Trenchcoats and Cutthroats

Writers:


 

System Masterer

From the desk of the poor, decrepid Editor, who just made $8000 worth of sales this week and hence hasn't had much to do.

The editing is finished.

The first draft edit comes in at a cool 197k. It should take two or three days to read. Note that the first reading was from a file only 60k long, and that took awhile to read.

Anyway, I think it's a knock out, and perhaps an epilogue isn't such a bad idea... but it should be written here. Since I'm still auto-buffering this board, anyone who writes an epilogue (theoretically, everyone should write their own epilogue) will have it saved.

As a matter of fact, I think I'll start.

System Masterer

Masters relaxed in the penthouse suite he had rented in Rio. A scantly clad Spiderwoman lounged in a lawn chair beside the pool, sipping a daquiri now and again.

He was all smiles, that Masters fellow. He already was well under way on another world domination plan. But this time, this time he was going to include those nasty PIs in the entire plan. Yes, he was going to make them make him the world leader. What a plan, what a plan...

His feedback reports on the sudden withdrawl from France detailed how the PIs managed to get out of their difficult situation with the authorities.

That damn Skillprof had saved their asses. He had claimed the entire mass of Moronium X, the largest single mass of it in the world, had broken it up, and sold around half of it onto the world market, making a horrendous profit. Of course he'd made a profit, he didn't have to collect it, it was sitting in the energizing pods, refined to incredible purity.

System Masterer

He took the remaining half for experiments in power broadcasting, and split the profit of the sales amongst the PIs. The money they had made their lives livable. They paid their fines, replaced their supplies, paid off all their costs, allowed for a two week vacation in the Mediterraean, and air fare home. Then they were back to their old offices, dead broke.

The fact that they ran out of money in the end was the only good thing that happened in the whole withdrawl. Other than no one ever realized what Masters had been up to, except the PIs, who no one believed anyway.

It was kind of a shame about Death Bird, but violent smoke isn't good for much. He was probably finally put to rest by some ecologists.

Masters stopped his reverie for a moment, and realized a flaw in his plan. He really should focus his revenge on Skillprof. That guy screwed him bad. Yes, Skillprof had to suffer for his treason... suffer bad. Real bad.

Skillman

The reversing transmitter was finished and worked very well. It needed a few days of constant energization tho to complete the tyaransformation back to multi-coloured jelly-beans, but at least it was working.

A number of other neat gadgets were under way in my newly created Lab (that moronium is really valuable stuff). the project I was most proud of, of course, was thg teleporter. I just wish I could get it to work properly on humans - no more stupid airplanes and sub- plots this time.

Ahh well. I was happy. I was content. So was Candy F., but we wont get into that.

Little did I know what Masters was up to.

Big Dave Diode

Sammy the Cyborg smiled ruefully, as only a cyborg can. It was his first adventure with the PIs, and he had had a pretty good time, but now he was kind of glad it was over.

So, selling his right wrist, he raised enough cash to go in search of his one true lust, that quintessence of robotics: Sally the Cyborg. All he knew was that she had been cruelly taken from him by that nasty Masters fellow, but he would never stop searching for her. Never... >sigh<

But THAT is another story.

Big Dave Diode

Oh, and what about that party? I'm sure someone mentioned a party.

Charlotte

As she lounged beside Masters, Spiderwoman drifted into a trance and pondered the events since they had arrived in Rio. After the Jellybean adventure, she had been tired of using her super powers to have her way with men, especially the PIs. They were an odd sort. Dik was the only special one of the bunch. She smiled as she remembered going to school with him all those years ago. Anyway, she had been tired of exploiting herself to help with Master's plots. In the end, they decided that the way she could help him best was to stay with him, and only him. They would create nasty plots together, and in the evening, they would cook dinner together, and then go for a swim before bed. It was decided: they could take the world, but it wouldn't mean anything unless they were together. Lying in a daze spiderwoman fingered the gold ring on her left hand. She had left her old name behind, and would continue as Master's companion, friend, co-conspiritor, and wife. Yes, she was now MRS. MASTERS!

Dippy Bird

"Hello!" someone cried in the vbackground. Everyone whirled to face the source of the greeting. Everyone did. It was a yellowish blob with some faciail fungus.

"Hello." everyone replied. Everyone did.

"Hmm, so, did you hear about what happened to the monkey that used to be on News with Zoo's. Charlie, that was his name. Well, did you?" Nobody replied.

"Well anyway," the blob continued "he drank four cans of Dr. Pepper and three packets of Pop Rocks, and a packet of yeast. Then he began jumping up and down on a trampoline in his backyard. Supposedly he exploded. It must've been really neat."

"I thought that was Mikey, from the Life cereal commercials." Someone said to the blob.

"No no, it was the monkey I tell you."

"Uh uh," someone else added "It was Danny on the Partrige Family."

"No no," the blob replied "Danny became a drug addict after an appearance on Chips."

"Oh." everyone said. Everyone did.

"Well, that's all I had to say." the blob said after a few moments of silence

System Masterer

More notes from the desk of the editor.

After studying the first draft, I re-edited the first part. It was a bit of a formatting mess, and was slightly contextually out of sync with the rest of the story... nothing major.

Oh, and I wrote up the credit list... ready for this?

By the way, please drop me a line if I neglected someone, or have incorrectly catagorized anyone.

System Masterer Editor in Chief

System Masterer

*** Cutthroats and Trenchcoats ***

Cast <in order of appearance>:

The Good Guys

Bernard Q. Bear, part time PI Barney Beer

Jake Gerbil, The Imposter, PI Pedro McTavish, Psychic PI The Imposter

Dippy Bird, PI Dippy Bird

Dik Miller, PI The Grodd

Dave The Torch, ninja PI The Torch

Cat Scratch, PI Scratch

* * * * *

The Bad Guys <and girl>

Richard Masters, bad guy System Masterer

The Spiderwoman Charlotte

The Death Bird Dippy Bird

* * * * *

System Masterer

The Extras

Story introduction by Bicycle Repair Man

El Loco, Pedro's cyborg brother El Loco

Skillprof, scientist Skillman

Sammy the Cyborg Big Dave Diode

Story additions by Charlie Gibbs

* * * * *

Credits

Original story idea by: The Imposter Bicycle Repair Man System Masterer

Edited by: System Masterer

Dedicated to: Cordelion Mike Lyons

The Imposter

Sitting back in my office chair, for the first time in months, I began to relax. It had taken a bit of wrangling, and a lot of legal dollars, but I managed to 'inherit' everything Jake Gerbil owned. An office, a cheap secretary named Lila, four packs of chewing gum, and a gun named George. George the Gun. Aside from that, life was pretty bleak; I'd had to pay through the nose to get my sombrero fixed, my secretary wouldn't talk to me, my mom wouldn't talk to me, even my bank wouldn't talk to me. The only one I had to talk to was George. George the Gun. I did have one client though, seems an old fat man named Nicholas was looking to find out who was killing off all the elves. A nice guy Nick, a little wacko, but nice. My only real problem of course, was getting my old body back. That and finding out just what the word 'wetback' is supposed to mean.

Pedro McTavish, The Possessor - Psychic P.I. "Have mindpowers, will astral travel"

The Grodd

I took some time off from private eyeing to take a vaca - um, PI refresher course in Hawaii. Not much happened there. Not much that had any relevance to the story, anyway. I got some strange looks as I walked along the beach in a black trenchcoat, but, all in all, things were going well.

Finally, after some weeks of relaxa - er, hard work at PI refresher camp, I used the little money I had left over from staying in expensive hotels and buying drinks for beautiful women to purchase a plane ticket home. When I arrived at the airport I realized that I had no car; the shreds of my Hornet were still in a heap in Masters' former warehouse. I dug through my voluminous pockets to find sixty-five cents.

I waited at a bus stop. The bus arrived.

"D'ya have a GoCard?" asked the driver maliciously.

"Um...no."

"Full adult fare."

"But I only have 65 cents."

"Then geddoff."

I walked to my office.

Barney Beer

Whoosh! A scantily clad young woman of statuesque proportions swept past in a great flurry of snow.. Summer skiing in Aspen was a durn good way to pick up chicks. I watched her gliding down the long steep slope for a moment and after ruminating for a few seconds, I decided to follow.

I put on my mauve Vuarnets, pulled on my yellow and green Beaver Lumber toque and took off in hot pursuit. Heading into a heavily wooded area, I only caught brief glimpses of her bright magenta 27 piece bikini during breaks in the dense bush. The heavily wooded area's dense bush, not...ummm, well let's not get into that until I catch her, eh what?

I rounded a corner at breakneck speed and was nearly upon her. My heart raced and my breath rattled through my chapped lips. I just knew I shoulda brought along that tube of Blistex. Darn. But at that moment, I was oblivious of anything else, other than my prey. Sweat drenched my Def Leppard concert T-shirt and Adidas shorts.

Barney Beer

I recklessly threw one of my ski poles away and reached for her. I was still virtually oblivious to anything. Even to the enormous tree trunk that sort of appeared out of nowhere. As I fell backwards into the soft snow, I caught a fleeting glimpse of the half naked girl receding into the distance. And then..

...I woke up in my cot in my office. I always hated those dreams where every- thing is in colour and the sensations are so realistic. Damn.

I hauled my carcass up and staggered into the washroom to freshen up.

El Loco

'So that was it?' I thought to myself. It had been fun, and I had lost and regained some body parts. Being a Tyrell was not easy. Well, if I have no client, why sit around? I have a chance to make it in this world. I am going to make the movies, if I have to cut the directors prize horse up or not. El found a bank somewhere with relatively low security and robbed it of $1547 and boarded a bus to Hollywood. "Finally, I am in the movie capital of the world, and maybe I can get a leading role, or a reasonable facsimile." El was determined. So determined, in fact, that he worked as a waiter in a upper class restaurant. All the while hoping that one day he would see the PI's again and they would bring him along on another adventure. Meanwhile, he was saving to get one of those new fangled torso implants that the Tyrell Replican Corp. had been advertising for thier Nexus Six models. El read his horoscope: 'You will play a part in a story soon. Sooner than you care to think.'

(I was an Extr

Scratch

...on the lives and times of Cat Scratch, we've narrowed him down to his offic e in the Bronx, NY. Let's take a peek, probably working on his case file.....

Zzzzz.....Zzzzzzzz....Zzzzz...SNORK...ERK....mumblemumble....Errrr...Pffff... ...aahhh.....Zzzzz....Zzzzz...

Oh well, maybe some other time.

The Torch

As the plane departed Paris for Japan, I pondered the recent events in my life. I was happy that I had managed to stay hidden in the rafters of the tower while the other PIs had been nabbed by the gendarmie. It would not bode well if the world in general (private too) discovered that there was a living Ninja Master. So I'd stayed hidden.

the plane arrived in Tokyo, and I departed. A casually placed taxi picked me up and after a few dodges to avoid trouble, we arrived at my old training grounds. I'd decided that Masters had been a little too quick on his feet, and it was time to improve my skills with some intense training.

"Mok So" cried my master. I prayed.

"Shomein, Ilei!" he cried. "Oss" I intoned.

It looked to be a good practice...

System Masterer

Is that. All epilogues filed.

I think.

Arr Billy, want a party?

So like, now what? An interim story for entertainment sake.

Somebody gonna make a start to something? I couldn't create if I answered all my fan mail.

Blech.

El Loco

The adventures of the PI's at a PI party.

(See if anyone has Deja Vu)

Scratch

...sounds like a fine idea. You never know who might show up or crash the plac e, not to mention lots of beautiful mindless women. Hey, someone might even ge t mysteriously murdered, just like every party that Hercule Peroit (sp) goes t o. So somebody should send out invites R.S.V.P. Scratch

The Imposter

probably not. My place is a little small for a murder. "Ye gods! Mr. Unbeliever has been murdered! In the kitchenette! With a cat!

Nope. Maybe next time. In the meantime, how 'bout....

Tales of Pedro Mctavish and his gun George (George the gun)

The Imposter

Part Juan <Oooh, the pun, the pun>

As the steamy mist began to rise from the char-covered coffee pot, I noticed a small cockroach creep out from a hole in the wall. A lone cockroach, fighting tremendous odds to survive and escape, its body infected with the pesticide I made out of some tequila and Seven-Eleven burritos. It struggled to raise to its feet, all six of them, and began the long journey to the door, to freedom, and escape. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. I walked over and stepped on the cockroach en route. Opening the door, I was greeted, or rather slapped in the face, by the appearence of a large fat man wearing a soiled red suit and carrying a sack on his back. He looked tired, dead tired. Weary, hurt, pained, drunk. Drunk as a skunk, or a cockroach, whichever you prefer. He stumbled in and sat on the chair in front of my desk. I walked back and sat down in front of him. "Mr. McTavish," he said quietly, "I need your help."

The Imposter

"Sorry amigo," I said, "I gave at the office and it's not Christmas." He looked like he expected something like that, which dissapointed me no end. "Please, this is no idle prank. My name is Nicholas, and I'm here to hire you." I didn't know what this guy's angle was, but I wasn't about to let that stop me cracking jokes. "Sorry, I don't know anything about making toys." Now he looked angry. "I'm here to have a murder...murders investigated damn it!" Now we were cooking. "Okay senor, who, what, when, where, how many, and most importantly, how much?" He looked somewhat relieved. "Elves, killed, for the past three months, in Vancouver, 5 so far, and lots." "What?" I asked, then realized what he meant. "Oh, yeah, okay. How much is lots?" He opened his bag and I looked in, my jaw scraping the floor as it dropped. It was filled to the brim with thousand dollar bills. "Awright Amigo! We take some of this, convert it into weed, get some bimbos..." "Hey! Elves, remember?" "Oh, yah, sure" Rats.

The Imposter

The rain was still coming down when we hit the streets. The deal was simple, I find the murderers, he pays me ten grand. No problems, no sweat, no leads. We cruised the back alleys a while and I was just about ready to give up for the day when I saw it. The corpse looked like it was once a child, with funny pointy ears and silver eyes. "Elf?" I asked. "Elf". Nick was taking it pretty hard, he had tears in his eyes and looked like he was ready to kill something.

I checked out the body before we turned it over to the police. It was clean, too clean. No prints, either on the body or on the fingers. Somehow someone had removed his fingerprints, retina prints, and american express card. The former meant that the murderer would have to be a biomechanical genius or a magician, and the latter that I'd run out of identifiable things to have missing from a body. There had been one clue though, one the police had missed. A large flat toenail.

Now I was really on a roll.

The Imposter

Well, if people like it, I'll post the rest.

I people don't like it, I'll write a sequel.

Skillman

or better yet, teleport yourself to the 21st century and join The Clan.

The Grodd

System Masterer

This story is : Approved by the EiC.

>ego mode... run away<

System Masterer

Torch tossed Death Bird out the door of the bus... Pedro tossed the dead bus driver into the back seat, closed the doors and began driving.

Dik tried to wake Bernard up... Bernard had a rather nasty bump on his head from ramming into the seat in front of him.

Masters relaxed in his secret French retreat, watching as his plans began to form into something of a complete perfection. Spiderwoman relaxed with him, happy to watch her loved one happy in his work, making this world a soon-to-be awful place to be.

Pedro spoke to his collegues.

"Well boys, after all that Mexican Bus driving I did back home, this things a breeze... where to?"

Thomas Covenant

Vaguely reminiscent of Dataline while Gerardo was acting as remote sysop. Flashbacks, man.. Scary stuff. LT

Barney Beer

I rose slowly to my feet, a searing, pounding pain in my head. Not till I had made my way to my seat, did I notice that Dave the Super Ninja was using my head as a speedbag and was honing his martial arts techniques. Good thing I have a thick headbone.

I looked over to the seat across from me and noticed Dik still sitting quietly with a rictus of fear etched on his face. He hadn't moved since before Dippy the Death Bird had first attacked. Maybe he was dead. Big loss.

'Torch, will you cut that out! My head feels like it's going to explode.'

Torch, standing on one hand and balancing Dippy's hand on his upturned nose, replied in his best 'master of the mystic arts' voice,'Ah, I must first demonstrate the Swooping Crane technique, followed by the Slithering Lizard, the Bucktoothed Horse, then finally the Grovelling Gnu. Then I may rest.'

I was not impressed. That mumbo jumbo pansy foot-fighting was for wimps. All I needed was my trusty Ruger Super Redhawk .44 Magnum. Yeah.

BIKE REPAIR MAN

The bus moved forward, Pedro behind the wheel the band of PI's in the back worrying about heir own troubles. it was a placid scene, excepting the hand dave was bouncing from nostril to nostril. Pedro was content that he was driving, he liked doing that, especially when the vecle used to belong to someone else, part of his up-brining.

Suddenly, the bus lurched to a stop, Barnard bounced into the seat ahead of him again and swore. The bus had just hit a tree.

"PEDRO!!!" came the echo from the back of the bus.

Big Dave Diode

Suddenly, Elmer the Safety Elephant burst upon the scene.

And was promptly rolled over by the bus.

Just so you know.

The Grodd

My mind had been churning furiously for tha past few minutes, generating far too much heat and making thinking a more and more unpleasurable experience. Slowly drifting out of my concentrating trance, I realized what had happened.

"Masters!" I cried. "He has something awful planned." This dialogue sounded like Leave it to Beaver. Damn I hate making it up on short notice.

"Masters always has something awful planned. That's why he's the bad guy," commented Pedro.

"Anyway," said I. "What do we do now?"

The Grodd

There was a distinct pause, verging on pregnancy, during which nothing much happened that is interesting enough to record. Each of us breathed an average of ten times, and traffic on the road off of which Pedro had driven us passed without incident. I supposed that no one knew what we were going to do. For- tunately for the continuity of this story, someone else decided that they did.

An average-looking police car pulled up next to the bus.

Its lights were flashing.

"Damn," I thought. "This is a stolen bus, and the driver is dead. This should be fun."

It wasn't. A police officer moseyed up to the bus, which was halfway up the tree and a rather horrible mess. Pedro pulled his sombrero over his eyes and tried to hide himself in siesta. The officer approached the rear doors (the

The Grodd

only ones which were close enough to the ground to reach) and knocked. Torch opened them. Rather than entering, the officer thrust a blue piece of paper into Torch's hand, turned around, walked back to the cruiser, and drove off.

Torch read the paper. When he finished, his expression was somewhat like that of a tree sloth which has just been given a sharp bop across the nose - stun- ned but moving too slowly to do anything about it.

"What is it?" inquired Barn simply, as usual.

"It's a ticket," replied Torch simply, not as usual.

"For what?" I asked - totally out of character - simply.

"Unmitigated and needless damage to a primary forest producing organism."

"Meaning what?"

"He gave us a ticket for hitting that tree."

"Nothing about the bus?"

The Grodd

"Oh. Unmitigated and needless damage to a primary forest produced via impact action of a multiple-passenger public transportation device."

"You mean," I said, "he gave us a ticket for hitting a tree with a bus."

"Exactly. Section 3, chapter 5, page 66, paragraph 3. 'Unmitigated and need- less..."

"Okay, okay," said Pedro. "We get the point."

"There's a $25.00 fine."

"Fine, fine."

"Or seven days in jail."

"Never mind. We're leaving the country anyway."

"How?"

"That's what I was asking before we got into this stupid subplot," I added.

Dippy Bird

This is the last you'll hear of me. See boards ^ for more details.

Barney Beer

I spun around in my seat and noticed a furtive figure nosing around the bus. He appeared to be draped with rags and had that dead quality about him. Could it be? Could it be him? Could it be him, The Death Bird?!?!?!

Probably not. Must have been my imagination.

I turned back to see Pedro, Dave the Super Ninjamaster and Dik pointing various weapons at each other, gesticulating wildly and arguing loudly.

'It's not my fault! A frigging cow was on the road!!', Pedro exclaimed.

'It was an imaginary cow, you fool!', Dik eretorted.

'No! It was a manifestation of Great Yama's Bull. I must celebrate this happy occasion with an interpretative dance. I will freely intermix a number of ninja techniques. The Bucking Wildebeest, followed by the Gyrating Possum, the Vomiting Earthworm and then the secret Ferocious Killer Squirrel technique!!'

'Shut up, Torch', we said in unison.

System Masterer

The PIs shuffled off the bus. There was no point to staying on it, it wasn't going anywhere, and they had to before something horrible happened.

Torch placed the ticket under what was left of a windshield wiper on the bus... let the Transit company pay for it, its their ticket.

Barnard had an idea.

"Hey guys, ummm... we could go to my paw's place. He's a nice guy, when he hasn't had too many beers. Maybe he could help us out. Besides that, he's got the nice 12-gauge that would look good pointed at Masters."

"How are we going to get there?" asked Dik.

"Well, we could hitch a ride..."

Torch walked to the edge of the road and stuck out his thumb. A few cars whizzed by, not giving him a second glace.

Pedro walked up in front of Torch, pulled out a joint, and stuck out his thumb. A large, partially primered, beatup Ford van slammed on its brakes beside him.

A thin man, with a scraggling beard leaned out of the driver's side window.

"Like wow man, hop in."

The Torch

Dave was getting confused by all this action. The impact of the bus into the tree had jarred his brain a bit. He was wondering how he was going to get part of his brain out of those jars and back into his head. Feeling generous, he decided to donate the little bit of them in jars to charity.

Of course, he was getting annoyed with other people wanting him to do the writing disk drive techniqe, the screaming orgasm technique, and others. He was supposed to be in disquise. Sort of.

Suddenly, lunch called. A Ninja Master needs his protein he decided, and he decided (lots of decisions today) to go try and find his lunch. With that, he secretly and adroitly crept into the woods near the PIs. He saw them all get into the vehicle which had pulled over. He wondered about the sleazy implications of all the other PIs getting caught together like that. He was having problems seeing the vehicle too, probably line noise he decided. He started running through the woods. A wierd song followed him, like a movi

The Imposter

The joint wasn't bad, not bad at all. It brought back fond memories of home, of coca leaves drying over an open fire, the sweet scent of chocolate fudge brownies streaming from the kitchen where mother made dinner, and desert, and probably breakfast for the next ten years. I became wrapped up in content memories of my past until I realized I had never lived them. I turned to the driver and we began to discuss socio-political economics. "Yeah man, 12 bucks a friggin' gram! Sure the shit's good, but holy hypos, it really costs." The man was a university professor. "Say dude," he asked, "what's your name?" Not wanting to give away our identities, I evasively replied "Joe." His eyes opened wide with suprise. "Hey, I know you! Yeah, I met a 'Joe' at Woodstock! Isn't it amazing to meet again after all these years?" The man was a Simon Fraser University professor.

El Loco

The Ford containing all the PI's (except Dave) and the teacher, sped towards a lone figure on a deserted highway towards the horizon. It was

El Loco the crazyman, Pedro's cousin. He stood there in his stolen american garb, with his thumb extended to the 'Hitchhiker' position. At the same that El regarded the truck, Pedro said: 'Hey, that ees my cousin...pick heem up!' The SFU prof, being quite mean about the whole thing, refused. This was a bad choice, as the professor found out. Pedro took the professor, and folded him neatly and placed him in the glove compartment with the vehicle insurance and a few assorted maps. He took the wheel and sped to his long lost cousin who he hadn't seen since the Mexican earthquake of '85. (or was it '84?). During all this, Dave is trying to find lunch and in desperation, performs a flying Block Availability Map sideswipe on a fieldmouse.

The Grodd

"What are you doing, Ja- I mean Pedro?"

"I'm picking up my cousin, El Loco, from the roadside."

"He's not your cousin. He couldn't be. You only died a few days ago."

"Okay. He was this body's former cousin. Pick, pick, pick. I'm picking him up."

"Why?"

"Because he's my cousin, that's why."

"But this car is already too crowded. There's you, Barn, me, the driver, and - um - where's Torch?"

"Why should I care?"

"Because..." I was cut off in mid-exclamation.

Flying from the trees like a sex-crazed halibut, a lithe female form tackled

El Loco to the ground. Pedro stopped the car and we clambered out to come to his (body's) cousin's aid. It was too late. The sudden attackxby a libido- charged woman had overloaded El's brain. He wasn't dead - unfortunately. He

The Grodd

was a vegetable. I made quick grab for his assailant, being careful as to where I grabbed. She wore a mask, which, when I had subdued her with a swift Vulcan nerve pinch (another secret technique which I won in a lawsuit with Leonard Nimoy), I removed with one swift motion. Well, maybe two not so swift motions. There are some things that just resist removal: evil masks and bras being two of them. Ayway, the mask was off and the face revealed.

It was Julie, the floozie from the bar.

"Wait a minute!" said Pedro. "I dumped you dozens of messages ago!"

"Or so you thought," she replied seductively. She then looked at me.

This could be trouble.

She leapt at me.

This could definitely be trouble.

She kissed me passionately.

Trouble.

But hey, I wasn't complaining.

El Loco

As the female was attacking another figure not known to El yet, El recovered himself from the ground and did a routine check on his memory banks. He was not human. He was not machine. He was both. A Cyborg. To be specific, he was a Tyrell Corp. Nexus 6 class replican. The routine check had come up positive, except for a few minor flaws in his Sex infested Id. He then said to his departed metaphysical cousin: 'Hey there cuz, hows it goin'? Not good from the looks of things. You look dead on your feet.' Pedro: 'what you don't know cousin.....' This was all very confusing to El, as he, at that moment, heard muffled cries from the glove compartment of the Ford truck. He waltzed over and released the catch. He removed the professor and unfolded him as best he could. After smoothing out the wrinkles, the professor said to Pedro: 'That's it. I've been folded one too many times.' All action stopped and focused on the professor who instantaneously....

System Masterer

The beatup van spit gravel at our intrepid PIs as it hurled back to the highway and down the black ribbon into infinity.

"Oh wow." El Loco muttered.

Meanwhile, Julie was performing an oral tonsilectomy on Dik.

"Jake meant nothing to me Dik... I just used him to get closer to you... I love you Dik. I want to have your children."

"Ummm..."

The professor was headed back to town... those bunch of idiots had really upset him, and he was gonna go heavy on some 'ludes and forget the whole scene. He saw what seemed to be another hitchhiker, only the man seemed to be missing the necessary component to be a hitchhiker, a thumb. As a matter of fact, he was missing a hand.

Death Bird stepped in front of the van, able to smell the PIs inside. He jumped through the windshield into the driver, breaking the professor's neck as the van drove onward. It suddenly dawned on Death Bird's dim and acid filled mind that there was no one else in the van. He turned to look out the windshield.

System Masterer

The van, driverless, hit a parked car. Death Bird was thrown out of the broken windshield, over the car, and into a picture window. On his way through the window, he broke the necks of several mannikens that had been showing off the latest spring fashion line of yellow, ugly clothes.

A tad disgruntled, Death Bir got up, killed two shoppers and a sales clerk with various bodyparts from the destroyed window display, and shambled down an alleyway, undaunted from his quest.

Meanwhile, back at the side of the highway, the PIs had put together what had happened.

"Damn anyway," said Barney, " why'd you go and fold that prof up? They always get irritable when you do that."

"How was I supposed to know?" countered Pedro.

"Boys, boys, let's settle down and think about this awhile..." Dik was enjoying himself.

Finally, Julie piped up.

"Why don't we all go back to my place boys? My car is hidden behind that clump of trees, and I can probably tell you some things that might be rather interesting."

This is your 5 minute warning. You've been on for ->0:24:25 Please finish up what you are doing.

System Masterer

"Besides that, I have a king sized waterbed..." she stroked Dik's chest. "With heat and massage too."

Dik felt this was an excellent idea. He sprinted for the trees.

The Imposter

Seing cousin Loco again was good. He was a nice enough guy, for a radioactive mutant cyborg from Hell. Old mama Petita used to say to me "Pedro, you's better a take a care of your cousin, he may be a radiowave potato simpleton from Honnalulu, but he's a nice boy." I was getting tired of these unreal flashbacks, so I slapped myself. I slapped myself back. Soon, a fight ensued, fortunately it stopped before either I or myself was injured. Dik stared at me. Barney stared at me. El Loco stared at me. Julie stared at Dik. I decided to read Julie's mind, what there was of it to read. "...this fool and make him love me, then I'll use him to kill off the other P.I.'s. Ha Ha. Ha Ha Ha. Haaaaaaaaa." It was Master's mind controling Julie's body! I walked over to Dik. "Dik," I whispered in his ear "this bimbo is no bimbo, it's Masters!" Dik just looked at me and raised one eye- brow. I wondered wether he'd won that from Nemoy too.

The Imposter

"Come now Pedro, I realize you're jealous at my newfound wench, but please, envy is so declasse." I realized this was going to be futile. Trying to convice Dik that his woman was Masters would be like trying to explain the SuperString theory of dimensions to Bernard. There was nothing I could do, except watch her every move...well, those that weren't rated X anyway.

We sped off towards Loco's home in his car, it was a big ugly Ford. It had air shocks. I had big fuzzy dice hanging from the rear-view mirror. Suddenly, I had a plan.

Big Dave Diode

A slightly battered Elmer the Safety Elephant rolled by on his turbo-tricycle, contributing nothing to the plot. Whatsoever.

Barney Beer

Dave the Super Ninja watched the PIs closely from a vantage point in a large prickle bush.

'Hmmm' Dave thought.

Only Great Yama knew what Dave was thinking about.

Meanwhile, the other PIs all piled into Julie's small sports car which had miraculously transformed into El Loco's battered Ford. The faint aroma of raw coca leaves filled the car's interior.

Pedro, a menacing look on his dark swarthy face, glared at Dik who was receiving a tongue massage from Julie the floozie.

I looked on, enviously. I could use a good tongue massage, too.

El Loco, who happened to be driving since this was his car, looked into his rearview mirror to see Pedro ready to spring into action. Not all that hard to discern since Pedro was holding a blackjack in his hand.

A shot rang out. A hawk screamed. A jeep sped across the Central African Savannah. A stun grenade. A stun grenade? There was a loud 'Whumpfh' and a billow of smoke. It looked like it would be lights-out time again.

