Kingdom of the Frog
by Debra Hicks
It always amazes me that Ray can sometimes manage to look so bloody innocent. Of course, the Mickey Mouse t-shirt and Epcot shorts only served to hilight the Space Mountain blown curls and two-day Florida darker tan. Noticing my whimsical look, he smiled over his ice cream cone; very slowly he licked up one side of the cone, green eyes clearly stating that ice cream was the last thing on his mind. Another illusion shot to hell.
"Stop that," I hissed.
"What?" he asked innocently. The elevator doors closed behind us, fortunately we were the only ones on it.
"You know very well what!"
He smiled. "Why?"
The elevator stopped, letting us out into a deserted hall. As I fumbled for the key Ray reached around my waist and tweaked...
"You didn't answer my question," he said silkily.
The door flew open and I yanked the little golli inside. Luckily he managed to hang onto his ice cream. I started licking the bit off his lips. (Chocolate, my favorite.)
"Why... is because...out there I couldn't do..."
The phone rang. We froze, mid-kiss. There were only four others who knew where we were and two of them were taking the third to the airport to send her home. That left...
"The Cow," Ray said in disgust.
"Ignore it," I picked up kissing him again.
"Bodie!" He pushed me away, getting ice cream on my shirt in the process. "If we don't answer it now, he'll just call back." A single, slender finger followed slowly up my zipper. "And later will be more inconvenient."
Moving across the huge suite in one athletic leap I grabbed for the phone. Right before I picked it up I reminded my love that, "Later may not happen if the Cow wants us to work."
"Work on what?" he demanded.
"He'll find something." I said with pessimistic assurance, raised the receiver. "Bodie."
"Ay, there you are." It was the Cow, unfortunately the connection was excellent. "I have an assignment..."
"But sir," I said in my most pleading voice, "we're on holiday."
I don't know why I bother. "Bodie, no one in CI5 is on holiday when there is trouble nearby."
"Trouble? In the middle of Disney World?"
"Find the other two. They've been briefed. I'll expect a report tomorrow."
The other two? "Sir, you don't mean..."
The connection clicked off.
Ray had finished his ice cream, raised his fingers to lick them clean and glanced at me. One look was enough to tell him that anything licking anything would defiantly not be welcome at this time. He wiped them on his shorts.
"What is it?" he asked.
"I don't bloody believe this! The Cow calls all the way from London to tell us we're on assignment, that there is going to be trouble and that to find out anything else we have to check with..." I stopped, suddenly seeing the bright side to all this.
"Ha! It's finally my turn to interrupt something that one-eyed, super-spy..."
"Good evening, gentlemen."
"Hallo, Mr. Bodie, Mr. Doyle."
We had been in Florida for five of our seven days and during all that time we had managed to avoid the rodentia half of our little tour group. It would seem our (my) luck had changed.
I sighed, looked for the nearest wall. There wasn't one handy so I settled for my best haughty, superior look. "Hallo, DM, Penfold. I thought you two and Daphain were on the way to the airport?"
"Ah, no," Dangermouse explained. "Mr. Eisner was kind enough to send a limo for her."
I might have been impressed if I wasn't trying desperately not to choke after taking one look at Penfold's outfit. If I thought his suits were bad they paled to insignificance compared to the green/pink/orange flowered bermuda shorts and day-glo yellow t-shirt he was wearing.
"Nice outfit, Penfold," I said graciously.
Accepting the obviously unavoidable, I collapsed on the settee and asked in my impeccable Bugs Bunny impression. "What's up, Doc?"
"Ah, you've learned someone besides that Wayne chap," DM applauded quietly. "Nice James Cagney."
"What's up," Penfold answered me, "is that the evil, disgusting..."
"Just the facts, Penfold," DM reminded him.
"Amphibian, green, contemptible..."
"Penfold, do be quiet!"
"Baron Greenback," the rodent continued, "plans on taking over Disney World and turning it into Silas World."
"What?" I jumped up. "Now that's going too far. I mean going after us is all in the game. But anyone... uh, anyfrog that would go after..."
"...Disney World is just not cricket. It's not only not cricket, it's not British!"
"Bodie!" Doyle raised his voice. "Shut up!"
"Crumbs, Mr. Bodie," Penfold observed. "There's no need to get excited."
That stopped me short. I mean, how often are you called excitable by a hamster in ugly shorts? I turned to Ray for help and noticed that the silly bastard was turning absolute puce with trying not to laugh.
"I say, gentlemen, we have a job to do," DM said in his best Cary Grant accent.
"Right!" Penfold agreed.
DM put his hands behind his back and began to pace back and forth; Penfold assumed a similar pose and paced to and fro. I watched, mesmerized as they managed not the bump into each other.
"If you wanted to take over the world's largest tourist attraction," Ray mused, "where would you start?"
