Results 1 to 18 of 18

Thread: The Weather Makers of the ☈ Mysterious Planet: The Floodgates of Hell

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    The Mitten State
    Posts
    6,950

    Default The Weather Makers of the ☈ Mysterious Planet: The Floodgates of Hell

    I'm re-posting my first Weather Makers story since it got pruned and I've reworked it a bit.

    The Weather Makers of the ☈ Mysterious Planet is based on 『ふしぎ星の☆ふたご姫』 (The Twin Princesses of the ☆ Mysterious Planet), a concept by BIRTHDAY that inspired an anime series by the same name. If you want to learn more about the concept (and can read Japanese) check out the concept here.

    This is rated PG or possibly PG-13 for violence, language, and off color humor.

    I can't think of anything more to say without spoiling the story so let's get to it.

    The Mysterious Planet is a hollow world where the people live with its shell instead of on its surface. The people of this planet built 7 kingdoms and created a civilization.

    The Sunny Kingdom shines on the surface of the hollow shell.

    The Flame Kingdom maintains a mild climate.

    The Drop Kingdom makes clouds.

    The Windmill Kingdom generates the winds.

    The Seed Kingdom grows many crops.

    The Moon Kingdom governs the night.

    And the Jewelry Kingdom enriches our lives.

    With each kingdom playing their own role, helping each other, the peace of the planet is maintained. Therefore…


    Prologue: The Gathering Storm




    Early spring was a happy time for the agrarian Seed Kingdom. Winter could not end soon enough for its people. As soon as the weather became pleasant; everyone would be out and about as much as possible to enjoy it and each others’ company.

    However, it also marked the beginning of the Seed Kingdom’s primary mission for the Mysterious Planet. Much of the crops for the planet were grown in its thick, rich soil over its long growing season. From the first peeks of light from the Sun’s Blessing coming out from eclipse to evening twilight, the huge, polygonal fields interspersed between the villages and thick forests were speckled green by the uniforms of the kingdom’s workforce.

    The tiny Humans and mole like Molmo who called the Seed Kingdom home were very methodic in preparing the soil for the coming growing season. Without the luxury of beasts of burden or machinery, all work was manual. The men hacked at the soil to break it up after being frozen solid all winter long and the women followed, flinging handfuls of dry, powdered fertilizer over the tilled land.

    * * *

    It was another brilliant afternoon and the Sun’s Blessing shined brightly overhead of one of the fields near the Mother Tree. The air was still slightly cool to the touch as a gentle but persistent breeze from the north kept the warmth from the Flame Kingdom at bay. The workers barely noticed the coolness of the air as the strenuous work of preparing the field had them all working up a sweat.

    The kingdom was in a rush this particular spring. The previous winter had been particularly brutal both in terms of cold and the snow and ice that had fallen. This delayed the frost lifting from the soil and now everyone had to work feverishly to make sure everything was ready in time for planting.

    One of the diminutive Humans paused and leaned on the wooden handle of his mud caked pickaxe to catch his breath and cool off slightly. He had long abandoned his coat and hat along with many others and the armpits and chest of his white T-shirt were soaked with sweat. He practically gulped the air as his muscles were beginning to ache and burn from hours of hard labor.

    Throughout the field, his colleagues continued to hack at the soil with a few others pausing for a short time. He inhaled deeply through his nostrils to take in the sweet smell indicative of the ground’s fertility. He wiped the sweat from his brow under his smoky gray bangs and lifted his pickaxe to rear it against his shoulder to resume tilling.

    The tiny man glanced up and noticed a girl standing on the ridge overlooking the field. He grunted in dissatisfaction as he knew exactly who it was. He dropped his pickaxe and ran across the field towards her.

    “Mary,” he called out. “Mary, you have to stop slacking off. The field doesn’t till and fertilize itself.”

    The girl with blond bangs sticking out from under her green bandana stared forward and did not seem to notice him calling. He bared his teeth and growled in frustration. When he finally reached her, the tiny Human grabbed her shoulder and spun her around to face him. He huffed a few times to catch his breath before he could speak.

    “Mary,” he growled and exhaled at the same time. “Get back to work.”

    “I was watching that,” Mary said, pointing the way she had been staring. “What is it?”

    The man followed her finger to the north. A wall of gray clouds was slowly lumbering towards them across the otherwise brilliant blue sky. He heaved an exasperated sigh.

    “Those are rain clouds moving in from the Water Drop Kingdom,” he snarled. “It’s perfectly normal.”

    “I’ve never seen clouds like that,” Mary replied.

    “Fortunately for you,” he said sternly. “This means a stoppage of work, but don’t get comfortable. We’ll be out here and back to work at dawn tomorrow.”

    He stomped back to the field. Mary paused to watch the clouds approaching. She could not shake a bad feeling about them.

    The gray wall stretched to the Line of Obscurity in either direction, curling up with the curvature of the surface like a malevolent grin. Underneath them was dark and foreboding as it slowly consumed the brightness ahead of it. The sight sent a chill down her spine. She had seen clouds moving in from the rainmaking country to their north. However, nothing seemed normal about these clouds.

    She tried to put it out of mind. She turned and walked back towards the field where the others were already leaving for their homes. The rain would be gone by tomorrow like it always was and they would be at it once again.

    The Weather Makers of the ☈ Mysterious Planet: The Floodgates of Hell
    Last edited by The Big Al; 10th March 2009 at 2:08 AM.

    Some people don't think it's funny that Exit 69 gets off on Big Beaver.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    The Mitten State
    Posts
    6,950

    Default

    Chapter 1: BLINDSIDED!

    Queen Yamul etched her name in a beautiful cursive script on the line at the bottom of the page. She closed the blue, three-ring binder and deposited it on a stack of identical binders sitting in a wire tray labeled ‘out’. Another issue “vital to the Water Drop Kingdom” was resolved. Though, a much larger stack of binders still sat in the ‘in’ tray on the other side of her wide desk. Each of them, undoubtedly, contained an issue equally vital to the Water Drop Kingdom.

    The large Beaver exhaled a sigh and leaned back in her chair. It was starting to look like one of those days where she would be inundated. She took a moment to reach under the pair of reading glasses perched on the bridge of her muzzle and rubbed the corners of dark eyes to try and massage away the fatigue already building in them.

    Fortunately, her spacious office provided a calming setting to handle the tedious and sometimes mind numbing affairs of state. A copious amount of light poured in through the large bay windows behind her and was complimented by the pale cream color of the curved wall to make the room naturally bright during the day. Water flowed gently through the six transparent columns evenly spaced along the wall to add to the sedate atmosphere with its gentle babble.

    Aside from her desk and the large chair she sat in behind it, the large, oval-shaped office was devoid of furniture. Yamul liked to keep those who came before her standing. She believed it was harder to lie or twist the truth if one could not get comfortable.

    When her eyes seemed about as ready they would ever be, the Beaver queen pushed her glasses back in place and pulled her blouse straight. She took another binder off the top of the ‘in’ stack and opened it on her desk. She started reading when a pair of electronic chimes came from the small pad set in the top of the stained oak desk. She instinctively punched a small button next to a flashing red light on the pad with the butt of her pen.

    “Yes?” she asked, still reading.

    “Ma’am,” a male voice came from the speaker, “your daughter wishes to see you.”

    “Send her in,” Yamul said casually. She closed the binder and set her reading glasses down next to it.

    The blue double doors at the far end of her office slid apart with the soft hiss of hydraulics. A dainty, sandy haired girl in her mid-teens stepped in. She was half Human and half Beaver with the only apparent sign of her mother’s heritage being a pair of beige, beaver-like ears nestled in her silky hair that came to about her shoulders.

    “Good morning, Mother.” She dipped in an elegant curtsy.

    Yamul smiled warmly. “Good morning, Milro,” she replied.

    “We missed you at breakfast,” Milro said in her soft, timid voice.

    “There was a lot of work this morning so I thought I’d start early.” Yamul surveyed her desk and heaved an exasperated sigh. “The more they say we’re becoming a paperless society; the more paperwork seems to collect on my desk. Oh well.” She replaced her glasses on their perch in the fine, pale beige fur of her muzzle. “You just have to muddle through sometimes.” She opened the binder on the desk in front of her and began reading the first page. “It’s something you’ll come to understand when you become queen.”

    “Oh.” Milro shied her deep brown eyes away and her ears drooped over. She knew, eventually, she would be the queen of the Water Drop Kingdom. However, it was something she preferred not to think about because she doubted her ability to rule. “I’m sorry for disturbing you then.” She curtsied again and turned to leave.

    “It’s alright, I…” Yamul was interrupted by another pair of electric chimes that came from the desk. “I wonder what it could be now,” she thought out loud. She pressed the button in the pad and answered, “Yamul.”

    “I’m sorry to disturb you again, Ma’am,” the voice said apologetically. “However, Prince Auler-sama and Princess Sophie-sama from the Windmill Kingdom are here and say they must speak with you.”

    “Well, that’s odd,” Yamul thought out loud. “Did you invite them?” she asked Milro.

    “I didn’t invite them,” Milro replied in equal confusion.

    “I told them you were busy, but they said it’s urgent,” the voice explained.

    “It’s alright. Send them in,” Yarmul said. She straightened her crown and pulled her blouse straight again.

    As the doors slid apart again, the royal siblings of the Windmill Kingdom stepped in. Like Milro they were half Human and half one of the many animal-like races that lived in the Mysterious Planet. In their case it was Doggel: a race resembling the spaniel breeds of dog. This was represented by their ears being long, floppy things covered in fine, pink fur that hung from the sides of their heads past their shoulders.

    Auler was a forest green haired youth in his late teens. He wore a purple jacket and slacks under a sleeveless, robe like coat decorated with a sky design. He removed his top hat-like crown and gave a stiff bow. “Good morning, Your Highness. Thank you for seeing us.”

    Sophie was Milro’s age and had wavy, mint-colored hair kept above her shoulders. Her attire consisted of a purple jacket and indigo cloak over a white bell skirt and a dome-shaped crown similar in design to her brother’s sat on her head. She curtsied. “Yes. Thank you, Your Majesty.”

    “I’m always honored to meet with our friends from the Windmill Kingdom,” Yamul replied, removing her reading glasses. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

    Auler and Sophie looked at one another with obvious concern in their sapphire blue eyes. Auler turned back to Yamul and spoke with a more somber tone to his voice. “It’s not us.” He motioned with his eyes to the floor between them.

    Yamul stood up to peer over her desk. Standing between them was a diminutive Human from the Seed Kingdom. The ten centimeter tall man was dressed in a green overcoat and cone-shaped hat. However, it was hard to tell under the dried mud covering him.

    “Could you give me one more lift-dane?” the tiny man asked.

    “Of course.” Sophie put her hand down so he could climb on and set him down gently on the desk.

    “Your Highness,” he bowed before reaching in the satchel slung across his shoulder, “I regret that I bring distressing news from the Seed Kingdom-dane.” He pulled out a letter and handed to Yamul.

    Yamul took the tiny letter gently between her thumb and index finger and rummaged through a desk drawer for her text magnifier. She placed the letter under the magnifier and began reading. The letter read:

    To Queen Yamul of the Water Drop Kingdom

    As I am writing this, it has been raining almost continuously across the Seed Kingdom for two straight days. Already, the rivers and lakes throughout the kingdom are beginning to rise and are threatening our fields. I fear that if action is not taken soon, our villages might be in danger.

    Please, as soon as you get this message, reply through our messenger and do whatever you can to stop this.

    Your Colleague:
    King of the Seed Kingdom

    “It’s been more than a week now,” the messenger explained as Yamul looked up from the magnifier. “I tried to come directly into the Water Drop Kingdom, but everything was impassible. It took me five days to reach the Windmill Kingdom. Fortunately, Prince Auler-sama and Princess Sophie-sama were willing to bring me to you.”

    “We were glad we could help,” Auler replied. He then turned to Yamul, his face fixed in a grave expression. “The situation is very dire down there, Your Highness. We passed through the Seed Kingdom coming here. It’s still raining and the flooding is extensive. It’s already starting to threaten their lower lying villages. Something has to be done.”

    Yamul leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms as she contemplated this news. Something most certainly would be done, and she knew exactly who would do it. She grabbed her pen and punched a button on the pad with it.

    “Yes?” the voice asked.

    “Get me the Cloud Management Room,” Yamul ordered with a degree of sharpness to her voice that could draw blood.

    * * *

    The Water Drop Kingdom made the clouds for the planet. Water was a vital resource and the rain brought by the clouds was the primary source for the life-giving liquid to the other countries.

    This monumental feat was accomplished with the colossal machine of the Water Drop Kingdom housed deep within the castle’s central tower. The massive apparatus drew in seawater through intake tunnels that snaked along the seabed for kilometers offshore, brought it to a boil to separate the fresh water from the salt, condensed the steam back into water droplets, and finally expelled the droplets into the atmosphere as clouds. It was a simple process, but executed on an incredible scale, and it was all controlled from the Cloud Management Room at the top of the central tower.

    The huge, dome-shaped chamber was dimly lit with no windows to let in any “natural” light and the fluorescent lamps provided only minimal illumination. The blue, cylindrical, metal housing of the machine’s massive condenser assembly rose through the center of the floor with a huge, transparent pipe leading from its top through the pinnacle of the ceiling. Along the circular wall, several workstations had monitors, keyboards, and other kinds of controls that flashed and flickered.

    Seated at the workstations or working at bulkheads in the condenser were the engineers charged with the machine’s upkeep. The men were dressed in blue coats and wide brimmed, cone shaped hats and the women wore blue dresses of the same design with dark blue shawls and bandanas tied over the backs of their heads. They were a mix of Beavers, both large like Yamul and smaller like their namesake; half-Beavers; and Shark People, humanoids with gill slits in the sides of their necks and webbing between their fingers.

    It was another quiet weekend morning for Alpha Shift. Outside of the occasional click, chirp, chime, or beep from the controls; only the gentle gurgle of water flowing through the pipes could be heard. It was in this quiet Spigot, the chief engineer, decided to catch up on some rest.

    The chief was a Beaver like his queen. However, he was of the smaller variety with darker, coarser fur. His hat was tipped over his eyes to shade them from the lamp above him and his fur covered hands were folded over his chest that rose and fell with every breath.

    Electronic chimes came from his station in pairs. He at first seemed to not notice. The Beaver opened one beady, dark eye slightly after the fourth pair. A fifth pair of chimes came from his station. He picked up his foot and lazily struck a button next to the speaker and microphone with his heel.

    “Spigot,” he said in the midst of a yawn.

    “SPIGOT!” Yamul’s powerful voice boomed over the speaker, resounding through the chamber like a loud clang within a bell. The small engineer woke with such a start he leapt clear out of his chair and landed on the floor with a thud. “In my office, NOW!”

    Spigot slowly raised his trembling hand to grab the edge of his work station and pulled himself up. “I’ll be right down.” He saluted, still shaking from the shock.

    He looked at his subordinates. Eyes widened in shock stared back at him.

    “As you were,” Spigot ordered. He then turned to a female Beaver who had a large tuff of hair sticking out from under her bandana. “Emily, you have the cloud machine.”

    “Will do, Chief,” she replied as Spigot shuffled out of the room grumbling something under his breath. After the large doors slid together behind him, she heaved an exasperated sigh. “This can’t be good.”

    “Why’s that?” the young Shark woman sitting next to her asked.

    “The only time anyone even acknowledges our existence is when something is wrong,” Emily explained, “and I haven’t heard Yamul-sama this ****** off since the Crisis of the Sunny Kingdom.”

    “So, be afraid?” the steel gray with black tip haired woman asked.

    “Be very afraid,” Emily replied.

    * * *

    Spigot stepped into the small lift nearby. Capsule was a better description of the barren cylinder so narrow it couldn’t fit more than two or three people. He pressed the button on the pad at his level corresponding with the floor the queen’s office was on. The doors slid shut and he could feel the lift begin to descend.

    He got a sick feeling whenever he left the Cloud Management Room ever since being promoted to chief. It was probably because stepping out of it was also taking a major step down in social position. In the Cloud Management Room, he was the chief and everyone looked up to him. However, elsewhere, he was a member of the weaker sex. Among Beavers, the females tended to be bigger and stronger than their male counterparts and this was made more glaring by the fact it was opposite to most races. So, the female had been seen as superior in earlier eras. The disparity between the genders had been almost nonexistent for a long time, especially when compared to the other kingdoms. However, one could still tell the Water Drop Kingdom, especially among the Beavers, was a matriarchal society.

    He took the time alone to mull over his thoughts. There was a very short list of reasons why Yamul would call him down with such rage. None of them were pleasant and almost all of them had to do with rain.

    It was no secret people had problems with the rain. Rain had a negative stigma tied to it like a noose which fell on Spigot and his engineers for maintaining the machinery that made it. The mountain of hate mail that was dumped on the engineering crew every day could testify to that.

    Most of it was trivial complaints about rain coming when it was inconvenient or not come when it was needed. People in the other kingdoms were dumb enough to believe that, because the rain was created artificially, it could be bent to their schedules. They then blamed the Water Drop Kingdom when it turned out not to be the case. However, given Yamul’s state, he doubted this was because of something as trivial as ruined outdoor plans or a parched garden.

    The lift came to a stop and the doors pulled open. He shielded his eyes from the bright light pouring through the floor to ceiling windows on the opposite wall.

    “Chief,” a voice called out from behind him.

    Spigot turned around. His eyes adjusted and he saw a young Shark man with cerulean blue hair in a Princeton cut running up to him. The very tall youth was an engineer judging by his uniform made peculiar only by his coat coming past his knees. Under his arm, he held a binder thick with paper.

    “Yes?” the chief asked.

    “I was hoping to see you today,” the aquatic humanoid replied eagerly. “I spoke with you earlier this week…”

    “Right, right,” Spigot said as the memory flooded back to the front of his mind. “Larry, right?”

    “Lee, actually,” Lee replied. “I’m with the Meteorology Department. I wanted a chance to talk to you about this proposal I have.”

    He took the binder out from under his arms and opened it. “I’ve been doing research on how we could use weather manipulation to better control when and where it rains. If you…”

    Just what I need, Spigot thought to himself, another wide-eyed rookie with some crackpot idea.

    Spigot had more important things to do and did not want to hear a proposal for something as silly as weather control even if he did not. However, the youth did not seem to be the type easily deterred by a lie. So, Spigot decided to be polite and honest to the youth.

    “This all sounds very interesting,” he cut him off and started walking towards Yamul’s office. “However, I’m very busy at the moment.”

    “Ah,” Lee said, following him. “Where are we going?”

    “I am headed to Yamul’s office,” Spigot answered. “Something has her bloomers in bunch.”

    “Oh.” Lee stopped and gulped. “Uh…well, good luck with that then.”

    The young engineer turned on his heels and walked briskly in the opposite direction. Spigot was glad to have thrown him off. However, as he came to the doors to Yamul’s office, he realized he would have liked to have the company facing the perturbed queen.

    He paused before entering as his thoughts returned to what could have happened. The only explanation was something he had never experienced before and had hoped he never would. A major hydrological disaster must have struck somewhere.

    He didn’t know how. Previous events were caused by catastrophic malfunctions in the cloud machine but it had been operating normally. He would know soon enough. After collecting his thoughts, Spigot stepped into the threshold and the doors parted to allow him entry.

    “You bellowed?” he asked as he walked in as casually as he could muster.

    Yamul was short by human standards at only a meter and half. However, her muscular yet feminine physique made her physically intimidating in spite of her unimpressive stature. She glared at the engineer with eyes fixed in an irritated stare and her mouth was clasped shut. Spigot felt his mouth go dry.

    The Beaver chief let his eyes wander both to avoid making eye contact with Yamul and to examine everyone in the room. Auler and Sophie were there. Perhaps it occurred in the Windmill Kingdom, he thought. He then saw the tiny Human standing on Yamul’s desk and almost stopped dead in his tracks. It was in the Seed Kingdom of all places. It took all his discipline to hide his shock and displeasure.

    Yamul took the letter and handed it to Spigot as he came to her desk. “Would you care to explain this?”

    Spigot took a small magnifying glass from his side pocket and held the tiny letter under it to read. Sure enough, it was flooding, extensive flooding, in the Seed Kingdom. The older engineers would call it the perfect storm as it was about as aggravating as possible.

    “That was written five days ago,” Yamul added harshly.

    The Beaver looked up and his tiny, dark eyes met Yamul’s staring down at him in that same irritated glare. “It wasn’t us,” he protested, trying to hide his intimidation by his ruler. “If this had been a result of a malfunction in our equipment, we would have known about it long ago.”

    “Then what do you think it is-dane?” the messenger asked.

    “It’s a meteorological fluke,” Spigot answered, regaining a little confidence. This had nothing to do with him, which was exactly how he liked it. “It’s a tragic fluke, but a fluke none the less. It will eventually blow over.”

    “My people can’t wait for it to ‘blow over’-dane!” the messenger yelled. “We’re being inundated down there.”

    “That’s not my problem.” Spigot turned on his heels and walked back towards the door. He wanted to minimize his presence in the conversation as much as possible. It was not them and that was all that mattered. “If it doesn’t concern the cloud machine, it doesn’t concern me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have duties to attend to.”

    Milro watched as Spigot left and the doors slid shut behind him. She had stood there silently as she listened to the conversations taking place. Her ears drooped over again as she thought about everything. She felt helpless in all this. The people of the Seed Kingdom were suffering and there seemed to be nothing could be done about it.

    There has to be something we can do for the Seed Kingdom, she thought.

    “Mother…” She spoke in a very soft tone.

    “Yes Milro?” Yamul asked.

    Milro paused. She was afraid to demand of her mother, no matter how polite and inoffensive she was about it. After gathering enough courage she continued. “Mother, there has to be someway to help the people of the Seed Kingdom. If we can’t stop the rain, perhaps we could help them deal with the flooding until this blows over like Mr. Spigot said.”

    Yamul nodded to herself. “Our kingdom does have technology to handle flooding. However, we will need permission from King to bring our equipment into his kingdom.” She looked at the binders she still had to go through and heaved a sigh. “However, I’m too bogged down here with work.” She then looked to her daughter. “Milro, how about you go?”

    “Me?” Milro was taken aback by her mother’s question.

    “Why not?” Yamul replied. “I was about your age when I was given my first official duty. And it is your idea.”

    Milro could not find words. She was surprised her mother would give her such an important task.

    “Are you up to it?” Yamul asked her daughter.

    “Yes,” Milro answered, trying not to sound too eager or overjoyed.

    “We can take you there,” Auler chimed in.

    “Thank you,” Milro replied cheerfully.

    * * *

    Spigot marched stiffly back into the Cloud Management Room. Next to the door was a white board with a sign reading ‘Days Without Major Incident’ above it. The others turned to see him erase the ‘1,827’ on the board and draw a giant zero in its place. The room suddenly filled with the din and vulgarities of protest.

    “SHUT UP!” Spigot yelled, bringing the room back into silence.

    “I told you this wouldn’t be good,” Emily announced.

    “What the hell’s going on, Chief?” one of the engineers asked.

    “I’ve just learned there’s flooding in the Seed Kingdom,” Spigot answered.

    “That is not possible,” an engineer protested.

    “Queen Yamul-sama is holding a letter that states otherwise,” Spigot replied gravely.

    “But, our machinery is in perfect working order,” another engineer said.

    “I know,” Spigot grumbled. “I know. But it’s been raining down there for a week.”

    “WEEK!?” everyone yelled at once.

    “Oh my God,” an engineer exclaimed. “Has anyone died?”

    “I don’t know,” Spigot replied.

    “How could we not know they were being flooded for a whole damn week?” an engineer asked no one in particular.

    “How indeed,” Spigot growled as he made his way to his station.

    “And here we go.” Emily rolled her eyes.

    “Those jackasses in the Sunny Kingdom were supposed to keep us informed about any weather anomalies that pop up.” Spigot leapt into his chair and pressed a series of keys. The emblem of the Sunny Kingdom appeared on the largest screen.

    “I thought the Sunny Kingdom was run by Nyamals,” a young half-Beaver woman said to Emily.

    “Close enough,” Emily replied.

    The face of a Nyamal, the feline people who lived in the Sunny Kingdom, appeared on the largest screen of Spigot’s station. He appeared to be a Siamese with a dark brown mask of fur covering his face surrounded by his paler main coat. He wore a coat and hat similar to the Water Drop engineers only white with red trim.

    Spigot was expecting to see the wrinkled, gray face of Omendo, the Sunny Kingdom’s chief scientist. “Who the hell are you?” he asked, tilting his head and narrowing his eyes curiously.

    “My name is Khan,” the Nyamal answered in a calm, smooth voice. He adjusted the pair of small, circular glasses perched on the bridge of his slender muzzle.

    “Where’s Omendo?” Spigot asked.

    “Omendo is out with the flu I’m afraid,” Khan said in an even tone. “I’m running things in his stead. Can I help you?”

    “Yes,” Spigot said softly before bellowing, “WHAT IN HELL IS GOING ON IN THE SEED KINGDOM!?”

    With a cat-like screech, Khan jumped onto the back of his chair, digging his claws into the upholstery. “There’s no need to yell,” he yelled back. He then returned to his calm demeanor. “We’re aware of the situation.”

    “Then why haven’t we been provided any data?” Spigot asked in a calmer tone as he sat back in his chair. “I thought we had an agreement after the Crisis that you would inform us of any weather anomalies.”

    “We do.” Khan sat back down in his chair and straightened his coat. “However, we are not positive as to whether or not this is a weather anomaly. Until we make that decision, our information is classified.”

    “How can weather data be classified?” Spigot asked in dismay. “And it’s been raining there for more than a Goddamn week. In my book, that’s a weather anomaly.”

    “But it’s not in ours,” Khan said flatly.

    “I see what you’re trying to do.” Spigot jumped to his feet and slammed his palms on his station. “You’re trying to split hairs over the definition of what is and isn’t a weather anomaly to keep us out of the loop,” he snarled through clenched teeth. “Even after everything that happened, you pricks still…” He stopped when Khan closed the channel on his end, causing the screen to go dark. “KHAAAAAAAN!” he screamed at the now blank screen.

    “You know, Chief,” Emily said to her fuming superior. “There’s an old saying that you can gather more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

    “And what’s that got to do with anything?” Spigot snapped at her.

    “Franklin,” Emily said to another Beaver standing behind Spigot, “hold him.”

    “Okay, Emily,” Franklin said in his low, dull voice.

    The slimmer and slightly taller Beaver pulled Spigot off his chair and restrained him. Spigot tried to struggle free but could not. Emily hopped into Spigot’s chair and contacted the Sunny Kingdom again. As she waited, she licked her hand and ran it through her hair.

    “This should be rich,” one of the engineers thought out loud.

    Khan’s face appeared again on the screen. “What do you want now?” he asked with more than a little irritation in his voice.

    “Hi, Sugar,” Emily said in a gentle voice. “I just wanted to apologize for our chief’s behavior.” She was interrupted by the sound of Spigot and Franklin struggling. “I said hold him, Frank!” she shouted at her colleague.

    “I’m trying, but he’s slipperier than the greased eel,” Franklin whined as adjusted his grip to keep his trashing chief restrained.

    Emily turned back to Khan. “He really hates nasty surprises early in the morning. After a cup of Joe…and about a half dozen tranquilizers…” She said the last part quietly to herself. “…he should be fine. In the meantime, could you be a dear and send us all the information about what’s going on for little old me?” She batted her eyes at Khan.

    “No,” Khan said flatly.

    “What?” Emily blurted.

    “You suck,” one of the engineers chimed in.

    “Shut up!” Emily snapped back at him.

    “Stop wasting my time.” Khan closed the channel again.

    “I saw that coming.” Spigot finally wrenched himself out of Franklin’s grasp.

    “For a kingdom that’s supposed to light the entire planet, the Sunny Kingdom sure likes to keep people in the dark,” Franklin thought out loud.

    “They’ve always been like that,” Spigot replied with more than a little frustration in his voice as he straightened his coat. “They refused to inform the other kingdoms when the Sun’s Blessing was dying, and let us take the political fallout five years ago. Apparently, nothing has changed, except now they’re willing to lie as well as omit the truth.”

    An unwelcome silence fell over the spacious chamber. The engineers were at a loss. They did not know what to do about the situation. They did not know if anything could be or even should be done.

    An engineer finally asked, “Orders, Fearless Leader?”

    Spigot paused before he answered. “We’ll call in everybody and check over the cloud machine to make sure there isn’t some obscure glitch missed by the scanners,” he said. “And we might as well look over our own weather information for any possible cause for this in our kingdom.”

    He personally doubted an obscure malfunction was the case. There was not much missed by their scanners and certainly nothing so major to be the cause of all this. Something like that would not escape their senses. However, knowing their luck, Murphy’s Law was in full effect and anything was possible.

    “Other than that,” he sighed, “there’s nothing we can really do with the information we have.”

    Another pair of chimes came from Spigot’s station. “Cloud Management Room,” Emily answered.

    “Is Spigot there?” Yamul’s voice asked.

    “I’m here,” Spigot answered despairingly as he walked back to his station. “What is it?”

    “I need you in my office again,” Yamul replied.

    Spigot furrowed his brow in confusion to Emily. She could only shrug in response. “I’ll be right down.” Spigot closed the channel. “I wonder what it could be now.”

    “Knowing our luck, it’s a hailstorm in the Jewelry Kingdom,” Franklin said.

    “Thank you for that brilliant ray of sunshine, Frank,” Spigot said as he walked towards the door. “The next time I feel like being depressed, I’ll call you.”

    “I’m glad I could help,” Franklin replied.

    “I swear,” Spigot said loudly as he left the room. “I’m up here, then I’ve got to be down there, then I’m up again, and have to go down there again. I’m starting to feel like a damn yo-yo,” he yelled the last part as the doors slid shut behind him.

    Emily heaved another exasperated sigh. “And here I had such high hopes for the day.”

    * * *

    “Mr. Spigot,” Yamul said as Spigot stepped back into her office, “good of you to come.”

    “What is it now?” Spigot grumbled.

    “Milro has come up with a solution for the situation in the Seed Kingdom,” Yamul explained. “We’ll send our flood control equipment down to the Seed Kingdom to alleviate the threat to their villages until the rain stops.”

    “Biba! Knock yourself out,” Spigot said unenthusiastically. “What’s that got to do with me?”

    “We’ll need permission from King to send in our equipment,” Yamul continued. “Milro will be going to the Seed Kingdom with Auler and Sophie. You’ll be going as well.”

    “With all due respect, Ma’am,” Spigot said plainly, “I’m an engineer, not a steward.”

    “As chief engineer; you’re the best qualified to explain our intentions,” Yamul replied.

    “I’m not a diplomat either!” Spigot exclaimed. “I’m obnoxious and disliked! I have more enemies in the Seed Kingdom than I care to count!”

    “Then you should see this as an opportunity.” Yamul folded her hands on her desk. “It’s a chance for you to work on those relationships. You’re going, Spigot, and that’s final.”

    Spigot was about to say something. However, he could not form an argument to counter. He instead heaved a defeated sigh and capitulated. “Yes, Ma’am.” He saluted.
    Last edited by The Big Al; 10th March 2009 at 2:16 AM.

    Some people don't think it's funny that Exit 69 gets off on Big Beaver.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    The Mitten State
    Posts
    6,950

    Default

    Chapter 2: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

    Auler’s personal zeppelin floated gracefully through the azure blue sky over the Water Drop Kingdom. The craft was small with a slender, open gondola suspended under a cigar shaped envelope colored indigo on top and white on the bottom. Auler usually used it as a racer in the annual balloon race between the Windmill Kingdom and the Jewelry Kingdom. However, he would also use it to travel when it was impractical to use the Windmill Kingdom’s Flagship.

    Milro had been in the air quite a few times in her life. Mostly, it was on trips to other the countries for events like the “Princess Parties” that were held a few years back. Still, she found herself rendered speechless by the beauty of the Mysterious Planet from the air.

    Because the people of the Mysterious Planet lived inside the planet instead of on the surface, there was no horizon. There was instead the Line of Obscurity where there was so much air between the viewer and what they were looking at scattering the light, the object was obscured in the blue haze of the sky. This is especially evident from the air where one could see for dozens of kilometers.

    Milro looked out at the landscape. The passing vista was evidence to the volatile climate of the Water Drop Kingdom. Saginaw City, the Water Drop Kingdom’s capital, was still in the last vestiges of winter. However, as they traveled south, she watched the seasons change before her eyes. The deciduous trees became full and green with leaves and meadows were patches of brilliant colors of spring blossoms. Even the air grew milder as they drifted on the wind.

    Auler was glad to move into warmer air as he shivered a little. Now he knew why they said the people of the Water Drop Kingdom had antifreeze for blood. Even more than a week into spring, it was positively frigid in Saginaw City. It made him glad the Windmill Kingdom had the mild climate it did.

    Milro’s mind was more on the task awaiting her. She could not help but feel apprehensive. This would be her first major mission for the Water Drop Kingdom and her mother was counting on her to make sure things went smoothly.

    She took out the sketch pad and pencil she had brought with her to draw. She loved to draw and paint and found it was the best thing to calm her nerves. Before she realized it, she was absorbed in her sketching.

    The cotton ball like clouds belched from the top of the castle expanded to incredible size and drifted lazily on the wind alongside them. Below, they were passing over the lush swampland in the southern regions of the Water Drop Kingdom.

    “This is an amazing view,” she said to herself. “You should really see this, Mr. Spigot.”

    Milro turned to see Spigot was where he was when they took off from the castle. He was still sitting in the very back of the gondola with his arms and legs crossed and glaring at the same non-existent object. She half expected a tiny storm cloud to fly up and start raining on his head. “Is there something wrong?”

    Spigot was absorbed deeply in his thoughts which were none too pleasant. In the past, there were occasional problems with the cloud making machinery. They usually resulted in terrible storms that mostly ravaged the Water Drop Kingdom.

    It was the reason many things were as they were in the Water Drop Kingdom. The round outer walls and onion top roofs of the steel reinforced concrete buildings were to make it so wind would not be caught against a surface. The vast majority of the people were aquatic or semi aquatic so they had little to fear from flooding. The peninsula was also stormy by nature and a particularly bad storm was not too much of a shock.

    The problem came when it was not just the Water Drop Kingdom. None of the other countries were as prepared or hardened against storms. What was a nuisance to the Water Drop Kingdom was a regional disaster most anywhere else.

    Fortunately, they had improved the machine’s operations and such a malfunction had not happened in decades. There was the crisis of the Sunny Kingdom, but that had nothing to do with their equipment. Even with this latest event, there had not been so much as a leak. He did not know what was causing it, but the chief engineer was sure it was not the cloud machine.

    Without moving his head he shifted his sight to the messenger. It had to be the Seed Kingdom too, he thought in a mental grumble. He had hoped he would never have to deal with them again.

    Spigot’s train of thought was broken by Milro’s question. “I was just thinking of how well things had gone the past five years,” he grumbled a lie of an answer, looking back to the imaginary object that had his attention. “It seems we got back on our feet just in time to get knocked on our butt again.”

    “Are you sure you weren’t exaggerating about all the enemies you have in the Seed Kingdom?” Auler tried to make conversation as he guided their craft.

    “I wish I was,” Spigot replied. “The situation between the Water Drop Kingdom and the Seed Kingdom made the rivalry between your kingdom and the Jewelry Kingdom look like a lovers’ quarrel.” He finally looked away from that particular point in space and turned to Milro. “You should be prepared for them to refuse our help.”

    “Why?” Milro asked, surprised by Spigot’s statement.

    “Because it’s probable the people of the Seed Kingdom would rather drown than accept our help,” Spigot said flatly.

    Before Milro could say or even think anything Auler spoke up. “We’re approaching the Seed Kingdom.”

    In front of them the clouds flattened out and coalesced. They became denser and denser until formed a dull gray wall that extended as far as the eye could to see in either direction. Under it, the landscape was shrouded in a dark shadow and the rain formed a sheet hanging from the wall’s base. The three royals took out ponchos and wrapped them around themselves. The wall of water droplets was so huge it enveloped their entire forward vision well before they reached.

    Milro felt the apprehension return. She could now see what they were up against and she felt overwhelmed by the sheer scale of it. She tucked her pad and pencil away from the rain they would soon be flying under.

    “I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said with a slight unease to her voice.

    Spigot climbed up to look ahead. “It’s a sign saying ‘Welcome to Personal Hell’,” he grumbled.

    As they came under the cloud shield there was a sudden and noticeable change. The brightness of the Sun’s Blessing vanished as everything seemed to wash out in a dreary gray. A steady rain started to pelt the envelope suspended above them. It was a cold, raw rain that seemed to suck any warmth out of the atmosphere. Milro clutched her poncho tightly around her to keep the cold, soggy wind out.

    She looked out at the landscape. She had been to the Seed Kingdom on a few occasions. It was a beautiful land that seemed full of life. However, it was now a dreary, waterlogged sight greeting her. She felt her heart sink as did her ears as she thought of how hopeless the situation must seem to the residence of the stricken country.

    After what seemed like raw, soggy eternity, the form of the Mother Tree eventually took shape through the rain and fog in front of them. She was huge with a canopy of leaves in roughly a cone shape that rose high above the surrounding landscape and a trunk that had to be at least a hundred meters in girth. The Mother Tree was the oldest plant in the Mysterious Planet and all the other plants were her descendants. There were also legends that she had magical powers, but, they were only legends.

    “There she is,” Auler said as he reduced their speed and altitude.

    Milro looked down and saw a gaping body of muddy water below them. “I don’t remember there being a lake here.”

    “That’s not a lake,” Spigot said dully. “That’s the river.”

    Milro gasped at this revelation. It was the same river that she remembered flowing peacefully by near the Mother Tree. The fields once filled with crops were now submerged under brown, frothy water and the tiny villages, once well away from the river bank were only a few meters from being swallowed by the torrent.

    Milro began to wonder if they could help the Seed Kingdom. This all seemed so big. She had imagined it would be bad but not like this. And it had to be overwhelming to the tiny people of the Seed Kingdom. She could feel hopeless tears well in her eyes but then a comforting hand rested on her shoulder.

    “Don’t worry, Milro,” Sophie said in her eternally optimistic voice. “We’ll make everything alright.”

    Sophie reminded Milro of the wind. She was so free, not weighed down by worries or fear. And somehow, unless you were Altezza, she seemed to lift the mood no matter how bleak. There were times Milro envied Sophie’s carefree attitude.

    Auler looked down at the water and could not help but shudder.

    "Is something wrong?" Milro asked.

    "Big Brother doesn't like the water," Sophie explained dismissively.

    Auler guided his zeppelin around the massive trunk of the Mother Tree and let it settle onto the drenched soil next to a door set in the bark. Spigot climbed out and planted his webbed feet on the ground and sank slightly in the soft mud. He pulled his foot up and watched the footprint he left quickly fill with water.

    The rain made a constant droning sound as it hit the ground. It wasn’t a downpour or a drizzle, just a steady, moderate rain that over a half hour would not amount to too much but over a week was a catastrophe. The air was raw and also reeked of musk. He wasn’t surprised considering nothing could probably get a chance to dry off and mold had an easy time gaining a foothold.

    Even in the miserable conditions, there was a great deal of activity. Almost all of the people out were erecting a wall of sandbags running along the riverside of a nearby village. Others were working manual pumps to send standing water accumulating in the village over the wall.

    He heaved a sigh. “God, I hate flooding. It’s got to be the worst weather disaster ever imagined.”

    “It’s really that bad?” Auler asked as he stepped out of the gondola and helped Milro and Sophie.

    “It lasts the longest, covers the widest area, kills the most people, and leaves the biggest mess,” Spigot answered. “It’s the biggest pain in the butt you’ll ever face.”

    He remembered the horror stories older engineers told at the bar as they guzzled down their ale and liquor. Weather had no end to the means by which it could wreak havoc. However, it was the onslaught of water that made every engineer’s blood run cold. They’d arrive where there had been a town of hundreds the evening before to find a riverbank almost wiped clean the next morning.

    However, this was not a flashflood. This was what the weather boys called synoptic flooding. The rain just kept falling hour after hour with no end in sight. The water rose slowly but dauntlessly, consuming land hectare by waterlogged hectare. If anything, this seemed worse as it tortured the people while denying them the release of a quick death.

    The door in the Mother Tree pushed open and the 11 tiny princesses of the Seed Kingdom and their brother, Prince Solo, ran out. The 11 girls were identical right down to their outfits and hair style. The only way to tell them apart was by the color of their hair.

    The baby blue haired Ichele, as the defacto leader of the princesses, was the first to speak. “Sophie, Milro, Auler…” Then all 11 said in chorus. “…welcome to the Seed Kingdom.”

    “At least we wish we could say ‘welcome’. However,” the chocolate brown haired Solo looked out at the swollen river and steady rain, “that’s something you say when times are good.”

    “That’s why we’re here,” Spigot grumbled. “We’re here to help, God willing.”

    “Oh really?” A familiar voice broke in, causing Spigot to flinch slightly.

    “Oh, God, no,” Spigot whimpered.

    Behind the Seed Princesses was a Molmo, mole-like people that lived in the Seed Kingdom. He was dressed in a coat and hat similar to Spigot’s except Kelly green with brown trim and a catalpa leaf emblem in place of the curled teardrop. Spigot recognized the gleam in his beady eyes and the swagger as he walked around the tiny prince and princesses to come in front of them.

    “Who’s that?” Auler asked.

    “Remember when I said I had more enemies here than I cared to count?” Spigot said in an exasperated tone. “He’s the Big Kahuna of them all, Axe.”

    Even that was an understatement of their tumultuous relationship. He and Axe were more often than not the main combatants in the frequent spats between the Water Drop Kingdom and the Seed Kingdom. He really hoped he could avoid his old adversary on this fool’s errand. Apparently, it was not a visit to the Seed Kingdom without running into him.

    “Why are you here, Spiggy?” Axe growled. “Our skies are dark enough if you haven’t noticed.”

    “Milro came up with a plan to help your kingdom,” Sophie said cheerfully before Spigot could answer. “Everything is going to be all right. Right Milro?”

    “Eh…” Milro searched for words to say.

    “Heh, I bet,” the chocolate brown-furred Molmo scoffed.

    “Just shut up and take us to His Royal Shortiness.” Spigot growled.

    Milro had never been inside the Mother Tree before. She was awestruck when she first saw the massive tree from the outside. However, she could never imagine what it held under its bark and leaves. The massive tree seemed even more gargantuan from the inside if that was even possible. As much as the size was impressive, she was taken in more by the complexity of the interior.

    A network of halls and chambers had been carved through the inert wood of the tree. Luminescent mushrooms provided a soft, blue light that barely provided any illumination. I’m glad I don’t have to find the bathroom here, Milro mused to herself.

    Although the hallway they were traveling though was long, its clearance was barely a meter and a half. Auler, Sophie, and even Milro had to duck to make it. It was reminder that, despite the grandeur, it was meant for the little people of the Seed Kingdom.

    Axe led them with Spigot practically even with him. There was clearly hostility between the two. They frequently shot harsh, borderline contemptuous glares at one another and both wore an indignant scowl.

