Another mystery solved! YEAH, space-boyee!
Okay, okay... I'll back up.
Yesterday, the Citadel of Doom started filling up with folks who -- and I can hardly believe this myself -- actually want to see the undoubtedly-execrable "Space Movie." Hell, not only do they want to see the wretched thing, but they want to be the first to see it! For "bragging rights", I guess. Honestly, what passes for culture in this day and space-age...! Give me Rimborian speed-opera (all-male and all-naked, if you please), any ol' day.
So. I was up in my cave, spying on all the stupid, hapless dolts who were milling around the Citadel, when suddenly I saw this one insignificant dot leave the mob and strike out into the jungle! I figured I'd track him. And once I found him? I dunno. Give him a good scare, at least.
I scrambled down the cliff and I plunged into the foliage. My handsome nose scented the air, searching for any human-type smells. I eventually latched onto something that was vaguely familiar. Like mothballs, soaked in rum.
After maybe forty minutes, I had gotten close enough to see my prey. He was a scruffy, gangly, dandy of a man, wearing a porkpie hat with a floating holo-card projected over the polka-dotted band. The man undid the little kerchief that was about his neck, and dabbed the sweat from his face. Slapping at the monstrous leaves that brushed against his arms, he minced into a clearing. There, he started to pluck mushrooms from the sward, stuffing them into a fanny pack.
By now, I had picked up another scent that wafted off of the man.
Holy shit. It was Phantom Lad.
I sneaked up behind him and I cleared my throat -- which sounds like the roar of a Parakat, by the way (the car, not the animal) -- and he jumped a good five feet up in the air. He landed about as gracefully as Ray Bolger.
When he spotted me, his eyes goggled. He hastily removed his hat, and all his long, greasy hair came spilling down over his shoulders.
"Blockade Boy--!" he gasped. A smile tried to find purchase on his face, and failed. Holding the hat behind him, he added, "Check it! Sometimes I land me a square job, y'know, for kicks, and then I take off my hat and I say, "Imagine that: me, workin' for you!"
"No, you don't," I said, flatly.
He looked down at his feet. "You're right," he admitted. "I don't."
"Let's see that hat!" I said. "A floating holo-card, huh? That's kinda cool."
"Oh, it's really not," he demurred, and he began to back away from me.
"Fork it over," I said.
With great reluctance, he did, but his finger "slipped" and deactivated the card before I could see it.
"Oh, c'mon--!" I spat. I quickly found the little on/off button in the brim, and the holo-card hissed back into view.
I know it was wrong, but I laughed my ass off. I'm sorry; I couldn't help it. Because it was a press card, naming him as one "Tod Hamplan", movie reviewer for "The Lallorwood Minute." And I was familiar with "Hamplan's" work. After all, I'd seen it on nearly every holo-film poster for the last three years.
I could barely talk, I was guffawing so hard. "DUDE--! This is that other writing job that Frigid Queen was always hinting at...? You're one of those guys? The guys who give glowing reviews to every movie that ever gets made, no matter how shitty it is? Aw, man! Seriously--! That is so weak!"
Phantom Lad attempted to blush, but the waxiness of his complexion rendered the color a sickly beige.
"I gotta make money somehow," he muttered. "And they give you free sandwiches. But yeah. I kinda hate myself for it."
"C'mere," I said, warmly.
He stared at me, warily.
"C'mon," I coaxed. "Hug time."
As he toddled forward, I grabbed him in a tight "bear hug." He began to blubber into my chest, occasionally stealing glances at where my thick, hairy dingus was pressing into his waist. I grabbed his head and made him look back up at my face.
"Listen," I told him, "You're better than this. I know I give you a lot of grief. But one thing I know is, you're better than this. Anybody is better than this. So nobody wants to buy your serious writing? Screw 'em! Find something else they want! You don't have to prostitute your art. Because your art is sacred. Trust me. I'm an artist; I know what you're going through. Keep writing. Keep writing and don't ever stop. But don't let somebody else turn your writing into a joke. They don't have the authority. Only you do."
He sniffled. "Yeah, I guess I oughta quit. The money's good, and the sandwiches are fucking heavenly, man, but you're right. It ain't worth it."
I led him over to a low boulder and we just sat there for a while, with my arm around him, while he softly cried.
Finally, I patted him on the back, and I stood up. "So, are you feeling better?" I asked him. Casually, I pulled my own long hair into a samurai-style pony tail (or "Patrick Swayze in 'Road House'-style pony tail" if there's something horribly wrong with you).
Phantom Lad stared at me, but didn't say a word.
"What--?" I prompted him, feeling mildly irritated.
"That's hot," he gulped.
"And that is a whole 'nother talk," I laughed. "Now get out of here, you bum!" With a slap to his ass, I nudged him out of the clearing and back into the jungle.
"Oh, and one other thing!" I called after him. "You might want to be well away from the Citadel of Doom around 9 AM tomorrow morning."