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    Thread: Frank's Conundrum (take 2)

    1. #1
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      Cool Frank's Conundrum (take 2)

      A Universe of Puzzles and Answers (The Conundrum Series Begins Again)


      Prelude: A World of Gods


      The year is 10,540 AW and the Council sits in their monthly meeting. They talk about supernovas coming soon different places around their Universe and what to do... if anything... about it. They discuss worlds too far along to save from destruction all over the Universe, and they look into the past to times when their own world had billions living on it, not the 3000 that survive today.

      They are eternally young, all around 25 or so, and healthy forever. But they are sad and bored forever now. Immortality sounds so wonderful, until you attain it. Then its one day after another doing the same things over and over, forever, and there’s nothing exciting to do anymore, because its all been done before.

      Carl led the meeting as always and they went on and on about stupid things. Like building a new world beside a sun that never really had enough materials to have one, a new chance for a system that Nature ignored, and so they agreed to do that today.

      Or recharging a dying sun by dropping some gas giants and clouds into it, another job to do to kill Time again.With a wave of their hands their machines jumped into action, and things got done, but it was all just window dressing, because their Universe was not what anyone had hope for all those millenia ago. There were tons of habitable planets, but very few ever evolved a civilization that lasted more than a few centuries. Wars destroyed many while they were still young, and Natural Disasters many more. In all the Universe they watched over had only a handful of worlds had survived so far, and there was talk of helping a few to keep them going.

      With millions of habitable worlds Universe wide, not one civilization had evolved to travel and plant their seeds on them, not one. Even here they were always too worried about themselves, and now with their advanced technology... they could no longer do it themselves... because to gain Immortality something had to be given up, and so it was that no one had had a child in centuries, and never would again.

      “We have rules against interfering.” Was the most used excuse and many agreed. But then if they had the power to help and didn’t...wasn’t that Murder on a grand scale? It had been hotly contested for over a century, and while they fought about it another small world went extinct, and so they felt something really did need done.

      “What if...we help them to help themselves?” Got mentioned, and that sounded more likely, and one member came up with a plan, a plan to add one small nudge to get them started, a little help at just the right time, and finally they all agreed.

      They came up with a plan, to find a few on those worlds and help them, covertly of course. If one man or woman stood out and spoke of important things then many would listen, and so it became known as the Conundrum Project, to add knowledge to a few to save their worlds, and it got started on planet 121, a small world that is seriously boring and stagnant at the moment, but a few years down the road and it would erupt into a terrible war, and things there would never be the same again. But they had a chance, to survive and change after that, and so it was watched and they listened to the thoughts and wishes of many, and finally one young man from a low class family was out riding through the countryside on an old motorized bicycle... looking for a new Destiny...and with his help perhaps everyone on that world would find one, and it might survive.

      It would be a simple thing, a small fire, some smoke to get his attention, and a Gift from another world to guide him and give him purpose, and it gets set up, and as Frank Jackson rode he got a message in his mind and he went to talk to someone new without fear...because Fear is the true enemy... of all civilizations, and they took that from him and gave him Peace and intelligence beyond his young years instead, and his World got a second chance.


      Chapter 1: Encounter with Destiny


      Frank rode along on his old motorcycle that he built from scrap parts. He liked getting out because the countryside was calm and peaceful, and he enjoyed seeing Nature doing her things without people messing it up.

      The city he lived in was small compared to many but they had everything anyone would need, but only the very few had real prosperity, and that stifled their entire culture, because the Elite saw it as their right to subjugate everyone under them ,socially and economically, and they got better at it every year as others barely survived.

      Frank’s dad worked for a corporation that sold appliances and had several manufacturing plants making them. He had been working there for as long as Frank could remember, and so it was just a normal day for him to leave early and come home late.

      They were doing alright, but Frank wanted more from his life than following his dads footsteps and silently his dad wished better for him too. So on days like this he rode to think, and the country air made that easier because it didn’t have nearly the pollution the city had, and he liked it out here.

      He stopped for a minute and got a drink from the stream nearby, and as he looked up there was a tiny bit of smoke in the distance, and he wondered who that was and rode that way.

      He found a small campsite and an old man maybe in his 60‘s sitting there poking at the fire...on a day when it was easily 80 degrees, but Frank wasn’t worried about that, he just stopped and asked if the man was OK or not and he smiled and said he was fine. It was Frank that seemed to need help, and Frank sat there talking to this new person, and all his hopes and dreams tumbled out and even he didn’t know why.

      “So you wish for a new Life and a new chance at Prosperity then” The old man asked and finally Frank agreed. “Understand this...Life is a balancing act... to change one thing others will change, not always for the better.” he hinted as Frank looked sad but agreed he still was hoping for a better life for him and his Family... as the old man smiled wide.

      “Take this...” he said and handed Frank a leather string with a small round object hanging on it. It looked to be made of stone or something, green and shiny and he mentioned it looked expensive and Frank handed it back as the man laughed.

      “I’ll lend it to you then, when I’m ready you can give it back...its a powerful Lucky Charm and will help you I’m sure.” he added and with that deal in place Frank agreed and put it around his neck and dropped it inside his shirt and ran home before it got too dark to see well, and the first person to help their world was chosen, and his life would never be the same again.

      Frank parked his bike and went in and his sister gave him a hard time about not taking her riding with him, but their dad reminded them that riding double was dangerous and he demanded they don’t do it. But even as that went on the World around them was changing, and many years past in a moment and they went on like nothing was happening, because to them nothing was.

      The great war came and went and with it changes to the genes of animals and people as well. All in an instant for Frank and his Family. But they felt right at home as their memories changed to suit and he got scolded for not passing his Magic Skills test last year, and his sister heard about his poor showing ever since.

      “I’ll try harder, I promise.” he added as his dad said he wanted him upstairs after dinner and on the books, and Frank agreed, to the surprise of all. He had never been very interested in studying anything, but he seemed to suddenly realize that it was important, and so after dinner he went into overdrive, and reading seemed easier than ever before, and chapters flew by without much effort at all.

      By the second day his sister was starting to worry and asked her dad ‘who is that strange person up there studying?’ as he got a good laugh at that. But he went to see what was happening...thinking Frank fell for some girl much higher in grades than him...and so was trying to impress someone.

      “Thats not it...” Frank mentioned when he was asked.” I only have a few months to get ready. Finals are coming up and then the Magic Tests, and I never did well on any of those. Its my last chance to do better, maybe get a grant to go to a better school. I know thats my best chance to make something of myself later on so, I got to try right?” he asked as his dad looked shocked...and a bit impressed...and agreed.

      “If you put your all into it you’ll do fine I’m sure.” he added and went back to watch TV and tell Sherry that her brother was finally growing up, and she didnt seem too sure about that.


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      Chapter 2: Testing...One Two Three Four

      Two days later and Frank aced his first set of tests...to the surprise of the entire class. He was a nice guy but never really did well in school, he was more likely to get into a fight over something silly than study, but study he did and it showed now.

      His test results threw him into an entirely different grade system, and after that and a few other quick little quizzes the teacher threw at him just to be sure, he got a chance to see a better school next year, if he could afford it. And he agreed to take any help possible, and did the forms to ask for grants and student loans in the office.

      Then on to the Magic Theory Test, and when it was over he was on his way to a better school alright...the Magic Academy on the other side of town.

      His whole family went in to see him get tested at the Community Center in the center of the city. They sat and waited and when his name was called they had him stand in front of a wall full of screens and scales and he laid his hand where he was told and the tests began. Electrical shocks, then humming, then cold, then hot, all came through the machine and he was told to push it away and he’d be fine, and after 4-5 times for each he got his score, and the head tester smiled pretty widely too and they stamped his card as a success.

      He had passed not only the written yesterday but the practical today, with flying colors, as he walked out waving his card and smiling and his dad jumped up to ask what they had said, and Frank’s card was marked for Wind as his primary and Earth Magic as his secondary, and now his life was going to be on the fast track, because they needed every magic user they could find, to help the police keep the Peace, and to help the Military keep the monsters at bay that threatened their city daily from the Frontier.

      They lived in a Sanctuary City, made just for Humans to survive in. After the Great War animals, and some Humans evolved due to radiation and germs dropped during the war. Their evolution was rushed by these factors, and now rats the size of cars and canines as big as small houses were out there in the No Mans Land between cities.

      There were only 6 such cities world wide,and Humanity was now only 25 million total, and they were willing to do anything to survive, and some were forced to do just that. But the Military protected them outside the city walls, and the Police inside, and magic students got big grants to help them get through the Academy, because they made up Special Forces in both the Police and Military and were in high demand.

      Earth Magic was made up of a few skills, Lightning a powerful offense, Earth itself as a defensive weapon, being piled up to slow down enemies while other team members fought them, and Healing... all in Earth Magic... and a Healer got big bonuses, because it took from the person’s own health to give to others and after a serious attempt they might even faint or die, and they lost more Healers that way then getting attacked and eaten.

      But Frank didn’t need to worry about tuition. At the monthly meeting the City Council was looking over new students that were scheduled to come to the Academy in a few weeks, and anything that remotely mentioned Earth Magic got free tuition, because Healers were needed THAT badly.

      He got the message that same day, and his dad was more than thrilled. He was even thinking of getting a mortgage on his house to help send him, and even then Frank would need to work to support himself there. But now that was all over, and they had a nice dinner to celebrate and Frank saw his future was well in hand.

