Number 72 - Sep/Oct 2012
For Point of Divergence #72

Quite a few AH books came out this summer – not even counting Dale's All Timelines Lead to Rome (with its oddly familiar cover...;)). In the last month, I've read The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. 1636: The Kremlin Games, the latest (at least, at the time) of the “1632 Series” by Eric Flint, Gorg Huff, and Paula Goodlett. The latest “Destroyermen Series” book, Iron Grey Sea by Taylor Anderson; and a couple of others whose names escape me right now because I'm trying to finish up this list at the last moment...1

Apart from that, haven't been doing too much lately. I mean, apart from at work – which has been busy as all get out due to end of Summer/start of Fall stuff. Found a few more places interesting/tasty to eat at – most actually within a hundred miles of us, which is a nice change of pace – but that's about it.

"Wow, if I had a nickel for every time I was doomed by a puppet, I'd have two nickels,
which isn't a lot, but it's weird that it happened twice, right?"

On with the show!

Divergent Opinions - Comments on P.O.D. 71

Is this Lassiearus's home world?

re: Cover: “...(even the 'Interstate Cycleways' map is” And there the rest got cut off. It should have been “(even the “Interstate Cycleways” map is real – if mostly vaporware on OTL with some graphical additions by me)”.

Robert Gill
re: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter: Just because Smith wrote the screenplay, doesn't mean what you see on the screen is, well, his. Even if his is the only name listed as “screenplay writer,” there were probably several others who made changes to the script. Then, of course, the Director and actors can make changes of their own. Heck, even the wardrobe department can do things that will lead to changes in the script (good bye Silver Shoes, hello Ruby Slippers!).

Basically – and it can be depressing – the actual writer may have some of the least effect on what gets to screen of anybody on the film.

The historical gaffs are still annoying, though...

re: Hot Time in the Old Town: Hmmm, might have to check out that book (if I can find it).

ct: Me: re: Santa Barbara/Sunnydale: It doesn't have a college, but I'd go with Lompoc as more “Sunnydale” like, if only because it's just slightly larger in population than Sunnydale, rather than double/three times it. It's also more isolated (and near Vandenberg AFB), which seems to fit some of the Buffy storylines better. And it's only a few miles more up the coast than Santa Barbara, so the maps are still good.

Ironically however, looking at the list of filming locations on Wikipedia, we find that Buffy never once actually filmed in the Santa Barbara area, or Lompoc, or anywhere on the Central Coast. Most stuff seems to have been done within about twenty miles of their Santa Monica studios. “Sunnydale High” is actually Torrance's high school, and “UC-Sunnydale” is made up of chunks of UCLA, Calstate Northridge, and an industrial building in Alhambra.

The magic of television...

     re: Cover: I...don't really have a POD for the “Interstate Cycleway” world,2 though I tossed in the bigger 1918 flu as part of it. The actual divergence would have to be somewhat earlier, however, as the “Pasadena Cycleway” never got past the southern edge of Pasadena and was taken down in the early 1900s.

And I wish I'd thought of that play on “EPIC” when I was doing it!

     re: Ebooks: “And come the J.J. Abrams apocalypse of the upcoming Revolution series...the purists will still have their books; where does that put those too eager to embrace the future?” In the same place as the purists – tossing those books on the fire to prevent freezing to death come the winter...;)

Dale Cozort
“They say that an hour of driving takes 20 minutes off your life.” Whether that's good or bad depends on if it's twenty minutes of life used up in addition to the hour you spent driving, or instead of the hour you spent driving. If it's “instead,” then I need to drive more...

And if it's supposed to be in addition, well, then it seems unlikely to be true...because then everyone in Los Angeles would have been dead since 1967...

re: “Hope and the Change”: Well, that was depressing. Mind you, the whole “Change” series is, but.

Of course, it's good too – if it wasn't, it wouldn't be depressing.

