Introduction

This blog is about the ongoing adventures of Frank Clay, the Quantum Unstable Man, and his team. This is the next draft of the story that was told a daily basis at https://twitter.com/QuantumUnstable then collected weekly at http://thequantumlyunstableman.tumblr.com/. Any questions or comments are appreciated.

Check out the Character List for Book One
Start from the Beginning
Check out the Character List for Book Two
Or jump to the beginning of Book Two.
Or if you’re caught up, see the Complete Character List that is (more or less) kept up to date.

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At the Mercy of the Squid People

“Who are you!?” the lead squidman shouted. “What are you doing here!?”

“My name is Frank and I’m…”

“What are you!?” the squidman interrupted. “What kind of strange creature have the Merapolians concocted now?”

“Um…well, I wasn’t concocted by anyone. I’m…”

“You are a spy for the Merapolians!”

“I’m not a…”

“Liar! You will die for your lies!”

“No, I’m not lying,” I pleaded. “I’m not a spy!”

“You came from Merapolis!” the squid man ylled. “We saw you! We saw you with those fishtail fiends and their mutated monsters! You invaded our homes in their transport!”

“We didn’t…” I tried to start.

“Liar!”

“I’m not…”

“Do you think we are blind! We can see! We can see you and your Merapolian creations swimming here on your transport, destroying our defenses! We can see!”

“I’m not…” I tried yet again.

“You are!”

“If you’d just let me finish, I’d…”

“You will nothing!”

“I just want to tell you what’s going on!” I screamed at them, bubbles rising from my rebreather.

“I know what’s ‘going on’,” he repeated. “You are being interrogated and you will tell us everything you know about your Merapolian masters and their evil plans to destroy our city.”

“There are no evil plans. I don’t want to destroy your city! No one does! We’re here to save our friends. I just want to save my friends. All of them. And you took them. All of them. I just want them back.”

“Your friends are dead,” the squid man replied. “All of them.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“And you will be dead soon, as well, if you don’t tell us what we want to know,” the squid man continued, as if I hadn’t said anything. “Tell us what the Merapolians have planned. Tell us what this attack was about. Tell us what that strange creature we found out in the waves was.”

“Strange creature?” Well, that caught my interest. “What strange creature? Maybe you should show me this strange creature and then I can tell you what it is.”

The squidpeople took a second to talk amongst themselves. I thought maybe I had gotten through to them, that maybe they’d show me where Gnomenasher was. “Then it’s decided,” the Squidman said, turning back toward me. This was it. They were going to take me to go see… “We’ll kill him.”

“What?” I exclaimed. “No. What are you talking about? I was trying to help you!”

“You think I am a fool, Merapolian spy?” the squidperson laughed. At least, I think it was a laugh. “I will not fall for your tricks. You came here for your monster and now you wish to unleash him!”

“Unleash him? He’s a gerbil and we’re in the bottom of the sea. What do you think he could do to you? Drown at you?”

“Yes. That’s what we thought at first, as well, but we know the Merapolians would never be so foolish as to try to attack us with a landbreather.”

“Except the Meropolians have nothing to do with Gnomenasher,” I told him .“They’ve never even seem him before. The only thing the Meropolians have to do with us is that they saved us from the tentacle monster, the giant leechvine.”

“Yes, the Leechvine,” the squidman said, casting strange glanced to his comrades. “Tell us how you destroyed it. You may be worth keeping alive, spy, if you tell us how your Merapolian masters caused it to implode.”

“We didn’’t…” I started, but realized an argument might not be my best course of action. “Ok. I’ll tell how we defeated the Giant Leechvine if you take me to Gnomenasher.”

The squidpeople convened again and when they were done, the leader said, “Fine, Spy. We’ll take you to your monster.”

And I prepared to leave, hoping we would just be able to go like this. But clearly I was a fool to think it would ever be that easy. One of the dark gray squid people tossed a metal disc in front of them, which immediately grew multiple legs and then shot toward me like a torpedo. The disc smacked me hard in the chest, pushing me back, and before I could recover, it wrapped itself around me, pinning my arms against my sides. I tried to fight it, but then I felt a tug and realized that I was in a worse position than I thought. Not only was I ensnared, but I was also leashed.

