"Quark County Bounty Hunter"
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And here's my 22,000 word novella.
Quark County Bounty Hunter
Inside a single atom there exists a whole universe unto itself and it is called the atomverse. Within this bizarre quantum world one quanta is equal to one dollar and the characters you are about to meet, although they mow lawns and rob banks like normal people, they are shall we say, a bit on the quarky side.
1 Photon and the Jinks
2 Doctor Imfine
4 Gravity, Space and Time
6 The Higgs Buffoon
7 Muon and Tau
8 The Weak Force News Network
9 Comic Ray
10 Quantum Cars and a Hole
11 Proton and a Sar’s Bar
12 The Quark County Blues
12 ½ The Big Dang
1 Photon and the Jinks
A Jinks truck is double-parked outside the Quark County Savings Bank in the center of a small town called Up Quark and across the street from the bank is Lickher Liquors where Photon, a gorgeous young blonde, buys her booze every day. She’s wearing what she always wears as she runs into the store: white jogging shoes, skin tight blue jeans and a t-shirt that was made for a girl half her size. She grabs a cold twenty-four pack of Polar Beer and brings it to the register.
“What, no thirty pack today?” asks Casey the owner.
“I’m tryin’ to cut down,” says Photon, “and gimmie a carton of ultra-light 100s and a fifth of Laser Beam.”
Photon throws her booze and cigarettes on her passenger seat and in her frantic rush to get somewhere she makes an illegal u-turn in the middle of North Main Street and clips the rear end of the Jinks truck.
“Son of a bitch! My first accident.” She gets out inspecting for damage. “Dang, now I got a scratch on my bran' new pickup truck. There’s only a hundred trillion miles on it… and now look at it. It’s as good as used.”
The Jinks driver, Ura Nium, is watching her through his side-view mirror, and other than a little paint on the corner of his bumper the armored vehicle is fine. Photon would talk to Ura, but his window remains closed so she gives him a thumbs up and after he nods in recognition she gets back into her own truck and…
A small car slams into her front end and for a fleeting moment Photon sees a surprised look on the other driver’s face just before her own head gets jerked forward and hits the steering wheel.
“Damn… where the hell did that car come from?” Photon yelps.
She gets out of her truck again and examines the new damage. Now her front grill is bashed in, there’s a cut on her forehead, her neck hurts and Paul Sar, the owner of a disco ball company who she’d rather avoid, is coming out of the bank. It’s bad enough that morning commuters are yelling at Photon, but now she’ll have to listen to Paul Sar’s malfunctioning mouth. Paul stutters when he says the word "car." He asks too many questions that have obvious answers and his orbs, which revolve over every dance floor in Quark County, spin so fast that no one can get in a groove. They just hop around like bunny rabbits in hyperspace.
“Where’s the driver of that ca, ca, ca, ca, car?” asks Paul. “Is this a hit and run?”
“More like hit and vanish,” says Photon. “He was there, but now he’s not.”
“Is that ca, ca, ca, ca, car silver?” asks Paul.
“You’re lookin’ at it,” says Photon. “Of course it’s silver.”
“Well… I’ve never seen a silver ca, ca, ca, ca, car before.”
“They’re called DelOreos,” says Photon. “And what’s bothering me is that it has no license plate, which probably means that he doesn’t have insurance. And why don’t you slow your disco balls down? Nobody can dance to them.”
“I don’t know.”
“Well I don’t have time for this conversation right now. I can’t think straight with all these horns honking. Can you back up my car for me?”
“Why can’t you do it?”
“I’ve told you before Paul, I wasn’t born with back up genes... or parking genes.
“Oh… that’s right… but are you sure your truck is drivable?”
“Minor details,” says Photon. “Just back it up.”
“You’re always in a rush. Where are you going?”
“I have no idea Paul; now are you gonna help me or not.”
“No problem,” says Paul. “And I’ll bet the owner of that ca, ca, ca, ca, car was from out of town. Who else would do something like this?”
And who indeed:
Neutrino, the owner of that small car, is an exiled refugee from the heart of Sun City. When he was born they gave him a driver’s license, a car, kicked him out of town and he’s been driving ever since. He’s had well over a trillion near collisions, but never hit so much as a leaf or a bug, at least not until today.
