“Jeff! JEFF! Goddamnit, Jeff! WAKE UP! You’re gonna make us lose the deal!”
Hamilton Pomeranian, small but wiry ex-star soldier turned would-be entrepreneur, was violently shoving her friend and associate Jefferson Ball, drunkenly and unconsciously lying in bed, her tall, sexy but muscular frame clad only in her brown fur, with a tuft at the top covering her ears, her trademark monogrammed black bikini, and her black boots. Jefferson had, quite obviously, been engaged in her favorite sport-debauchery- the previous night, and was, with her iron constitution, only now suffering from the full effects of her previous activities. This meant bad news for her and Hamilton, since it was 9 AM, and an important meeting they had to create capital for a new joint business venture was supposed to occur in an hour. But, with Jefferson still unconscious on the bed, it seemed unlikely that it would now occur, and Hamilton was getting anxious.
Since the destruction of the human race in 2100, the canine beings who had succeeded them as Earth’s dominant species had cut a wide berth for themselves on the planet itself and beyond. In particular, the new frontier of space gave opportunities for the more obviously unethical beings among them to reap considerable profits from the expansion of Earth trade into the outer entities of the solar system. These adventurers and soldiers of fortune were no diplomats, but merely experienced fighters and bunco artists who sought to exploit this emerging trade to favor the size of their own personal pockets. Among their ranks, at least until recently, were Jefferson Ball and Hamilton Pomeranian. Recently, since Hamilton had only just convinced her friend that their various joint ventures and enterprises would be far more successful and bankable if they were able to go “legit”. This required the financial backing of an interested client, which required them to impress that client with their skill and professionalism. Which would begin by their actually being on time for the meeting!
Exasperated after numerous futile shoves and loud cajoling shouts at her prone and unconscious friend, Hamilton was quite aware that she needed to wake Jefferson and insure that both of them would arrive on time for their fateful meeting. She could not immediately come up with a way to do that, however, and spent many futile moments thinking, with her old black Army jacket open to expose the white T shirt and black pants she was wearing underneath. Finally, looking more closely through her one good eye (the other having been mutilated in battle), she figured out that her easiest solution was also the most vulgar one in her mind. But it still needed to be done, so she did it. Taking a match from her pocket, she lit it and stuck it underneath Jefferson’s posterior.
The all-powerful savior of the universe (at least in her own mind) leapt up painfully in reaction to the heat touching her body, flipped gymnastically in the air, and grabbed the bottom part of the chandelier twenty feet above her. Once safely secured there, she glowered down at her best friend.
“Oh, that’s mature, Hamilton!” Jeff snarled. “Waking me up when I’m not ready for it! Wait ‘til I get down from here…”
“Don’t you get angry with me, Jefferson Ball!” Hamilton Pomeranian snarled back. “You knew damn well we had a business appointment today at the Cash Cow, and you still went ahead and one of your little parties even though I told you a thousand times that the appointment was going to happen TODAY!”
“So that was today?” Jefferson said cluelessly. Hamilton growled something profane to herself before responding.
“Yes- it was today!” Hamilton shot back. “I say was because if we don’t get down there in ONE HOUR, the whole plan is KAPUT! So get down here and get ready if you don’t want to stay an overgrown WHARF RAT the rest of your life!”
That insult was enough to bring plenty of color to Jeff’s face, which was what Hamilton had wanted all along. Jeff let herself go from the chandelier, bounced off the bed, somersaulted, and landed perfectly in front of Hamilton. With red-rimmed eyes, she drew her portable ray gun and her beloved whip from opposite sides of her bikini bottom and aimed both of them at Hamilton, whose own paw went to the ray gun at her own hip in case Jeff got fresh.
“Nobody calls me a rat, Hamilton,” Jeff growled. “Not even you!”
“Just try it, Jeff!” Hamilton warned her. “I may be smaller than you, but I’m just as strong, smart and fast as you are. You know that!”
The tenseness of the situation lasted for only a minute and a half before Jeff, realizing the truth of her friend’s words and the futility of her own actions, finally pocketed her weapons in her sparse clothing and stood down.
“Geez, Ham!” she said with an uncommon humility. “You really know how to hurt a sci-fi hero!”
“Didn’t realize I was talking to one!” Ham said as she turned to exit Jeff’s bedroom. “Listen, hero! You just get yourself presentable now.”
