Dr. Keith Partridge and the Strawberry Banana Smoothie of DOOM!
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July 5th, 2017

Independence Day, in Sloth's Pit, was a cause for confusion, and often mourning. The courthouse had caught fire once again, and nobody could enter town hall due to the volume of The Star-Spangled Banner playing within its halls causing hearing damage. Several dozen homes had seemingly impenetrable concrete walls around them, only for members of the town to discover they could easily be climbed under. The single firework burst that had been shot off would be visible until the start of autumn, Dr. Harold West almost lost his right hand when the coffee machine dispensed gunpowder instead of a cappuccino, and two members of Sigma-10 lost the ability to see any colors except for red, white, and blue until 2018.

All in all, it was one of the less-catastrophic July 4ths Sloth's Pit had suffered in the past decade. But along with it came a new quirk of the town, one which Dr. Keith Partridge had been dragged along to investigate, along with several Investigative Agents and Dr. Quentin Harrison of the Department of Gastronomy.

Next to the shell of the Vegan Buffet (shut down due to the fact that the proprietor thought selling human flesh counted as "Vegan") a new building had popped up, wedging between it and the guitar shop next door. Its architecture perfectly matched the rest of the rustic buildings on Main Street, but the facade of it was painted a bright, garish blue, and had steel drum music playing from the speakers mounted on its exterior, under a green awning. On the windows, pictures of palm trees and tiki masks and beach balls were painted on in meticulous detail; Partridge, leaning close to it, could see the the gloss on the one of the balls reflecting the child throwing it. The signage on the window read: "Volcanic Glacier Smoothie Co."

"I don't like this," Harrison frowned, finishing off his energy bar. Partridge thought that he would need it; with the girth the red-headed man had, he was a perfect fit for gastronomy. Bunch of self-important food critics, Partridge thought. Even so, he had to agree. A brand new smoothie shop popping up right after the 4th of July in Sloth's Pit was disconcerting.

Clive Kim, head of the investigative team put on his sunglasses and entered the door, flanked by Partridge, Harrison, and his partner, Michelle Kola. Partridge tapped Quentin on the shoulder. "Remind me why I'm here?"

"You're the best expert we have on anomalous tropical plant life. I want you to see if there's anything on the menu that would cause concern."

"Harrison, the fact that we are standing in a building that wasn't here yesterday is concern —" Partridge stopped as he smelled the sea breeze. He looked back at the door, then around him. Where the wall of the Sick Rifft guitar store should be was, instead, a vast expanse of beach, overlooking clear, blue ocean. There were customers seated at the smoothie bar, seemingly unfazed by the fact that they were seeing the ocean in the middle of Wisconsin — then again, it was Sloth's Pit. This was probably a welcome change of pace from the Green Well gastropub, with its burnt, watermelon-flavored chicken nuggets.

Serving the townies was a bronze-skinned woman with flowers in her hair, and a T-Shirt advertising the smoothie bar itself. She gave the agents a grin, and waved them over. Partridge suddenly realized that his shoes had vanished when he came in the door, and he was standing on soft, white sand.

Partridge looked back towards the door, seeing both it and the window facing the street still there. He was somewhat relieved that the trip wasn't one-way, but at the same time, his reaction matched what everyone else was thinking. "Fuck."

The black spectacles Agent Kim was wearing weren't just for show. They had thermographic sensors to detect increases in body temperature, a state-of-the-art heart-rate detector, built-in 30x magnification, and a sensor that could detect salt content in the air. Some people at S & C Plastics termed them "Lieglasses".

Partridge termed all who used that word 'uncreative'. 'Anti-Shady Shades' was a superior appellation for them. Regardless, the salinity sensors were useless here, in the salty sea air. The heat sensors might also have been thwarted by the fact that, while Kim was grilling the woman, the woman was grilling a sandwich. "Ma'am, we're with Douglas County health and safety, and… we have concerns about this… operation."

One of Kim's subordinates, Michelle Kola, nodded in agreement. "For one thing, having an extradimensional space on main street violates town zoning laws. And studies have shown that pocket dimensions can have detrimental effects on the quality and safety of food."

"You've just defeated yourself," the woman chuckled. "Why would health and safety care about zoning laws?"

