Early the next morning, the Camelodians were busily at work rebuilding the roadblocks between Suburbia and their base in No Furs Land, which had been destroyed by the leopardess super-heroine Saint Saffron as she rudely made her exit from the occupied town. ***
The soldiers tried to radio the base for more troops, but got no answer. This they passed off as some malfunction in the base radio system; either that or somebody being asleep at the switch. They were too arrogant in their belief of pre-destined total conquest to even consider the possibility of effective resistance on the part of Suburbia. So they simply carried on with their work.
Meanwhile, the coyote truck driver, Rick Edwards, walked towards The Rhoades Mansion. He considered sneaking around to the garage entrance, but then he noticed that the Camelodian guards at the front door seemed to be asleep, or possibly dead on their feet. Cautiously he approached and found that they were indeed all out cold.
Treading lightly as he passed them, Rick rapped on the door and, after an awkward moment, Pammy, the panda housekeeper, answered it, inviting him in.
When Rick inquired about the soldiers outside, Pammy explained, with a wisp of mischief, that she had served them tea, with knockout drops for sweetener.
After walking through the underground passage that led from the mansion to the garage, Rick found his co-conspirators waiting for him.
Rick waved a briefing on his mission, explaining that he had already gotten the gist of it from Kacey’s character in Another Life, and he didn’t want to waste any time getting started. He then climbed into the cab of Chico, the massive double wide sentient truck, while Prince Perry, the black and white spaniel, opened the garage door.
But no sooner was the door open than soldiers led by Sergeant Stife, the hefty pig girl in a medal cover pseudo British uniform, came rushing in to arrest them.
The soldiers took a stance with their guns leveled threateningly; a site most of the Suburbians present were quite unaccustomed to in their previously crime free town. Then Stife warned, in a vicious tone, that any resistance would be met with instant death.
Rick and Perry exchanged awkward glances; neither seeming terribly impressed, nor in the least intimidated, which took Stife by surprise and slightly threw her off her game.
The military pig stood silently for a moment, posing with her machine gun, expecting to be rewarded by at least a look of inconvenience in Prince Perry’s eyes, but he did not show even contempt or recrimination. Instead he wore the look of a disappointed parent, about to be forced to spank a foolish child.
“How did you know we’d be here at this time?” Perry inquired, seeming oblivious to the fire power confronting him.
“I have my ways of staying informed,” said Stife, with arrogant imperiousness. “I’m not obligated to share them with you.”
“Apparently one of our friends in Another Life is a Camelodian spy,” said Rick, as he remained seated in the cab of the truck. “I can’t say I wasn’t expecting that.”
“If you’re so well informed,” said Perry, still remaining visibly not intimidated, “then I don’t need to tell you the extent of my insurance. Any threat you make against me is a threat against yourself. Are you suicidal, Sergeant Stife?”
“One must be willing to take such risks in war,” said the gratuitously uniformed female pig. “I will not allow any value I place on my own life to give you or Rick Edwards a chance to join the traitors who would disrupt Camelot’s war campaign. Furthermore, Camelot still has every right to commandeer that truck for its war effort.”
“By the laws of toxic femininity, I suppose,” said Perry, rolling his eyes, as if wearied of the pig’s terminal stupidity.
“I beg your pardon,” said the pig, indignantly.
“I was just noticing,” said Perry, with his usual air of casual analysis, “how well you play the part of what we call the toxic male in elder race military movies and novels. You know, the kind who are said to have doomed the world of the elder race to destruction because of toxic masculinity. Since you appear to suffer from the same affliction, perhaps femininity is not as immune from that toxic potential as we thought.”
“Femininity is never toxic,” said Stife, giving Perry a look of death. “You insult me with such a comparison, you pathetic inferior male.”
“Oh, I’d never do that,” said Perry, with a wise-cracking smile. “It’s just that you give me to wonder, in your imitation of elder race imperialism, what exactly is the toxic element you’re supposed to have omitted from your theoretically superior female approximation? What is it that enables us to admire you, rather than despising you as everything we attempt to overcome in our post-elder race humanity?”
“Testosterone, dear boy,” said Stife, distastefully. “You know that as well as anyone. Testosterone bound and gagged is why ours is a better world. And also why any mischief you’re planning is doomed to fail. You can not prevail against your female superiors.”
“I venture to question your superiority, Sergeant Stife,” said Perry, knowing this would be taken as the greatest of insults to the pig's military rank.
