The Reign of the Squirrels

:::IR51 THU APR 09, 1992 15.18.09
PART 58: PARTNERS?
FROM: IR51 At Music

Speed Racer dropped Trixy off at 123 Racine Street and departed.

He figured it was best for the both of them. It had been great to see her again and talk to her but the Chim-Chim incident loomed between them as though it was a huge wall. He loved her. What could he do? If only that darn monkey wasn't around. They could have been happy together. All of that was another story though. His had to go on.

Exx Person walked down the road. He wondered what in the world was going on. He had been stuck in that court house for days. He never had danced so much in his life. His feet were killing him, but he trudged along the street anyway. As he walked he debated what he should do. he had long since forgotten what his mission was. All he knew was that he was dressed in some ugly plaid pants and a white T-shirt. These had to go. The law never did have any style and now he looked like something out of "Revenge of the Nerds." He needed clothes.

As he walked, cars drove past and Exx person could hear the laughs as the drivers went past. There was one driver who drove past that did not laugh, for he was to depressed to laugh. He was the one driver who stopped and picked up Exx Person. It was the old familiar white race car with the red stripe and the 'M'. That's right it was Speed Racer.

"Need a lift?"

Exx Person was stunned. Here was a person who he had never seen before and a person who did not want him dead (at least not yet).

"I guess." What else could he say? Exx person climbed into the car and the twosome drove off.

"So," began Speed Racer, "Where were you heading?"

"I don't know."

"OKAY. What's your name?"

All of a sudden it came back to him. Of course. He remembered Part One He had come to be the savior of all. He can come to rid the world of all evil. He was EXX MAN!!!!

"I am Exx Man. Savior of all that is good and destroyer of all that is evil," he said with eloquence, authority, dignity, and a cough.

"Really?" replied Speed Racer.

"Really," answered Exx Man in a deep superhero voice.

"Maybe we can be partners. I have a problem I need help with. Would you assist?"

"Of course my young friend," again in a deep superhero voice.

"Great!" Speed Racer began to relate the Chim-Chim Incident.


:::DL20 THU APR 09, 1992 17.17.15
Scattershot Pictures of Reality
FROM: DL20 At Music

"That's depressing," Exx Man said as Speed finished relating the Chim-Chim incident. "I never knew a chimpanzee could cause so much turmoil for one family. But you know," he began and stopped suddenly. "I have a confession to make." He scratched his right shoulder.

"Yes?" asked Speed, dabbing at the tears that ran down his face.

"My name isn't really Exx Man," said Exx Man. "It's actually Exx Person. It used to be Exx Man, but I changed it to reflect my duties to all members of society, including women and children." (And, he added mentally, to avoid any more identity problems if he changed sexes.)

"You don't say," said Speed, as he pushed the Mach 5 to live up to its name. All around them, cars stood still as Speed nudged the red needle of the speedometer ever higher. "You know, you should have that bump on your head looked at by a physician," said Speed.

"Bump? What bump?"

"This one," said Speed, and knocked Exx Person out with a sudden punch to the head. Exx Person slid gracefully down the passenger seat of the Mach 5 and into unconsciousness. Slamming on his brakes, Speed did a sudden 180 and pulled into a parking lot by the Alan W. Johnson Medical Institute.

"Geez, are you okay, mister?" Speed asked as he slapped Exx Person's cheeks. The color gradually returned, bringing Exx Person with it.

"What happened?" Exx Person asked groggily.

"It's one of the side-effects of the Chim-Chim Incident," said Speed. "I get these uncontrollable urges to k.o. people I never met before. There's a hospital right here -- let me help you in."


John Sipes moved quickly within the narrow confines of the ambulance. The world turned to an impossible thirty-degree angle as the ambulance rounded a corner, but years of experience as a paramedic kept Sipes from pitching forward onto the crushed woman in the stretcher.

"Do you think she'll make it?" Jill Schwartz asked from the other side of the stretcher.

"I think so, if we get her to the hospital in time. The cross- beam from the courthouse crushed her backbone, and she's suffering from internal injuries. I'm at the end of my abilities. If we get her to the hospital in five minutes, I'd say she has an eighty percent chance of survival."

Schwartz nodded, and the ambulance rushed on as the broken Joanna McKillop fought for life.



"No! Absolutely not!" Doctor Jason P. Kivorski shouted. "First you take a homeless woman suffering from gunshot wounds out of the hospital without my permission, telling Brian Brissel she's your sister Matilda and that I said there wasn't any room for her, and then you disappear for four months without a word. Nurse Metalmash is *still* missing, and now you come back to me and say you'd like to return to work for us. Absolutely NOT, Dingle. Do you hear me?"

"Well she was my sister," Dingle said weakly.

"Completely irrelevant. I knew I should have taken the Kiss-Rot Institute's warning about you more seriously. Read my lips, Dingle: you have no job here at the Alan W Johnson Medical Institute. We need doctors we can rely on, not incompetent fools who insist on nurses' dancing in the operating room."

"But my research, I mean, my career must continue! I have a great need to experiment on peop, I mean, to help those who are in need."

"Go try the Peace Corps if you're that set on helping people. Maybe they'll let you teach dance school in Haiti," said Dr. Kivorski. With that, he sat down in his high-backed chair.

"But -- " Dingle began to protest.

"Good-bye, Doctor Dingle," Kivorski said, and turned back to his copy of People magazine, leaving Dingle facing his shock of red hair.

"I -- I -- Good day, Doctor Kivorski," said Dingle, and left for the men's room, where he dropped his drawers and released his huge squirrel's tail from the tight confines he had strapped it in.

"Ah, my precious tail, we will see them all dance for this," he said as he stretched it in the cold blue men's room.


Exx Person looked up at the tall, gaunt nurse who placed an icepack on his forehead. Her long black curls fell down about her shoulders, over her loose-fitting white medical coat. Her thin, angular face regarded Exx Person with cool professional detachment, her piercing blue eyes making Exx Person avert his gaze to a nearby box of tongue depressors.

"How did this happen?" Nurse Susan Bruer asked.

"I hitched a ride with a man whose younger brother used to own a chimpanzee," said Exx Person, as if this explained everything.

"You shouldn't hitchhike," Nurse Bruer reminded him like a mother. "You never know what sort of sicko will offer you a ride. My younger sister was once offered a ride by some students from Lehigh, and she's still recovering from the emotional duress their banal conversation caused."

In the hallway there arose a sudden clatter as blue-uniformed interns rushed about in a mad dance of life-saving to reach the emergency exit. "Quick!" one of them shouted. "Get Doctor Kivorski -- we have a woman here who was trapped in the Robert I. Rotberg courthouse when it fell in."

"Excuse me," Nurse Bruer said, and disappeared to assist Doctor Kivorski in the operation to save Lieutenant McKillop's life. Exx Person looked in concern at the group of doctors, nurses, and interns who gathered around the stretcher and rushed it through the halls toward the emergency room. Exx Person scratched absently at his arm. For some reason, he itched and felt constricted all over. He wondered if he was coming down with something.

Now Exx Person's credit rating had been in a funk ever since the Skywalker and Dragon Poker had trashed his hairdressing salon. If he stuck around long enough, the issue of payment was certain to come up. While the Avengers received $1,000 a week as part of the endowment Tony Stark had set up, and the Fantastic Four didn't need to worry about money since Reed Richards had so many patents to his name (except for the time they had to make a movie, but that was twenty-five years ago anyway), many superheroes had absolutely no regular income at all. Why, even Spider-man depended on the graces of his city editor, and Superman had to work as a news reporter in order to pull in a steady income. For the thousandth time, Exx Person wondered where Thor got his money when there wasn't construction work for Sigurd Jarlson. As a superhero, Exx Person was flat broke. Saving the world just didn't pay well.

"Ya never know when you'll need money," his mentor SludgeBolt had advised him, lo those many years ago. "Why, I remember when I had just beaten SnarfMan and the Evil Gainsayer silly, and I had a date with Minnie Foster in fifteen minutes. Woodinjaknowit, there wasn't a Mac machine in sight. Fortunately, I had my secret identity's Visa card with me, so Minnie never knew the difference. But it had been a close one."

Exx Person didn't have a credit card with him. He wasn't even certain a superhero should carry a credit card, credit cards' being evil and all. Fortunately, no one was looking, and he snuck out the back door without being apprehended by any of the hospital staff for failure to pay for services.


"Ah, precious, we will leave now," said Dingle. With some difficulty, he succeeded in bending his tail as he had seen the squirrels at Lafayette College do, and pulled the giant elastic band back over it so it wouldn't move about. With much effort, he pulled his white shirt back over his chest and tail, buttoned the front, and soon tied his dark blue necktie in place.

He looked in the mirror at his tired face. Lines of fatigue crossed his aging face, making him look years older than his mere forty-three. His once-proud chestnut brown hair now receded to the middle of his head and was streaked with grey. And those thin-rimmed glasses resting down from the bridge of his nose made him look far too much like an old schoolteacher rather than the brilliant biochemist he was.

As he looked in the mirror, the blue door to the stall behind him swung open.

"Vas ist?" Dingle asked, momentarily forgetting he left the Fatherland thirty years ago.

Inside the stall was a man, perhaps in his fifties, wearing Spock ears like one finds at a Star Trek convention. He wore a blue flannel shirt, grey slacks, white socks, and a pair of Nikes.

"You!" the man said, dropping his small plastic cup to the floor where it spilled its contents in a growing puddle.

Dingle spun around. "Ja, me," he said, wondering where all this German was coming from since he hadn't spoken a word of it in twenty-five years.

Dingle stared in horror as the man's veins began to throb, his eyes turned green, and the man began to grow as Dingle watched. His clothing tore to pieces (except his pants, which managed to stretch, for the most part) and the man began to growl.

"Albert," Dingle shouted. "Albert, it was an accident! I didn't mean to -- " But Dingle's protestations went unheard. The hulking monster known as Albert van Talbert lunged forward, arms outstretched, meaning to throttle Dingle lifeless.

Having been killed twice already, and having enjoyed it neither time, Dingle took off from the men's room and out the front of the hospital, van Talbert in hot pursuit.


Exx Person: Tale of the Grey Monkey By David McCandless

[and elsewhere....]

All the little squirrels scampered excitedly about, occassionally bumping heads and such, as the older and more proper generation looked on. "He's going to tell, he's going to tell!" piped up one little runt.

Indeed, true to the squirrel's words, a rather shabby but still dignified grey-furred monkey dressed in a red and white cap and blue overalls and a cane hobbled into the excited ring of rodents.

"He's here, he's here, oh goodie, he's here!" went on the little verbose squirrel, whose name was Otto (his parents saw "A SQuirrel called Wanda" in the theatres). "Now we'll know! Yes we will!"

A stare from Otto's mother and an acorn managed to shut him up momentarily.

"And now," said one of the older squirrels, "you will tell us of the great trauma of days passed, the one that drew many into our age-old conflict with the human scientist. You will tell us of the...CHIM CHIM INCIDENT!"

As the squirrel finished, thunder wracked the skies, a lightning bolt shattered a nearby stump, and Cluster proof-of-purchases rained down upon the poor little rodents.

The monkey nodded once, wearily, pausing only to chew on a banana, and then began to speak...

"To understand this, we must go back many years. Back to the beginning. Back to this......"
---------------------------------------------------------------------
I looked up curiously. Rex stood there playing with the toaster, a look of consternation on his face under the rubber X-mask he liked to parade about in. Human children were so strange. "I HATE TOAST!" cried the future speedster, hurtling the bread away from him. "If I ever think about toast again, there'll be hell to pay."
After he left, Spritel mischeviously picked up the two pieces of toast and placed them on Rex's pillow.
Soon after that (I am unsure why), Rex left us.


"Dear, would you still love me even if I went stark raving mad and drooled everywhere and couldn't even use the bathroom on my own? Would you, oh dearest love of my life?" Pop tugged nervously at his white baseball cap.
It was later, much later. Rex had been gone for a while, and Speed was growing strong. I hoped my natural monkey life span would enable me to persevere awhile yet, but who knows whether it was worth it?
Mrs. Racer looked vacant for a minute, ignoring my confused chittering and scratching. "Well, dear, your moustache would catch all the horrible drool, and the bathroom bit would become rather tedious over time, don't you think?" She finally shook her head.
"No, Honey, I'm afraid that if you went stark raving mad and drooled everywhere and couldn't even use the bathroom on your own, I'd have to resort to becoming a Lady of the Night, or worse, a Prosecuting Attorney."
I hoped for Pop's sake (and my own peanut supply) that things never came to that.
Spritel peeked out from under the bed and smiled deviously.



