Spindle, the elastic birdman
Josh came out of his burn in a dimension unfamiliar. He nailed his terminus landing, and Tempo, Fractal, Spindle and Denso were all there to see it. They didn’t congratulate Josh on his landing, nor did they offer any greeting at all. They had grave things on their minds.
“The Cluster has a new weapon,” Fractal said, leading them away into the night. Night, ally of the DimensioNoids. Flashes of huge explosions could be seen beyond the horizon.
“This is Zebulon,” Tempo said, wearing the form of Emily Kinicki that made Josh feel at ease. “It’s a dimension of intellectuals now fully under Cluster control.”
Starla took over the conversation on the communicators. “Zebulon had a resource The Evil Cluster could not resist. Its inhabitants, large brained organic entities, were forced to work for The Cluster. The cell disruptors the Minions use and the time accelerator you destroyed? Zebulon scientists created them for The Cluster. But the Zebulons have at last begun to rebel. Some among their number sabotaged a facility that was constructing powerful new weapons called dimension destroyers. The Zebulon rebels blew up the great casting machines so no more destroyers could be made. But three of the weapons had already been completed, and secretly removed from the facility by The Cluster.”
“Now, The Cluster is using those same weapons to destroy Zebulon’s greatest city,” Denso grimly added, “as a demonstration!”
They crested a rise and beheld a futuristic metropolis. Three colossal black machines ﬂew slowly in a line with a separation of about a half mile between them. The machines ﬁred huge blue beams that swept back and forth before the machines pulverizing everything they touched. Creatures with four legs and four arms were running and screaming and dying before the onslaught. The Zebulons had a loping gait like canines have, but they had large humanoid heads rising up from the center of their hairless pink bodies.
“We each have brought a magnetic mine,” Fractal said holding up his. “How do you formulate our strategy?” Fractal wanted to know of Josh.
Josh was in it again, up to his butt in things he was unqualiﬁed to judge. Still, these brave warriors looked to him with such open loyalty that Josh set his mind working.
“Denso’s missiles, could they—?”
Denso shook his head. “Too heavily armored. My missiles wouldn’t make a dent.”
“They’re operating in a line,” Josh noted. “They reach the edge of the city, then turn and destroy another path alongside the ﬁrst. Like mowers cutting the grass.”
They all looked at Josh with empty stares. “You are at war with the plants in your dimension?” Spindle said.
“Uh, no—well, leaf blowers, wood chippers. Look, never mind. If we can get to that building there, the one with the cylindrical tower. It looks to be near the center of their next pass. If we can get there undetected, we can ambush them when they come back through.”
“But the beams will obliterate that building before the destroyers are even close to it,” Fractal said.
“We won’t be in the building,” Josh replied. “We’ll be underground. Those beams wipe out everything, but they don’t seem to damage the ground. How fast can you dig a tunnel?” he asked Tempo.
“From here to there? Take too long.”
“Then we have to get closer.”
“I will Morph into a Minion and lead us in,” Tempo said, and she turned from Emily Kinicki into the vile female zombie that had rescued Josh in Frobenius.
They trotted as fast as they could, the rest staying twenty yards behind Tempo. She rounded a corner and was stopped by two Minion troopers who were trying to keep Zebulons from escaping the kill zone.
“What are you doing in this quadrant?” one asked.
“Taking a message to your commander,” Tempo said in perfect female zombie voice.
“A message? Is his in-skull transmitter not working?” the second Minion quizzically asked.
It was the last thought either Minion would have, for two broad bladed arrows from Spindle’s crossbow suddenly severed their spines and they crumpled into two heaps of debris. The DimensioNoids moved on, ﬁnally reaching a point across a broad street from the building Josh had indicated.
“Find some open ground,” Josh told Denso.
Denso’s distance viewers popped out of his shoulder mount and the metal stem holding the little lenses telescoped over to position the lenses before Denso’s eyes.
“There’s a little open area three hundred yards east of the building,” Denso said, seeing a patch of purple grass with some pink Zebulon statues in it.
“Can you tunnel under the street to that little park?” Josh asked of Tempo.
“In short order,” Tempo answered.
“Don’t break the surface,” Josh directed. “Leave some dirt above us to protect us. As the destroyers pass over we’ll break out and put the magnetic mines on them.”
“A wonderful plan!” Fractal grinned.
“Your genius has again proved itself,” Denso added.
“Let’s wait and see, okay?” Josh sighed.
“Wait? Why would we wait? You are confusing us, Joshua Miles,” Fractal quizzically said.
“Uh, don’t worry about it,” Josh answered back.
“As you know, we worry little,” Denso grinned.
Josh gasped when Tempo morphed into a Quaternion mining drill and drove herself downward, grinding a perfect circle into the sidewalk. Josh and the others, all organics who had to breathe, waited until the dust settled before they entered the tunnel in a low crouch. Denso’s built in light source came on and he led them in. By the time they got to Tempo, she had returned to the form of Emily Kinicki.
“I’ve left a portion of dirt above us,” she said. “Fractal and Denso can push through it when we’re ready.”
“Good,” Josh said, “we wait until the explosions pass over, and we hear the anti-gravs humming toward us. They’ll never expect anything to be alive beneath them. When they’re right overhead, we break out. Denso, you anti-grav to the left one, Spindle, you elongate to the right one, plant your mines and burn outta here. Now, how to mine the destroyer that should be right above us?” Josh pondered. “Tempo, can you turn into a big buzzard from the bird dimension or something?”