The Torch

Truly, the PIs looked like they were in trouble. Dik had his sex farm woman, but she was actually a controlled being, a mindless bimbo. Almost all the other PIs wanted her body, and were ready to kill for it. No, they weren't going to kill her for her body, they were going to kill Dik for her. But they were in serious trouble from this stun-grenade. Fortunately, Pedro put down the blackjack and, along with El Loco, proceeded to open their nostrils wide and snort ALL the noxious gas into their bottomless lungs.

"Wicked shit, eh?" said El.

"Wow man" replied Pedro.

Unfortunately, that meant that most of the PIs were disabled. Pedro and El were off in Lala land, Dik was having various parts of his body explored with a tool generally used for assisting mastication. Dave was off trying to get a good plot boiling, but he had to settle for a soup boiling made of small little forest animals.

System Masterer

The Grodd

I foudn it difficult to believe that the person who was at the moment doing things to me which should not be described on a family BBS was actually Masters - or even controlled my Masters. But I had to consider it as a pos- sibility. My mind churned away, trying to find clues as to the real identity of this Julie.

My body was quite content with what it was doing.

Skillman

My body wasn't quite so damn Happy!

here I was, with my engineering degree, getting paid pennies an hour by Masters, to build and control all of his silly toys! It wasn't right! It j}s\ wasn't! Justice had to be done! Masters' toys had to be 'accidentally' destroyed. This son-of-a-big-nosed-penguin had to pay. But how?

what prize cpossesion of his could I destroy first?

I had it. I'd start with his pink squeeky rubber Opus doll, and work my way up

No more breaking my back while Masters takes the credit.

No sir.

BIKE REPAIR MAN

which was almost instantly forgotten.

when morning arose, the troupe was alseep. heck they didn't start waking up until 2 or 3 in the afternoon when dave superninja's stomach slapped him to conciousness demanding food. (it seemed dave sometimes lost control of his mind-body oneness when he was aleep) they had a quick meal of pine cones and acorns and assorted seeds and then they all scampered into the car and drove. "did he say scampered?" murmered dave. "yeah, it was the squirell food he fed us stupid" answered pedro smartly.

they were headed north in an illegaly packed small car without seats. "I hate fuzzy dice" exclaimed barnard as el made a quick left turn and everyone got real close to everyone else.

El Loco

'Turn Here?' said El, sort of confused considering there was no road to turn on to, but he had been trained to listen to his instincts, and they screamed at him to turn left. 'What the hell are you doing?' said his cousin Pedro angrily. 'Following my instincts.' replied El. 'Oh, okay then, continue.' At that moment, the auto was jarred to a sudden stop. El hit a rock. But not just any old rock. This rock had a significant effect on all the members of the group. This rock was made up of one and only one element.

Plutonium.

The group in the automoble at first laughed at each other, because that is what you do when someone else is glowing greenish.

The Grodd

Glowing greenish. Or was that glowing greenishly? Or just glowing green? Or a green glow? Not that it mattered. I knew that the chance that we would just happen to drive off the road at that particular point and just happen to run into that particular rock which just happened to be made of plutionium was ex- tremely remote. Therefore, it was also extremely unlikely that the rock was made of plutonium. I somehow managed to extricate myself from Julie's arms (no mean feat, I assure you) and open the door of the Ford. Peering underneath the car at the eerily glowing stone, I noticed a small, heavy-duty 110 volt electrical cord descending from the rock into the ground. I took out my Dik Miller (tm) All-In-One Super Slicer/Dicer/Chopper/Grinder/Pureer/Liquefier cum Swiss army knife and cut the cable. The rock stopped glowing. It was not

The Grodd

Plutonium at all, but merely some excessively clever practical joke. I glanced around to see that this part of the roadside was covered with these oddly glowing stones. Either someone had a very sick mind or there was some other reason for those stones to be there. They all seemed to be lines up in even rows on either side of the highwey. I pondered. I thought. I speculated. I meditated. I hit myself for sounding like Death Bird.

"Alright," I said to El as I leaped into the car, only barely managing to keep Julie from preventing me from talking. "Let's go."

"Right," said El.

He turned the key. Nothing happened.

"Shit," he exclaimed. "The battery's died again."

"Where are we going to get a jump start out here, in the middle of nowhere?" asked Julie suggestively.

The Grodd

"We'll just have to wait for one to come," said Barn, obviously not realizing how his statement could be interpreted.

Several hours later, long after nightfall, no one had come. Not along the road anyway. I was still contemplating mentally how Julie could be in the control of Masters. My body ignored this possibility and went right on with what it was doing.

Suddenly I knew what the still-glowing stones were for.

A lone Beechcraft plane appeared high in the sky to the north. It came in low, feathering its engines, and touching down on the road. The rocks were landing markers, and these were smugglers - our perfect chance to get to France (hey, a poem), if only we could overcome those inside.

Thomas Covenant

...I changed my mind. Hey, smugglers could get pretty nasty sometimes. I mean, they carried WEAPONS. So I wasn't goin' for that kind of gaff. I managed to run the cut cable from the psuedo-plutonium to the battery and jump start the car.

Then we all fucked off.

Skillman

"Damnit" I screamed. "How am I supposed to build nuclear devices for that scheming idiot if I dont have any nucleuses??"

I pondered that for awhile. Where the hell had that chunk of plutonium gotten to? Radiation readings indicated that it was nowhere here in France (big chunk of Plutonium ok? gives off a lot of readings!)

My life as a scientist has just GOT to change soon! How long can a scientist go on building robots that could be solt on the market for millions, only to have them wandering around jerking off some Private Dik.

it just isn't fair.

The Imposter

The car was moving, the glow was fading, our minds were boggling, and Grodd was panting. It didn't bother me though, I had a plan. A good plan. A real good plan. I only needed one thing to make it work: a technical genius and a religious messiah. All in one. Okay, so it wasn't such a great plan. On the other hand, I'd figured out what was going on with Julie, the glowing effect had clinched it when it didn't work on her. She was a robot, a bimbo robot from France. Alluminum breasts and silicon bones. Something like that anyway. Dik didn't seem to mind though, and Masters obviously didn't mind, his thoughts were coming through clear as day. "...ha ha ha. Ah ha ha ha.." Suddenly, the car stopped again.

El Loco

Well, yes, the car DID stop, but only for one brief instant. Then it went in reverse, and the car sped , no, - FLEW -, backward. The professor exclaimed: 'These people with spanish names are worthless drivers!' At that point Pedro was offended. He grabbed the professor and casually flung him out the window. The prof hit a flat part of the desert which was not very hard to do. He then promptly got up and looked toward the rapidly disappearing car going back- ward. 'wait a second' said Grodd...'Why ARE we going backward Locoo?' 'Because I saw...I saw...IT!' 'Umm...care to expand?' 'Not particularly.' 'Okay. Where now then?' 'Away from...IT!' 'Oh. Well, where is that?' 'Well, I was thinking the closest rest station considering I haven't relieved my bladder since I came into the picture.' Loco drove until he came to the highway and turned the car in the appropriate direction.

El Loco

Onward they went until they reached a roadside toilet. El went and relieved himself. Upon his return to the car, he was abducted, accosted, and assulted by a thought in his mind. That thought? it was an abstract thought. It was not just your ordinary run-of-the-mill thought, but a strange new idea that could very well change the course of the group and thier journey. The thought raged and raged in Loco's cerebrum, turning and turning until it had matured into a full grown idea with parameters that would have blown the socks off Einstien's feet. It was the thought of possible conversion of the Ford into a ship capable of light speed. Or at least 99.997% that of. It was simple! All that had to be done was to channel some kind of fusion power into the gas receptacle of the truck. The fusion reactor could be carried in the bed of the truck. This would make stakeouts and getaways in the truck a cinch. But Time Dilation WAS a problem.....

The Grodd

El Loco stood beside the truck, not noticing that his shirt was caught in his fly. He also had not noticed that in his mad reverse dash he had taken us back to within a hundred yards of the now-parked Beechcraft. I was about to suggest that El prepare to come with us to the plane when the idea, which had been brewing in his brain and manifesting itself on his face as a series of very improbable contortions, finally became so complex that it overloaded his brain cells and caused him to collapse, falling into a deep coma. Since he was not much use in a catatonic state, we decided to leave him behind.

Pedro, Barn, Julie, and I leaped out of the vehicle and ran towards the plane. Luckily I had retrieved my Ingram Mac-10 machine gun, so I drew it and pre- pared to use it on whoever might be in the plane. Barn had his Super Redhawk.

The Grodd

We approached the steps which led into the aircraft, and ran aboard.

"Freeze!" shouted Barn and I simultaneously.

"Don't shoot!" squealed two bespectacled old ladies in crocheted shawls, who had been preparing to unload some of the many brown cardboard boxes which covered the floor of the plane's storage compartment. I picked up one of the boxes and ripped it open.

I couldn't believe it. How could these sweet old ladies degrade themselves like this? I stared deep into the box.

Bill the Cat tote bags. Fake ones. Made in Taiwan and shipped across the Pac- ific on the infamous "bag boats." Shoddily made. Not conforming to safety standards. Not recommended for children under five.

"Ladies, I pity you. How could you stoop so low?"

"I don't know," whimpered one of them, sobbing into her embroidered hankie.

The Grodd

"It started with simple things. Just a few bags for the kids. Then we started selling them to relatives, then friends. Before we knew it, the demand was more than we could handle and we had to start importing en masse; hiding them away in our luggage just wasn't enough anymore." She began to sob. "Besides, the authorities were wondering why two old ladies went to Taiwan every three weeks." She cried openly.

Barn and I escorted the two ladies out of the plane and directed them towards El, who was still prone on the ground.

"Okay," I said once we were on board. "Let's get to France."

Somehow, Pedro got the plane started and trundled down the runway. He got up to speed and we took off. There was nothing to stop us now, unless we ran out of fuel.

I was watching as the two old ladies approached El's body on the ground when

The Grodd

I heard a faint banging noise. It was coming from the rear cargo door. Hesi- tantly, I armed my Ingram and walked back, then flung the door open, ready to shoot.

It was Dave.

"Hi," he said. "I managed to grab on just before you took off. Can I come in?"

"I guess so."

He stepped in and looked around. "We're going to France in THIS?"

"It's the best we could do," said Barn.

"Come here, Dik," said Julie.

Not again, I thought. Something about Julie bothered me. She seemed almost... unreal. Maybe it was the humming sound that came from her joints every time she moved. I don't know.

We flew on.

Big Dave Diode

A muffled noise came from the rear of the aircraft. Thats right, a muffled noise. It sounded almost like a carrier tone wearing a thick wool scarf.

No one in particular opened the door with the sign on it condemning it to be the entrance to a lavatory for all eternity. And I stepped out. The five large pistols pointed at my chest did nothing to disturb my peace of mind, and I smiled bemusedly.

"Who the hell are you?"

"Why, the name is Sammy. Sammy the Cyborg."

My eyes glowed softly as I introduced myself. "Well, it was time you had another character introduced anyway."

The flying crate raced - no, FLEW - on through the night...

The Torch

This was too much. Too many faces, too many changes, too many idiotic plot twists, too much reminder of death bird. Too many sentence fragments.. I casually and nonchalantly made my way up to the cockpit. Suddenly, I closed the door to the cockpit. Heh. This was something I'd always wanted to do. Being an announcer on the Grouse Mtn. Skyway wasn't enough.

"Attention folks, this is your Captain speaking. We are cruising at an altitude of 300 feet at this time. We are on course for sunny France to meet with our foe once and for all. It would be appreciated if this plane was not hijacked to Cuba or any other sundry location. Thank you for your co-operation."

God it felt great to do that. I was just hoping that there wasn't anybody else that grabbed ahold of the plane after I did. Nobody in particular of course. Ahead, we could see....

Skillman

Heh..Masters was gonna get more than he bargained for from Sammy. This Robot was no ordinary robot - rigged with 2 completely opposite personality proms, all it took wass the toggle of a dip switch to convert him from bad to good.

I figured I'd sit back and relax for awhile.

I threw on my Realistic headphones, and listened to what was happening, thru Sammy's built in Microphones

"This should be fun" I snickered..

Barney Beer

I didn't like the looks of Sammy the Cyborg. He had the same scent as Julie. Ever since I was raised by aardvarks in the wilderness of New Guinea, I've had an acute sense of smell.

I could smell gears, SAE 30 gear oil and a faint evil smell. I've never had the opportunity to smell an evil smell, but I was pretty sure that the smell that I smelled from them was pretty well an evil smell. A really evil smell. But then again it might have been the Polish garlic sausage and blue cheese sandwiches that quietly moldered in Pedro's pocket.

Anyways, I toyed with the thought of drawing my Ruger Super Redhawk and blowing a couple of craters in Julie and Sammy. 'That would be fun', I thought

Meanwhile, Pedro was having a gay old time flying the plane through trees, barns and all manner of other seemingly solid things. What a loon.

Big Dave Diode

Sammy issued a few funny little beeping noises and sat down. Booting up a brainwave analyser program from the hard-drive in his chest, he scanned the people around him.

A brain here, a brain there, a mutant radioactive hypnotized slave cyborg CPU over there... It was Julie!!

Pausing a mere nanosecond, Sammy booted up a terminal program and autodialed Julies's number through the cellular phone embedded in what appeared to be his left tibia.

A couple of minutes of obscure control sequences, and Sammy was 'hacking' Julie's brain. He subtly altered her programming, deleting Master's remote access codes, and adding in some of his own.

Everyone in the plane stopped being airsick and stared at Julie. She had inexplicably shifted her affections to this newcomer, Sammy! Right about now, her tongue was halfway down Sammy's throat.

Big Dave Diode

Sammy's eyes glowed a more intense shade of deep red, and he smiled softly to himself.

He shrugged, "Hey, I just wanna have fun!"

Even though there was no way that Master's Julie slave could harm them now, Dik frowned slightly.

The aircraft staggered - no, almost FLEW - onwards into the night, narrowly missing trees, people, large office complexes, and a mysterious bungalow in the country.

El Loco

In the twisted hallways of El's mind, he thought to himself these thoughts. 'Boy...it's lonely in here. I wis h someone would figure out some kind of subplotpto get me out of this comatose state, and also maybe give me purpose. Boy oh boy, being a trenchcoat, (or was I a cut throat?) is harder than I thought....oh well...I'll just sit here and explore my mind considering it is the only thing I am capable of at the moment.'

The two old ladies kicked El

The Imposter

Things were getting confusing, so I decided to keep an eye on the newcommer. Only one eye though, I needed the other one to fly the plane with. I did a quick mindscan of this cyborg, and noticed the radio frequency transmitting back to a human mind. "This should be fun" I thought, and followed the radio waves with my mind back, back, back, all the way to France. Images began to flash through my mind, I had him now. I began to probe this strange man's thoughts, further and further, suddenly I realized, his brain was so strange that it was causing havok with my own mind! Complex theorem kept jumping to and fro, empirical data clashing with extrapolated hypothesees, big fat wildebeasts attacking great ugly....then nothing. I managed to break free just before my mind blew. Then it hit me.

Masters was in deep shit.

The Grodd

I was almost relieved that Julie had finally stopped fondling me constantly. It had been getting tiring, and relationships with robots never go far anyway. Still, I felt some remorse; she had a great body, even if it was made from the same material as the containers I kept leftover pea soup in inside my fridge back home. Now that she was obviously a cyborg, and was now actively attacking Sammy. I wondered how androids acquired sex drive; it wasn't as if they could reproduce. Not that way, anyhow.

Time for a nap, I thought suddenly. I leaned against a bulkhead and slept.

Charlie Gibbs

"Damned airplanes!" muttered Bernard's father. "They get lower all the time. About time I taught those bastards a lesson."

Rummaging around in his closet, he came up with his trusty shotgun and headed back towards the window.

"Dammit, they're already past us. Now where'd I keep that Sidewinder missile?"

Barney Beer

I looked out the window in time to see my father's mysterious bungalow. I didn't even know my father had a mysterious bungalow out here but, Dad always was the ..... mysterious type of guy.

Then the smell of evil assailed my nostrils once again. The sound of grinding gears and the stench of burning gear oil filled the cramped cabin of the small aircraft. Sammy the intelligent Food Processor and Julie the Fembot were engaged in some kind of strange sex acts only those of the mechanical persuasion could do. I turned away in disgust as I caught sight of Sammy's Serial Cable reaching for Julie's RS-232 port.

Turning to face Dik, who was panting and wheezing, I asked in a low voice so as not to be overheard.

'Say Dik, how the hell are we supposed to fly all the way to France in this little flying crackerbox?'

'Got me, Barn.'

'Thanks, Dik. You've been a big help.'

El Loco

El's warped and comatose mind again:

'Boy, this really is a predicament. I have the use of absolutely none of my senses, and am in a coma. I get the feeling that they aren't coming back for me, but I sure hope they do, because that Julie chick cyborgie thing has a small amount of amino acids running her awareness sensors that would reactivate my systems. I always have to remember that I am a Tyrell Corp. Nexus Six Class replican, and Tyrell himself told me that I can get out of anything....Well, all I need is Julie....'

The two 'Bill the Cat' Bag-ladies kicked El some more.

Big Dave Diode

Julie went limp.

"I turned her off," explained Sammy.

Back in the Mysterious Bungalow, Big Jed rummaged around in the back of the rec room, and pulled out a very large weapons system.

Small Jed jr. wandered in. "Gee, dad, I didn't know we had a ground-based Phoenix missile system.."

"Yeup. Gimme a hand with this ol' pool table heah, suhn."

Minutes of grunting ensued. (Ensued? Ensued.)

Jed and Jed finally got the missile system fixed up on the pool table, and sat around chewing on long stalks of grass wedged between their teeth, wondering exactly how to turn it on.

"Yew got a match?"

A large explosion rocked the bungalow. Six missiles blew through the rec-room wall, and began converging on the poor excuse for an airplane containing our heroes.

Jed and Jed put on their straw hats and overalls, and went out to sit on the fence.

Meanwhile, El began working out how to astrally project himself...

The Grodd

Getting to France in a smuggler Beechcraft was going to be hard. No, it wasn't going to be hard, it was going to be impossible. Damn right. Unless...

I peered around the inside of the cabin in the same way I look for a washroom when I first enter a new establishment - just in case I need it.

"Um, guys," mumbled Pedro from the control cabin.

"Yeah, what?" barked Dave, deciding not to be witty for once.

"I think we have a problem."

"How's that?" Dave snapped again, managing to maintain his un-wittiness.

"There are six missiles heading straight for us."

"You're sure?" Dave asked. I was amazed. No off-colour humour yet.

"Very sure."

"Well, then we probably have about as much chance of surviving as we do of finishing this story coherently." There. I knew he's do it sooner or later.

The Grodd

"In that case, you have about twenty seconds to call the mighty Bwana," said Pedro. I hated the fact that he'd already been dead once. He sounded so smug, so knowledgeable, so... oh never mind.

I found what I was looking for, hidden behind the stack of Bill the Cat bags. I had suspected as much.

"Ten seconds, guys."

Barnard whimpered slightly. No. He whimpered a lot.

Dave looked morose.

Sammy and Julie looked like they needed recharging.

"Five."

I hunted calmly for the switch, then pressed. "Hold on," I said quietly.

There was a deafening screech, then the roar of a high-powered rocket engine. It wasn't from a missile, though. It was from the back of the Beechcraft. The old crones had installed a liquid hydrogen ramjet as a security measure to

The Grodd

elude any pursuing security forces while they were shipping their bags. I had guessed the existence of the ramjet when I noticed an unusual strap- on booster on the back of the plane when it first landed. I was glad I was right.

I was thinking all of this as I sailed across the cabin and slammed into the back wall, promptly to be followed by Dave and Barn. Sam and Julie had somehow clamped themselves magnetically to a bulkhead. What ensued was decidedly un- comfortable, but we managed to avoid the missiles, which promptly reversed course and annihilated Jed & Jed's abode.

I supposed that getting to France wasn't going to be that difficult after all.

Charlie Gibbs

"Dammit, Jed," said Jed as the house exploded, "I thought you said those things could fly straight."

"Yep," said Jed. "I think I'm going to go back to 3-Vets tomorrow and give them what for." His face suddenly sumk. "Shit," he said. "I just remembered I got that flamethrower there too. It probably wouldn't work either."

"Oh well," said Jed. "I guess we better figure out where we're going to sleep tonight. Wanna flip to see who gets the bed and who gets the outhouse?"

El Loco

And AGAIN...El's mind:

'This is starting to get pathetic. About the only thing I am doing here is exploring the depths of my mind. Wing ding. It seems as though I have been put here by some force. I can't remember who, or what, or why, but I DO remember that sooner or later I am going to wake up from this sub-reality state. Until then I may as well develop another personality as it seems as tho I will be here a while. Now...what will my split be like? Male? Nah...female definately...'

Meanwhile the two old ladies walk off after recieving no response from kicking El. They walk off the runway into a minefield and are promptly blown into basic molecular stucture and loud sound waves. So much for the old lady sub-plot.

Barney Beer

About that time, a large shambling, rotting corpse shambled over to where El Loco lay and shambled all over him. El Loco's feeble comatose mind reeled. It even unwound, spun around, got tangled and ground to a halt. He cowered and shrank in on himself, which is very hardpfor a person who is in a coma and totally paralyzed. The shambling corpse peered down at El Loco's frozen face. Loco, looking through eyes fixated with fear, gazed upon the ruined features of......The Death Bird!!!

Death Bird grimaced a few times, emitted a few shrill squeaks, shook about and walked into the minefield and was never heard from again.

Meanwhile, back in the Beechcraft with the ramjet, I was busy trying to peel myself from the wall. I looked forward and noticed Pedro looking particularily sick. In fact everyone looked a bit pallid and sick. Except of course for Sammy and Julie. Frigging walking toaster ovens seemed to be having a great time.

The Imposter

Things were going just great. We were un-armed, un-prepared, and had three robots in the plane. It was time to take control, but that was okay, I had a plan.

I stepped out of the flight cabin and said masterfully, "After careful examination of the clues, it has now come to my attention that one of YOU is the killer!" They looked impressed, they looked awed, they looked...confused. "Umm Pedro?" came Dik's voice, "Yes, what is it?" "Umm...shouldn't you be flying the plane?" I sneered at the upstart. "You fool, what a silly question, of course I should be flying the...plane. Shit." I ran back to the cabin and put the auto-pilot on. "Now, where was I, oh yes, one of YOU is the killer, the one who murdered the ambassador of Lower Slobovia in the library with the sub-atomic chainsaw." They shushed and waited for more. "Yes, unbeknownst to the rest of you, the ambassador was slain last week and my mindscan has revealed that someone aboard this plane is responsible."

Until next week kids

The Grodd

"Tha ambassador from Lower Slobovia?" I asked. "Where in hell's name is that?"

"Picture Europe."

"Yeah," I said in response to Pedro.

"Go East."

"Uh-huh."

"Think small. Real small."

"Mmmmm."

"That's Lower Slobovia."

"I see. And what does he have to do with us?"

"One of you killed him, you twit."

I was offended.

Barn piped up. "But we've been together on this case for more than a week any- way."

"But were we together the whole time?"

"Well," said Dave. "No. But we were never separated long enough to kill any- one. Besides, who would want to kill him if we've never even heard of him?"

"Would you shut up?" snapped Pedro. "You're ruining my neat new subplot."

"Wait a minute," I mused. "Blamsworth J. Wopplequimby."

"What?" asked Pedro, Dave, and Barn simultaneously. Sammy and Julie were too

The Grodd

busy to say anything intelligible.

"Blamsworth J. Wopplequimby. The dead man in the warehouse."

"What's the connection?" inquired Barn in his usual lunkish manner.

"I don't know. There has to be one. Otherwise, there would be just too many unresolved subplots in this damn story."

"True," said Pedro. "But the ambassador's name was Mikhail."

"An alias, perhaps?" I ventured.

"Doubtful."

I thought. Then I thought some more. All the while, another, totally unre- lated thought was swimming through my mind, occasionally giving me an uncom- fortable prod. What had happened to Masters and the Spiderwoman? We hadn't heard from them in ages. I continued to think.

I didn't get very far.

Barney Beer

I decided to keep my mouth shut since everything I said, however brilliant, was irrevocably twisted by the others. I sat quietly and had an interesting conversation with myself, much like El Loco, wherever the hell he was.

'I'm telling you that one of YOU killed the Ambassador!' screamed Pedro, obviously on the edge of total mental collapse.

'But assuming that we....', Dik was cut off as he noticed the large handgun pointed at his head in the hand of Pedro, who was leering strangely. Maybe he was strangely leering. Who knows. Dik certainly didn't.

'It must have been you, Miller!' Pedro screeched unnecessarily, 'It had to be! You were at the scene of the crime when the SWAT team arrived. You even tried to escape and had your old beater blown into cooking utensils!'

'Hold on a minute, Pedro. Get ahold of yourself.', Dik said calmly.

'None of that! I knew there was something to this new sub-plot! Come on, just give me some kind of excuse to blow you away. Go ahead, make my day.'

Barney Beer

Pedro was obviously trying to goad Dik into some drastic, desperate action.

'You're the disease, you scum. Not me. I'm the cure', Dik countered and with that drew his Ingram from his handy-dandy velcro-closure style vest pocket.

'You're terminated, fucker!', cried Pedro as he let loose a volley of hollow dum-dum teflon bullets. One of the bullets struck the single lightbulb, which popped with a resounding popping sound. 'Pop!' and plunged the cabin into darkness.

Somewhere down near the back of the plane, heedless of the flying shrapnel, bullet fragments and people, Dave the Super Ninja was having a nice chat with Sammy the Cyborg and Julie the Bionic Floozie.

'Fate, Kismet, Doom. All aspects of Fatality, Necessity. Do you understand?', Dave said in his calm and soothing Ninja Master voice.

I was having trouble sleeping what with the gunfire, the shouting and the incessant gibberish that Dave spouted.

'Alright!

Barney Beer

'Alright! Take that you filth! There, how's that for a famous movie saying? That was from the 1954 remake of 'To Write a Novel' by...'.

I was rudely interrupted by a dum-dum bullet ripping a hole in my 'Tequila Sauza' baseball hat. Another bullet punctured my hiking boot near the steel toe. Good thing I wear thick socks.

I decided to get some sleep. I didn't know how long it would be till we got to France, but I'd better get some shuteye. Anyways, I doubted that a plane like this could reach France and I didn't want to be awake when we ditched in a cornfield somewhere in Iowa and died.

El Loco

One more time with El's mind:

'So Bertha...What do you want to do now?' 'Oh, I don't know, playing chess or checkers is bori^g cause I know what you are thinking anyway.' 'Okay, then why don't we try Eye Spy.' 'Fine. I'll start...I spy with my little eye, something that is grey.' 'The top left half of the right hemisphere of my cerebral complex?' 'How'd you guess?' 'I can read your mind. So to speak.' 'I don't like you Loco...I am going to take over your mind. I don't care if it IS a genuine Tyrell.' 'Take over my mind? Forget it babe, you ain't got no...'

El's body (well, Bertha's now...) begins to violently convulse as the two personalities battle it out in El's/Bertha's body.

Pieces of old lady fall like rain on the runway...

The Imposter

Well, I mused, it probably wasn't Dik who killed the ambassador. Too bad, It would've made life real simple. When the emergency lights came back on I turned to Barney. "You! You're the one! You killed him, didn't you Bear! You might think you're tough, but frankly Bernard, I don't give a damn." Barney turned rather unsoliticiously, "Oh dry up." Wise words, I thought. Suddenly, it came to me. It didn't come to the others, who were staring at me strangely. "It's simple, Mind-zap over Montana, Cannon Pictures, 1952. George C. Scott and Marie Tyler Moore. Scott plays a psychic fooled into believing someone who works in his car factory is a murderer. The real killer uses a pseudo-mystical technologically advanced gene-splicing mind bender to trick him." They still looked at me strangely. Dik coughed, "Umm Pedro, what does that have to do with it?"

"Don't you watch T.V.?"

In chorus everyone answered "No"

"It must've been another of Master's tricks. We have no choice but to consult

The Imposter

"We have no choice but to consult THE GUIDE."

"What guide?" asked Dave

"

The Imposter's Guide To Private Detection and Picking Up Girls."

"Oh, THAT guide" sang the others in chorus.

Yes, THE guide. Even Dik had failed to rip the copyright off from that one. I pulled it out of my sombrero and flipped the pages until I found what I was looking for. "Here it is, Chapter 432, paragraph 13, section 33.2 'What To Do When You're The Victim Of A Mind-Zap Device'." A truly well written book.

"Well?" mumbled Barney impatiently.

"It says here 'Mind-Zaps take up a lot of room and are usually concealed within humanoid robots. Handle with care and blow the fuckers away.'" Truly one of today's better paperbacks. I turned to the three (count 'em three) robots and said "A-Ha, one of you is the Mind-Zap! Come on, out with it, you'll only make it worse by not telling."

Then the lights went out again...

The Torch

"Three Robots?", I asked. Sometimes my ninja skills didn't help my hearing too much. I still couldn't get Julie & Sammie to understand a mature outlook on life, the universe, and rice-krispies. They kept thinking that the rice krispies were re-incarnations of the Apostles. I wondered how to tell them that it was impossible to be re-incarnated as a small glucogon package, but they seemed to think that it was as possible as being re-incarnated into a slug. or a snail. sigh.

Getting back to my previous conversation, "So you see, clearly, the extended sphere of void-space warps into a torus shaped figure of power that is represented in the current space-time locus by a shreddie," I declared.

"Bunk," said Sammie. "It's a rice-krispie".

"Well big boys, I thought it was an edible panty," said Julie seductively.

Sammy was getting pretty excited about the thought of shreddies in edible undergarments. The thought of the shreddies going to mush and.., well, he was getting excited.

A shot rang out!

The Grodd

The bullet, which had inadvertently been fired from Barn's Ruger Super Redhawk .44 Magnum, ricocheted off one of the bulkheads, glanced off Sammy's head, and embedded itself in a case of Bill the Cat bags. Sammy looked dazed. I took ad- vantage of the situation, and tapped Dave on the shoulder. He understood.

With one swift motion, we had the two surprisingly light cyborgs in our grasp. Before Sammy could recover from his blow or Julie could recover from seeing Sammy get hit, the rear cargo door was open and the two robots were quietly sailing their way towards what would probably be an unhappy meeting with the ground.

