so far: Having
deserted the Allies at the height of the Battle of the Fifteen Armies,
and escaped capture in a cooch joint by a three-team of Pentecostal
Fire Boys, Yancey Slide, Idimmu Demon of the Tenth Continuum, exits
into an Earth Urban C21, where he appropriates the body a merzky speedfreak
by the name of Johnny Yuma, terminating the mind and incarnation of
Yuma in the process. His first goal is to see Doc Zen and find out what's
what, but, unknown to Slide, his dimension transit has not gone unobserved.
NOW READ ON
Three - Art's Snooker - Second Floor
Yancey Slide exited the street door of the walk-up tenement firetrap
that had been the domicile of the former Johnny Yuma and the Blimp,
he had noticed the stretch Hummer limousine that rolled slowly past
him. The absurdly extended, laughably impractical vehicle was impossible
to ignore or overlook, even for one as preoccupied as Slide had become
since, on the phone, Doc Zen had told him that he was "reverberating
from there to fucking eternity." He hadn't, however thought too much
about the limo, dismissing it as the transport of idiot celebrities
looking for drugs and the dubious thrill of coming to cop in a grahzny
neighborhood. Such was the way of it in a C21 reality of free-falling
civilization. As if in confirmation, a P.D. black and white swung in
behind the Hummer, but with its sirens quiet and no lights flashing,
delivering a warning rather than making a stop. In a clearly decaying
and resentful part of town, the cops didn't need any rich and slumming
narco-tourists. Satisfied the limo had nothing to do with him, Slide
turned his attention back to the sidewalk, and the deft negotiation
of all the lurking beggars, wino-bums and wandering alkies, plus the
soft parade the baby-bouncing nadsat juvies, and hormone geeks talking
to their invisible friends that made walking awkward, and the you-imagine-it-I'll-do-it
shvat-whores in their tight-high-and-low-cuts, with whom he should avoid
eye contact so as not to start a keening chorus of the ritual "meee
sooo horneeee, babeee." With his attention thus wholly engrossed he
never gave the ludicrous limousine the kind of deep idimmu examination
that would have revealed Nuygen von Bulow as the passenger within. Later
Slide would try to blame his oversight on the occupied body of Johnny
Yuma. The body was starting in on a chemical jones, and that might well
prove to be an annoying problem. Non-specific receptors wanted a random
combination of stimulants and narcotics, and bio-figured that just about
anything would do as long as it delivered the buzz and stopped the itching
and sniffing, but Slide knew that once the buzz was in place, it would
probably start whining for physical gratification. He fallen into a
body with a bad case of permanent dissatisfaction. Right at that moment,
the need was only a slow jangle, but he knew it would undoubtedly grow
worse as the day progressed. Fuck you, Johnny Yuma, wherever you were.
He considered making a body jump. The last thing he needed was to be
on the lam with a hold-over, secondhand, multiple-abuse addiction. He
had more important things to do with his time than to be running down
hole-in-the-wall drug dealers for a marginal body that was aching and
sweating, stumbling in slow-motion indolence, or twitching and babbling
. Maybe a pint of tequila would be enough to set the body to temporary
rights. He made a mental note to stop at a liquor store once he had
seen Doc Zen, and wondered if codeine was sold over the counter in this
particular C21. A couple of shots of tetradetoxin would have brought
the damned body under complete control, but where could you get tetradetoxin
in a shithole like this?
Inside the Hummer, Sharkboy thumbed the Apex to standby
and minimized the safety in preparation for locking onto Slide. "Do
I take him now?"
Nuygen von Bulow rolled over on the vehicle's teardrop command
bed, peered out of the smoked glass window, and shook her head. "He's
on his way to Doc Zen. If we wait, we can take both them, or at least
have Slide when he knows a bit more. I would imagine, right now, he's
close to clueless."
