SG: Rad #97 (4/4): Pants"
Gary W. Olson
swede at novitious.com
Fri Feb 27 04:02:47 PST 2009
(continued from part three, preceding...)
Esteban and Rumiko landed on the lawn outside Shadebeam and
Slithis's house, and were surprised to see they were not the only ones
around. Two three-foot-tall, two-foot-wide people in what appeared to
be sleeveless red vinyl tank tops and shorts stood on the porch. One
was smoking a cigarette. The other was going through what appeared to
be either a set of dance steps or an elaborate dramatization of a need
to find a port-a-potty. The two watched their landing with no
apparent change of emotion.
"They showed up around the time we got here," Esteban said.
"Remember that big machine with the drill thing on one end? Looked
like it came straight up from underground? It did."
They reminded Rumi of one of the beings she had seen with Erasmus
Fancy in her vision: the squat and scowling scientist-type humanoid
who had pressed the button that had formed the picture her vision was
based on. Akane had called them---
"Burrolans," Rumi whispered. "Those are Burrolans, right?"
Esteban cocked his head at Rumi. "Um, yeah. You met them
"No," she replied. "You?"
"Sure," said Esteban. Coco swooped in and settled on his
shoulders. "There were a few at last year's... hey, Urbla, that you?"
The Burrolan who had been practicing a dance stopped and grinned.
Rumi could not say that the face that smiled at her was handsome by
her standards--aside from the general meatiness of the face, the
wideness of the mouth, and the flatness of the nose, there was the
uni-ness of the brow to consider--but it seemed friendly enough.
Urbla shuffled forward a couple steps and waved.
"Right on, Esteban," he said, his voice crackling as if he had
been smoking all of his life, which as far as Rumi knew was possible.
"Got twice as many of us here this year. All the elders'd split their
jumpsuits if they found out. Where's Lemon?"
"He's, um, off somewhere," said Esteban. "Miss Moroboshi wanted
to see us."
"Oh, yeah, go on in," said Urbla. "Koshi and Squappala were just
in there sayin' hi. We'd go in, but, to be honest, we don't like her
hellbeast. Too... yappy."
Esteban nodded, agreeing without agreeing. "Right... say, this
is Rumiko Moroboshi. She's Shade... I mean, Miss Moroboshi's niece."
"An honor, Rumiko," said Urbla. The other Burrolan put out her
cigarette and shuffled forward. "This is my girlfriend, Stemlo. Say
"Hello, Stemlo," said Stemlo.
Urbla scowled. "Lemon has been attempting to teach her surface-
world humor. Either it is not going well or it is; I'm not sure what
I would consider more unfortunate." He shrugged, which on his barrel-
like body seemed more of a jiggle. "A bunch of us are joining the
Hottentottians, the humans, and Polinski in their desert party
tonight. You going to join us this time?"
"Not old enough yet," said Esteban. Urbla shrugged at this.
Stemlo resumed smoking her cigarette. "We'd better go in."
Urbla nodded, then went back to practicing his dance moves. Rumi
followed Esteban through the door and into the living room. Shadebeam
Moroboshi was on the couch near the fireplace, waving her hands as she
talked. The Burrolans, Koshi and Squappala, were listening as they
drank from brown bottles.
"...so then, well, I just had to have some feta cheese, right?"
Shadebeam said. "I mean, after everything I smoked, I had big-time
munchies. I had to have cheese, and it had to be feta. I can't
remember why now, but... well, anyway, I was with William and Thelma,
you've met them, the Dalan ambassadors to the Ottsamaddawidu
Confederation, right? Well, Thelma had these cheeses she'd gotten in
trading stuff earlier that day, and said one of them was a feta. Only
it turned out it was this cheese laced with a temporary body-
One of the Burrolans started laughing at this point, which caused
liquid to come out of his or her nose.
"I mean," Shadebeam continued, "feta cheese, futa cheese, what's
the difference in a vowel, right?" The other Burrolan started
chortling now. Shadebeam held her hands up, palms flat, about two
feet apart. "This much!" she exclaimed, to the evident and messy
delight of the Burrolans. "Man, that was a good year." She looked up
and saw Rumi, Esteban, and Coco. "Oh, hey, guys, come on in, I was
just about to send out for you. Sorry, Kosh, Squap, I got some
spellwork to do..."
"Of course," said one of the Burrolans. "We'll see you tonight?"
