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S11E232: The Heart Of The Master Villain

Spectral Shadows
Serial No. 11
The Planet Of Genetic Misadventure
Episode 232
The Heart Of The Master Villain

Copyright 1993, 2020 by Symphonic Rock Productions.

Featuring:

            

            

            

      

Later that day, Camelodians arrived at The Rhoades Mansion with bombs, cutters and various other implements of destruction. But after hours of throwing everything they had at the structure, they had failed to make so much as a scratch, let alone gain entrance.

Sir Jon called down to them from an upper window as they worked, telling them it was pointless. No one could get in unless he allowed it. And since he no longer trusted Camelot, he wasn’t likely to.

“Why should you not trust us?” they called up to him, seeming genuinely oblivious.

Sir Jon called back down, saying. "Well, you’re trying to break into my house, for one thing. You might want to ponder on that a bit.”

"But it’s our job to protect you,” they persisted. “We can’t protect you if you won’t cooperate.”

“Don’t worry about me,” said Sir Jon. “If you can’t get in, obviously no one else can.”

“But you have spies in the house with you,” they insisted. “The Princess Of Webberton is the most dangerous of all.”

“The Princess Of Webberton has been of far more help to me in this time of crisis than any of you have,” said Sir Jon. “It’s pointless trying to convince me of anything, as your lot have proven you do nothing but lie and deceive. And I have formally asked you to withdraw from Suburbia a number of times. If you do not start listening to me, and I have to rudely eject you from my town, you will not enjoy the indignity.”

The Camelodians just laughed and said, “He’s a funny old fur, even if he is senile.”

Sir Jon sighed. He did indeed feel sorry for them. The last thing he wanted was to see them destroyed. But, alas, he did not seem to have any option that would save them from themselves. Nor should he be worrying about it. People made their own choices and suffered their own earned consequences. Justice would come to them. It was pure foolishness on his part to see that as tragic.

***


The Camelodians tracked Chico from the air, deducing that Halloween was his closest possible destination. Though it was also possible he could just keep going and not stop until he reached the other side of the continent. In which case Camelot would have to waste all its resources trying to stop him, rushing ahead of him to drop road block after road block, which the mammoth truck would just destroy without effort, as he had done to all the others.

Only if he stopped at Halloween would they have a chance to get the better of him. So they contacted The Queen Of Halloween to secure her cooperation. But the queen informed them that The Wazzir had already granted sanctuary to the refugees from Suburbia, and any attempt to confound the will of Halloween’s government would be taken as an act of war.

The Camelodians were at first amused that Halloween thought itself capable of waging war. Halloween was supposed to be impoverished, able to afford only a bare bones self-defense force. But the queen suggested cryptically that Halloween had other, more cost effective methods of waging war, and The Camelodians would be ill-advised to test them.

The Camelodian government was disquieted by this threat; as if it wasn’t bad enough that a town of pacifists like Suburbia was making fools of them, now they were being threatened by a town on the edge of bankruptcy. This was not apt to do Camelot’s reputation as a superpower any credit.

Camelot decided it would test Halloween. They ordered troops to be airlifted to the border and secure all possible entrances Chico might use. But this was a tall order, since Chico was only minutes away from his destination. It left The Camelodians no time for their usual military pretensions.

Chico, of course, was well aware of their presence. It didn’t matter to him what weapons they brought to bear on him. So long as he was not standing still, nothing they could try would stop him. Still, that did not mean there was no danger to his passengers.

Then, after warning everyone in the truck to brace for impact as he approached the Camelodian road block barring his way to Halloween Town, Chico suddenly decelerated and pulled off to the side of the road where he stopped, hidden from view from above by the overhanging trees.

"What's the hang up, Chico?" asked Rick, ever alert for trouble.

"Halloween is requesting that I stand still for at least 2 minutes," said Chico. "And that during those two minutes all windows and vents should be sealed."

"Oh crap," said Leela. "The Camelodians must have triggered Blair's special defenses."

"You want I should show what's happening on the view screen?" asked Chico.

"Better spare the doctor's sensitivities, Chico," said Rick.

"I am not spared," said Rael. "I can feel nearly a hundred souls dying in agony in front of us. They are flooding my brain with the sensation of being melted by acid. They are . . . Wait. It's stopped now. It's over."

“That fast?” Leela remarked. “They must not have known what hit them. Even my thug bombs don't work that fast.”

A few seconds passed before Chico received an all clear signal and resumed slowly moving towards Halloween, now feeling no need for speed.

Before long they came in view of the hastily assembled Camelodian road block. There the vehicles remained in the road, but not a living soul arose to accost them.

Slowly Chico plowed the road free of obstructions, both vehicles and the bodies of half human furs in Camelodian uniforms; their eyes bulging from their sockets, while other distorted features made it difficult to identify them, even by animal type.

"I gotta snap some pictures of this for my web site," said Chico. "This is better than any old horror movie."

"I'm sure somewhere someone loved every one of them," said the doctor.

"Heh, what does that prove?" Leela spat with disrespect. "Just because someone loves you doesn't mean you don't deserve to die. I have no pity to spare for them."

"I was pitying their loved ones," said the doctor.

"Their loved ones who support their troops no matter what they're sent to do?" asked Leela. "Knock off the sentimentality, Doc. These people came to kill or be killed. They got killed. They don't deserve another thought."

"Yeah, Doc," said Chico. "And it wasn't even us that killed 'em this time."

"I could share the memory of their death screams," the doctor threatened. But then he relented, saying, "But perhaps you're right. Perhaps it is best not to sympathize with one's enemies."

"Any sympathy you might feel for them is misguided," said Rick. "They'd show no sympathy for you. So don't be seeing them as like onto yourself. They weren't like you. Not the slightest little bit. Never let sentimentality blind you to the differences. And don't assume you're the only one who heard their screams. We're a sensitive species. We all heard it. And some of us even took joy in it."

"All of human-kind are not alike?" asked the doctor, distantly.

Rick, Leela and Chico chorused a definite "No."

"Sometimes it just doesn't pay to be a god of love," the doctor shrugged.

"Not unless you can love your enemies to death," said Leela. "Perry would have done better to have sent us a god of war."

"The Omman Lord Of War is already among you," said Rael. "He is my brother. Pray he doesn't become too angry. He can destroy entire worlds when he's angry."

“Love and War are siblings?” Leela remarked. “What a dysfunctional family you must have.”

Rael, who had seemed insufferably arrogant and self-important up to this point, abruptly became quiet and subdued, and all assumed Leela had hit a nerve.

Once the road block had been gently shoved to the side, Chico continued moving slowly through the passage in the jungle wall that opened onto an overview of Halloween. And, much to everyone's surprise, the view was spectacular.

"Holy crap," Leela exclaimed. "Are we in the right place? The last time I was here Halloween was a ghost town, bleached colorless from years of neglect, almost a desert."

"It's not neglected anymore," Rick observed. "It looks . . ."

"I think beautiful is the word you're avoiding," said Rael.

"But how is it possible?" Leela pondered. "Halloween has no money to pay for all this work."

"Chico," Rick commanded. "Give me life readings on the town. Compare to previous population figures."

Chico put an image of the town on his dashboard screen, showing indicators wherever life was to be found. He then overlaid the image from their previous visit, commenting that there was no significant change.

"That means there's been no importation of workers," Rick assessed. "Montgomery must have accomplished this reclamation with his magic."

"You mean his science," Leela spat with distaste.

"Magic, science, science, magic," said Rick, waving the issue away. "What does it matter if the result is the same?"

Chico moved on, rolling down into the town, moving towards the palace where he was to deliver his cargo. But unlike previous times Chico had approached the palace, the street was clean and sparkling with a golden luster, unlike the dust colored hue he was accustomed to.

But, stranger still, a colorful banner had been strung across the street, reading "Welcome Refugees," and a welcome party waited to celebrate their arrival, cheering as the truck stopped in front of them.

***


Back at The Rhoades Mansion, little had changed. With no one being able to leave or enter, the company remained consistent. And, in spite of the heaviness of the situation unfolding outside in Suburbia, there was little to do in The Rhoades Drawing Room but turn the event into a news watching party, which Pammy, the panda housekeeper, was happy to supply with all manner of expensive refreshments.

“How long do you think we can hold up in this house?” asked Grease, the gryphon reporter.

“Indefinitely,” Queen Sonny, the cocker spaniel matriarch of Suburbia assured him. “This house could sustain us literally to the end of time.”

“That's a conservative estimate, isn't it, Sir Jon?” asked Christine, the magical vixen who had traveled from the far distant past to be there with them.

“If you're thinking Rocinantè would be able to function beyond the end of time, I'm afraid you'd lose that bet,” said Sir Jon, the elderly black and white spaniel, as he worked at his desk, sifting through papers and making various alterations to the government of Suburbia's website on his computer.

“You're seriously telling me you've gathered enough resources in this house to keep us all in luxury until the end of time?” asked Grease, incredulously. “No wonder people in Suburbia are starving.”

“I beg your pardon, young bird,” said Sir Jon, seeming suddenly cross. “Who exactly is it in my town that's starving?”

“The poor and homeless,” said Grease. “Surely you've heard of them.”

“No, I have not,” said Sir Jon. “As if I would tolerate such a thing.”

“Aristocrats always assume the poor don't exist,” Grease spat distastefully.

“Uh, Grease, don't be rude to our host,” said Becky, the white bunny photographer. “As much as I'd like to be outside snapping pictures, I'm grateful to have this sanctuary in a war zone.”

“But it's not right,” Grease insisted. “We have to stand up for the poor, always.”

“Grease,” said Perry, the younger black and white spaniel prince of Suburbia. “We are the ruling family. Show us the poor in our town and we will make them not poor.”

“Are you saying people don't have a right to be poor?” asked Grease, in a tone that suggested his morals had been seriously affronted. And everyone just kind of moved away from him as much as they could in their seating arrangements.

“Grease,” said Vicki, the blue vixen. “I know you're new in town, but it's just not possible to be flat out destitute in Suburbia. The only people who are homeless are those who practice Ashbury disciplines. And sleeping under the stars because you want to does not make you homeless. Everyone of them has to have an address to receive their charity checks, even if it's only the address of a public shelter. And it's not like any of them aren't pulling enough charity dollars to afford a decent apartment.”

“What about the hungry?” Grease insisted.

“Grease,” said Kacey, the pink squirrel skunk. “Even if I didn't have a job that pays me enough to live as comfortably as I want, with enough left over to have a healthy savings account, I could never starve in this town. If I had no money I could just walk into a grocery store and take anything I wanted. Somebody else would pay for it. People have more money than they know what to do with in Suburbia. The charities are bottomless.”

“This isn't right,” Grease insisted. “You've outlawed the poor and hungry. There must always be poor and hungry to be oppressed.”

“Are you recommending that I create them?” asked Sir Jon, with slight amusement.

“It's your job, isn't it?” Grease shot back.

“Christine,” said Sir Jon. “You're the ultimate authority on the source material of our religion. Is it my job to have poor and hungry people to oppress?”

Christine considered the question thoughtfully a moment. Then she said, “Poor and hungry people make for good plot devices in black and white TV shows. But usually by the end of the show they've overcome it.”

“And it's the ruling class they have to fight to overcome it, right?” asked Grease.

“Well, I can't argue that,” Christine admitted. “The ruling class are more often than not cast as villains.”

“Are you suggesting I have a responsibility to be a villain?” asked Sir Jon, incredulously.

“I am,” said Grease, in a tone that suggested he was firm in his stance.

“Going strictly by the source material of Suburbia's religion,” Christine determined, “Grease is raising a valid question.”

“Well it doesn't sound like a very conservative interpretation of the religion to me,” said Sir Jon, dismissively.

“That's the problem,” Christine explained. “Those black and white TV shows were made in an era of conservative politics, they were actually made by people whose politics was closer to what Grease believes. The TV shows your people worship are almost entirely in opposition to conservative thinking.”

“Well, I still don't see why that makes it necessary for me to play the villain if I don't have to, or even want to,” said Sir Jon.

“If I may,” said Blair Montgomery, the tall dear resplendent in the robes of The Wassir Of Halloween. “I've always seen Sir Jon as playing the role of the fair minded patriarch whose function is to bring balance to good and evil. Miyan and I are the villains our religion requires. We who use our great power to do whatever we want, regardless of who is harmed by it. Therefore, if there were poor and suffering people in Suburbia, Miyan and I would surely be making a profit off of it. Just as we have every intention of profiting from the suffering of this war. And that we should do this requires no clarification from Christine. The religion has written it into our very job descriptions.”

“Why then are the people of my town not poor?” asked Sir Jon. “Blair Montgomery, are you bad at your job?”

“In some ways, yes,” Blair confessed. “As I'm sure Vicki will be happy to hear, being a villain doesn't come any more naturally to me than it would to you. But beyond that I must confess, I've never found a way to selfishly profit from making people poor. That's why the wealth of the world pools around me and Perry, no matter what anyone else does. We both have this unique understanding that we are gratuitously enriched by making other people rich.”

“That's very interesting,” said Queen Sonny. “You're saying our religion is flawed.”

“As if you weren't intimately aware of all its flaws,” said Blair, bowing respectfully to the queen. “But now that I am moving to Halloween, I must leave it to Miyan to appease Grease's need for poor in Suburbia.”

“Are you kidding?” said Miyan, the Siamese business kitty. “You know very well that once you're gone there's not going to be anything but poor in Suburbia. Even if we somehow manage to survive this war, there's not going to be enough left to rebuild on.”

“Of course not,” said Blair. “Most of the surviving population will follow me to Halloween. Because those who follow me follow the money.”

“I disagree,” Patty the porcupine interjected, wiping a tear from her eye. “Most of the workers who were loyal to Blair were crushed in The Montgomery Technical Building. Most of the workers loyal to Perry survived. If money pools around Perry as it does to Blair, Suburbia should come back. Shouldn't it? We aren't finished, are we? Miss Sonny?”

“I have to admit,” said Queen Sonny, reluctantly. “It's hard to see how I'm going to get out of this without declaring our religion a failure. War was just not supposed to happen here.”

“But it's not fair,” Patty cried bitterly. “We didn't do anything wrong. It was all people from other towns who did this. Why do we have to pay the ultimate price for what they did?”

Christine and Vicki became aware of Kacey sniffling. Patty's anguish was apparently something Kacey related to more than she dared show, and each put an arm around Kacey to comfort her.

“Blair,” said Queen Sonny, in a motherly tone she hoped would bring out his better side through nostalgia. “Between you and Perry, isn't there some miracle you might pull out of the air, for the sake of the gang?”

“You mean like not moving to Halloween?” said Blair, feeling small in Queen Sonny's presence, in spite of himself. “Just throwing off all promises I've made to that other town to stay here and rebuild this one?”

“Too much to ask, I suppose,” said Miss Sonny, looking regretfully at Patty, which tore at the heart Blair did not believe he still possessed.

“No, not too much to ask,” Blair admitted, also looking regretfully at Patty. “But I'm afraid more than I can give. I can't back out of my obligations at this point. And I can't be of much help to Suburbia, if you try to rebuild on your own. All the while you're in the process of rebuilding, prosperity is going to be flowing to Halloween. Suburbia will never again have the kind of monopoly on prosperity it has enjoyed. It will come to know the meaning of unemployment, poverty, and homelessness. Not even the ruling family can prevent that now. Suburbia will be as destitute as Halloween was left By Suburbia's rise to affluence.”

“That is social justice,” said Grease. “It is only righteous that children of the future should suffer for the sins of the past.”

These words fell heavily on Patty, and she once more began to cry, prompting Christine and Vicki to give Grease a look of death for his tactlessness. While Becky fidgeted awkwardly, knowing it was her responsibility to defend Grease, but she couldn't for the life of her think of anything to say to excuse him.

Blair turned away, as if feeling abruptly ill.

“Are you alright?” asked Queen Sonny, in concerned surprise.

“Please make her stop,” Blair pleaded, his voice uncharacteristically cracking with emotion. “Dry her tears. Do something. I have no heart to feel these emotions anymore.”

“I think you have more heart left than you realize,” said Sir Jon, eyeing Blair as if finding this breakdown the most improbable thing he'd seen that day. “And it's your heart that Patty needs now much more than ours.”

Blair looked back at Patty, as if in fear; fear of the compassion he had attempted to purge from his being. And he confided to Queen Sonny, “I'll suffer for it.”

“You would not let any such minor fear keep you from Patty, or any other member of the gang that needed you,” Queen Sonny reminded him. “And we all need you now more than ever.”

Christine watched with interest, knowing that she could use her powers to take advantage of this situation and free Blair of whatever chains restrained his heart. But that would be immoral, as she knew he wished for no such meddling. Still, she was curious if his buried love for Patty would drive him to break his own chains.

Seeing that Blair was now sweating bullets, a sign of genuine illness, Miss Sonny backed off, not at all sure she hadn't meddled in something that could have dire consequences for him.

Blair walked forward towards Patty, not without trepidation, and knelt before her, as he had so often when she was a small child, and he a somewhat bigger child with a heart still filled with altruism and devoted love for his companions. Could he, just for the moment, forget all that had happened since, and be Patty's big brother figure one more time?

As he knelt before her, Blair reached out to take Patty's hands in his. Just as when they were children, his hands seemed enormous compared to hers. And if he had seemed a giant to her when she was small, he seemed even more a giant now that they were grown. But that feeling of being dwarfed by him was familiar and comforting.

“There now,” said Blair, in a voice completely stripped of its masculine bass. “It's okay, Patty. Please don't cry. Everything's going to be alright. I promise you it will.”

“How can things be okay if there's no more Suburbia?” she asked him, plaintively.

“You don't need to worry about that,” Blair assured her. “I want you to come live with me. I want everyone to come. While you're with me you'll all be safe. No one will ever dare hurt my friends again.”

“I won't be happy in Halloween,” said Patty, sadly.

“How can you be so sure?” asked Blair, encouragingly. “You haven't seen it since I've been fixing it up. It's a magical fairytale town now, more beautiful even than Chris Corners. The streets are paved with gold, and the buildings shine with the most radiant colors you've ever seen.”

“Just the opposite of Suburbia,” said Patty, in a downcast tone. As if nothing Blair could offer her, with all of his wealth beyond measure, would soothe the loss of her home.

“And the religion,” Patty continued, “has no black and white TV shows. No morals I relate to. I can't convert to that religion.”

“I'll get Christine to help me combine the two religions,” Blair promised. “Everything you had here you'll have there.”

But Patty was no longer a child without her own wisdom, and she was not soothed by flowery promises of things she knew were impossible. And it weighed heavily on Blair that she did not instantly trust everything he said.

“You know you can't do that,” said Patty, her whole demeanor still filled with hopeless depression. “Once our religion has failed it's gone forever. I'll wander the rest of my days, empty for all that I've lost.”

“N-no,” Blair stammered. “That can't happen. I... I won't let it be. No eternal grief must depress your heart. I will not allow it.”

“There is no hope to prevent it,” said Patty. “This is my home. This town, this house, this place where I grew up, these things I believe, this place where I played with you, and Vicki . . . and Dorothy. Dorothy's memory is here. I can't leave her.”

Blair abruptly cried out, grasping at his heart, his distressed emotions filling the room. And he wept plaintively, “For the love of The Goddess, Patty, please don't go there.”

Observing from a short distance away, Christine remarked, “Will you look at the size of those tears rolling out of his eyes. What passion must live inside his cold-hearted facade.”

“It's Patty you should be paying closer attention to,” said Vicki. “She was always a good kid. But she always knew how to stab us in the heart when she desperately wanted something from us. She has Blair at her mercy now. He'll move the world for her just to keep her from saying that name again.”

“He loved Dorothy that much?” asked Christine.

“You still don't understand, Christine,” said Vicki, wiping a tear from her own eye. “We all loved Dorothy that much. And Patty's right. There's not a street corner of this town we can't see her standing on. No other town we could move to would hold her memory so vividly for us. If we leave this town, she dies all over again.”

Vicki got up and walked over to Blair. Then she knelt beside him, putting a hand on his shoulder and saying, “Hello, Child Blair. Long time, no see.”

“Is this my day for everyone to catch me with my guard down?” asked Blair, his voice still cracking with emotion.

“When did you ever need to guard yourself from us?” asked Vicki, affectionately. “We're family. We wouldn't hurt each other, would we?”

“What am I going to do, Vicki?” asked Blair, in a tone of voice that brought Vicki and Patty great nostalgia. “Patty's asking the impossible of me again.”

“What did you do when she asked for miracles back in the day?” asked Vicki.

“You know very well,” said Blair. “I'd just call the gang together and make a miracle.”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” said Vicki, encouragingly.

“But Vicki, there's no gang to call together anymore,” said Blair. “As if I were even worthy to call them now, after what I've become.”

“So what?” asked Vicki. “You're Blair Montgomery. You need the gang to physically be here to prop you up, just to make a miracle? Isn't it enough to know that we all stand by you in spirit?”

“Only so long as I can stand on the streets of Suburbia can you all be with me,” Blair relented. “And even though I must leave, I must be able to come back. I can not do that if Suburbia ceases to exist. Therefore I give you both my word, sworn on the log book of The Green Meadow Lands Gang, I will not allow Suburbia to die.”

“There now, Patty,” said Vicki, with a sweet vixen smile. “Do you feel better now?”

“Blair has never failed to make a miracle for me before,” said Patty. “He won't fail me now. My home is safe.”

“How about you, Kacey?” asked Christine. “Do you feel safe now?”

Kacey looked at Christine with surprised incredulousness. What a spot to have put her in. She couldn't give an honest answer without spoiling the mood.

Blair looked over at Kacey and asked, “No confidence in me, Kacey?”

“I beg your pardon, Mr. Montgomery,” said Kacey, speaking with extreme discomfort. “But I didn't get to be a member of your gang. I never got to play in your fabulous club house. And I sure as heck didn't get to enjoy a childhood full of miracles. So you'll have to forgive me if my capacity to believe in miracles is somewhat strained.”

“Oh, I can quite understand that,” Blair assured her. “But Perry and Christine have filled your life with miracles, haven't they?”

“Well, yeah,” Kacey had to admit. “I mean, like, serious miracles. But they aren't promising to save my town. They feel as uncertain about the future as I do.”

Christine piped up and said, “Sir Jon, I have an idea. Why don't you break the laws of time again and pull up the InGalTeNet entry on Suburbia. Just to see when it ends.”

“I will not,” said Sir Jon, with finality. “And you know very well why. If it says it ends tomorrow, it might be because we read that and we all stopped trying to save it.”

“Oh, yeah,” said Christine, petulantly. “Forgot about that.”

But this did prompt Sir Jon to look at his computer screen.

“Oh my, what's this?” said Jon. “Why, Blair. I do believe you've sent me an E-mail.

“If it's what I think it is I'd better shake off this nostalgia trip I've been on,” said Blair, standing up and straightening his turban head dress.

“It appears to be a video file,” said Sir Jon, flippantly. “I do hope it's not porn.”

“I wouldn't send you porn unless it was very, very interesting porn,” Blair joked in return. “But I expect this will be more along the lines of horror.”

“Should I project it to the TV?” asked Sir Jon.

“Not if you think anyone here has a weak stomach,” said Blair.

“Why don't I take Kacey for a walk?” Patty suggested.

“Good girl, Patty,” said Sir Jon. “I knew I could count on you.”

“Come on, Kacey,” Patty invited. “Let's go downstairs and have a chat with that robot girl.”

Once the two sensitive females were gone, Sir Jon had everyone gather around the TV set, while he projected the video from his computer.

“Alright, Blair,” said Sir Jon. “Tell us all what we're watching.”

“Right now you're watching the road that leads into Halloween town,” said Blair. “If Camelot ventures no ploy, we should see Rick Edwards' truck pass harmlessly into Halloween.”

“And if they do try something?” asked Christine.

“Then the world is about to find out why you don't mess with Blair Montgomery,” said Blair. “The video, by the way, is being shot by one of my bio-mechanical inventions. Basically a camera with wings, small enough to fly anywhere and see anything I want to see.”

“But you can't get them into this house,” Sir Jon noted.

“That's not quite true,” said Blair. “I can and have got them in. But their signals can't escape the house. So I don't use them to spy on you. I have Kacey for that.”

“I hope you know that doesn't endear you to me,” said Christine.

“Well, it should,” said Blair. “Because Kacey being my special spy makes me quite fond of her. And that makes me ill-disposed to anyone else trying to use her. So I take steps to protect her. She's much safer being used by me than she would be subject to the whims of everyone else in the world who would otherwise have access to her.”

“Well, something's happening on the video, finally,” said Grease.

“Yes,” said Blair. “Those would be the shadows of helicopters.”

The camera then seemed to fly from its perch, flying up above the trees where it could see the jungle camouflaged transport helicopters of Camelot hastily lowering vehicles to the road, along with massive numbers of sand bags, barriers of steel, and anything else they had handy that might conceivably stop the truck.

“They're wasting their time,” said Sir Jon. “And worse they're wasting their lives. None of that junk can stop Chico. They'd have to drop the helicopters themselves on the road to even slow him down.

“And now we see them forming their road block in front of The Halloween Turn-Off,” said Blair. “My defense forces are programmed to wait until they get everything in place and take up their positions. That's when they make the easiest targets.”

“I suppose we're going to see those bugs that Rick and Leela are always talking about,” said Perry.

“Oh no,” said Blair, proudly. “They haven't seen these. I've only just finished perfecting this species. They saw my Executioner Wasps. Rather pretty little things. But you, my friends, are about to be the first to behold the true horror of my Murder Hornets, and live.

“Wait,” said Vicki. “What's that sound? What is that terrifying sound?”

“That, dear Vicki, is a sound not heard on this planet for one hundred thousand years,” said Blair, in a tone that made Vicki's blood turn to ice. “The sound of swarming insect wings.”

Vicki looked like she was ready to be sick already, and she said, tremblingly, “Is it too late for me to go catch up with Kacey?”

“I'll go with you,” said Becky, seeming ever bit as freaked out.

“You can't go, you're a reporter,” Grease insisted.

“Well, I've got to get out of here,” cried Vicki. “I can't explain what that sound does to me. It's like it goes straight to the deepest depths of my DNA.”

And with that, Vicki ran away, as panicked as if she were running for her life.

“Are you alright, Christine,” asked Miss Sonny.

“Who, me?” said Christine, calmly. “I grew up in a world with insects. It's just another sound to me.”

“I don't get it,” said Becky. “Can't the Camelodians hear that noise? Why don't they run for their lives?”

“Oh they hear it just fine,” said Blair. “But it's all around them. They don't know what direction to stand and face the enemy. Their training will be worse than useless in this battle. Oh, and they can't just run away. Not only because that would be desertion, but because there is no escape once one has been targeted by my bugs.”

“It looks like one of your bugs is getting ready to pounce,” said Sir Jon, as the camera zoomed in on one of the bugs, poised above an expecting Camelodian soldier, who was, in spite of her uniform, a rather attractive female Husky with purple fur.

As the camera zoomed in on the bug's orange skull-like face, Becky's face twisted into a grimace of horror, and she wailed out, “It's ugly. It's the ugliest thing I've ever seen.”

“That's the idea, my dear Sha,” said Blair, his fist clenched and his eyes widened with villainous madness. By creating a weapon so ugly the very sight of it sends the human nervous system into shut down, I've created a deterrent more potent than nuclear bombs.

“Heh,” Christine scoffed. “Until I tell Perry the formula for Flit.”

Blair laughed heartily and said, “My bugs are immune to all known elder race insecticides. Now watch as the leader of the swarm signals my soldiers to attack.”

As if on Blair's cue, the hovering hornet dropped on the Husky soldier, it's sting piercing the back of her neck, instantly injecting it's venom.

The husky girl's scream was horrifyingly protracted as she bolted up over the barricade she'd been hiding behind, her machine gun flung aside by her flailing arms while the other solders watched helplessly.

For a time she ran in circles about the road, still flailing and screaming, as her eyes bulged from their sockets, exploded, blood raining about her body from her nose and mouth as well, as she came to a stand still and fell over dead, her flesh seemingly burned from the inside out.

“Oh, dear Goddess,” Becky exclaimed. “I'll never be able to unsee this.”

“Stop being so weak, Sha,” said Grease, heartlessly recalling her earlier criticism. “You're embarrassing me.”

As the husky fell dead, the rest of the swarm seemed to be driven wild by the scent of a kill, and they dived on the remaining soldiers, seemingly everywhere at once, leaving no one any place to run. Within the space of a minute, every soldier had been stung multiple times, liquid acid, pumped into their blood streams, circulating through their bodies in a matter of seconds.

And even as the soldiers were screaming and flailing and dying, the wasps incessantly stung them, pumping in more acid, more pain upon unbearable pain, like the pain of being roasted alive, from within instead of without.

By now Becky was bawling her eyes out, and she threw herself onto Christine's lap, burying her tear flowing eyes in Christine's chest fur, while Christine petted her soothingly, not at all minding finally having an excuse to fondle the bunny.

Finally there was no human life left on the screen, and the wasps retreated into the trees, their buzz eventually disappearing.

“Where have they gone?” asked Miss Sonny.

“Back to their nests,” said Blair.

“You mean these things are always free and roaming, breeding throughout the jungle?” asked Miss Sonny.

“They can not breed unless I create a new queen,” said Blair.

“And what if they evolve the ability to create their own queens?” asked Sir Jon?

“Not a problem,” said Blair, dismissively. “I have not programmed them with the ability to evolve. They do only what they are told to do.”

“It could get wearisome trying to go over all the things that could go wrong with this,” said Sir Jon.

“I take that responsibility quite seriously, Sir Jon,” said Blair. “There's a fail-safe built in. I have to renew their programming every week or they die.”

“And what if someone else learns to program them?” asked Sir Jon.

“They won't take programming from anyone else,” Blair assured him. “My science is unique to me. There is not another soul on this planet capable of comprehending it.”

“And I don't suppose there's anything I could say that would make you get rid of them,” said Sir Jon.

“Of course not,” said Blair. “They're far too useful.”

Meanwhile, Becky continued to need consoling, but she was beginning to make a recovery. Finally she lifted her eyes from Christine's chest to find Christine gazing at her expectantly.

“Hello, cuddle bunny,” said Christine.

“Christine, please,” The bunny pleaded. “Erase it from my mind. Make me not afraid of it. Like you made Kacey not afraid of being burned.”

“I'm afraid it wouldn't work,” said Christine. “You don't trust me as much as Kacey does.”

“Didn't that video bother you at all?” asked Becky.

“I find that very little bothers me these days,” Christine reflected. “A video like that I watch with the detachment of a critic. Blair is trying to impress us by horrifying us. You are the most impressed, I am the least impressed.”

“You have no dread of my bugs at all?” asked Blair.

“On the contrary,” said Christine, “I appreciate your bugs on an artistic level. But you aren't the first person in history to come up with the idea of insect warfare. And if I needed to stop your bugs for some reason, I don't think it would be much of a problem.”

“I insist that you explain to me how my deterrent is vulnerable,” said Blair.

Becky made a move to get off of Christine's lap and assume a more dignified position. But Christine held onto her, saying, “Oh know you don't. I like having you on my lap. I want you to get used to it.”

“But . . .” Becky tried to protest.

“I'm the only one who can protect you from Blair's bugs,” Christine teased the nervous bunny. And Becky abruptly realized that her fear of Blair's bugs had completely trumped her female dignity. She'd throw all that away and be made Christine's love slave just to achieve some sense of security.

Becky sighed in resignation and made herself comfortable in Christine's embrace.

Christine then returned her attention to Blair and said, “Your bugs are bio mechanical. Therefore they have two general vulnerabilities. They can be disrupted biologically with poisons, or they can be disrupted electronically by jamming the radio signals you use to control them. Assuming that the one trying to disrupt them is far away. For one who is close enough to be attacked by them, they need some kind of shield you bugs can't penetrate. A bug bomb with the proper poison would destroy them, but not in time for the victim to survive. One must have a way of preventing your bugs from getting near them. One could use a repellent that gives off a cent your bugs fear, or a force-field of radio distortion that would cause your bugs pain if they came into contact with it. But I'm sure you've thought of these things. Insects are an age old problem for humans.”

“And you are an age old human,” said Blair. “Perhaps you could be a threat to me.”

“You'd have to be a threat to me first,” said Christine. “If it never comes to that, I'll have no reason to share my knowledge of insects with your enemies. May we consider that my deterrent against you making an enemy of me?”

“I wish that was not inevitable,” said Blair.