      The day he was to report he was out there at the bus stop in his new uniform, and everyone that saw him was shocked. But both his dad and sister were there, and they both gave him big hugs before he got on board, and as he handed his ticket to the bus driver, a few people on the bus applauded him, and he looked embarrassed enough to run. But he didn’t, he stayed and rode to the Academy, and then got sent to his room to settle in, and his first week in the foremost school for magic users got started the next day.


      Chapter 3: Fitting In


      The first day everyone had to stand and introduce themselves. Frank did as well and many there bragged about what abilities they had. It started out like any other school, with people with the same specialties standing together and talking, and little groups started forming almost immediately.

      But Frank wasn’t worried, he was from a very average family, and everyone knew he would be serving the community after graduation to repay them for his tuition, but some here came not to serve but to gain reputation for their families...then go home to safety. Many wealthy families found every member that even remotely had any skills and paid for them to attend, then took them home to brag about forever. They were nicknamed ‘Party Magicians’ since thats the only time their skills would ever be seen again, and to many to was a term that was not very respectful.

      They took up a place in a class that some other student might want when class sizes were purposely kept small, and they had no intention of serving the city after graduation, so many even in the teachers didn’t appreciate them being there...but tuition was tuition after all...and some of their families donated large amounts to the school to keep complaining to a minimum.

      But everyone had one thing in common, the teachers here were all old fighters with years experience, and they didn’t let anyone pass without proving themselves. You might have a bit of skill, but if you couldn’t use it then you weren’t going to graduate and that was that. So even the Party people had to study and pass or their tuition would have been spent for nothing.

      But Frank was one of those likeable kind of guys and he made a few friends even the first few days. He smiled a lot and his magic skills were decent even the first time they were used, and even his teachers thought better of him after that, and he got nudged into healing the first week,and his first try he healed a hurt fish the teacher put a tiny cut on, and did it in a few minutes, and that got him some serious respect again.

      His Wind power was hard to control at first, but by the end of the first month he could hover a few feet above the floor for minutes at a time, and he and his class got reminded that using your abilities was like any other muscle, the more you use them the better and stronger they get, and so practice even after class was recommended and even demanded from some.

      So it was one of those schools where you could see people flying by, even outside on sunny days, as they practiced their skills and tried to get their power ratings up a little more as fast as possible.

      By the end of the first semester Franks abilities were coming along nicely. His Healing was near .75 and his wind was slightly above that even. He got told that practicing hard was helping him a lot to keep it up, and he did, and soon he was hardly ever seen walking anywhere and he showed off by pretending to be a superman type flying from class to class, until he got chewed out for it by one teacher.

      It was their job to squeeze every bit of ability out of you in 2 years, but not to let it all go to your head. Humility was a better way, because getting cocky could get you killed, and everyone knew it was true and that they weren’t here to have fun but learn to defend themselves...and their city through them.

      So any time someone got a good ego trip going they got singled out and crushed by the teachers, and then got told that at least here you can lose and survive, out there it was never going to happen, and even the most egomaniacal of the class settled down after a few times like that.

      So things were going pretty well when the next Council meeting happened, and even the Commander of the local Assault Team was impressed with the new students.

      “One of our best classes in years..” Got mentioned by the Chief of Police and many there smiled to think it.” 4 kids healing at .50 and above...one all the way to .75 already.” Got added, and Teams started calling for him to join them after graduation, and the competition was getting fierce.

      “Patience people...” The Council Chair called as everyone chuckled.” They’ll all be assigned when they graduate, but you still have another year to wait.” he reminded them and one said he’d take them now...they were needed that badly. And some others nodded sadly that it was true, but they all were told to wait and that was that, and summer vacation came for the students who went home to visit friends and families they hadn’t seen in weeks.

      Frank was no exception either, and as he got off the bus in his old neighborhood everyone that saw him called and waved and he smiled a lot and walked on home. His dad was at work for the moment but his sister knew he was coming and she was busy making a great dinner for them, and Frank looked at the clock on the wall and smiled and asked why she wasn’t in school.


      You haven’t been home in almost a year.” She complained and gave him a big hug,” and dad said it was OK, and so we’re going to feast tonight!” She declared and Frank offered to help and together they got everything on and cooking, and his dad called telling theme exactly when he would be home so they would be ready right on time. Sherry had become the head chef of the house after their mom died and she was proud of her cooking skills, because without them they would be living on pizza and noodles, and no one wanted that.

      They talked and ate and Frank demonstrated his skills for them and even gave Sherry a ride high into the air and back down. His dad was never more proud and said so, and Frank told him that he was working hard to improve and that he’d be doing that every day even while on vacation, and his dad agreed and it was a done deal.


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      Chapter 4: Senior Year and First Assignment


      A few weeks later and Frank walked into class like everyone else. They were all bragging about how their summer went too, one young fire user said she got engaged over the summer, and they teased her all day for being an ‘old married woman now’ and she laughed right along with it.

      But they only had a few months to get as good as they would ever be...the teachers said, but of course that wasn’t true. Many people graduated with skills below 1.0 and then gained that rank after they started to work. The first lesson they got taught was the most important..’practice your skills like any muscle and they will get stronger.’ And there were stories and rumors of veteran Police and Military fighters with ranks up to 3.0...but no one knew who they really might be...and they weren’t old when they asked.

      But Time wastes for no one and soon graduation was right around the corner. Frank’s dad took a day off work for it and his boss didn’t say a word about it because he knew long ago that Frank was out there studying to protect them all. So nothing was said, and Frank even got a card from the head of his dad’s company congratulating him too, and his dad laughed saying they’ll never see that again, and Frank laughed along with him.

      Frank graduated 4th in his class...a sure fire way to get attention...and he got introduced to the Commander of the cities Assault Teams, his new boss, and Frank shook the mans hand and told him he’d do his very best, and they both smiled wide.

      “You graduated with a score of 1.1 on Healing.” The Commander said, as Frank agreed.” That makes you a Specialist in any Team, so you’ll start out with regular pay and a bonus for every kill... and in your case...save. Save one officer and get the same bonus as others get for killing animals, how does that sound?” He asked as Frank laughed and said he had a serious score in Wind too, and his Earth magic had some other offensive skills as well, so maybe he’ll get paid more than they thought, and they both smiled and just left it go at that for now.

      His family took him out to eat to celebrate and after that hugs all around as Frank went back to the dorm to pack his things. That was his last night there and at 9 am he was getting out of a armored Jeep in front of a old warehouse on the edge of town.

      When he walked in everyone seated there turned to look, and his uniform was a bit different from theirs. His was the standard dark green top and pants but on his chest pocket was the red cross design of a Healer, and below that the icon for Wind, and the Sargent stepped up and shook his hand like they were old friends.

      “Sargent Jackson ! Boy are we glad to see you!” he said loudly, as Frank smiled and said he was glad to be there. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is our newest member fresh from the Academy. A Wind user, so no worries about running the gas out of the jeep, and Healer. Our very own Specialist in Healing at 1.1 .” he announced as everyone there jumped up to shake his hand.

      “We can always use a good healer...” got mentioned a few times, and he agreed that it was his specialty..along with a few other less impressive things like lightning and Wind. They all thought he would fit right in then and after showing him to his bunk, he sat back drinking coffee and listening to all their stories about how bad things had been lately, and he didn’t know wither they were razing him...or if he got dropped into the worst spot around the city his first day.

      They sat talked then ate dinner and after just sat back some more, and Frank thought they were pretty laid back considering how bad they said it was out here. But when he mentioned it he got told really quickly that ‘you rest when you can’ and the lady who said that wasn’t laughing either, and Frank nodded he understood and waited like everyone else.

      But just as dusk was settling in a alarm went off,and without a second thought the entire Team was up and running. The one man grabbed a heavy looking rifle that was leaning against the wall and his hat and out the door he ran. Frank was right behind them too and when they got to the street the Sargent was looking at a screen he had with him saying it was hard to see with all the shadows between buildings right now. But Frank asked him where they were and their heat signature said they were about a hundred yards out, and Frank took to the sky and drifted that way and after a minute called back telling them to get ready because there were 5 Rabid Rats at least 7 feet long each, and they were running towards them at full speed.

      “Thanks that helps...” His Team Commander replied, and one shot rang out and one rat right up front went nose first into the ground. Frank followed them back and as they paused after that first shot he threw a bolt of electricity into the one directly beneath him and fried it and the rest looked around wondering where it came from.

      Just then a fireball hit them, and as one was burned to a crisp the others started towards the Team again, and just as it looked like they might catch them another shot rang out and another fireball and the rat patrol was finally all dead.

      Frank settled back down beside everyone else and as the score for the first fight got tallied the big man with the rifle pulled Frank to the side to thank him...for not doing much.

      “Those of us that don’t have Magic abilities have to earn our living as Hunters.” he hinted, as Frank smiled and agreed.” Thanks for not being one of those snobby Specialists that wants them all for themselves...we have families to support too.” he added, as Frank shook the mans hand and said not to worry. He’d be there if they needed him, but he wouldn’t cramp anyones style and hog the kills, and Frank saw the look on Chris’s face that showed him that he instantly had made a friend.


      Chapter 5: Heros and Assholes on the Front Lines


      Frank worked steadily for 2 months and did OK. He made some friends from several different Teams and in turn got enough kills to make for some nice pay days too. He traveled a bit too now seeing the third different Team so he could get an idea how things really went on the front lines. He learned there were many different types of people out here, some braggers, some grumps and some that were scared sick everyday. The later wouldn’t last long out here he was sure, because if you freeze even once during an emergency, well it takes two people to save one they say, and others have to fight to stay alive too. So many of the casualties in the field were people that he didn’t think should be there to start with, but that was just his opinion.

