The Freedom Guard Files. Introduction.

Again using several Public Domain characters and concepts here, but my version(s) as written herein. Story copyright E.N. Boyd.

Hope you can take time to read and enjoy. Thanks.

Intro:

1950. The Grand Canyon. High on a canyon wall, a small cave exists, one that has never been explored due to its inaccessibility. A bright red light suddenly appears in the darkness of the cave and then just as suddenly disappears. A bronze colored figure can be seen on the floor of the cave, motionless.

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The Pentagon. The Inner Circle, a group of Military men whom formed during World War II, the commanding officers and decision makers who'd been in charge of the "Power Patriots", the first super human group formed in the USA had contacted these men to meet here. Comprised of a handful of covert operatives, these Power Patriots had been instrumental in several key battles and secret missions which led to America winning the war.

Men like Captain Flag, Man O' Metal, Liberator, and Torpedo Man. Each had served in different branches of the Military as enlisted men but their existence was known only to a few at first but as the war progressed, their skills needed ever more, the guise of anonymity was removed. It ended up being a huge morale booster to all of the Military servicemen, knowing these super powered men were there to help win the war. Sadly, they'd lost the hero Super-American to a battle with Baron Doom, but his many triumphs over the Germans had never been forgotten.

Now the remaining "Power Patriots" as the newspapers had dubbed them during the War, sat at a meeting table, dressed in civilian clothing, waiting for the arrival of an unnamed man to give them further orders. The War was over so these men were curious why they'd been called to the Pentagon.

A man entered the room, and to their surprise, it was General Emmet, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They all began to rise but the General said, "At ease, men. Let's cut to the chase today. America still needs you.", he said, plopping several file folders onto the table.

He sat down, and poured a cup of water into a glass, eyeing the papers as the men all focused their attention on this man, the very one who'd been instrumental with his decision making and strategies which ended up winning the war. He'd not authorized the use of the atom bombs on Japan and in fact, it was leaked he was against it, but that decision was not his to make.

After finishing his drink, he sat the glass down and picked up the folders, removing the papers. He handed several of them to each man, sliding them across the table. "Gentlemen, these are dossiers on yourselves, and your past missions. They are also orders I've handed out to you should you accept them. You have the opportunity here to serve your country in a different capacity. One that will require you to make some sacrifices. You've spent little time with your families and loved ones I realize but your service is greatly needed."

The men each read the papers, shuffling them. They all looked at each other and then back at the General.

"General, according to these orders, you are saying that there are even more super powered men like ourselves? It doesn't go into specifics but according to this there are others from countries we defeated as well as enemies here in the USA? ", the man who used the code name Liberator asked.

"That is correct. In fact we have managed to find the locations of some of these super powered men...and women....abroad and here in the US. Unfortunately, they've been wise enough to keep on the move, so when we have located them, they've slipped under the radar so to speak. It has been due to luck and strong surveillance that we've even managed this much. This is where you men come in. Your services are needed again. Gentlemen I am asking you on behalf of the President of the United States of America and for the safety and protection of this country, will you accept orders to form a group together to pursue these enemies both foreign and domestic?", the General asked, standing up.

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The Adventures of Doc Strong. Chapter X.

(story copyright E.N.Boyd) Contains violent and graphic content.

"NOOOO!", Tobias "Doc" Strong yelled, hurling himself at the man clad in black who'd just surprised attacked his wife, stabbing her neck. He lunged at him, and managed to grab the man's arm, preventing him from stabbing his wife again. Strong strained to turn his head in the D.E.E.P. suit to look at his wife while keeping the attacker at bay. He could see the blood pooling around Rulah's neck and head as she lay motionless on the mine floor, her face becoming pale. He could tell she was dead. His heart sank, shocked and full of rage he turned back to the man he held with his steam driven pneumatic suit. The man in black seemed to be squinting weirdly at him.

Strong didn't care, all he knew was that this villain had just killed his beloved wife, Rulah, and he didn't know why. "Paulie!", Doc yelled. Doc could also see that Paulie was unconscious on the ground, a hole smoldering in his shoulder and chest area. It appeared the burn had spread over his heart and Paulie was squirming on the ground. The rock creature had re-formed and stood upright, turning its focus onto Doc as he struggled with the man. The creature began to move towards Doc and the man looked at the creature, squinting weirdly again.

