} The Hardly Boys
} The Pusillanimous Portal
} Chapter 1
} Joe Hardly stared at his darker-haired older brother. "What
} does pusillanimous even mean, Frank? It sounds dirty."
} "Got me," Frank Hardly said to his younger, lighter-haired
} brother, "they just come up with the title and we go with
} it. Anyway, I have a hunch that Dad has been kidnapped by
} "Why would he be kidnapped?" asked the blond younger brother
} Joe Hardly. "Maybe he's just out on a case. Or maybe he went
} to the bank - I saw him making goo-goo eyes at that new female
} secretary the other day - imagine that, women working in
} banks nowadays. Besides, he's only been gone for ten minutes."
} "I told you. It's a HUNCH. Let's go," exclaimed the older
} yet much browner-haired Frank Hardly.
} The two boys, both hirsute but the younger with much lighter-
} hued tresses than the elder, ran outside to their motorcycles,
} which they had bought with the 'reward' money earned in their
} previous adventure, "The Case Of The Suspiciously Friendly Old
} Man Down At The End Of High Street At The Other End From Where
} They Live."
} Their speedometers crept to twenty-five, as they raced madly
} across town. When they reached Barmet Bay, they stopped.
} "Where are we headed, anyway?" blond Joe Hardly asked.
} "I don't know," brown-haired Frank Hardly said sheepishly.
} "Let's try the old Aperture Science building, back in Bayport
} on Shore Road. I happened to see Dad left the phone book open
} to the 'S' page - maybe he was giving us a clue that the
} kidnappers took him there."
} "Or maybe he had just recently phoned that guy at the Comic
} Relief Defective Agency, Oscar Smuff."
} "Look, I can have hunches too, can't I?" said light-haired
} "Fine, fine, have it your own way. Let the baby have his
} bottle, wah wah. Let's go. And, can we drop all the
} references to our hair for a while?" said the non-descript
} Frank Hardly.
} "Suits me fine and dandy," said the equally non-descript, yet
} not totally similar looking, Joe Hardly.
} "Smuff," Frank laughed cruelly. "Is that even a real name?
} It sounds dirty. Pusillanimous, even."
} Chapter 2
} Frank and Joe Hardly hopped off their motorcycles when they
} reached Shore Road. "Look, we'd better get into the plot.
} This was supposed to be about that Portal Xbox game," stated
} Frank Hardly.
} Chapter 3
} Chapter 4
} "Do you suppose this old Aperture Science factory is haunted,
} like in a 1930's movie?" his brother Joe asked nervously.
} "Creepy old houses are haunted; factories are where the bad
} guys hang out, especially abandoned factories. Get your memes
} straight," chided Frank. "Oh, and we're only in the *1920s*.
} And finally, you don't start a chapter without an antecedent,
} for instance if you say 'his brother'."
} "Right, right," said Joe meekly.
} They tried the door handle and it opened with a creak. They
} walked in, and after they took two steps, the door banged
} shut behind them. They tried the handle in the pitch dark,
} and to their horror it was locked from outside now. Clearly
} OSHA needed to come take a look at matters.
} A bone-chilling shriek chilled the boys nearly to the bone.
} "Sorry, I thought this was a Nancy Drool story for a moment,"
} Joe apologized. "I panicked."
} "The writers are the same broads, for all the series," Frank
} observed wryly, forgetting he was still in scene. "Franklin
} W. Bulwer, and Carolyn Lytton, my foot. Too bad the publisher
} doesn't give more than 24 hours to crank these stories out.
} Practically an Internet Oracularity, these things."
} Frank fumbled for a moment in the dark, then snapped on his
} portable electric headlamp.
} "*ALL* headlamps are portable, doofus," Joe corrected.
} "Besides, why the h-e-double-toothpicks do you just happen
} to have one with you?"
} "It's part of the Defectives' Code, which Dad made us swear
} to, remember? 'Always bring a headlamp when entering a
} haunted factory.'"
} "Hah. You said haunted, Shinola head. It's abandoned."
} "Fudge you.... hey look, we're trapped. No way out of this
} empty room."
} "Then I guess that's why I brought this handheld portal device,
} which Dad gave to us last week but didn't explain why."
} "Portable portals? Say that fast, five times," Frank kidded.
} "That. That. That. That. That. Gimme ten bucks," Joe
} responded. Frank grudgingly handed over their standard bet.
} Joe aimed the device, which was handheld and was used to create
} portals, and pushed the button.
} Immediately a blue portal, created by the handheld device that
} Joe held in his hand, opened up in the far wall. Or maybe it
} was orange. Through it, the boys could see various devices,
} and in the distance could be seen the outline of a large cube.
} "Looks safe enough," Joe said, and jumped through.
} "What do you see?" Frank called through the blue portal, or
} perhaps it was orange.
} "Mostly devices," Joe replied through his side of the orange
} portal, or maybe blue, "not many of them handheld. I'd guess
} they're plot devices. And some cubes."
} Frank jumped through, joining his blond brother. The portal
} disappeared behind him as he arrived. "How did it know to
} wait until I used it too, before it closed?"
} "I had the setting on '2'," Joe said. "And I thought we
} weren't going to mention the hair thing anymore."
} "My bad. Hey, what's that over there?"
} The boys were interrupted by a disembodied voice, which was
} reasonable since there weren't any other bodies nearby except
} their own.
} "Unbelievable. You, Frank and Joe Hardly, must be the pride
} of Bayport. ... Ah, I see we fixed that bug where the names
} and the home town weren't being properly rendered. Sweet.
