Chapter 59

The clouds swung over the town like a bookie at the end of his last losing streak. The air was crisp with the first signs of fall. It felt familiar to him, like the welcome, cool touch of a jigger of 20 year old scotch, or the careful chill coming from the .45 resting in it's holster.

The kid was doing good. Myron watched him scramble around like a kitten on the prowl. He was young, chock full of attitude and long overdue for a slow dance with a few of the gorillas Myron tangled with near Redding, but the kid was a fast learner. He used the darkness and the light to his advantage, staying inconspicuously conspicuous when mixing with the yokels, yet sliding just out of sight when the crowds thinned.

The kid never ran. It's hard to keep quiet when you're sucking wind like a wino going for the last drop. He simply stepped briskly, masking his own steps with his quarry.

Yep, the kid was good. Not as good as Myron, naturally. Anyone who gives up all the secrets deserves the Brutus Back scratcher that'll wind up six inches into their spine, still the kid never tipped off the trio that they had someone extra tagging along.

Considering there were calmer cats on the Fourth of July than the Squirrel, and that Cap'n Nimrod could hear a fly pass gas across the state, that's no small feat. Of course, the blonde provided more than enough distraction for anyone, except, of course when she opened her mouth. Dames like her were trouble, nothing but someone to add window dressing for the cameras and make sure the coffee was fresh.

Myron had hated the lousy draft board for saddling him in with this motley bunch. Granted, those three needed him more than he needed them. They were a total mess, full of bad opinions and worse ideas. If it wasn't for Myron's leadership, the country would have been jawing with the Japs.

Sure, the cameras loved the Captain's schoolboy looks more than a street savvy sleuth, but when it came down to it, Myron was the big cheese of this Micky Mouse outfit.

The three stopped and had yet another little schoolyard spat. That was awfully nice of them to let every two bit hood and watchdog in the area know that they were stomping through. Give's them a chance to reload and make sure they've got little lead love notes all ready for them. Myron couldn't make out what they were arguing about. Probably ways to tell if any hole they happened to encounter was attached to them. Still, Myron couldn't make out anything other than the odd vowel. It looked like the lady was upset about something, probably how the night air was ruining her hair or how walking was ruining her boots.

The other two were trying to convince her. Typical. Dames don't need convincing, they need to be told what to do and not to panic if they accidentally have a thought.

They moved again, headed toward the open garage door of a warehouse. Walking in like they owned the joint, or were stopping by for tea and cookies.

Myron didn't like that. It felt wrong. Those three may be dumber than boy scouts at a bordello, but they're smart enough to know an obvious trap. No, this was something else. That explains why the kid was following them. So this wasn't a nightly stroll, those three are up to something. Ok, kid, school time's over. Your professor's got some work he needs to do.

Myron made his way closer to the warehouse, passing within inches of Reid without so much as a whisker twitch from him. Like Myron said, you don't give away all the secrets.

He took up a spot just beyond the doorway, right were the night shadow met the light coming from inside. It was the darkest point around, and let him stand and watch everything clearly, a shadow in a shadow, with no one else being the wiser. He slid a hand into his jacket and felt the cool touch of metal. It was his favorite thinking position when he was on a case.

Why were those three walking around here? Who were they meeting, and what were they up to?

Questions. Myron hated questions. He preferred having answers he could play out like a straight flush, but right now he didn't even have a pair of deuces. What were they thinking?

Myron would have given anything to be able to read minds.

"Can I once again point out what an incredibly bad idea I think this is?" JB grumbled.

"Why not? You've already done it eighty times already." Karl grumbled under his breath.

"JB, I know that this seems weird, but I think you'll really like it", Roger added trying to be as assuring as he possibly could. He had his doubts too, but wasn't about to voice them. Besides, Karl, as always, was in charge.

Karl turned and strode on confidently toward an open warehouse door.

"Lights are on, and nobody's home." JB observed, "Seems oddly familiar." If the sarcasm struck home on Karl, he didn't show it.

"So who exactly are we'all meetin?" Becky Sue asked in a far less than excited voice.

"Well, I understand their general lack of enthusiasm," a hauntingly familiar voice stated from their shadows, "but, hopefully, I can help ease that."

"BOB!?" JB screamed in shock. Becky Sue had her revolver trained at their bridge of Bob's nose, her rock steady aim intent to make certain Bob's had no intention of doubting that she'd mean business, even if she knew full well she'd never fire. Karl, subtly flexed his muscles ready to act, but he wasn't staring at Bob.

Bob lifted his hands in surrender and smiled gently, as a father would smile to his daughter. "Please, I assure you that I have no intention of doing you harm."

"Of course not." JB spoke through Becky Sue. The pistol never moved. "You simply intend on killing us."

