Early fall is a time of color and change in Idaho. It's as if the land gives up one last burst of energy before the rains and snow set in and the world surrenders to the muted grays of winter.
But winter was still a month away and now was the time for that one last outdoor fling. People found excuses to take longer walks this time of year. Restaurants kept out the tables just a little longer, and it's not uncommon for football or soccer games to spontaneously break out in open fields.
It is uncommon for about half the participants to be lying unconscious on the field.
It's also a bit unusual for a soccer game to be missing the ball.
Many of these details were not lost on Chris as he watched the game with a puzzled expression.
JB opened the passenger door and slid back into the car. "When I asked the woman at the desk, she just kinda looked at me funny. Apparently there just aren't any Canadian food restaurants around here. She did suggest a few donut shops and a..."
"A coffee chain?" Chris interjected, while continuing to study the players.
JB was used to his brother some how guessing the end of his sentences. The semi-surprised look was more a courtesy than a register of any sort of surprise. This time, however, it gave JB a chance to notice Chris' stare.
He stopped and stared out at what had captured his brother's attention.
The players were deftly maneuvering about with an obvious team captain calling out positions for each of the players. Oddly it took JB several seconds to also realize that there was a noticeable lack of ball, Frisbee or any other sort of marker to tell who's winning or who's losing. Occasionally, one player would tackle another while the other players looked on.
"What the hell are they doing?"
Chris waited a few seconds to see if any stroke of insight might arrive. It didn't.
"I have no idea."
"It's like we're watching a biker fight that's playing according to Hoyle's rules."
Chris nodded a bit. It was an apt description. "JB, take a look at those guys over at the far end of the field."
JB squinted a bit. "Which end?"
"Well, I'd be tempted to say the visitor goal if this made any sense."
JB looked. There were three guys lying on the ground with one guy apparently setting an arm. Then JB saw one of the guys talking on a cell phone and relaying hand signals to the captain. Occasionally, the two of them would glance toward Chris and JB. They were trying very hard not to be obvious about it, but Chris' paranoia shot right through the ruse. Apparently they were just as interested in the spectators as they were in the game.
"Apparently, we're not expected."
"Not by either side." Chris replied and pointed at the home team's spotter. He too was glancing over his shoulder, but was trying to be far less conspicuous about it. Chris' well trained paranoia naturally made him far more interesting than the visitor team.
"Hey," JB asked, "doesn't that guy who just got blindsided work over at the coffee shop?"
"Yeah, I think so. That's why I guessed the woman told you to go ask at a coffee shop."
"Seems like he saved ourselves a trip. Let me go ask him what he knows about our new friends." JB said the Detective stepped into the role.
"Sic'em Myron," Chris jibbed. The Detective shot him a withering glance. Chris just smiled a bit more. "I'm going to go talk to the other side and find out what this is about."
The two exited the car and headed across the field. Instantly both spotters spoke very quickly into their phones and hung up. The home team spotter called out some command and the players began to scatter.
Chris instantly recognized the spotter's voice. He was one of the RUA idiots that broke into the loft! No wonder they were trying not to be noticed. Chris yelled out for them to stop but the team was far faster, which was impressive considering that they were also carrying wounded.
'Wind sprints' Chris thought as he struggled to keep up. 'I need to do more wind sprints'
He rounded a wooded area and saw the RUA trucks lined up in the far parking lot. They roared to life as the agents leapt into place. The wounded were nearly hurled into the back of a larger truck as it started to pull away.
That was not good.
Chris reached into his coat and pulled out his wire gun. The shot rang out and it latched itself to the back of one of the trucks. He felt the line tension as the truck started to speed off. Chris hooked the lanyard to his arm and hit the recoil button.
The force pulled him off his feet and he flew toward the back of the truck. The truck accelerated far faster than a truck that size should have been able to. Chris was thrown far past his mark and came within inches of pounding himself through the outdoor restrooms. Chris began to suddenly reconsider his actions as the truck continued to hurtle down the road with him in tow.
