From the demented mind of Julieann Adolf (that's me!)
*Nanuk and Julieann are copyrights of Julieann. Cal and Ennien belong to themselves. Wendy and Carolyn's pages just happened to have been there. Macigame...well, I forgot who made it, but thanks to Jason for giving it a Gatch feel. The internet is copyright of, um, well, who cares. Battle of the Planets is copyright of Sandy Frank and Tatsunoko Studios. This is not meant to infringe on their rights in any way. :-)
Well, the day started like any other, nothing to talk about. Came to work, grateful to be inside out of the cold, started the tea pot and turned on the computer. Nanuk cased out the office, and satisfied that all was as it should be, settled in front of the computer and read his e-mail. After seeing the morning plane off, alone in the office for the moment, I picked up my tea cup and went into the computer room, shooing Nanuk away from the computer. I closed his "Polar Buddies' mail folder and quickly read the messages waiting for me. Nanuk wandered out into the outer office.
Closing the e-mail program, I sipped at my tea and opened the web browser, intent on critiqueing my web page to see what kind of changes I could make to it today.
Hearing a creak and then the sound of rustling, I yelled out to the outer office, "Nanuk, you better not be in my snack drawer again!"
The noises stopped, and a moment later Nanuk peeked his head around the corner of the door, looking at me mournfully. With his two gigantic front paws he signed out, *Hungry. I smell oreos.*
"I gave you 5 King Salmon for breakfast. " I said, eying his ample proportions. He was a far cry from the small, cute little bundle of white fur of so many years ago. "If you are still hungry, go out hunting."
*Cold.* He signed out.
I rolled my eyes, "What would your cousins say if they heard you? It's 20 degrees above zero, for heavens sake. Polar bears are suppose to have some of the warmest fur in the world."
Nanuk grunted and eyed me with puppy-dog eyes. I did my best to ignore him. It wasn't easy. Clicking on the 'Main Characters' link, I hopped over to that page. I was horrified by what I saw, Nanuk's pleading eyes forgotten. The page was utterly blank!
"Nanuk, what did you do to my page?"
Nanuk ambled completely into the room, and sat down next to my chair, peering at the screen. *Not me.*
"Oh, you're finally here." a breathy voice whispered.
I dashed out into the outer office, sure a customer had come in without me hearing them, but found the room empty. I slowly walked back into the computer room, confused. "Nanuk, you heard a voice, too, didn't you? You know, that voice sounded very familiar....Nanuk?"
The computer room was empty. I looked under the computer desk, in case he had somehow managed to squeeze into the small space. Nope, no terrifying seal hunter down there, only a few stray tufts of white fur that needed to be vacuumed up. I needed to brush him down again. As it was, most of my clothes were covered in stray white hairs.
"I'm sure you can find him." the voice said.
"What?" Bonk, "Ouch!" I clutched my head as I came out from under the desk, to find the computer screen flashing wildly. I moved the mouse and hit a few keys, but the screen didn't clear. My heart dropped to my knees. Great, just what I need, major computer repair. My boss is going to just love this.
A blinding light jumped from the screen and I moved to hide my eyes from the painful light. A second of vertigo, and then the light faded.
"Wow, what a ride!" a deep voice said in my ear, with breath that had the slight taint of a fish smell to it. I wondered if I had any breath fresheners for the guy.
Squinting my eyes, I found the voice belonged to... "Nanuk?"
"Do I smell food?" Nanuk said, sitting on his rump and sniffing the air.
"I'm so glad you're both safe." The breathy voice said.
For the first time I looked around. The curved wall before me was filled with blinking lights, monitors, and windows beyond which was water. A cylinder, hanging from the ceiling, was directly before us.
The lights in the cylinder flickered as the breathy voice said, "I am Susan, out at the early warning system, out on planet Pluto. I'm so sorry to bother you, but I didn't know who else to call."
I stared at the four lights, my jaw slack. Then, with eyes slitted, I turned to look at Nanuk. "Okay, out with it, what did you put in my tea?"
"Wha..me? I didn't do anything. Last time I spiked it you took me to the dog groomers. My ego is not strong enough to handle going around looking like an over-grown poodle again!" Nanuk huffed.
"Well, I told you I hated scotch!"
"Oh, no. Nanuk didn't do anything. I had to do something! Zark has been kidnapped," the lights flickered, "All the computers are down. Without 7-Zark-7 here to keep order, G-Force was thrown out of our page, they are helpless out there."
"Out there? Out where?" I asked.
Nanuk and I turned around, and on the other side of the room...well... It wasn't there! Just a black void with occasional balls of light streaking through it. The only thing I could think of saying was, "I don't remember this in the videos."
"Because the camera was never pointed in this direction." Nanuk said. He sniffed the air, "I smell oreos."
I looked at my watch, "Look, Susan, my morning flight is going to be getting in before long, and if I'm not awake, ready for the passengers, my Boss will kill me."
"I'm sorry, I can't send you back."
I had a sudden desire to strangle the retro-microphone. "Excuse me?"
"The Radiotronic Transportation Beam has to be recalculated first, and I can't do that from here. You have to get Zark back first."
I looked at Nanuk, "Feel like eating a technicolor radio?"
He gave me a disgusted look, "I'm not that hungry."