      But he also learned that using your Healing ability too long at a time can be dangerous. During one attack he got sent to back up a Healer 4 blocks over. She was a slight little thing and he saw her down on the ground herself, barely moving when he got there. The Sargent in charge was screaming for her to get up and heal his Team, who had been attacked and everyone was in bad shape. But when you use more energy than you have it comes from your own reserves, and a condition known as ‘Brain Dead’ occurs where your body shuts down and you pass out...to save your own life.

      But even as she was passing out he was demanding her services, and she was trying to literally crawl to the next team mate to help them, and possibly kill herself in the process. Frank couldn’t see that happen right in front of him, and as he dropped in he told the Sargent that she was near death and he’d do the job. But he demanded as her Commander she do it until she couldn’t move anymore, and Frank got angry, turned on his surveillance microphone and camera and started recording the entire thing.

      “Healers are too special to waste on one job, and you have no excuse for not letting her rest since I am here now.” Frank demanded as the big man got angry at him now.

      “You might be a Sargent yourself...but this is MY Team, and I’ll do whatever it takes to get them back on their feet.” he declared as the camera ran and Frank knew he was sending it all back to HQ.

      “She’s dieing...” Frank screamed as the big man laughed and said if she died doing her job then she was too weak to be out here, and he’d kill a dozen Healers if he needed to to save his people. And Frank got a signal on his ear bud and the Sector Commander told him to save her no matter what, and he gathered her into his arms and flew to the top of the building across the street, while the Sargent went into spasms demanding they return before his one man bled to death.

      Frank took a second to lay her down gently, and then reached into a small pouch he had on his side that he carried emergency supplies in and took out an energy brink and handed it to her. She was crying and trying to get up but just couldn’t, and Frank told her he’d take care of it just rest, and finally she laid back sipping on the little bottom and resting, and Frank dropped back down and healed a young solder that had half a dozen cuts 6 inches long down his side, and after a few minutes he was awake and on his feet again, and even Frank was a little light headed after that one.

      “So she died then?” The Sargent asked with a smile as Frank shook his head no.

      “She’ll be fine after some rest, but she’s not strong enough to do major repairs like this on two or three people at once...no one is.” Frank added seriously as the big man went on and on about his Team, and anyone on it had to give 200%...and Frank asked how they got this bad, and even the Sargent slowed down after a second.

      “You ran your Team into a hoard for animals to get the glory didn’t you?” Frank asked, as the man told him his job was done and threw him out, but Franks stood his ground and demanded to know, as he got grabbed by his neck and slammed against the vehicle behind him. “You’re the reason they are in this condition isn’t it??” He demanded right into the mans face who seemed a little surprised he didn’t run away by now.

      “Why kill your own Team? This kind of thing wont go unnoticed by Command.” Frank added as one young woman stepped forward saying they were forced to kill animals for him, and he took the kills to boost his own pay day, and he turned on her and said she would get sent on patrols alone after this, and a second later HIS ear bud buzzed and he stepped to the side to answer it...and even from here Frank could hear the screams... and the man was out of a job a minute later, and on his way to detention as a big black van pulled up and he got arrested.

      “As the only Sargent on the scene right now I’m being told to hang around a little while until a new Commander can be sent out.” Frank said as the Team gathered around him.” Where’s your base?” he asked and they told him it was 3 blocks back and he gathered up the Healer and they all went back for some rest and a good hot meal, and Frank got credit for his first Command, and he saw to it they got a good nights sleep and some hot food and by morning the Healer, Clara was back on her feet and smiling widely.

      Frank made sure she knew that having a couple energy drinks on her was a sure way to stretch her abilities a bit and she agreed, and as the Commander...at least for today...he ordered a case from the local drugstore and it got delivered and he handed a few out to everyone there and told them to keep them with them at all times, and put the rest in on a shelf where they could be gotten to easily.

      “When you’re nearing exhaustion these can keep you going for another hour.” he mentioned as everyone agreed. “ If your hurt bad and your Healer is on her last legs give her one from yours, because if she falls...you fall.” he added, and everyone nodded they knew that and she thanked him for saving her life.

      “I wish you were our Commander full time.” The one man he healed said as everyone agreed.

      “I have a Team to help. And as a Healer I cant stay in any place for long.” Frank mentioned as they all knew the rules. For every 20 soldiers there was only one Healer, and they got moved around a lot to help cover as many of the tough spots as they can. And because they are sent to the worst areas, they are often killed there and that makes less than before to go around.

      “We only mentioned it because this is the longest break we’ve had in weeks.” One soldier added as Frank smiled and said that if they felt bad they could do a patrol, and everyone smiled and looked away, and he knew they were still exhausted after being run ragged for weeks.

      “Command will be sending you a new Leader today they said, and don’t worry they know now how your last one acted, so he wont be coming back.” He said and an hour later a jeep pulled in out front and a young Sargent came walking in and shook everyones hands and introduced himself, and Frank got the call to return to base and he flew away as everyone waved at him and he was pretty happy he helped fix this problem, and wondered how often things like this happen on the front, where very few get to see.


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      Chapter 6: Recognition


      Frank went back and soon got his weekend off. He was home talking to some friends when his buddy Carl Harris walked up bragging about making a small jet engine in his garage and he offered to let everyone watch as he fired it up for the first time.

      “The last time you tried this it came lose from the mount and went through the wall.” Frank mentioned as Carl admitted he didn’t have enough braces to properly hold it in place.

      “But...it flew!” Carl added as Frank and everyone else laughed.

      “Oh it did that for sure.” Another added and Frank asked him what he’d do with it when he got it working properly.

      “You know me...after I get this one working then I’ll improve it and make it bigger, someday I want to be an engineer and make new engines for planes and helicopters for the military.” he went on as everyone just smiled and looked away. With travel between cities almost non-existent and travel inside between city regions mostly by bus these things wouldn’t never really be needed.

      And the only helicopters they ever used were for heavy lifting, going in and out of the city on missions only the military understood, and they weren’t jet powered at all. They had been seen bringing in logs for construction work but little else, so they might be used just whenever they were needed, but then only the City Council knew for sure...and they weren’t talking.

      “Wow! Ten kills in a month? Thats some decent cash right there..right Frank?” Carl asked as Frank admitted he was doing alright. “Want to invest in my next project? I’m thinking of making a one man helicopter just big enough to take off and land in a tiny space and carry one guy maybe 15 miles or so.” he added as Frank had to actually think about that one, as the others laughed saying Frank had Wind powers and could fly that far on his own.

      “But...” Frank started as everyone stopped to listen,” not all officers have that ability...I bet something like that...with a small seat and maybe fiberglass or plastic housing around you...would sell.” he hinted as Carl stopped to consider that too.

      “The paperwork to get it OK’d for flight inside the city would be a killer.” Carl mentioned looking a but queazy just thinking it.

      “How about this then....” Frank said as everyone waited to hear.” I’ll pay for you to make me one for practice, for me personally. Then I’ll see how the Police and others respond to that. They may not like private citizens having them.... but officers? That might make all the difference.” Frank mentioned as Carl agreed, and they sat down to figure out what would be needed and what it would cost.

      Carl started on that and Frank went back to work, and in a week got called into Command for a meeting and when he walked in he got a rousing round of applause as senior officers there shook his hand and he looked totally confused for a minute.

      “Congratulations Lieutenant Jackson!” he got told, as he looked shocked. He was only 6 months out of the Academy and was getting a promotion so soon? “Because of the fine work you’ve been doing, not to mention going out of your way to save our officers from foes, both enemy and ally, we thought this was appropriate.” The Chief said as many agreed.

      “I didn’t do it on purpose..I mean I did but...” Frank stammered as everyone laughed.

      “You saved a Healer from death, finished the job, then removed a sick man from his Command position where he had the worst record for deaths on the frontier. That alone was more than most other officers could do, or would under the same circumstances.” he got told and he just shrugged it off.

      “So we called you here to give you this.” he heard and he got a commendation and his new set of icons for his uniform, and now he could literally Command any unit he dropped in on, under special circumstances that is.”Our frontier units are commanded by Sargents as you well know, but since you also have Command experience there we thought this might be a good fit. When the new Commander got to the team base they told him the whole story, and he personally asked for the commendation for you.” He got told as Frank looked shocked.

      “You’re a credit to the Academy,” he got told as the Dean walked up and shook his hand too, then his Commanding officer the Colonel in charge of the Assault Teams was next.

      “Anything you want just ask.” He got told and after a second he got a huge grin as his Commander just smiled and waited.

      “Permission to scout while flying.” Frank asked as the man laughed saying that seeing new things happened everyday, and he already flew so that was granted. “I mean flying a machine...if I use less power getting to and from Teams then I have more to use Healing.” Frank added as the man looked a little surprised himself.

      “There are no machines like that that I am aware of.” he mentioned, as Frank told him he would take care of that and pay all the research and construction of a prototype, and while many there went into shock too he agreed, and they shook on it, and a new part of Frank’s life got started, and Carl got a couple thousand to start his research and construction and he smiled wide thinking this might actually work out.

