Previously in Doc Passion and the Floating City, Doc and his assistant Brunt visited the gigantic orbiting city Elysia. When they discovered the city itself was powered by the imaginative energy of children, leaving most of them empty husks, Doc and Brunt decided to disconnect the power. They must destroy four data pods and the central processing unit of the city’s AI before rushing to the core to release the many captive children there. Brunt recently absconded with several gravity grids, turning them into transportation and small bombs to destroy the remaining two data pods. To read the entire tale from the beginning, click here!
Doc and Brunt sliced through the air, herding their flock of newly-liberated gravity sleds. They sped through the pleasure-spike of nirvana. Below they saw men and women in various states of euphoria. Many simply lay will blissful expressions, while others mixed various chemicals and substances to produce greater and greater highs.
Doc frowned through the haze. “I do not understand why Elysia would allow such a place.”
Brunt shrugged. “People are people. And if Elysia’s about discovery, well, this is one way of discovery. No matter how crappy it is. I’m guessing it started out as a chemical lab, actually, and to make all those substances you gotta be pretty smart. To take them, well, that’s another thing.”
Doc gestured to a greenish cloud rising from below. “We had best breath lightly. We don’t need any of these drugs or their side effects interfering with the mission. As the chemicals mix in the atmosphere, it’s impossible to tell what we’d be breathing in.”
Brunt agreed. He checked his controls, making sure the sleds stayed together. They banked into a deep cloud of purple smoke to get through as quickly as possible. Brunt held his breath.
Doc didn’t. He sneezed.
Brunt cursed Doc’s allergies.
As Doc breathed in, his eyelids fluttered. “Brunt, I believe the chemicals here may inhibit my mental processes.”
The assistant didn’t answer. He didn’t want to absorb any of the fumes himself.
“It seems that it is getting more difficult for me to think. And… oh, my. Was my bicep always that large?”
Brunt poured more power into the sled, urging it faster and faster through the air. The gate to the next pleasure-spike wasn’t far away.
“Seriously, Brunt. Take a look at my arm. It’s the size of an arm! Well, it was before, I suppose, but now it’s… armier.”
He glanced over at Doc. He exhaled in surprise before clamping a hand over his mouth. Yes, Doc’s arm was getting bigger, more muscular. In fact, he seemed to be getting bigger in general. He’d always been taller than Brunt, but now he had put on at least a few inches. He was also thicker in the middle, but not from fat. His labcoat strained to keep Doc covered.
“I surmise that the gas I breathed in was designed to create a better body. I can see benefits to this. Like, I can smash things. That’s handy, right?” He grinned. “And my mental faculties don’t see to be terribly affected. At least, not at the moment.”
The sled flew through the air and into the corridor between pleasure-spikes. Brunt gasped for sweet, sweet oxygen.
When Brunt had recovered, he shook his head. “Um, Doc, you’re monstrous. Seriously.”
“Brains and brawn together in one package?” Doc continued staring at his bicep. “I do believe I am, as they say, the real deal.” He looked down at himself. “I wonder where all this mass is coming from? I would think such a sudden transformation would create an incredible metabolic reaction. I should be hungry, shouldn’t I?”
Brunt turned to concentrate on piloting the sled into their next target: the pleasure-spike of history. As they rocketed into the air over the massive valley, they saw countless husks playing out recreations of historical events. Over there, cowboys fired fake pistols at one another. Over here, Spartans battled Persians. One terrace down boasted a recreation of a twentieth-century Renaissance faire.
“All right, Doc. I can set the flock down and trigger another black hole like last time. You want to round up some husks? It looks like there’s quite a few here. Think your mental faculties are capable of sending them into the core to get ready for the last phase?”
“Of course, of course.” Doc nodded. “I will need to disrupt their recreations and give new orders. It should be a simple matter. Don’t bother stopping, though. I want to test this enhanced body.” He straightened to his new height and stepped off the edge of the sled, falling ten meters at dizzying speed. He tucked and rolled, bowling through a few husks in Greek armor. He stood and roared, “My, that was invigorating!”
That’s the last of Doc that Brunt saw. He descended down into the center of the pleasure-spike, toward the data-pod, to his goal.
“Hiya!” Terra’s cheerful voice popped out of the speaker on the sled. “That’s pretty clever, repurposing a gravity grid into inter-space city transportation. I’m surprised you were able to calibrate it enough to keep from messing up the surrounding energy fields!”
“Yeah, well, I’m full of surprises.”
“By the way, what happened to Doc? He’s all hulky and stuff. I mean, he was cute before, but now? Brains and brawn in one package?”
“You’re descending pretty fast. You know now that you got your sled, you’re actually ahead of schedule, right?”
“Terra, I’ve learned a couple of things working for Doc. First, we never finish any death-defying quest ahead of schedule. There’s always exactly two seconds left on the clock before Doc pulls out the gizmo or the gambit or the whatever that saves the day. If we’re ahead now, it’s because there’s something worse waiting in the wings. That’s how it always happens.” He grunted as he saw what waited on the floor of the pleasure-spike: husks dressed up as cavemen fighting each other. Great.
