MA09 Myth Inc in Action, page 1
Now, in those circles within whose company I am accustomed to travelin’, it is considered impolite to ask questions in general ... and that question in specific. Unfortunately, I was currently well outside those circles, and as such felt compelled to answer the inquiry, however rude.
“The Bazaar at Deva.”
“The Bazaar at ... Oh! ... Uh ... just say ... ‘varies.’” The joker what was takin’ down this information gives me a hard look before continuing with his questions.
I give him my best innocent look back, which as any jury can tell you is most convincin’, though deep down inside I am more than a little annoyed with myself. Bein’ a smarter than average individual, I should have recalled that even though my travels and adventures with the Boss have accustomed me to other dimensions, to most folks here on Klah such places as the Bazaar at Deva are unheard of, and therefore suspicious. As I am makin’ a specific effort to be inconspicuous, this is not the wisest answer to have given.
“Height and weight?”
This question makes me feel a bit better, as it serves to remind me that whatever I say or do, I will never be totally inconspicuous. You see, I am what is politely referred to as “a large person”... or less politely as “a knuckle-dragging monster.” While this is of invaluable assistance considerin’ my chosen profession, it does, however, make it difficult to blend with any given crowd. In fact, I would be the largest person in the line if it were not for Nunzio who is maybe an inch shorter, but a bit bulkier.
I can see the guy with the questions has noticed this all by himself, since he keeps glancin’ back and forth between the two of us as he jots down my responses.
“Next of kin?”
“I guess that would be Nunzio, here,” I sez, jerkin’ a thumb at my colleague.
“You two are related?”
“He’s my cousin.”
For a second I think he’s about to say somethin’ more, but then he just shrugs and scribbles a little more on his pad.
“Do you have a criminal record?”
“A criminal record. Have you ever been arrested?”
That earns me another hard look.
“I didn’t ask about convictions. I asked if you’ve ever been arrested.”
“Well ... yeah. Hasn’t everybody?”
“How many times have you been arrested?”
“Oh, three ... maybe four dozen times ... but no convictions.”
The joker has his eyebrows up now.
“You’ve been arrested nearly fifty times with no convictions?”
“No witnesses,” I say, showin’ him my teeth.
“I see,” the guy sez, lookin’ a little nervous, which is one of the customary side effects of my smiles. “Well ... let’s try it this way ... are you currently wanted by the authorities?”
“Good ... good,” he nods, fillin’ in that blank on the form in front of him.
“Okay ... one final question. Do you know of any reason why you should not be allowed to enlist in the army of Possiltum?”
In the actualities of the situational, I knew of several reasons not to enlist ... startin’ with the fact that I didn’t want to and endin’ with the god-awful wardrobe that I would be forced to wear as a soldier-type.
“Very well,” he sez, pushin’ the form across the table at me. “Just sign or make your mark here, please.”
“Is that all?” I ask, scribblin’ my name in the indicated spot.
“Is that all, sergeant,” the joker smiles, pickin’ up the paper and blowin’ on the signature.
Another reason for not joinin’ the army occurs to me.
“Is that all, sergeant?” I sez, bein’ careful not to let my annoyance show.
“No. Go to the next tent now and you’ll be issued a uniform. Then report back here and you’ll be assigned to a group for your training.”
This is indeed somethin’ what had never occurred to me or Nunzio, and could put a serious crimp in our projected timetable. I mean, how much trainin’ does it take to kill people?
“That’s right ... training,” the sergeant sez with a tight-lipped smile. “There’s more to being a soldier than wearing a uniform, you know.”
Bein’ a survival-oriented individual, I refrain from speculatin’ out loud as to what this might entail. Fortunately, the sergeant does not seem to expect an answer or additional comment. Rather, he waves me out the door as he turns his attention to the next unfortunate.
Now, those of youse what have been followin’ dese books all along may be wonderin’ just why it is that Nunzio and me is signin’ onto Possiltum’s army instead of performin’ our normal duties of bodyguardin’ the Boss... who you probably think of as the Great Skeeve, as you is not employed by him and therefore have no reason to think of him as the Boss.
This confusion is understandable, as this book is happenin’ right after the book before the last one. (MYT.H. Inc. Link) and at the same time as the one before this (Myth-Nomers and Im-Pervections). Add to that the fact that this is one of the M.Y.T.H. Inc. volumes, and is therefore bein’ told from my viewpoint instead of the Boss’s, and it becomes clear why your eyes is perhaps crossed at this point in the narrative. The only consolin’ I can offer youse, is that if youse think my life whilst workin’ for the Boss is confusin’ to read, youse should try livin’ it for a month or five!
Actually, to be totally honest with youse, dis book is not startin’ where I was the last time you saw me, so let me refer youse back to the meetin’ which started us on this particular chain of events...
