Thursday, April 13, 2017

Short Fiction: The Peril of Pogo-Pogo Island!

     Might as well throw up another rejected short I wrote a few years back that didn't sell. This one's from 2012 and was submitted to a comedic SF/F...thing. With the only thought running through my head was "hey, this sounds fun, let's go nuts," I ended up writing a pulpy throwback story with absurdly inaccurate "science" and broadly stroked characters. It was a blast to write and, naturally, it was flat-out ignored, probably because I have a character use the word "dames" unironically and other Problematic™ things. It doesn't even discuss any of The Issues™. 

     Re-reading it now, that's probably because I hadn't written a pulp pastiche at all, but stumbled into an ACTUAL pulp story. Sure, its a lighthearted bit of silly fluff, but its also nonstop action, romance and ADVENTURE. 

     (As an aside, I even wrote a green beam weapon into it without having any knowledge of A. Merritt or the ket guns of The Moon Pool. )

The Peril of Pogo-Pogo Island!
By K.P. Kalvaitis

     “Dynamo” Dave Callahan, dashing stunt pilot, marksman and adventurer awakened on the sandy beach of a distant Pacific Island, blinking up at the Sun and wishing he had a mouthful of margaritas instead of sand.

     “Boy am I glad you're awake, boss,” a voice greeted him as he sat up and spat out half the beach.

     “Rick!” Callahan shouted as he recognized his trusty mechanic and sidekick, Rick Santos.

     “Over here, boss,” Rick said, waving Callahan over to a small campfire made near their downed plane. “You took a nasty bump in the landing.”

     “And the Silver Streak? What about my baby?”

     “Also took a nasty bump. I'm doing what I can to get her purring again, but without most of my tools and a five-and-dime, it looks like we're sh-”

    “Language, Rick!” Dave admonished. “Just because we're trapped on a deserted island is no excuse to act uncivilized.”

     “Sorry, boss,” Rick shrugged.

     Callahan patted the shining silver sides of his plane gently in apology. “You know, Rick, I'm beginning to think that this Sharkey character we've come halfway across the world for is more than he seems.”

     “He's probably a spy. One of them Fifth Columnists or something,” Rick said. “You look hungry, boss.”

     “Famished,” Callahan said, sitting down at the campfire. “What'cha got there?”

     Rick handed Dave a stick of grilled meat. “Lizard. Watch out for tiny bones.”

     “Thanks Rick, I don't know what I'd do without you.”

     “Die alone in a fiery plane crash, boss.”

     “Ha! Ain't that the truth,” Callahan said, biting into dinner. “Got anything to wash this down?”

     For an answer, Rick handed Dave a coconut. Dave cracked it in half against a rock and slurped some of the juices.

     After a quick and quiet dinner, the two reclined against the plane and watched the sun go down.

     “Where do you reckon we are, boss?” Rick asked. “Its not on any of the charts.”

     “Oh, its probably some speck of dirt too tiny and insignificant to be caught up in this crazy war the world's got itself messed up in. In a way, I wish there were more islands like it in the world...”

     “I'd prefer Honolulu myself, boss,” Rick said. “And speaking of coconuts, I sure wish we had some dames around to share that spectacular sunset with.”

     “You've got a one-track mind, Rick. Women are just a distraction.”

     A twig snapped nearby and the two men shut up, ears perked. After another twig snapped, they jumped up, ready for a fight.

     They weren't ready for thirty islanders armed with spears surrounding them. In a flash, Dave had his revolver in his hand and was clicking the trigger futilely at their leader.

     “Gun's jammed!” Dave exclaimed the obvious.

     “Sand and the salty sea air must've gotten to it, boss! What now?”

     The leader of the islanders, wearing a giant headdress, shouted at them in his language and his tribesmen silently grabbed the adventurers and tied them up.

     “Guess we do what our hosts tell us to do, chum,” Callahan shrugged.

     They were led through the jungle at spearpoint in eerie silence. Night had fallen and without torches, Dave and Rick had difficulty keeping track of where they were. Obvious landmarks included rivers, a village, and finally a clearing on a mountainside where three rows of giant stone heads stared serenely out over the Pacific.

     The leader approached the biggest idol and pulled a hidden lever. With the mechanical sound of gears and pistons, a passageway opened up, revealing a stairway into the mountain lit with incandescent bulbs.

