In The Tower
“. . . You have got to be kidding me.”
The fivesome stared at the tall grey tower from their place on the path. “I don’t believe this,” Doc continued, shaking his head. “This is utterly insane.”
“At least it’s just a tower, and not a whole castle?” Jennifer said, attempting to be comforting.
“It is still a supposedly abandoned structure in the middle of nowhere! And I say ‘supposedly’ because, from anecdotal evidence and direct experience, these places never actually are abandoned!”
“We can just go by it,” Victor pointed out.
“No we can’t. I already know what’s going to happen. Either something will happen that will make us loop back to this tower, or one of us is going to see something that will get him or her interested in what exactly is happening inside said tower.” Doc sighed. “I say we go over and figure out what’s happening right now, instead of waiting for fate or anything else to intervene.” He turned his horse toward the tower.
“You know, since you’re so adamant that there’s something odd about that tower, it’s more likely this place really will be abandoned,” Alice pointed out.
“I won’t believe it until I see it with my own eyes.”
“You could just wish it away with your watch,” Jennifer teased.
That at least got a laugh from the scientist. “True, but even I think that’s overkill.”
“Come on, Doc, it might be something good this time,” Marty said as they proceeded toward the tower. “I mean, we didn’t do too badly on our last visits to seemingly-abandoned places, right? We rescued Jennifer, Alice got a nice new gun, I got a rose, and we made some new friends.”
“I suppose,” Doc said. “Still, it’s a little puzzling that so far our journey has mostly been somehow assisting random people.”
“Hey, you’re the one who was so opposed to just wishing us to the castle. Think of it this way – we’re gathering allies for that army you say we’ll need.”
“That’s true,” Doc admitted, smiling a little. “Though I was thinking more that we’d recruit actual soldiers the closer we got to the capital.”
“I say having Mell on our side is as good as having a full regiment,” Alice said with a laugh.
“Also a good point.”
It didn’t take them long to reach the tower. It was another old piece of architecture, though it seemed to be in better shape than any of the other places they’d currently encountered. The grey stone was covered in moss and twining vines, but it looked solid. Around the bottom was a large grouping of prickly bushes. “Blackberries!” Marty said happily, seeing the fruits among the thorns. “Hey guys, we’ve got lunch!”
“I haven’t had blackberries in a long time,” Victor said, dismounting and going to look. “Oh, they look just ripe too.”
“Seems our trip’s been fruitful already,” Alice commented, then blushed slightly. “Er, no pun intended.”
They happily gathered up what berries they could get at and ate them with their usual lunch of bread and salted meat. “Mmm, now that’s good,” Marty said, wiping his purplish mouth. “We haven’t had fresh fruit in--”
He paused, frowning and tilting his head. “Hey, do you hear that?”
“Hear what?” Jennifer asked, wiping her stained fingers on some nearby leaves.
“Sounds like – music, and people talking. Listen.”
The group fell silent. Sure enough, there was music nearby – a weird, bouncy little tune none of them could identify. There were also a couple of rather indistinct voices that appeared to be heckling the musician. “Where’s that coming from?” Doc muttered, looking around.
“Actually, it sounds like it’s coming from inside the tower,” Alice said, looking up. “Yes – see? There’s a thin little window up there.”
The others looked up. “I knew this place couldn’t be abandoned,” Doc said with a shake of his head. “What do you suppose is going on up there?”
“Why don’t we go inside and find out?” Marty suggested. He walked around the tower to find the door.
Moments later, he came back, looking a bit puzzled. He looked hard at the stones on the side they were standing on, then circled the tower again. And then a third time. “What?” Jennifer finally asked.
“Uh – there isn’t a door,” Marty finally admitted, turning to them with a completely confused expression. “It’s solid stone all the way around. That and blackberry bushes.”
“What?” Doc circled the tower himself, peering closely at the masonry. “But – that doesn’t make any sense! Why would you build a tower without a door?”
“You’re sure none of the stones are fake?” Alice said, carefully making her way through the bushes to press one of them.
“They all look real to me. Usually there’s a little seam or something to indicate a hidden door, but I didn’t see one at all.”
“But there’s apparently somebody up there,” Jennifer said, looking back at the little window. “How’d they get in if there’s no door?”
“Damned if I know. Must be some sort of magic.” Doc sighed, frustrated. “Damn, now I have to know who’s up there and why.”
