Tales From The Sanctum: A Lady's Prerogative - Leave It To "A" Beaver: A Mystical Adventure

This content is produced artists indicated on the site, and by me, Brian Joseph Johns. 

I, under no circumstance will trade, barter or otherwise swap my own identity for that of another person and I protect the same right for those who've contributed their artwork to the various projects under my management at Shhhh! Digital Media, my own company. These rights are protected by law under the Charter Of Rights And Freedoms under section 7.

(First draft originally published August 3, 2022 3:30 PM)

I'll leave this up front until after President Biden's visit to our country. 

Dear Mister President, 

I do sincerely hope that your wife and yourself enjoy your stay in Canada, and that your wives, Prime Minister Trudeau and yourself are able to foster in a new era of US/Canadian relations that seeks peaceful cooperation with other cultures throughout the world, while ensuring that all countries can legally play a part in the free market system of the global economy.

Once again, under no circumstances do I polarity reverse my expression to accommodate opinions that contradict my own. I don't hate people whose opinions differ from mine, and I suspect that most people in the world operate similarly. Just because you see and believe things differently, isn't the grounds for conflict or hate. After all, we can agree to disagree though I'll never compromise my own opinions or beliefs to accommodate those that differ, without careful contemplation where similar contemplation is mutually given by others to my own opinions and beliefs. Either we learn from each other, or we ignore each other. There is no progress for humanity where that endeavor occurs entirely in one direction without reciprocation between those of differing philosophy, belief and ideas.

Most of all, the acceptance of the fact that we all have ruffles in our feathers and kinks in our step, and that those aspects of our being and how we deal with them are what really makes us interesting as a species. We're as much how we endeavor as we are how we play.

Castor du Canada - Colour corrected lithograph of a beaver,
1819 by Werner, active 1819, De Lasteyrie, Charles-Philibert 1757-1849

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Leave It To "A" Beaver

"...And to commemorate this one hundred and fifty-fifth anniversary since our fine nation's birth, we are proud to introduce you to Wenonah, which in Ojibwe means first born," the Prime Minister held up a small white haired mammal, which shifted its weight to find a comfortable place in his hands.

The audience applauded the furry creature as it sat confortably in his arms looking out at them. In all truth though, its vision was limited and it could not see beyond the microphone or the podium that held it in place.

"Well there goes the Memengwaa possibility!" Monique said to Valerie from the staff room of West Meet East International just off Queen Street West in downtown Toronto as they watched the press presentation live on television.

"Memeng-who?" asked Valerie.

"Memengwaa. Its Ojibwe for butterfly," Alicia told Valerie.

"That's quite alright. I'll get over it," Heylyn replied to her friends, a friendly smile on her face.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you, Wenonah. The truly Canadian born beaver!" the Prime Minister and the animal handlers presented the albino groundhog sized creature to the public and press.

Camera flashes permeated the daytime, only superseded by the Centennial Flame itself.

"What makes that beaver so special?" asked Valerie.

"Its an albino beaver, that grew in a natural habitat along the border between Ontario and Quebec. It has an uncanny red furred pattern that resembles the Canadian Maple Leaf, against its albino white fur," Alicia told Valerie.

"Know it all!" Kori winked at Valerie.

"She's my know it all, may I remind you," Norler tightened his grip on Alicia's hand.

"Alright everyone. We've got a fashion show coming up, next week, so lets get busy and enjoy our weekend so we have the energy to prepare, and let the Prime Minister deal with the beaver," Heylyn shut the television off and chased everyone out of the staff room.

"What now? I thought we were all going to do something together?" asked Kori.

"Hey, the ROM is free today. Maybe we could go there?" Alicia suggested.

"Good idea, lets leave the weekday action and adventure for another day. I need a break," Monique agreed.

Their day actually turned out quite well. Thankfully, when Warai began her barrage of questions about the exhibits in the museum, Alicia and Norler were more than happy to help Heylyn carry that load. So they spent their day enjoying the Royal Ontario Museum, and then had dinner at the CN Tower, their part in the story now over. After all, they still had so much ground left to cover in The Butterfly Dragon III: The Two Dragons that they just couldn't possibly have put the time aside for this adventure.

Now, you might think that this story ended there, but as fate would have it on this special day, another group of close friends were in attendance of the press conference the Prime Minister had arranged as part of the Canada Day festivities. 

Where Heylyn and her friends' stories' ended, theirs began.

"Ross, we don't even live in Canada. What are we even doing here?" asked Rachel.

"Aren't you even interested in the slightest what a red and white beaver looks like? This is science in the making! This is one of the greatest pre-taxidermy moments in history!" Ross replied.

"Alright everyone, don't panic, but look at what Joey's doing!" Chandler pointed to their friend Joey, who had somehow snuck between the Canadian security and had made his way up onto the stage and was in front of the Prime Minister.

"How you doin'?" Joey asked, extending his hand to the Prime Minister of Canada.

"That definitely was not cliché in any way whatsoever," Monica put her hands on her hips, the sharpened edge of sarcasm apparent on her face.

"Speaking of cliché, I see that beaver, and I'm having a smelly cat flashback all the way..." Phoebe smiled.

Wait. These aren't the friends I meant. There were actually another very different group of friends. Yet in some small way, they might have seemed familiar to some people. 

"Well, I guess if you'd say that if Canada has a beaver, that would be it, wouldn't it?" asked Barris.

Mila tapped Barris' wrist playfully, unsure of whether Barris was being honest or facetious.

"I long suspected that your mind would eventually descend to new lows. However, I am confounded that you'd choose a national holiday to exhibit such a spectacle?" Sato responded to his friend's comment.

"Its a beaver for crying out loud! What ever is so low about a Canadian mammal species that you'd accuse me of such an atrocious act?" asked Barris, an innocent look upon his face as he looked sideways and back between Mila and Sato.

"I'm not quite sure who to blame, Leslie Nielson or Barris for that innuendo," Shaela remarked.

"You got Leslie Nielson from that and you're not even Canadian?" Nelony smiled and winked at Barris, who clung tightly to Mila.

"In this time, I'm not Canadian. When we were in the West View of 1654 and when I was with Reginald, that's when I was Canadian," Shaela corrected Nelony.

"That's a long time before Leslie Nielson!" Barris responded, underlining the fact that he knew more about Leslie Nielson than he was admitting to.

"Remember, we're talking about Barris here. The Canadian part is just a recent addendum to his identity. Thanks mostly to the most Canadian of us here, Mila Rendebelle," Sato smirked left-wise to his best friend.

"And Jasmer McCavanaugh. My beau. For he too is Canadian, despite the fact that he now lives with me in France. Vive le Barris then I say. I'll go along with the beaver being a monument of this occasion. Such a dignified animal in this fine country," Yirfir said from beside Jasmer.

"I still have a sore back from riding that giant Shadow Moose. If this beaver does anything above and beyond the call of typical mammals, I'm out of here," Shaela laid down the line of what she was ready to accept on her day of relaxation.

"Amen to that!" a spectator who'd overheard Shaela's comment responded.

"I doubt you've ever ridden a Moose in your life!" Shaela became offended by the rowdy spectator who'd yelled out.

"Be careful Shaela, Moose riding is a national sport, or at least it used to be," Barris corrected Shaela.

"Are you taking away from my achievement that night in rescuing the town from the rampage of an enraged Shadow Moose?" asked Shaela, her eyes firmly fixed on Barris.

"Its nothing really. We just jump on their backs when they're trying to cross a deep river. Ride them until they get to the river bank, then jump off and run like heck!" the rowdy spectator replied.

"A pass-time that used to have some traction long before the environmental movement was taken seriously. Moose are honestly treated with great dignity here," another spectator corrected.

"Just having fun," the rowdy spectator smiled, stumbling backward.

"Canadian identity really is just so hard to define, the moment you say its one thing, it becomes another," Mila observed having lived in Canada her whole life.

"Well, I'd say that Canadian identity definitely involves Maple Syrup..." Barris said, savoring the memory of the waffles he'd made for Mila and himself earlier that morning.

"It involves Leslie Nielson too," Jasmer agreed.

"And Doctor David Suzuki!" Sato added, looking conspicuous as he said it.

"Turn your face to the side for a moment Sato," asked Barris.

Sato complied, and Barris saw an uncanny resemblance, before he corrected himself and the possibility of any such delusion.

"Couldn't be..." Barris said quietly.

"Canoes? My father took me on a canoeing trip in Algonquin for my sixteenth birthday. We flew all the way from London England to Canada, and then drove to Algonquin park in a rental. We portaged for three days," Nelony told her friends about one of her most cherished memories.

"I'm so sorry to hear. I could barely walk for days after using one of those," Barris said sympathetically.

"Honey,  I think she meant a portage, like carrying a canoe from lake to lake rather than meaning like a porta-potty or a portable bathroom or commode," Mila corrected Barris.

"Scratch that from the record. My mistake," Barris responded, slightly embarrassed.

"Canada is trunks!" Barris suddenly exclaimed, trying desperately to come up with something that defined it for him.

"Where on earth did you come up with that? While you were swimming, because elephants are not indigenous to Canada," asked Sato.

"Are you sure you're not David Suzuki? No, I meant the trunk of a car. I came up with that because as you know, in England we call them the boot. Needless to say, that led to much confusion between Mila and I during our first few months living together," responded Barris.

"I used to get ready to leave for an outing, only to find that someone had put a spare tire and an iron in my boot," Mila tried the joke that had worked before on so many, but her friends were not having it.

"That's Canadian! When a well delivered piece of humour just goes right over our heads and out the window!" Barris agreed, trying to salvage Mila's joke despite the dumbfounded look on her friends' faces.

"Poo... poo... uhhhh? Poutine! That's  it! That's Canadian!" Jasmer added.

"Oh yesss, with lots of cheese," Yirfir smiled, kissing her hubby to be on the cheek.

"What about... universal health care? That's Canadian too! Our health care system!" Mila added.

"The truth is that none of you know what it is to be Canadian," Askuwheteau declared, having stood silently by, listening to their conversation.

"Nonsense. Of course we know what it is to be Canadian!" Barris defied Askuwheteau's pronouncement.

"No you don't. None of you know. I hope that one day, before it is too late, you realize what it is to be Canadian," Askuwheteau replied.

"I know that I am very happy that you, my friends invited us to this monumental occasion. It means something to me," Athandra spoke, lifting their spirits somewhat after Askuwheteau's solemn statement.

"Me too. I am truly honoured to have been invited by my peers from the Sanctum," Sir Manfred agreed.

"Same here. There's good food to be had in this place, and good times by and far," Kensai agreed.

Their friends' words helped ease the sting of what Askuwheteau had said, but deep inside, they truly realized that they were struggling to define it. What it meant to them to be Canadians.

"Well, I'm glad that you all could come for this occasion," Mila looked sadly to Barris, who looked back to her as if to say, we'll find it together.

"We thank you all for attending this ceremony as we add this Beaver, Wenonah to the growing family of Canadian icons, as an ambassador between the environment and the Canadian people!" the Prime Minister smiled as the cameras recorded the occasion.

The audience applauded and the beaver, mostly sedated, sat calmly on the top of the podium, sniffing the microphone stand.

Meanwhile, the presentation was televised across the country, and from the comfort of many homes, Canadians far and wide watched.

"We dedicate this day to the Queen, the Queen Mother, the Office Of The Lieutenant General, and most of all to the Canadian people!" the Prime Minister held up the beaver before the audience and press.

Around the crowd, the air began to move violently, as the wind picked up scatter and debris, throwing it to-and-fro. The sky began to darken as a dark cloud cover enveloped and devoured the mid-day sun. Flashes of lightning jumped between the bulbous regions of cloud filaments, casting a eerie flickering light over the scene. The air rapidly cooled and the smell of nitrogen began to permeate the air, as many of the crowd began to scatter, running for cover.

"What's happening? Are any of you responsible for this?" asked Barris, pulling Mila closer to himself.

"I hate to tell you, but I gave up messing with the weather when I accidently conjured a tornado in my linen closet," Nelony assured Barris.

"It's definitely not me. Weather isn't my kind of thing," Shaela replied.

"I was dancing earlier, but not for the weather," Askuwheteau replied.

"Then why on earth were you dancing?" asked Mila.

"I had a bowel movement this morning. At my age, that's something to celebrate, so I danced," Askuwheteau smiled.

Mila and Barris returned his smile, uneasily.

"If it isn't any of you, then who is it?" asked Barris.

"Don't look now, but I think we might have an answer..." Jasmer pointed up to the sky, as the clouds opened, bolts of lightening jumping between the gap.

Then, a solitary figure descended slowly from within the opening, falling gracefully until its feet met the ground. The Prime Minister's security team surrounded the figure, weapons drawn as it walked casually towards them, a long flowing cloak adorning its body.

"A Power Lord maybe?" asked Barris.

"No. Definitely not. This is something else," Yirfir examined the figure carefully as bolts of lightning shot down from the sky all around them.

The figure them removed the hood covering its head, revealing the face of a man in his mid thirties, early forties. A blue maple leaf was tattooed in the center of his forehead.

A platoon of military guards approached to reinforce the Prime Minister's security team. Together, they surrounded this new arrival.

"You Canadians are pathetic! Long have I watched you from my vigil. Seethering every time I heard one of you say I'm sorry, or saw you hold the door for the elderly. No more. I've come to take away all of what makes you what you are! I have come to take what truly makes Canadians!" the man spoke, grabbing the albino beaver from the animal handlers.

"I curse thee in such a way that you will not be what you once were, until you are able to liberate this small animal from my domain. A domain where I alone hold all the power!" the man held the beaver in his arms.

"That could be Tie Domi, and in his domain. The penalty box..." Barris realized.

"No, that's not a Leaf, Barris. I'd know a real Leaf anywhere," Jasmer assured his friend.

"Then who is it?!" Yirfir asked, astonished that her husband to be would know of such things.

"That's the Anti-Leaf!" Jasmer said, examining the costume of the man at the podium.

"What, you mean like he's one of the Montreal Canadiens?" confirmed Barris, who up until that point in time had not known much about the history of hockey in Canada.

"That rivalry goes back a ways, but the Anti-Leaf is anti-Montreal too. He's anti anything Canadian!" Jasmer explained to his friends.

"Your Canadian heroes can't save you here and now. You'll have to wait until our little game truly begins!" the man with the blue maple leaf on his forehead spoke, clinging to the struggling beaver.

He then began to levitate into the sky and back into the opening in the clouds, disappearing with the albino beaver. The clouds darkened for a moment, as thunderous crashes accented by lightning strikes pocked the earth around them. Then, the sky started to clear as the weather calmed, and once again, everything was back to normal, or so it would seem.

To Live And Eat Freely

"Canada's beaver is lost! What are we going to do now?" asked Barris, in sheer panic.

"We could go to a coffee shop and talk about it over a Timmies, like they used to do on The Air Farce?" asked Mila.

"That television show is so passe! I think we watched it a couple of times when I visited you back during our Sanctum school days, don't you remember?" Nelony reminded Mila of their early days training as Wytches.

"Television show? I was talking about the actual Air Farce!" Mila replied.

"Uhhhhh, honey. I know this is a bad time, but the RCAF doesn't stand for the Royal Canadian Air Farce," Barris looked to his friends' faces, slightly embarrassed for Mila.

"It doesn't?" Mila confirmed with Barris.

"No," Barris nodded negatively.

"I always assumed that they used the real name of our armed forces on that show..." Mila defended her assumption.

"That and Canada's Air Force consists of a handful of cheap Walmart drones and a few paper airplanes," Shaela added.

Just as Shaela finished her statement, a squadron of modern fighter jets flew over the festivities outside of the Parliament buildings.

"Do you get the feeling that something has changed... drastically?" asked Nelony.

"I am getting that feeling too," Athandra added, noticing that the military presence on Parliament Hill had grown exponentially in the last five minutes.

Mila looked over to the Prime Minister, noting that he'd gained weight, and a few inches of height, and now sported a white balding head of hair on his head.

"That's not Justin?" Mila responded upon seeing the Prime Minister.

"Welcome to the Canada Day festivities, from the capital buildings of the world's greatest super power! Our nuclear capable forces are ready to stand down any threat the world over!" this new Prime Minister spoke harshly, his words piercing the speakers as much so as the audience's ears.

"Nuclear capable forces? Honey, when did Canada get nukes?" asked Barris.

"We didn't, did we?" asked Mila, looking around to the crowd around them, who seemed filled with ire and anger, shouting triumphantly at the Prime Minister.

"Excuse me Sir, when did Canada get its first nukes?" asked Jasmer of one of the audience near them.

"Don't you remember from the history books? When Diefenbaker ordered those two hundred Avro Arrow jets as part of the Canadian DEW line?" the man looked shocked at Jasmer.

"You mean like Mountain Dew? The soft drink?" asked Barris, having grown up in a generation susceptible to devious marketing ploys.

"No. He means the Distant Early Warning system setup in Canada from the 1950s to help NATO stand against the threat of an attack by the nuclear armed forces of the Warsaw Pact," Jasmer reminded Barris, who knew little of such matters.

"The Warsaw who?" asked Mila.

"The USSR. The bad guys during the cold war," responded several members of the audience.

