So Many Holes to Choose

I was thrown out hard onto the ground. I bounced painfully onto a giant gerbil that snapped viciously at me. I started to get up when the Sheriff came flying out at me from seemingly thin air. I braced myself for the impact, preparing to be crushed, but fortunately his massive frame when bouncing past me. I looked up to see where we were and found I was surrounded by trolls, everyone who had been sucked through the hole. At least, it appeared we had all ended up together.

Toleuk walked over to her boss and helped him up. “What happened to us, Sheriff?”

“Looks like we all got sucked up and spit out, Deputy. Now, we’ve just got to figure out where we’ve got sucked to.”

I surveyed the empty landscape around us and spotted a hill not too far away. “I think I know where we are,” I said. “I think we’re back where I started.”

“Are you sure?” the sheriff asked.

I shrugged. “Looks like it. But then again, one desolate hillside looks like every other desolate hillside.”

“Who cares where we are?” one of the trolls yelled. Judging by her dress, she was no deputy, but instead a barmaid. “I want to know how we can get back home.”

“Yeah!” the others joined in.

“The only way to get home would be back through the portal,” the sheriff told them. They were slightly less enthused about that.

“I don’t see the portal, sheriff,” Toleuk said.

“Well that’s easy to solve.” The sheriff turned to his giant gerbil. “All right, Gnomenasher, find the magic!”

The gerbil moved slightly then pointed up. Then he moved again and pointed. Then moved again and pointed. Then moved again and pointed.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, confused by this action. “He can’t find it?”

The sheriff dipped his crowbar in at each spot. It shimmered each time. “There appears to be more than one portal.”

“More than one!?” a farmer exclaimed. “How will we know which one will take us home?”

“There’s really only one way to find out,” the Sheriff replied, twirling his crowbar.

“We’ve got to try them all?” Toleuk asked.

“No,” I said. “I’ve got to try them all. My friends are at the ends of the others. The rest of you don’t have to worry about them, you just have to wait for me to come back. Either I’ll have returned to the bar and I’ll come back immediately or I won’t have and I won’t have.”

“And I’m just supposed to let you do all of that all by yourself?” the Sheriff asked. “You could be jumping off to your death.”

“Maybe, but you’ve got more than a dozen people to worry about here, Sheriff. You can’t abandon them.”

“That’s why Darmuk invented deputies.”

“And we’re just supposed to let you go all by yourself without us?” Toleuk said. “We’re your deputies, sir. It’s our job to protect you.”

“No, Toleuk. It’s your job to do what I say and, yes, a lot of times that’s doing the dangerous stuff. But more often, it’s doing the stuff I don’t want to do. But when it’s something that needs to be done, well, that’s when I have to do it.”

“Sheriff,” said another of the deputies, “we can’t just let you go alone.”

“Don’t worry I’ll be going with this human. And I’ll be taking Gnomenasher with me.”

“No offense to anyone, but neither of them are trained to help you out. You need a deputy.”

“Or two,” Toleuk added.

“Fine,” the Sheriff conceded, “whoever wants to come with us can come with us, but at least two deputies have to stay behind to watch the civilians.“ After three deputies volunteered to stay, the sheriff said, “Any more questions or are we finally ready to get moving?”

“Let’s get moving,” I said, impatiently. “Every second we wait…”

“Agreed. You want to take the lead or should I?”

“I think it should be me. Because if the first thing whoever’s on the other end sees is you suddenly appearing…”

“Fair enough,” the Sheriff admitted. “Then go on ahead. We’ll be right behind you,” the sheriff said. “Do your best not to die before we get there.”

“I’ll do my best.” I jumped randomly through a portal because it didn’t really matter which one I chose at that point. I just hoped it led me to my friends.

to be continued…

Gnomenasher, the Giant Magic-Tracking Gerbil

I looked inside and saw something unexpected. It was a gerbil. A giant gerbil, the size of a Doberman, but it was definitely a gerbil. “That’s your magic tracker?” I asked.

