The canoe "landed" on dry ground... but rather than a tropical jungle, it was a cold Northern forest. Li was further surprised when a crude arrow abruptly appeared fromm nowhere, lodged in Dobbs' cowboy hat.
Spears and arrows suddenly rained upon them, pincushioning the canoe as Li and Crazy Horse ducked down into the bowels of the vessel.
"Hellfire -- wrong god-damn spearchuckers!" shouted "Bob" to his confused companions, remaining carelessly upright. "Must be more AntiBob saboutage! Backpaddle! Stern ho! Let's get our butts outa here!"
Dobbs' senseless paddling was ludicrously ineffectual, of course; the canoe was far from any lake or stream. Yet, though he was a nonsensically easy target, not one of the countless missiles touched him. Human figures were increasingly visible as they darted closer and closer between the trees: pale-faced individuals with beards and furry clothing.
"We been screwed again," shouted Dobbs. "This ain't Africa! The AntiBob must've plunked us down right in pre-Roman England or somesuch place, in the middle of these fuckin' Druids! Let's haul ass!"
While Dobbs had been shouting, Crazy Horse and Li Li-jing had already crept from the too-vulnerable canoe into a nearby creekbed. Dobbs ran to join them, but so heedlessly did he expose himself that when he reached the ditch his backside was almost comically pincushioned with arrows.
Dobbs suddenly howled in pain -- but not from the arrows, which he scarcely seemed to notice. "Wait a minute! I... I have to... take a shit... right NOW!" "Bob" grimaced piteously, tears streaming down his face, his hands tearing his belt buckle loose. He was facing away from the Druids -- and, as he bent over to yank down his pants, the arrows spontaneously flew backwards out of his butt, pelting their unseen attackers like quills shot from a porcupine.
Still doubled over behind the creek ridge, Dobbs strained with a fearsome effort, his whitened knuckles clutching his knees. He groaned loudly. Dobbs looked as if he were about to explode. Li backed away from him instinctively, noting strange markings on Dobbs' buttocks.
"Must... break... wind..." grunted Dobbs, sweat breaking out upon his brow. "Too... much ... pressure..."
To Li's surprise, Dobbs suddenly thrust his buttocks over the edge of the protecting ridge. It was then that Li clearly saw two huge, reptilian eyeballs tatooed on Dobbs' rump. To the attacking druids, it must have resembled some hideous beast rising up out of the creek.
"Must... pyroflatulate..." gasped Dobbs through his clenched teeth. "Our... only... chance..." Grimacing in agony, Dobbs fetched a plastic lighter from his pocket, and held it just under his bare, exposed rectum, past which arrows were still flying.
"It... comes... NOW!" Dobbs shouted, and with that he flicked the lighter. An impossible burst of firey blue gassy flame sprayed like a flame-thrower from his nether regions for at least a full minute, sweeping the woods as the Slackmaster wriggled his sacred booty back and forth in pain. From the now-burning woods came ear-splitting screams loud enough to drown out the farting noise of Dobbs' 'seizure.'
Suddenly, the Druids across the clearing let out an even louder series of panicky yelps and babbling, independent of those of the burn victims mutilated by Dobbs' pyroflatulation. Arrows from some third party were now zinging overhead, from the opposite side of the woods! Many were reaching their marks, Li estimated, judging from the cries of pain and the death gurgles emanating from the Druids. Soon it became evident that the Druids had fled. (And they carried with them the seed of all future Celtic legends of dragons. Their leader, Beowulf, would later brag about this episode interminably, in bad rhyme.) Of their benefactor, there was no visible sign.
"Well," Dobbs slurred to Li and Crazy Horse, pulling up his pants. "I hate doing that in front of you guys, but at least we're safe from those damn Limey cavemen."
"But who are the others that aided us?" wondered Li.
In answer, an unearthly, witchy voice squeaked from the forest, "Your enemies flee not only from your magic, but also mine."
Out of the woods strode a two-headed black man at least seven feet in height, armed with a gigantic bow. Of his two heads, one was dusky and handsome, and the other palid and wrinkled, with straggly white hair.
Li, Crazy Horse and even Dobbs froze in astonishment.
"Fear not; for we are friends," bleated the pale head in modern English, as the monster bowed to them. It was then that Li discerned that this was no two-headed giant, but a one-headed ebony giant with a tiny, deformed Caucasian dwarf strapped to his back, riding him 'papoose'-style and peering over his shoulder. The wizened face of the dwarf lolled, and drool dribbled from its toothless mouth, but it spoke again quite clearly.
"I speak for the giant who carries me. He is Usuthu, son of an Ethiopian slave, who has nevertheless become a great warrior and magician. I am Janiti, an unfortunate cripple and Wiccan priestess gifted by the Moon Goddess with the magic of Speaking All Tongues."
"Holy shit! What the fuck is this?" griped Dobbs, bravely maintaining a false grin in the face of knuckle-gnawing fear.
"Hold your tongue, and earn our aid," snapped the dwarf. "My friend Usuthu and I are not demons, but mortals like yourselves. Our presence together, in this time and place, is no evil magic -- only a product of whims of Fate so utterly improbable as to make the most inane religious superstitions seem logical by comparison. Until recently, Usuthu was the companion of the great Viking explorer, Halberd. As they were returning home from a quest in the Unknown World -- the land from whence you come, as I judge from my visions -- they stopped for provisions on this Isle of the Picts and were separated. It so happened that I, due to my hideous appearance and witching skills, had been cast out of my tribe to die in the forest. As I neared death, I experienced a vision of you and your quest. It was then that Usuthu found me, and recognized in me the magical abilities for which my own people had sentenced me to death, even though I was a harmless woman who wished only to heal the sick."
"That retard is a woman?" gasped Dobbs, insensitively.
Usuthu again muttered in the dwarf's ear.
"My goal is to accompany you on your Quest so that the First "Bob" is not disgusted that only males have approached him. Usuthu determined to join me, for he is curious but not inexperienced regarding matters of the Dream Time."
Dobbs stood slack-jawed. "Well, I'll be god damned," he muttered. "This is like something out of a really bad movie."
"Usuthu wishes to know," continued the dwarf, "whether you truly intend to meet with the great god of his mother's tribe, the fearsome and tyrannical Bahaab Dahaabs, who he imagines has aided him magically many times in the past. If this be so, he will gladly join you and, moreover, continue to carry my pitiful physical vessel so that my gifts of speech might aid you in your infinite clumsiness... and that he may pay personal homage to his god. I would suggest," the dwarf croaked with a hint of sarcasm, "that you accept our offer to join you, as our skills are gifts granted by the gods only once in a thousand generations, and the likelihood of our meeting this way by chance alone are so astronomical as to further suggest either divine or demonic intervention."
"Well...gosh," said Dobbs, after a short pause. "I can't hardly refuse that, now can I! You're both too weird to be agents of the AntiBob. One thing bothers me, though. Are you sure you're a woman?"
Li cringed in shame. Truly, Dobbs was an uncouth man. But the dwarf seemed happy to answer.
Scrunching up higher on Usuthu's back, she exposed her chest and flopped a droopy, stretch-marked teat over the black giant's shoulder.
Dobbs emitted a wolf-whistle and nudged Li rudely with his elbow, winking lasciviously.
"I am indeed a woman, though not of the same mundane design as those of your world, nor of most others, " she cackled, ignoring Dobbs' crudeness.
"Say," Dobbs uttered sleazily. "Are you married, by any chance?"
"I am married to the spirits of the mind, through whom all could communicate, could they but hear truly," answered the crippled hag.
"Oh... yeah," said Dobbs, obviously not understanding. "Well.. then... look, I'm supposed to be saving my wife and the universe, and the next stop is Bahaab's pad, dig? So what're we waiting for?"
The hag whispered once more into the ears of the warrior Uhuthu. He nodded and she said, "You are impetuous, Caucasian "Bob," but right. We must all hurry to meet and vanquish the forces of evil, lest they gain more strength by making your wife perform sexual acts upon them."
Smoke blew copiously from "Bob's" pipe and every orifice of his head, even the corners by his eyes.
"Then we go! Now! Everybody get in the canoe! I MEAN FUCKING RIGHT GOD DAMN NOW!!"
Because the canoe was scarcely large enough to hold even Usuthu alone, Crazy Horse, Li and Dobbs snuggled tightly together into it, while Usuthu tightened the strapped holding Janiti to him, and clung with a vise-like grip to the top sides of the vessel.
"Here goes!" shouted Dobbs, and once again they sped through the majestic Vortex.
Their canoe exited the Vortex, sliding and careening on water before slammming into a riverbank in what was certainly Darkest Africa. Dobbs immediately quit the boat and motioned for the others to follow him. Jungle drums echoed in the humid distance. Li slapped at gigantic mosquitos which buzzed his face as he and the others followed Dobbs.