"I'm having my tea tested when I get back." I muttered. "And just how are we suppose to find 7-Zark-7, anyway? Who took him?" I asked, stepping forward, to get a better look at the computers. Maybe I could do something with them?
"Oh, that's easy, Zoltar... No wait! A link!"
Too late did I hear the warning. Stepping forward I suddenly felt like the floor had dropped away. I reached out and grabbed a tuft of Nanuks fur as I screamed.
"Hey, watch the fur!" Nanuk yelled as we found ourselves encased in our own ball of light, streaking through the black void at terrifying speed. Hanging onto Nanuk for dear life, I managed to crawl up onto his back.
Nanuk had his front paws out wide, "Look ma, so strings! Vrrrrooommmm!!!!"
I wasn't having so much fun. There was no seat with a seatbelt beneath me, no comforting rumble of an engine. This just wasn't right!
"Oops, looks like we're coming to our destination. What link did you step on, anyway?"
I looked up to see a wall of light, toward which we were hurtling towards, "How should I know? I'm not used to watching out for black holes under my feet."
"Please place your seat backs and tray tables in their full, upright position..."
I cringed as we hit the wall, or more appropriately, were flung through it. We skidded to a stop on the other side.
Nanuk groaned, sat up and rubbed his tummy, "Wouldn't be so bad if there were snow to slide on."
I climbed off his back and looked around. "Well, from the wallpaper, I would say we are in Wendy's page."
"Should've known from the posters." Nanuk said. He was right, the walls were plastered with all her graphics between which were folders sitting on small shelves, the floor riddled with blue writing. Taking a hold of Nanuk, I stomped on the link heading back to my page, but nothing happened. "Susan did say the computers weren't working right without Zark there. I smell something."
"Nanuk, we have bigger problems than your stomach."
"No, I smell aftershave. Almost smells woodsy." Nanuk's face became dreamy, "Reminds me of the woods up North, near the ice packs. Just Cindy Bear and I..."
"Ahem, hate to interrupt this, but do you think you can track the scent?"
"Sure." Nanuk started sniffing around, skirting the blue floor graffiti. He stopped in front of one of them. He pointed, "The scent leads to this one."
"Don't touch it!" But I was too late. The great white behemoth popped out of sight. I walked over to the link, and eyed it. Taking a deep breath, I stomped on it. I expected to drop off into nothing again, but this time, in the blink of an eye, the room around me changed, to be replaced by another. "That one wasn't so bad."
Then I realized there was someone else in the room. I stared at the tall figure, the clothing, and the familiar scowl with absolute amazement. Nanuk was beside him, and both were admiring one of the wall posters.
"I think she catches my good side rather well, don't you?"
Nanuk grunted and bobbed his head.
The man looked at the bottom of the picture and asked, "But who is this 'Joe' guy?"
Nanuk spotted me, standing rooted to the floor. "Hey Julieann, you always said anime characters were your only love. Now you get to meet one face to face. Meet Jason."
I could have gladly killed him. Jason looked up at me and gave me a cocky smile, "I was wondering how long it would be before Susan sent someone to find us."
"Couldn't you find your own way back?"
"I've tried. Something must have happened to me when I was thrown out of the page. I can't activate any of the links." Jason said with a shrug. His eye caught another poster and he walked over to it. "A cat? And here's that name Joe again."
"That's because Joe is the one Wendy was drawing, not you." I said.
"Looks like me." Jason insisted. I sighed, and took a folder off a shelf, opened it and handed it to him.
He scanned a minute, his eyes growing bigger and bigger. His mouth started to work. Nanuk and I took a step back. Finally he exploded, "I get turned into WHAT?!"
"Now Jason, this is another version, a clone or a twin if you will..." I tried to reason.
"And this Wendy person is stuck on him? Heck, at least I stick around and live!" He flung the folder away from him, "Spectra is involved in this somehow, I just know it. A trick, like the time they made Mark believe he was 50 years in the future. Yeah, that's got to be it!'
I picked up the folder and put it back on it's shelf, knowing Wendy wouldn't take kindly to someone messing the place up. "Susan did say Zoltar. I don't suppose you know where the others are?"
"They got thrown farther out than I did." He said looking at the poster again. "What is it about this guy that she likes so much?"
I decided to leave that alone.
"I take it we are going to go looking for the others?" Nanuk asked.
I sighed, "Yes, might as well. It would be a pain to rebuild those pages. I'd prefer just to have everyone go back to their places. The question is where to look."
Jason looked back at us, the scowl still firmly in place, "That's easy. Some sort of flight simulation."
"How do you know that?" I asked.
"He called me, that is before communications went dead."
"Like, of course." Nanuk said to me, rolling his eyes.
"Hey, I'm not a morning person, give me a break." I looked at Jason, "I don't suppose he said the name of the place?"
"Yeah, I wrote it on my hand."
Nanuk started snorting. I ignored him and looked at the name. "The question is, how do we get there. We can't type in any address on this side of the computer."
"Search engines?" Nanuk suggested. "All we have to do is find one."
I nodded. I dragged Jason over to Nanuk and we climbed on his back. "Hey, when did I become the beast of burden?"
"You seem to enjoy having nothing under you better than I. Think you can get us back to Wendy's main page?"
