TALE ELEVEN
Vacation To The Center Of The Earth

    I've always hated cold weather. I think the main reasons for my dislike of the cold is due to the fact that I have to wear 80 pounds of clothes to keep from dying of hypothermia.  This makes many things inconvenient like typing or having to go to the bathroom fast.
    At the moment I was very cold.
    Graves, Hozler, Mercedes, The Extinguisher and myself happened to be in the Newfoundland region of Canada looking for a Viking boat.  This boat was reputed to be the flagship of a Norse fleet that travelled to North America before Vespucci, Eric the Red or even Doug the Dangerous.  Graves believed that if we found it he could conclusively prove that America should be named Fritzland.
    We had been making excavations about 100 miles north of any civilization and because it was the middle of winter the temperature was a balmy -86 degrees.  Of course I wasn't the only person who was suffering from the cold.  Though Graves, Mercedes, and The Extinguisher were comfortable in their arctic parkas, Hozler was not.
    I asked Vince why we were up here in the middle of the winter and he gave me one of his naturally confusing and sarcastic answers.
    "You see Benson, this is an example of archeology's diversity. Instead of spending eleven years sweating in Egypt looking for General Amman Toff's tomb we are here in the frozen tundra of Canada looking for a Viking boat which may I add was made of wood and has probably already rotted.  Now I'm not saying that it is a good example but it is an example of archeology's diversity. History comes in many forms man it just seems to me that most of them are not in pleasurable climes.  Most people take Archeology as a skate science credit and because it has a lot of outdoor projects . . . that's why I took it."
    Graves muscled into our conversation and added, "You fool Hozler, the boat is buried in ice and the cold would have prevented much of any deterioration.  Besides I already know where Amman Toff is buried."
    Trying to change the subject before Graves could take the opportunity to turn our conversation into one of his twisted student/mentor lectures I asked how the excavation was going. Graves informed me that they had struck a solid sheet of ice and were going to have to use a small amount of explosives to break it.
    "When," I asked?
    "Now!" . . . KRAKA-BOOM!
    A small amount of explosives my butt.  The Extinguisher had to have planted enough TNT to blow up a city block.  As the man-made ice storm subsided we all took a look at the site of the explosion. Apparently the Extinguisher hadn't used enough explosives because there was still a thick layer of ice in the way.  Vaguely I could see something through it but it didn't look like a boat.
    "Funny, that should have been more than enough to blow open a steel-reinforced concrete bank vault.  I guess I'll have to use some more thermite," said the Extinguisher as he inserted a fuse into a huge lump of C-4 plastic explosive the size of a soccer ball.
    We all understood what the Extinguisher was trying to say and got away from ground zero.  He lit the fuse and sprinted back to where we were.
    Fade to burning fuse scene . . . KRAKA-BOOM!
    I found it extremely strange that the rain of ice felt a lot heaver than the earlier shower of frozen water.  Apparently so did Graves based on the fact that he was patting the bump that had risen on my head.  As he did this he was quizzically staring at a huge chunk of ice.
    "An opaque polymer interwoven with a thermal dampening fiber to shield heat emissions."
    "What the hell are you talking about," asked Mercedes?
    Graves handed the woman the piece of ice and explained what he was saying.  "This is no mere piece of ice Miss Chance but rather some sort of plexi-glass material shielding something underground from the rest of the world . . . Like a nuclear missile silo or something . . . Maybe I should have bought those Mysteries of the Unknown books that Time/Life was trying to pawn off on me . . . Then again I really hate junk mail."
    "What the hell are you talking about," This time it was me asking the second most common question asked of Graves?
    "You know all of those stupid things you get in the mail like sweepstakes stuff from Ed whatshisname, those insidious book offers, or those pesky bills.  I sent a letter to Time/Life telling them not to send me any more.  You know that is one of the few questions of the world that I cannot answer."
    I was caught off guard because [1] Graves has never admitted to not knowing the answer to anything and [2] I had those books and I thought that they were pretty good.  I had to know what his question was so I asked.
    "I can't figure out how they get the addresses of the people that they send their junk to . . . Must be some corporation hauling in big bucks, or maybe God is working for Time/Life books . . . but that's not the point right now.  The point is what is this stuff hiding."
