SG: Rad #96 (2/3): This
swede at novitious.com
Tue Oct 7 04:47:09 PDT 2008
(continued from part one, preceding...)
"Like, a civilization below?" Rad asked.
"I asked the same thing," said Elizabeth. "If there's something
like that underground, why have we never had contact? Then these two
hooked me up to their machine back there..."
Rad looked into the room from which Elizabeth had come. He could
see what appeared to be a well-padded dentist's chair, a salon hair
dryer, and several poles with spiraling lights.
"...and suddenly I could sense them," Elizabeth continued. "The
highway below... the city... it was amazing!"
"But you, like, found Glum," Rad prompted.
"Not exactly," Elizabeth replied, frowning a bit. "I found
Cendra Seconds. The effect of the machine, if I understand Bhossi
correctly, is to get through the encryption on the telepathic cloaking
field that obscures this underground network from the sensitives of
the surface world. But even with that, I didn't have enough power to
do more than see fragments and pick up stray thoughts. If Cendra
wasn't a telepath, too, I might not have found her."
"But you did find her," Dr. Gigawatt prompted. "What did she
"She, Eivandt, Glum, and Miguel were overwhelmed and taken away
by a bunch of people pretending to be zombies," Elizabeth replied.
"They were stronger than they appeared. Cendra awoke on the bus just
as it was pulling into the Dodger Stadium parking lot. Some of the
zombies got out, some guys dressed in black fatigues got on, and then
a whole square section descended into the earth. After a while, they
arrived at this secret base, where they disembarked. The Programmer
was there, though he arrived separately. Also, there was another bus
with people pretending to be ninjas, and they had Tom McCavish-
Laffalot with them."
"She wasn't with them," Elizabeth said. "Nor was Alice, nor
Miguel's younger brother, Esteban. Miguel was apparently the actual
target of the pseudo-zombie raid, and once he succumbed, they took him
and whomever else they'd already overwhelmed and retreated to their
bus. Esteban, Rumiko, and Alice should have been at the apartment
when you were there."
"But, like, they weren't."
"I've been told Esteban has clear instructions on where to go if
something happens," said Elizabeth. "In order, Mrs. Busey's next
door, Cendra's parents' house, Templar's studio, Hal's restaurant, and
'the Den,' wherever and whatever that is."
"Like, Miguel is, like, a werewolf, y'know?"
"I didn't," said Elizabeth. She shrugged. "Not that that helps
any. They weren't at the apartment next door, or at the Seconds
house. If they're at Templar's studio, they're not picking up the
phone, and Hal says they haven't shown up at his place. That leaves
'the Den.' Cendra was going to tell me how to get in touch when we
were cut off."
*The equipment failed?* Bhossi asked. *It is still in the
Elizabeth shook her head. "Cendra... changed. It was very
strange. Right when she cut off, I had the impression that she'd
changed into... a bird."
Rad nodded. "Eivandt, like, said that, like, sometimes happens
to her. Like, magic or something."
"But... the Bluebird of Happiness?"
Rad shrugged. It seemed the safest response to that kind of
*Did you glean any mention of Erasmus Fancy?* Cla'rabhele
Elizabeth shook her head again.
"Like, who is, like, Erasmus Fancy?"
*A being regarded by the Hidden Empire as an arch-criminal
mastermind,* thought Bhossi. *He has a unique understanding of many
matters the Hidden Empire considers of prime importance. He is the
only reason the Hidden Empire would openly attempt to cross from their
dimension to ours via a massive nectarisite gateway. As he is known
to prefer deep underground hideouts, we inferred that his base of
operations would be deep underground. Clearly, the Empire has
determined his location, and has created a portal as close to his base
as possible. It is only a surface portal because to open a portal
beneath the surface, at the location of the base, would be a
declaration of war.*
*War with Terra Subterrene,* Cla'rabhele clarified. *The
civilizations living beneath the surface of the Earth. They are not
ready for such a confrontation. So, though it is a risky maneuver,
they appear ready to come through the nectarisite portal and then
somehow effect the capture of Erasmus Fancy.*
"One more thing," said Elizabeth. "The base appears to currently
belong to the Mega-Intelligence Bureau, or at least a group that is
convinced that it is the M.I.B., the reputed dissolution of that group
notwithstanding. The Secret Secret Agent in charge of operations
there is Dana Wader."