It was at that moment Doc realized this man must be a gifted human like Paulie, but with mental powers. However, his D.E.E.P. suit helmet must be blocking the mental attacks he was attempting against Doc. He looked closer at the man in black and yelled, "Why?!?", twisting his arm. He looked at the man's face and apparel and he further realized he knew who this was. Irving Talon. The rock creature seemed to respond to Talon, and virtually leaped at Doc, despite its lumbering appearance, an agility which betrayed its form. Doc picked Talon up over his head with both arms now, the pneumatic servos enhancing his strength. He waited until the rock creature came closer and then he threw Talon at the creature. The creature caught him in his arms. To his dismay, the creature held Talon, looked at him and then ripped both of the arms off the man. Screams were heard throughout the cave as the lava man dropped Talon to the ground. The creature then raised a leg and stomped Talon's head into the ground. The creature then looked at Doc and jumped back into the pond where it came from.

Doc rushed over to Rulah, and lifted an arm to check for a pulse. None. Rulah's beautiful long curly auburn hair lay about her, framing her beautiful face. A face he would no longer be able to kiss or talk to, a face he'd spent the last 20 years of his life caring and loving. No more. Sobbing, Doc looked over at Paulie and could see he had also died, his physically gifted friend and trusted ranch hand lay motionless, a large burning wound smoldering on his shoulder and all of his chest cavity, exposing the man's ribs and burning inner organs.

Doc sobbed as he picked Rulah up, and carried her up and out of the mine shaft and soon did the same with Paulie, placing their bodies on the ground to the mine's entrance. The horses gone, he left the bodies next to the mouth of the mine atop a beam which lay horizontally and haphazardly to the west of the opening.

Doc looked at the desert sky, the last bit of the sun dipping below the horizon, the beams bouncing off the visor of his helmet, the heat of the day dying off. Streams of tears ran down his face behind the mask. He looked back at the entrance to the mine, and entered it, still wearing his D.E.E.P. suit.

He made his way down the mine shaft and to the tailing pond and walked over to the remaining pieces of Talon's mutilated body. Strong could hear movement not too far from him but really didn't care. He didn't want to look at Talon, that wasn't going to be the last thing he saw this day. He looked down at the surface of the pond but couldn't see anything as the cave's interior became ever darker with the evening setting in, virtually no light entering except that provided by the glint of the bronze of his steam driven suit. He jumped into the pond. He didn't bother adjusting any of the ballasts, he allowed himself to sink into the water, not seeing anything in the dark murky water except for that same red glowing circle he'd seen earlier that day where the rock creature had emerged. He sank towards that glowing light, the red aura growing ever stronger. It appeared to be lava and in fact he hoped it was. He soon felt nothing but blackness as, engulfed by the red light which throbbed and hummed about him, he realized this mission was over, entering into the unconscious realm of what he thought must be death.

To be continued?

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The Adventures of Doc Strong Chapter V.

The Adventures of Doc Strong Chapter VI.

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The Adventures of Doc Strong Chapter VIII.

The Adventures of Doc Strong. Chapter IX.

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The Adventures of Doc Strong. Chapter IX.

(story copyright E.N.Boyd) Violent and graphic content.

Talon exited his ranch house, and made his way down the path which led to the secret entrance of his own mine, which was less than 1/2 mile away. He used the cut of the ridge to hide himself and anyone else he chose to bring with him, it was indeed convenient to have built it so close to all he owned. He managed with the control of the lava men to divert the mine's water run off into the surrounding mines and underground seepage veins of Tombstone. It was something which benefited him on all levels. He not only ruined the competing mines and hold out claims but also caused Tombstone to be at his mercy without anyone knowing about it. Just yet, that is, and it is why he hurried to the mine. He decided not to take his horse because when he got to the mine he would take their animals himself.

Soon he arrived at his entrance but instead decided to circumvent it and go around, up and over the top of a ridge which led to a path to the proper entrance of the mine. It was there he saw the two horses and mule. He untied their reins and imprinted upon their minds the paths to follow to his home, commanding them with his mutant telepathic powers. They left at a brisk pace, and their clanking hooves echoed in the late afternoon of the desert day.

