Chapter a Day (I will post) from my Sci-Fi novel

by Terry 12 Replies latest jw friends

  • Terry


    THE MONORAILS of MARS (1905)

    The Monorails of Mars

    Like watchful eyes—the twin moons of Mars voyeured above the chaos. Men and aliens in savage battle fractured into shadows. Soon no human witness stirred. Percussion waves and Disruptor fire quieted. Solitary alien figures remained, sweeping past sentry stations, feeding on the dead and dying

    "This is Nobile. (No-bill-ay) Code 3 emergency—" the message interrupted suddenly.
    "Evacuate! We’re over-run. My god—the. . . "

    Rally flares erupted outside the dome splashing blood-red light across Orion's starry backdrop.

    Jack Clayton and Louise Boyd raced frantically to the stairwell seconds before dome shields collapsed. They dived for the shuttle tunnel just as the artificial atmosphere vanished in a whoosh.

    Landing inside hatch entrance, Clayton punched the contamination-seal button. The hatch cover hummed downward sealing above them. A red light blinks 3 times followed by a green light all-safe.

    The escape shuttle awaited 5 minutes beyond the tunnel promising refuge and deliverance . . . if it could be reached in time.

    “Countdown 5 minutes to launch”

    Norge (Nor-gay) escape shuttle afforded no weaponry or counter-measure defenses on board. Every contingency had been prepared—except this one.
    Jack Clayton struggled to run and speak at the same time. His body screamed in distress.
    "You can hustle faster . . . than . . . I . . . can . . . Louise. Go on ahead--don't wait . . for me!"

    Clayton was an impressive man, large and athletic, but injury had hobbled him at this worst of all moments. For all his astuteness and vigor, shrapnel caught him by surprise in the left knee.

    "No Jack—I’ll hold the shuttle for—"

    Louise Boyd froze, stumbled, and choked. Percussion waves jolted her in mid-sentence. She clutched her neck and toppled; dropping into unconsciousness only meters from the shuttle’s closing door.

    The cramped staging area swelled with smoke, swirling dust and two human bodies laid out like firewood. Weird beast-like ululations pierced the silence menacingly. Seconds later a trio of skulking alien figures emerged from the shadows, Disruptor pistols at the ready.

    A wiry mutant soldier stood straddling the unconscious colonists, grasping a round feeding drum. Its elongated face glowed with triumph and ravenous expectancy. (Human colonists had described drawings of them as a cross between Greek gods and starvation victims.) Torsos of Martians oddly mimicked humans, with forearms freakishly longer; lower leg bones contrarily shorter. Elongated thighs flexed in bunched muscles. Alien physicality possessed a magnificent, ugly beauty.

    "These two—I demand . . . my food!"

    The Martian platoon leader’s tongue swept its lip flap. It hesitated, then holstered its weapon—voice booming with absolute authority.

    "Infect and release them—go!”

    The mutant underling hunkered down, glowering at the meal, making every effort to restrain its wolfish appetite. The alien trembled and tossed the feeding drum aside, leaning forward on its haunches; spitting on its terrestrial captives. Wrenching off its glove, plunging its spindly finger down its own throat (gagging with an awful retching sound); the creature bent forward with a determined trajectory—splashing both humans with spill.

    Slime oozed across the victims like melting wax. A chemical hiss vaporized into white smoke. Garment threads began to dissolve. Out of the foul liquid, parasites the size of strawberry seeds skittered toward the victims’ nostrils, disappearing inside.

    The alien platoon leader observed until satisfied then signaled to its minions. The alien patrol dispersed, quick-stepping into the roiling smoke from whence they'd come.
    Back at shuttle launch area, emergency search scans swept the shuttle interior—no human life detected. Subsystems pinged, located, and recovered Boyd and Clayton’s unconscious bodies utilizing search and rescue lifts. Straightaway the shuttle, bolted like a cartridge in a high-powered gun, entered final launch mode.

    Five leagues away Umberto Nobile (No-bill-ay) fought his last stand. One by one his confederates fell. He had detected a pattern to exploit for temporary advantage. Aliens staged frontal assaults vocalizing eerie ululating war cries followed by direct attack. Three abreast—aliens became easy targets once they’d sprung into view.

