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a novel


            composed by

              W.C. STUART

            under the direction of

              HANS WOODMAN

/   /  /  / / / // Chapter 08: // / / /  /  /   /


       They were all roused in the morning at around 9:00.  It wasn't easy to figure out when the light from overhead was no longer the flood lamp and became the light of the sun hitting them from the stairs.  Richard and Tiffany woke first; they were used to the schedule of the factory.  Spencer was next, and the moment he woke up he rolled over and fumbled to turn off his alarm clock - he ended up hitting Paul in the face.

       "Augh!" Paul shook himself off a little and stood up.  Spencer became aware of the world, and the first he knew of it was that Tiffany was laughing at him.

       "Whasso funny?" he said, his eyes unable to focus.  Tiffany couldn't remember, of course, her reason for laughing at Spencer's use of Paul's nose as a "snooze" button; the matter was dropped.  It was morning; the time for bickering had ended with the first unseen rays of sunshine.

       "We're going to have to walk back to the factory to get breakfast." Paul said after everyone was ready to go.  "It took us an hour to get here from the factory,"

       "But the guards are already going to be back from breakfast by then!" it was Tiffany that spoke up.  She's actually starting to sound like my sister, not like someone who... doesn't exist, Spencer thought to himself.  Maybe by the end if this she'll be back to normal.

       "When do they usually come back?"

       "About nine thirty, but they don't get back to their posts until a little later."

       "That means we've got to really hurry, and looking at eating at nine thirty, earlier if we hurry.  Spencer, why in the world are you bringing the bag of gold?"

       "Are you kidding?  It's a bag of gold!  That's reason enough to bring it along.  I mean, come on." Spencer found a backpack in the pile of junk and placed the bag of gold in it.  It was only the size of a grapefruit, not really warranting a backpack, but too big and heavy to carry by hand.

       "If you're the reason we don't eat this morning, I'm going to be angry with you and your bag of gold." Paul said as he started up the stairs.

       Twenty minutes was all it took to get back to the factory.  The Bobblin cars were not in the parking lot.  Spencer led the way, despite his increased burden.  They ran inside, and found the break room set up as a continental breakfast.  Heidi was the only one to leave her station to join them.  Paul kept asking her if she was sure she didn't want to come with them - each time she told him she was pretty sure.  They had orange juice, toast and bagels, and before they left they each brought a little something with them to eat on the way.  Heidi told them to hurry out the back way, instead, because the Bobblins were coming in the front door.  Heidi returned to her station.

       "I can't believe they're all making Bean Friends."  Spencer had been saying it in his head while they ate breakfast; he said it aloud when they were losing sight of it behind and below them - it was situated in a kind of depression in the ground, making it hard to see once you got a certain distance away.  Paul answered him after walking a few seconds more.

       "Of course, they're making Bean Friends.  Do you think the Bobblins would have to make them forget their lives is they were making sometihng else?"

       "It's true." Spencer finished his doughnut and dropped the napkin in the nearest public wastebasket, one of the few structures not reduced to rubble in this place.

       They walked for as long as it took to get to the crack in the bowl mentioned in the map.  They knew it was the right place when they saw an empty parking lot and a door hanging in the air.

       "There's the crack, looks like.  But... where's the edge of the bowl?" Paul walked up to the door hanging in the air.

       "Right here."  Spencer put his hand on the empty air around him.  Paul stepped away from the door and did the same - his fingers hit against something hard and rough. "Ouch!"

       "Who's there?" from behind where they could walk they heard a voice.  Through the door came two guards - both Bobblins, dressed in gray uniforms.  "Oh, hi Tiffany.  You know I can't let you through, boss wouldn't be happy, not at all."  Spencer smiled - this guy is actually nice.  Tiffany was smiling, too.

       "I know you can't, that's ok.  Here, meet my brother, Spencer, and his friend, Paul."  She's really different - she's never introduced me like that, thought Spencer.