"Like, whoah!" Rad exclaimed. "When did she, like, join the
"No idea," Elizabeth admitted. "Doesn't speak well for their
current standards of admission, though."
"Totally," Rad agreed. "I've, like, heard all I need to, like,
y'know? I think it's, like, time to get to Dodger Stadium and, like,
kick some gluteus maximus!"
"I'll work from here," said Elizabeth, "and see if I can pinpoint
where the elevator shaft leading to the underground lair is." She
looked around. "Kirby, are you in here?"
No one answered.
*He is here,* said Bhossi. After a pause, she added, in low
*Even our advanced super-science cannot track him,* Cla'rabhele
noted. *It is most... vexing.*
"What?" said a voice behind Rad. "I'm right here!"
A sandy-haired boy of eight or nine pushed between Rad and Dr.
Gigawatt. Parts of him blurred as he moved. His red t-shirt and blue
jean shorts had stains that were black, neon green, and an odd form of
plaid. Rad noticed that the gargantuan brains of Bhossi and
Cla'rabhele seemed to pulse as they saw the stains.
"What... have you been in, Kirby?" Elizabeth asked.
"I was just checking out Bhossi's chemistry lab, mom," said
Kirby, a grin on his young face. "It's so cool! And don't worry, I
already cleaned up the broken glass."
*And what of the tentacles in Pod B?* asked Cla'rabhele.
"They helped!" Kirby replied.
Rad had never seen the brain of a cow turn pale before.
Cla'rabhele immediately rushed off, floating through a doorway and out
of sight, her clipboard and pencil trailing behind. Moments later,
the theramin music that had been playing in the background changed to
smooth, saxophone-type jazz music.
*Ahhh, Kenny G,* thought Bhossi, with evident approval. *Almost
sublime in his mathematical perfection. Whenever I feel regret at
having left the underground realms for the surface, I listen to him
and know that I have made the right choice.*
"You, like, don't prefer that, like, y'know, theramin stuff?"
*It irritates my nerves,* Bhossi replied. *Cla'rabhele insists
on it. Says it is a professional standard in our 'line,' whatever she
means by that. As if having a massively brain-engorged cranium means
you automatically have to have that whiny crap on in the background
all the time. Were it not that the music of Kenny G has also proven
able to keep some of our more outre experiments docile, I am certain
Cla'rabhele would not countenance the playing of it at all.*
Rad decided it would be more diplomatic to just shrug.
Rumi found it not difficult to distinguish where Burning-M00se-
to-be ended and the town of Malaga began. She also found it easy to
distinguish where the town of Malaga ended and a whole lot of empty
desert began--with only the light from the construction and two
streetlights to assist--and was unimpressed that these boundaries were
within easy sight of one another. The town of Malaga consisted, so
far as she could see, of five ranch-style stucco houses, a gas
station, and a building that--according to its sign--combined the
functions of a post office, a general store, a library, a city hall, a
sheriff's office, a chapel, and, on Wednesdays, a barber shop.
"Slith and I run that, mainly," Shadebeam said, indicating the
multi-function building. "We don't have a sheriff, though. Sometimes
a trooper from Amesville drives through, though never during Burning
M00se time. I'm the Mayor, believe it or not, and Slithis is our
official postmaster, a job that sometimes requires almost ten minutes
a day of actual work."
"How many people live here?" Rumi asked.
"Year-round," said Shadebeam, "eleven. Including Slith and
myself." She looked back at the preparations for Burning M00se.
"More for the month leading up to and the month following all that.
For the actual five days of the event, we're expecting upwards of
ten thousand this year."
"Where do they all stay?"