    We all moved closer to the blast site to see just what was being hidden by the polymer material.  Looking over the edge of the blast hole we saw what appeared to be a bottomless pit.  Wondering just how deep it was I pulled a penny from my parka and dropped it into the void.
    One . . . Ten . . . Twenty . . . Fifty . . . Ninety . . . One hundred sixty three . . . PLUNK!
    Now that was one deep hole.  Multiplying ten feet by 163 seconds I came up with 1,630 feet.  I'd say we didn't have enough rope to climb down with.
    "Actually Benson taking into account that the wind is being sucked down the shaft and the fact that a penny is one of the simplest yet aerodynamically sound designs in the universe the actual depth of the hole is about 14 miles."
    Now I knew we didn't have enough rope.
    While I was sulking over my mathematical error Mercedes was muttering, "Aaron would you take a (crack!) look at the (crackle!) ice we are currently (crunch, crackle!) standing on."  Of course Mercedes wasn't making the cracking noises it was the ice that we were currently standing on.
    Graves spun on his heels and spoke, "I suggest that we get away from this vicinity before. . ."
    AAAAaaaahhhh!
    Yes you guessed it, the shelf of ice caved in and we plunged into the cavity at a velocity faster than the penny.  I didn't even bother counting because I'd probably forget to carry a two or something.  You know many people think that when you know you're going to die in a height related accident that you become calm and are prepared to accept death.  Others say that you suffer a massive heart attack and die long before you become a greasy spot on the pavement.
    These people are completely wrong and I hate them for that.
    I was screaming as I had never screamed before.  Mercedes was desperately looking for a weapon in her backpack that would end our pain.  Hozler was yelling, "I knew it! I knew something like this would happen!  Why didn't I take that easy job at Cal Poly!"  The only members of our party that were calm were the Extinguisher and Graves.  I discounted The Extinguisher from my theorizing that being a psychotic Vietnam veteran he had probably seen worse.  On the other hand I couldn't come to grips with a reason for Graves' lack of agitation.  Surely even he would know that there was nothing that could be done about the situation.
    "Quickly Benson!  Mysteries of the Unknown, which book did they talk about the world in the center of the Earth theory?"
    "Uh, Uh, Mystical Places!  WHY?"
    "Thank you."
    Graves closed his eyes and began doing that weird and unnerving thing which he has explained as paging through his photographic memory.  It was obvious that he had found the page that wanted because he started saying, "Hole in the Earth . . . near the North Pole . . . paradise . . . warm interior clime . . . Excellent!"
    Graves told us to get into a spread eagle skydiving position to slow our fall.  Damn!  I knew I should have taken them instead of piano lessons.  By watching the others I figured out what to do. It didn't help and we were still falling at a rapid pace.  At least I would die knowing that for once in his life Graves was wrong.
    I was the one who was wrong.
    As the bottom of the fissure loomed menacingly towards us I noticed that we had passed through a blue light and our descent had slowed a great deal; this was good.  By the time we were a mere 300 feet off the ground we were falling like feathers; this was better. It was at that point where I began to take keen notice of the area around us.
    Like I had figured when I dropped the penny the bottom of the shaft had a huge lake of water.  What I hadn't figured on was that there was a medium sized city surrounding the lake.  Built into the sides of the shaft were hundreds of balconies and windows lit up by tiny phosphorescent lights.  Burrowing into the walls of the hole were a vast number of tunnels.  Also brought to my attention was the surprising fact that milling smartly around the lake were people . . . hundreds of them. Sure they looked pale and had the second hugest eyes that I had ever seen in my life but they were people none the less.
    As we reached the last 20 feet of our fall we resumed the normal speed of descent and hit the water with a resounding splash. The water was warm and I realized that in fact the whole place was pretty warm.  As we swam to shore I wondered who could be living down there.  I would soon get my answer because people were waiting on the shore to greet us . . . with swords and spears aimed at our bodies (pointy ones at that); this was bad.  At that moment I wondered if dying due to the fall would have been better.
    Graves was the first to reach shore (ex-Navy types are pretty good swimmers unless you count me).  They were speaking in some sort of strange form of tongues that Graves apparently understood. Graves' speaking to them in their native language unnerved them.  I would later be told what they said so that's why I can write it now.