     “Looks like we're not the only visitors here after all,” Dave said before a storm of words from the leader silenced him. A few spear prods nudged the two down into the entrance.

     After a walk that seemed like an hour, they stepped into a massive control room whirring with machinery. Dominating a wall was a gigantic map of the world with the capitals of the major powers, Axis and Allied, clearly marked.

     “Hey boss, look over there, its-”

     “Sharkey!” Callahan shouted, straining against his restraints.

     The man known as Sharkey turned at the sound of his name. “Callahan? So you really did come all this way to hunt me down? I'm flattered.”

     “Were you flattered that I stopped you from flooding the streets with counterfeit sawbucks?”

     Sharkey's smile hardened. He had an angular face, accentuated by the sharp widow's peak and his slicked back hair. He wore a pinstripe suit and took a cigar out of a pocket.

     “Business is business. You've got yours, I've got mine,” Sharkey said, trying to shrug off his prior failure. “You're persistent, I'll give you that.”

     “Who's your boss, Sharkey?” Callahan demanded. “You're clearly no small-timer. Is it Hitler? Mussolini? Hirohito?”

     The flick of Sharkey's lighter caught the attention of the other occupant in the room. Metallic boots clanked loudly, catching Callahan's voice in his throat.

     “Boss!” Rick shouted. “L-look at his h-head!!”

     Dave and Rick's eyes widened as they saw something they never thought possible, because attached to those metal boots was a metal body, and mounted atop the broad steel shoulders, was a jar with a brain floating within!

     “And again I must remind you not to light an open flame within my facility, Sharkey,” A cold, clipped voice crackled through speakers on the mechanical chest. The accent was clearly German.

     “Sorry sir,” Sharkey said and closed the lighter.

     “My God! He's some kind of robut!” Callahan shouted.

     “RoBOT is the word you are looking for, Mr. Callahan. And I assure you I am no such thing, for the brain you see before you is the transcendentally brilliant mind of Dr. Gerhard Klein!” the speaker corrected.

     “Hitler's top scientist! Sharkey, I knew you were scum but selling out to the Ratzis is a new low!”

     “What can I say Callahan? I'm a sucker for gold bars. Besides, the Doc here is paving the way for the future, and I intend to profit from it.”

     “The only thing in your future, buster is my fist smashing your dirty traitor nose!” Rick screamed and tried to run forward.

     “Easy Rick, we'll get our chance,” Dave said, calming the youth down.

     “Amusing, but I have no time for this right now.” Dr. Klein snapped his metal fingers. “Take them to...the pit.”

     The tribal chief shouted more commands, and the islanders silently dragged Dave and Rick away from the room.

     “I don't like this boss,” Rick said as they were led to the rim of a ledge.

     “Neither do I. But we've been through tougher scrapes.”

     “Did any of them have a Nazi brain in a jar?”

     “Point taken, Riiiiiiiiiiiiick!”

     Callahan's voice echoed across the abyss as he and Rick were finally pushed over the edge into darkness.

     The drop was a surprisingly brief one. Dave landed roughly on the hard stone floor in a pool of light created by the single light bulb hanging above. When he managed to suck air back into his lungs, he called out to his sidekick.

     “You okay buddy?”

     “I think so,” was Rick's reply. “I landed on something soft.”

     A third voice groaned. Dave heard Rick yelp and there was a brief struggle before Rick was flung over to Dave's side.

     “Blazes! I don't know what that is, but it's got a kick like a mule!”

     “Steady, Rick,” Dave said. “It could be anything. A wild animal, one of Dr. Klein's mad experiments, or even-”

     “A blonde!” the startled Rick said as their neighbor shifted into the light. Like them, her arms were bound behind her back.

     “My name's Dr. Amanda Knoxville, you heel,” she snapped.

     “Oh good, I think I dislocated my shoulder in the fall,” Rick said.

     “I'm a doctor of anthropology,” she corrected.

     “Anthro-what?” Dave asked.

     “Anthropology. I study primitive cultures of the past.”

     “At least you're not a reporter like last time,” Dave said. “A pleasure to meet you, Dr. Knoxville. I'm Dynamo Dave Callahan and the bundle of hormones is my trusty mechanic Rick Santos.”

     “We've met,” Rick smiled wistfully. Amanda made a face that said “yuk” in any language.

     “I don't suppose you've got a way out of here?” she asked.

     “Our plane's on the beach, but needs some more work before it can get airborne again.”

     “Well that's a start.”

