But they weren't in California yet. Here in Austin, such dress merely made it necessary to tip the limo driver $50 in advance so he would consent to be seen carrying such a passenger. With the aid of a medium forklift he loaded Pam O's meager luggage into the two Land Barges Ed Ayup had suggested he would need. With a little care and lots of rope, it fit fine. Paul, however, would have to sit with his luggage in his lap due to lack of space.
Meanwhile, Paul admired Pam O discreetly from behind the cowboy hat pulled low over his face in case anyone he knew walked by. Despite being quite happily married, he admitted to himself there were worse ways to go than in the cold steel embrace of those razor blades she called fingernails.
Arriving at the Austin airport with a plethora of picoseconds before the scheduled departure time, Paul mugged a ticket agent for upsetting Pam M with the news that her non-refundable, non-anythingable ticket to San Francisco would not get her to San Jose.
During the ensuing melee, Pam O sweet-talked one of the baggage-handlers into emptying the plane's cargo holds and stowing her luggage, or at least most of it (after, of course, the baggage conveyor motors were replaced and a couple of Allied Van Lines rigs were pressed into service). The other 7 bags would have to come on a later plane with the other passengers' baggage, but Pam refused to let this setback annoy her. Coyly playing with one of her live cave newt earrings, she soon charmed a mechanic into grounding the plane, and replacing it with a 747, with a promise a Concorde would be available in Dallas.
Shortly after Ed Whatzisnametoday and Tom Whoeverheisnow bailed Paul out of the Austin City Jail, the plane was finally ready for takeoff.
Paul and Pam M (who had cleverly picked up the tickets of several elderly, San Jose-bound passengers who had expired of heart attacks during the mugging) managed to run the entire 1.3-mile length of the Dallas terminals just in time to catch the Concorde, which didn't really fit at DFW, and was parked off to the side. Pam O had managed to wrangle a ride in a motorized wheelchair from an elderly Jamaican with a smug smile. She graciously offered to carry Paul's and Pam M's tickets for them, but since the tickets were buried under all the luggage they were carrying (the luggage carts being unusually full), they refused this sweet gesture.
Pam O was upgraded to First Class after showing one of the flight attendants how to open a can of olives with her lips. Pam M ended up flying with the wealthy niece of the deceased man whose ticket she held (this later landed her in the midst of a vicious gangland kidnapping and pasta war, but that's another story). Paul took his seat between two teenage mutant ninja rappers sporting shirts that proudly proclaimed, "Cowboys Die!" He explained how the hat was a personal gift from Freddy Fender, given to him after singing for Freddy (behind the scenes) at a recent concert during a bout of asthma, and thus got along quite well with his seatmates until shortly after takeoff.
[Due to an ongoing FAA investigation, the story of the Concorde takeoff from a runway 1,000 feet too short for it, the tale of the Merry Band subdivision off the end of said runway, and the effects of that tale upon Merry Band's inhabitants, their future choice of undergarments, and the resultant general mayhem, destruction and debauchery, must be untold at this time.]
Exactly as the "Fasten Seat Belts" signs went off, Paul's seatmates, whom he later learned were the "Hammers" for a drug-crazed MC gang, jumped up and began to break dance, rapping at a furious rate and kicking their lizard-shod, pointy feet in every direction.
"We be dancin' on the plane Don' be givin' us no pain Cuz the only thing you'll gain is a blackjack in the brain!"Paul recovered from shock just in time to keep his laundry bill at zero, and began swaying and clapping to the rhythm. His real desire was an immediate defenestration, but as they were both bigger and apparently on serious drugs, he suspected the honors would be his instead of theirs.
Pam M quietly read her Marketing Slime magazine, drooling all the while over the latest Real Steel from Armonk, and nibbling her napkin, which she found more appetizing than the Roadkills-R-Us failed experiment the airline had bought at a surplus sale and passed off as a meal.