    “Suppertime—come and get it.” Nobile bellowed.

    He reckoned the numbers stacked against him—he could hold them at bay until his charging unit went dead—maybe 2 minutes remaining at best.

    (Disruptor weapons destabilized without nuclear reaction. The fabric of reality jiggled for a microsecond—ripping apart living cells.)

    Umberto Nobile was an aeronautical engineer and explorer in his early life. He had never fought in battles of any sort; not even a fist fight. He’d earned a solid reputation exploring Earth’s Arctic, suffering many encounters with near-death. Nothing had prepared him for this.

    From his nine-o’clock and three-o’clock position the enemy approached, both at once—his one choice remained. Nobile fetched a tiny capsule from his utility pocket to pop into his mouth—but before he could self-terminate, shrieking enemy mutants rushed him full on.

    He screamed and blasted as he swept his weapon in all directions wildly. At once his uniform splattered with intestines of Martian soldiers. He let go the final bursts of his Disruptor pistol. His boots glistened with green slime and human blood. He blasted again. The putrid aroma off offal and bile arose.

    “You scum are really full of it.”

    His uniform transformed to the color of death and desperation. Relentlessly, the waves of mutants plunged into the breach; their weapons spitting death.

    “Eat this!”
    In one arcing flourish Nobile emptied his clip. Slashing diagonally left to right, then reversing—Nobile gasped dumbstruck as nine enemy combatants clutched themselves and tumbled dead at his feet.

    “Holy Mary, Mother of God!”

    Nobile checked his clip: only one round remained.
    From the shadows, in one swift movement, an alien Commander lunged forward seizing the man by his throat, forcing him to kneel. Gasping for breath, Nobile struggled utterly helpless in the alien’s insuperable grip.

    “I’d like to call my lawyer if you don’t mind—”

    Immediately, two Martian mutants grasping meat hooks scrambled to the sentry dugout, raking across two of Nobile’s dead companions. They scavenged at top speed hooking, skewering, and dragging corpses off, stuffing them into large dinner drums grasped by a third alien.

    Nobile’s eyes went wide—incredulous as three mutants took turns vomiting into the drums. Digestive acids dissolved dead sentries’ clothing without affecting flesh.
    A 2nd Martian Commander of higher rank stormed the enclosure barking orders.

    "Devour dead ones—infect and release living ones."

    Another mutant, scrawny and fierce, hustled into the group grunting and slurping; its eyes wide with madness and starvation.

    "I sniff—delicious meat!"

    The creature grunted and farted. A snake-like tongue slithered inside its mouth as it unhinged its jaw, creating a cavernous, fanged oral hole.

    Nearby, the Supreme Commander stood sniffing the motionless Nobile suspiciously like a hideous bloodhound.

    "This one reeks!” Its voice boomed with revulsion.

    Nobile puzzled it out. Colonists had frequently bemoaned his liberal fondness for onion and garlic. Despite the gravity of his situation, he felt offended.

    “Anyone ever tell you you’re not a people person?”

    The unhinged mutant bewailed, "I demand my share!"
    Its fellows ignored him and concluded marinating their meal as they commenced peeling meat from human skeletons, sucking flavor from the bone marrow.
    Nobile’s stomach churned. He battled back his nausea.

    At once the shrieking mutant lunged at his fellows, brandishing his hooked trident. A chaotic melee of blood and curses erupted. A deafening sonic wave abruptly concussed the ground. Supreme Commander's Disruptor pistol spoke four final words of death. Four twisted alien corpses answered . . . then, stillness.


    The elite Commander snatched Nobile by his ankle, dragging him to open ground, as a blinding beam of energy pulsed toward Earth in the direction of shuttle launch dock.

    Platoon leaders swiveled about to scan the bridge just as the Norge shuttle dimmed into after images in the inky night sky. The alien snorted with a gesture of confusion.
    Nobile smirked wearily, “I’d explain that to you, but I’m out of crayons and puppets.”

    Supreme Commander pivoted to his underling, “Infection?”
    The other alien lifted his chin in assent.

    Easily hoisting Nobile onto a rail car, it then turned and clasped its comrade by the shoulder. The larger one threw its head back as both howled a spine-chilling ululation in weird unison startling Nobile in fear of his soul, rattling his bones.

