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Delaney Amati Smith
& Mansion: So Busy, Becoming an Accidental Busybody
The image of a bellhop perches
first on one leg then the other by the edge of a roof of a downtown
skyscraper. Gazing downward, with both hands he raises a golf club
over his head. The scene occurs on a large monitor.
Far below, the people look like a
school of minnows flitting across the downtown central plaza. Others
resemble tufts of beach grass clumped around street performers break
dancing or juggling. The bellhop arches his back.
In a darkened laboratory, two
wide-eyed technicians wearing white coats watch the monitor. In
grainy color, the young man bends and stretches. Mouths agape, the
viewers take notes and wipe their brows.
is your candidate?" the taller researcher says. "This
golfer? Crik Duvall?"
shorter one nods. "He's a bellhop, too."
the wall atop the city's tallest hotel, Crik in the hotel's uniform
lowers his club. The height does not frighten him, rather, the view
always intrigues him. People
sure look little, Crik
thinks. Must be how
landlords see us.
takes a few practice swings. He steps back from the edge and tees up.
He drives a Whiffle golf ball into the air without a hitch. The
headwind blows the hollow ball back to him. He catches it. Yes!
He replaces the
plastic ball on the tee — yo-yo
his bellhop cap, Crik runs his fingers through bleached streaks.
Yo-yo golf will
challenge enthusiasts of all nations, even become an Olympic event. I
could pay down my tuition. Even help Randy with his debt. How dumb,
messing with dudes from the vodka importers convention. What'd he
know about ostrich racing anyway?
knuckles are tattooed with esoteric symbols. A stud twinkles in one
ear but no weighty choker worries his swing. He's up to twenty-three
straight successful drives-then-catches, closing in on his personal
word "Fore!" rings out from a phone in his pocket, but he
himself, Crik cocks his club for another swing and drives the white
ball into the onrushing breeze.
blinks. The plastic dot sails past him, into the void. Zippers.
you don't answer your phone, I know where to find you."
Crik looks over his shoulder,
resting the club on his other one.
lets the door close behind him. "My man, break be over."
Also a bellhop, Randy has his cap is on backwards. As he crosses the
roof, his body lags behind his head, his neck nearly level.
offering his empty melon to a guillotine, poor sucker. Crik
takes out a twenty-dollar bill. "Another big date before next
you are like family." Randy takes the note.
That short for cricket?" People always ask.
Crik was named Crik because Brook was already taken; his older
brother got named that.
I get it," the hotel manager said when interviewing Crik,
nodded. His hair waved, didn't curl, despite him being the black
sheep of the family. "Yeah, Crik."
is too busy to finish college. How many decades would it take to pay
off the student loan — a necklace of stone — anyway? Especially
with good friends unable to budget themselves. Better to have a fun
job. Make money and enjoy life.
In the gloomy laboratory, tall
Dr. Alvin Ultra and his short assistant Yuri Ivanov, both
middle-aged, emit gasps and wag their heads, jotting down notes.
monitor, thin as a sheet, hangs from a ceiling in a high corner. It's
cabled to a device shaped like an oversized dog biscuit with a sharp
point like a syringe, big as a sled, some parts shiny, some opaque.
Colored wires twist and run to other odd-shaped devices that whir and
Crik hides his club on the ledge
beyond the perimeter wall.
Ultra glances at Yuri. "Neither of these two has indicated any
interest in social evolution, never mind founding an entirely new way
of viewing the world."
his beret and bushy eyebrows, Yuri shrugs. "Destinon said to
check out this moment."
two bellhops enter the hotel's darkened conference hall. It's packed
like a tent revival on the eve of the Second Coming. Of
course. Who hates money?
of Wagner's majestic movements accompany the big-screen video of
unabashed luxury: Acres of vineyards remind Crik of the south of
France where he'd backpacked one summer. A sleek car barely looking
street-legal swerves through hills.
Roadster," Crik whispers to Randy. "0 to 60 in 3.7."
the screen, a limousine grand enough for comfortably hosting small
celebrations sits in the driveway of a mansion with the long lines of
Frank Lloyd Wright draped over a seaside cliff. Inside, fashion
models adorned with jewelry befriend vain hosts sipping champagne.
Famous paintings hang on the walls.
leans over to his pal. "I've a print of that Van Gogh."
his autograph?" Randy whispers.
frowns. "Ethics teaches us virtue is its own reward."
frowns. "Economics teaches that reward is its own virtue."
reward would be to never get another bill, late notice, or harassing
sharp-dressed salesman in a flawless Armani suit strides onstage. His
shiny hair neatly styled, Julian Seizure keeps his posture erect and
full-chested, as would a cocksure general before his troops. His
blistering smile stretches his narrow-featured face.
fires his words forcefully and pounds the air with a fist, keeping
time with his avarice. "Andrew Carnegie, a billionaire back when
a dime bought you a complete breakfast, noted, and I quote: 'It takes
hard work to amass a fortune in industry, but any fool can get rich
in real estate.'"
up, Randy whispers to Crik, "Did he say any
fool?" His eyebrows bounce up
big screen shows slender beauties gliding in Olympic-size pools and
robust businessmen driving golf balls a mile down the links. The
pitchman exhales. "The old boy nailed it. Nothing else comes
close to how much people pay over the course of their lives for a
place to live. Directly or indirectly, a big part of everyone's
spending goes to a lease or mortgage."
sea of heads nod in assent. The speaker opens his hands in empathy.
"Since all of us have been foolish at least once …"
the sea of heads, only Randy bobs agreeably — until he sees nobody
else owning up and slinks lower into his seat.
are we not all very well off?" The instant-riches guru taps his
skull. "Foresight." Seizure stares down his audience. "It's
not speculation when you see what's coming."
snorts. Too good to be true. "Why
can't telling the unvarnished truth work to sell?"
believe!" Randy says.
to go, bro." Crik tugs his friend's sleeve. "I've a better
idea. You think Seizure plays golf?"
On the giant, wafer-thin monitor,
hotel employees in a locker room change clothes and joke around.
Somebody plays rave. Another paints his nails black.
two observers fixate on the events above. Dr. Ultra, a
slim man, twirls his curling
sideburns. Yuri, whose mis-buttoned lab coat makes one side higher
than the other, lets his mouth hang open.
pointed cylinder sits on a counter. It's covered in tubes and wires.