“Paul, could you hurry it up, I need to get going,” Photon howls with an attitude.
“Oh… right,” says Paul.
He maneuvers her truck into the center of North Main Street and puts it in park. Photon’s hands are shaky as she gets behind the wheel and in her fit of frustration she breaks a perfectly manicured fingernail while trying to open a pack of smokes.
“Damn,” says Photon, “you’d think the Philip Clitoris Company would make that stupid little piece of cellophane easier to find.”
She puts a cigarette in her mouth, fumbles through her glove box for a match and as she strikes one a fragment of the hot ember splinters off and lands under her eyelid.
“Dang,” she grumbles rubbing her burning eyeball. “Today is not my day. Oh well, at least I’m the best driver in the atomverse.”
Or is she?
Neutrino, who’s peeking around the corner of a silicon alley, used to say. “I’m the best driver in the... where am I?” Of course he was talking to his dashboard because he’s never been outside of his vehicle. Since Neutrino popped out of the womb, a million years ago, he has never interacted with another human being. He doesn’t know what time it is, what day it is or what town he’s in, but he has learned from listening to radio talk shows for the last thousand millenniums that people need quantum to survive. They keep it well protected and therefore the Jinks truck must be full of it, so here’s what he does:
He disappears through the wall of a gun shop, passes freely into its ammunition vault, puts five hand grenades into his pocket and pops back out into the silicon alley. He walks into the street, lobs a grenade under the Jinks truck and…
It blows the back doors wide open and surprises the hell out of the Jinks driver. He jumps out of his burning vehicle, draws his gun and looks for the suspicious looking man who he saw in the cross walk. The sheer brazenness of the thief has caught him off guard and before he has a chance to call for help or find out if anything is missing the burglar has already grabbed a bag full of cash and faded into oblivion.
“Damn, I’ve been hit!” screams Photon holding onto her bleeding shoulder.
Vehicles are piled up, a Jinks truck is in flames and those who aren’t evading the flames and confusion are observing the madness like it was a Sunday matinee. Inquisitive store owners and shoppers are flooding onto the sidewalks and scratching their heads. It’s not total mayhem, but Paul Sar wishes it was as he comes out of Lickher Liquors with a bottle of Hailey’s Irish Comet. A second Jinks employee, Neb Ula, comes running out of the bank and approaches Photon as fast as he can.
“Hold on, Miss,” Neb howls, “an ambulance will be here any second!”
Photon puts her pedal to the metal and she’s gone so fast that no one sees her leave.
“Any second… what a fool.” She laughs from miles away.
Photon’s mirth may have no girth, but it will soon transform into an altered state of analgesic arithmetic when Doctor Imfine gets a hold of her.
2 Doctor Imfine
Photon arrives at Quark County General Hospital within a trillionth of a second, which leaves her plenty of time to smash her truck into a wall and run into the ER. The only way she can stop is to intentionally hit something, which makes her vehicle bounce back far enough so she can drive forward again. And nothing, including herself and passengers, ever gets damaged unless she actually gets into an accident.
“Well, if it isn’t little Miss Fortune,” says a nurse. “What the hell happened to you?”
“Wrong place at the wrong time,” says Photon. “I was making a u-turn when someone blew up a truck.”
“What kind of truck?” asks the nurse as she swiftly guides Photon onto a bed.
“Stinks? What stinks? I don’t smell anything,” says Doctor Imfine, who has a slight hearing problem. “Well if it isn’t Calamity Jane. Now what have we here?”
“Shrapnel,” says the nurse.
“Snapple? I’d love one, thank you,” says Doctor Imfine. “Now let’s have a look at you. Oh my, we’re bleeding today. Nurse, bring me a cart and set her up with one tenth of one percent nonfat CCs of metha-hydra-peroxl-diphen-corta-oxy-celulos and a constant of drip of Fermat’s Last Serum.”
It wasn’t 'til as of late, but the FDAHOLE finally approved Fermat’s Last Serum and that’s a good thing for Photon because right now she’s feeling no pain and she’s on an unusual mathematical high as her boyfriend Electron, a handsome, muscular, bald-headed brute, rushes to her side.
“How are you feeling?” asks Electron.
“I feel giddy and for some reason I have a lot of equations running through my head,” says Photon. “Like I think I figured out that E = MC Hammer.”