“By all means, question it,” said Stife, with amusement. “I’ve killed males for less. But I was planning to kill you any way. Give me all the provocation you wish.”
“You think you have a right to steal things simply by calling it commandeering,” said Perry. “You think lives become expendable simply by evoking the fortunes of war, even though we’re not supposed to be at war with each other. You assume I have some obligation to your war effort, that I must give you my truck, my house, my town, my life, whether I want to or not. Perhaps we should debate about whether your beliefs are Conservative, Liberal or just toxically female?”
“What kind of fool are you that you suggest a debate when you stand an instant away from death?” Stife demanded.
“Which of us is an instant away from death would also make for an interesting debate, if you but had the wisdom to seize the opportunity,” said Perry. “But of course you won’t, because you are a female, and females don’t debate with males. They just take whatever they want from males. You assume that, by virtue of your gender, everything I have is already yours for the taking.”
“Do I detect a note of misogyny, Prince Perry?” asked Stife, licking her lips in anticipation of a kill. “Such a crime is punishable by death, you know.”
“I wouldn’t waste time hating you, Stife,” said Perry. “At the end of this conversation, one, the other, or both of us will cease to exist. Your toxic femininity has brought about this unfortunate situation. In what time is left to us, shouldn’t we make some attempt to understand why we’re about to attempt to kill each other?”
“Are you insane?” asked Stife, incredulously. “Look at the guns pointed at you. You know I mean to kill you, and I’m sure you know why? How can you stay in an academic state of mind in a situation like this?”
“Ah, but you see, that is just the point,” said Perry, with a note of sadness in his voice. “Your insanity has brought this about. This insanity you apparently share with your compatriots. This insanity that is apparently some kind of contagious disease; what my father likes to call The White Virus.”
“Uh, Perry,” Rick interjected, with his usual brevity. “There was nothing in those hieroglyphics that made The White Virus gender specific.”
“Aaaahhhh,” said Perry, as if enlightenment had suddenly fallen upon him. “Then there never was toxic masculinity. Nor has it been replaced with toxic femininity. The bane of both the elder race and furkind is Toxic Humanity.”
Perry laughed ironically. “What a joke. All this time and effort we’ve wasted assuming it must have been a gender issue. There’s nothing wrong with you, Stife. You’re a perfect model of a human being, doing what Nature has evolved human beings to do.”
“Will it ease your mind while dying that I agree with you on that?” asked Stife. “Of course war is the natural state of human beings. Why do you think we’ve worked so hard to bring it back?”
“We? Meaning Camelot, not Webberton?” asked Perry.
“What kind of unobservant idiot are you?” asked Stife, with ever mounting incredulousness. “Almost every town on this planet is involved. We all ache for war. We don’t feel human without it. And we’re tired of you and your wretched family holding the rest of us restrained.”
“I see,” said Perry, as if awed by the revelation. “I thank you, Sergeant Stife. You have taught me a valuable lesson. Everything I thought I knew was wrong. Everything I have lived for is a lie. And if everything is a lie, there is nothing to protect.”
A shadow then fell over Perry, as if a cloud had suddenly dimmed the sun coming in through the garage doors. And in that instant Perry’s whole demeanor seemed to change. It was as if he had become a completely different, more menacing individual.
It was as if some restraint had been lifted from him by this revelation that good and evil were things he never had proper knowledge of. Perhaps such things did not really exist at all. And if not, he had no need to weigh his actions against them. This was war, and in war nothing mattered beyond winning.
Stife smiled a wicked, gloating smile and said, “What a pity your understanding comes too late. The High Command has switched to Contingency Plan 4. We will use this garage tunnel to infiltrate your house and slaughter the ruling family. Then we will blame your deaths on The Princess Of Webberton. The outrage of the world will be complete, and total war will ensue. Nothing you can do will prevent this now. Does this revelation make it easier for you to accept your fate?”
At hearing this, every last vestige of mercy or compassion for the invading Camelodians vanished from Perry’s vibrations. The shadow over his face darkened, and Stife was chilled in spite of herself at the dwarfing malevolent vibrations that replaced them.
It was as if Perry were becoming a different person, right before her eyes; a new enemy whose potential threat could not be assessed. And the longer this went on, the less Stife liked it. But still she would not suffer the indignity of surrendering her front of arrogant superiority.
Stife laughed at Perry’s look of death, saying, “What a pity there is nothing you can do to act on the contempt you feel for those who will take everything you have made.”
