad for Natalia, but everyone has seen this coming. Marcus, Uri’s brother, was somewhere in transit. He had said he would be there. But where was he?

Yuri shook his head. Marty’s sister, Dani, was still not in either. Neither were many of the others. Shasta had gone back to Des Moines to help his uncle Michael and aunt Valeria pack and make it to the plane on time. There were Morrows from all over the globe coming. Some had never met Nattie, others remembered her when she was young. Still, family was family and the Morrows were one family that believed in being close knit.

When one was hurt, the rest would come to their aid. When one died, the rest would come to mourn. And the Venaceks had become a part of that family.  A grand family it was too.

Yuri and Marty made their way to the hotel to check in. Once checked in, they headed for the hospital. There, they knew they would find the rest of the family. There, they would also find answers.

***

Matt sat at the judges’ table with Tandy and Sal. Before them, an aspiring vocalist was prancing back and forth on the stage. She certainly had the showmanship part down, but she still needed way too much work for them to consider. Beauty and showmanship were only two of the prerequisites, not the whole list.

Matt interrupted her. “Sorry, but you aren’t what we are looking for. If you like, I can add you to the list for possible backup singers.” He shrugged questioningly.

She blushed, having not anticipated his response. Usually, an audition got a thank you, we’ll get in touch with you later, not an invite to be backup after an initial rejection. But she had just received an invite to be backup. It was better than nothing. “S-sure, Mr. Morrow. That would be a dream!”

He smiled. “Good. it seems a better fit for you than fronting. You seem way to nervous for the lead. Being backup will help you work on that.”

She smiled nervously and nodded, then left the stage.

“Next.” Sal’s baritone made the command boom through the arena.

Savanna appeared on stage.

Tandy looked her over. “Name?”

She smiled. “Savanna Morrison.”

Matt smiled back, reassuringly. “Alright, show us what you’ve got.”

She smiled. “Sure bet.”

The music began. Matt watched her as she waited for the exact length of the intro and began on cue without being told. Her eyes, closed in concentration, periodically seemed closed so tight that they might stick shut. Then, she would relax. She seemed lost in the music, totally engulfed and a part of it. She fit the sound and the sound fit her.

Matt interrupted her, cutting the audition short. “You’ve got the job.”

She looked at the other two judges. Tandy and Sal nodded in affirmation. Even though she felt like screaming and jumping wildly, she knew it could blow her chances of keeping the gig. She smiled and threw her fist in the air triumphantly. “Rock on!”

Matt smiled. “We start rehearsal tomorrow on new songs. Bring any songs or lyrics you might have with you for possible consideration.”

She looked at him. “What time?”

Tandy cleared his throat. “Be at the studio by nine. Matt will be there when he gets done at the hospital. The rest of us will be there to work on rhythm and backing vocals.”

Matt smiled and winked. “I will be bringing in your contract as well, so be ready to sign your soul away.”

She stifled a giggle. She knew he wasn’t serious about the whole signing the soul away thing. It had just been made in jest. “I will be there bright and early.”

***

Belinda entered Tahoe at dusk. She had to find a motel quickly. She hated to be out after dark. She supposed that was the reason she had never really felt comfortable in her relationship with Matt. All those late nights.

Of course, she hadn’t cared much for his family either—not that she’d had one of her own. She couldn’t remember her parents but that was probably because she had run away from home at fifteen so that she could be a groupie. And she had lived her dream. She had lived the glamorous life of a rock groupie.

But it really hadn’t been that glamorous. Maybe the sex had been great, but the lifestyle itself left one empty. Longing. But for what?

Perhaps it had been over-glamorized. She took in a deep breath. What she needed was to find a musician who didn’t have any family. Someone she could…nudge closer to the grave until they finally fell in and left her with their entire fortune. It was a nice dream.

But who would want a used toy? Surely not the world weary legends. Of course not. And up-and-comers weren’t rich enough for her blood.

