THE RATNAZ FILES: BOOK V
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 61: The Jeriatric Chronicles: Billions and Billions Served--Bill Hillman
CHAPTER 62: "I find the pants." -- Tangor
CHAPTER 63: Darter Makes a Move -- Tangor
CHAPTER 64: The Monster Men -- Tangor
CHAPTER 65: Valley of the Dolls -- Tangor
CHAPTER 66: In The Hall of The Demented Mountain King -- Tangor
CHAPTER 67: Tom Slow and His Electric Accordian -- Tangor
CHAPTER 61: The Jeriatric Chronicles:
Billions and Billions Served
Intrigued by the sound of running water, the ragtag band of underground adventurers led by the stalwart Yellow Jacket stooped to explore a smaller passageway branching off from the tunnel they had been following. Unexpectedly, the narrow jagged cleft that they had initially feared to be an unpromising route, opened abruptly into a splendid mammoth cavern.
Stretching as far as the eye could see was an inland sea of still waters, gilded by the luminescence of the golden radiance from the cave ceiling. At least three islands were discernable in the distance: one was jungle covered, one was decorated with numerous unworldly city skylines which were surrounded by flat desert-like topography, and the third was composed of a jumble of structures and abodes partially hidden by tall forests.
On the shore, a short distance from the tiny, partially hidden chasm from which they had emerged, was a large dome structure nestled between twin towers of ivory and gold. Behind the dome they could see a vast underground waterfall which tumbled into the sprawling inland sea. Close to where the waters met was a huge earthen mound.
The travellers found their way through an open portal at the base of the dome and climbed a tall spiral staircase which led to an impressive viewing room overlooking the entire panorama of the underground world. A booming voice greeted them: "Welcome to Jeriatric Park. We don't get many visitors here since Mr. Nyce had his spot of trouble on the surface."
An elaborate chair at the observation window swiveled to reveal an aging, kind-faced man attired in a strange battle harness. "I am the Jeddak of the Edgar Nyce Jeriatric Park. I have been observing your progress since you chanced on our inner world."
"What manner of place is this, Jeddak?" asked the impatient Yellow Jacket, while his weary band of followers eyed the luxuriously cushioned seats furnishing the room next door.
"My friends, I feel we owe you an explanation. Follow me into the adjoining room. Please have a seat and turn your attention to the large screens before you."
All-Gory Weakly Magazine Editor's Note: Hey gang...this is REALLY boring stuff from this point on...we suggest that if you want to get to the lurid blood and guts sensationalism we are famous for, not to mention the really keen descriptions of gorgeous gals, skip ahead to the next chapter. Even I didn't read this one. Some of our guys come up with some pretty boring scenarios -- it must be a Canadian thing -- those Canucks have NO sense of humour (now he's even got me spelling 'humor' wrong!)
The recorded stentorian, dulcet tones of the Shakespearean-trained actor Jonny Wineswiller went into a voice-over narration to accompany a boggling succession of images on the giant wallscreens which totally covered three walls of the chamber.
"Jeriatric Retirement Properties offer a Utopian lifestyle for your retirement years. Our sales representatives will meet with you shortly to outline the many advantages of investing with us. But first, a short multi-media history of this unique development."
The next images on the screens were of throngs of white-haired, elderly people cavorting and milling around the earthen mound that the travellers had seen on their way in. Most of the low-stepping seniors carried large clubs and periodically interrupted their frenzied line dancing to shuffle to the mound, beat wildly on what upon closer surveillance turned out to be a midden, and look upward to scream unearthly falsetto yodels into the resounding cave ceiling.
"The 'Dumb Dumb' celebration you see before you is just one of the many festivities in which you may participate when you become a member of the EDite Community of Jeriatric Park. Ours is a closed community -- you will mingle with the last remaining fans of the unexpurgated works of Edgar Nyce. You have a choice of a wide range of lifestyles offered by three unique theme island communities: the primitive adventures found in the Jungles of Ratnaz, the futuristic urban living experienced in the Barrooms of Mars, or countless exploits proffered in the eclectic Weird Land which features castles, hobo jungles, Indian villages, caves, Roman villas -- an endless array of alternative living styles. All of these islands are connected by a regular water shuttle service via our fabulous Riverboat. We are fortunate to have as pilot of this vessel the talented Phillipe, a retired Mexican Farmer whom Edgar Nyce has personally tutored in the skills of adventuresome navigation on jeopardous waters.
"Mr. Nyce created this dream-come-true in response to the constant urgings of his dedicated fans. His fandom had followed him through thick and thin but all were fast approaching old age -- although none admitted to being past age 38. Most of Ed's novels were out of print...or suffered from the ravages of having fallen into public domain. Paperback books featured tiny unreadable print and were edited beyond recognition for the sake of political correctness. What's more, his many creations fared even worse in other popular media. A despairing Edgar Nyce came up with a bold scheme which involved a huge clandestine, subterranean world he had discovered years before, hidden beyond and below his Ratz Cave.
"Already the immense cavern had served him well. He learned by accident that the magic bananas he had brought back with young Ratnaz from the Valley of King Dong would grow prolifically in the golden luminance of the caverns. He also discovered that living beings were profoundly affected by ingesting the strange fruit.
"After a short time on a banana diet, lower orders of animals start an immediate regression through millions of years of evolutionary stages... stopping at random stages of development. Fortunately for the safety of all, a side effect experienced by the affected cave animals has been a condition of lethargy and docility. Humans, on the other hand, are affected most unpredictably, with Nyce fans showing the strangest characteristics -- they regress mentally to the age at which each individual had first come under the spell of Mr. Nyce's storytelling, while their bodies continue to age normally. Since the main food offered here is magic bananas, and the only humans allowed here are Nyce fans, our inhabitants exhibit a strange mix of youthful exuberance in well-aged bodies.
"Our founder was also inspired by visionaries such as Ray Razzbury, Carl Shogun and Michael Redneck who had fired the imagination of a very young Edgar in his formative years in Chicago. He had thrilled to their adventurous stories of distant planets and the wonders promised by the billions and billions of stars in the Cosmos. It was only natural then that he incorporate a few of their ideas into this unique retirement park.
"One of the most obvious influences in the day-to-day operation of this peerless community is Razzbury's famous novel 'Geshundeit 7-11.' Following the lead of the characters in that book, each of our residents is encouraged to commit the entire original text of a Nyce novel to memory. Our aim is to preserve the complete works of Edgar Nyce in their unbastardized states for future generations. Many of these scholars become so engrossed in their selected works that they adopt the dress and persona of their favourite fictional characters -- even to the point of cross-dressing. Others, becoming bored with constant re-readings, turn to writing sequel pastiches. Ironically it was such devotion to the canon that brought down the wrath of copyright holders BB Inc. and Touchwood Pictures. It was their army of lawyers who hounded the most loyal and dedicated fans until they were forced to go underground.
