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NiS: Jacob and Tiffany - Thursday (Incomplete)

by Prof. Jack

Copyright 2004. All rights reserved by the author. Posted here with permission.

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Chapter 64 Jacobs fathers view.

3am, Thursday, October 28th, 2006

Jerusalem was supposed to be the city of God.

And it was acting very godlike at the moment.

Old Testament God, that is. There was fighting and feuding, bickering and betrayal. A lot of people thought it was odd that all three religions that claimed Jerusalem as a holy place and also claimed mercy and honorable treatment of fellow human beings would not practice it here.

The very God each of them claims to worship is either laughing, or more likely crying tears at the behavior done in His Name.

No wonder so many people these days are abandoning religion.

The streets had people scattered here and there. The people carried guns with the fervency of the National Rifle Association. And there were more guns in this town then there were shown at the last nine NRA conventions.

Armed crimes committed over religion were as common as people disagreeing over religion.

The United Nations security checkpoint four was a perfect example of that. It was a bunkered building with guards, barbed wire and it even had a machine gunner on the second floor.

Major Daniel Stone of the United States Marine Corps was at a desk doing paperwork.

Im certainly living up to my name. East Jerusalem is a den of danger.

I pushed the paperwork aside. I think I would rather face the lions outside than this annoying paperwork. Any decision above using the latrine needs paperwork in triplicate. Using the latrine only requires the paperwork to be done in duplicate. What Id really like to do is use the paperwork in the latrine. Its softer then the stuff the Marine Corps is sending us these days.

Sir?

I looked up to see somebody I thought was on guard duty today.

We have somebody under a flag of truce here to see you.

And so it goes again. At least twice a week we get these messengers from one group or another. If it wasnt for all the civilians in the area, Id suggest to my superiors that we isolate the area and hand control of it to whichever group was standing last.

Bring him in. I told the guard. But be alert.

I watched as an Israeli dressed in battle fatigues was brought in.

The Israeli let himself be searched for weapons without complaint.

That should have been my first clue trouble was coming.

Hes clean. The guard said.

Ive come with a message. The Israeli said.

Who do you represent? I asked tiredly. I received more messages sitting at this desk than I think I would have received if I were working for Western Union.

I represent the Sharon brigade, agents of Almighty God in the liberation of Occupied Israel.

The usual speech, then.

Ok. I guess I have to give my standard reply.

Im Major Daniel Stone, United States Marine Corps and am here at the invitation of the United Nations and the Liberated State of Palestine.

The envoy of the Sharon brigade practically spat onto the floor in disgust at the mention of the name of the new Palestinian nation.

I know who you are. You and your intruders are interfering in the Word of Almighty God. If you remain in the land God gave to his children, you and all the other trespassers here will be dead before the dawn. God will grant us victory.

I tried to remain calm. But I hated threats to my friends here.

Even if death was the occupational hazard of being a marine.

You must know that the President has promised to cut off all aid to Israel if your group attacks once more.

We know that our former friends betrayed us to our enemies and threw Gods Children to the wolves. The day of retribution is surely coming says the Lord.

BOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!!!

Every piece of glass in the checkpoint shattered.

Hell, every window in the neighborhood must have shattered.

The ground shook like an earthquake hit.

The cries of my men filled my ears filtered through the dust and falling plaster.

A chunk of masonry fell less then five feet from me.

When my eyes adapted enough to see, I saw it had hit the messenger. It was crushing him to death.

I shook my head sadly at the dying messenger. It looks like your friends couldnt wait for the Lord.

The messenger glared at me as he died.

Chapter 65 Fred

Freds log, Acting Commander, 3:10 am, Thursday, October 28th

Acting Commander.

Me.

Yeah. If Jacob does not die from what he did earlier tonight, hes gonna die of laughter when he hears about this.

I was sitting in the command chair again.

I must have been crazy the first time.

Now Im not only doing it again, Im taking a ship Im not even sure I rebuilt correctly into a war zone.

I hope this ad hoc crew of Jacobs lives up to his expectations again.

Bobs voice broke into my thoughts. We are approaching the Middle East. He reported.

Ok. Lets see how well the repairs hold. Red alert. Diane, give me all the engines. Give me maximum shields and power. Bring up all weapons. We are at battle stations.

Dianes hands worked across her control board.

Bob hits a few keys of his own. Ok. Weapons are ready.

Lucy asked Should I try to contact anybody. Let them know we are coming?

Not yet, Fred says. Soon enough they will be trying to speak to us. Joe, take us to East Jerusalem.

Proximity alert, Joe said.

The phone went off.

On screen. Bob said.

I told Lucy to put the call on the main speakers.

Then the inside of the ship changed. Not for real. Everybody and everything was still where it was before Bob spoke. But now the middle of the control room was taken up with a three D holographic display. The Dutchman was at the center with the extended landscape in excellent details.

Mouths dropped.

We should be used to this by now, but our mouths still dropped in shock.

Bob grinned. Ive been trying to talk Jacob in to licensing this to the video gaming industry.

I laughed a little then addressed whoever was on the phone. Who is this?

This is Tiffany. What the hell are you doing on the Dutchman?

Being constantly amazed.

I helped rescue you. I told her. Because I recovered first, I took the command.

What do you think you are doing now?

What Im trying to do is get one of Jacobs parents so that they can sign the paperwork. The asinine doctors wont start without it.

Six incoming jets. Bob shouted.

They are definitely sending signals at us. Lucy said. At least one of them is a communication attempt.

Sorry Tiffany, but Im going to have to cut this short. I think well about to be in a battle. Do me a favor and stay by the phone. We may need you soon enough. Ok Lucy, cut that call, and get me the other one.

Attention unidentified flying object. Who the fuck are you and what are you doing approaching Israeli airspace?

Unidentified my left foot. I know exactly what this flying object is.

This is Acting Commander Fred Dash of the Flying Dutchman. Who the hell are you?

This is Captain Frank of the Israeli Defense Force. What nation does the Flying Dutchman belong to?

I looked around, hoping for suggestions or inspiration. I got none. We belong to the teen nation. I said. We are on a mission of mercy to Eastern Jerusalem.

You sound like Americans. And we hate Americans here. Ive been ordered to prevent any resupplying of occupied Israel.

We are on a mission of mercy. I repeated. I had no intentions of getting involved in a war.

The only mercy that is going to be given is that you can turn that contraption around and return to your Nazi homeland. Captain Frank said.

I was furious. I doubt even Jacobs vast scientific imagination could grasp the levels my anger was reaching.

I now hated Captain Frank more than Tiffany hated Coach Koke.

And the fates have stupidly put me in this chair.

I had the power to act on my anger.

And damn it, I was.

I slammed a fist into the palm of my hand. Apologize or you will surely die.

Never, you Nazi freak.

Missiles in the air! Diane shouts.

Bob? Just how much confidence do you have in what this thing can do?

From what Jacob told me about it, a lot.

Very well. Joe. Give me a status report.

All shields are operational and at maximum. Shield generators ready to regenerate as needed. All weapons are charged. All other systems operating at roughly 94%.

Excellent. Lets show these idiots the foolishness of firing at things you do not understand. Bob, ignore the missiles.

But Fred Diane started to say.

The missiles hit us and exploded as Diane was talking.

Joe, shield strength? Diane asked, hesitantly.

Outermost shields down 65%. Joe responded.

Remember we still have three other shield generators. Bob reminded us. Jacob really built back ups into this.

Excellent. I said.

Over the radio we heard some confused pilots chattering.

Thats impossible.

Must have been a malfunction.

No it wasnt. I saw them explode. 4 feet away from whatever the hell that is.

Everybody fire! Shouted Captain Frank.

I just sat there.

This could become more addicting then some of the stuff at Harrys parties.

Missiles in the air. Diane shouted. Twelve of them!

Joe, lock targeting beams on those missiles. I said as calmly as if I was playing football.

Done. Joe replied equally as calmly.

Blow them up.

Done.

The computer and I might as well have been talking about the weather in Eastern France.

The four of us aboard the Dutchman and the six fighter pilots aboard the six fighter craft watched the missiles blow up before they got within 1000 feet of the Dutchmen.

Good I purred, very good. Now get me a target lock on each of those fighters.

There was shouting now on the radio between the fighter pilots.

Excuse me, I said. I have something to say.

Now what Nazi freak?

I let my boiling hatred at their Nazi freak comments show.

Say hello to Hitler for me. Joe, destroy those aircraft.

On the holographic display we watched the Israeli fighter aircraft suddenly flare up and explode.

They exploded before they had time to respond to my Hitler comment.

I cannot believe you just killed them. Lucy told me. We could have easily out run them, and our shields would have kept us alive. Why?

Like the others, she was shocked.

I was unrepentant. Never call the grandson of a concentration camp survivor a Nazi freak.

Chapter 66 Jacobs father

3:12am

Bullets were flying back and forth.

The Marines were firing carefully, trying only to hit those that were firing upon them. They were limited by the United Nations Rules of Engagement. Killing civilians and noncombatants was severely frowned upon.

The Sharon Brigades people on the other hand were shooting at everything in sight. They figured that everybody knew what an evil thing it was to have the United States Marines here. Therefore, anybody nearby had chosen to be close to that evil. Worse yet, they could have chosen to stand with that evil. Death was the only thing such a decision deserved. Death at the hands of the Chosen of Almighty God. The Sharon Brigade.

The solider ran back into the building as an explosion occurred behind him. Major!!! Major assault in progress. Everybody outside is dead.

Then I heard a voice outside shouting. Come on! Kill the enemies of God!

I had a few men set up a defense perimeter. The rest of the surviving men I took up to the second floor.

Outside there was more gunfire and some explosions.

The Marine taking a window post was blown back a bit by a missile that missed going in the window and hit a tree instead.

I caught him as he stumbled at me.

The guard pointed out the window as he fell into my arms. Oh shit.

Now what? I muttered as I pulled the guard up. I looked where the guard was pointing.

What in the name of the Halls of Montezuma is THAT???

It was about the size of a small Greyhound bus. It looked 40 feet long and 15 feet wide. The outside looked rather battered as though it got into a crash and smash derby with three ticked off tanks. There were things mounted on the hull that looked vaguely familiar. Speakers and receiving type things. There was also other, odder stuff. It plainly looked like it had gone thru hell. There was something I could not identify keeping various airborne things at least 4 feet from the hull. It was flying silently.

And it was coming this way.

Chapter 67 Fred

Freds log, acting commander, 316pm, Thursday, October 28th

I had the Flying Dutchman maintain a slow and steady course.

We looked at the battle scene below us.

Lucy looked at the mess that used to be the building the United Nations checkpoint was based in. Are you sure he is down there?

According to the information on the Internet, this is the place. Diane said. Although the United Nations site on the net didnt say anything about a battle.

Bob shook his head at the complete lack of good behavior in this holy city. It looks like they need our help, whether Stone is here or not.

Agreed. I told him. Take us in. Put the hatch on the American side.

Bob worked his controls. Switching to surface operations.

Bob steered the ship so that the attackers were all scrambling back, then landed between them and the security post.

Both sides started shooting at us.

Ok Lucy. I said in my you should know by now what to do tone.

Speakers on.

Listen up, were friends. If you are in here, Major Stone, hurry up and get aboard. I paused. Speakers off.

Speakers off. Lucy confirmed.

Good. I didnt want those attacking the Marines knowing my next command.

Bob, drop shields, left side only if we can.

I dont think we can do that.

Who the hell are you? a strange voice called.

Im a friend of Jacob. This is the Flying Dutchman, and he needs you in the hospital.

Your must be fucking crazy. No way.

Fucking crazy I may be. But you are nuttier. At the very least, we can get you out of the battle before your position is overrun. Whats worse? Getting aboard something strange or staying behind for your certain death?

Good point. Coming.

Damn it. Joe, take out the opposing forces. Bob, when it looks like Stone is going to hit the shields, drop them. Put them up as soon as possible afterwards.

The Dutchman started firing at the attackers.

The attackers fired back. They were willing to die for God.

Those aboard the ship were worried about was going to happen next.

Hes almost here dropping shields.

A couple bullets hit the ship.

Look, Mindy shouted. They are readying some form of rocket!

We heard somebody come aboard.

Hes in. Diane called.

Shields up. Bob went to hit the button as he told us.