She snapped out of her thoughts as she pulled into the parking lot of a Holiday Inn. She parked and went into the office.

“May I help you?” The clerk didn’t even look up.

“I need a room for the night.”

The clerk scooted the register out to where she could sign it. “Please sign in.” he walked over to the board where the keys hung and took one down, then walked back to the desk and handed the key to her. “That’ll be thirty dollars.”

She handed him $30 and took the key. She turned from the desk and looked at the key chain. Room 231. That was cool.

The Morrow Family Saga, Series 4, Book 1: Once Around the Ride, Chapter 12

Nicolai Morrow was late getting in to LAX. He was the eldest member of the Morrow family. He had been away on business when he received Shasta’s call. Like his brothers, he had strayed from the family business. After all, Shasta had done well as CEO of Morrow Industries and had not needed anyone else to impede her progressive ideas.

Now, Halbrook, her eldest, had taken the reins and was leading the company into the new decade. Unlike their father, Shasta had known when to retire. Lord how he envied her, but in a good way. She’d been able to be a part of the company as it went through its changes while he’d fought in wars he knew to be unnecessary.

To Shasta and Nattie, he was a stranger. Neither had even so much as heard of him. After all, he had been away for most of Shasta and Natalia’ lives. Nick had served in Korea and Vietnam and had seen things he just as soon forget.

He’d even killed for reasons he knew to be wrong. He’d tortured for little to no reason, simply because his superior commanded him to do it. He had to live with that shame. At least his superior had not lived long enough to continue his reign of terror.

He smiled. Kendrick, the mysterious shadow warrior as he liked to call him, had appeared in the night with orders for Nick. Kill your commander and his lieutenants had been his command. Thus, he had picked those who had opposed Lieutenant Tobias French and had swept the command tents, killing all they could. But one had escaped.

His group had made it look as if the VC had swept through camp while they went on patrol. It wasn’t hard, since they’d swept a VC ammo and weapons dump a few days before Kendrick’s appearance. They’d used the Russian and Chinese made guns and ammo to do the deed, being mindful to not remove their service gloves until after it was over.

The one who had escaped had been on patrol and had been wounded, but had also escaped into the forest. Strangely enough, he had been the sole survivor of his patrol, making the whole thing suspicious. More suspicious than what Nick and his crew had done.

The following investigation concluded that the VC had indeed overrun the camp and had wiped out the whole command. Since his group had been slated for southern patrol, they had been discounted as suspects. One man’s word could not sway top command from their exoneration of Nick’s patrol.

After Vietnam, Nick had returned to the states after a brief assignment to Germany. Germany had been a side trip. He had not intended to do any more time in the military.

Once back stateside, he found that he was not wanted in many areas of the country. Iowa had been out as well. Few there remembered him and most of his friends had died in either war. He had been popular as a youth, but popularity was overrated now. He was more a shattered soul than a man. War had seen to that.

Korea had been his baptism of fire, Vietnam his descent into hell. Korea had been predictable. The Viet Cong had not. Korea had been a win. Vietnam had been a fail. There had been too many deaths between the two disputes. Too many young men had been killed. And for what?

Officially, they had died for their country and the concept of freedom. The reality was much darker. With the Cold War still in full swing, the U.S and other western countries that weren’t under “communism” tried to block the USSR and those countries considered Communist from spreading their influence to smaller, weaker nations. The problem was that Communism wasn’t a form of government, it was an economic system. The political systems that communist style economies tended to draw were authoritarian dictatorships that controlled everything from where you could piss to where you could die. Hell. they controlled the rationing of food that was supposed to be communally shared. In essence, those countries that were supposedly communistic were not really communistic. Communism, of and by itself, offered no real government structure. Ideally, communism allowed the leadership roles to be shared among all within the commune. There wasn’t supposed to be a central government, just the commune which supplied food, shelter, and all needed for the common good.