“I have no idea what that means,” says Electron, “but you can tell me later. Right now I need to know what you saw when that crook blew up the Jinks truck.”
“How did you know about that?” asks Photon.
“I monitor Strong Force radios. Now tell me, did you see him?”
“Well, it all happened so fast, but it could be the same guyaxy that smashed into my truck.”
“What are you talkin’ about?”
“After I hit the Jinks truck I…”
“Whoa. Back it up, Photon. You hit the Jinks truck?”
“Well yeah, but only its bumper… and I was just about to leave when from out of nowhere a car smashed into my front end.”
“What do you mean from outta nowhere?”
“Well, it popped out of thin air. If I divide an isodope by an I’msaucedohplease triangle, will it equal the din sum of its sides of beef?”
“What the hell did they give you, Photon?”
“Electron, honey, could you please tell the uncertainty principal of Heisenberg’s High School that no one seems to know where his students are. And that car… was it imported?”
“Important? Of course I’m important,” says Doctor Imfine. “Nurse, that’s too much serum. Cut that in half and bring our Hard Luck Hairyette here back to reality, would you please?”
“It didn’t have any headlights,” says Photon.
“Head lice? Does someone have head lice?” asks Doctor Imfine.
“No, we’re talking about headlights, doc,” says Electron.
“Oh, well I can cure those too.”
“Hi doctor. My name’s Electron. I’m Photon’s boyfriend and you are doctor…?
“I’m sure you are,” says Electron, “and so am I, but let’s try this again. You are doctor…?
“Imfine,” repeats the doctor.
Electron shakes his head and looks at Photon.
“No,” says Photon. “This is Doctor Imfine.”
“Oh.” Electron looks at the doctor. “Why didn’t you say so?”
“I did. I’m Doctor Imfine.”
“Oh, Doctor Imfine.” Electron laughs. “Well I’m fine also.”
“Maybe we’re related, although I’ve never heard of Electron Imfine.”
“No, my name’s not Electron Imfine.”
“Glad to hear it, son,” says the doctor. “Nurse, if our Mister and Misses Slummy and Chair start singing, “I Gotta Chew Babe,” then cut her serum by another one hundredth of one percent.
“Doctor, maybe now’s not a good time, but I just bought a new Narley Davidson and it’s making my assteroids flare up. Any suggestions?”
“Apply a tropical solution of Preparation-H-Bomb twice a day for fifty thousand years.”
“Thanks doc,” says Electron. “But I guess the real question is, will Photon be alright?”
“Oh, don’t worry about her. We removed the shrapnel, put her arm in a slingshot so she’ll be polarized for three weeks, but after that she’ll be able to stretch out like a rubber band at a third grade convention. She’s one tough galaxy. And if you don’t mind me saying so, you look like one tough guyaxy yourself.”
“I can be mean if I have to, doc. And I’m also a debt collector, so if anybody owes you any large sums of quantum, you just give me a call. Here’s my card.”
“Thanks,” says the doctor. “And Photon will need an escort service before we can release her, so try to be back in a few hours?”
“No problem, doc. Now Photon, the guyaxy who hit you... what did he look like?”
“He was white and nearly featureless although he did have silver hair and a very surprised look on his face. I don’t think he expected to get into an accident.”
“Who does?” says Electron. “That’s why they call them accidents.”
“No, I mean I think he was born with a no-accident gene. You know… like everybody in my family inherited the speed limit gene.”
“So, I’m looking for a white, featureless guyaxy with silver hair that doesn’t get into accidents.”
“Oh, and Paul Sar was at the bank just before the truck blew up.”
“Yeah, but why would a rich entremanure like Paul Sar get mixed up in a Jinks robbery… unless he needed some quantum to put brakes on his disco balls?”
“And that ca, ca, ca, ca, car was silver. I think it was a DelOreo,” says Photon.
Electron laughs at his girlfriend’s imitation of Paul as he speeds away from the hospital on his Narley Davidson. He pulls into a filling station and complains.
“Ten quantas per gallon? What is this, Gus, a shell game?
“It’s those damn Scarabs in Soggy Arabia,” says Gus Oline, the owner. “They pump out five billion barrels of crude dark energy everyday and still the price goes up.”
