"In Medias Res", Ace Manhuge
shouted across the mass of seething muscle.
Rex stopped to think about this a
moment. From where did the name "Ace Manhuge" come? And how was
it that he'd decided on this specific beginning to what was to become
his masterwork? In a moment the answers came to him. Obviously
someone who was superhumanly studly, as any main character has to be,
needed a fitting surname, and any specific first name would serve
only to alienate his audience. Hence, "Ace Manhuge". And he'd
been unsure as to how to begin his story, so jumping into action
seemed prudent, but so over-done. Hence the self-referential poke at
fun. How to proceed... well any hero needs a sidekick, so
replied Gilbert Uppercut, Ace's close companion and co-conspirator.
the latin phrase meaning 'in the middle of things'. It describes a
story that pushes the reader directly into the story, worrying about
background and introduction later."
great, Ace, but why do you bring it up now?"
"Let's flesh out this world a
bit", thought Rex.
Ace looked around
him for a moment, allowing himself to consider the question. What
about this horde of angry, lethal pirates had caused him to feel the
need to inform his friend of a literary technique? It's not as if the
rushing, hulking brutes with their cutlasses and blunderbii prompted
particularly analytical thought. They were more often the impetus for
feelings of annoyance and anxiety. This last point was especially
relevant at the current moment, when there existed perhaps fifteen
pirates each, with the expressed and unobstructed goal of murdering
Ace and his close friend. In fact, the moment for musing upon this
conundrum was almost past, as another wedge of scratched steel began
its flight from a pirate's weapon-sash to his gut.
Rex leaned back from his keyboard
for a moment. "Ok," he thought, "we've been introduced to this
person's thought process as amusing and relatable, and we've thrust
him into a fight against ugly and presumably evil foes, causing
sympathy from the readers. Now how else can I cause affection towards
my main character?" Rex was also looking for a way to write him out
of the jam into which he'd placed him, though he didn't admit this
even to himself. No writer would have dived into a scene without a
way out. "I'll give him a superhuman quality!", he surmised,
"that will drive another dimension to the audience's connection:
admiration! And what does everyone want to have? Strength!"
cutlass's flight, however, was easily cut short by a shattering blow
from Ace's fist. The slathering monster of a pirate who wielded it
was momentarily shaken by the mechanical oscillation induced in the
rigid metal member by the high-magnitude point-force ("Oh,"
thought Rex "This technical stuff is pure gold! Who would have
thought that simply writing like an intelligent person could be so
satisfying?" Rex was obviously writing only for those who would
appreciate this manner of storytelling).
The sudden interface in differing stiffness that the cutlass-hand
boundary constituted caused significant energy dissipation as the
waves of motion propagated into the pirate. Bones chipped, cell
membranes lysed, nerves discharged their electrochemical potential
prematurely. In short, the pirates hand became useless. Ace used the
opportunity to dispatch the buccaneer in a more permanent manner, his
other fist driving itself more through the enemy than simply at him.
A rearward foot-plant accompanied the blow, temporarily increasing
the frictional force between his foot and the floor in order to
propel this nautical nightmare into the air, then into a conveniently
placed wall. The extent to which the pirate slumped was greater than
that which one would expect from the flight alone. Ace new his enemy
was down for the count.
Rex felt very pleased with himself.
Not a chapter in, and he'd already revolutionized the way fiction was
written. It was so obvious. He wondered why more people hadn't
introduced more specific language into fight scenes before. Obviously
the world of literature would be divided into pre-Riptide and
Now he was bored. He'd already
accomplished a lot with this little fight scene, but it was
uninteresting to continue. How could he conclude it satisfactorily?
moments, Ace and Gilbert had neutralized the rest of the thieving
sailors in the room. Some they crushed, some they head-butted, some
were forcibly "suckered for the classics" with a closed fist to
the face ("Woah,
ease off on the violence. He's losing the high ground, here").
Breath still quick from the exertion, they faced each other to
discuss the matter.
introduce some elements that will tantalize the reader. Maybe I'll
explain them later, maybe not."
spoke first. "Must be Bowser Deltoid, right Gil? He's the only one
we've seen use pirates before. I mean... since The Incident (Using
caps to insinuate significance gave Rex chills. This was good
worth looking into, Ace, but I don't want to go right to his Dark
Castle of Doom just yet. Let's check some of his contacts in The
Town, first." Gilbert, always a thoughtful one, surmised.