      The word also got around Command too, that one of their men was going to build something new. Of course many laughed and some just shook their heads and walked away, but a few that had met Frank knew he wasn’t a crackpot, or on some drugs or something. If he thought he could do it they would wait and see, because this had never been tried before to their knowledge, and it wasn’t like other Healers couldn’t use the help too.


      Chapter 7: The Future gets Started


      Frank worked another month, then walked into Carl’s little workshop they had inside a rented garage. Carl showed him their design, with barely enough room for one person inside it and the size of the rotor and gas tank. It was small for sure but that was the idea, and they rolled it outside and Carl ran it on remote control as it lifted off and hovered there for a second, then slid sideways and back and then sat back down again.

      “Well it flies at least,” Frank mentioned as Carl gave him a dirty look.” let me try it now.”

      “You’ll need some training before you can fly this, a helicopter isn’t like flying a glider or something.” Carl added as Frank just laughed.

      “Over a hundred hours on Chopper Command.” Frank added as he slid into the tiny seat.

      “Games are not reality...” Carl added loudly, as Frank fired up the motor and Carl had his people step back. “Idiot...” he hinted but Frank lifted off a few feet then had to stop it from running into the street, then drifted backwards and side ways, and for nearly 20 minutes he played with it. Up down back and forth and finally above the building high enough to see for blocks, as Frank called back that it wasn’t really much different.

      “Its only a matter of balance.” he mentioned, as even Carl admitted to that. Now he was 50 feet up and made a slow circle and after a minute sat it back down just a few feet from the spot where he lifted off. “ Not bad friend, not bad.” Frank said slapping Carl on the back as his helpers laughed.

      “Now for the improvements...” Frank added as Carl asked him what he wanted now. “The seat is plastic and is hard as a rock, how about a pad for that? Then the body is soo narrow that my ass barely fits, and there’s no way I’ll ever put anything behind that seat, especially a person that might need to get rushed to the hospital.” Frank added as Carl’s mouth dropped.

      “You never mentioned any of this before.” he said seriously as Frank just laughed at him.

      “You never really built one that would fly before either, so now that we both see you can do it...we build a real working model.” Frank added and slipped him another check, and Frank nodded and yelled to drag it back inside, and a message got sent from a scout close by that the prototype flew, and improvements were on the way, and Frank knew full well they were being watched and that his loud voice and Carl’s sad expression was on its way back to HQ even now.

      And after Frank left for the day Carl noticed that little flight made the engine pretty dang hot... and he knew that this little engine wasn’t going to cut it...so Franks flight gave him more info he didn’t have before and he felt he learned something, and so he ordered better parts, and they adjusted the frame and body to suit, and the color, since Frank turned his nose up at the green paint on it now.

      “Not green, blue.” Frank hinted, and left, and Carl had the body stretched a bit wider and then added storage behind the seat that followed the frame back, enough room to lay a wounded person down, and went from the tiny 5 HP engine he first used to a 10, and he was pretty sure this would hold out a lot better than before.

      Frank got asked about it during work that week, and he mentioned that they were custom making a new design, and even though he flew it for a few minutes it wasn’t nearly ready yet. The report that Command got from that flight was...inconclusive at best...and they knew Frank was trying something new not only for himself but for them too. His contract was nearly over, and if he stayed on then he had a lot of options. So they got ready for some serious talks coming up, as his 10th month as a Police Officer neared its end.

      When you agree to the Police or Military paying your tuition then they own you for 1 year. Then if you want, and can stay alive, you can sign on for more time, for bonuses. A few stayed for years and had a very nice retirement coming...but that wasn’t the average. Nearly half of all officers die in that first year, and so thats the reason that the Academy was so important. It never closed, it never took vacation, when its student were on break others came in for refreshers or to learn new skills. They protected the city from everything and everyone, and a Graduate had the world by the tail...so long as they were lucky.

      Frank’s idea that a small helicopter would be needed seemed to ring true even in Command. The only factory they had made the heavy lift vehicles, and even then the resources for doing that were limited. But something this small, with storage behind the seat for wounded, might be just the thing for Teams at the Front, and Hospitals too. So they were watching carefully, and as they did Frank got Corporate Papers filled out and bought a bigger building, and many smiled that he was this serious.

      When he started his last month he got the call...and went to talk to Command at the main base. They asked him if he was going to quit to run his new business,and he asked if he could stay, just as an emergency Healer and Scout. He knew things many civilians never knew, and he wasn’t allowed to repeat them. Like: all those dead animals get hauled away. Lizards, rats, coyotes, all animals weighing hundreds of pounds each. And in all his travels Frank never saw a farm once, not once, and so where does all that beef and other meats come from? And he was told not to ask...and he stopped asking that day.

      It was easy to get away with...since the Great War they all had eaten the same things, and if this is all there is...and you see it and eat it everyday...then whats in a name? No one guessed or asked and were not told. Meat was a luxury here, with a few million people living in close quarters a good piece of meat could cost a weeks salary for some, so being a vegetarian became almost the normal.

      So if you planned ahead or got a raise and had meat for dinner...then people were thrilled...and so was the Food Department because they gathered and sold every bit of meat to enter the city. And they had orders for meat from stores and restaurants that they would never be able to fill...so prices would never go down.

      Frank got his deal then, and he wore a earpiece everywhere for emergencies. If he was needed he got the call, and for every person he healed he got paid, on top of a base salary, and for every resource he found... another bonus... and if he planned it right then researching new vehicles was more of a hobby, and his real job would cover it until it started making a profit on its own.


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      Chapter 8: First Flight

      Frank got a call a month later...his new proto was ready to test. He went right away and when it rolled out it was noticeably bigger... wider for sure... and there was a hatch along the side that Carl opened to see a cot securely attached to the frame and it had straps to hold down anyone who was too injured to make it back to the base on foot.

      “Nicely done...” Frank added as he got inside and the 1 inch thick custom pad he sat on was far better than the plastic seat underneath it. He turned around in the seat and looked back at the cot, something impossible before, and he smiled and gave Carl a big thumbs up as he waved them all away and fired up the motor for the first time.

      It even had a different sound now, softer but more powerful, and Frank slowly turned up the speed until it lifted off and went right up to around 75 feet above the base, and he turned it and started down the street and went out of sight a minute later.

      “Where are you going??” Carl screamed into his headset, as Frank laughed and said he did such a good job that it needed a decent test flight, and as he said that, he passed the edge of the city doing about 40 MPH and started out into the safe zone around it.

      The so called Safe Zone was a circle 20 miles wide around the city. Out there the military and some police units patrolled and kept the animals to a decent number, and stopped them from getting into the city.

      But out here the animals were rulers and humans just dared to be there, and as Frank slowed down and did a scan of the area he switched channels and called back to Command that he found a pair of tunnels in the side of a hill, and several Rats scurrying around it as he flew by. The coordinates were sent and he flew back to the base, and his first test, and job, with the new ship was done. As Carl chewed him out for getting out of communication range, and Frank told him he did great work, now if only it had a roof over your head or an enclosed cockpit to keep out the wind and rain...and Carl rolled his eyes and dragged it back inside... and Frank got the biggest grin and went back to his dads house to say Hi and get a free meal.

      But an hour later and the video made it back to Command, and seeing it up and running made a few high level officers smiling pretty wide.

      “Lots of room for the biggest officer inside...” was mentioned,” and a special litter area behind the seat for wounded soldiers...every hospital in the city will want one.” Got added as many agreed.

      “Between 40-50 MPH now... but its still in development.” Got added as everyone smiled really wide at that. “This could save lives faster than any vehicle we use now. Running along rough roads or no roads doesn’t cut it for wounded soldiers who are bleeding to death. They need a speedy transport...from anywhere...and this might just be it.” They heard and price was brought up and no one even could guess. But they knew Frank was no idiot, and so a representative from the Medical Services Department was sent to have a serious talk with him, and see his project first hand.

      But Frank and Carl had to talk before any of this and as they sat there going over it all Carl wasn’t sure what they would need.

      “What did mine cost us to build?” Frank asked as Carl went on about building that one three times so far and Frank just stopped him dead.OK, first off what did the parts cost the last time?” he asked as Carl dug out his records and laid it all out for him.

      “And labor?” he added and that got mentioned,” and lets charge for the use of the building and tools, “ And as Frank figured it all out it was cheaper than he first thought.

      “Everything we used is right off the shelf stuff, any good hardware store has most of it. The engine we got from a farm supply place, if we are going to build them for others we can save money by buying in bulk.” Carl mentioned as Frank agreed.

      “So, no rebuilding over and over no specialization, just building one from parts and time spent...5200 each in parts and labor alone.” Frank added as Carl just shrugged and agreed. “ And we need to make something to for electricity and tools things like that.” he mentioned and they decided that one just like his, built from parts can be done in a month, now that the blueprint was finished, and it could be sold for anything over 6000 and they’d make a little at least, but Frank decided this was a specialty thing and that not everyone would be able to afford one, so instead he decided that 8000 was more like it and they agreed that would be what they said should anyone ask.

      And when Frank brought the Medical Team around to see it, they were impressed, and their pilot got to sit in it and check it out, and when they left Carl had his first order...and 8000 wasn’t even a problem... and Frank saw they could sell as many of these as they wanted or could make, and he told Carl to start dealing for bulk parts, and hire a few more helpers, because their little business was going big time soon.

      Chapter 9: Just Another Day


      Frank was having a good time this week. His little business got their first order, his friend Carl got a full time job running it, and Frank could fly using his Wind magic, or his machine either one, and make a decent living at that.