"Who gave it that name? The red side or the blue side?" asked Barris, given the fact that most people probably had never really thought about it.

"That's a good question. I think the thing is that we're somehow in a different time line from the one we were in. A timeline where Canada is the world's first nuclear superpower," Jasmer replied to Barris.

"So what is an Avro? A napkin?" asked Mila.

"No. The Avro Arrow was a modern nuclear capable bomber designed by Canadian company Avro Aerospace. John Diefenbaker, the Prime Minister at the time of the design of this jet, saw that such a capable aircraft would destabilize the balance of the cold war, possibly triggering a pre-emptive strike if Canada or any of NATO ever deployed the craft. It was so advanced, that nothing fielded by any military the world over could ever come close. It would have created a drastic threat against the Warsaw Pact, possibly triggering World War III. So Diefenbaker had the jet and its plans scrapped. He even had the prototypes destroyed, and from that point on, it was decided that Canada would remain a nuclear neutral country, fielding no nuclear capable weapons or craft of its own," Jasmer recalled what he remembered of the Canada from that time.

A time when he'd sided with the Power Lords, who had closer ties to Eastern Europe.

"Well it would seem that we're in a much different time now, but how?" asked Sir Manfred.

"You never truly appreciate something until it is no longer in your grasp," Askuwheteau advised his friends.

"Canada has never been without its beaver. What he is saying is true," Kensai responded.

"Then we must fix this problem, and get back our old Canada..." Mila urged her friends.

"Meat stamps everyone!" one of the guards shouted at the crowd as an inspector checked their hands for any signs of an ink stamp.

"What on earth is a meat stamp?" asked Barris.

"Vegetarianism is outlawed. With every meal, every Canadian must eat one piece of the ascribed national meats. When you do, you're given a stamp that lasts six hours. If you have no stamp, you could be arrested and held indefinitely," one of the people neighbouring their group showed his meat stamp.

"But I'm..." Athandra almost admitted.

"...having fun. She's having a great time at this meat party!" Sir Manfred grabbed her hand and urged her to walk with him away from the meat stamp inspector.

"How's that for a turn fortune? Kind of fair play I'd say, especially after having been badgered by vegan-nazis for the last few years," asked Sir Manfred as Athandra as he disappeared into the crowd.

"That's why I say, its safer in the middle," Xenshi followed them, her spirit form invisible to the crowd's eyes.

"Vegetables! Meat! I'll devour them all whether they crawl or remain rooted!" Xuxu her brother responded from beside her.

"A least some things never change," Kensai responded to Xuxu's statement.

"We still have to get out of here safely. Remember, none of us have a meat stamp on our arm. We could all be taken into custody," Jasmer reminded them as they quickly left the Parliament property together.

"I might be able to help..." Mila used her memory of having seen the man's meat stamp and quickly used the weave, twisting the fabric of reality to etch similar tattoos onto all of their wrists.

"I never thought I'd be happy to see such a symbol on my wrist," Athandra checked the meat stamp tattoo Mila had created on her wrist.

"These meat nazis might change the stamp colours with different meals every day," Barris reasoned.

"There's a good chance that will be the case," Jasmer agreed.

"It's alright. I built that into my weave. We'll just have to check with others before we're checked to get by," Mila assured her friends.

"I'm not sure what's worse, being chastised because you eat meat or because you don't," Sir Manfred responded.

"In this case, something has clearly changed the Canadian attitudes to take that freedom of choice away," Kensai agreed as they found their way into an alley having just found downtown Ottawa.

Someone suddenly appeared from the alley, gun in his hand.

"Meat or murder?" asked the man.

"...murder?" responded Athandra cautiously and intuitively.

"You'd best not be lying wench, or you'll soon be plant fertilizer," the man said to her.

"You're outnumbered," Jasmer stood protectively in front of Yirfir.

"Think again," the man said, gesturing to the dark corners of the alley, and the rooftops.

They were surrounded by what seemed to be vast gang of thugs, each brandishing firearms and weapons.

Sato stood ready to disarm the three nearest, looking to Jasmer for the signal.

Barris immediately put his hands up, panicking and drawing attention towards himself.

"My mother says don't eat meat, my father says eat meat! I grew up with this my whole life, and now I'm in an alley with people who are going to kill me for either reason!" he began to sputter as he backed away from Mila, drawing the attention of the entire gang with him.

Sato moved first, too fast for the eye to see. Quickly he disarmed the first one, and in the second motion, he'd flipped over his head and was facing the second. He'd already broken the firearm when he'd moved to the third. Before the man could clamp his finger on the trigger, Sato had already squeezed his own in to block the attempt.

Jasmer had let forth a volley of ice that had sealed the bodies of three of the assailants, to their place against the wall. Yirfir immediately followed suit, laying down a barrier between her friends and the assailants.

Just as one of them was about to shoot Barris, Mila quickly transformed his pistol into a water gun. As he pulled the trigger, Barris was sprayed by liquid projectile of the water gun, and could taste the sweetness of his favourite Merlot.

"Good call honey!" Barris responded.

"Sorry, I was going for my favourite. The Chardonnay," Mila replied.

"Maybe next time," Barris smiled.

Meanwhile, Nelony had summoned her own allies to the battlefield. A small army of raccoons scurried down the pipes and fire escapes of the buildings making up the walls of the alley. They began attacking the thugs in the alleyway, leaving those pinned by Jasmer's ice bolts alone, while focusing on the greatest threat.

As the tide of battle turned in favour of the Wytches, a fresh round of thugs emerged from the darker recess of the alley and at once they were once again outnumbered.

"Don't shoot!" Jasmer responded at the upset in balance.

Sato held one of the thugs as a human shield, while Kensai and Xuxu had between them felled eight so far before being stopped by their greater numbers.

"Don't move. If you do, I'm going to have my boys and girls here drop you one by one," their leader spoke, keeping hidden in the shadows.

"Don't move. If you do, you're going to be snacks for something that is from your worst nightmares," Shaela responded.

Behind them, a pair of enormous red eyes opened as they emerged from a dark portal into the alley.

"There's something BIG in here with us boss!" one of the vegan thugs responded.

"I can hear it breathing, but I can't see it!" another responded.

"Lets negotiate, because my friend is a meat eater, and right now, you're its favourite prey," they could hear Shaela's voice as if it were coming from every corner of the alley, but none of them could see her.

Behind the boss, an enormous pair of red glowing eyes opened, and he suddenly realized that they had him in check mate.

"Lets not get hasty here. I'm going to put my gun down. So are my boys and girls, aren't you?" asked the boss.

One by one, they began putting down their weapons.

Sato quickly kicked the nearest weapons away from their owners. Kensai, Xuxu and Sir Manfred followed suit.

The boss emerged from the darkness, his hands in the air, though nobody could see him.

"I think we could use a bit of discrete illumination Mila? Something only we could see?" asked Yirfir.

"Do you want that in Impressionist or Early Renaissance?" Mila asked Yirfir.

"You've good taste. Your choice," Yirfir replied.

"Maybe Enlightenment then? Actually modern naturalist impressionism," Mila drew her hands into a circular weave, shaping the very fabric of reality in such a way that the particles of air became the bristles of a brush, that painted each of the thugs in the alley so as to make them visible only to her allies, and nobody else.

"Those brush strokes look a lot like those of Van Gogh?" Jasmer commented, asking Mila.

"They're a composite of the styles of the Group Of Seven, actually with a focus on Emily Carr's silhouetting style," Mila smiled.

"Fair enough. Good choice given the occasion. So. Why did you show us such hostility, when we clearly presented no such facet to you?" asked Yirfir of the alleged boss.

"We're just like any other gang, protecting our own turf here. It was you intruding on us, not us intruding on you," the boss replied.

"Our dietary preference seems to have been a factor in determining how you treated us?" asked Jasmer.

"We only needed to know if you eat from the soil, or the bone?" asked the boss.

"What if we told you that we're a bit of each," Yirfir stepped forward through Shaela's conjured shadows, while Mila's abstraction of air made sure each of them were revealed to her.

"Nobody lives that way. You're either one or the other, not both," the boss spoke into the darkness, unable to see the faces of those he was addressing, when he heard an enormous creature behind him take in a whiff of air from around him.

It was like something was smelling him. Tasting him. His very soul and essence.

"He's confused. They all are. They're a danger to each other. Its a miracle nobody got killed just now," Shaela told Yirfir, her empathy with her Shadow Cat protector had revealed their innermost secrets.

"So you would kill us for having meat stamps on our body?" asked Yirfir.

"That's a sure mark that you're with them," the boss responded.

"That would make you just as bad as them, as you say," Athandra observed.

"Are you saying that you'd eat something alive just to keep going? Something that eats and breaths just like you? Something that feels hope and pain? Then you're no better than them!" the boss stood his ground, in spite of his confusion.

Sir Manfred looked to Athandra, reminded of their conversation months ago in a small township along the border of India.

"And you've elected yourselves to decide that for everyone else, on their behalf? Then you are no better than those who force us to take the meat stamps!" Yirfir responded to the boss' challenge.

"Are you even taking that stance because that's what you truly feel?" asked Mila.

"No. Because we truly feel its right!" the boss responded.

"Or because its simply the opposite of what the rules are, more likely," Jasmer agreed with Yirfir and Mila's observations.

"If they enforced not eating meat, then you'd be in this alley killing everyone who didn't, which essentially means that you're only doing the opposite of what they tell you to do. No morality or feeling about it. You're defining your freedom simply along the lines of defiance, rather than any form of ideal," Mila nodded her head, looking to Yirfir, Jasmer and then Barris.

"Like a rebel without a cause. Just a rebel without a clue," Yirfir felt disappointed that the potential for humanity to stand in the face of totalitarianism could be so readily manipulated to simply being the opposite of the side making the rules.

"We'll be leaving you now, vegan terrorists. Keep in mind that what you're doing and the way you're doing it is no better than what you're standing against. Take our insight under advisement and correct your ways. Ask yourself what you truly mean to this world, and then live it, not because its the opposite of everyone else, but because it is your actual truth, and you understand it!" Jasmer backed up what his wife to be was saying, adding his own compass to the fold.

"As time goes on and the pressures to sustain humanity grow, so will the ways we choose to sustain ourselves. Enforcing any extremist idea upon the population from either side of that fence when it comes to issues of diet will only serve to make things worse," Athandra agreed with what Jasmer had said.

"We are ever that much closer to the call of the Totem. The one with the answers to what we seek. You have found the path of a true Canadian, however, the trail might be lost if we are not both mindful and careful to uphold that one truth," Askuwheteau put his hand on Jasmer's shoulder.

He looked to Mila and smiled.

"The Group Of Seven thanks you from their place in our path. Keep your wits about you so that you find more familiar guides to help us along the way through this land. Our land. So, where do we go next? To a place that caters to those who eat meat, or those who don't?" Askuwheteau asked them.

Shaela's Shadow Cat growled from behind the boss, licking its lips.

"That's one for the meat eaters," Askuwheteau replied.

"I'll say, but maybe, just maybe Shaela's kitty friend could be coaxed to a more moderate extreme if someone brought some catnip?" Barris added his humourous touch.

"Exactly, Barris. We go where we can all live the way we choose. The way that accepts those who eat meat, and those who don't," Athandra replied.

"Then we've taken a step closer to the Canada we all know and love, though don't be deceived. Sometimes what we think we know, isn't what we truly had. That, and I'd like a chicken burger with fries and a cola," Askuwheteau advised them.

"Then I think we should help Askuwheteau find a chicken burger, fries and a cola. Don't you?" asked Yirfir.

"I'm game for that. Just one thing, though. Where are we going to find such a place in a nuclear armed super power Canada that requires meat stamps?" asked Kensai, as Barris grabbed Mila's hand, dragging her out of the alley with him.

"Barris? Is everything alright?" asked Mila, clinging to his hand.

"Yes, perfectly. But something is different. Can't you feel it?" asked Barris.

"How so?" asked Mila as they approached another passing couple.

"Excuse me Sir. You and your fine lady wouldn't happen to be able to tell us where we can get our meat stamps, could you?" asked Barris.

"I'm sorry? Meat what?" asked the man, who looked to the woman with whom he was walking as if lost by Barris' suggestion.

"Let me say that again. Is it legal to be a vegan?" asked Barris, as Athandra followed them out of the alley.

"Of course. We can eat whatever we want. Its our right. I mean the third world war was fought over that very thing! Leading to Canada's place as a world nuclear super power! The most powerful nation in the world! Don't you remember the saying? Love freedom, eat freely, lest you want to be eaten by hatred," the man assured Barris.

"Well at least we're closer," Mila smiled to Barris.

"That we are, but with a long way to go..." Barris replied as their friends one by one emerged from the alley.

I Think, Therefore I'd Better Get A Lawyer

"I don't seem to remember Canada being so adamant about having these nationalistic dogmatic slogans and all," Nelony said, considering what the man which they'd asked about the meat stamps had said.

"The atmosphere still just doesn't feel like the Canada I remember either. There's still something that's sooo off," Yirfir walked beside Jasmer, just behind Mila and Barris out on the south side of Laurier Avenue West.

A lady walking her dog, coming from the other direction stopped and looked at Barris, a look of disgust on her face as she passed.

"How dare you!" she said to him as her dog pitched a proverbial loaf in the middle of the sidewalk.

The lady then kept going, looking back at Barris and Mila several times as she continued, tossing her empty can of soda pop directly onto the street.

"There's a dog emitted matter-horn at your twelve o'clock, Athandra," Barris warned Athandra as she walked.

"I'm sorry? What did you say?" Athandra seemed perplexed by Barris' words.

"He said there's doggy doo-doo ahead. Watch your step," Mila translated for Barris.

"Ohhh. Thank you Barris," Athandra side-stepped the pile, suddenly noticing how covered the sidewalk and streets were by garbage and pet doo.

"Tell me I'm being anal-retentive, but I certainly don't recall any city in Canada being this dirty, never mind the odd look that lady gave you Barris," Nelony remarked, carefully avoiding her garbage protracted step.

"Nelony, that's just another day in the life of Barris. An adventure every day," Mila said sarcastically.

"But she's right about this garbage. Its everywhere. This isn't anything like how I remember Canada," Barris responded to Nelony's observation.

"She's right. Not to mention, have you noticed that everyone we pass seems to be looking at us oddly. Like we did something wrong..." Jasmer added his own observation just as the Police sirens blared from around the corner, a squad car pulling up on the street beside them.

A Police Officer, wearing a peculiar looking pointed hat got out of the squad car, bearing a device similar to a smart phone in his hand. He held the device out in front of him, as if he were taking pictures or video of Mila and Barris.

"Good day Officer," Nelony responded.

"Hold still M'aam. Just another second and we'll... there. Could you all step away from that man there!" the Police Officer told them more so than asked them as he pointed at Barris.

Barris immediately put up his hands.

"It wasn't me! I swear!" Barris already began pleading his innocence before he'd even known anything about the nature of the crime.

"I'm sorry, we don't have you on record. Must be your first offence," the Police Officer examined the screen of the strange device he wielded.

"I beg to differ Sir, but the only offence there is, is mine over your accusations, because I'm innocent. At least in a matter of speaking," Barris kept his hands up, unsure of what to do in the situation.

"Sir, you thought over the legal limit. That's over sixty questionable thought infractions in a twenty zone," the Officer indicated.

"I'm sorry, but did you say thought infractions?" confirmed Barris.

"That's right. You're currently walking in a twenty zone, so you're allowed twenty thought infractions before we have to ticket you. Thirty and above, and we have to press charges," the Police Officer told Barris.

"You're arresting me for what I was thinking?" asked Barris, completely dumbfounded by the situation.

"Precisely. Now Sir, may I have your name and see some identification?" asked the Police Officer.

"So I take it that you can read my fiancé's thoughts with that device there?" asked Mila of the Police Officer.

"No M'aam. This device just connects to the MindSpice network. See the detectors? They're installed at every intersection in the city. All citizens have receptors surgically installed so they know when and what other citizens are thinking as well. We get a lot of thought crime tips, you know. The detectors detect the thoughts of citizens, and using adaptive intelligence algorithms, they calculate whether the thought qualifies as being a crime or not, though I don't really know how the whole thing operates, I only work here. My interface device here lists out the charges and includes a playback option of the thought as it occurred while in progress," the Police Officer responded.

"So if that thing can read my mind, why are you even asking me for my name?!" asked Barris, now utterly confused

"Just a formality. Besides, if you lied to us, that would be three more charges. A charge for thinking about lying, called a thought lie. A charge for actually lying, and then finally a charge for your first thought which would most certainly be an attempt to get out of the first two charges, which would be a pre-emptive thought crime," the Police Officer explained.

"Alright. Nobody think!" Barris said defensively for his friends, holding both of his hands up.

"That's easy for you to say, and likely easier for you to do I'd suspect," Sato responded sarcastically.

A speeding car suddenly drove by, and directly through a red light at the nearest intersection, barely missing a pedestrian as it drove past.

"Did you see that?" asked Sir Manfred asked of the Police Officer.

"See what?" responded the Officer.

"A car just drove through a red light! It just barely missed that poor pedestrian!" Yirfir added.

