THE RATNAZ FILES: BOOK VI
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 68: Strange Bedfellows: Rathmind, Tang-Gor,
and CAPTAIN CANUCK! --Bill Hillman
CHAPTER 69: “What’s the buzz....Tell me what’s a-happenin’” --Bill Hillman
CHAPTER 70: The Strange Odyssey of Rex, The Wonder Rooster --Bill Hillman
CHAPTER 71: Rora, Rora, Rora: Pearl Harbor - January 11, 1973 --Bill Hillman
CHAPTER 72: Sign of the 2+2=4 --Bill Hillman
CHAPTER 73: Monster Kids of the Phantom Empire --Bill Hillman
CHAPTER 74: There's No Place Like Home! --Tangor
CHAPTER 75: Farewell, Canada! --Tangor
CHAPTER 68: Strange Bedfellows: Rathmind, Tang-Gor, and CAPTAIN CANUCK! --Bill Hillman
Rolph Rathmind, clad only in his favourite Winnie the Pooh undershorts and clutching a wad of dollar bills in one hand and a Zany Grany autograph in the other, shuffled up the walkway to what, a few short hours ago, had been the bungalow office of Edgar Nyce, Inc.
The old man, who had been private secretary and business confidante to Nyce for nearly as long as he could remember, hopscotched barefoot through the roofless, charred remains of the Nyce study and stopped at the ruins of a large carved desk. He brushed aside the ashes under the derelict wooden structure and grasped a large brass ring. After a few tugs a trap door swung up to allow ingress downward via a steel ladder. The weary survivor of what had turned out to be a cataclysmic night reached the bottom rung of the ladder and turned to push open a heavy sliding door. A quick surveillance of the room beyond brought a sigh of relief:
“Thank God, everything’s all right here,” he sighed upon entering the subterranean chamber far beneath Ratnaza.
He began his inspection by opening the top drawer of a large filing cabinet and pulling out a file folder labeled “Desert Property Deeds - Death Valley Area.” Satisfied that all the documents were in order, he made a quick tour of the blue-lit room that was lined with control panels, computer terminals and huge computer monitor screens. He hobbled across the red and black checker-tiled floor, pausing to study the images of huge tidal waves on the display screens. Impatient, the old fellow then opened a sliding glass panel and peered into an adjoining lab.
“Captain Canuck!?!...Tang-Gor!?!...You in there?”
A giant of a man with long, blondish-red hair, his near-superhuman muscles emphasized by his skin-tight red costume, stepped out of the shadows. As he approached Rathmind his steely blue eyes peered quizzically through the red mask that covered the upper part of his face. He swept aside his long flowing cape to reveal a large golden maple leaf logo embroidered on his bulging codpiece, and in a booming voice queried:
“WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU?”
He then went into a wide-legged stance and stood with arms akimbo, waiting for an explanation -- his cape and locks fluttering in the breeze. As the rugged man from the north stood with chiseled jaw jutting upward in the angle best suited to absorb the full glow of the overhead blue spotlights, it occurred to Rathmind that every time the Commonwealth crime fighter assumed this macho pose, a sudden gust of wind always came up unexpectedly. And...he swore he could hear the stirring strains of “The Maple Leaf Forever” somewhere in the background.
Before the beleagured secretary could reply, another figure crept out of the shadows and in a curious drawling voice declared: “rathmind...we...had...to...start...without...you ...the ...explosives...have...been...detonated!”
Rathmind had never gotten used to the grotesque figure which now moved up beside the tall, handsome Canadian superhero. The undraped body of a bearded, emaciated Brace Bozhart moved forward to bask naked in the blue light of the chamber -- eyes staring frighteningly vacant while the underdeveloped muscles of the man twitched compulsively in the chilling breeze.
It was not unusual in the past for Bozhart to bring terror to those whom he accosted but now he presented terrors ten-fold. Perched piggy-back fashion on top of the once-formidable man’s head was a squat, bodiless, head-shaped creature with two feelers and six spider-like legs which seemed to be manipulating the body below. Most frightening was the glowing, semi-transparent, almost hologram-like nature of the repulsive being.
Rathmind whined at the creature, “Gee, Tang-Gor you promised I could push the detonator button!” The resigned old man shambled with head bowed to one of the lab control chairs where he sank devastated into the body-contoured cushions.
This was the last straw for the long-suffering, unacknowledged secretary/advisor of the Nyce holdings. He had made all of the magazine serial deals with All-Gory Weekly from day one, wrangled all the money-making book publishing deals for Ed’s books issued by McGurgled & Burnt and Grossitter & Bunlap, plotted the very lucrative give-away promotional campaigns with Sagnil Oil Co., masterminded all the comic strip and graphic novel adaptations with Dark Burro Comics, come up with the idea for the controversial Muscle of Doom X-rated serial with Big Dirk Productions, organized the string of sweat shops across the impoverished Canadian prairies for clothing manufacture, and he had even secured the latest Ratnaz movie deal with Miser’s Touchwood Studios.
He had done it all while Ed blew the money on lavish parties, fancy cars and exorbitant expeditions to far-off places. He finally realized that it was time he did something for himself...he wanted a piece of the action... a little respect and recognition... and a nest egg for his retirement years.
“You guys don’t play fair,” groused the old fellow as he reached across the lab table and collated the ingredients for his favourite pick-me-up: a Ratnaz Special cocktail. Yes, Ed had even taken credit for this concoction, Rathmind’s crowning achievement, when it became the rage in all of the watering holes across the country.
“Mmm...let me see now, this flask otta do...now...two ounces of Newfoundland Screech, one ounce of sarsaparilla, one ounce of goats’ milk, five drops of Habanero Hot Sauce, two tablespoons of molasses... gotta shake it...pour it over some ice...now to garnish with banana slices...ahhhh....yessss....and one big Jalopeno to float on top..... gulp... humphhh... augghh... wheewooo... I needed that!”
Rathmind sank back into the cushioned leather seat and stared at his slightly startled companions through the smoke clouds which were wafting from his ears. In his quest for power he had fallen in with strange bedfellows: a flamboyant Canadian Superhero who had come to Southern California on a green card to work as a part-time wetback ...and...this strange ethereal creature from beyond CyberSpace who had taken control of the Internet and had ultimately taken possession of nethead extraordinaire, Brace Bozhart.
