Title: Strange Matter #31 – Rilo Buru’s Summer Vacation, a.k.a. “A Summer Buru”
Authors: Johnny Ray Barnes Jr. and Marty M. Engle
Cover Artist: Wildstorm Studios
Summary: Once upon a time, there was a fairly small monster who lived in a fairly large house on a fairly large hill in a small town called Fairfield. Now, this was no ordinary town, nor was this an ordinary run-of-the-mill monster, but a creature unique to all his peers. For this was a monster who liked people, lived among people, and did all he could to make the world a better, safer place for people. Why, his best friends were the children from Fairfield Junior High.
Now, for such a small monster, Rilo Buru had many big adventures… but he never imagined his biggest adventure would happen when he wasn’t trying to have one at all…
NOTE: I originally planned to have this finished as a Christmas gift, but because Christmas/my actual birthday was such a disappointment (what with my Grandpa’s death a week prior) I decided to make June and my half-birthday the do-over for my 30th so here is my first “Halfmas” gift to you all.
It’s our first Strange Matter recap in years, and it’s of a book that never got printed! For anyone who doesn’t remember, during my first year at Point Horror I provided a recap for “The Raven Woman,” which would’ve been the 17th book in the Fear Street Sagas series had it not been cancelled. Thankfully, there’s a preview for “The Raven Woman” in “The Hand of Power,” the 16th and final Sagas entry.
Now originally, this recap was limited only to the preview available in “Escape from Planet Earth.” However, Marty Engle sent me a PDF of the unfinished draft for “Rilo Buru’s Summer Vacation” AND allowed me to recap it! [Wing: This is such a cool thing to do for the site. Thanks, Marty Engle, so much, and thanks, Jude!]
In the past year I’ve been focusing more on my YA book collecting, both horror and regular fiction such as the Baby-Sitters Club and its two religious alternatives, The Twelve Candles Club and The B.Y. Times. I’ve been doing a lot of shopping on eBay in an attempt to hunt down books before their prices get jacked up. Seriously it’s fucking frustrating over how much people are trying to charge for these stories. Over on eBay I bought “House of the Living Dead,” the second book in the Australian Hair-Raisers series, for like $10 American with shipping from an Australian seller. The same book’s listed on Amazon for SIX. HUNDRED. DOLLARS. [Wing: Hit me up with your list of missing BSC books, I might have some to send you! I say in a comment as if I’m not about to email you, too. Just want to share with the readers. I’m a giver like that.]
During my hunting I have slowly tried to fill the gaps in my Strange Matter collection alongside my other collections such as Goosebumps, Shivers, and Spinetinglers. I’m two books away from finally owning the entire 62 Goosebumps original series. I’ve also acquired the first books in series like Insomniacs, Eerie Indiana, Watchers, American Chillers, and Michigan Chillers.
I managed to track down the entirety of the Strange Matter books out of fear the prices would be ridiculous. I splurged to order all of the last four after I saw one of them was listed for $50 at the LOWEST on Amazon.
Strange Matter was one of many 90s YA horror series, but similar to Graveyard School and Spooksville, the books all took place in the same universe. However, the Strange Matter series slowly built up to a big event that was covered in the spin-off series Strange Forces. From what I’ve read of the several books in the beginning of the series, there was indeed a sense something big was going on in the town of Fairfield. One character in “The Midnight Game” mentioned Fairfield has lots of ghost stories, while another in “Frozen Dinners” discussed how she’s been hearing about a lot of strange things going on in their town, and finally “Knightmare” ended with the main character filled with a sense of dread as if something even worse’s on the horizon.
Book #27 is where the title experienced a genre shift from sci-fi/horror to sci-fi/action. Marty Engle explained to me their publisher pushed for the change in direction as they apparently though the horror fad was ending.
The tagline for the series changed to:
Only 1% of all matter in the universe is known…
EXPLORE THE OTHER 99%.
Gone was the 90s CGI cover artwork and in its place were covers supplied by Wildstorm Studios. Comic buffs out there will remember Wildstorm Studios was an imprint started by Jim Lee while he was with Image Comics. Wildstorm became home to comics such as The Authority, Stormwatch, WildC.A.T.S, and Gen13. It was later brought over to DC Comics, who ran it into the ground during the late 2000s. Warren Ellis tried to relaunch it with a maxi-series called The Wild Storm but his plan for a new WildC.A.T.S. series was cancelled. Oh and since Ellis was finally outed to the world as a sexual predator, chances are it’s not happening. Fuck him.
Unfortunately, I can’t tell who the exact artist is for the covers but my leading guess is Robert Teranishi.
In terms of plot, #27, “Primeval,” involved dinosaurs, while books #28-30 were an alien trilogy called “Summer Offworld.” As of this recap I can say with certainty the tone of the books definitely changed. Reading “Primeval” was like reading a book from a totally different series, but that wasn’t a bad thing. I enjoyed it a lot, especially when I realized it was a sequel to the fifth book, “The Last One In,” which I’d finished reading before “Primeval” with no clue they were connected!
Rilo Buru, the creature mentioned in the title and summary, was apparently a main character in the Strange Forces books. From checking out the archived pages from the old Strange Matter website as well as Engle and Barnes’ Facebook page, Rilo was also the mascot of the series akin to Goosebumps’ Curly. A creature that looked like Rilo was featured in the fourth book, “A Place to Hide,” but was referred to as a “wood lizard.”
Alongside “Rilo Buru’s Summer Vacation,” there were a few more books planned before the series was cancelled. Strange Forces was gonna receive four more entries, while Strange Matter was going to get the following titles. Marty Engles give me a brief rundown on what each book would’ve been about.
- Shriek: About a haunted playground.
- Scariest Show On Earth: About a haunted traveling circus being set up near Fairfield Manor. [Wing: Oh my god, I want it. I want it so much.]
- From The Ashes: About a giant lava worm from the cave featured in “Something Rotten.”
- Stamped: About a variant of the Mongolian devil worm originating from Fairfield.
- Mission Extraterrestrial: A continuation of “Summer Offworld” trilogy.
- The Infestors: About intelligent bugs swarming Fairfield.
I gotta say I was way off with my assumptions. I thought “Shriek” was gonna have a Scream vibe to it and I imagined “Stamped” would be about a haunted library or an evil trading card game.
For those wondering, here’s what a Mongolian devil worm, or Mongolian DEATH worm, is.
Aside from the cancelled books, Engle and Barnes pitched a Strange Matter TV show to Disney in 1997. They posted two pieces of concept art on their Facebook page which, unfortunately, hasn’t been updated in a couple of years.
Although the TV show wasn’t picked up, during the 2010s their book “Creature Features” was adapted into an episode of R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour show on Discovery Family. Yes, they worked on the episode.
NeuHorizons Biotech Research Center – Horton Industrial Complex, Fairfield
Welp, the building’s about to explode. Alarms are ringing, lights are flashing, technicians are running around screaming in their radiation suits. It’s bad enough the workspace is only as a big as a bunch of walk-in closets, but almost everyone was acting like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off.
Electricity and sparks exploded as piping and fiber optical wiring burst out of the ceiling grid. A fire began to spread over the ugly grey industrial carpeting.
“Thirty billion dollars and nothing works but the toilets,” the man at the base of the ladder grumbled. “COULD SOMEONE PLEASE PUT OUT THE FIRE?”
