Chapter 5

The first report came in from the fishing fleet as it headed out for the night. Their ships were located just past Pelican Island. They reported seeing a bright flash of light. Seconds later they felt the concussion wave as a light breeze and heard the thunderous explosion as the warehouse disappeared in a ball of flame.

On land, windows in the adjacent buildings were blown in from the force. The low fog glowed bright with the flame lighting the area in a flickering orange hue. The roar of the flames was accompanied by the wail of car alarms and the staccato of metal as it crashed back to earth.

A minute passes, one of the car alarms, one belonging to a silver Maxima parked near by, cuts.

'Hmm,' thought Chris, 'good remote. It even works when I'm dead. Still, I never really thought the afterlife would be so…. gravelly…'

Chris felt the sharp bits of rock against the back of his unprotected head. In the distance Chris could hear the sirens from the fire engines that were racing to the scene. The fact that the peaceful afterlife was a fair bit noisier than he had expected made him slightly curious. That, and the fact that his armpits were starting to get really sore.

He carefully opened one eye. Stretched out, skyward was his hand, holding the remote to his car.

Then he opened the other.

'Odd. Heaven looks a fair lot like Boise.' He sniffed the night air and coughed. 'Heaven smells a lot like Boise'. He slapped himself. It hurt, and he realized he probably shouldn't have slapped himself where that DSH clerk had kicked him a couple of days ago.

Reality slowly crept into his addled brain.

'Holy Cow! I'm not dead!!'

Chris bolted upright, well, he tried at least. His coat collar was hung up on something. He reached behind his head to see what it was and felt JB's clenched hand.

Chris spun around fast. He remembered his unprotected brother had been standing right behind him. JB lay, face down on the gravelly rooftop they were on. One hand clutching his brothers coat color, the other stretched out above his head as if…

JB moaned a bit and released Chris' collar.

"JB!! JB!! Are you ok?" Chris asked his younger brother, careful not to move him.

"What?" JB asked, "yeah, I'm… fine…" JB sat up. Chris just looked at him. JB didn't have a scratch on him except some dimpling from the fine roof gravel JB was brushing off his face. "Chris, what happened?"

"I was about to ask you the same thing. I remember seeing the timer on the bomb and the next thing I knew we're here. I guess we must have gotten blown here by the bomb."

"Great. So where's 'here'?" JB groggily asked.

"I don't know, exactly."

Chris stood up and looked around. They were in the middle of a large area, undoubtedly the roof of some building. Chris walked toward the flashing lights and orange glow. He got to the edge of the roof and looked out over the carnage beneath them. About ten stories beneath them. To the pier. That was located across the street. Chris' conscious mind refused to do the math.

There wasn't much left of the pier, really. Just a big smoking hole with a fair number of fire teams spraying down the still burning bits. The Grayhound's subconcious mind finally managed to do the quick bit of trig and wasn't very happy with the answer it came up with, nor the amount of force required to hurl them said distance. Chris felt his chest, specifically the armor beneath his coat. 'This stuff is strong, but there's no way….'

"Crap."

Chris was a bit startled to see JB standing next to him. JB looked as if nothing had happened. Not a scratch or burn mark to be seen. He just looked out at the remnants of the pier, whistled a low note and said, "That's gonna be really expensive."


Bob's voice tried it's best to remain calm on the speakerphone. "Let me get this right. I ask you to build a small, easily diffusible bomb for the Grayhound and Puppyboy, so that they find some clues that will send them out of town for a while and you two wind up blowing up most of the pier. How much explosive did you use?"

Lenny was quick with his answer. "Boss, that stuff was a lot more powerful than you thought it was. You said it would only blow up a bit of the warehouse."

"How much explosive did you use, Mr. Lapinski?"

Lenny knew that tone of voice. He'd heard it all to often. Still, it was his mistake and he knew better than to lie to the guy who fills out his paycheck. "Well," he said, "it was that damn metric system."

"The metric system?" Bobs disembodied voice asked.

"Yeah, you said that we should use about two pounds of that plastique you left for us. Well, according to the instruction, we needed 50 milliliters of reactant. So's I multiplies the quarts by 0.94 likes I'm supposed to…."

"Uhm, aren't you supposed to divide the quarts by 0.94?" Tony asked his partner.

"Yeah, likes I said, I divides the quarts by 0.94 and get forty seven quarts."

Tony sat and tried to do the math. Something still told him that was wrong.

