Just decide where you want to go, and go
Weve been following our rumpled yellow-haired
hero ever since early 2001,
when he lost his motel along with everything else but the
red hooded sweatshirt on his back in a poker game. Hes
been bouncing around through several different dimensions
ever since. Here's episode 30:
up, hurry up!" Dimpe was dragging Mel around. "If she
finds a way to the next island before we're ready, then the game
is really over."
They hustled into the next hallway, which opened on
a huge square room with great doors on each wall, open to other
passageways. There were no curtains, or windows either. Mel could
easily hear a banging sound resounding from the opening to his right.
"What's that?" Mel asked.
"Nothing, nothing." Dimpe was moving them
toward another corridor, but Mel stopped him.
"Let's check it out." He held one hand up
in the air as he listened to the sound. "Trust me on this one."
Dimpe looked vexed but consented to following Mel as they moved
toward the source of the banging. A brass plate greeted them, reading
"No ..." muttered Dimpe.
"What's that?" Dimpe refused to answer and
Mel shrugged. Farther down the hallway, Mel figured out the fat
monk's reticence. The banging was joined by moaning and babbling.
"This is the holy nuthouse! Who do you have locked
up in here," Mel asked, "more candidates?"
"Messiah candidates may not be restrained here.
These are the honored souls who find no rest."
Mel looked at the profusion of heavy brass doors that
dotted the hallway. Small burnished plaques were placed above each
one, and each held a name.
"Anselm, Gautama, Tomaso d'Aquino, Chuangtzu,
Peter ... hey, you've got saints up here! What say we take a peek?"
"No! We must not!" Dimpe was definitely
alarmed now, and turning red.
"You're no fun. Not even a quick peek at Buddha?
Fine, but I'm sure there's a reason we came down here." Mel
glanced about, then wandered to the door at the end of the hallway.
It was the largest, and its plaque read "PAUL." Mel rested
a hand on the door and it swung easily inward, revealing an unconscious
or comatose figured tucked into a bed much like the one Mel had
woken up in earlier. He peered into the gloom, trying to make out
details, when a familiar voice startled him.
"You really keep things hopping around here,
don't you?" It was Anderson Demetrius Dean, just as smug as
ever in a dark suit cut only slightly different from his previous
"Dean, I don't know what you're up to right now,
but I don't have time."
"I'm shocked. Isn't your curiosity getting the
better of you? Take a good look." He gestured at the bed with
his chin. Mel stepped over to the bed and got a good look at the
"Oh, shit." It was Dean in the bed, but
pale and drawn, with long hair and a beard. Mel looked back and
forth between the two Deans, then pointed to the name plaque. "So
"No, no. Iscariot was running the whole show
back then, and I was his silent partner who made things happen.
The blinding thing was my idea. Most of that Bible stuff is phony.
Don't get me wrong ... JC was the real deal. He just didn't see
much real messiah action, like you have, until Karnak, then Lhasa,
then the Ordeal, of course." Dean took one of his vague steps,
going from the door to the bed without crossing the intervening
space. He pinched the body's cheek and chuckled.
"You know, I didn't think this old hunk of junk
was still around. It was here for safekeeping, but I guess I don't
need it anymore, come to think of it." Dean waggled his fingers
at the bed, and Mel shielded his eyes from the brilliant flash that
followed. When he looked back, the body was gone and Dean looked
positively perky. "Damn, I do feel better. Closure!"
Dimpe was quivering in the doorway, and Mel wanted
to be done talking. Squaring off face to face, he let loose on Dean.
"Maybe you have time to threaten and gloat, but I have somewhere
important I need to be."
"Hey, now ... you've got it all wrong. Or rather,
we were both wrong. We're not enemies, you know. Just a couple of
movers and shakers with misaligned goals." He paused. "When
you tore the Baraka open, more happened than just wrecking my marble
foyer. The crater you made it's spreading."
"Yes, indeed. With no sign of stopping. The whole
Ordeal is in chaos. They'll be washing up on these shores any time
now, those who can escape. Don't worry, your friends are safe. It's
in my best interest to keep you happy."
Mel sighed. He wouldn't be able to get out of this
conversation so easily. "You realize that the first time we
met, you tried to tear my giblets out?"
Dean shrugged. "A misunderstanding. There's more
than one way to win the God Game. So, I'm giving up all my extracurricular
activities and concentrating on Project Frank. Let Cheldelin figure
out how to reharness the Baraka he was always the tech geek,
"I just find it hard to believe that you're not
against me anymore."
"You must think I'm just the bogeyman of the
Ordeal. Not so, and here's the score. The three biggest 'islands'
in this archipelago are The Ordeal, which was home to monsters before
we took over, Hy-Brasil, run by archangels, and Perng Lai, ruled
by the Celestial Bureaucracy. I was their operations chief for a
long time, and even did some pro bono for the angels. Can you imagine
me with a halo?"
"Nope," replied Mel. He really couldn't.
"So take some advice from a guy who's been around.
If your girlfriend makes it to Perng Lai and starts a ruckus, then
a lot of people will die, your refugee friends and Anne among them."
"Wait I thought that she was the danger
to Perng Lai, and not vice-versa."
"Sorry, you were misinformed. Not too long ago,
the Celestial Bureaucracy gods, mind you were wiped
out by something nasty, called the Ma Yuan. The only bigwigs left
are the Immortals, and though most of them went native or crashed
to one of the smaller islands, some are left. In particular, there's
a mean motherfucker named Iron Stick Li. He's running the show,
and he has a hard-on for your St. Anne." Dean stuck a warning
finger in Mel's face. "Not the good kind, either. You'd better
get to him before she does. So, if you want to save her, don't fart
around boats and fatty over there. Just decide where you want to
go, and go."
"Just like that?"
"Just like that. I'll check you later. Oh
I almost forgot. This is the Ma Yuan, if you think it might come
in handy." He fished in the pocket of his dark suit and removed
a glittering something which he tossed to Mel. When Mel caught it,
Dean winked out of existence. Mel opened his hand to examine the
small, hard object. It was a gold ring. With a shock he remembered
the last time he saw it ...
... the man made a pass over Frank's face, like
a stage magician. Frank Burley's throat was cut; his eyes staring
in death, not trance. Again the man made a magician's pass in front
of Frank's face, and the supernatural investigator was gone. The
short man held a gold ring in his hand, and Mel could see his face
clearly for a moment. It was hard and cruel, grinning cat-like with
utmost satisfaction ...
"Dimpe, are you still there?"
things he said, Mel ..."
"Never mind." Mel wasn't sure what Project
Frank had to do with the slaughter of Perng Lai's gods, but he knew
he had to get there and find out and stop Anne from her deadly
mission. If this Ma Yuan could help him, well ... he'd take anyone's
help if he could get it.
Especially Frank Burley's.