[STARFALL] Swamp Patrol #19, "Subterranean Homesick Blues" -- Continuity Breakdowns pt. 2

Jamie Rosen jamie.rosen at sunlife.com
Sun Jan 23 16:37:15 PST 2005

Low Budget Productions presents,
A Starfall Comics comic:

"Subterranean Homesick Blues"
Continuity Breakdowns, part two

[COVER: A short, grey skinned humanoid with
pronounced mole similarities stands at the
mouth of a cave. In his hands he holds a
white piece of paper with the words "World
Conquest" written on it. At his feet are
several more pieces of paper, the top of
which reads "Sweater Vest."]

Prince Hiddeus observed the gathered throng from his dais. Such a
strong people, his mole-men. So proud, so vital! How long had they been
oppressed by the surface dwellers, those who thought that simply
because they were above the mole-men they were somehow *above* the
mole-men? Too long. The prince inhaled the musty air of the cavern and
stepped to the podium.

"My fellow mole-men," he started, "we stand at the cusp of a major
coup for all of mole-mankind! In less than an hour, we will begin
Operation Superficial, and our massed forces will commence the invasion
of the surface world. A brave new world awaits us -- a world without

A cheer rose up from the audience, and Prince Hiddeus smiled. He
loved his people, and would give them what they deserved no matter what
the price.

"There will be a high cost," he continued. "Let us not delude
ourselves into thinking that the surface dwellers will simply roll over
like a rock kicked down a hill. But they have grown lazy and weak in
the pampering of the surface world, while we are the lean, hungry
creatures of the caves and caverns. In the end, my fellow mole-men, we
shall be VICTORIOUS!"

A second cheer rose up, loud enough to send dust and pebbles falling
from the granite ceiling above them. Waving to the audience, Prince
Hiddeus stepped away from the podium and let the lieutenants in charge
of Operation Superficial take over. He only wished the surface dwellers
could have heard the sound his people had made. The sound of a great
bear closing in for the kill.

*               *                       *               *

The earthquake in Allentown, Pennsylvania, was the first indication
that something was wrong.

Ted and Donna were at Ostrander Pizza picking up an extra-large
pepperoni and a small with pineapple and chicken when the first tremors

"What the--" Donna began, looking around. The pictures on the walls,
the framed certificate recognizing Ostrander Pizza as the best pizza in
Allentown in 1998, the restaurant reviews from local papers, all were
beginning to shake. The shaking turned to rattling, and the certificate
fell to the floor, cracking its frame.

"Get to the doorways!" shouted John, the head chef on duty. "It's an

"An earthquake?" Ted asked. "There aren't any earthquakes in

"There are now!"

Just as Donna and Ted got to a doorframe, the shaking stopped. The
customers were moving warily, as if one wrong step could trigger
another round of chaotic vibrations. Donna's pocket beeped.

"Yeah?" she said, pulling out a device no bigger than a pocket

"Better get back to my house," Frank said. "Something's up."

"Will do."

Ted watched Donna put the communicator back in her pocket. "What's
that?" he asked.

"Hmm? Oh, just something Frank whipped up a little while back. Don't
you... Oh. I guess he must have done it while you were gone."

"I see." Ted walked over to the counter. "Is our pizza ready?"

John stuck his head out from the kitchen. "Everything's crazy here. I
don't think anyone's pizza will be ready for a while yet."

Donna took Ted's arm. "Come on, Ted. Frank said something big was

*               *                       *               *

They met up at Frank's place. Everyone else was already there; they'd
been waiting for the pizza.

"What's up?" Donna asked, tossing her jacket onto the back of a
chair. Ted didn't think anyone would ever get Frank to clean the place
up completely, but Donna semmed to be a good influence on how much
clutter there was. You could actually walk across the room without
stepping on anything now. If you were careful.

"That earthquake wasn't natural," Frank said.

"What do you mean, 'wasn't natural'?"

"I mean it was artificial. Man made. Quite literally 'not of this

Ted sighed and sank deeper into his chair. What next?

"So who made it?" Janice asked.

"I don't know."