    Milro was glad when they finally walked into the throne room. She could stand up straight as the ceiling was well above her head. Spigot and Axe finally disengaged as the Molmo came to stand at the side of King.

    The petite princess of the Water Drop Kingdom felt like a giant as she stepped into the center of the chamber. At about knee height was a balcony filled with tiny denizens of the Seed Kingdom. Several other Seed People and Molmos were standing on the main floor as well. There were no windows but chandeliers made the chamber brighter compared to the halls.

    “I can take your ponchos.” A Molmo maid walked up to them.

    “Thank you.” Milro and the others took off their ponchos and handed them to her.

    Sitting on his throne was the king of the Seed Kingdom who was ironically named King. He was a stout man like his subjects. Sitting on his head was his signature crown which was at least as tall as he was and topped by a small sprout with two leaves.

    Milro quickly thought over what she knew about King and how she should go about this. She knew he had a short temper and had very little patience. He preferred you be outright with him as he had little use for nuisance. She decided she should leave the explanation of their intentions to Spigot as he was better at being blunt.

    Spigot removed his hat, revealing a crew cut, and bowed. “Greetings, King-sama. I am Spigot, chief engineer for the machine of the Water Drop Kingdom.”

    Auler also bowed and Milro and Sophie curtsied. “Greetings, Your Majesty,” they said.

    “Welcome to the Seed Kingdom-dane,” King replied.

    “Baxter,” a female voice cried out as the messenger, apparently named Baxter, walked into the room. One of the Seed maids ran up to him and hugged him affectionately.

    “I see you received our message-dane.” King stood up from his throne. “Have you come to tell me you’ll be stopping the rain-dane?”

    “Uh…no.” Spigot replaced his hat on his head. “I’m afraid we cannot stop the rain.”

    Angry shouts immediately rose from the crowd.

    “Now hear me out,” Spigot shouted, putting the audience back into silence. “As far as we can tell this was not caused by problems with our machinery. However, we are ready, willing, and able to offer aid until the weather patterns shift.”

    “What kind of aid-dane?” King asked.

    “Our kingdom has technology that can divert the floodwater away from your villages,” Spigot explained. “With your permission, I can have our equipment and crews down here by tomorrow morning.”

    Some of the audience cheered at this news. However a shrill female voice broke through the celebration. “What about our fields? We’re supposed to begin planting next week.” It was a Seed worker seated in the balcony.

    “We don’t want your charity,” she declared. “We want to get back to work.” She was followed by a few mumbles of agreement. “Your country makes the rain. So stop it.”

    “It’s not that simple, dammit,” Spigot pleaded. “There are literally a hundred factors causing this; the vast majority of which we have no control over.”

    “Then what do you suggest we do in the meantime?” the female worker shouted.

    “She’s right,” Axe interjected. “You honestly expect us to sit by idle? This is our kingdom.”

    “Ah, the old Seed Kingdom pride finally rears its ugly head,” Spigot shot back. “It’s the Crisis of the Sunny Kingdom all over again.”

    “This wouldn’t have happened if you just did your job,” Axe snapped.

    “That’s it.” Spigot tackled Axe and slammed him into the wall.

    “Bring it, Spiggy,” Axe said with a grin. “We’ve both wanted this for the past six years.”

    “ENOUGH-dane!” King roared, slamming the end of his staff on the floor. The room suddenly fell silent and Spigot and Axe let each other go. “I will not have this in my throne room-dane. We’re all civilized…uh…” He paused as he searched for a word. “…individuals here-dane. Let’s act like it-dane.”

    However, the room quickly filled with arguments.

    Milro watched helplessly as the situation spiraled out of control. Her mother had trusted her with this matter. She was counting on her make sure everything went smoothly. She felt like she had failed as nothing seemed to be going right.

    “Please.” She tried futilely to calm the din. “You have to understand that…” Milro again felt a hopeless feeling coming over her, bringing her almost to the point of tears. “…that there’s just nothing else we can do.”

    All of a sudden she felt a strange sensation come over her body. It was like energy of some kind washed over her, like the gentle, fine mist, off a crashing wave permeating her body. She looked up and saw that the raindrop ornament at the top of Spigot’s hat was at her eye level and then above her.

    Is Spigot getting taller? she thought to herself.

    It wasn’t just Spigot. The entire room was growing larger, or more accurately it was her…shrinking. She looked at Spigot again to see she was as tall as him, then smaller than he was. She was so frightened she couldn’t even scream as Spigot became humongous in front of her.


    She wondered if it would stop and how small she would be when it did. Then, finally, the shrinking stopped and the energy subsided. She looked around and saw she was no taller than the Seed People.

    “Milro,” Auler called out.

    He looked over to the two half Doggles. They had shrunk as well.

    “What just happened?” Auler asked.

    “I don’t know.” Milro was at a loss.

    “Fine then.” Spigot, who now towered above them, shoved his muzzle into Axe’s snout and jabbed his chest with his index finger. “If your pride is that important to you, you can take it to your watery grave. It’s no fur off my back. But I won’t stand here and be insulted.” He turned behind him. “Milro-sama, we’re leaving.”

    However, there was no one there.

    “Huh?” The Beaver chief scanned the room. “Milro-sama? Auler-sama? Sophie-sama? Where did you go?”

    “We’re down here,” Milro called out.

    Spigot looked down and saw them standing in front of him. “Oh. There you are. For a second I…” He stopped in mid sentence and after an awkward second of silence screamed, “OH MY GOD!”

    His eyes rolled back in his head and he began to tilt backwards. Milro screwed her eyes shut and curled her ears over as she braced herself for the now massive Beaver to fall. And fall Spigot did with a loud thud that caused the ground under her feet to quake.

    After the shaking stopped, she slowly opened one eye and perked up the corresponding ear. Spigot was lying flat on his back fainted.

    Spigot’s first sensation of returning to consciousness was the irritation of his nose by smelling salts. He slowly opened his eyes and pushed himself into a sitting position.

    “Get that crap out of my face,” he grumbled as he pushed Axe’s arm and the bottle of smelling salts away.

    “Oy vey.” He rubbed the throbbing back of his head. “I had the worst nightmare. I went to the Seed Kingdom and Milro-sama had shrunk to the size of a Seed Person and…” He stopped when he saw Milro and the others were standing in front of him at only ten centimeters tall. “…damn,” he grumbled.

    “Uh…” King rubbed the back his head as he too tried to make sense of it himself. “Can we talk about this somewhere else-dane?”

    King led the group up the dark, winding ramp to the observation room. After all the commotion in the throne room, everyone was very quiet behind him as they tried to digest what had just happened. Spigot and Axe didn’t even look at one another.

    The observation room was a circular structure built around the very top of the main trunk. Sprouts of various plants in pots sat on shelves and the sills of the windows. Chairs designed for larger people were suspended from the ceiling by vines and small tables and chairs for the Seed People were arranged around the now slim trunk going through the center of the floor and ceiling.

    “You know,” Spigot finally grumbled as they emerged through the trapdoor, “this is why I never became a humanitarian. My grandfather always told me no good deed goes unpunished.”

    “What an enchanted world you live in,” Axe said in response.

    “Shut up,” Spigot shot back.

    “King-sama, what’s happened to us?” Auler asked.

    “It had better be good,” Spigot grumbled.

    “Define good-dane,” King said dully. “I believe Princesses Milro, Sophie, and Prince Auler have been cursed by the Mother Tree-dane.”

    “Cursed?” all three of them gasped.

    “Cursed? CURSED!?” Spigot exclaimed. “You don’t have a clue what cursing is! But I’ll gladly you give you a lesson in the next thirty seconds if they’re not returned to normal size.”

    “You don’t understand-dane,” King explained. “This confirms my worst fear-dane.”

    “What do you mean, Father?” the blond-haired Harney asked.

    “Since this rain has started, the Mother Tree has stopped producing seeds-dane,” King explained. “I fear she isn’t getting enough sunlight-dane.” He and the others stared out a window at the gray drab outside.

    “Why didn’t you tell us King-sama?” Axe asked.

    “I wasn’t sure at first-dane,” King replied in a dull tone. “However, I’m sure of it now-dane.”

    “Stratiform does have one of the highest albedoes in the natural world,” Spigot thought out loud. “No doubt a large amount of the Sun’s Blessing’s energy is being reflected back out into the shell.”

    “You could divert the floodwaters away from our villages-dane,” King said gravely. “But, in the end, our kingdom can’t survive without the sun-dane. Since you refused to stop the rain and get rid of the clouds, the Mother Tree was angered and cursed them-dane.”

    “Then undo it,” Spigot snapped.

    “I’m afraid only the Mother Tree can lift the curse-dane.” King replied. “And, if it isn’t undone by dawn the day after tomorrow, it becomes permanent-dane.”

    Everyone gasped.

    “You mean we’ll be like this forever!?” Auler exclaimed.

    King nodded in response.

    “How can we convince the Mother Tree to lift the curse?” Milro pleaded.

    “You have to stop the rain and bring back the sun-dane,” King answered.

    “Are you insane!?” Spigot exclaimed. “I’m an engineer, not a warlock. When I said I can’t stop the rain, I meant I literally can’t stop the rain.”

    “Then I’m afraid they’re all doomed to remain that size, forever-dane,” King said gravely.

    Spigot and the shrunken royals left the Mother Tree with little more discussion. Spigot had asked for a crate so he could operate the zeppelin. By the time they walk out of the main door, a crate was sitting in the mud in front of them.

    The engineer slammed his shoulder into the wooden crate to shove it towards Auler’s zeppelin. The heavy cube of wood pushed mud up around it as he tried to not slip himself throwing his weight into it. He was so upset he didn’t even care his furry tail was limp and being dragged through the mud behind him.

    He knew this was a bad idea. He knew the people of the Seed Kingdom would be unreasonable. He came with the expectation to get ribbed and rejected. However, he would have never in his wildest dreams thought anything like this would happen.

    “’See this as an opportunity,’ she said,” the Beaver engineer complained as he gave the crate another shove through the mud. “’It’s a chance to work on those relationships.’ It turned out just dandy now, didn’t it?”

    The three reduced royals watched Spigot begin to lift the crate into the gondola. Milro looked out at the drenched and washed out landscape around them. As hopeless as the situation seemed at normal size, it seemed almost overwhelming to her now.

    She heaved a depressed sigh. “I shouldn’t have brought you here.”

    “Don’t blame yourself. We volunteered,” Auler replied in a comforting tone. “How could you have known this would happen?”

    Spigot gave one last heave and the crate fell into the gondola with a dull thud in front of the controls. “There.” He brushed his palms together.

    “What are we going to do now?” Auler asked.

    Spigot heaved an exasperated sigh. “We’ll head back to Saginaw City,” he replied despairingly. “I’ll find some way to break what’s happened to Yamul-sama.”

    His eye happened to fall on the side view mirror next to him. He knelt down and stared into the reflection. A tired old Beaver returned his gaze. He shook his head and sat down on the wing.

    “Are you alright?” Milro asked.

    “No,” Spigot said. “No. I’m not. I haven’t been for years. I just never realized it until now.”

    “What do you mean?” Sophie asked, tilting her head like a curious puppy.

    He looked back at his reflection. “Yamul-sama is buried by paperwork everyday. My staff and I are treated like trash. Now this happens. The Mysterious Planet’s favorite pastime is beating down the Water Drop Kingdom.”

    Milro, Auler, and Sophie were silent. They wished they could argue against Spigot’s statement but rang all too true. At balls and other functions they had often heard hushed voices saying unkind things about the rain and the Water Drop Kingdom’s engineers.

    The Beaver heaved an exasperated sigh. “I really feel sorry for the younger engineers,” he said. “Everyday, I see young rookies with bright ideas and dreams like my generation did when we started out. They’ll only be ground down too.” He exhaled a weak laugh. “Just today, I met this young man with a proposal to control when and where it rains.”

    “Then our problems are solved,” Sophie cheered.

    Everyone turned to the princess of the Windmill Kingdom.

    “If we can control when and where it rains, we should be able to control when and where it doesn’t rain,” Sophie explained blissfully.

    “I don’t know,” Spigot said uneasily.

    He kicked himself mentally for blowing off the engineer earlier. He did not have the slightest idea what was in his proposal. He didn’t even know if it was even viable. He guessed he deserved it for being so inconsiderate.

    “We know what happens if we do nothing,” Auler replied. “What do we have to lose?”

    Spigot for a second time in a day found himself unable to counter which had to be a record. He could only shrug. “What the hell,” he said.

    “We could get Fine and Rein to help too,” Milro suggested.

    “No,” Spigot interjected. “Oh-ho no. There’s no way in hell I’m letting the most unprincess-like princesses in the history of the Mysterious Planet so much as touch something as dangerous as the weather.”

    * * *

    Somewhere in the Sunny Kingdom, Fine and Rein sneezed loudly.

    * * *

    He slid down the wing and planted his feet in the mud. “This’ll probably be risky enough as it is.”

    The Beaver gently picked up Milro and Sophie. Auler coiled back when he reached for him.

    “Is this really necessary?” the half Doggel prince asked despairingly.

    “You think you can make it in yourself?” Spigot replied.

    Auler looked at his zeppelin. The gondola was the size of a liner compared to him. There was no way he could make it in without climbing gear.

    He reddened slightly in embarrassment and heaved a defeated sigh. “No,” he replied quietly.

    Spigot picked him up in his free arm without a word. He carefully climbed into the gondola and set them down gently on its floor. He then climbed onto the crate that raised him to within reach of the controls. The chief engineer pulled a bulky walky-talky out of his side pocket and extended its long, metal antenna.

    * * *

    The Cloud Management Room, which had been quiet just a few hours before, was abuzz with activity. Every workstation was manned and even more engineers were working at the condenser or going to or coming from the lower level. The full check of the cloud machine and related equipment was almost complete and the engineers were already starting to finish up.

    “It’s just like I said,” Franklin said to Emily as the two examined the readouts on a screen in one of the condenser’s bulkheads. “Everything checks out from the intake pumps to the distributor. We also looked at the photovoltaic cells, the castle’s power distribution grid, the electrolysis tanks, the auxiliary hydrogen fuel cells, and the operating system. There is nothing wrong.”

    “Yet, the Seed Kingdom is being flooded,” Emily replied.

    She turned to see a blond half Beaver woman climbing out of the spiral staircase leading to the lower levels.

    “Have you found anything down there?” Emily asked the larger Beaver.

    “Well,” she replied. “We’ve discovered some engineers have a very nasty habit.”

    She produced a jar full of thoroughly chewed wads of gum. Emily stuck out her tongue in disgust at the collection of multicolor wads.

    “Anything important to what’s going on,” Emily clarified.

    “No,” the engineer answered. “Everything is looking fine down there.”

    Emily opened her mouth to say something but she was interrupted by the crackle over the walky-talky in her skirt pocket. She took it out and pulled the antenna far as it would go. More crackle came over but mixed in was Spigot’s voice asking “Emily?”

    “Emily here, boss,” she replied. “How did things go in the Seed Kingdom?”

    Spigot looked back at the shrunken royals. “Could have gone better,” he answered.

    “Ouch,” Emily replied. “That bad, huh?”

    “You have no idea,” Spigot grumbled. “We ran into a ‘small’ problem here. They won’t settle for anything less than stopping the rain and they’ve made me an offer I can’t refuse.”

    “Well, we have no help for you here,” Emily said. “We’re finishing up the system check right now and we’re giving the machine a clean bill of health.”

    “As expected,” Spigot replied.

    A few hours ago, he would have gladly taken the news. It proved what he had been saying all along. However, being right meant little to the Mother Tree.

    “I’m thinking of taking a more proactive approach,” Spigot said. “There’s a rookie in the meteorology department…” Spigot stopped as he tried to remember his name. “…I can’t remember his name.” He hoped a basic description was enough. “He’s from the Blue tribe, really tall, wears a long coat all the time, has a shark tooth earring in his left ear.”

    “You’re talking about Lee,” Emily said.

    “That’s him.” Spigot snapped his fingers.

    “I’ve met him a few times,” Emily said.

    “He’s got a proposal for manipulating the weather and I thought this was as good a time as any test it,” Spigot said.

    “Should I hunt him down?” Emily asked. “He’s looking into our data with the other meteorologists.”

    “Not right now,” Spigot replied. “I want to see his work in person. Get him in my office at about 1300 and be there too. In the meantime, I want equipment and personnel prepped for departure. We’re going to…”

    He paused to think. It would save him a lot of trouble if he could keep Yamul out of the loop on this as long as possible. If he played his cards right, she would not know any of this had happened until after the fact. However, where could they go in the Water Drop Kingdom where she would not notice?

    ` “I got it,” he exclaimed. “Bonneville Gulch, the abandoned airfield in Bonneville Gulch is where we’ll work out of.”

    “Will do, chief,” Emily said with a salute. “What and who do you want?”

    “Just general equipment for now,” Spigot answered. “We’ll get more into specifics when I find out what this proposal entails. And make sure Yamul-sama doesn’t learn of this. Cumprende?

    Si, jefe,” Emily replied.

    “Spigot out,” Spigot’s voice and crackling of static cut out.
    Last edited by The Big Al; 11th January 2009 at 4:18 PM.

    Some people don't think it's funny that Exit 69 gets off on Big Beaver.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    On indefinite hiatus.
    Posts
    877

    Default

    So far, Emily tried to act sweetly (and failed misably), Spigot makes really lame jokes all the time and poor Milro got shrunked...again.

    This is getting exciting I wonder what will happen next...

    Surfing through the waves, diving deep into the sea,
    playing along the beach, having fun all day long.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    The Mitten State
    Posts
    6,950

    Default

    Chapter 3: Call to Action

    Auler could think of many words to describe the Water Drop Kingdom. From snowcapped crags to swampy lowlands to wooded river valleys to sandy shores to even the seafloor, the Water Drop Kingdom covered a wide variety of environments. It was no wonder more sentient races called it home than all the rest of the Mysterious Planet combined.

    However, “gulch” was one word he never would have thought of. Just the sound of the word seemed dry. Saying it made him feel like he needed to take a drink. He couldn’t imagine such a landform in the water rich kingdom.

    He was in for even more of a shock when they approached Bonneville Gulch. It was not only a gulch carved through the western side of the Snow Mountain Range but an actual desert. Cacti of various kinds dotted the parched, pale soil and a lonely strip of lighter dirt representing a path snaked its way across the bleak landscape.

    “This is still in the Water Drop Kingdom?” Auler exclaimed.

    “Yup,” Spigot replied as guided the zeppelin. “That’s Bonneville Gulch.”

    He nosed them down toward the desert floor. Ahead of them, a tall cyclone fence topped by barbed wire formed a large rectangle around a collection of dusty buildings and half buried runways. The small craft touched down gently in front of one of the hangars that resembled the top half of massive corrugated pipes. The purple, cochlea-shaped drive on the back of the gondola fell silent as Spigot cut the power.

    The Beaver climbed off the crate and took the three royals in his arms. Auler was happy they were in the middle of nowhere. Being shrunk was bad enough but having to be carried like a rag doll was humiliating.

    Spigot slid down the wing onto the parched ground and set them down. It was a drastic change in scenery from the drenched Seed Kingdom. It was bright with the Sun’s Blessing shining down on the light tan ground. The air was dry but not all that warm and carried the smell of sun baked clay. Auler looked around and still found himself amazed the bleak desert belonged to the same kingdom as the watery capital.

    “I never pictured the Water Drop Kingdom having a desert,” Sophie said, putting what Auler was thinking into words.

    “It’s caused by the topography,” Spigot explained. “There are mountains on either side which force the clouds up and precipitate out before they get here. It only rains here the wind direction is straight down the gulch.”

    “Go figure,” Auler thought out loud. “So, what is airfield?”

    “I didn’t even know it existed,” Milro replied.

    “Considering it hasn’t been in operation since your great grandmother was queen,” Spigot said. “I’m not surprised. This was the field where they put the prototypes of our flying submarines through their air paces. It should provide us a decent base of operations while staying out of Yamul-sama’s eye.”

    “Why don’t you want Mother to know?” Milro asked.

    “I’d prefer to explain what’s happened after we’ve solved this,” Spigot replied.

    If there was one thing Queen Yamul was more easily angered by than problems with the clouds, it was harm coming to her family. Fortunately for Spigot, she was a reasonable woman and probably would not do much to him for being the bearer of bad news. However, her wrath towards the Seed Kingdom for what happened to Milro would be so great that it, if it was heat, would evaporate the floodwaters and turn it into a desert as parched as the one they stood in. He would not wish such a fate even on the Seed Kingdom. It would be better for everyone involved if he could bring her good news.

    The engineer walked toward an outbuilding with a control tower rising above it. He kicked at the ground that had been pulverized by the autumn floods, desiccated by the winter drought, but not yet baked hard again by the summer heat. The powdery soil flew up in clouds to be carried off by the valley breeze. He scuffed dust off a metal plate that had been buried.

    “Ah-ha,” he declared. “Here it is.”

    “What?” Milro asked.

    Spigot pulled the plate up to reveal a compartment in the ground. “The key,” he said, producing a heavy set of bolt cutters.

    He dragged his “key” to the front door of the building. A heavy, metal chain with a large padlock was looped several times between the handles of the doors. Spigot took a link between the claws of the cutter and with a thrust crushed it in two. He did the same to another link on the other side of the padlock to let it fall in the dirt. He pulled the chain out of the handles with ease and threw it to the side.

    “Why did you leave a pair of bolt cutters to open the door?” Auler asked.

    “We’ve figured we might need this airfield again,” Spigot said. “We found it easier than everyone keeping a key all the time.”

    “That makes sense,” Sophie chimed in.

    Spigot pulled the door open. The four walked passed the threshold and looked about the room they stepped into.

    The Water Drop Kingdom built their structures to last. Even after a half century of neglect, not one window was so much as cracked. The interior was also in order save for the thick layer of tan dust covering every surface and a distinct staleness to the air.

    Spigot walked around the main desk and brushed the dust off a gray, metal panel. He opened it and threw the large switch behind it. The dull clunk of large circuit breakers closing resounded around them. The overhead lamps began to glow and they felt the faintest amount of airflow.

    “The whole compound should have power now,” Spigot said.

    “I’m amazed this all still works,” Sophie mused aloud.

    “I have to head back to Saginaw City to pick up equipment and personnel,” Spigot said. “I shouldn’t be gone for more than a few hours.”

    “Are you sure it’s a good idea to leave us alone,” Auler said, a chill of fear running through him.

    He knew the deserts of the Moon Kingdom were filled with creatures dangerous to even a full grown person. He could only imagine the kind of threat they posed to someone ten centimeters tall. This was not the Moon Kingdom but there could still be dangers hiding under the rocks or in the cacti.

    “You’re safe in here,” Spigot replied. “I’ll be back long before nightfall when most things come out. Not much can get in here anyway.”

    “We’ll be fine,” Sophie said blissfully.

    Spigot grabbed a collection of keys from a cabinet and walked out, closing the door behind him.

    “What should we do in the meantime?” Auler thought out loud.

    “Why don’t we explore?” Sophie suggested happily. “It’d just be like we were little kids again.”

    “Please don’t use the ‘l’-word word,” Auler said despairingly.

    “Come on, Milro,” Sophie said eagerly. “Think of all the places we can get to at this size.”

    “Alright,” Milro said.

    Sophie grabbed Milro’s wrist and pulled her along. Auler followed behind them in an unenthusiastic shuffle through the half century of dust.

    It was one of the few times even he wished his sister would take things more seriously. The prince of the Windmill Kingdom was usually not this self-conscious. However, the longer he was ten centimeters tall, the more he disliked it. It made him feel weak and vulnerable and more apprehensive. He couldn’t decide if he feared for his sister for being oblivious to the danger they were in or embarrassed that she had not let their current situation get to her like it had him. Either way, he knew he did not like it.

    “Come on, Big Brother,” Sophie called to him. “There’s nothing we can do about what’s happened to us right now. We might as well find a way to enjoy it.”

    Sophie had a point and Auler knew it. “Okay,” he conceded.

    * * *

    The meteorology department had commandeered the main rec room to look through the weather data the Water Drop Kingdom collected for itself. Like much of the actual castle, it was bright, open, and beautifully designed. Its main floor and second and third floor balconies had plenty of seating around transparent tables for them to spread out their work. The large windows including a majestic stained glass window with a design of the castle also made the entire room bright. Being a chamber in the Water Drop Kingdom’s castle, it also had a beautiful fountain between the grand staircases connecting the floors as an obligatory water feature.

    Despite the space, it was crowded with blue uniforms. It was the first time Lee had a chance to see who all belonged to the meteorology department and he was amazed how many there were. It was even more amazing when considering, just six years ago, weather observation was only a hobby where people used crude instruments to take the rudimentary of measurements.

    However, after the Sunny Kingdom withheld the fact the Sun’s Blessing was dying, the Water Drop Kingdom in particular lost faith in them. So, they created their own weather observation network that was actually superior and trained personnel not only in observation but also in analysis. He figures the flooding in the Seed Kingdom was the first test of their metal in a crisis.

    He returned to the map he had been looking over. Unfortunately, their network only covered their kingdom. In fact, it didn’t even cover the entire kingdom as the map of the hand-shaped peninsula known as the Water Drop Kingdom had a conspicuously bare area along its southern border. He was so aggravated by the lack of information the barbed tip of his long, blue, ray-like tail was tapping on the ground like the tail of an annoyed cat.

    “It figures,” he grumbled. “We spent millions building this network and training people for situations like this and it’s been made useless because Geronita refused to let us build those sites in the Zubuzubu Swamp.”

    His twin sister, Ophelia, looked up from the charts she was examining and pulled a few stray locks of her silky, blue bangs out of her eyes. “You’re being a little overly dramatic, don’t you think?” she teased.

    “We know there’s unprecedented flooding occurring in the Seed Kingdom,” Lee said. “Yet, from what we can detect, there’s nothing to suggest what’s causing it. So, whatever the cause is must be in the southern regions of our kingdom but we don’t know because that scum sucker decided to be a prick.”

    “Don’t sweat it, Lee,” Ophelia said dismissively. “As the saying goes, ‘a swamp man ain’t worth the gas and steel it takes it blow ‘em to Hell’.”

    “He’s still making our job a hell of a lot harder.” Lee stretched and planted his feet on his binder sitting on the table next to him.

    “What are you doing,” Ophelia exclaimed. “You worked hard for months on that.”

    “It’s not hurting it,” Lee replied. In a more depressed tone, he said, “besides, without approval from Spigot, it’s about all it’s good for.”

    “That’s why you’re really upset,” Ophelia huffed. “Spigot blew you off.”

    “If we had a system like what I’ve proposed in place,” Lee lectured, “we wouldn’t have a problem like we have right now. If something went wrong with the weather patterns, we’d just go in and fix it. We have the technology right now if we’d just use it.”

    “I know,” Ophelia replied. “It’s why you were developing it.”

    “It does no one any good as ink on the page,” Lee said.

    “Lee?” a voice asked from behind him.

    He turned to see Emily coming up the stairs. “I’m Lee.”

    “The chief wants to see you in his office,” Emily said. “He said he wants to see your proposal immediately.”

    “What?” Lee exclaimed.

    “He said…” Emily started to repeat.

    “I heard you,” Lee interrupted her. He then screamed, “WAHOO!”

    Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked in the direction of Lee. The young engineer was oblivious as he grabbed his much smaller sister and spun her around before dipping her.

    “Spigot wants to see my proposal!” he cheered.

    “Then why are you still here?” Ophelia asked with a delighted giggle.

    “You’re right.” Lee pulled Ophelia back to her feet. “I should get going.”

    He practically leapt down the stairs.

    “Lee,” Ophelia called after him. She grabbed his binder and waved it over her head.

    Lee spun around as he landed on the main floor. “Right,” he said. “Throw it down.”

    Ophelia tossed the binder to him. It tumbled corner over corner down to the main floor. Lee caught it and brushed off the cover. He then ran out of the room.

    Lee wasted no time reaching Spigot’s office as he practically jogged the whole way. However, once he was standing in front of its door, he stopped to gather himself. He knew the chief expected discipline from his subordinates, even the rookies, and he wanted to put the best foot forward he possibly could.

    He took the time to straighten his silver tie and make sure his coat and hat were even. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Emily walking towards the door. She was also fiddling with the white, silk, ribbon bow and medallion of her shawl and making sure her dress was straight.

    “The chief wanted you too?” Lee asked.

    “Yeah,” Emily replied. “Something’s up. I can’t imagine the chief would just cave to the Seed Kingdom, especially when it requires so much undo risk.”

    “We’ll soon find out,” Lee said.

    He reached out to ring the door chime. It instead caused the doors to slide open. The two engineers shrugged to each other and stepped in.

    Spigot’s office was perhaps half the size of Yamul’s but much more cluttered. The first thing they noticed was a large, dilapidated sofa kitty-corner to the doors. Along the same wall as the doors were in was a row of filing cabinets under a portrait of a gust front. Opposite the sofa was a metal desk and office’s floor to ceiling windows looked out onto the white with blue onion top roof buildings and crisscrossing canals of Saginaw City. However, what the office was lacking was its current occupant as Spigot was nowhere to be scene.

    “Where’s the chief?” Emily asked.

    Before Lee could answer, they both heard a banging coming from the grate over the vent. Spigot suddenly burst from the vent and rolled out onto the carpeting. He didn’t seem to notice the two engineers as he brushed off his coat and reached back in the vent to grab his hat.

    “Should we even ask, Chief?” Emily said.

    “Oh.” Spigot turned to them. “I didn’t want to be seen.”

    “Right,” Emily said in an unconvinced tone. “Well, here he is like you requested.”

    “Good, good,” Spigot said as he sat behind his desk. “Have a seat, Lorenzo.”

    “It’s Lee, sir,” Lee replied as he sat in a chair in front of his desk.

    “Whatever,” Spigot said. “Let’s just have a look at what you have here.”

    Lee handed Spigot the binder and he started skimming through it. Spigot would have to admit that he was impressed. He expected it to be some piece of garbage with little respect for real science. However, the research was sound and the methods were visionary. He amazed by the youth’s understanding of atmospheric science and behavior of water.

    “I notice you use dry ice for cloud seeding,” Spigot commented.

    “It’s easier on the water supply than silver iodide,” Lee replied.

    “This is some excellent work,” Spigot admitted and nodded as he continued to read.

    “I’m glad you think so.” Lee was flattered. “If you let me start work immediately, it should be in place in a few years.”

    “YEARS!?” Spigot exclaimed.

    “Well,” Lee said innocently and scratched the back of his head as he thought of how to explain. “I can have the methods to manipulate the weather in place in a couple hours. However, for this to work properly, we need in-depth data on the weather conditions both at the surface and aloft. That would mean setting up a network like ours all over the planet. That would, in turn, mean convincing the royal families to let us do it, then actually building it, and collecting data to get a baseline which will take the most time. Collaboration with the Windmill Kingdom would also be essential.”

    “We don’t have years,” Spigot practically yelled. “We have until dawn the day after tomorrow.”

    “What’s going on, Chief?” Emily asked. “What with all the secrecy and why do we need to do this so quickly.”

    Spigot heaved a sigh. He guessed they might as well know since they would certainly know once they reached the air field. Emily was also his adjutant and Lee looked to be someone he could trust with a secret.

    “When we told the Seed Kingdom we couldn’t stop the rain, the Mother Tree shrank Milro-sama and the others,” Spigot explained as casually as he could. “They’re now this big,” he held his hands so there was about ten centimeters of vertical space between them, “and if we don’t do something by dawn the day after tomorrow, they’ll be like that forever.”

    The two engineers stared at him stunned silence.

    “So, that’s what you meant by a ‘small problem’,” Emily said to break the awkward silence.

    “You’re joking, right?” Lee tried to force an amused smile.

    Spigot glared at them. “Do I look like I’m joking,” he growled.

    “Uh, no, Chief,” he said.

    “Is there anyway we can use this to stop what’s happening in the Seed Kingdom now?” Spigot asked.

    “If you can get me the data and help from the Windmill Kingdom,” Lee pondered aloud, “we can probably do it by tomorrow night.”

    “We’ll find a way,” Spigot declared. “We must for Milro-sama. Not to mention my sanity,” he said out of the corner of his mouth. “What will you need in terms of equipment and personnel?”

    “We’ll need all twelve of our stingrays which would mean twenty-four people to operate them and preferably another two dozen as a ground crew and researchers,” Lee said as he thought.

    Spigot took a pad of paper and began writing names of engineers he wanted. “Go on,” he said.

    “Six station wagons for the ground crew and equipment, a super computer, several more laptops, at least a couple sets of weather sensing equipment including several dozen radio sondes and drop sondes, and a lot of dry ice,” Lee finished up.

    Spigot finished writing down everything on the pad. “Emily,” he said. “Get these people and the equipment Lee rattled off. I want it all ready to go in thirty minutes.”

    Emily took the pad and skimmed over the list. “I’ll get right on it,” she said.

    “And can we keep Milro-sama’s condition under wraps?” Spigot asked.

    “Sure, Chief,” the two replied.

    “I’ll call Helena in the Windmill Kingdom to meet us there too with her personnel and equipment,” Spigot said. “Then I’ll be waiting in the garage.”

    True to his word, after making his call, Spigot spent the remainder of the half hour pacing the length of the castle’s garage. It was one of many auxiliary structures to the castle submerged under the moat. The walls and ceiling were transparent, providing a view of the fish and other life that made their home in the saltwater and rocky bed. The Sun’s Blessing shined through the surface of the water to create a shimmering effect over everything.

    Spigot had no use for the scenery. He was too busy pacing and worrying. When he reached the inner end of the garage in his pacing, he looked to the double doors leading into the castle and worried about being caught. He took out his old style chronometer from his vest pocket under his coat when he reached the outer doors and worried about the time limit that had been imposed on him.

    It was time to check his chronometer again. Reached between the buttons in his jacket and pulled out the round timepiece and pressed a knob to make the gold plated top flip up. The thirty minutes had just passed and right on time the engineers he requested entered the garage.

    “Come on, Lee.” A young half Beaver with a flame red mullet and hip length coat covered in miscellaneous patches was pestering the Shark engineer. “We’re best friends. You can tell me what’s going on.”

    “I can’t, Bret,” Lee replied. “The chief wants to keep it under wraps.”

    “Are you saying I can’t keep a secret?” Bret said in a fake whimpered.

    “No offense,” Lee said, “but if your mouth was any bigger, the Mysterious Planet could fit in it.”

    “Ouch.” Bret grabbed his chest as he pantomimed being shot through the heart. “That hurts, Lee.”

    “Don’t feel bad, Bret,” Ophelia said from behind them. “He hasn’t told me yet either.”

    “But I’m pilot,” Bret said. “We have this thing about wanting to know where I’m going and why.”

    “We’re going to the gulch,” Lee said. “As for the why, let’s just say you’re all in for a ‘big’ surprise.”

    Spigot noticed two squirrel-like Riri were among the group. One was an older man wearing a white medical coat and the other was a young woman wearing a yellow nurse’s dress. “Dr. McChi, Melody, good of you to come,” he greeted him.

    “Fortunately for you, business is slow for me at the moment.” The older Riri then grinned and laughed. “Though, I guess it’s fortunate for everyone when business is slow for me.”

    “Right,” Spigot replied half-heartedly. “Anyway, I wanted you to come with us because I have a very interesting case I wanted you to look into.”

    “Oh?” McChi said. “What is it?”

    “You’ll see when we get there,” Spigot answered. “I’ll just leave it as a very interesting case.”

    He then turned to his engineers and quickly took a census of the group. It looked like everyone he asked for was there. There were also several equipment pallets sitting on pushcarts. For the first time that day since this mess started, things looked to be in order.

    “Alright then,” he barked, “AT-TEN-TION!”

    The engineers lined up and stood erect. Spigot eyed each of them. He did not realize how young they were when he was making his list. Of the almost fifty engineers, only a few were over thirty. It actually made sense, now that he thought about it, since meteorology was studied by the younger engineers for the most part.

    “My fellow engineers,” the chief started as he paced in front of him, “I have chosen you for a mission of vital importance. The very future of the Water Drop Kingdom will be determined by our success or failure. We leave immediately for the airfield in Bonneville Gulch where you will be fully briefed. Are there’s any questions?”

    “No, sir,” the engineers proclaimed at once.

    “Good,” Spigot said. You’ll have more questions than you’ll know what to do with when we get there, he thought to himself. “Then board the station wagons and stingrays and let’s get going.”

    About half of the engineers walked briskly out of the garage. The others began loading the equipment pallets into a half dozen of the white and blue government station wagons parked along the walls and got in themselves. Lee, Ophelia, and Bret were among those leaving.

    The sub pen lied between the castle and the hangar holding the kingdom’s flagship. Everyone’s ears popped as they pushed through the revolving door into the pressurized chamber. Like the garage, it was underwater with transparent walls and ceiling. The stingrays were prepped and ready to go in the rectangular pool.

    Stingray was the name given to the Water Drop Kingdom’s flying submarines, a rare example of heavier than air craft in a world dominated by zeppelins. They were shaped like giant, metal versions of their namesake with four-bladed propeller engines attached to the back of the wings and an elongated cockpit with a bubble canopy on the center line of the body. The dozen stingrays kept at the castle were painted light blue with the emblem of a kingdom displayed proudly on the right wing.

    “Can you tell me now?” Bret whined.

    Lee only gave him a glare as he dropped into the rear seat of their stingray. Bret dropped into the pilot’s seat and activated the power plant. He and the other pilots made the canopies slide shut and the craft sank below the water line.

    The crew in the control room opened the outer doors that dropped into the floor. The propellers of the stingrays began to spin and the craft pushed forward. They accelerated into the moat and turned to follow the gentle curve. Once they had enough speed, the craft burst from the water and sailed into the afternoon sky.

    Below them, the station wagons emerged from under the stairs that doubled as the garage door. They drove into the city and plunged into the canals to motor through as boats. The vehicles and aircraft headed out of Saginaw City for their destination.

    They followed the west coast. Periodically, they passed through and over a seaside community. Some townsfolk gave them a wave while others paid them no mind. Between the pockets of civilization was lonely stretches of road between the sea and coniferous forest with barely any other vehicles sharing the pavement.

    The ice capped summits of the Snow Mountains emerged from the haze. The convoy turned off the main highway that continued to follow the coast. The squadron followed as they headed for the peaks that still seemed ghostly with distance.

    The gulch ran the length of the mountains like some giant gouge had run through them. It was actually the result of the Snow Mountains being two rows of peaks with the larger crags to the east and lesser ones to the west. Between them, water from ice melt during the kingdom’s creation cut the gulch.

    The land quickly became dry and desolate. The trees turned into shrubs and then cacti and the road a dirt path. The station wagons kicked up the soil in tan clouds extending well behind him. Even staying in the path of packed dirt snaking through it didn’t keep them from kicking up the powdery clay.

    They soon came to the edge of the airfield. The station wagons slowed to a stop as their dust clouds passed over them. The stingrays extended their landing gears and touched down. They slowed as they rolled across the ground before coming to a complete stop.

    Spigot jumped out of the back of one of the station wagons as the others exited the vehicles and aircraft. His first instinct was to check the Sun’s Blessing which was already more than halfway into eclipse. He figured they had less than 39 hours to stop the rain.

    “Chief,” Franklin asked, “what airfield are we supposed to work out of?”

    Spigot’s train of thought was broken. He turned to the Beaver and snidely answered, “the abandoned one, of course.”

    “Good,” Franklin said. “For a second there, I thought you meant the one taken over by a biker gang.”

    “WHAT!?” Spigot yelled.

    He practically snapped his head to the airfield. Scores of motorcycles sat in a line in front of the tower. He expected to his heart to stop when he thought about what had happened to Milro and the others.

    * * *

    The swine-like Bubu grunted and squealed in delight as their leader draped their black flag on the wall. The flag was decorated by a glaring pig skull in front of crossed bones with an Old English “H” on either side.

    The group looked just as menacing. Bubu resembled pigs with pearls embedded in their often exposed navels. The hulking swine were clad in leather and denim and many wore black helmets topped by a metal spike or had other kinds embellishments. Sewn to backs of their jackets and tattooed to their pink flesh were the words “Hog Hell” in the same Old English script.

    The leader was referred to as “Head Hog”. He, much like his fellows, was big at close to human stature with thick, short limbs. He was also big in terms of physique but not toned as his gut bulged to make a gap between his black jeans and white T-shirt revealing a black pearl. His appearance was accentuated by spiked pads strapped to his leather coat and a large, gold ring in his snout. He held out his hands for the others to fall silent.

    “My fellow hogs,” he proclaimed. “For decades, we have ravaged the Jewelry Kingdom. Every man, woman, child, and automaton turn into a quivering pile of fear at the mere mention of Hog Hell. However, it’s gotten boring.”

    Some of the others grunted in agreement.

    “So that is why we’re expanding,” Head Hog declared. “This old airbase will be the first stronghold for the new Water Drop Kingdom chapter of Hog Hell!”

    The others again went into cheers of grunts and squeals.

    Auler peered around a desk on the upper level. He and the girls hid when they heard the Bubu barge in. Fortunately, the pig-like bikers did not do much of a search before declaring the place theirs.

    Although they had gone unnoticed, they were trapped on a sill behind the desk. He looked back to Sophie and Milro who returned his gazed with eyes quivering with fright. He could not blame them as he too was afraid of what might happen if they were discovered. He wished he had an answer for this latest turn of events, but he had none. He could look back at the bikers still reveling below and hope they would not find them until Spigot got back.

    * * *

    “Emily,” Spigot said, holding out his hand, “megaphone.”

    “Here you go, Chief.” Emily placed a megaphone in his hand.

    Spigot brought the megaphone in front of him. He turned up the volume which caused it to let a wail. The engineers covered their ears as the sound set their teeth on edge. The chief adjusted it to make it silent again before putting to his mouth.

    “Attention, biker scum,” his voice was amplified several times and resounded through the valley.

    Milro perked up her ears. “It’s Spigot,” she exclaimed when she recognized his high-pitched, nasal voice.

    The three wiped dust from the panes and peered out through the still grimy windows. They had to contain themselves from jumping for joy and cheering at the sight of the engineers outside.

    Below, the bikers stopped reveling and picked their ears to hear.

    “This is a government installation,” Spigot declared. “Leave the premises at once, or you will all be dragged out and shot.”

    Emily whispered in his ear, “uh, Chief, we can’t shoot them.”

    Spigot turned off the megaphone. “Why not?” he shot back.

    “We didn’t bring any guns to shoot them with,” Emily replied.

    “Why didn’t you bring any guns?” Spigot exclaimed.

    “You said we were going to stop the rain in the Seed Kingdom, not get into a shooting war,” Emily said. “Contrary to popular belief, we don’t go everywhere armed to the teeth.”

    “They’re coming,” an engineer announced, putting an end to all conversation.

    Everyone watched as the Bubu emerged from the building. Franklin counted each quietly as they came out. “I count eighty-three,” he said when they finally stopped coming.

    “They out number us almost two to one,” Bret whimpered.

    Head Hog pushed himself to the front of the group. He glared at the engineers with beady eyes narrowed into a contemptuous squint. “Who dares threaten Hog Hell?” he roared.