How did Jim leave “detailed notes on how you did it” when, well, he wouldn't know what they did until after he got there? Oh, he could leave generalized notes on things they could do (the equivalent of telling someone at a magic show “if there's a body-less head on the table, check for the mirror under that table”), but he couldn't specifically say “the train worked like this, the CD like that and the nail-gun this other way” because he couldn't know they would show/do those things.

The ending seems to come pretty abruptly, maybe because the opening was a lot slower, with more describings.

re: “New Galveston,” pt2:: Nice. Things are getting interesting here. A couple of nits below.

If you're using your skillet any sort of regularly, it's pretty difficult for it to get rusty – and a brush and some salt should clean that right off. Basically, I can't see Wren Ley not using it enough for it to get rusty.

“as his young male eyes” seems a little clunky and out of place for what is basically one of his own thoughts, or one of his thoughts as seen by the narrator.

Why isn't Otho curious the mayor is taking his daughter to the red-light district? One extra unbuttoning shouldn't have distracted him that much.

“Blip” strikes me as an oddly modern word to describe the event.

re: “One Giant Leap,” pt3: The opening of this section is a bit confused. Is Nick trying to pretend he's not the Nick of the series, right after last section's insisting he was? That seems...unlikely.

Oh, I could see him thinking about it and deciding maybe it would be better not to be considered a crazy person from a book, but that realization – and the story he makes up – come way too fast after what was revealed just a few paragraphs ago.

Other than that, just what is going on here?

re: “There Will Always be and England,” pt9: Yes, it does read a lot better. A few nits as always, though.

“They killed an injured man” not “men”.

A C-87 isn't going to make it direct from the U.S. to France – not carrying any cargo, anyway. Few cargo planes at the time were capable of doing a direct flight from the U.S. to Normandy – and none could do a round trip. A C-47 would plop into the ocean about a thousand miles short of France, even if it left from Nova Scotia.3 It could make it direct from Iceland...but again, only if they don't care about the plane coming back. Even from North Africa they couldn't make a round trip.

That suggests they'd have to operate out of Ireland, and probably “island hop” via Greenland and Iceland to get there if they want to use any plane more than once (or avoid taking up most of their cargo space with fuel to bring the plane back).

Now, a C-54 “Skymaster” could do the round trip from Iceland (or one-way from the U.S.), but I'm not sure how well it could handle an unpaved landing strip.

Since they're probably coming from/going back to Ireland or Iceland, their flightpaths will be right over Wales and Southern England. So everyone of those flight crews is a possible leak about “what has happened to Britain.”

“directly from US to airbases in Northern Ireland” Hah! Called it! Mind you, if I'd just read a bit farther, I could have saved typing most of the preceding three paragraphs...

You've got a “New Work” instead of “New York.”

Ah! Hints that they're beginning to figure out what the Germans did! Good.

re: “Snapshot,” pt11: Short – but a nice reveal there! One mystery down, half a dozen to go.

I know he doesn't want to toss her in the legal spotlight, but I would have thought Lyle would set up some sort of protection(s) for Ermaline. Or maybe he has, and we just haven't seen it yet.

As an aside, I've always felt that while Neandertals might not have been able to speak our language(s) well, they wouldn't have any trouble speaking their language(s).

re: “The BEMS Really are Alien,” pt5: It is getting interesting, even if you have no idea where it's going.

How did Debbie know that – if she mentally rehearsed it enough times – what little was left of her after harvesting would perform those actions? Heck, how does anyone know this? It doesn't sound like something that could come up very often – and I doubt anyone's doing tests on things like this.

