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Mundementia One: The Book of Going Forth
part 8
by J.(Channing)Wells


"BLOODY FUCKING DAMN!" I scream, wrapping the little bits of hair that hang down over my ears up in my hands along with the rest of the hair on the sides of my head and subsequently whacking my skull against the hard, and relatively unyielding stones of the cell wall. "DAMN!" I conclude.

Feeb glances at me. "You're awfully serious about this, aren't you."

"Look, try and see things from _my_ perspective, here!"

She shakes her head at me. "I'm certain I don't understand how that would help. All I'd get was a different angle on the room." She muses, for a moment. "Of course, I _could_ read L'Abbe's computer screen if I were looking at things from your perspective. Plus, I could admire my own admittedly beautiful figure." A fiendish glare sprouts up like a spring dandelion in her right eye. "You don't suppose that we might actually _have_ something here, do you?"

"Hm?" I ask, weakly, trying to pick splinters of wood out from beneath my well-chewed fingernails.

"Mind transfers as an entertainment aid to the pathetically narcissistic. It would _work!_" Feeb begins scribbling notes to herself. True to form, Feeb has arrived at the conclusion that the best reason to put yourself in another person's shoes is so your feet don't get dirty while you're busy appreciating yourself.

"I don't suppose you're interested in devoting many of your thought processes to the goal of figuring out what the HELL we're supposed to do about Stein's Rapidly Approaching Iconoclast Combat Droid?"

Feeb doesn't even lift her eyes from her calculations. "And," she remarks, "as an incidental side benefit, it would allow me to _TAKE OVER THE WORLD!_"

"Never mind." I say, hotly and with bitter rancor, my voice sounding like a bad order of curried vindaloo. "It's plain to see that if _anyone_ is going to make any progress towards actually figuring out what it is we're ACK!"

"Frink." Says Luke, apologetically, promptly returning to his gyromancy. I rub my bruised shin. "As I was saying..."

I look around. Feeb is obsessively working her pencil to the bone, scritching away our last remaining hours in idle pursuit of financial gain. Luke has given up actually _interpreting_ the patterns of his gyromancy and has graduated on to simply spinning around in really fast circles, laughing like a moron and uttering incomprehensibles in three-word Lemur code. Buddy is painting his toeclaws over by the newly-broken-through right wall, and L'Abbe is... is...

Well, he's working on his computer. Presumably he, at least, is doing something of val--

"Three hundred eighty six!" He exclaims. "My best Minesweeper score _ever_!"

"Frink?" Cries out Luke, launching himself dizzily over to the workstation and sitting on top of L'Abbe's head, staring at the screen. "Wheeooo frink frink CHEEP frink Frink!"

"Yes!" Says the old geezer, chuckling cellophanishly. "My success was contingent upon my learning that if you click on the _right_ mouse button, it puts a flag down so that you can keep track of where you think the mines are!" He levels a finger at Luke, who is by now sitting on the little computer desk, shaking his fuzzy little head in disbelief. "Play _smarter_, not faster, young whelp!" L'Abbe grins, exposing (no) teeth, even as Luke begins frantically searching through the extensive 'help' files, trying to figure out where he went wrong. I turn drastically to everyone at once, hurting myself slightly in the process but nonetheless achieving the desired effect.


"Rawr?" Says Buddy, poking at Feeb.

"No, I'm almost _certain_ that last refers to _you_, Bud."

"Rawr." Says Buddy, dubiously.

"ATTENTION!" I scream, upsetting the fire pan in a shower of sparks and banging it repeatedly against the floor. "PAY THE HELL SOME ATTENTION TO ME!"

"I'm sorry, Charles, I'm having trouble parsing that. Are we supposed to be paying attention to you, or to Hell?" I whack her on the head with the fire pan. "Ow." She remarks.

"Look." I say, gazing around at my pathetic little crew. "I hate to interrupt your individual projects. Goodness knows, I _really_ hate interrupting your individual projects. _BUT_." I say, throwing the fire pan angrily down to the ground to punctuate myself. "BUT. If I've understood everything to date, which is not something I'm willing to stake my life on, but _still_, if I have, the lot of us are in big, big trouble here, with no immediately evident solutions. We're standing on an island, imprisoned by a hostile dictator, with a giant armed-to-the teeth combat machine with a homosexual robot soul at the controls steadily bearing down on our position, and all you people can think about are OPPORTUNITIES to CAPITALIZE UPON BODY SWAPPING TECHNOLOGY and WINDOWS MINESWEEPER?!?"


