The electronic door to Cousin Beano's Grocery Store slid open.
"Do you sit up late at night trying to figure out new ways to embarrass me?"
"Salad Barbarian just try to strike up conversation."
"You were talking to the lettuce section."
"Salad Barbarian thought that maybe they were relative. One of those could even be Salad Barbarian Mother."
"Barbarian, you realize that the heads of lettuce that might even be remotely related to you are probably.." Dressing Lad caught himself. He really didn't feel like explaining what Salad Bars are usually for, or try to explain the uneasy feelings he always got watching the Barbarian tuck into a large Caesar salad.
"Probably are not those." Dressing Lad said with a smile and began to quickly pile the groceries into the back of the Barbarian Van. He prayed for some sort of distraction.
"Salad Barbarian not really under "
The Dressing Phone rang. Dressing Lad dove for it. Cool Ranch splattered the side of his head as the phone rang a second time. Dressing Lad closed the bottle replaced it and pulled the phone out of his belt. 'Oh, having a phone that looks like a bottle of Salad Dressing will be so COOL' the little annoying voice in his head reminded him as lumps of dripping sour cream dripped from his chin.
"Dressing Lad here. Oh, hey Sheriff, what's up?"
"Ooh, Tell Commissioner, Salad Barbarian say 'Hi!'"
"Why yes, Sheriff, he's standing right next to me waving like an idiot. Why do you ask? Uh-huh. I see. A Bird feeder? Sheriff, not to impune you're fine deputies and the local constabulary but Torn apart? Like how torn apart? Tissue, I see. Have there been any other Ok wait I need to write these down. Three melted, two crushed, two cored, one frozen, and one just missing with chew marks on the pole. Is there any way that we can see one of these? Great, where? 1..3..6.. Trellis Ridge Got it. See you there in about twenty minutes. Later."
Dressing Lad hung up the phone and wrote a few more quick notes before he turned and walked toward the driver's side. "Hey Barbarian" he called back.
"Yes Dressing Lad."
"You can stop waving now."
Dressing Lad, Salad Barbarian and Sheriff Gordon headed into the backyard of the small cottage. Toward the middle of the yard was a pole with a forest green, metal bird feeder on top and a dowdy elderly lady near the bottom. One of the items had a large hole punched through it and was dribbling bird seed. Unfortunately, it wasn't the one that was able to talk.
"Would you look at the mess that critter made? That dad-burned feeder cost me over two hundred dollars. I tell you this, I'm getting my money back."
Salad Barbarian bent over to look at the bird seed scattered on the ground. "Ooh! Look!" He carefully scooped up a handful.
"Babies!" The Green Warrior chirped as he pointed to the seeds. "Babies Soo Cute!!!"
"Right." Dressing Lad said, a bit disturbed by the thought. "Sheriff, as I was saying.."
The Barbarian curiously sniffed the seeds, "Ooh, This one need to be changed."
"Do I want to know?" The Sheriff asked Dressing Lad.
"Do you ever?"
"Ma'am?" Dressing Lad asked the woman as she folded her arms and harrumphed. "Can you tell us what did this?"
"You betcha," The woman leaned in close and raised an eyebrow. With as much bile as she could raise she grumbled, "It was that damn squirrel!"
Dressing Lad absorbed the statement for a few beats, looked at the remains of the expensive and previously squirrel proof feeder and then back at the woman. "You mean to tell me that a squirrel did that?" he said as he cocked a thumb at the twisted remains.
"Well it t'weren't no dang Budgie. That good fer nuthin squirrel came flying out of nowhere, hovered for a few seconds then landed on the bird ledge. Well, that lousy feeder closed like they said it would which just got that squirrel all sorts of riled up. Next thing I know he a chittering at the box like there's no tomorrow. Well I was smiling like a honeymoon bride at first. Then that stupid critter leapt back into the air and punched his way straight through my feeder. If I ever get my hands on that rodent! "
"Err, thank you ma'am." Dressing Lad smiled nervously and walked over to the Sheriff. Salad Barbarian was singing some sort of monotone lullaby to the seeds.
"That's why I didn't call in Animal Control. Pretty much matches the other reports as well."
Dressing Lad stood with a bewildered look on his face as he connected the dots. "Sheriff, you're not telling me that we're dealing with a "
"..squirrel with superpowers? Actually, that's the best guess we've got."
"But, how? Who? Why? "
"That's your department, DL. Mine is to make sure that the populace doesn't panic."