“Well, there’s gotta be a way to get in,” Marty said, examining the stones again. “Maybe somebody covered up the entrance?” He tapped on a few of them with his sword. They sounded solid enough.
“We could try to pry a few loose,” Alice agreed, though she looked a bit dubious. “It would take a while, though.”
“I might be able to whip up a ladder, given a little time,” Doc said thoughtfully. “Or wish one up, though I’d rather save that for our rations.”
“Maybe. Hey, Victor, what do you think?” Marty said, turning to face his friend.
Only to find he wasn’t there anymore. “Victor?”
A grunt from somewhere over their heads got everyone’s attention. They all looked up to see Victor scaling the wall with surprising ease. He was already halfway up and climbing fast. “Whoa! Where’d you learn to climb like that?” Marty said, impressed.
“Running from bullies,” Victor said, pausing to glance down at them and catch his breath. “Though it’s always been a talent of mine.”
“I should say,” Alice said, a bit awed. “Are you part squirrel?”
Victor laughed. “Perhaps. An unkind woman did accuse us once of having animals in our lineage.” He continued to climb, his sensitive fingers finding all the tiny little cracks and handholds worn into the stone.
After a few minutes more, he finally reached the window. It was an extremely small window – really more of a slit in the stones. Victor peered in, trying to see what was inside. It was too dark to tell, though. However, he could clearly hear voices – four of them, all male from the sound of it. “Now that was a real stinker.”
“You gotta wonder what goes through some people’s minds when they set out to make something like that.”
Victor frowned, puzzled. What on earth were they talking about? “Hello?” he called through the slit.
There was a sudden silence from inside. “That’s not Dr. Forrester,” one voice finally said.
“It’s somebody come to rescue us!” another voice yelled. Someone came rushing over to the slit window. “Hey! In here!”
“Yes, I – oh!”
Victor jerked back as the owner of the voice came into the light. Instead of the person he was expecting, he saw a very thin, golden creature, with a long, sort of bird-like beak, googly eyes, and a sort of golden net behind its head. “What are you?” he asked, unable to help himself.
“He’s an imp I summoned up,” the first voice said, also approaching the window. This one was human – a gentleman dressed in red, with brown hair and sleepy-looking eyes. “I’m an amateur sorcerer – my name’s Joel, and he’s Crow. Inside is Mike and Tom Servo.”
“Er, I’m Victor,” Victor said, clinging tightly to the stones. “Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“You came to rescue us, right?” Crow asked, sounding quite eager.
“We’ll help if we can,” Victor told him, adjusting his grip. “What’s going on in there?”
“A horrible experiment into the recesses of the human soul!” another voice announced from inside.
“Oh, Tom, it’s not that bad,” Joel said, glancing back into the room.
“Says you! I might have to tear out my own eyes after seeing that latest piece of dreck!”
“You don’t have any eyes,” Crow said, making Victor shudder a little. Ewww.
“I’ll knock my bubble off then!”
“That comes off when somebody breathes on it!”
“Hey, are you insinuating I’m not a perfect specimen of imply manliness?”
“You look like somebody stuck a soap bubble onto a red log wearing a girl’s skirt!”
“All right, you, come here and I’ll--”
“Guys, guys, take it easy!” a fourth voice – one Victor assumed was Mike – said. “If you two fight, maybe the guy out front won’t want to help us!”
“I can only stay up here so long, yes,” Victor agreed. “I don’t fancy taking a tumble into the blackberry bushes.”
“That’s exactly why he put them there – to discourage intruders,” Joel nodded. “We’re the prisoners of this evil mad scientist, Dr. Forrester, and his assistant. They’re looking for a way to take over the world by driving everyone insane. They’ve come up with this concept called a ‘movie’ – it’s a bunch of little pictures on a strip of special paper that, when you run it through this device called a projector, they seem to move. It’s pretty neat, actually.”
“It would be neater if he wasn’t deliberately making horrible ones,” Tom said from inside.
“Yeah, the point of the experiment is to find a movie that’ll drive us insane,” Mike added. “When he does, he’ll inflict it on the rest of the populace.”
“That’s simply awful!” Victor said, shocked.
“Yeah – luckily it hasn’t worked yet,” Joel said with an odd sense of calm. “But we can’t get out of this tower. He kidnapped us and magically constructed it around us so we can’t get out and nobody can get in.”