“Why can’t I just wear what I have on now?”
“Because it’s not professional enough!” Ham said viciously. “It’s bad enough that these financial types have prejudices against Army folk like me, but they don’t want to think they’re dealing with that and a madam, too!”
Jeff swore softly and prepared to change as Hamilton exited the room.
It only took a few minutes, but then Jefferson emerged from her bedroom- dressed exactly as she had been before!
“What the hell,” uttered Hamilton. “I thought you were getting changed!”
“I was!” answered Jefferson. “This is one of my more upscale models!”
“How is that more upscale?”
“The initials on this one have a Gothic script- the other one had more of a Times New Roman feel to them! Notice how smoothly the lines of the suit enhance my…”
“SHUT UP!” snapped Hamilton. “We haven’t got time for you to be funny right now! We have a business deal waiting, and all you can do is hold court!”
“Well, what do you suggest I wear?” Jefferson suggested as they walked back into the bedroom.
“You must have something more professional-looking in your closet!” said Hamilton.
She opened the closed doors of the closet at the far end of the room, only to discover that Jefferson’s entire wardrobe consisted of the same, nearly identical black bikinis and shoes! Hamilton gasped in shock, and then groaned in agony.
“This?” she said in disbelief. “This is your wardrobe?”
“Sure!” Jefferson answered. “My signature look! Wouldn’t leave home without it!”
“People don’t conduct business deals in BIKINIS, Jefferson!” Hamilton said, holding herself remarkably in check despite her rising feelings of anger. “It just is NOT DONE!”
“But why?” Jefferson asked. “The girls on Wall Street ain’t got the bodies for ‘em?”
“No!” said Hamilton. “Business is something serious- unlike whatever it is you do for a living!”
“Being an adventurer is a serious job, Hamilton!” countered Jefferson. “You should know ‘cause you do it, too! But tell you what. I got some cold weather accessories I can throw on over this if you’re so damn worried about first impressions!”
“I’d appreciate that!” Hamilton retorted tersely, biting her lip as she did.
Jefferson finally emerged from the room a few minutes later, wearing, unfortunately, a white T shirt with the words “CAPITALISM SUCKS” outlined on the chest in black, as well as some grey sheet-metal arm- and knee-pads given to her by one of her many previous admirers. Hamilton would have objected further, especially to the shirt, but time was tight, and her feelings of anger were temporarily exhausted and overdrawn by her friend’s exuberance- and stupidity. So she simply and wearily gestured to her that it was time for them to leave, and they did.
So it was that, a few minutes later, Jefferson and Hamilton, with a folder under her arm, stood before the door of the Cash Cow, preparing to conduct their interview.
“Now, remember, Jeff,” Hamilton cautioned her friend, “there’s a lot riding on this meeting, so please try to behave yourself!”
“Sure, Ham!” Jefferson said as she pushed the door of the establishment open for her friend. “I won’t say a thing! You talk! This was your idea, anyway!”
“I’m glad you’re willing to admit that,” replied Hamilton. Jefferson gave her a smirking glare that suggested an increasing frustration with her friend’s joking attitude towards her but, for the time being, she let it go at that.
They entered the restaurant and made their way toward the back where, at a long table, Hamilton pointed out their would-be partner to her friend. He was a tall, slim and extremely handsome Great Dane clad in a neatly pressed blue business suit with a red tie and a white handkerchief dangling with sophistication from the front pocket. Jefferson, professional boy chaser that she was, immediately gave a small, silent shriek of excitement upon seeing him for the first time.
“Dreamy!” she said softly, placing her powerful paws together. “How did you land that hunk, Ham?”
“He’s not a ‘hunk’, Jeff!” Hamilton said as she nudged her taller companion. “Bill Dane’s one of the richest boys in Hugopolis! His mother was huge in the financial world, and she left him plenty. So he’s fully prepared to back us- if we make a good impression! And don’t even try coming on to him! Hate to disappoint you, but he goes the other way!”
“Nuts!” Jeff growled.
They got coffees and went over to sit down with him. Surprisingly, he silenced them as soon as they attempted to introduce themselves.
“I know you!” he said in a plumy, effeminate voice. “I mean, who doesn’t know Jefferson Ball, the adventurer, and Hamilton Pomeranian, the war hero?”
“Major Hamilton Pomeranian,” corrected Hamilton, pointing to the hash marks on the arm of her jacket.
