THE RATNAZ FILES: BOOK IV
Whizzle's Classic SF Stories
All-Gory Pulp Parodies
by Today's Authors In the Style of Yesterday's Giants
All Bill Hillman Contributions Copyright 1997-1999
by Bill and Sue-On Hillman, Inc.
Maple Grove Productions
Chapter Title Contributor
CHAPTER 51: Riders of the Purple Stage -- Tangor
CHAPTER 52: Gnu of the Plasticene -- Tangor
CHAPTER 53: "How Do You Do What You Do To Me?" -- Tangor
CHAPTER 54: Send in the Clones -- Tangor
CHAPTER 55: Tinsel Town -- Tangor
CHAPTER 56: Savage Ratnaza -- Tangor
CHAPTER 57: Flight of the Thipcar --Bill Hillman
CHAPTER 58: The Secret Lab of Ras Putan --
Mastermind of Stars --Bill Hillman
CHAPTER 59: FYIO: The Touchwood Pictures Secret Files
On Elmer Ford and Bodacious Derricks --Bill Hillman
CHAPTER 60: Death Comes in Twos --Bill Hillman
To be continued in Book V:
CHAPTER 51: Riders of the Purple Stage --Tangor
Jane Porker-Bozhart entered the Tappan Range Chicken Shack Vacation via a side door. She was not seen, nor had it been her desire to be seen. Mounting a little used stairwell at the west side, she entered a private room and changed into jeans and a sensible plaid flannel shirt. Dainty feet were thrust into no-nonsense boots with an exaggerated cowboy heel, and a rather ratty Stetson of non-descript color was jammed over her beautiful hair. Leaning over a dressing table, the gorgeous woman wiped away all trace of feminine warpaint, getting as plain as God would allow--and fortunately for mankind, there was little she could do to undo His good work.
The disguise complete, Jane hitched up her loose-fitting jeans and adopted a studied bow-legged walk as she headed downstairs. If Cilli Billman was on schedule, she would be a dozen miles away from the Chicken Shack by now. Mrs. Bozhart's plan depended upon the wife of the West Virginian Canuck and she wished the woman well as she entered the main room downstairs.
Two dozen prominent captains of industry and public officials were engaged in hot and heavy intercourse with sweaty decks of abused cards. Jane Porker-Bozhart walked around the perimeter of her husband's popular resort, unnoticed by the men who were engaged in ardent bidding with extravagantly dressed women of questionable repute.
Brace had assured Jane that the women were of the highest quality, but as she passed table number three, she heard Nancy Draw, in bobby soxs and a felt skirt, bid double and re-doubled on a Diamond bid. Jane, like most of the readers of this increasingly inane story, had no concept of whether Hoyle's rules were in effect or not--and the Hoyle in mind was not the card shark but that often misunderstood science fiction writer responsible for unremembered sagas of speculative literature.
In any event, Jane successfully navigated the room, heading for the garage exit. But just as she was about to leave, a man's hand clasped her elbow.
Surburban Cowgirl Marlin Brandough, one of the club's bouncers, leaned into Jane's face with a blue-chinned scowl. "Yer late, ya dizzy dame," he said, adjusting a too-tight leather jacket about his hard body. The man's lip curled in a sharp sneer. "Da boys is restless, chick. They's been waiting."
Brandough dragged Jane through the crowd to the stage where an Armitron Electric Bull was surrounded by a half-dozen feather mattresses. "Git yerself up, girlie," he said, picking Jane up by her slim waist and putting her astride the well-polished leather back of the mechanical bull.
Brandough leaned in close, still not recognizing his boss' wife, and said, "Tight jeans. dat's whatcha need. Show your skinny fanny next time. Dat's what the geeks pays for. Ya know," he confided, shoving Jane's feet into the stirrups, "I coulda been a contender. Grab on tight, honey, we's gonna buck a while, jest you an' me."
If not for the need to maintain complete anonymity, Jane Porker-Bozhart would have exercised her feminine outrage and slapped the cock-sure male. As it was, she maintained a tight grip, not only on her anger but the talc-encrusted rope which provided the only hand-hold on the mechanial beast. Marlin Brandough grinned sardonically as he reached for the controls which activated the electric bull.
Meanwhile, a dozen miles away, Cilli Billman gripped the steering wheel of a battered Ford F-100 pickup of dubious reliability. She had driven north of Los Angeles into the mountains on back roads throughout the night, the blazing fires and heavy smoke near Ratnaza always in her rearview mirror. Would she be in time?
In a cul-de-sac of one of the many canyons east and north of the metropolitan area, Cilli finally reached her destination. It was a simple two story, $12.6 million dollar fix-'er-up with a wrought iron fence and electric gate. Reaching the driveway intercom, Cilli took a moment to catch her breath. A moment later she pressed the button. A sleepy voice responded.
"I'm here to pick up my kids," Cilli announced.
"'Bout time," a woman's voice replied. "Come on up to the main house."
The electric gate swung wide. Cilli Billman gripped the steering wheel on the rattling F-100 and wrestled the pickup along a winding drive decorated with under-watered shrubs, lawn jockeys and sun-faded plastic pink flamingos.
Willie and Phillie and Milli and Vanilli were standing in an orderly row at the foot of a red-tiled portico of the typical Southwester adobe and plaster mansion. Beside them, brown hair in rollers and wearing a bathrobe and bunny slippers, was the woman who'd agreed to babysit while Cilli helped Jane Porker-Bozhart.
Before Cilli could shift gears into neutral and set the emergency brake, the woman had descended on the driver's side with a sharp expression. "It's about time you picked up your brats!" the woman shrieked. "I'm sorry, Ms. Sotts," Cilli replied. "Annie--I really tried to get here on time."
The semi-attractive actress, always around the pheriphery of Hollywood success, gripped the dusty F-100's window ledge and scowled. "I never had this much trouble with Deltoid Quirk on Architectural Women! The way I see it, you owe ME money!"
Cilli Billman nodded, but her eyes were on the rear of the truck via the dirty rear-view mirror. Her kids stealthily climbed into the rusted truck bed as Annie Sotts shook a well-manicured finger in her face. "Yes, Ms. Sotts. I'll pay the repairs, Ms. Sotts. Whatever you say, Ms. Sotts."
