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Chapter #15

Declan 1.1 (The Luge Mobile)

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Pumba came out carrying a pie and some goodies for Peyote Patty. Jose
was close behind and looking down. When he looked up, his tongue flicked a
couple of times like always and he said, “Hey, Dubock. How are you feeling?”
“Not bad. I had a rough morning, though,” I replied.
Pumba laughed and said that stupid Slovakian phrase again. “Lava bully
kockot sto-ey.”
I have no idea…
Jose asked, “Did you ever hallucinate yesterday?”
“Yeah,” I replied, “and it freaked me out, man. I don't even want to talk
about it.”
“So you're going into town?” Jose asked.
I answered, “Yeah, I want to go see the alien museum, pay my respects to
an old friend.”
“I think I know which one,” he said as we looked out across the bone-dry
desert. Then we stepped into the elevator and exited, and there was a huge
crowd gathered all around. It was several times bigger than the one that was
there when I went up the elevator.
Wow. I never realized how many people came to watch and play a poker
Then I noticed that the crowd was standing, drawn to the holograph
news projections spread out through the hotel lobby and restaurant, their faces
shocked. There was something going on. Every holovision in the place was
tuned to breaking news, and as my eyes and mind focused on the story at
hand, I saw a building in New York toppled over. The transit tubes were broken
all around it, and there was smoke rising up into the air as high as the camera
could see. There was debris all around for several blocks.

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Peering into the dust cloud, I saw what was left of the base of the
building. It looked as if it were cut clean in two at the fourth or fifth story, like
with a powerful laser. They replayed the truly heart-wrenching frames in slow
motion. I heard a woman in the crowd cry out loud as the building fell again.
Her pain shot right through my body, cutting me to the core.
I could see the Synopsis Five building in the background, with its four
bronze, rocket-shaped pillars on each corner and its big green dome in the
We were all in shock. Hundreds of us in the hotel's lobby were glued to
the reporter, who had platinum blond hair and a very nice V-neck blouse on. I
couldn't help but notice her exceptionally nice cleavage.
She was interviewing a physicist. I missed her question, but he replied,
“Well, yes, Kelly, it is possible that we've experienced an implosion. Basically
speaking, and for reasons not yet well understood, a ring of absolute zero can
form, sometimes well away from its parent source, a quantum server. The ring
is not detectable without very sophisticated equipment, and it only lasts for
mere nanoseconds.”
The reporter said, “So you’re saying that some quantum fluctuation
formed a knife that cut this building in two.”
“Yes. Basically yes,” he agreed, nodding.
And the reporter asked, “And is the quantum server still up and
The physicist lifted his eyes and replied, “Yes. That is, as far as I know.
She controls the entire eastern seaboard’s quantacom and much of the
southern states as well, like Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana.”
Now, we had to get going, but whoa!
My nerves shattered when I noticed that it was the same building that
Tawana's photoshoot was in. I felt sick to my stomach as I began to worry
about her. My God, I hope she’s all right.

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“Come on, Coordvagh. Let's go,” Pumba croaked, his eyes worried and
I was trembling. It was horrible, and the death count wasn't fully in yet.
It was probably going to be in the thousands. Fuck!
I thought about the lady on the elevator and the G-guy with the wiener
I was shocked. We were all shocked and stupefied.
I followed my newfound friends in utter disbelief. We went through the
resort and entered another elevator, taking it to the lowest level. None of us
said a word. When we came to a stop, we exited the back elevator doors and
walked outside after passing a short parking garage.
They’re going to kill me. Maybe my guinea pigginess had run out and this
is how they do it.
We walked out to a parking lot behind the resort, where they kept the
garbage incinerator electrodes.
When we turned the corner, I saw a funny-looking taxi parked next to a
fairly large cylinder marked 'Liquid helium.'
There was a tall, round man with dirty work overalls on. He had a great
big nametag that read in big red letters, 'Victor Hamilton.' He had short hair
and was wearing a ball cap advertising Digital Dudes in matching big red
He was just sitting there in his small office that had all kinds of tools and
parts lying around. I could see a small fix-it shop beyond an open door on the
other side of the office.
Pumba asked, “Hey, Coordvagh, you top it off?”
“Oh yeah. Your riders'll be cool for months,” Victor replied.
Pumba explained, “Vick helped me configure a diaphragm and a pump
that uses liquid helium to keep the taxi nice and cool in the desert heat.”
Vick said, “Yep. See that little tank right there? Cools down the entire

