|Thaumaturjekyll: Book One chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7||Overview||Book Two chapter 8 9 10 11|
Thaumaturjekyll: Book Two
Home is Where You Hang Your Halberd
Good Times at Orbit High
by Jeffrey M. Mahr
©2000 Jeffrey M. Mahr -- all rights reserved
Gather my children and you shall hear,
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.
Looking like a demented child's image of a half-pint werewolf, No-Nac trotted down the wide paths of whatever hell to which he had been sent by the Dark God for failing to protect the Heart of Virtue. The creatures here were different than the humans he was used to seeing, or even the Dark Gods and their minions. In fact they were even different from each other, with few looking even vaguely similar. As dusk approached, even more creatures could be seen, each more fearsome and demonic than the next.
Hunger was again No-Nac's primary concern, but the battle with Ackuanrut, D'lon-ra and their minions had taken so much out of him. He was, even now, still smaller than a bunny rat cub and no match for these hell creatures. This was especially true as they all seemed to be traveling in groups -- another sign of the fearsome nature of this place when even the demons needed to travel in packs.
There were smaller creatures about, but No-Nac needed mass and he needed it fast if he was going to be able to survive here. Plus, if he absorbed some of the intelligence and knowledge of these demons he might learn how to survive in this world.
Hugging the sides of the castles where there was more shrubbery to hid him, No-Nac searched for his next meal. It was just past dusk when he finally found a target, a small orange furred demon about his size. Absorbing it would almost double his mass and the next creature he ate could be large enough to bring him back to his original size at last.
It ambled down the street, apparently unaware of No-Nac's presence, stopping to receive tribute at castle after castle. Each stop brought it closer to No-Nac and he licked his chops and salivated in anticipation. A half dozen castles away, three castles away, two castles away. No-Nac adjusted his crouch infinitesimally in order to be better able to lunge out from behind his shrub, grab the small creature and carry it back to his hiding place to be absorbed at his leisure. That's when the benighted furball glanced at something on its wrist and trotted off to the corner instead of down the path to No-Nac's waiting pseudoclaws.
With a cry of anguish he considered charging out into the open to grab the creature. That was, until he recognized the white haired man the thing had approached, Ackuanrut.
"You did what?!" The volume of Hastie's voice was sufficient to rattle the car windows.
"Well, you said you'd do anything to make sure our team won."
"But... but... but..." Hastie was in shock at what Sonja had done to her. Finally, she took a ragged gulp of air and screeched, "But a date? You know how I feel about being seen in this body."
"Yeah, yeah. We've been through this so many times I can't count. You made a promise, and, if you make me, I'll tell everyone you broke your word."
"So? No one knows who I am. We'll get the Jekyll formula on Monday and I'll be me again instead of a Brigitte Nielsen clone."
"But I'll know. I'll know you wouldn't keep your promise."
"So, I'll tell everyone," Sonja smiled coldly.
"And get yourself locked up in the nearest funny farm?" Hastie was feeling more confident. She was sure Sonja would have no effective response.
"And provide proof."
"Proof? You mean? You wouldn't." Hastie's confidence was instantly replaced by fear and shock.
"I've already appealed to your sense of adventure, to see what it's like on a date from the girl's point of view -- but you must have lost that back on that other world. I've appealed to your sense of honor, hoping you would keep your word once you made the promise -- but you're telling me you have no problems reneging on your word. I've pleaded with you, as my best friend, to come and back me up -- but our friendship doesn't seem to mean much right now, despite all those years I went along with all those hair-brained invention schemes of yours -- at great personal risk I might remind you. Remember, I'll be there too and while I really do want to do this, I really don't want to do it alone -- so sure, sure I'd tell everyone, and sure I'd provide proof." Sonja folded her arms and glared back at Hastie.
Incongruously, Hastie's first reaction was amazement that Sonja had actually managed to present that soliloquy in one breath, especially since this was, by far, the most she'd said since the transformation. But then, the meaning of Sonja's words sunk in and Hastie uncomfortably realized that Sonja was right. She had promised, albeit foolishly and without a full understanding of the implications of her promise. Even worse, Hastie realized that her best friend had every reason to expect Hastie to join her. They had been friends all their lives and Jack had always been there for Hastie. Despite her angry words, Hastie still doubted that Sonja would actually follow through on her threat to tell the world about the Jekyll formula. She was living proof of the pandemonium it could cause, a teenaged boy who was genetically a female barbarian princess with near superhuman strength and warfare skills. But it did make Hastie realize that Sonja really did want to do this dating thing and that regardless of Hastie's opinion on the matter, Hastie owed her.