Bozhart’s own greed for power had proved to be his undoing -- he had bitten off more than he could chew when he tried to manipulate the Internet. Tang-Gor had materialized from beyond CyberSpace to empty Boz’s mind .. and others... into computer banks which were then downloaded into countless BB Inc.-designed androids and turned loose on the unsuspecting world.
Now from Rathmind’s own secret lab, this disparate trio had pooled resources to omnisciently control the various branches of the Bozhart, Nyce and Miser empires -- to accomplish their own enigmatic objectives.
Tang-Gor, who had developed a penchant for Ratnaz Specials, hopped off his mindless mount to scurry across the lab bench to partake of Rathmind’s powerful cocktail. Meanwhile, the unguided Boz bod was left to stumble around the lab, bumping into delicate lab equipment and the still-posing Canuck.
The elderly master mixer yanked his flask away from the alien’s slurping feelers and hurriedly gulped down the remaining dregs of the potent mixture.
“Too potent!” he thought as the floor and walls started to shake around him and a huge section of the rear wall fell away.
The shaken and stirred septuagenarian swung around in time to see a giant corkscrew come to rest within milllimetres of his flushed face. He raised his eyes to stare in amazement through a window in the mighty machine before him and screamed at what he saw:
CHAPTER 69: “What’s the buzz....
Tell me what’s a-happenin’” --Bill Hillman
Ratnaz was hurt to the quick. He was overcome by a flood of feelings of complete betrayal. The two people whom he had most trusted -- Nick Miser and Edgar Nyce -- had conspired against him. Bertie noticed tears running down his quivering cheeks and reached for the hankie protruding from the breast pocket of the tux that her sobbing companion had borrowed from Bryce Lee’s wardrobe.
The formal suit was a splendid raiment -- an immaculate full-dress, baby blue tuxedo, complete with trailing tails, green cumberbund, and flaring bellbottoms. To her amazement she pulled out a long, endless line of silk handkerchiefs, and accompanying the chain of hankies there fluttered out a flock of doves. The tired muscles of the apeman/goat kid/cinema child instinctivley harkened back to past experiences as they impulsively wrenched his formally clad body to the cave floor.
“Duck sweets, here comes another flock!” came the warning from the hunching, hallucinating humanoid.
As he fell to the floor, a frightened white rabbit squirmed out from under his tux jacket, followed by a poof of red smoke.
“It’s alive! It’s alive! Ripley! Help!” he screamed as he clutched his belly.
In near-panic the apeman sat up and frantically tore off the hexed clothing -- a move which seemed to loosen the lining and to dislodge a cleverly concealed carpenter’s utility belt. By the time that Ratnaz had peeled down to his skivvies, the cave floor was strewn with clattering, rolling gadjets that had fallen out of his now-discarded apparel. Before him lay a bizarre mix of magician props and tools designed for carpentry and crime fighting.
The startled, inquisitive apeman poked at the spent pile of discarded clothing with his forefinger, revealing an identification label: “Property of Cows 2U Theatrical Rentals -- Magician’s Costume.” Then, like a kid in a toyshop, he turned his attention to the heap of gadgets strewn around him. Both he and Bertie were relieved to find that each of the thingamajigs was labelled: BuzzArang, BuzzBlowtorch, BuzzSaw, BuzzTamagochi, Buzzooka, BuzzBombs, BuzzPopcorn maker, BuzzNosehair clipper, BuzzClean Underwear, Keys to the BuzzMobile and BuzzCave secret entrance...
Fascinated by all of this, Bertie started to explore the pockets the silk pajamas that she had borrowed from Ward Cleaver’s wardrobe: a vial of yellow dye, a switchblade cleaver, a Wokking for Dummies cookbook, one well-used Swiss Army chop stick, a yellow-hilited wad of annotated paper slips from fortune cookies, a Tiger Balm tin containing miniature BenWa balls, a picture of a plump middle-aged woman with a big red rooster on her shoulder, and an autographed 8-track cartridge of Joni Mitchell songs.
“Wheww! Too weird for me,” the amazed woman muttered as she stripped down to the skimpy bra and panties she had also found back in Ward Cleaver’s closet -- hidden beneath the pajama outfit she had borrowed.
As they sat cross-legged, surrounded by the incredible assortment of doodads retrieved from the clothing, Ratnaz regained his finely honed mental faculties and expressed his puzzlement: “Ya knows toots, ther’s something fishy goin’ on here.”
While in deep thought, the astute adventurer absent-mindedly reached for the device labelled BuzzRemote -- but as he diddled with the object, the cave came alive. A loud wasp-like buzzing sound filled the room and a huge flashing neon sign displayed: “Welcome to the BuzzCave...Home of America’s Intrepid Crimefighters: Yellow Jacket and Splay-Toe.”
Wide-eyed with amazement, Ratnaz and Bertie, explored the hidden hideaway of Bryce Lee-Bozhart -- illegitimate son of magnate Buzz Bozhart. As they walked arm-in-arm, they were dazzled by the many varied and wondrous things they beheld in what they now knew to be the Buzz cave: racks of costumes - mainly yellow Zoot Suits and Chinese silk pajamas, an extensive library of crime-fighting reference materials featuring a complete Hardy Boys collection, stacks of what appeared to be mug shot photos in matched bound volumes - each cover embossed with a rabbit’s profile and the monogram HMH, a BuzzCopter with a huge industrial strength rubber band propulsion unit, BuzzBoat (a raft of 2x4s with a pedal-drive mechanism) and a familiar-looking yellow Harley with gaffer tape strategically placed over the ubiquitous yellow wasp logo.
“Look what they done to my play cave Bertie! Old Ed used to let me come down here to play...they threw out all my toys and filled it with this junk! But I remember..I remember! Follow me!” shouted the near-naked apeman as he resumed his pinball bounce deeper into the cave.
A resigned Bertie gave chase and caught up to the wildman just as he rebounded off a flat rock wall at the rear of the cave. Undaunted he bounced up and scampered among the rocks until he tripped over and almost impaled himself on an ominous looking stalagmite.
