Fixnig clumped into his office and turned on his computer. He set his sub down in front on the keyboard and began slowly to assimilate his noon meal. As he did so, he checked Faceblob. He was surprised to see that his alma mater was having trouble: firing the head guy, in fact. As he continued assimilating his food, he dug further in.
“Checked out this thing on Mercution?”
“Mercution Interplanetary University, where we graduated from, man.”
“We graduated from Intercontinental Bible Baptist Institute of Ministry Preparation.”
“Which–you really need to keep up, man–changed to Mercution: M.I.U.”
“Anyway, they just fired the president.”
“Which is interesting.”
“I mean, why did they fire him, you know?”
“Cause it looks, like, kind of weird. Do you remember who was the president in our day?”
“Drawby. Pretty cool but he was, like, old school, man.”
“Yeah. And then they got Aknit, and then that Chinese dude Pahkbar, and after that they got Wilgamot who’s the dude they just fired.”
“You don’t keep up, do you?”
Fixnig had finished assimilating his sub and now deposited the remains in the trash. He slouched up closer to the monitor and concentrated over the keyboard, digging into the situation like a burrowing maggot. As he did so, William Augustus Merrywether, aka: Whammy, and pastor for information, technology and marketing, came into the office. “So what?” Whammy said.
“So don’t you want to know why?”
Whammy did his little thinking thing, scrunching up his brow and scratching his head for a few seconds. Then he said: “Not really.”
“Dude! They started having rock-group outreaches.”
“Yeah, apparently this president took them down that route.”
“Well, good for him.”
“And he’s the one they fired!”
“Dude!” Whammy exclaimed, finally grasping the situation. “That’s not cool.”
“Yeah, so what are we going to do about it?”
“Like, stop it, of course.”
* * *
Klamm sat in his office, fiddling with an inactive SA device. He was worried about the whole Mercution business. Apparently, Canapia enterprises had pulled the funding out from under them and so the board had panicked and tried to reverse course. Klamm spun in his chair, wondering. Should he get involved? Who was behind this all? The Criten?
He heard a muffled thumping in his filing cabinet. Shaking his head, he leaned over and opened the bottom drawer. The janitor angelicus looked out.
“Sir, there’s a problem with Canapia.”
“Yeah. They seem to think that Kameldeerguard has returned.”
“Did they mention where she can be located?”
“Yes. Apparently, the sage of Hinga Lum Dura is proclaiming that she has returned and is living in an apartment there.”
“What, like she has an address and everything?”
“509 South Karpart, Apt 1435, Ornilda, etc.”
The janitor angelicus was lying inside of the cabinet looking up at Klamm. It was kind of awkward, but being the janitor angelicus he was used to it. What he was not used to was Klamm asking questions as if he didn’t immediately understand the situation. Now he watched as Klamm hesitated.
“I wonder . . .” Klamm said. “I wonder if she’s contacted Yumar Canapia.”
I never occurred to Klamm to wonder whether the sage of Hinga Lum Dura was making it all up.
* * *
Meanwhile, in the hideous light of the setting sun shining through multiple panes of dirty windows, the sage of Hinga Lum Dura smole a smile and rubbed his hands. He set the cage up and sat down to wait.
* * *
Meanwhile, the Criten sensed a disturbance in the space-time continuum at the Canapia corporation headquarters. An SA device was being employed there, and he wondered what it could be. He set his systems on red alert and began monitoring for any strange activities at random points located no specifically interesting distance from the pulsing SA device.
* * *
Fixnig and Whammy had just set up a kickstarter to help save Mercution and a very large sum of money had come in.
“Who gave it, man?” Fixnig asked.
“It says an alumni did it, but it’s like an anonymous alumni.”
“Like, a bunch of them?”
“What do you mean?”
“Why did you use the plural?”
“Dude, quit nitpicking. It’s just some random alumnate.”
“Whatever. That’s a lot of money.”
“It’s cowardly to be anonymous, you know.”
