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by Apache

No Sexual Situations
No Violence

It was two in the afternoon and the Institute seemed to be on siesta when the phone rang.

"This is Cary Schreiber at East Brunswick General. We have an urgent case -- is Dr. Banzai there?"

"One second," Miss Johnson said. Putting the anxious Chief of Surgery on hold, she rocked forward from her reclining position, put down her wake-up cup of coffee and buzzed the Cavaliers' common room all in one practiced motion. "Buckaroo?" "Not here-- try the stables."

Instead, Miss Johnson switched to the Institute's private communications system, punching in signals for Buckaroo, Rawhide, and the garage, meanwhile informing Dr. Schreiber it would be an extra moment.

The garage got through first. "Buckaroo'll probably need a car in a few minutes," she informed Sam. "I'll tell ya where." Buckaroo, who lately had tended to be forgetful in the matter of Go-Phones, predictably didn't buzz right back, but just as predictably, Rawhide did.

"East Brunswick needs a neurosurgeon on the phone," Miss Johnson said. "Right," said Rawhide. Rawhide tended to know, somehow, more or less where the Boss was at any given moment-- Pecos called it his mother-hen radar.

Sure enough, within three minutes Rawhide had tracked Buckaroo to the shady lakeside spot he'd chosen for an hour of quiet reading. Miss Johnson patched the hospital through on Rawhide's Go-Phone and sent the car to fetch Buckaroo. Rawhide decided to ride Buckaroo's Appy in from the lake and then follow him to the hospital.

"Sam-- we need someone to drive Rawhide to East Brunswick." Her last call completed, Miss Johnson picked up her coffee, not very much cooler, and rocked back to her previous nearly-supine position-- only to spill the coffee all over herself seconds later when, unheralded, the Institute's pair of air aces walked in, accompanied by a very Aussie cry of "G'day, love!"

"Wow!" Miss Johnson bounded to her feet, getting a big hug from young Rocketsox and a big hug and a serious kiss from Flyboy, who happened to be scheduled to marry her that evening. "I thought you'd still be airborne."

"We came over the Pole," grinned Rocketsox, exuberant as a puppy. Flyboy, whose hair showed scattered grays, shot him a quelling look.

"Refueling where?" Miss Johnson demanded. She pulled back a few inches in her fiance's arms. "You don't have that kind of range."

"Aw, we put a booster tank in the trunk," said Rocketsox uneasily.


"I love a woman with an elegant turn of speech," Flyboy declared. "Come along, my sweet, let's go dress in white." The sudden thickening of his New South Wales accent was a dead giveaway.

"You must have me confused with someone else," Miss Johnson stood her ground. "Someone dumb. I'm the one who's young, but not stupid."

Flyboy, whose fighter jock skills had been honed in three wars fought before his bride was born (and two since), sucked the breath in through his teeth. "You might say we coasted on the downhill parts," he explained.

Understanding dawned in Miss Johnson's eyes. "You came in empty," she said flatly.

"Needle on the big E," crowed Rocketsox, who couldn't see the look on her face. "They told us we're the biggest glider ever to land at LaGuardia."

"No foam," Miss Johnson continued.

Flyboy touched his fingers to her cheek very gently. "Bubblebath," he said. "Besides, they would've billed Buckaroo for it. How could we explain that?"

Miss Johnson stood rigid for an instant, then shook her head and unleashed a right that wouldn't have knocked over a dandelion. The veteran pilot held the fist to his chest for a moment, then bent his head to kiss it.

"God, I'd love to meet you at 30,000 feet," he told her.

Rocketsox snorted. "Smokin' hole in the ground is all you'd be," he pronounced in Kentucky hill-country tones. He brushed his long brown hair off his forehead and gave his scalp a good scratching. "She's got you crashed and burned right here."

The affianced couple laughed at him.

"I'm on for another four," said Miss Johnson. "See ya after that." She kissed Flyboy again, and settled back into her chair as the two aviators moved for the bunkhouse stairs. "Hey Rocketsox, be sure you take a shower," she shouted after them. "I want you smellin' like a rose at nine o'clock."