"Yeah, yeah." A second later we were back in the front page. Nanuk started stomping on the blue writing with abandoned, giving Jason and I a wild ride. The next thing I knew we were at Carolyn's page. Just before Nanuk stomped on another link I noticed that she was having the same problem with her characters. I could have sworn Joe was missing.
It took a good half hour before we finally stumbled on one of the Internet 'Yellow Pages'. Nanuk laid down to rest while Jason and I figured out how to type in the query.
"Well, if I wasn't hungry before, I am now." Nanuk panted as scrolls of responses to our query rolled out onto the floor.
"I swear your metabolism must be atomic." I said.
"I think this is it." Jason said pointing.
Nanuk came over, and together we traveled to the new page.
As soon as we burst through the white wall we dove for the ground. An airplane buzzed over us, deafening us with the roar of the high performance engine. Pushing the hair out of my eyes, I looked up and watched the plane execute a perfect barrel roll, turn back in our direction and land. The WWII plane touched down on its main wheels, the tail wheel not touching the ground until the plane had nearly stopped just ahead of us.
"You know, he wouldn't be half bad as a bush pilot." I mused.
"Don't you dare plant that idea in his head." Jason growled.
The canopy slid open and Mark hopped out onto the wing and then to the ground. "Hey Jason! I thought that was you. How did you get here?"
Jason pointed to Nanuk with his thumb, "Meed the Great White Internet Behemoth."
"Formally known as Nanuk, Terror of the North." Nanuk said towering over Jason. I rolled my eyes.
Mark started shrugging out of his flightsuit. Seeing that he was having trouble with a few of the straps, I moved behind him to help him out. Mark continued, not even aware I was there, "You can travel the Internet?"
"Yeah. Don't ask why or how, because I have no idea." Nanuk said rubbing his stomach, "Does anyone smell food?"
"Then we can now find the others. Keyop contacted me a few minutes before communications were cut." Mark said as he shrugged out of the rest of upper half of the flightsuit. I wasn't sure if I was disappointed that he had his normal t-shirt on underneath or not. They really did wear them all the time!
"Don't suppose he told you the address?" I asked.
Mark looked behind him at me for the first time. He jumped, his face turning red. "I thought you were Princess!"
Jason started laughing. Mark glared at him.
"Gee, I'm not even the same height as her." I said looking into Marks big blue eyes from the same level. Mark looked at Nanuk, then back at me.
"You look familiar." he said.
"She should." Jason said with a grin at seeing his commander at such a loss, "She created our page."
"Oh yeah, Julieann. You're taller than I thought you would be."
"And you are shorter." I said. Jason stifled a snort. "If you know the address, then all we have to do is find our way back to the search engine."
"It's going to take forever this way." Jason complained. "If we had a faster connection..."
"28,000 is fast enough." Nanuk interrupted, "My stomach fur couldn't handle anything faster, considering the landings. I know I smell food."
"As soon as we find the rest of the team, defeat Zoltar, and get Zark back we'll be able to get home and have lunch." I said as Mark slid out of the rest of the flightsuit and tossed it into the cockpit of the plane. I climbed onto Nanuks back, "I just hope we find Zark in one piece."
Mark climbed up ahead of me and I complained, "Hey, you're not the pilot!"
"I'm the commander." Mark said with a grin. "Hang loose."
"Just deal with it Julieann. Arguing doesn't help. I should know." Jason said as he climbed up behind me. I bit my tongue, then smiled. I reached around Mark's waist and grabbed hold tight.
"I have to hold onto something!"
"I know I smell food! It smells....like.....french fries!"
In a flash we were barreling through space. Suddenly I was glad I was holding onto something, as I held on for dear life as we careened around a few sharp bends. The last journey between pages was nothing like this! All I could think was that the approaching page was off the beaten track. Then suddenly we stopped.
"We seem to have arrived. You can let go now." a deep voice vibrated in my ear. I snatched my hands back with a guilty grin.
Nanuk lurched forward, and everyone on his back found themselves suddenly misplaced. Tumbling to the floor, I looked up at the strange surroundings, dazed. The floor had checkered tiles of black and white, a long bar and many small tables with spindly chairs scattered around. A huge burger made out of neon lights hung over the drink area. To my right I spotted a long buffet, and to this Nanuk was making a beeline for.
"Where are we?"
Nanuk had reached the buffet and was stuffing his face. I began to worry if the few crumpled dollar bills I had in my pocket was acceptable Internet currency. Nanuk stopped to look at me long enough to say, "Who cares, they have food!"
"Hiya guys!" a familiar voice said from a nearby table, holding a half eaten hamburger in his hands.
"Tiny. Should have known you would end up where there was food." Jason said shaking his head as he stood up.
"You know, I don't think there was a link in that last page to this place. " I said, still sitting on the floor. "Hey, Nanuk, did you step on anything?"
Nanuk picked up his feet to look at them, the buffet half devoured. "I'm a neat eater." he insisted, crumbs falling off his front paws.
"No, I meant in that last page."
"Planning on getting off the floor?" Mark asked.
"I was wondering when one of you oh-so-polite gentlemen would offer me a hand up." I said, folding my arms and glaring up at him.
Jason and Mark looked at each other, and Mark rolled his eyes. Reluctantly Mark offered his hand. I accepted it with a grin. He growled, "Sheesh, its Princess at 15 after the French tutor all over again."
"Hey, you ate everything!" Tiny's outraged voice interrupted before I could answer Mark. "I wanted thirds!"