That suggests to me that Debbie knows more about harvesting than your average cheerleader – and possibly more than the BEM squad!

re: Civilian Aircraft Carrier: Given the amount of space passenger liners use up for, well, passengers, putting hangers, fuel storage bunkers, room for future ammo bunkers, etc. into these vessels would be difficult. Sure, they could be designed for all that to be torn out and the spaces militarized, but honestly I'm not sure if that conversion time would be a lot shorter than building a carrier from the keel up.

re: Bigfoot: That's the trouble with special pleading – even if it works, sometimes you still don't get what you were pleading for.

re: Earlier Bikes: The first successful pneumatic tire wasn't until 1887, without which, as you said, a bike is pretty much just a toy. But vulcanized rubber had been around since the 1840s, so it's definitely not impossible that it could have been developed earlier. Heck, the idea was patented in 1846 and some early rubberized canvas models were made soon after.

It was just the lack of thin rubber that held it back, so our POD here would have to do to with getting that produced earlier. Once there's a proper pneumatic tire, bicycling will take off.

(Hmmm, maybe we can roll this into the “Interstate Cycleway” world)

re: Britain Negotiates: It seems to me that Britain would try and drag out any negotiations as long as possible. They're not going to trust the Germans to keep whatever bargains they make, of course, so it would be more a way to get a unofficial cease-fire – and find time to solve their problems/build up forces/acquire loans – than be a way to end the war.

That brings up a question. No one's really going to expect Hitler to keep his bargains any more, but would Hitler do so, if he got Britain out of the war so that he could concentrate on Russia?

re: Maximum Possible German Victory Against the Soviets: “At that point, the western Allies would inherit all the disputes in Central and Eastern Europe that the Soviets basically settled after World War II.” Sounds similar to things after the first World War, actually. And it might well – like then – lead to a bunch of small wars in Eastern Europe over the next few decades.

re: No Stratemeyer Syndicate: “They would have also died when their authors retired, unless someone else did the Stratemeyer Syndicate thing.” Which seems likely, actually. As you said, Stratemeyer basically copied the pulp series idea for children and most of the big pulp publishers had been doing the “house name” for years. So it's not that big a jump.

re: Pearl Harbor Delayed: How about a Japanese surprise attack in December of only the Philippines/other Western Pacific islands while Hawaii gets off free (well, maybe some submarines)? If I were Japan I'd want to make the U.S. fight as far as possible away from their supply, while I fought as near as possible to mine. But to do this, you almost have to take out the Philippines because otherwise that is U.S. supplies.

Under such circumstances, the U.S. would undoubtedly try something along the lines of “War Plan Orange” and I honestly think that's a way to get a really big U.S. naval defeat.

Mind, in the end it just means that maybe they get a few more months of war4 or a few more nukes before they surrender, but at least every surprise attack from then on wouldn't be stuck with the “It's a [fill in the blank] Pearl Harbor!”

re: The German/Soviet pact and Nomonham: Assuming the Kwantung army does do something stupid and attacks the Soviets again, how much is this going to hurt the Japanese?

ct: Me: “I hope you get back to the Doc Savage pastiche sometime.” As you can see by the end of this zine, I have – though I have no idea what to do with it.

I started with the idea that, really, Doc Savage and his crew were described as just too darn distinctive to casually stroll about, fighting evil. After a couple of years in the Adventurer-Game, every “evil-doer” on the planet would be able to spot them a mile off – which is a big hindrance if you're trying to fight the takeover of the world with six people (seven, if the beauty shop's not too busy) and a dirigible.

That further led to thinking that while it was alluded that Doc had others working for him – mostly at the “Crime College” in upstate, of course – we never really meet anyone apart from his “Fab Five.”

And that just doesn't make sense.

It's a variant of the problem Batman has. The Batcave, Batmobiles, Batvehicle-of-the-months all are part of an enormous “Bat-Infrastructure” that he has to fight crime. But they're all way too big to be banged together by him, Alfred, and maybe a youthful ward or two. At some point, there had to be a fairly large construction crew, fitting out the Batcave.

Similarly – though lacking the need to worry about a secret identity – Doc has to have literally thousands of people working for him as well (and not just in all the companies he apparently owns). The “Flea-Run” didn't get dug from the Empire State to Hidalgo Trading on the banks of the Hudson by Monk and Ham on their off days – it's a major construction project, made even more difficult by the fact that it had to be kept secret. And while one man might produce the basic design for a new aircraft, it takes a whole lot of draftsman to finish up the blueprints before someone builds it.