       "Hello, you two.  We've never seen you out here before.  New out of the factory?"

       "No, they're just visiting.  Richard's here, too.  I finally taught him how to play bridge.  Here, you two north and south again?"  Tiffany took the deck of cards they'd been playing with last night out of her back pocket.

       "Sure thing, Tiffany.  Say, you brought your own deck?  That's good, 'cause Bernhard didn't bring his today."  The guards sat down, and Tiffany winked at Paul and Spencer as Tiffany, Richard, and the two guards sat on the concerete and Tiffany began shuffling the deck. 

       Paul and Spencer walked up to the door and pushed on the handle - it swung outward, and they walked through into a large, empty cafeteria.  Paul had just enough time to mutter "That old woman and her puns..." before he looked up.  The clock on the wall read 11:58.

       They began to run.  They ran to the end of the cafeteria opposite the serving line.  They were running to the door when a voice stopped them.

       "Wait for me!" it was Tiffany's voice.

       "Tiffany?" Spencer turned around.  It was, indeed, Tiffany.  "This is great!  How did you escape?"

       "Simple.  The three of them wanted to play spades, and of I've never learned the rules, so they played by themselves and said I could sit this one out."

       "Didn't they realize where we went?"

       "Bernard and Rob are nice guys, but when they start playing cards, they're not very good at noticing what's going on around them.  Maybe after a hand or two they'll realize where I've gone."

       "But you... why did you decide to come with us anyway?"

       "After hearing about you and your parents, I think I'd be stupid to not want to find out more about who I was.  Maybe who I can still be.  Anyway, this isn't the first time I've seen this cafeteria.  I opened the door, once, while Rob was thinking about a play.  Rob turned to me and yelled to close it, of course, or I would have already gotten out of this place."

       "But we... Paul, shouldn't we be back in the forest, now?  How do we get back there?"

       "That bowl must have

*         Lunch Bell. Gordon said it tacitly,        in the way he was looking nervously       toward the sky, fidgeting with his           pocketwatch.

*         Brilliant! David shouted as eagerly        as he would had the words actually          come out of his mouth.

       The clock on the wall read 12:00.  A hundred bells buzzed loudly all around them, making all three of them jump and cover their ears.

       When the buzzing stopped, Bernhard came running in, shouting "Hey!  Don't do that!"  At the same time, two Bobblins came in, talking to one another, not looking up to see the three humans that were standing there staring at them like forest animals stare at a coming truck.

       Without thinking, Spencer took the meat tenderizer he'd been carrying and hit Bernhard squarely on the head with it.  Without time for either one to realize what happened, Bernhard made a loud *pop* - actually, the space around Bernhard did, because Bernhard was no longer there.  Nothing, nothing from his head to his stone-grey uniform to his shoes - remained.  The head of the hammer swung down and hit the ground about a yard in front of Spencer's feet.  Tiffany and about three other Bobblins gasped.

       "What happened?" it was Spencer himself that asked it, but no one answered.

       "This is some crazy dream we're having, isn't it, Spencer?"  Paul grinned.

       "It sure is.  I hope I don't wake up anytime soon."  He grinned back.  Then, taking the meat tenderizer in both hands, he turned to the crowd now staring at him from the direction of the door.  "Now, which one of you is goign to lead us to the palacial chamber?"


       "I think he's just fine, Tiffany.  If it'd hurt him, I figure there'd be more of him left to find.  I think it actually just sent him somewhere, just like the water brought us into the bowl.  He's in mallet-world now, along with those guards.  So let's just worry about our other friends."

       It was Paul speaking.  They were standing in front of King Raymond's study.  The two guards in front of his study joined three others and Bernhard that had disappeared when Spencer hit them on the head.  It was just a matter, then, of getting King Raymond to take their friends out of the bowl, ("And give me back my mother's bowl," Spencer reminded) and leave the way they'd come - World Navel U-Trains.