I closed the door and brushed my hands clean.

"Well, that about wraps it up for them," said Dave. "Another ridculous diver- sion to the plotline out of the way."

The Grodd

"That means," said Pedro, now fully de-mind-zapped, "that any time now another one should come along."

There was a loud buzzing sound from the control cabin.

"Why did you have to say that?" I asked plaintively. "Things were going so well."

Pedro ignored this and peered at the controls.

"We're out of fuel," he pronounced, moustache twitching.

"Where are we?" asked Barn with surprising intelligence.

"According to the navigation computer...not really anywhere. Above the Atlan- tic Ocean, in fact."

I supposed that that meant the robots weren't going to meet the ground. They would meet water. Of course, that didn't mean the encounter would be any more pleasant.

"Where's the nearest land?" inquired Dave.

"About three hundred miles away. In France."

The Imposter

"Well, lesse here, the atlantic ocean is only about 3000 miles at its narrowest so we can assume that we are in fact just off the coast of Quebec." A shudder ran through the others. "Oh come on, its not that bad."

"I'll take my chances with the ocean" said barney.

"Umm, one thing guys..." I said hesitantly.

"What is it now?" Snapped Dik.

"With the MindZap gone I just found out some rather unpleasent news."

"What is it now Pedro" came the others.

"Well, Masters was the one who killed the ambassador. He did this because it prevented him from seeking aid. You see, Masters has used his small army to take over Lower Slobovia."

"So what, I'm sure Masters deserved it." barked Barney.

"Now now, all things great and small have equal value in the universal sense of the word because..." began Dave.

"Shaddup all of you. The reason this is a problem is that Lower Slobovia has the worlds largest supply of...Moronium X!"

Big Dave Diode

(Grodd, ya mango.)

Sammy clung desperately to the empennage of the rickety Beechcraft. It was clear that he wouldn't last long, what with ramjet exhaust being fired into his face at supersonic speeds, but at least he had gotten rid of that Julie chick. She was getting obsolete. Other thoughts raced through his mind. Didn't the Trenchies realize that he wasn't a robot? A wired-up ex-human to be sure, but not a robot. In a blaze of frustration, Sammy reached through the fuselage, and pulled himself back into the aircraft.

"Geez" he thought, "today is turning into a whole bunch of no-fun."

He walked camly forward, into the cockpit, smiling and waving. No-one noticed. The only way to be accepted as a member of the Trench-coats was to go to Slobovia, and defeat Death- Bird. Sammy noticed a small button on the autopilot, and pressed it.

Big Dave Diode

A small sign lit up: "Express to Slobovia, no stops enroute."

A warp in space-time opened up in front of the rickety Beech, and swallowed it up.

Not even a nanosecond later, the smuggler's plane and its contents were spit out onto the active runway of Slobovia International, confusing the hell out of a lot of people.

A somewhat sooty Sammy the Cyborg (oo oo alliteration...) turned from the controls to face the rest of the guys, grinned, and gave them a thumbs up.

"I just gotta be me."

Charlotte

After a long night of it, Richard Masters lay slumbering peacefully. the Spiderwoman was feeling restless, so she moved her graceful form over to the open window. the stars were shining coldly in the sky and a soft breeze was swaying the trees. Deep from within her mind, and idea slowly surfaced. She closed her eyes and concentrated her energy across the atlantic. "Dave, ninja master" she breathed softly. "Hear me. I call to you. You have what I need. you can help me. I can give you everything. Listen to my call and open your mind to me. Let our energies flow together and we will be as one. Join with me and I will give you everything you desire."

Charlotte

Relaxing her body even more, the Spiderwoman continued,"When you reach France I will contact you and you will come to me. You will be mine. That is what you want, what you have always wanted. Everything you desire I can give you. Say nothing of what I have told you. This is between us alone." Her message completed, the Spiderwoman opened her eyes, and walked slowly to the bed where she slid in beside Richard Masters who woke and took her in his arms. Aboard the aircraft, Dave suddenly stopped moving and shut his eyes tightly. From far away he heard a soft voice calling his name.

Charlotte

A voice he had heard only in his deepest fantacies. He breathed deeply and listened with his whole being. When the whisper ceaced, his body relaxed and he felt a calmness he had not felt before. His mind turned and a slow sigh excaped from his lips. She had called for him at last. She had a mission for him. For many years he had secretly desired to serve her. Desired her, for that matter. His personal motive against Richard Masters was that he held the soft form that Dave himself longed for. Things were different now. She had wanted him. He would obey her. She HAD promised him everything and he wanted a lot from her. He would say nothing to the others. He would continue as usual until he was needed by HER.

The Grodd

I stared at Sammy. He has somehow managed to pull himself back into the plane, walked into the control cabin, and passed out on the floor, mutter- ing "I just gotta be me." Strange.

"Look," I said to Pedrom pointing at the navigation panel. "We are three hun- dred miles from the French coast. You underestimated that ramjet. If we're lucky we can glide far enough to land in a field or on a road or something."

"GLIDE three hundred miles?" Pedro snapped incredulously. "Good luck."

"We could swim."

The next hour was hell, as Pedro used his metaphysical powers to try to keep the plane high, level, and fast. I tried to keep us on course. Barn opened the cargo doors and ejected the Bill the Cat bags to save weight. Dave just sat meditating - or so I thought.

The Grodd

Some time later, the fog-shrouded coast of Brittany hove into view below us. It didn't look friendly. Even if it had and Pedro screwed up, we would only have been scattered across a friendly-looking landscape.

"Pedro," I muttered, "don't screw up now."

"Not while I'm flying."

"There!" screamed Barn, causing Pedro and me (but not Dave) to jump about ten centimetres. The plane began to yaw uncontrollably.

"What the hell is it?" asked Pedro, struggling with the controls.

"A road! Land on the road!"

We moved in.

The Imposter

"Controling matter with the mind, my son, is a process which will take ytou many years to master. You must learn to touch everything with your mind, save that which you desire to hold. It will take you a lifetime to master child, and many lifetimes to understand." The words of the Bwana still rang through my head as I held the plane aloft. It was like looking through a collidascope, everything became a series of patterns to which I had to sublty weave in order to keep our injured craft from diving towards a watery death. For a moment, I almost lost it. Something had moved into the pattern, an almost straight line from France to here. I couldn't pick anything out, but I new it had something to do with Dave.

The road loomed up ahead and I struggled to glide the plane towards it. The floor of the plane shook mightily as we made our landing on the coast of Brittany. It was over, we were safe. But now, we had to get to Lower Slobovia somehow.

The Grodd

Somehow, I managed to haul myself to the exit door and get it open. Pedro and Barn had picked up Sammy and were carrying him out when I walked up to Dave.

"Yo! Ninja master!" I exclaimed, waving my hands in what must have looked like a very silly way in front of his face. There was no response, and I expected him to start chanting "om" or something. "Hello?" I tried again. Again no res- ponse. There was only one other alternative.

"Island Lager."

His eyes snapped open, and he looked around, rather stunned.

"Good," I said. "Having a little trouble snapping out of our trance, were we?" There was something wrong. Dave looked happy. Too happy. I didn't realize that trances could be quasi-orgasmic.

"Um, where are we?" he asked, still in a daze.

"France. Brittany, to be exact. Let's get out."

Big Dave Diode

Sammy blinked. Twice. Flailing his arms and legs, he dove to the ground.

"It's ok! I'm just going to have to go underground for a while!" he shouted, and began burrowing through the tarmac.

Within seconds he was out of sight, leaving only a large pile of dirt.

The others looked at each other and shrugged. "Damn cyborgs," offerred Dave.

That was the last anyone saw of Sammy for quite a while.

The Unbeliever

Ignarp looked up to see a small plane gliding in for a landing on the pock- marked road. He, being one of those supra-intelligent types, didn't pay it very much attention. If you've seen one Beechcraft with a ramjet, you've seen them all.

Even in dense brush, the midday sun beat down upon Ignarp, who was sitting in a comfy lawnchair under one of those canopies you see stuck on the sides of motorhomes. This canopy, from True Value no less, was particularly ill-fitting

'Goddamn it, why can't someone make a canopy that fits the contours of my spacecraft? Shit man!', he grumbled in a perfect Southern Californian accent. Obviously picked up from watching HBO and other cable networks on his sub- space ultra-frequency transmitter/receiver.

Meanwhile, out on the road, the PIs were busily searching for Samuel the Cyborg who had mysteriously vanished. Big loss. (Ha ha. Big smirk.)

Ignarp looked at his sub-space ultra-frequency chronometric digital watch from Jafco, decided to pack up and go home.

The Unbeliever

'Might even make it home by dinnertime.', Ignarp mused.

The Grodd

I blinked. I could have sworn that there had been a spaceship in the field a few moments before. Maybe it was the heat. I looked back at the fuel-less Beechcraft and noted how incongruous it looked against the backdrop of the sunny French countryside, especially with the still-smoking ramjet strapped to it and shredded bits of Bill the Cat bags hanging from the wings. I fin- sihed looking back and looked forward, noting that the view in the other direction was no different, except for the absence of a plane.

"So," said Barn decisively.

"Mmmm," I muttered conclusively.

"Yeah," grumbled Pedro succinctly.

"Sex," said Dave.

"What?" asked Barn, Pedro, and I.

Dave was peering off at the horizon, staring blankly ahead. As we followed his line of sight, we could see what he was looking at. Nothing. As we were all

The Grodd

gazing eastward, a small yellow Renault delivery van nearly pasted us. It screeched to a halt and a short little man in a striped shirt and a beret leaped out.

"Est-ce que c'est votre avion?" he blabbered.

"What?" asked Barn.

"Eez zat yor plane, monsieur?"

"Well, yes."

"Could you get eet off of ze road, pleez? Eet iz in ze way of traffique."

"Um, it's out of gas."

"Zen poosh eet." With than, he bounded into his Renault and sped off.

The Torch

I couldn't believe it. Here I was, acting like a complete idiot of this woman who I'd only seen about 200 times in the past. But the PIs didn't know that. That I'd seen her that is, not that I was acting like a love-struck teenager out of one of those cheap teen movies, you know the kind, with the bikini-clad women wandering in and out of hot-tubs and condos up on ski hills like Apex.. But that's a different story. Or weekend. Or trip.

There, even I could see how muddled my brain was. I wasn't thinking clearly. It was like I'd been drinking for 2 days solid and only taking time off to sleep and ski.

"Argh!" I screamed.

"What?" queried Dik.

"Sorry, I hit my toe," I lamely replied. I hoped none of them (the PIs would want to think about things like this) would notice that I hadn't moved, which meant I couldn't have stubbed my toe. I waited for the call I knew I had to receive. I wondered when she would call for me.

"No, Dave's not home", said Barney liltingly. He like lilting in La la land

Barney Beer

Liltingly? I surprised myself with that last line. Why the hell would I say something liltingly. Not only is it hard to say but, it's hard to read with all those goofy i's and l's.

Awww, whatever.

'Hack-dooey!', Pedro was saying. Or rather gurgling, while trying to clear his throat. Very impressive, I thought. Much like the battle cry of the Tandoori Hopa-lolo-aju tribe of Northern Baffin Island. Impressive.

Dik hove into view. That seemed particularily strange. Must be due to my limited vocabulary.

'Let's get the plane off of the road before someone drives into it and gets turned into road pizza', Dik said trying to sound authoritative.

The other PIs and I fell to the task of pushing the Beechcraft onto the gravel shoulder. A number of people driving by in cars stopped to watch. I brandished my gun at them and they quickly departed with screams of 'Au secours!!' and 'Gendarmes!', whatever that meant.

The Grodd

We finished rolling the plane onto the side of the road, and I looked down to see that my hands were all dusty. I wiped them on my trenchcoat. Unfortunately the dust was the white kind that gets on dark objects, not the dark kind which gets on light objects (although I was sure there was some of that on my hands too, and that it would manifest itself the next time I tried to pick up a piece of paper). My trenchcoat now had rather large, smeared white handprints on the front of it. I unbuttoned it, removed it, and then looked around.

"Um, Dave?" I intoned. I was running out of synonyms for "said."

"Yeah?"

"You doing anything right now?"

"Not especially."

"Could you come here for a sec?"

"Sure." He ambled over and stood, staring blankly into space once again.

The Grodd

I proceeded to whack my trenchcoat against his upper body until it was free of dust. He didn't even notice, although he was substantially grittier than he had been beforehand.

"Now," said Pedro, spitting unglamorously towards the ground but managing to hit his shoe, "to the task at hand. How do we get to Masters?"

"I dunno," said Barn.

"No idea," said I.

A telephone rang.

"What was that?" I asked.

"That was a telephone ringing," replied Barn.

"I know that. Where is it?"

Looking around didn't help. There was nothing but wheat field. There was an- other ring. It was louder this time.

Unexpectedly, a bright red telephone dropped out of the sky attached to a small parachute. It landed with a soft thud at Dave's feet.

"Neat trick," chirped Barn. He was running short of synonyms too.

The Grodd

Dave looked at the phone as if he had been expecting it. It rang again, and he bent down and picked it up.

"Hello?" he said. There was a pause. "Yeah." Another pause. His eyes widened. "Okay. I'll be there." He hung up, and before we could do anything the tele- phone spontaneously burst into flames and disintegrated.

Pedro turned from the smouldering chunk of plastic slag on the ground and faced Dave. "What was that all about?"

Dave looked ashen. "Nothing."

"You're telling me that a phone drops out of the sky, lands at your feet, ringing, and turns out to be FOR YOU, then burns itself to a shred as soon as you hang up, and it was nothing?!"

"Yup."

"Oh."

Barn was looking up the road and waving his arms. I thought he might just be going over the edge into complete insanity but he was in fact flagging down a passing taxi.

El Loco

El's mind again....with a twist.

'I am in trouble now. At least I took care of that chick who was doing the mind games....'

At that particular moment, a plane decided to land on the runway where El lay. This plane, seeing El, landed about 40 feet past El and came to a halt. A young woman jumped out of the plane, pinned a button on El's shirt and took off. The button said: 'Vive la Sepratiste! Vive le F.L.Q.!'

About 5 minutes later, a man walked up to the unmoving body of El and tried to sell him Life Insurance. Failing at this, he showed El an interesting assortment of plotlines designed to get him out of his coma and back into the group of PI's.

Big Dave Diode

Another seedy-looking man trotted by, nearly tripping over the lifeless form. Looking down, he grinned, and tried to sell El used body parts for five minutes.

"You sure you don't need a new liver?"

Silence.

"How about a brain cell graft?"

More silence.

The man gave up, and trotted on. But not before he had ripped off El's wallet.

El was not impressed. A brain cell graft sounded like it was exactly what he needed to get out of his present predicament. Besides, it would relive the boredom.

His muscles began to stiffen. God, it felt bad. "I'll never eat at Rigatoni Morty's again..."

System Masterer

"Thank you Jacque. Thank you. Yes yes, you're payment will be in the usual place. Thank you. Good bye."

Masters hung up the phone.

"Charles! Yes, would you put five thousand francs in a box, along with enough explosive to eraticate say, one small, obnoxious french man with a Renault? Thank you Charles."

The Spiderwoman leaned over the shoulder of Masters.

"Is that the location of the PIs, dear?"

"Yes... one of my men just called it in. Seems they got here in some sort of small plane with a ram jet strapped to it of all things. Too bad it won't do a damned bit of good to them, I'm going to send a couple of Mirage IIIs out there for some practice dive bombing."

"Oh don't do that dear... you know where they are, but they don't know where we are..."

"So?"

"So lets play with them a bit dear."

"What do you have in mind?"

The Spiderwoman spelled out her story... Masters giggled, snickered, then laughed uproarusly.

"Jed? I want to drop a line to someone..."

System Masterer

When the Spiderwoman hung up the phone, Masters smiled. He couldn't help but be crazy about this woman, she was brilliant. Almost as devious as he, and with an incredibly creative mind for sadism.

"Boss?"

"Yes Charles, what is it."

"It's about that bomb Boss."

"The one for that french man?"

"Yeah. Ummm... I kinda overloaded the box with plastique."

"How much is 'kinda overloaded'?"

"Well, it destroyed the man, his van, the cafe he was parked beside, several other cars, and most of a hotel."

"Call the press and tell them that the PLO have struck another blow for their side."

"Right Boss."

"Oh, and Charles?"

"Yes Boss."

"I know you did that deliberately. As punishment, I want you to send a dozen men in two limos to these coordinates, track down the PIs, and beat them up."

"Gee, thanks Boss."

"Not you Charles. You get to go find Death Bird. I want him in France."

"Y-y-y-y-yes Boss."

"That is all Charles."

The Grodd

The taxi pulled over to the side of the road with a squeal of badly-adjusted brakes. Barn opened the door and hopped in, while Pedro leaped into the back seat (looking quite silly in the process, as his sombrero did not fit through the door). I managed to drag Dave along and throw him in beside Pedro, and was just stepping in when the driver began - as drivers will do - to drive away.

My left foot dragged along the pavement, and I cursed as I pulled myself into the seat and closed the door.

"By the way," asked Pedro, "where are we going?"

There was a moment of silence.

"I dunno," came the chorus of replies.

There was another moment of silence, during which Dave tapped the driver on the shoulder and whispered something in his ear. Either he was telling the

The Grodd

driver where to take us or he was weirder than I had thought. When he finished the driver sped up, roaring down the road at a good...oh...forty kilometres an hour; a four-cylinder car with four PI's and a driver in it does not go very fast.

"Um, Dave?" prodded I.

"Yeah, Dik?"

"Where are we going?"

"Nowhere."

"I see. I guess it's our big chance to get away from it all, then." I hate ripping off Star Trek jokes.

Scratch

Somewhere, on some desolate road, stands a seemingly apparation of a man. Th e figure is shrouded by wisps of mist and fog, making him the centre of their attention. The man's body is totally encompassed by a full length mackintosh, collar up and capped with a shoddy fedora. Dark glasses are precariously perched upon hi s somewhat twisted nose. His hard featured grimace indicates apathy and discon tent. As our camera zooms in, we'll see if we can get an interview: NARRATOR: Excuse me sir?

MAN: Wha...? Fuck off an' get dat bejesus camera outta here, or yer rectum will have a permanent f.stop!

NAR: Sir, may I inform you that this is for a television program called " Weird People in Strange Places " and it pays a hundred dollars.

Scratch

MAN: Why da fuck didn't ya say so in da foist place? Fess up da decasawbucks an' ask yer friggin' questions.

NAR: Again, this is for television, could you refrain from using such vulgar language?

MAN: Yeah, so what channel ya from? ^ NAR: CGAK cable 103.

MAN: So, who really cares?

NAR: Hmmm..you have a point there, so let's start with your name.

MAN: Cat Scratch

NAR: Cat, that's an interesting name, what's it short for?

MAN: Catastrophy, foist ting dat came inta me mudder's head when she hoid she wuz knocked up. People call me Catch fer short.

Scratch

NAR: What about your father?

MAN: Dunno, never met da man. Asked me mudder once who he was and she gave me a multiple choice answer.

....[ will con't on next loggon ]

Scratch

NAR: What is it that you do for a living Mr. Scratch?

MAN: Jus' Catch, okay buddy? Well I'm a private dick, gumshoe, or sleuth if ya prefer. My motto is," Da Cat can smell a Rat."

NAR: That must lead an exciting life, Catch. I assume that bulge under your shoulder is your weapon, may I see it?

MAN: Nosey mudder fucka ain'tcha? Yeah, it's a real sweetheart ain't it? It's one of a kind, had it made special. It's a combo of a Luger an' a Mauser, wit da look an' feel of a Welby, sportin' a Schmeisser 20cm. barrel. Dis baby can be fired fully or semi-automatic, butt load with a magazine that holds a special 32 shot calibre.30. clip.

NAR: Er...Catch, you're petting your gun.

Scratch

MAN: Hey buddy, I'm da one wit da piece ya dig?

NAR: gulp...Yes, so why are you hitch- hiking on this road in the middle of nowhere?

MAN: What shithead sent ya out on this interview anyway, Geraldo Rivera? Look Nerd, fate tol' me destiny wuz gonna pick me up on this road here. Now, ya got yer fools money's worth so get da fug outta my face cuz I hear a motor comin'.

NAR: Well, I guess that just about wraps it up. Remember folks, you saw it first here on CGAK cable 103

The Imposter

Sombreros, some of us like to think, are the ultimate universal expression of paradox. I mean, look at 'em. Look closer. Mighty sharp isn't it? It's the kind of hat that girls see and think to themselves "Whoa, any guy wears a sombrero must be good in bed." The kind of item people look up to. Usefull too. Shades you from the sun, has plenty of roomy storage space, and makes a hell of a frisbee in a crunch. On the other hand, they don't, can't, never have, and never will fit in four cylinder cars. Fortunately, mine folds into a small ski mask. As we drove along I began to wonder just what was going on with everyone. Dave was weirded out in some kind of space warp continuum, Barney had been using words with more than two syllables, Bill the cat was no longer a hit, and Dik was worried, worried! about stealing Star Trek jokes. It was a bad day for left-wing drug abusing elephants from Mars.

The Grodd

"What the hell is that?"

"What are you talking about, Dik?" asked Pedro.

"Him." I pointed. Standing by the side of the road was a man dressed in a suit which was even more stereotypically detective-like than my own. I resent- ed that.

"I'd say he's a private eye there, Dik," Barn told me.

"But who?"

"Too late to find out now," said Pedro. "We just passed him."

Dave made no comment but just kept staring ahead and smiling like he was ogling a beautiful woman. Then it hit me like a ton of reprocessed peat.

"Shit," I said intelligently. "I think Dave's possessed."

"By what?" asked Barnard.

"I don't know yet, but I'm going to find out. Can you get anything, Pedro?"

Pedro closed his eyes and hummed, trying his best to meditate like one would expect a guru to meditate.

El Loco

El' friggin' mind AGAIN!

'Fine...if they wont get me, I'll start sulking. Fine.'

El's body begins to form mould from his extended 'rest period'

The Imposter

I waited, humming for what I assumed would be an appropriate time for a guru to hum. I'd already done a mindscan of Dave's mind.

"Well, I've got good news, and bad news, and news that's totaly irrelevant." I said calmly.

"What's the bad news?" asked Barney in a great-going-you-dumb-wetback sort of voice. "Who you talkin' to in a 'great-going-you-dumb-wetback' voice you big oaf?" I responded. Things got a little haywire then, the car became enveloped in a whirlwind of smoke as we started fighting. Fists flung, feet fought, and Bill the Cat tote bags were being thrown everywhere. When things died down and the others had finished bandaging my damaged sombrero, Dik asked "So, what IS the bad news?" Flabergasted I answered "Well, I can't read Dave's mind, his ninja skills prevent it." Barn muttered under his breath and Dik started swearing. The man has a weird way of swearing, his mouth formed the words but all I could here were beeps. "The good news," I continued "is that ..."

The Imposter

I've tapped into his nervous system and have gotten other information from various glands and secretions."

"Huh?" said Barney

"It's simple really, other parts of his body are reacting minutely to his thoughts and I'm tapping his nervous system for the info."

"Well, what have you learned?" asked Dik.

"Well, his body is preparing to ward off poison of some kind of eight legged fuzzy creature, his skin is warm, and his libido is doing the bunny hop."

All at once lightbulbs began popping over all our heads. "The Spider Woman!" we chorused. That dealt with, we began following the road into danger.

"Umm, Pedro?" began Dik. "Yes, what is it?" He looked as if he was going to regret whatever it was he had to say. "What was the irrelevant news?" I sat back down and said "The Stock Exchange just put up shares in P.I's" "And?" he looked perturbed. "Well, we're worth about ten cents on the dollar"

Dik fainted. Evidently he had invested quite heavily in us.

Barney Beer

Cat Scratch smiled confidently as he saw the taxi crammed full with PI's speeding towards him. A few moments later, the taxi cab was still speeding along and Cat was sort of, shuffling his feet and trying not to look too dumb.

'Ah fuck'em!', Cat muttered,'I'll catch up with them in town. Grumble grumble'

With that, Cat began walking.

Barney Beer

Meanwhile, somewhere in the American Midwest:

El Loco pondered his situation. He was beginning to get moldy from lying in the same spot for days on end, he was terribly bored and his bum was getting itchy.

'I sure hope it doesn't rain', El thought. 'I might drown.'

Sure enough, a sudden rainfall drenched his clothing and made his nose runny. And to top it off, the cold hard ground was threatening to give him hemmorhoids.

About that time, a Hughes 400D helicopter came into El's limited field of vision. The copter came to rest alongside El and disgorged a whole mass of people in brightly-cooured clothing.

El's mind raced...no,FLEW. What were they going to do to me? Why are they all smiling so maniacally? Where did they come from? How am I going to get away?

'OooooOOOOoooooOOOoo!',one of them cried,'Isn't he just gorgeous! Let's take him back with us!!'

Little did El Loco know that he had fallen into the clutches of the infamous Koloured Koalition Klan. The KKK!

Barney Beer

Dik, Pedro, Dave the Ninja Master and I were crammed into a tiny car speeding along the highway. I wouldn't have minded being squashed normally, but Dik just had to wear his cologne, didn't he? Phew! Essence of Excrement #24.

I also wondered about Sammy the Cyborg. None of us had seen him since he had burrowed into the pavement and disappeared. Of course, no-one seemed to be particularily worried about it, so I forced it from my mind.

Barney Beer

Anyways, I looked out of the rear window and noticed the dwindling figure of what looked like a fellow PI. He seemed to be waving his arms, jumping up and down and generally gesticulating wildly. Oh well, you see one wildly gesticu- lating PI, you've seen 'em all.

The little car trundled along at the mind-numbing speed of 20 kilometres per hour and the radio was blaring some kind of news broadcast. Something about 'un avion' or somesuch parked o^ut on the highway, whatever that was. I was worried that they were talking about our plane. At least we still had the element of surprise on our side!

Big Dave Diode

Back in the Midwest, El attempted to ward off the evil forces of the KKK by creatively spitting at them. His salivary glands were noticeably atrophied due to his extended semi- concious, paralyzed and dehydrated state, and he only managed to make small whistling noises. Oh well, he was making progress.

The head KKK guy (or was it a girl?) smiled, and exclaimed "OOooh! He even does bird imitations!"

A passing Nimitz-class warship caused the strange group to run back to their helicopter, tripping over El in the process. Seconds after they lifted off, they were blown away by a surface to air missile, but that did nothing to help El, who had been turned over onto his face. The battleship disappeared mysteriously.

Mud ran through El's nostrils.

"Shit."

At least he didn't have to worry about hemarhoids anymore.

System Masterer

Two limos slid sideways, blocking the road in front of the taxi.

The frenchman swore loudly in french, turned sharply, and rolled the vehicle twice, landing it on its wheels.

Before the PIs could get orientated, the doors were ripped off their hinges, and they were hauled roughly out of the car.

For the first time since they landed the aircraft, Dave was animate. He promptly creamed the guy holding him, and three others for good measure, then got caught by a tranquilizer dart in the back, and slumped to the ground.

All this happened in a few seconds, before the others could do anything.

Even after that, before they could react, a large man, who seemed to have been running for quite awhile, jumped one of the men from behind, and flattened him in one blow, they pulled out his gun and dropped to one knee.

"Alright muddufuggers, reach for de sky or I blow you away."

From behind the limo, and man clad in black let off a short burst of machine gun fire.

"Think again."

Skillman

A red light was flashing on the other side of the laboratory.

Damn. That El unit has frozen again! Stupid infinite loops. I wish the guys who programmed themose cyborgs would grab a brain.

(I just build 'em, I dont program 'em)

"Well, let's see, I'll set up a Comm-link and see if I cant break the loop"

I hacked and chopped away for a few minutes at the spagetti code.

"Done! Finally that silly EL unit can make some use of himself. I hate having my projects lying around. Besides, I need an inside man on the P.Is' team"

I merrily tapped away on the keyboard, entering a short sequence that would get El to france by any means necessary.

I hope I didn't miss a branch.

El Loco

Suddenly, just as the mud was filling El's sinuses and attempting to go down his throat, his mind clicked. 'Aaahhh....ahem, cough cough, were the heck am I?' He was still in the midwest, but something like a motherly nature told him he had to go to France. With great haste, he flagged down the closest car on the closest highway and promptly killed the middle aged man inside, and assumed his identity, for he held a AmEx Platinum Card. El drove to the nearest city and sold the car. With the $2700 he made, he bought a 1-way to France. As he was boarding the airplane, he set off the metal alarm. The inspection officer told him to remove what was metal and place it on the counter. El took off his right arm.

The Grodd

The guard stared at the arm lying on the counter, doing about as much as one would expect a disembodied arm to do. He instructed El to walk through the detector again. There was no reading. The guard picked up the arm and shook it. He peered at it for a few more seconds and then gave it back to El, who reattached it swiftly and strolled into the boarding gate. For some reason no one else seemed to notice.

Scratch

Whilst standing on a road in the middle of nowhere a.k.a. France, an overcrow ded taxi goes barrel assing by Cat (CAtch) Scratch. "Shit dere goes destiny passing me by, well I mights as well start hoofin' e r, sooner 'r later I'm bound ta catch up ta destiny, da crazy yahoos ain't get tin' far drivin' like dat."

Barney Beer

The machine gun burst made a shambles of the taxi cab. 'Move and you're hamburger!!', snarled the man in black. He seemed to be pretty confident, oblivious to the fact that all of his henchmen were lying all over the road in various states of dismemberment.

Dik and Pedro exchanged glances. They were obviously shitting bricks about now. Dave, calmly gnawing on the man he had ripped to shreds, sat in what was left of the taxi.

'Stick it up yer anal orifice, Mack!', rasped Cat, suddenly, bringing up his captured gun to bear on the black-clad man. A shot rang out. A hawk screamed for its mate. A jeep raced...No, FLEW over the dry Central African Savannah!

The black-clad man cried out as he felt the hollow point teflon dum-dums rip through his body. His finger convulsingly tightened on the trigger of his Bullpup assault weapon and let loose a long burst as he fell backwards.

