"Bizarre... very bizarre. A book-length paranoid delusion spy fantasy that reads very much like a warped cross between THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY and an obscure but semi-legendary wonkfest called THE BIG U. The action centers around computer-wizard Pairnoy, the affable yet intensely paranoid son of a now-deceased CIA agent, who gets sucked into a twisted conspiracy when his wife "disappears." ... The action is spiced up by surreal paranoid delusions, hot android women, a brief trip to hell, spies with helicopters, malicious goons, strange computer hijinks, and much more more, all spewed out in one giant mishmash of weirdness... it's funny enough in the places where it's supposed to be funny ... and fast-paced enough in the action parts to keep things interesting. Besides, it's so LOOPY that it gains many bonus points right there..."
Is a KAT agent awaiting my entrance? I wondered, worried.
I studied the building. It was a two story, dark red, brick structure with large, opaque windows. Above the door was a meter long by half meter tall, wooden sign reading, "Droolin' Dave's Tavern". Innocent enough looking place, I thought.
Picturing a massive hamburger and an ice cold beer, all worry leaked from my mind. I tilted my head and tapped one ear a couple of times for good measure since I had no ruler in my possession. Suspiciousness briefly gone, I was in a jovial mood when I entered Droolin' Daves whistling a happy tune.
The place was dark and smoky. It was quite a bit more crowded than I would have expected for a Singeday night.
Must be the �dirt cheap� prices, I thought.
There were eight round, wooden tables in the room and every one was filled to capacity with the cheery, the belligerent, the depressed, the drunk, and many combinations of these. A dark wooden bar ran along most of the wall opposite the entrance. A circular staircase in the far left corner spun up to a second floor where rooms could be rented. At least that is what One Eye had told me.
Every stool at the bar with the exception of two were taken. The two unoccupied stools were on either side of a very large, very dirty individual wearing old, ripped blue jeans and a ragged t shirt.
He was hunched over something, I hoped edible, since I could hear munching sounds from all the way across the room. There was nowhere else to sit, and I am not as picky as most people, so I sauntered over to make a show of my open mindedness.
As I drew closer, a powerful stench put a serious test to the great De Lusean self control as well as my jovial state of mind.
"Why hello, Gunther!" I said in a friendly tone while slapping him heartily on the back. It made a squashy sound, as if his t shirt were damp with sweat. It sure felt that way. "Or is it Jud? Or Burt? Or-"
I stopped in mid inquisition. The room had suddenly gotten quite silent. Somebody was probably supplying foolish bar room antics to draw some attention. After all, I thought, most people who hang out in places like this did not get enough attention as youngsters.
That was another tidbit I had picked up in the National Inquisitor.
Being no rubberneck, I ignored the cessation of ruckus. I was about to continue my name guessing game, when Large & Sweaty spoke.
"My name is Wilbert. Have a seat, buddy. And your name is ... ?" He said to me in the best imitation of Mickey Mouse's voice I had ever heard.
"Pairn Uh, Plint. Plint Brestwood." I answered while taking the stool he had gestured to. His high voice to surprise the victim into disclosing his real name ploy had almost worked.
You never can be too careful, I thought, especially when One Eye will be coming in here in a few hours calling me Plint.
I noticed Wilbert was eating what looked to be one of the Meatburgers One Eye had told me of. He grunted, coughed, and said in a little bit more normal voice, "Good to meet you, Plint," then turned his attention back to the cow flesh in front of him.
Being uncommonly observant as always, I noticed Wilbert was the only one in the bar partaking of food, or eating anything for that matter.
Hmmm ... suspicious? I wondered. Nah. I guess it's pretty atypical for this type of crowd to do anything but drink themselves senseless at a bar. They probably see food as something that will just slow the process. After all, the last thing a brain cell assassin would want to do would be throw his victim a life preserver.
"I'll have one of those," I pointed to what remained of Wilbert's meal, "and a draft." I yelled to the mean looking bartender who bore no resemblance whatsoever to One Eye Jones, being short and dumpy while One Eye was a tall and thin man. But he was drooling all over a large red bib that read "Droolin' Dave's".
"Hold your horses, you cocky fool! I'll toss one on the grill in a minute. And by the way," he slobbered at me, "go home if you don't like the temperature, okay?" He paused to eye me craftily, "Hey, you want a beer with the burger or what?"
Wow! Testy! You would think I was asking for a free meal! Maybe if I let his brother's name slip, he will be a little bit more friendly.