The Great Beatnik Salesman seemed to be drawn by instinct, for he evinced no doubt as to his destination. By the way he sniffed the air, his eyes furtively scanning the woods before them, Li guessed that he was following an invisible trail.
Dobbs' form seemed to flow through the leaves and branches and snakes. Not a leaf fluttered, not a hair was ruffled out of place. "Bob" did it as instinctively as a great jungle cat. He had seemingly acquired the skill from the jungle itself, for his going was as silent as a breeze-swept puff of pipe smoke.
They broke from the rain forest into a clearing filled with grass huts. Towering over the primitive structures was a palace -- an imposing edifice bearing countless domed towers and architecturally fantastical cones. Yet no living being was to be seen. From the volume of the chanting voices inside the palace, it was apparent that all the tribe was gathered therein.
As they approached the Cyclopean palace, Li observed that every bit and piece of the amazing structure was carved of wood... much of it as intricately rendered as any Buddhist temple. It occured to him that structures like this might have existed all over Africa, but, due to their wooden construction, would leave neither fossil nor ruin, being instead swallowed by the jungle which encroached constantly.
The palace was humid with the sweat of naked dancing girls and chanting singers. Immediately, armed guards challenged them with spears. But Usuthu, who spoke a rough form of their dialect, commanded them swiftly and authoritatively. The adventurers were allowed entry on the condition that they hold their tongues until "the great M'Bugulu" saw fit to receive them.
At least three hundred Africans sat before a gigantic throne which dominated the seemingly measureless room. To Li, despite his state of exhaustion, the ebony-sheened, topless women dancing erotically by the throne certainly looked better than most of the blemished, half-starved waitresses in his Beijing neighborhood restaurant. Did all the "Bobs" surround themselves with naked women?
Usuthu and Janiti translated to the others what was transpiring.
A sick man was brought before the obese, decoratively-scarred shaman, the great M'Bugulu, Bahaab Dahaabs. A distraught widow raved at him begging him to save her "unworthy husband." Dahaabs leaned over the limp body of the stricken man, shaking his outlandishly huge feathered headress. As he intoned a litany in some strange tongue, waving one hand about with mystical gestures and twiddling the bone which pierced his nose, Li spied him surreptitiously slipping a piece of string into his mouth with his other hand. This went apparently unnoticed by the rapt audience.
"Now," announced the chieftan grandiosly, "I shall use my Magic Cord of the Spirit to draw from this man all the evil demons that inhabit him."
The overweight witch-doctor leaned over his patient, extending the string from his mouth until it touched the sick man's heaving chest. Dahaabs then afixed his mouth to the man's breast, simultaneously sucking the cord back into his mouth.
He appeared to suck strenuouosly at the man's chest. Suddenly, he lifted his head, and spat out mouthfulls of blood.
"The spirits are leaving," he announced.
He continued sucking. Again he raised his head. "There is a piece of bad magic in this fine man," he moaned melodramatically. "I will strive to remove it. But it will surely require nothing less than a miracle."
Then -- clearly, to Li's eyes -- Dahaabs transfered a previously palmed piece of quartz crystal into his mouth -- which he again lowered to the man's chest. Then he raised his head and spat the crystal into his hand.
"The evil is banished," he exulted triumphantly, holding aloft the crystal. "And I further see that this man was made sick not by normal illness, but by an evil spell cast by... by whom?"
He gazed suspiciously around the palace, from one cowering face to another. Then he looked into the smoke rising from an incense burner.
"In this smoke I see... the truth," intoned Dahaabs. "I see... the face of my rival, M'Gelbelo. He is the murderer who hexed this man."
A murmur ran through the crowd. Obviously, M'Gelbelo had little time left to live.
Suddenly the drums stopped. Both the dancers and audience fell prostrate, bowing before... before Dobbs and his companions, Li realized.
"I know who you are. Do not waste my time," thundered the obesely fat Black "Bob" from his huge bamboo throne. Sweaty maidens of inestimable beauty hovered around him, as if fearfully awaiting his next sexual demand.
"I know why you strange and very ugly foreigners come," the chieftan bellowed. "You are "Bob" Dobbs of the Future Land, and you wish to anally or monetarily dominate that one who is the opposite of all we True "Bobs," before he anally manipulates us." The four-hundred pound African shaman's eyes and nostrils flared fearsomely.
"But I must ask of you one question, before I might aid you." He narrowed his fat-creased eyes shrewdly. "What can you give me?"
Through their translators, Dobbs and Dahaabs haggled.
"I have many souls in my great banks of the future," wheedled Dobbs. "These are the souls of Bobbies -- my followers in the depraved World of Tomorrow." He wiped some sweat from his brow, his right hand clenching and unclenching as if to grip a remembered briefcase full of demographic charts. "I have been granted power by JHVH-1 Himself to transfer ownership of said unclean souls over to your psychic account."
The Black "Bob" regarded him doubtfully.
"Caucasian "Bob", I see you are every bit as stealthy and clever as Nasrudin, the Arab "Bob". I avoid doing business with such tricksters -- they are too tricky even for me."
"Hey, wait a minute, Sambo," said "Bob", blustering loudly to hide his fear. "Don't speak too soon. Look, you ain't fooling me." He lowered his voice. "I'm onto your tricks. You sucked fake blood out of that sick dude by biting your own cheek. You spat out that damn mystic cord from your mouth."
"And yet the man will be healed, will he not? I help my people," argued the Black "Bob," now whispering confidentially. "I admit to certain simple tricks. I see ants moving to their holes, and frogs croaking, and then I announce that I am about to make rain. And so comes the rain. Likewise, I suck the evil objects from the bodies of the ill people, and they become well -- simply because I always maintain an expression of utmost gravity and holiness, they believe they will become well. My people are both healed, and given hope. So, out of our common "Bob"hood, please do not blow my cover... or I will kill you."
"Okay. Just play fair with me, and I won't expose your scam to your fine people here."
"Agreed," Dahaabs conceded. "I will show you mercy and assist you... But, "Bob" Dobbs, you yourself are no better than me. You have tried to cheat me with your ludicrous "payment in souls." You would take me for another of your unquestioning, foolish customers... yet, for that I respect you. Surely, you are as great a Salesman as myself, and you, like me, use your powers for any who come to you for help in their ignorance. Though you take their money, you yet give them Slack.
"But I cannot join you in your quest, for my people need me, and moreover, I am too fat to travel the Vortex. I can offer only my magic submarine, and another thing unavailable from any of the other "Bobs" you may encounter. Gaze upon my mighty handiwork," he concluded, pointing to an ordinary American phone booth half-hidden behind his throne.
"However, I would expect some small token of payment." he added.
"Heck, if only I hadn't forgotten my Magic Wallet," groaned Dobbs, patting his pockets. "Ah! Wait! Here's something. Oh Mighty M'Bugulu," he said ceremoniously, extracting the Snake Oil vial and laying it at the feet of Dahaabs. "This is the oil of the magic snake, given me by none other than the Indian "Bob" of the Unknown World."
"By the Undulating Tail of M'Kele M'Bembe!" shouted Dahaabs, incredulous. "Simply for the use of my Magic Telephone and Submarine, you are willing to part with this rarest of elixirs?"
"I do so happily, to show my boundless respect for your own Sales Magic, which surpasses even my own," said Dobbs grandly, bowing from the waist.
As the crowd of natives kowtowed to this stranger who had dared wheel and deal with their Living God, "Bob" rushed to the phone booth. He dialed a short sequence of only three numbers, waited, and then said, "Yes, collect, please, ma'am." Then he apparently got his connection.
"Al Crowley," he shouted. "How the hell are ya, ya old sinner? Yeah? Well, listen. This is important. I'm in a big hurry. Is Jesus around?"
Dobbs waited, tapping his toes. As he did so, the air around him congealed and demonic faces leared out at him from the aethers, their claws grasping at him from some trans-dimensional fog. "Bob" simply brushed at them with his hand, murmuring irritably, "Go away, you!" -- much as an ordinary person might shoo away insects. He nonchalantly blew smoke into the half-visible demon faces, and they vanished. Then his party answered.
"Jesus! Wait'll you hear this! The fuckin' AntiBob has... oh..." Dobbs looked disappointed. "You've heard already. Boy, word travels fast! ...Well, shit. Okay. I understand. But any help you can offer would be, like, appreciated... and I don't mean with peanuts, Okay? I mean... your accounts in Switzerland... the Merovingians... RIGHT! You got it! Hey, thanks, man."
Dobbs hung up and addressed his comrades.
"That's it, guys. I just cashed in an old debt somebody owed me. My luck oughta hold out all the way through to the First "Bob's" time. First we gotta check out the Abo and Chinese "Bobs", then we're copascetic! Let's make like diarrhea and run!"
The African "Bob" led Dobbs and his crew down to the riverside, where was docked an elaborately-outfited craft composed entirely of reeds and bamboo. No more than thirty feet in length, it was indeed a submarine -- the secret weapon of Dahaabs.
