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December 5, 2016 · 12:54 pm

Escape from Mars

Baker and Old Mabel (yes she’s changed her name as well) begin to head out of Mars and back toward Collagesity to start life anew there. Along the way they land the repaired dog ship at several different spots…

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… including this old mining village named Sandusty about 10 clicks west south west of the Dawg Pound, a place she and her brother have visited a number of times. Old Mabel shows Baker the way down to an underground research station where he, once again, tries to locate Collagesity on a provided globe of Mars (still no luck), while she studies planetary flora and fauna on a station console.

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Next stop: outskirts of Toledo, where Baker and Old Mabel discover the remains of another old timey wrestling structure. Baker remembers this same kind of spiral based building atop a plateau he landed on not long after leaving Collagesity during his trip into Mars. They must be getting closer, he rationalized. Home. Baker Blinker, Karoz Blogger, Hucka Doobie, and the rest. Including Wheeler.

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“The landscape is definitely looking more like the stuff around Collagesity,” he says to Old Mabel as they land at another building, attempting to get directions.

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Turns out it’s a library run by a familiar looking anthropomorphic cat named Chesterton, one suave dude who insists all this is a prop and that the only real book he has is around back. “My robot assistant Evelyn can show you. I hope it satisfies your needs. I apologize for not knowing the whereabouts of your Collagesity.”

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Old Mabel and Baker go around the corner to confront an opened “Big Book of Rust” on a podium, Bill displayed.

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“Chesterton knows,” whispers Old Mabel to Baker. “My liar detector went off as soon as I spotted his spotty face.” Baker nodded his head. He now remembered seeing Chesterton atop a knoll in the desert beyond Collagesity. Raging.

“Keep your cool, honey, and let’s get out of here.”

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INSCO Snapshots

Zombie at ReaktOr.

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Rental apt. scene.

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Rental apt. scene w/ cyberpunk.

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Baker at his short lived receptionist job.

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Blue people.

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Blue cat, blue beam, and hooded man at INSCO Central.

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Baker on a Mars Bench waiting for neighborhood friends Lemon and Sugar.

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Neighborhood piano bar/ watering hole.

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Neurobiologist Dr. Lemon Y. Teepot.

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INSCO South cars.

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INSCO heirarchy.

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32 apt. house.

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Little

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Cleveland Rocks had forever been the most holy place in the Dawg Pound for Mabel and Little, ever since they were little kids. It harbored the grave of The Host with The Most (alternately: Host Charming), who also heavily haunted the craggy knoll and its receiving bridge. The twins had withheld taking Baker Bloch to the sacred rocks until now because they knew it was all leading up to this finality.

As explained later by Mabel, a ghost of The Host had manifested to Baker as he passed over the bones of Those Who Do Not Rock while walking the bridge, quickly fading. “If he did not approve of your presence here,” Mabel says, “you would be tossed from the bridge by a gale of wind into the ravine below, your skeleton collected and then hung with the others, a *most* unfortunate end.” But the twins had faith in Baker. They knew he would not perish — destiny.

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And yet another manifestation, seeming to say, “Congratulations. You rock!”

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Baker also passed by this fading representation and through the torii gate to join Little on the rocks.

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He did not get up to receive Baker, but simply greeted him by name and motioned to the pillow next to his own in the gazebo.

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Little stared at Baker and then at his own, sneakered feet. “We’ve even named the white butterflies here,” he started. “Big and Old, after our other titles. For you see, my full name is Little Big (as Mabel’s is Old Mabel). I’m about to grow up, Baker Bloch. Oh I didn’t want to. I’ve fought the urge to fight. But it is time. You are here. You must take Mabel as your own. It does not matter whether you are married or not — Mabel would obviously prefer the former — but you must take her. Away from here.”

“I don’t understand,” said Baker Bloch. “What’s happening to you?”

Little held his stare steady now. “I am going to war.”

