Saturday, March 5, 2022
You’ve reached The Armadillo Files. The serial is swimming along, but it’s never too late to jump into it. Today we part company with a friend. Read on.
The wind has been blowing so hard here the past couple of days, that the Lost Sea cave sounds like a good place to be. This is a windy place anyway… but 25 to 35 mile per hour winds with gusts of more than 50mph is like a dry hurricane.
Random Reader Things
This episode features “things” from Mr. Ohh at the My Sideways View blog. Mr. Ohh also narrates his posts. Click over and be entertained. His three things are puppet, potato chips, and rubber tire. The Time Manatees got creative with one of those.
Previously in The Armadillo Files
Delilah Faraday and Tatu Pinkerton, aka Fang, went back to 1877 to get help for Fang. The erstwhile pink fairy armadillo was fading in and out of existence because somebody had tampered with history. Another Prime operative, Henry Apesly, was supposed to help them, but it turned out that Henry had accidentally caused the problem. Although one has to wonder if that situation wasn’t manipulated somehow… but I digress. Fang’s only hope is that the Time Manatees can send Henry back a little farther in time, so that he can make sure he doesn’t change history. Now if they can just manage to get the Time Manatees to come to them.
25 — Where did he go?
I missed so many of Henry’s ping-pong serves that I went looking for more balls. When I returned with an armful, Fang noticed one had a hole in it. He took off his bandana. Draping it over his hand he stuck the damaged ball on his finger, making puppet.
Fang entertained himself far more than his little show interested Henry and me. However, I was just glad to see him feeling okay. His bouts of “thinness” had my stomach filled with acid from worry.
We went back to the game in a halfhearted way. Both men insisted that the Time Manatees were attracted to any sort of play.
“Were there any potato chips in that pile of contraband where you found the balls? I could use a snack,” Henry remarked.
“There was a Lay’s bag, but it was empty,” I answered, taking a swat at the ball, and missing again.
As we played, Henry made a wild series of whistles as the ball bounced across the table. I covered my ears, because He was so loud.
Fang whistled a bizarre tune. I watched his mouth in fascination. I could see the music. He chuckled and asked me if I was feeling those oddly colored mushrooms. I nodded and the whole cave moved up and down.
“Dilly, we have to whistle to summon the Time Manatees. Don’t you know how?” Fang asked.
“Sort of,” I replied and demonstrated with a shrill whistle. “But I can’t make it do what I want. I can’t make a song of it or even a proper whistle.”
Apesly made a face at my attempt. He picked up the ping-pong paddle and ball. He reminded us that it was his serve. Henry told us we’d better be ready, with a gleam in his eye.
The half-chimpanzee bopped the ball toward me. I missed, probably because I was watching the stream of color that trailed behind the ball. However, Fang was behind me and sent it back to the disgraced operative. Henry’s expression suggested the game was about to get serious.
Just as Henry’s long arm went back for a good swack at the ball, Fang went transparent again and dropped his paddle. The ping-pong ball sailed right through his stomach and splashed into the lake.
One of the big pale trout breached the surface. The ball was in its mouth. Spitting out the ball, the fish flipped and smacked the ball with its tail. Henry gave a cheer and hit it back toward the lake.
“Did that really happen?” I muttered eyeing that clump of stringy blue mushrooms.
“I thought you couldn’t whistle very well,” Henry commented, confusing me because I wasn’t whistling.
I said as much, and both Fang and Henry started laughing. Henry rolled around on the floor in mirth. Bouncing to his feet he hit another ping-pong ball into the lake. The ball hopped three times.
A big tail fin surfaced. It sent the ball back through the air with such force that Henry ducked. The ball hit the cave wall and bounced right at me. I swung my paddle in startled self-defense. The ball went back toward the lake, rather than toward Henry.