Oh look Wing, a metaphor for life in modern America during the 2020s. [Wing: So true, so true. Not that the 10s were much better.]
What finally stopped the fire and saved the day wasn’t ingenuity, skill, or the results of a well-practiced emergency drill. No, it was some tech support guy kicking a console hard enough to release the flame-retardant foam from nozzles hidden in the walls.
As another techie worked on sealing the cracked conduit that started all the chaos, everyone calmed down. Knowing they weren’t going to die, technician Marion contacted one of the higher-ups to let their boss Mr. Steelberger know his Xerox is ready.
…all that over a freaking Xerox. [Wing: Ostrich used to work for Xerox, so this has me laughing.]
Meanwhile, on the other side of the wall, the part of the building that HADN’T almost burned down was cool and yet somehow incredibly stuffy. A bunch of men in dark blue business suits crowded around a wall of TV screens opposite a window overlooking the vast industrial park built near the hills of Fairfield. The screens were broadcasting a presentation on everything created by NeuHorizons Corp. Ah, NeuHorizons. They did everything. Biotech, pain-killers, chemical weaponry, and even cloning. [Wing: Gotta diversify.]
Clark Weatherton, a tall man with black and silver hair, received the notification from Marion and told the elderly Mr. Steelberger everything was set. The elderly, bushy-eyebrowed Mr. Steelberger thought it took long enough.
“It’s about time, Clark my boy. Thirty billion dollars and the only thing that works around here are the toilets.”
None of the corporate stooges felt comfortable enough to laugh until the big boss did so out of fear for their lives. Steelberger announced it was time to show NeuHorizon’s greatest achievement, one to mark the opening of their new Fairfield office. As Steelberger and Clark led the toadies in suits to this achievement, Steelberger kept laughing before suddenly whispering to Clark.
“You sure these idiots are ready?”
“Merely waiting on your word, sir.”
“Of course they are. Of course they are. And the – subject?”
“Apparently the, um – volunteer is the most unique specimen we’ve ever been fortunate enough to have, sir.”
“Unique, you say?”
“To put it mildly, sir.”
Steelberger nodded. “Nothing had better go wrong with this ‘volunteer’ of yours, Clark – or you’ll find yourself taking his place.
Clark sneered. “Of course, sir.”
Well, they’re no Smithers and Burns, that’s for sure.
Clark and Steelberger led the executives into a small theater with observatory windows looking into an experimentation room. On both sides of the big glass window were more screens showing DNA structures and gene sequences of the “volunteer.”
Inside the experimentation room, more technicians milled about doing this and that while the “volunteer” grew more and more annoyed. Considering he was strapped into a chair, that’s not surprising.
Seated firmly in the chair, held by large metal locking mechanisms, was a small green bipedal reptile. His head didn’t quite reach the top of the chair – obviously designed for humans. His large ears twitched nervously and laid back as each technician passed by. His glowing red eyes blinked in stunned disbelief and total amazement. He was still wearing his Hawaiian shirt and they didn’t even bother taking the camera from around his neck. All around him the technicians scrambled, rambling on about sequences, routines, and cycles, as if he were about to be launched into space… or worse.
“Can you believe this?” Rilo Buru mumbled. “AND I’M ON VACATION!”
But wait, how did we get to this point?
It all started the other day when Hank Dunk, mild mannered student at Fairfield Junior High, arrived at Rilo’s abandoned mansion abode with a few things. The three foot tall, scaly green Rilo was ecstatic to see Hank brought everything he asked for. Hank, however, didn’t think Rilo’s plan was such a good idea as Rilo perused through the vacation starter pack box Hank assembled at Rilo’s request.
The box had everything. Gaudy Hawaiian shirt in “screaming blue with pink flowers,” [Wing: I’d wear it.] zinc oxide, a portable camera (Because it was the 90s, you see!), suntan lotion, even a Walkman with tapes (though the music leaves something to be desired). Hank tried to cut into Rilo’s good mood, pointing out the very obvious elephant in the room.
“Ugh. Who picks your music?” Rilo asked, pulling out a Walkman stereo headphone set, a bunch of tapes, and—
“WHAT?” the green creature yelled, trying on an extremely ugly fishing hat.
“You’re a monster.”
“I’m a nonhuman intelligence.”
“‘Nonhuman’ being the key word here. You can’t just go to this thing and expect no one to freak out!”
“You’re the only one freaking out. They’ll all love me! It’s gonna be fun. It’s gonna be relaxing. It’s gonna be the best time I’ve ever had in my entire life! I’ll be suave. I’ll be dazzling. I’ll be charming.”
“You’ll be the subject of serious experimentation.”
“Well, thank you, Mr. Sunshine.”
Geez Hank, don’t be nonhuman intellgence-ist!
Before Hank can protest further, Rilo spells it out for him. He is done, okay? Finished. Kaput. He needs a time out, alright?! Rilo has spent he doesn’t know how long trying to keep Fairfield out of the hands of the forces of evil. Relic hunters, monsters, evil spirits, alien overlords, he’s dealt with them all and he needs a break. All Rilo wants now is sun, fun, and some of those drinks with the little paper umbrellas.
Rilo makes Hank promise not to tell any of the other kids about his little escape. Morgan, Frank, Kyle, Darren, Michelle, NO ONE. Reluctantly, Hank promises.
Wouldn’t you know it, Rilo Buru must be the luckiest nonhuman intelligence around. On a table in another room was a flyer for CURRENT RESIDENCE, advertising a free cruise and tour of the most impressive biotech lab known to man. All courtesy of our good friends at NeuHorizons. And Rilo managed to get one of the fliers that was a winner.
Meanwhile, the NeuHorizons complex, a cancerous growth on Fairfield if ever there was one, was already receiving a visitor in the form of a 12 year old.
“It’s not as big as I thought it’d be,” the twelve-year-old boy mumbled, as he stepped from a taxi to stare up at the massive logo.
“Hey, kid,” the driver said, leaning over to peer out the passenger door, “What do those brainiacs do in there, anyway?”
“Oh—they tamper with forces beyond human understanding,” the boy said, handing the driver a hundred dollar bill.
“Yeah. That’s what I figured. Careful you don’t get yourself mutated, kid.”
The young boy, whom we shall call Scotty, made his way through the front doors of NeuHorizon. On his way in, he was cheerfully greeted by a bevy of men and women, some in business suits, some in lab coats. Oh hi Scotty! So nice to see you, Scotty! Boy, good looks must run in the family huh Scotty? Do you have a girlfriend yet? Haw haw!
Of course Scotty knew they were all full of shit, because they all knew who Scotty’s uncle was.
At least receptionist Gretchen was nice enough to direct Scotty to Research Level 12, Lab 1369. When told his uncle’s with “Wilfred and Dern,” Scotty figures he’ll only have to look for smoke.
Speaking of smoke…
“AHHHH! PUT ME OUT! PUT ME OUT!” Wilfred cried, waving his flaming arm frantically. His lab-coat sleeve was charred black, and smoke rolled off in great brown clouds.
“HOLD STILL!” Dern cried, clumsily brandishing a red fire extinguisher. “I SAID HOLD STILL!”
“YOU HOLD STILL! MY ARM’S ON FIRE!” Wilfred screamed, flailing about the lab on long, spindly legs. A live power cable, dangling from the unfinished ceiling, continued to spray sparks in all directions.