Heck, somewhere there's a mechanic, or more likely mechanics, who do nothing but build and repair Docs cars, because on the whole, your average roadster doesn't come with armor plate and bullet-proof windows.

But because knowledge of these items/gadgets/locations being out there could definitely hurt Doc, all the people involved have to be keeping it a secret. That implies – at least to me – that they are all part of some shadowy “Doc Savage, Inc.” that provides him with the manpower to build everything he needs.

And, what with Doc being Doc, most of what he needs is information: Scientific advances, political intrigues, criminal activity, Doc always seems to have that information right at the tips of his fingers, but he surely doesn't have time to do all the research himself (especially with three-hour daily exercise programs, trips to the Fortress of Solitude, expanding the frontiers of science...oh, and that fighting crime thingy). So DS Inc has a secret information gathering division as well as ones of tunnel builders and aircraft designers.

But then why don't we ever see them?

Which loops right back to “why are Doc and the Five so visually distinctive?” The obvious answer is that they are meant to be so. Because if the bad-guys are watching them, they're not watching the thousands of Savage's secret operatives around the world, feeding him the knowledge he needs to fight evil!

I'm actually kinda proud of this idea.

I chanced to see The Three Investigators and the Secret of Skeleton Island movie (now in English!)5 on the Disney Channel (I think) a couple of months ago. Way different from the book, of course (not the least change the moving of Skeleton Island from the U.S. east coast to South Africa!), but not too bad. I suspect Secret of Terror Castle will show up there sooner or later.

Kurt Sidaway
ct: Me: “Do you know why [Santa Barbara] chose to regulate in favour of the Spanish revival style?” At the time, it was really, really popular in California thanks, at least in part, to the 1915 “San Diego Exposition” (this is the also the period in when the Vista Del Arroyo hotel in Pasadena was Spanish revival, and the Pasadena City Spanish revival, and...).

There were already many buildings in the style in Santa Barbara, so they decided after the quake to just go with the theme. The book Santa Barbara Architecture says: “During the 1920s Santa Barbara, already blessed with a significant group of adobes from the Spanish-Mexican period, accepted the Spanish revival as its 'official' style. The 1925 earthquake created an enormous need to rebuild and the city had the romantic urge to recapture its past. This love affair remained strong through the 30s, faltered with World War II, and was rejuvenated in the late 50s. In 1960 the city enacted El Pueblo Viejo ordinance which established strict architectural control over a sixteen-square-block area around the site of the original Presidio and insisted that new buildings conform to a Spanish profile.”

Prior to the quake, the city had a more diverse style – like much of California – with a mix of Victorian, Mediterranean, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, etc...

Ojai,6 another California town, had done something similar in 1917 when its “Old West Style” (one, milspec – saloon included) main street burned down. It too went with a Spanish Revival theme (at least partially because of Edward Libby, owner of Libby Glass). It doesn't seem to be as restrictive as Santa Barbara to other styles, but it's held on to a lot of that architecture anyway.

I used Google's “street view” to get an idea of Santa Barbara (prior to actually going there) when I was writing RoC & the Sea.7 It's not perfect (the ups and downs of the landscape around you often seem distorted, for instance) but it is a help.

Not-San Francisco
As an Angeleno, I'm used to “distortions” in geography from movies & TV – if only because there are so many I can see. Fer instance, acto the show Monk, a small chunk of San Francisco is just down the street from me. Meanwhile, the City Hall has been just about every Latin American country there is (and, interestingly, a few Eastern European ones) and Rio Hondo itself was a Soviet research facility in the 1960s on the original Mission, Impossible.8

Even when L.A. plays L.A., geography tends to be handled...loosely. Places are reported to be at the intersection of two big “name” streets...that don't actually intersect. Locations are also said to be one place, but what you see is from no where near there. Etc...