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“Amazing,” I said. Then I pointed to a couple of small, familiar-looking
cans on his desk and commented, “I guess these little jewels are for the taxi?”
He nodded yes, and I asked, “And did you design that weird-ass taxi?”
Pumba-yaugh busted out laughing at the thought that I’d never seen his
contraption before.
Just then, I realized that this was the taxi that my own grandma and
grandpa had described when I was growing up.
I told everybody, “My grandma and grandpa rode in this contraption way
back when they first got married in Vegas. I remember the stories. Wow, that
was way back in the Re-Roaring Twenties, as they called it.”
Jose said, “Yeah, Vickster and Pumba restored it and put it back into
operation. Rebuilt it right where it sits basically.”
I couldn't believe I was actually looking at it. What a coincidence. Who'da
Pumba nodded his head and said, “Yagh, I moved down here from Vegas
with it.”
“I remember gramps telling me that it was the first electric car that had
downloadable sounds. The car is so quiet that it needs something to alert
people walking nearby,” I mentioned.
Pumba smiled proudly and said, “Yagh, dat's true.”
Admiring it, I noticed some vertical pipes with flared ends at the top that
came up behind the back of the taxi. And I was a bit miffed, so I asked, “If it's
electric, then why does it have exhaust pipes?”
Pumba explained, “Those aren't tail pipes, bonehead. Dose are clean air
pipes for da cylinders in da front. When dey made dis taxi, there was still a lot
of petro peddlers. You'd choke to death down there from da fumes, poison, and
carbon monoxide.”
It was true, made perfect sense. I stood there admiring the vintage 2020
machine and wondered what kind of lunatic would design and build such a

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“I ain’t riding in da front,” I said, picking up Pumba's accent a little.
“Come on, man,” Jose wheedled. “I don't want to ride up there. Besides,
it's fun. You'll see.”
“Nah,” I replied. “Y’all go ahead without me. Or you ride up there if you
think it's so much fun.”
Pumba was in the driver’s seat, raising the front cylinders up into an
almost vertical entrance position. The cylinder doors rolled around, and
Pumba-yaugh popped the small trunk covering the motor in the back.
“Come on, Dubock. Don't you want to tell your friends that you got to
ride the famous luge taxi?” Pumba asked as he put the stuff in back and made
sure the pie wasn't going to slide around.
I remembered Grandpa telling everybody how he and Grandma spun
around and around while listening to acid dub music, how the driver would cut
the corners extra sharp for them, how freaking weird and scary it was lying
way down just above the road, on their way to the famous Joe Vegas Wedding
It sounded like a freaking nightmare to me, but they sure seemed to love
I ran around and jumped in the passenger seat. “Shot gun. I was here
first,” I shouted.
“All right, all right. I'll ride in the front,” Jose sighed.
Pumba pulled a lever, and the cylinder hissed down, locking into place.
Jose spun it around a couple of times.
That’s insane.
We started talking about the disaster in New York on the way to town. I
was trying to figure out how I could call or get a hold of Tawana without
downloading my com contacts. Didn't want to alert the NSA, you know.
I asked Pumba if he had any friends in New York. “Not really,” he said.
I started thinking about his buddy Victor, and I asked, “Isn't it kind of
expensive to use liquid helium as a refrigerant?”

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He said, “Nah, not really. Dis car takes so little to cool it. Besides, Paul is
good guy. He gives it to me for free when I need it. It has small leak somewhere,
though. I just need to get under dere and fix it.”
Then Pumba continued, “Michio gets the stuff real cheap. He knows one
of da chemists over at the government testing lab just south of the resort. They
separate the H-three isotopes from the more common H-one and use the H-
three in their reactors over there. He buys the leftover H-one for the resort.”
He told me that they were using the water byproducts from the reactors
for the animals in the desert because of the drought. And, “Apparently dey
designed and built some open tanks, and dey mounted dem on some tracked
vehicles with GPS. Dey sent them out autonomously. I see dem driving back
and forth between Space City and Geronimo's once in a while.”
In the distance, I saw some buzzards circling. I guessed the watering
rovers didn't get over there in time to rescue whatever the birds were circling.
Roswell started fading into view as we got closer to town.
Pumba looked over at me with a rather serious expression and said,
“Tonto told me about what Michio did to you back at the casino. You know,
how he cheated you. He told me that it was Jose's idea to rig the holoprojectors
to cheat customers. He said they only target the customers that win large sums
of money.”
“A likely story,” I scoffed.
He laughed and said, “Jose came up with da idea at the big meeting they
held after da whole Mind Melders fiasco.”
“I'm not surprised,” I replied.
Then he said, “Dat’s da real reason he gave Jose dat stupid forked
“Yeah, I thought that whole peyote story was just a cover for something
else,” I replied. “Seemed a little weak when you told it to me. I mean, that's got
to be a lot of work and programming to do for something as juvenile as that.”