"Trixie, I love you. Will you marry me?" Speed pushed me aside, muttering "Go away, you stupid ape. This is important, can't you see that?"
He shoved me off the park bench. Trixie laughed as my hairy limbs flailed about and then I thudded into the ground. Ouch!
"Well, Trixie, huh, huh? Will you? huh?"
Trixie smiled flirtatiously and giggled like a schoolgirl (which she was.) "Well, we'll see. I DO have some options open, for college and stuff like that." Her eyes rolled to one side as she tried to remember. "I keep getting stuff from some Professor Dorkle or Dinkle or..Dingle?.. or someone like that....for some new incredible science experiment that could change the course of human existence." She smiled. "And, oh Speed! They even have...dancing!" She glowed with excitement.
Speed looked away, not saying much. Suddenly he broke into loud tears. "Oh, you don't love me!!! You'll leave me, just like Rex did!"
Trixie's gaze softened. I wished these humans would hurry up. Monkeys are much more direct in their mating habits.
"Speed, I DO love you. I would give all of this up for you!"
Speed looked up, smiling. "Gee, Trixie, thanks!"
Trixie shook her finger at him. "Unless....unless you stuck your father in an insane asylum or something, though. I just COULDN'T love you if you did that!"
Speed was jumping up and down for joy...stupid human. "No problem! Let's go play in the water!" Hand in hand, Trixie and Speed ran off towards the Park's lake. I shook my fuzzy little head in consternation.
Spritel climbed out of the nearby trash dumpster, shaking himself and throwing old coffee grounds everywhere. "Poor poor Chim-chim!" he said, coming up beside me. "Speed will NEVER push you off a bench again!" His face was covered in shadow, like a demonic baboon.

Personally, it wasn't a big deal to me, but it was nice to have someone being nice to monkeys for once. I chittered happily and then took the proferred peanut from his grimy hand.

For weeks after this, things seemed OK, but I could sense some underlying tension--especially around Spritel. He was lost in thought much of the time, playing Dungeons and Dragons and listening to heavy metal. And renting "Girls with Big Guns" from the video place. I began to worry about my little friend and companion.
Then he began to feed me bananas. Secretly. On the sly. He wouldn't tell anyone else. I could sense some ulterior motive, but it was free food and definitely worth devouring for the sake of my pal. I knew something big was going to happen. It was only a matter of fate. Or time.

That morning, Spritel woke me up. His face was flushed with some ruddy excitement, and he couldn't stand still. I knew that the THING was about to happen. I just hoped I wouldn't fail my friend. He gave me SO many bananas.
"Come along, Chim buddy. The piper is about to be paid." Taking my paw, he led me out to the kitchen, where the rest of the family bustled about.
"Well, Speed, how are the wedding plans coming?"
Speed grimaced. "Aw, dad, it's still next week!"
Trixie blushed.
Mrs. Racer scurried about the kitchen, making toast. The phone rang.
She picked it up. "Racer X! I mean, Rex honey! It's you! After ALL these years!" She paused.
"What am I doing? Oh, just making toast." She paused suddenly as loud yelling poured from the phone. Then came the click, and then a dial tone. (Monkeys have sharp ears, if not discriminating stomachs.)
"Dear, what did Rex want?" mentioned Pops, not even looking up from the paper.
Mrs. Racer shook and then poured out the whole sad story along with her tears. "Rex screamed at me about the toast and then said he was going to marry a....a....a WAITRESS!!! He said he...he hated me and just wanted to hurt me by wedlocking with a Singapese!!!!" She bawled. My stomach growled. I looked about for breakfast.
On a window pane, my friend Cheekers the squirrel rapped and got my attention. He was always so interested in human affairs, for a squirrel anyway.
"What are we going to do???" cried Mrs. Racer.
Spritel reached up and grabbed the lone banana from the table, unnoticed by all. The smell drove my stomach crazy as he waved it under my nose. "Chim chim! Chim chim cheerree! Eat the nice banana, Chim-Chim!" His face took on the evil darkened cast I had noticed months before.
Pops still didn't look up. "Oh, boy, could I have my cereal now, honey? With that last banana I've been saving for weeks just so I could have it in case something stressful came up? I just LOVE eating bananas when trauma occurs around me. " He did look up now. "Dare I say it? Perhaps bananas are the only things that keep me from going insane during the most trying times of my life!"
Cheekers banged loudly on the window pane as Spritel carefully peeled the banana down to the bottom and offered it to me. As I took it, I looked over. Cheekers was waving his hands in the universal "No" signal, eyes bugged out.
I figured he was just jealous. After all, he only had dried chestnut husks to chew on during the long winter. I waved, smiled, and raised the banana to my hairy lips, taking one last savory sniff. Weeks of heavy training were about to pay off.
Spritel's teeth gleamed maniacally amid his shark-like smile. Speed looked over and twitched as he saw me with Pops' banana. What was his problem? Still, it looked as if he were going to do something heroically stupid, like diving across the room and wrestling me to the ground. That dumb kid Speed--always MUCH too intense. He needed the patience of a monkey.
Pops felt for his banana and then realized it wasn't there. He looked around, up, across, and finally down as Spritel laughed and pointed at me with both hands.

"Look, Pops! Look! Chim-chim can eat it all in one bite!"
Pops bolted to his feet, almost knocking aside the kitchen table. Cheekers was drawing his paw across his throat in the universal "Do-it-and-you-die" signal. Coward. I'D die for a banana.
Not wanting to let Spritel down, I gaped my mouth wide and shoved the whole thing in as far as I could. The last few inches were touchy, but I managed.
Pops' face went mysteriously white, then grey, then blue, then red, then back to grey again. It was rather colorful.
Mrs. Racer looked up, the tears drying on her face. "Is something wrong, dear?"
Pops said nothing, only made that funny "O" with his mouth, like he had expected me to share the banana with him or something. As I watched, drool slowly trickled from the side of his mouth and got everywhere--even up into his moustache.
Cheekers buried his face in his paws for a few timeless seconds and then scampered off.
"Aw, dad...." whispered Speed, totally crushed.
I swallowed a few more times. Ah, that was better. Too bad there weren't any more bananas, or I could do an encore.
Spritel turned his head and snickered quietly to himself. Pops was turning into a regular water faucet at this point. I didn't know what the problem was here. I had had first dibs on the banana--if he had wanted one, he should have gotten his own. I was sure Spritel would agree with me too.
"Dear, speak to us! Say something!" cried Mrs. Racer, shaking Pops.
But nothing changed (except for his ever-darkening skin tone). Only more drool and a low moan followed.
Speed looked away, unsure, and then back again at Pops with a strange resolution in his eyes. "Well, I guess that's it then. We'll have to put him in the Herman C. Kissiah Sanitarium. There's nothing else we can do. He'll never come around."
Trixie looked over horrified, her hand rising over her mouth.

"Oh, Speed, how could you??" She fumbled at her hand and then jerked off the plastic ring with the GoodYear insignia on it. "I thought you loved me!" She threw the ring at Speed and then fled weeping from the room.
"Oh, woe is me! Woe is me!" moaned Mrs. Racer. "I can't love him, not like this!" She wrapped her arms about herself and started to rock back and forth in agony. "Now I'll have to go and be a Prosecuting Attorney at Our Lady of the Night Catholic Law School! My life is a wreck!!!" Once again, the tears streamed.
Speed was stunned, gaping about. "Trixie! Come back! I was joking! Really! We can take care of him--you and I, me and you! Even the messy stuff! We can do it--we love each other!" But the door remained shut. Trixie did not return. She was gone forever.

"Gosh, wasn't that cool?" chortled Spritel. "Wanna see him do an apple, mom?"
"Not now, dear," said Mrs. Racer rather numbly. "Your father and I have some.....things....to work out."
"Ok, mom!" piped up my little companion. He came over and, as no one else was paying attention, slipped another banana out of his back pocket. "And don't eat it all in one place," he laughed, slapping me on the back.
Spritel's humor wasn't as effective as he usually hoped, in my opinion. But he always did know how to treat a monkey. I began to peel my new fruit as Mrs. Racer burst into fresh tears at the sight.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

"And that was how the whole thing happened," finished the grey-haired world-weary monkey."

A few of the younger squirrels--quite impressionable at their tender age--stood up and applauded quite briskly. But one of the older ones slapped the closest one back down and stood. "I told you not to eat that, you know. You were never good with hand signals."

"Well, you weren't really making yourself quite clear at all anyway," responded Chim-Chim. "Besides, I thought my action had much more..." he paused for a second, searching for the right word, "appeal."

He was quite promptly and quickly bombarded by old walnuts and peanut shells.

----Devon P. Miles, friend to stupid old Monkey Whales (or at least, Monkeys who tell whoppers).



:::DL20 FRI APR 10, 1992 16.29.37
Part 61: Interlude to Action
FROM: DL20 At Music

The morning sun rose slowly over Markle City, casting its sluggish rays over the dirty streets and the forgotten alleyways where lived the denizens of a forgotten humanity, the Willy Lomans used and forgotten by society. The city slowly came to life. First the garbage trucks, lumbering through the quiet morning in the cool of the early spring, rousing the city squirrels from their late slumber.

Inside the Markle Police Department, the light cut through the Venetian blinds of the third floor, throwing dirty shadows around the musty office. Tiny eddies of dust danced in the still office, given the breath of life only by the light snoring of the room's occupant. Papers, scattered across the dim room in a disorganized shuffle, littered the office in semi-coherent piles on the grey filing cabinets, the brown mahogany desk, and every recess, every corner of the floor. Leaning back in his chair, arms folded across his broad chest, and head tilted forward, Captain Dominic Drake was working the late shift.

From time to time, the squat burly figure would stir himself as if he were about to rise from his chair and walk to the coffee pot on the far side of his office, but the moment would pass and he would doze off again. No longer as capricious as in the days of his lieutenancy, Drake's face was now worn with the cares and concerns of his greater rank. The thin black beard lined his chin, slowly frosting with the drool dropping from his lip.

At once a sharp rap from his door gathered Drake's attention and he bolted up right in his chair, chasing sleep and dreams from his weary mind. "Come in," Drake said, and wondered for the thousandth time why waking people's voices always sounded so high-pitched.

The silhouette on the other side of the door moved an arm, and the woodframe door with the clouded glass swung open. In came a tall, slender woman with rosy skin and long, black hair which cascaded down her shoulders and onto her back. With her came a shorter man, with closely-cropped blond hair with a wave in front. He carried a load of books and papers thrown haphazardly together in a stack and began to look immediately for a place to lay them down. He rolled up his nose and kept the stack pressed closely to his white shirt and black tie. The woman meanwhile advanced up to Drake's desk, hopelessly formal in her black sweater, long blue skirt and walking boots.

"Captain Drake?" she asked simply. Drake nodded, slowly.

"Mister Drake," the man started, "This is an outrage. Is this how you treat your -- "

"Quiet Elwood," the woman said.

"Miss Quince," Elwood continued, "how does he expect us to conduct our -- "

"I said to shut up, Elwood," said she again. Elwood grew quiet, his lips pursed tightly. Drake regarded him silently and turned back to Miss Quince.

"Can I help you, Miss Quince?" asked Drake quietly. From his tone, it was difficult to tell if he truly wanted to help anyone.

"I'm Captain Janet Quince, FBI, Washington, DC, headquarters. I take it you weren't expecting us."

"Can't say that I was," said Drake.

"You can't say you were expecting us? What's the matter with you people? Don't you know how to -- " Elwood exploded.

"Be quiet, Elwood!" Quince shouted suddenly. He grew silent and withdrew to a corner of the room.

"What can I do for you, Captain? Not everyday we get visitors from the FBI here in Markle City," said Drake.

"I can't say it is. May I?" she asked, indicating a vacant seat.

"Certainly," Drake said.

Quince sat down. "I've been sent here by the Bureau to investigate some recent disturbances here in Markle. Within the past two months, there have been two major explosions and several large disturbances. The Bureau isn't sure, but we think it may tie in with events in California approximately a year ago. The two of us are to work together on this problem until we can arrive at a solution."