I must have hit it hard, because the ball flew out across the water toward the darkness. Something large rose up from the water. I thought it was a person, but the shape was awfully bulky. He held up a section of a rubber tire that looked like it had been at the bottom of the lake. Using the piece of rubber like a lacrosse stick, he slung the ball back to us on the shore. Then he dropped back below the surface of the water.
“Where did he go?” I cried. “Who was… what… how did…?” I stuttered, not knowing which question to ask first. “Was it a mermaid? Or I guess a merman?”
My two companions hadn’t even noticed. They continued to hit the ping-pong ball. Another ball flashed past me. Turning my head to follow the direction of the ball, I twisted too far and lost my balance. Staggering to the edge of the lake, I eventually plopped to the ground, face first. Hands pressing against the ground in attempt to lift myself, my face was right at the water’s edge. A pair of soulful eyes opened and gazed into mine.
The manatee brought the rest of its head out of the water. I saw that the ball was in its mouth. With a puff of air, it spat the ball a good distance past me.
“It’s not the first time we’ve been mistaken for mermaids. Although the idea of their ‘siren song’ is beyond me. Mermaids can’t carry a tune in a bucket,” an unexpectedly high voice said.
“Oh gosh! I’m so sorry,” I sputtered. “Did I hit you with that ball?”
Chuckling, the other two manatees surfaced. Three wide-snouted faces looked at me from the water. Although the other two were still a small distance out in the lake.
“Nice serve,” the one near me remarked with a wink.
I thought my eyes might bulge right out of my head. I could hear Fang and Henry behind me, giggling.
“You spoke!” I exclaimed to the manatee. “How did you do that. Or is it telepathy?” I wanted to know.
The swimming mammal made a gurgling sound. After a moment I decided that was its chuckle. It shook its head in answer.
“No, we can’t speak. We don’t have vocal cords,” is said and I drew back, not liking the idea of it being inside my head.
The gurgling sound intensified, and the pitch rose. It was giggling as hard as Fang.
“And we aren’t telepathic either. You, however, are whistling to beat the band,” it replied.
“I’m speaking manatee? How?” I demanded in astonishment.
“The mushrooms!” the three manatees, Fang, and Henry all answered in chorus. “The mushrooms put you on the right frequency to communicate with them,” Fang added quietly, becoming transparent again.
“Operative Henry Apesly,” the largest of the three manatees began, and Henry moved to the edge of the lake, head bowed, looking ashamed. “Oh, pick your head up, son. We understand the impulse that overtook you. Love at first sight is force to be reconned with.”
“But you’re going to have to be strong enough not to repeat your mistake,” it continued. “We’re sending you back. After all, it’s not very far, just a few weeks. We’ll send you back in time to the moment before your transformation went sideways. Eat an extra serving of the mushrooms, and that should prevent it going wrong again.”
Henry brightened. I knew he must be thinking that if he transformed properly, and wasn’t half ape anymore, that he might have a chance with Sally Bowen after all. The manatee seemed to get the same idea.
“I recommend that you stay away from Sally Bowen completely,” it went on, and Henry deflated. “Allan Pinkerton’s untimely death is about to remove the operative Tatu Pinkerton from existence. However, that was not the only significant change resulting from your inappropriate action. The woman’s place in the timeline must not be altered. Some of the Calutron Girls were her descendants. Now they are ‘missing.’ Although that does not account for all the missing girls.”
“Henry Apesly,” another of the manatees started. “Finish your assignment and leave Martinsburg immediately thereafter. Leave the area before you even send the request for the feline auxiliary support pilots to retrieve you.”
“I’m most humble grateful,” Henry stated, but he looked imploringly at the three manatees. “I’ll surely be dismissed from Prime when I get back. So, this shouldn’t matter… much anyways. Could I please remain in this time? I have a hankering to go out to the Wild West. I’ll be a hermit, if need be, but I just don’t want to go back to Prime.”
All manner of whistling ensued from the three manatees. The sounds were discordant at first. It set my teeth on edge. Gradually the three pitches came into harmony. The smaller one, who had spoken to me earlier looked at Henry and spoke.