Hold on. More people coming. the voice I had been arguing with called out. Wait

Mindy pointed. Incoming.

We heard a couple more people board.

Thats it, sir.

Ok. What ever you were going to do, do it now.

Bob hit the button.

Chapter 68 Jacobs dad.

3:19am

We all held our breath as the missile hit.

The missile hit the shields moments after the last Marine boarded.

The shields are back up. a voice said.

I think we all noticed this. The clue that gave it away was the fact we were all still breathing.

Another teen announced. There are three vehicles approaching us.

Is this ship run by teenagers?

What in the name of the gods everybody is fighting over is going on here?

I looked around as I went from the hatch towards the front. In every science fiction movie Ive ever watched, that is where they put the control room or bridge. When I reached the control room I saw a bunch of things that looked vaguely familiar. The stations were manned by a bunch of teenagers.

There is only one person on this planet who could produce such a craft and yet have to resort to teenagers to crew it.

My youngest son.

Jacob, I didnt think youd be dense enough to

Some kid turned the command chair around and interrupted me. Your son was not dense enough to do this. Your son is nearly dead.

Who the hell is that? I wanted to know. What the hell is he talking about?

Not to mention why is he sitting in Jacobs chair?

The kid introduced everybody. As he said their names, he pointed. Major Stone, meet Bob, Diane, Lucy and Mindy. I am Fred. I am also acting commander of the Flying Dutchman. Both your son and his girlfriend are in the hospital.

Im Major Stone, United States Marine Corps.

We know. What we dont know is who is the bunch of people that followed you in.

They are the survivors of my detachment. I could not leave them behind.

Then they can come along. But they are to stay in the work room and stay quiet. Fred spun the command chair back around to face the main screen. Diane, please put those vehicles you guys were talking about on screen.

Sorry Fred, they are being blocked by all the buildings.

Ok. Target weapons at both ends of the street and let me know what shows up.

Lucy told us. We have a lot of radio chatter, mainly American.

What else?

Some sound French, and something in a language I dont recognize.

Keep alert. Fred says. Major Stone, were here because your son is in a coma. The doctors were told that you and your wife were in the Middle East. They still refused to operate.

Diane said, We have a visual. They are French, I think.

Did anybody here take French at school?

Nope.

No.

Sorry.

Shit.

My radio went off. I pulled it from my pouch and answered it. Major Stone, United States Marine Corps here yes I know whats happening at checkpoint four. They appear to be on our side.

Who ever they are, they are firing on us. Diane yelled.

Not for long. Joe, lock target and

No, I shouted, stopping them, they are from the United Nations.

Ok. Fred says, Cancel that Joe.

Command cancellation confirmed. Joe responded.

Relax. I said into my radio. Believe it or not, they are friends of my son. This thing as you call it, is his little hobby toy, and they just took out the entire terrorist assault squad.

Yeah man, We heard the American group leader say back, and rumor has it that this hobby toy of your sons took out six Israeli fighter craft too.

Thats no rumor. Diane told him.

Six of them. We shot down six jets. Bob corrected him.

Why did you guys do that? I asked.

In a tight voice, Fred answered me. They called the grandson of a concentration camp survivor a Nazi freak.

I heard a new voice on my radio. This is General Smith.

Yes, sir I responded.

A General on the unit radio? What is going on here? I wondered.

Put who ever is in charge of that thing on.

Yes sir. I turned to the teenager sitting in the center chair. General Smith insists on speaking to you.

Joe, figure out which incoming signal is going into that radio and run it though the ships speakers.

Ok.

Identify yourself. The Generals voice now demanded over the speakers.

Acting Commander Fred Dash, currently in charge of the Flying Dutchman.

Consider yourself under my command. Prepare to receive your orders.

Fuck no.

I went pale.

People usually do not talk to Generals like that.

The General was so furious all he could do was sputter.

Fred continued as though he was arguing with another teenager. Listen to me. The only reason Im here is to get Major Stone. And you must be stoned if you think Im suddenly going to be listening to loudmouth strangers. His sons girlfriend saved my girl from sexual assault. Then she got kidnapped and assaulted herself. Jacob is in the hospital, in emergency, practically dead from saving Tiffany. Not only are you talking to the wrong kid, but I dont have time for this. Fred flipped a few switches on the command chair. Bob, activate the engines, switch it to sub orbital and take us up to 6000 feet. Go 50 mph till we clear the city, then 2500 mph.

The General sputtered in shock for a few moments, then he calmed down. Stone, you believe them?

Yes. No way my son would let anybody fly his project if he was not dying.

Smiths voice softened slightly. Ok Major. Go deal with the hospital. But as soon as you can, we need you here. General Smith pauses. And Id really like to have that craft too.

Fred said, With luck, Major Stone will be back by nightfall, local time. As for the ship, youll have to wait for Jacob.

The ship flew out of the radios range.

Chapter 69 Fred

Freds log, acting commander, 3:30am, Thursday October 28th, 2006.

Major Stone was pacing up and down the width of the control cabin. Cant this thing go any faster? He asked me.

Faster?

He wants to go faster?

Can anything else go this fast?

I asked, Bob?

Not that I know of. Im not even sure that this is safe.

Diane?

Some of these things are redlining. Others peak in and out of the danger zones. Each spike seems to go higher.

Bob says, That sounds bad.

You dont know? I asked.

Like you, this is my first time in the Dutchman.

Damn it. We have to slow down.

What??? Major Stone shouted. You cant be serious.

Bob said Freds right. Well be no good to anybody if we blow ourselves up.

Damn it. Joe, drop speed by one third, give me an ETA.

Complying. Speed now 1750 mph. ETA 115 minutes.

Will we in be time? Major Stone asks.

Chapter 70 Tiffany

3:55pm

I paced back and forth in the observation room. At one point or another, I must have tried to read every magazine in here. The seats were worse than the chairs at school. And the view through the window had not changed. I have garden statues that have shown more life recently than Jacob.

The rape counselor tried to get me to relax. Relax. It will be all right.

Relaxing was the one thing I could not do.

Roberts, you do not understand.

Call me Sylvia.

Ok, Sylvia. This is all my fault. If he had never got involved in my life, hed never have had to keep saving me. That would have spared him the feud that escalated to the point where Koke raped me, then threw me out of the moving sports car to piss Jacob off. Its all my fault hes in that horrible mess.

You know that cant be true. the counselor tried to tell me.

Do I? Tiffany asks. Bullshit. He thought I was worthy of dating him. That means I should be able to take this. Hell, I should have seen trouble coming and prevented it. I paced some more. What the hell is taking them so long? I looked for my cell phone. Damn! It was destroyed in the chase. Shit.

You can borrow mine.

Thanks. I quickly dialed Dianes phone. Where the hell are you guys what do you mean, you had to slow down damn it, I cant argue that how soon less then an hour if no delays then I hope you have no delays. Well be waiting he does? Then put him on yes, they told you the truth. In a coma and the hospital is only doing whats needed to keep him alive no need to shout. Do you think that I let a bunch of high school kids fly Jacobss project into a war zone for the fun of it? We told them about your and the rest of his family being in the Middle East, but they insisted on a signature of a family member ok, I cant wait.

Did the call go well?

Not really. Mr. Stone is understandably upset about the hospitals behavior. And I bet he did not expect to meet his sons girlfriend in this way.

But should I be Jacobs girlfriend?

Chapter 71 Fred

Freds log, Acting Commander, the Flying Dutchman, 5:03am, Thursday October 28th, 2006.

The Flying Dutchman was flying at speeds usually reserved for missiles.

Approaching the Eastern Coast.

Very good, Bob. Prepare descent course.

Incoming call. Lucy announced.

What is this, I moaned, a gossip party line? The next time I take this ship out, Im getting an unlisted number. On speakers.

Attention, unidentified flying object. This is General Hambright of NORAD. Identify yourself and prepare to be taken into custody.

I was getting very tired of this.

This is the Flying Dutchman, Acting Commander Fred Dash speaking. We are on a medical mission and cannot afford distractions. Request denied.

That was not a request, Dutchman. Under the Patriot Act, we can do whatever we please to vessels we deem a threat to the United States. You will surrender that craft and be taken into custody.

No. Yellow alert. Raise maximum shields.

Then under the Patriot Act, Im ordering your destruction.

Diane shouted in shock. You cant do that! Were Americans too. We have rights!!

Not if I say you dont.

I see. I said. Red alert. Battle stations. Arm weapons.

Incoming! Missiles incoming!! I dont believe they fired on fellow Americans.

Fred sounded somewhat tired of it all. Joe, take out those missiles.

Done. The ever helpful computer informed me.

The missiles were struck several thousand feet away from the Dutchman.

They promptly exploded.

More missiles incoming.

Joe. Take out the missiles as soon as you get a safe shot. Bob, where are those ships?

Bob looked at the screens on his console. I cant get a reading.

Stealth bombers. Major Stone told us.

I sighed. Heres a lesson for Jacob. Technology never has all the answers.

I see. I told them. I guess Ill just have to show you guys a football trick. When the opposing side does something we do not follow, the moment we can see whats going on, we strike. If we fire at the missiles the moment we see them, perhaps we can take out the stealth bombers.

Major Stone moved in front of my command chair. Hey, they are Americans, too. he objected.

They are also trying to kill us.

Give me a chance to deal with it, please.

Ok. But make them go away, or I will. We have a hospital to get to.

Stone looked at Lucy. Did that system record NORADs frequency?

I think so.

Get it back on.

Lucy looked at the controls. Then Bob got up and gave Lucy some help. The frequency came up. Ready.

Major Stone took a deep breath.

Bob told Major Stone Relax. According to Jacob, military people tend to respect strength. Right now, you are sitting in the stronger craft.

Stone nods. Come in, NORAD.

This is Lieutenant Lewis. Identify yourself.

This is Major Stone, passenger aboard the Flying Dutchman.

How the hell did you get on this frequency? This is a top secret channel.

I know this. Put General Hambright on.

General Hambright?? Three stars and just as explosive? You want me to get him??

The teens rolled their eyes at each other.

Yes Lieutenant. Do it now. Thats an order.

Four minutes later, Hambrights pissed voice was heard on the speakers. Who the hell do you think you are? Ill demote you so low, youll be saluting dogshit for this. I doubt it. Im the only person that can talk my son into letting the military get their hands on this kind of tech.

Letting??

Yeah. Letting. Exactly how many other craft like this do you see? But we are getting away from the main point. I have been told that they have come up with a way to end this attack.

Yeah, surrender.

No, sir. The teen in charge is about to order the ship to destroy the missiles the second they leave the stealth bomber. The bombers will no doubt be destroyed along with the missiles.

They would not dare!

Youre trying to kill us. Why should we not reply in kind? Stone asked.

We? You joining them?

A few kids on a mercy mission get attacked by their own Air Force. How do you think your kids would respond in their shoes?

There was silence on the other end. When Hambright spoke, it sounded like he was choking on the words. It was as if hed rather kill them then admit anything that makes Stone sound right. But in the end, he was honest. They would have destroyed the bombers and said something rude.

How many?

Kids?

No. Stealth bombers.

Six.

At 2.6 billion dollars each, I believe. Im sure we cannot afford that battle. The problem is, the kid in control is losing patience.

Diane injected. Crossing the Eastern coastline now.

I told the Major, Make a deal or we will deal with them.

General, are you Air Force?

And damn proud of it.

Well, sir, Im a Marine. You know how we tend to respond to threats. I promise that Ill arrange a meeting with my son where you can plead your case when he is better. We would like you to call off the bombers.

Plead my case? An Air Force General does not plead. You know that.

My son is being headhunted by every school with any pretension to a science department. They all want Jacob to attend, and at least half of them want him to teach at the school afterwards. Hell, MIT has already guaranteed Jacob a job. His future is more secure than you can imagine.

Really?

Yes, sir.

Have you no say in your sons life?

I do, because I do not mess with the things in it that I do not understand. He comes to me for advice for other stuff. We have talked about schooling.

Ok. I do want to meet with your son.

I spoke up. Sorry to interrupt, but its time to go in. Oh and General? I did not want to fight with your aircraft. I just do not like dying. The other problem I have, is this crew was not trained for a battle mission. Hence we did not know if we could ignore your missiles, or not.

We heard about the Israeli fighters. Why do you think we sent the stealth bombers?

