The flat green landscape stretched out before them. It rocked gently on the waves - the sky had become nearly dark overhead and the ocean was apparently calming down.
After much digging and inspection, it became obvious that whatever world (whatever) they were on (or in (whatever)), the ground was apparently more or less solid polystyrene.
Nothing grew, or could grow, here, and the masses were rapidly weakening from hunger and thirst. The sea, several daves had found out, was full of deadly chemicals - their bodies now lay, glowing faintly for no discernible reason, at the straight-as-a-ruler shoreline.
Each person sat quietly, alone with her or his thoughts, wondering where they were, and why, and how. Suddenly, the dark quiet was interrupted by splashing along the shore line.
"What was that?", demanded jenine.
"Aw, shut up, jenine, you keep..." dave # 4, still annoyed at being trapped here without gypsy, replied.
"YOU can call me just!", snarled jenine. "Greg, did you hear anything?"
Greg was already moving stealthily towards the shore, in the general direction of the corpses. "Shhh." He kept moving. There was a large splash. "T. REV!!!"
"Greg! Man, it's good to FIND somebody!"
"T. Rev! Where HAVE you been? And WHAT is that you're riding?"
"Some sort of overgrown bottom feeder." It appeared to be a mutant catfish. Down each side was a bold red stripe. One whisker bore a tag labeled, "AIAI".
"How did you breathe underwater, anyway?", jenine panted, having just arrived and noticing T. Rev wasn't wearing any SCUBA gear.
"What? Beats me. I just now realized I've been underwater for a while. Just been breathing normally. Say... Where ARE we?"
"We all wish we knew that," Greg kicked at the 'ground'. Wherever it is, there's NOTHING to eat. Nada. I'd even eat krill right now, if I could find any."
"What about this green stuff?", T. Rev mused, reaching down and scarfing a few nibbles. "Hey, this seems to be lime jello! And look! These white things. Marshmallows!"
The others stared in horror as T. Rev swallowed the stuff by handfulls. Finally jenine tried it. "Hey! He's right! It IS lime jello!" Most of the others held back, sure that jenine and the Rev would collapse before their very eyes, writhing in horrible agony, perhaps foaming at the mouth. But not everybody was that self-controlled.
Joe Talmadge dove to the earth. Like some rabid pig, he fairly flew across the landscape, mouth to the turf, gobbling the stuff as fast as he could, nasty green bow wakes splashing 2 feet high along either side of his head.
"T., what's it like down there?", jenine asked between bites.
"Pretty bad. Dark and scary. Giant mutant snails. More bottomfeeders like 'whiskers', here, but the others are just plain mean..."
"What's wrong, T. rev? You look kinda ill."
"Look. I hate to mention this, but I... I thought I saw Cindy down there. Just sorta floating aimlessly about. Didn't recognize me at all, just floated past."
"Oh, no! She had gone over the side exploring before we ended up in the soup! We haven't heard from her since! Oh, how AWFUL!"
"Look, we need out of here. We need to find x, and, I expect, BoB. Then we can get some answers. No matter what it takes."
"Yeah, but how do we DO that?", whimpered dave # 317.
"HEY! I know! Be right back!" Jenine rushed off to her backpack. She pulled out a strange device and talked to it, listened, and talked some more. She returned, grinning mischievously, a number of scarves, bandanas, and other cloth items in her hands. "Why didn't I think of this before? Too tired and disoriented, I guess. Look, help will be here in..."
Everyone broke in at once. Greg finally shut everybody up by virtue (?) of the loudest, most vilifying epithets.
"How are we gonna get out, huh? And if it's so EASY why are we even still HERE????" Greg was definately looking a bit wild-eyed.
"As I was SAYing, Greg, I don't know why I didn't think of it before, but I didn't. Anyway, I can't explain it all, but help is homing in even as we speak, on a locator in my pack. You'll all have to be blindfolded." She held up the bandanas and stuff, a smile playing mysteriously about her lips. "Don't worry; I have a plan."
"Who's that? NO! Here comes Kaldis. How did HE get here?"
"There's nobody there, Greg. I really think you need some rest."
"Where'd he go? I SAW him, I tell you. I cannot DEAL with this. It's beyond belief. Even for talk.bizarre!"
"Shut up and wear this," jenine handed him a blindfold. Nearly everyone else except chaos had a blindfold on; chaos simply juggled the air nearby to distort the light rays so badly no sensible image could get through. The result, at least to the others, was that chaos' head appeared to be a sort of pinkish, purplish, bluish egg-shaped fog. CJ & Bill each grabbed one of Greg's hands, and jenine blindfolded him against his will. They then bound his hands for good measure.
CJ and Bill placed their blindfolds over their eyes.
"I'm sorry, but this involves some top secret stuff, so you'll have to wear these a while. Do *not* peek for anything. Got that?"
"Well, jenine, I suppose YOU don't have to wear one, eh? Just what sort of treachery are you up to, anyway? I should have flamed you more, kept you in your place..."
"Greg, 'dear', tr*sh..." (at this point there were several admiring hoots and whistles at the first known pronunciation of that spelling) "... and oleg and clay along WITH you wouldn't have a chance. And here it is. Hold my hand, and go up this ramp." She led Greg to the bottom of a metal ramp; someone else took him from there. He was led to a seat, and strapped in. The vibrations and smells told him he was inside a jet of some sort. A LARGE jet.
The others were led aboard with varying amounts of cooperation. Stormwind, next to last, lifted the blindfold a bit partway up the ramp. There was nothing there! Nothing below or overhead, nothing. Pulling the blindfold tighter, Stormwind shivered, but kept moving up hill. Once inside, the sounds, the echoes of footsteps and voices, everything suddenly made sense.