    "I am Sendak the Wild Thing.  Welcome to the city of Giff."
    The Professor responded in a truly 50's B-movie fashion that nearly put a tear in my eye.  "I am Professor Aaron Graves P.h.D., take me to your leader."
    "I am certain the Queen will want to talk to you before you are all executed."  Whereupon he drew his fingers across his throat.
    Now even though I didn't know that they were saying then the gesture of cutting ones throat is universal for "you are going to suffer a painful and slow death because your pal the Professor opened his mouth and said something unbelievably irritating."
    We were all bound and taken into the bowels of the underground city.  Now as I said earlier the tunnels were sporadically lit by phosphorescent lights; but as we were herded down the passageways like cattle to slaughter (oopps! Bad analogy) I found that these lights shed very little light to see by.
    Graves explained to me that it was probably due to the fact that if one lived in a place having so little light one would become adapted to said lack of light.  This would eliminate the need for a lot of light.  He also added that he found it unusual that these people would need any light at all but before he could explain his theory to us in depth we had apparently reached our destination.  Someone was looking out for me.
    Before us were two huge brass doors with a symbol painted in the center.  This symbol seemed familiar in that it was a circle with six equally sized triangles; three black and three yellow with their points touching each other in the center.  Graves seemed to recognize it but didn't say anything to the rest of us.  The doors opened and we were ushered into a huge chamber.
    This place was impressive to say the least.  The floor was completely tiled in gems and precious stones.  The walls had mosaics carved in them and were studded with gems.  Hanging on the walls were weapons and shields made of gold, silver, and other metals I was unfamiliar with.  Lined up along the wall were ornately carved statues with their heads missing.  The throne at the end of the chamber was made of gold and encrusted with precious stones.
    Sitting on the throne was a woman with blonde hair and the same plate-sized eyes.  She gestured for the guards to bring us closer to her.  Intently looking each of us over she finally spoke. What unnerved me wasn't the things that she said but the fact that she said it in perfect English.  "Welcome to the Realm of Divine Radiance.  I am Her Holiness the Queen of Divinity . . . I am the light. . . who are you?"
    Graves took off his glasses and used the sleeve of one of our escorts to wipe the water spots off the lenses.  "I am Professor Aaron Graves P.h.D., and these are members of my company Miss Divinity."
    The Queen looked angered at Graves and replied, "That's Your Highness Mister Graves."
    "That's Professor Graves and I have fealty to nobody."
    I'll tell you it was hot enough due to the fact that we happened to be in close proximity to the Earth's mantle but the friction generated between "His Highness" and "Her Highness" was certainly causing the mercury to go higher.
    "Why are you here Professor Graves, are you representing the governments of the upper world looking to secure trade agreements or to slaughter us to our last number?"
    Graves smiled with that "just as I figured" smile and replied, "No.  I am merely a member of the scientific community who has become part of a twisted accident.  Human nature does not apply to me."
    The Queen began speaking in her native language but halfway through her conversation with the man who had appeared from an antechamber, Graves interrupted.  "There is no need to speak in tongues.  I am fluent in most of the languages of the world including the tongues of Christian faith healers and psychic channelers."
    The man whispered in the Queen's ear and pointed at Graves. She nodded and spoke to us again.  "I give you and your associates a choice; become citizens of our city or be banished to the undercity which is inhabited by the monsters of this world."
    I would have chose choice number one but as always Graves had no intention of submitting the decision to a popular vote (Graves would make an excellent third world dictator . . . or U.S. President).  "Since you and your people are of limited intelligence and are clearly unable to form positive relations with people we choose to go to the undercity.  Maybe there we will find a race that possesses some form of rational thought.  Show us what's behind door number two Monty."
    That did it!  Spears were angrily poked in our backs and the Queen stood up from her throne with a look of total rage burning in her eyes.  "Professor Graves you are one of the most arrogant people that I have ever met in my life.  The denizens of the undercity will take great pleasure in torturing you before dinner."
    Graves grinned at the Queen and made his rebuttal, "And you are the most incompetent ruler of people that has existed in the history of the planet.  When I return from the undercity I will enjoy bringing this palace down on your head."
    Hozler added to the statement.  "And may I add . . . you are the second ugliest chick I have ever met."