     “How'd a looker like you end up on an island like this?” Rick asked.

     “I was studying the culture and habits of the South Pacific islands. I've been on Pogo-Pogo for a month studying the native Pogos when that maniac arrived.”

     Dave whistled. “He built all this in a month?”

     “No. He's already been here before. Some of the natives worshiped him like a god. The rest were just afraid of his power. One of their hunters, Manu, saw an opportunity to take control of the tribe and sided with Klein and led them to the clearing where one of the statues was modified with Klein's Hypno-Ray. Manu sold his people out and now rules over a tribe of mindless slaves!”

     Rick tensed up. “The fiend! Is there a way to reverse the Hypno-Ray?”

     Amanda shook her head sadly. “No. I'm afraid the greed of one man has utterly destroyed a culture that has existed for centuries.”

     Tied behind his back, the clenching of Rick's fist lost its visual impact. “What kind of monster does that to his own people?”

     “Steady Rick,” Dave said. “We need a calm head to get out of this.”

     “I'm open to suggestions.”

     “The pit isn't too deep,” Amanda said. “Working together three people could probably climb out of it with some effort. Only problem is these ropes.”

     “If only we had something to cut through them...” Dave grunted.

     “Wait, that's it!” Rick's eyes lit up. “They didn't take my pocketknife out of my back pocket!”

     “Rick, that's perfect!” Dave said. “Let me see if I can...”

     After a few minutes of awkward fumbling, cutting, and climbing, the three were rubbing their sore, but free, wrists and looking down the darkened corridor leading back to Dr. Klein's command room.

     A spear clanged into the metal wall next to Dr. Knoxville and clattered to the floor.

     “The Pogos!” she shouted.

     Down the hallway, Manu and his headdress were waving another spear and furiously pointing at the group.

     “Keep the lady safe and find us a ticket out of here, Rick!” Dynamo Dave Callahan said, barreling down the hallway at Manu. “I've got a plan!”

     “What? Are you crazy?” Amanda shouted after him.

     Rick grabbed her by the arm and ran in the opposite direction. “Trust me lady, you don't want to be in the radius when the boss has a plan. Let's go!”

     Ten minutes later the sound of alarms and running feet died down behind them, and Rick opened a door to an unoccupied room and slammed it shut behind them. The two leaned up against it, catching their breath.

     “First woman to graduate in my program,” Dr. Knoxville groaned. “I should not be running for my life from angry natives!”

     Rick pounded the door in frustration before turning away from it. “Really? Because that happens to me a lot and I barely finished high school.”

     “You know what I mean. Where are we?”

     Rick squinted into the darkness and found a light switch. “From all the guns I'd say this was an armory,” he said as shelf after shelf of advanced weapons stretched out before them.

     Dr. Knoxville went to a wall and drew back some blinds, spilling more light on the armory. “Looks like there's an airfield out there.”

     “Well that's a relief,” Rick said, examining a pistol covered in glass tubes with a green liquid sloshing around inside. “But it would be even better if there was something we could fly out on.”

     “There's a plane.”

     “Hmm?” Rick strolled over to the window. His eyes lit up when he saw what she was talking about. “That's my baby out there!” He handed Amanda the pistol and put both hands on the window.


     “The Silver Streak!”

     “You came in that thing?”

     Rick ignored the insult. “They must've dragged her up from the beach. Everything looks like its still there.”

     A burst of incoherent and angry shouting came from the doorway.

     “Get down!” Dr. Knoxville shouted as she shoved Rick to the ground. A spear crashed through the window where the mechanic had been standing.

     Manu was in the doorway, waving another spear and shouting furiously in his language. Amanda brought the gun up and pulled the trigger.

     Instead of a bang and a bullet flying out, the gun went “Vmmmmmmuuuuuuuuu” and a steady green beam shot out, striking Manu's chest. At first there was no effect, but then the henchman started shaking and foam spat out of his mouth before he collapsed into a twitching pile that slowly stopped moving.

     Amanda and Rick stared at the gun in a mix of wonder and horror. A mechanical sqwawk made them jump.

     “Rick! Rick are you there!” Dave's voice came in through the static.

     Rick raised his wrist and spoke into the two-way radio on it. “Found the armory, Dave. It's...different. Where are you?”

     “Almost in position. I can see my baby on the airfield from here and-”

     “We can see it too Dave.”