“If you say so,” said Christine. “But so long as you do nothing that would make Vicki ashamed of you, I can't see me ever having a reason to lift a finger against you.”

Blair observed how Christine eyed him piercingly, as if looking inside him to view his greatest weakness, with which she manipulated him beautifully, even as she simultaneously used a weakness she had found in Sha to put her in a position she was obviously uncomfortable in. Apparently, beneath her moralistic front Christine was quite the manipulator; not at all adverse to enjoying positions of power her alien science gave her access to.

He had not observed this quality in her before. And he wondered if this was a manifestation of damage that had been done to her spirit by the reliving of her youthful trauma. Perhaps she was not as immune to corruption as he had thought. And this notion made her more attractive to him, as he could tell he was to her.

If only he were in the market for a love interest. But, of course, he was not. As his pain at dealing with the emotions of Patti and Kacey had reminded him, his heart lay in stasis, oriented on other obsessions. And thus indulging in any emotion was painful for him.

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S11E231: Villainy As A Second Language

Spectral Shadows
Serial No. 11
The Planet Of Genetic Misadventure
Episode 231
Villainy As A Second Language

Copyright 1993, 2020 by Symphonic Rock Productions.

Featuring:

            

            

      

Back at the Camelodian base, Leela waited with the liberated felines, who were disturbed by the sound of three crashing explosions in the distance, each a minute or two after the previous one - the last being the loudest. Then they heard the mammoth truck crunching over the guard posts along the side road to the base and looked on wide-eyed, as if anticipating some great monster was about to make the scene.

Chico then entered the base without opposition, and he rolled up to the gate where Saffron waited to load the furs she had rescued, receiving a hero’s cheer, which did little to deflate Chico’s ego.

Chico opened his back doors, and Leela began waving the prisoners inside, the bi-level trailer not even straining it's capacity to accommodate the entire feline population of Suburbia.

Rick and the doctor jumped down out of the cab to greet Leela, but Leela seemed none too pleased by the presence of this stranger.

“Who’s your friend?” Leela asked of Rick, while she continued to load the refugees.

“He’s called Doctor Ommandeer,” said Rick. “Another one of Perry’s secret weapons, as far as I can judge.”

“Superhero, huh?” asked Leela. “What kind of powers has he got?”

“I’m a doctor, not a superhero,” said Rael. “My powers are like Christine’s, but infinitely more extensive.”

“Then you’d better keep your distance from me,” said Leela, hatefully. “I don’t like Christine’s powers.”

“Yes, I can see why you wouldn’t,” said the doctor, eyeing Leela appraisingly, as if he could see the poisonous cloud of Noir inside her.

“Keep your eyes off my soul, Doc,” Leela warned. “And don’t make nice with me either. If Perry wants me to work with you I will. But that doesn’t mean I want to be friends.”

“I’ll take that as a challenge,” said Rael, giving Leela his most charming look. But the doctor’s charm magic just seemed to bounce off of Leela without effect.

“Where are all the Camelodians?” asked Rick.

“Enjoying the sleep of the dead in their barracks,” said Leela, coldly.

“You killed them all?” said Rick, seeming disappointed. “Darn it. I was looking forward to some action.”

“Blame The Master Builder,” said Leela. “It was his idea to snuff ‘em.”

“Guess this is Perry’s day to be merciless,” Rick shrugged.

“These Camelodians are pathetically weak,” the doctor observed. “Capable of much destruction if allowed to maintain an edge for sport, but why waste time playing with them when lives are at stake.”

“Dang, Doc,” said Rick. “What happened to every fur being a miraculous creation?”

“Apples are miraculous creations, too,” said Rael. “When there are good apples to save you throw the rotten ones away.”

“Because a rotten apple is not quite so miraculous?” asked Rick.

“You've stumbled upon my folly, Rick Edwards.” said Rael. “Nothing with the potential to go rotten is miraculous.”

“Not even for the short time it may be pure?” asked Rick, as if testing to see if Rael was up to Perry and Christine's level of philosophy.

“You mean while it's pure enough to be consumed for your sustenance,” said Rael. “They only look beautiful to you when accompanied by the thought of destroying them.”

“Never thought of that before,” said Rick, backing off, as he could see he was out of his depth.

“Amusing,” said Leela. “Trying to ingratiate yourself to me by giving the appearance that you share my Noirnian philosophy. But you don't fool me for a minute. I know you don't see the worthlessness of these felines we're saving. The understanding that they will all eventually go rotten and die does not temper your emotion for them in the least.”

“Is there a reason you two are suddenly not being any fun at all?” asked Rick.

“You want to know why I'm in a bad mood?” said Leela. “We don’t like this type of business in Noir. It’s cheap and demoralizing to kill enemies without facing them eye to eye. I’m not a big fan of what I was ordered to do here. But Perry’s the boss. He wants this war over fast. That means extending no charity to the enemy. It means not giving the enemy just enough rope to make it fun. And your friend here would like to make me think he understands, but he doesn't. He may understand the cheapness of life on some level, but he'll never convince me he isn't dripping with compassion for every worthless living thing.”

“Worthless things like me, I suppose,” said Rick, kicking at the gravel unhappily.

“I think you're wrong,” said Rael. “I sense that she values you more than these furs we came to rescue.”

“That true, Leela?” asked Rick, hopefully.

Leela looked him in the eye with a begrudgingly scornful expression and said, “You pay for more insurance than they do.”

Rick seemed to shrink away from Leela's contemptuous gaze and shifted his position slightly so that Rael was between him and Leela.

“She didn't used to be like this,” Rick said in a hushed voice to Rael. “She used to treat me like I mattered, and I don't mean just as a paying client.”

“If it's any conciliation, Edwards, it's not you I'm mad at,” said Leela. “It's Perry and Christine who have irrevocably altered my life, and continue to make unreasonable demands of me, whether I like it or not. I absolutely refuse to take any joy in this mission.”

“I'm sure I could cover for you if you wanted to take off,” Rael offered.

“Oh, no,” said Leela. “I'll see this through to the end, if just to see Perry's face when I hand him my bill.”

Leela than glared at Rael in a particularly piercing and hateful way, as if to see if he could hold up against it. It was the sort of thing she knew would set Perry falling into the nearest chair, gasping for breath. But Rael obviously had no such affliction. He enjoyed being liked, but he was not dependent on it.

Once all the felines were secured on the truck, and the liberators had taken their seats in the cab, Leela asked, “Is it really necessary to take all these furs to Halloween? Camelot seems as good as wiped out. We might as well just take the prisoners home.”

“There are still too many soldiers in Suburbia,” said Rick. “Until Queen Devilla attacks Camelot and the soldiers get called home, they can still give us trouble. These people have suffered enough. They deserve to be out of harm’s way.”

“Unbelievable,” said Leela, shaking her head in bemusement. “Blair Montgomery's dungeon is your idea of being out of harm's way.”

***


Meanwhile, a jeep carrying four Camelodians started up the road from Suburbia, stopping along the way to gaze horror-struck at the remains of the road blocks, radioing reports back to their embassy.

The ambassador, subject to increased duties because of the demise of Sergeant Stife, told the soldiers to contain their emotions, saying "It is not appropriate to become overwrought in a time of war.” She then ordered the soldiers to get on to the base and find out why communications were out.

The soldiers then got back in their Jeep, pausing only long enough to solute their fallen comrades before continuing on.

***


Leela sat in the back seat of the cab while Rick and Doctor Ommandeer sat in the front.

“Where to?” asked Chico. “Halloween?”

“Not just yet,” said Doctor Ommandeer. “It seems to me, if we leave this base here, it will just fill up with the enemy again. I think, before we go, we should do something to insure the enemy can make no further use of it.”

“What did you have in mind?” asked Leela. “We don’t have a lot of time to waste, you know.”

“Actually, I was hoping one of you would have an idea,” said the doctor. “I'm not that familiar with your resources. There are things I could do, but they’d all require me to use an amount of power that could endanger Perry.”

“What are you talking about?” asked Leela, anxiously. “Why is Perry in danger?”

“We’ll explain that once we’re on the road to Halloween,” said Rick. “In the meantime, the quickest way I know of to destroy the base is to let Chico flatten it. Those Quonset huts are pretty flimsy. Chico could leave this place a parking lot.”

“What about the bodies in the buildings?” asked Leela. “Wouldn’t it be the decent thing in war to leave them in tact so they can be sent home to their families?”

“No, it wouldn’t,” said the doctor. “That’s the kind of thing you think about at the end of a war. During an active war you dump bodies anywhere you can find to be rid of them as fast as possible."

“You’re at war all the time in Noir,” said Rick. “Do you worry about such things?”

“Not as a rule,” said Leela. “I just thought the elder race left some kind of law governing war.”

“A law governing war?” said Real, dryly. “War is the casting aside of all law and decency. How would you punish your enemy for breaking this law, go to war with them?”

“Point taken,” said Leela. “No mercy.”

“You want I should squish this place?” asked Chico, with a gleeful smile in his voice.

“Get squishin’, Chico,” said Rick.

“By your command, leader,” said Chico, imitating a robot voice from an old elder race TV show.

Chico then began driving over all the prefabricated metal buildings and structures, crushing them flat - moving systematically from one side of the base to the other.

As anticipated, the structures did not put up much resistance, nor did the bodies inside them. That everything flattened so easily into a smooth pavement of metal, blood and fur seemed a testament to the lack of substance held by Camelodian honor.

“They should have taken their own fragility into account before destroying all the social restraints that protected them,” the doctor commented.

“You don’t seem as bothered by all this squishin’ as you did when I squished them road blocks,” Chico observed.

“This ‘squishin’’ isn’t extinguishing any life,” said the doctor. “This is like burying waste, or creating a grave.”

“Fortunes of war and all that, as the Camelodians are so fond of saying,” said Leela, with an air of righteousness. “This is No Furs Land. They had every right to build a base here. And Chico has every right to flatten it.”

“It’s what they get for trying to stop The Red Giant,” said Chico, with an overabundance of childish pride.

“I swear,” said Rick, face-palming with embarrassment. “Ever since Bixyl’s article came out he can’t get that name out of his head.”

“That’s right,” Chico shouted with childish glee as he continued smashing one building after another. “I am The Reeeeed Giant. Able to crash road blocks in a single bound. Flattening armies without breaking a sweat. I want that painted on my side, Doc. I am The Reee-he-heeeed Giant.”

The furs in the back of the truck, watching on a monitor, were heard cheering and chanting, “Go Chico! Crush, kill, destroy!” And the cheers continued to escalate as each building fell and was demolished under Chico’s wheels.

Though there was little effort in this for Chico, the base was of such size that it did take a bit of time – time enough for the jeep carrying the four Camelodians to reach the base.

As they drove up the side road to the base, they were met by no sentries, which gave them an uneasy feeling. All the check posts had been crushed flat, which set them to clutching their weapons as they continued their approached cautiously.

Arriving at the main gate, they saw more than half the place had been demolished, but they couldn’t understand why no one was resisting the attack. It was then that they discovered the notice Leela had left. Still they could not fathom that everyone on the base was dead.

“Uh-oh,” said Rick. “I knew we were wasting too much time here.”

“It’s just 4 furs in a jeep,” said Chico. “Anybody want to see me squish ‘em?”

Another great cheer rose from inside the trailer which evolved into a chant of, “Squish! Squish! Squish!”

At this the doctor put his hand to his head, as if he suddenly felt ill.

“You okay, Doc?” asked Rick.

“It’s Perry,” said the doctor. “He’s having a nightmare about his people embracing blood lust. He’s trying to wake himself up.”

“Well don’t let him wake up now,” said Rick, urgently. “The last thing we need is to have the prince with us.”`

“Yes, that would be strategically foolish,” the doctor agreed, seeming stressed.

“You Perry’s alter ego or something?” asked Leela.

“Something like that,” said the doctor, intimating that the situation was too complicated to be quickly explained.

Chico continued his flattening, while the furs in the jeep looked on in a state of shock. By the time Chico had flattened the last building, there had been no motion or challenge from the jeep.

“You want me to squish ‘em on our way out?” asked Chico, as he approached the jeep.

“Just pull up to them,” said the doctor. “Then open their radio frequency so we can talk to them.”

“Pointless,” said Leela. “Even if they’re honest soldiers, they don’t know anything but lies. You won't be able to reason with them.”

“Channel open, Captain,” said Chico.

“Here, it's better if I do it,” said Leela.

Leela picked up the microphone from the CB, and her voice was heard from a radio in the jeep, saying, “Attention soldiers in the jeep. I am speaking to you from inside the big truck. In accordance with contractual arrangements, The AD has destroyed your base. If you attempt to rebuild, we will destroy it again.”

The driver of the jeep picked up her own microphone and replied, “Where is everyone? What have you done with our personnel?”

Leela handed the microphone to Rael, as if thinking nothing more needed to be said.

Rael put the microphone to his mouth and pressed the talk button, saying, “The soldiers of this camp have been committed to a mass grave beneath the flattened surface.”

“They're all dead?” the soldier replied in shock. “Every last one of them?”

“I regret to inform you there are no survivors,” said Rael, looking back at Leela, appraisingly. “The vengeance of the AD is indeed swift and terrible.”

“Is that you, Prince Perry?” asked the soldier. “I recognize your voice. Why have you betrayed us?”

“I could ask you the same, but I wouldn’t expect you to know the answer,” said Rael, seeing no reason to try explaining that he wasn't Perry. “Suffice it to say that The High Command has betrayed you. They have betrayed us all.”

From the back of the truck came a cacophony of loud curses; the refugees venting their vitriol at Camelot.

“Are those our prisoners?” asked the soldier. “You killed our personnel and let the spies from Webberton live?”

Leela leaned forward and spoke into the microphone. “This is AD representative Leela Lennox. This truck contains only illegally detained Suburbians, under the protection of my organization. All Camelodian personnel in the base have been deemed complicit in the abduction, torture and attempted murder of our clients. That includes you. Your lives are mine to take at any time. So don't do anything to make me want to take them now.”

The four soldiers sitting in the jeep were visibly shocked at this unimaginable turn of events. The driver so much so that she dropped her microphone and stared blankly at the flattened grave Chico had made for her compatriots.

Moments later the soldier recovered herself with difficulty, retrieved her microphone and said, emotionally, “I don’t understand. Why did you do this to us?”

“Because Camelot is at war with Suburbia,” said Rael. “And such are the fortunes of war.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said the soldier, tearfully. “We came here to help you.”

“I feel sorry for any Camelodian who truly believes that,” said Real, still straining to say what he thought Perry would say. “But of course you can’t question your chain of command. They’ll not tell you what they’ve done, what crimes they’ve used you to commit. So you’ll just say I’m mistaken if I tell you what everyone else can see is the truth. We can not save you from the consequences of being our enemy. Only you can do that.”

“Prince Perry,” said the soldier, with desperate emotion. “I swear to you, I did not come here to be your enemy. I came here to stop Webberton from taking Suburbia.”

“I do not doubt your personal motivation,” said Rael. “It is The High Command that has betrayed you. And so long as you continue to fight for them, we can not show you mercy. We have a responsibility to protect the citizens of Suburbia, and all who continue to wear Camelodian uniforms are now a threat to them. If you would not be the enemies of Suburbia, cast off your uniforms and join Suburbia in its struggle to rid itself of Camelodian oppression.”

“I’d have to throw off my religion with it,” said the soldier. “And that’s just not going to happen. Not unless you can show me serious evidence of wrong doing on the part of my superiors.”

“If I were to list their crimes, you would say they are too fantastic to not be dismissed,” said Real. “But there is one lie they have told you which should be obvious. They have told you they are here with the blessing of The Ruling Family. Surely you can see that is not the case.”

“It doesn’t matter whether you want us here or not,” said the soldier. “Webberton will have you if we leave. We’ll protect you, even if you’re too dumb to see the danger.”

“Doc, we’re wasting time,” said Rick, impatiently.

“Stay out of my way or be crushed,” Chico announced over the radio. Then he blew his horn and started forward.

The soldiers watched in dismay as the truck rolled passed them, knowing they had no way to stop it. Then they came to their senses and radioed the embassy, reporting that the base had been wiped from existence by The Prince Of Suburbia with the complicity of The AD.

They were then ordered to follow the truck and report where it went if it did not return to Suburbia, and to radio ahead if it did return to Suburbia so an appropriate reception could be prepared for it.

Chico intercepted the transmission and played it for the others.

“Under the circumstances it might be best if we all hid out in Halloween for a while,” Rick suggested.

“Let’s just get our cargo delivered,” said Leela. “Then we can consider our next move.”

***


The acting governor called The Mayor Of Camelot to inform him of the destruction of the base and ask for instructions. He asked if he should send the forces that were securing Suburbia after Prince Perry.

The Mayor commanded that the town was not to be left unsecured. Perry would have to return eventually, and he was to be taken into custody at the earliest opportunity. He would then be forced to back up whatever story they would concoct to blame the destruction of the base on Webberton. “Nothing like a great loss to galvanize the troops, wot?”

The governor hung up the phone, trembling in nervousness. This wasn't the way things were supposed to go. The Suburbians were not anticipated to discover Camelot's charade so quickly. Now they might be up against significant forces from within Suburbia, as well as the Webbertonians from without. And though The High Command wasn't diminishing the forces he needed to secure the town, to lose an entire base could throw off all existing plans to a point where victory might be lost.

***


At the Rhoades Mansion, Sir Jon got a call on his cell phone from The Mayor Of Camelot.

“What can I do for you, Mayor?” asked Jon, in an unaccommodating tone.

“You’ve been a bad boy, haven’t you, Jon,” said the mayor.

“That’s Sir Jon to you,” said Jon. “Assuming there’s any meaning left to a title granted by your government.”

“I understand you’ve destroyed my base,” said the mayor.

“I take no responsibility,” said Jon, off-handedly. “You ran afoul of The AD. I’m surprised you didn’t see them coming. As I understand it you made it far too easy for them.”

“I know your son is involved,” said the mayor.

“Of course he is,” said Jon. “He’s the one who had the contracts with The AD.”

“I will catch him, Sir Jon,” said the mayor, threateningly. “I will see him tortured until he begs to die.”

“Yes,” said Jon, seeming unconcerned. “I’m sure he feels exactly the same way about you. I hope you do catch up with each other. And I hope what he does to you gets filmed for the whole world to see.”

“You seem to have completely lost your mind,” said the mayor. “I think you’ve forgotten who you’re dealing with.”

“Oh, no,” Sir Jon assured him. “I remember very well who you are. You’re the one who’s going to be dead before the end of the week. If I were you I’d stop posturing and start begging for mercy while you still have time.”

“Put Blair Montgomery on the phone,” said the mayor, rudely. “I know he's there with you.”

“Blair, would you like to speak to the soon to be deceased mayor of Camelot?” asked Sir Jon.

“Sure, why not?” said Blair, taking the phone. “What’s on your mind, Mayor?”

“I have it on good authority that you are in complicity with Suburbia against us,” said the mayor. “That is not good news for Halloween.”

“You knocked down my building,” said Blair. “That was bad news for Camelot.”

“We did no such thing,” said the mayor, indignantly.

“Do not add insult to injury by denying it,” said Blair, angrily. “You caught me napping, just as you did Sir Jon, and everyone else who was foolish enough to trust you. None of us are napping anymore. Now we’re all in a mad race to see which one of us will get to kill you first.”

“You are forgetting,” said the mayor. “Camelot holds all the military might in this world. I can destroy your pathetic little town with the press of a button.”

“I can do the same to Camelot, and so can Sir Jon,” said Blair. “And we both already have enough provocation. So don’t tempt us.”

“You have secrets,” said the mayor. “Hand over Prince Perry, or we’ll expose you.”

“You know, Mayor,” said Blair, with villainous ire. “Ordinarily I’d be all too happy to hand Prince Perry over to you. What a pity you decided to betray me. Send all the troops you can afford to lose to Halloween. I’ll destroy them with the same dispassion you showed to the employees in my building. And I’ll film their demise that the world might see how utterly powerless the Camelodian military really is against the defenses of New Halloween. Good day, Mayor.”

Blair closed the cell phone and looked at Sir Jon, asking, “What day had you planned to kill The Mayor?"

“If no one else has killed him by Sunday,” said Sir Jon. “I will kill him then.”

“Fine,” said Blair. “But if for any reason he lives on Monday, he’s mine.”

“Agreed,” said Sir Jon, offering his hand to seal the arrangement.

“Kacey,” said Blair, turning to face the pink squirrel skunk watching the TV news near by. “Will you be sure to tell all your friends on Another Life what Sir Jon and I have just discussed?”

“If you want me to,” said Kacey, curiously. “Is this what they call psychological warfare?”

“No,” said Blair, regarding Kacey with uncommon pleasantness, as he always did. “It’s what’s called revenge.”

“I’ve never had revenge,” said Kacey, meekly. “Does it make you feel better?”

“Momentarily,” said Blair, reflectively. “Though it’s really like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. It may cover the surface area of the wound, but it does nothing to heal the injury inside.”

“What heals the injury inside?” asked Kacey, innocently.

“Some wounds can’t be healed,” said Blair. “Sometimes you can cover them up by trying to think about other things. But then something reminds you, and you realize your wound is as deep as ever. And it will still make you feel like you need revenge to ease the pain, even if you’ve had revenge a hundred times.”

“It is forgiveness that heals wounds, Kacey,” said Sir Jon. “If you can truly forgive someone who hurt you, you will stop remembering. And thus stop reopening the wound.”

“There are some wounds that can not be forgiven,” said Blair. “You can say to yourself a hundred times ‘I forgive this person,’ but no matter how you try you can’t stop remembering what they did.”

“Should I forgive Dr. Reinhart?” asked Kacey. “Or should I seek revenge.”

“I would never forgive such a person,” said Blair, in a sympathetic tone. “Fortunately, Dr. Reinhart is just like The Mayor Of Camelot. He’s the type who will eventually destroy himself. But you can take satisfaction in knowing that Christine loves you more than him, and you having something he will be forever denied will gripe him every day of his life.”

“But that will still not heal your wounds,” said Sir Jon. “It’s just a bit of anesthetic you can use to ease the pain. You have to let go of your hatred and resentment for your wounds to truly heal.”

“No one ever really does that,” said Blair. “Your hatred and resentment become a part of you. They influence who you are. You need your wounds and the pain they cause you to shape your personality. You wouldn’t be Kacey Caddell without your pain. If someone were to magically deprive you of your pain, you wouldn’t recognize the person you’d become.”

Kacey looked at Christine and Vicki, thinking their silence on this subject quite odd.

“I have nothing to add,” said Christine, seeming overcome by melancholy. “There’s no forgiveness in my heart for Dr. Reinhart. Nor The Mayor Of Camelot. Nor The Town Council Of Suburbia. But I don’t feel the need to threaten their lives. I know killing them would only add to my pain. Instead I must learn to thank them for my pain.”

“I should thank Dr. Reinhart for everything he did to me?” asked Kacey, seeming bewildered. “For giving me pain that will never go away? You all agree on that?”

“Yes,” said Christine. “Because whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Wouldn’t you say so, Blair?”

“Couldn’t have put it better myself,” said Blair, with an air of regret. “What a shame I must hate you, Christine. You are so . . . reasonable for one of this clan. So unhindered by those unpleasant weaknesses that plague Perry, and even Sir Jon. Yes, indeed, it is most regrettable that I must hate you.”

“Have I wounded you in some manner?” Christine inquired.

“Well, I suppose I could forgive you for supporting my rival,” said Blair. “But we are destined to come to grips eventually. You’re a notorious heroine, I’m a notorious villain. It just seems prudent to hate you in advance.”

“If you’ll forgive me saying so,” said Christine. “For a notorious villain, you practice villainy as if it were a second language to you.”

“It is,” said Sir Jon. “I remember when Blair Montgomery was as pure in his idealism as Perry. Then something happened, and he turned to the dark side overnight. I fear he is still learning the language of villainy.”

“I’ll admit,” said Blair. “It’s not as easy a language to learn as I anticipated. Still, Christine, I warn you not to think of me in the same context as Miss Lappina or Princess Jenny. I have no interest in being redeemed. I’ll not take it kindly if you try.”

“I’ve never hated anyone simply because they were a villain,” said Christine. “I’ll be wary of you. I won’t trust you. But until you give me cause, I won’t hate you. And if you should ever change your mind about coming back to the light, you have but to ask for my help.”

“Please, Christine,” Blair entreated her. “You have no idea what you're offering. And though I can not confide to you completely the extent of the trauma you would endure trying to restore my former nature, it would be a hundred times worse than what you suffered healing Kenny, or remembering your father's betrayal.”

“Why, Blair,” said Christine, giving him an interested gaze. “I could almost believe you're sincerely concerned about me. And you are about as attractive a fellow as I've met on this planet. Wouldn't it be something if you turned out to be my Mister Right.”

“I fear your romantic deprivation has reduced you to a moth dancing about a flame,” said Blair. “But have a care. If the day ever comes when I really want to hurt you, I could do that to you. I could make you love me.”

“And would you love me back?” asked Christine, giving him her most seductive vixen smile.

“Certainly not,” said Blair, with finality. “The day you surrender to love for me will be the day everything I admire about you is destroyed.”

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S11E230: Showdown

Spectral Shadows
Serial No. 11
The Planet Of Genetic Misadventure
Episode 230
Showdown

Copyright 1993, 2020 by Symphonic Rock Productions.

Featuring:

            

      Chico      



     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.
 

adretribution

***

 

     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.

     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.”

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S11E229: A Display Of Toxic Masculinity

Spectral Shadows
Serial No. 11
The Planet Of Genetic Misadventure
Episode 229
A Display Of Toxic Masculinity

Copyright 1993, 2018 by Symphonic Rock Productions.

Featuring:

            

            

            



       Princess Jenny returned to the drawing room and made her report to the others about her mother's intent to invade and conquer Camelot. This troubled Sir Jon. He still felt some loyalty to Camelot and wondered if he should warn the troops that they were needed at home.

       Jenny was emphatic that he could not do that. What she had shared was in strictest confidence. And if she was made in any way to seem responsible for turning the tides of war against Webberton, she'd be a marked kitty again.

       Sonny reminded Jon that his responsibility was to Suburbia. And that, just because he was getting something of a reprieve from the error he had made in his responsibility to his town, that didn't mean The Mayor Of Camelot was entitled to one.

       Blair added there was no chance Camelot would listen to Sir Jon anyway. They had tied him up in red tape to prevent him from working against them. They would not consider the possibility of his trying to help them. They regarded Sir Jon as their enemy and only real source of opposition, which made Sir Jon's continued sentimentality towards Camelot all the more ridiculous. An enemy was an enemy, and should be treated as nothing less.

       Sir Jon admitted he had deeper concerns than his ill-placed feelings for Camelot. If Webberton were to capture Camelot they would have control of its army and its technology. They would become a super power, and there really would be nothing standing in the way of Divine Felinity taking over the world.

       But Jenny reminded him that the carnivorous cats would probably eat half of Camelot's army. Only the felines would be added to Webberton's military forces. It wouldn't make that much of an improvement.

       Plus, the cats would eat themselves fat celebrating their victory. They wouldn't be ready to start thinking of going after another town for quite a while.

       Jenny then reiterated that any information she shared with them was in strictest confidence, due to their friendship. If they betrayed her trust she could no longer act as their ally.

       Sir Jon solemnly nodded agreement. He would not help Camelot.

       Leela asked if, in light of this news, Perry wanted to call off the attack on the base in No Furs Land.

       But Perry remained uncharacteristically angry and vengeful. He would not call it off, or make any allowance for mercy at all. His friends were still in danger of being tortured. He would take no chance on disaster happening because of his usual sentimentality.

       Leela pretentiously saluted Perry and said the client was always right. Then she made her exit.

       After Leela was gone, Kacey asked, "Is that the most we can do?"

       "I'm afraid so," said Sir Jon. "Well, I suppose Christine and I could go out and kill a few hundred random Camelodian soldiers, but I doubt that would have much effect. What we really need is an army; something to put the fear of the gods into the Camelodians. I half wish the Webbertonians weren't busy. I'd invite them in."

       "That would just be piling one mistake on top of another, dear," said Sonny.

       "Now let me see," said Sir Jon, referring to the map of the world behind his desk. "Who else has an army? Hmmm. Well, there's Halloween, of course."

       "My defense force is too small and pathetic to be of any help to you," said Blair. "I'm already contributing my dungeon. Don't push your luck."

       "What's that town up there to the north of us?" asked Christine, gazing with interest at the map.

       "That's Chris Corners, dear," said Miss Sonny. "The most peaceful town on the planet. They wouldn't have an army."

       "No," Blair chuckled. "All they have there is toys and candy. And elves."

       "Elves?" asked Christine, in surprise.

       "That's what they call the people who work in the big toy factory," Vicki explained. "They aren't really elves, of course. It's a term of status in their culture, based on the source material of their religion."

       "A most annoying town," Blair mused, imperiously. "Not at all on good terms with Halloween these days."

       "I'm not surprised," said Christine. "I just wonder. I seem to recall a movie where an army was defeated by toys. Sir Jon, do you suppose it would hurt anything to send an appeal to Chris Corners for help?"

       "What kind of help?" asked Sir Jon, scratching his head in perplexity.

       "Any kind that they can think to offer," said Christine.

       "You'd be asking a lot of them," said Blair. "Of all towns, Chris Corners is the most committed to non-violence. They'll have no part in a war."

       "Well, I suppose I could send an appeal to all the towns," said Sir Jon. "If they each could send just a few warriors to help us, we might produce some kind of resistance force. But if we lose, all towns that help will be subject to retaliation from Camelot. Plus it would take most of them a long time to get here. By then it might be all over."

       "I knyow where you could get an army that hates Camelodians," said Jenny. "If I could just get a message to The Possat."

       "But you can," said Kacey, excitedly. "Bixyl has a character on Another Life. I can leave him a message to give to The Possat."

       "But The Possat was against getting involved in town problems," Christine reminded them.

       "It can nyot hurt to beg," said Jenny, displaying impressive nobility. "For my friends, I will beg."

       "No," said Kacey. "Karen Simon will beg."

***


       Leela left the mansion via an underground tunnel that led to the outer garage behind the house where Xanthus was waiting. She made her transformation into Saint Saffron and then started out of town, easily blasting her way through the Camelodian road block at the edge of town, much to the humiliation of the pseudo British soldiers.

       The base was put on alert for impending attack. For more than an hour they waited for Saint Saffron to attempt to crash the base. But Saffron had no intentions of being so bold. She had left Xanthus on the road and maneuvered around to the back of the base, gliding over its defenses to alight quietly and unseen.

       She then searched about, covertly assessing the nature of the base.

       She noted that the airfield was unexpectedly small; certainly not equipped for countering an air attack from another town, which meant none was anticipated. It contained only 5 copters, one of which was black, with Webberton insignia.

       Over all, the place looked more like a concentration camp than a military base.

       Most of the action she observed was felines being brought in from Suburbia by the truck load. But though they were being treated roughly, she saw no one that seemed in immediate danger of being killed. So she pondered restraining her signal to Chico until all the felines had been rounded up. But she decided more investigation was needed before pursuing that line of reasoning.

       So she looked in some of the buildings that were lined neatly on the other side of the base from where the prisoners were being held. There she observed felines undergoing the cruelest of tortures, some being brutalized within an inch of their lives, while Camelodian officers and white coated scientists were hard put to contain their amusement.

       Another building she looked in was specifically set up for waterboarding. She had never seen this particular interrogation method before, and she made a note to herself not to depict it in her comic strip, as she did not want either the Criminal Element or Law And Order factions of Noir adopting it.

       The level of on-going torture Saffron witnessed created a dilemma for her. She couldn't save anyone from torture at that moment without alerting the Camelodians and foiling the big rescue. So she would have to allow it to continue for the moment, much as that grated against her personal conception of Love And Justice. So she decided instead to make good use of the suffering.

       Saffron snapped numerous electronic photos and E-mailed them to Perry, along with an explanation of the situation. She felt they should allow the torture to go on until Suburbia had been completely emptied of felines, which might take a day or two. Otherwise it would fill again, and rescuing the next lot of prisoners would be much more difficult, if not impossible.

       Perry texted back that she was to wait until morning before calling for Chico. Then, once the prisoners were secured, she would have to make sure the base was destroyed beyond any possibility of it ever being used again.

       Perry suggested that Leela use the cover of night to wire the base for demolition. She could then wait for Chico to arrive to set off the bombs, which should keep the Camelodians disoriented while the prisoners were being loaded on the truck. Saffron typed back simply, "Agreed."