Fortunately Chris' flapping coat managed to generate enough drag to keep him from dragging along the pavement at seventy miles an hour. Somehow he doubted that he or his body armor would appreciate that. He continued to press the recoil button harder as if that would help make the tiny motor work any faster.
At times it would, but then a sharp turn would overload it and Chris would be thrown out further.
The end came rather suddenly when a hand bearing wire clippers ended the ride. Chris screamed and put his head down strait, afraid of what the recoiling wire would do to anything soft it happened to slice through.
Fortunately that was not a problem, as the now liberated recoil system could easily retract the length of wire without incident.
Unfortunately, that could not be said for the plate glass window, several walls, and a rather large assortment of Garden Grrls action figures that had just arrived for the holiday rush. Chris just remembered hearing a good deal more crunching than he ever wanted to and the feeling that he just belly-flopped off the high dive about seven or eight times.
As the world slowly regained focus it was filled with the recorded battle cries of the sultry plastic superheroines mingled with the steady drizzle of plaster and Korean epithets.
It took him a few seconds to realize that the reason his butt was vibrating wasn't due to any of those.
C'mon, C'MON! Pick up the err answer your.. no. Look, I know you're there, say something.
Ah-HA! Yeah!! JB! JB! Great I got you too.
What do you mean 'Who is this?' Who else would be calling you on your translator implant? It's me, Zrng.
Ah, well, a bit cramped really, and the manacles itch..
Good question really. I'm not totally certain where I am. Although, provided you humans have yet to make cement space craft, I think I can safely presume that I am at least somewhere on the planet and within half a qbqrpnsybbz from you.
Ah, I see I guess that's not something in the translator's lexicon. Well, I can presume that we're both within the same province since the signal seems to be strong enough. Granted, if I had access to my proper tools even that wouldn't be a problem.
Ah, right, uhm, it's probably because, well, the Grylix invented the translator implant, you see. Of course once we made it the Rhankaunians figured out how to make a bazillion of them for practically nothing. Thank the Maker that we retained licensing fees for the devices.
Err, well, maybe, we might be interested in uh, seeing if your planet might, well, be interested in buying a few billion or so but that's not really important, now is it? Look I'm still in a bit of a bind here and I'd really appreciate it if you and your brother were to help out. Well, once Chris finishes dealing with the owner of the shop he's apparently destroyed.
Oh, he's mostly ok. Apparently he had to make an unscheduled stop in, or perhaps through, I'm not really sure, he was kind of fuzzy and most of what I got was from the rather angry gentleman screaming in the background.
No, unfortunately, I don't really know where he is. He wasn't certain himself. I'd guess if you were to look around for a toyshop with a significantly larger entrance than normal, he'd be toward the back of it. I trust that he's not near you?
I see. Well where are you?
I thought you didn't like coffee?
I thought the folks that worked at those were called Barristers not Canadians?
Bar-is-tas. Ah sorry. My fault. I'll have to see about improving the thesaurus too I see.
Canadians. You know, the p'jo-jos that decided to pick me up were asking about the Canadians
What's a sokkar game?
Look, tell me when you get here.
Oh, I'll set up a locator loop. You'll find me. It'll be child's play. Oh, but you may want to stay away from anything that's got a lot of metal in it.
Uh, yeah I suppose it could cause signal interference too.
"Warmer, we're getting warmer." JB said as they walked along. Chris had an air about him that was somehow darker than the pitch of night that surrounded them. The pool of luminance cast by his flashlight bounced against the pavement with a nearly audible thud.
JB did a quick circle around his brother stopping toward the right of him. Then turned around suddenly. "I think That way". He pointed off to the left, down an even darker row of abandoned warehouses. Chris' shoulders slumped.
"You sure?" Chris nearly whined.
"Yeah, sort of. Look, surprisingly it's not that easy to tell."
Chris grumbled, then turned and headed in the indicated direction. "Exactly when did Boise become the empty warehouse capital of the free world?"
Chris stopped and looked at JB not quite sure if the Detective had provided yet another tidbit of useless trivia.