"Uh, sure, Mr. Jones," I said with a smile, "I'll have a beer, and thanks for asking. I've got three hours to kill while One Eye paints my car." Ooh, was that smooth! I congratulated myself.
He turned to me. I was expecting a smile, maybe even an apology. But he said, "Look, you smart ass scum, just because I am a bartender does not mean I want to hear your problems. Just don't start a fight in my bar, okay? And if you don't like the Meatburger, don't throw it at me and then try to murder yourself by bashing your head against the bar repeatedly while grasping your gut, okay?" He sprayed patiently, as if to a child, while pointing at my belly. "And if your beer bottle is a little slimy or even has a bug clinging to it, don't break it over the counter and use it to severely injure my other customers while screaming, 'My stomach! Oh, my stomach!' okay?"
Gosh! This guy is crazy with a capital Z! I just could not get his drift, but I was getting a little steamed. I know I have a little beer belly, but I do not appreciate those little hints and fat jokes from caring friends or even uncaring bartenders.
Hold on! No need to get steamed twice in one day.
I exerted that marvelous De Lusean self control and waited patiently for my meal. While waiting, I alternately studied the low life occupants and layout of the room while attempting to listen to the neo techno, spunky, pseudo rock music Droolin' Dave was playing over Wilbert's composition of slurps, chomps, and grunts.
To Dave's credit, it was only an hour before he slammed a plate and a beer down in front of me. The label on the beer said, "Lickalobe Dry". By this time I was mighty thirsty. To the ironic lyrics of a Trusty Politicians song, I took a healthy swig from the bottle and let out a pleasurable burp. Looking around first to make sure I had no one's attention, I shook the slimy swig from my hand. I do not care how healthy they are, all swigs make me want to vomit. I repressed a shudder while wiping the top of my beer bottle with a napkin before commencing to gulp. Worried that someone may have noticed my unmanly behavior, I sought to redeem my masculinity. Letting out another mean belch, I put the bottle back to my lips for more gulps.
Lowering the empty bottle to the counter, I felt like the last thing I could do is eat that Meatburger. Should I have another beer? Nah, I'm not that thirsty.
Like a bolt of lightning, Droolin' Dave appeared in front of me to replace my empty beer bottle with a full one. Amazement! I watched him run off like an acid rainstorm to attempt the poisonous drowning of some other unfortunate customer. He had left me entirely no time to say no.
He's probably secretly getting quite a kick out of the thought of so many brain cells dying due to his indirect influence, I thought with disgust.
The group Peanut Butter & Mayonnaise Sandwich was singing, "Painful masturbation ... exercised sleeping ... poisonous digestion ... providential weeping ..."
Turning back to the bar, I decided to give the Meatburger a try. It was, to its credit, looking very juicy and it was so big I had to use both hands. I like that in a hamburger. I took a large bite and reddish brown juice squirted out in all directions. It ran down my chin and slimed its way down my neck. It ran between my fingers, down my wrists, and sleeves in a gooey, greasy mass.
I had always thought no meat could taste worse than liver that had been soaked in urine for a week. I had always thought it would be against the law to serve up a hamburger the taste of which caused the mind to make speculations like, "Hmmm I wonder if this is what good ol Spot's balls would taste like barbequed?"
I had always bragged how the last thing I am is queasy or squeamish. I had always described myself as having "nerves and stomach of steel".
I grabbed frantically for the fresh beer Dave had placed in front of me. Gulp. Gulp. Gulp. It was empty in record time.
Wilbert must have noticed a weird look on my face because he chose this moment to slap me twice on the back, hard. "You all right, Mr. Brestwood?"
Yuck! The aftertaste!
I suspected someone had drugged my food or drink, because I vividly began to picture Droolin' Dave standing over a chopping board with a big grin and a shining knife:
He is whistling and chopping away. I cannot quite make out what is on the chopping board. I concentrate until a zoom lens appears over my eyes. The chopping board is flying at me!
A quick adjustment to the lens: The board stops right in front of my face. That was too close! There. Now just a touch of focus: Yuck! The chopping board is covered with pieces of rats, cats, hamsters, goldfish, other creatures I cannot identify, and lots of blood! Droolin' Dave carelessly tosses a pile of this meat into a blender. He is pouring something thick and red on top of the mess. Is it tomato paste? He is now grabbing a seasoning type shaker and shaking a large amount of yellowish powder into the blender. Probably just Garlic? I concentrate and ... fast forward: No eye of newt? No tongue of frog? The blender is buzzing. He's mixing it all up!
