by Robert H. Prestridge
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
“Baddy bad bad man,” NoNo said, moving forward, its tentacles snaking around the desk. “No likey like like. You.”
Dalrymple heard Hobbes running up the hallway, but it was apparently too late: Hobbes yelled for someone to help him. Dalrymple grimaced and closed his eyes when he heard the sound of Hobbes’s muffled screams.
“Baddy bad bad man,” said NoNo, retracting its tentacles, settling back down into its corner of the office, wary iridescent eyes on Dalrymple. “No morey more more. Bother.”
About forty minutes passed. Patches of sweat had gathered underneath Dalrymple’s underarms and on his lower back. He heard a sniffle and looked up. NoNo’s iridescent eyes were looking around, appearing suspicious. What Dalrymple thought was the creature’s proboscis sniffed.
“No goody good good,” NoNo said, standing, lumbering. “Baddy bad bad.”
Dalrymple pulled at his collar. “Me? I’m not bad, NoNo—”
“Gassy gas gas,” NoNo said, wrapping one of its tentacles around Dalrymple. “Offy off off. We. Go.”
Dalrymple, who was starting to feel sleepy, understood now what was going on: Peace Troops were pumping Funny G, a knock-out gas, into the ventilator shafts. (Peace Troops always used Funny G to quell things.) NoNo obviously had a keen sense of smell and knew, instinctively or otherwise, what the authorities were up to.
A few minutes later, Dalrymple found himself on top of his one hundred-twenty story building, with NoNo clasping him tightly. Bitter, cold winds removed any effects of the knock-out gas.
Not only were Peace Troops whirly-whirls going by, but news ones, too. Dalrymple waved at one, hoping that if Mother were watching, she would see that he was fine, all things considered.
“We’re doing our best to get you out of this, Mr. Dalrymple,” said a woman, who was speaking into a hover mic in a whirly-whirl about forty feet away.
NoNo swiped at the whirly-whirl with a tentacle. The whirly-whirl hovered out of the tentacle’s reach. The winds blew cumulus clouds across the dome of the sky.
“Lovey love love,” NoNo said, holding the actuary tighter. “No letty let let go. Ever.”
“Mr. Dalrymple?” the woman said.
“Yes?” Dalrymple said, his words being picked up by the hover mic, even though his voice was barely a harsh whisper, larynx raw from all the yelling earlier that morning.
“NoNo’s handler, for want of a better word, is on her way. Whatever you do, just play along with NoNo.”
NoNo reached out with a tentacle. The winds blew harder and Dalrymple, who was terrified of heights, closed his eyes.
“Hang in there,” the woman said, and then Dalrymple heard the whirly-whirl whirl away.
What else can I do? Dalrymple thought. (“By the way, how’s your migraine, Ms. McCormick?” “Better, thank you. I’m going to pour myself another Maker’s Mark.” Come to think of it, I can perhaps see why NoNo thought you were a real stud. You have a small, but muscular, build. “Please continue, Mr. Dalrymple.”)
Dalrymple opened his eyes. I have a choice, don’t I? I can simply give up and let the Peace Troops do what they will. More than likely, NoNo and I will die because there’s no way in Martian Hell that this thing is going to let go of me. Ever. Or, I can do what I can do to survive. Which is it, Dalrymple?
He chose the latter.
Then he came up with a plan.
“NoNo?” Dalrymple said.
“Yessy yes yes?” NoNo said.
“Why don’t we get married?”
There was a moment of stunned silence.
“Marry marry marry. Me?” NoNo said. “Marry?”
“That’s right, NoNo,” Dalrymple said, cold winds knifing his face so hard that his eyes filled with tears. He explained the concept of marriage as best as he could. “I know of a good wedding chapel on the Strip if you’ll take us there.”
The actuary gave the creature directions. Dalrymple in its grip, NoNo lumbered back to the roof entrance and took him to his office, where he retrieved his hat. A few moments later, NoNo carried Dalrymple out of the now-vacated building and towards the Strip. A news whirly-whirl swooped by. NoNo increased its pace.
Dalrymple was still jacked into the System and scanthought into the news feeds. He and NoNo were the top news story of New Las Vegas, of course, as well as the nation and the rest of the planet.
They arrived at the Church of Elvis Lives! Wedding Chapel about forty minutes after leaving Dalrymple’s offices. Fred Ralston (High Priest of the Church of Elvis Lives!, according to the hologram in the narthex of the wedding chapel) greeted them with open arms.
