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S11E237: Sometimes An Apology Is Not Enough

Spectral Shadows
Serial No. 11
The Planet Of Genetic Misadventure
Episode 237
Sometimes An Apology Is Not Enough

Copyright 1993, 2021 by Symphonic Rock Productions.

Featuring:

      

            

      

       The Camelodians began enjoying their new freedom to display barbaric behavior. They picked houses for themselves, finding most unoccupied, and those that were still inhabited were easy to toss out their owners, enslave them or kill them.

       They then went about looting the town, stashing their stolen treasures in their stolen houses, and then laying about, drinking and over feeding themselves. So that by the time night fell, they were heavy with the spoils of war, and in no condition to function as soldiers if any kind of battle should arise. But as far as they knew their victory was complete, and no one could arise to challenge them. Thus they'd earned the right to enjoy themselves.

       That night, many of the soldiers were gathered around a fire in the park, still drinking, feasting, and abusing captive Suburbians for their pleasure. Beating them, threatening to rape and kill them. Though many of the soldiers still found it distasteful to kill civilians. But they had their orders and would not question them.

       The Suburbians also had received their orders via the internet that they were not to put up any resistance at all, no matter what was done to them, and that they were to have faith in the ruling family to free the town from its unwanted guests with all due haste.

       Eventually it happened that one drunken soldier was infuriated by a Suburbian beagle boy who refused to fight back, no matter how he was abused. She said with a drunken slur that she was tired of Suburbians playing innocent when they were all traitorous slime. Then she drew her gun and aimed it at the youth.

       The other soldiers protested, saying the town was theirs, for what it was worth. And they had what amounted to some time off. They should save the killing for when they were getting paid for it. But the drunk soldier slurred that she wanted to kill a Suburbian for their queen.

       The drunk soldier pistol whipped the youth to the ground and said, “The Queen was what we valued most. What do Suburbians value? Children? Family values? Well here’s what I think of family values.”

       The soldier cocked the gun and aimed it at the youth as best she could while leaning from side to side in her drunken state, trying to decide which of the two images she saw to shoot at. But before she could fire there was a sound of something rushing through the air, and the soldier looked down in bewilderment at the arrow sticking out of her chest.

       She seemed more confused than in pain, as she was too drunk to feel anything. Never the less, a moment later she fell to the ground and expired, much to the bewilderment of the on lookers.

       They turned to look in the direction the arrow had come from and beheld a group of Lost Ferals with woodland weapons poised. And as the realization hit them that they were under attack, the soldiers abruptly stood up and drew their guns, but before anyone could fire they were cut down by a storm of arrows.

       Yet the arrows touched no one who was not a soldier. The beagle boy and other victims the soldiers had been abusing were not touched. And they huddled together in fear, all thoughts of gratitude for their rescue obscured by the fear that Suburbia was now being invaded by armed mutants. And that would surely dash any hopes of the town's survival.

       Even in this desperate hour, The Suburbians could not conceive that The Lost Ferals were there to help. Their prejudice against mutants was such that they assumed Suburbia was being over run by monsters, now that it had no protection. And so many of those who were rescued by The Lost Ferals ran away from them, fleeing into No Furs Land, hoping to find security in Halloween.

       The Lost Ferals were an army quite unlike any the Camelodians had ever studied. Unlike the Native Polithsanians Bixyl had connected them to in his articles, they did not feel the need to hoop and holler when they went into battle. Indeed, most unlike any type of known humans, The Lost Ferals were not seen to take any joy in battle, though neither did they show any remorse. They moved quietly and stealthily, like hunters. They attacked before they were seen, and they showed no exhilaration after a kill. They simply left the soldiers to rot where they fell, and they made no attempt to reassure the Suburbians they liberated that they were friendly and didn't need to be feared.

       Making no great display of themselves, The Lost Ferals wandered quietly through the town in small groups, killing Camelodians wherever they found them, knowing them by their long hated uniforms. Those who did not wear uniforms were left alone.

       Many of The Lost Ferals who had answered Suburbia’s call for help were fairly human shaped, hardly distinguishable from other furs. But there were some of odd shapes and sizes, including one hideous giant black bug beast that was virtually invisible in the darkness, until it reared up to fall on its chosen prey, which it then devoured.

       Another was a bear-like creature with no voice for human words. It crept up on victims and crushed them in its strong arms, or broke their necks with one pound of it’s mighty paw.

       Because The Camelodians were so disorganized by the loss of their chain of command, and because they were not about to all be caught in large enclosed spaces that could be thug bombed again, it took quite a while for anyone to send out a general alarm that they were under attack.

       The Lost Ferals quietly swarmed through the town, seeking out Camelodians by the smell of their uniforms and violently killing them. But, if any other Camelodians heard a scream, they dismissed it is just some Suburbian being deservedly beaten or tortured.

       Inevitably, Camelodians started stumbling upon the bodies of their comrades and frantically began attempting to get the word out that they were being methodically exterminated by an adversary of considerable might.

       The acting governor received a frantic call, alerting her to an ongoing attack by mutants. The governor rebuked the caller for disturbing her rest with such drunken nonsense. It was well known that mutants did not attack towns, and that they were helpless before automatic weapons. But, as an after thought before she went back to sleep, the governor instructed that, if any mutants should be seen in town, the soldiers should just kill them as they always did.

       The caller then phoned the TV station and tried to get someone there to take him seriously, but the station would broadcast nothing that wasn’t authorized by the governor.

       Finally the caller dropped the phone and started running through the streets, calling out, “Alert! Alert! We’re under attack! Soldiers to arms! Soldiers to ar . . .”

       An arrow struck him in the heart, and he slumped down beneath a street lamp, dead. A look of surprised bewilderment frozen on his face.

***


       In The Rhoades Mansion, Sir Jon was starting to worry as the hour got later. So much so that he asked Kacey to bring up Another Life on a laptop in the drawing room to see if there was any message from Bixyl.

       Kacey reported that Bixyl was not online. There was only a saved message acknowledging the request she had relayed from Sir Jon to the effect that The Lost Ferals should attack the Camelodians at sundown on the day The Rhoades Instruments Building fell. But still nothing about The Lost Ferals agreeing to help.

       Last Kacey had heard, The Lost Ferals were still debating the pros and cons of it. Bixyl had said it was a sticky issue that Suburbia allowed mutant hunting. He was apparently having a difficult time convincing them Suburbia was any better than Camelot.

       “So your wild card might not show up at all,” said Perry. “What then, Dad?”

       “Then I’ll just have to go on a killing spree myself,” said Sir Jon, “until the town is rid of Camelodians. I can do that, but it will not leave things in the state that will provide the changes the town needs to come out of all this better than it was.”

       “I see,” said Perry. “What I could not accomplish with politics, you will accomplish with war.”

       “Don’t get the wrong idea, son,” said Sir Jon. “This war wasn’t my idea. It was just as thrust upon me as anyone else. But when unfortunate situations happen, a wise person will always try to find some benefit to come out of it. Any tragedy that a town survives is bound to make it a stronger and more mature town. And if I have played my cards right, you and Christine will no longer need to harbor shame for this town.”

       “But if The Lost Ferals don’t show I’ll be back to being the laughing stock of voting season,” said Perry. “Is that it?”

       “Oh, I highly doubt that,” said Sir Jon. “When it gets around that you personally ordered the thug bombing of that base, I don’t think anyone will ever laugh at you again.”

***


       At the Camelodian embassy, the doorbell rang. A night guard observed a male fox in a trench coat through the door camera.

       No one native to Suburbia was accustomed to locking their doors. But Camelodians always had secrets to hide. So their attention to security tended to border on the ridiculous.

       With a disinterested yawn the guard asked the fox what he wanted.

       The fox replied, “I’m Bixyl Shuftan from the Suburbia Daily Newser. I’m here to get the governor’s reaction to the ongoing battle.”

       “I see,” said the guard, somewhat bemused. “And what ongoing battle would that be?”

       Bixyl then held his cell phone up to the camera and flashed a few snapshots he’d taken of soldiers lying dead in the streets, many with arrows sticking out of them, others half devoured.

       “That ongoing battle,” said Bixyl. “It doesn’t seem to be going too well for your side at the moment. You don’t mean to say you hadn’t heard?”

       “Wait a minute,” said the guard, with sudden alarm. “You’re that reporter who went to live with the mutants in No Furs Land. How long have you been back in town?”

       “Just a few hours,” said Bixyl. “Couldn’t very well miss Camelot’s final battle. Though <1>you</i> seem to be missing it.”

       “You brought those mutants down on this town, didn’t you?!” the guard exclaimed, anxiously.

       “Mmmmmm, you could say that,” said Bixyl, with a not so well suppressed smile. “Anyway, I need to get the governor’s reaction and possibly accept the unconditional surrender of the Camelodian forces. So, if you wouldn’t mind opening the door and summoning the governor . . .”

       The guard pressed an alarm button which summoned all available security furs to the lobby.

       “I’ll take that as a no,” said Bixyl, and he stepped away from the camera.

       A moment later, while the security furs were still gathering in total disorientation, windows were heard shattering all over the embassy, and a moment later the embassy was flooded with mutants who quickly overwhelmed the security guards and killed them without mercy, leaving them piled in the center of the lobby floor, each with a look of astonished terror frozen on their faces.

       Then Bixyl and Jasmine went up to the governor’s room where they found her cowering in a corner, her sense of security completely shattered.

       Gruffly Jasmine hauled the governor up on to her shoulder like a hunting kill and carried her along as she followed Bixyl out of the embassy and down to the TV station.

       They encountered no opposition along the way, but when they arrived at the station, the soldiers there were on alert and waiting for them.

       Once again Bixyl spoke for The Lost Ferals.

       “You have already lost this war,” said Bixyl. “You now must make a choice, surrender or die. Which do you choose?”

       Their response was to train their weapons on Bixyl, where upon a shower of arrows came out of the darkness and struck every one of them, fatally.

       “Suit yourselves,” said Bixyl, casually, as the last Camelodian soldier slid to the ground.

       Bixyl then went inside, followed by Jasmine, still carrying the governor, who whimpered in her helplessness.

       Bixyl quickly explained to the technicians inside that the war was over, and the governor needed to make an announcement to that effect.

       The technicians, joyful to be liberated, happily set things up, glad that they would no longer be threatened with death for not cooperating.

       Bixyl sat in the news anchor’s chair while an announcer introduced him. Then he was given his cue to begin.

       “Good evening, Suburbia,” said Bixyl, in the formal tone of a newscaster. “Tonight I’m pleased to report that, in accordance with special arrangements made by The Ruling Family Of Suburbia, The Lost Ferals have rid Suburbia of it’s unfortunate Camelodian infestation problem. The bodies of your would be slavers now lie strewn about the streets for you to kick, spit on, hack to pieces, or otherwise take out your frustrations on by any means you may find satisfying. Now, to wrap things up, we present the final appearance of the acting governor.”

       Jasmine rudely threw the governor into the chair next to Bixyl and stuck a knife to her throat. And everyone watching across the 5 town range of Suburbia's TV signal was horrified to see The Possat from Leela's comic book, up close and in living color.

       “Well, Governor Tarkus,” said Bixyl, with ironic cheerfulness. “What do you have to say for yourself?”

       “May I speak freely?” asked the governor, nervously eyeing Jasmine’s knife.

       “Well, I guess that depends,” said Bixyl. “Has anyone else who has sat in that chair since the start of the Camelodian occupation spoken freely?”

       Jasmine pressed the knife harder against the governor’s neck.

       “No,” the governor admitted, nervously. “I guess they haven’t.”

       “Well, why spoil a perfect record then?” said Bixyl, in a casual but cutting tone. “I have the speech you’re supposed to make right here. Written by Queen Sonny herself, no less. And do read it word for word, just as your people have insisted that Suburbians read what Camelodians have written for them.”

       The governor took the paper and read, in a trembling voice, laced with grief and terror, “I, Acting Governor Tarkus, the last survivor of the Camelodian chain of command, do hereby officially announce the failure of the Camelodian religion. Henceforth, no Camelodian uniform may be worn without total disgrace and forfeiture of life.

       “I admit that the Webberton invasion was a complete fabrication on the part of Camelot, and any atrocities visited upon Suburbia were premeditated and carried out by no one other than representatives of Camelot.

       “It has been proven by the failure of Camelot that military religions become criminal by nature, even when started with the best of intentions. It should be the legacy of our well earned deaths that no one should ever undertake the folly of a military religion again.”

       “Thank you, Governor,” said Bixyl. “And now if you would please be so good as to sign that document before our cameras.”

       “I’ll not sign it,” said the governor. “You’re going to kill me anyway. Why should I give you the satisfaction?”

       “For the sake of honor?” said Bixyl, with a shrug. “Honor was important to you Camelodians, wasn’t it?”

       “If it was I wouldn’t be here like this,” the governor admitted.

       “Think carefully about that,” said Bixyl. “You are making the last statement that will ever be made for the Camelodian religion. If you are seen to be without honor in defeat, even those Camelodians who may have at times acted with honor will have their memories irrevocably disgraced.

       “Don’t be a sore loser, Governor. You who wanted war so badly that you risked everything you had, and sent thousands of furs needlessly to their deaths. Do not forget that defeat is an aspect of the war you so desired. And for what you have done to have meant anything at all, you must play it out to the end.”

       Bixyl then picked up a pen and offered it to the governor, saying, “To preserve what little remains of Camelodian glory?”

       The governor looked at Bixyl crossly. He was standing her up against a wall and threatening her with her own meaningless rhetoric. Yet, he was being quite effective at it.

       Though Camelot had never had a real empire, nor any true glory, there would be some measure of satisfaction in having that rhetoric remain attached to the memory of her lost town. It would cause history to have to give Camelot the benefit of the doubt that it had not been rotten to its core from the beginning. Which she knew without doubt was not true in the least.

       It would also enable any Camelodians who survived to live in something less than a state of total disgrace. But the governor couldn’t care less about the survivors of her town. Her thoughts were completely selfish. It was all about how she felt like leaving things, and what means were left to her to spite those who had deprived her town of its divine right of world conquest.

       Malevolently, the governor took the pen from Bixyl. Then she turned to the camera and lied, “Camelot was glorious in war, and glorious in defeat.”

       Then she signed the paper, much to the horror of all surviving Camelodians watching the broadcast, which would eventually be seen all over the world, as well as to the horror of all other town governments that had signed protection contracts with Camelot.

       Not only would they now be deprived of any protection from terrors that existed only in their own minds, but they now understood the true danger they had placed themselves in by seeking security from the most horrendous threat of all.

       “Very good, governor,” said Bixyl, after the document was signed. “And now, in these final moments of your life, are there any apologies you would like to make to those Camelot has terrorized, tortured, enslaved or deprived of loved ones?”

       “You want an apology?” asked the governor, incredulously. “Oh, very well. For a hundred years or more of espionage, deception, treachery, slavery, genocide, sabotage, covert warfare, merciless torture, brainwashing, strategic assassinations and the taking of innocent lives beyond counting, on behalf of the survivors of Camelot I say . . . sorry.”

       Bixyl looked at the governor in disbelief and said, “Sorry? Is that it?”