“Oh, my apologies!” responded Bill coquettishly, blushing.
“No need,” Hamilton responded. “We really appreciate you meeting us for…”
“God damn it!”
This was Jefferson’s contribution to the discussion, as she set down her coffee violently after taking a sip. Hamilton glared at her, and she sullenly glared back. Then Hamilton returned her attentions to Bill.
“Sorry about that,” she said apologetically. “My partner,”- she glared at Jefferson again here, “is in-experienced when it comes to these kinds of negotiations!”
“It was too HOT!” said Jefferson in her defense. “You want me to burn off my tongue?”
“If you did, then maybe you’d SHUT YOUR TRAP once in a while!” growled Hamilton. Then she switched back to apologies for Bill: “Sorry about that.”
“No need,” Bill said, taking a sip of coffee with a finger extended outward on his grasping paw. “I have had exactly the same kind of problems with my partners! Such a pain, don’t you think?”
“Listen, buddy!” Jefferson said, standing up. “I don’t like what you’re insinuating. Jefferson Ball isn’t a…”
“Jeff,” Hamilton said, “would you mind going away from the table for a little bit?”
“I don’t have to use the…”
“NOW!” Hamilton growled viciously. Jeff got the point.
“You coulda just ASKED!” Jeff said. She walked off as if she were modeling, holding her coffee carton suggestively, as if she were trying to entice Bill to follow her, until Hamilton threateningly un-holstered her gun. Then she ran away quickly.
“I am so sorry!” Hamilton said apologetically to Bill. “Really. Don’t think of this as any indication of how we conduct our business. I’m the brains of the outfit, and Jeff’s just the strong-arm girl.”
“I can see that,” Bill responded. “The way you put her in her place!” He whistled admiringly. “That can’t possibly be the same Jefferson Ball who single handedly defeated the invading Limestone People of Venus! She actually deferred to you!”
“Well, she needs to be told off sometimes!” Hamilton responded, biting her lip. “And I have to do it because she won’t listen to anybody else. She respects me ‘cause I’m her best friend and all, but barely. Whenever we get into trouble, she always assumes she’s the boss and keeps leading me into the fray. She puts both of our asses on the line constantly, and she only thinks about her nice, round one and not my thin, bony one! She may have a figure to die for, the agility of five gymnasts, and the strength of twenty-five normal dogs, but she’s not perfect. I know. The papers and Internet and such may make her out to be a hero, but she’s not as much of a hero as she thinks she is!”
“And yet,” Bill said, “you’ve remained supportive of and loyal to her all this time!”
“Well, I have to,” Hamilton confided. “We need the money. My Army pension is piddling, and you can’t eat medals and commendation ribbons. So whenever Jeff gets some wacky idea in her head about how we can possibly make some money, I’m all ears. Usually the things blow up right in our faces, and we’re back to square one. So, finally, I just told Jeff that if we’re gonna go gallivanting around the galaxy like that, we need somebody to underwrite us. Take care of the money so we can go about our business, and, if we happen to make any money off of it, split it fairly with them. That’s where you come in.”
“I know,” Bill said. “I’ve been there before. But, as I said, I know who you two are and what you’re capable of, so I think I could help you out.”
“Great!” Hamilton said.
“But,” Bill added, “I need to figure out what you two are willing to do for me in return. How far you want to go with this, if you catch my meaning. Can you two come to the office tomorrow to talk it over?”
“You bet!” Hamilton said. “I’m in on this, and I’m sure Jeff…”
At the other end of the room, a loud scream was heard, and a young male dog, crying in agony with hot coffee streaming down his face, ran by their table. Jefferson followed, in hot pursuit.
“Come back here, you dumb idiot!” she shouted. “NOBODY walks into Jefferson Ball and makes her spill her coffee on top of them! Wait ‘til I get my paws on you…”
Hamilton’s face smashed onto the table in embarrassment, as Bill patted her head sympathetically.
“Just a second now…Almost there….Got it!”
It was the following day, and the three of them were dressed pretty much as they had been yesterday, except, at Hamilton’s insistence, Jefferson had exchanged T shirts, putting on a white one- with no message on it at all- over her black bikini/boots combo and the sheet-metal arm-and-knee pads. They were in one of the upper floors of the office tower owned by Bill’s family and Bill was ushering them into a room kept secret and off limits from other personnel for unknown reasons. But Jeff and Ham would soon come to know what it was intended for.