Talon entered the mine slowly. He knelt low, his bandaged hand placed against the mine wall, steadying his slow descent down the shaft. His mind "open", he could sense the presence of the Strongs and their ranch hand. He could make out some errant thoughts from Doc Strong. He read that a lava man had emerged from the pond and attacked him. "Blast it!", Talon thought, "I thought all the lava men from the pond had been moved to a different location. That doesn't make sense why any would remain in the water." He stopped thinking, though, opening his mind again so he could try and read the ranch hand's mind. He was met with a block, something he hadn't sensed in a long time, not since the last time he encountered another one of his kind. It was odd, he knew, but crept closer to the three. It didn't matter, though, if he could at least imprint one of the three and call out to his lava men, this will soon be over.

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"OK, Doc, I tied this rock creature up. He has a very strange skin, nothing like I've ever seen or felt. I mean, what is he?", Paulie asked, making sure the rope was secure about the creature's legs and one remaining arm. "Well I am not entirely certain yet, Paulie. Perhaps it is a lost race of man, a tribe we have lost to time. Hard to say, but it is apparent they've adapted to living underground.", Doc replied. He had Rulah place the helmet back on his D.E.E.P. suit. She tapped his face plate and he looked at her again, grinning, giving her a thumbs up. Despite the awkwardness of having just two large fingers and a thumb on the gloves, his hands fit snugly in them, and the dexterity was relatively decent. He'd invented a device which he knew would one day could be retrofitted and marketed for the country's Navy.

Rulah smiled back at him, but she could see a reflection in the face plate, a face of a man but then she saw....blackness...as her mind went numb. Having picked up the lava man, Paulie had begun walking to an edge of the tailing pond with the creature across his shoulder. However, he was brought up short due to a couple of things. First, the creature began to stir, and then, to his disbelief, the creature's missing arm began to regrow, heat emanating from the wound, lava dripping from it, burning Paulie like nothing he'd ever felt. He knew lava was not something found anywhere in the Tombstone desert or the mines but knew what it was. The lava dripped down as the arm and the hand completed forming, and it burned through his shirt and into his shoulder. Unable to bear the pain any longer he dropped the creature. Then, as he looked up, he could see the form of Rulah collapse to the ground, and he could also see a man, dressed in black, scampering down the mine shaft. He began to fall to the ground due to the pain and as he saw the man make his way closer, all he could fixate on was the man's bandaged hand as it reached down with a diamond encrusted stiletto knife as it came down on Rulah, stabbing and piercing her neck.

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The Adventures of Doc Strong Chapter VIII.

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The Adventures of Doc Strong Chapter VIII.

(story copyright E.N. Boyd)

Talon kicked the door open to his ranch house. His hand still hurt a bit but the bleeding had stopped. Perturbed and angry he had to sit down but only after getting some whiskey in his system. He knew he had to clean the hand, so he went to the side room and placed his hand in the wash stand bowl. The water turned red and he scraped out the bits of dirt that were in the wound.

He found a shirt hanging over a chair, picked it up, tore off a chunk and wrapped it around his hand. His hand throbbed a bit but he knew it would heal. It wasn't quite deep enough a gash to see a Doctor for stitching. Doctors, he had his fill of them this day as it was.

Making his way into the large den, he found his liquor cabinet and withdrew a decanter of whiskey. His bandaged hand grabbed the cool glass and he shook a bit as he poured himself a shot of the liquor. He titled his head back, downing the whiskey, and his senses seemed to object what they were tasting. He sighed a bit, and sat down, ruminating. He ran a finger around the rim of the shot glass as he stared at the opulent cut of the decanter, noticing with a quiet revelry the diamond shapes etched in the glass. Looking at it he could see the sun begin to slowly dip, the light reflected and refracted through the decanter, peeking through the large state room window. It was at that moment he realized what he would do.