       The governor just shrugged dismissively, as if to say she was not at all sorry, and in fact could not care less.

       “You don’t look sorry,” said Bixyl. “Have you no comment on what evil possessed the people of Camelot to do these things?”

       “We were not evil,” said the governor, spitefully. “We were the good guys. And the good guys must play to win. It matters not how you play the game. Winning is everything, particularly where the security of the world is concerned. If we had been allowed to conquer the world as our constitution mandated, everyone would have been safe from the threats of all towns like Webberton.”

       “All threats, except for yours,” said Bixyl.

       “If we ruled the world it wouldn't matter,” said the governor. “If your own government threatens you, it falls under loyalty to accept it.”

       “I see,” said Bixyl. “So, if you’d had your way, the people of the world would have been more terrorized than ever, but legally required to accept it. And you see that as some kind of improvement?”

       “I would have enjoyed it immensely,” said the governor, giving Bixyl a look of death.

       “And you don’t see that reasoning as insane?” asked Bixyl.

       “Certainly not,” said the governor. “That is perfectly rational human thinking. It’s the bleeding hearts Liberal that are off their rockers. Bloody flower children, trying to reduce the human race to the level of prey animals. Only those who sit at the top of the food chain know true security. And believe me, when Webberton conquers this world, all you fools are going to know how wrong you were not to let us have it first.”

       “Yes, well, I’m sure we’ll file that away for future reference,” said Bixyl. “But I’m afraid we must now move on to the distasteful matter of your termination. Queen Sonny has suggested that I give you a choice. You can kill yourself on TV to make amends for your dishonor. Or you can be executed by my lovely co-host, with maximum dishonor.”

       “I’m not getting out of this studio alive, is that it?” asked the governor. “I don't even have value as a political prisoner.”

       “Afraid not,” Bixyl shrugged. “Fortunes of war, you know.”

       “Give me a gun,” said the governor, daringly.

       “Gun please,” called Bixyl to the technicians.

       A pistol was tossed to him, and Bixyl caught it. Then he removed the bullets, except for one.

       “Here you are, Governor,” said Bixyl, handing her the gun. “One bullet. Make it count.”

       The governor took the gun and contemplated it, tremblingly - knowing these were to be her last moments of life, and with her Camelot itself would also die. She knew this occasion demanded some honor be displayed. But somehow all she could think about was stealing one last chance for revenge.

       Suddenly she turned in her chair to fire the gun at Bixyl, thinking this would show the world the fate of all idealists. But before she could fire, Jasmine snatched her up by the front of her uniform, forced her back down on her chair and plunged her long-knife into the governor's chest, just below her throat, impaling the governor to the back of the swivel chair.

       The governor screamed and flailed helplessly for a few seconds until she had screamed out the last of her life. Then her head fell back, her eyes frozen open in a horrified expression of death.

       “Well,” said Bixyl, after a dramatic pause to allow the blood washing over the governor's body to have its full effect. “I guess that’s it for Camelot. Tune in tomorrow night when we’ll find out if there’s any future left for Suburbia.”

       Bixyl got up to leave with Jasmine. But just before he stepped off camera, Bixyl kicked The governor’s chair and set it spinning. Then the camera furs panned in on the dead body as it spun, leaving the image on the air in silence for quite a while.

***


       There were not enough Suburbians left in town to make much of a liberation celebration. But in Halloween there was a celebration and night of frivolity such as that town had not seen in generations.

       Queen Aldetha and her sultan looked out over the festivities, not so much caring that Suburbia was liberated or that Camelot was dead. Just joyful beyond measure to see their own town alive again.

       Yet, a midst all the joy, there was one solitary figure who sat alone in his room, feeling this anything but an occasion to celebrate.

       Bereft of his two constant companions, who were still out guiding refugees to Halloween, Richie Blackthorn mourned the death of his home and religion alone, with just a TV and a bottle of the hardest liqueur he could find for company. His loaded revolver on the table beside him.

       For the most part he saw no reason to go on living. It wasn't just that the religion which had shaped him was gone, it was also the thought of how he'd be viewed from now on. He was so stereotypically Camelodian. His position in The AD required him to be. No one would ever entrust themselves to him again. He'd be a liability to his team. He might even be the downfall of The AD, costing it jobs because no one would want to work with a Camelodian.

       Lightly he fingered his pistol, wondering how many bottles he'd have to down before all reasons why he shouldn't use it on himself would vanish from his mind.

       The main thought that restrained him was his responsibility to Princess Kara. He couldn't leave her unguarded. Yet if he waited for his companions to return there was no way they'd let him do himself in. Indeed, he might never have another opportunity.

       Sitting on the table beside the gun was a book by an elder race author called Morse. This was the book that Spike considered The Bible Of The AD. Richie picked it up and opened it to the page that described the death of the character Spike had hired him to emulate. He was the only one of the three characters to die in the official cannon. And the book made it clear that he had died by his own hand.

       Reading this, it seemed only appropriate that he should take this final step in giving Spike the full experience of living out his favorite Noir mystery series. But as he read on and the book revealed how hurt and morbidly effected the other two characters had been by what Richie's character had done, his inner damn burst, the tears flowed forth, and he wailed as sorrowfully as any human raccoon had ever wailed.

       Seemingly with great effort, Richie hauled himself out of his chair, carrying the book and gun over to the dresser, setting them down before the mirror, where he thought to take one last look before he destroyed himself.

       And in the mirror he saw what he expected everyone else would see from that day forth; an untrustworthy and maniacally greedy Camelodian. And the anguish this brought renewed his agonized wailing.

       As he continued to cry uncontrollably, Richie placed one hand on the book, picking up the gun with the other, placing it to his head. And as he began to draw back on the trigger, he found himself crying more desperately, though it was not really clear to him what he was crying for, if he really wanted to die so badly, if the future was really all that impossible to face. But his course was set now. So it really didn't matter. And he continued to put pressure on the trigger.

       Suddenly Richie felt his arm jerked. So that the gun was pointing upward and discharged harmlessly into the ceiling with the loudest, most lingering “Bang” he'd ever heard. But no one outside the room noticed it a midst all the fireworks and other revelry.

       Finding himself astonished to still be alive, Richie looked to the right and gasped, “Princess.”

       Without waiting for words, Princess Kara took the gun from his hand and tossed it under the bed, where it would not be easily retrieved, then she looked at him and said, “The ghost of the rhino guard warned me that you needed saving. You must not leave me yet. My fate is in your hands. Is that not enough to live for?”

       “You do not understand, Princess,” said Richie, tearfully wiping at his eyes. “I'm Camelodian. I am forever disgraced. My world is shattered. I must shatter with it.”

       “My good detective,” said Kara, emotionally. “My gallant knight protector. I understand your state of mind. And I know I can not reason with it. But I can help you if you let me.”

       “Help me? How?” asked Richie, seeming mystified.

       “Hold me,” said the princess, opening her arms invitingly. And as Richie made no move to resist, in the next instant he found himself enfolded in the vampire bat's wings.

       Previously his honor would not allow Richie to get anywhere near this intimately close to the princess he was charged with protecting. He was beyond bemused at the affection she was showing towards him, caressing his face gently with her hand as she held him captive in her wings, gazing into his eyes hypnotically.

       “Trust me, Richie,” she said, soothingly. “I am a magical princess. I am not without powers. And you have been so kind to me. If you will trust me and not resist, I can use my powers to speed your healing. And by morning this will all have been a silly nightmare. Do you want me to give you that gift?”

       “Very much so,” he said, as if wishing it could be true.

       The princess tightened her grip on him, holding him most securely as she venture to kiss him on his muzzle. And the kiss seemed to secure him even further in her power.

       Then he felt her nuzzling his neck, and that by itself felt unbelievably comforting. But then he realized she was licking his neck. And, as well as being an erotic sensation, everyplace her tongue touched seemed to tingle, aa if being sterilized or anesthetized.

       He found himself blissfully smiling, in spite of his pain. What mattered how the world saw him if he could be loved by a princess like this?

       But then Richie's detective nature kicked him in the tail, as he remembered that Kara loved Jack, not him. And it was just at that instant that Richie realized Kara's teeth were sinking into his neck.

       There was no pain. No, not the slightest. Her teeth just seemed to sink, deeper and deeper, until he felt her partaking of his blood. And the thought that he might be slightly in danger crossed his mind. But what the hay. If he was going to die anyway, this beat the heck out of blowing his head off.

       “Oh, Goddess,” he cried, as he felt the strength leaving his body. “What are you doing?

       She did not answer, as her mouth was currently full of his neck, sucking out his life blood in such a gentle, erotic fashion, that he feared she might see him become aroused. But, instead, he became limp in her arms. And displaying surprising strength for a princess, she swept him up and carried him over to the bed, where she laid him out comfortably.

       Then she climbed on top of him, covering him warmly with her body. So that he was once again in a state of unexpected bliss.

       He thought her next move would probably be to try to remove his clothing. But instead she just lay on top of him, with her eyes gazing down on his. And as he looked into her eyes, they began to swirl with rainbow colors that held him fixated.

       “Your mind is now open to me,” Kara intoned hypnotically. “If I wanted to I could draw from your mind any secret you possess. But you can trust me not to steal them. I have no need of your secrets. My only need is that for this night you be enslaved to me, and obey my every command.”

       “I will obey,” said Richie, as if completely enthralled.

       “Whenever a thought of suicide crosses your mind,” she intoned. “you will remember in the back of your mind that I have forbidden it. You will remember I have told you that living is good, in spite of all difficulties and misfortune. You will love life, and never devalue it.”

       Then she continued, “You will remember always that you are not a Camelodian. Where you were born does not determine who you are or what you will be. You are an AD detective first in all things. And therefore, whatever tragedy or disgrace has befallen Camelot, it is not yours to bear. You will think no more about it.

       “Now you must go to sleep and rest through the night. When you wake in the morning you will be your cheerful self again. And all that has happened tonight will be but a dream that you'll know could never have happened. Because you are not the type to kill yourself. And I am not the type to seduce my bodyguard. But I will allow you to keep the memory as a pleasant dream; a wistful fancy that you'll know never happened.

       “Now sleep, my dear detective. Close your eyes, and sleep in the complete comfort and security of my possession.”

       Richie closed his eyes, and allowed his consciousness to fade. While Princess Kara carefully got up without disturbing him, and quietly stole away to her room to wait for Jack.

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S11E236: The Blue Screen Of Death

Spectral Shadows
Serial No. 11
The Planet Of Genetic Misadventure
Episode 236
The Blue Screen Of Death

Copyright 1993, 2021 by Symphonic Rock Productions.

Featuring:

            

            

                        

       As soldiers were frantically trying to get down to the exits of The Rhoades Instruments Building to desert, other soldiers who had no idea what had happened on the roof were coming in with more prisoners.

       The soldiers arriving took the fleeing soldiers to be traitors and ordered them to surrender. They tried to tell them that Sargent Stern was dead, and there was no more chain of command. So no orders held any value towards any goal anymore. They had only their own survival to worry about.

       The new arrivals could not imagine where they got such a notion, as they could still count on the acting governor to set objectives and give orders. The last they heard her orders were to avenge their town in any way possible.

       The ranking officer present was called upon to decide what their final course of action should be. She determined that the best thing they could do was to reset the demolition of the building, killing all the prisoners. That would go a long way towards a proper revenge.

       They wrote orders on the wall for any other soldiers who came in to secure their prisoners in the building and then get away from it as fast as possible. Then they all headed off to the lowest floor of the building to fix the wiring and reset the timer to give them time to escape. Suburbia would then be theirs to further punish as they pleased.

***

       Sir Jon got a call from The Shadow Cat, informing him that Camelodian control of the building was broken. All Camelodian soldiers had left the building, except the few in the basement resetting the demolition. So Sir Jon could now freely transfer prisoners from the building without it being noticed.

       Sir Jon asked if this was the same Shadow Cat he’d dealt with before, as his voice sounded noticeably different.

       The Shadow Cat told him not to worry about it, as his voice was often altered after recharging his armor.

       Sir Jon thought to ask The Shadow Cat what power source his armor used, but there was no time for that now. Instead he told The Shadow Cat to carry on, and then he called Perry down to the lab.

       A moment later Perry appeared, and Jon asked him if he had ever noticed The Shadow Cat having an altered voice after recharging his armor.

       Perry admitted that The Shadow Cat’s armor was just as much a mystery to him as Sir Jon’s alien technology. He had no idea what powered it, as he had never been around when it was recharged. As far as he could tell, the armor charged during battle. It was not something that required repairs or other types of tinkering from The Master Builder.

       Perry asked if this was important, as it seemed an odd time to be indulging in superhero trivia.

       Sir Jon said it could be if someone was impersonating The Shadow Cat in order to throw off his plans.

       Jon then asked Rocinantè to analyze the two voice prints to see if they were the same person.

       Rocie came back a moment later saying the first voice print matched Jasper Phillips. The second voice print matched Makura.

       Sir Jon stared as if in horrified shock.

       “What is it, Dad?” asked Perry, urgently.

       “It can’t be,” said Sir Jon, in astonished disbelief. “Not here. Not now.”

       “What is it, Dad?” Perry insisted.

       “My first great mistake come back to haunt me,” said Sir Jon, emotionally. “This could ruin everything. All I have worked and planned for, all these centuries.”

       “Dad, I don’t think this is any time for you to be losing it,” said Perry, sternly. “You have a few thousand lives to save. Worry about this Makura or whoever it is later.”

       “Yes,” said Sir Jon, shaking it off with difficulty. “Yes, of course. You’re right. Rocie, accelerate the transfer.”

       “You’re taxing me, Captain,” warned the little robot. “Even my power has limits.”

       “Your maximum capacity then,” said Sir Jon, urgently.

       Groups of prisoners began to vanish from The Rhoades Instruments Building at a rate of one group of 100 per every 15 seconds. While Perry watched the monitors in the laboratory, which showed the prisoners being targeted and displaced in space, to what location Perry dared not guess.

       After a time the phone rang again.

       “Get that, Perry!” Sir Jon ordered, not pausing in his work as he poured over banks of computers, ever alert for any error in his calculations.

       “Rhoades here,” said Perry into the phone. Then he listened for a moment and said, “Got it. Get out of there now.”

       Then Perry turned to his father and said, “That was The Shadow Cat. They’ve set the timer. You have less than 10 minutes.”

       “Rocie?” bellowed Sir Jon.

       “It’s going to be close, Captain,” warned the little robot.

       “Rocie, you’re a time ship,” Jon shouted. “Don’t tell me there’s not enough time.”

       “There isn't,” Rocie insisted, as if the fact was inescapable.

       “Damn those fools,” Sir Jon swore. “Why couldn't they have the sense to give themselves 15 minutes to get away?

       “With the roads as clear as they are,” said Perry, “they can be in No Furs Land in less than 10 minutes.”

       Those minutes passed like seconds for Perry as he watched his father and the little robot frantically work to beat the clock, while occasionally glancing at a monitor that showed the current state of his building.

       “One minute to go, Pop,” Perry warned them.

       “Still 800 furs to transfer,” said Rocie.

