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Stuff That Happened to Thing #5
Part 14: Emily
Last time, Hwango the Indistinct's balloon and Hwango the Indistinct were captured by some kind of squid-like thing and carried off into the Castle of Infinite Despair. Thing #5 and Albatross the One were just about to launch a rescue attempt, with the aid of The Legion of Thwarting.
"Emily?!" Thing screamed. He seemed even angrier about the episode title this time than he had been about the title for Episode 12, if that were possible. "It's a horrible name for an episode!"
"I think Emily is a nice name," said Thinks Ahead Man.
"Can we just get on with rescuing Hwango? I'm sick of standing here in the rain. My parrot is soaked," Albatross the One said. He stepped a few inches to the right to move his feet out of a particularly deep puddle.
"But we haven't even decided if we're going to use these disguises!" said Token Female Member.
"I'm sure that if we just sit here long enough, we'll think of a way to disguise my hulking mechanical armor," Jessica pointed out with a healthy dose of sarcasm. Thing gave the title one last dark look, and then turned back to the rest of the group.
"We'll never fool anyone with disguises. Captain Obvious will stick out like a sore thumb no matter what we do to him. Why don't we just go around to the back door and try to sneak in quietly?" Thing suggested, eager to be done with the whole ridiculous situation.
"Good thinking, Thinks Ahead - er, Thing #5," Captain Obvious said.
"I never told you my name," Thing #5 said, perhaps a little surprised. "Come to think of that, Hwango never introduced himself either, but you knew his name when he was captured by the squid thing."
"I told everyone who was who," Paranoid Boy said from his position cowering behind Captain Obvious, "I read all of the previous episodes, because I was trying to figure out what kind of sinister messages they were communicating to the giant alien bean people lurking in orbit above us." He narrowed his eyes a bit, and then added, "I'm on to you." Thing blinked at him in surprise for a moment, and then looked back to Captain Obvious.
"Well, let's go if we're going," he said. They all walked around to the back of the Castle of Infinite Despair, their feet splashing in the occasional puddle. Once they made it to the back of the castle, they paused for a moment and looked at the small, somewhat unimpressive door that stood before them.
"How are we going to open it without setting off an alarm?" Jessica asked. Thing #5 stepped forward and knocked loudly on the door. A moment later, it opened a few inches and a man's face appeared in the opening.
"What's the passw - urk!" the man said, the last of his question cut off and Thing speared him through the neck with a cooling rod from a nuclear power plant. Jessica stepped forward and pushed the door open the rest of the way, and they could hear the guard's armor scraping on the floor as it was pushed aside as well.
"That wasn't very nice," said Captain Obvious, disapprovingly. Thing #5 didn't have time to defend his actions, however, before a troop of guards up the hall rushed at them. "Quick, Master of Apathy! Use your apathy-inducing powers on the guards!"
"I don't feel like it," The Master of Apathy said, staring blankly at the wall and shuffling his feet.
"I thought this might happen," said Thinks Ahead Man, "so I brought this large net."
"Good thinking, Thinks Ahead Man!"
Thinks Ahead Man flung the net over the guards. They struggled briefly until Token Female Member walked over to the net and drew her sword. They stopped moving and stared at the dim light glinting off the razor sharp steel.
"We give up," one of them said.
"They've surrendered!" said Captain Obvious. Thing #5 ground his teeth and tried to think about something else.
"Are you comfortable?" an oily, evil voice said, awakening Hwango. Hwango blinked the last traces of unconsciousness away and looked around. He noticed that he was strapped to what looked suspiciously like The Rack, and that both of his hands had their thumbs in a pair of thumbscrews. Looking down, he noted that his shoes had been removed, and his toes were also in thumbscrews. There was a fire nearby, with several brands and pokers heating in it, and a table next to him had a large number of sharp and pointy things sitting on it.
"What are you going to do to me?" Hwango said to the air. The question seemed genuine. Also, he asked it in a perfectly calm tone of voice, as if he was asking a friend what kind of ice cream they were going to order in their sundae.
"Why, I am going to torture you mercilessly until you die horribly, screaming in indescribable agony, said that same voice from the shadows.
"Wow! That sounds exciting!" Hwango said. He tried to raise his head to look around for the speaker, but bumped his head on several large spikes positioned over his head. "Ow."