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"How is Melanie doing, Paulie?", Rulah asked the man as he confidently held the rope which was the lifeline to Doc Strong's D.E.E.P. suit. Normally, no one would bother talking at a time like this but then again, Paulie wasn't exactly your typical ranch hand. Having the face of a young man about 21, Paulie was actually around 35 and a man whose strength was well above normal. He was quite different in many ways, and one of the reasons Doc Strong had him in his employ for many years. He was more than that, he was a trusted friend but Paulie always acted like he wasn't "good enough" to be around Doc and Rulah. It was a quaint habit both Doc and Rulah tried to encourage Paulie quit but it was a bit useless. Perhaps with his pending wedding to his fiancee' Melanie, Paulie would behave a bit differently.

"Oh, she's doing quite fine, Mrs.Strong. Her family is still hesitant about me, you know being different and all.", he replied, eyeing the rope feeling it for any signs of tugging but he didn't feel anything yet.

"Well, Paulie you know we've talked to her family and informed them how much you are to us. I do understand. Sometimes people have a hard time accepting what they don't understand. " Rulah said, as she stood near the water's edge, peering into the water. "You're right, Mrs.Strong but I don't know. I feel even more of an outsider with her family than anyone else. Despite growing up with my strength and being what you and Doc call "gifted" in that way, I don't feel very gifted at times, especially around her old man.", he answered.

Their conversation continued as Doc looked about the murky water, seeing something he couldn't quite believe. He saw what looked like a humanoid form, very large, swimming up at him, coming from what looked like a red glowing hole beneath its body. He reached up and tugged on the rope. He didn't know what this was, and he wasn't going to find out at least not exposed in the water.

"Oh...wait a sec'...Doc is tugging on the rope. I better haul him up!", Paulie said, yanking on the rope with both hands, making sure to grip it well but not pulling it too quickly as Doc had previously instructed in their earlier test runs at the ranch lake. It wasn't long before Paulie could see the bronze color of the D.E.E.P. suit breach the surface. He knelt down and picked Doc and the suit up with one arm and placed him on the water's edge. Doc shook his head and pointed at the water. Paulie looked down and saw something rather strange. A large rock but in the shape of a large man, with tiny eyes and a flat nose-less face emerged from the water, grunting.

The creature lunged first at Doc in his suit but Paulie quickly stepped in front of him and put his arm up to block the creature's swinging limb, its fist bigger than Paulie's own head. It landed on Paulie's arm and Paulie actually felt the blow. He grabbed the creature's arm quickly and began to twist it. The arm broke off the creature's body. It began to howl shrill and loudly. The creature fell to the ground its head hitting the soil, seemingly passed out.

Doc motioned over to Rulah who came to his side. She helped him remove the suit's helmet while Paulie looked at the creature, kneeling down to it, poking its face. "Paulie, leave it alone for now. I don't know what that is but it must have been one of the things which attacked us earlier today.", Doc said.

"What is it?", Paulie asked. "I don't know, Paulie but it came from some type of red glowing light from the depth, and swam rather fast up to me. It was reaching up to me like it was going to kill me. Your reaction was quick enough. Once again I owe you, Paulie. Thanks.", Doc replied.

"No problem, Doc. What do we do now?", he asked.

"Well, if possible, let's see if we can find a pulse on this creature. Let's tie it up with that rope. I think any deep water exploration will have to be put on hold. "

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The Adventures of Doc Strong Chapter VII

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The Adventures of Doc Strong Chapter VII

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The Adventures of Doc Strong Chapter V.

The Adventures of Doc Strong Chapter VI.

Talon scampered out of the narrow mine shaft, the desert sun greeting his eyes. His vision temporarily blurred, he squinted, pulling down his black cowboy hat. He scampered over a mound of dirt climbed up to a path which snaked its way out of the area and to his ranch. He held his hand as he walked, squeezing it to stop the blood flow. Blood did drip down the hand onto the dirt but as he walked, he could feel the deep cut stop to bleed. He had to get to his home to get some water for the cut and for himself, having left his canteen in the mine. He couldn't worry about that now, he had to rest up and get some things together, and think about how he was going to dispose of the Strongs and their ranch hand. He had to act and act quick if he was going to prevent them from exposing his illegal operation.