"We have very few rules in this underground haven. Occasionally splinter groups of biographers, bibliographers, and self-appointed experts on obscure topics move off to the solitude of the far reaches of the caverns. We do warn our residents about wandering off too far, however. Last year, one group went too far north and stumbled upon the southern annex of what we believe to be the Bill Greats private underground garage... we never heard from them again. It must be assumed that they were gobbled up by the legendary wicked warlock of the west.
"You are watching this presentation in the Pleasure Dome Recreational Complex. This facility is open to all of our residents. You may have noticed the two nearby towers on your way in. The ivory tower contains Nyce research material and museum displays for the more erudite EDite, while the neighbouring gold tower contains more mundane resources to titillate the fun-loving.
"This brings to a close our short tour of the most exclusive and exciting retirement venture on this planet. Please remain seated -- our investment counseling representatives will join you shortly."
The display screens darkened and as the room lights came up, the Jeddak moved to the front of the auditorium and addressed the newcomers: "Since that DVD was produced we have experienced a few difficulties. Sadly, our sales reps are not available at this time. Since we lost contact with our company head, Ed Nyce, our situation down here has become somewhat chaotic. Recently, very vocal leaders have surfaced in each island community. Rabble rousers have reveled in stirring up dissension between and among the various interest groups. Intense rivalry has led to intolerance which too often has escalated into physical confrontation. I have done my best to placate this chaotic potpourri of diverging groups under a peace-keeping assembly we call the OB TribeUlations. Unfortunately, not even my awesome diplomatic and persuasive powers have been adequate to maintain peace among these fiercely independent groups.
"The opposing factions take turns working themselves into a tribal frenzy during a celebration that Ed originally called a Dumb Dumb because not even he could stomach the unabashed adoration, rhetoric, juvenile role playing, and general debauchery that went on at these events.
"And now, even as I speak, the thin-skinned, gray-haired elders on the Jungle Island are mounting an army to do battle with the inebriated troublemakers from the Barroom of Mars site who, under their renegade leader Tang-Gor, have been waging a war of deprecation against the mighty Ratnaz of the Jungle.
"Since there are women and children in your group, I must find some way of leading you out of the Park to the safety of the surface. But first, each of you must take an oath of secrecy. There are evil forces above ground which will stop at nothing to take over Jeriatric Park."
The plea had barely left the lips of the mighty Jeddak when a terrific rumbling shook the building and the floor beneath the intrepid adventurers from the outer world started to collapse amid screams of terror!
CHAPTER 62: "I find the pants." --Tangor
Disorientated, discombumbulated and dazed, Ratnaz used his body as the principal device in a gigantic pinball machine, banging into walls, galloping left and right, and eventually running into a tunnel that had a ceiling lower than his head.
It seemed like days later (though it was only an instant as this is a pulp fiction lapalalooza designed to mess not only Ratnaz's head, but yours) when Ratnaz sat up, massaging a large scarlet bump on his forehead. "Ow! That smarts!" was the Lord of the Leaves' first words.
To his great credit (and because the author has a need to manipulate the reader's emotions) the half-naked jungle man's first thoughts were for Bertie Ketchum.
"I bet that foxy broad thinks I'm a dizzy guy, a-runnin' off like that!"
Alone, Ratnaz reverted to his personal self, not that pendactical prude published primarily for Edgar Nyce's pocketbook. He wasn't perfect--far from it. He scratched when it itched, even in public. He belched after a beer or three. He smoked like a chimney when tobacco products were available, chased women, took candy from babies, and wasn't above abscounding with temporarily desired baubles from the local WalMart.
"In short," he majestically intoned in proper Hamlet form, "I'm a bum. What does she see in me? For that fact of the matter, where is she?"
She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed was not in sight. In reality, very little was in sight as the tunnel which did Ratnaz in was poorly lit at best. At worst it was a smelly sewer--and the thick, moist, slippery floor seemed to indicate that is exactly what it was.
Ratz, the goat boy hero of millions was not present, only Ratnaz the Uncertain, the Worried, the Just-short-of-mortally-terrified orphan boy found in a jungle which never existed on this Earth was present. "Gotta find me some pants. Ain't gonna be found dead naked to the world."
The Lord of the Leaves stumbled out of the tunnel, trying to retrace his steps. Somewhere Bertie Ketchum waited for him--at least he hoped she waited. She was a real woman, the kind of woman that--Ratnaz stilled those thoughts because his leopard briefs were cut too tight to allow that speculation to continue too far.
"What was that?" Ratnaz shuddered as a clicking sound assaulted his hyper-sensitive ears. Click-click-click! Heart in mouth, the jungle man, hero of a double dozen novels, took a grip and moved toward the sound.
Click! Click! Click!
Ratnaz bent down to pick up a rock. He had not intention of dying beneath the fangs of an inner world centiped or a loathsome firey-eyed giant rodent without a struggle.
CLICK! CLICK! CLICK!
It was coming closer! The dark shadows could have concealed Barnabas Collins and his family of blood-sucking vampires or the ID monster from that kewl Fifty's sci-fi thriller Forbidden Planet. The rocks were cold, the stone beneath his feet even colder.
CLICK! CLICK! CLICK!
There was a faint rectangle of light before him. It was an opening into another part of the cave. Gripping the rock firmly, Ratnaz took a deep breath and ran into the alcove, brandishing his rock and yelling like a madman.
Bertie and Albert were startled. The checker in Bertie's hand was frozen above the checkerboard. "Ratz!" she cried. "Oh, Ratz!"
The woman sprang from the table, wearing one of Albert's voluminous starched white shirts secured by a severe black tie as a sash. Her long legs quickly crossed the rec room in the Yellowjacket's hideaway, but she stopped just short of embracing her hero. Holding her nose, Bertie exclaimed, "What the hell did you fall into?"
Sheepish, Ratz lowered the rock and scratched his head. "I'm gettin' awful tired of these wannabe pulp fiction hacks givin' me da runaround. Say, Albert, I didn't get a chance to thank youse for savin' our bacon upstairs."
"Think nothing of it," the butler replied.
"Okay," Ratz grinned. "Where's the shower?"
Albert pointed the way with an extended finger.
"Thanks," the Lord of the Leaves replied. Taking Bertie's hand in his the jungle man said, "Scrub my back, kid. I'll scrub yours. Maybe we'll see what happens--if these hack writers give us half-a-chance."