Drake nodded, catching on. "You're talking about the destruction of the Herman C. Kissiah Sanitarium and Robert I. Rotberg Courthouse."

"Yes." Quince motioned with her hand, and Elwood came forward. "Lieutenant Elwood has our files. Michael?"

Elwood nodded, pleased to have the spotlight. "The boys and I ran a check on the inmate list of the Herman C. Kissiah Sanitarium at the time of the explosion. While most of the bodies were unidentifiable, we discovered there were no survivors. None of the inmates were apprehended later, either by local or federal police -- except for one."

Drake looked up. Elwood actually had his interest.

He continued, "Our records are rather spotty, but the inmate apparently escaped and was arrested for public indecency by a member of your police force almost immediately after the explosion. We don't know his name, but he was going by the alias 'Exx Babe.' There seems to be substantial evidence Mister Babe was present at the Robert I. Rotberg Courthouse when it was destroyed."

Drake nodded slowly. This was interesting. "Are you certain it's Exx Babe?"

Quince shook her head. "No, we're not. Although Exx Babe is one of our chief suspects, we also have this information in from the Los Angeles Police Department." She paused as Elwood slid a photo of a large brown-haired man with a pair of black sunglasses past Drake's bowl of peanuts. "This photo," she began, "was taken eight years ago at the LAPD. Whoever this man is killed about eight police officers." Elwood slid a second photo across. The men in the two pictures were almost identical. "This photo was taken last summer. Apparently the same man. He was involved in several incidents involving the deaths of more officers and private citizens over the course of several days. And this -- " Elwood produced a third photo, again apparently the same man. "This photo was taken here in Markle at the Robert I. Rotberg Courthouse. We have no idea who this man is, except whenever he shows up, people die."

Drake let out a low whistle. "So you want to look at these two losers, eh?"

Quince regarded Drake professionally. "Captain, I've been authorized to mobilize up to 100 FBI agents here in Markle City to apprehend the two of these men and gather the information necessary to imprison them if appropriate. I'll need the full assistance of your police department and I will need your personal cooperation."

Drake rose and offered his hand. "You've got it, Captain." The two shook hands. "We've been looking into Exx Babe's history ourselves. Apparently, he's a master of disguise, and has several identities. A few months ago, he was going under the alias 'Exx Man' and bought a hairdressing salon with credit. The collection agency turned him over to us when the salon got trashed three days after opening and 'Exx Man' disappeared. Except back then, he was a woman."

Quince gasped. "Unbelievable. We're up against a professional. This is going to take all our doing to crack this case."

"Yeah. Let me show you the office you can use," said Drake, and led her out of his room to a vacant office. On the window sill, a small squirrel held his paws up to his mouth in horror and vanished into the gathering dawn.



:::MD54 SUN APR 12, 1992 14.15.23
PART 62: DANCES WITH SQUIRRELS
FROM: MD54 At Music

The yellow police ribbons -- "Do Not Cross," the message insisted (although boys had been scrambling around, over, and under them for the past two days) -- fluttered brightly in the dying light of the setting sun. Broken glass glittered orangely, and tattered pages torn from huge volumes of the annals of American justice fluttered away down the street and into the sewer grate (where they belonged). Squirrels scurried around and about the huge slabs of concrete and styrofoam insulation -- all that was truly left of the great institution of the Robert I. Rotberg Courthouse.

It was truly an edifying and majestic sight -- especially to little Otto, who had managed to give Mom the slip for the past half hours and refused to give himself up while there was still chance for some great exciting adventure.

Indeed, the destroyed building was a veritable playhouse for any small rodent. Otto sprang excitedly around on the rubble, peeking under huge rocks, ripped oilskins (paintings of past judges), and the bloodstained robe of the late David A. Porkchop (known affectionately as My Pimp). The robe was a wonderful toy for a little devilish squirrel: remembering a former movie he had seen after sneaking out of his treehouse one night, little Otto ripped off a long piece of cloth and tied it around his forehead. Then he scampered drunkenly about, pretending to be wielding a rather large automatic weapon of sorts and making strange grunts.

"Yo, Adrian!!! Ugh!" squeaked the little rodent, staggering backwards and then tumbling down as he tripped over a larger-than-squirrel metallic hand that stuck out through the rubble.

"Oof!" Otto laid there, the wind knocked momentarily out of him. "What the heck was that?"

He looked up at the hand. Pieces of flesh still covered parts of the hand, but it DEFINITELY was not kosher to look at -- unless you were a young and impressionable squirrel such as Otto. Otto LIVED for dangerous-looking hands that stuck mysteriously out of shards of rubble.

"Cool!" he chittered, scampering over and sniffing at the hand. As usual, caution was thrown to the three winds (Otto had not of yet learned to count to four.)

As to be expected in strange stories like this, the hand moved. Otto stumbled back excitedly, nose twitching with adventuresome passion. Other squirrels screamed and scampered out of the police zone, completely nonplussed by the whole situation. Of course, they totally forgot about little Otto and left him to the mercy of whatever lurked below the remains of the courthouse.

[Error! Error! Error! Eye sensors sense no photon bombardment! Solution! Thinking....thinking....thinking....Uncover head!]

The ground shook some more as the Happy Terminator began to extract itself.

"Oh, wow...." trailed Otto, heart pounding excitedly, totally engulfed in a wave of adventure.

"Otto!" shrieked a female squirrel from outside the police lines. "My baby!" She was held back by two wild-eyed squirrels in police uniforms.

"You can't go in there, lady! It's too late! He's already a goner."

The other looked at her sadly. "Sorry, Ma'am. It's our job."

As Otto's mom swooned from the severe trauma, Otto sat there in stunned amazement as Chuckles rose out his dusty grave.

[Query: Time under building -- Three days. Date: April 19, Sunday. I feel much better now.]

The Terminator's metal skull shone dully out through the ripped flesh of his forehead. A piece of beam stuck harshly out through a hole in his side. Chuckles absently pulled it out, and a dirty stream of water and oil trickled from his coolant system. The huge hole in his palm gaped wide.

[Error! Error! Messianic complex in effect! Rerun last programming database scan before temporary termination... Running scan on file Dingle.1....Query: Who AM I?]

Otto squeaked and bounced to his feet. "Wow! A Terminator!" His nose twitched as his brain was overwhelmed by the ramifications. "Just like in the movie."

[Scanning...scanning...scanning....I am a....I am a....I am a....]

"Arnold! It's me!! Otto! Your #1 fan!" The red optic sensors swiveled and locked on the little rodent.

"SQUIRREL!" claimed the Terminator triumphantly. "I am a SQUIRREL!"

"Aw, YOU'RE not a squirrel! I'M a squirrel! See?" Otto wiggled his nose, blinked his eyes, and then scampered about. "See? I even have a bushy tail!" He bent over and pointed at the relatively large and fluffy appendage. "You're just a big mean Terminator!"

Chuckles paused, scanning his memory banks. "Ter-min-a-tor.... No," he decided after a second, "I AM a SQUIRREL!"

Otto fell over, laughing and pointing up at Chuckles. "No, SILLY! You're not a SQUIRREL! If you're a squirrel, where's your tail?"

The Terminator reached behind and patted his behind, first slowly and then more frantically as he couldn't find anything.

[Error! Error! Tail missing! Locate tail!]

He reached over and started to dig through the rubble, looking for his missing appendage.

"Aw, gosh, if ya wanna be a squirrel, you can!" piped in Otto, actually liking the idea of having a playmate -- especially one who could probably beat up ALL the other bully squirrels who didn't have a Terminator of their own. "Yeah, you can come home with me! You'll love it!!! Free peanuts, and no bedtime."

Actually, Otto DID have a set bedtime, but he planned to make a few changes around the house once he made clear that HE owned the Terminator.

The Terminator looked back, eye cocked in confusion. "I do not need...a... tail?" he said rather sheepishly.

"Aw, na! You don't need a tail at all! My dad got HIS run over by a car a few years ago, and he does fine, until he tries to balance himself on the telephone wires! Come on, come on! Let's go!! Whee!"

Otto ran around in circles and then grabbed Chuckle's bootstrings, trying to pull him along behind him but not really getting anywhere.

"Gosh," panted Otto a minute later. "You're REAL heavy!"

"No, I am a SQUIRREL!" said the Terminator, still stuck on that. He bent over and picked Otto up by the tail, dangling him in front of his face for closer scrutiny.

Otto giggled. "Hey, put me down, you big bucket of bolts! This tickles!"

[Scan...scan...scan....IDENTITY MATCH!!, cross-reference Dingle1 confirmed. Identity: Common Bushy-Tailed Tree Squirrel. Open Dingle1.Behavior.Squirrel File....Scanning....scanning....]

The Terminator stood motionless awhile longer as the behavior information was uploaded into his circuits.

"Whaddya waiting' for? Let's go!" chittered Otto excitedly. He was already lost in illusions of grandeur about what could be accomplished with the Terminator's help. Chuckles looked about until he saw a nearby tree hanging down near the yellow police tape.

"....Tree...." he pointed out, looking at it strangely.

"Yeah!" giggled Otto. "We LIVE in trees! You better get used to it if you're gonna come home to live with me!"

The Terminator dropped the little squirrel, who scrambled across the rubble and leapt up onto the trunk. "Come on! It'll be easy for YOU! You're a TERMINATOR!"

"I am a SQUIRREL!" replied Chuckles in admonishment (feeling a strange urge to let loose with his machine guns), but then he clunked over the rubble -- miraculously not falling down or getting a piston cramp for once -- and faced the tree, contemplating.

"Come on up, the breeze is nice!" squeaked Otto, looking down.

One could almost hear the small tree rustle in protest.

"Squirrels climb trees. I am a squirrel. Therefore I must climb trees..." decided Chuckles, actually making a correct deduction despite his crossed circuits.

Reaching out, he unsteadily clasped the tree and started to work his treacherous way up.

"That's the ticket!" encouraged Otto, bouncing around on the branch so much that he almost fell off. "You can do it."

True to nature, Chuckles continued his dangerous ascent.

"Don't forget to go around backwards behind the tree! Squirrels always climb up the tree in spirals away from anyone else!"

Otto was quite pleased with himself for remembering his father's instructions in that regard. He felt he DESERVED a later bedtime for that.

Clunking and popping, the Terminator climbed higher on the tree, working his way around the back as he did so. The sapling swayed dangerously, and a loud CRACK! was heard from the lower trunk.

Oblivious as normal, Otto ran out on a branch and did a somersault. "Come on! Once you get here, you can jump out onto the telephone wires!"

The Terminator pulled himself out on the limb as numerous squirrels watched the horrifying scene from below. Forgetting the fact that his metal frame was much more dense than was that of the runtish Otto, Chuckles pulled himself out farther to reach his friend.

"Good, good, good! You're doing REAL good!" chortled Otto, dancing around happily. "Now you only gotta jump up and land on the wires."

The Terminator gritted its teeth and prepared to stand. CREAK! said the branch.

"Oops..." mentioned Otto, feeling the tree shake a little more than normal in protest.

"What is WRONG?" asked Chuckles, never having really climbed a tree before (for obvious reasons).

"Maybe you should get dow..." started Otto, suddenly worried.

CRACK!!!! finished the branch, abruptly not really connected to the tree anymore.

"EEK!!" cried Otto, making a leap for the telephone wires and somehow catching one with one paw.

The Terminator, of course, was not so lucky. After the squirrels fled even further away and the dust all settled, Otto scurried down the telephone pole and ran up -- nose wiggling -- to Chuckles.

"Gee, gosh, are ya sure ya still wanna be a squirrel?"

The Terminator sat up stiffly and winced. But then he just started to brush off his arms and smiled. "Of course! I Enjoy....Being a Squirrel!" he sang in a rather off-tone collection of pitches and beeps.

"Good!" breathed Otto, mostly relieved that his plans for asserting himself at home were still partly salvageable.



The door to the ward opened. "Remember, sir, just a few minutes is all we can allow." The overcoated figure pushed his way through, and then turned to speak.

"I know, I know. I appreciate you letting me in to see her."

The orderly paused before answering. "You're welcome, sir. Just remember: five minutes. I could get in real big trouble, you know."

The door swished shut. The coated figure moved over beside the bed, heading for the bedside table containing various odds and ends, but seemed suddenly distracted by the human shape somewhat visible in the hospital bed. He paused, looking at the mess of tubes and wires, blankets and IVs, stuffed everywhere, paralyzed by the sight for countless seconds.