The show 24 was particularly bizarre. Just given all the places around L.A. he had to get to in that series and far from being “real time,” you soon realize that he should have spent most of his 24 hours, well, driving...

Mind you, books can do this too. As an example, just finished reading a Doc Savage book The Seven Agate Devils which was set in Southern California and, to put it bluntly, it was obvious the writer had never been anywhere near Southern California. Dent had his characters casually drive from Hollywood to Palm Springs to Palomar in just a couple of hours. Note that even today, with freeways and everything, just getting from Hollywood to Palm Springs is going to take you well over that (and that's barring traffic). On 1930s roads (a lot of which would still be dirt, at least, once you got out of L.A. proper) and you'd be lucky to do it in six, eight, twelve hours (even in a high-powered Doc Savage roadster).

Meanwhile, Palomar is a mountain, and not a small coastal town. But if it was one, add at least another eight hours to get there.

        re: RoC and the Sea – pt5: Elena was walking.

I'm still fiddling with that sentence – heck, I'm still fiddlying with bunches of sentences in the story, especially in the last part.

“Is interspaced the usual term used in the US?” I...don't know. It's the usual term I'd use...but that means nothing, really...


ct: Robert Gill: Sanctuary has, apparently, been canceled after four seasons. At least the final episode of season four kinda did a good wrap-up/ending for the series.

Warehouse 13 is currently in its fourth season and – while a bit “darker” this year – is still not taking themselves too seriously. BTW, the “artifact” idea reminds me a lot of the miniseries The Lost Room, though they were limited to “artifacts” from a typical 60's motel room and what they'd do was less thematically connected to the item than on Warehouse 13. A wristwatch on Warehouse would probably control time or allow you to see the future or something else vaguely time related – on The Lost Room, it hardboils eggs placed within its band.

Hey, you check in on “Shorpy” too! Very eclectic mix of pictures.

ct: Dale Cozort: re: Armored Russian Trains: You might want to check for a book called Armored Units of the Russian Civil War: Red Army and Armored Units of the Russian Civil War: White and Allied by David Bullock. They don't seem to be in print any more, but maybe a library nearby has them.

re: “Mitteleuropa,” pt5 (I think): Ah! Now we have a definite date for this story – and all thanks to the Tunguska Event!

The format remains kinda hard for me to read, at least until I get used to it. Still, it beats that 5 pt, no indents, no spacing of yours a couple of years back.

Why did they need Daniel to “get the story out” when they've got Karl...who's also a reporter? Okay, maybe so that there's no one in on the “plot” (whichever one this seems new) directly connected to it. But it still seems a bit convoluted.

BTW, is anyone actually not working for someone else in this story...;)

Anthony Docimo
re: North African Sea: As an aside, Jules Verne's Five Weeks in a Balloon had them flying over a much larger than life Lake Chad (or Tchad, if you prefer), “the Caspian of Africa.”

re: “explosions in deep space,” Actually, way before we get any satellite detectors that pick up “explosions in deep space,” people working with radio are going to try and figure out the mysterious noises they pick up when they point their antennas up. Heck, that happened in the 30's on OTL!

re: Wibbley-Wobbley, Timey-Wimey: Nice recap of the problems of time travel! Who is Lsellers (and does he have time for POD...;)

Wesley Kawato
ct: Me: “Do you know how you're going to end your ROC story?” As you saw, I did – and in the very disty you asked.

I pretty much knew how I wanted Elena's section of the story to end right from the point where I realized there was going to be an “Elena's section of the story.” Heck, for a long time, all there was of it was her first hike to the pier on San Miguel...and the phrase “Stay, at the Edge of California...”

The tricky bit was trying to connect those two bits – while not telegraphing the ending in large, friendly letters.