“Hey pig,” Rick called down insultingly from the cab. “Chico isn’t Perry’s to hand over, you know. He has a bio link with me. No one else can drive him.”
“Do you really think Camelodians will be thwarted by such futile precautions?” Stife laughed. “We will extract the bio information from your dead body. One hand should be all we need leave intact.”
“You can’t fool Chico that way,” Rick warned. “He’s a sentient AI. Whatever you mean to do with him, you need me alive to order it. So you’d best clarify your orders before you do anything drastic.”
“Your cooperation is easily attained, Edwards,” said Stife, smugly, waving her gun at Perry. “As long as I hold your prince, you will do whatever I say.”
“If you want to bet your life on that, it’s no skin off my nose,” said Rick.
“You hold nothing,” said Perry, in a grave intonation, the shadow over him having darkened to the point where only the ghostly glow of his eyes was distinctly visible. “You have spoken the truth. Suburbia’s prince can do nothing against you. Suburbia’s prince has no power over The White Virus.”
“It’s not a virus, you fool,” said Stife, in exasperation. “It’s simply the human way. It’s what we desire. It’s what we long to be. Your resistance to your nature is futile. If you would but realize that and join us, we would not have to destroy you.”
“No,” said Perry, sounding as if he were speaking from far away. “I understand now, about my nature. I’m not human. And I can not join you.”
“Your father’s liberal clap trap as driven you insane,” said Stife. “You were human, but in a moment you will be nothing.”
Looking down from the cab, Rick cocked his head, having known all along that Perry had Stife and her troops outgunned. All he had to do was dive out of the way, and Chico would reduce the invaders to red stains on the pavement in half a second. But Rick felt pretty sure Perry had something else in mind; something far less certain, something that placed Perry’s own life at great risk. He was truly gambling.
Chico, however, had no such thoughts. He expected to exterminate the invaders, and he threateningly locked his forward machine guns on them. But Perry said, “Stand down, Chico. This is my showdown . . . Not only with Stife . . . But with myself.”
Chico’s machine guns then fell limp, resembling a pair of despairing eyebrows, accompanied by the sound of a solenoid sigh.
Seeing Perry throw away such a potential advantage started Stife to thinking Perry might not be bluffing. She began to back away warily, wondering what could be potentially more dangerous to Camelodians than machine guns.
“Let’s make it a true showdown, Perry,” said Stife, as she moved out of the line of fire. “Whatever trick you’ve got up your sleeve against my firing squad. Let’s see which is truly more powerful.”
Stife then turned to the soldiers and ordered loudly, “Ready your weapons.”
Obediently the soldiers readied their machine guns for firing.
“Aim!” Stife barked, and the soldiers pointed their weapons at Perry with military precision. Or at least where they assumed him to be, as the shadow that had fallen over him, in contrast to the light in the rest of the garage would have rendered him entirely invisible, were it not for what they assumed was the reflection of light in his eyes.
“FIRE!” Stife shouted.
In the split second between the order and the sound of the guns, Perry called out, “Jumoku!” and surrendered himself to the will of his own magical potential, knowing full well that, one way or the other, this was likely to be the last act of the being known as Perry Rhoades.
Simultaneously a hail of bullets came rushing at Perry while a storm of wind seemed to come up around him, engulfing even the shadow of his outline, until even that was lost to view. And suddenly, as even the light of his eyes was extinguished, to everyone’s extreme disquiet, the swirl of wind caused the shadow to expand, growing larger and larger, until it sucked all light out of the world.
For a time, all present, including Chico, felt as if all space and time had ceased to exist, leaving them in a sudden void of non-existence, giving all pause to recall what Sir Jon had said about what could happen to the universe were Christine to die before returning to her own time and completing her role in established history. Was Perry also a being of such cosmic importance that space and time itself would be destroyed if he were to die? Had Stife just inadvertently set off the ultimate doomsday weapon?
Then a glowing figure rose up from the darkness; a deer fur wearing a white Omman cloak, who for the moment seemed the only thing that existed in all of time and space.
The stranger, whom no one knew, stood up to his full height, antlers taller than Perry, took a moment to orient himself, then drew a blazing soul sword and held it aloft, that its light might restore physical reality.
Suddenly the garage was a solid reality again. And the soldiers, disoriented and mystified, lowered their weapons.
But Stife shouted, “Stand at the ready!”