Ace looked around the hall here in The College. It wasn't as if they
could further their interests by staying here. "Ok, Gil. Lead the
this vagueness coupled with Capital Letters is a surefire formula!"
Rex obviously didn't want to make it so obvious that he was basing
the story on his own life, but didn't want to specify any other
locale, either. "But vagueness sums. We need to get some detail
into the equation." Rex secretly also wanted to try his hand at
some of the vivid-imagery-style passages that other authors use to
set the scene.
They stepped into the bright Spring sunlight, and were again
instantly assailed, as they always were, by the contrast between the
gleaming freshness of The College and the stale, drab Town. The
Incident's effect was eternally visible whenever there was light, as
an ever-present mist, casting alternating shadows and rainbows on the
relative squalor of the people and buildings of The Town. There was
no dark alley, no winding artery of commerce that was not totally
suffused in the suspended water droplets. No building was without the
damage that condensing water caused. Algae and moss bloomed wherever
there was an open space. The green and brown would have caused a
striking boundary between itself and the grandeur that previously
existed, if it didn't so completely cover everything. Yet here and
there, the sense of power and majesty for which The Town was renowned
in years past poked through the ruinous cloud. The dimensions of some
tower or another, its stone now cracked and eroded by life and
weather, could only have inspired the trim, clean masses that once
briskly walked through the pedestrian causeways and under the painted
stone arches that surrounded it. Now the causeways were coming apart
at the edges, moisture softening the underlying ground and pulling
the bricks away from the center. Where water pooled, the material of
the passage discolored into one color or another, nothing uniform
about it except that it detracted from its history with each year.
The stone arches were long since stripped of paint, and some had
fallen at one time or another, the clammy wetness of their new
reality seeping into the cement that kept them up. Unbreakable by
physical force, the ravages of corrosive environment eventually tore
them down. Gone, too, were the smartly-dressed, purposeful crowds.
People Ace and Gilbert passed were dressed in layers of inexpensive
fabric. They could never get the wet cough quite out of their lungs,
though they often tried, in public and unashamed. The cough kept them
bent, too, as if always living in reverence to the past that was
stolen from them. Only Ace and Gilbert stood tall and proud, having
The College's environmental protection systems to protect them.
Yet for every shadow, there was a rainbow. For every poor soul who
couldn't leave the squalor that was thrust upon him, there was a
wealthy tourist who came in a tour group, led by an armed escort and
followed by a gang of beggars and opportunists. They came to see the
plant life that sprang up so quickly after The Incident, caring not
for even the stateliest works of man. The rapidity with which
vegetation replaced concrete was a marvel only to those who didn't
have to live among it, but what a marvel it was! Trees larger around
than those that grew anywhere else dominated views to a degree that
the joke was often made that soon the plants would supersede the
skyscrapers. The canopy that roofed the denser sections of town let
light down in only mottled shafts that caught the mist with crisp
edges. Where the vapor condensed down into streams, it fed enormous
swamps that crept forward every year, in which one could get lost
amid the unmoving life that nevertheless was taking over the Town.
Rainbows next to shadows, prosperity next to squalor, soaring trees
next to hacking cough. The Town certainly was its own.
Where had that come from? Holy crap, did he really just write that?
Was he sure he didn't accidentally plagiarize it? He read back
through it. Rex didn't like to be surprised, least of all by himself.
And this was obviously A-level stuff. There was, for example,
imagery. And themes. In fact, Rex found himself recalling many words
that middle-school English teachers used. And if they weren't the
objective standard of literature's value, what was? He was fairly
sure he had never seen a numerical scale.
thought, those last few sentences took themselves just a bit too
seriously. Rex struck them.
The cloud caught the light in such a way that the long limb of a
rainbow became visible to Ace and Gilbert as they rounded their last
corner. Here the houses of stone and metal were too far gone, and the
beggars and scavengers used wood from the tough trees that sprang up
in their midst to build their shelters. They were looking for someone
very specific, but "indistinct" was the word that best described
the people that made up their view. Small fires didn't burn here, so
the only warmth was to be had through layering. People, no matter how
thin, appeared bulky and muted in their sodden cloaks. Ace and
Gilbert nodded to each other. It was time to split up.
go high, you go low" intoned Gilbert. Ace acknowledged and stepped
from the split-log path into the muck. It was Gilbert's turn to have
the high ground, as Ace had taken the more pleasant route last time.
Resolutely Ace trod off into the swamp below the wooden structures.
mire was still structured. Foundation-rocks and fallen rubble in
equal parts determined the areas of low growth. But every time Ace
returned, he was greeted by a different landscape. It simply wasn't
possible for someone to keep up with the interminably roiling muck.