       With as loud a noise as the door would make, they threw open the doors and stepped into the low-ceilinged room.  King Raymond was sitting at a desk, dressed in a red sweatsuit that didn't lok very royal.  In fact, it rather reminded Spencer of Santa Claus.  He was wearing glasses, writing some kind of document on brown parchment with a blue ball-point pen, which fluttered to the floor as he turned around swiftly on his swiveling chair.

       "What's all this?  What's all this?!"  He looked up at the stooping three, and saw the meat tenderizer in Spencer's hand.  "What do you want!"  If he was scared, he didn't show it.

       "We just want some explaination, is all, your highness."  Paul bowed to the king, who was shorter even than most Bobblins they'd seen, little more than half Spencer's height.

       "Ah, I see you have some manners.  What can I explain for you that my guards or advisors couldn't?"

       "Well, quite a few things, actually.  And, we're hoping you'll be able to help us, too."

       "Help you?  All right, I'm not the one holding the bludgeoning tool.  Tell me what you want."

/   /  /  / / / // Chapter 09: // / / /  /  /   /


       "Just one question, Your Highness.   My friend here, Spencer.  There are three things of his that were taken by your servants.  His bowl, his sister's memories, and his classmates."

       "Oh, this is about THAT.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  It's a long story, but I'll tell it to you in as short a terms as I can, as this speech of mine needs writing, and there are some affaris to attend to such as the hiring of more guards to replace the ones you trapped in that mallet.

       "Your mother, at her wedding, was given a bowl by her friend and my greatest enemy, Jones the sorcerer."

       "Sorcerer?  My mom never told me he..."

       "No, she was not aware of his position as a sorceror and would therefore never adress him as such.  That bowl that your mother was given originally belonged to my grandfather.  It was a priceless magical artifact, stolen by Jones some sixty years ago, as a result of a long-standing grudge between his kind and mine.  It has the same properties as the bowl I currently use - the one I use now was used as a common serving bowl for a very long time, and its surface had been ground, as you no doubt saw while you were inside."

       "How did you know we were inside?"

       "That's a good question.  How did I know that?  Anyway, that bowl would have been my greatest heirloom had it been in the family when I assumed the throne.  It was our family's most prized posession.  It has not been damaged, and it is an enormous land, with a lot of room for the more luxurious housing of my workers."

       "You mean your slaves."

       "Well, I can't speak for them, but I value them much more highly than I think you give me credit for.  They themselves prefer to work at that run-down facility than do anything else.  The motivation behind the bowl is for their sake as well as mine.  You see, I plan on expanding my business.  Bean Friends aren't going to be the trendy thing for very long, soon it'll be fuzzy armbands, or dollar-sign removable tattoos, or some other crazy thing.  I'll just have to wait and see."

       "That's all well and good, Your Highness..."

       "Please, call me Raymond."

       "Raymond.  I don't care about your business.  These are more than just your workers.  They're my friends, they're people's sisters, brothers, children."

       "Not anymore.  Their parents wouldn't take them back.  They wouldn't know their parents."

       "That's because you somehow took away their memories!"

       "And I can't change it back.  I don't know who can.  so do you want me to send them back, where no memory of them exists, where they aren't wanted?  To you want me to keep them cramped up in that factory they're in now, or do you want me to give them each a place to live and work, and a beautiful place worthy of spending their free time in?  You tell me.  What do you want me to do?"

       "I want their memories back.  I want them to come back."

       "That's probably impossible.  If that's what you want, I can't find your answer."

       "You jerk!" Spencer raised the meat tenderizer and let it fall on King Raymond's head.  It made a noise as it bounced off his head, a sort of muffled "GOK".

       "Ouch!"  King Raymond immediately began rubbing his head at the sore spot.  "What did you go and do that for?"

       "It's... It's supposed to make you disappear!"