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As Baker was absorbing this proclamation, a small, silent ship descended from the sky and landed on Cleveland Rocks to their side. Little took a long time to even look in its direction, instead searing thoughts into Baker Bloch’s mind with all the intensity a fledgling soldier could muster. Thoughts of he and Mabel chasing the white butterflies on the rocks and almost falling off not once but several times. Pictures of the compound at different times of the day that he’ll never lose. Visions of happiness for Mabel as she takes on a new life. And then the awful battles to come; obviously he might never make it back here, might never see and hold his beloved twin sister ever again. “Childhood crosses manhood here,” he finally managed, and stood up to enter the ship through a proffered ramp. Mabel called loud from the temple. “NO!! DON’T GO!! LITTLE!!!”

—–

“We had to set childish things aside,” explained Mabel two days later, as they left through the iris door of the Dawg Pound, never to return. “The factions are fighting in several solar systems at once. It’s Whites verses Greens everywhere. Just yesterday, a new battle broke out at Muff-Bermingham. It was only a matter of time before the war caught up with us, found us in our cradled haven. Little had to grow up and become Big, I had to grow up and become Old. Although we are 119 of your years, that is still young for Martians of our species. We had to move onward.” She put her hands to her helmet and cried once again.

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Mabel

Per instructions from the twins, Baker Bloch slept in Winfield’s old hutch nearer Mabel’s tent than Little’s. The long table within would provide enough room for his almost 6′ 8″ frame to stretch out, they rationalized. (yes, Baker is actually that tall!) Not too surprisingly, Mabel paid a visit in the middle of the night.

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“Baker,” she whispered. “Psssst, Mr. Bloch?” But he was truly fast asleep. It had been a long day. Mabel sat down in the chair next to the table, watching Baker’s sleeping bag move up and down with the rhythm of his breathing. It comforted her. She stayed this way for quite a number of minutes, then tried again to rouse him.

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“Baker Bloch,” she whispered slightly louder this time. Baker mumbled but remained snoozing. “I just wanted to make sure you were comfortable in your quarters here. You’re laying on several plates and 2 small bottles, by the way. That must be slightly discomforting for you.” She grinned.

Another pause. Baker finally woke up by himself. He looked at the wall in front of him, down toward his feet, and then at Mabel, who gave him a start. He wondered what was jabbing him in his rear quarters but realized about the plates, then. Relieved, he sat up.

“Sleeping cocoon okay?” Mable asked, brightening up.

“How long have you been here Mabel?” He rubbed his head.

“About 1/2 an hour I suppose. I just wanted to make sure you were comfortable here and that the arrangement was agreeable for you.”

It was until you woke me up, Baker thought but didn’t speak out loud. “Is Little with you?” He knew he probably wasn’t, but he just wanted to say something to fill the awkward space and give him a bit more time to become alert.

“No, just little old me.” She tilted her head seductively (to her).

“I’ve been wondering about that, Mabel. Why do they call you Old Mabel up in INSCO and your brother refers to you as just Mabel? You don’t look that old… atall.”

“Don’t I? You flatter me. But we’ve calculated we’re 119 years old in your Earth time. I understand that’s pretty old, then.”

“It is!” Baker sat on some kind of shelf opposite her. An aurelia marginalis, a native Martian fauna, floated outside the hutch’s small round window.

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“So how are you both here and there at once?”

“INSCO and here you mean?”

“Yes,” Baker answers.

“INSCO is not where you think. You believe you traveled in your dog ship several days to reach this place. Instead it is directly above us. 3.6K above us, to be exact again. You basically just flew around in circles.”

Baker pondered this, then asked, “did you two sabotage my ship?”

Mabel was direct. “Yes. It was because you couldn’t leave Mars quite yet. Not without me. We learned that quite a long time ago…”

“From Wheeler,” Baker guessed.

“Yes. But not directly. She is able to visit us in time if not in the present.”

Thus the presence of the table in the 32 apartment, Baker understood. Thus the table’s chairs in this place, the Dawg Pound. *She* was the one who gave him his dog ship. “Do you know someone named B-4?” Baker then spoke aloud again.

“Not much time for talk now, Baker Bloch. Walk with me instead. You haven’t seen the beauty of the compound at night.”