IT IS INDEED a privilege to be included in a war-type council, regardless of what war it is or who in specific is also attendin’. Only the very elite are involved, which is to say those who will be furthest from the actual fightin’, as such gatherin’s are usually concerned with which portions of one’s forces are expendable, and exactly how and when they are to be expended. Since it is demoralizin’ for those who are to be dropped into the meat grinder to know they have been chosen as “designated receivers,” they are logically excluded from the proceedin’s, seein’ as how if they are made aware of their roles in advance, they are apt to take it on the lam rather than dutifully expiring on schedule, thereby botchin’ up many hours of plannin’ on both sides of the dispute in question. From this, it is easy to see that attendin’ these borin’ but necessary plannin’ sessions is not only an honor, it greatly improves one’s chances of bein’ alive at the end of the fracas. To get killed in a battle one has had a hand in settin’ the strategies for is an indication that one’s plannin’ abilities are sorely lackin’ and will count heavily against youse when bein’ considered for future engagements.
In this particular circumstantial, however, it was no special honor to be included in the plannin’ session, as our entire force consisted of a mere five personages... six if you count the Boss’s dragon. Needless to say, none of us was inclined to think of ourselves as fallin’ into the “expendable” category. Realizin’, however, that we was supposed to be trying to stop a renegade queen with a sizable mob of army-types at her disposal, one was not inclined to make book on our chances for survival... unles
While there wasn’t all that many of us, I, for one, had no complaints with the quality of our troops.
Tananda and Chumley are a sister and brother, Trollop and Troll team. While they are some of the nicest people it has ever been my pleasure to encounter, either of them is also as capable as any five knee-breakers ever employed by the Mob if they find it necessary to be unpleasant. In the Boss’s absence, they have taken it on themselves to be the leaders of our expedition... an arrangement which suits me fine.
You see, my cousin Nunzio and me is far more comfortable takin’ orders than givin’ them. This is a habit we have acquired workin’ for the Mob, where the less you know about why an order is bein’ givin’, the better off you are... particularly if at a later point you should be called upon to explain your actions under oath. (For those of youse who have failed to read about our activities in the earlier books in this series and are therefore ignorant as to our identities and modus operandi, our job description refers to us as “collection specialists”... which is a polite way of sayin’ we’re knee-cappers.)
The fifth member of our little strike force is Massha... and if that name alone is not sufficient to summon forth an identifyin’ image in your mind, then it is obvious you have not yet met this particular individual in the flesh. You see, Massha has a singularly unique appearance which is unlikely to be mistaken for anyone else, though she might, perhaps, be mistaken for something else... like maybe a dinosaurous if said saurous was bein’ used as a travelin’ display for a make-up and jewelry trade show. What I am tryin’ to say is that Massha is both very big and very colorful, but in the interest of brevity I will spare you the analogous type comparisons. What is important is that as big and as tough as she is, Massha has a heart even bigger than her dress size.
We had been holdin’ the start of our meetin’ until she got back from droppin’ the Boss off on Perv, which she had just done, so now we are ready to commence the proceedin’s.
“So you’re teIlin’ me you think King Rodrick was whacked by Queen Hemlock? That’s why Skeeve sent you all here?”
This is Big Julie talkin’. While me and Nunzio have never met this particular individual before, we have heard of his reputation from the days when he also worked for the Mob, and it seems he and the Boss are old friends and that he’s one of our main sources for information and advice in this dimension. In any case, we are usin’ his villa as a combination meetin’ point and base of operations for this caper.
“That’s right,” Tananda sez. “Hemlock’s always been big on world conquest, and it looks like her new husband wouldn’t go along with her schemes.”
“Realizing she now has the combined power of her kingdoms’ money and the military might of your old army,” Chumley adds, “it occurred to Skeeve that she might be tempted to try to... shall we say, expand her holdings a bit. Anyway, he asked us to pop over and see firsthand what was happening.”
“I see,” Big Julie nods, sippin’ thoughtfully at his wine. “To tell you the truth, it never occurred to me that the king’s dyin’ was a little too convenient to be accidental. I’m a little surprised, though, that Skeeve isn’t checkin’ this out himself. Nothin’ personal, but he never used to be too good at delegatin’.”
“He’s busy,” Massha sez, cuttin’ it short like a casino pit boss.
Tananda shoots her a look, then leans forward, puttin’ a comfortin’ hand on her knee.
“He’ll be all right, Massha. Really.”
Massha makes a face, then heaves one of her big sighs.
“I know. I’d just feel a lot better if he let a couple of us tag along, is all. I mean, that is Perv he’s wandering around in. They’ve never been noted for their hospitality.”
“Perv?” Big Julie scowls. “Isn’t that where that weirdo Aahz is from?”
“Where he’s from, and where he’s gone,” Chumley supplies. “He and Skeeve had a falling out, and friend Aahz has quit the team. Skeeve has gone after him to try to bring him back... which leaves us to deal with Queen Hemlock. So tell us, Jules, what’s the old girl been up to lately?”