I tried to struggle against my bindings but there was no give, no room to slip out, no way I could break free. The squidpeople grew tired with my attempts to escape and began to pull me toward the door. It puckered open and they pulled me out through it.

At first I thought they had brought me out into the big open ocean as I could see it all around us. Everywhere I looked there was underwater life swimming in every direction. But I soon realized that we weren’t swimming free, but were instead in some kind of tubular structure made of a transparent material. As I looked out into the squid city, Lowarden, I could see various modules floating in the water of varying size. Presumably – though it was quite hard to tell with all the multicolored fish swimming about – the modules were all different rooms connected through the transparent tubular structure.

But just as I began to wonder which one of those rooms held Gnomenasher, the tranquil vista was thrown into chaos. Explosions at the base of the complex sent the sealife swimming for safety. The tube rattled and the squid people looked upset. They glanced at each other before finally turning their gazes, and weapons, on me. “What did you do!?”

to be continued…

In the Belly of the Robotic Beast

The throat of the giant was surprisingly hard. Was it its bones that I was banging against, its ribcage? It was a strange thought to have while being devoured, but I was still in one piece when I smacked hard into its…its stomach? I’ve studied anatomy and biology and xenobiology. A stomach wasn’t supposed to feel like this. It wasn’t supposed to be so…roomy.

I swam closer to the stomach lining and ran my hand along it. It felt surprisingly smooth and not at all elastic. I banged against the side. There was no give and the sound it gave off was weirdly…metallic. And the light from the rebreather reflected off its side. Organs weren’t reflective. Even if they were underwater creatures from another dimension, their stomach wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Then what the hell was going on? Where the hell was I? What was this monster? And what was it going to do to me? I knew I couldn’t just sit here and wait. If this were an actual stomach, waiting would just get me digested, but even if it weren’t, there wasn’t going to be rainbows and sunshine on the other end. I began to start searching for a way out and quickly found there was only one: the way I came in.

I began to inspect the opening. There was a puffed-up rubbery material around the hole, blocking my escape. Presumably it could deflate when the monster was swallowing. As I slipped my hands through the opening that I was desperately trying not to think of as a sphincter, I braced myself for any surprises. I managed to get about shoulder deep, but from there I was in trouble. I was hoping to find a button or lever that would open the passage, but instead I found only barbs.

As I pushed both my arms through the opening, I could feel sharp edges push against my skin. Foolishly I kept going until I felt it dig into my flesh. It hurt too much to keep going. I had no choice but to pull my hands back out. I could see the blood flowing from the cuts by the light of my rebreather. It seemed who had ever designed this monstrosity had set the opening to make it easy for people to enter, but very painful for them to leave. But if I wasn’t going to be able to leave the way I came in then I had no idea how I was going to get out.

I was also stuck in water, so I could do nothing to stop the bleeding. Strangely enough, I felt no sting from the water, which made me believe that this ocean was somehow completely freshwater. How that could help me, I didn’t know, but it was at least something to ponder in my little prison.

As time went by, I began to probe the opening again, trying to find a way to get through, but the barbs made it slow going. I was barely past the first layer when I was surprised by the passageway suddenly opening on its own. Then with a great force, the water was expelled out of the stomach and me quite forcefully with it. In less than a second I went flying back up the throat, through the large open mouth, and out into an all new cell.

The cell was, of course, filled with water, so I still had to suffer through that problem. There was a door on the far side. I started to move toward it when I noticed movement behind me. I turned and almost screamed when I saw a giant mouth behind me. It took me another second to realize it was just the giant robot eel. But that was no great relief. The last thing I wanted was to do was fight that thing again.

At least one thing went my way. I breathed a bubbly sigh of relief when it turned out the robot wasn’t preparing to strike again, but was instead slowly receding from the room. There was a port on the wall that it was sliding out through. If it could go out that way, maybe I could, too. But when the eel was gone, the port sealed behind it. I tried to reopen it, but it was no good.