       By this time Perry was also receiving reports from The Shadow Cat about what was going on in The Rhoades Instruments Building.

       He was told that several thousand Suburbians were held in the building; though relatively few of them knew anything incriminating against the Camelodians. But the imperious bullies were taking no chances. They planned to literally crush anyone who might have seen or heard something they wanted to control awareness of.

       The Shadow Cat informed Perry that there was no way he could rescue the witnesses, unless he first did away with all the Camelodians in the building, and then killed the guards at the perimeter. This was the plan The Shadow Cat was currently pursuing. That, and doing everything he could to delay the detonation of the building.

       "Those bastards," said Perry, displaying a vengefulness that would normally be quite contrary to his nature. "They're still planning to bring down my building, with all those people in it."

       "Let them," said Sir Jon.

       "What?!" Perry snapped, incredulously.

       "Safest place they could be," said Sir Jon, knowingly. "Tell the Shadow Cat to do what he likes with the Camelodians. The more he can clear the building of them the better. But he should leave the witnesses where they are. I will see to the evacuation of the building by my own methods. And it is vital that the prisoners remain exactly as the Camelodians will leave them."

       "What exactly are you going to do, dad?" asked Perry, warily.

       "Never mind," said Sir Jon. "Just send the message."

       Perry hesitated, and Blair chuckled, "He doesn't trust you. He's wondering if you're helping the Camelodians kill Suburbians."

       "Trust me, son," said Sir Jon. "I'm going to do what you asked me to do when your friends were burned. No one will be in the building when it falls."

       "Why does my building have to fall?" Perry demanded, with great ire.

       "Because," Sir Jon explained. "If it doesn't the Camelodians won't think the witnesses are dead. They'll still be trying to kill them. Is your building too much of a sacrifice, my son?"

       Perry looked at Blair and asked, "Does it hurt very much?"

       "It stings, considerably," said Blair. "But if you don't let the Camelodians knock down your building, I will knock it down later. And that will sting you even more."

       "Fine," said Perry, angrily. Then he typed the message, sent it, and let his arms fall limp.

       "Perry," said Blair. "It's just a building. You can always build a better one."

       "No," said Perry. "I'm through. I've retired. I won't be rebuilding Rhoades Instruments. I'm sorry, Miyan. It looks like you're out of a job. If we survive this there'll be no more big business in Suburbia. Halloween can have it all."

       "But Perry," said Miyan, in a grave tone. "What about the economy?"

       "What about it?" Perry demanded.

       "Suburbia will end up as bad off as Halloween," said Miyan.

       "Right now we're much worse off than Halloween," said Perry. "And if this is where big business has led us, we're much better off without it."

       "Don't sweat it, Miyan," said Blair. "He's just depressed right now. He'll never be able to stick with that resolve."

***


       Some hours passed, and the base stood down from its alert, figuring that Saint Saffron was just going home to Noir and had no intensions of attacking the base. The base thus relaxed, and Saffron felt more confident in spying and collecting data.

       Through an upper window, Saffron stealthfully entered one of the torture buildings. There the young lion who once delivered supplies to Perry's office was in the process of being waterboarded.

       As the lion cried out in despair that he was not a Webberton agent and had never voiced even the slightest support for Fascists, the white coats laughed and said they could keep this up all night.

       Saffron hated the white coats. To her they were the worst kind of Criminal Element. She felt a strong compulsion to rescue the lion boy, but instead restrained herself to recording the lion boy's ordeal on her cell phone.

       The lion boy suffered terribly and pleaded with the white coats not to drown him. The white coats pretended to feel sorry for him and said that, if he would confess, they would let him rest.

       Finally the lion boy cracked and said he would confess to anything if they would just stop.

       The white coats pretended to be pleased. They set the lion boy up before a camera with a green backing screen behind him, and they gave him a confession to read; frequently coaching him on how he should say certain lines.

       After coaxing what they thought was a believable performance out of him, they gave the lion boy a paper to fill out and sign, again warning him that any lack of cooperation would be met with more waterboarding.

       Once he had signed it, the high ranking white coat said, "Very good. You can rest now until morning."

       "Then what?" asked the lion boy, anxiously.

       "Well, then we shoot you, of course," said the white coat. "What else is to be done with spies?"

       "No! You can't!" cried the lion boy. "You made me sign that paper. I didn't really do anything."

       "It's no good trying to deny your crimes now," said the white coat. "We have your signed confession. That makes you guilty. And the guilty must be punished."

       "But you would have killed me if I didn't sign," the lion boy whimpered, helplessly.

       "Nonsense, dear boy," said the white coat, with a wicked smile. "It would be against procedure to kill you without a confession. Of course, we're under no obligation to see to your comfort while we wait for you to confess. The shock treatments and waterboarding were just a little contribution you could offer to our science to pay for your keep."

       "I don't want to die," the lion boy wept pitifully. "Is there nothing I can do to save myself?"

       "Hmmmm," said the white coat, thoughtfully. "Have you more information to trade for your life? More spies you could identify for us? Some crimes you could bear witness to. If you had, say, witnessed Miyan Rutherford's complicity with Webberton's attack on Suburbia, your death sentence might be commuted."

       "My boss has nothing to do with Webberton," said the lion boy. "She hates Webberton. Everyone knows that."

       "Do not lie when your life is on the line!" shouted the white coat, slamming another piece of paper on the table in front of the lion boy. "Sign this paper which says you witnessed Miyan Rutherford conspiring with Webberton and espousing allegiance to Fascism. Then you shall live beyond tomorrow morning. If you refuse, tomorrow your body shall lie in an unmarked mass grave in No Fur's Land."

       The lion boy trembled compulsively as tears rained from his eyes. Finally he whimpered, "Alright. You win." And he signed the paper.

 photo signedconfession.jpg


       "Excellent," said the white coat. "Now you have just one more paper to sign to make the waver of your execution possible."

       The white coat placed another paper before him.

       "What's this?" asked the lion boy, with all the incredulousness that remained in his soul.

       "A mere consent form signing all your human rights away," said the white coat. "So that you may continue to serve the advance of Camelodian science in one of our finer research facilities."

       "You're never going to let me go home, are you?" asked the lion boy, emotionally.

       "We can't allow criminals like you to roam freely," said the white coat. "But you can live, as long as you are of service to us."

       "With no rights?" said the lion boy. "And subject to more of your torture every day?"

       "You must not look at it that way," said the white coat. "You will be contributing to the advance of human knowledge - a noble cause in which to endure pain. Do not selfishly think of your own discomfort. Think of all those who will benefit in the future from what you help us learn."

       "I'm just an office boy," cried the lion. "I didn't do anything."

       "You try my patience," said the white coat, coldly. "Sign the paper, or face the firing squad. The choice is yours."

       Fighting to hold back his tears, the lion boy said, "I'll take the firing squad, if just to be free of you." Then he picked up the paper and ripped it in half.

       "Foolish ingrate," scowled the white coat. "Take him away."

       The lion boy was then led off to a cell with others who would be executed in the morning; all of whom were crying and looking miserable.

       Saffron then retreated to the woods behind the base and uploaded the video to Perry. It took quite a while to upload, during which time the base went to sleep for the night.

       Upon viewing the video, Perry was devastated. He had always known the Camelodians were off their rockers, but this dwarfed his imagination; the whole thing having all the more impact because it was being done to someone he knew. And the fact that the lion boy wasn't even a liberated male made it all the more infuriating.

       Non-liberated males were said to have surrendered all of what had been deemed "Toxic Masculinity," which had been said to be the cause of the downfall of the elder race. This had rendered non-liberated males effectively defenseless subservients; the equivalent of how females had been regarded in the most backward days of The Elder Race. And yet, even in the most barbaric days of The Elder Race, to batter a subservient female in this fashion would have been looked on at best as unchivalrous, at worst psychotically deranged.

       And yet, this was apparently how the Camelodians had interpreted the source material of their religion. They regarded it as written in stone that they should be this way. And it mattered not if the literature of the empire they strove to emulate had depicted their history correctly. The fiction and fantasy was all that remained to be emulated, and obviously the Camelodians had taken the worst of it to heart, calling themselves Anti-Fascist, while acting in a manner that would make the Webbertonians, who were supposedly Fascists, cringe.

       "I'm not exactly thrilled with this society either," said Christine. "What sense is there in encouraging anyone to be subservient, regardless of gender?"

       Becky explained, "The Founding Mothers were quite adamant that what had been written about toxic masculinity in the last days of The Elder Race was to be taken with the utmost seriousness. It is obvious that unsubdued human males will inevitably take to rape, war and general barbarity until they destroy their entire world."

       "Really," said Christine, giving Becky a look of daggers. "And your female entitled society is doing any different? Did it ever occur to you that there might be such a thing as toxic femininity? It's idiotic to assume anything as inconsequential as gender would curtail the human tendency to be corrupted by power. The problem is a human thing, not a gender thing."

       "Be that as it may," said Grease. "Males on this planet are encouraged to be weak, and as a consequence, we are weak. We can not defend ourselves against the tactics we have just witnessed."

       "I was under the impression you were supposed to be liberated," said Perry.

       "I strive to be," said Grease, in a guilty tone. "But I was not raised to be. And so I am more vulnerable than I should be. Isn't it obvious by the way I stick so close to Becky?"

       "It's brave of him to admit he uses a female as a crutch," said Becky.

       "On the other hand," Blair added. "A liberated male like Perry is expected to have some strength and endurance. But I expect he will sit there and whimper all night while Leela Lennox and Rick Edwards take all the risks on themselves."

       "Thank you, Blair," said Perry, causing Blair to raise a curious eyebrow. "But you're encouragement is unnecessary. I will show you just how capable of toxic masculinity I am."

       Perry typed to Saffron a short command. "Thug bomb them."

       "All of them?" Saffron clarified.

       "No mercy," Perry typed. "Exterminate every Camelodian on that base."

       Saffron thought to herself that this plan was more practical than Perry's other plan, as the blowing up the base plan might allow some Camelodians to survive and make trouble later. It just stuck in Saffron's craw to be killing so many people who would never know who they owed their deaths to. But she couldn't deny this would be more efficient than feeding her ego.

       She waited until all the barracks buildings were dark, and every fur on the base was asleep, except for the night sentries. She tended to them first, killing them one by one, sneaking up behind them, covering their eyes, and then killing them softly with her silent machine gun.

       Once this was done, she walked up to each barracks, tossed in a thug bomb and waited 15 seconds. A quiet poof was accompanied by a flash of light that momentarily lit the windows from inside, and then slowly faded away.

       These were special bombs Perry had manufactured exclusively for the AD, based on an elder race formula for a bug bomb Spike had found. Perry had adjusted the formula so that the AD would be able to exterminate thugs with the same ease the elder race had exterminated insects. And Perry had suffered no moral qualms about this invention, as the moral use of it would be the sole responsibility of the user.

       Of course, in this case, Perry was the user. And he had determined that this use of his invention was moral.

       Knowing that the AD had devices like this in their arsenal added to the intimidation of their reputation. Yet the thug bomb had extremely limited applications, as it was rare that the AD wanted to kill everyone in a building.

       Saffron was actually more fond of these bombs than the AD detectives. It was part of her mythos to kill thugs softly. And these bombs killed massively with the softest of explosions. So soft that the Camelodians hardly had time to wake up before they were dead. They would never know what hit them.

***


       Before going to bed for the night, Kacey checked in with her Another Life friends and reminded Rick that they were counting on him to be at the house at 6 AM.

       Leslie overheard this through her character and phoned the base to inform them that Rick Edwards would attempt to crash the base between 6 and 7 AM.

       But Kacey said nothing about Saint Saffron already being at the base, or Perry's order to thug bomb the soldiers. Thus it was a bewilderment to Leslie why no one at the base seemed available to receive the information.

       After talking to Rick's character, Kacey sought out Bixyl's character and let him know in a private message what had really happened in Suburbia, as opposed to the falsehoods the media was putting out. She then asked him to beg The Possat on her behalf to lead The Lost Ferals against the Camelodians and liberate Suburbia.

       Bixyl replied that Jasmine was watching. Thus Kacey needed no proxy to beg for her town.

       Jasmine then relayed through Bixyl that The Lost Ferals hated the Camelodians. She would consult her people. If they desired to kill their enemies they would come. But she charged Kacey to inform The Queen Of Suburbia that there would be a price she expected to be honored. Namely, official town status for The Lost Ferals; effectively a mutant state, which would have all the rights afforded to other town states, including an embassy in Suburbia, an ambassador, and freedom for mutants to come and go from Suburbia as they pleased without being treated with prejudice.

       Kacey asked Bixyl to wait while she took these demands to Miss Sonny. Sonny then quickly wrote out an agreement to these demands and signed it, fixing it with her official seal. Kacey then returned to her room, scanned the document and sent it to Bixyl.

       Jasmine was delighted with the document, but Bixyl was not so optimistic that this would be a good thing for either mutants or Suburbia. For one thing The Suburbians were not given the chance to vote on it, and cessation of prejudice wasn't going to happen just because The Queen ordered it to. When The Town Council found out about this agreement there was sure to be a political meltdown between the conservative right and the liberal left which was likely to destroy the town, assuming the war itself failed to accomplish that first.

       Jasmine remained unconcerned. She did not expect the document to be honored. It was like the treaties the white pure humans made with the red pure humans whose souls were said to be reincarnated in The Lost Ferals. She expected the town folk would disregard their debt, but at least she would have the unhonored document to put the final stamp of evil on the town folk.

       As Kacey was about to log off, a notation in a corner of her screen announced "Melina Swiftwind is online."

       Kacey recalled that Melina lived in Camelot, and that her player was a mouse. Kacey was suddenly panic stricken at the thought of one of her friends being eaten, should the Webbertonians be victorious over Camelot, and she felt she must warn Melina to flee Camelot immediately. But she was very aware that this would be a violation of trust with her other friends, one which could potentially alter the outcome of the war, and she was torn.

       Inevitably she could not justify abandoning Melina. She had Andy Cassidy type a message to Melina that his player was in Chris Corners and in desperate need of the help of her player, intimating that it was a matter of imminent life and death, and that if Melina didn't drop everything and come right away, Andy might disappear, permanently.

       After sending the message, Kacey quickly logged off to prevent Melina from asking for details. Then she crossed her fingers prayerfully that Melina cared enough for Andy that this deception would get her out of harm's way at the crucial hour.

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S11E228: Blair Montgomery's Infernal Machine

Spectral Shadows
Serial No. 11
The Planet Of Genetic Misadventure
Episode 228
Blair Montgomery's Infernal Machine

Copyright 1993, 2018 by Symphonic Rock Productions.

Featuring:

            

            

            

       Sergeant Stife was enjoying a pleasant night at the Camelodian embassy, scarfing rich food while watching the TV coverage of the occupation. Her phone rang and she was disturbed to learn that some unknown force had infiltrated The Rhoades Instruments Building and was killing Camelodian soldiers right and left.

       When told that the invisible entity had first appeared as the ghost of Jasper Phillips, Stife assumed instantly that it must be The Shadow Cat, as The Shadow Cat was known to have the abilities of invisibility and assuming the appearance of others. When asked why she was so sure, Stife explained that they were obviously dealing with a superhero type, and there were only two superheroes in town. Saint Saffron was far too egotistical to work anonymously behind a cloak of invisibility. Therefore it must be The Shadow Cat pretending to be a ghost.

       Stife went on to say that, though the casualties were unfortunate, this situation could be turned to their advantage, if they were successful in selling The Shadow Cat to the public as an agent of Webberton.

       She instructed her operatives at The Rhoades Instruments Building to kill The Shadow Cat as quickly as possible. And Saint Saffron as well, should she put in an appearance. They would both make excellent scapegoats to hang out for the Suburbians.

***


       Back at The Rhoades Mansion, there came a knock at the door. It was a group of soldiers saying they had been ordered to round up all felines. They knew the Princess Of Webberton was there, and she especially needed to be taken into custody, along with Leela and Miyan.

       Sir Jon said the house had already been sequestered and placed under guard, which was more custody than he was willing to tolerate. Further indignities on himself or his guests would not be inflicted without retaliation. And he was not in a mood to be merciful about it.

       Never the less the soldiers had their orders and were persistent, and Sir Jon eventually slammed the door in their faces.

       They pounded indignantly on the door, but received no answer. They then made the mistake of shooting at the door, but their bullets were reflected back at them, with fatal results.

       Sensing serious injury, Christine's impulse was to drag the wounded soldiers inside and treat them, but Sir Jon would not have it. This was war, he explained. It made no sense to be saving soldiers he'd in all likelihood have to be killing later.

       Perry was worried that the feline citizens being rounded up would also be held in his building. But Sir Jon doubted this. He expected they would be held at the Camelodian base in No Furs Land, where they would be tortured until they confessed to being Webberton spies.

       "What will happen to any who refuse to confess?" asked Perry.

       "I suspect they will be held indefinitely, as the Camelodians will try to keep the streets free of felines. And I'm sure the Camelodian scientists will have uses for them."

       Perry's jaw dropped at the thought of Suburbian citizens being used for test subjects in horrific scientific experiments. The hundreds dead or missing after the fall of The Montgomery Technical Building had been difficult enough for Perry to embrace as a reality. But with the thought of his beloved townspeople undergoing merciless torture, the reality of things began to sink in.

       As if suddenly awakening from a dream, Perry exclaimed, "Those people are my workers, my friends, my fellow Suburbians. The Camelodians are reducing them to numbers, making me see individual lives as inconsequential. Why are we just sitting around conjecturing when normally we'd be jumping out of our chairs to save one life . . . any life?"

       Blair chuckled and said, "You're just another armchair warrior, aren't you, Perry? Years from now you'll be telling your grandchildren how bravely we fought this war . . . from your parents' living room."

       "Alright, damn it, Blair," said Perry, desperate for a course of action. "If this was happening to Halloween, tell me what you would do?"

       "Halloween has a defense force, as pathetic as it is," said Blair. "Plus it has me and my inventions."

       "Blair's little insect spies could target the Camelodians and wipe them out instantly," Leela suggested.

       "Along with anyone else who gives me trouble," said Blair. "But of course Perry is far too moral as to have invented anything so deadly to protect Suburbia."

       "But I do have The Wazzir Of Halloween in my living room," said Perry. "As has been pointed out in the past, my formidable strength is in my friends."

       "We haven't been friends for at least 10 years," said Blair. "You haven't cultivated me as a free resource like you have Miss Lennox. Anything you want from me will come at a cost."

       "What say we make a deal, then?" said Perry. "What do you want for the use of your bugs?"

       "You do realize you'd be sentencing all the Camelodian soldiers in town to death," Blair warned. "My bugs would not be able to differentiate nice Camelodians from bad ones."

       "Haven't they earned it?" asked Perry, with uncharacteristic coldness.

       "Ask Christine," said Blair, knowingly. "She's a far more consistent moralist than you are."

       "Haven't they earned it, Christine?" Perry demanded.

       "You heard what your father said," said Christine. "They're just obeying orders. Most of them probably have no idea what they're doing is wrong. You're doing to them just what you said a moment ago, reducing them to numbers, forgetting that each individual life has a tally of worth all its own."

       "You asked my price," said Blair, ominously, as he drew a pistol from his cloak and offered it to Perry. "Show me your dedication to your cause. Shoot Miyan."

       Perry was left in shock, as was everyone in the room, especially Miyan.

       "Perry, why do you hesitate?" asked Blair, coldly. "My bugs for Miyan's life. A small price to pay when the lives and freedom of all Suburbians are at stake. What is the value of her life when compared to so many others of your friends and associates who are depending on you to save them? Will you let them down and declare yourself helpless before Camelodian imperialism? Or will you do what must be done to save them?"

       "Why do you hate Miyan so much?" asked Perry, in visible bewilderment.

       "That is inconsequential!" Blair snapped. "You are making a deal for the life of your town. Grow up and pay the price of your station. Kill Miyan and you will be all that the leader of a town should be. Cast your insipid morality to the wind. Think of the number of lives you can save by extinguishing just one."

       "I shouldn't worry about killing Camelodians," said Perry, as if forcing himself against his will to accept Blair's view. "I should be ready to kill anyone to save Suburbians."

       "Us vs. them, huh?" said Christine, in a disapproving tone. "But you're all human furs. So, in the long run, them is us."

       "They don't see it that way," said Perry. "Why should I? It isn't what people are that makes them a threat. It's what they think, and what they do as a consequence."

       "So all who do not think as you must be destroyed," said Christine. "I see."

       "Are you disagreeing with him?" asked Blair. "Will you rebuke his more mature perspective?"

       "Only if there is some other option," said Christine. "Sir Jon, is there no way the Camelodians can be harmlessly subdued, or be made to change their minds?"

       "If there was, don't you think I would have employed it by now?" said Sir Jon, unhappily. "The only option I have is to change my mind; decide that it isn't important to defend Suburbia, and simply surrender it to them. Then you could perhaps flee to another town, from which you could wage peaceful protest with your guitar, maybe eventually making them feel so guilty that they'd destroy themselves in their needful haste to make amends for their conquests."

       Perry looked at Christine expectantly, hoping to see some sign that she thought this a viable alternative. But she obviously looked on the idea with disdain.

       "Such idealism is only practical for those who are not actually under threat," said Christine. "The human species is a battle of ideas. Good ideas and bad ideas constantly war with each other, hoping to destroy all competing thoughts. Once you surrender it's over for the thoughts you care about. Likewise, if they're prepared to kill you to eradicate your ideas, and you're not prepared to do the same to them, you lose. We will either destroy the Camelodians utterly, or they will destroy us. No mercy is possible in this situation. We need Blair's bugs. And we should be grateful that he isn't demanding control of Suburbia in exchange for them. He's being gracious in not making us face one form of subjugation to avoid another, which he is most certainly in a position to do."

       "Don't give Blair so much credit," said Miss Sonny. "He has his reasons for wanting Miyan out of the way. He has his reasons for wanting Perry to marry Clover. And I'd be very surprised if those reasons don't have something to do with his own conquest of our town. He may be willing to be our ally now just to spite a mutual enemy. But that won't stop him from trying to take over the world later."

       "I'm not really being gracious, Christine," said Blair. "My future conquests are already assured. I was destined from birth to rule this planet. Therefore, dominance of Suburbia is not something you can offer me in trade. It's something that's already mine. If you want my bugs you must pay the price I set for them. And that price is to see Perry kill Miyan."

       Blair then looked at Perry with greedy eyes and said, "So, Perry, which will it be? Which means more to you? Which do you judge more worthy of survival? The Camelodians, whom you perceive as evil? Or the Suburbians, whom you perceive as innocent? You must make the choice."

       After a tense moment where it looked like Perry might actually shoot Miyan, Perry sighed in defeat and handed the gun back to Blair.

       "I knew you were too weak to make life and death decisions when it's important," said Blair, derisively, as he put the gun back in his cloak.

       "You'd be mistaken to think that," said Perry. "I did make a decision. I decided that Miyan is more valuable to me than all the Camelodians and Suburbians combined."

       "I see," said Blair. "And is that the decision your people count on you to make; to base who will survive on which is more important to you?"

       "You know something, Blair?" said Perry. "When it comes to being a democracy, the people of Suburbia make their own decisions. If Suburbia employed me to make decisions, this would be a very different town."

       "Then what do they employ your pathetic tail for?" Blair demanded, with disgust.

       "To be their heart, their conscience," said Perry. "To nag at them relentlessly when they do wrong, to take my lumps when they feel the need to beat their conscience into submission. That's all that I am, Blair, the only thing I'm really good at."

       "If that is such a great thing, then you can save your people without my bugs," said Blair, dismissively.

       "Is there nothing of reason I can offer you?" Perry pleaded. "Halloween is a desperate town. Surely there is some way I could help you with it."

       "I never need to ask, Perry," said Blair. "Whatever I want from you I will take when I want it, with or without your approval. You are helpless before me, even more than you are before the Camelodians. I will be walking over you till the day you die, and enjoying every minute of your suffering."

       "Not so long as I'm around," said Miyan. "You can't walk over Perry while he has good friends looking out for him."

       "That is very true," Blair admitted. "Perry does seem to have this uncanny charm for making friends to cover for everything else he lacks. Therefore, anyone who wants to attack Perry will go for his friends first. One would think they'd get the message that being Perry's friend substantially increases one's chance of finding a bomb under the hood of one's car, or having their homes set on fire, or having their internet anonymity compromised."

       "Are you confessing to these things, Blair?" asked Sir Jon.

       "I never confess to anything," said Blair, with a regal air. "Why should I? The fact that I observe certain things happen for certain reasons doesn't necessarily mean I had anything to do with them."

       "Wait a minute," said Christine. "Are you saying Kacey's recent internet troubles have something to do with Perry?"

       "I find you highly admirable, Christine," said Blair. "Unlike Perry, you are very strong, and very observant. If I were prone to fear, which I'm not, I would fear you more than anyone in this room. Between your strength, Miyan's business savvy, and Leela's ruthlessness, our helplessly innocent little Perry becomes a very dangerous individual.

       "Kacey, on the other hand, is a friend who uses Perry, without ever worrying about how using him the way she does makes her a liability to him. The forces that have ensnared Suburbia want most of Perry's friends dead, particularly Miyan and Christine. Unfortunately, both of them have proved unexpectedly difficult to kill. So, they explore plan B. If they can't weaken Perry by killing his more powerful friends, they can weaken him by exploiting his more vulnerable friends."

       "These people are actually petty enough to hire someone to mess with Kacey's mind on the internet?" asked Christine.

 photo christine and blair facing off.jpg


       "If you would think that beneath them, you would disappoint me, Christine," said Blair. "They will mess with Kacey, they will mess with Vicki, and they've been messing with you all along. Can you guess who the agent is they've assigned to you?"

       "Someone in the hospital administration, I suppose," said Christine.

       "Denial doesn't become you, my dear," said Blair, theatrically gesturing with his arms. "Show this room full of fools that you are better than they. Tell them the name of the agent charged with diminishing your power over Suburbia."

       Christine drew a deep breath and sighed, reluctantly, "That would have to be Dr. Reinhart."

       "Embarrassing, is it not?" asked Blair, with mock sympathy. "Humiliating, heart-rending. How easy it would be to just deny it, to tell yourself it couldn't be. There must be some other explanation, a coincidence perhaps, or just misguidance on his part. Perhaps he was manipulated by someone, or coerced against his will."

       "Nothing doing," said Christine, angrily. "He screwed me over, and that's all there is to it."

       "You see, Perry," said Blair. "That is a demonstration of true strength. Christine has no susceptibility to denial. She may give someone the benefit of the doubt for a time. But once they've screwed her over, she doesn't forget."

       "Screw me once, shame on you," said Christine. "Screw me twice, shame on me."

       "Precisely," said Blair. "And yet, you all seem to have some doubt that these nameless individuals, who are all about messing with Perry's friends, would find some way of infiltrating and exploiting Kacey's internet life. None of you seem to see that Kacey is the weakest link in your chain. She encounters anonymous individuals on the internet every day. Any one of them could be a Camelodian agent, a Webberton spy . . . or me."

       "You play Another Life, Mr. Montgomery?" asked Kacey, tremblingly.

       "Forgive me, dear Kacey," said Blair, in a kinder tone. "I have taken shameless advantage of you, any time I had need to know what was going on in this house. Ah, but now I suppose you'll want to know what character I play."

       "It's against the rules for me to ask," said Kacey. "Just please tell me you're not Eric Enelar."

       Blair chuckled heartily and said, "Oh, Kacey, dear, I do like you. But not that much."

       "So you only play to manipulate me?" asked Kacey, as if thinking that would be a huge waste of the game's potential.

       "It's a use I've found for the game, just as you've found one," said Blair. "But, you see, I have no need of dating networks, nor a means of self-exploration. I know very well who I am inside."

       "Do you like him?" asked Kacey.

       Blair seemed to be blown away by the innocence of Kacey's question. It took him quite off guard.

       "Answer honestly with no denial, Blair," Christine dared him.

       "I don't suppose I do," Blair admitted, as if finding the question difficult to answer. "I don't know if any of you have noticed, but I'm not what you would call a terribly happy person."

       "Why not? You have everything," said Perry.

       "I do not have everything," said Blair, with abrupt anger to Perry. "You saw to that."

       "I did?" asked Perry, seeming mystified.

       "Let us not speak of the unspeakable," said Blair, with audible hurt in his voice. "I know you don't know what you took from me. And I have sworn never to tell you. So don't ask!"

       "Kacey, please turn up the TV," said Sir Jon. "It looks like we have a new development."

       The TV announced that forces of Camelot were now engaged in battle with ground forces of Webberton attempting to invade Suburbia.

       "That's impossible," Jenny exclaimed

       The announcer then stated that, in accordance with Sir Jon's edict, all invaders would be rounded up and summarily executed.

       "What effrontery," spat Sir Jon, angrily. "To put words in my mouth; words that will no doubt be used to cover the mass execution of witnesses and feline citizens, by claiming them to be captured enemy combatants."

       Perry became desperate to take some action. He looked at Blair and contemplated begging for his help again. But Blair just stared at him expectantly, as if saying silently, "This is your job. Show me what you can do."

       Perry then turned to Leela and said, authoritatively, "I'm calling in all my favors from the AD. I want that base in No Furs Land destroyed, and all prisoners rescued."

       "That's a tall order," Leela explained. "If my bosses were with me I would feel more confident about it. But as things are, the best I can do is attempt to do what you ask."

       "I don't care how you do it," said Perry, his sense of morality thoroughly subdued. "Just save my friends."

       "Alright," said Leela. "First we'll need a plan. I expect the number of prisoners to be high. We'll need transport to get them out. That means lots of trucks with lots of drivers. I can order them from Noir, but it will take time to organize. Then there will be the problem of where to take them. If we bring them back to Suburbia they'll just be captured again. I can't take them to Noir because they'll have no immunity to the toxic cloud. Webberton might be unhealthy for other reasons. And of course Camelot is out of the question. Then there's Chris Corners, which is a long drive through unprotected area, and no defenses to stop the Camelodians from retaking the prisoners once we get them there. That leaves only one possible destination."

       Everyone looked expectantly at Blair.

       "What?" Blair asked with a shrug. "Are you begging for the use of my dungeon again?"

       "It behooves you," said Leela.

       "In what way?" Blair demanded.

       "If Camelot is allowed to expand its power unchecked, Halloween may be its next target," Leela suggested.

       "If I cross Camelot in this matter, Halloween will definitely be their next target," said Blair. "Personally I'd rather not be attracting any more unwanted invaders to my door."

       "They'll be at your door one way or the other," said Sir Jon. "I recommend fighting them now while they're still inexperienced."

       "I will admit," said Blair. "They have made a nuisance of themselves."

       "A nuisance?" said Perry. "Blair, they knocked down your building."

       "You think The Camelodians alone are responsible for that?" asked Blair. "You give them too much credit. Still, though, they must pay for their part in it. And I suppose I owe some loyalty to these prisoners, being as many of them may be my employees. Very well, Miss Lennox, you may take anyone you rescue to Halloween."

       "How gracious of you," said Leela, in a sarcastic tone.

       "Don't look on it so harshly, Blair," said Miyan. "Think of the PR benefits of being seen as a hero in all this. You're going to be needing it."

       "Oh, for pity's sake," said Blair, as if relenting to his own conscience. "I'll throw in with you."

       "We'd really appreciate it," said Perry.

       "I don't suppose you've thought about how long you dare wait to get these prisoners rescued and on their way to Halloween," said Blair. "I expect most of them will be dead if you take the time to organize a rescue convoy from Noir. Or do you suppose they'll be safe waiting for the train?"

       "I would imagine Camelot has halted the train service," said Sir Jon. "They're probably holding it in Camelot. We'd have to invade Camelot to rescue it."

       "I don't think that would be impossible," said Christine. "I know how to drive a train."

       Sir Jon simply looked at her crossly and said, "No."

       "Dad's right," said Perry. "We don't have time to liberate it, and the train isn't built for speed. It's too slow and can be too easily attacked and captured. What we need is a big red rolling fortress. Fortunately I just happen to have one in my garage."

       "But you don't have Rick Edwards in your garage," said Leela. "How can we get the message to him that he's needed?"

       "Through Another Life," said Kacey. "The main internet has been disrupted, but AL can still be accessed directly."

       "I see," said Blair. "And you think he'll be playing a video game at a time like this."

       "As far as I know he's online all the time, even when he's not watching the screen," said Kacey. "He has a little transport business in AL with Twee and Chico. So all you have to do is tell Chico, and he'll get the message to Rick."

       Everyone looked about at each other, speechlessly.