      The City Council started making rules for flying over the city, since it became clear that was going to happen eventually. The cities largest hospital got a copter with transport capabilities in it for one wounded or sick person, and their pilot started training to properly use it. Now they sent out messages saying that they’d go as far out as the edge of the Safe Zone to get wounded people and transport them back to the city, and another new thing got started, and Frank sold another one to a private firm that was planning on contracting with every hospital in the city to transport patients from place to place.

      Soon seeing a small machine flying by wouldn’t be worth mentioning, and Frank thought that was great. He got asked about Options for their vehicles, and he smiled and said that depending on what they wanted what it would cost, and Carl smiled to see more cash coming in, and the company had it’s own bank account now and it was going up steadily.

      People thought nothing of paying 300 dollars for a spotlight mounted to the front, or 200 dollars for a mount inside the tail to carry Oxygen tanks for patient use. The fact the mount cost 30 bucks didn’t matter, it got done quickly, and Frank’s business made a few more dollars for him to use in his experiments.

      He had one machine just to try out new ideas...like Carl’s little jet engine he played with for ages. It did run... for short bursts... and Frank asked if that couldn’t add more speed to the machine, and Carl wasn’t too sure about that. The first attempt caught fire and had to be put out with an extinguisher, and the second drained the fuel tank too quickly. So after several more tries, Frank flipped that little switch and the machine jumped forward and the speed indicator jumped by 30 MPH, and he cheered and laughed and was out of sight in record time.

      “You’re going to kill yourself one day.” Carl called after him, but Frank just laughed and turned and came back. They added a small fuel tank just for the jet, and it drained it pretty fast, but for that few minutes there was nothing that could touch it, and his reputation for design and research went up yet again. And with this new speed and design as well as Options now, the Military ordered 3 for themselves and their research teams, and Frank laughed all the way to the bank that week.

      He was still doing Scout work too and his official name was Scout 1 since he was the oldest scout in service now. He turned in sights he saw like tunnels where rats were living, and stretches of forest with some pretty big trees in them, and got bonuses for it too. His own private account was looking pretty good, and every few weeks they ask him to redo his contract, and he smiled and did, and that was a big cash bonus too.

      He paid off a few of his dad’s bills, and saw to it Sherry got a perfect dress for her graduation too, and still he had lots for a single guy who was always in the news. He also did some serious dating...since many young women in the city seemed appalled by the fact he was so successful and still single...but try as they might they couldn’t make him settle down, and Frank laughed about it even on interviews on TV.

      He wanted someone ‘special’ he mentioned, but then refused to lay out any details yet. So it became a thing, asking him what ‘special’ meant, and he made it his job to never say, and many took that as a personal challenge. And some people love a challenge.

      But he just wouldn’t be satisfied, and by now Carl had a team just working on new research projects. The hospital said this little thing was nice, but that asked about one that could carry a medic and nurse...along with the pilot, and after some talking Frank gave them a price...a really good price...and they agreed, and a special ship was being constructed just for them... and for Frank to try for himself. The frame was feet longer, and wider too. It had seats for 4 people along the sides and a cot fastened to the floor in the center. Above everyone’s heads were some small shelves for storage, and it had ranks for Oxygen tanks and hoses along the sides too.

      Its was the Big Brother to his old ship, and it had an engine twice the size, and even then Carl wasn’t too sure about it until more actual flight tests could be done. Then on the first flight Frank took it up and around the edge of the city. It was a lot heavier and a bit slower but it got up and gone quickly, and had good range with the oversized fuel tanks they added, and so after a week testing and improving it, the Medical Center sent their pilot to get it, and he looked impressed when he stepped inside and sat down. He could turn and talk to anyone in back and there was room for a second person up front, if they needed the room. It was painted white with a big red cross on the side to show the world this was a medical ship, and as the engine ran for that first day the pilot looked so excited he might scream any minute...and Frank’s first ship that sold for over 20k went home, and was on all the news channels by dark.


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      Chapter 10: Scout/Explorer


      Frank knew that no hospital would want to be without one after that, and as orders came in he hired more help and put up a small separate building for storing parts, saving on room on the construction floor.

      He used the prototype for himself as his personal ship, and went out on trips that kept him there overnight, and that little cot became a makeshift bed, and he was surprised how comfortable it was.

      He got told that staying out overnight on the frontier was suicide, but he hadn’t had a bit of trouble yet. He flew out past the Safe Zone where most of the troubles were and after you past that...animal sightings dropped off substantially. It made no sense he got told, but it was true and after days of flying around and scouting new forest, for wood and a few spots for other resources, even the Council was shocked to see that the massive armies of animals they had always said were out there really weren’t, and that surprised them more than someone camping out in a helicopter in No Mans Land overnight.

      The new idea became this: The city attracted animals not because of bright lights and noise, but because Humans lived there. On the Frontier things were a lot less and further between. Animals had to take whatever they could get when it came to food, and many got eaten by bigger animals and so went looking for places with less competition. Enter the Cities...where Police and Military kept numbers down on bigger animals letting the smaller ones hide out and feed, many times on their fallen brethren.

      But food was a lot easier to find, and so many gravitated to the edge of town and hid there. When their numbers got large enough they’d strike out in packs to look for better hunting grounds, and many times stumbled right into Teams that either cut them down or got overrun, letting the animals feast.

      So one way or another the cities were hunting grounds, far more populated than out there on the Frontier. Of course animals were out there...but not the massive numbers anyone had thought...and that made going out to see what was there more of a curiosity than a threat, and Frank started getting further and further away from the safe zones, and new things started getting found.

      During one trip he flew right past what looked like an old farm. It had several big buildings, now half fallen down and a large house. He saw no animals around it so he landed, grabbed his pistol and went inside. There he found pots and pans, all kinds of decorative things and a few skeletons too. In one bedroom he found a dead body laying in her own bed, with her writing utensils and a book by her side.

      He opened it to read that her family had stayed out here after the Great War and survived for a long time. But animals found them and no matter what they did they wouldn’t go away. So one by one her family got dragged down or dragged away and finally as they clawed at the house door she was all alone.

      The last of the weapons were out of ammo, and her parents died protecting her, but she would not let the animals win, even as they came crawling in she took her own life so they couldn’t and this book told of their story and how they had survived for years after the War.

      Frank gathered everything, now rare antiques for sure, and took her book and a video he made of the farm and went home. The Council was shocked beyond belief that anyone had survived for so long but it was absolute fact now. The Dairy said it all in great detail. One family fighting to survive for years against almost overwhelming odds, and after reading it out loud during their meeting the Council was so moved that they had it added to the Academy’s list of recommended reading and Sara’s Diary became a thing of Legend.

      And all those other things were in high demand not because they were old, but because they were from HER farm, and Frank held onto some for a while then advertised he had them...and to his surprise he could have built a second factory with the cash he got for those rare, now Legendary things.

      Chapter 11: A General Problem

      One such young lady was Flora Jason, daughter of General James Jason in the Military Assault Devision. She was the perfect Beauty Queen, with the looks to match. Blond...very blond...and tall, well built and not shy about showing it, and ambitious, very ambitious. She went out with Frank and swore to her friends they would be married and she’d control him and his blossoming business... and then Frank smiled and gave her a nice kiss... and never called her again.

      But that was impossible...to her at least...she went to her father complaining she had been used and abused by this man...but he knew better. She was nothing if not loud, and she did like to talk. Even her father knew she was looking for a man to control and rule over...and Frank was never going to be that man.

      “Find someone else Dear, this man will never be the one for you.” he mentioned, and she got even more upset he wouldn’t side with her.

      She went on and on about this until her own friends started backing away. If he was the next big thing in the City who knows? Maybe he’d be a Council Member someday, and that would mean just one of less than a dozen people ruling the city...and her through him.

      But she also got told that Frank was a strong man, a good looking man who could get just about anyone. Now add in his wealth and the Power he seemed to be gaining gradually, and she was not alone in her attempts, and Frank knew what he wanted permanently, and someone too loud, or pushy wasn’t going to cut it.

      “I was Miss Miami two years running, and I have followers by the dozens...he should be honored that I care so much about him!” She declared, and the only words in that sentence that surprised anyone was ‘care so much’ and it went right over her head that she even said it.

      “If you really like him say so...don’t go bragging around. He’s a serious guy and if he thinks you really do care he might reconsider.” got mentioned, and Flora didn’t seem to get it at all, and so everyone just left it go again for a while.

      And Frank did ask her out again, about 2 weeks later, and after that date she was more flustered than before.

      “How dare he do this to me!” She was screaming, while her friends tried to settle her down.” Twice we went out and this time we went to his apartment and got nice and comfortable, and we talked for a while...really talked...” She was saying, and her voice got slower and lower and less loud by the second. “He said he likes me, he really does, but he’s his own boss and doesn’t need someone pushing him to do things he doesn’t want to. Imagine him saying that to ME.” She demanded as people all around her were trying not to laugh.

      “So?” One friend asked as Flora looked her way.” You wanted to know if he liked you and he said he does, just he doesn’t want someone pushing him along. So agree to that and let him be the boss. You like him too right?” She asked as Flora looked sad it got brought up.

      “That’s not the point...” She added softly, as her fiends tried to explain that it was EXACTLY the point, but she wouldn’t see it.

      “Does he treat you well?” Got asked, and she admitted he did... but better, more expensive gifts might be nice... as eyes rolled all around them and one or two of her friends looked like walking away. She was like a lady with two personalities, one absolutely sure of herself and demanding, and another normal, warm and caring person. But even though others saw it it appeared she never did.

