It was a bit later in the day when he finally made it to the main room. The crowds had thinned quite a bit.There were just a few people examining the displays. He was dressed in a bright, almost gaudy, chef's uniform made of satin. Deep reds and greens were accented by bright yellow striping. He was slightly below average height with a well trimmed van Dyke.
He didn't care for any of the other displays in the room. His attention was focused on the one thing he wanted. It stood near the center of the room in a protected case.
He smiled and rubbed his hands together. "Perfect"
He knew the layout almost by heart by now. One of the small benefits of doling out those wretched, disgusting Pas-tart abominations was the fact that he got free access to the museum. Normally he never cared that much about the carved rocks or slaps of colored dyes that thrilled the great unwashed. He was an artisan that thrilled all of the senses.
The guards stood near the doorway nearly asleep. The "treasures" were certainly rare, but none were all that valuable, after all, who would want a several thousand year old ice cream scoop or a prehistoric fork?
No, what held the chef's attention was the true treasure, the Excalibur of Kitchen Utensils, the Arc of the Culinary, the ... well ... really famous and important thingy of stuff you cook with. (Hey, give him a break, he's really into food, not historical metaphors).
It stood in a simple case separated from the heathans by a simple velvet rope.
A mother and her adorable little drooling house ape stood in front of the mystical treasure. The child's fingers were still colored red from one of those horrid Pas-Tart things that he had to pimp. It was the low point of his epicurean career. He could feel the anger boiling up like pasta with the lid on.
He closed his eyes and took a quick breath to focus his thoughts. He was prepared, he knew what he needed to do.
He glanced toward the bored looking guard. He only needed to get into the case. Since once he had it, everything else was secondary.
"Billy, we touch with our eyes, not our hands." The woman scolded her child as he reached for the casing. The child's greasy stained hand nearly touching the perfection of the case. The chef swallowed hard against the bile rising in his gullet.
"Actually madam, that's not completely true." the chef said.
She looked at him with a somewhat annoyed expression, "Excuse me." she more stated than asked.
"You may touch with just your eyes, but I prefer touching with this." He raised a hand that held a rather menacing looking meat tenderizer. With a rather evil glint in his eye, and a practiced flick of his wrist, the tenderizer tore through the protective glass, the chef reached into the display and began murmuring a quick incantation.
The well-rested guard quickly came to his senses and sprinted toward the chef. He was, of course, to late by that point, and had no idea how to suddenly handle the impact of a four foot bran muffin, well other than collapse in a heap under the oppressive weight.
The Chef stood his ground, in his hand was the relic of unfathomable power known only to the darkest inner circles of food preparation, it was the glowing Paddle of Fa la'Fel, the Spatula of Doom. And now it was in the hands of, the Ferrite Chef.
The Chef laughed hard, the world was his griddle he lashed his had toward the ceiling and a hole tore through the roof above him. The chef pointed the Spatula toward the ground and slid out the door at an amazing rate.
JB, wake up, we're here.
huh, what? yawn Cripes, Chris, we were only out of town for two days, couldn't we have gotten a spot somewhere a bit closer?
Are you kidding? These guys only charge five bucks a day parking.
That's because it takes us half an hour to get here. Hey, give me a hand with this stuff.
I can't believe how much you spent on this junk.
Junk? This is primo stuff, you know what an original pair of autographed pants from the Brown Streak go for?
I thought you said that the Brown Streak guy was like eighty or something? That guy looked like he was younger than you.
Oh, yeah, he's just the latest one.
So, what, it's a franchise?
No, well, kinda, it's a bit complicated. Basically, there's this magical fountain in Mexico where if certain people drink from it...
JB, I don't think I want to know about that
What about that?
That, the battery operated Ruler Of Elendil that you got.
Oh yeah, isn't it cool? Look if I press this button it glows blue.
It looks way beat up.
It's supposed to.
Is it also supposed to go for thirty bucks?
It was a good deal!
JB, you bought it from a rubber skeleton sitting at a card table.
Fine, laugh it up, but this is all insanely cool stuff. besides I only spent $400 on it.
Harrarrrgh, Eeerrrggghh, Agggkk arrr...
Chris? Look, you really need to use full words when you talk.
ARRaarrrgh, Car! No Car! Pancake!
Ok, that's a good start, but you need to use words that are relevant to....
Chris? why is there a giant pancake sitting in the middle of the parking lot?
Arraarrrrgh aaaaannn eerrrrghhiik...
Chris? Where's our car?
Here, let me hit the remote so we can find our car.