Vanilli was the last to enter, carrying Phillie the gifted toddler-of-arts in her arms. When the children were settled Cilli Billman's voice took on a different tone as she simultaneously shifted into first. "You can kiss my grits, Ms. Sotts!"
Cilli Billman spun tires accellerating down the drive. She caught a glimpse of Annie Sotts saluting her with a rude gesture in the rear-view mirror, but she paid little attention as her whole being focused on exiting the estate before the woman could reach the controls governing the electric gate.
Gaining the main road, the fires of Los Angeles to the west, Cilli Billman pushed the tired truck to its limits, achieving 38 miles per hour in second gear, third being not an option as it had been burned out long before. Her brave Canuck West Virginian or West Virginian Canuk--depending on how many beers had been consumed -- had done well in the employ of Brace Bozhart, but failed to invest in the family vehicle.
Dawn was near, the sun beginning to rise over the peaks to the east. Cilli Billman looked over her shoulder to make sure the kids were alright, humming that rock anthem of the Mid-Hippies while she glanced to make sure the kids were alright [editor's note: too obvious? Did you fail to register the refrain referencing The Who's semi-famous "The Kids Are Alright"? which fortunately has not been made into another deplorable automobile commercial--though that might happen if any advertising agents are reading this and say, "Hey, that would make a great commercial if we had a sturdy-built vehicle in need of market penetration being driven in an action-sequence with a bunch of kids strapped down (Federal and State laws, the political basketball of passenger side air bag fatalities of young children totally ignored) in the back seat of a speeding vehicle while Mom embarks on a cross-country drive?")
The momentary inattention to the deserted road was the downfall of Cilli Billman. The F-100 fell into a deep chasm which transected the lonely road. Frantic, concerned for her babies, the woman reached down and grabbed the well-worn transmission lever and screamed, "Aw, shift!"
CHAPTER 52: Gnu of the Plasticene --Tangor
Dan Darter waited until sunrise before leaving La Gaspack Tar Pits. He had been mildly entertained by an excited burbling and gushing of prehistoric tar which seemed almost human in origin. He imagined a vehicle of some kind plowing through the black muck which was a present-day link to the mysteries of the past. But he knew that was only a case of vivid night dreams on his part.
With the rising of old Sol, the Sun, the Star and the center of the Solar System, an insignificant yellow object in the larger Milky Way, which was even more insignificant in the brotherhood of galaxies--still only a minor player in the game of universes--which was only a hiccup in the extremities of infinity, yet only a forgotten page in the book of page one of eternity, an unsingular footnote in Einstein's Theory of Relativity, and not even a speck of dust in G. G. Smyth's Gemsman's series, Dan Darter wiped antediluvian tar from his face and stepped behind a rather dry and forlorn bush to eliminate that which had accumulated during the hours proceeding, sheepishly grasping the fleshy flexible duct utilized for that very purpose, releasing a stream of liquid toxins from the anatomical structure which Nature had evolved for that very purpose.
"Hold!" a stentorian voice blared.
Dan Darter held it, but his knees quivvered rapidly as he held it. "Jeeze," he muttered, "I can't hold it. I gotta go!"
"This is a site where endangered species dwell. You cannot go here."
Darter, smiling as he contemplated dismembering the disembodied voice, said, "Sod off, you old, (Language too strong for mixed company. Expletive deleted...the editor). When you gotta go, you gotta go!"
"Release not that which might compromise the sacred environment," the voice sternly rumpled. "Too soon will the deluge of retribution of progress uncheck shall descend upon us all."
The ex-ultralight mercenary grinned. "Hey, Noah! Deluge this, you figment of my imagination. Prepare for a flood!" Darter released the product of his kidneys with a sigh.
Moments later the ground shuddered as a 8.2 on the Richter scale earth tremor shuddered the arid landscape outside of burning Los Angeles.
Darter barely had time to do himself up before the ground split beneath his very feet. The mercenary screamed "Maaaammmmaaa!" as the earth swallowed him up.
Aftermath of The Blazing Inferno Elsewhere, Mars Markus and Kojak Morris, still saddled with the now sober Llana of Baseball, had endured a terrifying night of three-handed Hearts in the basement of a deserted building. The fire which had consumed thirty percent of the metroplex, and which still raged out of control to the south and east, had inexplicably burned blocks all around but had left their refuge intact.
Emerging from the soot-blackened structure, assaulted by lingering heat from smouldering piles of rubble and ash, the intrepid trio ignored tummy growls reminding all it had been some time since their last meal. Markus, the fighting man of bars, led the way to sunlight and devastation. Kojak Morris, having come to admire Llana's inante card sense and masterful ability to keep feeding him the bitch queen at every opportunity, was solicitious of her navigation through the destroyed city.
"Really weird," Mars Markus said, looking with sad eyes upon the ruins, "not a soul, not a creature, not a blade of grass..."
Kojak punched the man's shoulder. "There never was any grass, you idiot! Concrete, brick, glass, steel and aluma -- alumin -- al -- that light-weight metal they use in airplanes and cheap disk drives."
The fighting barman offered no response, more important things had come to mind; such as the astonishing sight of an extinct pterodon winging over the city! The flying creature's thirty-foot wing spread rivalled that of a single-engine fighter and it seemed fully capable of achieving Mach One as it dived upon them!
CHAPTER 53: "How Do You Do What
You Do To Me?" --Tangor
"Those ain't birds, boss, they're bats!" Splay-Toe ducked as a California fruit bat flapped straight for his red hair--probably believing it a rather large and tasty apple.
The mighty Yellow Jacket held arms in front of his face as the thunderous din of flying mammals whipped by, his body tingling from the combined echo-locating squeaks emitted by the frightened creatures. Several thumped into Bryce Lee's muscular body, to fall stunned at his feet.
Their vehicle was not to be seen in the whirling cloud of excited fruit bats. "They've cut us off! This way, O faithful Splay-Toe!"
Head down, arm raised, Bryce Lee dragged the reluctant wannabe Cantonese by the stub of his recently shortened que. Splay-Toe flailed with his deadly cleaver, though connecting with the nimble beasts proved to be impossible.
