Yesterday, I went looking for the guy, with the plan of clobbering him about the head and shoulders until he cried "Uncle!" (Or "Daddy!" I'm not particular.) But he wasn't at home. I decided to check out his favorite haunts. I looked in dance halls, milk bars, Pottery Pod, Evolvo Lad's Gym, Prairie Maw Funnybook Downloaders. Nobody had seen him. Hours later -- and soaking wet -- my route swung back towards his apartment. Now, there were scores of media lorries pulled up all around it, and a throng of people with cameras. A long red carpet snaked from a rocket-limo up to Storm Boy's door. That could mean only one thing: Eyeful Ethel was there!
I pushed my way through the mob, growling, "Give me some privacy, you vultures!" But nobody was taking any photos of me. Even though I took care to strike several intimidating/sexy poses! What the hell--?!
When I used my special "pirate knock" (so they'd know it was me), a portion of the door shifted into transparency, revealing Ethel. "Not yet," she said. "Maybe come back later. I'll call you." From somewhere behind her, Storm Boy wailed, "LEAVE STORM BOY ALONE!" (Yikes.)
The cloud dissipated by the time I'd made it back to my own place.
Late last night, Storm Boy showed up at my door, looking nervous, his eyes downcast. He cradled a big box in his arms. I didn't know if the box contained roses or a tommy-phaser, but I decided to let him in, regardless. He stammered a few incomprehensible words at me, his eyes red with tears. The box hit the floor. The next thing I knew, he had thrown his arms around me and was sobbing into my beard. "I'M SO SORRY!" he cried. His voice quavered, Mary Tyler Moore-like.
I sat him down on a fur-strewn slab of rock, and poured us some space-java. "I didn't even realize what I had done, when I started seeing Ox," he said, sheepishly. "I thought I was over you! I honestly didn't notice how much the two of you looked alike until that stupid white hair showed up in your beard. It looks really hot, by the way."
"I'm glad you think so," I chuckled. "'Cause I'm keepin' it."
He took a sip of space-java, and smiled haplessly at me for a moment. "Oh! I made you something. To make up for the storm cloud." He presented me with the box.
Inside was a pair of golden metal force-field gauntlets, both of them emblazoned with a light-up display in the shape of a white-and-purple crest.
"They're like your bracers," he explained. "Only the force-fields are shield-shaped, and they shoot out of the palms. Also? You can project a shield and then move it around by moving your hands. The shields maintain their integrity for up to six seconds, although I'm working on ways to make them last longer."
I pulled them on and strolled over to a mirror to admire myself. Through an open window I could see a stray vran digging a hole in my yard. I slid a force-shield under the beast, and flipped him like a pancake over the fence. He ran off, yelping. I grinned at Storm Boy. "These are kick-ass! I'm gonna design a whole new costume around them!"
"That'll be... nice," Storm Boy offered. I could see by his face that he was still feeling uncomfortable.
I sat down next to him, and put my arm around his shoulder. "Listen, buddy. I'm gonna get you through this. I know plenty of beefy, furry dudes. And a lot of them would love to meet you, I bet! Say! Ox has this friend who calls himself "Stink Bug", maybe we could double-date, if you don't have a problem with short guys, and--"
"No, no!" Storm Boy exclaimed, laughing and crying all at once. "I've had enough of smelly men. I mean, it was hard enough when I was just dealing with your odor!"
"Ha, ha, ha! Wait, what?"
"Never mind." He wiped the snot from his nose, and got up to leave. "See you at the office tomorrow?"
I showed him to the door. By then, Cootie had curled up inside the open box and had fallen asleep. I spent some time
(And a larger view.) I wanted to show off my sweet new tats, so this outfit is topless. (You're welcome.) I continued the crenelation them on a snappy new metal belt. The boots feature my signature "calf spats", plus a cut-in on the front that mirrors the crest on my gauntlets. A domino mask completes the look. As for my hair, well, I had been thinking of growing out my goatee even before I got assigned that "Undercover Santa" mission. I had hesitated, though, because I was worried it might start to block the nifty castle cut-out that Silvercat had designed. With the castle shape moved to the left, I can let my beard get longer and still show off my logo. Y'know, I might have trimmed my whiskers back just a tad too much, but I can grow them back out quickly enough. If I feel like it. And I buzzed my hair both out of necessity -- because Storm Boy's cloud had zapped multiple bald patches into it -- and just because it looks more bad-ass.
Oh, and the white in my beard? I'm guessing some of you might complain that it makes me look old. You know who doesn't think it makes me look old? Everybody else from my home planet, where it's the norm for twenty-something dudes to have white in their beards. HONOR MY CULTURE, JERKS! Er, sorry. I guess I'm just a little sensitive about these things.
Finally, since I got the crenelation tattoo idea from "Extreme Blockadeover" finalist, Dr. Tectonic, I'd like to offer him the same prize I gave to Silvercat: I'll draw a picture (or two) for him. Whatever he wants! (He knows how to get in touch with me.)