       Suddenly Perry saw the image in the monitor shake, and the top of his building seemed to explode.

       “Dad!” he shouted. “It's started. The building is falling.”

       “400 furs left to transfer,” said Rocie.

       “Rocie!” commanded Sir Jon. “Lock onto them and transfer them all at once!”

       “Aye, Captain,” said Rocie, with extreme misgivings.

       Sir Jon and Perry then turned their eyes to the monitor and watched the building fall with the same speed and meticulous symmetry as The Montgomery Technical Building had fallen.

       “Impressive, isn't it?” asked Sir Jon.

       “I'll say one thing for The Camelodians,” said Perry. “They don't skimp on their controlled demolition operations. If it wasn't my building with 400 of my friends inside, I'd have to say the perfection of this demolition was positively beautiful. More beautiful even than the job they did on Blair's building.”

       “It's because they didn't bother to fake a trigger for this one,” said Sir Jon. “And there aren't all those people jumping out the windows.”

       “Has it passed the level where the last batch of prisoners were?” asked Perry.

       “Yes, it has,” said Sir Jon.

       “Are they safe?” asked Perry.

       “Only Rocie knows,” said Sir Jon. “And we shouldn't bother her about it right now.”

       “You know you could have saved a hundred, maybe 2 without risk,” said Perry. “Your order may have cost twice as many lives than were necessary.”

       “Or I may have saved an extra 200 by gambling,” said Sir Jon. “But a good gamble is never a sure thing.”

       Some minutes after the initial explosion, when there was nothing left but a rising cloud of dust where Perry’s building had stood, they looked back at Rocie, and Perry asked frantically, “Did you get them out?”

       Rocie tried to answer, but her speech quickly slowed to a stop, and her body froze solid as a statue.

       “Rocie!” cried Sir Jon, urgently.

       “What happened?” asked Perry, desperately.

       “She over taxed her processors,” said Sir Jon, urgently. “She’s frozen.”

       “Did she get that last load out?” asked Perry, intensely.

       “Damn it, no,” said Sir Jon, checking the monitors.

       “No?!” Perry exclaimed.

       “They’re stalled in mid transfer,” said Sir Jon. “If I have to reboot Rocie, she’ll lose them. They’ll die.”

       “There must be a way to start Rocie without a reboot,” said Perry, urgently. “She needs more power, more memory.”

       “Where on this backward planet would I get more power than a Sound Chaser can produce?” Sir Jon pondered desperately.

       “Reroute the power from somewhere else in the Sound Chaser,” Perry suggested.

       “Perry, I have a confession to make,” said Sir Jon. “I skipped out on too many math classes at school. I depend on Rocie to make up for my failings. It would take too long for me to do those calculations without her.”

       “Well, maybe I can do it,” said Perry.

       “No, Perry,” said Sir Jon. “You’re not fast enough either. There’s only one type of person who could save those people now.”

       “What type?” asked Perry, anxiously.

       “A computer geek,” said Sir Jon.

       Meanwhile, everyone else in the house was gathered in the drawing room, watching the collapse of The Rhoades Instruments Building on TV. It was not quite so shocking as the fall of The Montgomery Technical Building, since they had been told to expect it, and since they had reason to think it had been fully evacuated. Still, most could not avoid being disturbed, as it had been half of Suburbia’s most prominent landmark for several years.

       They were all still reeling from what they had seen when the phone rang, and Pamela answered it.

       “Pammy, it’s Perry calling from the lab,” she heard. “Send Kacey down here immediately. Tell her to run. There’s no time to waste.”

       Pamela relayed the message, and Kacey seemed quite disturbed to be summoned in this fashion. But Christine quickly pulled Kacey to her feet, and she and Vicki ran with her to the lab.

       As they rushed in, Kacey said, “I’m here, Perry. What’s the emergency?”

       “Kacey, dear,” said Sir Jon, with polite urgency. “400 lives are at stake. You’re the only one who can save them.”

       “Me?!” Kacey exclaimed, with a horrified look of anxiety.

       “Please, Kacey,” Sir Jon urged her. “Don’t waste time being astonished, mystified or afraid. Just do what I tell you.”

       Jon pulled Kacey towards a box made of clear panels.

       “Step up in here please,” said Sir Jon.

       Though her every instinct warned her to stop and be afraid, Kacey focused on Sir Jon's urgency and placed her complete faith in him. She got into the box and Sir Jon swung a keyboard in front of her. Then he pulled down another clear panel in front of her face, which she quickly realized was a transparent computer screen.

       “Here’s the situation,” said Sir Jon. “Rocie has enough resources to safely move 100 people at once. She had to move 400 at the last second. She’s run out of resources and she’s frozen. If she reboots, 400 Suburbians will die. You must find her the resources she needs to finish her program without rebooting. You are now interfaced with Rocinantè, the way Rocie is. You can see all available resources and reroute them at will. Seconds are precious at this point. Do what you can.”

       Her intrigue with the problem pushed all anxieties from Kacey's consciousness. She focused her entire mind on the schematic before her, and because she was interfaced, the knowledge of everything she was looking at was beamed directly into her brain.

       She knew what to do, and in the next instant her fingers were flying over the keyboard, rerouting every bit of stray power she could find, but still Rocie did not move, not even a bit. Which she deduced to mean that the power required to move 400 furs must be immense. Yet she was finding the power, and it wasn't doing any good.

       Eventually Kacey said, “It’s no good. We have enough power. It must be memory capacity she needs. Scanning for unused memory.”

       Again Kacey's fingers flew over the keys, her eyes reading and discarding screens at a rate of 4 per second. Then, suddenly the anxious onlookers noticed she was starting to slow her progress.

       “The system is starting to become unstable because of the stalled program,” said Kacey, anxiously. “I have to slow down or risk blue screening the whole system.”

       “You’re the expert, Kacey,” Sir Jon encouraged her, in an ominous tone. “Do what you always do in this kind of situation.”

       What Kacey didn’t want to say was that, in a situation like this, she’d normally start grasping at straws in desperation. And so she started searching the immediate room for anything that might have some kind of memory circuit - and then she saw two flashing arrows appear on the screen pointing at Christine.

       “Christine,” said Kacey, urgently. “Something in your carrying bag has serious memory.”

       In surprise, Christine hurriedly opened her carrying bag and started fishing through her effects, not knowing what Kacey might be referring to. Then her eyes fell on the crystal ball Mr. Stopheles had given her.

       “Is this it?” asked Christine, holding up the ball as the arrows on Kacey’s screen zeroed in on it.

       “That’s it,” said Kacey. “Plug it into the console terminal I’m opening.”

       Kacey pressed a few more buttons, and a panel slid open in the central console, from which a gripping socket extended.

       But no sooner had the socket appeared than the lights in the room started to fluctuate. And before Christine could reach the console everything had gone disorientingly psychedelic.

       “What’s happening?” Christine called out over the sudden barrage of rapidly shifting colors and noise.

       “The instability is getting serious,” Sir Jon called back.

       “What happens if she blue screens?” Perry called.

       “Oh, nothing much,” called Sir Jon. “The house will disappear for one thing. And all memory of where Rocie put those 400 prisoners will be lost.”

       Things were no better in the living room, and all were terrified by the strange distortions of their surroundings as the facade of the house lost its cohesion and gave way to chaos. Even from the street the house was seen to not be able to hold it’s shape and textures.

       To make matters worse, Christine was so disoriented she could hardly move. But she continued to struggle towards the console until she felt her left hand grasp the socket. Then her right hand jammed the silver ball into it, and the socket automatically retracted.

       Then all at once there was a huge thud from deep in the ship, and everything went abruptly black and silent.

       Vicki was the first to find her voice in the darkness, saying, tremblingly, “Uh, is this good?”

       “Is this blue screen or reboot?” asked Perry, fretfully.

       “I think Rocinantè is telling me it’s video card failure,” said Kacey. “Or something very much like that.”

       “Is that bad?” asked Christine.

       “It is if Rocinantè has to reboot the whole system to get the outer structure generator going again,” said Sir Jon.

       “She’s asking me if it’s okay to reboot,” said Kacey.

       “Tell her no!” everyone present chorused.

       Kacey’s hands reached out for the keyboard, but now even the screen was frozen with pages she could not close. And those pages were in colorful chaos, just like the house. But, taking for granted things were still responding to her beneath the frozen screens, Kacey typed the sequence to open the command box. She could not see if it was there, but assuming it was she typed, “Pause all running programs,” and she hit the enter key.

       She then waited five seconds, backed the courser over her previous command by feel and typed, “Start all paused programs.” Then she hit the enter key again.

       Directly the sound of tinkling bells was heard, followed by Rocie’s voice in the dark, saying, “Program complete. All furs transferred from building.”

       Then the lights came back on, and Kacey read aloud the words on the screen. “Video card recovered from a fatal error. No data was lost. Does that mean what I think it means?”

       “It sure does,” said Rocie, as she moved the keyboard and screen so that Kacey could step down out of the box. “Congratulations, Kacey. You’ve saved your co-workers.”

       “Yes!” Kacey exclaimed excitedly, as she jumped down into the arms of her waiting friends, who hugged her enthusiastically and showered her with praise and affection.

       “Does . . . Does this make me some kind of hero?” asked the meek little geek squirrel.

       “Not just any hero,” said Christine.

       “You saved the day, Kacey,” said Sir Jon, cheerfully. “Which would you prefer, a statue in the park or your own legal holiday?”

       “But, Sir Jon,” Kacey fidgeted shyly. “I don’t deserve such things.”

       “Oh, dear Kacey,” said Sir Jon, in a prideful, fatherly tone. “Have you not realized by now how special you are? How lost this town would be without you? Today you are our hero, and I will see you honored for it. No one will ever question your worth to society again.”

***

S       ometime later, everyone was back up in the drawing room, waiting for the acting governor to make another announcement.

       When she came on, she announced the fall of The Rhoades Instruments Building, which she said Camelodian technicians had earlier stated was unstable and liable to fall. She then put the blame on Prince Perry’s insistence that the building could not fall for several thousand Suburbians having returned to work in the building. She blamed the weight of the workers for collapsing the damaged building, going on to say that the collapse was so sudden there was no chance of anyone being saved.

       The governor then added that the estimated deaths from the building fall, added to previous war casualty figures, brought the official Suburbian death toll to approximately 12,000. Camelodian deaths were estimated at 15,000. While Webberton was reporting a mere 150 deaths. But she noted that Webberton could not be trusted to give out accurate casualty information.

       She went on to project that Webberton would surely betray the foolish Suburbians by trying to take Suburbia as well. And if that happened, the last remnants of the once great township of Camelot who remained in Suburbia would not be enough to defend it. Nor would they have any reason to defend it. So everyone might as well assume that No Furs Land rules would apply from here on out.

       She advised that Camelodian survivors should lute, rape, pillage and otherwise devastate Suburbia in any manner that pleased them, and leave nothing but ruins for the Webbertonians to claim.

       “Nice lady, our acting governor,” said Perry, sarcastically.

       “I would like to scratch her eyes out,” said Jenny.

       “But she already announced on TV that they were using the building to store prisoners,” said Kacey. “Won't anyone notice she flip-flopped?”

       “If anyone mentions that she’ll say they remember incorrectly,” said Sir Jon. “And if they won’t accept that, she’ll have them disappear. Standard procedure in adjusting a cover story.”

       “Why don’t I take Chico up to the embassy and bulldoze it?” asked Rick. “That’d fix her.”

       “Stay put, Rick,” said Sir Jon, impatiently looking at the clock. “I hope to have another job for you.”

       “Still waiting on your wild card, Dad?” asked Perry.

       “In a situation like this,” said Sir Jon, “the problem with wild cards is they’re tricky to count on, and impossible to time.”

       “Impossible even to know if the card will be available to be played,” Blair interjected. “That's why it's a wild card. No one knows if it will show up, or what will happen if it does. It might win the day for you, or it might just present you with an even bigger problem to deal with.”

       “Are you the wildcard, Blair?” asked Perry.

       “If I am you're in trouble,” said Blair. “At this point it's all I can do to prevent myself from being the final nail in Suburbia's coffin. The die is cast, so to speak. Even if you should manage to deal with your little Camelodian infestation, odds are that Halloween will absorb most of your remaining population. I'm afraid Suburbia, as we knew it, is dead. Unless you can somehow build a New Suburbia, as I'm building a New Halloween. Though I have you to thank for repopulating my town, I'm afraid I won't be able to return the favor.”

       “You won't let Suburbia die,” said Patti, with confidence. “You won't forget that you promised me a miracle.”

       Blair sighed unhappily and covered his eyes with one hand.

       “You do realize you're torturing him, don't you?” said Michelle. “Suburbia is ruined. It has no way of replenishing it's population. The business district is buried in debris from those two buildings. The economy is being drawn to Halloween. The town's religion has proven ineffective. There's no more military protection. What miracle do you expect Blair to come up with at this point?”

       “There's no doubt in my mind that he'll come up with one,” said Patti, confidently.

       Blair said, “The only thing I can think of is making Halloween unattractive to half the population. And Suburbia would have to make itself attractive to that half of the population, to prevent them from going elsewhere.”

       “Go on,” Sir Jon encouraged.

       “I plan to be a very conservative Wassir,” Blair explained. “While Perry is quite popular with the Progressive Liberal crowd. If we push Halloween as a Conservative Paradise and Suburbia as a Liberal Paradise, the population will split.”

       “I see,” said Sir Jon. “And what will we do with our very conservative Town Council?”

       “Once the population has divided, hold elections,” said Blair. “The new Liberal population will not re-elect the conservatives.”

       “I see some potential problems with that,” said Perry. “For one thing, Liberals are a minority in Suburbia. So we're hardly talking a 50/50 split here. Another problem is that Liberals dream in color. They'll find our black and white religion oppressive.”

       Christine added, “I've visited Progressive Liberal communes. They usually fall apart because nobody really wants to live by the ideals they champion. If given the chance to vote uncontested they'll vote a lot of impractical dreams into law, and those dreams will quickly turn to nightmares.”

       “I'm surprised at you, Christine,” said Blair. “You're the biggest Progressive Liberal in human history. And, being the first in line of succession, you stand to be given the opportunity to fully test all your Progressive philosophies. Am I to understand you would turn down such an opportunity?”

       “I must confess something to you all,” said Christine. “As a historical Progressive, I'm conditioned to fight The Power. The idea that someone would suddenly just let me be The Power is unthinkable. I'd feel compelled to fight myself.”

       “Being The Power would automatically make you unjust?” asked Perry.

       “Of course it would,” Christine admitted. “I don't come from The People. I come from wealth and power. How could I ever know what it's like to be The People? According to Progressive philosophy, you should put Kacey in charge.”

       “Say what?!” Kacey exclaimed, with a sudden burst of anxiety. “I'd die if you put me in charge. I don't know anything about running a town.”

       “Most Progressives don't,” Christine explained. “The only skill Progressives are unmatched at is dreaming. If you put them in charge they dream a good paradise and say make it so. They never stop to think about the potential cost or complications. They say we'll worry about those things when we come to it.”

       “And when they come to it?” asked Perry, expectantly.

