Eclipse

by Terry Ballard

"Hi, this is Jason Jones in the Channel 88 news helicopter with the 4 A.M, hour traffic report. Things are moving well along the inner loop and the outer loop, but look for some slowing around the Palo Verde crater, as extra people are coming in from Yuma for the state's birthday party. We've just had a report of the day's first freeway shooting, close to the Mesa-Casa Grande border. I'm heading south now to check that out. Back to you, Lisa."

Jason turned the switch; his face relaxing from its carefully molded media a look that simultaneously radiated vitality, compassion, and a sense of humor. The spotlight dimmed, and the face in the control panel mirror looked simply tired. The helicopter banked to the right, giving him a view down to Camelback Mountain. Early morning swimmers were doing laps in the giant pool at the Pointe Atop Camelback. He sighed. Heather and he had spent their first honeymoon there, I78 days ago. Life was so much simpler then. He hovered for a moment, watching couples glide down the giant hump escalator to breakfast at the Pointed Head, just as they had done six months ago. He gunned the copter while fighting back thoughts of Heather's long red hair, backlit by the rising sun and reflected in the artificial eggs. His hand reached up to turn on monitor number 1. The face of a perky blonde woman filled the screen.

"...keep rolling in from all over. President Mecham sent a long letter of con­gratulations to Governor Benson. In it, he expressed his pride at being from a state that had doubled its population in a 27 month period, a state that had single-handedly frightened away hordes of would-be Nicaraguan communist invaders."

The camera zoomed out to reveal the head and shoulders of Lisa's male co-anchor. "Sean, you were here when things really started to happen for Arizona, weren't you?"

"That's right, Lisa," he said, with the slightest hint of a smile. "I was a teen­ager in 1989 when then Governor Mecham achieved his goal of making Arizona a totally drug free state. Nobody knew how he did it, but on the morning of July 17th, all of the drugs just disappeared. At a morning news conference, the governor only grinned and talked about divine intervention."

"Well, after that, you couldn't keep the people away* Fortunately for scientists had Just invented a machine that turned old newspapers and birthday cards into a hard synthetic board. When the big boon hit Arizona, contractors were turning out three bedroom hones in less than 7 hours. Ten unit condominiums took a bit more than a day."

"I guess that was fast for the time" smiled Lisa. "Thank you, Sean. Now let's take a look at the weather on this festive day. This segment is brought to you by your Arizona Mac restaurants, where you can always stop by for a thick juicy Macs teak, or a zesty Maclobster. For a light meal, try the new Macquiche or take advantage of the Arizona Birthday Special- a price rollback to the 1992 cost of a big Macburger, just $5.95 mustard and ketchup optional. Now here's our own mediarologist, Ed Wilson.

The weatherman's face filled the upper right hand corner of the screen. "Gosh, Lisa, it looks like the weather is going to cooperate with the governor today. We're looking for the kind of picture postcard weather that brought 12 million people here to live.

"The good news is an ozone cloud that drifted down from Idaho to cover our state for the big day. If you are going to the ceremony at the capitol you don't have to wear a hat, but put on some sun screen to be safe. Also, pollutants are way down. People can go without their masks all over the Phoenix Metro area, as long as they do not suffer from pulmonary or cardio-vascular diseases. The high today should be a balmy 87, typical for February days since the Palo Verde incident. Now, back to you, Lisa."

The helicopter circled once around the tall column of black smoke, whose upper layers were turning reddish from the first light of dawn. Jason brought it down for a better look, pressing the red button to indicate that he was ready with a report.

A spotlight went on above his left forehead. He posed briefly In front of the 5 inch round mirror that hid the video camera in the panel. An adjacent indicator began a countdown at 10 seconds.

"Okay," said Lisa, breezily, "let's go to Jason Jones now for a look at that freeway shooting."

"Thanks, Lisa. Well, this is a bad one. Four vehicles are involved, and it looks like some napalm or light artillery was used. Six northbound lanes have been shut off, backing up traffic for more than two miles. If you're headed northbound into the valley, I'd suggest the outer loop and the South Mountain Tunnel. Baok to you, Lisa."

