[STARFALL] Swamp Patrol #22 "Wish You Were Here"

Jamie Rosen jamie.rosen at sunlife.com
Sun Apr 10 17:55:37 PDT 2005

Low Budget Productions presents,
A Starfall Comics comic:

"Wish You Were Here"
	Continuity Breakdowns, part five

	      [COVER: A postcard depicting the seven
	       members of the Swamp Patrol floating
	       in the middle of a featureless grey
	       void. In the bottom, written in the
	       pseudo-handwriting popular in the
	       greeting card industry, is the phrase
	       "Wish You Were Here."]

  Frank pushed Donna away from him. "What do you think you're doing?"
he asked, wiping his lips.
  "What do I think I'm doing? What do you think *you're* doing?" she
asked, staring at him bewilderedly.
  "You're the one who kissed--"
  "Uh, guys?"
  They both turned to Shelly.
  "What's going on?" she asked.
  "Shelly! Janice! Pete!" Donna rushed over to them, unaware of and
unhampered by the lack of ground beneath her feet. Or anybody else's.
"You're back!"
  "Back?" Shelly's eyebrows arched. "Where did we go?"
  "I think a better question," Pete said, joining them "is where are
we? Or, more accurately, where is everything?"
  The seven all stopped to look at the grey that surrounded them.
  "That's a very good question," Brill said.
  "Hey... What happened to..." Donna trailed off. "I'm sure there was
someone else with us..."
  "Last thing I remember is getting hit by some stuff when we were
attacked by 'the Disciples of Evil'." Pete rubbed his head.
  "Did that really happen?" Ted asked. "I thought maybe I was
  Brill gestured at the void. "It was as real as this is," he said.
"Whatever that's worth."
  "And as real as that." Shelly pointed at a distant object that was
slowly moving closer. A ship.

	*               *                       *               *

  Nemo stood on the deck of his ship, surveying the Grey that he had
been sailing for the last lifespan or two. The void was all there was
on this route; he and his crew had known that ahead of time. But that
didn't make it any less dangerous. And it didn't make it any less
  The Grey's most notable feature, in fact its only feature to speak
of, was its complete featurelessness. There were no clouds. There was
no sky. No water, no land, no birds, no trees, no fire, no sun, no
stars, no moon, no people. Except there *were* people, this time.
  Nemo checked his map. There weren't *supposed* to be people in the
  "Pollack!" he called, examining his compass. The needle was spinning
and trying its best to break free of the casing that kept it on one
  "Yes, Captain Nemo!" Nemo's skeletal first mate saluted him as it
came on deck. More than ten lifespans of serving with Nemo and the
captain still didn't know if Pollack had been male or female before
signing on. Maybe neither. He never could tell with those skeleton
  "Hard astern, Pollack," Nemo instructed. "We have castaways to