“Aha...help me here babe!” he shouted as he tugged on the pointed rock formation. Bertie, torn between humouring the unstable loony and trying to talk some reason into him, stood indecisive while the apeman grappled with the stalagmite. Following one last superhuman tug, a section of the rock wall rumbled open before them.
“It’s Ed’s secret place! He used to take me here everyday! Come on....” he yelled as pulled the startled girl through the opening in the rock face to a fate she feared might be worse than death.
CHAPTER 70: The Strange Odyssey of Rex,
The Wonder Rooster --Bill Hillman
Bertha La Rapo had been awakened by the sound of a pickup truck roaring out through the front gate of her poultry compound. She pulled aside the bedroom curtains in time to see a cloud of dust and a trail of feathered carcasses that had been run over in the driveway leading down to Ventura Boulevard.
“Goll durned little hussy...she stole my pickup,” she cursed as she waded through the waist-deep pile of chicken feathers and nesting hens that had taken over her sleeping chamber. She proceeded to walk a gauntlet through the living room clutter and slid onto the down-covered bench at the breakfast nook table where she reached for a spiked and winged Prussian-style helmet. Taking the metal headgear in both hands she turned it over and drove the spear-like spike which adorned the top of the helmet into an already well-splintered tabletop.
She had first worn the helmet while posing for St. Jaques’ cover illustration for Ed’s book, The Mud King...and later had scotch taped chicken wings on the sides when it was necessary to adapt it to a Viking helmet while modeling for Hal “Gump” Forester’s Prince Violent Sunday page illustrations.
In more recent times this versatile tin hat had served her well as a drinking goblet from which she sipped Barnyard Custards mixed with chicken broth and spiked with Ratnaz Specials. Squinting in the brilliant sunlight of a brand new California day, she ritualistically mixed her morning concoction and hunched over a drinking straw to slurp the heady mix from the bowl-shaped container.
Life had not been kind to Bertha. She could not trust people. Just last night she had saved that wench’s life and had taken her in...and the bitch ran off with one of the few things she treasured on this earth -- her trusty old poultry truck. She sighed...gulped down another swig of the brew and looked around her crowded living room.
The walls were festooned with Edgar Nyce book jacket illustrations and paintings by St. Jaques, Forester, and Franco Frazelli. She had posed for every one of the illustrations, but where was the recognition? Where was the financial reward? Where was Ed? Many years before she had almost snared Brace Bozhart but he had chosen that scheming Jane Porker leaving her stuck with old Ed...and all Ed could ever talk about was that Porker jezebel.
Bertha was a woman scorned, two-timed, jilted and used. She reached over for the latest edition of All-Gory Weekly: “Humph!...Now I only get to pose for weird stuff like this Zany Grany cover by Jock Davis.”
The now more-than-slightly inebriated woman tore off the cover of the pulp magazine, took one last look through bleary, half-shut eyes, and tore up the page which featured the picture of a hideous frog.
Unable to concentrate long on anything in her worsening condition, she switched on the radio to tune in the latest news from her favourite morning man, Orcon Whales:
“We know now that in the closing years of the twentieth century this world was being watched closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own. We know now that as human beings busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied...”
“Ah, bull!” slurred the impatient Bertie as she switched off the set. “Old Orcon’s off on another rampage...must be tippin’ that corn jug agin. Last week he was rantin’ on about some far-fetched earthquake and fire goin’ to wipe out LA. Give us a break ya big pompous windbag.”
After a few more sips of her morning waker-upper, she spilled out her innermost thoughts to her only real confidante in this world: Rex, the Wonder Rooster who had just fluttered up to the table surface. “Well we still got each other Rex ...and... and... old Rathmind and... that new partner of his...that big handsome fellow from up north... in the long red underwear... and the red flannel bedsheet that he ties in a granny knot around those big broad shoulders.” Her heart palpitated at the very thought of the big Canuck...visions of maple leaves danced before her eyes... why, she even got chills every time he came near...she had even taken to wearing a sweater when he was around.
“Hey Rex, have we got a plan! Ed’s gonna pay for what he done. We’re gonna help our old pal Rathmind and his strange friends to get even with Ed ...and Boz...even if we have to put up with that creepy Tang-Gor.”
A few more nips of the strange brew and Bertha had worked herself into an hallucinatory rage -- she prepared for battle against foes real and imagined. The spurned woman rose from the table, adjusted her khaki baby doll pajamas, and reached for her trusty shotgun. She pried loose the not-quite-empty helmet and rammed it down over her giant Dolly Parton-wanna-be hair do. Her next move was to assist faithful Rex, the Wonder Rooster onto her left shoulder. At that very moment she was alerted by a loud banging on the screen door and moved across the room in a wobbly commando crouch, shotgun pressed to her shoulder, to defend what was hers.
Bertha’s eyes were playing cruel tricks on her. The inebriating effects of the Ratnaz Special combined with her growing mental rage convinced her that the face of the woman she hated most in the world was trying to haunt her -- she could see her through the screen door -- the abominable Jane Porker Bozhart was trying to break into her house!
She lifted her left hand to wipe the tears of rage and the burning helmet drippings from her eyes before she took aim at the apparition in the doorway and pulled the trigger of her deadly firearm. Not pausing to assess the results of the blast, she turned and stumbled through the back door of her homely hovel.
Barely balancing Rex on one shoulder she made her way to the stone and mortar upper structure of the backyard well and paused to uncover a hidden flashlight which she scotch-taped to the spear point on her winged helmet.
`Turning once more to the moulting bird she babbled and clucked: “We shore done our job din we ole fren. Ain’t no way no intruder’s gonna learn our li’l secret or git down our well. Rathmind an’ my Cap’n guy gung be rele proud! Les go down an tell our new buddies.”