To make us talk, rather than go for an easy victory. One we would have regretted as soon as we calmed down.

Maybe I should send a recruiter to you, too. Hambright out.

Ok lets land this flying preview to the future.

Chapter 72 Tiffany

5:20am

I looked through the window at Jacob lying on the bed.

He had more tubes and wires connected to him then a cheesy Frankensteins monster set from a B movie.

He had not moved, at all, all night.

The only reason I had to believe he was still alive was the fact that this place would not waste the energy on the machines otherwise.

My agonized look was reflected clearly on the observation glass.

My father walked up behind me. Come on Tiffany. You need to rest, too.

But what about Jacob?

Tiffany, he is in Gods hands now.

Oh great.

More religious platitudes.

Just what I did not need.

Oh great. Gods supposed to keep an eye on everything, is he?

Of course my dad didnt pick up on the hint.

He does.

Then why the fuck is he in there, like that??? I screamed.

Tiffany! My father shouted.

Ok, ok. Never question Gods actions or the churchs claims in front of you.

You shouldnt do that, ever.

I forgot. Dad would believe the moon was made of spaghetti if the church told him. And then he would insist I believe it unquestioningly too.

All right. Im not strong enough to fight with you tonight. Can you do me a favor?

Sure. What is it?

Please watch over Jacob.

The man who corrupted you?

Dad, I realize you do not approve of Jacob, but I do love him. Can you keep a close eye on him?

Tiffanys father looked between the two of us. Ok. For you. And because God would have me help everybody, no matter my personal feelings for that person.

As if the fact I love him is not enough.

Dad started to object.

Never mind, Elder. I emphasized his church title.

Then I walked out and looked for directions to my room.

Chapter 73 Major Stone

5:30am

Bob, begin descent course for landing. Prepare to switch to surface operations.

We have a problem, Fred.

What problem, Diane.

Ground scans show our previous parking spots been taken.

I see. Any others close by?

Only space big enough is the area right in front of the emergency entrance.

Probably not the best place to park. Suggestions people?

I was watching the screens. I pointed to a parking garage. Top floor?

Looks good. Bob agreed. But will it support this thing?

Scanning now. So long as we land on top of the main support structure, it will take our weight.

Thank you Diane. Bob, land this thing on the parking garage.

I watched impatiently as they landed the ship.

Fred opened the hatch. Ok. Bob, you take Major Stone to the emergency room. Lucy, you and Mindy get some snacks for the Marines in the back. Also get some stuff to keep them busy. We cannot let them out of this ship until we return the Major to Palestine.

Bob got up and turned to me. This way sir. Bob guided me through the hospital to the emergency room.

There a nurse asked my name.

Major Stone, United States Marine Corps. My son is in here. I was told some stupid story about not operating till I sign some forms as my son lies near death.

I said that sentence with the underlying menace that had new recruits start thinking suicide is safer than being near an upset drill sergeant.

I suppose it was obvious now where Jacob got his speech patterns from.

The nurse rang for the doctor.

I stood there fuming at the delays.

The administrator arrived.

At last. I snapped. Are you the ass that refused to operate on my son because you needed some fucking paperwork filled out first??

Its the law.

The hell with the law and screw the system! Start operating.

Are you his father?

Yes, you overpaid under worked excuse for a person, Im his father. Now get to operating.

Fill out this paperwork, then Ill get the team started. I do not want any malpractice suits against my hospital.

I glared. Then I put on one of those false calm looks that so worried my men. Suddenly and with a speed that surprised everybody in the room, I grabbed the administrator by his right arm and slammed him hard into the wall, holding him there. At the same time I pulled my service pistol out of its holster and put it against the guys head. Tell them to start now, or you will become their next customer.

Ok. Ok, just let me call the team. The administrator finally cared about something other than his precious paperwork. His own skin.

A doctor walked in on us.

Dr. Watson! Ive never been so glad to see you. Tell your team to start the Stone kids operation immediately.

Dr. Watson hit an intercom button and told the team to start. You are his father?

Yes. And Ill shoot the next person that tells me to fill out a form.

I feel that way at times. But those forms have things we need to insure the success of the operation. Or in your sons case, give him what odds we can. Can you let the administrator go, please?

I released him and put my gun away.

A sigh of relief escaped the Dr. before he could catch it. They are prepping him now. I will point out the forms we need medically. The rest can wait.

Just as long as you guys get started before he dies. Now for the question Im not sure Ill want the answer to. Whats his condition? What are the odds of success?

You want it easy, or hard?

Be blunt, but speak in English.

Your son should be dead. According to those kids out there, he fell out of what ever you guys call that thing in the parking lot at over 200 mph. That alone is enough to reduce most people to mush. From what the police pieced together, he fell out just after that thing broke through the concrete and steel barrier, right over another highway. We do not know what happened next, but as far as we can tell, he flew between some trees, broke a few saplings and hit the ground hard. His leg hit an exposed rock. Put simply, he is bruised heavily from bouncing around like a racquetball all over route 78. Hes knocked out from the force of impacting the ground. And every, and I mean every bone in his left leg is vitually powder. The shock of any one of these things should have killed him, but all of them have put him in a deep coma.

Oh shit.

Major Stone? Let me say that it was the coma that made our administrator so certain we could play it safe with the paperwork. If he were in any real danger of dying before you or a family member could make it here, we would have operated.

A nurse poked his head in and signaled the doctor.

Excuse me sir, they are ready for me. You can wait in the family members waiting room.

Chapter 74 Tiffany

5:40am

I was in my bed at the hospital.

Sylvia Roberts from the hospitals rape survivor program was on a stool near the door concentrating on some notes. She had a concerned look on her face.

The way I was feeling, I could not have looked very happy.

And the reason for my displeasure was pacing back and forth in front of me.

How did your mother ever let her life get this screwed up? What was she thinking? Did she totally ignore all good sense? Why didnt she turn to God when she realized all these mistakes were being made? It will only be Gods Mercy that can save you from the screwed up life you are leading now.

I had had enough.

In fact, I had had more than enough.

A parent is supposed to love and guide, using wisdom gained outside the house to support the relationship. Whatever wisdom religion has, I doubt they meant it to be used to condemn me like this. How did a man so devoid of forgiveness of understanding ever become a leader in the church?

Thats it! I snapped. Being in love is not screwed up. What is screwed up is the idea that the rape was my fault! And your bitter divorce arguments whenever the three of us are together are not helping things either.

Sylvia Roberts answered her pager. Tiffany, Jacobs father has arrived, and the operation has been started.

Great.

My father was not going to let things settle. That rape is your fault. You started having sex. That made you fair game for all the sexual predators out there.

Bullshit. And for your information, Jacob was not my first. It was Frank. You should remember him, you introduced us.

Dont blame your slutty ways on that innocent boy. If only you had stayed with him. You would not be in this mess.

There is a knock at the door.

Roberts answered it. Tiffany, its Fred.

Let him in.

Im not done with you, Tiffany Mary French.

Oh, put a sock in it. Youll have plenty of time to yell at me. Even if yelling is so obviously not what I need.

You need to deal with your own issues, too, you know. Roberts reminded me.

I will. Ok Fred. Ok. As Jacob would put it, report.

Fred must have seen the look on my face left over from my fight with dad.

His attempt to smile fell flat.

Then he got a look in his eyes, the kind of look I heard he usually got just before he went to cause trouble. He snapped to attention. Acting Commander Fred Dash of the Flying Dutchman, reporting as ordered. he said formally.

Despite myself, I almost laughed out loud at that.

I played along. Maybe if the conversation continued long enough, I might even start to feel better. Ok Acting Commander Fred, give me your report.

The second flight of the Flying Dutchman commenced with a bunch of jury-rigging repairs before take off. The flight was made because the medics here wanted Jacobs father here for paperwork. The flight was smooth till we hit Israeli airspace. There we got into a firefight that cost them six fighter jets.

You shot down six jets? Why?

When I told them we were on a mission of mercy to Palestine, they called it occupied Israel and tried to force us back. We repeated the mercy part, they said the only mercy that was going to happen was that we got to turn back. I think at that point he called me a Nazi. Big mistake.

Why? my father asked.

My grandfather barely survived a concentration camp.

That would do it. I agreed. So the guy called you a Nazi, and you destroyed them. Next?

We went to the area that you told Diane about last week. There was a shootout going on between some Israeli terrorists and the U.S. troops at the checkpoint. Since your boyfriend has those shields as an on and off thing, we had to end the fight before we could pick up Major Stone.

Once again you go against the Children of God. I heard my father say.

Ignore him. What else happened?

Outside of an encounter with NORAD on the way back, we were moving a bit too fast to be caught. Major Stone will be able to give you more information.

Ok.

Tiffany, youre being awful nice about this. But I think Ill stick to being a football player. Your friends will help you face the challenge of dating Jacob.

You can be our friend, too. I know Jacob is willing to forgive. Tonights work will go a long way towards that.

Ill think about it. Fred left at that point.

My father demanded to know what Fred meant by that.

I hesitated and tried to think quickly.

There was no way I was going to tell the Unforgiving Voice of God the entire truth.

Id have trouble telling the whole story to a person I trusted.

My mother walked in before I had to give a response.

It seems somebody up there does like me.

And when were you going to call me, my soon to be ex husband? demanded my mother.

Maybe not.

Im here. You did not need to come.

My daughter is in the hospital, and you think Im going to stay home watching cable TV?

Your watching cable TV so much is part of whats wrong with you. She needs healing and salvation, not your troublesome excuse for a life.

You and your fundamentalist dictations are driving her into behavior I would never have thought shed consider.

Dont go blaming her sinning on the Servant of Almighty God.

Sinning? Servant of God? Next youll claim that marrying me was a sin.

Im certain it was.

Then you think its my fault that my daughter was raped?

My daughters rape was the fault of either you or your friends. Or hers.

My parents were facing each other at this point and shouting.

They were so caught up in their argument that I doubted they remembered that I still in the room.

Roberts remembered. And she was perceptive enough to get off her seat and move towards me.

She didnt make it.

I started screaming. My child? My child? Look, your child has a name. I have a name. Im not just something to use in your pathetic fights. If the two of you cant put your differences aside while Im in pain, maybe I ought to pray that Jacob recovers soon so that I can move in with him. Jacob has many flaws, but at least misplaced emotional energy is not one of them.

They looked at me for a few moments before continuing.

You see, you perfect example of the evil of men, youre hurting Tiffany.

Call me evil? Remind me again, who in this room has pledged their lives to serving God? My parents insisting on her middle name being Mary was prophetic. But not Mary, the Blessed Mother of Our Savior. No, she is living up to the reputation of that other Mary, the biblical slut.

Biblical slut???? Of all the sanctimonious

Chapter 75: Major Stone

5:55am

I paced back and forth in the hospital waiting room. There were magazines but I doubt they had anything interesting in them.

Death.

Death is something I and others in the military are expected to face.

But I did not expect Jacob to be the one on the critical list.

What does it say for society when a high school student has as much chance for being exposed to violence as a United States Marine? How can we claim to be the greatest land in the world when our children can run the same danger of death as in several of those so called lesser countries? Oh sure, we look better, no active war zones and better supposed environments. Or do we? With all the gun fire from gang violence or violent crime to begin with, there are some areas that might as well be considered war zones. Poverty and need are all over the country too. We are just better at hiding it than other countries.

We are fighting overseas to spread the American ideal. That's what my commanders tell me. Or is it that we are trying to give the world exposure of American hope? Hope is a better thing to promise. To say we are spreading our ideal is to say we are already perfect.

The fact my son is in a violence induced coma is proof enough of that.

A man in dark clothing entered. He was wearing a simple cross and carrying a bible. "Are you Jacob's father?"

I said, "Yes."

"I am the Elder French." He said it simply.

"Indeed?"

And why is he here? His daughter survived tonight's events without coma.

The Elder fixed me with a look. "Are you proud of your son?" the Elder asked me challengingly.

"Why shouldn't I be? Didn't Jacob save Tiffany last night?"

"Yes. But that Son of the Devil took my innocent daughter from the ranks of the sainted and condemned her to the service of Satan."

"What the hell are you talking about?" I demanded.

"Hell is exactly what I'm talking about. That Son of a Devil you call your son has taken advantage of Tiffany and used her body for his pleasures. Now my poor daughter is condemned eternally to Hell because of your son."