    Moons Deimos and Phoebos spread weird, silver beacons about the Martian landscape to the sounds of vomiting, flesh-rending, and meat gobbling. Mars had triumphed and these were its savage victories.

    Supreme Commander’s gaze bore down at his human quarry, scrutinizing him curiously, almost scientifically. Something glimmered behind his eyes.

    The officer motioned and Nobile’s hair went up on the back of his neck.
    “Nah, I’m trying to quit—but thanks anyway.”

    The smaller alien removed a glove, jamming its spidery finger into its throat, and spewed parasitic vomit into the mouth of Umberto Nobile: Arctic explorer, adventurer and aeronautical inventor. The victim choked violently. His body quickened as his eyes rolled madly back in his head. The hulking mutant’s basso voice whispered as though intoning a macabre lullaby to an alien infant.
    The effect was hypnotic and paralyzing.

    Nobile sensed his mind ebbing . . . dimming. Nightmarish white light flashed in his head with the sweet, imaginary voice of a mystery woman dancing behind a veil.
    Nobile’s body shuddered and went still.

    “All is well.” Alien Commander gazed contentedly at his day’s work done.

    The relay from Mars to Earth arrived. Transcribed and delivered directly to the White House, the President read the words: “All is well on Mars.”

    Teddy Roosevelt looked up from his desk.
    “Good news gives me a warm feeling—like pissing my pants.”
    He turned to his Chief of Staff.

    “Find out what’s wrong up there and see to it immediately.”

    Image result for black and white presidential seal

    ________END CHAPTER ONE _____

  • Xanthippe

    Wow Terry! Looking forward to chapter 2.

  • Terry

    Thank you!


    He wasn’t nervous and he wasn’t worried . . .

    In the Cavern of Tih-sll-ub beneath the polar ice cap of Mars, Captain Umberto Nobile sat up feeling comfortable. No memory of his recent battle lingered. Captain Nobile sat wondering why there wasn’t a single thing occupying his mind in need of attention. Although his head ached terribly and he felt restive and somewhat guilty—he was determined to locate a reason for his non-concern.

    “I seem to be stuck in . . . now.”

    The Cavern’s shimmering walls thrummed with palpable energy—inducing a constant state of well-being, and yet—

    Captain Nobile, I presume . . .”

    The pleasant voice belonged to a terrestrial woman. She was smiling disarmingly. Her lithe, boyish figure hugged the inside of a diaphanous garment with luminous tomboy femininity. Nobile shrugged in bafflement.

    “Guilty as charged.

    “Death is the veil which those who live call life; they sleep, and it is lifted.” Her smile blazed as warm as summer in Italy.

    “Okay, um—call me Umberto. And you are---?”

    “My name is Earhart but everyone calls me Amelia.”



    Amelia spoke and Umberto listened . . .

    “Do you break easily, have sharp edges or have to be carefully kept?”

    Nobile was beginning to suspect he had been drugged. He stared at the woman in comic curiosity. Parts of his memory were unreliable and unfocused.

    “Once you become real you can’t be ugly, except to those who don’t understand.”

    Earhart possessed a remarkable face devoid of sophistication or subtext. She spoke without guile as one might speak with another through years of intimate friendship. She calmed him with her demeanor and tone.

    Nobile’s face depicted a mixture of awe and confusion. “Um—how’s that?”

    My body lies on a tiny Island in the Pacific. I am dying. I was injured in an emergency landing—I am thirty-two years in your future. The reason you see my image at this moment is this: parasites in your brain are creating a meniscus of your senses. Memory flattens but perceptions heighten.”

    Nobile stood immediately. His eyes went wide and wild. He gasped and kept running his fingers through his hair and smoothing it as he spoke. Pacing nervously he mumbled to himself as if in an argument with his own mind.

    “Mother always told me I was the weird one in the family. I’m going to try to understand everything you say—keep talking.”

    “There are no boundaries at death, Umberto. There is no time or space or distance and no limits to conscious being. Yesterday, tomorrow and today happen at the same instant. Very few can see or understand this simple fact.”

    I’ve been told time is god’s way of keeping everything from happening at once.”

    “How do you know it doesn’t?” Her face shimmered like ripples upon water.