An hour later, the half-a-chance granted, Bertie wobbled in on unsteady knees. She leaned against her jungle lover with adoration plainly evident. "You were masterful, Ratz. I've never had it like that before."
The Lord of the Leaves smiled smugly. "And you never will again, unless I'm a-doin' it to ya."
Editor's Note: While it is true that Ratnaz and Bertie got naked and entered the shower together, Bertie is referring to the masterful massage Ratnaz gave her scalp as he shampooed her hair. If you were thinking they did the nasty, you got another think coming, this is still PG rated unless that Canadian hack escalates things.
Bertie, to Albert's chagrin, had traded his stiff, starched white shirt for one of Splay-Toe's designer red-silk pyjamas. Ratz was wearing one of Bryce Lee's immaculate black tuxedos--full tails and cumberbund. After making an entrance that left the old butler flabbergasted, the stunning couple begged for a bite to eat, "It's been a long day," Ratnaz suggested.
"Quite right, sir," Albert bowed. "It is lucky I did the shopping today. May I take your order?"
"Baloney on rye, with a slice of swiss, mustard and a pickle if you got it," Ratz said. "What do you want, babe?" he asked of the glowing girl beside him.
"I feel utterly sinful for some reason: Peanut butter on toast, bananas and mayonaise."
Albert;'s arched brow remained in place as he headed for the kitchen.
Ratnaz and Bertie, arm-in-arm, explored the hidden hideaway of Bryce Lee-Bozhart, remarking upon the many varied and wondrous things they beheld. The couple were admiring a rather primitive cel from the first Randy Rodent animation by Malt Diznee when there came a knock at the secret entrance.
"I wonder who that could be?" Bertie frowned.
"Were you expecting anyone?" Ratz asked as he opened the door.
Both caught a fleeting glimpse of a mysterious running figure running that jumped into a car that looked suspiciously like the 1966 yellow Camaro Brace Bozhart had given to Ratz. "My gracious!" Ratnaz ejaculated. "Seems a little too old to be ringing doorbells and running away....what's this?"
Bertie watched with interest as her man leaned over and picked up an oil-skin wrapped parcel which had been left on the stoop. It was oblong in shape and about an inch-and-a-half in thickness. Her lover's strong brown hands (brown from smoking too many Camels) undid the simple pink ribbon and removed the covering.
It was a diary.
Ms Ketchum tried to look over Ratz's shoulder, but he was too tall, too wide and too inattentive as he read through a passage marked with yellow sticky notes. "What is it, Ratz? Oh, you look like you just ate a bug!"
The Lord of the Leaves, more angry than he could remember, showed Bertie the most damning passage: "Ratnaz sucks!" it read "Albert Ingalls has more character and charm than this over-hyped has-been. Ye gods, if it wasn't for the merchandizing we can make on the masses, I'd chuck the project in a minute!"
"That's pretty rotten," Bertie said, taking the book from the stone-faced jungle lord. "Oh, it is very rotten indeed! What are you going to do, Ratz?"
"I'm going to kick Nick Miser's butt," the grim voice replied, "but first, I'm going to kill Edgar Nyce."
CHAPTER 63: Darter Makes a Move --Tangor
Falling from the sky, landing in the tar, jerked by a car through muck and weeds, hailed by a god-like voice, falling into the earth, slamming into a rapidly moving object, sandwiched between inanimate metal and a rather immovable columm of water-created stone had not left Dan Darter in the best of spirits. (Hey, I get paid by the word...nothing in the contract says they have to be good words-- Tangor)
A freakazoid wearing a blinding yellow zoot suit with a sidekick in a red pyjama outfit had helped push the combined mass of two rusted pickups off his battered body. Darter couldn't say thank you--he could say anything until he could get tortured diaphram muscles to resume normal operation. There was even fewer words possible as Dee Dee Morris rudely grabbed him by the collar. The young woman tugged Darter along as she followed the horde of over-active children, Cilli Billman, the famous Yellowjacket and Splay-Toe, and a half-dozen bats which had not exited in the previous chapter.
The Jeddak of Nyce World had suitably impressed Darter into silence. He listened to the overlong and convoluted spiel regarding Jeriatric Park, wondering how long Tangor was going to put up with the Canadian's off-the-wall parodies. After fifteen-and-a-half minutes Darter decided Tangor had more patience than he did. Fully recovered, except for two possible broken ribs, a hamstring, a multitude of minor but troubling lacerations on forearms and buttocks, and bruises over 63 percent of his body, Dan Darter waited until everyone's attention was focused on the not-too-subtle lift from Jurassic Park to clap a hand over Dee Dee Morris' lovely mouth. He put an arm around her waist and dragged the girl back through the entry into Nyce World to exit back into the cave complex.
He paid no attention to the girl's struggles, easily carrying her away from the spellbound group, easily because this is fiction and not real life. Have you ever tried to haul a squirming female against her will? It's no picnic. Yet, despite the difficulty, Dee Dee Morris was removed from the others simply because it's time to split up the characters if we're somehow going to manage a sequel out of this.
Into the dark caverns Dan Darter ran. Dee Dee fought against her captor with all her might--and mighty is that might which brought down a modern F-16 fighter jet..
Meanwhile, Zany Grany settled under the shade of a tree beside a shallow little creek well beyond the smoking ruins of Greater LA. His burros cropped dry grass not far away, glad to be free of the old prospector's heavy prospecting kit, which had developed few prospects since the old writer had started prospecting. The prospective prospector loaded and lit a smelly old pipe, though the vegetable matter packed tightly in the bowl did not appear to be a tobacco product.
"Durn fools," he mused, sucking hard on the tooth-scarred pipe stem, "wonder what dey's all up to?" A few more tokes on the battered briar and Zany Grany's concern faded into indifference. The longer the old man imbibed of the powerful substance the more his mind expanded--in an imaginative state, not a physical state; for if the latter the amount of expansion would have pushed all the little grey cells out through his somewhat hairy ears.
"Wooo!" Zany Grany exclaimed. "That's some good sh... where'd I put that notebook? Got me an idea for a new story!"
The notebook found, along with a stubby pencil lifted from one of the innumerable golf courses surrounding the devastated city, Mr. Grany firmly clenched his pipe between sturdy teeth and commenced to scribble:
Query: Are Fairy Tales Real? David Bruce Bozarth
(Zany Grany Pseudonym)
Luck graces me like a pair of old, worn out shoes; I'm always wishing I had better. My experience with luck is such that if I had any more, I'd be in big trouble.
