On Monday as asked, Howard was on Pacific Avenue in Alhambra that morning looking for William's lab. It was the business part of town; the area was full of banks, offices, hotels and fine restaurants on the ground floors of large office buildings. The corner across from where the bus dropped him off had a McDonalds, and a few buildings down a Subway Sandwich shop. Counting the numbers on the buildings, he appeared lost and discomfited. Where was this place? This address made no sense at all.
"Oh, come on!" He stood between a hotel and an expensive fine cuisine restaurant on the sidewalk with businessmen carrying suitcases, middle-aged socialites walking their dogs and talking on cell phones and young yuppies talking to invisible people through their ear devices. He was in a strange land with people he didn't know or trust. "Twelve-fourteen and three-quarters Pacific Avenue doesn't exist!" He suddenly had a strange revelation. "Oh my lord, I think I have a job at Hogwarts!"
"Howard…" William came from across the street carrying bags of food from McDonalds. "You made it!"
"William…" Howard chuckled abashedly. "I'm sorry, but I can't understand your address. It's…"
"It's down here…" William chuckled and guided him toward the old Subway stairs going down under the street next to the restaurant. He handed the food to Howard to hold and pulled out a ring of keys to unlock a gate which he rolled up and then the door behind it. "This is part of the former underground Los Angeles transit system closed down in the Fifties." Standing on the inner platform, he pulled the gate down behind them and reclosed the doors. Next to them, old tiled stairs leading down to an old station complex descended through darkness to the forgotten chamber before. Following William, Howard came down into an old forgotten room from another area. Left forgotten by the ages, the room looked like New York's Grand Central Station. There were side corridors to the subway tunnels underneath, old ticket windows, closed off shops and restaurants used as makeshift apartments and a network grid of glowing lights and motion detectors throughout the domed roof and an extended cage coming down over their work area. William's friends in this experiment were off to the side near their interconnected computers, laptops, VCRs, digital recorders, DVD players, large computer banks and TV screens and monitors. In the center of the room, a woman in a long white dress stood near an R2-unit and recited the same phrase over and over.
"Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you are my only hope…" She jumped and phased out. "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you are my only hope…" It faded out again to loop once more. "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you are my only hope…" It was the signature scene from the 1976 movie "Star Wars" rendered in three-dimensional holographic illusions at life-size. Howard's jaw dropped to watch as William and his team's computers scanned the face and body of actress Carrie Fisher from the period to render her holographic counterpart. It also scanned and rendered the droid R2-D2 from photos and sections of the film. Howard felt he was looking at the real thing as he walked around it. William's team was still fine-tuning and adjusting the image as Leia faded, lost contrast, grew taller or fatter and then increased in tendency to almost flesh and blood.
"Oh - my - god…" He was completely shocked and stunned. He turned to William. "Three-dimensional imaging?"
"Remember the holodeck from Star Trek?" William and his friends grinned. "Watch this!" He gave his friends their breakfast and then turned off their Princess Leia simulation. Pulling up another program, several pictures of Marilyn Monroe appeared on the monitors followed by a three-dimensional version of the woman herself in the room wearing a three-piece white ladies business suit.
"Hello, Howard, welcome to the Pit." She spoke and recognized him. "Please respond for vocal pattern identification."
"Oh my god!" Howard's mind and heart was racing. "Interactive?! This is incredible! Do you guys realize what you have here?!" He paused zealously. "Hello, Marilyn, nice to finally meet you."
The computers processed his voice, pitch and vocal pattern into a code she could recognize.
"Voice identification received." Marilyn blinked softly and grinned very lifelike to Howard. "Hello, Howard, nice to meet you too. May I introduce my father, William Nathaniel Samms, the creator of this project…"
William turned toward his break table to eat his breakfast. He grinned to Marilyn and then to Howard.
"Schuster Leopold Collins, my head programmer…" Marilyn gestured to the tall thin guy eating the Egg McMuffin and drinking orange juice. Nicknamed "Schoost," Collins reached across to shake Howard's hand.
"…and Ratri Narayana Ramapan, my designer." She moved over to an attractive Hindu beauty with a round face and big brown eyes with short dark hair. The gifted tomboy saluted Howard with her breakfast hamburger burrito. "I bid you welcome to our team."
Howard was grinning so hard that he couldn't stop.
"She was developed over only one year's worth of work." William mentioned as he pushed his glasses up. "Scanning images, creating personality matrixes, inventing revolutionary new-style projectors and completely redeveloping existing three-dimensional software."
"We're trying to complete a program that can complete and cover almost one thousand, one hundred and eighty-three commands so we can completely generate the movie and all its characters, locations and situations." Speaking with a mild British accent, Schoost rose and adjusted something on his computer. "Once we can do that, we should be able to completely simulate any movie or television series…"
"And create our own…" Ratri elegantly spoke with a soft accent of her own. "Sort of a complete holographic motion picture industry in a computer." Howard looked to Marilyn looking back at him and then back toward William, Schoost and Ratri. Their three faces together reminded him of someone else he thought he knew, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it just yet. In the back of his mind, he wondered if they could conjure Angelina Jolie or Katee Sackhoff.