    “Is there such a thing as heaven or hell? I want to win an argument with a priest I knew back in my old neighborhood.”

    “Heaven is a soap bubble. Listen carefully while you’re able to see and hear me. Your life has been spared for a purpose. Beware those who spared you—their motives are monstrous . . .”

    “Listen—I’m a product of Catholic school—is this like the Annunciation? Am I going be impregnated? If so, I need to freshen up a bit—”

    “Monsters have spared you . . . “

    The image blinked out and flickered on again like a broken neon sign.

    Nobile went numb. His head felt as if his skull were about to burst open destroying everything he knew or ever would know.

    “My mother-in-law is behind all this?”

    Earhart appeared to unmoor like a dirigible in a powerful wind.

    Her body collapsed into a horizontal image thin as paper.

    “There are three who rule . . . false anointed . . . monorail . . .”

    The discorporate image flipped and sputtered.

    “We called the Lady of the ice and the Lord of the Apes . . .”

    Nobile lurched forward, as though to grab hold of the unworldly personage, but it was too late. She had vanished like a magician’s velveteen rabbit. Nothing at all remained but the man, his sanity and a handful of air.

  • Xanthippe

    Curiouser and curiouser!

  • Terry



    She had been born restless, as though the very stars were pulling at her hair. For her the world was magic. Life would never be what she looked at—it would be about what she could see with her eyes turned inward toward her dreams. Louise Boyd found adventure within books and strange worlds no one had ever seen.

    One September midnight when she was five, her mother caught her staring out of the window long after bedtime, humming a haunting little tune to herself.

    "What's wrong, Sweetheart—can’t you sleep?"

    The little blonde girl bathed in moonlight carried sparks of Orion in her eyes as she pointed upward to the heavens.

    "I hear them calling me from out there somewhere—and I can't wait to answer."

    Louise adored her brothers, parents and the ferry in Marin County. Marin was known for natural beauty and its sailing and festive soirées.

    The ferry crossing between the Hyde Street pier in San Francisco and Sausalito took her on the ride of her life for twenty minutes and it cost only one dollar.

    San Francisco was the largest city without a bridge relying as it did on ferry service alone. The water was three hundred seventy feet deep with strong currents, ferocious winds, and blinding fog. Louise craved those ferry rides. Like chocolate.

    As a child she thrilled to the adventure of crossing the bay in bad weather for it stirred her blood and kindled within her a strange lust for danger. As she grew older her fearlessness was legend.

    In 1852, San Quentin prison had been built in Marin County and its reputation as warehouse for dangerous criminals fueled endless rumors of escaped felons wandering the neighborhood. Of course, it was all nonsense made up by young men to frighten and taunt timid little girls at parties. But, Louise challenged the neighbor’s boys to hike with her to the prison to meet the warden for an interview.

    “Maybe, “she suggested, “he will kindly take us on a tour of the facility and show us the gas chamber—or better still, allow us to witness an actual execution.”

    The boys had declined her suggestion and the kidding ended. Her legend grew. Louise Boyd was tutored by governesses and attended Miss Murison's School in San Francisco. She did not go to college. Her two brothers suffered from rheumatic fever and died at ages sixteen and seventeen respectively. Although in young adulthood Louise appeared at all the right social events always impeccably dressed, once all her family was gone she made travel the center of her life.

    In 1877, land owned by Louise Boyd’s grandfather turned out to be the site of the largest gold strike since the Gold Rush of 1849. The town founded on that site was named after a fellow named Body who died in a blizzard well before a nugget of gold was seen in those parts. The town sported sixty-five saloons serving a population of up to seven thousand bonanza-seeking soldiers of fortune.

    Barroom brawls, shootouts, stagecoach holdups, and general mayhem lasted three rip-roaring years before the last gleaming metal nugget was dug out and stamped into coin. The dream ended and the town went bust. Thirty-four million dollars’ worth of gold was enough to assure the Boyds a carefree existence.

    Louise and her two brothers, John and Seth, scampered, trotted, and climbed all over their ranch in Oakland Hills. Climbing Mt. Diablo during summer vacation never failed to excite family camaraderie and sibling competition.

    Seth and John died only months apart and it was the saddest day of her life. She vowed to live three lives: two plus her own.

