It was Chancellor Acquin who asked, “Was this your--hunch?”
Senhor Capoeira Capybara said without taking his eyes off the figure on the table, “There are enormous differences, but this is what happened, more or less, to each of us in this circle. Some of us don’t remember at all, while I have fragments of memories, but we were like this--boy--and were thrown out by a force we call the Exile--to land into a foreign world and acquire a normal life for that place--and that included memories, parents, a history--like your forester couple.”
“So we might have caught him in the earliest stages,” Acquin said.
“Shh!” Said Jenny, leaning forward. The figure wasn’t stable--it flickered between the solid peasant boy and the brightly-colored sketch of a form--but it looked like his eyes were beginning to open.
“Hi there! My name’s Jeanette. Jeanette Ransom. Are you OK?” She moved forward and said.
The boy moved, and crackling energy surged through the cathedral-like room.
She leaned very close, and said into his ear, “Are you OK?”
The voice was heavily processed, jumpy and sounded auto-tuned, but he spoke. “I--think so.”
“My name’s Jeanette. What’s yours?”
“My name’s Jimmy. Jimmy Newman. You sound *kzzt* like an American.” The vice was rapidly settling down to normal.
“Yes, yes, Jimmy, I’m an American. Where are you from?”
“I’m from a place called Shepton Mallet, Somerset, United Kingdom *kzzt* of Great Britain and Northern France, under the rule of Queen Victoria II. I love her and her adventures.”
“Your queen has adventures?”
“Well, not her so much as her servants Rob Roy McGonagle and Koh-I-Noor Kiplinger--Vickie is the one that usually pieces *kzzt* the mysteries together, while it’s Roy and Kip who end up battling pirates and *kzzt* spies and such. But the Queen sometimes *kzzt* goes out on her own, in disguise--Secret Agent V-2, she calls herself. Those are the best!”
“Wow, Jimmy, they certainly sound cool.”
“You Americans really like to call things ‘cool.’ I like that.”
(Chancellor Acquin said to the others in a low voice, “The boy may be stabilizing, but the energy levels are going up, not down.”)
“Are they--cartoons, Jimmy?”
“Not a bit! They’re real stories, and the pictures *kzzt* are really good. There are some papers that carry cartoons--we call ‘em comics--but I don’t care for them, mostly. Vicky’s in The Ripper, and then there’s Greyfriars--but you know, everybody *kzzt* likes Greyfriars and Billy Bascom.”
Jeanette wanted to keep him talking, but she was coming up a blank with things to say. And Jimmy was beginning to flicker, even from the small pause she’d just made. He was feeling real to her--but what do you do when a boy you just met started going on about stuff she had no clue about? He looked at her friends around the table--Chancellor Acquin was still behind her, holding her--and their faces were all so grim, so worried.
Well, it didn’t matter that she didn’t want it--it was up to her.
“I-I’m sorry you don’t like comics, Jimmy. I really like them. Although you probably don’t get the American ones.”
“Well now, I don’t really not like them. I mean, some *kzzt* of them are smashers.” (He doesn’t want to disappoint me! she thought.)
“Tell me about the ones you like, Jimmy.”
“Well, the papers I like are the one’s edited by ol’ Stanley. That’s what he goes by, just Stanley. And he’s a card. ”The greatest *kzzt* stories in the history of mankind, with the greatest art imaginable!” And it’s all ‘Face Front, True *kzzt* Believers!’ and the stories are wilder than anything!”
“And what’s your favorite among them?”
“Oh, there’s one that’s completely brilliant. Just the best.”
While his voice stayed the same, Jimmy’s head began to rock side to side, and his face began to blur. Acquin said, “I’ve never felt anything like this…”
“What’s the strip, Jimmy, what’s it about?”
“It’s about this young boy, and he gets this *kzzt* magic amulet...”
“What’s the boy’s name?”
“His name is *kzzt* Jimmy Newman..He lives in *kzzt* Shepton Mallet, in Somerset...” His face was blurring all the time now.
“And what does the amulet do?”
“If he says the magic word, he gets big and gets these powers, and fights *kzzt* monsters and robots and *kzzt* *kzzt* ”
“What’s the magic word?”
“*kzzt* *kzzt* *kzzt* *kzzt* *kzzt* *kzzt* *kzzt* ”
“What’s the magic word?”
“It’s *kzzt* *kzzt* *kzzt* *kzzt* *kzzt* ; It’s *kzzt* *kzzt* *kzzt* *kzzt* *kzzt* ”
Acquin let go of her and slumped to the ground. He held his head in agony. The others, though, stayed where they were.
“What--is--the--magic--word?” She asked.
“It’s *kzzt* *kzzt* *kzzt* *kzzt*…”
And the boy’s voice changed.
“EXCELSIOR.” He thundered.
It seemed like the universe blinked in and out.
Silvertyger rushed forward, grabbed Jeanette, and carried her away from the table.
Jimmy was pulsing and wavering--inverting his colors in an instant, and back--but mainly, he was growing.
“OPEN A DOOR TO THE OUTSIDE!” bellowed Lord Elphinstone. Still holding Jeanette, he circled around to Chancellor Acquin, who was unconscious. The guards had snapped out of their paralysis, came over, and pulled a key on a chain from around the Chancellor’s neck.
Jimmy was ten or twelve feet tall now, and his muscles were bulging. While his colors remained the same, his clothes didn’t look ordinary any more. There was a golden emblem of a man carrying a waving banner on Jimmy’s expanding chest.
The guard stumbled over to a place on the wall and put the key in a keyhole. A door sprang open and he pulled a switch. The light that illuminated the stained glass vanished, to be replaced by the sunlight as panels of the walls opened up. The sounds of battle flooded the room.
Jimmy was twenty-five feet high as he stepped through to the outside. He straightened up to fifty feet as he faced the Theravadan ships. He was a hundred feet tall as he stretched out his hands and threw lightning at them. He was two hundred feet tall as he obliterated the remaining ships.
Jeanette rushed out with the others onto the grass to see Jimmy five hundred feet tall--and getting transparent. Jimmy looked down from a thousand feet, but there was no doubt about it: he was looking right at her.
“Bye, Jeanette: it was great meeting you,” he said like distant thunder, taller than the world.
“See you later.”
And the sky winked at her.