Bob chuckled under his breath. "Quite the opposite, really. Actually, I owe you all my life, and since I don't like having outstanding debts, I was hoping I could do something about that. I'm not going to force you to do anything, and if you decide to leave, I'll do nothing to stop you. All I ask is that you hear me out." Bob glanced toward the barrel of Becky's gun, "And to be able to put my hands down."

Becky Sue didn't flinch. She held her position for more heartbeats than necessary. The Furlong had a quick sidebar discussion.

Saved his life?, JB thought amongst the group.

Yes, Karl noted, When Krullux had his assets in check, you managed to rebalance the sheets by convincing Krullux's generals to go to Branson.

But, that was just me goofing around! JB said defensively. He hadn't really meant to interfere with things, other than be a spectator and make sure that the alien force wouldn't do anything beyond deal with Bob.

Yeah, but you got to admit, it worked, Roger pointed out. And Krullux got pretty annoyed. He was the one that zapped us. And, there was something else...

Roger played back a memory he had. It was like watching a movie in super slow motion. JB saw the dust clouds from the other robots racing toward Missouri, Krullux's much smaller robot fuming, and from the corner of his eye, he saw something else. It was Bob, with a look of intense concern, racing toward JB. Bob's arms were stretched out. JB could read the body language clearly. He was trying to body check JB out of whatever was about to happen.

The memory ended as JB was engulfed in bright white blackness. Unfortunately, Bob had been too slow.

Becky Sue lowered her gun, but kept him fixed in her unblinking stare.

I still don't trust him, JB grumbled, but I'll listen.

"All right you snake, what all do you got planned?" she said, still feeling like a gopher in a room full of sleeping rattlesnakes.

Bob kept smiling. "Unfortunately, I doubt you'd remember Margie, uhm, became a bit protective regarding my old Dean. Fortunately, I was able to salvage a portion of the weaponry from the robot."

He slid a hand into a coat pocket. Becky Sue's gun twitched. Bob froze, then slowly pulled a tubular device from his pocket. "It's ok. It's not connected to a power source. I just wanted to show you what I salvaged."

Becky Sue lowered her gun again and suspiciously shifted her gaze to the device. It looked like the electron gun from the back of an old TV, but was far denser. It was wrapped in wires, magnetic cores, bits of microcircuitry and looked like a nut log that had been made by someone who clearly needed to stop doing all their shopping at Radio Shack.

Bob carefully described how the thought the device worked. He spoke clearly, describing each of the major circuits and the sorts of fields they'd generate. He touched upon various theories on metaphysics and dimensional sheering that may have been involved. He lost Becky Sue first, followed by Roger, Karl, and finally JB. Then Bob started his second breath.

The group struggled with what they were being told, even with Bob's assistance. JB felt like he was reading every single Niven novel in the span of fifteen minutes.

"And by reversing that flow we should be able to reverse the Havenguld effect. Any questions?" Bob concluded.

The rest of the assembled stood motionless, their respective brains having seized long ago.

"Bob? Short form." Becky Sue stated.

"Ah." Bob stated. "In a word, we point this dohicky at you, have you all move to the right spots, turn it off and everyone's back to the here and now. Hopefully."

"What do you mean, 'Hopefully'?" Becky Sue asked, feeling suspicious again.

"Well, there's always some level of risk, naturally, and since this hasn't ever been performed before, there's a certain level of guesswork involved, but I believe I've minimized all of the major potential dangers." Bob said in his normal calming tones.

"And what do you mean 'Everyone Back'?"

Bob smiled warmly. "Just that. You, Roger, Karl, JB all back here, together."

"And what do you have to gain from it?"

Bob shrugged. "Well, let's see. I get to pay back JB for a very large debt. From what I understand, that would also mean that I can spread a bit of happiness between you two at least." Bob smiled again. "Just because I'm a Chaos Advocate, doesn't mean I'm a bad guy. Oh, and I get a pretty good grade in my hypertheoretical metaphysics class. And, frankly, I get a more predictable team of heroes to try and outwit."

Ah HA! JB thought, There's the catch!

Yeah Sugar, but we'd be t'gether. Becky Sue thought. JB could feel the restrained excitement and expectation in her voice. He had to admit, it was a very intriguing idea, but he had to remain focused. Bob was the bad guy no matter what he said.

But, what else could there be? Roger chimed in, He does seem to be on the level. And we'd still be a group, right?

Of course we would, Karl stated, and we'd have JB along with us. I say we agree.

I don't know, JB was still hesitant, but was quickly being outvoted.

"I believe we have a quorum" Karl announced as he held out his hand. Roger smiled as well. Becky Sue let out a little mental squeal. JB was outvoted. "What do we need to do?" Karl asked.

"Splendid!" Bob said. All I need you to do is stand over there in the rectangle on the floor. Stand together, but don't touch. I'll need to go turn on the generator."

Bob turned and headed toward the back of the warehouse. A large tarp covered something. The Furlong arranged themselves in the desired spot.