"Go figure, that's some bad luck. If she'd have been hit by that car, she'd be sittin' pretty for the rest of her life with the insurance payout, if she'd have lived. Poor girl. Some days, this job really makes you wonder," the Officer said, shaking his head as he saw the speeding car disappear into the distance.

"So what exactly are the charges against me?" asked Barris.

"Let me see..." the Officer began scrolling through the list on the handheld device.

"This thought here is the first infraction, where you hit the twenty one thought crime mark... Hmmm, not bad. Is that your fiance? She looks pretty hot naked. This thought here was about something you and her did last week involving ice cream, a spatula, and your tongues... Nice, I'll keep that one and show my wife tonight. Uhhh... this one here is... hey, that's a great joke! I have a friend who's a comedian who could use this joke in his routine. I'll run it by him and see if he wants it. There's this thought here... again, oh, that's about your fiance naked again. Uhhh, oh and this here infraction. Defecating on a public sidewalk, which you did a few minutes ago," the Police Officer.

"Officer, he didn't go on the sidewalk! That was a lady walking her dog! It was the dog that pooped on the sidewalk! Not my fiance!" Mila defended Barris.

"This thing must be on the fritz again. The detectors often get confused over whose thoughts they are receiving. So we just try to confirm with a few questions, to figure out who is more consistent with the thoughts. He doesn't appear to walk on all fours. He didn't spend the morning chewing on a rubber play toy, did he? Did your fiance have Purina Dog Chow for breakfast this morning? Didn't think so. I guess it wasn't him. As far as the real perpetrator of the doo-doo crime goes, well there's no charges against a dog publicly defecating," the Officer tapped the side of the device a couple times, attempting to fix it.

"I'll put in a work order to have the MindSpice technicians have a look at the local thought receptors, but I'm going to have to arrest you for the thought crimes," the Officer continued.

"You're going to take my innermost private thoughts and share them with your wife and friends? Never mind the moral audacity of such a thing, but wouldn't that be corruption?" Barris accused the Police Officer.

"Corruption? Ha! Fringe benefits more like. Now that you're on record, we'll know where to find you if we want to take any of your thoughts to fuel our lives or the lives of our friends. Of course, you could file a complaint against the department, but most people who even think about doing it most often just disappear. There's a lot of those files in the cold case department. A coincidence I'd say," the Officer added for his own measure.

"I refuse to comply! I'll think what I damn well want, and not be held liable for it!" Barris defied the Officer.

"Its true Officer. You cannot hold a man liable for something over which he is incapable," Sato added.

"You just let a speeder get away with nearly killing a pedestrian, but you're going to arrest someone for what they were thinking? Then you're going to use that device to browse our thoughts and take them for your own personal purposes and gains? Maybe sell our thoughts and ideas to someone else for profit? Not to mention, look at the streets! This isn't Canada. This isn't Keep Ontario Beautiful or Yours To Discover! This is Keep Canada Warm With Nukes And Toques! This is madness! Oh, I'm sorry, was I speaking too loud?" asked Barris sincerely of the Officer, as he began to raise his voice.

"That's alright Sir. I'm wearing a hearing aid. I didn't catch most of what you said," the Officer then looked at the screen of the thought monitor as his eyes widened.

"Its a thought crime epidemic!" he panicked, as the device began overflowing with thought crimes from all around the country.

"Calling all cars! Immediately begin arresting all citizens! There is a crime wave of immense proportion across this fine nuclear armed nation of ours..." the radio on the squad car ordered.

"Alright Sir, looks like you're free to go. This is a clear sign of Armageddon! I've got to get my wife and kids out of the city and flee to Lake Athabasca!" the Officer jumped in his car and sped off.

A haze began to obscure the city, and the perspective of the buildings and streets around them became hidden from their eyes as Mila found her way back to Barris. They clung to each other until the haze cleared and their vision was restored.

"This looks a tad bit better. There's way less trash and litter about the streets," Nelony said, looking around at the street.

"Just a minute. Let me test things here," Barris said, looking intensely at Mila, his eyebrows raising as he did.

"No sirens. No thought crimes. I think we're safe from the thought Police, however we'll still have to contend with Barris' twisted sense of humour," Sato responded.

"I'll take Barris exactly the way he is," Mila replied, looking into his eyes.

"You might not say that if you read my mind just now," Barris responded to Mila.

"How can you be sure that I can't?" she asked him, giving him a passionate kiss on the lips.

"Ahem," Askuwheteau stood beside Mila and Barris, tapping his feet, his arms folded impatiently.

"Oh. This is the part where Askuwheteau lets us know something changed, right?" asked Jasmer.

"You defended the right of Canadians to think freely, and in line with the Canadian way, act responsibly. You defended the land from the grievous harm caused by careless littering on our streets and in our parks and all the lands of Canada. It would seem that the land has yet changed again. Perhaps we are a step closer to what we lost?" Askuwheteau posed rhetorically to the Sanctum membership present there on Laurier Street West with him.

The pedestrians slowly returned and things appeared to return to normal, whatever that moving target may have been.

The calm peace was suddenly broken by the alarming blare or an air raid siren.

"Citizens of Canada. This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. In the event of a nuclear attack against our fine, nuclear armed nation, you will hear this warning siren. If and when you do, please immediately seek shelter in one of the nearby local underground facilities or shelters, eh? Thank you for your patience, oh and sorry if we were too loud. Hey, Ed! there at the controls. Could you turn that thing down a bit? There's Canadians out there trying to sleep, eh? Oh and save the last of dat dare poutine for me, will ya?" a voice spoke over the city wide loudspeakers.

"We're definitely getting closer, but still a ways off..." Mila said in response to the air raid warning.

"Good day citizens," a member of the RCMP rode by them on the streets, his mount? 

A saddle bearing Moose.

"Watch out for the antlers. Personal experience Constable," Shaela replied to the Mounted Policeman.

"Thanks M'aam. We're well trained in the handling of Moose," the Constable responded.

"That's definitely a lot closer, but, we've still a long way to go," Mila remarked, as she and Barris walked, leading their friends through the streets of Ottawa.

"And a long way from where we are now is where we're going..." Askuwheteau raised his hands to the sky and pronounced a single word.

The Ottawa skyscrapers around them disappeared and the scenery was replaced with mountains in the distance and the dry summer landscape of the prairies. Buildings around them slowly concealed the scenery and they once again found themselves in the darkened recesses of an alley.

The Stampede Parade

They emerged from the alley not unlike the one they'd found themselves in Ottawa, out onto a crowded street. People lined the sidewalks of a busy downtown center, yet no cars were to be found on the street. Barris spotted a confection stand offering up food.

"Anyone hungry?" asked Barris.

"Do you think that's wise? I mean we don't know how this place changed from the Canada we know," Nelony responded, drawing an approving nod from Athandra.

"When in doubt. Eat," Sato agreed with Barris.

"Thank you grouchy old man. Allow me, Mila," Barris replied to Sato, then getting in line for Mila.

Barris waited in the line, which moved quickly considering the crowd on the street. As Barris got closer to the counter, he saw that there were many others offering up food in much the same manner.

"Supply and demand are forces seriously at work here," Barris told Mila, who smiled approvingly.

"You pick," Mila asked him as Yirfir and Jasmer managed to get in line behind him.

"Are you sure you don't want to eat a helpless little clucking bird?" asked Athandra of Sir Manfred.

"I like them raw and by the handful. If you see any, let me know?" Sir Manfred replied sarcastically to Athandra.

"I think Shaela might be hiring new cats if you're interested?" Kensai joked to Sir Manfred.

"What'll it be sir?" asked the confection stand server.

"What do you have?" asked Barris.

"We have it all. Hotdogs and sausages. Beef. Chicken. Pork. Tofu. Pop and juice. What'll it be?" asked the server.

"I'll take a Tofu dog, and two Chicken dogs please," Barris paid the man in Canadian money.

"If you wouldn't mind could you tell us where we are?" asked Barris as the server prepared his order.

"Where else? We're at 9th Ave West and 10th. The parade route. Why there's so many people here?" the server told Barris.

"A parade? What kind of parade?" asked Barris.

"Why the Stampede of course! A long standing tradition here in Calgary, and a great place to bring the kids and see the Canadian Nuclear Arsenal at the same time!" the server handed the hot dogs to Barris.

"The one on the left is tofu. Enjoy!" the server turned to Yirfir and Jasmer.

"Oh thank you honey. This looks delicious," Mila accepted the fully loaded tofu dog.

"Thank you, Barris. I'm considering that I might not have you arrested for elderly abuse," Sato accepted the chicken dog.

"Thank you good man. As a gesture of good will, I'll consider not pushing you out into oncoming traffic during the course of this adventure," Barris replied, as Mila smiled.

"This food is just incredible!" Mila said as she finished a bite of her tofu dog.

"Yes it does hit the spot, but this doesn't answer how we're going to disarm Canada," Jasmer replied.

"Well we're about to get our first glimpse of a nuclear armament parade..." Barris responded to Jasmer's comment.

"Perhaps there's something to this parade then?" Yirfir asked.

"Its the Calgary Stampede. A traditional western Canadian culture celebration centered around ranching and horse handling," Barris said as he recalled a blurb he'd read about it online weeks earlier.

As the words left his mouth, there was a sudden silence from the crowd around him.

"What?" Barris looked around, oblivious about what he'd said that was so taboo.

"Don't mention horses to us again!" one of the people nearest Barris said to him.

"We lost a lot of good citizens to horses. We was winding up to having a Stampede without them, when you brought it up!" one of the other citizens, an older woman scolded Barris.

"The only good horse is a dead horse!" another one said.

"So I take it there's no My Little Pony colouring books here?" asked Barris, the last bite of his hot dog half chewed.

"I say we flog him!" another one of the crowd responded.

"No need for violence. We've already lost so many to horses," responded another one of the crowd.

"How did you lose people to horses? I mean they're peaceful creatures that have helped humanity so much!" Nelony asked some of the people.

"I don't know to which horses you're referring, because I ain't never seen a peaceful horse. They're vicious, voracious and absolutely merciless creatures! Why I seen a pack of wild horses run down and eat an entire elephant!" a man with a long droopy moustache exclaimed.

"Elephants? There ain't no elephants in Canada!" the lady who'd calmed the crowd down responded to the man's story.

"Not after the horses ate 'em all," the droopy mustachioed man replied.

"Are you sure you're not talking about Sharks?" confirmed Barris in disbelief to what they were saying.

"Sharks? They're like the most peaceful creatures in the trees!" the elderly woman responded.

"We're definitely a long way from the world we knew," Barris said, examining his hot dog closely before eating the last bite.

In the distance, the sound of a marching band approaching could be heard.

"The parade's here! Ok people! Get the children up front so they can get a glimpse of those nuclear weapons keeping our country free!" one of the crowd responded, as all attention directed towards Barris suddenly turned away to the parade.

Mila and Barris made their way closer to the street as the parade arrived. As they'd seen in Ottawa, the riding animal of choice was the Moose, and many who rode in the parade were mounted on just such beasts.

Many of the bucks had their antlers elaborately decorated, while others' antlers had been trimmed for the safety reasons. There were big moose. Tiny too. There were moose with their antlers painted, and moose painted onto the sides of cars and buses, but the one thing that could not be found were horses.

"This just doesn't feel right!" Barris said.

Despite the troubles he'd had becoming accustomed to horseback riding during their adventures in 1654, he still desperately missed the animals.

"I can't believe they're monsters!" Barris said aloud.

"Perhaps something happened that led this way?" asked Athandra.

"The partnership between people and horses is a long established one. Humanity could never have flourished the way it did without them. Yet, here we are in an alternate version of reality. One in which the relationship between people and horses never flourished," Jasmer watched as the parade passed.

From the appearances, the domestication of moose was never really perfected, because even the trained creatures would often stray from their path, the rider struggling to gain the creature's trust again. Even in the parade this was the case, but as with most of these changes, the people just seemed to accept them. After all, from their point of view, this was their way of life.

After the band and moose patrol had passed, the weapons convoy arrived. Each of the wheeled and tracked carriers displayed an immense array of tactical and strategic nuclear weapons. Each painted with the Canadian flag prominently on its fuselage.

"Diefenbaker is probably rolling in his grave right now," Mila said, recalling her history lessons about the former Prime Minister of Canada.

"Pearson too, I'd be willing to bet," Barris added.

Somewhere along the way, they'd ended up in this timeline. And were dumbfounded about how they might find their way back.

"I've always been proud of our armed forces, but the Canada I know isn't a nuclear superpower. Building super-guns or weapons of mass destruction. It just doesn't seem right. I seem to remember Canada's diplomatic strength through the trust it had earned throughout the globe. The peace keepers. The progressive thinkers. The artists and philosophers. Those with the courage to say what needed to be said, when it needed to be heard," Mila continued.

"Perhaps simply by pondering these things you're getting closer to them?" asked Sir Manfred asked.

"Every journey begins with a direction, and every intended destination is arrived at with a goal. A direction. A compass," Jasmer remembered the Canada he knew.

The group pondered these machinations as the world around them became silent. Then without warning, calamity suddenly arrived.

"Horse attack! Run for your lives! The horses are attacking!" someone screamed as pandemonium broke out.

"What now?!" asked Barris, looking around panicked.

"Start by keeping your compass on retaining the contents of your bladder. There's nothing quite like seeing a grown man wet his pants," Sato remarked sarcastically.

"I take it you've experience in these matters my senior friend?" asked Barris, responding in a desperate attempt to retain the last shreds of his dignity.

In the distance they heard the sound of hooves and screams.

"We can't just run! We've got to do something! These people need us!" Nelony shouted above the sound of the turmoil.

"Nelony. We're dealing with a ravenous pack of carnivorous horses. Something I've never seen, but something I'm absolutely regretful about having enough imagination to fill in the details. If you want to do something, then lead the way!" Barris said standing protectively in front of Mila.

"Uhhhhh. Horses get spooked easily..." Nelony responded.

"That's right. I remember a class I took where we studied the biology of horses. The curvature of a horses eye lenses mean they perceive things as being bigger than they really are..." Mila informed them.

"Yes but these creatures have lived in the wild, and adapted to this, obviously as carnivores. That might not mean a thing!" Nelony responded.

"At least its something! Lets go with it!" Mila replied, working up the weave between her hands.

"Alright. But you're backing me up!" Nelony floated into the air, summoning a pack of herd dogs and border collies around her.

"Lets go coral us some carnivorous horses!" she said as she floated in the direction of the screams, a pack of dogs barking happily behind her.

"I'm going honey!" Mila looked to Barris.

"Then so am I," Barris replied, running cover for her.

"I'd better go and make sure he doesn't end up in trouble," Sato said, following him.

"I guess that means we're with them," Yirfir added, as her and Jasmer accompanied them.

"Just go easy on the horses," Athandra said to Sir Manfred and Kensai, who took up either side of her.

"I'm just grateful they're not carnivorous chickens," Sir Manfred responded to her.

"Yes. That would be a case of poetic justice, wouldn't it?" she replied.

"As much so as an army of carnivorous plants," Kensai added. 

"Don't wait for us!" Xushu said, suddenly disappearing as his sister Xenshi floated into the air following them.

Nelony floated down 10th Avenue in the direction of the oncoming horse stampede. The crowd had dispersed in either direction, fleeing into alleys and back streets hoping to get away from the mass of horses that had converged upon the Calgary parade. Behind her, the dogs ran in pursuit, their enthusiastic barking giving her a shred of hope.

"Alright. Here goes," Nelony said to herself, half hoping that Mila could hear her.

The horses appeared, rounding a corner on 10th Avenue, a trail of dust behind them. Terrifying whinnies and nickers sent shivers up Mila's spine, as Barris did his best to conceal his fear.

"This might have been a bad idea," Barris spoke when he saw the mass of animals.

"Don't abandon me now!" Mila replied.

"Not on your life, or mine for that matter," Barris replied, staying close to her.

Nelony directed the dogs, who fearlessly approached the oncoming stampede. They stopped, setting up a barking wall that stretched across 10th Avenue, attempting to careen them into a smaller side street.

The horses didn't slow as they approached, and seemed to show no fear of the dogs.

"Oh boy. This isn't good," Nelony said as she floated above the scene.

"Let me try something!" Mila shouted, hoping Nelony could hear her.

Mila's hands wound up, channeling the weave as the air around her began to shimmer and come to life. The daytime air began to form into a visage, depicting a large cloud of poppies and butterflies, which covered 10th Avenue.

The butterflies came to life, an immense cloud of them as if from a painting, and took flight towards the horses.

The wild pack of horses had nearly arrived at the dogs, when the butterflies arrived. Upon seeing the immense cloud of butterflies, the horses careened away from the dogs and into the side street they'd intended to direct the herd. Twenty or thirty stray horses made it through the line of dogs, nipping at them as they passed. The dogs dodged, keeping their distance from the vicious animals as they continued their charge directly at Mila and Barris.

By that point, the breakaway horses had made it through the cloud of butterflies, and there was nothing to stop them from trampling Mila and Barris.

"Honey!?" Mila backed up behind Barris.

"Its alright! We'll get through this..." Barris stood defiantly as the horses charged at him, their nostrils flaring.