A burst of white foam exploded from the extinguisher nozzle.
Wilfred stopped, smacked his lips, wiped his black-rimmed glasses with his finger, then blinked foam from his stinging, watering eyes.
“You look like a nerd sundae.”
“You could possibly be the most flammable bio-research intern in the history of NeuHorizons.”
Dern pretended to lean over a microphone. “The nominees for most combustible geek in a supporting role are—GACKKK!” Dern’s remark was choked short as Wilfred’s bony hands clamped around his throat.
Interpersonal violence in the workplace!
As soon as Scotty made his presence known, the dweeb duo known as Wilfred and Dern immediately straightened up and put on their best shit-eating grins. Why if it isn’t Scotty Phillips! What an unparalled delight in all their universe.
Though before we go further, let me clarify while Scotty knows a lot of the people at this company are overly nice to him because of his uncle, Scotty genuinely doesn’t mean anyone snobbish disrespect or anything.
Scotty says it’s nice to see the two again and is just about to ask where his uncle is when said uncle makes HIS presence known as well.
“SCOTTY!” a clear voice rang out from the sliding door leading into another lab. “SCOTTY BOY! Hey, you little Escherichia Coli, come give your uncle Clark the bear treatment.” The tall, perfectly groomed man’s smile seemed to stretch as wide as his arms.
So this guy just called his nephew “E. Coli.” [Wing: It made me laugh.]
ANYWAY, after a long flight, Scotty was happy to see his Uncle Clark even if he’d be stuck in a boring little town for a week. Before Clark Weatherton became vice president of biotech research at NeuHorizon, he’d been pretty much the only friend Scotty had. Smiling and chatty like the host of his own game show, Clark asked his nephew if he was ready for a fun filled week of excitement and intrigue. Scotty couldn’t wait to see what Clark had planned for the two.
Hard cut to Scotty outside the NeuHorizon complex, one thousand dollars richer and a free pass to WateryWorld in his hands, but no uncle. Oh sure, Clark said he’d TRY to make time to spend with Scotty but he was sure Scotty could have a lot of fun on his own for the time being. Get out there! Explore Fairfield! Make some friends! And with a grand in cash, Scotty’s probably the closest thing this town has to a celebrity right now. Money talks, Wing.
But all Scotty wanted was a friend.
Meawhile, at the Kwik-E-I MEAN, the Quicky Mart, Rilo was geared up for a Slushee and some scratchers. At this point Jay, the pimply teen behind the counter, was happy to see him.
“How ya doing, Rilo,” Jay asked nervously. Mr. Finkleman, who was paying for a jug of milk at the time, eyed the bipedal reptile suspiciously, then turned to Jay.
The pimply kid shrugged and said, “Hey, man, it takes all kinds.”
Mr. Finkleman shook his head.
Ugh, baby boomers.
Jay mentioned Rilo usually steps in during the late shift at like 2 or 3 AM. Rilo eagerly showed off his winning vacation flyer, and Jay was excited for him… until he saw the trip was sponsored by NeuHorizon. Take it from Jay, that place has bad vibes.
“You’d throw that thing away right now, if you knew what’s good for you. Something isn’t right about that place. It’s too big, in a death star sort of way. Know what I mean? Remember back when you first came in here? I sorta freaked when I got a load of you, walking in here like a green, big-eared E.T., and I’m an open-minded kinda guy. Those Frankenstein types at the big NH may not be as forward thinking or as life-form-respecting as yours truly. They may never have run
across someone like— Come to think of it, they’d probably die to get their mitts on you.”
“C’mon,” Rilo said, scratching the Lotto cards with the tip of his claw. “Why would they want someone like me? YES!”
Rilo presented Jay with a fifty-dollar winner then smiled. “When you’re hot— you’re hot.”
Someone save this little green jewel from himself.
[Wing: Life. Form. Respecting. This is amazing.]
At that very moment, the NeuHorizon limo pulled into the Quicky Mart parking lot. Scotty was flanked on both sides by Wildfred and Dern. The dweeb duo were just about to put Project Mega Gulp into action.
Rilo’s walking down the mart aisles picking up pet food and toilet paper while looking for camera film, talking about how he plans to do nothing for a week. That’s what people do on vacation, right? Rilo has no idea because this is a whole new experience for him. Jay doesn’t have a chance to answer when Wilfred and Dern enter, and immediately start barking orders at the kid without so much as a please.
Wilfred spoke first.
Dern backed him up.
“Self-serve, Geeks,” Jay snarled.
Their eyes darted left, taking in the 40-flavor drink machine, then back again.
“So that’s how you’re going to play it. Okay, we’ll pour it, Quickyboy—this time.”
They both strode like Bloodinators toward the awaiting icy refreshment.
Scotty felt bad for Jay when he went over to the magazine rack.
And that’s when the darkest moment in Rilo Buru’s life happened.
Wilfred and Dern could hardly believe their eyes when they first saw Rilo, at first assuming he was an actual Dantian Gremlin before realizing he was something else entirely. The two tried to make contact with as much grace and nuance as you would expect.
Rilo was just heading back to the counter to pay for the film, when he was greeted by a shocking sight. His eyes opened wide and his ears laid back as two gangly humans rushed toward him. They held their hands up, fingers extended to form peace signs; their faces were moist with sweat, and their eyes shifted nervously.
“Friend. F-r-i-e-n-d,” Wilfred said.
“We come in peace,” Dern suggested.
“I don’t need this,” Rilo said, turning to run for it, his crunch bar and film falling
from his claws.
I love how Rilo’s immediately NURPE and tries to bolt, but Wildfred and Dern don’t pick up on his lack of interest. Wilfred got in front of Rilo, keeping his attention when Dern PULLED OUT A SYRINGE AND TOOK A SAMPLE OF RILO’S BLOOD!
HOLY SHIT JUST BECAUSE HE’S GREEN DOESN’T MEAN YOU DON’T NEED HIS CONSENT YOU DICKS!
[Wing: …intentional nod by the author to unethical treatment and violence against Black Americans in healthcare experimentation? (See, e.g., PBS With a history of abuse in medicine Black patients struggle for equal access.]
Rilo started bearing his fangs and his eyes glowed red, angry at the two but not angry enough to start attacking. As Rilo told the Dweeb Duo to back off, they pleaded they were simply happy to meet a crea-I MEAN unique person such as Rilo. Dern took out a bio-med scanner from his coat and started waving it around Rilo’s head, much to Rilo’s increasing annoyance. Rilo tried to leave when Wilfred literally got on his knees and made this offer.
“WAIT! Please!” Wilfred begged, dropping to his knees. “Why don’t you drop by our office sometime so we can dissect—er, I mean, discuss a possible physical examination. FREE OF CHARGE! Let me give you my, um . . . card. My, um, card! CARD! CARD!” Dern quickly produced a business card, then spun the bewildered Buru around, shoving it into Rilo’s shirt pocket.
“Yes,” Wilfred continued. “Okay. Great. All right. Well—we have to go.”
The two nerds broke past Rilo, running toward the door, bursting with excitement over their find.
“See you later, Scotty. Duty calls!”
“Gotta head back. See you around!”
Scotty watched slack-jawed as the two tore through the door, nearly knocking over an out-of-breath man hobbling through the door on crutches.
Outside, a limo screeched out of the parking lot, roaring away.
“What a couple of jerks!” Jay said.
