[SG/LNH] New Exarchs #14 - Squirrelled Traveler

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at eyrie.org
Wed Sep 24 08:24:14 PDT 2008

[April 3, 2008 - Manhattan, KS]

     "Much to do?" Hans Zwarghoff blinked at the sable-furred squirrel with
elaborately tufted ears.  "What?!" he turned to the faux-innocently smiling
young girl standing next to the squirrel.  A small part of his mind reflected
on the fact that his personal "hierarchy of weird and threatening" put the
girl ahead of the telepathically speaking squirrel.  "Are squirrels even
allowed in the Preteen...never mind," he shook his head and turned from
Ecliptic back to the squirrel.  "Ah, please come in," he pulled the door the
rest of the way open and stepped back, "before the neighbors see me talking
to a squirrel.  They think I'm crazy as it is."
     The squirrel scampered in and climbed the back of one of the chairs in
the living room so that she'd be closer to eye level.  Ecliptic (aka Corrine)
and her brother Space Case (aka Mikey) followed, and Hans shut the door.
     "The bylaws are clear that members need only be younger than 13 years,"
Ecliptic said as she took off her coat and laid it on the couch.  Hans made a
mental note to add its position to his chart...there had to be a pattern in
there!  "The restriction of human or even humanoid status was removed years
ago.  And J.L. is only three years old, so she qualifies."
     Hans shot Ecliptic a Look.  Well, he tried to, but he'd never really
gotten the hang of Stern Parental Expressions, despite reading up on them
online.  "Ah...J.L.?" he looked to the squirrel, who was idly preening one of
her tufted ears as she waited for the little drama to play out.
     "Jamais Lokris, sorceress of the third circle, late of what humans call
Marysville," she introduced herself.  "And my mystic skills are on a par with
any other squirrel of five or even six years of age, so do not concern
yourself with my competence," she added, more than a little defensively.  It
was a tone Hans knew well, that of having to defend your competence from
those who thought you incompetent.  After all, he'd used the tone himself
more often than he cared to remember.
     "Um, Hans Zwarghoff, scientist of no particular circle or other
geometric shape but tending towards eggplant-ish, currently of the city we
humans call Manhattan," he started to hold out a hand, then stopped himself
and simply bowed.  "So, Ms. Lokris, what brings you to my humble abode?"
     "My scryings upon the Agate Sphere revealed that I was Needed here," she
said plainly, and Hans could feel the capitalization through her mental
communications.  "Or, more specifically, I am Needed in the world that you
access with your science.  The fate of all squirrels on that other world
depends on me."
     "Well, there's a problem with that," Hans explained.  "The portal is
unstable, in terms of time.  As in, time flows differently there.  And we can
only use it a few more times before things come totally undone.  Not to
mention, there's something on the other side that keeps attacking my probes,
and no offense, but..."
     "I am no stranger to combat," Jamais cut him off, "even if I had not yet
been born during the demonic invasion my forebears fought off.  And my
scryings indicate that it may well be the squirrels of this other world that
are attacking your probes.  Send me through, and I will deal with both of our
problems, yes?"
     "Fine, the Cheeezball generator's down in the basement," Hans sighed.
At least if he sent the squirrel through to Sango, the kids wouldn't be able
to induct her into their Preteen Patrol group, and he could put off becoming
an official Mentor for a little longer.
     A few minutes later, a Cheeezball was swirling into existence, filling
the room with a tangy, slightly pungent aroma.  
     "As soon as it's stable, I'll signal you," Hans told Jamais.  "Go
through as quickly as possible, I don't want to leave it open any longer than
I have to," he added, turning back to focus on the computer screens.  "Okay,
go!" he said, glancing back to see a faint ripple in the surface of the
Cheeezball, and no one else in the room. 
     "Good," he nodded, shutting the interaltiversal interface down.
"Corrine, Mikey, I've got some soldiers coming later today, I don't want you
getting in their way," he called up the stairs.  He clomped up to the main
floor of the house.  "Corrine?  Mikey?  Where are you?  Uh oh..." he slowly
came to a horrible realization.