A lone bookcase has one book, The
Structure of Scientific Revolutions by
must enjoy the abundance, brothers. It's real." Dutch boy Shane
doesn't need to shave but does.
good to be true." Randy needs to shave but doesn't.
civic duty." The Shane image extends to the Randy image a
clipboard with a sheet on it. "For more pay and fewer hours."
Crik slowly undresses. "Sweet. Even better than the real estate
barely glances at the petition. "I've signed dozens."
the most enthusiastic response," one of the scientists says.
Randy wears threadbare pants,
billowy shirt, and a vest. He puts on a rubbery skullcap that makes
him look bald.
curious way to conduct business," notes the other observer.
co-workers regard Randy skeptically. "What? Her preferences said
she swoons for shiny, smooth tops." The others roll their eyes.
In the dim light, the researchers
each raise an eyebrow, exchange a glance, and write feverishly.
scents the air.
taps the clipboard. "So, No Paddle, can I get your signature?"
I'm not using it."
aims a finger at his co-workers. "Can I get your life savings?
entering cutthroat golf, right? Saturday." Both nod. "Get
lots of sleep. You'll need it."
Shane asks. "Not tonight. I need you at another gala."
done. I'll watch some Monty Python … doze off." Slouching,
Crik checks his reflection. With his forefingers, he pushes up the
corners of his mouth.
stares past his image in the mirror, into his hopes for the future.
Catering the mansion —
extra bucks, fresh connections, maybe even a cuddly one. Can
exhaustion get in the way of rubbing elbows with the high and mighty
who could fund a deal?
holds up a tux on a hanger. The pressed suit looks sharp but he
doesn't, not with dark circles under his eyes. "Rank, you want
the extra bucks?"
snaps a towel at Crik. "The fun's just begun."
a vast salon of high ceilings, ladies in gowns and pompadours laugh;
some hold masks before their faces. Julian Seizure and a knot of
gentlemen in tuxedos exclaim loudly. Seizure wears a Roman soldier's
breastplate and leather kilt: the others are topped off with powdered
wigs. A string quintet plays Vivaldi.
ferries delicate morsels and bubbly drinks to the costumed guests.
Somebody wants to
invest in a dynamic young guy brimming with fresh ideas? Which one
has a measly million for a wind tunnel to practice yo-yo golf?
Humming the baroque melody, Crik
unloads empty crystal glasses from his tray.
tends bar, decked out in the same dark suit, minus the jacket. A
professional drink slinger, he moves his hands and arms as fast as a
magician mixing shells and a pea. His words, too, come rapid-fire,
brooking no interruption. "Thanks for working a double. Wise
move, man, leaving college for gigs like this." Shane nods at
Framed paintings hang between
tall windows with florid trim. The polished furniture supports
expensive baubles. Thick rugs cover wood floors.
being the one to inherit this? Help yourself to the caviar."
Crik snarfs a gob.
pops the cork off a bottle of Vueve Clicot. "What is it with
guys like Otten, who can afford to pay on time, but pay late?"
busting your balls about money when you're waltzing knee deep in it.
Everywhere you look — investors."
Since the last posh reception,
Edgar Otten, the owner, has added a clock of golden moving parts
within a glass bubble to his collection of antique clocks —
grandfather clock, sand clock, and water clock.
gazes at a half-naked statue. A woman younger than the rest sparkles
in her bling and perfect orthodontics. The
rich and beautiful can be as susceptible as anyone else. Crik
serves a tapa to the marble figure, making the living lady giggle.
She's no Ellen (may she
come to her senses), but she is playful. Tilting
her way, inhaling her perfume, Crik lowers his voice. "Introduce
me to your rich daddy, let him invest in my latest invention, and
someday I, too, will have my own cuckoo clock."
her tongue, the damsel moves her forefinger and thumb like the hands
of a clock. "There are some soiled flutes in the master. Would
you mind fetching them?" She bats her eyes.
Clean up on aisle … Pay my
dues. Close the class gap. Keep hope alive. Sales always take a few
The image of Crik carries an
empty tray into the master bedroom, and a thin beam on the other side
of the room goes out.
nudges his boss, Dr. Ultra. "The race to find our Founder is as
good as over, sir. You've won!"
image flicks on a wall switch, revealing an immense room: a majestic
four-poster bed with its carved footboard, a big screen TV, a large
executive desk — and Seizure closing the door of a wall safe with
his gloved hands.
Ultra jabs his bony finger at his helper. "You programmed the
chronoscope to look back further than it ever has, to find the very
first meeting of our Founders, and you show me this?"
following Destinon's suggestions, sir." On tiptoes, Yuri tilts
the monitor. "They haven't seated themselves, so no meeting has
jaw drops. "Oh. Harvest time." He takes a deep breath.
"Well, I can see there's no dirty dishes in here."
Crik turns to go.
From his breastplate, Seizure pulls out a chrome pistol.
taps his pursed lips. "I can see how my search command might
find a burglary as the launch of our era of prosperity, but how does
armed robbery inaugurate peace?"
doesn't, you amoeba!" Dr. Ultra throws up his hands. "Your
search command had bad parameters! Cheap chips." He inhales
deeply then mouths counting down from ten.
your timing is impeccable. Before you go, your fingerprints will
should try another suggestion," Ultra says.
taps the remote against his palm. "The tension is so
shocked," Crik says. "You seemed so civilized. Like an
Their voices sound tinny, like
coming from a speaker.
he sounds earnest," Yuri adds.
the monitor, Seizure's smile reveals rows of large chalk-white teeth.
He waves Crik closer.
shakes his head. "Get us back to serious business."
shakes his head. "Don't you want to get gone before the silent
alarm brings help?"
smile fades. He glances at the safe, then the door. "Good point.
I should knock the true burglar unconscious. If caught on camera,
that'll look good on the news." He raises his gun above Crik's
Yuri aims the remote at the
screen, then pulls it back, then aims again.
the monitor, the bedroom door opens. Mr. Otten, dressed for a safari,
bounds in, armed with a double-barrel, pump-action shotgun. About
sixty, white hair puffed up, he looks like a patriarch on a daytime
soap. He exudes an energy that renders his wrinkles meaningless. His
designer shotgun is engraved with "Three Musketeers" in
gold. His lips curl.
Ultra covers his mouth. "Barbarous! That must be loaded with
his chrome pistol over Crik, Seizure aims it at Crik's head. "It
was only by good fortune that I followed this suspicious character in
waves the remote. "May it be our good fortune, too."
Crik yanks Seizure's
breastplate. A stack of bills peeps out from below the armor.
crook, you're supposed to fleece others!"