He's always so happy when he gets to ask questions like that, playing the detective. I considered letting him puzzle it out a little longer but desire for dinner... and desert overrode my amusement.
"He'd go for the main computer," I said smugly.
Ray actually looked impressed. He's not the only one who can play detective.
"Right!" DM said smartly. "Let's go!"
The three of them turned toward the door, all wearing expressions that would have done Randolph Scott proud. I sat down, picking up "The Guide to Cheap Local Tourist Traps."
"What?" Ray questioned.
"Have a nice time."
"I'm not going."
He looked very puzzled. "I thought you were morally outraged?"
"I am. I am also on holiday." I developed a sudden interest in reading about what passed for local culture.
Ray leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. "Okay, love, we'll be back soon."
"Huh!" I met his patented-seldom seen-patient as Job stare.
"Yes, indeed," DM agreed. "Everyone needs a break from the stress of action once in a while. Except me of course."
Ray kissed me again in the middle of this speech and without another word started out.
"Wait a minute!" I yelled. "What are you doing?"
"Leaving, Bodie," Ray explained levelly.
"I thought you wanted to stay here."
I stood up, nose to nose with him. "And when was the last time you did what I wanted?"
He leaned in close, those emerald eyes glittering with mischief. "Last night."
Blushing is not in my repertoire - but I could feel this one starting at my toes and working up. The last thing I needed was the horrible probability that either quarter of the short half of our team would say something. With a groan of defeat, I grabbed Ray's hand and pulled him toward the door.
I have got to throw out those child psychology books of Ray's.
I was not impressed by the computer. I mean, how impressive can a computer be, really? Just sort of a metal box with little electric thingies. Nothing to be impressed about. No, I wasn't impressed. I was nervous. And if being impressed by a computer is silly being nervous about one is absolutely right out.
It filled one entire wall directly opposite us and was covered with blinking lights and spinning washing machine looking things. The sort of thing you see in bad Hammer science fiction films. (Ol' Greenbutt must have an attraction for that sort of film noire.) Two huge pillars of light illuminated it from each side and a single spotlight colored the center. There was a curtained partition off to the left. The computer looked very busy, very expensive and very.... impressive. (Damnit.) Actually, considering it was just a box with electric things, it also looked a bit gaudy.
"Now what?" Ray asked. Not me, the mouse.
"We need to locate a keyboard, terminal, so we can find out..."
I groaned, there was no mistaking that nasal, high pitched, wilt-flowers, rot-vegetable voice.
It took a minute to spot the little toad in among the lights and dials but he was standing on the top of one of the video screens. With amazing macho flare I pulled my gun and aimed it at the little bugger.
Under normal circumstances, if Ray had yelled "Don't, Bodie" and Penfold had yelled "Oh, my" and DM had yelled "Good grief" separately, I probably would have ignored them. But seeing as they were all agreed that whatever it was I was about to do wasn't a good idea, I stopped.
"What," DM asked with an exasperated tone, "will happen if you hit the computer?"
"Um..." Oops. "It blows up?"
"Not quiet," DM said as he crossed his arms. "But it could cause massive malfunctions if you were to hit any of the hard disks, or possibly destroy some of the RAM. That's not counting what might happen were you to dislodge some of the LAN connections..."
I asked in wide-eyed innocence. "What's all that mean?"
In the middle of this enlightening discussion Penfold zipped toward the curtained section. Looking for the loo, I guessed.
"Space Mountain would come to a grinding halt," DM elaborated.
"Ghost running amok in the Haunted Mansion," Doyle added.
"Chaos in Frontierland."
"Diaster in Fantasyland."
Something tugged at my pants leg.
"I say, Mr. Bodie!"
"Be quiet!" Greenback had as much too much as I had.
"Very well, Baron, what do you want?" The rodent demanded of the toad. (Sometimes things get just too weird for words.)
"Want, White Wonder?" That nasal whine had reached new heights and the caterpillar that I really hate was snickering. "I want to control the world, of course, isn't that what every megalomanic wants?"
"Ah yes, my mistake," DM said. "Perhaps I should have asked how you plan on using this monument to entertain to accomplish this nefarious end?"
Nefarious end? Oh, boy.
"Very simple, simpleton," Greenback wheezed. He held up something. "When I load this program into the computer here it will change every Mickey Mouse image into my own glorious visage."
There was another tug on my leg.
"Not now, Penfold," I whispered intently.
I was trying to follow Greenback's convoluted logic without getting a headache. It wasn't working. Fortunately I didn't have time to notice it since Greenback picked that moment to start shooting. Now, when a green, four inch high despot, who has been known to use lasers, trazers and shrinking rays, starts shooting at you with a bright yellow, totally unidentified weapon you tend to follow three very distinct gut instincts - run, duck or shoot. Since the other three of the party had already eliminated the possibility of me shooting I combined the other two options into one. Gracefully, I launched myself into a prefect 10 roll and landed near the curtain.