Quickly the soldiers reoriented their weapons on the deer in white monastic robes who now stood in Perry’s place.
“And who are you supposed to be?” Stife demanded of the deer.
“Doctor Ommandeer, at your service,” said the deer, gazing over the soldiers as if to assess their condition, treating Stife as if she were of no importance. “I have been summoned to administer healing of something my other self calls The White Virus. Please prepare yourselves. The process will be quite unpleasant.”
“Eh, excuse me, uh, Doc, is it?” Rick called down. “Are you saying you’re about to cure these folks of being human?”
“I have determined that the affliction and the species are not one in the same, as my other self-assumed,” said the deer. “These creatures have willfully imbibed poison. I am the antidote.”
“Don’t you require permission before you can administer healing?” asked Stife, assuming the power of this deer must be similar to Christine’s, and recalling her limitations.
“Are they at war with my other self?” asked the deer.
“If your other self is Perry Rhoades, we are,” said Stife, malevolently.
“Then no permission is required,” the deer declared.
And with that, the doctor leveled his soul sword at the line of soldiers, who were immediately stricken with fear, as the light of the sword seemed to penetrate to the depths of their souls, touching the inner darkness which served as insulation for all their wicked thoughts, burning it away, exposing all to the reality of how they had lived, and the bitter understanding of the harm they had done.
Neither Rick nor Chico experienced this effect. They just looked on in disbelief as the soldiers dropped their weapons and cowered before the white clad deer that had taken Perry’s place, pleading for mercy, as if from the threat of some unspeakable agony.
In the other hand of the deer there began to appear a ball of murky, poisonous looking mist; something that was being drawn out of the soldiers. And they all fell to their knees, reaching out towards the ball, pleading for its contents to be restored to them. Though not one of them could have explained what it was the Ommandeer was depriving them of. They just instinctively seemed to know that it was something they could not continue their current lives without.
Meanwhile, Stife, looking on unaffected, shouted, “What are you doing to my troops? Whatever it is, stop it! Stop it this instant!”
Stife drew her pistol to shoot the deer, but Rick drew his own gun and leaned out the window of the cab, shooting Stife’s gun away, leaving the hand of the pig officer bloody and useless.
In shock the pig turned and stared up at Rick, cursing, “You’ll pay for that.”
“Get in line,” Rick dismissed her, as if to say there were far too many others with a claim on Rick’s coyote hide for the pig to have any hope of collecting her revenge.
The soldiers then watched in horror as the doctor drew the murky ball to the level of his eyes. Then beams of light shot from his eyes directly into the ball, dispelling the murk, and filling the ball with a light of blinding purity.
Then the doctor raised the ball of light above his head. And the soldiers once again pleaded for mercy, somehow knowing that what this deer was about to do to them would create far more agony than any common death.
Beams of light issued from the ball like lightening, attacking each individual soldier. All cried out in misery that seemed to extend far beyond the physical; their very souls writhing in torment as they struggled to rip away their military clothing, as if it were the source of their pain.
“What have you done to my troops?” Stife shouted in pain, clutching at her injured hand.
“I have cleaned their hearts of the poison you inflicted on them,” said the doctor, calmly, in a voice that Rick and Stife could almost recognize as Perry’s. “I have stripped them of protection from the awareness of what they have done. They now feel the pain of all their victims as their own. And in that pain they have learned the true meaning of Hell.”
“Why do you spare me this revelation?” asked Stife, fearfully.
“For them,” said the doctor, gesturing towards the soldiers who were now rising and looking at Stife with murder in their eyes. “They who are not truly evil, but merely the victims of its poison; poison which they now recognize you as the source. When they have torn you to pieces, their purified souls will be blackened only slightly. Just enough to ease the pain of what you made them do.”
The soldiers then began to move menacingly towards Stife, and the pig panicked, shouting at the deer, “You can’t do this. You goodie-goodie types can’t kill your enemies.”
“I’m afraid you’ve mistaken me for a common stereotype,” said the deer. “Unlike my other self, I am not some common moralist. I am Rael Ommandeer, son of gods. That which can be healed I heal. That which is so corrupted as to be beyond healing, I leave to its fate.”
“How do you know I’m beyond healing?” Stife demanded. “You haven’t tried.”
“You are the carrier of the disease, the infector of the innocent,” said Rael. “That is what you have willingly made of yourself. There is nothing more to you. Were I to attempt to heal you, you would burn to ash. There is nothing in you to be saved. Lord Time has recorded your fate. Lord Death waits to collect your soul. And I, The Ommanlord Of Love, have no pity for you.”