Of course, your suggestion has now got me thinking that I've got to work out how TW's higher education system works. A “Universidad de Los Angeles” was alluded to in the original (and still stalled) TrolleyWorld novel and the “Sierra Foothill Engineering Center” was meant (though not explained) to be as much a company-owned trade technical school as a pure research place. But honestly, that's all I've got right now

re: The Doctor: Rory and Amy are still (more or less) with the Doctor through at least the first half of the season. But there is supposed to be a new companion, “Clara Oswin”, played by Jenna-Louise Coleman showing up around episode six.

(which is odd, as she also ends up in episode one playing...well, let's just say it makes it hard to see how she can be a companion in another five episodes...)

re: Robert Malleroy Scenario: Honestly, I think if he calls down a nuclear first-strike on Afghanistan (and, again honestly, I don't think he'd be allowed, President or no), even assuming it doesn't lead to a total nuclear war, the chance that he'd be around to launch a second nuke in 2003 is...trivial. Not the least reason being he's demonstrably insane....

Tom Cron
Sorry to hear about your computer. Hopefully, there wasn't anything on it that could cause other – more ID theft-like – problems!

re: “The Revolution of 1877”: A hark back to that long ago POD Editorial Divergence on St. Louis and 1877. I note she comes to more or less the same conclusion as I did at the time: It would be put down, but cause long-term disaster.

Pasadena-D's Doc Savage...

Now, just because Dale asked for it, a chunk of story from one of Pasadena-D's “Doc Savage” books from 1959. Mind you, I have no idea if I'll ever do anything more than this chunk – as I said a POD or two ago, it's hard to to create a mystery featuring a “super-science” threat that can be stopped by six guys with machine pistols, roadsters, and the occasional dirigible – but it was fun, so I might try anyway, even if it is, literally, just background for Blue Flash.

Hey, at least it isn't a map-related obsession this time...

A bit of background, since this is both AH and a period piece: When this was “written” on the Pasadena-D timeline, the Great Depression had been over for seven years, but the economy was still in a long process of recovery. Tens of thousands of Japanese refugees were flooding into the SoCal area from the collapse of their empire, and the first a-bomb test is still three years in the future. Technology in many areas is at least a decade behind what it would be on OTL – though obviously that varies from field to field – and pulp adventures still have a viable market. L.A. County's population is a bit less than four million and Orange County's only 300,000 and much of both is still farm, ranch and orchard (well, much of it was on OTL at this time too – there were still “cities” called “Dairy Land,” “Dairy Valley” and “Dairy City” at the time – and the names weren't ironic). There are far fewer freeways in the area (just four – and the San Bernadino only reaches to the county border) and the Federal Interstate system never got off the ground, leaving most of the U.S. connected by two and – if lucky – four lane highways. A handful of P.E. and L.A. Railway lines are still running under MTA ownership and it'll be a decade until the last of them (except for the “LA&P” line) die.

With that in mind, on with the show...

Doc Savage: A Deadly Flash of Blue – part 1

CAMERAS FLASHED as Doctor Clark Savage, Jr., a heroic bronze statue miraculously brought to life by the golden rays of the setting Sun, stood up from his seat and grasped the offered ceremonial scissors from the city councilman who introduced him to the crowd.

Grasping the oversized tool, he neatly clipped the ribbon on the new hospital opening in the coastal Californian city of Santa Monica, which sat to the west of its larger and better known neighbor of Los Angeles. The Clark Savage Foundation had been instrumental in providing the funds to build this modern hospital in a neighborhood that previously had lacked any such institutions. And the hospital board had asked Savage if he would appear at its opening, both to acknowledge his contribution...and because an appearance of Doc Savage would certainly go a long way to making their new hospital a well known and respected institution.

Doc Savage had agreed and, indeed, had even been accompanied by all five of equally well known aides, all now being photographed in the California sun as the front doors of the new hospital opened to the public for the very first time.

For a group of men who supposedly eschewed publicity, they were certainly physically memorable. In fact, Doc and the Five seemed to actually go out of their way to make a memorable impression, as if to make sure that all eyes were on them.