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Pumba laughed. “Yah, dat’s true. You not as stupid as you look,
Roswell was a dry and dusty sleepy, little town, I noticed as we rolled
down the main drag. They did have twin elevated roloball tubes running
straight down the middle of the strip, though, and a handful of side street
discharge tubes.
We pulled up to the hospital, and Pumba parked the taxi and lifted up
the doofus tubes.
So retarded. And what was worse was that people paid to ride it.
Jose stepped out and wobbled a little to the left as he adjusted to a more
gravitationally stable state.
“Whoa,” he said.
“Was it fun?” I asked him with a subtle hint of sarcasm.
“Was it fun? Was it fun?” he mocked in a nasally, high-pitched tone.
As he opened the small trunk, Pumba laughed and asked, “You need
some help with dis stuff? I'll be more dan happy to bring up the pie.”
“Sure, come on up and have a slice. I'm sure Patty would love to see
you,” Jose replied. “Come on, Dubock. You can have some too. It's blueberry,
and Cherahontas made it from scratch.”
Pumba remarked, “Dat means she picked it out and printed it all by
“Wow, she's really got it all—good looking, and she can cook. Sure, I'd
love to come up and meet Patty,” I said.
We all started walking towards the building and I asked, “Now, should I
call her Peyote Patty, or just Patty?”
Jose rolled his eyes and looked at me like I was stupid. Then he looked
back over at Pumba as we entered the lobby and said, “I sure hope her
roommate’s asleep or off getting a lobotomy somewhere.”
Pumba laughed again and said, “Yah, dat bitch gives me da creeps.”

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Jose added, “And that cat-dog, man. That thing's just freaky, man.
Freaky deaky.”
Well, my curiosity was piqued.
We reached her floor and walked up to the reception area. The nurse
placed her finger over her mouth and shushed us before whispering, “Don't say
anything about the disaster in New York. We don't want to upset any of the
“Right on,” Jose replied. Then she buzzed us in.
We walked down a narrow hallway, and I was peeking into any room that
had its doors open. I didn't really see anything strange or freaky going on.
We came up to room number nine and walked in. Jose introduced me to
Patty, who was sitting up in her bed, playing with a beetle on a tray. She was a
skinny little thing with a few age lines around her eyes and her mouth. She
had an olive complexion and a nice, easy smile.
A divider curtain hung down on the far side of her bed, dividing the
room. I wanted to peek at the nasty freak show on the other side, but I stood
my ground and introduced myself. “Hello. I'm Dubock. Nice to meet you.”
The corners of her mouth turned up, and she replied in a raspy yet
feminine voice, “Oh, hi.” She looked me up and down and said, “I like your
Her hair was as white as mine, only her natural salt and pepper roots
were quite a bit longer than my roots.
Jose gave her a little kiss on the cheek, and he then picked up the beetle
she had been playing with and inspected it. Then he put it in a little box on the
side of her bed. She didn't look too happy about it, until he cleaned off the tray
and said, “Looky, looky! I brought you some of Cherahontas' famous
homemade blueberry pie.”
Her face lit up. I guess when you’ve been locked up in a mental ward for
a couple of months, pie’s like a vacation.

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Jose asked Pumba for a knife. He was being rather quiet, for the rather
boisterous man that he was. He had been quietly unwrapping some disposable
plates and silverware, and he handed Jose the knife. The instant he broke the
crust, the divider curtain ripped back, and I saw it.
There, lying in the bed next to Patty's, was a nasty, evil-looking cat
woman. It wasn’t that she had any sort of genetic modifications or surgery to
look like that, but it was just that her eyes were long and slanty, tilted slightly
down towards her tiny little nose.
Her tiny mouth was closed, but it was as if the skin leading down to her
lips projected forward and barely covered her teeth. I was pretty sure her lips
protruded out from her face more than her nose.
Her short black hair was fashioned flat across the middle and raised on
the sides to resemble cat ears.
She had one of those wrinkly, bald cats on her lap, and that thing was
definitely put together in a lab somewhere. I mean, it looked scary and gross. It
was like one of those normal hairless cats, but on the very end of its tail was
the face and head of a bulldog, licking its bald, dry, wrinkly skin.
The bulldog looked over at me looking at it and barked a vicious little
The cat's tail had long red hair on it for a couple of inches on its very end
that flared out around the bulldog’s face, making him appear like his head was
the center of a flower when he was looking you head on.
The woman said to it, “There, there, Prrrinceton,” and the R's rolled
slightly off her tongue as she spoke.
You could almost bottle the nasty emanating off this woman.
The whole room fell silent, and every face turned to stone.
Except for Patty's. She was as cheerful as could be. Her head and her
legs were bobbing around, like she had some song inside aching to get out. She
turned to look at the cat woman and said, “Hey, Susy, want some pie?”