The pair stumbled foward into the seemingly inehaustible mass of bats until Bryce bumped into a stalagtite (or is it stalagmite? Who cares?) slick with the mineral rich moisture which had formed the mighty column over a period of 100,000 years. "Ophf!" Bryce grunted when Splay-Toe bumped into him.
Sheltered by the water-formed column, the two men took a breather. A few moments later it seemed the torrent of flying fluff and leathery wings diminished and soon only occasional stragglers were seen, winging toward a distant openning which neither man could see.
"I wonder what set them off?" the Yellow Jacket mused.
"I don't care," Splay-Toe said, examining the unstained keen edge of his wicked cleaver. "I can't believe I didn't at least clip one of them!"
"Tut tut, my good fellow," Lee remarked, his easy manner and adventurous spirit rekindled by the respite. "Leave us to explore this hitherto unknown cave formation below the sprawling pestilence known as the City of Angles."
"That's 'Angels'," Splay-Toe suggested.
"You have it your way, I'll have it mine," the masked crime fighter rebuked. "Come, it is time to get on with the story."
The crusaders against Brace Bozhart, BB, Inc., and Red Dye No. 3, commenced a rapid exploration of the immense cavern. The walls glowed with sufficient light from phosphorescent lichens and fungi that visibility was reasonable. Several large tunnels converged upon the main chamber. Bryce took one that was free of bat guano, which was several feet thick everywhere else.
He was intrigued by the walls, which showed signs of having been smoothed and widened by intelligent hand, and the only creature to make such efforts was man.
"We may be travelling where no human has travelled in a million years," Lee announced, his voice echoing like some over-driven spring reverb in a cheap guitar amp. "Look here, and there!" he said, rushing forward to examine the marks upon the tunnel's wall. "Obviously worked by man. Oh, this is so exciting!"
Splay-Toe, worn out by his recent misadventures, was slow to follow. He was tired. He hadn't slept all night, some of his usual get up and go had got up and went. Getting knocked out of the sky hadn't helped. Thus, he was some distance behind his master when he heard a curious sound in the distance ahead.
It was a low throbbing at first, then came occasional sharp reports mixed in with the sound that kept getting louder. Then Splay-Toe noticed an odd bobbing light which transvered ceiling to floor in a rapid and erratic fashion. A running figure came toward him, outlined by the light which grew more harsh as the seconds passed. It was Bryce Lee, sprinting as if all the devils of Hell were upon his tail.
"What is it, boss?" the inscruitable Canadian chinaman asked.
"Run for your life!" Bryce shrieked, eyes distended with terror.
Never had the sidekick seen the big boy so distraught. Some of Lee-Bozhart's fear was transmitted to the yellow-dyed feet in black slippers; Splay-Toe's earlier fatigue forgotten. "If'n we're gonna die, Bryce, tell me what's going to kill us? A monster? A flood? A..."
Without pausing, or looking over his shoulder, Bryce Lee responded: "It is more horrible than any of those things!"
The noise behind them increased to such a level that the roar and rumble hurt eardrums. "Sounds like a freight train!" Splay-Toe yelled. "Far worse than that, my friend," Bryce shouted. "It's a woman behind the wheel of a pickup truck!"
CHAPTER 54: Send it the Clones --Tangor
Cabyns and Datsun cringed as the sounds of battle raged outside the elevator loo. Shouts and screams, some human, some not, came through the panel in an incredible wave. Datsun wiggled the handle on the porcelin throne, but to no avail. The conveyance stubbornly refused to move!
Something began attacking the door, which groaned and bent under the titanic force. What manner of creature lay beyond neither man could comprehend, but surely it must be their doom.
Equally appalling was the sudden THUD on the roof of the elevator. Now they were menaced from two directions! Though the door continued to hold, it would not hold much longer, yet it seemed less of a danger than the thing on the roof which had somehow opened the upper hatch!
A tentacle whipped into the compartment, writhing furiously, lashing about and striking both British subjects. The usually calm Cabyns wailed and poor Dr. Datsun fainted. Holding his Pez injector in a trembling right hand, Herlock Cabyns prepared to sell his life as dearly as possible.
An instant later Cabyns leaned against the water cabin's cabinets wishing for a strong cabernet. Clad in black from head to foot, a mountaineer's climbing rig about his lean waist, Brace Bozhart, or the imposter Brace Bozhart, landed lightly on the tiled floor.
"We must hurry," the imposing figure said calmly. "The door won't hold much longer."
"How?" Herlock asked, assisting the handsome man in lifting the reviving Datsun from the floor.
"Leave that to me," the Bozhart lookalike smiled. "Up we go, Dr. Datsun!"
With an unconscious display of his incredible strength, Bozhart lifted the overweight Datsun well above the edge of the access hatch. Heartbeats later Herlock Cabyns joined the confused physician.
"I say, Cabyns, that can't be Brace Bozhart!"
"I know," the frowning consulting detective whispered as the man effortlessly pulled himself up the rope, "but at the moment, he is our only hope. Play along, Datsun, until we can learn more."
The dark-haired man motioned for his companions to join him on the left side of the elevator. Overhead a maze of wire and cables, with occasional dim work lights, indicated the tremendous depth of the narrow shaft. Working quietly, swiftly, yet seemingly unperturbed, their rescuer fastened short web belts about each waist, then clipped a snap hook onto the rope which he held in one hand. Producing a knife with a long gleaming blade, the man smiled.
"Be not afraid, gentlemen, though I do suggest you hold on."
His hand flicked out slicing a taut cable. Almost instantly all three were jerked upwards with astonishing force. The man in black kept them from spinning wildly at the end of the ascending rope by using a gloved hand around another cable. A quiet warning came just as the heavy counterweight descended at the opposite side of the shaft. Datsun, poor soul, emitted a shriek which stopped almost immediately.
"Beg pardon," the embarrassed man said. "Surprised me."
"There is one more surprise," their mysterious benefactor said, "and here it is."
Herlock Cabyns, to his dying day, could never believe what happened next. The man, with knife in one hand, kicked against the wall to cause them to swing out into the shaft then, just below one of several openings they had passed, cut the rope!