"Isn't that after your bedtime?" the flier shouted back. Laughter echoed out of the stairwell.

"No, just close to it," Miss Johnson murmured. Only sixteen, she had already been living at the Institute for eight years, having slipped over the fence one night and been found asleep on the grounds by Rawhide in the pre-dawn hours.

"Who might you be, miss?" the cowboy had asked the sleepy child.

"Miss-- Johnson," she had said. And then refused to say anything further for several weeks, while Buckaroo Banzai and the New Jersey police, and ultimately the FBI and Interpol, had attempted to trace her. No missing child in the world proved to meet her description; the Institute had custody of a very young enigma.

In the end, it was Peggy who'd gotten her to talk, Peggy who had realized what the child needed to hear before she'd risk another word. She'd been sitting by herself, rocking, in the room they'd given her, staring out the window at the cool pleasant view of maples and pines, a row of willows fringing the lake in the distance. Peggy knocked and came in and started talking without even waiting for the tense, thin little girl to look at her.

"You can stay here," Peggy said. "You can stay here forever."

And that was the key-- eyes closed, Miss Johnson remembered how the thin child had whipped around and shouted with every ounce of strength in her body: "I want to!"


How did I know? she wondered. What instinct led me here? She had lived with the stray cats in the subway for as long as she could remember. She'd learned to read almost by accident-- from the train schedules and the billboards, later picking up commuters' abandoned newspapers. Not long ago, she'd found it again in the archives, a reference in the Post to "the Banzai Institute, New Brunswick's newly-fledged asylum for stray geniuses. At this unorthodox think tank, no one has a past, no one even has a name that pre-dates his arrival...." Eight years old, she'd stowed away in the luggage compartment of a bus from the Port Authority to Newark. From Newark, she'd walked...

The Institute had been so small in those days. For the first year, Buckaroo, Peggy, Rawhide and Sluggo had been her teachers-- and even Professor Hikita, apprised of the peculiar results of her IQ test, had permitted occasional visits to his laboratory.

And then it had seemed there were new people every week, and steadily increasing funds as some of the early patents became money-makers: Buckaroo's nuclear magnetic resonator, Zoo Story's oil-eating microbes, as well as the suspension system, rejected by Sam and the Jet Car team in disgust, which had been joyfully greeted by racing crews from Indianapolis to Sears Point.

She had grown with the Institute, becoming its receptionist when, age 9, she picked up a ringing phone and answered in perfect train-announcer's diction, "Banzai Institute, can I help you?" Pleased and touched by her earnestness, Buckaroo made her the Official Receptionist and Putter-in-Touch on the spot. It proved to be a job that expanded its administrative scope every year, especially once Rawhide began delegating financial and musical duties to her.

And all through the years, when it became just a smidgen too much, when the little girl from the subway tunnels had felt a sudden impulse to run for the safety of darkness, there was Peggy, the person she loved best in the world.

It was Peggy who explained to her the mysteries of her own adolescent physiology, Peggy who shared the painful secret of her violent crush on a Cavalier, Peggy who had talked to her with absolute candor about what it meant to be in love with a man, particularly when that man was Buckaroo Banzai.

It had been too late to thank her when Miss Johnson learned that it was also Peggy, barely of legal age herself, who'd signed the guardianship agreement that made it possible for a very young enigma to stay where she belonged.


Miss Johnson opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling without seeing it, then smiled a little as a half-suppressed memory surfaced. She'd come upon Buckaroo and Peggy one afternoon shortly after they'd fixed a definite date, addressing them with a long-suffering air:

"Gee, Mom and Dad, it's about time you made it legal. It's been kinda hard to explain to the kids at school."

Last year, the much-awaited marriage of Peggy Simpson and Buckaroo Banzai had seemed to all of them to be the perfect garland on the Institute's success. The union celebrated every-thing the Institute stood for, its splendid achievements not only as a place of scholarship but as a family home.