"Thank you, Jason. This segment of traffic news has been brought to you by your neighbors at Bud's Bullet Proof Glass, now with six valley locations to serve all of your armor needs at home or in the car. Bud and his caring staff send their sincere wishes that your loved ones won't be the next victims."

As the lights went down in the cockpit, Jason's smile turned into a grimace. No matter how many times he oovered these incidents, he could not get used to them. He was an adolescent in 1991 when President Robertson signed the N.R.A. Highway Armaments Bill. Bending to pressure from a powerful lobby group, Congress decided to fight highway bloodshed by forcing drivers to carry loaded guns. Surprisingly, the violence only got worse.

"Jason," said a voice in his ear, "they Just sent ten units of police and parameds to the Tower. Better go have a look." Bob, his dispatcher, had been in the business since the days of Mary Jo.

Jason turned the copter 180 degrees and flew back towards the central corridor. The Tower was a world class shopping mall in central Phoenix, built right over the ol Metrocenter Mall. More than 3000 feet tall, it claimed to be only shopping, resi­dential and bowling complex to have a self-contained weather system. Its owners boasted that it was the only shopping mall visible from space, a claim confirmed lu 1990 by Japanese scientists in Mars orbit.

"Jason*"

"Yes, Bob."

"Can you take a call. It's Heather."

"Okay. I won't get to the tower for three minutes. Put her on."

"Jason."

"Yes, Heather." He knew what was next.

*Teu left the house this morning without signing the renewal. Is something wrong?"

"I Just forgot, that's all. A guy gets up at two in the morning, it*s easy to forget things."

"But I pinned it to the macrowave refrigerator. You always chill the milk for your cereal."

"I had a microwave omelet today."

"I just don*t understand you anymore. Now all of the best resorts have been booked for the holiday. We'll hare to spend Freedom Day at home. If you want to spend it with ne, that is."

That last oomment landed like fresh icicles on bare feet. Did he really want to renew his contract with Heather? If he renewed, did he want a third honeymoon or a day of freedom. Lately he had been haunted by the way that Lisa said "and now let*s go to Jason in the sky." She put a certain quality in her voioe that you never heard when she introduced the sportscaster. Jason knew that Lisa was uncontracted.

Maybe it was easier in the old days when people were simply married. Jason grew up in the end of those days, and he saw a lot of miserable families, but at least marriage licenses could be permanent. Now you hare to make up your mind every three months, unless you want to be like those tiresome baby boomers and renew for a year.

He and Heather had seen some good months together. They lived in a large 1400 square foot villa at the Lake Pleasant Pointe. Their scores on the Lifestyle Assessment Grid placed them on identical coordinates. They even read the same cartoons in the morning printout.

They had renewed their first contract unhesitatingly* Now it was different. Since Heather had quit her job and gone to that seven day adult education cruise in Tahiti, the "Knower's Ark," she had been talking about being unfulfilled. She began to complain about his long hours in the air.

Jason was a college student in the 1990's when the Hawn cohabitational status bill had passed, named after the movie actress who first noticed that marriage had become obsolete. The bill divided the year into four 90 day cohabitational periods starting in the middle of February, May, August and November. Each period was followed by a "freedom day** in which all bets were off for cohabitational behavior. The August freedom period was a full two days, better known as "Midsummer Madness."

When the system first got going, Jason thought that it made good sense. Having been through renewal pangs with Jennifer and now Heather, he wasn't so sure. Two more renewals would give them full family taxation status, but could they do it?

"Can you fly back home and sign this morning?"

"We'll see. With all of the birthday stuff, today might be hot. Oops, I have to go." He pushed the ready light.

"Jason Jones here, over the Phoenix Tower, where a sniper on the 98th floor is making things rough for both the Black Canyon and the Mecham Expressway. Inbound motorists should take the Papago or the Pulliam Parkway. Back to you, Lisa.

"Thank you, Jason." Again a jolt from the way she pronounced his name. Was this just media politeness, or did she mean something by that?

"This portion of the news is brought to you by the Crown King Podment Park, right on the Phoenix-Prescott border. Each of these beautiful 100 square foot units is designed with the young professional in mind. Full video-stereo systems and all kitchen appliances are built into every unit. Podments priced in the 40's this close to downtown won't last long, so call today."

"Bob."

"Yes, Jason."