"*We* don't know," Brill added. "So far all we've been able to
determine is that what happened shouldn't have. But I've been
monitoring the news, and Allentown wasn't the only place to have
unnatural tremors today." He pulled a map onto the table. There were
red and green markers distributed seemingly at random, and a black one
where Allentown was located.

"The green markers are very low level seismic activity. Nothing
overly serious, but remarkable for the sheer number of them. The red
ones are more serious -- as you can see there are fewer of them than
the green ones, but still enough to raise eyebrows."

"What about the black one?"

"That," Frank interjected, "is right here in Allentown. We got a
higher level of seismic activity than anywhere else in the world

Ted leaned forward in his chair. "It didn't feel *that* bad."

"That's just it," Brill said. "That was just outside the city itself.
It was a remarkably constrained earthquake. Almost like whoever caused
it wanted to disturb people, but not damage the city too much."

"So you're certain it was artificial?" Donna asked.

"Yes. And we've narrowed down the area where it originated from to
here." He indicated a spot on the map, about a mile north of where they

"Brill wants to go investigate," Frank said.

They all looked at each other.

"Why not?" Janice said. "Nothing better to do."

Everyone else shrugged and made a general motion towards leaving. Ted
took Frank aside.

"Frank," he said. "I wanted to ask you a question about those


"Like the one Donna has. Where did you get the parts for those?"

Frank gave him a quizzical look. "Parts? Ted, I don't know what
you're talking about. If Donna told you I made some sort of
communicators, you must have misunderstood her. Come on, let's go."

*               *                       *               *

"Prince Hiddeus! Prince Hiddeus!"

Prince Hiddeus turned to face his lieutenant, a short, grey-skinned
mole-man -- but then, weren't all mole-men short and grey-skinned? --
of only half Hiddeus' age.

"Yes, Lieutenant Pugg'uggli?"

"The surface dwellers have survived our first attack with the
Earth-Shatterer Cannon unscathed!"


"I have first-hand reports, Prince Hiddeus."

"Very well. We must commence with phase two of Operation Superficial.
Prepare the aftershock troops."

The Prince turned his attention back to the wall before him as his
lieutenant disappeared back into the caverns. Soon the rock and soil
that made up their homes, walls and floors and ceilings too, would no
longer be their cage. Soon his people would supplant the surface
dwellers as Earth's dominant life forms. As their patriarch, it was his
duty to lead them to victory and regain his rightful kingship, denied
to his family every generation spent underground.

*               *                       *               *

One mile north, and many miles above ground, the Swamp Patrol split
up. Ted, Frank, Donna, and Brill went left, while Shelley, Janice, and
Pete went right. They agreed to meet up again in an hour unless
something went wrong.

"Say, guys," Shelley said as the three of them began walking towards
a rocky outcropping at the edge of the swamp, "have you noticed
something weird going on lately?"

"You mean other than artificial earthquakes, strange bank robbers,
and a supposed angel on a mission from God?" Pete asked.

Shelley grimaced. "Yes, Pete, I mean other than that."

Janice sighed. "Well, what *do* you mean, Shelley?"

"I don't know, exactly... I almost feel like a third wheel... fifth
wheel? Whenever we're all together."

"Yeah, I get that too sometimes," Pete said.

They stopped at the pile of rocks, and Pete unslung his backpack,
taking out a blanket and a basket.

"What's that for?" Shelley asked.

"A picnic." Pete grinned.

"You're having a picnic at the edge of a swamp?"

"It's not the first time." Pete began arranging the food from the
basket on the blanket. "Feel free to join me, ladies."

Janice shrugged and sat down, to Shelley's dismay. "Janice, Pete,
come on," she said. "We're supposed to be investigating the source of
these unnatural earthquakes."

"And we will," Pete said. "Right after this sandwich."

Resignedly, Shelley joined Pete and Janice on the blanket. "What sort
of a sandwich is that?"

"Peanut butter and bannana. Want one?"

Shelley made a face. "No thanks."

"Are you sure? Your stomach sounds like it does."

Shelley cocked her head to one side, listening to the faint rumbling
sounds. "That's not my stomach," she said. "It's an..."

"Earthquake!" Janice shouted as the ground beneath them leapt and
buckled into the abyss below.

