Excerpt for Super Prepared by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Super Prepared

Part II of The Darfur 3 Saga

By Stephen Alexander

Super Prepared by Stephen Alexander

Published by Stephen Alexander Writing at Smashwords

© 2017 Stephen Alexander

Discover other Darfur 3 titles by Stephen Alexander:

Super Humanity

The Cobalt Princess

The Wind and The Rain

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except as permitted by U.S. copyright law. For permissions contact:

Cover by Ira Black.

ISBN: 978-0-9974561-2-7

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


Once again, I am called upon to thank you for reading yet another of my novels. I thoroughly enjoy it every time someone opens one of my grand works. Of course, I don’t enjoy it so much when my works are chucked across the room at the sound barrier. Hopefully, I have improved to at least be considered halfway decent at writing. If not, then this is my apology in advance.

I hope you enjoy reading the thrilling tales of the Darfur 3 as much as I have enjoyed writing them.

Author’s symbol guide

italics: thoughts. Underline: radio transmissions, text messages, electronic communications. {}: Telepathic communication between people. Bold: sound effects. <>: foreign language- perspective of character. *#: Alien/nonhuman language.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12a

Chapter 12b

Chapter 12c

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

About the Author


The battle arena at EADI-Helena

September 1, 2012

The arena was as dark as night, without a single solitary light on. Nothing stirred. Click! A powerful spotlight switched on, illuminating the center of the arena. In the center of the arena stood Master Clyde. He put on his sunglasses and looked there. Not a single student was around. Clyde turned slowly to his right. Two students flew towards him, landed, and threw balls at him. Clyde realized they were grenades and raised a solid light shield. Boom! Boom! The sound hurt their eardrums and their eyes, but Clyde was unaffected.

Scrip scrip! The solid light shield shifted into the solid spears, then cut through the hearts of the two students. They dropped, dead before they hit the floor.

Master Clyde heard something from above, sounding like it came from the ceiling. He stepped back. Another student attacked, this time swinging a glowing yellow sword that barely missed Clyde’s head. Neerow. Clyde summoned a sword from his pocket universe storage. The student landed as Clyde summoned the sword, recovered and leapt at Clyde. cling! Clyde parried the blade with an upward swing, exposing the student’s left side. fump! Clyde kicked the student in the side, sending him tumbling away. The student rolled along the floor and then to ready position on his knees. Whsss thuck! Clyde’s expertly thrown sword spun through the air and cut through the student’s throat. He fell backwards, dead before he even hit the floor.

Shrssss! A beam of cold dark matter hit Clyde in the back. Ice began to form around it. Clyde raised his left forearm to eye level. The sleeve around his wrist morphed into a square shield. Clyde quickly spun around, and the shield took the second cold beam. Clyde saw the attacker, another of his new students standing twenty feet from him. Clyde focused dark energy into another organ of his hand, one that makes energy shockwaves. Swabaachh! He hit the cold beam with his hand, sending a shockwave up it. “AKPLI!” screamed the student as his power organs exploded. He dropped to the floor, dead before he hit the ground.

“What? NO!” shouted a student as she stopped running towards Clyde’s back. Clyde spun around, his metal shield shifting back into a sleeve as he turned. He drew a pistol, a Mossberg CAC.45, and aimed it with lethal intent. purot! Two energy bolt shots to the chest, and the student was dead before she hit the floor. She was a victim of hesitation.

Clyde rapidly looked around the room. He didn’t see any other students. There should be one more… he thought. He felt his ‘coat’, made up of two Celestial Blades, shift around his back. Shulkk! A metal spike quickly shot from his back. “Hullk!” a student groaned as she decloaked. The spike had impaled her through the chest. cllink! She dropped her war hammer, and the spike withdrew as well. She fell to the floor, dead from a spear through the heart.


The female student blinked hard as she awoke. She looked up and saw the bright light of the arena, shining down at a spot away from her. She shook her head.