Otten's voice, too,
Ultra and Yuri watch enraptured,
breath abated. The assistant begs his boss to boost the display from
flat images to holograms and tosses him a remote. The senior
scientist flinches, pointing out the machine is already taking more
power than ever.
tips his beret. "Chalk up another first for us."
Poking the bills back into place,
Seizure lowers his handgun.
cocks his shotgun at the much smaller weapon. "You want to drop
inches backwards. "You two be perfect gentlemen."
pumps his shotgun at both suspects. "On your knees, both of
you." He casts the barrel of his shotgun up and down. "The
law says I can splatter your brains all over my Persian carpet."
sir, I believe you're mistaken." Crik tugs at his collar. "That
would be a desecration of Islam."
scowls at the rug then aims his gun at Crik. "You. Call 911.
Tell them to come pick up the bodies."
Ultra peeks between his fingers then slowly lowers his hands from his
face. Stubby Yuri mimics the slender Crik who is unhooking his phone
from his belt. "Please, Dr. Ultra. It's like you're making us
watch this in black-and-white."
dives behind a tall burgundy armchair. His chrome-plated pistol whips
up above the back of the armchair and pivots like a submarine's
periscope, but unsteadily as if in rough seas. Otten — eyes wild,
mouth agape — slinks backward.
the greater realism of three dimensions would honor our nation's two
nods in agreement. "However, no permit for extra power has been
sweeps his shotgun from side to side. "Freeze."
to be a hero. Phone in
one hand, Crik cocks his arm with the tray.
it," Yuri pleads. "It's in the email. All Geotopia would be
The lead scientist shifts his
weight, trying to find the comfort zone on his chaise-lounge.
Crik throws the round tray like a
Frisbee toward the pistol as he dives for the space beneath the desk.
Roaring in panic, Otten and
Seizure aim at the leaping Crik.
Ultra clicks the remote. "I guess another Hertz couldn't—"
image of Crik freezes in mid-leap. Colors fade, leaving shades of
grey, flashing back and forth from positive to negative. What
A sudden brilliance floods the
screen. The chronoscope hisses, a sound reverberating into a deep
roar, then pops. The lights go out. All is black.
voice completes his boss' sentence. "—hurt."
Some lamps come back on. In the
murkiness, the huge, slim monitor is cracked and blackened. The large
syringe-shaped device smokes, spilling its mechanical guts.
in ash, Yuri holds his beret over his nose and waves at the grey
haze. "At least the walls are still standing."
Ultra, mouth agape, pats his smoldering hair. "Go. Just go."
& Cellar: From Chaos to Clarity … sort of
the desk in the master bedroom, vapor rises from Crik's back. He lies
still, arms wrapped around his head, phone clutched in one hand. His
heart races, his thoughts scatter. He pokes his bleach-streaked head
out above the desk, like a dazed prairie dog from its dusty burrow.
slams in from the window. Crik winces. Daytime?
Already? He runs his
tongue over his palate. Did
I black out? For hours? The
room has a musty aroma. Why'd
they just leave me here? Crik
brushes off his suit. This
is a first — waking up alone, in a fabulous mansion, in a man's
bedroom — on the floor.
tries his cell phone to see if anyone can come pick him up. It won't
work. Don't charge it
for one night and it dies. Cheap piece of …
the window of a corridor, the trees and hedges look familiar, but …
fuller. A scooter glides by without wheels. Crik whistles. Magnetic
levitation? Rich guys and their toys.
He's disappointed with himself for not keeping up with tech
breakthroughs. But cheers up. Good
thing some people are rich. They can pony up the starter cash.
the top of the wide staircase, Crik looks both ways. If
I'm ever going to do it, now's my chance. Hands
in the air, he slides down the banister.
the spacious foyer, Crik spots a pink plant. "Unpumpkinbelievable
— bonsai gone bonkers!" The flower is a face! "Bloodthirsty
lord of the manor, Miser Otten."
the entry of the foyer of dark wood panels, a young woman stands,
arms folded, one hand aiming a watering can like a fencer's foil.
that can loaded?" Crik lowers his arms.
repellent". Her hair in spikes, she looks about Crik's age.
Shorts and blouse cover an exquisite pelt of a cheetah from head to
toe. The triangle ears and long white whiskers accentuate her exotic
More stunning than anything on
a Broadway stage. But too old for dressing up
she says. "This part is private. Only the other half is a
to be getting off easy, Crik ambles doorward. Otten
must've designated part of his mini palace as a museum so he could
get a tax write-off. Miser
Ivanov enters from a side hall. "He's mad at me again, Tepper."
Yuri's in his burned beret and badly buttoned lab coat.
young woman's eyes twinkle. "And it's still early."
they live together? Niece kitty and Uncle Igor? Crik
sniffs the air. Burnt
stubby guy knows a beauty in a cat suit, and smells like that? Crik
pulls the front door open.
the distance, a tall slender structure that reminds Crik of Seattle's
Space Needle dominates the skyline. When
did that go up? Crik
turns to Yuri. "You recognize that building? I thought I knew
this town like the sag in my sofa."
would be in your own home."
Like Ellen. Why'd
that fizzle when it seemed like it was going to soar?
turns to Yuri. "He's another amateur history buff slash
his tie, Crik clarifies. "Neither. Another caterer slash late
riser who missed his paycheck and his ride out of here." He nods
at Yuri. "You want to split a cab?"
Tepper's ears twitch.
you can call it sleep. I don't feel the least bit rested."
fallen, Yuri points at the intruder. "Caterer? Here?"
Yuri snaps his
vaporous green light emerges from his thumbnail and condenses. It's a
hologram of Dr. Ultra, about half life-size. "Just leave, Yuri!"
steps back. "Bedazzled!" This
meta-cutting-edge gadgetry had to cost a fortune. He
passes a hand through the head above Yuri's thumb. It ducks. Crik
whistles under his breath. "This is like a quantum leap! When
did it come out? Where can I get one?"
steps closer to Crik. "Helloooh. Welcome to the twenty-second
tilts his head. "Uh, I think you might've counted an extra claw
on your paw?" Easy
to do in this ritzy palace: hologram, phenomenal disguise, facial
flower, mag-lev scooter.
holding the hologram of Ultra, tiptoes around the caterer,
inspecting. Crik chuckles. They
look at me like I'm some sort of exotic specimen. The super-rich
really are out of touch with us regular people.
the hologram of Dr. Ultra and Yuri gasp and grab their foreheads. The
hologram runs both hands through its ethereal hair. Yuri twists his
beret around 360 degrees. He extends a forefinger toward Crik, stops,
starts to touch him again, stops. Ultra points at the intruder. "Holy
hazy! He's here!"