       Blair finally broke the silence by saying, "Advantageous things, these superfluous video games. Just remember, Camelot may be monitoring it."

       "Ok," said Leela. "Say I get to this base and I'm able to liberate the prisoners. I send Perry a signal, Chico rushes out to the base and we go to Halloween. Simple plan. Why don't I like it?"

       "Sounds like total idiocy to me," said Blair. "You are, after all, only one person, Miss Lennox; or are you counting on some assistance from Saint Saffron?"

       "She does tend to show up when I'm in over my head," Leela admitted. "She has a vested interest in my survival, like she does with Ratzo."

       "I wouldn't count on Saint Saffron," said Blair. "Saint Saffron is with the enemy this time."

       "That's ridiculous," said Leela. "Saint Saffron has no interest at all in this situation, except that Ratzo and I are here."

       "She sent that package to my office just before the explosion," said Blair. "Explain that to me."

       "Was the package addressed to you or someone else?" asked Leela.

       "It was addressed to me," said Michelle.

       "I'm not at liberty to repeat privileged conversations," said Leela. "But, it could be that Saint Saffron suspects Michelle of impersonating her. Maybe she suspects Michelle of framing her for Duke Turner's murder. Maybe she even suspects Michelle of having done away with Ratzo. Considering the heavy insurance invoked, a little package bomb is the least Michelle could have expected."

       "I don't think Saint Saffron sent a package bomb," said Blair. "I don't think that package ever blew up. I think there was a target tracker in that package, which enabled the missiles to be targeted on my office. I think Saint Saffron herself was in that borrowed Webberton police copter. Which she must have known would give the Camelodians the perfect excuse to kick their occupation into high gear. Why would she do that if she wasn't in league with The Camelodians?"

       "That's a very good question," said Perry. "I hope you have a very good answer, Leela."

       "It's another frame up, obviously," said Leela. "After all, we only have Blair and Michelle's word for it that there was a package. Surely Saint Saffron wouldn't have expected anyone to survive to tell about a package. So why bother sending one? Unless for some reason she thought Blair was incapable of dying. But, why in the world should she think something like that? I'm afraid Blair is just indulging in a silly fantasy."

       "I did not imagine Saint Saffron's calling card on the package," Michelle insisted.

       "Maybe not," said Leela. "But you didn't have the presence of mind to stick it in your carrying bag, either. So, there's no way to prove it wasn't a forgery."

       "Hmmmm," Christine pondered. "If it was likely a forgery, someone wanted Blair to think Saint Saffron was responsible. But for them to anticipate Blair thinking anything, they must have been pretty sure he'd survive. Blair, who knows you're immortal?"

       "You're joking, of course," said Blair. "Or are we back to that damned Illuminati business again?"

       "You remarked earlier, I'm not prone to denial," said Christine. "A normal person isn't blown by a missile from one building to the next and able to just get up and fly a helicopter. To say you were just lucky would be extreme denial. That's the kind of thing only superheroes and the immortal can do. And you weren't wearing any superhero armor. So, if we are to know who our enemy is, I must ask you again, Blair. Who knows you're immortal?"

       "Christine," said Blair. "I do appreciate your ability to avoid denial. But I'm afraid you have jumped to a most irrational conclusion. I am not immortal. But I do have a secret invention that insured my survival, which of course I can't tell you about, because it's a secret. What you want to know is which of my enemies knew about this invention. I have only one enemy who knows about this invention and would risk killing me, because they don't want the invention for themselves. All others who know of this invention are my willing slaves, except for Miyan Rutherford."

       "Miyan, you know what this invention is?" asked Perry.

       "He calls it an invention," said Miyan. "I don't look on death as an invention any human fur can lay claim to."

       "You must not tell him, Miyan," Blair warned. "If you tell Perry he'll want it for himself. He'll be hopelessly corrupted like everyone else."

       "I give Perry credit for more than that," said Miyan.

       "Then you're a bigger fool than I thought you were," said Blair, with a helpless sigh. "Go on, tell him already."

       "What is this invention that I would sell my soul for?" asked Perry. "Some means of fixing our procreation problem, perhaps?"

       "On the contrary," said Miyan. "Blair's invention will mean the end of all procreation."

       "But that would be the end of our species," said Perry.

       "Exactly," said Miyan. "Why do you think I've done everything in my power to fight it, destroy it?"

       "Are you seriously telling me that everything that's happened in this town lately has been due to a private war between you two over industrial secrets?" Perry demanded. "You can knock me all you want for being naive, but you two are insane."

       "It's not just an industrial secret," said Miyan. "It's the secret of all secrets. It means the end of the world."

       "It does not," said Blair, in exasperation. "It simply means the end of all human subjugation to mortal dangers."

       "If this invention is such a good thing," said Perry, "why haven't you gone public with it?"

       "It's a source of power to me," said Blair. "I invented it, I own complete title to it, no one can use it without my permission, and it will only be made available to those who can pay my price. Wouldn't you say these are my rights, according to Capitalistic values?"

       "That depends entirely on what you've invented," said Sir Jon.

       "It's an industrial secret," said Blair. "It's protected."

       "This invention is what Miyan was offered in that Grove Of Aljion, isn't it?" asked Perry.

       "I didn't take her for such a fool that she would turn it down," said Blair, regretfully. "No one ever had before. If she had only accepted and become one of us, things would have continued to run smoothly. But, because she refused, everyone who knows sees Miyan as a potential obstacle to their acquisition of my invention. I can hardly believe she's survived this long with all the hits that must be out on her."

       "Then Miyan did see something," said Christine. "So there must be some truth to The Illuminati Corporation."

       "Don't disappoint me, Christine," said Blair. "Conspiracy theorists never know what's really going on. The simple truth is that I invented something. And anyone who knows about it will become my slave to possess it. So I have a tendency to offer it to those who might make useful slaves. That does not mean there's an intertownal corporation. I don't need an intertownal conspiracy to take over the world. The world will sell itself to me of its own accord eventually. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of thinking Miyan would make a good slave. She not only refused, but she determined to become my mortal enemy, as well as the enemy of my slaves."

       "If they're your slaves why can't you control them?" asked Perry.

       "Because I haven't made the device available to anyone yet," said Blair. "I've only promised it to certain individuals. But apparently certain people have decided they can just put me out of action, and look for the device among my effects."

       "What is this infernal machine that my people are dying for?" Perry demanded. "You owe me the truth, both of you."

       "Perry, I have no desire to have you for a slave," said Blair, with an amused smile. "So I'm not going to tell you. Are you going to tell him, Miyan?"

       "No, I'm not," said Miyan, regretfully. "I'm sorry, Perry. Blair's right. Even you can't resist this kind of temptation."

       "It doesn't matter, Miyan," said Blair, smugly. "I've no intention of ever letting Perry have one. I may grant eternal life to every other person on this planet. But I will see Perry Rhoades grow old and die."

       "Do you really hate me that much?" asked Perry.

       "Ah, Perry," said Blair, with contrary affection. "Mere mortal words could not convey the depths of my loathing for you."

       Perry sank back in his chair and seemed quite distraught, as if Blair's words had physically hurt him.

       "Look at him," said Blair, appraisingly. "Diminished and destroyed by the simple awareness that someone does not love him. But think of this, Perry. With the machine I will not give you, you could rid yourself of that weakness. You could adjust yourself in any way you wanted. Human kind would be rid forever of the whims of nature.

       "I would rather give Kacey my invention for free, than to sell you one for your entire fortune. She, of all people in this room, would appreciate the freedom I will provide to adjust her appearance, her species, and even her gender to her own taste. I would give her the ability to see her fantasies come to life in the real world. And she would test my invention to its very limits. What do you say, Kacey? Would you like a new job testing my inventions?"

       "I expect I'm going to need a new job," said Kacey, shyly. "I'm sorely tempted."

       "Don't be," said Miyan. "Blair doesn't really like you. He's just trying to steal you away to hurt Perry. Besides, Blair couldn't give his invention away if he wanted to. Whether he charges money for it or not, it will cost you more than you can imagine."

       "Does she have to buy it with her immortal soul?" asked Christine.

       "I knew Christine would understand," said Miyan, sadly.

       "Seriously?!" Christine exclaimed.

       "Miyan is ignorant and superstitious," said Blair. "She believes in the existence of some abstract concept called a soul. I say there is no such thing. There is only information. And information can be transferred from one place to another, from one container to another. And so long as information can be contained, it can not be lost.

       "Imagine what it would mean if I had learned how to extract every bit of information from the human body and mind. Imagine if I knew how to build a vessel to contain it - one that was self-maintaining and never need die. Now imagine if that vessel was the heart of a computer that could generate a physical avatar into the real world according to that intellect's design, and then project that intellect into the avatar. Are you not fascinated, Kacey?! Would you not beg me to let you be the first to demonstrate my invention to the world?!!"

       Kacey was terrified by the madness in Blair's eyes, yet unable to contain her fascination with the idea. She could only tremble. She could not answer, leaning against Vicki for support.

       "As long as we're indulging in theoretical fantasy here," said Christine. "What if we acknowledge that Blair Montgomery is the greatest snake oil salesman the universe has ever seen? And that he has tantalized the leaders of this world with the spiel he has just demonstrated for us. But what if there were no such invention? Blair Montgomery could still manipulate the entire world on the mere belief that such an invention exists."

       "Either way, Christine," said Miyan, "to maintain that control, Blair would need to provide periodic demonstrations of the immortality his invention provides."

       "Like surviving the bombing of his building?" asked Christine.

       "One has to admit that was a pretty good trick," said Miyan. "But, he would need to make demonstrations for his followers more frequently, more privately. Like say, in a certain grove where those who have signed on for Blair's digital immortality cult come to discuss the new world they plan to create."

       "May we fantasize that you witnessed such a demonstration?" asked Christine.

       "You may fantasize anything you like," said Miyan. "Without proof none of this amounts to more than just another conspiracy theory. And Blair knows it. That's why, if he wished, he could tell you the truth to your faces, and have no fear that you wouldn't dismiss it all as unbelievable."

       "An immortality machine seems both unbelievable and impractical," said Perry. "But Christine's right. Blair could sell such a thing, whether he'd actually invented one or not - to some people. But I wouldn't want one. Not even for free."

       "See, that's why I'd never sell you one," said Blair. "You're too limited by your sappy ideology to appreciate it. It would be completely wasted on you."

       "Humor me just a little more, Miyan," said Christine. "What do you imagine you'd have seen at such a demonstration, if you had witnessed one."

       "Oh," said Miyan, as if pretending to be making it up. "I imagine I would have seen a hokey supernatural ritual in which Blair was drenched in fire, burned to ashes, only to reappear unscathed a moment later. Then I might imagine I saw him strapped to a sacrificial table, his throat cut, his blood drained, his body hacked to pieces. And then again he would appear alive and unharmed. And then I would imagine I saw him lain between two huge slabs of granite. The upper slab would fall upon the lower slab, and would then be removed, showing that there was nothing left of him but a huge red stain on the white rock. And yet again he would appear alive and unharmed. And then I would imagine that I saw the leaders of the entire world prostrate themselves before Blair Montgomery as the conqueror of death."

       "Is that the kind of demonstration you want me to do?" asked Kacey, nervously.

       "Oh, not at all, Kacey," said Blair, reassuringly. "Don't mind these fools. They're just playing around. All I'd want you to do is demonstrate that you can use my invention to do in the real world what you do in Another Life; make yourself over into something that can live comfortably and successfully in this world."

       "You thinking what I'm thinking, Christine?" asked Sir Jon.

       "I'm afraid so," said Christine. "Blair not only isn't immortal, but he doesn't have any magical machine that can give Kacey the appearance of her AL avatar in the real world. He's just one heck of a Houdini fan."

       "But Christine," Miyan pleaded. "What if I really saw it? What if I saw that fur sitting there killed three times in one night?"

       "Oh, I've no doubt you saw something," said Christine. "I imagine you saw three people killed. Three people who were made up to look like Blair Montgomery. It's not a difficult optical illusion to pull off. It would be even more simple to present Kacey as she is, and then in a puff of smoke have someone else switch places with her."

       "More than that," said Sir Jon. "Miyan has been subjected to hypnosis and mind control recently. Nothing she remembers can be trusted. She's no threat at all to Blair or anyone he might have duped into believing this immortality machine exists."

       "But that puts us back where we started," said Perry. "If there's no immortality machine, how did Blair survive the blast? There's no way that could have been faked."

       "May I?" asked Leela.

       "Oh, please, be my guest," said Perry.

       "When I talked to Saint Saffron after the attack on Miyan at the revolving restaurant," said Leela. "She told me the fake Saint Saffron was seen flying into Michelle's office. And that by the time she got there, there was no one in the office but Blair and Michelle. Which is why Saint Saffron is out to get Michelle. She thinks Michelle has been impersonating her. And Saffron does not take impersonation as flattery.

       "But, if I was to let my imagination go, I'd say what if it's not Michelle that's the Saint Saffron impersonator, but Blair Montgomery, the great illusionist. What if Blair had synthesized the fabric of the Saint Saffron costume and made his cloak and business suit out of it? That would have given him the ability to glide from one building to the other. And the material would also have given him some protection from the blast."

       "Mind if I examine your cloak?" asked Perry.

       "I mind very much," said Blair. "My clothes are made of a special material I invented myself that is much better than the Saint Saffron costume. I'll not share the secret with you. But Miss Lennox is right about one thing. This material does function like armor, and it is the reason I survived. It also provides me with a minimal ability to glide, without which I would most likely not have been able to reach the other building. But even so, it's still quite a stretch to imagine me impersonating Saint Saffron."

       "Can I indulge in a bit of imagining," asked Perry. "What if Blair set up the attack himself?"

       "You think I wanted my building blown up?" asked Blair.

       "Of course not," said Perry. "But let's go on the assumption that you wanted my building blown up. Let's imagine that you got an AI helicopter, put Webberton markings on it, and then sent a targeting package to Miyan's office. Let's then imagine that Saint Saffron intercepted it, changed the address and sent the targeting tracker to your office. She could save Leela and get even with you for impersonating her at the same time."

       "Ummhmm," said Blair. "And I suppose I wired my own building for demolition, too."

       "No," said Perry. "No, we can be pretty sure The Camelodians did that."

       Perry suddenly snapped his fingers and said, "I've got it. You knew the Camelodians were planning to down both buildings. Probably by setting off the demolition while copters with Webberton markings attacked them. You thought you'd beat them to the punch to ensure Miyan wouldn't survive. You borrowed one of their copters to do it. But the tracker that was supposed to go to Miyan's office somehow wound up in yours. And the minute you saw the package you knew exactly what had happened. That's why you grabbed Kenny and Michelle and headed for the window. Otherwise you'd still have been sitting at the desk pondering the package."

       "You're not used to being theoretical, are you, Perry?" said Blair. "Perhaps I should indulge my own imagination a bit. Now, both buildings were wired for demolition by the Camelodians. I think we're all agreed on that. The purpose being to create the illusion of an attack from Webberton to justify the Camelodian occupation."

       "Yeah," said Perry. "And we all know who the master illusionist here is, don't we?"

       "Go away, little boy, you try my patience," said Blair, waving off Perry's comment. "If I had planned it, I would not have been anywhere near the buildings, there would have been a second targeting package in Miyan's office, and the two buildings would have been brought down within a few minutes of each other. That would mean there was a hitch. Someone didn't do their job. It could be that Miyan's targeting package was somehow intercepted or delayed."

       "Blair has a point," said Sir Jon. "We shouldn't assume that everything that's gone down has been as the Camelodians planned it. Though they pride themselves on their efficiency, they are actually notorious screw ups.

       "But let's say that Blair's right, and both he and Miyan were targets. I can see why The Camelodians would want to get rid of Miyan, but why would they go after Blair if they are somehow beholden to him for some immortality machine he has theoretically invented, but hasn't given them yet? By all reason, Blair should be thoroughly insured against attack. Why is he suddenly on the Camelot hit list? Why wasn't he advised of the plans to bring down the buildings and told to keep well away?"

       "I can think of two possibilities," said Leela. "One, they're so convinced Blair is immortal that they thought they didn't have to worry about him dying. Two, they wanted a demonstration of Blair's immortality that they wouldn't have to wonder about being rigged."

       "My turn," said Blair. "I enjoy imagining that it was Miss Rutherford who enticed Miss Lennox to encourage Saint Saffron to arrange for the package and the copter, because they're all terrified of my ‘theoretical' invention, and they wanted to see if they could wipe me out."

       "Not logical," said Christine. "Miyan thinks she saw you killed three times. There's no reason for her to think she could wipe you out with a hundred missiles."

       "Exactly," said Blair. "They were all reasonably certain I wouldn't die in the explosion. They were trying to expose me; force me to give a demonstration that I'd have to explain to the whole world. And that's why Saint Saffron left her card. She wanted me to know who had exposed me as being immortal."

       "But you're not immortal?" Christine clarified.

       "No," said Blair. "If not for a great bit of luck I'd be dead, and all three ladies would have a date with a needle."

       "It's the kind of thing Saint Saffron might do under the conditions you suggest," Leela admitted. "But Miyan would first have had to blab to me about you, and she never did. As far as I can tell, the only thing going on with Saffron is her usual vendetta. You messed with her image, you messed with her nemesis, she may even see you as having messed with the Noirnian religion itself. Whoever she places the blame for all that on is in for a lot of trouble. If she is after you I wouldn't be surprised if she followed you back to Halloween. She might even blow up your castle before she feels justice is done. Should you actually turn out to be immortal, she may not be able to kill you, but she sure as hell can make you wish you were dead."

       "Excuse me, everyone," Kacey stuttered. "I've found all this terribly fascinating, but I feel like we've been wasting a lot of time, when we should be trying to do something to save lives."

       "I always say," said Perry. "She doesn't speak up much, but when she does . . ."

       "Quite right," said Sir Jon. "The conspiracy theories can be sorted out later. Right now it is imperative that we locate the prisoners and rescue them. Leela will go and check out the Camelodian base while Perry gets Chico and Rick ready for action."

       "What if I don't find the prisoners at the base?" asked Leela.

       "Well," said Sir Jon. "If for some reason you can't prevail upon Saint Saffron to use her truth mist, I suppose you'll just have to pummel someone until they tell you where the prisoners are."

       "I hope you know I'll be sending you a bill for this," Leela warned. "The AD doesn't owe Perry that many favors."

       "Miss Lennox," said Sonny. "If you do not succeed, the town of Suburbia may soon cease to exist; in which case any money we might pay you with will be worthless."

       "Point taken," said Leela.

       "Shouldn't I go along to help Leela?" asked Christine. "An extra soul sword might improve her odds."

       "Thanks for the offer," said Perry. "But I think Leela will be more effective working on her own."

       Christine did not understand this, but Leela agreed she was kind of a loner in this sort of thing.

       Christine then asked Sir Jon if he might like to accompany her on a little destruction spree of their own. Sir Jon was amused by the idea, but he said "You know they're just going to blame any damage we do on Webberton to reinforce their position."

       Jenny said, "Fine then. Fight them in the name of Webberton. I will call myi mother and have her send forces to help."

       Sonny warned that would make Suburbia beholden to Webberton.

       "Nyot necessarily," said Jenny. "Camelot has affronted Webberton by attacking Suburbia in their name. They are also attempting to beat Webberton to the constitutional goal of world domination. For either of these offenses myi mother would rip Camelot to shreds."

       Sir Jon gave Jenny the nod to call her mother.

       As expected, The Queen was seriously affronted, but said she unfortunately had no forces to send to help in Suburbia, as she had just sent her forces to attack Camelot directly for their affront.

       This worried Jenny, as it had long been the consensus that Webberton could not beat Camelot in open warfare.

       The Queen said this would normally be true, but Camelot had failed to take into account how defenseless they left their town while they were out playing police force to the world.

       The Queen calculated that some three fourths of Camelot's forces were in Suburbia. The full force of Webberton would therefore be more than enough to capture Camelot. Then Webberton would have finally begun its empire, the world would see Webberton as having saved Suburbia, and there would be innumerable new slaves and food animals to feed Webberton's needs.

       In fact, The Queen seemed to be dancing on air with happiness at the thought of the blood that was about to be spilled in the first war of their species. And she told Jenny that she could not wait for her to return and preside both as princess and future empress over the new Webbertonian Empire.

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S11E227: Who Then Shall We Call The Good Guys?

Spectral Shadows
Serial No. 11
The Planet Of Genetic Misadventure
Episode 227
Who Then Shall We Call The Good Guys?

Copyright 1993, 2018 by Symphonic Rock Productions.

Featuring:

            

            

            

            

      Theme music: Fade down.

      FX: Six Chimes.

      Radio Announcer: 6 O'clock in the evening, in a waiting room of the now severely damaged Rhoades Instruments Building.

      After the first attack of Suburbia's war with enemies yet to be definitively identified, the mile high Montgomery Technical Building lies a massive pile of rubble, bent steel and toxic dust at the feet of its twin tower. In spite of the rescue efforts of The Suburbia Fire Department, assisted by Saint Saffron and The Shadow Cat, hundreds of Suburbians are assumed to lie hopelessly crushed under the rubble.

      Now, over six hours after the collapse of the building, all rescue efforts have either ceased or been prevented by the Camelodian army who have secured the area. Both Leela Lennox and Jasper Phillips have put away their super hero disguises, knowing there is nothing more that can be done.

      Leela has returned to The Rhoades Mansion to give her report of the disaster to The Ruling Family, but Jasper has stayed behind.

      Curious to discover what was being done with the numerous citizens being taken into custody by the Camelodians, Jasper had allowed himself to be captured, and found himself being taken into the supposedly evacuated Rhoades Instruments Building, which he found was being used as some kind of temporary operations center by the Camelodians, who had filled several of the higher floors with prisoners, seeming to have no fear of the building falling, as they had previously announced it would.

      Left in a waiting room with dozens of other prisoners, Jasper encountered his childhood friend and fellow Green Meadow Lands Gang member Molly Squirewell, also being detained. Feeling slightly nostalgic, Jasper assured Molly that she could count on him to protect her, as always. And they waited anxiously to be called to their interrogation, or inquisition, or whatever the Camelodians might have in mind for them.

      Some time has now passed, and Molly continues to hang close to Jasper for protection, while Jasper does his best to keep a low profile, as everyone who recognizes him is tempted to make a scene, due to recent reports of his death on the news. But for the most part the prisoners are too absorbed in their own situations to notice him.

      But now their wait is apparently over as a Camelodian soldier of canine extraction approaches Jasper and Molly. She eyes them critically for a moment, then speaks with authority . . .

___


      "You there," said the soldier, pointing at Jasper. "You're next. Come with me."

      "As you wish," said Jasper, obligingly. "Come along, Molly."

      "Just you," said the soldier, holding up a hand to warn Molly not to follow.

      Molly hesitated and looked at Jasper uneasily.

      "If that's your attitude I'll stay here," said Jasper, still keeping his tone casual.

      The soldier drew her side arm and said, threateningly, "Am I going to have trouble with you?"

      But rather than being intimidated, as the soldier expected, Jasper's hands moved with lightning speed that the eye could hardly follow, ripping the gun from the soldier's grasp with one hand and pulling her forward so that her throat fell into the grasp of his other hand, and she found herself paralyzed by the unexpected force of his grip.

      Jasper then gazed into the soldier's eyes, swamping her narrow military indoctrinated mind with the power of his more worldly consciousness.

      "I think the real question is am I going to have trouble with you," Jasper intoned in a deep voice that made the soldier believe she was confronting someone far more powerful than herself.

      "I said she's with me," Jasper continued, ominously, as his grip tightened like a deadly vice, and the soldier's eyes began to bulge. "Shall I expect further argument from you?"

      The soldier trembled as recognition washed over her. It was not every day a Camelodian soldier found herself face to face with someone who was widely believed to be dead; let alone someone whose grip was so vice-like that it could almost be considered superhuman.

      Unable to speak, the soldier fearfully shook her head to indicate she would not try to regain control of the situation, and Jasper released her, allowing her to fall backwards a step before she caught herself unsteadily, gulping for air.

      "Now lead on," Jasper commanded.

      The soldier looked from side to side nervously. She knew she shouldn't feel helpless, but she did. And she was reluctant to display to her superiors how easily she had been subdued by an unarmed male.

      As if understanding this, Jasper emptied her gun and handed it back to her.

      Without bullets, the gun made her no less powerless against Jasper's superior warrior skills. But it could still function as a crutch, and it might save her from more severe punishment, if her superiors were not made aware it was unloaded.

      "You have a job to do," said Jasper, in a low, non-threatening, but still authoritative voice. "Carry on."

      The soldier escorted Jasper and Molly through the door into the next room, where three Camelodian officers sat at a long table, looking up in surprise at having their routine disturbed by two prisoners being escorted in at once. But it would break the mood they were attempting to project if they berated the soldier in front of the prisoners. So they let it slide for the moment.

      Jasper and Molly were invited to take seats on the opposite side of the table, and Molly attempted to do so with as much calm as Jasper displayed. Indeed, the vibrations he gave off made it seem like he was almost happy to be there.

      They were asked to press their thumbs to a small but heavily built DNA reader which sat on the table. This sent a signal to the database of Suburbia's main bank, which returned a signal identifying the two prisoners as Jasper Phillips and Molly Squirewell.

      The identification was printed out, and the officers studied it with disturbed expressions.

      "Welcome back from the grave, Mr. Phillips," said the Rottweiler Sargent who appeared to be in charge. "You . . . seem to have recovered quite nicely from being blown up."

      "Get used to it," said Jasper, looking the Rottweiler in the eye with dead seriousness. "You'll find me very difficult to kill, regardless of who you employ to do your dirty work."

      "As a registered citizen of Webberton I don't have to be lenient on you, you know," said the Sargent. "Your very presence here in this time of war is . . . illegal."

      "Being legally dead I don't have to be lenient on you either," said Jasper, cryptically, eyeing the Sargent's name plate. "Sargent Stern, is it?"

      "Come now, Mr. Phillips, there's no need to be difficult," said another officer of terrier extraction. "Everyone knows who you are. How you managed to survive your assassination is not really any of our concern. This panel is merely a formality to insure that false information will not be disseminated. This war will proceed much more smoothly if everyone is on the same page. So we will ask some questions, and if we get the answers we like, you and your friend may go on your way."

      "And if you don't like the answers you get?" asked Jasper, daringly.

      "Then you'll be sorry," said Sargent Stern, in a malevolent intonation. "You'll be very, very sorry."

      Jasper then smiled at the Sargent, licking his lips as if imagining the taste of him, and said, "Try me."

      The Sargent, despite his best efforts, felt a chill of revulsion travel down his spine, having no experience to fathom the vibes of attraction he felt emanating from Jasper. Males in Cygnesian society simply were not attracted to each other under any circumstances, let alone while they were threatening each other. He sensed madness in this daring feline that was somehow more intimidating than his own wartime power of life and death.

      "Did you witness the fall of The Montgomery Technical Building?" asked the terrier.

      "I did," Jasper replied.

      "And what about you, young lady?" asked the terrier.

      "I was inside The Montgomery Technical Building when it fell," Molly replied, nervously. "I was too busy clinging to a rescue vehicle to notice much."

      "You did not take note of any explosions?" asked the terrier.

      "Only the large explosion at the top of the building, which I was very far away from," said Molly. "If there were other explosions, I could not hear them for the noise of people screaming around me."

      The officers looked at each other with satisfaction, as if liking Molly's response. Then they turned to Jasper.

      "And what did you see, Mr. Philips?" asked the terrier.

      "Oh, nothing much," said Jasper, in a provocatively casual tone of voice. "Just a lot of dead and injured people that I've known and cared about most of my life."

      "Were you aware of Webberton agents hindering their rescue?" asked Sargent Stern.

      Jasper replied dryly, "The only people hindering the rescue efforts were the Camelodian helicopters shooting at Saint Saffron and The Shadow Cat, who were the only rescuers capable of functioning at such heights."

      "That is a misinterpretation of what you saw," said the terrier. "Saint Saffron and The Shadow Cat are both mercenaries in the employ of Webberton. They were attempting to do further damage to the building, while catching mice and rabbits to feed Webberton soldiers."

      "Really," said Jasper, dryly. "And with the cooperation of The Fire Chief no less."

      "I'm afraid they did away with him," said Sargent Stern.

      Jasper half suppressed an irritated growl and said, "The Fire Chief was an old and dear friend of mine, you know."

      "Then you will want to help us deal with his murderers, won't you?" said the terrier.

      "Oh, I'll deal with his murderers alright," said Jasper, in a low, ominous tone. "There will be no mercy for those who attack my old home town."

      "Were you aware of any explosions, Mr. Phillips?" asked the terrier.

      Jasper replied, "I heard one big explosion at the top, another at the bottom, and several dozen smaller explosions while The Montgomery Technical Building was falling."

      "That is incorrect," said Stern, with a poisonous glare. "What you heard was the impact of the air craft above, a fireball exiting an elevator at the bottom, and the impact of the floors falling against each other."

      "Hmmm," said Jasper, picking up a pencil from the desk, which he used to tap out the steady cadence of the explosions he'd heard. "Do you really expect anyone to believe that the floors failed with such a regular cadence?"

      "It is a fact," said the terrier.

      "There will be no facts until the debris is examined," said Jasper. "However, I do suspect you are right. The floors did indeed fall with that regular cadence, aided by explosions that weakened the supports for each one. The evidence, however you may try to hide it, will surely bear that out. Perhaps if you claim sabotage you may yet salvage this farce, but otherwise I expect Blair Montgomery will have issues to settle with Camelot."

      "You know, I get the distinct impression you want to make trouble for us," said the Sargent.

      "On the contrary," said Jasper, eying the Rottweiler menacingly. "I mean to see you are all appropriately rewarded for everything you've done."

      Jasper then smiled in a way the officers found anything but reassuring. But for a time he pretended to go through the motions of being co-operative. Still, every move he made, every word he said, every look he gave them, seemed to be loaded with poison soaked daggers, as if he was just biding his time till the appropriate moment to wring their necks.

      After several more questions and instructions on how to interpret what they had heard and seen, Jasper and Molly were handed papers to fill out for their witness reports; being told that if they filled them out correctly they would be allowed to leave. But if they filled them out incorrectly they would have to be detained for further questioning.

      Jasper told Molly to fill her paper out as instructed so that she could go. Then he told her not to wait for him, just to go and not make any waves.

      The officers were quite pleased with Molly's report, and the soldier was instructed to escort her out of the building. But before she left, Jasper said for everyone to hear, "When you leave here you will go straight to The Rhoades Mansion. You will report to Perry everything you have seen. He will be expecting you. If you have not arrived in half an hour, he will know Camelot has failed in its duty to protect you."

      Once Molly was gone the officers waited anxiously for Jasper to finish his witness report. He then filled his report out honestly, listing everything he'd seen and heard; no Webbertonians, just Camelodians hindering rescue efforts. He even ventured to say he saw The Shadow Cat halt the demolition of the second building, which caused the terrier to grab his chest in shock.

      Upon reading this the faces of the officers were twisted with rage. They asked why he was so determined to rock the boat.

      Jasper then put it to them straight. He wanted to see what happened to those who didn't comply with their attempts to control the facts.

      They warned that he was being foolish. The world already thought he was dead. He would not be missed along with anyone else who perished in the disaster leaving no identifiable remains.

      "So that's it," Jasper assessed. "Anyone who doesn't endorse your version of what happened will just disappear."

      The officers shrugged and said this was expedient, fortunes of war and all that. Quite routine.

      Jasper replied, "This is not war, nor is it a police action. It is crime on a scale that no fur has ever imagined, and crime does not pay."

      They laughed and said, "Who will stop us? You?"

      "Could be," said Jasper, in a deep, cryptic tone of voice.

      "You're funny, Phillips," said Stern. "What a pity you have to die."

      Jasper laughed heartily and said, as he began to disappear before their eyes; his voice distorting to that of The Shadow Cat as he vanished, "Did you forget? You already had me killed. There's not much you can do against a ghost."

      "What power does a ghost have to stop us?" Stern yelled at the empty air where Jasper had stood, refusing to be intimidated by the unknown.

      "Shadows of shadows," the disembodied voice of The Shadow Cat echoed through the room, from no discernible source. "The shadows know what you have done. The shadows know your guilt. They conspire against you. You will learn to fear them."

      All in the room were frozen with astonishment. Then the shadow of a hand appeared, moving towards the officers as they stood gaping in disbelief.