       “If they can they print endless streams of money to pay for it,” said Christine. “Which sinks the economy. Then they have to print more money so people can eat.”

       “Suppose we deny you the ability to print money?” asked Miss Sonny.

       “Then you aren't really giving me The Power.” said Christine.

       “A-ha,” said Blair. “You understand that power is the ability to control the flow of money. Not information or cult of personality persuasion. Not military might, propaganda or any of that nonsense. Someone who knows how to control the flow of money can pour their self over a desert and make it blossom out of nothing.”

       “In that case, wouldn't Perry be the better choice?” asked Christine.

       “No,” said Blair, dismissively. “Perry is merely a magnet for money. He wouldn't know how to use it to revitalize this town. But, if the two of you ruled together as mayor and queen, I foresee possibilities.”

       “I shall be queen,” Lappina interjected, forcefully.

       “No, you will not,” said Blair, giving Lappina a look of disgust. “And if Perry marries you he will never be Mayor. Christine will have to rule alone, until such time as she acquires a mate. And I feel certain Christine will choose a mate who comes from The People. So as to temper her wealthy perspective. Unfortunately that will not be someone who is a magnet for money.”

       “Christine could be a magnet for money,” Vicki interjected. “If she could be persuaded to take money for her skills.”

       “To demand money for healing the sick would be immoral,” Christine insisted. “If I am made queen, all medical services in Suburbia will be free.”

       “Well,” Blair chuckled. “That will certainly attract new life to your town.”

       “It will also create unemployment,” warned Sir Jon. “The hospital is one of our biggest employers.”

       “Oh, I wouldn't worry about that so much,” Blair mused. “I'm sure Christine will also suggest it's immoral to charge money for food and shelter. If you create a true Progressive Paradise, you'll have no need of money.”

       “Money is the root of all evil, after all?” said Christine.

       “It's also the end of all poverty,” said Perry. “I see now Blair isn't really doing us any favors. He's encouraging us to turn Suburbia into a paradise for bums; a black and white trash heap.”

       “I never promised you a rose garden,” said Blair. “A miracle solution was demanded of me under duress, and I came up with one. If that miracle fails because you didn't do everything you could to increase its effectiveness or offset its potential negative side effects, that will be on your head. But be that as it may, I now consider my debt to The Green Meadowlands Gang, and this town, paid in full. I trust none of you will ever come begging miracles of me again.”

       “Oh, I'm sure if they make me queen I'll come begging favors of you occasionally,” said Christine, giving Blair a pleasant smile.

       “Oh, a favor for you, Christine? Any time.” said Blair, with a hint of deviousness in his voice. “Favors put you in my debt. And for some reason the thought of you being indebted to me makes me very happy.”

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S11E235: The Executioner

Spectral Shadows
Serial No. 11
The Planet Of Genetic Misadventure
Episode 235
The Executioner

Copyright 1993, 2021 by Symphonic Rock Productions.

Featuring:

            

            

                  

       After leaving The Rhoades Mansion, The Acting Governor went straight to Suburbia's TV station and taped an address to inform the Camelodians in town of their situation. With vindictive intonation she spelled out how Suburbia had collaborated with Webberton to conquer and destroy Camelot, and how the pretense that Suburbia needed protection was just a ploy to draw the troops away from Camelot so that Webberton could overrun it.

       Her demeanor was calculated to infuriate the troops. She put up a stoic front, as one would expect of a lower ranking official who suddenly found herself at the top of the chain of command, every now and then allowing her voice to crack, or a tear to show, indicating that this was a grievously serious situation. She wanted the troops to know their home had been destroyed, and that Suburbia was to blame.

       “This ploy being successful,” she continued. “Camelot has fallen to Webberton, and Suburbia has attacked our base in No Furs Land, destroying it utterly, and sparing not a single survivor.

       “We here, stationed in the town of Suburbia, are all that remains of the great Camelodian military. But we no longer have a home to return to, and we have the Suburbians to thank for that. Therefore we have no choice now but to consider ourselves at full on war with Suburbia. And what remains of our defensive operations must now be considered an occupation force. This is only fair. They have destroyed our home, and we now have every right to take theirs.

       “Any Suburbian who resists Camelodian control is to be considered an enemy combatant, subdued and taken to the Rhoades Instruments Building, which will now be our new processing and interrogation center for prisoners. Every Suburbian is now to be considered a potential terrorist and treated accordingly. Kill them instantly if they resist. If taken alive they will be given the opportunity to convert to our religion and serve in our military. If they decline they will be publicly shot.

       “Any member of the former ruling family of Suburbia who is found outside of their sanctuary is to be taken into custody for public execution. And as of this moment, as I am the highest survivor of rank, I am declaring myself Queen of what remains of the Camelodian township. And the new center of our government will be our Suburbian Embassy. I shall issue future orders from there. But in the meantime, your general orders are to take what you want from this town. The former Suburbians own nothing. Everything now belongs to the soldiers of New Camelot.”

       This message was then put on a loop and broadcast continually to insure all Camelodians would see it and act accordingly. Though many of the soldiers found it difficult to believe, and also found it difficult to shift gears from protectors to oppressors. But as the hours passed and contact with Camelot remained impossible to re-establish, the soldiers became increasingly volatile.

       But it was not until images of The Bloody Claw flying over Cheshire Castle began proliferating on the internet, and the scene of The Mayor and Queen of Camelot being executed, skinned and cooked were broadcast on Webberton television that the full grief and outrage set in, obliterating any sense of kindness or mercy towards the Suburbians.

       Fortunately, the delay of full revenge mode setting in allowed a great number of Suburbians to escape into No Furs Land and begin a perilous exodus to Halloween. And once they'd gone, The Camelodians had not enough soldiers to spare for pursuing them. Every last soldier was now needed to hold Suburbia.

       Thus, between those that had fled, those that were dead and those that had already been captured, Suburbia became the next best thing to a ghost town.

       Back at The Rhoades Mansion, the same captive audience watched the Governor's message repeating on the TV in the drawing room.

       Blair was communicating with the ruling family of Halloween via a special radio frequency The Camelodians couldn't monitor or jam, suggesting that they watch the diorama to keep an eye on the state of the refugees, and that they send them whatever assistance was possible to get them safely to Halloween, and then to offer them the same courtesies that had been given to the previous refugees.

       Queen Aldetha was not necessarily too comfortable with the idea of Halloween being overrun with refugees, but she could not argue that the least of those refugees had wealth to spread around in Halloween, and that they stood a good chance of having most of them convert to Halloween's religion.

       Blair Montgomery well knew that appealing to Queen Aldetha's greed effectively wrapped her around his finger. And he needed to keep her in his power for the time being. He was not the ruler of Halloween yet. But once this war business was settled, he meant to see that situation corrected as soon as possible.

       After hanging up on his Wassir, The Sultan sought out the AD detectives, whom he found in Spike's room watching the looped transmission from Suburbia on a small television, and discussing the implications of what this war would mean for their business.

       The Sultan brought the detectives to his play room and showed them the diorama, which displayed the position of the refugees on the road to Halloween. The Sultan explained that The Wassir wanted what resources Halloween could spare to assist in delivering the refugees to safety.

       “What's that got to do with us?” asked Spike, with stoic indifference.

       “I could not imagine what resources The Wassir was referring to,” said The Sultan. “Halloween has no forces that can be sent into No Furs Land. But then I realized that this was his round about way of asking for your help without losing face.”

       “You don't mean to say Montgomery considers us his resource now,” said Gene, with amusement.

       “We were hired to protect the princess,” said Spike. “If Montgomery wants us to do a side job for him it's going to cost some money. And he's not available to sign a contract.”

       “As a matter of fact,” said Richie. “With Montgomery trapped in Suburbia for who knows how long, this might be our best chance to get Princess Kara away from here.”

       “I am surprised,” said The Sultan, sounding disappointed. “I know that money is of no real consequence to The AD. There was no money in it initially when you stopped to rescue the princess.”

       “No, but there was a mystery,” said Spike.

       “A good mystery is worth a lot more than money to Spike,” said Gene.

       “There's no mystery to these refugees,” said Spike. “It's just a straight up job.”

       “It's also a job I can't be involved in,” said Richie, looking away, as if disturbed. “Conflict of interest and all that, wot?”

       “Richie, son. You ain't takin' that looped message to heart, is ya?” asked Gene, awkwardly.

       “For me to help the Suburbians now would be treason,” said Richie, still seeming greatly troubled.

       “Treason to what?” asked Spike, coldly. “Face it, Richie. Your town has fallen. Your religion is dead. All that remains is a group of renegade terrorists who have nothing but what they can steal. You owe them nothing.”

       “I still can't act against them,” Richie insisted.

       “We're going to have to eventually,” said Spike. “The AD can't afford to let them execute it's gadget maker.”

       “Maybe we should get a new gadget maker,” said Richie, emotionally. “I don't think I can work with the fur who brought down Camelot. And if that's a problem, maybe you should get a new partner.”

       “You know I can't replace you,” said Spike. “The ancient text on which The AD is based says once your character is gone he never comes back. And even if I were to let that slide, where am I going to get another Camelodian I can trust now?”

       “I wonder if you have any idea how idiotic that sounds,” said Richie, now seeming completely depressed. “It was a fun game setting up a detective agency based on an ancient bit of fiction. But that was only to start up with. The AD isn't fiction. It's a real institution. And real institutions don't live or die on someone's accent.”

       “Oh yeah?” said Spike. “Well this one lives or dies on whether I'm having any fun or not. The AD is not worth it to me if it's not a perfect emulation of that novel series. And to that end you are not expendable.”

       Gene put a hand on Richie's shoulder and said, sympathetically, “Lookie, I know all this hurts right now, but you'll get over it. You'll remember that you had your reasons for leaving Camelot a long time ago. And when you threw your lot in with us, The AD became your new religion. So you ain't got no interest in Camelot to be conflicted.”

       “Maybe not,” Richie admitted, reluctantly. “But be that as it may, the Suburbians aren't going to welcome any help from me. So why don't you two go out and do whatever you're going to do with those refugees. I'll stay here and guard the princess.”

       “Hmmm,” said Spike, thoughtfully. “That does make sense. With everyone distracted, it would be a great time for someone to make a move on the princess. Wait a minute. When did I agree to go babysit those refugees? Who's paying me for it?”

       “If The Wassir will not pay you,” The Sultan suggested, “I'm sure you can send the bill to The Prince Of Suburbia.”

***


       Back at The Rhoades Mansion, Perry asked all that surrounded him for ideas of what might be done to help Suburbia's citizens. Sir Jon suggested that they depend on Rick and Kacey to help them communicate with the citizens through Another Life.

       Rick doubted that many Suburbians would be using AL in such a time of crisis. Indeed, he didn’t know what percentage of Suburbians even knew AL existed, or that it could be accessed in a way that the Camelodians couldn’t control.

       “Nevertheless,” said Sir Jon, “It’s all we’ve got. So we must encourage those Suburbians that are on AL to get our messages around to those who are not.”

       Rick seemed ok with this, but he wondered what message would help at this point.

       Sir Jon suggested that Suburbians should employ passive resistance, as there was no point at all in Suburbians trying to deal with Camelodians on their own level. If they were arrested they should go peaceably and allow themselves to be taken to The Rhoades Instruments Building.

       Perry protested that the whole town might end up crammed into his building that way.

       Jon agreed that this could happen. But it would accomplish two goals. It would put all Suburbians in one small place, which would make them easier to liberate from the Camelodians when the time came. And it would keep the Camelodians too busy to remember the wild card element in the game they'd forgotten.

       Sir Jon also reminded Rick and Kacey to get Perry’s message to the Camelodians as well, that if they wished to be shown mercy they should cast off their uniforms and stand with the Suburbians.

       Rick blinked in surprise, and clarified that The Camelodians were to be informed that Suburbia was prepared to wage physical war against them.

       “Absolutely,” Perry replied. “I think I have the power to destroy them myself. What do you think, Christine? You knew my former self. If I were to call upon his power, could I cause everyone wearing a Camelodian uniform to burst into flames?”

       After a moment's thought Christine said, “You could do far worse to them. You could inflict on them any illness Rael had ever cured. Within an hour they would all have died the most excruciating death imaginable, and their bodies would be melting out of their uniforms into the gutters, to be washed away with the rain.”

       Perry gulped in horror, asking, “You saw him do that? My powers are that terrible?”

       “His powers,” Christine clarified.

       “You mustn't do it, son,” said Sir Jon, plaintively. “It would surely be the end of you.”

       “Do I not owe this town my life to pay for its survival?” asked Perry. “Anyway, the worst that can happen is you'll have your brother back.”

       Rick suddenly whopped Perry smartly across the back of his head. And Perry looked up at him in surprise, asking, “What was that for?”

       To which Rick replied, shortly, “We want you. Not that stupid deer.”

       “Besides,” said Christine. “Don't you think you ought to consider the moral implications?”

       “Moral implications!” said Perry, raising his voice in indignation. “What moral consideration do I owe The Camelodians?”

       “Is it not written that with great power comes great responsibility?” asked Christine. “And what you're talking about is the greatest, most terrible power one being can hold. Only your own morals can restrain it.”

       “That's Marvel Town's religion,” said Perry. “Not mine.”

       “It is a theme of Rael's religion,” said Sir Jon. “If you would use his power, you owe his religion consideration.”

       “Only if you can show me how The Camelodians deserve moral consideration,” Perry insisted.

       “You heard that message,” said Christine. “You heard how contrived and manipulating it was. It has effectively put all Camelodians under a spell of deception. The deception is where the evil lies. Not in those who were deceived.”

       “Would Rael agree with that, Dad?” asked Perry.

       “Remember what Rael did in the garage?” asked Sir Jon. “He didn't kill anyone he didn't have to. Rael was a healer. He would never kill if he had the option to heal. You could just as easily send every Camelodian a healing spell as you could a fire spell.”

       “That seems like letting them off too light,” said Perry.

       “That's your anger talking, dear,” said Miss Sonny. “If you gave way to reason you'd see that instantly killing people, rather than making them live out their lives with the awareness of the wrong they'd done, is the lighter punishment.”

***


       Meanwhile, in the damaged but still quite sturdy Rhoades Instruments building, the Camelodian soldiers had spent the better part of 24 hours attempting to either trap or destroy The Shadow Cat, and having their forces decimated for their trouble.

       As if taunting Sargent Stern amused him no end, The Shadow Cat had tuned his two way wrist radio to the frequency of the Sargent's own two way radio, and had taken to referring to him as “Stern,” in a deep and protracted manner. Which was not only insulting as it divested the Sargent of his rank, but the tone suggested that The Shadow Cat could kill him at any time, and would do so when the mood suited him. Until then, Sargent Stern was but a cat toy to be used for The Shadow Cat's amusement.

       Often Sargent Stern would order that prisoners be used as bate, using the radio to tempt The Shadow Cat to rescue them from whatever peril had been cooked up to destroy them. But The Shadow Cat always managed to rescue the prisoners, usually putting an end to several Camelodian soldiers at the same time, after whatever plan they'd cooked up to render him visible had failed.