    Two Beavers pushed Spigot forward. “I do,” he said weakly.

    Some snickers rose from the bikers and quickly turned into roaring laughter. Head Hog was laughing so hard he had to double over and tears were coming from the corners of his tightly shut eyes. The engineers only stood there, looking on at the Bubu ready to fall over and roll around in the dirt.

    Head Hog eventually got control of himself. “Guess what, boys,” he said. “We’re gonna inaugurate our new chapter by putting the local authority in their place.”

    The bikers grinned deviously at the group. The engineers did their best to hide the wave of fear running through them. They could only imagine what the bikers had planned for them.

    “But,” Head Hog said with an indulged grin, “I’m the sporting sort. So, why don’t we settle this one on one? We choose one of our guys to have it at with one of you. The winner gets the airbase and the loser gets out.”
    Last edited by The Big Al; 11th January 2009 at 4:04 PM.

    Some people don't think it's funny that Exit 69 gets off on Big Beaver.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    On indefinite hiatus.
    Posts
    877

    Default

    What is it with that biker gang??? Geez...
    Great...more intereferance, not really what they needed for their mission...I felt sorry for Milro.
    I don't feel sorry for Auler, however, he need to learn that he's not the only one who have problems

    Surfing through the waves, diving deep into the sea,
    playing along the beach, having fun all day long.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    The Mitten State
    Posts
    6,950

    Default

    Chapter 4: Preparations

    “Sounds fair,” Spigot replied.

    Head Hog’s mouth twisted into an even more exaggerated grin. “We choose Mad Hog.”

    A huge Bubu emerged from the bikers who cheered him on. Unlike his fellows, he was ripped with bulging, well defined muscles all over his body. He wore no shirt to show off both his nipples were pierced as were his snout and ears. He had tusks rising out of his slobber encrusted mouth, capped with sharp, metal spikes as were the horns protruding from either side of his metal helmet.

    From the sill, the royals watched what was happening though it was hard to hear what was being said. Milro clasped her hands over her mouth to stifle a gasp when she saw Mad Hog step forward. Auler and Sophie also looked on despairingly as the monstrous swine stomped towards the engineers.

    Engineers were just as uncomfortable from the sight of the Bubu coming towards them. They gulped dryly and looked at each other, wondering who could take the biker on. Spigot, however, smirked.

    He snapped his fingers and casually said, “Tammy.”

    A very large Beaver woman stepped out of the group of engineers. It was the engineers’ turn to cheer and whoop and they did so eagerly.

    “That…is…one…big…Beaver,” Auler said in genuine amazement.

    Milro couldn’t argue with Auler’s description of the young woman. She was taller than her mother at about the height of an average Human woman as well as the solid, well toned physique common to almost all Beavers. However, she was still easily dwarfed by her opponent.

    The bikers exploded into another fit of laughter. “What is this?” Head Hog practically wheezed between convulsions. “None of you are man enough, so you’re sending in a skirt?” He dissolved back into his laughing fit.

    “Poor, dumb b*stards,” Bret whispered to Lee out of the corner of his mouth.

    Mad Hog turned to his leader and grunted something confidently. Apparently, the English language was beyond him. Head Hog nodded at whatever was being grunted to him and another indulged grin formed on his face.

    “Alright,” he said and then turned to the engineers. “Mad Hog is feeling generous today. He’ll let your skirt get one free hit.”

    Mad Hog held his hands behind him and leaned forward to expose his jaw. He closed his eyes and smiled smugly as well.

    “Poor, really dumb b*stards,” Lee whispered to Bret.

    Tammy looked back to Spigot in dismay. Spigot could only shrug in response. Some of the others motioned and told her to go for it. She shrugged herself and turned back to Mad Hog still standing there, grinning stupidly.

    “Alright,” she exhaled and then said more forcefully, “you asked for it.”

    She balled her fingerless gloved hand into a fist and swung it in an uppercut. Her fist connected with Mad Hog’s jaws with such force the Bubu was thrown into the air by the impact. He flew up several meters before plummeting back to the ground squealing.

    Everyone followed his descent with their whole heads as he came down hard into a patch of cacti. He almost instantly leapt from the spiny plants grabbing his rump and squealing in pain.

    “Ow, man.” One of the engineers flinched. “That’s gotta hurt.”

    “And that’s poison cactus too,” another added. “He’ll be scratching those loins for weeks.”

    The bikers watched with their faces frozen into dumbfounded expressions as Mad Hog dragged his hind end across the desert floor and wailed like an air raid siren. They then snapped their heads back to the engineers. The blue clad group glared back at them.

    “You said something about the loser getting out,” Tammy said menacingly.

    The Bubu grinned sheepishly and forced weak laughs in response for an awkward second.

    “Head for your hogs!” Head Hog yelled. “We’ll go to the Flame Kingdom. I’ve heard the Bearbear are a bunch of pansies.”

    The Bubu scrambled onto their motorcycles and their engines roared to life. The engineers had to practically leap out of the way of the bikers as they sped out into the desert for the south. They watched as the dust cloud kicked up by the motorcycles dwindled with distance.

    “And never come back,” Bret yelled after them.

    Once he was confident they were gone for good, Spigot clapped his hands and rubbed them together as he gathered his thoughts. He turned to a blonde half Beaver woman and gray with white tips haired Shark man. “You two, fly after them in a Stingray. Run them clean out of the kingdom.”

    “With extreme prejudice, sir,” the two said eagerly as they ran to one of the stingrays.

    “Arlene and Vince,” Spigot said to a raven haired half Beaver girl and larger Beaver with the sleeves torn off his unbuttoned coat, “fly up to Churchill and raid the arsenal. The way this day is going, the Moon Kingdom is going to decide they should own all the deserts or something. I’m taking no chances and intend to be prepared this time.”

    “Yes, sir,” Arlene said. “What should we get?”

    “I want twenty harpoon rifles and fifty dart guns each with two spare clips,” Spigot said. “A couple dozen particle disturbance sensors wouldn’t hurt either.”

    “We’ll be right back,” Vince said, exhaling smoke from his cigarette.

    As they climbed into another stingray, several objects emerged from the haze. Spigot peered through a pair of binoculars. They were zeppelins much like Auler’s. However, they seemed bulkier and less streamlined suggesting they were designed more for power than speed. Four of the half dozen airships were also lifting some large craft that had even more gasbags attached to it.

    The first to land were several Bird People. They were an oddity even in the Mysterious Planet as they were one of the few non-mammalian sentient races. Even the aquatic “Shark” People were mammals as an offshoot of Humans. The Bird People, however, were true avians but with a more anthropoid stance and arms as well as wings. Other than that, they were birds with beaks for mouths, feathers of various colors covering their bodies, and talons for feet.

    Their attire was coats and hats and dresses and shawls similar in design as those worn by the Water Drop Kingdom and almost every other kingdom for that matter. However, they were purple with a wave pattern on the cuffs and hems instead of blue with raindrops and the women wore bonnets instead of bandanas. Their hats and medallions were also adorned with the purple cyclone that served as the Windmill Kingdom’s emblem.

    The zeppelins set down the craft they were hauling before settling to the ground themselves. In the gondolas were several Doggels and half Doggels. Like Beavers, the spaniel-like inhabitants of the Windmill Kingdom came in two varieties except they differed in color as well as size. The smaller kind had sky blue fur while their larger brethren were brown in color. Both kinds were of a much lighter physique than their Beaver counterparts as the larger variety had almost Human proportions.

    Their chief leapt out and spread her long ears like wings to glide down to Spigot. “Have we missed anything?” she asked.

    “If you had gotten here a little earlier,” one of the Water Drop engineers shouted. “You would have been in one hell of a party.”

    “What?” the Doggel asked.

    “We just had to chase out some thugs, Helena,” Spigot said dismissively.

    He then looked at the craft they had tugged in. Spigot could tell the dull gray, metal object was meant to be an aircraft with large wings jutting from the narrow, cylindrical fuselage. However, it was larger than any heavier than air craft he had seen.

    “What is this?” he asked.

    “This is our great experiment in heavier than air craft,” Helena answered. “We thought you could help us solve a problem while we’re here. You see, our batteries that are powerful enough to run it are too heavy to make portable. We were thinking we could use your kingdom’s fuel cells since you’ve managed to miniaturize them…”

    “Oh my God, Milro-sama!” Spigot yelled as his mind was prompted to remember Milro.

    He ran towards the tower. The others followed him as he burst into the building. Aside from the dust being scuffed around and the flag still hanging on the wall, it didn’t look like the bikers had done much to it.

    “Milro-sama,” Spigot called out in panicked tone, “Auler-sama, Sophie-sama, are you okay?”

    “We’re fine,” Sophie’s voice replied.

    Everyone looked up and behind them. The three miniaturized royals were standing on a catwalk above the main entrance.

    “You have a great sense of timing,” Sophie said, waving happily to them.

    “Okay,” Bret said to no one in particular. “I honestly didn’t see that coming.”

    McChi wasted no time getting to work and examining them. It proved difficult as his instruments were not designed for people so small and he had to be delicate. However, in his field, he frequently had to improvise and was able to manage.

    “Well, Doc?” Spigot asked the Riri as he finished.

    “From what I can see, they seem to be unharmed,” McChi commented.

    “Unharmed?” Helena exclaimed. “Unharmed!? They’re ten centimeters tall! How can you call that unharmed!?”

    “Aside from their miniaturization, which is perfectly proportional, I might add, they seem fine,” McChi explained. “You haven’t had any problems?” he asked Milro, Auler, and Sophie. “You know, shortness of breath, chest pains, aches.”

    “No,” they all said.

    “There you go.” McChi’s mouth then formed into the wide grin like it did whenever something came to his mind. “You know, I had heard of the Mother Tree’s powers, but I never thought I’d see the effects first hand.”

    “I’m so glad I could accommodate you,” Spigot said with more than a hint of sarcasm. “Can you do anything about it?”

    “Sorry,” McChi apologized. “Magic is out of my field. What do you have in mind?”

    “We’ll stop the rain using weather control,” Spigot said.

    “Weather control!?” Helena exclaimed. “Have you lost it? We’re supposed to make the clouds and wind, not control them for our own ends.”

    “Would you rather go back to the Windmill Kingdom and explain to your king his two oldest are ten centimeters tall?” Spigot asked. “At least Yamul-sama can think rationally.”

    “Are you implying Randa-sama cannot think rationally?” Helena shot back.

    Spigot raised an eyebrow.

    “Okay,” Helena conceded. “Randa-sama isn’t the most the rational person in the Mysterious Planet. Still, we can’t start messing with the weather. Who knows what we would cause trying to stop the rain in the Seed Kingdom.”

    “That’s why we need in-depth data on global weather patterns,” Lee interjected. “Where do you intend to get it, Chief?”

    “The Sunny Kingdom,” Spigot answered.

    “But, they refused us,” Emily said.

    “We’ll just have to be more convincing so they’ll hand it to us out of the goodness of their hearts,” Spigot said, forcing a wide grin onto his face.

    He was met by skeptical glares.

    His smile immediately sank into a scowl. “We’re stealing it.” He pointed at Franklin a few others. “You, you, you, and you, you’ve just become cat burglars. Fly up to the Sunny Kingdom and find a way to acquire their weather data for the last fifteen days and the averages for thirty days on either side of ten days ago.”

    Franklin gulped dryly when he thought of stealing from the Sunny Kingdom. “Is that really necessary?”

    “Then you’re the ones explaining the situation to Yamul-sama and Randa-sama,” Spigot said.

    Franklin quickly thought over the prospect and then said loudly, “what’s a little larceny between kingdoms?” He and the others walked out of the building.

    “This is bad,” Lee said.

    “Perhaps we should look on the bright side?” Bret suggested.

    “There’s a bright side?” Lee and some others asked.

    “Well,” Bret rubbed his chin in thought, “Pump-sama has a kid shorter than him again.”

    They all face faulted except Tammy. She slapped him hard enough upside the head to knock his hat off.

    “What was that for?” Bret snapped.

    “You’re being an idiot again,” Tammy shot back.

    Spigot shook his head and heaved an exasperated sigh at the sight of the two engineers bickering. He suddenly remembered the aircraft Helena had brought. “What were you saying about that thing out there?” he asked.

    “It’s a heavier than air craft,” Helena explained. “However, we have no portable batteries powerful enough to run it. We thought your fuel cells might work.”

    “Can we solve this later?” Spigot said. “We have until dawn the day after tomorrow to solve the rain problem.”

    “That’s why we should get this running,” Helena said. “We began developing it during the crisis of the Sunny Kingdom. The Sun’s Blessing dying was causing problems with our windmill and they started creating random windstorms.”

    “I remember,” Spigot said.

    The Sun’s Blessing dying had a multitude of side effects on the surface. Both the Water Drop Kingdom and the Windmill Kingdom used solar energy to power their equipment so the reduced energy and unpredictable surges wreaked havoc on them. The Flame Kingdom also used energy from the Sun’s Blessing to make heat which was reduced. Even the aura in the Moon Kingdom couldn’t escape their effects.

    “We were hoping to make a mobile weather lab,” Helena said, bringing Spigot back to the present. “It would allow us to study where and when the windstorms formed and how powerful they became. However, zeppelins were too flimsy and susceptible to turbulence to do the job. So, we built this in hopes of using it towards that end. If we could get it airborne, we could use it to gather information on what’s going on in the upper atmosphere over the Seed Kingdom. It could even find the cause.”

    Spigot rubbed his chin and thought. “That could really help,” he said aloud. “How much power does it need?”

    “To get it airborne and run all the equipment, almost fifteen thousand kilowatts,” Helena said.

    “We might have just the thing.” Spigot shouted, “Bret, Lee!”

    “Yes, Chief,” the two replied.

    “Head back to Saginaw City and grab one of the spare industrial fuel cells,” Spigot commanded. “They run at about fifteen megawatts.”

    “They also go through hydrogen like a drunkard through beer,” Emily added.

    “Thank you for that astute observation, Emily,” Spigot snapped. “We can supplement it with photovoltaic cells.”

    “Fuel cell and solar panels, got it,” Bret said.

    “Why us?” Lee asked. “I would be of more use here.”

    “Until we get the data,” Spigot said, “there’s nothing to do but set up. Besides, the two of you are considered too eccentric to be up to anything.”

    They opened their minds to argue against. However, nothing came to mind.

    “We’ll get moving,” Bret said instead. “Come on, Lee.”

    The two walked out of the building to the airfield.

    They passed the “cat burglars” who were still trying to make sense of their orders. Franklin had been joined by two Doggels, a smaller girl and a larger young man, and another Beaver. The four sat on a zeppelin as they thought over what they had to do.

    “Where are you headed off to?” Franklin asked.

    “We have to go back to Saginaw City for some things,” Bret answered.

    “Lucky you,” Franklin grumbled under his breath as they climbed into a station wagon.

    “How are we supposed to get that much information from the Sunny Kingdom?” the Doggel girl finally asked helplessly. “It’s not like they’ll just hand it to us.”

    The others were at a loss until the proverbial light bulb went off in Franklin’s head. “They don’t have to,” he said. “Their system will.”

    “You mean…” the Beaver started to say.

    Franklin nodded and a wide grin appeared on his face. He was thinking of a virus. Fortunately for them, the Sunny Kingdom’s system was not too hard to hack and they did not need it to do much. By the time they were close enough to see what the Sunny Kingdom looked like; Franklin had made a delightful little package. It would not permanently damage their system but would create enough havoc to let them grab the information unnoticed.

    The Sunny Kingdom floated in the center of the Mysterious Planet and shined down on the surface. It looked like two domes joined together by their bases at a deck designed to look like petals of a sunflower. The Sun’s Blessing was the bottom dome and looked like half a sphere of crystal glass shining in a bright yellow. The top, dome was a deep magenta color and covered the township-sized kingdom with the castle sticking out of the top and large windows evenly spaced around its surface.

    What the group was most interested were the two dozen totem cones arranged in banks of six on the topside of the deck. The pastel pink structures were where weather data was collected from the surface.

    Many in the Water Drop Kingdom and even the Windmill Kingdom believed the information was wasted on the people of the Sunny Kingdom as they only used it to measure the health of the Sun’s Blessing and had little use for the details. It made the theft of that data all the more gratifying to Franklin and the others.

    The larger Doggel, who had given his name as Otto, piloted the zeppelin to a stop under the deck and Franklin set to work on his laptop. He piggybacked his signal on the data stream into the nearest totem cone. “Watch this,” he said.

    In the totem cone above them, one of the Nyamals was working at his main computer. He was reading over some information when his screen went black. He eyed the screen suspiciously and almost jumped when the symbol of the Jewelry Kingdom appeared. Skull and crossbones appeared over it and the jaw started moving up and down to deep, malevolent laughter coming from the speaker. The words ‘Gr33tings from the Jewelrys Kingdom’ wrote themselves out below it in blocky letters.

    “We’ve been hacked by the Jewelry Kingdom!” the feline yelled as he scrambled out of the room.

    “Awesome,” Otto said with an amused laugh.

    Franklin spoke into his walky-talky. “This is Central Command calling Circle. Come in, Circle.”

    The smaller Doggel was looking over the edge. She watched as the Nyamal almost fell out of his cone and ran for the next one. It brought a smile to her face to see the feline so panicked.

    When Franklin’s voice came over her walky-talky, she replied, “this is Circle.”

    “The package has been delivered,” Franklin’s voice said. “Go for it.”

    The Nyamal had been alone and ran clear out of his cone. “Circle” only had to walk into the workroom. She peeled her lip back a little in disgust at the cat theme of the equipment. She pushed it out of her mind.

    The virus’ main function, aside from the screen, was to reset their passwords. She typed in the new password at the main computer. The skull and emblem disappeared off the screen and was replaced by readouts. She was in too much of a rush to be delighted and instead set to work.

    She stuck a data stick in a port and accessed their system. She punched up the data the needed off their main databanks and instructed the computer to save it to the stick. A bar appeared and began to slowly fill as the data was transferred.

    In the meantime, the Nyamal had reached the next totem cone. Once he could catch his breath he explained what had happened to the crew working there. They all ran out and headed back for his totem cone.

    The bar filled completely and was replaced by a message stating “Transfer complete.”

    “Come on,” she heard from outside.

    The Doggel quickly returned the screen to the virus and removed the data stick to slip it in her shawl pocket. She leapt up to the ceiling and slipped into the vent. The grate fell closed just before the Nyamals ran into the room. She snuck out through the ducts and flew back down to the waiting zeppelin.

    Circle landed and proudly produced the data stick. The others clapped as Otto started up the engine and pulled them away from the Sunny Kingdom.

    * * *

    Bret and Lee reached Saginaw City shortly before dusk. They dragged a trailer behind them with enough solar panels to cover two planes the size of the one at the base. They motored through one of the canals towards the castle where the fuel cell they had been sent for was waiting.

    Despite the waning sun, Saginaw City was still very much awake and would be for a few hours to come. The gondoliers turned on lanterns so their gondolas could be seen on the canals and lamps illuminated the sidewalks on their banks that still had a number of pedestrians. Activity could even be seen in the brightly lit windows of the buildings.

    Both looked ahead at the castle standing against the reddish gold, evening sky. It was in the same design as the other buildings in Saginaw City with white, round walls, and blue onion top roofs only on a much grander scale. Its central tower looked to be as much a fountain as a building with water spilling out of its base into the multi-level moat. Two smaller, slender towers sat on either side of it and four even smaller towers sat in the base. It was a majestic fixture of the capital’s skyline that could be seen from almost anywhere in the city.

    However, the castle seemed almost ominous in the dimming sun with bright light shining from the windows. Though, it was not the outside appearance that filled their hearts with dread. Yamul was in there and no doubt wondering where her daughter was and they had the misfortune of knowing.

    They pulled into the garage and parked their vehicle. They ran through what they were going to do like robbers planned their heists. It was a quick trip to the machine room, grab the fuel cells and a dozen or so canisters of hydrogen, and get out before anyone knew they had been there.

    The path to the machine room took them through one of the transparent, underwater tunnels. It had grown dim enough outside that the lights in the support rings had come on. The two acted casually as they cordially tipped their hats to the occasional maid they passed and walked leisurely. They figured the best way to get in and out was to not draw suspicion.

    Bret glanced over to Lee who was rubbing his chin and looking down. “You okay, big guy?” he asked.

    Lee looked up and took a second to regain his train of thought. “I was just thinking,” he said. “Before I got approval for my weather control proposal, I was so eager to see it in action. However, now that we’re actually doing it and I can think about it, the more concerns I have.”

    “Well, it’s the only way to help Milro-sama,” Bret said.

    “Did you say, ‘Milro-sama’?” a voice asked.

    They both turned around to see six year old Prince Nalro standing behind him. The young prince of the Water Drop Kingdom clutched a gray stingray plushy and looked from one engineer to the other. “I’ve been looking for Big Sister all day,” he said. “Have you seen her?”

    Bret and Lee glanced at each other. They could not hold it. It had to be a combination of the stress and their desperation to not say anything but they could not hold it anymore.

    The two tried hard to stifle snickers but they fall apart into laughter. They were laughing so hard they fell to the ground and rolled around helplessly. They grabbed their stomachs as their sides began to hurt and their laughs became so high they were barely audible wheezes.

    Nalro could only watch them dumbstruck. “What’s so funny?”

    “You’re looking for your big sister,” Bret managed to say. “That’s what’s so funny.”

    “You’re killing us, Nalro-sama,” Lee gasped, “killing us.”

    Nalro held up his plushy so it faced him. “I’m telling you, Manta; traffic cones are nuts.”

    He walked away as the two engineers who were laughing so hard they could not get to their feet. The two stopped momentarily to look at each other and dissolved into another wave of laughing.

    It took them a good five minutes to get control of themselves. Even wheeling the equipment back to the station wagon; all Bret had to do was say “big sister” and the two chuckled.

    * * *

    Night fell quickly in the Mysterious Planet. Not long after the Sun’s Blessing disappeared into eclipse, the midnight blue cloak of night fell on the landscape. Princess Altezza, who was use to the glittering lights of Crystal City, was always amazed by how dark the back country became.

    She looked up at the field of twinkling stars, or the fist sized satellites that passed for stars in the Mysterious Planet might have been a better description. Without the light of civilization, they seemed more numerous and the fact the field didn’t make it to the surface as the sphere curved up to follow the surface was more evident. However, neither they nor the pale yellow Full Moon supplied any appreciable illumination.

    It was the darkness that made her the most anxious. She flicked locks of her massive, blond rat’s nest of a hairdo off her shoulders or adjusted the large skirt of her white dress trying to find the best way it should lay as she rode sidesaddle on Bright’s steed, Ruby, in nervous ticks. However, as long as she was with her brother, she felt safe to some degree.

    Still she did not like traveling night, no matter who she was with. “Are you sure we have to do this?” she asked, trying to not sound whiny.

    Her caramel haired, older brother replied with his tender voice, “they said Auler and Sophie traveled to the Water Drop Kingdom on emergency business. Whatever it was, it was important enough to miss tea with us. You do want to know how Auler is doing, don’t you?”

    Altezza found herself in one of the rare instances she was rendered speechless. She was actually torn. She cared very much for the prince of the Windmill Kingdom as she had feelings towards him. However, she could not care less about his dingbat of a sister who seemed unable to stay away from her with her airheaded banter. The fact that, more often than not, she could not get one without the other was one of the aggravations in Altezza’s life.

    Ruby suddenly stopped and kicked at the ground. The white, long eared riding beast snorted and shook out her head. Bright petted the side of her head. “Steady, girl,” he said soothingly. “What is it?”

    As if on queue, straight ahead of them, multiple lights appeared. They closed on them quickly and the two siblings could see they belonged to a large group of motorcycles. Bright had to make Ruby leap off the road to avoid being run over by the gang of Bubu fleeing in terror.

    “That was Hog Hell!” Bright exclaimed. “But, what’s scared them so badly?”

    “Big Brother!” Altezza yelled and pointed ahead of them.

    Another pair of lights shined down from a dark disk several meters off the ground. Before Bright and Altezza could determine its size of more of its shape; it looped around and headed away at incredible speed.

    “What was that?” Altezza exclaimed.

    “I don’t know,” Bright said. “However, it was fast. It had to pull away at more than three hundred kilometers an hour. I’ve never seen an airship even approach that kind of speed.”

    “Let me guess,” Altezza groaned despairingly. “You want to follow that UFO.”

    “Ya, Ruby.” Bright, as Altezza had guessed, flicked Ruby’s reigns and she began galloping in the direction the UFO had disappeared into the night.

    * * *

    It was hard to imagine how much dust could settle out of the air in a half century without being disturbed. However, one became easily aware cleaning it up. The engineers of the two kingdoms had to clear it all out for the equipment. They had to clear it off the floor, the walls, the desks and other furniture, the light fixtures, and even out of the vents.

    They had been prepared with two large vacuum cleaners. However, the sucking monstrosities filled up within minutes of inhaling the thick layer of dust. They then had to be lugged out, dumped out onto the ground, their filters beaten like a filthy rug, reassembled, and lugged back into go back to work.

    However, after an hour or so, the tower building was clean. The engineers, whose once colorful uniforms were the color of the dust with only patches of their real colors visible, slapped the dust off themselves outside. After getting as much dust off them as possible, they strolled back inside.

    Ophelia looked around the entrance area. “You know,” she mused aloud. “With some plants and updated furniture, I could see this place back in operation for real.”

    Spigot paid no mind to her comment as he produced a large, metal case and set it down on a table. “Alright,” he said. “It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for.”

    He undid the latches. A hiss came from the case as he opened it and mist began pouring out. He pulled out a metal box with the letters ‘N.I.M.B.U.S.’ on the side and set it down on the table.

    “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said proudly. “I give you the Networking Interface for Meteorology-Based Usage System or NIMBUS for short.”

    “Wow,” Sophie gasped in amazement. “Is the dry ice there because it has to be kept in subfreezing temperatures at all times?”

    “No,” Emily said before Spigot could answer. “We just like having the dramatic smoke effect every time we open the case.”

    Spigot coughed to clear his throat. “As I was saying,” he continued. “This supercomputer can handle eight terabytes of data at any given moment, twice the capacity of the Sunny Kingdom’s entire operating system. We will be using it to process the data once it arrives.”

    “Speak of the devil.” Someone announced, “they’re back.”

    Everyone rushed to the window to see the zeppelin settle to the ground. The four leapt out and walked into the building.

    “Did you get it?” Spigot asked.

    Franklin triumphantly produced the data stick. “Check it out.”

    The crowd cheered and clapped at the sight of his spoils.

    “You’re sure they won’t know it’s us?” Spigot asked.

    “They probably still don’t know what hit them,” Franklin replied slyly.

    * * *

    “What hit us?” Khan demanded.

    The Nyamal had to straighten his glasses after pounding his tightly balled fist on the computer console. The other feline workers shrank further into the corner, looking back at him with frightened eyes. It actually brought him an almost sick pleasure to see them cower in his presence. He doubted Omendo ever had such a hold the totem cone observers. However, he hid his indulgence and projected a renewed calm as they explained.

    “It seems to be a virus,” one of the other Nyamal’s replied timidly. “We’ve already removed it and we’re currently reloading the backup passwords.”

    “Backup passwords?” Khan asked.

    The Nyamal nodded. “Aside from the screen thing, all it did was reset our passwords to 'crap'.”

    “'Crap'!?” Khan exclaimed.

    The Nyamals flinched away again. “Yeah, c-r-a-p,” the one replied. “It looks like some childish prank.”

    “But, who…” Khan stopped in mid-sentence as it clicked in his brain. He knew exactly who had done it.

    “This was no prank,” he growled.

    He pushed his way to the main computer. He punched up the records and eyed with a suspicious squint. Just as he thought, a massive transfer occurred right after the virus appeared.

    “Those b*stards,” he snarled. “Those conniving little b*stards.”

    “Who?” one of his subordinates asked.

    Khan was about to proclaim it was the Water Drop Kingdom. They were the only people who had their minds so far in the gutter to think of changing their passwords to such a vulgar word and used it to cover their theft of the data they wanted earlier. He had them and he knew it.

    However, he was stuck because then it would raise the question as to why they would go to the trouble to steal the data. He had spent the past week making sure no one knew there was a problem in the Seed Kingdom. He had even managed to keep King Truth and Omendo in the dark which was no small feat. He wanted to grimace at the fact it was Spigot who had him in an almost impossible situation but didn’t.

    Fortunately, he thought to himself. There’s more than one way to skin a Beaver.

    He also started to think. Stealing their weather data was a bold move, especially for Spigot who talked big but never went big. Something had to be forcing his hand. It will make his downfall all the more sweet, Khan thought slyly.

    He walked out of the room, regaining the mask of calm. He motioned for a Nyamal to come to him. “I want a zeppelin prepared for departure by tomorrow morning,” he commanded.

    “Sure thing,” the worker replied. “Might I ask why?”

    “I’ll be headed to the Seed Kingdom,” Khan said.

    “I’ll have it prepared,” the Nyamal said.

    “One more thing,” Khan said as he started to leave. “I also want a plate made of pure silver.” He then thought to himself, so King and deliver Spigot’s head to me on it.

    He watched the Nyamal leave and finally let a sly grin creep onto his face.
    Last edited by The Big Al; 7th February 2009 at 2:33 AM.

    Some people don't think it's funny that Exit 69 gets off on Big Beaver.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    The Mitten State
    Posts
    6,950

    Default

    Chapter 5: On the Eve of History

    Once Arlene and Vince had returned with the weapons, Spigot wasted no time establishing a perimeter and setting up a guard system. He put two guards at the gate that had been broken down by the biker gang and one at each of the three remaining sides. Each was given a harpoon rifle and dart gun as well as their spare clips and a particle disturbance sensor that could detect any movement. The guards were rotated every hour on the hour so they could rest or help with the data analysis or work on the aircraft.

    A larger Doggel woman and a tan haired Shark Man were the current guards at the gate. The Doggel let her mouth gape open in a drawn out yawn.

    “Everything alright over there, Lisa?” the aquatic human asked.

    “Yeah.” Lisa completed her yawn. “I’m just not use to night coming so early. I think its messing with my biological clock.”

    Their conversation was cut short by chirps from their particle disturbance sensors. Lisa took hers from her skirt pocket and held it up. She had been given a brief explanation of how to use the handheld motion sensor. It was easy to use as it showed a decent sized dot emerging from the bottom edge of its screen.

    “There’s something headed this way,” she reported. “One object: looks to be a riding beast of some kind judging by the size and speed.”

    “I’ll call it in,” the Shark Man took out his walky-talky.

    Spigot, Helena, and a few others walked out onto a balcony of the tower building and peered into the darkness beyond the tower building. Beavers weren’t known for their keen eyesight so Spigot found it hard to see anything passed the fence of the lit compound. However, one of the Shark People saw movement.

    “There,” she said, pointing just ahead of the gate.

    “Get a light on it,” Spigot ordered.

    A large floodlight snapped on and its wide, brilliant beam was trained on the area. The pool of light it created fell upon Bright and Altezza who shielded their eyes from its glare.

    “Prince Bright-sama and Princess Altezza-sama?” Spigot thought out loud. “What are they doing here?”

    “What should we do?” Helena asked.

    “It would be expected of us to be hospitable,” Spigot said. “So, that’s what we’ll do.” He then turned to a Doggel. “Tell the others to hide Milro-sama and your prince and princess from them. Hopefully, they’ll leave before getting suspicious.”

    “Yes sir.” The Doggel spread his ears and flew off to another outbuilding.

    They and a few others climbed down an outdoor staircase to the ground. Bright walked Ruby into the compound and stopped her to let Altezza down. Spigot felt his heart quicken as the thought of being caught raced through his mind. He didn’t dare show it as he approached the prince and princess of the Jewelry Kingdom.

    “Prince Bright-sama and Princess Altezza-sama,” he said with forced gregariousness in his voice. “What brings you out here?”

    “We were following a strange UFO,” Bright replied. “We were…”

    He stopped when his eye caught sight of a stingray from the front. He stared at it as he tried to imagine it in the dark with the two floodlights on. The image bore a striking resemblance with the UFO he saw.

    “What’s that?” he asked.

    “That,” Spigot said, “is a flying submarine. Could it be your UFO?”

    Bright forced a weak laugh and rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. His UFO was in fact one of those craft. Any craft that had to depend on aerodynamics like these would also have to be able to move fast and did not have the drag of an envelope to contend with either. That would explain its incredible speed compared to zeppelins.

    “Now that that’s solved,” Altezza grumbled. “Can we go home?”

    “We originally came to the Water Drop Kingdom looking for Auler and Sophie, remember,” Bright said.

    “Right, right,” Altezza said unenthusiastically.

    Spigot felt his heart quicken again.

    “They came to your kingdom on some business,” Bright said. He then looked around at the workers scattered about the compound. “I noticed people from both kingdoms are here too. Are they related?”

    “No,” Spigot said hastily. “This is completely independent of any business Auler-sama and Sophie-sama might have with our kingdom. In fact, I didn’t even know they had come to our kingdom.”

    “I guess we won’t find any answers here then,” Bright thought out loud despairingly. His UFO chase turned out to be a wild goose chase and he found no clues as to where Auler and Sophie got.

    The prince of the Jewelry Kingdom noticed Ruby was panting loud enough to be heard. She probably need to rest a little from the grueling pace he made her chase the flying submarine at. Some water and food would not hurt either.

    “If you could feed and water my steed, we’ll head to Saginaw City after she rests a little,” he said.

    Altezza heaved an exasperated sigh.

    “I think we should tell them,” Helena whispered in Spigot’s ear.

    “Are you insane?” Spigot tried to whisper.

    Bright heard him and turned to see them in hushed conversation.

    “When they get to Saginaw City, they’ll ask Yamul-sama where they are and she’ll tell them they went off with you and haven’t yet returned,” Helena explained in a hushed voice. “Then they’ll tell her about what’s going on here.”

    “What is going on here?” Bright asked.

    Spigot heaved a defeated sigh. Helena was right. They were better off if the two did not start asking questions to the wrong people.

    “I lied,” he said flatly. “Auler-sama and Sophie-sama are here. Come with me.” He walked away with his tail dragging through the dust behind them.

    He led them into one of the barracks. Altezza looked around but only saw workers sitting at the tables or standing around. Just when she started to think it was a ruse, her green eye happened to fall upon three small figures standing on the table. She gasped when she realized they were Auler and the others.

    “Auler!?” she exclaimed.

    “Hi, Altezza,” Sophie said with a cheerful wave. “How’s the weather up there?”

    Spigot forced a rather pathetic laugh as the two stared on at the reduced royals with their faces seemingly frozen into dumbstruck expressions. “This is a temporary situation, we hope.”

    “What happened to you?” Altezza finally got out.

    “The Seed Kingdom is being plagued by terrible flooding caused rains that don’t seem to stop, Auler explained. “We traveled to the Seed Kingdom to offer aid. However, the Mother Tree got mad that we couldn’t stop the rain and did this to us.”

    “Spigot and the others going to stop the rain,” Sophie cheered blissfully. She then thought out loud, “I just hope they can do it before dawn the day after tomorrow or else the spell becomes permanent.”

    “Per…” Altezza was ready to shout but realized she better not. “Permanent? You mean you’ll be stuck like this forever? What am I supposed to do if that happens?”

    “Not to worry,” Sophie said happily. “I’m sure if you anger the Mother Tree she could shrink you too. It would be easy for someone like you.”

    “I’d pay to see that,” one of the engineers whispered to another with a chuckle.

    “Did you say something?” Altezza sneered.

    “No, Ma’am,” the two flinched away and whimpered.

    “See,” Sophie said. “Someone, with a personality as abrasive as yours, should have little trouble upsetting the Mother Tree.”

    Altezza could feel herself growing hot with rage. There Sophie went into her airheaded banter again. She seemed completely oblivious to the vulnerable state she was in. It only served to aggravate the Princess of the Jewelry Kingdom further.

    “Princess Sophie,” Altezza said, trying to hide her frustration, “I strongly suggest you take a page from the Seed Princesses and watch what you say more closely.”

    “Whatever do you mean?” Sophie asked blissfully.

    “That’s enough,” Spigot cut them off. “There’s not going to be anymore shrinking. We’re working on this.”

    “How do you plan on stopping the rain?” Bright asked.

    “We’re going to manipulate the weather,” Spigot said.

    The two royals of the Jewelry Kingdom were taken aback by his statement. “Do Queen Yamul-sama and King Randa-sama know of this?” Bright asked.

    “Hell no,” Spigot said in response. “That’s why we didn’t want you to fall out.” He then dropped to his knees and pleaded, “please, don’t tell anyone.”

    “We won’t,” Bright replied.

    “Oh, thank you,” Spigot gushed.

    A long, blaring wail from a horn pierced the air.

    “So, they’re finally back,” Spigot said.

    He walked out with the others. Sure enough, the station pulled into the compound. Other engineers ran and flew to the vehicle as its two occupants climbed out.

    “Have no fear, Bret is here!” Bret declared. “And he brings power to the people.”

    The crowd let out some cheers as he pulled the blocky fuel cell out of the trailer.

    “Get it in the hangar and start installing it pronto,” Spigot ordered. He then turned to Lee. “Lee, your data is waiting for you.”

    Activity in the compound picked up. The large fuel cell was installed into the plain and the solar panels were attached into the top of the aircraft’s fuselage and wings. The meteorologists sat down and analyzing the data that had been “liberated” from the Sunny Kingdom in search of a cause of the rain. Both Spigot and Milro felt relief for perhaps the first time since arriving in the Seed Kingdom as the solution seemed almost within reach.

    The crew finished hooking up the fuel cell and the panels. Before they tested the engines, they gathered everyone up to watch. The atmosphere seemed to charge with anticipation as everyone watched the four engines. The engines were started and everyone waited for an instant. The blades slowly began to turn and then quickly picked up speed to the point where they appeared to be a disk.

    The crowd exploded into cheers. Sophie grabbed Milro and the two started dancing in a circle joyfully.

    “Does it have a name?” Spigot asked Helena.

    “We never bothered with one,” Helena replied. “Any suggestions?”

    Spigot thought about names for the craft. His mind came upon an idea when he looked at the rapidly spinning propellers. “Hurricane,” he said.

    Sophie let Milro go. The princess of the Water Drop Kingdom took a moment get her feet back under her. “Might I also suggest a paint job?” she asked.

    Going with the name as a theme, Milro led everyone in painting a mural of a tempest torn beach. They painted frothy waves assaulting a sandy beach and palm trees being torn at by the wind under an angry, gray sky. Even she was amazed by the power of the image once she could see it from afar.

    Once it was dry, they painted ‘Hurricane’ on either side in large, black block letters. They then broke a bottle over its front as a makeshift christening and everyone signed the hull. Spigot was last and crossed the “T” in his end of his name and looped it back as an underline to complete the ritual.

    Many of the workers went to bed afterward. A few stayed up as guards or simply were up. Lee, Otto, and few others decided to play a game of Hold ‘em in one of the barracks. They had a fix pot with everyone putting in two Water Drop Kingdom sand dollars or three Windmill Kingdom knots which were about equal.

    Emily shuffled the deck as the dealer button was in front of her. Otto was next to her and had already thrown in a chip as the small blind and a male Beaver threw in two as the big blind. Lee, a half Doggel, two smaller Doggels, and an older half Beaver sat around the table as well and waited to throw in their wages.

    “I heard no one from the Windmill Kingdom wants to be part of the Hurricane’s flight,” Lee said.

    “Making the engines start and getting that thing airborne are two different things,” Otto replied. “The only time I’ve seen it fly is a with a hundred kilometer long umbilical attached to its belly and playing Frankenstein isn’t going to convince me it will do otherwise. I’ll stick to aircraft with an envelope thank you very much.”

    “Though, those flying submarines are incredible,” the female Doggel said. “I can understand why Bright-sama and Altezza-sama thought they were UFO’s.”

    “We’ve been thinking of sneaking them into the Star Spring and fly them out,” Emily joked. “It’d probably get a real rise of the Rabi if you forgive the pun.”

    “Flying submarines, gas powered weapons, hand held motion sensors, and even those medical kits; I know the Jewelry Kingdom is always boasting about being the most technologically advanced kingdom,” the female Doggel said. “But, you have to have them beat by at least a century.”

    “We’re just not into flaunting what we have like they are,” the half Beaver said.

    With the conversation over for now, Emily dealt everyone two cards. They all pulled up the corners of their cards slightly to see what they had. Otto had a pair of Jacks and Lee had a pair of Twos. Everyone threw in so they all had two chips in the pot. They all looked at each other with straight faces, not betraying their luck or lack there of.

    “I’ve been hearing some rather…colorful things said about the Seed Kingdom while I’ve been here.” The female Doggel spoke up. “Something tells me they don’t all have to do with Milro-sama being shrunk by the Mother Tree.”

    “This is just the latest incident in the feud running between our two countries,” Emily explained. “Back during the Crisis, the weakened state of the Sun’s Blessing made it so we couldn’t produce as many clouds as we should which led to a general drought. This caused the most trouble in the Seed Kingdom because their crops depend on the rain. So, naturally, they blamed us for the problems in their kingdom. Some things were said, one thing led to another, and you have a feud that’s lasted to this day.”

    “The real guilty party in this is the Sunny Kingdom.” The silver haired half Beaver flicked his finger in a condescending manner. “They knew exactly what was going on but stood by while we ripped each other to shreds.”

    “But, they saved the Mysterious Planet,” Lee said in a girly voice, clasping his hands to together in an equally feminine manner. He then growled in his normal voice, “puh, all they did was fix the Sun’s Blessing. They don’t break out the tickertape and write legends about us fixing our equipment even though their failure poses as grave a threat.”

    “The Seed Kingdom, the Jewelry Kingdom, the Sunny Kingdom,” Otto scoffed. “Are there any other kingdoms you people do like?”

    “We’re friends with your kingdom,” the half Beaver replied. “But, other than that, no, I can’t say we’re too fond of any of the other kingdoms.”

    “You have to realize we’re not well liked by most of the planet,” Lee explained. “To them, we’re not the bringers of life-giving water; we’re the destroyers of outdoor plans. We’re also intellectuals in a world that seems to pride itself on its anti-intellectualism.”

    “You’re the most vulgar, violent, and disrespectful group of ‘intellectuals’ I’ve ever seen,” the half Doggel replied with an amused grin.

    “It keeps us sane in what we see as an insane world,” the half Beaver said. “Though, they say when you think the rest of the world is crazy, it is you who is in fact crazy.”

    “If the rest of the planet is sane,” Lee responded jokingly. “I’ll gladly remain insane then.”

    This got a laugh out of everyone.

    “Are we ready to play poker?” Emily interjected. “Or, are you people going to keep yammering?”

    “Go,” everyone said.

    “Alright.” Emily “burned” one card and flipped three more right-side up. A pair of twos and a jack looked back at them.

    “Anyone with a Two ought to be happy,” Emily thought out loud.

    “I raise fifty,” Otto said, throwing five chips in.

    “I’m done,” the male Beaver next to him said and pushed his cards forward.

    “I call.” The half Doggel threw in his chips.

    “So do I.” The male Doggel next to him did the same.

    “Me too.” Lee threw in his chips.

