Thursday, July 30, 2009


Ryan, Annie and Sawyer were on a guided fishing trip with their best friends, Phil and Jen. Their boat trolled the waters of the Gulf of Mexico for the third day out of the four they had scheduled. While Annie and Jen were content to lay in the sun during the day, Ryan and Phil were focused on landing some prize ocean fish. Sawyer was just trying to stay cool in the cabin of the boat they had chartered. His thick, dark fur didn't fair too well in the tropical sun. The trip was unforgettable, but not for all the right reasons. Plenty of fish were being caught, but their 'captain' was not very impressive. Just 25 years old, they had hired his father to captain the trip, but he had gotten sick just days before. Rather than take a refund, the group decided to accept the offer of his son driving the boat for half price. Sure, he could steer the boat OK, but so could a retarded chimp if he really wanted to. He had forgotten to pack extra clothes for himself so he was beginning to get a bit ripe. He constantly talked to his girlfriend on the sat-phone that was meant for emergencies. Worse of all, he didn't know how to work the radio in case he needed to call the Coast Guard. Phil had just put a nice fish into the cooler when their captain emerged from the cabin.

"I think I figured out the radio!" he exclaimed as if he had just solved world hunger. "Good. Did you try calling anyone to test it?" asked Ryan. "That's a great idea! I'll be right back." said the captain. Ryan and Phil looked at each other and rolled their eyes. "Downs." said Phil. That was their name for him. At least when he wasn't around. Sawyer came out of the cabin and shot Ryan a look. He wasn't having much fun on this trip. He really wanted to stay with the pet boarding people. There were always a lot of cute dogs there to meet, but here he was on the open ocean with Captain Downs. "Hey!" said Captain Downs as he came out of the cabin with the radio in his hand. "I changed a few wires around and I'm pretty sure I got it now." "Call someone." said Phil. Captain Downs checked the channel. It read '1716'. "Huh, I didn't know they went that high..." he said. He pressed the button to talk when suddenly their was a bright flash of light! Then, their boat seemed to drop a few feet before slamming into the water! Finally, silence. "What just happened?" asked Ryan as he picked himself up off the deck of the boat. No one had an answer. Phil noticed something strange about the distant shoreline so he picked up his binoculars and scanned the far off beach. "Um, all of the buildings are gone." he said as he handed the binoculars to Ryan. "What the heck, that makes no sense. It's just trees." Without warning, a shot rang out in the distance and something impacted the water next to them. Everyone's gaze quickly turned to the direction of the noise. Ryan's jaw dropped.

"Shiver me timbers! That ship be the strangest thing I have seen on these waters in a seadog's age! Hoist the Jolly Roger! Plunder awaits us, lads!" cried the captain of the ship that was bearing down on the strange boat. The huge wooden ship slowed as it neared the side of the fishing boat, then a half dozen pirates lowered themselves onto it, swords drawn. "All of ye, including the beast will be coming aboard now." said a pirate. "This has to be some kind of joke! What year is this?" exclaimed Captain Downs. All six were brought on board and the captain of the pirate ship stepped forward. "Welcome to the Queen Anne's Revenge! You be starin at the dread pirate Black Beard! We'll be taking your boat as our own, then deciding on your fate tonight. The two ladies will dine with me, while these three scallywags will sleep in the brig with their mut. Sawyer growled. Before anyone could say a word, the three men and Sawyer were taken to the brig and locked up. "Well, this is just great." said Phil. "This is all a joke. It has to be a joke. This can't be real..." Captain Downs kept saying as he paced back and forth. "That radio... it brought us here. Somehow." said Ryan. "1716. The channel had to represent the year. Black Beard lived until 1718 and he did sail the Queen Anne's Revenge." said Phil. "No, it has to be..." Captain Downs' voice trailed off. "Has to be what?" asked Ryan. "The hull of our boat. It's loaded with cocaine. I had meant to sell it but I couldn't find a buyer with the price I wanted." he answered. "The sat-phone calls?" asked Phil. "Yes." he said. "And what did you intend to do with the people who sat on the boat and watched you make the transaction?" Ryan demanded. "Well..." said Downs. "You were going to kill us." Phil finished the story in disgust. "I'm sorry, I know it was wrong... I need the money!" he protested. Sawyer wasn't listening to the conversation. He was scratching at the hull where the bars connected. The wood was old and soft and his claws were making short work of it. Ryan noticed and suggested that the rest of them keep watch while Sawyer busted them out. Within an hour, Sawyer had detached enough of the bars for all of them to squeeze out. The sun had set and most of the pirates were three sheets to the wind. Ryan and his friends made their way across the deck and slipped down into their boat.