And all of it turned to ashes in a single minute of apparent murder, followed by months of painful mystery. Buckaroo and Reno had even penetrated Sabah, stronghold of the venomous Xan, but to no avail...

And when they came home, they'd brought two new recruits along.

Flyboy and Rocketsox had joined up only weeks after Peggy died. Buckaroo and Reno had left for Asia immediately after the abortive exhumation of Peggy's empty casket. The two fliers, one a grizzled veteran, the other his extraordinarily gifted protege, met Buckaroo and Reno in a Rangoon bar. After hearing even a somewhat truncated story of Buckaroo's quest, they volunteered to help. In craft of their own, held together almost literally with the proverbial spit and chicken wire, they flew surveillance night after night, their planes' bellies all but scraping the jungle foliage. And they had managed the daring pickup of the Institute's heroes from atop Xan's very fortress, taking their homebuilt VTOL craft supersonic scant milliseconds ahead of Xan's surface-to-air missiles.

That remarkable jerrybuilt jet had been their ticket to residency, together with Rocketsox's pleasant baritone and Flyboy's startling proficiency with the blues harp.

The pair came through the door of the Institute's main house with Buckaroo and Reno as they returned from the jungle, and started automatically to follow them up the stairs to the bunkhouse. Miss Johnson, in the middle of greeting her comrades, had jumped to cut them off, only to be told, "It's OK. They stay."

"There, you see, little girl, we're all right. So retract your vicious clipboard and repeat after me, Pass, friend." The one Buckaroo called Flyboy had brilliant blue eyes with strong lines around them that told of many years of squinting into the dazzling light of high-altitude skies. A sardonic smile flashed in his deeply tanned face. The voice was pure Outback.

"Pass, friend," Miss Johnson intoned obediently, with a blisteringly accurate imitation of his accent. "Does Flyboy mean jets or trout?"

The man's young partner burst into laughter and clapped him on the shoulder. "Come on, Rocketsox, don't hold up the show."

The Australian shot one last glance at Miss Johnson, whose blighting hauteur was already succumbing to her innate friendliness, then turned to follow his friend. "No, no, you're Rocketsox, I'm Flyboy."

Reaching the inner door, he asked, "Hey Reno, is that Munchkin down there one of your residents, too?" But it was Buckaroo, his face set in a mask of grief and exhaustion, who answered.

"Oh no," he said softly, "she's not a resident. She's a native."


Word of the team's lack of success had already circulated. The Institute, grief-stricken but hopeful for the past ten weeks, now settled into a kind of prolonged mourning. It would have been inaccurate to characterize the Institute as gloomy, for cheerful perseverance under all conditions was a fundament of its philosophy, but it was true that the living exemplars of that philosophy were, these days, somewhat altered at best.

Peggy, the brightest light of all, the woman whose mere presence in a room made everyone there feel more vital, as if suddenly privy to a joyous secret -- Peggy was gone. Buckaroo had little of his previous springy character, and plunged deep into arcane texts as he sought to make his life go on, substituting sheer discipline for pleasure in his work.

Those were the months when the Hong Kong Cavaliers never picked up their instruments. Reno, Pecos, and Perfect Tommy were most often seen together, lunching silently, communicating in short, enervated sentences as they collaborated to engineer a respiratory system for a tiny submarine suggested by Pecos' friend Jacques Cousteau, one that would draw oxygen directly from the seawater at great depths, and utilize the pressure dif-ferential for motive power. Rawhide's quiet, massive presence served as the stabilizing influence it had always been, assuring the continuity of the Institute's routine -- but he too seemed essentially distracted and, while no one dared to voice it to him, it was widely believed that he was worried for Buckaroo's sanity.

And the other Cavaliers and long-term residents, whose scholarly yet serendipitous approach to life provided so much of the Institute's character, were also seen to draw protectively close around Buckaroo and each other. Altogether, in the bleak winter of '81-'82, the Institute seemed to have lost its bounce.


And in the middle of that, Miss Johnson and Flyboy had fallen deeply in love.