Slowly, Hastie deflated back into the car seat, tears streaming down her eyes. "Okay. I'll go," she whispered.
Ackuanrut was amazed. The castles were so plentiful, there was no place for the serfs to till the soil. The roads were made of some hard substance and they used lights without flame.
The people seemed familiar, although most were smaller than the people of his land. At least they had arms and legs with few exceptions. Also, eyes and ears were the norm. Clothing was another thing though. The colors, the designs; it was like a rainbow of different outfits, again with few duplications.
Ackuanrut had followed the other beings of the area, walking along the white strip beside the road until he reached a corner. He was standing there trying to decide which way to go when he felt a gentle tugging at his robe.
Looking down, he saw one of the small creatures looking up at him. The creature was wearing a white robe similar to his, but had furry hands and a short, squat, furry head with big, pointed ears and a furrowed brow. The color of its fur was a bright orange with faint traces of grey white, as if it were quite old. The overall impression was of an aged but extremely knowledgeable creature.
"'Cuthe me Mithter," the voice was a child-like lisp, but with a strange echo. "Would you help me cross the street?"
"What wish you strange being?"
"I wanna cross the street," it pointed to the black surface that the "cars" preferred. "I can do it myself, but Mommy said I hadda get help."
"Certainly small being," Ackuanrut responded with more assurance than he felt. "Go which way do you wish?"
"That way," it pointed. "I'm goin' home now." It sounded so happy to be going home, Ackuanrut felt a momentary twinge of jealousy, wishing that he too could return home.
The small being took his hand and tugged him towards the street. Ackuanrut followed, a bit uncertain of what to do about the "cars," but there was nothing to worry about. They stayed between some white lines painted on the "thtreet" and the only "car" that approached, slowed and stopped as it approached them.
"Thanks Mister," the small being spoke again as they stepped onto the curb again. "I'm Yoda. Who are you?"
"Ackuanrut am I, Dean of the College of Wizards and Advisor to King Elvi of Myriad."
"Oh wow," Yoda effused. "That sounds cool, but I don't know him. What movie is he from?"
Ackuanrut had learned a bit from listening to the twins. "None. From another dimension am I."
"Oh." Yoda sounded disappointed and didn't speak for a while, just holding Ackuanrut's hand and walking along.
They crossed two more streets like that before coming to one that was much larger. Ackuanrut confidently stepped out onto the blacktop despite the many cars rushing by when Yoda tugged his arm.
"The light. It's gotta turn green."
"Huh?" Ackuanrut searched about looking for something that would turn green before he realized Yoda was pointing at a box hanging above the middle of the street with three globes. As Ackuanrut watched, the green light facing the cars went out and the light above, a yellow one, went on. He watched in amazement as the cars began to slow and stop. Moments later, the yellow light had gone off and a red light went on. At the same time, the red light facing them went off and the green light below it went on. The wizard stood, fascinated by the changes and trying to figure out what had happened to stop the cars when he realized that Yoda was tugging at his sleeve again.
"Let's go. Before it changes again." With that the small furry creature led Ackuanrut across the street while the cars waited patiently for them to crossing.
Four castles down from the light Yoda suddenly let go of Ackuanrut's hand and bolted towards the front portico. At the castle entrance, Yoda turned and waved, "Bye Ack... bye -- Acky." Then he was gone.
Ackuanrut stood wondering what to do next. Doing a search for magic sources, he found one -- and it was close, very close. Smiling at his good luck, the wizard headed down the white way toward the building with the large steeple on top.
"So we're settled?" The others nodded and Herbert Lanyon smiled prettily. "Then to summarize, George will prepare a power of attorney for Herbert or I to sign, have it notarized at his office, and then go to the bank for the backup copy of the formula. That will be much easier than having either of us go. Appearances aside, we've still got the mass and it might prove embarrassing to have people bumping in to our back quarters because they don't see them. With the formula, we can return to our original shapes and then I can get to work on the TSP device so Ackuanrut can get home."
"Come to think of it," George asked, "where is Ack... what did you say his name was? I'd like to talk to him about where ever he came from."
"I think I saw him heading towards the kitchen an hour or so ago, Emily answered. "Rather than have one of us wreck the new tile floor with our hooves, would you please ask him to come out here George?" With a nod, George sauntered off.