"I entrust to you this great vessel," declared M'Bugulu, "In the knowledge that you shall avenge the injustices being perpetrated in both the past and the future. And I hope that you put an end to the evil ones before they make, from the past, my own existence impossible. Also, I trust that you shall return this craft, lest you face the Curse of Incurable Hemorrhoids, as afflicted the last man to cheat me, Smokes-While-Trading, He Who Stole The Snake Oil That Seems Like A Cheap Trick But Is In Actuality A True Magic Tonic From A Bottle That Never Empties."
"Uh, right, gotcha," said Dobbs. "Thanks a million! Let's do business again sometime! C'mon, guys, let's catch up with the Abo "Bob!""
Into the cramped sub crawled that motley/heroic crew. Dobbs muttered his incantation, and the Vortex swept over the craft. Through a porthole Dobbs looked for an exit. Wrenching the wooden steering device, he spun them topsy-turvy into a Vortex "exit ramp," and they were soon deposited into normal reality -- but deep underwater.
Coelocanths swam past the portholes. Weird echoing underwater sounds -- the scraping of primitive motors, valves, and technically impossible sonar bleeps -- lent a creepy atmosphere as they cruised over fantastic undersea plant life, dimly lit by oil-burning lanterns on the sub's sides. Crazy Horse, who had never seen the ocean, much less its deeps, was dumbfounded. Usuthu shivered in a corner, coughing on the cloying smoke from Dobbs' Pipe. Janiti slept, murmuring in dozens of different languages. As tired as Li was, he nevertheless joined Dobbs at the primitive control deck.
"But, Dobbs," Li demanded. "Why we in water to see Aborigine "Bob?" He not live in Australia?"
"Just off the coast," explained Dobbs. "See, Li, we're just about 20,000 years in our past. These Australian dudes used to have a highly technological civilization, inherited from the Atlanteans. But, long before your people or mine started keeping records, they kind of blew it off and decided it made a lot more sense to run around naked in the bush. I'm sure, eventually, our modern civilization will go the same way... once we kick the AntiBob's ass, anyway." He smiled smugly. "Hey," he shouted, "Here's the place!"
Li's ears popped as the submarine suddenly dropped many feet and bumped down onto seemmingly solid ground. Before Li could stop him, Dobbs thrust open the hatch. No water burst in; they were an air pocket of some kind.
The team clambered out of the ship to find themselves inside a gigantic bubble. A bizarre, unimaginable undersea landscape stretched off in all directions beyond the spherical wall, which Li assumed to be made of glass. Behind them, however, within the bubble, loomed a vast, Gaudi-like coral palace. Its form was naturalistically random, as if the coral had been grown into shapes which suggested turrets and rooms and windows. Weird, throbbing music issued from the structure.
From the palace drawbridge, across the sandy but quite dry ground, waddled a small, wiry, naked Aborigine of extremely advanced age, smoking a pipe. With his heavy brow, splayyed nose and sloping chin, he embodied the Stone Age "look".
Without opening his mouth, the little man's voice echoed through all their brains, in their own languages.
"Welcome, "Bob" Dobbs and friends! Before you flee in terror, let me explain that I still possess many talents long since forgotten in your time. I read minds and converse in any tongue, and am glad to have visitors from so many different cultures. I have been alone here with my harem for nearly one hundred years."
Multiple telepathic gigglings gargled mentally from within the coral palace.
"Yes, I know you gentlemen may be interested in this harem of mine, and I assure you that all the pleasures of the flesh will be yours for the taking."
"Yow," hooted Dobbs crudely. He stomped his feet and howled like a cartoon wolf. Steam seemed almost to shoot from his ears. "Lemme at 'em!"
"Ah, friend "Bob," you appear to have your priorities in order. Be my guest..."
To the dismay of his companions, Dobbs dashed past the old man and into the coral palace, frantically unbuckling his pants as he went.
"Yes," thought the old man towards the disappearing "Bob," "In answer to your question, I do have prairie squid. Prehistoric, by your standards."
Li and the others looked at each other questioningly.
"Do not worry, my new friends," telepathed the Aborigine. "Dobbs forgets not his mission. In this holy place, bouyed by my inestimable mental powers, we can all plan with our forebrains even while our gross bodies indulge in fleshly pleasures."
"But... how?" though Li.
"It is so sad that the simple things of life have been forgotten in your worlds," thought the man sorrowfully. "Let me explain. I am Winjin of the Pitjendadjara tribe, prince of this city. All of my people, except those lazy ones who choose to be sex slaves, are princes or princesses with their own cities. Most live upon the land in mud palaces built by ants at their telepathic direction. Because I am a "Bob," I choose to live here. The Great Water is kept back, and this bubble of air formed, simply by my own powers of concentration. All things and animals do my bidding according to my songs of power. My castle was built for free by the little corals. It is easy for me to ride on storms and commune with the dead. Say, would any of you like to smoke? I have excellent pituri."
Winjin offered his pipe, but none dared accept it, so awestruck were they.
"I can see that my magic terrifies you; don't worry, for soon Dobbs will have his way with the women here and take you away with him. Even now he is gaining new powers by copulating with my harem and my giant squid. When he is done, I will give him a magical power object which will allow him to slay, or at least cripple, the AntiBob. I have been watching your adventures, which are most amusing, on my magical mental television since you started; thus none of my own precious lovemaking-time will be wasted with stupid deals and explanations. I suggest that you all relax, smoke, and fornicate to your hearts' content."
Out of the palace dashed a bevy of naked Aborigine women, all of them projecting images of sex into the minds of the adventurers -- except for Janiti, who, strapped to Usuthu, swooned according to some pornographic telepathy broadcast from Winjin.
Soon all were indulging in frenetic sexual acts. Winjin humped joyfully upon the stunted torso and withered limbs of Janiti; Crazy Horse was pillowing three of the Stone Age women at once, and Usuthu grappled urgently with no less than eight. Li, the most modest of them, resisted, but finally gave in to the mental proddings of two Aborigine women who, in any other setting, might have struck him as supremely ugly. The beauty and poetry of their thoughts, however, far overshadowed both his cultural conditioning and his exhaustion.
But as soon as he was spent, Li leaped up. The sex had, surprisingly, invigorated him.
"What about AntiBob?" he shouted to the others, who remained oblivious in their pleasures. "Must find Dobbs! Not forget holy mission!"
He dashed into the palace. The hallways were strewn with the prone, happily sighing bodies of women, all obviously well-serviced by Dobbs. And in such a short time! Li followed the trail of fucked-out women to a great room from which emanated both Dobbs' groans of pleasure, and the moist, slurping noises of some great beast.
Rounding the corner, Li could scarcely believe his eyes. Dobbs was emersed headfirst to the pelvis in the slimey body of some gigantic prehistoric cephalopod, a slug or shell-less snail which writhed and sucked and glorped around "Bob's" nude body. The orifice which hid "Bob's" torso resembled an enormous vagina; his buttocks were being lightly spanked by a huge, prehensile penis-like appendage.
"Ah.... prairie squid," burbled Dobbs' voice from deep within the slimmy folds of the omnisexual beast. "More prairie squid than I'd ever imagined in my wildest dreams!"
Before Li could shout at Dobbs to hurry, to remember his mission, a blinding flash of light illuminated the room. Dobbs quickly yanked his sopping head from the four-ton prairie squid and, panicky, tried to regain his senses -- such as they were.
Floating within a cloudlike aura at the center of the room was the shimmmering image of a blonde American woman -- Dobbs' wife, Connie. Her perfume practically replaced the air. The magical image railed at Dobbs in angry tones.
"Well, well, well," bespoke the woman sternly, as Dobbs abashedly buckled up his pants. "Boy, are you in for trouble when you get home! I'm stuck here waiting to be rescued from the AntiBob, and what are you doing, huh? Porking a bunch of pug-nosed chippies and this slimey monster! Just what do you have to say for yourself?"
"Uh, uh, uh, nothing dear... " stammered Dobbs. Li had never before seen Dobbs show true fear. "I, uh... I mean, I'm just doing what I'm supposed to do... You know, Abo "Bob" said I had to..."
"Oh, sure," grated Connie. "Hmmmph. Maybe I'll just take the AntiBob up on his offer, Mr. Big Dick!" And with that, her image disappeared.
"Oh, shucks, Li," said Dobbs, trembling, while he zipped up. "Uh... We'd better get going..." He seemed embarrassed, and said nothing more as he hurried back to the submarine.
Their companions were waking groggily when Dobbs and Li exited the temple. Dobbs rudely hustled them all towards the submarine.
"Wait, "Bob," thought Winjin. "It's too bad you have to hurry so. You would gain more power were you to but stop and smell the roses."
"Yeah. Right. Gotta go. Here's some 'Frop," Dobbs said, tossing a small packet to Winjin. "Thanks for everything!"
And they were in the Vortex again.