“You have to get to know them,” Scotty mumbled, flipping through the latest copy of Weekly Global News.
NO SCOTTY WE REALLY DON’T.
Also love the inclusion of them shoving around a guy literally on crutches just to prove they’re dicks.
Jay was apologetic on Rilo’s behalf, but Rilo was cool. You never know what’ll happen at the Quicky Mart.
UM YOU JUST HAD A BLOOD SAMPLE TAKEN AGAINST YOUR WILL I THINK THAT’S CAUSE FOR ALARM.
At that point, as Scotty heard Jay refer to Rilo as “small, green and scaly,” Scotty finally noticed Rilo.
Suddenly, he felt his heart pound faster. His eyes grew wide as saucers. He opened his mouth to speak but could only gasp. He was witnessing a creature—a bonafide nonhuman intelligence—checking out, carrying a plastic bag, and eating a crunch bar. His mind raced, struggling with the sight. Was it real? Could it be a trick— a rubber suit or something?
“Later, Jay!” Rilo chirped happily, sauntering toward the door.
No, Scotty thought. It was real.
There was only one thing to say.
“I think I’ve found my friend.”
This is better than E.T., Wing. [Wing: …]
Scotty, at the very least, tried to be respectful and approached Rilo first by saying “Excuse me.” Though Rilo was initially on guard realizing Scotty had entered with Wilfred and Dern, Scotty promised he wasn’t going to jab Rilo with needles or anything like that. Introducing himself, Scotty shook Rilo’s hand and asked if Rilo knew of anything fun to do in Fairfield.
Of course, when it comes to Fairfield, after all the shit Rilo Buru’s gone through he’s not sure if he’s ever had “fun” in this town. Rilo picks up that Scotty’s not really interested in directions or advice; he just wants to talk to Rilo. I mean, Scotty’s probably never seen a nonhuman intelligence before so Rilo can understand that. Scotty worries for a moment he’s holding Rilo up from something important. Rilo states he’s not a hurry for anything, but after all his experiences with the youths of Fairfield Rilo decides to cut to the chase.
“New in town, huh? Move here?”
“Passing through. Hmmm. Are you alone? Where are your parents?”
Rilo nodded. “Uh-huh. Convenient. Plenty of “missing parents” around Fairfield, that’s for sure. Allow me to cut to the chase. So what’s your problem? You do have a problem, don’t you?”
“Huh? Naw. I—I was just wondering if there was anything to do around here.”
“Yeah, right. Look kid, I’ve been around humans long enough to know all you kids have problems. Tons of problems. I’m like a kid-problem magnet. Same old story. What is it, you terminally shy? Scared? Bully problems? No self-esteem? Outsider? Misunderstood? No? Hmmm. Got it. Something’s after you—you don’t know why—and it’s (a) under your bed (b) at your neighbors or (c) in a remote area of town where you probably shouldn’t have been in the first place.”
“Uh, (d) none of the above. You are a strange little guy. Do you always overreact like this—fly off the handle at a simple—?”
“No, no. This is the way it always starts, you see. Meet some kid I’ve never seen before with some kinda problem that won’t come out until later, then WHAMMO! TROUBLE! CHASES! SCREAMING! Not this time. No way. I’m on vacation.”
Wing oh my God.
Rilo Buru just dressed down nearly every cliche you could think of in kids horror books and honestly, that is fucking AMAZING.
[Wing: As much as I love kids’ horror books, I am fucking delighted by this.]
Scotty explains he’s only here on vacation for a week, and unfortunately his uncle’s too busy to spend time with him. Rilo mentions HE’S going on vacation as well, though he doesn’t leave until tomorrow. With that in mind, Scotty asks if they could hang out for the day, get the tour of Fairfield before Rilo leaves.
Rilo stops for a moment, reading Scotty’s face to make sure the kid is the genuine article and not putting on a show. Well, Pals for a Day sounds like fun. But first Rilo wants to be absolutely clear on a few things, like if Scotty’s being chased by someone or if Scotty’s got some cursed relic on him. You know, the usual thing. All Scotty’s got is a thousand dollary-doos, which isn’t a response Rilo’s used to.
So Rilo Buru and Scotty Phillips struck a deal: Rilo shows Scotty around Fairfield, Scotty shows Rilo what to do on vacation.
Back at NeuHorizon, Clark Weatherton was overseeing a room filled with over a dozen children and musing on how resistant they are when Mr. Steelberger demanded to know why Clark was wasting time. And also why aren’t those kids being sprayed right now? Clark clarifies they’re testing a new inhalant that’s supposed to work on the “esteem center” of the brain. Increase self-worth, you know? Yet it doesn’t seem to be working on these kids. Trey Porter, Rachel Pearson, Joel Cook, Tyler Few-TYLER FEW?!
JESUS FUCK WING THEY GOT THEIR HANDS ON TYLER FROM “THE MIDNIGHT GAME!”
And apparently these kids have been gone for 12 hours and no one’s missed them yet. [Wing: That is not a shock.]
Steelberger goes on a rant about how he wants results. Thirty billion dollars spent on this shit hole and all that works is the goddamn toilets. He’s an angry man, Wing. Steelberger’s angry and annoyed at how much he has to spend and how little he has to show for it. Sometimes he gets so angry Steelberger wishes he could tear this place down with his bare hands. NOW HURRY UP AND FINISH THIS CLONING PROJECT, GET SOME ASSHAT IN THAT CHAIR OR ELSE YOU’LL BE THE GUINEA PIG, CLARK!
Clark assured the bossman that his best men were on top of things.
Dern was fooling around behind the lab viewscreens, fiddling with the wires trying to get them to work again as Wilfred screamed at him to get down from there. As Dern announced he’d have them fixed, Wilfred removed clutter from the desk (including parts from a girl robot they were working on) to reveal a smaller viewscreeen and multiple keyboards. Wilfred get to work keying in Rilo’s blood sample for analysis. Dern fell behind the other screens with a THUD and emerged from a floor panel with two black eyes and a bleeding nose courtesy of his fall. He told his compadre to fire up the grill!
Moments later, Clark was walking with Mr. Steelberger down a hallway crowded with ladders, painters, and carpenters. He was listening calmly to the old man ranting and raving. Suddenly, two figures appeared, heading straight toward him, shouting and screaming as if they were on fire.
Only one was.
Wilfred and Dern were eagerly trying to get Clark’s attention to show him something amazeballs. Clark huffed this better be good and noticed a beaker of magenta-colored liquid in the lab. Dern quickly put that away, stating it’s a “personal project” when he showed Clark was on the viewscreens.
Clark was at a loss for words when he saw the information on the screens.
“I—I don’t believe it,” Clark Weatherton gasped, moving closer to the screens. His mouth dropped opened in astonishment, the strings of dizzying data reflecting across his face. “This—This can’t be right,” he whispered.
“Oh it’s right, all right,” Wilfred wheezed. “And he’s with your nephew.”
Clark Weatherton’s chuckle grew into a bone-chilling laugh.
Unaware of his uncle’s chilling laughter, Scotty was being given the grand tour of Fairfield courtesy of Rilo Buru.
The startling blue sky, awash with white clouds, stretched over the old, brick twostory buildings that lined main street. Stop lights swayed in the breeze over each cross street. Most everyone on the sidewalks smiled and waved in passing. There was hardly any trash. The air smelled as sweet as just-baked apple pies and as fresh as clothes on the line. It was a hometown. A hometown like most, it reflected little bits and pieces of every Main Street, USA.