"Can you believe what people live in these days? If they get any smaller they can double as coffins."

"You said it. We* re holding on to a house we bought in the 1970's. I could sell it and retire to the South Seas."

"Now let's recap the day's top story, said the ever vibrant Lisa on monitor number 1. "The State of Arizona turns 90 today, making an incredible Jump from Baby State to sunbelt superpower. Right now, Wesley Bolin Plata is filling with thousands of well-wishers. Both U.S. Senators, Deconcini and Goddard, have arrived for the noontime ceremony* Delegations from as far away as Reagan City, Nicaragua have been arriving at Goldwater International airport."

"We will oontinue to keep you updated on this story as it progresses, but now we are ready for our World News Minute, brought to you by EVCO, the General Every­thing Corporation. Remember, EVCO is more than Just a giant conglomerate- it is People Helping People to do things that Help People to Help Themselves."

The following messages flashed across the screen in rapid fire, accompanied by selections from the CD "101 Strings Play David Lee Roth."

ARTHUR C. CLARKE DIES- SAID HS WAS GLAD TO SEB THB YEAR THAT HE MADE FAMOUS. HIS LAST WORDS- "THE BOOK WAS BETTER."

RIGHT TO LIFE GROUPS GAIN PRESIDENT MECHAM'S SUPPORT FOR A LAW THAT WOULD BAN THB WORD A , THE THING THAT WOMEN GO TO CANADA AND MEXICO TO DO. THE A.C.L.U. IS OPPOSED.

ST. ELSEWHERE, THE PERPETUALLY LOW-RATED HOSPITAL DRAMADIE, IS RENEWED FOR A RECORD 20TH SEASON. "I JUST CAN'T FATHOM IT," SATS ED BEGLEY JR., WHO PLATS THE CHIEF OF SURGERY.

POPE EXCOMMUNICATES SEVEN NUNS FOR PARTICIPATION IN PLATBOY PICTORIAL

BILLT IDOL SAYS "I DON'T WANT THB NOBEL PRIZE FOR LITERATURE. I JUST WANT TO ROCK. A SPOKESPERSON FOR THE NOBEL COMMITTEE REPLIES...

Jason switched off the monitor in disgust. "Was the news always this silly?" he asked Bob.

"In my day, things were different. But not different enough."

"What are you doing for freedom day?"

"Staying home with my hab, I guess. We might catch a movie* They say that new Rohmer film with Stallone and Molly Ringwald is really wild. Hold on, Jason. There's a call coming in for you. Heather."

"Yes, Heather."

"Jason, I want to talk about our relationship."

"But Heather, I*m cruising at 3200 feet."

"Well, you can come back down long enough to talk about us. This has been building up ever sinoe I quit my job at EVCO to freelance."

"But I*m the one who encouraged you to do it." Since she had quit, her main arccation was writing verses for Satori, a line of Zen greeting cards. "That new card of yours is already their biggest seller." The cover was white with a black circle in the center. Inside it read!

I SAW AN ECLIPSE.

I THOUGHT OF Y0U.

"I know my work is going well, but since I stayed at home I*ve been treated like an appliance. Don't forget that I pay 40 per cent of the mortgage. You are not connecting with me* 1'11 bet you don't connect with anybody, Fou just fly around in that helicopter and look down on other people's misery without ever getting involved, and then it's 'back to you, Lisa.' Have you even met Lisa?"

"We'll have te continue this on the ground. I have a traffic report due in 90 seconds." Jason reached to turn on the monitor while accidentally jarring the control stick, causing him to lose 500 feet in altitude before his composure returned. Lisa's face came on the screen. In Jason's frame of mind, she looked like the Venus de Milo, the Madonna, and Suzanne Sommers in "American Graffitti."

"Thank you, Sean. That was very interesting. Remember that watching Channel 88 news can be good for college credit in current events. Call Rio Salado Community College for details."

"Coming up in just a few minutes, we have Biff Harmon waiting to give us the latest in sports. First, though, let's take a look at traffic. This segment is brought to you by Evmarts, the convenience store that has vhat you want before you even know that you want it. Evmarts- a division of EVCO, the General Everything Corporation. Now let's go to Jason Jones, our man in the sky."