"I have a more basic question, dearest," Lucille spoke up. "What is the TSP thingee you've been talking about?"
"You weren't listening, were you Lucille?" Herbert was a bit hurt that her wife's best friend had not paid better attention to her narrative, although as she thought about it, she realized she should have been used to it by now. With a tired shake of her head, she explained again. "The TSP 'thingee' is a Trans-Spacial Portal. To use layman's terms it was supposed to be like the transporters in Star Trek®, a way to move objects from one place to another by dismantling their individual atoms and then recreating them in another..."
"Yes, Emily?" Herbert turned towards her wife. "I was just trying to explain the TSP to Lucille."
"And I'm listening quite intently Herb -- I mean Emily."
"No you're not Lucille," Emily laughed. "I've known you much too long for you to fool me. I can see that slightly glazed look and you're playing with that one curl of your hair again. What were you really doing, planning tomorrow's wardrobe?"
"No!" Lucille was indignant. "Of course not. I was... I was..." and then she started laughing. "My Gawd. It really is you in that body, isn't it Emily. I didn't really believe it until just now.
"I apologize Herbert," she turned to the female centaur. "Emily is correct. I really was not paying full attention to your explanation. But the transporter explanation was sufficient for my needs."
Turning back to the male centaur, she good naturedly slapped his arm. "But you, Emily. How could you give away our feminine secrets like that?"
Emily gave a deep gravelly chuckle. "Have you noticed that I seem to have a rather unique perspective on that at the moment, Lucille?"
"I can't find him?"
"What's that George?"
"I can't find Ackuanrut."
"Did you check upstairs?"
"I checked every room, including the bathrooms and the closets. I also checked the basement and I even checked the backyard. I'm afraid he's gone."
"Oh my," Emily gasped, holding his hands to his mouth. "He's not familiar with this world. I hope he'll be alright."
"We'd better find him. Emily and I will check the neighborhood on foot. George, you and Lucille take your car. Everyone take their cell phones and call if you spot him."
"Right. Come one Lucille. You drive while I check to see if he's been picked up by the police."
"What about the girls?" Emily asked. "What about Hastie and Sonja -- I mean Jack?"
"I'll call them right after the police," George called back from the car as it pulled out of the driveway.
"Tim and Phil will meet us at the entrance to the school in a few minutes. Are you ready, Nancy?"
"Well, let's see Sonja. Are my pants clean? Oh, sorry. I'm not wearin' any damned pants. Is my skirt too long? Humm. No skirt either. Well, is my leather bikini coverin' everything it needs to cover? Just barely. No prob, Sonja. Ready as can be."
"Lighten up Nancy," Sonja laughed. " We're here for the Halloween dance. Let's have fun and win the award for best costume like we've been planning all week."
"Wouldn't it help to have a damned costume in the first place. We look like refugees from an X-rated movie. There's no way they're gonna let us into the dance dressed like this. I wouldn't be surprised if they call the cops and have us arrested for tryin' to corrupt the morals of minors."
"Oh come on. You know, deep down, you're dying to go to this dance. Like I said, calm down. The guys will be here any minute."
The cell phone in the leather shoulder pack Sonja carried started chiming.
"Saved by the bell," Hastie cheered before smiling beatifically upward and clasping his hands together in prayer. "Thank you lord. Thank you."
"Relax, Saint Joan. It's probably a wrong number," but Sonja took the sack off her shoulder and rummaged through it for the cell phone.
"Oh, hi Dad. What's up?"
"He is?" Sonja asked worriedly.
"We've got Hastie's car. We'll start looking immediately." Sonja silently replaced the phone in the pack and shouldered it before turning back to Hastie.
"Are you enjoying keepin' me in suspense? Give already," Hastie demanded.
"Yeah?" Hastie gestured for Sonja to elaborate.
The rubbish-filled alley was deserted except for the two teens cursing as they attacked a metal door with a crowbar. No-Nac stood at the alley's entrance and checked for other ways out, but there were none. If he could get to at least one of them before they broke through that door, he could be near full mass; two and he'd be complete again.
It always seemed to take so much longer to absorb the minds of his victims and the voices of the incompletely absorbed warred in No-Nac's head. He had never tried to absorb this many diverse creatures in such as short time. The mind most harmonious to his current need won and he assumed the shape of Vfrgoysl.
"Shut up an' push."
"Blackie," the voice was more urgent.
"I heard sometin'."
"It's probably just your mother with a John."
"Screw you, ya sonofabitch. I heard somtin. Really I did."