“Okay. This place is giving me the creeps already.”
Scotty put his hands in his back pockets. “I suppose Sheriff Taylor and deputy Fife sing in the barbershop quartet?”
“No. But Sheriff Drake does a mean Macarena.”
Me, I prefer the Macadamia Nut.
One of their first stops was the Prime-Time Diner. Good food. Cheap, too. Great vanilla Cokes. And it was just rebuilt after it burnt to the ground during a battle with the forces of evil.
No that wasn’t hyperbole.
Over vanilla Cokes supplied by cook Mavis Jones (who thought Rilo was just a kid in an impressive Halloween costume), Rilo and Scotty discussed Scotty’s uncle.
“So,” Rilo asked, chewing with his mouth full and very open. “Where did you get all the money?”
“My uncle. He’s rich. Powerful.”
“Hey, I didn’t say that.”
“Don’t they go hand in hand?”
“Not at all. My uncle’s a great guy. Everyone says so. He’s a genius.”
“That is, sick and twisted.”
Scotty sighed, “Not all geniuses are sick and twisted.”
“That’s a new one on me.”
Scotty asked if Rilo viewed everything in black and white. Rilo states he calls ’em like he sees ’em.
MOVING ON, Rilo asks Scotty about vacations and what, exactly you’re supposed to do. According to Scotty, there are two ways to have a vacation.
I mean, you can TRY to have fun on vacations but it almost never works. In the first kind, you’re running yourself ragged trying to do everything all at once while everything just whizzes right past you and you miss it all. If you’re with family it’s even more exhausting, because you try to make everyone happy and you have to cut time shorter on the stuff you want to do until someone gets pissed off because they didn’t get to do what THEY WANTED. Repeat for X days, come home broke, tired, and miserable.
And then there’s the SECOND method, where you do nothing and quickly grow bored out of your goddamn mind.
The clock is ticking, especially at
Special Operations Hangar
The brave individuals of the NeuHorizons Biocontainment Team were geared up, armed to the teeth and ready for extraction as technicians busied about making sure everything was prepped and ready and working properly when Clark Weatherton stepped forward to give this stirring speech.
“Hey, c’mon. You know I love you all. No, I mean it. Really. I don’t have to tell you,” Clark began, addressing the crew, “the importance of this little errand. Out there, a creature is roaming around unchecked. A nonhuman life-form that may carry untold diseases, exposing them to an unsuspecting populace, spreading mania, fear, chaos, wherever he goes. And right now—he’s with my nephew, spending my cash.”
The crew looked at each other, murmuring with concern.
Clark raised his hand for silence. “People, people, please. Save your murmurs of concern for another time. We have a job to do. It’s vital we capture, contain, and examine this creature—alive. I’m not going to kid you. Some of you probably won’t be coming back. It’s possible you’ll be facing a slow, agonizing death in the claws of some vile organism, but you can’t think about that right now. In your hands are not only the lives of everyone in Fairfield and possibly the world—but my job and yours as well. Now, I don’t need to tell you biocontainment specialization is a pretty narrow field that you won’t find in the unemployment section every day. So light a fire under it, be a cut above, get out there and nail that sucker. Oh, and watch out for my nephew, too.”
Well this guy just made Dr. Morthouse’s pep rally speeches look like shit. I know Wilfred was brought to tears by it.
No wait, Wilfred’s crying because he’s been, been, TORN APART FROM DERN. Clark told Wilfred to suck it up. Dern’s fine back at the cloning lab… and also Wilfred’s too flammable to be left alone. As Clark puts it:
“We have our subject, now it’s just a matter of finding him, capturing him, and cloning him in front of our heartless investors for the sake of show and profit. What could be simpler? The question is, where would Scottyboy have taken him? Where, man? What does a twelve-year-old chip-off-the-old-block like me like to do?”
JUNGLE ADVENTURES GOONEY GOLF
Scotty’s narrating Rilo’s turn at putt, but his narration leaves much to be desired from his audience of one.
“It’s Rilo on the ninth. The pressure is on. With an appalling average and no hope for even placing, he feels like the world’s biggest schnook. The eyes of millions of puttputt fans and those of his partner and friend are on him. He draws back . . . farther back. . . He —TAKES A SWING AT HIS FRIEND AND PARTNER! HEY! WATCH IT WITH THAT THING!”
“I’m TRYING to concentrate here, all right!” Rilo Buru yelled, shaking his bony arms, lining up the ball. Overhead, an animatronic man in a hunter’s suit with a pith helmet stared down with a sinister grin. The hole was in the center of a miniature stone temple, dozens of obelisks lining the fairway. “He putts!”
Rilo watched with baited breath as the ball rocketed toward the temple, his eyes growing wide, glowing fiercely.
Scotty’s eyes followed the ball.
“Ooooo—a spectacular miss! Off the green, down the waterfall, onto the rocks, off the fat lady’s head, through the windmill window—and into the mouth of the gross, slimy man with his nerdy accountant-type friend—um.”
Rilo and Scotty backed away.
“RUN!” they yelled in unison.
Oh my GOD these two.
Well after that debacle, Scotty and Rilo head for the movies to check out The Bloodinator and Rivet: The Unexplored World. It apparently cost $300,000,000 in CGI alone.
An hour and ten minutes later of one of the most sickening and disappointing movies of all time, Scotty and Rilo were hurling their guts out after overdosing on movie theater candy and soda.
Later, Scotty destroyed Rilo during a round of Super Virtual Fighters VR at Lou Beard’s Starcade. Rilo never liked VR anyway. That’s when Scotty remembered the pass to WateryWorld.
Meanwhile, the NeuHorizons chopper had finished sweeping through Main Street and the downtown area for the second time with no sign of Rilo and Scotty. At which point Clark smacked the control panel, shorting it out and almost causing it to crash and potentially murder hundreds of people. Clark barely cared as he made his way back into the main hold while the pilot desperately got the chopper back in control. Wilfred meanwhile was just about done coding Rilo’s DNA structure into a tracker. Clark grinned at the thought of getting his hands on Rilo.
On to more important things, like Rilo and Scotty buying swim trunks at the WateryWorld gift shop. Rilo was the smash of the summer season in his neon orange trunks. All around them, people of all shapes and sizes hurried about carrying foam mats, towels, suntan lotion, as they got in line for sweeping slides and pools and all sorts of rides. Rilo wanted to try out the relaxing lazy river, but Scotty had a much better idea…
At the same time, Wilfred finally caught Rilo on the tracker and the NeuHorizon helicopter made its way to WateryWorld.
Scotty and Rilo were climbing up to the tallest, highest ride in the park, the SLIPPIN’ SLIDE SUICIDE RIDE. About halfway up the two noticed a commotion on the other side of the park, but didn’t realize the NeuHorizon team had begun their invasion of WateryWorld. At the top of the Slippin’ Slide Suicide Ride, the lonely lifeguard had to commend Scotty and Rilo’s bravery.
Oh and he really digs Rilo’s “costume.”
(It really amazes me how most people who might spot Rilo out in the open may just assume he’s a kid in a costume.) [Wing: People see what they expect to see?]
However, while the lifeguard’s fine with Rilo’s “costume” he draws the line as the NeuHorizon BioContainment Unit reaches the top of the slide. Because some people have standards.