Master Clyde walked over to her, looked down, and said, “Welcome back. Let’s go over what you did wrong.” He pointed his finger at her, then she began to feel weightless. She was weightless, since Master Clyde was levitating her. Clyde walked towards the seats, with the student floating behind him. The other students were rubbing their heads, a minor headache the main side effect of Clyde’s resurrection power. Clyde set her down on one of the rows and addressed the students.

“You’re doing better, but still, not good enough.” He pointed at the two students who attacked him first. “Louise, Lana- that was a good idea, but you didn’t have an effective follow up, nor did you change positions. You should’ve assumed I would’ve blocked it.” The students were silent as he pointed to the next student.

“Enrique, you had the right idea to attack from the ceiling, but you made some noise.”

“Probably when I jumped off the light,” said the man who wielded the glowing sword.

“But you didn’t have a great follow-up. And you didn’t switch to defense fast enough.”

“Yes, sir…”

Master Clyde pointed to the next student, Ice King. “You had the right idea to attack from behind, but the moment I shifted, you should have changed your attack, Ice King.”

“What was I supposed to do? Freeze your feet?” complained Ice King.

“That would have distracted me long enough for you to come up with another attack.”

“How am I supposed to know that?”

“Ever freeze someone to the floor? Even fire supers would need time getting the ice melted.”

Master Clyde pointed to the next student, Wendy. “You did the worst of all. Your attack might have stopped me, but you never got it off since you overreacted to his death.”

“This is so lame,” complained Wendy.

“Lame or not, this is war. Hesitation got you killed, and your remaining teammates were left alone to fight a level 0 threat.”

“Whatever,” said Wendy with a sigh.

Master Clyde pointed to the last student, Priscilla. “You had the right idea to be cloaked, but you should have anticipated I would detect your presence.”

“Excuse me, but how are we supposed to know every single power and ability you’ve got?” She pointed at the arena. “How are we supposed to fight an enemy that can do everything?”

“Yeah,” pipped up Ice King, “it’s not fair at all.”

Master Clyde paced around in front of them as he spoke. “War is never fair. Ask my Darfurian students about that. There are two ways to deal with an unknown enemy. Plan A is to observe your target and look for weaknesses. Even powerful beings like me have weaknesses.

“What’s Plan B?” asked Lana.

Master Clyde stopped pacing and looked up. He smiled. “Prepare for everything. That’s what I’m really training you to do.” He pointed at the students, then the floor at the middle of the arena. Ba-wip! He teleported them to the center of the arena. The bright light confused their eyes briefly. Clyde removed a tablet PC from his coat. He pressed a few buttons, then snapped his fingers.

“Try again. This time, you get to fight...Chucky’s ‘pets’.” A white portal, a tear in the space time continuum, formed at the right-side edge of the arena. Four terrifying alien creatures came out. They marched out on their seven little legs. They were seven feet tall, armed with pincer claws, and covered in dense, thick scales. Lana and Ice King screamed. Chucky’s pets screamed back, making a sound like a dentist drill.

“What ARE these things?!!” yelled Wendy as she got ready to fight for her life.

“Chucky calls them ‘The Bitter’. I don’t get it. I hope he didn’t eat one. Anyway, remember what I told you,” said Clyde as the Bitter marched towards the team of super heroes. Clyde teleported to the seats and looked on as his students fought for their lives against horrifying alien pets.

Chapter 1: Meeting of the EADI board

UN secretariat building, conference room #5

Aug 25, 2012

Master Clyde Irons took his seat in front of the crescent shaped table. In the room, sitting in front of him, were the Secretary General, the heads of the institutes, minus Karyn Allwyn, and the director of P.A.T.H.R.

“You may begin your report, Mr. Irons,” the Secretary General calmly stated.

Clyde took a deep breath. “My teams and I have purged the infection from the EADI facilities. It will be some time before we get to the populace, as well as find a way to block the alien hybrid.”