"Thank you, Lisa," said Jason, looking a bit redder than normal. Traffic up north is looking good from Flagstaff down, although you can expect things to slow below 80 around the Black Canyon Curve. Once you hit the New River Straightaway, it's smooth sailing on in to the central oorridor. Things are moving nicely on the Hohokam extension on both sides of the Camelback tunnel. Once you get past Indian School, things are a bit oongested in the Arcadia Business District. I've Just heard from the D.P.S* that only 18 fatalities have occurred on Arizona's highways so far today* Keep up the good driving down there. Back to you, Lisa."

"Thank you, Jason. Well, Biff, what Arieona birthday party would be complete without our professional sports teams?"

"Right you are, Lisa. All three teams will be on hand to help the governor out at the capitol. The Phoenix Suns will be there, minus their injury-prone center, Joe "the Giraffe" McCaffey. All of the Arlsona Raiders will be there, rested -after their big near-miss in the playoffs. Finally, the Phoenix White Sox are taking a breather from early training. It looks like the governor could use some of those muscles. That's some pretty heavy machinery they are setting up next to the podium." "Yes it is, Biff. We've heard that the equipment will be used for the surprise ending to the ceremony. A capitol source said that a team of technicians at the Arizona State University Industrial Park has been working on the project for a year. Of course, whatever surprises are in store for us today, you can count on Channel 88 to be there with our cameras. In fact, Budd Farr is standing by right now at Wesley Bolin Plaza. Can you hear me, Budd?"

"Just barely, Lisa," shouted the silver-haired announcer, -while ducking balloons and paper airplanes. "We have a real party atmosphere today at the capitol. These people are proud of Arizona's explosive growth, and they are ready to prove it. Up on the reviewing stand, the honored guests have started to arrive- 90 people from ages 1 to 90t representing each year of Arisona's history as a state. Each of them is celebrating their birthday today, just like the state that they are rep­resenting. The governor's most honored guest is 90-year old Mabel Jean Farmer, a great-grandmother from Gila Bend. From Wesley Bolin Plaza, this is Budd Farr," he said, while swatting a balloon that had sailed in front of him.

"Thank you, Budd. That looked fun. I know the viewers look forward to checking in with you as the story progresses. Before we do, though, let's go to Eliot Friendly on Wall Street with our mid-morning stock report. This report is brought to you by Socko Taco, with 87 locations in the Valley. Also, look for Socko Taco vendors in designated Evmarts, for appetites on the go."

"Thank you, Lisa. This has been a real roller1 coaster day on Wall Street, as stocks shot ahead more than 210 points, bringing the Dow to over 6300 for the first time on record. Then the market plummeted more than 300 points before..."

Jason turned down the sound.

"Bob," he called.

"Yes, Jason."

"What is Lisa really like?"

"That,s funny. She was just asking about you."

For the second time in an hour, Jason had to struggle to maintain control of his helicopter. After a long pause, Jason repeated the question.

"Well, she's been really good for the ratings."

v "But what is she like personally?"

After a long pause, Bob replied slowly in a low voice. "You know, Jason, in the great swimming pool of life, you wouldn't look for her in the deep end. Not even by today's standards." At that moment. Lisa's face came on the screen.

"Thanks for the warning. It's nice to have someone you oan count on for an honest opinion."

"Any time. Having renewal problems?"

"Just trying to make up my mind. I don't know if I*m ready for a semi-permanent relationship. I'm only 27."

"You are a symptom of the times. Everything has speeded up, and men are hitting their middle age crises at an earlier age. I didn*t get mine until I was forty, if I can remember back that far."

Jason smiled. In spite of their age difference, he had developed a fine rapport with his dispatcher. Bob wasn't like those baby boomers who said things like "You call this music? Music was finished after Wham broke up. This just sounds like people moaning and beating sticks together." Maybe thirty-five years in the news business gave you a world view.

"You know, Jason, I'm not one for giving unwanted advice, but Heather is a good lady."

"Thanks, Bob. I'll think about it." The unspoken tag line for both men was, "You'd better think fast."

The monitor was showing some scenic footage that Jason had shot a few months ago in Southern Arizona. The camera was looming in to Kitt Pointe, the site of the former observatory, going right over the top of the Pointe to the Skye Restaurant in the tallest dome. A few seconds later, Port Mecham comes into view at the state's southern border.