Clicking on the lights, Bill then proceeded to walk to the center of the room, and removed a white canvas sheet from a giant object beneath it. It proved to be a glass-enclosed metal stall three times as large as the average home shower of similar construction. Jeff and Ham looked on it with awe.
“This,” Bill explained, “is the Teleporter 10,000. The scientists at the company have been at work on it for a human’s age. With this device, anyone is capable of traveling anywhere in the past or future, to lands both fictional and real. And there is absolutely no chance of the time spectrum of history or fictional and historical events being altered. One can simply enter the chamber, enter the time or fictional period, do their required business, and leave without making a negative effect on the events you enter into.”
“Interesting, huh, Ham?” said Jefferson.
“I’ll say!” agreed Hamilton. “But where do we come in?”
“Well, we need to test it before we can put it on the market,” Bill said, “and who better to do that than two of the best known names in the universe?”
“Aw, really!” Jeff said, as she and Hamilton blushed at the flattering words. “You really mean that?”
“Yes, I do,” Bill said. “Would you please step inside?”
“Delighted,” said Hamilton.
Jefferson and Hamilton entered the chamber, made to hold at least five beings, and admired the spacious layout within.
“Pretty plush, huh, Ham?” Jefferson said admiringly. “Lots of room in here for…”
But, suddenly, they heard the clicking of a lock and the fastening of a deadbolt. Bill was shutting the only door- and the only means of escape for the heroic duo. He had done what so few of their enemies had done- he had trapped them! They rushed frantically to the door and beat on it, but to no avail- it would not budge. As they looked into Bill’s eyes, his irises took on a villainous, Faustian gaze they had not seen before. He laughed and began throwing his paws up in the air in triumph.
“Ha, ha!” he shouted triumphantly. “I have you two at last! The two greatest warriors in the universe, at my bidding- if they want to live!”
“Not for long!” said a determined Jefferson.
She balled one of her mighty paws into a fist, took a deep breath, and swung at the glass plate facing her. And then…
-her fist bounced off the plate as if the plate had been made of rubber. Jefferson gaped in astonishment as she toppled to the ground from the force of her blow.
Hamilton tried a similar tactic with her gun, but it was to no avail there, either. The bullet she fired simply bounced off the plate she had aimed it at, hit the plate Jeff had tried to break, and stabbed her in the bottom, causing her to yelp loudly in pain.
When Jefferson got up and stood at her full height, she ran towards the plate again and shoved at it with all of her strength. It did not budge, and the heroine of many an adventure found that she had been bested as she slipped to the floor again. Hamilton rushed to her side and helped her to her feet, both of them glaring at Bill as they did.
“What the hell is going on here?” Jefferson demanded. “You better let us out, or…”
“Or WHAT?” Bill retorted, with passionate violence. “You’re in no position to threaten me, ladies! It should be obvious to you now! And you won’t be released unless you do as I SAY!”
“What’s wrong with you?” Hamilton shot back. “I thought we could trust you…”
“You thought WRONG!” he answered. “What you thought was that because I’m a handsome young boy dog with money to burn, I’m easily accessible to you girls whenever I want to be. Well, it don’t work that way, honey!”
“Buddy,” Jefferson threatened, “you picked the wrong girls to shake down! Just because we’re…”
“Oh, I know all about the two of you,” he answered. “You two and your pals are the main reason why I became what I am now!”
“You mean a…” said Jefferson.
“Besides that!” Bill said impatiently. “I’m one of the leading members of the Anti-Girls League! And, on their behalf, I’ve collected quite a bit of dirt related to the two of you. Ms. Ball- I don’t suppose you remember those waiters you hired for your last exercise in biased and sexist debauchery. They were our boys, and they took those photographs with the cameras so we could blackmail you and get you to admit what a sexist monster you really are! That’s why I made contact with you- and that’s also why I made sure that the glass of this machine would be impervious to your strength, Ms. Ball, and your bullets, Major- so you’d be more likely to fall in line!”
“Damn you!” Jefferson muttered. “I…”
He silenced her with a wave of his paw, and turned his attention to Hamilton.
“And you, Major Pomeranian! We have some private evidence about you in your younger days, back when you participated in the events of the Docked Tail Scandal, the greatest and most misandrous abuse of young, nubile male dog flesh ever put on record!”