"Or at least has a ready supply of peanuts laced with Kryptonite. C'mon Barbarian. We've got work to do."
The Barbarian looked a bit disappointed, but gave the handful of seeds a quick kiss and gently put them on the ground. He patted them. "Nighty-night Babies."
He strode out of the yard, head high and back straight, which was fortunate because that way he didn't see the swarm of birds descend.
Salad Barbarian feel stupid.
Dressing Lad! What happen?
Oh,nothing. I just bit my tongue.
Why Salad Barbarian wear fancy bucket on head?
That's not a fancy bucket. It's a VR helmet. Hang on a second, I need to patch myself in.
DL slid the helmet into place and pressed a switch on the side. There vas an electronic chime followed by the kind of needlessly elaborate digital boot sequence popular among the Hollywood types that don't really use computers all that often.
Oooh, pretty! Salad Barbarian get Light cycle?
No Barbarian. This is just training environment.
Not that sort of train!
Oh, Diesel! Salad Barbarian like those too.
What? No. Look this will let you control your homunculus, err, vegunculus, whatever.
Salad Barbarian not swing that way.
Barbarian!! Here look at this.
A window displayed a plastic version of the Barbarian. The figure suddenly raised an arm and pointed out.
Little dolly look like Salad Barbarian. Little dolly MOVE like Salad Barbarian!
The doll then started on a series of body builder poses.
That.. dolly.. is actually a cybernetically linked automaton that was developed to minimize insertion risk during encounters with unknown hostile --what are you doing?
Little dolly a bit short in shorts.
Will you please close your fly and just listen!
Why Barbarian need little dolly?
Let me put it this way. We're going after a squirrel that can fly and rip through steel. What do squirrels eat?
Squirrel run up oak trees to eat the nu... Salad Barbarian understands.
Well, I was going to say that squirrels eat plants, but that'll work too. Like I was saying, the system uses a set of synchronized processing cores.
Ooh, that remind Salad Barbarian
The cores then pass along the signals from the suit you're wearing to the servo motors in the armature of the vegunculus. It's a wonder of miniaturization and remote controls that allow us to safely examine all sorts of areas that would be otherwise too hazardous for you or I to venture. The only draw back is that the controls are a bit too complex for you to manipulate directly, so I need to monitor you at all times. Also the battery life is a bit limited, so you need to pay attention to the small indicator at the bottom of your view, do you see it, Barbarian?
Barbarian? Where are you?
Salad Barbarian back.
Wh.. Where did you go?
Dressing Lad remind Salad Barbarian that Salad Barbarian have to take core dump.
You what? Oh man, You remembered to remove your helmet first, right?
I am NOT cleaning that up later! Look, let me turn on the vegunculus' cameras and..
Stacy Williams took his first sip of coffee as he stared out into his backyard. It was summertime. He liked summertime. Things were alive. The trees, the birds, the squirrels, the small green toy running across his deck toward the squirrel.
Stacy took another sip.
Nope, it was still there. A six inch tall plastic green guy with way too many muscles and what looked like lettuce on his head was looking at the squirrel, and apparently was making Karate-like poses.
The squirrel sat, munching on something, utterly unimpressed by the dolls display of gymnastics. Stacy could tell that the doll was somewhat bothered by this, and took to standing with one fist against his hip and the other.. well, if Stacy didn't know better, or was a bit more awake, he'd swear that the doll was lecturing to the squirrel.
If it were possible, the squirrel looked even less impressed as it continued to munch on whatever it was eating.
The doll, deciding that the lecture wasn't working, then struck a classic boxer stance. It set about a rather impressive display of fast footwork. Amazingly, the doll finally got a brief reaction from the squirrel.
The squirrel melted the doll where it stood using some sort of heat vision. It then went back to munching on the apple.
Stacy required no more coffee that morning, and made it to his office in record time, running and screaming the entire way.
"Salad Barbarian guess that not go the way Dressing Lad planned?" The Green Guardian said as he pulled off the now useless VR helmet.
"No." Dressing Lad shot back, "it didn't! Now what do we do?" The last was said mostly rhetorically.
"Dressing Lad wait here. Salad Barbarian have idea."
It took a few seconds for Dressing Lad to fully understand that very alien statement. By the time he did, Salad Barbarian had returned to the room.
"Barbarian, what are you wrapped in?"
"Barbarian use Duct Tape."
