The Phil Phorce is a fictional periodical featuring my favorite characters from my own writing. It comes out in episodes, once every three months or so. To find out more and to read previous episodes, please go to these two pages: About the Phils and the Phil Phorce. Please enjoy and critique if possible.
“First of all,” said Phoenix, “I don’t like the new hand soap we have in the bathroom on the second floor. It smells funny.”
“No one uses that restroom anyway,” said Percival. “Except you.”
“That’s why I think I should have some say in what soap we put in there.”
“Who really uses bathrooms these days?” asked Steve, the resident ping pong ball. “They’re unhygienic.”
“Save that argument for people who don’t have bodily functions,” said Phoenix.
“I thought that type of soap looked good,” said the old lady. “Since few people use that bathroom, I decided it would be a good place to experiment.”
“Remember the last time someone tried to experiment?” asked Percival. “We ended up making galoshes a uniform requirement.”
“I thought they looked festive,” said Feiron. “So sue me.” He was still recovering from his battle with the Castle Under the Cloud, wherein he had been melted down by a flamethrower and mixed with molten aluminum foil. He wore a bandage around his ears to make himself look more pitiable.
“At least those uniforms aren’t mandatory anymore,” said Steve. “I can’t even see out of them.”
“Yes, we know you like your galoshes,” said Percival. “You’re the only one.”
“Well, I’m very sorry about the soap,” said the old lady. “A fold-out brochure that came in the mail told me about the brand, and I liked the look.”
“It smells like horseradish,” said Phoenix. “I propose a new rule that says if anyone dislikes a type of soap, they can throw it out the window at their pleasure.”
“Hey!” shouted Steve. “I can’t throw soap!”
“You don’t use soap,” said the old lady.
“That doesn’t mean I can’t dislike it!”
“Let’s set that vote aside until later,” said Percival. “Phume called this conference, I think.”
Phume drew breath to speak, but Steve beat him to it.
“I think we should first call attention to the fact that Quirk hasn’t actually done anything since he was made Vice-Phil!”
“Head Phil, Steve,” said Quirk, coming out of his thoughts.
“Head Phil. But you didn’t do anything as Vice-Phil either.”
“That’s because Vice-Phils aren’t really supposed to do anything.”
“Percival did stuff as Vice-Phil.”
“Because the current Head Phil—” began Percival.
“His name was Liam,” interrupted Phoenix.
“The current Head Phil, whose name was Liam, as we all know,” said Percival, “was currently inhabited by a telepathic parasite.”
“He was more of an evil spirit,” said the old lady.
“Still,” said Steve, “we need a Head Phil who actually does something.”
Percival wrote something on his legal pad and slid it over to Quirk. In capital letters, it said, CASE IN POINT.
“Told you so,” Percival said, just to rub it in.
“I get it,” said Quirk. “Now, if you’re done complaining—”
“We’re not!” shouted Steve.
“—Then I suggest we let Phume speak.”
Phume stood up. “We still haven’t heard from Sebase. I want to know what we can do to find him.”
“Oh, not this again,” said Steve. “Someone turn on the TV. It doesn’t matter which channel—anything would be more interesting than this.”
Phoenix obliged him, but kept the volume off.
“We understand your concern for your story-mate,” said Percival. “Unfortunately, we have no idea where to begin.”
“You know what I think?” said Steve loudly. “I think—“
Quirk slapped a piece of tape over the ping pong ball’s mouth. “Go on,” he told Percival.
“If we knew where to find him, it would be a lot easier,” finished the Vice-Phil.
“We know where he was before he disappeared,” said Phume. “He was escorting that doctor back home.”
“That’s a good place to start,” said Percival. “Someone should find that doctor and see if he’s back.”
“We first found him on an online doctor-finder thingy,” said Phoenix, going to a computer in the corner of the conference room. “We can check if he’s available again.”
“How?” asked Isaac.
“Just think of it as magic for now,” said Feiron. “I’ll explain it sometime.”
“Mmm!” said Steve through his tape.
“He’s available,” said Phoenix. “I don’t know how reliable this is, but it’s probably right.”
“In that case, Sebase finished his job,” said Percival.
“I thought his job was to kill the old sawbones,” said Feiron.
“If that were the case, Feiron, wouldn’t we have chosen someone a little more capable to complete that task?”
“Sebase was capable,” said Phume. “Capable of eating… and joking… and doing backflips. That’s about it.”
“I think you’ll agree that none of that would kill anyone,” said Percival.
“On the contrary,” said the old lady. “You could joke so much that your opponent would die laughing.”
“And you could eat so much that they would die of starvation.”
“That’s assuming that…”
“Not to mention backflipping into someone, who then would fall into poisonous waters…”
“But…” said Percival.
“Or off a cliff…”
“Let’s get back on topic!”
“Or into someone else’s weapon.”
“That would mean that the person holding the weapon did the killing,” Percival pointed out.
“Okay, then just stick the weapon in the ground.”
“Would that mean the ground did the killing?” asked Isaac.
“MMM!” shouted Steve.
“Let’s just get back on topic. Sebase disappeared after completing his task, which was not killing the doctor.”
“Phooey,” said Feiron.
“Where is he now? Any guesses?”
“He could have taken a really long stop for ice cream,” said Phoenix.
The old lady perked up. “He could have ordered… a bazillion-gazillion pizzas for us, and has to carry them back up here on the back of a camel.”
“You know, considering how old you are, you sometimes act like a five-year-old,” said Percival.
“What are pizzas?” asked Isaac.
“Magic,” said Feiron. “I’ll explain later.”
