Mudcat Café message #212703 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #20395   Message #212703
Posted By: Peter T.
16-Apr-00 - 01:55 PM
Thread Name: TAVERN STEAMBOAT Albert Hansell - Part 4
Subject: RE: TAVERN STEAMBOAT Albert Hansell - Part 4
"Owwwwchh", moaned Cassius de Mornay, as he felt a large bump on the back of his neck, which did not improve his phrenological framework.

"Ah, welcome back, Mr. De Mornay. You have been gone some time, if I may use such an expression. 'I could count myself the king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams', as your beloved Bard relates." An elegant, gray-haired figure, cloaked in a dark red gown, smiled at the dishevelled figure of the long lost actor. De Mornay lay semi-recumbent on a white divan encircled by a slightly humming force field.

De Mornay scowled: "He also said, 'O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!!'"

The red cloaked figure, whose features were blurred by shadows, nevertheless could be seen to be smiling. Around the great white room, a vortex of blue and green water churned in infinite patterns, bubbling and frothing.

"Well, de Mornay, this little charade is about over. I do admire you and your -- can I call them colleagues -- in the pathetic 19th century, with their steamboats and their absurd individualities. But they, and you in particular, have come somewhat too close to the centre of things --"

"The Great White Wall, you mean?"

"Mr. De Mornay, Mr. De Mornay. Please do not interrupt. You will be seriously dead soon enough, without any medallions and playacting to help you, and I thought you might like some inkling of what is going on."

"You aren't Lazarus Long, are you?" said de Mornay.

This struck the red cloaked figure as immensely amusing. He laughed a crooked laugh, and his face almost lifted out of the shadows.

"No, Mr. De Mornay, I am not that insignificant, if useful, fool. As you surmise, perhaps, I AM THE RED HERON!!" He shrugged his cloak. "For what it is worth.... But I do have some relationship to, well, let us say --" And here he waved a hand, and out of the virtual whirlpool, two figures, young women with red hair, appeared, holding out their arms in a gesture of helpless beseeching.

"These are the children of Long's indiscreet dalliance with a woman of strange powers that I am holding, Oh let us say, holding in reserve. I bore them away from him some years ago, and replaced them through psuedoreplication with the somewhat bumptious females who he believes to be his offspring. It is a sign of what a fool he is that he believes that the daughters of such a woman would be -- what did they call them in the late 20th century? -- ah yes, ditzbrains."

De Mornay suddenly felt very alone.

The red cloaked figure snapped his fingers, and the apparition disappeared. "Now then. Mr. De Mornay, what have you learned about what is going on?"

De Mornay brooded for a moment, then shrugged. "When I was struck in that inexpert manner, I was sending a message to the great Chat Noir through a complex messaging system linked, or perhaps creating, the past. I had had enough time previously to survey the enterprise, and had deduced that this was probably the heart of the League of the Mudcat, or the League of the Red Heron, and that whichever it was -- perhaps both? -- it was seemingly capable, like some cosmic playwright, of entering, and even changing the course of history."

The red cloaked figure sat back in his throne that eerily hovered several inches off the ground. "I congratulate you, de Mornay. You are half right, which is quite striking in its own way. But the truth is much more complex and interesting, and the reason why you and your colleagues have caused me such soon to be ended trouble." He reached forward, waved his arm, and Wagnerian music began to play.

"Now, Mr. de Mornay, this will mean nothing to you, but indulge me. I like to play with my -- thoughts from time to time. I don't often have an audience, unlike you. A brief scientific flurry. In the late 20th century a curious phenomenon was discovered, known colloquially as the "butterfly effect", that is, in the world about us, very slight changes, perturbations, in certain aspects of the world, can have significant consequences. The death of a President, for example. Or the fall of a leaf precipitating a hurricane a continent away. This phenomenon, known more and more intimately to later centuries, became of singular importance when time travel was discovered, because it meant that no interference in the past could be tolerated, unless by a suicidal madman, since it could not be predicted if such interference might at the least eliminate the perpetrator of the interference himself, or at a larger scale, the sequence of events that led to the discovery of time travel itself.

De Mornay protested: "You must then be such a madman, as you and your demons have been interfering recklessly for some time!!!"

The redcloaked figure smiled. "I am a madman, de Mornay, but not suicidal. Some time ago, in my time -- it matters not when that time is -- following a somewhat apocalyptic struggle between the League of the Mudcat and my own League, I was able to Inheronate the complete computing resources of the galactic Interweb for a few brief seconds. During that time, I learned something of incalculable usefulness. The phenomenon of clumpiness -- a clumpy term, but appropriate. What this means is that although there is potential for cascading change from inappropriate interference, there is also clumpiness -- stable islands of moderate changelessness -- the sort of thing that prevents hurricanes over deserts, in spite of innumerable butterflies flapping their wings. If these can be identified -- and I have identified many of them -- much of the past can be interfered with, even altered, safely (or at least safely for one's own purposes). It is is this that has allowed the League of the Red Heron to move into the past almost unchallenged."

"Almost?"

The red cloaked figure sighed with the heaviness of the burden of evil upon him. "There is one problem. We have been followed into the past by the interfering League of the Mudcat, curse them down the centuries. We have both learned however that there is an island of necessary moderate stability in your time, located somewhere upon the Albert Hansell, which, if interfered with, will cause quite predictable havoc in a later period. It is tied up with the Last Medallion, whose wherabouts are still unknown."

Although de Mornay was on the brink of death, he was getting somewhat irritated. "Yes, yes, but what is that predictable havoc?"

"Ah," replied the Great Red Heron himself, "This is what frightens me, my minions, and the League of the Mudcat as well (curse their souls)! For if the interference succeeds, as it seems to be doing at the moment, the sequence of events will lead to the elimination of all possibility for the original seed of both our Leagues, good and evil alike. This possibility was to have evaporated with the success of the Maid of the Ohio in passing the Albert Hansell, but something went awry -- including the loss of those pasteboard Red Herons, insignificant pawns, fodder against the likes of the Chat Noir. But all this has made the next moment of interference even more likely, and the dissolving of all more certain. Unknown to those aboard the Albert Hansell -- and unkown to those who are manipulating them in the future -- it is these 19th century puppets who hold the fate of all those who would later frequent the Mudcat in their hands! It is the creations who will determine the fate of their creators!!!!!"

He paused.

"But that means --!!" said de Mornay, a look of horror crossing his brow, one which he had delivered many times, but had never used to quite such effect before.

The Red Heron reached up and pulled back his cowl. "Yes, you fool, it is I!!!!!"

De Mornay sat thunderstruck. "But she is so helpless, as are they all -- except, except!"And he smiled again. "And that is what will doom you, Red Heron. You cannot win, especially now that I see who you really are!!!!"

"Enough intertemporal chitchat, Mr. De Mornay, I am boring you, and you are boring me, and I know how actors despise amateur theatricals. I also know how many times you have practiced dying before; so, what can I say, welcome to opening night!"

And a large void opened up beneath de Mornay, a vast humming sound was heard, and he was whisked away into a pitch blackness, somewhat darker and more deadly in effect than that unfortunate night in Milwaukee, when somewhat confused owing to a miscue, Cassius de Mornay had leapt into the grave to embrace Ophelia, only to find himself pitched forward into the spacious orchestra pit!!!!!