The Grand Gonado Learns to Truss Himself, Part Two
“Are you sure about this, sir?” said Scrotumnal. He and P’Lok stood behind the Grand Gonado whose backside was cupped by the Interworlds Transport Truss that the King had released from the palace vaults for the task at hand. They held on tightly to the two tension bars of the pad, having pulled it back across half the length of B’Lok Hall.
“Of course I’m not sure about it,” said Gonado in a Genuinely Scared for Once tone. “The Truss hasn’t been used in many a moon and rumour is that the last man to try it ended up wearing it as a shroud.”
Gonado thought about what would happen if the Truss didn’t work, about the bat-shaped stain he’d make on the far wall. On the other hand, if he didn’t try something, the King would surely reduce his means, and overall that appealed less than becoming a permanent wall hanging.
“Truss away!” he yelled, followed by, “WAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!” as he hurtled forward at what he hoped was the speed of an interworld flying dragon stove.
The far wall zoomed at him and he rammed shut his eyes, body rigidly tense, expecting a collision. Amazing himself, he remembered to set his mental compass at ‘Take me to Your Leader’ just before–
–landing in a cloak-flapping heap on a spongy carpet. He opened his eyes to see on it a design that might have been a dragon but actually looked more like a bird of prey ominously clutching weapons in its left talons.
His wizard’s instinct told him to leap to his feet, swirl his cloak enigmatically and intone, before anyone else who happened to be in the room had the chance to realise he didn’t know where he was.
“Hail! I am the Grand Gonado!” he yelled, wishing the spring to his feet hadn’t been quite so hard on his knees.
“I know who you are.”
A tall, erect figure stood behind a dark wood desk. Gonado didn’t recognise the man’s strange, muted clothing but he thought he detected a certain wizardly steel to his gaze that seemed very Deferensian.
“Yes, but aren’t you forgetting something?”
Gonado patted his heart, pockets and testicles. “No, I think everything came through the wall with me.”
“No, the wall. The grate would have been tricky, given it was full of flaming logs at the time.”
“Actually, I mean–never mind. Why don’t you take a seat?”
Gonado pulled out a rather functional looking chair and sat down. Rigidio sat too, then leaned forward and pressed his finger to a black box. “Carol,” he said. “Could you arrange coffee, please?”
Gonado wagged his finger. “I don’t think you were paying attention, Rigidio. My name is Gonado, not Carol. And it’s not my position to fetch coffee. Don’t you have a servant to do that?”
Rigidio leaned back and studied his guest for a few seconds. Gonado tried to cling on to the fact his rival appeared to be suffering short-term memory loss and therefore might be losing any other powers too. But something about the studied concentration in Rigidio’s gaze belied this hope.
“I suppose you’re here about the dragons?” said Rigidio.
“The mechanical dragons, I think you mean,” said Gonado, not bothering to disguise his tone of Withering Contempt.
“I know they’re mechanical, you idiot,” said Rigidio in a tone of Surprising Sentience. “I’m in charge of them.”
“You’re this world’s Dragon Chief?”
“Something like that. I took the truss through the wall about eight years ago and–”
“But you left our world nearly ninety years back,” said Gonado, for once curbing a tone of Incredulous Indignation.
“Time runs differently here,” said Rigidio. “Which is why I can’t return home: my body would instantly age ten-fold and, well, to use language you’ll understand, even I’d have trouble smoothing the furrows out of a near century old flag-pole.”
The door opened and a young woman brought a tray of refreshments to Rigidio’s desk.
Gonado noted her hips were somewhat inadequately sized for child-bearing but was impressed sufficiently by her clear skin, lustrous blonde hair and superb chest to declaim, “I will take this Carol to my bed tonight. Perhaps you would ensure she is sufficiently oiled and pliant.”
“You must excuse my guest, Carol,” said Rigidio, “he comes from a place where they still believe women are possessions and airplanes are dragons.”
Carol smiled sweetly. “Bob is rather puzzled, sir,” she said to Rigidio, “as to how your guest got in here.”
She poured coffee into two fine china cups, then put one in front of Gonado.
“I travelled here,” boomed Gonado, trying to recover his pride after being rejected by a mere woman, “via my giant truss!”
Carol moved towards the door. “I’ll let Security know, sir, that your guest may need more support.”
Rigidio sipped his coffee. “You’ll find the women here are not only very bright, they’re rather cleaner than in Deferensia.”
Gonado tried the coffee. It was excellent but he didn’t let any pleasure show on his face. “You were telling me about how you became Dragon Chief here.”
“Oh, simple really. I transmuted enough gold to buy me status, then swapped bodies with their Chief. Now I’m what they call ‘the leader of the free world’.”
There was a pause while Gonado wondered if Rigidio could actually be serious, then they both laughed uproariously.
“‘Free world’!” spluttered Gonado. “That’s a good one. You’ll be telling me they don’t believe in magic next!”
“Funny you should mention that. They don’t. When they invaded Deferensia the first time, it was more by chance. They’d detected the rent and flown their ‘dragons’ through it, hoping to find gold.”