He's now!" Yuri twirls around as if spun by a phantom dance
these lunatics lost it?
Crik turns toward the door. "And … he's gone."
poke in the chest halts Crik, part of him enjoying cheetah girl's
tail swishes. "Exactly who
is here now?"
Ultra surveys their surroundings, panting. "Reality's still the
will the Directorate say?" Yuri yells at Ultra.
They seem so earnest. Is there
a hidden camera?
A stoop-shouldered butler in a
black jacket takes up position by interior doors. He stares
discretely into space. Despite his age, his skin resembles porcelain,
pale and unblemished.
He at least seems sane, not
part of this, this what, charade?
rest now." Dr. Ultra waves forward like a platoon leader. "Yuri,
bring him down to return ASAP."
What is it?" Tepper blinks, looking as confused as Crik.
hologram of Ultra gulps. "It's, it's."
secret," Yuri wails.
changing." Ultra nods. "Cosmic radiation. Very bad."
holds out a palm, as if checking for raindrops. Crazies,
but they sound so certain.
deprivation!" Ultra barks. "This instant!"
swivels her ears. "What's he done?"
you really just swivel your ears?" Crik throws out his hands in
bewilderment. Is everyone having a
mass hallucination? He grabs through
the hologram. "What is
going on here?" He examines his empty hands. Am
I losing it? I'm jawing with a freaking wisp of color.
lays a reassuring hand on Crik's shoulder. "They'll explain it.
To both of us."
Cheetah-girl needs to know,
too. Those lab-coated guys better make this good.
Tepper tugs his elbow.
regards the familiar yet different landscape beyond the front door.
I'll go along with
their absurdity with my own. He
holds up his elbow with Tepper's hand. "Am I under arrest?"
His eyebrows flutter like Groucho Marx's. "I like handcuffs. Do
you like handcuffs?"
pokes his arm with a claw.
immature," Crik says. "But, hey, you're the one dressed in
marches Crik forward. "An intruder. The Directorate. Crazy."
corridor's high arched, curtained windows give a view of a hedge and
circular driveway. The plush carpet silences their footstep. Whoever
cleaned up last night left nothing amiss.
takes in his escorts: cat girl, stubby lab techie, and a hologram
with a pompadour. "So, what makes this place tick?"
don't know?" Yuri looks disappointed.
am I supposed to know?"
Ultra's hologram yanks Yuri's sleeve. "Not a word. He's
returning as ignorant as when he arrived." He glances at Crik.
"I told you he wasn't the one."
one you'd been looking for?" Tepper's whiskers quiver.
hologram of Ultra swallows.
nods. "The biggest breakthrough in centuries. Dr. Murky will eat
his heart out."
fur stands up. She aims a thumb at Crik. "Him? From the past?
Crik holds up his hands. "Wait, wait." He peers at the
others. "Did I hear … did you say … ?"
hologram wrings its hands. "There can be no other logical
stops in his tracks, hands on hips. "What
Squealing, Yuri scampers behind
Tepper, grabbing her watering can as a weapon, staggering her.
fear, anger. So retro." Tepper peers into Crik's face. "You
that era masterfully."
they're pulling off this hoax masterfully. Crik
regards the three. "Did Mr. Otten put you up to this?"
clasps his arm again. "You knew him?" Tepper appraises the
anxious scientists. "A true time traveler?"
jaw drops as if weighted by lead, his eyes fly open like corks
popping. His thoughts jam then explode in every direction. "Get
the … what? Did
I hear …"
The two researchers nod at Crik
tries to laugh but can't. He confronts Tepper. "Did you say …
Could you repeat … ?" His face freezes. The others do look
sincere. This has to be
the best set up of all time. "This
is un … this is way …
it's beyond any …"
surprised us, too." Dr. Ultra motions them forward.
shakes his head. Dear
god, am I losing my mind? Was the caviar spiked? The fatigue must be
getting to me bad. He
stops drumming his temples and reexamines the others. Wherever
I am, is it safe? He
halts. The others pause. Why
me? What was I supposed to know? I need at least a clue.
way." Tepper leads Crik down a wide, curling stairway.
demand proof of your claims."
can prove where you are," Ultra says. "Can you prove who
a dank hallway, ceiling lights surge on and off as the party of four
passes below. Darkness reclaims the space behind them and cloaks it
ahead. Whoever they
are, Crik thinks, they
don't waste energy.
holographic Ultra says, "you're a living fossil. A scientific
absolutely curious to know what's going on."
grins. "Solving enigmas is fun. It exhilarates."
Her chest pushes taut
against her cheetah-wear.
glances her way. Indeed
locks her feline gaze on the intruder. "Are you truly the one
who first formulated geonomics?"
proto-geonomics?" Yuri asks.
you articulate that," Ultra asks, "even if in your own
shakes his rattled brains. "You're kidding, right? I don't even
know who you are."
nods toward cat girl. "Dear Tepper is an up-and-coming historian
in her own right."
Who wears fur.
Ultra agrees. "She's highly qualified. And very punctilious."
I once had that." Crik's ear stud twinkles.
The Futurites scratch their
runs a hand along the wall. "You're asking me about geonomics?
Why couldn't you ask about major
stuff, like yo-yo
Ultra's hologram frowns. "Not another duffer."
dips his cap. "We'd love to hear you expound on your era while
you'd hear is wha'? wha'? wha'?" Crik squeezes his skull.
elbows the visitor. "We are serious about science."
genealogy," Yuri nods at her.
juts out her jaw. "You'd help yourself, too."
you can't prove you were the founder, you're surely the biggest
mistake these notable scientists have ever made or ever will make."
chips, she's right!" Yuri wails. "We must inform the
Sort of like your kiddy costume." Crik tugs down his jacket
two brought him through
time?" Tepper's tail swishes. "I should know better than to
expect intellectual rigor from a Pastian."
holds Dr. Ultra up higher. "This crisis begs the Dear Learneds'
We, uh, Pastians, call it nosey."
arguing. We must keep calm, calm, calm!" holographic Dr. Ultra
the end of the hall, Tepper uses her thumbprint to unlock a metal
door. She pulls the thick slab open and waves the others in. Crik
the threshold, Yuri brings the holograph of Ultra closer to his face.
