The Plan Unravels
“WHO THE HELL IS ON MY PROPERTY?!!” came the roar from inside Braneegan’s shack.
Jon tried to back away from the doorway, but enormous hands grabbed him and pulled him into the blackness of the shack. Mike heard a scuffle inside, then Jon was thrown bodily past him, and crashed to the ground a few feet away.
The Tullaxiffan shot in his hand flew free.
Mike, still on the porch landing, looked over at Jon, “Did you get him with the stuff?”
Reply was unnecessary. Braneegan was outside now, all six hairy feet of him in overalls, and loomed over Mike, who looked like a small rodent in the glare of a wullark’s regard. Braneegan grabbed him by the neck with one hand, and pulled him close.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING ON MY PROPERTY?!!” he shouted in Mike’s face, raining spittle and stench upon him.
Jon got up. There was no time to go searching for his lost syringe. He hoped Mike still had his and would have the presence of mind to use it. He ran up behind Braneegan, jumped onto the porch landing, then onto his back, and crossed his arms around Braneegan’s neck, in a stranglehold.
Braneegan dropped Mike, who remembered at last the syringe in his hand. He raised it up to Braneegan’s chest, like a dagger, brought it down on flesh, and pressed down on the plunger.
Only…it wasn’t Braneegan he hit.
He had missed Braneegan’s chest and had instead injected Jon’s arm, which had moved and shifted in the struggle to keep a hold on the wild man’s neck.
“You got ME, you DINK!” was all Jon managed to get out before he lost consciousness, dropped off Braneegan’s back, and fell to the ground like a sack of dirt.
“Oh…snot.” Mike said.
Braneegan gave Mike a backhand swat that knocked him off the porch. He stomped menacingly down the porch steps towards him.
Just then, from behind, something heavy and red flew through the air and struck Braneegan on the back of the head with a loud, yet musical, THOOMF sound. Braneegan looked aside, as if he had just thought of something interesting, then fell over like a tall tree in logging season. Standing there, a few feet back from where Braneegan had stood, was Rak.
“Never underestimate the power of a pipe wrench.” he said.
Rak spotted Jon’s dropped syringe of Tullaxiffan, and picked it up. He walked over to Braneegan, and emptied its contents into his neck.
Mike got back to his feet. “Thanks, Rak,” he said, “You’re a life-saver.”
Callie, Kevin, and Edward arrived, huffing and puffing from the run.
“What the hell happened?!” Kevin asked.
Mike filled them in on what had transpired.
“Is Jon gonna be alright?” Callie asked.
“Sure. He’ll just be out for several hours,” Mike said, “Kevin, help me carry him over to the front gate.”
From a distance came an animal sound; more yawn than roar, the sound nonetheless froze their blood.
“Is that what I think it is?” Mike asked.
Callie slapped her forehead. “The gallanashes!” she said, “We didn’t check the gallanashes!”
“Should we go back now?” Edward asked.
“It sounds like only one is awake.” Callie said, “If it’s still woozy, maybe we can get to it. I have my Tullaxiffan.”
“Even a woozy gallanash is dangerous.” Kevin said.
“But Woodrow is still over there!” Edward said, “He could be in danger if he hasn’t found the wagon yet.”
“Okay, this is what we do,” Mike said, “First we get Jon outside the gates, then Callie and I will go deal with our woozy gallanash. Kevin and Edward, you guys go look for Woodrow in the Labyrinth. Rak, you stay outside the gates with Jon and wait for us.”
“What if Woodrow shows up after you all leave?” Rak asked.
“You wait.” Mike answered, “You two put Jon in the wagon and wait.”
“What if no one shows up?”
“Then you're on your own.”
This is what happened to Woodrow.
He entered the Labyrinth. He knew it well enough to run through it, even though many parts of it were in the dark. What Woodrow did not know, however; was that in the two years of his ownership of the place, Braneegan had made changes to the layout of the Labyrinth. Minor ones, to be sure, but certain paths were now shut off that weren’t before. One of these was in a dark area. Woodrow entered this dead-end at a full run. When he reached the end of it, he smashed his forehead on an outreaching obstruction, and was knocked out cold. Blood trickled from his forehead, where the skin had broken.
Sometime after that event, Kevin and Edward stopped at the entrance of the Labyrinth.
“We’re gonna have to split up,” Kevin said.
“Splitting up is never a good idea.” Edward said.
“It is if we want to find Woodrow sometime this year.”
“Okay.” Edward sighed, “Good luck.”
The two took off on their separate paths.
When Mike and Callie reached their destination, they found four sleeping gallanashes; one was missing.
“Looks like one didn’t get his fair share of the spiked meat.” Callie said.
“Look.” Mike said, and pointed to a clear line of gallanash tracks that led back towards the Labyrinth.
“Please tell me those came from the Labyrinth, and are not going to the Labyrinth.” Callie said.
“Only one way to find out.” Mike said.
The two started running.
Woodrow awoke in darkness. He wasn’t sure what had happened, but the throbbing in his head, and the blood trickling down his face gave him the facts needed for a guess.