“But P’Lok said it wasn’t about gold.”
Rigidio shook his head. “It’s always about gold. I sent some mental messaging spells through the wall a couple of years back, one to the King, the other to P’Lok. I told the former that an invasion was coming, knowing he’d command you to resist it. And I had P’Lok believe gold is not at stake so you wouldn’t be inspired by greed so much as by fear.”
“I don’t think even the most salacious appetite for wealth can induce a man to climb into a giant truss and fling himself scrotum-first at the nearest wall. But fear of losing what wealth he has might just do the trick.”
“I see,” said Gonado. “Very perceptive of you. Now, what about that gold?”
The Grand Gonado hurtled across the floor of B’Lok Hall, tightly clutching a precious box under each arm.
He brushed dust off his Armani suit then sprang to his feet. Or at least, he tried to spring but found, as he should have remembered, that his knees were now ten years older than they’d been a mere few seconds before.
“Help me up, please,” he said.
Scrotumnal and P’Lok gently steered him into a chair. After he’d finished breathing heavily, he took in the extra lines on their faces, the bent backs, the old-fashioned and, now surprising to him, genuine deference on their faces.
“We got your message to be here at this appointed time, sir,” said Scrotumnal. “It flew through the wall some five years ago, just before the King was about to cut off your B’Loks.”
Gonado smiled, Quite Naturally, he suspected. “Why don’t you take some brandy up to the star-room and I can tell you both of my adventures.”
When all three were seated under the stars, they clinked glasses and P’Lok risked an observation.
“You hair seems whiter, sir,” he said, “matching your new clothes. But in all other respects, you don’t appear to have aged as much as we.”
Gonado nodded. “It’s true; only a year has passed in the other world. However, in that short time, I’ve learned much, and perhaps the most surprising of which is that they have no magic there.”
The other two shared a horrified look. “Then how do they make gold from lead?” said P’Lok.
“I’ll come to that later,” said Gonado. “But their lack of magic means they have been most ingenious in their use of unspelled materials. Those mechanical dragons, P’Lok–well, you can sit inside them as they fly through the air at hundreds of miles per hour, with no more disturbance than a faint ripple on the surface of your Scotch on the rocks. And the ones they use for military purposes can throw missiles that destroy entire towns.”
“So, why did they fail to defeat us when they came here?” said P’Lok.
“Because Rigidio used magic to fill their engines with semi-corporate ether causing them to crash and explode.”
The other two flinched at the mention of Gonado’s great rival, but he just waved indulgently and said, “Don’t worry; me and Dick have come to an understanding. Dick’s his new name by the way. Dick Richard. He’s the leader of what they call the free world–” he didn’t laugh this time, “–and I’ve come to a very exciting business arrangement with him, as it happens.”
“Does it have anything to do with those boxes downstairs,” said Scrotumnal, “that appear to be full of strange feathered creatures which squawk much.”
Gonado nodded. “Dragons couldn’t conquer our world but chickens will.”
“Before you continue, sir,” said Scrotumnal, “can you please explain why you’re being so nice to us? I mean, it’s most unwizardly, if you don’t mind my saying. I’d actually gotten rather used to your roaring and permanently raised eyebrow, oh, and the spinning on the heels thing, too. Made me feel all was right with the world. Wizards do magic and their servants do the housework. It’s the natural order.”
“As I said, Larj, I am a changed man. In my year over there, I have been lucky enough to date a wonderful woman called Carol. I unwittingly used the most persuasive argument to win her, that I was an unmitigated chauvinist bully in need of converting. Well, she certainly dealt with my over-masculinised ego, I can tell you.”
Scrotumnal and P’Lok swapped another look.
“What?” said Gonado.
“Well, sir,” said Scrotumnal. “It’s just that before, you would have said something like, oh I don’t know, ‘she certainly got on my wick’.”
“Or,” said P’Lok, “‘once she got her hands on my family jewels, I knew I’d soon be rising through her ranks’.”
Gonado sighed. “Yes, yes. But, look, from now on, we’re a team. Which means you’ll have to get used to calling me ‘buddy’, or ‘bro’, or, better still, ‘friend’. And don’t worry; I may be a new man but I’m still in this for the money. We’re going to be fabulously rich: you’re going to be fabulously rich. And we have to get cracking. I’m already old enough to mean Carol needs therapy for possible paternalistic romantic issues; don’t want her paying for necrophilia, too.”
“What are we going to do, sir–bro?” said Scrotumnal.
“We’re going into the chicken business. I’ll help you set up, then I need to get back to Earth. You’ll convert our takings into gold, remove your cut then truss the rest through to me. I’ll split my share fifty-fifty with Dick. It’s called a franchise.”
“Is this franchise the reason you’re wearing white,” said P’Lok, “with some black strings around your neck, two windows over your eyes and an oddly shaped white beard?”
“Yup,” said Gonado, “from now on, just call me ‘The Colonel’.”