“You fiend!” snapped Hamilton. “I had nothing to do with that! I testified…”
“…when your back was against the wall, you did!” Bill said, with contempt. “You see, ladies, we have a lot of evidence against you we can use at any time you try to speak out against us! So you really don’t have a choice here. You have to do what I want- or else!”
By this time, the lack of air was getting to the pair in the enclosed stall, and they wanted to get out of there- fast.
“Fine!” Hamilton said. “What do you want?”
“I’m interested in obtaining the White Stone of Balamoral!” said Bill. “Know anything about it?”
“Of course!” Jefferson said. “That rock’s the key to the greatest store of alchemical knowledge in the known universe! With that thing, you could turn any metal imaginable into solid gold!”
“But why do you want it?” Hamilton questioned Bill. “You’re already loaded!”
“Sure,” Bill replied. “But you don’t think I’d risk my own ass looking for the thing, now, would you? The Stone is deep in Balamoral Cave, and is guarded by a primordial race dating back to before even the human beings began roaming the planet. That’s a long time, and to hold out that long they’ve got to be plenty dangerous! And you ask me about risking my neck to get it? I doubt it! So who better than two ladies who know more about action and fighting than anyone else on this planet to get it for me!”
“Who did you have in mind?” Jefferson asked.
“YOU, YOU IDIOT!” Bill thundered at her. “Now, understand this! You two are to enter Balamoral Cave, and you will not emerge until you have achieved possession of the Stone! Then you will return here and give the Stone to me! I’ll be observing you on the monitors (here he turned on an electronic console with a bank of screens on it behind him). I will provide you with means of transportation both ways via the machine; just call me when you’re finished. What you will NOT do is question me about what I want the thing for- or anything else, for that matter! Understood?”
Both Jefferson and Hamilton nodded silently. They had no option but to agree to his terms. And they agreed to them in spite of the fact that they both preferred killing the one who was responsible for getting them into that situation- whoever that happened to be.
“That’s it,” Bill answered as he adjusted the dials and started the machine. “Be good little girls, do what I want, and I’ll consider disposing of the evidence we have against you. Consider, mind you!”
Jefferson and Hamilton disappeared in a puff of smoke. When they were gone, Bill folded his paws in a mock prayer.
“Please, God!” he said. “Get them back here so I can kill them myself- any way I know how!”
Jefferson and Hamilton, after being consumed by a ball of light, fell down to the ground in front of a deep cavern to the left of them and a steep cliff at their right. Getting to their feet, Jefferson took in the sights while Hamilton sat down, swearing and grumbling to herself about their current predicament.
“Boy,” Jefferson said as she kicked a pebble near where Hamilton sat, “this country sure is nice! Say, Ham, you never told me you were involved with the Docked Tail Scandal…”
“I wasn’t!” Hamilton snarled, her patience with Jeff starting to evaporate. “I was just a cadet then, and they forced me into holding pillows near them while they did…that stuff. I testified against them and got absolved. He’s using my involvement in it to blackmail me into doing this, just like he’s blackmailing you over your parties!”
“Yeah,” Jefferson said with a smirk, “but I got nothing to hide! They know what I can do and what I’ve done, and they don’t mind it! But you, pal! He could break you with that! My shindigs are nothing compared to the hop-headed fiasco Docked Tail was…”
Jeff laughed at those thoughts. But Hamilton didn’t think it was funny. She pulled out her revolver and fired it at Jeff, causing Jeff to hit the dirt.
“Damn it, Ham!” Jeff growled. “What the hell are you doing? You’re my partner. My friend. Why would you…”
“SHUT UP, okay?” Hamilton answered. “Just SHUT THE HELL UP, Jefferson! You’re not my friend, and you never were! You’ve been using me ever since we met! You needed a little shield to prevent your feet from touching the ground, somebody to blame when your fat headed arrogance got you in trouble! And I sure fit the bill, didn’t I? Just ‘cause I can look up to you literally doesn’t mean I have to figuratively! You just watch yourself, or the next shot I fire is gonna be IN YOUR HEART!”
Before she could fire said shot, however, Jefferson had pulled out her whip, hit Hamilton’s paws with it, and knocked her gun to the ground.