He surveyed the scene for the best place to set down and added, “The other thing I’ve come to learn is that if we get any accidental help, it’ll turn into something bad. That hulking-out Doc is probably going to have something happen to him that’ll end up complicating matters instead of making them easier. Maybe it’ll be the withdrawal when the chemical flushes out of his system. Maybe it’ll be some bizarre side-affect, like he’ll only be able to speak in haiku. Whatever it is, it’s going to cause problems, and I want to get back up there before he has to face it alone.”
Terra didn’t answer for a moment. “Hey, Doctor Binary is about wrapped up. Elysia has him fairly well contained. You got one more data-pod after this one and then the final computer core to disrupt everything enough to unplug all the kids, right?”
“That’s where the scorecard sits, yeah.”
“All right. Good luck. I better get out of here and see what other mischief I can cause to help Doc.”
Brunt grabbed his jury-rigged controls and set down the flock in an empty field of waving grain.
He jumped to another sled and started tinkering at the portal-access controls. He had to calibrate it just right so the black hole would cause enough damage to destroy the data-pod and not destroy the entire pleasure-spike. They were not aiming to destroy Elysia, just its source of power.
As Brunt reached to make the last few adjustments, a blood-curdling scream echoed around him. A husk dressed in faux-animal skins stood atop a nearby hill. He pointed a spear at Brunt and bellowed. Fifteen more fake tribesmen crested the hill and repeated the warcry.
Brunt rolled his eyes. He stood, took a deep breath, and bellowed back.
The tribe backed off a step and looked at each other.
Brunt screamed again. He waved his arms.
This time the chief screamed in answer. The tribe joined him.
Crap. Brunt wanted to scare them away. It wouldn’t be good for them to be around when the black hole went off. It also wouldn’t be good if they smashed the sled before it could activate. Plus, these guys were innocent. They were just husks programmed to perform some sort of historical recreation. Doc had said he would have to disrupt the recreation to grab their attention.
Wait. Maybe he didn’t have to disrupt it.
Brunt held his arms up. “The recreation has been cancelled. We have begun a new program. Please go to Elysia’s core and await further instructions!”
The chieftain blinked. “OK.”
The entire tribe dropped their spears and shuffled away.
“Huh. I guess it can be easy every once in a while.” Brunt made the last few adjustments and rocketed off. “Time to pick up Doc.”
Brunt raised himself level with the Spartan terrace and scanned the area to find Doc. There.
“Oh. That’s not good.”
Several piles of husks lay about in human hills. Doc laughed as Spartan and Persian tried to slay him with their blades. “Calm down!” he barked as he avoided another thrust. The attacker heeded the command and sat down in the dirt.
Brunt called out, “What are you doing?”
“Trying to disrupt the scenario enough so it will reset!” Doc called as he dodged a thrust from a new opponent.
“Just tell them to go! They’re still taking orders!”
“Oh! I didn’t think of that!” The hulking Doc shouted, “You all go to the core right now!”
The various husks around him shuffled away.
Doc beamed. “Well, that was simple.”
Brunt landed the sled. “How are you feeling?”
“Exhilarated. I do not know of when I’ve been able to take on enemies like that, other than that one time we went to the jiggly-puff dimension. Those things really didn’t know how to fight, did they?”
“Yeah, well, when their prison is made of licorice you know they can’t do too much to hurt you,” Brunt responded. “Come on. We got more to do.”
“Hm.” Doc settled on the sled.
“Doc, whenever you say ‘hm,’ it means you’ve noticed something you don’t want to share because it’s going to cause destruction and mayhem.”
“Well, yes. There is that.” Doc studied his hands. “I think, perhaps, my newfound strength is not such a good thing.”
“I could have told you that.”
“No. Look.” Doc showed the palm of his hand to Brunt.
At first Brunt thought he was looking at nothing more than dry skin. As he watched, though, he saw the muscles move and flex under the skin. The skin grew taut… and began to tear.
“I believe that this muscle-enhancing drug is just that: muscle-enhancing. My skin has reached the limit it can to accommodate the new muscle mass, but the muscles keep growing. At this rate, I’ll tear through my skin in fifteen to twenty minutes.”
“That’s really gross, Doc. All right. How do we fix it?”
Doc raised his eyebrows. “I’m not entirely sure. It appears that the drug is interfering with at least some of my mental capacity now. Else I would have likely found your much easier way of dealing with the husks. The simple solution, of course, is to find an antidote to the drug. However, as we don’t know what the drug is, and we likely won’t be able to learn its origins in time, I am left at an impasse.”
Brunt’s eyes slipped up to the straining labcoat around Doc’s bicep. It rippled and the muscles grew in mass, tearing the fabric. As he watched, a tear ripped along the skin on Doc’s bicep.
He glanced down at the revealed muscle. “Ow. Well, at least it appears that the drug is decreasing pain. That is extremely helpful.”
“Doc, I know who can help you. We’re going to have to go fast, though. Hold on.” Brunt picked up the sled and sped away as fast as he could. Behind, he heard the black hole begin tearing the pleasure-spike apart and then implode.
They didn’t have time for this little diversion, even with faster transportation. But if he couldn’t get Doc to the one woman who might be willing to help, it wouldn’t matter. Doc was more important than the kids at the core.
At least, that’s what he told himself. It didn’t sound like good reasoning at all, though.
Continue the adventure… here!