It’s fine, I told myself, there was still the door across the room I had yet to try. But as I started to swim toward it, the door slid open. For a brief second, I had the misguided thought that I was going to be let go, that I was going to be free. But before I could really get my hopes up, my captors swam into the room. Five of them.

There was no question they were squid people. I could see their tentacles. Three of the people were red. The other two appeared to be a dark gray. They had large black eyes and heads that raised to a point. Four of them were holding guns.

Or at least I think they were guns. They looked quite gun-like, but then they were squid-people, we were underwater, and I was breathing through a collar that was pumping oxygen directly into my bloodstream, so who really knew what was what. Still, they looked pretty threatening.

“Hi,” I said, trying to make nice. I wasn’t here to hurt them. They weren’t my enemies. I didn’t see any reason why this couldn’t end beneficial to both of us. They, however, did not see things the same way.

to be continued….

Can’t Stop the Mouth from Closing

There seemed to be at least a dozen of them. It was hard to get a completely accurate count while they were rushing toward us. However, I was able to a few observations. The main thing I noticed about them was the bottom half of their bodies, in that they didn’t have legs or even fishtails like the Meropolians. Instead, the lower half of their bodies were made up by tentacles. At first, I mistakenly thought that they were riding octopi, but then I soon realized that, no, those was actually their legs. They were squid people and they were attacking us.

“Run!” I yelled as I began to swim as fast a I could away from our attackers. Pem, the Sheriff, and Toleuk all swam with me. But Tam, however, chose to fight, firing laser blasts into the oncoming squid person horde. This took the squid people by surprise. They clearly had no been expecting a counter-attack. Their charge broke down into panic as they began to retreat.

While I stopped to admire Tam’s work, the others did not. They continued swimming onwards, oblivious to the fact that they were no longer being chased. “Nicely done,” I said as I swam up to Tam, trying to avoid the unconscious squid people, floating about them.

“Thank you,” they said. “But they weren’t..”

“Hold that thought,” I told them. “Because we need to hurry up and catch up to the others.”

“The others?” Tam looked for them.

“Yeah, they never stopped running, so they’re a bit down the ways.”

“Running,” Tam sneered, bubbles coming out of their nose. “Let’s go.” Before they started swimming after them, Tam added, “Well, they didn’t even slow down, did they?”

We swam after them as best we could, calling to them to stop, but they didn’t seem to be able to hear us for the longest time. Then, finally, I noticed the Sheriff glance over his shoulder. After a second glance, he got the others to finally come to a stop. All three of them turned around and waved for us to catch up. Though that helped no one, as we were already on our way, Tam going much faster than I. But their actions did have more dire consequences, as while they were waving us, they were unable to see what was happening ahead of them, namely that a giant sea monster was emerging from out the sand right behind their backs.

All we, Tam and I, could see of the monster was its large open mouth towering over the others. We tried to yell for them to move, to get out of the way, but we were too late and they were too slow. By the time they turned back around to see what was happening behind them, the mouth was already closing down around them.

Tam immediately accelerated, leaving me in the dust. As they got near, they began firing lasers at the monster, trying to stop it from eating our friends. I, on the other hand, was left unable to do more than keep swimming and yell as loud as I could the word, “Run!” But in the end, it didn’t matter. Neither of us could save our friends from disappearing into the mouth of that monster.

The creature then proceeded to sink back down into the ground. “Now what?” I said when I caught up to Tam. I half-expected them to suggest we turn back. With just the two of us, it seemed unlikely we would be able to save Gnomenasher on our own and Tam had never really been a fan of this plan. The last thing I had expected them to do was to dive down into the ground in pursuit of the monster. But Tam did that and that’s what happened.

I was suddenly all alone at the bottom of the sea, in the middle of the ocean in a dimension I now had no way to get out of.

Things were not looking up for me.

Going back to Merapolis was not an option. Firstly, because I did not really know the way back to the city. And secondly, because I just couldn’t abandon my friends. I certainly couldn’t get home without them. I had to hope that they were still alive. I couldn’t believe otherwise, I refused. And if they were alive, then they were in danger. I had to save them. I was going to save them. I began swimming onward.