    Louise traveled the world seeking medical treatment for her parents, exploring and learning about strange societies and peculiar folklore. When her mother and father could no longer travel, she nursed them in their old age.

    “What will you do with your life, child—you will be on your own with a fortune in gold and no one who loves you to watch out for your well-being?”

    “I’ll go where no woman has ever set foot and build something wonderful and dedicate it to John and Seth.”

    Louise snuggled on the edge of the bed showing her parents the little sketch book she always carried with her. Her father and mother gazed curiously at the drawing.

    “How did you decide on that—it is very nice—but, I mean—what is it? “

    Louise giggled and laid her hand on her father’s cheek.

    “It is a monorail and I’ll build it on an exotic planet out there in the stars. It will have a plaque made of gold, dedicated to John and Seth.”


    Two funerals passed. Then on a winter’s day, standing on the deck of the ferry; bidding good-bye to her childhood home forever; Louise glanced back one last time. At once a zephyr came up out of nowhere and swept back the fog just long enough for a fond glimpse of girlhood and summer dreams, the laughter of boys and innocent times no more.

    “Memory is for the past, but hope is for the future.” She whispered aloud.

    Louise squared her shoulders and headed off toward a season for dreams—only dreams made real. She held adventures in her heart as her pulse now quickened and her life passed into her hands; twenty-three, rich and unstoppable.

    She reached into her rucksack and pulled out her father’s favorite book of poems and read aloud the last line of Invictus—a poem he loved so much:

    It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll.
    I am the master of my fate:
    I am the captain of my soul.


    End Chapter Four

  • Xanthippe

    Brilliantly written Terry. The whole time thing is intriguing. I'm hooked. So long since I've read any decent sci-fi.

  • Terry

    Thank you, Xanthippe.
    It was incredible fun to do.



    "Most of the characters in this book were real people. Their fascinating lives are worthy of personal research on the part of the reader to gain a fuller appreciation of their exploits and contribution to history.

    In this manuscript I have hidden many sly references or “Easter eggs” for those who care to search for them. Where the author has departed from actual history should be readily apparent to all but the brain dead.

    The subject of mind-control is a serious topic, especially as pertains to religious malfeasance. I chose the genre of Science Fiction to achieve a means of getting those who might otherwise avoid the topic to consider it by making the context so outrageous it becomes entertaining.

    In the days of the real Charles Taze Russell, the idea of the Great Pyramid of Egypt containing messages from god has been extrapolated in this novel to a different sort of “stone” and a different kind of message. Sit back and fasten your seat belt. It’s going to be a bumpy ride."

  • Terry




    Outside the San Francisco Chronicle the largest blocks of debris remained exposed. The newspaper building had taken the violent tremor in its stride. It now stood defiantly intact as a sentinel. Inside, the Chronicle publisher, M. H. De Young, sat in his favorite leather chair preening his mustache with scented wax. Presently a young newspaper reporter appeared in the doorway. He cleared his throat meekly. “Sir . . . Mr. De Young, sir? She’s here—shall I bring her in?”

    The 57-year old man looked up with a mischievous grin on his weathered face. “Never keep a rich and beautiful lady waiting. Yes—bring her in immediately.”

    “Welcome, Miss Boyd! Come in and find a comfortable chair or couch.”

    Louise Boyd greeted De Young then seated herself. She sat upright with perfect posture, gazing evenly into the older man’s rather pasty face. She radiated poise, composure, and affluence. Above all, she never suffered fools.

    “You already know everything about me, you’ve written a hundred stories about my family.”

    She smiled disarmingly and tugged at the hem of her dress. The publisher blushed and fumbled in his waistcoat pocket for the notes he had scribbled earlier. It was the only way to focus properly around this woman.

    “Yes, yes—but you must admit you are the most newsworthy woman in our state. Not only have you accompanied an expedition to Mars, but you returned to warn of an upheaval on the very eve of our earthquake last year!”

    “I was delirious with fever. Earthquake and fire were the farthest things from my mind. My entire journey to Mars was . . . “Her thought would not come.

    De Young wasn’t listening anyway. He squinted down at his notes and moved his lips as he read. “Would you care to comment on rumors Jack Clayton spreads about being reared in the jungles of Africa as the son of a so-called Ape Man?”