"Mila? Grab onto me and hold on tight!" he said to her.

She didn't waste a moment, and immediately wrapped her arms around him, clinging to him with all the force she could muster.

As the first horse approached, Barris side stepped it slightly, grabbing hold of its mane and gripping with all of his might. Miraculously, he managed to hang on and had pulled both him and Mila atop the horses bare back, riding hanging onto the horse's mane.

"Arrrrghhhhh! Help!" screamed Barris as Mila clung onto him.

The other horses following the mounted on upon which Mila and Barris sat, bit at Mila as they got close to them.

"They're going get eaten!" Sato said, asking for assistance from the others.

"Allow me!" Shaela said, directing her Shadow Cat after the horses pursuing Mila and Barris.

The Shadow Cat, nearly three times the size of the largest of horses quickly put itself between the mini-herd and Mila and Barris' horse. It hissed at the horses, who suddenly turned and fled the other way.

Yirfir, Athandra, Jasmer, Sir Manfred and Kensai watched as Mila and Barris rode by on the back of a carnivorous horse. No saddle or stirrups to keep them.

"Howww do we stop this thing!" Barris yelled as he hung on tight.

"That's the question of the day!" Yirfir said, struggling to come up with a solution.

Meanwhile, back where Nelony had careened the greater part of the herd, off of 10th Avenue and down a side street, from nearby buildings, the former moose riders watched from second story windows as the herd crowded into the street, nearly coming to a stop.

A small crowd had become trapped at the end of the street between the parade barriers and the oncoming horses. Women and children screamed as the ravenous herd of horses approached, ready to devour them all.

From over one of the parade barriers, a man mounted on a horse jumped. It was Askuwheteau on his horse Otaa Dabun.

Askuwheteau positioned himself and his horse between the oncoming herd and the trapped onlookers.

He then charged at the herd, screaming in his native tongue of Ojibwe.

The former moose riders, who looked on from the windows, saw the solitary man on horseback.

"Look at that guy! He's riding a horse like its a moose!"

"Well I'll be!" another one of the spectators looked on.

"I'll bet we could do that!" said one of the other riders.

"Naaaw! Too dangerous!" another replied.

"Remember your bareback moose training? Well it could work here!" one of the other riders said.

"Are you crazy!?" asked another.

"I'm not going to stand by and let those people get trampled and eaten by them horses!" the first rider said, opening the window and jumping out, directly onto the back of one of the horses.

"By Joe, he did it!" one of those watching from the window remarked.

"If I don't make it, I'll see ya'll at the rodeo eh?" another one of the riders jumped out the window, landing squarely on the back of another one of the horses.

Soon, they all followed suit, and the vast majority of them made it, while a few of them got a bump, scrape and a sprain or two.

As the last of the crowd ran and tried to escape from the stampeding horses, these newly mounted horseback riders charged in on the back of their newly acquired steeds.

"Alright, I'm guessing we can coral them up in the stadium, and keep 'em there until we decide what to do with them," one of the riders directed his fellows on horseback.

"What else are we going to do with them? Can't you see? This was just meant to be!" one of the other riders responded.

Askuwheteau led the band riders, who then encircled the wild horses and steered them onto a detour into the stadium, where they trapped them on the field.

Meanwhile, Barris had managed to calm his horse enough to steer it and they met up with Askuwheteau and Otaa Dabun just outside of the city stadium.

"It was a pleasure to ride with you again Mr. Costner, as it was to ride with all of you Calgary Stampeders," Askuwheteau nodded to the riders.

"Looks like these horses are calming down. I haven't been bitten yet. Not to mention I just saw one of the other riders feed one of them an apple!" Barris said.

"My hero! Well then, let me bite you," Mila kissed the back of Barris' neck.

"The people and the horse. It was meant to be that they would work together as one. When there were no horseless carriages, it was only the horses, the people and the land. We are here today and at this great capacity because of them. We are also much closer to the Canada that you knew," Askuwheteau said as the atmosphere somehow changed.

The panic of only moments ago was replaced with the safe arrival of the parade, and the start of the festivities of the Calgary Stampede. People were smiling and laughing. Eating their hot dogs and their ice cream cones. Children were laughing and playing with the deer fauna and foals. Most of all, the communion between people and horses was once again as it had always been.

"Now. Can someone tell me what I should do with all of these dogs, now that I've summoned them here?" Nelony asked.

"These dogs are heroes! We'll take 'em and take good care of them too!" one of the animal handlers offered Nelony.

"Good day M'aam," a Mountie said to Shaela as he passed from atop of his horse.

"Good to see you on horseback again," Shaela replied with a wink.

"Why, what were you expecting me to be riding, a moose?" he smiled back at her.

"Imagine that, people riding mooses! Ha!" Barris began to joke.

"Watch it there lover boy, unless you want to spend the rest of your life with a pair of antlers," Shaela responded.

"Still a sensitive spot, isn't it?" Mila replied.

"Slightly," Shaela agreed.

"Where to next on this journey?" asked Mila asked her friends.

"It would seem that we're at the whim of something that is showing us the way," Yirfir noted.

As if on cue, the area surrounding them faded from their vision and they were once again displaced to another location. Another place a great distance away.

The Yearning. The Learning. The Gurney.

When they appeared, they were startled by the sound of speeding traffic and quickly realized that they were in the midst of a highway.

"What in the blazes? Lookout!" Barris pushed Mila out of the way, only to be impacted by the car head-on himself.

He was thrown into the air, and landed on the pavement a good twenty feet away, unconscious and possibly broken.

"I'm sorry! I didn't see him! I swear!" the driver got out of the car, pleading with Mila.

"Barris!" Mila said, running to his lifeless body.

Another car quickly pulled over and the driver got out, offering his assistance.

"My name's Cal, I'm a Doctor, is there anything I can do?" a man in his early forties addressed Mila and her friends.

"He's over here! He's unconscious! He was hit by that car!" Mila said, directing the Doctor to Barris.

"Let me check him," the Doctor checked Barris for respiration and a pulse.

"Hmmm. He's breathing and his heart seems fine. Card?" asked the Doctor, holding up what looked like a credit card reader in his hand.

"...Card? Oh, you mean OHIP. Yes. I have his in my purse. Just a minute..." Mila said fishing through her purse and pulling Barris' OHIP card from within.

She inserted it into the card reader, examining the screen after doing so. The screen blinked a few times, displaying the words: Error Bad Card.

"Should be good, he just got it a couple of months ago," Mila remarked.

"Here, let me see?" Cal asked for the card.

He examined it, puzzled by its unfamiliar looks.

"I don't know where you got this... uhhhh?" Cal began.

"Mila. I'm Mila," Mila replied.

"I don't know where you got this card Mila. I've never seen it. Is it interac? Does it have a credit limit?" Cal asked her.

"No. Its not a credit card. Its a provincial health insurance card!" Mila responded.

"Oh. I see. This is like identification. Oh. No, I only take credit or debit payments," Cal said.

"He might be dying! Are you just going to ignore the Hippocratic oath?! What kind of Doctor are you!?" Mila responded, in shock.

"...Mila... What..." Barris mumbled, deliriously conscious.

"Huh?" Cal raised his eyebrows extending the card reader, looking to Mila.

Mila looked to Barris, and then back to Cal.

"Oh damn you! Alright!" Mila started fishing through her purse for her wallet as another car pulled up and the driver stepped out.

"You haven't paid this man yet, have you?" asked the driver of the newly arrived car.

"No. Not yet," Mila responded.

"I'm Mikey. I'm also a Doctor. Whatever offer he made you, I'll do it for ten percent less!" Mickey responded to Mila.

"I'll undercut Mikey by fifteen!" Cal returned.

"Twenty percent!" Mikey added.

Mila started advancing at Mikey, who'd pulled out and extended his own card reader.

"Wait! Twenty-five percent! No lower!" Cal replied.

Mikey's face cringed, realizing he'd reached his negotiation limit.

"What's a matter? Can't you go twenty-five percent too?" asked Mila.

"He was here first, so technically if its a draw, he wins. Province rules," Mickey replied pocketing his card reader. He then jumped back into his car, and drove away.

"I can't believe you men! Its not like I'm having a car towed. That's my fiancé lying there on the pavement!" Mila said, inserting her credit card into the card reader.

"Let's just get the billing started so I can help him," Cal replied as Mila authorized the payment.

"Good choice, M'aam, I mean Mila. Alright, let's get your fiance off the pavement and back to his regular daily life," Cal replied, giving Mila her credit card back and pocketing his card reader.

Cal immediately stepped over to Barris.

"Ahem. I'm a Doctor," Cal cleared his throat loudly to Athandra and Yirfir, who'd already started examining Barris carefully for any broken bones.

Athandra and Yirfir stood and stepped away from Barris. Athandra returned to Kensai and Sir Manfred while Yirfir joined Jasmer, Nelony and Shaela.

"We were only trying to help," Athandra said.

"And that is truly appreciated, but I have to help this man," Cal said, taking Barris' pulse again, checking his watch.

"Sir? Do you feel any sharp piercing pain in any part of your body?" asked the Doctor.

"...my left leg... my shin... I think its broken..." Barris said, pushing his energy to the limits.

"Uhhhh sir? Can you move your arms for me?" asked Cal of Barris.

"His name is Barris," Mila corrected him.

"Barris? Can you?" Cal asked again.

"I...think sooo..." Barris responded, moving both of them slowly and somewhat painfully.

"Very good! Now, can you move your right leg for me?" asked Cal.

"Uuuuungh!" Barris said, struggling to move his leg.

"Very good Barris!" Cal pulled out a lollipop out of his pocket and gave it to Barris.

"Are you mocking me or something?" Barris asked, somewhat shocked by the way he was being treated.

"What kind of Doctor are you?" asked Mila.

"I'm a Pediatrist! And let me tell you that Barris is one smart kid!" Cal said, patting Barris on the head.

"Doctor, you do realize that he just turned 29?" Mila told Cal.

"Are you saying that my fiancé is a cradle robber just because she's two years older than me?" asked Barris of the Doctor.

"No. I'm saying that you're never too old to get good treatment from a Doctor. That and most of my bedside manner was tending to preschoolers," Cal replied, examining Barris' leg.

"I have to admit that was a nice touch with the lollipop, though. I rather liked that," Barris remarked.

"You know Bernice, I've been telling my peers in Geriatrics the same thing for years," Cal responded thoughtfully.

"He's Barris! Not Bernice," Mila corrected Cal again.

"I'm sorry about that Mary. I'm not very good with names," Cal replied pulling his smartphone from his pocket.

"Yes. I'm going to need an Ambumblance on Highway Eleven just south of Crimson King Way," Cal spoke into the phone.

"Doctor Cal Carson. Pediatrist," Cal continued.

"Great, we'll see you shortly," Cal responded, looking to Mila and hanging up his phone.

"Mila, your fiancé's going to live," Cal said proudly.

"Oh thank you so much. I'm glad to hear that, but he only has a broken leg I hope?" asked Mila.

"Its not an actual break. Its what we in the medical field like to call a stress fracture of the tibia. But don't thank me Mila. I was just doing my duty as a licensed medical practitioner," Cal said, shaking both of Mila's hands.

"Well thank you anyways. I mean you did..." Mila began as Cal interrupted her.

"You'll be billed for my services to the sum of twelve hundred dollars," Cal told her.

"What! I mean you just examined him quickly. Gave him a lollipop and then patted him on the head! What about our OHIP?" Mila asked Cal, confused at this point.

"Look Mila, I don't care if you're hippies or not, I have kids of my own to feed you know. If you need to arrange payments, then you're going to have to talk to your credit card company.

"Don't get me wrong Doctor, I appreciate what you did, but..." Mila started.

"Mila my good lady, the damage is already done. I must go, for I may have another call to tend to this very night on this very highway. You see, a Doctor's duty is never really done," Cal said dramatically as he got into his car and drove off.

"You'll be alright right Mila?" asked Nelony.

"Of course I will. Its not the money. Its the principle," Mila said kneeling beside Barris.

"Go on without me Mila. You almost lost me once and I fear that I must depart now..." Barris said dramatically.

"The Doctor says you're going to be fine," Mila said, rubbing his head and then stealing the lollipop from his mouth before popping it into her own.

"I am? I knew that," Barris responded, leaning his head back down into Mila's lap just as three ambulances pulled up, coming to a stop off to the side of the highway.

"Hi. Somebody here needin' an ambulance, dare by?" a uniformed bearded man stepped out of the first ambulance, a lady who'd gotten out of the passenger's seat by his side.

"I don't know Harold, something tells me its the guy laying on laying on the pavement, there? Might be?" the lady responded.

"Eileen, never a day goes by where ya don't nag me. Damned Cape Bretoners always showing me up, eh? So who might be needin' the lift in the dead bed?" Harold asked, looking first to Mila, and then everyone else.

"Are you driving a hearse? I'm still alive!" Barris responded, clearly upset and twisting his neck trying to see behind himself.

"Honey, let me handle this," Mila drove the lollipop back in his mouth.

"Are you taking notes yet?" Jasmer said to Yirfir, winking.

"Careful. I just might arrange such an accident for you just so you'll know," Yirfir replied.

"I thought Canada had well funded Universal Health Care?" asked Nelony.

"I thought the same thing! You know, as an exchange student in Manitoba, I once injured my ankle and I was covered by the Health Insurance, even with my being an exchange student," Athandra noted.

"Universal Health Care? Health Insurance? OHIP? Now that there is ancient history. You're talking about something that died nearly twenty years ago when the country completely privatized Health Care. And the CBC. Now I can't go anywhere on the Canadian web without being bombarded by CBC ads and banners. Mostly that Don Cherry AI commentary on the current state of hockey and This Hour Has 22 Seconds. Of course the latter is in syndication all over the world thanks to its short-play format," an older ambulance driver, one in his early sixties, stepped over to Mila and her friends.

"I told you dey were just part of dem dare hippies gang," Harold turned to his Cape Bretoner partner.

"He said OHIP. It used to be Ontario's Government Run Health Care Insurance," Eileen replied.

"OHIP? Oh? That? I remember dat. I was just a wee tyke back then. When Canada was kind of lost. Back when only one ambulance would show up to the scene of an accident or injury. Now we get at least three, and dare's some good old competition for dat dare nearly deceased customer!" Harold responded.

"And for a small fee, we can revive them, with addons as well," Eileen added.

"In an air conditioned environment. Conductive Felt padded defibrillators rather than the old metal contact ones. We've also a selection of great resuscitation music to choose from as well. Imagine being shot back into the land of the living with the tune Live Forever By Queen? Or how about the song Thank You by Alannis Morisette? For our neighbours to the south who happen to be resuscitated here in our Canadian borders we have the theme song from Welcome Back Kotter," Harold continued.

"I picked that one actually. 'Cause I knew a friend in Maine whose grandparents used to watch that show on the television. He was a writer or something like that," Eileen admitted.

"So you're telling me that you've replaced the Canadian Health Care System with a bunch of addons and bells and whistles to make the transition to privatization more enjoyable?" Barris spoke so loudly that he launched the lollipop from his mouth.

Shaela, having reflexes like a cat, caught the lollipop in mid flight by the handle, and handed it to Mila.

"Does he deserve it?" Shaela asked Mila.

"I certainly think so," Mila responded, taking a few mouthfuls of it herself before placing it in his mouth like a pacifier.

He sucked on it silently, mumbling something without opening his mouth before falling into a slumber.

"So what do we do, mysterious old man?" asked Mila of the elderly driver.

"You pick from one of our three ambulance services, based on our pricing and the features you'd like to include for Mr. Barris' trip to the nearest hospital, which would be Southlake Regional Health Centre," the old man responded, dangling the keys of the ambulance in his hand.

"So you're going to have to make a choice is what Old Timer is saying there, eh," Eileen told Mila.

"Excuse me, but could we get to the part where I pay and get my fiancé back? Healthy and in one piece, preferably?" Mila interrupted them all, getting right to the point.

"Alright. If you'd like the plush gurney option, that'll run you an extra fifty dollars. If you'd prefer a gurney with off-road tires and posi-traction, that'll run you another hundred and fifty. We're also licensed by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, so if want access to the bar during the trip, that'll run ya another hundred. We have our own DJ service too, which we can playback through the ambulance's sound system. You can add a light show to that option as well. Without the light show, its an additional fifty. With, its seventy five. So whaddya say dare eh?" asked Harold.

"What about the cost of the trip?" asked Mila.

"Old Timer dare costs a hundred for the trip, but you'll take twice as long to get dare, 'cuz he tends to drive slow. Ambulance number three's service is a hundred and twenty. While Eileen and I charge a hundred and ten. All of us have the same addons, give or take a few," Harold continued to explain.

"Alright. I'll take yours..." Mila told Harold.

"With the plush gurney!" Barris said, once again the lollipop firing out of his mouth like a bazooka, prompting Shaela to once again catch it by the handle.

"...with the plush gurney," Mila added, accepting the lollipop from Shaela.

"Plush gurney it is. Let us get yer boy dare loaded up and we'll be on our way," Harold said, walking with Eileen around to the back of the ambulance as the other two ambulances departed.