      When it reached the table, the shadow hand picked up the DNA reader from the desk and held it aloft for a moment, as if to illustrate the power of vengeful shadows to grasp and control objects of great weight. Then it hurled the small but heavy machine at the glass wall behind the officers with such force that it shattered the glass.

      Instantly air began rushing out of the pressurized building with irresistible force, causing the long table to up-end itself as it was drawn along with the air current, forcing the officers towards the opening in the glass.

      Sargent Stern managed to find something solid to grab onto and pulled himself clear of the death draft. But the terrier was not so fortunate, and the Sargent was not about to risk helping him. Instead he clung desperately to the handles of a heavy file cabinet, feeling no compassion as he watched over his shoulder, seeing the terrier forced outside the building, and hearing the desperate screams of his fellow officer becoming more distant as he fell helplessly to his death.

      Suddenly, as if having been released by invisible hands, the long table was drawn against the hole in the wall, and the deadly draft abruptly ceased, allowing the two surviving officers a moment to breathe, and to stare at each other, hardly able to believe what they had just witnessed.

      A moment later Stern shook off his confusion and bellowed, "Get some furs in here to fix this office. We must continue our work."

      Then the ghostly voice was heard again, laughing intermittently with evil intent, "Yes, Stern. You have work to do. You must report to your superiors what you have witnessed. But will you dare write the truth? They will think you mad with guilt if you write that this building is haunted by the vengeful ghosts of those you've killed."

      "I don't believe in ghosts," Stern swore at the empty air.

      "You will believe, Stern," said the ghostly voice, in tones that chilled the two officers to their bones. "When you have seen the last of your command die before you, you will believe."

      Once again the voice laughed, as if greedy for the taste of fear. And as it did so, the door to the office opened, and the laughter seemed to leave the room, moving away until it was heard no more.

***


      Meanwhile, back at The Rhoades Mansion, The Ruling Family remained under house arrest, along with those friends unfortunate enough to have been trapped with them. And there was little for any of them to do but discuss the Camelodian occupation and attempt to anticipate what the next stage of the Camelodian master plan might be.

      Sir Jon conjectured that the Camelodians could stage more attacks, further endanger the population, and even try to exterminate The Ruling Family. All except Perry and Lappina of course, whom they still probably needed to get married. But after Lappina's baby was born, they too would most likely become expendable. The Camelodians would then no doubt try to raise the child as some Arthurian figure, destined to rule the world in the name of Camelot.

      "And you signed a contract with those nut cases?" Perry queried, in disbelief.

      "Even the wisest of leaders may be swayed by falsely perceived loyalties and treacherous tendencies one would rather pretend do not exist," said Sir Jon.

      Sir Jon further lamented that Camelot would not be in a position to do this if not for the time and technology he had invested in them before moving to Suburbia. And that they had probably been planning to take advantage of his becoming Mayor all along, because of the false trust that existed between them.

      Vicki asked, "How can this be? The Camelodians are the good guys, aren't they?"

      Leela asked her, "Who are the good guys in my comic book?"

      "Ratzo and Saint Saffron are the good guys," Vicki replied.

      "Noirnian society doesn't see it that way," Leela explained. "Saint Saffron is considered an outlaw. While Ratzo is despised for being the one who chases the outlaw that the fans always side with."

      "So the outlaw is the hero and the Law And Order detective is the bad guy?" asked Vicki, as if this made no practical sense.

      "No, no," Kacey interjected. "Saint Saffron is the hero. Ratzo is the hero's foil. They're both good guys. It's just that one good guy is Law And Order while the other is Criminal Element."

      "Heh," Leela chuckled. "Noirnian politics 101. No good guys or bad guys. Just two political parties with something different to prove."

      "But public perception has nothing to do with who are the good guys and who are the bad guys," said Kacey. "It's what they fight for that determines who is a good or bad guy. Saint Saffron fights for love and justice, Ratzo fights for law and order. Both are good guys. The bad guys are those who find justifications to victimize the innocent. The good guys are the ones who stop them."

      "So who is innocent in this situation?" Leela asked.

      "The people of Suburbia?" Vicki shrugged.

      "Really?" asked Leela. "What do they fight for?"

      "The religion of the cathode ray tube and its principles," said Vicki.

      "Is that all?" asked Leela. "Don't they also fight for female supremacy, ultra conservatism and the status quo?"

      "Are you inferring that makes us not the good guys?" asked Vicki.

      "I don't see you as being any more the good guys than Camelot, Webberton or Noir," said Leela. "All have something to prove. Whether what they have to prove is good in the grand scheme of things is never a consideration."

      "I thought the good guys were determined by who's the victim and who's doing the victimizing," said Vicki.

      "And who would you say is doing the victimizing here?" asked Leela.

      Vicki replied "The Camelodians, obviously. But why would they do that if they're the good guys?"

      "They wouldn't," said Leela. "So, by that reasoning, obviously they aren't the good guys."

      "They emulate the heroes of ancient times," said Kacey. "Were they also not the good guys?"

      "My father was one of those heroes," Christine reflected. "He killed millions of men women and children at one blow, and though he struggled for years to rationalize the righteousness of what he'd done, in his heart he knew he was not one of the good guys. And though he had resisted my goodness at first, in the end he had admired me for standing up to him as the bad guy he was and defying the evil he served."

      "One must share the guilt of whom one serves," said Sir Jon. "Every Camelodian soldier may not be evil at heart, or know they do evil in obeying orders. They may obey orders because they trust their leaders to be righteous and above reproach. But any time one sells one's soul or mind away to a military force one does wrong, because one is attempting to sign away their conscience, their need to think and reason for themselves, the need to decide what is right and wrong. One then becomes but a tool. And if the user of the tool is evil, then the soldier is the willing instrument of evil."

      "A tool can not be a good or bad guy," said Perry. "A tool can not even be a guy. A tool is just a tool. It is whoever is using a tool that must consider the right or wrong of things."

      "But what if The Camelodian leaders aren't evil, just stupid?" asked Vicki.

      Sir Jon set out the equation extreme power plus stupidity equals evil waiting to happen.

      "If the equation fits, wear it," said Christine, in a critical tone.

      Sonny started to protest that this was too harsh a comment.

      But Sir Jon admitted that Christine was right. He had not thought and had acted stupidly while in a position of extreme power. And in doing so he had perpetrated a great evil on the town that trusted him. Thus he could not be considered a good guy in this situation.

      Sonny threw up her hands and said, "So what? Isn't a Time Captain entitled to at least one stupid mistake per millennium?"

      Sir Jon thought a moment, then he turned his chair around to face away from the others and said, gravely, "No."

      "Stop it," said Vicki. "I feel like you're all trying to marginalize the need for good guys. That there should be no good guys in a situation like this is unacceptable. In fact, it is unacceptable to consider that my side are not the good guys, because obviously I'm the only one in the room who stills sees the importance of good."

      "You're setting yourself up as a good guy?" Leela remarked, with doubtful surprise. "How arrogant."

      "If I didn't see Suburbia and its religion as good, I'd leave it," said Vicki. "We're not perfect or incapable of mistakes, but being the good guys is one of the tenets of our religion, isn't it, Christine? You are the authority. Tell me if I'm wrong."

      "If your religion is based on Polithsanian black and white TV shows," Christine considered, "there was an active theme in such shows that Polithsania always strove to be the good guys."

      "And is that not also true of the source material of Camelot's religion?" Vicki pressed.

      "No," said Christine. "In the source material of Camelot's religion there is an imperative towards obeying rules and unquestioning loyalty to one's rulers. There is no implied imperative towards being moral, in the right, or being the good guys."

      "What about all that Chivalry stuff?" asked Vicki.

      "Chivalry deals more with manners than living for what's right," said Christine.

      "More than that," Sir Jon added, "Chivalry is completely suspended by the codes of James Bond. The codes of James Bond say there is no right or wrong. There is only the chain of command. You are not a person with a name. Therefore you have no need to think for yourself. You have only your assignment, which you will accomplish by hook or by crook. Knights may strive to be heroes, mainly for egotistical reasons, but spies and soldiers are trained to keep themselves far apart from any sense of morality that might lead them to question, let alone defy the chain of command."

      "So Camelodians don't strive to be the good guys?" asked Vicki, in a tone of disillusionment.

      "The source material of their religion leads Camelodians to want to be powerful," Christine explained. "Their religion takes inspiration from a monstrously narcissistic culture that believed it was their manifest destiny for the entire world to revolve around them. Consequently, however noble their intent may have been from occasion to occasion, their view of themselves and whoever they were dealing with was always distorted and unrealistic, which had a tendency to result in disaster."

      "Good intentions don't count towards being the good guys?" asked Vicki.

      "Certainly they don't," said Blair. "Good guys protect you from danger that arises on its own. Bad guys create danger that good guys need to save you from. It makes not one bit of difference if you had the best of intentions when you create a danger that threatens others, especially if you continue to defend and propagate that danger, either because you don't understand how bad it is, or because you think the harm it does is justified."

      "And Suburbians can't be good guys because they do harm to mutants and males?" asked Vicki, doubtfully.

      "It means they aren't paragons of virtue," said Christine, "Which means any perch they find on the moral high ground is anything but stable."

      "But doesn't our religion suggest that's unacceptable?" asked Vicki.

      "It does," Blair agreed. "And that is what The Green Meadow Lands Gang attempted to instill in all its members; the will to maintain righteousness in all situations, even when law or custom gave us leave to be less than virtuous. To be true to our religion, to never embrace any excuse to be a bad guy, that was the binding ideology of our gang."

      "And yet you grew up to be a professional villain," Leela observed. "Not a very effective religion, is it?"

      "On the contrary," said Blair. "It's a very good religion, for those who choose to follow it. But almost no one in Suburbia does, especially now with the shortage of children. Many of the surviving black and white TV shows were intended for children. Hence it's a religion that is highly dependent on the presence of children to maintain its core values. The cardinal sin of the religion is to grow up and become an adult with an adult's habits and needs that would lead one to betray those values. But it is beyond all possibility to fulfill that promise to one's self. One can not avoid growing up, which means accepting the necessity to abandon virtue and compromise with evil. Thus it is almost an unwritten law that once one enters their mating years the childish ideology of Suburbia's religion will be set aside in favor of business and politics. Previous ideologists like Perry and myself must take our place in the corrupt world of adult human furs, where one does not live long if one continues to strive to always be a good guy."

      "Perry, you don't see yourself as a good guy?" asked Vicki.

      "Well," Perry considered. "Unlike Blair I don't actively try to brush my religion aside. But when it comes right down to it, I'm motivated to do things because I want to. And sometimes the things I want are not the most virtuous things. Also, the ideals I tend to live by are those of The Town Council. And those also tend to run contrary to the religion. All in all the laws of Suburbia attempt to prove the virtues of Capitalism, female supremacy and the status quo, all of which are contrary to the ideals of our religion, and also to the idea of being the good guys."

      "So because Suburbia isn't true to its religion I can't be a good guy either?" asked Vicki.

      "On the contrary," said Blair. "The very fact that you ask these questions shows that you haven't grown up to the extent that Perry and I have. You still keep your religion with a childish heart, as does Kacey. Therefore, if anyone is entitled to wear the mantle of good guys in this scenario, it's you."

      "But we're not capable of defending the town," said Vicki.

      "True," said Blair. "The very act of doing what one must to get the power to protect the town negates any potential to be a good guy. That's why I long ago decided being a good guy was a poor ambition. And I'm sure Perry did the same."

      All eyes turned to Perry, as if waiting expectantly for him to deny this.

      "I don't know that I ever consciously made such a decision," said Perry. "I think it was just circumstance after circumstance came up where doing everything by the good guy playbook would not accomplish what I wanted to accomplish. I have to admit there have been times, probably more times than I choose to remember, where going by the codes of The Gang would have cost lives, or at least severely disappointed people who were counting on me. At some point I must have just quietly accepted that living by the ridged standards of a good guy would not get done what needed to be done. And after that I developed a tendency to cut corners, to make immoral compromises, and to sometimes let things slide when it would have been wiser not to."

      "So I can't even look to you as a good guy?" asked Vicki, seeming deeply hurt.

      "I'm a prince," said Perry. "I have to make hard decisions. I have to get things done while dealing with people of power who couldn't care less about being the good guys. A good guy is just one more thing our society doesn't afford me the luxury of being. I do not get to put on a white hat and be flawlessly righteous all the time, because I am not a character in a black and white era TV show. I'm a player in a progressive color era show where the issues and the righteous view of how to deal with them depend entirely on what is trending in society at the moment. Suburbia's view of good and bad is anything but black and white."

      "Well, I'm sorry, but that's not acceptable," said Vicki. "I demand that Suburbia live up to its religion. There's no point in living here if it doesn't. I demand that the people who rule this town be the good guys, as our religion says they should be."

      "Let me have that in writing later," said Miss Sonny. "It may be useful in my determination of how to resolve this situation."

      "You know you can't do anything with it," said Blair. "It's an unreasonable demand from an unreasonable person."

      "How am I unreasonable?" Vicki demanded. "Citizenship in a town is a contract. One agrees to live by certain standards with the understanding that everyone is on the same page with those standards. Telling me I'm unreasonable for living by those standards because nobody else does is not reasonable. I say it's a breach of contract. I say Suburbia has broken faith with me. I say we are supposed to be the good guys. And good guys do not make compromises with bad guys, ever. I say you have all failed me."

      "Uh, Vicki," Kacey interjected, nervously. "You shouldn't talk that way in the presence of The Queen. If she takes you seriously she might fail the town."

      "Kacey, dear," said Miss Sonny, in her usual motherly tone. "Are you suggesting I shouldn't do my job? If the town has failed to live up to its religion as Vicki suggests, and I do not give the town failing marks simply because you don't want to lose your home, I couldn't claim to be a good guy, could I? Just like Perry and Blair I would be compromising with what I know is the right thing to do, in order to perpetuate your selfish desire, which would also be my selfish desire, because I put what is important to you above what is right. Do you stand against Vicki and wish me to not be a good guy?"

      "Consider your answer carefully," Sir Jon warned. "Since we have already determined that you and Vicki are the only good guys in this room, the only true innocents, you will either state the righteous course that we should follow, or you will compromise yourselves to selfishness, and there will be no more good guys, negating the validity of the entire argument."

      "You're seriously saying that righteousness lives or dies by how I answer a certain question?" asked Kacey, in bemusement. "And that no one else can answer this question?"

      "Fate has placed you in that position," said Sir Jon. "You are the only good guy who can stand in our presence to substantiate the cause of righteousness."

      "Then I will not compromise," said Kacey, seeming to cast off her hesitance and insecurity in an instant to present a front of uncompromising determination. "I stand with Vicki. I have a contract with this town. I demand its fulfillment. I demand that you all be as good as our religion dictates you should be. If it is ever a matter of my needing to question if Suburbians are the good guys, then my town has failed me. It has left me and Vicki standing alone for principles we don't really share with the rest of you."

      "Oh, my," said Grease, seeming impressed to tears of admiration. "I have seen the oppressed rise to challenge authority. I must write it down that the world may know of this bravery."

      "Is it bravery to speak the truth of how one feels?" asked Kacey, reverting to her usual timidity.

      "To a Mayor and a Queen?" said Grease, in wonderment. "Many would banish you to No Furs Land for being so bold as to tell them they have ruled in violation of your trust. Even if it is true, it is not the kind of thing rulers like to hear. I shall proclaim Kacey Caddell as a hero of The People who dares to hold the ruling class to its promises."
"Oh dear," said Kacey, nervously, as she slowly sat down in her chair, wishing only for all eyes to be turned away from her.

      "Surely she's not the only one ever to have said something like that," said Vicki.

      "These are things that never get said," Blair explained. "Innocents such as yourself take these things for granted. So you never state them, assuming they already live in the hearts of everyone you share the town with. While just about everyone you share the town with would resent you for attempting to secure a moral high ground which they believe to be beyond the achievement of anyone who functions on an adult level."

      "I'm not a child," Vicki declared, defiantly. "Expecting the fulfillment of a promise is not a childish thing. Thinking you can come up with any justification for not fulfilling a promise, that is childish. I was promised a land of pleasant living with a standard of moral virtue that was absolute. I was promised that I could feel secure in the belief that I lived with and supported the good guys. If you've let things slip to such an extent that none of you believe it's even possible for good guys to exist, then you have failed me on all fronts, and this war is the result of your failure."

      "Wow," said Sir Jon, seeming all but speechless. "I'd better write that one down too."

      Both Perry and Blair seemed wounded by Vicki's words, but Leela seemed to find them offensive.

      "What a load of rubbish," said Leela. "It's fine to spout such nonsense in peacetime. But you're in a war now. And good guys can not win wars. You need to face the fact that your religion is over. Suburbia has been occupied by another town that will impress its own religion on you. And you'll either accept it or you'll be dead, unless you're willing to get as down and dirty as the worst of the bad guys. And once you've done that, even if you manage to free your town, you'll know even better than you knew before that you can't ever afford to be the good guys, because the good guys just get taken advantage of by the bad guys. That's human nature. Deal with it."

      "Leela makes a good point," said Sir Jon. "There is no nice way to win a war."

      "I will leave winning the war to you who think yourselves too mature to be considered good guys," said Miss Sonny. "If afterwards we should find there is a post war Suburbia to reconstruct, I will see that the moral fiber of our town is strengthened in the direction of Vicki and Kacey's demands."

      "That doesn't sound terribly democratic," said Lappina, in a critical tone. "Why do Vicki and Kacey get to have what they want considered, when nobody ever even asks me?"

      "You have a voice," said Sir Jon. "Use it. What is it that you want?"

      "As a former Noirnian and Ash, I tend to agree with Leela," said Lappina. "All this talk of good guys is a lot of nonsense that completely ignores human nature. Half humans can't be good guys simply because they're half human. And you can't be a good guy when you're half evil by nature. I want a town that bears such facts in mind and takes all necessary steps to hold human evil in check, and I don't want it hamstrung by any childish fantasies of the power of good. Good is a lack of power, and the lack of power is a set up for victimization. I don't want my child being brought up weak."

      "Hey Blair," said Perry, much to Lappina's shock and dismay. "You want to buy a bunny? I think she'd rather be with you."

      "I'm sure she would," said Blair. "Except that she knows I'm much too strong to be victimized by the likes of her. Yes, she wants her son to grow strong, but it is your weakness that attracts her to you. She will no doubt preside over a Suburbia that is more totalitarian in nature than Webberton, while being renowned for her achievements. But her achievements will consist of nothing but the power you allowed her to steal from you."

      "While your predicting the future," said Lappina, in a reviled tone, "expect me to be a pain in your tail every chance I get."

      "Somehow I don't see you being much of a bother to me in the future," said Blair, as if projecting his vision far into the distance. "How you rule this town, if you're allowed to live that long, will be determined by the people who put you where you are, and I don't see them granting you any leave to rule as you please. Indeed, if it should turn out your unseen backers want something from me, they'll see that you do whatever I want you to do. You needn't anticipate being anything more than a puppet queen."

      Lappina was made visibly insecure by Blair's words, and she cast her eyes away from him.

      "Don't fret, Clover," said Vicki, as if she could also see the future. "If you are to be a puppet queen, and Blair Montgomery controls your strings, you're sure to rule as one of the good guys."

      "How do you figure that?" asked Blair, in surprise.

      "It's very simple," Vicki softly threatened. "If you have the power to control the ruling of Suburbia, and you use it in ways ill befitting a good guy, I will never cease to let you know how very disappointed in you I am."

      "Wow," Leela remarked, rolling her eyes. "No shortage of monster egos around here. What the heck makes you think you have so much power over him?"

      "I suppose you really are just a secretary, Miss Lennox," said Blair. "A real detective would have figured out by now why Vicki holds so much power over me. I'll give you a clue. It's the same reason I didn't kill you when you intruded on my castle in No Furs Land."

      "I don't see where that makes any sense at all," said Leela.

      Perry explained, "You came in the company of someone Blair holds so much affection for he will never be able to overcome it, no matter how long he lives, or how mature he becomes. Therein lies Blair Montgomery's only weakness. He can't maintain his facade as a bad guy around those who know the good guy he once was and continue to expect him to live up to it."

      "Perry, do you have any such weaknesses?" asked Lappina.

      At this Blair let out a hearty chuckle, which Lappina found quite disconcerting.

      "Perry will grow weak and wither before the disapproval of the most minor citizen of Suburbia," said Blair. "He has weaknesses he hasn't explored yet; all extending from the folly of raising him as The Golden Boy who could do no wrong, was always praised, even when he failed, and was kept safe and coddled in spaces where not even the slightest stress could trouble him. If you were counting on his strength, you made a very poor choice of mates indeed. He is as delicate as a snowflake. I have but to look at him with disaffection, and he will melt before your eyes."

      "Don't let him trip you out," Christine reassured Clover. "Perry also has strengths he hasn't begun to discover yet, strength enough to free you from any strings that might attempt to bind you as a puppet, if you are wise enough to bring those strengths out of him."

      "That's a big if, Christine," said Blair, as if having no fear of Clover's wisdom. "A very big if indeed."

      Sonny turned the TV up, as if having found the conversation wearisome, and all heard the announcer attribute the attacks on the twin towers exclusively to The Shadow Cat and Saint Saffron, two notorious feline mercenaries obviously now in the employ of Webberton. Several witnesses were then brought forward to back up this accusation, stating boldfaced lies of how they had seen both super characters attacking the rescue workers.

      "What the hell?" Leela exclaimed. "They've got a lot of nerve."

      "Who are these witnesses that are speaking?" Perry pondered, curiously. "Miyan, do you recognize any of these people from the office?"

      "I don't see anyone who looks even remotely familiar," said Miyan. "There's not one person on this newscast who actually worked in The R.I. Building."

      "They aren't my employees either," Blair concurred. "They are most likely actors."

      This was then followed by The Mayor Of Camelot formally announcing that forces of Camelot were occupying Suburbia to protect lives and restore order. Public cooperation would insure that peace and democracy would be restored in the near future.

      This left Sir Jon fuming.

      The Mayor Of Camelot then went on to announce that all people of feline extraction were to be considered a terrorist threat and would be taken into custody until the conflict was settled.

      "Niyow!" Princess Jenny exclaimed, in indignant offense. "He can't do that!"

      "Standard procedure," said Christine. "No illusion of war would be complete without a manufactured enemy to generate hatred against."

      "More than that," said Blair. "Every time we see a feline face, we'll be assured the enemy is among us."

      "It will have another effect," said Sir Jon. "Felines all over the world will now feel persecuted. They'll be encouraged to flock to Webberton to show their support for Divine Felinity, which they'll start to buy into. Camelot will then be able to report that Webberton is massing troops for war, and thus keep fear in a state of escalation."

      "No doubt that fear will spread to other towns," said Christine. "Felines all over the world will feel persecuted. Towns will become unstable."

      "And of course Camelot will be called in to protect them all from The Feline Menace," said Sir Jon.

      "I shall be quite disappointed if we don't hear that term on the television within the next few hours," said Blair. "It's all as predictable as clockwork."

      "But no one will see that?" asked Perry.

      "At this point, my dear Perry," said Blair. "The people of your fair town are developing tunnel vision. From this point on they will see, hear and think only what comes out of their TV's. All other suggestions or naggings from common sense will be ignored. That is the effect fear has on people. It negates the higher functions of the human brain, brings out our animal side. Felines will become more aggressive and defensive. Mice and rabbits will become like cattle, looking to someone, anyone to lead them to safety, invariably choosing the one who will lead them to the slaughterhouse."

      Blair chuckled and added, "Isn't human nature delicious?"

      Kacey whimpered slightly and said, "I think I'm going to be sick."

      Christine looked Blair straight in the eyes and said daringly, "Screw you, I'm a fox."

      "What a thing to say," said Blair, in bemusement. "Are you somehow thinking being a fox fur gives you some kind of edge over human nature?"

      "It always has," said Christine. "You'll find I'm the exact opposite of Perry. I've always preferred to take my lumps rather than be sheltered. And my fox spirit insures that the one thing you expect most of me is the one thing I will not do."

      "So you're not fooled by any of this smoke and mirrors show?" asked Blair, daringly.

      "Not a bit of it," said Christine, smiling bravely. "And I'm not intimidated by you either. I'm a wildcard in this game. So whatever you or the Camelodians are thinking will be the sure outcome of this war, that's the one thing I can guarantee will not happen."

      Blair chuckled villainously and said, "While it is true that any plans I had for the future have been trashed since your arrival, and you have seemed resistant to any bait that has been laid out for you, the day will not be won simply by being unpredictable. Just because you have a tendency not to jump where we want you to doesn't mean every other place you might jump is safe. Beware that you could win this town from the Camelodians and still lose it."

      "Would you care to elaborate on that?" Christine invited.

      "No, I would not," said Blair, with a confident smile. "I'm making a bet with myself right now that I will master you through your over confidence as easily as I master Perry through his weakness."

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S11E226: Money Is The Root Of All Prosperity

Spectral Shadows
Serial No. 11
The Planet Of Genetic Misadventure
Episode 226
Money Is The Root Of All Prosperity

Copyright 1993, 2018 by Symphonic Rock Productions.

Featuring:

            

            

            

      As the day wore on, everyone in The Rhoades Mansion remained under what seemed like house arrest, there being little for anyone to do but continue to monitor the television and ponder on how much truth they should read in to the narrative it presented and conjecture about what the full truth might be.

      "Is it possible that Camelot has been behind all the recent troubles in Suburbia?" asked Miyan.

      "I'd say they've had a hand in just about everything," Blair mused. "I wouldn't say they planned it all. But I'm sure they knew everything that was going to happen and did nothing to prevent anything they felt would be advantageous in evoking their contract."

      "If you could prove that," said Sir Jon, "It would nullify their contract."

      "You have proof of it," said Grease. "Bixyl and Ratzo risked their lives to get you proof. But for some reason you all act like it doesn't exist."

      "It's not that it doesn't exist," said Miss Sonny. "But who can we call on to enforce the legalities of an intertownal contract? Without an intertownal court to present the evidence in, evidence is useless."

      "Intertownal courts would be useless in times of war," said Sir Jon. "War is by definition the suspension of all laws and moralities. War is chaos. And the only reason for establishing chaos is so someone can take something they can't acquire by legal means."

      "I was just wondering how it helps Camelot if Perry marries Lappina," said Miyan. "Or why they feel I need to be taken out of the picture."

      "I'm sure it would serve Camelot's interests well if Suburbia had a queen whose mind could be controlled," said Sir Jon. "We know from Bixyl's wire recordings they had subjected Clover to serious mind conditioning. Thus, if Clover becomes Queen, she will be but a puppet ruler for Camelot."

      "If they already had that locked up, why did they need to start a war?" asked Perry.

      "Because they didn't have it locked up," said Christine, in a somewhat guilty tone. "I came along and threw a monkey wrench into the plans of both Camelot and Webberton. As long as I'm here, there's no guarantee Clover will be Queen. The future of Suburbia no longer hinges on who Perry marries."

      "And they wasted no time trying to get you married to a pawn as well," Miyan observed.

      "Do you really think Dr. Reinhart worked for Camelot?" asked Christine.

      "I'm sure he was under the thumb of someone in league with Camelot," said Miyan.

      "Whoever Dr. Reinhart worked for wanted to preserve the status quo," Christine observed. "Does the status quo benefit Camelot?"

      "The concept of maintaining a status quo is more significant to Camelot than it ever was to Suburbia," said Sir Jon. "But were Christine to become Queen, there would be no preserving the status quo as we knew it. Nor would Dr. Reinhart have been able to control her in the way that Clover will be able to control Perry. Therefore, if Dr. Reinhart was working on behalf of Camelot, or even just The Town Council, his mission would have been to prevent Christine from becoming Queen by any means necessary."

      "I think you're all missing something," said Lappina. "I don't feel like I'm under the influence of anyone from Camelot. The voices I hear in my dreams are Noirnian."

      "By the power of suggestion," said Sir Jon, "they could program you to register the voices in your head with any accent. A Camelodian voice in your head would be a dead giveaway."

      "Surely you don't think Noir would be out to take over another town," said Leela. "You know it would be against our religion."

      "Don't dismiss Noir," said Blair, dryly. "They have just as much to gain from Miss Lappina's good fortune."

      "I don't see how," said Leela.

      "Employment opportunities, for one thing," said Miyan. "I can't remember a time when more Noirnian mercenaries have been at work in Suburbia."

      "Why are you all looking to pin the blame on one adversary?" asked Becky. "Isn't it obvious that there's a conspiracy between all the implicated towns to achieve a common goal? Camelot needed a pawn. Noir supplied one. Camelot and Webberton need to have a conflict. Suburbia provides the stage. And then there's Halloween, which is also poised to benefit from this conflict."

      "No more so than Neo-Tokyo, The Aviary or any other town thinking the destruction of Suburbia would result in a wide redistribution of the world's wealth and prosperity," said Blair.

      "But it won't, of course," said Becky. "Halloween is poised to soak it all up like a sponge."

      "That's not a conspiracy, Miss Shaman," said Blair. "That's the natural way of wealth. It always concentrates in the areas that set up to favor it, while the rest of the world maintains its various levels of poverty, regardless of how much charity one might pump into them. Would you not agree, Perry?"

      "That is a phenomenon I have observed," Perry admitted, uncomfortably. "There has never been any hording of wealth in Suburbia. Blair and I have both invested extensively in towns as far away as The Aviary. No amount of investment has been shown to bring them any significant level of prosperity or self-sufficiency. I can only conclude this is the result of their religions leaving the drain open where wealth is concerned."

      "My religion doesn't regard acquiring wealth to raise one's status above others to be an admirable goal in life," said Grease. "Is it not written that money is the root of all evil?"

      "Where human furs are concerned," said Sir Jon, "money is the root of all prosperity. To believe money is the root of all evil is to invite poverty."

      "We don't agree with that," said Grease. "We believe prosperity is the right of all, and those that horde it steal it from the rest of us. If your investments do not create equal prosperity in all the towns, then you are not investing enough."

      "Nonsense," said Blair. "I could will all the wealth I possess to you, charging you to bring prosperity to The Aviary. You would piss it all away within a year, and it would all flow back to Halloween."

      "My religion says otherwise," said Grease, defiantly.

      "Have you ever noticed how religions that try to dictate science by how they think it ought to work tend to be the least successful?" asked Becky.

      "I thought you were on my side," said Grease, dejectedly.

      "I'm on the side of truth," said Becky.

      "Truth is a religious construct," said Grease. "If every town has a different religion there's no such thing as a constant truth."

      "What a pity science has no respect for religion or politics," said Blair. "And finance is a science."

      "He's right, Grease," said Perry. "Prosperity isn't a matter of having money. It's a matter of knowing how to manage money. Our religion says money is the root of all evil as well. That's why we're constantly giving it away. Nobody in Suburbia hordes their wealth. Not even Blair who has demonstrated wealth beyond measure, because he has invested that wealth in Halloween. But it is not his wealth that will restore prosperity to Halloween. His knowledge of how to manage money is what they really need."

      "What town will you bless with your knowledge of money when Suburbia is no more?" asked Grease.

      Everyone looked at Grease in surprise, as the notion that Suburbia would be completely destroyed by the war had not yet been conjectured by anyone. Yet Grease gave off the distinct impression that the death of Suburbia was something he'd been anticipating for some time.

      "Well," said Perry, thoughtfully. "If I had to migrate for any reason, I know I wouldn't be moving to The Aviary. The Aviary is what I think the elder race used to call an ethno state. It's not terribly unlike Webberton in that it favors one breed of furs over all others. So I wouldn't go there for the same reasons I wouldn't go to Webberton. It's not a good environment to cultivate wealth."

      "Webberton is considerably more wealthy than The Aviary," Grease pointed out. "Apparently Fascists are good with money."

      Christine interjected, "I take it the religion of The Aviary is Socialist in nature?"

      "We believe in social order, if that's what you mean?" said Grease.

      "History has shown that Socialists have a tendency to be extremely bad with money," said Christine.

      "Ah," said Blair, as if he got as much enjoyment out of challenging Christine as he did making Perry feel inferior. "But Fascists are also Socialists."

      Miyan looked at Blair strangely and said, "You actually know what these words mean?"

      "As much as is possible with the limited knowledge of the elder race that is available," said Blair. "These are false ideologies, long proven to be failures. However, they are prevalent in the background of the source material of most Cygnesian religions. So they may have an influence from time to time, just as all the religions of the elder race may have an influence, though they also are considered to be failed."

      "How curious," said Becky, taking notes in her notebook. "I wonder what made the Fascist Socialists better at handling money."