This is a man of God? I thought they were supposed to be uplifting, understanding, usually forgiving.

"Elder, I suggest you stop calling my son the Son of Satan." My tone was just short of the tone I used to intimidate marines during inspections. I was trying to be respectful to his job description.

Even if he personally was not behaving like any chaplain I had ever encountered.

"God wants me to tell the truth." He said arrogantly.

"To call my son the Son of Satan means you are calling me Satan."

"God would not permit me to lie."

"Remind me again... was Jesus a forgiving person?"

"Several times in the gospels, Jesus himself said certain people would be burned with unquenchable fire."

Oh, great. Just great. The hospital chaplain is a right wing fundelmentalist.

I tried again.

"I also know Jesus said judge not lest ye be judged."

"Do you dare to judge the actions of the Servant of the Almighty and Most Righteous God?"

"No. But you sound a lot like those terrorists in the Sharon Brigade."

"You call the front line warriors in the battles against the heathen who blaspheme the Holy Land with their presence terrorists????"

"Our government does."

"You mean that swarm of sinners that God Willing, will be out of office at the next election? Yea I tell you the Servants of God will gain power and we will correct the mistakes of today. Those that do not worship the One True God shall be exterminated, their bodies burned to purify the land."

"The Palestinians believe in a God too."

"There is only one True God. Damned will be those who stand against His Holy Will."

"Then God help those in your church."

"He already did. He sent me." Elder French leaves after saying that.

I watched him walk out.

Thank God he left.

I sat down and tried to read the magazines.

Fourteen flipped through magazines later and I had my earlier doubts confirmed. A more interesting subject is how I am going to explain to my wife about all that has happened. Perhaps a better question would be, is it possible to safely explain the events of this night to her.

"Excuse me." a doctor said, interrupting my thoughts.

"News. Tell me you've got news."

The doctor smiled.

I felt much better.

I'd rather face a raging war zone then the fears that were starting to eat at my heart.

"He's up and awake, alive even?" I said in the curious mix of words my family's known for when things finally start going our way.

"Well..." the doctor stalled.

Stalling... and smiles?

Now I am confused.

"But you were smiling. I saw the smile sitting right on your face."

"I'm smiling because despite his being bounced around a highway and having all the bones in his left leg smashed to powder, we were able to insure his survival."

"Chances of a complete recovery?"

"Medically, excellent. Only problem is that for some unexplained reason, he is not waking up."

"Anything else you guys can do?"

"It's in God's hands now."

God's hands? Given what that last religious person was like, that was not good news!

"If that last person was an example of God's agents, I'm not so sure I like your response."

Chapter 76: Tiffany

Ship's log, Acting Capitan Tiffany French. 6am, October 28th 2006

I tossed and turned.

Finally I gave up.

I was not getting anymore sleep here.

With all the stress and shouting I've experienced here, the nurse who suggested I could sleep at all must have been raiding the drug cabinet.

I found where my parents had left the change of clothes and got changed.

Then I looked at the clothes I had been wearing.

They were once my best outfit.

Now they were enough to induce nausea.

I looked for my lighter. I wanted to burn them, the building's no smoking signs be damned.

Luckily for the building's fire alarms, I could not find it.

I scribbled a note saying how impossible I found it to sleep. I told them I was going to use the Flying Dutchman and take the other students home.

Somebody else beat me to it.

I saw Major Stone sitting on the bench by the hospital sign as I was walking down the stairs.

He was easy to pick out. He was the only Marine there.

A classic example of hurry up and wait.

At least I'm not stuck waiting after last night.

What was that quote Jacob used the one day, when the play group was being stressed out over waiting? Ah, yes. 'Everything needed has been done, all the pieces are in place. What remains is to live out the script.'

Right now I would give my mother's car for a tenth of his ability to handle hell with the ease of a man going to heaven.

The Major turned from staring at the stars. "What are you doing out here?"

"If you are who I think you are, I could ask you the same question."

He looked me up and down. "Look, Tiffany I think they said your name was, let me give you a little hint. The Stone family does not consist of demigods. We feel, we suffer, we exist like everybody else. Just how many people do you think could go through what I'm betting that cocky kid who got me here has already told you?"

"Jacob."

He started to let loose some marine barracks profanity. Then he caught himself. "My son could no more go through this calmly than you can. He's just better at concealing his feelings. That's why I'm out here. Why are you? Given what you've been through, I'd thought you'd like to stay in a nice quiet hospital room."

I snorted. "That hospital room was not nice, and it was sooooo not quiet. I'm out here because I could not sleep. Either that or I'm all slept out. My parents had a loud fight. Right in front of me. With my father being an unforgiving church elder to start with, all this makes me want to leave as soon as I could. I'm Tiffany French by the way."

"I can only wish we met under better circumstances. I'm Major Stone. You asked why I was out here? I'm trying to figure out how I'm getting back to Jerusalem before my emergency leave ends. I cannot find anybody from the crew anywhere."

"Crew?"

"Yes. That bunch of teenagers that flew that thing. What was Jacob calling it again?"

"The Flying Dutchman. The crew went home. Their parents all came and picked them up."

"Oh fuck. Sorry about that, bad choice of words."

I looked at Jacob's father. Whether he knew it or not, he just gave me the perfect reason to escape this place.

"Not to worry. I can take you back. And it will do me good to get away from here before I have another fight with my parents."

"How? Did Jacob give access to the Flying Dutchman to the entire school?"

"No. Jacob gave me the pass codes to the Flying Dutchman. The others got access because of the emergencies last night. There is one problem. I don't know where it is parked."

Major Stone gave me a long look.

It was as if he was trying to decide if I was up to the task.

Doesn't he know his son doesn't date idiots?

After a few minutes he came to a decision. "This way," Stone told me, "I'll show you." He reached for his radio. "You'll have to take back the rest of my Marines too."

"Whatever."

We went to the garage roof and I entered the access code.

I sat in the command chair.

The major chose one of the other stations.

"Now, what again did Fred say the computer's new name was?" I asked.

"Joe." The Major told me.

Joe. Definitely sounds friendlier than System.

"Joe?"

"Yes?"

"Begin launch sequence."

"Primary engines activated. Navigational and environmental systems online. Communications and internal stabilization systems functional."

"Good. Engaging secondary engine and high speed navigational shielding."

I watched as the ship powered up.

Jacob could make a fortune by letting Hollywood use the ship in science fiction movies.

"Joe. Engine output?"

"Secondary at 5%, primary at 72%, both increasing."

"Engage the recyclatron."

"Done."

I waited a minute to make sure all was in readiness.

Major stone watched as the ship lights up. "If only the space shuttle could work so easily."

"I bet NASA has the tech already. They are probably scared of all the fundamental changes."

"More likely their accounting department is."

"I have a question."

"Shoot."

I laughed for the first time in a while. "Saying that to the occupant of this chair can be dangerous. How much did Jacob have to put this together?"

"From what I heard, his brother's enlistment bonuses, and an inheritance from a crazy uncle that we thought had disappeared from the face of the earth. Approximately five thousand dollars."

I tried hard not to have a heart attack.

I waited. There had to be more.

There wasn't.

"Where should I return you?" I asked.

"United Nations Headquarters, just north of Jerusalem."

"Ok, Joe. Come around to 087 degrees, attitude positive 12 degrees. Initial speed 90 mph until we clear ten thousand feet. Launch."

"Launching."

"Back to the other subject. You mean to tell me Jacob built this, the entire Flying Dutchman for a mere five thousand???? Are you sure you didn't hit your head on something?"

"This and several test models. Not even Jacob was going to go straight from the drawing screens to a full sized model in one go."

"That is impossible. I don't care if I'm sitting in the middle of the thing. I still say it is impossible."

"Not really. Jacob did this as a private project. He saved thousands in salaries that way. Because he did it independently, he saved years of bureaucracy. Plus, because Jacob did this without help from the government or a scientific think tank, he was able to control costs and development planning. It would probably have cost hundreds of thousands if he had done this as a government project. More likely millions. And his sanity."

"What about school?"

"Huh?"

"Won't this trip make you late for school?"

"I'll be late. I don't care."

Chapter 77: Fred

7:35am

I was driving my Crown Victoria down the usual road.

Heather was sitting next to me being her usual chatty self. After talking about shopping and music for ten minutes she suddenly looked serious. "Is it true?"

"Is what true?"

"That somebody kidnapped that geek slut yesterday?"

"Tiffany, her name is Tiffany."

My sister snorted loud enough to be heard over the car stereo. "She will always be a geek slut to me. Somebody should just kill that geek."

"Well you nearly got your wish. Jacob is in the hospital in a coma after rescuing Tiffany from Koke."

"YES!!!" Heather cheered. "May he suffer and die there."

"Does it matter at all that Koke tried to rape my girlfriend and did rape Tiffany?"

"It's impossible to rape Tiffany. If she can sleep with Jacob, she will sleep with anything with a dick."

I was having trouble controlling my temper. "And what about how Koke tried to rape Mindy?" I growled.

"Your fault. You surrendered to that Archgeek. You and Kevin destroyed the honor of the sports teams by giving in. Koke had every right to punish you as he wanted. If the punishment meant he could enjoy fucking your girl, than it was pleasure for him and punishment for you. Friends of anybody who gives in to the Archgeek have no rights in my book."

I hit the brakes, hard.

"What the hell????" Heather shouted. Her seat belt was the only thing that kept her from becoming a mess on the windshield. "What the fuck is going on with you?"

It took the car four feet to squeal to a complete stop.

"Get out!" I shouted.

I doubted I could have been any more upset if I tried.

"What? Why?"

Was she sounding confused there?

How dare she sound confused?

I undid my seat belt as I fairly screamed, "Get out of my car before I climb over there and throw you out."

"But you can't. I'm your sister."

"Fuck that. You are an annoying bitch. I'm sooooo sorry you are related to me." Then I formed a fist. "I'm gonna keep punching you until you get out of this car! You think that athletes can do whatever they want to women in this school. Well you're female and I'm an athlete." I started to move over towards Heather.

Heather undoes her seat belt in a panic. "You can't mean that. I'm your sister. The rules don't apply."

How can anybody be so blind?

"Get the fuck out of my car now. All the women you are throwing to the wolves have brothers and boyfriends who think the same thing. You are no different."

Heather scrambled out of my car.

Then I gunned the engine.

I could see from the look on her face that she still did not get it.

What I shouted at her over the sound of the engine I think will crack though even her dense head. "I take a lot of grief from you because you're my sister, but your comments about Mindy were way over the line. You're on your own. Both getting to school, getting home from school, and dealing with any men who want to use you."

The light finally come on.

"You bastard!"

I sped off.

Chapter 78: Tiffany

Ship's log, Acting Captain Tiffany French. 8:40am, October 28th 2006

I had put the Major and his Marines in the various chairs.

They were demonstrating curiosity levels usually reserved for small children.

So I told them they could be as curious as they liked but not to touch anything.

So they sat and watched like tourists at a planetarium.

Suddenly one of the Marines pointed to the holographic display. "Is that a carrier?"

"Joe, put the thing that Marine is pointing at on the main screen."

"Done."

We watched the carrier's aircraft recovery and launch operations. It looked exactly like some of the scenes from JAG.

"Joe, go to Yellow Alert. Activate primary and secondary shield generators. Raise primary shields and put them to maximum. Engage the targeting computer."

"Done."

Distance and mass numbers started running down the side of the screen. Targeting points showed up on the screen. A holographic system gave a three dimensional image of the entire area.

One of the Marines leaned towards another. "My god! I wish our unit had this during the last war games. We'd have been able to react to things before they even happened."

Meanwhile I was looking thoughtfully at the aircraft carrier. "Isn't Jacob's mother stationed aboard a carrier?"

"Yes, she is. Her call sign is Rolling Stone."

"Would you like to visit, bring her up on to date on what has been going on?"

"I think not. They are not expecting me. They are most certainly not expecting the Flying Dutchman."

Nobody ever expects the Flying Dutchman I thought.

"Doesn't matter," a Marine told us. "It looks like the carrier has noticed us."

"Best to play it safe." I said. "Joe. Raise secondary shields. Arm main weapons."

"Done. Incoming call."

"Visual or audio?"

"Visual."

"I didn't know they were that advanced. Put it onscreen."