       With each engagement The Shadow Cat became more contented, as the souls of the soldiers he killed fed The Shadow Armor till it felt fat and happy. And the joy of the armor was felt by its wearer.

       The armor also took joy in The Shadow Cat's taunting of Sargent Stern, knowing that the build up rage and helplessness would make the Sargent the greatest feast of all, when finally it came time to consume his pain.

       Thus The Shadow Cat kept a daily tally of the soldiers he'd killed, which he announced over Sargent Stern's radio after each kill.

       As if this by itself was not enough to drive Sargent Stern insane, leading him to draw his pistol fire at any shadow he saw from the corner of his eye, often shooting his own personnel, only to have The Shadow Cat gloat by thanking Stern for adding to his daily tally, the Sargent's anxiety and need for blood was magnified ten fold when The Acting Governor's TV message was heard.

       Of all the things the fall of Camelot portended, it meant the steady stream of Camelodian lives to waste on his military vindictiveness would no longer flow. No reinforcements would be coming, and every soldier lost in his vendetta with The Shadow Cat brought her one step closer to total powerlessness. Therefore, desperate measures were called for.

       Picking up his two-way radio hand-set, Sargent Stern broadcast a warning to The Shadow Cat, informing the feline vigilante that he would start executing 20 prisoners per hour until he surrendered. But there was no immediate response, which was contrary to The Shadow Cat's normal behavior. Normally The Shadow Cat would waste no time in taunting Stern about the ineffectiveness of his ploys. And Stern began to puzzle what it might mean that The Shadow Cat was not responding.

       Could this mean one of his previous ploys had injured The Shadow Cat? Was he hiding in some vent somewhere in the process of dying? Had he simply left the building upon learning of Camelot's defeat? Or did he consider this new ploy too childishly ineffective to even be worth taunting?

       Eventually Stern decided he didn't care. At this point he just wanted to kill Suburbians, whether it gained him any ground against his enemy or not.

       Elsewhere in the building, The Shadow Cat was not responding because he had changed the frequency of his radio device the moment he had heard of Stern's latest plan. He was now on the wavelength Sir Jon had given him, asking if this latest development made any difference to Sir Jon's plans to rescue the prisoners.

       Jon replied that The Shadow Cat should not attempt to prevent the executions, but he would need to be present and synced up with Rocinantè so she could teleport the prisoners away at the last possible second.

       Sir Jon would use his technology to transfer each group of prisoners to a safe place outside of time and space where nothing could harm them. But The Shadow Cat would need to simultaneously use his hypnotic powers to convince all witnesses that they had seen the deaths of the prisoners.

       The Shadow Cat thought this was a tall order with a lot of room for fatal errors, but he agreed to try it. Sir Jon agreed there was much room for error and potential disaster. But this risk was necessary in order that the proper out come to justify all this tragedy should be achieved.

       To himself The Shadow Cat contemplated Sir Jon's Camelodian accent. He not only sounded like them, but he justified mass death and mayhem with potential future outcomes the way they did. And try as he might, The Shadow Cat did not see the righteousness of justifying a good future for some built on the blood of those who no less deserved to live in that better future. Which was more important, that peace be achieved, or that people be alive to know if there was peace or war?

       The Shadow Armor chided its wearer for these weak minded thoughts. The Armor itself did not care how war was justified. It cared only that the worst in humanity should be brought out for it to feast upon. If in the end something was achieved that could give its wearer some satisfaction, it would only serve to make the wearer more subservient. But war was war. Everyone couldn't make it to the end. So a hero had no business giving a moment's thought to those who could not be saved. He was only to be concerned with saving those it was possible to save.

       Sir Jon then informed his family and guests that he would be in his lab for the duration, where he would be quite busy. So he should not be disturbed for anything even remotely trivial.

       About a half hour later, 20 frightened Suburbians were herded up to the roof of The Rhoades Instruments Building, where the Camelodians had set up cameras to film the executions.

       The prisoners were lined up close to the edge of the roof. So that they would fall a mile to the ground after being shot; the plan being to leave their remains in the street as a warning to anyone who dared challenge Camelodian supremacy.

       Sir Jon monitored the situation on a computer screen, which Rocinantè had tuned into The Shadow Cat’s eyes. And his thoughts, as well, could be heard through the computer speakers.

       The Shadow Cat sent a thought message to the effect that he could not put hypnotic suggestions in the mind of a camera. Jon replied that Rocinantè would hack the cameras and enable them to record hypnotic suggestions. So that anyone watching the playback would see exactly what they expected to see.

       Rocie added that she was releasing a narcotic into the air that would make everyone in Suburbia more susceptible to suggestion. And she also warned The Shadow Cat to beware the narcotic, as it might make him more prone to see what he wanted to see as well.

       The Shadow Cat replied that his armor would not be effected by the gas. It would warn him if he was seeing something that wasn’t there.

       The Camelodian firing squad was assembled and stood ready to execute the prisoners, who stood with their hearts pounding in their throats, expecting nothing but death. And some, who had heard the message of The Acting Governor, even feeling that their deaths were justified, not understanding at all how things could have come to this end.

       Sir Jon, acting as master coordinator, told Rocie and The Shadow Cat to stand at the ready and use the command to fire as their cue to begin their parts of the operation.

       Sargent Stern made one more attempt to invite The Shadow Cat to surrender and save the prisoners, and finally the chilling laughter of The Shadow Cat was heard through the Sargent's two way radio, saying he knew well the evil that lurked in the hearts of lying murderers. He knew Stern had no intention of keeping his word to spare the prisoners. He then went on to say that if Stern was going to spill blood he should get on with it.

       So Stern ordered the execution to proceed, and at the command to fire, the Camelodians saw the prisoners blown to pieces by their machine guns before what remained of their bodies fell from the roof of the mile high building, to be smashed to a pulp on the street below.

       But the 20 prisoners perceived none of that. They saw the roof of the Rhoades Instruments building and the line of Camelodian executioners disappear almost immediately after the order to fire. Everything seemed to fade to white, and they were momentarily in a realm of nothingness.

       But that realm was responsive to their needs. Momentarily it filled with air, ground, furniture, TV sets playing anything they might have wanted to watch, big houses with comfortable beds, anything they thought of that might bring them comfort at that moment.

       Some wondered if they were dead, and if this was what the heaven the elder race had counted on was like. But most of them were too tired and eager for rest from their extended ordeal to think about it too hard, and they fell into a blissful healing sleep in which they were quite unaware of the passing of time.

       Meanwhile, Sargent Stern looked at the playback of the execution and laughed heartily into her two way radio, warning The Shadow Cat that she would kill 20 more prisoners on the stroke of every hour until he surrendered.

       The Shadow Cat responded by becoming visible just long enough to decapitate three of the firing squad with one swipe of his Katana. Their heads lingered on their shoulders for 5 seconds or so, wearing horrified expressions as blood trickled from their cleanly sliced necks. Then they rolled off their bodies and fell at their feet before their soulless bodies crumpled after them.

       Stern then heard that sinister laughter of The Shadow Cat again, not from his radio this time. And the invisible, ghostly voice said, “Sterrrrn. Sterrrrrrrrn. At 3 to 20 per hour, you will run out of soldiers before you run out of victims. And then, I will have you for my feast of pain.” The voice then laughed devilishly, and dissipated into the wind.

       Stern quivered with revulsion at the sound of that inhuman voice. But then he shook it off and exploded with rage, spraying machine gun fire all about the roof, hitting some of his own troops as he dared The Shadow Cat to come out and face him fur to fur.

       Not wishing to be lost to the friendly fire of a comrade gone mad, The other soldiers dived on Stern to restrain him, urging him to get a hold of himself.

       Then the invisible laughter returned, echoing from all Camelodian communication devices throughout the building, saying, “Today's score is now 3 to 20. If repeated every hour, all Camelodian soldiers remaining in this building will be dead before the end of the day. If you would save yourselves, cast off your uniforms and become Suburbians. If you cling to your uniforms you will not be spared.”

       All over the building the soldiers looked at each other, utterly terrified in a way that added a new definition for the term “Terrorism” in their mental dictionaries. And many started tearing off their uniforms immediately.

       “Don't even think about it,” shouted Sargent Stern into his radio. “Any one of you seen out of uniform will be shot on sight. Camelodians show no mercy to traitors who join the enemy.”

       “And what will that gain us?” a nearby soldier dared demand.

       “You heard the announcement,” said Stern, viciously. “Camelot is gone, thanks to these ungrateful Suburbians. There is nothing left for us but to die for the glory of our town’s memory, and to take as many of these wretched Suburbians with us as we can. Any Camelodian thinking to join these traitors will die instantly. Now go round up another 20 prisoners. I want these executions to be punctual.”

       “That means on the stroke of the hour another 3 of us will die,” said the soldier, “with no chance to even defend ourselves.”

       “So what?” Stern spat. “What else do soldiers exist for? If you’ve got a problem with dying at the command of your superiors you joined the wrong religion.”

       Stern then drew a pistol to shoot down the foolish soldier who had dared to question orders. But another soldier grabbed the Sargent’s arm and forced it into the air so that the gun discharged harmlessly.

       Then she struggled with Stern, attempting to disarm him.

       “Kill this traitor!” Stern ordered as he struggled with the soldier. But the other soldiers stood around in confusion.

       “Help me!” cried the soldier, feeling herself out matched by the strength of Stern's madness. “Do you really want to die for this lunatic?!”

       First the soldier Stern had attempted to kill joined the struggle, finally getting the gun from his hand. Then the two soldiers began struggling to force Stern to the edge of the roof.

       “Kill them!” Stern shouted. “Kill these traitors! It’s your duty! Kill them or you’ll share their fate!”

       The soldiers tried to train their weapons on their two friends, but they could find no heart for it. They holstered their weapons and joined the struggle to subdue Stern.

       Together they hauled Stern off his feet and carried him to the edge of the building while he screamed hysterically, “Stop, you fools! You can’t do this! You’re no one without the chain of command! Listen to me! Obey orders!”

       But the soldiers had had enough of obeying orders, and as Stern raved like a lunatic, they pitched him off the mile high building and listened to his pathetic death scream fade as he fell out of ear shot.

       Then the soldiers panicked and ran, racing as fast as they could to get to the PA system in Miyan’s office where they announced to the whole building that Sargent Stern was dead, that there was no more chain of command, and it was now all Camelodians for themselves.

       With that, all Camelodians raced to get out of the building, never having been clear about whether the building was in danger of falling or not. In fact, they were so eager to get away from it that they forgot all about their prisoners.

       Once safely away from the building, the soldiers had to deal with the inevitable crisis of faith. Some kept their uniforms and vowed revenge, while others ripped their uniforms off with disgust, reducing the occupation force to such a small number that holding Suburbia would have been impossible, were the town not all but empty. But as it was, there were enough Camelodians left to be a true terror to the Suburbian citizens that remained.

***


       As Stern fell screaming with a good half mile to go before hitting the ground, a black glove suddenly smashed through a window and caught him by the throat in a psychic grip, hauling him roughly back inside the building, where he found himself staring helplessly into the devilish eyes of The Shadow Cat, as his feet dangled above the floor.

       Stern, already hysterical with an overload of terror and insecurity, screamed continuously at the vision before him, until The Shadow Cat flung him to the floor, where he whimpered helplessly.

       “You did not think I would let you die so easily,” said the Shadow Cat, in a malevolent tone that chilled Stern's blood. “You owe me a feast of pain.”

       “You’re going to devour me,” cried Stern. “You wretched cannibal.”

       “It is not your body I hunger for,” said The Shadow Cat, menacingly. “It is your terror. I can see in your mind all things that cause you fear - all the nameless terrors that lurk in the shadows of every life you have ever lived, every death you have died, every phobia, every trauma, every torment, every horror of which you dare not speak. I pull away the veil, and you can hide from them no longer.”

       As The Shadow Cat unleashed his hypnotic power, Stern perceived himself assailed on all sides by things he feared. The images flooded his being with a sense of fear no living being was built to survive.

       He screamed frantically as he fruitlessly tried to flee his personal monsters and demons; the belittlements of his childhood, the indignities he had suffered from his superiors, the ghosts of all the furs he had sent to their deaths, and the approaching felines of Webberton who would rend his body to pieces and devour it.

       The Shadow Cat laughed and rejoiced, as the feast of fear Stern generated was magnificent, beyond his expectations. It made The Shadow Armor glow with power.

       But all too soon the hysterical screams of Sargent Stern began to weaken, as his racing heart gave out under the strain, until there was no sound left in the room but the thudding of Stern’s failing heart, which beat progressively slower as Stern lay crumpled across some chairs he had stumbled over, his eyes unblinking, all but popping out of his head, locked on the vision of the horror they could never look away from.

       And finally, the heartbeat ceased. Stern was dead to the physical world. But his suffering was not over. He would remain trapped in his horror, frozen in that loop of unspeakable terrors, imprisoned in perpetual torment inside The Shadow Armor, feeding its power source for all eternity.

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S11E234: My Favorite Enemy

Spectral Shadows
Serial No. 11
The Planet Of Genetic Misadventure
Episode 234
My Favorite Enemy

Copyright 1993, 2021 by Symphonic Rock Productions.

Featuring:

            

            

                  

       The next morning, Rael was gone. Some time during the night while he slept Perry had taken his body back, and he awakened as himself.

       Perry, Rick and Leela then enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the palace, and gave Halloween a once over to insure that there was nothing suspicious to report once they got back to Suburbia.

       Finding everything in order beyond belief, Leela inquired of Perry why he looked so displeased. Perry explained that he wasn't looking forward to facing Blair Montgomery when he got home. He hated the idea of admitting that Blair had bested him in every way that counted. Indeed, were it not for the question of the immortality machine, Perry would have to recommend to his mother that she fail Suburbia immediately, and allow Blair to absorb all of Suburbia's resources into his new restored Halloween.

       When Rick and Leela pressed him to justify that statement, Perry gestured around him at the town, saying it was folly to deprive the people of a colorful existence. Standing a midst this technicolor paradise Perry found it hard to think about returning to black and white Suburbia. He liked color. Color symbolized progress. While a black and white mentality held progress back.

       Blair was obviously much better at foreseeing what the world would need in the future, while all Perry could do was preserve the past. And the preserving of the past was now a failure in Perry's eyes. If only he could be assured that Blair was secretly still the champion of morality he had been in his youth, Perry would see no more righteous course of action that to step aside for the superior leader.

       Neither Leela nor Rick agreed with Perry's feelings. They were much more accepting of Blair Montgomery as a corporate criminal one was ill advised to depend on. And Perry could not argue the wisdom in their doubts.

       Once quite satisfied that everything in Halloween was as good as it appeared to be, and that they were no longer needed, Perry, Leela and Rick climbed into Chico and began their return trip to Suburbia, which this time was unexpectedly uneventful.

       They had expected to be met with more roadblocks, but apparently either the spies on Another Life did not intercept the message Rick had sent to Kacey, or the Camelodians simply could not get any more furs to throw themselves in front of the truck.

       Instead they found the reception waiting for them at Perry's garage, where a number of Perry’s employees had been tied up and used to block the door.

       The soldiers guarding them told Perry if he did not surrender himself, the workers would be shot before his eyes.