      “He’s kind and gentle and smart, everything I’ve been looking for.” She admitted, as everyone just stood there waiting for it to sink in. But just as it looked like she was settling down she snapped right back to normal.” But he totally refuses to let me help him run his business or manage his bank accounts, hell, he wont even tell me whats in them yet. How can we develop trust like that?” She asked and suddenly found herself alone as everyone just shook their heads and walked away. And she huffed and said that people were soo rude, and stomped her way home.

      But out of all the so called friends she had, she really did have one, and Frank got a call from some anonymous person saying that if he liked Flora not to give up on her and she just might change, and then they hung up, and Frank chuckled that she had someone willing to go the extra mile for her, no matter how loud and obnoxious she tried to be.

      But she was a great looking young woman no doubt about it...her problem was she had been told how very beautiful she was since birth and thats a LOT of time to chisel that into someone’s brain. So now she went around trying to get everyone else to admit it too, and even guiding men to let her run their lives just for the right to be seen with her.

      But Frank wanted a woman, not a manager, and he would tell her that the next time they went out, and if that didn’t get her attention then he would have to step back and start seeing someone else.


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      20 chapters in this one then our friendly aliens start looking for someone else to help.


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      Chapter 11: A General Problem

      One such young lady was Flora Jason, daughter of General James Jason in the Military Assault Devision. She was the perfect Beauty Queen, with the looks to match. Blond...very blond...and tall, well built and not shy about showing it, and ambitious, very ambitious. She went out with Frank and swore to her friends they would be married and she’d control him and his blossoming business... and then Frank smiled and gave her a nice kiss... and never called her again.

      But that was impossible...to her at least...she went to her father complaining she had been used and abused by this man...but he knew better. She was nothing if not loud, and she did like to talk. Even her father knew she was looking for a man to control and rule over...and Frank was never going to be that man.

      “Find someone else Dear, this man will never be the one for you.” he mentioned, and she got even more upset he wouldn’t side with her.

      She went on and on about this until her own friends started backing away. If he was the next big thing in the City who knows? Maybe he’d be a Council Member someday, and that would mean just one of less than a dozen people ruling the city...and her through him.

      But she also got told that Frank was a strong man, a good looking man who could get just about anyone. Now add in his wealth and the Power he seemed to be gaining gradually, and she was not alone in her attempts, and Frank knew what he wanted permanently, and someone too loud, or pushy wasn’t going to cut it.

      “I was Miss Miami two years running, and I have followers by the dozens...he should be honored that I care so much about him!” She declared, and the only words in that sentence that surprised anyone was ‘care so much’ and it went right over her head that she even said it.

      “If you really like him say so...don’t go bragging around. He’s a serious guy and if he thinks you really do care he might reconsider.” got mentioned, and Flora didn’t seem to get it at all, and so everyone just left it go again for a while.

      And Frank did ask her out again, about 2 weeks later, and after that date she was more flustered than before.

      “How dare he do this to me!” She was screaming, while her friends tried to settle her down.” Twice we went out and this time we went to his apartment and got nice and comfortable, and we talked for a while...really talked...” She was saying, and her voice got slower and lower and less loud by the second. “He said he likes me, he really does, but he’s his own boss and doesn’t need someone pushing him to do things he doesn’t want to. Imagine him saying that to ME.” She demanded as people all around her were trying not to laugh.

      “So?” One friend asked as Flora looked her way.” You wanted to know if he liked you and he said he does, just he doesn’t want someone pushing him along. So agree to that and let him be the boss. You like him too right?” She asked as Flora looked sad it got brought up.

      “That’s not the point...” She added softly, as her fiends tried to explain that it was EXACTLY the point, but she wouldn’t see it.

      “Does he treat you well?” Got asked, and she admitted he did... but better, more expensive gifts might be nice... as eyes rolled all around them and one or two of her friends looked like walking away. She was like a lady with two personalities, one absolutely sure of herself and demanding, and another normal, warm and caring person. But even though others saw it it appeared she never did.

      “He’s kind and gentle and smart, everything I’ve been looking for.” She admitted, as everyone just stood there waiting for it to sink in. But just as it looked like she was settling down she snapped right back to normal.” But he totally refuses to let me help him run his business or manage his bank accounts, hell, he wont even tell me whats in them yet. How can we develop trust like that?” She asked and suddenly found herself alone as everyone just shook their heads and walked away. And she huffed and said that people were soo rude, and stomped her way home.

      But out of all the so called friends she had, she really did have one, and Frank got a call from some anonymous person saying that if he liked Flora not to give up on her and she just might change, and then they hung up, and Frank chuckled that she had someone willing to go the extra mile for her, no matter how loud and obnoxious she tried to be.

      But she was a great looking young woman no doubt about it...her problem was she had been told how very beautiful she was since birth and thats a LOT of time to chisel that into someone’s brain. So now she went around trying to get everyone else to admit it too, and even guiding men to let her run their lives just for the right to be seen with her.

      But Frank wanted a woman, not a manager, and he would tell her that the next time they went out, and if that didn’t get her attention then he would have to step back and start seeing someone else.


      Chapter 12: Honesty Prevails

      Another month and Frank was doing pretty well. His business just got an order for 4 of the smaller, faster models for the military and Carl stepped up production again for a while. He had one line running nothing but the bigger units the hospitals liked and options for them, like spotlights and radios to call on ahead. And Frank was experimenting with one that he was mounting weapons on, right now just a ‘drop tube’ for explosives or grenades that he rigged up beside the pilots seat. Making the smaller copters a light bomber, and killing quite a few animals he saw while scouting. But Carl demanded it was too dangerous this way, and so they started looking at other ways to provide support for ground troops from the sky.

      Next was a gun mounted under the seat that stuck out and swiveled to aim from side to side and even up and down a bit. But trying to aim it was hard and so Carl mounted a mini camera on it and sighted through a cheap scope to get a better aim at targets. That made all the difference, and Frank got pretty good at picking off targets next to the factory, and went out hunting one day and killed a few rats he found wandering the streets of one abandoned neighborhood.

      Once he proved it worked well it got mentioned as an option for his crafts, and the military ordered one right away, and Frank made a nice profit from it since everything they used came right out of the sporting shops in the city where hunters bought their things, and wasn’t nearly as expensive as they pretended it was.

      Of course the military wasn’t fooled, but the cameras idea and the special mounts were what they were after and two days after getting it they modified it with a new gun that they thought was more ‘appropriate’ for their needs. And a month later military teams were seen flying out into the safe zone for their own tests, and food became a tiny bit less expensive after that got started.

      But Frank never forgot what that call had said, and after a while he called Flora again and she accepted his invitation graciously, And this time she fought off the thought of demanding to know what took him so long to call, and even her friends saw that maybe she was learning something.

      They went out to a nice restaurant and then to a show and she was the epitome of grace and fashion and Frank was pretty happy she came along tonight. When it got time to call it a night they were on his couch in his apartment getting a good night kiss when she offered to stay...for a while...and Frank agreed.

      So the next day when she was seen by her friends she acted like an entirely different woman, and smiled a lot more too.

      “You stayed over night?” She got asked as she reminded them that that would have been tacky at best, but she did admit to staying well into the morning but left before anyone could see her. “I think leaving at 3 am counts as staying the night.” She heard, as she and her friends got a good chuckle from that.

      “Well...maybe.” She admitted, and got asked a hundred questions...some too personal to admit to yet. “He was so kind and gentle, and he made me soo happy.” She gushed, and people all around her saw that maybe she had finally fallen for someone as a real person and not some doll with ulterior motives.

      “I knew you were too tense for your own good.” Got mentioned, as Flora gave the girl a dirty look...then burst out laughing about it.

      “Not today...” She finally added with her face all red and the biggest smile she had worn in ages.

      “Now the big question...if he calls again... knowing what he wants from you in advance, will you go?” She got asked as she took a minute to think about it but her face wasn’t fooling anyone.

      “Maybe, but we’ll have to have a serious talk before this becomes standard for us.” Flora added, and even her friends saw that the discussion went from ‘one more time’ to ‘ standard for us’ without a blink of her eye.

      And Frank was having pretty much the same discussion at the factory, as Carl and a few friends gave him a big pat on the back for bagging one of the most beautiful women in the city.

      “Flora Jason, Miss Miami two years in a row and daughter of some General or something.” Carl mentioned as Frank admitted it was true.

      “General James Jason of the Assault Division for the Western side of the city.” Frank admitted as people all went ‘wow’ and Frank smiled wider than before.

      “Think you might get in trouble for...you know...when the General finds out?” he got asked, as Frank waved the idea away. Flora was over 21 and so was he, so her father shouldn’t be too upset about this at all....or at least he hoped not.

      “We’ll just have to wait and see.” he said and that ended the questions because as he said ‘real men don’t tell things like that’ and his friends all laughed about that one.


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      Chapter 13: Misunderstandings or Cold Feet?


      Once again Frank got busy for a while and Flora spent some time waiting for his call. One week, then two, and she started looking a little depressed thinking that now that they had been together he didn’t want her anymore.

      Of course it was probably all in her mind, she got told... but she admitted they had a good time...and she was wondering why he never called her again, and it was wearing on her ego a bit too.

      “I turned down 6 dates since then and he still hasn’t called! How dare he make me wait like this!” She screamed while pumping down a drink with her friends, and a few almost laughed out loud at her antics,and the fact she was giving up dates waiting on one man...something they never thought they’d see.

