The Incredible Alchemy Elixir (Continued)

Yesterday, in the first installment of The Incredible Alchemy Elixir . . .

. . . a sinister letter revealed Uncle Bertram’s intent!
. . . nanny Maria donned the armor of a Fan Hoeng assasin!
. . . the Doom Team collected the first ingredient for a Taoist immortality elixir: raindrops on roses!
. . . Nicolae brooded about being the antichrist!
. . . Tom swiftied!
. . . Jane sulked!

And now, the exciting conclusion of . . . the Incredible Alchemy Elixir!

Mouser
Age: 8 months
Code Name: None

Mouser is a kitten. He became an official Doom Team auxiliary when he killed a mouse and left it in Uncle Bertram’s bed. His declaration of “Mew” often confounds the enemies of righteousness and strikes terror into evil’s heart.

He is mewing even now!

“I’m sorry, Mouser,” says Nicolae.

“Mew,” whines Mouser. Mouser struggles desperately.

“Come on, Mouser,” says Michael. “It’s just one whisker! You can spare one whisker!”

“Is it really ethical to pluck Mouser just so the rest of us can live?” Jane asks.

“We can think about ethics later,” Tom delays. “Right now, there’s a bigger threat!”

“It’s all right,” Nicolae says.

There is a black dog standing at the entrance to the room. It pants. It looks at Mouser. Mouser goes very still. Nicolae plucks a whisker.

“He won’t give me any trouble,” says Nicolae bleakly.

Jane blinks. The dog is gone when she opens her eyes.

“Now for the bright copper kettles,” Michael says.

Michael
Age: 7
Code Name: Mikey

Michael is a special child. He can eat anything. He is not hungry very often but the more he eats he more he can eat—and the more he needs to eat. Tom’s equations suggest that Michael’s consumption will become asymptotically infinite by 2032, forcing him to devour the stars, the planets, and finally even the endless hungry void, leaving behind only the blank slate on which the universe was writ.

Michael is the newest member of the Doom Team.

The house supply of bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens sits in a pile in the middle of the kitchen.

Maria slouches against the wall. Her gun is by her side.

“I thought you would come here,” Maria says.

Jane and Tom and Michael stand frozen.

“I made sure you’d have to come here,” Maria says, “in fact.”

Nicolae steps forward. Maria’s gun rises. The gun begins to whine.

“How long does it take?” Nicolae asks. “I mean, for your death ray to initialize?”

“Seventy-five seconds,” Maria says. “It is a principal weakness of Fan Hoeng technology.”

Nicolae walks to the pile. He selects a pair of warm woolen mittens from the pile. He uses them to polish the edge of a bright copper kettle. The copper smears away, revealing the dark black beneath.

“Fake kettles,” Nicolae says. “Very cunning.”

Maria’s gun whines.

Nicolae scans the room. There’s a black dog standing by the pot cupboard. It pants. Nicolae walks over to the pot cupboard. He opens it. He is not hurrying.

Jane blinks.

The black dog is gone.

“I’ll put an end to all this nonchalance!” Maria shouts. Her gun fires. It shoots a ray of pure death. The blast hits Nicolae in the center of his chest. Circular ripples of fading death pass through the room.

There’s a silence.

Nicolae does not look harmed. He takes out one of the concealed bright copper kettles. He puts it under his arm.

“Indifference,” Nicolae says.

Nicolae’s pupils have shrunk to points.

“Not nonchalance.”

Nicolae walks back to the others.

Maria opens and closes her mouth with a prim little click.

“He really is the antichrist, isn’t he?” Maria asks flatly.

Jane glares at Maria. Michael’s nostrils flare.

“No,” says Tom.

Tom steps forward. “No. He’s not. He doesn’t have to be. Not even if he’s immune to death rays. He’s a person.

Tom juts his chin defiantly.

“Yeah!” says Jane.

Maria tilts her head to one side. “But—I am not wrong? That is his destiny?” she presses.

Nicolae answers. He bites out the word. “Yes.”

“Well, then,” says Maria. “I’ll just have to set my death ray to holy.

Maria clicks a lever. Her gun begins a new kind of ominous whine.

“Could it be?” says Nicolae. His eyes brighten with something like joy. “An early end to the long dark aeons of my life?”

Jane grabs Nicolae’s arm. “Run!”

“But—”

“Remember the Doom Team code!” says Tom. “You don’t have to die just because some people think your existence is evil!”