While the Quark County Strong Force looks for clues at the crime scene, Neutrino is on a bus headed to Down Quark. Public transportation is free and that’s good for Neutrino because all he has is hundred quanta bills. The bus nears the outskirts of Down Quark and passes an abandoned Raptist Church on North Main Street when suddenly from out of nowhere…
A small car rams into the side of the bus.
“What the hell was that?” Ralph the driver slams on his brakes.
“That car looks like mine,” shouts Neutrino, feeling like an idiot when he realizes that what he just said could link him to the Jinks robbery.
“There’s nobody behind the wheel of that car,” shouts Ralph. “And where the hell did it come from? Hey, are you alright back there?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” says Neutrino. “Could you open the back doors?”
Neutrino slips off the bus, keeping the bag full of quantum close to his side. The bus driver calls in the accident and while the information is being transferred to the Strong Force Headquarters, Neutrino scurries through some overgrown weeds to the backside of the deserted church where he pries off a piece of plywood from a boarded up window. He climbs inside. Someone is following him and watching his every move, but he doesn’t know it.
“Where am I?” he wonders out loud. “How much quantum do I need?”
Neutrino has no idea so he grabs a bundle and looks for a place to hide the rest. He sees a curious looking hole in the wall. It’s an air vent, but he doesn’t know that. The silver, metallic color makes him feel at home and he takes a step up thinking that he can walk on the air.
He tries again and falls over which makes him realize that he has no clue what the rules are in this foreign place. He has some knowledge from listening to AM and FM talk shows all his life, but that’s it. Something is keeping him down and he doesn’t like it. He eventually learns how to stand on a chair and stashes the quantum in the vent. As he’s climbing back out through the window, he stops half way.
“How can I be on both sides at once? I have a lot to learn.”
Neutrino is only one million years old, still a virgin, and when he gets back out to the sidewalk he approaches the first guyaxy he sees.
“Hey buddy, do you know where I can find a… I forget what you call them. I’m looking for a woman who sells sex for a living.”
“Yeah, one of those. Do know where I can find a positrute?”
“Where the hell have you been for the last fourteen billion years?”
“Go over the bridge, walk two blocks and turn left at Shrunkin' Blownuts. You’ll see a small sign that says Charm’s Massage.”
Neutrino crosses the bridge and ambles sluggishly along the trash-littered sidewalk down South Main Street into the nastiest section of Down Quark.
“Hey, man,” a voice whispers from an unlit doorway. “Crackijuana, marycain, heroweed, oxypolyester?”
“Not today,” says Neutrino.
He takes a left at Shrunkin' Blownuts and barely eludes Electron’s keen eye as the sound of a Narley grows ever more distant with each wobbly step he takes. Sirens wail in the background and Neutrino looks suspicious as he gapes at two signs: Charm’s Massage and Hydrogenitals. He walks up three flights of stairs and upon entering a filthy little office he sees an interesting picture on the wall. It has multiple squares on it and two of them are crossed out. A fat dark galaxy is waddling toward him.
“May I help you?” she asks.
“Are you a positrute?”
“No. You must be looking for Charm’s on the first floor. This is a Hydrogenital Replacement clinic. Would you like a replacement? It only takes ten minutes?”
Neutrino is staring at the picture and asks, “What is it?”
“It’s the third of Jewelry,” she says.
“It means that tomorrow is the fourth of Jewelry. Where have you been for the last fourteen billion years?”
“Why do people keep asking me that?”
“Asking you what?”
“Fourteen billion years. What is that?”
“Don’t you know?”
“Honey, where exactly do you come from?”
“Never heard of it.”
The Hydrogenital employee, who is also a nurse, looks into Neutrino’s eyes and studies his mannerisms. He’s a strange character alright, but he doesn’t appear to be a suicide bomber so she continues.
“Would you like a replacement? It only costs one hundred quantas.”
“Do I need one?”
“Honey, every guyaxy from here to Timquarktu has one.”
“Okay, then I’ll take two.”
“Are you sure?”
“Well, since you put it like that, I’ll take three.”
Before she has a chance to dissuade him, Neutrino reaches into his pocket, pulls out a huge wad of bills and peels three off the top.
“Oh my, Sun City has been good to you. My name is Ann Dromeda. What’s yours?”
“Right this way, Neutrino.”