    “The night is young,” the half Beaver said and threw in five chips.

    The female Doggel and Emily threw in chips themselves.

    Otto casually tapped the table to show he was staying put. The remaining players did the same. Before Emily could flip the turn the larger, mustached Doggel said, “regarding the subject at hand. What have you found out from the data we stole?”

    “That’s the oddest thing,” Lee said. “When we added up the precipitation totals and compared them to average, there is no excess precipitation. It’s just all concentrated over the Seed Kingdom. It’s like the atmosphere just wrings itself out over them. There’s barely been a drop anywhere else.”

    “That’s what you’ll be looking into with the Hurricane?” Otto asked.

    Lee nodded. “I’ve come up with a device I installed on the Hurricane. I filled some Petri dishes with ballistic jell and put them on an arm that can extend them out into the air and retract them back into the aircraft. I’m thinking the cause could be environmental and it’ll let me literally scoop up parts of the atmosphere to study.”

    “That’s pretty ingenious,” the female Doggel said in awe. “I bet Nicole…”

    “Don’t mention that name around me again, Bonnie,” Otto growled to cut her off.

    “I guess we’re still sore about getting dumped,” Bonnie retorted.

    “Can I turn the next card now?” Emily asked, not bothering to hide her irritation.

    Everyone fell silent.

    The King of clubs was next.

    “Enough playing around,” Otto said as he grabbed several chips. “One hundred and eighty.” He threw the chips into the pile.

    “I’m done.” The half Doggel pushed his cards forward.

    “You’re folding so early, Gaston?” Otto teased.

    “Discretion is the better part of valor in Hold ‘em,” Gaston replied. “I’d rather wait for the next hand.”

    “Too rich for my blood too,” the male Doggel said and did the same.

    “I call,” Lee said to everyone’s amazement. He threw in his chips.

    “What the Hell,” the half Beaver said and threw his in.

    “I fold,” Bonnie said and pushed her cards forward.

    “Me too,” Emily said.

    Otto glared at Lee. He got more of a rise from him with the weather than the bet. He thought of upping the bet but tapped the table instead. Lee and the half Beaver did the same.

    “And on with the river,” Emily said. She turned the last card that happened to be the Five of Spades.

    “Two fifty,” Otto said, throwing in the chips.

    He then glared at Lee. This had to rattle the young Shark Man.

    “I call,” Lee said casually, throwing in.

    “I don’t,” the half Beaver pushed his cards forward.

    “Lee,” Otto said in a seething voice, “you’ve called every time yet you’ve never upped my bet.”

    “If I remember the rules correctly,” Lee replied. “I don’t have to.”

    Otto scowled. “All in.” He pushed his entire pile of chips into the pot.

    “I call,” Lee said and did the same.

    “Since there’s going to be no more bets,” Emily said. “Let’s see those cards.”

    Otto turned over his cards to reveal his Jacks. “Full house, Jacks full of Duces.”

    Everyone stared at his hand. They all felt glad they had folded as none of them hand a winning hand against that. They then turned to Lee. He casually turned over his Twos.

    “Quad of Duces,” he said. “Sorry man.”

    Otto sat back into his chair, flabbergasted as Lee collected up the pot.

    “Who’s laughing now?” Gaston asked with an indulged smile.

    Otto shot him a dirty look.

    “A word of advice about playing Hold ‘em in the Water Drop Kingdom,” Emily said. “Be wary whenever there are Sharks at the table.”

    She then said to no one in particular, “since Lee can out bet all of us, I suggest we turn in. We have a big day ahead of us.”

    * * *

    The Jewelry Kingdom’s castle was a sight to behold both from the outside and the inside. The ballroom was especially breathtaking. A massive crystal hanged down from the center of the ceiling and acted like a giant prism to bathe the walls and floor in all the colors of the rainbow. The floor had slowly rotating disks on which the dancers could waltz on and everything was adorned with jewels and precious metals.

    The room was filled with people dressed in their finest wears and décor. A small band played a soft but upbeat waltz for everyone to dance to. Auler and Altezza danced to the music, happily enjoying each others company.

    Auler stopped when he heard his foot step in something. He looked down and small about a centimeter of water covered the floor.

    “What is it?” Altezza asked.

    The band stopped and hushed murmurs filled the room as others took notice. It appeared that the water was coming from the main door. That assumption was confirmed when the doors burst open a torrent of water poured in.

    The water built itself into a wave that enveloped people trying to escape. It crashed down on Auler and Altezza, throwing them in opposite directions.

    “Altezza!” Auler yelled as water lapped down his throat.

    “Auler!” Altezza screamed before being dragged below the frothy surface.

    “Altezza!” Auler called out as he too was dragged below the surface.

    * * *

    Auler woke and bolted into a sitting position. His chest was heaving as a cold sweat covered his body. He looked around as he tried to get control of his breathing and settle his heart.

    He was sitting on a table in the hangar with the Hurricane. He managed a relieved sigh as he released it was only a nightmare. He had fretted so much about being shrunk; he had put the flooding in the back his mind. He should have guessed it would creep into his dreams.

    Sophie was lying next to him, still soundly asleep. The contented smile on her face suggested she was in a much more pleasant world than he had been in. He smiled warmly and spread his coat over her.

    He looked out of the windows in the ceiling. It was still fairly dark suggesting the Sun’s Blessing had not yet come out of eclipse but the faintest glow was suggesting it would soon emerge. A few engineers were sleeping in station wagons and stingrays parked in the hangar.

    He was about to lay back down when he noticed Milro out of the corner of his eye. She was sitting against the wall and hugging her knees to her chest. She seemed deep in thought as her eyes appeared to stare off into space.

    “Is something wrong, Milro?” Auler asked as he walked over to her.

    “Eh?” Milro snapped back to reality. She then looked away again. “I was just thinking.”

    “About what?” Auler asked as he sat down next to her.

    “I’ve been trying to make sense of what’s happened since yesterday morning,” Milro replied.

    “We learned the Seed Kingdom is being flooded by rain; we’ve been shrunk by the Mother Tree; and now, our only hope lies with a bunch of engineers with what has got to be the most cockamamie plan ever concocted in the history of the Mysterious Planet,” Auler said. “Does that about cover it?”

    Milro couldn’t help but smile and cough a laugh at Auler’s blunt summary. “Yes,” she managed to say.

    Auler couldn’t help but smile at this as well. “You know,” he said. “I really don’t like being in this situation. A prince is expected to save the damsel in distress, not get caught in the same distress.”

    “Welcome to the Mysterious Planet where one must expect the unexpected,” Milro replied, still wearing an amused grin.

    “I know,” Auler said in a more serious tone. “The truth is it kind of brings to the forefront something I hate to admit. I know I’m the weakest of the, forgive the expression, Big Three Princes.” He exhaled a sigh. “Bright’s the charming prince all the girls fawn over and Shade is the brooding cipher who kicks tails and takes names. Then there’s Auler bringing up the rear. I’m not a fighter and I’m not a charmer. I’m just there.”

    Milro’s ears drooped over as she knew exactly where he was coming from. “I know what you mean,” she said. “I often feel insignificant compared to the other princesses. It’s kind of poetic that now I am in a literal sense.”

    “But, by this time tomorrow, she should be our normal sizes again,” Auler declared. “We can celebrate by flipping a light switch.”

    The two failed to stop themselves from laughing.

    They stopped and perked up their ears when they heard a man door creak open. Bret had entered and ran to the Station Wagon that Lee’s long legs were sticking out the window of. He opened the opposite door and Lee, pillow and all, fell out onto the ground.

    “Ow,” Lee groaned when his head hit the ground. He rubbed the back of his head as it started to throb and looked up.

    “Here,” Bret said. He put a feather and a can of shaving cream in Lee’s hands. “Don’t say I never gave you anything.”

    He then ran out another man door.

    Lee got to his feet and looked at the objects in his hand. “Why he would give me a feather and shaving…”

    He looked up and happened to see Tammy. Her face and hand were covered in a thick layer of shaving cream. The huge Beaver glared at him as her entire body heaved with every breath.

    “Oh no,” Lee said weakly.

    “You eel in Shark’s clothing,” she sneered.

    He threw the objects away and bolted away screaming as Tammy charged at him. He leapt onto catwalk and pulled himself up. Tammy grabbed the barbed end of his tail, having forgotten in her rage what it did, and got a powerful electric shock that ripped through her arm. She pulled her arm back in reaction to the discharge as it started tingling all the way up to her shoulder.

    “Goddammit, that hurts!” Tammy snarled in pain. “It’s like having a built-in tazer!”

    All the while, Bret was laughing his head off from the man door. Tammy snapped her head back at him.

    “You two should see yourselves.” Bret was doubled over he was laughing so hard.

    “Bret,” Tammy roared. “I should rip your tail off and turn it into a hand muff for this.”

    “But, I like my tail where it is,” Bret whimpered. He pulled his beige fur covered tail in front of him and petted it affectionately.

    “On second thought,” Auler groaned. “Perhaps, we should look into new wardrobes, just in case.”

    “What in Hell is going on in here!?” Spigot’s voice echoed through the hangar.

    He, Ophelia, Emily, and Franklin stepped in the hangar. The Beaver chief took one look at Tammy and had to roll his eyes and shake his head. He should have figured it was something like this.

    “I suppose I should be glad you’re all awake,” he said. “You six will be the crew for the Hurricane’s flight. I obviously want the twins since they know the plan the best and know what to look for. Emily, as my adjutant, I want you with me as well. Franklin will be handling out computers. Tammy will run our payload. Bret will be the pilot.”

    “Can I wash up first?” Tammy asked despairingly.

    “Please do,” Spigot said. “We take off in fifteen.”

    Precisely fifteen minutes later, the Hurricane was tugged out onto the tarmac to gather energy from the emerging Sun’s Blessing. The number “24” went through everyone’s minds as the number of hours remaining before the Mother Tree’ curse/spell/whatever they wanted to call it became permanent. Spigot, the six engineers and the three royals boarded the plane.

    The interior seemed as narrow as the exterior. It might have even seemed even narrower with all the equipment. Banks of monitors and processors sat on racks with keyboards in front of chairs. There were a number of cylindrical dropsondes attached to the wall and microscope sitting on a table near the cockpit among other equipment as well.

    Everyone got situated. Bret and Lee climbed to the cockpit and sat down in the pilot and co-pilot chairs respectively. The others sat in chairs in the main cabin and strapped in.

    Bret began flipping switches to bring everything up and checking his instruments. “Everything looks good here,” he reported. “Now we just need some finishing touches.”

    Before Lee could even ask, he pulled a pair of large, red with white dots, fuzzy dice from his side pocket. He wrapped the string connecting them around the support for the monitor above them and let them dangle from there. He then pulled out a dancing hula doll and placed it on the dash.

    “What?” Lee complained. “No fake leopard print seat covers.”

    “I couldn’t fit them in my pockets,” Bret replied with a shrug. “We’re ready to go now.”

    He started the engines. The propellers slowly began to turn and quickly accelerated. The plane began to creep forward and quickened in pace as they rolled down the runway. Everyone else watched as the aircraft gained speed.

    “I’m so glad you got over your problem,” Emily same to Franklin.

    “What problem?” Franklin asked.

    “I know you hated flying,” Emily said. “However, you flew all the up to the Sunny Kingdom and back again without any troubles.”

    Bret could feel the plane lifting off the ground and pulled up. The Hurricane nosed up and began climbing into the early morning sky. The crowd on the ground erupted to cheers waved them goodbye.

    “Pay up.” A Beaver held his hand in front of Otto.

    “First poker and now this,” Otto grumbled as he put several bills in the Beaver’s hand. “I’m just getting cleaned out in this kingdom.”

    * * *

    Franklin looked out one of the small, circular portholes next to them. He then turned away. “Emily,” he said, panting slightly. “I have a confession to make.”

    “What is it, Frank?” Emily asked.

    “I still have a problem with flying,” Franklin admitted and gulped dryly. “I made it to the Sunny Kingdom and back because I was running on pure adrenaline from stealing their data.”

    “Kind of late to realize that now,” Emily said.

    Franklin could only nod in agreement. It was not like he could stop the plane in midair and get off. Besides, he was being counted on as much as the others. He tried exhaling a cleansing breath as the Hurricane leveled off.

    Some people don't think it's funny that Exit 69 gets off on Big Beaver.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    On indefinite hiatus.
    Posts
    877

    Default

    “What is it, Frank?” Emily asked.

    “I still have a problem with flying,” Franklin admitted and gulped dryly. “I made it to the Sunny Kingdom and back because I was running on pure adrenaline from stealing their data.”

    “Kind of late to realize that now,” Emily said.
    Like seriously, WTF

    *whistles* Let's just hope Hurricane can work miracles for them...

    Surfing through the waves, diving deep into the sea,
    playing along the beach, having fun all day long.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    The Mitten State
    Posts
    6,950

    Default

    Chapter 6: Lies, Conspiracies, and Nimbostratus

    The crew of the Hurricane spent the almost half hour between take off and reaching the Seed Kingdom preparing the equipment and starting their readings. The plane was covered in sensors taking the temperature, humidity, pressure, wind speeds in all three dimensions, and even radar to detect the rain falling from the clouds and Lee’s “ram scoop” contraption among other conditions. Ophelia loaded the first dish and set it out and then sat down to monitor the readings coming in.

    Franklin sat at the main computer where he could monitor all the processors and equipment. He tried to keep himself busy to keep his mind off the fact he was in the air. However, staring at the screen did little to block out the droning of the engines or the occasional bump from the craft hitting a patch of turbulence.

    “I’m not several thousand meters in the air,” he repeated to him, hoping he would eventually believe it. “I’m not several thousand meters in the air. I’m not several thousand meters in the air.”

    A chime sounded in the cabin and Bret’s voice said over the speaker, “this is your captain speaking. We’ve reached a cruising speed of six hundred kph and an altitude of twenty five hundred meters. We should reach the Seed Kingdom border in seven minutes.”

    Franklin exhaled a queasy moan upon hearing this.

    Lee looked out at the landscape they were passing over. “From up here, it doesn’t look like we’re going that fast,” he said.

    The swampy lowlands extended to the haze in every direction. The thick Cyprus forests were only interrupted by scummy green lakes and the occasional Podunk and grassy marshes on their shores. It lacked the pristine majesty of the crystal clear lakes and more coniferous dominated forests of the Ottawa River Shed leading to Saginaw City. Lee literally got green around the gills at the thought of having to breathe the slimy water.

    He turned his attention to the sky ahead. The wall of clouds Spigot had described was still unseen behind the veil of the haze. However, something else was visible in the skies over the swamp. A thin line of yellow haze seemed to hang in the air at about the same altitude they were flying through.

    Bret had noticed it as well and furrowed his brow in confusion. “What’s that stuff?” he asked.

    “I’m not sure,” Lee replied. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

    “Hey, Chief,” Bret called back into the cabin. “Did you see anything like this on the way to the Seed Kingdom?”

    Spigot glanced out of the nearest porthole. “No,” he said.

    “Perhaps its swamp gas trapped in the early morning inversion,” Lee thought out loud.

    “Ew! So, we’re flying through Geronita’s farts?” Bret exclaimed.

    “Among other things,” Lee said.

    Bret felt his stomach turn over at the thought. He switched the air conditioning from intake to circulate.

    “I wonder if this is a cause to what’s happening in the Seed Kingdom,” Emily thought out loud.

    “I don’t know,” Ophelia replied. “This could be a daily occurrence.”

    “Wouldn’t we know about it if it was?” Emily asked.

    “Not necessarily,” Ophelia said. “It might be thin enough to not be noticed when looking at it from directly above or below. We’re seeing it edge on so it seems thicker. There’s just too little information about this region.”

    “Whatever it is,” Tammy said. “We’re collecting it in the ram scoop for study.”

    Crackling came over the radio over Lee. He unhooked the receiver and answered, “Hurricane.”

    “Hey, boys,” Arlene’s voice cooed over the speaker.

    “Hey, Arlene,” Bret and Lee called out at the same time.

    “I’ll be your liaison to the main base,” Arlene said.

    “No complaints on this end,” Lee replied.

    “How goes it?” Arlene asked.

    “We should be in sight of the border any moment,” Lee said. “We’re passing over the Zubuzubu Swamp. There’s a layer of yellow haze suspended between two thousand and three thousand meters.”

    “Odd,” Arlene stated. “Any idea what it could be?”

    “Not a clue,” Lee said. “We’re collecting samples and hope to find out.”

    “Well, ring if you need us to do anything back here,” Arlene said.

    “Sure thing,” Lee said.

    He replaced the receiver on its hook.

    “You know,” Sophie said. “I’ve always had a question that you might be able to answer.”

    “What is it?” Tammy asked.

    “Why do our kingdoms make the weather?” Sophie asked.

    “You could spend years studying the answer,” Ophelia said. “Basically, the weather is the atmosphere trying to correct an imbalance. On terrestrial worlds, this imbalance is created by the fact energy from its sun is more concentrated at the equator and more diffuse at the poles. Because the Mysterious Planet is hollow with the sun at the center, energy is evenly distributed. So, the Flame Kingdom was created to not only raise the temperature to habitable levels but also create a thermal gradient that would otherwise not exist. Then, your Windmill Kingdom creates a west to east flow to simulate the Coriolis Effect. That creates the planetary wind flow.”

    “What about the clouds?” Sophie asked.

    “I can answer that,” Lee said from the cockpit when he heard the word “clouds”. His field of study concentrated on the formation, lifecycle, and behavior of clouds. He could not resist a chance show off his expertise. “Clouds naturally form when air rises. As air rises, it cools and the water vapor it contains condenses out. A cloud is only a region of the atmosphere where water vapor spontaneously condenses to liquid water droplets.”

    “Why do you have to make them?” Sophie asked.

    “For air to continue to rise, it must remain warmer than the surrounding air,” Lee continued. “Unfortunately, the atmosphere of the Mysterious Planet rarely cools steeply enough with height to facilitate it. We also lack the fronts to lift it mechanically outside of a few topographic features. So; we draw in water, bring it to a boil, condense it into water droplets, and pump them out as clouds. After that, nature takes it course.”

    “Okay,” Sophie said happily, satisfied with the explanation. “Thank you.”

    “Speaking of clouds,” Bret chimed in. “There she blows.”

    Everyone gathered at the doorway leading into the cockpit and stared forward. Ahead of them, the foreboding wall of clouds extended to either side for what seemed like eternity. It curled upward with the curve of the planet like a massive grin taunting them.

    Milro stared on with Auler and Sophie in Ophelia’s slender palms. Although everything was now huge compared to her, the clouds did not seem any larger. She guessed they were so large and distant, whether you were ten centimeters tall or two meters tall made no difference in how large they seemed.

    She looked at the workers. They were all staring on with stalwart expressions. However, she could see in their eyes they felt overwhelmed. She could not blame them. The thought of a disaster covering an entire kingdom made her feel microscopic in comparison.

    “We meet at last,” Bret said in a fake, overdone Austrian accent. “You may have bested my boss, but now you must face the Bretinator. I will beat you down like the weak girly clouds you are.”

    “Just shut up and fly, Bret,” Spigot said.

    “Sure, Boss,” Bret said in his normal voice.

    The Hurricane passed through the boundary of the clouds. They were quickly swallowed by the gray fog and drops of water collected on the windows. Everyone was quiet with only the pattering of the water hitting the metal hull to prevent total silence as they monitored the information collected by their equipment.

    Ophelia immediately placed the first dish that was put out after they crossed into the clouds under the microscope. She pushed back her cerulean bangs she usually allowed to fall over her right eye to peer into the eyepiece. The small dish looked like a sprawling area under a few hundred times magnification. The brownish yellow gel was pocked with a large number of holes, suggesting the impact of solid particles.

    It was not a surprise. The atmosphere was filled with tiny solid particles. However, there seemed to be an unusually large number for the volume of atmosphere sampled.

    It got her thinking. Water droplets collected on solid particles to form rain drops. An excess of particles might have accelerated the nucleation making the water fall out of the atmosphere faster. It might explain what was happening.

    Her thoughts then turned to the yellow haze over the Zubuzubu Swamp and Emily’s suggestion it could be responsible. She grabbed a dish made while they passed over the swamp and placed it under the microscope next to the other. It also had a high level of holes.

    “Hey, Tammy,” she said to the Beaver who had just sent a dropsonde down the shoot. “Come take a look at this.”

    “What is it?” Tammy asked as Ophelia stepped aside to let her look into the eyepiece.

    “Whatever that stuff is over the Zubuzubu Swamp appears to be solid,” Ophelia explained. “See all those holes?”

    “Yeah,” Tammy said. “I see them.”

    “It’s also in these clouds,” Ophelia said. “I think we might have found what we’re looking for.”

    “Are you sure?” Spigot asked.

    “Everything else appears to be normal,” Ophelia said. “It also fits with our wringing out theory.”

    “I agree with her, Boss,” Lee said from the cockpit.

    “Then call the base,” Spigot said.

    Lee took the receiver off the hook and said, “Hurricane to base, Hurricane to base.”

    “Base here, Hurricane,” Arlene’s voice said. “What is it?”

    “It appears that yellow haze over the Zubuzubu Swamp is in the clouds over the Seed Kingdom,” Lee said. “We believe it’s what causing the rain.”

    “That was quick,” Arlene said. “How should we deal with it?”

    “Find some way to remove the excess particulates from the atmosphere,” Lee said. “With them gone, the clouds should regain a normal nucleation rate and the rains will stop.”

    “Easier said than done,” Arlene said. “However, we’ll get right on it. Base out.”

    “Perhaps we should confront Geronita about this,” Franklin suggested.

    “You don’t confront Geronita unless you have a lot of guys and a lot of guns,” Bret said.

    “We’ll solve the problem first and then Yamul-sama can take care of Geronita,” Spigot said.

    “I’ll want ringside seats to that one,” Bret murmured to Lee.

    “Alright!” Sophie cheered. “We’ll be big again in no time!”

    “However,” Lee pondered aloud. “What is that stuff and why is it being put into the atmosphere?”

    * * *

    “A conspiracy!?” King exclaimed.

    Khan remained silent, kneeling on one knee before the monarch of the Seed Kingdom.

    Perhaps the most powerful weapon in the Mysterious Planet was the word “conspiracy”. The monarchs of the many kingdoms were naturally distrustful of one another. It did not take that compelling of an argument to convince them that their kingdom’s current woes were the result of deliberate actions of another. About the only country that did not seem so gullible was ironically the Water Drop Kingdom.

    “Yes,” the Nyamal said in a distressed voice. “The Water Drop Kingdom and the Windmill Kingdom have been manipulating the weather to flood your land.”

    Khan could not do anything directly to Spigot without exposing his involvement with the flooding. Fortunately, he knew the only reason Spigot would steel their data was to help the Seed Kingdom. So, he could accuse the Water Drop Kingdom of what he and his associates were actually to blame for and drive a wedge between the kingdoms. He even added in the Windmill Kingdom to feed his bigotry towards its canine and avian residents. He mentally patted himself on the back for being so devious.

    King’s hand tightened around his staff as his entire body seemed to wind up like a watch spring. His face turned red with rage and his lips peeled back to reveal his teeth tightly clenched. The thought of the Water Drop Kingdom intentionally making his people suffer brought his blood to a proverbial boil.

    “Why would they do this,” he snarled through his teeth.

    “I don’t know,” Khan said, restraining a growing urge to grin.

    * * *

    The crew of the Hurricane quickly verified their conclusion. They rechecked all the other readings against the seasonal averages to make sure it was not another anomaly. They also took more samples and determined the concentration of particulates was decreasing with distance from the Zubuzubu Swamp. There was no doubt about it; the yellow haze was the culprit.

    It was not long after Bret looped back to the North that Milro felt the strange sensation that came over her when she and the others were shrunk return. She wondered if the Mother Tree knew they had solved the mystery of the rain and were working to put it to end. Her heart leapt at the thought at they would be returned to their normal size.

    However, to her shock and horror, everything began to expand as she shrank even smaller. When it stopped and the energy again disappeared, she, Auler, and Sophie were less than a third as tall as they had been before.

    “Uh…Spigot?” she managed to say.

    “What, Mi…” Spigot stopped in mid-sentence when he saw them.

    After an awkward second of silence he let out the loudest, bloodcurdling scream he could probably muster. It was such a shock to everyone Lee and Bret practically tore off their harnesses and dashed out of the cockpit. Bret then had to run back in and right the Hurricane when it began to nose down.

    “What’s happened now?” Emily exclaimed. “We’re solving the problem. Why did they get smaller?”

    “Something must have happened in the Seed Kingdom,” Tammy said.

    “I don’t and don’t care anymore,” Spigot growled. “This is has gone on long enough. I’m sick of being led around by the by nose by a Goddamn plant. I don’t care if I have to threaten the Mother Tree herself. This farces ends now.”

    He stormed into the cockpit as Lee sat down and he and Bret strapped back in. “Change of plans,” he commanded. “We’re landing at the Mother Tree.”

    They complied without a word and nosed the Hurricane down out of the clouds. Everyone gathered at the portholes and stared out at the landscape. It was the same sight that had greeted Milro when they traveled to the Seed Kingdom the day before. The landscape seemed washed out under a blanket of gray drab and the muddy, turbulent rivers were terribly swollen.

    “We’re approaching the Mother Tree,” Bret reported as the plant in question emerged from the fog ahead of him.

    Spigot stomped into the cockpit with a pair of binoculars. He peered through them at the base of the Mother Tree. Among several others, King was standing in front of the Mother Tree. “There’s the deranged leprechaun now,” he snarled. “Him, his spawn, his army, and a damn…big…cannon,” Spigot listed off as he looked at what else was in front.

    A flash of orange light winked into existence momentarily. The three immediately realized a cannon shell was heading straight for them. Bret banked sharply to port and the shell passed by them to starboard.

    “What the hell?” Bret exclaimed. “Why are they shooting at us?”

    “How should I know?” Spigot yelled. “Just get us on the ground in one piece.”

    He ran back into the cabin.

    Bret’s shaky voice came over the speaker. “This is your Captain,” he said. “Put seats and tray tables in an upright position and belt in for a very hostile landing.”

    “What does he mean by that?” Franklin asked.

    “Trust me, Frank,” Spigot said as he hopped in a chair and belted in. “You don’t want to know.”

    King watched as his troops loaded another grapefruit sized shell into the breach of Big Bertha, a full-sized smoothbore. It brought sense of satisfaction to him knowing the tiny people of the Seed Kingdom were in possession of what was probably the Mysterious Planet’s biggest gun. It took two dozen people to use it, but it was theirs. The soldiers slammed the breach shut and locked it.

    “Cannon reloaded-dane,” one of them reported.

    “Aircraft continuing approach-dane,” one of the lookouts stated. “It’s definitely Water Drop Kingdom.”

    “Please, Father,” Ichele pleaded. “Don’t fire on them.”

    “I’ll make them pay for what they’ve done to my kingdom-dane!” King shouted.

    “You can’t honestly believe the Water Drop Kingdom is doing this on purpose,” Harney said.

    “Quiet-dane!” King shouted them down. He then turned to the firing team. “Fire-dane!”

    Three soldiers pulled the cord to fire. Everyone covered their ears as the shell was blasted away with another deafening boom and flash. The Hurricane banked to starboard this time as the shell flew past into the gloom.

    “We can’t land as long as their firing at us,” Lee grumbled.

    “I wish we had put weapons on this thing,” Bret growled.

    “This is a research ship,” Lee said in response. “Besides, what would we do? Blow the king of the Seed Kingdom to Hell?”

    “What do you think he’s trying to do to us?” Bret shot back.

    An idea suddenly popped into his head. “Wait a minute. I have an idea.”

    “What?” Lee was also afraid to ask.

    “We might have one weapon against them in our slipstream,” Bret explained.

    “Are you insane?” Lee exclaimed. “We’d practically have to drag our belly on the ground to get close enough. Not to mention they’re right next to the Mother Tree. Do you have any idea how much damage this thing would do to her if we crashed into her, not to mention the kind of damage she would do to us.”

    “Relax,” Bret said with a dismissive wave. “You’re with the best damn pilot in the Water Drop Kingdom if not the whole Mysterious Planet. I can pull this off.”

    Bret’s mind immediately went to work. Although, the Hurricane was shaped differently from a stingray, the slipstream around the wings was about the same shape which was all that mattered. He brought them about so the Mother Tree was perpendicular to them in relation to the crowd. He then guided them down on the invisible path he mapped in his mind.

    “What’s the wingspan of this thing?” Bret asked.

    “The specs put it at about thirty and half meters,” Lee said.

    “Oy, we should have named this thing the Albatross,” Bret said.

    “I don’t want to hear that while you’re doing a bonehead maneuver,” Lee complained.

    King and the others watched as the Hurricane was practically ready to skid on the ground. It then rolled slightly to bring the tip of the left wing very close to the ground and heading straight from them. The Seed Princesses huddled at the door as the red light tipped wing blasted past. The slipstream hit almost immediately, throwing King and his soldiers to the ground.

    King got to his hands and knees and wiped the mud off his face. He glared at the craft as it righted itself and extended its landing gears. He then looked to his men. They were scattered and dazed, unable to prepare the cannon for another volley in time.

    “Dammit-dane,” he spat.

    The Hurricane touched down in the muddy soil. It bumped and hopped as it slowly came to a stop. Almost everyone heaved a relieved sigh once they came to rest.

    “I like you too, Frank,” Emily choked as Franklin had wrapped himself tightly around her torso. “However, I can’t breathe.”

    A crowd gathered around the Hurricane from the nearby villages. They had been startled at the loud noise and slight tremor it created landing. They looked at it from afar, both curious and afraid of it. They had never seen anything as large as it was.

    They all jumped back as the rear hatch opened and lowered to the ground. They then stepped gingerly towards it again to peer inside the new opening. Lee and Bret walked down the ramp and planted their feet in the mud.

    “Take us to your leader,” Bret said.

    “We come in peace,” Lee added.

    “Speak for yourself,” Spigot growled as he stomped down the ramp. “Emily, Ophelia, you’re with me and bring Milro-sama and the others with you.”

    Emily and Ophelia obeyed and brought the even further reduced royals with them.

    “I wonder what Spigot will do now?” Tammy thought out loud.

    Bret and Lee tried to imagine. They both came upon an image of Spigot wearing an old style goalie mask and revving a chainsaw against a full moon.

    “This might actually be fun,” Bret said. “I wish I brought popcorn.”

    Khan and Bruno, one of the few Nyamals in on his and his associates’ scheme, were watching from the distance. They had been ready to leave when they heard all the commotion. Fortunately, their balloon was hidden by a line of trees so they could watch unnoticed.

    “Damn those meddlesome rodents,” Khan sneered as he watched through his binoculars. “What are they doing here?”

    “I don’t know,” Bruno said in his slow, plodding voice. “I thought you told King the Water Drop Kingdom was flooding his kingdom in case they came back. You saw him trying to shoot them down.”

    “I wanted King to have a chance to stew a little and firm up his conclusions,” Khan shot back. “They might be able to convince him at this point.”

    He took a few seconds to ponder. There had to be a way to drive them so far apart King would never accept anything they said. A devilish grin crept onto his face as it came to him.

    “Grab some dynamite and a detonator from the balloon,” he instructed Bruno. “I have a plan.”

    King grabbed his tall crown and dumped the muddy water out of it. He was placing it on his head when he heard Spigot roar, “King!”

    “What are you doing here, Spigot?” King growled.

    “First off,” Spigot shot back, “I don’t take kindly to being shot at. Secondly, would you care to explain this?”

    Ophelia, on queue, knelt down and let Milro, Auler, and Sophie step off her hands. Milro looked up at King and the others. All Milro could think of the awkward action was she hoped it was something she would not have to get use to.

    “Milro, Auler, Sophie,” Ichele exclaimed, “what happened to you? You’re even smaller than before?”

    “Hmph,” King scoffed. “The Mother Tree probably did it because we now know the truth.”

    “The truth?” Spigot repeated as a question.

    “A Nyamal came here not to long ago,” Harney explained. “He told us you and the Windmill Kingdom were intentionally flooding our kingdom as part of some conspiracy.”

    “WHAT!?” Spigot practically screamed. It then struck him. “This Nyamal, what was his name?”

    “I believe it was Khan,” Ichele answered.

    “I should have known,” Spigot growled. “Everything he told you was a lie.”

    “So, you didn’t sabotage the Sunny Kingdom’s computer system with a virus and steal their data?” King shot back.

    “Well, yes,” Spigot said in a deflated tone as he knew he was caught on that. “That was because they were keeping their data from us. We need it to help your kingdom.”

    “A likely story,” King scoffed, unconvinced.

    * * *

    Kahn tapped his fingers out of impatience on the bright, red box of the detonator. Two wires extended from nodes on it into the large reservoir he was standing next to. Bruno had been in the reservoir for what seemed to an eternity. Though, to a Nyamal, a minute underwater seemed like an eternity.

    Bruno finally emerged from below. He blew water out of his snorkel and pulled off his half filled goggles. His hair was stringy and matted and he seemed much thinner than usual. He glared at Khan as he climbed out of the water.

    “Did you set the dynamite?” Khan asked.

    “Yes,” Bruno answered. “But, should we really do this? Withholding data is one thing but…”

    “The valley will be underwater regardless,” Khan said, cutting him off. “We crossed the Rubicon long ago. Now back away.”

    He grasped the plunger with both hands and raised it up. He then thrust it down. Almost instantly, a column of water blasted up from near the earthen levee making up part of the edge. Near the bottom of the opposite side, several leaks burst into one large gusher blasting out in a white, frothy torrent.

    “They’ll think the breach was caused by the excess water,” Khan said to himself. “King will pin it on Spigot and never listen to him.”

    * * *

    After fifteen minutes of Spigot yelling, then suggesting, then pleading, and eventually groveling, King had had enough. He and his men left the engineers with his children in the rain. They all watched as the door slammed shut.

    “I’m ruined!” Spigot cried.

    He collapsed to his knees and began sobbing uncontrollably.

    “That’s just sad,” Emily said flatly.

    “Almost everything about the past two days has been sad,” Lee said in response. “It figures, though. We’re actually trying to help and they think we’re trying to kill them. Everyone’s biased against us.”

    Ophelia took the chance to take some readings. She raised the raindrop shaped weather sensor hanging around her neck and held it above her head for a few seconds. She then brought down and read off, “temperature twelve degrees, humidity ninety-two percent, barometric pressure nine hundred sevety-three milibars, winds out of the north northeast at eleven kilometers per hour.”

    Everyone surveyed the area. It was as demoralizing a sight from the ground as it was from the air if not more. It was easy for them to see why the people of the Seed Kingdom were so up in arms over it, especially after enduring for more than a week.

    “I can’t believe the Sunny Kingdom is so apathetic to ignore this,” Lee said.

    “You have to remember,” Emily said, “the Sunny Kingdom never has to worry about a flood, or a blizzard, or an outbreak of tornadoes coming and destroying everything they’ve worked so hard to build. They live above it all. It’s easy to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to something you’ll never experience.”

    “It makes you wonder why it’s the Sunny Kingdom that’s charged with observing the weather,” Franklin added.

    “Apathetic is one thing,” Tammy said. “However, for them to come down here and lie about us is vindictive. The Sunny Kingdom may be many things, but vindictive isn’t one of them.”

    The conversation was cut short by screaming seeming to come from nowhere. “Slow down! Slow it down! Slow down!” a male voice screamed.

    “I’m trying but the throttle is stuck,” a female voice replied.

    “That might be because your foot is still on the accelerator!” the male voice shot back.

    “Oops.”

    “I’M GONNA DIE!” the male voice screamed at the top of its owner’s lungs.

    Something purple shot from the clouds. Before anyone could get of a better look to determine what it was, it flew into the canopy of the Mother Tree. After a few seconds, something smaller shot out of the hole it had made and slammed into Bret’s face.

    Bret opened his eyes and saw nothing but a pair of eyes looking at him. He screamed in shock. The thing screamed in reaction. The two exchanged a few rounds of screams before Tammy bellowed, “Stop it!” The two then screamed at her.

    Bret realized what had hit him was a Doggel as the sky blue furred, spaniel-like male glided down to the ground. He was dressed in a coat and hat worn by the workers of his country and had a small, white goatee over his chin. At first, they thought he might have been sent from the gulch but they did not recognize him for the group that came with Helena.

    “Terra Firma!” the Doggel cheered. He landed on the muddy ground and hugged it affectionately. “I love you.” He started kissing it but had to spit out a wad of mud. “You taste like dirt, but I still love you.”

    Bret looked at the others and drew a circle with his finger to the side of his head.

    “Help!” a shrill cry pierced the air.

    Everyone looked up and saw someone else was holding onto the side of the airship till stuck in the Mother Tree’s branches. She appeared to be a half Doggel with long, blond hair kept in a ponytail by a large, purple ribbon and dressed in a female worker dress.

    “Somebody, help!” she cried out again. “I’m going to fall.”

    Her fingers slipped and she began to plummet to the ground screaming. Lee snapped into action and ran under her. He cradled her as she fell into his arms.

    “Are you alright?” he asked once he had regained his balance with her securely in his arms.

    She opened her baby blue eyes and looked into his silver eyes. Lee suddenly felt something come over him. It felt like he had been slapped in the face and then he felt so light he might as well have been standing on the clouds above him.

    “What’s with Lee?” Bret asked as he and Ophelia watched the two. “He looks like he’s in pain.”

    “He’s not in pain,” Ophelia shot back. “I think he’s fallen in love.”

    “Love?” Bret repeated.

    “It is something that can happen to people our age.” Ophelia teased, “even to someone like you.”

    Lee set the girl down gently.

    “Thank you,” she said tenderly.

    “It was nothing,” Lee replied.

    “Is something wrong?” she asked. “Your face is all red.”

    “Uh…” Lee was caught off guard as he didn’t realize he was blushing.

    “Where are my manners?” the half Doggel said with an innocent giggle. “I should probably introduce myself.” She gave a polite curtsy and said, “my name is Nicole, one of Princess Sophie-sama’ ladies in waiting and that’s Alex, a royal aide.” She motioned to Doggel.

    “Call me Al,” Alex said.

    “I’m Lee,” Lee said. “The others are Bret; Tammy; Emily; Franklin; and my sister, Ophelia. We’re all engineers for the machine of the Water Drop Kingdom.” He then heard Spigot moan. “And the one having the nervous breakdown is our chief, Spigot,” he added.

    “It’s nice to meet you all,” Nicole said. She then asked, “what are all of you doing in the Seed Kingdom?”

    “We’ve stopped over while gathering some atmospheric information,” Tammy answered. “We’re doing some weather modification experiments to try and stop the rain.”

    “We’re scientists,” Bret added.

    “We’re the scientists,” Tammy corrected. “You are the designated driver.”

    “By that logic, you’re the roadie then,” Bret shot back.

    “Is that why we haven’t seen hide nor hair of Helena since yesterday?” Alex asked, cutting of their argument.

    “She and some of her people are working with us,” Lee said. He then turned back to Nicole. He still felt strange looking at her. “Can you tell us why you’re here?” he managed to ask.

    “We were sent by King Randa-sama to find Prince Auler-sama and Princess Sophie-sama,” Alex declared abruptly. “Have you seen them?”

    “Uh…” The six looked at each other. They all came to the same conclusion. “Did you bring your sense of humor?” Emily asked.

    “Why?” Alex asked.

    “Look down,” Tammy said, pointing down.

    Alex slowly followed the direction her finger was pointing in. He came to see Milro, Auler, and Sophie standing at her feet. It took a second for their sharp reduction in size to sink in.

    “Oh my God!” the Doggel exclaimed when it registered in his mind.

    “Hi, Nicole,” Sophie said, waving blissfully.

    “Hi…Sophie…sama,” Nicole replied, waving back weakly.

    “What’s happened to you?” Alex asked, still flabbergasted.

    “That,” Bret answered for them, pointing at the Mother Tree. “The Mother Tree got pissed and shrank them, twice.”

    Alex nodded as he it all congealed in his mind. He spread his ears and began to glide away without another word.

    “Where are you going?” Nicole asked.

    “Back to the Windmill Kingdom,” Alex answered, not bothering to look back. He then grumbled, “I’ll have to break the news to Randa-sama.”

    “Don’t!” Lee, Ophelia, and Bret all shouted at once and grabbed Alex’s tail.

    Alex was dragged down by the weight. He landed in the mud with them still holding his long tail.

    “Let go of my tail,” he growled.

    “You don’t understand.” Bret picked Alex up and looked at him with panic in his eyes. “If Randa-sama learns of this, he’ll pass the news on to Yamul-sama.”

    “And?” Alex said apathetically in response.

    “If Yamul-sama learns her daughter has been shrunk, not once but twice, by a plant with an attitude problem, it’ll make her angry,” Bret said. “You wouldn’t like her when she’s angry.”

    Footsteps sloshing in the mud caught everyone’s attention. A Molmo, huffing for breath and his face visibly flushed even under his fur, ran up to the door in the Mother Tree. He banged the solid wood as he tried to catch his breath.

    “What’s wrong?” Lee asked him.

    “The levee holding back the Northern Reservoir has developed a major breach,” the mole-like worker said between gasps. “If it isn’t fixed, the whole thing could fail and flood everything down river.”

    “What!?” everyone exclaimed.

    They all looked to one another. All it took was a nod and a determined expression from everyone.

    “Where’s the levee?” Tammy asked.

    “That way, but…” the Molmo started to say.

    “That’s all we need to know.” Tammy cut him off.

    She gently picked up Milro and the others and set them down on Alex’s hat. Nicole and Ophelia picked up the princesses and prince of the Seed Kingdom and held them in their arms. Emily and Franklin then grabbed Spigot and they all started running the direction the worker had pointed.

    The door groaned open and King, Axe, and a few others walked out. “What is it?” King asked.

    “The levee at the Northern Reservoir has breached,” the worker explained.

    “What!?” King exclaimed. “We have to assemble a repair team immediately.”

    “I think we already have one.” The Molmo motioned to the engineers disappearing into the woods.
    Last edited by The Big Al; 7th February 2009 at 2:08 AM.

    Some people don't think it's funny that Exit 69 gets off on Big Beaver.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    The Mitten State
    Posts
    6,950

    Default

    Chapter 7: DAM IT!

    The engineers ran as fast as their legs could carry them down the road leading into the stricken levy. All the while their minds were racing through everything they knew about levees. They knew they were barriers, usually of earth and stone, used to redirect the flow of water or cut off areas of a floodplain for development. They also knew a breach in a levee was a nightmare scenario in the world of water management and lives and property were in mortal danger.

    Bret and Lee were the first to burst from the woods and slide to a stop in front of the wall of earth and stone. The others emerged soon after as they stared, awestruck, at the stream of water spewing from the side.

    “That’s definitely a breach,” Lee finally managed to say after catching his breath.

    “A brilliant and insightful observation, Captain Obvious,” Bret said in response. “Any idea of how we’re supposed to seal it?”

    “I’m thinking,” Lee replied.

    King, Axe and some others huffed out of the forest. King let his jaw drop at the sight of the gusher.

    A very muscular Seed worker ran up to them and had to shout over the almost deafening roar of the water to be heard. “We’ve been trying to seal the failure but the water’s too strong-dane,” he explained. “It’s blowing away any barrier-dane.”