“Dude, are you going to like, reject it because the dude is anonymous? We could get the school we went to to do rap and stuff. I’m not going to block somebody just because they’re anonymous.”
“Could be a scam.”
“Why would anybody give money to save Mercution as a scam?”
Fixnig could come up with no answer to that.
* * *
Meanwhile, pastor Fel checked his phone and saw that the funds had transferred. As Doc explained his latest scheme to the board, Fel sat back in his chair and smole a smile.
* * *
Fixnig was eating his way through a bowl of spaghetti with slow sucking noises. He was waiting on hold to talk to Jack Wilgamot, to tell him about the money and see whether he was willing to let them help him retake Mercution.
“Hi, this is Jack.”
“Glbb! Hag do.”
“I’m sorry, I’m really busy at this time and I can’t understand you.”
“Yo,” Fixnig said, having violently swallowed a wad of spaghetti. “I talk English [cough, cough], I’m just. Imma . . .”
Jack Wilgamot waited patiently until his caller was managed to speak.
“Sorry about that. I’m calling to save your job, dude; I’m an alumnus, Keith Fixnig.”
“I’m glad to meet you, Keith. What exactly do you mean about saving my job?”
“We’re doing the kickstarter–me and Whammy, that is–and we got enough money to save the school.”
Wilgamot rolled his eyes, but decided to play along. “Right, ok, so you save the school. That’s great and I’m really glad you can do it, but, ah . . . they’ve already fired me, you know.”
“I know, but we don’t want you to go, and a lot of other people don’t either, so we raised the lettuce and we’ll give it to the school if they agree to take you back.”
. . .
“Yeah . . . I’m . . . I don’t know . . . is this some kind of prank?”
“No dude! It’s for real. We have the lettuce, yo. We are going to give it to the school if they’ll take you back. We’re big fans, man.”
“ . . . I’m not sure what to say.”
“Say yes, dude. That’s what I’d do. That place needs to stay the course you’ve had it on. Now it can. Just say yes. The lettuce is all there.”
* * *
Klamm and the janitor opened a trapdoor into a corridor in Ornilda. He looked at a door nearby and saw the number 1327. He looked at the paper he had, and shook his head. “Have to go up a floor.”
“How did I get that wrong?” the janitor asked.
Klamm gave him a dirty look and peered around. “Which way is the stairs?”
“Left,” the janitor said, not hesitating.
Klamm gave him a long look and then went right, the janitor following along behind him. He came to the stairs soon enough, puffed up them, and found the 14th floor. Soon he came to a door marked 1435.
“Boom!” said the janitor behind him.
Klamm gave him another dirty look and knocked on the door. It opened slowly and they walked right into the trap.
* * *
Pastor Fel’s phone rang.
“Is this Felonius Assault?”
“I have Klamm.”
Pastor Fel sat up, “Where?”
“That’s my business until I have the money.”
“I already contributed: twenty payments of five grand each.”
“Yes, but it has to get back to me.”
“No, of course not. The guys in charge of the rescue operation are handing it over to Wilgamot.”
“Because that’s what they think it’s for, genius.”
“They really care about saving Mercution?”
“It gives them something to do.”
“I see. Humans! They can’t be happy just to count it, can they? I’ll get on it. What will you do with Klamm?”
“Keep him safe till my funds are laundered, of course.”
* * *
“Dude, how do we get the funds from kickstarter?” Whammy asked.
“Didn’t you set it up to a bank account you can access?”
“Whu . . . no, it was already provided.”
“Call kickstarter and ask, I guess.”
Whammy googled the number and called in.
“My project is Save Mercution. I’m trying to get the funds out in order to use them. . . . What do you mean? . . . No, when I set it up the account was already provided. . . . I don’t know, you tell me. . . . But it was! . . . You . . . You can’t? But how will we get the money? . . . I understand about security, but we can’t get at the funds . . . what? What do you mean it’s been wrapped up on your end? Did I have to . . . oh. . . . I see . . . but. No, look, we need to get at those funds. Somebody is scamming us. . . . but we don’t have the account! Hello? Hello? Dude! they hung up on me.”