That is, it wasn't possible for someone who didn't live there. Ace
got the disturbing feeling that someone was watching him (It
was, of course, impossible to accurately get this feeling in real life, but Rex
had to make some concessions to the art of suspense).
As he plodded on through the mud, treading on stiff roots and broken
stone where he could, the shroud of water around him waved and
twisted into shapes that easily could have obscured a pirate horde.
His enormous, manly muscles bunched and relaxed of their own accord,
readying themselves for a conflict that seemed inevitable. His breath
quickened, putting his own warm mist into the chill of the cloud.
Just then a man leapt from a dense portion of the fog, as if he'd
drawn it about his body to better conceal himself. He opened his
mouth to speak...
instead coughed and retched in a manner that was only natural to the
life-smitten inhabitants of The Town. (Rex
thought it was getting far too serious, anyway. No one wanted to read
someone trying to be smart.)
Ace spoke, "Oh, thank goodness it's you, Gray. I was worried for a
moment. We need to talk."
Gray tried to draw in breath once more to vocalize his response, but
instead induced another spasmodic fit. Ace waited for him to simply
stop trying to expel the moisture from his lungs. It wasn't possible.
last he responded, "Ace, Ace, Ace... Do they still call you
Ace-hole in The College? Hah... I started that nickname, you know.
Whenever I think of it I still get amused beyond expression. But then
again, it was so little compared to what you had done to me. Every
time I cough I am significantly less than amused." ("Let's
get some tension between these guys. That's how fiction is done,
on, Gray. You did this to yourself. Anyone could have been
instrumental in your assignment here. Now I need some information."
Ace leaned forward against the slopping pressure of the mud. He
flexed his enormous, rippling, chiseled ("Too
far? I really do want people to get the impression that he has
muscles." Rex struck the delicate balance between literature and
muscles to remind the poor, fallen Gray to whom he was talking.
should I do this for you, Ace? What will you do for me?"
were assigned here, not banished. Always remember that. It could have
gone so much worse. Don't you want to get back to your studies?" He
pulled out the big guns, "to your warm, dry dorm?"
This gave Gray pause. Ace had seen that face before. This was Gray
deciding whether to do something terrible. Now, though, the balance
tipped the other direction. "Maybe this time helping you works for
me, Ace-hole. Maybe. What do you need to know?"
Ace looked at the little, shrunken man in the enormous, damp cloak.
Long seconds passed. "Pirates."
burst out laughing, the individual guffaws framed by hacks and gasps
for air (Rex
really wanted to make him hideous. Nothing else would inspire enough
pity. Also, the deal with the tension and questionable moral relation
to Ace? Priceless. Rex marveled at how these things wrote
"Pirates?" he forced out of a raw throat. "You suspect Bowser
Deltoid because of Pirates?" Ace nodded. Gray became sober once
again. "You really don't know?" Ace nodded. "Bowser Deltoid is
away from The Town. Needed to get out for his health. He's gone
somewhere dry, like the Sahara. Any pirate attack wasn't from him."
who, Gray? Who still uses pirates?"
don't know. I'm assigned to Bowser, as you know so well. Whoever else
is not my problem." With that, Gray turned to stalk off, which was
rather difficult to do well in knee-high mud. Nevertheless, he got
himself positioned for a walk-off specially designed to intimate
superiority, then failed utterly when the soaked swamp pulled at him
with every step.
this was a good time to get a nice carbonated beverage. He came back
feeling much refreshed, but also at a loss as to how to finish. "But
this is fiction," he remembered, "anything I say happened
happened", and with that he began to write.
Later that day, Ace and Gilbert returned to the relative safety of
The College. They found all traces of their earlier pirate fight
erased from the hall. The staff would not stand for the other
students thinking the halls were unsafe. They'd lose their place as
the best college in The Town. Ace had versed Gilbert on what Gray had
it doesn't add up, Ace. Who but Bowser uses pirates?"
one. Not since The Incident. That's why something's fishy. ("Let's
get some more interpersonal tension going")
Could he be compromised? He wasn't deliberately misleading us today,
but he could have been fed disinformation."
Rex had no
idea as to how to continue, if he was honest with himself. He also
had a sneaking suspicion that this was getting very boring. He had a
clear image in his head of a reader yawning and navigating away from
his story. Perhaps he'd been mistaken to stray from the scientific
"arts" into the artistic "arts". He'd been lured in by
spectacular stories with lofty ideals, but began to suspect that the
whole "fiction" thing was just another infectious memetic hazard.
