Chapter 20

Hello and welcome back. Salad Barbarian here. Reader probably want quick refresher on what happen in last episode. Salad Barbarian help.

Salad Barbarian get call by Commissioner Gordon to…

He's not a commissioner.

Dressing Lad not interrupt Salad Barbarian.

He's a Sheriff, not a Commissioner. Bolting doesn't have a Commissioner.

Whatever. Salad Barbarian get call and respond. Salad Barbarian told that nasty evil doer plan to cook City Hall.

Yeah, after you ate some of the evidence.

Oh right, big fortune cookie tasty, but really could use milk. Salad Barbarian think nothing go better than talk glass of milk and cookie. Salad Barbarian particularly fond of nice gooey Chocolate Chip cookie and frosty glass…

Would you please get on with it?

Sorry. Salad Barbarian get distracted.


And?

And what?

You were talking about getting called to City Hall because a huge cookie crushed the mayor's car, and that the fortune in it said that "A.S." wanted to deep fry the place. Then he shows up in the big robot thing which you fight but somehow we get captured and chained up in yet another cold, damp dungeon, and then this potato walks in...

Mr Spuddy Head! That Right! Can Salad Barbarian get new Mr. Spuddy Head?

No! He wants to kill us!

But Mr. Spuddy Head is happy potato pal.

Then why does he want to destroy humanity and why did he chain us up and why did he leave us trapped in a basement with a crate full of carnivorous brussels sprouts?

Mr. Spuddy Head obviously have issues.


The timer on the crate ticked down to zero and the lid sprung open. The Salad Barbarian let loose a mighty war cry and tore the chain mountings from the wall. He lunged toward the crate and hammered the sprouts mercilessly. Bits of the tiny cabbage flew from the frey as his massive arms dove hard into the crate. The chains rang against the wood and thrashed against the sprouts. The Barbarian moved fluidly, not a single motion wasted. He was brute vegetable force.

The sprouts were ferociously outmatched, mostly because they weren't doing anything.

"Uhm, Barbarian?" Dressing Lad said, with a surprising lack of fear or distress.

The Green Warrior was deep in the battle. Dressing Lad raised his voice to get his attention "Barbarian!"

"Salad Barbarian little busy here!"

"Barbarian! They're not attacking."

"What!?" The Barbarian stopped in mid hammer. Bits of sprout dripped from his fists.

"But, these are deadly carnivorous sprouts."

"Well, maybe if we were to plant them in ourselves, or choke on them or something."

The Barbarian looked more than a little disappointed.

"Ha! Deadly Sprout move! Salad Barbarian smash!"

"Barbarian, stop! You kicked it with your foot."

"Did not."

"Did too. I saw you."

"Fine." The Barbarian went back to being depressed. "This little embarrassing."

"Don't worry. I won't tell anyone, today. Now will you kindly free me so we can get the heck out of here?"

The Barbarian grabbed the chains and with a single yank pulled them free. Dressing Lad brushed the dust of his head and spat out a few bits of mortar. "Thanks." the Condiment Crusader said. "So, why couldn't you do that before?"

"Salad Barbarian like good actor. Need proper motivation."

"So you forgot?"

"Salad Barbarian not forget! Salad Barbarian more 'method hero'".

Dressing Lad, finally able to reach his tool kit, managed to undo the manacles, although he hesitated briefly as he weighed the option of being able to keep the Conquering Cabbagehead's grabby little hands in the cart next time they went through the grocery checkout line.

He undid them anyway.

The door slowly creaked open as Dressing Lad and the Barbarian peeked into the hallway, then creaked more as the two made their way down the corridor. Dressing Lad tried to figure out where they were, and more importantly where their captor Arnold Schwartzentater was. They reached outside to discover that both Arnold and the giant robotic thingy he had used to attack City Hall were gone.

Dressing Lad stood looking at the large freshly made indentations. His brow knit and he rested his hand on his chin. "If I were a vengeful vegetable," Dressing Lad ruminated, "where would I take a giant home-made war machine?"

