Dumping the Diadem
Week 3, Loose ends - Wu, David & Fogi
We left our heroes in the smoking ruins of part of the pantope's gardens, having just fought off a boarding part of worldbenders and, more importantly having THROWN AWAY THE DIADEM.
We absorb this new development while the Captain and Daewen get the pantope patched up. They set robots to work fixing the dome and repairing the garden, and manage to stabilize the architecture a lot. The doors still flutter, but much less than ever before in our experience of the pantope. The Captain figures he can get the pantope back in complete working order in a couple of years.
Ultimately, the Captain would like us all to go home, but where's "home"? Several of us (like Lorelei) don't want to go back where we came from, and most of us are no longer suited to our old homes anyway. Pfusand wants to resume her Naza shape and go back to her husband and child on Akon-Naza; Tom wants to go back to the Jack (though the Captain says he can't do so, except incognito, for at least 30 years after his departure date); Chris and Sophie want to visit Middle Earth in the Second Age (but that looks risky, since it's a worldbender setting); Daewen wants to go looking for Faerie; etc. Many of us want to go on traveling, at least for a little while.
Chris suggests building ourselves a pantope of our own by scavenging the necessary bits of technology or (if that's handier) magic. The Captain and Daewen both favor this idea. The Captain explains that trying to buy a pantope is not that easy, since there are several organizations that believe they should control all the pantopes there are. Awkward, what? He hints that the "Dance of Hours" is stolen, the original owners believing that it was destroyed. This was why it was such a bad idea to seek a pantope garage.
Daewen says that she believes she could get us an omniport (a necessary part of a pantope) if we dropped her off back at her home, 300th-century Helene.
But before we do all that, we have a lot of loose ends to tie up. We argue about them a good deal. They include:
Cantrel agitates for going after Wu next. According to the Serving System's records, Dr. Wu was last seen during the trouble Victoria had trying to meet us on Jonathan's line. The pantope was attacked by worldbenders; Wu, Fogi, and the worldbender guard were knocked out of stasis. The worldbender seized what he thought was an omniport case (in fact, it was the portable house from Toon) and tried to escape. Fogi grabbed the case holding the portable house and fell out through the fluttering door, around 1935, near Hollywood, on Jonathan's line. The worldbender, with Wu in hot pursuit, fell out near Tombstone, Arizona, in 1943, on the same timeline.
We arm ourselves with stun guns, dress up in 1940s styles provided by Wardrobe, and disembark a couple of blocks away and about half an hour ahead of Wu's arrival. The rescue party consists of Cantrel, Pfusand, Lorelei, Chris, Gene, and Tom.
It's early evening, in autumn, cool enough to coax a bit of mist from the dry air. A short walk takes us to the vicinity of the hardware store and the movie theater Victoria glimpsed when Wu and the worldbender bailed out. We find a crowd gathered in front of a small store next to the movie theater. The store appears to be a comic-book store or something like it. Tom taps a shoulder and asks, "What's up?"
"Personal appearance," the man explains.
"Douglas Fairbanks?" hazards Chris.
The man looks at him strangely. "No. Har de Har Hare. The Toon."
TOON?! We quickly glance at ourselves to make sure we are in 3-D. We also glance at the theater marquee, which reads, "O.K. Cinema. Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Special Guest Appearance by Har de Har Hare."
"What does he mean, Toon?" Pfusand splutters to Tom.
"Don't you remember being a talking horse?"
"Of course, of course. But..."
"Let's get out of here," urges Cantrel, who, as you may recall, turned into a skunk last time he got involved with cartoons.
We hurry on to the corner where we expect Wu and the worldbender to appear. Cantrel and Pfusand take up a position behind their line of entrance, Lorelei lingers on the far side of the street from the theater, and Tom, Chris, and Gene take up positions in the alleyway facing the upcoming entrance. Chris turns invisible and flits to the roof of the building; Tom also vanishes and scales the fire escape.
Just then, a long black limo comes driving up, causing excitement in the crowd. It kicks up rather a lot of dust, considering the moist air and the paved streets. Something appears in the dust -- a phantom stagecoach. It vanishes, and a voice behind Cantrel asks, "Who might you be, pardner?" Turning, Cantrel sees a ghostly man with a shotgun, walrus mustache, and something like a trenchcoat. "Cantrel," he answers. "Did you say Quantrell?" "NO. Cantrel." (Quantrell's Raiders were a Union terrorist group in the American Civil War. Cantrel doesn't know this, but knows he doesn't want to be taken for anyone the ghost knows.)
The dust is still lingering in the street. A second band of cowboy ghosts appears in it. Several of us glimpse the worldbender and Wu pop out of the air and dash through it. Cantrel starts to shout to Wu but is interrupted by a bullet striking his shoulder. The ghosts open fire on each other. Those with stunners and not engaged with ghosts open fire on Wu and the worldbender. They fall and Tom and Gene move forward to collect them. Lorelei starts running into the dust as well.
In a frantic mix of crawling, hiding, and TK, we pull our people out of the fray. Chris has pulled Wu to the roof before the shooting started. Lorelei casts a sleep spell at the ghosts, then gets TK'd off stage by Gene. Chris reels in the worldbender, too.
Then the dust settles, the ghosts vanish away, and the crown -- which had been standing stock still and making "oo" noises -- bursts into applause. Chris mutters to the air, "Lee, we need a door." "Like this?" inquired the Captain brightly, opening one just behind him.
We all head for the door. As Cantrel crosses the street to do so, a small boy accosts him. "Gee, Mister, did you get shot?" "Yep. All part of the show, kid," says Cantrel, who catches on fast. "I figured. You forgot the blood."
Oh? Cantrel hadn't looked at his injured shoulder, feeling he knew the bad news already. But, in fact, there is no blood. Instead, something metallic gleams through the hole in his clothing and armor.
A bit before Cantrel and Pfusand enter the door on the roof, there is another burst of applause from the crowd. Looking down, we see a ... rabbit, sort of, laughing maniacally as he cartwheels along the street on his hands, feet, and ear-tips. A cartoon rabbit, of course, and presumably Har de Har Hare.
We detach. What do we do with the worldbender? Nothing, we decide. We search him inside and out for any weapons or valuables, then dump him unconscious and naked back on the roof of the building.
It appears that the ghostly replay of the famous gunfight was a cartoon orchestrated by Mr. Hare. On inspection, we find Cantrel's shoulder is fractured. The bullet, however, has flattened out into a metallic pancake, and rather rubbery for metal, at that. Tom inspects it and tries to analyze it in the lab. Before it vanishes, he decides it is something like ectoplasm -- a Toon bullet, presumably.
We then try to open on Fogi. And fail. And fail. The Captain opines we are timelocked out. In fact, we now suspect that Fogi ran away to Hollywood, turned back into a cartoon chicken (his original form), and established Toon Town. Of course, we can't rescue him now, since we have already suffered the effects of that career. Well, it seems like a successful career, so th-th-th-th-th-that's all, Fogi.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.