__--__--__--__--__--__--__--     \\NEW//       --__--__--__--__--__--__--__
 .|,Coherent Comics Presents      \\ //        #14 - Squirrelled Traveler
--X-------------------------     E }X{ ARCHS      copyright 2008 by the
 '|` A Superguy/LNH Tale          // \\        Dvandroid (Dave Van Domelen)
--__--__--__--__--__--__--__     //   \\       __--__--__--__--__--__--__--

[000SUPERDRY - The Clay Flats]

     "We have been keeping any others from intruding on our lands through the
portal you used," the Clay Squirrel elder explained as he led Jonkatta back
across the blasted plains.  "It is for their own safety, in the main, but
also we just don't like having visitors.  Especially smelly clanking metal
ones as we've been getting while you rested."
     "Strange...I wouldn't have thought the humans would be trying again so
soon.  It's barely been a half a day since we arrived.  Perhaps the scientist
is even twitchier than I thought.  He may have some Gray in him," Jonkatta
     "Behold, it returns!" one of the other Clays pointed a malformed and
moist gray paw at the Cheeezball that was rapidly surging into existence.
     Three figures emerged from the portal.  The Clays focused on the humans,
who were small for their species but still threateningly huge to a squirrel.
But Jonkatta couldn't take his eyes off the third figure.   
     She was perhaps the most beautiful squirrel he'd ever laid eyes on.  Her
lustrous black fur said Danger, marking her as one of the mystically inclined
Blacks.  Even a Red as intrepid as Jonkatta would think twice before making
romantic overtures to a Black.  And yet, her long-tufted ears said that at
least one of her parents had been a Red that wasn't intimidated.  A high-
class European Red, at that, if Jonkatta was any judge of breeding.
     And then all thoughts of romance were, at least temporarily, sent
packing as she made a mystic gesture and the wave of onrushing Clays was
hurled away by a burst of aetheric dissonance.
     "By the Drilling Tooth!" Jonkatta gasped, hunkering down on the damp
clay surface to avoid being bowled over by the attack.
     Almost unnoticed by all, the pungent portal vanished once more.
     "Why are all the squirrels covered in mud?" one of the humans asked, in
its inelegant, grunting language.
     "Because J.L. just blasted them across muddy ground?" the other human
     Jonkatta stood, shaking the clay out of his tail as best he could.  "I
am Jonkatta the Red," he introduced himself, knowing the humans wouldn't
understand him, but not particularly caring.  "May I ask what brings one of
the fabled Black sorceresses to the Clay Flats of Sango?"

               *              *              *              *

[000SUPERDRY - Sango City]

