MVC Podcast 5: Doctor Fathom
[00:08:05] January 13st, 2023
Joe Zabinski recites a tale of the first human to set foot on Venus.
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Let's find the chapter, shall we? DOCTOR FATHOM
It was raining. The rain was slick and greenish, and came down in sheets. As it landed on the dark, volcanic rock that littered the ground, it fizzled, each raindrop thus contributing to a cacophonic hiss. Suddenly, though, double tank tracks were crashing over the ground, moving up and down hills, barreling toward some as-yet unforeseen destination.
“Didst thou see that rain? ‘Tis coming down in buckets!” A blonde-haired boy sat next to a thick glass port, staring at the spot of ground that was pierced by the spotlight, watching the rocks whizz by. He turned to his companion.
“How much farther is’t? Have they shut off the alarms yet?”
“Not yet, my boy; I can hardly make out what they are saying over the holoradio.” This was said by a man in a thick leather overcoat and a wide-brimmed leather hat. It was cool in the expediter. Cool as in the temperature, and also cool as in fashionable. He was glad that they had found the warmer clothes. Because it was a cool temperature, and they were fashionable clothes. He had the driving sticks in front of him, looking through the periscope at the rocks that seemed to float by underneath the steel treads. A bewildering array of sensors and dials were illuminated in front of him. The periscope started to leak a fluid, drooling onto his hat, and dripping onto his long nose. When it hit his beard, he started. ‘Be-damned periscope leak’, he thought. He took a hand off the driving stick and wiped the fluid from his nose, tasting it. It was metallic, and sugary. He grimaced.
“Son, fetchest the sealant? Sugarfreeze be leaking again.”
Son grabbed the steel can behind his seat, and stared intensely at the periscope. Spotting the leak, he tried to reach it with the brush in his hand, but splashed it slightly from all the turbulence as they traveled. A few drops of the silicone compound splashed on the driver’s leather coat.
A dark face turned to the boy, and the driver wiped at his sleeve. “Careful, Son!” he said. “Worry not about the leak for now, I shall be drenched in this stuff by the time we get there anyway.”
“Sorry, Doctor Fathom,” Son said. Then he saw the first glimmerings of light not deriving from their mechanical missile, up ahead behind the next hill. “Is that’t?”
“Aye, ‘tis it.”
A gigantic glass globe shimmered in the wet darkness. The rain rolled off the globe, bouncing and sizzling on the volcanic ground, adding to the shining effect of this sphere.
They reached it in no time, smashing igneous rock and crushing the ground beneath their treads. Then there was a hissing sound as the pneumatic brakes engaged. Half a dozen mechanical engines moved the driving sticks, the periscope, and Doctor Fathom’s seat, allowing Doctor Fathom to rise. He was tall, tall enough for his head to brush the ceiling of their vessel.
Just then, a bluish-purple haze came over the dashboard, and voices started to come seemingly from nowhere inside the expediter. Doctor Fathom put his hands on his hips, staring at the dash intently. Son looked outside the porthole, listening as well.
“21, 21, Red Bird straight up thy 12!”
“I got ‘em; no more radiation leaks tonight…”
“21, thou’st two!”
After a short silence and what sounded like an explosion, a slight shaky ‘21’ responded, “Nay, I have one…” Then the blue-purple haze faded, the ‘one’ from the number 21 echoing again and again, softer and softer in the cool vessel.
Doctor Fathom turned casually to Son, muttering, “Okay, Son, thou rememberest how to drive this thing?”
“Yes sir, thou’st let me drive enough times now for me to remember.” Son was a little bewildered: what did Doctor Fathom plan to do? Feeling confused, Son asked Doctor Fathom what his thoughts were.
“Pretty simple, really,” a relaxed Doctor Fathom said. “I shall drench my clothes in sugarfreeze, so the rain doth not dissolve them. Then, I am going through that window to get rid of the radiation.”
“But they do know not even thou’rt hither!” Son exclaimed. He scratched at his blond head. “Art thou not going to tell them who thou’rt, give them thy expediter number, that sort of thing?”
Doctor Fathom looked rather shocked at that. “Why would I want to do that? Then they would know who I am. Look, turn the expediter around, get the blankets ready, and make sure thou parkest close to that window.” Doctor Fathom pointed at a slight crack in the glass.
Son nodded. “Whatever thou say’st,” he sighed. He had seen Doctor Fathom’s shenanigans enough times to know not to question much.
Doctor Fathom went into a steel locker and pulled out some gray boots and a spray can labeled ‘Supersugar’. He donned the boots quickly, and unceremonially sprayed his clothes with the amber goop. In seven seconds, his clothes were covered with the stuff.
“See thee soon, Son. Remember, an anyone seeth thee, the cloak works, but the batteries will run out quickly, because of the problem from yesterday.”
“See thee soon.”
Doctor Fathom stepped to the back of the expediter, smashing his fist down on a rusty red button. A thick steel and glass door closed behind him, and Doctor Fathom took a deep breath.
And with that, he stepped onto Venus.
This has been “The Multiverse Cartographer” by Edward Reib, and slightly by Joseph Zabinski. I hope you've enjoyed this episode, and we'll see you again in a future episode of probably some other book that I've written. All right. Catch you on the flip side.