Hmm, though it might be the weapons that caused some alarm.
“Hold it right there.”
“You’re coming with us.”
Rilo and Scotty looked at each other, then moved, jumping headfirst into the pipes, one on each side.
Like seriously what the fuck did they THINK would happen?
The Unit leader at the top of the slide alerted the rest of the team to catch Scott and Rilo at the bottom of the slide, while Clark screamed orders to remind everyone to catch the two ALIVE.
While Scotty screamed, twisted, and turned down the dark pipe he heard another scream from behind. Struggling to turn himself around, Scotty realized one of the Unit geeks must’ve followed him. The sharp drops, drips and drops, the constant turns, the zigging and zagging in the dark, Scotty almost threw up when he went through an open section. On the other pipe, Rilo called towards to Scotty about staying close together when they hit the pool at the bottom.
Scotty felt a gloved hand brush against his leg. It was sheer chaos going down the pipe until he reached a section with strobe lights, speakers bursting with different recorded screams, and a glowing red sign with a skull reading ABANDON ALL HOPE.
It had to be the end, Scotty hoped.
And what an end.
Too much was going on at once as almost forty members of the BioContainment Unit converged on the people, armed to the teeth, while Scotty’s uncle seemed as giddy as a kid on Christmas morning when Scotty and Rilo finally hit the water.
The BioContainment Unit team weren’t quite as quick on the draw, as they fired nets the moment their co-workers landed in the pool after Scotty and Rilo. Which is when they started to break out lasers, ACTUAL LASERS, and began firing at the water despite Clark’s orders. [Wing: Good god.]
Rilo proved to be too quick and too slippery for NeuHorizon, avoiding both their lasers and their darts while the unit team fumbled amongst each other in the chaos. One unit member lost his shit when Rilo managed to tear open his suit. Clark told the panicking employee to act like a man, and proceeded to do a very “manly” thing by using his own nephew as bait.
“BREACHED! MY SUIT’S BEEN BREACHED!” the leader screamed in panic, sure he was already contracting a vile virus from the strange creature.
“Quit, whining! Be a man. Be a man!” Clark yelled, emerging from the thick fog with a weapon of his own.
“Hold it right there, gruesome,” Clark called to Rilo, who was being surrounded by more of the BCU.
The Buru straightened and locked eyes with the maniacal man clutching the arm of his friend.
“Scotty,” he croaked.
“Hey, little friend, we’d like to invite you on a tour of our facilities,” Clark said with a broad smile, his voice as smooth as velvet. “It’ll be informative, enlightening; you’ll get to say ‘hi’ to all our investors you’ll have a real swell time.” He clutched Scotty’s arm tightly.
“Uncle Clark! What are you doing?” Scotty cried, trying to twist free.
Rilo’s eyes shot open wide. “Uncle Clark? So this is your uncle? Your evil, powerful uncle?”
“Evil?” Clark asked, clearly hurt.
“He’s not evil,” Scotty said, the hand on his wrist tightening further. “Tell him you’re not evil, Uncle Clark. OWW!”
Rilo put his hands on his hips and shook his wide, flat head, his ears drooping.
“Sorry, kid. I call ‘em like I see ‘em.”
Even Wilfred’s having second thoughts, seeing Clark manhandle his own nephew. Clark warns Rilo that NeuHorizons can be a dangerous place. What could happen to Scotty if he was there all by himself?
As the BioContainment Unit trapped Rilo, Scotty could only cry in his uncle’s grasp watching his friend be captured.
Back at the NeuHorizons cloning lab, Dern was forlorn. Why’d they pick Wilfred to go on their monster hunting expedition and leave him all by his lonesome? He figured everyone was laughing at him behind his back. They probably didn’t expect him to be capable of doing anything useful.
That’s when Dern got an idea.
A mean, nasty, despicable, rotten, vile, horrible, not-so-very good idea.
“Hand me busy work, will they? Deny ME off-site excursions, eh? I’ll show them! This is one lowly, spit-slinging intern who isn’t going to take it. I’m going to show them what too much time on a geek’s hands can do. WHERE’S THAT LOUSY BLOOD SAMPLE?”
Even though Dern knew he wasn’t supposed to be cloning ANYTHING by himself, even knowing the possibility there may be… mutations, he figured, like any rational person given the power to create life from an unknown lifeform, “Fuck it.”
Dern’s excitement turned to disappointment when all that manifested on the floor of the cloning pod was a scaly green lump. Of course, Dern knew better than to go in and poke the lump with a stick. He saw The Blob.
He poked the lump with a POLE.
About an hour later, Dern couldn’t believe it when he watched as Clark, Wilfred, and the rest of the BioContainment team returned with Scotty and Rilo. Dern was certain he ALMOST had it as he wrestled with a purple, tentacled THING in his arms. He ran out and stuffed the latest failure inside a hatch in service tunnel #9.
Along with all the OTHER failures.
Good thing too, because all the OTHER hatches were full.
Jesus fuck how many did you MAKE Dern? This isn’t the Clone Saga, you know! I really hope some Marvel fans are gonna get that one. [Wing: Oooh, my first thought was Clone Wars.]
Being led down the halls of NeuHorizon, Rilo complimented Clark and Wilfred on the whole “evil empire” vibe they have going on. It could use an imperial march theme or something to cement the whole thing. If you’re gonna have a theme, commit. When Rilo asks what exactly NeuHorizon’s doing, Clark gives him a pitch like the used car salesman from Hell.
“Why, we here at NeuHorizons are bringing you a better you,” Clark said with the charm of a game-show host. “In just a few moments, my little friend, you will be shaking hands with a new and improved Rilo Buru, and at the same time, you’ll be securing unbelievable amounts of financing for further research.”
Oh just think of all the poor rich people Rilo will be helping.
Scotty immediately calls his uncle out for being such a slimy bastard. Clark tries to defend himself saying they need Rilo to help perfect their cloning process because he’s the only cre-I MEAN, person who can withstand the procedure. He downplays Scotty’s complaints by ranting about everything they can achieve from Rilo’s physiology; wonder drugs, cosmetics, food additives. Think of all they can gleam from every little piece of-
At which point Scotty’s had enough of his uncle’s bullshit and kicks him in the shins. I’d have gone for his balls, but you do you Scotty.
Wilfred was ordered to catch Scotty, and even tried reasoning with the kid.
“WAIT! SCOTTY! I’M TOO UNCOORDINATED FOR A CHASE!” Wilfred cried, falling like a klutz just past the entrance to the side hall, crashing into more copycarrying workers.
Scotty kept running until he ducked into a service tunnel, not aware of the various things that were lurking deep within.
Clark still has Rilo, and Rilo’s got no patience as he reads Clark the riot act for betraying his nephew’s trust.
“As for you, greeny,” Clark said, straightening his tie and his composure, hastening down the hall to catch up with Rilo and his BCU guards. “The Big Guy is just dying to meet you before you have to—split. Ha ha ha ha.”
Rilo cut through the nonsense. “Stow the evil genius routine, all right? You know, Scotty really loves you, and you treat him like a disposable employee.”
“HEY, WATCH IT!” Wilfred yelled coming back up the hall—empty-handed.
Clark stared thoughtfully at the little green creature, not saying a word.
Rilo continued. “He’s tried to keep believing in you, but you’ve flushed all that. Rich. Powerful. Evil. I knew it. And now he knows it, too.”