      "On that I must defer to Christine," said Blair. "I'm afraid history did not address that issue."

      "As I recall," said Christine, "Fascist regimes tended not to last very long. What wealth they maintained was derived mainly from the confiscation of other peoples' treasures, and they tended to invest it mostly in war. Like all Socialists, they had a tendency to govern according to fantasies they made up to justify concepts that had no basis in nature; usually concerned with the idea that one race was superior, and therefore destined to dominate. So I would be surprised to find that any apparent wealth in Webberton has to do with being good with money."

      "Is that nyot how science dictates it must be?" asked Jenny.

      "Science dictates that the most powerful species will dominate a planet," said Sir Jon. "And indeed, anywhere you go in the universe you will not find humans subordinate to any other species. They are always at the top of the food chain. But once at the top there is no longer legitimate competition. Thus humanity becomes its own natural enemy, controlling its own numbers by subdividing itself and trying to make out that some humans are more at the top than others; thus creating an excuse to become predators of their own kind."

      "Perhaps the Fascist among us would enlighten us as to how Webberton steals its wealth," said Grease, giving Jenny an icy stare.

      "We are nyot thieves," said Jenny, eying Grease with extreme offence. "But we are Socialists. And we are nyot bad with money. Our wealth comes from investors in The Feline State, of which there are myany wealth producing felines who believe in supporting their own kind. Webberton is run like a business. Every feline is an investor who receives equal dividends. If Webberton appears to be wealthy, it's because investment and productivity are high. If they are low, everyone in Webberton will be more impoverished."

      "So you have a 100% tax in Webberton?" asked Christine. "Along with universal welfare?"

      Jenny nodded proudly with a smug grin and added, "And nyo poverty or unemployment. Free healthcare, too."

      "But of course there always has to be a catch to it," said Christine.

      "You all knyow what the catch is," said Jenny, abruptly deflating.

      "You have to be feline to enjoy the no poverty and unemployment," Christine surmised. "All the rabbits, mice and squirrels probably live in impoverished ghettos, hardly able to put food on the table."

      "Oh, nyo," Jenny corrected her. "Our food animals are not unemployed. They are the only ones that actually work and earn a wage. Felines who get paid for doing nyothing have nyo need to work, unless they want to. They have all the time in the world to give to their families. Everyone has a very good life in Webberton."

      "Until the cats get hungry," Grease all but spat at her.

      "I'm hungry right nyow, feather brain," said Jenny, giving Grease her most terrifying feline stare. "In Webberton you'd be considered a delicacy."

      "Jenny?" asked Christine, curiously. "Do mice and rabbits actually come to Webberton for employment opportunities?"

      "Mmmhmm," Jenny affirmed, as if she had thought everyone knew that.

      "Knowing they'll end up being eaten?" Christine clarified.

      Jenny explained, "For food animals to migrate to Webberton they sign an agreement to citizenship, which assigns them a social class and gives them a certain amount of time to work and earn wages, which they are free to send to their families in other towns. They knyow before they sign that when their time expires they will go to the food factory and work there until their time comes to be butchered."

      "But at that point they can't get out of it?" asked Christine.

      "Of course nyot," said Jenny. "They myade an agreement and were paid. They must hold up their end of the bargain."

      "Does anyone ever try to migrate illegally so they can take advantage of your employment opportunities without signing their life away?" asked Christine.

      "Oh, that would be criminal," said Jenny. "Anyone who entered Webberton illegally would go straight to the food factory and be immediately cooked. Assuming they were nyot feline. We can nyot eat felines. We would consider that cannibalism."

      "And to eat me would not be cannibalism?" asked Kacey, emotionally.

      "You do nyot live in Webberton," said Jenny, in an affectionate tone. "You are nyot a food animal. You would have to move to Webberton to become that. And I do nyot ever want you to go there."

      Kacey observed tears welling in Jenny's eyes and felt emotionally drawn to her.

      "You mustn't cry," said Kacey, sweetly brushing Jenny's tears away. "You'll lose your voice again."

      Jenny meowed, as if deeply touched by Kacey's concern, and then drew Kacey into her arms, hugging her tightly. While everyone in the room wondered at the fact that Kacey would allow this, let alone seem so comfortable in the arms of a squirrel eater.

      Sir Jon found this fascinatingly curious. Obviously Kacey was terrified of the very concept of Webberton. Perhaps it gave her some kind of erotic thrill to be loved by Webberton's princess. Perhaps there was something in this to explain the mystery of why Webberton was never wanting for migrants of the prey variety.

      Jenny meowed adoringly and even allowed herself to purr as Kacey continued to hug her affectionately, which made Miyan turn away in disgust out of affront to her human dignity; while Grease filled with such hatred and rage that he unconsciously snapped his pencil.

      As everyone looked at him for an explanation, Grease angrily blurted out, "How can you do that? How can you hug a Fascist?"

      Kacey could only shrug and say, "She's a nice Fascist."

      "There's no such thing," Grease insisted, glaring hatefully at Kacey.

      At this Kacey felt compelled to turn away from his hateful gaze and say over her shoulder, "She's way nicer than you are."

      Becky handed Grease another pencil and then said to Christine, "What would it mean if the Webbertonians were the first Fascists in history to be good with money?"

      "I think it would probably mean they're not Fascists at all," said Christine. "They might well be the first monarchy in history to successfully employ Socialism without starving everyone to death. Certainly they've got something going that a lot of people seem to want a piece of."

      "Yeah," said Miyan. "A lot of sick people. I wonder if you can imagine what it's like being served by prey types in a Webberton restaurant, bringing food to your table that might well be one of their relatives cooked up. And all the while the customers are treating the servers like living food; telling them how delicious they look, and how they hope to get a piece whenever their time to be cooked comes."

      "Interesting," said Christine. "And how do the servers react to that? Do they turn around and smack the customers for being offensive?"

      "No," said Miyan, with disgust. "That's the sickest thing of all. They like it. They get hot over it. If the servers are bare skinned you can see them blushing. And if not you can smell in the air how aroused they are."

      "Why is it sick if they are there by choice?" asked Jenny.

      "Why don't you tell me?" said Miyan. "It obviously disgusts you as much as it does me."

      "I don't knyow why it upsets me," said Jenny, emotionally. "Maybe it's just me. Maybe I don't want them to die, even if they do. Maybe I'm just being selfish. I have nyo right to judge them. Myany have good reason for their sacrifice. There is much poverty in the world. The money they are paid saves lives in other towns."

      "But it still makes you sick eating them, doesn't it?" said Miyan, somewhat cruelly.

      "It does," Jenny admitted, painfully. "That's why I spend so much time away from Webberton, mating with princes all over the world. It's my least favorite place on the planet to be."

      "That must be why it's successful," Christine conjectured. "It would have to produce a very high quality of life . . . to make up for its low quality of life."

      "I will nyever understand," said Jenny, sadly. "Social order seems like such a good thing. Why is it such a bad thing to organize society by social groups?"

      "Because," Christine mused. "At the end of the day there's no reason to do that except to decide who will eat and who will get eaten. Humans always say they want to divide each other into groups so the groups can receive benefits. But in the end, being forced into a group is just like being forced into a heard. And being in a heard is a great thing. All the free food and loving care you want, until that final drive to the slaughterhouse. The only way you can have true equality, with no group better off than any other group, is to have no groups. There is only one species on this planet; one genetic family that has no natural reason to divide against itself."

      "It doesn't need a natural reason," said Michelle. "Furs divide themselves up by towns and religions. Each group becomes unique. Then they're not the same anymore. They have differences that have to be tolerated, or not tolerated. Is it tolerating those furs that like to be eaten by not allowing other furs to eat them? Seems to me you're the one living in the fantasy. You're trying to make out that furs are something you think they ought to be. But I've never seen furs that were happy living outside of a heard."

      "Michelle has a point," said Sir Jon. "I've had more opportunities to observe human behavior than anyone else. And I've never seen humans who didn't group in herds. And, indeed, most humans seem to know those herds will inevitably end up at a slaughter house. It doesn't deter them in the least. And that's no less true of the feline population of Webberton. They knew from history that grouping together by species would cause towns like Camelot to develop a need to kill felines. The very act of creating groups produces the equal and opposite reaction of other groups that make it their mission in life to destroy them. This is human nature 101. Genetically all humans may be of one family. But that only lasts as long as it takes some humans to decide to be otherwise. Then you have no choice but to view them by group."

      "Is that why Camelot thinks it would be good for the world if they subjugated it to one rule?" asked Perry.

      "Obviously," said Blair. "But it would not work. It would simply take furkind back to square one, and it would immediately start to divide against itself again. There can be no restraining this, as human populations grow too large and range too far not to develop separate cultures."

      "But you have ambitions to rule the world, do you not?" asked Perry.

      "It is my destiny to rule this world," Blair explained. "As with water or money, power tends to collect in the place most advantageous to maintain it. It naturally flows to me; and to you, to a slightly lesser extent. But if anything were to take me out of the picture, you would then be destined to rule the world."

      "By what virtue?" asked Perry.

      "By virtue of your ability to manipulate money," Blair explained. "It would not matter if you remained childishly foolish in every other respect. You'd still have what everyone needs. And the world would come crawling to you for it, just as they come crawling to Webberton. Just as Halloween and every other impoverished town comes crawling to me. The world sells its soul to me so that I will do for them what they can not – keep them alive."

      "Then Camelot is wasting it's time, isn't it?" Christine suggested.

      "Camelot is not good with money," said Blair. "They thrive on investment in a service they have no intension to provide: a service for which there was no need, and so they are attempting to manufacture the need. But money naturally flows to me, not to them. So, inevitably, other towns will not be able to afford to invest in them, their town will fall to urban decay as all funds are used to sustain their military, and eventually they will not even be able to finance that without coming to me to mortgage their town."

      "Because you and Perry keep this world baron of wealth," Grease spat in disgust.

      "If we weren't here, the wealth would just pool somewhere else," said Blair, dismissively. "Quite possibly in Webberton."

      "Why not Camelot?" asked Miyan.

      "Ah," said Blair. "Therein lies a strategy, which the Camelodians actually are somewhat good at. You see, that's why it's important for them to make Suburbia their first conquest. Until recently all the knowledge of how to manipulate money was concentrated in Suburbia. When they formed their strategy it was probably most important to them that they capture Perry, Sir Jon and myself. Whoever acquires those resources could rule the world by default, no further wars necessary. Though of course they would still arrange for wars as a hobby. They wouldn't know what to do with themselves without them."

      "I see," said Miyan. "But you were leaving Suburbia. The resources were breaking up. They could no longer be caught in one basket. And you would naturally build Halloween into a military powerhouse that Camelot couldn't intimidate. So they had to step up their plans, managing to catch you in the basket at the very last minute."

      "They won't be able to hold me here," said Blair. "They know I can escape any time I want to, and that my resources are already transferred."

      "Makes sense," said Perry. "So rather than risking you establishing a base of competition they decided to blow you up."

      "Hmmmmmmm," Blair growled, with murderous malevolence.

      "What's the matter, Blair?" asked Miyan. "Did you not see that move coming?"

      "I'm afraid I must admit," said Blair. "I underestimated their audacity."

      "Then maybe I don't need to feel so bad about my own miscalculations," said Sir Jon. "It's clear now that they planned to escalate hostilities between the two companies, hoping Blair and Miyan would take each other out, leaving Suburbia in a desperate situation at whatever point Queen Davila could be manipulated into issuing a declaration of war."

      "Meow?" Jenny queried. "Myi mother wouldn't like being used to help another town get their empire started before hers. If this were proven to be true, Webberton would probably declare war on Camelot."

      "That would be playing into Camelot's hands," said Sir Jon. "Webberton will lose any such war. And once Camelot has control of both Suburbia and Webberton, they will try to get the rest of the world to submit to their rule."

      "Assuming something like that is the case," Perry conjectured. "How might we put a stop to it?"

      Sir Jon thought a moment and replied, "It will be important to The Government Of Camelot to promote the belief that Webberton is responsible for the bombing of the M.T. building, and that Camelot's forces are here with our blessing. Therefore they will attempt to control Suburbia's media and suppress any attempt to get the truth out, or to request help. They'll also need to keep their own soldiers convinced of the righteousness of their actions, as well as the Suburbians. All that is really needed to confound that is a public declaration from Suburbia's Queen banishing Camelodian forces from Suburbia. But they will never let Sonny get anywhere near a TV station. They have already seized control of all broadcasting stations and will not let the message be widely distributed to the public if Sonny uses some alternate means to publish it. Further, we can probably expect threats in the near future designed to keep The Ruling Family in line. Considering the unknown number of citizens being held in the R.I. building and the base in No Furs Land, they will have good leverage for their threats."

      "Radio and TV are no longer the best means of spreading a message," Kacey suggested. "Through the internet we can broadcast a message to the whole world. And it will be repeated through so many channels that making it disappear would be impossible."

      "An excellent suggestion, Kacey dear," said Sir Jon. "Come with me into my study, and we will inspect the state of the internet."

      Kacey and Sir Jon found the internet to be all abuzz with conspiracy theorists duking it out with those supporting the occupation. It seemed that understanding of Camelot's deceptions was anything but universal, and many were buying into the outright lie that Suburbia was under attack from Webberton.

      "That's typical of the people who frequent social media," Kacey explained. "The people with the greatest access to information tend to be willfully uninformed, seeking out only the news that confirms their biases. Then they group together with those who share their take on things to create echo chambers where other opinions can't be heard."

      "I see," said Sir Jon. "Useful idiots for the Camelodians to exploit, creating a cloud of confusion through which reality is impossible to perceive."

      "I wouldn't say it was impossible to see reality on the internet," said Kacey. "One just has to be very clever and recognize the signs of willful blindness."

      "And would you say the majority of people on social media are that clever?" asked Sir Jon.

      "Oh, heck no," said Kacey. "Social media makes people outright stupid. Someone who knew how to use it could throw out any crazy idea and have half the busybodies in the world believing it before the end of the day. While the other half would disbelieve it just to be ornery. They'd start flaming each other, and everyone would be forced to choose a side. And as you can see, the side that supports Camelot, which we know is wrong, is putting up the nastiest fight, because the less right you are, the more you have to resort to bullying to shout down your opposition. The side in the right will attempt to win with logic, and that never works, because people on social media are not geared towards logic. They are conditioned to respond only to outrage evoking gossip."

      "My goodness," said Sir Jon. "How do you deal with such a toxic environment?"

      "I don't, anymore," said Kacey. "Once it eventually sunk in that nothing you read on social media is real I started keeping my distance from it."

      "But Camelot will be very aware of this," Sir Jon assumed. "They will have been using it to disseminate misinformation all along."

      "If you mean spreading fear and mistrust of Webberton, they've been doing that for years," said Kacey. "At this point there's no act of evil those who reign on social media would put past Webberton. They equate Webberton to the Fascists of Chikyu, who came down through history as the ultimate evil, the worst thing to be feared."

      "Do you fear these Fascists, Kacey?" asked Sir Jon.

      "Honestly, I don't know that much about them," Kacey explained. "War is not my favorite aspect of Chikyu history. But I don't need the association to be terrified of Webberton. They eat squirrels. That's all I need to know."

      "Curious," said Sir Jon. "It seems to me I saw some art on your blog that left the impression you regarded being eaten as something of a fetish."

      Kacey gasped and covered her face with her hands in embarrassment.

      "There, there now," said Sir Jon, in a comforting tone. "If you make such information available to the world, why should it bother you if I know your fetishes too?"

      "I couldn't imagine anyone your age reading my blog," said Kacey. "You must fine my topics so childish."

      "To someone my age you are a child," said Sir Jon. "That your topics should be childish is no disgrace. But tell me, have you ever discussed this fetish with Christine? Does she know you have a tendency to be erotically stimulated by your greatest fears?"

      "It isn't something I'm prone to brag about," said Kacey, nervously. "At least, not outside of fan communities where such fetishes are common."

      "But you obviously know the difference between reality and your erotic fantasies," said Sir Jon. "Are there people on the internet who don't?"

      "You mean, people who would want Webberton to invade just so they might get eaten?" asked Kacey.

      "Do such people exist in Suburbia?" asked Sir Jon.

      "They exist all over the world," Kacey explained. "They're usually prey type animals who tend to seek relationships with predator types."

      "Really?" said Sir Jon, as if he found the subject fascinating. "Are you attracted to predator types?"

      "Oh my gosh," Kacey exclaimed, as she turned away in extreme embarrassment.

      "I'll take that as a yes," Sir Jon chuckled with amusement.

      "I feel so dirty," Kacey confessed, painfully.

      "Don't feel that way," Sir Jon reassured her. "It's part of human nature to experience an attraction to what you fear. And your squirrel half naturally fears predators."

      "And do squirrels fear pure humans as well?" asked Kacey.

      "Oh, pure humans are the ultimate in fearful predators," said Sir Jon.

      "I thought I was just screwed up," said Kacey.

      "No," said Sir Jon. "What you are is open to self-examination. You analyze your strange feelings, rather than avoiding them. You get in touch with things inside you that others would just run away from. That makes you uncommonly brave, and uncommonly observant."

      "Well, I don't know about being brave," said Kacey. "But I do observe a lot."

      "What have you observed that could help make furs less afraid of Webberton?" asked Sir Jon.

      "The only thing that trumps fear of Webberton on the internet is support for those seen as the good guys," Kacey explained. "That would be Camelot and The Ruling Family of Suburbia. So if you speak, most busybodies on the net won't try to contrary you."

      "Let's see if our official government site is still up, shall we?" said Sir Jon.

      Punching up the site, they saw that it was under the control of the Camelodians who had changed the passwords so The Ruling Family wouldn't be able to use it.

      "How irritatingly rude of them," Sir Jon commented.

      "Rude, but probably not effective," said Kacey. "I'd be very surprised if you didn't have technology to hack the site."

      "Of course I have such technology," said Sir Jon. "And they bloody well know I have it. Therefore they're doing this just to insult me; demonstrate their disrespect."

      "I'd think you too big a person to take personal insults seriously," said Kacey.

      "Hmmmm," said Sir Jon, thoughtfully. "I might disappoint you there."

      "Don't," said Kacey. "You have the technological advantage here. Don't even take the time to spank the Camelodians for their naughtiness. Compared to them you're a giant. Just step on them and move on as if you didn't even notice. Playing with trolls only gives them ground to fight you from."

      Sir Jon nodded approval and said, "I will draft a declaration of banishment against the Camelodians and have Rocie hack it on to the site. I will then have Rocie fix the passwords so the Camelodians can't change them again. I will also have Rocie save the site in case they try to take it offline. Rocie will then be able to regenerate it."

      "Sounds like a good plan," said Kacey. "The Camelodians will, of course, start a rumor that the declaration is a phony being generated by Webberton, just to keep social media hopelessly divided."

      "Tell me, Kacey," said Sir Jon. "In your considered opinion as an internet geek, how important is it that I win over social media?"

      "Sir Jon," said Kacey, in a slight tone of shame. "No one of any consequence takes social media seriously. When I see politicians taking memes, flame wars and fandom silliness seriously, that just tells me who not to vote for. I would never vote for anyone I could see wasn't smarter than me."

      "Still, I'm sure the Camelodians count on these people as useful idiots," said Sir Jon. "And it would infuriate them no end if I were to deprive them of the support of their useful idiots."

      "I could design a meme campaign for you," Kacey offered. "I doubt Camelot will be expecting you to attack them on a geek level. And of course, since they aren't geeks, they won't know how to effectively respond to it."

      "Do you realize that makes absolutely no sense?" said Sir Jon. "People whose own religion is steeped in the ways of propaganda not being equipped to deal with geek communication."

      "It's because of the false assumption that geeks are intelligent and respond to logic," said Kacey.

      "You certainly seem very intelligent," Sir Jon observed.

      "I'm highly skilled when it comes to archaic knowledge," Kacey admitted. "As a geek I get to choose where I want to focus my study and self-education. Naturally I focus it in areas that are of specific use to me. So I develop skills that are useful to me in fandom, rather than skills that enable me to function in the real world. To a great extent geeks don't live in the real world. We function in a reality those who are attuned to standard logic will never be able to understand."

      "You live in Wonderland," Sir Jon surmised. "You come from a place where insanity is the normal state of things. Would you be terribly offended if I asked you to be my useful idiot and win the internet for me?"

      "You couldn't do it for yourself?" she asked.

      "I'm afraid I've grown too old and dignified to deal with Wonderland," Sir Jon admitted. "Only you understand how these dreamers on social media think. And it is a wise gamer who defers to an expert."

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S11E225: The Omman Trinity Vs. The White Virus

Spectral Shadows
Serial No. 11
The Planet Of Genetic Misadventure
Episode 225
The Omman Trinity Vs. The White Virus

Copyright 1993, 2018 by Symphonic Rock Productions.

Featuring:

            

      

            

      Leela arrived at the house, much to Miyan's relief, explaining that she had been at the scene of the building fall observing and helping rescue efforts.

      She gave an account of how the Camelodians had attacked anyone who was in any way being successful in getting people out of the R.I. building, and explained that the reason it was taking so long was that the Camelodians had blocked all the exits out of the area and were only letting people out if they passed interrogation questioning.

      Perry was alarmed to learn that his building was not fully evacuated as the news reports had said. He asked if the building was unstable. And Leela reported that the building had taken considerable damage from debris, as well as missiles fired at the lower structure. But the damage was mostly cosmetic in nature. And, as might be expected of such a solidly built structure, it was hardly swaying in the wind any more than it was built to do.

      What had Leela especially pissed off was that she had discovered the people who had been rescued were being rounded up by the Camelodians and taken back into the building. Both Saint Saffron and The Shadow Cat had given up when they realized this. So the Camelodian soldiers now had uncontested control of the entire area, and even The Fire Chief was nowhere to be found.

      Miyan was much more interested in how Leela had managed to survive the fall. Leela explained she had used one of the gadgets Perry had made for The AD to grab the side of the building and tediously lower herself to safety.

      Miyan found this hard to believe, but she was too happy to have Leela alive to question it. And though Leela thought Miyan's concern for her somewhat strange, she was by no means flattered by it, and thus did her best to ignore it.

      Leela then reported a disturbing account of the questions she had to answer in order to be allowed to leave the area. They particularly wanted to know if anyone had heard any explosions other than the initial one and the crash of the black copter. Leela had said she'd been too busy helping with the rescue to have paid any attention. They seemed pleased with that answer and had passed her through.

      Perry wondered if they were sincerely investigating what had happened, or if they were trying to cover their tracks.

      Leela thought it odd he would even stop to ponder such a thing. The whole business was so obviously contrived that there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that the Camelodians were running the biggest and least well produced smoke and mirrors show in history.

      She suspected it had been planned to look a lot more plausible than it had ended up. It would seem that their coordination had been put off by equipment malfunctions, soldiers balking at their orders, and the shock of finding that The Ruling Family actually had arranged their own resources for dealing with such disasters.

      The fact that Suburbia had proven itself to not be completely helpless had unexpectedly damaged their ability to control the narrative. And as things stood now, the only way they could salvage their plans was to get complete control of the media. Thus they would most likely have to kill all witnesses who couldn't be convinced they didn't see what they saw. And Camelot would not be hamstrung by any inconsequential things like morality or compassion in a time of war.

***


      For some time, Perry and Sir Jon made phone calls. But they could not accomplish anything. The Camelodians were not going to let them leave their house, nor were they going to let any member of The Ruling Family near what they were calling "Ground Zero."

      A messenger came by and informed The Ruling Family that the Camelodians were keeping downtown Suburbia evacuated, due to the likelihood that The Rhoades Instruments Building would fall because of structural damage from debris.

      Sir Jon wanted to know by what idiocy it was assumed such a massive and well supported structure could be felled by debris. "High rise buildings are not made of cardboard, you know," he commented.

      But the messenger insisted that the building had indeed sustained considerable damage to crucial supports; that the damage was beyond all possibility of repair, and that a repeat of the fall of the M.T. building was inevitable.

      "And what was it that The Montgomery Technical Building had sustained so much damage from?" Sir Jon demanded.

      The messenger fumblingly put forward a theory of chemicals that might have been kept in the building without Camelodian awareness which had supported the fire and increased its intensity, melting and destabilizing the supports on every floor.

      "It sounds like you're describing sabotage," Sir Jon commented sternly, in his most superior sounding Camelodian accent. "Am I to understand the Camelodian military is so incompetent as to have missed sabotage of that magnitude going on under its very noses?"

      At this the messenger seemed quite downcast and apologetic as she admitted that this was their first real war deployment, and they had been so over-concentrated on looking for spies, obeying orders and doing everything by the book that the individual initiative it would take to notice anything out of the ordinary was negated, and had adversely limited their effectiveness.

      The messenger then hastily entreated Sir Jon not to repeat what she had said, as it was a personal criticism she was not authorized to make, and to express it could get her into extremely hot water.

      Sir Jon nodded understanding and dismissed the messenger.

      Meanwhile, Perry was on the phone arguing with the Camelodian Field Commander, saying it was essential that he get his explosives experts into The Rhoades Instruments Building to find and defuse the hundreds of bombs Perry knew would be necessary to bring it down.

      But the field commander assured Perry there were no bombs in his building, as it had been thoroughly swept. He dared to venture that Perry and Blair simply had not designed their buildings as well as they thought. She informed him that the building was leaning towards its damaged side, creating stress that Perry had failed to calculate.

      At this Perry became incredulous, saying he could see on the TV, or by just looking out his window, that the building was not leaning. The center structure of the building made it physically impossible for the building to lean.

      The Commander suggested that Perry was too distraught to be thinking clearly. He should just sit back and not worry, as everything was under control.

***


      Meanwhile, a group of Camelodian explosives experts were at work on the detonator which The Shadow Cat had disabled, unaware that an unknown person had slipped in behind them and was hiding in the shadows, taking pictures with a cell phone.

      Once they were done repairing and resetting the timer, the Camelodians turned to leave, but stopped when they sensed the character in the shadows, draped in dark rags.

      They assumed it to be some Ash that had crawled in to sleep. None the less, Ashes had been known to make damaging witnesses. So they drew their guns to kill it. But suddenly the figure in the shadows revealed a sawed off shot gun and blasted the two soldiers across the room.

      The ragged figure then made its exit through the hole The Shadow Cat had made in the wall, leaving the soldiers to bleed to death.

***


      Perry watched the TV as an announcer predicted the immanent fall of The Rhoades Instruments Building.

      He was enraged, asking if the Camelodians thought he was really so dense as to not know they were blowing up his building on purpose.

      Sir Jon said he would have to take the blame for under-estimating the corruption of The Camelodians. But this was no consolation to Perry as he watched the TV, expecting to see his building fall at any moment, knowing it was probably packed tight with Suburbian citizens.

      Perry's only hope was that The Shadow Cat would re-appear to prevent the detonation from being re-initiated, but Perry had not heard from him for some time, and he was worried.

***


      At a perimeter blockade, a gray feline identified himself as Jasper Phillips and pressed his thumb to the DNA data base scanner of a Camelodian blockade officer to prove it. But the soldiers insisted that Jasper Phillips was dead, and that this must be a spy from Webberton that had somehow assumed his identity.

      Jasper dismissively replied, "Whatever you say," and allowed himself to be taken into custody. He then found himself being transported back to the R.I. building, where he was forced into an elevator with several other prisoners.

      "How unusual it seems to be using the elevator in a building as damaged as this one is supposed to be," Jasper casually commented.

      The soldiers told him to be quiet, but he had succeeded in making them nervous.

      Jasper was taken into an office which the Camelodians had transformed into an interrogation center. Then he was placed in a waiting room with numerous other prisoners.

      There a gray squirrel girl he knew as Molly recognized him and exclaimed with joy to see him alive.

      But Jasper shushed her and the others, telling them to deny him if anyone asked if they recognized him as Jasper Phillips.

***


      The Rhoades household spent the night together in the drawing room watching the news in disbelief.

      Lappina eventually could hide in her room no longer. She joined the others, but clung to Perry for protection from what she perceived as a room full of enemies.

      Everyone could see she was inordinately agitated and disturbed. But under the circumstances they mistakenly attributed this to the war situation unfolding on the TV.

      Kacey and Vicki seemed just as disturbed, and were mostly speechless as they watched things unfold on the TV and listened to the analysis of The Ruling Family, surprised that for once in their lives The Ruling Family seemed to be completely out of control of a situation.

      On the TV, the Camelodians announced that they were working through the night so that the people of Suburbia might return to their jobs in safety in the morning.

      "What jobs?" Miyan mused. "With both Rhoades Instruments and Montgomery Technical out of business, Suburbia will be facing a 75% unemployment problem."

      Perry conjectured, "What they're probably doing is hauling all incriminating evidence away, as well as stealing my technology."

      Perry then passed around faxed photos that had just been sent to him; photos that showed the Camelodian soldiers re-setting the detonator. And one final picture which showed the soldiers lying unconscious after being blasted with what Sir Jon guessed was something along the lines of a sawed off shotgun loaded with rock salt.

      Leela's ears pricked up as Sir Jon identified the weapon used. She looked at the picture with a smile of recognition, but did not venture to say anything to anyone of what she suspected.

      As they continued to watch Timeline, The Mayor Of Camelot boasted of what a good job his soldiers did in protecting The Suburbians and subduing the attackers from Webberton.

      Sir Jon called the Timeline number, but was informed that soldiers were guarding the studio and allowing only pre-approved call ins.

      Sir Jon bellowed into the phone that as mayor he required no one's approval. But he was informed that only the acting Camelodian governor could authorize changes to the program.

      In extreme anger, Sir Jon slammed down the phone just as the acting governor was being introduced on TV, and it was explained that, in these times of crisis, an experienced military leader was needed to coordinate efforts, and that The Ruling Family had agreed to the installation of the temporary governor whose orders would supersede theirs until such time as it was no longer necessary for Suburbia to be under martial law.

      "Some friends you've got there, Dad," said Perry, pouring salt on his father's wounds.

***


      Jasper kept a comforting arm around Molly while they sat in the waiting room, and she asked what he thought was going to happen to them.

      Jasper replied calmly, "I imagine they'll hold us here until they can convince us we didn't hear and see what we heard and saw. Or until the building falls. Whichever comes first."

      "You don't seem very nervous," Molly observed, her own insecurity beyond all concealment.

      "Don't sweat it," said Jasper, in a reassuring tone. "I won't let anything bad happen to you. You know bullies don't stand a chance when I'm around."

      "It's been a long time since you protected The Green Meadow Lands Gang from bullies," she reflected.

      "But you haven't lost faith in me, have you?" asked Jasper, affectionately.

      "Never," she replied, forcing a faithful smile through her fear.

***


      When the Timeline program ended Sir Jon picked up the phone and called The Mayor Of Camelot directly, asking if he really thought he was going to get away with these extreme abuses of their defense contract.

      The Camelodian mayor pretended not to know what Sir Jon was talking about, saying all that had been done had been in strict accordance with their contract, right down to the very smallest print of it, which perhaps Sir Jon had neglected to read.

      "I really don't understand why you're surprised by any of this," said The Mayor. "You lived in Camelot long enough to know this is all standard Camelodian procedure. Much of our standard procedure was established under your influence. You know that Camelodians may be seen to take rude and unprecedented steps in providing security, but it is all in the cause of efficiency. And Suburbians should feel free to rely on that efficiency without question. We're only doing our job, protecting your town from Webberton."

      "How long do you anticipate Suburbia will need this protection?" asked Sir Jon, in a malevolent tone.

      The Mayor chuckled and said, "Indefinitely, I should imagine. Unless by some miracle someday Webberton should cease to exist, Suburbia will always be threatened by it."

      Sir Jon also allowed himself a good chuckle. Then he said, in an abruptly darker tone, "Yes, it is quite amusing how you deceived me, or encouraged me to deceive myself. But you likewise know well what I'm capable of when rubbed the wrong way. I will give you only one week to abandon that base and get your troops far away from Suburbia. If you do not, I promise you, you will lose everything I have given you, you ungrateful son of a bitch."

      The Mayor laughed maniacally and said, "I am not moved by the empty threats of the helpless."

      "You should contain your excitement, Mr. Mayor," said Sir Jon, in a slow, icy voice, as he projected his will through the telephone line. "You sound to me like someone about to have a heart attack. In fact, you sound to me like someone who has only seven days left to live."

      The mayor's amusement abruptly faded as he felt an invisible hand closing around his heart.

      "Know that your life is in my hands," said Jon, in a tone of murderous contempt, "as is the life of Camelot itself. If your soldiers have not withdrawn in a week's time, a storm such as no living Cygnesian has seen shall devastate Camelot. Do you still want to play war games with me?"