"Hey, snooze you lose. Internet flying takes up a lot of calories." Nanuk said, sitting down and patting his belly.
"We should find the others. There's no telling what Zoltar has done to Zark." Mark said
Jason looked down at the floor, near the virtual door, "These links don't look promising."
"Hopefully that won't mess us up. Let's go Nanuk." I said.
"Can't we give this time to settle?" Nanuk complained, patting his bulging belly.
"I'm already going to get in trouble with the Boss for leaving the office without locking the doors. I don't want things to get worse." I said.
Nanuk sighed and ambled over to us. He grunted as Tiny climbed on. "Ouch, heavy load."
"I'm going to go on a diet. Promise." Tiny said.
"All right Nanuk, I want you to think of the address Mark gave you, really hard. Let's see if you can forego stepping on a link." I said.
Nanuk closed his eyes for a moment, then looked back at us. "Nope, didn't work."
"Maybe you need to want it really bad. You sure wanted those french fries. Picture Keyop."
"Hmmm, Keyop as a french fry."
Mark looked back at me, his eyes worried. I quickly reassured, "He's never attacked a human, even when he was starving."
With a start we found ourselves traveling through the empty nothingness again, this trip a little smoother than the last.
"It worked!" Jason yelled into my ear, "Now if only we could get some more speed."
"This is fast enough." I said, grabbing hold of Mark again. I grinned into his back as he protested again.
"Nothing like the Phoenix." Tiny sniffed.
It wasn't long before we hurtled through another white wall, Tiny screaming into our ears in terror as we did.
"Guess we should have warned him about that." Jason said, rubbing his ears as we came to a stop.
"What?" Mark asked rather loudly.
I looked around at the large open area, with paths branching off in all directions as I slid off Nanuk's back. Trees shaded the paths and the sound of animals came from all directions. Mark and Jason yelled out for Keyop a few times in all directions but got no response.
Mark folded his arms over his chest. "Looks like we get to search the entire place."
"That's going to take some time." Jason said.
"Yeah. Too bad our wrist radios aren't working right." Tiny said frowning.
Mark eyed Nanuk, "Think he could sniff him out?"
"He doesn't know what the kid smells like." I said shaking my head.
"Old sneakers and Old Spice." Tiny said sagely.
"What an interesting combination." I said.
"Blame Jason, it was a birthday present." Mark said shaking his head.
"Which one?" Nanuk snorted with a smile. Sniffing the air he smiled again, "I think there might be some old buddies here."
"Keyop, Nanuk, Keyop." I reminded him,
"Yeah, yeah, I'm a-workin on it." Sniffing around, Nanuk suddenly took off down one of the paths, leaving all of us running behind him, trying to keep up. We came up to Nanuk, with his head on Keyop's lap, having his ears scratched. Several deer, various sized cats and birds were scattered around the clearing, all vying for Keyop's attention.
"The kid collects animals like others would stamps." Jason said with a wry smile.
"Looks like you just made a friend for life, Keyop." I said.
Keyop looked up and grinned, "**Not at all mean.**"
"Nope, he has a heart like a marshmallow."
"Now we're down to only one more." Mark said, "Only no one has heard from her."
"I'm sure she's okay, Princess is one smart cookie." Tiny said.
"Hmmm, cookies..." Nanuk muttered, his eyes still closed, blissfully enjoying the attention Keyop was giving him.
"So, how the heck do we find her?" Jason asked, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning against a tree.
"Maybe we don't need an address." I mused, "Nanuk wasn't able to get us anywhere until he visualized the person in his head, the address wasn't enough. So, maybe..."
"Maybe the visualization of the person is enough!" Mark finished, his eyes lighting up.
"**Go get her!**" Keyop said with a grin.
"Since when did I become the bus?" Nanuk complained as everyone climbed on his back.
"Not much room left up here." Tiny said.
"**Then stop eating**" Keyop said poking Tiny in the stomach.
"I already said I would go on a diet!"
"Virtual food doesn't stay with you for long." Nanuk complained.
"First find Princess." I said.
Nanuk closed his eyes, "Hmm, Princess...big blue eyes....cherry lips....snow-white skin..."
I was shocked. I had never heard him describe a human in such detail. Usually he said we all looked alike to him. In a flash we were on our way.
"It worked!" Mark exclaimed.
The page we arrived at brought a smile to my face, "A library, how wonderful!"
Rows and rows of books extended as far as we could see. A heartfelt tinkle of laughter reached us from not far away. It didn't take us long to discover Princess sitting on the floor in one of the aisles, with a book in her hand and piles of books on the floor around her.
She looked up at us as we approached and held up a book, "Oh, Mark! You have got to read some of this! This must be a collection of the most bizarre science I have ever seen. If even half of this stuff was true, the Phoenix wouldn't even fly, not to mention most of Zoltars mecha!"
I didn't have the heart to say anything.
Her face sobered, "Wait a minute, how did you get here?"
Nanuk pushed us all away, nearly knocking us down, kneeling at Princess's feet, "Nanuk, at your service ma'am. Tell me where you wish to go and I will be pleased to oblige."
I stared in astonishment. Nanuk, my bear, just said that. Looks like all my lectures on manners was finally paying off.