He needed some action to salvage this shipwreck.
Gilbert was just formulating his answer when the view around the next
corner made the question moot. Here was the reason that the duo
hadn't passed any other students on their way: An enormous pirate
spanned the hallway from wall to wall, ceiling to floor. Two arms
like tree trunks terminated in cutlass-handles seemingly embedded
directly in meat. An eye patch was slung over the block of bone that
constituted its head. It was clothed in coarse fabric that might have
been pulled from a sail for all that its quality indicated. No
commercial or salvaged boots would fit those slabs of feet, so they
were simply bound in more of the sail-material. A ridiculous, thin
beard completed the picture.
was Ace's turn to go high. They both understood this, and without so
much as a wink or nod readied themselves for the flying punch
technique. Gilbert's arms were strong enough to throw an object much
larger than Ace the distance to the pirate-hulk, but not with the
precision necessary. Gilbert put an iron grip on Ace's shoulders,
took as much as a second to position himself, and bent backward,
throwing Ace behind himself as he did so. During his flight, Ace
turned in air to face the monster. He calculated his fist's potential
velocity profile at every point from Gilbert to the pirate, and the
start-point that produced the highest velocity at the surface of the
latter's face, he selected ("Oh
man, this is awesome!").
The result would have crushed any normal man's head. In fact, it
would have crushed most similarly-sized industrial pressure
containers. It did not do this to the pirate. Its skull deformed
rather than fractured, as if it was designed for taking impacts like
these, and was thicker by far than Ace's mental model. ("Is
this moving too fast? I definitely remember skipping over entire
paragraphs when I was reading fiction. I should space out the action
Though the deformation lessened the shock absorbed by Ace's fist, it
was still far more than he'd expected. When he landed, he did so
cradling one arm. The giant, however, had hit the ground before him,
being aided somewhat by a thunderous blow from Ace. What hadn't gone
into fracturing the huge skull had gone into propelling it downward,
toward the hard floor. It seemed only an instant between the impacts.
The tile floor of the hall shattered where the pirate's gigantic head
was propelled into it. Chips flew into the air almost as quickly as
cracks radiated out, reaching the walls.
As Gilbert joined Ace, the pirate's form remained motionless.
However, as they took stock of their situation, it began to stir
again. A torso of absurd proportions slowly raised itself, the head
perched atop an enormous neck shaking as if to rid itself of some
veil between it and reality. A low moan issued from its mouth. The
bulbous buccaneer ponderously got to its feet, cutlasses scraping on
the shattered tile of the floor. The duo readied themselves, but this
time a battle plan would not form itself so easily. Ace spoke:
did that count as all of my turn going high? Or do I get it
throughout this fight?"
definitely used up your turn. It's mine, now. You go low."
I don't think so. In the swamp, we were out there for like half an
hour, but this little back-and-forth only lasted seconds. I should
get another turn."
not fair! This is why we implemented the high-low system! I knew
you'd try to twist it like this. Plus, look at your arm. You're
fricking cradling it. Not only is it my turn, but I'm the best suited
for it. Come on, man."
It was always
good to have some comic relief. Rex didn't want people to think he
was trying too hard.
At this point, Gilbert was cut short by the sound of a lumbering
footstep. As the giant threateningly strode toward the pair, huge
arms poised to cleave through anything between him and his goal, Ace
and Gil finished up.
Ace: "Ok, compromise. You're going low, but we go for a low attack.
Deal?" He didn't wait for the affirmative. He knew this was a
Though their high/low roles hadn't changed, this time Gilbert was the
missile. That was the compromise. Gilbert began a low run at the
charging brute, and leapt at a small angle with the ground right when
Ace was the midpoint between himself and his projected
monster-rendezvous. When he reached this midpoint, Ace grabbed his
arms and slung him upward once again, preserving his pirate-ward
momentum and redoubling his upward momentum. The result was a
double-fisted impact into the pirate's shins, halfway from the knees
to the feet. The torque this force exerted on the pirate spun it
about its center of gravity, pitching it forward and causing its head
once again to rebound on the cold floor. The massive face crushed
itself momentarily, warping its thin little beard before springing
back and bouncing about 50cm from the floor. Gilbert shot out from
under the massive pirate before the impact, skidding to a stop in
time to watch the lumbering anti-lubber's head bounce to a stop. But
again, as with Ace's blow, the pirate shook it off. It got to his
feet, shakily and groping the wall with a cutlass-hand, and began to
slowly turn this way and that, wondering which of our dynamic duo to
Rex had no
idea why no one had written like this before. It was obviously a
brilliant new paradigm in the world of literature. So many fight
scenes he'd read were simply imprecise, misusing terms with technical
definitions like force, torque, power, energy. It's like the authors
never even took a high school physics class! If you couldn't compile
a free-body diagram of the fight, it wasn't fully specified. Oh, man.