“There is a place in the time sewer pipe. I mean the timeline waste flow, where your presence will not have any significant impact on future events. It should suit you nicely,” that manatee said. “You’ll be sent there as soon as your original mission is finished.”
Looking relieved, Henry thanked the Time Manatees. He turned to Fang and me. He settled his hat on his head, still unaware of the poodle cut Fang had given him.
I wiped away a tear. I hadn’t known Henry very long, but I was sorry to part company with him. What a complicated and interesting person.
“Miss Dilly, it’s been a pleasure,” he told me with a tip of that hat. “Pinky, good luck to you. And I’m sorry I bullied you when we were recruits.”
Henry began to sparkle with every color of the rainbow. I gasped at how beautiful it was. As the glittery lights brightened, I could no longer see him. Henry began to sparkle with every color of the rainbow. I gasped at how beautiful it was. As the glittery lights brightened, I could no longer see him. Then the lights were gone and so was Henry Apesly.
“How will we know Henry was successful?” I asked the manatee.
“It should be apparent any moment now. If Henry Apesly succeeds then Tatu Pinkerton will be whole again,” the smaller manatee answered.
Abruptly, someone grabbed me from behind. The hold was so tight I could barely breathe. My feet left the ground. Amid a gale of giggles, I realized it was Fang. He had me in a solidly tight bear hug!
The Time Manatees whistled happily. Fang danced around me. He whistled and shouted incoherently. His grin would have lit up the darkness of the Lost Sea, if we had no other lights.
“As I was saying,” the largest manatee spoke. “Sally Bowen was not the only reason for the missing Calutron Girls. That only accounted for two of them. More girls have vanished than you realized. Someone is trying to alter the outcome of World War II by slowing down the Manhattan Project.”
“I know the girls were important, but surely that wouldn’t slow things down enough to change who won the war… Would it?” I asked, but by the time I finished the question, I was pretty sure what the answer would be.
“Sometimes, a tiny change in great events can alter the entire timeline, and it can change centuries into the future,” the small one told me in a gentle voice.
“The assignment is too much, and too important for just the two of you. We are circumventing Prime’s authority. After all, we are the higher power. Incase Prime has been infiltrated by enemy agents, we are taking action ourselves to send you on the next leg of your mission,” the middle manatee stated.
That got a shocked look from Fang. I supposed it must be a drastic action for the Time Manatees to take charge of human affairs. The deep voice of the largest manatee sounded and the other two stopped their soft whistles.
“Much like the way Apesly had to be sent back to a point before the timeline was changed. You will have to go farther back in time so that you can get ahead of the changes,” the big one started. “Yes, the enemy’s plot was that convoluted.”
The smaller one looked at me with another wink. I thought it was smiling, and then it spoke.
“Prepare for your rendezvous with Operative Baba.”
♦ ♦ ♦
Farewell, Henry. I can imagine he’ll get into all sorts of adventures in the Wild West — whether or not his transformation from chimpanzee to human ever finishes. But Operative Baba? You can thank Olga Núñez Miret, for putting that idea in my head. I asked for some “random reader things” to go along with it. Those are yet to come. To learn more, stay tuned. Hugs on the wing!
♦ ♦ ♦
Journey 13, The Harbor is now available! The 14th novelette will conclude the series.
Dead of Winter — All the Journeys
Universal Purchase Links
Journey 13, The Harbor
Journey 12, Goddesses
Journey 11, the Sumelazon Escarpment
Journey 10, Pergesca
Journey 9, Doors of Attunement
Journey 8, The Lost Library
Journey 7, Revenant Pass
Journey 6, The Fluting Fell
Journey 5, Llyn Pistyll Falls
Journey 4, The Old Road
Journey 3, the Fever Field
Journey 2, Penllyn
Journey 1, Forlorn Peak
This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2022 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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