Saturday, March 23, 2024

Fiction: The Evil Possum vs. Baldy!

 So I quit a decade-long career this week, after spending two weeks looking at a doodle of a cartoon mouse. And this is the scene that started it, from the same storyline as the battle demo. Yeah, these characters were always like this.

It was a low, wide compound, which seemed to slouch across the ground. Its outer layers were razor wire, its middle tiers were brick and barred gates, and its heart was a concrete block with grudging entry points and vision blocks. All were now in flames, in a scene like the Hell of the elder gods of a forgotten race. From the midst came shots and screams, not the cries of men but the skirling squeals of rats in a trap.

In the midst of it, ten creatures darted inward. They ran on two legs, yet their gait was the skulking of creatures whose instinct was to crawl. They bore tails that swished behind them, just above the ground. What could be seen of their faces were shining eyes, gleaming teeth, and whiskers that glimmered in the flames. Two more figures approached. One was like themselves, the other was much shorter and very fat, wearing a squashed fur cap. The smaller creature moved with a loping gait, halfway between running and jumping. When it gave a skirling squeal, the others turned attentively, if only out of curiosity. Then they followed a pointing finger. As smoke cleared, they beheld the likeness of a VW Beetle without a rear windshield, next to a breached door. The rats squealed and scurried after the shorter figure as he bounded into battle.

Up close, the rotund creature was nearly hairless and exceptionally ugly, despite large eyes and rounded ears that vaguely suggested cuteness. They did not make up for his mottled, vein-streaked pink skin and wrinkled folds of fat, nor for his perpetually shifting eyes. “There’s his frinkin’ car!” he squealed in a high-pitched, whistling voice. “That means he’s already inside or he’s comin’ back! You three frinkers, come with me! The rest of you, hold the rear an’ don’t frinkin’ die!” He unlimbered the wire stock of a scaled Skorpion machine pistol. It was clear from his bare arms that what the insulating fat covered was solid muscle. Three of the rats lined up to follow. His tufted tail stuck out nearly rigid behind him. He made as if to leap, but tumbled and rolled through the door instead. The chattering of his gun rang out. The followers rushed in with a chorus of squeals, leaving their companions chittering outside. A moment later, a volley of automatic fire rang out.

The small creature peered out a vision block. The rats who had remained outside lay dead or dying. One who started to lift a weapon abruptly twitched and lay still. A huge silhouette loomed over it, a third again the height of the tallest of the rodents and far more massive. “Frink of a frinkin’ frink,” he said.

“Altimus and his son are dead, as are his Second and his chief guards,” the figure outside called out in a nasal but commanding voice. “I breached his bunker with Panzerfaust and collapsed the escape tunnel with multiple timed demolition charges. The Revenants are no more.”

“Yeah?” the much smaller creature called out. “Why are you frinkin’ telling us?”

“I am giving you an opportunity to consider your position,” the giant said patiently. “You know who you face: No-Hands, El Diablo Sin Mano Derecho, Archididelphis invicta, the Unconquered King. 100 of the slaves and debtors of Altimus pooled their wealth for 10,000 dinars to free themselves from his bondage. Because the Revenants were pledged to avenge anyone who took the life of one of their own, it was necessary to strike while you were together. If you renounce your pledge, I may consider allowing you to leave.”

“Well, frink you, Iron Nuts!” the hairless creature called out.

Saucer-like ears rose, and a mane bristled upon a high brow. “Baldur Thorndyke?” No-Hands called out.

“Yeah,” the one unavoidably known as Baldy answered. “Small frinking world.”

“Yes,” No-Hands said. His lips curled, revealing the saw-edged teeth of a possum. “This is the second time we have met since we parted ways. Surely you have considered, there are ways to stay out of each other’s way.” Two of the rats abruptly rose up, straight into three blasts of a shotgun.

“I was the frinkin’ chief guard,” Baldy said. “Altimus pulled me off duty when I told him what his frinkin’ chances were.”

“Unfortunate for him; less so for you,” No-Hands said. “You are quite good at what you do. A creature of your talents should have no trouble finding another line of work, or an employer who would not come to my attention.”

“I’m the frinkin’ top-dollar talent,” Baldy answered. “I go where the frinkin’ money is. People who don’t worry about you don’t pay my frinkin’ going rates.”

“But you have nothing to spend your money on,” the possum said in irritation. “You have no family, no lovers, and no vices to speak of. Neither do I, of course, but all know that money is not the reason I do what I do. So why do you insist on risking your life for wretched beings you would kill for free if they did not pay you?”

“Because I’m the frinking best!” Baldy shrieked. He fired a full magazine at No-Hands, then rolled for the door. No-Hands switched his shotgun for a freshly loaded PPSh-41. He fired short bursts at a target that came bouncing like a lone photon in a hall of mirrors. Baldy answered with a semi-random volley that seemed to propel his globular body one way and then the other. Several times, his shots struck the chest of his foe, only to ricochet off what appeared to be a vest of rattlesnake skin inside No-Hands’ mink coat. Finally, Baldy launched himself straight at the possum, twice his height and nearly 10 times his mass. At the last moment, No-Hands swung his head forward, and Baldy bounced right off his skull. The mouse tumbled into the dark with a squeal of pain, and the possum staggered back against his car with a rumbling call of displeasure. He refocused his crossed eyes as the final rat reared up. He stepped forward and took aim, only to topple as a shotgun blast caught him in the chest.

“Not so tough, are you?” the rat said. He pumped the shotgun as he advanced. “You’re bigger than us. They say you’re smarter than us. But you go down the same as us.”

Then both barrels of a shotgun fired from inside a boot that had replaced No-Hands’ right foot.

“Yes,” No-Hands said as he sat up. “I do.”

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