"And toenail painting." I add, magnanimously.

There is a brief silence, and within it, Feeb speaks. "Charles, I think I speak for the lot of us..." She looks around at the rest of the crew, and then starts up again. "I think I speak for the lot of us when I say, well..."

Feeb wanders up to me and looks me square on. "Let's put it this way. The reason that we're not scurrying around here like beetles trying to figure out a plan is that, for the moment, we've given up."

I stare at her. "What?" I say, mildly.

"We can't think of a damn thing, Charles. Neither can you, of course, which is why you're being so anal about it. The difference is, we're not overly hot and bothered about it."

I slump to the floor, beaten. "Fine." I say, at last. "Just go about your business. Do whatever. Leave me here to rot. throw me to the goddamn dogs. Y'all are fine anyway. It's _me_ they want. Everything bad happens to _me_."

Feeb crouches down and puts an arm around my shoulder. "There's a massive confluence of events coming up, Charles. Lyle the Iconoclast is trudging steadily towards the island through the gulf waters, quite uncoincidentally on the exact same day that you arrive here. On a somewhat more coincidental note, tonight's Palatial Bill of Fare includes a Grand Masquerade Ball, which is, IMO, a smegging lightning rod for unplanned events."

"Masquerade Ball?" I inquire, weakly.

"L'Abbe's List friends told him all about it. It seems that our Morph-Happy General is fond of them, for potentially obvious reasons."

I blink. "He'd be _that_ trite?"

"I'm afraid so, Charles. This detail is compounded by the recent uprising of an unusually virulent strain of the Venusian Fiat Microbe. And to top it off, there's _also_ a List-wide weatherwatch alert tonight for the Gales of Transmogrification, or, the GoT, for short. We should be safe here under the reality shadow of the One Can, but for the populace, it's going to be a hell of a night."

"So no more wild jaunts outside the cell, young man!" States L'Abbe, firmly, from his chair. "You've seen the General's power, and despite the considerable gravity of your Artifact, I have considerable apprehension about its ability to shield you even so close as outside the walls of this room!"

L'Abbe thumps something for emphasis. It might be a cane, in this light, despite him never having had one before. One of these days I'm really going to have to ask him about that. I turn back to Feeb, for the moment.

"So... what you're saying is..."

"We don't see any options available to us right now. But the gelatin is going to hit the fan real soon now, and if we're lucky, the newly chaotic system will present us with further opportunities which are not now visible."

"And if we aren't lucky?"

"Charles, what's the worst thing that could happen?"

"We could die. Horribly. It could involve tin foil."

She shakes her head. "You don't believe in the afterlife?"

"I'm kind of attached to this one, still."

"One wonders why." She says. "You're always complaining about it, after all."

"No, the boy is right." Coughs out L'Abbe, attempting to rise from his chair and stumbling repeatedly into Luke, who begins to look bothered. "Young Miss, it is all well and good to take a philosophical bent towards death when you're my age! But the lot of you still have your..."

L'Abbe spends a few minutes making an expansive gesture. We watch. Luke gets out some popcorn.

"...whole lives ahead of you! And it'd be a shame to have all of your bright young little fires snuffed out by multiple consecutive missile hits. No, there must be _something_ we could to do help the four of you survive the night."

I blink at L'Abbe. "What about you?"

He chuckles. "Don't you worry about me, boy."

"Oh, good." I say.

"I'll be dead before the night is out."

"Just as well. Anything we'd be able to--"

I pause.


"Dead. Deceased. Forcibly placed into a state of having kicked the bucket. Taken out options on agrarian real estate. Euphemized into oblivion. _Dead._"

I stammer for words for a moment. My companions seem to be similarly lost for words. "But... Master L'Abbe! You _can't_ die!"

L'Abbe approaches me, comfortingly. "Look at the signs, dear boy. Exaggeratedly slow movements. Wheezy ratchety voice. Nonspecific physical ailments. A predilection for coughing up loads of important information." L'Abbe sighs, heavily. "Let us face things, Herr La Guardya. I've been suffering from Stereotypical Old Mentor's Disease for many, many years, now. By my estimation, all I need now do is pass some important token on to one of you, and I'll be food for Plot Worms."

"I won't let you!" I say, backing away, looking at the rest of my party. "You hear that? _None_ of you accept any important symbological tokens from Monsieur L'Abbe!"