       Perry picked up the microphone and turned on Chico's loudspeaker, saying, “You do realize that if you shoot my employees before my eyes there can be no further pretense that Camelot has not made war on Suburbia. In which case some serious retaliation will be required on my part.”

       “Get out here if you want to save these people,” the Camelodian commander replied sternly.

       “Sorry,” said Perry. “I don't trust you not to shoot them if I do. Prepare to die.”

       Perry turned off the loudspeaker. Then he dialed up Rocie on his cell phone and asked if she could put some kind of protective barrier around the workers. Specifically he wanted them protected from bullets and sound.

       Rocie replied that the force field was already in place and activated.

       Perry turned on the PA again and announced that he was not in a merciful mood. If the soldiers wanted to live they should run for their lives immediately, as he was about to kill everything in the area surrounding the truck.

       The Camelodians laughed and said they would not be bluffed.

       “He ain't bluffin'” Chico warned over his own PA. “My defensive weapons can turn your brains to mush in seconds.”

       “Kill 3 of them,” The commander instructed one of his subordinates. But as the soldier raised his machine gun to the helpless workers, Chico's forward laser guns cut him in half. And in the next instant all the other soldiers were firing on the bulletproof truck.

       “Some people are just too stupid to live,” said Perry, dispassionately. “Chico, soundproof the cab and initiate feedback attack.”

       “By your command, leader,” said Chico, in a childish imitation of one of his favorite elder race sci-fi shows.

       Chico's passengers could no longer hear what was going on outside, but they could see the soldiers trying to shoot the prisoners to get Perry's attention. But their bullets just bounced off with no effect.

       Meanwhile a high pitched feedback sound issued from the truck’s PA speakers. It struck the ears of the soldiers like a dentist’s drill eating into their brains.

       The soldiers were soon flailing about, holding their ears in pain, but this availed them nothing. After several seconds of this the soldiers began to fall dead, their brains turned to mush, as forewarned.

       Some lived long enough to beg for mercy, but Perry could not hear them, nor was he the slightest bit interested.

       When the last soldier fell dead, Chico turned off the noise and lifted his sound proofing. Perry then said through the PA that the workers should run for their homes and barricade themselves inside. If Camelodians should try to invade their homes they should feel free to kill them, as in a time of war it was no crime to defend themselves by any means necessary.

       Once the workers were gone, the garage door opened, and Chico drove himself inside, shutting the door behind him.

       As they got out of the truck and started walking up the tunnel to the house, Leela remarked that Perry was getting pretty good at being ruthless.

       “The Camelodians are making it far too easy on me,” said Perry. I never in my wildest dreams imagined it would be so easy to defeat Camelodians.”

       “That’s probably why they were so anxious to get their hands on Chico,” said Rick. “If they had succeeded in acquiring his technology, Suburbia would be totally dependent on The AD for its salvation.”

       “The AD owns a piece of Chico,” Leela reminded him. “So Camelot will probably end up owing most of its defeat to The AD rather than Suburbia. Perhaps the AD will take over being the world’s police force once Camelot is no more.”

       “Remind me to discuss that possibility with Spike,” said Perry, coldly. “I may be interested in working with the AD to develop a new, more foolproof war deterrent.”

       “Something more effective than Blair's bugs?” asked Leela.

       “I don't particularly like Blair's bugs,” said Perry. “I'm more inclined to invent something that would make attacking one's neighbors impossible.”

       “Heh,” Leela scoffed. “Spike will have no part of any such invention. It would put us out of business.”

***


       That morning Sir Jon insisted that everyone enjoy a leisurely breakfast in the dining room as if nothing were wrong. He would not even allow the TV to be turned on until breakfast was finished. And Perry, Leela & Rick arrived just in time to join them.

       Perry asked his father if he was not concerned with the results of their previous day's excursion.

       Sir Jon replied, “I spent the whole day yesterday watching the news and worrying. Today is the acting governor's day to watch and worry. Her day to be inundated with bad news and disappointments.”

       Christine asked again if she should go and help out at the hospital, since they were sure to have more patients than they could handle.

       Jon said, “I see no reason for you to disrupt your regular practices because of recent events. If any of the soldiers particularly want your type of healing they should call upon you. You are under no obligation to offer it.”

       “I do not feel right being so cold,” said Christine.

       “The hospital is surely under the control of the Camelodians,” said Sir Jon. “You would have to file every healing in triplicate before you could help anyone. Your talents are best reserved for when they can be used to their fullest.”

       Leela asked, “Do you think we might have over done it a bit, killing so many soldiers?”

       “Absolutely not,” said Sir Jon. “I calculate that the death toll to the Camelodians is still far short of the casualties Suburbia is likely to tally in the end - particularly if the RI building falls."

       “I thought the prisoners in my building were supposed to be safe,” said Perry.

       “I’m 99.6% sure I can save everyone in the building at the last second,” said Sir Jon. “But even so, they will all be Suburbians that the Camelodians attempted to kill. And the law draws no distinction between murder and attempted murder, at least as far as penalty goes. Therefore, in tallying the account, I must figure all those who died in the MT building, the felines taken to the concentration camp, all slated to be demolished with the RI building, and anyone else the Camelodians do away with in the course of their occupation. I estimate that we could not match that total if we exterminated the entire Camelodian military.”

       “What makes me sick is that the Camelodians are targeting civilians,” said Vicki. “At least Suburbia has only retaliated against military invaders. Still, I wish diplomacy could have prevented all this, as the people were expecting it to.”

       “In a situation like this I'm not a big believer in diplomacy and passive resistance,” said Sir Jon. “When people come into your town with the intention to steal it, they aren't going to leave just because you ask them nicely to. Somebody has to kick their butts and throw them out, and do it in such a way that they won’t come back in the time it takes them to run home and put on clean uniforms.”

       “That's all well and good if there happen to be a couple of super heroes and a pair of mad scientists handy, but what if it was just the people?” asked Pammy.

       “If that was the case,” said Sir Jon, “I would have had to arm the town itself and have everyone stand against the Camelodians.”

       “And if they wouldn't fight?” asked Perry.

       “Then we would have had to dissolve the town,” said Sonny. “I would have had it burned to the ground rather than let another town enslave it. It may come to that yet.”

       Jenny gasped at this, never having thought before that other towns might use such options to avoid an attack from her own town.

       There was a knock at the door, and Pammy answered it.

       A moment later she came back, showing the acting governor into the dining room, who turned out to be a brown and white canine with a round patch of dark fur around one eye, giving the impression of a monicle.

       Jon greeted her jovially. "Well, if it isn't the acting governor that I’m supposed to have approved. How good of you to finally come to see me. Won't you join us for breakfast? Pammy's crumpets are delicious."

       In bemusement of Sir Jon’s good mood and lack of hostility, the governor allowed herself to be seated. Then she tried unsuccessfully not to seem nervous.

       “Have you seen the news this morning?” asked the governor.

       “We’ve not had the TV on yet today,” said Sir Jon. “Bad for the digestion, and all that.”

       “Webberton attacked our base last night,” said the governor.

       “Did they really?” said Sir Jon, patronizingly. “Oh, what a shame. Was there much damage?”

       “I’m afraid it’s a total loss,” said the governor, still seeming in a state of shock over the realization.

       “Oh well, fortunes of war, wot?” said Sir Jon, seeming unconcerned. “I’m sure you’ll just as quickly set up another one.”

       “I’ve been attempting to contact Camelot to inquire about the resources to rebuild the base,” said the governor, in a troubled tone. “But for some reason there is no response from Camelot on any channel or medium. The situation is quite worrisome. It seems that Suburbia is due to be invaded at any moment, and there are not enough soldiers left to defend it.”

       “Oh, really?” asked Sir Jon. “Who do you anticipate invading?”

       “Why, Webberton, of course,” said the governor.

       “Webberton will nyot attack Suburbia,” said Jenny. “Nyever had any intention of it.”

       “Well, of course you’d say that,” said the governor.

       “Sorry to disappoint you,” said Jenny, kindly. “But Webberton has bigger fish to fry these days. We have nyo time or resources for war with Suburbia.”

       “Why did you blow up The Montgomery Technical Building, then?” the governor demanded, accusingly.

       “We did nyot,” Jenny stated in a factual tone. “Webberton has had nyothing to do with recent events in Suburbia. Webberton and Suburbia are actually on better terms than they have been for years.”

       “Certainly they are,” said Sonny. “Why else would their princess be our guest?”

       Perry, however, was in no mood to play cat and mouse with the governor. He glared at her angrily.

       “What’s your problem, Prince Perry?” demanded the governor, trying unsuccessfully to mask her nervousness in bravado.

       “I will not forgive the demolition of The Montgomery Technical Building,” said Perry, malevolently.

       “It’s not something I’m likely to soon forget, either,” Blair added, giving the governor a look of daggers.

       “I’ll not forgive the setting up of a concentration camp on the doorstep of my town, either,” Perry further stated. “As things stand now, Governor, you’ll be lucky if Blair and I don't take turns skinning you alive.”

       “Surely you're not buying those conspiracy theories on the internet,” said the governor, tremblingly.

       “You should pay more attention to the internet,” said Kacey. “If you did you’d know why you get no response from Camelot.”

       “What are you talking about?” the governor demanded.

       “Between 3 o'clock and 5 o'clock in the morning there were a rush of blog posts saying Camelot was being invaded by Webberton,” Kacey informed her. “Then suddenly all bloggers in Camelot were knocked off line and haven't been back since.”

       Jenny giggled.

       The governor looked absolutely horrified.

       “Have another crumpet, Governor,” said Sir Jon, as he passed the plate to Christine, who then popped one into the governor's open mouth.

       “Ah well,” said Sir Jon, with mock dismissiveness. “Nothing to worry about. Who pays attention to bloggers on the internet, ay governor? Pammy, the governor needs more tea.”

       The phone rang, and Pammy went to answer it. She then returned a moment later, bringing the phone in with her and handing it to Jenny.

       “It’s your mother, dear,” said Pammy.

       “Oh, thank you,” said Jenny, excitedly.

       “Hello, mother,” said Jenny, cheerfully into the phone.

       Jenny then had a pleasant chat with her mother who gave her all the details of Webberton's easy victory over Camelot.

       A short time later, when Jenny had concluded her conversation and hung up the phone, she announced, “Well, it's official. Webberton has taken Camelot. The Bloody Claw nyow flies above Cheshire Castle. And the former Mayor and Queen will be dining in The Palace Devilla tonight. Or rather, dined upon.”

       “Damn,” Blair swore. “Well, there goes my revenge.”

       “I’m afraid we were both too far down the line, Blair,” Sir Jon chuckled. “What a pity they could only be killed once.”

       The governor choked on her crumpet. Christine patted her on the back.

       “Ah well, just more wages of war, ay governor,” said Sir Jon, sipping his tea. “Your people did set the stakes pretty high.”

       “You're taking this all rather calmly,” said the governor. “Doesn't it bother you that your former Mayor and Queen will be devoured by imperious cats? Have you no loyalty or affection left for them?”

       “I confess I do not,” said Sir Jon, consideringly. “You all betrayed my loyalty and affection by trying to steal my town. Of course, I always knew this was the kind of thing you did to others. But I did expect that my loyalty and affection would count for something in your decisions of whom to double cross or not. Apparently I was very foolish to think that. My loyalty, support and affection counted for nothing. You double crossed me at the first available opportunity. And now that Camelot has been destroyed I see no reason to shed tears over it.”

       The governor became angry and said, “I still have enough soldiers to hold Suburbia.”

       Leela laughed and said, “With Saint Saffron and The Shadow Cat still around? I highly doubt that. Not to mention the AD who took your base out before anyone knew what hit them. Face it, Governor. Your sure thing bottomed out.”

       The governor put her head in her hands and said, “You never needed our protection, did you? You were just humoring us.”

       Perry glared at the governor, snatching her out of her seat and saying, “What kind of rulers do you take us for? Did you really think we’d leave our town defenseless? You have no idea of the defenses I've arranged that I can bring to bear against any enemy that threatens any town I consider under my protection.”

       “Oh dear,” said Sir Jon, continuing his state of unflappable calm. “Seems you've gone and made Perry angry. We don't get to see him angry that often. Actually, I think it's good for his health. Gets the blood pumping, you know.”

       “Perry, dear, please put the governor down,” said Miss Sonny, and Perry was not about to argue with his mother at the breakfast table. So he reluctantly put the governor back in her seat and smoothed her robes.

       “There now, that's better,” said Miss Sonny. “Well, then, under the circumstances, Governor, I think the thing to do would be surrender to us immediately. Unless of course you fancy being forcibly kicked out and shipped back to Webberton occupied Camelot.”

       “What will you do to us if you have your way?” asked the governor, tremblingly.

       “Your soldiers will repair the damage that has been done to Suburbia's skyline,” said Sir Jon, his continued calm speech making his words all the more terrifying to the governor. “You will rebuild those two buildings, better than they were before. You will submit to being beaten, kicked, spat upon and otherwise humiliated by the families and friends of the workers you killed. You will be paraded through the streets annually in shame, disgrace and dishonor. And perhaps, in time, when it may seem you have made sufficient recompense, you will be allowed the privilege of becoming regular citizens of Suburbia and enjoying all the benefits there of. Including not being surrendered to Webberton. Unless your people decide not to seek citizenship. In which case we will have no legal justification for sparing them whatever fate Webberton may have in mind.”

       “You'd better take that deal,” Jenny warned her. “Webberton isn't going to be anywhere near so magnyanimous.”

       “You'd really turn us over to Webberton to be eaten or enslaved?” asked the governor in disbelief.

       “Fortunes of war, governor,” Sir Jon insisted. “War is a gamble. Both sides know before entering such a gamble the consequences of losing. And Camelot has lost. The only question now is if Camelodians will accept their loss with dignity.”

       “How is one supposed to maintain dignity when being prepared for the oven?” asked the governor, hopelessly.

       “You should have thought about that before you started the war,” said Jenny.

       The governor was by now in tears as she asked, piteously, “Where did we go wrong?”

       “Where did you go right?” asked Sir Jon. “From the conception of your town, to the drafting of your constitution, to your blatant disregard for the value of life? Camelot was never anything but a town full of people who wanted the divine right to take what was not theirs.”

       “You'll suffer in the end,” warned the governor. “You'll still have Webberton to deal with. Someday you will have to fight them. You won’t take them as easily as you took us.”

       “Nyonsense,” said Jenny. “My mother tells me she has every intention of signing a nyone aggression pact with Suburbia. She said the conquest of Camelot has fulfilled our constitution, and nyow we may all have peace for our times.”

       Christine choked on her crumpet as Jenny’s words took her by unexpected surprise.

       “Pammy, more tea for Christine,” said Sir Jon, patting her back with an amused smile on his face.

       “I must say, you seem awfully cheerful this morning, Dad,” said Perry.

       “Why shouldn’t I be?” shrugged Sir Jon. “Everything has worked out as I predicted.”

       “What do you mean as you predicted?” asked Perry, suspiciously. “You didn’t do anything. I did.”