The screen then cut to a live shot of an older announcer standing in front of a white stucco wall. "Hi, I'm Ken Strand. By now we all know that February 14, 2002 is the 90th birthday of Arizona's statehood* but some of you might have forgotten that we are celebrating another birthday today." The announcer began walking along the wall.

"This is the longest manmade structure in America* and second only to the Great Wall of China for the world record. It was started in 1991 out of Governor Mecham*s concern about a Sandinista invasion* It was completed in nine months of round-the-clock work by teams of Mormon volunteers and Mexican workers. Fifteen feet high, and running the entire length of Arisona*s Southern border, nothing like It had ever been dose. Apparently It worked, because no Nicaraguans ever showed up to test it out.

"In back of me, and half a mile in the distance, you can see one of the thirty factories that were built to convert newspapers into hard walls. At the time, Mecham used to quip *At last, a good use for the Republic and Gazette.' But not everyone was pleased with the project." The camera swivelled to show the factory building's gray walls* The letters E.A.S. were crudely painted on the left side of the building.

"Fort Mecham was the last straw for some environmentalists. Many of them broke with the Sierra Club and formed a more radical group called the Edward Abbey Society. This underground group has been carrying out acts of harassment against developers ever since. Obviously they haven't won but they haven't entirely lost, either since police have still not caught any of their officers."

"Ken, can you hear me?"

"Yes, Lisa."

"Now that the fort no longer has a purpose, what is being done with it?"

"Some of it is being sold to developers. A large section west of here has been turned into condominiums to help ease the housing crunch in metropolitan Ajo."

"Also, while we're on the subject of anniversaries, are there any other major ones coming up?"

"The next one that I know about is the fiftieth anniversary of the "Wallace and Ladmo Show."

"Jason."

* "Yes, Bob."

"How long would it take you to get to the station?"

. "Ten or fifteen minutes. I'm over Carefree now. Why?"

"We might need some help* They just sent a second camera crew down to the capitol."

"Why? I thought we were going to keep it to one crew."

"That was before all of the stations in town got messages from the Edward Abbey Society. Now it looks like there will be a disturbance at the ceremony."

"Well, of course I can cover it from the air, but why do I go back to the station?"

"We need you to get one more person out to the capitol. When the O.P.S. heard about the notes, they set up roadblocks on all roads leading to the capitol. The crew made it just before the barricades went up. Lisa was going to follow in her car a half hour later, but now she'd never make it in time. I know you don't take passengers, but this is a special case."

"I'll be right over." Jason aimed the helicopter towards the Channel 88 studio atop the Sierra Estrella mountains.

A few minutes later, the gray mountaintop studio bunding was close enough that he oould see the landing space on the north side. Jason was disappointed that nobody was waiting for him there. To his right, Lisa's face was still on monitor number 1.

"Bob."

"Yes, Jason."

"I'll be landing in about 80 seconds."

"Right. I can see you now. Keep the engine running, because Lisa will be right out."

Jason kept an eye on the north door to the studio as the helicopter touched down on the asphalt pad. Loose dust swirled around so furiously that Jason felt as if he were in the center of a tornado. He could make out the shape of a small, thin young woman running up, bent forward, her hands clasping a red sash over her hair. Jason jumped out and opened the passenger door, then helped her up the step.

"Thank you," she said, after Jason had taken his seat. "I heard you were a real gentleman." She smiled in that way that she always did before she brought on the traffic report. Jason felt the ground slipping away- a normal sensation, azoapt that they were still on the pavement.

"Oh well," he managed to mutter. "It's just my pilot's training, I guess."

"Don't you think we should ba going?"

Jason turned red as a plum. "I'm just checking the instruments for our take-off," he blurted. Jason spent the next minute checking the wind velocity, the fuel indicators, and tha electrical levels- anything to keep from talking. Finally, he sent tha helicopter spiralling up and towards the northeast with unusual ferocity.

"Whoosh!" she cried. "I left a part of me down there*" Jason looked over. She was all there.

"You gat used to it aftar awhile," he said. Now that thay were airborne, Jason felt more in control. "This your first helicopter ride?"