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Then under the covers she spread her legs open and back quickly to
make a joke and giggled. I guess to lighten the mood. Well, it worked. The air in
the room did lighten up as Pumba laughed right out loud.
Cat Face was less than amused. She cut her eyes and glared at Patty
before lightening her expression slightly as she attempted to politely ask for the
biggest piece of the pie.
Ask, and you will receive. Jose gave her the big one.
Patty didn't seem to mind. She had already turned on some music and
started dancing around, wiggling her pie in everybody's face. She twirled her
finger around and around, and then she plunged it deep into her pie. She
pulled it out slowly and licked it off as her eyes wandered up to meet Jose's,
who was getting ready to fork her.
She was a ray of sunshine, that one. She looked at me and smiled., I
licked my lips to let her know that I really enjoyed eating her pie. She started
humming and, for some reason, pulling her thick white hair straight up. Just
to be goofy and entertaining, I guess.
She was the only sane one in the room, possibly even the entire planet.
Then I started getting a little nervous.
I wondered if she might be dangerous.
I took another bite. Man, Cherahontas had some good pie, so moist and
sweet and nice to eat. I ate it nice and slow, savoring every bite. Oh, so nice.
I stared down at my plate when it was all done. A little embarrassed, I
licked it, you know, because I wasn’t exactly at home.
Patty looked at me, and I said, “It's so good I want to lick it all up.” Then
I licked it just a little more.
She gave me a sexy look, grinned, and said, “I like to put it in my mouth
and roll the berries around on my tongue, suck on them until all of the warm
juice bursts right out. Mm, then I feel the juice slide down my throat when I
swallow.” Then she put a little in her mouth and did just that.
I was a little embarrassed for her, but I wasn’t sure why.

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But that creepy bulldog-on-a-tail was staring right at me with a smug
look on his face, making me feel like a dog for licking my plate. I guess it is
pretty bad manners to do so.
I heard Susan the Cat Face purr a little as she gave her very best polite
smile and thank you. Her teeth looked rotten and all purple, and ew, so sick.
I looked around the room, and we all started pointing and laughing at
each other, chanting “Blueberry teeth! Purple teeth!”
I threw my plate in the garbzapp by the small bathroom and resumed my
position in the cramped room by the door. I leaned back just to look down the
hall while Patty, Jose, and Pumba made small talk. A virtual presence drone
emerged from its station and started rolling down the hall in our direction. It
looked like an old microphone stand with tracks underneath. I watched as it
entered our room and the holoprojectors filled in a good-looking doctor who
asked us all to leave the room so he could talk with Susan for a little while.
Patty asked, “Can Jose please stay? I miss him so much, and I never get
to see him.”
The doc agreed as long as they agreed to be quiet.
Pumba looked a little relieved to be escaping. As we walked out of the
room, he asked, “So where would you like to go, Dubock?”
“Far away from Cat Woman,” I replied.
He said, “Coordvagh, dat cat-dog is a trip. I seen her couple times before,
and she still creeps me out.”
“Yeah?” I asked.
He put his finger up and said, “Hold it, I'm trying to remember.” He was
giving me a funny look, and then he continued, “Da first time I met her, she
said some-ting like, ‘Weak minds are for weaker minds than mine.’”
“What?” I replied.
“Yah, dat’s what she said. ‘Weak minds are for minds weaker than mine.’
Den I said to myself, 'You stupid, stupid bitch. Can you see yourself in da

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mirror, purring when you talk like idiot?’ And dat cat-dog, Coordvagh, can you
believe it?”
His hands were flying around in the air, and his voice just seemed to
echo off the narrow halls and elevator, going on and on. He asked, “Could you
imagine? You met her. My gosh.”
“I think she's just trying to tell you something there, Pumba,” I said.
With a disgusted look on his face, he replied, “What! I have small mind?
You are idiot.”
There was one thing about Pumba. It was just hard to be in a bad mood
around the guy. His face and that accent, it was really just too much.
I asked him, “So, d'you doink her?”
“You are bonehead first class,” he laughed.
I asked Pumba to take me to the mall. I was tired of wearing cheap,
crappy clothes off of a printer and Geronimo's tourist wear, which mostly came
off a printer too.
In a flash, I knew where I wanted to go. “Does Roswell have a Dillard's?” I
wanted to reminisce. I missed John and being able to call him up once in a
while. He even saved my life. Then I laughed as I remembered chasing them
damn kids all over the beach that night as they called me Tallywacker. That
was so messed up.
I chuckled a little. This shit could only happen to me. My life is so fucked
Pumba asked, “Whatchu laughing 'bout, Dubock?”
“Nothing, Coordvagh,” I replied.
He told me, “Don't say dat. You don't say it right. Sounds stupid when
you say it.”
As we got into the luge mobile, I said, “Yeah, yeah. Well, you sound
stupid every time you open your mouth.”
Smiling, Pumba said, “Careful. I take you into da desert and make you
ride up front.”