	*               *                       *               *

  "It's a boat," Pete said as the ship slowed to a stop before them.
  "That's putting it mildly," Brill said. "Looks kind of like a
galleon... but something about it's not quite right."
  "Other than the fact that it's sailing through an immense grey void?"
  Brill didn't dignify the comment with a response.
  A long wooden plank extended from the ship's deck to where the Swamp
Patrollers half-floated, half-stood. Frank glanced at the rest of his
  "All aboard, I guess." Warily, he mounted the plank, and when his
team-mates saw that he didn't vaporize or melt into a pile of goo, they
soon followed him.
  "You know," Pete said as they climbed the plank to the ship itself,
"I'm really getting tired of having to deal with these situations where
I don't know what the Hell is going on." The others nodded in
  When the Swamp Patrollers reached the top of the plank, the deck was
  "Great. What is this, the Flying Dutchman?"
  "No, that is her sister ship. This is the Gilded Danish."
  Standing outside a high-vaulted doorway that no doubt led to the
captain's quarters was a heavy-set man with purple skin, wearing a
cross between a traditional 'pirate' outfit and a uniform that would
not have looked out of place on the Love Boat. A completely transparent
eye patch covered his right eye, and above his right shoulder, at about
ear level, sat a wooden bar from which a bat hung.
  "I am Captain Nemo," the man said, striding down the stairs to the
deck. "And you are my guests."
  "'20 000 Leagues Under the Sea' Captain Nemo?" Pete asked.
  "No relation." The bat on his shoulder fluttered off of its perch and
flew upward, disappearing somewhere in the sails. "To answer questions
I foresee you formulating: Yes, no, no, yes, Pavillion, and three
  "You think you can answer our questions before we ask them?" Brill
  "Are we dead?" Donna asked.
  "Are you some sort of super-villain or something?" Frank asked.
  "Can we get home from here?" Janice asked.
  "Where are you headed?" Shelly asked.
  "How long before we reach civilization?" Ted asked.
  The six of them turned to Pete, who just shrugged.
  "I hope that satisfies your curiosity for the moment," Nemo said. He
snapped his fingers. "Pollack here will show you to your quarters. I'm
afraid the Gilded Danish doesn't have many visitors, so our
accomodations may not be as accomodating as I would like."
  Something that looked exactly like an ambulatory skeleton but
couldn't be because those don't exist led the Swamp Patrollers below
deck, lighting a candle within its skull to provide illumination.
  "So, um, Pollack..." Ted began. "You're a skeleton?"
  "What are you doing out here?"
  "I'm Captain Nemo's first officer. We run a shipping company."
  "What do you ship?"
  "Questions and answers, mostly."
  Pete chuckled. "I get it. You're in intelligence."
  "No." Pollack shook its skull, and the flame guttered a little.
"We're in creativity." A bony finger indicated a wooden door. "Your
quarters," Pollack said, handing Ted a pack of matches. "Things should
be quiet for the remainder of the day. When the crew gets back
tomorrow, I'll tell them about you. Don't want them getting spooked."
With that, the skeleton turned its
back -- or spine, at least -- on them and returned to the deck.
  Ted opened the door and stepped inside, lighting a candle that sat in
a sconce to the right of the door. The room looked pretty much as was
to be expected -- a little cramped, ceilings made effectively lower
than they actually were by hanging beams, mattresses that were little
more than pads littering the floor. Striking another match, he lit the
candles that were scattered through the room, then shook the match out
and tossed it into the base of one of the brass candleholders. "So," he
  Shelly adjusted her glasses. "Well."
  "Okay, I know we're all confused," Frank said, moving to the centre
of the room and sitting crosslegged. "But we've been letting ourselves
get unnerved too easily and too often. Let's try to catalogue what we
already know and see if we can figure out what's actually going on
  "Alright," Brill said, joining Frank on the floor. "Well, right now
we seem to be on a ship sailing through a grey void."
  "Right before that we escaped from a mental institution," Donna
added, drawing surprised looks from Janice, Pete, and Shelly.
  "We what?" Pete asked.
  Frank held up his hand. "If something doesn't sound right, just hang
on. That's what we're trying to figure out, after all."
  "I remember something about Inspector Carruthers being a professor of
some sort," Ted said. "Kind of reminded me of that M Patrol comic."
  "Right." Pete nodded. "*That* I remember."
  "And right before that we stopped those mole-men from invading the
surface world," Janice said.
  "There was that whole bank robbery thing." Shelly turned to Ted. "You
remember that, right? They were demanding you go and see them, but it
was all very over-the-top."
  Frank nodded grimly. "Before that..." He didn't want to finish his
  "Before that, I let Redemption mess with my head," Ted said,
finishing it for him.
  The group fell silent for a moment.
  "Do you think Redemption had anything to do with this?" Donna asked.
"That Michael guy said he had some sort of mind control power that
could make people see things that weren't there."
  Frank thought for a moment. "I don't know. I don't think so -- it
doesn't really seem like his style, based on what we've seen from him
before. Besides, I'd like to think that he wouldn't be able to pull a
stunt like this so soon after we took him down." He paused. "I mean,
after Michael took him down."
  The ship shuddered from an impact of some sort.
  "What was that?"
  Captain Nemo stuck his head through the doorway. "No need to panic,"
he asserted. "The one thing we do not need is panic. Just the crew
returning from a picnic to fill their needs." He withdrew from the room
as the walls shook once more.
  "That's one heck of a crew," Ted said.
  "Say," Pete began, "after what we saw the first mate looked like, you
don't suppose that it's a..."
  "Skeleton crew?" Donna finished. "I hope not. I don't think I could
keep a straight face."