    Louise Boyd laughed heartily. “I can’t believe you haven’t offered me tea or biscuits yet. I’ve traveled here at my own expense for this ridiculous interview only to be treated off-handedly.”

    De Young leaned in closer and their knees touched briefly.

    “You’d refuse to drink what I have. Say—are you dodging my question?”

    Boyd reached into her beaded clutch purse and withdrew a silver flask with ivory side-paneling. She poured a shot into the silver cap and tossed it back like a sailor then screwed the lid back in place, and sat back with a feline smile.

    “French Cognac. “ Boyd flashed her perfect white teeth defiantly.

    De Young’s eyes widened. “Louise Boyd; you’ve deflected my question again.”

    “If Jack Clayton told me he carried the moon in his back pocket I’d get crackers for the green cheese. “Her eyes glinted afire.

    “I think the two of you are the same breed: publicity seeking show-offs.” De Young inched forward again, but the young woman spied his purpose and shifted away, signaling her annoyance with his nonsense.

    “You can’t goad me into blurting out a cheap headline.”

    De Young leaned in conspiratorially, and grew serious.

    “A scandal must be in the works—that’s what newspapers are for. If you don’t tell me I have to speculate out loud. Since you will have been seen entering and exiting my office before my article runs—it will naturally be assumed by the public you are the source of the story. I suspect the problem on Mars has much to do with a lover’s triangle between a certain Miss Boyd and two jealous men!”

    Louise Boyd scowled in his face with poisonous regard. She reached into her clutch bag and withdrew three objects, placing them on her lap in front of the curious newspaper editor: a silver nail file, a piece of fruit and a gold coin.

    “This gold coin is me. This tangerine is you and your newspaper. This silver nail file is my team of expensive lawyers.”

    Straightaway, she plunged the nail file into the skin of the tangerine and removed it. Picking up the fruit which remained, she proceeded to bite, chew and swallow it piece by piece. She pocketed the coin and the file and tossed De Young the peel.

    Then, she stood smiling in the manner of a crocodile and strolled out of the office leaving a frightened little man with a waxed mustache holding a tangerine skin in his trembling hand.

  • Terry

    SCOTLAND 1908

    Jack Clayton hung suspended by his powerful hands from entwined limbs of two massive yew trees, two-hundred and nine feet above his immaculate estate.

    Clayton swung his legs out and back twice and heaved his body upward. He tucked and then somersaulted gracefully onto the lower limbs, tier by tier until vaulting to the ground quiet as a jungle cat.

    “I challenge you to race!” The shout came from behind him. The Norwegian’s baritone voice snapped Clayton out of his reverie. He knew that voice!

    “Let me guess,” Clayton shouted, “I have to race on foot and you’ll be behind the wheel of that contraption!”

    Roald Amundsen stood tall and gaunt in the long approach to the Manor house, arms akimbo next to his 120 horsepower Fiat #4. His deep set eyes gleamed.

    “I had planned to race this beauty for the Vanderbilt Cup, but I caught a bug and my physician would never agree to give me clearance. How are you—what of that fever—any lasting effects?”

    Clayton joined the Norwegian explorer in the front seat of the race car. Amundsen tediously explained every knob, lever and dial as they drove up to the main entrance of the Manor House. Clayton listened curiously, laughed loudly and spoke conspiratorially. “I’m unable to summon any memories of Mars at all. I hope it is temporary.”

    Later at the Manor house, Clayton’s servant served and cleared away the evening meal. The men never paused in convivial conversation. They invested, each within the other, a special covenant and code beyond the rest of civilized society.

    The evening faded well into night and Clayton dismissed his house servants, leading Amundsen into his library. Clayton had his chef prepare spumoni and champagne. They entered a vast library chamber with a sunken floor and vaulted ceiling. The shelves burgeoned with 3,000 leather bound tomes.

    Nobile ran his hands over the spines of the books commenting on volumes he had read. Clayton spoke of elephants and gorillas and an escarpment in Africa.

    Presently, Amundsen broached his purpose.

    “I am mounting an expedition to Mars and I believe Umberto is in trouble and I must investigate. If Nobile is alive—he’ll have military intelligence to offer absolutely vital for our side’s advantage in a possible war with Mars.”