"Done."

A middle aged man appeared on the screen. He had that stern look the military spends years shaping on their commander's faces. "This is Rear Admiral Brent of the United States carrier group Independence. Identify yourself and your intentions. Or be destroyed."

I sighed. "Now I know why Jacob is so hesitant to hand his technology over. A little trigger happy, aren't you? I am Tiffany French, acting Capitan of the Flying Dutchman. Our intention is to return Major Stone from an emergency trip." A marine pointed at images of fighter jets forming in a formation near the Dutchman.

"Really?"

"It's looks like every fighter in the area is going to give us a pass and try to get a good look."

Then lets give them a show. "Joe. Activate exterior lighting."

Brent was staring at the screen. "How old are you?"

"Sixteen, like that matters."

"No teenager should control such a craft. Land it on the carrier deck immediately."

I turned to Major Stone. "Is everybody above the rank of Major going to try to give orders to this thing?"

"Most likely."

Rear Admiral Brent noticed the Major. "Identify yourself."

"Major Stone, United States Marine Corps, on duty with the United Nations peacekeeping force in Palestine."

"Then what in the name of the squid that ate Chicago are you doing on that thing?"

"Sir, I am returning from emergency leave. My son was in the hospital, in a coma and they refused to operate unless one of his parents was present to fill out the forms. The Dutchman came out with a full crew and picked me and my surviving men out of a terrorist assault."

"Well, a Rear Admiral outranks a Major. I'm ordering you to take command of that ship and to land it on my flight deck."

Stone looked apologetically at me as he gestured at his men.

"It's ok." I said. "I know the military mind set."

"Get out of the command chair, please."

He sounded sorry.

That almost made me regret what I was about to do.

But after last night, I really did not care anymore.

I did so.

Major Stone sat in the chair.

"Sir, I'm in command. But I really do not think this is wise."

"Majors are not required to think when an Admiral is around. Now land that thing."

"Yes, Sir."

The Rear Admiral grinned in triumph.

"Can I add something?"

"Now what, kid?"

Kid? Name me three people under his command with anything close to the limited understanding of the Dutchman's tech that I have and I'll eat my bra.

"Joe. Activate all remaining engines."

"Done."

Behind the admiral a voice is heard announcing all readings gone off the scale. Several scanners were heard overloading.

"What do you think you are doing bitch?"

"Carrying out Jacob's standing orders."

"What standing orders?" the Major asks hesitantly.

"Don't worry, we are not going to fire on the Americans."

"Then what is going on?" a Marine asks.

"Joe. Engage the self destruct. 2 minute countdown. Tiffany one nine, nine eight nine, five."

"Red Alert. Self destruct engaged. 120... 119... 118..."

Sirens sounded as the ship's lighting changed to an ethereal red light.

"What did you do?"

"One of Jacob's strongest fears is that the military mindset gets control of this technology. Therefore he has convinced me that self destruction is better than unbalancing the planetary military situation."

"93... 92... 91... 90... 89."

"You bitch!" The Rear Admiral shouted. Then he struggled with his next question. "How bad?"

"Your carrier will be obliterated. Most of the surrounding taskforce will be so heavily damaged that they may be beyond salvage."

"77... 76... 75..."

"You're bluffing. You'll be blown up too."

"Are you trying to point out to a rape victim that life is worth the pain?"

"54... 53..."

The Marines were shocked into silence. Indescribable odds against them in battle they could handle. A suicidally depressed teenager with the self destruct codes to something they hadn't the slightest clues about scared the shit out of them. They were willing to die for their country, but they had to be wondering if this was quite what their drill sergeant warned them about.

"40... 39... 38... 37..."

"Ok, bitch. You win." The Admiral screamed.

"I'd stop calling me a bitch if I were you. Do you renounce all rights to this ship and any right to punish all occupants?"

"Yes! Yes!! Just stop that self destruct."

"20... 19... 18..."

"So noted and recorded." I leaned over the major and hit a quick code into the command chair's keypad. "Self destruct terminated."

I heard several sighs of relief from the marines.

"Anything else?" I asked the question in the tone of somebody who either gave up on life, or somebody secure in the knowledge of untouchable power and bored with it all.

Funny how two such different feelings had the same tone.

Admiral Brent looked like he'd rather order me keelhauled. "No. Just get that thing out of my sight."

"Ok. Joe, disengage tertiary and quaternary shield generators. Also disengage secondary, tertiary and quaternary weapon generators. Stand down from Red Alert. Close the channel."

"Done."

Major Stone rose from the command chair. "It's the wrong carrier anyway."

"Excuse me?"

Now what is he talking about?

"The Independence is the wrong carrier. My wife is aboard the Nimitz."

Oh, that. Funny how thoughts of death drive all other trivia from your mind.

The Flying Dutchman flew on through the sky.

"Joe. Regional map please."

"Done."

I saw that we were approaching Israeli airspace. "Now here's where I expected the trouble to start."

"Why?"

"Remember, on the Dutchman's last visit, we shot down 6 aircraft. I doubt they want to be friendly with us now."

"Good point."

"Joe. Go to Red Alert. Arm secondary weapons generator. Bring up the targeting system, raise maximum shields."

"Done."

The Dutchman flew on.

Incoming signal.

"Good grief. Who now, Joe?"

"General Smith."

"Smith... Smith... where have I heard that name before?"

One of the marines spoke up. "General Smith is the Commanding Officer for the United States detachment in Palestine."

"Oh great. Another person in charge. He'll probably want to take command too. Joe, ignore the call."

"Done."

The Major tried to resist a laugh. "No need to worry. Your friend Fred put him in his place. Besides, he was kind enough to authorize my emergency leave."

"Fred put him in his place? Fred must have enjoyed that. Alright. I'll talk to the guy. Joe. Put that signal on speakers."

"Done."

"Attention Flying Dutchman, this is General Smith, United States Marine Corps at the United Nations command post for the West Bank. Come in Acting Commander Fred."

"This is Acting Captain Tiffany French, Flying Dutchman. Fred is in school."

"I see. Are Major Stone and his Marines aboard?"

"Yes. They've asked me to return them to the base just north of Jerusalem."

"Could you please fly around Israeli air space?"

"Why?"

"We are trying to keep tensions down."

"From what I was told, Franks fired first."

"Nevertheless, the powers that be want to try to prevent outright war." the General informed me.

"So long as they do not shoot at us, we will not shoot at them."

"I think you have them worried. They are not so willing to fight battles they cannot afford. You proved that despite the fact their military is primarily US technology, there are still things they have to watch out for. We promised to allow them to save face by not giving them reason to be shot down so quickly."

"Maybe then they should stop sponsoring the attacks in Jerusalem that my current events teacher keeps going on about."

"True. But they are fanatics who have claimed the force of God is behind them. The only thing they will answer to is superior force. Smith out."

No sooner is that signal cut than another is received.

I sighed. Now I know why Jacob planned for a communications officer. That way somebody else could take all these calls. Who is it this time?

Joe paused. "It is a female, shouting. Something about your mother."

"On speakers."

"Done."

"Tiffany Mary French, what the hell are you doing? Turn off that stupid..." her mother shouts.

"Joe. Cut volume to half so long as she's shouting like that. Hi mom. Didn't expect you to call so soon."

"You sneak out of the hospital without telling anybody and you think nobody is going to notice?? Do you honestly think I'm that blind?"

My voice tightened. "Yes. After all, you managed to not notice me for over an hour while you and my dad had a shouting match. I could have disappeared in a puff of fire and I doubt either of you would've noticed."

My mother sounded even more shocked and upset then she did a minute ago.

Given how she sounded a minute ago, that was very impressive.

"You cannot be seriously thinking that I was not aware you were there."

"That makes it worse. You heard my plea to stop fighting, at least in front of me and the two of you continued. The two of you were shouting worse then fighting teenagers. I could not sleep, so rather then stay there, I made a run for it."

There was silence on the other end of the communications channel. Then mom spoke somewhat more calmly. "I'm sorry Tiffany. That man just gets on my last nerve. Did you really mean it when you threatened to move to your boyfriend's house?"

"Mother, I don't want to talk about it now, but chances are he will not be my boyfriend for long."

"What??"

"I'm still not sure... but you've told me that love should not have doubts... I'm doubting I can live in the same league as he can. Don't ask my why, yet. Anyway, it was an empty threat to move in to his house."

"I will not deny Jacob Stone is the greatest pain in the ass I have. But before you say anything to him, I suggest you talk to Roberts. I'll drive you back and forth from the hospital."

"No. Not at the hospital. Not as long as that man who calls himself my dad works there."

The disgusted anger in my voice made the marines quake in their chairs.

I think they suddenly realized there was something capable of being more dangerous than the Flying Dutchman.

The wrath of a teenager betrayed by their own parent.

Now mom tried to speak as reasonably as she could. "Don't worry. According to Roberts, she has an office on City Line Ave. We can go there."

I think she realized we had reached a crossroads. Because of the chair I was sitting in and my current views on life, she could take nothing for granted.

I almost thought I detected a plea in her voice. A plea not to give up on everything.

Including some sort of family life with her.

It was the first thing to touch my heart in a good way in thirty hours.

"Ok mother, we can do that. And if it matters, of the two of you, I prefer living with you. I just do not need the fights."

Chapter 79: Corporal Mavis, USMC

Given all that had recently occurred, I thought I'd say something to change the subject. "You know, this craft reminds me of the space shuttle. Lots of controls and a deceptive appearance."

Tiffany told me, "If Jacob is to be believed, this ship is capable of getting into space as well."

I laughed. ""That's impossible."

"Why?" Major Stone asked me.

"It's not built strong enough. It has no rocket engines. I've heard nothing about his training. He's only a teenager you told me. How can a kid not out of high school do something it takes most people years to train for?"

"Well... this thing has no jet engines and we are flying, aren't we?"

"Don't ask me how. I'm not the scientific genius in my family." I told him.

"Tell me," Tiffany asked me, "you seem to know a lot about the space shuttle program, how many voice controlled ships does the program have?"

"None."

Next she waved at the holographic projections around the control room. "Any ships with scanning systems like this?"

"No."

"So why is it so hard to think my son can go into space?" Major Stone asked.

I was saved from replying by the computer speaking.

"Incoming call" Joe says.

Tiffany looked annoyed at being interrupted again. "On speakers. Who is it now??"

"Colonel Maddok, Israeli air command. I thought it was made clear your kind is not wanted here. Go back to your godless land."

"All Franks made clear was that you guys were a bunch of racists who compare anybody who challenges your point of view to the Nazis and their holocaust."

"They are. All who betray the Children of God to their enemies are no better than the Nazis."

"That mistake cost Franks and his flight of jets their lives."

"Mistake?? They died for the Truth. Just because the Truth is insulting, does it mean their deaths were deserved?"

Tiffany pointed out, "Jews were not the only ones who were shoved into the concentration camps. His grandfather was thrown in the camp for being a catholic who sheltered a bunch of gypsies and dissidents."

A shocked gasp escaped Maddok. "It is a shame that the family that did such noble things is now willing to go against God."

"I give up. Reason and logic mean as much to you as they do to a three month old kid. We will stay in airspace granted by the UN, but will return fire if needed."

Chapter 80: Kevin

(approaching noon)

I waited in the courtyard where Fred told me to.

Fred showed up a few minutes later.

"How's the planning for the game coming?"

"The planning for the game is going great." Fred told me. The team might not be around for the game, though."

"Why not?"

"Wait until the meeting."

That's right Fred. Make some mysterious comment and leave me hanging. This had better be good.

All I said back was "Ok."

We went the locker room

The rest of the team was waiting.

I double checked that everybody was here. Then I banged my hand against a locker door a couple times. "All right people, lets get quiet."

Quiet slowly fell over the crowd.

"Thanks you all for showing up. Fred called me this morning, told me he had some news we all had to hear. When I asked him, all he told me is that I had to call this meeting."

"Where are the coaches?" A player asked.

"Fred asked that I not tell the coaches."

"What's going on?" Another player asks.

I indicated for Fred to take over.

"Well, Kevin, I asked you to call this meeting to tell you we are all doomed."

"Nonsense." One player commented.

"No way. Another replied."

Somebody else waited for the talking to die down before saying what everybody had to be thinking. "I thought you guys made peace with Stone."