The return swing, their upward velocity, the man's incredible sense of timing and calculation, had caused their entrance into a side tunnel with nary a jar upon the feet. The Englishmen were in a state of shock as the man removed web belts and took them by the elbow. They went where they were led, faces drained of all blood, knees weak and trembling.
The route was confusing, as it was near utter darkness, but their guide seemed unimpeded by the blackness. Turns were made without falter or hesitation. What manner of man was this? Herlock Cabyns asked himself. He is indominable, strong...perfect! Never have I met such a man in my life!
"Oh, dear Lord!" Datsun cried with relief as the last turning revealed a spot of light ahead. "We are saved!"
The tunnel let onto the side of one of the mighty peaks surrounding the Tappan Range. The entrance was concealed behind a growth of trees. The slope below was relatively gentle compared to the heights above. Cabyns and Datsun blinked as they entered the sunlight. The breeze from the ocean was strong, but carried the stench of burning Los Angeles. On the horizon a thick cloud of ugly smoke rose from thousands of buildings on fire.
The man in black, most strikingly handsome, accepted the profuse gratitude with a slight smile. "You are needed Herlock Cabyns, that's why I interceded. Beware, sir, and you too, Datsun, all is not as it seems. Be wary of those calling themselves 'Bozhart' for they are none of them what they claim."
"And how do you know this?" Datsun sputtered. "Why, looking at you, it appears the same could be said..."
"I agree," the man in black smiled, "but for one difference."
Cabyns narrowed his eyes, his deductive mechanisms running full tilt. "What difference?"
"I am the original," he said, and vanished into the black tunnel.
CHAPTER 55: Tinsel Town --Tangor
Nick Miser threw up his hands. "What a time for a fire! Damn inconvenient if you ask me. Still, this won't affect our fabulous production of Edgar Nyce's Ratnaz, Lord of the Leaves. Should it, Brace?"
The immaculately attired business man sipped coffee in Miser's inner office, the morning sun shining through the floor to ceiling windows. The panorama beyond displayed the mountains to the north and east, the ocean to the west, and the thick column of smoke rising over what had been Los Angeles, Mendicino, Ratnaza, and a dozen other small cities and towns. How Hollywood had been spared was a mystery, though it is well known that regardless of shame or tragedy, Hollywood always came up smelling like roses. Of course, those roses might be atop a large pile of farmer's friend.
Brace set down the cup bearing a stylized Randy Rodent logo and considered the question behind steepled fingers. "There will be very little impact," he predicted. Fair Helium Supply had been missed by the raging inferno, thus sales of that exotic gas to Rodent Pictures were unaffected. "However, Nick, you know I have been against this film from the beginning. Sales of Ratnaz adventures at book stores are at an all time low. There will never be another printing revival such as we saw in the 1960's when it was through that Edgar Nyce's copyrights had expired. Fully a third of the Ratnaz novels are public domain and are available for free on the Internet. The possibilities for secure markets -- and profitablity -- seem rather slim."
Miser pooh poohed the nay-saying. "We've got that locked up. Nyce had to sign a rather one-sided licensing agreement that gives us exclusive use of the Ratnaz trademark for two years--and forbids him from granting use to anyone else during that time. Ratnaz lunch boxes, Ratnaz t-shirts, Ratnaz notebooks and school supplies, Ratnaz shoes, Ratnaz comic books, Ratnaz books--ours, naturally--Ratnaz underwear for both boys and girls, Ratnaz coasters, Ratnaz sunglasses, Ratnaz..."
The studio exec excitedly paced his spacious office, expounding on the target markets his ad groups were exploring. He was so caught up in the fantasy of several billion dollars flowing through the company coffers that he failed to note that Brace Bozhart winched each time 'Ratnaz' was mentioned. It was as if a sharp stick had been poked in the listener's eye. Miser's tirade of capitalism unleashed continued without abatement until Bozhart rose.
"Listen, NM, OB queues licensees like supermarkets cue customers. With him it is in one door and out the other. The result is there have been many bad Ratnaz licenses issued and the public has been burned. The animated series didn't last. That goofy TV series with the ex-jock had a short run. The comics wouldn't stand the insane editorial control, and I have no doubts that Edgar Nyce won't be very nice to work with. Mark my words."
Miser stopped pacing, looking at his visitor with direct gaze. "I know you were the one who put us back on track by suggesting that fish girl story, the girl and the beast story, and that Arabian Nights thing, and I admit you counciled against the deformed bell-ringer and the indian princess story and box office sales seem to bear your predictions out, but damn it, Brace, this is Ratnaz, the Lord of the Leaves! Quick as a cat, fast as a deer... great stuff! Ratnaz has been an American Icon for over 80 years. This character is too popular not to be exploited. And by golly, we're just the outfit to do it!"
Smiling cordially, Brace Bozhart extended his hand. The two shook warmly. "Keep me posted, NM. Though I do not have a lot of faith in the Ratnaz property, I have plenty in what you and your company can do. Oh, I left a little token of my esteem with your secretary. The short you produced for BB, Inc. was excellent. I'll see you at the club?"
Miser looked momentarily distracted, shocked Brace would mention the notorious Chicken Shack Vacation House where prying ears could overhear. Then he shrugged that aside because he was so powerful that if anyone did speak out of turn, he'd have them fired, and maybe killed if he thought it worth the trouble. "Tomorrow night. Big do at the arena--no," he laughed, "I guess that event has been cancelled on account of fire!"
CHAPTER 57: Savage Ratnaza --Tangor
Bertie and Albert listened to the dying echoes of Ratnaz's voice. The again head-bonked Lord of the Leaves was temporarily insane. Bertie Ketchum, fetchumly wrapped in a see-through shower curtain flush a blush as crimson as her hair. She was not embarrassed for her state of undress, she had worked in far less during her years as a NATO spy, rather her chagrin was to be so hopelessly in love with a fellow who's behavior changed as rapidly as a character being written by two different authors. It was demeaning for one to have their affection blossom and grow and the other to dig up the garden and toss out the bushes.
She also thought it was rather idiotic to have to suffer through so many outrageous inappropriate metaphors. Oh, if she could only get her hands on them they'd both talk funny for a week!
"Let me get you some clothes, dear," Albert said. The old fellow mopped his perspiring face with a black and yellow handkerchief.