"Disneyland?" the Barbarian offered.

Dressing Lad shot the Grinning Grocery a withering glance then had a flash of insight. "Look, you're a vegetable, put yourself in Arnold's head, or whatever he's got. He's angry, he wants to seek revenge for all of the atrocities perpetuated against his kind."

The Barbarian's face became stoic and serious.

"He's striking a blow against Bouillabaisse" Dressing Lad urged.

"Hmm."

"He's striking out against Stir Fry."

"Grrr."

"He's waging war on wedges."

"Yes. Salad Barbarian see clearly now. Salad Barbarian understand."

"So where would Arnold Schwartzentator strike?"

"Mr. Spuddy Head have only once choice, same choice Salad Barbarian have. Mr. Spuddy Head go to one place that is the very core of evil. It only place that can stop never-ending nightmare and bring peace to sleep." The Barbarian stood slightly hunched, his upturned hands slowly grasping, and a noticeable twitch developing around one of his eyes.

"So, where would Schwartzentater strike." Dressing Lad said in anticipation.

"SBC Internet"

"Barbarian?"

"Yes?"

"Remind me never to ask you to think again."

The Barbarian visibly relaxed and returned to his normal heroic stance. "Phew, Salad Barbarian thank Dressing Lad. Thinking mighty hard. Still SBC Internet keep Salad Barbarian from reading favorite web soap Passionate Generations. Passionate Generations really know how to speak to Salad Barbarian."

Dressing Lad put his hand to his forehead and returned to trying to think of where a sociopathic tuber would strike next.

The Barbarian raised a commanding finger and pointed to the horizon. "Dressing Lad and Salad Barbarian go that way."

"And might I ask what divine flash of insight allowed you to determine that of the other three hundred and fifty-nine other potential directions was the one that Schwartzentater took?"

The Barbarian, completely unphased by the human concept of sarcasm merely lowered his hand a bit, "Giant robot footie prints."

Dressing Lad smacked his forehead, probably harder than necessary, and without further comment the two strode off.


"Hi, welcome to Ikeeee-AAAAHHH!" the polo-shirted employee scampered out of the way of the huge foreclaw as it crashed through the main window. Tasteful yet simple furniture with a European flair scattered in the twisted shards of steel and glass that rained down on him.

A vine like limb lashed out and wrapped itself around the fleeing employee's legs and hauled him up to dangle before Arnold. Granted, the employee didn't really see Arnold, mostly because he wasn't thinking in terms of carefully looking through the small porthole in the armor shielding at a rather annoyed looking spud. Instead the hapless lad decided upon relying on good old-fashioned screaming.

"Are you quite finished?" Arnold asked the inverted employee. The dangling drone stopped and simply stared at his captor.

"Uhm, yes, I suppose I probably am. Are you going to eat me now?" the employee asked not really wanting to know the answer.

"Bah!" Arnold dismissed the question. "Unlike you, I am of a far superior race of being." A small hatch popped open and Arnold emerged.

"Dude, shouldn't you be attacking the Toys 'R' Us across the parking lot?"

Arnold ignored the comment with a noticeable wince, but took a few seconds to collect himself. "Tell me. Is this some hallowed memorial to the noble flora that have passed?"

"Uh, yeah, sure, and we're running a special deal on sofas this week."

Arnold cast a confused look at the clerk, and decided to continue, He pointed to a large brown couch that sat near the entrance. "Tell, me, what noble warrior is enshrined there?"

"You mean that leather sofa?"

"Leather?" Arnold asked. "What is that?"

"Uhm, it's like the dried skin from like a cow, I think"

"Hmm." Arnold acknowledged. "A fitting use for the wretched eater of grass."

"And it's stuffed with mostly natural fillings, well, except for the memory foam base and the springs, of course, but the rest of it is 100% hypoallergenic all-natural fibers."

Arnold nodded appreciatively.

Then stopped.

He turned to look at the clerk and raised a spudly brow.

"What kind... of fibers?"


"Salad Barbarian there yet?"

"No."

"Salad Barbarian there yet?"

