Saturday, August 13, 2022
You could see that this tale had geared up for the ending, and now it’s here. I’ve made this a double-length episode, because it wouldn’t have been good storytelling to divide it. So, let’s get right to it. The concluding random reader things are from GP Cox. They are: grenade, mousetrap, and teddy bear.
35 — Where do we go from here?
Ali Baba, Fang and I beat a hasty retreat. We jumped on the wagon, with the groggy Calutron Girls inside. I turned worried eyes to Sesame who remained at the top of the back stairs, holding Fang’s stack of 45RPM records.
“Do not weep, Tatu. Sesame knows how to take care of herself. She will keep Klaude Frucht and Cassim’s men at bay to aid our escape. Cassim knows where my caves are, but he is a vile coward,” Ali reassured Fang.
“I’m not worried about Sesame. I almost feel sorry for Cassim and Frucht. But she’s going to scratch my records!” Fang wailed.
“We can’t leave Sesame alone against those men!” I yelled, still unaccountably excitable.
I leapt from the seat into the air, when the wagon started to roll. A terrible pain shot through the base of my spine. I plopped back down, unable to move more than a few inches. Something prevented me.
“Worry not. It is time to spring my mousetrap!” Ali cried.
Handing the reigns to Fang, Ali stood on the wagon seat. I gasped when I saw that she held those two grenades from the cave. She threw one into the group of men that were headed for Sesame. Then she threw the other at those who had split off to come for us.
Knowing that we were too close to where the grenades landed, I braced myself for the explosions. To my surprise, there were only loud pops, similar to those from firecrackers.
“Were they duds?” I muttered the question.
Fang shrugged uncertainly. Ali Baba grinned broadly.
An instant later, smoke flowed from the grenades, hiding Sesame — and us from view.
Fang snickered as I tried jump up beside Ali. Of course, I failed. When I looked down at him, he was holding that strange fur covered rope I had seen from the corner of my eye earlier.
“What is that?” I demanded.
The smoke started to clear. From the top of the stairs, Sesame began to fling Fang’s beloved records at the henchmen. As the 45s flew, he started murmuring names of 1950s rock n roll songs in a funerary litany.
“Great Balls of Fire, T-t Teddy Bear,” he sniffled. “Bu-Blueberry Hill, P-p-p…” he wailed for a second before continuing. “P-p Peggy Sue!”
Black 45RPM records became disk weapons and they whined as they flew with the force of Sesame’s arm. One hit a thug in his neck, and blood spurted. Other villains fell near him, with various wounds.
“In Sesame’s hands, each of those records is a lethal chakram,” Ali started, but noticing my confusion she elaborated. “Her father was a Sikh and taught her in the use of the chakram throwing weapons.”
Abruptly the horses pulling our wagon whinnied and reared. A volley of gunshots blasted into the air. Klaude Frucht stood in our way, a revolver pointed right at us. The wild-eyed fanatic, Dick Potts had recovered enough that he stood beside Frucht, brandishing a machine gun. Frucht angrily shouted in German. Potts pointed the automatic weapon skyward and fired another poppity-pop-poppity-pop-pop-pop threateningly.
“They can’t have guns here!” I yelled, feeling more anxious and agitated than ever.
Fang took out a silver compact and checked his appearance in its mirror. Then he rose from his wagon seat. He put his hands together and solemnly bowed to Frucht, who sneered and grumbled something, again in German.
Part of me couldn’t believe we would surrender that easily. However, Frucht had brought a gun to a time when there shouldn’t have been any weapons more advanced than a “knife fight.” Even as off-kilter as I was feeling, I knew we couldn’t risk the lives of the young women who lay in the wagon bed.
When Fang rose from bowing and moved his hands apart, I realized that one of his hands still held the compact. He turned that hand palm-upward. Before anyone could speak, a beam of light shot from the compact, striking Frucht. Fang shifted his aim and the same beam moved aside to hit Dick Potts. The traitors crumpled, their weapons dropping to the ground.
“You’re right Dilly, they can’t have guns here, let alone a machine gun. So, that meant my actions are justified. It was fine for me to go ahead and zap them. As long as there weren’t any locals watching,” Fang stated, managing to look exasperated, yet downright fierce.