“Idiot,” he murmured to himself, “You shoulda brought a flashlight.”
Somewhere in the darkness, came the sound of a low growl.
Woodrow turned and saw a gallanash enter the dead-end he was currently occupying; drawn by either the scent of the blood, or perhaps the sound of his voice. It had passed through a shaft of light that illuminated the entrance of the dead-end, and then disappeared into its dark mantle.
“Shike!” Woodrow hissed, and got to his feet. He felt a moment of light-headedness, but it passed. He couldn’t see the gallanash anymore, but knew it was closing in on him in it’s slow, almost sluggish, gait.
He knew he couldn’t go out the way he came in, so he turned and started climbing up the car pile at the end of the path.
Then he heard a voice.
“WOOD-ROW!” the voice sing-songed, “WOOD…ROW…!”
It was Edward.
Edward entered the shaft of light at the entrance of the dead-end, and called out: “WOODROW ARE YOU THERE?”
Woodrow sensed rather than saw the gallanash turn around, and start bounding after Edward.
“EDWARD, THERE’S A GALLANASH HERE AND IT’S GOING FOR YOU! RUN!!” Woodrow shouted.
The gallanash roared, not sounding sleepy at all anymore; and that roar, more than anything else, froze Edward where he stood.
Mike and Callie appeared then, from an intersecting path; and as the gallanash pounced, Mike leapt, and knocked Edward out of its way. The two fell to the side, as the gallanash hit the car wall instead. The force of the collision was such that it knocked loose a dangerous rain of bits and pieces from the top of the wall of cars. The gallanash, dazed and bewildered, turned its attention to Callie, who was still standing in the place from which Mike had leapt to save Edward.
“CALLIE!” Mike cried out as the gallanash reared up on its hind legs and leapt at his sister.
The gallanash landed its paws on her shoulders and knocked her to the ground, where it straddled over her; bringing itself face to face with her. In the shaft of light they had landed in, she could see its wild eyes focus on hers.
Callie stifled another scream and stared back; her green eyes to its yellow. The creature seemed fascinated.
A silent battle of wills seemed to be taking place between those two unblinking sets of eyes. Then, abruptly, the gallanash dropped on top of her; as if it had fallen in love and was trying to hug her. When Mike and Woodrow moved the heavy animal off of her, they saw Callie’s Tullaxiffan shot sticking out of its side; its contents all gone.
Callie sat up. Terrified, if unhurt.
Mike, Edward, and Woodrow looked at her with awe.
“How the hell did you do that?!” Mike asked.
“The syringe was already in my hand,” Calle said, “So I figured if I could hold its stare for a second, I could jab it. So that’s what I did.”
Woodrow laughed. “That’s the ballsiest thing I’ve ever seen!” he said, “Amazing!”
“What’s amazing?” someone called out from a short distance away.
It was Kevin. “What did I miss?” he asked.
When they found the wagon at last, Mike saw that the back was empty; all their stuff was gone.
“I guess you were right about that, Woodrow.” he said.
“I usually am.” Woodrow replied.
“You’re an arrogant phote, Woodrow.” Callie said.
They all laughed.
When Rak saw the wagon, and everyone in it, he opened wide the front gates, so they could pass.
“Close the gate and reset the padlock.” Mike told Rak through the lowered driver’s side window, “Then get in the wagon. Woodrow and Kevin, help me put Jon in the back.”
Mike took the keys, got out of the driver’s seat, and opened the wagon’s back hatch. Then, between him, Woodrow, and Kevin, they picked Jon up off the ground and carried him to the back of the wagon. Callie got in the back with him.
Mike closed the back hatch, then walked over and got back into the driver’s seat. Woodrow procured the front passenger seat; Rak, Edward, and Kevin got the back seats.
With high spirits, the team headed home.
When they got back to the Wherehouse, Mike parked the wagon in the back, where it couldn’t be seen from the street. Corrina and Kitty heard their arrival, and awoke the others.
Through the back door, Mike and Woodrow carried Jon inside; there they were met by the other Dreadniks.
“What happened to Jon?” Corrina fretted.
“He’s just out of it.” Woodrow said, “He probably won’t come to till morning.”
“Put him in his room.” Bear said.
Once that was done, they all met back at the ground floor.
“Okay, what happened over there?” Bear asked the team.
“The Febwith went sharfle.” Rak said.
Each one recounted the bit of the story they were involved in.
“Anyway, that’s pretty much it.” Woodrow said, when they reached the end of their tale, “We found the wagon and drove it back here.”
“Well,” Bear said, “The mission was accomplished and nobody died, that’s something. Frankly I’m too sleepy to do the proper head-slapping over some of the bone-headed decisions made in the wake of the original sharfle-point, so let’s just call it a night.”
Everyone agreed. They all made their way upstairs to get some well-deserved sleep (except for Kitty and Corrina, who had night watch).
This would be the last time any of them would ever sleep in the Wherehouse again; the next day, everything would go to hell.