Jane tugs harder on Nicolae’s arm. “RUN!”

Nicolae hesitates, then, fractionally, he nods.

The four children dart away, Mouser galloping after.

Jane
Age: 8
Code Name: None

Jane is trouble. Bertram’s brother, David, adopted her because he thought that she might destroy the world. It turned out that he was wrong. Because she’s just ordinary trouble, Tom won’t let her join the Doom Team—but she’s so helpful on all of their adventures that the Team unanimously voted her in as a Doom Team Auxiliary!

“Brown paper packages,” says Jane. “Brown paper packages. Brown paper packages. What could that mean?”

“Dad’s opium stash!” Tom declares.

“That’s it!” they all shout. “Opium!”

They race downstairs to David’s abandoned bedroom. They break open his cabinet and take out a brick of opium. It is in a brown paper package, tied up with string. The children boil water in the bright copper kettle; mash up wool, opium, Mouser’s whisker, and the petals of the rose in a large glass bowl; and finally they pour boiling water over the mix.

“It’s a marvelous immortality elixir!” Jane says. “Bottoms up!”

“. . . Ladies first,” says Tom.

They stare at the lumpy mix for a bit.

“Nicolae?” Jane asks.

There is a black dog standing in front of Nicolae. It pants.

“Ask Mikey,” Tom suggests. “He’ll eat anything.”

“Nuh-unh,” says Michael. “I can eat anything. That’s different.”

“All right . . .” says Jane, unhappily.

Jane picks up the elixir. She lifts it to her lips.

The door to the room opens. Maria stands there. The gun is not whining. It is readied and braced against her shoulder.

“I wouldn’t drink that if I were you,” Maria hisses. “Once you’ve been immortal for five hundred years, Heaven would send a terrible wind to destroy you. And even if you survived that, it’d send a terrible fire to kill you five hundred years later! That’s why there aren’t many immortal Taoists around.”

Jane pauses before drinking. “I don’t want Heaven to destroy me,” she admits.

Nicolae looks at her.

Jane blushes. “Sorry,” she says. “That was insensitive. —But I don’t!

“You won’t have the chance,” says Maria.

Maria pulls the trigger. Jane, desperate, splashes the elixir of immortality on her face.

BOOM.

There is a silence.

“You’re not dead either,” Maria says, dumbly.

“I guess I’m a Taoist immortal,” Jane frets.

“You can’t be a Taoist immortal,” claims Tom. “You’re a girl.”

Maria fires again. She fires shot after shot at Jane’s chest. It splashes off.

“You are a Taoist immortal!” Tom exclaims.

“The gun,” Maria whispers. “It’s overloading. I’ve shot too much death at an immortal! It’s going to explode!”

“Serves you right,” sulks Jane.

“It’s your fault!” curses Maria. “It’s all your fault! The Fan Hoeng will avenge me! They will sear this world, they will ruin it, they will salt the earth and boil the seas, all to get at you, Jane! All to destroy you!

The gun explodes.

There is dust and there is rubble and the ceiling falls.

David
Age: 72 years
Code Name: None

David Fitz built the house on Doom Lane as a haven for children destined to destroy the world. He adopted Tom, Nicolae, Michael, and even Jane. They never knew whether he wanted the world to end or just thought that destined avatars of destruction had it pretty tough. All they knew was that he loved them, that he took them in, and that he died, leaving the Doom Team and their trust fund in his brother’s greedy hands.

He is mourned.

Jane is dizzy as they haul her into the light.

“Is everyone okay?” Jane asks. “Michael? Oh my God, is Michael alive?”

“I ate the death and the blast,” Michael says. “I’m okay. And I even saved Mouser. But I’m hungrier now.”

“I’m so glad,” Jane says. She hugs him tightly. “I’m sorry I tried to get you to drink the immortality elixir.”

“It’s okay,” Michael says.

Jane blinks away her tears. She pushes Michael away. She looks around at the rubble on Doom Lane.

“Well,” she says. “They’re going to destroy the Earth to get at me.”

“Yeah,” Michael laughs.

There is a silence.

“I guess that means I can join the Team now,” Jane says. “Huh?”

Tom’s face is stricken. Nicolae’s eyes are dark and wounded.

There is a silence.

“Of course,” Michael says.

Nicolae, quietly, nods.

“Yes,” Tom admits.

