“The Queen is happy and sleeping in her royal bed,” recites Tronaxis (new name!) at his virtual reality game command center. “No stopping us now, right Cpt.?”
But then Tron revamped Axis remembers that he bagged and gagged Cpt. Americus earlier in the evening and left him hanging to dry. And the turtle (Norton Wise) had been turned into soup. And Fish Head’s head would turn since he’d been bought off. I will be the champion! he inwardly crows.
Purple mutt Ralph, a non word-processor, keeps guard and growls with every slight movement. The Cpt. within has learned to stay still and not eat the remaining white and grey matter in his magically replenishing bucket. Because he has a plan. The first, true, has been stolen and appropriated by (Tron)Axis but the second, the new one, is even better. He will *help* the Heart Queen in an about-face. Kick his traitorous ways down the road a bit, biding his time. If only he can get out of the current situation. Come on, white and grey matter, he urges, knocking his head with the drumstick still in his hand and inciting another growl from Ralph.
“Everything all right over there Ralph?” Tronaxis didn’t need a smart dog, only a loyal one. That’s all he demands from any of his subjects. Obedience; loyalty. The Heart Queen and he are too similar in that way. Eventually, ultimately, one or the other had to go. He hopes it’s her.
If only he had an ally — a human one this time and not an obedient mutt like Ralph. Tronesisia? No, she’s not an obedient robot/gynoid any longer, having broke her programming. Peter? But Tronaxis still didn’t really know who that was. Besides being a clone of Peter Gabriel of “Lamb”, etc., fame. Oh wait — there’s Randolph.
Just down the alley.
Axis again worships Lu Ellen Hutchison (or Hutchinson) before entering his NWES coffee shop. Who is now his wife, at least last time he checked (Wednesday).
He enters the coffee shop proper…
… only to see two avatars sitting at his favorite table instead of the one he expected. The conversation already taking place was briefly interrupted.
“There he is,” whispered Man About Time to Tracy Austin. “Behind the column. It’s as if he doesn’t think we can *see*.”
They talked about many things that night, the two of them and then all three together when Axis finally came out of “hiding”. One by one (by one), they began to understand all revolved around Peter — after all, the only Variant at The Table who was never a Variant. Peter and “Lamb”. They vowed, 3 hands clasped together at the center of *this* table (standing, remorseful Axis from the side), that Grandpapa didn’t die in Vain. Because, of course, we already know he died in Kowloon. His “Lamb” will live on.
“I am pleased,” I can hear him say from that Great Elderly Center in the Sky, lost cane back in hand again.
There was only one place to go.
“I can’t see, Fish Head. I had to borrow an old man’s cane just to get here. He’s laying back there in the alley — may want to tell the local authorities in an hour or two. Make it two… since I’m blind. Anyway, you better tell the Heart Queen that I’m going to have to abort the mission.”
Fish Head began mixing the booze in his hands again, eventually saying, “she’s not going to like it.”
“I know, I know,” Axis followed quickly. “Just tell her.” He points to his sightless, red eyes. “Not much choice.”
Fish Head retrieved a glass underneath the bar and poured the mixed drink in from the canister. He pushed the glass toward Axis. “Here. Drink this down. Then have a re-consider.”
Axis knew he wasn’t going to “have a re-consider” but took the drink anyway. Free booze was always a weakness. But Fish Head, of course, knew that already. “Go ahead,” he urged. Axis drank.
He woke up in a trench beneath the water. He wasn’t blind any longer — looked up and saw a spinny red, fabric-like thingie wielding scissors and knife in metal hands. Another doctor.
He knew he had been fixed up.
He stands up and makes his way through the trench back to the surface. Still in the service of the Heart Queen obviously.
I’m very close to the answer, Axis thinks while staring up.
He turns. Very close.
He buys the “white eye” offered on top of the old drum can for a linden dollar, wears, and instantly becomes blinded.
“After you dearest.”
“No I insist. After *you*.”
Rebl paused in her drinking. “Someone has entered.”
“Aberrant?” the drink-less Guyd asked. They’d been expecting this.
“Could be.” She takes another sip of the hot liquid. At any rate, she knew their hidden room would be safe.
“I think we’ve got everything we need, Merry. Rope, tent, flashlights. It’s all there. The general store here set us up real good with all these freebies.” He finally looks over; pays attention. “Oh my, you’ve changed again.”
“Yeah, the skin is gone. Been gone for about 30 minutes,” *Breeze* replies. “You’ve been calling me the wrong name for a while.”
Axis goes over to her, holds her. “I’m sorry.” They lock hands. “I promise to pay more attention.”
“It’s okay.” She leans in for a kiss.
“I see it in the enlarged fire, Rules of Rose. Merry Gouldbusk is succumbing (!). We must do something to alter the mix.”
“Do something,” Rules of Rose echoed, also staring. “But — what?”
Ruby Fantasie looked to her right. “Norris. Norris could help. Put him back in that tree.”
“If you in-*sist*,” spoke the elven fairy, readying her powers of teleportation once more. This was her plan all along, though.
“He already knows his lines. Just send him. Break a limb!” she called over for encouragement as he vanished from the scene.
Jer Left Horn spots the source of the call up in his beloved tree. He stands. “Who are you?’
Axis spied the cave opening from the top of the Broken Clock Church. Zoidboro preached here last winter. He was hot on the trail!
But first some supplies from the General Store.
Across the dirt road, his wife was still asking favors from Santa. “I want a pretty, new house. I want a wardrobe full of fine clothes. And, most of all Santa, I want a new skin. I’m tired of this golden one.”
“Done!” her husband shouted while walking out of the General Store, loaded down with camping gear, flashlights, rope, anything you’d want to explore a virtual cave system. “Here’s your *real* presents.”
Merry Gouldbusk didn’t think so. It took her a while to leave Santa’s lap.
Axis ended up having to rest on his sack.