    With the niceties over with the sentries took us out of the room and further into the city.  It wasn't long before we reached a tunnel blocked by a barred door wade of an unusual metal. Growling noises could be heard from the other side and a foul odor drifted our way.  I wondered if Graves was having second thoughts but then I came back to my senses.
    The guards lifted the gate and shoved us into the tunnel. "Have fun . . . The Giffaks love fresh meat."  My stomach didn't feel too good when the sentries lowered the gate and left laughing.
    As Hozler and I made a vain attempt to lift the gate Mercedes turned on the mag light that was attached to her Buttkicker 500 Assault Shotgun.  Graves was peering down the tunnel looking for something.  The Extinguisher lit a cigarette with a small lighter that put out a five foot flame; that man is unstable.
    "Well," said Graves as he played with his tie "It looks like this little expedition is going to turn out interesting after all."
    "Yeah.  It's our deaths that will be interesting."
    "What makes you think that we are going to die Mister Benson?"
    I didn't dignify the question with an answer.
    "Isn't it obvious to any of you as to what we are dealing with or have you all been asleep?"  We had no reply.  "Once again you all fail to use your inbred talents of observation.  As we fell down the shaft I suppose you all didn't notice that it was a man-made landmark.  I also surmise that you didn't notice that even though our sentries were carrying swords many of the buildings around the lake held machine-gun emplacements.  It is apparent that you failed to see the vast amount of inaccuracies in the actions of this places inhabitants."
    Graves had done a top notch job of making us all feel immensely stupid.  None of us had seen what Graves had observed and worse than that was that we had no idea where Graves was leading with his scorn.  You would think that this might have been important but at that moment I didn't give a crap I just wanted him to get to the point.
    "Don't you see!  These people are obviously not who they seem to be."
    "Then why did you have us dragged down here when we could have used this information against them?"
    "It's simple Vince . . . to meet the real creators of this city."
    Oh.  Pretty simple in theory.  They say there is a fine line between theory and reality but Graves was hard at work to make that line vanish.
    Suddenly we heard a noise come from the passage.  It sounded like a hissing growl and it was coming closer to us.  Mercedes chambered a shell in her gun and the Extinguisher pointed his flamethrower Zippo from hell at the noise.  I was blatantly scared to say the least.  My teeth were chattering and my hands were shaking with fear.  The noise got closer and Vince pulled out his Boy Scout Combat Survival Knife (131 different tools for those unforeseen wilderness emergencies) and opened the saw-toothed monster skinner blade.
    The noise got even closer.
    Graves started digging through his pockets apparently looking for something he had misplaced.  The noise was so close that I could feel its breath on the back of my neck.
    BACK OF MY NECK! ZOINKS!
    "Hello there."
    There are certain events in ones life that put a person so close to having a heart attack that it isn't even funny.  For me this time was one of those times.  We had all spun around to be greeted by a tall . . . thing, with white skin, no eyes and three long appendages on his chin (allot like a really messed up Rastafarian hair-do).
    Fortunately for the Bob Marley alien we were all too surprised to even try and kill it.  Wait, let me correct that last statement; everybody except Graves was too surprised.  The Professor stepped up to the monster and shook its four-fingered hand.
    "How are you?  I am Professor Aaron Graves." He then pulled out a Life Saver from his pocket.  "Fruity flavored roll candy?"
    "Yes Professor Graves I already know who you are and I'll pass on the candy.  Miss Chance, Professor Hozler, Mister Extinguisher, Mister Benson, I am pleased to meet all of you.  If you would come with me my King would like to have a few words with you."
    Oh great!  Here we go again.
    Since the basic design of the tunnel world didn't change other than the fact that it was dirtier I won't bore you with the details.  However I will break away to point out the throne room. I do this only because in no way did it resemble the room we met the Queen in.  It was void of the finery seen earlier and in general looked pretty crappy.  Sitting on a barren stone chair was obviously the leader of the Rasta-dudes.
    "I am King Gaff of the Giffaks, ruler of the people of Giff."
    "Then you already know that Queen whatshername has banished us to your world supposedly to be eaten by your people, I mean seeing that you have ESP."
