I've been saving for Bones's birthday, as it's one of the stupidest so far.
And we're still with Rockson! Brief Zhabnov-diversion aside, this part of the book has been pleasantly short of the Russian High Command snoozefests and thrilling exploits in the day of the life of (eg) Jimmy-47 as he drudges his way to an early yet freedomtastic grave.
The ground suddenly feels springy beneath their feet, which apparently is nice at first, but in fact is the first sign of an EARTHQUAKE. Yes. Ryder Stacy's impressive research shines through once again; I think this time he used a combination of Roadrunner cartoons and abject guesswork.
But it only felt pleasant for a second - then the harder quakes hit, knocking the mounts to the ground, sending their riders flying through the air, flapping like so many wingless birds. Once fully unleashed, the earth shook violently - cacti, ant hills, thorn trees, all vibrating and jumping back and forth as if having a fit. The ground cracked open in all directions, creating a spiderweb of chasms whose sides groaned and grated against one another. It was as if a madman lived just beneath the surface, and holding a God-like axe, was smashing away at the fragile earth intent upon completely obliterating it.
All the other guys are floundering around and being thrown up in the air, not knowing which way is up or down. But Rock's been knocked over so many times before that he instinctively knows what to do, so he lies down on the ground in an X-shape. Not quite
duck'n'cover, but at least he's not, I dunno, trying to avoid it by jumping or something. Unlike Chen and his two student ninjas, whose existence Stacy has temporarily remembered.
The quake goes on for a whole minute, two camels fall into an abyss, but no-one else gets anything more than a bit dusty. Oh, apart from 3 Aussies who have broken their legs. And one has fallen into an abyss also. Well, at least no Americans were injured. The Aussies make no effort to find their fallen comrade and he is never mentioned again. Time to quickly butcher the dead camels and move on; luckily all the Aussies are "former shepherds" so they can carry out this task with great efficiency.
The quake has made quite a mess of the landscape:
Chasms had opened up as fast as desert plants blossom after a cloudburst. The entire prairie was cracked like a mud flat with everything from foot-wide gulleys to thirty-foot splits that whole trucks could drive down, and bottomless holes from which steam and acrid smells continued to rise as the earth burped and gurgled up her deeply buried gases.
They are only 40 miles from Fort Svetlanya, but these chasms will seriously slow their progress. Still, Rock believes they'll get there by tomorrow night. But then!
...<Rockson> heard a shrill whistling scream like that of water boiling rapidly in a steam kettle. He had never heard the sound before - and didn't like it. Anything unknown put the Doomsday Warrior on full alert - for the unknown meant death ninety-nine times out of a hundred.
What could it be? Well, as we all know, earthquakes = MONSTERS. But no mere nest of megapedes this time, oh no. "What the bloody hell is that?" enquires Boyd.
"I haven't got the faintest fucking -" Rock began, but his words sputtered to a stop as he saw something rising out of the final large chasm they had to circumvent. Something horrible, slimy and hungry. A hundred yards off, a tentacle edged up out of a wide hole, waving, flopping around as if it were searching for something to grab.
Despite this obviously being a tentacle, at first our heroes think that it may be some kind of snake. But then another emerges... and another! Yes, it's a giant octopus, which for some reason lives underneath the Wyoming prairie. And it's a hundred feet long!
It has a head as big as a truck and rows of gnashing teeth(?) which, unlike your conventional octopus, are seemingly on the front of its head where a non-octopus would normally have a mouth. Given this unsurprising research fail, I'm sure it's just coincidence that the beast makes exactly the same noise as takoyaki street vendors
Despite having lived its entire life in a subterranean ocean (?! - and what about all the lava and sulfurous gases that were belching out a minute ago?), it has a huge eye (yes, just the one) which blinks as it spots - FOOD! So much food! It scrambles out of the crevice and now is described exclusively as a "land octopus", Stacy having forgotten about the subterranean ocean already.
Rock shoots it in the eye, but nothing happens. He has an explanation for this all lined up.
"It must have some sort of porous cellular structure, able to absorb bullets, god-knows-what-all without damage."
Detroit tries a grenade, again to no avail. And now there are two more octopuses emerging! And what with all the huge rifts in the ground, our guys have no way to escape!
It's time for the Aussies to step in.
"Ah, matey - we ain't got no blooming octpussies to play footsie with Down Under, but we do got our own bunyip's as we call em - monsters to you Yanks. And over the years - we've learned a few tricks of our own."
Grammar as printed. Also I wonder if he really meant footy rather than footsie. Probably best not to speculate.
"Go ahead," says Rock, "this is a free country." Apart from the oppressive genocidal commie overlords who apparently control 90% of the land and population, natch. "But be... bloody careful."
The Aussies draw their laser boomerangs.
"Listen up, you bloody 'ockers - we got ourselves a little problem, then, ain't we. Now, we done this Down Under tons a times. So just be thinking that it's a bloody load of walking wool - not this too-many-armed-dinger, and before you know it, we'll be biting on some Foster's again."
While this pep talk is going on, Rock tries shooting the octopus again, with similar lack of success - he concludes that either the thing's flesh is able to heal itself instantaneously, or else it's "created of such gelatinous matter that it was like Jello". Detroit's grenades also continue to not work, and they both prepare to be eaten by the gnashing black teeth.
But then! Boomerangs start flying around making a screechy noise! All the octopuses pull their legs up to protect their heads as the boomerangs zoom past. The noise of the boomerangs appears to hurt them, and now the Aussies start herding them back down into their crevice. Blah blah, they had never experienced pain before, nothing ever had been badass enough to hurt them until now, etc etc. Eventually they are running "as if they were in the mutation Olympics" and dive back down their hole, to the unimaginable darkness below, where they are king.
"You promised us the Foster's now, matey," the Aussie fighters demanded in unison.
"That I did and you bloody blokes deserve it," Lieutenant Boyd laughed. "You done your dinkum and turned that bonzer into bull dust. "
In unison! They must have been practising.
Fosters all round, swiftly extracted from a small portable fridge that the Aussies have brought with them and are presumably carting around on camelback. Rock expresses his amazement at their octopus-herding ways, and is treated to further strained Aussie slang about how they're all descended from "wool-growers" who use dingoes(!) to herd sheep, etc etc. Rock only has one thing to say about this.
"Bloody fucking incredible."
We'll make an Aussie of him yet.