Act 3: Questions and Answers


“Man, this sucks!” Keltic Tommy said as he covered his nose and mouth with a camouflaged balaclava. “The whole damned place smells like burned popcorn!” The Rangers carefully stumbled their way through the burned out wreckage that had been a prosperous cinema lobby less than twenty-four hours earlier. Tiny, who was having far more success weaseling his way through the underbrush of burned wood and melted acoustic foam than his compatriots, sneezed in agreement.

“I always associate the smell of burnt popcorn with death,” the Fish hissed, carefully scanning the wreckage with the IR filters on his Battlecam.

“The whole place looks thoroughly torched. There’s no telling where the fire started!” Tomcat said, balancing on a collapsed wall joist and prying wreckage away from theater doors with his staff.

“Yeah,” Bryian said, consulting a floor plan that Deputy Secretary Leonard had given him. “There are twenty two theaters in this place; eleven upstairs, eleven downstairs. It’ll be easier to split up and search each theater and projection room separately.”

“Sure,” Tomcat grinned, “we can do more damage that way…”

Bryian continued, “Daniel, you, Keltic Tommy and Tomcat take a look-see at theaters one through eleven and try to find where the fire, or bomb, or whatever caused this mess was located. Tiny, the Fish and I will go through theaters twelve to twenty-two and see what we can find there. If you find anything, or run into trouble, give a yell.”

The Rangers went their separate ways, carefully picking their way through the debris of the lobby to the main staircase that led to the upper and lower level of theaters.

Daniel, Tomcat and Keltic Tommy made their way down the steps to the lower level of theaters. The lower level was in worse shape than the lobby. Tomcat looked back at his compatriots as they reached the bottom.

“First floor, death, chaos, general destruction and menswear… Going up,” he said in his best “bimbo voice.” Keltic Tommy and Daniel just rolled their eyes.

“Let’s start searching each theater with the projection room,” Daniel stated, “That will give us and good view of the theater itself before we have to enter it.”

The two Toms nodded and the trio slowly picked their way to the first projection room, searched it, and moved on to the theater, repeating this process as they looked.

Meanwhile, on the second level, (which was in no better condition than the lower level,) Bryian, the Fish and Tiny had worked their way to Theater 17, and were picking their way through the aisles when Tiny’s ears perked up and he sniffed at the air.

“Hey,” the Fish pointed to His Highness, “I think Tiny’s on to something.”

Tiny darted across the floor, nose to the charred carpet, the Fish and Bryian trying to keep up. Finally Tiny stopped and wagged his tail, nose still to the floor.

“What’d you find, Tin-o?” Bryian bent down to examine what the small Jack Russell Terrier had discovered.

“Damn! Tiny!” Bryian groaned.

“What is it?”

“Damn dog found an half full box of Ju Ju Bees!” Bryian said as he stood up and moved off to search elsewhere.

“Ah, you’re just jealous!” the Fish chuckled and knelt down to scratch Tiny’s ears. He scowled a moment as something caught his eye.

“Bry?”

“Yeah.”

“What movie was playing in this theater?”

Bryian consulted the files Leonard had given him, “Hmmm. Theater seventeen…. Ah…Here it is,” He said scanning the page, “Oh man! This must have been the cheap theater! Police Academy 14: Sweet Chuck’s Revenge! I thought those had been consigned to ‘direct-to-video’ hell by now! Not that I condone what happened to the rest of the Cineplex, but this theater was a mercy killing!”

“What time was the last showing?” the Fish said, rising from the floor, holding something in his palm.

“3:15 in the afternoon. About two hours before the theater went…Hey…” Bryian caught on.

“Yeah…”

At that moment, Bryian’s walkie-talkie chirped. Bry pulled it from his belt and spoke into it.

“Yeah?”

“Bry, this is Daniel. I think you guys should come down here. We’re in the Theater 6 projection booth.”

Bryian picked up Tiny and the three headed down the stairs.

Tomcat, Keltic Tommy and Daniel were standing by the melted remains of the projector when the others arrived.

“Whatcha got?” Bry said as they entered.

“Take a look,” Keltic Tommy pointed to the remains of a rack of film canisters along the wall. They were all literally blown apart, each one of the canisters bulged out in the middle. Only a few still contained something resembling a reel. There was no sign of the film they should have contained anywhere.

“Tomcat had set up his laptop on the unsteady remains of a table. It seemed to be running a complex series of calculations. He took one of the canister lids and held it up. It was badly charred, and bulged heavily at the center, “All these things blew apart. They weren’t sealed that tight. By my calculations, I recon they’d have to have gone up pretty damn fast and with about ninety-two point seven three pounds per square inch to do this sort of damage.”

Reverend Bryian took the metal canister from Tomcat and examined it, applying his in-depth experience in metalwork.

“Ninety-five pounds” he corrected, tossing the warped hunk of metal to the Fish.

Tomcat looked perplexed and studied his laptop, “Damn! Forgot to carry the two!” he groaned.

The Fish examined the canister, “There’s the remains of a reel in here, any sign of the film that was on it?”

“No…and that’s the trick!” Keltic Tommy said, picking up a couple more of the canisters, “we searched this whole place, and there’s no melted bits of film anywhere in this projection room.”

“However,” said Daniel, “we did find something quite interesting.” He held up another of the buckled canisters, “take a look at the gunk inside this can.”