“Have you learned anything new about the enemy?” asked the P.A.T.H.R. director.

“Nothing definitive, other that they are receiving help from humans.”

“Yes, we read about your...special ops attack in Russia,” said the EADI director for Britain. “We have yet to hear their point of view regarding the matter.”

“Let me get some clarity regarding the matter, er...Master Clyde,” the EADI director for Bieszczady said. “You want us to believe that the Russians were coordinating with alien hybrids to make supers go crazy? That sounds almost like casus belli for war.”

“Well, it seems that the war has already begun,” said Clyde. “I’m not as concerned about the war’s start point as I am about how it ends.” He looked at the EADI-Bieszczady director. “Sir, if you’re curious, you may want to ask your sponsors in the Kremlin about the start date.”

“I must object to this accusation! There is no solid proof the Kremlin is directly responsible for the PMS syndrome in supers!”

“The hybrid was captured in a Russian military base, which means either they knew about it, or they have units of their military working independently from command,” explained the P.A.T.H.R director. “Either way, it doesn’t look good for leadership. Pick your poison.”

“Speaking of your activities, Mr. Irons,” began the Secretary General as he looked at his papers. “I have received requests from many countries regarding Darfur & South Sudan ops in their borders. They are especially concerned about supers acting as a stealth military force, wearing red masks and breaking their laws. What do you have to say about these accusations?”

Clyde scratched his chin and thought about the matter. He looked at the Secretary General. “Sir, I can’t speak about things the government there requested of its soldiers, as I am not part of their command structure.”

“That sounds like a cop-out,” said the director for EADI-Neuland. “You know exactly what your...students have been up to.”

“OK, I see some of you are upset about my students’ quote unquote ‘field-trips’.”

“Field trips is quite the euphemism for assassinations, bombings, espionage, and even battles with national militaries,” replied the South American director.

“I hear you even fought other alien species,” said the director for EADI-Africa. “Collect anything interesting? Since we can’t find any spaceships?”

“Yes, how many light years to the gallon does that spaceship you built get?” asked the director for EADI-Britain.

“OK I get it. No more black ops unrelated to the current problem,” said Clyde as he raised his hands. “I apologize for any harm that may have been caused.”

“An apology? You think that covers the war crimes of your charges?” loudly asked the Bieszczady director.

“Look, I know I’m probably not the ideal person you want leading this war. But I’m here now, and I’m asking you for your trust. Without it, we’ll be fighting each other. And that’s what the enemy really wants. You can punish me for my crimes after we win, if we’re still alive to hold trials.”

“You don’t sound confident,” said the Secretary General.

“I’ve fought many threats before. Alien, extradimensional, even gods. This…” his voice trailed off. “This is different. I don’t know what to expect.”

“So, what do you plan to do?” asked the director for Africa.

“Prepare for any plausible threat,” said Clyde. He stood up and passed out folders. The directors, perhaps the most important people on the planet, opened the folders. There was only one page inside, but it was full of text and charts. “This is what it will take to win.”

Chapter 2: Prepare for war

Aug 25, 2012, 2:00PM local time

EADI-Helena, Medical

“One quick check of your vitals, ma’am, and we’ll clear you for release,” explained the nurse as she picked up the stethoscope. Karyn ignored her and put her red blazer back on. She slid off the hospital bed, landing perfectly onto her sandals.

“Save the checks for someone else,” ordered Karyn as she marched out of the hospital.

Director’s office.

Clyde looked down at the paper on the desk. It was blank, except for the title “Threat Risk Assessment” at the top of the page. He scratched his head nervously. Know thy enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster. Sun Tzu or someone. Kinda hard to do that when you don’t know the enemy. He thought about the situation more, then started writing down the ways he felt an overwhelming enemy would attack. But something troubled him; any group with the power to create hybrid aliens would surely have the power to invade and conquer the planet and would have done so already. He looked at what he wrote and scratched out two possibilities.