And in fact, they were.

Andrew Blodgett "Monk" Mayfair lived up to his nickname by hanging by one arm from a light figure while mugging at the camera. Next to him, Theodore Marley "Ham" Brooks leaned on his cane, while brushing some invisible dust – presumably from Monk's antics – off of his impeccable suit.

John "Renny" Renwick stood to the side amusing a crowd of children by bending quarters in half with his huge hands. Thomas J. "Long Tom" Roberts, looking like he should be in a hospital, rather than opening one, chatted with a small flock of reporters about the all-electric nature of the building. William Harper "Johnny" Littlejohn had corralled one reporter and was telling the geological history of the stone that made the building's foundation, showing him details of the grains with his monocle magnifying glass, and explaining why it would ensure the hospital's safety in earthquakes, all in words that averaged four to five syllables a piece. The reporter seemed torn between the excitement of having one of Doc's aides all to himself to interview – and befuddlement due to the fact that he didn't understand one word in ten.

In a lot of ways it was a show they'd done many times before. And make no mistake, it was a show.

Sure, Renny was exceptionally tall and his hands were unusually large. But his “habit” of punching out door panels for “fun,” well, that was pure theater, meant to say “here is John Renwick, Doc Savage's aide!”

Similarly, Long Tom was skinny, but he wore slightly baggy clothes to emphasize it. And as anyone who had fought him knew, his apparent “sickly” appearance had more to do with his avoidance of the Sun than any illness.

Johnny hadn't needed that monocle for years, but he still carried it, and he was equally capable of talking without sounding like a cross between a dictionary and a thesaurus. But that's what everyone remembered.

Monk was short and hairy, and did have longer than usual arms. But like Long Tom with his baggy clothes, similarly, his shirts and jackets were cut with the sleeves just a bit too short, to exaggerate their length. And then he often topped it off the look by dragging a pig along.

Ham didn't need to dress like a fashion plate all, that wasn't true. The man really was wedded to his “Best Dressed” style. Still, his sword cane was as much an attention-seeking prop as it was a defensive weapon. And being in fashion didn't always have to mean wearing a perfectly tailored suit.

And Doc, well, even after decades of fooling people who should have known better with his disguises, no one seemed to have caught on that, while tall and perfectly built, he didn't have to appear as “Doc Savage, Man Of Bronze” all the time.

In fact, if dressed more ordinarily, and shorn of monocles and canes and pigs, Doc and the Five could walk down almost any street with little fear of being recognized.

And of course, this was all Doc's plan. Amongst the many skills the man had spent years in acquiring was the somewhat surprising ones he had in stage magic. And the key to all stage magic is misdirection.

If your enemies are looking for a loud, ape-like man with a pig, the short, red-headed guy working on your own loading dock has a good chance of being overlooked. Keep an eye out for a sickly, skeleton of a man, and said eye rolls right pass the ordinary looking slender guy in a suit, even if subconsciously you feel he should get a little more sun.

Renny, Ham, Johnny...if you were on the look-out for their personas, well, you would probably miss the persons themselves. And even though the bad guys usually knew Doc was a master of disguise, they almost never saw through those disguises until it was far too late.

Even before he had begun his career as an adventurer, Doc had realized that, sooner or later, he was going to attract publicity, no matter how much he fought against it. So he decided to direct that publicity into promoting a very colorful, very memorable version of himself and his five aides.

It was no accident that in spite of how hard it was to get pictures of any of them, when newspaper cameramen were lucky enough to do so, Doc's hair was a slicked back layer of bronze, capping a figure whose clothing – no matter how well tailored – seem just barely able to contain the muscle beneath. Monk and Ham always seemed to be photographed as a barely human red ape, fresh escaped from the zoo and a society man, just on his way to his box at a major Broadway show. Renny was always captured making huge fists, Long Tom was at his sallow skeleton-ist, and Johnny either twirled his monocle, or had it in place, its magnifying glass making his eye look the size of a tennis ball.