“Best tracker in 13 shires!” the sheriff proclaimed proudly.

I looked at the gerbil again. It was staring blankly at a wall. “That thing?”

The troll glowered. “Don’t believe me, do you?”

He picked up the gerbil and whispered into its ear, “Ok, Gnomenasher. Ready to get work?” The poor thing didn’t respond in any way. “All right, Gnomenasher, go find the magic! Go find the magic, boy! Go get it!” The sheriff put the gerbil down. It didn’t move.

“Impressive,” I said. The troll sheriff glared down at me. I smiled apologetically up at him out of fear.

“Just you watch,” he said and knelt down next to the giant gerbil. “All right, Gnomenasher, be a good boy. Find that magic. Go ahead, boy. Find it! Come on, nasher. Go find the magic, boy!” The gerbil looked up at him like it had no idea what he was talking about.

“Are you s…?” I began to ask, but then the gerbil jumped to life. I had to leap out of the way to keep from being run over by it. It rocketed out of the room like a bolt of lightning, slamming right through the door.

“Follow him!” the Sheriff yelled.

He pushed through the door and ran across the sheriff station to the outside, followed closely by his deputies. I chased after them, doing my best to keep up with them. As we ran outside after Gnomenasher, the other trolls who had been waiting to find out my fare quickly joined in, or at least the ones who hadn’t been bowled over by the gerbil did. We all ran down the streets after the gerbil as he raced after the scent. Suddenly, he turned and went plowing into a building.

The sheriff chased after him inside and I followed him and everyone else followed me. We found the gerbil sitting patiently in the middle of the room as if he had been there all day. I recognized the room instantly. Not that that was any great feet, I had only been in two places in this village and we had just left the other. We were back in the tavern, right where I had come in. “That’s one special gerbil you’ve got there,” I said. “I never could’ve brought us here.”

“I don’t appreciate your snide words, Gnomenasher did his job. He found the portal that sent you here. Could you have done that?”

“Brought us to where I had just been? Yeah, I’m pretty sure I could have done that.”

“Oh yea, smart guy? Could you have brought us to the exact spot that you had first appeared?”

“The exact spot?” I chuckled, not buying a thing this troll was saying. “How could you possibly tell that this was the exact spot I first came in? You weren’t even here when I did?”

The Sheriff didn’t say a word, he just moved his hand until it was hovering over the gerbil’s snout. It shimmered.

I blinked vapidly. “Ok, so it’s the exact spot. So what does that mean?” I asked, as trolls began to fill in behind me.

“That means we can open it back up.”

“Open it up? How do you plan on doing that? Don’t you hate wizards? Wouldn’t one of you knowing magic be somewhat hypocritical?”

“Yes, we do hate wizards. And no I’m not going to open it up with magic. I’m going to use a crowbar. Toleuk?” A large female troll in a deputy uniform walked over carrying a large crowbar. And by that, I mean it was large to me, nearly half my size, but to the trolls it seemed about the appropriate size.

The Sheriff took the crowbar and smacked it into his palm. “This’ll do,” he decided and then thrusted it into the invisible point that remained of the portal. Its tip began to shimmer. And then he began to push against, the tip of the crowbar remained unmoved as he struggled against it.

For the longest time, nothing happened. All there was was the sound of the Sheriff grunting. The Sheriff stepped back and took a deep breath. He slammed the crowbar in angrily and let out a loud growl as he threw his weight behind it. The air around the crowbar began to crack. The Sheriff let out a satisfied laugh. “Now we’re getting somewhere.”

He gave another pull before handing it off to one of his larger deputies. Then after a couple more takes that troll handed it off to another deputy. After half a dozen deputies had given it a shot, the hole in space and time was nearly big enough for me to fit through. “Give it one more go,” the Sheriff said.

The deputy nodded and gave it another pull. There was a loud cracking sound and the crowbar was sucked right out of the troll’s hands.

