Heart of Furlonger

Milo had just stepped from the sunlight, and under a veranda roof for a closer look at a couple of promising-looking entrances, when he felt several pairs of blue hands at once, shoving him, stumbling and unbalanced through a dim door.

When he regained his feet and his sight, he was in a darkened, nearly-deserted tropical cantina straight from an old "B" movie, populated only by a hefty barkeep, a lazy ceiling fan, and someone very drunk who balanced precariously, impossibly, in an armed stool at the end of the bar. He looked like a canned boneless chicken, dressed for Hallowe'en , and propped in the corner.

The unseen hands shoved again, propelling Milo inexorably toward the figure, which resolved into a scrawny, pasty-looking little gnome togged in a tatty safari suit and foggy wire-rimmed glasses. The jaundiced yellow of his face clearly said he was an alcoholic, just knotting a little butcher's string around the already-wrapped package that held his last few liver cells, before he mailed them south, C.O.D.

The watery eyes turned, not to meet Milo's, but those of someone blue behind him.

"Zo, you insufferable witch," the man said to Callie, a thick German accent obscuring his slurred English even further. "This is him, is it?

He seemed to listen for a beat, then stuck out a trembling hand for Milo to shake.

"Ach. Name's Furlonger... Carl Furlonger."

When the penny dropped, Milo, even as numb as he was becoming, felt an electrical charge run up his arm from the loosely grasping hand felt a jolt run down his spine, felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up and take notice. His face slackened in wide-eyed shock, and the old man smiled a small grim smile.

"Ja. That Furlonger. And you, my friend, as you're only just suspecting, been messing with some very big shit. Huge. Colossal! Welcome to my world. Uh, universe, actually. We need to talk. Drink?"

Milo wanted to flee. But his legs no longer worked, and his arms were pinned in a strong grip from behind. So he nodded mutely, and felt himself manhandled onto the adjoining stool as a ill-matched set of double sized shot glasses filled with something clear, oily and evil-looking slid to precise stops before each of them, from the other end of the bar. Furlonger gave a mocking salute of thanks to the barkeep, slammed his drink down, and raised a finger for another.

Milo raised his own glass mechanically and tossed half of it off in a gulp. It was utterly vile.

"You figured out how to make my gizmo work. Congratulations. You're good." Furlonger continued sardonically, sounding nowhere near as drunk as he must have been. "Fermi and Oppenheimer hated that they couldn't figure it out, and the Army hated even more that I wouldn't tell 'em. Or anybody else. There was a war on, and everybody wanted to use it to make Nazis kaput. It was certainly tempting. I'm nominally Jewish, after all. But nobody seemed to get just how scary this thing could be, and I figured that was the bigger issue... I'm told that you finally got to that bit after you built it and blew hell outta your lab. And one rather distant and minor star."

"S-s-star...?" Milo stuttered. "Huh? Who told you that?"

Furlonger waved the question aside negligently. In his condition, he could do little else. But he was still talking, and his mind seemed less affected than his body, by whatever his potent tipple was.

"Ya gotta understand something, here and now, buddy. You and I have both screwed with the karma of the cosmos. Fucked over creation. Torn a buncha egregious holes in a very unstable and delicately-balanced structure. " As he spoke, his own body unbalanced dangerously, and Milo reached over, trying with only fair success to prop him a little more solidly in his chair. "This has repercussions. You will need to deal with 'em. This is not a suggestion. It is absolutely mandatory, unless you want to wake up some day in the not-too-distant future, to find the entire universe has split at the seams. Of course, in the unlikely event that you woke up at all on that day, you wouldn't be awake for very long, would you?

Furlonger, unaccountably amused at this black joke, suddenly wheezed out a catarrhal laugh, somewhere between a rasp and a burp.