“Then how does he get you your movies?”
“Hey, somebody’s coming!” Jennifer yelled from below them.
“That’ll be Dr. Forrester,” Joel said, grimacing. “You’d better skedaddle before he sees you. Otherwise he might force you in here with us.”
“And the bathroom ain’t big enough for three of you,” Tom added.
“All right – we’ll see about getting you out, I promise,” Victor said, before hurriedly making his way back down the tower. He jumped over the bushes at the bottom – well, almost. “Ouch!”
Marty pulled him free of the thorns. “Come on, Doc says we ought to hide,” he said, leading him over to where the rest of the group was already concealed behind a couple of big rocks. The horses were hidden deeper in the nearby trees. “I don’t know why, I bet we could take this guy.”
“Yes, but perhaps he has a special way of getting in and out of the tower,” Victor said as they crouched down, peeping out carefully. “The group up there says he trapped them in there magically, but also that he brings them these things called ‘movies,’ so I imagine he has to go in and out himself.”
“Oh! Now hiding makes some more sense.”
“Shh, here he comes,” Doc shushed them.
“I don’t see why I always have to hold the movies,” a voice complained from the other side of the rock. The group peered out to see two men – one dressed in bright green, with matching glasses, and a shock of brown hair with a white streak. Victor noted with some amusement that the streak continued down into the man’s mustache. The other was dressed in black, with white hair that formed a single curl over his forehead. He was holding a couple of strange, circular objects under one arm, which he was constantly shifting.
“Frank, don’t make me hurt you,” the man in green said, rolling his eyes. He turned his attention to the tower. “Hello up there!”
“Oh, hi, Dr. Forrester,” Joel’s voice called. “How are you?”
“Quite well, thanks. You? Have you gone completely mad, mad from the cinema we’ve been inflicting on you yet?” Dr. Forrester said, wriggling his fingers and grinning widely.
“Nope, we’re pretty much good,” Mike’s voice said. “Though this last one was quite a stinker.”
“Yeah, next time, actually find some talent!” Crow yelled mockingly.
Dr. Forrester sighed. “Ugh. Well, I’ll get you yet! Joel and Mike, let down your film reels!”
“Just a moment, just a moment. . . .”
About a minute later, long black strips of something shiny came tumbling through the little slit of a window. Dr. Forrester grabbed them, crumpling them together to form a very crude rope. “Come along, Frank!” he called over his shoulder, starting to climb.
“Still don’t see why I always have to hold the movies, you give them the darn things,” Frank complained as he followed Dr. Forrester up the “rope.”
“Oh, stop your whining, you’re giving me a headache.”
The evil scientist and his lackey reached the top of the tower after a few minutes’ determined climbing. “All right then – your movie this week is a nasty little feature called Pod People. It has nothing to do with pods; it has nothing to do with people. It has everything to do with hurting. Pass it up here, Frank.”
Frank passed the circular objects up, wobbling a little on the ropes as he did so. Dr. Forrester fed them through the little slit. “I hope it goes down hard,” he added vindictively.
“Hey, speaking of things going down--” Victor suddenly wondered if he should do something to protect whatever might remain of Jennifer and Alice’s innocence “– you guys want to hear my new waffle recipe?”
“Oh, yeah!” Frank said, suddenly animated with excitement. “Let me just get my paper out--”
“Frank,” Dr. Forrester said, in a long-suffering tone.
“Actually, this one’s pretty good,” Tom’s voice said. “Unlike the waffle shake. . . .”
“Oh, come on, that wasn’t bad!”
“Joel, it tasted like what would happen if a waffle crapped.”
“We don’t have time for waffle recipes!” Dr. Forrester snapped, making Frank drop his scrap of paper. “Go watch your movie! Maybe this time, this time, you will bow before my maniacal genius before losing your minds forever!”
“Just tell me, Joel, do you shred the Swiss cheese or just slice it really thin on the Cheesy Wheezy Waffle?” Frank called.
“Frank, this time, I’m really going to hurt you,” Dr. Forrester said, before kicking Frank in the face. Startled, the lackey lost his grip on the strips of black and fell with a yell into the thorny blackberry bushes. The hidden fivesome winced as he screamed. “Don’t be such a baby, Frank,” Dr. Forrester said scoldingly.
“I’m blind!” Frank yelled, struggling out of the thorns with his eyes tightly closed.