When people read this, they'd flip! Rex wondered how he'd cope with
With shocking speed, a steel blade whirled from the man-beast's side
toward Ace. Testing the edge of his reflexes, Ace managed to get his
good arm behind the cutlass, exerting force to increase its momentum.
The extra velocity drove the broad edge into the tiles and concrete
of the hall wall, and the resulting gash's tapered shape exerted a
force normal to that which decelerated cutlass. This normal force,
acting to squeeze the metal, caused it to deform, and when the
enormous sword jarred to a halt, the deformation resulted in a
continuing normal force. The resultant frictional force was greater
than that which the meat-mountain's muscles could exert, effectively
pinning it in place.
much? I really could have just written 'Ace pushed the cutlass so it
jammed into the wall', but that wouldn't have been nearly as...
satisfying." Rex didn't want to become just another amateur author.
estimated that, with the giant's torso relatively immobilized, he
could punch its head hard enough to sever its spinal cord. Without
the extra degree of freedom that a loose body gave, the blow would be
undiluted by the former's motion. Gilbert took his time lining
himself up, making sure he was at the exact correct angle to execute
his maneuver, and consequently this threat. But before he got the
chance, the giant revealed a speed unparalleled by his previous
motions. The other cutlass blurred through the air separating them,
on a course obviously designed to remove roughly half of Gilbert. It
was massive, fast, rigid, sharp, and aimed directly for Gilbert's
midsection. Gilbert didn't really see how a bifurcation could be
anything but inevitable. Luckily for him, Ace did. He pulled back on
the brute's elbow, changing the pivot-point of its lower arm. He
didn't need to slow or deflect the cutlass, it naturally followed the
same arc it would have, only around a different point. Gilbert hopped
back, and just when the sword-whirl was finishing up, unleashed a
savage uppercut. He heard a crack. The monster slumped ("Anyone
boredly skipping through this paragraph might not see this vital yet
short sentence. I'd better put some vivid imagery in").
The veins on its beefy neck had been pulsating with the awful,
twisted version of life that had flowing through it. Now they were
slack, and a little laterally taught from the unnatural extension of
the broken neck. It took time for the body to sag, as long as ten
seconds for the breath to leave its chest. It would take quite an
effort to get this thing out of the hallway and into the dumpster
need some science in here. Most scifi writers use their fiction as a
medium to disseminate weird science ideas, so it's expected. Let's
see if I can work it into the story..."
Just then the janitor rounded a corner. He had extrapolated exactly
where he needed to be, and began to formulate a plan for removing the
waste with a minimum of effort and discomfort to the students and
faculty of The College. The janitor was a neuromorphic AI, an
uploaded human mind, so he was technically capable of conversation,
but over time he'd become less and less engaging. Ace had once asked
him about this, and he'd been informed that, long ago, the janitor
had initiated a subroutine with -- horror of all horrors, bane of
the singularitarian's existence -- a terminal goal. It didn't matter
what the terminal goal was; the only thing that mattered was that
he'd allowed this entity to be hosted on the same hardware as
himself. And because he was a relatively inferior build, derived from
a human mind, he had to devote proportionally vaster computational
resources to containing the process, which was so far beyond "hell
bent" on getting out and consuming his mind that the phrase was
meaningless to it. Since it was confined to one small corner of his
whirring brain, so far, he'd been successful before at keeping it at
bay, but its self-optimization was startling, causing an arms-race in
which the janitor had no choice but to participate.
have no idea how to proceed now. I guess I should set up some sort of
and Gilbert let the janitor work. He did so more efficiently than any
human would have, but at what cost? (A
little dramatic, perhaps, but Rex had been toying with adding
"consumed by inhumanity" to that last sentence. This was better.)
assistant walked in. Wordlessly, she began to read over his shoulder.
"What do you think?" he queried. She answered: "Why are you
writing it? As in, physically typing the keyboard. Don't you
normally... you know... multitask?" "No, what do you think about
the story?" She paused for a moment. She obviously didn't like it
but was too polite to say so. Rex knew. Finally she spoke: "Why did
you include the thing about the janitor? It seems unnecessary." Rex
went back to writing. She didn't get it.