It was lonely swimming by myself. I filled the time by worrying about if I was going the right way or not. Those worries disappeared, however, as I began to notice an object heading my way. As we got closer to each other, it continued to get larger and larger. This large mysterious object didn’t move like any submarine I had seen. Instead, it wriggled through the water like an eel, like a giant (presumably) killer eel. I immediately wanted to turn and run, but I had very strong doubts that I could get away. For one, it was much faster than me. And two, I was the visitor here, down under the water, this was its home. Really, my only chance of survival was to hide. But where to hide? There were no trees or bushes down here to hide in. No caves or giant corral reefs. I was out here in the open with nowhere to go.

I dropped to the seafloor and tried to bury myself underneath the sand. I’d seen fish do it in documentaries, why couldn’t it work for me? Because I was bigger than most fish and my hands weren’t made for digging, for starters, but I kept trying anyway. I was pretty much out of other options.

The giant eel was upon me before I had even made a dent on the seafloor. Its mouth opened wide, more than large enough to fit me inside. But just as it started to strike, I leapt out of its path and began swimming as hard as I could. The giant mouth went right by me, but it sent me spinning around in its wake.

By the time, I righted myself, the eel was already twisting its head back toward me. I knew that this time I wasn’t going to escape. I could see its sharp fangs glint in the light provided by the rebreather as it struck. I could see down the dark chasm that was its throat as I went falling into it. It swallowed me whole and I went bouncing down its gullet.

to be continued…

No One Will Listen to Pem

We swam onwards. Some of us had an easier time with it than others. Tam, whose suit propelled them forward, ended up towing the trolls behind them. But eventually we all got tired, even the native swimmer Pem. The city was much further away then we would have hoped. “Maybe we could go back and get another wagon?” Crag said.

“Another…what?” Pem asked, confused by the troll’s language choice.

“A transport,” I clarified. “He wants another transport.”

Pem was not put at ease. “Are you kidding me? Do you think they’re going to let me take another one out? I barely had permission to take that one. The only reason I was allowed that one was because they wanted you all out of there so badly that they would have done nearly anything to get it done. Bringing you back will just get me in trouble.”

“More trouble than dying out here in the middle of the ocean?”

“Yes. A lot more.”

“Oh,” I said because what argument could I make against someone who’d rather put his life at risk than risk getting into trouble with his superiors?

So we started swimming again because what other choice did we have. We had been going for a few hours before someone noticed Crag was gone. “Where did he go?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Toleuk said. “He was here one minute and then he wasn’t.”

“How long ago was that?”

“I don’t know.”

“When did you last see him?”

“Hard to say. It’s not like there’s a sun to tell the time down here.”

“He was with us when we stopped,” the Sheriff said. “Did he start swimming with us when we started up again?”

“Wait,” Tam interrupted. “Where are the other deputies?”

We turned to see that we were indeed a few men down. “Where did they go?” I asked. “Did anyone see them leave?”

“They wouldn’t have just wandered off,” the Sheriff said. “I know my deputies.”

“Then where are they?”

And that’s when the giant clam erupted from the ground, opened its shell, and enveloped Domoban before pulling him back under the ground. The Sheriff raced to save him, but he was much too late. The giant troll couldn’t swim anywhere near fast enough to save his comrade. But he wouldn’t give up. The Sheriff immediately began to dig into the dirt. “There’s no point,” Pem said. “He’s gone. The clam-mine’s have him.”

“You mean they’re dead?” the Sheriff asked, aghast.

“Not necessarily,” Pem replied, though I couldn’t tell if he was being sincere or just trying to placate the large, desperate troll. “That all depends on the Lowardens.”

“You know who has my deputies?”

“You know where the blip is?” I asked. “You know where Gnomenasher is?”

“I wasn’t certain before, but there seems to be no doubt now. This is Lowardenite technology. And that is the last place we wanted to go.”

“And why is that?” Tam asked.

“Because the Lowarden are cruel and devious creatures. You’ve seen the technology they use.”

“I’ve seen their defensive devices that activated because we crossed into their territory.”