It happened fast. By way of apology for his initial snub, Flyboy invited Miss Johnson for a spin in his jet. At first he pulled the standard fighter jock stunts, hoping to part her from her skeptical self-possession with a dazzling series of inverted loops, zero-gee reverses and power dives. He began to actually like her when over the comlink he heard his youthful passenger respond to these acrobatics with an enthusiastic cry of "Rock 'n roll!"

After that, he whimsically leveled out, dodging in and out of clouds, joyriding, following the contours of a billowing cumulus formation he found over the Atlantic, flying for the sheer fun of it.

As they played in this airy landscape, Miss Johnson felt the numb shell she had lived in for months falling away, as if sluiced off by the brilliant light that flooded the cockpit. Sunshine, the color of Peggy's hair... She experienced a sensation of perfect happiness, followed instantly by the most profound grief.

Frightened that the erratic sobbing he heard from the front seat was symptomatic of oxygen deprivation, Flyboy had landed immediately, only to find the brash young woman he took into the skies transformed into a grief-stricken girl who needed desperately just to be held. Holding her, then and in the days that followed, the veteran pilot whose only previous permanent address had been somewhere in the stratosphere decided that in coming to the Institute, he truly had come home at last.


This flowering love was no secret; indeed, the wintered-in Institute needed this item of felicitous news as much as any bit of gossip that had ever circulated through its grounds. It seemed truly to presage a spring that would come after all, even to the heartsore members of Team Banzai.

The first crocuses were barely pushing their green hooks through the ground when Flyboy paid a purposeful visit to Rawhide.

"I need to ask you about a bit of Institute-- er, protocol, or procedure, or whatever," he began, uncharacteristically stiff.

Rawhide, running tests for the purity of his protein extracts from drosophila melanogaster in search of the perfect livestock feed, eyed Flyboy momentarily and turned back to his readouts. "Miss Johnson handles it," he answered. "Thought you knew that."

Flyboy went straight to the point. "It concerns her," he said bluntly.

Rawhide nodded, apparently unsurprised. "Then you want to talk to her guardian," he said, then brought himself up short with a memory. "That was Peggy."

The Texan let the printout run through his hands unheeded for a long second. "Guess you'd better talk to Buckaroo," he offered. He shut his comp down. "I'll come along."

The two men found Buckaroo hunched over a collection of papers on brain stem trauma in a corner of his study. Rawhide spoke first. "Uh, Buckaroo, we got a little matter that needs your attention."

Buckaroo looked up, impassive. Once again, Flyboy spoke directly.

"I want to marry Miss Johnson," he said, the Outback accent becoming strong in his speech. "But she's a minor -- and I don't know if -- well, if you let people marry each other around here."

Buckaroo frowned slightly. "I don't let anyone do anything," he said gently. "No one here is either master or servant. The question is whether Miss Johnson wants to marry you."

Flyboy exhaled. "I haven't asked," he admitted. "I do expect the answer is yes-- but it raises the other question: she's little more than a child, she must have a guardian somewhere whose permission I need." He paused. "Rawhide here says the guardian was, em, your wife."

Rawhide's eyes held Buckaroo's for several seconds; he'd guessed correctly that this was yet another consequence of Peggy's fate that hadn't occurred to his friend.

Buckaroo looked back to Flyboy, seeming a little more tired. "Then you need my consent, as Peggy's heir," he said levelly. "You have it. But don't mistake Miss Johnson for a child-- her years are few, but she ceased to be a child long before she came here."

"Thanks." Flyboy couldn't wait to leave. Buckaroo's old friends might be able to ride out the redoubtable physicist's diminished condition of the past few months, but the constantly active pilot missed the intrepid warrior and tactician he'd met over a shot of Jack Daniels in Rangoon. This Buckaroo, as close as he could be to clinically depressed, made Flyboy very jumpy.

The same nervousness prompted him to joke to Rawhide, as they left the study, "I dunno, what d'you think, then-- you think he'll be the sort of father-in-law that turns up on the doorstep now and then to cadge a few quid?"