"You did. We did. But Koke did not. Last night Koke kidnapped and raped Tiffany."

"Did I hear my name?"

We all turned as if choreographed.

It was Koke.

I gasped. "Koke? You have the nerve to come back?"

Koke was standing there like a cat that got the canary sprinkled lightly with catnip, and had a pint of cream to wash it down.

"Yes. I'm back to tell you our problems are all over. Great news!! Jacob Jehosophat Stone is dead. His slutty girlfriend is dead. We run this school again."

We were all silent for a moment.

"Somebody is dead, but they are not." Fred told Koke.

"You lie! Their crash was on the news. I opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate."

Fred was almost speaking like Jacob. "They live. I was there, I helped to save Tiffany, and later fetched Jacob's dad so that a lifesaving operation could take place."

We never heard Fred so calm.

We never saw Koke so upset.

"You traitor! I'm gonna kill you." Koke yelled.

Koke lunged for Fred.

Fred pushed him back and assumed a defensive position. "Not this time. This time we will not go down with you."

I swear the school life around here is making me suicidal.

I stepped in front of Koke. "Sit down. I'm running this meeting."

"I'm the coach." He shouted at that. "No kid is going to make me sit down and shut up! I'm as far above you as you are above those nerds like Stone."

That's when I told him, "That makes you my inferior."

"Your inferior?? Us inferior to a geek like Stone?"

What little self control the coach was practicing evaporated like mist in a desert.

Koke punched my head so hard I swear my brains rattled.

Good thing I never used them anyway.

I resisted the desire to collapse and kicked the coach like a football. Very very hard.

He just grunted in pain.

Oh SHIT.

Koke started using his fists like a pair of overcharged pile drivers.

Three hits later I heard a crack.

Falling to my knees, I nearly passed out as he got a few more punches onto my recently broken arm.

With me on the floor, half a dozen teammates jumped over and around me to dog pile the coach.

Another teammate ran to get ice.

Somebody ran into Koke's office to call the nurse.

"Don't." I called, stopping the would be caller. "Not before this meeting is over. Fred. You are sure that Koke is responsible?"

"Yes. I was there aboard the Dutchman."

"You fucking traitor. If I ever get loose, I'm going to break your head as easily as I broke Kevin's arm." Koke screamed. "You're both expelled from my team."

Now it was my turn to sound like Jacob Jehosophat Stone. "No." I told him as I looked at him with the certainty of choices made. "We are disowning you. You are a mad criminal who will destroy everything. We are not going down with you. Fred, call the police. Tell them you have Koke and get them to pick him up as soon as you can."

Fred quickly did so. Then he turned back to the team. "Jacob's last words before his tragic accident..."

"... tragic accident? Don't you mean divine punishment for challenging his betters?" Koke interrupts.

"No. Somebody shut him up."

I went over to the spot where Koke was pinned down. I transferred the pain from my broken arm and hit head to my temper. Then I took all that anger and used it to power the swing of my uninjured arm. The punch connected perfectly.

Koke dropped like a rock.

"Thanks Kevin. As I was saying, Jacob's last message is that he will not hold the team responsible. None of us expected Koke to be bold enough to show back up as if he did nothing wrong. But he did suggest we get a new coach. I suggest Kevin. He knows all the plays and players. We all respect him."

"Thanks Fred. Besides with this arm broken, I can't play anyway. Now that the team's settled things in house, you can call the nurse. This pain is getting bad."

Chapter 81: Jacob

No perceivable time.

Jacob Stone was lying on the ground.

To any disinterested observers, there was nothing wrong with him that people could see.

The two people watching him from a distance and waiting for him to wake up were anything but disinterested observers.

Darkness.

Wait a moment. My eyes are still closed.

I opened my eyes.

Looking around, I saw nothing I expected to see.

Big surprise. Nothing in my life went as expected, why should death be any different.

Next question. Where in the name of the various hells for stubborn sinners am I?

And who are those voices I'm thinking I'm hearing?

Lying in all this steam was not giving me the answers I sought.

I tried to get up as I usually would. Recent events had driven the memory of my damaged hand out of active memory. As I got up, I pushed hard on what should have been my bad hand.

Then I remembered.

Strange thing that I'm feeling no pain.

Ok. I'm up.

First thing is to walk clear of the steam. I muttered to myself as I did so.

There I made two discoveries.

One was how oddly familiar the landscape was.

The second thing I noticed was that I had no wounds at all.

Some thing is wrong in the state of... whatever state I'm currently in.

Right now I should be in agonizing pain from using my bad hand like that, and there is no area in the Eastern United States to my knowledge that looks like this.

The more I looked around, the more the obsidian rocks, frequent steam vents and general volcanic landscape became more and more familiar.

Suddenly I knew where I was with scientific certainty.

"Iceland." I had lived here several years when my family was stationed here, just before they told me my mad uncle died.

Here lived the last person to truly share my work.

Something might have happened between us if my family had not been scattered by their assignments.

I had not stepped foot in this area in at least thirteen months.

As I said, I was in Iceland.

"You're right about that." one of the voices told me.

I looked around some more. This time I paid closer attention to the details of the distant landscape showing. The sight of my first hovercar crash. The Baldur farm.

"Correct." The other voice I had heard informed me.

Another strange thing. I mused. "Why do those voices sound familiar?"

"Come over here and find out." one of the voices says.

I made my way carefully around a hill and discovered I had been speaking to my brothers.

"What are you guys doing here? Aren't the pair of you supposed to be in Afghanistan?"

"Yes. We are. And you should be in the United States."

"Good point. So what am I doing here?"

"You tell us."

"Last thing I remember, I was pulling Tiffany into the Flying Dutchman. Hmm strange environment, no memories more recent than that, body appears completely healthy... something is going on here."

One of my brothers told me that he was going to show me what happened.

Suddenly we were all back on the Dutchman.

Aboard the Flying Dutchman, everybody had moved into position.

"Everybody hold on, this ride's about to get rough!" Jacob shouted. "Shields down!"

Suddenly Tiffany felt a hand yank on her.

"Oh shit," Mindy shouted, "Fred, watch out!"

"Jacob!"

"Oh fuck. Shields up now!!"

Where Tiffany was shuddered violently. She heard metal creaking and connections snapping all around her.

"Shields still down Jacob..." Bob said.

"All power failing." Diane added watching the various readouts.

"Oh fuck." Jacob said.

The replay of his past stops at this moment.

"I'm sorry, brothers, but that was what I remembered. The blank memory starts at that point."

"We know. We just stopped the playback to make sure that your were paying attention."

"Trust me, I am."

The playback restarts.

Jacob lost his balance as the ship broke through the barrier.

The ship lurched a bit.

Tiffany seemed to be sliding for the hatch.

Jacob grabbed her and put all of his momentum into pushing her back away from the opening. He lost his balance then and started to fall out of the ship himself. He grabbed with his bad hand as he fell out and missed.

Beneath the bridge, the highway was moving with high speed traffic.

Jacob dropped from the Dutchman as the Dutchman continued past the road and started it's descent into the valley next to the other highway.

Jacob fell 4 feet onto the top of a tractor trailer. From there he bounced once then landed on a truck of hay bales. He landed with sufficient force to go through the hay bales and out the truck's side wooden fencing.

From there he flew 10 feet, bounced off of the grass, rolled another 35 feet then dropped.

He landed in the mud, except for his left leg. His left leg slammed in to the only exposed rock, very, very hard.

He did not move after that.

The 'picture' lingers on that image before dissipating.

"Ok." I mused. "That explains things. I'm dead."

"Though there is a dead person here, you are not him... yet."

"Explain."

"Simple. You are standing at the crossroads of your existence. Medically speaking, there is no reason you should not stay alive. But your heart and mind, that is a different story."

"Why?"

"Because you have fears deep down about your future. Both scientifically and romantically. Your fears romantically are valid, but not for the same reasons you were thinking."

My other brother said, "Watch it. We cannot give him too much information on that before he makes his choice."

"Choice?"

"Yes. You stand at the precipice between mere acceptance of who you are and the understanding that you are indeed different. You have the destinies of thousands in your hands. Your actions can determine the very future of the planet."

"The local steam must be fogging your head." I told them. "I'm just a common teenager. Nothing I've done is capable of all that. I can affect a few lives though politics, true, others in the school though sharing my knowledge, but thousands, the planet?"

"Your scientific knowledge is exactly the point. You have already built the first stage of your destiny. The Flying Dutchman. As your ad hoc crew has proven in three flights since the crash, that ship is so far ahead of conventional science that everybody will be waiting to see the moves you make."

"Everybody? Surely you exaggerate. It's been fully active for less than 100 hours. It's never been overseas. Unless they went and put the thing on CNN, there is no way everybody would know about it. Hell, not everybody watches the news channel anyway. It's certain that they do not all watch the same news shows. It's just not possible that everybody can know about it."

"Your wrong, Jacob. They've had two overseas flights, talking to NORAD, the United Nations peacekeepers command in Palestine, the carrier U.S.S. Independence and actually exchanged fire with the Israeli air force. There was also the matter of a full scale firefight when they picked dad up in Jerusalem. By now, every major intelligence agency worth their office space has done some thinking about your little ship."

"So then, I take it, the choice is not really only mine, for my actions now conceivably affect the entire globe."

"Oh, the choice is yours. Make no mistake about that."

"Presupposing that I choose, would my return be so easy? Even Jacob Jehosophat Stone cannot return from the dead on the whim."

"But you are not dead." One brother tells me.

My other brother tells me, "Not quite dead."

"Oh?"

"Yes. You lie in a coma that they think you should not be in. A fair result I suppose since no self respecting bookie would have given odds that you would still be alive. But now you must choose."

"But what makes you, make that what makes the fates think that I can handle all this? I'm just a high school kid with a big brain."

"The legend." My first brother told me.

"Excuse me?"

"The legend you created to survive in high school." My other brother told me.

"You guys cannot mean..."

"Yes." They replied in unison. "The public persona of Jacob Jehosophat Stone."

Chapter 82: Ms. Q.

I watched as my class entered my classroom. I looked again at the memo on my desk, then at the students filling up my classroom.

But the student I needed most for today's lesson had not yet arrived.

Tiffany entered the room last. She looked around and then headed to her seat. She seemed depressed.

I quieted the room. "We seem to be minus a program student, so today I think we shall discuss what happens when sex is not sex."

Tiffany's face went blank.

I have never seen a students face change so quickly.

"We've talked about sex for fun, and sex for love. Today we talk about sex when used as a power game. This period, we will talk about rape."

Tiffany's face showed a little color, then nothing. She stumbled to her feet and headed for the door.

I caught up with her in hallway. "Where are you going?"

Never before did I see such repressed emotions straining a face.

"I left the Flying Dutchman's engines on. I'm going to turn them off." She told me. Tears started to show on Tiffany's face.

"Is that true? Don't worry, today we will not ask you to do anything." I handed her the memo I had been looking at before class. Then I handed her another letter. One I wrote for her just in case something like this happened in class.

Tiffany read the memo. Then she read my letter.

She read them carefully.

"You sure about this?"

"Yes. I think it will help us all."

"Ok. I'll try." Tiffany went slowly back to her seat.

I was impressed that she could even attempt to master feelings and pains I would only want to guess at.

I turned back to the class. "Tiffany is understandably upset by today's subject."

Heather remarked "But most of the school is thrilled."

Nobody said anything, but Heather got several dirty looks.

Oh, for that time when school teachers could give a student a thrashing for being a troublesome student.

I put on my no nonsense voice. "As I was saying, we are going to talk about rape. Legally speaking, rape is sex without consent. I hold that rape is not about sex at all. It's about assault, abuse and power games. Men and women using sex to establish power the same way they might use any other weapon. The defense that a person enjoys it once protected the rapist. Not anymore. Now it is understood that even if the rapist manages to trigger the right responses in a victim's body, the mental damage remains."

The class went silent.

I had to resist a grin. Finally they were all paying attention to a lesson worth remembering. "Today I am discussing a subject usually avoided. And it is because we avoid it so much that nobody knows how to handle it when somebody we know has been raped."

A girl in the third row asked, "I have a question. Did I hear you say men could be raped?"

"I was getting to that, but yes everybody can be raped."

The girl asks "Is that what happened to Jacob?"

"No," Heather said, "something more permanent, thank God."

I shot a look at Tiffany.