“You’re taking their side!?” Pem yelled, suddenly growing furious. “They kidnapped your jubel!”

“Gerbil,” Tam corrected. “And we don’t know why they took it. Maybe they were just trying to save its life.”

“Save its life?” Pem laughed. “These are the Lowardens we’re talking about here. They don’t save lives. They take them.”

Tam looked ready to argue, but the Sheriff jumped in. “What about my deputies? What about my people? Can we still save them?”

“Maybe,” Pem said. “But the smarter thing would be for us to turn around now and for me to take you back home. You should forget this.”

“Forget about my people?” the Sheriff was appalled. “Forget about my friends? I can’t believe you would suggest such a thing!”

“I’m suggesting you choose life over throwing it away. There’s no reason for any more of us to do die today.”

“I thought you said they were still alive.”

“I said they could be, possibly. But if the Lowardens have them, they won’t be alive for long.”

“Well, then we should stop wasting time and go get them!”

“I agree,” I told them. “Our friends need saving.”

“Why won’t any of you listen to me?” Pem asked, fervently. “There is danger ahead.”

“There’s always danger, that doesn’t mean we should avoid it. If you want to leave, Pem, then go ahead. We’re not going to force you to go with us to save people you don’t know.”

“And abandon a bunch of landbreathers in the middle of the ocean as they face off against dangers they are clueless about? What kind of man would that make me?”

“Don’t pressure yourself into…” I tried to say, but he cut me off.

“Let’s just do this.”

“Finally,” Tam grumbled and we began to swim forward, the five of us who were left. But it wasn’t long before they said, “We’re being followed.”

“What?” I asked, looking around.

“Don’t look, you idiot.”

But it was too late, I had already looked and, worse, they had seen that I had looked. And, so, they attacked.

to be continued…

The Rescue Mission Hits a Bit of a Snag

Having gotten Tam on board, I turned to the Sheriff. “If you and your deputies are too tired to come, they don’t have to. We’ve got this.”

“Whether it’s Gnomenasher or your friends,” the Sheriff replied, “we’re in as well. We came to help get you home. We’re not quitting now.”

“Well, I’m not going,” Haf said, putting a damper on our growing mood of unity,

“Oh, thanks,” Pem grumbled. “You know one of us is going to have to go with them until they’re out of here.”

“You’d rather deal with the LeechVine that doesn’t realize its people now? Because if you would…”

“No,” Pem stopped her there. “I’ll deal with the bipeds. You can have the leechvine all to yourself.”

Haf gave him an insincere smile. “You’re so kind.”

With that resolved, Pem led us down to the garage where we piled into what resembled a hovercraft if it had been designed to work underwater. There was no top, only a windshield, presumably to protect us from drag, except in this case the drag would be coming from water not wind. So I guess that makes it a watershield.

After we all piled into the craft, we sailed off into the ocean. It was a bit of a new experience for me, driving around under the sea without a roof over my head. But as far as strangeness goes, it really barely registered compared to the rest of the trip. I was driving out to save a giant gerbil with a bunch of trolls and a surly time-traveler.

“We’re coming up on the location of the blip,” Pem said as he slowed the seacraft down. “We’re going to have to be very careful. We don’t know what’s waiting us, but I’m getting a lot of activity up ahead. So be prepared for anything.”

And that’s when tentacles shot out of the ground and began trying to grab us. They were everywhere! It was like a forest of them. For a second, I began to fear that leechvine had returned. I didn’t want to be caught by that thing again. That was until I saw what it really was and then I reconsidered. It was a giant squid creature. It’s central body was several times bigger than our craft and it had over a dozen massive limbs.

Pem was able to keep us from its grasp but he couldn’t avoid the limbs altogether. We were struck hard by one of them and the craft went tumbling. We had no choice but to scatter and abandon our transport. Some of managed to get free of the vehicle with greater ease than others. Pem and Tam got away fine with almost no difficulty. But the trolls, however, had a much more difficult time. They became easy prey for the monster. It wrapped them up in its tentacles one after the other and I seemed destined to join them. But as a gigantic tentacle reached for me, and escape seemed unlikely, the giant squid suddenly began to convulse. The squid’s tentacles began to flail about randomly. Unfortunately, randomly flailing tentacles were still fairly dangerous to us all.