      “He’s a busy man, he has a regular job, a high paying one too...and runs his own business besides, and I saw this week it got another order for hospital copters again, soon every hospital in the city will be using them and the City Council has made several empty lots emergency landing zones if they are ever needed.” One mentioned, as another girl admitted she saw that too.

      “I don’t care if he’s busy... I need him...” Flora whined, almost silently, as everyone stepped back a bit as she started to cry.

      “Then call and tell him...he’s probably so busy he just didn’t see how long its been.” One added softly, as Flora refused to ‘go crawling to any man’ and people all around her smiled that she was still as stubborn as ever.

      “He probably has another woman by now and threw me away like a dirty old rag...” She claimed and chugged down another drink as people all around the room tried hard not to laugh out loud, and her friends expertly guided her out the door and home to sleep it off.

      “Its Love, no doubt about it.” One girl said as they left her house.” She never gave up dating for anyone else.”
      “Its probably her first real crush, she always used men and threw them away until now...hey wait...you don’t think?” She asked as they all stopped dead. “That he thinks thats whats happening here?”

      “He called her twice now...and they started a real relationship now after that one night...maybe he got scared about her tossing him away, and walked on his own?” One asked, as everyone had to think about that.

      “That would make him as bad as the way she used to be,” One said angrily,” and I refuse to think that.”

      “Then what do we do?” Got asked, as everyone just shrugged and went home to think about it...and Frank got another anonymous call telling him Flora was waiting for his call..and that she gave up dating for him. And he had to consider that the playgirl of the city might really care for him... something everyone around him, including himself... thought was just silly until now.

      He had been told the fact they spent the evening together meant he was on the way out...it happened a few times to others...and that he’d be just another notch on her bedpost with a note in some diary or something. And until now he believed that might be true, but now he had to reconsider.

      And when he mentioned it to some of his friends they all laughed. The General’s daughter and the Scout...and Frank laughed too... but he decided to ask, and when he called her that day she jumped at the chance to see him, and her excitement ran through the air to his ear, and he felt it like she was standing there,and he got really happy about that.

      And two days later they went out again. Had a nice dinner together and went back to her place, and he stayed the night, and she was slow to let him go home the next day too. She seemed so happy now, and she never asked about his business anymore, something she harped on about before, and when she got asked about why she didn’t, she laughed saying that he was doing really well on his own and she would only get in his way, and her friends all smiled that day saying it was Love for sure, and they wondered if the two of them even noticed themselves yet?

      Now it became a regular thing, Flora called him if he didn’t first and he told her that was just fine with him. They went out, did things together, and she had him over for the customary meeting of her parents, and Frank and the General both looked embarrassed and a bit out of place that day. But Flora was in her glory, and they all saw it and when he got the chance the General took Frank to the side and told him to be sure and take good care of his daughter, and Frank smiled and agreed, and it looked like a done deal.

      The news got hold of the story soon after, when Flora was seen with the same man for weeks on end, and when they asked her if it might be serious she declared it was...without a second thought...and everyone from Frank on up to the General all saw it on the evening news, and Frank got told he was a lucky guy, and he agreed while smiling so wide he might burst.

      And it looked like it would only be a matter of time until Frank settled down, and he declared he had a few things he wanted to do before then, and she agreed to wait for him, and his plans for his future went into high gear, and the entire city sat back to see what it might be.


      Chapter 14: Exploration...with a Purpose

      It was true that their city was not the old Miami, it was now under water, and the Great War only hastened its destruction. Now New Miami was dead center what was left of the old State of Florida, near the old RT 4 highway. But no one had traveled out any further than the Safe Zones for years, and though they told everyone it was hugely risky to try they soon found out that the massive numbers of animals they thought were there didn’t exist.

      So...what was stopping them from going out there getting food or whatever and coming back? Time and money of course, and the City Council might be a little worried too because they ruled here and together set up the city when all the old cities failed. Many burned to the ground in the war, others died off from radiation poisoning and others fell to sicknesses and animal attacks. So out of all the cities on the world once, now only 6 existed, and in the old US only New Miami and New Dallas were still around 50 years later.

      They seldom had contact, but it was thought that they did have radios for that purpose, but they either hadn’t used them in years, or didn’t want to talk to each other, maybe for political reasons. But Frank thought it was all too silly, and one of the things he wanted to do before settling down and running his business was to see the ocean, only a hundred miles or so away but no one had even tried for many years.

      “How do you intend to do it?” he got asked as he said he needed to be patient and slowly get things done. The range of his little copters now was around 50 miles, and at that it allowed the Safe Zones to be slid back again, now openly being called 30 miles instead of 20. That was a huge thing and the council bragged that they were opening up areas that had been closed for half a century. But everyone knew that without the aircraft they used now it never would have happened, and they all knew who made it happen now...wither the Council liked it or not.

      Traveling out and back 30 miles became a normal thing so why not a hundred miles? Frank thought, and soon his machine had bigger fuel tanks and he had Carl working on better fuel economy for all the engines, and he slowly saw his dream coming true. Once they could push back the frontier that far then it was just a matter of time before trade between the cities became Reality, and he saw a time when his machines would make it happen, and he admitted he’d like to see that during one interview he had, and eyes all over the Council popped to hear it...and they had to talk about how far they were willing to let him go.

      “He’s laboring under the idea that they want to deal with us...so he doesn’t know.” Got mentioned as many there nodded agreement.” Then someone has to tell him...he’s the greatest of us at the moment and we cant stand to lose him over something so petty.’ The man said but he got told quickly that what had happened was not petty...and they would never be forgiven for it even now.

      “He’s neither that important OR a member of US...” he got told, as he looked surprised they could say that.” sure he does alright...because we let him. If he starts thinking that he can demand from us then we will set him straight! He does only what we allow... nothing more...and trying to start trade with New Dallas isn’t going to happen, we don’t need them, and they can sit out there and rot for all I care.” got said, as many there didn’t agree right away, and the Chairman saw that time was erasing the hate they felt those first few years, and that only he still carried enough to get things done.

      “I propose a new law, forbidding people to travel further than the Safe Zones. That way everyone who ever thinks it will see the Council wont allow such nonsense.” he added and he tried to draft it right that second, but 4 other members said they needed time to consider it...and he saw weakness sneaking into the Council, weakness he swore wasn’t in it just a year or two ago.

      “If this law was in effect then the Safe Zone wouldn’t be getting pushed back to 30 miles from 20.I think thats a good thing, we have better technology now and animals are getting to become less of a threat.” Got mentioned as he saw them questioning him, maybe for the first time.

      “The Safe Zone was 20 miles for 50 years.” He added quickly as many agreed.” I say that we make it 30 then stop..for another 50 years. Safety first...we cant afford to risk too much too soon.” he added as many looked not too sure about that, and he wasn’t happy about their attitude either.

      “Things are progressing faster than that by a good amount, I say we wait and see.” Another member added and his idea got agreed to much faster than before. The vote went his way by a landslide, and the Chairman was forced to accept that as law...for now...but he’d never forget who sided against him and those names would get mentioned other places as well, and he wouldn’t be responsible for what happened after that.

      Frank and his people knew nothing of this of course, and they worked tirelessly towards their goals, not knowing they were being watched for new reasons and that their future safety might hang in the balance.

      His next set of experiments raised their range to 75 miles, round trip, and he saw seeing the ocean and getting some video as being right around the corner....but Carl got a message one night late... and when it was over his feelings about rushing to see new things was changed, and he stopped research into more efficient engines and told Frank that this was as good as they could get for now. And Frank nodded sadly and went on with his business while Carl laid back info for some future time, and the Council saw they could effect their research any time they wanted, so further attention was not needed, yet.

      But this was close to what he wanted, and one fine sunny day Frank was seen adding two cans of gas to his machine and taking off, and the message got sent, and just as he got out about 50 miles heading due West a second machine pulled in behind him and with a single burst the bigger machine went into a spin, and dropped towards the trees below.


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      Chapter 15: Survival in Paradise
      The crash was bad and as the machine slid to a stop after sliding down between two trees Frank crawled or fell out onto the ground. He laid there for a minute looking around and wondering what happened and then got to his feet and checked over what was left of his machine.

      He was just about sure he broke it when he found the engine cover hanging by one bolt, and there were 3 bullet holes through it, and the engine, and he looked shocked and looked around to see if the enemy was still close by. But they had followed him out to their maximum range and so were forced to return quickly, and he knew now that people in high places were out to stop him, one way or another.

      He had no idea why, or who they were, but death stops people pretty well, but he wasn’t dead yet. He got his rifle out of the back and his emergency pack with some food and water in it, then looked up at the sun and started back. He was at least 50 miles out and he couldn’t count on help unless he got back to 30 miles, so 20 miles hiking through animal held territory.

      He made sure his gun was OK, then started his hike, and minutes later Carl got a anonymous message saying he should have stopped him, and nothing else, and he went into shock that someone would try something like this for no reason.

      He waited and watched and hours later as the sun started to set he realized that Frank might not be coming back, and that it might be his fault.

      But Frank wasn’t dead yet and after a nice long hike he got up into a large tree and made himself a rope hammock and got some sleep and when the sun came up the next day he killed a large lizard and made a fire and cooked it and as he chowed down he heard something rustling and turned slowly to see a large white dog... 4 feet tall... standing and sniffing not 6 feet away and he slowly through the leg he was chewing on, and the animal grabbed it and ran into the brush.