"Well, I still needed to convert the forty seven quarts into milliliters, so's I divided that by a t'ousand and got the right number. Mind you, it wasn't easy getting it and I might have been off by a touch."

"And what, may I ask, was 'the right number'".

"Well, err, boss I kinda forgot."

"One thousand, one hundred and seventy five gallons" Tony offered, reading the slip of paper he had taken from his coat pocket. Lenny violently waved for Tony to be quiet, but the damage had been done.

"Uh, yeah, thanks Tony, and let me tell you boss, that was a lot more than what was in that jug you left. We'll have ta' add that to the bill."

Bob was silent. What could he say?

"May I ask what you found to settle the alleged reactant deficit?"

"Well, Tony found a couple of tanks of fuel that the boats wasn't using and I found some crates with some olive green bottles with white, powdery stuff in them. They were from a company called RDX or something."


Good Morning. Our top story;

Residents of Japan Basin were awoken this morning by a powerful blast located where pier thirteen used to be. Firefighters and county officials are trying to determine the cause of the blast, but have had little luck Ken Griffith provided this report.

Firefighters and explosive experts are trying to piece together not only the old Balsa warehouse, but also clues as to why it suddenly exploded last night. The huge explosion was buffered from most of the city by the Old Blackpowder Company warehouses. While residents on the far side of the Muelles reported only minor damages, I spoke to several business owners who were not so fortunate.

"We lost everything." Vic Lee is the owner of Match Heads and Flares R Us, a store that was located on the Pier 13 next to Floatin' Phil's Fill'er'up Marine Fuel Depot.

"I can't believe that something like this would ever happen. We had crates of fireworks that we were going to be passing out for the Joan of Arc festivals."

Now all of Mr. Lee's inventory is gone. I also spoke to Mr. Hyram Lipstien of Hyram's Bagles and LOX, a local bakery famous for their hundred year old liquid oxygen fired ovens.

"This is terrible. Terrible! I've been working here for years and nothing prepared me for this. But at least I have insurance. Bill over at the Nitro Depot was just getting started."

Some witnesses report seeing two men, one dressed in gray and another reportedly with a very bad fashion sense, walking toward the building moments before the explosion. Police are not confirming if the two were, in fact, Boise's new superheroes and are not commenting whether they believe the two may have survived the blast. Witnesses and residents are asked to check their outside walls for imprints.

Reporting live from the scene, I'm Bill Griffith.
Karen?

Thank you Bill. In other news, more victims of the Boise Hum have been reported in local hospitals. Doctors report that unlike previous instances, the latest group of victims have been fixated on four notes….


Ok, JB, here's your sandwich, smoked turkey on poppy with the works, no mayo.

Thanks Chris, I know you were a bit shaken up by the whole bomb thing a few nights ago, but we're ok. I mean it's all part of the job description.

JB, we were just lucky. I still don't know why we aren't eating these on some cloud somewhere. Especially you, you weren't even wearing any real protection. I still don't understand how we got out of that without a scratch.

If it's OK with you Chris, I'd rather not dwell on that. It's a beautiful day, the sun is shining and we managed to find a bench that's overlooking a bunch of co-eds getting their tans. Life is good. So what do we know about this "Hum" thing.

I'm not sure really. I've been asking around a bit and haven't really gotten much. Apparently there has always been some sort of background hum in Boise. Some say that it goes back to the days when Indians first settled this area. I kinda doubt that.

Why?

Apparently, the hum is some sort of catchy tune that eventually leads to folks breaking out in showtunes.

Ooh, isn't there a cream for that?

It's normally pretty harmless. Folks generally join Community Theater for a week or two, get it out of their system, and return to a reasonably normal life. This one is a bit different though.

How so?

Well, normally in a year there are three, maybe four people that come down with symptoms.

How many are there now?

Well, according to the Chronicle, about two thousand three hundred and eighty.

Wow. That's one Helluva production crew for Music Man.

Yeah, but that's not the problem.

You mean you don't see the having close to three thousand people knocking door-to-door trying to sell tickets as being a problem.

That's it, normally folks who come down with the hum don't all start singing the same show tunes. You might get two or three that might have the songs from the same production stuck in their head, but for the most part each one gets something different. This time we've got everyone humming the same four notes.

Holy Close Encounters, Grayhound.

Do that again, and I'm going to hurt you.

Sorry.

But you know the really weird thing?

What?