“You little backstabber!” Jefferson countered. “I’m gonna talk now, and you’d better listen. You’re one to talk about using somebody. I’ve been busting my ass on fight after fight to save yours, and you’ve done nothing but bitch and complain! Sure, you were an officer in the Army, and you’re used to being treated with deference, but that ain’t the way things work in the real world, kid! If you wanna be my friend, you gotta help me out once in a while and not be a complainer!”
“Complainer??!!!” Hamilton shot back. “You HYPOCRITE! You complain more than anyone else I know! Every time I give you an innocent suggestion about what to do, you BELLYACHE! And I’ll tell you something else- I’d rather snap your neck than listen to any more of the dumb-assed “advice” you keep giving ME!”
Jeff gaped and stomped closer to Hamilton, one foot at a time.
“I’d like to see you try that,” she growled. “Especially since it’ll be a lot easier for ME to snap YOUR neck!”
She swept a mighty arm towards Hamilton, intending to do just that. At the same time, however, Hamilton aimed her small but powerful arm at Jefferson’s stomach and scored a direct hit. Jeff was stunned for a moment, but then she grabbed onto Hamilton’s pelt and began pulling harshly on it. Ham responded by grabbing Jefferson’s bikini top with an equally firm grip, and with brute force they pulled each other to the ground and began wrestling, biting, kicking and scratching each other furiously.
A fight between friends- or ex-friends- tends to be more violent than a similar one between enemies. There generally is a larger amount of water under the bridge, secrets kept and held back for the sake of preserving a friendship. And these things come out when both parties involved are frustrated and tired of being near each other for so long. What results, in many cases, is a drag-down physical and/or verbal battle that resolves the conflict and often ends the friendship once and for all.
It was this sort of fight, and this desire for revenge, that was now consuming the relationship between Jefferson Ball and Hamilton Pomeranian.
Clutching each other tightly, the pair rolled like a bowling ball on a lane up and down, up and down, up and down the cliff until they plunged off it entirely. That would have been their doom, had they not gotten caught up in a small growth of shrubbery protruding on a branch from the bottom of the cliff. With a springboard action, the shrubbery bounced them back up to the top of the cliff, where their bodies separated and they tumbled violently into Balamoral Cave at the other end of the cliff. Unable to see anything in the darkness, they softly cursed the wounds they received from the fall and bounce-back action, and then lay silent for a couple of minutes after. Then Jefferson spoke.
“It’s sure nice of you to be massaging my scalp like this, even after we had that fight!”
“Massaging your-….I’m not even TOUCHING you!”
“Well, SOMEBODY’s touching my head! And if it’s not you…”
“Hang on. Let me light a match.”
Hamilton did that. And, as soon as she did, both of them screamed in terror.
Hamilton’s match went out, but she quickly lit another one. This confirmed what they’d seen before. Jefferson’s head was being eaten by a small, dwarf-like creature with green skin, sharp teeth, and a long nose, clad only in a brown loincloth. Jeff panicked and started screaming and running around what little of the dark terrain she could manouevre.
“Aah!” Jefferson shouted. “It’s eating me! EATING ME! Get it off! GET IT OFF!”
Putting the match in her mouth, Hamilton drew a small Derringer from the pocket of her jacket and fired it. The creature’s brains spattered across the rocks, and he released his hold on Jefferson’s head.
“Thanks, Ham,” Jefferson said. Then: “I thought you only had the one gun on you.”
“I keep the small one around in case I lose the big one,” Ham answered. “That one probably shattered below on the rocks- along with yours.”
“Well, you have that, and I have the whip,” Jefferson responded. “That’s enough for us to get the White Stone, come back home and then kick the ass of that backstabber Bill Dane!”
“You mean that?” Hamilton said as she lit a fresh match after extinguishing the old one. “After the fight, and all I said to you, and all you said to me…”
“Those were just the words,” Jefferson said dismissively. “Ham, I know you! You and I have been pals for too long for us to quit it now. Sure, we have fights. Who doesn’t? We get on each other’s nerves. Who doesn’t? We want to kill each other. Who doesn’t after a while? Seriously- you coulda done a lot better than me for a pal! I was a boy-chasing gambler who quite rightly got kicked out of the Star Patrol ‘cause I couldn’t follow rules and regs, and you got to be one of the best damn fighters they had, as well as one of their most honest officers! Some days, I wish I could’ve been like you…”
“And then you think you wouldn’t change a thing,” responded Hamilton. “I know, Jeff. I know. But I’ve stood up for you, still. I stood up for you ‘cause you were my friend. If I wasn’t your friend, I wouldn’t have pulled your ass out of that Triton lava pit after you got so soused that night you couldn’t walk a straight line. Same with all those other times I pulled your ass out of trouble, and vice versa, I should say. But I’ll say one thing for you, Jeff. If you weren’t around, my life would be so goddamn BORING that I’d probably end up putting a slug through my head to end the tedium!”