Then, with Rex still perched on her shoulder and her shotgun tucked underneath her arm, she awkwardly made her way down a steel ladder attached to the inner well cribbing -- pausing only to yank free a harpoon which somehow had become wedged in the well shaft. She counted off 22 rungs of the ladder and then used her right foot to probe for an opening in the wall of the well casing. Finding firm footing she swung into a wide horizontal tunnel which the light from her improvised miner’s helmet showed to stretch far into the distance. Looking back down the abyss of the well she saw no sign of last night’s prowler but she was surprised to notice that the water table in the well had risen almost to the height of the tunnel opening. Her mind being too fuzzy to ponder the reasons for this unexpected rise, she immediately struck out along the subterranean passage way, muttering all the while to her feathered companion.
A bend in the tunnel brought her to a balcony overlooking a blue-lit cavern laboratory. Bertha was about to whistle and to wave her weapons to attract the attention of the men working below her when the ground started to shake and a gigantic burrowing machine crashed through the rock wall of the lab. She stared on, helpless, as the mechanical behemoth lumbered across the floor threatening to crush the only friends she had left in the world.
Say kids...don’t miss the next breathtaking instalment of the Ratnaz Files when Ratnaz, your favourite All-American hero will take on the Japanese invaders in:
CHAPTER 71: Rora, Rora, Rora:
Pearl Harbor - January 11, 1973--Bill Hillman
“Come with me Bertie...I remember this!... It’s Ed’s big secret project!” howled the ecstatic Lord of the Leaves as he pulled a dazed Bertie Ketchum through the still-opening secret entrance deep within the refurbished Ratz Cave far beneath Ratnaza Ranch. Bertie found herself being yanked down a long spiral staircase encased by a plexiglas cylinder. At the bottom of the stairs she realized that she was in a red-lit, huge bubble-like control room made almost entirely of glass and suspended above a vast subterranean sea that was strangely lit by a golden phosphorescent glow off the rock ceiling.
“Jeeze...look at the water...wonder what happened? cried a baffled Ratnaz. “It’s almost up to our viewing gondola!”
Bertie could make out two large floating islands in the distance, and directly below them was a third island -- its jungle foliage almost touching the bottom of their observation pod. Amazingly, there appeared to be struggling bodies adrift on the waters -- one was a large gray-haired fellow trying to stay afloat by clinging to a piece of flotsam and beyond him was a yellow-suited man and young girl who appeared to be in a tight embrace on an unusual yellow rubber raft. Steaming toward both these parties was a fabulous paddle wheel riverboat. She didn’t have the opportunity to see what happened next as her unpredictable friend was again tugging on her arm.
“Bananas! Look just below us!” exclaimed the girl’s thrilled companion as he flung open a hatch in the floor of the observation pod. He then boasted, “Look Berts...I can almost touch the trees...ooooeeee...magic bananas....ah...ahh..ahhh...uh oh....BWAHAHAHAHA!”
Bertie reached to grab him as he teetered over the edge of the hatch opening. Her attempt to pull him back only resulted in her being pulled over the side with him. The two bodies plunged through the upper terraces of the jungle growth until their fall was broken by the thatched roof of a small cabin. The thatch gave way and the two naked misadventurers found themselves sprawled on the earthen floor of a crudely constructed shack.
“O Bertie, it’s just like my Nanny’s house back in the Valley of the Dong...Where I was raised...What a memory that Ed’s got! He made all this, you know!”
Ratnaz became a goat kid again as he ran on all fours about the cabin. “Look! Here’s the book I used to teach myself how to colour. And there’s the pile of goat bones I used to use for my dolly. And there’s my daddy’s old manure shovel I used to carry everywhere...even hit big King Dong over the head with it a few times.”
With knees bruised and dirty, the Lord of the Leaves paused in his euphoric romp to sit cross-legged on the dirt floor of the goat cabin. He squinted and peered through the heavy cloud of dust that had been stirred up in the cabin. “Where are ya Bertie? Ahh come on...don’t ya wanna play?”
Bertie floated out of the dust cloud with the grace of an angel and seated herself beside the panting goat kid. “Ratz...you never told me about the early days...What was it like? Why did you leave the jungle? How did you get to America?”
Thinking back to his formative years, Ratz took a deep breath to settle himself and became uncharacteristically literate in his narrative.
Author’s Note: Uncharacteristic because the Canadian weaver of this tale is weaving with a different set of colours than his American counterpart who seems to have evolved an almost Brooklynese accent for our Lord of the Leaves...or perhaps it’s a bit of Texas local colour seeping through, eh, huh, eh?
“Well, Edgar Nyce came to our village just when I was gettin’ ready to give that Dan Darter guy over to King Dong -- I had an important job, you know...I was in charge of sacrifices -- and then Ed and his safari took us away from my pal, Dong, and the village. But the natives came after us and took Darter back. After many adventures, our safari made it back to Ed’s ship with all the magic bananas we could carry and we finally set sail. For some reason though, Ed wanted to stop over in Hawaii on our way back to California.
“We had just docked at Pearl Harbor when they hit us...the Japanese...it was awful! They swarmed over everything...there were bright lights exploding everywhere...they came roaring out of the clouds in planes and out of the sea mists in ships...and then advanced over the islands in huge buses. News cameramen took their lives in their hands to get footage of the chaos. The roar from the mass of humanity was deafening. The final confrontation was pandemonium and thanks to the genius of Arthur Seaclerk and his geosynchronous satellites the whole affair was televised worldwide ...shockwaves spread around the world. And at the scene of the skirmish there were Japanese everywhere...each of them loaded down with the latest in high tech equipment. Our guys didn’t have a chance. The intruders had the best equipment that Japanese scientists could produce: finely crafted 35mm cameras, giant telephoto zoom lenses, parabolic mikes, high fidelity stereo recorders, with belts and battle packs crammed with futuristic electronic gizmos.
“The final showdown took place at the International Confrontation Center, culminating with our King leaving the scene. This seemed to be what the invading hordes had been waiting for. Evidently the words, “Elvis has left the building” were the signal for a massive retreat of the invaders, and within hours most of them had pulled back to Japan. But the carnage they left! Janitors and street cleaners worked for hours to clean up the rubble. FTD declared it a Day of Infamy...their unprepared communication lines crashed under the deluge of floral and lei orders and they lost all of the day’s business to rival companies.
