Polka Dots & : Hippopotamoi
"O Sesame non introducet penis totius" (Do not enter without introduction under pain of Tut), read the inscription over the [quoteright]door â€” an open invitation to professional ghouls. Old King Nutshutsup and Queen Nefernefernag had not wanted anyone to disturb their pharaonic bones so they had sealed the door with stone; but on the other hand, being the kind of royalty that needed to make an impression of hospitality, they had hinged the stone. But it was lucky the door was open because no one would have known the riddle of the lock, anyway. From the entrance of the tomb to the middle took only a few steps. But, of course, as in most things, such as life and tales of adventure, getting from middle to end is the hardest part. Bent mirrors distracted them, blind corridors confounded them, blasts of sudden air blew up everyone's chlamys and awesome noises set them atremble. But eventually they found themselves within the mausoleum itself only to discover at last that they were now just moments too late!
At their feet lay a series of broken chests, gutted of their contents. The crowning atrocity was a mangled, tangled clutter of cylinders & wires which Icarus recognized at once.
"My parts!" he nearly wept. "My engine has been mutilated beyond repair. Now I shall never be able to complete my flying machine and training program in time." How disengaging it all was! Ooma flew from his side, sobbing and shrugging off all touches of comfort.
"The revolution is over!" she wailed, "We'll never be able to scrape enough together now to refinance the resistance."
"P-per-perhaps if I prayed to the go-go-god of impossible reconstitution," suggested Polly,"We m-might yet fit the complementary serrations firmly together, not omitting first to apply some really effective adhesive substance, a g-g-g;ue ... " But this was received with fratricidal glances.
"There is still the Rosetta/Milhaus Tapestone which you could translate for Fame's sake," Dr. Belchior reminded him.
"Why bother?" sniffed Icarus. With wings so clipped he no longer cared to reach for anything at all.
After a dispirited conference, Ooma & Icarus decided that rather than pursue a dead horse any further, they would remain in the desert & open aÂ canteen in suburban Babylon.
"Well, really," volunteered Dr. Poxus after a long and dismal silence, "There is nothing to this flying machine of yours! Why, my doctorate in Fanciful Engineering lay precisely along such lines."
"You mean to say that you could recreate the missing propeller shaft from memory?" smiled Icarus sarcastically.
I do indeed. Then, all we need to do is square the length of the nose cone, adjust the fuselage to the exigencies of air pressure, attach six or eight layers of wings and await a propitious moment when Saturn enters an air sign â€” preferably Libra. I reckon with these minor adjustments your present machine would be capable of a flight of at least three feet!"
"Eureka!" shouted Icarus, hope lending him enthusiasm once more, "That would at the very least get us over the border â€” provided we all got behind and pushed it up to the edge of the frontier."
"Not so fast!" cried a harsh, familiar voice echoing from the depths of the tomb. "YOU ARE UNDER ARREST!"
Suddenly they were bathed in the cruel light of many artificial torches. They were surrounded byÂ soldiers on all sides! At the top of Nutshutsup's sarcophagus-ladder stood the hated priest, Vel Partunu, and at his obnoxious side, on the other sarcophagus-ladder, loomed the equally morbid hulk of the tyrant, Vicarius himself, in full regalia. Both were made up to the hilt and a scent of tuberose & heliotrope wafted down to the criminals.
"Fo! We have fnared you at laft!" lisped the hierophant, patting his tight, marceled curls & fanning himself with a gilded palmetto. Then in sardonic malice he turned to the girl, "Aha! Ooma, my fweet! Had you perhapf forgotten today if your birthday. You are juft feventeen & eligible for our royal chaftifement!"
"Dregs of Dionysus! I had forgotten!" Oona snapped her fingers.
Just then Dr. Belchior remembered a crick he had learned in the Orient: the ability to cloud men's minds, which had been taught him in far-off Tibet under the shadow of the famed Lama, Kran Ston. While Ooma & the tyrant were wrangling, he employed the extra bonus of time to good use. Concentrating heavily, beads of perspiration started from his brow. At length, after a sickening twang, something in his head snapped. Immediately king & priest alike, along with their most psychopathic guards, perceived their captives to change into a herd of stampeding, polka-dotted hippopotamoi charging directly at them.
"Stop this illegal magic!" shrieked the priest, trying to get down from the sarcophagus and finally tripping on his gown.
"No time to lose!" whispered Belchior to the others. "As we flee in the opposite direction they will believe we are running towards them! It's done with multiple Mycenean mirrors & mass mesmerism, too complex to explain." They hastened into the desert once again, as the soprano cries of hierophant Vicarius pierced the night.
"The weed of crime bears bitter fruit!" remarked Apollodonis sancti- moniously.
NEXT: Chapter IX (conclusion) - "Flying Down Torero"Â
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