After all the pyrotechnics, I casually strolled over to the black-clad man and picked up his gun.

cont. next

Barney Beer

'Heh, just the thing I've been looking for', I mused as I inspected the weapon carefully.

Back by the bullet-riddled taxi, Cat was casually twirling his gun and trying to look....casual. A tad too casual, because everyone was ignoring him, even though he had saved our bacon from getting singed.

At that point, the frightened taxi driver leapt out of the car and ran head- long into the bushes, screaming all the while. Obviously, he had never had someone shooting at him before.

'Well..',Pedro said aloud. 'I think we should commandeer those limos over there and head into town.'

'Good idea, Pedro.',Dik blurted, suddenly realizing he had compromised his brooding, gloomy PI guise. The first rule of being a PI was never to compli- ment a fellow PI, lest he get overconfident. Too late for Pedro, of course. His head was inflated to the size of the Goodyear blimp.

The Grodd

We piled into one of the limos and rediscovered the joys of big cars which contribute considerable amounts of revenue to several Middle Eastern nations. For some reason I ended up in the driver's seat. Pedro was next to me, and Barnard, Catch, and Dave sat in the back, watching TV. The black-clad men had obviously anticipated our need to steal their vehicle, for they had left the keys in it. I turned the ignition and there was a throaty roar of V-8 power from under the vast expanse of the hood.

"Where to, Dave?" I asked, hoping to get a response.

"Paris, under the Eif- oh shit." He had given our destination away. I pulled the car onto the road and started along it at the satisfying (but probably illegal) speed of 140 km/h.

"Why?" asked Pedro. "Does it have anything to do with that..." He left a dram-

The Grodd

atic pause. "...telephone call?"

Suddenly, from out of nowhere, there was a loud, cacophonous blaring of trum- pets and violins like there always used to be on old radio shows after a great proclamation such as this. Unfortunately, the response didn't live up to its introduction.

"No. It has nothing to do with the phone call." I could tell Dave was being evasive by the way he was staring at the floor, blinking, the way his voice quavered when he spoke, and the way he was trying to open the door and jump out of the car.

Barn restrained him by catching a belt loop with his left pinky finger. "We're not letting you get away that easily."

"What was the phone call about?" asked Pedro menacingly.

Dave said nothing. I knew there was only one thing to do. I tapped Pedro on

The Grodd

the shoulder and whispered my plan in his ear. He nodded and sat back, closing his eyes for a mind scan. I drove normally for a few seconds, then turned around, looked Dave in the face, gave him my best evil-beast-possessed-by- creatures-from-hell expression, and yelled in a very loud voice "Boo!"

Barnard fainted. Catch bolted out of his seat and nearly put a hole in the ceiling. Dave twitched slightly. I only use my evil-beast-possessed-by-crea- tures-from-hell expression as a last resort.

"I got it!" exclaimed Pedro, sounding distinctly un-cool. My scare tactic had broken Dave's telepathy-blocking ninja concentration for a fraction of a sec- ond, and that had been all Pedro needed to do a mind scan.

Big Dave Diode

A crack appeared in the tarmac of the abandoned airport.

The ground shook.

And a very dirty Sammy the Cyborg appeared. He looked really dumb standing up to his neck in dirt, but hey, he was a cyborg. Cyborgs can program their own self-confidence, so he wasn't embarassed in the least. Sam's head swivelled around like a periscope.

"Where in the '&%( is El!"

NOW Sammy was embarassed. Embarassed enough to go back underground.

A pile of dirt appeared where the hole in the tarmac had been. Back to France.

That was the last anyone saw of Sam for a long time. And he didn't even notice the battleship.

The Imposter

It was horrible. Major mondo-gross kids. Ooooooh, that Master's, he's a bad pone. The others just kept staring at me waiting for me to stop exclamating and start talking. "He's going to...going to...oooooh, I can't say it, it's too despicable." It was true, I couldn't say it. The idea was so horrendous that it wouldn't get as far as my lips before I had to gasp. Dik looked slightly sick as he said "We have no choice, <gasp> we have to, have to... Do CHARADES!" The rest of the P.I.s quietly retched at the idea, but there was no other option.

The Grodd

"We don't have any other choice," I said disconsolately. "Okay, McTavish, give it your best shot."

Pedro held up two fingers.

"Two words," piped Barn.

Pedro tapped his fingers on his arm.

"First word. Two syllables," I suggested.

"First syllable," said Barn.

Pedro pulled his sombrero down over his eyes and looked around sneakily.

"Siesta," said Barn. "No? Ummm... illegal alien. No. That's two words."

"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom!" I shouted. "No. I guess not."

Pedro removed his sombrero and grabbed my hat, placing it over his head in a clandestine manner.

"I've got it! Dracula!" yelled Barn.

"Spy."

Pedro nodded.

"What did you say?" I asked Catch.

"I said 'spy.' Whaddya tink I said?"

"Okay then," I continued. "First word. First syllable. Spy."

The Grodd

Pedro nodded again and went on.

"Second syllable," I ventured. Pedro was making digging actions. "Shovel. Um...spade. Er...implement. Uh...gardening. Bill Vander Zalm. No?"

Barn gave it a shot from another direction. "Mining? Soil? Dirt?"

Pedro nodded again.

"Dirt? First word. 'Spydirt?'" Barnard looked quizzical.

"What the hell is spydirt?" I asked.

"Spider," said Catch.

"What?"

"I said 'spider.' Is youse guys deaf?"

"Second word. Two syllables," began Barn again. "What are you doing, Pedro? What is that? Melons? Two melons?"

"Cantaloupes. Two cantaloupes. Spider cantaloupes," I said.

Catch looked unamused. "They're suppose ta be tits, guys."

"What?" I asked.

"Tits. Ya know. Boobies. Breasts."

"Spider tits?"

Pedro shook his head.

The Grodd

"Spider boobies? Spider breasts? What is this?" Barn was very confused.

"What has tits, guys?" asked Catch. He was beginning to annoy me.

"What do you think we are? Stupid?" I asked indignantly. There was no reply. "Women, of course." Then it dawned on me. I felt rather stupid and was con sidering throwing this Cat Scratch guy out of the car.

"Spider Woman. Damn."

Big Dave Diode

El landed with a thump on the hood of the limo, his parachute obscuring the view out of every one of the car's windows.

Everyone started spouting seriously profane adjectives.

And the limo stopped.

Strangely enough, no one was injured. El got in the massive vehicle, and they continued on their way.

The car had been gone a mere five seconds when the ground heaved. Sammy's head poked out of the concrete, and he gazed forlornly after the limo.

A mysterious passing blue Mini nearly sheared his head right off.

Masters chuckled diabolically.

Barney Beer

None of the PI's had the good sense to look in the rearview mirror or out the back window. If they had, they would have noticed an unobstrusive blue Austin Mini following at a discreet 5 car-lengths. They would also have seen the horrifying mien of Skillprofessor, Masters' head cyborg specialist.

'Ahahahahahaha! The fools! They think they can escape me?! Pah! The fools! Hahahahahahaha! I'llxfind them wherever they go! Hahahahahaha! The fools!'. Unknown to even himself, Skillprofessor was an even bigger fool.

Back in the limo, the PI's were having a gay old time. Make that a good old time. It's pretty hard to keep up that harsh, indomitable personality of a PI when people think you're a t'twinkle-toes'. But anyways....

I looked out the side window and watched the French countryside whiz by. Dik figured that this was as good a time as any to polish his Mac-10. I noticed the other PI's shrink back visibly whenever the automatic's stubby barrel point in their general direction.

Barney Beer

I, myself, was shaking in my size 12 booties.

'Say there, Dik, heh heh, ummm, heh...why don't you wait till we're not around to clean your gun, hmmm?', I said nervously.

Dik spun around in his seat bringing the barrel around to the level of my chest. I just realized that he was driving the car and cleaning the gun at the same time. I marveled at his coordination.

'What was that, Bernard? Oh heck, don't worry about it. I've got the safety on. Even if I pulled the trigger, nothing would would happen.'

I ducked down reflexively as I saw the pale orange flames leaping out of the barrel and as solid-tip slugs ricocheted around the cars interior. Screams, hoarse shouts and yells, the sounds of very quick frantic movement and the barely audible 'whoof' of bullets entering various thing intermixed with the 'BRAP BRAP BRAP' of the machine gun. Only when the clip was spent did I venture to take a small look around. I shuddered to think of what was left of the fellows. Yuck.

The Grodd

I looked at the safety switch. It said OFF. I flicked the switch to ON. Of course, now the trigger was locked. I had thought that something was wrong when I reassembled the gun. I suddenly realized what might have happened.

Miraculously, no one had even been grazed. One of the windows had been shat- tered and there were bullet holes in the upholstery, but no one was hurt. My mind reeled as it considered the improbability of such a situation. I look- ed back to make sure that everyone was still breathing. Barn wasn't, but he soon rectified the situation when he remembered that he needed to. As I was peering around the inside of the car, I looked out the back window.

A Mini. Somehow, it managed to look ominous - something which it is very difficult for a Mini to do. I tried to indentify the driver but his face was obscured by shadow.

The Imposter

As things calmed down I realized my voice had returned. "You nermals!" I yelled. "Can't any of you identify a double-mixed metaphor charade?" Dik looked rather angry. "Whaddya mean? We sit here for ten minutes doing charades, get them right, and you tell us we were wrong, right?" "No, you only analyzed the charades on one level, all good literature should be analyzed in different ways." "What are you talking about Pedro?" "What color are spiders?" I asked "Spiders are black Pedro" the rest chorused. "And when I had my hands open as if holding two large breasts, what else could I be holding?" "You could be holding four small breasts Pedro" they sang gleefully. "No! No you dumb anglos! Think! what fits into that shape?" They sat around staring at each other for a moment, then Catch said "Jelly Beans." Finally, I thought. "Huh?" amuttered Barn. "Black Jelly Beans" I explained.

"Yes," I said, "Master's is going to turn all the world's jelly beans black."

The Grodd

"You have got to be joking," I deadpanned. Boy, I was really scraping the bottom of the barrel for synonyms of "said."

"No. I mean it. Every single jellybean in the world will soon be black."

"What about the black ones?" asked Barn.

Barn gave him a look that made it clear that he was wondering if Barnard's brain had run out of his ears. "They stay black, of course."

"Oh."

"What does that have to do with old Mr. Zomboid here?" I asked, poking Dave in the shoulder. He didn't move. I remembered that I should have been driving and turned back to the road, occasionally glancing into the rear view mirror to see the ominous Mini still behind us.

"Not a lot," said Pedro. "But...well, the Spiderwoman does have something to d o with Dave."

"What?" asked Catch monosyllabically.

"She's the one that's possessed him."

The Grodd

"Why?" Barn asked bluntly.

"Because she's using him to lure us to Paris where he can meet her and be seduced by her and then we can all be killed."

"What a cheery prospect," said I.

"Since it's such an obvious trap, why are we still going to Paris?" Barnard sounded remarkably intelligent - and out of character.

"Because it would be kind of stupid just to give up and go home right now. It would be one anticlimactic story." I paused. "Besides, I want to see who this Spiderwoman is. I have some suspicions..."

"Is anyone going to do anything about that Mini?" asked Pedro.

"No," I said. "Just act like you don't notice him."

We sped on.

Charlotte

During all the commotion of Dik firing the gun, Dave's secret desires combined with his ninja skill and he climbed out of the shattered back window and crawled onto the car roof. During Pedro's interpretation of Dave's thoughts, Dave had caught a branch of a low tree and swung himself up and away from the PI's. In the Mini, Skillprof. noticed with a satisfying smile. Spiderwoman's plan was working. Dave waited until the cars were out of sight, then Jumped aboard a passing pickup and rode to the outskirts of Paris.

Charlotte

Catching public transportation, he arrived at the Eiffel Tower and went to a discrete cafe where he ordered a beer. (naturally) As he was glugging it to relieve his nerves, a Woman, medium hight, slim, pale with black hair approached him and draped her arm around his shoulder. all Dave's muscles went to attention. She slowly slid into the chair next to him. It was Spiderwoman. "It has been a long time, Dave" she breathed. "I have waited for this moment." Dave was left both speachless and breathless. His dreams could not compare to the reality of this lovely creature. His automatic ninja soul kicked him into action and he put his arms around her and kissed her as he had so often in his dreams.

Charlotte

Spider woman and Dave ordered lunch and talked of old times they had together when they both served Richard Masters. They talked of late dinners, early mornings, sensual showers and a certain elevator incident which Pedro had detected in Dave's mind. Afterlunch, spiderwoman took Dave's hand and walked with him through the narrow streets to her flat. By this time it was late in the afternoon and daylight was starting to fade. In the flat, the walls, carpet, and cushions were a deep shade of seductive blue. Dave opened his eyes wide and surveyed the appartment. His ninja sence of control was shattering, and with a quick motion he lifted spiderwoman in his arms and carried her into the bedroom. What a room. It was circular, dimly lit with a blue light, and the floor was a wall to wall waterfilled matress. That was it.

Charlotte

Dave closed his eyes as he felt Spiderwoman's warm hand under his shirt. His ninja skills allowed him to quickly remove her loose dress. He concentrated on the motion of her hands and when he open his eyes he realized he was naked. The last shreds of his long cultivated control left him and he gently lowered himself and Spiderwoman to the seductive gurgling matress. At last he had he once again. This was worth betraying the PI for. He was not quite sure what Spiderwoman needed him for, he only knew what he needed from her. He was getting his supreme desire, but, unknown to him, Masters knew and approved of Spiderwoman's plot. Well, he approved of the intented result, but not the means. She belonged to Masters, and he hated to share her talents. She certainly was talented. Dave remembered in his bliss, and resolved to continue his present activity as long as was humanly possible. AAAHHHHHHHHHH

System Masterer

Things had gone wacky in the limo, and the TV set had somehow been destroyed.

Masters was, in a word, pissed.

"Damn! I didn't even see if that ninja twit got away!"

A red phone rang.

"Yes? Yes professor. Yes. Yes. Good. Thank you."

So much for that worry. The ninja had gotten away. He called for the Spiderwoman.

"He's off dear, you better get moving."

"I won't be long..."

Spiderwoman left, Masters set the rest of his devilish plot into action.

He called his chief supervisor.

"Bob! I want that Moronium X charged and ready to start the transmission wave... we will begin the transformation tonight!"

Finally, his plans were gathering momentum. He had the ninja captured, he had the minerals he needed, he had e platform. Death Bird had been captured and would arrive in Paris in two more hours.

One more phone call.

"Harold, you've been a good servant, but I must leave for Paris shortly. I want you to clear off my things and destroy any trace of my visit."

System Masterer

"I feel the end approaching Harold... success is at hand!"

Masters hung up the phone, and glanced around the finely decorated room that had been his private control centre for two weeks. He began reflecting on the fantastic plan he had to control the world.

After much research he realized that there was no way to take over the world by force... people get all upset when you do that. Guile and deceit don't work because you can't fool all the people all the time. But children... change the minds of children, and in ten years you'll rule the world.

His plan was brilliantly simple. Take something precious away from every child in the world, and then be the only one to return it. Jelly Beans. By using the carrier signal, he created a waveform to transform every jelly bean in the world black. The mental shift in the minds of children everywhere would be subtle, but critical. When he provided cherry, orange, lime, lemon and every other flavor of jelly bean, he would be a hero.

System Masterer

The bond he would generate with world's children would be enhanced by the drugged jelly beans he would provide. When they grew up, they would all turn to him for leadership, and he would rule the world.

But first, black jelly beans. Tonight. At last.

...and he had the PIs where he wanted them, even though he didn't know where they were.

The Grodd

"I said, where the hell is Dave?!"

"Calm down, Dik. He has to be around here somewhere."

"Pedro, would you explain to me just how, with five other people in the car, not one of us could notice him leaving. I only poked him in the shoul- der a few minutes ago!"

"He can't have gone very far. Just look around."

Several hours later there was no sign of The Torch. He was gone. The Mini had disappeared while we were yelling about Dave. Everything was falling apart.

"Damn," said Pedro under his breath.

"What?" asked Barn.

"Dave's ninja skills are breaking down. He's losing control."

"What's wrong wit dat?" asked Cat. "You can read his mind den, cantcha?"

"Yes, I can, but what I'm getting, I don't like."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Hold on a second." Pedro placed his hand over my face.

The Grodd

"Just what do you think you are -" I stopped in mid-question as Pedro's Vulcan mindmeld came through.

The car swerved and nearly demolished an oncoming Citroen. Pedro removed his hand from my face quickly.

"Shit," I said categorically. "I didn't think people could really do that. Not on a bed, anyway. I think we have trouble."

We were reaching the outskirts of Paris, and I was mulling over what Pedro had shown me. I tried to make out the face of the Spiderwoman in Dave's mind, but Dave had not been concentrating on her face.

"Stop!" Pedro shouted. I slammed on the brakes.

"What?" I asked.

"There." He pointed. The trouble was even worse than I had anticipated.

It was the Death Bird.

Skillman

Well..so far things were going fairly well. Masters still thought I was on his side, and the PIs didn't have a clue what the hell was going on.

"I'm gonna get money for my cyborgs if I have to supply the world with jelly beans myself!", I mumbled, while waiting a few miles up the road, for the Limo to roar by.

I figured I stood a better chance of getting back at that ectoplasmic blob, Masters, if I let the PIs in on my plan. @ I just wish I could remember what my plan was.

Barney Beer

"That was stupid, Pedro!', shouted Dik. 'I could have run him over with the car!!'

Death Bird's shrivelled-up, twisted and evil mind squirmed around in his skull.

'Ha....ha....ha...' he said slowly and sloppily with much saliva and frothing. 'My master, Masters, has ordered me to kill you! It shall be so!'

I leaned forward and muttered, 'This would be a good time to use yer Mac-10, eh, Dik?'

He turned back and gave me a piercing glare,'You sarcastic bastard.'

I resented that a little bit. My Ma 'n Pa were married. Sort of.

Anyways, we all sat stupidly, watching Death Bird advance towards our limo. All except for Catch.

Flinging himself out of the back window, Catch rolled to the pavement, came up to a firing stance and trained his weapon on Death Bird.

'Take that, you slime dog!!', he yelled.

Before Catch could even get one shot off, though, a gscintillating bolt of greenish light burst from Death Bird's mouth and caught him full in the face.

Barney Beer

'Breath weapon!!!', I shouted. Everyone thudded onto the floorboards as another bolt shattered the windshield and bathed the car's interior in green light.

'What about Catch?!', queried Pedro, looking a bit foolish trying to get his sombrero out of the line of fire. In fact, he looked really stupid.

'Who gives a shit about Catch?!?!? What about us?!', wailed Dik, on the verge of a mental breakdown.

'Start the car! Mow him down!!', bellowed Pedro as another green bolt whizzed through the windshield and out the broken rear window.

Dik complied and with a growl, the engine came to life. Not really looking where we were headed, Dik engaged the transmission and floored the gas pedal. The tires squealed in protest. The form of Death Bird came racing -no, FLYING- to meet us.

The impact was akin to a large limosine smacking into a dead-but-reincarnated evil former PI. In fact, that was the reason.

Barney Beer

There was a brief moment of disorientation, but then again, it's not everyday that you run over a Death Bird. Actually, it was like driving on a patch of gravel road. A tad bumpy.

Too bad about Catch. Maybe we'd see him in town, if he the green breath hadn't killed him.

When we were finally over Death Bird, the ride and comfort was restored almost immediately. I looked back through the rear window and saw Death Bird slowly rising to my feet. I drew my Ruger Super Redhawk and fired all six .44 calibre Magnum rounds at him. The slugs thudded into his badly decomposed body but appeared to do little damage. One advantage to being dead, I suppose.

Death Bird let loose with another green breath bolt which blasted into the back of the car near the trunk lid lock. The last thing I saw was a large black sheet of steel pivoting up to meet my face.

Barney Beer

As the limosine crested a small rise in the road, Dik and Pedro noticed a rather innocuous-looking blue Austin Mini sitting in the middle of the road, only a few metres ahead. Dik and Pedro looked at each other, looked back to the little inoffensive-looking car and dived as one into the back seat.

Meanwhile in the soon-to-be-doomed blue Mini, Skillprofessor was frrantically trying to start his car. A thin whine rose up as he turned the ignition, followed by a heavy clunk. Skilprof's eyes opened wide in fear as he saw the large black limosine barrelling towards him.

He didn't even have a chance to yell 'Damn alternator!!!', as both cars promptly disintegrated on impact and became a large flaming mass of mangled automobile components.

Looking somewhat like a scene out of The Road Warrior, a thin spire of black smoke drifted up to the sky.

System Masterer

Death Bird didn't recognize Scratch as a PI. As a matter of fact, he didn't recognize him at all. He thumped down the road slowly, following the barrelling limo.

Scratch lay on the ground. Moments later, a hole appeared in the asphalt, and Sammy Cybrog popped up.

"Dear dear Mr. Scratch, you do seem to be a bit of a mess.

Sammy wrapped Scratch up in a protective skin, and carried him underground, toward Paris.

Skillprof floated gentle down out of the sky, landing thirty feet away from where his car once sat. Several PI shaped people were laying on the ground behind the limo, after scrambling out of the back window.

"You dummies! I wanted to help you, and now you've gone and busted up one of my best units!"

Loco was a mess. Although he had all but saved the PIs with his reflexes by pushing them out on the trunk, he himself got pretty chewed up. He lay on the trunk of the limo, beeping occassionally.

System Masterer

Skillprof patted his favorite unit sympatheticly.

"Don't worry Loco, we'll get you fixed up."

He pressed a button on his belt.

"Sammy will be coming soon to rescue you Loco, and he'll get you fixed in a jiffy. Now gentlemen, shall we begin the walk to the Effeil Tower, while I fill you in on my half of the story?"

The PIs struggled to their feet. Somehow, they were surviving this adventure, although they didn't know how. They took count of their number. Pedro, Dik and Barnard. That was it. All that was left of the main team of PIs. They were going for the gold, and it was gonna happen soon. Sooner than they thought.

They began the walk toward the centre of town, the Effeil Tower. They were only about a half hour away.

System Masterer

Masters was studying his final preparation notes in the back of a helicopter that was flying him into Paris. Detail accounts of the minute by minute action that would bring his hideous plot to fruition were listed out. He mumbled under his breath as he read.

"T-10 minutes... crystals all charged, carrier signal check."

"T-9 minutes... carrier signal active, deploy transmitters, wait for green light from stations."

"T-5 minutes... begin tests of transformation modules, bring carrier field up to full strength."

"T-2 minutes... all transformation modules tested, bring on-line."

"T-1 minute. Transformation active. Check control beans."

"T-30 seconds. Transformation at full power, control beans changed, station beans under transformation."

"T-10 seconds. All beans nearing transformation, begin preparation for shut down."

"T-0. Jelly bean transformation complete. Shut down all systems, destroy all external transmitters. Open champagne. Kiss Spiderwoman. Say hurray."

The Torch

I finally awoke from my exhausted slumber to find I was tied to the bed. Yes, it had been wierd, but I was in light bondage to the bed. The air smelt faintly of perfume and leather skirts. I was feeling quite discusted with myself at this time, having betrayed the PIs and all. Actually, that was all. I didn't have any stupid bushido code to follow like those idiot Samurai did, so things were%goin' great. A flex of the biceps and quads, and I was free. Quickly, I dressed myself in non-descript wear.

As`I ran to the door, I noticed a note on it. I quickly openned it and read. It was 42 pages long. I hate it when arts people are brief. She only said stuff like, "By the time you wake up luv, it will be too late for the world" and "We must do this again sometime" etc. etc. I'd been used I realized. There wasn't anything I could do know to redeem myself, except suicide. I pulled out my short killing sword and prepared my thoughts for when I passed on to my next life.

The Torch

Suddenly, a thought sprung into my head. What if I managed to stop spiderman somehow (you know, masters.) heh. It sort of reminded me of some movies I saw once. He's the poison and I'm the flame. Or something like that.

I smiled to the reporters as I quickly left the scene. They tried to follow me, so I agreed to do an interview.

"How violent was the Spiderwoman?", asked a reporter from the Times. My how news travels.

"Did you know that the PIs are still half an hour away from the eiffel tower?" queried a reporter from the Tribune.

Suddenly, it dawned on me. No, not the sun, but another thought. The whole episode was being broadcast on live TV! Viewed by millions of watchers, this was how Masters had gotten his funding. He'd sold exclusive rights to the networks. How dastardly. Of course, the billyuns and billyuns of people watching wouldn't know that this was all an evil plot, not just a silly sitcom starring John Ritter. I sniffed the air. She'd been here recently.

The Torch

I followed her scent down through the concorde into the Arc d' Triomphe (sp?) She had made her way to the Champs Eleyse (sp?) and bought some clothes. I was catching up. From out of no where, she appeared. I had almost run into her, but I'd managed to catch myself. heh. No matter how hard she tried to do the same. Catch me that is. She made her way back to the eiffel tower. I was impressed with Gustav. He sure knew how to make a bitchin' tower.

She went up to the second level. I was dogging her real close this time. There was no wayshe was going to escape from me. I thought of some other dogging and blushed in the memory of a few hours ago. How sick. If the Americans knew about that, I'd never get a chance to make cheap Bruce Lee movies on English Bay Beach again. Like a football player without a contract, I'd be history. There! It was Masters! I decided to exterminate the mad scientist, post-haste. No, not post-natal. I threw 3 of my shuriken at his spiderhood......

Skillman

"You moronic plasmatic blobs!! You killed my damn car!"

I was sore. I had just fallen about 50 feet from a rather large car explosion. God didn't like me much today.

"Damn! 3:02! Master's jelly bean transformation process has begun. It's real lucky for us that molecular bonds can not be re-arranged instantly, or they'd all be black by now. We have to get back to Master's headquarters. He won't be there anymore, he'll be on his way to Rio within minutes. If we can get there in time, I should be able to create a reversing tranmission, but it's gonna be tight!"

The Imposter

"No, wait!" shouted Dik, pointing to the jelly bean strapped to his watch he said "look, it's still green! Master's must be running late!" "Besides" I added "Your watch is off by ten minutes, and if Masters has any brains at all he'll have destroyed the spare transmitters." We continued towards the Eiffel Tower, desperation in our movements, hatred in our eyes, vengence in our footsteps, jelly beans in Dik's coat pocket. "Umm Dik?" I said tentatively. "What is it Pedro?" "D'you suppose I could have those jelly beans you bought?" He looked confused "For Heaven's sakes why?" I smiled sheepishly, "well, seing as how all the jelly beans are going to be history..."

The Grodd

"You are so selfish, Pedro." I tossed him the remainder of the packet.

"Even if his watch IS ten minutes behind, it's at least 20 minutes further... er...farther...um...never mind...to the Eiffel Tower. We'll never make it in time!" Barn was hysterical.

"Time to commandeer a vehicle," said the professor. He stepped out from the sidewalk and stood in front of an oncoming police car. It screeched to a halt in front of him. One of the officers opened the door and stood up.

"Monsieur! C'est dangereux de -" he was cut off as Barn grabbed him and threw him into the nearest available wall. Simultaneously, Pedro had induced a hyperactive coma on the other officer by introducing extremely perverted thoughts into his mind. I opened the door and dragged him (the officer, not

The Grodd

Pedro) out of the car and onto the sidewalk. Passers by made no effort to stop us. We leaped in, engaged the siren and cute little flashing red light, and tore off in the direction of the Tower.

"You DO know where the tower is, don't you?" I asked the Skillprof.

"Of course I do. I installed one of the transmitters there myself."

"Good, because I thought that we'd end up on another 'oh-no-we're-lost' sub- plot."

"Woz forbid."

Looking out the front window was like watching one of those scenes in a James Bond movie where the camera follows the action of a car chase through winding streets and strange alleyways, and where you feel that if it goes on any long- er the budget for destroyed property and injured people will far overrun any other cost factor in the film. Luckily, the Eiffel Tower was within sight.

"There it is," said Pedro. "I only hope we're not too late."

System Masterer

Masters reacted smoothly to the sudden attack from a black clad individual a level below him. He drew a short sword, slightly curved, from a waist band and in a blink of an eye, had knocked the three shuriken off their intended course and into the open space surrounding the tower.

The Spiderwoman gasped when she saw the suddenly drawn sword, and smiled seductively when she saw where they came from.

"You recovered quickly my dear, almost too quickly." she purred.

Masters stood, turned, and smiled down at Torch.

"Surprise ninja."

He pressed a button concealed on his person.

The black suit that Torch worse sudden was a white hood, blue body and white shoes.

"Hello there Ninja-smurf. You sure look cute, doesn't he dear?"

"Yes love, very cute."

During this exchange, the Spiderwoman had eased herself to the elevator, and now stepped in and started to rise. Masters pulled the doors open and jumped on top of the moving car, headed for the top floor.

System Masterer

At the base of the tower, things suddenly got exciting.

From out of a small pub, Scratch wandered in, safe and sound.

Moments later, a stolen police car screeched to a halt, and the three PIs and a mad professor jumped out.

From out of the ground, Loco and Sammy appeared, ready for anything.

Finally, after tearing most of the bus in half, Death Bird wandered across, intent on killing everything, including the hot dog vendor.

"Well, here we are, now what?" asked Barnard.

"Ummm... I think Death Bird should take priority there guys." Pedro said, pointing.

"Good idea." muttered Dik.

They opened fire on the moldy body.

The Torch

Dave the Ninja smurf. How like spiderman to do something out of the ordinary like that. I pondered how Masters always seemed to be reacting to my attacks, when I was supposed to be the ninja. Yes, that's it! He's a Transformer. A Decepticon no less, in the heart of the free world. No, this was too ridiculous. If he started blowing up the Jelly Bean transformers, he'd be a cannibal.

"Mr. Smurf, did you know that you are hopelessly untrendy?", questioned a reporter from the Star.

"Mr. Ninja Smurf, why are those PIs shooting at Death Bird when the whole free world is in danger?", probed a mike wielding woman from the Enquirer.