The door swung open as Karyn walked in with a plume of rage behind her. She saw Clyde Irons sitting at her desk.

“You’re in my chair,” she calmly said, the calm barely masking the anger in her voice.

“It’s my chair now,” he replied without looking up.

“That’s a memo I haven’t received yet,” she said as she walked closer. “Considering you put me in the hospital for almost two days,”

“You didn’t give me a lot of choice at the time.” Clyde drew a box on the paper and wrote something inside. “Nonetheless, if you’re curious, our mission was successful.”

Karyn crossed her arms “How many of our students did you kill, Clyde?”

“Fortunately, zero. I’m not a monster, Commander.”

“The experiences of your students tell me otherwise, Nightlight.”

Clyde looked up at her and said, “I still don’t know why the sponsors gave me that codename. My root power doesn’t give off a lot of light. Anyway, my students handled themselves well on the battlefield.”

“Massacres and crackdowns are what you consider to be ‘handled well’?”

“Not every super gets to fight quote-unquote ‘cleanly’. Some fights are only won…’dirty’.” He looked down at his paper and said, “This is something you also know well, Commander. I know what happened in Fallujah.”

Karyn’s forehead crinkled at the mention of the city. “Clyde, you brought kids into this life. I was a soldier, but you weren’t anymore. You made the choice.”

“The war chose them, ma’am. You used to say, ‘mess with the bull, get the horns.’ Unfortunately for their enemies, my students were the bull.”

“That doesn’t justify what happened at Khartoum or-” Karyn was interrupted by the sound of teleportation behind her. She spun around.

“Karyn, wait! Let us explain!” shouted Mr. Wrath as he raised his hand. Jamir was with him, to his right.

“Master, I see you’re getting on well with your former teacher,” said Jamir.

“She likes her chair, Jamir,” joked Clyde.

“Since I missed the opening ceremony,” said Karyn as she turned around, “would you mind filling me in?”

“Long story short,” Jamir started to explain, “An alien hybrid is being used by the Russians to trigger PMS in supers. We don’t know their motives, but we know who their contact in the Russian government is.”

“Yes, Karyn, it’s absurd,” said Mr. Wrath with a sigh. “But I’ve seen the alien they captured. Gribb has gone home to get his people to aid us.”

“But how? In one of your stolen ships?” asked Karyn.

“I opened a portal to a world of his that was close enough,” Clyde explained.

“What? That sounds...god-like! I don’t believe it.”

“I had help.”

“Director Allwyn, Soad, Otunda, and I are not his only students,” explained Jamir as he sat down.

“You’ve been collecting supers, haven’t you?”

“I wanted to keep them out of reach of the dictator. I expanded my base and made it a school. Someday, I’ll take you there.”

“If we survive this war we’ve been sucked into,” said Mr. Wrath as he took a seat in front of Clyde.

“We must plan for our war,” said Jamir as he walked past Karyn and sat down. “So, master, what’s our plan this time?”

Clyde looked up from his paper and ignored the angry look in Karyn’s face. “I got buy-in from the EADI and P.A.T.H.R. directors. Since we don’t know what the enemy’s war goals are, we’ll need to prepare for everything.” He took a paper from the right side of the desk and held it up. On the paper was a diagram. “We’re going with the mixed squads plan we developed in Darfur.”

“Mixed squads?” asked Karyn.

“We’ll respond to threats by sending in a team of soldiers with a root user in command. That root user can protect the soldiers while they fight the threat or threats. Or the soldiers can protect the super while he or she is fighting the main threat. For more difficult ops, we can send in one root user with a team of regular supers. Working together, they can manage civilians and stop threats at the same time.”

Karyn put her hands on her hips and said “You want to turn my students into soldiers with your level of power? Many of them barely remember to brush their teeth at night.”

“Well, I can’t be everywhere, ma’am,” said Clyde.