They were in a C-5, thought Stormwind. Emboldened once more, Stormwind pulled the blindfold off. Now there was nothing but faint light entering through some apparent windows, and aft through the ramp portal. Definately a C-5, except that it wasn't there! The guide released Stormwind's hand, and chided in a pleasant female voice, "you really shouldn't have done that!" Stormwind managed to keep cool depite the fact the guide (a flight attendant?) was as invisible as the plane.
"You fool," A quiet voice hissed, so noncomittaly that the threat was magnified far more than any violent inflection could have done. The hair on Stormwind's neck raised slightly.
"Oh, dear. And I PROMISED!", sighed jenine. "Sit here. Shut up. Strap in. Don't talk. Don't look, don't ask questions, don't ANYthing. Got that?" The dead, authoritative voice was so unlike jenine that Stormwind bit off the caustic reply that sprang to mind, and nodded. Jenine dropped into the next seat. "We could both die for this. At best, you disappear, and I lose my job. The captain is already reporting everything to headquarters."
"So what IS this?" Stormwind whispered.
"A Stealth Transport", jenine whispered back.
"Hey, what's going on?", dave # 42 yelled, reaching for his blindfold."
"I wouldn't do that!", the noncommital voice noted from somewhere spookily close to Stormwind's head. This was followed by the unmistakable snick of a Glock being cocked. "Please keep your seatbelts on. No smoking during the flight. We will not be serving dinner or cocktails. No movie. No trips to the head. Nevermind the cruising altitude or speed. Keep your mouth shut, your fingers in your ears, and your eyes covered, and you'll all be just fine. Nevermind the disaster drill - if we crash nobody will ever know, including you. Thanks for flying Air Spook", the voice finished mirthlessly.
"Got any toothpaste for my nostrils, you caven..." Greg's snarl ended as the Glock barked right in Stormwind's ear. Greg was silent a moment before finishing. "Yessir."
"Greg? You OK?
"Oh, sure. Good shot, that one. Powdered my nose, so to speak. Probably look like a sunburn tomorrow."
With an eerily quiet surge of acceleration, they felt themselves moving forwards. They were airborne in a few seconds. They were going home.
Most of them.
jenine gripped Stormwind's hand, tightly yet tenderly. "Don't worry; I have a plan", she whispered consolingly. Stormwind shuddered involuntarily, and a couple of the daves snickered until they remembered where they were.
But where were they?
"He went into that brown Cape Cod" BoB whispered urgently.
"WHICH brown Cape Cod?" x sarcastically hissed back. "They're ALL brown Cape Cods..."
"The one on the corner. With the green RX-7."
"OK." mr. x was suddenly wearing a baseball uniform. "I'll knock and ask directions to the nuke plant."
"Uh, what about the stadium, instead?", suggested BoB.
A faint look of disgust crossed mr. x's face. "It was supposed to be a radiation officer's uniform." The air crackled, and a brown uniform with various DOE patches and insignia appeared in place of the Braves outfit.
"Much better. Bunch of losers, anyway..." BoB faded into the shadows of one of the ever-present oaks. mr. x approached the house, official business written all over his face, in three indelible colors.
The door opened. A plump, short, brunette (with a distinctly puffin-like nose, but otherwise a duplicate of Marilyn Quail) opened the door. "Come in, come in. Just in time!" Before he could protest, the hostess led x in and sat him on a couch between a portly woman of Spanish descent in her 50s and a cute blonde who introduced herself as Jo Talmadge, just moved here from the West Coast, where her twin brother still lived, and what were those colorful words all over his face, anyway?
A young, scrawny, geeky-looking guy with large, hornrimmed glasses, and a skin complexion exactly like what one might get from prolonged exposure to the entrails of an iron maiden, sauntered in from the adjacent room and began an Amway pitch.
"...so, you can easily make millions of bucks, get other people to do your homework, and make everybody send you their cute sisters!" he finished in a voice dripping with honey and snake oil. The women collectively oohed and aahed, forgetting for the moment that they were all heterosexual, and basically happily married to boot. Grinning spastically, the Amway rep began to recite some poetry he had written.
mr. x had seen enough. He concentrated for a moment. Just as e.e. carasso finished the second verse, a window behind him shattered, and a pale, violet light played about his head. He froze in midsentence - even the flies buzzing lazily about his head froze, then dropped to the floor. mr. x drew his falafel gun and pasted the poet right between the eyes. BoB stuck his head through the window just long enough to evaluate the scene, and disappeared again, after covering the motionless poet with falafel from his rifle. The silence was deafening. mr. x turned to the nearest woman, the portly senora on his left.
"It's ok", he spoke soothingly. "You still get double credit if you buy from the hostess, and triple if you prepay today." The look of worry vanished from her face, and they all began laughing and talking normally again. They hadn't even noticed what had happened to carasso. Niether had mr. x, but then, he already knew.
Doffing his DOE cap, he strolled nonchalantly through the window, and disappeared.
Go to next chapter.
Last updated: 29 Jun 1994
Copyright 1989, 1994 Miles O'Neal, Austin, TX. All rights reserved.
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This copyright may be freely used, distributed and modified subject to the conditions noted above in the preceeding paragraph. Miles O'Neal <roadkills.r.us@XYZZY.gmail.com> [remove the "XYZZY." to make things work!] c/o RNN / 1705 Oak Forest Dr / Round Rock, TX / 78681-1514