“Well, I’ll admit there’s been a lot of activity since the king died,” Julie admits. “The army’s been on the move almost constantly, and both they and the kingdom are getting noticeably bigger... know what I mean? It’s kinda like the old days when I was running the army, only on a bigger scale. I get a post card from one of the boys sayin’ how they’re visitin’ a new country, than ga-bing-ga-bang that country’s suddenly a new part of Possiltum.”
“I see,” the troll sez thoughtfully. “Well, what do you think, little sister? You’re the only one here who was along the last time Skeeve stopped this particular army.”
“Not quite. You’re forgetting that Gleep was there... and, of course, Big Julie.”
She winks at that notable who responds with a gracious half bow. Gleep, the Boss’s dragon, raises his head and looks around at the mention of his name, then sighs and goes back to sleep.
“‘Course, I was on the other side last time,” Big Julie sez, “but it occurs to me that you got your work cut out for you this time around.”
“Well, last time we was the invaders, you know? The locals didn’t like us, even though they didn’t take much of a hand in the resistance Skeeve organized. This time, though, the army is the home team, and folks in the kingdom are pretty much behind ‘em all the way.”
“You mean the kingdomers are in favor of the queen’s new expansion moves?” Tananda frowns.
“That’s right,” Big Julie nods, “and when you think about it, it stands to reason. The bigger the kingdom gets, the more people there are to share the cost, so the taxes get smaller. With their taxes goin’ down with each new conquest, the citizens are positively ecstatic about the way things are going. If that weren’t enough, unemployment is at an all-time low what with so many goin’ into the army, so pay scales are sky high.”
“So Hemlock’s running a popular war, eh?” Tananda sez, pursing her lips thoughtfully. “Maybe that’s the route for us to go. What do you think, big brother?”
This last she directs at Chumley, who just shrugs.
“I suppose it’s as good a place as any to start. Something about that analysis of the tax structure bothers me, though.”
I tended to agree with Chumley, but Tananda is on a roll.
“Save it for the financial heavyweights,” she waves. “For the time being, let’s focus on doing what we’re good at.”
“And just what do you figure that is?” Massha interrupts. “Excuse me, but could you two run that by again slowly for the benefit of those of us who aren’t used to your brother/ sister shorthand?”
“Well, the way I see it, our best bet is to work on making Hemlock’s expansion program unpopular. I mean, there’s not much the five of us can do about stopping the army by ourselves, but if we can get the populace worked up maybe the queen will have to reconsider... or at least slow down.”
“We could try to kill her,” Massha sez pointedly.
“True,” Tananda acknowledges, “and don’t think I haven’t given that option some serious thought. I think it’s a little more drastic than Skeeve had in mind when he sent us on this mission, though. Anyway, I think I’d like to hold that option in reserve for now, or at least until Skeeve catches up with us and we have a chance to clear it with him.”
“Well, if you don’t mind, there’s another possibility I’d like to try.”
“What’s that, Massha?”
“Tell me, Big Julie, is General Badaxe still running the army?”
“Hugh? Sure is. He’s a fast learner, that one. Remembers mostly everything I’ve taught him about runnin’ an army.”
“Well,” Massha sez, heaving herself to her feet, “I think I’ll jus
“I say, that’s a good idea, Massha,” Chumley sez. “Speaking of the army, Guido, do you think you and Nunzio can manage to sign up for a hitch? Remembering how you stirred things up at the Acme magik factory by getting the workers to unionize, you’re the logical choice for demoralizing the troops, and that’s best done from the inside.”
“Yea, sure,” I sez with a shrug. “Why not?”
“Are you okay, Guido?” Tananda asks, peering at me sudden-like. “You and Nunzio have been awfully quiet since we started out on this venture.”
“We’re all right,” Nunzio puts in quick. “We’re just a little worried about the Boss... like Massha. Joinin’ the army is fine by us, if you think it will help things. Right, Guido?”
“I said it was okay, didn’t I?” I snaps back at him.
“So what are you and Chumley going to be doin’ while we’re playing soldier?” Nunzio sez. It is obvious to me that he is out to divert the attention of the meetin’ away from the two of us, but no one else seems to notice... except maybe Big Julie who gives me the hairy eyeball for a minute before turnin’ his attention back to the conversation.
“We’re going to see what we can do about stirring up the citizens,” Tananda shrugs. “Tax reductions are nice, but there are bound to be some irritating things about life under Hemlock’s new programs. All we have to do is root them out and be sure that folks see them as irritating.”
“Do you blokes want Gleep, or shall we take him?” Chumley asks.
“Gleep?” sez the dragon, raisin’ his head again.
“Aahh... why don’t you and Tananda take him,” Nunzio sez quick-like. “Truth to tell, he made me a little nervous the last time we was workin’ together.”
“Who? Gleep?” Tananda sez, reaching over to pet the dragon. “There’s nothing to be nervous about with him. He’s just a big sweetie and a snugglebug... aren’t you fellow?”
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