"You've wrapped yourself, head to toe in "
"In Duct Tape. Salad Barbarian get idea from Home Improvement Network."
"And, what show was that?"
"Red Green Show."
"Right. Well. You realize that you're going to have to remove that tape later, right?"
"Salad Barbarian like to burn one bridge at a time. Now is time for Salad Barbarian to fight Squirrel. Salad Barbarian know that squirrel eat.. things... Salad Barbarian prefer squirrel not to eat. Salad Barbarian confuse squirrel and make Salad Barbarian not look like main course at squirrely café! Salad Barbarian show squirrel who is boss!"
"The big green moron wrapped in duct tape?"
"Big SILVER moron wrapped in duct tape!" The Barbarian corrected, and strode out of the back of the van and into the backyard of the recently vacated Williams household.
Dressing Lad busily detached himself from the computer equipment and prepared himself to aid the Barbarian.
He didn't have to wait long.
There was an all too familiar scream followed by a resounding THUD as the Barbarian made a sizeable dent in the roof of the van.
"Barbarian! You ok?"
"Squirrel much smaller in real life. Took Barbarian by surprise." The Barbarian leapt off the roof and walked back into the yard. Mighty war cries from the Barbarian were interspersed among high pitched chittering and ground shaking thuds. Dressing Lad sat and watched the trees shake violently from the battle. Several flocks of birds took flight, escaping the carnage that ensued below.
Then there was silence.
Dressing Lad grabbed as many bottles of dressing he could carry and raced toward the backyard, fully expecting the worst.
Before he could get there, though the gate opened, and out stepped the Barbarian, significantly worse for the wear, but still very much alive.
The question of how most of the duct tape was going to be removed was also no longer quite as much of an issue.
"Barbarian? Did you do it? Did you win?"
The mighty Barbarian looked at Dressing Lad, blinked, then held out a hand. Dressing lad rummaged through his collection before pulling out a rather potent mix of blue cheese and garlic that seemed to help the Barbarian after larger battles (even though it meant he had to sleep outside for a while).
Salad Barbarian didn't rub it on himself. He simply snapped the top off the bottle and guzzled the mixture down, then sighed. He dangled the now empty bottle idly between two fingers, as if nothing unusual had just happened.
"Salad Barbarian not really win, per se.. Salad Barbarian not really lose either. Salad Barbarian and squirrel simply come to understanding."
Dressing Lad sat at the dining room table of the Salad Citidel finishing up a report on the benefits of Rasberry Vinegar in a regular diet for class when he first noticed the small flap door. It looked like a doggie door, well, no, more of a cat door, except for the fact that it was located near the top instead of the bottom.
Almost on cue, the door flapped open and in... err.. flew... well.. floated the squirrel.
Strangely, that wasn't the part that really caught Dressing Lad's attention.
The squirrel was wearing a tiny cape and mask. The cape was somewhat stylish and featured an yellow acorn on a dark green background. The mask was a matching dark green, as were the gloves and boots. The squirrel scanned the room and saw the Barbarian watching cartoons. He flew over and hovered in front of the Barbarian.
The squirrel chittered a bit.
"Squirrel have that for lunch. You sure you want it again?"
The squirrel chittered a bit more.
"Well, Squirrel and Salad Barbarian can go to Pantry."
The two walked past Dressing Lad and toward the pantry. The Barbarian opened the door. Dressing Lad leaned back in his chair, trying to see what was going on. The back wall of the pantry was lined with every sort of nut known, and quite possibly a few that weren't. There was also a wide assortment of dried fruits, peanut butters of various makes, and other tidbits that the squirrel carefully examined. Eventually the squirrel floated down to a package of cashews and chittered.
"Ok, squirrel can have cashews, but squirrel also need to have some of these."
The squirrel made a sort of disappointed chittering.
"Squirrel not argue. Pellets good for squirrel. Make squirrel healthy and strong!"
The squirrel snatched both and floated back out into the living room. It drifted down to the table and began munching the pellets. Salad Barbarian ambled his way back to the sofa as well.
"Barbarian?" Dressing Lad asked.
"Yes Dressing Lad?"
"This was the agreement? We feed the Squirrel?"
"Yes. Squirrel pretty up on the idea too."
"I can imagine. But why did you dress him in that costume?"
"Salad Barbarian not dress Squirrel in costume."
"You... then who did?"
"That Squirrel's idea. Though costume good way to pick up chicks."
"Yes Dressing Lad?"
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