       “You should pay more attention to Christine,” said Sir Jon. “She said you were a card in my deck. I played you. And you turned out to be a winner.”

       Rick and Christine exchanged disturbed glances.

       “Don’t think it, Rick,” said Christine. “It’s too fantastic to be true.”

       Rick tried to think of words to express his thoughts, but the situation was too awkward. He simply growled in frustration and went on eating his pancakes.

       “I know what he’s thinking,” said Kacey, meekly. “May I speak for him?”

       “Kacey, this might not be wise,” Christine warned.

       “I’m aware of that,” said Kacey, her anxiety noticeable on the air. “This is just as hard for me as it is for Rick. But there are a lot of people on the internet who’ll be disappointed in us if we don’t ask.”

       “Ask away, Kacey,” invited Sir Jon, kindly. “I’m beyond the point of hiding anything these days.”

       “It’s about Bixyl’s article,” said Kacey, hesitantly. “The art on the bridge. Christine’s teacher who said you drew it. Sir Jon . . . are you . . . ?”

       “The one who drew the art?” asked Sir Jon. “No. Someone else did that.”

       “But are you what the teacher said you are?” asked Kacey, with some difficulty. “Are you the god of this world who plans out things like wars and makes them happen for reasons only you know?”

       Kacey trembled fearfully, absently clutching her silverware in her nervousness.

       “I am . . . something like that,” said Sir Jon, as if hard put to explain what he needed to say in terms that Kacey wouldn’t take the wrong way. “Both Mr. Stopheles and Bixyl over exaggerated that art. And everyone over exaggerates people they would call gods. But, though I may be the closest thing that now exists to a god, I do not write the future. I do not dictate that Camelot will go to war with Suburbia on this or that date. It is as Christine suggested. I sit around a table playing cards with the other power brokers of this world, including Blair, and yes, you too Perry. We all try to anticipate each other - use each other to our advantage. But I am the master of games. None of the others come close to my skills. And in that respect, I am the closest thing there is to someone who controls this world.”

       “Um . . . . Uh . . .,” Kacey stammered, too overcome with fear to go on questioning Sir Jon.

       Rick put a hand on Kacey’s arm and looked at her kindly, as if to say he was grateful, but she didn’t need to do this for him.

       Rick then turned to Sir Jon and said, “Are you the kind of person who would let a building fall, killing thousands of furs, just because you thought some good might come of it?”

       The governor looked up, suddenly taking heart at seeing Sir Jon on the hot seat.

       “Of course he is,” said the governor. “He is no different from us. Look at him. He’s playing games with you right now. Trying to pick the words that will tell you just enough to make you accept what he has done without detesting him. We learned everything we were from him.”

       “And just as I told your mayor,” said Sir Jon. “When you abuse my gifts, you lose them all.”

       “But your people want to know if you have abused your gifts,” the governor insisted. “How will you prove to them that you haven’t?”

       “I’m afraid I just have to ask them to trust me,” said Sir Jon.

       Perry’s lips curled in distaste.

       “That won’t fly, Dad,” said Perry, with a slight growl. “We’ve had quite enough of this ‘trust us’ business from the Camelodians. You’ve got to come up with something better than that.”

       “I can’t,” Sir Jon confessed. “I’m afraid the governor is right. There is really no difference between me and the Camelodians, except that they abused their powers and I didn’t. Both of us only have our powers so long as we are trusted. If you don’t trust us, you start asking questions. If you ask the wrong questions, we lose our power. If we lose our power, you’re on your own. So, Kacey, Rick, Perry, are you ready to be on your own?”

       The three looked at each other in astonishment.

       “Sir Jon,” said Kacey, tremblingly. “You’re not really asking me to speak for Suburbia, are you?”

       “Kacey, dear,” said Sir Jon, admiringly. “Of all people I know, I would ask you to speak for Suburbia before any other.”

       “But Suburbia hates me,” Kacey protested.

       “You are among the meekest of all citizens in this town,” said Sir Jon. “And is it not written that the meek shall be honored among all others? Therefore I throw myself upon your mercy. If you feel you can no longer trust me, say so, and I will step down.”

       “Another calculated gamble, Sir Jon?” taunted the governor. “You know well this squirrel is too weak to turn you away. Even if she knew all you had done, she would never divest you of your power.”

       “I would,” said Rick, almost casually. “But I already knew all this about Sir Jon, and Perry, and Leela, and lots of other people. They don’t always do everything by the book. But they aren’t ever not the good guys. That’s the difference. Camelot not only totally crossed that line, they rubbed it in our faces. I don’t see a bit of resemblance between Camelot and The Rhoades Family. I vote we keep ’em.”

       “Kacey?” asked Sir Jon, expectantly.

       “Please,” Kacey pleaded. “No one’s ever put this kind of power in my hands before. Can . . . Can I make my vote conditional?”

       “I don’t see why not,” said Sir Jon. “After all, I work for you.”

       “In the future you foresee,” asked Kacey, “will Suburbia be a place where we can all live happily, free from persecution and unreasonable laws?”

       “You can’t trust him to answer a question like that,” said the governor. “Of course he’s going to tell you exactly what you want to hear.”

       Sir Jon closed his eyes, as if considering all future possibilities. Then he let out a sigh and said, “I foresee the possibility that Perry and his bride will assume control of Suburbia when Sonny and I retire, in the not too distant future. I foresee they will do their best to keep Suburbia a happy town. I also foresee they will face great opposition. I’m sorry, Kacey. I can not give you a definitive yes or no to that question. I can only promise we’ll all do our best, as we always have.”

       Kacey smiled shyly and sweetly at Sir Jon, saying, “I like that answer. I think I’ll keep you too.”

       “Well then,” said Sir Jon. “I guess that just leaves Perry. What do you say, son?”

       “I got to go with Rick on this one,” said Perry. “Hard as I try, I can’t see you as one of the bad guys. Consider yourself kept.”

       Sir Jon chuckled happily and said, “Now that was the most special election I have ever won, because all who voted did so with their hearts.”

       “You know something,” said Perry. “I believe I’m starting to feel my old self again. There’s always so much rebuilding to be done after a disaster. And thoughts of building make me hungry. Pammy, more pancakes, please.”

       “Oh, do enjoy your celebration feast, Prince Perry,” said the governor. “But if you’ll excuse me, I have the unpleasant task of informing my people of their fate.”

       “By all means, Governor,” said Sir Jon. “Do get on with your final duties.”

       The governor then stormed out of the house, and everyone resumed their pleasant breakfast. Everyone but Blair.

       “Blair, you’re not eating,” said Perry.

       “I’ve no appetite,” said Blair, looking sternly at Perry.

       “Don’t tell me I’m disappointing you again,” said Perry.

       “You are beyond disappointing me,” said Blair. “How could you just let that fur leave?”

       “Well, she had to go,” said Perry, obliviously. “She’s the one who has to tell the Camelodians to stand down.”

       “And what if she doesn’t tell them to stand down?” asked Blair.

       “I fail to see the point in her doing anything else,” said Perry.

       “No, Perry. You just fail, period,” said Blair, sternly. “I can’t believe you totally missed it.”

       “What did I miss?” asked Perry in exasperation.

       “You just sat there and let your father screw this town all over again,” said Blair. “Do you really think the Camelodians are just going to throw down their weapons and become slaves? Have you forgotten they still occupy your town, with your building still wired for demolition? Only if you had kept control of the governor could you have forced her to give the stand down order. She’ll never do that now. She’ll tell them to hold Suburbia at all costs, because it’s the only seat of power they have left to preserve their religion.”

       “Damn it, Blair,” said Perry, throwing down his fork. “Why do you have to be better at this stuff than me?”

       “Because I’m better at everything than you,” said Blair. “You are the worst excuse for a prince any town on this planet has ever had.”

       “Dad, tell Blair he’s wrong,” said Perry.

       “About you being the worst prince ever, or about the governor?” asked Sir Jon.

       “About the governor, please,” said Perry, dryly.

       “I’m sorry, Perry,” said Sir Jon. “I’m afraid Blair is spot on the money about that. I have to hand it to Blair. He may be a villain, but he’s nobody’s fool.”

       “Meaning I am, I suppose,” said Perry, in a cross tone.

       “Don’t let your pancakes get cold,” said Sir Jon, confidently. “It’s true the war isn’t over. There is one more battle left to fight. But, as I said, it’s like a game, and you all have just expressed confidence in me to be 6 jumps ahead of the governor.”

       “But we wouldn’t have needed to be six jumps ahead of her if we didn’t let her leave,” Perry protested.

       “If we didn’t let her leave,” said Sir Jon, “then there would be no last battle. And you must trust me that this last battle is necessary.”

       “Just for once in your life,” said Perry, “tell us why it’s so bloody necessary.”

       “Perry,” said Sir Jon. “If you were as good a gamer as I, you might realize that, if I tell why, I might greatly hurt someone at this table who is very precious to you. Yesterday you were a card in my deck. Today I am a card in yours. Play me.”

       “Hmmmm,” said Perry, thoughtfully. “Hmmmm, 6 jumps ahead. Someone who’s very precious to me. Blair, you’re good at this stuff. If you drew my father, would you play him?”

       “I’m playing him right now,” said Blair. “All the people at this table are cards in my hand, except for you.”

       “Am I a card that you play, Blair?” asked Vicki, hurtfully.

       “Sometimes,” Blair admitted. “But not nearly as often as I play Kacey.”

       “Why am I not a card?” asked Perry. “Am I really that useless?”

       “You’re not a card because you’re the object of my game,” Blair explained. “When I play a card, it has to effect you. If it effects you badly, I’m playing well. You should play with the same intent towards me. We are rivals. We’re supposed to hurt each other. But you just can’t get that crazy notion out of your head that deep down we’re still friends. I can’t tell you how it upsets me that I, the most powerful corporate villain on this planet, has someone as pathetic as you for a nemesis.

       “I swear, it’s almost not worth having a nemesis if you won’t fight back. If we were playing chess, you’d just sit there and let me take all your pieces. When in the name of Hell are you going to learn to play the game?”

       “Alright,” said Perry, thoughtfully. “It’s a game.”

       Perry noted that his pancakes had gotten cold. So he stretched his hand out over the plate and said softly, “Jumoku.”

       Almost instantly the pancakes began to steam with heat, and everyone looked quite astonished.

       “Blair is not the object of my game,” said Perry, thoughtfully. Then he pondered, “All cards I play effect the object of my game. 6 jumps ahead. Last battle necessary. Someone I hold dear could not handle the reason for it all.”

       Perry looked around the table - his gaze immediately moving to Lappina, but he could make no connection between her and the other clues.

       Then he looked at Christine. But he could not imagine Christine not being able to handle anything.

       Next he looked at Jenny. Could it be his father was plotting the destruction of Webberton? But then he realized that Jenny could well handle that if it were so.

       Then his gaze fell upon Kacey, and for a moment he thought to just pass her over as being too insignificant to be the one his father referred to. But then he realized he did her a disservice by dismissing her as insignificant. Had he not just heard his father say he valued Kacey’s approval above all others?

       Suddenly his father’s agenda became very clear. He knew why the last battle was necessary, and even who would fight it. He saw death, destruction and mayhem in the future of his town. Yet he knew, to fulfill Kacey’s wish for a secure town, he dared not stop it. Nor dare he tell her about it, lest she stop it. Because Kacey was far too gracious to inflict suffering on others for her own sake. Only one of the ruling class could do that.

       “Oh, my,” said Perry, with sudden realization. “So that’s what it means to be a prince. Uh, Vicki, would you pass the syrup please?”

       Vicki passed him the syrup, a look of bemused curiosity on her face.

       “Ok, Dad,” said Perry, as he focused his attention on pouring the syrup. “I think you’re a good card. I’ll play you.”

       Then Perry looked over at Blair, who was eying him as curiously as the others.

       “And as for you, Blair,” said Perry. “I shall try to give you more competition in the future. But I shall continue to like you, if only because I know it infuriates you.”

       “I can’t believe it,” said Blair, seeming pleased. “Finally, you’re really playing. You know, this is improving my appetite.”

       “More pancakes for my nemesis, Pammy,” said Perry, graciously.

       “Ah, yes,” said Blair, as he dug in. “What could be more pleasant than sharing a day of mayhem and murder with my favorite enemy?”

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S11E233: Economic Shift

Spectral Shadows
Serial No. 11
The Planet Of Genetic Misadventure
Episode 233
Economic Shift

Copyright 1993, 2021 by Symphonic Rock Productions.

Featuring:

            

            

      

       Chico drove slowly up to The Palace Of Halloween, where it seemed every living citizen of Halloween Town had turned out to welcome his passengers, all seeming elated and cheering, as if welcoming returning heroes. Of course, the total population of Halloween was hardly comparable to the population of Suburbia. Still, it was an unexpectedly impressive sight.

       Once he had come to a stop in front of the palace courtyard, Chico opened his driver and passenger side doors, allowing Rick, Leela and Rael to exit the cab of the mammoth truck.

       No sooner had they gathered beside Chico than they were approached by The Sultan and his entourage who greeted them cheerfully.

       “Welcome. Welcome war heroes,” The Sultan proclaimed with prideful joy.

       Rick and Leela exchanged doubtful glances, neither feeling like the complement was justified. But Chico, never one to turn down praise, blew his air horn appreciatively, much to the delight of the crowd.

       “Welcome Rick Edwards. Welcome Leela Lennox,” said The Sultan, enthusiastically taking their hands in greeting. “Our Wazzir called ahead to advise us of your daring rescue attempt. We trust your mission against the invading forces of Camelot has been successful.”

       “Hmpf,” said Leela, with brash overconfidence. “As if Camelot would stand a chance against The AD.”

       And at this a loud cheer once again erupted from the crowd.

       Once the cheer subsided, Rick said, “I wasn't aware Halloween had issues with Camelot.”

       “Oh, indeed we do,” said The Sultan. “Our Wazzir has taken the attack on his assets in Suburbia personally. Since those assets were intended to be moved to Halloween, we are now officially at war with Camelot, and we consider Suburbia our ally.”

       “Strange,” Leela observed. “You're Wazzir only begrudgingly offered the use of your dungeon.”

       At this The Sultan laughed heartily, saying, “Our Wazzir has such a droll sense of humor. The refugees you bring us are welcome to take over any of the unoccupied dwellings in our town and enjoy the benefits of full citizenship until such time as they decide to return to Suburbia, or to migrate permanently if they wish. As you have seen, our defenses are superior to Camelot. And we offer sanctuary to all victims of Camelodian oppression.”

       A cheer then arose from inside the truck, who were hearing the conversation over one of Chico's internal speakers.

       The Sultan then went over to Chico and patted the side of his engine, as if greeting an old friend, saying, “Greetings, Chico.”

       “Hey there, Kasim, old buddy, old pal,” Chico responded informally, as if they were old friends.

       At this The Sultan chortled with delight, as if he admired The Master Builder's macro work as much as he did his model trains.

       “Unload your cargo, my friend,” The Sultan entreated. “And let the joyous celebration begin.”

       “Any objections?” asked Chico.

       Rick and Leela exchanged glances and shrugged. Then they looked back at Rael, and he shrugged as well.