"You poor dear!" Bertie exclaimed. She struggled to hold the translucent curtain in place while putting her arm around the butler. "I'm so sorry we put you through all that! Don't worry about me."
"I'm not, dear girl," Albert explained. "I'm worried about my heart. You are simply too perfect and I do not think my heart can stand much more of it. Please, walk behind me, or call the paramedics."
Though his tone was facetious, Bertie was fully cognizant of her effect on men--all men except one. "Why do I have to love him so?"
It Happened At the County Fair The night before Dee Dee Morris had waited until Bertha La Ropa had gone to sleep, then the plucky ex-stripper tiptoed out to the well.
"Pssttt!" she whispered. "Are you still down there?"
A pained voice replied, "Are you going to hurt me again?"
"If I let down the rope, can you get yourself out?"
"Is that crazy woman with you? If she is, I'm not sure I want to get out."
Dee Dee lowered the rope and waited impatiently for the man to haul his bruised and battered body to the surface. Carefully sticking his head over the well's rim, he said, "I left the harpoon. See, I'm unarmed."
"Hurry up and get out of there. Be quiet or you'll wake her."
Hilary Billman kept the grunting sub-vocal and managed to exit the excavation without undue racket. Now that the bedraggled peg-legged man was standing unsteadily beside her, Ms. Morris didn't know what to do with him.
"What were you doing down there?" she asked.
"Looking for Moby Dick. Now I'm just looking for Brace Bozhart so I can cut out his heart." Billman proceeded to relate all that had happened over the last few weeks...secret meetings, the cavern, the android animals, the attack of the F-16, too much broccoli at dinner, which gave him hallucinations, a monstrous earthen mole, the adventure in the flooded tunnel, and worst of all, three sharp whacks on the noggin by the chicken farmer. "I tell you, miss, life has been rather unkind to me recently. But of all the low-down things that's happened, being deserted by Brace Bozhart is the most disillusioning. I thought he was the tops, aces, king of kings, the messiah...well, you get the picture. I liked him. Then he had to run off and leave me to face that armored monster by myself. I'll kill him REAL slow."
This description of her benefactor was unsettling. Dee Dee Morris though La Ropa's attack had addled his brains. He was in need of medical treatment. Perhaps some fluid on the brain prompted all these fabrications, these fantasies. No normal human being would think of such things, or express them in such outrageous commentary.
"Let's go," Dee Dee said, draping one of his arms over her shoulder and putting a supporting arm around his waist. Billman, still weak from the long travail, felt ashamed to need her support. The big man openly wept. "You're a sweet woman, you are," the confused Virginian West Canuck bawled. "Just like my dear Cilli and that nice Jane Porker-Bozhart." The mention of that name harded his voice. "I wonder what a swell gal like her sees in a snake like Boz!"
Seeing that his condition was growing worse, Dee Dee felt no compunction about borrowing La Ropa's pickup truck. The man needed a doctor, and soon! The mental abberation which caused the man to vilify his employer could not possibly be the same man who had saved her from a fate worse than leering lechery.
The dirt road exiting La Ropa's ghastly chicken ranch was dark and twisting. The black smoke from the Los Angeles inferno passed low overhead, driven by a strong wind. At times the cloud dipped to the ground, obscuring vision and searing lungs. Despite the hardships, the young woman was determined to complete her mission of mercy. She had steered the rattlling truck some considerable distance toward her goal when the smoke hugged the road once again. That black curtain concealed a vast fissure transsecting the road. Unaware of the danger, Dee Dee's tires rolled to the very brink.
CHAPTER 57: Flight of the Thipcar --Bill Hillman
“Steeerike One!” cried Llana of Baseball as she swung and connected soundly with the menacing beak of the attacking flying reptile.
Mars Markus and Kojak Morris looked on dumfounded as the monstrous pterodon-like creature plopped belly-up beside them -- done in by an unerring swing from the trusty bat of the Sultaness of Swat. As they dodged cruel talons of the kicking feet -- the last throes of the beast -- they examined the underbelly. Tattooed on the leathery skin were the words: THIS THIPCAR IS PROPERTY OF BB INC.
“Aha!” declared Mars Markus. “Brace Bozhart is behind this!”
Further inspection in the chest area revealed a panel which opened to reveal a complex jumble of mechanical parts, wheels, motors, microcircuits, wires and Russian-made vacuum tubes -- but all of this seemed to be integrated with throbbing organic material. Above the open panel were two buttons which the ever-curious Morris pressed in quick succession: RESET and MANUAL OVERRIDE.
The trio were tossed to one side as the beast sprang to life and assumed a crouch position on its two giant birdlegs. When sure that the creature posed no threat, Kojak climbed onto what surely was a riding seat on the back of and just below the long neck of what he now assumed had to be a bionic flying machine. Once seated he became aware of a complex control panel labeled N-64. Above a joystick and video display panel were two sets of control pads, each with four buttons with arrows pointing up, down, and to left and right. An adrenaline rush swept over the veteran adventurer and video arcade junkie. While getting the feel of the joystick, he entreated his companions to climb aboard the passenger seats and strap themselves in. When the “Please Fasten Seat Belts” sign flashed off the video display, Kojak reached out with his eager forefinger to engage the START button. The mighty featherless wings flapped into action and the spindly chicken legs moved in roadrunner fashion until the prehistoric lizard bird was airborne. At last they had found a conveyance suitable for locating the incomparable Dee Dee Morris!
The sight below them offered a panorama beyond belief. Much of the LA area lay in charred, smoking desolation but there were many island-like pockets of the city which remained relatively untouched. The indomitable and resilient spirit of humankind in face of disaster brought pride to the hearts of these jaded old warriors of bar and bat. Along a relatively unscathed area of Ventura Boulevard a group of brave survivors had organized a parade. Stretched out along the street was a long line of revelers: gaily coloured bikers, splendidly coiffeured blonde ladies on small motorized vehicles, a precision jogging team in matching white uniforms, a troop of singing horsemen with Canadian Mountie uniforms and tack -- obviously executing the famed RCMP Musical Ride, and a squad of diminutive lads in what looked like Boy Scout uniforms -- waving excitedly at the small crowd along the parade route. The procession was led by a parade marshall in full Lady Columbia costume who was chauffeured on a splendid yellow Harley by a robust driver in formal attire. Presumably for comic effect, an almost naked man -- probably George of the Jungle -- rode a cart attached to the rear of the motorcycle... and bringing up the rear of the whole cavalcade was a Keystone Kop going through a most impressive repertoire of comic slapstick moves.