    “What’s the status of the dam-dane?” King asked.

    “The entire structure is weakening-dane,” the Seed worker answered. “If we don’t seal that rupture, the entire thing could collapse-dane.”

    Spigot looked up at the dam. It was a wall of rocks with dirt shoved between them. He saw several smaller streams already escaping through the gaps. In his engineer’s mind, he created a picture of the barrier’s innards. He could see water propelled by the pressure of the overfilled reservoir forcing its way through any weaknesses unseen within it. After a week of bearing a burden it was not designed for, collapse was immanent.

    “What’s the reservoir’s capacity?” he asked.

    “One hundred billion liters,” Axe answered. “Why?”

    “My God.”

    “What is it Chief?” Franklin asked.

    “If this levee gives, it’ll release enough water to flood more than thirty square kilometers under as much as three meters of water,” Spigot said with a grave urgency in his voice.

    Milro looked down at the villages in the valley below. Through the rain and fog she could make out roads cutting through the fields and everywhere they crossed was likely a village. Thousands would be in harms way. “You have to do something.”

    “I don’t see what we can do-dane,” the worker said in response. “We can’t seal the failure without repairing it but we can’t begin repairs until we seal it-dane.”

    King turned to one of the workers that came with them. “Run down to the villages and start evacuations-dane,” he ordered. “Tell them to get to high ground as quickly as possible-dane.”

    “Yes, Your Majesty-dane.” The worker saluted and began running back down into the valley.

    “I wish there was something more we could do,” Nicole thought out loud. “But what?”

    “The pressure is just too great-dane,” the worker growled.

    Lee had been staring intently at the violent stream of white water arcing through the air. He had been thinking of how it could be stopped. When he heard “pressure” it all fell into place. He screamed, “eureka!”

    He grabbed Ophelia’s wrist and dragged her up the hill adjacent to the dam. The others were at first taken aback by Lee’s sudden act, but they soon followed. The young Shark Man pulled himself to the top, dragging his bewildered sister behind him.

    “What’s gotten into you?” Ophelia exclaimed, wrenching her hand from her brother’s.

    “We have to take a little swim.” Lee leapt into the water with a splash. He then poked his head up. “Come on, we don’t have time.”

    Ophelia did not know what had gotten into Lee. Sometimes, his mind would lock onto something. After a moment’s hesitation, she decided follow him and dove in too. The two disappeared under the surface as the others ran up.

    “How can they be going for a swim at a time like this-dane?” King asked in frustration.

    Upon submerging their bodies went through a total physiological change. The pressure of the water triggered muscles that closed off their tracheas and sinuses and opened the passages to their gill slits and spiracles. At the same time cells that sealed their gills unhinged allowing them undulate as they strained oxygen from the water passing through them. Nictitating membranes spread over their eyes and the webbing between their fingers extended to completely fill the space between their fingers and toes. In a few seconds they had transformed completely from land to aquatic creatures.

    Ophelia did not like freshwater. Shark People were native to the oceans and their bodies were acclimated for saltwater. They could breathe freshwater but it was more work as their gills had to expel more water to keep their blood from desalinizing. It was also harder to stay buoyant in and had a rather bland taste.

    She looked around them. The reservoir was clearly an artificial construct. The walls were made of rock and dropped down almost immediately to make a large bowl in the ground. Most natural lakes had more gentle slopes covered in sand. She began to muse about how much work it must have been to carve it out when she remembered it was not the time for such things.

    She looked at her brother, swimming out in front of her. “What’s going on in that demented head of yours?” she demanded.

    “They can’t seal it from the outside because of the pressure,” Lee answered. “Then it came to me. What about sealing it from inside the reservoir?”

    “I get it,” Ophelia smacked her fist in her palm as she understood what he must have been thinking. “The pressure of the water would hold the seal in place like the pressure door of an airlock. Lee, you’re brilliant.”

    “I know,” Lee replied.

    She then looked at him with a sly grin. “You’re not doing this to impress Nicole, are you?”

    Lee’s face suddenly turned red. “What? No.”

    “Don’t try to hide it,” Ophelia teased. “You like her.”

    “Am I that transparent?” Lee grumbled.

    “Like crystal glass,” Ophelia answered flatly.

    Lee’s face grew an even deeper shade of red.

    “Don’t worry,” Ophelia swam down to come beside her brother. “You’re not the first teenaged boy to fall for a pretty girl.”

    Lee smiled warmly at his sister as the red in face started to fade away. He then scanned the reservoir’s bottom as they swam towards it. “We need something to seal that hole with.”

    Ophelia looked around the bottom. She noticed a large boulder close to the hole. “Down there,” she said as she dove to it.

    Lee swam around it, looking over its smoothed surface. It was certainly large enough to plug the rupture. As Ophelia got near it she found herself being drawn by the powerful current rushing towards the rupture. Lee grabbed her by her wrist and pulled her behind the boulder.

    “Thanks.” Ophelia sighed in relief.

    “You’re welcome.” Lee took a deep breath. “This should work. But it’s too big for us to move by ourselves.”

    “We need Tammy’s help,” Ophelia suggested.

    “I’ll get her.” Lee leapt into an ascent towards the surface. “Hold tight ‘til we get back.”

    Ophelia looked to the violent slipstream leading to the rupture. “Trust me,” she called after him. “I don’t plan on going anywhere.”

    * * *

    On the shore, everyone stared at the water. Ophelia and Lee had been down there for several minutes. Their fellow engineers had come to the same conclusion as they did and explained what they were planning to do. So, they all stood on the shore and waited for news.

    “How long can they stay down their-dane?” King asked.

    “Indefinitely,” Spigot answered. “The gill slits in their necks let them breathe water as easily as we breathe air so long as it has enough dissolved oxygen.”

    Lee’s head popped up from the surface. “Tammy,” he called out, “we need your help. We found something to block the failure. But need more muscle to move it.”

    “Alright,” Tammy rolled up the sleeves of her dress, “I’ll show you little guppies how it’s done.”

    She leapt into the water and both of them disappeared below the surface. The others stood on the shore and waited. It was then the ground under Auler gave way. He fell into the water and thrashed helplessly in the in the water.

    “Big Brother!” Sophie screamed with terror Milro had never heard in her voice before. “He can’t swim!”

    “What?” Milro exclaimed.

    Milro looked out at Auler as he disappeared below the surface. She then realized what had to be done. Without a further thought, she backed up little to give herself a running start and dove in after him.

    “Milro-sama!” Spigot yelled after her.

    After a few seconds she broke through the surface, holding Auler’s head above water. As she swam to the shore Sophie and a couple others pulled Auler out of the water. They then helped Milro out of the water and onto the wet grass.

    Milro shivered. Her dressed wasted no time soaking up water and it had become cold and heavy. However, her concerns fell to Auler sprawled out on the shore.

    The prince of the Windmill Kingdom spat out water as he gasped for air. Sophie fell to her knees and embraced him tightly. “Big Brother,” she cried out, tears streaming from her tightly shut eyes, “I thought I had lost you.”

    “I’m alright now.” Auler coughed.

    Seeing Auler alright seemed to lift a burden off everyone. However, the still more pressing matter of the breach was still facing them.

    “We’re not out of the woods yet.” Spigot looked down into the water. Come, on you three. You’ve got to do this, he thought to himself.

    * * *

    Lee and Tammy reached the boulder. They and Ophelia planted heir feet firmly on the rocky bottom and started pushing on the massive stone. They all strained as they threw their full weight against it but it wouldn’t budge.

    Ophelia’s feet slipped in a patch of mud and floated backwards. “It’s no use,” she said in with depressed sigh. “It’s too heavy even with the three of us.”

    Lee turned to rest his back against the boulder and catch his breath as well as think. He then noticed a smaller rock and what looked like a decent sized tree trunk. “…but give me a lever big enough and I’ll move the world.”

    He and Tammy grabbed the rock and trunk. Lee placed the rock under the boulder, leaving enough room for Tammy to force the slender trunk between them. Tammy grabbed the free end of the trunk Lee and Ophelia leaned up against the boulder ready to push on it.

    “Alright,” Ophelia said, “on three.”

    The two said “three” and all of them started pushing. Tammy pushed down on the lever and they pushed on the stone. The boulder began moving. It was ever so slightly at first but soon it was dislodged and began rolling. Tammy let go of the lever once it had served its purpose and helped push the moving boulder.

    The current caught them and the boulder. The boulder rolled and bounced along the lake bed with them tumbling helplessly through the current behind. The massive stone wedged itself in the hole, stopping the slipstream. The three regained control and swam towards the surface.

    * * *

    Bret had taken up position on the levee watching the geyser shoot out from the wall of earth. The others were looking into the lake as if they could see what was happening. He knew the first sign of Lee and the others’ success would be best seen from where he stood.

    He could feel the dam slowly crumbling under his feet. More and more leaks were working their way through the side and spilling water. It was definitely getting weaker as even the main breach seemed to expand ever so slightly. It made Bret feel uneasy and he was ready to run to the side if the unthinkable should happen.

    He looked down through the gloom at the valley below. Hopefully, the worker had reached the villages and the people were heading for higher ground. He still found it hard to bring himself to believe it all. When he came into work the day before, he never would have thought he would bear witness to the fates of thousands of lives. Even more ironic was their fates were the hands of him and his fellow engineers. Until that moment, it had never occurred to them just how vital their work was.

    His ears suddenly picked up the sound he had been waiting for. The roar that had been constant since they reached the levy quickly died, leaving an uneasy silence in its wake. He looked down and saw the water had stopped the dirt, allowed to be in gravity’s grip, fell over the hole, covering it.

    “They did it!” Bret exclaimed, jumping in the air. The half Beaver slipped when he came down and almost slid down the face of the dam. “The rupture’s been sealed.” He pulled himself back to the top.

    The crowd erupted into jubilant cheers. The three engineers burst from the surface of the water and gasped for air. As they brought themselves on shore the others greeted them with clapping and cheering.

    “I knew you could do it.” Bret came up and grabbed Lee’s arm and spun him around in a circle.

    “Knock it off.” Lee pried himself out of his friend’s grasp.

    “You were great,” Nicole said.

    Lee blushed. “Well,” he rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly, “it wasn’t just me.” He forced a loud laugh.

    “Don’t be so modest.” Ophelia smacked Lee on the back. “It was your idea.”

    “And you were the one to think of the lever,” Tammy added.

    “Quit it.” Lee’s face turned red and he tried to hide it by pulling his hat down. “You’re embarrassing me.”

    “Come on, Lee.” Ophelia elbowed her brother in the side. “You wanted her to notice you.”

    “Well,” Lee started to say

    “Your ingenuity has saved thousands,” Nicole said admiringly.

    “But why?” King asked. “We didn’t even ask you to help us. And after how we’ve treated you.”

    “It’s because we see it as our duty and a point of honor to protect life and property, even of those who don’t like us,” Spigot declared.

    Milro suddenly felt the energy return. Fortunately, she, Auler and Sophie began to grow larger this time. However, it stopped when they had only returned to the size of Seed People. Still, she thought to herself, it’s an improvement.

    “Yeah. Yeah. This is all fine and good.” Axe cut off the celebrating. “But it solves nothing.” He directed his next words at Spigot who was facing away from him. “The rain is still falling and our kingdom is still being flooded. And don’t think spewing your dogmatic crap has me convinced either. Granted, you’ve prevented this latest disaster but there’s nothing stopping…”

    “Axe.” Spigot cut him off.

    “What?” Axe barked.

    Spigot swung around and landed a right hook to Axe’s head. The punch was hard enough to spin Axe around and sent to the ground, knocked senseless.

    “Shut…up!” Spigot forced through his clenched teeth.

    “You enjoyed that, didn’t you?” Emily said condescendingly to Spigot.

    “Emily, how dare you suggest I’m capable of something so unprofessional and self-serving?” Spigot shot back.

    Emily simply stared at him critically in response.

    “Like hell I enjoyed it,” Spigot answered loudly.

    “Damn, damn, damn,” Khan snarled from the bushes on the opposite side of the reservoir. “What do I have to do to these people?”

    He hated when his plans backfired. It had to be the greatest insult to the intellect. And He had had the misfortune to suffer such an insult twice in as many days to the same group of people. It made him so mad he wanted to throw something.

    He peered through his binoculars at the group. The celebration was absolutely disgusting. However, he forgot his anger when his eyes came upon Milro.

    “What is it?” Bruno asked.

    Khan held up his binoculars to Bruno’s eyes. “Do you see what I see?”

    “Uh…” Bruno started to say.

    Khan pulled the binoculars away and looked through them himself. An indulged grin crept on his face. “I see a Princess Milro no bigger than a Seed Person,” he said in a giddy voice. “Prince Auler and Princess Sophie appear to be in the same boat.”

    “How does that help us?” Bruno asked.

    “Something tells me he will be very interested in the news,” Khan said. “We should get going.”

    * * *

    Back at the Hurricane Ophelia, Lee, Tammy, Milro, and Auler all relaxed under a heat lamp. The warmth from the lamp helped to dry their clothes and warm them up. Milro wrung out her waterlogged skirt and Auler did the same with his coat.

    It was the first time Milro had seen her Kingdom’s workers without their iconic outerwear which was hanging from the ceiling. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary though. Lee wore a dark blue, long sleeved button down shirt and the girls wore long sleeved, pale blue dresses. Still, it was the first time she had seen what lied under the uniform.

    “There’s nothing like warming yourself after a brisk dip.” Tammy leaned back and put her feet on the table.

    “They need to put one of these in the castle laundry,” Lee said, spreading out his body to absorb as much heat as possible. “It beats freezing under a blanket.”

    Milro’s ears perked up as she heard Auler cough again. “Are you alright?” she asked.

    “I’m fine.” Auler forced a cough and patted his chest with his fist. “Thanks for saving me.”

    “You’re welcome,” Milro replied.

    “I thought you weren’t the athletic type,” Auler said.

    “I’m not very good at track and field,” Milro replied. “But I’ve always been very good at swimming.”

    “If they had a Best Swimming Princess Party, you would have won hands down.”

    Spigot sat in the co-pilot’s seat and unhooked the receiver to the radio. “Hurricane to base, Hurricane to base,” he said.

    “Base here, Hurricane,” Arlene’s voice.

    “How’s cleaning out the atmosphere going?” he asked.

    “We’ve rigged up some tubes with charged elements,” Arlene explained. “The idea is to use them like air filters to collect the particulates. However,” her voice got lower and softer, “we don’t think we would finish by dawn tomorrow or really make a dent. The area over the Zubuzubu Swamp is huge and we only have a very small number of craft.”

    Spigot heaved a depressed sigh. “Alright,” he said despairingly. “Keep us informed.”

    “Will do,” Arlene replied, still downtrodden.

    Spigot replaced the receiver on his hook. It figured. They had the cause nailed down and a solution and they run into the time constraint. He slid out of the chair and walked into the cabin. They were going to need a plan B and fast.

    “Bad news, people,” he said. “Cleaning out the atmosphere over the Zubuzubu Swamp is off the table. We don’t have the time.”

    Gasps and hushed comments and questions came from the others.

    “Great,” Lee groaned in exasperation. “That means we’re back to square one with less than eighteen hours left.”

    “I’m open to suggestions, people,” Spigot said.

    Only the pattering of the rain answered him.

    “What if we diverted the wind flow?” Ophelia finally suggested.

    “How?” Emily asked.

    “The Windmill Kingdom simulates the Coriolis Effect,” Lee explained as he believed her understood where his sister was coming from. He grabbed a pad and drew a crude sketch of Water Drop Kingdom and the Seed Kingdom. “Right now, the ocean surrounding the Water Drop Kingdom is colder than the land.” He wrote ‘cold’ on either side of the hand shaped peninsula and ‘warm’ on it. “The thermal gradient winds are oriented straight down the peninsula.” He drew a large arrow southwest down the middle of the Water Drop Kingdom. “However, the Coriolis Effect causes the flow to curve to the left.” He drew a smaller arrow arching more due south. “If we increase the Windmill Kingdom’s output, it’ll sharpen the curve.” He drew another arrow that went offshore. “We sharpen it enough and the moisture from the cloud machine never reaches the Seed Kingdom.”

    “Here’s the sticking point,” Ophelia said. “We don’t have any idea how the each of the windmills affects the wind flow.”

    “I do.” Nicole spoke up.

    Everyone turned to the half Doggel.

    “Over the past couple of years, I’ve gathered data on how every individual windmill affects the wind patterns,” Nicole explained. “All my research is there, though.”

    “Take Lee with you,” Spigot said.

    “Me?” Lee pointed to himself helplessly.

    “You’re the one who knows all the equations,” Spigot said. “Time is of the essence.”

    “Sure,” he replied, trying to hide his uneasiness. He glanced to Nicole and felt the strange, light feeling come over him again.

    The Beaver glared out one of the windows at the outside. The rain continued, the patter against the Hurricane’s hull almost mocking him. In his almost thirty years of service to the Water Drop Kingdom he had never seen anything like it.

    What in God’s hollow Mysterious Planet is going on? he thought to himself.

    * * *

    Khan and Bruno stepped onto the tarmac of the Geronita’s base. Every time Khan saw the activities taking place on the island; he was forced to think about the claims by many that the Mysterious Planet was a peaceful world. He wished he could show them the well armed, reptilian troops marching in formation and piles of munitions lying next to armed stingrays. He was sure they would eat their words.

    The air seemed sticker than usual. The stench of rotting vegetation also seemed more pungent. The two passed it off as nothing. The expansive swamp was a humid, smelly place and it was just more so at the moment.

    One of the alligator-like soldiers walked up to them and snapped to attention. Khan knew few of Geronita’s people. However, this particular Gator was familiar, even though his name escaped him. It was not important anyway.

    “Take us to Lord Geronita-sama,” Khan instructed.

    “Come with me.” The Gator turned toward a beached, dilapidated river boat sitting off to the side.

    The two tried to walk casually behind the reptile. Geronita did not take bad news very well. Carrying bad news to him brought the feeling of a pit in the stomach. He will undoubtedly throw a fit but all that will bring it to an end was getting it over with.

    “Maybe Geronita is in a good mood today,” Bruno suggested.

    * * *

    Geronita sat on the throne in the dim room that served as his makeshift audience chamber. The anthropomorphic Bull Frog moved little outside of scratching his bulging, white belly with his webbed hands. That is, until his mind’s ear heard music that only existed in his head. His artist’s mind quickly got down the slow, sad melody and put lyrics to it. He cleared his throat and started to sing in his grating, croaky voice:

    ♪“My name is Geronita: Lord of Zubuzubu Swamp.”

    He stood up and let his broad, webbed feet flap as he walked down the steps.

    ♪ “An empire of scum is what I command, so it is. So it is. So it is.”

    He walked over to an opera poster on the nearby wall.

    ♪ “My name is Geronita: a once famous singer.”

    ♪ “I filled the house every night with my voice, so I did. So I did. So I did. Yes, there was once a time when I did.”

    ♪ “A night came when all that changed.”

    ♪ “A fateful was meeting arranged.”

    ♪ “And only two words were exchanged.”

    He practically cried the next line.

    ♪ “And so now I’m considered by all to be deranged.”

    He walked over to a table with several darts laying on it.

    ♪ “My name is Geronita. An enemy of Yamul.”

    He chucked a dart at a portrait of Yamul taped over a dartboard. The sharp needled plunged squarely through her nose to join others.

    ♪ “She wronged me so deeply that one night, so she did. So she did. So she did.”

    ♪ “My name is Geronita: Future King of this planet.”

    ♪ “I will rule all with a fist of iron, so I will. So I will. So I will. Yes, there will come a time when I will.”

    He kicked open the door at the far end. The large room beyond was filled with computers arranged along the walls. Though, he did not notice as he was absorbed in his song.

    The small, anthropomorphic Walruses, wearing yellow tunics and tinted goggles, and Gators standing around a large table in the center looked up to the leader. The singing made them want to set their teeth on edge but none dared.

    ♪ “So I will. So I will. Yes, there will come a time when I will.”

    Geronita snapped back to reality. He planted his hands on the edge of the table and surveyed the mess of maps littering it. He did not notice Khan and Bruno had walked in at the same time.

    “At least he’s in a singing mood,” Bruno commented.

    “Unfortunately,” the Gator escorting them whispered so he was hopefully not heard by his leader.

    Geronita apparently did not hear the comment or at least did not react to it. The large Bull Frog looked up and noticed the two Nyamals. He walked around the table and croaked, “Khan, my good friend, it’s good to see you again.”

    “It’s good to see you too, Lord Geronita-sama,” Khan replied as casually as he could.

    “What news do you bring me?” Geronita asked eagerly.

    Khan tried to swallow down the growing lump in his throat. He figured he should give Geronita the bad news first. “Our plan to drive a wedge between the Water Drop Kingdom and the Seed Kingdom kind of…well…backfired,” he said, practically squeaking the last word before bracing for what was bound to happen next.

    “BACKFIRED!?” Geronita roared.

    “Spigot and his people returned early,” Khan whined. “And then, when I sabotaged a dam they fixed it.”

    “Moron,” Geronita said in a growling croak. “This is the Water Drop Kingdom, emphasis on the water. Small children repair earthen dams for recess.”

    The Bull Frog grabbed Khan and picked the smaller Nyamal up to his eye level. Khan covered his face in defense as he feared what might come next.

    “First, you let those damn engineers learn about what’s happening in the Seed Kingdom, then you let them steal your data, and now this,” Geronita snarled.

    “I do have some interesting news,” Khan whimpered. “Princess Milro was there too.”

    “So,” Geronita snapped.

    “I don’t know how but she’s only ten centimeters tall,” Khan explained hastily.

    The leader of the pigmy Walruses, Waltu turned to the conversation. Unlike his followers, he wore a red aloha shirt with a pineapple pattern and one of his stubby tusks had a gold crown. “That’s a good one,” he said, trying not to laugh.

    They were interrupted by chirping from Waltu’s computer. He turned around and pounded a flashing button with his flipper. “What is Copter-bot?” he grumbled. “I’m watching Geronita-sama rip Khan a new one.”

    “You’re not going to believe this,” a high pitched, electronic voice said over the speaker. “I just saw Princess Milro and she was only ten centimeters tall.”

    “What?” Geronita croaked.

    He carried Khan to the computer. “Can you give so visual verification?”

    “Your wish is my command, Lord Geronita-sama,” Copter-bot said eagerly.

    The main screen on the computer switched from readouts to footage from the drenched Seed Kingdom. The three of them watched intently as the footage ran through quickly until reaching Milro next to Emily. Sure enough, the princess of the Water Drop Kingdom was as small as both Copter-bot and Khan had described.

    “So,” Geronita mused aloud. “Yamal’s precious little girl has been shrunk to the size of a Seed Person.”

    He released Khan and let the Nyamal drop to the floor.

    “Prince Auler and Princess Sophie have also been shrunk,” Khan groaned, rubbing his throbbing hind end.

    “A Shark Man and a half Doggel that were with her have also left for the west,” Copter-bot reported.

    “They might be headed to the Windmill Kingdom to try and manipulate the weather,” Khan suggested. “I think that’s what Spigot and his people have been up to.”

    Geronita grimaced at the prospect. He had put a lot of time and resources into keeping the rains over the Seed Kingdom. That phase of his plans was almost complete. He was not about to let Yamal’s flunkies mess it up.

    “Follow them,” the Bull Frog croaked. “I’ll send two Gators to back you up.”

    “What about the princess?” Waltu asked.

    “Major,” Geronita croaked.

    One of the Gator soldiers stepped forward.

    “Send one of your soldiers down to the Seed Kingdom at dusk,” Geronita instructed. “Have them capture the simpering, little twit and her chikuwa-eared friends and bring them here.”

    “It will be done, Lord Geronita-sama.” Gator saluted.

    “One more thing,” Geronita said. “If any of Yamul’s flunkies interfere, they are to be eliminated.” He pulled his finger slowly across his throat as if it was a dagger.
    Last edited by The Big Al; 7th February 2009 at 2:31 AM.

    Some people don't think it's funny that Exit 69 gets off on Big Beaver.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    The Mitten State
    Posts
    6,950

    Default

    Chapter 8: Dusk

    Lee piloted the zeppelin over the Windmill Kingdom. Zeppelins were much more delicate machines than craft like the stingrays or the Hurricane. They were highly responsive to even the slightest adjustment in the controls but were also subject to the turbulence caused by even light winds. The gale drive on the back also did not make the droning or whirl sound of the blades swiping through the air but instead a gentle swoosh as it expelled air to the rear and propelled them forward.

    There was also the fact they were in the open air instead of in a cockpit or cabin. The air seemed cleaner and fresher at high altitudes. The people of the Mysterious Planet produced very little pollution, but the air at the surface was still filled with debris and other contaminates near the ground one did not notice until they were absent.

    Lee found his eyes wondering as he surveyed the landscape before him. Much like the Water Drop Kingdom, the Windmill Kingdom was a hodgepodge of environments. It was not quite as diverse but its terrain varied more than the other countries.

    They were passing over the rolling, green hills of the Pasture Lands. Herds of animals were scattered across the landscape, happily roaming and grazing and their shepherds keeping their ever watchful eyes on them. Of course, there were also the windmills scattered across the countryside.

    The windmills were more or less the same throughout the Windmill Kingdom. They were all round with white walls and indigo, domed roofs. Their magenta blades turned slowly in a clockwise fashion. Lee had always pictured the windmills sitting on tall spires of stone like the ones near the castle but many of those below them sat right on the ground.

    Lee was also greeted by sensations that had probably become second nature to the people of the Windmill Kingdom. There was a light but persistent breeze that kept the air in constant motion. The windmills also gave off a gentle whirring. It made for a relaxing atmosphere.

    Lee was trying to keep his mind on the landscape because he did not want to let his mind shift to Nicole. However, it was proving futile. She was cute, seemed to be very nice, and there was something else he really liked about her but he could not put his finger on what it was. Once he gathered the courage, he decided the best way to deal with it was to come out with it.

    “So, a lady in waiting,” Lee said. He wanted to be subtle and further introductions were as good a place as any to break the ice. “That means you’re a noble, right?”

    Nicole nodded. “In fact, I’m the future baroness of the Pasture Lands Barony we’re flying over,” she said.

    “Wow,” Lee said, honestly amazed.

    “What about you?” Nicole asked.

    “I’m just a simple engineer,” Lee replied. It was probably the best answer he could give since rank and status were less concrete concepts in the Water Drop Kingdom. “I’m a first year in the Meteorology Department.”

    “I bet it’s an interesting profession,” Nicole said.

    “It has its moments,” Lee said.

    Nicole looked down at the pastures and windmills they were passing over. She soon saw the windmill she had called home all her life. To the untrained eye, it probably did not seem different but she could never miss it.

    “My home’s down there,” she said, pointing to a windmill they were approaching.

    Lee grabbed the rip cord and slowly released some of the hydrogen gas keeping them aloft. They began to sink toward the surface and he slowed their horizontal speed. The belly of the zeppelin touched down softly in the grass next to the windmill and he stopped both the releasing gas and the drive.

    The two stepped out and Lee eyed the windmill. There was nothing remarkable about compared to the others. He found it hard to believe such a humble looking structure was the home of a baron. There was no nobility in the Water Drop Kingdom where all positions below the crown were awarded by election or appointment for finite terms. So, he only had the romantic image in literature to go by. Apparently, it was a gross exaggeration.

    Nicole walked around to the front door with Lee trailing behind. “This is it,” she said. “Welcome to Windmill 42 or ‘Chateau Claudette’ as we call it.”

    The half Doggel pressed the doorbell and an actual bell chimed from within the windmill. The door opened and an older woman wearing a purple and white sleeved dress peaked out.

    “Lady Nicole-sama,” she exclaimed.

    “How are you, Nana?” Nicole said, hugging her. “Are Mother and Father at home?”

    “Yes, and they’ll be thrilled to see you,” Nana said giddily. She then noticed Lee standing behind her. “Who’s he?”

    “Oh.” Nicole turned to Lee. “This is Lee. He’s an engineer from the Water Drop Kingdom.”

    “Hi.” Lee said, and gave a small wave.

    “Well, come in, you two.” Nana beckoned them to enter. “There’s no need to linger out there.”

    The interior of the windmill reminded Lee more of the image of a baron’s home. The family crest was displayed proudly on the wall opposite the door and had to be the first object to catch the eye of visitors. It was the stereotypical shield over crossed swords with colorful patterns that meant something to the family, and probably many in the Windmill Kingdom, but the meaning escaped him. Some other treasures and relics, no doubt from the family’s history, were displayed along the walls as well.

    Nana peeked into another door. “Your Lady and Lordship,” she announced, “you’re daughter is here.”

    “She said ‘Lady’ first,” Lee observed.

    Nicole replied with a nod. “Mother is the baroness. My uncle was the original baron but he died without an heir or even taking a bride so she took on the title,” she explained.

    A Doggel woman walked into of the room. She was of the larger variety but her coat was more blond than brown. Upon seeing Nicole she spread her arms widely to accept her daughter in an affectionate hug.

    “Welcome home, Nicole,” she said.

    “It’s good to be home, Mother” Nicole replied. “However, we’re not here for a social visit.”

    “We?” her mother asked. She then noticed Lee was still standing close to the door. “Who’s he?”

    “He’s a colleague,” Nicole answered. “We’re working on stopping the rain in the Seed Kingdom. I stopped by to get my notes.”

    Her mother sighed. “You and your scientific endeavors,” she said. “I thought you were supposed to be searching for Prince Auler-sama and Princess Sophie-sama.”

    “That’s why we’re trying to stop the rain,” Nicole said. She wanted to tell her about what had happened. However, she noticed Lee out of the corner of her eye giving her a look suggesting she should not. “They’ve been in the Seed Kingdom coordinating our efforts.”

    “Well,” said a gunmetal gray haired Human as he stepped into the room behind her. “If it’s for the prince and princess, I suggest you don’t dawdle. All your notes are in the study.”

    “Thank you, Father,” Nicole replied. She then said to Lee, “the study is upstairs.”

    * * *

    After informing the base of their change in strategy, the crew of the Hurricane could only wait until Lee and Nicole returned. They spent their time helping the people Seed Kingdom. They repaired the levee and reinforced it. They helped build up the walls protecting the nearby villages and Sophie even saved a flower that was about to be swallowed by the river.

    Sophie brought the flower back to the Hurricane and placed it in a pot. “It should be safe and dry now,” she said to herself.

    Ophelia and Franklin trudged into the cabin from the outside. They both fell into chairs and heaved exhausted sighs.

    “That has got to be the biggest earthen barrier I’ve ever worked on,” Franklin groaned.

    “Something strikes me as odd,” Ophelia said. “That hole was almost perfectly round. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say someone made it with explosives.”

    “Well,” Franklin replied. “It’s fixed and that’s all that matters.”

    Ophelia looked around the cabin. “I wonder where Bret is,” she mused aloud.

    “Oh,” Sophie said. “He left a couple minutes ago. He said he had to take a leak.” She then pondered out loud. “However, I don’t how you can take a leak anywhere.”

    A couple seconds of awkward silence choked the atmosphere of the room. Ophelia and Franklin forced themselves to smile and rubbed the backs of their necks uncomfortably. They wanted to tell Sophie that was not what he meant. However, one did not discuss such matters in front of much less with royalty.

    Milro noticed Auler still sulking as he walked past her. “Is something wrong?” she asked.

    “It’s nothing,” Auler replied dismissively.

    Milro followed him. “Why didn’t you tell us you couldn’t swim?” she asked.

    “Because none of you ever asked,” Auler answered, his voice taking on a twang of annoyance.

    Milro paused before speaking again. “It’s no big deal,” she said, trying to sound encouraging. “Once this is over I can teach you to swim.”

    “Don’t bother,” he snapped. “Fish swim; I fly.”

    Milro was taken aback by his sudden outburst. She stood there as he stormed down the ramp and out of the plane. Sophie walked up to her quietly and watched as her brother disappeared behind the incline.

    “I’ve never seen Big Brother act like that,” she said in dismay.

    “You have to understand Auler-sama is entering the stage in his life when guys want to believe they’re indestructible,” Franklin said. “Being reminded of his mortality and weaknesses is more than a little shocking. Just give him some time to cool off.”

    * * *

    Night had fallen upon the Seed Kingdom. Though, it was hard to tell. Under the blanket of thick clouds, the Seed Kingdom seemed to be in eternal twilight during the day. The skies did not need to darken much more to plunge the landscape into the pitch blackness of night. And it was as black as pitch as the sky was only a blank void above with no stars or moon to reassure anyone staring at it something was above them and the agrarian Seed Kingdom had little in the way of artificial light.

    The Gator sent to the Seed Kingdom spent the trip with an amused grin on his long, toothy snout. When his superior told him Princess Milro was only the size of a Seed Person, he did not believe him at first. However, he could tell on the major’s face he was dead serious. So, he was being sent to capture her and the prince and princess of the Windmill Kingdom who had also been shrunk.

    Unfortunately, while the darkness hid him from sight, the same could not be said for hearing. The older stingrays Geronita used ran on ethanol. It was a more practical fuel in the swamp where the rotting vegetation it was derived from was plentiful and electrolysis was impractical. Unfortunately, the internal combustion engines that used it made an awful racket, making stealth a difficult objective.

    Fortunately, the Seed Kingdom provided a wide variety of remote landing sites where he was out of earshot of anyone. He switched on his floodlights and watched the two circles of illuminated ground below for a suitable landing spot. He found one in a forest clearing and landed his craft.

    As his cockpit slid open, the cold, calmly air from outside whooshed in. Being cold-blooded, he had a disdain for the cold. It made his kind sluggish and they had no way to warm themselves without an external heat source. However, it did not seem cold enough to affect his alertness or reactions.

    He grabbed his harpoon rifle and slapped a cylindrical ammo drum into place with a loud snap. He held it so the metal framed shoulder rest sat on his shoulder and pointed the rifle forward. The narrow, blue beam from the laser sight shot out into the night from the end of its narrow stalk above the barrel. Content with the rifle’s condition, he slipped the yellow gun over his shoulder by its strap.

    He then grabbed a flashlight and a brass birdcage from the back seat. He switched on the light and climbed out onto the wing. He swung the light to survey the area around him. He then jumped off into the mud and began walking towards the Mother Tree.

    * * *

    For Lee to describe his feeling as surprise was an understatement. He was positively astounded by the research Nicole had done. She had gathered all the information he needed and then some. He had almost forgotten he had to learn what the information told him related to changing the global wind flow he was so awestruck.

    “This is incredible,” Lee could finally put his amazement to words after a half hour of going through her notes.

    “Thank you,” Nicole replied as she too studied her papers. “I’ve been working on it for more than five years.”

    Lee found himself having to ask. “Why did you do all this?”

    Nicole laid the papers she had been reading through down gently on the desk. “I was curious,” she said. “Back during the Crisis, we were having problems with windstorms. The problem was different windmills would malfunction at different times making it hard to tell what would happen.”

    “So?” Lee asked.

    “I had the idea of monitoring the flux through a windmill’s blades,” Nicole continued. “If we could study it, we could tell what would result from malfunctions of specific windmills. I started with this windmill and installed the anemometer myself.” A wide, screwed up grin appeared on her face. “The servants threw a fit while I was up there and Mother was simply beside herself.”

    “I don’t think many eleven year old girls go on top of windmills to install anemometers,” Lee replied with an amused grin, trying to picture the event.

    “No,” Nicole mused aloud. “I don’t think there are. Regardless, I convinced the workers of the other windmills in the Pasture Lands to do the same. I then started recording the data.”

    The half Doggel suddenly fell silent. She then looked to Lee with her mouth in the slightest of frowns and her big, baby blue eyes looking straight at him. It was like the look a puppy would give a person when desperately wanting attention. The fact she came from canine lineage only drove that image further home. Lee suddenly felt uncomfortable in her gaze.

    She finally spoke. “I envy you,” she said in a very quiet, delicate voice.

    Lee’s eye practically popped out of his head when he heard this. “What?” he exclaimed. “Why would you envy me? I rent out the basement apartment of by landlady’s boardinghouse. I spend my days being yelled at by Spigot and spat upon by just about everyone else. Why, for the love of God, would you envy me?”

    “Because you’re free,” Nicole said. “You get to live your life however you want to. You get to be a scientist and study the wonders of this planet. I don’t have that luxury.”

    Lee sat their total silence. He was too dumbstruck for words.

    “I’m an only child and, as I said, my uncle died without producing an heir,” Nicole explained. “Continuing the bloodline and my family’s hold on this barony has been set solely on my shoulders. So, while I can play scientist, I’ll never be allowed to really be one.”

    She blew at one of her golden locks that had escaped its place under her bonnet out of annoyance. “The reason I’m a lady in waiting is because Mother wants me to act more like a lady. She figured I would be forced to if I was in the public eye.”

    Her expression warmed and she gave a delighted giggle. “The day Sophie-sama came here so we could be introduced couldn’t have been timed worse. It was about two years ago and Father had been indulging my interest in windmills. That day, he was showing me the inner workings of the motor. Sophie came up and I must have looked dreadful judging by the disgusted expression on Mother’s face.”

    “I wish I could have seen it,” Lee said, unable to hold back a wide grin.

    “Don’t get me wrong,” Nicole said. “Sophie-sama is a wonderful person and I enjoy her company. However, knowing it’s a ploy to get me away from science kind of kills the experience.”

    “So,” Lee said. “You used it as a way to expand your work.”

    “Absolutely,” Nicole proclaimed. “I convinced King Randa-sama to run my experiment on all the windmills. I also began working on the Babardo Windmill when I didn’t have duties to perform as a lady which is much of the time.”

    She then shrank back into her seat like a balloon that the air had been let out of. “Of course, now that I’m sixteen, Mother’s latest ploy is to marry me off. Of course, her choices are sons of other barons and military brats. Her latest choice was this character named Otto. He’s a nice guy but not my type, all up tight and such.”

    Lee suddenly realized she was talking about Otto from the base. She was the Nicole he had been talking about the night earlier. “I think I met him,” Lee replied. He then coughed a laugh. “I cleaned his clock in Hold ‘em last night. He is pretty rigid. I could only imagine how much of a joy a relationship could be with him. Have they all been like that?”

    “Mother is more interested in their status than my feelings towards them,” Nicole scoffed. “I want someone who understands me. I’m looking for a thinker who can appreciate my intellect and curiosity. Unfortunately, the higher your status, the more close minded you tend to be.”

    Lee was ready to faint. That was what he could not put his finger on. She was cute, kindhearted, and smart. Unlike the stereotypical “dumb blond” she was very smart and was looking for an equally brainy man. He wanted to embrace her and say he was that kind of man. However, his mind suddenly slapped with a large chunk of reality.

    He thought, it can wait until we’ve saved Milro-sama and the others. “We need to find out how to alter the windmills’ output,” he said.

    “Right.” Nicole snapped back to the present as well. “Some of the computer boys at the castle have a program that can do it for you. They can then send out word to every windmill in the kingdom from there. They just need the last of my notes.”

    “Then let’s get going.” Lee hopped to his feet.

    The two walked out of the study and briskly down the spiral staircase to the main floor. Lee stopped so suddenly that Nicole ran into him. She looked up and saw that the tall Shark man had gone almost unnaturally pale. She looked around and gasped.

    Two Gators and a humanoid robot with a chrome body and a head designed like an art deco helmet were standing in the entrance hall. They had harpoon rifles trained on her parents and the staff. She shrank behind Lee who only stood their, paralyzed with fear.

    The robot turned to them. The LED “eyes” in the goggle like mask over the upper half of his face changed into an angry, red glare. “There you are,” it said in its high-pitched voice.

    “Nicole, run,” her father cried out. “It’s your data they’re after.”

    The Shark Man and half Doggel snapped into action. They bolted up the staircase as quickly as they could.

    “Watch over them,” Copter-bot instructed. “I’ll take care of those two.”

    Lee and Nicole practically ran into the wall off the staircase. Thinking quickly, Nicole grabbed a rope dangling from the ceiling and pulled it down. A staircase dropped in front of her.

    “Up here,” she called out.

    The two raced up the staircase. Copter-bot followed close behind. As soon as they were through the hatch, the two pushed a crate over the double doors. They then sat on it just in time for it to leap from the impact of the machine man ramming into it.

    “Oh-ho,” Copter-bot moaned from below, “my servos.”

    The two heaved a relieved sigh.

    * * *

    It took a while for Bret to find an appropriate place to take his “leak”. Unfortunately, the people of the Seed Kingdom never had a reason to create facilities for people his size. So, he had to improvise. He found a tree that would suffice and took care of business.

    He started to think about Lee and Nicole on his way back. He had never been the jealous sort but seeing them hit it right off made him more than a little envious. He was not envious of Lee getting Nicole. He could tell right away they were a perfect match, perhaps even more than they could.

    What he was envious of was Lee found a girl without even trying. In fact, Lee did not pay that much attention to women. Bret had been trying to find a girl for years without much success. There were Arlene and Ophelia but they were more like close friends and Tammy seemed more like an overbearing older sister. Perhaps he was trying too hard.

    He heard screams ahead of him. Several tiny points of light clustered in a group were coming towards him. He shined his flashlight towards them and discovered it was a fairly large group of Seed People running.

    “Run for your life-dane,” one of them called out. “There’s a giant lizard monster on the loose-dane.”

    “Yeah,” Bret scoffed, “and I’m Ultraman.”

    “Monster” was a word the people of the Seed Kingdom used very liberally. To them, anything the size of a Human child or larger was considered a monster. They even considered the Gonts that lived on the edge of their kingdom monsters due to their large size. Bret was not all that impressed with their warning.

    “Some overgrown gecko must have gotten into the village,” Bret mumbled to himself.

    The half Beaver had his head turned so he could not see what was ahead of him. He walked into something solid. He literally bounced off it and had to brace himself to stay standing.

    “Watch where you’re going,” he growled.

    He instinctively shined his flashlight forward. The light hit khaki pants and an almost black leather jacket. It then came over a long snout covered by dark green scales. The seam of the mouth running well up either side had numerous sharp teeth visible over the lip. He also saw a pair of yellow, reptilian eyes gleaming in the darkness above it. He tried to scream but barely audible wheezes were all that could escape.

    A massive hand suddenly grabbed him by the jacket and lifted him off the ground. The demonstration of beastly strength was the last clue Bret needed. It was not a lizard monster. It was much, much worse. It was none other than a Gator.

    His ears curled over and he grinned sheepishly at the alligator like resident of the Water Drop Kingdom. “H-hi,” he said weakly. “How’s it hanging?”

    * * *

    Once he had regained his wits, Lee realized Nicole had led him into the windmill’s motor room. The main piece of the room was the windmill’s massive motor taking up most of the space. It was a housed in a purple with gold trim cylinder of metal lying on its side and held in place by supports and braces in the center of the room. There were also a couple workstations that were set in the wall to its sides as well as a more intricate station on the back of the motor.

    It felt more like he was inside a giant desk fan than a windmill. It actually made sense. The Windmill Kingdom’s windmills generated the wind instead of capturing it like classical windmills.