L'Abbe shakes his head sadly. "You're abutting the iron facade of dramatic convention, boy. Nothing you do now, here or ever, will confine me to this physical coil." He sighs, wistfully. "With any luck, my ethereal soul will pop up in a cameo role somewhere in the installments to come."

There is silence for a time, as I stare at the wizened old man. Somewhere outside, an eerie wind arises, and the faintest flickers of multicolored lightning begin to dance across the surface of the great and glorious ocean, clearly visible from the cell's tiny window slit. Bruise-black clouds are massing, blotting the bright tropical sun and casting the world about into shades of ponderous darkness. Feeb was right. It's going to be one hell of a night out there.

Precious seconds tick past, as I meet L'Abbe's even gaze.

"No." I say, firmly. "No, you're coming with us. We're getting out of here, all five of us. I won't leave you behind!"

L'Abbe regards me, clearly, his bland, poached eyes shining with a strangely serene light. "Every time you say that, boy, you make my fate all the more certain."

"We'll see about that." I say, bravely, turning away and leaning heavily upon the wall as though to push it over with my bare hands.

Feeb edges up behind me. "Charles?"

"Mm?" I grunt, noncommittally.

She gathers herself. "If it's any comfort, Charles, we'd--"

I never figure out exactly what it is that is supposed to give me any comfort. Knowing Feeb, it wouldn't have been that much anyway. Probably some sort of wonderful new recipe for tapioca she'd be able to make out of L'Abbe's mortal husk. Whatever it is, however, it is lost to oblivion.

The wall breaks.

The General's rather lax approach to dungeon security has already been addressed in this manuscript. Blanket omnipotence tends to make you a bit lazy when taking care of the small details. Kind of like God and, the, er, platypus. Never mind. Point being (I rapidly surmise in the moment of) the General's cells aren't that well maintained because, of course, he doesn't really need them. Presumably, the General prefers to spend his time and money organizing vast parties and finding out new ways to toy with the genetic integrity of his subjects.

The mortar between the prodigious stones comprising the entire west wall of the cell has, most likely, been in a state of relative decay for years. He probably never got around to fixing it. Tenants of this cell probably complained, got the whole maintenance run-around, and eventually gave up, and then the General, bastard that he is, probably took it out of their security deposits. Oh, he'd say, I'll get to that someday, but right now, I have to work out this problem with cell thirteen, yada yada, yada yada.

Point being, the wall never got fixed. And my heavy lean is the last thing it needs to finally give up the ghost.

With a sickening crumple, several tons of solid rock dutifully collapse their way into the next neighboring cell. I follow.

"Damn." I curse, rising to a crouch and locating my new bruises. Damn wall. Damn everything.

I rise, with the full intent of promptly picking my way back into the original cell.

I don't get that far.

There is a searing burst of nectarine-hued radiance from all around, accompanied by a horrible sucking roar, and my brain ignites with fever. Raw sound ricochets across the walls and bounces from all the hard surfaces at hand.

Through the dim black haze of the aftershock, I can see a cold, severe light from within my companions' chamber, centering somewhere in the area of the little black satchel. The silvery light burns and boils at the pale-orange radiance, spitting and cracking as it holds the unearthly hue at bay.

I am outside the shimmering wall. Placing me dead smack within the orange light.

_It burns_.

"The Reality Shadow!" Cries out L'Abbe, gesturing towards the silvery wall. "La Guardya's fallen out of the One Can's effective range!"

Or something like that. I'm not paying too close of attention to the words. I'm too busy being half-conscious and freaked out of my wits.

"What the shit just happened?" Shrieks Feeb, under the roar.

With a cold, aching shiver, a sensation not unlike the one I felt when Feeb first turned the damn Lunar Lamp on me on that first day, so long ago, the orange light soaks into my flesh.

"Metastatic DNA Transmogrification Lightning!" Shouts L'Abbe. "And... It's the _orange_ kind!"

And, accompanied by feverish prickles, grinding bones and everything else you'd expect out of a respectably described cinematic transformation sequence, I begin to change...

* * *

The afternoon sky is decked in twilight hues by the thick, umbral greenery here in the world-renown Prickly Gardens of Hoderund, Kansas. Friendly hornets buzz from thistle blossom to thistle blossom as unicorns and small hedgehogs nibble at rose petals whose parent plants twist and twine about serene arbors of pinewood. Porcupines wallow their way through thorn hedges doing whatever it is porcupines do. Somewhere not too far off, a narwhal splashes playfully in an ornamental lake.

And, of course, Cacti! 'Nuff said.

