Tuesday, November 16, 2010


WEAPONS OF CHOICE - A Column in which Sarge Portera takes the Reader on a Fanciful Pulp Weapons Inspection!

WEAPONS OF CHOICE: Behind the Judas Bug -Upon reading ALL PULP our gracious host opted to drop the façade of anonymity. I suspect Chief Arthur Matchinkoa revealed his identity when he found out that we were mutual fb friends of David Goode and Evan Quiring.

“Alanna, feel free to call me, Uncle Arthur.” The Seneca chief said as he graciously helped her out of her seat. “That’s what your dad and your Aunt Angela used to call me when they were younger.”

“Let me show you around the club and on our way out we could get a sandwich for you to take home to your mom. How about a steak-in-the-grass?” offered the bonafide Seneca Nation Chief.

“You know Chief, er, ah, Uncle Arthur, your club looks a lot like Wilderness Lodge at Walt Disney World!”

“It should! Roy modeled the resort hotel after our clubhouse. The Walt Disney Memorial Cryogenic Center is just up Choice Road from here.” replied the retired wrestler.

“Look Dad! There’s a waterfall in the lobby instead of a geyser.” AJ pointed to the east end of the lobby.. “Chief Matchinkoa, where does that stream lead?”

“The stream meanders through the formal garden, outside, then through the weapons range and then empties into the lake by the launch pad. If you ever saw “Rocky Jones” the launch pad should look very familiar. That’s where some of the show was filmed.”

My eyes opened wide in response while the chief winked at the two of us.

That got a laugh from the giant Seneca, “Your facial expressions and gestures remind me so much of your dad! I’m sorry I didn’t see that much of him since he left the Charter House and moved to California.”

We had just walked out of “The Pheasant Run Restaurant” to the left of the lobby and were walking down the concourse as Chief Matchinkoa led us on an informal tour of Weapons of Choice.

“You can see how we designed the lobby to look like an island surrounded by this indoor/outdoor water feature with all these interconnecting bridges.” Uncle Arthur explained.  “The Games End Gift Shop is across the way. We’ll stop there on the way out if time permits. I don’t know how much ground we can cover in an afternoon but we’ll see!” added the robust Seneca who although thirty-two years my senior looked much more my age. “Around the corner from the gift shop is the corridor that leads to the armory and garage. Black Beauty and the Thunderbug are parked there!”

“The originals?” Alanna asked.

“I knew one of you were gonna ask that!” chuckled Chief Matchinkoa. “Hornet and Thunder wrecked so many of ‘em over the years that they finally manufactured a small fleet of each!”

We passed under a circle of inverted teepees that served as most unusual chandeliers.  “Well, here we are!” the Amerindic pointed to the left. “Around the corner is the ballroom and a number of conference rooms. Further down this corridor is our destination. Thought, I could show you, at least, one or two labs today.”

Hand-painted landscapes lined the hallway we turned down. The murals soon gave way to beveled glass doors.  Each door that dotted this ever-growing corridor was adorned with stenciled signage that curiously beckoned us.  Some of the stenciled lettering was accompanied by white cardboard signs. We swept passed Suite 101 Camouflage & Invisibility Research Lab (Be Careful Where You Sit), 102 Chaos Guitar (Please Wear Ear Plugs), 103 Counterverse Defense Systems, 104 Fragmentation & Particle Beam Assembly, 105 Interspatial Transportation, 106 Meteorogical Modification Command Center, 107 Midas Touch & Philosopher’s Stone   Research & Development (Please Wear Gloves), 108 Robotic Design Studio, 109 Vril Stick & Magic Wand Testing (Moved to Armory) and 110 Wall Crawling & Grappling Hook Propulsion Workshop.

“Ah, here we are!” exclaimed Chief Matchinkoa as we came to an abrupt halt. “Some days it’s so easy to miss this side corridor.”

Just before we turned left we could spy at the end of the main hallway twin doors marked “Doorway to Tomorrow” and “Doorway to Yesteryear!”

A few more paces and we reached the first of two doors. One was marked “Operation Windwar Recovery Project” and the other, across the hall, “Judas Bug Prevention & Pest Control.” The chief nodded to the door on the left and chill went through me as he added, “This entire hallway is dedicated to biological warfare!”

We swept through the anteroom while the former wrestler casually asked if Dr. Susan Tyler-Manheim was in. The researcher’s name when paired with the door’s sign hit an ominously familiar chord.

Alanna was clueless to what the pairing portended because she and her mom, Marci, gave a very wide berth to horror flicks while I’m morbidly drawn to them.

“Like a moth to a flame!” our daughter would laughingly proclaim.