"No."

"Salad Barbarian ther-uurph"

"NO!"

The Fighting Fraxenella withdrew the hastily inserted bottle of dressing from his mouth. He was about to ask yet again when the van swerved to avoid a portion of flaming dresser.

Dressing Lad struggled to keep the vehicle on the road yet miss the shards of broken lamp that scattered across the highway.

"Salad Barbarian know where Mr. Spuddy Head strike next."

"The store with the huge open gash in the front and hundreds of people screaming in terror away from it?"

"Oh. Salad Barbarian thinking 'Dairy Queen' but that probably good guess too."

The engine roared as Dressing Lad gunned it to life. It lurched and bumped across the median and into the main parking lot. Terrified shoppers scattered out of it's way, eager for the local superheroes to deal with the menace inside. A few waved to the stoic green guardian. The Barbarian had his game face on. A look of pure determination on his face, his jaw squared, leaning forward just slightly. He looked good.

He should have, it was a look he had practiced for days. Mostly the days after the Bolting Bee ran a front-page picture of him waving to the camera like a goof before The Piston soundly brained him with an I-beam. It was not one of the high points of his career.

The van skidded to a stop. A lamp shattered against the side panel.

"Hi, welcome to Ikea." a disembodied voice welcomed them.

The heroes looked around a bit puzzled before looking up to see the clerk, dangling upside down from the ceiling.

"Uhm, Hi?" Dressing Lad asked tentively. "Are you ok?"

"Well, yes, once folks stop asking me 'So how's it hangin'?'", the clerk said with a mocking tone that conveyed all the irritation he felt.

The Barbarian lowered his finger and looked a bit disappointed.

"Say, you wouldn't have seen a potato with a bent to destroy all animal life?"

"I think so," the clerk said between swings. "Could you describe him?"

Dressing Lad and the Barbarian looked at each other with a bit of an exasperated look.

"He's about yay high, brown with green arms and legs, drives a walking machine of destruction and is basically a sociopathic talking potato."

"Oh yeah the tuber with a 'tude."

"Ah yes, quite clever.." Dressing Lad said finally understanding the set up. "how long have you been working on that one?"

"Since I've been dangling here. Hey, had to do something." The clerk replied.

"Great.. great.. keep your day job" Dressing Lad replied with a lack of appreciation. "So, where is he?"

"Well, he kinda lost it when I told him about the filling for the sofas and said something about needing to liberate the carpeting. You might want to check the living rooms area."

Dressing Lad and Salad Barbarian headed off toward the interior of the store.

"HEY!" the clerk yelled down, "Aren't you gonna get me down from here?"

Dressing Lad took a few steps back toward the clerk when he heard the Barbarian hit the wall. The vibrations shook the clerk free of his hook and he fell screaming and bouncing off of the parked Potato walker.

"ThAnk YoOuu…" the Clerk moaned as he waved in appreciation.

"Man Welcome" the Barbarian replied earnestly and charged into the main area.

Dressing Lad hesitated wondering if the clerk was ok or feeling particularly litigious, but then decided to continue after the Barbarian, justifying his rapid departure by needing to catch up with the Green Guardian. He never saw the store manager when he turned the corner.

A combination of youth and training had Dressing Lad back on his feet within a second, the older and larger manager was not as quick to respond. "Are you ok?" Dressing Lad asked the prone man.

"What, oh, yeah, I'm fine, I guess, I saw your associate and figured I should probably get out of the way."

The Barbarians baritone voice echoed among the tables and chairs. "Bad Mr. Spuddy Head! No Tater-tot!"

"You Idiot!" Arnold's voice replied, "I'm not a cannibal!" It was followed by the crash of something porcelain.

"No! Mr. Spuddy Head is potato!" something wooden cracked and shattered. Both the manager and Dressing Lad winced.

The sounds of battle continued. Dressing Lad figured the best way to keep the manager from developing a permanent nervous tick would be to distract him. Dressing Lad held out his hand in a comforting manner. "So, hi, I'm Dressing Lad, the Condiment Crusader. I guess you probably didn't get much of an introduction from my partner, the Salad Barbarian."

