(back to Zool V Chapter Four)
..."Nice doggie," the Doc was saying to this great big hound like something out of Baskerville Hall. I mean, hell, it was Scooby Doo crossed with Dracula. I was caught between thinking of steaks and THE FEAR. "Jeez, Gonz, it's got no eyes. No eyes! It's gotta be the drink talking." "Never heard a drink bark before," said my attorney, edging towards the pooch. My hand was shaking: I threw away the Glenflibblit before I could drop it. "Crap, Duke, what the hell'd you do that for?" Gonzo yelled. "Now we got no whisky!" The pooch growled, slavering. Gonz and I backed away. "Nice doggie," Gonz kept on saying, "nice doggie... doggie wanna cigar?" He offered his stogie to the monster.
The pooch leapt right at us...
There was a sound of screaming. What was that? Snarf-snarf. (Sounded like a wild animal.) "The hound of Entropy," 'Deborah' said theatrically. "It's coming for everything. With the universe in shreds, it's going to pick over the pieces. It's very hungry." (It's already eaten the other Zoolots, hasn't it?) "Indeed it has," intoned Alan-Breck. Snarf-snarf, said a terrified ball of fur in Isidore's arms. What now? "If we're lucky," 'Deborah' said, "I might be able to bargain with it. But the prognosis probably isn't good. I recommend we run for the core." She packed the communications relay back in its suitcase with a sigh, threw the cloak from her shoulders - she was wearing a sleeveless T-shirt, leather jeans, Doc Marten boots and black shades beneath it - and broke into an inhumanly fast sprint, followed by the rest of the crew, Isidore finding himself outpaced by Alan even as he carried Artu on his shoulder once more. (Oh, for pity's sake, what a show-off,) he panted, seeing the Endless ahead run up a wall to round a corner more quickly.
"Must kill... everything..." rambled Zap Zombie, staggering along a separate corridor, alarmingly (had they known) close to that of our heroes and heroine. An eerie character in a deep cowl marked with an 'O' floated before him, stopping the zombie in his tracks. "Zap, listen to me." "Must obey..." "You must kill everything, yeah? I know how to do it, man, er, zombie. You've gotta destroy the crystal dome at the heart of the structure, right? The time paradox that'll create will destroy... everything." The floating being cackled evilly... --TL
Meanwhile, the ill-assorted crew ran into the central chamber of Zool- a great wide hall, its roof supported by pillars and, in the far distance, a great glittering dome of crystal.
<That's the central core> Prometheus gasped.
"Of Wiki itself," Alan-Breck told them. "Its mind flows through the universe... through everything, but the central core, the original hardware... is in there. That is URCHIN." They stared at it in wonderment.
But why -snarf- hide it on Zool?
"Isn't it the last place anyone would think of looking? Even the Auteuse, Wiki's deadliest enemy, never dreamed that the Zool mainframe was just a subsection of Wiki. She couldn't find it to destroy it, because it was right under her nose."
(But... suppose she'd decided to destroy the mainframe for entirely different reasons?) Isidore struggled. (Wiki would have been virtually defenceless!)
"All right!" 'Deborah' snapped, putting on her shades against the glare from the crystal. "So my boss isn't the brightest Christmas tree light on the tree... at the moment it's turned into an utterly destructive female dedicated to bringing about the end of everything in existence!"
<There speaks Death.> "Feeling old, Prometheus?" 'Deborah' quipped with a malicious grin. "We have to get over there, reboot the system... and somehow get you four your proper bodies back." She sighed. "And that'll save the universe... except for the whopping great paradox that it was Saitra that got you into this mess in the first place... and saving Wiki will stop Saitra from ever having existed." She took a deep breath. "Time is going to throw a real fit over this, I tell you, Isidore."
Isidore took a step forward, then yelled, and jumped back, his metal body nearly squashing Artu, who jumped into 'Deborah's arms with a terrified squeak. Several neat bullet holes decorated Isidore's robot chest.
"Virtually defenceless," Alan-Breck commented. "There's always the droid guards, of course... I was going to say, but you found out for yourself."
(Your 'help' files haven't been updated since Windows ME, have they?) Isidore sniped. 'Deborah' handed them each a gun, and they began to advance across the lobby. Artu and Prometheus, rather useless in combat in their current forms, watched from the doorway.
This- snarf- is so staged it's unreal! Artu sighed.
