Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Last Drop - Part 3 - One Helluva Gimmick Match

So, O'Brien has been cornered by the now-tiny Guanella's not-tiny mooks, who want him to drink a shrinking potion and "dool" their boss.  I have to wonder, is this Guanella's idea?  Or is he a helpless victim being carried around by his former underlings and forced to battle other shrunken people in a bizarre variant of cock fighting?

At any rate, O'Brien tries to claim that he's out of shrinking potion, which disappoints the mook, who raises his gun to get Frankie's revenge that way.  But then Guanella squeaks up to ask what O'Brien is lugging around in that thermos bottle.  Once he realizes that it smells like that fateful cocktail, a struggle ensues in which the glass container of magical Borneo swello syrup gets broken, which is "music in O'Brien's ears," but the thermos of shrinko cocktail survives unscathed, which is not as good.  In the end, O'Brien is pinned down and force-fed some shrinking potion, and with the syrup dripping down a sink's drain, he'll have no way to reverse the effects.

The moral of this story is to not play God when it comes to mixing... don't import strange cocktail ingredients that haven't been approved by the... if you drink something that makes you shrink, you should see if the bartender who served you can reverse the effects instead of challenging him to... uh, stay out of bars, kids.  Weird stuff can happen to you.

O'Brien soon feels his clothes becoming looser, and vainly tries to hold onto his belt to keep his pants up as he's led into the bar's back room.

"Come on in the office, all of you," said the gangster lieutenant.  He prodded the three customers and O'Brien ahead of him.  O'Brien tripped over his drooping pants.  As he reached the office door he fell sprawling.  A gangster booted him and he slid across the floor, leaving most of his clothes behind him.  The remaining garments fell of when he struggled to his feet.  The walls and ceiling were receding.  The men and furniture were both receding and growing to terrifying size.

He was shivering with cold, though the late-May air was warm.  And he felt marvelously light.  He jumped up, feeling as active as a terrier despite his paunch.  He was sure he could jump to twice his own height.

Conveniently, the amount of shrinko juice Frankie imbibed from that cocktail is the same amount as what got forced down O'Brien's throat by those thugs, so they're now the same size.  Sure'd be embarrassing if Guanella still ended up shorter than his opponent.  So while one gangster guards the door, another sets down Guanella, who has created a weapon by sticking a razorblade into a split pencil, the "smott" guy.  O'Brien doesn't get anything, because gangsters have no honor.

And here's our big fight for this story, a tiny man in a hanky-diaper wielding a battleaxe put together out of stuff you might find in your bathroom, versus the world's littlest nudist.  On the bright side, I bet you've never read anything with such a match-up, so Hubbard at least gets some points for originality.

Guanella leaped forward and swung.  The razor-axe went swish, but O'Brien had jumped back just before it arrived.  His agility surprised both himself and Guanella, who had never fought under these grasshoppery conditions.  Guanella rushed again with an overhead swing.  O'Brien jumped to one side like a large pink cricket.  Guanella swung across.  O'Brien, with a mighty leap, sailed clear over Guanella's head.  He fell when he landed, but bounced to his feet without appreciable effort.

I'm going to call this an honorary Hubbard Action Sequence, since even though it's not a barrage of short, exclaimed sentences, it still contains the ridiculous stunts we've come to expect from the guy.  Also, isn't it strange that O'Brien gets the hang of tiny-fighting faster than Guanella, who had to go all the way from the bar to wherever his henchmen were hanging out, and has been smaller for longer than O'Brien?  You'd think the little gangster would learn some things about maneuvering at his new size by now, but I guess not.

The normal-sized people in the room are all laughing, because this is again a pair of doll-sized, under-dressed men bouncing around like maniacs... wait, since the narration didn't specify that only the gangsters were laughing, and everyone else in the bar got herded into the room ahead of O'Brien, does that mean Guckenheimer and those other bit characters are also laughing at him?  Nice.

Despite being betrayed by friends who evidently find humor in his potential demise, O'Brien isn't doing too badly - all the jumping isn't very tiring, even with his paunch.  His main concern is that the normal-sized gangsters will get bored at some point and weigh him down so Guanella can finish the "dool."  Then O'Brien spies a pin on the floor that he picks up to use as a dagger, and successfully stabs at Guanella during another attack, but the tiny gangster's skin "seemed much tougher than ordinary human skin had a right to be."  I guess because when you shrink, uh... your molecules are jammed closer together?  So O'Brien and Guanella are super-dense little people?  And still able to bounce around like crickets?  Hmm.

Eh, it's probably just a side-effect of that magical swello juice.  At any rate, O'Brien and Guanella go down in a grapple, and O'Brien is able to take his improvised weapon with both hands an literally pin Guanella to the floor by stabbing him through the arm.  The little gangster "shouted," and O'Brien steals his axe and proceeds to make a run for it.  The giant gangsters don't react in time, and O'Brien is able to slash the lookout's ankle as he scurries out the door.

Once back in the bar proper, O'Brien leaps to the counter in a single bound, grabs and stuffs the thermos that's as big as he is under his arm - hey, if the hero "had no time to ponder on the wonders of size," you shouldn't sweat the details either - and then he's on the move once more.  There's a "thunderous explosion" behind him as one of the gangster takes a shot at O'Brien, but he dodges the hail of splinters just like that scene in Ant-Man to run out the bar's door.  Man, that was a great movie, wasn't it?  If only Hubbard had known that someone would take this concept and execute it in a more thoughtful and entertaining manner, maybe he wouldn't have bothered with this story. 

Anyway, O'Brien escapes, and luckily Orson Crow his "favorite hackman" (cab driver), happens to be waiting outside.  Because O'Brien needs a driver and keeps one parked outside his bar?  Did O'Brien know Crow was there?  Why wasn't he contacted during the search for Mac, and why did Crow give no warning about Guanella and his goons?  Or did Crow just happen to pick that moment to stop by O'Brien's bar? 

Huh.  Crow is a bit slow to respond when "Obie" starts yelling for help, other than to mumble to himself about seeing things and start up the car to leave, but when a gun-toting gangster appears at the bar's entrance to chase down O'Brien, the driver stops doubting his senses and throws open the cab's door for our hero before speeding off.

And so under O'Brien's direction, Crow races towards the McGraw-Hill building so O'Brien can save Mac.  And since O'Brien is still naked, he asks Crow for a hanky.  And since Hubbard just has a knack for choosing the worst words to describe certain situations, this dirty handkerchief is then wrapped "diaperwise" around O'Brien's waist.

I mean, it could be worse, the magic cocktails could have literally turned the drinkers into infants...

Back to Part 2 

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