“We’ve been scammed. Dude, I wish I hadn’t called Wilgamot.”
“Dude, our names are all over that project.”
“I wonder who got the money, you know?”
* * *
“Where are we?” Klamm asked the janitor.
“Isolation chamber. No access to the TA from here.”
“Who’s done this?”
“I think that was a ruse. I fell for it.”
“Who else could it be?”
“What would they want?”
“What do they ever want?” Clamm asked, exasperated. “To count things, of course.”
“I never thought about it that way,” the janitor said.
Klamm shut his eyes and sat back on his bunk. There was nothing to do but wait and see what they’d want out of him this time. Perhaps they wanted permanent access to the TA for transportation services, or maybe . . . Klamm sat up with a start.
“What?” the janitor asked.
“They’re trying to revive the whole dracula project! I bet you anything Felonius is behind this!”
“Was there an SA device set up at Canapia headquarters?”
“There was, now that I think of it. How did you guess?”
“Why didn’t you tell me this before?”
The janitor shrank before the wrath of Klamm. “I meant to and then I forgot with the news of Kameldeergard.”
“Fool! Trust you to take the bait on a trap. The SA points to Accounticon. They want more converts!”
“Well, they’re always looking for converts; it’s what gives them something to do. I don’t get how that lands us here though.”
“Because I’ve got the plans for the dracula project. I know how to make it work.”
“I don’t think it adds up,” the janitor said.
* * *
It all added up–the Criten realized. Felonius wanted to get Clamm, and the sage just wanted clean money to go on a drinking binge again. Felonius needed to get ahold of Clamm to control the Transcendental Arrangement in order to convince the world that Dispensationalism was right and so gather even more converts. What Felonius did not realize, was that control of the TA did not really belong to Clamm, it belongued to the Raven McRune out of whose steady grip it would never be removed. It would remain always a shadowy system of cosmic ventilation ducts through whose unpredictably labyrinthine bowels few could pass with any safety.
* * *
What nobody counted on was the determination of Fixnig and Whammy. They had somehow managed to hack the Transcendental Arrangement by now (which was not logically possible, but they did not graduate from Mercution with any distinctions in logic) and were halfway to Accounticon.
“Dude, there’s a lot of couches here.”
“No kidding, man. Hey, left or right up ahead?”
Whammy flipped a coin, and they went right.
* * *
Klamm was sitting on the bunk and staring at the door when it opened and pastor Fel walked in. “Yo, Clammy,” he said. At that same moment an ideological trap door opened and two modish young pastors fell in.
The janitor stared at the trap door swinging from the ceiling and said, “There is no logical connection between here and the TA.”
“Who says we followed any logical connections, dude?” Whammy asked, holding his left leg and hopping on his right.
“Which one of you guys took the money for Mercution?” Fixnig asked.
“How?” pastor Fel said, staring in consternation at the trap door.
And only Klamm was quick enough on the uptake to leap from his bunk, swing himself with surprising agility into the trap door, and out of the isolation chamber. The janitor cried out as the door shut behind Clamm.
“Dude,” Fixnig said, “that’s one swift fat guy.”
“Foiled again!” Felonius Assault said. “There goes Clamm and the money too.”
“Dude, the money’s gone?”
“Yeah, that’s all over with boys. We’ve been swindled.” He kicked the bunk violently, causing the janitor leap up screaming.
“Dude! Take it easy,” Whammy said.
* * *
When the Criten saw what had happened he had to shake his head. The sage of Hinga Lum Dura went on a year-long binge, Clamm got back to his office, and Felonius had nothing to show.
And what happened to Fixnig and Whammy? They’re still chasing the fat guy, they think he has the funds. They proceed under the aegis of the Raven McRune, who randomly extends to them the benefits of the TA, having secret purposes for doing so.