“It was the damnedest thing Ed had ever seen. He really got caught up in the excitement and patriotism of the event so we stayed on the islands for many months afterward, while Ed worked as a columnist doing human interest stories about the effects of the invasion on the Islanders. He even got real chummy with the wife of one of them film producers that covered the campaign - she was actually a countess of some sort. They met on an island cruise ship and darned if they didn’t eventually get married. Didn’t last though...magic bananas, you know.
“I guess you know the rest of the story. Ed wrote a few books and movies based on my adventures in the jungle...I won some gold medals in gymnastics at the Olympics and then I got my big break in the movies playing myself as some kinda jungle king. Those were great years Bertie...but then Ed got mixed up with that Nick Miser and now I think they got somebody else to play Ratnaz on the screen. Life stinks, don’t it.”
Without warning the cabin door crashed open and through the splintered opening lurched the hulking mass of a huge gorilla. As the beast approached them with fangs bared, it snarled: “!!!Ummmmgaaaaaaawaaaaaa!!!”
CHAPTER 72: Sign of the 2+2=4 --Bill Hillman
THE SCIENCE OF DEDUCTION
Dr. Datsun was completely confounded by Herlock Cabyn’s excitement over something as mundane as a Jambalaya recipe. As the super sleuth rushed back to the stainless steel-lined room where he had so cleverly found the treasured paper, Datsun shuffled behind, scratching his thatch of graying hair. He stumbled many times over the crumpled bodies in his path as he concentrated on figuring out the importance of the document he had just read. By the time Datsun reached the room, Cabyns had heaped a multitude of food ingredients beside an already steaming cauldron and was in the process of wrestling with a squawking live chicken over by a chopping block.
“But Cabyns, it’s...” the doctor paused and started over again in a much louder oratorical delivery to rise above the racket generated by the combatants. “I say Cabyns, it’s just a recipe for a common dish from the American south called Jambalaya. What has that to do with anything.”
HERLOCK CABYNS GIVES A DEMONSTRATION
“Stand back Datsun...I can handle this...Take that you vicious, unruly beast...”
The swirling cloud of red chicken feathers obscured much of the action of the combatants writhing on the red-tiled floor, but Datsun beamed with admiration for the martial artistry of his long-time companion. “That’s it Cabyns. Try a hammerlock...now you’ve got him...yes...a head lock...gouge him in the eyes...oooof....well done Cabyns...that body slam did it!”
Datsun stared on in wide-eyed amazement as the wild man rose with chest heaving and stood hunched over the vanquished body of his formidable foe -- unmindful of the frightful bleeding from the scratch wounds on his hands. What occurred next startled the English doctor but at the same time filled him with unabashed feelings of pride and patriotism and brought his body to a stiff and rigid, motionless stance. The savage victor put one heavy Wellie on the carcass of his lifeless foe, threw his blood-stained deerstalker to the floor, and raised his cricket-scarred, battle-strained face to the radiant overhead fluorescent light fixture to scream the rallying cry of every British barbarian: “God save our gracious Queen.......send her victorious.....long to reign over us....God save the Queen.”
Caught up in the wild euphoria of a hard-fought victory, the gasping victor then effortlessly raised the unconscious body of his worthy opponent over his head and hurled it into the boiling cauldron.
“Come Dr. Datsun, now you may lend a hand,” urged Cabyns, starting to come down from his adrenaline rush. “We have no time to waste,” implored the man as he commenced to indiscriminately fling ingredients into the cooking pot: rice cakes, pigs feet, shrimp shells, peppers, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Cabyns adjusted the flame on the gas burner and gave the contents of the pot a good stir before turning the stirring stick over to his able assistant. The good doctor leaped to the task and, as do all men happy at their work, burst into song, wrapping his Oxford-trained voice around his own inimitable version of a heavy Louisiana accent: "Good bye Joe... Me gotta go... Down the bayou ...Jambalaya...Crawfish pie...dum...diddly dee di, dee dee - dee dee...”
IN QUEST OF A SOLUTION
Seemingly unmindful of the boisterous balladeer’s performance over by the cooking cauldron, the master sleuth pulled a chair up to a stainless steel counter, pushed aside a heap of unwashed knives and utensils, and produced a note book and fountain pen from the inside breast pocket of his tweed jacket. He then put the full might of his concentration and deductive powers into play and commenced to scrawl computations onto his notepaper. After a few minutes of furious scratching and casting aside crumpled pieces of paper, he looked up and exclaimed: “Eureka! I have it Datsun! I should have known.”
“The key to the code is in the words and number 4 that are found in title of the recipe. Furthermore, the final solution of the problem is reinforced by the ubiquitous number 22 that we have seen posted everywhere since we first arrived at Bozhart’s empire. Keep in mind Datsun that 2 plus 2 equals 4!”
The ingenious sleuth then moved to a message chalk board scotch taped to a refrigerator and wrote the words:
CHICKEN JAMBALAYA Serves: 4
“Now my good man...
If we start at the key word Jambalaya...the fourth letter is B.
Two letters back from B is the letter A
Two letters back from A is the letter N
Two letters ahead from N is A
Two letters back from A is the letter N
Two letters ahead from N is the letter A”
His voice rose in volume and pitch with addition of each letter and he ended his demonstration of the solution in a fevered crescendo:
“!!!B A N A N A!!! ~~~ !!!B A N A N A!!!”
“That, my good man, spells out the missing ingredient needed for the complete secret formula. If my deductions are correct, we have before us the ingredients of the most addictive and powerful hallucinogenic known to man. I can only guess at the side effects...and the ultimate domination that such an horrific concoction threatens to impart to the owner of the secret formula.” With that dire warning barely off his lips the dedicated protector of mankind started another mad search of the room. The last place he looked revealed booty he sought.
“Stupid imbeciles! Don’t they know the dangers...the consequences! You can’t store bananas in the refrigerator without them turning black! Fools!” cursed the world renowned authority on almost every known topic.
The two triumphant Britishers were on their way to the bubbling cauldron with the secret catalyst that would trigger the whole reaction when a clang from an opening trap door in the main lab drew their attention. Both of the two turned in time to see first two, and then two more disparate desperate figures clamber from the depths below -- the smallest one of the four stepped forth sporting a large number 22 on the chest of his black T-shirt..