The now unclothed soldiers grew restless, restrained only by fear of intruding on the doctor’s judgment.
“But you have to,” Stife insisted. “You bleeding-heart liberals always have to have pity. It’s what makes you the weaklings you are. You always believe any villain can be redeemed.”
“You are a pig,” said Rael, distastefully. “You sell your life for the pleasure of wallowing in mud and eating garbage until the day of your butchering arrives. Who am I to shed a tear that the fate you willingly purchased has arrived? You wished to die in war. Your wish is granted.”
Rael then turned away, the sweeping gesture of his cape loosening the restraints of the former soldiers, who then fell upon Stife, and tore the pig to pieces in the manor of tortured prisoners loosed upon their dungeon master; while the desperately terrified pig officer fruitlessly attempted to reassert her dominance of them, right up to the very instant when her head was ripped from her body.
Once the loathsome pig officer was no more, the former soldiers knelt before the doctor and reached up to him, as if for pity. But the doctor regarded them dispassionately.
“Go,” he commanded them. “You have much still to repent. Seek not my pity until your penance is complete.”
The former soldiers then fled the garage, more out of shame than of fear of the doctor’s recriminating glare. And once they were gone, the doctor turned to Rick, who looked down from the cab of the truck, seeming very disturbed.
“Who are you?” asked Rick. “And what have you done with Perry?”
“Perry, my other self, is asleep,” said the deer, somewhat absently, as if trying to see Perry in some other world. “Dreaming he is someone else, I should think. But perhaps we should forgo the lengthy explanation. Do we not have work to do?”
Without being invited, the doctor climbed up into the passenger seat of the cab beside Rick.
“So you’re coming with me?” asked Rick, with uncertainty.
“I may be of use to you,” said the doctor, absently, as if attempting to seek from Perry’s sleeping mind what needed to be done. “You have no need to be concerned. You may trust me as you would Perry.”
“Rrrright,” said Rick, shaking his head in bemusement, as if things had gone far beyond any hope of his making sense out of them. “Come if you want. Who am I to tell demi-gods what to do?”
“You do not like me?” asked Rael, much to Rick’s incredulous surprise.
“Like you?” said Rick. “I don’t even know you.”
“You will like me,” Rael assured him. “It is a gift of my heritage. I am charming.”
A moment of awkward silence ensued, and then Rick and Chico burst into spontaneous laughter.
“I do not understand your laughter,” said Rael, in confusion.
“You think you’re charming,” said Chico. “I think you’re an ass-hole.”
“Would you talk that way of your creator?” asked Rael.
“Yeah, I would,” said Chico, his electronic voice issuing from his dashboard. “He’s an ass-hole too, but he’s a lot more charming than you.”
As Rick looked at the doctor, observing his sudden seeming vulnerability in comparison to his god-like behavior with the soldiers, Rick didn’t fancy toting around that kind of power in the form of an emotionally unstable loose cannon.
“Uh, listen, doc,” said Rick. “This is a serious mission we’re going on. If you feel some kind of personal crisis coming on, maybe you’d better stay here.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Rael, seeming still lost in the mystery of a power he once possessed which had somehow not followed him through time. “You are the friends of my other self. I must protect you, even if you don’t like me.”
“Suit yourself,” said Rick, as he fired up the truck. “Ok Chico. Let’s do it.”
Chico blew his horns and then took off out of the garage, rolling over the scattered remains of Stife’s body without a care, leaving nothing behind but a flattened stain of blood and gore, over which no tears were shed.
Back at the Camelodian base, no longer needing the special powers that her transformation gave her, the leopardess Saint Saffron transformed back into the Cheetah Leela Lennox. But rather than leaving a Saint Saffron calling card to claim credit for her kills, Leela tacked an Amazing Detectives insurance notice on a tree near the entrance of the base.
She thought it best to give the AD credit for the extermination of the soldiers, as the AD was supposed to have exclusive rights to the thug bombs she had used to murder them all in their sleep.
Leela then aroused the prisoners she had come to rescue and told them to get ready to move, as their transportation would be arriving directly.
The now liberated prisoners asked her if the occupation of Suburbia was over. She informed them that it was not, but Halloween had offered them sanctuary until things got back to normal, and the Amazing Detective Agency had been contracted to insure their safety.