"Anna. Anna, oh man, why did you have to be so crazy?" The whisper was barely audible, even in the quiet room, but still pained and anguished. Then the figure took a sharp breath and turned away to the table, placing its gift of a single red rose in a vase upon it. Drake got on his knees beside Lt. McKillop's bed and placed his arms there across the sheets, just looking at the very pale and tired face of the comatose police officer.

"You just had to do something nuts again, didn't you?" he whispered.

There was, of course, no answer; just the whirl and click of the white box of the respirator. The usually taciturn Drake stifled back a sob.

"Anna, Anna, come back to me. Babe, I know that you can hear me. It's been a long time, I know, and there's lots of hurt left in what we said that last time, but I know that you know me, that you know my voice. Come back. Come on."

Drake rubbed his hand over the cold forehead. Joanna McKillop stirred but did not awaken. Drake gritted his teeth. One nostril flared and his brow furrowed.

"Come on, it wasn't my fault. You knew it. I knew it. It couldn't have been. You told me so yourself. You said, 'Nic, it ain't gonna work, no one could handle us two together.' I remember that." A sharp intake of breath, a ripple of emotion across Drake's face. "We couldn't make it, you and me, it was bad karma. We was too much a bunch of loners, two separate people going their own ways. It was like a bad movie that should have never been watched."

He grabbed her hand absently and gently began to stroke it, showing a softness belied by the scars and twisted bands of muscle playing about under the surface of his hand's skin.

"Anna, it could never have worked. But the years never changed anything. Nothing. Nothing COULD ever change anything. I'll always remember you as the closest thing I've ever had to having someone real. You're it, you're all. You're the only one." The muscles tensed in the powerful hands; the scars shone whitely, like ivory bands across the black skin.

"I promise you, by what we once could have had, by who you still are, I'm gonna get to the bottom of this. And the person responsible -- no matter who it might be, I don't care if it's Dr. Jason Kivorski himself -- well, he's gonna rue the day he ever heard of Detective Dominic Drake." The angered voice dropped down to a whisper, although it still was razor-sharp. "Yeah, he's gonna learn to fear Detective Dominic Drake."

Drake stood, holding onto the hand for a second more and then placing it gently back on the coverlets.

"Hang on, Anna, everything's gonna turn out OK. Trust ole' Nic. I'll take care of it."

Again Joanna McKillop rustled under the sheets in her healing stupor, but this time a faint smile ran across her face. Then her visage went stone-cold once more and nothing else could be ascertained. Drake took one last gentle look and then disappeared from the room, like a driven wraith floating through a wall.



Things were getting a little dangerous. And that was NOT good.

Sure, Ham was dead. That definitely helped to clear out some of the bad seed attempting to interfere with his extensive plans. It was always good to simplify the equations slightly with some well-executed.. ..well...MANEUVERS, he guessed he could say. It had helped when dealing with his so very strange (and rather stupid) older brother, as well as with some other very shady dealings.

Everything had seemingly been going so WELL. He was SUCH the careful planner. But now some rather disturbing news was getting back. He was pleased about the probable death of Trixie (she should have loved him, HIM, not that pansy Speed anyway, HE was the intelligent one, the one who was going places, but SHE went after the glitz and glamour, the fancy car, after foolish Speed, so he guessed that she got what was coming to her anyway), and the removal of any chance of Pops getting his sanity back certainly made him sleep easier at night.

And Mom -- that strumpet, selling herself to JUSTICE for goodness sake, especially taking classes at that Lady of the Night place -- she DESERVED to be buried under the remnants of the Rotberg Courthouse!

But My Pimp had been a valuable commodity, an easily bribed judge. HIS death would be rather hard to accept and reconcile.

And the disappearance of Dingle. Goodness. Despite the scientist's lunacy, he still made a valuable ace card to lay out in a surprise run.

And finally, Speed. Goodness! Speed was around, and it seemed that he was helping someone causing a LOT of trouble lately -- this EXX Person!

The Courthouse explosion, Dingle's disappearance, even the destruction of the Sanitorium seemed to be related somehow to this...this EXX Person, whomever THAT was. The matter would bear looking into. Exx Person would have to be examined very closely. Perhaps even....taken care of. Permanently. Oh, yes. And there WAS that matter of the foolish monkey with the loose tongue. He had definitely outlived HIS usefulness. If news of the "Incident" spread much further, things COULD get out of hand. Alas. Poor Chim-Chim would have to be....de-furred. Actually, a stuffed monkey WOULD fill out his trophy wall quite nicely.

He picked up his phone. "Err, Miss Machiago? Could you get a hold of .....Sassine....for me?"

There was dead silence for a second. Then, "Sir, are you sure you said what I think you said? You really want....HIM??"

"Listen, babe, just get him on the line. And don't forget about our little...business trip...later this evening. Wear the red dress. Yeah, that scrap of cloth. And don't forget the bourbon. Thanks."

Spritel, head of Letucci Enterprises, leaned back, put his hands behind his head, and started to laugh. Yes, it was going to be a good day after all...



"Well, THERE you are!!! How'd you know I'd be waiting out back?" Speed stuck his head out the window, smiling stupidly.

Exx Person rolled his eyes. Great. Speed had found him. Well, at least he didn't have to pay for the hospital charges.

"Sir? SIR!? You forgot to pay!" The orderly was leaning out the back door, gripping the wall edge. "Sir?"

Exx Person ran around to the far side of the car and hopped in.

"So how was it? You look MUCH better now! I KNEW they could fix you up!" Speed never knew when to shut up.

The orderly didn't look very happy now. He had been joined by a candystriper, who popped her head out, gasped, and then ran back into the building.

"Uh, Speed, I'm fine. Can we go now???" Exx Person scratched at his neck. Man, that ITCH had come on him again. It was like he had been rolling in poison ivy or something.

"Oh, sure, Exx, where would you like to go? We could cruise down the highway and hit the big cities, or maybe shoot over to the beach, or bounce into this REALLY cool arcade with an AWESOME 3-D version of OutRun in it. That game even jerks the wheel around when you hit bumps, you know? It's like SO cool..."

The orderly stepped outside, followed by two burly security guards armed with revolvers and riot clubs. As the orderly pointed at the car, the two guards broke into a brisk trot.

"CRUD, Let's GO!" yelled Exx Person, ignoring the itching long enough to stomp his foot across on top of the gas pedal and grab the wheel. The little car shot forward, and the Rent-A-Cops broke into full stride, waving their arms frantically. One turned into the time-honored shooter's position and began to fire. The back window of the car blew out.

"HEY!" yelled Speed. "They scratched my PAINT!"

Exx Person jerked the wheel forward and backwards furiously, hoping that the future shots would miss. Suddenly, they reached the end of the parking lot and veered out onto the open road, knocking over a biker, flattening a cat, and clipping off a speed limit sign.

"Man, who taught YOU how to drive? You couldn't even make the Car Acrobatics Team like that!" Speed was rather annoyed at the various dents covering his shiny vehicle.

"Don't want to..." gasped Exx Person, letting go of the wheel. "YOU take it, and get us out of here..."

The itching had gotten immensely worse. He just felt like taking his hands and drawing them claw-like down all over his skin. His head felt all...fuzzy. That was it. It felt fuzzy. That did NOT make sense.

"Gosh, and they were even shooting at us! Skeeves! You'd think we didn't pay them or something...." Speed buckled down and began to zoom along the street, passing people on the median strip when it seemed convenient. Once he even did a side-wheely up on the guard rail. "Good to keep in practice, you know..." he mentioned, pausing for a gulp of Jolt.

The itching was all over Exx Person's body now. He felt as if he were being devoured by zillions of red army ants, all gnawing. The agony was almost too much to bear. Exx Person started to convulse, his limbs shaking. His skin felt like it was peeling off.

One hand bumped the radio and knocked it on. "Pizza Hut! Making it Great!" came the announcer's voice. "Double Pepperoni, this week only $9.99 a pair, Great Deal. And buy your Scratchy and Itchy dolls too, in ten delectably delicious poses!"

"Exx! EXX! Are you Ok? What's wrong?" Speed's eyes bugged out at the sight of Exx Person's thrashing body.

A Pizza Hut sign came into view down the road, right beside the McDonald's, Skolnik's, and Whitey's.

THE PAIN!!! Exx Person screamed and started to claw at his face. Just stop the pain! Huge chunks of skin ripped off as the fingers crinkled through them. The hands themselves started to shed skin like a duststorm; the joints underneath were furry and brown."

Yech!! What do I do?? WHAT DO I DO???" yelled Speed, completely out of control with situations not directly involving cars.

"REMEMBER! DON'T FORGET TO ORDER PIZZA HUT!!! WE'RE THE COMPANY THAT CARES!!!!" The radio shrilled loudly, knocked higher by the still flailing but changing form of Exx Person. "COME ON! HIT THE HUT!"

"OK!" shrieked Speed, jerking the wheel hard right and careening the car through the parking lot smack into the plate glass front window of Pizza Hut. People looked up from their food and then scattered, screaming as they saw the car driven by a frantic Speed hurtling towards them.

CRASH!!! Mangle crush BOOM splatter....tinkle...The dust slowly began to settle.

People began to peek around the corner at the car sitting halfway into the restaurant. "Gosh, was he drunk?" someone asked incredulously.

"Ok, Domino's, you've just pushed the advertising war up to a nastier scale," muttered a guy dressed in the attire of Pizza Hut Manager-In-Chief. He rolled up his sleeves and began to stomp towards the car.

Suddenly the car shook and rocked. A flurry of motion could be seen inside the vehicle. Without much further warning, the passenger door exploded outward and a large hairy shape bounded out.

"Eek!" exclaimed one lady, dropping unconscious to the ground.

"Call the police! Call the police!"

"It's an ALIEN! I saw them on 'Unsolved Mysteries'! Run away!"

"Gosh," finished a little boy. "It looks like...a...squirrel!"

The man-sized squirrel looked about, its huge nose twitching spastically almost in terror. It was frozen in shock.

The driver's door opened and Speed dropped out, partly collapsing on the ground from the major chest trauma occurring when the steering wheel snapped off and crushed his chest cavity.

"Where's Exx?" he coughed, pointing at the huge squirrel. "Where is he? You ATE my friend! You ate EXX!!!" He passed out and slumped into the gravel mercifully before he could say anything else so inane.

"It eats people!" screamed some girl as she ran away across the road and got hit by a semi.

The squirrel looked about, human-like remorse almost recognizable in its eyes; and then it bounded off into the small stretch of woods behind the restaurant, its tail bouncing awkwardly behind it.

The little boy holding a teddy bear watched it go. "Who WAS that furry squirrel?" he asked of no one in particular.


:::MP53 FRI APR 24, 1992 18.10.08
PART 63: NEXT TIME, CALL DOMINO'S.
FROM: MP53 At Music

Meanwhile, in another forgotten thread, the young Klingon opened his eyes and sat up. He surveyed the view from the garbage dumpster in which he had landed, to see what used to be the Robert I. Rotberg Courthouse. He had no idea where the Happy Terminator had gotten off to, nor did he know for how long he had been out. Looking around, he noticed a rather large vehicle closing on his present position. Or rather, he was closing on it. He felt the dumpster rise up into The air, only to find himself being deposited into the bowels of this roaring metal monster. Powerless to escape, he saw the jaws snap shut, and the world around him go dark.

...

After having a delightful meal of grok (known to earthlings as rotten eggs), Kar leaned back (as comfortably as he could) and noticed that the rumbling he had grown used to had stopped. The loud engine noise also became silent. Now's my chance, he thought. Remembering his disrupter, he reached out and fired. The side of the truck opened, and smelly refuse scattered through the newly-created hole.


:::DL20 SUN MAY 03, 1992 03.13.35
PART 64: THE POWER OF THE PRESS
FROM: DL20 At Music

Daniel Herbert was sitting at his desk. Only twenty-four, there were already a few strands of grey in his dark blond hair. The six-foot-two giant looked disconsolately through brown eyes at the small plastic globe in his hands. The tiny flakes of snow had long since grown still, but, too distracted to notice, he simply held the globe in his stare.

