Ron (the senior's) stomach dropped a few floors as the bulk of the Psychlo started to make a move toward him. Ron (the son) put his hand up ever-so-slightly and the huge space beast froze in place. It let out a disturbed, deflating sort of sound from its face plates, beady eyes fixed on its prey.
"Don't worry, he won't hurt you. He's just my . . . helper. This won't take long." Ron DeWolf adjusted his glasses and limped forward unsteadily. He clutched a cane in his left hand to steady him on his false leg. He advanced toward his father.
"Do you like our little place here? Not bad, is it? This is from my imagination by the way, not yours" he said with a mixture of anxiety and bitterness. "Other people have imaginations too, you know. Other people can make things up." More intensely now, "Do you like what I've made up for you? Do you Pop?" Ron DeWolf had been waiting for this moment for what seemed like an eternity. He'd had a lot of time to think. To make things up to his heart's content.
"Nibs. Son. I . . . I think we can talk about this like . . ." but Hubbard was interrupted.
"Nibs! Nibs? 'His Nibs' is what you call the spoiled child! The pampered brat. How dare you call me that! Better you call me Rover or Fido, 'cause that's what I was from the word go, your dog, your servant. Your means to an end. I can't believe what you put me and Alexis through, your cast-offs. Did it even occur to you to ask how I died? About my well being?"
The father struggled theatrically to talk "My nose . . . it . . ."
"Your nose? Fuck your goddamn nose! I've been trapped here for 23 years, planning for this moment, so I'm gonna make the most of it . . . 'Dad'."
Senior's stomach growled loudly.
An exaggerated look of pity any mime would have been proud to produce washed across Junior's face, "Oh, no! Daddy's hungry!" He turned to the vertical shag rug behind him. "Terl. Daddy is hungry, what should we do?"
The fur covered slab shifted back and forth on its huge feet and let out another series of wheezing noises through its faceplates. Was it excited? Angry? Senior had never really thought about it before, the face was basically expressionless, he hadn't really thought about how a Psychlo would express emotions.
"What was that?" Junior said theatrically, "We should feed him?" Nibs spoke to the monster like it was a giant toddler. "What a good idea Terl! Go get Daddy some food . . . lots of food. He looks real hungry." His face lost all expression as he finished the last sentence. He turned back to his captive and put on a new expression. Senior couldn't tell if it was a smile or a grimace.
Junior adjusted his glasses and got nose to nose with Senior. He was seething with rage now, "Well, it looks like it's just junior and dear, old Dad. Together again. Just like in by-gone days." He made a motion as if he was going to squeeze his father's ruined nose. Senior winced in anticipation and a calm smile spread across Nibs' face. "I wouldn't do that, daddy. I'm not you." With that, Nibs turned away and walked into the shadows to the left of the door. He threw a switch and searing lights blazed down from above.
Hubbard the senior gasped and winced again, as though he'd been physically struck. The light, emitted by a grid of twenty, buzzing halogen lamps hanging at 2 foot intervals, was blinding.
"Oh, my, but those are bright!" Junior began patting his lab coat pockets dramatically. "Where are my goggles? Why, I can hardly see" he said as though he were acting in a bad junior high school play. He found a large wrap-around pair of sun-glasses and fit them over his black framed spectacles. "There! That's much better. But, poor daddy, I bet that's so bright for you . . ." he was making the universal 'so sad' face that a normal parent would made when their child skins a knee.
Senior was shaking now. He really never knew this kind of fear in his living years. Paranoia yes. Fear of retribution. Yes. He'd braved a few bad storms at sea, but nothing like this. This was a real, visceral, gut-churning fear. This was about feelings. This was about emotions, his lifelong nemeses.
That he'd been a bad father was an understatement. Absent, self-absorbed, vain, arrogant and prone to rage, he knew that his children had no love for him. Especially Junior. He knew exactly what he'd put Nibs through over the years, especially since he'd blown Scientology. The disconnection. The dead-agenting. The subtle dirty tricks guaranteed to make his life and the life of his offspring a living hell.
Through his squinted eyes, he could see that Nibs had now walked around behind him, and his anxiety spiked again. "Is that too bright for my poor daddy?" Then, sudden blackness as a plastic bag was pulled over his head and tightened around his neck.