"Aw right. Let's check it out. Whaddja hear?" The door was forgotten as they starred at each other.
"Idonow. Like a -- sometin' strange. From back by the street," Ralph pointed.
"So, like I said. Check it out."
"I ain't gonna check nothin' out. You check it out."
"Oh shit," Blackie spat. "You are one freakin' chickenshit. Ya know that? Come on." With that Blackie grabbed Ralph's jacket collar and dragged him along towards the alley entrance. They got four steps before Ralph screamed and pulled away.
Looking up, Blackie screamed too.
The three foot tall cockroach chittered happily and lunged.
"Hey! Where are you ladies going? I though we had a date." The shout was from Phil Whiteside, dressed as a Scottish highlander, who had just finished parking his car. Tim Walsh exited the passenger side door a moment later, smoothing out his colonial gentleman's outfit.
Sonja and Hastie stopped trotting through the school parking lot towards their car to wait for the two football players to catch up to them. "We do -- I mean we did."
"Well, unless I'm mistaken, the dance is the other way." Tim pointed back at the school and smiled disarmingly. "And why did 'we do' change to 'we did?'"
"Yeah! We had a date," Tim chimed in. "Just like a girl to back out at the last moment."
"We're sorry. But we've got an emergency. A... a friend of ours is missing and we've got to help find him." Hastie added her agreement, looking more disappointed than she felt.
"Tim?" he turned to his teammate questioningly.
"I'm in, Phil. No way I'm missing out on a date with a great looking chick just because of some emergency," was the immediate response, although he made the last word sound like an insult.
"Do you know what they're talking about, Has... I mean Nancy?"
"Not a clue Sonja."
"What are you guys talking about?"
"You're our dates. We don't care whether it's at the dance or somewhere else, but we aren't just dropping you because you have a problem."
"Exactly, babes," Tim chimed in. "So who do we need to find?"
"Give us a minute guys." Hastie pulled Sonja a dozen or so feet away the boys and whispered. "We've got a problem here. How do we tell them we're searching for a white-haired wizard from another dimension?"
"So you'll politely tell them 'thanks but no thanks'?" Hastie looked relieved.
"Nope. We tell him he's an eccentric and slightly slow uncle who doesn't know the area and could get into trouble if we don't find him."
"Oh shit. And I suppose you want to split up too so we can cover more area?"
"I hadn't thought of that," Sonja responded cattily, "but it's an excellent idea. Do you want Tim or Phil?"
Without waiting for a response from the sputtering girl, Sonja strode purposefully back to the guys as Hastie muttered about her enjoying this too much.
"Girl talk over?" Tim's wink, designed to show that this was meant to be humorous, turned into an "oof" and he found himself on the ground looking up at an angry Sonja.
"That was just to save time and make sure you believe the message, 'Don't even think of trying any macho bull.' Now, if you are still interested in helping, we'd appreciate the help." Sonja waited for the hesitant responses.
"Great. I'll go with you Phil. You can drive. Nancy will go with Tim -- who's going to be a perfect gentleman," she glared briefly at Tim, still getting back up and brushing himself off. "We'll tell you what's happening on the way."
On the way to the cars Phil smugly poked Tim in the ribs. "I told you that macho bull wouldn't work with these girls."
Finally feeling sated from his double meal, No-Nac moved on to his second objective, to find sufficient magic to help him overcome that benighted Ackuanrut and regain the Heart of Virtue. The magic was strong -- he could feel it, the strongest he'd felt since being dumped in this hell hole planet -- and close, very close. Assuming the shape of one of the creatures that had caught his interest, a human with stooped shoulders, wavy black hair, bushy eyebrows, receding forehead, pointed nose and protruding chin, he hurried towards his goal.
Rounding the corner he could see it, a huge building, bigger than any of the castles about it. This one even looked a bit like a castle, with a tower and clerestory windows. Power rolled out of it in waves, crashing against No-Nac, making him feel giddy. This was enough power to defeat Ackuanrut and possibly still have enough left over to return home without the aid of the Dark Gods.
Still No-Nac held back. Something was wrong. It was too easy. With the patience of a skilled predator, he examined the situation, patiently waiting to discover where the trap was; the trap that had to be there.
That was it. The creatures of this world walked past it, but did not enter. He would have to wait until someone dared enter so he could learn from them how to survive the ordeal. Modifying his shape to that of a bench beside the white path, No-Nac prepared to wait patiently for what he needed -- and maybe snag another snack or two as he did.