"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Nanuk." Princess said getting up off the floor and putting her books away. Mark glared at Nanuk as I grinned. I quickly introduced myself and explained who we were, at which Princess nodded.
"Yes, I know who you are. I researched who's page we were on." Princess said.
"Of course." Nanuk said with a grin.
"Now we go after Zoltar." Jason said, smiling in anticipation.
"And all we have to do to find them is have Nanuk visualize them. Wish every mission was this easy." Mark said with a smile. "We'll go in ready for action. Everyone, transmute!"
I watched them change from their civilian clothing to their bird styles with utter fascination. "I want one of those!"
"Sorry, for authorized personnel use only." Mark said, as Nanuk stood up and braced his legs, waiting for everyone to climb on.
"Hmph. Well, I could draw myself one." I said, feeling slighted.
Once on top of Nanuk, we waited for him to do his stuff. And waited, and waited.
"What's wrong, Nanuk?" I finally asked.
He looked back at us, "It's not working. I keep picturing them, very clearly in fact."
"Maybe the Spectra base has some sort of defense measure around it that would prevent Nanuk from just entering. Chief Anderson has been worried about some possible new developments in that area. " Jason said.
"Great, what do we do now?" Tiny asked.
Princess reached into one of the pouches on her belt and brought out what looked like a small compact. "Good thing I brought along an Electromagnetic Pulse Sensor. It should be able to pick up on either 7 Zark-7 or 1-Rover-1's power cells."
"Good idea, Princess." Mark said nodding.
She flipped open the top and fiddled with one of the small knobs inside. A few seconds later a red light started flashing and Princess smiled. "I'm not picking up Zark, but I am getting a strong signal from 1 Rover-1."
"See if you can find Rover." I said to Nanuk. Nanuk nodded, and a second later we were on our way.
"Wow, this is great. We have atmosphere and gravity." Princess said, delighted.
"Just don't scream in panic when we approach a white wall." Jason said.
Princess scowled at him, "I do not 'panic'."
Yet I felt her arms tighten around me as we approached the door into another page, but I had to give her credit, she didn't scream. Once on the other side, after Nanuk had slid to a stop, we all climbed down and looked around the darkened room. We couldn't see any walls or a ceiling, and the only area that seemed to be lit, was where we were, and the light was very dim.
I whispered to Mark, "I can't see anyone."
"Everyone, stay on your toes." Mark said, his boomerang held ready.
Suddenly a wall lit up, a wall that was easily a couple of stories high. The grid was oh-so familiar. Huge faces stacked up on each other on a field of little hearts, all in 3-D.
"Macigame!" I cried.
Nanuk groaned, "Great, now we'll never get our mission done."
"Wait a minute, isn't that 1-Rover-1 up there?" Jason asked pointing at the top of one of the stacks.
Sure enough, there he was, or I should say, there THEY were. Two Rovers sitting on top of each other. As if in response to our staring, both gave a mournful electronic 'nyap' in unison.
"Rover isn't a part of the normal graphics. How did he get in there?" I asked.
"Look at that!" Jason exclaimed pointing to one corner.
A giant triangle was slowly maneuvering over the wall hovering a few feet away from the faces. To one side of the 2 Rovers, it flashed twice. A group of 3 faces showed surprise, then disappeared, the faces above falling down to fill the vacant places. Then the triangle started moving towards 1-Rover-1, who started to 'nyap' in almost panic.
"**Big arrow**" Keyop said.
"No, it's a pointer. Someone is using a mouse!" Princess said.
"But I don't see anyone else here." I said, once again looking around.
At that moment Nanuk lunged away into the darkness, yelling in delight, "Oreos!"
We heard a crash, and I cringed as someone began to scream in terror. The pointer froze. A second later Nanuk appeared in our little area of dim light, dragging with his teeth a green clad man with a mask over his face by the back of his uniform.
The man gibbered in absolute terror, "Getimoff, getimoff!!"
Nanuk dropped him at my feet and then sat down and looked at me with a grin, obviously pleased with himself. "If he has any oreos on him, they're mine!"
"Well, if it isn't one of the happiness boys from Spectra." Jason said with an evil grin.
"Bet he wasn't expecting us to join the party." Mark added.
"Boring party, if you ask me." Tiny said
"**Total wipe out!**" Keyop said.
"Sorry to interrupt this pun-fest, but what about 1-Rover-1?" Princess asked.
"Keyop, think you can climb up there and get him?" Mark asked.
"**No problem**" Keyop said, and sprinted for the wall and started to climb up the heads.
"Be careful, Keyop." Princess warned.
Mark grabbed the goon by the front of his uniform, lifting him to his feet, "I think you know what we want."
"I don't know nothin." the goon said.
Mark looked over to Jason. Jason shrugged, "Looks like he needs a little gentle persuasion. Want to use one of my feathers?"
By this time Keyop had climbed up to Rover. Plucking one of the two out, the other suddenly disappeared.
"**Whoa!!**" Keyop exclaimed in surprise, losing his grip. Keyops wings caught enough air to slow his descent to the point that the landing on his hind end was more surprising than damaging. Rover descended to the ground slowly, his tail whirling madly.
"**Smartalec**" Keyop said with a sniff. Princess ran over to make sure Keyop was all right.
"I wonder how this guy would like to play the game?" Mark said suddenly. Jason chortled, and the goon started looking nervous. "Hey, Tiny, help me with this. Grab hold of that side."