Unable to move and in terrible pain, the panic was unbearable. He was hyperventilating and just as he was about to lose consciousness, off came the bag, and inches from his face, a face so like his own raged, "That's how I felt every fucking day around you. Suffocated! Choked! Strangled! I would be a big hero one minute a worthless piece of shit the next depending on what drug you were on, or what your crazy, fucking brain was doing!" Nibs backed up to catch his breath, unsteady on his prosthetic leg. "And Mommy! What you put her through, you cowardly piece of shit! All your wives! Hell, every woman you fucked and fucked-over! Be glad that Lexie is still alive, or I'm sure she'd be here with me, tag-teaming your sorry ass!"
Hubbard the elder was actually relieved when he saw that the hirsute giant had returned, pushing a cart bearing an overabundance of what appeared to be haute cuisine. On the crisp, white tablecloth were a dozen platters of food, a frosty pitcher of ice water, four cartons of Kools and a pristine ashtray.
"Oh, Daddy. Look what Terl has brought you!" said Nibs with a flourish. "I hope you enjoy . . . looking at it." He was trying to look serious, but a nervous giggle burst out, unbidden. "C'mon big fella, let's let Daddy enjoy his treats."
And with that, Nibs and his hulking friend left the room, the door sliding back into place behind them. The light would have been bad enough, but Hubbard was also hungry and thirsty. Then there were the smokes. Even through all the chaos since he'd left his flophouse in R6 City, the need for nicotine was never far from front and center. Surely this was just the beginning of the torture. He'd really stepped in it this time.
Mr. S. G. Lokavid came-to in his apartment on the 35th floor, overlooking what any living person would swear was the San Francisco Bay Bridge. He knew the drill after he'd survived several "deaths" here in the afterworld. It was always like waking up from a dream. A really, really awful dream. The memory of the fire and his burning flesh was all too real to him, but the details were a fog. Sometimes they actually were dreams. It took corroboration from someone else to prove otherwise. When you were revived from an incident, you were always restored to wholeness. Sid was as he had been before, tall, handsome and thirtysomething, lying naked in his huge bed overlooking the simulacrum of the bay. He stretched and thought about getting out of bed. He remembered a strange man from the dream, and he remembered some trouble. It was all sort of fuzzy. Were the memories of the last few days part of a dream or memories from the continuum? This would require tea. He looked to his left, and there on the sleek wenge side table was a steaming cup of darjeeling. Maybe the man he remembered was real and actually was in trouble. Well, whoever he was would have to wait. The journey of a thousand miles begins with tea . . .
Nibs watched his father, by turns desperate and fulminating, on a huge screen from his lab on top of his compound. He'd had years to think about how he would get his revenge on that fat bastard. From time to time, he worried that the plotting and planning would make him deranged, unhinged like his father. Immediately after his own death, he was visited by his grandparents. They showed him great affection and sympathy. They showed pictures of their farm in a very lovely universe 'just next door' as his grandmother put it. But he couldn't go there yet, he had to engage his father in order to be released from this place. Evidently there were rules. There were always rules. He hated that. It was out of the frying pan into the fire as far as he was concerned. This afterlife business was for the birds. It was just another org. More rules. More bullshit. But there was an upside. Sometimes, when you really focused, you could make almost anything happen.
The trouble was, the more Nibs watched his father struggle and fret, the more awful he felt. He hated violence when he was alive, though he was forced into it on many occasions in the service of Clearing the Planet. He was a creative at heart, and that heart hurt watching the man who had so abused him and his siblings in life. This wasn't what he'd hoped for. It wasn't fun. He felt empty. After everything he'd been through it came down to wanting one thing: for his father to love him. And with that realization, his rage and anger sublimated to grief and loss and with that came a deep, mournful sobbing. Wave after wave of pain and release. After a while he felt a huge hand on his shoulder, it was the inhuman creature he'd created to scare his father, it had crouched down to make itself less threatening. The creature's facial vents whistled softly as it stroked Nibs' back. Terl's face couldn't really express emotion in a readable way, but the care expressed in this simple touch made Nibs cry all the harder. Monsters were more loving than his own father.
Many hours had passed and Hubbard the elder was delirious, but through his delirium, he could see and hear the large metal door when it began to slowly slide upward. His son walked in the doorway, his furry companion shambling just behind him. But something was different. He looked younger than he had before and he was walking normally, without a cane. He looked almost excited. "Ron. Dad, I think I finally get what it is that I . . ." But before he could finish his sentence, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, Jr. vanished into thin air.