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“Oh no,” I replied as we started driving towards town. I told him the story
about me and John in Fort Lauderdale and the cock spur heels in the red light
district. And then I told him the whole story with the kids calling me
Tallywacker and stuff.
I didn't tell him everything, though. It might not be good to be too
We swapped stories and laughed all the way through town. The sun
outside was blazing hot and a couple of hours past high noon in the sky. Me
and Pumba decided to stop in a little tavern he liked, with shaded parking and
ice cold refreshments.
He parked the luge taxi, and we walked into a dark tavern with an old
cowboy playing an acoustic guitar. As my eyes adjusted, I noticed multiple
VeeMs over every booth, high top, and low top in the joint. Most of them were
tuned into the news of the New York tragedy. They kept showing the tower fall
and the dust and smoke plumes of the aftermath over and over.
One of the walls was decorated with a looped hologram of an alien
surfing Hawaii's pipeline while holding a can of Billy beer. All in all, the place
was exactly the kind of local-yocal place you might expect here.
The barkeep offered us some peanuts and introduced himself as Jimmy.
“What can I get you guys?” he said.
I ordered a High Life and some moon burgers—sliders, you know. Pumba
ordered some hot tails and an ice tea.
He said, “Dillard's is just across the park. You can take a float across if
you don't feel like walking. Da park’s pretty big.”
He was a bit older than me, and he looked tired. Yeah, I'd ride the float
over there with ya.
“I've only seen floats in the larger airports in South Florida,” I said.
“Da kids around here love dem,” he replied. “Dey have a floater rink
across town. My kids love it dere. My boy, he is thirteen, he says dat it’s high-
def, and that da rink and da boards both have points, and something about

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lasers marking da magnetic peaks in da field according to the movement and
weight on da board and different settings. He is really into it. I signed him up
for da magnetic lacrosse team. Dey surf around on electronic waves, throwing
the ball around with a little basket and a stick.”
“Sounds good, I guess,” I mumbled, but I was starting to drift away and
think about other things.
Just then, and much to my surprise, Professor Swansont walked up to
the bar and ordered a drink, just behind Pumba.
Before I could think, I called, “Hey, Professor, what are doing way out
here in New Mexico?”
“Don't tell me,” he said. “I know you from somewhere. I just can't quite
remember what it was, though.”
I smiled proudly and told him, “I was in your class the first day at FAU a
few weeks ago.”
He shook his head and said, “Nope, that's not it. I know you from
somewhere else, I'm sure. Do you own a boat?”
And then a moment of silence filled the entire room as my mind froze
I shook my head no.
He paused for a moment and then seemed to dismiss a thought. He said,
“I'm playing in a poker tournament. They’re holding the semifinals at
Geronimo's this weekend. You?”
“Me? Oh yeah, me too,” I stammered.
“You play?” he asked.
“Oh no, I'm just here to watch a friend of mine play.”
“Oh really? Who? I might know him.”
Fuck, I just wanted to say hi, not tell him my life story. I have Pumba for
that it seems.
My moon burgers were up at the same time the barmaid handed him a
couple of drinks and apologized on the waitress’ behalf. I seized the opportunity

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and took a big bite out my little burger. Looking up at Swansont as I was
chewing and waving, I blurted out, “Nice to see you. Good luck,” And he walked
to a nearby table where a couple of his friends were sitting.
Whew, that was close. I did have some questions I'd like to have asked
him, though, about time travel and quantum servers malfunctioning, causing
quantum field implosions that could cut a building in half.
I missed my freedoms. I wanted to call Mom. What I wouldn't give to feel
her thump me on the head and verbally abuse me right now. And my dad. I'll
never see him again.
And as if he somehow knew, the cowboy with the acoustic guitar started
playing a slow, haunting ballad. He sang-

♫ It's been so long
Since I been home,
Seems like forever… ♫
And he raised his voice on the 'ev,' then held onto the 'ver' for several
measures. And then he continued—
♫ Seventeen,
I hit the road,
looking for something better.

Last time I called,
I talked to Mom,
She said, ‘Boy, when you coming home?’

I cried, as I replied,
‘Probably never.’

She said, ‘Son,
I got bad news,

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Have you heard about your father?

‘Well, I guess he's gone,’
And I knew that she meant forever. ♫

And I broke down and cried right there.
Pumba had tears dripping down his face as well, and a hairy, biker-
looking fella across the bar raised his glass and said, “A toast for the fathers
gone by.” And we all drank, and then we all drank to the cowboy who wrote the
A moment later, two officers entered the bar, and I didn't think they were
there to eat or drink.
I put my head down and started pulling my white hair down towards my
Fuck, I should've known better. It was risky just walking around in the
resort, but in town? I should've known better.
What the hell was I thinking? They should give me time served if I get
caught. That hotel room was a jail cell in its own right.
I excused myself and headed towards the bathroom, but as soon as I
hooked around the other side of the bar, I was out the back door and walking
Man, that was close. I mean, I wasn’t sure if they were looking for me or
not, but I wasn’t taking any chances. The NSA wanted my ass. I don't think
white hair is going to fool them very long, and I’d been out and about way too
I went around to the park and hopped up on a public floaterboard. My
heart was thumping.
Understand, y’all. My heart was thumping.
I leaned forward and started floating straight ahead.