The Chinese, or "Next-to-First", "Bob" had been expecting them. As the submarine beached with a crunch on a riverbank in prehistoric China, Dobbs and crew piled out of the craft and found the little man sitting patiently on a tree stump, whittling away at a stick.
LI was thrilled. Here was his homeland, thirty or forty thousand years in the past. The landscape looked exactly like an ancient Chinese pen-and-ink drawing, with imposing cliffs, weird, spindly trees, and fog lifting from burbling brooks. Besides the Chinese "Bob," not a soul was in sight... no lines of Mao-jacketed peasants carrying inhumanly heavy loads, no bicycles, nothing. Birds sang in the twisted branches overhead. An ornately carved temple loomed through the fog not far away.
The Chinese "Bob" looked up from his whittling and grinned, a clay pipe dangling from the left side of his mouth. He was a jolly-looking old man, dressed in gaily colored but tattered rags, a broad smile crinkling his eyes into slits. He said nothing, but looked at them expectantly.
Dobbs motioned with his head for Li to approach the man. Surprised that no telepathy would be involved this time, Li timidly approached the old fellow and bowed low.
"With your permission, Grandfather," he said, "I am Li Li-jing, a humble worker from our tormented future. This is the holy man "Bob" Dobbs, and our friends, who seek your guidance in locating both the First "Bob," and a Wild Man translator."
"Ah, save our breath, Young Li, for I know all this already," gummed the old man in a form of Mandarin so archaic that Li could barely comprehend it. "Your speech is so corrupted and degenerate that I can hardly understand you, but I enjoy its roughness, and will eschew the telepathy used by my show-off great-grandcousin, the Aborigine "Bob." Welcome to the land of your own ancestors, Young Li. I might even be one of them. My name is Chien Minh. Were any of your female grandparents Chiens?"
"Not to my knowledge, sir; I wish that I could claim such an honor, but am thus abased before you."
"Ah, blow off the formal shit," snapped Chien Minh, much to Li's surprise. He exuded several puffs from his pipe, surveying the small group. "Tell your friend, the Caucasian "Bob," that all of you are welcome to my modest hovel."
Li translated to "Bob," noticing that Janiti looked a bit jealous. Well, screw her, thought Li. The stuck-up, round-eyed, deformed bitch hadn't given him the time of day.
"Bob" was admiring the staggeringly beautiful temple visible over the treetops. "Hovel?" he said. "Looks like a pretty snazzy joint, if you ask me."
"That?" snorted Chien Minh. "I would never live in such an ostentatious dwelling. Too much upkeep. Waste of time better spent whittling and dreaming. That is a temple built by asinine religious fanatics for that so-called hotshot, Lao Tse. The big-mouth."
"Lou-sy?" countered Dobbs. "That place doesn't look so lousy to me!"
"You are far too easily impressed, "Bob" Dobbs," scolded Chien Minh.
Li was taken aback that Dobbs had apparently never heard of Lao Tse, China's greatest ancient philosopher. The very similarity of Dobbs' teachings to Lao's -- such as the doctrine of 'Slack,' or 'doing nothing effectively' -- would have suggested some influence.
"Well, come on," said Chien, creakily lifting his old bones from the tree stump. "You want to meet my Wild Man friend. I hope you have strong stomachs, for he smells awful, like all of his kind."
They followed a winding path through the fog-beshrouded hills, bypassing the temple, towards which Chien continued to make disparaging remarks. He seemed to hold all organized religions -- and politics -- in disdain.
When they reached Chien's hilltop abode, Li was astounded. It really was just a simple hovel -- a lean-to built into the side of a hill, with a cooking pot set over a charcoal pit, a few clay pots, some chickens running loose, and little else.
Li was puzzled. This man, the Chinese "Bob" -- probably wiser than Confucius and Lao Tse combined -- was neither hero, preacher, nor sage. He might as well have been any old farmer-peasant.
As Li was thinking this, Chien turned to him. "Young man, you have one gigantic fuck of a lot to learn about Slack."
He put a finger to one nostril and blew a long string of snot from the other. The snot snaked across the ground at Li's feet as if it had a life of its own... then fossilized like glue.
"But you will learn. You aren't too smart to learn, I can tell." He addressed the others. "You all wait here, please. Pardon me. I must water my pigs."
Chien waddled to a nearby pond. From the surrounding woods trotted several wild pigs, quite spontaneously. Chien then took up a bucket and waded out into the pond -- except that he didn't wade; he walked atop the water, strolling upon its surface as if it were a flat road. He stopped and lowered his bucket, which broke the surface and was filled. Then he walked back to shore. Murmuring lovingly to his scrawny pigs, he splashed the bucket over their hairy backs. They snorted happily; it was a hot day.
"Well," Chien continued, returning to his guests, "So much for my daily chores. Would any of you care for some pickled pork? I have a jar here that has been stored underground, fermenting, for over fifty years. Or eggs? I have thousand-year-old eggs, and they really are a thousand years old. My honored mother pickled them," he added proudly.
Suddenly, a figure swathed in black leaped from the tree-branch over Chien's head, a long dagger in his hand!
"Look out! A Ninja!" hollered Dobbs. Usuthu, Li, and Crazy Horse all leaped to their feet, running to Chien's aid. Even Janiti involuntarily struggled to rise from the cradle of skins in which Usuthu had placed her.
Simultaneously, however, Chien blew a puff of pipe-smoke over his shoulder at the attacker. Only when the villain began to float, screaming, into the air, did Chien turn around and look directly at him, smirking. The black-clad man was levitating against his will up past the treetops, protesting at the top of his lungs.
"Jealous bastards," Chien muttered. The screaming "Ninja" was now only a faint dot in the sky, ascending like a balloon.
Chien addressed "Bob." "Let me call your Yeti so that you may be on your way," he said. "Ever since this trouble started, unwitting dupes of the AntiBob have been trying to kill me. They think I set a bad example with my laziness!" He laughed heartily, then put his fingertips to his temples and concentrated. Soon, a bestial bellowing was heard through the trees.
An eight foot tall ape-man crashed out of the forest, clad head to foot only in coarse reddish fur. Accompanying the Bigfoot was a sulphuric stench almost unbearable to the time travellers. Only good manners prevented them from holding their noses. That it was male was beyond question, so long and lively was its waggling tool. All but "Bob" and Chien jumped to their feet, preparing to do battle against this macho ogre.
"What!" shouted Chien angrily. "The Yetis send a baby! This is man's work!"
"I am sorry," thought the Yeti telepathically so that all could 'hear'. "Though I am but a teenager, only fifty years old, I am the most eager of all my tribe to meet with our common ancestor and help him to stop our evil cousin, the AntiBob. Also, it is mating season, so no one of age would willingly leave our tribal grounds. Please let me join you; though I am small in size, I am savage and skillful in battles both physical and psychic."
"Ah, well, alright," snorted Chien. "Talk to Dobbs here. He's the one who's trying to save the god damn universe!" He wandered off to feed his chickens, chuckling to himself.
"Greetings, "Bob" Dobbs," said the Yeti in a voice so deep it could not have been called human, not even by a dolphin. It thrust a ten-gallon-sized hand to its face, covering its nose. "Pardon me," it said, "But your human smell is unbelievably offensive to a natural forest creature such as myself. I apologize for my rudeness, but it is necessary."
The creature kept his hand over his face as "Bob" spoke.
"Hey, uh, look, pal," said Dobbs nervously. "Any blood relative of the First "Bob" is good enough for me! I mean, jeez, this is family..." He indicated his cohorts. "...but let's face it, we're all more human than pureblood, and believe you me, we are honored all to hell by your presence, that you see fit in your elemental wisdom to join us in our Quest... and all like that."
"Yes, enough talk," rumbled the Chinese Sasquatch. "My blood boils with the urge to battle our common foe. Let us be off."
"Awreet!" exclaimed Dobbs. "But we gotta thank Mr. Chien..."
He looked around for Chien. Then he and the others espied him in the sky overhead, skipping from cloud to cloud, hitchhiking eastward. He waved at them as if in farewell, and disappeared into the bowels of a large, looming thunderhead.
"Shucks. Sure would've liked to have had that dude on our team," said Dobbs. "But I guess he's got better things to do. Oh well. Everybody ready? Let's go for it!"
The quintet that emerged from the Vortex formed a team which, under "Bob" Dobbs, adventurer supreme, could surely accomplish wonders.
However, when their submarine materialized literally floating in dinosaur excrement, they began to doubt not only their abilities to cope with this eventuality, but even their own sanities.
The stench that assailed them as they emerged from the hatch was like that of a thousand pet-turtle cages, uncleaned for decades.
"Ah, smell that natural air!" exclaimed Dobbs expansively, filling his lungs. "A perfect atmosphere for battling the forces of evil."
They were stranded in brackish water, putrid with unknown mosses and fungii, small, leaping, crab-backed things, and at least a fifty-percent content of dinosaur urine and feces.
Moreover, the sub's ricketty motor was clogged by moss, and they were without paddles.