Everywhere, fissures were evident from the catastrophic earthquakes which had coincided with the disastrous conflagration of the night before. Morris could not help but wonder what cosmic forces were afoot to have brought about such a sequence of holocaustic events. The fledgling argonauts observed helplessly from their lofty viewpoint as at least two far-off pickup trucks disappeared from sight... swallowed up voracious tectonic forces. Over by the Gaspack Tar Pits they could see a lone smoldering bush behind which a solitary blackened figure appeared to be about to relieve himself. As if to ease the tension of the ordeals they had gone through, Kojak, ever the jester, decided to have some fun with the poor unsuspecting soul below. Having just discovered what appeared to be a microphone and amplification system, he reached for the mic and in a thundering voice commanded: “Hold!”
The novice aviators giggled as the fellow below recoiled and quivered. Enjoying the reaction of the desperate man doubled over behind the bush, the pilot of the Thipcar carried on with his Supreme-Being impression, much to the chagrin of his victim. As the bogus Almighty wound up his tirade with: “Too soon will the deluge of retribution of progress unchecked descend upon us all,” the poor post-defecating vassal used his right hand to attend to his toiletry while he emphasized his vented blasphemous wrath with his left fist -- and paid the price of his heresy. The ground beneath the sacrilegious heretic quaked and opened up to devour him.
“Holy dog dung!” exclaimed the cowed comedian. “Did I do that?”
Before he could ponder his newly acquired power, Kojak’s attention was drawn to another scenario being played out far below. Llana of Baseball was gesticulating excitedly with her autographed bat: “Awwww...aren’t they cute.”
Scattered across a charred pasture area which Morris recognized as part of the old Edgar Nyce estate, were a scattered herd of burros cavorting in an insanely choreographed routine -- closer surveillance revealed that they were only trying to retain their footing as the ground trembled beneath. Without warning, the rookie pilot lost all control of the flying machine and the Thipcar went into a steep dive -- seemingly with a mind and intelligence of its own. The out-of-control lizard-bird plunged toward the unsuspecting burros with talons outstretched. The sound of the slipstream screaming over featherless wings mingled with the paniced cries of the riders as the Thipcar fell from the sky.
CHAPTER 58: The Secret Lab of Ras Putan
-- Mastermind of Stars --Bill Hillman
The man of superhuman physical ability who had called himself Brace Bozhart seemed to have vanished into thin air. Herlock Cabyns sat at the entrance to the tunnel from which their rescuer had just led them and instinctively reached for his automatic mechanized Pez injector. Finding the pockets of his plus fours empty, he fought panic as he turned to his trusted colleague: “Datsun, I must go back...I have dropped my medicine.”
No amount of pleading could dissuade the master sleuth and soon he was retracing his steps with a reluctant Datsun lagging behind. After a few hundred feet of groping in the tunnel’s darkness, they came to a branch in the passageway and Cabyn’s attention turned to a glimmer of light far down the right hand fork. Temporarily forcing thoughts of the missing packet from his mind, he approached the source of the light.
A sudden turn in the tunnel brought them to a brilliantly lit cavern, the rough hewn walls of which were lined with elevated slabs bearing the bodies of naked men. The heads of the bodies were encased in bullet-shaped metal cones, each of which was attached to a number of flexible tubes. These tubes led to the centre of the cavern where they were affixed to a large number of transparent vats containing some sort of organic material.
No sooner had they entered the room than a heavily reinforced door fell behind them, sealing off the subterranean room from the entrance tunnel. The crash of the closing door was followed by a maniacal cackle, the source of which was a wizened old man crouching half-hidden in the shadows of the entranceway -- his wrinkled hand still wrapped around a large control lever.
“How darest thou enter the sanctity of the Ras Putan laboratory,” the shriveled crone crooned through his bushy mustache as looked them up and down with eyes transformed into giant orbs by thick horn-rimmed glasses.
“I say, my good man, has Brace Bozhart passed this way?” inquired the imperturbable Cabyns.
This question sent the little man in the oversized lab coat into hysterical fits of laughter: “Bozhart? Bozhart!!!...You want Bozhart? Walk this way!” he cackled.
The two English crime fighters had difficulty duplicating the stooped Grouchoesque stride but managed to follow the scientist across the obsidian floor to a gaudily lit control panel. The old man’s crooked fingers flew across the blinking controls and then he stepped back, smugly motioning to the cadaver-like bodies positioned around the cave walls: “Take your pick sonny!”
The cone devices had slid back to reveal the countenances which had been hidden till now -- the likeness of Brace Bozhart lay on every slab!
“How can this be, my man?” gasped Cabyns as Datsun furiously rubbed his spectacles on his sleeve. “Do you not have a tissue, Datsun?”
“Look Cabyns! It’s Bozhart...there...and there...and there and...”
“My word, Datsun. You’re right! What is this Mr. Putan?” came the query as the occasionally near-sighted Cabyns brushed his assistant aside and squinted around the cave periphery.
The obviously unhinged scientist went into his vindictive diatribe: “Those fools! I had it all....I was the Mastermind of the Stars... I had the pulse of Hollywood in my hands... nose jobs...face lifts...tummy tucks...implants... restructuring....hee hee hee...Fools... one little mistake on that Diana Ross wannabe... take my license would they... ah... but Dr. Monreau knows what I can do...hee hee hee... Old Ed Grimley knew what I could do...hee hee hee... now who’s crazy?... With my modification of the Grimley Wave machine I can clone Bozhart’s brain into Monreau’s mindless bionic creations...heee heee heee ...see... see ...see... they are perfect replicas... except for those silly Grimley curls on their heads...but just watch...I’ll find a way to straighten that out...”
The rantings of this raving madman were interrupted by the clamorous entrance of a wooden-faced, wild-eyed lab assistant who was shouting incoherent babble.
Ras Putan paused in mid mad tirade: “Yes...What is it Algor? Can’t you see I’m busy!”