So they walked around the compound.

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“Winfield’s Isle,” Mabel said, pointing.

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—–

“Winfield’s Island,” Mabel said again after they had walked up a number of stairs, pointing down this time from a bridge. “What’s wrong with your arm, Baker Bloch?”

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“I don’t know,” he said.

“Oh dear. It could be the anomaly again. We’re standing right over the spot. Well, I’m sure Little will be able to fix you up, whatever it is. May have to reboot you. We better hurry up to the temple, then.”

Mable led him up to the compound’s central temple again, the place with Wheeler’s chairs. They ascended a spiral staircase circling the temple’s walls to an upstairs balcony. Baker then spied Little in the gazebo across Drew Carey Bridge. Daylight was breaking.

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“I’ll take my leave,” Mabel said plainly, and went back to wait inside.

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Ways

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“The temple is up this way, Baker Bloch,” says Little. “You go first. We’ll be right behind you. Take your time. Take in the views. It’s breathtaking. Our favorite place of the compound, that and the attached gardens.”

Baker begins to climb the stairs. The twins hold back.

“We’re still a go with Plan A,” Mabel whispers to her brother. “Truth Tree be damned. It’s been wrong before.”

“Once,” augmented Little. “We don’t talk about that, though.”

“No,” Mabel said quickly. Both thought of Winfield and the tragedy of ’08. Baker Bloch will be staying in his hutch tonight, Mabel thinks. *Maybe,* she tags on, which cheers her up. She elbows her brother gently in the ribs as they began to ascend the stairs, trying to knock him out of his sensed spiraling worries as well. “Winfield is still with us, you know,” she said.

“I know,” replied the brother. “It’s just hard still. We had no one else. We were alone then.”

“Maybe we have someone else now,” Mabel suggested, watching Baker reach the top of the stairs.

“Finally,” added Little. They were at the top as well.

Baker Bloch stared out at the amazing view. He drank it all in. Mars, he thought. This is what it’s all about. An idea flitted through his brain that he could actually and truly be happy here. But it was fleeting.

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Turning, Baker Bloch saw the twins already within the temple sitting in 2 chairs. The mood seemed more sober.

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“Rezz a chair, Baker Bloch,” Little requests. “Rezz a chair anywhere. We need to talk.” Baker rezzes the most handy chair in his inventory and sits down.

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“Ahh, a bit closer to Mabel’s chair I see, aren’t we Mr. Bloch?”

“Maybe a little, Little.” Baker was becoming a little tired of the twins’ games. He wanted to get to the core of the situation. The book obviously. And Mabel’s rather overt affection for him.

“We apologize for not having a third chair, but you see it’s just been Mabel and I here for quite a long time. We have no guests any more. Until you showed up. We are very honored.”

“Thank you.” Baker nodded appreciatively to both Little and Mabel in turn.

Little continued: “Do you notice something different about Mabel tonight, Baker Bloch?”

Baker scanned Mabel quickly. “I — I’m not sure.”

“Well, I’ll tell you. She’s wearing makeup purchased at a fine INSCO store several years back. This is the first opportunity she’s had for its use. So there she is.”

“Oh stop it,” Mable then giggled.

“No I’m serious, Baker Bloch. Look deep into her lovely green eyes, Tell me what you see? Do you see… a soulmate?” His sister giggles again. “Take a look.”

Mabel tilts her head down to show off the eye makeup. Baker now sees a bit more of her true beauty, but also understands he is not the one they speak of. He is not in love with Mabel, not her soulmate. He is not destined to be a Martian.

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“Well?” Little asks.

“Listen, guys. I know what you’re trying to do. You’re all alone, couped up in this beautiful but ultimately limited, um, compound. Your Dawg Pound as you call it.”

“We think it’s really because of you,” Mabel speaks smoothly. “You and your dog ship. The Dawg Pound name predicts your coming. Isn’t that heartening, Baker Bloch? You were the one we were seeking.” She smiles shyly.

Baker takes another tact. “So — just speaking theoretically — what if I don’t happen to love Mabel? Turns out I’m not her soulmate. What happens then?”