The crew held their noses as the sub drifted to shore, and they clambered out onto the muddy ground.
The air was less humid than syrupy. Volcanoes belched smoke and lava in the distance. Bass snuffling sounds burbbled up from the slimy lake they'd left. Within the jungle could be heard vast bodies, sloughing through the undergrowth. Compared to the redwood-like trees and ferns, the team felt like toy action figures.
All were speechless. For they were wayfarers in another world!
Sparrow-sized insects buzzed them as they tore their way through thorny vines along the creekside, and they constantly slapped at enormous leeches and hideous mammalian vermin which repeatedly dropped upon them from the trees, or latched onto their shoes and wormed their way upwards towards skin and warm blood.
"Just think," said Dobbs, squishing a small ratlike critter in his palm until blood spurted. "These stinking rats are our ancestors! Partly, anyway."
Suddenly he pointed at the sky. Overhead wheeled a batlike creature with membranous wings at least twenty feet across.
"Good Lord! That," he shouted, stating the painfully obvious, "is a Pterodactyl! -- a creature thought by science to be extinct since the Cretaceous Era, eighty million years ago!"
Dobbs recited this as if he were reliving some lurid monster film of his boyhood. It meant nothing to any of his companions except Li, who had benefited from trips to the Beijing Museum.
Suddenly Dobbs halted the party. "Our chances of locating the palace of the First "Bob" will be better if we split up," he lectured, again sounding as if he were quoting some cheesy safari movie. "Li, you come with me. Usuthu, you, the Yeti, and Crazy Horse -- and what's-her-name -- head off that-a-way. We'll try to circle around and meet each other by that tall rock over to the west."
And so Li followed Dobbs into a jungle so thickly overgrown that they could travel but a few feet per minute. Two minutes later, they reached a clearing, where Dobbs suggested they stop and rest -- even though they'd traversed only a dozen yards, and could still hear their companions' grunting and grumbling off through the trees.
Abruptly, another sound rent the air -- a roar like a recording of twenty lions, played backwards at half-speed. Out of the jungle behind Dobbs, smashing trees as it went, bounded a toadlike monster at least fifty feet long from nose to tail. On its two mightily-thewed forelegs it hopped straight for Dobbs, who stood smoking, oblivious to its approach.
The sight of the full-grown dominant male Tyrannosaurus Rex paralyzed Li. With a supreme effort of will, he pointed past "Bob" to the approaching carnivore and shouted, "Run!"
"Run?" asked Dobbs, innocently. "Well, okay, if you say so!" With a pleasant look on his face, he turned and sprinted lackadaisically straight where Li pointed -- towards the Tyrannosaurus.
Dobbs dashed between its legs before he even realized it was there.
The Tyrannosaurus shook its Volkswagon-sized head in a gesture suggesting disbelief. It had never, in its 150 years of life, ever seen any creature run towards it.
Tilting its head curiously, the behemoth bent low to look between its own legs at Dobbs, who was only now gaining an inkling of what Li's warning had meant.
Indeed, the beast, in its bafflement, bowed so deeply that its now-upside-down head became stuck between its pillar-like legs. It struggled to return to an upright posture, but its head was lodged firmly betwixt its knees! Its futile struggles only caused it to slowly and majestically somersault over onto its back, head still trapped between spasming legs.
Dobbs, blind to any danger, gazed lasciviously at the cloaca of the beast, which now was spread open, exposed to the light of day by the uncomfortable contortions from which the dinosaur was striving to extricate itself.
"Hmm," considered Dobbs lustfully. But he shrugged. "Oh well... another time. C'mon, Li, let's see if we can head down the trail Old Dog-Breath here blazed for us."
Leaving the Tyrant Lizard King to outwit its own body, the two upright mammalian bipeds again struck out into the jungle.
They'd hacked and struggled for only a few minutes when Dobbs abruptly stopped and sniffed the air. Then, curiously, he held his nose closed and then repeated the same head movements of 'sniffing'.
"Shhhh...." Dobbs whispered. "Humans."
Li, by this point, had been so long without sleep that he was practically sleepwalking. He stared at Dobbs, puzzled.
"Yep... humans. Nearby. Wait here."
With that, Dobbs disappeared into the jungle. Li was left alone.
Gazing about dazedly, Li spied an odd-shaped rock in the mud at his feet and stooped to pick it up. A flint arrowhead! -- carved by some decidely human hand!
"But..." wondered Li to himself, "There are no human peoples in this age..."
He then looked up to find himself staring directly into the muzzle of a raygun. Helmeted, uniformed human beings surrounded him, brandishing futuristic ray-pistols menacingly.
They motioned with their guns for Li to follow them. Sighing resignedly, the Chinese soundman complied. Maybe they'd imprison him, and he could get some sleep.
But from behind them a mighty crashing resounded. Bursting through the towering ferns was a gigantic, three-horned Triceratops -- being ridden, rodeo-style, by "Bob" Dobbs!
Dobbs was not actually steering the tanklike dinosaur, but merely clinging to it and whooping as it kicked, bucking-bronco-style, into the air, trying to rid itself of its human burden. "Yeeeeeee-HAW!" hollered Dobbs gaily.
Li's captors were stunned. Bred to be craven cowards all, they vanished into the undergrowth as quickly as they'd appeared.
"Bob!" You save my life!" Li shouted to Dobbs, who had been thrown clear of the Triceratops and was watching it lumber back into the forest.
"Wow! That was fun!," panted Dobbs, wiping the sweat from his brow and puffing steadily on his pipe.
"Dobbs! Who are these bad peoples??" demanded Li.
"Aw, gosh, Li, those were probably some of the first true humans invented in test tubes by the Atlantean Yetis! -- quick-evolved up from rats. You're damn lucky they didn't kill you right off the bat! See," he explained, tamping his pipe, "These are rogue, purebred humans -- probably escaped from the Xist Atlantean laboratories... The First "Bob" invented the fuckers himself, intending to use them as beasts of burden. But they broke free... and, well, you know how bad most humans are."
"Okay. Well, the ones we know are at least part Yeti, even if it's a tiny part. Think how cruel and nasty pure-blood, unadulterated, factory-fresh humans are! They're the most dangerous, inconsiderate, meanest things on this planet! Not that our modern humanist, evolutionist, Conspiracy scientists would ever admit it, but the dinosaurs are pussycats next to them, and they're probably serving the AntiBob in his rebellion against his own creator, and mine, the First "Bob." And they..."
He broke off as the Triceratops re-emerged from the woods. It now looked positively docile. It edged carefully towards "Bob."
"Well, I'll be a monkey's nephew! I think it likes me! I'll bet it's lonesome. It probably just needs love."
Li watched amazed as Dobbs strode up to the now-demure Triceratops, which purred in a deep bass not unlike a gigantic cat. As Dobbs scratched the stiff hide behind its neck-frill, it lifted and waved a hind leg as if to mimic the scratching.
"Aw, look at this," said Dobbs pityingly. "It's all infested with vermin."
From behind its frill, Dobbs plucked a large, black, lemur-like rat. He threw it, squealing, into the underbrush. "Poor thing," he muttered, removing one after another of what turned out to be a whole nest of rats. "And to think, our modern humans are genetically related to these nasty buggers! They're like giant ticks to these wretched dinosaurs." He snorted in disgust. "They never tell you shit like this in high school!"
Soon, Dobbs had so entranced the Triceratops that it allowed them to ride on its back as it foraged off into the jungle for food.
They came to an open hilltop clearing. Li was just beginning to enjoy the view when Dobbs shouted, "Li! Looky there!"
In the near distance stood a glimmering castle, bedecked with crystaline spires and domes. If not man-made, it was certainly alien-made.
"The First "Bob's" hometown -- the original Atlantis!" exulted Dobbs. "The first landing strip of the Xists, where the Yetis were first created!" He turned to Li. "Boy, I'd like to see the face of the sumbitch who digs up this fossil! That would show those stinking know-nothing evolutionists and creationists, once and for all!"
The Triceratops trotted towards the castle. "How about that," mused Dobbs happily. "It just happens to be going right where we want to go!"
But when they topped a rise and started descending into a ravine, an evil voice rang through the air!
"Stop, "Bob" Dobbs! I have your wife and companions in my clutches!"
The slimy voice had issued from a Masked Villain seated upon a makeshift throne just below them. Hundreds of the badly-uniformed purebred humans stood around him in strict military formation.
But that was not the worst of it. For, dangling in an iron cage suspended by a rope above a pit of fire, was Connie Dobbs.
She looked at "Bob" impatiently, tapping her toes and frowning.
And to the side of the flaming, seemingly bottomless pit, were Crazy Horse, Usuthu, and Janiti, all bound and held at spearpoint by the skull-helmeted minions of the masked leader. Even the gigantic Yeti was chained to a rock. Giggling rat-men held the Third Pipe and White Stone, toying with them like spoiled children.