But nothing she could think to say was of any true comfort to the former prisoners, who were now refugees. None were prone at this point to any illusion that things could ever go back to the way they had been. If something like this could happen to them, Suburbia, as they had known it, was finished.
Chico informed Rick that his satellite monitors showed they were approaching one hell of a roadblock at the edge of town. But Rick saw no reason to be concerned. They were a rolling force of nature that no road block could hope to stop. So he told Chico to pour on the steam and smash right on through it.Next Episode
The soldiers at the road block fired on them as they approached, but Chico was bullet proof, and resistant to their rocket launchers as well.
Chico smashed into the road block, his debris guard easily flipping vehicles from side to side so fast the eye could hardly follow it. The front of the truck then pulverizing any vehicle that failed to fly completely out of its path. Other smaller vehicles were crushed flat beneath Chico’s road compression wheel.
Once out on the open road through No Furs Land, Chico pridefully jested, “Dang it, somebody pass me my toothpick. I got ATV bits stuck in my grill-work.”
“How impressive,” the doctor marveled, hoping still to ingratiate himself to Chico. “My other self is quite the builder to produce such a wonder.”
“If you’re talkin’ about me display a bit more awe,” said Chico. “You’re not meetin’ my ego’s standards.”
“He grants egos to inanimate objects,” said the doctor, seeming more impressed by Perry than by Chico, which irritated the sentient truck no end.
“Who you callin’ inanimate?” Chico protested. “You feel that vibration under ya? That’s me in motion. Don’t talk about me like I was a tree that can’t move from place to place.”
“I wonder if he also gave you a heart,” said Rael.
“I wonder if it’s any of your G. D. business?” said Chico, with disaffection. “You’re gettin’ into subjects I only talk about with my friends.”
“Can we not be friends?” asked Rael.
“Can you not be a jerk?” asked the truck.
“I wasn’t aware I was being one,” said Rael. “I’m not trying to be. It’s just that most people like me right away. I’m not accustomed to not being liked in this way.”
“Listen, Doc,” said Rick. “You got an ego bigger than Chico’s. And that’s saying something. I don’t know where you come from that people like that sort of thing, but you’d better get used to it not flying in this neck of the woods.”
“So you think I ought not to flaunt the fact that I’m a son of gods with infinite powers, immortal and invulnerable in most things?” asked Rael.
“I know it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way,” said Rick, sarcastically. “But if being liked is that important to you, you’d better give it some practice.”
“Is my other self humble?” asked Rael.
“Not so's you'd notice,” said Chico. “But he don't go around introducin' himself as the immortal son of gods that everyone's required to instantly like.”
“I pride myself on being flawlessly honest,” said Rael.
“Try being tactfully honest,” said Rick.
“Hmmmm,” said Rael, sitting back in the passenger seat, thoughtfully.
Momentarily Chico announced that they were being pursued. Rick instructed Chico to show no mercy to any pursuing Camelodians, and Chico responded happily to this, as if having been invited to play a favorite video game.
Machine guns and various other instruments of destruction then emerged from hidden recesses in the back of the truck, which was soon leaving a trail of dead Camelodians and ruined vehicles all along the road, until there were none left to target.
Now having nothing to do but drive for a while, Rick looked at the deer beside him uneasily and asked, “We’ve got a little time. You want to start that lengthy explanation of yourself now?”
“Can you handle knowing the truth about your friend?” asked the doctor. “Do you really want to know if he’s merely an avatar of mine, allowing me to function in your world while I’m restricted to my tomb on some astral plane?”
“That ain’t as beyond us as you might think,” said Chico.
“Of course it isn’t,” said the doctor, as if somehow knowing Rick better than he should after such a short acquaintance. “But wouldn’t you prefer to keep the avatar, rather than getting to know the player too well?”
“Are you making fun of my double life?” asked Rick.
“Not at all,” said the doctor. “I’m just trying to use language you can easily understand.”
“Could Perry explain you if he was here?” asked Rick.
“Not in any great detail,” said the doctor. “He has some general idea that I exist, that I’m an influence on his life, and that, when he says a certain word he can draw from me the most extraordinary of powers. Though he never knows in advance how those powers will manifest. Usually I send him no more than I think he needs. This time we needed to switch places, because he thought I could do something he couldn’t.”
“Cure furs of their human heritage, I suppose,” said Rick. “Is that really possible?”
“For a god anything is possible,” said Rael.