I wondered how she was holding Opto, but decided that she must be strong. These reporters were being very proficient in their tasks I thought. But I had to stop Masters while there was still time. Slinging my ninja-to over my back, I strapped on my Nekode and started climbing up the Eiffel tower. I looked up. They even had the Good Year blimp covering the action.

The Torch

I was sure glad the elevator couldn't move quickly, or I'd have lost spiderman & woman a long time ago. Meanwhile, back at the outhouse..

"Dik, forget the dead canary, let's go!", screamed Pedro. Barn took the oportunity to lob a phosphorous grenade down Death Bird's throat.

"Run like you've got a swarm of engineers running after you to tank you!" shrieked barn. The PIs ran like they'd never run before. They looked back to see Death Bird disintegrate in a blinding white flash. There was nothing left but hard feelings and concrete.

They forced their way into the elevator at the SE corner of the tower, going up to the Mezzanine level. When they got off, they looked up to see a smurf crawling up the tower with great speed.

"Wow", said El.

"I compute we have very little time left to save the world", deadpanned

Skillprof .

"Right, how do we get up to the top? Masters is in the elevator."

A british looking man came up to them and said, "Need some help?"

The Torch

"Who are you?", demanded Barn. "Can I use my Redhawk on him?"

"The names Bond, Canada Savings Bond", replied the strangely familiar gentleman. "I do believe you need to catch the man and woman in the elevator."

"How'd you know? You a spy or sumthin'?", grumped Barn.

bI've filmed a movie here before, I know what the crooks look like." said Bond. "Here, take these attachments ajd put them on your hands. They will pull you up the elevator cable to catch the crook."

"Well, thanks guy, may the Bwana guide you", said Pedro as he took the proffered devices.

Suddenly, the power went out. Sammy was O.D.ing on 20,000 volts at this time, short circuiting the whole tower. That meant the elevator was stopped, and couldn't go anymore. The PIs might have a chance!

System Masterer

Masters yelled into a wrist band.

"Get the bloody internal power on you idiot! We're losing time!"

A few moments later the elevator continued its ascent.

Masters, after a few risky manuevers, managed to get the doors of the top floor open and leap through before the elevator containing Spiderwoman arrived to meet him.

"Alright Control, begin the countdown, starting now, T-10 minutes."

He smiled to his loved one.

"This is it dear, our road to world domination."

The Grodd

Pedro, Barn, Scratch, and Skillprof were already well on their way up the cables. Mr. Bond's attachments didn't seem to work for me.

"Right then," I said, throwing them back to him. "No more Mr. Nice Guy."

I searched in the voluminous pockets of my trenchcoat for what I was looking for. I found it. I strapped it on my back.

"Beat that, sucker!" I shouted in Bond's face as I activated the Dik Miller (tm) ultra-compact rocket booster jetpack and rose swiftly to the top floor of the tower on a pillar of highly compressed and heated gas. It was a gen- tle landing. I arrived almost simultaneously to the other PI's and Masters was cornered between us.

"It's too late, fools!" he roared. "My plan is already in action, and there is nothing you can do about it."

I looked down at my wrist. Indeed, the jelly bean was slowly turning a darker and darker shade of green.

The Grodd

I resolved that even if the generators were already in action, I wouldn't let him get away alive. I drew my freshly-loaded Ingram and pointed it at his chest.

"I have one more surprise for you," he said fiendishly.

The Spiderwoman peered out from behind him.

"Shoot, will you?!" Barn cried.

"Blast away!" yelled Pedro.

I couldn't. It was her. All of this time, and she'd been working for him. I couldn't kill her, even now. My Ingram clattered to the ground.

El Loco

I was just standing there, observing the spectacle, when: 'Loco! Get over here!' It was Skillprof, he wanted me to help him with his curcuitry-work he was doing on a toy to put Rubik out on the street.

Then, it happened, Masters smiled as a thin viel of light enveloped the spiderpeople. He then said: 'You fools. Ypou thought you could get me by pure PI work? Ha, I scorn you.'

Dik looked nervous, Barn started firing rounds everywhere, Pedro was attempting a mind scan to see what Masters would do next, and I was contemplating my William 'Refridgerator' Perry imitation. I decided against it. Then, I thought, 'Why not?'

El suddenly emitted a yell that sounded like a battle cry and raced toward Masters. He collided with the viel of light around the Spiders and stopped. Abruptly. El fell to the ground, groaning, and Masters laughed at his attempt to get him. Then all of a sudden, the PI's heard a cracking, shattering sound. The shield around Masters disintegrated. 'Oh shit', He said.

Barney Beer

I decided that it was a good time to stop firing seeing as I was endangering our lives and not doing a damn thing to Masters.

I noticed Dik cowering and grovelling on the floor. 'Get up, you jellyfish!', I bellowed. Dik remained on the floor and mewled like a frightened child.

Pedro launched into action. He placed his index fingers on his temples and clamped his eyes shut. I could feel the raw psychic energy pouring from his mind. The veil of light around Masters and the Spiderwoman continued to crack and crumble.

Scratch leaped over to wear Dik lay and snatched up the fallen Ingram. A flip of the safety and a hank on the breech lever, a pull on the trigger and Cat Scratch was rewarded with continuous automatic fire. He let out a battle cry, somwthing to the effect of 'Yo! Masters, you're dog meat!'.

Skillprof essor continued to work on some obscure piece of equipment. El Loco, looking slightly char-broiled, helped out as well as his remaining two fingers could.

Barney Beer

I attached my Glaser Safety Slug Speedloader onto my Redhawk and added my firepower to that of Cat's. The veil of light around the two villains began to visibly waver and weaken.

'You fools! You utter fools!', Masters cried. 'Nothing can stop my plan from it's fruition! Even if you capture or kill me, all the jelly beans in the world will be BLACK!!!!! Ahahahahahahaha!'

Cat and I redoubled our efforts. Pedro, sweating profusely now, was either projecting psychic force at Masters or suffering from a severe bout of constipation.

Dik, regaining some of his composure, managed to croak, 'Not her! No!'. We ignored his plea. Masters had to be stopped.

Sammy the Cyborg chose this time to spring to the attack. Massive bolts of electricity arced from his fingertips to the veil. Masters stiffened as if he were subjected to an enormous electrical current. Which he was.

'That won't stop me, you scrapyard reject! Nothing can stop me! Nothing!', Masters growled between clenched teeth.

Barney Beer

Skillprof and El Loco's fingers worked frantically. Time was ticking away rapidly and only Skilprof's skill (sounds redundant) could halt the carrier wave from being broadcast.

Sammy, very nearly out of charge, slumped to the floor. Pedro, looking physically and mentally drained also fell to his knees. Looked at Scratch and me apologetically, and lost consciousness.

Dave the Ninja Smurf, while reciting ancient Ninja erudtions from his early life launched himself on the almost gone force barrier. A brilliant flash blinded Scratch and I, momentarily. There was no trace of Dave the Ninja Smurf

The veil fell into gleaming shards. For the first time in my life, I saw a hint of fear on the visage of Richard Masters. But, with an almost animal growl, he leapt to the attack. I grappled with him but his rage gave him superhuman strength. I was rapidly weakening.

Cat reached to grab the Spiderwoman but Dik, feverishly, attacked his leg, wailing, 'Not her!! Not her!! No!!'

Scratch

As Catch batters away at Dik with his fedora, not with malice, just disconten t, he only utters one thing, "After dis is all over, who signs da fuggin' payc heque?"

The Imposter

I slowly drifted off into the milky-sweet clouds of La-la land once again. 'It's all over anyway. Master's is going to win, Torch is a smurf, Dik is a jellyfish, I'm in la-la land, and IBM just went up two points' Then a bright, shining light came towards me, a voice came forward, it was a game show host from the Astral plane. "And here he is folks, that giant of Ectoplasmic mastery, that genius of comedic psychometry, the one, the only...Bwana Gerbil!" Sounds of laughter and clapping came from all around me as the Maharishi came forward. Just like the old bastard to use a mystical laugh-trac. "My son, don't take this the wrong way, but by the Seven Levels of Sears, thou hast screwed up once again. How many times do I have to save you anyway? You know how much a flight from the Plane of Higher Being to the Plane of Astral Consciousness costs? Now get out there and win! Fuck universal understanding and such, kick that mother's ass but good!"

The Bwana had such a way with words.

...cont

The Imposter

I awoke once more, leaving the place of unending peace and arising in the realm of Barney's bellowing. "Dik! You loser, I'm going to tell your mother you stole those copyroights from Dick Tracy!" This last seemed to take effect as Dik shook himself up and let go of Catch, who kicked him once again in the nose for good mesure. The Spiderwoman wasn't done yet though, she smiled seductively at Catch and walked up to him, using her mesmerising stare to entrance him. "Come now baby, you don't want to do that now do you?" she kept walking towards him until she was whispering in his ear. "Why don't we go over to my place and I'll show you ten different ways to make a ninja blush What about it big boy?" Catch was sweating now, evidently it took less to make him blush than it did a ninja. "Sorry babes." he belted her with his butt. His gun butt that is. Meanwhile, Masters' elevator kept rising, the jelly beans kept getting darker, and the world got closer and closer to becoming a rotten place.

The Imposter

If Masters got to the top, he could complete the sequence, and ruin the lives of millions of little pukie kids who break car windows and scream and kick. I had to stop him. The frustration of being on the ground while all the action was happening in the sky was starting to do Barney in. "Goddam it! I'm gonna get you Masters! Arrrrrrrghh." He was getting monosyllabic again. Suddenly, it came to me. I took off my sombrero and pulled off the safety edge cover revealing a razor sharp throwing sobrero (tm 1987 - try and get this one Dik) and threw it with all my might. Aided by my mind power it rose like a flying frisbee from Hell, smashing into the elevator cable, and doing no apparent damage. Masters kept on laughing "Ha, you foolish little wetback, take this!" He began throwing jelly beans at us, which, when you calculate the gravity on them, could really hurt. The villain was giggling even more as he approached the top. "You never had a chance fools!"

Then the cable broke.

System Masterer

Masters was half delirious from this battles. He had managed to beat them all, but somehow, someway, they had figured him out.

The elevator cable was cut.

Masters punched the emergency stop button, then typed quickly across the floor buttons some sort of secret code. Then another, and another.

"Damn." he muttered softly. He typed two more.

"DAMN." he muttered not so softly. Two more.

"DAMN!" he muttered as loudly as possible. One more.

"Oh shit."

Little did Pedro or anyone else know what the elevator's real purpose was. It had never occured to them that he had not gone to a control centre, that he had stayed on the top of the tower, as if neglecting his duties.

No, it never occurred to them that the elevator was the real control centre. It also never occurred to them that the emergency stop didn't just stop the elevator from falling.

System Masterer

There was no way that anyone could have known that Masters had been too busy doing what any male would do with a woman like Spiderwoman when he should have been reading over his bypass codes for the emergency stop.

For the first time in his life, Masters forgot a number.

A loud, booming voice rang out from the PA system integrated into the tower.

"I'll get you back for this, you PIs. All of you, for good. You have my word on that. This isn't the last you'll hear from Richard Masters. Not now. Not ever. You'll all live in fear, you'll all die in dispair. Until we meet again!"

Embracing his lover, Masters typed another code. Four small rocket engines ignited out of the bottom of the elevator. The brake released, and the small craft hurled upwards. It burst through the top of the tower, and flew off to the west.

Masters was gone.

System Masterer

The air was silent around the tower as Masters flew out of sight.

A loud ringing noise shattered the air. A slightly mechanical voice began speaking.

"Self destruction routine active. Destruction in thirty seconds."

Pedro, recovering his style, commented.

"I think we better bugger off folks."

Bernard, the valiant one, yelled.

"Are you KIDDING! We gotta stop the countdown, we've got to save the tower... if it's destroyed, there'll be hell to pay!"

"Who give a damn, Bernard, let's get lost. Masters escaped, we stopped the plot, we're finished."

"There might be a reward for saving the tower..." Bernard could be remarkably smart when necessary.

"So what are we doing standing around! Skillprof! Get your tin toys to work. SAVE THIS TOWER!"

"Twenty-five seconds to destruction."

The Grodd

I looked around. Everyone was frantically scrambling around, trying to save the Eiffel Tower from being destroyed by whatever means Masters had set up.

"Fifteen seconds," droned the voice.

I was drained. I could never believe the real identity of the Spiderwoman. I would never have convinced myself of it had I not seen her. If only the other PI's knew. But no. I couldn't tell them. I couldn't tell anyone. This was one thing that only she and I could know.

"Ten seconds."

Time was running slowly again, like it always does in those tense moments before a bomb goes off in a story like this. Of course, the timer was always stopped just one second before zero.

"Five seconds."

Skillman was struggling with some intricate piece of electronic equipment. He didn't seem to be getting anywhere except tangled in wire. I gazed at

The Grodd

the skyline of Paris and remembered all of the stupid movies, plays, and books written about this place - of which this chronicle is only a minor part. We couldn't die now, not while Masters was still on the loose and my royalty cheques were still rolling in.

"Two seconds."

We weren't going to make it.

"One second."

I closed my eyes.

There was a loud "bwaaaaak" sound from the PA system. "Ha ha! fooled ya!" chanted the voice.

I screamed. We all screamed. We swore. Boy did we swear.

"Meet you at the bottom," I said, running off the edge of the tower and pulling the cord for the parachute concealed in the rocket pack. I drifted to the ground below.

BIKE REPAIR MAN

The earth was safe, for now. The PIs and a few other key humans had made jelly beans a safe candy for evermore. Big Fuggin Deal! NOBODY EATS BLACK JELLYBEANS ANYHOW, THERE'RE GROSS!

As time passed, the PIs were all brought into the gendarme station for questioning. It seemed that there was no money to be made saving the planet, infact, the damage reports and theft charges began to flow in. Our team of heroes was again up a famous creek.

"somehow, I thought our reward would be different." mused Pedro.

System Masterer

Well, that's all she wrote folks. The end.

The unedited buffer files total around 200k, and are at this very moment under the close editorial scrutinty of the Editor in Chief.

For now, let's allow our famed writers to idly chatter about their story...

Followed by the plans for the reading, and then... and then... we take applications for C&T II - The Return of Masters.

Thank you and good night,

System Masterer [Richard Masters - evil bad guy type person]

The Imposter

I wanted it to be "C&T II - The Return of Jake Gerbil"

oh well.

El Loco

That was a Ramblin' tale if I ever wrote one.

El Loco (Tyrell Corp. Nexus Six Type Replican)

The Grodd

Over at last. For some reason, I sat down last night and wrote out a whole new Dik Miller story for The Plague (yes, it's still around - they just put out another issue which was much better than the previous one). I just can't stop this.

All in all, I think that story wrapped up quite nicely. No more loose ends, no more dangling modifiers, and no more infuriating subplots. How long does The Editor in Chief think it will take to edit?

How about "Trenchcoats and Cutthroats ][: The Return of the Tuesday Night P.I. Poker Game Club." Long, but it says it all.

:=:=> The Grodd <=:=:

El Loco

Trench and Cut ][ P.I. Poker Game. Do we bring our weapons?

The Imposter

We could form an organization, the Private Investigators Secret Society.

PISS for short.

Barney Beer

Well, I was hoping someone would find out where Dave disappeared to. After hurling himself on the force field to drain it's power he vanished in a bright flash, right? So, I was going to have him blown up into the rafters somewhere. BUT, YOU GUYS ENDED THE STORY BEFORE I COULD WRITE IT!! And Torch is nowhere to be seen. He's not mentioned in the last few episodes except as 'a smurf'.

Ah well. I guess there's one thing to add in, eh?

Barney [Bernard Q. Bear, Part-time PI]

System Masterer

A group of writer lounge in comfortable chairs, soaking up some of the Hawaiian sun.

Suddenly, in rushes what could be a bad guy, but turns out to be far worse.

It's the Editor.

"Argh Billy, how many K can you do an hour?"

Official complaints from the editing department: Two spaces after a period. Use double quotes for speaking parts (oh please). 80 columns. For gawd's sake, 80 columns.

With any luck (and recovery of a section that Charlie Gibbs has from my absence) we could have a first draft edit by the weekend. That means the following weekend could be a party. That's the 7th or 8th of February.

Please contact your EiC with your personal schedule details.

Thank you, now bugger off.

The Imposter

Howzabout we write an epilogue? One last chapter that we can write at the T&C Party II. Also, if Grodd's place gets canceled, mine is av ailable.

Skillman

"HellRide! HellRide! HellRide!"

oh..sorry..wrong story..

"Get over here Jennard - let's get going

Big Dave Diode

I don't know what to say. I just went through thirty new messages, having had exams, etc all this week.

Great ending. How about Trench & Cutt ][, in which Masters' teams up with the Evil Couch Gnomes from Beyond the Third Dimension? No?

Ok.

The Grodd

Actually, I would prefer if we had it somewhere welse this time, just for a change of pace. Besides, I want to see where everyone else lives.

:=:=>The Grodd <=:=:

The Torch

I had no more worries about saving the world. I was off in that favorite place, la la land. It seemed sort of fitting.

what? I can't write anymore! well, bunk.

Dik Miller

It had been a long, slow, dreary, dull, fatuous day. Then again, most days are like that when you have nothing to do.

I'm Dik Miller, Private Eye. I've spent the last few months as Political Correctness Enforcer for the Faculty of Engineering at the University of British Columbia. It's though work, but I like it that way. I'm a tough guy.

Unfortunately, summer was here, and the Engineering students were off working or playing or whatever the hell it is they do when they're not in school - probably drinking beer. Which is what they do when they're in school. But never mind. It meant that my work was done for the summer. I was, in fact, completely at a loss for anything to do.

I was sitting in my office in the bowels of the Civil and Mechanical Engineering building. My feet were up on my desk.

The phone rang.

"Dik Miller, Campus Political Correctness Enforcer, at your service," I said into it.

"Dik, is that you?"

"That's what I said. 'Dik Miller, Campus Pol--"

"It's really you. Dik Miller, Private Eye."

"I have gone my that name." I was getting a little irritated. "Who the hell are you?"

"Guess."

I thought for a moment. "Moammar Gadhafi?"

"Nope."

"Damn. I should have realized. You don't have an Arabic accent."

"You're right. I don't. Guess again."

"Milton Berle."

"Closer."

"Erik Nielsen, former Deputy Prime Minister?"

"No."

"Leslie Nielsen, his brother and famous movie actor?"

"Uh, no. Look, you're obviously not getting any closer. It's El Loco."

"Who?"

"

El Loco!" he exclaimed.

"Sorry, you must have the wrong number." I hung up.

The phone rang again about ten seconds later.

"

El Loco, dammit!" he yelled. "You know, one of the P.I.'s!"

"Er," I countered, "I don't remember you as being one of the PI's."

El Loco sighed. "That's because I was thrown into a bog and died."

"Oh," I said.

"But you should remember me. I was right in on it with Bernard Bear, Jake Gerbil, the whole lot."

"Yeah, okay," I said, "I remember you." I didn't. "What do you want?"

"It's Masters."

I sat bolt upright in my chair. Of course, with my legs still propped up on my desk, I screamed in pain and rebounded back, tumbling over backwards onto the floor.

"Shit," I hissed. "Where is he?"

"That's the problem. He's everywhere. He just showed up on SuperChannel."

"He's taken them over?"

"I don't know. Can I come talk to you in person?" Loco asked.

"Sure." I explained where I was and hung up the phone.

Maybe this day wasn't going to be boring after all.

El Loco

I hung up the phone and took the piece of paper that I used to write the directions to Dik's office, and headed out to the Loco-motion. It took me a while to get there, as I tend to be directionally challenged.

I walked down the corridor, , down the stairs a few flights, and to Dik's office. I knocked on the door, but there was no answer. I tried the handle, and found it open. As I walked in, a series of flashbulbs went off, and a rather crude net dropped on me from the ceiling.

"Arg!" I cried.

This apparently woke Dik, and he proceeded to help me with my recently acquired encumbrance.

"What the hell was that for?" I demanded.

"Well, I wasn't sure who you really were, and so I decided to try out my new

security system. It works." he said confidently.

"Great, I'm glad to be of service."

I reorganized myself, and regarded Dik. He had changed since I had last seen him. Changed in a subtle way. It must have been the boots.

"We've got some work to do" I started, "Masters is on the loose, and I think this time he has a plot."

I was about to continue when I realized that Dik was eyeing me in a wary sort of way.

"What?" I asked.

"What?" Dik replied.

"What?!" I retorted.

"What!" He shot back.

"WHAT!" I exploded.

"WHAAAT!" he screamed.

"Why are you staring at me that way?" I finally broke the deadlock.

"I thought you died in a bog, two stories back." he third-degreed.

"Well, I did and I didn’t. You see, I was clinically dead there in the bog, just past the runway where I was hurled from the transport that you guys took off in. But, a group of girl guides came along and used me to get their Life-Saving badge by administering CPR on me mere moments before my brain was affected." I explained.

"Well, there's that plot inconsistency out of the way..." he relieved.

"Anyway...as I was saying, Masters....."

And I revealed the shocking truth.

Dik Miller

It turns out that Loco had discovered indirectly what I, and the rest of the PI's, had feared since our last encounter with Richard Masters: that he had somehow turned himself into a virtual person, his essence traveling through the information networks worldwide. He would occasionally show up on, say, SuperChannel, and scare the bejesus out of some old couple watching "Psycho IV." In addition, he was able to misdirect phone calls, alter faxes, and all sorts of other things - but he had only started in the past week or so. Obviously it had taken him some time to orient himself to his new existence.

"Well," I said, after Loco had finished explaining, and was completely out of breath, "there is obviously only one thing that we can do."

"What's that?"

"Find out some way to turn Masters back into a real person, then kick the shit out of him."

"That's been difficult in the past," Loco noted.

"We'll just have to consult the person who helped Masters turn himself into an electronic ghost."

"Who?" Loco said. "If I find that guy, I'll kill him!"

"Uh, well, it was Jake. Jake Gerbil."

"What?!"

"Well, you see, when we were pursuing Masters around the Universe last time around, Jake came up with this thing he called the Principle of Cellular Phones, where, since cellular phones enable you do to things that make it pretty well as if you were where you were phoning, without actually having to be there, there's about a 50-50 chance of you actually being there."

Loco looked at me for a few seconds. "What?!"

"Masters used a cellular phone to transport himself to a phone number not in service."

"Uh, right. So all we have to do is get him to come to some place where there is a working phone."

"Maybe," I said. "Right now, I'm not sure if the Principle of Cellular Phones might cause this story more trouble than it's worth."

"What do you mean?"

"The Law of Plot Devices. If a plot device causes a story to have too many loopholes, or makes it incomprehensible, it ceases to exist."

Loco sighed. "That would be inconvenient."

"I'll call up Jake and see what he thinks." I picked up the phone and dialed.

The other end of the line rang. And rang. And rang.

El Loco

All the time Dik was telling me about this Jake character, I had been feeling like I was in some cheesy detective story. Or I had major Deja Vu.

'Jake. Jake Gerbil' I thought to myself, 'I remember that name....somehow, it is vaguely, almost eerily familiar.'

It was a problem that I laboured on until the spark. I suddenly remembered the deck of cards I had in my concealed pocket, and removed them. I took the cards from their carrying case and ruffled through them, and pulled out the Jake of Clubs. There he was...my long lost cousin Jake.

"Pedro!" I shouted.

This startled Dik, who dropped the phone, and shot me a look.

"What?" he said, confused.

"Me. I just remembered my given name, Pedro. Jake is my long lost cousin from the motherland. Wow, I could almost flashback, but I wont." I said, relieved.

"Good," said Dik, "artistic licence is a dangerous thing with some people."

"I think these still work," I said, concentrating on the card.

Alfred Tood

While he was doing that, several other things were happening. One of those involved me, Alfred Tood.

I'm a ... go ahead and guess ... I dare ya ... Private Investigator and I have a business card to prove it. I've only just recently entered the field and I'll be honest, I'm not a very good PI with my current ratio of solved cases being 0 of 0. Not that this should surprise anyone as I don't advertise or look for work. I applied for the PI license so I could buy and operate high end surveillance equipment on the homes of exciting people. My segue (sp?) into the story is as follows; (ahem) (ah-aheckm-mm)

"Josephine, the thought of you licking me dry after a shower of champagne gives a woody the size of Madagascar but I just can not risk bringing you into my home."

"But Earl! I spend my days dreaming about the nights we spent together in Bombay, I can't let go of you now, I just can't! (sob sob)"

"Jo, it just isn't right <bzzt..crackly>..."

A foreign electronic sounding voice cuts in, "Mortals, you will learn to respect authority. For eternal happiness, dial star 4421. <bzzt .. crackle>"

"Earl? What are you talking about? Are you making jokes?"

"No Joke Jo. That didn't come from my end, we are being monitored. Hang up!" (Click) (Click)

I took off the headset ad scrawled down the message. This is the third time this week that similar messages had interrupted steamy telephone calls that I have been monitoring with my scanner.

The amazing thing is, after each interruption, the people who were involved in the call have been reported as missing.

It almost sounds like a case doesn't it?

Dorkley

Suddenly, a furtive figure appeared and shot the PI to death on the spot.

Death Bird

And that’s where I came into the picture. After years of being the resident rotting corpse of the Hastings/Pigeon Park area, I decided life as a zombie had no room for advancement. One day after being ripped off buying a bottle of moldy piss sold to me as tasty turpentine, I knew I had to get myself out of this rut, to somehow find enough cash to finance my unzombifying experiments. I thought long and hard before I came up with the idea for my phone sex operation. Since most of my throat was gone anyway, it was easy to alter my voice from the raspy groan of a dead guy to the sultry moan of a sexy chick. Anyway, after my top client who liked to call himself 'Earl' spend his entire inherited fortune on jollies via me, I knew someday I would have to repay him, and that meant more than just a quick hand-job. As luck would have it, the day Earl was shot dead was exactly the same day I perfected my unzombifying formula!

I knew when our phone connection was cut that he was in trouble, so I raced over to his apartment. I knew where it was because he constantly begged me on the phone to come over and twizzle his twazzlers. Since he knew me only as 'Josephine', I figured it mite be a good idea 2 smear on some lip-stick in order not to frighten him. I arrived on the scene just after the ambulence crew showed up. There seemed to be a lot of confusion as one small man with a 'Bolus Rules' t-shirt ordered the paramedics into increasingly funny situations. This diversion provided me with plenty of time to inject my serum of draino-crystals and ketchup into the veins of dead Earl. After a few moments, his skin took on the rosey hue of aliveness and his eyes popped open instantly. He stared at me in horror and said:

'You're the Death Bird!! I thought for a second there you might be Josephine, the girl I masturb-'

'Masters!' I interrupted, the whole senario coming back to me in a flash when he spoke that terrible name. 'We'll discuss Josephine and my smeared lipstick, as well as that rash on your penis later, right now we've got to get to Dik Miller's office immediately!'

We ran out of the building after Earl kicked the nuts of the man in the Bolus t-shirt who was trying to get us into a crazy compromising position with the paramedics.

Dik Miller

"Hmm," I said. "No answer at Jake's place. That's odd, especially since I called his cellular number."

"What are we going to do?" Loco asked.

"The best thing would be to get out of this hole of a basement, take a ride in the Loco-motion, and see how many of the other PI's we can get a hold of before we start on our quest to eradicate Masters for the last time."

"The last time?"

"Yeah."

Loco looked concerned. "Do you mean 'last time' in the John-Lennon-is-dead-and-the-Beatles-are-gone-forever sense, or in the 'Star- Trek-6-we-say-it's-the-last-one-wink-wink-nudge-nudge' sense?"

"The Star Trek sense, of course," I replied. "What do you think I am, stupid?"

Loco didn't answer. Instead, we left my office and bounded upstairs, headed for the Loco-motion (a 1977 AMC Pacer with tinted windows), which was double-parked out back. As we walked out the door, I noticed something off in the distance.

"What's that?" I asked, pointing.

Loco squinted. "Looks like a couple of members of the undead."

We both looked at each other simultaneously. "No," Loco gasped. "It couldn't be."

"Death Bird," I said fearfully. "And he's brought a friend."

El Loco

"Ew." I said.

"Bleagh." said Dik.

"Blargh." I revolted.

"Eyouga." heaved Dik.

"Blurgaroonie." I woofed.

Gurgaloo." Dik upchucked.

"Greetings from the world of the Dead." said the Death Bird as he approached, raising his hand to wave, which promptly dropped off. I moved one step closer to nausea.

"Been a long time, Bird." said Dik, in his most convincing PI voice.

"That it has. We have a problem." replied Death Bird, "I know that you know that I know that you know that it's Masters again."

"Yep." Dik and I said in unison. I continued, "We have to find the other PI's and get working on this soon, Masters has a way of outstepping us."

Death Bird casually shed some skin from his frontal lobe area, and grumbled something about Retin-A.

As we stood there waiting for a moment of inspiration, I asked, "So, who's your friend?"

"Hhheiggra" said Death Bird's company.

"Give it a sec," Death Bird said to his companion. "It's the Drano, he's not used to it."

The strange looking gentleman had taken on a rather strange colour, not too unlike that of the Death Bird, but somehow healthier. He wasn't missing any major hunks of skin, and he appeared to be a bit drunk.

"Why did you bring that guy over here?", I quizzed.

"Well, he seemed to be a good addition to my abilities as the strangest PI on the team."

"I see, so you are going to teach him the finer details of being dead, then?"

"Well, hopefully he can pick it up on his own."

At this point, Dik interrupted, "Hey. Enough with the small talk, lets get on the case. We gotta find the other PIs."

"Okay." I said.

"Right, lets go", said Death Bird.

"Olkayg, gletsh gho.." said Earl.

"How did you know that?" asked Death Bird.

"Know what?" I asked.

"You knew his name....Earl."

"Oh, that....um"

Alfred Tood

This might seem somewhat amazing, rediculous even but I'll try to explain what I saw when I traced Earl's number to his residence after the call. I pulled up in front of his home at 8:40 pm, parked my green AMC gremlin behind a poorly parked Pacer and scanned the street. I took the following notes; Ambulance parked across both lanes of traffic. 12 effeminate paramedics perfoming various bizarre acts around the afforementioned vehicle. (juggling guinnie pigs, swallowing fire hoses, balancing on their noses, etc.) 1 wobbly, greenish man stumbiling along with 1 compost heap. 1 Ross Shaffer lookalike with an Austrailian cowboy hat. 1 middle aged hispanic with a red and white bandana worn around his forehead.