      “That was new...” Frank whispered and wondered if any others were nearby, but a minute later he returned and Frank didn’t know what to do for a minute. But he took the rest of his lunch and tossed it to him and he took it and ran way again, and Frank put out his fire and left before the creature came back. He could shoot it of course but the noise might call in others, and seeing 6 or more like this one would be a bad thing, and so he felt moving on quickly was his best option for now.

      He walked as fast as possible for a while then stopped to rest by a stream. There was a lake nearby, and he walked that way to check it out. He saw other animals that ignored him for now, and fish jumping at bugs, and close to the lake there were lots of those. He saw fish swimming around the edge at least 3 feet long, and he saw some real good meals there, since fish was a delicacy in the city, and one this size hadn’t been seen in ages. It would be worth its weight in Gold, and he decided that fishing might be a way to fight the boredom of everyday life, and make a few extra bucks too.

      He guessed he was still about 40 miles out and he checked his compass and turned to go when the brush opened up and a large white dog was standing there watching him and Frank swung the rifle off his shoulder and got ready. But the dog didnt rush him it stood there panting and looked around and Frank started to wonder.
      “You think I’m feeding you every day you have another think coming.” Frank said out loud as the dog looked surprised and moaned for a second and just stood there looking sad. “It is you isnt it...Snow?” he said softly and he laughed and the animal looked oddly at him and so Frank made a spear out of a straight stick and after a few tries threw a 2 foot fish up onto the shore,and Snow grabbed it and laid there chewing it into bits and swallowing it.

      Frank was a bit surprised by this and happy too. He made a small fire right there and cooked a few fish for himself too, and after a while he sat there talking to his new friend who seemed to want him to fish all day, and Frank thought that was funny and called him a pig, and the animal looked oddly at him and then laid down by the fire.

      Frank noticed that there were hundreds, maybe thousands of fish here. Catch one and it got quiet for a while then more came to see. He tossed bits of leaves in and they ran up to look, and he saw getting a real load of these would be easy, and that almost any bait would work. Fish sold for 50 bucks or more a pound in the city, sometimes many times thats depending on supply. But here you could get a truckload in a few days, and he saw that as being as successful as his copter business.

      “Hmmm...” Frank said looking the little lake over.” I wonder what it would cost to buy this place?” And he knew almost immediately it wouldn’t be much. It was in the Bad Lands, or No Man’s Land, and no one owned this or had for some time.

      He got out his map and made a note of it and he saw on the map that many small lakes were nearby, and he smiled that no one thought to explore this far out anymore. But that was his thing, and as he made his way back from there, Snow followed him until they saw the city in the distance, then he turned and ran back the way they came.

      Frank was still many miles outside the Safety Zone but close enough to see the towers and lights from this hilltop. Obviously Snow didn’t like the looks of it,and Frank wasn’t too sure himself now. But he needed things and he wasn’t going to give up just yet. So he checked his map to see what area he was coming into and saw that he might get some help after a while.

      Some of the old neighborhoods were abandoned now but they were watched by teams, and Frank had served out here before. They were miles from the city itself but they put out sensors to see animals coming, and cameras for identification, and once he found one of those he’d be alright...maybe. He wasn’t sure how many people might know about the attempt to kill him, or who might be involved. But he was pretty sure the local Police Teams wouldn’t be in on it because they were considered expendable, and not as trustworthy as some closer at hand. So the attempt on his life came from higher up and until a report went in saying he lived, they would be happily celebrating their victory by now.

      So he approached slowly, gun in hand knowing that rats especially were thicker close to the city, and after walking and sneaking for hours he stopped to see a small metal box on a porch pole right along the street, and he stepped out in front of it and smiled and waved.

      The result was instantaneous. A jeep came screaming down the street and slid to a halt and the Sargent in charge baled out and ask him what the Hell he was doing way out here.

      “My chopper went down, can I get a lift?” Frank asked, as they tossed him into the back and ran back to their HQ to get his story.

      “Hard to believe your machine failed on you.” The Sargent said as they got him a cup of coffee and Frank just nodded towards the office and they went inside and closed the door.

      “Any machine fails with bullet holes in it.” Frank admitted, as the Sargent had to sit down or fall...so he wisely decided to sit.

      “But...why?” He asked finally, as Frank just shrugged saying it was probably Political, he had pissed someone off without knowing it.

      “I do a lot of things that have never been done before. I think I’m trying to help people but someone doesn’t like that I guess.” he admitted as the Sargent added that he didn’t think it was the Police, because everyone he knew idolized Frank for his good work, and the new machines made their jobs 5x easier.

      “No one gets over run anymore, HQ has a pair of small copters waiting with pilots on call to rush in and help. They have saved a dozen lives so far for sure. We certainly don’t want rid of you, your our best friend.” he said as Frank thanked him for saying so.

      “I’ll need a ride home and then you can report this to your bosses. I served with many of you and I trust you, but someone out there is causing trouble and I don’t want it overflowing onto you and your team.” Frank said as the Sargent agreed and as Frank got his ride home the Sargent took a while to go to the bathroom...a long break too...and after that he called it in, and even the Chief of Police went into spasms, and they started their own investigation into who had done this.

      Chapter 16: General Disaster


      Flora and his family were told days ago that he crashed deep in the forests and was presumed dead. She was in shock, and Frank’s dad was screaming for an investigation, and Carl right along side him. Carl demanded that his machine didn’t just crash, it was one of the finest machines ever built and he would stake his reputation and his job on it. But the official word was he couldn’t be found, he was too far out for a rescue, and so after that first day they started thinking he was just gone, and that they would never see him again.

      But here it was three days later, and suddenly he was alive, as Franks dad got the first call straight from Frank himself. Flora was next and when he told her what happened she went into shock, and ran right to her father to demand to know why this happened, and he quickly told her he didn’t do it, he liked Frank and he made her happy and thats all he cared about.

      So he too started demanding an explanation...and even the Council heard a day later as he walked in demanding a full investigation into the matter, and he was told he would get it...and he sat there waiting to hear what they were doing about it.

      But all this was not what was supposed to happen. Frank should have died in the crash and no one would ever go out that far again. But now things were unraveling around the one that ordered the hit, and he quickly made another call, and the pilot involved went missing and would never be found. And without him or his testimony it would all fall into rumor and speculation, and he would wait for another time to finish the job.

      Frank was a real pro alright...at rocking the boat...everything he did made change almost impossible to avoid, and when you’re in charge you don’t want things to change, and so he had to go.

      The Chairman was an old man but he got the best medical care humanly possible, and his health was doing fine. He had refused retirement twice so far, and if he had his way his son would succeed him, turning the position into a Family Dynasty, not something everyone approved of either. His post wasn’t something that was made to be handed down. It was an elected position, but he knew how to rig elections, he had been doing it for nearly half a century, and so he agreed to his detractors that elections would decide when the time came, and they felt they had won that discussion and he smiled that they were so stupid.

      He ran the city from here and his Family would forever after him, that was the plan, and he didn’t need new blood rocking his perfect boat, and so anyone who tried got pushed to the bottom of whatever list they were on, and he sat back watching for other troublemakers.

      He had strict rules about who could succeed in his city, and only those people would be allowed to do so. This new man made new things, better things than before, so he was allowed to exist here, so long as he knew his place. But now he was stepping up, taking the cream of the crop in workers and even women from the city. He had powerful friends too and Generals cant be pushed down without perfect reasons, and the entire Council was falling in love with this man and he got mentioned as a possible Councilman himself someday. But not on the Chairman’s watch! He hated change, it was against his beliefs that only certain ‘special’ people deserved to rule, and having a lowly worker like Frank become a Council member would cause a stir that would never stop as others looked up at him and decided they could be there too...and that turned his stomach thinking it.

      He needed to know his place...and after this maybe he would...but the Chairman doubted it. Frank thought he was special but it wasn’t HIS decision to make. Only his betters could decide that, and he already decided that it wasn’t him, and never would be.

      Let him make his little toys, they served the Council well now and would in the future. They could point to those and say they had allowed new things and better transportation, and the people would approve of them for another generation.

      So for the moment the Chairman sat back acting the part, and watched the investigation go on. No one knew why Frank was targeted, and with careful planning rumors got started about people who wanted him out of the way so they could take over his business, and the investigation went that way after that. But not a single person thought anyone on the Council had anything to do with it...and that was the way it had to be.

      But something else had changed now...Frank had walked...WALKED for 50 miles back into the city, something thought impossible until now. And in all that time he killed a few small animals for food and slept in trees and under overhanging rocks for better defense, but he wasn’t attacked once... not once... while out there, an impossibility to many before this.

      It proved that the frontier was not as dangerous as they had told everyone, and others started looking like they might want to go and see for themselves, and that couldn’t be allowed. it was an unsafe place filled with deadly animals waiting to kill you...and that got repeated over and over... while Frank laughed about it on the news during his interview. He even made a pet out there he called Snow, a wild dog that he fed and followed him almost the entire way home before returning to the frontier.It was such a heartwarming story that it made every channel and Frank got paid well for it, and then even the Academy had him come to show his machines and to give a talk about survival...and the Chairman sat back in total shock and saw that maybe this attack has done more than attempt to get rid of him...it made Frank a hero above all others... and someone that could not be attacked without serious planning, and even then the investigation would never end, and he saw that perhaps he had lost this round and his heart skipped a beat while he thought that.


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