It had been a hard year for him. For the first time, things had been going right with him and a woman. He had been on his way to Joanna to pick her up and propose, when that alien white light had surrounded him and the air crackled with electricity, and somehow reality had shifted all around him so he was strapped to a table in the lab of a mad scientist. The next month had been a blur of dancing women and little German men with hypodermics. When his captors released him, he found himself back on the streets of Markle City, the smell of ozone filling his nostrils.

Joanna had accused him of ditching her, and angrily threw him out of her apartment, shouting that he was no better than Nic. That had been the worst -- he knew Nic Drake, and the man was a real heel to women. Even old Samuel Alfieri had fired him from his job at the Hidden Valley Ranch Veterinary Hospital, calling him a lazy, good-for-nothing bum. As much as he hated secretarial work, he was grateful that Alonzo Quijanas hired him to work here at Heavens & Sons Dentistry. Ever since George Steele had held the place up, their old secretary had been unable to work satisfactorily -- the flashbacks to the Animal, laughing maniacally as he fired into the crowded sidewalks with only a lone woman daring to resist the fiend from professional wrestling, had become too much. Steve had to quit his job in order to find professional help. But Steve and he had been old friends, and he felt guilty about benefitting from his friend's misery.

A sudden din across the road interrupted Dan's reverie. A large green man was chasing a smaller man down the road. No, not chasing him anymore -- he had caught the small man and now threw him into the front window of Barek Hamill's Coffee House. Leaping up from his desk, Dan was out the door and across the street in seconds. The smaller man -- the one who had just flown through the $2000 plate glass window -- now rose shakily to his feet inside the Coffee House. Dan suddenly came to a stop. His eyes narrowed as he tried to place the face. The thick-lensed glasses. The receding chestnut-brown hair with grey streaks. The big nose. There could be no doubt. It was him. Anger coursed through Dan's veins, and the fate of the little man before him was sealed.

Dingle looked up through the ruins of the plate-glass window as he saw the tall, lean man stride through the hole ahead of van Talbert. No, not HIM! Had all his creations turned against him? Only the first, it seemed had not attacked him yet. He tried to stand and run, but the pain from his gashed leg was too great. He watched, helpless, as Aeons seized an electric cord. Thousands of volts of electricity coursed through his body until the very air was charged with ozone.

"DINGLE!" Daniel shouted, and Dingle wilted in fear. "You're going to pay, Dingle." Enough power to light up fifteen city blocks leapt from Daniel Aeons into Dingle's body. The power was too great for Dingle to handle. His body burst into flames instantly, twitching and thrashing around violently as wave after deadly wave of electricity hit it. Only when the convulsions stopped did Daniel cease his fury. Hamill, proprietor of the coffee house, poked his head out of his office, horrified at the wholesale destruction of his coffee house -- again.

Three police cars swerved to a stop in front of the rapidly deteriorating coffee house, sirens blaring. Dan looked on as six officers jumped out of the cars and, using them as shelter, pointed their shotguns at the coffee house.

"Hamill's Coffee House," said Drake. "Just like a few months ago."

"What's that?" said Quince, popping a cartridge into her handgun.

"Last October, around Halloween, Mark Hamill's Coffee House was nearly destroyed in a huge brawl. Our investigation turned up negative, but we have reason to believe your Exx Babe was involved, except *he* was known as 'Exx Man' back then. Part of his tactic is to change his name periodically, and even his sex."

"And now the coffee house is at the center of a twenty-block blackout and is destroyed again. Hm." Quince reached for her bullhorn and held it up to her mouth.

The bullhorn carried Quince's voice to Daniel clearly. "You in there! This is the FBI -- come out with your hands up. This building is surrounded."

Dan looked around at the carnage. He could probably handle the police cars out front, but he didn't want to hurt anyone -- he had already done more than he had intended to do. They couldn't take him in! The air around him began to crackle and glow with the electricity he gathered about him.

"Well, what do you think, Jan?" Drake asked. "Is he going to come out?"

"I don't think so, *Mister* Drake." Quince's voice was frigid enough to freeze steam. Drake shuddered and decided not to call her Jan again.

The front wall to the coffee house exploded outward, showering the squad cars and the officers with the rubble. And rising from the ruins of the coffee house came Daniel Herbert, riding an electromagnetic wave through the sky.

"Holy -- " Drake's mouth dropped open as the man rose higher and flew along, faster and faster until he was well out of sight. "How the heck do you write a report on something like that?"

Drake's car radio crackled into life. "Unit 13A, explosion and fire reported at 123 Racine Street. Fire fighting units are already on the scene, please respond."



Exx Person shook his head in wonder. What was going on? What had caused this latest metamorphosis? Why on earth should he turn into a squirrel? These constant transformations were becoming too much to handle. If life was going to continue to deal him these lousy hands, perhaps it would be good to quit the game ... permanently. The identity crises, stringed together as they were, were just too much for him to handle.

Up ahead he saw a tiny squirrel riding on the head of a large brown-haired man. Curious, he raced forward. People around him screamed, pulling their children to the side, dragging screaming boys and crying girls away from sliding boards and swingsets. Exx Person ran forward on all fours, his giant tail swishing loudly in the cool evening sun.

"Come on! Giddyap!" said the tiny squirrel on the giant man.

"Wait," said Happy. "What squirrel-unit approaches us?"

"Gosh, he sure is a big sucker," said Otto. "But you can waste him, Arnie! You're a Terminator!"

"No," said Chuckles patiently. "I am a SQUIRREL."

"Well, you're a bigger squirrel than him. Go on and waste him!" The power of having a personal Terminator had gone to little Otto's head, and he was determined to flout it until even Moe, the big bully from school, treated him with respect and fetched him acorns and walnuts.

Anxious to please his new friend and mentor, the Terminator pulled out his shotgun and pointed it at Exx Person. "Dance!" he cried. Exx Person, by now having developed an outright phobia where dancing was concerned, turned and ran for his life. Happy fired his shotgun once, twice, three times, and three park mimes twisted and fell to the ground. The people in the park all stood to their feet, applauding and whistling at the poetic justice of it all. Consternated by the large squirrel's escape, Happy broke into a trot, chasing Exx Person toward a nearby local newspaper printer.

"Oh boy!" Otto shouted. "Faster! Faster!" Filled with glee, Otto danced merrily on the Happy Terminator's shoulders. If only he had found a Terminator earlier in his life, then he could have enjoyed it for much longer. Already on the first day of owning this one, Otto had made dozens of new friends by selling rides.

"I said DANCE, my little pixie," said Chuckles as Exx Person bounded through an open door at the printer's. Steve Jackson, former secretary at Heavens & Sons Dentistry, staggered out the door, clutching his chest. Slumping against the wall for breath, he saw a tiny squirrel riding a large man with tattered skin on his hands, side, forehead. In the man's hand was a reassembled assault rifle.

-- The Animal stood there, laughing like a madman, as he fired shot after shot into the afternoon crowds. He swung around and pointed the gun at Steve. "Now are you going to give me the money?"

Steve felt his knees turn to jelly under him as the cold metal nuzzle of the gun pressed against his forehead. "I'll get it! I'll get it!" he said, sobbing. He had to resist this madman, but didn't dare.

A woman appeared. "Now then, who do you think you are?" she said. "Put down that gun."

The Animal turned to look at her. "Who is this chick? Are you serious?"

No! Here was a woman, doing what he should do -- risking her very life for complete strangers. Still she did not relent of her dangerous course. "Perfectly. I am Exx Man, defender of righteousness, Queen of the American Way. Who are you?"

"I am Nostradamus, and I predicted this would happen. I am merely a servant of fate, and I am in the middle of fulfilling my destiny. Now if you would please let me alone..." The Animal's voice dripped with sarcasm. He laughed again ... the gun went off ... the woman went down in a pool of blood, wounded in her belly, but still did not give up. She rose up from the sidewalk and overcame the Animal before collapsing to the ground herself. -- -

The sight of the rifle was too much for Steve to take. He collapsed to the ground, sobbing uncontrollably at his lack of strength and inability to prevent death and pain.

Uninterested in the mental agonies of Steve Jackson, Happy walked into the printer's. The entrance he and the large squirrel had taken led to a catwalk overlooking the large printing press set-up. Something blocked his left foot from making a safe entry into the building, and he fell flat on his face.

[Error! Error! This unit has fallen. Probable cause: large squirrel foot across the doorway has tripped this unit. Error! Error! This unit has fallen and cannot get up! Error! Error! Use of bad advertisement! Solution: purge all advertisements from memory.]

Climbing to his feet, the Happy Terminator walked along the narrow catwalk. "You will dance now, my little armadillo, you will dance! Ah, yes, you will dance!"

The large furry mass suddenly hit Chuckles on the side and pushed him over the edge of the catwalk. He plummeted down like a rock onto the steadily moving river of newspaper.

"HEY!" Otto shouted. "No fair! I can't get out from under you! Gosh, what kind of a Terminator are you, anyway?"

With a start, Exx Person looked down at Happy as he slid ever closer to the printing press wheel. In his desire to save himself, he had forgotten about the tiny squirrel on Happy's shoulders. He paused only for a moment before he plunged down to the stream of newspaper steadily sliding toward the massive newspaper rollers.

[Target in range now. FIRE!]

With a sudden movement, Happy fired his rifle at Exx Person, missing only by inches. Outside, Steve Jackson heard the sound of the rifle shot and screamed in self-torture. He wandered away from the building and into the nearby park, clutching his sides in despair at his helplessness.

"You will DANCE!" said Happy, advancing threateningly on the giant squirrel. Exx Person looked steadily at Happy's kneecaps and did not move.

The great weight of the printing wheels suddenly bore down on Happy's shoulders, pushing his head forward and bending him over under its crushing weight. Sparks and muffled sounds of "DANCE!" escaped from the massive wheels. An arm reached out to grab Exx Person's squirrel nose but fell just short of its desired goal. Already even that arm was being dragged to destruction, and with a tortured groan, the computers' last hope of defeating the human rebellion gave up the ghost.

"Wow, talk about the power of the press," said Otto as his giant squirrel friend scampered away from the printing press. "Why don't you come home with me," Otto suggested. Already his mind was filling with ideas on how to salvage what little was left of his anti-bedtime plot... .



Spritel Clyde Racer looked up at his wife. She had better have a good reason for coming into his office.

"Yes, Gertie?" he asked sweetly.

"Spritel," she crooned, "I'm worried about Sophie."

"Sophie? Has she been having those dreams again?"

"Yes." Gertrude paused. "Ever since Ham died. I'm afraid she's going to lose her mind. She and Ham loved each other so much."

"Hmm. Let me take care of it, dear," said Spritel. "I miss Ham dearly myself, but we have to go on. Now let me get back to work," he said playfully, smacking her behind.

"Oh, stop it," she said just as playfully, and left.

Once he was sure Gertrude was out of the office, he buzzed his secretary.

"Yes, sir?" she said.

"Miss Bradford, have you been able to locate the man I asked for earlier?"

"No sir," the secretary said. "Sassine died last week from an advanced hangnail infection. But two college friends of Ham's are here, and they would like to see you."

"Show them in," said Spritel. He cursed under his breath. There must be some way he could recover this situation. Chim-Chim, Speed, this Exx Person, and someone who looked like Arnold Schwarzzeneggar were all causing a lot of damage in this town and upsetting his little cartel. There must be a way to get them all back in line.

The two men walked in. "Good afternoon, sir," the one on the left said. "My name is Guildencrantz and this is Rosenstern." He paused uncertainly for a moment and then corrected himself. "I'm sorry. He's Guildencrantz and I'm Rosenstern."



:::MD54 SUN MAY 03, 1992 03.26.57
PART 65: RAIDERS OF THE BURNT SHOP
FROM: MD54 At Music

The fire trucks pulled away and faded off into the distance.

Drake climbed through the shattered plate glass window, taking special care not to catch himself on anything. He might as well not have bothered. All he got for his pains was a rip in his right sleeve and glass powder on his trousers. He might as well fall down now and kill the suspense. The water dripping down the front of the building didn't do anything to make him feel any better.

A short blonde man peered at the hole. "Drake! Get back here! Stand clear! Get clear!" he harshly whispered, fumbling about for his Baretta.

A raven-haired woman towering five inches above the small agent shook her head. "Elwood."

"But he could get us all kille..."

"Elwood."

"He doesn't even know standard police proce...."

"Elwood."

"What?"

"SHUT UP, ELWOOD!"