“You know of The Bill, don’t you?” Little says, a slightly sinister tone entering his high pitched voice. Baker obviously thought back to Wheeler’s recent proclamation that she is The Bill and that Collagesity is fully and truly her town.

“How did you know about that?” He faces Little squarely now.

“We have our ways, don’t we Mabel. And I suppose you recognize the chairs we sit upon.”

Baker didn’t recognize them until Little pointed it out. But now he does. Wheeler’s chairs. From her Table. “Where is all this leading?” he demands.

“Where do you think?” Little asks back.

It’s leading to The Table, Baker thinks correctly. One way or another.

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Ohio

On the attempted return trip back to Collagesity, Baker’s dog ship began to loose altitude about 20 ticks past Toledo. He had plenty of neutron fuel — no problems there. But he had no choice but to bring her down in the most acceptable space and check the problem out. He chose what he knew would be the soft desert sand outside of what he originally thought was the Jacksboro space station again. This was a different sort of space station, however, a different compound using the local lingo. This was Ohio.

Seeing no outward sign of harm to the ship, he decided to seek local help if possible. The Martian night was coming on, bringing extreme cold. The dog’s heating system also seemed damaged. He couldn’t take a chance.

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Mabel assumed a more provocative pose as Baker went through one of the iris lens doors of the compound to her right. She had heard the landing in the desert and steeled her nerves. But upon entering, the Truth Tree blocked Baker’s vision of her in the hutch. He instead moved to the north and through a colonnade, still unaware of her presence.

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“Looks like Plan B,” she said to herself, understanding the meaning of The Flow. She didn’t try to intervene. “Story of my life,” she couldn’t help but add.

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Baker takes in the sights while walking between the two sides of the compound.

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Entering the open area of the north end, it was actually Mabel’s brother Little that Baker met first. He was performing his morning mediation in the middle of what they called the 40×40 when Baker approached.

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“Sir,” he called toward the little green man. “Sir, excuse me.” Little came up from the cosmic depths and skillfully untwined his legs, standing up. He turned toward Baker. “Ah, you must be Mr. Bloch, coming for his visit. I trust Mabel is doing well this fine morning. So have we chosen the path of A or B, hmmm?” Little was always a little too forthcoming, to the constant chagrin of his sister, but especially so when roused from meditation. He was in a twilight zone between one world and another.

Baker expressed confusion. “I… I haven’t seen Mabel. Are you her, um, husband?”

“Brother,” he returned. “Twin.” He was fully here now. “Name’s Little. We were born in this compound… the Dawg Pound. I don’t suppose you know anything about that as well.”

“No,” admitted Baker Bloch. “I don’t know anything about any of this. My… ship has broken down just outside the walls of your, um, area here. And I only briefly met your sister in INSCO to talk about a mysterious table and book. That was 3 days ago. Are you from INSCO as well? I thought Mabel lived there.” He didn’t tag the prefix “Old” to Mabel’s name since Little didn’t.

“I have said too much already,” Little proclaimed, pulling his orange hoodie more tightly around his body. “I must call my sister.” He walked toward the tent behind the 40×40 and, assuming a frog position, skillfully climbed to its top.

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He bellows toward the south in an — to Baker — amazingly loud voice for such a small being. “MABEL, YOUR GUEST HAS ARRIVED!! HE’S OVER HERE WITH ME!! NOW!!” His voice echoed repeatedly throughout the surrounding hills.

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“I understand!!” came Mabel’s echoing voice from the south.

“WELL??” There was a pause.

“Hold on!! I’ll come over!!” she said back.

“NO!! WE’LL COME THERE!! I’LL TELL BAKER… I’LL JUST SEE YOU OVER THERE!! DON’T MOVE FROM THE TENT!!”

“Alright!!”

That ended the “call”. On the way back to Mabel’s place, Little gave names to all the locations Baker had eyeballed on the walk over: Cleveland Rocks, Pit of Harrison, Booger Haze Pool. But it was just the beginning. Baker would remain stuck here for a number of days. The twins made sure of that.

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