"The Dear Learneds, they must rule immediately!"
Tepper ushers Crik, who hesitates briefly, past the foot-thick door
into the basement laboratory, like an attendant in a nursing home
helping an elderly gentleman back to his room after his morning
Dr. Ultra closes the heavy door. He and his hologram growl at Yuri in
unison. "You mind shutting that thing off?"
Yuri hurriedly squeezes his thumb into his fist and the hologram
Ultra's minimal social grace, his beaked nose, and his disheveled
hair grant the scientist an air of aloofness. He reminds Crik of an
old chemistry professor who made class torture. Another reason it
was stupid to go into debt for a piece of paper called a diploma.
"This is where we extract information," Tepper says.
The room is loaded with machinery, tools, and parts, but lacks a
window. It appears to be a fallout shelter, leftover from the Cold
War. Throw in the shotgun and alarm system and it adds up to Otten
being a survivalist.
"In here," Yuri says, "our cells receive less cosmic
"My cells lap that stuff up." Crik's eyes dart about as he
dries his palms on his pants. Are these people dangerous? Do they
only act like buffoons, but really dissect visitors who overslept?
The aroma of burnt plastic fills the air. A bare space on a wall, no
different from the rest of the wall except it's framed, shows Crik
and burglar Julian Seizure confronting one another. Seizure flashes
his toothy grin.
Yuri twists his beret. "What'd they eat back then? Wood?"
"Maybe," Crik says. "But first I need answers."
Ultra turns his penetrating eyes upon Crik. "Founder?" He
looks to his colleagues.
"You tell me," Crik says.
Tepper claps twice at the space in the wall, then turns around,
facing Crik. Behind her, holograms appear from the middle of the
framed space. Characters in 3D dash about a backyard while the music
of Three Blind Mice plays. Tepper tosses her thumb over her shoulder.
"Look familiar?" A hologram of a hefty lady on a patio runs
into and rebounds off a glass door.
Crik rubs his chin. "Mm, my mom? Mm, no, no."
Eyebrows knitted, Tepper pirouettes toward the scene. "What the
Yuri whistles shrilly. The hologramic scene changes. To a soaring
melody, a dollar bill with wings migrates from a wallet labeled YOR
AKÆONT over a stylized city skyline to a pot of gold labeled ÆOR
TRE∂RI beneath a caption that reads AUTUMÆTIK
BIO PEI / LÆND DOZ.
The three inquisitors peer at Crik who peers back and shrugs. "I
need more than that. Tell me what's going on." Crik runs a
finger along the blackened, syringe-like device with its insides
spilled onto the counter. "What's this thing do? Burn dinner?"
Scowling, Dr. Ultra aims the remote at the scene. Those holograms
dissipate, replaced by holograms of subatomic particles. "Matter
and energy together are mattergy, all waves. Time, too, has infinite
frequencies. The one humans can receive is the present. My
chronoscope can tune in blue frequencies and view the past."
"This very building," Yuri adds, "centuries ago."
Dr. Ultra glares at Yuri. His helper picks up a tool and, whistling
tunelessly, busies himself attacking the disabled machine. Ultra
confesses. "I amplified an attraction between this viewing
equipment," he nods toward the chronoscope, "and the
viewed." He nods toward the intruder. "The result: time
Barely breathing, Crik stares at the others, the machinery, and the
projected holographs totally, incredibly realistic. That means …
this could be real. He frowns at the pair of scientists. "I
got sucked out of my time by accident?"
"And for our accidental sucking, we heartily apologize."
Yuri removes his beret and, grabbing his boss, bends the two of them
over together in a co-bow.
Ultra unbends himself. "Mr. Duvall, some of the top discoveries
ever were accidental."
Yuri puffs up with pride. "All of Dr. Ultra's were."
"And not a minute too soon." Crik cocks a thumb then blows
the imaginary smoke off the tip of his forefinger.
Tepper tilts her head at Ultra and Yuri who exchange glances.
"The impact upon the space-time continuum … we can only
guess." Ultra swallows hard. Yuri bites his lip. Tepper narrows
Is it safe here? Crik takes in the ruptured chronoscope.
Almighty muthuh, am I marooned? He swallows hard. "Let's
say I am here. How'm I supposed to get back?"
Tilting his cap back, Yuri pats the chronoscopic wreckage. "Your
ride home." He flips a switch with no results. "The
culmination of Dr. Ultra's life's work."
Zeus' juices. My return is in their hands? He registers Yuri's
badly buttoned coat, Ultra's piercing, close-set eyes. He frowns at
the machine. "In that wreck? No way. Call me a cab, sonny."
Dr. Ultra huffs.
What do they want from me? Crik juts out his jaw. "But
why were you watching me?"
"To understand how society evolves," Ultra says, "from
your hunger, war, crime, and pollution to our present paradise. How
does an idea go from being one person's vision to being the worldview
of an entire society? What made that paradigm-shift possible?"
Tepper nods. "What was special about the idea and its
"We have trillions of hours of images of people in public
places," Yuri says, "but none of that cutting-edge person
discussing, exploring, debating, drawing others into their circle,
creating the nucleus that later became a movement."
Crik slides onto the chaise-lounge. Maybe after a nap, everything
will be back to normal.
Ultra paces back and forth. "We're not after the person who
became famous for leading the parade, but the unsung hero who struck
the first match of enlightenment, the one out of billions who
assembled the parade."
"Like finding the source of the Nile." Crik leans against a
"Once the new policy was in place," Tepper adds, "people
quickly developed the civilization we all now enjoy."
Dr. Ultra nods. "We know the system as geonomics. Does it ring
"Now's the time to ask, after what I've been through?" He
puffs out his cheeks. Damned insistent. Maybe they want Shane for
his petition. Jay-Zeus, what a story. Would he ever believe it?
Should I warn him?
Tepper kneels by the chaise. "Concentrate."
Crik sits on the edge of the lounge."Or celebrate. I'm the first
human being … to ever travel through time?" Receiving
affirmative nods from the scientists, Crik swings an imaginary golf
club then holds a hand up to his eyebrows.
Palms exposed, the Futurites regard each other with raised eyebrows.
A couple of sharp thumps turn everyone's attention to the door.
Ultra and Yuri exchange glances. "Voltak."
Dining Room: Authorities' Inquest
The heavy door swings open. A
hard body in a blue uniform, albeit unarmed, completely fills the
doorway. Nobody speaks.