Ace spotted something. "Wait!" He held back the janitor's hand.
"Sorry, Mr. Janitor. I see something." He carefully lifted a flap
of the sail-material. A piece of paper poked out. The janitor's eyes
were lifeless, waiting. There was no glimmer of comprehension.
The note was handwritten in a florid, experienced style. "Mungo: Go
into The College. Kill Ace and Gilbert. -- B. Deltoid."
Ace and Gil looked at each other. "That's pretty darn
Gil nodded. "Of Doom."
Ten minutes later they were there. Bowser Deltoid's castle was taller
than it was wide. Its stone battlements stretched into the sky,
higher than the low clouds. It was perched on a hill above the
outskirts of The Town, where there was merely a higher-than-normal
precipitation level. It was eternally dark. The thick clouds above it
blocked out the sun more than the thin mist of The Town.
Ace sighed. "You go high..."
Without further prompting, Gilbert swung his grappling hook into a
slit-window and planted his feet on the shear, crumbling walls. The
soles of his sneakers worked loose moss and grit as he scaled the
facade in a manner only describable as "batman-style". Within a
minute he was up and in. They'd done this before.
waited for a moment. Sometimes sounds reached him: impacts, scrapes,
clangs, muted shouts of alarm suddenly cut short (non-lethally, Ace
had been assured, or at least mercifully). Eventually the door at
which Ace waited creaked open on its rusted hinges. Gilbert casually
leaned on the centerwind (Rex
made up that word, but no one would call him on it)
of a spiral staircase. The illusion of ease was ruined by his labored
breathing, however, and he had to pause for inordinately long before
making a casual quip. "What's shaking, Ace?"
showboating git. Let's go."
these were no hulking brutes. Pirates were Bowser's field operatives,
but he wouldn't trust them to guard his castle. ("What's
on the cultural level as pirates?")
These were knights, decked in shiny armor. They stood up to a
physical blow well, but a fall down stairs would sort them out.
What made the situation worse, however, was the fact that the halls
were lined with empty suits of armor for the very purpose of
confusing potential intruders. They also packed quite a punch if you
let them wind up. That heavy steel armor was a huge momentum-sink.
They were slow, though, so that if our duo met them at a run, they
could usually deliver a good push to the chest, overbalancing the
armor, before the knight's arms could react. They ran through many
halls this way, but when they met more than two, there was always one
left after the run-jump-push volley. This necessitated more complex
tactics. Ace and Gil's old standby, the "I'm going to punch your
face", worked less well as with pirates or other ill-doers. They
needed a full-body impact (which was called such even when mediated
by arms or legs; a flying kick was still a full-body impact because
Ace's entire body changed velocity a nontrivial amount). More often
than not this involved either of the dynamic duo flinging the other
toward an enemy, but when they were swamped (defined by consensus to
be surrounded by enemies that numbered more than double the number of allies) everything became a
projectile, including other knights and the ostentatious gold
candle-holders, several of which Bowser Deltoid had bought for each
room. A projectile didn't have to be propelled by Ace or Gil, either.
Sometimes a knight could be induced to take out another, provided
careful attention to projected fist-flightpaths on the part of Ace
Either way, they eventually got to the innermost lair of Bowser
Deltoid. They leapt upon a surprised-looking High-Assistant and
thrust the question upon him, "Why is your master trying to kill
us? Why did he send a troop of pirates and an enormous nautical freak
to The College?"
The High-Assistant paled and blinked. "M-m-m-master is not here
right now. Where do you get your information? We haven't used pirates
in months. We've been inactive for weeks now. But seeing as how
you're here and threatening me, can I help you in some other way?"
It was Ace's turn to blink. His face went slack as he tried to work
through the implications. He shoved the note that he'd found on the
monster, Mungo, into the High-Assistant's face. "We have this note!
Don't try to deny it. Your boss's name is right there." Yet even as
he said it, he knew the Assistant wasn't lying. It wasn't written on
me see that..." Ace's victim put on a pair of reading glasses that
hadn't been crushed by his abusive treatment. "Oh, yes. Here's your
problem. Bowser Deltoid has a brother named Bob who just set up shop
in town. This is his handwriting. That's who 'B. Deltoid' is." He
looked from Ace to Gilbert. "Easy mistake to make, though. Totally
the pair said together.
sucked. Rex would never show it to anyone, ever.