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"Well, Rulah I guess we should get the D.E.E.P. suit then and just keep our eyes out for any trouble. We have Paulie here to help us, so I know we're in good hands.", Doc told his wife. Paulie and Rulah followed Doc as he went up the mine shaft path and out into the desert sun. They gathered around the horses and the mule. "Well, whomever was here left our supplies and gear alone, so I don't know, they weren't here to rob us. I see some boot prints but they're not too clear. Paulie, help me get the suit off the mule.", Doc instructed his ranch hand. "OK, boss. I don't see why anyone would do such nonsense, " he said, taking off his cowboy hat, scratching his bald head. "Doc. I don't rightly get it." Paulie replied, removing the tarp off the mule and setting the suit's torso and leg aperture upright on the ground.

"Neither do I, Paulie. Yet." Doc took off his boots, jeans and shirt. "Now looky there, Paulie, Doc is giving us a show like the ones the girls do at Missy's Musical Revue!", Rulah chuckled. Paulie glanced at Rulah and back at Doc, not knowing whether to laugh or not. "It is OK, Paulie, Rulah is just giving us grief. You can laugh if ya want but," Doc added as he climbed into the lower portion of the suit, "if you do, I will have to cut your pay this week!" Paulie smiled as he helped Doc into the suit. He removed the arms, segmented chest plate and helmet from the mule and connected the pieces together as Doc waited with his arms up over his head. Snapping the helmet in place, Paulie tapped Doc on the face plate and Doc gave Paulie the thumbs up.

After grabbing up several cords of rope, Paulie went to the back of the suit and adjusted some knobs, which ignited the coal. Steam hissed from two apertures on the back and Paulie knew the D.E.E.P. suit was operational. Doc began walking, surprisingly agile for its balloon like and bulky design. It was also lightweight and Doc made his way quickly down the mine shaft. Fortunately this particular shaft had been dug well and whomever had done it, did it with the intent of bringing more equipment and more men down, the height of the shaft taller than most. It was another detail Doc had noticed and his suspicions about this particular dig had begun to grow even stronger now that he and his wife had nearly been victims of foul play.

Paulie followed Rulah as she followed her husband, being mindful of the path. Paulie had his revolver drawn in one hand, the rope in the other, looking behind him as well as forward. Paulie was an expert marksman and one of many qualities Doc admired about the man, his trusted lead ranch hand.

Soon, Doc, Rulah and Paulie made their way to the tailing pond. "Are you ready, dear?", Rulah asked, tapping Doc on the face plate as they stood at the water's edge. Again, Doc gave a thumbs up. Paulie went to the suit, and slid a plate over the steam ports, extinguishing the coal and steam. Now the suit had enough power built up for about 15 minutes of use. Paulie cinched the rope about the etched waist of the suit and hooked it through the latches. He held onto the end of the rope himself. No need to try and latch the rope to anything else, Paulie's strength would be more than sufficient. Doc knew this well, and went into the pond, all thoughts of any worry leaving his mind as he looked through the face plate while he adjusted a ballast by turning a knob on the suit's chest. He began to sink, and as Doc's eyes adjusted to the murky water, he couldn't believe what he saw.

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The Adventures of Doc Strong Chapter VI.

(Story copyright E.N. Boyd)

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The Adventures of Doc Strong Chapter V.

"Doc! Doc Strong! Rulah!", Irving Talon heard someone yell out at the entrance of the mine. "Blasted!", he thought. Someone was here just as his lava men were about to drown Doc Strong and Rulah in the tailing pond. "My lava men, stop. Leave the humans alone, we must leave at once. Go to your home below." The subterranean rocky figures stopped pushing on the sleeping forms of Doc Strong and Rulah, having only begun seconds ago, the water not having had time to enter their lungs, and they still remained inert as Talon's grip on their unconscious forms was still present.

The three rocky forms lumbered away from the pond onto a path which winded down into the cavernous deep, soon disappearing out of view. Talon heard the voice getting closer. He looked at Doc Strong and Rulah and then back at the direction of the voice. He knew he had a decision to make. He couldn't risk firing his weapon now, his only course of action was to leave the area and let the pair figure out on their own what had happened. He knew he'd find another opportunity to rid himself of their intrusion. Long as they didn't know he nor his lava men were present, he would be able to find a way to remove them from the mine before they could return to Tombstone to announce what they'd find.