So, okay, I don't really have any reason to beef. There's a damn lot of trouble in the world and my little problems certainly don't rate on the national, or even municipal level. But they are problems which I have to deal with and frankly, I'm running out of energy to devote to the never-ending endeavor.
If my difficulties were monetary I could do something about it -- by either making more or making less -- and if I had trouble making up my mind about which course I'm certain someone out there is ready, willing, and eager to help me resolve that dilemma to their satisfaction. Were that it was so simple, but nothing is ever 'as simple as that'!
Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary Unabridged Second Edition- Deluxe Color has seven definitions of the word "trouble". five of the seven apply to me, plus most of the listed synonyms.
My trouble is: I can't seem to attract women who don't have deep emotional problems. I'm a savior type and, by golly, they get saved and I get shafted. I suppose I should be used to this by now, but I'm not after thirty some odd years of patting hands, shoulders, and other portions of the female anatomy, I'm no closer to resolving my own wants and desires than the day I was born and Mother decided I was too ugly to breast feed.
Even when I'm between "patients" I constantly look over my shoulder to make sure I've got a little space to feel miserable. The best place to be miserable in the company of fellow human beings is a nifty little hole in the wall called (ready for this?) Fernando's Hideaway.
Fernando is actually one Ricky Garcia, a round-faced, pleasant brown-skinned man of third generation Hispanic parents. The Hideaway itself is an ex- sweatshop loft on the second level of an abandoned textile mill. The patrons who frequent Fernando's are generally interested in maintaining low profiles, inconspicuosity, or virtual anonymity. Some actually come for the drinks and the terrible music Fernando's wet-back cousins perform between ten until midnight.
Me, I'm not the musical type. If it has a melody, I'll never recognize it. My feet tap rhythms only when I'm walking, and even then I miss a beat when I've bent the elbow too many times to drown my sorrows, just like I had right now.
I should have known better than to get hooked up with Avon. She's such a sweet, lovely, mixed up kid I couldn't resist. She made me feel like a million; a knight in white; the generous help-mate. I should have known better when she quietly moved in with me. I really should have run for the hills when she started doing my laundry; not that I specifically objected to this. I certainly derive no great pleasure from feeding quarters to voracious laundromat machinery.
All the signs were there: Dinner on the table, slippers by the chair; TV cranked to my favorite idiocy; cold brews poured just so in frosty mugs.
I like domesticity and I think it's all well and good for those who have the desire to settle down and stay in one place, but it's not for me. My job, I'm a traveling salesman if you haven't guessed, keeps me on the road most of the month. When I get home I like the illusion of marital stability without having to endure it.
I finished the beer and signaled Ricky for a re-fill as I contemplated the stormy session with Avon. She couldn't understand why I wasn't interested in getting new curtains for the bedroom and I thought she was a bit too assured I would eventually give in. We both knew I would; however, that would be the end of us.
I felt it building up inside again; the irresistible pressure, the nag of itchy feet-- not for another woman, no! It was the need to have elbow room and privacy so I could be myself. There were times I'd like to go home and fart the Star Bangle Banner while filling the porcelain throne with used beer without getting critical reviews from an unappreciative audience.
How long could I continue to be the polite nice-guy before I startled both Avon and myself when I shouted unkind words I didn't really mean, just to get her to back off? The real trouble, which is why I over-worked my elbow pumping beer, was understanding that Avon was subtly different from the rest of my disastrous (for me) relationships. I had the sinking feeling she was capable of taking everything I dished out, and come back for more with her little cupid's smile firmly in place.
"You made a mistake a real boo-boo this time, Christopher," I warned the froth of my beer. "She won't cut and run when it gets too hot."
Well-- I frowned, scratching my chin-- do I really want her to? I was afraid to let myself answer that one so I downed half of the beer, belched twice as the carbon dioxide expanded my insides.
Ricky really helped my mood along when he came back with my change. "Chris," he asked, "Where's Avon? It's Thursday night..."
"So?" I demanded with a sour drawl.
"Avon always comes with you on Thursday. She sick?"
"Nope. Healthy as the proverbial horse. She's back at the apartment redecorating."
"Ah--" the Latino chuckled. He leaned forward, a knowing smirk on his brown face. "She is expecting the ring, no?"
"No," I replied, scowling. "She's certain."
"Congratulations!" Ricky grinned, extending his hand.
I stared at it narrow-eyed for six and one half heart beats then said, "She's certain, Ricky. I'm not." I shook his hand anyway, Ricky's a good guy.
Because Avon was waiting at the apartment, and because I was so abrupt with her, I finished the beer faster than I should have. I felt guilty for walking out on Avon in the middle of our argument, so much so I didn't enjoy the beers or the solitude. With a weary sigh I pushed away from the bar and tested my navigational equipment; legs slightly rubbery; eyes focusing at seventy percent; heart beat accelerated; body temperature appearing three degrees higher--a false impression since alcohol expands the capillaries, increasing blood flow at the skin prompting illusions of greater body heat--but in all, the mortal self was quite serviceable. I started toward the stairs.
"Vaya con dios," Ricky called out as I left the bar.
It was hot and humid outside, much like the atmosphere in the Hideaway, though the air lacked the dense fog of stale cigarettes. I looked at my watch. Quarter of eleven. With a reluctant sigh I turned toward my apartment and shuffle-marched for home. I turned the corner at the next street, my thoughts concentrating on what I would say to Avon when I got back. I didn't want to hurt the kid, so I sorted through a dozen of my best lines. As I researched the catalogue I was surprised when someone gently tapped my shoulder.
"I hope you can help me," a woman's voice asked.
I would remember those words at a later time as I was, then, too busy staring at the nimbus of blue light which outlined her sleek figure. I must have nodded my head or done something which she took as an affirmative to her plea for assistance because she smiled like an angel and said, "Thank you."
The next time I see old Doc Baker I'm going to have him check to see if I have an involuntary twitch or not, because whatever I did to give this lady the impression I was open for the rescue business got me into more trouble than Webster's could ever define.
To show her appreciation for offering to give her a hand with whatever was troubling her, she leaned forward and kissed me.
It was a toe-curler. I might have been fuzzy headed about most things after a couple of hours at Ricky's, but I remember that much. It was a deep, wet, hot kiss and, I think, I passed out.
When the electrical impulses which pass as cognitive thought began bouncing about my gray matter once again, I couldn't believe I'd slipped and fallen to the ground. Apparently the beer hit me all at once, or changed my perspective, because I wasn't looking into wonderfully violet eyes; I was staring at a pair of wonderfully shaped ankles. The next thing I knew a warm hand slipped under my belly and I was lifted from the pavement. I was brought to eye-level with the stunningly beautiful girl.