Tiny's face broke out into a huge grin. Trotting up, Tiny took the left arm and leg of the goon, while Mark took the other side. Then they started rocking the goon back and forth, "On the count of 3..."
"You can't do this! It's against Earth Defense policy! I know my rights." The goon sputtered out.
"Technically, we're not working for Security right now." Princess said.
"I looked at her curiously, "Then who are you working for? Or are you on vacation or something?"
Jason looked at me, "You are the ranking officer here. We're working for you."
"It is your page. " Princess added.
"Cool!" I said with a grin.
The goon flew into the air, arms and legs flailing, screaming on the top of his lungs. With a loud *BLIP* he hit the wall and promptly divided up into 2, one on top of the other, each exactly alike.
"Can you find the controls he was using?" Mark asked Nanuk. Nanuk nodded and ambled off, soon returning to the light with a keyboard and mouse in his mouth, a long cord snaking back into the darkness.
"All right, slime ball, tell us where Zoltar took 7-Zark-7." Jason yelled up.
Both goons said in unison, "I don't know nothin!"
Mark had by this time set up the keyboard and mouse on the floor. With a flick of his wrist he had clicked twice and cleared a nearby pattern of 4 faces. The two goons eyes grew large, watching the faces next to him fall into place.
"You wouldn't!" they squealed.
"Hey Princess, want a crack at this?" Mark asked.
With a grin Princess knelt down next to Mark and clicked on 2 faces in the corner. "This is easy!"
"Your turn Keyop." Mark said.
"**Blip you!**" Keyop said gleefully as he maneuvered the pointer with the mouse. He double clicked on a group of 2 in the corner.
"My turn." Jason said. Keyop moved out of the way.
"Only a couple words would stop this." Mark said up at the goon. The goon shook his head, his mouth set. Jason grinned evilly and passed the pointer over the goon several times. The goon was sweating profusely now.
"I wonder what would happen if I clicked on you? Would you disappear forever?" Jason taunted.
With a smile Jason moved the pointer directly under them and double clicked. 3 faces disappeared beneath, and the goons screamed as they fell down into place.
"Alright,alright, I'll talk!! Lord Zoltar took 7-Zark-7 to Spectra, the Great Spirit wanted him. He told me to get rid of 1-Rover-1. The address is www.crabnebula.com/~Spectra/Aud_Chamber.html. That's all I know!"
"So he retreated to Spectra, the coward." Princess muttered.
"I told you what I know, now let me down!"
"We'll fetch you on our way back. We don't have room for prisoners." Mark said turning away. "Looks like we get to go to Spectra, Julieann..."
I was not aware of him speaking. My eyes were on the wall, staring in a daze, the fingers on my right hand twitching.
"What's wrong with her?" Mark demanded after he snapped his fingers in front of my face a few times.
"Its the game, it has a mesmerizing effect on humans. Don't understand it myself." Nanuk said.
"Turn off the game!" Mark ordered.
"And how do you suggest we do that? Flounder around in the dark till we find a plug in or off button?" Jason asked sarcastically.
"Quit the game." Princess said.
Princess pushed Jason out of the way and hit the 'apple' and 'Q' key at the same time. The wall blinked and changed to a generic blue with several icons on it. Mark stepped between me and the screen, putting his hands on my shoulder and shaking me lightly.
"Hey, wake up."
I blinked, his voice starting to pierce the brain fog.
"She's starting to come out of it. Let's get out of here before something else happens." Mark said.
"Big ten, Commander." Princess said, heading for Nanuk.
Nanuk grumbled as we climbed aboard. Mark pulled me up and placed me in front of him.
"Hey!" Princess protested.
"Chill Princess, she might fall off." Mark said.
I hid a smile and snuggled down, determined to enjoy the ride as much and as long as possible, my head finally clear.
"Nanuk, picture the address the goon gave us, and see if that will get us to Spectra." Mark ordered.
Mark held me tight around the waist as we flew through the 'net void, 1-Rover-1 nyapping from the back. Then suddenly our ball of light started to slow. Then we stopped. In front of us small balls of light were whizzing by at frightening speed, our way blocked by them.
"What in the world is that?" Tiny asked with wide eyes.
"Um, Nanuk, that's not Spectra." Princess said as kindly as she could.
"Darn, was just wondering if my post to the mailer had been responded to yet." Nanuk said.
"That's the mailer?" I asked.
"Great, how do we get through that without getting a head lopped off?" Jason asked.
"That's easy," Mark let go of my waist and grabbed Nanuks ears, "Transmute to Fiery Phoenix!"
I was instantly squished against Mark as we shot forward in a ball of flame. With fiery wings spread out wide, we punched through the mailing list. Feeling as if my face was being flattened, I wondered if we had just corrupted any messages. There would be a few people who would not be happy about that. I dearly hoped Jane didn't have very much in her 'in' box.
We transmuted back to ourselves again just before we hit a white wall. It took much longer to skid to a stop than the other times. As we climbed off, Nanuk stayed where he was, spread-eagle on the floor, laying on his stomach, groaning, and muttering, "Never again, never again..."
"Are we on Spectra?" Tiny asked as we looked around the long room. At one end of the room a large circular screen, with bands of what looked like cycling energy conduits radiating from it. Sticking out of the middle of the screen was a large two-edged sword, the glass cracking out in a spider web pattern. Computers of various sizes covered every available wall. Bits of purple clothing lay scattered around the floor.