Thanks to the Concorde, they had shaved off 2 of the 14 hours lost due to the mishap with the ticket agent, Austins' Finest, and the Dear Departed. Reaching the motel only moments after the show booth was supposed to be ready for inspection, they found the rooms nearly cleaned, and only had to wait 30 more minutes for the corpses to be carried off, the chalk lines vacuumed, and the locks rekeyed.
"Sorry," the desk clerk droned, "I don't know WHAT's wrong with those rooms. Ever since that cobra trainer died in 308, that suite has had more bad luck." Handing Pam O the keys with an insipid smile, the clerk surreptitiously dropped a five into the hands of a nearby maid, murmuring "3 to 1 she outlasts the others, but even she won't last the week." The maid just grinned and pocketed the money.
After a few hours' wait, a Parent Company Honcho showed up, and promptly insisted on swapping his personal car for their $500/day rental Ferarri ("It's all we have left."), explaining they would be much more comfortable in his. As the Red Rocket darted off, the Pams and Paul climbed into the waiting Edsel.
Finally, after pushing the Pams in circles for two hours, Paul insisted on driving. Pam O convinced a few drooling AIX marketing slimes to push, and they soon arrived at the show, which was in full swing.
The others let Pam O proceed first; her stiletto-clad elbows efficiently cleared a swath through the crowd. Arriving at the gaping hole that was supposed to be the Company's booth, they stared in dismay. Ed Something was showing off his motorcycle to some excited teenagers, while a sinister Villain in Black (shaped suspiciously like ex-employee W) was busily shredding Company brochures into confetti, which he was selling at a nearby concession stand for throwing at Akers' entrance later.
With the quick thinking that had earned her the respect of Inspector Gadget (and that of several divisions of U.S. Marines), Pam M jumped up onto Ed Deviousalias's shoulders, whipped off her coat, and began doing a quite impressive version of the seldom-seen-by-white-mans-eyes Commanche Cobra Cha-Cha. Clad only in her Victoria's Secrets Wonder Woman Underoos (tm), she held the entire arena enthralled until the climax of the dance, when she hurled the snakes into the face of the Sinister Villain, who fled from the hall, shrieking mysteriously, "It's not fair! They're MEAN! They're SCUM!!! We HATES them my precious, we HATES them!!!."
"Look at this!", Paul hissed. A printer had fallen from the folds of the Villain's shadowy cape. Ed Whichever shrugged, and turned back to the bike, humming the theme from the Transfromers (tm) commercial under his breath. With a few deft twists of the wrists, the bike had become a huge, glamorous booth - decorated just perfectly in the official colors of The Unix Experts (Big Blue with Just a Hint of White, as several oglers noted, although not very loudly since Pam O was swaying nearby). As the Pams, the onlookers, and the Booth Judges (The Company came in 2nd only to Sun, who was at the wrong show anyway) gaped over the lifelike displays of offices bereft of hackers long after lunchtime should have ended, nobody noticed Paul had disappeared.
Ed Thingummy soon received a phone call. Hanging up, he turned to his ready assistants and gave an off-the-cuff speech. "The guy replacing Jeff got nailed at the airport for impersonating a ticket holder. We can identify the body when we get back, but we need someone to take his place while we're here. Where's Paul?" Discovering that they could no longer discover Paul's whereabouts, Ed Whichwhatwho made a command decision. "Pam, we need Paul. We can take the hit now of being down two people, but we'll need everybody soon. Find him!"
ET grabbed Pam M as both Pams darted into the crowd. "Not you!" He stapled her head to the wall just above a nearby card-copier, and began to work the crowd as well as any carny shill.
Meanwhile Back At The Ranch, Mandy was piloting a boat at near Mopac speeds over the bodies of surfer wannabes playing in the wake of a lost Exxon tanker in the Arboretum Lake. Screaming suddenly, she grabbed her head and began moaning, "someone's stapling me!" (doctors later reported such sympathy pains between women who have both handled the same recruiters' phones was not uncommon). The boat veered straight into the path of an oncoming barge carrying Pam O's surplus luggage back to her parents' lake house. Mandy and everyone on the speedboat were killed instantly. Due to the fast work of a boy scout who happened to be swimming nearby, however, doctors eventually were able to reconstruct everyone, although Mandy ended up with a few Bostitch 9mm wounds in the process.