    He turned his attention to one of the senses unique to his people and other aquatic life. His lateral lines could detect vibrations below audible frequencies. He could feel the minute vibrations caused by the footsteps of the machine man below. He was sulking around the staircase like a wolf in front of a rabbit hole while it waited for its prey to have to emerge.

    “He’s still down there,” he growled.

    “What about Mother, Father, and the others,” Nicole pleaded. Her eyes watered and quivered in a combination of concern and fear. She felt helpless, trapped in the motor room while they did who knew what to her family. She then looked at her book of notes she was still holding against her chest. And why would they want my work? she thought.

    “They’re fine,” Lee replied, trying to sound comforting. “Geronita might be unstable but homicide is not his style.”

    Though, that was not much of a comfort. They were still being held at gun point and he and Nicole were trapped like that rabbit in its burrow.

    It did not make any sense. Geronita was only interested in the Water Drop Kingdom. It was no secret he wanted to be king. He had never brought foreigners into his fold before or done another anything outside of the Water Drop Kingdom.

    What are you up to? Lee thought.

    “How do we get out of here?” Nicole asked. “We can’t leave them being held at gunpoint. Not to mention the prince, princesses, and the entire Seed Kingdom are counting on us.”

    Lee thought through their situation and their options. He snapped his fingers when he got an idea. “We’ll downplay,” he thought out loud.

    “What?” Nicole asked.

    “I beat Otto by downplaying my hand,” Lee explained. “I convinced him he had me beat and he just threw all his chips in.”

    “How does that help us here?” Nicole asked.

    “Grab a heavy tool and fine a place to hide,” Lee instructed.

    He pushed the crate off the doors and threw them open. “Uncle, uncle,” he cried. “Just come up here and we’ll surrender.”

    Lee grabbed a large wrench from a nearby tool box and Nicole took a hammer. He then leapt onto the motor and she hid behind the motor. They both watched as the machine man stepped into the room.

    Lee was given a chance to examine him more closely. Most of his body was chrome but his midsection and inside of his joints were blue. Welded to his back was a motor with two blades folded over the sides. He was clearly an example of Jewelry Kingdom technology. It confused Lee as to why an automaton from the Jewelry Kingdom would be with two Gators, brandishing a Water Drop Kingdom weapon, and be after data on the windmills.

    Copter-bot swung his head and gun from side to side. The room seemed empty with only the hum of the motor to be heard. “Where are you?” he growled.

    Lee waited, rubbing his webbed hand on the metal of the heavy wrench as an anxious sweat spread through his body. Fortunately, Copter-bot had started at the side of the motor opposite to Nicole. He would not have to worry about her safety when he made his move. Upon seeing an opening, the Shark Man leapt upon him.

    The two fell to the floor with a loud thud. The rifle slipped from Copter-bot’s hands and slid across the metal floor. Both quickly got to their feet. Lee took the wrench like a club and brained the android in the side of the head. Copter-bot retaliated by throwing a punch, but Lee caught his fist in his webbed hand. Lee then smashed the android’s head into the side of the motor, leaving a dent.

    Copter-bot staggered back from the impact. “You’ll pay for that,” he snarled. He then shouted, “Copter-bot: Full Power!”

    The blades flew off his motor and separated from one another. Ports opened on his forearms the blades lined up to. In a grotesquely overdone spectacle of arcing electricity and an explosion of sparks, the blades connected to the ports. He scraped the blades together, throwing out more sparks before taking a dramatic stance.

    The robot suddenly leapt into action. He slashed at Lee who had to jump back to avoid being sliced in two. Copter-bot slashed and jabbed at him until he was backed up against the motor. Copter-bot’s expression turned violet and into a squint formed from frustration and wrath. Lee would have complimented his builder with his intricate personality if not for him trying to kill him.

    He thrust his blade forward in another jab. Lee rolled away just in time and the sharp, metal blade plunged into the box that was behind him. Copter-bot noticed a bright yellow sign next to it stating in equally bright red letters, ‘Danger: Ridiculously High Voltage’. His expression turned blue and into the doomed frown a cartoon character makes after they have run off a cliff and realized gravity still works. “Oh no,” the robot whimpered.

    A massive electrical discharge suddenly ripped through his body. It disrupted the power throughout the windmill. The people below noticed it when the lights flickered for a few seconds.

    “Go check it out,” one Gator said to another.

    The other reptile complied without a word. He walked up the spiral staircase and then the pull down staircase into the motor room. He readied his weapon as he emerged into the motor room.

    It at first seemed empty but Copter-bot suddenly popped up in front of him. “Hidey-ho,” the machine man said in a singsong voice.

    The Gator was taken aback by the outburst.

    Copter-bot, still smoldering and smelling of melting rubber, rested his arm on the gator. “Did you know that I’m buck naked?” Copter-bot inquired coyly. “That’s right. I run all over the place in the nude. Me likes being naked.” He gave a small laugh before his head cocked and he fell over with a loud clunk.

    Before the Gator could make sense of what he had just seen, he felt the muzzle of a harpoon rifle jab him in his back.

    “Hands where I can seem them,” Lee ordered.

    The Gator complied, holding out his arms.

    “Drop the gun,” Lee instructed as he took the dart gun from the Gator’s holster.

    The Gator again begrudgingly complied, letting the rifle fall to the floor with a clunk.

    Nicole emerged from her hiding place when things fell silent. She walked gingerly around the motor with her hammer raised like a club. She could feel her heart pounding anxiously in her chest. She could not see anything that had transpired since Copter-bot entered the motor room but she had heard all the commotion. To her relief, the machine man was sprawled out on the floor and Lee had one of the Gators at gunpoint. She dropped her hammer and exhaled a sigh.

    “Are you alright?” Lee asked her, still huffing to catch his breath.

    “I’m fine,” Nicole replied, feeling her heart return to a more natural rhythm. “You?”

    “I’ll live,” Lee answered. He then barked at the Gator, “downstairs, and don’t anything funny.”

    Holding his arms out, the Gator slowly began to descend the stairs. Lee followed, keeping the gun in the reptile’s back and dragging Copter-bot by the leg. Nicole picked up the discarded rifle and followed them down.

    The second gator leaned on his rifle and watched the frightened group in a line along the wall in front of him. They all sat there with that intangible fear in their eyes that is impossible to describe but one could tell it was there. He smiled cruelly which only seemed to increase their fright.

    He wondered what the others were doing. The windmill did not seem to conduct sound well because, while he knew there had been some kind of commotion with Copter-bot, he heard nothing. He then noticed his friend walk down the stairs.

    The reptile squinted in confusion of his comrade’s awkward position. “What was it?” he asked.

    Lee stepped out from behind the massive Gator with his rifle trained on the second. He shoved the dart gun into the back of the first. “Put the gun down,” he ordered, motioning with his weapon.

    The second Gator complied like the first without a word. He then took out his dart gun and threw it down. He looked at the aquatic humanoid with a contemptuous glare. Lee only looked at him, stone-faced.

    “Mother!” Nicole exclaimed and practically tackled her mother to hug her affectionately.

    “Nicole,” her mother cooed, embracing her. “Are you alright?”

    “Yes,” Nicole replied.

    “As much as I hate to sound insensitive at times like this,” Lee interrupted them with his weapons still trained on the Gators. “But, do you have anything to tie them up with.”

    The staff bound the Gators’ wrists, ankles, and snouts. The two reptiles remained still with Lee standing over them. However, they did not bother hiding their contempt for him.

    Lee watched them closely with his weapon ready. He knew what Gators were capable of and one should never let their guard down around them. It was not until they were completely bound that he allowed himself to turn to other things.

    Copter-bot was the leader of the three from what he could tell. Lee walked up to the robot that had since recovered from the shock. “I want answers,” he said, allowing a slight sharpness to enter his voice.

    “About what?” Copter-bot replied contemptuously.

    “I know you’re working for Geronita,” Lee said in a more subdued tone. “What is he doing?”

    Copter-bot’s expression turned into a green, cruel grin. “You’re the weather expert,” he said. “I’m surprised you haven’t figured it out.”

    Lee was about to snap at him again but instead thought through everything he had seen and heard over the past two days. In what had to be the first true moment of clarity he had since being involved in all this, it all fell into place like pieces of a puzzle.

    “Geronita,” Lee explained, “is seeding the clouds on their way to the Seed Kingdom to intentionally flood it. The yellow haze is silver iodide which is a popular chemical for cloud seeding. He sent you here to stop us from manipulating the wind so the clouds would keep passing over the Seed Kingdom.”

    “That’s right,” Copter-bot replied in a low, menacing voice. “It’s just the first step in our master plan, and, when it comes to fruition, you and your kingdom are screwed.”

    Some people don't think it's funny that Exit 69 gets off on Big Beaver.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    The Mitten State
    Posts
    6,950

    Default

    Chapter 9: When it Rains; It Pours

    Although Franklin had told them it was best to give Auler his space, Sophie was worried about him. It was starting to get even chillier and the rain made it absolutely raw outside. After convincing Milro to help her search for him, they got umbrellas and lanterns designed for the Seed People and went out in search for him.

    They found him sitting on a rock on the far side of the village. He appeared to still be very downtrodden with his chin cupped in his palms and staring glumly into the night.

    “There you are, Big Brother,” Sophie cheered.

    Auler sat up and looked over to them. “What are you doing out here?” he asked.

    “It’s getting cold,” Milro replied. “We were worried about you.”

    “I’m fine,” Auler said dismissively.

    “Franklin told use about what’s going on,” Sophie said. “I know you want to feel like you’re destructible but you can’t because you can’t swim.”

    Auler tried to fight the urge to grin at hearing this. Sophie was never one to be subtle but how she blurted things with her naïveté was one of her endearing qualities. Not only did she say things most others would not, but she managed to make people feel better when she said it. He finally surrendered and smiled.

    “You’re right,” he said. “It is getting cold out here.”

    “The engineers are also planning dinner,” Sophie said, handing him the spare umbrella. “We’re having something called M.R.E.”

    Screaming suddenly pierced the dreary darkness. A large group of Seed People emerged from the darkness as they ran towards them. All of the tiny humanoids had clear distress in their eyes as they raced past them.

    The three thought the crowd did not even notice them until one cried out, “run away-dane. There’s a giant lizard monster-dane.”

    Another wail rose out of the night. In the dim light, they saw a large object fly over them. They realized it was Bret when he crashed into a nearby tree so hard his limbs wrapped around the trunk from the impact. He slid to the ground and slumped over. They feared the worst until he gave off a low moan.

    Auler jumped to his feet. “What in this kingdom could do that to Bret?” he exclaimed.

    A pool of harsh light surrounded them. Milro shielded her eyes from the glare. Above the source of the light she saw a pair of eyes and many sharp teeth in a cruel grin gleaming ever so faintly against the blackness. She screamed in terror at the ghoulish sight.

    A large hand swept them together and trapped them in its grasp before they could do anything. Its grip was not tight enough to hurt them but they could not move. They then felt themselves being lift to what felt like an incredible height. The pair of yellow, reptilian eyes stared at them with the slight squint of accomplishment.

    “Let us go!” Auler demanded.

    The Gator did not comply. He instead lifted up the birdcage in his flashlight bearing hand and opened the door before throwing them in. He then slammed the door shut.

    He turned to leave and noticed King and several of his troops had gathered behind him. The soldiers backed up a step and looked at one another with nervous glances as they stood with their cork rifles pointed at the massive beast.

    “Lizard Monster, release the prince and princesses-dane,” King demanded. “Otherwise, we will have no choice but to use force.”

    “Oh, please,” the Gator said with a chuckle.

    He let the rifle slide off his shoulder and grabbed its handle. He pointed it so the dot from the laser settled on King’s crown. He pulled the trigger and, with a gentle swoosh, a harpoon shot out from the barrel. The long, thin projectile ripped the crown from King’s head and embedded itself in the mud with the tall head ornament still skewered on it.

    All the soldiers jumped at this. “Orders-dane?” one of them asked uneasily.

    “Father always said: never pick a fight with anyone that has ammo bigger than you are-dane,” King said. He then screamed, “RETREAT-DANE!”

    He and his soldiers scattered and scurried into the night like frightened mice. The Gator grinned at their flight as he put the rifle back over his shoulder. He then turned to Bret who was still leaning against the tree.

    “Don’t get up on my account,” the reptile said teasingly.

    Bret only moaned in response.

    * * *

    “This is Lee calling the Hurricane,” Lee said into his walky-talky. However, only silence came in reply. “I repeat, Lee calling Hurricane, respond.” Again, the only thing to come from the speaker was the quiet crackle of static. “Damn.”

    “What’s wrong?” Nicole asked.

    “I can’t raise the others,” Lee explained. “I don’t know if it’s because we’re being jammed or because the signal is being blocked by the Meridian Mountains. Either way, there’s no way to warn them about Geronita by radio.”

    “Who is Geronita?” Nicole’s mother, Claudette, asked.

    “He was a famous singer once,” Lee said. “I don’t know the whole story but they say he suffered a terrible case of laryngitis. It destroyed his voice but he didn’t want to accept it. So, he held a comeback concert. Not only could he not sing, but a young Queen Yamul-sama put it in the bluntest terms possible.

    His career was over after that. He blamed Yamul-sama for it because in his vain, twisted mind he believed he was still a great singer and she was a tasteless hack. So, he decided the best revenge was to beat her at her own game of politics. He went to the Zubuzubu Swamp and quickly got elected governor by bashing Saginaw City and feeding into their hatred of northerners. In a little over a decade he probably set national unity back a century.”

    “Why does Queen Yamul-sama allow this?” Claudette asked.

    “The provinces have the right to conduct themselves how they please as long as they don’t break any laws or interferes with national affairs,” Lee replied. “Geronita pushed it to its limit but he’s crossed the line now.”

    Unfortunately, his knowledge was of little good in the Windmill Kingdom. If Geronita and his followers knew he was in the Windmill Kingdom, they likely knew Milro, Auler, and Sophie had been shrunk as well. No doubt the old Bull Frog would want to use their current state to his advantage. He also needed to get the last of the data to the Windmill Kingdom’s castle and use his equations to determine how to alter the network’s output.

    He looked at the craft in front of the windmill. There was the zeppelin they had come in and the old stingray the Gators arrived in. “We’re going to have to act fast,” he said. “One of us is going to have to hightail it the Seed Kingdom with the Gators in tow and warn the others. Someone else has to go to the castle and have the crew there implement the changes needed.”

    “I can take them back to the Seed Kingdom,” Nicole said. “They’re going to need your equations at the castle.”

    “Absolute not,” Claudette protested. “I won’t stand for you having to transport such dangerous brutes. You are the future baroness of this land. You do not transport prisoners.”

    “I’m also in service to the Windmill Kingdom,” Nicole said in response. “I have a duty to see to its safety. These three are a threat to the Windmill Kingdom as well as the Water Drop Kingdom. That makes them just as much of a threat to this barony as well. Wouldn’t you agree as its heir I have a reasonability to make sure they’re dealt with?”

    Claudette opened her mouth to respond. However, she could not think of an argument against her.

    “I’m afraid she has you beat on this one, Dear,” her husband whispered to her.

    “I’ll go with her,” one of the male servants said.

    “We don’t have any other choice, Mother,” Nicole said.

    Claudette capitulated. “Alright,” she finally said.

    Lee threw a rifle to the servant. “Keep your eyes on those two at all times.”

    “I will,” the blond haired servant replied.

    The two reptiles and Copter-bot were loaded into the zeppelin. Lee jumped into the stingray and started up the noisy contraption. The two craft took to the skies and flew off in opposite directions. The others left on the ground watched as they dwindled with distance, still shaken from recent events and worried about those on board.

    The Mesa Country was practically adjacent to the Pasture Lands. The first indication he was approaching it was the green hills went gray with only isolated pockets of brush. Spires of stone then emerged from the haze, each topped by the windmill. This was more like the image Lee had when he thought of the Windmill Kingdom.

    He had heard the spires were hollow and served as towns stacked vertically instead of spread out over a horizontal area. Seeing the openings rounding them in rows, he knew that was true. He then saw the tallest, largest spire with the castle sitting at its top.

    The castle was a massive windmill with a set of five huge, ornately crafted blades. To either side of it were smaller, four bladed windmills that looked like others. Lee could not help but whistle amazement of the sight.

    “Unidentified craft,” a voice cracked over the radio, “you’ve entered restricted airspace.”

    It was to be expected. One was daft to think they could just waltz up to another country’s castle, especially in a strange craft like a stingray which had never been seen outside of the Water Drop Kingdom until the day before. Fortunately, Helena had thought ahead. She gave Spigot the codes that granted access to the Windmill Network and authorization to land at the castle.

    “I’m Lee, an engineer from the Water Drop Kingdom,” he said into the receiver. “I’m part of a joint effort between Water Drop Kingdom and Windmill Kingdom with Helena, your chief of operations. I need to see someone from the Windmill Network. Authorization Code: tau beta gamma nine zero seven two five one.”

    After a pause the voice returned. “You’re cleared to land. Enter the hangar through one of the entries immediately below the castle.”

    “Will do,” Lee replied.

    He flew in one of the holes and entered the cavernous hangar bay. He touched down and the craft slowed to the stop. As Lee opened the cockpit, he was greeted by the fact ethanol powered engines were not only loud but they stank. There were impurities and additives in the fuel that when burned made a noxious exhaust. He knew sometimes ethanol was a more practical fuel but he would personally prefer hydrogen any day for sake of his ears, nose, and lateral lines.

    As he climbed out onto the wing he also noticed several tubes attached to the back of the wings. He stuck his finger in one of them and rubbed some of its contents onto it. He then smelled and tasted the yellow powder. “Silver iodide,” he growled under his breath.

    Several Doggels flew in. “We’re with the Windmill Network,” one of them announced. “What do you want?”

    “I’m currently working with Helena on a joint project,” Lee explained.

    “Air Command told us,” the Doggel said.

    Lee reached into his pocket and took out a small box with a lock and adorned with the emblem of the Windmill Kingdom. Helena insisted they did not see the access codes for altering the Windmill Network. So, he handed it to the lead Doggel. She took out a key and opened the box. She read the paper inside it silently.

    She read over it quickly. “This has been approved by Helena,” the canine worker stated to the others.

    Lee nodded. “You know about what’s happening in the Seed Kingdom, right?”

    The Doggels nodded.

    “We’re working on stopping the rain but that means altering the output of the windmills. I have equations to determine how the winds have to be changed,” Lee explained. “I’ll need you to figure out how to alter the windmills.”

    The Doggels conversed with hushed voices between themselves. Lee could still make out that it was over whether or not to do it. However, they all agreed in the affirmative.

    “Then we have no time to waste,” the lead Doggel said. “Come with us.”

    As he followed them through the castle, Lee took note of the design and décor. Each kingdom had its own unique architectural style to work with the resources they had as well as the tastes of the people living there. It was a given purple would dominate the pallet, which it did along with gold. Fans were spaced evenly on the ceiling and large, cylindrical wind chimes were hung against the walls. He felt a little out of place as the only blue thing.

    They led him into one of the side Windmills. Lee felt like whistling again. The room they entered had large monitors taking up much of the walls on either side of him and a large table with several monitors built into its glass top was in the center. Several Doggels and half-Doggels sat at them as they monitored what they displayed.

    “Wow,” Lee finally said. “This is the command center of the Windmill Network?”

    “Yup,” one of the Doggels said.

    Lee looked around as he walked further in. The huge screens were maps of the Windmill Kingdom with wind velocity barbs over colorful contour maps of what he guessed was the wind speed. Smaller monitors appeared to be focused on the windmills themselves. He sat down at the table and examined the readouts.

    “Why is he in here?” a half-Doggel demanded.

    “He’s working with Helena on stopping the rain in the Seed Kingdom,” one of the Doggels that came in with him answered. “He has access.”

    “I just typed in the last lines we needed in the program,” one of the Doggels reported. “Give our thanks to Nicole.”

    “I will,” Lee said.

    He then took out a small notepad and began scribbling the force vectors of the wind. The forces were the pressure gradient force which, in the Mysterious Planet, was basically the same as the thermal gradient. Then there was the Corilois Effect and friction. Then, there was the geostrophic component that ran parallel to the gradient. These all combined to determine the direction and speed of the wind.

    The Corilois Effect was the one he was interested in. It was caused by the winds circling the planet in the same amount of time regardless of latitude. So, the winds at the equator were faster than those at the poles. This caused the winds to deflect to the left in the northern hemisphere which was what he was concerned with at the moment. It was usually considered constant but this time he was going to change it. If he could make the winds deflect enough to the left, the winds carrying the clouds from Saginaw City would bypass the Seed Kingdom completely.

    He began running through his equations to determine how much of an alteration would be needed to change the wind direction enough. Fortunately, with the data he had, and his equations, he quickly came upon the value.

    “It looks like we’ll need to make an eleven point two five percent increase in the Corilois Effect,” he said.

    “Alright,” one the Doggels working on the program said. He cracked his knuckles and input the change. The program spat back numbers for how all the windmills would behave if such a change occurred. “There we go.”

    “Awesome,” Lee said as he looked at the readout. “Can you also find out what other effects it’ll have on the planet? We should be prepared for any unintended consequences.”

    “It just looks like it’ll be a little breezier than usual,” the Doggel reported. “Thank God for the Mysterious Planet’s naturally stable atmosphere. The only really adverse effect I see is an increase risk of sandstorms in the Moon Kingdom.”

    “Then you should probably send word to them,” Lee said. “In the meantime, I have to get back to the Seed Kingdom. If I know my amphibians, there could be trouble there.”

    He practically ran out of the room and down the hall back to the hangar.

    * * *

    Nicole piloted the zeppelin over the Meridian Mountains as the servant stood guard over their prisoners. The Meridians were a line of towering gray peaks, almost completely devoid of life. The range served as the continental divide, cutting the Mysterious Planet’s only substantial landmass in half. They also fell roughly on the Prime Meridian, hence their name.

    Although being guarded at gunpoint, the Gators were already making good on their escape. Behind their backs, they were cutting the ropes binding their wrists on Copter-bot’s blades. They were just waiting for a moment to strike.

    That moment came when they hit a patch of turbulence. The servant was knocked off balance momentarily. However, it was long enough for the Gators to slice the ropes holding their ankles.

    They leapt upon their captors. One Gator grabbed the rifle from the servant’s hand and ripped it from him. He struck him in the head with the shoulder rest and threw him overboard. The other grabbed Nicole from the controls. He was about to throw her overboard when a ring came from Copter-bot’s chest.

    The Gator that took the gun opened his chest and pulled out the phone within. “Yes?” he asked.

    “Status update,” Geronita’s voice demanded.

    “We were captured by the Shark man and half-Doggel,” the Gator reported. “However, have escaped and were about to throw the girl off the zeppelin we’ve commandeered.”

    “Idiot,” Geronita snapped. “She could be useful to us. Bring her back to base alive.”

    “Yes, Lord Geronita-sama,” the Gator replied. He then said to the other ready to drop Nicole, “Geronita-sama said let her live. We’ll take her back to base.”

    The reptile heaved a disappointed sigh. “Fine,” he grumbled.

    He lifted her back into the gondola and threw her into the back. He then took the controls and set a course for the base.

    * * *

    “Auler-sama, Sophie-sama, Milro-sama, Bret,” Alex called out, “Where are you?”

    He glided through the gloom with only the small circle of light from his flashlight to tell him what was ahead of him. The crew of the Hurricane sent him out to search for the royals and their pilot when they had not returned. It figured. He had always been a gopher. Finding people and retrieving things seemed to be his lot in life.

    However, this search was proving more difficult than most. Finding three ten centimeter tall people in the Seed Kingdom in the dark was the proverbial search for a needle in a haystack. Still, he would have more luck looking for them than waiting.

    He glided into a clearing and his light fell on something shiny. He scanned it and realized it was the hull of an aircraft of some sort. It appeared unpainted with its skin still the shiny, silver color of bare, stainless steel. As he examined it he found a crude, red “X” spray painted over the emblem of the Water Drop Kingdom on the right wing.

    Before he could figure out what it meant, he heard sloshing footsteps approaching. In a panic, he shut off his flashlight and dove into the backseat of the opened cockpit.

    The Gator swaggered back to his stingray. He jumped onto the wing and set the cage and the royals trapped within on the back seat. Apparently not noticing the extra passenger, he plopped into the front seat and started up the craft. He then snorted to inhale the smell of wet dog. He shrugged it off and closed the canopy.

    Alex found himself trapped with the reptile before he could do anything. He could only hide under the seat as the stingray began to move and lift into the air. He quietly crept out and looked at the trapped royals. They shushed one another and watched as the stingray rose through the clouds.

    The craft burst through the cloud tops. The cockpit was bathed in the gentle, yellow light of the Full Moon. The midnight blue sky was clear as a bell and crowded with stars and even the emblem at the top of the Sunny Kingdom which was still shining as its night had yet to come. However, they were more concerned with the massive, reptilian pilot who was flying them to who knew where.

    They barely breathed as the craft began to descend again. However, they did not plunge back into clouds. The craft was flying over an extensive swamp towards an island in a large lake. It touched down on the runway and slowed to a stop on the tarmac.

    As soon as the canopy opened, Alex grabbed the cage and darted out and under the stingray. They looked around them and were astounded by what they saw. More Gators were scattered around wood framed buildings with corrugated metal roofs. They and Bull Frogs were loading munitions into guns installed on other craft sitting in a line to the side.

    It was very warm, especially for nighttime, and muggy. Swarms of no-see-‘ems danced in the lights of the lamps. The heavy stench of rotting vegetation and other gases hanged in the air that was also filled with the symphony of crickets chirping and frogs croaking.

    “What’s going on?” Auler asked. “It looks like they’re preparing for war.”

    “I don’t know,” Alex replied. “From the hot, sticky airmass,” he sniffed the air and then covered his nose, “and the aroma, I’d say we’re in a swamp. From the locals, I’d say we’re in the Water Drop Kingdom.”

    “Perhaps I could talk to them,” Milro suggested.

    “From what I saw on the wing, I doubt they’d listen to you, Princess,” Alex said. “We need to get out of here.”

    “I’m telling you, Waltu,” they heard a voice approaching. “This is unraveling.”

    Khan and Waltu were walking towards the craft. Khan was visibly flustered. His hand movements and body language were highly exaggerated as he conversed with the more collected pinniped.

    “The Water Drop Kingdom engineers know about the flooding and are trying to stop it,” Kahn said. “It’s only a matter of time before they add things up.”

    “Time is fortunately something we don’t have to worry about,” Waltu said. “By this time tomorrow night, we will be in control of the cloud machine and it will all be moot.”

    Alex and the royals gasped at the statement made by the Walrus. They suddenly realized what the weapons were for. Their anxiety only grew as Waltu walked towards the craft. Alex hid behind the landing gear but kept his ears up to listen.

    Waltu walked up to the stingray. He flared his nostrils were he detected the strange odor coming from it. “What smells like wet dog?” he asked.

    “I don’t know,” the Gator pilot replied. “I came back to it and it reeked.”

    “It doesn’t matter,” the pigmy Walrus said. “Just bring the royals to Geronita-sama.”

    “Right,” the Gator said. He stood up to reach into the backseat but it was empty.

    Alex realized he had no choice but to escape immediately. He spread his ears and leapt into the sky.

    “A Doggel,” Waltu exclaimed, “and he has the prince and princesses!”

    “Worse!” Kahn yelled to himself more than anyone else. “The son of ***** might have heard everything!”

    “Get him!” they both shouted at the same time.

    Alex darted into the night sky as fast as he could. He looked back to the island turned base dwindling with distance behind him and smirked at the chaos. By the time they got their craft in the air he would be halfway back to the Seed Kingdom. Just when he thought he was home free, he flew into something and bounced off it.

    Before he could right himself he felt the collar of his jacket being grabbed. A Bird woman resembling a peregrine falcon and wearing a black halter top dress had him. She lifted him to her eye level and glared into his dumbstruck eyes.

    She wagged her feather covered finger in a condescending manner. “Bad dog,” she scolded, “no biscuit.”

    She flew back down to the base. A zeppelin also arrived and touched down. The two Gators practically threw Nicole out and then took her by the arms.

    “Long time, no see, Nicole,” Alex said as they were brought together.

    “They got you too?” Nicole asked.

    “I kind of stowed away,” Alex replied.

    “Quiet,” the Bird woman barked.

    Waltu walked up to them, rubbing his flippers together eagerly. “Excellent,” he said with a cruel chuckle. “Take the princess and the chikuwa-earred ones to Lord Geronita-sama.”

    * * *

    Tammy could not help but sigh when she came across Bret still leaning across the tree. She should have known she would find him like this or in some other strange situation. She grabbed his shoulder and shook him.

    “Come on, Ma,” Bret grumbled as he slumped against the tree again. “I don’t wanna go to school today.”

    Tammy looked at his furry tail lying in the mud. She figured it was the only way and she had threatened physical harm to it earlier. So, she stamped on it with her full weight.

    “Ya-how,” Bret screamed as he jumped to his feet. He looked back at his tail which had a dent in it from her foot. “Ouch. Do you have any idea how painful it is when a hundred and five kilos of Beaver in toe shoes stomps on your tail?”

    Tammy verbally retaliated with, “not nearly as much as a hundred and five kilos of Beaver in toe shoes kicking you in the…”

    “Save it, you two,” Spigot shouted at them as he walked towards them. “Have either of you seen Milro-sama and the others?”

    “No,” the two said at once.

    “They’ve been taken by a lizard monster-dane,” King said. He stuck his finger through the hole in his hat left by the harpoon. “It shot my crown too.”

    “It wasn’t a lizard monster,” Bret said. “It was probably the Gator that attacked me.”

    “GATOR!?” Spigot yelled at the top of his lungs.

    “What’s a Gator-dane?” King asked.

    “They’re a reptilian race from the Water Drop Kingdom,” Spigot explained despairingly. “Most are loyal to Geronita. That means Milro-sama and the others must now in the hands of that psychopath.”

    He plopped down on a rock and stared on in shock.

    “I’m afraid it only gets worse-dane,” King said gravely. “For the curse to be lifted, the prince and princesses must be in the Seed Kingdom-dane. Even if you stop the rain, if they’re not here by dawn, they’ll remain small forever-dane.”

    “Spigot!” Lee’s voice called out from the darkness. The Shark man ran up to them, panting for air. “There you are.” He took a moment to catch his breath. “We’re in big trouble. Nicole and I were attacked in the Windmill Kingdom by Gators. We think they know about Milro-sama and the others.”

    “They more than know,” Tammy said despairingly. “They have them.”

    “Oh no,” Lee exclaimed. “What about Nicole? She was coming to warn you.”

    “She was captured as well,” a female voice said from nowhere.

    Two Bird People descended from the sky. The female resembled a red-tailed hawk and her male companion looked very much like a blue jay. Both appeared to be a year on either side of twenty and were dressed in worker uniforms. They landed gently in the group.

    “Forgive the intrusion,” the male said. “I’m Matthew and this is Danielle.”

    “What do you mean captured as well!?” Lee demanded, grabbing Danielle by the shawl.

    “Those reptiles got free and killed the servant,” Danielle explained coolly, despite Lee’s heated reaction. “They then took her captive and headed for the southern regions of the Water Drop Kingdom. Unfortunately, we were too far away to do anything. We saw you headed here and decided to follow you.”

    It was Lee’s turn to be in shock. He let go of Danielle and fell onto the rock next to Spigot as he tried to come to terms with the news. At least she was captured, so they would probably keep her alive. Still, being in Geronita’s clutches was far from safe.

    “What about your mission to the Windmill Kingdom?” Spigot asked.

    Lee snapped back to reality. “We were successful, sir,” he said. “The rains should end in the next couple of hours after the wind patterns adjust. However, that’s the problem. It’s Geronita and his people who are causing this.”

    “What?” Spigot jumped to his feet.

    “That stuff we saw in the atmosphere over the Zubuzubu Swamp was silver iodide,” Lee explained. “I don’t know why, but he’s dead set on flooding the Seed Kingdom.”

    “Why would he want to flood my kingdom-dane?” King asked.

    “Who knows?” Spigot said in exasperation. “He’s been bordering on insanity for years. He doesn’t need a logical reason to do what he does.”

    “He might also be jamming us,” Tammy suggested. “That could be why we’ve lost contact with the base.”

    “Spigot,” Ophelia called out as she, Emily and Franklin came running into the crowd. “You’re not going to believe this.”

    “Milro-sama and the others were captured by a Gator,” Spigot answered.

    “How did you know?” Emily asked.

    “I’m psychic,” Spigot growled.

    “Than you must no he got Al too,” Franklin said.

    “Terrific,” Bret said in exasperation. “We’re getting our,” he paused when he pain shot up his back, “tails handed to us by swamp scum.”

    “Geonita’s henchmen said something about a master plan,” Lee said. “They claimed the entire Water Drop Kingdom is doomed once it comes to fruition.”

    “I wonder what they would mean by that,” Ophelia mused aloud.

    “I know one way to find out,” Spigot declared. “We’re going to have to rattle his cage.”

    He turned to his engineers but they were gone. He saw the light from their flashlights moving away quickly. He smacked his forehead and pulled his hand down his face in exasperation.

    “If we hurry,” Bret said, “we can make it back to the gulch by midnight.”

    “Where do you think you’re going?” Spigot called after them.

    They all froze and waited for their chief to stomp up to them.

    “We’re not going to the Zubuzubu Swamp a.k.a. Hell in the Mysterious Planet if that’s what you’re asking,” Bret shot back. “We have better chances coming out a minefield alive than the swamp.”

    “That place is filled with Gators and God knows what else,” Ophelia added. “We’re scientists, not counterinsurgents, and there’re only nine of us.”

    “This would be a job for the kingdom’s militia,” Lee said.

    “Even if we could contact them, they wouldn’t make a move until dawn,” Spigot said. “The curse will have become permanent by the time they strike. If Milro-sama and the others are to be restored to normal, they must be in the Seed Kingdom before dawn. It has to be us.”
    Last edited by The Big Al; 21st February 2009 at 2:05 AM.

    Some people don't think it's funny that Exit 69 gets off on Big Beaver.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    The Mitten State
    Posts
    6,950

    Default

    Chapter 10: Geronita: The Deranged

    The Gators shoved Alex and Nicole into what appeared to be a hangar. It was one hollow space with harsh overhead lights glaring down on them. It was so bright their eyes had to adjust from the dimness outside. Scores of Gators and small Walruses were standing on either side of them with a corridor running the length the building between them.

    “Is this a private club, or can anybody join?” Alex asked.

    “Silence, canine.” Kahn shoved the Doggel forward.

    “Tell me.” Alex turned to the Nyamul. “Do you ever shut up?”

    “I should ask the same of you.” Kahn pushed him again.

    Alex pushed back. When Kahn went to shove him again the Doggel punched him in the face. Startled, the Nyamal backed away and then ran as the canine gave chase and the Gators cheered at the spectacle.

    “Get back here,” Alex growled angrily.

    Kahn leapt onto a rope and began climbing up to, ironically, a catwalk running the length of the hangar. He pulled himself onto the metal walkway and panted as he caught his breath. Alex glided up and came to hover in front of him.

    “Did you forget I can fly, dude?” Alex said with a smug grin.

    The distinct clicking sound of rifles being prepped echoed through the hangar. Alex’s grin suddenly sank into a frown of dread. Kahn looked behind Alex and cracked a grin of his own.

    “Did you forget my friends are heavily armed, ‘dude’?” he mocked

    Alex turned around to see more than a dozen gators with their rifles trained on him and the blue dots of the lasers danced across his body. He grinned sheepishly and forced a weak laugh. He yelped when he felt his collar being grabbed.

    The Bird woman turned him so he faced her. “Sit down and SHUT UP!” she yelled at him.

    She threw him down towards the ground. He slammed into Nicole, knocking her over. The two residents of the Windmill Kingdom slowly sat up as the Gators surrounded them.

    “ENOUGH!” a loud voice barked, echoing through the hangar.

    The Gators and Walruses returned to their positions and came to attention. The faint sound of feet flapping against pavement grew nearer to them. The Gators reformed the corridor so Geronita and his pet alligator snapping turtle could walk leisurely up to the group. The amphibian grinned at them.

    “Princess Milro,” he bowed, “welcome to the Zubuzubu swamp.”

    “Why have you brought us here?” Alex growled.

    A Walrus handed Waltu a clipboard. He did a double take while reading it. “Are you sure?” he asked in dismay.

    The Walrus nodded.

    “Damn,” Waltu sneered. “We have a problem.”

    “What is it?” Geronita croaked. “Can’t you see I’m greeting our guests?”

    “The winds are shifting,” Waltu reported. “They’re becoming more northerly. They’ll soon take the clouds over the ocean and bypass the Seed Kingdom completely.”

    At least our plan is working, Nicole thought to herself.

    “What!?” Geronita croaked in response. He then snapped to the two Gators he sent to the Windmill Kingdom, “I thought I sent you two to stop them from interfering with our cloud seeding plans.”

    “Cloud seeding?” Auler asked.

    “Since none of you will leave this island alive I guess I might as well indulge you.” Geronita grinned again. “For more than a week we have been spraying silver iodide into the atmosphere over the Zubuzubu Swamp.”

    “Why are you doing that?” Sophie asked.

    “To make it rain in the Seed Kingdom,” Geronita answered.

    “That was nice of you,” Sophie said cheerfully. She then thought out loud, “though, I think you overdid it.”

    Geronita fell over in shock. He then jumped back to his feet. “You little airhead, I’m making it rain to flood the Seed Kingdom.”

    The three royals gasped. “Why would you that?” Milro cried out. “The people of the Seed Kingdom are suffering. They’re lives are in jeopardy because of the flooding.”

    “It’s all just a little experiment.” Waltu chuckled. “The data will help us with our plans.”

    “Plans?” Alex growled. “Would that have anything to do with the machine of the Water Drop Kingdom?”

    “Indeed they do.” Geronita nodded slowly. “When the Mysterious Planet was first created, they divided it into kingdoms,” Geronita explained as he paced in front of them. “Each was given a task to make the interior habitable for all life.”

    “Right,” Auler said.

    “WRONG!” Geronita snapped as he turned to them. “They made it habitable for mammals. However, amphibians and reptiles like us are relegated to small areas like this swamp.”

    “It might have something to do with mammals making up more than ninety percent of the sentient population,” Alex said, rolling his eyes.

    “Statistics can be made to say anything,” Geronita sneered in response. “Regardless, I intend to change all that.”

    “What do you intend to do?” Nicole asked.

    “I intend to commandeer the machine of the Water Drop Kingdom,” Geronita answered.

    “No way!” Milro exclaimed.

    “Yes way!” Geronita said in response. “With a few modifications, I’ll use it to reterraform the entire planet, turning it all into wetland.” He proclaimed loudly, “I’ll bring an end to the rule of mammals and usher in a new era of amphibian domination with me as the king of the Mysterious…or should I say…Swamp Planet.”

    “You can’t do that!” Auler shouted.

    “Oh no?” Geronita swaggered up to them. “Who’s going to stop me? Look around you,” he shouted as he threw his hands out. “I have enough might to do whatever I damn well please.”

    “What about the other people of Mysterious Planet?” Milro asked.

    “I guess they should take page from the humanoids of the Water Drop Kingdom and start growing gills.” Geronita laughed loudly with his followers. He then threw his finger out to one side. “Lock them in the brig with the others, and start making preparations.” He shouted, “We attack Saginaw City at dawn!”

    As she was being shoved away, Nicole turned to the amphibian. “You’re positively inhuman,” she shouted at him.

    “My dear,” he replied with a chuckle, “you say that like it’s a bad thing.”

    * * *

    Lee sat in front of the bank of processors that served as the Hurricane’s brain. It was a good ship and had served them well. The Seed Kingdom was saved thanks to its capabilities. However, all its instruments and computers were now useless in this new mission forced upon them.

    He looked at his colleagues in the cabin. They had an expression of doom plastered on their faces. Even Tammy, who always welcomed a fight, seemed to know they were in over their heads.

    He then looked at the two Bird People hanging to bars to keep their balance. “Hey, Danielle,” he said in a subdued voice. “I’m sorry for losing my temper back there.”

    “It’s alright,” the hawk-like women replied. “I’d probably be just as mad if my mate was captured.”

    “Mate!?” Lee exclaimed and reddened. “I wouldn’t call us mates. I just met her.”

    “Sorry,” Danielle said. “I forgot most mammals don’t choose mates immediately. I’ve seen the look you had in your eye many times. So, I thought…”

    “It’s alright,” Lee replied, waving his hand dismissively. “I guess we did hit it right off.”

    “Forgive me for changing the subject,” Danielle said. “However, why is everyone so downtrodden?”

    “The Zubuzubu Swamp has never been a nice place to government employees,” Emily explained. “It’s inhabited mostly by amphibians and reptiles because the mild climate is more hospitable to the cold blooded. Unfortunately, as a culture, they see themselves as superior to the ‘recent error in the evolutionary process’ known as the warm blooded. So, they don’t see the mammals’ right to rule them, especially rodents that run the land in a matriarchal tradition. That’s why Geronita has remained in power for almost twenty years with being a ‘Saginaw Hater’ as his only credential.”

    He heaved an exasperated sigh. “So, as an extension of the government, we’re not exactly welcome in the swamp. Now, we’re flying right into the heart of it to confront Geronita and his most loyal followers directly. You can’t blame us for being a little pessimistic about our chances of coming out of this alive let alone rescuing the others.”

    “We’ve had our spats with the Doggels,” Matthew chimed in. “However, it’s never been as bad as you’re describing this.”

    Lee shrugged. He then noticed the rapier in its hilt on Danielle’s waste. “That’s a nice blade,” he said.

    Danielle drew the sword and examined it. “It certainly is,” she said.

    “Standard government issue?” Lee asked.

    “Perhaps we should tell them why we’re coming along,” Matthew suggested.

    “This is a matter among Bird People, Matt,” Danielle scolded him. “There’s no need to concern outsiders.”

    “But, she might be involved in all this,” Matthew replied. “I know our people like to keep our internal affairs secret but if they’re an injured party…”

    “Fine,” Danielle capitulated. She turned to Lee. “We’re actually bounty hunters as well as workers on the windmills. We were sent out by the leader of our people to find one our sisters who’s gone rogue. We’ve heard she’s been spotted in the southern regions of the Water Drop Kingdom. Matt thinks she might have been hired as a mercenary in the area and this Geronita might be the best place to start.”

    “You scratch our back and we’ll scratch yours,” Lee replied. “Considering we’ve kept the fact Milro-sama is ten centimeters tall from our own Queen, we should have no trouble keeping this between us as well.”

    * * *

    The brig was a long, cement building on the island. It seemed much older and better constructed than the makeshift buildings making up the rest of the compound. Nicole and Alex were shoved in and saw that the interior was a long, narrow hall with cells on either side. Many of the cells were filled with purple-furred, skunk-like people. A few glanced at them as they were led down the hall, but none uttered a word.

    The Gators led them almost to the very end where a guard sat at a small wooden table. He grabbed the keys off the hook and lumbered to a cell. He unlocked the massive lock on the door and opened it. The others shoved Nicole and Alex in. They then placed the cage with Milro-sama and the others on a hook in the cell. With a loud clang they slammed the door shut.