"This looks like the audience chamber of the Great Spirit." I said, "But where's Zoltar?"
As if in answer, a door slid open and the tall alien in question sprinted into the room.
"Zoltar!" Mark yelled in anger.
"Zoltar took one look at us, then looked behind him into the room he had just left. Then, to all our surprise, instead of running away, he ran towards us, prostrating himself at Marks feet. It was then that I noticed his torn cape and his mask askew.
"You have to help me, please!" Zoltar pleaded.
Out of the next room drifted two female voices, "Oh Zoltar? Where did he run off to?"
"I don't know. We locked all the other doors."
Zoltar looked back at the open door in horror. "Please, have pity on me!"
Mark pulled him up by the collar, "Where's Zark?"
"I don't know, I swear! I was told the address, called and given to me by the Great Spirit himself, ordered to get 7-Zark-7! So I went. Only when I returned the Spirit screen was cracked, and 'they' were waiting for me!"
"This isn't making any sense." I said shaking my head.
"Enough of your games Zoltar." Mark said with a shake.
"But I don't know where he is! Someone took him while 'they' attacked me!"
"Who is this 'they' he keeps referring to?" Princess asked to no one in particular.
Keyop shrugged, "**Boogie man?**"
"Oh, here he is, Ennien dear." one of the female voices said from the door.
"Ack!" Zoltar tore out of Mark's grasp, looking around wildly for some escape.
"Don't let him get away Cal, tackle him!" the other woman shouted.
Zoltar took off in the opposite direction from the door, despite the fact that there was no exit that way. We watched in fascination as the two women sprinted past us in pursuit. Zoltar scrambled up a bank of computers. Cal grabbed a hold of one of his ankles and held fast. "Got him!"
"Get away!" Zoltar screamed down at her.
Ennien grabbed the other ankle. Zoltar shrieked and clawed higher onto the computers, for a moment managing to lift both women off the floor. I started to giggle.
"This is all very amusing, but this doesn't get us any closer to finding Zark." Jason said.
"Zoltar was telling the truth on one thing, Zark isn't here." Princess said, having opened the small compact again.
"Great, where do we go from here?" Mark asked, putting his hands on his hips.
"I smell oreos." Nanuk muttered from where he still lay spread eagle on the floor.
I sighed and looked at Mark, "I hate to say this, but I'm starved too."
"**Me too!**" Keyop piped up.
Mark screwed up his face, "Gotta admit, my stomach is running on empty. Okay, Nanuk, this time we follow your nose. Hopefully there will be enough for all of us."
"Just so long as there is no more of that 'Fiery Phoenix' stuff." Nanuk said as we climbed back on, "My stomach fur can't handle it."
"Hey, stop! Take me with you, you can't leave me here!" Zoltar yelled out at us from atop the computer banks.
"I don't see what you are complaining about. Most people would be thrilled to have an entire sub-fandom dedicated to them." I said at him with a grin.
"Thrilled is a nice word." Cal said as she hung off one purple ankle.
"Yes, a very nice word, although I think I could come up with a few others that are far more descriptive." Ennien said as she hung off the other purple ankle.
"You insane, disturbed, crazed humans! Great Spirit, help me!" Zoltar squealed just before we left the page.
"You know, I almost feel sorry for the guy." Jason said.
"Almost." Tiny said.
"Yum, I know I smell oreo's." Nanuk said happily as we approached another page.
We came out in a huge room, with tools of every kind, for every craft imaginable strewn about. In the middle of the room, clamped down in a huge vice, was...
"Zark!" Princess cried, jumping off Nanuk.
Over Zark, with a crowbar wedged between one of his metal seams, was Joe, leaning heavily on the crowbar, it bowed with his weight.
"Come on, you freaking thing, my car needs new hubcaps!" Joe muttered as he bore down harder.
I ran up and jumped on Joe's back, "What do you think you are doing?"
Joe staggered back, and tried to reach back to shove me off. With his attention diverted, Tiny let 7-Zark-7 out of the vice.
"Whew, what a close shave that was. My fosdic is still buzzing." Zark said, looking around. "Ah, Commander, I see you found me."
"Are you okay?" Mark asked
"No one was hurt." Zark took a few oreos out of a belly compartment, "I always keep these around for emergencies. I know how much Nanuk loves them."
"Oreos!" Nanuk said gleefully, daintily accepting the treats.
"I knew Nanuk would find me by sniffing the oreos out, just like I had planned." 7-Zark-7 then laughed giddily.
"Hey, I want some too!" Tiny complained.
"We'll get a Space Burger for you once we get home." Mark reassured him.
"Get off!" Joe growled as we tumbled to the floor. He a grasp on one of my arms, and before I knew it I was on the floor pinned down, with a growling Gatchaman on top of me.
For some reason the words, "Have you met my friend Wendy?" popped out of my mouth.
"Who are you, who do you work for?" Joe demanded.
"I'm Julieann, and Zark is a part of my web page. Why is Zark with you?"
"I happened to go out for a little internet jaunt, and found that....that...travesty! Supposedly to make our universe better and more palatable? Kuso, bad voice acting I can handle, but not a talking trash can! Zoltar was more than willing to be duped, if it meant getting into Center Neptune and getting the controller for Galaxy Security. Of course, he didn't expect a 'little' surprise when he returned to the audience chamber to present to the Great Spirit his success."