I tried to move again, intending to jump down from the wagon and inspect Klaude Frucht. I wanted to make sure he really was unconscious. And yes… I secretly wanted to jump up and down on Dick Potts. However, I was still held back. As he had a moment before, Fang wiggled that fur tipped rope at me.
“What is that thing?” I asked again, and I was getting very annoyed at him.
“It’s connected, is what it is,” Fang answered with a grin. “Connected to you! Dilly, it’s your tail!” he chortled.
Horrified, I gaped at him. Then something velvety fell over one of my eyes. When I put my hand to it, I realized that I could feel the softness with my fingers — but I could also feel my hand touching my…
“My ears!” I shrieked. “And a tail? My tail!”
“I’d say you’re well along in your first transformation. It would have been fun if you had turned into a Polish chicken. That would be perfect for your hair,” Fang teased, and I slapped him with my tail.
“Well, you’re no sloth either,” he added wryly. “Based on the way you’ve been hopping around… not to mention the long ears and that really long tufted tail, I’d say you’re halfway to becoming a long-eared jerboa.”
“A jer…” I started, but I was so much better with plants than animals that I had to think.
My mind rapidly shuffled through memories of animal species. The image gradually formed. It was a tiny creature, that was an odd combination of long and little. Long-eared jerboas had little mouse-like bodies. However, hey had long back legs that let them jump farther than a mouse ever could. The ears were disproportionately longer than the body, as was the tail.
“A long-eared jerboa…” I muttered, slowly enunciating each syllable.
I started hyperventilating.
Meanwhile Ali and Fang tied up Klaude Frucht and unceremoniously dumped him onto the back of the wagon.
The ferrets, Minu and Musa, popped up from under the wagon seat. I didn’t know where they had been or how they got into the wagon. The brown one, Musa, held the timey-wimey necklace watch thing that was supposed to slow down my transformation. They must have found where the wild weasel took it.
Until that moment, I had not really believed that I would actually shift shape into an animal. The idea of that being the side-effect of time travel was just too weird.
Gratefully, I took the bauble from the ferret, and hung the chain around my neck. At first, I didn’t feel any better. However, I realized that I was less anxious. Although, I was still jittery and I had the absurd urge to hop onto high things. Also, I still had a very long tail and large velvety ears.
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Soon we were back at the secret cave at the edge of the sea. Ali and I helped the girls into the caves while Fang made sure the wagon was out of sight. By the time the wagon was hidden, Sesame had caught up with us.
Inside Ali’s hideout, Maire Browning looked much more alert than she had when we left. The dorm supervisor shed tears of joy when she saw the girls. Even the ones who were not assigned to her dorm knew her. There was a lot of hugging and crying.
“Ali doesn’t seem to be trying to hide anything from them,” I remarked to Sesame, surprised by the openness of the Prime operative.
“Ali Baba has no need to lie in this situation. She would rather tell the truth when she can,” the very tall woman replied.
Sesame explained that the memories of Marie and the girls would be altered. Something ordinary and believable would replace their extraordinary kidnapping and time travel. They would be returned home with timing that would make their absence as short as possible.
Nearby, Fang and Ali were talking about me. I wondered if a similar fate awaited me. I didn’t want to forget.
“Prime won’t let her run free,” Ali Baba stated logically, without emotion. “Particularly not if she can transform.”
“If she doesn’t get stuck halfway between human and long-eared jerboa, like Henry got stuck being part ape and part human,” Fang remarked.
I gasped, but turned away quickly so that he wouldn’t know I had overheard. My tail curled around my feet. Nervously I stroked the back on one long ear.
“Worry not, Delilah Faraday,” Sesame offered consolingly. “I will hide you. After all, the tenth century is not such a terrible place. I have my own network of friends and helpers. And villains know not to interfere with me.”
While I was grateful to Sesame for the offer, I was upset. Was that better than losing my memory of my time traveling adventure? More than that, I didn’t want anybody messing around with the contents of my mind!
Then a thought as horrifying as a memory-wipe occurred to me. If I remained half human and half animal, changing my memories wouldn’t be enough. Would Prime try to make me some sort of prisoner? Maybe Sesame’s offer, which would have me spending the rest of my life in hiding was better than prison.