"Tents, sleeping bags, whatever they can haul in that doesn't
have a motor. Many sleep wherever they can, whenever their bodies
force them to. If they sleep at all."
"Right here," Shadebeam replied, pointing to an undistinguished
stucco house on the empty side of the Malaga town border. Rumi
noticed a building in the distance beyond it, made hard-to-miss by the
lamp that shed light on its parking lot. "The town bar," Shadebeam
said, before she could ask. "Friend of ours, Chopper Alvarez, runs
that now. Fred Appleby sold out to him a few years ago and moved up
to Amesville to live with his nephew's family. It also doubles as a
Church of Radian, though Chop's one of the few members of that
wayward branch of belief these days. About all it means is that
Sunday is Ladies' Night, instead of Monday."
"Is that where..."
"Where your Aunt Akane and I surrendered to one metric fuckload
of Authority, back in the days when we were the top fugitives on
Earth." Shadebeam shook her head. "Some days, I can hardly believe
it even happened."
They walked for nearly a minute in silence.
"Not yet," Shadebeam interrupted. "Wait 'till we get inside."
Rumi bit her lip. She was tired of waiting, but she had only a
few yards further to go.
She considered the house they were passing. In outward form, it
resembled the four other houses, with three windows facing the road,
a door, and a satellite dish on the roof. As with the others, its
lawn consisted of cracked desert rock, a bit of brush, and a mailbox.
Unlike the others, the windows showed what looked like the bridge of a
massive starship, in which short, three-legged, silver-skinned beings
were having some sort of argument concerning a hand-held instrument of
sinister and invasive design.
"Um..." Rumi commented. "Are those Vralaxans in that house?"
"No," said Shadebeam, who gave no look to the house. "Those are
images of Vra... those guys you said... in the window. That's the
Rydell house. They got as a gift some new windows from an
Ottsamaddawiduan engineering team a couple years back. They don't
always show that particular scene. Sometimes it's an alien landscape
and something disturbing involving leprechauns. Sometimes it's line-
dancing armadillos. And other stuff. A lot of people look at the
house, but at the same time, no one looks *in.*"
"Like their privacy?"
"Cheryl Rydell does," Shadebeam replied. "Sometimes. As for her
son... he doesn't seem to worry about that too much. As you saw."
Rumi remembered, and smirked.
"They're good people," said Shadebeam, "but they got their ways
about 'em. 'Course, same can be said about any of us who live out
here all year 'round, but...." She let the sentence trail off, and
shrugged. "Just be careful of Lemon."
"What do you mean?"
"He's a good kid... for some value of the word 'good,' anyway.
But he doesn't always think before he does something. 'Least, not
about what you or I might. Stuff like, 'hey, that shiny thing there
belongs to someone else, I shouldn't take it,' or 'hey, I don't know
what will happen if I add this stuff to that, so I shouldn't dump it
in,' or 'hey, there are people around, maybe I should put some pants
on.' Like that."
Despite the words, Rumi could detect no actual tone of
disapproval from Shadebeam. In fact, she sounded slightly defensive,
as if talking about herself.
"He's not usually careful about looking before leaping,"
Shadebeam went on. "Or who he gets to jump along with 'im. Just be
careful, 'swhat I'm sayin'."
"You're warning me because..."
"Because he smiled at you." Shadebeam looked at the last of the
windows of the Rydell house, currently displaying the line-dancing
armadillos. "A smile like that don't lead no place good."
Now Shadebeam sounded like she was talking about someone else--
someone who had burned her in the past. Rumi silently digested the
warning, and found herself curious as to exactly what Shadebeam was
warning against. But there were more important things at stake at the
"Aaaand here we are," said Shadebeam, as they reached the porch
of a house nearly identical to the Rydell house, save that the windows
appeared to be ordinary glass. "My home for the last six years. Mind
On opening the door, something whooshed out. Its tar-black
oozing exterior was an abomination against all reason, as were its
multiplicity of red eyes, its slavering, toothsome maw, and its
ichor-dripping tentacles. The horror of its appearance was mitigated
in some part by its size, which was that of a basketball.
