Mysterious threat, threatening rescue.
Gary shudders a bit, and then speaks. "It's some sort of mad house, man. Nowhere's looney bin, run by some cat called the Keeper. Haven't ever been there myself, but I've heard tales, man. The Keeper like collects spirits who've gone too far or seen too much, who've supposedly gone through doors that don't go Here or There, but spit a soul out Someplace Else. The grave vine --" Gary chuckles at his pun. "-- says the Keeper holds these mad hatters prisoner, picking at their brains, man, at the their memories, trying to learn all he can about Nowhere and the places it leads to."
"Well then, we shall endeavor to steer clear of the Keeper's house. If that is even possible...." He adds with a hint of humor in his voice.
Victor walks on searching for this door.
"So tell me, is this Keeper a man like you and I?"
The pair walks a few more steps before Gary answers. "I don't think so, man. I mean, he got to be a ghost, you know? Like us. I've never met anyone here that wasn't. But, I don't know, man. There's something, like, different about him, like maybe he's been here a lot longer than any other cat has been here. I've never rapped with him, but I've seen him a few times. He, like, really intense, man."
There are more chiming sounds, this time sounding closer and to the left. Looking that way, there is nothing to be seen but the ubiquitous fog.
For a while, it does seem as if the chimes are growing louder, but then, bit by bit, their tinny music fades away. Gary remains ever talkative, recounting his life of fast time, smoky jazz bars, and his gradual descent into the heroin addiction that eventually killed him. Through it all, it often sounds like his only true regret is that he's now dead and can't really enjoy any of the things he had known and love, especially, it seems, those that were destructive. Gary was a soldier for a while. Served in Korea for a bit, but was discharged after being wounded. Purple Heart and everything. From there, his life lost purpose until he fell in with deliberately purposeless beat crowds of Greenwich Village.
It is due to Gary's incessant monologue that neither man heard the chimes at first. Eventually, Victor shusshed Gary, turning back. The tinny music was unmistakable, and it was getting louder rapidly.
"Aw, man," Gary mumbles, looking back as well, his face growing slack. Then, he starts to run away from the music.
"Move it, man! The Collectors! Collectors coming!"
Victor watches Gary grow faint in the fog. He hears the music growing louder. And the, he sees the first of many figures grow more substantial as the fly through the ever-present mist....
Victor starts to head after Gary. As he runs he starts to reason about this Limbo 'place.' He watched Gary create a cigarette out of nothing. So...much of this dimension must be controllable by the mind, so as he runs, with his great intellect he starts to imagine the plans for a jet pack and tries to picture it on his back so that he could use it and gain some speed. He knows its a small test that might lead to bigger and better opportunities for him here, so he doesn't think he'll feel too foolish for at least trying to create it as he runs.
Gary vanishes from sight quickly. The tinkling of chimes continues to crescendo. As Victor runs, his made races as well, reviewing the plans for a prototype jetpack he had worked on briefly at Stark Industries. He notices Collectors closing in from his left and right sides. He is caught in a rapidly closing claw. Then, he starts to feel tightness across his shoulders and waist. A quick look down, he sees a thick belt, his feet pumping full throttle. He also sees more Collectors, coming at him from below!
"Aether shaping is anathema!"
The harsh voice is so close Victor can feel the heat of its breath. His head jerks back up, to the left, just in time to see a Collector slice its hand at him. He hears the sound of metal crumpling and then the tightness from the jetpack's straps vanishes. Another Collector, from below, grapples his legs. A third hits him around the waist from behind. Victor struggles, but the ghastly creatures are impossibly strong. Their flesh feels like marble. More Collectors swim into view from all angles.
And then a blast of brilliant, golden energy slices through them. Several Collectors scream and fade into smoke, their death rattles echoing long after their bodies have dissolved. Another energy blast cuts through Victor's attackers.
"Desist or be destroyed!"
The voice is strong, commanding, confident. Victor is still too mobbed to see who the speaker is. He continues to struggle. The Collectors choose to be destroyed.
Victor's rescuer is brutally efficient. He is a tall man, somewhat thin, but still muscular, with black hair and a pointed black goatee. He wears a suit of medieval-looking plate armor, dark green in coloration, but vaguely luminescent. In his right hand is a lance of what appears to be amber and platinum from which he fires the deadly beams of energy. His left hand grips the reins of his steed, an intricately designed clockwork horse of interlocked, silver and gold mechanical parts, with twin oval pieces of fiery red glass for eyes. The horse's hooves, all four sharpened, lash out in all directions, the remarkable machine unencumbered by gravity as it flies, ducks, turns. The battle is short and one-sided.
"Come with me if you want to remain free!" the knight says urgently, holding out a hand to Victor. "My brother will soon learn of my intervention, and he will then send more formidable minions."
Victor takes his hand and leaps up to the mechanical horse. "I have a companion who fled into the fog. Though I think he escaped them, I am concerned for his well being beyond my own. His name is Gary."
The knight spurs the remarkable steed forward. It swoops upward at a steep ascent and then levels out, moving at what seems to be incredible speed, but without reference to any sort of ground or landmarks, it is difficult to be certain. Victor notices he doesn't feel the resistance of any sort of air as they fly.
"Gary is beneath my brother's notice," the knight says matter-of-factly. "You are who the Collectors sought, Victor von Doom."
The man formerly known as Victor Dumas and the Specter rode in silence for a moment as he gathered his thoughts about himself. Surely this is an intriguing dimension, Victor thought. His mind started to address the situation in a analytical manner. He felt no gravity so the need to hold on to the knight as they rode was perhaps unnecessary. Direction had no meaning since the Collectors came at him from all sides including beneath him. Their was no surface to stand upon, so it must have been the human mind defaulting to the norm of a surface below his feet that allowed him to stand as well as Gary. No wind brushed his face as they rode, so their were obviously no meteorological patterns here. Or at least the sort that was visible to his limited non-native human senses. Since their was no direction, then location was technically not an issue of the body but more so of the mind perhaps. Though the others here did speak as though their was location. Gary mentioned doorways, yet they supposedly appear in different locations. Perhaps it is one's mind that draws them into being once you have sought them for a long period of time. His savior, the knight, spoke as if he were taking Victor to a place that was safe. Perhaps it is a fortress of his own mind. And finally the ability to manipulate this dimension's substance or lack there of, was controlled by the mind. Gary's simple mind was able to create the comfort of a earthly cigarette and as soon as he dropped it, thus excluding it from his conscious mind, it disappeared. Victor himself had started to create a jet pack to escape the collectors before he was overwhelmed. Since arriving he had lost track of time, yet did not feel tired or hungry.
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© 2000 Mark L. Chance et al