Tempo shook Emily Kinicki’s head no. “I cannot ﬂy,” Tempo said, “except, of course, in anti-grav vehicles. My weight-to-lift ratio makes it impossible for me to assume the form of a ﬂying entity and still retain its ﬂight properties. Too— heavy.”
Josh looked over her slim form in Emily’s body. She seemed soft and delicate, softer and more delicate, somehow, that the real Emily.“I could use my wind leap!” Fractal said.
“Huh?” Josh said, brought back from thoughts of other things. “Wind wha—?”
“Fractal,” Starla jumped in over their burn bands, “you know you have yet to perfect your wind leap.”
“Exactly what is this wind leap thing?” Josh wondered.
“I expel wind from my palms downward,” Fractal explained, demonstrating without actually doing it. “I can propel myself in the air twenty to ﬁfty times my height.”
“Yes, you just don’t know which it’s going to be,” Starla said testily. “I suggest you formulate another plan.”
“No time!” Josh said, as the ground began to tremble and the massive explosions started getting closer and closer. “Wind leap it is!” he said, clapping a hand of conﬁdence on Fractal’s shoulder. Fractal smiled.
As the beams passed over, dirt from the roof of the tunnel fell on them. Their ears screamed in pain! The explosions continued on, getting more faint, then the hum of the huge anti-grav generators began to get louder. Josh waited. He had to be sure they’d be right overhead.
“Now!” Josh shouted.
The DimensioNoids sprang from their ambush. Well, sprang isn’t quite the word. When Fractal and Denso heaved up on the roof of Tempo’s excavation, instead of crumbling outward, the whole thing caved in on them. Josh was buried, and pinned under one of the bizarre pink Zebulon statues.
Fractal and Denso were clear, and Spindle oozed himself up out of the rubble. Denso anti-graved up and off to the left. Spindle elongated himself up out of the hole and in two strides was under the destroyer to the right. Spindle extended his arm way up at least twenty yards and stuck his mine to the underside of the destroyer with that satisfying clink. Denso ﬂoated up under his target, rolled on his back and stuck his mine to the second destroyer. Both Spindle and Denso then hit their burn bands and vanished into their dimension burns.
Fractal climbed up out of the hole so awkwardly, the destroyer he was to mine was well past before he got set for his wind leap. Tempo dug Josh out of the cave-in just in time for them to peek up out of the hole and see Fractal move his arms like a martial artist, clouds quickly gathering, then he thrust his palms down toward the ground. Wind blew out of his palms and up he ﬂew. Since the destroyer was well past him, Fractal tried to angle his leap to correct for it. Instead, he slammed into the belly of the colossal machine and, dazed, fell to the ground. His mine fell away, as well.
Josh scrambled out of the hole, ran down a smooth sidewalk and hopped onto his skateboard. He raced down a connecting ramp near the park, and onto the broad street. He passed a stunned and staggering Fractal along the way. Fractal had managed to regain his feet, but not his senses.
“I misjudged it!” he wailed, “and I lost my mine!”
“Got it!” Josh shouted as squatted on his speeding skateboard and snatched up Fractal’s mine from where it had come to rest in the middle of the rubble strewn street. The timer light was blinking, so Josh knew Fractal had already set it. Josh just didn’t know for how long!
Over Josh’s burn band communicator he heard Fractal shout, “It’s armed! Gonna blow any second!”
Josh pumped his power leg gaining speed. Down the wide roadway after the center destroyer Josh ﬂew. He had to airline over broken segments of the street. Once he overtook the deliberate, slow-moving, dimension destroyer, Josh called upon his Frisbee-throwing prowess. Billy Engle often came out to the farm and threw the Frisbee with Josh. Josh’s father thought it was indeed the most obvious waste of time in the universe. Now, Josh was about to test that theory. On the ﬂy, he ﬂipped the mine backhanded, spinning it like a Frisbee, snapping his throw expertly. The circular mine sailed up, arced majestically as only a Frisbee could, and magnetically locked onto the underside of the huge black craft, as only an explosive device made by Starla could.
A Minion in one of the other destroyers saw the boy and through the transmitter imbedded in his head, alerted the crews of all three destroyers. They began to slowly turn just as Josh did a 180 himself, and headed back toward the little park, pumping his power leg as hard as he could. Josh was only half-way back when the destroyers all completed their turns, and came after him! The ﬁrst beam impacted so close behind Josh debris bounced oﬀ his helmet. The second whistled past his ear. He could feel the heat of it. He hopped the curb at the edge of the park, and went airborne for ﬁfteen yards. He air-ﬂipped his board into one hand, hit the activation button on his burn band with the other, and vanished.Tempo and Fractal, who were watching with worry, also activated their bands, and all three burned back to the Forbidden Land. The deadly blue beams of the dimension destroyers’ were devastating the little park when two of the machines exploded in balls of white phosphorescent sparks. Fractal had set the mine on the third destroyer several seconds later, so the crew of the third destroyer had a short respite. They stopped to hover over the park wondering what had happened to the other two destroyers. The slow-witted Minions manning the third destroyer suddenly realized that they were next, and were scrambling to escape, when their deadly craft blew to smithereens.