      "Within a week I can erase your existence from this planet," said The Mayor.

      "Are you sure?" asked Sir Jon, daringly. "Play your cards carefully, Mayor. The loser of this hand . . . will die."

      Sir Jon hung up the phone and noted Christine watching him with a concerned expression.

      "Speak," Sir Jon ordered, somewhat rudely, but Christine took no offense, maintaining the air of detached casual observer she seemed determined to keep up throughout these potentially deadly events, which was not surprising of someone who had once worked as a diplomatic ambassador.

      "Are you planning to bring down the wrath of the gods?" she asked, seeming intrigued, but not terribly concerned.

      "I'm sure you've realized by now that I am The Gods in this situation," said Sir Jon. "And that it is a burdensome responsibility."

      "Like running a town is a burdensome responsibility?" she asked.

      "Hmmmm," Sir Jon considered. "There is not much difference. In both cases a large population puts faith in you to hold the power of life and death over them, anticipating that you will not value their lives lightly."

      "Or that you will not be foolish enough to be careless with the town to make up for having been careless as a god, or vice versa," Christine suggested.

      "As The Mayor Of Suburbia I had some latitude for being careless," Sir Jon reflected. "In a female dominated society it was almost expected that I would screw some things up, if just to allow Sonny to prove female superiority by stepping in to clean up my messes."

      Miss Sonny, sitting on the other side of the room with the others watching the TV, let out a little chuckle.

      All assumed that what Christine and Sir Jon were discussing was between them and did their best to restrain the questions they were generating. Though both Becky and Grease were scribbling like crazy in their notebooks; this conversation by itself being almost as jaw dropping as anything they had seen on the TV that day.

      "But in my capacity as the last of The Omman Lords, I have no such latitude," Sir Jon continued. "I must see to completion the last of our deceased creator's experiments, allowing nothing to interfere. And in that capacity, my powers are virtually unlimited and terrifying in their implications."

      "But do you have the power to insure the result our creator anticipated?" asked Christine. "Or, if The Creator was wrong, is your obligation to prove it?"

      "In any kind of experiment," said Sir Jon, "results will not be valid unless the intent to reveal all error is maintained. However, if the experiment is proven false, then the experiment is ended, and the future is for anyone who maintains power to decide."

      "May we surmise that this war was set up by The Creator in order to prove something?" asked Christine.

      "We are no longer in a situation where everything can be blamed on Ra," said Jon. "Ra is dead and has been for some time. He died before my very eyes, placing in my hand the key to the closet in which he kept the chronicles of the great experiment, which was us. And thus it was left to us, the three, you, Rael and myself, to finish it."

      Leaving Becky to take notes on what Christine and Sir Jon were saying, Grease leaned close to Vicki and asked if all this talk of being gods with ultimate powers was to be taken seriously, or if Christine was just humoring a senile old fur.

      "You'll get used to it," said Vicki, softly. "I love Christine like a sister, but she's not of this world. This house itself is not of this world. There's no reason to think any understanding that exists between Christine and Sir Jon is not real. Just stop expecting anything they say to make sense to we who have never traveled time and space, or been to Magical School, or lived for thousands of years."

      "But if they are gods, why do they not stop the buildings from falling?" asked Grease.

      Vicki looked at Grease helplessly, saying, "Of all the people to ask, why me?"

      "Because you are closest to Christine," said Grease.

      "Not that close, apparently," said Vicki. "When those two get into it, I feel just as lost and confused as you do."

      "Interesting," Christine reflected, ignoring Vicki and Grease. "Then you are not the last of the gods. You are not empowered to act alone. You require Perry and myself to support you. Why have you not asked for our support?"

      "Until recently you weren't available," said Sir Jon. "And Perry was not in a position to assume Rael's part in our trinity."

      "And so you proceeded on your own, creating plans upon plans that were ineffective due to your lack of completeness," Christine reflected.

      "Was it not the same for you in your former life?" asked Sir Jon, perceptively.

      "It was," Christine agreed. "And perhaps for Perry as well. We all have had good intentions, but we can not function as The Creator intended unless we work together. And as we are all together now, perhaps you should not . . ."

      "Do anything insanely godlike without your approval?" asked Sir Jon.

      At this Perry could not help but burst out laughing, while waving at Christine and his father to ignore him.

      "I would not venture to advise my Sensei," said Christine, with amused affection.

      "I listen to you," Sir Jon assured her. "Do you disapprove of my threats to The Mayor Of Camelot?"

      "Frankly, I don't," said Christine. "I don't think anything has ever been gained by pussy footing around with evil. I think, if the experiment is to succeed, we need to be free to adapt it, change the rules when they are found to be ineffective."

      "Exactly which rule are you thinking is ineffective?" asked Sir Jon.

      "Would you agree with me if I suggested democracy was a totally ineffective tool in eliminating evil?" asked Christine.

      "I must admit I've never seen democracy do anything but bring out the worst in any civilization," said Sir Jon.

      "Then it would seem that, without governance, Ra's creations are completely incapable of not being corrupted by evil," said Christine.

      "Ra's creations are afflicted with certain viruses which they can not avoid," said Sir Jon.

      "And you have proven that these viruses can not be destroyed or bread out?" Christine surmised.

      "That would be an accurate assessment of my experiments," said Sir Jon. "Humans can only synch with good if ruled by good. And good governance can not be guaranteed from one generation to the next. Thus it is no good for humans to be ruled by other humans. They must be ruled by an immortal religion or philosophy that stresses uncompromising good."

      "But are humans capable of inventing such a religion?" Christine pondered.

      "They are not," said Sir Jon, as if it were a well proven fact. "But perhaps we of Ra's trinity may create such a religion."

      "In that event," Christine suggested, "any act we perform may become an aspect of the religion we would establish. Therefore we must consider if using our god-like powers to threaten and destroy our enemies is a good example to leave to the future."

      "A very wise thought indeed," said Sir Jon. "So now do you disapprove of my threats?"

      "Again," said Christine, affectionately, "I would not venture to disapprove of my Sensei. It is enough that you have thought about it."

      "Ah," said Sir Jon, approvingly. "I see your point. This must be the nature of The Trinity. The one to hold absolute power must be three in order that sane counsel be maintained to avoid corruption."

      "I know this much about you from our school days," said Christine. "On your own you might do any crazy thing. But when you know I'm watching and absorbing your example, you will do nothing you would not want me to emulate. You will do nothing you know is not good."

      "Christine, let's be realistic about this," said Sir Jon. "This is war. War is chaos. To bring order back from chaos I may have to kill a lot of people. How am I going to do that in a way you'll see as good?"

      "Do you think of me as some kind of innocent hippie child?" asked Christine. "During the time I worked with The Rebellion I learned the realities of war. There is no nice way to get around it. When other people are out to kill you or enslave you, you have to defend yourself. Don't hold back because you fear I won't approve anything that doesn't suit a childish belief that love rights all wrongs. That wouldn't be the right thing to do. And it certainly wouldn't set an effective example that the future could live by."

      "Then the commandment we will send to the future is 'Thou shalt kill?'" asked Sir Jon.

      "Thou shalt not kill is predicated on the assumption that a god exists to kill your enemies for you," said Christine. "And therefore you should not stain your hands with blood. That's not going to be the case for the future, is it?"

      "Not likely," said Sir Jon. "Anywhere people exist there will be some people deciding they need to kill or enslave them. And being passive about it will only result in death or enslavement, because there will be no gods, no magic; only mortal humans who will live and die by their own wisdom, or lack thereof."

      "Then the commandment of The Trinity, should Perry approve it, should be to never be passive with those who make war on you," said Christine, as Perry listened thoughtfully, not really wanting anything to do with this trinity business. "It should be known that humans are in full control of their own destiny, and those who seek to do evil onto others can not be stopped by reason or compassion. They need to be dealt with according to the severity of their trespass, regardless of how regrettable it may seem. Humans must learn to recognize evil the moment it rears its ugly head, and to waste no time in destroying it before it destroys them. That would be the only way humans might successfully manage the virus of evil they carry."

      "I see," said Sir Jon. "And who shall define what is evil being done onto others, as if that is not the excuse Camelot is using to justify its actions right now?"

      "That's for those under attack to determine," said Christine. "Regardless of their intentions, be they good or otherwise, we are obviously not under attack by anyone but Camelot. Even if they do not recognize the evil in seeking to defend others who have not asked to be defended, it is still evil. Humans have every right to throw their lives away if the only alternative is a war from which no good can come. To feel one has the power to take on that decision on behalf of others is the effect of The White Virus, wouldn't you say?"

      "I'm surprised you understand the concept so well," said Sir Jon. "But do you understand so well the workings of The Black Virus?"

      "Would I be right in assuming The Black Virus is The White Virus inverted?" asked Christine.

      "You would," said Sir Jon.

      "So, where The White Virus would inspire humans to do evil under the justification of defending others who haven't necessarily asked to be defended," Christine surmised, "The Black Virus would inspire humans to do evil onto those perceived as having done evil because of their tendency to defend other people without being asked."

      "And do you understand that it was The White Virus that drove you to want to defend Perry against the customs of his society, even though he told you repeatedly he liked things the way they were?" asked Sir Jon, "and that it is The Black Virus that's gaining a foothold through this new philosophy that's taking root in The Aviary and Noir?"

      "Wait a minute," said Christine, thoughtfully. "Are you saying that the root of both evils is the human obsession with social justice?"

      Grease seemed about to jump out of his chair and start indignantly spouting rhetoric about the virtues of social justice, but Becky restrained him and clamped his beak shut.

      "You tell me, Christine," said Sir Jon. "You're a war child. Have you ever known any war were both sides were not utterly convinced that their actions were justified as the enforcement or defense of social justice?"

      Christine found herself going cross-eyed trying to wrap her mind around what Sir Jon was suggesting.

      "I can't deny that's true," Christine finally admitted. "But if social justice is an inherently evil concept, where else is good to be found?"

      "If I knew the answer to that, we could fix the problem," said Sir Jon.

      "It would not be enough for The Omman Trinity to leave behind the commandment ‘Thou shalt not fight for social justice?'" asked Christine.

      "As a healer you know perfectly well that, when dealing with viruses, the commandment ‘Thou shalt not sneeze' would be utterly useless," said Sir Jon.

      "The commandment in that respect would be ‘Thou shalt take thy medicine,'" said Christine. "What medicine would counter the human drive to regard social justice as so important people would kill each other over it?"

      "The only thing I've ever been able to come up with is a commandment that says, ‘Thou shalt live and let live until thy living is infringed upon. Then thou shalt kill without mercy to protect thy space," said Sir Jon.

      Christine seemed shocked at the harshness of Jon's words, but she forced herself to contemplate them before reacting. Then she said, "In other words, live simply in your own space, never bothering others about what values they practice in their space, because at the end of the day it's none of your business. But when people come into your space trying to change it against your will, you have a right to defend what's yours. But that right ends at the border of your territory. You can eject invaders, if they will leave, but you can't pursue them into their territory and impose your values on it. You only have a right to defend what's yours."

      "Do you approve?" asked Sir Jon.

      "Well, I suppose that philosophy works fine for skunks and porcupines," said Christine, drawing curious expressions from Michelle and Patti, neither of whom understood how such ideas applied to them as a skunk and a porcupine.

      "Actually it doesn't," said Sir Jon. "They still get eaten."

      "Is it not Nature's way that animals get eaten?" asked Christine.

      "That's my problem, Christine," said Sir Jon. "I'm trying to cure humans of how Nature has decreed they should be?"

      "Jon," said Christine, in a very serious tone. "Even as Ra's Trinity, do we really have the right to decide that Nature is wrong and go against it?"

      "I think we do."

      "Why?"

      "Because Nature blessed humanity with the unique ability to seek its own destiny."

      "And wouldn't you say that's their territory?" asked Christine. "Son of Ra as you may be, does that really give you the right to dictate for humanity what Nature intended humanity to figure out for itself? It couldn't be that what you're trying to do is impossible because humanity can't be influenced or commanded to be good. Maybe it has to come up with the will to be good on its own?"

      "It will never do that," said Jon, in a tone that suggested there could be no question about this. "Unless I can change it, humanity will continue to be a thing of evil. And I will destroy humanity utterly before I'll allow that evil to continue into the new universe."

      All eyes in the room suddenly trained on Sir Jon in shock. It was bad enough to learn that Sir Jon held the power of life and death over humanity, let alone that he did not seem to like humanity at all.

      Christine likewise stared at Jon in jaw dropped shock, tears quickly welling in her eyes, as if she felt Jon had personally condemned and rejected her for racial reasons. And she said, with choked emotion, "But . . . But . . . I'm human. If you destroy humanity, you'll destroy all others in the future who might be like me. Am I really that evil in your eyes?"

      "You're a fox," said Jon, dismissively.

      "Oh, stop it," cried Christine, emotionally. "I'm no more a fox than any other half human vulpine on this planet."

      "Are you going to beg me to spare humanity for your sake?" asked Jon. "Suppose I order Rocie to give you the power to search out others like yourself in the future. How many should I require you to find to justify all the death and horror human kind will inflict throughout time in the new universe? How many do you think you could find; three, ten? Would you not sacrifice your own life to prevent the death and horror of just one human war?"

      "That isn't your decision to make for me or anyone like me," said Christine, tearfully. "But as for myself, if I had a choice to surrender my existence, along with the existence of all humanity, in order to prevent the war I was born into, so that my parents wouldn't have had to suffer as they did, I wouldn't do it. Because then my parents would never have been, just as I would never have been. And I would not want to deny them the beauty of the lives they lived before the war destroyed them."

      "You can say that, even knowing what your father did?" asked Sir Jon. "You no longer regard your father as a monster?"

      "That is not fair," Christine cried, tears spilling from her eyes. "Everything he did was to protect me, because I was his space. I was all he had."

      "And in the end he could not even protect you from himself," said Jon, with uncommon cruelty.

      "Are you really so ungrateful for the gift his existence gave you?" asked Christine, hardly able to speak through her tears. "Would you have rather never had me in your life, because you hate humanity that much?"

      "Have you ever considered," said Jon, "that if humanity had been eradicated before our time, my mother would not have died at the hands of humans, my brother would not have been taken away from me, and my forest would not have been devastated. And though I have lived thousands of years since then, humanity has never managed to undo its first impressions on me."

      "And do you feel the same way about wolves, and foxes?" asked Christine. "Is any enemy of deer and rabbits your enemy, even though you probably haven't been a deer for thousands of years? How can you be this way? Is even the son of Ra himself that vulnerable to The Black Virus? Has everything you've ever done been to achieve social justice for the massacre at Rubicon Forest?"

      "Actually, no," Jon relented. "Once I became a Time Captain I hardly thought about it at all. It's only you coming back into my life that has reminded me of those times."

      "Then I'm sorry I came here," said Christine.

      "Don't be," said Sir Jon, emotionally. "I need you."

      "Why do you need me?" asked Christine, sadly. "Evil human thing that I am in your eyes."

      "I need you because you're right," Jon admitted, looking downcast. "I am consumed with The Black Virus. It has made a monster of me. And this war, this unholy screw up I have achieved, is the result of it. Help me, Christine. I must find the answer."

      Christine seemed visibly relieved to find that Jon's anti-human feelings were not immovable. Thus it was something she could most likely help him get beyond. Still, the answer Sir Jon sought was the solution to a problem that had plagued humanity since the beginning of time. She could not see how any answer she came up with was likely to be the one Jon needed, if indeed there was any such answer to be found.

      "I can't help you find what doesn't exist," said Christine. "There is no way for you to mold humanity into what you think it ought to be, because that's not what Ra created you for. So he never gave you that power."

      "Ra is dead," said Jon, coldly. "I'm no longer dependent on him for the extent of my powers in this universe. And neither are you, for that matter. Or Perry."

      "I thought our powers were diminished by Ra's passing," said Christine.

      "Only so long as you reach out to him for power he can no longer give you," said Jon. "But once you realize you're new place in this universe you'll be so much more than a healer. You'll be a goddess."

      "I've never been interested in being a demigod, have you?" asked Christine.

      "Not especially," said Sir Jon.

      "Do I have enough rank in The Trinity to ask you to give up your foolish plan?" asked Christine. "To just let humanity be whatever it will be, for better or worse?"

      "If you mean will I decline to destroy humanity for your sake . . . " said Sir Jon. "Well, I'm sure I couldn't go through with it with you watching anyway."

      Christine breathed a sigh of relief and said, "Well, at least we got that out of the way."

      "So shall we forget the matter of the commandment?" asked Sir Jon.

      "I think not," said Christine. "I think we've come up with a good commandment, and we ought to let it govern our actions."

      "Meaning we should do whatever we must to protect Suburbia," said Sir Jon. "And otherwise stay the hell out of everyone else's business."

      "Works for me," said Christine. "We have asked the Camelodians to leave, and they've refused. If we put up with their abuse, we will just encourage more of it. It is only by showing the extreme measures we're willing to use to stop them that others will be deterred from trying this in the future,"

      "Are you very sure we shouldn't love and tolerate them to death?" asked Sir Jon, as if to remind Christine of her childhood outlook on life.

      "I don't recall that strategy ever being recommended during our schooling," said Christine. "I seem to remember being told that peaceful resistance was nothing but a good way of getting a lot of people killed. And I certainly saw that borne out by The Rebellion. Peaceful resistance can only work when your enemies care about you and don't want to kill you. That will never be the case in an ideological conflict."

      "So the wage of war is death," said Sir Jon. "And after all our experience, that is the best we can come up with?"

      "You know it is," said Christine. "As long as human beings have any expectation what so ever that they can get away with it, they will perpetrate evil on others. Only when it is fully understood that trespass will be punished will humans have reason to value peace."

      "Does it bother you at all how much your father would have approved that statement?" asked Jon.

      "Only in so much that I treated him more cruelly than he deserved because of my immaturity," said Christine.

      "Then if you were to meet him again, you would forgive him?" asked Sir Jon.

      "For nuking Nihongo or for raping me?" asked Christine, not waiting for an answer. "Perhaps, when I go back to my time, I will see him again, and I will try my best not to look on those things as his fault. Just as I will not look on anything you are forced to do in this situation as your fault. It is Camelot and Webberton that foolishly cling to the idea of divinely endorsed imperial conquest. And regardless of who ends up with the responsibility for dealing out the required punishment for that folly, they will not share the blame. They will just have ended a situation human beings should have known never should have been started in the first place."

      "So if I were to offer you an airplane and a nuclear bomb, would you destroy Camelot?" asked Sir Jon.

      Christine thought a moment, as if finding the idea repugnant, but then she maintained her resolve and said, "If there was no other way to save Suburbia from them, I would do it."

      "But what if I lied to you?" asked Sir Jon. "What if I was making all this up and Camelot were just trying to be the good guys? What if I wanted you to destroy them for me so I'd be able to get away with something evil?"

      "I wouldn't nuke them unless I was sure beyond all doubt I was destroying the bad guys," said Christine. "I wouldn't do it just because you told me to. It would be my business as one of the good guys to be absolutely sure and have to take no one's word for it."

      Sir Jon chuckled, as if lightening up, saying, "You know, I'll never get used to you being this mature. In a way I still miss my adopted little sister."

      "Strangely I feel the same way about you," said Christine. "I miss my somewhat impetuous big brother who hadn't quite taken the weight of the universe on his shoulders yet."

      "Still, it's nice to have someone besides Sonny who knows me well enough to help me sort out my messes," said Sir Jon. "And you have helped me get beyond my injured pride to see this situation more rationally. I will not destroy Camelot for what they have done; I will merely show that I can get them to go away if I want them to.

      "It will be more effective if I exploit the loopholes in their religion. The literature on which they base their religion encourages them to gamble, as well as to be so deceitful that their left hand rarely knows what their right hand is doing. Thus, no Camelodian soldier dares guess at orders. They dare not think for themselves the right or wrong of what they're told to do. They can only hope that the chain of command is in order and knows what it's doing. And they dare not care if what it is doing is morally sound or not. Indeed, in any military oriented state, morality is determined by the chain of command. Therefore you do not move Camelot without striking the fear of the gods at the highest point of the chain of command."

      "Still The Master Of Games after all these years," Christine observed.

      "Have you lost confidence in my gaming skills?" asked Sir Jon.

      "In your ability to win the impossible game? Never," said Christine. "But I remember your strategies can be a little hard on your friends. In fact, I can see why you got on so well with Camelot. Your strategies were not so different from theirs. To you winning was always the most important thing, even if all your friends had to die, or end up spending considerable time in a torture chamber."

      "You're referring to my strategy for winning the Aslander game," said Sir Jon. "It was indeed difficult. I had to be willing to sacrifice myself to win."

      "I never got a chance to ask you if you knew beforehand that Rael was the only one who could defeat Omega," said Christine. "Did things go according to your strategy? Or did Rael pull your tail out of the fire after your strategy totally bombed out?"

      "I did not know that Rael was the one against whom Omega would demonstrate a fatal weakness," said Jon. "I was counting just as much on you as I was Rael and myself. My strategy was that, if we all hit him with everything we had, one of us would capture his crown. As things worked out, I would not say my strategy was a failure."

      "But not particularly brilliant either, I take it," Perry interjected, his patience for staying out of the conversation exhausted.

      "That is another mistake The Camelodians are prone to," said Sir Jon. "They think in war one wins points for brilliant strategies. But very often the most effective strategy of ‘Hit 'em With Everything You've Got' provides the decisive win. And Camelot has some awareness of what I could hit them with if I was willing to pull out all the stops. They are gambling that I will not pull out all the stops, because it will reveal things about myself I don't want the world to know. They are gambling that I will be as protective of my secrets as they are of theirs."

      "In that event I should put my money on Camelot," said Perry.

      "Oh, no, Perry," said Christine. "Never bet against your father. Winning means more to him than the protection of any secret. It means more to him than your life . . . Or mine."

      "But he equates your life with the survival of the universe," said Perry.

      "It doesn't matter," said Christine. "I'm still a card in his deck. And he will risk playing me if he feels it necessary to win."

      "Does it bother him that I don't approve?" asked Perry.

      "Of course," said Christine. "It always has, even when we knew you as Rael. But still that's never stopped him."

      "You don't mind being a card in my deck, do you, Perry?" asked Sir Jon, cryptically.

      "What can I do against Camelot?" asked Perry.

      "You will know, when I play you," said Sir Jon.

      Perry shrugged, as if to say this was typical of his father, and returned his attention to the TV screen. But after considering Camelot's repetitious rhetoric for a moment he asked, "Is there any chance that Suburbia actually is under attack from Webberton as the news program suggests? The reports seem very convincing."

      "It is the function of smoke and mirrors to make an illusion look convincing," said Sir Jon. "But logic will foil it every time. Consider this. Are the Camelodians lying about a single terrorist bomb and a single crashed helicopter knocking down a building and threatening to bring down another?"

      "They certainly are," Blair interjected, dryly.

      "It is good that you are so certain of that," said Sir Jon. "If you had any doubt at all in your ability to judge the science involved, you would be vulnerable to deception, as are the 97% of the population who are not extensively educated in physics and architecture. Now consider this question. Does Webberton have the technology and skill to wire 2 mile high buildings for demolition on their best day, let alone under the noses of the Camelodians?"

      "Webberton is largely dependent on me for their technology," said Blair. "Conscientious fellows like Perry prefer to spread their technology to more reputable towns, like Noir, who end up using it to attack Suburbia. I, however, am far too cautious to give Webberton any technology they might use to attack Halloween. So, no. They absolutely do not have that ability."

      "Very well then," said Sir Jon. "Who did have the technology and the opportunity to wire the buildings for demolition?"

      "The Camelodians with their emergency evacuation drills," said Perry.

      "So far your observation skills are up to par," said Sir Jon. "But now look out the window and tell me if you see fighting in the streets or in the air between Camelodian and Webberton forces."

      "I do not," said Perry

      "Well, then," said Sir Jon. "Under the circumstances, who does logic dictate we're at war with?"

      "Logic would seem to dictate we're at war with Camelot," said Perry. "But this does not seem like any kind of war I've ever read about. What kind of war is it where you just invite your enemies in and allow them to do whatever they please to you?"

      "Both Camelot and Webberton are well aware that conventional warfare will not fly on Cygnus," said Blair. "Neither favors the physically attack and overwhelm by force method of warfare that was common to the elder race. Because there's always the possibility of other towns banding together to create a greater opposing power. Or of people simply becoming overwhelmed with righteous indignation to a point that a very few will sacrifice themselves to bring their enemy down. It is not numbers or technology that often turn the tide in war, but conviction of spirit and determination. These must first be defeated before any long lasting conquering can take place.

      "Therefore, psychological warfare is favored among those towns on Cygnus with imperialistic constitutions. The threat of an army from Webberton marching into Suburbia and overwhelming the town by force is just a threat, a terror tactic. It's not something they would ever actually do. Because once they do it, they'd be easily enough destroyed. Therefore, in order for Camelot to conquer Suburbia, they must deceive you into handing it over to them willingly, so that their forces do not appear to be an invasion. But in fact you have been invaded. You just neglected to close the front door, allowing them easy access."

      "It's irritating how much satisfaction you seem to take in us making such a mistake," said Perry.

      "It is difficult not to take satisfaction in being proven a superior ruler," said Blair. "Something like this would never happen in Halloween."

      "I'm sorry, Perry," Miss Sonny interjected. "But Blair makes a good point. He has every right to gloat."

      "You agree that this wouldn't happen in Halloween under Blair's rule?" asked Perry.

      "Of course it wouldn't," said Miss Sonny. "Blair is too practical to trust the obviously untrustworthy."

      "And also too practical to trust the defense of his town to an outside partnership that could potentially go sour," Leela added. "Blair may not as yet have had a chance to build up Halloween's own military for self-defense, but he doesn't need it. Blair Montgomery is of himself a defensive force no town on this planet could stand against."

      "Well, I'm glad someone fully appreciates my achievements," said Blair. "Perhaps I should give more tours of my castle to potential enemies."

      "Stop patting yourself on the back, boy," said Sir Jon. "Such over confidence will be your downfall. Now, apply your minds to this question. Did Webberton initially employ their terror tactic to create an opening for Camelot to take over Suburbia, or was that just a ploy to scare Jenny and Perry into an arranged marriage that would have given Webberton influence over Suburbia?"

      "The latter would be typical of Queen Devilla," said Blair. "And it would also have been typical of her to back out when she saw how Camelot intended to capitalize on her tactic, because Webberton would never engage in open warfare with Camelot. It would be suicide. But if Camelot took over Suburbia, Perry might use his influence with Jenny to call Webberton in as an ally. Webberton would enjoy the feeling of respectability it would give them. They may even have sent The Shadow Cat here to help us. Not to mention the probability of Webberton increasing its influence over Suburbia through such an alliance. But Camelot is depending on Suburbia to remain terrified of Webberton. As long as Suburbia is terrified, it will give Camelot everything it wants without a fight."

      "A war of terrorism," Perry pondered. "Where nothing actually happens. People merely scare each other into victory or defeat."

      "I'll confess something to you, Perry," said Blair. "I employed a variation of the same tactic to get control of Halloween. There is nothing the people of Halloween fear more than the possibility of their town failing. It was no trick for me to magnify that fear in their minds, nor to convince them that I was the only one who could save them from it. Because of that, they can refuse me nothing. I as well as own that town. And I can gain control of many other towns the same way. So could you, or even Christine. Certainly Sir Jon could do it."

      "The only difference being that we're too scrupulous to do it," Christine added.

      "That's the unfortunate Catch 22 in this situation," Blair explained. "You who actually have the best interests of everyone at heart are far too restrained by your morals to use the power you possess. You're interested in saving the world, but not if you have to conquer it first to do it. In a world where terrorism is a decisive factor, good can never win out over evil. Good requires freedom of intellect to function. And as you can see, freedom of intellect is what The Camelodians are trying to suspend."

      "Blair, did you teach The Camelodians this?" asked Perry, in shock.

      "Certainly not," said Blair, in disgust. "I have nothing to do with Camelot. They're just as much my enemy as yours. No, someone else in this room is responsible for bringing this awareness to our planet. And we all bloody well know who it is."

      "I suppose I might have taught them a bit much," said Sir Jon, sadly.

      "Don't flatter yourself," said Blair. "I wasn't referring to you this time. It was Perry who taught this world the power of fear. The Golden Boy against whom not one disparaging word could be said, for fear of losing all the good things his presence had made them accustomed to. The Golden Boy who acquired unprecedented power by portraying himself to be delicate and perishable, even after he had acquired strength and durability that many would envy.

      "I have watched you do it all my life. Watched you instill fear in your friends to get your way, or to get out of things you didn't want to do, even if you could have done them. That's why I grew to hate you, Perry. Because there has not been a day I have not seen you demonstrate the effectiveness of terrorism to the world."

      "Perry, don't fall for this," said Christine, seeing that Perry was being worked into a bad state by Blair's words. "He's trying to psych you out."

      "No," said Perry. "No, Blair does hate me. There is no doubt of that. There must be some reason."

      "But you know it's not true," said Vicki. "You never abused your illness to get your way with your friends, or the town. You were too honorable for that."

      "Was I?" asked Perry. "I'm not sure. I don't remember so clearly. Maybe there were times when I overstated things to get my way. Or maybe I just fooled myself into thinking I was weaker than I really was."

      "I congratulate you, Blair," said Sonny. "You are indeed adept at terrorism. Look at yourself, Perry. With only a few words Blair has reduced you to a trembling mass of uncertainty. In that state you could be convinced to take the sins of the world on your own shoulders, whether you've rightful claim to do so or not. Blair has confused you of your very identity. And in this guilt he has filled your being with, you will become his pawn. Through you he can control Suburbia as freely as he controls Halloween."

      "Is she right, Blair?" asked Perry.

      "Absolutely," said Blair. "What I did was mix just enough of the truth with a lie to get you to buy the lie."

      "The truth being that you hate me," Perry supposed.

      "Unfortunately, yes," said Blair. "I then employed the probability that you might have abused your illness a time or two over the course of your life. This provided a little hole in your character that could be ripped at to make you see yourself as hopelessly immoral. This enabled me to hit you with the final lie that you are responsible for the ills of the entire world, and [snap] your free will was utterly destroyed. And that is why tomorrow your building will be lying in ruins, and the Camelodians will have convinced you it was all your fault.

      "That is the real reason why I hate you. You are weak - far weaker than you even imagine yourself. And a person in your position, with your responsibilities, has no business being that weak."

      "Then, if my building falls tomorrow it's not my fault?" asked Perry.

      "Certainly not," said Blair. "It's clearly all your father's fault, and maybe a bit of mine for getting too cocky."

      "Please, at this point, don't be generous," said Sir Jon, dryly.

      "Thank you, I won't," said Blair. "The blame's all yours, and you're welcome to it."

      "How rude," Christine remarked.

      "It is never rude when someone states the truth, Christine," said Sir Jon. "And if there's one thing this situation does not need, it's more lies to save face. I'm guilty as charged. I have made mistakes when I had responsibility to not be so careless. I will gain nothing by denying others the right to rebuke me for it in as rude a wording as they deem appropriate."

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S11E224: The Keeper Of Furgatory

Spectral Shadows
Serial No. 11
The Planet Of Genetic Misadventure
Episode 224
The Keeper Of Furgatory

Copyright 1993, 2018 by Symphonic Rock Productions.

Featuring:

            

            

            

            

            

      As Christine continued to work on Kenny, normal light reappeared around Patti and she woke up.

      "Oh," gasped the porcupine girl, looking around her at the strange alien surroundings of the Sound Chaser, and then quickly inspecting her body to make sure it was still made of flesh, blood and fur.

      "Am I in Heaven?" Patti asked Christine, assuming she was some kind of holy spirit because of the meditation pose she was seated in. "Or is this some place we go before we get to Heaven?"

      "Ohmmmmmmm," said Christine in a monotone, without opening her eyes. "This is the intergalactic fix it shop. Ohmmmmmm. You were broken. Ohmmmmmm. Now you're fixed."

      Patti's eyes then fell on the subject of Christine's concentration. She gasped deeply and exclaimed, "Kenny! Did he fall too? Was I broken like him? Can he really be fixed?"

      "Ohmmmmm," chanted Christine, pain audible in her voice. "You're breaking my concentration. Ohmmmmmm. Please ask somebody else."

      "Oh, I'm sorry," said Patti, with uncertainty, as she backed away and bumped into another table. Then she turned quickly around and exclaimed, "Boss!"