She leads him into a small r
oom and, after he parks his shortcomings onto a plastic-covered hospital bed like it was an Apollo 17 landing site, he apprehensively pulls down his pants.
“I’m going to apply a local anesthesia with a cotton swab,” says the nurse.
“Okay,” says Neutrino.
“There. That didn’t hurt a bit, now did it?”
“No, not at all.”
“Good. Now relax and the surgeon will be with you shortly.”
“Thank you, Miss Dromeda,” says the surgeon as he walks in holding a clipboard. “And you must be Neutrino. I’m Doctor Imnotfine.”
“That’s too bad,” says Neutrino.
“What’s too bad?
“Good,” says the doctor. “What other letters of the alphabet do you know?”
“I’m going to give you a shot of Fermat’s Last Serum. It’s a little stronger than the sedative that the nurse just gave you.”
Neutrino lies back on his bed and he’s on a mathematical high.
“The Bucky Balls of Fame times a titrahedron equals ballsandtitsdom?”
“I’m sure it does,” says the surgeon as he whacks off Neutrino’s venus.
Thirty minutes later Neutrino is running down three flights of stairs with three Hydrogenital Replacements and a venus in his hand. He walks into Charm’s Massage parlor where he’s greeted by Charm, who is anything but charming. She grabs Neutrino’s arm, pushes him into a private room and closes the door.
“Well hello,” says a voluptuous, buxom positrute with long purple hair. “My name is Miss Ultra Violet. What’s yours?”
“It’s nice to meet you, Neutrino. Did you just get a replacement?”
“Three of ‘em.”
“Sure, why not?”
“Do you have enough quantum?”
“I think so,” says Neutrino as he flips through his bills like a deck of cards.
“Oh my,” says Ultra Violet. “That's a lot of quantum. Now put down that venus, get a hold of your replacements and I’ll be right back with three condoms and two more positrutes.”
4 Gravity, Space and Time
Sheriff Gravity sits behind his big desk; he’s a large man with a deep voice and even though he’s getting older in years, women are drawn to him because of his good looks and full head of hair. Men gravitate toward him because of his far-reaching powers of influence and strong personality. He has many admirable attributes, but muscular strength is not one of them; he couldn’t win a tug of war against a goldfish. He’s been to every specialist imaginable and they’ve all come to the same conclusion: he’s weak, very weak. Gravity has two deputies, Space and Time. He has tremendous respect for his subordinates and he’s constantly boasting it to the media: “I am nothing without Space and Time.”
“Gravity, sir," says Deputy Space.
We had both cars towed to the crime lab and there’s something you need to see.”
“I’m swamped with paper work, Space. What the hell is it?”
“Sir, you’ll have to see this to believe it.”
They walk to the building next door where the forensic team is busy at work. The car that smashed into the bus is up on a lift, but the car that smacked into Photon’s truck is in the middle of the room.
“Sir, Mike Rochip from the Chandra X-ray Observatory called me back and... well, Sun City is not on any map,” says deputy Space.
“Well, find it,” shouts Gravity.
“Yes, sir. And all our forensic experts agree: neither one of these cars is from this atomverse.”
“That’s impossible,” says Sheriff Gravity. “Has everyone in Quark County gone mad? A car pops out of thin air and hits a pickup truck, another one slams into a bus and there’s nobody behind the wheel; the grenade came from a vault that was never opened and Ultra Violet's john, whose name is Neutrino, has a triple replacement. Who the hell needs a… never mind, Anyway, if that’s not enough, even though we have multiple witnesses, the best our sketch artist can come up with is a face that looks like the mannequin in Stephen W. Hawkthing's pawnshop. This better be good, Space. I’m losing my patience.”
“No one knows where these cars come from sir,” says Mike Roscope, the head of forensics. “And the materials they’re made out of are not like anything that… ”
“Roscope,” Gravity cuts him off, “I don’t care. Just get on with it.”
“Alright,” says Space. “Show Mr. Cynical here what these cars can do.”
“I’m waiting,” says Gravity. “And this better be good.”
The silver door makes a suction noise as it slides open. Inside there’s no gauges, no blinkers, no lights, no heater, no seatbelts, no airbags, no passenger seat, no cassette player, no AC, no CD, no ACDC, U3, PC, IP, MP4, MTV, ABC, or BB KINGs. And although it has a radio, which only tunes into talk stations, Mike Roscope can’t figure out where the chatter is coming from or how to turn it off.