"I'm home!" He cheered excitedly.
Back on North Los Robles, Leonard, Sheldon and Raj were on their own time without Howard after working at the university. It had been a month since the Vannacutts had moved in, and the incident was now replaying itself with a long gray Rolls Royce limousine with a black top parked out front of the building in place of the van. Jesse's brother-in-law, Harold, was happily polishing and waxing the hood to keep it looking nice, chuckling and singing under his breath as he did it. Little Nikki and Samantha were standing in the open sunroof, but as Leonard and Sheldon got closer, they jumped down into it and hid down inside of it.
"Jesse…" Grandpa came strolling down the stairs of the building carrying a long wooden object sideways, got stopped by the width of the door then reposed and came out to the limo. "Don't worry about the stuff. We'll come back after dark and get everything." He had a white face, small eyes and dark hair tinged with brows of white and silver and wore a long black and red-lined funeral cape that made him look like a Late-Sixties sitcom version of Count Dracula. He leaned close to Jesse in hushed secret tones. "Let them try and hear the elevator then…"
Jesse approved with a secret gracious hand gesture.
"Preferably after midnight…" Bald-headed Chester with the long dark attire and crazy dark eyes spoke with his low strained sepulchral voice and chuckled silently before turning to his nephew Freddie in the full beard and wild hair.
"And under the full moon…" He faked a wolf call and shared a secret passion with all things dark and scary with his favorite uncle. Extremely fond and close with his family and relatives, Jesse grinned ear-to-ear while posturing with his cigar a little bit and handed his personal briefcase to Harold to put in the trunk. Looking over Harold's flat head, he noticed Leonard, Sheldon and Raj standing outside the building.
"Jesse, what's going on…"
"The house is out of probate, my boy!" The proud eccentric and former lawyer poked Cuban cigars into Leonard's mouth, Sheldon's mouth and Raj's. "We're moving in!" Not to be insulting, Leonard took his out and put it in his shirt pocket, but Sheldon made a face and gave his to Raj who eagerly accepted a light from Jesse's silver lighter and smoked his. Suddenly coughing, Jesse was there to pat Raj on the back to help him.
"You're moving on?" Leonard was kind of going to miss him as a character.
"Most certainly…" Jesse sighed and rolled his eyes thinking of the Gothic three-story with its twenty-four bedrooms, ballroom, grand dining room, basement catacombs, greenhouse and large grounds. "Leonard, you've got to come on out sometime and see the place up close." He placed his arm around Leonard and gestured to describe his new home. "The cobwebs, the dust, the shadows, the moonlight coming over the roof and the soft mist of the marsh and creek coming over the small cemetery there…" He paused as the image choked him up. "It's just so beautiful…"
"Oh, good lord…" Sheldon rolled his eyes. "Just go already…"
"Sheldon…" Leonard reminded him of the bet.
"Did I just feel a raindrop?" Jesse held a hand out.
"I didn't feel…" Sheldon put his hand out to feel for rain, and Jesse tapped the ashes of his cigar into it. Looking at the ashes disgustedly, he looked at Leonard wanting to talk but didn't. Raj was grinning close to laughing.
"I love the way he keeps putting you in your face." Raj enjoyed his cigar, coughed a bit then continued smiling. In the building, Penny was in her waitress uniform and heading to work with Lizzie coming down by her side. Dressed in a long black dress showing her curves and her cleavage, the exotic authoress and culinary mistress was sharing a few of her recipes with the young actress.
"These two are for you, this one is for your restaurant…" The two had bonded on a small level. "And this is the address and directions for the house. You can come by anytime. We can always dig up a place for you to sleep."
"Thank you…" Penny grinned and hugged her back. "I think." She watched as Lizzie walked a very slinky walk out the front of the building to the family limo parked at the curb and peeked inside. Her daughters were uncharacteristically sitting still in the back seats with very guilty looks.
"What sort of mischief are you two getting into?" She looked to the floorboard and saw her husband's overcoat draped over an object hidden from view. Nikki and Samantha rolled their eyes innocently.
"What have I told you? Not until tonight!" She pulled out a three-foot long Chinese firework as thick as her arm emblazoned with the name, "Destroyer" in neon letters.
"Those little devils…" Jesse grinned at them and then toward his wife. They shared a secret grin between them, and he took her hand daintily as she stepped into the back of the limo, but he held on to it a second more to stroke it his fingers then lift it to his lips to kiss it and treat her like a queen.
"Pas mantenant, mon amour…" Her voice echoed back as she coquettishly took her hand back.
"Lizzie…" Jesse eyed his sexy wife with a wild look in his eyes, and a smile poking out from under his mustache. "You know how French drives my German blood wild." He took her gently by his hand, drew her white hand close to him as she surrendered to him once more and regally kissed her hand then her ruby red lips.