Tiffany clenches her hands on the edges of her desk so hard I was surprised she wasn't denting it. She didn't do anything more.

"Shut up Heather." I hissed with every bit of cold anger I could stick into that short sentence. "Remember how I defined rape as assault, abuse and power games made physical? Today's classroom model... is you, Heather. You've been using that mouth of yours to rape Tiffany all week."

The class went silent again with shock.

Heather jumped her feet. "Take that back bitch!" She shouted. "You can't rape Tiffany. Any body who would fuck Jacob is slut enough to fuck anybody. You cannot rape the willing."

This time I didn't move fast enough.

Next thing I knew Tiffany had picked up her desk and threw it at Heather. "You shit spewing bitch." She cried through her tears.

The class scattered as the desk flew at Heather.

Heather barely dodged it.

The next thing to come flying at Heather was Tiffany herself.

Tiffany tackled Heather and started punching her.

Heather fought back as much as she could. But it was obvious that she was barely able to hold her own against Tiffany.

Arrogant superiority rarely can stand up to uncontrolled anger.

Eventually Heather crawled under a table.

School security showed up.

I guess the sound of a flying desk would get their attention after all.

I was not going to let them interfere. I held them at the door.

Several lessons were going to be taught today.

"Somebody help me, please." Heather begged.

"No."

"Not happening."

"You brought this on yourself."

"Don't look at me."

The rest of the class's responses just got ruder after that.

I asked her, "How did it feel to be cast to the wolves?"

"You have to!" Heather switched from pleading to threatening. "My brother will kick the ass of anybody who does not beat Tiffany up for this."

By now Tiffany was throwing textbooks underneath the table at heather. "I was raped you bitch, by Koke. Just before he tried to kill me because I resisted."

I held up a note that I had held in reserve until now.

Not even Tiffany knew about this note.

"I have here a message from Fred saying that he withdraws his protection and that Heather can be treated as she deserves. He will not retaliate. What's good for the goose is good for the gander."

"Somebody save me." Heather's voice sounded pleading again.

"Do you admit you were wrong?" I asked.

"No!!!"

Ut oh.

Tiffany had run out of books and had grabbed for the scissors on my desk.

That was more trouble than I was willing to permit.

I grabbed her arm hard. "I can't let you use that. Even if she deserves it. Guard, get Heather and remove her."

"What about Tiffany?" One of the guards asked.

"I think it's out of her system."

Tiffany nodded, dropping the scissors back on to my desk.

"You both were in a fight. As the class teacher, I have the right to assign the punishments. Heather, a month of after school detentions, and a choice of losing eligibility for after school groups... or expulsion and sending to a reform school."

"What about that fuck bitch Tiffany?" Heather demanded defiantly.

"Given all that she has suffered at your hands, and the hands of those you respect, her punishment is to clean up the mess she made. When she is not in such emotional anguish, I'll want her to apologize to the other students in the class for disrupting the lesson."

"She nearly killed me. That's all she's getting???"

"Well, the same unequal scales you've approved of are being used here. This time she benefits."

"But I'm special. She's shit." Heather replied stubbornly.

"Get Heather out of here."

The guards dragged her away.

"I'm get you all for this. Mark my words. You'll all gonna die!"

Chapter 83: Tiffany's mother

5pm

I arrived at the hospital as soon as I could.

This place has yet to give me a good memory.

Sylvia Roberts was waiting at the door for me.

With her was a doctor.

The look on Robert's face concerned me.

And I most certainly did not like the look the doctor was trying not to show.

Years of being in politics has taught me to read poker faces as though they were children's books.

"We have news for you." The doctor told me.

His tone said it all.

"It's bad news, isn't it?"

I was doing my best to remain calm.

The doctor sadly nodded his head. "Her blood work has come back. We ran the tests three times. I ran the last test myself. She has AIDS."

"Oh God, no!!" I collapsed into the chair.

Roberts moved in to try to comfort me.

"Please," I begged the doctor, "please I'm begging you, tell me this is some cruel joke." The doctor looked sad. "It is cruel. But it is no joke. I suppose there is a five percent chance I'm wrong, but every test we currently have tells us it's true. That includes some rather recent testing developments. There is some chance that any one of those tests could be wrong. But like the old spy thrillers, enough indicators were revealed by the various tests to be sure."

Through my tears I growled "He's dead."

"Who is dead?" the doctor asked.

"The bastard who raped her, who gave my daughter her own prolonged death sentence. I will kill him if it is the last thing I ever do."

"Think about what your saying." Roberts told her.

My favorite rival has a quote. "'Thinking is not needed on this issue. The facts are obvious for those watching. Well, I don't give a damn. My daughter is the only reason I fight half the battles I do. Tiffany is the reason I give a damn about so much. With her death now assured, I have no reason to care about my life. That's why I am going to kill the bastard who condemned her." I said that with the certainty of death and taxes.

"It's not over yet."

"Really doctor?" I responded with utter disbelief. "Whatever makes you say that?"

"How much do you know about AIDS?"

"That it's sexually transmitted, and causes death in the end."

"True. It is also the common way we doctors announce that a person is HIV positive. We'd like to check your blood just to make sure, but odds are she received it from the person who raped her."

"I'll do whatever I can to help. Tell me more. What is it Tiffany has now, and what does she have to look forward to?"

"I told you your daughter had AIDS. That is a common medical misconception to get people to have an idea as to what they truly have. Aids, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, is the final stages of human immunodeficiency virus or HIV. HIV slowly attacks and destroys the immune system, the body's defense against infection, leaving an individual vulnerable to a variety of other infections that eventually cause death. AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection, during which time fatal infections and cancers arise. The good news, if you can call it that, is that the strength of the infection was so strong that it was detectable by the tests."

"Unfortunately, I'm not surprised. Our family has always had a week immune system." I told him. "Tiffany wanted to become a doctor. Her plans were to become specialized in this field."

Nobody said anything. Nobody had to. There was nothing that could be said. Tiffany's dreams would never occur now. There was no way anybody infected with HIV would ever be permitted in the medical profession.

"So how long does she really have?"

The doctor shook his head. "There's no way to tell for sure without more tests on her. Could be a year, could be six. We just don't know."

"I don't know how I'm going to tell her this."

"Can I help?" Roberts asks.

"Yes. I'm going to need all the help I can get."

"Where is she now?"

"She was going to be on a date with Jacob, but last night changed things. I do know she is going to her regular 4 H meeting."

Chapter 84: Karen

6:10pm

"Thanks mom, for the lift to the store. These seeds should be a big enough selection to decide what we are entering for next year's county fair."

Suddenly it became a lot brighter.

I looked and saw a bright object defying the laws of gravity with the ease of the Goodyear blimp. "What the hell is that?"

My mother looked up. Then she grabbed me by the arm and dragged me away into the corn field.

The other teens and parents were aware of it by now. They scattered like leaves before the wind.

My father took one look and whistled hard.

My older brother tossed him a shotgun and the two of them took shelter behind the side of the house. My younger brother jumped out a window on the other side of the house and crawled through some weeds to get to a spot to where they could get whatever that thing was in a crossfire.

From between the corn stalks, I watched that thing fly over the cars and circle the barn like it was looking for something. Then it returned to hovering in front of the house.

I must have lived a sheltered life, because I never even heard of anything like this. The closest thing was some crazy rumor about some mad inventor at another high school. But the latest stories on him have him dead.

What is going on here?

A moment later, my question was answered.

I heard Tiffany's voice over some sort of speaker system. "Excuse me, is there anybody still home?"

I never heard such an emotionally dead voice before.

Mr. Hendersan stepped out, pointing the shotgun at his target. He was careful to keep the porch between him and the flying thing at all times. "Who are you, and what in John Deere's name is that?"

"I," Tiffany continued in her emotionally dead voice, "am Tiffany French. This is the Flying Dutchman, and I suggest you put that gun down. My boyfriend will be very annoyed if you put any holes in his project."

Hendersan keeps the gun pointed. "What ever that thing is, turn it around and leave."

Whatever it was, I realized there was some sort of bluish field around it. That bluish field became more visible after my father spoke to it.

But the ship didn't not move.

"Ok boys, shoot."

Dad and my two brothers fired their shotguns.

The bluish field flared slightly, but as far as I could tell, the ship remained undamaged.

They kept shooting until they ran out of ammo.

Then I heard Tiffany speaking again. "Jacob put weapons on this thing in addition to shields. The only reason you guys are still standing is because it would be rude to hurt the hosts of the 4 H meeting I was invited to."

"You were invited???" My father sounded disbelieving.

"Yes. Ask your daughter."

I poked my head out of the cornfield. "Tiffany? From Ashley's school? You don't sound like her."

"You suffer what I have recently and see if you sound like a happy girl."

"I've heard stories."

"Most of them are probably true."

"Wait a moment?" Another voice sounded. "The Tiffany French? As in girlfriend of Jacob Jehosophat Stone?"

"Yes."

I watched Ashley step out of the field.

"Are you nuts?" one of the other teens in the cornfield hissed.

"No. And she is not a threat. I know both of them from last year's school play. I had a crush on him, and he had a crush on her. The stories I've heard today I wouldn't wish on my worst rival."

The deadest voice anybody alive had ever heard continued. "Ashley?"

"Yes, Tiffany. It's Ashley Andrews."

"I was beginning to wonder if this was the right place."

"It is." I confirmed. My confidence was building since nobody had gotten killed yet. "Dad, you can stop threatening her. From what I've heard, you could cram the barn full of explosives and light the fuse and it would not hurt that thing."

Hendersan put down his useless gun. "Ok, Miss French, you are at the right farm."

"Where should I land the Dutchman?"

"There is an empty corral to the left of the barn. Park it there. The meeting will be inside."

Meanwhile the rest of us left the cornfield.

No need to hide if we were not being invaded by aliens.

It was time for me to play hostess.

I led everybody into the living room.

Everybody sat in their usual seats.

Tiffany looked around for a moment, then sat in a chair. To those that knew her she nodded back at their greetings. That was all the reaction they could get.

Then Mr. Mason started the meeting. "Welcome back everybody. We have a busy meeting planned. Tonight, as most of you are aware, we have to work on deciding the science fair project we are going to do. But let's start with the 4 H pledge."

In unison, everybody but Tiffany recited, "I pledge My Head to clearer thinking, My Heart to greater loyalty, My Hands to larger service, and My Health to better living, for my Club, my Community, my Country, and my World."

"Good." Mr. Mason said afterward. "Now it looks like we have a guest with us. Who invited her?"

"I did. My friend Ashley told me that she was asking questions."

"Ashley, why didn't you invite her?"

"Because the meeting was being held here. I was raised not to invite strangers to another person's house."

"Ok. Karen, tell me what you know about Tiffany."

"Ok. Tiffany is a school friend of Ashley. She is usually in a better mood than this. But from what I've heard recently in the high school gossip circuit, she has good reason to be like this." I turned to Tiffany. "I'm glad that you're here, but do you mind if I ask why you came out tonight? After all that has happened?"

Finally Tiffany spoke. "I'm here because I said I would be here."

Mr. Mason looked around. "There's something you guys are not saying that probably would help me to understand things."

I looked at Ashley.

Ashley looked at Tiffany. "May I?"

Tiffany looked around the room. Then she looked back at Ashley. "No. I'll do it." She visibly gathered her nerve and started speaking. "I was kidnapped last night. Then I was raped and nearly murdered. Then the vehicle that rescued me crashed." Suddenly there was emotion in Tiffany's voice. "Then when I finally get to the hospital, my father says that this is my just punishment and that I earned what happened last night."

Nobody knew how to respond to the vehemence of her statement.

"Enough about that." Her voice returned to it's previously dead state. "So tell me about the 4 H. Where and when did it get started?" Mr. Mason was glad for the subject change. "4-H didn't start at any one time or place. It is the result of the work of many people in different parts of the United States who were concerned about young people. From its inception, 4-H tied both public and private resources together for the purpose of helping young people.