"Bravo, Mr. Bodie!" Penfold whistled excitedly. He had clung to my pant leg. "That was a good one!"
I didn't get a chance to say anything else, not that I had anything else to say but I never got the chance anyway. At that moment the sickly yellow ray hit a section of the curtain near (too bloody near!) my legs. As I scrambled away I noticed the curtain had turned into a...
"Blimey!" Penfold cut in. "It's been turned into a cartoon."
I poked at the odd looking curtain with barrel of my gun. I couldn't see through it but the barrel passed like a knife through melted ice cream. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the little toad taking aim on Doyle.
"Alright!" I stood up, yelling at the top of my lungs. "Stop that right now!"
To my everlasting amazement not only did the green maniac stop but so did Doyle in mid-roll, Dangermouse in mid- whatever the hell he was doing and Penfold in mid-peeking under of curtain.
"Now, look, I've accepted talking mice, hamsters, toads, crows, and caterpillars. I have nearly been eaten by the Loch Ness Monster, gotten drunk with said hamster in a ba... interesting suit, chased fake Corgis with lasers and been reduced to the size of an old-fashioned GI Joe doll. But turning someone into a into a two-dimensional..."
I was really quiet surprised that I got that far. Actually, the Baron was still in such a state of shock over my daring (always was good at that) that I might have gotten all the way through my speech if my beautiful but sometimes impatient partner hadn't decided that enough was enough and picked that moment to launch himself at the would be world dictator. I sighed - all hell broke loose again. And as is my usual luck I was the first target.
Well, if I couldn't see through the curtain maybe Greenback couldn't shoot through it either. I grabbed a still amazed Penfold by the back of that horrible shirt and dove through the thing.
And right into the lap of the strangest looking bloke I'd ever seen. He was sitting in a padded office chair, leaning back against a wall with his feet propped up on a small desk with an ancient looking television on it. He was old, with a long gray beard to prove it, had a pointed cap with stars and moons on it that matched the black robe of the same design that he was wearing. My landing managed to knock his feet off the table and he snorted, coming awake.
Given his state of dress and appearance I was faced with the possible conclusions that; one, he was one of the actors who had come down for a quick kip, two, he was one very eccentric janitor or three, he was exactly what he appeared to be, which was - a magician. Considering the list I had read off only a moment before, and the fact that my partner was currently on the other side of a cartoon curtain fighting a toad with a nasal problem along with a one-eyed rodent super-spy, while a hamster in a tourist outfit that would make a train take a dirt road was clinging to my leg, I knew which of the three descriptions was my first choice. It wasn't the janitor.
Before I had a chance to say anything the man sat up with a surprised yelp and glanced at the telly, not paying the slightest bit of attention to Penfold and I. On the screen Greenback was firing at DM while Doyle tried to move into a better position so that he could make a grab for the little blighter. Just then I also noticed that what I thought was an old desk was actually a computer consol. He turned a couple of dials and on the telly I could see several of the screens on the monster computer light up, looking strangely like eyes and making the damn thing look even more familiar than it had. He followed this move by picking up a microphone.
"Who dares disturb the great and powerful computer?"
While this lovely little speech sounded great at our end, what came out of the computer was sort of a high pitched, vaguely familiar voice.
"Hah, hah. What are you doing in here boys and girls?"
"Stupid program," the man mumbled.
On the other side of the curtain Greenback went back to firing at the other half of our team. Chunks of the floor now had the same cartoon texture as our curtain. Things were, as usual when the rodent was involved, getting out of hand. The last thing in life I needed was a two dimensional partner.
"Well," I said loudly, "do something!"
Considering the old fellows age this was probably not the wisest approach I could have taken. He blanched white, whirled around and went a frightening shade of red.
Holding the microphone up again, he said, with a desperate note, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain..." He dropped the mic. "Bloody hell. That didn't even work the first time."
"Look, I don't care who you are, do something."
"Yes, quiet!" Penfold chimed in.
That seemed to get his attention. He squinted in our direction, then pushed the glasses that had been resting on his pointed cap down onto his substantial nose. He looked at the screen again.
I'm actually getting use to this by now.
He pushed aside the curtain (he pushed aside the curtain!?) and stepped out. "I say, stop that!"
Greenback took aim at him.
In the document in which I signed my life over to George Cowley there is a clause that says we have to act as heroic as possible at all times. But I want it noted here and now that calling my next move merely heroic would be like saying that Mel Gibson has an okay arse. I closed my eyes and jumped in front of the old bloke.
Nothing happened. Finally prying my eyes open I found Doyle standing next to me staring at the yellow ray that was frozen in mid-air not three inches from my...uh, best asset.
"Alright! What's all this then?" Merlin demanded.