*               *                       *               *

"Bring me the surface dwellers," Prince Hiddeus commanded. He had not
anticipated a counter-attack so soon. Luckily, generations of living
above ground had left their soldiers soft and poorly organized, while
his people had been drilled into peak physical and psychological
condition -- they were rock solid in both body and mind.

As the pink-skinned interlopers were led into his chamber, Prince
Hiddeus pondered their fate. They had attempted to invade his
subterranean kingdom, and as such they should be condemned either to
death or to labor in the water-mines. And yet... his own people were
attempting a similar invasion of the surface world, and he would not
want them to face such an unpleasant fate were they to be captured.

Additionally, anyone who thought the world below ground was worth
invading was obviously not mentally well, and he did not want to punish
those who could not be held responsible for their actions.

"Speak!" he bellowed, hoping his volume would mask his troubled

"Where are we?" This was the one who passed itself off for male,
despite a soft, fleshy weakness that would put even a mole-woman to
shame. "Who are you?"

"I am Prince Hiddeus of the mole-men!" the prince pronounced proudly.
"And you are either my guests or my prisoners, depending on how you
yourselves." He permitted himself a small smile.

"Mole-men? What are you talking about -- there aren't any mole-men."

"Then, may I ask, what are we?"

That left the surface dweller silent.

"Now, as I was saying, your treatment will rely entirely on how you
behave yourselves, surface dwellers." Prince Hiddeus stepped down from
the dais to stand directly before them -- eye to eye, but only because
the surface dwellers were unable to stand straight up in his throne
room. "If you are polite and provide assistance, you will in turn be
provided for, and when the time comes you will be granted dwellings as
close to the surface as possible. If, on the other hand, you are
difficult, rude, or generally unpleasant, you will not be treated so
kindly, and when we have claimed the surface world as our own you will
be granted no special treatment." He turned to his guards, pleased with
his spontaneously produced ultimatum. "Take them to their cells to
ruminate on these options," he said. "They have one surface day to make
a decision."

*               *                       *               *

Pete rubbed his eyes. The flickering candle light of his cell didn't
agree with him one bit.

"Somehow, I think I'd rather be a third wheel right now," he muttered
to himself. "Let the other guys have all the fun." He looked up as
Janice was led, kicking and biting, into the cell beside him.

"I don't believe it," she said, pounding the stalactite and
stalagmite bars that held her in. "I just don't believe it. Mole-men!
Mole-men in Allentown! I mean, I could buy mole-men in New York, or
mole-men in Los Angeles -- even mole-men in Denver! But Allentown? Of
all the luck..." She resumed her assault on the stone before her,
cursing a blue streak.

"Janice," Shelley shouted from a cell Pete couldn't see. "Janice,
calm down. Yelling and screaming won't get us anywhere." Her suggestion
was met with an icy silence -- which Pete figured was more or less what
she was looking for anyway. "Now," she continued, "let's see if we can
work out a way to get out of here."

"What's the use?" Janice responded sullenly. "There's no way we could
find our way back to the surface on our own."

"They must be looking for us by now," Pete ventured. "It's gotta be
well over an hour now."

"But how will they find us?"

"Well, for starters, they'll probably notice the giant hole in the
ground where we fell through."

The three of them fell silent after that. Although it went unsaid,
they realized there was little chance that they would be able to escape
on their own.

Pete turned his attention to his cell. It wasn't much -- hollowed out
of a cave wall, with stone bars apparently grown out of the ceiling and
floor. He had been unconscious when the mole-men had put him in here,
and couldn't see any obvious way in or out. *If only Brill or Frank
were here. They'd probably figure it out in no time.*

Shelley's voice rang out in the silence. "I know how we can get out,"
she said.

"How?" Pete asked.

"Cooperate with the mole-men."

*               *                       *               *

Prince Hiddeus eyed the surface dwellers warily.

"My people have a saying," he explained. "Beware of promises from
above, for there is always something hidden beneath the surface. But I
will listen to your offer."

He sat on his granite throne and crossed his arms, waiting.

"Prince Hiddeus," Shelley began, "we understand your distaste for
living below ground. Indeed, it was such sympathy that drove us down
here to begin with -- for what you construed as an invasion was merely
three sympathizers looking to make contact with a visionary hero." She
could see Hiddeus puff up slightly at this compliment, and pressed on.
"Please, do not allow such a momentary misunderstanding to hinder our
mutual goal of mole-man ascendancy."