The limo was multi-dimensional and customized Tardis-style,
so it was massively more spacious within than the exterior of the stretch
Hummer could ever have indicated. Outside the smoke-black glass of the
window was twenty-first century Earth, inside was her own world of drencrom
conditioned depravity, a fluid and tubular space that undulated like
a section of some vast intestine, in crude pseudo-sympathy with the
Great Flux, and had irregular asymmetric windows and lozenge-shaped
display screens set in the continuous wall. A murmuring mercury cascade
made patterns between them, and streamers of blue and purple vapor decorated
the air. The Humiliation lay at Nuygen von Bulow's feet, licking and
suckling on the long cruel heel of her left boot with rapt concentration,
blurring the mirror finish of the patent leather with its breath. Its
maleshape was fixed by steel clamps and a locked exoskeleton, while
pleasure/pain drip-catheters protruding from the remaining soft-sections.
The Humiliation had been with von Bulow longer than most
could remember, and some rumors claimed she had owned the creature for
centuries, although the rumors never quite defined by what timescale
these centuries were calculated. That Nuygen von Bulow should not dismiss
and replace her attendant Humiliations with anything like the rapidity
that she changed the rest of her entourage, was, of course, highly understandable.
who attempted the initiation, xxIllustration
courtesy of Jeanette (Moxie Graphix©).
only a tiny percentage ever survived, and even less were ever deemed
suitable for servitude. Even the current Humiliation was put away for
long periods, stored frozen and dreamless in the null-void while not
wanted, as when von Bulow had been in Manchuria with Shiro Ishi for
the Unit 7-31 atrocities, or when it had lingered longer still while
she had been imprisoned by the High-Soviet Knights of the KGB.
In a black skinsuit of tuck-and-roll, armored latex, and
wearing the silver eagle insignia of the Ninth Legion to which he was
in no way entitled, Sharkboy crouched over the y-tech, assisted by a
Zeech in its personal life-tank. Sharkboy was fairly new to von Bulow's
traveling retinue, and, as she saw it, he would be lucky to remain much
longer. The combination of his insolence and feral overeagerness to
inflict painful and lingering fatalities was beginning to irritate her.
Normally she would not have entertained any objection to a techhand
who combined gratuitous cruelty with a killer relish, but she sensed
the Sharkboy harbored a concealed but nonetheless vaunting ambition.
Nuygen von Bulow expected nothing short of fawning devotion, and, in
one who though more about his own advancement than her's, devotion could
never be anything but a temporary and self-serving sham. She had flogged,
lacerated, and electrocuted him on a number of occasions, well beyond
any capacity on his part to enjoy the punishment, and, although he had
bowed bloody from the whip, blade, and super conducting paddles, and
appeared chastened to the point of abject, she sensed his contrition
was an act, another deception, and she was of a mind that, very shortly
he would have to go. Indeed, Sharkboy must cease to exist. Even in his
short time with her, he had seen far to much to be allowed to stray
loose-lipped and untrustworthy.
Unaware of these thought of his doom, Sharkboy turned from
the y-tech displays and the controls of the multi-dimensional vehicle
and looked at von Bulow. "I could take Slide easily. Piece of cake."
"I said wait didn't I?" "I have him in the cross-hairs.
I could at least lock on to him."
Von Bulow jerked into a sitting position, lacerating the
Humiliation's tongue with the heel of her shoe, and all but cracking
its beak in the process. "Don't reveal yourself as more of a fool than
you have already demonstrated. He's idimmu. He would notice the lock
"It would be very easy."
"You crave yet another electrical beating?"
The Zeech wetly distanced itself as Sharkboy lowered his
head in faux subservience. "No ma'am."
"Then do as you are told and be quiet."
The Humiliation made a moist blubbering sound, and von Bulow
slapped it sharply across its approximation of a penis with a slim black
glove. Sharkboy was silent for slightly more than a local minute, and
then glanced back again. "Ma'am?"
"A native law unit has moved in behind us."
"That is no problem. It will be Bannion. We have an arrangement."
Von Bulow decided that she would keep Sharkboy with her
until Slide was brought down. After that she world rid herself of him.
He was clearly impossible, but to replace a combined killer and techhand
and recruit anew in the middle of a mission was too much trouble, no
matter how much he vexed her. Tolerating Sharkboy would be worth the
trouble if, at the culmination of this excursion, she saw Slide suffer.