"Tek!" it yapped. "Tek tek tek! Tek! Tek!" It spun around
several times, then rubbed against Rumi's leg. Rumi grinned, reached
down into an area where several tentacles writhed, and started
scratching. The hideous hellbeast panted with pleasure.
"Wow," said Shadebeam. "Most people take a while to adjust... if
they don't run."
"I had a hellbeast pet when I was a kid," Rumi explained, as she
shifted her scratching to beneath what, so far as she could tell, was
the creature's chin. "What's his name?"
"Roog," Shadebeam answered. "He was abandoned a couple years
back. Believe it or not, that's his adult size. The experts I talked
to think he's some kind of shoggoth-ish equivalent of a pomeranian."
"Tek!" Roog yapped. "Tek tek!" He spun around some more, and
"Hey!" Shadebeam exclaimed, and clapped her hands. "No slavering
in the house!"
Roog, unfazed by the attempt at discipline, spun around a couple
times and yapped again. Shadebeam sighed, then headed into the
kitchen. Roog followed, and Rumi heard a door open and close.
The lamp-lit room she was in was large, and Rumi suspected that
it had once been several rooms. There were four columns and a waist-
high wall around a set of stairs leading to a basement. Bookshelves
lined nearly every wall, and were filled with books, DVDs,
videocassettes, lamps, and knick-knacks. Chairs of every kind seemed
randomly distributed next to lamp-bearing tables, around the three
computers she saw, and in front of the large-screen TV in what three
fluffy couches demarked as a rec area. The floor was bare wood, and
possibly had been polished some time in the previous decade, though
Rumi would not have cared to place a bet on that. There were two
doors in the wall opposite the kitchen doorway--one to a bathroom that
appeared to be reasonably neat, one to a bedroom that could make no
"Right, Roog is hopefully doing his duty," said Shadebeam, as she
re-entered the room. "So, before you explode or something, tell me
about this dream vision you had with my sister in it."
"I may not be the sorceress I used to be," said Shadebeam, as she
paused to light a cigarette, "but I still got eyes. Particularly if
it's something my sis is involved in. I can see her in your brain
Rumi, who had not been aware that her brain haze was showing,
decided now was an appropriate time to make use of the nearest random
chair. She sat down in a pillowy wicker chair, while Shadebeam poured
herself something amber-colored.
"That's kind of what you see when you look at Slithis, by the
way," Shadebeam said, as she spiked her drink with something green.
"'Brain haze' is just slang for the thaumaturgic haze that just about
anything living generates. Magical energies. The raw stuff that
powers spells and crap like that. Anyone who uses magic can sense it
on some level--they have to, really--though actually using vision on
it is kinda rare. Makes it hard to get around when all you see is
funky swirly crap in front of you."
Rumi had to ask. "How did Slithis's scales get like that?"
Shadebeam sat down, drink in one hand, cigarette in the other.
In the lamplight, she seemed older, somehow, as if the desert had left
a mark that her sister Akane had not received.
"About seven years ago," Shadebeam said, "I was living in
Berkeley, California, in an apartment I shared with my brother Kaoru.
I was just getting out of the shower one day when I got abducted to
an entirely different altiverse--Sfstory, it's called--by a spam-
powered cosmic machine too stupid to describe. Because this altiverse
was basically inhospitable to magic, my magic got left at the door. I
went through epic-scale crap I won't even get into right now, save to
say by the end I was hooked up with Slith, and was being sent back to
this altiverse by the same stupid cosmic machine. Both Slith and I
appeared where I'd been abducted from, about a split-second after I
left. I reabsorbed my magic, for the most part, but Slithis took a
few hits as well--with the effects you saw tonight. It doesn't hurt
him, though he has to do some exercises I taught him to keep from
losing too much energy to it."