"Let's get the radio and get out of he-" Ryan punched Downs in the back of his head knocking him out cold. "Phil, I stowed a few things on board." said Ryan. He revealed two shotguns and a case of ammo. "Why did you bring those?" asked Phil. "Shoot pop cans if the fishing was slow." he replied. They tied up Downs, then Ryan explained something to Phil. "OK. I can't believe I'm going to say this, but you and I can't take all these pirates alone." he said as Sawyer's ears perked up. Ryan told Phil that he could understand Sawyer and that Sawyer was... special. "Are you feeling OK?" asked Phil. Ryan frowned then tossed one of the shotguns to Sawyer. To Phil's astonishment, Sawyer caught it with his paws, loaded it and handed it to him. "Tell no one." said Ryan. "OK... so what's the plan?" said Phil, clearly a bit disturbed.

Annie and Jen were blind folded in the captain's quarters as Black Beard and his men discussed their fate. "I say we kill em!" said one pirate to an uproar of delight. "I say we sell em!" said another to more approval. "What say you, Captain?" asked one more. "I say..." Black Beard was interrupted by a scratching at the door. "What is that!" he demanded just as the door was kicked open. Ryan and Phil flew into the room and began blasting the pirates with bird shot. Though the wounds were not fatal, the noise and the severe pain had them stunned. A few reached for swords and pistols, but Ryan and Phil had them out gunned. Then Black Beard made his move. He drew his sword and held it to the girls' necks. "Avast ye! Else these two lass' be shark bait." said Black Beard. Ryan and Phil both stopped. Their shotguns could hit Black Beard from where they were, but they would also hit the girls. It was time for plan 'B'. Ryan made a clicking noise with his tongue and in walked Sawyer, wearing a red bandanna and a patch on one eye. He was on all fours, but had a belt with two swords attached to it. Ryan and Phil held the crew at bay with the threat of more stinging pellets. Sawyer stood on his back legs, drew both swords, pointed one at Black Beard and howled a battle cry. Black Beard froze in fear. "Blow me down!" he exclaimed as he fainted and wet himself.

Ryan and Phil ordered the crew and a now very humble Captain Black Beard into a dingy and lowered them down to the water. Ryan could also see a second dingy in the distance as it made it's way to what it hoped was shore. Everyone was on board the fishing boat now. Everyone but Downs. "Where's Captain Downs?" asked Jen. No one replied as they busily prepared the boat to get away from the pirate ship. Ryan had rigged it to explode and they didn't have much time left.

They drove the boat a short distance, then stopped to watch. With a large ball of fire, the Queen Anne's Revenge split apart, then slipped beneath the waves. Ryan entered '2009' into the radio, then pressed the button. A bright light flashed, then the boat seemed to fall then hit the water. Phil pulled out his binoculars and scanned the shoreline. "I see buildings!" he said with a smile. "Do you see a Starbucks?" asked Annie.

A few months passed and Ryan was home with Annie as they watched some TV. The discovery channel was reporting that they had found the infamous Queen Anne's Revenge off the coast of Florida. "Strangely, the ship contained a modern day foot locker, stuffed with cocaine. Also strange, the brig had animal claw marks by some of the bars, suggesting that a large animal was once imprisoned there and escaped..." the narrator went on as Sawyer smiled and stretched out on the floor. "Did you get rid of that radio that sent us back in time?" asked Annie. "Yeah. It's gone." said Ryan with his fingers crossed. "I wonder what ever happened to that Captain Downs guy." she wondered out loud. "I don't know." said Ryan. "I guess that's a story for another time."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Game Misconduct

Ryan sat in front of the TV watching a rerun of the Winter Classic. Even though his team lost the cup that year, he still looked back on the season with fond memories. After all, hockey is great, win or lose. Sometimes, however, he just didn't understand why it wasn't more popular. It seemed silly that hockey was the butt of so many jokes when it took the most skill to play out of the four major sports. He just shook his head as Sawyer walked into the room. "Hey, Ry. Wanna play NHL09?" Sawyer asked. "In a few. Was just gonna go do some errands." He replied. "What's the matter? Scared of gettin beat by someone without thumbs?" Sawyer joked. Ryan was about to comment when Annie walked in. "I'm gonna go to the store then the library. Need me to get you anything?" she asked. "Sure, you just saved me a trip." Ryan gave her his grocery list, kissed her goodbye, then grabbed the X-Box controller. "Game on, pooch!" he exclaimed. They played a few heated games before there was a knock at the door. It was the police.

"Ryan Leonard?" the officer asked. "Yes, sir. Is there something I can do for you?" said Ryan. "I'm afraid I have some bad news. A security camera at Starbucks showed your wife, Annie, being kidnapped. She was put in a large van that drove away. She dropped her purse so we were able to identify her. We're doing everything we can, but at this point, we don't have much to go on. We'll be in touch." said the officer. Ryan was stunned. How could such a thing happen? Annie? Kidnapped??

