The brilliant scientist, Portage McPeeve, does not want to take over the world.
He’s discovered a way to travel the stars, using them as gateways into other realities. With his Gateway Manipulator, he hopes to rule all the worlds of the multi-verse with an iron fist. However, when his beloved kitten becomes lost through the machine, he does not hesitate to cast plans for multi-world domination aside; instead, he follows her through the cosmos – encountering zombies, higher education for Supers, Greek gods, and killer ninjas along the way.
Will Portage find Mrs. Bumblefrost before it’s too late?
Doctor Portage McPeeve landed heavily on the soft fragrant grass of the meadow. Charon, the ferryman, had patted Portage on the shoulder only moments earlier (a vain attempt to comfort the man on his impending undeath) when the tear had formed around them both. The ferryman lost his footing, landing on the alreadybattered scientist.
Charon stood up, pushing himself off the dying man, to brush grass stains and bits of something indecipherable from his dark red tunic. He surveyed the surroundings: grassy meadow, a nearby forest, and a cave in the near distance. Portage noticed several figures in green approaching; they were preoccupied amongst themselves and failed to notice to two men on the grass. As they grew closer, the individuals resolved into several young men and a creature who was a man from the waist up and horse from the waist down. The young men were having a heated discussion, apparently moderated by the creature.
“But it is important for everyone to study the gods!” cried one of the muscular young men. To Portage, he looked no more than eighteen, barely old enough to be drafted. “Surely, Master, you agree with that.”
Charon’s face lit with recognition before he vanished with a click of his fingers. The ferryman had never cared for the theatricality of his friend, Thanatos.
Portage, still worse for wear, turned to ask the ferryman what he knew but found only empty air. “Dammit,” muttered the Doctor, “it’s getting worse. He must have torn through on his own, since I tore him from his universe.”
He frowned, which – if possible – made him look more monstrous. His shredded labcoat sleeves revealed coagulated blood and open wounds. His face had taken on a grayish sheen, and his lips were cracked and bruised. His newly blackened eyes had sunk into his face, the thin skin stretched taut over bony cheeks.
The young men conversed among themselves, ignorant of Portage’s presence. The horse-creature considered the question posed by his companion, hand on his chin, poised in thought. “But at what age? It is right and good to study the ways of the mighty gods, just as it is right and good to study philosophy, ethics, poetry, and liter-” He stopped, for as they crested the hill, they finally saw the pathetic form of the poor, victimized doctor.
“What is it?” asked a dark haired youth. His eyes flashed as he drew his sword. “What keen monster is it that lurks so close to your home, Master Chiron.”
“I do not know,” said the centaur. He held the young men back with one hairy arm. They had also drawn weapons. Portage had no idea from where; their tunics barely covered their bodies.
What the scientist could see terrified him. All of the youth were in prime physical health, judging by the bulging biceps, heaving pectorals, and strong leg muscles. Not to mention the horse-creature… what were those things called again? Greek mythology had never really interested him. He could appreciate how how the constellations told the stories of those ancient people, but the stories themselves never really held his attention. How would learning about the past beliefs of an ancient people help him rule the multi-verse?
“If you do not know, great teacher, it seems best to be prepared,” said one gargantuan youth, his biceps bulging even more than those of his companions. His shaggy golden curls hung loosely over his eyes, and he brandished a dagger at the dying scientist. “Look at him,” he said. “Do you think he is some monster sent by Hera, here to punish the children of almighty Zeus?”
Chiron watched the torn and bloody man with wary eyes.
Portage may have had no personal experience with centaurs, but he knew many horses were skittish. He’d heard a story in school once about a horse throwing his rider because there was a pie plate in the grass. A pie plate! What if it had been a strange man?If I’m freaked by their appearance, thought Portage, what must I look like to them?
He felt freezing cold, his ripped and stained clothes hung from his lank frame like rags. He looked like hell, and he knew it. He eyed the strange creature and the overly-muscular young men.
Unsure what to do, he suddenly realized he wanted a tear to form. This trap, this death sentence, had become his refuge as he was continually thrown into more and more dangerous situations. The only safety lay in the act of falling itself. Hysterical giggles erupted from him, their discordant music tinged with insanity.