"Uh, hi, I'm uh, Tom Barber, regional sales manager."

"Really," Dressing Lad said with a bit more interest. "Are you here for something special? PLATE!" The two ducked as a plate whirred by and shattered against the wall.

"Well, yeah, we were looking at ways to get more folks into the store. CHAIR!"

"Really, but look at this chair, not only does it look aerodynamic, we just found out it was."

"True, but for whatever reason we're TABLE! not getting the kind of draw ARMOUIRE! that we do at other stores."

"Hmm, have you considered getting a RECLINER! spokesperson? Maybe someone with BUREAU! local draw?"

"I suppose, but finding someone the public SOFA! trusts is OTTOMAN! difficult."

"Well, I suppose that I might be able to work a deal if you're interested."

"Hmm, I'd have to talk it over with headquarters…"

"Well, if it's any help, here's my card. Our portfolio is available at that website. And you can leave us an email if you want to go over any details. Say, you notice anything?"

The two stood listening to the silence for a few seconds before realizing that they were listening to silence. Dressing Lad quietly started walking toward the scene of the frey. They reached an area of moderate destruction with the Barbarian going through the drawers of a large cabinet set.

"Mr. Spuddy Head? Hello?" The Barbarian poked and searched looking for his adversary. In one hand he held a lump of brown and green.

"Uhm, Barbarian? Where's Arnold?"

"Salad Barbarian not sure." The Great Green Guardian said as he scratched his head. "Salad Barbarian know where part of him is.." He held up a portion of vine attached to a largeish chunk of potato. "But Barbarian not sure where rest of Mr Spuddy Head is."

"Hmm, well, he couldn't have gotten far." The two spent the better part of the next hour looking through under and between various bits of furniture to no avail. The spud was gone. They gave up the search and returned to the van.

"You think Mr. Spuddy Head come back?"

"I don't know, Barbarian" Dressing Lad said in foreboding thought. "I just don't know."

"Then Salad Barbarian need to be prepared."

"I suppose so my friend. I suppose so."

 

"Dressing Lad develop echo?"

 

Dressing Lad just glared.

 

"One thing Salad Barbarian not understand"

"What's that?"

"Mr. Spuddy Head went all nutty when he see big soft couch. But couch made out of leather. Mr. Spuddy Head not care about leather, right?"

"Yeah. I think it was what was inside of the couch."

"Ah. Salad Barbarian understand. Some people not like extra padding."

 

The van continued its way down the highway past a rolling field of green with a small pond. Near the edge a flurry of geese suddenly took to wing against the rays of the setting sun. The reddening sky glittered off the droplets falling from the geese as the fading light played against their wingtips. It was the kind of image featured in thousands of starving artist paintings but it was completely lost to the two lone figures standing hip deep in the pond.

"I'm really starting to hate ponds JB." a gray glad figure confided to his compatriot, his brightly colored outfit dimmed by layers of muck. "You sure that Roger hasn't picked up anything?"

"Nothing, Chris, we've asked every single goose we've been able to find. They don't know anything about Boise."

"Are they lying or something?"

"Chris, they're geese, they don't lie. They don't have a reason to lie."

"Oh great so that means we've been on a wild .." Chris stopped in mid statement. His face went from annoyed to shocked to furious in one smooth movement.

"NO!" Chris yelled out to no one in particular. He raised up a fist and stormed about very angrily. "NO! I'm not letting you get away with it. Not two that bad in the same one. You hear me! I refuse!" Chris folded his arms and dropped hard into a small pool of muck in protest. He instantly regretted it but refused to let anyone know that.

"Chris?" JB asked his brother, "who are you yelling at?"

"He knows who I'm yelling at." Chris snapped back, still thoroughly agitated.

JB looked around a bit trying to see exactly who 'he' was. "Uhm, Chris, look we're both kind of tired, and we've been wandering around for days. Let's grab a cab back home and take a nice long break, huh?"