Two forces generated the idea of 4-H work. One was the concern for education in rural areas. The seed of the 4-H idea of practical or applied educational principles resulted from concern for the relevance of public schools to country life. The second was a need for advancing the new agricultural technologies produced by research at experiment stations of the land-grant college system. The farming community did not readily accept these new ideas and techniques. When Congress created the Cooperative Extension Service at USDA in 1914, it included boys' and girls' club work. This soon became known as 4-H clubs - Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. As 4-H neared it's 50th anniversary, it began to experience several trends. In 1948 a group of American young people went to Europe and a group of Europeans came to the United States on the first International Farm Youth Exchange. Out-of-state trips and international exchanges have been highly educational for hundreds of young people in 4-H. 4-H began to extend into urban areas in the 1950's. Later, the basic 4-H focus became the personal growth of the member. Life skills development is built into 4-H projects, activities, and events, to help participants become contributing, productive, self-directed members of society. The organizational coordination changed in the 1960's, combining 4-H groups divided by gender or race into a single integrated program. Today, after more than 100 years, 4-H is the largest out-of-school youth program in the US - both in rural and urban areas throughout the country. It offers youth opportunities in communications, leadership, career development, animal and plant science, home improvement, and technology, and much more to 7 million American youth. The program promotes life skills development through an expanding number of delivery modes: 4-H community clubs, special interest groups, EFNEP nutrition programs, school enrichment, camping, and more. 4-H will continue to grow and develop with the head, heart, hands, and health of youth."

Tiffany looked back at Mr. Mason. "Just because my emotions are dead does not mean my brain died. That sounded like a memorized press release."

I was upset by that. The Mason's had been family friends longer than I had been alive. "What would you know about press releases? You're just a high school cheerleader."

One day I'll learn to keep my mouth shut.

She responded in her devastated monotone. "Because I am Tiffany Mary French, Acting Captain of the Flying Dutchman. My boyfriend is the unfortunately legendary Jacob Jehosophat Stone who dabbles in politics. If that isn't enough to give you reason to understand that he is special, let me remind you he built the Flying Dutchman at 15. That's three years younger than you and a year younger than when most teenagers are begging their parents to let them get learner's permits."

Tiffany paused then.

I remembered the thing she arrived in.

Then she continued. "I know all about how you are considered a top biology student at your school. Well, at our school, Jacob is not considered a science student. As far as we are concerned, he rewrote the laws of science. My boyfriend stretches the bounds of engineering like taffy. I am not so easily impressed by carefully chosen words."

"What does impress you?" Mr. Mason asked.

"I don't know anymore."

Ashley looked at me, then the rest of us. "Please tell me that you did not invite her because of her boyfriend's science rep. I know you guys want to win the prize to fund your projects, but I thought this group was less manipulative than a bunch of high school kids."

Karen looked back at her. "We are a bunch of high school kids. And I'll admit it. If half the things said about him are true, he is the answer to our need to produce something special to win that prize."

"Does it matter to you that her boyfriend might even now be dead?"

The others watched the back and forth between the two.

Then Tiffany got out of her chair and headed for the front door.

"What's wrong?" Asked Mr. Mason.

Tiffany just made a follow me gesture with her hand.

"What's she up to?" I wondered aloud.

"It looks like she wants us to follow her." Ashley told me.

We got up and followed her.

She led us to where we had told her to park the Flying Dutchman. Then she pointed.

We stood there.

"Well? Go ahead. You wanted it."

If she's doing what I think she's doing, it'd be carried off better if she sounded like she cared.

I looked around the thing. I am not going to let some freshman from another school show me up so easily.

The only problem was that after walking around the craft three times, I thought I saw the outline of it's door. But there was no way I could see to open it. There was a raised area of metal near where I thought the door was.

"Well, can't you get in?"

I was getting ready to forget all the abuse she went through in the last 24 hours.

"The keypad's under the raised metal. Enter the code One, one, zero, five, nine, one. The lights are the second switch to the left in the pad to the right as you enter the door."

"Well," I snapped, "if I could see the keys I would be able to do that."

Most girls I snap at would've at least looked at me.

Not Tiffany.

She just stood there with her ever increasing annoying lack of giving a damn. "Are you a teenager or not? How often do you use a phone? Or do you still need to look at the numbers as you push them?"

Ashley's mouth dropped.

I swear if there had been any emotion in her voice when she said that, I'd have punched her through the nearest barn wall.

Tiffany waved me aside. Then she stuck her hand under the slot for a few seconds.

The hatch opened.

Enough of this. This Jacob fellow can't be as smart as they claim he is. No high school kid can.

I boarded the ship, looked around and went to the right. The first door I came to was locked. "What's in here?"

"The engine room."

"Why can't I get in?"

"Because odds are you'll touch the wrong thing and blow the rest of you to the hell I'm currently feeling."

"I'll be the judge of that."

"No, I will." Tiffany pointed to the door down the corridor. "You can go in there."

Of all the nerve.

But there was nothing I could do about it.

So I went where she was pointing. The door opened into a bedroom. The mess in there proved to me that a man was responsible for the ship. "Your boyfriend is a slob."

Ashley spoke up. "Karen, I've seen your room."

I glared at her.

Tiffany pointed to the outermost of two doors in the other wall. "The other room is a bathroom. That way." We went that way. It was a workroom. It was even messier. I started to open my mouth.

"Don't say a word. You are so unqualified to judge Jacob's habits. The bridge is through that door."

I led the way.

It lived up to what we were told. There were holographic projections and computers giving readouts.

Ashley turned to Tiffany. "You didn't shut it down?"

"I wasn't sure if I'd be staying for the whole meeting. I'm not really caring one way or the other. But if it hurt me too much to stay for any reason, I wanted a quick get away."

All eight of us managed to fit on the bridge. After we looked a bit I turned to Tiffany. "What makes you think that is some hobby project?"

"I heard him, and I saw the plans."

"Is it as impressive as it looks?"

"Yes. It's already been in several battles and traveled half way around the world."

"Then you are lucky to have such a trusting man."

"My love for him caused the trouble I'm in."

Chapter 85: Tiffany

Ship's log, Acting Capitan Tiffany French. 7:10pm, October 28th 2006

I left the farmhouse with something approaching relief. I know I gave my word to be here tonight, but I should have known better. I don't think Karen meant to annoy me. But this evening, what emotions I can feel are all bad.

I was halfway to the Dutchman when Karen called out to me. "Tiffany, you have a phone call."

What is going on here? Those important enough to speak to know the code to call the Flying Dutchman. Nobody else knows I'm here tonight.

I returned to the farmhouse porch and took the phone Karen was offering. "Yes... the meeting is over... it was ok... well, I was not in the best mood to start... the hospital? Is it important?... ok. I'll fly up there now... bye mom."

Karen looked at me with a mute question on her face.

To hell with manners.

I boarded the Dutchman without further comment. "Joe. Take me to Philadelphia."

"Which Philadelphia?"

I nearly rolled my eyes. "How many can there be?"

"Nineteen worldwide."

"The one in Pennsylvania, on the Delaware river."

"Done."

I sat in silence for the entire flight, except for telling the ship where it could park itself.

Then I took the garage elevator to the lobby.

My mother was waiting there.

Why is she wearing a look worse than how I feel?

My mother led me to a doctor's office. If anything, her depressed look got worse.

Roberts was talking with the doctor when she saw us enter. She quickly excused herself. "I'll be outside if I'm needed."

Finally, I had to ask. "What's wrong mother? You look worse than I feel."

"Well, you feel better than you truly are." was her cryptic response.

"What are you talking about?"

"The doctors ran some tests when you came in from the accident."

I barely cared about that. The effect of the rape and near death have long ago killed all emotions in me. "So?"

My mother started to look worried. She motioned Roberts over from the office doorway. "Stay close. I'm already worried. Jacob's best poker face shows more emotion than Tiffany's face does right now. This is not like Tiffany at all."

"This caused more tests to be run." the doctor told me. "These tests have been triple checked and I'm sorry to say that the results are conclusive."

"And?" Still no reaction on my face.

"You now have HIV."

"No. Not possible. I'm regularly checked out as part of my mother's state health benefits."

The doctor looked at my mother.

"Tell her all of it."

The doctor turned to me. "You may have been clean beforehand, we do not know about Jacob's blood yet. We are not taking anything from him until he wakes up. There is a chance he gave it to you. But the experts think it was most likely from last night's rape. The viral strands are relatively fresh."

"So I have AIDS now?"

"Not yet, but according to your mother, your family has a weak immune system by genetic history."

"If that means we get sick a lot more, yes, we do."

"Then you will skip a lot of the lead in time the HIV takes to attack the immune system. AIDS is the final stage. Due to your family's medical history, you will reach it a lot quicker than most other people."

"It is a good thing you told me now. But it does not really matter. I'm emotionally dead. Why should I care if the rest of me lives?"

"Tiffany!" my mother said. "Don't say that."

The doctor looked at Roberts. "She's been told, and she sounds suicidal."

Roberts faced me with a caring look on her face. "Don't talk like that, you have a family that loves you."

I tried to give her a look of utter disbelief. I failed.

Is she crazy??

Loving family?

She met my father, right?

Exactly on cue, the Reverend Elder French of the Church Universal of God walked in.

My mother gave him a look. "Not now. Tiffany has been given horrible news."

"I know. She's got HIV." There is absolutely no sign of family concern in his voice.

My mother started screaming. "Why you son of a..." she caught herself in time. "Sorry Tiffany. Doesn't it matter to you that Tiffany is going to die?"

"No. It is God's Will. She sinned and those misdeeds made her a target. Her behavior brought all this upon her. And the Bible says the wages of sin is death. She sinned, and she is paying the price."

"You are really being supportive here. Tiffany learns she's destined to die sooner than she ever expected and you stand there condemning her."

"God selected her fate to match her actions. If I showed any mercy or pity, I would be questioning God's Divine Punishment of her sins. It is God's Will that she die in this manner. And God does not make mistakes."

Fervently I said, "I've no idea how much longer I'm going to live, but for you, Elder, I'm dead tonight. I never want to see you again."

"How dare you speak to the Messenger of a Just God like that? You are dying and already facing Damnation Eternal. Now is not the time to compound your sins."

"Mother, Doctor, Ms. Roberts, the dying girl has a request."

They all looked at me silently with different reactions on their faces.

I pointed at the man I was cursed with as a father. "Remove him. I never want to see him again."

"I speak for the Almighty God. I go and stay where I please."

Roberts reached for the phone on the desk and called security.

Security showed up quickly and grabbed Elder French. They started to pull him from the room.

"Harassed and dragged off like Paul, I will still tell God's Truth to the heathens at this hospital."

The doctor told us, "I am going to lodge a formal complaint with the hospital administration. With luck, we can get him banned from the hospital."

As they dragged him through the door, he shouted "The Truth of God will never be banned. All those lives you save are but temporary respites from their forgone fates. God has taken note of your interference in His Will and your treatment of his Servants sent to tell His Unquestionable Truth!"

We all watched him get dragged out of the room.

Roberts was talking to my mother. "I'm concerned by the lack of interest Tiffany is demonstrating. Outside of the one comment telling off her father, she doesn't seem to care about anything anymore."

"How long does my body have?" I asked the doctor. "I doubt my emotions will ever live again."

"Between two and six years."

"Great. I might not live to finish high school. I'll certainly not live to finish college."

"Roberts, myself and the other doctors at the hospital will be here to help you."

"Like it matters. My life is over. I just have not stopped moving yet."

Chapter 86: Jacob

No perceivable time.

The landscape had not changed much. Some wind came and blew the steam around a little.

My brothers were still standing there.

I, on the other hand, was staring at a heated pool of water. I thought about my life. All fifteen years of it. "It seems that I've done most of my living for others. Whatever triumphs I've had, usually they were done for others. I have done so little for myself that I wonder if there was ever any point to my living."

One of my brothers noted "That thought line is not logical."

I told him "The nearly dead are not often expected to be logical."

"You are." my other brother told me.

"Again I am to be treated differently. I'm beginning to truly hate this."

"You once said if you helped only one person, your life was not in vain." One of my brothers reminded me.

"No," one of the brothers responded, "You don't hate this. You enjoy it and you know it. We grew up watching you doing challenging things. You enjoyed it then. And you always will."

"You are probably right." I paced deep in thought. "Very well. I accept."

"You sure?" One brother asked.

"Be very sure." The other brother tells me. "Be very very sure. You will never get another chance to make this choice."

"Then I will do this. I will fence with fate and dance with destiny. I will become what they expect. I will embrace the legend of Jacob Jehosophat Stone."

~(Incomplete)~

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