"Escape is quite impossible," the voice said smugly. Hwango smiled brightly, got up from the table, and started looking behind Iron Maidens and vats of boiling acid for the speaker.
"Where are you anyway?" he said. He heard furious sputtering, and then a man dressed all in black stepped from the shadows next to a barrel full of swords.
"How did you get out of that thing?! Your arms and legs were tightly bound, and there was a huge iron clasp around your waist!" the man screamed.
"Really? I'm terribly sorry. I wasn't paying attention," Hwango said, and lay back down on the table. "Why are you going to torture me?"
The man in black was staring at Hwango in shock. Hwango was once again tightly bound, and there was no evidence that he had been free and walking around a moment ago. After a moment he shook his head and seemed to regain his composure.
"Because I am evil," the dark man said, "Utterly, absolutely, and unfathomably evil."
"Oh," Hwango said, a little disappointed. "Don't you want to get all kinds of secret information from me to use against my friends?"
"Not really," the man said, shrugging. "Why, do you know any secret information that I could use against your friends?"
"Um," Hwango said, he face screwed up in obvious deep concentration. "I think Thing's powers are weakened by a strange and incredibly rare glowing green rock," he volunteered.
"Do you know where I could get one?" the man asked, mildly interested.
"No, actually," Hwango said, apologetically. "Um, I think Albat might be afraid of spiders."
"Don't worry about it. I have the situation well in hand," the man said, a sinister grin on his face.
"If only we had a three-foot long piece of string!"
"Well, actually, I have one with me. I thought we might need it," said Thinks Ahead Man.
"Good thinking, Thinks Ahead Man!" said Captain Obvious.
"What was that noise!" screamed Paranoid Boy, looking around anxiously.
They seemed to making good progress through the tunnels. Every once in a while, they would encounter a handful of guards or some kind of terrible booby-trap, but they overcame each of these obstacles with little or no difficulty. At least half of the situations they encountered were handled by something that Thinks Ahead Man had in his sack. Thing was tempted to see if Thinks Ahead Man had thought ahead that Thing would try to skewer him with a street lamp, and what he might have brought along to deal with the situation, but managed to control his curiosity.
Between fights and discussions of how to overcome traps, they crept quietly through the dark tunnels. Well, some of them crept quietly. The Master of Apathy didn't seem to care about being quiet, Jessica kept scraping the head of her enormous robotic exoskeleton on the roof of the passageway, and Paranoid Boy kept making terrified little squeaks and looking behind them.
Thing glanced at the wall at one point, and noticed that for some reason there was a half finished crossword puzzle there, with a pencil on a chain hanging next to it. He thought this was odd, but no more so than some of the other things they'd seen in the castle. When the Master of Apathy walked up to it, however, he suddenly stopped and stared at it.
"I know 34 Across," he mumbled. "I think I know 21 Down, too. It's 'feet,' I think." He picked up the pencil and started filling in words. Albat tapped him on the shoulder.
"Come on, Apathy Guy, or whatever your name is. We've got to keep moving."
"No, I want to finish this. I - I care about this! I have to finish this crossword puzzle!"
"What?!" Thing said, whirling around to stare at him. The others in the group looked at the Master of Apathy as if he had gone insane. Thinks Ahead Man stepped forward and reached to take the pencil from his hand, but he stepped on a hidden switch, and there was a sudden whooshing noise. A crossbow bolt soared through the air and lodged itself firmly in Thinks Ahead Man's chest. His face took on an expression of utter astonishment and he gripped the shaft of the bolt in both hands, as if to prove to himself that it was really there.
"I...I didn't think that would happen," Thinks Ahead Man mumbled, shocked, as he slowly slid to the floor.
"Diabolical! Something is interfering with our powers!" Captain Obvious shouted in alarm.
"Well, except for yours," Thing #5 pointed out. Captain Obvious looked even more alarmed.
"No - I hadn't noticed that it wasn't working on me! That means it's affecting me as well!" Captain Obvious said, using logic so twisted that Thing couldn't really think of an argument against it.
"It's probably nothing to worry about," Paranoid Boy said, looking around disinterestedly.
"Oh, no! It got him too!," Jessica cried. Just then, a trap door opened in the ceiling, and some sort of metal object at the end of a cable descended from it and attached itself to her armor. There was a brilliant flash of electricity, and Jessica screamed. Captain Obvious leapt forward and pulled the cable away, but it was too late. "The suit's overloaded! I can't move!" she said.