"Is that how you stopped being... um... the sorceress you used to
"Nah," said Shadebeam. "That was a year later. Kaoru'd given up
the detective racket and gone back to Japan--he hosts this game show
now that's big in the ratings and involves naked sumo wrestlers and
assorted fish parts--and Slith and I were traveling around the
country, trying to sort out what we wanted to do with our lives, and I
get this idea... 'hey, want to see where Akane and I turned ourselves
in?' I think I may have been a bit ripped at the time." She paused
and sipped. "So, we got out here, took the five-second tour... and
then I sensed it. Out in the desert."
Shadebeam set her drink down on a nearby coaster, then leaned
"Big damn elevator. Right inside this huge hunk of rock.
Crawling with energy. No idea why I never sensed it the last time I
was around. So what do I do?"
Rumi knew what she would have done. "You touched it."
"I touched it," Shadebeam confirmed. "Knocked me right the hell
out. When I woke up, about half my magic was gone, and I knew a lot
more about where that elevator used to go than was good for my sanity.
If LeviaM00se hadn't intervened..."
Shadebeam absently waved her cigarette-bearing hand. "Old dude.
Got antlers on him. Said he was the living incarnation of m00siness,
bla bla bla, here's what you got to do to keep from going mad and to
keep the elevator drained of power, bla bla bla, big-ass wooden
pyramid on fire, bla bla bla, and thus was Burning M00se started."
"Kind of fucked up?"
"I was going to say 'weird,' but sure."
"It's not so bad," said Shadebeam, "save for the part where I
can't leave Malaga for very long, or I start slavering and yapping
like Roog. I can go as far as I want, but if I'm not back in a couple
days, I'm all 'swallow your soul, swallow your soul.'"
"That sucks," Rumi opined.
"Tell me about it," said Shadebeam. "Souls taste worse than
Rumi smirked. Shadebeam took a couple more puffs on her
"Still, it's not a bad life," she said. "I've learned to listen
to the desert, to the silence... and it's changed me, I think, even
more than that elevator." Her eyes met Rumi's, and Rumi tried to
imagine her in the emptiness, with silence all around. It was not
easy; Shadebeam, to her, seemed the kind of person who could find hell
to raise even in desolation. "Slith... the desert's almost like home
to him. Best of all, just when the isolation starts getting too much,
gobs of people come swarming in for three months of noise and chaos."
"That's cool," Rumi opined.
"You gonna be here this year?"
"Good for you," Shadebeam said, a smile leavening her expression.
"Just be sure that if someone asks you if you want a nice Hawaiian
Punch, they know what's in it. More importantly, who made it."
"Seriously. If the punch was brewed by this guy called the
Hawaiian... well, it depends on how you feel about, say, waking up
naked on a giant n-dimensional trampoline with an overwhelming
paranoid certainty that at any minute, twelve-foot-tall blue people
from the center of the earth will surround you and attempt to teach
you to hula." She paused, looked away, and smiled. "Man, that was a
good year." She shook her head.
"Enough procrastination," Shadebeam continued. "I brought you
here for a reason--namely, the magic shields on this house are of the
strength and kind that it's the one place you can talk freely about my
sister and call her Akane instead of 'Miranda.'"
"Do you know where she is?" Rumi asked.
"Nope," said Shadebeam. "Don't want to, either. Less I know,
less I can reveal to a telepath or sorcerer powerful enough to get
past my shields." She took another sip of her drink, then set it down
again. "It's funny, you know? She voluntarily withdrew from the
world with her man, and I got kind of involuntarily withdrawn from the
world with mine. It's like, even apart, we're still mirrors of one
another." She shrugged. "So it goes. Talk."
Rumi took a breath. The urgency she had felt to talk to
Shadebeam had vanished as soon as they had entered her house, and at
last she knew why. The vision had been powerful and sublime, and
setting it to words would rob it, somehow, of what made it special.
Until that moment, Rumi had not realized she held that strange
experience so close, and wondered that she had not felt that way while
it was happening.
But it had to be told.
She took another breath, then started.
(continued in part three, following...)
Gary W. Olson
swede at novitious dot com
More information about the superguy