Directorate has assembled. Above." The messenger's tuba-like
voice rumbles from his oxen neck. "They await an explanation of
an enormous, unexplained power draw. Without proper permits."
course, Voltak, run along."
says the oversized newcomer.
Ultra wrings his hands.
worried, and he's the boss scientist. Maybe I should worry, too.
Crik's eyes narrow
slightly. He stands a little straighter. None
of the others seemed worrisome until this guy showed up. Crik
shoos the researchers. "Don't keep them waiting. Y'all go
ahead." He grins at Ultra.
sniffs the air in the vicinity of the stranger. "Your vibrations
feel chaotic." Voltak turns to his coworkers. "Is he OK?"
they supposed to know?
Crik's smile sours.
takes his boss' hand. "Determining his fate, that's up to the
tugs Crik's hand. "They need to assess you, to figure out what
to do with you."
authorities. A bunch of dictators? Elected leaders? Open-minded? More
hard-ass cops like Voltak? Crik
feels the officer's implacable stare.
Clicking his heels together, the
wannabe policeman bends forward then steps aside.
recalls Tchaikovsky's nutcracker soldier.
the dank hallway, ceiling lights surge on and off as the party of
five passes below. Voltak's broad frame dwarfs his chiseled, shaven
skull, which protrudes like a nub between massive shoulders. His
heels click-clack on the floor.
than trying to joke his way out of a speeding ticket, Crik has never
had much interaction with officers of the law. "Officer Voltak."
Futurites chuckle. Yuri shakes his head. "No. Volunteer security
guard." Yuri opens his hands at his sides in the go-figure
pretend cop to go with a pretend cat. Maybe this whole thing is
pretend. Was I conked on the head? Crik
feels his skull for lumps. "OK, volunteer Voltak, what's the
speed limit for time travel?"
takes a small book out of his shirt pocket and flips the pages.
or not, the guy's a freak. Better watch my step. Keep him at a
the top of the stairs, light floods the plush corridor. Outside the
window winds the driveway to the city. The
world I left, and would still be in, if not for an excess burden
placed on … what, a chronoscope? Beyond
a hedge lies a world unknown. What's
amazing now? How did everything play out? Global warming. The debt
crisis. The wars. The snooping governments. The cursed soap operas?
Will Ismelda believe Damian's lies yet again? He
shakes his head in disgust.
In the foyer, Andrei in jacket
and tails stands by double-doors closing off the interior of the
the same old grind at his age. In somebody else's home, not related,
not a friend, doing it only for money. If this is the future, it's
got some old, bad habits.
Crik eyes the door to the front
Voltak plants himself before the
nods toward the interior. "You'll want to impress them."
Tepper steps toward the entryway.
Being the first time traveler
ever is not impressive enough?
especially useful is how the Learneds reached the pinnacle of power,"
Yuri says. "Now that we're all useful and so many of us qualify,
the office is less pinnacle, more like a pimple of passing prestige."
straightens his tie. "I can impress passing pimples."
Andrei pulls opens the
double-doors to a spacious room.
In the grand dining room, five
elders sit in high-backed chairs around a mahogany table. As Ultra,
Yuri, Tepper, and Crik file in, the Futurite authorities cease their
murmuring. Members of the Directorate stare at the Pastian —
tattooed and formally dressed — mouths agape. Each wears a green
robe, topped off with a glossy orange wig.
Power-wielders in orange? Who's supposed to impress whom? Crik
stifles a chuckle — with the help of a nudge from Tepper. Taking in
the Dear Learneds, Yuri's badly buttoned lab-coat, Ultra's spiraling
sideburns, Tepper's feline makeover, and nub-headed Voltak, Crik
concludes that looking off-kilter must be the new normal. For the
first time in a long time, the fleece-streaked, sporty inventor feels
more normal than everyone around him.
A chandelier glitters on the
table. The air holds the aroma of polish. Paintings of the proud hang
on walls. Facial flowers stand in vases on pedestals between
grandfather clocks — now even more antique — including the statue
to which Crik served a tapa.
hostess, Tepper makes the introductions. Each Dear Learned made a
major contribution: Chair A.R. Quesnay attained fluency in the lingua
extraterrestrials. Lawrence Pilard — leaning farther forward for a
better look — argued before the Supreme Court for the rights of
robots. Bernard Saint spurred the shift of the voting age so one can
start whenever one is sufficiently aware but must quit at senility,
before aging ushers in conservatism.
of them are military or even politicians, but discoverers of really
cool knowledge. Crik
surveys the committee. How
many years do these wigged wonders have left to vote?
Quesnay quits adjusting her diadem and glares at Crik. "And who
lifts his shoulders and open palms. "An innocent bystander, Dear
bows his head, swallowing. Yuri and Tepper wait for him. He swallows.
"He's the result of the sizable power draw, madame."
nods toward the square screen on the wall. "We were watching,
heard a secondhand account, and now see proof of your brazen,
Ultra saw fit to break the time continuum," Quesnay interrupts,
glaring at the two scientists, "without any foreknowledge of the
consequences, we must somehow repair it. The moment of his departure
must be erased."
Everyone nods, including Crik.
bows toward Madame Chair. "Of course we can and will. Even if
another historical researcher — who shall remain nameless —
attempts to intrude, such as the charlatan Murky."
Do I sense some competition
within the scientific community?
grins. "Our fingers are crossed."
the dark circles under his eyes, Pilard snaps at the historian.
"Altering the past could obliterate
the present. Every
instant must follow its previous one seamlessly, forever."
snorts. "So our citizens, who've bet on the outcome of past
Betters. Good company for
Randy. I wonder if anyone plays golf.
the chronoscope is fixed, it can show us who our guest was."
Bernard Saint has jowls, a cliff of a nose, a soothing voice, shaggy
tendrils extruding from his orange wig, and a mini barrel dangling
from his neck.
was not," Pilard growls.
can't hold back a chuckle. These
people use all their breakthroughs to play ever nuttier roles.
flips. He feels the way he did when hitchhiking Europe, known by
nobody, meeting people on the road. A vacation from oneself, free to
recreate a new identity.
Futurites turn to a framed space the wall, similar to the one in the
basement lab. It shows an image of Crik entering the master bedroom.
How long ago was that?
An hour? Last night? Last century?
from a terrible era" — Quesnay peers at the Pastian — "is
this intruder a criminal? Crazy? Criminally insane?"
wags a finger. "That's how rumors get started. More like
the midwife of history's most transformative idea," Yuri says.