Token Female Member had already pulled the crossbow bolt out of Thinks Ahead Man's chest and bandaged the wound. She turned to Jessica and popped open a panel on the back of the suit.
"I can't fix this now. We'll come back for you and Thinks Ahead Man. Try not to panic, either of you," she said. "Paranoid Boy, you stay here and guard these two." She paused, and glanced back at the Master of Apathy, who was still staring intently at the crossword puzzle. "Make that three."
"Guard them from what?" he said, frowning, "What could there possibly be to worry about down here?"
"It's worse than I feared," Token Female Member said.
"I'll watch them," said Captain Obvious. "I'm...I'm afraid that I couldn't go on anyway." The rest of the group turned to look at him, and were astonished by what they saw. Captain Obvious's foot was stuck in some sort of trap. This in and of itself was not that shocking, since they had encountered several traps already. What was shocking was that the trap was clearly marked with several enormous flashing signs that said, "Danger: Trap!" and "Don't put your foot here!" There was even a wooden hazard barrier covered with yellow and black stripes in front of it. "I didn't notice it," he said miserably.
"His ability to notice and point out the obvious is being blocked, so he steps into a really obvious trap," Thing said, apparently trying to make the situation more believable by talking about it out loud. "That is the most ridiculous thing I've -"
"Never mind, Thing. Let's just keep going. It's up to the three of us, now," Albat said.
They walked on for a while in silence through the twisting corridors, and finally came to a door marked "Official Castle of Infinite Despair Torture Chamber." Thing supposed that it was as likely a place for Hwango to be as any other, and so he opened the door.
"I see that some of you made it past my exceedingly clever traps," a voice dripping with evil said from somewhere inside.
Suddenly, another trap door in the ceiling opened up, and several extremely large rocks poured out and buried Token Female Member.
"That lacks the fiendish customized nature of the other ways you disposed of people," Albat noted.
"Well, she didn't seem to have powers to nullify," the voice said, and they saw a man dressed entirely in black stepped into view, his boots clicking ominously on the stone floor.
"Egads! A Goth!" Albat said in horror.
"No, no - I'm only wearing black because I'm evil, not because it's trendy and I'm full of angst," the dark figure said reassuringly.
"Who are you?" Thing #5 said, somewhat disinterestedly.
"I am Lord Villain - Master of the Castle of Infinite Despair!" the man thundered dramatically, and then he cut loose with diabolical laughter so impressive that Thing #5 raised his eyebrows appreciatively and applauded politely.
"Hi, Thing. Hi, Albat," Hwango said from his position on The Rack. There were several brand marks on him and he was bleeding in several places. "Lord Villain has been torturing me!" he said excitedly. "It's been really interesting!" Thing noticed Hwango's balloon seemed to be held in some kind of vise.
"You've been torturing the balloon, too?" he said, disbelievingly.
"I took it as a challenge," Lord Villain said, shrugging. "It's hard trying to come up with ways to cause it pain that won't simply cause it to explode. Hot brands and iron spikes were certainly out of the question."
There was a rumbling noise behind them, and Token Female Member stood up, shrugging off the rest of the huge rocks. She appeared unwounded.
"Hey, you're not supposed to be invulnerable!" Lord Villain complained, "The token female member of the team usually has some sort of non-combative telepathic ability, and is frequently captured to hang helplessly over a burning pit of lava as bait for the rest of the team."
"Yeah, well, stereotypes aren't everything," she said, advancing with her sword poised for attack. Lord Villain was not to be defeated so easily, however. He blew a whistle hanging around his neck, and the giant squidlike creature they had seen before suddenly dropped from yet another hidden door in the ceiling. It advanced on Token Female Member, making terrible shrieking noises and lashing out with its sucker-coated tentacles. She deflected many of the blows with her sword, but it was obvious that she had her hands full with the beast, and would be unable to take on Lord Villain. She fell back before its attacks, retreating slightly into the corridor.
"Is there anything on the level above us other than things put there so they can fall through the floor into this level?" Thing asked with genuine curiosity, looking up through the trap doors.
"There's also some storage space. Oh, and the controls for my Weather Machine," Lord Villain said. "Mostly it's just stuff for traps, though."