       "Well, then it's full, isn't it!  Oh..."  King Raymond held his hands over the top of his head.  A small bump had already appeared where Spencer had hit him.  "That was really... I mean,

*         "Disembodied mercenary hands."

*         "Brilliant!"

you hit harder than those guys do!"  King Raymond waved his hand at the army of floating hands now arranged in straight lines behind Spencer.  Each of them held the same weapon - the meat tenderizer, long handle and all.  One of the hands floated up in front of Spencer.

       "Hello, we're floating disembodied mercenary hands.  We saw you were using one of our weapons, and wanted to ask if you could use a few more, and maybe some hired hands to help you use them."  If the hand could have grinned, it would have done so then.  Spencer imagined it would have had missing teeth, too.

       "Sure.  Go and hit every Bobblin on the head with those mallets you can.  Will this bag of gold be enough?"  Spencer pulled off his backpack and pulled out the bag of gold, holding it in the air for the disembodied hand to see.  Spencer hoped it had eyes.

       "Yeah, that'll be just fine.  I'll send out squad one immediately."

       "I don't see what purpose this will serve..." King Raymond said, still clinging to his head.  The disembodied hands had all left the room, and from somewhere outside and below the chamber they could hear shouted commands.

       Paul asked if he could sit down, but said nothing else.  After a few minutes King Raymond returned to his speech with his right hand and kept rubbing the top of his head with his left, a reddish goose-egg standing up now where he'd been hit.  In a few minutes the head mercenary hand came rushing into the chamber.

       "Sorry, forgot ome thing, just procedural, really, but I'm supposed to ask you for a down-payment.  Half now and half later, for instance.  Not because I don't trust you, mind, but it's just the way we've always done it, you see.

       "Sure.  Here, I've counted it out.  There's three hundred six pieces of gold in the bag..."

       "You counted it all out already?  When did you do that?" Asked Paul incredulously.

       "When you guys were sleeping last night." Spencer replied, indifferently.  "Anyway, three hundred six pieces, which means... a hundred eighty three for you now."

       "hundred fifty three.  That's half."

       "Oh!  She's right.  A hundred fifty three now.  Here, I'll help you count it out..." Spencer opened the bag, and his eyes became wide enough to show whites all around.  "I... I don't... I'm sorry!"

       Paul stood up from where he was sitting and looked inside the bag.  He shook his head and say back down.  "It's your mess, Spencer.  You'd better sort it out."

       "What is it?  Did he miscount?"  The hand moved closer to the bag and peered inside.  "I see.  I'll be right back.  Grasper!"  The hand had called over the balcony at the hands now chasing Bobblins down the hill around the castle. 

       Immediately they stopped and turned around, shouting "Grasper!" to the hands at the castle walls, who, in turn, shouted it to whomever was in the castle that had not yet heard.  "Grasper!" was heard everywhere.

       "Grasper?" Spencer dropped the bag.  It squished when it landed - Tiffany looked inside.

       "Chocolate?  How could you mistake chocolate for gold?"

       "It wasn't chocolate when I found it..." Spencer was white, and on the verge of tears.  Paul stood up again and looked straight at the hand.  "What do you mean by 'grasper'?"

       "A grasper is what we call someone who chooses to grasp his money rather than let it freely go to his hirelings.  Technically it's not what he is, but we treat the cases in the same way."

       "How do you treat it?"

       "We're going to run him out of town."

       A loud moan rose up from the floor.

* * *

       "And by the way," King Raymond was shouting at them as they ran down the hill, chased by an army of hands carrying meat tenderizers, "I know how to free your friends.  But I wasn't about to tell you!"

       Spencer was running in front, crying audibly and half a step away from falling flat on his face.  Tiffany and Paul were not many steps behind, in either sense.  One good thing about the hands was that they weren't very fast, either by nature or by choice, and the three of them were slowly increasing the distance between themselves and their would-be punshiers. 