Half a dozen eyebrows arch. "He could
pushes back from the table. "Midwife? I don't do midwife. My
friend Shane, maybe." He aims his thumb at himself. "I'm
more the sperm donor type." The Dear Learneds scowl at Crik who
smiles back humbly, mentally kicking himself for the lousy analogy.
up, bull-like Pilard jabs a finger at the traveler. "Are you now
or have you ever been a geoist or a member of the Geoist Party?"
Crik has never faced official charges before. The closest he's come
was appearing before a grand jury to bear witness in a case of
alleged fraud. His hotel argued their wealthy guest from New York
fibbed when he claimed he'd caught bed lice from unwashed linen
(probably caught crabs from an unwashed hotel barfly).
None of that ancient industrial, left-right nonsense." Pilard's
words, tone, and face show he's not an ally. But at least none of the
others support his hard-line. "Him? Our Founder? Bah!"
Smirking, Pilard sits. With every move, his shiny suit makes a
looks at all of them. "Your geoism is that
big a deal?"
The elders speak up at once.
can work at what they enjoy, yet earn enough to be comfortable."
accelerates and leisure expands."
steward their planet."
huge wealth gaps, individuals experience equality, practice
tolerance, and enjoy peace."
holds up his hands. "Got it."
so," Saint says, "as an original purveyor one could
articulate the three basic pairs of geonomic tenets."
Can't they just say, "principles"?
prove you were our Founder." Saint addresses his colleagues. "If
he did put our past on the path that led to our paradise, he'd
deserve a hero's welcome." He nods to Crik. "And all our
marvels would be yours to revel in."
hero's welcome. Crik
looks out the window. That'll
be a tale to tell.
order to return him the least changed," Quesnay states, "he
must not become at all stressed."
distressed," Pilard growls, furrowing his brow.
Smiling benignly, jowly Saint
reaches out to mollify Madame Chair and the would-be boss.
keep them tranquil,
Crik exhales slowly, closing his eyes half way; his forefingers meet
thumbs, forming twin circles. He hums "om". One Dear
Learned starts to hum along but quickly quits when the Chair glares
we send him back," Quesnay says, "he must be in the same
state of agitation he was in when he left. 'Til then, safety suggests
we quarantine him."
This Pastian, he broke
no law." Tepper glances sideways at Yuri and Ultra. Again the
five Learneds glare at the historians who shrivel into their chairs.
clasps her hands before her. "Have we consensus?"
don't. Crik aims his
thumb down, like Caesar in Rome's Coliseum.
other members of the directorate nod toward the Chair; Pilard is the
last to do so. Quesnay faces the traveler. "You are grounded."
throws back his head. What
the …? He hasn't
heard that since he was ten … which, all things considered, was
quite a while ago. "Grounded?
You're not my mother."
the wall, the screen plays Crik flinging his tray. Guilt
by association. The
Learneds mutter "Pastian" and "crime" and "risk".
in mind," Pilard rumbles, "the Pastian could commit a
felony now, too."
felony?" Saint wags his wigged head. "This visitor is not a
criminal but a victim."
worry." Crik draws a circle above his streaked head. "Halo.
I know how to stay out of trouble."
not," Pilard peers at his peers, "then we'd have grounds to
uses his little finger to swab out a troublesome ear. "A coma?
You're not my father."
smiles. "Only the worst case scenario. The best follows if
you're the original geonomist."
else could I
All the Futurites turn to the
wandering gaze rests on the cat girl. That
inquisitive face, and she moves like a stalking kitten.
Crik raises one of his eyebrows. Hot
have no clue," Pilard sounds as sad as Lewis Carroll's walrus
after a meal of oysters.
or fake," Quesnay says, "meanwhile the cellar will do
Trying to deny me all experience. "Coming
here is the wildest thing that has ever happened to any human being
ever," Crik says, "and you want me to miss it? A totally
As the Chair gets to her feet,
the others follow suit, albeit Pilard slowly.
On the wall, the images of the
standoff disappear. Where they were, a vapor streams out from a dot.
It becomes a green hologram of a twenty-inch man. Its presence halts
the Learneds. Quesnay sits back down; the others do likewise.
homunculus sits cross-legged in jockey shorts and bows its head.
"Inspired by this unprecedented event, I asked myself …"
All the Futurites perch on the edge of their seats.
Smokes! That thing looks so
human, but like a ghost — with a perfect Irish accent.
our guest …" It winks at Crik, grinning like a slick salesman
for machine rights, "… stay out of his own time indefinitely?"
The translucent fellow regards each Dear Learned in turn. "Or,
if he stays past a certain point, will the past move on without him?"
His audience awaits his answer. "Would anyone care to guess?"
No one would.
peers at the others. "Are we taking seriously someone we can see
a translusce-phobe." The leprechaun turns to the Learneds. "Try
twenty-four more hours. Until tomorrow afternoon at one o'clock."
The green see-through fellow blows smoke that forms 24:00:00. The
numbers immediately become 23:59:59 and countdown. The numbers
removes her fingers from her lips. "Cheap chips! What a snafu!"
She glares at the pair of scientists. "When will the chronoscope
swallows. "We will, of course, work around the clock." He
elbows his assistant. Yuri's head bobs in agreement like an Elvis
doll on a redneck's dashboard. "Without the distraction of any
nameless competitor such as—"
on your work," Quesnay orders, "without distraction."
Heading for the door with the other Learneds in tow, the Chair turns
back. "We'll send you a sitter."
Crik pops up,
bewildered. "Technically, you all are the children, since my
time is older than yours."
one for Pastian Crik." The homunculus swings an imaginary club.
A sitter. What I could
use is a lawyer.
gives Crik's shoulder a squeeze. "Show that you launched the
idea and were indispensable to our society's success … to enjoy our
Can I borrow a phone? Somebody's thumb? You wouldn't refuse me my one
call." He waves his phone before the Directorate. "See?
Dear Learneds file past Crik. He plants his hands on his hips. "The
passing pimples of prestige."
The last Futurite authority pulls
himself erect and exits.
expect me to just sit tight here the whole time? I'll show Pilard
who's a hero, show them all.
and Pool: What's to Lose? Starts off OK
The chastened researchers move
down the corridor with Crik and Tepper in tow.
Tepper taps Crik on the elbow. "Please understand. If you don't
have knowledge of geonomics, you become one crock of a lot more
trouble than you're worth."
flips one hand. "You think six tenets is something? Wait 'til
you hear seven."