“Will you stow that god stuff already,” said Rick, impatiently. “It makes my fur crawl. It makes me feel like I can’t be friends with you. Makes me feel like I can’t even like you.”
“You have something against gods?” asked Rael. “We’re quite friendly, you know.”
“It’s kind of hard to be friends with someone you have to blame all the miseries of life on,” said Rick.
“We don’t create your miseries,” said Rael. “On this planet you have life about as good as anyone has ever had it. You pick and choose your miseries, and you can be rid of them as fast as you can change your lifestyle. Don’t blame the gods for the choices you make. I’m the doctor. Call on me for things you can’t fix yourself.”
“Can you make me a flux capacitor?” asked Chico, as if daring the doctor to prove himself more useful than Perry.
“I could give you such a thing, but I won’t,” said Rael, as if it were a point of principle. “I do not give gifts. Gifts are not an asset to health. If you had some malfunction I would fix it; no charge, no strings attached, because you can’t do that for yourself. But anything you can do for yourself you should do, otherwise you will not appreciate it properly.”
“Cold-hearted bastard, ain’t’cha?” said Chico.
“My heart has resided in a tomb inside a computer matrix for over 100,000 years,” said Rael. “There is no warmth in cyberspace. My heart has literally turned to stone, along with the rest of my mortal remains.”
“And this tomb in cyberspace is where Perry is now?” asked Rick.
“He is sleeping,” said Rael. “He will not feel the cold. Though he may come to appreciate something of the loneliness I endure.”
“How long do you mean to keep him there?” asked Rick.
“It can’t be too long,” the doctor explained. “Every moment I remain in this world I become more a part of its reality, while Perry becomes more a dream I’ve awakened from. And you wouldn’t want us to switch places permanently.”
“I should think that’s between you and him,” said Rick. “What I want has nothing to do with it.”
“I know that you are only one of many on this planet who have need of Perry,” said the doctor. “None of you have any particular need for Doctor Raelian Ommandeer, except perhaps Christine. But I’m not even sure she would like to have me back.”
“When do we get Perry back?” asked Rick, insistently.
“As soon as we finish this mission,” said the doctor. “I doubt you’ll need me, but as long as I’m here, just think of me as an extra bit of insurance Perry has provided.”
“Are we to take your orders as we’d take his?” asked Chico.
“Does my voice print match that of The Master Builder?” asked the doctor.
“It does,” said Chico.
“Then you know that we are not two different people,” said the doctor. “And I will not suggest that you do anything Perry would not ask of you.”
“Heads up, guys,” said Chico. “We got another road block coming up.”
Rick examined the scanner and said, “Don’t those fools ever learn?”
Chico then spoke through a painfully loud public address system, saying, “Attention all fools up ahead. If you don’t get off the road right now, the next sound you hear will be me crushing you flat.”
But the Camelodians stuck with their road block, fruitlessly throwing everything they had at the truck for the few seconds it was in range of their weapons. The truck then hit the road block at 80 miles per hour, causing a loud explosion, but it seemed no more than a road bump to Rick and Doctor Ommandeer.
“That wasn’t what Perry would have expected,” said the doctor, in bemusement. “I can feel him being disturbed in the back of my mind. What just happened?”
“I just ran right over ‘em like I said I was gonna,” said Chico, throwing a picture on his dashboard screen of what was left of the road block.
“Oh my Goddess,” said the doctor. “Living, breathing furs one second. And half a second later . . .”
“A nice red coat of paint on the highway,” said Chico, with a smile in his voice, as if he was performing his function and proud of it.
“Just crushed out of existence,” said the doctor, as if the ease of such destruction disturbed him greatly.
“Yeah,” said Rick. “Just like those people in The Montgomery Technical Building. Pancaking, isn’t that what they called it?”
“That ain’t what I call it,” said Chico. “I call it squishin’.”
“Did my other self actually program you to enjoy squishing furs?” asked the doctor.
“He programmed me to have free will and like what I want,” said Chico. “I choose to like squishin’ my enemies. And you’re about to see me squish some more.”
The next road block rushed up on them, and again they were moving too fast to hear much of the resulting explosion as they ploughed through it. It seemed little more than running over a bit of rough road, accompanied by a rumbling of thunder.
“This is sick,” the doctor commented, uneasily.
“What’s the matter with you?” asked Chico. “Ain’t you mad at them ferriners for squishin’ Perry’s friends and stuff? We got a right to squish ’em back. Heck, out here in No Furs Land we can squish anybody we want. You’re a god. Ain’t you got no wrath?”