       It was clear after a while, though, that they wouldn't be able to keep up their speedy pace forever.  Spencer was already slowing down, and Tiffany and Paul caught up with him, and grabbed his shoulders and kept him from falling back into the crowd of disembodied hands.  They, too, seemed to be losing their stamina, and with twice their body weight each in the long-handled wooden hammers they carried, it was clear they might not be able to keep it up, either.  Some were already stopping, but others weren't.  The leader was still going strong; he wasn't even losing ground.  His mallet was still raised, ready to strike.

       They had been running toward the Bobblin Valley city limits.  In fact, they'd already crossed them.  All around them was now a kind of grassy, rocky wilderness, with a few trees and bushes.  Inexplicably, Spencer turned and headed straight for an upcoming wall of rock, speeding up and pulling his hands away from Paul's and Tiffany's.  Though it was not obvious what he was doing at first, it became so soon - a small, unnoticed cut in the rock revealed a dark area, and Spencer was heading for it in the hopes that it would be a cave, and that he, Paul and Tiffany would be able to get through it, but that the disembodied hands would not.

       Not knowing what else to do, Paul and Tiffany followed.  Spencer pushed himself through the crack as fast as seemed possible.  Tiffany followed - Paul was the last to push himself through.  A mallet flew through the crack - it bounced and fell harmlessly to the floor, a few feet from where Spencer, Paul and Tiffany were sitting.  It was, indeed a cave - big enough and dark enough where none of the three of them could tell just how much of it they'd already been in.  The hands remained outside, inexplicability.  The lead hand shouted in after them.

       "We've run you out of the town, but we're not done with you yet.  We'll be waiting.  You make sure you remember that.  Don't even try to sneak out; we've got you covered."

       That was the last said between them.  They waited there.  Boredom set in after some time.  They were thirsty, but there was nothing they could do about it.  It began to rain outside, and they got to talking again, about things that had happened to Spencer, and his parents, and Tiffany.  Paul gave a lecture on the Mayan culture that was well-recieved; it was the sort of thing at which the old Tiffany would have turned up her nose; this Tiffany liked it even more than Spencer did.  The old Tiffany was my sister, true, Spencer thought to himself realizing this fact, but the new Tiffany is my sister and my friend.

*         "Flash Flood."

*         "Brilliant!"

       Just then, the weather took a turn for the worse.  The hands were seen huddling under umbrellas - it was not clear from where they had been produced.  Water suddenly came in - and kept coming in.

       The feeling, though it shouldn't have been, was much the same as when Spencer had first found himself in the bowl.  He felt himself being lifted, carried down the increasingly dark tunnels by some unknown force - the water was all around him, but that was not enough to provide the kind of force that was being placed upon him.

       He kept floating down, down, down - there seemed to be no end.  He had lost track of his friends, and lost track of time.  He didn't try to breathe.  In fact, he didn't try not to breathe.  There was, however, no end in sight to the water.  Soon the ringing in his ears overpowered the sound of water motion, and he passed out.

/   /  /  / / / // Chapter 10: // / / /  /  /   /


       Spencer woke up.  He was soaking wet, but he felt quite comfortable.  The rock here was quite warm - when he stood his shirt stuck to him front and back, and only his front felt cold.  He layed down on his stomach to try and get the full effect of teh unusually warm rock underneath him.  It didn't work - his back cooled more quickly than his front warmed.

       He stood - he couldn't see his friends, but he could hear them; Paul was already up and following the wall with the scrape of his hand; Tiffany was stirring, perhaps sitting, but she was not walking around.

       "Paul?  Spencer?"  No, Tiffany was the one walking, and Paul the one sitting.  It was dfficult to tell for sure, though, because the reverberation of the cave blurred a sound's origin.  Eventually they found one another, and stood together, wet, cold, and getting colder, wondering each in their heads what they were going to do.

