Back to School Days and College Writing

        There was a genuine air of relief and rejoicing at the press conference. And why not? The Grangorians had been unexpectedly defeated after 12 years of bloody struggle -- defeated almost at once by the actions of a single determined man and his partner. The hated Grangorians would never again threaten the future of the Empire's loyal subjects. Brad Grandle had personally seen to that. He'd used atom bombs to do it, and they said that the last Grangorian was seen boiling alive in a pool of flaming atomic muck like an alien steak in some ghastly hot marinade. Yes, the Grangorians were dead. Every last one of them!

        The Press Conference was held that evening on the famous Golden Causeway on Draconis. There was a clear, starry sky, and the single moon of Draconis IV was full. The sight was one of the greatest ever witnessed there or anyplace else for that matter. On the outskirts of Megopolis, Capital of the Federal Empire and the most glorious and populous city of the Milky Way Galaxy, lights lined the endless stairs, railways, and terraces where thousands upon thousands crowded to cheer for and honor the man who had saved them from slavery at the hands of the murderous two-headed Grangorians. Their gay clothing formed a multi-colored panorama all along the magnificent causeway, a tapestry woven by the citizens themselves -- the grateful citizens who sat in the miles-long golden rows.

        Yes, the people of Draconis waved their handkerchiefs to praise their hero and often enough used those same hankies to dry the tears of joy from their wide and adoring eyes. Near the end of the causeway, where the conference was held, stood the now famous ship, the Eternity, captained by BT Grandle, Hero of the Empire.

        Cameras whirled but even in this excitement the eager reporters stood quietly asking no questions as the Prime Minister, leader of the Empire and Brad Trentworth Grandle, independent space contractor and adventurer, addressed each other. Marty Quinn, who had stood by Grangle's side as they thwarted the Grangorian plot to destroy the Empire, was also there. Brad, with a little help from Marty, had defeated the Grangorians all by himself through cleverness, tricky math, and just plain he-man guts.

        The broadcast was seen simultaneously on 60,000 planets across the galaxy-spanning Empire. Over a Zillion people were watching. Indeed, this was the first time a television audience's size beat out the all time record the Beatles had set on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, six thousand years ago.

        "I used a simple phase decopulator to extract the actual plutonium, of course," Brad was saying.

        "Ingenious!" said the Prime Minister.

        Marty pitched in: "But when the fragmented ionic particles started streaming out of the decopulator, Brad had to wrap ordinary aluminum foil around the entire set-up! What a rig!"

        "Well," said Brad with an embarrassed smile. "Let's not get into that."

        The men and women of the press, the Prime Minister, the camera men -- everyone-- laughed with joy from the relief from months of tension even more than from the actual humor of the story.

        The crowd then broke into an applause that lasted many minutes. Finally, the Prime Minister, raised his hand to silence them and broke in with, "You have performed splendidly!" He put his hand on Brad's shoulder. "You deserve the highest of honors. What honor would you have me bestow you?"

        Brad lowered his head in modesty. "The highest honor would be to be united with you."

        "United in what way, Brad?" asked the Prime minister. "As in sharing command of the armies with me?"

        "Well, in that way, of course perhaps -- but also perchance united in matrimony."

        The Prime Minister laughed. "I'm afraid my wife has that position filled, but..."

        "Any chance of giving her the brush-off?"

        "Of what?"

        "Of getting a divorce, I mean."

    "You Jest," said the Prime Minister with a smile and a chuckle that were met with others from the host in the room. But all the smiles and titter seemed a trifle forced -- even before Brad spoke again.

 And he spoke slowly and not very amicably. "Look, all I am asking is for you to consider it, all right? We could get our blood tests tomorrow and..."

        "Blood tests?"

        "I believe that blood tests are necessary on this planet."

        "Actually, they aren't, but...."

        "Then we shall marry at once!"

        "You jest, Brad -- we are the same sex.."

    "I propose that we celebrate diversity together!"

        The Minister then took a no-nonsense approach but shaking his head kindly and saying, "I'm sorry, Mr. Grandle. Your proposition is out of the question. What other honor would you have me grant? You may name your reward."

        There was an awkward silence and then an evil shadow crossed Brad's face. "Out of the question?" He intoned in a mocking voice. "Out of the question? Just like that, huh? Well, if that's so, maybe you'd like to hear a little something what I left out of that tale of heroism. Maybe in addition to all I told you I just maybe decided to keep a little of that plutonium for myself -- for my own personal use. How about that? How would that suit you, huh? And you vacillate over a little matter of matching gender, you big jerk!"

        The Prime Minister blanched. "Brad , surely you aren't saying that you would use atomics to settle this?"

        "I'm saying EXACTLY that, jackass! snapped Brad. "Nobody gives the bum's rush to B.T. Grandle. Nobody!"

        Brad turned on his heel and stomped stiffly down the long causeway in a snit, brushing past the guards who stood looking for instructions from the Prime Minster.

        The cameras whirled. The galaxy watched.

        Brad reached the door of the Eternity. "You haven't heard the last of B.T. Atomic Grandle!" he vowed.

        Marty Quinn was right on his heels and the two of them stepped into the airlock.

        Brad glared out at the stupefied crowd, gave them all the finger, and slammed the door. A moment later the space cruiser engines caught and the ship rose from the causeway. There was a roar as the Eternity leaped away into the sky.

        "Damn," said the prime minister. "We're right back where we started from-- facing destruction from atomic attack. "

        "At least he killed all of the Grangorians," replied one of the guards.

        "Well, the way he's carrying on I'm not sure if I wouldn't want them back instead. He'll likely kill us all the same way."

        The Prime Minister pointed to a blazing light streaking across the sky. It was the Eternity. "There he goes. Off to plan his attack."

        "If you had ordered us, we could have arrested him before he got back into his ship," the guard remarked.

        "What?" The Prime Minister bit his lip, slapped his own thigh, and said, "Well, hot damn! Nice of you to tell me that now! Thank you very much!"

        "Don't blame me," said the guard. "I didn't say wouldn't marry him."

        There was a rumble and the lights went out. Then a bright flash lighted the causeway again and a glow from the center of the city began to spread outwards. The entire causeway heaved and the air around it turned suddenly orange and red with the onset of the fire from the zillion megaton hydrogen bomb. There were screams -- deafening screams of agony.

        A moment later, the main concussion from the blast blew out the entire scene the way a smoker blows out a match and nothing remained but a moonlit plain of melted slag that seemed to stretch out forever and ever in all directions under the swirling shrouds of a smoking gray sky with bits of people and their scorched clothing fluttering down like so much confetti.

        Nobody messed with BT Grandle.