"I went on a scenic flight in Hawaii when I was a teenager. We flew right up to a volcano. I couldn't get over tha way that tha nose was pointing down even when the copter was going straight."

Jason's mind was clouding over with images of Lisa in Hawaii, flying through rainbows.. "What a pretty girl* You're very lucky," said Lisa* Jason followed her gaze to the picture of Heather that he had pasted over the passenger seat.

"That's my friend Heather," he said. "She writes verses for Zen greeting cards."

"I had a roommate in journalism school that was into Zen. Or maybe it was Taoism. The last I heard of her, she was writing for the Wall Street Journal."

Jason smiled as he steered around the high-rise office buildings in downtown Laveen. Once in the clear, he reached down for his lunch pail. "Would you like a Twinkie?" he asked.

"Thanks, I'd love one. I've had nothing but vitamin pills all day."

Jason's eyes widened as he slid the lid off of the lunch pail. It contained a ham sandwich on croissant, two twinkles, an apple, a bottle of Perrier, a pink carnation and a sealed card. Jason reached for the card and opened it| the cover was a simple pen and ink drawing of ocean waves with a heart-shaped sun going down. The message inside read; "IT MIGHT BE A SUNRISE." Below, in Heather's clear script were the words; "You've still never taken me to the ocean. Happy Valentine's Day."

"What is that?" asked Lisa*

"Just a reminder that I have to go to the store," said Jason, as he hurriedly unwrapped the Twinkie. As he handed it to her, he felt Heather's eyes in the over­head picture staring at him.

"Thank you, Jason."

Jason felt a thrill. That was the way she always pronounced his name on the air.

"I can't believe it took ae this long to meet you," she said.

"I almost never fly to the station. The winds are tricky up there, and there's usually no need to go."

"Then I'm glad things happened like this. You're as nice in person as you are on the air."

Jason concentrated on the control panel while trying to think of some way to change the subject. "Are you worried about the ceremony?"

"Not really. Those Edward Abbey crasles have never hurt anybody yet. I don't think they will today."

"I'll stay close by, just in case. Hold tight," he warned, as the helicopter touched down.

"Perfect landing," she said, while unstrapping her seat belt.

"Thank you," said Jason. "Do you need a ride back?"

"No, thanks. I told the crew I'd go back with them." She clasped his hand. "This has been really fun. Someday we»ll have to do a project together- fly all oyer the state and do news reports."

nI*d like that. Good luck!" he called after her as she closed the door and ran towards her waiting crew. He sighed, and took the helicopter up 900 feet, while switching the monitor back on.

"•••a sense of excitement and expectation,N Budd Parr was saying. The governor is about ready to enter, and all eyes are on the podium. There seems to be a scuffle there." Farr paused for a moment while he was filled in on the situation. "I've been told that the four year old and the five year old, both boys, were fighting over a toy soldier. It ended when a real soldier came up and took away the toy."

Farr's voice was momentarily drowned out by the sounds of wild applause. "I think as you can probably guess, the governor has made his appearance,* the newsman shouted. "There he is now, making his way to the podium, shaking hands with the birthday guests. The crowd has broken into a spontaneous singing of that old Beastie Boys classic, "You Gotta Fight For Your Right To Party,'the unofficial theme song of Arizona State University's Sun Devils. The governor is good-naturedly waving his hands downward to hush the crowd. He is about to speak."

"Distinguished senators, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen ., I welcome you on this fine sunny day to a joyous celebration of growth; growth that has surpassed all..."

Jason turned off the sound. He was hovering at 1100 feet, directly over the capitol lawn. He could see at least four other pilots doing the same thing. It looked like a good time to eat his lunch. When he was nearly done with the sandwich, he heard a roar from the crowd below. He turned the sound back on; the governor was introducing the birthday guests, starting with the one year old. The sound went off again.

"Jason."

"Yes, Bob."

"They want a shot from where you are. Keep the camera on, pointed at the crowd and the stand."

"Coming right up. Still expecting trouble?"

"Nobody wants trouble, but nobody wants their cameras turned off if trouble happens."

Lisa was on the monitor, so Jason turned the sound up again. "The orowd here is still in a party mood, giving lots of encouragement to the speakers and the bands. They* re all looking forward to the big finale that Governor Benson has promised. It's still a secret- state officials will only say that it is symbolio of our years of growth. From Wesley Bolin Plaza, this is Lisa Molloy."