Karl, stay alert. I may need you. JB instructed Karl. Karl dismissively agreed and felt JB step more into his head. He could feel JB's tension and tried to think of more relaxing things, although he doubted that images of finding $5 bills on the sidewalk would have the same effect on JB.

The rest of the Furlong took their positions, very happy with their decision.

Bob connected the device to the end of a feed cable and placed it on what looked like a camera stand pointed at the Furlong. He followed the cable back to the tarped object and released the belts and stowed them. He pulled the tarp free, then climbed into the cab to start the engine.

Karl stopped smiling first. He could make out the profile, but wasn't completely certain. When the engine cranked, no one in the warehouse had any doubt. In an instant they were all just as tense as JB was.

Chris woke up when he heard the sound of the truck cranking. He cursed himself for falling asleep like a freshmen in introductory physics. He saw the Furlong lined up against the flickering glow of headlights.

Myron's skin crawled at the sound as well, but his reflexes got the better. He dove from the truck's glow toward the closest shadow.

The Truck, the collected minds echoed, It's Professor M's!

Bob, it should be noted, had left the building.

Not physically, mind you, since that still sat laughing maniacally from the front seat of the truck, but the individual in control was decidedly not Bob. "Isn't it most peculiar how old friends can meet?" Professor M's voice carried from the cab of the truck.

There was no mistaking the voice, the Furlong again shouted in unison, "M!".

He flipped a switch, one Bob had never remembered installing. But then, the professor had done some extra reading while Bob was busy manufacturing the drive.

I can't move! Roger panicked.

Me neither! Becky Sue stated.

Karl and JB focused. It felt like he was moving through solid steel, but he was able to make some small headway against whatever was holding them in place.

"Yes, my dear Captain, I suspected that you'd be a bit harder to keep in place. However I do not expect that this will take very long. Goodbye Fur--"

A blast of energy tore through the warehouse like a stream of lightning. The far wall exploded in a fury of plasma and molten steel. Myron stood slack jawed at what he was seeing. Chris stood with his arm straight out, fist trembling and face tightly shut attempting to clear the pain he was feeling.

The blast had missed it's mark but it had provided more than enough light, even through his eyelids. Chris opened his eyes and forced himself to focus on the truck. "Let Them Go Now!" he commanded.

Professor M laughed insanely again and pressed the firing button. He didn't care what happened to him so long as the Furlong were finished. Terrible loss about Bob, but still, what fun is having a grandchild if you can't abuse him from time to time?

The Generator thrummed down as Krullux's cannon glowed with the charge. Chris shifted again and focused on the cannon. They fired together. Chris' blast intercepted by the cannon's the two forces flowing into each other, coalescing into prismatic ball of light. Myron heard Chris collapse behind him, just outside of the bay doors. Shadows danced wildly against the warehouse walls. That's when Myron realized that the biggest shadow that he could get to came from a man wearing an expensive business suit and a red cape. Myron panicked. He leaped to his feet and spun to avoid the blast.

He too, wasn't fast enough.

When Chris awoke, the warehouse was gone. In it's place were scattered piles of broken debris. He struggled to his feet, his arm feeling both numb and strangely on fire. "JB!" he called out. There was no reply other than the pop and crackle of support beams. "JB!!"

"He's over here." Bob called, he was supporting Chris' brother. Of the two, JB looked far better off. Chris raced over.

"What the Hell happened?" Chris demanded nearly blind with rage, if Bob wasn't currently helping his brother out of the warehouse, he would not be drawing breath at this moment.

"Let's just say that the Furlong weren't the only ones who were hanging around longer than they should have." Bob said with a good deal of anger in his own voice. It wasn't directed at Chris. Oddly, it defused a fair amount of Chris' fury.

Chris hefted the other side of his brother and they three headed out. "Where's the Furlong?" he asked.

"Gone. I didn't see them.", Bob said flatly. "Mr. Reid, I was quite serious that what happened was not my intention." Bob said, not caring what Chris thought. "My design was to simply bring your brother back along with the Furlong. I was quite honest when I said that I owed your brother a great deal."

Chris said nothing. He didn't like Bob, but he knew that it was crucial to respect your opponent. Plus it was far easier to deal with individuals than a group, particularly when they were one in the same. It's what he would have done.

Chris looked around trying to see where Myron had gotten off to. Typical, just when you needed him...

"Turn left up ahead" Chris said, finally. "My car is parked that way." The three headed off toward the alley and away from the scene of the disaster.

The flames died down. There was no worry of fire or emergency equipment coming. The warehouse district was not high on the list of items that get first attention, and with the budget cuts, often letting fires burn would probably solve more problems anyway.

So, no one heard the laughter coming from the antique truck or saw it drive away.

Well, that was sort of unexpected.

Oh, and weren't Chris and JB's folks
supposed to be dropping by?

I hope they're not waiting at the airport!

Tune in next time for:

Dinner Dress
Your Girlfriend's a Drag

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