“Not yet, master,” teased Jamir.

“Good one.”

Mr. Wrath crossed his arms. “Statements like that send chills down my spines.”

“What about the others with the alien hybrid PMS thing?” asked Karyn.

“My plan is to have my students respond to PMS events rapidly to scan them for the infection,” said Clyde. He put the paper down. “We know what the infection looks like, but we don’t how it infects people yet. Hopefully we can build a profile over time, but it might be a random thing.”

“I almost got infected in Los Angeles. Our telepaths will have to be careful,” noted Jamir. He looked down, almost with a sad look on his face. “It’s not just annoying sponsors they will face.”

“The world will need its heroes still,” explained Karyn. “You can’t just leave them defenseless and hope you get there in time.”

“No, I suppose not. Hence, with a few voluntary exceptions, most of the BattleMasters will come from the student body here.”

“Why can’t you use your students in Darfur?” asked Karyn.

“I was wondering that too,” said Mr. Wrath.

“Yes, master. Our students are far more bloodthirsty than these Western sucklings.”

“Jamir!” complained Karyn. “Just because we don’t murder civilians doesn’t mean we’re soft!”

“I have other plans for them,” said Clyde. He stood up. “Speaking of which, I’ll be leaving for Juba soon. Director, I will return here in a day to begin training students. Have the battle arena ready for me when I get here.”

“Excuse me, but when did you become my boss?” asked Karyn.

Clyde looked down at his watch. “At...12:00 local time. I’m in charge of the war, which makes me in charge of...everything, I think.”

Jamir laughed, “The student becomes the master of the master. What do we call you now, master? OverMaster?”

“I’m so proud of my students. They’ve mastered snark in English,” Clyde said dryly. ba-wip! Clyde teleported away.

Karyn looked at Mr. Wrath. “Can we go back to the days when you were the strongest person on the planet?”

“I used to think you were the strongest person on the planet,” replied Mr. Wrath as he stood up.

Karyn looked at Jamir as he was standing up. “You sounded almost upset.”

“I guess you know by now that we were using our presence here as cover for our black ops activities. But that was always a secondary objective,” said Jamir as Mr. Wrath headed to the bookshelf. Jamir looked down, then at the desk. “I just feel like… I don’t know.”

“It’s OK to feel confused,” said Karyn.

Jamir looked at her and said, “I was starting to enjoy being an American superhero. Now I have to be a soldier again.”

“To be fair, Major,” said Mr. Wrath gruffly. “You never stopped being one.”

After Jamir teleported himself and Mr. Wrath away, Karyn walked over to her desk. Clyde had left the planning document behind. He’s always leaving his messes behind. Unless, he wanted me to read this. She poured over the document and began to realize the nature of the threat they faced. My God. I don’t think we can win this...and if we do, how can we face our children?

Chapter 3: Higher Priorities

Secret base in southern Siberia

August 28, 2012

Ratinov calmly watched as the fax machine in his office groaned to life. The clicking sounds distracted him from his somewhat monotonous work, the fake work to distract from his real work. He saw a series of dots on the paper and realized that this was related to his real work. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a magnifying lens. This lens was different than other lenses in that it could reveal secret ink that was in his fax machine. He reached into the desk and pulled out the decryption sheet. When the fax finished, he poured over the fax with the lens.

He smiled when he saw the words “Approved” on the fax. The higher-ups in the Kremlin saw things as he saw them, this time at least. He turned around and reached into his office bag. He pulled out an extraordinary book. This book had no title, but its cover was etched with ornate marks and designs. He put the book on the desk and turned to a page he wrote on last week. He memorized the design of the tank and turned the page. He struggled with drawing but was able to complete a decent sketch of the spider tank. Next to the tank, he drew a quick sketch of a clock, to represent time. His task completed, he closed the book and smiled. Soon…

The fields outside EADI-Helena,


“Are you ready?” asked Rocky as he took cover behind a traffic barrier made of carbon nanotubes.