“You are not – and even if you are, I can just replace your eyes,” Dr. Forrester replied. He grinned back at the tiny window. “See you next week!” He slid down the rope and swung himself over the bushes.
Frank was still stumbling around with his eyes closed. “I can’t see! I’m just like that Pedicure guy!”
“That – Oedipus, Frank,” Dr. Forrester groaned. “And that would only count if you were involved with your mother, not mine. Come on.” He dragged Frank, still complaining, off into the woods.
The group waited a moment, then emerged from their hiding place. “Well. That was interesting,” Jennifer said slowly, looking rather weirded out.
“Those guys are jerks,” was Marty’s opinion. “And completely crazy.”
“No argument here,” Doc said, approaching the tower again. “We have to help these people get out of that tower. But how?”
“Hey, are you still down there?” Mike’s voice called from the window.
“We are!” Victor called back up. “We’re thinking up ways to rescue you!”
“Can you do it soon? We’re really not looking forward to watching this movie.”
“Can’t blame you,” Doc called up to them. “Do you know how the tower was constructed?”
“A magic spell – can’t tell you which one, though,” Joel’s voice said. “We just woke up one morning here at the top. The only reason I know that much is because Dr. Forrester likes to brag about it.”
“Hmmm. That’ll probably make life more difficult,” Doc grumbled. “A magically-constructed tower might be more resistant to any attempts to break apart the stones and mortar. Suppose we could try it, though. Alice, do you think your axe could make a dent in this?”
“Maybe, but I don’t want to ruin the blade.”
“We could try my sword,” Marty offered.
“No, that would snap not long into the process.” Doc rubbed his chin. “There’s always the option of the blunderbuss, but that might take the entire tower down.”
“Wait a moment – Doc, have you used your wish yet?” Jennifer suddenly asked.
There was a moment of silence. “Or we could just ignore the most obvious way to go about things,” Doc finally said, blushing as he retrieved his watch. “Thank you, Jennifer.” He gripped it tightly in his hand. “What are all their names, Victor? I want to be as specific as possible, just to be safe.”
“Joel, Mike, Crow, and Tom Servo,” Victor supplied.
“Thank you. I wish that the group in the tower – Joel, Mike, Crow, and Tom Servo – were standing here safely in front of us.”
There was the requisite bright flash of light – and, suddenly, a group of two men and two rather odd-looking creatures was standing in front of the fivesome. Victor instantly recognized Crow and Joel from what he’d seen at the window. The other man, Mike, was a large, blond fellow with a friendly smile, dressed in blue. The other imp, Tom Servo, was a short, very oddly-shaped creature, with a red cylindrical body, a wide, white ‘skirt’ with no legs, dangling arms, and a large clear bubble for a head. “Whoa! What the hell happened there?” Tom said, turning this way and that (though it was hard to tell just where exactly he was facing).
“Using magic to fight magic,” Doc said, sliding his watch back into his pocket. “I’ve dabbled in the arcane arts myself.” He eyed Tom Servo and Crow. “As have you, from the looks of it.”
“Just a little,” Joel said with an easy grin. “Mike and I needed some help getting through those first movies, so we summoned these guys up.”
“Yeah, didn’t think of what we’d feel about the situation,” Crow muttered, giving Joel a bit of the stink-eye.
“We thought you guys would be able to go back once the movie was over!” Mike protested. “We didn’t think you’d get stuck too!”
“Yeah, right. Always thinking of yourselves, you two,” Tom said, shaking his bubble disapprovingly. It wobbled dangerously for a moment. “Leaving poor me and Crow out in the cold, to fend for ourselves--”
“Oh, stop being so dramatic,” Joel scolded. “You know we love you.” As if to prove it, he scooped Tom up in a hug. “Come on, give Daddy a hug.”
“Hey! HEY! Did I give you permission to touch me?” Tom squirmed in Joel’s grip as Crow and Mike snickered. “Come on, you’re embarrassing me here!”
“I love you, Tom,” Joel said, not letting go.
“All right, all right, I love you too, now let me go.”
“You guys have been up there a while, haven’t you?” Marty said, trying and failing to hide his laughter.
“About a year, yeah,” Mike confirmed as Joel finally released his wayward imp. “Had to sit through 52 awful movies, all of them designed to try and make us snap.”
“What exactly are these ‘movies?’” Doc asked, curious.