“Been watching you two on the Xii,” the high priest said, voice deep-fried and syrupy like Elvis’s. The high priest caressed his black pompadour with a smooth palm, and his upper lip twitched into a moment’s sneer. The lenses of his gold-framed aviator glasses reflected NoNo’s cuddling Dalrymple. “You two little love doves are here to tie the knot, ain’t you?”
“Knotty knot knot?” NoNo said. “Tied?”
“You know,” the high priest said. “Jump the broom. Take care of business—”
“Get married is what he means,” Dalrymple said to NoNo.
NoNo’s maws seemed to smile. The creature placed Dalrymple gently on the floor. His suit jacket felt cold and sticky.
“This way,” the high priest said, sequins on his cape and jump suit glittering in candlelight. “Gotta get a DNA sample, hound dogs.”
The high priest led the way to a DNA sampler, Dalrymple’s eyes watering because the high priest smelled of cologne applied too heavily, leather, and a faint trace of sweat.
So far, everything was going according to plan.
“Finger, amigo,” the high priest said to Dalrymple.
Dalrymple placed an index finger into the DNA sampler.
“Your turn, you sweet thang,” the high priest said to NoNo.
The numerous iridescent eyes — for the first time, Dalrymple saw that there had to be at least forty of them — viewed the high priest suspiciously.
“Whatty what what?” NoNo said. “No understandy stand stand. You.”
“Need a DNA sample,” the high priest said in his faux twang. “Before you can get married in New Las Vegas, within your own species or with another, gotta have the sample. Makes it legal for you to get married, doncha know.”
Dalrymple nodded at the creature. “It’s all right, NoNo.”
NoNo placed the tip of one of its tentacles into the sampler. Dalrymple held his breath.
The readings appeared in holographic form. The high priest pursed his lips and shook his head.
“Sorry, darlings,” he said. “You’re gonna be lonesome tonight. Ain’t no viva New Las Vegas for you two. Don’t want to be cruel, teddy bears, but gotta be. No go on the DNA, no go on the wedding.”
“Too bad, NoNo,” Dalrymple said. “It looks as if we were never meant to be.”
NoNo belched. Or farted, Dalrymple unsure which. The air reeked of freshly diced raw onions and soiled diapers. The high priest swooned.
“Whatty what what. You. Mean?” NoNo said to the high priest.
Dalrymple heard rushing feet. He turned. A woman and a phalanx of Peace Troops entered the wedding chapel.
“NoNo,” the woman said, approaching the creature cautiously.
NoNo looked at the woman, who was now standing in front of the creature. The woman lovingly touched one of NoNo’s tentacles. Dalrymple didn’t know how, but he knew that the woman, who was obviously NoNo’s handler for want of a better word, was communicating, and communicating deeply with the creature.
NoNo’s numerous iridescent eyes peered at Dalrymple. Tears were streaming down them.
The High Priest of the Church of Elvis Lives! stepped towards NoNo.
“I wouldn’t do that,” Dalrymple said.
The high priest held up his hands, as if giving a benediction. “Little sister, don’t do what your big sister does. Look at it this way, you devil in disguise. At least you ain’t nothing but a hound dog—”
NoNo roared and wrapped its tentacles around the high priest.
“Ohbabyohbabyohbabyohbabyohbabyohbabyohbabyohbaby!” the high priest yodeled.
The handler (for want of a better word) yelled at NoNo to stop, but it was too late: several bites and smacking sounds moments later, the high priest was gone.
Peace Troops fired titanium netting at the creature. NoNo bellowed and swept the troops against a wall. The troops scattered and fled.
“Get out of here,” the woman said, taking Dalrymple by the wrist. “It’s too late.”
Dalrymple ran with the woman into the narthex. They had just reached the door when one of NoNo’s tentacles wrapped itself around one of his legs.
The actuary clawed at the ground, cussed, and cried as the tentacle drew him back into the wedding chapel.
“Help me!” he called out to the woman, who was standing helplessly outside the front door.
NoNo held up Dalrymple and shook him violently, like a spinster school marm punishing a wayward pupil.
Then a suction cup on one of the tentacles attached itself to Dalrymple’s forehead. The numerous iridescent eyes, filled with obvious anger verging on hate, glowered at Dalrymple. He felt something like a data stream entering him, and he knew it was NoNo piercing his mind, probing him, making intimate contact.