Still, the political parties in the US saw communism as a type of government and led their party members into believing the same pseudo-political crap that was designed to make the US feel superior to the countries that shared the same common economic system as the USSR. Of course, this did not help Americans in the pursuit of knowledge or understanding, just as their ignorance of world religions also kept them from fully understanding the Middle East and other countries that did not share a background in Christianity.

But America was never big in trying to understand much of anything except their own wants and desires. Hell. they didn’t even really understand how their own government worked or how the two parties should work together for the common good of all. No, they only understood that one party was supposed to be “liberal” while the other was supposed to be “conservative”. They feared homosexuals. They feared a new disease known as HIV/AIDS. They feared the atheists. They feared…just about everything.

They were blind to what was really going on. Corporations were creating reasons to send men and boys, even women, to wars that were unneeded. Corporations were taking over Washington. The common man had become a footnote in governance because of the growing greed of a minority. The same minority that tried to convince the masses to remain bigots and servants of the almighty dollar.

The noble experiment had failed. If Jefferson or Washington were to come back, they would definitely start another Revolution just to restore the government they had originally founded. hell. if Christ were to return, he would damn mankind for all his social blindness and unfounded hate. He would condemn the world so harshly for its distaste for growing in knowledge and wisdom. But, then, Americans-and their fellow “Christians” around the world-would probably institutionalize or re-crucify him simply because he would be preaching the exact opposite than what they chose to believe.

He shook his head. Sad how things went downhill in such a short time. the worst of it was that he was now too old to serve in another war, but he would want to die in battle before he had to watch the country sink any further in the gutter that both political parties had put it in. sure, Carter was a good man, and truly Christian too, but the President wasn’t the ones fucking things up. No, that responsibility lay with Congress. Their constant fighting, bickering, and the polarization that tended to separate the two halves seemed to keep the country from running at 100%.

Still, there were worse things out there. One in particular, a man by the name of Donald Trump, though still somewhat sensible, epitomized exactly the kind of person the country could not afford to put into office as President. Hell. he wasn’t even a man that Nick would stick in a management position. Yet, Don’s father had passed the young wannabe the reins of the real estate company he had built. That had been in the late 1970’s. Nick had watched as it happened.

Trump Real Estate would be lucky to survive Don. Nick shivered as he imagined just how inept and incompetent Don’s children would turn out to be. God. A monkey could do better than that prissy little shit.

Nick only hoped that the man would never run for President. That would destroy the country, polarize the nation even more than it already was. America couldn’t possibly be able to handle the strain of such a presidency.

Nick snapped out of his thoughts as he entered the hospital. Going to the information desk, he stood and waited for the attendant to come over to where he stood.

“Can I help you, sir?” The attendant seemed unnerved by his rough appearance.

“Natalia Morrow’s room.” He smiled, trying to break the tension.

“Morrow, Morrow, Morrow…no Morrows here, but there’s a Natalia Spencer in the ICU. She’s the mother of the rock star Matt Morrow, at least that is what she has said…”

Nick held his left hand up to silence the attendant. “That would be her. What room?”

“2218. That is second floor, room 218. The infectious disease wing of the ICU. Be sure to grab a mask to wear in if you want to go in and visit her.”

Nick didn’t like the attendant’s tone with that last comment. As if he was going to catch HIV through breathing the same air as his sister. God. What an idiot. He probably knew more about the virus than the doctor treating his sister and this idiot warned him to grab a fucking mask? Really?

He waved the attendant off and headed for the elevators. He would do this his way. He was the only one who could verify for his sister that the little asshole who’d raped her was dead. After all, he had been the one who killed the worthless little punk. As far as he was concerned, he had done his country a service that night. He had taken out Tobias French.

The Morrow Family Saga, Series 4, Book 1: Once Around the Ride, Chapter 11

Shasta had flown back to Des Moines to help her mother and father make the journey to L.A. She knew that this would likely be the last time either of her parents would make such a trip. They were getting too old to travel like they had when she and Nattie were young. Hell. they were too old.

