When last we saw Bubba, he was in what President Bush #1 referred to in diplomatic circles as deep doo doo. And while Bubba’s mama would never have approved of such language, she would most certainly have agreed with the assessment. Bubba, mistaken for another demolition derby driver who was in arrears on his $250 loan, was in the process of being chased by Big Louie and his fellow ne’er-do-well, Moe.
While Bubba made tracks through the fairgrounds and over the hill toward the abandoned warehouse, Big Louie made good on his threat to start shooting.
Bubba pulled on the warehouse door but the door held fast. He braced his size 14 foot on doorjamb and pulled again. The long metal latching mechanism didn’t budge. Bubba heard Big Louie’s Dirty Harry special boom and dropped to the ground as a slug punched a finger sized hole through the metal wall near where his head had been.
“Good gravy juice, ” Bubba yelled, “you almost shot me.”
“That’s the idea,” Big Louie yelled from fifty yards away. He was breathing heavy, his body unused to anything more strenuous than walking to the kitchen for a pastrami sandwich. “And once I catch up with you, I’m gonna finish the job, ’cause you got nowhere to go.”
Bubba scrambled to his feet, his back against the warehouse wall, and started inching his way to the left. He didn’t have a plan other than to break away at the last second and run around the building. Maybe there would be a window he could reach. He continued to make his way along the wall, never taking his eyes off the little man with the huge gun.
Big Louie was closing the gap between them slowly, but Bubba knew the gangster with the used car salesman reject jacket would keep coming until he was within range. Bubba continued to feel along the wall behind him as he inched to the left. As soon as he felt the corner of the warehouse, he would make a run for it.
“All you had to do was pay back the money,” Big Louie said, his breathing still heavy. Twenty feet behind him Moe was bent double, his hands on his hips, struggling to catch his breath. “Then you wouldn’t be in trouble and I wouldn’t be out here in the middle of nowhere sweatin’ like a pig in a bacon factory.”
Bubba continued to ease along the building. “But like I told you before, I ain’t borrowed any money. I get twenty dollars a week allowance and my derby car is paid for, so I don’t even need any money.”
Big Louie shouted something about the byproduct a bull leaves in the pasture after a particularly satisfying graze, and kept coming. Bubba inched faster, his hands feeling the wall behind him like Helen Keller reading a billboard. Before Bubba could come up with a pithy comment to buy himself some time, things started to happen. Suddenly, there was no wall beneath Bubba’s fingers, and a split second before he made his move, Big Louie stumbled over a gopher hole and fell hard.
Bubba spun around and ran…
…straight into the warehouse door.
What he mistook for the corner of the building was the inset just past the door jamb. Bubba hit the door head on. And the door swung inward, the hinges making a slight creak as he tumbled into the warehouse.
The door slammed behind him and what little light there had been with the door open winked out. “Good gravy juice,” Bubba said. “It’s as dark as the inside of a cow in here.” He fumbled in his jeans pocket and found his cell phone. He flipped up the cover and a weak glow illuminated the immediate area. The warehouse, at least the portion where he was, was empty.
And Big Louie was still coming. He could tell that by the second slug that punched its way into the warehouse three feet from where he stood.
Bubba held out the phone and ran toward the other side of the warehouse. His heavy footfalls sounded like small cannon blasts in the large area. He stopped, checked the immediate area again, and ran deeper into the warehouse. Outside, Big Louie pulled on the door and yelled for Moe to help him. Bubba ran even farther into the gloom…
…and into a large packing crate.
“Dang!” he said, forgetting for a moment that the menacing munchkin with a malicious intent was just outside. He rubbed his head and used the feeble light to examine his surroundings again. There were thirty or forty similar crates scattered along that section of the warehouse. All nailed shut.
All except one.
Bubba saw the gap along one side of the crate just as he heard a voice outside yell, “Well push it stupid. That’s what he did.” Bubba ran over to the crate, wedged his hands in the gap, and pulled. The front of the crate pulled away, first just a little, then wide enough for him to squeeze through. He slipped in through the opening and worked the front of the crate back in place. Satisfied that it was as secure as he could make it, he stepped back into the interior of the crate.
And into a structure that resembled a telephone booth with rounded front panels which slid quietly into place. With a faint hiss of hydraulics and a soft snikt, the doors locked in place. Bubba raised his fist to pound on the door and…
…the world went dark.
February 21, 2374
The garbage scow Effluvium
The ship, just a grade or two above the load of scrap metal and assorted junk in its hold, moved along its pre-programmed route. Guided by a Trans-Neural Celestial Auxiliary Navigation unit, the ship’s sole function was to fly to coordinates transmitted to the navigational unit, pick up its load, and fly back to its home base to offload the refuse. The automated system needed no human interaction other than someone to input the coordinates for its next pick up (which was done remotely) and an occasional engineer to perform routine maintenance (which was done at the home base). So the Effluvium had no human occupants.
One such occupant, a certain cryogenically frozen Bubba “Junebug” Thompson — high school dropout, demolition derby driver, dump truck mechanic, and part-time oil change specialist from Moosephart Alabama — was now part of the cargo on his way to GBase 11 and its sonic incinerator.
Is Bubba doomed?
Will his atoms be shaken AND stirred until they scatter like BBs on new linoleum?
Is his cell phone still open, and is the little light still on?
Don’t ask me, I haven’t gotten that far yet.
Next Week: The Ship Part II