“I think so,” said Elaina. Her long blond hair fluttered in the wind. She stood behind a barrier at the other end of the square space marked off by nanotube traffic barriers. She put her hands together. The air in front of her began to simmer as dark matter clumped together unnaturally. A moment later, the clumps formed into a giant, metallic robot-looking doll. It stood 20 feet tall and had a head that reminded Rocky of a teddy bear.

“What’s with the head?” asked Rocky?

“I like cute things,” replied Elaina. She closed her eyes, giving her the ability to see what the dark matter doll could see.

“Can I go now, Commander?” asked Xin. At the other end of the large square was the spider tank God Spider. Xin was inside, ready for a fight.

“Whenever you’re ready.”

The spider tank moved its front hands up in a fighting position, matching Xin’s movements. Inside the tank, Xin wore the arm control gloves, which left maneuvering to God Spider, the tank’s alien-human hybrid AI. “Let’s stomp his ass! Get me in close!” ordered Xin.

“Such bad language! I’ll wash your mouth out with soap, little man!” shouted God Spider over the intercom. The tank’s legs began moving forward.

“Uh, sorry, ma’am!” Xin said, reminded of how strict the AI can be.

“You’re going down, pop star!” shouted Elaina, since Xin looks like a famous singer.

“Just for that, I’m not giving you a ride home,” Xin struck back. The lumbering spider bot picked up its pace. The doll stepped forward almost silently. Whss! The doll jumped high enough to leave Xin’s field of vision. “What the?!” chimed Xin.

“Incoming. Dodging now,” calmly said God Spider as she rapidly stepped backwards. WHAMMM! The ground shook from the power of the doll’s fist slamming into it. God Spider’s legs rocked wildly from the tremors.

Xin saw a chance. “Get me in close!” he ordered.

“Getting up close,” said God Spider and she darted to melee range as the doll began to stand back up. Xin punched. CLONG!! The armored fist of the spider bot struck the knee of the robot, causing it to stumble.

“I need to hit his face!” said Xin.

“Increasing height,” said God Spider. God Spider’s legs stretched to their maximum height. Xin threw a left hook. Whssss! The doll reacted faster and pulled away from God’s Spider’s fist.

“Still not close enough!” complained Xin.

The doll put one hand down, and using it as a pivot point, swung its legs hard and fast. WUNNG! PABLAUU! it swept the legs from under God Spider, knocking it on its side.

“UNGH!” groaned Xin.

While the doll got to its feet, Rocky shouted tips to Xin.

“You’ve got to talk more! Give her clear instructions!” shouted Rocky.

“Hard to do while I’m thinking at the same time!” Xin replied.

“You’re fighting him at ground level. You can fly too!”

“Oh yeah, almost forgot about that! God Spider, bring us to face level!”

“Acknowledged,” said God Spider. The spider began to hover in the air, rotated back to the right position as the giant doll stood up. Soon, God Spider was floating at the same altitude as the doll’s head.

WHUNGG! The doll threw a punch, but God Spider blocked it with its extended arm. Xin threw a counter-punch across the face. Wrangg! The giant doll shook from the punch.

“Bad idea, genius!” shouted Elaina. Whoosh! Plungg! An uppercut to the bottom of the tank sent Xin almost out of his seat and the tank looped through the blow.

“Whoa!” shouted Xin. He shook his head to wipe hair from his eyes. An idea entered his head. “Spin us and I’ll hit her!”

God Spider spun in a side loop, then WHUMP! hit the doll upside the chin. The doll stumbled backwards. God Spider stopped spinning and rushed forward. The big doll swung its right fist hard across its body. KAwhang! God Spider spun sideways then fell to the ground.

“URGH!!” groaned Xin.

“No time to quit, pilot!” said God Spider.

“She’s right! Remember to say, ‘dodge and direction!’!” said Rocky.