Still, they deserved to see Nattie one last time. Perhaps she would give pops the forgiveness he so deserved and mean it. After all, pops needed to be able to forgive himself. The guilt had existed for too long. It needed to be laid to rest.

She snapped out of her thoughts as the taxi pulled into her parents’ drive. Mama stepped out to greet her. she hoped that pops was well. He wasn’t with her. She handed the driver the desired fare and got out of the taxi.

“Mama? Where’s Pops?” Her concern could be heard as she drew closer to her mother.

Valeria smiled. “He’s inside, dear. He-he is OK, just lost in thought lately. Mostly about how he might’ve handled your sister better when she was younger. What he might’ve done differently.”

Shasta smiled sadly. “I know how he feels. I doubt things would’ve been any different had he handled things any way but how he did. She was mentally shattered after Tobias did what he did. After that, it was a fight just to save her children from a life in hell.”

“And how are the children?” Valeria seemed unshakeable.

“With Matt as legal guardian now, they are well. Emotionally drained, but otherwise fine.” Shasta smiled sadly. “I fear for Matt, though. He has been the one who has had to be strong since the ’70.”

Valeria smiled knowingly. “Of course. After all, he is the oldest. Poor boy.”

Shasta put her arm around her aging mother. “Let’s go inside. We don’t have much time.”

“Alright, dear.” Valeria turned and went inside with her daughter. “Have you contacted Dmitri? What about Sasha?”

Shasta nodded. “Yes, mama. Both have been contacted. So have all who know Nattie.”

The two women grew quiet as they walked down the hall toward Michael and Valeria’s room. Michael emerged from the bedroom and Shasta rushed to hug him. “Pops.so good to see you.”

He put his arms around her. “Shasta, Dear. Wonderful to see you too.”

She hugged him tight. “Glad to see you too, Pops.”

He smiled sheepishly. “Come. We have much to do.”

They entered the bedroom, the three of them. Shasta would help them prepare for their journey. She had to. She was the only one of their children still close enough to help when it was needed. Dmitri, or Dee as he was better known by, lived in the Bahamas and had his own five-star restaurant. Dmitri’s was world renowned for world-class dishes that were well worth the price he asked. Dom, Dmitri’s boyfriend and business partner, had been welcomed into the family by Pops and mama almost immediately.

Sasha, the youngest of the siblings, lived wherever his research took him. At the moment, he was in the Patagonia. Tomorrow, he could be almost anywhere. Sometimes, Shasta believed that he had become the family’s Indiana Jones. In some ways, she felt that the boy had taken the Steven Spielberg movies too literal in his choice of what he wanted to do. Still, she was proud of him. he had done well so far.

***

Dee stood at the door of Natalia’s room. She was sleeping right now and he didn’t want to interrupt her. He hadn’t seen her in years, possibly since he was about five. Now, he wished he could have had more time with her. He dearly wanted to get to know his sister.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Dom stop next to him. Dom’s arm went around his shoulder. Dee brought his hand up to rest upon the hand of his lover.

Dom smiled sadly. “I am so sorry, Love.”

Dee bowed his head. “I really don’t know her well. We were never that close. I was like five when she left home.”

Dom rubbed Dee’s shoulder. “Still, it ain’t easy knowing someone is that ill. I know it wasn’t easy for me when I lost my brother. It doesn’t matter how close you are or how well you know them, you still lose a small piece of your heart. What matters is how many people you have to help you heal.”

Dee nodded. “True.” He looked over at his lover. “Did you have family to help you?”

