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         “Wait,” Chess cried, running with a feigned limp.  “Do you have water?”
          The two men turned suspicious, dirt-ringed eyes toward Chess as he neared.  The folly of running closer to the wrong end of a rifle howled in Chess’s brain, but he stood, unsteadily, a hand on his bruised ribs, and repeated his plea.  He thought he glimpsed the two men exchanging a look of surprise.
           “You’re military.  You’re wearing a uniform,” one of them barked.
           “I found it.  Here,” Chess answered breathlessly.  “You know, there’s a… there’s an army here.”
          The other man rolled his eyes.  “Yeah, we know.  But why are you here?”
          “Food.”  Chess waved vaguely in the direction of the camp’s waste containers.  “They throw out food.”  He grinned more brightly.  “I’ll share with you.”  Frenzied, he started opening all the pockets in his jacket and dumping out the acorns.  “No… no…,” he muttered.  “Here somewhere…”
          “Stop.”  One of the men stepped forward and grabbed his arm.  “Acorns,” he groaned.  “How long you been out here, kid?”  When Chess looked heavenward and started counting on his fingers, the man growled, “Never mind.  You say there’s food?  Show us.”
          Heart pounding, Chess led them slowly toward the trash containers.  He could hear them walking right behind him, could almost feel the rifles pointed at his back.  At a loss now, he was busy wondering what to do once they got to their destination, when he heard an explosion and a cry behind him, followed by still more noise.  Instinctively, he ducked, and by the time he turned around, both men were lying on the ground, blood making dark stains on the dirt around their heads.
            Chess looked up to see Dallow standing just beyond the closest barrier of coiled razor wire, rifle now resting at his side.  With one last look at the men, Chess rose and dashed over to him.
          “You shot them?” he gasped, squinting at Dallow in disbelief.
          “I thought they were going to kill you.”  Dallow frowned at him.  “Why else do I have a rifle?”
           “You shot them,” Chess repeated blankly.  He blinked, still seeing the dead men.  Then he shook his head.  “I gotta get to the general,” he muttered and brushed past Dallow.
            “Oh, you’re welcome,” Dallow called from the distance behind him.
         When Chess appeared in the office doorway, the general jumped up from his desk.  “Where have you been, soldier?” he demanded, pounding a fist.  Chess opened his mouth to report, but the general stopped him with a roar.  “Stand there!  I’ve been waiting to call them until I knew where in the hell…”  Crimson faced, the general swiped at the phone.  Chess swallowed hard and stood at attention.
          “Colonel Howard!” the general shouted into the phone.  “Regarding that transmitter: we can’t get the device to you right now because--”  He was silent for a moment, and then he turned abruptly and glared at Chess.
          “I see,” the general said in a calmer tone.  “No, Colonel, I don’t think we have a special claim to the information just because we found the device…”  He appeared to sigh and his gaze dropped to the floor.  “Yes… information will be reported through proper channels if you find anything, yes, I know…”  Chess watched the general’s shoulders sag.  “Yes, we are still under attack,” the general confirmed.
          Suddenly, he lifted his head and frowned at Chess.  “Actually, he’s here.”
          Chess inhaled slowly as he watched the general’s eyes widen.  “Yes, Colonel, that’s his name.”
          After a moment, the general hung up, shaking his head.  “Damn Oak Leaf,” he muttered softly, sounding incredulous.  Chess was dismissed.
         On the general’s orders, Chess headed down the hall to his cot.  The world was still all white noise… and he could not get the image of the two dissidents out of his mind.  But with every leaden step, he found that thinking about things got more difficult… even thinking about Mal.
          Brandt stomped past him, then, snarling to himself.  “Had to cut short and come running back here… some graduation!”  Suddenly, he glared at Chess, roaring, “What the hell are you grinning at?”

Continued next page...


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Murdering the Story

He was at the other end of the room, but he bent his head toward Corso confidingly.  “Do you know something?  You Spaniards have a story about a bookseller in Barcelona who committed murder.  Well, I too would be capable of killing for a book.”
   “I wouldn’t recommend it.  That’s how it starts.  Murder doesn’t seem like a big deal, but then you end up lying, voting in elections, things like that.”

The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte

         Okay, something that just fascinates me: movie versions of popular books!  I don’t necessarily  mind when they stray from the written work.  For me, the Harry Potter movies and The Queen of the Damned were like illustrations for the novels – similar to big, glossy picture books… or music videos.  On the other hand, movies based on John Grisham’s books tend to make the story better, as far as I’m concerned. A Time to Kill (if I remember correctly) combined two characters who are so similar in the novel that Grisham’s editor really should have stepped in.  And the low-key, integrity-maintaining conclusion to The Firm movie is way better than the original flee-the-country-with-the-cash ending in the novel.   However, what does drive me crazy is when a story has some admittedly interesting and unique idea contained within a larger, more complex plot -- but the movie just centers on that one little piece of the story.  (I’m looking at you, Bonfire of the Vanities!)
            The Club Dumas movie, The Ninth Gate, did both things: it combined characters from the novel’s various plot lines to make the story much simpler… and it only used the most provocative elements of the story.  The rest was just ignored, probably because it was way too complicated to cinematize.  In fact, if anyone feels they have a good understanding of what that book was about, please let me know!  Here’s to writers who can imagine one really intriguing idea – because of that, all the rest is forgiven.

         (Just a note for the page above: The "oak leaf" insignia in this case indicates a Lieutenant Colonel, which is at least two ranks below any general.)

PAX East in Boston was a remarkable experience! Apart from the thousands of people with whom we had the pleasure of a brief interaction while spreading the word about The Myth Prosaic, the sheer enormity of the event was somewhat overwhelming. We had a good time adventuring, a particularly fun game of Munchkin Pathfinder, and not enough time to enjoy it all. Hopefully some of you we gave our bookmarks to have made it this far in the story. If so, you have our thanks! Feel free to sound off in the comments below if you were at PAX East. And thanks again for an amazing weekend!



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