I was tossed back and forth by the surging waters, thrown upside down and all around. And just when it seemed to be at its worse. The squid exploded and I was thrown back through the waters with incredible force. If we had been on land, I would’ve smashed headlong into a wall or a cave or just slammed into the ground, but since we were in the ocean, I was slowed down by the water that pressed back against me. For the most part, it left me confused and mildly bruises, which was much preferred to broken legs and mildly concussed.

After righting myself, I swam back to the others. “What the hell just happened?”

“That was clearly a Lowardian borderbot,” Pem replied, “but I have no idea why it malfunctioned like that. They’re usually much better made.”

“It was made fairly well,” Tam said. “For primatives. But they completely slacked on their hackingware. I was able to override it easily. I slipped into its CPU, rearranged its mission statement, randomized its targeting systems, and greatly overclocked its OS. Piece of Cake.”

“Huh?” Crag grunted.

“They made it explode,” I explained.

“You couldn’t have done that before we lost our transport?” Pem grumbled, unhappily.

“Maybe you should build better transports,” Tam retorted.

“We have better transports! But I don’t get to check them out just so I can taxi landpeople around.”

“Fair enough,” I said, cutting in before they got into a fight, “but we can still follow the signal, right?”

“Yes, we can follow the signal,” Tam said. “I don’t need any of the Merapolian technology to track the ‘exotic particles’. I’m not even sure why we even needed this merapolian in the first place.”

“Because this is their home. He knows things about this world that we don’t.”

Tam glared at me, presumably unhappy that I had actually had a semi-valid answer. “That didn’t save us from that giant mechanical cephalopod, did it?”

“I had hoped that we’d be able to avoid the borderbot,” Pem said to his own defense, “since we were not in an attack vessel. But apparently the size of our vessel was not seen as little of a threat as I had hoped.”

“Never underestimate what mayhem one can get up to, no matter the size of their vessel,” Tam said, straight-faced.

“But can we still get there?” the Sheriff asked. “We need to save Gnomenasher. He’s counting on us.”

“The Giant Gerbil?” Tam snickered.

“Yes. The Giant Gerbil.”

“No offense, Sheriff, but I don’t think the gerbil has any idea we’re coming to rescue it.”

“It doesn’t matter if he knows or not,” I said, once again trying to keep Tam from instigating a fight. “What matters is that he needs us and that we’ll be there whenever he does.”

“That’s all well and good,” Pem said. “But how are we going to get there to save him? We don’t have a transport.”

“We swim,” I said.

“What about the traps they have laid out for us?”

“Avoiding ones like this shouldn’t be a problem,” Tam said. “Now that I know what to be on the lookout for.”

“And traps that are not like this?” Domoban asked.

“We’ll all just have to do our best to avoid those, won’t we?”

to be continued…

In Search of a Giant Gerbil

“No way?” Haf laughed. “Really?”

The Sheriff glared at her. “Yes, really. Not only do we care greatly for him. But Gnomenasher is also a magic finder. He can sniff out a drop of magic miles away. We’ll never be able to find the portal without him. The portal is invisible and over open water. There are no landmarks. Without Gnomenasher, we’ll be stuck here forever!”

“Well, no one wants that,” the merwoman said. She seemed to think this was a joke, but no one else was laughing. “But if he is a airbreather like you, then I don’t know what to tell you. It must be too late for him by now.”

“She does have a point,” I said. “We lost contact with him when we were on the island. The island’s gone now. I think we may have lost him for good.”

The trolls were quiet for a few moments, then the Sheriff said through gritted teeth, “Fine. If there’s nothing we can do about it, then there’s nothing we can do. But that still leaves the problem of getting home. Without Gnomenasher, how are we going to find the portal home?”

“We should be able to find your portal no problem,” Haf said.

“We can?” Pem asked.

“Sure. We just use our satellites to search for exotic matter.”

