Uhopping Chapter 5: Electric
This is part five of the Uhopping adventure that is spanning lots of webfic sites. You're going to want to catch up via the Strange Little Band LiveJournal community, where all this lives happily in a coherent manner. To quickly summarize: when we last saw our Baby Snatcher, he and his team were being badly whipped in Addergoole...
Before Smith hit the ground, Waldgrave had made up his mind. He burrowed his hands in his pockets and strode directly to Walters, prodding the collapsed Enforcer with his shoe.
“We are leaving,” he said to no one in particular. Walters didn’t reply. The blood had stopped flowing from his ears, but he had not regained consciousness.
Waldgrave turned to Smith.
“Mister Smith,” he said, “you will assume command. Get us out of here.”
Smith nodded, wincing as he got to his feet. The air was filling with the sound of angry yelling, popping, a roaring… Smith grit his teeth and tried to move them… but nothing happened.
“Mr Smith…” Waldgave warned. His face remained calm, but the mere fact that he repeated himself betrayed rising anxiety. “Quickly, if you please.”
Smith caught his breath, tried to filter out the mind-numbing agony in his groin without much luck. He glanced over at the unconscious Ada, Jackson, Walters… and…
A moment later, he was catching his footing on a rocking boat, sea air jolting him awake. Smith smiled at the sensation… for all of two seconds, before a powerful electric charge shot him clear across the deck.
“Holy crapcakes,” said a voice from behind. “That was awesome!”
Waldgrave turned to see a collection of onlookers, dressed in antiquated costumes, their mouths hanging open at the steaming wreck of Smith against the railing. Floating at the front of the group was a fish bowl, and inside, a very excited fish.
“Dude!” said the fish, “Hold still! I’ll do you next!”
Waldgrave looked around for some sign of Ada or Walters, but saw only water, stretching out to the horizon—
“Man overboard!” came a voice from the distance, and the whole deck raced to the edge of the boat, women crying out and men muttering to each other in poorly-hushed voices. Waldgrave ignored them all, made his way to Smith, sitting him up and grabbing him by the chin.
“Mr Smith,” he said. “Answer me.”
Smith said nothing. His head fell to the side. Waldgrave touched his mind gently, felt it was still there, and settled him on his side once more. He reached for his watch, but stopped himself midway, remembering its absence.
“Wow,” said the fish, now at Waldgrave’s shoulder, “he looks toasty. Do… do you think…”
“He is alive,” said Waldgrave.
“No, I was gonna ask if you think he’d be willing to do it again.”
Waldgrave glared at the fish. The fish glared back, but only by default.
“You are an unusual fish,” said Waldgrave, getting to his feet. “Who designed you?”
“I’m a self-made man!” said the fish. “And by ‘man’, I mean ‘fish.’ And by ‘self-made’, I mean a quack zapped me with an electric cattle prod.”
“Fascinating,” said Waldgrave.
“Thanks! Finally, some respect!”
“Your mind appears to be completely empty.”
A hand touched Waldgrave’s arm, and he lashed out quickly, reducing the deck hand to a slobbering shell of a man, weeping in a puddle of his own excrement. A second deck hand, a short ways off, stopped dead in his tracks.
“Pardon the intrusion, sir,” he said. “Is that your friend?”
Waldgrave looked down at Smith, nodded.
“Yes,” he said. “He will be taking a short—”
“Not ‘im,” said the deck hand. “The other one!”
Waldgrave followed the man’s finger and leaned over the edge of the boat. Being hoisted out of the water was Walters, unconscious, his face stained red with blood. Waldgrave’s jaw cracked into a new position.
He parted the crowd and knelt over the drenched Walters, checking his pulse briefly before slapping him across the face. Walters coughed up water, gasped for breath, and then gasped in a whole other way when he saw Waldgrave’s expression.
“Off-target,” said Waldgrave. “Smith is unconscious. We are behind schedule, Mr Walters.”
“Did we recover—”
“Yes,” said Waldgrave, “but only just. We do not have room for further error, do you understand me?”
“Yes sir,” said Walters, getting to his feet, wiping his brow. “Fully understood. Where are Jackson and Ada?”
Waldgrave looked out to sea, squinting at the setting sun. He inhaled, let the breath out slowly.
“Smith set us down in the wrong time, the wrong place. I can only guess they materialized far off the port bow.”