      Miyan's eyes flew open wide and she stared upwards for a second. Then, all at once, she began whipping her arms about, as if to disperse the purple air.

      Light then returned to normal around Miyan, and she sat up breathlessly, as if having just awakened from a nightmare.

      Then Miyan seemed to come to her senses and realize where she was. She looked over at Patti and smiled.

      "We survived," said Miyan, as if she could hardly believe it.

      "Survived?" asked Patti. "I . . . I don't think so. I think we will meet The Goddess soon."

      "Ohmmmmm. I am The Goddess. Cuckoo ka-chooo. Ohmmmmmm," said Christine, in what seemed a delirious daze.

      "What's up with Christine?" asked Miyan.

      "Is that Christine?" asked Patti. "Is she the keeper of Furgatory?"

      Miyan shook her head in surprise and said, "You really think we're dead, don't you?"

      "I've seen no place on Cygnus like this," said Patti. "We can't still be in our own world."

      "Well, I've seen this place before," Miyan assured her. "And it's right under Perry's house. Now, you don't think Furgatory would be under Perry's house, do you?"

      "OHHMMMMMM," Christine cried out, as if she were in excruciating agony.

      "Christine, what's wrong?" asked Miyan, urgently.

      "OOOOhhhhhhmmmmmm," Christine moaned, as if enduring some unending hellish torture. "Not all the kings horses . . . or all the kings men . . . can help me put Kenny . . . together again."

      Miyan looked at the table before Christine and beheld the severity of Kenny's injuries. She gulped hard, wondering as Patti had done, if she had been brought to the lab in that condition, and if Christine had suffered like this to save her.

      Christine groaned long and painfully, clenching her fists, as if to summon power to fight something, or draw something inside her.

      Miyan watched horror stricken as the bones inside Christine's body seemed to be moving inside her flesh. And when she looked back at the table she observed similar motion inside Kenny's body.

      This sight by itself was a nightmare Miyan would not soon put behind herself. But most unbearable of all were the projections of pain Christine was spewing into the air.

      It was more than Miyan could take. She grabbed Patti's hand and towed her through the door, feeling relief almost as soon as they were outside the lab.

      She took a breather for a second. Then she led Patti up to the part of the house she was familiar with. And as soon as Patti realized she was indeed in Perry's house, she lost all thoughts of being dead.

***


      Miyan and Patti came up to the drawing room where they found the others watching events unfold on television.

      "Patti, are you all right?" asked Blair, urgently, as he rushed to her, completely ignoring Miyan.

      "I'm alright, Blair," said Patti, in a state of bemusement. "I just can't believe I'm still alive. I saw Kenny in the basement. He doesn't look so good."

      "Christine doesn't look so good, either," Miyan commented, shivering as if still creeped out.

      "She wouldn't," said Sir Jon. "I hope Blair is aware of the hell Christine will have to suffer to save that boy."

      "I understand, Sir Jon," said Blair, sincerely. "To be honest I can hardly believe she'd do such a thing for me. I fully expected her to say no."

      "I don't think Christine's the type to turn anyone away who comes to her door for help," said Perry.

      Blair directed Patti to a chair and sat her down. Miyan sat down near Patti, and Blair returned to his seat beside Michelle.

      "Have they said anything about Leela on the news?" asked Miyan.

      "Not a word, Boss," said Kacey, dutifully.

      "Damn it," said Miyan, painfully. "She must have fallen straight down to the street."

      "With Saint Saffron around I find that hard to imagine," said Blair.

      "It's crazy," said Miyan, as if distressed that there might be some unrighteousness to her survival. "She had me in one arm and Patti in the other. She could only save two of us. But why would she choose me instead of Leela?"

      "I don't know," said Perry. "Maybe she figured that's what Leela would have wanted. Or, maybe she figured Leela could take care of herself. Goodness knows I've sold The AD lots of gadgets for breaking long falls."

      "You think she could have survived?" asked Miyan, hopefully.

      "If you didn't see her hit the ground," said Perry, "I'm not going to count her out until I see the body."

      "Doesn't anybody think it odd that Saint Saffron was there at all?" asked Michelle.

      "Not really," said Perry. "Saint Saffron has a vested interest in Leela. Leela's on a dangerous job. Saffron wouldn't want to take a chance on Leela ending up like Jasper."

      "Well, if Lennox is dead, Saint Saffron is to blame," said Michelle, angrily. "She's the one that did this to us. I guess she just didn't figure her attack to backfire and hit the Rhoades building as well."

      "Now, Michelle," said Blair. "We shouldn't make that assumption."

      "What assumption?" Michelle demanded, incredulously. "I had her calling card in my hand when the bomb blew up."

      "Bomb?" Grease queried, scribbling in his notebook. "There have been no news reports of a bomb."

      Perry directed everyone to the aerial footage of the burning Montgomery Technical Tower that was playing on the TV. Then he asked Michelle, "Do you really think that kind of damage could have been caused by a bomb inside the building?"

      "I don't think. I know," said Michelle, indignantly. "I was there."

      "I was there too," said Miyan. "It wasn't a bomb. It was two missiles fired from a helicopter with a Webberton insignia. We saw it quite clearly as it flew around the R.I. building and took aim. Leela thought it was going to shoot at us. That's why she had us huddled under that desk. If not for that we might not have fallen out of the building."

      "I saw the copter as well, just for a second," said Blair, with a slight chuckle. "It was sitting right beside your office, Miyan. All the while we were flying across the street I was thinking you'd taken our corporate feud to a new extreme."

      "I beg your pardon," said Becky. "Are you saying there was a bomb, and two missiles? Was that overkill, or were you attacked by two different enemies at the same time?"

      "I'm not sure there was a bomb," said Blair, thoughtfully. "There was a box. But we didn't have time to open it. And I'm not actually aware of it exploding."

      "Kacey, turn the volume up, please," said Sir Jon, urgently.

      " . . . widespread panic at the announcement that Webberton aircraft are approaching Suburbia. Aircraft from the Camelot base are scrambling to engage the enemy and prevent them from reaching Suburbian skies. But just in case any more should break through, citizens are advised to evacuate large buildings and take refuge in basements or underground shelters."

      "Meyow!" cried Jenny, in horrified disbelief. "This can't be happening! Myi mother wouldn't do it this way!"

      "Dad, are we to assume you have this under control?" asked Perry, with reluctant skepticism.

      "At this point I'd have to say that would not be a safe assumption," said Sir Jon, with hesitant uncertainty, as everyone looked on in astonished disbelief.

***


      A group of soldiers arrived at The Rhoades Mansion, saying they had been dispatched to protect The Ruling Family and were setting up a guard post outside the house.

      Sir Jon protested that he had made no such request for protection. But they insisted this was standard procedure in protecting a town that was under attack. The Ruling Family needed to be sequestered and kept under secure guard.

      Sir Jon threw up his hands and told them to do what they wanted, as it was their time to waste. But he warned, "Woe be tied anyone who should try to prevent me from leaving if I want to, or if harm should befall any innocents trying to enter the house."

***


      Both Saint Saffron and The Shadow Cat had been assisting the local fire department with the complicated evacuation of the two mile high buildings. Saffron had helped to construct a long scaffold outside the R.I. building which could be used to lower workers to the ground, usually at a rate of one floor's occupants at a time. But it was a hastily built and untested apparatus which sometimes malfunctioned, causing workers to fall off. Fortunately so far she had managed to catch everyone who had fallen.

      Meanwhile, The Shadow Cat used his Shadow Copter to help evacuate the M.T. building. The cage suspended beneath the copter by a cable was more frightening than the scaffold Saint Saffron was working with, but less prone to deadly malfunctions; which was a good thing, because The Shadow Cat wasn't free to try catching anyone who went flying.

      The work for both out of town superheroes was slow. The people were terrified and hysterical, and there was a pervading sense that time was not on their side hanging in the air.

      Then, as The Shadow Cat was making a return trip for more workers, he was fired upon by Camelodian fighters.

      Desperately he tried to radio the Camelodian fighters, saying "Cease fire, you idiots. Can't you see this is a rescue vehicle?"

      "You won't get away with it, Webberton scum," was the only reply he received.

      The Shadow Cat tried to point out the Suburbia Fire Department emblem he had pasted on the side of his copter. But all the fighters could see was a black copter piloted by a feline dressed for battle.

      Seeing this on television, Sir Jon hurriedly telephoned the Camelodian command, but his order to cease firing upon the black helicopter was immediately tied up in red tape. This only added to Sir Jon's visible distress and uncertainty.

      The bullets could not hurt The Shadow Copter, of course. But The Shadow Cat dared not fly near The Montgomery Technical Building while being fired upon, lest innocent people be hit by what the Camelodians would have termed "Friendly fire." So he had no choice but to retreat and fly out over No Furs Land, with the Camelodian copters following him.

      As soon as they were over the wilderness, The Shadow Copter whirled on the Camelodians and fired a disrupter beam at their motors, causing the Camelodians to crash into the jungle. And though The Shadow Cat was aware that there was little chance of anyone in those copters surviving, he would not waste time regretting it. Whether their intensions had been good or bad he could not afford to consider. Their continued existence was potentially costing lives on a grand scale. And, according to the morality taught to him at Superhero School, ignorance of such a fact was no cause for mercy.

      The Shadow Cat then hurriedly raced back to The Montgomery Technical Building and lowered his rescue cage down to a shattered window, where more workers were waiting to be evacuated. And the survivors frantically clambered inside.

      Just as the cage was about filled, another black copter with Webberton insignia appeared, spraying bullets indiscriminately.

      Saffron, watching from the scaffold on the R.I. building, noted that it was either the same copter that earlier had fired on the M.T. building, or a twin to it.

      Saffron quickly opened a bulletproof shield and tried to protect the workers on the scaffold from stray bullets, but the shield was not big enough, nor was she fast enough to prevent workers from being shot and falling off the scaffold. And now she was too busy to dive after them.

      The black copter also sprayed bullets in the Shadow Cat's direction as it buzzed around both buildings. But there was little The Shadow Cat could do to protect those in the cage below.

      Suddenly more Camelodian fighters arrived to pursue the black copter. It climbed into the air as it flew away with the Camelodians in vertical pursuit.

      The Shadow Cat locked the cage and took another load down to the ground. Then he waited anxiously as those who had been lucky enough to escape injury did their best to get the wounded unloaded.

      While waiting, The Shadow Cat noticed Saffron arguing with the fire chief, who obviously thought her scaffold too dangerous to use in this situation.

      The Shadow Cat saw reason in not trying to evacuate buildings with enemy aircraft attacking. But he decided to try getting just one more load before any other copters could show up. So once he saw the cage was fully unloaded, he urged The Shadow Copter back into action.

      While he was waiting for his cage to fill again, The Shadow Cat heard a copter approaching from a distance and called down to the workers to speed it up. He noted that the sound was getting louder too fast and looked up just in time to see the black copter which had disappeared into the clouds flying straight down at an incredible amount of speed.

      Before The Shadow Cat could even make a move to warn anyone, the black copter slammed into the top of the M.T. building and exploded, sending a shower of flames pouring over all sides of the building, as if the copter had collided with an enormous tank of gasoline. Though it was hard to imagine why any such container, situated between the transmission antennas on the roof, wouldn't have already exploded.

      The Shadow Cat saw the liquid flames falling towards him. If he stood his ground, The Shadow Copter would protect him, but the furs in the cage below would be fried. He had no choice but to pull away from the building, which was now beginning to rock, as if the blow to its head had somehow left it unable to continue standing still.

      As The Shadow Copter pulled away from the building, workers jumped for the cage; some managing to catch it and hang on to the outside. Others missed their mark and fell down into the street. While those still exposed to the burning liquid falling down the outside of the building were engulfed in flames; most of them falling out of their windows, while those awaiting rescue in the R.I. building watched in prayerful horror.

      As The Shadow Cat was descending with what he feared would be his last load of survivors, his sensitive ears detected explosions from below, and he sensed the structure of the M.T. Building beginning to rock with frightening instability, as if it was rapidly taking on the consistency of a house of cards, or a well-balanced tower of dominoes.

      Suddenly The Shadow Copter's computer warned of an approaching shower of falling debris, and The Shadow Cat moved the copter further away from the building, alighting safely in the park just in time to look up and witness the final death of The Montgomery Technical Building.

      A cloud of dust and violently flying debris was descending from the top, a mile in the air. It was descending fast, and at a regular speed of what he roughly calculated was something like one floor per second. And as much as he tried to rationalize this with his previous impression of a house of cards or a stack of dominoes, he couldn't make any sense out of what he was seeing.

      By the laws of physics the domino effect would not work going straight down. The law of equal and opposite resistance should have already stopped it. And a house of cards wouldn't fall straight down either. It would twist and fall to one side.

      As fascinated and puzzled as he was, The Shadow Cat knew he had no time to sit there and figure this out. Those on the ground would need rescuing now, and every second would count.

      Meanwhile, those gathered at The Rhoades Mansion were stunned as they watched the collapse of The Montgomery Technical Building on TV. Perry was aghast, stating that such a fall made no sense. But none seemed so shocked and horrified as Blair himself.

      "My building!" he exclaimed, his antlers seeming to burn with rage. "This time they've gone too far. I'll see them all dead for this."

      "Who, Mr. Montgomery?" asked Grease, intently. "Who did this to you?"

      Blair hesitated in sudden realization and then admitted he wasn't quite sure. And not knowing seemed to be a new and strange experience for Blair that he was not at all enjoying.

      Nervously Jenny asked if anyone thought The Rhoades Instruments Building would fall too.

      Now it was Perry's turn to be shocked. He asked Jenny why she would even think of such a thing. He was The Master Builder. He had every confidence that his building would not crumble in such a fashion.

      But Blair grabbed Perry's arm insistently, shouting, "This is no time to be thinking logically. Clear your building just in case."

      A horrifying idea seemed to occur to Perry, and he dashed into the study to use his cell phone, frantically dialing Saint Saffron's number.

      It took several breathless minutes for Saint Saffron to answer, as she was busy helping the firefighters rescue people while debris relentlessly assaulted the R.I. building. But when she finally did answer, Perry shouted at her, "Sabotage! R.I. Building will fall! Step up the evacuation as fast as you can!"

      Perry then called The Shadow Cat and informed him that the second building was likely to start falling at any moment.

      "It will not," said The Shadow Cat, in a tone that suggested he would personally not allow such a thing. "I will stop it from falling."

      Perry screamed at him, "It's impossible. There's no time."

      But The Shadow Cat had no time to waste with Perry's hysterics, as a second black helicopter appeared on the scene, spraying bullets into the shattered windows of the R.I. building from a distance that kept it out of range of flying debris.

      The Shadow Cat ran as quickly as he could back to The Shadow Copter, lifted into the air and flew to engage the enemy helicopter.

      He shot a stream of bullets into it, but the enemy copter ignored them. And by this The Shadow Cat realized there was no one in the enemy copter for his bullets to hit. It was an unmanned copter being operated by remote control, which explained its haphazard targeting.

      It would be the simplest thing for him to fire a missile and destroy the copter, but the last thing anyone still alive on the street needed was more falling debris. Instead, he flew The Shadow Copter into the path of the enemy bullets and attempted to shield those inside the building.

      This maneuver was not entirely successful, but The Shadow Cat kept it up until the unmanned copter had expended its ammunition.

      At which time, just as the previous copter had done, the unmanned copter flew off into the upper atmosphere, presumably to gain momentum for a crash dive on The Rhoades Instruments Building.

      The Shadow Cat followed after it, and as soon as he figured the trajectory to make the debris fall in the jungle outside of town, he launched a missile that blew the enemy copter to pieces small enough to be carried out of town by the wind.

      But The Shadow Cat knew he had no time to stay and watch. He knew it would take more than being hit by a helicopter to fell a mammoth skyscraper. And he gambled on his assumption of how the Camelodians would have planned it, never giving pause to the idea that anyone else could be responsible. Perhaps because he knew the Webbertonians better than he cared to, and he could not see them waging war in this fashion.

      The Shadow Cat flew about the R.I. building using his on board scanners to search for bombs and a triggering mechanism. He then locked his missiles on what he assumed was the triggering device and fired into the lower part of the building, after having set them to penetrate, but not explode.

      Reports of more missiles fired brought more Camelodian fighters back to attack The Shadow Copter. But The Shadow Cat had no time to acknowledge them, beyond a stray thought of how suspicious it looked that the Camelodians only attacked him, while offering no opposition at all to the unpiloted copters attacking the buildings.

      He set The Shadow Copter on auto land and jumped to the ground, diving through the hole in the R.I. building made by his missiles.

      Once inside the basement, he rushed to the building's electrical system and shut it down. He then searched with special goggles for any continuing electrical activity. He spotted activity on the other side of the room and spied the detonator in the wall counting down at 4 seconds.

      Instantly he pulled out one of his large throwing stars and flung it at the wall. It cut through the wall and severed the detonator wires, just before the detonator counted down to zero.

      His objective accomplished, The Shadow Cat dashed back out the hole in the wall to find himself surrounded by Camelodian soldiers. They tried to detain him, referring to him as Webberton scum. But he merely shouted at them that there were bombs in the building and it might fall at any moment.

      He then leaped over them and started running away. The soldiers fired at him, but he knew he was protected by his armor. So he just ignored them, much to their chagrin. And they chased after him.

      Once The Shadow Cat was sure he had led the soldiers far enough from the building, he activated his shadow cloaking and disappeared, leaving his pursuers in confusion.

***


      Perry sat nervously at his father's desk, watching the TV and waiting for his cell phone to ring, knowing he was powerless to affect the outcome of this situation for any of his friends.

      Finally his phone rang. It was The Shadow Cat informing him that he had disabled the detonator, but his scanners indicated several bombs on every floor of the R.I. building. So there was still danger of something setting them off.

      Perry breathed easier for a moment, but then told The Shadow Cat to go back and do what he could to help Saint Saffron. The Shadow Cat said he would do that, but he needed Perry to get the message to the soldiers that he was not the enemy.

      Perry called the fire fighters and told them to trust The Shadow Cat, and to keep the soldiers off his back. But Perry was told there were no soldiers in his building. Those that remained had been abandoned by all but the local emergency responders.

      Perry returned to his living room and sat down beside Lappina, who had recently joined the gathering.

      Miyan was still obsessing over the notion that Saint Saffron saved her instead of Leela. Perry repeated that she should not write Leela off just yet, as AD detectives were not without their own resources.

      "But Leela's not an AD detective," Miyan protested. "She's just their secretary."

      Perry assured her, "An outfit like The AD wouldn't have a secretary who couldn't take care of herself. They'd have to be constantly rescuing her and would never get anything else done. I have confidence in Leela to be every bit as competent and capable as her bosses."

      Miyan shook her head with downcast eyes, thinking Perry was just in denial.

      Perry didn't understand how Miyan could be so obsessed with one person when thousands of lives were now at stake. As far as he knew there was no love that existed between Miyan and Leela. Thus her fixation on Leela made no practical sense. And if there was one thing Perry had always thought he could count on Miyan for, it was being practical.

      Christine came up from the lab, saying she had finally gotten Kenny out of danger, but she had felt something akin to a huge disturbance in The Force. Whereupon her attention was directed to the TV.

      Quickly grasping the situation Christine declared that she should be at the scene of the disaster. But Sir Jon pointed out that, even if he were willing to send her into such a dangerous situation, which he was not, the Camelodians outside the front door would not let her leave.

      "But I have to leave," Christine insisted, "if not to go to the disaster site, at least to go to the hospital to help out."

      "You quit the hospital," Vicki reminded her. "They won't have you back - not after the fuss you made. Not even in a desperate situation like this."

      "Fine then," Christine acquiesced. "I can help from here if it can be arranged to bring the overflow from the hospital to the mansion."

      "I doubt I'll be able to arrange anything like that with the red tape the Camelodians will have tied the town up in," said Sir Jon.

      "People will die if you allow such inefficiency," Christine warned.

      "I've already allowed it," Sir Jon shrugged, shamefully. "It's out of my hands."

***


      Time passed, and the news reported that The Rhoades Instruments Building had been completely evacuated, the survivors having been taken away for debriefing.

      "Debriefing?" Sir Jon pondered.

      "Isn't that just a fancy military term for questioning?" asked Becky.

      "It can mean that," said Sir Jon, in a doubtful tone. "It may just be more pointless military precautions. But still I have a bad feeling about the whole business. I fear the extent of human evil is beyond even my ability to anticipate."

      "And that disappoints you?" asked Blair. "To me it just confirms my own understanding of human nature."

      "It would disappoint you, if you were hoping for human nature to change," said Sir Jon.

      Blair chuckled with amused detachment, saying, "One would have to be something less than a realist to anticipate such a thing. Human nature has not changed for millions of years. It is not going to change, now or ever. Any calculations you have made based on some anticipated improvement in the human condition will not serve you well."

      For a moment Sir Jon looked at Blair as if he were the devil, but Blair merely smiled back at him innocently, as if to say he was simply stating an obvious fact with no evil intent. And Sir Jon eventually had to nod concession to Blair's assessment and drop the subject.

      Sir Jon tried to call the hospital, but found all regular lines and cell phone connections disrupted. But Perry's cell phone could use frequencies no one would think to jam. So Sir Jon borrowed it to get in touch with the hospital to see what the situation was there.

      After some time getting an operative to respond, Sir Jon learned that the hospital was under military lock down, and there had been no influx of wounded from the collapsed building. It was believed the injured were being air lifted to the base in No Furs Land.

      Meanwhile, a Camelodian news reporter on the television stated for the umpteenth time that a bomb went off in the office of Blair Montgomery, weakening the structure of the building. The crashing of a helicopter into the weakened section had then completed the severing of support for the uppermost floors, causing them to crash down on the floors below and start a chain reaction that had "pancaked" the entire building. This explanation was being repeated on all stations like a mantra.

      Perry got a drawing pad and started trying to work out scientific calculations to support the explanation, but there was no way he could draw it where the explanation corresponded to any science Perry was aware of. And Perry was only too aware of Blair glaring at him critically for even trying to give such an obvious lie an attempt at verification.

      After all, they were both master builders who knew the buildings in question inside out, and neither had ventured to allow any possibility of their great achievements being leveled by anything so mundane as a domino effect. It simply could not happen, even if there was some way for a bomb and a crashing air craft to sever all supports in a way that would cause the upper floors to crash straight down, rather than becoming unbalanced and sliding off to the side, as they would have done if the bomb had done what was being claimed.

      Eventually Blair took the pad from Perry and drew what should have happened, assuming the story about the bomb and the crashing air craft was true. His drawing showed that the strength of the lower structure would have held against the falling upper structure, with only a worst case scenario seeing the top of the building separate from the main body of the building and crash down on the town below.

      "Looks like they had their story prepared before it even happened," Becky observed, looking over the drawings.

      Perry then asked his father, "Do you think there's any chance at all the Camelodians honestly believe this story and are innocent of this crime?"

      Sir Jon replied somberly, "Of course there isn't. You know there isn't."

      "I'm not even sure the bomb had a chance to explode," said Blair, thoughtfully. "I had my back to the explosion. But no mere smear package bomb would have blown us all the way across the street. And what an interesting coincidence that Saint Saffron should send a package at the exact time a Webberton helicopter fired missiles into my office."

      "If that had happened to me I wouldn't be calling it a coincidence," said Miyan. "I'd be calling it a conspiracy between Webberton and Noir to take me out at a specific time. One attempt might be foiled, but not so likely two."

      "Mr. Montgomery?" asked Jenny. "Are you on bad terms with myi mother."

      "Not at all," said Blair. "Why do you ask, Princess?"

      "Myi mother would have to need you out of the way to plan something like this," said Jenny.

      "I assure you, Princess," said Blair. "Your mother and I have always gotten on fine."

      "Then it was nyot Webberton that fired on you," said Jenny.

      "At least not Webberton alone," Blair agreed. "Even if there was a Webberton pilot in that craft, which I seriously doubt, it couldn't have entered Suburbian air space without arrangement with Camelot. They just left everything wide open."

      "They even removed the soldiers from our buildings," said Miyan. "It's just like Leela said. They had to arrange for something to happen to justify themselves."

      "Such false flag operations were quite common in my day," said Christine. "You steel a vehicle from the enemy, or disguise one of your own vehicles to look like the enemy, target your own people, and POOF, instant war."

      "Camelodians learn that tactic in elementary school," said Sir Jon. "But why would they choose Blair for their target? I'd think they would have attacked this house."

      "Obviously because I had the tallest building in Suburbia," said Blair, with ironic pride.

      "A good point," said Sir Jon. "But they sacrificed a measure of believability to insure your personal destruction. There were far more likely places to attack your building if they wanted to make its fall appear legitimate. And they timed the attack so as to insure you'd be in your office, which is not such an easy trick to pull off these days. I believe you have some serious enemies."

      "Miyan is my principle enemy," said Blair. "I know of no one else who would go to such lengths to destroy me."

      "We agreed to a truce," said Miyan. "Besides, I wouldn't use a method to destroy you that put my own life at risk, would I?"

      "No, you wouldn't," said Blair. "And you'd have no part in killing half the employees in my building either. That is why I always end up besting you, just as I did with Perry. Your ruthlessness has predictable limits."

      "I wouldn't want to see you blown up, Blair," said Miyan. "That would be like shooting a chess partner. It would deprive me of besting you in business."

      "If you'll forgive me for pointing it out," said Christine to Blair. "You seem remarkably intact for someone who's just been blown up."

      "Are you accusing me of something?" asked Blair, warily.

      "Not at all," said Christine. "I'm just really, really impressed."

      "Don't be," said Blair. "Saving your friends from that fire was a lot more impressive than any heroics I've ever performed."

      "Someday I hope we can share a pleasant evening of mutual flattery," said Christine.

      "I'm sure I'd enjoy that," said Blair, eyeing Christine, warily.

      Christine put a hand on his shoulder.

      "What are you doing?" Blair asked, anxiously.

      "I can see you are troubled," said Christine, in a cryptic tone. "You need not bear this weight alone."

      "Please, Christine," said Blair, pushing her hand away. "I appreciate your compassion, but I can not share my burden with anyone. My building is destroyed. How many of my employees and friends are dead I dare not guess. Do not offer magic to dispel the rage that boils within me. It will be stilled only by revenge. And such terrible revenge as I will need to still this anger should never stain eyes as innocent as yours."

      "Blair," said Perry. "My building is rigged to implode also. It may yet fall. Whoever did this meant to hit both of us. I would share your revenge."

      "Leave it to me, Perry," said Blair, in a warning intonation. "You're not the type for this sort of thing. Rest assured this attack will be avenged. You may not see it on the news, but I promise you, they will suffer. And their suffering will be terrible even to imagine."

      "Blair?" asked Christine. "These people who destroyed your building, are they the same ones who burned my friends?"

      "You speak as if you think I should know," said Blair.

      "I know that you know," said Christine. "It's not something you can hide in your current state. Your anger isn't directed towards someone unknown."

      "You're very perceptive," said Blair. "Do you also perceive that I hate you?"

      "Yes, I do," said Christine. "I knew that the day I met you. Though I have never understood why."

      "It is not important now," said Blair. "My reasons for hating you seem very far away at the moment. Still I can not tell you exactly who burned your friends. I can tell you only one thing. They were Noirnians."

      "And the people who attacked you today?" asked Christine.

      "Well, we know Saint Saffron was involved," said Blair.

      "We do not," said Perry. "We don't have the calling card to verify its authenticity. And that by itself makes me think it's phony. Whatever else Saffron may be she's an insufferable egotist. I can't imagine her blowing you up and not insuring she'd get credit for it. Not unless she knew you'd survive to tell us about it."

      "That would be interesting," said Sir Jon. "If she sandwiched Blair between two deadly explosions, and still felt reasonably certain of his survival to tell about the card, I'd have to wonder if Saint Saffron isn't trying to tell us something about Blair."

      "Blair, are you saying you think Saint Saffron burned the house?" asked Christine.

      "No," said Blair. "Perry's right. She doesn't do things like that without leaving a calling card. I don't think she was in town at the time. But there were other Noirnians in town."

      "And did you have some kind of arrangement with these Noirnians?" asked Sir Jon.

      "Any business deals I might have with people in other towns are privileged," said Blair. "Don't ask."

      "Tell me, Blair," said Christine, daringly. "Could all this have something to do with . . . The Illuminati Corporation?"

      Christine observed the reactions around the room. Miyan had the strongest reaction, anxiously waving to Christine not to banter such things about. Kacey also seemed alarmed. While Sir Jon merely sat back and observed curiously, as if he felt this nothing more than another clue being introduced to a great mystery. While Becky, the ever eager conspiracy hunter, suddenly had her ever flopping bunny ears fully erect, as if Christine had unexpectedly stroked her favorite fetish. But Blair just seemed slightly amused.

      "Tell me, Christine," said Blair. "Is it Kacey that's been filling your head with conspiracy theories, or possibly Bixyl?"

      "You deny it, of course," said Christine.

      "I don't even like to deny it," said Blair. "It's beneath my dignity to point out I'm being accused of such a grand fantasy. And sometimes it even works to my advantage to allow people to believe it. Fear is such a great asset to business. But, just between myself and the people in this room, there is no Illuminati Corporation, no secret spirit of cooperation between the towns. Every town is out for itself."

      "Then you wouldn't say our current situation is the result of a conspiracy?" asked Becky.

      "I didn't say that," said Blair, his intonation becoming abruptly grave. "This is a conspiracy alright. It's just not anything as clean and well packaged as the Illuminati fantasy. It's a dirty little conspiracy between 4 dirty little towns - Noir, Camelot, Webberton and Suburbia - all of which have something they want that they're riding on the ambitions of the others to achieve."

      "Halloween is not involved in this conspiracy?" asked Grease.

      "Well," Blair sighed, petulantly. "I suppose you could say we are. I suppose you could say it's all my fault."

      "Explain," said Sir Jon, in his deepest, most disapproving tone.

      "What Halloween needs most is money," Blair confessed. "And you all know I'm no moralist. I have provided financing to all the other towns in question, without ever caring what the money would be used for. All I cared about was having the other towns rack up a mountain of debt which could be added to my demonstration of wealth without measure. And since all the interest on those loans has been marked for the restoration of Halloween, it can't be said that Halloween hasn't profited from the fall of my building."

      "Well, I guess that's what you get for electing to be a bad boy," said Christine, with a slight, non-condemning smile.

      "Please, spare me the self-righteousness," said Blair, pointing at Perry. "Mr. Good Boy over there is just as guilty as I am."

      "Is that true, Perry?" asked Christine, still in the tone of a non-involved, non-critical observer.

      "He's quite right," Perry agreed. "I make loans and investments to other towns as well. And though I have tried to refrain from investing in Webberton for moral reasons, I have considerable investments in Camelot and Noir; not only in loans, but in technology and weapons."

      "What a pity I didn't have time to notice whether the missiles fired into my office had Rhoades Instruments written on them, or Montgomery Technical," said Blair.

      "So neither of you cared who was killed with your weapons," Christine surmised, in the tone of an admonishing teacher. "Just as long as it wasn't yourselves."

      "Christine," said Perry, painfully. "Please don't hate me for saying this. But Noir is a closed environment. Killing is their way of life. It's their religion, for Goddess sake. We're supposed to respect other religions as long as they don't threaten ours. I would have considered it immoral to not help the Noirnians kill each other."

      "And what about you, Sensei?" asked Christine, turning to Jon. "Didn't you advise Perry against this?"

      "Oh, Christine," said Sir Jon, as he shamefully turned his eyes away from her.

      "I swear," said Blair. "It was almost worth the loss of my building to see these expressions on your faces. Did you not know, Christine? The people of this world would still be fighting with bows and arrows if not for Sir Jon. When he arrived in Camelot, they were still at the level of knights in armor. Before he left they were at the level of James Bond. Now you may reconsider if I am any more deserving of your pointless recriminations than they."

      "Well, Sensei?" asked Christine.

      "Blair may think as he pleases," said Sir Jon, absently. "And you as well, Christine. I did what seemed necessary at the moment. I'll offer no further justification for my actions."

      "You really do think of yourself as a god, don't you?" asked Christine.

      "Please, Christine," said Sir Jon, as if pained. "Mr. Stopheles' interpretation of that art on the bridge was no more real than Miyan's Illuminati Corporation. You, of all people, know me better than to believe such things. Do not force on me the indignity of begging you to remember that."

      "You look tired, Sir Jon," said Blair, with an evil air of satisfaction. "Do you not bear the weight of the world as well as you used to?"

      "You would enjoy it no less," said Sir Jon, cuttingly.

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