The doctor looked at Rick and asked, “Is he always this insensitive?”
“Are you kidding?” said Rick. “For Chico, this is being compassionate.”
“What’s your problem, Doc?” asked Chico. “You ain’t one of them there tree huggin’ pacifists, are ya?”
“I’m a doctor,” he replied. “I know every intricate detail of the delicate and miraculous construction of every human fur. I know all the work that goes into making one. And then to just see them crushed as if they’re nothing . . .”
“Doc,” said Rick, in a no nonsense tone. “A human body is worth no more or less than the mind inside it. And if that mind is trying to kill you, its value to you is less than zero.”
“I’m well aware of that,” the doctor admitted. “I showed that back at the garage. But I’ve never liked it. Even a god finds it hard to rationalize that a creation of abhorrent evil and villainy is no less miraculous than the most innocent and beautiful of beings.”
“You don’t have to like it,” said Rick, coldly. “But you don’t have to give a damn about it either. People make their choices as to whether they’ll have you value them or not.”
“That’s right,” said Chico. “And if they mean to make themselves squishable in your eyes, just squish ‘em and get your flaps on up the road without another thought about it.”
“My other self programs such philosophies in this world?” asked the doctor, unhappily.
“Don’t knock your other self, Doc,” said Rick. “How well Perry programs Chico is the reason we both stay alive.”
“Hang on, boys,” said Chico. “We’re comin’ up on the big one now. And they got a road slick in front of this one.”
“Can you handle it?” asked the doctor.
“Well, your avatar went and built me,” said Chico. “What do you think? Can I handle it, he asks.”
Without waiting for an answer, Chico poured on the steam, heading for the slick at a hundred miles per hour. But just as he came up to it, Chico’s hydraulic jacks came down on a forward angle, moving backwards in a walking motion that did not slow the truck’s momentum, but rather propelled the truck slightly off the ground, just enough to make it fly over the slick. The jacks then retracted just before the truck came down on the road block, flattening it and rolling over it, leaving only a thin sheet of compressed metal, soaked in fur blood.
As they rolled on towards the base, Chico laughed pridefully and said, “See Doc, I told The Master Builder it would work; just like in that old cartoon.”
“Oh, I doubt that,” said the doctor. “I’m sure Perry had to modify the idea quite a bit.”
“It wasn’t necessary, though,” Rick commented. “With the trees packed so tight on either side, we couldn’t have spun out or run off the road. Chico could just as easily have rolled on through the slick. He just wanted to show off for you.”
“See Doc,” said Chico, with incredulous amusement. “Rick just loves to spoil my fun. But I’ll have my revenge later when I make him clean the fur gore off my axle. You see, Doc, I don’t really need no driver. What I need is an over-glorified slave to fetch and carry for me. I’m the real boss of this operation.”
The doctor felt an uncomfortable twinge come over him at the thought of a machine his other self had invented being drenched in fur gore.
Chico, noticing the abrupt change in the doctor’s vital signs, opened his glove compartment, tossed a barf bag into the doctor’s lap and said, “Spare my interior, please.”
“No stomach for mass slaughter, Doc?” asked Rick. “Being a god and all I’d expect you’d seen a lot worse.”
“It’s never been my preferred method,” said the doctor. “I find it can usually be avoided, if one has a chance to reason with people. But I suppose my other self has exhausted all peaceful options for resolving this conflict. Still I can’t help thinking there must have been more he could have done to prevent this. And I can’t help feeling like his failures are my failures.”
“You shouldn’t take it so personally,” said Rick. “Like Chico said before, we didn’t ask them to stand in the road. It wasn’t like they didn’t have other options to choose, or like they didn’t know what was coming.”
“Is that all you need to turn off the awareness that we just snuffed out maybe a hundred furs in three blinks of an eye?” asked the doctor.
“I don’t see where it does any good to care,” said Rick. “They showed where they set the bar on the value of human life when they trashed those buildings. I appreciate your innocence, but in No Furs Land it just doesn’t pay to value somebody’s life higher than they value yours. Try thinking about the many people who actually do value human life that we’re saving by doing this. Unless you think you could do what you did back at the garage at every road block.”
“No,” the doctor admitted. “It will destroy my other self if I use my full power too much. I must refrain from caring about decisions made in a world I have no place in. I’m just a ghost here. I must be able to return to my grave.”