“Shut up, Steve!” Percival said. “Just because you don’t get to talk doesn’t mean the conversation isn’t intelligent!”
“MMM-HMMM-MMMM!” Steve implied frantic hand gestures.
“You know,” said the old lady. “And this is just a thought, but if Steve doesn’t really rely on his mouth to talk, shouldn’t he be able to talk even with the tape there?”
Finally Percival ripped the tape off. “What, Steve? Spit it out!”
All eyes turned to the TV.
“It’s a commercial, Steve,” said Phoenix. “It’s just a phone number.”
“Look in the top corner, where they would usually show the product being sold,” said Steve.
“Blinkin’ Weeping Angels,” said Percival softly.
“It’s Sebase!” shouted Phume, running up to the TV and pressing his face to the screen. “Wait… Now he’s just little colored dots.”
“Back away, Phume,” said Quirk. “Someone turn on the sound.”
Phoenix cranked it up. The announcer’s voice was saying, “If you call now, you’ll get TWO hostages for the price of one! That’s right, another hostage, ABSOLUTELY FREE!”
“They’re selling hostages?” asked Phoenix.
“That’s evil! We should kill them,” said Steve.
“For once, I agree with you,” said Phume. He donned his ever-shining helmet.
“Just remember,” the announcer said, “this offer won’t last long.” Suddenly his voice sped up. “This offer void if rescue attempt is made. Void if applicant is under 18 years of age. If ransom is not received by the end of the week, the hostages will be killed. If no offer is made, the coin will be destroyed.” The commercial ended and the show began again.
“What was that voice?” asked Isaac.
“Magic,” said Feiron.
“Phoenix, turn the TV off,” said Percival as a purple dinosaur danced onto the screen. “I think it’s clear what needs to be done.”
“We need to rescue him!” shouted Phume, ripping his cape a little more.
“But we can’t,” said the old lady. “They said the offer was void if a rescue attempt is made. And… something else. I couldn’t catch that last part.”
“Ignore the naysayers, Phume,” cried Steve. “We’ll kill them all!”
“What if that meant something else?” asked Percival. “If we rescue Sebase, they won’t have a hostage to sell—the bargain can’t be completed. The offer is void.”
Everyone thought about this for a moment.
“Does that mean we can rescue him?” said Phume.
“It does,” said Quirk. “Even if it didn’t, we’d still try.”
“You’re the best Head Phil ever!” shouted Phume.
“Except for Liam,” said Steve. “And any other Head Phils there were in our history.”
“I want to lead the mission,” said Quirk and Percival at once. They looked at each other.
Quirk leaned over to Percival. “I should lead them,” he whispered. “You said I needed to show I was a worthy Head Phil—now is the time.” And there was the coin, too—he didn’t know if it was the same one from his dream, but he wanted to find out for himself.
Percival sighed but said nothing.
“No keeping secrets,” said Steve. “If I ever have to kill you, I’ll be tormented for the rest of my life at not knowing what you two just told each other.”
“I hope you never have to kill me, then,” said Percival.
Quirk wondered if anyone could kill him—if he had been alive in 1872, then perhaps not. “Old lady, do what you can to record the commercial breaks. The commercial might give a street address. If nothing else, we can track them through their phone number.” Quirk stood up.
“What are you talking about?” asked Isaac.
“Magic,” said Feiron.
“Once we have the information, we’ll leave. Meeting adjourned,” said Quirk.
Percival pulled him aside once everyone had gone. “Another thing I forgot to tell you earlier. Do you know why Steve is so antagonistic toward you these days?”
“Because he’s Steve?”
“No.” Percival thought for a moment. “You know about Doctor Who, right?”
“Every time the Doctor dies, he regenerates. He gets a new body, a new face, and a new personality. Each one is completely different, but they’re all the same person. They all save the world, they are all brilliant, they all drive the same TARDIS…”
“The same what?”
“Never mind. It’s a spaceship thingy that can time travel.”
“My point is, they’re all the same person, but they’re all themselves. They never try to act like the last Doctor, but they accomplish the same tasks in their own way. It’s like that with Head Phils too, I think.”
“We don’t have ‘retardeds’ or whatever.”
“You mean… Never mind.” Percival shook his head. “But once Liam made you Head Phil, you changed. Before that, you led us like a Head Phil should have, but as yourself—I never hated you as much as I did when I saw you stab Liam for no apparent reason.”
“And that’s my true self?”
“Yes! No. Well, kind of.”
“So you want me to be a jerk again.”
“Well, you’re just as much of a jerk now, hiding out in your room and being all quiet and stuff, as you were when you made catapults out of office chairs. But you were a different kind of jerk.” Percival ran a hand through his hair. “Look, neither of us really liked Liam, but we both respected him.”
“Yeah, well, you’re you. You did what you were told, at least. Liam was as much of a jerk as you– but right now, you’re acting more like him than he ever did. Stop acting like the old Head Phil. Start making the position yours.”
“Before the conference, you told me to act like a Head Phil. Now you’re telling me to act like me. Pick one.”
“Act like you did when the Head Phil was incapacitated. You managed to order me around pretty well then.”
“That was to spite you.”
“Then spite me! I’ll make you a deal: I’ll spite you if you spite me. Just like the old days between you and Liam. Head Phils aren’t supposed to like their Vice-Phils. It’s the way things are.”
“I’ll do my best, Aardvark.”
“That’s more like it. And remember: the more time you spend alone, the more I can lead the Phils instead of you.”
“Don’t bet on it.” Quirk left the conference room.