Dr. Ultra shakes his head. "We'll take a few hours, fix that
darling device of mine, and repair the past, good as old."
Tepper's whiskers quiver. "Pity our Pastian is not aware."
Crik notes, "there's any mention of real estate."
mean of geonomics?" Yuri asks.
As they pass a closet, Andrei
emerges and accompanies them.
your era's faith be misplaced?" Crik tilts his head. "Maybe
the key to progress wasn't that wonk's wet dream. Like new
The Futurites give some credit to
nano-machines but …
maybe popular democracy?" he interrupts.
They acknowledge the benefit of
getting money out of politics but …
education? Getting new skills? As a recovering student, I'm
especially aware of the importance, harrumph, of learning to,
harrumph, sound intelligent, harrumph."
The Futurites roll their eyes,
then admit that conferring advanced degrees upon the self-educated
certainly did have an impact. However …
astrology gave way to astronomy and alchemy did chemistry,"
Andrei adds, "so did economics yield to geonomics."
The three researchers nod in
the insight of a butler is respected. Such
a reaction is not how the people who once partied in this mansion
would treat the opinion of a caterer, no matter how spot on.
ears swiveling, Tepper links arms with Dr. Ultra and Yuri. "Whether
proto-geonomist or not, his memory cells are here now, unaltered by
the passage of time …"
Would you like a note?" Andrei's tongue hangs out.
Poor old guy has a major
no, no," Tepper says. "Sorry, Andrei.
exhales the words softly. "Twenty-first century," then he
glances at Andrei and whispers, "memory banks!" The butler
data!" Dr. Ultra says.
nods triumphantly. "A live person's perspective on an insane
around, Dr. Ultra faces the time traveler. "Let's download your
mem-cells. Every last one! Right now!"
touches the crown of his head with the fingertips of both hands.
"Uploads only. I use this organ."
merely copy your
memories," Tepper's tail swishes. "With your permission, of
course." She arches an eyebrow. "If you are the first
geoist, your understanding would show up."
could you understand my understanding in the words of your past?"
I'll play along, catch
them off guard, then break out of here.
his hands as if in prayer, Dr. Ultra looks upward, resembling a
romantic gazing at the moon. "From the minds of people actually
doing it, we could see what they saw so riveting … in reality TV!"
Tepper says. "And see why they … fed themselves
Tepper and Dr. Ultra and Yuri
clutch each other joyously.
this is science," Crik nods, "I'm dropping back
Images of a long-winded lecture and boring homework come to mind.
Well, maybe not.
Near the top of the stairway,
Voltak enters through a side door, carrying five large boxes.
yes!" Yuri pulls his boss in close. "We could at last grasp
their malevolence toward male baby foreskins!"
historians' Holy Grail!" Dr. Ultra whispers hoarsely, his voice
full of awe.
covers his crotch. "Your download idea dies right now."
The historians clasp arms,
bouncing up and down — until noting the laden volunteer. The three
cough, back away from one another, and tug the wrinkles out of their
clothes. They give stern-faced Voltak their complete attention.
hands two boxes to Ultra. "Your new parts. A solmatol series z
and an LKM 78." And the other two to Yuri. "Plus six
Zuminators and two KYJays."
actual innards of a time machine. Crik
thumps Voltak's box. "Some munchies for a weary traveler?"
twists his box away. "If you eat H80 Dynamators."
fix my ride." Crik reaches for the doorknob. "I'll be
Voltak clicks his heels and
stands by the exit.
better that he not watch and overhear us at work anyway." Dr.
Ultra waves at the others to follow him downstairs.
an umbrella on the red brick veranda, Crik regards the surroundings —
mansion, landscaped lawn, pool — unsure it's not a dream.
Everyone's so flaky,
it's like being in an M.C. Escher sketch. With Dali drippings.
Tepper joins Crik on the veranda.
got a thumb I could borrow? If I'm being held against my will …"
I'm a historian, true to the past." Tepper half closes her eyes,
cat like. "But from our gift shop." She hands him a tiny
phone. "It even works."
opens the tiny clam. "How do you-" The same homunculus as
before squirts forth. "Zippers," Crik says, "you
again. You're like an epidemic." The
leprechaun must be the spokes 'person' for all computers. At least
the future has a sense of humor.
you again. You're like a visitation." Its Irish accent is
lovely. "And surely in need of guidance." The clam shoots a
ray at the edge of the umbrella. The stricken frill falls off.
catches the crystallized thread. It lightly stings him. "Ouch."
tiny token of my servility," the hologram says, "a reminder
that if you need to know anything, we are here to edify." It
tips its hat. "The word for the day is —" Wiggling the
phone, Crik makes the translucent figure waver drunkenly. "Whoa!"
'police'." Crik pockets the glassy thread.
little green man files through hundreds of hologramic records faster
than the eye can follow, like a Las Vegas poker dealer on
amphetamine. Finally it shakes its head. "Should I check the
archives? There is no current listing under that name."
the future be more efficient, not less?
"Police. Can you say, 'po-lice?' Jee-yoo-sus!"
— U — S?" the see-thru one asks. "Gus? Gusses, I got —
millions of them."
Nobody to come after me? Crik
pumps a fist.
The green guy holds up his hand. "Don't make me dizzy again."
it's that peaceful now?"
prosperous." Tepper purrs.
advanced." Crik's eyes widen. "Probably with officers of
courts, maybe even wearing hyena pelts. No way I'm missing the chance
of a lifetime."
takes back the phone. "So prove you're the founder."
I'm supposed to know, I must. Even if I have to discover their terms.
He paces around the
patio. "O-kay-ee, try this. Geonomics. Like Reagonomics. But
with a geo for Earth, so it's like Earth-friendly economics. Right?"
beams. "That earns you a float in beta waves. Quesnay said stay
calm. This is my favorite way." She descends the steps. "Just
don't get your clothes wet."
Crossing the lawn is a person —
of sorts. While the top half is a well-muscled, well-tanned man, the
bottom half is a pair of crescent-shaped kangaroo springers, carrying
the creature in long bounds, while dribbling a basketball. It rounds
the corner of the house, out of sight.
manages to hoist up his jaw. "Either this is the future, or I
ended up away in
Tepper and Crik cross the immense lush lawn where tycoons could
practice yo-yo golf. Crik swings his imaginary club. "Fore!"
Shielding his eyes, he watches an imaginary ball take flight. Loud
barking spins Crik around. Two Dobermans bound over the lawn then
disappear over a ridge, their yelps fading into silence.