“Really, Ham?” Jeff asked.
“Really, Jeff. And I need to say something else. I get so caught up in things sometimes that I forget to see when the pole starts coming up my ass, even though I can darn well see it when it comes up yours. Can you maybe…”
“I never stopped, Ham.”
As Hamilton’s match went out, they embraced, friends again.
Now came, for Jefferson and Hamilton, the need to perform the action Bill Dane had unjustly sent them there to do- retrieving the White Stone from the cave. It would take all of their combined powers and abilities to do this, but they were ready. Having weathered a temporary bump in their friendship, their bond was now stronger than ever. And no one, including Bill Dane, was going to force them into stripping their emotions that bare with each other again. They’d deal with him later, however, when they got back. If they got back…
They were slowly making their way through the cave entrance when Hamilton noticed the light.
“Look!” she said, pointing. “There’s a light down there at the end of the tunnel! That must be where the White Stone is!”
“Well, if it’s giving off a white light like that,” Jefferson concurred, “it must be where the Stone is! We’ll have to get closer to find out!”
Hamilton nodded, and the two heroines pursued the light down towards the end of the cavernous cave entrance.
Soon, they came to the end, and were bathed in an overpowering light that nearly singed their retinas. Beneath the stalagtites and stalagmites were dozens of gremlins, all looking exactly like the creature that had tried to gnaw on Jefferson’s head just before, and all engaged in a bizarre ritual of worship and prayer resembling a combination of a Native American pow-wow and a scene from a black-and-white animated film from the 1930s. In the center of the cave was a giant slab of white marble with hieroglyphic-style writing on all its sides- nothing less than the elusive White Stone!
Jeff and Ham exited the tunnel they had travelled through, crouched behind a conveniently placed group of rocks, and plotted their strategy.
“That must be the White Stone!” Jefferson exclaimed. “I had no idea it was going to be so BIG!”
“Obviously,” agreed Hamilton. “The question is: how are we going to get it out while we save our skins?”
“You’re good at that stealth stuff, aren’t you?” said Jeff.
“The best!” Hamilton said modestly.
“Well,” remarked Jefferson, “I could make a distraction and attract all those little guys to me. It might be a bit of a fight, but I’m ready for anything they got. Then, while I’m fighting them off, you rush in and grab the Stone. If we have some luck on our side, we should be able to get out quick. That sound all right?”
“Fine,” Hamilton said. “And all this time I thought you didn’t have a brain!”
“Let’s just do this, okay?” Jefferson said. “The sooner we get this done, the better!”
“Agreed,” said Hamilton.
They put their plan into action immediately. As Hamilton hunched down to make her little body appear even smaller than it already was, and ventured slowly towards the marble stone, Jefferson stretched to her full Olympian height, and whistled loudly and vulgarly to attract the attention of the gremlins, who responded by covering their ears.
“Hey! That yours?” Jefferson said loudly to the gremlins. “Boy, I’d love to have one of those things- to piss on!” She laughed loudly, as if what she had said was the funniest thing in the world, but the gremlins were hardly laughing as they began to stalk forward and surround her. Still, Jeff continued unmindfully. “You really expect me to believe that you actually WORSHIP that piece of…”
She could not get the last word out of her mouth, for, just before she could say it, dozens of little green bodies jumped out of their carefully arranged formation and leaped at her. Jefferson found herself surrounded on all sides, and was soon perforated on all sides as well, and even underneath her bikini and boots, by the gremlins’ razor blade like teeth. It was too much for even a hero of her caliber to endure, and she screamed loudly in pain as the bites hit home.
Hearing her friend’s cry, Hamilton rushed to her side, and found her shaking off those who had bitten her and fighting off those who were still trying to with her paws, legs and whip.
“Need any help?” Hamilton asked.
“What? Are you crazy?” Jeff answered as she was in the process of whipping, punching and kicking her enemies. “I’ll be fine. You just grab the Stone.”