The comic accent rang hollowly in the hall. Rawhide favored him with a glance from under lowered brows, then moved away toward his lab. Superficially, that glance was no more than unamused, but somehow one felt considerable menace in reserve. There's probably nobody, certainly including me, whose guts he wouldn't cut out for Buckaroo, Flyboy reflected. He thought of his first wingman, of the way they'd thrown their Spitfires into the low skies over Surrey and Sussex and the City of London itself-- and he thought of how he'd felt when he saw his wingman's plane vanish into the Channel water with hardly even a splash. Poor Rawhide, in some ways-- Buckaroo was alive. Flyboy moved off in the opposite direction.


Buckaroo and Rawhide returned from East Brunswick General at five o'clock. Parking the Saab, they ran into Reno and Rocketsox in the garage concocting streamers and sundry attachments for Flyboy's ragtop, which was to be used in the newlyweds' departure on a honeymoon the next day. They walked back to the house in a group.

Reno broke the silence as they went in the main door. "How're things at the allegemeines krankenhaus?" he asked.

Miss Johnson looked up from the desk with a smile, as Buckaroo began his answer. "Couldn't do much today; there's a bilateral subdural hematoma that's only partly fluid. We drilled burr holes to relieve the pressure-- today he just needed to be stabilized." Rawhide handed Miss Johnson a parking stub and a gas station receipt, which went straight into the proper drawer.

"Interesting case," Buckaroo continued. "A boy from the Correctional Institute. Apparently one of the other boys gave him a radio with a bomb built in. The one held the radio up to his ear and it exploded."

"A real boom box," cracked Rocketsox.

Buckaroo darted a glance at Rocketsox that said eloquently what he thought of the tasteless joke. Rocketsox subsided. Rawhide stepped into the silence.

"Kid's hair was a real interestin' color," he remarked. "The most vivid shade of--"

"Red," Buckaroo said tiredly. "Bright, wet, red." He walked away.

"shade of blond," Rawhide finished. His eyes followed Buckaroo.

"What's eating him?" marvelled Rocketsox. Buckaroo Banzai habitually discouraged negativism or defeatist thinking in any form. Even Reno, though he said nothing, was clearly taken aback by this unprecedented utterance.

Rawhide, meeting Reno's eyes, slid his gaze to Miss Johnson's desk and then looked back at his friend and comrade-in-arms.

Understanding, followed rapidly by a look of concern, appeared on Reno's face. "As bad as that," he muttered. The Institute had not known a formal festivity since the bitter events of the previous fall, and some of its residents had secretly feared that the celebration of a marriage there might slow or even reverse their founder's gradual restoration to normal spirits. This, however, had been the first sign of it.

Even Rocketsox had deduced the truth. Whirling with sudden violence, he shouted at Rawhide, "It would take me and Flyboy no more'n six hours to mount an airstrike that would blow Sabah right off the planet. Why don't we do that -- why?"

Rawhide took the question at face value, but his answer was directed at Rocketsox's unspoken sympathy as well. "Because there are innocent people in there," he said quietly. "You know that."

"Including maybe Peggy," said Reno reluctantly.

Rawhide drew a deep breath. His normal drawl grew even slower. "Yeah. Maybe." He headed upstairs.

As Rocketsox and Reno also headed for the inner door, Miss Johnson, who'd sat quieter than a churchmouse throughout this exchange, jumped up. Catching Reno's arm on a seeming impulse, she asked, "Mon vieux, mind the store awhile, OK?" and, without waiting for an answer, herself bounded up the bunkhouse stairs.


Buckaroo was in his room. Rawhide was with him when Miss Johnson arrived but left almost immediately, dropping a hand on her shoulder in wordless reassurance as he departed.

Miss Johnson watched him go. "What a swell person he is," she commented as if discovering it afresh.

An automatic smile, indicating abundant agreement, came and went on Buckaroo's face, but when he spoke it was of Flyboy. "Your fiance asked Reno the other day if I was playing with a full deck," he told her with a vestige of his old humor.

"No!" Miss Johnson was torn between outrage and amusement.