"Stuff falling from the ceiling is a classic, after all," Albat said. There was a sudden crash from down the hall, where Token fought the giant squid beast.
"Aha! It's the fiendish horror that captured Hwango!" a voice echoed from down the hall.
"It seems that Captain Obvious has escaped," Albat noted.
"So it seems. But it's still too late for all of you," Lord Villain said. "Soon, my army of -"
"I grow tired of this!" Thing suddenly shouted, interrupting him. He turned to Lord Villain and pointed at him dramatically. "I challenge you to a duel to the death!" he declared, and then popped his left hand off at the wrist and threw it at Lord Villain's feet.
"Ew!" Hwango said. Lord Villain glared at Thing and seemed to be weighing his options. Finally, he nodded his head sharply.
"Very well. I accept," he said.
"Choose your weapon!" Thing shouted.
"I choose the Industrial Revolution," Lord Villain said, an evil grin on his face. No doubt he felt that Thing would be unable to produce an appropriate counter to such a fiendish maneuver. Thing seemed unimpressed, however.
"I shall choose the moons of Jupiter," said Thing. Lord Villain blinked at him in surprise, and his expression betrayed his uncertainty.
Lord Villain was at a clear disadvantage. While the Industrial Revolution paved the way for dozens of advances in the fields of textiles and automated machinery, there was almost no way it could compete with 16 enormous balls of rock. Lord Villain's industrial revolution started building textile mills on the major rivers of some of the larger cities of the area, but Thing easily sidestepped the attack. In return, he sent Europa hurtling towards Lord Villain's head at thousands of miles per hour. Lord Villain tried to block the attack with the development of the cotton gin, but was too slow, and Europa crashed into him, crushing him beneath its enormous weight.
"You are victorious!" observed Captain Obvious from the doorway.
"Yes. It was an easy victory. He was a fool to choose a historical period full of technological advances," Thing said, retrieving his hand from the floor and reattaching it to his arm.
"He could not have realized that you would be so skilled at manipulating enormous planetary satellites," Albat said.
"That whole thing made no sense at all," commented Hwango. Captain Obvious nodded to him and grinned appreciatively.
"Well spoken!" he said. Then he narrowed his eyes suspiciously at him. "Say...you're not looking to replace me, are you?" he said. The grin on his face made it evident that he was only joking, but Hwango panicked immediately.
"No! Of course not!" he said, "I would never dream of trying to replace you! Why, the things that I'd have to notice..." he trailed off, shuddering at the very thought. "The very thought of it makes me shudder." He paused for a moment, then realized what he had just said and squeaked in terror.
Token Female Member stepped into the room, wiping greenish blood from her sword onto a piece of white cloth.
"I'm pretty sure the squid thing is dead. The pieces have all stopped moving, anyway," she said. She looked up from her sword and noticed the gigantic ball of rock which could not possibly have actually fit inside the room. "Hey, how did Europa get in here?" Token Female Member asked.
"How can you tell that's Europa?" Albat asked, amazed by her instant identification of the famous moon.
"Can someone help get me out of this torture thing?" Hwango asked, "Lord Villain said that I couldn't get out of it by myself, and got really upset with me when I did."
"How did you get your foot out of the trap?" Albat asked Captain Obvious.
"Too many questions!" Thing screamed. Then he paused and seemed to ponder something for a moment. "Has anyone else noticed the number of times that feet have been mentioned in this episode?" Thing asked, but no one seemed to be paying attention to him.
"The insidious villain's plan backfired," said Captain Obvious. "After the Master of Apathy finished the crossword puzzle, he devoted all of his energy to freeing my foot from the trap. Now that Lord Villain is dead, his power-nullifying effect seems to have worn off, though."
There was a crash as Paranoid Boy burst through the door and skittered into the room. Panting from running down the hall, he finally managed to say "Everyone - we've got to get out of here, quick! There's an entire army of -"
But he had no chance to finish, because suddenly the episode ended.
An army of...something approaches. What could it be? Will the Legion, Thing, Hwango, and Albat have time to go back and save Jessica and Thinks Ahead Man? Will all of the main characters be replaced with instant coffee? Will anyone notice the difference? Tune in next time for another exciting episode, with a special guest appearance by ____________!
Feel free to send me questions, comments, and huge pieces of celestial matter .