The arch-evildoer wore a crimson cape and a demonic-looking mask which covered the top half of his face. The eyes which shone through were dark, somber and forbidding. His mouth, wrinkled and shrunken like an old man's, was thin and grim, pinched as if in perpetual disapproval.
"Allow me to introduce myself, "Bob" Dobbs," he hissed in a thin, reedy voice, heavily accented like a Nazi's. "I am the Young AntiBob! Ve knew you vere comink, and haf prepared this little party for your amusement!"
"Gee, that voice sounds familiar," wondered "Bob". But then he directed his attention to Connie.
"Hi, dear. How was your day?" he asked politely.
"You'd better do something but quick, you human dildo," snapped Connie peevishly. "The Phantom of the Opera here is about to lower me into this pit to feed his stinking devil god."
"'Devil god?'" shrieked the Young AntiBob. "You stupid bitch! This fiery pit leads to the throne of the Original AntiBob himself! And when He rapes and devours you, the wife of the Good Bob, His powers will be increased an thousandfold! All future history will be altered to fit our Great Plan!" His voiced reached a quavering, screaming pitch.
"Who you calling a bitch?" shouted Dobbs, enraged. "Why, you dirty..." He bravely lunged forward, but a blast from an Atlantean heat-ray knocked him to the ground, his shoes and zipper smoking. Li started to dash to Dobbs' side, but was held at bay by the heat-ray guns pointed at him.
"Oh, a buncha regular D. Woodman Atwells, eh?" groaned "Bob" sarcastically, as a dozen fiendish minions bound him with rope. Once assured Dobbs was helpess, they turned to Li and began to bind him.
"You fools!" cackled the Young AntiBob. "Now, you must lay helpless and witness my moment of greatest triumph! Lower the loud-mouthed slut into the pit!"
The fiend's henchmen began lowering Connie's cage by chain towards the hellish, fire-belching pit. A monstrous rumbling began deep within the ground, like the growling, hungry stomach of the earth's mantle itself.
"And after the woman, we will throw you, Dobbs, and your SubGenius friends in, as the main course!" His ugly laughter rattled across the clearing.
Now, replacing the fire and brimstone, a monstrous VOID opened within the pit. It was not a force, nor a light, nor even darkness; nor was it even a hole; it was the utter and absolute lack of anything whatsoever. It was a widening spacelessness of pure NOTHING, the antithesis of all existence.
It looked like the end for "Bob" and his men!
But then Li noticed that Dobbs had swiveled his Pipe in his mouth so that it was inverted. It was burning downwards -- and he pushed it against the hemp rope that held him immobile.
"M-must... s-smoke... rope..." he whispered. His eyes rolled back in his head with exertion.
With a surge of superhuman strength, "Bob" burst free from his bonds!
Li took advantage of the distraction to lash out with Bruce Lee-like speed at his captors. His flying fists and feet became a blur, a whirlwind of vengeance knocking prone all henchmen who strove to lay hands upon him.
"Stop them, you fools!" babbled the masked villain.
But the frenzied, mindless rat-men could no more stop Dobbs' mighty force of Good than could they harness a bolt of lightning! From the corner of his eye, Li noted that Dobbs was again using that strange but invincible fighting style, unlike any known even in the mysterious Orient.
For Dobbs stared, trancelike, straight ahead. His arms and legs shot out randomly. He might as well have been a blind spasmodic. And yet each thrust hit a fleshly target. In his blind idiocy of rage, Dobbs felled villains right and left. Blood pooled around shattered limbs and ribcages.
"Quickly," shrieked the Young AntiBob. "Lower the virgin into the pit that our master might be appeased!"
"VIRGIN?" shouted Dobbs. "Connie's no virgin!"
He leapt up onto the ridge where Usuthu, Crazy Horse and Janiti struggled against their bonds. Dobbs hefted the small body of Janiti by her ropes and held her aloft.
"You need a virgin? Here! Take the gimp! Fuck the universe; I want Connie back!"
And he slung the helpless Janiti towards the dilating Void-Pit!
Li reacted instinctively. "No!" he shouted, leaping into the air with a strength he'd never known he had. Flying over the pit, he snatched Janiti from thin-air and, carrying her, landed safely on the other side!
Simultaneously, Dobbs laid low the bastards who manned the chain and hauled Connie's cage back to safety. He sprung the door and swept Connie into his arms. His bleached-blonde, statuesque sweetheart looked strangely bored.
Li, meanwhile, had kung-fued his way through a horde of fanatical guards and was tearing free the bonds of Usuthu and Crazy Horse, ducking the shots of heat-ray that toasted the jungle behind him.
Soon the two great warriors were freed. They savagely waded straight into the ever-increasing hordes of attackers, breaking arms, legs and necks with their bare hands while Li freed the great Yeti.
When the Yeti sprang into the fray swinging his heavy chains, the battle became like some nightmare from Hell. The befurred giant slung human figures about like rag dolls; Crazy Horse disarmed a guard by pounding his head into his shoulders, snatched up his heat-ray, and mowed down villains who were now plowing towards him in waves of mindless, hate-filled bloodlust; Usuthu took up a log larger than many men and swung it madly, like Davey Crocket at the Alamo. Before him, a harvest of death was reaped like wheat before a madman's scythe.
A kangaroo-like dinosaur with fearful claws, a Deinonychus, pounced out of the jungle and joined the fray! Dobbs dispatched it handily with a well-placed blow to the skull from his sacred Pipe.
Flying saucers were suddenly screaming by overhead! Volcanoes erupted in the near distance! The earth was shaking, as if in fear of the deeds of these giants among men! Rivers of gore flowed from the broken bodies of the dead!
Yet, as if from nowhere, hundreds and yet more hundreds of the ratty, lab-cloned humans swarmed like ants out of the woods. Despite their courage, strength, and prowess, "Bob" and his companions were hopelessly outnumbered. The cowardly Young AntiBob stood safely at a distance and cackled in evil glee.
"No wonder," puffed Dobbs to Li, holding Connie in one arm and slaying the mewling, bovine Pink warriors with the other, "... no wonder none of the other "Bobs" wanted to go with us!"
The heroes were surely about to die when...
A great earthquake rent the ground next to the Void-Pit!
A rupturing fissure spread, and the earth heaved and shuddered, until the Void itself disappeared into this new "hole" -- this "crack" which had now reached almost beneath the feet of Dobbs and his aides, separating them from the army of evil henchmen by a bottomless gulf twenty feet across!
The battle had been halted by some force from beyond Nature itself!!
From the sky descended a blinding globe of pure light-energy and psionic power. Bug-eyed alien beings flitted in spirals around the descending ball of fire, leaving psychedelic trails in the air behind them.
From the ball of light emerged a Yeti at least twenty feet tall, a brilliant blue glowing from its long hair. Its magnificently handsome, yet grotesquely ape-like grinning face clutched in its teeth a Pipe exactly like Dobbs'.
The First "Bob" had arrived to save the day!
"Wow," gasped "Bob." "This is better than any fireworks -- even at Epcot Center!"
The terrified humans slinked and fled like the cowards they were, disappearing into the jungle. Even Crazy Horse, Usuthu and the Chinese Yeti retreated many paces, shielding their eyes from the glory that was The First "Bob."
But Dobbs, and the Young AntiBob now stood on opposite sides of that great rent in the earth, wholly attentive to the glowering Goliath, looking much like timid schoolchildren awaiting a scolding from their teacher.
The blue-haired Yeti behemoth stood straddling the chasm. With the jungle behind him, his hair began to change color like a chameoleon's until it was bright green.
"So," bellowed the Collosus in a voice which echoed off the distant volcanoes. "You puny mortals dare to venture into my domain!"
"But... but..." stammered Dobbs. He pointed an accusing finger at the Young AntiBob. "He was trying to summon the Real AntiBob! We had to protect the SubGenius half-Yetis of the future!"
"SILENCE!" crashed the voice of the First "Bob." "What dare you know of the ways of the gods, "Bob" Dobbs?"
"Shut up!" thundered the giant, and Dobbs shrank back.
"Yes, sir," he mumbled, meekly.
"You, "Bob" Dobbs, have disappointed me greatly. You dare speak of your flock's genetic purity. Yet you have copulated with many humans! You have dampened your Yeti seed, what little you have remaining, without a thought for future generations!"
Dobbs shuffled his feet in the dirt abashedly, his hands clasped behind his back in embarrassment, his head lowered.
"Gosh... I'm sorry, sir..."
"Sorry isn't good enough! So abominable has been your future behavior that I can scarcely see any difference between you, my true great-great-great-grandson, and this sniveling imposter, this mere-human who dares call himself the Young Antibob!"
The Young Antibob cringed and shivered. He seemed barely able to remain standing, so great was his fear. Urine dribbled from the legs of his scarlet uniform.
"You must both undergo...
"...The Test!" bellowed the hairy god-ape-man, magically gesturing and causing the Third Pipe to leap from the ground into his huge hand. "To prove yourselves, you must both smoke of the Third Pipe, into which I shall now place the Greatest 'Frop in the Universe!"