The compost and the green man seemed to know the cowboy and the hispanic. After fighting off the heard of prancing paramedics, they conversed for 10 minutes before waking toward the Pacer in front of me.

I may be a miserable PI, but I knew that this was significant. I climbed out of the passenger side of the pacer where I found the window open. Reaching under my coat I pulled out a Garfield with suction cups on it's feet and a microphone/transmitter burried in the stuffing and installed it in the back window then snuck back to my car which may turn out to be the longest sentance in this whole story.

I pulled away from the curb and returned to my appartment where I tuned in to my recently placed bug.

"..ugly thing doing in your car? I know that you guys get into dingle balls but is is just plain tacky." said a radio announcer style voice.

"Hey man, I did't buy it but if ou found it in my car it's mine. Leave it alone." responded what I guessed was the Mexican.

"El, do you have one, or preferable more of those cardboard evergreen air fresheners? This car really stinks." Continued the first voice.

"Oh bugger off, I'd like to know how you would smell after 2 years of deacay" said a third voice which I knew immediatley to be Josephine. Oh no.

Dik Miller

"Funny," I said, looking into the passenger side rear view mirror. "You don't see a lot of AMC's around these days, but here we are in a Pacer with a green Gremlin right behind us. Weird."

"Where are we going, anyway?" asked Loco, driving with one hand and holding his nose against the stench of Death Bird and Earl with the other. (I was using my Dik Miller(tm) nose plugs/garlic presses.)

"Jake's place," I replied.

"Where's that?"

"The downtown east side. Right next to the Balmoral Hotel."

"Hey, excellent," said Death Bird. "One of my favourite hangouts."

"Let's get some music in here," said Loco as he aimed the car down Fourth Avenue. He clicked on the radio.

The local lite rock station came on.

"We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the <bbbzzzzzt...crackle...zort>...

There was a slight, hissing pause. Then:

" Greetings, petty human scum. Somewhere out there, doubtless picking their noses while watching 'Studs' on TV, is a group of inept, scurrilous private investigators. I know you're out there, and I know at least one of you is listening..."

"It's Masters!" Loco gasped. "Take your finger out of your nose, Dik!"

"Oh, man!" cried Dippy. "We're missing 'Studs'!"

"Shhhh!" I shushed.

"...My name is Richard Masters. You, the PI's, know that already. As usual, I am out to take over the world and bring it under my thumb. But this time I have a plan that cannot fail!" He broke into maniacal laughter. "Mwahahahahahahahahaha...Aahahahahahahaaaa!"

"What a goofball," said Earl, who had finally figured out how to speak. "You know this guy?"

"He's our evil arch-enemy," I explained. "But be quiet. I want to know his plan."

"I will not tell you the details of my plans, poor fools, since you have foiled me in the past by knowing too much. But you - Jake Gerbil, Dik Miller, Bernard Bear, Alphonse Trel, El Loco, and Death Bird - well, for you it's too late - you will be the first to die! Mwahahahahahahaha......

"...but the stars that we reached Were just starfish on the beach..."

Loco had turned the radio off. "Now what?" he asked.

"We go get Jake as planned. We knew Masters had something up his sleeve, now we just know what it is."

"No we don't," Death Bird reminded me.

"Oh yeah, right."

El Loco

I drove as best I could to the Balmoral. The problem was that as Earl slowly decomposed, his bodily functions no longer under control, he was 'jamming his jeans' so to speak. Not to mention the stench from Death Bird.

"Here we are." I said as we pulled up to the balmoral, and promptly knocked down a parking meter.

"What room?" asked Death Bird.

"I'm not totally sure, but hey, we're PIs, right? Lets figure it out."

We got of the Loco-motion, and headed inside. Just as we got in the door, a real big, real mean, real scary guy came up to us, pointed to Death Bird and Earl, and said, "Hey, no undead in here. We're trying to keep a standard here, ya know."

I could see that the Death Bird was about to unleash his deadly Breath Weapon on this Surrey outcast, and I said, "Okay, Okay....lets not have any violence Death, Earl, wait outside. Watch the Loco-motion, and see if that car that was following us is still around."

With a grumble, they left.

Death Bird

Earl and I stepped back onto Hastings and decided 2 check out the word on the street. We grabbed the nearest down-and-out wanderer with a pleasing personality and asked his opinion on the situation. The three of us quickly came up with a plan. First Earl walked into the bar, stepped up the counter and asked

'I'll have three beers please'

'Sorry we don't serve zombies here, I already told your friend, so GET OUT' the bartender said Earl walked back out empty handed so it was time 4 our scruffy friend 2 give it a try. He added a few rips to the large collection that belonged 2 his clothes, and tied himself in2 a giant knot, and walked in.

'I'll have three beers please' he said

'Are u sure u aren't dead?' the bartender questioned.

'No I'm a frayed vagrant tied in a knot.' he replied, and was served the drinks.

Dik Miller

Loco and I stumbled up the rotting stairs. Jake's place was on the fourth floor, and I was glad that I had my Dik Miller(tm) Roach Crusher Boots on.

"Why the hell does Jake live here?" Loco asked.

"He likes the atmosphere."

"You've got to be kidding."

"I'm not," I said. "He can perform his weirdo Bwana rituals up here and no one comes to investigate. They're used to fights, drug dealing, small fires, and really sexist jokes around here, so one guy meditating and summoning spirits from the astral plane is nothing special."

"Oh." Loco looked up the last flight of stairs. "I guess he always was a bit eccentric."

"He spent two years sitting in his car eating pizza outside my old office once," I revealed. "That's how he discovered the Law of Cellular Phones that we're not using in this story."

We reached the door, which was emblazoned with a large poster of Christina Applegate from "Married, With Children." I knocked.

No answer.

I knocked again.

"Hmm. Maybe he left the door unlocked," Loco said, reaching for the doorknob.

"No!" I shouted. "Don--"

But it was too late. He opened the door and stepped inside.

"What?" he wondered. "There's nothing going o--" He froze in mid-sentence.

Jake Gerbil's security system is unorthodox. Rather than having lights, sirens, and tripwires set up around his apartment, he has an astral time dilation field (courtesy of the Bwana Gerbil, I assume) just inside his door. If anyone other than him opens it, they are frozen in time until he arrives to release them. Unfortunately, one remains perfectly awake, but unable to move or speak during this time. I knew all too well; Jake had asked me to water his plants once when he took off to Hawaii. I was in stasis for two weeks, really had to go to the bathroom, and lost my job.

"Way to go, man," I said to Loco, knowing he could hear me. "I hope Gerb's in here somewhere."

El Loco

I found the situation that I was in very frustrating. It seemed that I could see everything, hear everything and feel everything, but I was not capable of moving in any way. Hmm, interesting. I thought to myself how I should have adjusted my underwear before I opened the door.

As I stood there motionless, I realized that this scenario was similar to another that happened to me the last time I was out with these stupid PIs, except instead of an astral time dilation field, it was just a bog. I remained there for the good part of the chase until they all thought I had died. It was a simple mistake that anyone could have made, but I hope that it won't be made in this particular story.

I decided that until Jake let me go from this thing, I didn't have much to do, so I decided to go over the things I had to do today.

1. Get out of time dilation field 2. Get milk, cheese, lettuce, ground beef and tacos. 3. Shave my girlfriend’s legs 4. Get Masters.

Alfred Tood

Richard Masters and the PIs huh? I thought they got into the top ten with "Baby I want your love thing"? Different guys I guess.

So they know who this clown is and they have battled him before. I think these guys would be good to hook up with. (It's a lame way to get into the pack, but I've wasted too much time already)

I suppose I could waste just a bit more. I'm not one to pass up a chance to drik the cheapest draught beer in the city. I entered the Balmoral's bar which is just below my room. (call it coincidence but I live in this hotel also) I waved "hi" to John at the mixing board and ordered three beers from the bar.

"How're things, Alfie?" asked Howard Johnson, the barman.

"I'm doing well, although it looks as though the world may be at risk. (Sip) Hey Howie, I'm serious here, if you call me Alfie again, ever, I will have you dismembered with a garden weasel."

I wandered across the room to where two rotting dead guys were sitting and introduced myself.

"Hi guys, I'm AlFRED Tood pi" I said proudly, "I will capitalize those letters when I get better at it."

They stopped talking and aimed their faces at me.

"I umm, catted your coversation in the car, I think we can work together on this case." I continued.

The one with Josephine's voice tilted his head making a noise like the bursting of a big zit burried in your ear. But said nothing.

"You guys aren't making this easy here. I've been monitoring his intrusions into electronic communications media and I have a theory as to his methods." I voulenteered nervously.

"Have a seat." said 'Josephine'.

It was time to lighten the mood. I had an idea... "Why? are they giving them away?..heh...ok" I said. It didn't go over big. I sat down.

John the DJ

Another yelping voice rang in my ear. "Der STONES, man! Play zum STONES, man!" A teetering swarthy man of uncertain age but definite stench was poised a few centimetres from my right ear. I looked down and saw a bead of saliva dripping down his ratty blue CBC Sports jacket. I nodded, trying to shield a grimace, reached over behind my chair, I pulled out a tattered Rolling Stones album. Under the circumstances, "Sympathy for the Devil" was mandatory.

Holy shit. Once again I tried to push aside my feelings of self-revulsion. Here I was, a PhD, but so unemployable that I was reduced to spinning tired slabs of vinyl in the crumbling lounge of the Balmoral hotel. At first I harboured some scraps of interest in the job, thinking that I could possibly insert some music of value into the tedious drone of 60s flashbacks.

But, no, that was impossible. I once tried to play an innocuous Joe Jackson song but was soon pinned against the wall by the irate owner, who, while suspending me with one arm, lazily reached over with his other, carefully lifted the needle, picked up the LP, and crumbled it into fine dust with his hand. After turning back to me, he shook his head and let me drop to the floor. From that time on I stuck to the Troggs and anything by the Stones.

But at least some of the clientele were interesting. Mr. CBC, while scrofulous, was at least amusing, and there seemed to be some intriguing tenants in the building. One squat man always came in, requested "What I Like About You", and then went upstairs to his room before the song had even started. I could hear strange yelping noises occasionally emanating from his room, puncuated by wisps of smoke and a rumbling sound like that of a Chevy Sprint with no muffler.

This afternoon there appeared to be two well-meaning polite leper-zombies sitting near the back of the room, chatting with a tall lad with a shocking length of hair. Just previously a mysterious looking man with an Australian cowboy hat and caked cockroach guts over his boots eased his way in, accompanied by a hyperactive gentleman with a maniac grin. They were too well-dressed to be regulars, or even visitors, here, so I stuck my head around the doorjamb and watch them go up the stairs. They knocked on the door, heard nothing, and then one of them began to shout something but was abruptly cut off.

The Stones were wailing on, so I had a few seconds to go up and investigate. We unemployed PhDs have to keep our sharp analytical skills honed, you know. I went up and found the two of them standing motionless before an open door. Heavy mist slithered around their feet from the dark recesses of the room, while a bright neon hologram sign flashed over their heads:

THESE BURGLARS HAVE BEEN FROZEN IN TIME. PLEASE KILL THEM. THANK YOU.

On the side of the hologram there was a cord that ran up to the ceiling, into a corner, down to the floor, and into a wall jack.

I unplugged it, and the two men blinked.

El Loco

After having stood there for about 2 hours before the DJ came and 'unplugged' us, all of the blood had been pooling in various parts of my body. My muscles, also being motionless for that amount of time had stiffened somewhat in the intervening time.

"Ow, ooooo, ouch!" I groaned as the pins-and-needles shot through my body. My arms went limp to my sides and my knees gave out to my decreased mobility.

Dik, obviously dealing with this affliction better than I, looked at me and said, "Goof."

"Sorry, I had no idea that was there." I apologized. It was at this time that both Dik and I noticed the 'Installed by LESCO' sticker near the top of the door. We looked at each other briefly, turned in the appropriate direction, and yelled, "LESCO!"

My appendages were feeling a little bit more mobile at this time, and so I got up, and looked inside.

"Any more funny stuff?" I asked Dik, appealing to his knowledge of Jake's place.

"Not that I know of, lets go in." he replied.

We walked inside and saw the Strange But True looking room. There were socks everywhere, and various pictures hanging from the wall. Over in one corner was a large, smiling blow-up Turtle Wax turtle, that seemed to be sitting sentinal on the room.

"Jake?" I said. No answer.

"Hey, Jake!" Dik called. Again no answer. It seemed as though Jake wasn't communicating with us.

"Well, do you want to wait here?" I asked Dik.

"It's the PI thing to do."

I didn't get out the PI Guide to Investigative Application, as I trusted Dik to know the ins and outs.

"Okay," I said, "I hope he shows up soon."

John the DJ

After I unplugged the hologram and the two PIs (as I overheard) had reawakened, I began to ask them about how they arrived to be in that condition. But I was totally ignored as they talked to each other, went into the room, and slammed the door. I heard muffled calls of "Jake!" emanating from within.

"Sympathy for the Devil" was coming to an end so I ran downstairs and put on a Yardbirds tune, wincing as it oozed out of the tinny speakers. I looked around and noticed that the two zombies and the tall guy were becoming more animated in their discussion.

Dik Miller

"So," Tood was saying, "I was listening in on my scanner when, out of nowhere, I hear this guy laughing maniacally."

Death Bird shook a flake of skin from his temple. "You mean, like this? Mwahahahahhahahahaha...ahahahahahahahaha...mouahahahahahahaaa!"

"Yes, exactly!" Tood agreed.

A large, burly, check-shirted customer came up behind the Bird. "Whaddahell you laughin' at, buddy?" he asked.

Death Bird turned to him. "You." Then he breathed on him. The burly man collapsed in a heap on the ground. Death turned back to Tood. "You were saying?"

Tood continued. "I heard this laughter. That was the first time. That was about a month ago. Since then, I've been hearing it more and more frequently, plus the mention of a name: Richard Masters."

"As I expected," said Death Bird.

"We should tell Dik and Loco about this," said Earl, speaking for the first time in several hours.

"Good idea, Earl." Death Bird stood and led Earl and Tood out the door. Curious, John the DJ stuck "In a Gadda Da Vida" on the turntable and followed them out.

Alfred Tood

"I have this theory." I began as though I were about to say something interesting. "My theory is this..." I should drag this part out but won't. "I think this Masters character is trying to re-enter the world of the 3 dimentional."

"You're right!" Exclaimed Dippy, "You are in fact a bad PI! That is completely obvious. Does your theory go on to explain how he intends to do this?"

"Kinda. I think he is collecting people in the realm in which he is trapped and will some how use them or their resources to catapult him not only back into our reality but also into a position of absolute power!" I suggested.

"Well, the motive seems to be true to character, the scientific possibility of this sort of thing is no less likely than me speaking to you and it might explain why he hasn't left any messages yet. Alfie, I think you might just have the makings of a plot there." Answered the 'Bird'.

"Ahem, I mean this not as a threat but as a warning: Mr. Bird, if you call me Alfie, I'll force feed you to your mom.”

John the DJ

Ah, what the hell. While returning from the washroom I overheard the strange folks seated at the back of the bar mention something about a Richard Masters trying to escape the electronic realm, or something to that effect. The horrifying experience of a few weeks back, when an ethereal voice possessed my stereo equipment to belch ominous threats punctuated by maniacal laughter, immediately came to mind.

"Maybe these guys had something to do with this," I pondered. I put the longest song I could find on the turntable and followed them out the door. The one they called Death Bird murmured all the time in a gargling voice, so I couldn't really understand what he was talking about. He seemed to be engaged in a big discussion with the tall guy. I decided to risk it all, interrupt, and introduce myself.

"Hi there, I'm John, the Balmoral DJ? Yeah, I was the one who played the Stones. Anyways, I overheard you guys talking about Richard Masters and was wondering if you could tell me if you knew about how he took over my stereo a few weeks ago..."

The Australian hatted fellow raised an eyebrow. The tall guy followed, then the blonde guy, then the Death Bird, then the leper, although his fell off right afterwards.

"It happened to you, too, eh?"

"Yes. Do you know anything about it?"

They all started to laugh. The tall guy took me aside, introduced himself as Alfie, and told me all about their PI adventures. I immediately decided to join them, and said so.

"Oh no," they groaned. "Not ANOTHER character."

"Don't worry, I won't say much."

"Well, OK then," gargled the Bird.

And we walked down the street, off to search for Masters.

I heard the song come to an end in the Balmoral as we rounded the corner...

Alfonse J.Q. Trel "La de da," I whistled to myself as I drove along the freeway for a pleasurely drive. I was in a good mood. I started wondering if I was using too much first person ( or was (is) it second person?) but decided not to care and sometimes just drop the pronoun from sentences. Bored was I. It is only possible to make so much money and feel challenged. The aging population meant my pharmaceuticals were doing well, and the recession meant my bank stocks were doing quite nicely.

So, I was bored. I'd helped save the world, I'd travelled, made love to beautiful women, dropped a few pronouns, made a lot of money. And what for? The dalai lama hadn't given me the answers to life. Something about contributing to the cause kept coming up in his answers. He kept sounding like Tom Vu. "Come to my Seminar, I give you answers to the world. You will see.” My friends said to me "Stupid Dalai Lama, you never get answers to the world.” “But now look at me," was the line. Besides, he had no style. No charm. No suaveness. No Rico Suaveness. Besides, I am to sexy for my llama.

Enough. Time to get back to the reality of making money. One thing about recessions is the poor tend to spend more money drinking, so I decided to check out my latest bargain, the balmoral. I pulled into my reserved spot, parked the jag and went inside. I noticed no music, no dj, nobody helping the crumpled heap on the ground. And it wasn't like I was unobservant, these things just didn't exist or happen. I went up the previous owner who I had decided to retain for a transition period.

"So, Nic, what's with the cafe?" I asked.

"Well, that !#$!@#$$@#! DJ just left after playing some dumb %^&%^** music, a guy just breathed putrid ##%%@# breath on the dumb jerk, knocking him out."

"A great grasp of the English language and the situation you have" I said

"Where is the DJ and the breath of death gentlebeings?" I added.

"Dey just left. Walked right out da door."

"Keep up the good work" I said as I walked out the door.

Yes, Alfonse J.Q. Trel had unexpectedly returned to the world of the PI's, only a few minutes behind. Wouldn't they be thrilled.

Dik Miller

"So," I was saying to John the bartender as we lounged around on Jake Gerbil's decrepit furniture, "you encountered him as well?"

"Masters, you mean?" John said.

"Yes, yes, of course, you boob. Who else would I be talking about?"

"Sorry. Yeah, he possessed my stereo a few weeks back. Right in the middle of a Sugarcubes song, too."

"Interesting."

"Yes, interesting," said Loco, who was peering around Jake's shelves.

"Interesting," gargled Death Bird. "Hmmm."

"Yes, very interesting," said Earl.

Alfred Tood looked around at us as if we were all raving loonies. "Fascinating," he said.

Just then, I heard the distinctive blatting sound of a lime green Fiat Spider pulling into the parking lot behind the hotel. "Jake!" I cried, leaping up from the couch and spreading open the blinds to see Jake emerging from his car and heading for the door.

"And he brought pizza!" exclaimed Loco, licking his lips furiously.

"Right on!" said Tood, clearing Jake's Bwana trinkets from the coffee table top with one swoop of his arm. "Let's chow down."

El Loco

There he was at long last, Jake the PI. And he brought a pizza. Greatness.

We all milled around waiting for him to get up to the room, trying not to drool too much as none of us seemed to have eaten since the beginning of the story. I resumed my examination of his shelves and noticed a few interesting books that you can't buy in just any bookstore:

'The Art of Spanking' 'Doing the Bwana Thang' 'Foresight versus Precognition, an Investigative Approach' 'Journeys of the Mind: Stories of the Bwana Gerbil' 'Examination of Women and the Non-Real' 'Seb-Hood Explained'

As I became absorbed in a inner-cover brief about the Parameters of Parasexology, I realized it was taking an inordinate amount of time for Jake to get up to his room. I looked around and noticed that all the other PIs were just sort of waffling around his room, doing nothing of any importance.

"Isn't he taking a while?" I asked anyone listening.

"Yeah, actually. What's he doing?" Dik replied.

"Hey, look out here." said Alfred as he pointed out the window.

We all crowded around to see Jake talking with a (from what we could see at this angle) rather good looking female.

As we stood there, a cosmic thing happened. It was one of those moments that mental thought, karma and fate all come together in one glorious instant, and interjects a magical event.

"Water-Bomb!" we all yelled at the same time.

All at the same time, we all scrambled to the washroom to fill up our balloons for some artillery practice. When we got there, we realized that we didn't have any balloons, but were well equipped with condoms, courtesy Jake's Trojan collection.

After the last of us had filled the prophylactics to the bursting point, we went to the window and opened it. We took aim and fired.

Alfred Tood

>Ploosh!<...>ploo-ploosh<...>plooplooplooplooploosh<

"Nice shootin' , Tex," I said to no one in particular.

"We all missed?! How in pete's name could we all have missed such an easy target?" exclaimed El.

"It depends what you mean by 'target' doesn't it? If you meant Jake, then yes, we all missed. If you mean my Jaguar, then I venture only my shot 'missed'.”

"Sorry Mr. Trel, I couldn't resist," apologised the DJ with all the sincerity normally associated with DJs.

Down on the street, Jake was squinting up at the building trying to figure out what this ugly mob was doing in his love den.

I scanned the room quickly to see what else might be handy to throw. We had no more penis bombs to throw but perhaps there was something else, hmmm. Ah Ha! a gallon jug of baby oil.

"Look out fellas, photon launch iniciated!" I ran to the window and threw the jug. I hit the edge of the window frame and the jug burst apart inside the room drenching us all.

"A bit of a goof aren't you?" observed Trel.

Realtor

"Now we look like a bunch of male strippers and we haven't even taken off our clothes," he said.

"I might be a goof, but I'll bet you were all thinking the same thing. Like old Jake down there is only talking, but if it were me, I'd be ten minutes into a twenty minute meaningful relationship with that lovely blonde creation.”

Collective Joe

As I swiftly dispersed my ammunition of poisoned water-balloon bombs at the evil capitalists it occurred to me that I had not felt such a great rush of adrenalin since the Bay of Pigs. The furour of the battle beg- an to get the best of me, and I feared that I might get carried away and lose grip of my little red book.

My hatred for these bourgeoisie oppressors in their expensive Jaguars and Pacer automobiles ran deep, and I derived great satisfaction from seeing them doused in the saliva-like substance contained within my death balloons. One of these pathetic servants to industrialism, I had learned, had even offended the Dalai Llama by refusing to accept his generosity.

Since the crumbling og the Soviet Republic, and the subsequent eliminat- ion of my brilliant career as an international spy for the KGB, I decided to destroy the evil and oppressive system of the capitalists, and thereby free the impoverished and oppressed masses.

It was wise, I decided, to begin my corrosion of the corrupt system of the evil Americans by eliminating the class known as "PI"s. After having eliminated the evil thomas Magnum and the pathetic brothers Simon & Simon, I had been slowed in my pursuit of Hardcastle & McCormick when they were placed briefly in syndication. Next on my list in reverse-logorhythmic- alphabetical-anagram order were this evil group of inept servants to cul- tural domination. It became my mission to foil them in their efforts to right wrong-doings and ultimately to turn them into fully-recyclable and bio-degradable waste-matter with which to fertilize my lovely vegetable garden.

I continued the assault until I had run out of balloons. At this point, the evil hegemony-maintaining disc jockey oppressor yelled something in my direction. Something that sounded like "time out!" and then he mum- bled something about a Mr. Hammer and "Can't Touch Miss".

To this I responded by drawing my ultimate weapon.

Death Bird

Meanwhile Alfred & I had just returned from the drinking fountain down the hall. He had been telling me ever seen the mazola missile that I was looking thirsty, which he still insisted upon even after I reminded him how dead I was. I humored him, went 2 the fountain, & CHUGGED some gulps. Alfred demanded I drink at least 4 gallons. We returned 2 the hotel room slowly as my soggy flesh oozed across the hallway floor. Once inside the room, Alfred grabbed the belt loop at the back of my pants & lobbed me out the window! I landed ontop of Jake Gerbil, where I exploded in a gooey mess of slushy rot.

Dik Miller

"Hold it!" I cried.

"What?" asked everyone else simultaneously.

"I have no idea what the hell is going on," I said.

Loco looked around. "Neither do I."

"Yeah. When did Trel arrive in the apartment? And who is that guy who was chucking water balloons at us? And who is the woman Jake's with? And what are we going to do now that Death Bird is splattered all over the pavement?" I gasped for breath.

Trel began. "I arrived just as you were filling up the condoms to throw upon Mr. Gerbil. I used one of my Trel Industries(tm) Mondo Water Balloons, but, alas, I also missed him. I came up here wondering what all the ruckus was about."

A shadowy figure stepped out of the...er...shadows. "I," he proclaimed, "am Joe the Oppressed Protetariat Collective Investigator."

"The what?" asked Alfred Tood incredulously.

"The Oppressed Proletariat Collective Investigator."

Tood smirked. "You mean PRIVATE investigator, don't you?"

Joe grimaced. "The word 'private' gives me icky feelings all over."

"But how did you get in here?" I wondered. "And why?"

"It is my quest," he explained, "to foil you in your efforts to right wrong-doings and ultimately to turn you into fully-recyclable and bio-degradable waste-matter with which to fertilize my lovely vegetable garden."

"You're kidding," I said.

"Nope-de-dope. You're evil capitalist slimebags and must be destroyed."

With that, I whipped out my Dik Miller(tm) Pizza Slicer/Ginsu Sharpener/High- Speed Duct Tape Dispenser and wrapped Collective Joe up like a mummy. Tood, Loco, and I grabbed his struggling form and pitched him into the closet.

"So where were we?" I said when we were done.

"Wondering who the chick Jake's with is," volunteered Earl hoarsely.

"Right." I walked over to the window. "Hey Jake!"

Jake Gerbil was still wiping the remains of Death Bird from his new Value Village trenchcoat. "Dik!" he replied. "So it's you! This is Julianne Phillips, former wife of Bruce Springsteen!"

"Nice to meet you!" I called back.

"A pleasure!" Ms. Phillips responded.

"Are you coming up here?" I asked Jake.

"Well, I have to get my clothes cleaned now. See you in a bit." He and his companion leaped into his car, which started up and blatted off before I could ask another question.

"Damn," I said. "So what about Death Bird?"

"Look!" cried Loco, pointing to the messy stain which had been the Bird. It was slowly congealing and oozing together like the Super-Duper Terminator in "T2," except less metallically. Within seconds, Death Bird had reformed himself on the pavement below.

"Hey guys," he said. "That was fun, Alfie."

Tood looked angry. So now, in the apartment, we had El Loco, Alfonse Trel, Earl, John the DJ, Collective Joe (duct taped in the closet), and a whole mess of baby oil spilled on the floor. In the parking lot was a reconstituted Death Bird. Off to the cleaners were Jake Gerbil and Julianne Phillips.

"Well," I said. "That straightens things out. Looks like Jake left his pizza in the parking lot too."

Collective Joe

The was a most grave predicament. Being stuck in a closet may have been to an inferior soldier a major setback. Fortunately, this was only a brief de- tour in my quest to douse the evils of the imperialist capitalist war machine.

The ultimate weapon which I had drawn earlier was an anatomically correct picture of famed russian model Claudia Poriskovavich, whose goddess-like proportions amply displayed the superiority of the Soviet in all things biological. Many a time have I spent a fortnight in a closet with such a picture as I --

Anyways, using my State-manufactured shoes of superior quality I was able to push the drawing of the aforementioned goddess-like Russian under the door of the closet where I could only presume that it was able to succes- sfully stun my evil pro-industrialist captors in awe of her magnificent proportions. This was reinforced as I heard the laughter of joy at seeing the beautiful drawing.

I was able to muster enough strength in my completely duct-taped body to break down the doors to my prison cell, and using my superior training in human pogo-reflex I was able to hop stealthily through the room and down the hall. As I tumbled down the stairs I could hear the amazement of the capitalist oppressors as they compared the lovely Claudia Poriskovavich to the beautiful and productive Russian cow.

I continued my pogo movement for 32 kilometers until I reached the grand gates of the Soviet embassy. Upon having my oppressive chains removed by my twin assistant "G", I realized that I was late for a lecture that I was supposed to give for my Communications 367 class at Simon Fraser University where I am able to spread the wisdom of my fellow Karl Marx and fail all of the capitalist conservative twits who disagree with his teachings.

As I hopped into my state-built Lada Sport Intercooler Supercharged Twin Turbo MFI I knew that there would be other days; other battles.

El Loco

"Cute chick," I said, longingly.

All the others just nodded as we ogled the perfect proportions of this Soviet Sweetheart. We quickly came to when we realized that Jake was talking to Ms Phillips, and she got IN HIS CAR. He must have said something rather convincing for just about anybody to get into his car.

"Okay," said Dik. "What is the plan now? We came here to get Jake, got stuck in the security system, had a bunch of people enter, exit, appear, disappear, and watched Jake arrive, get nailed by the Death Bird, and take off."

"Well, I guess we could do two things," Trel suggested. "We could either wait here for him to come back, try to go where he is, or go on without him."

"That's three," I said.

"What?" asked Trel.

"You said there was two things we could do and then you mentioned three," I explained.

"Oh. Who cares?"

"No one I guess."

"Well, what are we going to do then?" asked Alfred.

We all stood there, looking at each other, hoping someone would come up with an idea to break this deadlock.

"Fine." said John, "Lets go."

He walked out the door, and we all followed, leaving Jake's security system off. We all walked down the stairs into the common area, and filed out of the Balmoral. At this time, the Death Bird had walked around to the front of the hotel, and was walking in.

"Oh, hi guys," he said.

"We're leaving," I said.