Another touch of fast forward: Now he is pouring the thick contents of the blender onto the grill in juicy, brown piles.
A tremendous grumbling noise brought me rudely back to the Core.
That's all I need now, I thought fearfully, is one of those terrible Caliwarmya earthquakes! I hope April is safe!
I grabbed my briefcase and looked for a table to dive under.
(The ground is not shaking.) The poor child I will never have! (The tables are not shaking.) So many legs! (No one is screaming.) Hurry, choose a table to crawl under! The room is whirling about me and everything is a blur. Nothing is shaking?
The whirling room slowed to a stop. Everyone's hair and clothes fell back into place. About the time I decided the grumbling was not coming from an earthquake, I observed that everyone was staring at my belly.
Had they heard Droolin' Dave's verbal assault on my physique?
I looked down in shame and dejection. My belly came into majestic view. It was shaking! It was grumbling like a volcano!
Suddenly I found myself on all fours on the floor! I do not know how I got there, but at least I was not lost.
Ah, Relief! He was my hero, tall and strong. He materialized in front of me and said in a reassuring voice, "You are not lost." He was wearing a pair of green shorts that came to just above the knee, white tennis shoes, and a white t shirt which had "BE CALM, RELAX" written in large, rounded, green letters on its front.
Relief did not stay long. A guy called Pewtrid Le Kwid, who was a real tough customer, had followed Relief to the bar. They talked calmly for awhile, but you could feel the tension building in the air between them. Suddenly Pewtrid grasped my hero in his slimy clutches and washed him away right in front of me! That is the third pal he had washed away and I was real mad!
First he had gotten good old Verjehnd Runck before I even got to know him very well. I think he got Verjehnd once and for all, because I never saw him again. Pewtrid had also washed away Verjehnd's sister, Dee, more than once. But the best pal he had ever attacked was Orry Gassum. Oh, now that had been a horrendous and embarrassing occasion! Some day I will have my revenge on that swig faced scum!
Oh, what drugs had been put in my food and by what sinister spy? I asked myself while heaving over and over again. In the drug like state I was in, I perceived shadows detaching themselves from the perimeter of the room and closing in on me. Demons come to take me to Hell where my soul will live in eternal torment! Where I will be forced to eat Meatburgers while swigs dance over my body to the grating tunes of Peanut Butter & Mayonnaise Sandwich!
I think I might have screamed at that point. Then I seemed to be coating a large piece of Droolin' Dave's hardwood floor with a substance that made Wilbert smell like springtime in comparison. Ugh!
After a few minutes of this, I felt myself being lifted by all four limbs and I seemed to be moving, floating magically through the air.
My spirit is leaving my body now on its way to Hell!
Or it is Relief carrying me? I wondered groggily, He always did like to pay a quick visit just after Le Kwid was out the door.
I clutched my briefcase tight to my chest and ... Hey! Where did consciousness go?
Importunities (Imps) are the only beings able to physically cross between the planes of existence at will. They appear sometimes for no apparent reason and if possession of them is not taken immediately, their impatient nature carries them away to another plane. Very impredictable, at times they disappear without notice. They are almost completely dependent on local occurrences for movement within any given plane. When quiet, Imps are impvisible to most beings.
--- From Pairnoy's Imp Theory
Traffic on the highway was light considering it was lunch time on a Stirfryday in Elay, Caliwarmya. Looking down at the smogometer on my dash served to clear up that mystery. It was divided into four sections: "You Could Be Jogging", "Put Your Windows Down", "Put Your Windows Up", and "Wear a Gas Mask". At the moment the needle was embedded deeply in the portion of the meter labelled "You Could Be Jogging". A squint up into the bright blue sky confirmed the device's accuracy regarding the atmoshphere on that fine Spring day.
The tightly packed dirt road sloped gradually down. It was quite bumpy. When I thought we were surely out of view of the main road, I pulled the car to the side and cut the engine. Stepping from the car, I found to my annoyance that Prudence was clinging to my shoulder with his gnarled, little, old man's hands. He was whispering, "Look under the car‑"
I swatted the little freak from my shoulder as was my habitual way of greeting him. But as was not my habit, I decided to follow the little runt's advice that time.