“Assuming that the portals are always open,” I said, “as I guess we hope they are, they should be expelling some form of matter at all times. Even if they’re just on the subatomic level, something should be coming out, like an accretion disc on a black hole.”

“Whatever that means,” the Sheriff said. “But will it work?”

“I don’t know,” Pem replied, “but it’s certainly worth a shot.”

We all swam off to their communications laboratory where dozens of other merpeople were working. As we made our way toward the lab, I took in the city around us. It was strange seeing all these mermen and merwomen and merchildren just living their lives. They were strange and exotic to me, but here I was the strange one. Though, to be honest, I think they found the trolls even stranger than they did me.

When we reached the lab, Pem swam right up to the machine and moved a few columns about. The crystal display bursted into life. “That should do it.”

“This is us,” Haf said, pointing at one of the dots on the display. “So presumably that is you. This one is near where we found you, so that must be the portal.”

“Wait,” I said. “That’s us. That’s the portal. Then what,” I said pointing to the third dot on the screen, “is this one?”

“That’s…” Haf started, but came up short. She looked closer at the screen. “I don’t know what that is.”

Pem moved closer so he could see. “Whatever it is, it’s on the move.”

“Where’s it going?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

“I can’t help with the where it’s going,” Tam said. “But it certainly looks like where it was coming from, is right around here.”

“Something else came through the portal?” Pem asked, sounding concerned. “What other creatures could you have unleashed on our unsuspecting world?”

“No one,” the Sheriff said. “We left people by the portal, but they would have never come through without my command.”

“That’s what you say.”

“It’s the truth.”

“If not some other weird creature from your world, then what could that thing be?”

“You misunderstand me,” the Sheriff said. “I think a weird creature from our world is exactly what this thing is.”

“Excuse me?” Pem said, confused.

“You see, I think this creature is Gnomenasher.”

“Your magicfinding giant gerbil?” Tam asked

“Exactly!”

“That’s incredibly unlikely,” Pem said. “It is highly improbable that your ‘gerbil’ could have survived in this environment. Judging by the rest of you, it’s most likely he’s also a land dweller and unable to breath water.”

The Sheriff countered simply with, “It’s him.”

“I think it’s worth a look,” I said.

“Oh, come on,” Tam countered. “We’re not going to waste time because a blip could be a gerbil, are we?”

“Tam, we need to the gerbil to find the portal.”

“Are you kidding me?” They pointed at the screen. “The portal’s right there!”

“Ok,” I relented, seeing that that wasn’t getting us anywhere. “How about we do it because Gnomenasher is important to them.”

“You know what should be important to them,” Tam replied. “Living to see another day. Having other days for them to live to see.”

“Fine. Fair enough. But what if that blip isn’t Gnomenasher? What if it’s Kink? Or Wu? Or G’fon? Shouldn’t we go looking for them?”

“It’s not G’fon or Kink or your friend, Lu Wu,” Tam replied, growing frustrated with me.

“How can you know that? You were sent here. Why not them?”

“Yes, I was sent here by those mysterious cloaked figures, but you were not. We weren’t all sent to the same world. Whatever those hooded figures were, they wanted us to be scattered across the omnibrane.”

“Maybe. But you have to admit there’s a possibility that that is a friend.”

Tam glared at me, then sighed. “Fine…there’s a possibility.”

“So we’re agreed. We’re going to go find out who that is and we’re going to save them.”

“Unless that someone turns out to be something horrible that wants to kill us,” Tam said. “And then we will all die.”

“We just escaped from something horrible that wanted to kill us. We want to go back to something horrible that wants to kill us. When isn’t there something horrible that wants to kill us? That’s the life we live. We might as well try to save someone while we’re at it.”

“You win, Frank. We’re going to go risk our lives and the future of the omnibrane for some stupid gerbil. Let’s just do it already.”

to be continued…

That Girl was a Monster, That Monster was an Island

“Ok,” Pem said. “Who is she?”

“It’s the island,” I proclaimed, pointing at the madwoman on the other side of the glass. “It’s the tendril monster!”

“What?” Tam asked. “How does that make any sense?”