Mother Skreng is here, poking at her cat with a rather large needle which she has presumably purchased from one of the souvenir stands located at many convenient spots within the Prickly Gardens. The needle has a small banner attached to it which reads, "My Parents Visited the World Famous Prickly Gardens in Hoderund, Kansas and all I got was this lousy ponderously huge needle suitable for very few practical uses." Agitated mrowling, a rather harsh and jarring counterpoint to the reasonably bucolic scene, echoes throughout the little cul-de-sac in the path and thence on past the hedges to other parts of the Gardens.

Some small words can also be heard interspersed amongst the ailurid din.

"Cor, 'old still, sully bayste! It waunt hurt a bit if ye jest 'old still, so said that noyce Mister Yamato, yew rememberim, yes, sweetie? Sooch a noyce young Eestern chap, 'od's luv. Sez tha' this is _AUL_ the royge in the fancy-aut health cloobs an' wotnot."

Mother Skreng brings the needle down again. Another hideous yowl.

"Flinched! Las' sekkend, yew _flinched_! Cor, we'll never 'ot get noewhayre a' this royte! Get ready for oonuthr. An' this toyme, dewn't FLINCH, od's heck!"

Poke. Yowl.

"Oo." Remarks Mother Skreng, shaking her head. "Oi _mest_ be dewing sumthing wrong, hea."

"Smaller needles, Aggie." Comes a serene voice from everywhere and nowhere at once. Moving in patient vegetable curves, the green thorny hedges and stinging nettles twist to the machinations of unseen forces, gently darkening the little turnabout in the path and obstructing the exits with vibrant, spiky life.

"The process of acupuncture typically involves steel needles just shy of a wire's breadth to encourage the flow of _chi_ through the muscles. Comparatively speaking, you're attempting the same with a railroad spike."

"Cor! You're roight! How fewlish oof me!" Remarks Mother Skreng, sitting back from her labors. "I never even _thought_ oof yewsing a hammer!" While Mother Skreng is distracted, the cat wiggles free of her grasp and makes a mad-eyed run towards one of the exit paths only to find that tastefully- arranged new growth has covered all. He sits, huddled against one wall of the newly isolated grove, breathing heavily and being frightened by small pangolins.

"I'm not sure you've yet grasped all the subtleties, again." Remarks the Voice, mild amusement playing happily within its dulcet tones. Motes of cool blue light dance into being, humming in time with the Voice.

"Per'aps you're roight. It's the oold broin again, ai tell yew. Oim nearabouts to getting it soorgik'ly remooved."

"It certainly sounds like a reasonable plan." Says the Voice, approvingly.

"Woonders in broin removal soorgery, oof loyte. Read about it in a _magazeen_. Oi suppose oi'd need a reploiycement, thouw."

"Things to consider when one is closer to the time of," notes the Voice, solemnly, its attendant motes of light gradually coalescing into a vaguely human-shaped figure, a luminescent being standing with easy, royal poise.

"Oof coorse, dearie." Mother Skreng stands up, scanning around with her eyes. " where'd that kitty oof moyne ren off to?"

"Mother Skreng?" Inquires the voice, gently. "About La Guardya?"

"Oo, yes, this is the toyme, isn't it. Sorry, aul floighty, yew know 'ow it goes, dearie." She lowers herself back to the bench. "Ee's goon." She says, at last.

The Voice is silent.

"Goon?" It inquires at last.

"Goon." Replies Mother Skreng, firmly.

A pause.

"Where did he... goo?"

"Au, off'n Ber-Mew-Da, or something tropik'l, south oof Floreeda. Cor f't'isn't an awfully stroynge ployce to put Bermuda thau. Oi elwoys thought Bermuda was _west_ of things, oof the Atlantic Seaboord." She shrugs. "Oo well."

Another brief silence.

"I presume that there is some sort of plan here." Says the Voice.

"Oo, yes! 'Orribly brilliant one. 'E's gewing to dis-powse oof the Deposit Can first _and then_ foind the Prophetic Bloydes. S'a bit convolooted, an' Oi shan't bore yew with the deetayls."

"Doubtless it contains multiple points at which there is a very real risk that everything will completely fall to ruins and life as we know it will be destroyed _in toto._"

"Cor, dearie. Wot koynde oof story would it be wi'out _that_?"

"A legitimate concern, to be certain. I don't of course, need to remind you of my personal stake in the boy."

Mother Skreng screws up her face. "Soo... woy did you, there?"