As far as Nuygen von Bulow was concerned, Slide had to suffer. Suffering
was going to be his manifest destiny, if she had any hand in it. And
after she'd had her fill of watching him suffer, she would hand him
over to the highest bidder, either the Pentecostal Fire Boys, who were
still hot about losing him in the cooch, or one of the other crews of
bounty hunters who sought him all over the Fullness. That way, pleasure
would be combined with a reasonably excessive profit. She still blamed
the unpleasantness with the High-Soviet Knights on Slide, and that was
only the most recent negative incident in a series of unresolved conflicts
between her and the idimmu demon that extended back along the millennia
and across the dimensional divides.
"Slide appears about to enter a building."
This time, von Bulow did not reprimand Sharkboy for speaking
before he was spoken to. She peered through the closest window. Slide
had halted in front of a doorway above which a dirty lightbox sign read;
ART'S SNOOKER - SECOND FLOOR.
Slide halted. The two goons who flanked the door were looking
at him with disparaging expressions. "How many times do we have to warn
Slide had, of course, never seen either of them before in
all of his near-infinite lifespan, but that they knew and apparently
disliked Johnny Yuma was xxxxxxxxxxxxxxOriginal
artwork courtesy of Mark Hendricks HendrixArt
another reason for Slide to strongly
suspect that he had chosen the
wrong body when he'd made reality-fall
after his untidy escape from the cooch joint. He smiled politely, and
spoke with a mild tone. "I think we're all under something of a misapprehension
here. I might look like the person you know as Johnny Yuma, but I can
an assure you that I'm not."
The goon on the left, a shaved head muscle-builder with
a stud in his lip, and a teardrop tattoo at the corner of his left eye,
held up an authoritarian hand, level with Slide's chest, but not touching
him. "What the fuck are you trying to pull now, punk?"
It had been a long time since Yancey Slide had been addressed
by anyone as "punk", and even though the mistake was understandable,
he could feel a demon ire rising inside him. The teardrop tattoo didn't
worry him, but he still held his wrath in check. He did not wish to
create an occurrence right there on the street, and thus resisted the
impulse to fill these two minders-of-the-door with the double-whammy
horrors right there and then. "I'm here to see Doc Zen."
"Why should Doc Zen want to see a always-broke, scrounging-asswipe
speedfreak like you?"
Still Slide refrained from imposing the full horrors, but
also realized that to argue with the goons guarding the door of Art's
Snooker was pointless. The simplest solution was to simply erase himself
from their perception. If either of the goons had retained a memory
of what had happened, they would have told everyone they knew how "fucking
Johnny Yuma" had apparently turned into a heavy vapor, sunk to the sidewalk,
and flowed past their feet into the entrance and on up the stairs. Of
course, they would never do that. At the same time as erasing himself,
he also wiped the memory from their minds. As far as the goons were
concerned nothing had happened. Johnny Yuma had never been there or
spoken to them. That was one of the advantages of being an idimmu. You
could always fuck with the minds of humans if it made your life a little
He resumed his human form halfway up the stairs to the second
floor, and was Johnny Yuma again when he pushed through the double doors
into the pool hall itself, reflecting on how he seemed to be rapidly
reinforcing the first impression that stealing the body Johnny Yuma
had been a very poor choice. The pool hall was nominally closed. Indeed,
it had been nominally closed since Doc Zen had taken it over as his
headquarters. The large room, with its twelve full size tables was dark
save for a single light of one table in the far corner. Four men and
two artificials were clustered around it, but their attention was entirely
on a gilded California blonde, practiced and willowy, leaning over the
pool table to make her shot. She was a bright blaze of irradiated gold
in the Rembrandt whiskey haze of the pool hall's interior, a fluid symmetry
between the electric blue halo above the pool table and verdant green
of its surface. The solid colors of the balls clicked at the command
of her stick. She tossed her mane at each fresh position, short shorts,
long legs, and when she turned to dust her hands with talc and then
chalked her cue before dispatching the frame, Slide could feel the Yuma-body
stir with desire. The woman must have sensed something because she looked
up, saw him, and gestured to Doc Zen who was her opponent in the game
of eight ball.