    The King looked pleased with Graves and ordered food brought to us.  "You are a very observant man Professor Graves.  We Giff are born with many inbred abilities unique to this realm.  You see living in a world with no light our gene pool doesn't include eyes. Instead we are born with heightened auditory and olfactory senses. We are also gifted with many mental powers such as ESP, telekinesis, empathy, pyrokenisis and excellent taste in clothes."
    "That is apparent King Gaff.  Then the Giff, your people, are the true natives of this subterranean world."
    The King's pleasure with Graves increased and I feared that sooner or later it had to end.  "Why yes Professor those who inhabit Grand Giff are intruders in our world.  They came five years ago and I curse the day that they arrived."
    "And let me guess, because these people possessed little in the way of brains your people could not use their mental abilities to turn them away.  Because of this your city was captured and many of your people were either killed or enslaved."
    "Basically, are you a telepath as well Professor Graves?"
    "No.  Just a man who knows how to use the brain that he was born with . . . no pun intended.  I'll hypothesize that you have tried to take your city back at various times both by force and subterfuge."
    "With little success.  I am afraid that we can never get close enough to use our more effective mental abilities against the intruders.  We are doomed to live a life of exile in our own world. Our children will grow up denied of their ancestral birthing grounds."
    Graves pulled out a pad of paper and a pencil from his jacket pocket.  "King Giff, what if I told you that I could get you your city back but in trade you had to promise not to harm any of the intruders."
    "I would agree totally . . . violence is not in our nature professor Graves."
    "Violence is in everyone's nature it's just that some are able to cover it up better than others."
    The Professor scribbled a few pages of notes on the paper and handed them to the King.  The ruler of the Giff read them and shouted, "This is an excellent plan Professor Graves you are a genius!"
    "I know."
    "We shall implement this idea immediately," said the King as he disappeared with Graves into another room.  This left the rest of us feeling awkward and worried.  Graves has only two types of plans.  There are the blatantly devious plans that often put our lives at risk, then there are the subliminally maniacal plans that always put our lives at risk.  This was one of the latter.
    We waited around in the throne room eating an assortment of food that was brought to us by several Giffaks who kept licking their lips.  The food was very good but weren't able to really enjoy it because we were worried about what may or may not be happening to Graves in the other room.  Mercedes was the most agitated of the group seeing that she has this love/obsession thing with Graves.  She cleaned her gun over forty times before Graves returned to the room.  A shudder of relief washed over us when he spoke.
    "Okay let's get moving, King Gaff tells me that there is a secret entrance to the throne room and we are going to take advantage of its existence."
    We were led by the King through a maze of tunnels until we reached what looked like the back of the throne.
    "This passage opens directly behind the throne in the main audience chamber.  You can get to the Queen of the intruders from here."
    I was getting a funny feeling in my stomach.  It was that wait a minute feeling which usually gets me in hot water.  "Wait a minute King Gaff.  If it leads right to her how come you haven't come here and tried to use your mental powers on her?" Unfortunately I rarely pay attention to that feeling.
    The King looked at Graves and shook his head, "It seems apparent that not everybody is as observant as you Professor."
    Graves spoke for the King.  "Isn't it blatantly obvious to all of you?  This room has Mental Paralyzers that send those who have enhanced mental abilities into brain shock.  Basically it fries the neural synapses and turns them into vegetables.  The King probably had it installed to protect himself from others who might want to use their powers to kill him . . . politics has a price you know."
    "Won't we get fried then?"
    This time both the King and Graves shook their heads.  "No Benson it doesn't affect normal people because our cerebellum isn't developed to the stage where the energy generated in the synapses is reactive . . . though Raydon would probably get a nasty headache if he were here."
    Oh.
    The King wished us good luck and vanished into the depths of the tunnel.  Slowly we pushed the throne open and discovered that the room was completely void of people.  Entering, Graves went over to a control panel on the wall and pressed the "off" button.  "That will secure the Paralyzer," said Graves.
    I had grabbed a shield off of the wall in a feeble effort to protect myself from any possible and painful repercussions that might occur being in close proximity to Graves.
    Graves pointed at an open archway, "That's where the Queen's room is."
    I asked him how he knew this and he pointed to the mosaic of a crown over the archway.  Before I could respond he forged ahead towards the doorway.  In the kingdom of the blind the man with one eye is King.