The car has no fuel tank, fish tank, tank top, chain drive, drive train, love train, soul train or video game and the only thing that Mike saw when he looked under the hood was a mysterious, spinning black ball held in suspension between four massive magnets.
It doesn’t have a steering wheel, a sewing wheel or the wheel of fortune, but it does have a big red ON button. There’s no OFF and there’s no idling with this vehicle. It’s everything or nothing. It’s here or there. You can’t open the hood and have your engine too. If Gravity didn’t believe in extraterrestrials before, he will now. Mike hits the ON button and the car speeds toward the cement wall at an alarming rate.
“Is he crazy? He’s gonna kill himself!” Gravity’s eyes are popping out of his head; he winces and expects it to crash but instead, it vanishes through the rebar-enforced concrete. “What the hell just happened? Was that a David Dopplerfield magic trick?”
“That was no illusion,” says deputy Space. “Come look.”
Gravity steps into the parking lot and the silver car is buried three feet deep into a Strong Force cruiser. The cruiser is fine, but the very strange automobile has partially disappeared.
“So what the hell does this mean, Roscope? If these cars can…” Gravity’s cell phone rings; he looks at the caller ID and flips it open. “Time, what’s up?”
“Gravity, you’re not gonna believe this.”
“Right now I’d believe anything. What is it?”
“Well, you know that late-night talk show that I listen to… Coast to Coast
with Art Bell?”
“The one with Mel’s hole?”
“Yeah, that one.”
“Bunch a lunatics,” says Gravity. “What about it?’
“Well sir, I’m in my office. I just logged onto his website and you should… ahhhhhh!” Time screams.
“Space, Time’s in trouble!”
Gravity and Space run into the main building and they see a car sticking out of Time’s floor. Time is pinned between its rear end and his desk, and it’s apparent that the driver has fled, so Gravity holsters his weapon and leans over Time.
“He’s still breathing. Get an ambulance here quick!” shouts Gravity. “Hang on, Time; you can make it! Space where are those paramedics?”
Time’s leg is crushed. There’s a gaping gash in his chest and on his face. A large pool of blood has gathered beneath his black leather vest and his silver Strong Force badge has been purposely torn off.
“Where the hell are those para…”
“This way!” yells Space as he leads them to the tragic sight.
The paramedics stabilize Time and pull him free. There’s not a scratch on the car and, though it must have come through the ceiling, the ceiling remains in tact.
“What the hell happened here?” a paramedic inquires.
“Will he survive?” asks Gravity.
“He’ll make it to the hospital, but we’ll have to wait and see what kind of internal damage he has. He probably has multiple conclusions from hitting his head on that desk. Are you ready? One, two, three.”
They lift him onto a stretcher, rush him into the ambulance and their siren wails as they whiz away from the Quark County Strong Force Headquarters. Time's heart is still beating, but his life is in the hands of technology now.
“Roscope,” Gravity shouts into his shoulder radio, “Time’s office ASAP!”
Gravity looks fiercely into Space’s eyes.
“Space, this just got personal. Whatever son-of-a-bitch did this is gonna regret the day he came into my atomverse. He may have sneaked out of the building, but no one escapes from Gravity… no one!”
Roscope walks into the room and Gravity continues.
“And once the press gets a hold of this, we’re gonna have the CIA, the FBI, and the ATF breathing down our necks. And did I mention The Department of Homeless Security and the Toast Guard?”
“You just did, sir.”
“Oh. Well, this is a preemptive strike. Call each and every agency right now and tell them everything you know. If they have any questions give them my cell number. You got that?”
Gravity slams his fist on the silver car.
“This vehicle is a weapon and until we know more about Time’s status we’re gonna treat this like a homicide. If extraterrestrials exist, then I want one these sons-of-bitches behind bars. Roscope, you got until tomorrow to go over this crime scene before the Shih Tzu hits the fan. This room, this building, and this town are gonna be crawling with specialists from all over the atomverse.”
“Sir, what are you gonna do?” asks Space.
“I’m gonna go check out that Coast to Coast web site that Time was looking at and then I’m gonna call our old buddy Electron. We’re gonna need all the help we can get.”
To be continued...