Doc Zen had the powerfully sculpted features of a Roman
Emperor, except he was a Roman Emperor with long grey hair pulled back
into a ponytail and dressed in white linen suit from the days of river
boat gamblers, a silver brocade vest, and matching sleeve garters on
the arms of his black silk shirt. If that moment, his suit coat was
hung carelessly over the back of a chair, and he leaned on a custom-made
cue waiting for the blonde to finish her break. At the sight of what
he also though was Johnny Yuma, he frowned angrily. "What are you doing
here Yuma? I thought I banned you."
Slide was really growing bored with all this mistaken identity.
"Damn it, Doc. It's me, Slide."
Doc Zen's eyes narrowed. "Well so it is. What the fuck made
you possess the body of a worthless fuckwit like wretched Johnny?"
"I was in something of a hurry."
"So it would seem."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Why don't you adapt the damn body to look more like yourself?
You don't need to be carrying Yuma's penny-ante baggage around with
"Shape-taking takes time, and I only just got here."
"Time seems to be a major problem with you right now."
"Like I just said, what's that supposed to mean?"
"In a nutshell, my boy, someone's been walking on butterflies.
And they're trying to put the blame for it squarely on you."
blonde had straightened up from the table, and Doc Zen put down his
cue effectively suspending the game. "You know the old story. Guy rides
a time machine a couple of million years into the past, and he steps
in a butterfly on kills it. In the present, New York vanishes."
"Shit, Doc, I know the fucking story. What does it have
to do with me?"
"A couple of entire dimensions have completely vanished?"
Slide was shocked. The news was monumental enough to move even his jaded
"To say they were even history would be an exaggeration.
No more DZM displacement, not so much as a vestigial Q-bias."
"That's one way of putting it."
"And they're blaming it on me?"
"Couldn't happen to a nicer person."
"That's the second time you said that."
"All I did was take a powder from the Battle of the Fifteen
"That would seem to have been the cause of all the trouble.
You were supposed to rally your men, turn the tide of the fight and
save the day. When you didn't, much changed. Some things quite inexplicably.
Even in this exactitude, the city of Baltimore blinked and found it
had been taken by the Mole People."
"That's bullshit. You know I'm not the rallying kind, and
I never save the day if I can in any way help it. I'm Yancey Slide goddamn
"You and I know may that know that it's bullshit, but the
price on your head is downright flattering."
A voice suddenly came without warning from the gloom between
the table and the door. "And that's a price I intend to be paid, Doc
Zen, so I suggest that you and your people step away from Slide and
let me take him and his valuable head."
If a voice could be simultaneously melodic and threatening,
Nuygen von Bulow's had that capability, and she had also appeared completely
out of nowhere. The doors had not swung, light had not entered the dark
pool hall, footfalls or the rap of high heels had not ascended the stairs
or crossed the floor, and neither Slide nor Doc Zen, both of whom were,
to say the least, watchful and cautious by nature, had noticed her enter.
Nuygen von Bulow was still in her slight and oriental body mode, very
much the way Slide had last seen her, the moment before he had made
good his escape from the High Soviet Kremlin, forced to her knees, in
bra, panties, and black opened toes shoes, in front of KGB Knight, blowing
him at gunpoint. This time, however, her thin, almost emaciated frame
was clad in a tailored riding habit of scarlet raw silk, buttoned high
to the neck, but with the long skirt slit almost to the hip, so the
black patent leather of the thigh-length and intricately laced boots
flashed as she moved. Slide recalled that Nuygen had always indulged
herself with dramatic footwear. Her eyes were hidden behind enigmatic,
wraparound sunglasses, but no one needed to read her eyes to know her
intentions were grimly serious.
In her gloved right hand, she held a needle gun from entirely the wrong
century, and it was pointed at location halfway between Slide and Doc
Zen so she could burn either with only the slightest of turns.
Her sole companion was a young male with the face of a oceanic
predator, armored in a predictable latex skinsuit. He aimed a Mossberg
pump, and wore the Dragon's Cross with Maple Clusters, and, as Slide
looked down the barrel of the shotgun, he noted that the kid had to
be far too young to be entitled to the decoration.
It took the blonde who had been shooting pool with Doc Zen
to break the silence that had greeted von Bulow and her boy, and say
what everyone else was thinking. "You know, Doc, I would love for someone
to prove me wrong, but this does not look good at all."
courtesy of Jeanette (Moxie Graphix©).