A moment later they walked out from the back of the ambulance with a plush gurney which as it turned out was just a plush covered sheet pulled over the mattress. They quickly loaded Barris onto the gurney and into the back of the ambulance.

"You're coming with us I take it?" asked Eileen who sat in the back, tending to Barris.

"Yes. I guess so," Mila replied, stepping up into the ambulance and popping the rest of the lollipop into Barris' mouth.

"We'll meet you at the hospital," Shaela said to Mila, winking once as she spoke.

"Alright. Thanks. All of you," Mila smiled as the ambulance rear door closed.

Harold drove off with Mila, Eileen and Barris in the back as Shaela, Nelony, Athandra, Yirfir, Xenshi, Jasmer, Kensai, Sir Manfred, Askuwheteau, Sato and Xushu stepped off of the road and walked a ways into the forest beyond.

There, in the midst of an opening in the forest, Shaela began her summoning ritual. The forest leaves spun and spiraled into a mini-twister whose axis followed the minute opening in the air that had formed near Shaela's hands. The opening grew, emitting an spectrum of coloured light as the mini-twister suddenly died, as the air pressure difference between the entry portal and the exit portal was minimal.

"I don't know this place very well, so there's no telling how far off we'll end up from the hospital, or even if it will close," Shaela informed them.

"I guess we'll have to take our chances then, won't we?" Yirfir looked to her peers, who all nodded in agreement.

"We're not going in there! We'll go our own way, won't we sister?" asked Xushu of his spirit sister Xenshi.

"I'm sure their way is safe, but it would be best if we went our own way so that we have a better chance of at least one of our groups getting to the hospital to meet them," Xenshi responded.

"Otaa Dabun!" Askuwheteau yelled into the night.

A moment later, another portal opened and a tremendous steed jumped out and trotted over to Askuwheteau, and whinnied.

"Otaa Dabun says, it is a fifteen minute ride to the hospital from here," Askuwheteau told them.

"How does she even know that, she's a horse?" asked Shaela.

"Otaa Dabun knows everywhere in North America," Askuwheteau told them as he mounted the horse.

"Alright, we'll meet you there," Yirfir told him.

"And don't get into any accidents unless you have a credit card and with a high limit," Jasmer added.


Eileen and Harold wheeled the gurney through the hospital doors as Mila followed, already fishing her credit card out of her wallet again, just in case.

The hospital was filled with banner advertising on huge LED screens, leaving no wall space uncovered. There were ads about different competing medical implements, such as bandages and saline solution. There were ads about the various addons you could purchase to make your hospital stay more pleasant. There were ads about the different staffing agencies that provided the employees at the hospital itself, on a demand basis. These agencies competed with one another, and the hospital itself was populated by the employees from no less than six such agencies, all who competed against one another to ensure their agency received the most work. Sometimes, they even sabotaged the medical work done by other agencies in order to improve their chances of receiving more work.

As Eileen arrived at the desk, she spoke the receptionist.

"We've got a stress fracture here in his tibia. Not too bad, but we have to get some x-rays for sure and see if it might need a splint," Eileen told the receptionist.

"Well he's going to be waiting for some time eh. We've got a big backlog tonight," the receptionist told Eileen, Mila overhearing.

"How long?" asked Mila.

"Three weeks," the receptionist replied.

"Three weeks?! You expect him to live on a gurney..." Mila began.

"...plush gurney..." Barris said calmly, still laying on his back.

"...a plush gurney for three weeks!?" Mila glared at the receptionist.

"Of course, you could pay for the VIP service addon and that would cut it down significantly," the receptionist responded.

"Significantly? Like how much time would it cut it down?" Mila asked.

"By two weeks," the receptionist replied tritely.

"So your telling me that my fiancé here has to wait a week, just to get x-rays and a splint for his leg?" asked Mila.

"Well Miss, you could just go to medical school yourself, graduate successfully, buy an x-ray machine and a splint kit, and do it yourself, assuming that you're not related or married at the time you perform such service. Of course that would take you five years and given the current market rate for medical school and an x-ray machine, cost you about half a million dollars," the receptionist responded, clearly having cornered Mila.

Mila smirked at the receptionist, who smiled back politely, making Mila that much more angry.

"So this is how its going to be!" Mila replied.

Eileen winked at Mila, gesturing for to follow. Eileen stepped away from the reception desk and over to an unoccupied corner of the emergency waiting room with Mila.

"You could bribe one of the Doctors you know. I think that's what the receptionist was trying to get at. Just like there's an above ground market system in the modern medical system, there's also an underground economy as well. Some of the staff purposely impose long waits just to lure business for the underground economy, like buying black-market medicine or bribing Nurses and Doctors. I ain't sayin' its right, but sometimes its the only way, eh" Eileen advised Mila.

"I see. Who would I talk to about that? Would you know?" asked Mila.

"Harold knows more than I do. He might be able to setup the bribe for you. If that's what you want to do," Eileen confirmed that Mila wanted to walk down this road.

"What choice do I have?" Mila asked rhetorically.

"Its cheaper than paying for a week's worth of meals from the hospital, not to mention the gurney rental, sponge baths and overnight fee for your fiancé," Eileen told Mila.

"Alright. I have no choice then. I'll do it," Mila told Eileen.

"I'll get Harold. He'll help you get through this," Eileen left, going to the ambulance to where Harold was nursing a coffee.

A moment later, Harold was approaching Mila.

"I heard dat you need help with something dare?" Harold asked, taking a swig of his coffee.

"I need to... bribe a Doctor... to x-ray my fiance's leg and apply a splint. How much?" asked Mila.

"Oh, you need dat ting dare called a line bump, eh. Well, line bumps are priced in a standard way ya see. Fifty bucks per day you want yer wait cut down," Harold told Mila.

"So I have to pay three hundred and fifty dollars just to get seen now?" Mila said, on the brink of frustration.

"Oh, so you did get the VIP addon den?" Harold confirmed.

"No. Oh... So I have to pay one thousand and fifty dollars to get a line bump, right?" asked Mila.

"You're pretty good with math dare, eh. Uhhh dat would it. Numbers were never my ting eh. That's on my fodder's side of da fence. Like my Uncle Harry. He was an engineer, eh," Harold nodded, looking up as he tried to do the numbers in his head but not quite getting it.

"I'll do it. Lets just go with it," Mila said, frustratedly.

"Alright, I'll get the Doctor that we need, and he'll accept your money..." Harold said, making his way off into the hospital.

A few minutes later, he returned with a Doctor, a middle aged man with a receding hairline.

"Hi I'm Doctor Fredericks. I understand you've got a patient here that needs help?" he asked Mila.

"Oh, how nice of you to come and see us in such a timely manner Doctor. Yes. Its my fiancé. He's on that ...plush... gurney right there," Mila directed him as she walked over to Barris' gurney, waving and mouthing thank you to Harold as he left.

"Well lets go take a look at his case," Doctor Fredericks grabbed Barris' case file from the reception desk, while Mila smirked again at the receptionist.

The Doctor examined his case file, turning the pages a few times and then turned to Mila to speak.

"Alright we're going to need to get some x-rays which will..." Doctor Fredericks began.

"How much?" Mila jumped right to the point.

"For a frontal tibia series, about a hundred bucks, but I'll cut you deal seeing as you're bringing us a lot of business today. I'll reduce the series to two x-rays, and charge you twenty-five dollars. That sound fair?" asked Doctor Fredericks.

"On top of the one-thousand and fifty right? Deal!" Mila replied, on the borderline between frustration and calm.

"Lets get that done," Doctor Fredericks had an intern push Barris' gurney to the medical imaging wing as Mila followed.


Shaela, Nelony and Yirfir were the first to step out of the portal, landing safely and gently on the sidewalk.

"Where are we?" asked Nelony.

"I'm trying figure that out," Shaela replied, able to see in night-time as if it were day.

"Well there's a sign here," Yirfir responded.

"Look, there's a building down there. With all the lights and signs on it. See it?" asked Nelony as Athandra, Jasmer, Kensai, Sato and Sir Manfred emerged from the portal.

"I see it. Lets check it out. We might be able to get our bearings better from there," Shaela agreed.

"You ladies discover anything?" asked Jasmer.

"We're going to that building over there with all the lights. Looks like its in a housing district," Yirfir replied.

"Yeah. That's strange. Maybe a concert?" Kensai asked.

"Could be a temple of some kind," Athandra added.

"Well if we get busy walking there, we'll figure it out more quickly than we will from here," Sir Manfred suggested.

"Sound logic. I think Shaela and Yirfir already have the right idea," Jasmer agreed already following.

"Or bird lady could talk to one of her feathered friends and ask if it could do some spying for us," Sato suggested.

"Birds don't work that way. Besides, I think I'd have trouble finding any at this time of night. They're all sleeping," Nelony followed Shaela and Yirfir.

After ten minutes walking they finally arrived at the front of the building, which it seemed that even at this time of night, was buzzing with activity.

"A school?" asked Athandra, in shock.

"Not just any school. Its 24/7 Pay Per School," Nelony added to Athandra's observation.

"Maybe we can get directions to the hospital inside?" suggested Athandra.

"I'm with Athandra," Yirfir agreed.

"Seems like the best idea," Jasmer followed suit.

They began their journey up the front steps to the front door of 24/7 Pay Per School.

The front doors of the school, were proximity detecting automatic sliding doors. They slid open as the group approached, giving them the feeling that they were stepping into a grocery store rather than a school.

"Is that Muzak I'm hearing?" asked Nelony, cupping a hand to her ear as she walked towards the reception desk.

"One and the same. Probably designed to keep women who have regular conversations with birds and cats from coming in," Sato responded to Nelony's remark.

"Watch it, you Voldemart clone! I talk to cats," Shaela responded to Sato.

"They're probably much better conversationalists than our chrome dome friend here," Nelony added.

"Excuse me Miss. You would happen to be able to tell us where Southlake Regional Health Centre might be? We have friend who was just taken to the emergency room," Jasmer asked the receptionist.

"Are you sure you don't have time for a short jaunt into one of our classes? We're offering a huge 35% discount off our hourly rate, unless of course you'd like to pay by the day?" the receptionist asked.

"What kind of classes do you teach here?" asked Yirfir, curious given her experiences in overseeing the Sanctum's Education Curriculum for many years.

"Everything and anything from fundamental credit courses such as Math and English, to full Degree programs including many Master's Degree programs. If you check that touchscreen terminal, you'll see a list of what we offer," the receptionist gestured towards a terminal screen, whose screen was rotated away from them.

Yirfir spun the screen around, and began browsing the courses one by one. They were broken down into categories based upon the kind of accreditation, followed by the subject. As the receptionist had stated, there were a vast multitude of courses and many, many vacancies.

"What happened to the Public School System?" asked Yirfir.

"Oh, that old fossil? It went extinct around the same time that the Health Care system did. They were getting a little long in the teeth, eh. So one fine day, we woke up to a series of reforms that eliminated the entire educational and healthcare systems, freeing up billions in tax money for the Government to spend on things like nuclear missiles and uranium enrichment programs," the receptionist smiled a gleamingly perfect smile.

"That must have had quite an effect on the unemployment rate?" Jasmer asked.

"Oh, and how! In fact, Canada was at nearly zero unemployment, but mostly because of the fact that a skilled workforce was needed to build the nuclear weapons program, one that was hired by recruiting overseas, while the local unemployed eventually just gave up looking for work as the privately run educational programs were just too expensive for most! Those who became depressed about it, couldn't even get medication, because of privatized health care, which most of them can't afford anyway. Isn't that wonderful? That the hard working qualified honest people should get all the opportunities, while those lazy, no good, poor people just get to wallow in their own misery?" the receptionist's smile broadened that much more.

"Isn't it?" Sato responded, having run his own shop in Shepperton, London, England with little help  from anyone else other than Barris.

He'd worked hard for his whole life to have what he had, yet something in his heart of hearts told him deep inside that what he'd heard wasn't right.

"So you've no problems with populism or anything?" asked Jasmer.

"Populism? Are you kidding me? There's no time for populism with all the bitter hatred between the rich and poor," the receptionist smiled once again.

"So how are these courses taught?" asked Yirfir.

"Teachers are hired based upon their qualification to oversee students digitally as they work on pre-recorded assignments that progress them through their program. When they run into problems, they simply hit a button on their computer screen, and the teacher will tend to them directly," the receptionist smiled again, giving Yirfir the impression that she was more of a salesperson than a receptionist.

"When you say directly, does that mean that a teacher physically comes to deal with the student and help them?" asked Yirfir.

"In this day and age? Why that would be a considerable health risk for contamination. No. The teacher responds via web camera and guides the student how to get through their difficulty," the receptionist continued.

"...and how many teachers are there?" asked Athandra.

"Why there's nearly twenty of them," the receptionist smiled.

"That's a few. How many students?" asked Jasmer.

"About nine hundred thousand to a million. Pretty efficient, eh?" the receptionist smiled again, prompting Shaela to think just how much she'd love to smother her teeth in industrial grease.

"So each teacher looks after fifty thousand students? Isn't that a bit of a stress load for one person?" asked Yirfir.

"Our nearest competitors do sixty thousand per teacher, and we've got to compete you know," the receptionist continued.

"Who are these students?" asked Yirfir, once again pressing the issue.

"Oh, they're mostly the children of the readily employed, as the private rates are a little too much for low to no income families," the receptionist smiled.

"Sounds like you've taken Canada's Educational system to new heights," Jasmer said sarcastically, almost disgusted by the feeling of being polite over the situation.

"How about some directions to Southlake Regional Health Care Centre?" asked Yirfir.

The receptionist turned to her computer screen and brought up a popular maps program, which calculated the quickest route between the school and the health care centre. She then printed the map and handed it to Yirfir.

"That will be seven-fifty please?" asked the receptionist.

"Jasmer, pay the woman," Yirfir said, turning and heading in the direction of the exit.

"With pleasure... if it will get us out of here and to the health care centre faster," Jasmer fished into his back pocket, finding his wallet and producing a credit card, with which he paid the seven-fifty price.

"I can't believe what I'm seeing," Yirfir responded to the shambles she'd seen of the education system.

"I suppose its probably not much better for Mila right now. Remember, she's paying for everything," Jamser reminded Yirfir.

"Let's just hope Xenshi, Xushu and Askuwheteau are doing better," Nelony responded.

"Let's," Sato agreed with Nelony for once.


Askuwheteau rode Otaa Dabun, his trusty mythic steed along the side of a highway, as Xenshi and Xushu followed behind him invisibly, floating through the air at comparable speed.

The rural highway was dark, except for the occasional light of a passing car or a nearby farmhouse. As they continued their ride, the rural slowly became more and more urban, until they arrived at a rural road exit which indicated fuel, food, lodging and a hospital.

Askuwheteau coaxed Otaa Dabun across the paved road, and onto the rural road in the direction the sign had indicated.

Ahead, in the distance, they saw a light emanating from within a large field. As they got closer, they saw that it appeared to be some kind of country fair.

"We will go and ask for directions to the hospital," Askuwheteau told Xenshi.

"What if it isn't open?" asked Xushu.

"Then we will find a phone," Askuwheteau replied.

"Why doesn't Otaa Dabun know where the hospital is?" asked Xenshi.

"Because this is a different Canada from the one we know. The one she knows. If the future is a tree, sprouting from a seed and growing in the direction of time, then we are along one of its branches, far from the trunk and likely off of one of the main limbs," Askuwheteau explained to them.

"Do you even have a phone?" asked Xushu, floating in the air, his legs crossed as if he were seated on the floor.

"Yes. I left it on my night table, beside my tablet and my asabikeshiinh," Askuwheteau nodded.

"So we'll have to find one then," Xenshi responded as she danced gracefully through the air like a ballerina.

Askuwheteau coaxed Otaa Dabun back into a trot and found the dirt side of the road, comfortable for the horse's hooves. He rode toward the light in the field with Xenshi and Xushu closes behind him.

As they got closer, they confirmed that it was indeed some kind of fair, complete with several rides, including a Ferris wheel and a rollercoaster, both of which were covered in lights. As they rode up the midway, through the empty confection stands and games, they heard the sound of talking, as if amplified through speakers, perhaps the kind you'd see on a stage or podium.

As they got closer, it became apparent that the fair was temporarily on hold as a large crowd, divided up into four groups had gathered before a stage, where someone was addressing the groups in speech. Behind this person were four tables, each with a sign above it. Askuwheteau stopped his horse just shy of the crowds, trying to read each of the signs.

In no particular order and above the first table, was the sign: Whites.

At the next table, a sign was prominently displayed with the word: Blacks.

The third table held the sign: Immigrants.

The fourth and final table had the sign: LGBTQ2.

Each of the tables had a person seated, except for the "Whites" table, whose occupant seemed to be addressing the four groups of the audience.

Askuwheteau watched silently as he dismounted and began making his way around to the side of the stage. Xenshi and Xushu followed him, opting to walk on their feet rather than float, in order to alleviate the risk of any suspicion against them.

"This might be dangerous!" Xushu suggested.

"If there was danger, it would have already come to before we'd arrived," Askuwheteau replied as he walked forward.

"Some danger takes longer than others," Xushu continued pressing the issue, erring on the side of caution.