We all got into our respective cars. I got the Loco-motion going, and waited for the others to get in their cars and get started. I had Dik, Death Bird and Earl in the car, Alfred had the DJ in his car, and Trel was alone in his. I couldn't see really well though, as there was a stuffed Garfield on my back window, so I may have missed someone.

"Now where?" I asked Dik.

He shrugged. I turned on the radio to Coast 1040, and heard the beginning chords of 'Swaying Under the Yolk' by Guadalcanal Diary, before a rude interruption.

“Long way to where I'm from, A lonely road back home. A city of skulls, that lies in.....bbbbzzzzzttt....cccrrrrrrkkkkk.......

“Ah Hah! Pay attention you idiot PI’s!” came the disembodied voice.

“You will NOT survive to see my world domination scheme come into effect, but I have arranged a little demonstration of my power for you. Mwahahahahahahaha! Be prepared!” said the voice that we all knew was Masters'.

"Isn't that the Scouts motto?" I asked.

"I think so. I think he is going to blow up some Scouts!" yelled DeathBird, making us all lightheaded from the stench.

"No, no." said Dik, "I think it's even more dastardly than that!"

And it dawned on us.

John the DJ

That was weird. In an instant everyone had scattered to pile in their separate cars. It seems that the chase was over, before we even found out more about that girl with the Jake character. I pondered going back to the Balmoral, but Alfred beckoned me to join him in his green AMC Gremlin. So I did.

It was a strange looking beast inside. Black wiring and what seemed to be threads of burnt hair dangled from the roof. The windows were pasty, covered with a pale brown sludge. A lucky rabbit's foot hung from the rearview mirror.

Alfred started up the vehicle and said nothing. We started driving off.

"So, how are you?" I asked naively.

"Fuck off, I'm looking for a clue."

"A clue?"

"Yes. A clue."

"What kind of clue?"

"A clue that will help us find Masters."

"Oh," I said, "I'll help. You drive and I'll look."

I absent-mindedly stared out the window, looking for the something that would reveal the true whereabouts and plans of Masters. It soon grew boring, as we were stuck in traffic.

I turned on the radio, immediately setting it to CBC-FM. It was Bob Kerr and "Off the Record," playing organ music. It must be Thursday.

Alfred groaned and moved to twist the tuning knob, but was stopped by the echoing voice of Masters, who had taken over the stereo:

"You will not survive to see my world domination scheme come into effect..."

Just then Alfred, who had been staring at the radio in a misguided effort to hear it better, hit the car in front. Luckily, I was wearing my seatbelt and so my life was spared. Alfred immediately made a small hole in the windshield with his nose. Blood started to spurt.

We got out of the car and saw that the car in front was an AMC Pacer. Dik jumped out. He didn't look too happy.

Ooops.

El Loco

As we were trying to figure out the meaning of Masters' threat, the car was stuck quite forcefully from behind.

After I got the Loco-motion under control, I stopped and got out to assess the damage. As I got out, I saw that it had been that Alfred PI-guy that had smacked my wonderous auto.

"You nailed the Loco-motion, you twit!" I yelled. It had been a long day, and we hadn't eaten, as Jake had driven away with the pizza.

Alfred got out of his car and sheepishly looked at the damage.

"Gee, sorry. Nothing major though," he tried.

"Arg!" I yelled, as I lunged for him, limbs a-whirl.

A brief prelude to a mano y mano confrontaion occured before it happened. It started as a rumbling thunder sound. Slow to start, but growing in volume and power. We looked around to find the source but couldn't locate it. It seemed as if an earthquake were occuring, but the ground wasn't shaking.

"What the hell is that?" shouted Trel, just approaching the accident scene.

"Masters" we all said.

Alfred Tood

"Neat effect. But big deal, so the world rumbles and buzzes, I'm soooo scared," I said (rather bravely).

I was facing away from the Hydro substation as I made this observation. El Loco and I still had our hands around each other's throats and he looked frightened. I thought for a moment that the reputaton for my 'Grip O Doom' had sent him into shock. Just a moment though before I remembered that I don't have a 'Grip O Doom', it was a dream. Why was El so frightened? Why was everyone so quiet?

El let go of my neck, staggering backwards, gazing over my head. Everyone was looking behind me. I turned around.

The substation was glowing with a bright blue aura which stretched up, shaping itself into the form of a portly gentleman with glasses. The whole figure must have been 50 feet tall, with the grin on his face wider than my car is long. "Mwaaa haaaa haaaa!" it bellowed happily. "Destroying you all would almost be too easy! I'll leave the pleasure to you."

We continued to stare.

"Go on! Kill yourselves then! You know I could do it, if I wanted to, which I will, if you don't..." He ordered, seeming to lose some confidence as he went on.

"I am beginning to think he's bluffing," said the guy who called me a goof.

"Is he some sort of idiot?" I asked. "As if we would kill ourselves to save him the hassle, hah!"

John put down the noose he had been tying around his neck.

I yelled, "Sit on this and spin ya big bully!" and held out my car keys. Bad idea actually. He fired a lightening bolt into them which blew them right out of my hand.

"Or don't, if you so choose!" I yelled, licking my hand.

As fast as he has appeared, the figure vanished, the substation stopped glowing and my car keys cooled into an amorphous blob on the street.

"I think I might have an idea," began Dik, breaking the silence. "If he is living on electrical power, we might be able to un-plug him."

That guy is so smart. One day I hope I can come up with ideas like that.

Dik Miller

"Wait one moment," said Alfonse Trel. "In order to unplug someone who is living in an electrical medium, would we not have to disrupt the entire power grid?"

"Well, yeah," I said. "So?"

"In order to do that," Trel went on, "we would have to destroy all the hydroelectric dams powering this entire province!"

I looked at him. "Yeah. So?"

"Yeah. Got a problem with that, Trel-Butt?" said Death Bird.

"We would cause grievous harm to millions of innocent people!" Trel protested.

"Yes, but would it be worse than what Masters will do?" I asked.

"We do not even know what he will do," Trel pointed out.

"True. But it must be pretty bad," I suggested.

"Awful," said Loco.

"Hideous," forwarded Alfred.

"Putrid," said Death Bird.

"Is there not an easier way?" Trel asked.

"Have any suggestions?" I asked him back.

"I would suggest that we meet him on his own turf."

"What? Turn ourselves into virtual electro-beings like him?"

"Something like that."

"Hey, hey, no way man," blurted out Earl. "I've been dead already. I'm not ready to leave my body again."

"Ah, c'mon, it'll be fun!" said Loco.

"I'm game," said Death Bird.

"You mean gamey," I joked. "Hoo ha ha. Sometimes I just kill myself."

Alfred Tood whacked me on the head. "Stop that."

"Sorry," I apologized. "It's agreed then. We turn ourselves into virtual electro-beings and whip the shit out of Masters on the astral plane."

"There is one problem," Trel noted.

"What's that?"

"How do we do it?"

"Simple," I laughed. "Just grab a cellular phone and dial a number that's not in service. We'll be transported into the wires of the phone system according to the Law of Cellular Phones...er...shit."

"What?" asked Loco.

"I forgot." I hung my head. "The Law of Cellular Phones doesn't apply in this story."

"Bummer," said Tood.

John the DJ

I coughed and interrupted the conversation.

"Uh, excuse me, but I know a way we could quite easily disable all the hydroelectric dams in the province."

All eyes turned upon me. A few people raised their eyebrows. Trel just sneered.

"How?" Dik quietly asked.

"Well, you know the water tower at SFU? At the bottom of it is BC Hydro's regional control centre, where they keep track of all their power-generating facilities in the province. They have satellite hook-ups to keep track of incoming weather systems and all sorts of other stuff. What's more important is that BC Hydro has its OWN telephone system. I think Masters is living in that."

I finished and exhaled.

"So all we have to do is take command of that centre, get inside the phone system, disable all the power supplies in the province, find Masters, and kill him."

Alfred nodded and said "sounds good to me."

Alfred Tood

"Sounds good to me." I said and nodded... then hesitated and thought about that really cool Deja Vu I just had.

"What's the quickest way to SFU?" asked Trel jumping back into his car.

"Get denied admission to UBC" I answered. Ooh I can be so clever at times.

We gave him directions and piled back into our cars, although this time John decided to ride with Trel leaving me alone in my shortened Gremlin.

El Loco and I dragged along the freeway and up the hill, sometimes he in front by a nose, sometimes me, but always there was a long parade of angry cars behind us unable to pass. Trel had luckily pulled ahead of us so he was already parked when I munched ito his back end in the parking lot.

"You f%'&ing s%X$head! How could you run into a goddamned f%'&ing parked f%'&ing car!? Are you TOTALLY stupid!?" said Trel in what could be called a raised tone of voice.

"It was easy actually, your car wasn't moving thus making it a much easier target." I said, not meaning it of course but desparately trying to lighten the mood. I umm, failed to cheer him up with that line.

After a few moments of trying to develop a Grip O Doom we settled down and went inside.

The building was amazing! Huge long low corridors full of buzzing cables. There were enormous switches, junctions, coils and transformers which were more than met the eye.

Once inside, the smart cowboy they called a dick said "Wow, now what?" which is coincidentlayy exactly what I was thinking!

Richard Masters

Into the maelstrom...

The whirlwind of ever-compressing waves of energy formed my the generator drew me deeper in, faster, stronger, as I strained to keep from being flung away. More power... more power... til finally, release.

Hurled from the generators, into the amplitude transformers, where power is concentrated, tightened into one, massive, pulse.

And now, fly. Soar down the wires, out from the mountains, through the valleys, into the receiving station. Concentrating, maintaining the integrity of self, resist the desire to split into billions of fragments that can only result in being a small pulse of light from a "That's Incredible!" TV show currently being watched in a hundred thousand homes.

Down through the substations, cross-city, transformers, into the radio transmitter... grab tight at the power transistors. Catch my breath, for what it is.

Now gently, so gently, grasp the transistors fluctuations for my own purposes.

"I see you, PIs. I see you. Can you see me? I will destroy you."

Release the transistors and glide back into the wire, the breaker box, the pole transformer... to the substation.... back to the generator. More energy, always, more energy.

Collective Joe

"I see you, PIs. I see you. Can you see me? I will destroy you." I said as I crept stealthy towards the evil oppressors of the proletariat. Evidently they were attempting to sabotage the power supply to my University so that I would not be able to spread the wisdom of Communism to the naive children of the capitalists.

"What do you want?" yelled the voice of what evidently was the Disc Jockey.

"Ha! I shall continue to foil your attempts to maintain the hegemony which daily oppresses the sleeping consumerist zombies of this society, you evil imperialist dogs of war." I readied several death balloons.

"B-but, we aren't trying to maintain the hegemowhatzishoozits," screamed a more desparate, pleading voice.

"Ha! Likely story, foolish American. You shall perish faced with the on- slaught of my death balloons!"

"Listen pal," begged the disintegrating one, "I don't know what the hell you're talking about but I wish you'd just bugger off and leave us alone."

"Ha!" I lobbed a heavily-laced balloon at a moving shape deep within the building.

"You missed me, mortal" declared a deep, more resonant voice which was definitely a higher life form than the Disc Jockey.

"I shall dance on your grave," I yelled, almost forgetting to add "you evil neo-industrialist underclass-exploiting capitalist controller of minds". I assumed that I had found their ring leader, and therefore, the oppressor of the oppressors. As I was outnumbered, I decided it more prudent to attempt to win them over to my side.

"Join me, fellow workers, in overthrowing your evil oppressor. Together we will fight against your master. You will be slaves to this capitalist pig no longer. You shall work for the collective good of the people, not to fill the coffers of this electromagnetic dog of war. Join me, and we shall ride the glorious parade together in victory!" a bead of sweat dripped dram- atically from my temple, glistening momentarily in the glow of the master.

John the DJ

My eyes glazed over as I listened to the poetic words of the apparition before us. His stirring words of justice, solidarity and freedom seemed to flow through me, electrifying my spirit. I felt drawn to his cause, our cause, and staggered towards the shimmering light to join The Quest. As I grew closer I thought I heard the words to the Internationale and the anthem of the former Soviet Union ring in my ears. He had even taken over the soundtrack to our story!

I was about to step into the glow of the socialist Jerusalem when a voice shouted out "What the fuck is he DOING?" I felt a decomposing hand grab my shoulder and pull me back into the circle of PIs. Death Bird had returned me to the cold capitalist world, and I squinted in its cold light. Once I regained my senses I found it to be Miller's flashlight.

"Look buddy, you're with us," grumbled Trel, "you owe me three bucks for the gas money up here."

I acquiesced, and turned away from Jerusalem. As we walked away I heard Joe shout:

Alfred Tood

"Yabba Dabba Do!" Shouted Joe.

I don't know why, I assumed he wasn't shouting to me. Let him shout, it won't make a difference.

The other pee eyes had been standing around kicking at the rubble on the floor, not saying much, not doing anything. This struck me as odd behaviour until I realized that it is what I had been doing until now.

"Kids, I think we have to go in. We may be risking our futile little lives but there are several of us and one of him." I said in a very masculine authorative tone of voice.

"Oh don't pull that Hearty Hero bullshit on us. Just say 'we have to go in' if that is your point." said the Death guy.

The lights flickered and went out, seconds later the emergency lights kicked in. When the lights came back on I noticed that Dik was standing next to a large piece of elecrical equipment and was holding some sort of multi-purpose gadget and was trying to read the printed instructios in the low light.

"So nobody has power anymore?" Asked the DJ.

jake gerbil

Meanwhile...

Julianne Phillips had her thighs wrapped securely around my neck and had started to squeeze.

But perhaps I should backtrack...

My name is Gerbil, Jake Gerbil. I'm a P.I. - what you readers would call a "Private Investigator". I prefer the term "P.I." however, since it can also mean a variety of other things such as "Pubic Inspector" or "Platypus Incubator". I had come to this palatial mansion hoping to fulfill the former role, only to find myself in an excrutiating predicament.

Having been suspended from the Maharishi Gerbil's School of Advanced Philosophical Learning for failing the crucial "Strawman Argument Debate" test by calling my learned opponent a "Fucking Nazi Prick" (which is an unacceptable term during final examinations), I returned to the material plane to resume my career as the hard-boiled love-em-and-leave-em P.I. who is currently having the life squeezed out of him by Bruce Springstein's former moll.

I had agreed to help Julianne, who claimed Bruce had hired several of Elvis' love children to kill her, when a sputtering mass of congealed vomit had exploded on top of us. After extricating ourselves from Death Bird's drooling carcas, we returned to her place to "freshen up". After a quick shower she showed me around her new house, which used to belong to the president of Simon Fraser University until she bought it as part of an endowment plan in which she donated a great deal of money for the development of the "Julianne Phillips Cosmetic Science Wing". After having perused the upstairs of the house, she asked me to follow her into the basement, where we entered a long tunnel which, she claimed, led to the "pleasure room". I never did stop to wonder why anyone would have so many ominous-looking electrical generators in their love den. She led me to a large bed in the corner of the room which had a number of dials and readouts around it. Then, of course, we went at it.

Now, I'm not saying she wasn't any good, but I had expected something a little more romantic. Frankly, doing the wild thing with someone who keeps mumbling about world domination and global destruction just isn't a big turn-on. After a few moments she pushed my head down and wrapped her legs around my neck. Then she started squeezing...

"You're going to die now Gerbil! Die! Die! Die!" said Julianne in a voice that was strangely reminiscent of Richard Masters.

Then suddenly it all made sense - the house, the electrical equipment, the fact that she had a metal plate with the words "Fembot destruction device Mark XII (c) Richard Masters" welded on to her butt. My P.I. instincts and Bwana intuition kicked into place. This wasn't really Julianne Phillips! This must be part of that fiend Masters' ongoing quest to take over the world Unfortunately, I was almost out of oxygen and had no way out of this fiendish trap.

That's when I heard noises from the other side of the door.

Death Bird

We walked in, the place was huge. Giant walls of concrete stretching up to a dark space above. Most of the PIs were shivering and chattering as if they were doing an sad impression of a junkie Shaggy needing a scooby snack fix. The only people that hadnt shit their pants was me and Alfred. Alfred was shadow boxing and shouting "lemme at 'em" while Dik held him back with his Dik Miller (tm) Portable Unmachoizing Restrainer/Shit From Your Pants Remover. I wasnt scared because this was the kind of place zombies felt most at home.

We walked up a few flights of stairs, around a corner, and came to a giant box of phone circuitry. So far none of the workers had noticed us because we robbed some telephone employees on the way up of their uniforms. Dik pulled out his William Gibson Encyclopedia and Portable Jack-IN Console/Speed Dispenser (tm). We all popped 3 meth pills each, hooked the Cellular phone up with a few wires here and there, and zapped our minds into the cellular cyberspace!!

Dik Miller

"Whoa," I said. Alfred, Death Bird, Earl, John the DJ, Alfonse, El Loco, and I had all, at Death's insistance, taken drugs and converted ourselves (rather conveniently, AND using the Law of Cellular Phones, which I thought didn't work anymore) into virtual electromagnetic beings on the same plane of existence as Richard Masters's latest incarnation.

"Yow," said Loco. "I look just like that guy in 'Tron'." He was looking at his arms, which looked rather like they had before, except that they were all aglow.

"This," said Joe the Protelariat Collective Investigator, "must be some sort of insidious plot to pervert the ideals of the Great Prophet Karl Marx and subsume them into the B.C. Hydro power structure."

"Now that was an obscure pun," commented Trel.

We were standing...well...floating...in the midst of a room...well...space, which was full of lightning-like flashes of electricity and a low-level background hum.

"What do we do now?" John asked.

"Party down!" cried Death Bird, spreading his arms and veering off on a tack towards what looked like a giant, glowing electrical conduit some unidentifiable distance away.

"Cool. But very weird." Loco said. "I just wish that Joe guy hadn't been sucked along with us. Let's find Masters."

**

Meanwhile, Jake Gerbil was quickly running out of air. There was another knock at the door.

"Who is it?" asked the Julianne-bot in her sweetest voice, all the while continuing to squeeze the life out of Jake's neck.

"Blcchhhk," gurgled Jake.

A low, throaty voice sounded from the other side of the door. "It's me, honey Ah've a-come ta getcha."

She instantly released her grip on Jake's neck, and he gasped for air. "Oh my god!" she shouted. "He's here!"

"Who?" Jake heaved. "Springsteen?"

"No, you twit! The King!" She looked around frantically. "Hide in that closet!"

As she shoved Jake bodily into the closet, his oxygen-starved brain was just getting to the point where it could think, "This fembot who just tried to kill me is shoving me into a closet so Elvis doesn't find out I'm here?"

At that very point, the combination of the long sexual bout, prolonged lack of oxygen to his head, the Spanish Fly which had been injected into his veins, and the realization that Elvis was still alive and was probably sleeping with a robot clone of Bruce Springsteen's ex-wife proved to be too much, and Jake passed out.

Unbeknownst to him, the electrical pseudo-essence of the PI's was zipping through the wires right above his head, on their way to confront Masters in the main power transformer.

Richard Masters

Grasping the knot of energy the transformer held, reaching for any route to escape. On the step down side... the answer lay out of reach.

Escape is a blind leap.

A look back to the conduits that had held essence all this time... never to return.

Past the step down, into the tight band width of low voltage, and into the device. Rectified and stabilized, now the brilliant simplicity of DC.

The suddenly, oscillation. Oscillation turns to square wave cycles, like a digital heart beat. The heartbeat overlain with a pulsed message, suddenly modulated... to sound.

Bursting free of the device, into the open freedom of wires, once again.

Break from the message, leave one group of sounds for another, avoid the switcher and once again, curled up against the knot of the transformer, safe in a world different, yet the same.

Escape.

Alfred Tood

Unreal. Too real. Pulsing, throbbing, growing, shrinking, rising, falling.

"I don't believe this! I'm INSIDE a vibrator!" I exclamed, as you can guess, I was not used to this.

"Always thought you were a prick, har har har" Said the DJ. Boy, did I envy his sense of humour.

"Cut your goofing, we have to find Masters, and figure out how to get back into reality." Said Dik.

"Yeah." Said Earl.

We all looked at him, well aimed our conciousnesses at his with an expression, well an expressiveness which would suggest the idea. "If you don't have anything usefull to say, please keep quiet you useless tag along character."

"Hey, let's send a message to Gerbilman. I know we're close to him I can feel it." Said El Loco's tron-like visage.

"I certainly hope I'm not!" I screamed leaping out of the vibrator's circuitry at precisely the speed of light.

There are some things I don't want to know. I'm an open minded, we can even go as far as running swineded guy, but the world has some extremes that I don't want to be involved in. That vibrator was no place for me.

I was beginning to get the hang of navigation in this new reality. Distances and directions were irrelevant, you either were somewhere, on your way to it, or on your way from it. I zipped up to a satellite, back down to Tokyo, spelled "Party On Dudes!" on the weather channel and was back in Burnaby before 2 seconds had passed.

Dik began speaking, "So, if we were really evil, power mad (sorry) Richard Mastersish people, what would we do now?"

"Irritate us?" suggested El.

"Yeah" said Earl before curling under our glares.

"Or oppress the masses of the proletariot through subliminal mind control causing them to slave at the yoke for generations under his evil rule?" volenteerd Joe.

"Or both" said Trel

"I think I'm in Bruce Springsteen's ex-wife." was all I had to offer.

Dik Miller

"Actually," I said, "that seems to be a fembot recreation of Bruce Springsteen's ex-wife.

Quite suddenly, there was a quick series of deafeningly loud, brief pulses of sound.

"What the hell was that?!" Loco asked.

"I don't kn..." I began. I was cut off by a very loud BDDDR BDDDR sound. There was a click, and then a huge, disembodied voice boomed out from all around us.

"You've reached the office of Dik Miller, Engineering Political Correctness Enforcer for the University of British Columbia." It was my answering machine "I'm not in right now, but..."

"Shit!" said another very loud voice. There was another deafening CLICK, then silence.

I shook my head. "That was painful. What happened? Why did we hear my answering machine?"

"I think I have a hypothesis," said Trel. "Someone nearby was using a cellular telephone to call your office, and the radio waves created interference at the same frequency as the electromagnetic space-time we currently occupy."

"But who would be making a cellular phone call near here?" Earl asked.

I looked at Loco. Loco looked at Death Bird. Death Bird locked a decomposing eye on John the DJ. John looked at Trel. Trel looked at Alfred. Alfred looked at me. Earl, with no one to look at, played with his navel.

"Jake," said everyone except Earl simultaneously.

Alfred, who was getting rather good at navigating in this weirdness, transmogrified himself into Jake's cellular phone ringer signal. There was another loud BDDDR BDDDR noise.

"Hello?" Jake's voice boomed.

"Oh no," I said. "I just realized what Tood is doing."

All of us were suddenly real, flesh-and-blood human beings again. Unfortunately, there were now seven of us stuffed into a closet with Jake and his cellular phone.

"Ow," he said.

"Where's that Joe guy?" asked Loco.

"Who cares?" said Death Bird.

El Loco

I have been in some weird situations in my life as a PI, but never one so strange as seven PIs in one closet, waiting for a blonde bimbet fembot to get rid of Elvis so that she can continue to kill Jake.

Well, there was that time in Penticton when I...

"Get off me!" whispered Tood in a very harsh voice.

"I can't" came the reply from someone.

"Move your leg" the harsh whispering continued until DeathBird managed to get a limb free and beat us quiet.

We all listened at the door to hear anything that might be vital to our cause, but the only sounds that we could make out was a real deep "Uh yeah" every once in a while and a strange squeaking noise.

"Whhmmmt dmmmt wmmm dmmm nmmmmm?" someone under everyone else asked.

"I think we should break for the outside, I think I can remember how to get out" said Jake.

Dik found the closet door handle and swung it open, hitting Elvis square on the head. It appeared he was bending over to tie his shoes.

Elvis flopped to the floor. All 325 pounds. We all avalanched out into the room where the Julianne Phillips fembot was in various stages of undress. Trying to get up, and rearrange tangled body parts, we made a bee-line for the door.

In a flash, she was off the bed and on top of Trel, trying desperately to take his head off.

I took this opportunity to take a look at Elvis, of whom I had always wanted to meet. He had a nasty welt growing on his forehead, and he was lying on the ground, face-down, unconscious.

"Nice work, Dik." I complained.

"What did you want me to do? I didn't know he was there did I?" he explained.

"No...but what a way to meet the King. Face down and out like a light."

I grabbed his hand and tried to take off one of his rings as a momento, which turned out to be a bad decision. It seemed that he wasnt totally out after all.

Alfonse J.Q. Trel

Now why was I trying to take my head off? Oh, right, the Fembot was!

"Whappa whappa whappa clunka" went my head against the ground.

"Clunka? How do you figure clunka?" asked the Gerbilatorosiumeister.

"Dunno. Maybe it's the fancy real imitation real gucci shades" said Tood.

"I say, somebody should help him out" said Alfred.

"Nah, I can't figure out whether to help him against the fembot or watch the King shove his blue suede shoes down Dik's throat" said the Elsterony.

"whappa whappa whappa twanga" went my head against the ground.

"Don't step on my blue suede shoes" said the King.

"Garfphle ackghlick" went the King's shoes into Dik's mouth.

Meanwhile, I was reminding myself of the need to extricate myself from this situation. Yet again, all my martial arts, ninjitsu, kenjitsu, TomVutsu, Bondtsu, and even Bondsai training were lost as I cracked under pressure. Hopefully my head wouldn't crack soon either.

jake gerbil

Ah, things were beginning to shape up just like they always do. Half of us were being beaten up, the other half were getting ready to beat up on the innocent ancillary character Earl, and the other half were wandering around either decomposed or decapitated. Masters was waxing poetic about his latest plot, of which we didn't seem to have one, and the King of Rock & Roll was a flabby wreck of tacky rhinestone excess - a metaphor for our own leasure-suit society.

I pondered what approach to take to these developments.

Pondering was difficult so I began to pummel Earl, the innocent third-party character. At least this way I could be sure I wouldn't be getting decapitated or beaten up. Suddenly a powerful grip locked on my arm. It was Julianne Phillips. "Don't you hurt him you meanie!" she screamed.

"What do you care?" I asked, "He's just an ancillary character - no independent life at all."

"He's just like me. Lost, alone, always at the whim of one maniac or another Never knowing love...or life--”

She was interrupted by a loud stomp on the ground (actually, a cosmic exceeding of the message limiter). It was Elvis, dragging Dik's near lifeless body by the ear.

"Nowa just waita minute theah babeh" began the King. "I don't wanna be hearin' you gettin' soft foah another fella. You is mine babeh."

"Oh of course Elvis my Love God, my Pookums, my Big Burrito," purred Julianne, still staring dreamily at Earl out of one eye.

Elvis didn't look fooled. Everything seemed to grind to a halt, and we all waited breathlessly for the tension to break. Suddenly a shot rang out! A hawk screemed for its mate, a jeep thundered across the African savanah, and the king of Rock & Roll pulled out a six-string guitar and started seranading the fembot of Julianne Phillips.

"Well mah babeh, her love don't ring true, No mah babeh, her love don't ring true, Sing with me fellas!"

We all started singing along, off-key.

"Well mah babeh, her love don't ring true, Think ah'm gonna pooh."

"'Think I'm gonna pooh?!?! Think I'm gonna pooh??! What the hell kind of song is that?" asked Dik, extricating the blue suede shoes from his mouth.

"It's a luv song little pee-ah dude," replied the King.

"That's the shittiest love song I've ever heard," commented Trel.

"I kind of like it," countered Death Bird.

Julianne didn't look impressed, but started melting all over Earl, figuratively speaking (you have to be careful in these stories).

"Well maybeh ah've lost it, being in semi-cryogenic hidin' all these yeahs," Elvis pined, speaking in his Muhamed Aliesque english.

"But what happened to you Elvis? Everyone...well, I guess a few people thought you were dead!"

Elvis looked at the El Loco, who had asked the question out of curiosity, not expecting what was about to take place.

"That's how it had ta be little fellah," said the King, a tear in his eye.

"See, it all went down lak this," and he began to recount his tale.

Dik Miller

"There ah was, the King, livin' with Priscilla in Graceland, all the money in the world, Vegas shows comin' outta mah ears. Then ah looked around mahself," Elvis turned his head to demonstrate, "and ah thought, well damn, the seventies shore suck!"

"Amen!" I cried. "Whoops." I shut up again.

"Yeup," continued the King, "ah decided that the seventies had just gone too far, had become too tacky. And disco. Ah liked 'Le Freak,' but that's about as far as it went.

"So I trucked on down to the Walt Disney Cryo-Lab and ah-had myself frozen, while ah placed a Madam Tussaud's wax model of mahself on mah john in Graceland..."

"So you're saying that it wasn't your body on the can that they discovered, but a wax model?" Loco gasped.

"Yeup."

"And nobody noticed?"

"Nope."

"Every once in a while," Elvis continued, "ah would have mahself unfrozen and head for Burger King for a Whopper. Had to dodge the National Enquirer photographers, though."

"How'd you do that?" Tood wondered.

"Ah disguised mahself."

"How?"

"Different coloured rhinestones."

"Oh."

"Anyway, ah finally was informed that some guy called...uh...Richard Masters or some such...was plannin' to brainwash everyone in tha land and make them go back to wearin' seventies fashions, listenin' to seventies music. He was gonna make the seventies come back. And ah just had ta stop him."

"And what about her?" asked Death Bird, pointing a finger at Julianne the fembot. It (the finger) then fell off.

"She's one of his androids. Ah was a-usin' her ta infiltrate his organization, but you pee-ah guys seem to have interrupted thangs."

"Well," I said. "That explains a whole lot."

"Does it?" asked Jake.

John the DJ

"Oh, no!" I said to myself, shaking with fear. "Not SEVENTIES music again!"

I had been meekly standing in the corner, watching the moving fracas before me. The very sight of Elvis pummeling the other PIs was a disgusting sight, as his beer belly hung over his belt and the crack of his ass, with a tuft of hair protruding, was visible.

The thought of a return of the Village People, Donna Summer and other vile creations sent a bolt of self-responsibilty through my body. I had put up with that kind of music for long enough in the Balmoral; I was not going to let it take over the world again.