"Hopefully," Shadebeam replied. "Slithis for sure." The
Burrolans nodded to Rumi and Esteban as they waddled past and out the
door. Shadebeam got up and headed for a corner of the room by the
door, which Rumi remembered earlier as being a sort of dining area,
but which was now empty save for a large, chalky circle containing
several unfamiliar symbols. "Sorry about that," she said. "Prepping
the translocation spell didn't take as long as I thought, but then the
Burrolans dropped in. Not the best time, but I've been trying to get
more of them to come around for years."
"They gonna let us see their city?" Esteban asked.
"Maybe," said Shadebeam. "No promises. Their elders don't even
know they come up here to party with surface-dwellers yet, though
Squap says they've gotten suspicious. Not sure how they'd take us
coming down there. Which is saying something, because no one bats an
eye when Mike Polinski uses their underground highways to get from
northern Alaska down to here and back every year."
Rumi wondered how Mike got from the surface to these 'underground
highways' and back. She tried to recall if any of her briefings on
Earth life had mentioned subterranean cultures, and decided they had
not. Shadebeam anticipated her question before she could ask it.
"According to them," Shadebeam said, "there's dozens of
civilizations below the surface of the Earth, and they either hate our
guts, think they're too superior to muck about with us, or are just
scared of us and have giant monsters on standby for if we wreck their
caves with a-bomb testing or something. They've got this shared mondo
super-tech that keeps us from detecting their cities and underground
highways. But it's pretty much the Burrolans who maintain the
highways, see, and they do as they please. They help Mike out, and
they'll generally help any of the underground civs with their
maintenance needs for a price. They're also the ones who fixed up the
Ancient Ones's underground shaft system back in the nineties, so that
the Allies... well, you won't find the Burrolans in the official
histories. Tale for another time. Let's get translocating!"
Esteban settled to the floor. Rumi expected to hear creaks and
groans from the wood flooring, but heard surprisingly little. She
remembered that nectarisite was supposed to be very light for all its
"Where's Slithis and Roog?" Rumi asked.
"Sent 'em out the back door when Kosh and Squap came in," said
Shadebeam, as she dipped her fingertips into a whitish powder that
turned orange as it clung to her skin. "Slithis could'a stayed, but
Roog tends to think magic-time is play time, and that's not a good
thing for a yappy shoggeranian to think in the middle of a
translocation spell. This spell is for three, and I didn't want him
to barge into the circle and become one instead of me."
"You're going, too?"
"Can't just send you kids blind into a possibly dangerous
situation," Shadebeam said, as she blew on her fingertips, turning the
orange stuff back to white. "If you were Lemon, well... nah, I guess
not. Anyway, if it weren't for what... um... you said the Green Lady
told you in the vision, I wouldn't be taking you along. Esteban,
here, I sort of have to, 'cause he's the connection. They've got his
brother, which is our best way of fixing on the location of where he
and Cendra and Eivandt and Glum are being held."
"But, The Programmer---"
"Will probably be there," Shadebeam interrupted. "Can't imagine
the Green Lady would put you onto his track if she didn't know you'd
run into him at a vital point. The stupid wannabe zombies sound kind
of like his work, anyway. You guys ready? Esteban?"
Esteban let out a breath Rumi had not realized he had been
holding. For a second, he had his panicked look from before. But it
passed, replaced by determination, or a good facsimile thereof.
"Ready!" he declared.
Coco, who had been playing with Esteban's hair, telepathically
said *we few... we happy few!* He then leapt off of Esteban's
shoulders, twisted in midair, and flew into the left thigh of Los
Pantalones. Rumi was momentarily startled to see the metal ripple and
eddy like liquid as the bonobo disappeared beneath its surface. It
soon returned to an apparent solid state.
"You... um... don't feel him moving around in there, do you?"
Esteban thought about it, and shook his head. "Don't feel much
of anything, really. Not specific to my legs, I mean, like a feeling
my legs are inside something. It feels like Los Pantalones *are* my
legs. I think Coco de-forms when he's in there, and he runs like a
"Like an AI."
Esteban shrugged. "I guess. Never thought about it that way.
An AI, in convenient monkey form."
"You ready, Rumi?" Shadebeam asked, as she stepped inside the
chalk circle in the corner.
"Ready," said Rumi. She and Esteban walked into the circle.
"Anything we need to do?"
"Just keep all of you inside the circle until the ride has come
to a complete stop," said Shadebeam. "And count your fingers and toes
once we've translocated."