Dom smiled crookedly and nodded. “Yes. I had Cruella De Ville, Dumbo, and Attila the Hun. Mother never approved of my lifestyle, my father was a preacher who thought I was going to hell, and my little brother was just a confused little kid who tried-and failed-desperately to please mom and dad. But the grief of losing Gianni brought us together. Yep, the Candozas of Tampa were the most righteous Cubanos in Florida.” The bitter sarcasm in Dom’s voice was hard to miss. “Afterward, I was kicked to the curb and disowned. Maybe it was all for the best. Tomas rebelled after I left and was shot to death in a gang war. Guess being a minister’s son was too much for him. what hurt was that they never called me to ask me to come home and be at his funeral. Guess they were too ashamed.”

Dee turned Dom so that he could look him in the eye. “Their loss and my gain.’ He lifted Dom’s chin so that he was looking his lover directly in the eye. “No need to be ashamed for something that makes you who you are. You are a wonderful man. Don’t ever forget that.”

Dom smiled. “How can I? You continually remind me. for that, I am thankful…and I love you.”

“I love you too, Dominico.”

“How’s she doing?” A familiar voice asked, causing Dom and Dee to turn and find Sasha approaching.

Dee smiled sadly. “She is sleeping, which is why I have not gone in to visit.”

“Perhaps you can go to the commissary and whip us up one of those world class meals you’re known for.” Sasha was smiling. “Just a suggestion.”

***

Shasta loaded her mother and father’s luggage into the back of their station wagon. The drive would be a short one, but the journey would be long. She only hoped that they could handle what waited at the other end. Sure, they knew that Nattie was in bad shape. But how would they handle it when they realized that she was dying?

The Morrow Family Saga, Series 4, Book 1: Once Around the Ride, Chapter 10

Belinda had taken her things. She had packed up and loaded her Corvette. She had left it all behind, never looking back. She had gone back to her world of one-night-stands and group sex.

Matt was glad to see her go. No one tried to control him. No one. And no one told him who he could or could not bring into his home.

Matt wanted to cry. Not because of Belinda’s leaving, but because he knew that his mother was dying. But he couldn’t cry. He had to remain strong.

He had his brothers and sisters  to think of. To be strong for. Only the oldest would know what was going on.  They were the most important part of his life, not some two-bit tramp who thought she had the right to demand his complete attention.

He couldn’t help smiling through the pain. It had been ironic, the whole incident about her demanding that it would be her or his family. There had really been no question. It had always been family. That meant that he would always step in and take care of the youngest in a time of need. He always had.

What had made her believe that she would ever get his way? She had been warned about him and how he saw life. Sal had told her. Tandy had told her. Hell. the whole band had told her.

Still, she had insisted that she could change him. But she hadn’t. instead, he had given her far less than she had been after. No house, no apartment, no millions…just a meager $10,000 trust account meant to build interest and a sports car. Not enough to even sneeze at.

Hell. She had probably already been to the bank to withdraw her trust to find that she had to allow it to mature over a couple of years. But he had warned her. He had told her that she would not be able to and she had not believed him.

Of course, the bank had contacted him to let him know that she’d tried and failed. It was funny, really. Some people never listened and she happened to be one of those. For her, the party never ended. As long as she could find sex, drugs, and a rock-n-roll star, she was happy. Maybe a bit too happy.

If it wasn’t for the pain in his heart, he would laugh. But the pain was more than he could bear at the moment. But pain let him know that he was still alive. Still, there were some days he wished that life would just leave him alone. And today was one of those days.

***

Belinda had closed her account at the bank. No need to remain in L.A. still, Matt’s lock on the trust he set up for her angered her. it was supposed to be her money. that had been the agreement. Yet what had he said to her when he told her that he had set it up?

“The account has a time lock. It has to remain in the bank for at least two years before you can begin to use it. That ensures that you will accrue interest enough to live for a good five years. Try to withdraw it right away and you will be refused.”

Damn him! Damn him to hell! He had tricked her, even though he had warned her. She frowned.

She had been such a fool. He would never change. Never. He was too set in his ways. His family was too important to him.

Maybe she should have taken things into her own hands and removed the threats. Maybe she should have just killed them all. There were too many maybes. She blinked back the tears.