    Peering around the corner of the arch we saw that in an alcove with her back to us was a female person combing her hair and humming either "Shall we gather by the river" or "Stairway to heaven" I couldn't be sure.  Unfortunately it wasn't the Queen because looking in the mirror she was sitting in front of we saw the reflection of a normal woman in her fifties.
    "Hey Aaron she must be a prisoner," blabbed Hozler!
    The woman turned around and looked quite shocked.  Graves in turn grabbed Vince and was shaking him by the shirt collars saying, "Hozehead!  Surprise was a major element in this plan.  It was the key to avoiding needless violence.  Now we are going to have to resort to more drastic measures . . . Mercedes, kill that Giffak coming from around the archway!"
    Mercedes was more than willing to shoot the Giffak who had come from the entrance wielding a whip that appeared to be charged with energy.  It was then that I discovered that even though a person may have powerful mental abilities they can still be incredibly stupid.  Look at the sides; One guy with a whip, even though it's an energy whip, who has to come very close to his victim to do any harm or an awesome babe with a shotgun.  All I can say is that they were going to have to repaint the throne.
    Needless to say I was confused about many things.  First the big eyed dudes were the rulers of this place and the Giffak were bad.  Then the good guys send us to be killed by the Giff which is not good.  But the Giff are the actual rulers and we decide to aid them.  But now there are humans here and we kill the dudes who are supposed to be our allies.  Who was this chick?  Where is the Queen?  Why?  Huh?  This is too outrageous to believe man!
    "Get a grip Benson!  Why is it now that you question the rationality of these events.  Look around you, what rational person would believe in the existence of an underground city with a never before seen race living in it.  For that matter who would believe any of my adventures and pay you good money for publishing them in your newspaper.  It goes on like an expanding sun.  Who would have ever thought that the American people would have elected a bad actor as president.  What about lunar landings, nuclear power, or even fire.  Don't try to comprehend the why, learn to live with it and learn from it."
    The Professor resumed shaking Hozler by the collar.  "Hozehead you dork!  What was going through your head?  What were you thinking about; women, beer, processed cheese . . . WHAT?"
    Hozler got that tweaked eyebrow look and the faint crackle of electricity discharging from his hair could be heard.  "Teacher heed thine own words."
    "Ha Ha Vince, don't try to use my lectures against me it'll only backfire and maim you."
    Even though I knew that it was a stupid idea I decided to intervene and change the subject.  "If this isn't the queen then where is she?"
    The Professor didn't break stride and pointed at the human woman.  "Right there you fool isn't it obvious.  The underground people with big sad eyes image was a huge hoax to deceive anybody coming down here.  There were many flaws in this disguise that would have made it plainly obvious."  Graves started ticking them off on his fingers.  "First were the lights.  With eyes like they had the light would have incapacitated them.  As well was their lack of enhanced audio and olfactory senses, characteristics we all noticed with the Giffaks.  Also was their language.  Haven't you ever watched the old PTL Club?  Jim and Tammy Faye used to speak in tongues all the time . . . it was actually quite a funny show to watch.  Guys claiming to be talking with God then touch these poor saps saying that they were healed.  Oh how the crutches would fly when the right prayer donation was given.  Then there was the symbol on the throne room door . . . come on people even a six year old child knows what the radiation symbol looks like."
    Looking back on what Graves said he was right but of course that was after all of this happened.  At the moment all I could say was . . .
    "So what are you trying to say?"
    Graves shook his head in disgust.  "I'm trying to say that they are just a bunch of those people who dig bomb shelters awaiting the end of the world.  This flake who calls herself Queen is actually Miss Marge Hastings.  A former member of the PTL turned radical survivalist nut and leader of the Temple of Divine Radiance.  You know, the ones the government caught trying to buy 700 cases of laser bazookas last year."
    Oh yeah!
    After all of Graves' explanations I was still a bit confused but let it lay.  The world is a tricky place if you don't stop a little and look around it might get you killed.
    Even though Graves' storytelling took up nearly two pages of text the lady was still in a state of shock.  Graves used this to his advantage and tied her to a statue.  He then proceeded to blast her with an array of questions.
    "Miss Hastings I just want to know one thing . . . how the hell do you get out of here?"
    "You are trapped here Graves you'll never leave," sneered the Queen.