He and Sawyer went to the Starbucks parking lot to see if they could find anything the police had missed. Sawyer pointed out the tire tracks that left the lot and headed south, towards Holland. "Sawyer, check this out." said Ryan. "This mud... you recognize it?" He pointed to a muddy shoe print where the van had stopped. The police had seen it, but other than taking down the size, did not consider the mud itself to be special. "Yeah, that's the mud from Hamilton where we duck hunt. It sticks to my paws like paste. Could the kidnappers be hiding out down there?" Sawyer wondered. "Let's go find out." said Ryan.

The two returned home to grab a few essentials, then made their way to their favorite hunting ground. They got out of the truck and made their way toward the woods. Ryan walked with a limp.

"Think you can find the scent of the tires?" Ryan asked. "Well, I'm no Beagle, but I'll try." he said. "Wait, no need." Sawyer said. "There's the van." Sawyer pointed towards the wood line and sure enough, there was the van from the surveillance video. Ryan pulled out the shotgun he had been hiding in his pants as they made their way towards the van. It was clearly empty and abandoned, but there were people tracks in the mud that lead deeper into the woods. Sawyer put his nose to work. "These tracks here are Annie's." he pointed out. "Let's get going." said Ryan as he put the shotgun back down his pant leg and continued his fake limp.

They walked for less than hour, following the tracks, when Ryan saw movement in the distance. He pulled out a set of binoculars from Sawyer's pack and surveyed the scene. "It's strange..." said Ryan. "There's a satellite dish of some sorts, a few guards... I see Annie." he said as he handed the binoculars to Sawyer. "Yeah, there she is. She's tied to a tree. We should wait until nightfall. Did you bring your night vision?" he asked. "Yeah, it's in your pack." Ryan answered.

Once night fall came, Ryan put on his night vision goggles and made his way to Annie. Sawyer didn't need night vision. Ryan stopped about 30 feet short of Annie and let Sawyer move in quietly to free her. The pads of his paws didn't make a sound as he approached her. Annie was startled at first, but didn't make any noise as Sawyer chewed her ropes free. Once she was loose, he led her towards Ryan. "Good boy, Sawyer." said Ryan as he scratched his pet's chest. "Now take her back to the truck." he whispered in his ear. "I'm going to stay here and figure out what these bums are up to. Call the police as soon as you can." Ryan told Annie. Sawyer led Annie away as Ryan carefully made his way into the dark base. He noticed a small shack with a light on inside, so he moved towards it. He peered inside and saw the back of a head with thinning hair. He was short and appeared to be holding a conference over his computer. Ryan ducked down to move to a different window when (WHACK) he was hit in the back of the head and knocked out.

When Ryan woke, the sun was just coming up. He was blind folded and handcuffed to a chair. "Did you sleep well?" mocked a strangely familiar voice. "Who are you?" Ryan demanded, ignoring the small talk. A guard ripped Ryan's blind fold off. Ryan's jaw dropped. "Gary Bettman? Why? This is insane!" said Ryan. Gary Bettman was the terrible commissioner of the NHL. A man hated by everyone but Pittsburgh fans. "No, this is perfectly sane, Mr. Ryan, or should I call you Twig?" Bettman asked. "How do you know my nickname?" Ryan demanded. "Your propaganda has become quite the problem for our agenda..." Bettman continued. "Twig on the Wings." he said. "My blog? My blog about the Red Wings is causing problems for your agenda? What agenda? And how could my crappy blog be anything of a problem?" said Ryan, totally confused. "Hockey is an amazing sport, is it not?" Bettman asked. "It's the best. Despite your leadership." Ryan added. Bettman ignored the insult. "Yet, it's not popular. How could this be?" asked Bettman. Ryan didn't answer. "It's all so complicated, but so simple at the same time. Money, Ryan. It's all about money." "Go on." Ryan insisted. "The satellite outside. It's not your average satellite. It doesn't transmit a readable signal. It only emits sound waves, like a speaker. The waves send a message to everyone's mind telling them that hockey is dumb and that football, baseball and even basketball are the best sports on TV." Bettman explained with a grin. "But, why ruin your own sport?" Ryan demanded. "I told you. Money. The NFL, MLB and NBA give me 10% of their earnings to keep hockey at bay. If not for these sound waves, hockey would become so popular, the other three major sports would fold." said Bettman. "Then let them fold!" yelled Ryan, furiously. Once again, Bettman ignored Ryan's emotion and continued. "Then there's you. Your blog has become quite influential. People in Seattle, Houston, all over the US are becoming interested in hockey. Heck, after reading a few articles, even I started to hate Sidney Crosby." "You're welcome." said Ryan. "People are becoming interested in hockey again. They are fighting through the sound waves. In the past, we would just move teams away from fans that managed to overcome the sound waves. Winnipeg moved to Phoenix, Hartford went to the Carolina's and Dallas got the Minnesota North Stars. Die hard fan bases were punished with their teams being shipped off to deserts and places where no one gave a crap about hockey. But your blog... you will die, Ryan. Your wife was merely bait." "You won't get away with this, Bettman." said Ryan. "This shack will explode in 10 minutes. I will be gone by then, along with the satellite. It will be relocated to a place where it's work can continue."

Sawyer peaked into the window. He had doubled back after dropping Annie off at the truck. He saw Ryan's gun in the corner. He could also see Ryan as he argued with who he swore was Gary Bettman. Then he saw what he needed most. The key to Ryan's handcuffs was on a table in the shack. Bettman left the shack, and forgot the key. Perfect. Sawyer snuck inside. "Sawyer! Am I glad to see you!" exclaimed Ryan. "Was that Bettman?" asked Sawyer. "Yeah, It's a really long story. Let's get out of here." Sawyer got the key, freed Ryan and made his way to the door. Ryan grabbed his shotgun. Wasting no time, Ryan kicked open the door, burst outside and started blasting. The first guard didn't react in time and the blast from the buckshot knocked him flat. Sawyer made a mad dash for the truck that had the satellite on it. He jumped into the cab, threw the vehicle into gear, then dropped to the floor and put his paws on the gas. The truck accelerated through a clearing in the woods, then towards a group of trees. Sawyer peaked over the steering wheel, saw the trees, then bailed out. The truck hit the trees and exploded in a ball of fire. The sound waves stopped.

Somewhere in Michigan, a shopper at a sporting goods store was deciding between the road white or the home blue of his favorite Detroit Lions player. Suddenly, he had a strange feeling come over him. He put them both down and looked over at the Detroit Red Wings jerseys. He picked one up and smiled as he put it in his cart and made his way to the checkout lines.

Back in the woods, the fighting continued. "Nooo! You stupid dog!" cried Bettman. Sawyer gathered himself, then sprinted back towards the camp. Ryan peaked around a corner, spotted a guard and shot him in the back. He loaded a couple more shells since he had a second, then continued on the hunt. Then it started to rain. The remaining guards shook violently and started to melt! They were robots! The rain shorted them out and they fell down, completely useless. Then Ryan saw Bettman peering out through the window of the shack. He had ran back inside just as it started to rain. Ryan went in. Just as Bettman reached inside his coat pocket, Ryan blasted the NHL commissioner with buckshot... but he didn't bleed. "He's a robot, too." said Sawyer as he joined Ryan in the shack. "Yup. So the real Bettman is still out there..." said Ryan "Of course I am!" came a voice over the computer. It was the real Bettman. "Do not think that you have won. There are still many more sound wave devises out there in other states." said the Bettman. "And my blog is still out there." Ryan countered. "As are thousands more just like it. The heart of the hockey fan will win in the end, Bettman. Eventually, the greatest sport in the world will overcome even you." said Ryan as he lifted the shotgun up and blew a hole in the computer. The two left the shack moments before it exploded.

Ryan and Sawyer found the police outside the woods where they had left their truck. Ryan explained where the camp was, then found Annie. She had come back with the police. "Let's go home, Annie. It's been quite a couple of days." said Ryan. "Tell me bout it." said Annie. "I never did get Starbucks."

"So they were all robots?" she later asked during their ride home. "Yup. Every last one." said Ryan. "And the one on the computer screen, he was the real Bettman?" she asked. "I don't know." said Ryan "I guess that's a story for another time."

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bad Under Pressure

Ryan and Annie decided to take a weekend and go up north to do some fishing. It was mostly Ryan wanting to camp, but Annie was a good sport. They brought Sawyer, of course, who spent most of his time swimming in the lake. After the sun set and the campfire died out, the three headed into their tent for the night.

"You pass gas once and you're out of here, Sawyer." said Ryan.

Sawyer just growled and plopped down in a corner of the tent. After a long day of chasing ducks and swimming laps in the cool Michigan water, he was out like a lamp. Ryan and Annie talked for a short time before they too succumbed to the sounds of the night and drifted into a deep sleep.

Their sleep was short lived, however. Sawyer woke first, letting out a low growl. This woke Ryan and Annie who sprung up just as someone threw a canister of gas into their tent! They all started coughing and choking as Ryan struggled to find the tent door and escape. The gas was to powerful, though, and Ryan passed out.

Ryan did not wake until the morning. When he did wake up, he found his camp destroyed. Sawyer was just waking up, but neither could not find Annie.

"Here." said Sawyer.

He had a note tied to his collar. Ryan took it and began to read.

'We have your loved one. If you would like to see her again, I suggest you do as I say. Bring us 50 2 liter bottles of Diet Coke and 300 packs of Mentos. If you are seen approaching our camp with anyone but you and your pathetic dog, your loved one will be shot. We look forward to seeing you. P.S. Do NOT buy cheap Diet Coke off brands! Sam's Choice, is not our choice!'

Ryan crumpled up the note and threw it down.

"Terrorists. I don't know who or why. I just know they want Diet Coke and Mentos." said Ryan.

"That's insane!" said Sawyer. "By my calculations, that's enough Diet Coke and Mentos to blow up a house. Why go through all that trouble when a stick of dynamite would do the same thing?"

"Like I said, Sawyer. I don't know." said Ryan "They drew a map on the back of the note. We just need to get the goods, make the exchange and go home."

The two drove to the nearest store, got a cart and began to fill it. The cashier at the register wasn't amused.

"Trying to get famous on Youtube?" the cashier asked.

"No ma'am, just really like diet pop." explained Ryan.

"And the Mentos?" asked the cashier

"After dinner mints." said Ryan.

* * * * *

They arrived at the location on the map and Ryan got out of the truck. The terrorists arrived in a truck of their own, but theirs was equipped with a .50 caliber machine gun. Ryan decided to cooperate to the fullest.

"Do you have the items we requested?" asked the terrorist leader

"The store only had 36 Diet Coke bottles so we had to get 14 Diet Pepsi bottles." said Ryan

"Blasted idiots!" exclaimed the terrorist leader "I suppose those will be sufficient. And the Mentos?"

"We have the Mentos." said Ryan.

"Good." said the terrorist leader

He motioned for his men to load the items into their truck.

"And Annie. Where is Annie? I came through with my half of the bargain, where is she?" demanded Ryan

"Silly American. What made you think that I am trustworthy?" the leader mocked "Shoot them." he commanded the terrorist on the machine gun

Ryan and Sawyer wasted no time in turning to run. The machine gun opened up behind them as they sprinted, but they did not look back. Suddenly, Ryan's truck exploded from being shot! The two dove into a ditch and waited. They could hear them laughing, then getting into their truck and leaving.

"You OK, Ryan?" Sawyer asked as he shook the dirt off of his back

"Yeah, I'm fine. They blew up my truck. I'm still paying for that." said Ryan.

"Let's go. We need to follow their tire tracks to their base. They think we're dead. We'll have the element of surprise." said Sawyer

"I just wish we had a few weapons." said Ryan

* * * * *

They followed the tracks for an hour, when they heard the sound of a helicopter taking off. The base camp was on the other side of the hill to their left. They climbed to the top and looked down. There were only about 20 of them, but they were all armed with various weapons.

"OK, here's the plan." said Ryan "We'll wait until it's dark, then sneak down the side of the hill. Try to get to the .50 cal. Once you're on it, start lighting up the tents and anyone else who you can see."

"Got it." said Sawyer

"Annie is probably in that big building along the river so I'll make a break for it while you're shooting." said Ryan "When you're out of ammo on the .50 cal, try to get to me. I might need your help."

When the sun set behind the trees, Ryan and Sawyer started their mission. After bumping fist to paw, they made their way down the hill and into the terrorist base. Sawyer made his way to the truck with the machine gun on it when suddenly he was spotted!

"Infidel dog!" cried the terrorist

Sawyer sprinted towards the truck as Ryan make a break for the large building he believed Annie was being held in. Sawyer made it to the machine gun, jumped on top, racked the first shell into the chamber and started firing it at the terrorists. Stunned, the terrorists watched in disbelief as the black lab howled in anger while pouring lead and tracers on their camp. Terrified, they dropped their weapons and ran out of the camp. Ryan reached the building and slowly opened the door to go inside where he found Annie tied to a chair.

"They're going to contaminate the river with anthrax!" cried Annie "The river empty's into Lake Michigan! They're using the Diet Coke and Mentos as fuel to run the mill! You have to stop it!"

Just then, Sawyer ran into the room.

"Sawyer, untie Annie!" yelled Ryan

Sawyer began chewing on the ropes to free his owner as Ryan examined the mill. It was building up pressure even as they spoke. Soon, the chemical reaction from the Diet Coke and Mentos would produce enough pressure to force the mill to turn, unleashing a steady stream of anthrax into the river. There was no way to release the pressure and Ryan couldn't handle the anthrax without special gear, so he had to find a way to jam the mill. Sawyer freed Annie and the two escaped outside to call for help. Then Ryan remembered the machine gun outside. He ran out, grabbed the gun, then brought it back inside and started climbing the beams inside the mill to the giant wheel. It was getting closer and closer to turning and unleashing a ton of anthrax into a million peoples drinking water. He wedged the gun into the mill, then slid back down the beam he had climbed.

Ryan, Annie and Sawyer all got to the top of the hill and watched as the pressure from the Diet Coke and Mentos caused the huge wheel of the mill to turn. However, the machine gun that was wedged into the supports brought the mill down on itself. A ton of anthrax, Diet Coke and Mentos bubbled over into the camp. Although the camp would be a dangerous place for years to come, the three had saved the lives of millions.

* * * * *

The DNR arrived at the scene first. After answering some questions, the three were offered a ride home. Since their truck had been destroyed, they accepted.

"If we see a Starbucks, can we stop?" asked Annie

The driver ignored her.

"Annie, did you see the terrorist leader at the camp?" asked Ryan

"Yeah, he was there, but he left in a helicopter. Didn't say where he was going." she replied

"I wonder if he'll come back?" she wondered out loud

"I don't know." said Ryan "I guess that's a story for another day."

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Vacation

Ryan and Annie were on the last day of their week long trip to Romoskovia.

"See?" said Annie. "This is a great country after all."

"I guess I've seen worse." Ryan replied.

Ryan had finally caved and agreed to a trip to Romoskovia. Although Annie had been born in the states, her family came from Romoskovia in the early 80's and she liked to visit the country from time to time. This was their first trip together since marrying a few year earlier though Ryan feared it wouldn't be their last. They were on their way to the airport when their cab was suddenly surrounded by three black sedans. Two men jumped out of one of them and ran over to the cab. One pulled a gun while the other opened the door and motioned for Ryan and Annie to get out. They cooperated and followed them to the black sedan. Once inside, all three cars sped away.

"Start to talk now." said one of the men, in broken English. "You are here for secrets. To spy on great Romoskovia."

Ryan had to laugh at the thought.

"Yeah, you got us. I wanted to know the best recipe on earth for cabbage rolls. I promise I won't tell anyone else."

"Silence!" the man shot back. "You think we are all stupid? We shall show you and all the world who is stupid."

"We're just tourists. We just wanted to see this country." Annie said.

"Ha! You lie. Who would want to visit this place?" said the driver.

"Good question..." said Ryan.

Annie shot him a dirty look.

"You will die, American spy's. But first, we will show you our device. The thing that will bring glory to Romoskovia, once again."

* * * * *

The cars arrived at an old abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of town. They were not blind folded, so Ryan memorized the address of a nearby house and slipped his cell phone into his sock.

"Search them." said the driver, as they got out of the car.

They took Annie's phone, but missed Ryan's. They were led into the warehouse and locked in a large cage. When they left them, Ryan took out his phone but the battery was dead. He put it back in his sock and looked around for a power source. Just then, a man brought them a glass of water and a potato. A raw potato.

"Tomorrow it happens. When the final piece is here the world will hear Romoskovia!" said the man as he walked away.

Ryan grabbed the potato.

"Hungry?" Annie asked.

"No. Didn't you ever watch any science shows when you were a kid? This is my power source."

He pulled the battery out of his phone and connected the wires to the potato. He pressed the power button and the phone came to life. It didn't have much power, but could probably manage one call.

The phone rang at their home back in the states. Sawyer was sleeping on the couch. He woke up, stretched, and walked over to the phone. It was Ryan's phone number on the ID, so he picked it up.

"Hey, when are you gonna be home? I'm bored." Sawyer asked.

"Never if you don't help us. We've been taken hostage, at a warehouse. We'll be dead tomorrow along with the whole world, apparently." said Ryan.

Sawyer wrote down the address just before the phone died. He grabbed the money jar from Ryan's closet along with a few other items and headed out the door. He was on a mission.

* * * * *

Sawyer walked to the airport, found a nearby homeless man and gave him a note. It said 'Put on the shades and hold this walking stick. You are blind and I am your seeing eye dog. Buy a ticket to Romoskovia. Do this and you get $100 and a bottle of whiskey.' Sawyer revealed the bottle then put it back in the bag. The man shrugged and put on the glasses. Within an hour, the two were in the air. The flight lasted 16 hours and time was of the essence.

* * * * *

When they landed, Sawyer gave the man the $100 and the bottle. He then trotted over to a cab and handed the driver a note. It was the address that Ryan had given him. The driver looked confused until Sawyer handed him a small stack of Romoskovian currency. The man nodded and put the car in gear. A short time later, Sawyer was on the scene. He could see the warehouse and he could also see what appeared to be a tow truck dropping off a wrecked car. A Honda Civic.

"Stand up." barked a guard as he opened the cage.

He led Ryan and Annie into a large room where there were hundreds of Honda Civic parts all welded together.

"What is this mess?" asked Ryan.

"This 'mess' is the key to Romoskovia's climb to glory. This is our Death Ray. It is made from the parts of over 450 wrecked Honda Civics. Sheet metal, windshields, tires... all important pieces to the weapon. We were missing just one piece and that piece has arrived today."

He pointed towards a tow truck that was being led into the room.

"This Civic is the final piece. It's radiator will keep the device from melting while it destroys city after city."

"All the other cars didn't have radiators?" asked Annie. "They were all damaged in collisions." the man explained.

"Where did you get all of these?" asked Ryan.

"Craigslist." said the Romoskoviac. "And we would have had it finished weeks ago, but someone in... Kirk Land, Washington kept buying them before we could."

The radiator was attached and the Death Ray was ready. Ryan began to worry that Sawyer hadn't made it in time when one of the guards came in.

"Sir, we have an issue." reported the guard.

"What is it?" asked their leader.

"There is a dog sneaking around the building. I would normally think nothing of this, but... it is wearing a backpack." explained the guard.

Ryan smirked.

"What!?" exclaimed the leader. "Find this beast and destroy it at once!"

All the guards except two ran outside with their weapons to find the dog as the Romoskovian leader turned to Ryan and Annie.

"The time has come. You will pick the first target. What city shall we destroy first?"

"You're mad!" said Annie. "You can't do this to innocent people!"

"Pittsburgh." said Ryan. "Then Denver, Seattle..."

Annie jabbed him in the ribs.

"What? No reason this situation can't have a bright side..." said Ryan

Sawyer had managed to sneak in through a window in the back of the building. He moved back to the front of the building and locked all the doors from the inside. Then he followed the voices. He found Ryan and Annie and watched as the huge mass of Honda Civics began to power up as the whole building shook. Then, a huge laser beam shot out into the sky.

* * * * *

"Yeah, we're the best city ever! The Steelers, the Penguins. Title Town baby! Let's go Pens! Let's go Pens! Let's... Hey, what's that laser be-"

* * * * *

"The city you know as 'Pittsburgh' is no more." said the Romoskovian leader.

"How could you?" said Ryan, half laughing.

"Now, we shall destroy another American city, then kill you. We shall destroy Detroit." said the Romoskoviac

"No! Not Detroit! You maniac! Leave my state alone!" said Ryan

Sawyer made his move as the machine began to charge. He tackled one of the guards, then Ryan charged the other, punching him in the stomach then the face and grabbing his AK-47. The Romoskovian leader reached into his jacket for a pistol, but Ryan was too fast. He shot him with a burst from the AK-47 and he fell over. As he lay there he said his final words:

"Now you will never know the secret to turning off the Death Ray. The entire world will now parish."

Ryan turned to the guard that Sawyer had tackled and demanded the secret. "How do we stop it!?" he yelled.

"I don't know!" said the gaurd "Only our leader knew!"

The machine was shaking with more violence than before. The entire world was about to be destroyed in one blast from the Death Ray when Ryan noticed something.

"Sawyer! The computer! It's Windows XP!" Ryan yelled

Sawyer turned to the computer they used to control the Death Ray and sprinted towards it. According to the screen, the weapon was less than 10 seconds away from firing! Sawyer knew what to do. He hit Ctrl Alt Delete, then clicked End Task. The machine stopped shaking and powered down. There was only one second left before it fired. Everyone relaxed and breathed a sigh of relief. If it had been Windows Vista, it would have asked Sawyer if he was sure that he wanted to end the task and the world would have been blown away.

* * * * *

The CIA arrived and put blankets on Ryan and Annie as they sat on a nearby bench. They gave them some coffee and thanked them for saving the entire planet.

"Is this Starbucks?" asked Annie.

"So, next time we go on a vacation, let's stay a bit closer to home." Ryan suggested.

* * * * *

As they entered the airport, Ryan talked to Sawyer.

"You did great getting here. How did you do it?" asked Ryan.

Sawyer explained how he bribed a homeless man.

"That was a one-way ticket, though. Where is he now?" Ryan wondered.

"I don't know." said Sawyer. "I guess that's a story for another day..."

The Stick

The sun peaked in through the blinds and woke Ryan up. He works the swing shift, so when most people are grabbing a late lunch, Ryan is reaching for the snooze button. Despite the urge to sleep all day, Ryan finally managed to get himself up to face the world and feed his dog, Sawyer.

"Mornin' Ryan." said Sawyer.

"How's it goin." Ryan replied.

Sawyer wasn't like any other dog. At least not to Ryan. Somehow, Ryan was able to hear his pet talk and Sawyer could also understand Ryan. No one else could hear Sawyer and in order to stay out of a straight jacket, Ryan never mentioned that he could to anyone. The two sat in the kitchen enjoying their breakfast when the house suddenly felt empty.

"Where's Annie?" asked Ryan.

Annie was Ryan's wife and she worked from home so she was usually around when he got up. Her car was outside, but there was no sign of her. Then Ryan found the note.

If you ever want to see Annie again, you'll have to come up with $500,000, a plane ticket to Romoskovia and... we want the stick. Don't call the cops. We'll be in touch.

Ryan was stunned. Where was he going to get the money? And his stick... He quickly tried to think out loud.

"Romoskovia. Annie is a Romoskoviac and so is her family. All of her brothers and sisters..." said Ryan

"It could be the work of one of her cousins." suggested Sawyer

"No, none of her cousins are smart enough to pull off a kidnapping." said Ryan

"And her brothers and sisters are?" he challenged

"True." said Ryan "They must have gotten the help of an American."

"Yes, that would explain the proper grammar in the note..." said Sawyer

Just then the phone rang. Ryan picked it up.

"Hello?" No response.

"Hello?" he said again, with a little irritation in his voice.

"Hello there!" said a loud and cheerful voice "I'm calling on behalf of Big State Car Insurance! Are you happy with your current policy?"

A telemarketer!?

"Ma'am, this is really not a good time..." said Ryan

"But sir, it's always a good time to save BIG at Big State Car Insurance! May I ask what your current deductible is?" the telemarketer asked.

"Really ma'am, I don't have time to... really? Wow, that is cheap... Well that seems reasonable..."

Sawyer growled and Ryan snapped back to reality.

"Uh, sorry I gotta go, bye." Sawyer glared at Ryan as he hung up the phone.

"What? She had a great offer!" said Ryan "When you start earning money instead of just eating it, we'll see how many deals you hang up on."

The phone rang again.

"Hello?" said Ryan

In a raspy, altered voice someone replied:

"Yes, we have Annie. She's fine... for now. Do you have the items I requested?" asked the caller

"No, of course not!" said Ryan "$500,000? If I had half a million bucks just sitting around do you think I'd be answering my own phone calls?"

Silence for a second, then:

"Well, whatever. Just get the money, the ticket and the stick." said the caller

"Why the stick!?" Ryan shot back.

"You have until midnight tonight. We will see you in the park. Goodbye." said the caller

"Why the stick!!?" Ryan demanded again

And the call ended.

Ryan didn't have to ask why they wanted the stick. He knew. He had played hockey for most of his life, but whenever he joined a league, he struggled. Year after year, he failed to impress anyone, even his parents. Until one Christmas when Ryan got a brand new Cooper hockey stick. It was black with white lettering. The blade was replaceable, so Ryan added a right-handed Christian blade with a 'Stevens' curve. He used white tape and the magic started to happen. That year, Ryan scored an average of two goals a game. He was unstoppable. With that stick, perhaps he could have gone on to the NHL, became the next Great One, but he chose to retire it. However, the power that stick had was still so great, that it could make any nonathletic person, even a Romoskoviac, into a goal scoring machine. Whoever had Annie wanted enough money to start a team in Romoskovia, produce more of the magic sticks and take over hockey. They would win Gold Medals, World Championships and worst of all, the Stanley Cup would be littered with Romoskovian names. The thought was too much to bear. Ryan and Sawyer had to think. And fast...

* * * * *

It was five minutes to midnight when Ryan and Sawyer pulled up to the park.

"Ok, you know what to do, right?" Ryan asked Sawyer.

"Yup, we got this." Replied Sawyer as he put on a ski mask.

"Why are you wearing a ski mask? You're a BLACK Lab. And where did you even find a ski mask that fits a dog?" Ryan inquired.

"Mind your own business! I have to play the part." Sawyer answered.

Ryan got out of his truck and grabbed a small duffel bag and the stick. Sawyer slid out of the truck before Ryan shut the door and stuck to the shadows. Ryan headed towards a statue in the middle of the park where he assumed they would make the exchange. Sawyer stayed out of sight as he too made his way to the statue. Ryan got to the statue and waited. At exactly midnight, two people emerged from the darkness. Annie and... her evil brother-in-law, Pat.

"I had a feeling it was you." said Ryan.

"I will hand your wife over to you once I have the money, the ticket and I have the stick in my possession." Pat replied, ignoring any small talk.

Ryan reached for the duffel, undoing a couple buttons on his warm-up pants he was wearing, and tossed it between them.

"The ticket is inside with the money." said Ryan.

"And the stick. I will have the stick now." said Pat with his heavy Romoskovian accent.

Ryan dropped the stick next to the duffel and stepped back. Pat pulled out a small pistol and moved towards the loot. Just as he bent over to pick it up, he heard a terrible growl behind him. He glanced back, but saw nothing in the darkness, so he continued towards the duffel and stick. Suddenly, he heard another growl as he spun in horror just in time to see a big black dog in a ski mask charging him! Annie used the chance to push him down and run, just as Ryan ripped off his warm-ups (yes, he had shorts on underneath) and pulled out his 12 gauge Beretta shotgun. Sawyer grabbed Pat's arm and hauled him down, just before he could fire a shot. Ryan stepped on his other arm and pointed his shotgun at Pat's face.

"There's something humbling about staring down the barrel of a shotgun, eh?" Ryan mocked.

Pat wet himself.

* * * * *

The police arrived a short time later and took Pat away. They also took the duffel bag full of Monopoly money to be used as evidence. Ryan had already hidden the stick in his truck before the police arrived.

"I'm glad you're alright, honey." Ryan said to Annie

"Me too. Can we get me some Starbucks?" she asked.

Sawyer, who had removed his ski mask by now, asked Ryan, "So who do you think his American accomplice was?"

"I don't know." said Ryan "I guess that's a story for another day."