"It's only temporary," she assured me. "It's necessary to make it possible for us to get to Brondildia."
I started to ask her where, or who, Brondildia was, and was dumb founded by the sound of my voice. I tried it again. No! I thought with terror. Impossible!
I'd heard that raspy racket near every bayou and back-water pond all my boyhood. My voice sounded just like a bull-frog. My lip felt stiff, my tongue enormously thick. I raised my green spotted flipper and--
Egad! I was the frog!
CHAPTER 64: The Monster Men --Tangor
The careening thipcar narrowly missed crashing to the rim of a vast, yawning pit, but as it pass close, the extended landing claws scooped up a terrified burro. Into the huge pit the mechanical reptile fell, the three humans on its back howling at the top of their lungs.
Mars Markus struggled with the joystick, his great muscles bunched with effort. The flying android began to nose up just as the cavern floor appeared to rise up. Kojak Morris kicked the landing talons to release the bleating burro just as the claws touched the smooth surface. A trail of bright sparks rose from the steel-tipped talons.
"I can't shut it down!" Markus cried. "Damn, we're gonna hit a wall!"
Llana raised her mighty bat and clubbed the machine over the head. It took a second homerun hit to seriously damage the avionics, at which point the propulsion ceased. She was about to give the thing another whack for good measure when Kojak's arm tightened about her waist and the two of them tumbled off the stricken air machine. Rolling across the floor the couple wound up in a tangle heap of arms and legs, and a new appreciation of one another as their lips briefly met. There arose in Kojak Morris' breast a feeling that he thought long forgotten (except when he had to mail an alimony check to Dee Dee's remarried mom). For Llana, who had ever been in the company of men, but never been close to a man, it was a revelation of a lifetime.
The fighting man of bars held his position on the thipcar's back. Whether he stayed there to direct the speeding vehicle away from the small group of men near an open bathroom door or was simply frozen with fear and couldn't move a muscle, this sympathetic author will not reveal, though a slow-spreading stain at the front of his pants might be a clue. In any event, Markus managed to turn the mechanical flier sufficiently to avoid four of the six men. He closed his eyes as the remaining two attempted to run inside the bathroom before the thipcar, its speed greatly reduced, slammed into the wall.
Markus staggered away from the wreckage, which commenced a tortured, spasmodic shuddering. The machinery fought against itself, tearing the device apart. The huge beak rammed against the bathroom door, now closed. The wings beat a horrendous tatoo on the floor. The cavern echoed with the death throes of the thipcar and that deafening din was liberally puncutated with humans crying out in agony. The fighting barman belatedly remembered the two dapper gents and hurried back to see if he could help them.
Startled by the discovery that there were no men pinned beneath the thipcar, Markus looked around to see where the cries were originating. He turned to seek help from the other men he'd seen, but they had somehow disappeared from view. The sounds became louder, more desperate in tone, and the pitiful tone of their despair tore at the great barman's generous heart.
Rounding the wreckage of the smoulding and, finally, still and silent machine, Markus beheld a sight which caused his eyes to expand considerably and to generate a blush which turned the barman crimson from head to foot. Near the base of a row of shattered computer desks was his friend Kojak Morris. He was in titanic embrace with Llana of Baseball. The embrace could only be defined as "intimate" or "passionate" in a family mag like All-Gory Weekly. Further details will be supplied to the more licenticiously minded by sending email to the demented author.
Loath to disturb his pal and his new lady friend, Mars Markus set about examining the curious laboratory into which they had fallen. Huge banks of computers lined the walls. Most of the lights and tell tales were dimmed because the power had been affected by the earthquake. There were three doorways. One obviously led to an elevator lobby. The fighting barman eagerly pressed the up buttons, hoping this might prove to be a way out of the strange underground complex.
Alas, Mars Markus sighed, none of them work.
Back tracking to the main cavern, Markus checked his watch then glanced toward the wrecked thipcar. The twisted machine fortunately concealed the ecstatic couple from view. "Geeze, Kojak," Mars mused, "give it a rest!"
Believing there was no quick conclusion forthcoming to Kojak Morris' end of celibacy, the mighty barman entered the second door.
A ruggedly handsome fellow sat in an leather executive swivel chair on a raised dias supervising a half dozen people wearing yellow, red, green and blue lab coats. He had the air of one accustomed to command. Markus entered the room which was much smaller than the huge cavern without but seemingly more crowded with high end big computer iron. His appearance caused all activity to cease, except for the humming of electronic gear, disk drives, modem tones and crt screens displaying either graphics or swift scrolling lines of text and numbers. The man on the dias glared at Markus with a critical eye.
"Uh, sorry, sir, didn't mean to intrude. I was wondering if you could help us?" Mars asked.
"And! who! might! you! be!?" the leader barked with a precise and forceful diction.
"My name is Mars Markus I run the bar 'Markus' I serve all the drunks who come there. And the people I meet as I serve them their drinks say -- 'Hello, what's your name?
"My name is Mars Markus I run the bar 'Markus' I serve all the drunks who come there. And the people I meet--"
The man in the swivel chair rose to his feet, back arched, face contorted mightly, and clapped both hands to his ears. "Enough! You! are! driving! me! nuts!"
Chastened, Mars lowered his eyes to the floor (which is the correct term though many writers would have 'dropped his eyes to the floor'. That would be awful messy when they hit the floor and then the poor fellow might step on one while he was searching for the missing orbs). "Sorry, sir. Who are you? What is this place?"
Mollified by the giant's apparent sincerity, the man in the yellow lab coat stepped down and greeted Markus with outstretched hand. "My! name! is! James! T.! Clerk! Chaparone! to! the! Star! Chips! laboratory! enterprise! We! go! where! no! man! has! gone! before!"
Markus concealed an amused grin. He had most recently thought his buddy Kojak Morris was going where no man had gone before. To the energetic chaparone he said, "I've never seen so many lights and computer devices in one place. Real snazzy setup."
"Yes! it! is! At! Star! Chips! we! test! our! new! equipment! lines! for! ergonomics! and! reliability! before! presenting! them! to! the! public! Our! five! month! mission! is! to! explore! bold! new! equipment! to! boldly! go! where! no! computer! manufacturer! has! gone! before! Mr.! Spott! Please! tell! our! guest! more! I! am! getting! a! headache! over! emoting!"
Dr. Spott, a slim fellow with pointy sideburns, left his position at a Star Chips Sparky 3000 Workstation to gravely intone: "Forgive Chaparone Clerk. There is a lot of stress in our expedition to achieve the perfect computer product." Raising an expressive though emotionless eyebrow to the weary chaparone, Spott asked, "How much should I reveal, Chaparone?"