So Talon had to let go of his mental grip on the pair, he had already strained his mental powers this day controlling the lava men and then these two, he knew he wouldn't be able to simultaneously affect this other man as he entered the cave. So he set off on another path he'd used often which let out to an area hidden outside which served as his own personal entryway. In his haste, however, he stumbled on the rocky path, and fell forward, his arms spread out before him, his hands scraping against the craggy soil. He felt something cut his palm, but wasn't sure what it was. He didn't have time to look, he just had time to get up and run up the path. up and out of the mine as he cradled his now bleeding hand.

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Doc Strong and Rulah thrashed about in the water as the man's voice came closer, eventually meeting up with the pair as dazed, they paddled to the edge of the pool and out of the water. The man ran to their side, asking, "Doc, Rulah, what happened? Why were you in the water? Are you OK?". Doc looked over at his wife, who was taking off her hat and squeezing water out of her long curly hair, tilting her head to one side as she brushed out some debris as well. She didn't say anything but here eyes said it all to Doc. "What the?" they seemed to say. Doc had the same feeling as went to her side, holding her hand as she leaned against him while she straightened out her clothing.

"I don't rightly know Paulie. Last thing I knew, we had entered the cave to cool our heels for a bit from the desert sun, next thing, we are in this pond and here you are yelling for us!" He bent down, looking at the path they stood on, seeing now for the first time a set of large foot and boot prints. "Well I'll be.", Doc said, pointing to the ground. "Someone was just here. They must be the ones who took us here. Evidently someone or some...thing...was trying to kill us!".

Paulie, along with Rulah, looked at the path and in fact, knelt down to look at the foot prints as they were all over the place, leading down a separate path and a set of boot prints leading onto a path going up out of the area. Doc looked at the boot prints, and followed them. "Where you going Doc?", Paulie asked. "Well Paulie, I do believe I see these boot prints might hold the answer to our questions concerning what the heck just happened. In fact, " Doc stopped, knelt down and picked up something shiny, while running his fingers in the dirt, "I think this spur which came off my boot may also be helpful to identifying our mystery man."

Rulah came to Doc's side and looked at the spur. It is your spur, all right, and it has some blood on it.", Rulah said. Doc replied, " Whomever ran off must have tripped on it. Rather bad I would say, because I can see quite a bit of blood. It is still wet. I think we'd best follow this trail and get...." "Oh no!", Rulah interrupted, "we are doing no such thing. If someone was trying to kill us why didn't he just shoot us? Why this elaborate ploy of trying to drown us? How did we become unconscious for that matter? I don't feel any bumps on my head. We can't risk our lives to find this culprit. We need to protect ourselves, not go off half-cocked right now. Besides, Paulie is with us now. Speaking of which, Paulie, why are you here?"

"Um, well Mrs. Strong, y'all forgot some equipment back at the ranch. I knew you had me tie all the equipment down and everything but I forgot to include the most important things." "What did you forget, Paulie? I think we have everything here." Paulie shuffled a bit and then said, "Well I forgot to pack up your tins of food. So I packed them up and followed your trail here. They're all outside on my horse. I am truly sorry about that. I am not usually that forgetful and all..." "Ha! No worries, Paulie!", Doc interrupted. "It is obviously a good thing you forgot, otherwise you'd never have found us. So thanks for both bringing our food and evidently interrupting whomever or whatever was down here. Did you see anything by the way when you came down here?" "Not really, I thought I saw what looked your silhouettes when I made my way down here but when I came closer they disappeared. Couldn't really see them but I saw you when you were waking up in the water."

"OK. Well let's get our bearings and decide what we're going to do next." Doc Strong said as he looked at the boot spur, thumbing the spinner as he put it in his shirt pocket.

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To be continued

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The Adventures of Doc Strong Chapter V.

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(Please do not move nor delete this blog post. Story copyright E.N.Boyd)

Talon made his way down the embankment, after slowly emerging from his hiding position among the wooden beams. The red dirt spilled down to the path below, announcing his arrival. Doc Strong and Rulah's horses and pack mule heard and saw him and before they could neigh and thereby announce his presence he imprinted upon their animal minds he was not there, to ignore him. His telepathy worked, the horses and mule became quiet, lowering their heads.