“Well, they’re little strips of special paper that have pictures on them,” Joel explained. “Each picture is slightly different than the one before it. When you run them through this special machine called a ‘projector,’ the pictures look like they’re moving.”
“Kind of like flip books?” Marty said, tilting his head and arching an eyebrow.
“Yeah, I suppose. This is a lot more technologically advanced, though. The projector runs the special paper – it’s called ‘film’ – through it at high speed, and it projects the image--”
“God damn it, Frank, why did you have to – HEY!”
Everyone started as Dr. Forrester reappeared, looking very annoyed. “What – how – what are you doing out of the tower?” he demanded, turning red in the face. “You’re supposed to be up there going insane so I can figure out how to take over the world!”
“Hey buddy, nobody tortures anybody on our watch,” Marty said firmly, putting himself and his sword between Forrester and the rest of the group.
“It’s not torture, it’s an experiment! Okay, maybe torture’s involved – but it’s the principle of the thing!”
“I saw we make a run for it right now,” Tom said, looking ready to do just that.
“Ha! I’d only catch up to you,” Dr. Forrester said boastfully. “As it is, you’ll have to be subjected to the powers of my SONIC OBLITERATOR!”
With that, he reached into his bright green coat and whipped out – a box, with a little funnel-shaped device attached to it. He flipped a switch, and the funnel began moving up and down. He pointed it at the group. “COWER!”
There was silence. “I think it’s broken,” Marty said after a moment, finding himself having to hide giggles again.
“It’s not broken,” Doc said, leaning forward to examine the device. “Judging by the amphere meter, it’s sending out a sonic wave that’s only useful for popping children’s balloons.”
“Well, that’s what I originally made it for!” Dr. Forrester protested, yanking the device away from Doc’s face.
“Why would you make a device for popping balloons?” Alice asked, quite puzzled.
“Because I’m evil!”
“Because you’re evil.”
“Yes! I’m not a complicated guy,” Dr. Forrester said, putting the box away again. “I just want to bring a little less joy into the world.” He whipped out a strange cannister. “Like this! Frank, come over here!”
Frank appeared, looking puzzled. “What is it, Steve-o-rino?”
“I need to demonstrate something. This is my special Mace Mousse,” he said to the partly baffled, partly curious, partly amused crowd. “It’s designed to act like regular mace, but it comes in a special clumping form that sticks to the object of your derision. Like so.” He turned and sprayed a strand of an odd pinkish material straight in Frank’s face. Frank began screaming and clawing at his skin. “And it comes in five different types!” Dr. Forrester said, turning to them with a deranged grin. “The type you’re about to sample is Satan’s Jockstrap!” He aimed the cannister at them. “Enjoy!”
“Hey, now wait a minute,” Marty said, starting to go for his sword.
But Dr. Forrester had already fired. The pink stuff came squirting out – and hit the ground almost immediately. Everyone stared as it sizzled softly on the forest floor. “Okay, never mind,” Marty shrugged.
“Obviously someone didn’t work out the right air compression values,” Doc said superiorly. “That liquid is only useful if you’re right up in the person’s face, and none of us intend to let you get that close.”
“Like you could do any better!” Dr. Forrester snapped, hastily putting the cannister away. “Go ahead, show me some of your inventions, oh great genius!”
“Certainly!” Doc went into the woods, grabbed the sack they kept their things in, and rifled around inside it for a moment. “Here, feast your eyes on this!” he said, pulling out what looked to be some sort of gun.
“A gun?” Dr. Forrester said mockingly. “I hate to tell you this, but that’s already been invented.”
“Not one like this,” Doc said with a smirk. “This is the Dynomatic Spray Gun. It’s a different take on the main design – instead of projectiles, this gun shoots a liquid spray. It’s designed to fire molten bronze, but. . . .” He pulled out a water bottle and began filling the top of the gun. “Water will work fine for a general demonstration.”
“Please,” Dr. Forrester replied, rolling his eyes. “What use could a gun that shoots liquid ever--”
He was cut off by a hard spray of cold water hitting his face. He spluttered and held up his hands to try and fend off the liquid. Doc grinned as he turned off the gun. “Now imagine how that would feel with something a lot hotter and heavier. Of course, the main aim for the Dynomatic is to help preserve things by coating them in bronze, but I think it makes a fairly effective offensive weapon, don’t you?”