Both contestants, upon seeing the First "Bob" pack the Third Pipe with a glowing, pure-white vegetable admixture, responded most differently. Excrement joined urine at the Young AntiBob's feet, whereas the pure-minded Dobbs practically slobbered for the Pipe, yanking out a lighter and drooling in expectation.
"You first," bespake the towering Yeti SlackMaster, brandishing the Pipe towards the Young AntiBob.
"No! Noooo!" shrieked the craven fiend, running off into the woods.
"Lemme at it! Lemme at it!" begged Dobbs, slavering. "Don't waste it on that geek!"
A knowing grin crossed the First "Bob's" billboard-sized face. "Oh? You think you want it? Then here."
Dobbs clutched at the Pipe and feverishly "lit up." He inhaled a "toke" that seemed never to end. His chest ballooned like a bullfrog's neck in mating season. He held his breath until tears veritably sprayed from his eyes. Then he released it, a great cloud enveloping and hiding him. From within the cloud could be heard horrendously loud, wracking coughs.
"That's my boy," muttered the First "Bob," smiling shrewdly.
"Where's that fucker, the so-called Young AntiBob??" swore Dobbs as the smoke cleared, a crazed, vengeful look now lighting his fanatical eyes. "I passed the test! Now lemme at the son-of-a-bitch!"
Dobbs leaped across the crevice and strode into the woods, following the trail of fear-excretions that had run down the arch-fiend's pants-legs as he'd fled.
He soon closed in on the terrified, crimson-becaped villain in a nearby ditch, where the man cowered, panting, out of breath. Obviously, he was physically unfit. But he was surrounded by a gang of his savage minions, telepathically commanded to protect him,even if it meant suicide.
But, upon seeing Dobbs' form emerge from the trees like an Angel of Justice, the rat-men gave vent to squeaks of rage and terror, showing what spineless bloodsuckers they truly were. Though they outnumbered "Bob" by twenty to one, "Bob" yet advanced on them. He did not hurry; there was a confidence in his movements that was horrible to his foes. It was as if death itself stalked towards them. No flicker of mercy warmed the flakey glitter of "Bob's" blue eyes.
"Bob's" code was a hard one, a concept of justice to curl the hairs of those simpering sob-sisters who would mollycoddle criminals. For "Bob" doled out a brand of justice all his own. Those who went against "Bob" seldom wound up in prison; they either learned a lesson that made them law-abiding citizens for life -- or they lost their lives. "Bob" did nothing halfway.
One of the less craven thrust out a raygun...
... and the hand that held the revolver seemed to leap from the arm to which it belonged. Dobbs had delivered it a karate chop which severed it completely. The head was then propitiously launched by Dobbs' hand. It spun end over end into the jungle.
The rest fled, squealing like pigs at a slaughterhouse. Ignoring them, Dobbs bore down on his arch-foe, who cringed in whimpering terror.
"Bob's" blue eyes gave the fellow one appraising glance. Then the seemingly plastic-molded head shook regretfully.
"You had many chances to slay me," Dobbs stated grimly. "But you did not have the nerve to do it with your own hand. Like all criminals, however clever, you are a coward. You are like a rat."
The fiend struck at "Bob" repeatedly. He missed each time, for Dobbs' plasticine-like form seemed to vanish under his fists, so often did "Bob" accidentally slip and fall down.
Increased terror filled the man.
Dobbs' eyes seemed to convey thoughts as well as words could have. And what those eyes told the Young AntiBob made him cringe with fear. He squealed as though caught in a steel trap.
"You'll never kill me!" he snarled.
Strange lights glowed in "Bob's" blue eyes.
"No, I won't kill you. That is true. But you will receive your punishment nonetheless! Because I suspect your identity. You are none other than my evil twin brother, "Dick" Dobbs! What an ungrateful fellow! Our pure and unsullied Mom would not be proud. It's up to me, your older brother by five minutes, to give you a good thrashing."
The masked villain rolled his eyes in panic. He didn't know what fate "Bob" had planned for him. But it could be nothing pleasant.
Dobbs reached down and gripped the edges of the mask in his manly fingers. He suddenly yanked it off... and then he stood frozen in horror and astonishment.
"DAD! How... how could you!"
For it was, indeed, his pitiful, aging Mayan-emigrant father, long thought killed in a drugstore explosion in the 1950s. Yet here he cringed, alive!
But he was no longer the stoic, proud Spanish Mayan that Dobbs remembered. The entire top half of his face was hideously scarred by burns, disfigured to the point of inducing vomit. He did indeed somewhat resemble the Phantom of the Opera -- or the mad burn victim portrayed by Vincent Price in House of Wax.
"My own long-lost Dad!" exclaimed Dobbs. "Huh!" He slapped his forehead violently. "Who'd'a thought it?"
"Stop this charade and kill me," howled the monster-dad in misery. "You know I'm not your real father! Your accursed mother trysted with a Polish milkman -- who was also a Jew from outer space! You are the bastard son of some damnable Angel of JHVH-1, a supernatural being who cruelly cuckolded me, just so that you, earth's savior, could be born! -- indeed, whose affair with my darling Jane cost me my sanity!"
"What?" cried Dobbs, tears welling up in his eyes. "You mean... you mean I'm not half-Mayan, like you and grandad? You mean, what the Bobbies say is true... that I'm not your real son??? But..." Dobbs blubbered, tears falling pathetically to his lap. "But... I LOVE you, Dad!"
"Bob" Dobbs fell, sobbing loudly, into the arms of the disfigured villain he had been eager to kill only moments before.
"I'm... I'm scared, Dad! This doesn't make sense! Where have you been all this time?"
"Skulking the catacombs beneath San Antonio," whimpered the wizened, twisted wretch, crying and blubbering along with "Bob." "These many years I have been waiting, seeking a way to avenge myself on humanity for the humiliation of it all. And when the true AntiBob sent out his mental commands from the depths of time, and promised me powers beyond imagining, I was instantly brainwashed! He... he forced me to do it, son!"
The two clung to each other, wracked with sobs. Dobbs' companions stood dumbfounded -- except for Connie, who snapped impatiently, "I've been trying to tell him this for years -- but oh, no! He wouldn't listen!"
Suddenly Dobbs extricated himself from his legal father's embrace.
"Dad, I love you. But that doesn't matter. I must do my duty. True, it's unfair that you had to spend forty years in pain and horror and shame. But the important part is that you -- you, my own Dad, even if some wandering milkman from the stars actually sired me -- you have willingly done the bidding of the AntiBob, and so must be thrashed and pummeled accordingly."
He raised a clenched fist, ready to strike the whimpering, aged burn victim. But the man pointed over "Bob's" shoulder and cried out.
"It wasn't me, son. It was HIM -- the real AntiBob! Look! He's getting away!"
Dobbs turned. A gigantic flying saucer was lifting out of the jungle and into the sky!
"Li! Quickly!" urged Dobbs. "Toss me the Third Pipe and the White Stone!"
Li threw the items to "Bob." Swiftly, Dobbs placed the White Stone upon the bowl of the Third Pipe.
The onlookers expected some spectacular new magic to occur. But Dobbs simply pulled the Pipe back behind his head and, using it like a catapult, launched the White Stone directly at the retreating saucer.
The Stone hit the saucer and lodged in a tailpipe! The huge disc wobbled dizzily and then plunged earthwards with an ear-rending whine, crashing to the ground several hundred yards away.
"Now... for the final battle!" declared Dobbs, striding relentlessly towards the saucer he's brought down with what might as well have been, for all its holy power and all the blood that had been shed to acquire its pieces, nothing more than a simple slingshot.
"Wait, Dobbs!" bellowed the towering First "Bob," who had watched with undisguised amusement. "You cannot hope to vanquish your exact, diametric opposite; he has more demonic allies among the Old Ones than do you! It is therefore time that I bestow upon you my Secret Weapon of All the True "Bobs" -- THE THIRD FIST!"
A blinding flash enveloped Dobbs. When it faded, he possessed, growing from the wrist of his right arm, a third hand, clenched into a mighty fist composed of an ample gallon or two of scarred knuckles! Tatooed across it in crude lettering were the words, "TAYSTE THE KISS OF ETIRNAL SLACK."
"This Third Fist is the combined Fist of All Other "Bobs," thundered the First "Bob." "With this, none may defeat you. Now," the godlike apeman chuckled, "Have at him, boy!"
Dobbs dashed into the woods towards the smoking wreckage of the saucer. His companions started to follow him, but the gigantic Yeti "Bob" from the Dawn of Time held them back.
"No, my pitiful human-tainted descendants," he ordered. "It is not for mortal eyes to gaze upon the AntiBob. This is "Bob's" fight. He must conquor his nemesis alone, or the great Temper of JHVH-1 shall be lost."