"Any!thing! you! like! I! need! an! asprin! Mr! Tutu! an! asprin! from! the! medical! computer! please!"
The oriental man's eyes snapped wide with sudden fear. "Chaprone!" he wailed. "I'm wearing a gold lab coat!"
Clerk narrowed his gaze, rubbing his throbbing temple with two fingers. "Yes! I! see! My! apologies! Tutu! You! there! in! the! red! coat! An! asprin!"
Trembling with fear, the unnamed red-coated labman reluctantly approached a large, menacing computer system in the far corner. Sweating profusely, the labman's shaking hand reached for the keyboard, then suddenly screamed as an arc of static electricty--about 60,000 volts worth--smacked him hard enough to make the hair stand out on his head, his eyes roll back into his skull, and to knock him off his feet, unconscious.
The chaparone, fighting a tremendous migraine, raised his voice to a bellow. "Dr! Boner! Help! That! Man!"
A rangy fellow in a green labcoat sporting a sour expression responded harshly. "Dammit, Jim! I'm a technicial support engineer, not a doctor!"
Spott, his pointy sideburns sharply angled towards the angry Boner, offered a quietly offensive remark. Boner, incensed, responded with venom. Clerk raised his voice even louder, but the two computer scientists were at it hot and heavy. Just as the three were about to come to blows, Markus quietly backed out (as did Tangor who felt this spoof had gone as long as necessary for Morris and Llana to have consumated their lust and to have recovered themselves).
Markus did, in fact, bump into Morris who had been, hand in hand with Llana, searching for the fighting barman. "What's in there?" Kojak asked.
"Better left unsaid," Markus replied. "You guys ready? There's just that door left--"
The intrepid trio was about to enter the darkened doorway when Llana cried, "Wait!"
Puzzled, the two men watched as the thin, too-tall old woman ran toward the thipcar wreckage. She ducked behind then came back almost immediately. In her hand was the stout hickory bat bearing Mantle's signature. Breathlessly she linked arms with Kojak Morris. "I never thought anything could make me forget baseball or my bat..."
Morris did not seem to realize how silly the aged woman looked batting long gray eyelashes at him. Morris shrugged his broad shoulders and thought, "It takes all kinds, I guess."
Kojak held out his hand, smiling at Llana. The woman flushed almost prettily as she handed the bat to her lover. "My dear man," she said, "life has taken on new meaning since we met. My heart has been renewed in spirit. I feel a passion greater than my love for baseball, which is a mighty love indeed. Were it not for thy gallant strength, your wisdom, and your quiet patience, I might yet be a lonely spinster bereft of all possiblity of love; denied the prospect of eternal devotion to the one person in all the universe who--"
Mars help up his hand. "Save the Edgar Nyce pearls for later, Llana. We need to get out of here. And Kojak," he paused, "we still haven't found Dee Dee."
The father, newly rejuvenated by a juvenile rut, was embarrassed to be reminded of his parental duty. "You're quite right, my friend. Lead on!"
Markus did a double take. He'd been hoping the others would go first into the dark doorway, but once designated as the leader by Morris his pride made him take that first step into the shadows beyond.
CHAPTER 65: Valley of the Dolls --Tangor
Brace Bozhart and his men narrowly escaped the thipcar's crash. Bounding up the stairs as the electrical power flickered in the earthquake's aftermath, the handsome Bozhart was well in advance of his followers when an aftershock collapsed the ceiling behind him. The man waited until the rock and cement quit falling then hurried back to the mass of rubble choking the passageway. Listening carefully, he heard nothing in the black silence.
Bozhart, saddened, and hoping the men had not been killed, hurried upward. Having designed the underground complex he was intimately (there's that word again!) familiar with the maze of corridors and shafts. It was imperative he reach the surface. He had to know if Jane Porker was all right.
Editor's note: Tangor is weary from handling too many writing projects simultaneously so buckle your seat belts the next few paragraphs are going to get dizzy.
Jane Porker-Bozhart was tired of bucking around with Marlin Brandough. It wasn't too many years before that she had helped Brace promote the Tappan Range Chicken Shack Vacation House as an indecently dressed mechanical bull rider--but riding that crowd pleasing beast out of love was quite different than riding it for other reasons. She waited until the bull was in the proper position and at the right height, then gracefully dismounted and dashed between the tables of sweaty men and too-heavily perfumed women intent on satisfying their card-in-all desires. The slim though bountifully well-endowed woman was out the side door before the surprised Brandough could muster a cotton-mouthed shout.
Jane headed straight to the garage where Brace's collection of vintage 1966 yellow Camaros were stored. There should have been six in the huge garage but there was only one: Number 4. She yanked the keys from the nail at the entrance, folded herself inside, switched on the powerful engine, and raced down the dusty road.
Brace Bozhart raced out of his office at the Chicken Shack Vacation House as a yellow Camaro zoomed away. He wasn't sure but it looked like Jane at the wheel. First, Herlock Cabyns and Datsun disappeared now Jane Porker was gone. The man's features tightened with intense thought as he sought an answer for the strange goings on.
Brandough came running up. "Boss, dat new bull-rider just stole yer car! Want I should pulverize da bitch?" Marlin smacked a fist into his palm, demonstrating a willingness and ability to administer swift justice.
Bozhart shook his head. "Bring up the Deloren. I'll take care of this myself."
Moments later, behind the wheel of a silver-grey Deloren, Brace Bozhart sped into the night.
Bozhart answered the phone. Nick Miser screamed, "Where's my diary?"
Brace rubbed the sleep from his eyes. "Miser? What's this?"
As the heir to the BB, Inc. billions struggled to full alertness his hand passed over the sheets where Jane's lovely body should have been. The fabric was cold. There was no warmth of her there at all. Confused, Brace listened with half an ear as the head of Rodent Productions ranted.
"Calm down, Nick," Bozhart commanded. "We're getting nowhere fast. Talk to me, calmly, reasonably..."
Brace cradled the cordless with shoulder and chin as he looked for Jane. During his exploration of the house the irate Miser revealed that his diary had been stolen and that a 1966 lemon colored Camero had been seen and that he was going to have Brace killed if it wasn't returned.
Bozhart by this time had returned to the bedroom to dress in black boots, black jeans and a black shirt. "Nick," he said, "I don't have your diary. If it were my intention to destroy you I'd do it on the stock market--or I'd buy that penny-ante operation of yours and fire you, but that is of little import at the moment. Jane is gone. It isn't like her to leave without telling me. So, if you are looking for a villian, I suggest you look toward Edgar Nyce. Oh, by the way, threaten me again and I'll call in all your loans. Do you read me?"