"Ok, I'm lying. I just figured it'd break the mood." JB smiled, which in the offset light made him look like a homicidal lunatic. Chris wondered what he looked like and if it might be useful next time he's out for a stroll.
They continued walking.
"Ok, definitely warmer."
For the next half hour JB continually reported back the state, occasionally shifting his stride or bouncing on occasion.
"You OK?" Chris asked, flatly. "Anything checking out early?"
"No." JB said, a bit embarrassed. "It's not that."
They turned a corner to find themselves nearly adrift in a sea of utility trucks.
"Definitely warmer." JB announced needlessly.
Chris flicked off his lamp and hunkered down to think of what to do next.
He didn't have to wait that long.
The battle cry was accompanied by a near blinding burst of brilliant light that filled the area. Several helicopters seemed to appear from nowhere and filled the air with the steady thrum of their blades. In the next instant the warehouse lit up from the inside with hundreds of laser sites as windows dropped away to reveal very active and very armed missile arrays tracking the copters every move.
Chris and JB dove for any sort of cover.
Chris fished around his coat pockets for a few seconds before pulling out a small hand mirror. He carefully raised it up like a periscope to survey the scene.
"Well whaddya know. It's NAFTA."
"What? They're here too?" JB asked trying to see whatever Chris was looking at.
"Dunno. But we've got Americans and Canadians in a Mexican Standoff. Pretty much covers all of 'em doesn't it."
Both sides were evenly matched and neither was about to give in. There was a crackle in the loudspeaker system and a voice boomed out.
"This is the Canadian Special Operations Command. You are in violation of the Canadian Purchase Act of 1985 and are hereby ordered to surrender all arms and cease these acts of rebellion."
Chris and JB exchanged puzzled looks. "Canadian Purchase Act?" JB asked.
Chris shrugged his shoulders. "Dunno. It's not like they teach Canadian history in school. Heck, I don't even think they teach it in Canada."
"Stuff it in your touques! That treaty is no longer valid!" A voice inside the warehouse called back. "You've expanded your non-terran dealings without declaring intent. Plus a specialized team of your operatives stole and destroyed evidence and destroyed our Embassy in Ottowa."
"Your -- Embassy-- destroyed several city blocks and nearly leveled Parliament. And if that Psycho Americana wasn't stopped "
"Well, what do you call.. THIS?"
Then the sound of something heavy hitting the pavement outside of the door.
"Off hand? I'd call it a short green guy in handcuffs."
Chris and JB both looked at each other again then leapt together over the small truck they were hiding behind. Somewhere just past the 4 yard mark, Karl took over from JB and Zrng disappeared in a brightly colored flash.
Upon a moment's reflection Chris probably didn't really need to run out there.
That moment came when he discovered he was now the center of a very large number of scopes, lights and other sighting mechanisms.
Chris then did what came naturally to him. He bluffed.
"Ok, so just what the hell are you people doing here?" He demanded of the blur that surrounded him.
After a moment of silence "Excuse me, but who are.."
"That's just none of your damn business." Chris shot back. "I asked you a question."
The voice from within the warehouse spoke next "Uh, I think he's the local tight. The Strayhound or something."
"That's Grayhound!" Chris yelled. When needed, Chris could be very loud. Now was one of those times. "And I'll have you know that this is my city you've currently decided to play in."
"This is a matter of national security" Both voices replied in unison. It was unplanned, and Chris could almost feel the anger rise in their voices because of it.
"No, " Chris corrected vocally, "this is an unscheduled arms exhibition in a warehouse district, and while I'd normally be happy for you to decide to remove a few of these damn warehouses, the folks that have asked me to protect them and their fine city, would be. So if you DON'T mind, LEAVE!"
There was a moment of relative silence, if the general throb of helicopter blades could be considered quiet.
"And what if we don't?" Came one reply.
Chris folded his arms and turned to address the general area that the voice seemed to come from.