"Have you ever lost---"
"Gained, actually," said Shadebeam. "And not on my hands or
feet. Now *that* was a good year... anyway. No chit-chat while I
cast the spell."
Rumi tried to relax, as Shadebeam closed her eyes and reeled off
a series of unfamiliar words. She glanced over at Esteban, who saw
her look and gave her a weak smile. She started to smile back, before
a movement caught her eye.
A lot happened in the following few seconds. Everything in her
sight grew impossibly bright. The front door opened, and Lemon
charged in, a book in his hand. He shouted something, but it was
impossible to hear over the rush of silence. Behind Lemon was
Slithis, trying to catch him. Roog was at Slithis's heels, spinning,
jumping, and slavering. Lemon crossed the circle---
A flash. Then, darkness.
Rumi wondered if she had passed out. Then, overhead fluorescents
She was no longer in Shadebeam's house. Around her were racks
filled with metallic bits and pieces, tools for doing things with said
bits and pieces, and several small lockers. In the corner was a large
metal cart holding parts of a couple primitive Earth computers and a
couple LCD monitors.
Neither Esteban nor Shadebeam were in the room. Nor, for that
matter, were Lemon, Slithis, Roog, Esteban's brother, or anyone else.
Had the translocation spell gone wrong?
Rumi slumped against the rack in the center of the small room.
If she was in enemy territory, she did not just want to call out,
*Coco?* she thought. *Are you out there? Anyone?*
"Crap," Rumi muttered. "Okay." She took a deep breath, trying
to assert control the way she had been taught. "Okay. No panic.
Panic is the enemy of the mind. Panic is the mind-killer. Panic is
the ants in the pants. Panic is the monkey in the wre... wait, that
can't be right. Rrgh!" She took another deep breath. "Okay. No
panic. Maybe we're just a bit separated. Maybe I'm the only one who
went anywhere. Maybe I can still do this. Find my mom and Cendra and
Miguel. Stop the pretend zombies."
She paused, thinking about this, then shook her head with
"Right," she grumbled, "next I'll be thinking I can just sit here
and all of a sudden, in through the door, will just burst--"
All of a sudden, in through the door, a man just burst. Though
his white dress shirt was torn, his black tie was in tatters, his
black dress slacks were filled with monkey-shaped lumps, and his eyes
were bulging out in ways they only ought to on the surface of Mars,
she recognized him. The man in the picture. The one that Akane, as
'Miranda Satori,' had told her dad and her Uncle Manny to find.
"--The Programmer!" she exclaimed.
"I've got demon monkeys in my pants!" he yelled. One of his legs
slid out from under him, and he crashed into a corner rack filled with
assorted small items. "Demon monkeys! In my pants!"
He regained his feet, and, still bug-eyed, started trying to
unbuckle his belt. Rumi, whose teachers had also instructed her on
what to do when an unwelcome someone insisted on showing why his pants
were bulging, gave him a psychokinetic blast. Right in the demon
The Programmer slumped to the ground, still bug-eyed. All at
once, the monkey-shaped lumps in his pants vanished, and two demon
monkeys appeared next to him, looking dazed. They shook it off,
looked up at her, looked at the door, and disappeared.
"I named," said The Programmer, his voice a wheeze, "the kind
If The Programmer had any more revelations of this nature to
make, he passed out before he could do so.
"Crap," said Rumi, as she regarded The Programmer's passed-out
form. "What am I going to do *now?*"
WHAT IS RUMI GOING TO DO *NOW?*
WILL THE PROGRAMMER RECOVER?
WILL HE REGRET OWNING PANTS LOOSE ENOUGH TO HOUSE TWO DEMON MONKEYS IN
ADDITION TO HIMSELF?
WILL ESTEBAN, ASSUMING HE'S EVEN AROUND NOW, OVERCOME HIS FEAR AND BE
A GOOD SUPERGUY?
WILL LEMON LEARN TO DIAL HIMSELF DOWN ONCE IN A WHILE?
WILL RAD, POWERLESS, BE ABLE TO CONTEND WITH THE WILES OF CAPELLA?
WILL RAD, POWERLESS, BE ABLE TO MAINTAIN HIS TAN EFFECTIVELY?
WILL THE NEXT EPISODE BE EVEN LONGER THAN THIS ONE?
There are no answers to these questions.
Copyright (c) 2009 by Gary W. Olson. All Rights Reserved.
Gary W. Olson
swede at novitious dot com
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