“They’re drowned, Walters. Do not dwell on it.”
“No sir,” nodded Walters, stumbling through the dumbfounded crowd.
“The mission is not over,” said Waldgrave. “We will have to make do with yourself and Smith, if we can force him to wake…”
Waldgrave paused, frowning at the empty spot where Smith once lay.
Smith blinked back tears as he came to, every breath a sharp jolt of pain. The room was dark, musty, and smelled of oysters. Rotten oysters. He squinted, tried to make out his surroundings, but all he could see was a strange apparition of a fishbowl floating in the air.
“Dude,” said the fish, “we can take this act on the road.”
Smith found the thought of a talking fish far too funny, and he started laughing. He hadn’t felt so giddy for a long time.
“You’re a fish,” he said.
“And you’re brain damaged,” said the fish, “so careful about name-calling, sparky. Now listen: I dunno what you’re earning now, but I can double it if you agree to get zapped five days a week, twice on Saturdays.”
“I’m…” said Smith, head swaying sideways. “Why do I feel so… good?”
“Uh… look! Dancing mushrooms!” said the fish, and Smith found himself urgently trying to catch a glimpse of something his brain told him couldn’t exist. It was then that he noticed he was strapped to the chair.
“Who are you?” he asked, his suspicion tainted by jovial apathy. “What have you done to me?”
“My name’s Finley,” said the fish, “and I’m just tryin’ to—”
“Hello, Fishy-Fish!” said an old Chinese man, shuffling into the room with a box filled with lanterns and opium, “Here is rest of delivery for friend!”
If Finley could have whistled, he would have been whistling nonchalantly.
“Did you drug me?” asked Smith, laughing again.
“‘Drug’ is such a dirty word,” said Finley. “I prefer to think of it as liberating your sense of self from the shackles of—”
“Smith!” barked Walters, pushing into the room, Waldgrave close behind. “What’s going on here?”
Smith started giggling. “Your ears are bleeding,” he said.
Walters began to untie his Enforcer, while Waldgrave paused next to Finley, hands crossed at his back. They watched the scene for a moment, in silence.
“I’ll give you two-fifty for him,” said Finley.
“He is not for sale.”
“Five hundred,” said Finley, “and a box of opium.”
“No thank you.”
Finley turned to Waldgrave, eyes narrowing.
“You’re suffocating him,” said Finley. “You’re overbearing, manipulative, and I don’t think he really trusts you.”
“He’s been drugged!” said Walters, unable to get Smith to his feet.
Waldgrave glared at Finley.
“At least I’m upfront about my manipulating.”
“We are going now,” said Waldgrave, and tried to step towards Smith. Finley got in the way.
“Listen,” he said in a quiet voice. “Leave him with me, or there’ll be trouble.”
Waldgrave smiled at Finley.
“And what kind of trouble can a tiny fish like you—”
Just then, Walters flew straight up in the air, head cracking against the metal ceiling. Then he dropped onto the floor in a heap, groaning.
Waldgrave’s eyes narrowed.
“I could dissect you without—”
Walters flew up into the ceiling again, but this time kept slamming up, and up, and up, until his grunts became yelps of pain.
“It’s like a meaty yo-yo,” said Finley. “And I can keep going all day long…”
Waldgrave lifted a hand in concession, and Finley paused Walters’ torture.
“Allow me to say good-bye to my agent,” said Waldgrave serenely.
Finley dropped Walters on the floor and moved aside.
“Okay,” he said cautiously. “But no kiss good-bye. It ain’t that kinda party down here, know what I mean?”
“Party?” said the Chinese man. “I go find more boxes! You sit tighty!”
Waldgrave leaned close to Smith, touched his hand gently, and looked straight into his eyes. The pupils, once dilated and off-kilter, came into sharp focus, the drugs purged from his system.
“Sorry, sir,” said Smith.
“Get us on track,” said Waldgrave, and a moment later, the three men disappeared.
Finley stared at the empty chair, the ropes on the floor, the box of opium, and sighed.
“Back to electrocuting the old-fashioned way,” he muttered. “Disposable Italians it is. Goddamn garlic breath…”
Ada’s eyes shot open and she rolled to her knees, ready to pounce. A rush of adrenaline helped her catch up instantly: Waldgrave, Walters and Smith were gone.
… and she was alone in the park.