"Let me ask you. Do you know what I'm capable of doing?" Chris said clearly, but less forcefully than before. The air around him grew thick with self-confidence. "That blur that whisked away our roommate, and your prisoner I'd add, was my sidekick, Puppyboy. I'd note that is not his principle strength, as he has previously knocked busses out of mid air, communicates with woodland creatures, he's able to deflect bullets with his own shots and has a mind shaper than all of you combined." He let that sink in. "Oh, yeah, did I mention he's my sidekick?"
"Now based on that, do I have to show you what I'M capable of doing, or are you going to pick up your toys and get the hell out of my town?" Chris filled the last words with as much contempt and anger as he could muster. The brim of his hat covered his eyes from the glare.
A few moments passed, then as if on cue the lights shut off and the air filled with the sound of retreating heavy artillery. Chris waited for the Canadians to depart then turned toward the warehouse. "You. Out!" he commanded.
The heavy door rolled up and a number of utility trucks roared to life. Chris watched a number of them depart then surreptitiously flicked a small packet of gel on the road. He reached out a hand and as one of the truck tires became locked firmly in the gels grasp, Chris grabbed the door handle at the same time and opened the driver's door. The occupants of the suddenly stopped vehicle looked at Chris, somewhat terrified by what they believed had just happened.
"Oh, one other thing," Chris said calmly to the occupants of the truck. "The green guy? He's with us. He's not with the Canadians, you, the Koreans, The Free Range Puritans, or anyone else you get a wild hair about. If your curious, he saved this orbiting chunk of rock from someone who wanted to host a planet wide barbeque so if I were you, I'd be very nice to him in the future. In fact you may want to send him a nice six pack or some flowers or something and a note saying your sorry and you'll never do that again." Chris leaned in a bit more. "Because if you do, you'll make me - very - angry. You wouldn't like that, would you?"
The occupants violently shook their heads. Chris smiled. "Good. That's very good to hear." Now, go catch up to your friends before they get worried." Chris closed the door and checked that the Super Spirit Glue Solvent had reduced the content of the pack to a more liquid state. He waved at the occupants who smiled nervously and waved back weakly before roaring the engine and driving off.
Chris crossed his arms and smiled at the shrinking taillights.
"Wow." Zrng said as he and JB walked up behind Chris. "And you did that without soiling yourself. You've got a career in galactic politics ahead of you."
Chris placed a hand on his stomach and winced, "That's only because all I've been eating is that damn Mount'n Man Munch crap that JB's got. That stuff binds harder than mortar."
JB frowned. "It's good for you. Lots of fiber."
"Fiber good," Chris replied. "Sugar coated loofa sponges, bad. Well, might as well start walking. It's a hike back to Boise. Hmm, should have asked one of them for a lift while I was at it."
Zrng laughed. "Oh, yeah, some omnipotent angry demigod you'd be then. 'I'll call forth the wrath of Xyzzy, provided someone has change for the phonecall.'."
JB and Chris both laughed.
Zrng, fished a small device out of his pocket. "Besides, no need to walk when we can travel in style." He pressed a nub and his shuttle shimmered into view.
JB's jaw dropped, "How.. How they heck did you?"
Zrng pointed to one of the other nubs. "Homing beacon. Never conduct a trip planet side without one." He strode off towards his ship with the Bowser Brothers chasing after him.
"Shotgun" JB called out. Then looked inside the craft. "Oh, uh, well, never mind." There was no passenger side seat.
Zrng settled in quickly and began flicking controls on. There were four other seats in the craft, Chris and JB climbed into two of them. "Actually, Zrng, If you don't mind, can we stop by a park about ten miles away to pick up my car?" Chris asked.
"No problem. Just let me check my messages and.."
Zrng stared at the screen for a few moments.
Zrng continued to stare at the screen "Oh .. fuvg."
Neither Chris nor JB really needed a translation of that.
Nearly thirty episodes later and finally he gets around to wrapping up that thread.
What further fun awaits the Doggie Duo?
Does the CSOC and RUA believe
Chris or did he just ruin the moment?
Do I even want to know what the
Super Spirit Gum is really used for?
Tune in next time for:
Sledge of Discontent
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