“Can do,” said Hamilton.
Unfortunately, it proved to be a case of “can not.” For, after Hamilton had reached the now unguarded pedestal where the White Stone was displayed, she discovered, after a strained and difficult attempt, that she did not possess the physical strength needed to lift the Stone from its base. Fortunately, she knew who did.
“Jeff!” Hamilton called to her friend, in the midst of knocking down the last of her gremlin assailants. “Help! I can’t lift it! It’s stuck down here with some sort of paste stuck to it, and I can’t budge it!”
After punching and kicking her last assailants, Jefferson looked over towards her friend and sighed with mock hostility.
“Do I have to do everything myself?” she said sarcastically.
While her friend watched, Jefferson walked to the pedestal, spat on her paws, rubbed the spit together, put her paws around the pedestal, and, with a muscular and decidedly unfeminine grunt, ripped the Stone from its base and reduced the pedestal to splinters besides.
“That’s how you do it, Ham!” Jeff said, tossing the heavy Stone up and down in her paw as if it was a baseball. “You gotta spit on your paws to lubricate the thing! Makes it easier to move it!”
“I see,” said Hamilton. “Well, that was easier than I…thought.”
In the interim between the last two words of that sentence, Jeff and Ham turned around, as they felt a heavy breath come down on them. As Ham said the last word, they looked into the eyes of a giant gremlin many times the size of the little ones Jeff had just defeated- and much bigger than both of them combined.
“What do we do now?” said Jeff.
“What do you think?” said Ham.
They ran out of the cave, screaming, as fast as they could, with the giant gremlin in pursuit. They made it out of the cave well before their giant pursuer could follow them. Fortunately, Bill, on his monitors, saw them as they came out, and sent down a patch of light which they swiftly disappeared into….
Emerging back in the enclosed stall of the transporter, Jeff pushed the stall’s door so hard that it came off its hinges in one paw while she held the White Stone in the other. Hamilton followed behind her, her expression as frosty as her friend’s.
“Here’s your goddamn Stone, you jerk!” Jefferson said, going through the motions of a baseball pitcher. “Catch!”
But he couldn’t, for she threw the thing so forcefully that it shattered to the ground in a million pieces. Bill gaped in horror for a moment, and was then convulsive with rage.
“You backstabbing TRAMPS!” he shouted at them. “We had a deal going here, and YOU BROKE IT! Don’t you know THE FIRST THING about respecting a business arrangement? I oughta kill both of you NOW!”
He lunged forward to do so, but was halted in his tracks by Hamilton’s Derringer.
“You stay where you are, Dane!” Hamilton ordered. “Jeff and I trusted you, and you tricked us! You forced us to do something we didn’t want to do to satisfy your confounded greed by blackmailing us! THAT DOES NOT sound like the kind of ethics we want in a business partner! Jeff and I aren’t just partners, we’re friends. And we don’t want to have anything to do with a creep who threatens our friendship! Do we, Jeff?”
“DAMN RIGHT!” her partner yelled. And, to their would-be associate’s horror, Jefferson aimed her paws and feet at Bill’s monitors- and the blackmailing information contained in their accompanying computer database- and converted it into a pile of metal and glass with a few, well-placed blows.
Realizing he was done for, Bill made a dash for the door, but he was no match for the speed and strength of Jefferson Ball. Before he could take more than a few steps, she had tackled him, wrapped him in one of her mighty arms, thrown him in the air, and then grabbed him and held him aloft with one arm raised and a paw clamped tight on the collar of his shirt.
“Okay, Billy!” Jefferson growled. “Since you like to send innocent adventurers to their deaths, we’re gonna send you to yours. There’s a certain critter up in Balamoral Cave who’s gonna be plenty pissed about losing his White Stone. And I’m sure you’ll be a good substitute!”
With a powerful toss, she threw the helpless Dane into the Teleporter 10,000 and kicked him to make sure he stayed in. She hit the “send” button on its controls and sent him off to the life threatening situation she and her friend had just escaped.
“Good job, partner!” Hamilton said to Jefferson.
“You too, partner!” Jefferson returned. “So, you wanna quit this scene?”
“You bet!” replied Hamilton. “We may not be partners in business anymore, but we’ll always be partners in…something.”
“Amen to that!” said Jeff.
They laughed and exited the room, paws on each other’s backs, as the friends and adventurous comrades they would always be.