“The peasants Master...the desert townspeople...the miners...they’re revolting”
“I KNOW that Algor. Now tell me...what is the problem?” quizzed the bug-eyed surgeon as he twirled an unlit fat cigar between his fingers.
“Seriously Master, there’s a riot going on. They have torched the surface buildings and it is just a matter of time before they reach the lab!” shouted the frustrated assistant.
Cabyns and Datsun leaped back as a trap door raised beneath their feet and a disheveled head raised above the floor surface. They immediately recognized Dr. Li-Chan Monreau from Bozhart’s underground Phantom Empire control room.
“Ras Putan! The Slavgoths are revolting! ...I know! ...I know! ...Enough of the jokes already! There is a full scale mutiny by the workers in the underground theme park! They are reprogramming and releasing the creatures! It’s only a matter of time before they reach the lab!
[Writer’s note to rival staff writer Tangor. Let’s see ya top that Tang Gor...8 -- count ‘em -- 8 exclamation marks! Make that 9! 10! 11! 12!... Writer’s note to All-Gory Pulp Magazine resident computer geek: Program an infinite number loop here! That’ll drive him nuts!...]
At that moment there was a power surge throughout the lab. Crackling charges of electricity sent the bogus Bozhart bodies into spasms. When the power returned to normal, the entire curly-headed troupe slid feet-first to the floor and lurched stiff-legged, with arms outstretched, toward the five men huddled around the control panel in the centre of the cavern.
CHAPTER 59: FYIO: The Touchwood Pictures
Secret Files On Elmer Ford and Bodacious Derricks
A sporty car eased to the curb just down the street from the main gate of Rodent/Touchwood Productions. The driver, dressed in black, left the car to scurry over the high wall which surrounded the studio lot and employed commando moves to gain access to the flat roof of an annex building. The darkened figure then made its way cat-like across rooftops to the main office building and after a few expert motions with a burglar’s tool, the intruder had gained entry to the elaborate offices of Nick Miser, head of Rodent and Touchwood Pictures. Gloved hands picked the lock on a large desk drawer and withdrew a heavy leather-bound book. The light from a high intensity flashlight illuminated the title on the cover of the book:
THE PERSONAL DAILY JOURNAL OF NICK MISER - PRESIDENT RODENT & TOUCHWOOD PICTURES - TOP SECRET STUFF.
The figure in black hunched down behind the desk and started to flip through the pages:
Dear Diary: Arrangements and negotiations on the Ratnaz pic are going well...despite the reluctance and lack of enthusiasm shown by Brace Bozhart. Sometimes I can’t understand that man. He’s been acting peculiar lately... he’s even taken to wearing one of those faggy Grimley Waves. Edgar Nyce is ticked off... I’ve decided to go with a new actor for the Ratnaz role... Bozhart’s stories about the depths to which old Raztnaz has plunged are disconcerting... the compromising pictures he brought in today were the last straw -- can’t have stuff like this falling into the hands of the International Inquiring Minds tabloid -- gotta find a new apeman. The reputation of Touchwood and Rodent Productions is at stake.
Dear Diary: Started our worldwide campaign to find a new face for the Ratnaz role. Hardly got off the ground...Boz brought in his latest find and even offered to pay the actor’s salary. This guy coulda been Bozhart’s twin except for the hair colour and a longer Grimley Wave hairdo... he’s even got that goofy stupid Bozhart smirk and potbelly. Some guy called Elmer Ford. Told Ed... not happy!
Dear Diary: Hired OB on today as technical advisor... gotta appease the old fart. Probably a good thing. He caught the special effects department just in time this afternoon. Tigers are hard to find so they had dug up a huge wooly Great Pyrenees Mountain dog. Had to shave the poor animal. Ed caught them just as they were shaving off the mane! He had to tell the idiots that African tigers have manes... he even had to tell them to spray bigger spots on the animal. Just saw the rushes of the beast -- they got him dyed, clipped and spotted just like the real thing. Got to mention that drooling tho.
Dear Diary: Voice test on Elmer Ford today. Jeeze, that Bozhart! How’d I let him talk me into hiring this guy. The bozo’s got a speech impediment... can’t say his R’s. Called in a vocal coach. Meeting with the writers tomorrow to see if they can write around this little problem... maybe cut the R words out of the script.
Dear Diary: Ford seemed to have all the right physical moves when Bozhart brought him to us but now he’s started tripping over things on the set, dropping things, falling out of trees -- the chump’s even taken to freezing in mid-step.
Dear Diary: Our Pyrenees tiger was the darling of the set until today’s tragic accident. The dog had one annoying habit...it would mount anything and everything at any time of the day. During the scene at Ratnaz’s goat cabin, Elmer Ford panicked and turned to defend himself against the faux tiger. He had grabbed the first thing at hand...a goat butter churn. Gotta find a new tiger... and Ford is becoming increasingly erratic.
Dear Diary: Talked to wardrobe today about Ford’s costume. He insists on wearing unlaced hiking boots in all jungle scenes. I am not happy with the baggy, over-the-shoulder goat skin “loin cloth” either. I swear that the man is hiding something.
Dear Diary: Elmer Ford insisted on doing the tree flying stunts today. Bozhart suggested an improvement on the old fashioned vine swinging. Ford climbed the big old jungle tree on the back lot and jumped off holding a bungee rubber strap. We had the crew set up rubber trees in strategic places for the apeman to rebound into. He was supposed to fly through the upper terraces pinballing from tree to tree -- idiot couldn’t tell an oak from a rubber tree. Think we’ll go back to the old vine idea. Should be able to shoot around Ford’s scenes until Bozhart brings him back. Was hoping to plug more musical numbers into the script. Scratch “Oops there goes another rubber tree plant.”
Dear Diary: Made a big mistake today. OB wanted permission for the Ratnaz Clan Boy’s Club to visit the set. One look at Elmer Ford and they started to titter. Then they turned ugly -- threw things -- rampage. They wanted to know what had happened to their hero -- the Real Ratnaz. Stopped filming early today. The set should be restored to normal by tomorrow.