“Uh-oh.”

The Carnage of Zlodeyskiygrad

In an instant, we were somewhere new. Bodies lay strewn about us. I recognized them before I recognized where we were. They were the Dracs. There was no question about it. That meant we were back in Ramstov, which meant we were back on Earth! I had returned back to the room Lu had taken me from! I was back where it had all began, but now I had bigger problems than General Zlodeyskiy and his genetic experiments. I had a murderous wizard from another dimension on the loose.

The Sharkwoman looked at the scattered bodies. “These are not human, but there is a human taste to their blood. Did Maqesh do this?”

“I think Maqesh killed them, but he didn’t create them. The owner of this house did.”

She nodded. “And where are they?”

I looked up. There was a hole in the ceiling leading all the way to the surface. I could hear the echoes of fighting carry their way down. There was no question. “He went up there.”

The Sharkwoman grabbed me. “Then let’s go!” The Sharkwoman started waving her arms and wiggling her hips. It took me a second to realize she was trying to swim up the hole. In another situation, I might had laughed, but not today, not now. Nothing was funny right now.

“You can’t do that in this world,” I told her.

The Sharkwoman glared at me, then glared up at the hole. “Then how are we going to get up?”

There was a hole in the wall where the door used to be. “I guess we’re going to have to use the elevator.”

“The what?”

We walked into the next room. The cages were all empty. I wondered what had happened to those poor monstrosities, but that would be a problem for later. We didn’t have time to worry about it now. Growing more worried, I started to run, but I wasn’t thinking. The Sharkwoman couldn’t keep up. She fell to the ground trying. “Legs are just dumb.”

I nodded. I offered my hand to help her up, but she didn’t take it. I was beginning to think her coming here wasn’t a great idea. She was too much of a fish out of water here, almost literally. “Maybe you should just stay down here.”

The Sharkwoman growled at me. “I came here to fight, human!”

“Then you’d better get used to using those dumb legs quickly.”

I turned away from her and quickly walked the rest of the way to the elevator. I didn’t bother to look to see how she was doing or even if she was following me. But of course, she did and she was right beside me when the elevator arrived. When we got inside, she quickly got agitated. I don’t know which she hated more the enclosed space or that we appeared to be standing around doing nothing. She was quite shocked to find out that we had been “magically” transported to a new floor.

The surprise, however, didn’t last long. We could hear the explosions off in the distance. I didn’t know my way around the palace, so we just followed the sounds of fighting. It turned out to be a lot easier than I would have hoped. We could tell we were getting closer because of all the screaming.

As I opened the door to the courtyard, I was aghast at what I saw. I had been expecting violence, but I hadn’t been expecting this level of carnage. There were just body parts strewn about everywhere! I could see now that this was where all those poor creatures from the subbasements had gone and most of them were dead now. They were piled atop all the dead humans and Dracs. There was carnage everywhere. If it wasn’t covered in blood, it was on fire. And in the center of all of it was Maqesh with a fallen Lu at his feet, laughing triumphantly.

The Ramstovians fought with everything they could. Tanks and planes, bombs and guns, Dracs and mutated beasts, but it was nothing to him. Maqesh burned them and froze them, tossed them and squished them, crushed them and ripped them apart. It seemed like he couldn’t be stopped.

“Wu!” the Sharkwoman screamed and began to run toward his unconscious body. I grabbed her and she immediately became unbalanced and fell to the ground.

“Are you crazy?” I said. “If you go in there, you’ll be killed!”

“I have to save him!”

“We will.” I helped her to her feet. “But how about we find a way that involves neither of you dying?”

“You’d better think of it quickly. Because it looks like your warriors won’t last much longer.”