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I had the vehicle full tilt. It'd be faster if I got off and walked real fast, but
I didn't want to draw any attention. I was worried that the wires would short
out. I read about that happening in older systems. I’m sure the lawsuits roared.
Oh looky, there’s Dillard's straight up ahead. Now might be a good time
to get a change of clothes.
Yeah, why not?
I got off and walked up the entrance, pushing the first set of doors open.
I noticed a well-groomed fella with spiky salt and pepper hair and a dark tan
sitting on a bench along the right side of the corridor. He was checking me out.
I opened the second door, shuddering at the thought. I turned left at the
forked walkway by pure instinct, straight into the ladies’ department.
I raised my eyes to navigate and saw a man, across from the displays of
bras and purses, emerging from the ladies’ fitting area.
Something wasn’t right about him, and his face looked familiar. I didn't
think he was trying on any clothes in there. No, he was looking for something,
and I had a bad feeling that that something was me.
In a freak instant, I saw his eyes flick to the guy from the corridor who I
thought had been checking me out, and I dove into a round clearance rack to
Oh fuck! Deep breaths, inhale slowly, let it go.
Easy, quiet, let it go.
I was scared to death. I felt like the whole world was closing in on me.
I was surrounded by dresses, tights, and all kinds of lady’s apparel, and
yet at the same time, I felt lonely in all the panic.
I wished I had a girlfriend, or a wife and some kind of normal life.
I looked up through the clear top and saw the tan, salt and pepper–
headed fella walk by.

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What was it about that other guy, though? He looked familiar. That, and
he wasn't being scanned for his size, or standing by the auto-alter, or carrying
clothes or bags. He just looked like an agent or suspicious or—
Oh fuck, he was one of the agents who was in the house of mirrors back
in the garage.
I peered through the clothes hanging on the rack to see what was going
on, and the two agents met up just close enough for me to hear them.
I heard Agent Mirror Man ask the Stalker, “Are you Paul?”
To which he replied, “Paul Hill. Do I know you?”
They mumbled for a while after that, but they were talking about their
friends. Apparently they lost quite a few agents and people, including quantum
server technicians.
“Did you get the upload? The white hair?”
The other agent said, “Course. I seen him come in the store, but when I
looked over at you, the little rat fink disappeared.”
They started walking towards me and then back towards the exit.
As they were walking out of earshot, I heard dressing room boy say,
“Maybe we should disperse and cover the exits.”
The other agent replied, “Yeah, we may have already spoofed him.” And
then something about QD 1.0.
I’m going to jail.
I’m going to jail, and then to the toaster oven.
There’ll be nothing left of me.
Yeah, just call me Toasty Bones.
Their VR squad’ll surely follow me home.
Every agent within a hundred miles was probably watching every exit
right now.
Just then, a drab black and white dress that looked like it was made way
back in the fifties catches my attention. The 1950s, not the 2050s. And without

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even giving it much thought at all, I quietly started taking my pants and shirt
off, praying nobody would see me hiding in the rack.
I'd rather get caught.
I stretched out my undies, shoving my short pants into them to puff out
my ass, and then I slipped the dress over my crouched body. It came complete
with pointy breast rests and showed off my arms instead of direct frontal
None could deny that when I picked out a dress, it was a dress with
purpose and function.
I balled up my shirt at both ends and slipped it into the pointy, built-in
brassiere, and then I made a hair rigmarole out of a bright orange exercise
outfit and a pink feathery thing that were hanging there on the rack.
I didn’t have a mirror or anything, but I did believe that Goldie would
have been proud. I just hoped nobody would recognize me. I hunched way over
and walked with a limp up to the counter, paying for the ensemble. The lady at
the registrar looked at me like I was a kook, but I didn't care. I told her that I
was going to a crazy hat contest and then crept out of the store limping.
I figured I’d stay hunched over and keep a low profile. Hopefully I’d just
look like a crazy old woman. I started mumbling to sell the outfit a little better.
I wasn’t sure where to go. I decided to sneak around to the parking lot
and maybe hide underneath the Coordvagh mobile or somewhere close by it.
Hopefully I’ll catch up with the bonehead on his way out.
Fuck, what if he already left.
I freaked out at the thought. My blood pressure shot through the roof at
the mere thought of it.
I didn’t look up until I was out the door, wiggling my fake ass as I went.
I decided I better hurry. I looked around and noticed some public
bathrooms just ahead, so I limped myself right into the lady's room.
Jeez, this was so humiliating. But I snuck in, took the exercise outfit off
my head, and changed into it. I took the pink feathery thing off and wrapped it