“The tendril monster’s main form of offense is to entangle its prey in its tendrils and to feed on their life-force, correct?”

“To oversimplify things,” the merwoman said, “Yes.”

“But because of my accident, long story, I’m filled with unstable quantum energy. So when the tendrils were feeding on me, they were really feeding on that. That’s why I’m awake when most of the others are not.”

“Your point?” the merwoman asked.

“My point is, you see, when the instability builds up to a certain degree I have to drain it.”

“And when I drain the instability it has an effect on my body.”

“What effect?”

“My body changes…into another body. So when we were in trouble and things looked bleak, I went on the assumption that it had absorbed enough of my instability. And I used my pocket stabilizer on the creature. Soon after the island collapsed, so I’m thinking now it must have worked.”

“I’m sorry,” Crag said. “What does whatever you just said have to do with the island collapsing?”

“The island was the tentacle monster,” I tried to explain. “The island wasn’t actually a real island, it was just a disguise to trap us.”

“It’s true,” the merwoman, whose name I really should have known by now, but she never introduced herself, said. “The Giant Leechvine is known for disguising itself with a lure like a tropical island to capture land animals to eat.”

“That monster was the entire island?” Crag asked.

“Yes,” I told him, “so when I used my stabilizer on the monster it changed. And when the monster changed, it must’ve changed into something smaller, meaning that there was nothing holding the island together.”

“Leaving a lot of empty space,” Tam said. “So the island collapsed.”

“Yes,” I said, happy that someone else got it. “The island collapsed. When the monster became a smaller creature, its disguise, all the island accoutrements that it was using to hide itself, fell in on themselves.”

“Fell right on top of us,” Tam added.

“Yes. Maybe it turned out that wasn’t the best strategy. But, hey, here we are. Still alive.”

“So, that thing in there…?” Crag asked, looking through the observation window.

“Is the monster, Yes.”

“The Giant Leechvine,” the merwoman corrected.

“So the monster was an entire island and is now that person in there?”

“That’s how I understand it, Crag.”

“Ok,” Tam said. “So now what are we going to do with it?”

“Leave it here,” I said.

“With us?” the merwoman asked. She clearly was not happy with that answer.

“You have a facility that it’s already locked up in. Leaving it here seems like the wisest move.”

“And you and your friends just wander off taking none of the responsibility?”

“What else do you want us to do?” I asked. “Take it with us?”

“No,” Pem said. “This creature is going to bear some observation. It needs to be studied before we can consider releasing it.”

“You would, wouldn’t you?” The merwoman glared at him.

“Yes, Haf. I would. Sometimes science is the best solution. Even you have to admit that.”

“Fine.” She did a complicated thing with her arms that might have been a shrug. “We’ll take your monster…for science.”

“Thank you,” Tam said. “Then we should be leaving.”

“We can’t leave without the others,” I told them, thinking of the Sheriff and his other deputies.

“We have responsibilities, Frank. We have a mission to complete. Enemies to vanquish. And since Lu, G’fon, and Kink aren’t here. I assume we have to go and save them, as well.”

“I know we have responsibilities, Tam,” I told them, “but I have a responsibility to these people, as well. They risked their lives to help me find you. They didn’t have to, but they volunteered. I owe it to them to get them back safely.”

“Fine,” Tam said. “We’ll return them to wherever you found them and then we will go off to find the others.”

We left the transformed Leechvine and were brought into a small room. The water was drained and food was brought. It was all raw fish and seaweed. Nothing was cooked. Everything was a little too slimy. Tam didn’t seem to mind. As we ate, the others were brought in. First Toleuk and then the Sheriff and then finally the other deputies.

“Now that you are all together,” Haf said. “you can head out.”

“But we’re not altogether,” the Sheriff said. “We’re missing Gnomenasher.”

“Gnomenasher?” Tam asked.

A giant gerbil,” I replied. “Don’t ask.”

“This is all of you that we found,” Pem said. “There’s no one else.”

“But we need him.”

“What’s so important about this creature?”

“Without Gnomenasher there’s no way we can find our way home!”

to be continued…