Monday, October 24, 2022

Clumsy Cooper's Halloween Tale

By Bixyl Shuftan 

It seemed like a simple enough job.

It wasn't like he was going hungry or needed a place to stay. Since falling asleep in a railroad car somewhere in the Deathlands and somehow waking up in this place of high tech called Montecito Bay, Melvin Cooper had been able to make a few bucks here and there doing simple service jobs. And after running into "The Moff," who while no longer the Mayor was the city's most popular resident and still had plenty of influence, he'd gotten a tiny but comfortable apartment he could stay in for a short time for practically nothing until he could get other accommodations. 
But something, wasn't right. He was a little tired of microwaved meals every night, with only the occasional dish at a ramen stall for freshly-made food, and he wasn't making enough money to get snazzy clothing and pay for a hot car to pick up women. But there was, something else. There were tales of some megacorporation moving in with more in mind than just making a few dollars, but saw the city as a base of operations for some secret plans. Maybe it was simply getting around some rules and regulations to save a few bucks, or maybe it was for something far more sinister.

He'd been approached by some mystery figure, saying he was a friend of Moff and a "concerned citizen" who had the means to stop these characters if they were up to no good, but only if he had evidence. And since Melvin Cooper had some experience of being a "liberator of assets," perhaps he could uncover something, "I'll make it well worth your while if you discover something of value. Don't bother getting a second opinion from Moff. To make sure he doesn't get in trouble, he is not in the know."
So it would seem his old skills would come in handy once more, saving the city and making a few dollars for himself. He snuck into the corporate quarter after hours, despite the curfew that was enforced by a few private guards. And despite that it was the night of October 31, which gave him a few willies. He brought a few donuts to them, saying he had run an errand and left his phone in the area. So they let him in. Looking around, he saw a robot, some kind of drone hovering just over the ground, moving some crates. Maybe they might hold something? He waited until it was gone, then made a move on one of the crates. Thankfully it was light. He would take it to some corner and open it ...

"Halt! You are not authorized to transit that object!" 

Melvin turned, and there was another drone, heading at him. He'd been discovered! He turned tail and ran! The thing fired a taser at him, and missed.

"Alert! Unauthorized personnel, Sector C! Alert! Unauthorized personnel ..."

Melvin ran and ran. It shouldn't be *too* long before he'd be back out of the corporate sector. But he kept hearing a whirring mechanical sound behind him. He turned, and the drone was still after him! Spurred on my adrenaline, he ran even faster. But the machine kept after him.

How was he going to get away? There had to be something. He then thought he saw a shadow ...
Then the next thing he heard was a crash of some kind. He turned, and the done was now smashed against the wall. In the middle of the alley was a huge wolf, almost twice his height, and without clothes. A werewolf?

"The boss told me you might need a hand, so I dropped in. What did you find?"

Still fueled by adrenaline and fright, Melvin didn't find relief in the wolf, only fear. He looked for a place to hide. He ducked into an alley, and in some out of the way shop saw a car of some kind, an odd silvery one. He ran over, opened the door, which opened not out but up, and jumped in. Then the next thing he knew, he heard the engine started, the car started to hover, and the next thing he knew, it was zooming out of the shop, with hover-engines. 
He had to give the vehicle's steering wheel a hard left to keep from running into the wall. It then began rising in the air, and increasing speed fast. He looked over the controls. He noticed two dates on the control panel, and saw two dates, one marked "Destination." It was on October 31, 1899. What did that mean? Glancing again at the speed, it was going past 60, 70, 80 ... and at 88 miles an hour, there was a flash in the air ...

The next thing he knew was a brief sensation of falling, then landing in some bushes. Groaning a bit, he got up and looked around. Instead of neon lights, glass, and steel, he saw streetlamps, brick walkways, and brick and wood buildings. This was somewhere else, but where. Eventually, he saw a sign, "Caledon."

He recalled reading the place was a major community in the Victorian Era. Melvin had somehow ended up in the Steam Age!