The hulking creature that had been the son's constant companion for more than two decades let out a sound like a low steam whistle. He looked around for a moment then he too, disappeared. The crazy, mad scientist sound effects fell silent and Hubbard could hear nothing but his own heartbeat drumming in his ears. "Nibs! Goddammit Nibs, what the hell am I supposed to do here? You fucking little bastard! Nibs!" His voice echoed dramatically in the room and long hallway beyond. He was trapped. Utterly and completely trapped.
He struggled. He pulled. He strained until his flesh was raw where the chair held his wrists and ankles. Exhausted, he began to cry in sheer frustration. "Open!" he screamed at the restraints.
And open, they did.
Ron struggled to his feet, his injuries from the crash were healing, but his body was in agony from thrashing for god knows how long on that metal throne. He lunged his way across the room to where Nibs had turned on the lights. He found the switch and the sudden darkness seemed almost total at first. His eyes were semi-blind from the glare. Then he turned to face the food cart that had tormented him so. It was still there, but the food had all gone bad, the stench was awful. At least there were Kools. He ripped one of the cartons open and inhaled the fresh, menthol smell. But there were no matches. Well, he'd gotten the best of the locks when he put his command intention to work, so he tried commanding the cigarette he'd placed in his mouth to light, but nothing happened.
"Sonofabitch" he muttered to himself. He tried again, this time holding the cigarette at arms length, focusing his attention on it and saying "fire!" Something happened this time. Something was burning, but it wasn't the Kool at the end of his arm. He could see a flickering of firelight coming from the hallway just as the smell of smoke reached his nose. "Well, that's not good" he said to nobody in particular. He looked out into the hallway only to see a wall of flames coming toward him from his right. That left straight ahead or left as his only options. He chose straight ahead and made a run for it.
His body ached in all kinds of ways, but fear does funny things to a person. He found himself in a four way intersection of impossibly long hallways. The decision as to which way to go was made for him as the halls on either side of him burst into flames. He ran until he came to another junction. It was the same wall of fire on either side, and now the flames were behind him as well. The smoke was getting serious now, and breathing was difficult. He kept moving and all at once the hallway opened into a cavernous great room with large windows that must have been fifty feet tall. He thought he'd break one to escape but he miscalculated their scale. As he reached them he realized that they began some 20 feet above the ground. His one hope was the two-story, wooden door at the end of the chamber, but when he reached for the iron handle, it was locked and wouldn't budge. The fire was now emerging from the hallway and was climbing the huge tapestries that hung on the stone walls. It leapt from one to the other roaring up to the timbers that made up the ceiling.
L. Ron Hubbard was about to give up hope when he heard it, a crash against the door. The great door shook. There was a muffled revving of an engine, a screech of tires, and once again the door shook, this time splintering and buckling a bit more. He heard an ominous crack as the flaming timbers of the ceiling began to give way. Sparks rained down from the clouds of smoke above as one by one, huge chunks of the former ceiling crashed to the stone floor. There was one final crash and the door broke into flinders and in with the brilliant light of day came the very smashed snout of an orange Rolls-Royce driven by one Snake Thompson. Once again, the man Hubbard invented stood through the open sunroof and yelled "get him girls!" Before he knew what was happening he was surrounded by his Commodore's Messengers, who ushered out into the fresh air. The last of the passengers in the now burning car escaped and the crowd moved quickly to put distance between themselves and the now fully engulfed complex.
There was a huge fireball as the car's fuel tank ignited, turning the front wall of the towering facade into a pile of rubble.
"Looks like you owe me one, you old sonofabitch!" laughed Thompson who pushed his way through the crowd of fussing, fawning messengers to clap Ron on the back heartily. Then, behind Snake came another man Hubbard didn't recognize. He was bearded and dressed neatly a tweed coat with patches on the elbows and a wool cap. The unknown man approached Ron with awe and deference.
"Oh, Dr. Hubbard! Dr. Hubbard! This is an honor, a complete and total honor!" said the nattily dressed stranger.
"I'm sorry, but do I know you?" asked a decidedly confused Hubbard.
"It's I who am sorry, I should have introduced myself, but I'm sure you'll know my name. I am Tom Esterbrook, and I am your loyal servant."
"Great" Hubbard muttered to himself, "another one."