"Merlin, old sod. Glad for the help."
"Too late!" The Baron croaked.
I looked at DM, waiting for him to do something, he looked at Merlin (?) waiting for him to do something; Penfold looked at DM, waiting for him to do something and Doyle looked at me - I have no idea why. While everyone was glancing about, Greenback shoved the dreaded diskette into the slot. Nothing happened.
"Sorry, Silas," Merlin said, "but you've been enough trouble tonight."
The old man raised a hand and the congested villain was suddenly on the monitor instead of on the monitor. Both he and the worm looked very surprised.
"No! You can't do this to me! I'm Baron Silas Greenback! I demand to be let out of here immediately. How dare you cut off..."
"The sound!" Penfold exclaimed, scampering up and flicking a switch.
"Good thinking, Penfold," DM approved.
"Someone start explaining." I pointed to the now animated toad. "What the hell just happened here? Why didn't Greenie's program work? Who the hell is the queer bird in the hat? How did..."
"I say, Bodie, calm down," DM suggested. "This is the great magician Merlin. Surely, even you've heard of him."
"Of course. And don't call me Shirley." That earned me a general moan from everyone in the room.
"Merlin," the ra... mouse continued, "this is Raymond Doyle and Bodie, of CI5."
"Ah, George's mob. Always pleased to met fellow Britons."
Ray suddenly snapped his fingers. "That's why the program didn't work! The computer isn't..."
"Isn't real," Merlin said with a smile. "It's only for show."
"You mean," I picked up on the rather strange line of thought that Ray had started. "That the Magic Kingdom..."
"Really is," the wizard confirmed.
"Ah, yes," DM said, "I should have recognized the style. I did wonder where you'd retired to. If I had known you were on duty we wouldn't have bothered coming down."
Before the mage could say anything a loud whistle sounded. "Ah, off duty at last."
He snapped off his cap, made a board, sweeping gesture and was suddenly wearing a full sized version of the same outfit Penfold was wearing!
"Ow, I like the clothes, Mr. Merlin," Penfold told him.
"Merlin." A deep voice spoke from the entrance.
A tall, rail thin man, with a long white beard was standing just inside the entrance. He was dressed in a neon green Epcot t-shirt with plaid shorts and leather sandals over a pair of blue socks. Has everyone in the world lost all sense of fashion? Maybe it's the Florida heat. As I watched this old sod did the same kind of sweeping gesture Merlin had, and was immediately dressed in a long white robe with gold symbols with a white cap.
"Gandalf," Merlin said. "Nice to see you."
"Have a good one," the other man said. He yawned and moved behind the curtain, stopping long enough to frown at it and turn it back into a regular curtain.
"Gentlemen, I say," Merlin said. "Let's go party!"
Ray smiled and threw his arm around my shoulders. Those beautiful green eyes had picked up a dangerous glint. "If you don't mind, Bodie and I have other..."
"Hmph. Another pair, just like Arthur and Frenchie."
"Another?" Now, this sounded interesting. "You mean all those nasty rumors about..."
"Come on, Bodie!" Ray was tugging at my arm. "We've got better things to do than talk about dead king's liasions."
Before I could ask anything else there was this flash and we were in our hotel room in the same position we had been in when the phone had first rang. Not being one to pass up an opportunity I kissed him.
At this point in time I decided that I could consider the whole affair one of three things - too much cotton candy, too little sex, or a Florida sun induced hallucination. Since there is absolutely no such thing as too much sugar or too much sex that left the third option, which meant I could go back to the important things in life, like taking Ray straight.. uh, directly to the bed..
"Do they spend a lot of time doing that sort of thing?" Merlin asked near the balconey.
"Too much," DM said with a sigh.
"Well, I think it's sweet," Penfold chimed in.
I pulled back. My patience had hit the limit with having my kissing critiqued by a ancient, retired wizard, a white, rodent super-spy and a hamster in an outfit that would curdle milk at a distance.
"Out! Everyone! Out!"
I jerked the door open, expecting outrage and protest. What I got was the smiling figures of varying sizes filing out in quiet obedience.
"Do say hallo to George for me," Merlin said, just as I started to close the door.
"Hang about!" I opened the door with a snap. "How do you know George Cowley?"
Merlin shook his head. "Sorry..."
"It's classified!" Everyone else in the room informed me.
"Classified?! Wait a minute..." I stopped, glanced at DM and Penfold, having an overwhelming sense of deja vu. This is where I'd come in.
"Never mind!" I slammed the door shut. I really didn't want to know.
I went back to something relatively safe, kissing Ray. The silly sod was laughing so hard that it took several tries before we got down to it. But an odd thing happened in the the middle of the kiss, this nasty, familiar little voice (sigh yeah, that one) kept asking me -can wizards get drunk?
-- THE END --