Ok, so the middle of the pancake just flashed, this is bad right?
MY CAR!!!!! I'VE STILL GOT PAYMENTS!!! AAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!
Along I-84, a reasonably inconspicuous tan van made its way through the growing darkness. The slightly more web savvy might have glanced at it and mused that someone had managed to get a Web-Van delivery truck, and he or she'd be partially right. At one point or another in it's life the van had served as a humble home grocery delivery truck.
Since then, it had been completely overhauled, refitted, and repainted. Shelves were removed to make way for interchangeable seats and weapons lockers (currently the van had the seats installed). On the side was painted, "Salad Barbarian, the Gallant Grocery on the Go!" with a huge image of the great green warrior thumbs up and smiling.
Inside the cab however, neither the driver nor the very large, very green passenger were smiling.
"Salad Barbarian bored."
"Kripes, we just left Boise. Why don't you put the radio on or something?"
"Salad Barbarian try that, only got Country Western music. Salad Barbarian think there big satellite that only broadcast Country Western music to make sure that only thing on radio in middle of nowhere."
They rode on a bit longer with the drone of the tires keeping them company.
"OOOH! Orchard Supply!! Dressing Lad Stop? Please-Please-Please!!"
"NO! Look, I told you, we need to just drive up to Boise, pick up the rogues, drop them off at the Facility and go home. That's it! It's bad enough that we're already late because of the conference, but we need get back to our command post as soon as we can!"
"But, Salad Barbarian good! Not tell anyone about invading Space shri-"
"SHH! We're not supposed to say anything about that out in the public."
"Not even in own Salad Barbarian truck?"
"Not unless you've got a couple of mil you want to fork over in USHA penalties."
"Salad Barbarian be good."
The traffic thinned as the two headed away from the center of population. The Barbarian started to hum.
"Ninety Seven bottles of Dressing on wall, Ninety Seven-"
"No." Dressing Lad commanded. "Look, I told you to bring some CDs or something."
"Salad Barbarian forget to grab Veggie-Tales tape."
"Well, it's not my fault. Look, we've got a long drive ahead of us, find something to keep yourself amused."
The Leafy Warrior sat puzzled for a bit before saying, "Salad Barbarian spy, with little Salad Barbarian eye.... Something that begins with -"
"Grass." Dressing lad cut in annoyed. "It's Grass, right?"
Salad Barbarian was shocked. "How did Dressing Lad guess?"
"Because every time we play this game, you pick either grass, or bushes, or trees."
"Salad Barbarian not help it.", he said with a slightly defensive tone. "Salad Barbarian notice things like that. Might be related to Salad Barbarian. Now it smarty Dressing Lad's turn."
"Oh, fer... Ok. I spy with my little eye something that begins with R."
"Something being with R. Rhododendron?"
"No. It's black."
"No, it's got lines and cars on it."
"Lines and cars.. lines and cars.. Rutabaga? "
"No! It's ROAD!" Dressing Lad yelled back.
"Ooh, that good one!" Salad Barbarian said with appreciation, oblivious to the ire of Dressing Lad. "Now it Salad Barbarian turn."
"No Grass, No Bushes, No Trees!" Dressing Lad strongly cautioned.
"Uhmmm. Ooh, Ok, Salad Barbarian spy with little Salad Barbarian eye... Something begin with C."
"C? and it's not a plant?"
"No, it not plant."
"C.. c.. Carffee Billboard?"
"No, not Carffee Billboard, it made of shiny metal."
Dressing Lad was surprised; this was totally unlike the thousand odd times they'd played this game. "Made of shiny metal.. Car?"
"No, not car, it hovering over road."
Dressing Lad turned to look at the grinning green giant, "Hovering in the road?"
"Yup, it right ahead, too!"
Dressing Lad's attention snapped back to the lanes ahead where he saw it, floating in the middle of the highway, a polished chrome
"Dressing Lad really good at I-spy!"
The van lurched as Dressing Lad swerved to avoid the collision. The tires screamed and spat gravel as the truck hurtled off the road and down the embankment. The casket slowly turned and followed them.
Hi, Can I help you?
Yes, I'm Fantastic Female. I've got a 10:00 with Michelle?
Hi Lynda! I'll be with you in a minute, I just need to finish here.
Take your time Michelle, I know I'm early.
Would you like to take a seat, I think the coffee is about done.
Ok Phil, I'll see you in three weeks, give my best to Jack when you see him.
All set Lynda?
Yes, let me just get my coffee.
So, how have you been?