	*               *                       *               *

  After what seemed like forever but was probably more like half an
hour, Pete was getting restless. He'd started pacing up and down the
cabin, much to the annoyance of his friends.
  "Come on, Pete," Shelly said, reaching out and touching his hand.
"Why don't you sit down?"
  Pete shrugged her hand away, but smiled sheepishly. "I'm just antsy,"
he said. "I don't like this."
  Frank nodded. "None of us like being cooped up here, Pete," he said.
  "It's not just that." Pete sighed and looked around the room. "I
don't like anything that's been going on lately. Getting bumped from
one crazy situation to another, wandering around not knowing what the
Hell is going on. I don't know about you folks," he said, "but I like
being at least a little in charge of my own destiny."
  Nobody said anything for a while.
  "I guess I kind of got carried away," Pete said quietly, sitting down
on one of the mattresses.
  "No," Frank said after a second. "No, you're right, Pete. Why don't
you and I go have a talk with Captain Nemo and find out just what
exactly is going on. The rest of you..." He took a deep breath, aware
of the irony of what he was going to say next. "Just wait here. For
  Frank and Pete stepped out of the room and closed the door behind
  "Hey," Pete said. "Didn't we come from that way?"
  He gestured down the hall in one direction, where it quickly turned
into a dead end.
  "I guess not," Frank said, showing a smile he didn't quite believe.
The hallway led off in the other direction, so that was the one they
  It didn't take them long to realize that something was wrong, though.
Because they'd definitely come down some stairs, and no stairs were
  "Maybe we did come from the other direction," Frank said quietly.
  "Well, let's go back that way, then."
  They turned, and noticed that the hallway that had been behind them
quickly turned into a dead end.
  "Okay," Pete said, his voice rising. "This time I *definitely* know
we came from back there."
  But back there was a solid wooden wall only a few feet away from
them. It was almost like they had never moved at all, except that the
door they had stepped out of was no longer there -- it, too, was a
solid wooden wall.
  Frank and Pete turned to look at each other, then looked back at the
wall, then over their shoulders in the direction they had been heading.
  "Keep walking?" Frank asked. Pete shrugged, looking sour.
  They turned and kept walking. The hallway continued on, and every
time they turned to look back, the wall was just a few feet away.
  After what seemed like hours, they came to a flight of stairs -- a
flight of stairs leading down, not up. Behind them, the wall left them
no choice of where to go.
  "After you," Pete said.
  "You're too kind." Frank rolled his eyes. "We go together."
  Side by side, they descended the stairweel, wooden planks creaking
with every step. At the bottom of the stairs, they found themselves on
the deck of the ship.
  "What?" Frank turned to look back at the stairwell, which now led
  Captain Nemo turned to face them. "Ah, our unexpected guests," he
said. "And just in time. Pollack!" The skeleton tossed them each a
sword. "We could use the extra hands."
  Frank and Pete exchanged glances, but before either one could phrase
a question, the Gilded Danish shuddered as it came alongside another
  "We are the crew of the Gilded Danish!" Nemo shouted at the other
ship. "We shall never surrender to the unlikeable likes of you!"
  Ropes and planks were tossed from the second boat to attach to the
Danish, and Captain Nemo unsheated his own sword.
  "What is this?" Frank asked. "Pirates?"
  "Aye, and the worst kind," Nemo said as the first of the other ship's
crew came into sight. "Intellectual pirates."
  As Frank tried to register the mass of grey-haired, bespectacled, and
academic brigands who were preparing to board the Gilded Danish, he
could feel something changing on her deck. Looking down, he saw that
the wooden planks of the deck were warping everywhere. No, more than
warping -- they were extruding men and women.
  "It's about time ye showed up, ye scurvy dogs!" Captain Nemo shouted
at the people growing from the deck. "And to think you call yourselves
a crew!"
  They were fully formed just in time to meet the first wave of
intellectual pirates that came over the side, and so the battle was
joined. Frank and Pete found themselves on the edge of the combat, able