    Graves motioned to Mercedes and the psychologist placed the barrel of her shotgun in the queen's left ear.  "If you do not tell me the way to get out of here I will have my assistant Miss Chance test the effectiveness of your prayers."
    Change of tune alert!  "There is an elevator that leads to the surface but it is protected by my followers."
    Graves laughed and pointed to the throne, "You don't seem to understand Miss Hastings.  In about thirteen point two seconds the entire Giff nation, whom you forced from their native home, is going to come through that secret entrance and annihilate all of your followers."
    The Queen seemed to catch Graves' drift.  "Then what are we going to do?"
    The Professor started to leave the room as he answered the woman.  "If I were you, which I am most glad I am not, I would get all of your people together and muster some form of defense.  As for me, I plan on leaving at this very moment."
    Suffice it to say Graves did exactly as he said he would.  In a few minutes and 4 dead followers later we were taking the fourteen mile elevator ride back to the surface.  During that time we heard what sounded like a major battle going on down below. Mercedes hinted that it would have been nice to stay and fight (or at least shoot some home movies) but Graves didn't let her have her way.  The man did have a small shred of common sense.
    When we reached the surface Graves ordered the Extinguisher to plant some explosives in the elevator.  Since this is a thing that The Extinguisher enjoys doing he did as Graves asked.  Once the task was done Graves pressed the down button and the elevator descended.
    "Graves!  How can you do that?  Those survivalist won't be able to escape."
    Graves started walking back to our camp, "Yes Benson I know fully of the effects of my actions but then again neither will the Giff."
    I was shocked by Graves' utter disregard for human life (though I don't know why seeing as that is how he treats all of us).  "How can you condemn those people to death or worse.  Who do you think you are . . . God?"
    "No Mister Benson just a man who knows how to weigh options without the interference of morals.  Of course I can see your dilemma.  Your emotions are based on a lack of all the facts and pity for others.  Do you recall when I went into the other room with King Gaff?  Well it was there that he showed me the Hall of History.  In there was the complete recorded history of the Giff people.  He was keen to show me their technological advances and their long line of heritage.  But what he didn't show me was their history of cannibalism and sheer evil.  While he had his back turned I pocketed one of their texts."  Graves pulled out a book bound in gold.  Embossed on the cover were a lot of undecipherable letters.
    "I flipped through it as we went through the secret passage and discovered the Giff's true nature.  You see the Viking's did settle in this region and there they met the Giff who in turn slaughtered many of them.  The rest were captured and enslaved for even more diabolical reasons.  One man who is named in the book as Siguard was apparently a scientific man and over the years of enslavement learned much of the Giff technology.  Eventually Siguard led an escape and used the knowledge he had gained to build the barrier that covered the chasm.  The book tells of the Giff wiping out the escapees memories so no knowledge of their race was brought back to civilization.  Five years ago Miss Hastings and her fanatics sunk the elevator shaft and discovered the Giff.  The rest has already been explained."
    "Then why didn't you just kill all of the Giff," asked Mercedes?
    "It isn't my place to decide the extinction of a race even if they are cannibalistic vermin.  This way I gave both parties what they wanted.  The Giff were given their chance to recapture their city and the survivalist are now able to fully enjoy the experience of their isolation.  They wanted to get away from the rest of the world.  They will kill each other for a while then they will realize that they have to live with each other.  Maybe in a couple hundred years a whole new race of beings will evolve through crossbreeding and they can be let back into the real world."
    "Then what did we learn from this whole misadventure?  Nothing!  We only caused a lot of senseless pain and suffering."
    "Actually Mister Benson that is where you are wrong . . . and you hold the evidence in your hands.  As you all may have noticed during the time we were underground the Giff were quite adept at smelting and metallurgy.  Many of the metals seen down there have never before been catalogued.  The shield that you happened to keep is made of a metal not even on the Periodical Table of Elements.  In your quest for protection you have brought an ore that could revolutionize the design of airframes and spacecraft design as well as help engineers design higher performance engines and make great racing bikes."
    I gave up trying to argue social points no less understand what he had just told me . . . instead all I wanted to do was get back to civilization and take a long hot shower.  I know that it seemed kind of selfish but I had to be ready to find out . . . .

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