Dear Diary: For some reason Ed insists on writing a Jane Porker character into each book and film -- keeps pressing me to audition some big-bottomed chicken plucker. Nuts! Hired a luscious air head today... Boz brought her over from the Vacation House -- these broads are picking weirder and weirder stage names: Bodacious Derricks!?! Must make a note to see if she’s available for the staff party. May put her in that little flick I’m putting together for Bozhart’s Chicken Ranch.
Dear Diary: Ed coached Ford on the King Dong dialect today. Pretty damn easy language -- one word -- Umgawa -- with 2000 different meanings depending on inflection, body language, tone, pitch and rhythm. The guy’s a slow learner -- could only master three -- with heavy accent!
Dear Diary: Gotta talk to security...there’s a suspicious yellow 1966 Camero hanging around the studio gate at all hours.
Dear Diary: All scenes with King Dong were rejected today by the Film Decency Censors. And they say we gotta give Bodacious Derricks a costume. They loved Elmer Ford’s costume tho...and the cute little goats. The ladies on the Censorship Team were very hard to deal with...all negotiation cut short...they were late for their weekly church bingo. They had arrived expecting to view our new Randy Rodent feature ... meddling old biddies!
Dear Diary: Unveiled our new Elmer doll merchandising tie-in today. Faced with instant recall... Our reps were only shown the dressed version of the doll for approval... underneath, the apeman is TOO anatomically correct. Big hullaballo in the papers. Barbie and Ken never had THIS problem... why me!
Dear Diary: Got a feeling that OB is working on some sort of a theme park idea... Ed’s stepping into our territory here... must talk to Bozhart about this. Even Boz has something up his sleeve ... strange goings on every time I drive out to the Chicken Ranch. This job is getting me down... even the crew is suggesting we scrap the Elmer Ford footage and bring in the old Ratnaz... really stuck on how to do all those mouse voices on the new Randy Rodent live action flick. Gotta get that Bodacious broad’s number...
The mystery intruder had thumbed through about the first half of Nick Miser’s personal journal when the sound of an approaching security guard in the hallway put a halt to any further clandestine reading. The book was hurriedly stuffed into a backpack, the flashlight switched off, and the figure in black scurried through the open window and over the rooftops and wall to return to the waiting vintage automobile.
As the night security guard entered the moonlit office of the president of Rodent Pictures, he noticed an open window through which he could see a yellow 1966 Camaro speeding off into the night.
CHAPTER 60: Death Comes in Twos --Bill Hillman
Dee Dee Morris, Princess of Bars and driver of stolen pickup trucks, instinctively pushed the brake pedal to the floor as a large pothole appeared before her in the road. Perceiving that the truck had no brakes, the resourceful Hillie Billman groped across from the passenger side of the cab to grab the steering wheel -- causing the truck to swerve at the very brink of what surely would have been a big bump.
"Whew...that was a close one," boasted the West Virginian Canuck. "Ya gotta watch where you're goin' Dee."
The severely shaken beauty took her foot off the accelerator and let the truck coast to a stop. "You had better drive Mr. Billman...I can't go on."
“Ahhh! That's better!” exclaimed a confident Hilary as he took over the driver's seat. “I always wanted to try driving one of these things!” shouted the excited novice over the roar of an over-revving engine as the vehicle jerked and weaved in first gear down the road.
So intent was the driver that he didn't notice till the last second that a gigantic rift had opened in the road ahead of them. Frantically the quick-thinking driver plunged his peg leg down hard on the pedal... the gas pedal... and the pickup sailed into the darkness of the abyss.
Cilli Billman fought for control of her F-100 as it fell into the chasm which had opened across the road. The truck landed heavily on all four wheels in what appeared to be a long tunnel, and kept going. She could see in the rear view mirror that the kids in the truck box seemed to be enjoying the excitement of this thrilling ride and, having run out of options, she carried on along the passageway -- she was further reassured when she read on the reflecting lens that “objects in the mirror are closer than they appear” -- somehow these comforting words satisfied a maternal need.
As she drove under another rift that had opened to the surface, a huge roaring object came crashing down upon the roof of her cab. Cilli maintained control of her mangled vehicle by hunching over and peering through the steering wheel but she was having trouble reaching the pedals in such a contorted position. Her view was further obstructed when another object, a flailing blackened figure, crashed onto the engine hood from yet another overhead rift.
Just before the struggling young woman lost complete control of the battered truck, two large screaming yellow objects went flying by, one on each side of the cab. There was a horrendous crash and then darkness.
Bryce Lee and his faithful Cantonese-wannabe companion, Ward Cleaver, ran for their lives as a mechanical monster hurtled toward them in the tunnels far beneath Ratnaza. Bryce, still in full Yellow Jacket costume, repeated his warning: “Run for your life, Slay-Toe. It’s a woman behind the wheel of a pickup truck!”
“Worse still Bryce, I see two women, and it’s a double decker pickup truck!” replied his young friend.
Then, just before they leaped to safety, what appeared to be a huge black stalactite crashed into the lower hood of the of the piggy-back vehicle and seconds later the entire roaring, jumbled mass careened into a massive stalagmite where it came to a steaming halt.
The two crimefighters picked themselves up, adjusted their yellow costumes and rushed to the double decker to assist the survivors.
All-Gory Weakly Magazine Editor’s Note: This Canadian hack goes on and on -- we made the mistake of agreeing to pay him three cents a word for this drivel. Since we recognize most of it as having been plagiarized from old Barton Werper novels, we feel we owe it to our readers to step in here. -- The lovely Dee Dee Morris was reunited with the unreliable Dan Darter, spunky Cilli Billman regained consciousness and was reunited with her noble and handsome husband Hillie Billman, The Kids Are Alright...Who?...Why, Willie, Phillie, Milli and Vanilli, of course...unfortunately Millie and Vanilli are still mute but Willie and Phillie do enough talking for all of them. The fearless explorers of the unknown then struck out to explore the labyrinth of underground tunnels and... we now take you back to our staff writer’s illiterate and longwinded gibberish:
...and at that moment Yellow Jacket turned to the host of grateful followers, each of whom he had fearlessly rescued, and exclaimed: “I hear running water!”
Editor’s Note: “I hear running water!” ??? THIS is a cliffhanger? Even Tangor can do better than this. Somebody call Zany Grany -- at least he’s Amurican.
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