Cabyns shouted, “Brace Bozhart! What happened to you?! You have been shrunk!!!”
CHAPTER 73: Monster Kids of the
Phantom Empire --Bill Hillman
In their frantic quest for the beautiful Dee Dee Morris, Mars Markus, with some trepidation, led Kojak Morris and Llana of Baseball into the only remaining door out of the bizarre underground laboratory to which they had been delivered by a wayward Thipcar. He pulled open a creaking door and the trio cautiously entered a partially lit antechamber.
They were immediately accosted by two ancient, grotesque wooden robots, their names indicated by file cards scotch taped to their chests: Gob Barker... and... Al Lex TreBarker. “Yes and our final contestants for the day have chosen mystery door number 22. Proceed through the door to receive your surprise gift,” they intoned in unison as they pulled opened the double doors for their guests.
As they stepped into the next room, the three confused mystery contestants heard the doors close behind them, and found themselves in complete darkness. Kojak groped for and found a light switch which revealed they were in a gigantic cavern teeming with the most deadly and obnoxious species known to mankind: pre-teenagers.
THE BOYS FROM BRAZOS
“Surprise! Surprise! Mommy Jane Porker! It’s our birthday!” came a deafening roar of young cracking male voices. This was followed by a solemn and ominous hush.
The silence was soon broken by a cacophony of disappointed and angry voices, “You’re not our Mommy! What did you do with Jane Porker?”
Moving toward the now thoroughly confused intruders were hundreds of young boys, all in matching black T-shirts. Each of the boys were identical in apearance, sporting Grimley wave curls on their foreheads and little Chaplin tramp mustaches scotch taped to their upper lips.
Kojak gasped, “They all look like a young Brace Bozhart! They’re identical except for having different numbers painted on their shirts!”
THE BABE STRIKES OUT FOR HIGHER GROUND
Fearless and undaunted, Llana of Baseball spit into her hands, went in a batter’s battle crouch and leaned over to tap the floor with her Mickey Mantle Special. “Gimme your best shot, squirts! Come on...ya wanna play hardball do ya!” she shouted while leaping back and forth across an imaginary home plate, utterly confusing the oncoming horde with her ambidextrous positions and her switch hitting prowess as she took lethal practice swings.
Despite Llana's resolve to battle to the death, the situation looked hopeless for the adventurers from the surface. Just when it appeared that the situation could not get any worse, there was a simultaneous commotion pouring from the entrances at both ends of the elongated cavern. Behind them charged a mob of townspeople with torches and garden utensils, hoeing and torching everything in their path. From the front, at the far end of the cavern, advanced another mob - this one was comprised of angry borax miners who were wielding pick axes and swinging heavy bursting burlap sacks at anything in their path. The entire scene was one of chaos and confusion.
Out of this mass of hopelessness stepped one of the Boz Boys with the number #22 on his shirt. "Hi guys. I'm Boom Boom! I'm Boz 22. It's all right!" he shouted above the din of the melee and then he motioned them to follow.
He led them to a partially hidden alcove in which they saw a ladder leading upwards. Within seconds the two men and woman had followed the lead of their benefactor and had started their long climb to the surface. After climbing for what must have been hundreds of feet, they were revitalized by the tantalizing aroma of something cooking. It had the unmistakable smell of Cajun spices and burnt chicken feathers.
THE GAME IS A FACE OFF
Finally, at the end of the ladder, Number 22 opened a trap door above their heads and they crawled up into what appeared to be another lab. This lab, however, was strewn with the bodies of dead adult Bozharts. This was almost more that Kojak could bear and he would have slumped to the floor if his new found love had not been there to steady him. It was then that they discovered the source of the cooking aromas. In an adjoining room, walking toward a large steaming cauldron, were the two men they had almost rammed with their Thipcar earlier in the day. The taller of the two, who was in the process of dropping a bunch of blackened objects into the pot, stared in amazement at young Number 22 and gasped: "Brace Bozhart! What happened to you?! You have been shrunk!”
Further exclamations were lost as a tremendous gurgling and eruption took place in the cooking pot. Billows of acrid smoke engulfed the entire room and its inhabitants. An expression of wild ecstasy came over the faces of Kojak, Mars and Llana and they slumped unconscious to the cold cave floor.
CHAPTER 74: There's No Place Like Home!--Tangor
Ratnaz did a double take. Then a second. "Mom!" he cried joyously. "Mom! I'll be..." Sweeping Bertie up from the floor, where the startled girl had fallen, the Lord of the Leaves presented her to the fearsome figure. "This is Bertie Ketchum, Mom. She's my girl! Bet you thought I'd never... say, you're supposed to be dead! I spent eight years ambushing and slaughtering Mambobasa tribesmen because I thought they killed you."
The she ape lowered her eyes nervously and jammed her stogey firmly between her teeth. "Sorry 'bout that, kid. Never meant to hurt you."
"Me? Geeze, Mom, what 'bout all doz pore dudes I wasted? What 'bout them?"
Ratnaz's mother looked apologetic as she pulled a silver compact from the small leather wrist bag dangling from her large and hairy wrist. Powdering her nose, the gigantic anthropoid again expressed her sorrow. "Look, Ratz, it wasn't my fault you went off the deep end. I never thought you'd be that vicious and vengeful--and yes, I never thought you'd find a lovely girl like this sweet child. You were such an awkward klutz as a baby."
The "sweet child" clung to the man's immense biceps in a combination of possessiveness and weak-knees. "He's a hell of a man, your son," Bertie breathlessly announced.
"Tell me about it," the ape she replied. "When he was just a tyke he buried his father in goat manure as Tubfat slept. Nearly suffocated the old thing. Later I caught him tieing baby leopards together by their tails and putting glue in birds' nests and-- oh, all sorts of evil-spirited things." Mama reached out and pinched the Lord of the Leaves' cheek. "You certainly grew into a big fellow!"
"Aw, Mom!" Ratnaz blushed, dragging a toe across the floor with his head lowered. "Yer embarazing me!"