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fashionably around my white hair. There was no room for the derriere lift and
no time for my boob lift, so I threw the dress and my clothes in a trashcan and
jogged straight out of there.
I reached the front lot and started jogging towards the bar. Oh shit. Oh
shit, I don’t see the taxi.
Nope, not down that aisle.
Oh no, up! There it is.
It was perfect, right between a couple of large utility vehicles.
I jogged down the aisle and sidestepped right into the pocket, dropping
and rolling under the luge taxi's front cylinders.
I laid there a few minutes to catch my breath. Listening, I looked around
and didn't see any feet nearby. Then I slowly scooched over towards the driver’s
side and sat up just long enough to check the door.
It was locked. So I scooched back under the car and looked around for
feet again. The vehicle was so low to the ground that my belly rubbed the
undercarriage. I slid over to the passenger side, and voila!
I opened the door and got in, checking to see if I could turn on the air or
signal Pumba somehow.
It was hot. I couldn't get the air on, and I couldn't take the heat. I
climbed back out and hid under the car again. I scooched up toward the
cylinders, looking for a breeze.
I noticed some slight condensation on one of the cylinders above me, and
when I touched it, it burned my finger it was so cold.
I found the leak. I put my hand in a few different places, and I thought
that if I could get in there, I might not die of heatstroke under here. So I started
investigating the mechanism that rolled the doors back and forth.
Condensation was dripping off of it, and I saw what appeared to be a manual
override lever, and yes, sir, this was my lucky day.
The door jammed a bit, so I forced it open. Something didn't sound right.
There was some shrieking noises as it rolled around. And then it shrieked

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again when I closed it, also making a popping noise when it closed all the way.
Man, I hope I didn't break it. But I was lying there in some reasonable comfort,
though the exercise outfit was a little tight, and oh fuck.
I ditched my clothes.
What was I going to say? That I liked to cross-dress when I ditch
everybody to go jogging?
Just then, I heard the door open, and then I felt the weight of a driver
sitting down as the door closed. I was glad my window was heavily tinted.
I could hear Pumba talking to somebody on his comband, probably Jose.
He said, “Yah, he just disappeared and never came back. I can't wait on him
any longer.” I decided to just lie there and be quiet. I’d die if anybody
discovered me wearing a tutu.
We drove back over to the hospital to pick up Jose.
The ride was scary as hell. I just closed my eyes and peeked out here and
When we pulled up under the covered entrance, I heard the whine of the
hydraulic lifter as I felt the cylinders tilting up, much to my surprise. I couldn’t
picture Jose wanting to ride in one of these cylinders on purpose.
Then the two glass cylinder doors rolled around, and there was Patty.
Startled, she jumped a little, but then her face lit up and she covered her smile
with one of her hands. She looked all giddy and waved at me, tilting her head
back and forth. She looked so happy to see me.
I put my finger over my lips to shush her. Then I waved back as she
turned around and climbed into the other cylinder, buckling herself in.
She was so cute. She had the demeanor of a small child being trusted
with her first secret.
Jose was putting luggage in the trunk. I could hear him and Pumba
talking about my disappearance and how great it was that Patty got to come
home today.

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As the glass door rolled over my compartment, I was as quiet as a mouse
and glad nobody else saw me in my tutu.
The fucking door shrieked and popped again as it closed. I hoped this
thing didn't fall off the frame while we were driving down the road. It was
vibrating pretty bad on the way over to the hospital.
It began vibrating pretty bad again as we started down the main drag.
Patty cranked up the music and started rolling around, having fun. I
could hear her singing and rolling along.
I was petrified.
I pulled my seatbelt tight and prayed to God that the cylinder wouldn't go
rolling off onto the sidewalk—or worse, unnoticed into the middle of the desert.
We were headed out of town, down the main drag.
Oh man, this was such a trip.
I could see underneath some of the vehicles driving down the road. I was
beginning to feel relieved. I wasn’t out of the woods yet, but at least I wasn’t in
I decided to try and relax. After all, it was quite comfy lying there and
watching the world fly by.
So I took a deep breath and gripped the handles, careful not to move
them to the left or right. And I wondered, as I laid there, how high the guy
must’ve been to dream up a luge taxi. What a weird contraption.
Sooo low…
Yeah, I was so low, man. It was kind of cool. I could see straight up a
short skirt if one walked by.
It was starting to get late, and the sun was sinking into the horizon fast.
So was I. I got used to the vibrations. They smoothed out as we reached a
faster cruising speed on the desert highway. There was a full moon rising, and
some of the brighter stars were coming out. More and more of them crept into
the night sky as the sun faded away.
I began feeling like I was in space as we flew over the low hills.

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Screeech! All of a sudden Pumba swerved to miss an armadillo that had
walked precariously out into the road. My cylinder rolled to the right, then hard
to the left and then right again, and something snapped completely. The glass
went one way as the cylinder flew around the other, stopping abruptly, jerking
my whole body.
I wound up upside down and to the right slightly. The door was on the
other side, facing up, and the road was directly underneath me. The sound of
the road echoed in the open chamber.
I screamed a tensely controlled “Yikes” as I tightened up and almost shit
my leotard. And the only thing between me and the road, which was, like, six
inches from my fucking face, was my seatbelt.
Aghhh, ohhh, ayeee!
Easy now, easy.
Whewww, huh. Whewww.
Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck.
Pumba slowed down to a crawl and asked Peyote Patty if she was okay.
She replied, giggling, “Do it again! Come on, that was great, and right in time!”
Pumba laughed and said loudly, “You going to marry her, Coordvagh?”
And then he laughed at Jose. He shouted back to Patty, “Okay!” I heard him
say to Jose, “I look at the other side tomorrow den. Probably just need to hit it
with a hammer.”
His voice faded as the road, which was almost close enough to use as a
Kleenex, started roaring louder and faster again, as did my heart.
He drove nine million miles an hour, and it still took nine times as long
to get there. I was mentally preparing to meet my maker the entire tip.
By the time we reached Geronimo's, I was exhausted from the stress. I
was a lifeless corpse lying across some straps, waiting for them give way unto
my demise.