Miser's tinny "Yes sir! Yes! ... " from the handset terminated when Brace thumbed the power off. He went downstairs to the two car garage. Jane's magenta Yugo was gone. He climbed into a carefully restored vintage 1966 yellow Camaro, clicked the automatic door opener, and sped into the night.
Brace Bozhart was passed by the gate guard without question. At his side a bubbly blonde giggled as he handed her out. The lobby's night watchman nodded at the famous visitor and buzzed them through to the elevators. A short time later the couple entered Nick Miser's office, just as the nervous-appearing man hung up the telephone. When Miser saw who walked in, he turned white as a ghost.
"Hey, Brace! If I'd known that was your cell phone and you were out with... well, sorry for bothering you. No hard feelings?"
"What are you talking about?" Bozhart frowned. "Nipping a little too heavily tonight, Nick? This is Judy Flanders--cover up, dear, you're popping out."
The blonde in the tank top and way-too-short shorts giggled and gripped the straining spandex and yanked up. The resulting jiggles and bounces left both men speechless for a moment.
Nick recovered first, fear driving him. "Look, about that diary thing...I was way out of line. I know you wouldn't, well, I hope you wouldn't...golly, Brace, are you going to have me killed?"
Brace's frown deepened. To the blonde he said, "Go feed the fish." Bozhart pointed to the aquarium at the other side of the office. Putting an arm around Miser's shoulder, the bazillionaire leaned close. "What the hell are you raving about? You sound more whacked out than Randy Rodent."
When Miser finished babbling Brace Bozhart stroked his chin meditatively. Miser, anxious, watched the world's most powerful man with the same intensity as a rat watching a python--and for the same reason. "Relax, Nick," Bozhart finally said. "Entertain Miss Flanders for me, will you? She's our Sleeza of the Jungle. She doesn't speak English but I'm sure you can figure out a way of communicating."
"Where are you going, Brace?" Miser mopped his brow. "What's going on?"
"That's what I'm about to find out."
Brace Bozhart sped away from the rescued Englishmen in a 1966 Camaro. Things were getting out of hand and it was time to put a stop to it. If his wife Jane Porker had accomplished her mission there would be a resolution soon.
Damn Mother Nature for interferring!
Jane Porker-Bozhart knocked on the cabin door. There was no answer. She tried again with no results. Walking around back, she saw a chicken coop covered with a strange black and white rubberized tarp. At the dilapidated ranch house's back door, she rapped well-formed knuckles on the cracked paint of the weather-beaten screen door.
She heard a movement inside. Peering through the dust-coated wire screen Jane thought she saw a person approaching. The next thing she knew a shotgun had been fired. The wire screen burst outward and dozens of pellets tore into her young body. Slammed backwards by the blast, Jane Porker-Bozhart lay motionless in the dirt yard.
CHAPTER 66: In The Hall of The Demented
Mountain King --Tangor
"Ras Putan! Ras Putan! Let down your hair!" Cabyns cried.
The mad scientist was too terrified of the advancing zombies to respond. He did not initially understand the world's most famous consulting detective's directive. Cabyns, with time running out, did the deed himself. He quickly ran fingers through Ras Putan's Grimley Wave and produced the elaborate aluminum framework which supported the folicle product adornment. "Move aside, Putan, there's work to be done!"
The detective's fingers rapidly disassembled the cosmetic device into its various single parts--small slivvers of strong metal about the size and shape of sewing needles. Datsun, bug-eyed as the monster Bozharts advanced, tried to be encouraging but his voice rose to a grating falsetto:
"Hurry, Cabyns! They are upon us! Whatever you are going to do, please do it now!"
Unpreturbed by imminent death the English detective calmly produced his automated Pez dispenser and loaded it with the metalic components from the Grimley Wave device. Taking careful aim Herlock fired at the nearest Bozhart abomination. The deadly silver needle penetrated the bionic eye and crashed into the computer sub-matrix beneath. Smoke poured out of the zombie's ears as it passed between the men. It continued to walk across the laboratory until, like a wind-up Helen Keller doll, it hit the wall.
Cabyns methodically disabled or destroyed the remaining creatures. Some fell, never to move again, others walked aimlessly, and would continue to do so until switched off or their internal power supplies were depleted.
Datsun breathed a sigh of relief then gasped with astonishment as Cabyns turned the deadly Pez dispenser upon Ras Putan's assistants then upon the mad scientist himself. "Cabyns! What have you done?"
Blowing carefully to cool his smoking Pez dispenser, Cabyns removed the two remaining needles and replaced the tiny glucose tablets of his addiction, of which he promptly shot two into his mouth. "It is elementary, my dear Datsun. We are but pawns in a crude and often overly dramatic pulp fiction written by an obviously schizophrenic author. We were to perish by one of his embedded egos but the other persona is determined we shall live. You will note that I have retained the last two needles," he continued, patting the breast pocket of his tweed vest. "It is possible that you and I are also mechanical devices."
Datsun choked. "You don't say!"
"Indeed I do," the master detective replied, taking another shot from his Pez dispenser for its calming effect. "If or when the time comes I will do the responsible thing and, as the Yanks say, 'take us out.' We are not mere pawns--we are the crowning achievement of Sir Martha Caroline Doily--and you know what that means."
Datsun reverently nodded. "We are doomed to immortality no matter how many hideous pastiches are produced. I understand now, Herlock. You are quite right. Well, that's setlted. What next?"
The two men stepped over the inanimate objects and moved toward the opposite door. "Now we look for REAL clues."
In the room beyond Herlock applied the might of his trained mind and the accumulated experience of solving many baffling mysteries. He deduced that the room, which showed signs of frequent use, held the key to the strange turn of events which had beset them since leaving mother England. Cabyns examined everything within the stainless steel appointed room floored with red tile. His intellect was sorely tested for clues until at last, in the last place he looked, he found what he so diligently sought.
"I have it!" Herlock Cabyns cried triumphantly. "I cannot believe they were so daft to leave the key to this astonishing mystery unprotected!"
"What is it?" the redundantly dialogued Datsun inquired. He tried to examine the sheet of paper his excited companion waved in the air.
Cabyns quickly quieted himself with another injection from the Pez dispenser. In control of himself once again Cabyns allowed the good doctor an opportunity to read what he had found:
CHICKEN JAMBALAYA Serves: 4
Jambalaya is a popular dish throughout the American South. It is most often associated with New Orleans and is made with rice and pork, ham, chicken, shrimp, and a variety of other additions and seasonings. Jambalaya is similar to pilaf, but the origin of the word jambalaya is still in dispute. Some say the name derives from jambon, French for ham. Many styles of jambalaya abound and probably as many recipes as there are cooks in New Orleans.