The ape patted her son on the head and deftly inserted herself between him and Bertie. Putting a large, heavy, hairy arm about the girl's shoulders, Mother walked Bertie away. Bending low and speaking in a whisper which could be heard for several hundred feet she said: "He's got a foul temper, dearie. Obsessive, too. A little slower than most as well since he was fooled by an old fur coat with some arrows stuck in it. My word, girl, after Tubfat died and he had no one else to play jokes on, he turned his full attention on me, and I mean to tell you, it was the most painful and disheartening 38 minutes I ever spent in my life.
"Ratz just assumed that old coat was his dear old mother and took out with his real father's slingshot and began murdering natives like crazy. Well, I tell you, there wasn't a better time for me to cut and run--and I did."
Bertie looked over her shoulder at the helpless appearing Ratnaz. "Did you kill a bunch of natives?"
"Gosh, Berts, Edgar Nyce made me do it. I never wanted to kill anybody! No siree, not me! Lover not a fighter. Peace, brother. I wore flowers in my hair, darlin'!"
Mama grudgingly nodded. "That's true. As a jungle hero that boy was pretty lame until that Nyce fellow came around. He fixed old Ratz up with a backbone, a conscience and a heredity factor contrary to Darwinian theory. Seemed to take, too, until he met that tramp Oolala. Snippy little broad with a great affection for sharp objects. They started palin' around, boozing it up, and first thing you know, my Ratz is a real rat. If it wasn't for that not nice Nyce our Ratz might have become a regular nobody drinking too much beer on weekends and having to be reminded to carry out the trash twice a week. I don't envy you," the sympathetic ape mother patted Bertie's sleek forearm. "He needs a lot of reforming."
"I'm looking forward to it," Bertie Ketchum replied with a determined expression. "'Salvation' is my middle name."
"Honey, you got your work cut out for you. Well, I have to run. I have an appointment with a mahrvelous hair dresser Zany Grany told me about. I just love those cute Grimy Waves."
Both Ratnaz and his woman chorused: "Grimley!"
The ape mother shrugged her enormous shoulders. "Whatever. You kids take care of yourselves."
And then she was gone, moving through the middle terrace with a speed impossible for any human to duplicate, even the fabulous Ratnaz (before his years of dissolution and debauchery).
"Grand old dame," Ratz sighed. "Damn old dame, too, for misleadin' me like that!" The Lord of the Leaves wiped the bloodstains of hundreds of innocent natives on his naked thighs. "Oh! Oh! Oh!" he wailed. "Gotta find me some pants!"
Bertie eyed the man with a critical eye. "No you don't. But we do have to find a way to get you out of those briefs and into mine. I need you, Ratz!"
Ratnaz looked over Bertie Ketchum's head toward the inside of the computer monitor where Tangor sat on the other side banging keys. "Please, boss? Please?"
Tangor, of course, ignored him. Tangor also decided to mess with the reader's head by
CHAPTER 75: Farewell, Canada! --Tangor
"Plop!" "Pop!" "Pishhh" "Ploosh!" "Plink!" "Phffttt!"
"My word!" Datsun cried. "What is happening?"
Herlock Cabyns swayed unsteadily beside the bubbling pot. The rubber chicken hung in his hands limp of laughs.
Cabyns eyes grew round as another kitchen utensil vanished. A torrent of popping sounds assaulted the Englishmen's ears, some explosive like a shorted lightbulb, others as quiet as a fart rising in a bathtub. The continuous sound of disappearing objects, near and far, was disconcerting.
"What did you put in that vat?" Datsun scowled. "Have you addled our brains, sir?"
"It is not that," Cabyns replied, swiftly recovering his shaken aplomb. "I fear we have been led horribly astray by our missing friend Hilary Billman. I have little doubt that our complimentary drinks served during our impromptu aerial jamboree were drugged and that the last dozen or so chapters have been nothing more than a canny Canuck's uncanny Canadian hallucinations (far more uncanny than ordinary hallucinations, mind you!), most probably brought about by over-indulgence of heavy lager and sushi!"
"Plip!" The kitchen wall disappeared. "Plup!" The cavern disappeared, as well as all the Bozhart zombies and Ras Puten and his gang. There came a most horrendous "Ka-plop!" and the two men found themselves standing beside a small creek, in broad daylight, not far from a trio of burros cropping grass.
"My word!" Datsun cried, stretching his limited vocabulary.
"My word, indeed," Cabyns said with thoughtful tone. "We are not in Kansas anymore, Toto..."
"Beg Pardon?" the ever querrolous Datsun queried.
"Nevermind, Datsun. I think we may have stumbled upon something vital to our case. Look there, under the tree. What do you see?"
Datsun raised a hand to shield his old eyes from the sun. "It looks like a crazy old man, Cabyns."
"You are as observant as you are faithful. Come, Datsun. I want to have a chat with this fellow."
Before the world's foremost insulting detective could speak, the old man looked up from his notebook with a smile. "Ben expectin' ya, gents. Pull up a stump and roost. Here. Read this."
Query: Are Fairy Tales Real?
David Bruce Bozarth (Zany Pseudonym)
I wasn't allowed time to bemoan my unusual state; the woman muttered three words which made my ears sing with pain, then the light went out.
When I opened my eyes (or were they open all the time and the light just came back?) and discovered two things simultaneously. The sky was international orange and there was a rather attractive lady frog beside me. I assumed it was the strange lady--there can't be many amphibians with violet eyes. Her inner eyelid blinked at me twice as she moved to the left. I took that as a signal to follow, for she immediately jumped off the oddly formed floating vegetation into the water. I watched for an instant as powerful hind legs propelled that sleek green body through the apparently endless ocean.
"Wait!" I croaked, seeing my only hope of becoming human again stroke-coast-stroking away. "I'm coming with you!"
I had not expected the words to be understandable, but they were. She slowed as I clumsily splashed into the warm water and concentrated on making my oversized webbed feet do the work frogs knew best and humans only mimicked.
When I came alongside, the lady frog began a steady stroking at a pace which allowed me to adjust to my new body. The fortunate aspect of being a frog was that I didn't have to worry too much about drowning, the form I occupied had a natural buoyancy that kept my eyes, ears and nose above water.