I’m not the idiot that you think I am, Melvin Dalrymple. I am from a highly advanced and highly evolved species. On my planet, I am considered the most beautiful female of all.
How dare you reject me! And how dare you be so patronizing! If you are intelligent, sir, you will listen to me and you will listen well!
When I first saw you, I knew that you were the one for me. You’ve been alone all of your life, even though you do live with another female, one I presume is your mother. You are what your people call a mama’s boy, I believe. Nonetheless, I chose you. Unfortunately, I cannot express in the words of my many mouths what I feel for you. My vocal capabilities are not that evolutionarily developed, you might say.
As your stupid boss told you, a Yuioriore falls in love once and falls in love forever. We mate for life. I have chosen you. You are, as you humans say, my soul mate, my perfect match.
You have no choice but to spend the rest of your life with me.
Yet I and my people love challenges. And because of this, I issue this challenge to you: See if you can find a perfect match that rivals me. If so, then I will let you go.
You have until midnight, Melvin Dalrymple. If I were you, I would be on my way.
Don’t try to escape from me. I can hunt you down.
And you know it.
NoNo released Dalrymple, who ran out the back entrance of the Church of Elvis Lives! Wedding Chapel.
A block away, he stepped into a quick-clean, jacked into the System afterward, found the best-rated dating service in New Las Vegas, and ended up sitting in front of McCormick’s desk.
* * *
McCormick finished her glass of Maker’s Mark. Her migraine, thanks to the bourbon, was gone. She was relaxed, not drunk.
Marko had been gone for almost an hour. Now McCormick was alone with Dalrymple. She admired the man for having gone through so much and having survived. And he was kind of cute, wasn’t he? Was that the bourbon speaking? No, it’s me speaking.
He was looking at her, an expectant expression on his face. She sat back down in her chair and rubbed her temples.
“NoNo’s still on the loose,” Dalrymple said. “And, of course, the Peace Troops are looking for her.” A moment’s pause. “And for me.”
“You don’t have any time left to find your perfect match,” McCormick said. “That’s a tall order, especially if NoNo doesn’t agree with your choice. Or unless the Peace Troops capture her.”
Dalrymple shook his head. “They won’t capture her.”
McCormick sighed. From what Dalrymple had said, she had to agree.
The actuary touched his chin. “I really do believe that NoNo will let me go if I find my perfect match. Please, Ms. McCormick, you’ve got to help me—”
She held up a hand, interrupting him. “I’m not a miracle worker, Mr. Dalrymple.”
Dalrymple stood. He paced the office and wrung his hat between his hands.
“I don’t want to be stuck with NoNo until the day I die,” he said. “I’d rather be dead before that—”
“Mr. Dalrymple, please—”
McCormick slapped the top of her desk. Dalrymple stopped talking, pacing, and wringing his hat. She stared hard at him.
“Would you please calm down, Mr. Dalrymple?”
“Your service guarantees that you can find anyone their perfect match,” the actuary said, sounding outraged. “Are you saying that you falsely advertise?”
“That’s the rudest question I’ve heard in a long time,” McCormick said, “and I’m very tempted to answer it with an equally rude answer.” She glowered. “At the minimum, it’s going to take you three hours to complete our initial assessment. After that, we’d have to check our intergalactic database for available matches. That will take at least eight hours. Prospective mates will, of course, insist upon meeting you. Those meetings will take up several days to arrange. At the minimum, you’re looking at a month, Mr. Dalrymple. And you don’t have that.”
Dalrymple’s face flushed. She stood. He stepped forward.
They were now face to face.
“So that was your rude answer?” he said.
“No, this is.” McCormick threw her arms around Dalrymple and kissed him.
He pulled back, obviously shocked.
And then to her surprise, and joy, he kissed her back.
* * *
Later, lying there on her desk with him, she ran a fingernail down his bare chest.
“You don’t have any time left to find your perfect match,” said McCormick.
“Oh, I think I’ve found it,” Dalrymple said. She touched his cheek. He frowned. “I’m worried about her, though.”
“NoNo? Why? As you said—”
“Not NoNo,” Dalrymple said. “Mother.” He shuddered. “I fear her more than NoNo or anything else any day.”
McCormick smiled. “Mother’s going to love me. Let’s worry about her later, why don’t we, Tarzan?
“Agreed, Jane,” Dalrymple said.
And with that, he kissed her. McCormick felt the stirring of the close cousin once again.
Copyright © 2011 by Robert H. Prestridge