"The air is tense. There is rising tension for sure, but its still far from danger, brother," Xenshi responded to her brother's alarm.

"But getting closer to danger nonetheless," Xushu replied.

"That it is," Askuwheteau agreed as he made his way along the outskirts of the crowd and over to the side of the stage.

At the side of the stage, were six large men, each looking as if they could easily heft a horse twenty meters. Askuwheteau approached the men, who were obviously the stage security and attempted to make his way up the stairs and onto the stage.

"Hold it a second there. Which group are you with?" asked the biggest of the stage security, his long black goatee beard waving in the wind.

"I am with the group that has no table up there yet. My group is indigenous," Askuwheteau said thoughtfully.

"I don't see any other indigenous around here, so how can you even be a group," asked the stage security.

"Just because you don't see us, that doesn't mean that we aren't. We were not invited, and I am here to fix that," Askuwheteau replied.

"By doing what?" asked the stage security.

"By representing the indigenous people," Askuwheteau responded.

"This is already getting a little risky here if you know what I mean. There's a lot of people upset, and they're having trouble talking about it. It might get... violent," the stage security told him.

"I must take that chance for what I believe in," Askuwheteau responded fearlessly.

"I warned you. Just a minute, I'll go make arrangements with the host of this debate," the large security man disappeared up the stairs for a minute before returning.

"You can go up there, but you don't get a table. When the time comes, you can have your say. The host will let you know," the large security man told Askuwheteau.

Askuwheteau started up the stairs as the security men blocked the way for Xenshi and Xushu.

"These two look like they belong in a different group. Immigrants maybe? They can't go with you," the large security man stopped Askuwheteau.

"They are my advisors. I will go with them and not without," Askuwheteau defied the security man.

They locked eyes for a moment, and a few moments later it was the security man who broke his gaze first.

"Alright. Go ahead," the security man had everyone stand aside to allow passage for Xenshi and Xushu.

The lights up on the stage were bright and hot, even in the late evening air of the Canadian midsummer. Askuwheteau took his place between the other four tables, almost directly behind the man currently at the microphone as he continued to speak.

The Black crowd booed the man at the microphone momentarily, followed by the Immigrant crowd.

"Its true! You've been takin' our jobs for years! Pushing us back, out of the cities and into the wild. Like we're no longer welcome in our own country! A country we built!" the man speaking for the Whites group said, as Askuwheteau looked on from behind him, knowing the whole truth of that story.

The representative at the Blacks table stood up and responded.

"You know, as much as I disagree with half of what you're saying, I'm finding that the other half, the stuff about the Immigrants taking our jobs. The jobs of Canadians who've been here for generations, living here on this sacred land of ours!" the representative of the Blacks spoke, buying a side alliance with the leader of the Whites, against the Immigrants.

A man approached Askuwheteau from behind, tapping his shoulder. Askuwheteau turned to see that it was the host of the debate.

"Here. Everyone at the tables has a microphone. This is a lapel mic. Just clip it to your collar there, and you'll be able to jump in when you want," the host explained to Askuwheteau.

The host then disappeared to stage right, and watched the debate from there.

"You are all guests on these lands, of the people who occupied them before you started to lay claim to them. In fact, you are all Immigrants from my point of view, and I am from the Indigenous people of this land, here to represent my country," Askuwheteau jumped in.

"You see! Another one downtrodden by the Whites! Just like my people!" the representative of the "Blacks" group spoke up, trying to buy Askuwheteau's association.

"While we've been downtrodden by both the Whites and the Blacks!" the representative of the LGBTQ2 stood up and spoke, drawing an applause from their section of the crowd.

"And we've come, invited here to take advantage of the opportunity in such a vast country, a country where we find that most of the current living generation of Canadian citizens is either not working, or unwilling to work the kinds of jobs that the Immigrants have always accepted, regardless of the social and class status associated with them. We drive your taxis. We run your convenience stores. We clean your businesses and hotel rooms. We do all of the the things you're unwilling to do. Meanwhile the only factor there is with your absence of work is your unwillingness to work!" the representatives of the Immigrants stood and added their input, as that part of the crowd applauded.

"Look, the disparity at the workplace is the result of a few things. Its the result of a barricaded job market that prevents certain people from either working, or volunteering, because the employment and volunteer markets have become nothing more than a convenient means for people to clean themselves off of their own burden, because who should carry the load? The people not working or volunteering. Secondly, because many people are competing against others far more qualified than them, or against people who've not had an absence from the workplace at all, while many of us are stigmatized as a result. A workplace barricaded by the Immigrants, and a volunteer market barricaded by the religious and allegedly righteous people, ha!" the representative at the podium speaking for the Whites group addressed the audience.

"I can agree with him there. Its the same in many ways for some of us," the representatives of the Blacks group replied, holding onto the attempted allegiance with the Indigenous group, which was attained at the expense of the Whites group, while benefiting from their latest point.

"I guess we all need something now. A social grievance that makes us a victim of something else, just so we can take our piece of the pie," the representatives of the Whites group responded, drawing cheers and whistles from their crowd in the audience.

"You've been holding all of the pieces of the pie and keeping them to yourself all along!" the representative of the Immigrants spoke up, once again drawing an applause from their group.

"Exactly! That's how we've all been downtrodden by them!" the Blacks representative held out his finger in accusation at the representative for the Whites group, still retaining a questionable allegiance with the Indigenous group, while fostering a growing allegiance with the Immigrants (that it had previously attempted to vilify).

"Well it benefits you to have a monster, doesn't it? A group of people that you can blame for every shortcoming in your own life, and a scapegoat for everything that you were responsible for," the representative for the Whites group responded, and the corresponding group in the audience cheered.

"Is that a denial of the fact that you were responsible for many of the shortcomings in our lives?" confirmed the Immigrants.

"Stop! You have all done vile things to each other and for far too long, and my people are amongst the victims too. You all came to my land, and took it from my people, nearly destroying us in the process. You entered into legal deals with us, with regard to the land and how it could be used. Deals that we did not fully understand at the time they were agreed to. You tried to indoctrinate my people to your ways, using reform camps under the guise of schools to do so. You forced a religion and ways onto our people so that we would acclimatize to your society without ever crying out over that injustice. Then you kept generation after generation under the influence of different substances. Booze, then crack cocaine, meth amphetamine and heroin. That list goes on. Then many of you within the other groups, started sex trafficking indigenous women, using their substance dependency to manipulate them. Then, when reconciliation reared its vicious head, you hid behind the same indigenous women you exploited, using them as shields against reconciliation, while you secretly supplied them with their substance of choice, knowing that they'd never sell you out on that fact for fear of losing their supply. And then when the Picton case came about, you spoke up for those women, yet because of your sex trafficking of those women, you were the biggest part of how they all ended up that way. Then when someone pointed this all out, you attempted to take it all for yourself and your own credit, to gain the allegiance of the indigenous people," Askuwheteau delivered his oration with determination and intensity.

"You see! It was the Whites all along! They were ripping us all off!" the representative of the Blacks group came over and stood beside Askuwheteau, putting his arm around him and posing for the audience.

"You may be a victim of some crimes, but you are also guilty of many crimes against my people, and others," Askuwheteau looked to the man, his eyes narrowing.

"Gotta go," the representative of the Blacks group quickly stepped back over to his table, and sat down.

"So how do we solve all of this?" asked the representative of the LGBTQ2 group, interested to hear from the Indigenous group.

"I agree with the LGBTQ2, how do we solve this problem?" asked the representative of the Whites group.

"As do I, this must come to a stop lest we end this in a war," the Immigrant representative said, in full agreement.

"How do we stop it, though I'd much prefer if we just won and you'd all accept it," the representative of the Blacks group said defiantly, still looking for an in competitively.

"By breaking down that which divides us. Nobody has black skin and nobody has white skin. I've never seen anyone with perfectly white or black skin. No two people have the exact same skin colour. You're all immigrants from my perspective, and within each of us, no matter our gender, there is a bit of the mother, and a bit of the father, so we are all uniquely different to each other, yet the same in many ways," Askuwheteau stated.

"That's just like the Yin and the Yang," Xenshi said, leaning in close to Askuwheteau's label mic.

"Finally, there is truly one thing that we all are, and that is... Canadians. Canadians of many different beliefs and origins, and each with a right to be themselves," Askuwheteau said thoughtfully.

"We will all undoubtedly try to get what is needed and what we want within our lives. Even if we have to compete for it, so there will never be a final peace. That is the struggle. My people will always strive to see that we receive what we lost so long ago. The wounds will never be fully healed for any of you, and the people you used to call "Whites" aren't responsible for everything bad that has ever happened to you. You'll find that if you stop scapegoating them or others, and if you stop hounding and harassing others, that your lives will get much better," Askuwheteau finished to the silence of all the groups, who had now closed in to form one group.

The Canadians.

"Now that we've got that out of the way, can anyone tell me how I get to Southlake Regional Health Centre?" Askuwheteau didn't waste a moment's time before asking the group.

They applauded him for nearly three minutes solid, before the former representatives of the groups began debating where the Health Centre was. A minute passed before they came to a consensus.

"Alright, if you leave through the front gates there, and go down that road about five kilometers and take a left, and continue for four blocks, you'll see it on the right hand side," the representatives each shook Askuwheteau's hand.

Xenshi and Xushu too found they had a whole host of new friends as well.

The text messages and social media spread quickly from the site of the debate, making it far and wide to every part of the country, and for the first time in a long time, it truly felt like Canada again.

Askuwheteau stood at the edge of the stage and whistled three times, with a his fingers in his mouth. Otaa Dabun found her way through the crowd to the front of the stage, and Askuwheteau jumped onto the back of the horse and began riding for the front gate, Xenshi and Xushu just behind him.

As they arrived at the front gate, the air folded around them and a tremendous shockwave spread from Askuwheteau's location outward in all directions.

Mila and Barris appeared first, Barris now on his feet and looking around, extremely confused. Yirfir and Jasmer stood near one another, still holding hands. Athandra was bracketed on either side by Kenai and Sir Manfred, who stood guarding her. Sato, upon arriving from out of thin air, quickly found Mila and Barris, taking his place by their side. Xenshi and Xushu joined them as Askuwheteau arrived on horseback.

Then with a sudden flash of lightning, the man who'd absconded with the Albino Beaver appeared to them.

"You think you've won! This isn't over yet!" he screamed, furious at what had just happened to his new Canada.

The sudden sound of air raid sirens could heard everywhere, echoing through the valley.

"Those are air raid sirens. The kind they use for the emergency broadcast system," Sato told them.

"You mean for like Nucular missiles?" Barris responded.

"Not nucular. Nuclear! Yes, for those kind of missiles," Sato responded.

"You've only twenty minutes to diffuse this threat, and if you don't, Canada will be nuked to oblivion!" the man with the Albino Beaver said as he suddenly disappeared in a thunderclap of air that rushed in the fill the space he'd occupied only microseconds ago.

Barris began ripping off his clothes hastily.

"What on earth are you doing?" Mila asked him.

"Don't you remember that time we were in bed talking about what we'd do if we found out that there was an imminent nuclear attack?" Barris responded.

"We have to stop this Barris! There'll be plenty of time for nookie later. I promise you. And not in front of our friends," Mila winked at him seductively.

Barris began reclothing himself as the others looked on to see the columns of vapour associated with the launch trails of nuclear weapons.

"Oh boy," Barris said as he got his last shoe back on.

"Are those fireworks?" asked Xenshi.

"Yes. That they are. Really, really big ones," Jasmer answered.

The Final Countdown

Mila and Barris watched as the bright plumes of the ICBM rocket engines elevated them into the upper atmosphere, on an arc headed for their targets.

"We have no way of stopping this!" Nelony said, frustrated by the futility of it all.

"Then I guess we enjoy our last half an hour together," Yirfir responded.

"Askuwheteau! If we're trying to find our way back to the Canada we once knew, why aren't somewhere that we can make the change necessary to get there?" asked Mila.

"The winds have taken you to each place, where you could make a difference on helping us to find our way back. This time, you need you to figure out where we have to go to make those differences. The first place is where a growing division in Canadian society was pressed nearly to its limits. A place where a country very nearly became divided," Askuwheteau responded with a clue.

"Canada? Divided? What nonsense! Hah! That's like saying the English and the French are mortal enemies!" Barris responded sarcastically.

Yirfir and Nelony looked scornfully to one another.

"That's it! Barris, you've done it again, honey! We need to go back to a time where the English and the French were in conflict!" Mila suggested.

"That'll be a small list of say, every day since Confederation. Pick one," Sato replied with sharply pointed sarcasm.

"How about the Plains Of Abraham Lincoln?" Barris responded, folding his arms while waiting for a better suggestion.

Mila, slapped her hand on her forehead as the others looked at Barris in disbelief.

"What? That was an important battle in history! Not only that, but Abraham Lincoln himself came up north from the United States to oversee things. That's how it got its name!" Barris stood his ground, a big smile on his face for remembering the details of a Canadian history book whose back cover at which he once glanced quickly.

"Who needs the benefit of false information being spread on the internet when we've got Barris doing it in person," Sato replied once again.

"Barris, I hate to break this to you, but Abraham Lincoln wasn't at the battle of Abraham," Jasmer corrected Barris.

"Well then why was it named after him, Mr. Know-It-All?" Barris asked.

"It wasn't," Yirfir replied.

"It was named after a man named Abraham Martin, who was nicknamed...," Jasmer began.

"...L'Écossais, in French, or just The Scot, in English," Yirfir added.

"Oh. I see. Well that drastically changes my understanding of things. Whew! That's a good thing that was cleared up before it spread too far," Barris responded, not telling them that he'd discussed the matter many times with his Pub mates in Alivale, Ontario.

"Uhhhhh... Hello? Not to be too invasive in your discussion, but there are numerous ICBMs flying through the air right now and undoubtedly soon, some to be on their way here. Perhaps this discussion would be better at some other junction in time?" asked Athandra, trying to persuade them to get to the point.

"Good point," Xenshi nodded.

"I completely agree," Sir Manfred nodded as well.

"I don't think that the Plains of Abraham are where things went wrong. Its too far back to be the path that led to Canadian Nuclear Armament," Mila commented aloud after giving the matter thought.

"You seem to have an intuition about these things? Where else then?" asked Kensai.

"That's the thing. I don't know," Mila scratched her head as she paced, thinking carefully.

"Uhhh, how about... Canadarm? The robotic arm on the International Space Station? I mean I heard that they trained it to throw darts at a giant dart board orbiting Earth, so the astronauts have something to do on the ISS during their off hours. You know? At the ISS Ale And Pub module? A gigantic robotic arm that can throw darts could easily be adapted to throwing ICBMs you know!" Barris suggested, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.

"Barris, there's no Ale And Pub module on the ISS, let alone a giant dart board orbiting Earth. Besides, the Canadarm can't throw darts," this time it was Sato who shook his head, looking down while rubbing his forehead.

"Yet!" Barris said defensively.

There was a moment of silence as they looked on at Barris.

"That one too, eh? Hmmm, I guess I'll have to stop perusing that website. That's a shame, I rather enjoyed that article about the carnivorous lawn gnomes. Life is just going to be so dull without these bizarre mysteries you know," Barris said, sounding somewhat disappointed.

"Wait! Barris! You're a genius!" Mila said aloud.

"Not again," Sato continued rubbing his forehead.

"No, hear me out. My parents, when they first moved to Canada used to go to a Pub, back in the seventies where they played darts. My father, used to tell me stories about those times. Well, him and my mother were playing and the news report about the first FLQ bombing came on the television. It startled my mother so much that when she was throwing her dart, she hit my father in the a... bum," Mila said jumping up and down excitedly.

"Mila and Barris are clearly made for each other," Jasmer said astutely.

"I'll second that," Yirfir agreed.

"So the FLQ Crisis is the root of this?" asked Kensai.

"Its the best we've got," Mila said, fiddling through her purse looking for her phone.

"Here! It says that during the crisis, support for the Quebec secessionist movement peaked, and Quebec officially became a sovereign nation as a result. The American forces prepared for an invasion of Quebec, lest Canada reunite. On July the 2nd, 1971, Canadian forces conducted operation Stray, invading Quebec and keeping it under martial law for a two decades. During that time, the Canadian Military budget was increased to become nearly thirty percent of the Gross National Product. Canada revived the Avro Arrow program, utilizing it for border defense and nuclear strike missions. From that point, Canada developed its own Intercontinental Ballistic Missile program, lining the country with underground silos designed to be the launch platforms for nuclear missiles. Canada by that time had become one of the four nuclear Superpowers, the other three being the USA, USSR and Newfoundland," Mila read the history article aloud for them.

"Newfoundland?! I thought they were part of Canada?" Barris asked.

"Apparently not. During the crisis, they too declared their independence, revealing that they'd secretly been developing nuclear armed fishing boats and schooners, and were seeking their own seat on the United Nations Security Council. Their motto is: Would you like a side of nukes with your fish, eh?" Mila added.

"You've found the correct path, now its up to you to change things..." Askuwheteau said, as the fair grounds around them disappeared, only to be replaced by the buildings of a Montreal district in the nineteen-seventies.

Mila and Barris suddenly found themselves surrounded by a large crowd, many of whom brandished signs of protest, almost all of them written in French.