"Hey, can you watch it, I can't breath....Nanuk!"
Joe froze when a huge white paw came to rest on his shoulder. Joe looked at it for a moment, and then up at what it was attached to.
"Sorry to interrupt, but would you mind getting off my friend?" Nanuk asked.
Joe slowly moved to the side, sitting down hard on the floor as he stared up at Nanuk. I sat up with a hand on my chest, and took a few deep breaths.
"What are you? A mutant?" Joe finally asked.
"A polar bear." I said.
"A very hungry polar bear." Nanuk sniffed at Joe, "Wouldn't happen to have any oreos on ya, would ya?"
I stood up and looked down at Joe, "So all of this was just a way to try and kill Zark? You hate him that much?"
"Don't you?" Joe asked back, rising to his feet.
I shrugged my shoulders, "I've become accustomed to ignoring him."
Joe looked at me in shock, "Ignore him? You have got to be kidding! Look what he did to the show. Everyone got out okay, no one was hurt, they were all robots. Good grief, we are fighting a war, not playing footsies."
"So, what do we do with him, Julieann?" Mark asked me, eyeing Joe warily.
"Take him back to his page. I'm sure Carolyn is going to be missing him soon." I said.
"How do you know where I live?" Joe demanded.
"I noticed you missing as we passed through. I want to make sure you get to where you belong, not messing up anyone else's page."
Joe scowled at me, and I could tell what I had just said didn't mean a thing. If I didn't think something up, he would be back at my page in a flash.
"Each universe will have been set right, all the characters back where they belong." Zark said satisfied. 1-Rover-1 nyapped at his side.
"At least I'm not a shadow of a character." Joe said, looking at his double.
Jason decked him. I rolled my eyes. "Well, the anger element is still there." Looking at my watch I gasped, "We have to get home!"
Mark helped Joe off the floor, "You're in for a fun ride."
Joe was positioned between Mark and Jason, brooding silently, a scowl on his face. I found myself squished between Princess and Tiny.
Once we were all on top, Nanuk declared,"We have now hit the maximum weight allowed on this bear."
"We're almost done, Nanuk. I promise to make you cream of salmon over rice when we get home." I promised.
Nanuk perked up. As we sped through space towards Carolyn's page, Joe suddenly asked, "Can't we go a little faster?"
Nanuk, Tiny and I yelled out in unison, "No!"
"Fine." Joe muttered.
We skidded to a stop in Carolyn's page, and as Joe slipped off Nanuk, I bent over and whispered in his ear, "You mess with my page again, and I'll arrange with Carolyn to plaster pictures of Zark all over your personal profile page for a month."
Joe's eyes widened, "You wouldn't."
"You bet I would" I said looking him straight in the eyes. He gulped hard. I smiled, sure that he had taken my threat seriously.
"Take us home, Nanuk" Mark said.
"What about the Spectra goon?" Princess asked after we left the page.
"We'll send the Galactic Patrol after him." Mark said.
With great relief we arrived at the page, and we all disembarked off Nanuk in Zark's control room.
"Finally." Nanuk sighed, twisting around till several bones popped. "Ahhhh."
"Having Zark with us must have enabled us to get back here." I said.
"Oh, Zark, I'm so glad you're home safe." Susan's breathy voice said in welcome.
"Oh, hello Susan. Home-sweet-home, nothing like it." Zark said as he flapped over to the computers. 1-Rover-1 followed him with a whirl of his tail.
Turning towards the team with a smile, I prepared to speak....only to have the scene of the team standing in front of me replaced by the sight of my computer monitor. I found myself sitting at my chair in the computer room, my web page on the computer screen with Nanuk sitting next to me.
"Nooooo!!!!" I wailed, "I didn't get to say goodbye!"
Nanuk looked around him, then looked at his stomach fur confused.
"Everyone gets a sappy goodbye scene except me!" my face turned dark, "Zark did this on purpose! I should have let Joe turn him into hub caps!"
Nanuk put a paw on my arm, and when I looked at him, he signed, *A plane is coming.*
Cocking my head, I discovered he was right. I ran out into the outer office to find the morning plane just taxiing up to the office. I looked at my watch in amazement. But several hours had passed, I know it had!
Processing the passengers, my head whirled, trying to make sense of it all. After the Boss headed over to the hangar, leaving me in the office alone again, I walked slowly back into the computer room, only to find that Nanuk had found my secret hidden stash of oreos.
He grinned at me as I scowled back, signing, *You said I could eat when we came back.*
I sighed and nodded, "So, you remember it too? What just happened?"
Nanuk shrugged and continued munching on the bag of oreos. I sat down at the computer and started going through my web site. Everything was back in place. Just to be sure, I hopped over to Carolyn page, and found Joe right were he should be, only one of his pictures was different. Joe's eyes were wide with shock or fright.
Completely puzzled I went back to mine and checked the character page again. As the picture of Mark came up, I could have sworn he winked at me.....
P.S. The test on the tea came back negative.
P.P.S. Ennien and Cal were apparently sent back home when I was, and weren't too happy about it, considering they had finally pinned Zoltar down.
The end.....for now (and yes, that is a threat).