to survive only because their opponents were preoccupied with the more
skilled swordsmen. Whenever one of the pirates was run through, he
would blow away like a thin covering of dust, accompanied by the sound
of a book slamming shut; when one of the crewmen was slain, he or she
would collapse into a pile of tinder and then be reabsorbed by the ship
  The two of them were soon pressed up against the wall where the
stairwell had once been, fending off the occasional thrust from an
unoccupied pirate until he became occupied again, and from that vantage
point they were able to see quite clearly when Pollack's left arm was
struck off by one of the pirates. He/she/it seemed unfazed by the loss,
however, and at the next opportunity, tore a left arm loose from one of
the fallen pirates and affixed it in the lost limb's place. Quickly the
clothes and flesh fell from the new arm, and soon it was impossible to
tell that it had ever belonged to someone else. Nevertheless, the sight
nearly made Frank physically ill.
  At length the raid was repelled, and the crewmen and women melted
back into the ship, leaving the two men alone with the captain and
first mate.
  "Well done, lads!" Captain Nemo said, applauding. "Are you sure
you've never done that before?"
  "Uh, yeah," Frank said, glancing at Pete.
  "Well you were truly outstanding -- weren't they, Pollack?"
  The skeleton nodded.
  "And in gratitude for the valiant job you did defending the Gilded
Danish and her cargo from those pirates, I would like to make you
honourary crewmen! Pollack!"
  The skeleton disappeared into the bridge, then returned with a pair
of matchbooks.
  "Please take these commemorative matchbooks as a sign of your new
rank," Captain Nemo said. "May they provide light to you when all seems
  Pollack whispered something in the Captain's ear, and he in turn
whispered something back before turning back to Frank and Pete. "My
first mate tells me that we have nearly reached Pavillion. Please,
fetch your friends so that you may disembark."
  The stairs leading down had appeared behind Frank and Pete again and,
somewhat hesitantly, they went belowdecks.
  They had no chance to get lost because there were no choices to be
made -- they had only to follow the hallway and they came, in time, to
the room where the others were still sitting.
  "Forget something?" Brill asked.
  "What?" Frank said.
  "Did you forget something?"
  "No." Frank gave them a puzzled look. "Captain Nemo says we're almost
there, so we should go up top."
  After a cavalcade of indifferent shrugs, they did as they'd been
  In the grey void around the ship, a small island lay before them. It
was walled, with a dock on the near side, and over the tops of the
walls any number of things could be seen, depending on when you looked
at it.
  "There she is," Captain Nemo said. "Pavillion." As he spoke, the grey
around the island began to resolve into dusky clouds above and a
dull-reflecting ocean underneath. "She's beautiful, isn't she? Because
she isn't grey!" He laughed uproariously, oblivious to the fact that he
was the only one doing so.
  Pollack guided the Gilded Danish into port, and a gangplank lowered
to the dock.
  "This is your stop," the captain said. "It's been a pleasure having
you aboard my ship." He paused. "And no."
  He and Pollack waved to them as the ship glided back into the void,
leaving them alone on the dock outside the towering walls of Pavillion.
>>From the other side, the bustling sounds of a fairground could be heard
at half-speed.
  "Are we all going mad?" Donna asked.
  "Come on," Ted said, heading for the open gate at the end of the
dock. "If we're gonna be railroaded, we might as well make it as short
a trip as possible."
  As a unit, the seven of them stepped through the gate and into the
walled city of Pavillion, where they narrowly avoided being stepped on
by something very big, green, and scaly.
  Before them, cowboys were riding brontosauri, using six-guns and
lassos to try to bring down a rampaging tyrannosaurus rex. Ted summed
up the group's feelings with two short words.
  "Oh. Shit."


NEXT ISSUE: Cowboys! Dinosaurs! Robots from the space and future! Be
sure not to miss Continuity Breakdowns part 6 -- "Deep In the Heart of

*Swamp Patrol #22 contents Copyright 2005 Jamie Rosen.             *
*Swamp Patrol Copyright Ted Brock, other characters copyright 2005 *
*Jamie Rosen                                                       *

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