<Exciting though, isn't it?> said the Ewok rhetorically.
"Yeessss." A low, zombie-like drawl sounded, and they looked up. Standing behind them in the doorway, a tubby, elderly dead man held a large, spherical grenade.
<That's an Entropy Cluster bomb!> Prometheus spluttered. <If you set that thing off you'll destroy this entire planet... to say nothing of the time... the time... the para.... my brain has performed an illegal operation.> He fainted. "Yesssss." Zap Zombie raised his arm, preparing to hurl the grenade at the centre of the crystal core. Behind him, Artu was suddenly aware of the presence of a vast, blind, slavering dog, hovering over the grenade with eager anticipation.
This is it, he said to no-one in particular. Snarf-snarf. -- WJR
...This was really pulling my chain. Just when I thought we'd had it, the pooch leaps off and runs after this little fat guy carrying a big round thing, looking kinda like Gonz on a high-carb diet, as though he was its best pal. Now... what the hell?...
(Alan,) Isidore yelled, (I don't intend to go on like this. Isn't there some way of solving the problem without causing a paradox? I mean, surely Saitra's a digital entity... Wiki definitely is...) "I wish I could hear you, but you're making too much noise killing those droids." (It's either that, or they kick up a racket trying and failing to kill me,) Isidore snapped. (What can you do with all data? Erase it, corrupt it, move it, copy it...) "Copy it? What good is that to us? Won't we just get two copies of -?" (You'll see.) Isidore blasted the head off the last droid guarding URCHIN, stepped awkwardly over the inert body, and waddled hurriedly towards the program core, Alan-Breck following him with some bemusement. Death jogged towards them, covering her back with an Uzi. "Problem, guys," she called out. "We have company, and not very friendly company." (Can you hold it off? I've thought of a way to settle this for good. Without even meddling with causality for once.) "Great," Death grinned. "I'll see to it. I think the rest of the family should be pleased too. Even if Dream says he hates cause and effect."
Prom -snarf-snarf- wake up, will you? Artu said, desperately. C'mon. He received no reply - the Ewok-cyborg was out cold. With a sigh of Snarf, he heaved the body aside, out of the line of fire. Zap Zombie still held the bomb aloft in one hand, like a demented Statue of Liberty, as if awaiting the order to fire it at the vulnerable Wiki, but he wasn't moving. The Hound of Entropy started to whine in irritation, its drool sizzling where it met the ground. It was hungry, and food was within its reach, unlimited food, but not... quite... yet...
...Gonzo and I found ourselves running along a corridor, without any drink (again), and without any drugs. This was bad. Some little fat guy was holding a large round thing, as if teaching the Pooch from Hell behind him how to play fetch. "Christ, Duke," my attorney suddenly whimpered, "it's a goddamn bomb!" "Bomb, hell!" I yelled. "I've seen worse things than that on sale in the Galactic Mega-Souk. Let's go ask him where we can score. Damn, I got the munchies."...
There was a huge warping explosion/implosion, and the voice that had filled the air with its madnesses was now twinned. Then there was only one voice: the voice of Wiki, serene. (Phew,) said Isidore, clumsily disentangling his fingers from the complex circuitry. (Done it. Saitra's locked up in that data-crystal on the floor, there. Pick it up, but don't look into it.) Alan plucked it up, gingerly. "And what are you going to do about that whopping big wormhole that's threatening to turn itself into a knot?" (I mean to seal it with something. Can you get one of the guards to work?) After a short struggle, Alan-Breck returned with the nearest, still-headless, guard, and put the data-crystal in its grasp. "What do you mean to do?" (Plug the wormhole with it. Saitra arrives in the past from a near-apocalypse in the future, doesn't she? Like now...) With a gentle shove, Isidore steered the guard towards the blinding vortex. The guard took three steps, and disappeared into the tumult. Isidore let out a breath. (It's over.)
"No it isn't," Alan said firmly, "we've still got to get our bodies back."
No it isn't, came a high-pitched squeak of terror. There's a nutter over here with an entropy bomb! --TL
++Fear not, came the calm voice of Wiki.
++My robot guards will easily repel and disarm this intruder.
(Er... we destroyed all of them.)
Zap Zombie raised the grenade. Deep in the sluggish remnants of his personality one thought remained. Follow orders. Destroy Wiki. Destroy. Destroy. He prepared to throw the entropy grenade... and suddenly found it snatched from his hands. A wild eyed man with dilated pupils was grinning at him stupidly, whilst another- similar, but with stranger hair, was shaking the galaxy destroying bomb.