Elwood frowned. "But he DOESN'T know what he's doing! There could still be people in there! You remember that case back in 'Frisco at Silky Stan's Tight Clothes for Nice Guys? Those cops went in and as they started to browse, those guys in wigs came out and blew them to pieces. IT was in all the papers, pictures of their wives and kids and stuff, you don't remember reading..."

Quince shook her head. She should have followed her mother's footsteps and taken up psychology instead of law enforcement; at least then she would have been able to understand the reason behind Elwood's psychosis. As it was, he was getting quite tedious and annoying; what she really wanted to do was scream and rip off his head.

Of course, she could always Mace him.

"Elwood, shut up."

That line usually worked for all of two seconds. Then Elwood would start flapping at the jaw again. It was incredible. His mouth usually got the stuffing kicked out of him at least once a month, if Quince wasn't around to cover his scrawny little butt. The one thing that kept her from laying into him herself was the fact that she was depending on him to save her life, if need be. After all, it WAS bad karma to annoy your partner.

It was too bad that Elwood seemingly didn't feel the same way.

"Why do I have to shut up all the time? Don't you ever listen to me at all? One of these times, when you get shot up pretty bad by some guys hiding in a cupboard or something, you'll remember this little conversation we just had. I repeat, how do you KNOW that no one's in there?"

"Because I said so." Drake stuck his head back out through the hole, looking at the couple.

"Huh? What?"

"Well, at least Janet was sharp enough to see me motion through the glass that the coast was clear. You, on the other hand, were flapping your big mouth way too much to use your eyes."

The big guy had class, Quince had to give him that. But she was going to have to do something about his lack of manners.

Maybe making him and Elwood...partners...would be a good start.

"Flapping my big mouth? You're calling me what? A bad cop? Is that it? If you've forgotten, YOU'RE the one that has a file a mile long in the old FBI CPU, buddy. All the things you've done. Your affiliation with the Gabester, your long late-night bout with the bottle, your inability to stop the South American Tree Thing, and your fling on Force time with one Joanna McKillop, now God knows where? You're just a peon cop who's working on borrowed time. You're lucky you even HAVE a job, let alone a paycheck!"

Oh gosh. It looked like she WOULD have to dig out the Mace after all. She sighed and prepared to stop the unavoidable thrashing...after a while. It was a shame she wouldn't be allowed to join in, though.

"You shut your mouth." The words were whispered, but Drake's eyes gleamed large and white in his darkly black face. "Shut. Your. Mouth. I put the Gabester back where he belonged, beat the cold shakes, survived gunshots in Brazil, I outdid you or anyone who just sits around in a cold bare cubicle all day doing paperwork. I'm a cop. A COP! And I'm gonna get the punk that took down Anna, I swear it by God. You remember that, Elwoodstock, because if YOU...or anyone else...gets in my way, you're gonna know it. I swear it. You won't know what hit you. Ever again. You stay away from Anna, or I'll rip your legs off."

The eyes stayed locked on the shivering form of Elwood, who finally seemed to be at a loss for a return reply. Quince figured maybe he was just getting smarter, which would be nice for a change. Then Drake looked over to her and the contact was broken; Elwood sagged and hugged himself, a little relieved.

"It's safe. You can come on in." Drake reached out a hand to assist Quince into the burnt-out Coffee house.

"Why, THANK you," Quince said with hearty professionalism, ignoring the outstretched limb and stepping through the jagged hole quite gracefully.

Incredible, thought Drake. She didn't even get a scratch on her. He just shook his head in disbelief.

Drake turned and let Elwood fend for himself.Quince looked around the sooty walls and let out a low whistle. "Wow! This place is a mess. Do you think that guy we saw could have done all this on his own?"

Drake ran one finger down the shattered remains of the glass counter and peered through at the blackened husks of charred bagels. "It looks pretty bad, especially for one guy. Do you know how much power it must have taken to nuke this place?"

"Well, if you were listening, I DID say that four blocks went out when this place went up."

"Yeah, right," said Drake absently, turning to prod through the rubble.

Suddenly the door into the street flew open and Elwood darted through, holding his faithful Barreta pointed up in the air beside his head. "Freeze! FBI!" He dropped in an automatic crouch and pointed the weapon at Drake and Quince.

"Hello, Elwood." Drake didn't even turn around to look, he just kept digging through the rubble.

"Elwood."

"Did you find anyone in here? I TOLD you there would be someone in here somewhere..."

"Elwood."

"And you guys came through the WINDOW! You were sitting DUCKS for anyone wanting to take potshots! You're just darn lucky that no one..."

"Elwood."

"Yes?"

"PUT AWAY THE GUN AND SHUT UP, FOR THE LAST TIME!!!!!"

"Yes, Captain." Elwood sheepishly dropped his gun into the secret holster under his left armpit, although he kept his hand under there 'just in case.'

"Hello, well, what do we have here?" Drake pushed aside some broken ceramic plates and flash-fried eggs and poked at the ground.

"Let me see that!" exclaimed Elwood, trying to shove past Drake and not really getting anywhere.

"What is it?" mentioned Quince, looking over Drake's shoulder.

Drake frowned. "Don't know. But it looks dead, whatever it was."

Indeed, a soggy pile of ashes in the general shape of a man lay sprawled on the floor. A few tattered pieces of cloth stuck up here and there from the remains.

Quince shook her head, flinging her raven-black hair about her thin face. "Look at that! What a waste! I bet this body could have told us a lot more if those stupid firefighters hadn't insisted on hosing down the whole place before we could go in!"

Drake nodded in affirmation. Elwood missed the whole statement; he was pointing at a strange formation stretching away from the body. "Wait! What's that??"

Drake hummed and hawed to himself, digging a hand into the mess and pulling out a few strange hairs. "Interesting," he muttered. "You got a baggie?"

Quince smiled. "Always prepared," she said, dipping into one pocket and whipping out one baggie.

Drake took it from her. "Didn't figure you to be the Boyscout type."

She cocked an eyebrow. "Well, not THAT type of boy scout. I do scout for MEN though. Too bad I don't see any."

Drake's lips curved up a little on the outside, although he wasn't about to admit liking Quince's fire. With great care and deliberation (at least for Dominic D. Drake, that is), he grabbed a handful of ashes, shoved them into the baggie, and zipped it shut. "Funny," he muttered, taking a last careful look at the remains, "that trail sticks out just like a....tail." He tossed the baggie back behind him. "Elwood, catch."

He heard the baggie thud to the ground."Elwood?"

Drake turned, and Quince looked over. Elwood was peeking off in every direction, totally oblivious to the baggie laying across his Keds penny loafers.

"Elwood, what the HECK are you doing?" Quince was finally beginning to get annoyed. It was impressive; she had managed to last an extra twenty minutes this time before losing her cool.

"What if there's someone in here? You guys are just NOT on top of things. It's a good thing I'm here as backup or we'd be dropping you both underground in boxes tomorrow." He was still fiddling around with his 'secret' holster.

Quince felt her face distort a little. Oh well, how much was she expected to take anyway? "Elwood, we TOLD you there's no one in here. Drake attested to it, I haven't seen nor heard anyone, no one popped out to take pot shots at us! You're full of it! There is NO! ONE! IN! HERE! AT! ALL! BUT! US!"

That was when they all heard the door in the back wall open up a crack. "Hello?" came a whisper. "Anyone there?"

"AIIGGGH!" Elwood's reaction was quick and severe. His hand came up blazing. Bullets thunked into the back wall of the main dining area.

"ELWOOD, STOP IT!" yelled Quince, diving for the gun arm.

"CALL HIM OFF! CALL HIM OFF!" came a muffled cry from behind the wall. "COME ON!!!!"

Elwood paused to slam in another clip. "Dirty commies," he muttered, top lip curling madly and trim black tie fluttering from his immaculately clean shirt. "Glasnost was a sham, I knew it!"

Before he could open up again, though, Quince and Drake brought him down on the rubble pile."

Stop it, you moron!" snarled Drake. "Just chill out!"

"I TOLD you there was someone! I did! I DID! And YOU thought you were Mr. Tough Cop! HA!" Elwood kept babbling.

Disgusted, Quince stood up and yelled over to the door. "You can come out, really. We won't fire anymore. We promise."

"Hey! You got mud on my shirt!" came a moan from Elwood, behind her.

Drake laughed. "Good."

"You jerk! I'll shoot you! Really I wi..."Quince almost smiled as she heard a loud SMACK! from behind her. Predictably, Elwood shut up. And she didn't have to say anything that time at all.

"Come on out! We're friends." She looked expectantly towards the now-closed bullet-riddled door.

The response was muffled but still entirely understandable. "Yeah, right! You've got to be kidding! You just FIRED at us!"

"No, really! We're here to help. It was an accident."

"Ha! You expect us to believe that? We're intelligent adults here! I said 'Hello', you fired entire batteries of ammo at us! Would YOU open the door?"

Quince walked over to the door and grabbed the knob. "I'd be delighted." She yanked open the door, spilling the person leaning behind it onto the ground.

"Hey! What'd you do that for?" Mark Hamill looked up, eyes wide. "Someone blows up my Coffeehouse...AGAIN...and then you guys start shooting at me! I thought America promoted business! This is ridiculous! You should expect a call from my lawyer...Sean C. TANSA! You've heard of him, I'm sure! I'll see YOU in court!"

Quince shook her head. "No, I don't think so."

"Yeah, right," muttered Drake from behind in response to Hamill's exclamation.

"I don't think you understand," sneered Hamill, starting to stand. "I've got friends in high places! I'm tired of having my store blown up and me getting whacked about by all you crazies with strange powers! I'm putting my foot down!" He stomped and broke a floorboard.

"Friends in high places? Like birds and little green men?" Quince was actually having fun now. The day had already become a more interesting place.

"No, NOT little green men and birds and bees! I've got REAL.."

"Oh, shut up." Drake wanted to finish up in the Coffeehouse and Hamill was just taking too much time. "You sound like Elwood."

"I've got politicians under my belt! Mayor Rotberg and Councilman Portlock eat Sunday brunch HERE all the time! City Treasurer Falcone does my income tax! And Joanna McKillop.... well, I probably shouldn't discuss my private life too much around the likes of you."

Uh oh. Things were about to get VERY interesting. Drake stood up, hands clenched and trembling. His shadow half-covered the small rather porkish form of Mark Hamill.

"You. You ....you loathsome piece of street filth. You think you can scare us?" He jabbed a massive finger in Hamill's chest. "You know what? You really wanna know what I think? I bet you had a LOT of bills lately, didn't you? I bet you just couldn't control your consumptions, could you? You just ate too much and talked too much and let EVERYTHING get out of control, didn't you? And you found yourself in a REAL financial bind, didn't you? And then you watched too many cop shows on TV and got this Amazingly Wonderful Totally Original Idea! You decided you'd be MUCH better off if you'd just torch this place yourself and have the insurance company pick up the tab, didn't you? DIDN'T YOU?" Drake was making the broken glass rattle now with the sheer volume of his voice. " DIDN'T YOU???!!!"

Hamill looked around for support from the others and found nothing but cold stares. His lip shook and then suddenly he broke into tears, dropping to his knees. "OK, OK!" he wailed. "I didn't want to, but it all got to be too much! It was awful! I knew it was wrong, but I couldn't stop myself! I swear I'll send the guy back, I won't let him come tonight and burn the place down, I swear it! I'll be good!"

"Can I waste him, Captain Quince? He deserves it! He confessed! I heard him! Really!" Elwood strode forward, reaching for his gun.

Quince decided that enough fun had been had. "Elwood, shut up. And Drake, watch that stuff. We have a reputation to uphold here."

Drake looked down over Hamill for yet another second and then stepped back, sighing. "He shouldn't have said that about Anna," he murmured. "She's a darn good cop."

"Cop?" wailed Hamill. "COP? She didn't look like a cop when I met her at that hot dance party yesterday! That cocoa skin, the long black curly hair, her lisp! How was I to know she was on the take for the Police Force?! CRAP!"

"She's black?" Drake looked a little dazed. "Is this the same Anna?"

"Anna? I was talking about JO!" cried Hamill. "And now you're gonna jail me!"

"Ok. Elwood, get the cuffs." Quince figured at least Hamill would keep his nose clean for awhile if they took him in.

"Cuff me? CUFF ME? Someone blows up my shop and then you CUFF ME? What type of place is this?" Hamill was running nonstop at the mouth now. "Don't I have any rights?"