“Whew!” the Fish choked,” Smells like Bantha Podoo! What is that stuff?”

“Homemade boom-juice with about the same kick as an equivalent amount of plastique.” Daniel said. “There’s a chemical process that turns acetate emulsion like film into a highly volatile explosive.”

“What?” Reverend Bryian, who prided himself on knowledge of ways of making things explode, was flummoxed.

“Yeah, a few weeks ago, Daniel and I found a link on how to do it from a G.I. Joe Collector’s web-site,” Keltic Tommy explained, “the guy called the article, ‘Turn Those Polaroids of Your Beach Vacation into Hand Grenades in Three Easy Steps.’ It seemed pretty lame to me, and I forgot about it until now!”

AUTHOR’S NOTE: At the time, Keltic Tommy and Daniel explained the chemical process involved to the rest of us. However, as I do not wish to encourage such wanton misuse of a visual medium, I will not include them here. It has also been pointed out that the technobabble quota for this tale has already been filled. The site containing said instructions has long since gone the way of most web sites from that period of time; Into “Error 404” land. I know there are those of you who don’t believe that such a process is possible. But hey! You probably believed that you could get nitroglycerin from soap after seeing Fight Club didn’t you? Anyway, we now return you to your regularly scheduled narrative…

The Fish nodded slowly at the explanation, “So, there are no bomb remnants, because there technically was no bomb.”

“Right,” said Daniel, “the heat from the projector bulb would have been enough to ignite it. The rest of the reels just went up with that. This bombed at the box office worse than Waterworld!”

“But we found melted film in the other projection rooms,” Bryian pointed out.

“Yeah, so did we, “ Keltic Tommy chuckled, “good thing too, or this whole block would have probably landed in Tucson. This is the only theater we’ve found like this.”

The Fish looked at Reverend Bryian, “Bry, what was the movie…”

“Already on it,” Bry interrupted as he rifled through the file folder, “Theater 6, 5:30…got it! Martin Scorsese’s Kundun! Did any of the Brotherhood work on that film?”

“Yeah,” the Fish muttered, “the Temple of B-Roll was built near Whompa Tibet centuries before the Chinese occupation. We always had the blessings of the Dalai Llamas to continue our work. In fact, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Llama very much enjoyed viewing our cinematic endeavors. After the destruction of the monastery, many of my brothers hid in Tibet. When Scorsese was shooting Kundun in the Northern India section of the Himalayas, many of them traveled there to help him in reverence to the Dalai Llama, who had been a great patron.”

“So, there’s definitely a connection to your former order,” Tomcat stated as he packed up his laptop.

“Most definitely,” the Fish reached into one of the numerous pockets on his tactical (video) shooting vest, “especially considering this.” He produced a small green object, roughly the size and shape of a gummy bear.

“What’s that?” Keltic Tommy asked.

“Something Tiny found,” the Fish frowned and tossed the object to Keltic Tommy.

“Hey! This is a Jelly Baby!” Keltic Tommy interjected, “I used to get these things all the time when I was stationed in Northern Ireland with the Ohm Brigade! Did the concession stand carry these?”

Reverend Bryian walked over and took the Jelly Baby from Tommy. “They can’t,” he said, “they contain the dye that got the red M&M’s banned by the FDA a few years ago.”

“You mean that stuff you had to drink 7 gallons of a day to suffer any nasty side-effects?” Tomcat asked.

“The very same,” the Fish said, “someone had to have sneaked that into the theater because concessions couldn’t carry them. Someone dropped all the green ones, because he didn’t like them. Someone who went to see Police Academy 14 right before blowing up the theater.”

“Dr. ‘?’ you think?” Bryian asked.

The Fish nodded.

“Who?” Keltic Tommy asked.

“No, not ‘Doctor Who,’ ‘Doctor ?’,” the Fish said, “Although it’s a simple mistake. He once auditioned for the role of Doctor Who, but failed miserably. He still hasn’t recovered from the Jelly Baby addiction he developed as a result, I see. Sick bastard!”

“No!” Keltic Tommy shook his head, “I mean, who is this guy?”

“’Doctor ?’ is the name taken by a former actor for the BBC,” the Fish explained, “He was extraordinarily bad at acting…I mean ‘Cory Haim’ bad! He was consequently fired. He blamed the television and film industry for his misery, and swore vengeance upon it.”

“Doctor ? is also the guy who blew up the Temple of B-Roll,” Reverend Bryian pointed out, “he was captured and imprisoned after it happened, but escaped shortly after Tiny and I formed the Cyclone Rangers. He’s been laying low ever since.”

“So,” Tomcat began clicking away at his laptop keyboard, trying to get everything being discussed documented, “This guy, Doctor ?, is going to all these theaters that are showing movies by the B-Roll monks, and then blowing them up using a chemical that turns the film into an explosive.”

“After he goes through and systematically steals all of the smoke detectors in the building?” Daniel arched an eyebrow, “this guy’s a loony!”

“I’d have thought that much was a given!” Tomcat chuckled, “The man actually went to watch Police Academy 14 voluntarily.”

The Emperor of Finland made a short whining noise followed by a clipped bark.

“You’re right, Tiny. We’ve got all we need here.” Bryian said, ”Let’s get back to HQ and start working on tracking this guy down!”
The other Rangers nodded, and begin picking their way through the debris back to the steps.

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