And so they waited in dreadful anticipation. Soon, the sounds of an incredible battle arose from the woods. Great smoking pieces of the flying saucer began raining down upon the woods all around them, so violent was this Battle of the Ages. Dinosaurs fled past them in terror, seeking to escape the scene of carnage. A volcano exploded in the distance. The moon passed in front of the sun and there was an eclipse.
Still the sounds of battle raged on.
Eventually, even Li became bored and sat down. Connie busied herself polishing her nails. Usuthu and Crazy Horse twiddled their thumbs. Janiti, finally freed from her bonds -- by Li, as she had otherwise been ignored the whole time -- sat close to Li and nursed his wounds with her witch's magic. For had he not saved her from "Bob's" thoughtless impetuousness?
Almost two hours later, "Bob" Dobbs emerged from the woods... as they'd all known he would.
He dusted off his hands against each other with the smuggest of satisfaction. The Third Fist protruding awkwardly from his right arm evidenced bruised and scraped knuckles.
"That'll show him," muttered the Slackmaster proudly.
"But..." stammered Li Li-jing. "The AntiBob! Who was he?"
"Ah, you wouldn't believe me if I told you," mumbled Dobbs, sweeping Connie into his arms and kissing her grossly, and at length. They humped and hunched together in shameless desire. The Third Fist shrank as their passion grew.
Li looked away, embarrassed. Janiti clung to his leg, sighing romantically. Usuthu, Crazy Horse and the Yeti snickered at Li's discomfort.
Suddenly the First "Bob" interrupted the maudlin display.
"Dobbs," he intoned deafeningly, "You have done your job, and are deserving of a Smoke." He proffered a new bowlful of The Greatest 'Frop in the Universe, this time from his own Pipe of the Gods.
"Bob" smoked contentedly, occasionally hacking and spitting, feeling up Connie with his spare hand. Through the clouds of smoke, The First "Bob" addressed Dobbs' loyal friends.
"Ye who, despite the minute quantity of true Yeti blood in your veins, have proved so nobly that courage and loyalty can overcome the baser, coarse human nature... ye shall now reap the rewards ye have sewn."
He gestured arcanely with his fingers; sparkles of light danced from them dramatically.
Usuthu felt no change. But he somehow knew that the arthritis that would later cripple his giant frame was now banished forever. Crazy Horse, who had borne the aches of flat feet his entire life without complaint, suddenly had perfect arches. The Chinese Yeti grew another three feet in height, so that he now towered at eleven seet, six inches. "A dwarf no longer!" he exclaimed, shedding tears of joy. Li felt two molars he'd lost to decay grow back instantly.
These had been minor healings, for the three men and the Yeti were in relatively good health already. It was Janiti who was changed the most.
Her legs and arms straightened and grew. Her white hair became a lustrous black. Her sagging, withered breasts became perfect mounds worthy of 1940s Hollywood. Her wrinkled face smoothed over and in its place there gaped the astonished visage of a young girl of twenty. She stood up from the ground, a perfect vision of womanhood.
And she fell into Li's arms, embracing him with savage sexuality.
Connie hugged "Bob," finally no longer bitching and griping.
"Isn't that sweet," she breathed in his ear, nipping it with her teeth. "Bob," uncharacteristicly, blushed a bright red.
The First "Bob" held aloft his mighty hand for silence.
"The problem with you humans," he lectured, "Is that in dealing with the gods, you don't give yourselves enough credit. Without you, where would we primordial gods and goddesses be? We're forces of nature, and you are forces of nature. But -- which is more destructive, all the poltergeists and tribal deities on earth, or such entities as the Kerr McGee company? Eh? Which has killed off more mountain gorillas and blue whales? Which can poison the entire atmosphere and end all life by pushing a series of buttons?"
Dobbs and his companions trembled before the gargantuan Perfect Yeti.
"Always remember you are of the race that, in many ways, has the upper hand. We gods do not possess nuclear weapons; not even the saucer beings from space possess them. You are the only ones who can destroy ALL of us. Doesn't that make you proud, to be part human? Part of the species that's able to unleash more destructive force than all combined demons, gods, ghosts, UFOs, sharks, dinosaurs and natural disease germs? So many of your people depend upon gods and aliens to save you from yourselves. But why would those worthy supernatural entities save you? Just so you can go on thinking up more subtle ways to ruin our "lives," and those of all creatures on your planet?? EH? No, my mortal friends, you have a much bigger say in your destiny than ever we gods did.
"Have you ever wondered what a nuclear blast would do to your souls, humans -- above and beyond the disintigration of your physical bodies? If ever there were a magical weapon capable of erasing parts of more than one reality, it is that. So consider that mayhaps we gods also fret over your amazing weapons and warlike nature."
The First "Bob" grinned morbidly, and then vanished completely and silently.
All stood silent for a short while. Then "Bob" spoke, holding his pipe thoughtfully as he tilted back his head and mused nobly to the sunset.
"Yes, he's right, it's something to muse upon indeed. The insidious Conspiracy of the Normals doesn't recognize even itself as such, yet it has the power to destroy -- or even sell -- this whole planet. It is up to us, each in our own ways, as lone individuals, to alert the pitiful Pinks to the dangers they bring down upon us all. There are some things that merely human Man was not meant to know; certainly not those who can understand only False Slack, which can be obtained only with money -- those millions who'd prefer to cling to their fantasy that everything, even the ozone layer and the rain forests, will be okay if we just act nice...
"For, think what the otherwordly forces could do, if ever they decided to seek revenge. They can be as mechanically inclined as ourselves, if they choose. Our modern poltergeists can activate appliances, toss vases and jiggle light switches; what if a distressed nuclear weapons engineer were to commit suicide in a missile silo, which would thenceforth be haunted by his imbittered 'lower soul,' too confused to go to heaven -- clinging here, half in our reality, trying to make contact but unable to -- finally driven mad while gaining experience in discharging electrical circuitry by sheer poltergeist hate-force... or... or, it could insinuate itself into the radar viewscreens at NORAD and deliberately appear as blips on radar, like incoming Russian missiles... HOO boy."
"Bob" shook his head philosophically.
"We'll find out come Omicron Epsilon, The Vision Beholding Itself in SubGenius prophecy -- the Time Intersection, when this universe intersects with the backwards timestream universe, and the images of the Akashic Records become flesh... bringing our weirdest dreams to rampaging life. What terrible dreams will emerge from the repressed desires of the Normals, who forgot Slack?"
He paused and gazed thoughtfully at a distant volcano.
"Fortunately," he finished smugly, "Normals are my competition only until they become my customers." And with that, he winked.
To themselves, his companions all wondered at this man "Bob." Did he possess, after all, the superior vision and intuition of a prophet... or was he just a lucky salesman, blabbering inane cliches??
But that question was soon forgotten, as Dobbs and Connie -- hand in hand, whispering and giggling like newlyweds -- herded them into the submarine and summoned the Vortex. Connie served them lunches as they shot ahead through time to take each hero home.
Li fell asleep in the arms of his new girlfriend, the now-voluptuous supervixen, Janiti.
He awoke briefly to disembark from the submarine, which Dobbs was returning to Bahaab Dahaabs in Africa, and to reboard the Indian canoe for the final "leg" of their journey.
Janiti, of course, prefered to return with Li to the modern age rather than face death from her own people, the intolerant Druids.
Crazy Horse was dropped off in his time and homeland, bidding them keep the canoe.
Now Li and Janiti were to be returned to twentieth century America.
They materialized out of the Vortex, hovering in the magical canoe high in the sky over the night-time campfires of Dokstok. The lake glimmered peacefully below. The sky was no longer tormented by storm clouds, but shone clear and crystaline over a cool breeze.
It was not an especially tearful goodbye, for neither Li nor Janiti could forget Dobbs' having thrown Janiti towards the VoidPit of the AntiBob as a replacement for Connie. Nevertheless, Li and Dobbs shook hands like the real men they were. Li and Janiti then jumped overboard and, buoyed by Dobbs' antigravitational psychokinesis, floated down the towards the SubGenius camp. Above them, they watched Connie blow them a finl kiss and Dobbs wave his Pipe goodbye. Then Connie and "Bob" drifted out of sight into the moonrise, snuggling together in the enchanted canoe.
Stang and his friends, snoring in sleeping bags, never noticed Li and the half-naked, virginal beauty as descending in slow motion out of nowhere.
Nor did the SubGenii express any particular surprise when they awoke the next morning and found, in Li Li-jing's company, that hypnotically lovely woman who seemed to speak every language... for they were too absorbed in swapping stories and 'Fropmixtures amongst themselves.
Stang eventually noticed that Li had acquired not only a girlfriend, but a new and undeniable air of self-confidence. He took time out to throw his arm over Li's shoulder and say, "Well, Li... I guess Dokstok hasn't turned out so bad for you after all. Sort of a fun adventure, huh?"
"Yes," Li Li-jing smiled. "Yes, it was some sort of a fun adventure, indeed."
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