Dr. Forrester glared, wiping the water off his glasses. “You haven’t won yet,” he snapped. “One gun doesn’t mean anything. What else have you got?”
“This!” Doc pulled another item out of the bag – a large metal bowl attached upside-down to a collapsible stand. He pulled the stand out and set it on the ground. “Behold, the Static-o-Matic hair trimming assistant!”
“Is this what you thought up when that barber nicked the back of my neck?” Jennifer said, rubbing the spot in question unconsciously.
“Yup! It works via static electricity! You sit under the device, charge up the bowl with, say 200,000 volts, and voila! Your hair stands on end, making it much easier for the barber to cut it!”
Dr. Forrester looked intrigued despite himself. “Huh. Can’t that damage your hair, though?”
“Well, we’ll see – I’ll be the first one to try it out, make sure it doesn’t,” Doc said. “This is just an experimental prototype, of course. I haven’t had a chance to test it, yet.”
“Oh? How do you know it works at all?”
“I don’t – that’s the whole point of testing it.” Doc frowned. “Are you insinuating it won’t work?”
“All it is, is a bowl on a stick,” Dr. Forrester said derisively.
“It’s an experimental prototype! I’m working on this on the road!”
“Yeah, Dr. Forrester, he doesn’t have the benefit of a laboratory,” Joel spoke up – he and his friends had been watching the confrontation with interest, murmuring comments between themselves. “I think it’s pretty great, what’s he come up with.”
“Me, I agree with the good doctor – bowl on a stick,” Tom said.
“Fine, let’s test it out right now!” Doc snapped, getting frustrated. He pulled out something that looked a bit like a jack-in-the-box with thin wires coming out of it. He threaded the wires into the stand and started turning the crank. “I have a static electricity generator right here! Give me just a minute to charge it up, and we’ll see how well it works!”
“I vote we start moving waaay back,” Crow said. “You know, before the inevitable explosion.”
“Hey, have some faith in the guy,” Mike said, frowning down at the golden imp. “He did rescue us and all.”
“Yeah, but what’s he done for us in the last five minutes?” Tom joked.
“May I remind you that two of Dr. Brown’s closest friends are holding a sword and an axe, respectively?” Alice said, a bit too sweetly.
“. . .Shutting up now.”
Doc stopped cranking after another minute. “There, that should do it! All right, Dr. Forrester, if you would. . . ?”
“I’d love to! FRANK! Go over and sit under Dr. Brown’s device there.”
Frank, having finally clawed the last of the Mace Mousse off his face, nodded and went over. He sat down and waited.
His hair stayed firmly in place. Dr. Forrester smirked at Doc, who frowned at the machine in confusion. “Looks like you’re not the better scientist after all, Brownie.”
“But I know I’ve got it fully charged. . . . Is there anything unusual about your hair, Frank?” Doc asked, scratching his head a little.
“No! I did the same thing I always do to it – washed, rinsed, repeated, put in my hair care products, used the hairspray. . . .”
Doc slapped a hand to his face, rolling his eyes. “Oh, for – of course it won’t do anything if your hair is lacquered down with--”
A sudden look of horror replaced his frustration. “Er, Frank, perhaps you’d better move. If the device sparks at all, it could--”
There was a tiny flash of light from the bowl to Frank’s head. Moments later, Frank’s hair was ablaze. “AAAAAAHHHHHHH!” Frank screamed, darting away and waving his hands wildly.
“Oooh, now this is impressive!” Dr. Forrester said, grinning. “Setting people’s heads on fire – that’s about Class 3 Evil!”
“Stop running around, you’re only going to make it worse!” Doc yelled as the others gawked.
“I don’t think he’s in the mood to listen to you, Doc,” Marty said, trying and failing not to look amused.
“Boy, he’s just burning like a sparkler there,” Tom observed. “How much of that stuff does he use?”
“You don’t want to know how much of his salary goes to that stuff,” Dr. Forrester commented, rolling his eyes as Frank ran past him, still screaming.
“You actually pay him?” Mike said, looking surprised.
“Henchman’s union,” Dr. Forrester said with a groan. “They have a required minimum wage. And the last mad scientist who argued with them was–” He fidgeted for a moment. “Well. It wasn’t pretty.”
“Hey, is there an imp’s union we can join?” Crow wondered aloud. “We could probably sue you for suffering and damages.”