He walked up to the animals, keeping his mind "open", to be aware if the Strongs should suddenly decide to emerge from the cave. He made his way to the pack mule, and slowly lifted the tarp. What he saw astonished even him. It looked like a diver's bell, something he'd seen illustrated in the newspaper on the East Coast many years ago, a device sailors used in the ocean depths. However it appeared different from a diver's bell in many ways, it had a helmet but instead had a flat glass face plate. He touched it but the feel was different from glass. He saw the circular almost balloon like joints of the device's arms and legs, all stored in rows of three on the mule. He decided to pick up one of the arms, and to his surprise it was rather light weight. He was curious about this thing but his intent was to find out what the hell the Strongs were doing in his mine. He placed the arm back down, covering the whole thing with the tarp as the mule shuffled a bit, its breath getting a bit of moisture on his sleeve.

He didn't have time to concern himself with his appearance, he crept near the entrance of the mine. He held his Colt up at the ready as he stood flat against the entry's side. He could hear the two talking.

"Rulah, I found a spot for us to sit down for a spell. Let's drink some more water and eat that jerky while we have some time. We will set up the tent in about 15 minutes but let's cool down.", Talon heard Doc tell his wife.

Talon had a decision to make. He had to prevent the two from discovering not only his recent activity here in the mine but also had to prevent the discovery of the lava men. If either occurred he'd certainly risk losing all he'd gained, and that was something he wasn't going to allow to happen. He knew, despite having his Colt at the ready, if he shot the two, he'd risk an investigation into their murder. However, if he somehow rigged an accident to befall the two, it would be assumed the Strongs met an ill fate and none would be the wiser. However he struggled to think of a way to make an "accident" happen so he crouched low and thought up a plan as the pair inside cooled their heels.

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"Sleep" Talon thought, sending out his telepathic message to the pair. This would give him time to figure out his next step. He had since risen and looked inside the entrance and could see the Strong couple laying askew, obviously asleep. Indeed he checked their minds and met their subconscious, as they began to enter their dreams. He called out to his lava men. He pocketed his Colt, and brushed off his shirt sleeve as he walked over to Rulah. He bent down and lifted a strand of her curly auburn hair, smelling it. Indeed she was quite beautiful, possibly the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen and this fool Strong had managed to marry her. He shook his head as he straightened up, and soon three of his lava men met him. "Master, we are here.",. they replied telepathically. "Good, my men. I need you to help me rid of these invaders. They want to destroy your home and your race. We can't allow that my men. Pick these two up and take them to the tailing pile.", he instructed the subterranean humanoid creatures.

As the creatures picked up the couple, their limp bodies hanging over their rocky shoulders, Talon was indeed impressed by these creatures despite their simple ways. They were not human, that much he knew and soon discovered, although they had some humanoid features. They didn't reproduce like humans, and he couldn't determine any genders nor sex organs among the creatures. Instead he learned that when one of these creatures expired, a pool of lava would form amid the decaying corpse and from it would spring another lava man. It was the most peculiar thing he'd ever witnessed and knew that scientists and theologians would have a field day with the creatures should they ever learn of their existence. That and what he'd been using them for would also not be good for his health, so to speak but Talon had implemented many plans and they'd worked out thus far.

The lava men lumbered their way down a shaft of the mine, expertly climbing over the dirt, rocks, and wading through the waist high water like a knife through butter, never stumbling. Talon however did struggle to walk and he could go no further as they approached a pond of water which was by his estimate at least 100 feet deep. Beneath the waters were piles of tailing and other waste which the lava men had mined. It was this very pond which leaked and seeped into the surrounding veins and underground streams and wells of the surrounding mines and Tombstone proper.

He didn't concern himself too much about that at the moment. Instead, he commanded his lava men, "Place these two in the water and push them down. Drown the invaders!". The lava men did as Talon instructed, the man they called the "Black Bat" and also "Master", his grip on their minds ever tighter, as these simple minded humanoid creatures placed the sleeping forms of Doc Strong and Rulah beneath the surface of the water, pushing their bodies into the water below.

To be continued.

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