    Nicole looked at the cell around them. It was a cramped box made of cement with a barred window at the far end. There was a small toilet and sink in one corner and two planks hung from chains in the wall as beds she assumed.

    Lying on the lower plank was larger Doggel and a smaller Doggel sitting on the edge. “Bonnie, Otto,” she cried out when she recognized them, “they got you too?”

    The two looked up at them and Otto brought himself into a sitting position. “Nicole, why are you here?” he asked.

    Alex grabbed the bars of their cell door. “That’s right, lock me in here,” Alex growled. “You’re too scared to face me head on.”

    One of the Gators glared at him. The large reptile then opened his gaping maw and let out a bellowing roar accompanied by the stench of rancid meat. Alex yelped and darted behind Nicole in fright.

    Auler looked down at Khan standing next to the cell door. “I can’t believe the Sunny Kingdom would support this madman,” he snarled.

    Khan smirked upon hearing this. He began to snicker which grew into full laughter that made his entire body convulse. “You honestly believe Truth would be a part of this?” he said as he got control of himself. “No one knows I’m even here.”

    “Why would you help these people then?” Milro asked.

    “Geronita needed someone to keep others from interfering while he flooded the Seed Kingdom,” Khan said with a cavalier quality to his voice. “I was happy to oblige…for a price, of course.”

    He joined the others as they strolled out of the brig. “The Sunny Kingdom involved in this,” he whispered to himself with a snicker. “That’s a good one.”

    * * *

    Bret glared down at the landscape below. It was a solid canopy interrupted only by the multitude of lakes dotting the landscape and the lights of small towns on their shores. Anyone of them could where Geronita was holding the royals.

    “Why don’t we just pick a town and start from there?” he grumbled.

    “We don’t have the time and it could tip Geronita off,” Ophelia replied, looking out her side.

    “We need to start somewhere,” Franklin said. “We’re not getting any closer to finding them flying around up here.”

    Ophelia then noticed a long clear area along the shore of a lake. “Wait. I think I might have found a landing strip.”

    “Do you think it could be Geronita’s base?” Lee poked his head in.

    “There’s only one way to find out,” Bret said in response.

    He piloted them in for a landing. The Hurricane looped back as he aligned them with the stretch of cleared land. He then reduced their speed as they descended. The Hurricane touched down on the earthen runway and after some bumps came to a peaceful stop.

    “That wasn’t so hard.” Bret undid his harness.

    “I don’t see the rampaging reptilian hoards so I guess this isn’t Geronita’s base.” Lee stared out into the darkness.

    “No.” Spigot opened a panel and started handing out flashlights. “However, someone uses this landing strip. They may know where to find him.”

    “I can’t believe I’m asking this,” Franklin said. “Do we have any weapons?”

    “We only packed two dart guns, each with a spare clip; a flare gun and flares; and some smoke grenades,” Emily replied. “This was supposed to be a research mission.”

    “Great,” Franklin moaned. “We’re in the Zubuzubu Swamp, at night, unarmed. We’re all gonna die.”

    The rear hatch opened and the nine engineers stepped gingerly out. They swept the nearby area with their flashlights. There was a path through the woods adjacent to the landing strip, but otherwise nothing of note. There was no one in sight or any indication there should be.

    It was warm and muggy. The atmosphere was heavy with the stench of swamp gas and decaying plant matter. The din of crickets and frogs filled the air with the occasional call of a loon.

    Ophelia held up her sensor to get a reading. “Temperature twenty-one degrees, humidity eighty-two percent, barometric pressure nine hundred ninety-for millibars, winds out of the south at eleven kilometers an hour,” she read off. She began to think about what significance it might hold.

    Lee’s flashlight came on a dilapidated sign nailed to a tree. “Oh no,” he whimpered upon reading it.

    “What?” Ophelia asked.

    She then read the sign. In black, Olde English letters engulfed in yellow flames the sign stated, “Welcome to HELL”.

    “And my confidence just went through the floor,” Bret said upon reading the sign.

    “All of you grow up,” Spigot growled. “It’s just the name of the township.”

    “Who would name a township Hell?” Lee asked.

    “Who would want to live in a township named Hell?” Bret added.

    “Save it,” Spigot snapped. “Let’s go.”

    “We can fly out a head see if we can find anything,” Danielle suggested.

    “Excellent thinking,” Spigot replied.

    The two Bird People spread their majestic wings and leapt into the air. They flapped to gain altitude and glided over the forest. The seven engineers followed in a tight group below down the dark, foreboding path of dirt through the thick forest.

    * * *

    Alex took up position hanging onto the bars. He stared out blankly at the brig around him. The cells all looked basically alike. The only repugnant smell he could detect was that of body odor. He could understand why, considering none of the cells appeared to have showers.

    He then turned his attention to the other captives. The skunk-like people were all asleep. They appeared to be in good in health with no signs of serious sickness or injury. He had to admit, he had much worse images of prison camps. However, that did not change the fact they were being held against their will by a bunch of crazies.

    “My cousin always said I’d end up behind bars,” he thought out loud.

    Behind him, Milro and the others had explained everything that happened since they left the base. Nicole and Bonnie sat on the edge of the lower plank and Otto leaned against the opposite wall as they listened. He nodded in understanding at what he had just heard.

    “How did you two wind up here?” Nicole asked.

    “Helena sent us out to determine the prospects of clearing the air over the swamp,” Bonnie explained. “However, we were brought down and led here at gunpoint.”

    “We discovered that fiend Geronita is behind all of this,” Otto added with a growl in his voice. “All the good it does us here.”

    Alex motioned to the other prisoners. “Who are they?” he asked.

    “They’re called Sukusuku,” Bonnie answered as she glided up to him. “They live here in the swamp. They’ve been at odds with Geronita and his people for a long time. However, he recently began rounding them up.”

    Auler and Sophie heard a soft sob. Milro was sitting in the back of the cage. She held one of her wrists in her other hand and had he arms wrapped around her knees. Her eyes appeared watery as she fought back tears welling in them.

    “What’s wrong Milro?” Auler asked.

    “I’m useless,” Milro replied, fighting a growing lump in her throat. “Geronita is mistreating the people of my kingdom and I’m completely powerless to stop him. Now, he’s going to destroy the entire planet and all I can do is sit here helplessly and watch.”

    The tears finally won out and began to stream down her face. “Some princess I am.” She heaved another sob. “After all of her hard work, Mother deserves a better heir to pass her legacy on to. That’s even assuming there is a Water Drop Kingdom.”

    “You can’t talk like that Milro.” Sophie sat down beside her.

    “Sophie-sama’s right,” Alex said. “Geronita hasn’t won yet. The first imperative of a prisoner is to escape. We’ll find a way out of here and put a stop to his plans.”

    “Don’t count on it.” A voice came from the cell across from them. One of the Sukusuku was awake and sitting on his plank. “Hey guys,” he said to the others in his cell, “it looks like they caught two more of the Purple Gang.”

    “What do you mean ‘don’t count on it’?” Nicole asked.

    “In case you didn’t notice when you were brought here, we’re on an island,” The skunk-like male said. “There’s only one bridge to the mainland, and it’s guarded on both sides. So, unless you can out-swim the Gators or out-fly Talia and Copter-bot, you’ll find yourself right back here plus a few more bruises for your trouble. I suggest you just cool your heels here. It’d be healthier for you.”

    * * *

    The dirt path Spigot and others were trudging down seemed to go on forever. They felt a growing anxiety. They were surrounded by opportune places to launch an ambush or snipe from. They shot their lights in the direction of any sound.

    Lee was the first to notice they were coming to the edge of the woods when the light from his flashlight disappeared. They wondered what would be there. For all they knew, they were coming up on a camp full of bloodthirsty Gators.

    As they emerged from the woods, they came upon the shore of another lake. The only building was a large, rickety, wooden, shack with a corrugated roof sitting on the shore. The windows glowed yellow from light inside and the sound of conversation came from it. Several vehicles, mostly motorcycles and all terrain vehicles, were parked outside.

    Matthew and Danielle circled down and landed. “What is it?” Danielle asked.

    “There’s only one way to find out.” Spigot walked up to the door.

    He pushed on the door and it swung open with a creak. The room fell silent as the workers shuffled in. The air reeked of tobacco smoke and the occupants were bleary eyed and unsteady. Country music blared from a jukebox and a Gator stood behind a bar with bottles of various colors, shapes, and sizes lined up on shelves behind him. They all wanted to gasp when they realized what they had walked into.

    “We’re government employees, and we’ve just stepped into a moonshiner’s shack,” Emily said as uncomfortably as if the words coming from her mouth were barbed wire.

    Several Bubu dressed in Hog Hell gear jumped to their feet. “Oh my God!” one of them shouted. “It’s that chick from the base. Let’s get out of here.”

    They ran past the workers. They jumped on their motorcycles and raced off into the night.

    The reptilian man behind the bar tried to smile. “What’ll it be? As long as it’s not blood.”

    “Blood?” the engineers all asked at once.

    “Yeah,” the Gator replied. “The ladies’ auxiliary just cleaned me out.”

    Six mosquitoes the size of hawks flew for the door. They all wore matching purple bonnets with blue ribbons tied in a bow around them. Before the last one reached the door she belched softly.

    “Excuse me,” she said as she flew out into the night.

    The occupants of the shack returned to whatever they were doing.

    “What now, Chief?” Franklin asked.

    “Find someone with the wherewithal to tell us where to find Geronita,” Spigot answered.

    A Sukusuku wearing a blue hoody took interest when Spigot mentioned Geronita.

    Bret and Lee sat down at the bar. “What’s the house special, barkeep?” Bret asked.

    “We can’t drink,” Lee protested. “We’re on duty and I don’t turn eighteen for another thirteen months.”

    “I won’t tell if you won’t,” Bret replied dismissively.

    The barkeeper pulled out a bottle filled with a green liquid. “Zubuzubu Brandy,” he answered.

    “Awesome,” Bret said.

    “What is it?” Lee asked.

    “It’s…” The Gator paused as he could not find the words. “It’s…uh…” He pulled out the cork and smelled it. A description still eluded him. “It’s green,” he finally said

    “Works for me,” Bret said with a shrug.

    The Gator placed shot glasses in front of them. He then filled them with the liquor. After filling Bret’s, a few drops fell on the bar and started eating smoldering holes into the varnish. Lee recoiled in shock of seeing this. Both splashed their drinks on a nearby flower that promptly died.

    With a powerful thrust, a very muscular Gator slammed the fist of a Bearbear on the wood table. He jumped up and declared loudly, “there ain’t a mammal in this whole damn planet that can beat me! I’m Geronita-sama’s best soldier! I dare anyone to face me!”

    Tammy turned around when she heard this. Ophelia grabbed her arm. “You’re not thinking what I think you’re thinking.”

    “He’s thrown out a challenge,” Tammy replied. “I intend to take him up on it. Besides, he would know where Geronita is.”

    She walked up to him as he up upended a large mug of ale into his mouth. He slammed it on his table and belched so loudly it made his lips ripple.

    “Hey, you,” Tammy said assertively. “How about you and I arm wrestle?”

    The reptile looked up at her. “I see I have a new challenger.” He shouted loudly so everyone heard, “I’ve been challenged by one of the Water Drop Kingdom’s fine engineers.” He fell back into his seat and slammed his elbow loudly on the table. “Let’s go.”

    “Alright,” Tammy placed her elbow next to his, “and if I win you tell me where Geronita’s base is.”

    “You’ll lose anyway. So, what the hell?” The Gator grabbed her hand.

    The two began to strain against one another. The others gathered as they tried to force one another’s arm down.

    “Come on Tammy,” Bret shouted. “You get beat him.”

    The two continued their standoff. Their interlocked hands tightened their grips as they pushed against one other. At first, it seemed neither could gain ground on the other.

    “You’re pretty strong…toots,” the Gator strained. “I have to give you that.”

    “You’re not that bad either,” Tammy groaned.

    Tammy felt sweat beginning to run through her fine fur. She clenched her teeth and tried to bring more weight against her opponent. He did not seem phased yet, but his lack of sweat glands made it hard to tell.

    She was starting to feel fatigue in her arm. The gator sensed her weakening and threw a violent thrust into her. Her arm began to tilt back towards the table. She tried to fight against him but he slammed her hand down.

    The Gator jumped up. “Not even Yamul’s peons can stand up to my might!” the Gator screamed at the cheering crowd.

    “You tried,” Emily said softly to Tammy.

    “For all the good it did.” Tammy rubbed her tired arm.

    “I’m unstoppable!” the Gator shouted.

    “Then you wouldn’t mind taking me on,” Ophelia shouted back.

    The Gator looked down at her and laughed loudly with the other occupants joining him. “You’ve got to be kidding me. I’ll snap that twig your dare call an arm in two.” He turned to her male colleagues. “Are you men so cowardly you’ll let this Saginese belle fight your battles?”

    “Just shut up and wrestle,” Ophelia shouted at him. “And the conditions are the same as my colleagues.

    “Fine.” The gator positioned his arm.

    Ophelia took his scaly hand in her slender palm. The two began and at first the gator was forcing Ophelia down easily. But she began to push him back. Everyone gasped as she forced him back into an upright position and began forcing him back. He tried to strain against her but she slammed his hand on the table.

    Her colleagues erupted in cheers. She jumped up and threw her hands in the air. Everyone else in the shack stood there in silent shock. The Gator smacked the table with his other hand.

    “Alright!” he growled. “I lost fair and square. If you want to know, Geronita’s base is three kilometers north of here. Now get out of my face while I’m still in a good mood.”

    “You don’t have to tell me twice,” Lee said.

    He walked as quickly as he could without breaking into a run for the door. The others followed him. The Sukusuku got up and left as well.

    After they were safely away from the shack Tammy spoke up. “I know for a fact you’re not stronger than me,” she shouted Ophelia. “How did you beat him?”

    “Our people have the ability to sense electrical impulses including those created by other life forms,” Ophelia explained casually. “It also lets us know where to interfere with someone’s electric field to cause a disruption.”

    “What are you saying?”

    “She cheated.” Lee clarified for his sister with a chuckle.

    “It doesn’t matter,” Spigot broke in. “We now know where Geronita is.”

    “Excuse me.” A scratchy voice caught their attention.

    The Sukusuku hobbled up to them. He pulled off his hood to reveal himself to be reasonably advanced in years. “You’re Yamul-sama’s people, are you not?”

    “Yes,” Spigot answered.

    “Thank God,” the older Sukusuku said relief. “I’m Terrance: the mayor of Hell.”

    “I love the title,” Bret whispered in Lee’s ear.

    “At least I was until Geronita started to round up my citizens,” Terrance growled.

    “The plot thickens,” Lee thought out loud. “What’s he up to?”

    “But, now you’re here,” Terrance said to them. “Yamul-sama must have somehow found out.”

    “No, she didn’t.” Spigot rubbed the back of his head shamefully. “We’re down here on other business. We don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

    Terrance looked around. “I guess out here as safe as any to explain.

    About ten days ago, Geronita started jamming all communications out of the swamp. We tried to send messengers out of jamming range but he and the Gators loyal to him captured them. Then he started rounding people up on a whim.”

    “Is he holding them on his base?” Ophelia asked.

    Terrance nodded. “There have also been aircraft started flying over the swamp, spraying something into the atmosphere.”

    “We know,” Lee said. “That’s why we’re here.”

    “When I heard you were searching for Geronita, I thought you could help my people.” Terrance reached into his pocket and pulled out a small jar filled with some kind of pale gray orbs. “If you find them, give them these. They’ll know what to do with them.”

    “We’ll do that.” Tammy took the jar and slid it into her skirt pocket.

    The growing sound of engines rose through the swamp. The large form of the Hurricane flew over them, causing the ground to shake as it flew past at low altitude. As quickly as it came, it had disappeared behind the trees and the sound quickly died away.

    “What was that?” Terrance shouted over the ringing in his ears.

    “Our airship,” Lee answered dully.

    “Worse,” Spigot moaned. “There goes any chance for having the element of surprise.”
    Last edited by The Big Al; 28th February 2009 at 1:12 PM.

    Some people don't think it's funny that Exit 69 gets off on Big Beaver.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    The Mitten State
    Posts
    6,950

    Default

    Sorry for not posting in a while. The whole story is done so I'll make for lost time by posting these last three chapters and the epilogue over the rest of the week. I hope you've all liked it.

    I know I'm begging, however, I would like some responses. I don't care if you liked it, hated it, or are indifferent. I would like some feedback about what you liked and where you think I could improve.

    Chapter 11: Escape

    In Geronita’s brig, Milro and the others were talking with the Sukusuku, who they learned was named Daniel. He had explained what exactly had been going on. He explained how Geronita’s people had been flying over the swamp and spraying a yellow haze, cut off all communication with the outside world, and locked them all up so they could not get the word out.

    “So there you have it.” Daniel leaned back against the concrete wall when he was finished.

    “That’s terrible,” Nicole said in response. “How could someone do such a thing?”

    “Why would the Walruses be helping him?” Bonnie asked. “And what’s with the Bird woman and the robot?”

    “The Walruses have been trying to take control of the Snow Mountains up in the northern parts of the Water Drop Kingdom,” Daniel answered. “However, the Polar Bears and Penguins who also live in that region won’t have any of it and can easily over power them. So now they’re in league with Geronita. He needs their technical skills and in return will give them control of the mountains when he’s king. From what I know, Talia and Copter-bot are mercenaries Geronita hired into his cabal.”

    Milro thought this all over. Ever since the Mother Tree had shrunk her, she had been learning things about her kingdom she had never even heard of. So much of it seemed bad as well. How could she hope to run such a chaotic country? That was assuming it was still around for her to become queen of.

    “I don’t understand how someone could have such an evil heart,” she thought out loud.

    “I don’t think Geronita is so much evil as stark raving mad,” Alex said in response. “I mean, turning the entire planet into a swamp. It has to take more than a few screws loose to come up with that one.”

    “Evil or insane, he’s a danger to the entire planet,” Bonnie said in response. “But we can’t do anything about it while we’re locked in here.”

    Otto grumbled something under his breath.

    “What?” Bonnie asked.

    Otto motioned with his eyes to Nicole. “Why did I have to be stuck with her?”

    “It could be an opportunity to smooth things out,” Bonnie suggested.

    Otto shook his head. “This isn’t the time or place to open old wounds.”

    * * *

    Spigot and the others had made their way to the shore of the lake Terrance told them about. From the brush they surveyed the area. There were two gators standing guard near a small building on the mainland end the bridge. They allowed a jeep to get off the bridge and drive into the forest. There were also two guards on the opposite end. Through the darkness they also saw a gator wade into the lake. No doubt guards were in the water as well.

    Franklin whistled in astonishment. “I think we’d have easier time breaking into the mint.”

    The Hurricane was taxiing on the runway towards a hangar at the end.

    “To think some fat, scaly gator butt is sitting in my chair,” Bret growled. “It makes me so angry.”

    “They might have done us a favor,” Tammy said in response. “At least we don’t have to run all the way back to the landing strip.”

    Above them the clouds were building in the night sky. Ophelia and Lee both watched as the towers of water droplets rose into the atmosphere. The wind had picked up as well, suggesting the flow had responded to the alterations in the Windmill Kingdom.

    “This is not good,” Lee muttered to himself.

    “What?” Bret asked.

    “There shouldn’t be any clouds like that here,” Lee replied, eyes still fixed on the sky. “The winds should be carrying the clouds further east. I’m afraid the atmosphere over the Zubuzubu Swamp has been thrown out of barotrophic balance.”

    “That means…” Bret said in confusion.

    “All my equations are based on the assumption the atmosphere remains barotrophic because that’s the natural state of the Mysterious Planet’s atmosphere,” Lee answered. “It also zeroes out a lot of terms.”

    “Why would you make an assumption like that?” Bret exclaimed.

    Lee finally turned to him and growled, “Because I thought no one, not even Geronita, was dumb enough to create a baroclinic zone right over his head. However, that’s exactly what he’s done and I have no idea what’s going to happen.”

    “We need the Hurricane’s instruments,” Ophelia interjected.

    “Chief,” Franklin spoke up, “as much as I’m enjoying the meteorology lesson, how are we supposed to get over there?”

    “I’m afraid we can’t help you with that,” Danielle said. “We need to begin our search.”

    “We understand,” Spigot said.

    The two nodded and took off.

    “I have a plan.” Spigot motioned for the others to gather around. “Emily, Frank, and I will hitch a ride on a jeep. The rest of you will swim over to the lake, avoiding any guards underwater.”

    “You make it sound so easy.” Bret broke in.

    Spigot shot a glare at him before continuing his explanation. “Ophelia, you will meet up with us and we’ll secure the Hurricane.”

    “You got it, Chief.” Ophelia gave a nod.

    “Tammy, you find where Milro-sama and the others are being held along with the Sukusuku and free them.”

    “You can count on me,” Tammy replied.

    “This is great and all.” Bret rubbed his chin in thought. “However, how are we going to do all this without getting our heads bitten off by the gators?”

    “They’ll be distracted,” Spigot answered.

    “With what?” Bret asked.

    “Live bait,” Spigot said in response.

    “Where are you going to get live…” Bret stopped as he noticed everyone was grinning at him and Lee. “Oh no. Oh-ho-ho-ho no. We’re not doing this.”

    “All you have to do is piss them off,” Tammy replied. “That shouldn’t be too hard for you.”

    “NO!” the two engineers exclaimed. “There’s no way in hell we’re doing it.”

    * * *

    “You’re all kingdom workers right?” Daniel asked.

    “Yeah,” Alex answered, returning to his cling on the bars. “We’re from the Windmill Kingdom. Why do you ask?”

    Daniel’s mouth peeled into naughty grin. “I’m glad I’m not you then,” he said. “Geronita’s just holding us here so we can’t talk, but he hates kingdom workers trespassing in his territory and not just those of the Water Drop Kingdom. He probably has terrible things planned for you.”

    Alex gulped dryly. “Such as?” he whimpered.

    “He’ll probably steep you in broth and make a hearty stew from you,” Daniel replied in an almost teasing manner.

    “Oh no-ho-ho-ho!” Alex cried as he slid down the bars.

    “Keep it down,” another Sukusuku whispered harshly. “You’ll wake the guard.”

    “Of course, that’s after he’s skinned you alive and uses your pelt to line a hood.” Daniel casually rubbed his nails against his vest. “Like I said, I’m glad I’m not you.”

    “NO!” Alex screamed. He then darted up to Bonnie and grabbed her ears. “Help me, Bonnie,” he sobbed. “I don’t wanna line a hood.”

    Bonnie slapped him hard in the muzzle to make him let go. “Get a hold of yourself, Al!” she snapped. “Though, it would be a first for you.”

    “There’s got to be a way out of here.” Alex looked around him. He noticed a vent in the ceiling near the cell door. He flew up and grabbed the bars. After planting his feet on the ceiling and began yanking at it.

    “I already tried that,” Bonnie yelled at him. “It’s welded to the duct.”

    “So there’s no way out?” Alex asked.

    “You think we’d still be here if there was?” Bonnie answered with a question.

    “Then we’re doo-hoo-hoo-hoomed!” Alex sobbed as he slowly sank to the floor.

    Nicole looked at the vent Alex was pulling on. She then looked out of their cell. The duct was exposed in the hall, running down the center and went into the wall above the guard. The guard was asleep in his chair with a mucus bubble inflating and deflating from his nostril and his rifle cradled in his arms. She looked up above the keys at another vent.

    She suddenly got an idea. She reached under her bonnet and pulled out a hairpin. “Yeah,” she whispered to herself.

    “I like a cliché as much as the next guy,” Alex said, “but you’ll need something a little more substantial than a hairpin to pick that clunker.” He motioned with his eyes to the large lock on their door.

    “It’s not for that lock.” Nicole bent the hairpin straight and slid the zigzagged end in the lock on the cage. “Sophie-sama and the others are small enough to slip into the duct. Then, if we had some kind of line.”

    “Like this?” Alex pulled a fishing reel from his side pocket.

    “Why are you carrying a fishing reel?” Bonnie asked.

    “In case I want to go fishing, of course,” Alex answered.

    “I don’t know whether to slap you because you’re an idiot or kiss you because you’re a genius,” Bonnie said in response.

    “I prefer the latter,” Alex replied. “You’ve already slapped me.”

    “You can get the line on the keys and we’ll pull them back in here,” Nicole explained. “Then we can free ourselves and the others and escape.”

    “Then how do we get off the island?” Otto asked.

    “I say we steal the Nyamul’s balloon,” Alex answered.

    With a click the door of the cage opened. Milro and the others stepped onto Bonnie’s hands and Alex handed Auler the hook at the end of the line. Bonnie then floated up to the vent. Auler pulled himself in first and helped Sophie and Milro in.

    “Good luck, you three,” Bonnie said as they disappeared into the vent.

    * * *

    “Heave-ho let’s go!” Spigot called out as Bret, Tammy, Ophelia and Lee lugged a large, hollow log onto the road leading to the lake. “That jeep we saw could come back at any minute.”

    “Log in the road,” Bret huffed as they dropped his end of the heavy log on the ground. “Can we get anymore cliché?”

    “Hey, whatever works,” Ophelia said as she wiped the dirt off her hands.

    Lee leaned into his ears when he heard the sound of a vehicle coming down the road. “They’re coming.”

    Everyone dove into the bushes as the glare of headlights crept across the road. The jeep Spigot mentioned drove slowly up to the log. It came to a stop and the two Gators sitting in it got out.

    As they picked up the log and moved it out of the road, Spigot, Emily and Franklin dashed under the jeep and grabbed onto the undercarriage. The two reptiles lumbered back to their jeep and jumped in. They drove off, not aware they had picked up a few new passengers.

    The others poked their heads out from the bush. After the red glow of the taillights had disappeared around a corner they dashed across the road back to the shore. After making sure it was clear they got ready to dive in.

    “Age before beauty,” Bret said to Tammy, sweeping his arm out towards the lake.

    “I’ll take cuts anyway,” Tammy said as she waded out into the lake.

    Ophelia and Lee followed along with Bret. As he took one last breath, Bret disappeared with the others under the murky surface.

    Unlike the reservoir, the lake was murky with a sandy bottom. The water felt slimy as it passed through Lee and Ophelia’s gills. Fortunately all four of them had nictitating membranes to protect their eyes from whatever was in the water.

    The lake was choked with water plants that combined with the darkness to make almost impossible to see. Bret pushed away a clump of weeds when he felt his arm being grabbed and he was yanked down. He was pulled underneath a capsized boat sitting on the sandy bottom.

    In the dimness he saw that it was Ophelia who had his arm in her webbed grip. He was about to ask what she was doing when he remembered he was holding his breath. Ophelia pointed out a hole in the hull where Bret could barely make out the form of a gator swimming past.

    After it had left, Lee and Ophelia crept gingerly out of their hiding place. After looking around and surveying the area with their other senses they gave Bret and Tammy the all clear. They swam out and the four resumed their approach to the island.

    The jeep came to a stop at the gate protecting the mainland end of the bridge. One of the guards lifted the gate and the jeep drove onto the bridge. Spigot and the others looked out from under the jeep at the lake.

    The jeep jumped as it hit a hole in the earthen bridge. Emily lost her grip on the undercarriage with one hand. Franklin grabbed her hand and helped her reach up to the handhold.

    “Thanks,” she whispered.

    Lee and Ophelia slipped through a corrugated pipe sticking out of the side of the island. Bret followed them in. The three stopped when they heard flailing. They looked back to see Tammy was stuck in the pipe.

    Lee and Bret each grabbed one of her arms and starting pulling.

    “Suck it in…Tammy,” Lee strained as he gave her another yank.

    Tammy shot him a dirty look. She began to budge and after another yank flew out of the pipe taking Lee and Bret with her. Ophelia screwed her eyes shut as the three crashed into a wall.

    She slowly opened one eye. Tammy had landed on top of Lee and Bret, flattening them against the stone. She pulled herself off and the two slid down the wall stunned. After taking a couple moments to collect themselves, the engineers headed for the water’s surface.

    As they broke the water’s surface, they found themselves under the tarmac. Near them was a scum covered ladder leading to a manhole. Tammy swam over to the ladder and began to climb and the others followed suit.

    As Tammy reached the top she raised the cover just enough to peer out. Gators were everywhere. However, there was a line of barrels in front of a building nearby. As a Gator walked past she lifted the cover off and dashed behind the barrels as did the others.

    The Gator guard stopped and looked around. They ducked under the barrels as his flashlight scanned the vicinity. Satisfied that no one was there, the reptile continued on his patrol.

    * * *

    Milro and the others walked through the duct. At their size, it was as big as a hall as their footsteps echoed off its sheet metal walls. Auler carried the hook as the line slowly unwound off the reel back in the cell. Sophie giggled to herself.

    “What?” Milro asked.

    “It’s actually not so bad being this small,” she answered. “We could reach all those little spaces our bothers and sisters find when we play hide-and-seek.”

    “Hopefully, we won’t have to get use to it,” Auler replied. “Once we escape we can go to the Seed Kingdom and explain what’s happening. The Mother Tree should agree to return us to our normal sizes.”

    Milro and Sophie still had their lanterns to light their way. They rounded the corner as they entered the duct running the length of the brig. Sophie stopped when she thought she heard something. She lifted up her lantern in the direction away from the guard but it didn’t illuminate very far.

    “Come on, Sophie,” Auler called out to her.

    “I’m coming, Big Brother,” she answered as she started backing up to follow them.

    She turned around in time to walk into a spider’s web. She quickly found herself entangled. “Help.”

    Auler and Milro turned around to see her helplessly entangled in the webbing. “I’m stuck,” the princess of the Windmill Kingdom said sheepishly.

    Milro and Auler took her by the arms and tried to pull her out. However, at their size, the anchoring stands were like steel cables. Between their strength and the stickiness of the rest of the web, Sophie was stuck tight.

    “I don’t like this,” Milro said as she pulled. “Where there’s a spider’s web; there’s a spider.”

    “Don’t worry,” Auler replied. “We’re still too big for a spider to bother us.”

    There was a soft sound of something being placed down gently on the metal “floor” of the duct. In the dim light of the lanterns they saw a massive, hairy, dark brown spider come up to the web. It took all of Milro’s control to keep from screaming. She instead ducked behind Auler.

    “Unless, it’s the biggest tarantula in all the Mysterious Planet.” Auler stepped back with her.

    The monstrous arachnid approached Sophie. With its long, hairy leg it tapped her shoulder.

    “Uh…Big Brother,” Sophie said helplessly.

    “Don’t worry, Sophie.” Auler drew his sword from its hilt on his belt.

    He jumped between the spider and his sister. “Get back,” he shouted as he swung his sword at it.

    The tarantula reared up, exposing its sword like fangs that it rubbed together. Auler took a step back at this sight. It lunged at him but missed.

    Auler saw that there was an opening in the arachnid’s stance. One stab and he could end it right then and there. However, as he reared up his sword for the final blow he hesitated.

    Although it was threatening his sister, it was just trying to get its next meal. He could not bring himself to kill it just because it was hungry. He instead sliced at its front leg.

    The spider recoiled and backed away into the darkness. The sound of its steps grew fainter as it retreated. Once he was satisfied it was gone, Auler sliced down the webbing holding Sophie.

    “Are you alright?” he asked as he slid his sword back in its hilt.

    Sophie replied with a nod as she picked up her lantern. She tried to pull strands of web off as her brother helped her up.

    “Auler…Sophie…” Milro called out to them.

    The two royals of the Windmill Kingdom joined her at the edge of a vent. Unfortunately, being small enough to climb in meant they could also fall through. The three peered down at the cement floor far below.

    “How do we get across?” Milro asked.

    Auler took their lanterns and stepped onto the first bar on the vent. He then stepped on the next, using the lanterns to balance himself. He put one foot ahead of the other as he slowly made it to the other side.

    “Come on,” he called back to the girls.

    Sophie hesitated for a second. She then picked up her skirt and ran across them. Auler caught her as she jumped off the last bar. Milro looked down at the floor below them. She worked up all the courage she could and started jumping from bar to bar. However, she missed one and fell through.

    “MILRO!” Auler and Sophie yelled as the princess of the Water Drop Kingdom fell screaming to the floor.

    Milro was sure she was going to die. It was only two and half meters but, at her size, she might as well have fallen off a thirteen story building. She hit and surprisingly lived. Her rump was sore but other than that she was fine. She winced as she rubbed her aching rear and stood up.

    The mucus bubble in the gators nostril popped and his eyes opened slightly. Everyone gasped. If he found Milro loose… However, he closed his eyes again and went back to sleep. Everyone sighed in relief.

    “Okay,” Alex said dismay. “Why didn’t Milro-sama die?”

    “Fluid dynamics,” Otto explained. “Milro-sama is so small and light, her fall was cushioned by the pressure of the air under her body.”

    “Thank God.” Auler heaved a sigh of relief. “Milro,” he called down to her, “I can use the line to pull you back up.”

    Milro dusted herself off and straightened her dress. She looked at the duct. There were at least three more vents to cross. “I should stay down here,” she replied. “I’ll only slow you down.”

    “Alright.” Auler shrugged as he and Sophie disappeared into the duct.

    Milro suddenly felt a cold breath of wind on the back of her neck and her nostrils were assaulted by the stench of rancid meat. She turned around and found herself face to face with the snapping turtle that was with Geronita.

    “He-hello,” she said timidly, taking a step back.

    The turtle took a step forward as he licked his chops, glaring at her with ravenous eyes. Milro now knew how Sophie must have felt with the tarantula a couple minutes before. Unfortunately, at ten centimeters tall, they were far from the top of the food chain.

    “You look hungry,” Milro step another step back, “but, I’m not food.”

    “What do alligator snapping turtles eat?” Alex asked.

    “Just about anything smaller than themselves,” Otto answered.

    “Figures,” Alex groaned in response. “Run for it, Milro-sama!”

    Milro didn’t need to be told. She turned and ran away as the turtle took off after her. The spiny, bulky reptile was surprisingly fast as it gave chase.

    “Leave me alone!” she screamed.

    She rounded a corner as she came to the wall. The turtle followed her, knocking the chair the guard was sleeping in. The larger reptile fell hard on the floor and his rifle hit the ground butt first. The weapon misfired, shooting a spear right into the duct. Sophie and Auler were taken aback as the spear punctured the duct in front of them.

    The turtle was gaining on Milro. She tried to get in the cell but the turtle cut her off, forcing her to turn around again back towards the table. She could feel the turtle’s breath on her neck. So this is how it ends, she thought, practically to the point of tears. I survived the fall only to get eaten. I’ll never see my family again.

    The turtle opened his maw, ready to devour her. He then stopped abruptly when a harpoon impacted the cement floor in front of them. Milro took shelter under the table and hid behind a leg.

    She leaned against the leg and tried to catch her breath. Her heart was pounding so hard it seemed ready to leap out of her chest. She peered out from around the leg at the two reptiles.

    The Gator had his rifle trained on the turtle. The turtle retracted his limbs and head in fright as the Gator loomed over him.

    “Damn turtle,” the Gator growled. “If you weren’t Lord Geronita-sama’s pet, I’d turn you into soup.”

    He kicked the turtle and it slid like a curling iron down the hall and through a dog door in the main door. The Gator lumbered back to his table and picked up his chair before slamming it back down upright and jumping onto it. He put up his legs and went back to sleep. Milro heaved a sigh of relief as she leaned back against the table leg.

    * * *

    Lee, Ophelia, Tammy, and Bret looked around them from their hiding place. The tarmac was crawling with Gators and no sign of the jeep. However, the screeching of brakes signaled a jeep stopping.

    A jeep had pulled up to the side of the building. Peering from behind the barrels Ophelia saw Spigot and the others still clinging to the undercarriage.

    “That’s my queue.” Ophelia dashed to another hiding place closer to them.

    “I should get going as well.” Tammy got up and left. She then turned to Bret and Lee. “Don’t forget your job.”

    “We don’t need to be reminded,” Bret grumbled.

    Ophelia peered out at the jeep. The Gators were standing next to it and conversing with one another. She grabbed a rock and threw it against a wall. The Gators grabbed their rifles and walked towards the sound.

    She motioned to Spigot and the others. The three dropped to the ground and ran behind the barrels with her.

    “I guess we might as well go,” Lee said, counting the Gators in his mind. A grave expression formed on his face as their chances of survival seemed bleak at best.

    “No, we don’t.” Bret leaned back and crossed one leg over the other.

    “We’re supposed make a distraction for the others,” Lee said in response.

    “That could mean many things,” Bret replied. “It doesn’t mean we necessarily have to go out and make them chase us.”

    “I get it.” Lee ducked back behind the barrels. “We’ll wait here until they’re ready.”

    Bret peered out from behind the barrels. The Hurricane had been taxied into the hangar at the end of the runway and turned to face down the landing strip. Geronita was walking around it with a couple Gators as well as Waltu and Copter-bot with him. Geronita knocked on the craft with his fist.

    “Where did you find this?” Geronita asked as he examined it.

    “It was parked on a landing strip on the township border,” one of the Gators answered.

    “This is the craft Princess Milro was on,” Copter-bot added.

    “So, Yamul’s flunkies are in my swamp, ey?” Geronita rubbed his chin as his lips cracked into a devious grin. “No doubt they’re here to rescue their princess.”

    “Should I have my men start scouring the swamp?” one of the Gators asked.

    “Why waste the energy?” Geronita said in response. “We’ll wait for them to come to us. Have the soldiers solidify the perimeter.”

    “It will be done at once.” The Gator saluted and marched off.

    “You’re too late for that, you fly eating slob,” Bret chuckled softly.

    “What should we do about this?” Waltu inquired about the Hurricane.

    “I guess I could use it as my flagship,” Geronita thought out loud. “However, this paintjob has to go.” He turned to a Gator in grey coveralls. “I prefer a lovely shade of green.”

    “GREEN!?” Bret yelled upon hearing Geronita. “Not on my airship!” He hopped over the barrels and started running for the hangar.

    “Wait, Bret,” Lee called after him. “What happened to hiding out?”

    He did not get a response. With an exasperated sigh he ran after him.

    Bret yelled as he ran at full speed for the hangar. The Gator was attaching a hose to the paint machine. Seeing this only made Bret run faster. As he prepared to spray the Hurricane’s hull, Bret tackled him to the ground. The two quickly got back on their feet.

    “I’m not letting you paint over this, you dirty reptile.” Bret threw all of his strength into a right punch in the Gator’s sternum. After an awkward second he pulled his hand away and tried to shake out the throbbing sensation that shot through his entire arm.

    The Gator grabbed him by his coat. He glared and snarled at the engineer who could only smile sheepishly. “This just isn’t my night,” Bret moaned.

    “Bret,” Lee shouted as he piled a second gator guard on top of the paint machine, “watch out!”

    He shoved the machine towards them. It slammed into the Gator, knocking Bret free. Bret quickly got to his feet as Lee threw him a harpoon rifle and slung another one over his shoulder.

    “Let’s get out of here,” Lee shouted.

    As the two ran out of the hangar lighting flashed and thunder rumbled. A hard rain suddenly developed and bombarded the island. Geronita looked up at the clouds. His wide mouth formed a scowl and he grabbed Waltu by his shirt, lifting the diminutive Walrus to his eye level.

    “What the hell is going on?” he shouted at Waltu. “I want it raining in the Seed Kingdom, not here.”

    “I-I don’t know.” Waltu blubbered.

    Geronita then caught Bret and Lee out of the corner of his eye. “What the…what are they doing here?”

    “Well, well.” Waltu chuckled as he watched them run by. “You’re not even king yet and you already have your first peasant revolt.”

    “Shut up and make yourself useful.” He dropped the pinniped. “Find out what the weather’s doing.” He then tuned to a group of Gators. “What are you overgrown hand bags waiting for? An invitation?” he bellowed, pointing at Bret and Lee. “Get those endotherms and make sure you take them alive!”

    The gators saluted and gave chase. From their hiding places the others watched.

    “I’m surprised,” Emily said. “I thought they would have found a place to hide like the couple of cowards they are. They’ve taken this bait role well.”

    * * *

    Danielle and Matthew flew over the base. They watched as the commotion ensued around Lee and Bret. However, they had no interest in the internal matters of the Water Drop Kingdom transpiring below. They had their own matters to attend to.

    “Well, well, well,” a female voice cawed, “if it isn’t little Danielle?”

    They looked up and saw the peregrine flacon-like Bird Woman above them. “Talia,” Danielle growled.

    Talia smirked, at least, it was as much of a smirk her beak could manage. “Look at you,” she said in a condescending tone, “flying around in that ridiculous costume.”

    “You’re one to talk,” Danielle sneered. “I serve our kingdom out of a sense of duty. You serve a terrorist for a few filthy knots.”

    Talia’s smirk sank into a scowl. “You mean you’ve sold out to the canines.”

    “Enough,” Danielle snapped. “They aren’t a part of this. This is a matter of the Bird People.” She drew her sword took it in her hands. “The Council has demanded you be returned to stand trial for your crimes.”

    “And you think you’ll be the one to bring me in,” Talia said coolly, her beak returning to the smirk. “I’d laugh if it wasn’t so pathetic.”

    “Matt,” Danielle said to her partner, “stay out of this. This is between her and me.”

    Matt nodded in understanding. When he was assigned to the hunt with Danielle, he was told about her relationship with the rogue. They had been trained by the same teacher and were friends before Talia left. To her, this was personal and he was perfectly willing to let them settle it.

    Talia drew her sword. “Let’s see if you’ve improved any?” She dove for Danielle and the two locked swords.

    * * *

    In the brig, Auler was guiding the hook down to the keys. Alex gave them line slowly from the cell. The sound of the rain filled the brig as the only sound to be heard. However, unlike the soft pattering in the Seed Kingdom, it was a loud pounding. Everyone watched intently as the hook came to the level of the keys.

    “Alright,” Bonnie said as she watched from the door. “Bring it up slowly.”

    Alex began slowly winding the line back in. Auler gave the hook enough of a swing to hook the ring holding the keys. The line went taught as the keys were slowly lifted off the hook. The keys swung a little as they ascended towards the vent. Everyone’s hearts quickened as they dangled on the line.

    Lightning suddenly flashed vividly outside followed quickly by the sound of thunder cracking through the atmosphere and a deafening rumble that rattled the building. The Gator’s eyes suddenly opened to see the keys dangling right in front of him. Everyone gasped. The reptile grabbed the line with his claws and yanked on it. Alex’s reel ripped from his hands and the whipping line knocked Auler and Sophie out of the vent. They fell onto the table below.

    Auler pushed himself into a sitting position. He then looked to his sister. “Are you alright?”

    She nodded in response. She then looked up and screamed causing him to look up as well. The Gator was looming over them with his scaly claw descending towards them.

    Auler thought fast. He drew his sword as the gator was about to grab them and shoved it into his palm. The gator pulled away his hand and snarled in pain. Auler grabbed Sophie’s hand and jumped off the table. Milro ran out from her hiding place with them in their dash back to the cell.

    The gator pulled out the tiny sword and grabbed his rifle. He then leapt over them and landed between them and the cell. The shaking from the impact knocked them off their feet. The gator threw the mangled sword in front of them and brought his rifle to bear.