He was wondering about his next move. Then he thought he heard a scream. He ran a short distance, then saw two humans, a woman dressed in what looked like a second-hand dress. The other was some man dressed all in black, with a cloak over his back and a dagger in his hand. He had the woman by the wrist, and the dagger pointed at her.
"Please, let me go!"

"You wretch! I'll finish you off here and now!"

Realizing what the man was up to, Melvin forgot about his fear. Instead, he picked up a rock, and threw it at the dark man. It hit him in the head, causing him to let go of the girl, who promptly wrenched her hand free and ran off. The figure then turned to face him, with piercing dark brown eyes, almost as black as his clothes, "I don't know who you are, but that was your last mistake." He then began advancing at Clumsy.

Clumsy's reaction was to retreat, but not run. With all the iron fencing around here, maybe there was a loose bar he could use as a makeshift weapon. Then a shape zoomed down from the sky. Melvin could only make out that it was black, with wings. It charged at the man in black, who turned tail and ran. He ducked into an alley, and the whatever-it-was flew after him. Melvin thought he heard a male scream and some kind of scuffle, then silence. 

The ex-burglar decided discretion was the better part of valor and quickly headed away. But not knowing this town well, he wasn't sure where to go. While on the move, he thought he saw a few policemen running his way. Deciding to hide, he ducked into a wooded park. After well, inside, he was having second thoughts as the place was dark and spooky. Just the right place for something to ambush ...

His thoughts were interrupted by a sound, he turned, and something pounced him, wrapping him up in dark wings. There was a strong musky scent from it, and the smell of blood. Melvin, almost freaked, then to his surprise the dark figure kissed him. It was then he noticed it's feminine shape and bosom. It was a vampire batgirl of some kind, dark red and black.

"I wasn't sure I could help that woman in time," she told him in a raspy but still female voice, "I smell a good deal of recent fear on you, but you put that aside and helped her. Oh, and if you're wondering, the Ripper is still alive. I simply flew over to a constable I know and told him. Well, after having a pint or two first.

"But, I also smell, sadness? loneliness? Aw, poor little hero." The batgirl seemed to smile, "I'll stay with you tonight."

Melvin got very nervous. While he wanted the company of a woman very much, he wasn't so sure about a scary vampire batgirl. She almost seemed to sense his fear, giggling and nuzzling thoughts of bloodsuckers from movies raced though his mind. Then he felt her licking his neck. That was too much, and he fainted.

Eventually he came to. He found himself not on the ground of some spooky wooded park, but sandy ground next to some rusty jeep. He got up and looked around. He was back in the Deathlands. 

Had it all been some kind of dream? Melvin sighed. At least in Montecito Bay, he had a soft and clean place to shower and sleep and didn't have to worry about going hungry, or at least not too hungry. Now it was back to catching rats and drinking brackish water. 

He looked the jeep over. While rusty, it looked like it had been recently running. He had vague memories of tinkering with a few vehicles he found to see if he could get one running with parts from the others. But it seems something blew, and the car toppled, knocking him out. 

He was pondering his next move, when he saw a couple things on the ground. One was a jug of water, about a couple gallons. The other was a small water purifier. There was a wadded paper tucked into a slot on it. Looking at it, these were simple instructions. This could purify unsafe water, salt, germs, even radioactivity. 

Melvin wasn't sure how he had come across this purifier. But in the wasteland, it would certainly be very useful. At least he had somehow come out ahead. He recalled where he had set some traps, and began walking to them. Fried rat wasn't the tastiest thing to eat, but at least he wouldn't be hungry. 

*  *  *  *  *

"Are you sure we should have left him there, Doc?"

"We didn't have a choice, Marty. That would be taking a chance with breaking the space-time continuum."

"But to leave him in the middle of a desert?"

"That was where he stowed on the steam machine. We did leave him with a little water, and something that will help with water in his future."

"Yeah, but still ..."

"I took a trip a few years into the future after that. He'll be okay. A few scares along the way, but eventually he'll be back in civilization, eventually." 

To be continued

Bixyl Shuftan

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