18. Dateline ? / Doogan Takes a Ride

Doogan here and I’m lucky to be alive.

Immediately after Lt. Merian Archer and I were beset upon by masked aerial assassins, who abducted the brave Rocket Trooper and laid a swath of destruction down upon the village market wherein we had taken refuge, a new peril befell this reporter.

As the smoke cleared, the villagers emerged from their respective hiding places to assess the damage to their shops and stalls. An angry murmur grew and it became apparent that the general feeling was that I, the foreigner, was in some respect to blame for their misfortune. My season on the Chicago Tribune’s sports desk honed a fine sense for a burgeoning lynch mob so I beat a hasty retreat up the road. They followed me for a pace and then, as if a starter pistol was fired, we simultaneously broke into a run, me clutching my Remington Portable and they, hay forks and lengths of broken wood.

Up the rutted path I raced and it was only the falling shroud of night that enabled me to take an abrupt turn up a side trail. Sheltering behind a gate post, they raged past me. I then discovered that I stood in the portal of a ruined mission. Suppressing my memories of Sister Eudorra’s oak yard-stick, I passed beneath a sagging lintel and entered.

The scent of decay greeted me and I knew that the missionaries had long since retreated from this crumbling outpost. I then noticed an object in the next room; a modern wheelchair! I examined this strangely placed artifact. Whereas all of the other furnishings were broken and decayed, the wheelchair looked clean and new. Fatigued from my ordeal, I took a seat to catch my breath. Toying with the arm of the chair, a surprising thing then happened. There were several switches secreted beneath the arm of the chair. I toggled one and there was a metallic ‘swish’. Ten inch, stainless steel blades protruded from the hubs of the chair wheels. In amazement, I toggled another switch. There was a roar of ignition and my seat shot forward in a gout of flame and smoke. The thin walls of the building blew away as the chair launched me outside. In futile panic, I tried to steer my ride but in the darkness I hit the jungle and flew through the underbrush until, what I think was a large palm, arrested my flight.

I came to in flashlight’s glare. At first I thought I was looking into the mustached face of my editor, C.J. Boggs, but realized that my examiner was instead a robust, Teutonic woman in a nurse’s uniform. I attempted to introduce myself but she raised a massive, knotted fist and I remembered no more. Turn the lights off Ma and let the cat out. This is Doogan signing off.