“Smartest thing you said all day, squirt!” replied Xin.

“Gonna squish you like a bug!” shouted Elaina.

“Gonna take you down a peg, hero!”

“Now’s our chance. Attack!” said Xin to God Spider. It flew forward, followed by the doll.

“Don’t forget to use your legs!” shouted Rocky.

“Good advice, squirt!” replied Elaina.

“Oh fiddlesticks!” replied Rocky. But it was too late. The giant doll kicked at the rising, floating God Spider. But the kick missed as the spider spun deftly around in a circle to dodge it. WHUMP! The spider tank tackled the doll. WHAMM! They fell to the ground, with God Spider on top. WRUNGWRHUNG! The tank’s fists and legs hammered away at the doll.

“Deploying shock anchors,” said God Spider. psss! Four anchors extended from the spider's belly, embedding themselves into the doll. ZZZAAPP! Electric surge went through the giant doll. It twitched from the shock. ffsss! smoke rose, and the doll stopped moving. Soon after, Xin and God Spider stopped hitting it. It faded away and God Spider landed on the ground.

“YEAH! We showed you!”

“Thanks to Rocky’s assistance!” complained Elaina.

“This is supposed to be training!” Rocky shouted. “Everyone’s a winner in train-” his phone buzzed. “Oh, I must see the Director! Uh, you guys keep fighting!”

“Tank commander Rocky, I’m supposed to bring you back to base,” God Spider noted, given that they were away from the base.

“Oh fiddlesticks, that’s correct!”

“And you tell me to pay attention,” said Xin.

“Let’s give Elaina a break for a few minutes and drop me off, then come back here for more training.”

Director’s Office, 6:50pm

“I was led to believe that you leave around six thirty every day,” said Rocky as he entered the office.

“That fact used to be true, but with the war and all things related, I’m working nights,” replied Karyn. “Sleepless nights.”

Rocky took a seat in front of the director’s desk. The director walked over to her desk and retrieved a large envelope. She gave it to Rocky. He noticed immediately that it was opened, and that the sender was from Russia.

“This is...for me?” asked Rocky as he reached into the envelope.

“Better you see it now, then complain later that I hid the information from you,” said Karyn in a weary voice.

He took out the papers. There was a big flyer, in English. “Russia invites you,” Rocky read aloud, “to participate in the tenth annual tank biathlon in Russia’s Burninovo proving field starting October fourth to sixth. Since you are bringing your own tank, your participation fee is null and void.” Rocky looked up at Karyn. “Director, I am going to take a deep breath.”

“And…” said Karyn.


“Hold your horses cowboy!!!” explained the director. “I am not giving you permission to go!”

“What…howcouldyouthisunbelieveableIcan’tunderstand-” Rocky paused to breathe.

“It’s a trap, Rocky. There’s no way that Ratinov isn’t behind this.”

“Who’s Ratinov? The bad guy behind the insanity cases?”

“We think so, based on Clyde’s investigations.”

“He deals with heroes and supers. Why would he want my tank?!”

Karyn stood up and turned to look outside the window. She saw her colleagues driving home, to families and friends. She took a deep breath. “We don’t know what he really wants. But God Spider is exceptionally powerful. And it’s an election year. There are lots of ball in play and I don’t want to take the chance that they’ll bounce out of bounds.”

wahump! A portal opened in the middle of the office. Karyn took up a defensive pose as Clyde walked through the portal and into the room. He saw Rocky.

“Talking about the tank games, huh?” said Clyde.

“Clyde, I said no to this idea. And how did you find out?” asked Karyn as she crossed her arms.

“I received word of the ad a day ago from P.A.T.H.R. They screen almost all the mail that comes to the facilities,” Clyde explained. “I approved it since I want Rocky to go.”

“YES!” cheered Rocky.

“Clyde, this is a bad idea. From your very description of the enemy, this almost has to be a trap.”