"Vive le Québec! Vive les Français!" voices throughout the crowd continued their chant as they thrust their signs skyward.

Mila felt a hand on her shoulder, pulling her back away from the depth of the front lines of the protest. She quickly reached out and found Barris' hand once again, pulling him along.

"We almost lost you there," Sir Manfred said, as they found an oasis of their friends amongst the crowd.

The chanting continued around them as the protestors pushed against the barriers between themselves and the Montreal City Hall. The Police held fast, keeping all the protestors away from the building. Those few stragglers who'd managed to break through, were quickly rounded up.

"So what happens to to trigger Quebec's separation?" asked Nelony.

"We're not quite sure yet, but this is definitely where things get going in that direction," Yirfir told Nelony as she looked around for any other signs of imminent danger.

"What's the date today?" asked Mila.

"It was July 29th last I checked. You know, our engagement anniversary?" Barris responded, surprised that Mila would forget the date so easily.

"No, silly. I wouldn't forget that. I don't mean the date where we came from. I mean where and when we are now," Mila responded to Barris.

"Look! A paper box! There!" Sato pointed out.

Barris quickly ran over to the newspaper box and checked the date on the front page of the displayed headlines.

"Its October 15, 1970!" Barris said aloud, yelling to Mila and their friends.

"That's the day that the War Measures Act came into affect in Montreal, Quebec," Yirfir responded, remembering the day well.

"In our original history, or one of the alternate histories?" confirmed Barris.

"Our original one. The one we're aiming for," Mila replied as he arrived safely back in their circle.

"So something had to happen that takes it to the next level. Beyond what happened in the original timeline," Shaela reasoned.

"You mean like Newfoundland's development of nuclear armed fishing boats? That seems a tad bit out of character for the Newfoundland of our timeline, doesn't it?" asked Barris.

"So now we've got two crises. The one that pushes Quebec towards separation from Canada, and the one that pushes Newfoundland to develop its own nuclear arsenal," Mila simplified the problem.

"Both issues were triggered by the activation of the War Measures Act," Nelony followed Mila's reasoning.

"That's the thing. The War Measures Act is a solution to crises, not the outright cause thereof," Mila responded to Nelony.

"Mila's right. The War Measures Act was activated to deal with growing social unrest and a growing political terrorism that was overtaking the Canada of that time. Remember, it was activated not only to deal with several bombings that had already taken lives, but also the kidnapping of..." Jasmer recalled the Canada of then for them.

"Kidnapping?" confirmed Mila.

"Two political figures have by this time already been kidnapped. The first being the Deputy Premier of Quebec, Pierre Laporte from his home on October 5, 1970, and the second being British Diplomat James Cross, from his diplomatic residence on October 10, 1970," Yirfir remembered just as well as Jasmer had.

"...add in the numerous bombings and you have a sizeable crisis, hence why the War Measures Act was activated," Jasmer continued.

"What's in the War Measures Act?" asked Mila as she pulled her smartphone and began looking it up online.

"What's a matter with my internet?" asked Mila, seeing that her phone had no data connection.

"Its 1970, honey. The only internet that exists is the inside liner from men's swimming trunks," Barris reminded her.

"...that and the net that separates opponents in tennis, badminton and ping pong," Sato added.

"Which would have made John MacEnroe the king of the pre-1990s internet. The tennis net," Barris added, despite  his having been a young child in the late 1990s.

"Are you saying that we need to see the War Measures Act?" asked Xenshi, pondering the idea.

"We'll never see it! Ever. The whole idea is futile! Hate you ever seen the movie Terminator 2: Judgement Day? Well I hate to break it to you but we're living it!" Xushu exclaimed, clearly having taken the extreme other side of the fence from his loving sister.

"I think Mila means that there might be something in the War Measures Act that is significantly different from the same one of our original time," Athandra suggested.

"Exactly! If elements of reality are altered, then they must have a source where they strayed from their origins. The time we know. Like the branches of a tree extending from the trunk, with each branch a different possibility," Mila explained to them.

"So how are we going to see the War Measures Act without the internet? I don't mean the swimming trunk liner or tennis net kind. Isn't the only artificial satellite still Sputnik?" asked Kensai.

"Easy. We don't need satellites for this. Break into the Montreal City Hall and check their printed records for their copy of the War Measures Act," Shaela suggested.

"...all while said War Measures Act is in full effect, meaning that Montreal is under martial law. How do you propose we do it?" asked Jasmer of Shaela.

"I didn't say we or us. I said I," Shaela responded slyly.

"Oh, well in that case I'm in," Barris agreed.

"Me too, even though it's a big risk Shaela's taking," Nelony agreed.

"We can't just let her do everything," Mila challenged them.

"If we're depending on something in that document, then we can't do anything until we know what it is!" Nelony defended her reasoning.

"Obviously something triggers Quebec's sudden turn towards separation. Who would that benefit the most?" asked Yirfir rhetorically.

"Seeing as we're still sitting on the front veranda of the Cold War, I highly doubt that the United States would allow for dissent in Canada's Confederation without intervening, by force if necessary," Jasmer's logic wasn't so unreasonable as it sounded.

"But in the long run the United States would certainly know that such a move would detract from public support of their agenda throughout the world, not to mention the decades it would take for other sovereign states in the world to trust them again. I don't think they'd do something of this nature strictly as a colonial land grab. They'd only do it if the Cold War balance was threatened by the emergence of an independent and sovereign Quebec. One that yielded immense diplomatic variables to an already complex situation," Sir Manfred considered aloud.

"So perhaps others that have this same political insight about the United States' responsibilities to the protection of balance between the Cold War players might attempt to manipulate the situation towards those ends?" Athandra asked her peers.

"Which in turn would lead to a conflict between the United States and Canada, or between Canada and Quebec. By the end of the day, Quebec would either be in the hands of Canada or the United States, and in either case acquired by military force. The Quebec population would be unanimous in supporting independence, while the solidarity of NATO and neutrality of the United Nations would be threatened as a result," Jasmer agreed with Athandra's perspective.

"Undoubtedly, the United States military is lining the shores of the St. Lawrence for a large scale amphibious operation as we speak," Sir Manfred realized the seriousness of the situation.

"So whatever triggers this whole situation to collapse into chaos is going to happen right here, whether we see the War Measures Act or not," Mila surmised.

"So we don't even need Shaela to sneak in there and see it. We're better off having her with us here to stop whatever it is that is going to undermine Canada's Confederation!" Barris agreed with Mila.

"And to do that, you're going to need a little help from some friends," a man who'd been listening in to their conversation spoke without directly facing them.

"By Doctor Who, its Richard Nixon!" Barris said, pointing to the man, prompting Sato to slap his hand to his own forehead once again in disbelief.

"When they were teaching history in school, Barris obviously mixed up the word retention with repulsion, when it comes to his capacity for memory," Sato said.

"Please excuse the rude and impersonal behaviour of my friends Mr Nixon," Barris said, apologizing profusely to the man.

"Barris, that's not Richard Nixon. That's ex-Prime Minister John Diefenbaker," Mila said, correctly identifying the man.

"Thank you young lady, but no harm done young man," Mr Diefenbaker responded.

"The resemblance is uncanny!" Barris made an excuse for himself.

"Allow me to introduce you to the rest of Canada's Secret Guardians. This is Don Cherry, codenamed the Stick," Mr Diefenbaker introduced the Stick.

"Pleased to see the turnout tonight. You young kids are really going to make a big difference in Canada, not to mention we might see a another Stanley Cup in Toronto," a decades younger Don Cherry responded, introducing himself.

"I thought you were heading up the Vancouver Canucks right about now?" confirmed Jasmer with Mr Cherry.

"I took a break and came to Montreal to deal directly with this threat to Confederation, and to show my support for the hockey stick capital of the world! Even if it is the home city of the Montreal Canadians," Mr Cherry replied.

"There's been a long standing rivalry between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadians. Almost as old as hockey itself," Jasmer leaned in closer to Barris to explain.

"This is Doctor Roberta Bondar, astronaut and scientist extraordinaire!" Mr Diefenbaker introduced Doctor Bondar.

"Wait a second, aren't you an Astronaut from the 1990s?" asked Mila.

"That I was. Shortly before Canada started World War III in 2022, I built a time machine and vowed to go back to 1970 and stop the war! Of course, I only did this after an extensive tour on the lecture circuit in order to earn enough  money to support my lavish, space-faring lifestyle," Doctor Bondar told Mila.

"I see. Well its a great honour to have you with us," Mila replied to Doctor Bondar.

"I'll say. You are a great inspiration to Astronauts, Doctors and Women everywhere," Yirfir added.

"Excuse me Cadet Bondar, I hate to pull rank on you, but make way for a Captain," William Shatner stepped out from beside Mr Diefenbaker.

"Your Star Trek series was cancelled like a year ago! Not only that, but you're not even a real Astronaut and I'm officially a Mission Specialist!" Doctor Bondar responded, her hands on her hips.

"Wrong again, my dear. In the year 2021, I traveled into space in the Captain's chair of my own ship..." Mr Shatner began.

"He wasn't quite a Captain. He was a guest on Jeff Bezos' spacecraft, and the Captain's chair he sat on was in fact a space toilet," Mila leaned in closer to Doctor Bondar and explained the truth to her.

"During that mission we saved a pair of blue whales and transported them in transparent aluminum, sling-shotting around the sun to travel backwards in time to 1969," Mr Shatner explained the nuances of space travel.

"So you came back here to save the blue whales?" asked Athandra and Nelony simultaneously.

"That, and we attempted to talk CBC into taking over the cancelled Star Trek series. Talks failed when they wanted to change the setting from outer space, to a logging camp on a river, and renamed the show to The Beachcombers. We also came back to relive the great past of the mini-skirt once again. An age of sexism unlike that ever experienced by humanity since," Mr Shatner threw on the charm for Doctor Bondar.

"Watch it bucko! In the future, a glance like that could land you in prison with a sexual assault charge," Doctor Bondar reminded him.

"Fine. Have it your way Admiral Bondar," Mr Shatner backed down.

"Would it be possible for me to have your autograph?" asked Barris of Mr Shatner.

"Certainly, Cadet. What would you like it to say?" asked Mr Shatner.

"To one of my most gracious of fans, sincerely, signed D-O-C-T-O-R  W-H-O," Barris spelled it out for Mr Shatner.

"Why do I suddenly feel so slighted?" Mr Shatner handed the pen and autograph back to Barris.

"Please if you will, I'd like you to meet Buffy Saint Marie, an Indigenous Canadian-American musical legend," Mr Diefenbaker introduced Buffy.

"Are you like Buffy The Vampire Slayer?" asked Barris, holding out his hand in greeting to Buffy.

"That depends. Are you a Vampire or Wendigo?" she asked Barris with a piercing look in her eye.

Barris backed up cautiously.

"He is mino ninjichaag," Askuwheteau responded to Buffy.

"Don't listen to him! I am not meano ninja chuck! I'm not mean at all! But my friend Sato might be a ninja," Barris responded defensively, attempting to distract from himself and place the attention on Sato.

"Your friend said that you are a good spirit, in Ojibwe. A common Indigenous language throughout North America," Buffy told Barris.

"Oh. Well Askuwheteau is a very meano ninja chuck too!" Barris struggled to speak in Ojibwe, not quite getting it right.

"He means well. Really," Mila excused for Barris.

"We know," Buffy replied, standing beside Askuwheteau.

"Last, but certainly not least, this is 1968 Olympic Gold Medalist, Nancy Greene Raine," Mr Diefenbaker introduced the last of the Secret Guardians.

"Pleased to meet you," Nancy flashed them a generous smile.

"As we are you," Yirfir and Jasmer smiled back.

"Finally, we have Marc Favreau, also known as the emerging Quebecois icon: Sol the Clown!" Mr Diefenbaker introduced Sol.

"Allo! Je te parle Francais, ou Anglais?" a man in a ragged clown costume greeted them.

"Arrrrrrrrrrgh!" Barris screamed, hiding behind Mila.

"What now!?" asked Mila, her impatience rapidly approaching.

"You mean that's not Pennywise?" Barris responded.

"No, that's Mr Favreau!" Sato corrected him.

"So sorry about that. Look, I really loved you in Iron Man. You were great, not to mention you're a pretty good director too..." Barris quickly jumped out from behind Mila and took advantage of the opportunity.

"He's  not John Favreau. He's Marc Favreau, the French thespian who created Sol the Clown," Mr Diefenbaker corrected for Barris.

"My mistake... Wait, my le mistake... Me le not speak francais. Allo? Nous sommes, vous etes? Ill and elle and all that? Oh wait! I remember! Elle son Mila. Je suis Barris!" Barris steam-rolled another Canadian language in front of his friends.

"Bonjour!" Sol responded both spoken, and in mime.

"C'est un grand honneur de vous rencontrer Monsieur Favreau," Yirfir spoke in perfectly pronounced French.

"Votre français est impeccable, même si j'entends un peu de Paris régional autant que j'entends des Québécois," Sol replied to Yirfir.

"He says he hears my Paris accent. A little bit, but he also hears my Quebecois French as well. I grew up here, in Quebec City, though Jasmer and I now live in France," Yirfir explained to them.

"So how are we going to stop this? Stop Quebec from separating from Canada?" asked Shaela.

"How can we stop anything when we don't even know how it happens?" asked Mila.

"Well something changes things, because we've narrowed it down to this being the junction point in history where it all happens," Kensai stepped forward.

"Wait a second, do you notice something strange about that sign. The one in front of the Montreal City Hall?" asked Sir Manfred.

"What language is that? I've never seen it!" Athandra pondered the strange symbols of a mysterious language.

"Not only that, but the address numbers on the building too!" Nelony pointed out to them.

In the distance, they heard the sounds of collisions on the streets and roads about the city.

A car skidded up onto the lawn of the Montreal City Hall, as Sir Manfred quickly pushed Nelony out of harm's way.

"That language! I recognize it! From my Astronaut training! Its semaphores!" Doctor Bondar explained to them.

"What in the world are semaphores? Aren't they the sweets you eat around a campfire?" Barris asked.

"No. That's smores!" Sato responded.

"Semaphores is a symbolic language expressed using a pair of flags. So the icons look like a person holding two flags in various positions," Mr Diefenbaker explained.

"So not only have they eliminated English signs in Quebec, they've eliminated French signs too! Its a clear sign of Armageddon!" Barris panicked.

"Ha ha ha ha ha! And now watch as Quebec falls. If you won't have English, you can't have French either! Try driving with signs of semaphores!" a voice boomed out across the city, as cars collided and accidents unbound spread throughout the city.

"Its that evil man who kidnapped the albino beaver!" Barris exclaimed, as Sol looked about protectively.

"That beaver is a part of the land! Not for the amusement of a bad spirit!" Buffy said boldly, her dream catcher held protectively in her hand.

"He's switched all the signs in the province to semaphores!" Yirfir said in shock.

Pizza, Chicken and Chinese fast food drivers throughout the Province of Quebec were completely unable to deliver take-out, while farms throughout the countryside could not produce cheese. Most of all though, with no supply of Quebec's favourite dairy product, nobody could supply poutine to Quebec, who relied upon it for their survival. The French Canadian economy quickly came to a grinding, imitation cheese halt.

With only semaphores to guide the population of Quebec, both English and French speaking Canadians in the province were doomed to immobility and starvation.

"Now we know how this all starts! We must do something to stop it!" Doctor Bondar suggested.

"Will we even have time to act?" asked Mr Shatner.

Across the St Lawrence, a large amphibious task force started across the great river from the United States. Their mission: to invade Quebec.

On either side of Quebec, from Ontario, and New Brunswick, the Canadian forces began their invasion of Quebec, leaving the province doomed.

"I don't know about you, but the Canadian Secret Guardians are going to fight for Quebec's right to choose their future. We won't let either the rest of Canada, or the United States deny them of their right to choose!" with that Mr Diefenbaker quickly ran off and into the Montreal City Hall.

"So I guess he's abandoning us?" Barris asked.

"Well I we're going to have to stick together," Mila said, mustering up all of her ability to shape the weave.

Shaela summoned the shadow portal for her great protector, while Sir Manfred and Kensai drew their weapons.

Nelony summoned a great flock of birds and other woodland creatures to Montreal to defend it.

Don Cherry and the entire 1970 roster of the Montreal Canadiens, hockey sticks in hand, drew up a defensive line, waiting for their opposition to advance.

Doctor Bondar quickly jumped into her time machine, and disappeared.

William Shatner had put in a call with all of his Star Trek cast members, who arrived right when the crisis had revealed itself.

"Good to see you again Leonard! Deforest, how are you? George, no hard feelings? Nichelle, we couldn't do this without you," Mr Shatner greeted his allies.

"Look, are we getting paid union scale or is this a cash gig?" Leonard asked Mr Shatner.

"Leonard! We're going to rescue Canada. Doesn't that mean anything to you?" Mr Shatner asked his friend.

"It means he'll get a twenty year film deal for the In Search Of... franchise in Canada, not to mention it might get me an early command role in the Captain's chair, unless you're going to stop that too William?" George Takei replied somewhat sarcastically.