Melt or heat in a large skillet over medium heat:
2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
Add and cook, turning often, until browned all sides, about 10 minutes:
1 broiler-fryer chicken (about 2 1/2 pounds), cut into serving pieces
Remove to a plate and season with:
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Add to the drippings in the skillet:
1 medium green bell pepper, diced 1/2 cup diced celery 1 cup long-grain white rice 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
Stir to coat with the drippings. Stir in:
3 cups boiling water 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley 3/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper 1 bay leaf
Return the chicken to the skillet. Top with:
1 cup slivered cooked ham (about 1 ounce) or 2 ounces chorizo sausage, thinly sliced
Cook, covered, over medium-low heat until the water is absorbed and the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Cook, uncovered, until any excess moisture is evaporated, about 3 minutes.
Datsun returned the paper, his old brow furrowed with confusion. "I don't understand, Cabyns. What does this--"
"Do not worry, my good man. You may not understand now, but soon all will be clear! Let us away, the game's afoot!"
CHAPTER 67: Tom Slow and His
Electric Accordion --Tangor
We break into our normally scheduled broadcast with a Special Report. And now, ERBS anchor Peter Lemmings...
Good afternoon, America. I'm Peter Lemmings. Throughout the day a series of severe earthquakes have hit southern California. This comes in the wake of the most devastating urban fire since Mrs. O'Leary's cow burned Chicago. While authorities are investigating the possibility that well-known Ratnaz author Edgar Nyce's burro Rexall and a kerosene lantern were responsible for the Los Angeles fire other developments have suspended the official police inquiry.
You are now looking at footage shot last night and early this morning by our Los Angeles affiliate KFLX. The destruction of Los Angeles and surrounding towns is incredible. Vast areas of blackened, demolished buildings stretch from the mountains to the Pacific. There are isolated areas the fire capriciously left unharmed but for most of the millions living in the area they are without shelter, food or water.
However, that seems a minor inconvenience since few of them will live long enough to become hungry. At 1:46 pm, Pacific Time, the largest earthquake ever recorded has lowered large sections of the San Andres Fault. We are now looking at live coverage where a section of the California coastline has disappeared. The Pacific ocean is pouring through that gap at an incredible rate. A flood, almost like a huge tidal wave, is rushing inland. Scientists at the Geological Institute predict that the Salton Sea, Death Valley, and other low lying areas will be connected to the Pacific as an unbroken body of water.
President Clinton has declared a State of Emergency for California and portions of Arizona. In a news conference given just minutes ago, President Clinton was heard to say, and I quote, 'My heart goes out to the people of California. We, as a nation, will do all that is in our power to send aid and assistance', end quote.
As you can see, the rushing water is taking out everything in its path. Whole communities and cities are washed away as if they never existed. Please stay tuned. We will continue with our continuous live coverage of 'Disaster in California' after these messages.
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Hillie Billman, no longer silly, grabbed Cillie and Willie and Phillie and Milli and Vanilli. "Run!" he cried moving as fast as his peg leg allowed.
Bryce Lee, the illegitmate half-Cantonese half-brother of Brace Bozhart, and his Canadian Cantonese wannabe sidekick Splay-Toe rapidly followed. The group headed for a fissure in the cavern wall of Nyce World, one that seemed to trend upward.
Lee picked up Milli, who was an attractive sixteen year old but rather slow moving. He effortlessly kept pace with the burly West Virginian Canuck. "Why are we running?" he asked.
Splay-Toe tried to pick up fifteen year old Vanilli but recieved a swift smack in the chops from the independent teen who probably had good reason to distrust the pyjama suited superhero. Cilli gave the cleaver-toting fellow a nasty look when he offered to carry Willie.
Bryce Lee-Bozhart again asked, "Why are we running?"
The wily veteran of the hilly farm wars and several years at sea as a one-legged cabin boy was quick to answer. "Can't you feel it in your bones? Why, man, our bodies are 98 percent sea water and like knows like. It is in our heredity that we should know when the source of our birth is near. We live and die by the tides which break upon the shores. That last earthquake has done it, I tell you. The sea is coming to reclaim us all!"
The Yellowjacket deferred to the frantic farmer for lack of a better plan. Anything to escape the hideous stagnation of Nyce World with its violent Dumb-Dumbs and warring island city/states. If there was any truth to the wild-eyed West Canuck Virginian's statement, then higher ground was highly desired. As they moved higher into the high fissure, which seemed to lead higher up into the heart of the high mountains, the zoot suited crime fighter had a pang of high conscience. "Where's Dee Dee and Dan Darter?"
"They left, I guess," the peg-legged man replied.
The slope steepened rapidly. Soon all were puffing and huffing with exertion, except Milli who looked with adoration upon the craggy visage of the god-like Yellowjacket. At a ledge midway up the cavern wall Hilary Billman put his hand under Cilli's ample behind and pushed up to help the woman to a wider, more secure ledge above. He passed up the smaller children, then Vanilli, but when he tried to take Milli from Bryce the girl inexplicably tightened her arms around the yellow clad hero's neck.
"I'll manage," Lee-Bozhart assured the concerned father. "Up with you, now. You, too, my faithful Splay-Toe!"
Below their precarious perch, a mutted roaring was heard. All eyes turned toward the subterranean entrance to Nyce World. A tremendous jet of water shot out of the cavern's opening, sending an enormous plume of water well into the underground lake. The children began to scream, which got on everyone's nerves, except for Vanilli, whose adoring eyes were focused upon the handsome features of the powerful man holding her.
The jet of water carried away the Jeddak of Nyce World, as well as the platform, the ticket gates, the concession stands, groves of artificial trees and two dozen paddle boats. Billman had to shout to be heard over the roar of the flood. "Hand her up! Quick!"
Bryce Lee attempted to do so, but for once in his life the mighty Yellowjacket was foiled. Milli's young arms tightened about his neck so strongly that he had difficulty drawing breath! "Go to your father!" he cried.
"I stay with you," the girl said. "I love you."
These were the last words Bryce Lee heard as the rising water washed out the rocks at the base of the fissure. The tiny ledge on which he stood, holding the perverse child, collapsed. The Yellowjacket and Hillie Billman's eldest daughter fell into the swirling water to what surely must be their doom.
THE RATNAZ FILES
"Classic SF Stories by Today's Authors
In the Style of Yesterday's Giants"
The tribulations of a pulp author in the electronic age
as told to Tangor and Bill Hillman
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