Oh, busy, busy, busy! I'm almost embarrassed to show you my nails this time. Just look at them, they're just a mess.
They're not too bad, but you're definitely due. Let's just get started. I'll just trim them back a bit. Hrrrng *clip*. RRRRGGGHH!*clip* Darn, I'm gonna have to get these sharpened again.
Didn't you just have the diamond tip replaced last month.
RRRGH!*clip* Yup, and it's already starting to HNNNGG!*clip* go. HRRRGG!*clip* Honey, if you think your nails are a mess, other hand please, HRRRRK*clip* let me tell you, RRRRRGG*clip* I've got some folks that are a real mess HRRRG!*clip*
Yeah, HRRRRRG!*clip* some girls just look for reasons to chip their nails.HRRRRFFF*clip* The absolute worst ones are the ones with talons. But they get so skittery whenever I start clipping, so I don't really see too many of them. Ok, now let's get that old polish off.
I had heard that. I guess that explains why Wolvette always gets that funny look when I tell her about getting my nails done.
What was that? I couldn't hear you over the belt grinder.
Oh, I was just saying that explains why Wolvette kinda freaks when I say I'm going to get my nails done.
They're press on. I'm a professional, I notice these things.
Well, that just explains so much really. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Oh, careful of the sparks Mrs. Tinkleman!
Hmm? Oh, thanks dear. She's a sweet old soul, but I think her sight is just about gone. God love her she's here every Saturday to get her snakes oiled and permed.
Oh, that just too cute!
That's only because you've never seen her in her costume. She wears it from time to time whenever she's got a date, but it's not really as flattering as it once was, if you know what I mean. Mind your eyes, I'm using the torch.
That's the one thing I worry about the most. I'm so afraid that one day I'll wake up, look at myself and the lycra just won't be enough support. Ooh! Ow-ow!
Oh, sorry dear, here, the acetylene must have gotten under that hangnail, let me take care of that. HRRRGGHH*clip* Have you been using your cuticle oil?
Well, not as often this past few weeks. A bunch of us were kind of trapped in an alternate dimension and wouldn't you know I forgot to bring some with me this time. Are they bad?
No, not too bad. Here why don't you take this? It's a travel kit that's leak, water and bullet proof.
Oh, thank you! How much?
Nothing. You're a regular and I picked up a bunch at the trade show last week.
Thank you, You are such a doll!
No problem at all. So what color this week? Same as last time?
No, I found out that little so-and-so Americana's been using that shade.
Oh, that's too bad, it looked really good on you.
Well, I was getting kind of tired of it anyway. It's so cliché. How about that champagne color?
Oh, that's a pretty color, do you think it will match your outfit?
Didn't I tell you? I've got an order in with Sarah Kittlemier. I'm finally getting an update. Something a bit more muted earth tone since I'm an autumn anyway.
Isn't that expensive?
Well, the real cost is getting the marketing approval from USHA, and of course my agent was totally against it when I first told him, but I think he's warming up to the new brand.
What about Shasta?
That girl can be such a pain sometimes. She's going through that whole "Save the Earth" thing
Still? There, put your hands in the accelerator.
Yeah, gotta like a kid with ideals like that though, anyway at first she was all excited to hear that I was changing my image a bit, but then she started showing me these designs.. I mean, maybe if I was twenty again, but some of them were just embarrassing. She had this one design that I swear was straight out of the sixties. I swear it looked like something my mother wore!
Heh-heh, everything old, huh?
Heh, yeah. I had to figure out some way of saying no without breaking her heart.
What did you say?
Oh, actually, it turned out that I didn't have to. Scarab attacked and it kept us both busy long enough for my appointment with Sarah, and Shasta never got a chance to finish the designs. Oops!
Lynda you can be so nasty sometimes.
She'll get over it. I just hope that she doesn't make the same mistake I did when I made my deb outfit. That's one ten year mistake I'd rather I hadn't made.
*Preeeeep* Ok, you're done. So are you going to let me see the designs you get back from Sarah.
Of course! I'll stop by next week once I get everything.
I'm looking forward to it! Take care and I'll see you in two weeks, ok?
Hi Michelle. So, Lynda's getting her costume updated?
It's about time, if you ask me. So what do you think of her latest boob job?
I'm just hoping that the next costume isn't padded.
The tow-truck driver wiped his hands on a greasy cloth and looked at JB. "Ok, so's I put it back in th' alley like you told me to. Buddy, I'd hate to tell you this, but I still think that you'se need to just drop it off at th' yard and take the blue book. It took 'em nearly two hours to get all that pancake off of it, and what was under it wasn't that pretty."