       Paul explained that he thought it was ridiculous to try and climb back out now - they were too thirsty, too hungry, too tired to do that.  It occured to them that it may very well be after dark, and even if they got all the way back up, those hands may still be there to prevent them from getting anything.

       "The only solution," Paul finished, "Is that we must go in search of that water.  It has to be in here somewhere.  If we can find that water, we can drink.  If we can drink, maybe we can figure our way out of this place."

       "And if we don't?"

       "There is no 'we don't.'  We do.  We just do."

       The next hour was the most difficult in memory for the three of them.  They weaved about in the tunnels, not knowing which way led downhill or uphill, not even knowing if it mattered.  At the end of this hour, all three, without need for verbal agreement, sat down and leaned against the wall. 

       As Spencer sat, his eyes slowly adjusted to the light.  Light?  he thought to himself, as he looked off to the light that was now clearly shining from somewhere beyond his line of sight, from a tunnel that branched off from the cavern they leaned against.

       "Paul, do you see it too?"

       "You mean the light?  Yes, I see it.  In fact, I'm thinking about going down that tunnel, when my eyes adjust a little more to the light."

       Ten minutes later, the three of them were crawling through the tunnel, turning down each passageway from which the light shone still brighter.  Turn after turn, and they became amazed at just how far the light had traveled to reach them where they were.  Soon, their eyes could see the rock in it's many deformations pass behind them as they crawled, unobscured by any hint of the former darkness in which they had crawled.  It only took a minute after that, but it felt like much longer.

       Their current tunnel widened and its floor sloped downward until they were standing and walking three abreast, without having to stop or squeeze closer together.  It was clear that whatever it was they were looking for, it was around the very next corner  They were now bathed in undiluted blue light.  Paul rushed toward the edge, motioned that it was safe, and Spencer and Tiffany turned to look.

       Saying nothing, the three of them stepped into a smooth, large, nearly empty cavern.  The rest of the world seemed to disappear as their eyes adjusted to the new light.  Soon their world consisted only of that cavern, then only the large tank of water flooding the world with blue light, which became the world itself.

       The world had but a single inhabitant.  She was hanging there in the world by means of two wide hooks attached to the ceiling; they fit snugly under her arms.  In fact, the entire package, water tank and girl, looked complete together, as though without the other, the one would not be complete.  Her dress was a bathing suit; its actual color could not be determined in the blue light.

       Spencer became aware of two embellishments to an world empty of all save that which has been mentioned.  The first was an engraving on the base of the tank.  It read, "Property of the Bobblin King Mokli.  Care of the current Bobblin King."  The second was a large red button, lighted from behind, giving it a purple look.

       "What do you suppose this is?" it was Tiffany that spoke.  Paul and Spencer didn't reply.  They could not talk.  They couldn't even think.  The girl's looks were doing the thinking for them, now. 

       "What's this?"  Tiffany pointed to the red button near Spencer's foot.  Spencer didn't look to see to what she was referring.  She hit the button with the toe of her shoe.  The blue light flickered and went out.  The world was suddenly nothing at all.


       "Turn that back on!"

       Tiffany hit the button again.  Nothing happened.

       "I can't!"

       "Now look what you did!  Now we'll not be able to find our way out again, and it'll be your..." Paul stopped talking.  The tank was rumbling, shaking at its very foundation.  They could hear it in the black air aound them and feel the vibrations from the hard stone below them.  A high-pitched cracking could he heard as the glass weakened and gave.

       There was an explosion.  Water felt like it completely covered Spencer.  It got in his eyes.  It was salty, and his eyes stung.  He fell to his knees.  The glass was around, too, but he wasn't paying enough attention to the ground to notice.  Spencer rubbed his eyes for about a minute, then pulled them open.  They were all right now.  In front of him was the girl, still asleep.