"That was then. This is now. Actually then is now, but a different now. I think you and Nichelle are ready for your own Captain's seats," Mr Shatner replied to his former cast mates.

"Dammit William, you're an actor, not a casting agent!" Deforest Kelley exclaimed.

"Excuse me, but who invited this one?" asked Barris, looking to a rather stocky man with large sideburns.

"The name's Logan. I'm a lumber jack," the husky man responded as a trio of claws emerged from each of his hands.


Several kilometers away in a lavish condominium, a beautiful French woman relaxed with a glass of wine in hand.

"'oney?" the lady spoke from her immense plush sofa.

"What is it Celine?" asked her lover.

"Did Sony or Fox cut a deal for the X-Men to appear in A Lady's Prerogative or Butterfly Dragon?" asked Celine.

"Not to my knowledge... Would you like me to knock off the writer?" asked her lover.

"No. Just a broken knuckle or two for writing me in as a sinister woman, and make sure Logan is out," Celine smiled sinisterly.

"Consider it already done," her lover replied, picking up his mobile phone to make arrangements.


"Uhhh, Mister Logan? I think I saw Jean Grey driving the Quinn jet full of beer to Japan," Barris spoke, as if someone was writing his dialogue with broken knuckles.

"Jean Grey? Japan? Beer? I'm outta goodbye Quebec, hellooo Japan..." with that Logan disappeared, making a dash for the Montreal International Airport.

From around Quebec, the Canadian and United States militaries closed in on the isolated province.

On televisions around the world, President Richard Nixon was broadcast in an emergency press conference:

"My fellow Americans, as the conflict in Vietnam between the liberating forces of South Vietnam continues against the oppressor forces of the North Vietnamese Army, it grieves me to announce to you that America must enter into another conflict in order to ensure the safey and sovereignty of the American people. At 1 PM Eastern Time on this day of August 1, 1970, I have initiated the invasion of the former Canadian province of Quebec, beginning with an amphibious assault against the city of Montreal carried out from the St Lawrence River by combined operations units in the states of Vermont and Maine. Diplomatic ties have been cut with Quebec, under fears that they are in negotiations with the USSR, with plans to install facilities for USSR based strategic nuclear forces throughout the former province..." President Nixon began his speech, both his hands up showing the international symbol of peace.

They listened as the historic speech was broadcast over loud speakers outside of Montreal City Hall.

"That fraud of a President is lying! Quebec never has, nor have they ever had any such plans. This is clearly disinformation being spread by President Nixon to garner the support of the American people during this crisis," Mr Diefenbaker told Mila, Barris and their friends.

"Groovy man! Power to the people! Remember Woodstock man!" yelled a peace loving hippy from the amongst other similar protestors outside of the Montreal City Hall.

"Is it just me, or is this whole affair quickly turning into a rehashing of Forrest Gump?" asked Barris sarcastically of everyone else.

"Funny. I would have said that this situation, and the modern world from where we came was turning into a Protestants versus Catholics affair, with colours being used to form the brands for each side of that battle. All that, while each side believes that they should have the sole right to make that choice for everyone else in the world," Jasmer elaborated more accurately on what Barris had just said.

There was a crackling noise from the speakers outside of the Montreal City Hall, as another distinct voice with a slight French accent broke the pause in President Nixon's speech.

"To all of my fellow Canadian citizens. From far and wide. Sea to sea. I with the public powers vested in me through the trust of a vote for representation of the Canadian people, as the Prime Minister of Canada, has activated the Canadian Armed Forces, operating with the sole mission to liberate and regain the provincial membership of Quebec under the Confederation Act of Canada. During this mission, Canadian Armed Forces will not only be clashing with the separatists of Quebec, but also with the Armed Forces of the United States of America. Those forces seeking to procure Quebec for their own strategicly motivated goals in North America and in contravention to the mandate of the United Nations. President Richard Nixon will be brought to justice for this travesty, amongst other travesties committed by his administration. I plead with all Canadians to support our Armed Forces during this crisis against their enemies at home, and abroad, by way of the United States Armed Forces against whom Canada has not entered into conflict since the year of our Lord, 1812," Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau's voice interrupted the paused speech of President Richard Nixon.

"This situation is really starting to get out of hand. Can't Starfleet send diplomats or something?" Mr Shatner responded.

"Dammit Jim, We're real. Starfleet is fictitious," Deforest Kelley responded.

"Not only that Captain, but we're currently not under any network contract I might remind you," Leonard Nimoy added.

"Well its either we deal with this situation here and now, or return and deal with an all out nuclear conflict that is initiated by a nuclear armed Canada in 2022!" Yirfir reminded them of the stakes involved.

"None of this would have happened if we had made hockey into a form of international diplomacy like curling!" Don Cherry quipped.

There was a crackling sound in the speakers again, as another voice emerged.

"To the people of Canada, and the most inspiring separatists of Quebec. This is Fidel Castro, urging you to overthrow the Canadian government and replace it with a true government of the people. A new collectivist state where the rich permanently live in exquisite and lavish Casinos, while they're pandered to by the ceaselessly working poor, and choose from amongst multiple partners in the form of the ripe women of your country. All of this can be yours if you agree to uphold the Marxist and collectivist agenda, while embracing the new home of USSR's strategic nuclear facilities on your soil. The Armed Forces of Cuba are filling their dingies right now, ready to row all the way to Canada and fight for the separatists of Quebec!" Fidel's voice interrupted Mr Trudeau's.

"If they just left, they should be here by sometime in February, meaning that at least they're an element to this whole thing that we don't likely have to worry about," Nancy Greene Raine said solemnly, looking at her watch for timing.

The speakers crackled once again, and a familiar voice returned.

"My fellow Americans, don't listen to that left leaning Trudeau fellow, or his carnival sidekick Mr Castro! We will bring stability and capitalism to the American state of Quebec, where the United States will embrace a third national language: Quebecois French!" President Nixon began coughing immensely upon reaching the last part of his statement.

The speakers once again crackled, and another voice returned.

"You bamboozling weasel of a President! If you think that this is going to end without me mooning you on live television, you've got another thing coming!" Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau responded to President Nixon's rhetorical skirmishing. 

"You wouldn't!" the speakers once again fizzled and President Nixon's astonished voice replied.

"Just watch me!" Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau replied, as oohs and aaahs could be heard throughout the country.

"He actually did it! He mooned the President of the United States!" Nichelle Nichols responded, her both her hands on her face.

"This is a day Canadians will long remember. There are times when I'm grateful that technology hasn't advanced to the point of handheld televisions," Mr Diefenbaker remarked, shaking his head.

"Speak for yourself. That's a spectacle I wouldn't mind seeing," George Takei replied to Mr Diefenbaker.

"Well believe me, in about forty years from now you can watch it all you like on YouTube..." Barris replied to Mr Takei.

"We have to stop the President's invasion of Quebec!" Mila urged her friends to come up with a solution.

Just then, Doctor Bondar's time machine appeared at the White House in Washington, where she emerged, shoving President Nixon out of the way.

"Don't worry America, I brought help!" Doctor Bondar announced into the microphone as President Nixon's security grabbed her.

From the passenger seat of her time machine, President Joe Biden stepped out.

"Alright President Nixon, you've kept the people in your tyranny for far too long! I'm the real American President! A President of the people!" President Biden faced President Nixon.

"Yeah! Is that so? Well lets see how well versed you are in martial arts!" President Nixon took up a combat stance, ready to strike President Biden.

Just then, Pierre Elliot Trudeau emerged from the other passenger seat on Doctor Bondar's time machine.

"U! FO!" Pierre Elliot Trudeau once again mooned President Nixon, this time in person.

Nixon was suddenly distracted by Mr Trudeau's behind, giving President Biden the chance he needed to render Nixon unconscious.

President Biden then took to the podium to address the American people.

"As the President of the future, I command all of the American Armed Forces to stand down, and immediately withdraw from Quebec!" President Biden ordered.

"You're the President? Next you'll be telling us that Ronald Reagan will be running America or Trudeau's son will be running Canada!" one of the press heckled President Biden.

"Americans, what President Biden is saying is true. I was there, with Doctor Bondar. Together, we'll usher in a new era of Canadian and American commerce and cooperation!" Prime Minister Trudeau announced to the American people, as they cheered.

Buffy Saint Marie wiped a tear from her eyes, hearing the moment on the speakers.

"Well that's a relief. Now I don't feel so guilty about moving to Florida while calling myself a Canadian," Mr Shatner responded upon hearing how the events had been resolved.

"What are you talking about, ninety-nine percent of the voting Canadian population is in Florida," George Takei replied.

There was a bright flash of light, as the man with the Albino Beaver reappeared in their midst.

"You think you've foiled my plans! Think again! I'm going to take the thing you love most dearly!" the man said, grabbing Mila by her arms.

"Barris! Help me!" Mila responded, completely caught off guard.

"Whew, that was close. I thought he was going to take beer, eh?" Bob Mackenzie responded from amongst the protestors.

"Good thing he took her instead, eh?" Doug Mackenzie cracked open a beer with his bottle opener just as a Mounted Police Officer stopped behind him.

"Sir. I'm going to have to confiscate that beer, and give you a fine for drinking in public," the Mountie told Doug.

"How much eh?" asked Doug Mackenzie.

"Like, ten dollars?" the Mountie replied.

"I'm going to be in debt for the rest of my life, eh!?" Doug Mackenzie accepted the ticket as the Mountie confiscated their beer.

With Pierre Elliot Trudeau in Washington, the man with the Albino Beaver suddenly appeared in Ottawa, at the same press conference that Trudeau had just left with Doctor Bondar. He suddenly took on a liquid metal form, transforming into the likeness of Trudeau himself as Mila screamed.

"That is like sooo cool!" a 15 year old James Cameron watching the press conference at his public school said as he saw the man transform into Trudeau.

"I'm instating the War Measures Act in all of Canada, to procure control during this crisis. I will start by building up Canada's military power and by arming us with nuclear weapons! Quebec, nor the United States will ever pose a threat to Canada ever again!" the liquid metal version of Trudeau announced.

"Also, I'd like you to meet my new wife!" he continued, pulling Mila closer to him.

Barris and friends heard all of this unfolding through the speakers outside of the Montreal City Hall.

"Yirfir! I need you to get me there through one of your portals! I have to save Mila!" Barris demanded.

"Quickly then, go!" Yirfir wasted no time opening a portal and Barris approached ready to jump in.

He suddenly felt someone tugging on the back of his shirt. He turned to see that it was Sol the Clown.

"Tu vas avoir besoin d'aide, mon ami," Sol said to Barris.

"Que je vais. J'accepte avec plaisir, maintenant allons-y!" Barris replied.

They jumped in through the portal and emerged in Ottawa, on the same stage that the man with the Albino beaver had just announced his plans for Canada.

Meanwhile, in Washington as President Biden addressed 1970s America, Doctor Bondar jumped back into her time machine.

"President Biden, it was an honour," Doctor Bondar said as the time machine disappeared.

"Wait! How am I going to... get... back..." President Biden suddenly realized that he was trapped.

"You think you've got problems? There's an imposter taking over my job in my home country!" Pierre Elliot Trudeau responded.

Barris and Sol emerged from Yirfir's portal.

"Hand over Mila, and the Albino beaver! Its over!" Barris challenged the impostor.

"You fool! There's only one way this is going to be decided!" the impostor responded to Barris.

"Please don't say a poutine eating contest, I can't stand poutine," Barris said quietly to himself.

"By a log rolling competition..." the impostor said.

"Whew. Now that's something I can handle," Barris said, checking his balance.

"While eating poutine!" the impostor added as he teleported Mila, Barris and Sol to a site on the St Lawrence river. The site of an old logging camp and mill, where a stock of logs were ready for log rolling.

Barris steadied himself on his log, balancing as the log began rolling forward in water, and then backward.

"I've got this! Its just like Curling..." Barris responded.

"Someday, I'm going to fully and completely understand Barris' sense of logic. Until then, I'm going to try to be a good fiance and wife. I'm really going to try," Mila said, completely confused by Barris anecdote.

Barris and Sol rolled on the log, as the impostor did so on another similar log with Mila by his side. She struggled to maintain her balance as the log spun. Meanwhile, the impostor with his hands began consuming an order of poutine he'd summoned, easily maintaining his balance while he ate.

Barris in the meantime struggled, nearly throwing up as he forced himself to devour the poutine, as the log rolled beneath his feet. He stumbled twice, and then a third time, just barely catching himself before falling.

Just as he was about to fall, Doctor Bondar and her time machine appeared on the shore. She stepped out of the driver's seat, and a familiar passenger followed her.

"Barris! This might help!" Doctor Bondar yelled from the shore as he struggled to maintain his balance.

"Noooo. That can't be!" Barris said, realizing suddenly who it was.

The man began singing and all at once Barris realized who it was.

It was Bryan Adams, and he began singing Everything you do, I do it all for you.

"I can't stand poutine, but Mr Impostor, you're done, because this is my favourite kind of cheese!" Barris said, looking into Mila's eyes.

She looked back at him longingly, keeping her balance as the impostor suddenly had a difficult time with the log.

To Barris, it had simply become Zen, as he chewed the last piece of cheese from the poutine. Once he'd finished it, log rolling was simple. It was one foot after the other, no matter what direction the log rolled.

When the Impostor had finished his poutine, the whole challenge in log rolling had somehow grown, to epically difficult proportions. He struggled to keep himself atop of the log, while Barris practically danced on the log, with help from his friend Sol. In the background, Bryan Adams continued here serenade for Mila and Barris.

And then it happened. The Impostor fell off the log, thrashing about in the water as his liquid metal form began to sink.

The red and white Albino beaver had flown through the air when the Impostor had fallen. Barris reached for the beaver, when he saw that the Impostor had grabbed Mila's leg and was attempting to pull her in as he sank.

Barris caught the beaver, and then leapt across to the Impostor's log, pulling Mila from his clutches as he disappeared into the depths of the St Lawrence river. Barris then carried Mila across the log, jumping to the shore with both her and the beaver just as Bryan Adams had reached the last lines of the song.

Once again, Mila found herself in Barris' arms, and even Sol looked on with a tear in his eye.

"Thank you my friend. I couldn't have done it without you," Barris said to Sol, who blew a kiss both to Mila and to Barris, still very much the Clown and Mime.

"Its finally over. You did it Barris," Mila said, moving in for the kiss.

"No, Mila. We did it. Canada did it. With a little help from our friends. But I'm the only one who gets your kiss," Barris said proudly, as their lips met.

On the shore of the St Lawrence, one by one their friends arrived, greeting them as they walked hand in hand.

"Now, it seems you have reunited a divided Canada, saving it from a malicious group of people bent on dividing it by any means possible. You've helped heal old alliegiances and you've forged new ones. Now, Canada, as much as its up to Mila and Barris, the future is up to you..." Askuwheteau said from the back of Otaa Dabun, as he rode off into the wooded wilderness of the St Lawrence river and where 1970 slowly became August of 2022.

Askuwheteau and Otaa Dabun traveled along the shore of the same river where the peoples of two different civilizations first met, and where the first maps of North America were drawn by explorers like Jacques Cartier. Those people took very different roads to get where we all are and live now.

Knowing their past, is how we make the future better for all. How we right the wrongs of yesteryear and give credence and meaning to the Constitution, Charter Of Rights And Freedoms and the Human Rights Act of Canada. The Indian Act

Ideas whose only strength stands by the efforts of those who defend them, and those who call into question ideas not founded in equality, equity and justice.

For this is how we understand each other. How we understand our greatest moments and failings. How we understand that we are neither perfect, nor imperfect and that we are not the prisoners of a past whose injustices we choose to right in a fair manner for all.

We are Canada, and we are its future.

The End

Thank you to all my loyal readers and supporters of Shhhh! Digital Media. I am truly grateful to be able to create these stories and present them here at https://www.shhhhdigital.ca

Artwork: Amy WongWendy PuseyGhastly, Brian Joseph Johns, Daz3D

Tools: Daz3DCorel PainterAdobe PhotoshopLightwave 3D, Borderline Obsession...

Writing: Brian Joseph Johns

This content is entirely produced in Toronto, Ontario, Canada at 200 Sherbourne Street Suite 701 under the Shhhh! Digital Media banner.

Title image credits: Castor du Canada - Colour corrected lithograph of a beaver,

1819 by Werner, active 1819, De Lasteyrie, Charles-Philibert 1757-1849

Thank you for to all of the following people for refraining from any legal action against my company, person, and all of my property, though I'd more suspect that the only reason for as much is that I've not much to take:

Scott Maple, Robert Tozer, James Stuart Ross, Petri Rantannen, Munir (whose last name I regret not knowing good friend), Elliot Ingleby, Celine Dion, Alannis Morisette, Blake Lively, Rihanna, Scarlett Johannsen, Jennifer Anniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry, Matt Leblanc, Rick Mercer, Simu Lee, William Shatner, Drake, James Cameron and Tie Domi (so far). Give me a bit, and I'm sure I'll rock the foundations of many more.

The text of this book was written at 200 Sherbourne Street Suite 701 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and written by Brian Joseph Johns.

All trademarks of the rights of their respective owners.

The Butterfly Dragon Copyright © 2022 Brian Joseph Johns