I've been watching you since I sat down. You've just very carefully cut a portion of your sandwich off, taken out the meat and the tomatoes and handed it to that squirrel sitting beside you who is now enjoying it with a few chips on a napkin. And if I'm not mistaken, you've also given him some Mountain Dew in the cap.

Her.

Excuse me?

Her, she doesn't like tomatoes and would have preferred diet Mountain Dew.

No, really, you don't look fat.

JB?

Yeah?

Why are you telling that squirrel that she doesn't look fat?


<soothing music>
Are you or someone you know suffering from ABHS, Advanced Boise Hum Syndrome? Do you find yourself humming show tunes at inappropriate times? Do you find yourself longing for the spotlight?

We at the St. Timothy Chew ABHS center are here to help. Our trained councilors have years of experience in dealing with normal people, like you, who have fallen victim to this dehabilitating disease. They've helped hundreds of people just like you who want to get back to living a normal life and loved ones. Folks who have learned that show tunes are an addiction, but one that can be controlled.

"Hello. My name is Carol McGuiness and I'm a recovering show tune user.

When I first came down with ABHS, I thought my life was over. Oh, sure it was fun getting out, singing, dancing and hearing the applause, but it wasn't long before I found that I was neglecting my family, my job, all the things that I thought were important. I'd spend late nights at rehearsals.

I would hum Gilbert and Sullivan for days on end in my cube. Old friends and family would stop calling me because of my endless pleas for them to attend bake sales and fundraisers for our theater.

The councilors at St. Chew helped me deal with my addiction. They showed me that there's nothing wrong with small town community theater, if it's properly controlled. Thank you St. Chew.

You're not alone. There is help. Call us today.


Chris stopped dead in his tracks when he had gotten to the top of the stairs. In a calm voice that belied his slight panic he asked his brother, "What the heck is that?"

JB turned and grinned. He stood before a very large console that would have looked very much at home as the background set either for the next Star Trek movie or a GWAR concert. Hundreds of digital gauges danced indicating various levels of unknown. What wasn't glistening chrome or deep black probably still had some of the packaging plastic on it.

"Isn't it cool? It's our new stereo, the AudioTronic 3000. It just showed up today."

Chris' panic found a somewhat quavery voice. "JB, how much did it cost, and who's paying for it?"

JB ignored his brother for the moment. It was probably safer that way anyway. "I can't believe that they shipped it already. This thing is the coolest!"

"Why? Does it use liquid nitrogen to cool down the amps?"

"When I read about it in one of the catalogs you handed me, I knew that this would be perfect for our crime fighting needs."

Chris, being dressed in his 'civies' removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. The catalogs, he thought, oh God, the catlogs.

"It has can scan over seven hundred channels simultaneously including AM, FM, Cable, shortwave, longwave, police, air, weather…"

"What? It doesn't get subethera? I think you got ripped off, brah."

JB finally reacted to his brother. "Don't worry, it's upgradable."

"Of course it is. How could they afford the gas for their fleet of yachts if it wasn't?"

"C'mon Chris, I got it on sale. It was 20% off."

"Sounds like they still needed to take another 80% or so."

JB sighed, "Ok, so it was a bit pricey, but they do offer a 90 day refund period. All we have to do is keep the original shipping materials"

"Good, we needed furniture anyway." Chris said as he inspected the very large boxes strewn toward the back of the loft.

"It's also got dolby surround sound and a built in answering machine. Here, check this out." JB flipped through a phonebook, wait, strike that, the instruction manual. He scanned down the page reading as he went.

"Set mode to Phone… select mailbox number 1… enter the code for the mailbox… renter password… verify the time… ok… ok… enter setup mode… menu… options… personal greetings…"

"Thank God, it's simple to use. Imagine if it was complicated?"

"… press record." JB picked up the microphone and said "You've reached the Grayhound.", and then pressed "Stop"

JB's hands flew over the controls pressing buttons, moving sliders and touching screens. "Now, lets turn up the echo a bit and add in full digital 3D effects, lay in a funky groove mix and…. Viola. We hit Play and.."

YOU'VE REACHED
Hello my baby, Hello my honey, Hello my Ragtime Gal. Send me a kiss by wire. Baby, my heart's on fire. If you refuse me, Honey, you'll lose me, then you'll be left alone; Oh baby, Telephone, and tell me I'm your own.
THE GRAYHOUND.

 

 

"Ok, maybe that was volume."