Clark’s voice lowered to a dangerous-sounding growl. “Scotty digs me.”
“Yeah, well—maybe you can clone him a friend.”
“I’ll just clone the one he’s got,” Clark said, picking Rilo up by his shirt collar.
I seriously love this book.
Rilo sees the perplexed look on Clark’s face and thinks for a moment he actually got through to the bad guy. And then Clark gleefully hands Rilo over to Steelberger.
Back in the service tunnels, the technicians were fighting a losing battle as the failed Rilo clones continued their savage onslaught on… everything. None of them realized the various fires and exploding monitors were the result of malformed things moving around behind the walls. God knows the original Rilo’s not having much fun as he was led into the cloning chamber. He didn’t appreciate the patronizing waving of the slimeballs in business suits as they prepared to watch the cloning procedure in the protected observation theater.
Yet while Clark wouldn’t change his mind, Wilfred was starting to have a change of heart.
“I don’t know, Dern. I’m not sure if this is right.”
“What?” Dern replied abruptly, keeping a frantic, watchful eye on the service hatches all around the room, watching for any sign of movement. “Oh, him. It’ll work. I know it will.”
“No, Ninny,” Wilfred whispered. “I’m not sure if this is the right thing to do. He doesn’t want to be here, just like Scotty said. What if something goes wrong? We don’t have the right to—”
“Are you psycho? It’s too late now! Clark, Steelberger, the board. They’re all watching. Waiting. Drooling. We couldn’t back out now if we wanted to!”
“We’re evil, Dern.”
“Evil!” Wilfred whispered, on the verge of tears and self discovery. “Just like Clark. Just like Rilo said. LOOK WHAT WE’VE BECOME! We’re stormtroopers! Henchmen! Hired goons!”
YES GIVE ME MORAL UNCERTAINTY AND DOUBT.
[Wing: I’m taking Dern’s name in a book with all sorts of cloning and monstrous creatures to be a nod to Laura Dern in Jurassic Park. (I don’t actually believe it’s intentional, but I choose to believe it.)]
Dern tells Wilfred to calm his scientific tits. If Wilfred’s so worried about Rilo then they have to do this properly or Rilo’ll end up like the others-I MEAN what others who said that?
In the access hatch, Scotty tried to think of a way to free Rilo. He had no idea about the things starting to grow spider-like legs.
As Clark announced they were ready to begin the cloning, Wilfred noticed the funny look on Dern as Dern announced he was one-hundred percent fine. Peachy keen. No half-aborted clones running around the building no siree.
Of course if Dern was on edge, Rilo wasn’t so hot too. With his luck, he’d probably end up hating himself.
At that moment, Scotty and head technician Marion discovered what else was lurking in the service tunnels. And wish they hadn’t.
As Scotty peeked around the corner, the beam of light struck him squarely, casting a horrific shadow across his face—the shadow of an uncurling, slimy claw.
Marion saw what was at the end of his headlight beam and felt all reason slip away. He started to shake uncontrollably, wracked by a tremor that started in his knees, then exploded from his mouth in the form of a terrified scream. A colorful sea of undulating, nightmarish creatures all turned at once toward the screamer—the flashlight beam illuminating their wet, bulging eyes, bony claws, and glistening, sharklike fangs.
Marion laughed outright, an uncontrollable nervous response, then started to back away. “Wilfred! Dern! I’m gonna—” he whispered, gasping as the creatures rushed toward him. “I’m gonna kill me some NERDS!”
Thick, slimy rope-like tentacles wrapped around every part of his body— then yanked him through the air with a snap. He flopped hard on his stomach, raking his fingers along the grated floor, bouncing along at great speed. Dozens of gummy eyes blinked, and dozens of gaping maws opened—eager for their catch.
A horrified Scotty slapped his hands to his ears, trying to block out the poor man’s screams.
“Did you hear something?” Wilfred asked, his finger poised over the Enter key.
“NO,” Dern lied. “JUST PRESS THE STUPID BUTTON!”
As Wilfred’s finger lingered over the enter button to start the cloning process, Rilo attempted one final plea. Wildfred could only silently apologize as he pressed the button.
Steelberger officially loses his shit and announces if he has to clone the little shit himself, he will.
The investors watched nervously, murmuring with disappointment.
“You hear that, Clark? Disappointed murmurings!” Steelberger growled, pushing through the glass door at the bottom of the stairs.
It’s always the disappointed murmuring with this one, huh Wing? [Wing: Oh those pesky investors.]
Wilfred was trying to figure out what happened when something caught his eye. One of the primary change switches had been turned OFF. Wilfred was certain he turned it-no. It couldn’t.
Dern you sneaky son of a bitch!
Wilfred and Dern are about to let Rilo go when Clark and Steelberger tell the nerds to freeze. Clark immediately notices the switch and turns it back on, at which point the cloning machine comes back to life. That’s when the rest of the failed clones make their presence known. And so does Scotty. At which point we’re all:
All Steelberger cares about is his precious clone and not losing any more investors despite the oncoming wave of malformed Rilo knockoffs.
Dern hits the release button on Rilo’s restraints just as Clark hits the enter button to start the process all over again. Steelberger’s so desperate to make this work he jumps into the chamber and tries to hold Rilo down.
And both get scanned at the same time.
Ohhh boy, we started off with Gremlins and now we’re probably getting The Fly I’m certain this will end well.
Steelberger’s still trying to fight Rilo as Rilo kicks him off, while a Rilo clone bites through the specimen chair. Wilfred sees just what Dern was doing in his spare time. Rilo escapes, while Clark, Steelberger, and the nerds try to escape too. Amid the sea of Rilo clones, Clark can see the real deal fleeing and begs him to save Scotty.
Rilo finds Scotty in one of the tunnels as the boy desperately tries to hold off one of the bigger clones from trying to kill him.
“SCOTTY! NO!” he roared.
The beam revealed Scotty, desperately holding up a section of floor grating, shielding himself against a towering, slimy monstrosity. The boy’s small, pale hands clutched the grate tightly as small, snaky tentacles weaved in and out of the holes. The mutation’s body had almost filled the hallway, a shapeless mass of raw, pulpy tissue; soft, pink and glistening. It’s crablike claws dug into the floor as it thrust a quivering, formless pseudopod into the grate, knocking the boy backwards.
“RILO!” Scotty yelled desperately.
Desperately, Rilo reached over and grabbed a thick electrical cable that ran floor to ceiling. With one swift yank, the cable broke, spewing blue fire and white hot sparks everywhere.
Through the grate, Scotty watched the pseudopod draw back, like the head of a bobbing snake. To his horror, a seam appeared at the top of the shapeless appendage. The seam split open, ballooning into a cavelike mouth lined with slimy, jagged teeth.
“YOU ARE ONE SERIOUSLY UGLY MUTATION!” Scotty cried.
The mutation tugged furiously on the grate with its narrow tentacles, opening its mouth nearly as wide as the small boy, drawing him nearer.
SCOTTY WHY DID YOU THINK THAT WAS A GOOD IDEA?
[Wing: My first thought was Scotty doesn’t know! Which means I now have “Scotty Doesn’t Know” from Eurotrip stuck in my head. (Eurotrip AKA the first time Wing thought Matt Damon was hot.]