“If anybody’s suing anybody, it’s going to be me suing you for breach of contract!” Dr. Forrester said, finally grabbing Frank and smothering the flames with his lab coat. “Stop wailing already, it’s getting on my nerves.”
“My hair!” Frank sobbed. “My beautiful, beautiful hair!”
“Breach of contract? What contract? You kidnapped us and stuck us in that tower!” Mike protested.
“I would have let you out as soon as I found a movie bad enough to drive you insane!”
“What am I going to do with all the styling lard?”
“Oh, yeah, big whoop,” Tom snapped. “What about that time you let your mother and her friends spray poison on us?”
“They gave you the antidote when you whined,” Dr. Forrester said.
“Whined?! My hands grew to the size of watermelons!”
“Yeah, I grew several extra sets of arms!” Crow said, nodding. “I couldn’t tell which set was mine! Well, I guess they all were. . . .”
“I had a Tom Servo growing out of my back! It took two days for it to fall off!” Mike added. “And then Joel grew that weird goatee!”
“No, I did that on my own,” Joel gently corrected. “I was fixing up the plumbing when they were spraying the poison, remember?”
“Oh, yeah. . . . Still, why the hell did you grow that thing? It looked strange.”
“Oh, and your mustache didn’t?”
“Both of you should just be banned from experimenting with your facial hair,” Crow remarked. “It just doesn’t turn out right.”
“Do you think if I grew a beard, it would keep people from looking at my horrible hairless head?” Frank asked tearfully.
There was a moment of silence from the four. “Whoa, that was a mental picture I did not need,” Tom said, shaking his bubble head.
“I say embrace the bald look, Frank,” Mike said encouragingly. “Just go out there hairless and proud.”
“And there’s always hats,” Joel said. “You’d look good in a nice fedora, I think.”
“I – thought you lot hated each other,” Victor said, looking between the two groups in confusion.
“We do! Get back in that tower right now, or I’ll--”
“How are they supposed to get back inside?” Marty interrupted, looking up at the tower. “You didn’t put a door on it.”
“Well, I know a magic spell that’ll send them back up there automatically. All I have to do is get them to say the word. A little Deep Hurting should take care of that.”
A strange look appeared on Doc’s face as he depowered his Static-O-Matic prototype. “Really,” he asked, tilting his head. “You remember what it is, even after a year?”
“Of course! I’m a genius,” Dr. Forrester preened.
“I don’t believe you,” Doc said simply, folding his arms. “What is it?”
“Why, it’s – it’s – you tell them, Frank.”
Frank thought for a moment, rubbing his now bald head. “It’s Charislapaitoa, isn’t it?”
“Right! It’s Charislapaitoa!”
There was a swoosh, a gust of wind, and suddenly Dr. Forrester and Frank had disappeared. A moment later, Dr. Forrester’s voice continued from inside the tower. “See, it works perfect – HEY!!”
“Tom, what was it you said about running while we had the chance?” Doc said, hurriedly repacking his inventions.
“Right! Hi-ho, Silver, and away!” Tom flew off, followed closely by his companions and the fivesome.
“That was a great trick, Doc,” Marty said, laughing as they reached their horses. “I didn’t think he’d fall for it.”
“After seeing his intellectual capacity, I was almost certain he would,” Doc commented, mounting his horse. “Granted, he may know of a similar spell to free himself, but I wouldn’t bet on him remembering it right away. Hey! Do you boys want a ride? We can double up some of the horses.”
“Yeah, sure!” Mike climbed onto the back of Doc’s horse, while Joel rode with Victor. Crow and Tom both started climbing onto Jennifer’s horse. “Whoa! Back off, Goldie, I sit with the ladies,” Tom said.
“You? Hah! I’m the one who once charmed the pants off Pearl!” Crow argued.
“Yeah, big whoop, impressing Dr. Forrester’s mom,” Tom mocked.
“I beg your pardon, but I already have a True Love,” Jennifer told them both sternly.
“Really? Is he any better than the Tomster?” Tom said, voice smarmy.
“He’s sitting right here and he has a very sharp sword,” Marty said, giving Tom the stink-eye.
“If you’re so eager for female company, you could always sit with me,” Alice said, smirking at them in that special way she had.
“Uh, well,” Crow began, stammering a little. “You’re – kind of scary.”
“Nice chassis, though, so to speak,” Tom admitted. “Especially in the back.”