"Yes. I asked him to think about designing a jet that would fly on the ground," Buckaroo said. "He didn't seem to think much of the notion."

The Jet Car, Buckaroo's inherited obsession-- and with it, the mythical Oscillation Overthruster that had kept the Professor immured in his lab these forty-odd years. Miss Johnson smiled. So Flyboy was going to be caught in that project's toils?--Good.

"He will," she told Buckaroo. "Let him think about it a week or two, and then he'll get out a sheet of paper, and then another one, and then another one... you know."

Buckaroo nodded. That was how the Institute, his great brainchild, had been intended to work from the first. His thoughts shifted to Miss Johnson and he focused on her intently.

This scrutiny provoked an unaccustomed reticence in his youthful friend. "Uh, you know, about today..."

Buckaroo nodded.

"...we could put it off..."

"No." Buckaroo's response came so quickly it was almost harsh. "Of course not."

Miss Johnson let her breath out. "I knew you'd say that," she confessed. "Why I really came is... I need something. You know, something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue?"

Buckaroo's brows drew together. "You changed your mind?" He had offered her Peggy's wedding dress, in which, only a few months before, she had masqueraded as Peggy to unmask the traitorous Captain Happen, and she had been firm in declining that offer.

Miss Johnson's eyes widened in alarm. "Oh, unh-uh, it isn't that." No way she was climbing into that particular brocade again.

Swallowing, abruptly shy, she continued, "It's not the something borrowed, it's the something new... and I wanted to get it from you..."


A scant four hours later, the whole Institute had gathered in the big dining room to see Flyboy marry Miss Johnson. A murmur went through the crowd when Rocketsox had turned to the bride and said, "Do you, Evelyn Johnson, take this man..."

Flyboy's past military fame meant occasional recognition, and his real name was well known. But in eight years, Miss Johnson had never even hinted at her first name, nor indeed acknowledged to anyone that she had one. Nevertheless, her voice took up the response steadily, "I, Evelyn Johnson, take you..."

Rocketsox's tone suddenly grew flip. "That being the case, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the State of New Jersey, and by virtue of the currency invested by me in the Universal Life Church, I now pronounce you man and wife. You--" he waggled a finger at his friend and mentor, "may now kiss the bride, and the devil take the hindmost."


And much later, when everyone was considerably less sober, Buckaroo rose to address the assembled, and somewhat dishevelled, multitude. He seemed almost his old, vital self as he raised a glass to propose a toast.

"We are gathered tonight to observe a solemn occasion in the life of the Institute and the lives of our two dear friends-- I mean, of course, Flyboy and Rocketsox, who have managed to keep their feet on the ground for nearly eleven continuous hours. Credit for this unprecedented achievement goes to Miss Johnson, whose--"

"That's missus, mate," Flyboy called up to him.

A playful grin, rare in these latter days as a desert rose, and as lovely to those who beheld it, spread across Buckaroo Banzai's face.

"Mrs. Johnson," he corrected. Looking down at the groom, he added puckishly, "You couldn't really expect 'Mrs. Flyboy,' could you?" Rawhide shot a curious look at his lifelong friend, and, strangely satisfied by what he saw, ventured a smile of his own.

"I give you Mrs. Evelyn Johnson," Buckaroo said. "Her health, her happiness, and the continued nimbleness of her fingers on the keypads of our Go-Phones." This toast was met by numerous cries of "Hear, hear!" accompanied by copious, if wholly unnecessary, drinking.

His toast completed, Buckaroo settled back into a chair next to the newlyweds, the grin lingering on his face. He tapped Mrs. Johnson's wrist, and when she turned to him, said with a quiet chuckle, "Your Mom would've been proud."

~ 30 ~

~ Return to "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai" ~

~ Return to Apache's Archive ~



Fanfiction Library ~
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Photo Albums

Trekkers Over
and Around 40

Floridaze ~
Buffett, Key West,
& Things Parrothead
The Key West
Foreign Legion
Half Aft
Bar Stage
Warren Zevon Other Ports