doorway seemed to beckon
Weve been following our rumpled yellow-haired
hero ever since early 2001,
when he lost his motel along with everything else but the
red hooded sweatshirt on his back in a poker game. Hes
been bouncing around through several different dimensions
ever since. Heres episode 25 ...
situations like these, Mel did what he knew best: he held on for
He was following the Master down the foggy quay, and at a pretty
good clip for a geezer in saffron robes. At the Master's heels,
Mel noticed that they were uncovered by shoes, though he had no
problem keeping traction on the slick pavement. Mel's boots slid
occasionally, making him scramble to catch up.
"Where are we going?" Mel began breathing heavily, as
they were now at the near-run that yuppies used to call "power-walking."
The Master slowed his pace momentarily and, without turning his
head, answered Mel. "Where are you going? Didn't your janitor
buddies give you a step-by-step Messiah roadmap?"
"You know they didn't. All Clay said was that I should put
myself in harm's way, and he thought the most trouble I could get
into would be with the DCB." The Master snorted in response.
"Dean and Cheldelin? Those clowns? They owe me five bucks."
The Master's expression was inscrutable, but he finally stopped
and turned to Mel. "Look, if you want, I can take you to them."
"How 'bout now?" The Master raised a yellow-clad arm
and pointed back down the wharfside. Then he resumed his trot and
Mel began following close behind.
The misty night removed the details and distance from Mel's vision,
and all the buildings and boats he passed seemed featureless.
"Do you know Frank Burley?" Mel tried to start up a conversation
with the Master.
"You'll have to be more specific, pal. I know a lot of Frank
That was that for the conversation, it seemed. The Master was either
concentrating on some occult sense of direction or was totally stoned.
Mel was actually starting to become bored when the Master stopped.
The soft glow of a lantern had become visible, hanging from the
prow of a docked ship.
They approached the vessel, its dimensions unclear in the mist.
What was clear was the presence of people after a lonely
run down the quay.
Two figures seemed to be dressed in sailor's garb of yore, and
both held nasty-looking dull swords with hooked ends. Mel raised
a hand to hail them, and the response made him jump.
"Oi, Bert, it's 'im what wants a taste of his own medicine!"
These were the ineffectual guards of the Black Pope, back in Portland.
"Simmer down," replied the other sailor in a shaky voice.
"We're on duty."
"Nix to that, Bert. The guv'nor haint in this world even."
He raised his sword-thing and advanced on Mel. "I've the fighting
iron this time, pegboy. C'mere!"
In the instant before the pirate struck, the Master appeared instantaneously
next to him, and casually reached out and broke his free arm. The
pirate screamed and dropped to the ground for the second time that
Mel had seen.
The clanging of metal rang out, muffled somewhat by the fog. The
ever-courageous Bert had dropped his fighting iron and was running
down the docks. The Master gave Mel a sly wink and punched at the
Somehow and from a distance, the empty-handed blow connected. Bert
went flying and an answering splash revealed his destination. Emphatically
dusting his hands on his robe, the Master cleared his throat and
"This is woman's work. Let's go." They began walking
down the quay again, though it was a short distance before Mel saw
the object of their stroll.
It was a huge cylindrical building, and the docks curved to their
endpoint in the midst of the structure, leaving it half in and half
out of the water. With the mist so thick, it was visible only as
a silhouette, though gleamings at street level suggested vast banks
of windows. A few more paces brought them to the windows, which
comprised the whole of the frontage.
The Master leaned up to the glass and wiped a section of mist away
with the hem of his robe. Through the smudge Mel could see some
sort of waiting area done entirely in black marble, lit by dim chandeliers
in the ceiling.
"Did you know that there is no door? This is the DCB HQ, and
they don't have a door at all. Hell, even the quickie-marts have
electronic-eye doors," he shrugged. "Oh, well."
"That presents a problem for us getting in, then," offered
"Not really." The Master put his fist through the glass,
and the entire panel shattered. Once the glittering shards had fallen,
they could see that the inhabitant of the chamber had come to answer
their challenge. He was a mousy-looking man, in some sort of military
uniform that didn't fit well, bunching and drooping in various places
on his thin frame. His head was topped with an enormous billed hat
like Russian officers wore.
"Do you have an appointment?" His politeness fairly bristled
"Nope," said Mel. As he replied, the Master did one of
his faster-than-the-eye shuffles, and had the uniformed man in a
full nelson. "Whoa, no arm-breaking, chief." Mel could
hear some pops and creaks from the incapacitated man. If the Master
stopped the man would get a thorough chiropractic therapy, but if
he continued they would need a hefty bag.
"Suit yourself." The Master resumed his earlier attitude
of indolence, now slouching as he retained the uniformed man in
some sort of death grip.
Mel went up to the captive man in the ill-fitting uniform. Pawing
through the brass tacked to the man's breast, Mel found a name placard:
Rotzen, DCB VP.
I got my PhD in LSD, then caught VD in D.C., thought Mel
with a snicker.
"Listen, Mr. Veep," he said. "I'm here to see Dean.
Or Cheldelin if he's available." He was telling the truth,
though it was a shot in the dark.
"Misters Dean and Cheldelin are not here, but if you'll release
Mel nodded to the Master, who let loose of Rotzen and let him stand
on his own power. The DCB's vice president dusted himself off with
an air of hurt. From behind him, what had been a featureless wall
of marble opened, pouring forth a brilliant radiance. The doorway
seemed to beckon, and Rotzen grinned triumphantly.
"The Baraka will see you now."