JB sighed, "Yeah, I know, but if we left it there we were going to get charged triple for taking up all those spots. Thanks for getting it out. How much do we owe you."
The driver pulled out the invoice, and showed it to JB. This alone explained why JB wisely decided he was the one handling this part of the deal. JB handed over his credit card, and accepted the charges. He was frightened what his bill was going to be this month before they left New York, now he was pretty terrified. Maybe he could borrow some from Chris.
JB saw the driver off and looked again at the flattened car. Dried bits of batter still clung to it in places.
"So, that's it?" a voice said behind him. It was Annie.
"Yeah. That's what's left."
"It's not so bad, you know, in fact, it's in better shape than some others that have been done."
"How long do you think it'll take?"
"Oh, only about a week or so. It depends on what Tommy's schedule looks like. Are you sure that Chris won't mind"
JB smiled a bit, turned and winked at Annie. "I guess we could tell him it's part of 'The Works'".
Annie held up his hands and started walking away "As long as everyone gets paid..."
JB heard Chris yell out and then a bold of energy thundered out. A shards of ex-window glass shattered against the far alley wall and tinkled down as the echoing report died away.
JB raced up the stairs to see Chris bent over, holding his arm.
"Chris, you ok?", JB asked.
Chris shook out his arm as the pain started to ease. "Yeah.. I'm ok." He looked toward the now missing windows and didn't want to think about how much it would cost to get them replaced.
"Mind telling me what that was all about."
"Stupid bloody insurance company refused to pay up."
"Captain Bob's Discount Insurance didn't want to pay for the car?" JB asked in mock surprise. He had told Chris not to go with a company that also handled bail bonds and check cashing, but sometimes it's best to leave these little learning opportunities to Chris.
"Yeah, they claimed it was an Act of Food."
The tingling in Chris' arm stopped, still he massaged it, mostly to give himself something to do. "That was pretty much my reaction too, except mine included a few more choice words and a heck of an exclamation point. I've never heard of it either, and believe you me, I'm going over that contract with a fine tooth comb."
JB asked the obvious question. "Well, why don't you just take the loss and we buy a new car?"
Chris simply looked at him.
"Yeah, I kinda knew that, but I had to ask anyway. So are we going to at least get you a new phone?"
"Nah," Chris said as he walked over to the wall to pick up the item in question. "I missed it." He pressed a button and the phone lit up, scratched, but none the worse for the experience. Chris did notice that it was reporting back a stronger signal than it had. It was probably just scared.
"Hello? Yeah, this is he. I was called out of town and I had some car trouble, what's up?" Chris listened to the phone. "Was it Bob? No? Well, do you know who it was? Yeah, we'll deal with it. Where. Ok, give us a bit, but we'll be there as soon as we can."
Chris hung up the phone.
"That was Wallace, he's ticked, but he's got some information for us. Apparently there's someone new in town, some joker called the Ferrite Chef. I'm pretty sure he's the jerk that made the pancake. We need to get to the DeTeen museum."
JB couldn't resist. He thrust is finger up into the air and commanded, "To the Grayhound Bus"
Dressing Lad moaned a bit then slowly opened his eyes. He remembered swerving to avoid the casket and going off the road, but little else. The airbag didn't deploy, which he assumed was a good thing. He did a careful quick check. He was ok. A bit shaken up, but not bleeding anywhere, missing anything, or unexpectedly able to reach previously inaccessible areas.
He turned to look to the passenger's side. It was empty and the door was open. 'The Prisoners!' he thought as he whipped the door open and ran to the back of the truck.
Sure enough, the back was wide open and they were gone.
A lump of something green moaned. "Salad Barbarian has owchies..."
Dressing lad bent down. It was hard to see in the dim moonlight, but he could make out Salad Barbarian's head.
"Barbarian? What happened?"
"Salad Barbarian not totally sure. It all kind of fuzzy. Salad Barbarian remember Dressing Lad deciding to go off road, then go sleepies."
Dressing lad started collecting bits of Barbarian that were spread all over. Occasionally pouring dressing on a lump or two.
"Salad Barbarian try wake up Dressing Lad but Dressing Lad out cold. That when Salad Barbarian hear back hatch roll up. Salad Barbarian see Baddies climbing from back of truck. Woman Baddie look surprised to see Salad Barbarian touch forehead and look like she have bad gas."
'A mental attack' Dressing Lad mused. That explained why he was out cold and why SB was unaffected. Unlike his green counterpart, he had a brain.