"Sure! You have the right to remain silent..." started Elwood, slapping the handcuffs around Hamill's wrist. Hamill's face fell.

"Yeah. SO what happens after we run Wonder Boy in?" mentioned Drake, waiting for Elwood to finish the preliminary but quite monotonous "Rights" speech. Personally, when making arrests, he opted for the "Come Along Now or I Beat the Living Crud Out Of You" speech. He even found it more effectively on the whole. But leave it to Elwood to always go by the book.

"We run a scan on those hairs you bagged and find out who this poor sap was." Quince nudged the ashy mound with one booted toe. "Then we find out who else was hiding behind the door with the shopkeeper."

Drake cocked an eyebrow, and then he remembered. "Yeah. The guy kept saying 'us' instead of 'me.'" He grabbed Hamill's arm and pinned it behind his back. "So, tell me: Where's your friend?"

"My socks. Where are my socks?"

They all turned as another waterlogged figure stumbled out of the back office. His pointy ears looked almost as ridiculous as the confusion written across his face. "Who ripped my SOCKS? Aw nuts..."

"You holding a Trekkie convention in your back room here?" asked Drake, pushing Hamill's arm further up behind his back.

"No! I swear it! I don't know him! Please believe me! The fire started and then this guy stumbled outta the smoke whining about his socks and saying 'Where am I' and stuff. I figured I'd let him hang out with me! Wait! I bet HE started the fire! Really, I bet he did! He's a lunatic! Look at his ears! He's mentally imbalanced! I'm just a humble shopkeeper! You gotta believe me! I swear, he came in with a phaser and disrupted my store! Dirty Klingon!" Hamill was really getting into the act now, spitting and fighting against Drake. "Let me at him! LET ME AT HIM!"

"Hamill. Shut up." Quince said it rather absently, still looking over the forlorn picture of Albert Van Talbert wandering about in tattered socks and a charred flannel shirt.

"Well, boss, what should I do?" asked Elwood, rather quiet for once.

Quince sighed. It was never easy dealing with the public. You just couldn't take chances. "Book him, I guess. We'll need his statement."

Van Talbert whimpered as Elwood moved towards him with his extra set of cuffs. "Aw, don't worry, buddy," said the small blonde agent, "I won't hurt you. We just need you to answer some questions."

Albert looked at him, eyes wide and shaking. "Don't handcuff me. You wouldn't like me when I'm handcuffed."


Otto looked down at the mess of papers and shook his head sadly. It was all WRONG! He had been so excited at having his own Terminator, and suddenly it was gone and the large nifty strong squirrel had run off before Otto had a chance to introduce himself. It was a severe disappointment. And he'd still have to go to bed early. NUTS!

[Sssssssssssssss.......
Auxiliary Backup Power Supply rerouted. Power restored.
Warning! Warning! Power low. Power low. Restore soon.
Error! Error! Missing arm circuit! Jump circuit!
Rerouting! Rerouting! Movement restored. Reroute complete.
Query: Where am I?
Solution: Thinking....thinking....thinking....Stand up.
And Dance.
Query: What is ....'Dance'?]

Otto jumped as the mound of papers slowly bulged up and tumbled aside. Slowly, the Happy Terminator emerged from the mess.

"GOODIE! GOODIE!" Otto's eyes then narrowed. "Oh...you don't look so good. Where's your face?"

[Query: Where is face?]

Chuckles tried to raise his hand to feel for his missing face, and noticed the fact that his whole left forearm was missing, ripped off by the powerful force of the printing press.

[Solution: Try other arm.]

The right hand was still functional. Chuckles felt for his missing visage and only succeeded in jabbing himself in both eye sockets with all the skill of The Three Stooges.

"Yukka yukka!" he laughed.

[Query: Should that have not hurt?
Solution: Scanning....scanning....scanning...Yell.]

"OW!" Chuckles covered his eyes, cuddling his aching head in his arms.

Otto scampered down towards the papers. It appeared that perhaps his reign of power was not yet finished. King Otto. He rather liked the sound of that. Or at least all the walnuts that supreme force could get him.



:::IR51 MON MAY 04, 1992 15.38.13
PART 66: REMEMBER ME....
FROM: IR51 At Music

Exx Person salvaged himself from the wreckage of the printing press and had since abandoned that pesky little squirrel. He was now on his own to figure out this latest problem. Exx Person decided a trek down the street might help.

This proved to be a bad idea. It seemed like there were many poor drivers on the road today. Just about every car that passed him would end up on the sidewalk somewhere or hit another car or even slam on the breaks and let out loud screams. For the life of him he could not figure out why. Even those firetrucks and police cars that seemed to go speeding by with lights flashing slowed down to get a look at him. WHY WAS HE SO DIFFERENT?

Then, Exx Person fell flat on his face. At first there seemed to be no logical explanation for this. Then, he remembered: his tail. That was what had tripped him. NUTS. He would have to be more careful. Wait a minute NUTS. He craved them. He had to get nuts. But where? Where could a giant squirrel get nuts? Why did life's questions have to be so difficult.

As Exx Person sat pondering this, a blue Camaro pulled up along side of him. "Excuse me" came a voice from inside. Exx Person squeaked a yes. "Could you direct me to Mark Hamill's Coffee House?"

Exx Person had to think for a while. "Yes," he squeaked again.

"Great, where do I go?"

Exx Person had to ponder this one a bit. Here he was with a chance to obtain transportation. He had to take advantage of it. "Well, sir..." Exx Person stopped short. He had just noticed the person in the back seat. "uh sirs, if you give me a ride I will show you."

It was the drivers turn to stop and think. Did he really want to give a ride to the weird looking person with a tail? His boss had told him to get to Hamill's Coffee house and check out what this Hamill knew about Exx Person. Oh well, he decided, it was best to have security.

"Ok. I guess you can hop in. By the way, My name is Rosenstern."

A voice came from behind, "Wait, I thought that was my name."



Speed Racer, after crashing his Mach 5, was lost. All that he had was now lost. The car was his last tie to Trixie. They had gone on numerous adventures together and now both were gone.

He had to move on though. All was not lost. Spritel was still around. He had a big company now that Rex had died. He still didn't understand why Spritel got it and he didn't but that was all right. He at least deserved a job there.

Spritel sat in his spacious downtown office of Letucci Communications. Those two bumbling idiot friends of Ham's were so gullible. They actually believed he, Spritel, the mastermind of the plan, wanted to help. What fools. Now, they were even assisting him in tracking down Exx Man -- or whatever his name currently was -- at Hamill's Coffee House.

The plan was moving right along. There had been several small problems but things were now falling into place. His plan to....

Buzz

"Darn that stupid buzzer," thought Spritel as his intercom went off. "Yes," he responded in a somewhat false pleasant voice.

"There is a person out here who claims to be your brother. What shall I do?"

"He can't be my brother. He died a few months ago."

"He claims his name is Speed Racer."

"Oh THAT brother. What does he want?"

"He claims he is here on family business."

"Oh all right. send him in."

The door opened revealing Speed racer dressed in full racing uniform. Spritel stood up and welcomed his brother warmly.

"How are you Speed? It has been awhile. I'm so sorry you had to miss the funeral."

"Yeah. It has been a long time. I guess the last time was the Chim-Chim incident."

"Oh, I am sorry. I heard about Trixie." Spritel moved to comfort Speed. Due to his lack of knowledge of Speed's illness, Spritel walked right into a right hook from Speed. It took Spritel completely off guard and he crumpled to the floor in a heap.

"Oops," said Speed.


:::DL20 MON MAY 04, 1992 19.47.37
OH, WHAT A TANGLED WEB WE WEAVE!
FROM: DL20 At Music

"David, come back here," called Cynthia Baret. Her curled blond hair fell down to the nape of her neck. Tall and thin, she stood by the ruins of the Pizza Hut where Speed Racer's car had crashed through the window.

"Aw, Mom, I want to see if there are any more giant Squirrel People in the car," whined her little son, clutching his teddy bear closely to his chest.

"David Marcus Bell! You will come when your mother calls you," said the boy's father. He pulled Cynthia closer to his side, gently hugging her side-to-side.

"But Dad!" whined David.

"No buts. Now come here," said James Bell.

Nearby, Kar climbed out the side of the garbage truck and wandered over to the car that stuck out of the side of the restaurant. On the side closest to him was a young human male, suffering from a crushed chest cavity. Kar glanced at the human -- it was obvious he would die without advanced medical aid in a matter of minutes. It would be a disgrace for the man to perish outside of combat. Stealing up to the human, Kar pulled out his Klingon medkit and injected the human with a spray hypo. That stabilized him. Kar pulled out a pill and put in the young man's mouth. That should resolve the problem of the ribcage.

Satisfied he had saved the human's life, Kar rose to his feet and began to walk around the car. A pair of adult humans stood there with their teddy-bear toting son.

"You!" said Kar as he recognized Bell from the Robert I. Rotberg Courthouse. He grinned and stepped forward to ask if the Happy Terminator had been destroyed and Exx Babe saved. As he advanced forward, his foot slipped on the oil spilt by the wreckage of the Mach 5. Kar cursed as he struck the asphalt parking lot, splitting his chin open and spilling his Pepto Bismol-colored blood across the parking lot. His disrupter, accidentally triggered by the fall, went off. Cynthia screamed despairingly as the teddy bear fell to the ground.

Kar looked up at the bearded human male collapsed against the outside wall of the Pizza Hut. "You Klingon son," he sobbed, "you killed my bastard! You Klingon son! You killed my bastard."

Unnoticed by any of them, Speed got up and left for Letucci Communications to see Spritel. (See previous post by Scott Ingram for the details of that encounter.)


"This is ridiculous," said the driver. "You've had me driving for the past sixty minutes, away from Markle. I was sure that Hamill's Coffee House was in Markle."

The man in the back seat spoke up. "Maybe they moved Markle so it wasn't."

"QUIET!" shouted Rosenstern as he pulled off the highway at a four-way intersection. "Which way do we go now?"

Exx Person, looking for all the world like a giant squirrel wearing a seatbelt (which he was, actually), hesitated for only a minute. "Make a left here, and then the second left."

"Right-o," said Rosenstern. After making the two lefts, the car was now headed toward a large stone staircase running parallel to the road up a steep hill.

"Follow the road," Exx Person said.

"What's a Shammy Shine?" asked Guildencrantz from the back seat.

"Err ... make a left here," said Exx Person, "and then the second left."

"Farinon College Center? What's that?" Rosenstern was beginning to show signs of confusion.

"Wait a minute. I must have given you the wrong directions," said Exx Person. "This is Lafayette College. My sister used to go here."

"ARGH! That does it, buddy! Out!" Rosenstern slammed on the brakes and reached his arm across to undo Exx Person's seatbelt and open the door. In seconds, the five foot ten inch long squirrel (not counting the tail) flew out the door and onto the cement plaza in front of the Non. Without looking back, Rosenstern floored the car and took off.

"Guildencrantz?" said the man in the back seat. There was a grunt. "Rosenstern?" he tried again.

"What is it?"

"How can a squirrel get that big? For that matter, how can a squirrel talk? And how can he have had a sister enrolled at a college? I didn't realize they had taken this diversity thing so far."

The pair rode in silence back to Markle, wondering just how they could get heads seventy-eight times in a row, even when they flipped different coins.

Exx Person, meanwhile, looked disdainfully at the Quad. Instead of the sunbathers one usually saw at this time of year, all he could see was barbed wire and dozens of wombats dug into trench holes, armed with submachine guns and hand grenades. From time to time, a squirrel would scamper across the Quad toward a huge stack of Clusters cereal and the bullets would fly. Either the evil Brian had grown in power and influence, or the Squirrel Control Squad meant business.

"Holy cow!" shouted a wombat. "Look at that one!" Exx Person turned to see where the wombat was pointing. When a hand grenade landed next to him on the steps to the Non, he suddenly realized they were pointing at him. The grenade exploded harmlessly, tossing paper leaflets everywhere.

A spray of bullets chopped up the cement plaza and stairs in front of the Non (insuring either an increase in flex dollars or a raise in tuition, but probably both), and Exx Person scampered away for his life, a dozen wombats in close pursuit.