Oddly, the afterlife still seemed to appear a good deal like Boise to Chris. He slowly opened his eyes and raised himself up onto his elbows. In testament to the original industrial construction of the building, most of the windows remained intact and roof was still in place. A fine shower of dust slowly filtered down through the sunlight.

But there was something else Chris had almost been able to pick out.

"JB? Oh, JB?" Chris waved to his brother to get his attention attempting to get past JB's raging tinnitus. He mouthed very clearly and pantomimed to his brother, "turn the volume DOWN, and play that again."


MsRE:   How goes the summer semester, Bob?
BM_BSev_682:   Well, I got a C on my first project. Tannutus didn't feel that it was chaotic enough
Scarab64:   That's because you were aiming too small, Bob, you gotta think big.
BM_BSev_682:   A space based laser system isn't big enough?
Scarab64:   A space based cat toy isn't big enough.
MsRE:  

Nick, be nice, Bob did manage to make more out of it than you would have.

Scarab64:   Yeah, yeah, sure. But he can't top my latest scheme.
PrfDoom:  

Are you finally building that sandstorm generator I sent you plans for?

Scarab64:  

Nah, something far more nefarious.

MsRE:   Tell, tell!
Scarab   I've resurrected a number of world class footballers as my personal army.
PrfDoom:  

You've what?

Scarab64:   These tireless warriors will be able to kick and head-butt my Scarab Bombs all over the city, and to disguise them, I've wrapped them in traditional Egyptian wraps.
PrfDoom:   ROFL
Scarab64:   What?? WHAT??
MsRE:   You've created an army of Soccer Mummies.
Scarab64:   Yeah So?
PrfDoom:   Do they drive Mini-vans of Doom?
Scarab64:   No, they
PrfDoom:  

They strike terror in the heart of the city because they keep parking their SUVs in the compact car spots.

MsRE:   Hey Tony, back off of Nick. I'm sure he's got it all under control.
Scarab64:   Thank you Kristine.
MsRE:   No problem. I'll be interested in seeing how you wrap this up. ^_^
PrfDoom:  

:D

BM_BSev_682:   Hey, cut it out guys. Look, this isn't about how we wreak chaos, only that we do, right?
PrfDoom:   Even if it means lines of undead at Starbucks? ;)
BM_BSev_682:   Cool it Tony. We have a role in society. They may not like it or understand, but if it wasn't for us, well, we all know what would happen, right?
PrfDoom:   That's just a load of crap, Bob. Has anyone actually seen proof?
MsRE:  

Yes. Tony, he's not kidding. Heck, Krullux is a nut job, but he isn't a liar. Ask him to show you what he's got next semester.

BM_BSev_682:   Besides, why would he fake it?
Scarab64:   He couldn't have faked it. It looks too good. His crap looks like rejects from an art deco nightmare.
PrfDoom:   Ok, ok, but there's one thing that I still don't get.
MsRE:   What's that?
PrfDoom:   Why don't we just come out and announce it to everyone?
BM_BSev_682:   Because, that would be telling ;)

JB jumped over the trash cans that were thrown into the alley. Ahead the two thugs raced toward safety. Chris and JB has spotted the two mugging a woman. She was safe, but the two immediately chased after the two assaulters. JB was closer to the assailants, and Chris was even more certain that he really needed to start jogging, or get a bike, or something. Still, he was managing to stay only a few steps behind JB.

Then it happened.

One punk drew a gun and fired.

"Crap! I'm OK, Chris, he missed me! I think they ran around that corner."

JB had cleared the fence and was a few steps down the way before he realized his brother wasn't behind him.

"Crimany, Chris, join a health club, or cut down on the donuts or something. Or maybe we can just start chasing after eighty year old chain smoking villains who have the gout. At least that way you might be able to catch them whenever it's raining."

"Chris?"

JB ran back a few steps. His brother was lying in a puddle.

Chris wasn't moving.


Ok… so we've got a plague of show tunes, some sort of weird conspiracy brewing with the DeVry class of 2000, and a bloody sick author who loves to torment his hero! I'm sorry. That was uncalled for. I mean it's not like the lead character gets blown up then shot or anything!!

Deep breaths, calm thoughts. Doctor said I shoudn't get my blood pressure up
oooohhhhhhhhmmmm…….

Ah, so where was I?

Oh that's right, tune in next time for:

Singing For Your Supers
or
The Power of Cheese.


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