McEdifice Returns brought to you Timothy the Talking Cat, “cleans with a fresh aroma”, and Straw Puppy, “the miracle flour improver that will make your smile sparkle”.
Lights out was at 2100 hours. McEdifice made a stealthy exit from the barracks and then, using his cat like agility, he slip in through an open skylight into the Planetary Combat Services Support Storage Unit. McEdifice checked his chronometer. He had arranged with Trainee Chuckowitz to meet at the old boxing rink in exactly one hour. McEdifice would bring the supplies and Chuckowitz would help install the equipment in the right locations. Tomorrow, McEdifice would be fighting Drill Sergeant Ernie and if McEdifice was right then he’d be fighting not a mortal soldier but a fiendish, blood-sucking space vampire.
McEdifice would always fight fair but when it came to space vampires “fighting fair” meant bringing some substantial ordinance.
With a large wheelbarrow of equipment, McEdifice set off from the PCSS-SU and and hiked up the trail through the old spooky forest. It was quiet, too quiet. Also it was dark, too dark. And the road was rocky, too rocky and McEdifice wasn’t wearing any shoes. Luckily McEdifice had tough soles and a tough soul – tough enough to endure the dark, the quiet and the sharp stones on his feet.
Just then! A noise! A soft moan and the sound of a body dropping onto a forest floor!
McEdifice, his senses on high alert, parked the wheelbarrow and headed off the trail and into the thick of the forest.
He hadn’t gone far when he bumped into Trainee Feratu.
“Noz!” called McEdifice, relieved to see his fellow recruit.
“Oh, erm, hi,” said Noz sheepishly.
“What are you doing out in the spooky forest at this time of night?” asked McEdifice.
“Oh, just going for a walk like a regular person, ha, ha.” Noz laughed nervously.
“mmmumph,” a mumbled noise came from the undergrowth.
“Good grief!” cried McEdifice, “it’s Chuckowitz!”
“Oh, oh, yes – I came to help Chuckowitz! And then he tripped and…erm…, then he fell over.” explained Noz hurriedly.
“Hmm and it looks like he cut his neck?” said McEdifice helping an apparently dazed Chuckowitz to his feet.
“Oh dear! I’d better get him back to the barracks!” said Noz.
“Good thinking…wait, come over here into the light of my military grade flashlight.” said McEdifice with a strong hint of suspicion in his voice. “Show me your teeth Recruit Feratu!”
“My teeth? OK, just… I can explain OK.” said Noz nervously.
“I KNEW IT!” said McEdifice – the hint of suspicion had become a fully flavoured stock cube of triumph in his tone.
“Please don’t hurt me!” pleaded Noz.
“Space gingivitis!” said McEdifice.
“I never wanted to be a space vamp…what? Sorry, what did you say?”
“Gum disease man! Periodontal decay! You’ve all the classic symptoms!” McEdifice stuck his fingers into Noz’s mouth and began to point at various aspects of his gums. “See, receded gums make your teeth look long and pointy. They’ve also become discolored due to lack of care AND more concerning look at this! Blood! On your teeth man! You have bleeding gums! It’s even dripped onto your chin!” explained McEdifice.
“Awww come on,” said Noz, “enough with these messed up mind games. Just stick a stake in me already!”
“Mind games? Stuff and nonsense!” said McEdifice vehemently, “Good dental hygiene is not something to be made light of. Did I ever tell you of the time I had to chew my way out of the leather prison of Rawhide X24?”
“Yes, last Thursday evening. It was your bedtime story for the barracks.” said Noz resignedly.
“Then you know that strong healthy teeth are an essential element of the combat ready warrior’s arsenal! Get those teeth fixed young man!”
Noz looked around at is surroundings and re-appraised the situation. “I think I’d better help Chuckowitz back to the barracks,” he said tentatively.
“Oh,” McEdifice replied, “I was hoping you could both help me install this equipment.”
“I’d love to but your speech…it really moved me and I think…I think I’d better go and see the camp orthodontist right now.” said Noz backing away – pulling a sleep-walking Chuckowitz with him.
“Well, good for you! Don’t forget to come back later to see me fight!” called McEdifice to the departing Noz.
Alone again, McEdifice returned to his original purpose. High in the trees surrounding the old boxing rink, he assembled an automated arsenal of deadly death for the undead: crossbows with garlic infused birch wood stake bolts, holoprojectors loaded with hi-resolution full color renderings of crucifixes, state-of-the-art fire suppression sprinkler systems loaded will holy water, laser etched parabolic mirrors ready to concentrate the deadly rays of dawn’s light on his foe.
0530 hours. McEdifice was ready. The killing field for that which could not be killed was prepared. With 30 minutes to go, McEdifice stepped into the rink for a well-earned, if short, nap.
McEdifice woke with the sun his eyes. He looked up into the sky and he could see the contrail of an orbital liftcraft on its way to a Largrange Platform for interstellar transport. Its distant supersonic roar, reminding him of travels long forgotten…
He checked his chronometer. 0900 hours. What? He looked about. The clearing around him was empty. No eager recruits, no General O’Fiercegaiters, no Drill Sergeant Ernie ready for a boxing match. It was quiet, too quiet.
McEdifice stood up hurriedly, too hurriedly. His uncharacteristically ungainly movements from napping overly long in a boxing rink, triggered his anti-vampire booby traps. He was pummeled by small sharp sticks, blinded by sunlight, dazzled by Catholic-kitsch holograms, and finally drenched in overly-blessed H20.
Dejectedly he climbed down from the rink.
Just then came the sound of a bicycle on its way up the trail. Remarkably the sound was followed by the sight of a man on a bicycle as if the two things were connected somehow.
It was Drill Sergeant Ernie, in civilian clothes, on a bike.
“Drill Sergeant Ernie!” cried McEdifice, who was suprised by how relieved he was to see the misanthropic NCO.
“No, just plain old Mr Ernie these days. Just out on a recreational bike ride in these times of galactic peace.” said Mr Ernie the civilian.
“What? How long was I asleep for?” asked McEdifice in a state of panic.
Mr Ernie dismounted from his bike and looked at McEdifice solemnly. “It has been fifteen long years since we last met McEdifice. ‘Tis said that the spooky forest is haunted and those that anger the forest spirits have been known to sleep the sleep of a dozen-years-and-three.”
“Oh no!” cried McEdifice, “I never meant to anger the forest spirits!” he sobbed.
“Ah, I was just messing with you because you are such a tremendous arsehole.” said Mr Ernie, “It’s only been a few hours. Peace was declared last night. The camp was woken at five am and everybody was demobbed by six. Buses to the space port left at seven. You’d have known all this if you hadn’t broken regulations and snuck out last night.”
“Shit, but we still have a boxing duel to fight!” said McEdifice.
“No way! And don’t go thinking you can punch me. Now we are both officially civilians that would be common assault. Now, I’d better be on my way – my wife is expecting me back in an hour.”
“You aren’t leaving the planet with the rest of them?” asked McEdifice.
“No, I’m a local boy. I’m going back to my old job, faxing special offers for toner cartridges to offices. Oh, you’d better get a move on by the way. The last military transport leaves at ten thirty.” explained Mr Ernie.
“Shit! Can I borrow your bike?” asked McEdifice.
“No, because I hate you,” said Mr Ernie, “See you around helmet-head!” With that Mr Ernie cycled off into the distance.
Wet, confused and looking like he was wearing a bad attempt at a garlic-scented hedgehog costume, McEdifice looked at the long trail back to the camp and in the distance the dusty road back to the space port and said, ever so softly as if not to anger the forest spirits: “Nooooooooo”.