Disconsolate, I wandered out of the secret part of the cave and into the area that met the ocean. It was the spot where Fang and I first landed in that century. I heard a soft splash.
I gasped when I saw the Time Manatees. I had been caught unprepared! I turned to run, hoping that Sesame actually could hide me.
The manatees addressed me together, their voices whistling in three-part harmony. Reluctantly, I stopped and looked at them. The whistles of their language continued, and I felt calmer.
Had I misjudged their relationship with Prime? The unconscious urge to be closer to them took my feet into the shallow water. Suddenly buoyant, I floated out close enough to touch the manatees. Not knowing whether or not it would be rude, I hesitantly caressed the snout of the smallest one.
Their whistling stopped. It changed to words that I could understand. After assuring me that I would come to no harm, the manatees coaxed me to move around in the water with them. It felt playful, but I could tell that I was somehow learning things… things my brain didn’t comprehend, but my changing body understood.
I couldn’t imagine how it worked, but being in the water helped us communicate without the aid of those psychedelic mushrooms that Fang and Henry Apesly had used back at the Lost Sea cave in Tennessee. I could feel what the manatees were saying, as well as hear it. They gave me a crash course in the art of transforming.
My long ears picked up every faint sound that my tail made as it floated on the surface of the water. However, as the manatees instructed me, the sore place at the base of my spine stopped hurting. The tenderness at my ears eased and gradually went away. When I looked behind myself, the long rope-like tail had vanished. Eagerly, I placed my hands on my ears. They were normal!
A series of honks and flashing lights startled me, and I jumped up so high out of the water that the manatees applauded by patting the water with their tails. I hoped the jumpiness would gradually abate, since I was back to being human.
Looking for the source of the noise, I spotted a big mirror among the loot nearby. Then a familiar red and blue roadster rolled out of the mirror and up to the shore. The car was towing something that looked a lot like a chrome Airstream trailer.
In the car’s seat were the two feline physical support auxiliary pilots I had seen on that first day. Peggy Sue and the intern kitten Frances meowed a greeting.
Some of Sesame’s friends entered the cave. They hustled Cassim and his remaining henchmen into the trailer-looking spacecraft. I was relieved that he didn’t get away. With his knowledge of the city and outlying area, I was afraid that he would. Although, I was concerned about the affect it would have on Ali — with her brother being arrested. I was glad she wasn’t in that part of the cave to see it.
Two uniformed Prime operatives exited the Airstream. They wore futuristic suits and helmets, and they held what I guessed were ray guns. The agents consulted briefly with Peggy Sue.
A moment later the uniformed operatives retrieved Klaude Frucht, Dick Potts, and the other men our group apprehended from the corner where Fang and Ali had dumped them.
Dick Potts had a deranged light in his eyes that was brighter than ever. I thought he might actually foam at the mouth. Peggy Sue turned toward him and sniffed the air. The feline pilot gave a low, menacing growl. Intern pilot Frances hissed and arched her back. When we first met the man, Fang had he smelled wrong. The cats apparently agreed.
It looked like the folks from prime were deciding what to do with the Bible thumping, woman hating fanatic. One of the operatives tapped a communications device on his shoulder.
Back in human form, I couldn’t make out the exchange. Finally, the operative stated the word “Affirmative,” and gave a quick nod to Peggy Sue. Then Frucht was singled out. Potts wouldn’t move, so he was shoved over to the group of tenth century ruffians.
“What was that all about?” I muttered.
“Potts was the only one besides Klaude Frucht who actually time traveled from the 1940s. The uniforms had to confirm that he would not be returned to his home timeline,” Fang explained, and I tried to keep up with the whole time-travel trickiness.
“Prime determined that Potts would have played no significant part in history after the day he left with Frucht,” Fang added with a snort. “That must be the worst thing you could tell a rabid fanatic like him — you were insignificant, buddy!”
“What will Prime do with them?” I asked.
I wasn’t concerned for the men. I figured they deserved whatever penalty was dished out for kidnapping. Although I had no idea how Prime doled out punishments.
“Most of them will go to a Prime prison facility. Unfortunately, Klaude Frucht will get off easy,” Fang explained. “They’ll put a plausible false memory in his brain and send him back.”