} This was a triumph. I'm making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS.
} It's hard to overstate my satisfaction."
} "Set that to music and I'll dance to it," Joe commented.
} "Pride of Bayport? And how. Chief Collig and Biff Hooper
} think we're pretty swell," Frank said. In a stage-whisper
} aside to his brother, he snickered "Biff? Really?!? That's
} his first name? Lucky he's not Oscar Smuff's kid."
} "And Iola Morton," Joe chimed in, "she thinks I'm the bee's
} knees too. I'm about to get to second base with that one,
} and soon, and maybe after that I'll prove to her that I'm a
} natural blond, and show her my *own* 'Pride of Bayport', if
} I do say so myself."
} "You leave Iola out of this," the digitally enhanced voice
} threatened, although being disembodied it didn't really have
} a way to shake a fist or anything.
} "I think that disembodied yet digitally enhanced voice sounds
} strangely familiar," Frank said thoughtfully.
} "I think so too, I think," Joe said after a moment's thought.
} Suddenly Frank was toppled by a heavy yet fat person dropping
} down on him, probably from the ceiling or a rafter, no wait,
} one of those cat walks that haunted factories always have.
} "Abandoned," Joe reminded, "not haunted."
} Definitely from above, in any case.
} "Jeepers, Chet!" Frank wheezed, "it can't be anybody but you.
} Get off of me. I can't breathe. You must weigh a ton."
} "I'm only 130 pounds," Chet Morton, the fat butt of their
} gang's good-natured jokes and ribbings and criminal
} harassment, said in a hurt tone of voice.
} "Yeah, 130. In base 16," Joe said. "I'M FINE!" he added
} "Shoot him," Frank said, "use that handheld device you've
} been holding in your hand."
} Joe aimed the handheld portal device squarely at the round
} figure on top of his brother. "It's not working!" he
} "Safety is one of many Enrichment Center goals. You can't
} hurt me with it," Chet Morton gloated.
} "Or maybe it's because you're aiming squarely and he's round,"
} said Frank. "Never mind. Throw one of those giants cubes at
} Joe did so, but the object passed through Chet Morton as
} though not even real. "It's not even real," the guy they
} called Stringbean and Einstein behind his back and sometimes
} to his face said gloatingly.
} Joe looked around desperately. In desperation, he noticed
} a three-layer chocolate cake on a serving plate. With no
} other options, he hurled the cake desperately at their
} The desperate heave struck the medically obese ex-chum
} directly in the face, knocking him off of Frank. The
} selfish tub of lard then greedily began eating the pieces
} of cake that lay about him.
} "That really was a cake," he gloated. "No lie."
} "I was afraid it might be just a trendy rock band from
} Sacramento," said Joe.
} "Stop gloating," Frank said, "we've beaten you, Chet."
} "I'm not Chet. I'm CHeT," said Chet, no longer gloating.
} "That's what Frank said," Joe said.
} "Do you always have to interrupt?" Frank complained. "I
} can speak for myself. It's not like it's super tedious if
} I get to speak twice in a row, once in a blue moon. But
} yeah, you're name is Chet, that's what I said."
} "That's what *I* said," Joe grumbled sotto voce.
} "No. CHeT stands for Continuous Heterodyne Test, or some
} technical sounding name, they never quite told me. I'm
} a computer. Oops, robot, a robot from Mars - this is,
} what, 1927? And now you've defeated me, and all of
} Aperture Science. We did what we must because we could.
} For the good of all of us. Except the ones who are dead.
} Which now includes us. Oh well, no use crying over every
} mistake, you just keep trying, 'til you run out of...."
} And with that, ChEt or cheT or whatever, turned himself
} "Didn't catch that last word, what was it? Sake? That's
} just Japanese rice wine. Must have been 'steak'. Anyway,
} kind of catchy; someone should put that to music too,"
} Joe commented with a grin.
} "Huh, I always figured it would be a pie that would be his
} undoing. Not a cake," Frank observed with a grin, thinking
} about how Callie Shaw would run her fingers through his
} dark hair; she was much hotter than Iola, who shared some
} of Chet's genetics after all, though he had to admit
} that Callie came out second best to Iola in the chestal
} "Pretty pusillanimous of him. Guess we should have seen
} this one coming from a mile away, considering how, in our
} adventure last time, Aunt GeRTRude turned out to be 'Genetic
} Real Time something or other,' a robot from the Moon," young
} and blond-haired Joe Hardly said with a grin, thinking about
} his next makout session with Iola.
} "Well, that'll be nothing, compared to our next adventure,
} 'The Case Of The Chums Who Get Locked In The Basement And
} Come Out Of The Closet,'" decrepit and dark-haired Frank
} Hardly said with a grin, thinking of his brother's imminent
} dismay when he found out first-hand that one of Iola's
} nipples was inverted.
} "The Aperture Science Enrichment Center is committed to the
} well-being of all participants. Cake (no Lie!) and Grief
} Counseling will be available at the conclusion of the test.
} Thank you for helping us help you help us robots," Defective
} Fenton Hardly said to his sons with a grin, thinking about
} the sizable deposit he had just left at the bank.
} "Nooooooo!!!!" Frank and Joe Hardly screamed with a grin.
} Chapter 5
} The end.
} You owe the Oracle the recipe for chocolate coconut pecan
} peanut butter malted milk alpha resin ethyl benzene 'how
} to kill someone with your bare hands' rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb
} rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb sediment flavored fish shaped cake.