--Chapter Five: Bad to the Bone
(8-bit Leo’s face appears on a green screen background a la Bad Dudes [NES, 1986]. His mouth opens and a series of “blip” noises follows. Leo’s words pop up on the screen above his head.)
Leo: The mayor has just been kidnapped by evil furry monsters. Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the mayor?
“Well? Are you?”
Aeris looked straight into Leo’s eyes, though her paw strayed over to the remote control and muted the television.
“First of all,” said she, “I’m not a dude. Secondly, that parody is horribly cliché. Thirdly, at a time like this, I’m far more worried about Scotty than any Mayor.”
They had just heard the local noontime news: Police headquarters and City Hall were now overrun with flesh-eating miniature versions of Krug.
Pants Man had gone immediately in the morning—meaning, he sent himself in another email—to tell the Commissioner about Krug’s message. Neither of the cats had seen or heard from their owner since...
Meanwhile, at police headquarters, three monsters—yellow, orange, and green—stood in front of one of the iMacs. The orange one clicked the mouse at random.
Computer: (talking in a pleasant female voice via the speakers) Welcome, Commissioner. What would you like to do today?
Monsters: (in unison) Ooooooooh...
Computer: There is one new email in your inbox.
(Orange clicks a few times and tries to read.)
Orange: “Download ThePants.zip...” (clicks again.)
Pants man came up on the screen and said, “Glad ya finally got around to it. Running a little slow today, are we?”
Then he looked up and realized he was not speaking to the Commissioner.
“The heck... Who are you guys? Did Krug get a family or something?”
Yellow: (to Orange) What is this thing?
Green: He cute little guy...
Orange: He look like he has shape of Fleshy One... Maybe we could eat him.
Pants Man: Uh... No. And if you don’t mind my asking, where’s the Commissioner?
Orange: All Fleshy Ones are in underground cages. We going to have barbecue. You want to join?
Pants Man: Wow, uh, no thanks. But while you’re here... you wouldn’t happen to know where Krug is, would you?
Orange: King Krug is at Mayor man’s building. There going to be second barbecue and parade.
Green: (cheerfully) Little pixel man sure he does not want to come with us? There going to be free beer...
Pants Man: That does sound nice... but I gotta run. See ya later!
The hero dove into a file and sent himself through data block after data block until he reached the building’s network. He had to find a way to reach the Commissioner... Presumably, the old man would still have some form of computer on him; the guy never traveled without a few electronic gadgets under his sleeve. Pants Man reached the communications center of the building and looked at what machines were connected to the main server. He saw more than fifty iMacs—ignored these—and one cell phone.
Gotcha, he thought. He did not want his body to exit out of the cell phone, though, lest he end up in the same physical predicament as the Commissioner—whatever that was. So he simply called out, and his voice registered as a buzz and a page on the Commissioner’s phone in his shirt pocket.
The Commissioner risked a glance at the message; the monsters who had locked the entire station’s officers in jail cells were now distracted, six of them looking over a book, six others brandishing sporks and waiting...
The message was simple. “PM to C. Are you okay?”
The Commissioner typed his message quickly. “C to PM. We are all in cells, locked. Our weapons were confiscated a while ago. I can get us out, but I don’t have a way of fighting them to get free.”
“Really? How did they catch ya?”
The Commissioner let out a deep sigh. “All I know is, one minute I was at my desk, and the next, twelve of these guys jump me and put me in handcuffs.”
“Which you’ve gotten out of by now?”
“Of course. Half the officers have picked their locks by now. Nobody taught these monsters about ‘keys,’ apparently. The only reason we’re locked in now is because the cell doors lock automatically when closed.”
Pants Man wondered for a minute... the Commissioner was getting an awful lot of text across to him... These weren’t exactly the brief “help, get me out of here” messages he had expected...
“Are they distracted now?” he asked.
“They’re deciding how to cook us.”
The Commissioner listened in on the debate for a second. The discussion was down to a Grill vs. Raw debate, since the votes for Deep Fry were clearly outnumbered.
“Ah. Well, if you can hold them for about five minutes, I could whip up something...”
“Don’t bother. I’ve called in the army already. We’ll be fine. But I’m hearing the monsters talk about the mayor... You might want to head over to City Hall. If what I’m hearing from these creatures is true, Krug’s planning on taking the mayor hostage. If that happens, even the army won’t be able to advance on them. You’ll have to get in there and stop them.”
“Okay. I’ll do that.”
“Oh, and one more thing.”
“Please don’t keep any more monsters. This time, let’s just kill Krug and get the whole mess done with.”
The Internet news feed was already reporting that the mayor’s office had been taken, and there was a live public address in progress. Krug was using the Emergency Broadcast System, one part of which was accessible from City Hall, to override every television station and make a speech. Pants man had tuned in a few minutes late, but Krug was still speaking.
“Dr. Doe,” he said, “had a vision, and Dr. Van Kruglor have vision, too. Krug going to be new Mr. Mayor man. All citizens of Toronto bow down before Krug! Er, that is, bow down before Dr. Van Kruglor! King-Mayor Dr. Van Kruglor! Yes, last version is best.
“Krug minions have Mr. Mayor man put away for the moment. But Kr—Van Kruglor going to eat Mr. Mayor man unless changes are made.
“First, all Fleshy Ones must come to big parade and barbecue in front of City Hall. There they will all line up and be eaten. Van Kruglor tired of Fleshy Ones who not want to be eaten.” He pointed straight at the camera. “Fleshy Ones gonna get eaten and like it!
“City have twenty-four hours to comply.”
Then the screen went blank.
Pants Man thought up a quick strategy, but for it to work, he would need some help...
Aeris was hard at work trying to find the “sent file” Pants Man had made on his email, but she was not having much luck.
Then, just when she thought the search was hopeless, an instant message popped up from PantsMan5000, and Aeris accepted it.
Pants Man sent himself as a file and jumped out of the computer screen, into the bedroom. Aeris turned around and stood on all fours on top of the desk.
“Scotty! Are you okay?”
“Yes... Where’s Leo?”
“Playing on the old NES. Though how he can play games at a time like this is beyond me...”
“Oh. Well, I’ll need you both for this...”
“Did you hear about the mayor? Krug came on TV after the news...”
“Yeah, and I gotta stop him, but I won’t be able to do it alone.”
Leo was in the middle of a random battle in the original Final Fantasy, thinking about how having a Level-40 Black Belt going into the second dungeon might be a bit extreme on the hours of sidequest—not to mention overkill on the forest imps—but one of these days, he was going to set foot across that bridge the king had just built... in what was supposed to be the first five minutes of gameplay.
Pants Man approached him from the side and said, “Save it and turn it off, please. I need your help.”
“What with?” asked Leo as his character beat the daylights out of a spider on the screen.
Pants Man folded his arms and said, “The mayor has been kidnapped by evil furry monsters. Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the mayor?”
Leo gasped. Aeris rolled her eyes, but Pants Man winked at her. If anyone could put things into a context Leo could understand, it was him.