No matter, it was better this way. She just needed to put distance between the two of them. Maybe the miles would deaden the pain. Maybe she just needed to find the next party. Or the next target.

Yes. That was it. She just needed to find another millionaire who was too stupid to realize what she was doing. She needed to be on the take. After all, that was what she was good at. Being a con.

***

Thirty-four years had led to this. Michael Morrow, now 90, knew that he had hurt his daughter in ’59 but had been unable to ask her forgiveness.  Even when he had reunited with her briefly in the 60’s, there was no asking for forgiveness, just a reunion as a family. And then, she was gone in the 70’s.

Now, before he could ask, his precious Nattie was dying. No parent should have to outlive their child. The child was supposed to outlive them. He fought back the tears.

Valeria hadn’t aged past the age of sixty. She was still so beautiful. He forced a smile even though he didn’t feel like it. She had been his greatest support over the past seventy years. Lord, how he loved her.

He had remained faithful throughout those years. Never once had he strayed. And they had been happy…happier than most. Even through the hardest years.

Yes, they had been the best years of his—no, their lives. They had been inseparable and fully immersed in love. Their children had been their lives and still were. As were their grandchildren.

He closed his eyes. Now, he was going to L.A. to say goodbye to his daughter. Yes, he had two of them, but Nattie had always held a special place in his heart even after she had run away.  And he had blamed himself for that. He had not taken the time to listen to her after Tobias had raped her.

He had tried to prevent that incident, of course, through his objections to her dating the detestable excuse for a man, but his objections had fallen on deaf ears. After that, it was too late to turn back. And he had handled the result poorly.

At the time, he hadn’t known how to handle it. He had been both angry at Tobias and hurting along with Nattie. He had lashed out blindly and spoken out without thinking. She had taken his words as an attack and fled. That had been in 1959.

The Morrow Family Saga, Series 4, Book 1: Once Around The Ride, Chapter 8

Natalia faded in and out of consciousness. Her body was weakened by the illness. Each day, she knew she was losing ground. She knew she was dying and she accepted that.

She opened her eyes, a tear forming at the thought of what she had done to her family. She had failed to be a mother to her children. she had failed to be a daughter to her parents. Or a sibling to her sister and brothers.

She had been irresponsible. Cruel. Thoughtless. Selfish.

Now it was too late. She was dying and could only ask their forgiveness. Not that she deserved it, but she wanted closure. She needed closure.

The sound of the door of her room opening brought her out of her thoughts. Looking in the direction of the sound, she spotted Shasta.

She smiled sadly up at her sister. “What day is it? Am I dreaming?”

Shasta shook her head sadly. “No, Nattie. You’re not dreaming. I have come to see you.” She sat down next to the bed and took Natalia’s right hand. “And it is Tuesday. 4 PM to be exact.”

Natalia felt a tear come to her eye. A lump began to form in her throat. “I am so ashamed of myself, Shazz. I have let everyone down.” She suddenly broke down into sobs.

Shasta patted her hand. “No, sis. You have not let everyone down. We let you down a long time ago. Mama and papa both let you down by not taking your story serious. But it is too late to change all that. All we can do is be here for you right now. “ Shasta swallowed the lump rising in her throat. “You have done well. You have been brave, even in your most vulnerable moment.”

Natalia smiled weakly. “You’re just saying that.” She saw the tears in Shasta’s eyes. “Please don’t cry, sissy.”

Shasta bent down and embraced Natalia. The tears were now flowing freely. Nattie was so young. She had always been so full of life, even after being raped. This seemed so unlike her. so unreal.

Why did she have to be the one who died first? Sure, Natalia had done some things wrong, but she did not deserve to die for them. Why now? Why right when she was starting to turn her life around and make good? Anyone could have made the same mistakes. Why was she not getting another chance?