A bird sings, far away.

“I’m so sorry,” says Tom, wretchedly.

The rubble shifts and crunches.

“Jane, I’m so sorry!”

18 thoughts on “The Incredible Alchemy Elixir (Continued)

  1. That was just a whole lot of fun. More adventures of the Doom Team! Maybe they could have a crossover with Ink Catherly.

    Although, as with “Remus”, I have a quibble: Mikey’s schtick wasn’t eating anything, it was not eating anything — he was super-picky, that’s why it was so astonishing that he liked the cereal. Unless I’ve got it wrong and he’s a universe-displaced-and-renamed Tenzil Kem?

  2. Although, as with “Remus”, I have a quibble: Mikey’s schtick wasn’t eating anything, it was not eating anything — he was super-picky, that’s why it was so astonishing that he liked the cereal. Unless I’ve got it wrong and he’s a universe-displaced-and-renamed Tenzil Kem?

    Actually, unless I’m mistaken (which I very well may be) it went, “Give it to Mikey, he’ll try anything”. At four years old, Mikey was the kid brother that would put anything in his mouth. He was, in fact, super-picky — but he’d still try anything once. It was the fact that he kept eating it, instead of pushing it away that made the cereal so endearing.

    That would make sense as far as: He can eat anything. He is not hungry very often but the more he eats he more he can eat—and the more he needs to eat.

    Um, yeah. It may very well be bedtime for me…

  3. Sorry, you are mistaken. I remember that commercial as one remembers the things of one’s childhood:

    “What’s that?”
    “Some new cereal. S’posed to be good for you.”
    “I’m not gonna eat it.”
    I’m not gonna eat it. You eat it.”
    “Let’s get Mikey!”
    “Yeah! He won’t eat it! He hates everything!”
    (pour the cereal for Mikey. Mikey eats it.)
    “He likes it! Hey Mikey!”

  4. The story was very good.

    I wonder which Jane was in the story? Is this the first appearance (as far as I can recall) of Jane, as herself, in a legend? That would indicate that she’s getting more comfortable about thinking about her own situation. Or is it Jane (No Relation)? Other probabilities are that she’s named Jane because the two kids in _Mary Poppins_ are named Jane and Michael (there are other allusions to Mary Poppins, such as 17 Doom Lane), and that she’s named Jane after Crazy Jane, the member of the Doom Patrol comic book during its run under Grant Morrison. That last one seems especially appropriate. Maybe she’s named Jane for all of those reasons.

    It may shed some light to look more at Daniel (I/IV). Daniel defrauds Mr. Banks in that history, and Mr. Banks is the father in Mary Poppins. There are some indications from previous comments that his fate may be more important to the overall story than it first appears. All of the stories about wonderful nannies, of which The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins are the two best-known, must be very attractive to Jane.

  5. Oops, you’re right. For some reason I thought that all the Jane and Martin entries were histories, but a good chunk of them aren’t. And a quick search finds legends where Jane is a character without Martin, such as “Bankers Do It With Interest”. Well, never mind.

  6. Sorry, you are mistaken. I remember that commercial as one remembers the things of one’s childhood:

    My apologies, David. Apparently, one doesn’t always remember all of the things of one’s childhood, when that one is one like me. *grin*

    Actually, to be fair, I would always hop up and go do something else when the commercials came on. Still do, for that matter. So I’m more than willing to trust your call on this one.

  7. What can I say? I have a talent for that kind of ridiculous trivia. Consider that you are in all probability using the neurons that would have gone towards remembering that dialogue for something actually worthwhile, and be comforted.

  8. I recall that Good Omens had a large, rather intimidating black dog associated with its Antichrist. Whether this is drawn from that, both draw from the same earlier source, or it’s completely unrelated and there because it’s cool, I can’t say.

  9. Both Good Omens and this story are referencing a 1976 movie called The Omen. (Good Omens has quite a lot of references to it, in fact, starting with the title.)

    Incidentally, when Uncle Bertram’s drugs and prostitution rings are mentioned, I want to note that Uncle Bertram himself focused on the drugs. He subcontracted the prostitution to his cousin Jerry, who was known for his penchant for dressing up in bright red clothing. Jerry moonlights as a science fiction writer, author of titles such as King David’s Spaceship and West of Honor, and has collaborated with Larry Niven many times.

    That’s right, he is the Scarlet Pimp Pournelle.

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