I made astonished, indignant, sputtering noises. Several of the ferrets sat up curiously at the sounds I made. Maybe they thought I was dooking…
The feline pilots and the uniformed operatives went to the cove to converse with the Time Manatees. I could tell they were talking about me, and I gulped nervously. Sesame waited in the shadows, as unobtrusively as someone of her size could. She gave me a nod that indicated she was ready to grab me and make a run for it.
To my great relief, the Time Manatees interceded on my behalf.
“After all,” rumbled the largest manatee. “There is a vacancy, now that Operative Henry Apesly has retired from service.”
“It is also the standard practice for operatives stationed in various eras to have a partner,” the middle one interjected. “Operative Tatu Pinkerton has been working alone for much longer than is acceptable. Delilah Faraday is uniquely qualified for the position.”
The uniformed operatives grumbled complaints. One of them went so far as to question the authority of the Time Manatees. Fang made a choking noise. I looked from him, to the operative, to the manatees.
That audaciousness brought out the anger of the gentle seeming creatures. The largest manatee rose up and slapped his tail hard against the surface of the water. The sound echoed loudly throughout the caves.
The man muttered an apologetic excuse and went back inside the Airstream. He didn’t run, but he was walking quite fast. Fang snorted.
“Prime works for them, not the other way around,” Fang whispered with a nod to the Time Manatees. “Although Prime likes to pretend otherwise.”
“I won’t have to stay here? Forever?” I turned to the manatees and asked anxiously.
They had said as much, but I needed firm confirmation. The manatees produced a trio of whistles that reminded me of chuckles.
After a while everyone left. The feline pilots, along with the guards from Prime, and the prisoners went on their way, back into the time-portal mirror. Sesame and Ali Baba left the caves to go to the marketplace. They planned a feast for us all that evening.
Looking in the mirror, I verified that my long ears and tail were still gone. I sighed with intense relief. Then I wondered at what inopportune moment they would undoubtedly return. I sighed a different sigh.
I thought the Time Manatees had quietly gone back to wherever, or whenever their home was too. It was just Fang and me — and a few of the ferrets. However, a splash in the water told me that wasn’t entirely true. One of the manatees was still there.
“I will stay here with you until you have mastered the ability to fully and easily transform — and return to human form,” the smallest Time Manatee told me. “Then you and Tatu Pinkerton will receive your next assignment.”
I was relieved. Not only for the support, but about which of the manatees remained behind. The smallest one was the least intimidating of the three. Although Fang seemed to believe otherwise.
“Don’t think you’re going to have it easy. The little guy has some wicked mojo,” Fang whispered.
“You will also need training in technology and tools. Appropriate assistance for that is summoned,” the manatee went on, unconcerned. “Besides, someone was very anxious to see you both.”
“Who?” I started to ask.
Just then loud clanging filled the cave. Purple lights shot in every direction. The claxon clang-clang-clanged louder.
“TROLLEY!” Fang and I shouted in unison.
The space-time machine that looked like a streetcar floated alongside the manatee.
“Time Rate Oscillation Lithium Link Enabler Yttrion, TROLLEY, here! Hello, operatives Dilly Faraday and Tatu Pinkerton. Awaiting instructions,” came the voice of the artificial intelligence.
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Wait! There’s more.
Announcing the book version
The Armadillo Files — a #1 New Release at Amazon!
It’s comic, cosmic, colorful, captivatingly calamitous, campy, and charmingly cray-cray!
On Monday I finished “bookizing” this serial. The Kindle and paperback will be available at an introductory price through this weekend. If you missed some episodes, or if you’d like to give it a read as a full story, here it is.
I made one change to the original story. My blog serials are directed at adult readers, even when they’re full-on whimsy (like this one). In bookizing the story, I decided it would have good appeal for younger readers as well. So, I made the protagonist, Dilly, younger. Rather than a mature scientist, she is an intern.
Also, I added a section at the end, with information about some of the real-world events, people, and things that come into the story.
Universal Purchase Links
The Armadillo Files
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Wishing you a wonderful weekend. I love to hear from you, so friendly comments are encouraged. Hugs on the wing!
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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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