Rilo screams at Scotty to let go of the grate. Doing so sends the grate crashing into the clone’s head, which causes it to falls backwards onto the exposed wires and electrocutes it.
Getting their bearings for a moment, Scotty apologizes for ruining Rilo’s vacation while Rilo apologizes for Scotty’s uncle being a dick. Rilo then says the absolute worst thing he could say in this situation.
“Well,” Rilo said. “as vacations go, it can’t possibly get much worse.”
R.I.P. Rilo Buru.
Sure enough, guess what happened in the lab?
In the lab, among the fiery control units and exploding monitors, a computer voice went unnoticed and unrecognized by the lab’s new, squirming residents.
“Receiving unit charged,” the voice echoed as the creatures pressed into the glass door.
The monitor above the main control console continue to display the rushing streams of numbers and letters. “DNA of subjects A and B have been analyzed and sequenced. Initiating auto-cloning cycle,” the computer voice announced.
The attention of dozens of monstrosities suddenly turned toward the chamber in the center of the room as it exploded with blinding white light.
“Cloning procedure complete,” the computer voice said.
Steelberger was angrily chewing out Wilfred and Dern for their blundering as more BioContainment Unit trucks pulled up to the building in preparation of wiping out the rampaging clones. Unfortunately all the chaos seemed to have caught the attention of Fairfield’s local law enforcement. Steelberger ordered Clark to deal with “local yokels,” but Clark was too preoccupied.
Staring at the buring NeuHorizon building, Clark was certain he’d lost Scotty forever.
Clark was too busy sobbing to notice Rilo and Scotty emerge from a padlocked electrical panel on the other side of the parking lot.
Rilo poked his head up with a sigh, looked around, then began to pull himself out. Scotty followed close behind. Both looked as if they had crawled through an oil well.
“You all right?” Rilo asked.
“Been better,” Scotty said, holding his aching head.
“Seen enough of Fairfield?”
Scotty checked his pockets, “I don’t know . . . I’ve still got nine hundred bucks.” He checked his watch. “And plenty of time to kill.”
Rilo smiled. “Wait a second. Isn’t this the part where you make up with your uncle, show him you’re still alive and so on. You know, he admits he was wrong and he’ll never take you for granted again—”
“I don’t know,” Scotty said. “Guess we’ll find out. UNCLE CLARK!”
“Scotty?” Clark asked, afraid to believe his own ears. He turned around and felt his heart explode with joy. “SCOTTY!”
Unfortunately, at that moment, a huge explosion rocked the complex, filling the sky with fire. Clark, Scotty, and Rilo turned and watched the roof of the tower begin to collapse.
Scotty turned to Rilo.
“Not yet, I guess.”
Aww, how touching. They got to make up before everyone dies because HOLY CRANBERRY FUCKSTEAKS, WHAT IS THAT?!
Steelberger was oblivious to the THING that emerged from the NeuHorizon building as he kept screaming at Wilfred and Dern. The two science dweebs saw the THING and could only laugh in hysterics, ignoring their boss’s rants about shame and lawsuits, and shame lawsuits.
Wilfred and Dern continued laughing and crying, pointing behind the old man, toward the main complex as Clark, Rilo, and Scotty ran over to join them.
“WHAT IN—” Steelberger finally turned around, but then wished he hadn’t.
Erupting through the roof of the NeuHorizons corporate tower, was a massive mutated creature, at least forty stories tall! The creature’s massive fists tore up through the sides of the building, shattering windows, tearing through the structure like paper.
The company logo came crashing down off the side of the tower, exploding on the pavement below.
“EGAD!” Steelberger cried as the BCU teams pulled away from the main tower with all speed. The helicopters were already circling the situation, focusing their spotlights on the massive mutant.
“Well, Big Guy,” Wilfred called to Steelberger, “Meet the Big Guy!”
There was no mistaking the parents of the creature. It was a giant, four hundred foot tall Rilo Buru, but with the greenish, angry face of Mr. Steelberger.
“Wow—is he ugly,” Dern said.
Rilo and Steelberger stared from the creature to each other and back again.
“He has your eyes,” Steelberger mumbled in stunned disbelief.
“And your temperament,” Rilo shouted, pointing wildly as the creature angrily shook its head, throwing steel and concrete debris in all directions.
“LOOK OUT!” Clark yelled.
They all ran like madmen as huge chunks of roof dropped from the sky, crushing a nearby firetruck flat. The helicopters kept their lights trained on the Big Guy as he pounded his fists into the tower again and again, setting off explosion after explosion, roaring like a hurricane.
“Well,” Clark mumbled, “You did say you felt like tearing the place down.”
Is this really the time, Clark?
Nothing like a catastrophe brought on by a mutant clone abomination to serve as a bonding experiment. Steelberger orders everyone to destroy that mutant freak before any more destruction occurs. Wilfred and Dern are up for using one of the mobile labs in the company’s helicopters. Clark asks Scotty if he wants to help and Scotty’s all for it.
Meanwhile, like a typical CEO, Steelberger’s all up in Rilo’s face blaming HIM for all this because he couldn’t have the common decency to sit down and be cloned like a good unwilling specimen.
Rilo pulls out his winning cruise ticket and tells Steelberger to wipe his own ass, he’s got a cruise to catch. And then the winning ticket is blown out of Rilo’s hands. The wind caused by the crashing debris made the ticket float up, up in the air.
Right in the eye of the giant Rilo/Steelberger mutant. Plucking the ticket from his eye, the giant mutant looked at the piece of paper and then turned direction. It said two words that filled everyone with dread.
Rilo unfortunately realizes where the mutant’s headed.
Rocky Point Inlet – 400 miles from Fairfield – Sunday, 6:00am
The streets of the resort town were barren, except for the patrolling squad cars, their twirling blue lights reflecting in the empty shop windows.
High above, beach patrol helicopters circled the area, the pilots waving down to the other law enforcement officials behind the huge barricade blocking off main street.
Some local deputies pointed excitedly down the street, toward the hi-tech vans and trucks approaching like a private army.
With a loud whoosh and a roar, a boxy, miniature version of the space shuttle swept over their heads.
On the side of all the vehicles was the NeuHorizons logo.
The leading van pulled through the blockade, then stopped in the middle of the street. Various law officials and national gaurdsmen gathered around the vehicle. A tall man in a nice suit stepped out, followed by a twelve-year-old boy.
The man straightened his tie, ran a hand through his hair, then flashed them all a dazzling smile.
“Clark Weatherton, vice president of NeuHorizons Bio-tech research. Gentlemen, let me bring you up to speed.”
TO BE CONTINUED…?
After having read this I can safely say, even if this book was unfinished, this story alone puts Strange Matter at the same ranking of Graveyard School. I can think of no higher or greater honor for a YA horror series. This was a rollercoaster to end all rollercoasters. The snarking. The emotional development. The moral conflicts. The ridiculousness. It was amazing.
It’s probably one of the greatest sins we as a race have committed that this book wasn’t allowed to be officially published. I only pray that some day the story can be completed and sold for real, because EVERYONE should have a chance to experience this story firsthand.
I want to thank Marty Engle for having allowed me to read and recap this for Point Horror and I want everyone else to say thanks to him as well.
[Wing: This was fucking amazing! I’m so glad Engle shared it with you — with all of us — and it truly is a shame this wasn’t published. (Some of those others, too.) I love this as a nice Halfmas treat. We’re very lucky to have it.]