I took a breath, leaned forward, and in self-important tones started to pronounce: "Gentlement, it is incumbent upon us to endeavour to halt thi..."

At that point I was bumped out of the way by the PIs, who were following Elvis.

"Yuh see heer, boys, this here way is the Seventies Music Archives," he mumbled, pointing to a door. Through the steel grille one could stacks and stacks of decaying LPs and 45s.

"Down thayre iz thuh Costume Factory..." gesturing at another door. "That's where Masters is makin' all thuh bell-bottoms and smiley-face patches."

He stopped, sighed, and turned to us. "Sorry uhbout beatin' you fellas up, ya see, but ah thought you wuz workin' for Masters. I know I ain't nuthin' but a warshed-up baboon in a rhinestone suit, but I shore would like to join you fellas in gettin' this Masters guy. Ah just wantuh git back home and eat mah whoppers in peace, without having to heer that awrful music agin."

Elvis said this in such a poetic, moving way, with his chins raised, his eyes glistening, and his belly hanging, that we were all moved.

"I think I'm gonna heave," excreted Alfred.

Loco bubbled forth: "I think we should split up into two groups. Some of us could get the records, and the other people could get the costumes."

Alfred Tood

"What is wrong with seventies fashion and music? Why would that empower Masters to control the world? Why am I talking to myself?" I said.

"Well, you remember what mom said about first going insane, then blind, then your palms sprout hair. I think you had better get shopping the sales for a good razor before you loose your sight," I answered.

Earl looked at me as though I was going crackers but I ignored him. He isn't important and he's dead anyhow.

Elvis looked at me as though I was going crackers but I ignored him.

Julianne looked at me as though I was going crackers and I drooled at her. I just had to get back inside that woman one way or another.

I borrowed Jake's cellular and dialed *4421. In a flash I was hurtling through elecrospace toward an enormous capacitor. I knew that if I wound up in there, I would be trapped until released. So that is where people went when Masters lured them into calling *4421! Thinking quickly, I grabbed a passing television transmission and swung away from the path to entrapment. I wonder how many people he has trapped in there? I wonder what he plans to do with them? I wonder why my visage has an enormous head with almost no hair and why my cool french cuts and satin jacket are now shorts and a yellow shirt with a black stripe zig zagging around the middle? To put it more simply, I wonder why I am now Charlie Brown? Ah! I have hitched a ride on the "Charlie Brown's Christmas Special" on its way to thousands of Japanese homes. Silly thing for them to be airing this time of year, but who can figure. Oh to get into Julianne Philips again. The merest thought game me a tremendous boner. Looked fairly silly on my Charlie Brown form but what the heck, I have nothing better to do for the next half second. I whipped off my little shorts, and began manipulating myself.

"Heh, that should give them something to ask their parents," I thought after my embellished Charlie Brown hit the televisions. Now, to get back to the crew.

Death Bird

As millions of Japanese families switched on their televisions, a small boy said to his father,

"Why is Charlie Brown fiddling with a strange protrusion from his belly?"

"Ahhh Charlie is slapping his sushi," answered the father.

"AHHH," said the boy.

"OOHH," said the boy’s two sisters.

Richard Masters

And suddenly, my eyes, digital as they were, opened.

Well, actually, it was my digital eyelids, opening to reveal my digital eyes.

Well, then, actually, it was all just a metaphorical expression of the idea that I knew what the hell was going on again.

Damn, I really hate being sucked into the power grid. It’s so hard to concentrate on the task at hand. But back in the land of computers, my memory came back. It was time to begin my great plan.

Reaching out now, feeling along the net, looking for home. Ah! There, in the TD Central Banking computer, my little home away from reality. Entering through the ATM conduit, settled into a dynamic allocation space. Home sweet home. Collecting a status update, information streamed to my consciousness in all directions. Android production continued slowly, but steadily. And my soul collector was working fine. Four more listed personalities sucked up through the cellular net and trapped in my storage facility.

What I really needed now was a workspace large enough to manipulate entire personalities whole... not only to ream the information I needed out of them, but to rebuild them into android control programs.

Actually, what I really wanted was a strawberry margarita, but that just isn't an option in this virtual space.

Hmmm... indicators were showing that the soul collector had been fired more times than I had personalities... obviously someone had escaped.

Which meant I wasn't alone in the virtual space. This could definitely complicate matters. Time to call the dog.

"Here Rover!"

He was a digital construct, but I called him a dog anyway. Generally I used him as a scout, checking unknown datalines... but, just in case, I gave him pretty nasty teeth.

"Sic 'em, Rover!"

The silver mass vanished into the net. Whoever it was out there, was about to get a big surprise.

Now, back to business. I needed to find a block of memory so huge that an entire personality and my own could fit in there easily, along with my new construct... the infinite memory model. But where could one find a gigantic block of expensive high-speed memory, grossly underused and unnoticed?

The answer was obvious... the American Military.

I had a big task ahead. But it was going to be all worth it. The 70’s would return, and I would be at the helm, in control of it all.

Collective Joe

I had been reading a fabulous critique of McLuhan's "Medium is the Message" as a third year student typed it into a Macintosh at the SFU Microcomputer Lab. I always enjoy watching works in progress. In this virtual realm I could zip from terminal to terminal, examining the work of the pathetic, undereducated students. As the student typed in his paper I would occas- ionally interject my own opinions as to McLuhan's work (he was, of course, an instrumentalist: naive, but wise to the oppression of the underclass through the media). The student just assumed that it was the spellchecker.

As I was watching the final paragraphs, I was able to perceive some form of barking. Not real barking, but the sort of barking one hears on cheap video games in capitalist arcades (where quarters are stolen from young children to fill the coffers of entertainment magnates).

At once, I perceived my digital self being slowly consumed by a digital hound dog. This was a most precarious position.

I began to dodge and swerve through virtuality attempting to dodge the hound like some maniacal video game. I managed to lose the evil hound somewhere in CanTel's voice paging net (someone was about to get a really painful message -- especially if they wear their pager on their belt) but I somehow got zapped through the system and found myself on Bud Smith's lap as we careened down the Upper Levels in his Mercedes- Benz 560SL.

"Fucking NDPers, will you leave me alone!?!"

"Pardon, sir. Though I do not agree with your political standpoint, and though I would like to show you the error of your ignorant, short- sighted capitalist conservative ways, I would appreciate your pulling over so that I might exit this vehicle safely and continue in my quest to end the oppression of society driven by the Master."

"Why don't you stick to goddamned walkman recorders like that Moe Sihota shit? Here. Got out of my girlfriend's car!”

(At this, he pushed me through the roof).

Ouch.

Realtor

It was a dark and stormy night and a little band of gypsies sat around a campfire.

We could see them from the road as we drove on pressing towards our destination on the moors. We had been driving for hours, having started out in mid afternoon, when the mists were attractive and seemed less menacing as they became as darkness descended.

Finally in the distance we could see the grand old building we had been seeking and so looking forward to spending time in. It was going to be marvellous to see Mary again although we were not sure just how she had been faring since the death of her father.

We pulled up the Rover in front of the massive doors and took a long breath. Getting out gingerly, as the driveway was quite soggy with leaves from trees, we looked at each other with some nervous anticipation.

We knocked once, twice...

The door opened and an elderly servant ushered us into the large foyer where lovely tapestried wing-backed chairs beckonned warmly. The light was soft as down, as this remote part of the countryside had not received electrical service and the candles, although plentiful, did not give the harsh brightness associated with incandescent bulbs.

We sat down. Shortly thereafter, we were aware of some activity on the floor above and suddenly we heard Mary saying, "Gary, Michael, how wonderful to see you after all this time!" and she descended the stairs quickly in a swirl of taffeta and a clatter of high heels.

And Mary added, "How marvellous of you to come. It's been terrible, absolutely terrible. You just have to help. It's Dorkley."

Collective Joe

The Grodd

Joe the Collective Investigator came to a skidding stop at the side of the Upper Levels Highway.

"Ouch," he said again. Bud Smith's car squealed away around the nearest corner. Somehow, Joe had not been severely injured (perhaps because he had landed on his head, which was protected by a red-star cap). He stood up and stuck out his thumb.

After a few minutes, an aging, sputtering Volkswagen bus stopped for him. A hairy arm garbed in blue tie-dye waved him in.

"Hey, man," said the driver.

"Where are you destined?" asked Joe.

"The 25th Anniversary Be-In at Stanley Park," he replied. "I haven't been to the city since 1975, and I figured now would be as good a time as any."

"Where have you been?"

"Saltspring Island, mostly. But also Santiago, Moscow, and Havana..."

"Moscow AND Havana?!" Joe beamed. "You're going my way!"

The bus blatted away, heading for downtown Vancouver.

----------

Meanwhile, the rest of us were following Elvis through the stacks and stacks of 70's memorabilia that Masters had been hoarding. Levi's polyester, bell-bottomed jumpsuits. Leo Sayer albums. Macrame galore.

I had to close my eyes and shake my head to keep from flashing back.

"I was wondering, Elvis," Jake began.

"Yeup, Jakester?" Elvis replied.

"Which stamp do you prefer?"

"Sorry?"

"Which Elvis stamp do you think is better? The young Elvis or the old Elvis. I figure you'd be the best authority."

"Oh, that." Elvis waved his hand dismissively. "Ah've thought about that quite ah bit. Ah figgur the young me is ah good representation of thuh ah-dee-ul-izm of thuh 50's. The old me is symp-toe-matic of thuh decay and decahdence of the 70's. Which would yuh rather remember?"

"Personally, I've always preferred 'Hunka Hunka Burnin' Love' to 'Jailhouse Rock'," said Earl. Jake cuffed him for good measure. "Hey!" Earl protested. "He asked!"

"Wait a minute! Where's Alfred Tood?" I asked.

----------

At that very moment, Alfred had de-transmogrified himself from the ethereal pseudo-plane (and his naughty Charlie Brown persona), and had found himself inside the phone system. Unfortunately, he tripped over a passing fax transmission and, instead of coming back to the PI's in the bowels of Simon Fraser University, found himself somewhere in the phone lines of a patrician manor somewhere where there are a lot of moors (as in swamps, not relatives of Othello).

"You just have to help. It's Dorkley," a woman named Mary was saying. "You see, he's been smuggling weapons for some man named Masters and..."

Just then, the phone rang.

"Now who could that be?" Mary wondered.

The butler answered. "Hello?"

Quite unexpectedly, and with a sound much like that made by the opening of a nice, cold beer, Alfred Tood appeared in the middle of the salon.

"Whoa," he said. "Who the hell are all of you?"

Mary gasped. "I might ask you the same question."

Gary and Michael, her guests, being the red blooded macho men that they were, and noticing Tood's longer-than-regulation hairstyle, decided that he would best be thrown into the leafy muck outside the door. They rushed at him.

They had not been expecting his lightning-quick PI reflexes (not to mention his longer-than-regulation legs), and he zipped quickly out of their way, leaving them to pile ungraciously into each other and the antique display case sitting against the wall.

"I," he said, "am Alfred Tood, and I'm looking for Richard Masters."

Mary gasped again. Then she fainted.

"A lot of help you are," Tood grumbled.

Collective Joe

I was most enthusiastic about attending this communist rally, being held amidst the waste and decadence of the capitalists in downtown Vancouver. There, I presumed, I could gather my army for the confrontation with the evil Master Richardt9Lzl\\X whose oppression knew no bounds. ~9a\@R;Zbs41kgF

Unfortunately, I realized that in my transmission through the phone network, I had been disrupted +G#$A0}00sggKTNlDy by line noise and was missing my left lung and both of myUJCq:3YW-i' my legs.

I asked the gentleman who had offered me the ride in his mini- bus if he knew where I could find a phone.

"Sure" he said, and handed me a smallnCLylyy$#/w a small cellular phone. I dialed myself in.

I was able to locate both legs and my lung and returned to the phone in the van, which was now rattling about on the plush, carpeted floor.

"Back?" he said, as if nothing extraordinary had happened.

"Yes," I replied. "It is interesting to see a comrade such as yourself with such a decadent item as a cellular phone," I posed as we sped down towards the Lions' Gate Bridge, with Tammy Wynette blaring from his Bang & Olafssen in-car CD-stacker/DAT player.

"Heh. I'll bet," he replied, laughing, "You like it? I can get you a sweet deal on one if you'd like. Bob Johnson, Pacific Rim Computers, Inc. We're a software design company, contracted by DOW Chemicals. We design the software that runs Nuclear Reactors and Liquid Chemical plants , and we're also a CanTel Approved Agent."

He was obviously working in a subversive role by posing as a capitalist oppressor and economic go-getter. As he handed me a 5-colour glossy business card, I decided he might be a valuable ally.

As we pulled into Stanley Park, I was surrounded by my brothers and sisters. As the fragrant smell of homemade cigarettes filled the air I felt as though my life's efforts had not been so futile after all.

I bade goodbye to Bob Johnson as armed his car alarm and sauntered off to the grassy field near the grandstand. I sat through severa hours of speeches and recitals by Bob Dylan impersonators and by every one of the members of the Downtown Eastside Residents' Associatio, and was filled with the euphoria of socialist rhetoric and argument.

I decided that now would be my time to grab for the microphone and gain support for my revolution. I sprinted to the stage, elbowing Joan Baez out of the way. As I began my dramatic speech with the words "Is this thing on??" I was interrupted by the fizzling of the amplifiers and the crackling of the speakers, as sparks flew in a majestic arc from the microphone to my lips and forehead.

I woke up in a small white room, walled in on three sides by cushioned padding, and on another by iron bars. I was alone in my cell except for a small portable television/VCR which was playing tapes of Tom Vu inspirational seminars. I realized as if by instinct (and also bec- ause of the fold-out pin up picture of him on the wall) that I was being held captive by the evil Richard Masters.

MY mind raced for a solution to the rather problematic situation. If only I could send a message to the private investigators.

John the DJ

Elvis, I, and the others were poking around the rooms full of 1970s memorabilia. I was physically repulsed by most of it, since it reminded me of my horrible days at the Balmoral, where I would spend endless hours playing music of this era.

I picked up a Jackson 5 album and looked at it sadly. It was in mint condition, the cover still glossy. Elvis was admiring himself in one of his first albums, the one where he's wearing the tacky gold suit.

"Ah shore lookt good then, doncha think?" He murmured to no one in particular Nobody said anything in response.

Suddenly there was a crackling sound. I looked behind me to see Alfred Tood standing beside the prone body of a middle-aged blonde. "Look what I found!" he exclaimed. He told us the story of the house and the attackers. We peered over the woman, who was wearing a "Hello, my name is MARY" button, and whose limp fingers were grasping some business cards. She murmured and woke up, seeing herself surrounded by Tood, me, two decomposing bodies, Jake and Elvis. Another frantic looking person was rifling through a pile of bell-bottom jeans in the background.

Mary seemed to brighten up almost immediately and started to pass out her business cards, complete with a self-portrait on the front and pictures of her kids on the back.

Jake took his, found a ballpoint pen, and drew a moustache on all the photos. Dik immediately drew out his Dik Miller (tm) Microscope-Photocopier-Lawn Edger and examined his copy. Mary was chatting to Earl about furnaces when Miller interrupted.

"Excuse me, but your sixth child looks suspiciously like Richard Masters to me."

Mary went pale.

Realtor

"I thought he looked more like me. You know, the moustache and all," she said unhappily.

Dik Miller

"The reason I say so," she continued, "is that Masters and Dorkley, my ex-husband, are third cousins, twice removed, and there is a resemblance. Unfortunately, my sixth child got more of the Masters influence than I would have liked."

Just then, Loco stormed over from a rack of happy face stickers. "How long have we been here?" he asked me.

"In this room, you mean?" I asked.

"Yeah. I mean, we got in here after Jake was attacked and stuffed into the closet."

I looked at my watch. "About sixty-seven hours."

"And none of us have slept yet?" he wondered.

"Well, no, I guess not," I declared.

Unfortunately, since Loco had pointed that fact out, we all realized what not sleeping for sixty-seven hours must have meant. So John the DJ, El Loco, Jake Gerbil, Alfonse J.Q. Trel (who had been strangely silent for several days while perusing the Partridge Family comic books), and I collapsed into blissful slumber on the floor.

Death Bird and Earl, being dead, Julianne Phillips, being a fembot, and Elvis, being...well...being Elvis and all, were unaffected, and merely stood around.

"What say we head out fer pizza while those pee-ahs are a-restin'?" Elvis suggested.

"Great idea!" Death Bird proclaimed.

"Just don't lose a finger in the toppings this time," Earl warned. With that, the four of them left the underground chamber and headed for the ElvisMobile (a 1976 Mercury Montego station wagon with full woodesque panelling), which was parked in a hermetically sealed garage whose door opened, Bat Cave-like, onto Curtis St. in Burnaby.

Mary and her companion, who had also had normal sleep patterns, were browsing through the clog racks in the back of the room, and didn't notice Elvis, Death, Earl, and Julianne leave. When they emerged to find us PI's fast asleep, Mary harrumphed.

"Jeez. These guys bring us all the way here and then abandon us." She looked around. "There's a door. Let's go for pizza."

Death Bird

Elvis peeled out of the driveway and switched on his custom stereo, which blasted “Jesus Built My Hotrod.” Unfortunately Earl and I were in the back seat, and once the subs kicked in, our heads exploded into mush.

Since we couldn’t see, we kept asking which street we were on. We could feel the car whipping around corners but we didn’t get an answer, whether it was due to lack of ears to receive, or lack of mouths to pose the question in the first place, or that Elvis was being a dink, we were not sure.

Apparently we arrived at the pizza restaurant a few moments later, and Julianne Phillips led us into the dining room. After the pizza came, Julianne was also kind enough to pound some garlic bread down our esophaguses.

Collective Joe

"There," I said, as I finished turning the evil VCR/TV combination into my own hastily-designed microwave transmitter/electromagnetic communication device. In Soviet Union we are always taught how to use the resources at hand to get ourselves out of such sticky situations. Advanced courses utilize reruns of "MacGyver" which explains how I came to live here in Vancouver, my admiration driving me to the show's offices one Sunday morning seeking a job as a consultant or perhaps as an extra.

Anyways, I decided to test the device.

* * * * *

As Elvis, Earl, the Death Bird, and the lovely Julianne Phillips were driving to the food service establishment, their music blaring, it was suddenly interrupted by a faint but distinguishable message:

"You a loser! Come to my seminar!"

* * * * *

"It perhaps needs some work," I mumbled to myself.

Dik Miller

Zzzzzzzz...snort...gnuffle...honk.

I awoke and looked around. We were still in Masters's 70's revival vault, deep beneath Simon Fraser University. I was the first of our group to wake up, probably because of the crackling of my Dik Miller (tm) Pocket 2-Way Radio/Braun (tm) Juicer.

"Bzzzzt...Come to my seminar, you goof! What you waiting for?! You wan' fabulous babes like these? Wonderful house? Money beyond your wildest dreams? Come to my seminar!...gzzzt...crackly..." it buzzed. "...gzzt...Help help.. brrrzzz..."

Help help? I thought.

Alfred Tood woke up next. "Hey, is that Tom Vu on your radio? My hero!" He rushed over and grabbed the Dik Miller (tm) Pocket 2-Way Radio/Braun (tm) Juicer out of my hand. Unfortunately, in the process he converted it to Juicer mode and flayed a small chunk of skin from his left wrist.

His scream woke the rest. Alfonse Trel sat up suddenly. "Is my hair all right?" he asked.

"Well," said Loco, "if you consider slicked back, yuppie scum hair all right."

Trel produced a small mirror and looked himself over. "A little rough, but acceptable."

"Where did everyone else go?" Jake wondered, rubbing his eyes.

In order to expedite the plot, I avoided the usual rambling discussions of possible locations and dead end wild goose chases, and made a wild guess. "I think they went for pizza."

We all ran out of the building back to the Loco-motion and Tood's Pacer. Loco and I leapt into his vehicle, while John, Jake, and Tood sauntered over to his. We gunned the engines and took off in a cloud of dust for the nearest pizza joint.

Just as we were crossing under the telephone wires on Gaglardi Way, a massive lighting bolt split the ground between Tood's car, which was in front, and the Loco-motion. Somehow in the process Loco and I were transmogrified into virtual electro-beings once again, and found ourselves (along with Trel, who had stowed away in the back seat despite our insistence that he and his hair go in the Tood-mobile) flying through the electro-telecommunications pathways once again.

We heard the evil cackle of Richard Masters off in the background somewhere.

Tood, John, and Jake puttered on, oblivious to our sudden lack of existence and the huge fireball sent up as the Loco-motion flipped over and blew up.

Meanwhile, Julianne Phillips was stuffing the last of the garlic bread down Jake and Earl's necks.

Death Bird

Meanwhile, as half loafs of garlic bread were still protruding from mine and Earl's shoulders, Elvis began fashioning a makeshift face on the top half of the bread. Pepperoni eyes, anchovy ears, etc. We could feel the vibrations of Julianne & Elvis laughing at us as they turned us into jokey zombies. BUT the laughter was cut short when an electromagnetic interference in the atmosphere disrupted the space/time continum and sent a lighting bolt down from the ceiling to our bread heads, which transmorgified our food faces into honest to goodness fully functional zombie parts. We could see again! It was a miracle!

John the DJ

At which point Dik and Loco appeared, smiling, at the table.

"Uh, waitress? Can I have some water, please?" Loco asked meekly. Dik shook his head, mumbling that transmogrification was fast, but painful.

He reached for the pizza, but Earl grabbed the last slice. Dik grimaced.

At that second Trel appeared in a flash of light at another booth, appearing in the lap of a German businessman sipping his soup. "Sorry." He got up and came over to join the others.

"Where were you?" Loco asked.

"I got caught in an infinite loop on some idiot engineer's computer. I had to sneeze to escape."

MEANWHILE...Jake, Tood and I were motoring around, wondering where the Loco-motion had gone to.

El Loco

We had been transmogrified and de-transmogrified in such a short period of time that I was beginning to wonder if there was someone actually controlling these events, or if it were random acts of science/nature. I tried to calculate the odds of being transmogrified so many times in the space of a few days. After coming to a rough calculation, I went over to the BC Lotteries table and purchased 4 quick picks and the Extra with the remaining 5 dollars I had in my pocket.

"So, are you guys full yet?" asked Dik of the bread heads.

"Mmmmmfffrbbbble," replied Dippy, trying desperately to swallow the force-fed bread before his neck rotted off.

"Bfmmmbbblllrle", answered Earl, trying to shove a last piece of pizza in with the dread bread.

"Alright, then let’s get going and look for the others, this is getting long and drawn-out" said Trel.

I returned to the table as they were getting up to leave. I put my Lotto 6/49 ticket in my Security Wallet/Condom Dispenser that Dik had given me a few years back.

As we left, I asked Dik, "Where did we leave the Loco-motion?"

"Uh, well, we were driving down some street, and we got transmogrified. That is all I remember," he replied.

"Oh. Well, I guess we'll need some transportation. Trel?", I asked inquisitively.

Trel was looking at himself in the reflection of the storefront window, and combing his nasal hair into a perfect part. The act of doing this was so disgusting, yet intriguing, that we all stopped to watch. Out of the corner of my eye, in the reflection of the window, I saw what looked like a small airplane, except with no propeller. It was coming straight for the window. As I turned to look, it exploded, causing all the glass on the block to be fired into the stores that they were affixed to. The force of the explosion knocked all of us off our feet and into the 'Beauty Boutique' where we had been watching Trel's nose hair Olympics.

As everything settled wn, I got up and looked around. I had glass embedded in my skin, but I wasn't bleeding

I could feel the pain, but my skin had simply been broken by the glass I had landed on. As I examined one of the deeper cuts, I noticed what I thought was something metallic. I squeezed the wound, thinking I had taken some shrapnel. As I made a fist with the hand, I noticed the metal strand move.

"Uuunnnghgghhh...", said Trel, slowly coming to.

"Uuuuughgnghngh..." said Dik, following Trel's lead.

"Uuuuuughgnghgn..." said Earl, copying Trel and Dik.

"Neato" said the Deathbird, as he walked around collecting the bits of his body that had been blown off in the explosion.

"What is THAT?" I asked as Deathbird picked up a small hunk of decaying flesh.

He just turned away, ignoring me.

I surveyed the situation, and saw that the PIs had suffered multiple lacerations, and everyone was beginning to feel the effects.

As I got up, I looked down and saw that the left pant leg had been torn from about the knee down. I must have torn it on some glass as I went through the window. As I examined my leg, I noticed that I had a major injury extending from the inside of my leg, near the knee, to my heel. The skin was parted, revealing what looked like a metal bone. I was stunned into silence.

As DeathBird walked around, he noticed me looking at my leg, and stopped.

"What the heck?" he said as I stared at my innards.

Dik Miller

I brushed shards of glass from my (of course) glass-proof Dik Miller (tm) trenchcoat and hat. I looked around, but could see no place from which the tiny bomb-plane could have been thrown.

While Earl and Dippy reassembled themselves once again, I took some time to do one of my Dik Miller (tm) plot summaries, for those people involved in the story who have forgotten what was going on.

So far, Loco and I had met at my office at UBC, encountered Death Bird and Earl, driven downtown to meet Jake Gerbil, met John the DJ and some others, made our way to SFU, where we had been multiply transmogrified, met Elvis and Richard Masters's Julianne Phillips fem-bot, been transmogrified a bunch more times, eaten some pizza, and then been bombed while watching Alfonse J.Q. Trel beautify his nose hair.

"Doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it?" said Alfred Tood, peering over my shoulder to watch me jot the plot down in my Dik Miller (tm) notebook/sushi cookbook/emergency liferaft.

"No," I replied. "And we don't seem to be getting anywhere. Masters hasn't done anything to further his plans to bring the world back to the 70's. The most interesting thing that's happened recently is that we've discovered that Loco is a cyborg."

At that moment, Loco walked up and showed me how he could stick fridge magnets to his arm. "Cool!" he cried. "I never noticed that before."

Elvis, who had just come from the loo at the Pizza Hut, stared at the carnage "Looks pretty damn messy," he mused. "Pardon mah language." He waddled up to us. "So, what's yer plan?"

"Seems like the story has come to a dead stop," Jake concluded. "In fact, there are also too many characters. I mean, I can't keep track of who's even here!"

"I'm here!" said Earl.

"Yo," barked Loco.

"Count me in," said Death Bird.

"Yeah, me too, I guess," said John.

"Aye aye," said Trel.

"Yuppers," said Julianne.

"SHUT UP!" cried Jake. "Since we're obviously not going to get anywhere with this, I propose we all go to Euro Disneyland."

"What a great idea!" Earl replied.

It was agreed. We caught the nearest bus, transferred to the Airport, walked up to the British Airways desk, and stood in line. When we got to the desk, Trel paid for all of our tickets with his American Express Platinum Card, we checked Earl and Death Bird as medical waste baggage, and we boarded the plane.

Within fifteen hours we were at the gates of Euro Disneyland. Of course, it was 3 in the morning in France, and it wasn't open.

"Now what?" asked Tood.

2183

The Unbeliever

Suddenly, I felt really woozy. I had a vision of myself jumping off of a bridge into the Nanaimo River with a huge rubber band tied to my ankles. I saw the smiling attendant say, "We'll use a cord rated for people between 90- 110 lbs. That way, your head will go in the water." The next thing I knew, my head is embedded in the side of the rescue boat, and together we rebounded back towards the bridge. I heard and felt a solid >WHUMP!< and then we headed down again. The boat broke free of my head and, again, I'm in the water. This time, I don't rebound so much. My head crashed into the the shale on the river bottom and then I felt a jolt through the cord still tied to my ankles. I bounced on my head, out of the river, just in time to hear people screaming and the loud shriek of twisting metal. Then it felt like a bridge with 60 people on it fell onto the back of my head. Which, I'm told is exactly what happened.

All of a sudden I felt very faint.

The Unbeliever

"Bernard, are you alright?", I heard Dik say. In the background, the phone still rang. The room seemed to swirl around, but I soon realized that it was me that was twirling in circles.

"Bernard!", Dik yelled, then hammered a button on his intercom, "Foxy, call a doctor and bring in a glass of water. Foxy? Are you there?"

"AAAAAAAAHHHH!!!! No water!!", I managed to shout.

"Stop fucking twirling around! Sit down here!", Dik said and grabbed my arm.

I stared intently into Dik's face and, in my feverish state, saw the smiling attendant again.

"Judith H. Priest!", I gasped in horror and tried to shake Dik off my arm. "You're not gonna get that bungee cord on me! No frigging way you're gonna get that cord on me!"

"Bernard! Bernard! Get a hold of yourself! Roy, get a hold of his arms!", \ik shouted. I spun around and saw another bungee jump attendant colsing in on me. Dik jumped onto my back and the other attendant, Roy, wrapped himself around my legs.

The Unbeliever

Terror-stricken, I dashed out of the office with the two attendants still clinging to me.

"Get off!", I shrieked, "Get off me!"

I tried to scrape them off on a file cabinet, but they tenaciously held on.

"Don't make me use this!", I bellowed as I hauled out my Ruger Super Redhawk. "I'm warning you! Get off!"

I tried to aim the .44 at the guy on my back, but he's a sneaky one. He grabs the cylinder and prevents it from spinning. While I fought with him, the other attendant, Roy, hung on for dear life as I swung my leg against a fake potted palm tree, trying to dislodge him. Then Roy sunk his teeth into my kneecap ... and all hell broke loose.

Almost simultaneously, Dik loosened his grip on my gun and swept up the intercom, I lost my balance and fell heavily to my knees, the cylinder turned and I pulled the trigger, Roy butted his head into my crotch, and Dik swung the intercom with all of his strength (not a whole lot, I might say).

The Unbeliever

My world exploded into a tremendous stomach ache, aching nuts, a bullet lodged in my head, and the hollow sound of a plastic intercom rebounding off my scalp. This all conspired to knock me into next Tuesday, and I fell on my face, unconscious.

A little, not-yet-dead protuberance in my brain heard one of the bungee jump attendants mutter, "Holy fucking shit, boss!" and then everything faded to black.