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Episode Forty-Eight - THE NANCY

Copyright © 2002 - 2005  Arthur Jarvinen

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After all the adventures, mishaps, detours and close shaves of the past year, leading up to his wild ride from The Inevitably Exploding Island, followed by his particularly unpleasant – not to mention profoundly disappointing – encounter with the devious Dr. Rojo, The Invisible Guy feels he is overdue for some well-deserved R & R and has decided that a nice little cruise would be just the thing to relax him, enhance his mood, and bring a sense of order back into his overly-complicated life. And so The Invisible Guy and Lola X board his newly-christened boat, the Nancy, and set a course for the Chesapeake.

The weather is perfect, and they make excellent time on peaceful waters. With the Nancy on auto-pilot, the pair can kick back on deck and enjoy a pitcher of frozen daquiris while listening to Lola's Jose Feliciano records.

As they approach Hampton Roads, Virginia, The Invisible Guy decides to anchor in the harbor for a while, and takes over the helm.

Just off Sewell's Point the Nancy is suddenly rocked by an explosion in the water, too close to her port bow for comfort. As Lola scrambles below decks The Invisible Guy wastes no time in undertaking evasive action as he spots the Sluggo bearing down on him.

"This is for Zipper, You Invisible Bastard!", and another round explodes, barely missing its mark.

"This is not the vacation I had in mind" The Invisible Guy calmly asserts to Lola as he pulls levers, flips switches, and the two take battle stations. "Actually I was thinking we'd be getting some soft shell crabs for dinner, maybe take a stroll later on the beach" – Ka-BOOM"But I Digress!!!!"

The Nancy and the Sluggo are both, ironically, products of the same shipyard, built with new experimental materials and technology; they are "rubberclads", the first of their kind. Not that they are simply coated with rubber. Rather, they are constructed of a complex hybrid alloy, an amalgam of mercury, steel and synthetic rubber (no trees were killed in the making of these boats) exhibiting an unprecedented degree of flexibility and tensile strength. And, as the engineer who designed them originally hails from East L.A., he wanted to see if he could make the nautical equivalent of a low rider, and both vessels keep very low profiles indeed. In fact it could be fairly said that the Nancy, when afloat, resembles nothing so much as a giant surfboard with a turret.

But despite their common origin and certain structural similarities, the Nancy and the Sluggo have some very important differences. The Sluggo was outfitted with a single purpose in mind, that of all-out aggression, whereas the Nancy's owner was more concerned with the design of the galley and the equipping of the entertainment center, opting for a minimum of offensive weapons in favor of the essential defensive ones. So, while the Sluggo's big guns and ramming capability constitute a threat not to be taken lightly, the Nancy enjoys far greater speed and maneuverability.

Be that as it may, Bra-zilla is quick on the draw, and before The Invisible Guy can take measures to position himself strategically another missile is in the air, and this time finds its mark. Wham!

As fate would have it, the shell is apparently a dud and does not explode. Instead, it bounces off the Nancy's turret and heads straight back at the Sluggo. As the shell engages the Sluggo, the rubbery material of her angled side stretches with the impact, then snaps back, hurtling the bomb, as if from a slingshot, right back at her opponent's boat.

The volley continues in similar manner for nearly an hour, and regardless of the maneuvering of either craft, their respective positions relevant to the shell's trajectory always seems to bounce the damn thing right back from one vessel directly at the other. Given the structural integrity of the rubberclads it becomes abundantly clear that neither vessel is likely to succumb to sheer pummeling and so Bra-zilla, resigned for now to a tactical draw, gives the command to pull back hard.

All during this protracted and bizarre "Pong" game, Mr. Bunghole has been observing through the periscope of his own vessel, the Plug Ugly, a replica of a Confederate "David". Consistent with his essentially opportunistic and parasitic nature, Mr. B. has been waiting to discover the outcome of the battle, only then to go after the victor with his spar torpedo.

But by the time the shell bounces yet again off the Nancy, the Sluggo has put enough distance between them that the missile doesn't reach her, instead dropping into the water, making a direct hit on the Plug Ugly. And of course, this time it explodes. Mr Bunghole is now - how you say? – shit outta luck.

Claude, having followed the action to its denoument with binoculars, from a harbor tour boat on the return trip from Rip Raps, extracts from his satchel a bottle of Blackened Voodoo Lager, from the Dixie Brewing Company, and a copy of the Handbook for Civil War Naval Reenactors, by R.W. Kuchera and C.I. Veit.

Pewter models of the Nancy and the Sluggo by Thoroughbred Figures, who make really nice stuff.

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