       "What do we do now?"  The question came from Paul, who then picked up the girl's hand, letting it fall.  It fell, and then again after he tried again, straight to the ground, with no indication that the girl's muscles had intervened.  He tried a third time, and before he could let it fall, the girl's hand grabbed his.  Paul yelled with pain.  She'd grabbed him between the thumb and forefinger, and hard, too, by the way he was yelling.  She sat up, whipping his arm around until it was pinned behind his back.

       "Don't do that again."  Her voice was lower than Tiffany's, but higher than Spencer's or Paul's; it flowed, but only due to its terseness - she spoke like an officer giving orders.

       "Ok!  Ok!  That hurts, you know."

       She held his arm there for a few more seconds, then let him go.  He pulled his arm back around to the front, massaging where she'd first pinched him, bettween the thumb and forefinger.  She then turned to face Spencer.  She didn't look very happy.

       "What are you doing here?"  It was in the tone of voice which really meant 'What are you kids doing here?' but she wasn't any older than they were, she couldn't be.  It was the first time Spencer had heard someone of that age using the tone of voice he heard.  "Well?  Are the Bobblins defeated?  Did we win the war?"

       "I don't.... think so," for once, Paul was out of his element.  He was still rubbing the spot between his thumb and forefinger, and he looked at the girl like a child ready to be punished.

       "You don't... think so?  So you don't know?  Who is the current King?"

       "King Raymond."  Tiffany answered her, and seemed the least intimidated by this strange girl and her agressive ways.  "We're the only humans here.  Everyone else is in slavery."

       "I see.  What year is it?"

       "Two thousand and one."

       "I don't care about your years, I meant which year is it in Bobblin years!"

       "I... we don't know Bobblin years."

       "You live in a Bobblin land, and you don't even know how to count their years?  What are you, some kind of idiot?"

       "Yes," it was Paul.  His head was down. "Yes, we are.  We can't answer any of your questions, because we're incapable of complex thought."

       "Well, as long as that's settled."  She smiled; no one else did.  "I don't know just how long I've been down here, but it must have been a long time, and now I'm hungry.  You didn't happen to bring any food with you?"

       "No.  We didn't."

       "But surely you... no, I guess you didn't know I was down here.  All of this was just a big accident, then?"

       "Yes, it was."

       "Let's get out of here then and find me something to eat.  She stood up and began immediately to walk - it like a march in its rhythm and accuracy, like a ballet step in its lightness and agility.  Spencer, Paul and Tiffany scrambled to their feet and began sloshing after her."

* * * *

       "Four thousand and one?  In Bobblin years?"

       "Yes, ma'am, that's right, in Bobblin years." it was the lead hand of the disembodied hands.  He had just informed her that she'd been put in that glass case alomst 400 years ago.

       "Thank you.  These," she motioned to Paul, Spencer, and Tiffany, "are coming with me.  Do you have any objection?"

       "None whatsoever.  The one boy owes a small debt to us, but we will forgive it him."  The disembodied hand, if he did not know her, certainly knew something about her, because he was not about to do anything to upset her.  As soon as she'd walked by them, the hands left for the south at their top speed.

       They had made their way out of the cave by means of a staircase that the girl, whose name was Belisse, had known about.  Paul told her everything he could about what they were doing, and why they needed to return Spencer's mother's bowl, and the school full of children.

       She had said nothing about helping them or not helping them until they showed up at a deli on the edge of town and ordered some sandwiches.  Having taken in all they could, Paul asked if she would help them out.

       "I don't know about bowls or kids or schools.  They're all good things, and I want to hurt the Bobblins, and that would be a good way, but it's not the best way.  I have to kill Raymond and exact my revenge.  Then I have to utterly destroy this place.  It will take me the rest of my life, but these Bobblins don't deserve this place, and if I the only one that can take it from them, then I have to do it."

       "But you can't!  If you kill Raymond, then he will never undo his magic, and hundreds of kids, kids just like you, will be trapped forever, without memories!"

       "Why should i care?"  Paul opened his mouth to reply, but nothing came out.  Belisse walked out of the deli and shut the door.