“There she is! Dr. Susan Tyler-Manheim, our busy little Nobel Prize winner!”

Her resemblance to Mira Sorvino made me feel like we stumbled onto a movie set. She shyly smiled and rose from the green stool she was perched on to greet us.

“Wait! Don’t tell me!! You’re Sarge and this must be your daughter, Alanna!!!” said the diminutive Dr.. Tyler-Manheim.

“I thought I was the only one who could guess people’s names when I meet them for the first time!” I chuckled as I shook the hand she preferred to me and Alanna.

“Oh, no! I’m far from psychic! Arthur told me that the two of you may be dropping in and I’ve got fairly good recall.” She said shyly.

Chief Matchinkoa laughed and added, “Fairly good recall? You mean total recall, don’tcha?”

“No, I’m not hypervisual but it’s true about the Nobel Prize!” Dr. Tyler-Manheim corrected the chief. “After all these years of research I guess something had to pay off!”

“Years of research? You look my age!” Alanna blurted out.

“You’re too kind! You’d be surprised what Royal Queen Jelly can do for us girls!” the entomologist said with a wink, “I’ll have to whip up a batch for you!”

She coughed and took on a more sober tone as the young scientist added, “Seriously though, I’m happy you came so I can set the record straight while showing you around the lab.”

“As you know there are only a few species of insects that interact with humanity in a productive way. At best even those hexapods share the same ambivalent attitude towards us that housecats do.” Dr. Tyler-Manheim said absently as she led us passed a bank of terrariums.

“Of course, we don’t focus solely on hexapods either as you can see for yourselves!” she added with a sweep of her hands indicating the terrariums that ranged beyond us. Some of these tanks housed arachnids, centipedes and millipedes that could only otherwise be housed in a Wayne Reinagel novel. “Although the Judas Bug was my original pet project I admit I didn’t actually breed them as the movie implies. In fact, I guess I rediscovered them using notes recovered from the notorious Antlion!”

“The Antlion?”

“That’s right! He was an early nemesis of the Savage Seven. Antlion was aptly named because he was a homiculi with a ferocious temper. He had just returned from Maple White Land when he volunteered to fight along side Savage and his friends in World War I. What he didn’t tell his fellow volunteers was that he smuggled along a fantastic find that thrived on salt pork but preferred smoked ham. Theo thought he throttled someone who was shadowing Antlion and to his horror he learned it was some kind of prehistoric cockroach as it scurried away. He had no idea that the mimic who was almost as large as his master was going to lead to Theo’s well known nickname. Antlion detested Theo, especially because they were both fastidious dressers. Antlion and his manlike ward took off one night with a truckload of hams that Theo couldn’t account for. So in the end the purloined pork was pinned on the barrister!”

At this point I’m sure Alanna’s curiosity was brimming over with questions just like mine when the chief interrupted. “And here I thought you were going to make Sarge and Alanna’s blood run cold by giving them the lowdown on how C.Y.P.H.E.R. was attempting to bring Jim Anthony’s hotel empire down to its knees!”

“Cimex lectularius or bedbugs belong to the Cimicidae family of parasitic insects. This family of small hexapods subsists on the blood of homeothermic chordata. Although virtually eradicated in developed countries they’ve made an alarming resurgence since the nineties. Here at Weapons of Choice much of our research has been funded by a generous grant from the Waldorf Anthony hotel chain but we’re currently stymied and hoping for a breakthrough. You see the Monomorium pharaonis’ venom is lethal to bedbugs but biological pest control is not very practical for eliminating bedbugs from human habitations. We’re still actively researching other natural enemies of bedbugs like ants, centipedes, cockroaches, the masked hunter, mites and Thanatus flavidus.”

“In the meantime, although the bedbug is a distant relation to the jitterbug, it’s a red herring compared to my latest studies in humanoid hexapods. That’s what led me to stories by L. Frank Baum, H.P. Lovecraft, A.J. Portera and Jack Snow!”

“You don’t mean Enoch Clubman’s Bug Friday?” Alanna and I said almost in unison.

“You’ve got it!” replied Dr. Manheim. “Of course, Bug Friday is also known by other names like the Doodlebug, Mu-Tant and the Woggle Bug!”

“You mean to tell us that Bug Friday actually existed?” asked Alanna.

The researcher and the wrestler nodded like bobble heads.

“Existed? He still exists and you’ll both bump into him while we’re out on the grounds!”

“In fact, he was wearing a lot of makeup when he portrayed the Mu-Tant in “This Island Earth!” He wouldn’t have taken the role but needed the money at the time! It’s much easier for him to be living here at Weapons of Choice!”