Chris calmed down a bit. "Yeah, I suppose you're right. Let's go home."

It took them a while to flag down a cab willing to let them in, and Chris had to agree to pay not only the route, but cleaning charges for the cab in advance, in cash. It was late when they finally got home. The only sign of life coming from the loft was the sound of a chugging washing machine and the pizza delivery guy dropping off two large with a six pack.

 

Late the next morning, the two heroes once again emerged from their apartment.

"So when do we tell Wallace that we think Bob isn't going to attack with geese?"

"Food first, Wallace later" Chris commanded as he hit the remote for the car.

"You're still hungry? Geez, you ate a whole pizza last night."

"JB that was the first thing we'd eaten in the past week that didn't come out of a Seven-Eleven or a vending machine. I'm kinda looking forward to getting back to the routine, and with any luck your girlfriend will be working at Louie's."

"Would you give me a break about that? Look I told you that was Myron's fault. He had the hots for her years ago when he passed through here."

"Yeah, yeah, sure, sure." Chris turned the switch to the car, but the car didn't quite sound right. Neither Chris nor JB noticed that, however. They were both staring in mild shock at the face of Bob staring back from the console.

"Hi there, it's me, Bob. I hope that you two didn't mind my little diversion. I needed to keep the two of you busy for a bit while I took the liberty to make a quick modification to your car. Fortunately for you, it's not a bomb. I have little interest in killing you. Well, at least not right at this moment. You see I need you for a little experiment first."

Chris and JB tried to open the doors or roll down the windows to escape, unfortunately the well made and fortified car proved itself to be just as hard to get out as it was to get in.

"You see, a while ago I got a little unexpected bonus. It seems that due to a rather fortuitous accident my intellect has been raised by several points. Mind you, I'm not a bad man per se. Sure, I'm striving for a bit of world domination and the fearful adoration of a small populace, but really who isn't?"

Chris pulled out his phone not really knowing what he'd do, but figured he might be able to call out and warn someone. There was no signal, the phone was dead.

"Anyway, I've been kind of keeping myself busy with little projects around the house. Things like cleaning up my computer, rewiring the basement, building a robotic goose with a built in holoprojector, oh, and one more little project. Unfortunately unlike my other projects, this one needed someone else to help me test it out. Gentlemen, I congradulate you. You're going to be part of history."

Several lights began blinking and a odd whining noise began to groan to life.

"Just think of it, in a matter of seconds you two will have gone where no human has ever gone before. In a way I'm quite jealous of you. Quite soon, you two will be the very first humans to actually see, up close and personal, exactly what Saturn looks like."

Chris and JB both instantly stopped what they were doing and stared at Bob's grinning face.

"Of course, shortly after that you'll both die of oxygen depravation and probably severe radiation poisoning. I expect you probably won't last longer than two or three minutes really, but it'll probably be much more humane that the way that the Russians treated the dog they launched in Sputnik. Oddly fitting in a way, don't you think?"

"Which brings me to why you two are the ones that I picked to be the bold, albeit short lived explorers." Bob sighed and leaned a bit closer to the camera. He took on the visage of a deeply disappointed father. "Guys, how can I put this lightly? You shot my dog."

"Still, I guess I should also say thank you because as I was racing to save her life, I got 'zapped' by the same little device that gave Chris his powers. It was quite a boon, and that's why I didn't just kill you both outright."

"Well, by now the drive unit has probably warmed up and hopefully you two haven't done anything silly like broken or cracked a window. Rapid decompression can be very messy. So sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!" Bob broke a wide grin. "Oh, and do try to enjoy the final few minutes of your existence. Buh-bye"

There was the sound of thunder in the alley as the Maxima vanished from the alley.


Uh, err, uhm…

So, they're hiding in the alley somewhere right?
They're not?
You mean that they're IN THE CAR!?

But won't that mean?

Is this the end of Chris and JB?

Has the Author once again written himself into a corner?

Will I have to go and update my resume?

Tune in next time for

Take a right on Titan
or
Kiss Uranus Goodbye

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