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Oh man.
We pulled around to the back. I could just tell from the turns and
accelerations off the main road.
Thank God. Thank God we were finally there.
We stopped, and the cylinders tilted up as the glass rolled around to let
Patty out—and, of course, lock me in.
What I wouldn't give for just one lousy, normal, ol’, boring day.
The door didn't close all the way on me. It would have if my cylinder
weren't cocked a little on its right side. There was just enough room for my
fingers, and I really didn't know why or how, but I was relaxed and comfortable
just hanging there in my basket.
And somehow I knew I'd be able to open the stupid glass door of the
torture chamber.
All the panic and fight drained right out of me. I was glad to be alive and
somewhere that seemed like home.
I could hear the others piling out of the vehicle and making indiscreet
conversation while getting the luggage out.
As soon as I heard them walk through a door close by, I rolled the dark
glass door open. I was so happy to be back on solid ground and out of that
death trap.
I jogged down a ramp to the back entrance, the one right beside Victor's
little workshop. I stayed as close to the walls as possible, but I was sure the
cameras picked me up. Somewhere there were some security guards laughing
their asses off at me and my crazy outfit right now.
Just out of curiosity, I checked the door to the little office as I crept by it.
It would be nice to find a smock or a work apron to put on over these clothes.
It opened right up, and the door swung in. I was right behind it, closing
the door back slowly.
The room was dimly lit by a light attached to a grinder on a workbench in
the shop. I looked around, but I didn't find anything to change into. I started

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thinking about the helium cans I saw earlier, though. I wanted to bring Jizmo,
that evil bastard, back to life before I pulled his plug, let him know that living
things care about their friends and that you couldn’t go around fucking up
people’s lives without paying some consequences.
I didn't even have to turn the light on. I knew exactly where they were. I
reached up and grabbed one of the familiar cans off the shelf.
Yeah, they were just a reminder of that awful souvenir I picked up back
in New York. Not the wiener dog, but the machine. The heartless, soulless,
bank-robbing, back-stabbing, evil, demon robot.
Somebody was going to come alive one last time.
As I contemplated in the darkness, I saw the luge mobile driving down
the ramp. I leaned over to peek down the way, and, sure enough, Pumba was
rounding the corner and driving towards me.
I quickly ducked down below the desk in front of the window, sliding the
cool can of helium into an empty brown paper bag from the waste basket.
Pumba parked the car right outside the door. He got out, and I could hear him
shaking the cylinder back and forth a few times. Then I heard him fooling
around with some mechanism or something as he mumbled, “Stupid helium
leak.” He cursed a little, and I heard what I was pretty sure was him kicking
the cylinder pretty hard.
I heard his footsteps walking towards the resort’s back entrance, about
twenty feet or so away from me. I leaned over the desk to watch him go in, and
the can fell out of a hole in the bottom of the bag. A big dog's bark couldn't
have broken the silence any louder.
Fucking busted.
Pumba turned around, and I could see his face in the glow of the dim
light as he started walking swiftly towards me. Before I could react, the door
slammed open and he piled into the room, switching the lights on.
If looks could kill.

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“No way!” And he laughed and belittled me for several moments.
I wanted to die.
Finally, he calmed down and asked, “Whatchu doin', Coordvagh, dressed
like idiot?”
I just hung my head low.
When I looked up, surprise and astonishment adorned the man’s face as
the epiphany of how I got back from town filled his brain.
“Oh my gosh! My gosh! Dubock, you rode in the broken cylinder all the
way here?”
In self-defense, I replied, “And if you were dressed like this?”
“You are idiot, Coordvagh, first class,” he said.
“Well?” I prompted.
“What?” He was shaking his head and laughing still.
So I asked, “Are you going to help me sneak into my room and get some
decent clothes on or not?”
“Nagh, you look fine. Da place is crawling wit freaks. You'll fit right in.”
“Come on, man. You had your laughs,” I begged.
He pulled up a contacts VeeM and selected Tonto.
“Screw this,” I said. Then I tried to scooch by him to get out the door.
“No, no. Just wait a second. I know perfect solution,” he insisted, and
then he focused on the VeeM. “Hey, Tonto, you not going to believe dis.”
“I don't think Vick will appreciate you two getting kinky in his office like
that,” Tonto joked.