Has an enemy agent attached a bomb to the underside of my car? Worried, I bent down and inspected the underside of my beautiful blue Mustard. I could see nothing out of place. Of course I have never known much about the underside of cars. But I was sure I would have recognized something as sinister as a bomb. Weren't all of them red and black and tied up to alarm clocks? I spotted no clocks of any kind or anything that even resembled a clock. I mentally cursed Prudence and seriously contemplated renaming him "Nuisance".
"What are you doing, Pairnoy?� Tad asked from beside me. I made a shushing motion and put my head under the car, listening intently for ticks. But the only ticking was that of the monstrous Fryd five liter power plant cooling down.
That is when I noticed the large puddle of fluid under the engine! Horror! What could it be? Oil? Gasoline? Nothing seemed to be dripping from the engine at the moment and that puddle was about the size of a small plate. I dipped a finger in the stuff and examined it. It was a thick, reddish liquid. A few white hairs and some copper wires were mixed up in it. It was definitely not oil.
Could a KAT agent have held on to the underside of my car and... Nah. My Mustard is much too low to the ground to be comfortable enough for that kind of stunt. I must have run over a rabbit or something.
Dismissing the puddle, I climbed to my feet, remembering the task at hand that was much more important than the life of one small animal. After all, I thought, how could the life of one insignificant creature affect our mission?
The three of us began our short journey up to the main road. No dead or wounded animals were to be seen. Amy walked with head held low, as if sad about something or intensely interested in her shoes.
I was happy to notice Tad had remembered to bring the remote device from the car. Prudence had ironically caused me to forget it. Yet another reason to change the little freak's name.
Patting Tad on the back, I thanked him for coming along to help. "I don't know, Tad, if you know how dangerous this little expedition is going to be. I hope you realize it is entirely possible for your father to recapture you, revoke your individuality, and retake your freedom‑"
Oh, ma! I thought, a little frightened, Here I am talking like that weirdo, Wompa!
"Oh, I'm not worried about‑" Tad interrupted eagerly.
"And there is no telling what Wayde Toolwrich will do to Amy should he capture her." I continued.
"I'm sure we will be successful, especially with Cynthia on our side. Right, Cynthia?" Tad said. I sneered at his incurable optimism. How can he stand to always be so... happy?
"Affirmative, Taddy boy. The chances you should fail are approximately nineteen in one hundred."
I had not realized the remote device had been on the entire time.
"Nineteen?� I questioned. That number did not make me very happy.
"Affirmative. There is a nineteen percent chance of failure. Should I reestablish contact with my nonresponding contingency slave, the chance of failure will be revised to four percent."
Nonresponding contingency slave? "Cynthia. Please elucidate regarding the slave you just mentioned.� Was it... Could it...?
Sweat began running freely down my forehead to pool in my loafers. Uncomfortable, not to mention blinding. Wiping my eyes dry, I listened intensely to her response.
"Solely as a contingency, I created and programmed a slave to prowl the borders of the Estate. Should you see a white rabbit in the area, there is a high probability it is the device I speak of. On a perceived threat scale of one to ten, the contingency slave is a‑"
"Yeah, Yeah. Okay, Cynthia. We get the idea.� I hurriedly interrupted her babbling that would only serve to worry and degrade the morale of my companions.
How could a robot rabbit add fifteen percent to our chances of success? I wondered, amazed.
As if she had read my mind, Cynthia continued, "The contingency slave is equipped with a multitude of highly advanced sensor jamming, alarm bypassing, and human restraining devices which would come in handy should your group attract the notice of the Estate Goons."
"Well," I said, woodenly, "I hope you reestablish contact with your lost slave." I decided it would be a waste to share the bad news that I had spread fifteen of our chances all over the road with my Mustard. If they haven't figured it out already.
What they don't know can't hurt them. I thought with wisdom borne of much reading and re‑reading of Guidebook for the Modern Thief or Spy. Either way, I'm going through with this rescue mission.
Just as I was beginning to wonder why Amy was being so silent, I also began to wonder where she was. Turning around, I noticed she was standing over something moving just at the edge of the trees that border the dirt road. Tad and I turned back around and backtracked to where she stood.
Following her gaze, I looked down at a bloody mess of skin and electronics. If a rabbit cyborg had been hit by a car and then had tried to crawl into the bushes, I would expect it to look exactly like what we were staring down at.
What could barely be recognized as legs struggled feebly to move the expiring creature farther into the brush. A pseudo electronic mewling noise came from what used to be the cute, furry head of the slave.