Either the shock, or the exercise, burned the alcohol out of my system at a positively indecent rate, thereby depriving me full benefit of the dollars spent to get drunk. That, plus the unasked for transformation, ticked me off. I asked questions.
"Is there any particular grudge you have against me, or is it men in general? Am I really a frog or is this some sort of hallucination or hypnotism?"
"You are a knight of good honor, are you not?" Despite the croaking sound, her voice was still as sweet as her human form had been delectable. Which made me wonder whether male gonads were the same regardless of species.
"I'm not sure I understand, bright eyes."
"I desperately need the service of a good knight, a rescuer. Are you not such a one?"
I gulped. Caught again! "I suppose you've got some deep emotional problem that needs solving?"
"Not me," her merry laugh informed. "My mistress is in dire difficulties. I was sent by dimensional translation into the void to be drawn to and captured by the aura of a knight in good standing. I was drawn to you. Are you now, sir, saying that my mistress' one hope of rescue is for naught? The formula was good for only one attempt."
"I guess you could call me a knight -- though I'm not sure I'll be able to do much given the present circumstances."
We continued stroking between curious appearing lily pads and weed, some of which resembled coils of rusty barbed wire. Unfortunately I discovered that weed's similarity to rancher's fencing went deeper than first seeming; I collected several long scratches on my shoulder when I came too close to a patch.
"Where are we going? Why the frog suit, honey?"
"Suit? Are you speaking of the Tarot?" she inquired.
"Tarot? Hey, you're not into astrology and all that other garbage are you? I had enough of that with Deanna."
"Not I, sir knight. I have no powers of my own, only those which were lent me to bring you here."
"Where is here?" I asked. I noticed the sky slowly turning turquoise, a rather mind-wrenching combination with the orange streamers stretching from horizon to horizon. "This place gives me the creeps."
"Which is precisely what we must do, sir. We must creep upon the shoreline and find a suitable place to land, one not too closely watched by the Agavin."
"Agavin, the hideous scaled warriors of Lord Iwanit of Igathat."
"Oh," I said, more confused than ever.
"No, sir knight," she responded sharply. "Not Ooo. He's one of the good wizards gathered by King Ulf Usal to discover where Black Ben Bordum, at the instruction of his master Lord Iwanit, has taken my mistress.
"The wizards Stangetz and Bilhalee made the first attempts and were consumed by the Fires of Ozone. Ooo, thinking such direct measures were incapable of penetrating the magical shields created by Lord Iwanit's wicked Warlock Wewil Ewinkee, thought it might be possible for me to seek her whereabouts by means of an astral tracer. Thus believing, he fashioned three great spells; one to find you, one to change you, and one to change you back when the time was right."
"As far as I'm concerned," I told her, "that time has come now. So, how do we go about this change?"
"It will be the same as when I changed you--a kiss. I hope you will forgive my boldness earlier, sir knight."
I thought I saw a blush on the lovely creature's lime-green cheeks. Amazing! Frogs blush! "Well, I don't mind kisses from pretty girls," I admitted, "but I'll be honest with you, dear, I'm not particularly happy at being whammied into an amphibian. I always thought the fairy tale worked the other way around."
"Sir knight?" The lady frog had increased the tempo until we fairly skimmed the water's surface.
"You know," I said without missing a stroke, "the princess kisses the frog and a handsome prince appears. This is the first time a lady kissed a hopefully not too ugly human and turns him into a frog."
"I'm not sure I understand you, sir, and I wish I had more time to learn, but we must be quiet now, we are approaching yon shoreline."
Indeed we were. I noticed the dark line of foliage rising above the mirror smooth water. She slowed, floating more and using her flippers less, until we ghosted between the pads and other water-logged debris.
I looked to the shore and saw other things which made me understand the woman's caution. They were about six feet long, six legged, with at least sixty-sixty fangs. I knew the number of that beast; low-slung like a crocodile, though they lacked the large tails of those familiar swamp beasts. They looked vicious and one glance at the frog beside me confirmed my suspicions. She was edging away.
The sky had turned completely turquoise by the time we were far enough away from the shore to begin travelling at high speed once again. As we put distance between ourselves and those nasty looking ambulatory hedge-clippers, some of the tension dissipated and she started talking.
"Those we saw on the shore are the Agavin, sir knight. They are on constant patrol at the beck and call of Lord Iwanit."
"And they like nothing better than frog legs for supper?"
"They'll eat anything."
"Like Mikie?" I asked. Though frogs can't frown I certainly received such an impression so strongly I attempted to explain the old cereal commercial. I finally gave up. "I was just trying to relieve the tension. What is your name?"
"Zelan...who?" She repeated the name for me and I wished I had a proper set of shoulders to shrug with. "Is it okay if I call you Zela?"
"You may call me as you wish, sir knight, though some have used 'Z' or 'Zee'" (there was a difference in the pronunciation but I'll be damned if I could figure how to make it come out right) "I will answer to anything."
"Including 'Hey, you'?"
"Of course," she said matter of factly. "And you, sir knight, if the question does not offend, how are you called?"
"At the moment it should be 'Flipper', but my real name is Christopher Carter Reynolds--Creedence for short."
"Creedence--a proper and pure name for a worthy knight. It is so appropriate..."
"No!" I sighed with exasperation. "That's only a joke, Zela. 'C.C.R. -- 'Creedence Clear Water Revival' -- get it? Christopher Carter Reynolds. My friends call me 'Chris."
"Sir Christopher -- I like that..." she repeated. At that moment I thought she would like anything as long as we kept putting miles between us and the Agavin. "I hope you will allow me to be your friend, Sir Chris."
"Right now, Zela," I said with sincere feeling, "you're the best friend I have. The very best." And she would remain so until I had my old body back. . . .
The old prospector took back the startling manuscript. "Answer yer questshuns, gents?"
"Quite!" Cabyns feverishly popped six Pez into his open mouth, heeding not Datsun's overdose warning. "You're a very interesting fellow, Mr. Grany. Do you mind if we talk?"
"Got any tobacky?" the old reprobate responded.
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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