A rather strange, almost angry expression passed over Victor’s face. “I’ll thank you to remember your manners,” he said, grabbing one of Tom’s dangling arms and yanking him bodily over to his horse.
“Ow! Sheesh, so-rry.”
“Can we get going, please?” Doc said with awful patience. “I’m sure you’re eager to put as much space between yourselves and that tower as possible.”
“That’s true enough,” Mike said, as Crow finally mounted behind Jennifer and Joel held onto Tom. “Onward, into the vast and unforgiving wildernesses, where the wild bear and deer roam, and--”
“Mike, we don’t need a speech,” Crow interrupted.
“I’m just trying to set the mood!”
“How far is it to the next town?” Jennifer whispered.
“So you’re staying here?”
“Yup,” Mike nodded, leaning against a hitching post. “Joel’s already got a job helping the local blacksmith. And I’m hoping I can find some work myself.”
“What is it you do?” Jennifer asked curiously as she finished cleaning off her saddle. “You never really said.”
“Eh, I’m sort of a man-of-all-work,” Mike said with a shrug. “I hold down a lot of temporary jobs. It keeps me fed. Or, it did until I woke up trapped in that tower. Thanks again for getting us out of there.”
“You’re quite welcome,” Doc said, rearranging things a bit in their sack. “Far be it to allow our fellow man to get tortured needlessly.”
“Do you think Dr. Forrester’s figured out how to get out of the tower yet?” Marty asked, taking a quick swig of water.
“Eh, who knows. So long as he stays far away from us, I could care less,” Mike said, waving a hand.
Jennifer looked a bit conflicted. “I can’t help but think that maybe we did something wrong, tricking him into trapping himself in his own tower,” she admitted. “I’m not denying he was a horrible person, it’s just – he is a person. It’s different when it’s a monster.”
“Don’t worry too much – the place automatically provided us with food, it should do the same for him,” Mike assured her. “And a jerk like him deserves it. I’m just sorry we couldn’t lock him up with one of his own movies!”
“Actually, didn’t we?” Marty said, having a thought. “He’d just given you something called Pod People before we got you out.”
“Oh, right! Perfect!”
Jennifer shook her head. “Well, I suppose he really does deserve no better. So you all will be happy here? Even Crow and Tom?”
“Hey, any civilization is better than where we were,” Crow said, popping up behind her and causing her to nearly jump out of her skin.
“Oh yeah,” Tom said, next to him. “After all those bad movies, I was dying for a good book.”
“I’m sure,” Victor agreed. “We’re very glad we could help you all. I hope everything works out for you.”
“If it doesn’t, we’ll just make fun of it,” Crow said, to general sniggering.
“Well, we’d better get back on the road,” Doc said, consulting his pocket watch. “We’ve got a mission to accomplish.”
“Yeah, good luck with the queen,” Mike said.
“We all think you’re crazy, but if you think you can take her. . . .” Tom added.
“We’re certainly going to give it our best shot,” Alice said, getting onto her horse. “It’s more than anyone else has done.”
“Fair enough,” Mike said. “And if you guys ever need any help, look us up, all right?”
“Sure thing. Say goodbye to Joel for us, will you?” Marty said, shaking hands with Mike.
“I will. Safe journey, here’s hoping you don’t have to rescue anyone else for a while.”
“Oh, we’ll see about that,” Doc said with a rather resigned smirk. “I’ll just be glad if we can go a while without having to see more abandoned castles.”
“Well, whatever happens, I hope it turns out all right for you.”
“Yeah, us too,” Crow admitted, for once sounding serious instead of sarcastic.
“Thanks a lot, guys.” Marty and the others mounted up. “Good luck!”
“Same to you!” The three watched as they rode off. “Nice kids,” Mike commented.
“Yeah,” Tom agreed. “Totally insane, but nice.”
“Oh come on, maybe they will kill the queen.”
“Yeah, and maybe gravity will reverse itself exactly at noon on the day of a solar eclipse,” Tom joked.
“You guys!” Joel ran up to them, looking oddly animated. “You won’t believe the idea I just came up with. I think I could actually temporarily reverse the gravitation pull of the earth! Though I think I’m going to have to wait for a solar eclipse to try it, the sunlight seems to be messing up the inner workings of the machine.”
Mike looked at Tom significantly. “Ahem.”
“He didn’t say ‘exactly at noon!’ I stand by my words!”