To the group making its slow and steady way toward him, it sounded like the growl of a ferocious animal, primal, bestial. “Attack!” cried the dark-haired Jason, and he ran with drawn sword at the poor doctor.
Portage – weak, injured, running a fever of unknown temperature - scrambled up the nearest tree. Considering his condition, it was a remarkable feat.
The centaur stood beneath the tree, surrounded by his students, and watched the doctor.
Portage waited for another tear. Soon, he thought, it can’t be long now.
After a few more minutes of silence, Jason said, “I don’t think he’s coming down.” He jabbed his sword in the air at the distraught man. “You hear that, beast! You aren’t coming down!”
“No, I don’t think he is,” said the centaur. “But I don’t think he’s a monster.”
“He’s not dangerous?” asked the blond, Hercules. His pectorals flexed, and he had to adjust his already straining tunic.
Chiron watched Portage cower among the upper leaves. “I didn’t say that,” said the centaur. “An illness can be dangerous; can it not?”
“My aunt died of a fever,” spoke up another pretty boy.
“Exactly,” said the centaur. “I think this man is sick and needs us to tend him.”
“You think that’s a man?” cried Jason. “I don’t think that we can take that for granted, with all due respect, Master Chiron.”
“Yes,” said the centaur, “I think he is a man, and we should aid him. Help him from the tree, but be careful. We don’t want to injure him further.”
“Come down,” cried Jason, “uh, weary… um, traveler?”
“I may have some wine that will aid his recovery,” said Chiron.
“Chiron says-” began Jason, shouting up into the tree.
“I heard him,” said Portage, annoyance overcoming his fear. “You promise you won’t hurt me?”
“Ummmm,” said the blond. His hands had disappeared behind his back, and Portage suspected he was crossing his fingers.
Chiron nudged Jason, who looked at the others. “Yes,” said the young man, “alright, we will help you.”
Stupidest thing I’ve ever done, though Portage as he climbed carefully down from the tree’s gnarled and tangled branches. Well, one of many stupid things, he amended. “Be careful not to let me scratch you or anything,” said Portage as he stepped onto Hercules’s strong shoulders. The muscles that had so concerned him now served as convenient steps on his way down. “I wouldn’t want to infect you.”
Chiron approached and asked, “Are you all right, friend?” As strange as the centaur appeared, Portage took note of the kindness in his eyes. “I hope my students didn’t frighten you too much.”
“You said you could help me?” asked Portage. “Have you seen my illness before?” Hope and fear welled up inside him, stuck in his throat like bile.
“I have something from a son of Apollo that might help you.”
“Son of Apollo?” gasped Portage. “Is that some sort of doctor?”
Chiron stopped, surprised. “Well, Apollo is a healing god, but I meant a literal son of Apollo. I have some healing-”
Portage knew in an infinite universe there were infinite possibilities, so what better time to accept the impossible than now? He would die soon, and that was a more pleasant prospect than the other that his mind refused to recognize. The dead couldn’t rise, but if he was wrong…
He had nothing to lose.
“I’m willing to try anything at this point,” Portage said. “But we need to hurry, before I… disappear.” Just a few more minutes…
Chiron’s youthful students murmured among themselves at this, but Chiron quieted them with a raised hand. “Stop. We will help this man the best we can. Take him to the cave.” To Portage, he said, “Sir, we’re almost there. Do you think you can make it?”
“Hurry,” croaked the scientist. His vision blurred. No, not yet!
“Put him on my back,” said Chiron, “quickly!”
The men flung Portage’s weak body over the centaur’s back, and Chiron raced the remaining distance to the cave. As soon as he was inside, he retrieved a dark red flask from a far shelf. Portage had flung himself off the centaur’s back and stood on unsteady legs.
“Drink this,” said Chiron, opening the bottle, “and all will be well.” He turned, handing the flask to his grateful patient.
Portage’s thin fingers pawed for the life-saving medicine, fumbled, and Chiron watched in horror as the flask burst upon the cave’s stone floor.
“It’s too… late,” said Portage. He took one final breath, and fell as reality tore around him.
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