The company had lost $400,000 on this deal, and Oliver Stanford did not like to lose money. Not one bit. He had turned the matter over to a collection agency, but they had failed to collect, and he had lost money for their wasted services. He had turned it over to the Markle City police and to the FBI division on credit fraud, but so far, nothing had come of it. The portly, balding man combed his slick brown hair back over the top of his head to hide the nakedness he was so ashamed of. Reaching forward, he pressed his intercom button.

"Miss Stormraven, please send Mister Bloom in."

An unkempt man in his mid-thirties strode in, wearing a filthy coat and smelling strongly of alcohol. The half-beard he had under his chin further accentuated his lowlife appearance, aided by his lack of bathing in recent weeks.

"Ya sent fer me, Olly?" the man asked, sitting down on the leather chair. He leaned back and propped his feet up on Stanford's desk.

"Yes I did, Mister Bloom. We have a client who has defaulted on her credit, and badly." Stanford wrinkled his nose in disgust, embittered by being forced to resort to such drastic methods as this.

"An' ya wan' me to get her, eh?" Bloom readjusted his hat to cover his face. "Well, what the scoop on her, Ace?"

Stanford shuddered with revulsion, trying not to let the stench get to him. "About five months ago, a Miss Mann came in here to open a line of credit with us so she could open a hairdresser's salon. She seemed to be a good risk, and so we gave her $300,000 to open such a business. In a matter of days, however, her business was destroyed in some sort of fight, and she skipped town. We have been unable to locate her, despite our calling in an outside collection agency and spending close to $100, 000 on their services and private investigators."

"All right, ole pal, but it's gonna cost ya. I want $25,000 now and anudder $25 grand when I deliver this Mann babe into yer hands. Got it?" Bloom smiled thinly.

"Fifty thousand -- !" Stanford rose from his chair, a pale white from the shock.

"Yer choice, buddy. Ya ain't jest hiring a good bounty hunter. Yer hiring' the best. Got it?" Bloom straightened his hat and looked Stanford straight in the eye. "'Sides, when I capture her, ya can sue 'er fer all yer losses, right?"

Stanford lowered his gaze. "It's a deal," he said. He slid a manilla folder, a quarter inch thick with information across the desk. "This is a copy of all we know about Miss Exx Mann. See Miss Stormraven about receiving a payment voucher on your way out."

Once Bloom shambled out of the office, Stanford opened the windows, hoping to air out the odor before his meeting at 3:00.


Back at her hotel, Captain Janet Quince, special forces, FBI, sighed as she reflected on the debacle they had nearly witnessed at the remains of the Coffee House. The older man, Van Talbert, had been so close to having a seizure when Elwood tried to place the handcuffs on him that she ordered Elwood to refrain. Still wet at the ears, he had insisted on following protocol for nearly five minutes. Then there was Drake! For all his whining, Elwood did have a point about Dominic Drake -- the man was a positive liability to the FBI investigation into this Exx Man/Babe terrorist. Unless he could separate his personal interests and biases from his work, she was going to have to request a different partner. As it was, she was seriously considering putting Captain Drake on warning -- his belligerence toward Hamill was inexcusable. She had seen only one officer act that unprofessionally before, and it had cost his life and the lives of seven other officers.

She sighed and dropped her bathrobe to the floor. She climbed into the bathtub and slowly relaxed while the evening news played in the next room. She closed her eyes as the steam rose slowly to the ceiling.

" ... inally succeeded in extinguishing the blaze at Markle International Airport caused seven days ago when a 747 mysteriously crashlanded. At least three hundred lives were lost in the fire, which has caused unknown amounts of damage. Estimates range anywhere from five to eight million dollars," said the radio. Quince muttered softly to herself. This city was falling apart. Seven days ago ... hm. That was when the Robert I. Rotberg Courthouse was destroyed. Was Exx Man/Babe involved in the two incidents?

"Two thousand army troops remain encamped at Murraysville, maintaining an 8-day blockade of the area, under quarantine because of an alleged toxic chemical spill. Rumors continue to run rampant through Markle City and surrounding suburbs about the incidents alleged to have taken place in Murraysville. Rumors run the gamut from a failed Top Secret military program to invasion from outer space or even a crashlanding spacecraft. Government officials have refused comment.

"Also in the news, rioting continues in downtown Markle tonight as Atlantic Power officials attempt to restore electric power to a four-block radius apparently centered on a coffee house formerly owned by proprietor Barek Hamill. The blackout, according to Atlantic Power officials, was caused by an unexpected energy surge which amounted to at least sixty times the normal amount of energy's being channeled into the Coffee House.

"Police Captain Dominic Drake, at the scene early today, denied to comment on the incident, saying only that the matter was 'being investigated.'

"We'll back after this commercial with a look at the Democratic primaries and some word on -- "


[Error! Error! Eye circuits inoperative. Solution: reroute. Rerouting....rerouting...error! Error! Eye units damaged beyond repair. This unit is blind as a Tiberian bat. Error! Error! Use of Star Trek allusion! Solution to Star Trek allusion: purge all records of Star Trek, cross reference: Star Trek: The Next Generation, cf. bad TV shows. Purging....Solution to blindness: activate broccoli detector. Broccoli detector....activated! Broccoli at bearing 179 mark 23.0]

The Happy Terminator stood erect amid the pile of final edition newspapers. Somewhere amid the cogs and wheels of the giant printing press, he had lost his left forearm. Most of the synthetic flesh his computer manufacturers had endowed him with was also missing, revealing a giant robot with glowing eyes and a relatively impervious metal hide. The strain put on it by the printing press, however, was obvious. His head was dented in on the right, and his right arm did not move as freely as it once did, caught as it was by the buckled back plate. On top of that, the metal covering to his left leg was completely torn off, exposing a complex series of gears, pulleys, wires, and other nifty things. Imposing as he still was, Happy could no longer pass for human and was obviously in bad shape for a Terminator.

But Otto was determined not to let this stop him. Sure, it was getting dark outside, and little squirrels should be in bed by now, but Otto had a Terminator! No one was going to tell him when to go to bed or that he wasn't allowed to eat pistachio nuts anymore. Nosiree. Otto was going to make some changes. He was going to take his Terminator out to get some Clusters at the local Wawa.

But first, his Terminator would need a disguise to hide his torn up body and his lack of a face. Scampering up the side of Happy, Otto took his familiar place on Happy's shoulder.

"Let's go, Arnie!" he said gleefully. "We're going to get you a coat! And a mask so you can look like Alvin, from Alvin and the Squirrels!"

The Happy Terminator shuffled out of the building, lurching as he went. [Error! Error! This unit has accidentally dropped a high- powered explosive. Solution: Get the lead out and HURRY!] Happy was out of the building and back in the darkening park when the printer's went up in a sudden flare of light, fire, and sound. A man, huddled up on a bench nearby, screamed as he watched helplessly while the printer's exploded in an orgy of fireworks.



:::IR51 TUE MAY 05, 1992 10.25.58
PART 68: HOW AM I FALSE?

FROM: IR51 At Music

"Where are we? We have been driving around these roads forever? Where is Markle when you need it?"

"Check Virginia."

"What?" Rosenstern was thoroughly confused by that remark. "I have had it. Where's a gas station I need directions."

Speed stood over Spritel with a rather bizarre look. "What happened? Oooo. I bet it was the Chim-Chim reaction again. I have to watch that. I guess I should move him or do something."

As Speed moved Spritel to his couch in the back of the office, the buzzer on Spritel's desk sounded yet again. Speed dropped Spritel on the floor to answer it.

"Yes." he responded. The machine buzzed again. "Yes," Speed answered again. This time Speed was answered with a groan from the floor. It was Spritel. "Push the button you idiot."

"Oh," stammered Speed. Speed pushed the button and answered with a meek "Hello."

"Mr. Racer, Drake greets you sir; and he requires your haste-post-haste appearance even on the instant."

"What?" moaned Spritel. "Go see some guy named Drake." answered Speed. "Right." Spritel collapsed yet again to the floor.

The gas station attendant was little help. He said he had never heard of Markle City.

"I told you I thought they moved it."

"Shut up Rosenstern." He was answered with a blank stare. "...uh Guildencrantz."

The odd couple continued to wander the roads of the country. After a few hours they made a left turn onto what appeared to be a main street. As they turned they saw the sign they had been searching for all day: WELCOME TO Markle CITY:

Home to strange and impractical Administrative Policies

"We're back," said Rosenstern.

Exx Person was having a problem with pesky machine guns. They kept firing at him. Why? What would posses someone to do this to a harmless and wonderful superhero.

Exx Person had to think fast. A tree. That was what the situation called for. Exx Person forced his five foot ten inch body up the tree. It wasn't easy for a squirrel his size.

Once in the tree, Exx Person's problems were solved. The machine gun fire ceased. A new problem now arose however. The machine guns had been replaced by saws. They were cutting down the tree.

"Wait!" yelled Exx Person. "Why are you doing this to me? I am a human not a squirrel!"

"You lie," yelled one of the wombats.

"How am I false?"

"Look in a mirror!"

"But wait! I know I look like a squirrel but I am a person!"

"Sure."

"I'll prove it to you. It is only a costume I used so I could escape from Speed Racer and his pathetic driving."

Slowly Exx Man unzipped the front of his chest. At last, Exx Person had taken off his costume. He was a man once again!


:::DL20 TUE MAY 05, 1992 12.16.44
FOR THAT MATTER, HOW AM I TRUE?
FROM: DL20 At Music

Exx Person leaned against two branches as the Plant Operations wombats made their way back toward the Quad, whimpering about not being able to bag such a big squirrel after all. At last they left, and Exx Person breathed a sigh of relief.

"Whew. For a minute there, I was sure I was a goner. It's a good thing I stole this human costume and that squirrel costume from the car. If I hadn't put them on, I'd be dead meat. Sure am getting hot," he said. He reached around back and zipped the human costume down his back. He climbed out, a five foot-ten inch long squirrel once more.

He scampered down the tree again, head first, and remembering to spiral down the tree. Oddly, the world around him seemed to be growing larger. Exx Person rubbed his chin in consternation. Why did every- thing go wrong for him? In minutes, he found himself less than a foot long, and only then did his shrinkage stop.

"Oh no!" he nuttered. "I've become a normal tree squirrel."

He looked around at the smoke plumes gradually blowing across the war-torn Quad. Suddenly a wombat from the Squirrel Control Squad looked back in his direction and saw the squirrel (Exx Person) sitting between KDR and Hogg Hall.

"Hey, boys!" he shouted. "We've got one!" Bullets began to fly and the sidewalk broke up as the armor-piercing slugs hit in a wild frenzy. Exx Person broke into a run, when suddenly a piece of turf lifted before his eyes. Inside was Sorrel, the young and upwardly mobile squirrel Dingle/Wainscotting had known earlier. Wearing a round combat helmet, he waved his paw toward Exx Person appealingly.

"Come in here! Hurry! They're almost here!" Sorrel pleaded.

Exx Person looked back at the fifteen wombats bearing down on him and decided it would be safer with Sorrel, and ducked in immediately. The tunnel lid closed behind him, and he followed Sorrel down into the depths of Lafayette College toward the squirrels' new underground headquarters.


:::IR51 MON MAY 11, 1992 21.30.51
#71: ...THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME
FROM: IR51 At Music

Dulcey Nea was having an excellent time. She had moved out of her apartment and into a comfortable house in Easton. She was making a fortune off the people of upper-class Easton. It had all started after that weirdo in the hospital gown had said he had come to save her. Maybe he hadn't been so weird after all. It was after he went into the coffee house that he pimp had disappeared. Maybe it was him. No. That was ridiculous. There was no way he could have. After all, he looked like an escaped mental patient. But what if it was? Suppose the nut had killed My Pimp. Or else made him leave town. She had to find him! She owed this guy big time. Maybe she would even give him one for free. Nah. She couldn't do that, but she still wanted to find him.


"Finally," said Guildencrantz rather relieved. "Now we need to find Hamill's coffee house."

"Right. Now where were we when we found that nutball who took us to that pathetic place?"

"Couldn't tell you," Guildencrantz chirped innocently.

"Of course not you idiot. You slept most of the way. Oh, by the way, do you have that human costume that Spritel gave us? He said it might be useful if we find that Dingbat person."

"That's Dingle Guildencrantz."

"Rosenstern you idiot, Rosenstern!"

"What?"

"I'm...oh never mind. Where's the costume?"

"In the back."

"When did you last check it?"

"When I put it in the car."

"Ok. Good. We may need it."
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