     "Ow," Anna said, resisting the urge to clutch her head in both hands.
"I wish I could still cast anti-hangover spells."
     "Bah!" Duke Earl replied, his tone a mix of forced cheer and deep, deep
hurting.  "A true Suede cherishes the morning pain as child of the evening
     "You have to admit," Skysabre added at barely over a whisper, "it makes
our disguises as members of the downtrodden underclass a bit more convincing.
You'll notice no one else is striding about like they own the place.  Well,
aside from the Naugas, but they *do* own the place."
     Kat just smiled.  "Someday you'll all learn to hold your liquor,
children.  At which point you'll also need to learn to act, I suppose."  She
was having no problem blending in with the downtrodden underclass, but she
did have memories from over a century of espionage experience to draw on.
And if most of that time was spent as a giant robot on a world dominated by
giant robots...well, even giant robots had downtrodden underclasses.
     "If you're so good at holding your booze...or whatever the Suedes were
serving that claimed to be drinkable," Anna amended, "why didn't you talk us
out of this insane plan?  I mean, after a few mugs of that fermented I-don't-
want-to-know-what, I'm sure the rest of us thought this would be a Really
Good Idea, but...."
     "It's actually not a *horrible* idea," Kat shrugged.  "Earl's men have
been sneaking into and out of Sango City while hung over for years now, and
the three of us can handle ourselves in a fight if we have to.  Plus, I've
gotten used to the freaky way these Altiverses work, and kicking common sense
to the curb often makes the impossible possible.  That, and I doubt I could
have dissuaded you all anyway, and someone had to come along to drive.
Metaphorically speaking, that is."
     "Remember, we're disguised as Gossyps," Duke Earl warned the small
group.  "Makers of cotton, sellers of cloth and information.  In the unlikely
event we run across any other Suedes, we should look down our noses at them
as uncivilized ruffians...which is a fair cop, really.  But civilization is
overrated.  The Nauga will look down on us as country bumpkins.  Over there,"
he pointed at a knot of men in heavy coats and cloaks who were sweating
uncomfortably, "is a group of the arctic tribe called the Gortek.  They may
try to buy from us, but ignore them.  It's normal to smugly let the Gorteks
sweat when they visit in the warmer months.  We might encounter some
Ptanners, who will instantly see through our disguises and even more
instantly not give an avian's hindquarters.  Just don't pick a fight with
one, the Skybikers tend to rally to one of their own and gang up.  Finally,
if you see anyone in fine silks, try to steer clear."
     "Why's that?  Rich people?" Skysabre asked.
     "Sometimes, which is bad enough," Duke Earl nodded.  "But they may also
be members of the Bombyx tribe.  The Bombyx will also instantly see through
our disguises, but they are far more likely to report us.  They're a small
tribe, but their skills give them a lot of political power, and most of them
are in Sung's pocket.  His native Naugas may be Sung's muscle, but the Bombyx
are his bankers."
     "How about a bunch of people wearing tattered black clothing while
listening to what I swear sounds like an electronica twist on Morrissey?"
Anna asked.
     "Oh, those are Emoviates.  Poor bastards who washed their clothing in
the blackwater.  We don't want to be anywhere near their type," Duke Earl
     "Well, that's too bad, because they seem to want to be near us..." Anna
pointed behind Earl.

               *              *              *              *

[April 3, 2008 - Manhattan, KS]

     A trio of armed men...it might be inaccurate to call them soldiers, Hans
reflected, more like "security specialists"...pointed weapons at the
Cheeezball as it formed.  They were there to keep anything from coming
through, since this time the Cheeezball would be held open for several
     "Sending a probe through," Hans said, activating the small drone unit
that rolled forward on treads.
     "CMRA AKTV" the drone reported.
     "Are you sure the children have gone through?" Agent Brubaker asked as
the probe vanished through the Cheeezball.
     "Their coats are still upstairs, and it'd be just like Ecliptic to pull
her brother through the Cheeezball to have an adventure," Hans sighed.  "I
only hope the squirrel managed to keep them safe, at least several minutes
have passed there while I waited for you to show up."
     It was a testament to Agent Brubaker's years of experience that the
phrase "I only hope the squirrel managed to keep them safe" didn't even make
him blink.
     "RDO LNK STBLSHD" the nearly-disemvoweled synth voice of the probe
reported.  A screen switched to a view of the landscape in front of the
drone, an expanse of featureless clay.
     "Guys, are you there?" Hans asked over the radio.

               *              *              *              *

[000SUPERDRY - Sango City]

     Skysabre's radio crackled to life in the closeness of the shuttered
stall where the group was hiding from the Emoviates.  "Guys, are you there?"
came Hans's voice.
     The Emoviates outside the stall turned and shuffled closer, pressing in
on all sides.
     "Maybe I should've turned that off earlier," Skysabre muttered.






     Answers to some of these questions, and a nice cool drink of water, on
the next...SUPERGUY!


Author's Notes:

     I actually plotted this one out in outline form before writing, as I do
with my ASH stories, something I almost never do on Exarchs.  Partly because
I wanted to get something accomplished but was still recovering from a cold
and didn't feel up to full writing, and partly because I wanted to do a few
more scene changes than usual, requiring a bit more thought.  :)

     In case you didn't guess, the Agate Sphere is a marble.  A regular
Crystal Ball would be a bit too large for squirrels to use, after all.

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