The scene out baok to live coverage of the governor's stand. "I'd like to thank all of you for coming out here today to say happy birthday to 90 fine people and one great state. New we'd like to finish with a special treat to commemorate the exact moment of our state's entry into the union. If Mrs. Farmer would come forward, she can help me with this."

"If you'll help me with my state taxes," quipped the woman as she walked slowly but proudly to the podium. VHth the governor's hand guiding hers, she pushed a red button on the giant machine. She Jumped out of the way as lenses at the top lit up and a whirring sound came from within. "Look to the west," called the governor. The orowd hummed in amassment as a three dimensional image began to form over the oapitol dome. Two brown mountains appeared in midair. Between them, a giant dam hundreds of feet tall came up, and blue water flowed from its spill gates. The skyscrapers of a large city sprang up. Finally, in front of the city, a giant green cactus with a smiling faoe appeared and waved at the crowd. People laughed, applauded and waved back.

Jason turned his helicopter around to get a dear shot of the spectacle. At three thousand feet, he aimed down to get the holographic image and the crowd below.

"Great shot, Jason," said Bob.

"Dh, oh, what's this?" asked Jason to himself, a second image was forming. This one was directly over the crowd.

"Something is happening here, and I don't think this is part of the plan," said Lisa. She was at the edge of the image that was forming fifty feet above the crowd, she she was still in sunlight. "People here are very quiet, and some are starting to run away."

The new image was pure black, and rising to a height of several thousand feet* "I can*t see what this is supposed to be," said Lisa. "It is definitely not part of the celebration. A National Guard unit Just rushed past me, looking for the source of this projection."

Jason took the helicopter up to 6000 feet, and spun it around for a better view* "Can you pick this up, Bob?"

"Right. You're on the air* Now we know what it is."

A giant hand was forming over the plaza, its middle finger 4000 feet high, pointed straight at the zenith. Jason circled the finger for a better view.

"We've just been given a statement from the Edward Abbey Society," said Lisa. "It reads, 'There is but a finger's difference separating the wise man from the fool, according to the Greek philosopher Diogenes. We think all Arizonans should reflect for a moment during this birthday. Think about which men are wise and which are fools." Her image jumped on the screen as the cameraman was jostled by a running spectator. "Apparently, this was done as some kind of joke, but people in the Plaza are getting scared. Those in the center are in nearly total darkness* About half of the crowd has made it to sunlight, but they have filled all of the nearby streets, so nobody can leave by car." Once again, the camera was hit so hard that viewers were looking at Lisa's shoes for a few seconds.

"This is getting rough," said Jason to himself* "I'd better go help." The helicopter began a descent to the capitol.

"From where I stand, I can hear the governor urging people to leave in a calm and orderly fashion. I can see volunteer Shriner clowns trying to direct the traffic as..." A shadow fell over Lisa, and her voice was drowned out by a loud whining noise. "Whose is that?" she yelled.

"Ours," said a cameraman as the picture on the screen went blank. Sean at the studio was on a moment later saying something about technical difficulties.

"He spoiled my story!" screamed Lisa, so loud that Jason oould hear her in the helicopter 20 feet above. He had the rope ladder in his right hand and the door open when he saw Lisa gesturing at him from below. Her intent was as clear as the message floating above them. She wanted him to fly away. Jason was overcome with embarassment. He took the helioopter up and flew to the northwest.

Fifteen minutes later he arrived at his destination. He droled the lake twice before touching down at the cleared strip of land. Heather was waiting for him.

"Thank heaven," she cried. "I've been watching the news. When the station lost contact with you, I got scared. Are you all right?"

"Never been better," he said. "How quickly can you pack?"

"Pack what?"

"Everything you own. I'm ready to clear out of here and go to California where life is saner. I heard about a town named Mendocino where people still live in clapboard houses and walk on the beach every day."

"I'll be ready in two hours."

"It won't be easy. We might have to live in a double podment for awhile."

"Like I said, two hours."

"Can we renew for a year? I'm getting too old for all this agonizing."

"I thought you'd never ask."

THE END

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