       Seeing this, Chico flung the back doors of his trailer wide open and lowered his ramp, allowing the refugees to flood into the street, all gazing about them in bewildered astonishment, never having been aware that such a colorful paradise existed so close to Suburbia.

       Within an hour's time, all refugees had located unoccupied houses or apartments to live in. These being easily distinguishable by electronic locks on the doors that had view screens reading “Currently Unoccupied. Press thumb to ID pad to occupy residence.” Using world wide bank information, this would supply the Halloween government with an instant census of how many refugees they had taken in, as well as a list of names that could be relayed to the Suburbian government for use in their accounting of survivors.

       And within the next hour, every operating restaurant and business in Halloween was swamped with paying customers, draining massive wealth from Suburbian banks into a suddenly healthy and vibrant Halloween economy.

       And within the third hour, Halloween's amusement parks were open and thriving with newly employed Suburbians who were suddenly all aglow with the idea of moving to this startlingly colorful town, after living their entire lives in black & white Suburbia; not really knowing much about the religion of Halloween, but being all gung-ho to convert to it anyway.

       Rick and Leela observed all this from a high window of the palace, where they were The Sultan's personal guests. Both had serious misgivings, even as the feelings of general joy arose from the town and entreated them to share in the collective happiness.

       “Why do I have a feeling this is going to be the happiest disaster in history?” Leela pondered aloud.

       “Oh, it's a disaster for Suburbia alright,” said Rick. “You know, all these furs have families. They'll most likely be migrating here too. There won't be enough population left in Suburbia to justify continuing it. Camelot will probably turn it into a military complex or something.”

       “And what will become of the ruling family?” Leela pondered.

       “Well, they'll either work for Camelot or come here to work for Blair Montgomery,” said Rick, with a shrug, as if to say it was none of his business.

       “You're awfully nonchalant about this,” Leela observed. “If Perry goes out of business where will Chico get his maintenance?”

       “If Perry goes out of business it will just mean somebody else will go into that business,” said Rick. “It's not like the world can do without its truckers. I have necessity on my side.”

       “I don't know if The AD can say that,” Leela admitted. “If Perry goes out of the gadget business we're up a tree.”

       “After what we just saw out there you don't think you might be able to buy even better gadgets from Blair Montgomery?” asked Rick. “He rebuilt this whole town with his gadgets. And, as they say in Noir, it might put The AD behind the 8 ball if they get their gadgets from the number 2 gadget maker.”

       Leela looked at him with a distasteful expression and said, “Stop making such good points. You might put someone's eye out.”

       Meanwhile, Rael was hanging out with The Sultan in his playroom. And The Sultan was surprised when Rael walked right up to the diorama and turned on the trains.

       “Are you a toy enthusiast, Dr. Ommandeer?” asked The Sultan.

       “When one is responsible for children, one gains an appreciation of such things,” said Rael, as he and The Sultan stood admiring the running trains. “You know, I've played with these trains before.”

       “Really?” said The Sultan, curiously. “I don't recall having met you before.”

       “You haven't,” said Rael. “I met a Princess Kara on my last visit. You're daughter, I presume.”

       “You met my daughter, but not me,” said The Sultan, thoughtfully. “That must mean . . .”

       “That I was here late at night?” Rael anticipated. “Yes. I also met her guardians. Friends of Miss Lennox, if I'm not mistaken.”

       “I wonder if they shared any confidences with you,” The Sultan probed.

       “You mean like the princess being under a spell, and the queen being something of a cannibal?” asked Rael, in a totally non-critical tone.

       “Oh, dear,” said The Sultan, despondently. “What you must think of me.”

       “I think much of you, dear Sultan,” said Rael, in an affectionate tone. “I'm sure it wasn't the queen who raised such a lovely daughter with a heart of gold, or that hired such astute bodyguards to protect her.”

       One of the trains suddenly developed a malfunction and left the track. Rael then turned off the track and picked up the malfunctioning engine, knowing exactly where to go to find the tools to tinker with it. And as he did so, The Sultan observed him with a sense of familiarity.

       “Who are you?” asked The Sultan. “Why do I feel like I should know you by another name?”

       “I am a traveler in time,” said Rael. “Perhaps you will know me better in my future.”

       “Are you a gin?” asked The Sultan.

       “I am sometimes blessed with the ability to bestow wishes, if that's what you mean,” said Rael. “But my friends have made me see I am uncouth to brag about my abilities. Anyway, from what I observe outside you already have quite a wish-granter in your midst.”

       “The Wazzir exacts a high price for his wish granting powers,” said The Sultan. “Do you also?”

       Rael handed the engine to The Sultan in perfect working order, giving him a look of compassion that was quite familiar, as he said, “No charge.”

***


       An hour or so later, Leela, Rick & Rael, accompanied by The Sultan and the three AD detectives were out at a restaurant, enjoying their reunion a midst the festive atmosphere.

       “You fellas eat here a lot?” asked Rick, looking around as if feeling ill at ease, in spite of the festivities.

       “Every chance we get,” said Gene, enthusiastically. “'Course it ain't nothin' like an Arkenstone steak house, but the food's more than decent. And their wine list ain't bad either.”

       “The last time I was here there were no open restaurants,” said Rick. “Me and Chico had to do our chowin' down in Suburbia. All they had here was a convenience store with no gas and no snacks. Just a couple of turbaned weasels who couldn't stop apologizin' for not having nothin' to sell me.”

       “That was pretty much the state things were in when we arrived,” said Spike.

       “So you guys have actually been stuck here long enough to watch a ghost town evolve into a thriving resort town?” asked Leela, in a critical tone.

       “I say,” said Richie. “Once the change started to happen it didn't take that long. If you'll excuse the expression, the change just seemed to wash over the town like magic.”

       “That's even worse,” said Leela. “That means you guys have been sitting here in a dust bowl for months, leaving me to run the agency all by myself.”

       “Well, you always wanted to be promoted to full blown detective,” said Spike, patronizingly. “Looks like you finally made it.”

       “Leela, honey, did you sure enough thug bomb an entire garrison of Camalodians?” asked Gene, giving his secretary an admiring gaze.

       “Would you have done any differently?” asked Leela, dryly.

       “No, sweetheart,” said Gene, with admiring amusement. “I just imagine it lookin' a whole lot sweeter when you do it.”

       “Don't change the subject,” said Leela, showing her usual indifference to Gene's flattery. “What is the attraction of this case? And why in the name of Cagney are you doing it for free?”

       “As far as the bodyguard job goes,” said Spike, “let's just say I gambled us into it.”

       “On purpose?” asked Leela, knowingly.

       The Sultan looked at Spike expectantly, saying, “Please don't feel you have to spare my feelings.”

       “Alright,” Spike admitted. “Yeah, on purpose.”

       “Uumhum, I thought as much,” said Leela. “Now you want to tell me why?”

       Spike replied, “I think for similar reasons to why you're spending a lot of time in Suburbia these days, instead of being home in Noir answering the phone where you should be.”

       “We have company assets to protect in Suburbia,” said Leela, with defiance.

       “Company assets like Ratzo, I suppose,” said Spike, giving Leela a piercing gaze.

       Leela shook her head in frustration and said, “Alright, yes. I do have a huge investment in Ratzo . . . And Saint Saffron. And they're both in Suburbia. Now what's your excuse?”

       “I'm afraid there's a bit of a mystery here,” said Richie.

       “And you know Spike don't never walk away from no mystery,” said Gene.

       “There's no mystery here,” said Leela, dismissively. “I know exactly how all this was accomplished. Nanobots. The same nanobots Montgomery used to restore that castle in No Furs Land.”

       “You're right, Leela,” said Spike. “There's not much mystery as to how Montgomery does things. The mystery is . . . why?”

       “Why don't we ask The Sultan, since we have him here?” Rael suggested.

       “How 'bout it, Kasim?” asked Spike. “Do you have any insights into Blair Montgomery's deeper motivations?

       The Sultan shrugged and said, “Like yourself, we hired him to do a job.”

       “Did you hire him to do a job, or did he solicit a job?” asked Spike.

       “If you mean who came to who, he came to us,” The Sultan replied. “He offered to buy the town outright. But our constitution would not permit that. And he was not interested in merely buying the land to build a new town on. Indeed, his motivations seemed to be numerous. He was interested in a restoration project to demonstrate his nanobots. There also seem to have been some political motivations; a desire to be the authority instead of having to answer to it. I would also say his rivalry with Perry Rhoades has a lot to do with it.”

       “What about having advanced knowledge of something bad happening to Suburbia?” Rick ventured to interject.

       “Nobody needed our Wazzir to know there were bad things happening in Suburbia,” said The Sultan. “This war has been bubbling for months. Indeed, bad things were happening in Suburbia before The Wazzir ever came to us. No offense, my dear Noirnian friends, but would you want to keep your business in a town due to be handed over to a Noirnian gang bunny of questionable sanity and dubious loyalties? Being well aware of that situation we were hardly surprised to find The Wazzir looking for a place to relocate his center of operations.”

       “I just have the feeling there's more to it than that,” said Spike. “Montgomery has that kind of criminal mind that will not be satisfied until it rules the entire world. To do that I think he conspired to set all the competing super power towns to destroying each other, while he builds an even stronger power base here where no one is even looking.”

       “I understand this planet is not accustomed to war,” said Rael. “So the mere threat of war in this part of the world would set people fleeing from all the towns, if they knew of a place of safety. This town of Halloween seems perfectly poised to soak up the population of all the surrounding towns. So The Wazzir wouldn't need an actual war to destroy the other towns. Just the threat of war could accomplish that.”

       “There won't be no real war,” said Rick, with great certainty. “Camelot's already shown how bad they are at war. Webberton has no war experience. And Suburbia would rather fold than fight back.”

       “And the more they all play at war the more disgusted everyone will get,” Leela surmised. “Until they all end up here.”

       “Yes,” said Spike. “But there has to be a catch to it. What happens when Halloween sucks up the entire population of three or more towns and Montgomery slams the door?”

       “Since The Wazzir has expressed a need to preserve the Halloween constitution,” Rael conjectured, “I expect your answer will be found there. Tell me, Kasim, those stained glass windows in the palace that portend a temple of vampires, do they have anything to do with your constitution?”

       The Sultan explained, “Our religion is based on a mixture of Gothic horror and magical folklore. Vampires play a big part in it. That is one of the legendary ways of achieving immortality. And we pride ourselves on being one of the few Cygnesian religions that offers a path to immortality.”

       “Path to immortality?” said Leela, as if she were on the edge of a revelation. “I'll bet that's it. Blair means to use the Halloween religion to market his immortality machine.”

       “Say what now?” asked Gene, incredulously.

       “It's a . . . conspiracy theory,” Leela admitted. “It suggests that Blair is trying to subjugate the world by offering immortality at a price.”

       “I know nothing of any immortality machine,” said The Sultan. “But offering immortality at a price would be very much supported by the Halloween constitution. And he that could provide such a thing would be hailed as the master of all Gin.”

       Rael found himself chuckling with ironic amusement.

       “Something funny, Doctor?” asked Spike.

       “Immortality can not be purchased at any price,” said Rael. “You can not buy what you already have.”

       “Are you saying we're all immortal already?” asked Richie.

       “Think about it scientifically,” said Rael. “Have you not read that energy and information can not be destroyed. They can only be transformed. A living being is made up of three things, energy, information, and matter. Of the three only matter is transitory. The energy and information that comprises you must go on forever.”

       “Go on as what?” asked Rick, in a skeptical tone.

       “In the case of my family,” Rael explained, “the information and energy of all my ancestors is stored in an organic computer. Which I'm able to access because . . . I'm also stored in it.”

       “In other words, you died and were digitized?” asked Leela, in a skeptical tone. “But that only accounts for the energy and information of you. Where do you get your matter from?”

       “From another member of my family who is still among the living,” Rael confessed.

       “That would be Perry Rhoades,” said Rick to the others. “I saw Perry turn into him.”

       “Yes, technically I am borrowing Perry's body,” said Rael. “Which I will have to give back to him as soon as possible. Because the longer I keep it, the greater the risk that Perry won't be able to get back.”

       “And you care about that,” Spike surmised. “You prefer living eternally with a computer as your only physical body?”

       “Actually, I hate it with a passion,” said Rael, seeming subdued. “I can not tell you how much I enjoy being able to sit here and share your company. Even though I hardly know any of you. Experiencing eternity as computer data is unbearably lonely.”

       “But that sounds very much like what Blair Montgomery claims to have done,” said Leela. “He said he could reduce people to computer data, projecting that data into temporary bodies, granting people immortality.”

       “It's possible,” said Rael. “That technology exists in time and space. But there's a big catch to it if he means to share it with everyone who may join this town.”

       “Do tell,” said Richie, seeming fascinated.

       “In order for your energy and information to be digitized,” Rael explained, “it has to be separated from your matter. And your essence separating from your matter is what mortal beings call death.”

       “That was the gist of Miyan Rutherford's argument against the machine,” said Leela. “She apparently believes having one's self digitized is no better than suicide.”

       “Well, it does present an interesting philosophical conundrum,” said Richie, in an intellectual tone. “Not so much for Noirnians, who have no conception of an immortal soul, but for Camelodians like myself, and even for Suburbians, the elder race conception of an immortal soul is a heavy influence on the source material of our religions. As is the idea that the soul has a place to go after death. If energy and information constitute the soul, and Montgomery has found a way to trap it, rather than allowing it to move on to where it's destined to go, then Montgomery is tampering with the very force of life itself. Potentially even destroying it in the end.”

       “I think that idea is on Rutherford's mind as well,” said Leela. “She said Montgomery's invention would mean the end of all procreation.”

       “Procreation is only a necessity if people are allowed to die,” Rael agreed. “That's why it would be immoral for me to create my own body and live along side the being who is made from my reincarnated soul. By taking up that space in your world I would be depriving a child of that space. And if that were done on a mass scale, sooner or later children would stop being born.”

       “But I say,” said Richie, “Isn't that exactly what's happening in Suburbia? At this point they've skipped an entire generation.”

       “You haven't grasped it yet,” said The Sultan, staring absently down at his plate, betrayed by a tear of guilt that escaped his eyes. “You heard what The Doctor said. He does not dare live among us because his soul has been reincarnated. Don't you see? If souls are reincarnated, even after their information has been digitized, then the information in the computer is not living. It is no more living than an old recording of someone who has long since died.”

       “Sadly I must admit that analogy is quite accurate,” said Rael. “I am little more than a recording of everything I knew when I died, preserved for the reference of future generations. The existence I endure may be never ending, but to call it immortality would be unforgivably misleading. My true soul lives on in Perry Rhoades. He is the true evolution of my soul.”

       “I'm beginning to see what you're getting at,” said Spike. “If Montgomery lures the entire population of the world into his town, and then forces every one of them to submit to digitization . . .”

       “We're talking about genocide on a planetary scale,” Leela concluded.

       “Yeah,” said Spike, thoughtfully. “What a shame it's just a conspiracy theory. It would finally be a crime worthy of a super criminal like Blair Montgomery.”

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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 every 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 unsuspecting 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 soldiers 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 your 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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