     “Get to the plane and get her ready, this island's about to go sky-” Dave grunted and Rick could hear fists, shouts, and the distinctive “vmmmmuuuu” sounds the guns made.

     “Dave? Dave!” Rick shouted into his wrist but there was no answer. He looked at Amanda and grabbed her arm. “Come on, we've got to go! Its about a six-foot drop from the window. After that its a clear shot to the plane. Watch out for broken glass.”

     “Wait, slow down!”

     “You heard the man, this island's about to become another Krakatoa!”

     The two dropped down onto the sandy ground outside the window, each carrying one of Dr. Klein's beam guns. Rick let out a sharp “Ahh!” and continued dropping.

     “What? What's wrong?” Amanda asked.

     “My ankle! I think I sprained it.”

     “You've got to be kidding me,” she said, helping him back up. “Can you run?”

     Rick winced in pain. “Maybe if you kiss it and make it better.”

     “So no.”

     “Then kiss me instead.”

     “What? No.”

     “We could die at any moment, and I saved your life.”

     “I saved yours! Twice!”

     “Then I should be kissing you.” Rick puckered up and theatrically kissed her cheek. “I'm sorry.”

     “For being a jerk?”

     “No, for not landing on you sooner. You're very pretty.”

     Dr. Knoxville rolled her eyes and they limped across the tarmac. “What about your boss?”

     “Dave? Nah, he wouldn't know what to do if he landed on you.”


     “You're not his type,” Rick said as they reached the plane. “He's a good man, but he's, ah, what was the word Sharkey used?”


     “Yeah, that. Wait, who said that?”

     Sharkey stepped around the plane holding a gun. “For a sidekick you sure like to talk a lot.”

     “Ah!” Dr. Knoxville shouted and fired a beam at the gangster.

     “That won't work on me, toots,” Sharkey laughed and pounded on his chest with a metallic clang. “I'm wearing armor designed to absorb those beams harmlessly.” He aimed an identical pistol. “You on the other hand, probably aren't.”

     An explosion rocked the island, sending the three of them reeling.

     “What the-?” Sharkey managed before Rick got the jump on him, punching him twice before wrestling for the gun.

     A giant plume of black smoke rose from the volcano, and sprinting headlong over the tarmac was Dynamo Dave Callahan, clothing and hair singed around the edges. “We've got to go! We've got to go!” he repeated constantly as he neared the plane.

     Amanda kicked the pistol away from Sharkey's reach as Dave arrived. Sharkey kicked Rick off of him. There was a loud rip as Rick tore off whatever he was holding on to. The mechanic blinked in alarm as he found himself holding not only Sharkey's jacket, but also what had been his face.

     “What in the...?” Dave asked, staring at Sharkey.

     The gangster felt his face and snarled. “So you blew my cover, huh?” He had dark green skin covered with scales and pointed teeth. He grabbed a small box out of a pocket and pushed a few buttons. “But don't think you've seen the last of me, or the Space Mafia!”

     There was a flash of light and Sharkey was gone.

     Dave was the first to recover. “Everybody into the plane! We've got to go! NOW!”

     The three leaped into the Silver Streak, with Dave jumping behind the controls and flicking switches.

     “She's ready to go, right Rick?”

     “Looks like,” Rick said before receiving a slap in the face.

     “You said you sprained your ankle!” she fumed.

     “And I saved your life!” Rick protested as Dave brought to a roaring start.

     “So you expect me to kiss you for it?”

     “That IS the custom we've established!”

     Dave had no idea what they were arguing about, and didn't care. Another tremor rocked the island and navigating the airfield was starting to get dangerous. He opened the throttle and with a triumphant shout, they were in the air again.

     Dynamo Dave looked back at his passengers. They hadn't strapped into their seats and were in a jumbled pile near the back of the plane.

     “See? This is the second time I saved your life,” Rick said from the pile.

     “By landing on me again!”

     “Well you're just so comfortable.”

     “Mister, you owe me a lot more than a stupid kiss for what you've put me through!”

     “Fine, then I'll pay it back with interest when we reach the mainland.”

     “I didn't say I wouldn't take the kissing as a down payment!”

     As Pogo-Pogo Island sank slowly in the west, Dynamo Dave Callahan sighed and turned back to the controls as Rick and Amanda's argument came to a sudden stop. He patted the plane lovingly. 

     “I'm glad you and I don't have those kind of problems, baby,” he said, and settled in for the flight ahead.

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