After a long embrace, Shasta pulled away gently and looked Natalia in the eye. “I love you, Nattie. Hang in there for me. I want to be able to spend more time with you. I know Matty wants the same.” She kissed her sister on the forehead. “I’ll be back in a little while. I have to run a few errands to attend to.” She smiled reassuringly. “Business as usual, you know.”

Natalia found herself laughing weakly. “Yes, I know. Even when emergencies pop up, life never seems to stop.” She smiled up at Shasta. “Go. I can use the time you are away for a short nap. That is if Matty doesn’t come in right after you leave.”

***

Matt sat pouring his sorrow and pain into his guitar work. The music that was taking form was dark and brooding, but the best he had made so far. Tom couldn’t help but think that this new sound fit right in with the current movement in the industry. It was heavy. Harder than anything Matt had ever done.

He knew better than to interrupt. Matt’s eyes were closed in deep concentration. When he had his eyes closed, he was deep in the music and the rest of the world no longer existed. Even if he wanted to, he wouldn’t be able to get Matt’s attention until the music ended.

The band sat behind Tom listening in on the session, their mouths agape. They couldn’t believe what they were hearing. Where was this coming from and why had Matt kept it a secret? It was a breath of fresh air.

Sal Giovanni smiled. Whatever the secret, Matt had opened up at just the right time. he had known that Matt would bring in new ideas when he was ready. Seemed he was ready now.

He knew the boy was going through hell, but sometimes, that was when the best ideas hit. As long as his energy was poured into finding new sounds and creating new paths in the industry and not in taking drugs or alcohol, he would have a long, successful career. He closed his eyes and lost himself I the sweltering music pouring forth from Matt’s guitar. Burn on, man, burn on, he thought to himself as he continued to listen.

With the rise of bands like Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, and Scorpions, Matt’s traditional classic rock was starting to fade in popularity. With this new thunderous offing, he would once again rebound. After all, the sixties and seventies were past and there was a movement of darker, harder, more metallic music based in the blues. There was even an emerging thrash metal scene. But there was no telling where Matt would go with his music.

Sal let the riffs take him away. He could feel the basslines wanting to be added. Matt’s music caused a natural reaction within his band, a reaction that allowed the rhythm to fill in naturally. And it was usually done in a single take. Easy.

This would be no different. One shot only. So easy, so smooth. He looked at his bandmates. All seemed to be feeling it as well. But who would he choose for vocals? Their last vocalist had thrown a tantrum and left the band.

Matt had naturally shrugged it off. Who needed a diva, male or female, when they could go and find a hungry wannabe to fill in for an album or two? Perhaps Matt would be able to secure a female vocalist this time? Or maybe a duo.

He looked over at Tandy. “You ready for this?”

Tandy grinned. “Oh hell yeah! This is amazing!”

Sal smiled. “I know. Been waiting for this for the last year. At least since Sabbath emerged. Now, Matt pulls out all stops and gives us thunder.”

Tandy chuckled. “I know, right?”

***

Savanna Morrison was hungry for stardom. She had cut her musical teeth on disco and R&B, but wanted something else. She had a jazz and classical training, but even those styles didn’t fit. She had fronted a couple of blues rock bands and found the style a bit closer to her liking. The only problem was that she had joined them near the end of their runs. She had pushed them closer to success only to watch them fall apart as the labels sought them out for signings.

Now without a band, she found herself drawn to Matt’s studio. She had heard that Matt’s band  Morrow was looking for a fresh new vocalist. Toro Malvaise had quit over something stupid and now they were without a vocalist. Perhaps she could win the position.

There were ten other vocalists waiting in line when she arrived. Three were more experienced than she was, two were more groupie than musician. She couldn’t help but smile. Most were only there to push their way to stardom through getting the gig. But not her. if it helped her, so be it. If it was her last gig, that was fine as well.

The point was that Matt rarely did his own vocals. He was the mastermind behind  the sound. His guitar work was legendary and drove the band. The sad thing was that she seemed to be one of the few waiting who realized that. Perhaps she could work that to her favor.