Saturday, October 23, 2004


Operation Scarecrow

We're all here in the big tank. Everybody but the president. Veep Kerry's here, with his extra-large face mask and underwater conference apparatus. I've got my apparatus on as well, but I'm over in the corner. Mullah Billdoug just arrived from Tahiti--but of course he doesn't need any special equipment to dwell or communicate underwater. Two large tuna operatives just back from Houston and an elderly whiskered scientist named Catfish Billy swim in lazy circles, waiting for Lincoln to arrive.

Mullah Billdoug looks like something the dolphins drug in, which, of course, in a strict sense he is: that's who brought him here from Tahiti. But he's got two black eyes, a missing tooth, and angry red pustules on his lips and the tip of his tongue. He isn't talking about his midadventures in the South Pacific, but I gather they involved a sea lion, a vat of sheep dip, and four toothless Tahitian girls unaccountably named after the wives of the Prophet.

Now Lincoln rides in through the water lock and we all come to order.

"I want to hear from Charlie first," he says.

One of the tunas swims forward an inch or two.

"Houston is the epicenter of the mantid infestation," he says. "We were able to trace the phenomonic and allomonic communication lines from seventeen points around the perimeter of the city to a single condemned building in the Second Ward. We assume that's where Blattodea's holed up."

"Good work, boys," Lincoln says. "John?"

"Yes Abe," Kerry says, blinking earnestly inside his face mask.

"Slide back a little. I can't see Mullah Billdoug."

"Oh, sure, sorry, Abe," Kerry says, and slides back.

"Thanks," Lincoln says. "Mullah? Any luck with the thoughts they've been thinkin about how they'll be killin Lincoln?"

"I've managed to intercept a sizable amount of rush-hour thought traffic," the Mullah slurps. "And I agree with Charlie. The infestation tracks back telepathically to Houston as well. The leaders of the Million Mantid March check back with Blattodea hourly, using mental telepathy to coordinate their advance on Washington, the takeover of human hosts, and baseball scores."

"Excellent. Catfish Billy? How long till the hydrogen bug bomb is operational?"

"Well now," Catfish Billy says, flapping his gills a few times for emphasis, "that is an interesting question."

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