The Voice laughs. "Fair enough. How fares he?"

"Oo, most lawkly jest as yew'd expect. Explawring 'is Were- soyde, prolly unintenshonally."

"Poor child."

"Ay. Has to be loyke this, thaw. Else 'eel never broyke free."

"I know."

For a moment, the two figures, one pleasantly withered and crone-like, the other ethereal and luminescent, have nothing to say and nothing to do save to bask in the rich, green, leafy twilight and listen to the calming tones of panicked cat-breathing.

"Aggie?" Says the Voice, at last, distantly.

"Yes, luv?"

"He _will_ succeed, won't he?"

"Dearie," remarks Mother Skreng, "if the outkems of a Heero's journey were alwoys cast in stawn, everybody'd be one."

"Or no one. Depending on which way they're cast."

"Royght." Says Mother Skreng. "And _then_ joost think of how sorry a stoyte we'd be in."

One last twilit pause.

"Soomtoymes it's jest better _not knauwing._"

* * *

Consciousness. Out of the black haze again.

I hunger.

Soon, it will be time. Time at last.

Time to _hunt._

Smell. Smell. Smell smell smell smell...

Smell _prey._

Hear. Voices.

"This lycanthropy business _certainly_ comes as a surprise to me. Did _you_ know about it?"

"Certainly, I was aware." Comes a female voice which I should recognize. The other is dry, wispy, like rice paper.

"You?" Continues the dry voice.

"Me what?"

"You were Were-?"

"Were... were?"

"Were _Were-_."

"Oh, were _Were-_! Sorry. Homonyms."

"Quite all right. They look very similar."

A pause.

"Did you answer my questions?"

Close. Close. Food... _close_. Muscles sore. Cannot move, cannot _hunt_. Cannot use pronouns or auxiliary verbs. _HUNGER_.

"Er." Says the girl. "What were they again?"

"The first, or the second?"

"Do the second first."

"Second first, first second. Right?"



"Very well." Says the old voice. He summons his muster. "Are you a Were-?"

"No. But I _was_ aware that _he_ was."

"A Were-."


"You were aware he was a Were-."

"Of course. What was your first question?"

"I believe it's been answered. How about La Guardya himself? Was _he_ aware?"

"Yes. And obviously, he still is."

There is a pause, while the papery voice seems to take in the sight of me for a moment.

"He doesn't look very aware of anything to _me_. He's still out smacking cold."

"Nononononono." Says the girl. "He's not aware nor awake at all right now. But he has been and still is a _Were-_." A strange sadness enters her voice. "We don't even know if he'll make it through this." She sniffs. "I suppose if he dies, we could give him a wake."


"A _wake_." She sniffs. "If only he were aware."

"I thought he _was_ a Were-?"

"He is. But he's not awake."

"And if he never awakens?" Asks the old voice.

"Then we give him a wake." States the girl, firmly.


"But I thought..."

There is a shuffle, and a perturbed little voice from not too far off the floor.

"FRINK!" Says the voice.

A long silence. Then,

"Oh, thanks Luke. That cleared it up."

"Indeed, young fellow. What an absurd linguistic misunderstanding we were engaged in!"

"Humorous, wasn't it?" Remarks the girl.

"Indeed." Says the old voice.

My hunger has ceased being a biological drive and has become a force of nature, an act of praise to some dark and ravenous god somewhere in the black heart of the cosmos. Must eat. Must _devour_. Must...

Must HUNT.

"There, look, he's stirring." Says the old man. "It looks as though we're going to be all right after a--"

Dark fire courses my muscles with the force of a gunshot. The impulse to move strikes like a splitting maul, and I am _moving_. The suddenness of my leap catches all of them off guard, _all_, especially the weak old man.

It is prey to me. Nothing more.

Some deep portion of my mind hears a brief note of surprise, perhaps startlement, arise from the old man's throat. I cannot perceive it for long. All is hunger. All my mind lies in sooty red-black coals. There is nothing to do but to tear into that which I can only now refer to as my _food_. Hot fluids gather in my mouth and course down my chin as I feast of my labors, with the savagery of the animal that I am.

And then, there is nothing but silence.

And then,

"My goodness." Says Feeb, in wonderment. "What a lot of Macaroni and Cheese he's eaten!"


"Indeed." Muses L'Abbe, lost in thought.

"I mean, Charles has _always_ liked Macaroni and Cheese. Out of all the Food-Like Substances offered at the University Dining Service, he has ever shown a definite and profound preference for the Food-Like Substance Resembling Macaroni and Cheese. But I've never seen anything like that."