This did more than allow Doc and the Five, if they wished, to pass amongst more ordinarily folk without being noticed. It completely hid the fact that Doc Savage had far, far more people working for him than just those five.

FIFTY miles to the east, a coupé nearly as old as its driver sputtered up a road as it wound up into the mountains halfway between the small town of La Habra and the equally small one of Corona. The road barely qualified as being two lanes and it twisted back and forth as it climbed. In spite of this, the driver kept glancing in the rear-view mirror...looking. He had been doing this since he had left the main state route a good half hour ago.

So far, all he had seen was fences, grass, the occasional cow, and the road he had already driven.

Dale Hancock was thirty-eight, a salesman for the Excelsior Vacuum Company. His sales territory covered part of Ventura and most of northern Los Angeles counties, but he was now far outside of that. His white shirt, in spite of the cool spring temperatures, was so soaked in sweat as to be nearly dripping and his hands gripped the wheel so tightly they almost shook from the pressure. Every time he looked in the rear-view mirror he twitched, as if he had almost seen something, as if he had expected to see something, then he would exhale and look forward again, trying to push his many-mile'd vehicle to a better rate of speed on the narrow asphalt.

A few miles later, even the asphalt ended, and Dale found himself driving on gravel, further slowing his car's speed as he was forced to cautiously maneuvered along the winding track clinging to the sides of the hills.

In the west, the last rays of the Sun were just clearing the edge of the horizon and he was forced to turn on his headlights in the gathering darkness. Ahead, a line of immense thunderheads, still lit by the now invisible Sun, slowly sailed in from the south, suggesting that the heavy rains promised by the weathermen were in fact going to happen.

The road curved through a small grove of oaks, and Dale used the opportunity to briefly stop the car and use a flashlight to examine the torn and stained map that sat on the passenger side of the seat. If he was where he thought he was, another mile would seem him at the big San Joaquin Ranch reservoir. He hazarded a strained smile. From there, the road would continue through the mountains and down to the ranch town of Myford, where he could get back on US Route 101. And 101 would get him back to...

...a shadow slid over and past the road in front of him.

He began shaking and threw the map in the back, then put the car in gear, accelerating as fast as he could as his wheels threw up two arcs of gravel behind him. Caution was no longer an option and the car sped down the mountain road, barely making some of the sharper turns, gravel and dust flying as it skidded along the edges.

Behind it, following almost leisurely, drifted the shadow.

Finally the inevitable happened, the car drifted too far to the right on a turn and the wheels slid from running over the relatively smooth gravel, to running over rough, native rock. The right back tire blew in a cloud of rubber chunks, followed seconds later by the right front. Dale fought the wheel as the car skidded ever closer to going over the edge, then finally he brought it to a halt barely inches from toppling over a hundred foot cliff, engulfed in a cloud of dust.

The shadow passed over the car, rippling as it followed the contours of the dust cloud, then paused, spreading to cover both the car and the road for some distance along it.

For a moment all was silent, save for the faint sound of the breeze and the ticking of the car's now cooling engine. Then the driver's door flung open and he began to run.

Less than five feet from the car, it began.

There was a flash in the corner of his eye, like the blue afterimage of a flashbulb he hadn't seen. And to Dale, it was as if the ground suddenly became much, much farther away. Even running, every step seemed to take minutes. He put his left foot down and slowly, almost painfully lifted his right.

When he lifted that foot, he was a man of thirty-eight. By the time he swung it forward, set it down, and lifted the left again, he appeared to be one of fifty. As that food came down, seventy, maybe seventy-five. A further step was finished by a centenarian...

...the step after that never came.

The shadow now drifted away, letting the pale twilight was back in over the scene. It revealed the mummified body of a man that any doctor would have put at over a hundred years old at time of death...and any archaeologist would have put at being a mummy for at least four-hundred years!

The first drops of the coming storm began to spot the remains of Dale Hancock...


Real Life