    “Leave them alone,” Nicole cried out.

    “Yeah,” Alex added. “Pick on someone your own size.”

    “Like you?” the Gator growled in response.

    “Actually,” Alex pointed behind him, “I was thinking more along the lines of her.”

    The Gator looked back in time to take a full force right jab from Tammy in the head. Milro and the others ran out of the way as the massive reptile landed hard on the cement.

    “Tammy,” Milro exclaimed, “you’re here!”

    “Yeah,” Tammy replied.

    The Gator slowly got on his hands and knees, shaking his head out. “You just made a big mistake, Tiny,” he snarled as he stood up, being head and shoulders taller than Tammy. Tammy planted her fists on her hips and glared back at him.

    Alex looked from one to the other. “This is gonna get ugly.”
    Last edited by The Big Al; 18th March 2009 at 12:15 AM.

    Some people don't think it's funny that Exit 69 gets off on Big Beaver.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    The Mitten State
    Posts
    6,950

    Default

    Chapter 12: Fightin’ Mets

    Bret and Lee ran through the puddles quickly forming on the tarmac with several Gators chasing after them. The rain was pouring down heavily and lightning and thunder were a frequent occurrence in the angry sky above. The two gasped as they ran, their legs starting to feel like lead pipes but driven on by adrenaline and fear of what would happen if they were caught.

    “We’re gonna die. We’re gonna die. We’re gonna die,” Lee huffed.

    “Shut up,” Bret shouted over the sound of the deluge.

    “This is all your fault,” Lee shot back. “You had to attack that one Gator, and over a paintjob of all things.”

    “I like the paintjob,” Bret replied.

    “You won’t get to see it much when we’re dead,” Lee huffed.

    Bret noticed a building ahead of them. He ran to the door and opened it shouting back to Lee, “in here, quick.”

    Lee ran in and he followed, slamming the door behind him. The inside was too dark to see anything. There was some subtle noise beyond the pounding of the rain outside and the smell of body odor. However, they had no idea where it was coming from.

    “Where are we?” Bret tried to catch his breath.

    “I don’t know.” Lee felt along the wall until his hand came over the knob of a switch. “I think I found a light switch.”

    “Damn, this place stinks.” Bret waved his hand in front of his face in a vain attempt to bat the stench away from his nose. “It smells like a…” He stopped when Lee turned on the lights. There were rows of beds and all at once a Gator in each one bolted into a sitting position and glared at them snarling. “…barracks.”

    Lee flipped the switch off, plunging them back into darkness. As the Gators outside approached, the two engineers burst from the door, practically shrieking in terror. A stream of Gators in t-shirts and boxer shorts ran after them.

    * * *

    Milro and the royals of the Windmill Kingdom slipped through the bars into the cell just before the Gator slammed Tammy into them. He then threw her on the ground. As he came near she delivered hard kicks to both his knees. Before he could recover she got to her feet and ran his head into the cement wall.

    “Come on, Tammy,” Alex called out as the Gator shook his head out and regained his stance. “Bite his jugular or something.”

    “I’m a Beaver, not a mongoose!” Tammy exclaimed.

    The Gator charged, raising his claws to slash her. However, she grabbed his wrists and braced herself to prevent him from bringing them down. He lunged with his long maw, snapping at her.

    “I can’t watch.” Nicole covered her eyes and turned away.

    The massive reptile wrenched his wrists from her grip. She ducked as he slashed at the air where she had been standing. He grabbed her with his other arm and threw her to the ground.

    As he ran for her she flipped him over. He crashed upside down against the cell door. Just as he got up Tammy rammed him into it and slammed her fist into his midsection. The Gator balled his fist and punched her in the muzzle, causing her to stagger back, holding her mouth. As he charged her she grabbed his arm and flipped the massive reptile over her shoulder. She then kicked him while he tried to get up.

    The Gator swung his tail, taking Tammy’s feet out from under her. She hit the cement floor hard. The Gator grabbed her and lifted her up as he got back to his feet. Everyone watched in terror as her feet left the ground. The reptile then threw her against the cell door.

    The Gator came to stand over her. Nicole separated her fingers over one of her eyes for a second. She quickly covered it again and turned away.

    “Any last words, mammal?” the Gator hissed.

    “Bit me!” Tammy shot back.

    “Good idea.”

    The reptile lunged at her with his tooth lined maw gaping open. Everyone looked away from what they anticipated to be a scene of horrific gore. Tammy grabbed his jaw and snapped it shut before reaching her. He struggled and tried to roll his head out of her grasp.

    “Not so tough now.” Tammy grinned.

    She stood up, tucking the end of the Gator’s snout under her arm. He tried to get free, thrashing his head from side to side. Tammy reared her foot and kicked him square in the groin so hard his feet left the ground. The Gator’s yellow eyes bugged out on impact and he instinctively grabbed his crotch area.

    “Oh-ho!” Alex grimaced and turned away. “Just watching that made mine hurt.”

    Tammy let go of him. She kissed the end of his snout and chopped him in the back of the neck before throwing him on the ground. The Gator let out high pitched groaning as he writhed in pain on the floor. “That’s what you get for calling me ‘Tiny’, prick,” she said, kicking him in the midsection.

    “Remind me never to get on your bad side.” Alex laughed weakly.

    “Are you alright, Tammy?” Milro asked.

    “I’ll manage.” She wiped some blood from her lip. “God, I hate reptiles.”

    * * *

    Talia and Danielle skimmed the water. Talia lunged at Danielle who blocked her swing with her blade. The two pushed off from one another and perched on logs sticking out of the water.

    It felt like old times to Danielle. They frequently sparred against one another when they were in training. She wished that, when it was over, they would perch on a branch and talk about life like they did after training. However, this was no sparring match and those days were long gone. Talia was now her query, no matter how much she wished it to be otherwise.

    “You’re certainly better than when I left,” Talia said, panting slightly.

    “You’re not too bad yourself,” Danielle replied, also trying to catch her breath.

    The two jumped at each other and again locked blades. The two Bird women strained to get the upper hand on the other. However, neither seemed able to end the deadlock.

    “Do you want to know why I left?” Talia snarled.

    “Indulge me,” Danielle replied.

    “I left because I was sick of how the Windmill Kingdom refused to live up to its potential,” Talia growled.

    The two again separated.

    “Look at how the rest of the planet treats the Windmill Kingdom and the Water Drop Kingdom,” Talia explained. “They treat us like dirt. Do you know why?”

    “Why?” Danielle repeated.

    “They know what we are,” Talia answered. “The other countries have no control over what their lands do to make this world habitable. However, we’re in complete control of the wind and rain and they give us incredible power. Just look at what Geronita-sama was able to do. A little change in the rain patterns brought an entire kingdom to its knees.”

    “So,” Danielle sneered.

    “The other countries are afraid of what we are,” Talia continued. “They realize we’re gods in this world. They’re lives are literally in our hands. So they beat us down, hoping we’ll never exert our power over them. And so far, it’s worked. With the power of gods, we live as paupers.”

    Danielle shot at Talia again. Talia blocked her charge with her sword.

    “We know what kind of power we wield,” Danielle said, “and we know they fear us. That’s why the best revenge is to not exert our power over them. That way, everyday, they have to be grateful we don’t. As much as they envy us, they depend on our good graces. Knowing that is the sweetest revenge.”

    Talia scowled. “Idiot.” She pushed Danielle away and shot into the sky. Danielle and Matthew gave chase. However, she dropped something that exploded in a blinding flash of light.

    The two Bird People stopped and shielded their eyes. By the time they could see again, Talia had disappeared into the stormy night.

    “Dammit,” Danielle snarled.

    * * *

    Bret and Lee had done their job grabbing the Gators attention. Spigot and the others were able to approach the hangar holding the Hurricane unopposed. However, there was one guard pacing in front of the man door beside the closed main entrance. They ducked behind some barrels and crates as the reptile paced from side to side.

    “How are we supposed to get past him?” Franklin moaned. “He’s as big as a house.”

    “I have an idea, Chief.” Ophelia whispered as she stood up and walked calmly towards the guard.

    “Ophelia,” Spigot whispered sharply at her.

    The young engineer ignored him as she approached the Gator. He turned around to continue the other way and saw her. He shouted, “halt,” and took his rifle in his hands.

    “There’s no need for that.” Ophelia raised her hands to shoulder level. “I just wanted to tell you there’s a multi-legged creature crawling on your shoulder.”

    The Gator instinctively looked at his shoulder for this creature. Ophelia reached for the other side of his neck. Much like before she, used her ability to sense the reptile’s electric field to find the point to disrupt it only this time a total disruption. She placed her thumb and index finger in a particular spot on his neck and squeezed.

    She felt his electrical field fluctuate. His body seized at first but quickly went limp. The large reptile lost consciousness and fell on her. Despite her best efforts the weight of the Gator tipped her over on the ground. She let out a soft grunt as she landed on the ground with him draped over her.

    She rolled him off and turned to the others. “Let’s go,” she called out to them.

    The three looked around for others. They then followed her through the man door. Waltu and several other Walruses were gathered near a large computer in the far corner. The four engineers hid behind a landing gear to watch them.

    “I don’t understand it.” Waltu’s frustrated voice echoed through the hangar. “Why is this happening?” He punched at keys on the terminal. “The winds carried the silver iodide over the Seed Kingdom. It shouldn’t be causing rain here.”

    Lightning flashed outside and thunder rumbled. As the rumbling subsided the pounding sound of rain on the roof could be heard.

    “Could this be an unintended consequence like you and Lee were talking about?” Franklin whispered to Ophelia.

    “I don’t doubt it.” Ophelia looked at the group of pinnipeds. “It’s illogical to assume changing the weather in one location won’t have effects across the entire planet.”

    “But what have they done?” Spigot asked softly. “They’ve already created a thunderstorm here. Who knows what other weather disasters they’ve created across the Water Drop Kingdom let alone the planet.”

    The four crept along the length of the fuselage. They then snuck up the open ramp and into the plane. One of the Walruses turned just after they disappeared.

    “What is it?” Waltu grumbled.

    “I thought I heard something,” the Walrus answered as thunder again rumbled from the outside.

    “It’s just thunder,” Waltu growled.

    In the Hurricane, Ophelia turned on the main computer. “I wish we were outside,” she said as the screens filled with readouts. “The instruments don’t do us any good when the weather can’t reach them.”

    “Try the Doppler radar,” Spigot instructed. “It should make it through the hangar.”

    Ophelia sat down at the radar terminal and typed in a series of command. Her commands caused the radar housed in a dish on top of the Hurricane to begin sending out pulses. The pulses passed through the skin of the hangar and into the turbulent sky. A brightly colored mosaic appeared on her main screen.

    She eyed the formation. The stronger the “echo” of the radar, the more water and ice there was. The mosaic represented this by colors. Lighter rain was represented by cooler blues and greens while heavier rain was represented by hotter yellows, oranges, reds, and even violets. A line of vivid reds and oranges were over laid on a white outline of the land formations and a black background. Surrounding them was a thicker line of yellow and a mass of greens and blues surrounded it.

    “It looks like they’ve created a squall line along where the rain-cooled airmass from the Seed Kingdom and the polar maritime airmass over the northern part of our kingdom have intersected.” Ophelia typed a couple keys. A pressure grid came up with another colorful blotch taking up most of the screen. “It looks as if we have some ice in the upper the levels. I don’t think we’ve seen the worst of this storm. We should leave as soon as possible.”

    * * *

    Alex cracked an indulged grin at the Gator tied up and muzzled with duck tape. The reptile squirmed on the floor of the cell he had just been stuck in. The other cells were open and the former prisoners were gathered in the hall.

    “Now what?” Daniel asked.

    “Simple,” Tammy answered, “we run like hell.”

    “But, you just took one these Gators to the woodshed,” one of the Sukusuku exclaimed.

    “Yeah,” Tammy looked at the reptile squirming in the cell, “key word being one. There are over a hundred on this island. Discretion is the better part of valor in this case.”

    “If only we had some smell balls.” Daniel thought out loud.

    Before Tammy could inquire what a “smell ball” was sounds of voices shouting came from the doors to the outside. The metal doors burst open and Bret and Lee ran in. They shut the doors to lean against them, breathing heavily.

    “Lee, Bret,” Nicole exclaimed.

    “Oh no.” Tammy slapped her forehead and pulled her hand down her face. “You’re supposed to be making a distraction.”

    “Right,” Bret huffed.

    “That’s what we’re doing,” Lee panted.

    “That means you’ve ****** off the Gators,” Tammy shouted.

    “Right,” the two replied.

    “That means they’re chasing after you.”

    “Right.”

    “That means they’re going to go wherever you go.”

    “Right.”

    “And you’re here.”

    “Right.” The two then looked at each other. “Oops.”

    They turned around and braced themselves against the door. The doors swung open, slamming them against the walls behind. Dozens of Gators poured in. The frightened Sukusukus dashed back into their cells. Only Daniel and the workers and royals remained in the hall.

    “What should we do?” Nicole whimpered.

    She and the others looked to Tammy. She shook her hands in front of her in response. “Don’t look at me,” she stated. “I’m not kicking them all in the balls.” The proverbial light bulb suddenly went off in head. “Wait a minute, balls.”

    She reached in her pocket and thankfully found the jar was still in tact. She pulled it out and handed it to Daniel. “The old man at the bar said you would know what to do with these.”

    “Alright, smell balls.” Daniel accepted the jar. “They look to be the swamp gas special too.”

    The Gators suddenly stopped. Daniel cracked a devilish grin as he unscrewed the lid. He took one of the tiny orbs and put it in his mouth and swallowed.

    “You walking suitcases know what’s coming,” he said as he turned to face his tail towards them.

    A massive, mustard yellow cloud exploded from the base of his tail. The gas spread towards the Gators. After backing up a couple of steps, they turned tail and ran screaming out of the brig.

    “I love the smell of musk in the morning.” Daniel inhaled a deep breath through his nostrils, taking in the noxious odor. “Smells like victory.” He then looked at the others. They all stood there dumbstruck at what they had just seen. “What?”

    The doors swung away from the wall, allowing Bret and Lee to fall out from behind. After sniffing the air Lee exclaimed, “Oh God, what died?”

    After gathering themselves, everyone ran from the brig. The workers along with Milro, Auler, and Sophie ran for the hangar. The Sukusuku ran for the bridge. As the guards prepared to stop them one of them chomped down on a smell ball. Seeing the noxious cloud approach, the guards dove underwater.

    “That is the second most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen,” Bret said as he looked back.

    “What’s the first?” Bonnie asked as she glided next to him.

    “You don’t want to know,” Bret replied as everyone continued their dash across the rain soaked island.

    Geronita gnashed his teeth at the Sukusuku escaping across the bridge. He was about to order the Gators to round them up when he saw the workers running the other way. More importantly, he saw Milro and others were in Bonnie and Alex’s arms.

    “Forget the Sukusuku. Get those workers,” he bellowed as thunder again rumbled through the night. “Don’t let them get to their airship.”

    At the other end of the bridge, the guards grabbed their rifles as the Sukusuku approached. However, a cloud exploded from the bushes and enveloped them. Coughing and choking, they quickly dove underwater, clearing the way for their escape.

    Terrance appeared from the bushes. “Thanks old man,” Daniel said as they crossed the bridge onto the mainland.

    “It was the least I could do considering how much they did.” Terrance motioned with his eyes to the island. “However, I think this weather is about to get a whole lot dirtier. I suggest we flee back to the village.”

    “You don’t have to tell me twice,” Daniel said as they all disappeared into the woods.

    * * *

    Bret looked behind them to see the Gators that had been chasing them were again behind him. He was beginning to wish he had the ability the Sukusuku had. However, several smoke grenades went off in front of the reptiles. The engineers looked up and saw Danielle and Matthew wave to them. They were almost to the hangar and thankfully the only Gator in front of them was sprawled out, unconscious on the pavement.

    “We’re in the clear,” he said mostly to himself.

    Alex noticed Khan hiding behind a stack of crates. “Hey,” he shouted. “It’s that Nyamal.”

    Lee grabbed Khan’s leg with his tail when he tried to run. The Nyamal fell forward and tried to kick off the snare. In a delicious twist in irony, the Shark Man reeled the Nyamal in. Lee grinned evilly at the feline as he let him dangle helplessly in the air in front of them.

    “How humiliating,” Khan sneered. “I’ve been caught by a fish.”

    Lee responded by giving him enough of a shock to make his body seize. “I’m a mammal,” he retorted.

    “Check it out,” Bret said as he pulled Bruno out from behind the stack of crates.

    “I wonder how the Sunny Kingdom will explain this,” Lee mused aloud.

    “They weren’t doing this for the Sunny Kingdom,” Milro said in response.

    “Too bad,” Lee muttered in disappointment.

    “We don’t have time for this,” Danielle said, pointing to the dissipating smoke and Gators behind them.

    Lee looked to the sky. His smirk melted away into a scowl. The storm was mostly the fault of Geronita. However, he had a hand in it. He suddenly realized what he had come to dread about his plans. They could be used for evil as well as good.

    “I have become death,” he said to himself, “the destroyer of worlds.”

    “Come on, Lee,” Bret shouted.

    Lee and Tammy ran for the main hangar door. They worked their hands between the massive wooden doors and began slowly pulling them apart. The others ran in through the man door. As they got to the ramp, they were confronted by Waltu and his people.

    “Going somewhere?” The pinniped’s mouth twisted into a smirk behind his stubby tusks.

    “The door’s open…” Lee stopped as he and Tammy came up.

    Something bounced down the ramp out of the aircraft with the sound of metal hitting metal. The cylindrical object then rolled along the ground into the group of Walruses. Smoke suddenly exploded from one end. Seeing their chance, the workers dashed up the ramp and into the plane as the pinnipeds coughed and choked helplessly in the cloud.

    Bret smacked a button causing the ramp to pull up and close. He then ran into the cockpit with Otto. As he jumped into his seat and started to strap in, he turned to his latest co-pilot. The Windmill Kingdom was famous for its pilots. He figured this time it had to be the same man who refused to fly in this particular craft during what would be the most hazardous take off yet.

    “This is just great,” Otto growled to himself. “My only chance for salvation is this metal monstrosity.”

    Behind them, Lee had punched up the radar on another screen. He whistled in astonishment at the impressive line of convection. He felt a sense of dread as well. No doubt the turbulence in the atmosphere was as impressive as the radar image.

    Convective turbulence was rare in the Mysterious Planet. It was one of the reasons why lighter than air craft had become the rule. Their susceptibility to even small amounts of turbulence would have made them impractical most anywhere else as a serious mode of transportation. However, the troubled atmosphere just above them would tear the mightiest of the airships apart.

    The Hurricane was a fixed wing, heavier than air craft. It flew by creating a difference in pressure above and below the wings instead of floating using either heated air or light gases. It had been advertised as being more resilient in the presence of turbulence. It looked like they were going to test the limit of that claim.

    A part of him actually wanted to get right into the clouds. The data they could gather on these conditions could be invaluable. However, this long ago stopped being a research mission. With Milro and the royals of Windmill Kingdom in the Hurricane, they had to escape both Geronita and the weather.

    He brought the radar profile up. The cross section looked just as daunting. He then punched in some of the earlier data they had taken. An air profile took from a nearby location came up. His sense of dread suddenly grew by a magnitude. The convection had punched into a layer of very cold, dry air above the warm moist air at the surface. No doubt the clouds were entraining that air, growing colder.

    “Ophelia,” he tried to keep his anxiety from his voice, “do you see what I see?”

    “I see it.” She got up from her seat and poked her head in the cockpit. “I suggest you take off now. There are big problems upstairs.”

    Bret and Otto had completed their checks and Bret was starting their engines. They knew they had to leave. Between the deteriorating weather and Geronita’s forces they were on barrowed time.

    “We’re ready to go.” Bret then looked forward. The Gators that had been chasing them were now blocking their way. All Bret could say was, “crap,” at this latest development.

    “What do we do?” Otto asked.

    “We run them down,” Bret replied casually. This got him a nasty look from his co-pilot. “I’m kidding,” he said. “Fortunately, this thing has it all. Including,” he pressed a button and suddenly the ground in front of them was bathed in blinding white light, “one million candle headlamps.”

    The Gators scattered like roaches holding their eyes. Bret throttled the plane up and it pulled out into the rain. The others in the back strapped in for what was sure to be a rough ride.

    Geronita watched as the Hurricane began accelerating down the runway. “Stop that airship!” he yelled over the din of the storm.

    However, it was all futile. The Hurricane lifted off the ground and began to rise into the stormy sky. Geronita looked to one of the stingrays with missiles already installed in hard points on its underbelly.

    On board the Hurricane, Lee tried to steady himself to watch his screen. His worst fear was being realized. A large red blob at the top of the storm representing rain and ice laden air was descending through the storm.

    Otto saw a pair of lights appear on the main monitor showing what was to the rear of them. “What’s that?”

    Bret looked up at it. Lightning flashed illuminating the stingray taking off from the base. “Trouble,” he answered.

    Geronita had descended into madness. His plans were ruined and his base was in chaos. All he had left was revenge which he pursued with insane fervor. He guided the stingray as best he could. On his display, a blue triangle came into a circle surrounding the Hurricane and turned red as a tone sounded. “End of the road, mammals.” He cackled and croaked.

    He then happened to look up as the clouds seemed to plummet for him. He screamed as they enveloped his airship. The last the occupants of the Hurricane saw of the stingray was it’s lights flip up and disappear in the rapidly descending column.

    The column struck the base with merciless force. The wooden and corrugated metal structures broke apart in the powerful winds. Even the cement brig was reduced to rubble under the barrage of debris.

    It flattened against the ground and raced towards the Hurricane. However, it died out as quickly as it had formed. The massive airship flew off, buffeted by the winds but unharmed.

    “YEE-HAW!” Bret screamed in the cockpit. “Let’s do that again!”

    “Let’s not and say we did,” Franklin groaned in response.

    All the occupants of the cabin heaved a huge sigh of the relief. They had escaped Geronita’s island and the wrath of the storm.

    “I guess the mystery of the Seed Kingdom’s flooding has been solved,” Lee slumped in his chair. “The weather should have returned to normal there by now.”

    “Not a moment too soon.” Spigot got out his chronometer. “We barely have enough time to get back to the Seed Kingdom before dawn.” He then called into the cockpit, “Bret, take us to the Seed Kingdom, best possible speed.”

    “You got it, Chief,” Bret replied happily.

    For the first time since being awakened by Yamul’s call, Spigot felt at peace. Soon enough, Milro would be her normal size and he could return to his duties. As the plane banked in a jerking fashion to head in its new course, he leaned back and sighed calmly.

    Some people don't think it's funny that Exit 69 gets off on Big Beaver.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    The Mitten State
    Posts
    6,950

    Default

    Chapter 13: A New Day Dawns

    A knocking came on the door of King Truth and Queen Elsa’s darkened bed chamber. The king of the Sunny Kingdom reached over to a lamp and turned it on but kept it dim. “Come,” he said.

    The door opened and a female Nyamal stood in the doorway. “Forgive me for disturbing you, Your Majesties.” She curtsied and spoke softly. “However, we just detected a violent convective event over the southern regions of the Water Drop Kingdom.”

    “Has the Water Drop Kingdom been notified?” Truth asked, wiping his midnight blue hair from his eyes.

    The feline nodded. “They said they already have a team investigating.”

    The red haired queen sat up behind her husband. “Does it have anything to do with the situation in the Seed Kingdom?” he asked.

    “As far as we can tell, no,” the Nyamal answered. “We will likely have information by morning.”

    “Very well.” Truth turned off his lamp. “You may go.”

    “Again, my apologies.” The Nyamal curtsied again and closed the door.

    * * *

    King was not mistaken. He could see patches of stars in the dark sky above him. It was a sight he had not seen in so long, and he was hearing something he had not in so long as well, the silence outside with no rain falling.

    “Your Majesty,” one of the Molmo reported, “messengers are coming in from across the kingdom. The rains have stopped.”

    “And it appears the clouds are starting to break up too-dane,” King added. He looked back up to the sky. “Could Spigot and his men have something to do with this-dane?”

    “Your Majesty,” a Seed Person pointed up to a line in the sky above them, “look-dane.”

    The Hurricane was slowly descending towards the ground, its powerful landing light directed at the ground below it. The craft touched down in the muddy soil and rolled to a stop. After taxiing to bring the rear hatch to face King, the airship fell silent.

    A crowd of Seed Kingdom citizens gathered around. The rear hatch descended and the workers of the Water Drop Kingdom and Windmill Kingdom shuffled out. Their diminutive royals soon followed.

    “Spigot,” King worked his way to the front of the crowd, “the rains have stopped-dane. I don’t know what you did but you’ve saved our kingdom-dane.”

    “It was all in the line of duty,” Spigot replied casually. “I also have a present for you.”

    “Oh?” King replied.

    Alex shoved Khan and Bruno out with their hands bound in restraints.

    “These two were helping a radical flood your kingdom,” Spigot said.

    “He’s lying! They’re trying to cover for the fact they are the ones flooding your kingdom,” Khan shouted. “Who will you believe? A bunch of thieves who would work behind their own royalty’s back, or someone from the Sunny Kingdom?”

    “Geronita needed someone to keep others from interfering while he flooded the Seed Kingdom,” Khan’s voice said to the actual Nyamal’s shock. He looked back and saw Alex was holding a tape recorder. “I was happy to oblige…for a price, of course.”

    Alex stopped the recorder.

    Khan snapped his head to King. The diminutive king was growing red with rage and his body seemed to be tightening like when Khan claimed the flooding was a conspiracy.

    “You…” King snarled.

    “As much as we would love to see what you’d do to him,” Spigot said, “we’re going to have to turn him over to the Sunny Kingdom.”

    Some disappointed murmurs came from the other engineers.

    “I suppose that’ll be justice enough-dane,” King replied, calming down. “Speaking of presents,” King looked up to Axe, “my subordinate has something he wishes to say to you-dane.”

    Axe paused before answering. He then finally spoke. “I…apologize.”

    “Go on-dane.” King insisted.

    “My actions toward you and your people were completely uncalled for,” Axe continued. “Can you find it within your heart to forgive me?”

    Spigot was taken aback by this. Even though King no doubt forced him to apologize, it was still an apology. He smiled slightly and extended his hand.

    “Only if you can forgive this stubborn, old beaver,” Spigot replied.

    It was Axe’s turned to be shocked. Spigot had never been apologetic and he had never offered him a hand shake. He took his hand and the two shook hands for the first time in years.

    “I never thought I’d see the day those two would touch each other without trying to hurt the other,” Emily commented. “It looks like this silly feud might be over.”

    “And, you’ve a pretty nasty right hook.” Axe rubbed the left side of his head which was visibly bruised and still throbbed a little.

    “Just don’t make me use it again,” Spigot said in response. “Now, onto business.” He turned to the huge silhouette of the Mother Tree against the night sky. “King-sama told me you would return Milro-sama and the others to their original size if I stopped the rains. I held up my part of the bargain. Are you going to make a liar out of him?”

    The leaves of the Mother Tree slowly began to glow, bathing the area in a harsh, green light. Milro once again felt her body be permeated with energy and she began to slowly grow larger. After a couple seconds she was as tall as Emily and continued to enlarge. After a few more seconds she was back to her original size along with Sophie and Auler and the energy subsided.

    “We’re big again!” Sophie cheered.

    The workers erupted into cheers when a flash came right overhead. The first sliver of the Sun’s Blessing was coming out of eclipse through a break in the clouds. Around them, pools of sunlight appeared across the drenched countryside. Lee donned his sunglasses as the engineers looked out.

    “Oh glorious sunlight,” one of the Seed Kingdom citizens cheered. “I thought I’d never see it again.”

    “Talk about cutting it close,” Bret said as he shielded his eyes from the enlarging sun.

    One of the pools of light enveloped the Mother Tree. Suddenly, clusters of white flowers burst into bloom throughout her boughs.

    “The Mother Tree has been restored-dane,” King cheered as he leapt in the air.

    “Have you ever seen such a glorious sight?” Sophie gasped in amazement.

    “No,” Milro replied in equal amazement. “This would make such a beautiful painting.”

    “You guys were awesome,” Solo complimented the engineers. “How you saved the valley was as if you were superheroes. But what to call you?”

    “How about the Weather Makers?” Harney suggested.

    “Yeah, the Weather Makers of the Mysterious Planet,” Ichele concurred with her sister.

    “I like the sound of that.” Bret cracked an indulgent grin.

    “As much as I’d like to stay and chat,” Spigot tipped his hat to King and his people, “Yamul-sama is probably worried sick. Come along, everyone.”

    He turned to board the Hurricane with the others following him.

    “Have a safe journey-dane,” King called after the departing workers as he and his subjects waved them good bye.

    Bret took his seat in the pilot’s chair and began strapping himself in. As he prepared to take off Auler walked in and sat in the co-pilot’s chair. “Am I ever going to have the same co-pilot for more than one leg of this trip?” he asked.

    The engines of the Hurricane started, spinning up the propellers. The craft began to pull forward and accelerated across the soaked grass. King and the people of the Seed Kingdom watched as the craft lifted off the ground and began to climb into the brightening sky.

    They emerged above the thinning clouds and headed north for the gulch. The storms Geronita caused had quickly died out as the conditions that created them disappeared. The only evidence of their existence was the orphaned anvils sitting high above. This was probably for the bet since they’d have either traveled over the Seed Kingdom or traveled further into the Water Drop Kingdom, both with undesirable affects.

    Bret grabbed his shoulder which was beginning to throb along with the rest of his body. He guessed being thrown into that tree and being smashed behind the door had finally caught up with him. Though, he could think of a worse fate, like being covered in harpoons like a bloody pincushion. Still, his entire body ached.

    Auler looked over to him. “Are you alright?” the Prince of the Windmill Kingdom asked.

    “Sure.” Bret winced as another wave of pain shot through his body. “Being squished between a steel door and a cement wall does wonders for the spine. Why is it you really only feel the pain after the adrenaline is gone?”

    “I’m sorry we put you through all this trouble,” Auler apologized.

    “Don’t mention it.” Bret tried to ignore the throbbing of his body. “It’s our duty watch the royalty’s six. If we don’t do it, who will?”

    Lee was also starting to feel sore though his body was more resilient than Bret’s. Still, he throbbed and ached all over. Nicole noticed his was massaging and favoring one of his shoulders.

    “Are you alright?” she turned around and asked him.

    The aquatic engineer swiveled his chair to face her. “I’ll live,” he replied, not affected by the pain as severely as Bret.

    Tammy placed a cold pack on the side of her muzzle where the Gator had punched her. Like her two colleagues she had not escaped the island without taking some licks, probably more than the two combined. However, she did not want anyone to feel sympathy for her.

    She noticed Otto was watching Lee and Nicole with an amused grin. “Something on your mind?” she asked.

    “I know Nicole and I could never make it work,” Otto said. “However, I do like her and I’m glad she found someone who seems to understand her.”

    “I think they make a great couple too,” Tammy replied.

    “We’re passing Geronita’s base,” Emily shouted.

    Everyone got up and huddled around the starboard side, staring out of the portholes. Below them could only be described as dumbfounding. The island had been swept almost completely clean. Only the runway and maybe the bottom 30 to 40 centimeters of the brig’s cement walls remained. However, the destruction was not limited to the island. Trees on the mainland were flattened against the ground.

    “It looks like a tornado hit it,” Alex exclaimed.

    “Not exactly.” Lee spoke up. “It was a microburst.”

    “A microburst?” the others repeated.

    Lee nodded as he strolled back to his seat and sat back down. “A tornado is created by a powerful updraft.” He pointed his thumb up. “From what I saw this was a powerful downdraft.” He turned his thumb down.

    "As Geronita used silver iodide to increase nucleation in the clouds he expanded them over the swamp at night. This prevented heat from escaping, increasing the temperature and therefore the evaporation rate. It also scoured out moisture in the upper levels. So there was warm, moist air in the lower atmosphere and colder, drier air in the upper atmosphere separated by a warm, dry layer called a cap.

    When the rain-cooled air mass in the Seed Kingdom and the polar air mass over the northern Water Drop Kingdom were pushed in when we increased the winds from the Windmill Kingdom, they forced the warm, moist air up.” He cupped his hands and raised them up. "It broke the cap and intruded into that cold, dry air. The cold, dry air was entrained in the cloud, cooling it off. It lost buoyancy and literally fell out of the atmosphere at an incredible rate.” He threw his hands down and swept them apart imitating the motion of the winds.

    “It’s ironic.” Ophelia returned to her seat. “Geronita wanted to control the weather but, in the end, it was his weather modifications that were the instrument of his demise.”

    “I think it goes to show that although we make the weather, we’re far from being its masters,” Lee added. He sighed. “I know that now.”

    Unnoticed below them, Talia watched from the branch of a standing tree. As the craft dwindled in the distance she spread her massive wings and leapt into the air.

    * * *

    They quickly came into view of the gulch. However, Bret and Auler saw several large zeppelins at the base. The Beauty of Aqua was easy to recognize with its huge, raindrop shaped envelope. The King Babardo was also there along with the Little Princess, Luna Queen, and Crystal Gem.

    Bret gulped dryly. “Uh, chief,” he whimpered, “we might not be out of the woods yet. There’s practically a convention of royalty going on down there.”

    The royal families of the Water Drop, Windmill, Sunny, Moon, and Jewelry Kingdom watched as the Hurricane came in for a landing. The huge craft touched down and rolled past them before finally coming to a stop. The propellers stopped turning and machine fell silent before the rear hatch opened.

    “Mother, Father,” Sophie cheered as she was the first to bound out of the craft. She ran up and hugged her mother.

    “Sophie.” The aqua haired half-Doggel queen returned her embrace.

    Auler was the next to step off. He was more subdued in his greeting to their full-blooded Doggel father. The aviator sunglasses the older canine wore over his eyes hid them from view and he rarely smiled. However, Auler could tell he was glad to seem him.

    The prince of the Windmill Kingdom was suddenly thrown to the ground. His six younger siblings had piled onto him. The apparently full Doggels giggled happily as they wrestled him to submission. He laughed at them tickling him as well as the thought that just an hour ago he would have been crushed by such an ambush. They asked him questions one would expect a five a bunch year olds pestering their older siblings about.

    “Where have you been, Big Brother?”

    “Did you get us anything?”

    “I missed you too,” Auler replied. “I tell you all later.”

    He then noticed Altezza standing there. “Let me get up,” he said to his brothers and sisters.

    The four boys and two girls got off him and let him stand up. He patted some of the dust off before returning his eyes to the princess of the Jewelry Kingdom. The blond haired girl suddenly wrapped herself around him.

    “I glad you’re back to normal,” she said, keeping back tears of joy. She did not want to get too sappy, especially with a certain set of twins there and it was not the ones with gills in their necks.

    Alex was the next off with their prisoners. He shoved Khan and kept a dart gun at his back. He could not keep the indulged grin off his muzzle as he led them to King Truth and Queen Elsa.

    “You got some explaining to do,” Alex said, taking out his recorder and teasing Khan with it.

    The others shuffled off without much fanfare. Milro and Spigot were the last ones to depart. The princess of the Water Drop Kingdom walked with a little eagerness to her step to her parents and bother. She hugged her mother who returned her embrace.

    “I’ve missed you,” Yamul said in a soft, comforting voice.

    “I missed you too,” Milro replied.

    Yamul then turned to Spigot and the six engineers trying to sneak away. “As for you seven,” she said, regaining the natural sharpness and booming quality to her voice, “I want you in my office when we get back.”

    “Yes, Ma’am,” they all whimpered.

    The royal families of the Windmill, Sunny, Moon, and Jewelry Kingdoms had started up an argument. Moon Maria was arguing with Randa about why her country had to brace itself for an increased risk of sandstorms and much of the conversation fell on how one of the Sunny Kingdom’s observers could help a radical like Geronita damage another kingdom. The engineers just looked on.

    The commoners decided the royals were beyond hope. Elena grabbed Randa and pulled him out of the conversation. They joined the citizens of the Windmill and Water Drop Kingdoms as they boarded their aircraft and land vehicles. The three remaining royal families were so absorbed in their bickering they did not realize everything was moving out.

    Camellia suddenly choked as a dusk cloud flew over them. She looked up to see the station wagons and air craft departing to the north. “Did we miss something?” she asked no one in particular.

    * * *

    Being called to Yamul’s office had the same stomach tightening feeling of being called to the principle’s office in school. Of course, the feeling was ten times worse because she was the queen of the Water Drop Kingdom. The six Windmill Kingdom workers joined Spigot and the others along with Milro, Auler, and Sophie.

    Spigot explained everything. He told Yamul about the Mother Tree’s curse, their plan to change the weather, and Geronita’s involvement and plans to turn the Mysterious Planet into one big swamp. He could hardly believe everything that had happened himself now that he had put them into words.

    Yamul nodded when he was done she absorbed everything she was told. “Mr. Spigot,” Yamul said.

    Spigot shut his eyes like a doomed man standing before a firing squad. He knew what was coming. His career was over for this. He was just waiting for Yamul to say “you’re fired” and get it over with.

    “Thank you,” Yamul said in a gentler tone.

    Spigot eyes popped open in genuine astonishment.

    “If you had come to me immediately,” Yamul continued, “I might have acted out of emotion and denied Milro a very important lesson.”

    “What lesson is that?” Milro asked.

    “You were put into a situation where you were completely powerless,” Yamul explained, “but looked at what was accomplished. The Seed Kingdom and quite probably the entire Mysterious Planet was saved from Geronita.”

    “But, I had nothing to do with it,” Milro replied. “It was all Spigot and the others.”

    “That’s how it is for the most part,” Yamul said. “A good monarch doesn’t try to micromanage their citizens because they understand they make up a whole that’s greater than a sum of its parts. Forcing them under the will of a single mind would hinder their potential. They know they are there to be the guiding force that leads that whole toward the greater good. Sure, there will be people like Geronita who refuse to cooperate, but it’s more their loss than yours.”

    Yamul leaned forward to place her hands on her desk. “I know you doubt you’re abilities to rule this country,” she said. “So, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I may seem like some superwoman but, in truth, I’m just an ordinary person, as mortal and flawed as the next. You have everything you need to rule. You just have to guide this kingdom with the kindness and selflessness I know lies in your heart and you’ll be amazed by the good this country can accomplish.” She then smirked. “Even if it is with a scowl.”

    “I told you, Milro,” Sophie said. “Everything worked out right in the end.”

    “You certain did,” Milro said, practically beaming from the praise her mother had given her. She then turned back to her mother. “I’ve also gained a new respect for the people of the Seed Kingdom,” she said. “It’s not easy being that small.”

    Everyone in the room erupted into laughter at this.

    Some people don't think it's funny that Exit 69 gets off on Big Beaver.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    The Mitten State
    Posts
    6,950

    Default

    And so it ends. This story comes to a close. I'm glad people checked it out. I hope you all liked it. I wish you had responded to say you liked it if you did like it. Until next time.

    Epilogue: Lunch Date

    A couple weeks after the first flight of the Hurricane; Lee, Nicole, Bret, and Ophelia went on a double date to lunch at the Lodge. It was the finest restaurant in Saginaw City and Lee wanted to show Nicole their incredible seafood.

    Bret had grabbed a daily newspaper on the way in. The headlines read ‘Seed Kingdom Expects Record Harvest In Spite of Late Start: Flooding Blessing In Disguise, Washes Nutrients Into Fields’.

    “Would you look at that?” Bret said. “It turns out Geronita did everyone a favor.”

    “It was a costly favor,” Lee replied. “Almost all the extra revenue they’re expecting to bring in will be used for clean up and repairs.”

    They were quickly seated at booth in the window room. A steady rain was falling on Saginaw City with drops hitting and running down the huge windows that curved up to form the ceiling as well as one of the walls. Outside, pedestrians hid under umbrellas while the gondolas were covered and their gondoliers were clad in colorful raincoats and hats.

    “If the food is as good as the view,” Nicole said, “this should be a great lunch.”

    A waiter walked up to them. “Can I take your orders?” he asked.

    “Of course,” Nicole replied politely. “I would like your fried salmon.”

    “Shrimp and scallops,” Ophelia said.

    “Shellfish lover’s delight,” Lee ordered.

    “A garden salad,” Bret said. He then said to the others, “the joy of being the only herbivore at the table.”

    The waiter took their menus and walked away.

    “So,” Nicole asked, “did the bill pass?”

    Lee nodded. “It is now officially illegal for any citizen of the Water Drop Kingdom to try to manipulate the weather.”

    “The other kingdoms have made similar laws,” Bret added.

    “It’s too bad, Lee,” Ophelia said. “You worked so hard on that project.”

    “I know,” Lee said. “However, after seeing what happened at Geronita’s base, I realized something. Weather control can be used to do a lot of good, but it could also be used to do a lot of harm. It’s probably best we leave the weather alone.”

    Nicole looked out at the rain. “Also, if we controlled the weather, it would kill the magic. There’s an air of majesty to the weather. It’s what made me interested in it. Knowing exactly what the weather would be, it would take everything that’s special about away.”

    “I guess you’re right,” Ophelia replied. “There are things should not do just because we can.”

    “In the meantime,” Lee said, “Yamul-sama is considering expanding our sensing network. She hopes we can prevent another incident like what happened with Geronita.”

    “On the subject of Mean, Green, and not so Lean,” Bret chimed in. “Has there been any news about him?”

    “They’ve scoured the swamp,” Lee answered. “However, they found no bodies of Geronita and his followers.”

    “I can’t imagine anyone could have survived that,” Nicole said. “Danielle told me the Bird People have called off the hunt for Talia because they believe she perished.”

    “And, he would have surfaced by now if he somehow survived,” Bret added.

    “I know,” Lee said. “However, I just can’t believe someone as aggravating as Geronita could be gotten rid of that easily.”

    * * *

    Even a world as warm and welcoming as the Mysterious Planet has its foreboding regions. The Eastern Badlands of the Windmill Kingdom was one such region. It was rugged and desolate. The orange and tan terrain was a tortured sight from centuries of relentless abuse from wind and water alike. Only the hardiest of plants and animals dared to call it home. Even the windmills, that were plentiful elsewhere, were a rare sight in these parts.

    Talia glided over the desolate landscape. She flew towards one of the isolated windmills and into a cave below it where a Sunny Kingdom airship was hidden. She came to perch on a conduit and watch what was happening below.

    Gators, Walruses, Copter-bot, and Waltu all cowered before a chair on a raised platform. There, Geronita sat, drumming his fingers on the armrest. He had not spoken since they escaped the base and it only put more fear into their hearts of what could be going through his mind.

    “Tickle us. Do we not laugh?” The Bull Frog finally thought out loud to the shock and unease of his followers. “Prick us. Do we not bleed?” His wide mouth cracked into a devilish grin. “Wrong us. Do we not revenge?”




    Hello, I’m The Big Al. There have been experiments in weather control for decades. The United States even tried to redirect a hurricane. Although they can’t engineer a flood, companies have been experimenting with cloud seeding to alleviate droughts in America's farm belt.
    Last edited by The Big Al; 22nd March 2009 at 4:58 PM.

    Some people don't think it's funny that Exit 69 gets off on Big Beaver.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •