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Denali
by Greg Williams
Greg Williams -- all rights reserved
 

I have the most unique experience of looking at civilization from the outside. I was born on a deserted island in the vast expanse of the Pacific, and up until we were rescued, that was the only life I knew. Oh, I had Uncle David and the others to tell me about life on the outside, but I could never imagine what it was like until we were picked up by the U.S.S. CHEYENNE.

My name is Denali David Frazier. I was named after the cargo ship that brought us to Sentinel Island during "The Collapse" as we were all told it was called, and the captain of the ship David Pettigrew, New York Times best selling author. To me, SCABS was normal, I even congratulated my parents when I saw them after recovering. And then I got to the States and was told that most SCABS are treated like second class citizens, or worse.

I've read the history on the panic and collapse that followed in the wake of the virus being let loose, and the riots that occurred for years afterward. London, Los Angeles, Berlin, Cairo, Moscow and especially Oklahoma City. My parents were originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma and they were horrified to learn about the OKC Riot. We moved out here because my brother lived here.

Let me tell you about a couple of incidents that happened two or three months after arriving in the city. The first was when I was applying to go to school. I was sent to see the principal my first day because of my records.

"You apparently don't have any previous records Mr. Frazier, you don't even have a birth certificate."

"Records of what sir?" I asked "And a birth certificate? What's that?"

"That attitude will not be tolerated here mister!" he said, glaring at me.

"Attitude?" I asked "What attitude?"

"You think you know everything don't you son? Well I don't need it from someone whose family is filled with freaks!"

I was shocked! Freaks? I was only eight years old at the time, I didn't know the finer points of life. I commented on it to my parents and brother, and my brother, who had more experience, suggested I transfer to a different school. Well, I did. The principal and teachers were tolerant of SCABS, but the students were another matter, and that is incident number two.

It happened during lunch, I was warned from other SCAB students about a bully that made Scut Farkus of "A Christmas Story" look like an imp in comparison. His name was Leroy Miller. He came up to me and shoved my tray away, sending it clattering to the floor and glared at me.

"You must be the Denali Frazier I've heard so much about?"

I decided to play it cool.

"I am. And you are?"

"Don't play with me Frazier! You know who I am! Your whole family is made up of freaks!"

"The correct term---"

"I don't give a damn what the correct term is!"

He smiled wickedly at me.

"Tell me, does your mommy and daddy have to take a walk every day? Do they piss and shit on the carpet like normal dogs? Does your brother howl at the moon? Huh?"

"Why do you hate them, you've never even met them?"

"I don't have to. I know that their kind is hideously disgusting, they all are. If Barnes had his way, they'd all be locked away in zoos."

"Barnes?" I asked confused "You mean that guy who was running for mayor who makes the bad guys of the past look tame?"

"You take that back Frazier!"

"Why, it's the truth isn't it? Who could like someone so mean? If you'll excuse me Leroy, I'll think I'll go get something to eat, again."

I got up and started to leave.

"I think not!"

Unknown to me Leroy had picked up my tray and was planning to bash me in the head with it.

"Duck!" someone shouted, and I did; the tray went sailing over my head. Having learned karate from the crewmembers on the island, I was able to defend myself when Leroy's tray came the other way. Needless to say Leroy was expelled from the school, and my actions in the matter were justified and it was dropped.

Although technically I was still a minor, I was not allowed to go into bars. But I was able to go with my brother Silver, who was a regular at the Blind Pig Gin Mill. My catchphrase whenever a new person came in and saw me was "I'm no minor, I'm a major." They were all the greatest bunch of guys you'll ever meet, especially Wanderer with his British accent act he always did. Someone even dubbed me Wanderer in miniature, because I liked to ham it up with the guys. Heh, Uncle Miles could knock him down a peg or two.

"Well young master, if he should ever show up, I'll give him the full gauntlet of my repertoire." he once told me. Yeah, and soundly beat him!

Now it was a couple of years after arriving that I got into school activities, and the first was in the drama club, which was organizing a concert of little plays and class songs that year. I auditioned for, and got the part, in one of the plays as Bilbo Baggins of "The Hobbit", in the scene were Bilbo meets Gollum. I already knew it by heart becuse that was one of the few books we had to read on the island. I even helped my opposite number in the play, a frog SCAB by the name of Joey Greenback. As the day of the concert got closer, I was admittedly very nervous about my performance and asked Wanderer for any advice he had.

"And no accent please, I'm nervous enough as it is." I said.

We sat down at a booth in the back and Wanderer gave me his advice.

"All right then, to be honest, stage fright is pretty normal. You want to do your best, so you get nervous." he shrugged "If that's all that's happening there's nothing to fix."

I raised my eyebrows in surprise

"That's it? No big advice on how to handle it? No special way you deal with it?"

He just smiled and shrugged.

"It's the truth. Stage fright is just a fancy pair of words for wanting to do your best. Lots of people have their own way of dealing with it, thats all it boils down to. Now me, I just do my job. I get out on that stage and pretend like I really am whoever I'm playing, and we really are wherever we're supposed to be. It's easy to pretend, with all those people helping you.

Remember, you've got everyone else in the play in on this, all of them pretending right along with you. All YOU have to do is get out there and pretend too."

I took his advice to heart. Natually, all the Lupine Boys showed up to see me, since I was "part of the family." The night of the concert me and Joey went out onto that stage and acted our hearts out.

"What is it, my precious?"

"I am Mister Bilbo Baggins. I have lost my dwarves, my wizard and my way."

I sneaked glances out into the audience to see Wanderer nodding in satisfaction. I really WAS Bilbo Baggins for those few minutes. As our play ended I leapfrogged (pun intended) over Joey and said "Ta-ta!"

"Thief! Thief! Baggins! We hates it! Hates it, FOREVER!!"

At that point the lights dimmed and the auditorium burst into applause, Wanderer and the Lupine Boys unashamedly giving us a standing ovation. I was never more proud of myself until that moment.

As I got into my teen years I dropped drama and started taking karate classes after someone pointed me out to a karate master. My few years of practice on the island helped and I was gaining belts quickly. Finally I achieved brown belt and entered in the regional karate championship.

I had just turned 17 when the championship came and I invited nearly all the regulars down at the Pig to watch. They all came of course to see me throttle last years champion into the mat, there was a huge celebration later at the Pig. I "retired" from karate classes several weeks later. I graduated with honors from high school and entered a local community college, taking classes there for several years. And here is where it get's interesting.

For my 21st birthday, I decided to stay home, but my parents and brother insisted that we go to the Blind Pig. Silver said having my first real drink at 21 was a rite of passage, so I went, reluctantly. When I opened the door, the place was dark; had Donnie closed up already? Nope, it was a surprise party! They were all there, including some of the recent newcomers. But the real shocker was seeing the gang from the island again. All of them, Miles Horn, Aaron Burke, Marcus Lane, even Admiral Rosen; they were all there! It was the best night of my life. Uncle David had become a big time author ever since he came out with his first book, Mr. Burke was commanding his own frieghter out on the Atlantic and Uncle Miles was becoming the most wanted doctor in England.

Some of the highlights of the evening were seeing Sue Carter, the famous plant astronaut, converse with Jack Nighthawk in fluent Cherokee, Raven Blackmane and Charlie Grace' billiard game; Charlie was rumored to be a hotshot billiard hustler among the San Fransisco bar crowd, in the end Raven won of course. John Barclay did his Steve Irwin act for most of the night; "Have a look at this blighter!" as he hovered around Bryan. But the absolute highlight of the evening was Miles and Wanderer's contest of who could outdo each other in accents. Wanderer could only sit there with his jaw in his lap as Miles went a mile a minute spouting English slang with Jubatus, believe it or not, laughing his ass off at the sight of Wanderer knocked down several dozen pegs.

Now I had been sick for most of last week with what I thought was a head cold. As the night went on my jaw and teeth were hurting something fierce. Late in the night as the party was winding down the pain was becoming unbearable and I fell to my knees in pain as my teeth felt like they were being pushed out of their sockets. I blacked out and woke up in a hospital bed; my brother Silver had stayed with me the whole time. Now you don't have to be a genius to know what happened.

What looked back at me from a hand held mirror was a sabertooth cat, a smiledon. "Hallan and Jubatus are gonna love this", I commented to my brother. I went back to the Pig after I was released from the hospital just to show them I was all right. You should have seen the looks on the faces of every herbivore in the place, I thought they were gonna bolt at any second.

It was several days later that I started getting calls from paleontologists wanting to study me. I chose to take an offer that included a free college scholarship in exchange for studying how my saberteeth worked. Heh, and all the meat I could eat! During those years another student came in who had also turned into a smiledon, a shy, before SCABS hit her, Japanese girl of about 18 named Yuriko. Believe me, we made that scientist famous and me and Yuriko hit it off pretty well. At my behest she became an American citizen at the age of 20 and we married several days later. After graduation I took a job teaching paleontology at the university here in town. Me and Yuriko have been happily married for a good 50 years now.


University classroom. Prof. Denali Frazier, smiledon SCAB, with a touch of grey on his muzzle is standing at the podium in front of a class of mostly SCAB students.

"As you know from recent history, the anti-tech and anti-scab groups pretty much broke up on their own when they saw how new technology and us SCABs were here to stay. The world has made tremendous progress since the dark days of the Martian Flu outbreak. And here, at Robert Stein University, we continue to give the highest education for SCAB and norm students. I hope you've enjoyed my lecture and about the various characters that populated the Blind Pig. I know I will never forget any of them. Wanderer, Donnie, Jack, Phil, Dr's. Stein, Derksen and Coe, John, Raven, Hallan, Jubatus and many others. Some of them are no longer with us, but they will live on in my heart. I hope to see you at next Friday's dedication ceremony to the Blind Pig and I hope you all plan to attend classes here next year in 2088. Thank you."

The class stands and applauds. A young female reindeer SCAB approaches the podium clapping as well.

"Thank you for that stimulating lecture Professor Frazier. I hope you can come back tomorrow and talk more about the various regulars down at the Blind Pig and the VENTURE crew."

The students second the idea gladly.

"I'd like that. See you all tomorrow then. Good day Miss Longhorn."

"And to you Professor."

Denali heads out of the classroom to find Yuriko there. They go down the hall arm in arm, the future before them and humanity looking brighter each day.

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