    Jack Clayton jumped to his feet excitedly and began pacing to and fro in front of the fireplace. His eyes flashed as he spoke and he clenched his jaw purposefully.

    “I’ve intuited this war—but tell me—who is the source? Who is privy to war plans on that planet?”

    Amundsen stood sipping his drink with a mischievous smirk.

    “Now don’t laugh, the source of the warning is a Pastor of pyramidology.”

    Clayton chuckled and then hesitated—Amundsen obviously wasn’t joking. “Roosevelt has boot tops too high to step in that sort of muck. He wouldn’t listen to a lunatic—unless of course, you are holding something back.”

    Amundsen smiled indulgently. His face was not built for it. But smile he did.

    “Many men in power have spiritual advisors and T.R. is no different. Teddy and Pastor Charles Russell both stood deathwatch beside a mother dying of fever. They have bonded in that shared experience. But—I had the most influence.”

    Clayton had been listening with mounting skepticism as a pragmatist who never gave a moment’s consideration to invisible things in heaven or hell. “What are you shoveling in my barn, Amundsen?”

    “Just quiet that famous practical mind of yours and hear me out. My father use to tell me, ‘Roald, believe half what you see and nothing you hear.’ I live by that code and it has served me well.”

    Clayton nodded empathetically. He relaxed and made himself comfortable. Amundsen paused and pondered his presentation carefully, and then spoke.

    “This pyramid peddling Pastor pontificates pretty potent prognostications, Jack.”

    Clayton laughed out loud—he and Amundsen shared a passion for Beowulf and the 3,182 alliterations concocted by its anonymous author.

    “So you’re saying this Pastor possesses a mysterious means of cunning communication with a minion on Mars?” Jack riposted languishing on his leather couch, stretching his long limbs and rubbing his chin thoughtfully.

    “I know you well enough to trust your instincts—but, you’re going to have to show me whatever proof there is.”

    Amundsen excused himself and exited the library. He returned scarcely a minute later with a thick dossier bundled under his arm. He tossed it to Clayton like a medicine ball.

    “You and I have had occasion to visit the Magic Circle in London. I was there when you and mister down-on-his-luck had your famous confrontation.”

    “John Maskelyne—yes, I bribed him as I recall.”

    “You did bribe him to divulge the secrets of his great illusions. He and that other magician seem to have invented all the great magic tricks—“

    “George Alfred Cooke, yes—so they claimed. What is your point, Roald?”

    “Patience, my friend; you demanded he debunk his own illusions. You were seeking facts to fit your preconception. That is confirmation bias. I need to point this out to you so you don’t make a mistake looking this material over. Be neutral, this time. Be open. Let the evidence take you where it will.”

    “Roald—did you know John Maskelyne invented the pay toilet? My point being this: for money—any clever fellow can make shit appear and disappear.”

    “I thought you Brits said shite; Americans say it that other way.”

    “I’m a man of many contradictions. Now leave me in peace that I might flush the turds of out of this dossier.”

    “Very well, my good fellow, but—one last thing; I know Maskelyne was a skeptic who made it his mission debunking fraudulent Spiritualists, con men, card sharps and flim-flam. He was no different than you in detesting imposters.”

    “On the contrary—I admire the cleverness of a poseur. Think about it without your own bias, Roald. People want to believe there is something beyond living and dying. A masterful magician and a cunning clergyman eagerly exploit witless wankers willing to buy bullshit by the barrel.”

    “More alliterations. I should never have loaned you my copy of Beowulf.”

    “I have my own autographed copy on my library shelf, Roald.”

    “Why didn’t you tell me? It must be worth a fortune!

    “I’m lying. But see how readily I was able to exploit credulity?”

    Amundsen reddened and shook his head. He chuckled good-naturedly.

    “It is that easy, is it? Well, point taken.”

    Clayton snatched the file in hand and leaned back on the couch.

    “Now, good-night; I have work to do reading this without my sorry bias for fact.”

  • Xanthippe

    I love Louise Boyd. I don't know who is disliking this book? Why! Just one small gripe, you've got Amundsen and Clayton in the library talking about Nobile who's on Mars, then Nobile is running his hand over the book spines.

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