Ho, whoa, wait. Just. I mean. Uhm.

"It must needs have been caused by the Orange Metastatic DNA Transmogrification Lightning. The Orange variety seeks to magnify and amplify those Metamorphic traits that lay latent in us all."

"So for Charles, fighting off Lycanthropy..."

"Precisely, my perky young friend. It caused a sudden and spontaneous shift into his Were-form. You saw it happen."

"Hold on a smack." Says Feeb. "I saw _something_, in there Mister Labby. It might have been an Excruciatingly Detailed Transformation. Then again, it might not have been. All the expensive CGI sparks and glimmers and shit kind of obscured the view."

"Obviously, there was some effect, however. Just look at the wretched remains of that plate of Macaroni!" L'Abbe shudders. "That is not the doing of a normal man."

"Bah." Says Feeb. "Useless to us. Obviously, whatever happened to him out there wore off as soon as we dragged him back through the wall. We don't even know what he turned into, for crikey's sake. The only clue that we have is this lingering predilection for Macaroni and Cheese."

"Nothing's reacting how it's supposed to." Says L'Abbe, glumly.

Finally, I wrench myself upright and inject some clarity into my eyes.

"Ah, there." Says L'Abbe. "Good day again to you, Herr La Guardya. You seem to be recovering nicely."

"Bwa." I say, with piercing wit. "Howda, um. The. Thing." I gesture at the plate. "That."

"Frink!" Says Luke, happily, sucking on a Popsickle. The little scythe-shaped frozen treat drips patterpats of grape syrup upon the damp rushes of the cell floor.

"Room service." Says Feeb. "Naturally, it's all spiked with gooky experimental transformative chemicals and whatnot, but the One Can negated them all, much to our host's chagrin, I imagine. It's quite safe to eat."

"How can you be sure?" I ask, recovering my tongue a bit.

"I ran my Little Electronic Thing over it." She holds it up. It goes 'bweedleep' in a reassuring fashion.

"Well, that's good, at least." I say. I brush the knees of my jeans clean of straw and clear my throat. "Well. From here on in, time is of the essence. Pen, please. Someone?"


"Beh?" Remarks Feeb, after a moment, approaching my earlier loquaciousness.

Four pairs of eyes regard me with some degree of confusion. Time to explain the Plan that I just thought up. I know I didn't tell you that I had thought up a Plan. Just stick with me here.

"Let me explain." I say, crossing to Feeb and daintily removing a pen from the pocket of her lab coat since I seem to have startled her off her manners. Clicking it open, I remove the copy of Ortega's Universe Rules from my pocket and begin scribbling on the back of it as I speak. "I've just thought of this right this moment, so it may have a few holes in it, but after all, what that we've done so far _doesn't_?"

I continue to be stared at.

I finish my little paragraph of handwritten text and gingerly place the pen back into Feeb's pocket. "So," I say, "if anybody has any concerns, I want to put out a standing invitation to leap in at any time, and I'll do my best to answer them. Together, with any luck, the lot of us should be able to break out of this prison in time to evade Lyle the Iconoclast and get back to Unmaking the One Can. Right? Everyone swell with this?"

Another uncertain pause.


Another uncertain pause.

"Charles, er, what's going on?" Says Feeb, at last.

I turn to her, rapidly, and wipe a little remnant of dry cheese sauce from my lip with my sleeve. "We're getting out of here. It's just like you said, Feeb. We have to take advantage of some of the elements of the chaotic system here. Only thing is, we can't do it from here. We need to initiate a structure, and, with any luck, things will fall right into our hands."

"Frink?" Says Luke, at last.

"With this." I explain, showing them my recent handiwork. "It's our ticket out of here."

My Party crowds around as I hold forth the rumpled document, which almost seems to glow in the inconstant light.

Expressions of mixed befuddlement and comprehension cross their faces. "Charles," says Feeb, looking up at me. "This is crazy."

"Thanks!" I say, choosing to take this as a compliment.

"Rawr." Interjects Buddy, after I have finished with my explanation, which has left Feeb with a rare look of speechless admiration. "Rawr rawr?"

"Ah." I say. "That's the _really_ clever part. Obviously it's no good unless it's approved. So, all we gotta do is _get_ it approved. By someone with the Proper Authority."

I grin, wickedly.

And I tell them the _rest_ of the plan.

And, oh Lord, if I don't say so myself, it's a _good_ one.

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