I could see the truth in her words. Zlodeyskiy was running out of men. The beasts were dead. The helicopters and planes were all grounded. The Sharkwoman, however, seemed to be distracted with something else as she sniffed the air. “Someone…”

And that’s when I felt a hand come down on my shoulder. I spun around expecting the worst, but I wasn’t prepared for who I saw.

to be continued…

Return to the Secret Xian Base

As soon as I figured out that I was back at the Xian secret Neptune base, I braced myself for an attack. When Kink had pulled me away, I was in the middle of being attacked by The Origin. He had taken control of all the Xian on the base and they had been actively fighting us. The base itself was being shaken apart by the Origin’s fury. He had been much larger than when I had last seen him in the future. In fact, he had nearly filled this entire massive room with his bulk. Strangely, the room was practically empty now. I didn’t understand what was going on. Had I not been sent back to the right time? Had the Time Cops made a mistake?

No. Time Cops never made mistakes. If they had, they’d be here by now to fix it. Seeing as how they basically exist outside the time stream, being late was very rarely an issue for them. So if I wasn’t where or when I was supposed to be, they would have already been here to put me where or when I was supposed to be. It was their job to keep the timeline clean. That meant I had to be where and when I was supposed to be, but where was The Origin? Where was Jamal? Was he…oh, dear god! Was he even still alive? Without me here to save him, was he dead already?

Then the alarms sounded. I covered my ears as a loud howl filled the large room. Xian burst from every door, looking confused and frightened. Then the guards appeared with guns in their tentacles. They quickly surrounded me. “Infiltrator! Don’t move or you will be killed!”

I raised my hands, even while my vision began picking out targets. My futuristic body was ready for action. I wondered idly if that was how this body usually was or if it was just because I had recently left a war zone? “Where is he? Where’s Jamal? What did you do to him?”

“Jamal?” one of the Xian asked. “There is no Jamal here. You are mistaken stranger.”

I shook my head, furiously. “Don’t lie to me! I know he’s here!”

“You are confused. You are obviously lost. Leave the same way as you arrived and we will not kill you.”

“Kill me? I’ll kill you if you’ve done anything to Jamal!” I yelled at them. I didn’t know what game they were playing at, but I had no patience for it. “Or maybe you should just go get the Origin.”

“The origin? The origin of what?”

“The Origin! Your master! Bring him out! I’ll take care of him too!”

“We have no master. We are the Xian and we will not take some stranger coming into our base and threatening us.”

“Stranger? As if me having a new body has ever confused you guys before,” I muttered. “You’re not fooling me with your lies. There’s no reason to pretend.”

“New body?” one of the Xian asked, then the others began to whisper those two words to each other. “Are you…Dr. Clay?”

I glared at it. “Of course I am! Am I supposed to buy this act? That you don’t remember bringing me here?”

“We didn’t bring you here.”

“Of course, you did! You brought me and Jamal here to see your master, The Origin. You…you…you don’t remember any of this, do you?” I looked around. I knew the Xian well enough to recognize their confusion. “None of you remember that at all.” The building was showing no sign of my battle with the Origin or his frustrations or of his existence at all. And how could they so quickly hide such a huge mass? Why would they even try? “What is going on here? Are you trying to tell me that neither I nor Jamal were brought here? And you’ve never heard of the Origin? And your people haven’t been infected in any way?”

“Infected?” the Xian asked. “With what?”

“You haven’t been mind-controlled in any way?” I asked. “Corrupted by an outside influence? ‘Freed’ from independent thought?”

“No. Of course not. None of that’s happened.”

And then it became clear to me what must have happened. “The Invaders must’ve wiped the Origin out of existence!” That was what they had told me the Invaders touch did. Pahf, Grow, the Origin, all three of them must have been wiped out of existence, erased from history. That would explain what was going on here, but I was still cautious. Perhaps this was all a trap that the Time Cops had slipped me in “because it was where I was supposed to be”. But then again, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe this was all real! And maybe everyone was safe! If that was true, then I had to get home!

to be continued…

(in case you forgot, check out the last time Frank was at the Xian base, right before Kink snatched him away.)