"Salad Barbarian give mighty war hoot and unleash Croutons of Justice. Battle was long and fierce nearly last entire minute, but then one baddie grow real long nails. That when Salad Barbarian learn what it like to be in Salad Shooter."
Dressing Lad picked up the Green Warriors head and placed it on the pile of greens he had been collecting.
"Salad Barbarian thank Dressing Lad. Good to be back together."
Suddenly, a strange realization struck the Veggie Vigilante, 'Wait, Salad Barbarian.. not feel feet!, Salad Barbarian not able to move arms! Salad Barbarian Paralyzed! NOOOOO!!!'
With sobbing panic he wailed, 'SALAD BARBARIAN NOT WANT TO BE VEGETABLE!!! BWAHG-WAHGH-AHGH-AHGH.'
Dressing Lad simply stopped and glared at the blubbering hero.
Salad Barbarian suddenly stopped crying. "Oh yeah, it too late for that. Right."
Dressing Lad walked around the truck inspecting it for damage.
"The truck looks ok, nothing looks busted. Let me go fire it up so we can get on the radio. You about ready."
The Barbarian concentrated for a moment then resumed something close to his previous stature. "Yes. Salad Barbarian need good rinse though. Salad Barbarian think gravel giving Salad Barbarian rash."
Chris stormed out of the DeTeen museum and practically ripped the yellow police tape in half. He thought better of it and simply lifted it. Chris continued his stride to the main fountain where JB was sitting, waiting for him.
If it wasn't already dark out, JB could have sworn that there was a black cloud brewing over his brother.
"What happened in there?" JB asked with a bit of trepidation.
"Our Buddy Wallace tore me a new one for not being in town when this lunatic struck, that's what." Chris yelled back, venting his spleen."While we were creasing our seats in New York listening to some cockamamie story about invading pan galactic space shrimp-"
"Ixnay on the imp-shray!" JB tried to shush his brother before anyone in the park panicked, but Chris would have no part of it.
"Lay off! Look, who in their right mind would believe that crap? Have you ever even seen an alien around here? And why in Spock's name would they attack Melbourne anyway, other than they might be a little put off by getting stuck over coals every Christmas!?"
JB continued to try to silence him, "Chris, C'mon! Calm down!" he hissed under his breath.
"Calm Down!? CALM DOWN!!? HEY BUDDY!" Chris boomed out to a man walking his dog. The man stopped and looked toward Chris. JB winced and looked frantically for any secret recording devices.
"Did you see the news about Melbourne?" Chris yelled out.
"That place in Australia?" the man responded, looking about as confused as his dog.
"Yeah! Well it wasn't attacked by Norwegian terrorists, it was destroyed by a plate of highly advanced marauding alien seafood."
The guy made a rather cynical face and continued walking his dog.
Chris smiled in a deeply self satisfied way and indicated the man's response like a professional show model. "There, ya see? Not a problem. Well, other than we now have a brand new certified looney running rampant through the streets of Boise assaulting innocents with humongous crepes."
Chris stopped and began to massage his temples in a less than successful attempt to calm his throbbing head.
"JB, exactly when did the world stop making sense?" Chris asked his brother.
"That's easy, it was the day Disney bought Bullwinkle. You hungry?"
"I'm starved. Let's go grab a bite somewhere."
They headed out of the museum area and toward the north end of the park. Chris was first to break the silence.
"You know something JB?"
"For a couple of superheroes, we sure do a heck of a lot of walking."
"It's Boise. You can really get your arms around this town."
"Then why do my feet hurt so bad?"
JB laughed, "Pansy. You really need to get better shoes than those things, or at least spend more than ten dollars."
"They're perfectly good shoes, they keep my feet from touching the pavement."
"And whatever you saved you spend in moleskin and foot powder."
"Ok, ok, I'll get better shoes, but for now, can we please just call a cab?"
Sure, let me check.
JB turned and looked down the road. He spotted a taxi coming up the drive and leaned out to wave down the cab. The driver spotted JB, which was quite easy to do, put on his signal and pulled over beside the six-foot tall blueberry muffin that lay on top of Chris and JB.
No, I'm not doing it.
If I do, that means he'll publish this chapter, and that means folks will read that 'vegetable' joke.
It's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.
What about my paycheck?
Holy Hash, have the Canine Commandoes been creamed by a Cruller?
In the dead of night has the dead in flight let the Y-Guys escape?
Will Fantastic Female one day bend over and be a table?
Tune in next time for
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Oh God, that one was worse than the Vegetable one.