Pam O continued through the crowd, leaving a trail of dead marketeers who just couldn't keep their paws off her. All but the last few now sported tee shirts warning against messing with The Unix Experts. Those still in their original shirts were later found to have Company pens shoved up both nostrils. (The AIX Expo Show Daily later reported several would-be suitors survived only because their email begging her for a date had bounced.)
A huge crowd had gathered at the Informix booth. Edging her way carefully through the potential customers, Pam O finally got to the front, where a big drawing was being held. As the others had done, she immediately emptied several boxes of business cards into the gargantuan plasticene fish bowl, and just in time.
A large robotic arm, controlled by an RS/6000 (on whose screen Pam proudly noted No Problem was running), moved jerkily over the bowl, where it hovered for a second. The crowd ooh'd and aah'd as the arm gently dug into the morass of paper. A sudden shriek from the bowl, not unlike a terrified hacker being hoist by his own petard, erupted from the depths of the bowl. Everyone jumped a little. The arm moved upwards, but instead of a card, it had a nose!
Attached to the now red nose was an equally red Paul, cowboy hat in one hand, an AIX yo yo in the other. Pam O claimed her prize (one of her cards had fortuitously lodged in Paul's hat band), wrapped a dangerous arm fondly around Paul's neck, and steered him back to the Company booth, where Pam M was doing her Cha-Cha again, this time as Ed [Yournamehere!] carefully extracted ID from the wallets of the gawkers.
Paul was soon dressed in the requisite blue suit, white shirt, and red power tie (which matched his nose quite well). Sporting a bogus Manager of Informations Systems Managers tag on his lapel, he was soon exchanging slime with the best of them, after watching his beloved Chief Executive, Ed [A-Z][a-z]*, rope in the terrified mainframe MIS droids, all grateful for any help with the horrid universe in which they found themselves, populated with greps, awks, seds, and all manner of terrifying daemons.
The rest of the show was (gratefully) predominantly uneventful, and by the end of the week, Paul was back in his Unix Wizards outfit, merrily explaining the benefits of the Company's NeXT-based, object-oriented, Z-buffered, open architected, Co-Xistant device drivers over the shabby IBM hand-crafted C and assembler device drivers to hackers and CIOs alike. He traded yo yos for a number of items not normally importable to Texas, but with the help of Pam M's proven, patented diversionary tactics, Pam O's judicious application of vampire bats, and a few well-placed licking toads (which hardly put a dent in his stock), he got through customs.
Pam M had to pay a slight tax on her new pets (they had eventually found a total of six of the slithery fellows (no, not more marketeers, although large numbers of those had tried to crawl into the Pams' rooms)) in the suite, of which the hotel grudgingly bought back two to keep the number of guests comfortably low), but Paul cheerfully donated the moolah after the help she had given him getting through.
Pam O spent the the next few weeks counting her clothes in the vain hope the airlines had lost some so she could justify a buying binge in New York. Ed Asner?Norton?Iforget is doing well at the Mission Hills Hospital and Golf Course; he is expected to return to work by the end of October. It seems Liz misunderstood what was happening when she saw a CNN clip of Ed Howdareyou and the two Pams dancing on a table at a surf side restaurant (nobody had any money, it would be weeks before the Company could get an emergency funds check cut, and they were simply working off their bill without washing dishes), and brained Ed Honeyimsosorry with a 9 iron when he got home.
Paul, grateful to be back home in relative normalcy, kissed his wife, played pat-a-cake with his kid until 4 AM, and grabbed a few hours sleep in his favorite aquarium, but only after promising the squid he wouldn't rap in his sleep. (He did, but the sucker marks are fading rapidly).