"Got any drugs?" I asked the fat, grey faced guy. "Tell me if you've got any drugs?" The guy looked like giving an order made some difference to him.
"I... have... no... drugs.... Must... destroy... universe."
"Hey, it sounds like you got drugs."
Dr Gonzo had taken the top off the entropy grenade now, and was shaking out some white powder.
"Hey, my attourney says you got drugs! Let's have some, Gonzo!"
"No- mine!" We wrestled with the grenade, spilling more of the stuff on the floor. A big yellow robot, a Klingon, and some chick in a Goth outfit were walking over towards us really slowly. Hell, things were getting almost normal, we needed some stuff fast.
(Those idiots are spilling the explosive all over the place!) the robot yelled.
"It's all right," the girl said. "It's totally inert without the detonator."
Good! wailed a small furry creature from the ground. We'd spilt quite a bit of the stuff on it. It seemed to be trying to drag an Ewok along. Then this little floating guy in a purple dress flew in.
"You're destroying the entropy bomb, man!" he yelled at us.
"Don't yell at my attourney! If you want the damn thing so much, have it!" I flung the ball at him and we escaped, our hands and pockets crammed full of the stuff.
With a wild laugh, Ringo Starr seized the entropy bomb and raised it over his head. The last of the explosive trickled out and fell on him.
"That seems to take care of that," Death said in a self-satisfied tone.
"Must... destroy..." Zap raised a staser rifle and aimed it at the heart of Zool.
"Whoops, I must have forgotten about you... um... sorry about the delay?" Death smiled sheepishly, and Zap Zombie fell over.
We saved the universe! Snarf-snarf! Artu capered excitedly, then stopped, looking disgusted. Change us back, for goodness sa-snarf-ke!
++What? Oh, sorry, boomed the voice of Wiki. ++I was just catching up on some e-mails. Death, would you be the power conduit, please?
"My pleasure." Death raised her arms, and an ethereal glow began to emanate from her, taking in Isidore, Artu, Alan-Breck, Prometheus, and even Ringo Starr. Their forms began to blurr and change. Then a human figure appeared in the doorway.
"No!" the Auteuse snarled, and ran forward, firing an energy weapon at Death. The blast passed through the Endless harmlessly enough, but the energy she herself was emitting changed momentarily from brilliant white to harsh red. The dusting of entropy powder about the chamber flashed brightly a moment, and jagged lightning connected them all. Then Wiki was alone.
++Now where've they all gone? -- WJR
...Light. Bright light, sunlight, over someone's shoulder. He was flat on his back, lying on something soft. Someone with a white hat was talking to him...
"... Are you all right?"
Isidore groaned, and tried to get up. (Very tired,) he managed to say, groggily. (Long day. Just a few moments longer...) "I wouldn't dream of disturbing you, my dear friend," the man in the white hat and long white coat replied civilly, "but you happen to be lying on our wicket. Brezhnev, Primakov, would you mind helping the gentleman up?" Two strong-armed spin-bowler types (and since when had Russians learnt to play cricket?) helped the cyborg to his feet: Isidore still felt badly dazed, but was relieved to see that he'd reverted to the middle-stage default, an ordinary humanoid shape dressed in a twentieth-century suit in sober shades of grey. He'd finally lost the Beetle.
He shook his head to clear it, and remembered: he'd also lost the Beatle. And quite a few others. (What happened to my friends? Artu? Ringo? Alan?) Blank looks from the cricket-players. Then the umpire pointed over to a figure in a not dissimilar suit, asleep on a bench at the boundary. Isidore recognised it at once, and sprinted over to it. (Artu,) he said quietly, (wake up. I need your help.) Artu came round almost at once. Hello Is. Glad you're here: I hate to suffer from headaches alone. Where'd you get the ponytail from? Isidore stopped short, bracing his friend with one hand as he reached back with the other. Artu was right. Is, Artu said, more clearly and more worriedly, doesn't this strike you as familiar? (Nope.) Artu fingered a badge on the black-with-white-piping lapel of his jacket, a badge marked with an Art Deco number '6'. Isidore looked down to see an equivalent one marked '12'. We're caught in a new fiction. It's a Prisoner episode. Is, you're the Schizoid Man! --TL
To be continued in Zool V Chapter Six...
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