"What do you suggest?"

"Permit us to lead you to the best possible beachhead for your
invasion of the surface world. In return, we ask only that we be
allowed to accompany you, so that we may bid the surface a proper

A smile creased Prince Hiddeus' slate face. "A kind offer, surface
dweller, and one I am most tempted to accept. Very well, we shall make
our way to the surface at once." His lieutenants reacted in shock, but
immediately dispatched messengers to relay the decision to the rest of
the kingdom. "I shall see you on the surface."

*               *                       *               *

Janice knew they were approaching the surface. The dusty smell of the
caves was slightly weaker, slivers of light trickled in through
particularly thin sections of ground/ceiling, and if she focused hard
enough she could even start to make out the sounds of birds, wind, and
small animals coming from above. The thought of what lay in store
brought a smile to her lips.

"Halt!" Prince Hiddeus commanded. "We are almost at the surface.
Bring the surface dwellers to me."

The mole-man guards prodded Janice, Pete, and Shelley forward. Their
hands had been left free because the mole-men knew quite well that
surface dwellers had a nasty tendency to trip and fall in caves, a fact
Janice appreciated when she did just that and caught herself on her

"Surface dwellers, I wish to thank you for your aid. As promised, you
will be permitted to bid the surface a proper farewell before the
invasion proper commences. Come with me." Prince Hiddeus led the three
humans toward a small break in the ceiling as one of his aides produced
a shovel from seemingly out of nowhere.

"Now, as ruler of the mole-men, it is my duty to be the first to
break through to the surface. Stand to the side."

Janice stepped sideways, followed by Pete and Shelley. The prince
raised his shovel and swung upwards, knocking the dirt and rocks aside
and letting the bright light of the sun into the caverns.

"AAAAAAAH!" he screamed, falling to the ground. "MY EYES! WHAT IS

Janice laughed as she, Pete, and Shelley scrambled through the hole
and onto the surface.

"It's the sun," she hollered into the hole. "And it shines like this
on the surface all the time."

"NO!" Prince Hiddeus wailed. "NOOOOOOOO!!!!!"

The three of them ran from the hole as quickly as they could, while
the sounds of a swiftly retreating army of mole-men echoed up and out
of the subterranean caverns. After about fifteen minutes of solid
running -- solid jogging for Janice -- they fell to the ground

"There is no *way* they're going to believe this!" Janice said.

"They'd better," Shelley replied. "We stopped the earthquakes, after

Pete pulled a granola bar out of his pant pocket. "How can you be so

"Give me that!" Shelley grabbed the bar from Pete and broke it in
half, stuffing one piece in her mouth and handing the other piece to
Janice. "Well, did you notice how the only light down there was
candles?" she said around the granola.

"Did I? Darn near gave me a migraine."

"Right. Well, I figured that their eyes would only be adapted to
living underground, so they wouldn't be able to handle sunlight -- and
there weren't any signs of mole-men being trained to work in such
bright light, or any goggles or anything. So it stood to reason that
they didn't even know about the sun, or had somehow forgotten it."

"And if they're convinced they can't live up here," Janice added,
smirking, "then they've got no reason to launch another invasion, and
if they've got no reason to invade, they have no reason to create any
more earthquakes."

Pete nodded thoughtfully. "You know, there's almost a kind of
colonialist subtext to this whole crazy adventure. Keeping the
oppressed ignorant and in their place and all."

Janice looked at him quizzically, while Shelley's jaw dropped
slightly. "I guess you have been paying attention in that literature
class after all."

Pete shrugged. "I could still use a sandwich."


NEXT ISSUE: The Swamp Patrol discover that their mentor, fearing them
dead, has recruited a replacement team to carry on the struggle for
between humans and Paragene Actives... hang on a second...

Be sure not to miss "The All-New, All-Different Swamp Patrol"!

*Swamp Patrol #19 contents Copyright 2002 Jamie Rosen.                *
*Swamp Patrol Copyright Ted Brock, other characters copyright 2005    *
*Jamie Rosen                                                          *
*                                                                     *

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