"Leonard, I'm sorry, but I cannot stand here and stand silently by watching this." Sheldon broke the bounds of the bet he had lost by launching into another tirade. "But these people are not normal. We have to call someone. The police, the FBI, Homeland Security… these people should not be allowed to run around loose to propagate more of their kind. We need to find out what mental hospital they escaped from before they completely vanish into society."
Jesse and Lizzie looked up barely offended, but her brother-in-law, Harold, turned around looking at Sheldon. Grandpa and Freddie stopped and stared at him. Chester paused and lowered his baldhead in offense and looked more like a ghoul that should have been haunting the local cemetery. Embarrassed and humiliated, Leonard and Penny reacted in unison as they placed their fingers to the brows of their faces as if they both suddenly had splitting headaches. Still smoking his free cigar, Raj turned around and tried to hide in the building lobby.
"Sheldon…" Leonard and Penny chorused together in exasperated humiliation as Sheldon once again embarrassed them by being the most undiplomatic person on the planet.
"Oh, please…" Sheldon spoke his mind. "There was no way I was going to be stand by silent for an entire week!" He looked back to Jesse and Lizzie. "Look, I have an I.Q. of 187…"
"Interesting…." Lizzie grinned knowingly and looked to her husband. "Jesse has an I.Q. of 189."
Finally drawing silent once more, Sheldon rolled his eyes and postured humiliated.
"Lizzie, you embarrass me so…" Jesse took his wife's hand and kissed it graciously. She beamed back to him bursting with their smoldering love and passionate link with each other. "Leonard…" Jesse turned to Leonard to thank him for his kindness and diplomacy. "I'm so going to miss your friendship. My sister especially… she loved living inside the city."
"Oh… I never did meet your sister." Leonard replied.
"Actually, old friend…" Jesse played with his cigar. "You and Penny actually helped her find a make-over that she really liked."
"What do you mean by that?" Penny asked.
"Poker Face… Can't read my… Can't read my…" They heard her voice coming down the stairs inside the building and coming out carrying her suitcase and make-up case. "Poker face…" Dancing and strutting her way down and looking as if she was Penny's hotter more promiscuous twin sister, she was blonde, shapely, statuesque and endowed with long blonde hair down her back. Dressed in a violet top and black miniskirt, she grinned toward Leonard, grinded her hip toward Raj standing silently once more to tease him then hugged Penny standing in shock. Grinning blissfully happy toward Penny, Marilyn turned again slowly to Leonard.
"Call me?" She gasped erotically in his ear to flirt with him with her hand shaped like a phone held up to her ear. Trying to sneak away with clothes stolen from Penny's closet, she turned away with a wiggle to her walk and slipped into the limo. Penny dropped her jaw in offended shock and slightly moved forward to beat up the twin sister she never wanted, but Leonard held her back. Stunned into disbelief, Sheldon watched distantly concerned with his arms crossed before him as Marilyn gave Harold her suitcase to put on the roof of the limo with the luggage then slipped into the back past Lizzie. Following Marilyn out to the limo, Raj peeked to the car and looked to Marilyn grinning and flirtingly dancing her fingers toward him to wave goodbye.
"I think I liked her more as Katy Perry." Lizzie commented.
"Yes, but Britney made her a little crazy." Jesse answered with a light chuckle, puffed on his cigar a bit and slipped into the limo behind his wife and sister. Having secured Marilyn's suitcase, Harold closed the door to the back and opened the car to get in behind the wheel.
"Leonard…" Jesse popped up again through the window in the roof and reached to shake Leonard's hand. "If you need anything, want anything, don't hesitate to call… I will be there!" He knocked at the roof. "Home, Harold!"
His brother-in-law with the square head mugged a bit and started the engine.
"Leonard, you must come visit!" He called to him as the limo pulled away. "You just have to meet the entire family!" He gestured good-bye with his cigar as their family limo pulled further and further away. Leonard looked at Penny and back down the street.
"Oh, lord…" Sheldon commiserated.
"How big a family could they have?" Penny asked.
"The next tenants couldn't possibly be any worse." Leonard watched as a taxicab pulled to the curb, it's brakes squealing as it came to a stop. A jolly fat guy in a black captain's hat wearing a Navy windbreaker and a blue shirt came out behind the driver. Coming out on the other side of the back seat was a skinny young kid in a red shirt and sailor hat struggling to close the door. He closed it, opened it and closed it again.
"Come on, little buddy…" The big guy called his colleague along and looked at the listing for the building from the realtor. "This is the place. Let's see what they're asking for rent!"
"After all those years on the island, it will be great to sleep in a regular bed again." The skinny kid answered back. Sheldon, Leonard and Raj watched the two enter and go looking for the building superintendent. Raj checked for rain while puffing his cigar, and Penny noticed a beautiful redhead in a silver lamiae dress pass by her on her way to her car to get to work.
"Oh lord…" Sheldon groaned.