“Yes, it almost certainly is,” said Clyde.

“You just agreed with me, but you want to send him anyway? He could get killed, you know?”

“I most assuredly will not,” Rocky asserted in a strong voice. “God Spider is the strongest weapons system on the planet.”

Clyde smiled and looked at him. “So, you’re the one that commissioned her, eh?”

“Yes sir, I am.”

“Wait, what? I always assumed you put the Darfur team up on Rocky to get him to design it,” said Karyn as she uncrossed her arms.

“Building the spider tank was always within our capabilities at Darfur. I only got involved when Jamir sent me a supply request. The design was always his idea. I just supplied some of the parts from my…. ample collection.”

“Did you shoot down the A-10 Warthog that the main gun comes from?” asked Karyn.

“No, ma’am. It was already crashed in Iraq when I got to it. Since the Air Force was going to blow it up anyway, I decided to collect all the good bits.” He looked at the flyer in Rocky’s hand. “At any rate, I want to send him and a crew for two reasons. One, he probably assumes we’ll say no and take advantage of God Spider’s presence here somehow. Two, it may give us the opportunity to catch him, especially if he shows up at the games.”

“I don’t like this, it’s very risky,” explained Karyn. “You might not be able to resurrect him if he’s blown to bits.”

“It’s not those kinds of games, Mrs. Allwyn,” said Rocky. “Look, there are shooting competitions, terrain competitions, and maneuverability. It’s not tank paintball.”

“Simple as it may appear,” said Clyde, “we need to assume that they’re setting a trap for us.” Clyde walked over to Rocky. “The best we can do is mitigate the risk.”

“What do you suggest, sir?”

Chapter 4: Tensions

EADI-Helena Dorm rooms,

September 5, 2012

Chucky looked at the cards in his hand. He was floating above his chair while his host body was sleeping in bed. James looked at him and said, “No mind-reading.”

{That’s not fair! I’m a baby. I’m supposed to cheat,} replied Chucky.

“Bullshit,” replied James. “You need to play by the rules just like everyone else.”

{But I can’t guarantee I’ll win if I do.} Chucky pretended to frown.

“Well, if you cheat, then I’ll cheat, which will make you cheat more. Then we won’t be playing poker. It’ll be a different game.”

{Crazy poker!}

“We’ll save that for the casinos.”

Before Chucky could play his hand, there was a knock at the door, followed by a stronger knock. Then the buzzer rang.

“Who could that be?” asked James as he got up. He went to the door and turned the handle. At the door stood two men in superhero costumes. “Hey, you’re the Beam and you’re the Thunderforce Red.”

“Yeah, that’s us, kid,” said Thunderforce Red, his voice slightly echoed in his helmet. His suit was a cross between space armor and motorcycle gear.

“We’re here to see Mr. Agar and Mr. Otunda,” said The Beam. The strip of mask across his head and face didn’t hide the distinct beauty marks on his cheeks. “We have to talk to them.”

“About what?” asked James.

“We’re tired of getting killed in training all the time!”

“Yeah!” said a man leaning against the wall. James looked to his right and saw Thunderforce Black, in his black armor, leaning against the wall. “This training is BS and we’re sick of it!”

The battle-arena,

September 4, 2012

“Thunderforce! Target the beast’s head!” shouted Thunderforce Red as the flailing beast called ‘The Menace’ floated forward. The squad of color coded heroes aimed their fists and pressed a smooth spot on the left side of their fingers. BRRZAAP! Electric bolts shot forth from their hands guided by lasers fired from the top of their hands. Bablebhal! The alien creature cried out and fell to the ground.

“Yeah! That showed him!” cheered the girl in the pink suit. The Thunderforce crew high-fived in their usual goofy tradition as the other hero team, The Blockers, approached the body.

“Are you sure it’s dead?” asked the woman in the all-black body suit.

“It moving not,” said the very tall and extremely muscular hero, The Smasher.

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