Partridge rubbed his face and looked at the menu above her head; the ingredients in the smoothies were mostly non-anomalous, if exotic. Options included dragonfruit, starfruit, pawpaw, (Partridge had to wipe some saliva from his mouth at the idea of a pawpaw smoothie; it had been years since he had had one of those) sugar apple. There were also the standard smoothie affair— apple, strawberry banana, watermelon, orange. The "strawberry banana" option drew Partridge's attention, however.

"Can't hurt to ask," he thought, looking at Harrison and handing him a vial. "Can you go down to the ocean and collect a sample? If there's any phytoplankton in the water, it could help identify where we are."

"Good idea." Harrison nodded, taking the vial and starting to waddle down to the water.

Partridge leaned against the bar, and looked at the 'strawberry banana'. "Is all your fruit fresh?"

"Of course!"

"Well, as an actual member of health and safety, I'd like to inspect the produce. Particularly the strawberry banana."

The woman gave him an odd look. "'Inspect the produce'? That line is the exact reason why we no longer offer melon on the menu. But…" she turned around and reached into a fridge behind the counter, pulling out what looked like a pink fruit from a plant of the Musa genus.

Partridge took it up and inspected it, sniffing at the fruit, before peeling it, and looking at the meat of the fruit; it had the coloration of a ripe strawberry, but when he touched it, it had the texture of a banana. The seeds within the meat seemed to be some combination of banana seed and strawberry pips. "Huh." He frowned, turning to Kim as he tried and failed to get the woman's name. "Did you know that bananas are actually herbs?"

"Fascinating," Kim lied, shaking his head. "Look, lady, this place doesn't have a permit."

"Are you positive?" the woman asked, taking the fruit from Partridge's hands and stuffing it into a blender with ice and milk. "I filed for a business license back in December of last year. It's hanging back there." She nodded at a certificate behind her, under the menu and over the sandwich press, which bore the Seal of Wisconsin, and the signature of someone high up in the county's bureaucracy.

Kola tried climbing over the bar to inspect the license, setting her Anti-Shady Shades to a filter that could detect the presence or absence of watermarks in official documentation such as this. She frowned. "Well, I'll be damned. It seems legit."

The woman behind the bar just gave Kola a very disapproving look, before wiping down the counter. As the blender finished blending, she poured the contents into a glass, and handed it to Partridge. "On the house," she winked.

Partridge frowned as he took up the smoothie. Grimm Countenance protocols dictated that he shouldn't consume food or drink in an extra-dimensional or otherwise anomalous space. Instead, he took the contents of the cup and poured them into a large sample jar he produced from his pack. "For later," he assured her, handing back the glass.

"Drink it soon," she said, some chiding in her voice. "Or it'll get warm and go bad."

Harrison came up from behind Partridge and tapped him on the shoulder, handing him the vial full of seawater. "Here," he said.

Partridge placed the sample in his bag, and looked at the agents. "Not sure we'll get anything else, here. I think we best leave."

"Come back soon," the woman behind the counter beamed as they made their way to the door.

When they exited onto the blazing, summer street, there was a stream of curses pouring out of their mouths; the pavement was burning, and whatever anomaly had removed their shoes had neglected to return them.

A tub of ice around the feet later, Partridge sat in his lab, analyzing the seawater sample, notes scribbled by him. By all accounts, what he was observing were non-anomalous dinoflagelletes, of a species native to the ocean around Hawaii. Harrison still hadn't gotten the sample of smoothie back to him so he could analyze what, exactly, the strawberry banana was. It had been almost four hours; how long could it take to run an analysis on something like that?

He sighed, and turned away from the microscope, picking up his phone. After unlocking three different lock screens, he arrived at the Site-87 employee phonebook, and from there, scrolled to the H's. "Hargrave, Harkness… Harrison." His finger hovered over the number, before he remembered how narrative logic worked. Now that he was about to call…

Dr. Partridge's phone rang to the tune of an instrumental version of Mean Green Mother From Outer Space. Almost nobody recognized the tune, which was a mercy for him; the less people knew about his taste in musicals, the better. Partridge picked it up. "Yello."

"Keith?" Harrison was on the other end, sounding out of breath. "There's… something wrong with that smoothie. You need to c-come down to Sublevel 6."

Partridge stood and made his out of the lab, and to the elevator, which was mercifully empty. He kept talking. "What the hell's happened, Quentin?"

"Y-You'll see."

Partridge hit the button for Sublevel 6 repeatedly. When the doors opened, sand and saltwater flowed into the elevator. In the hallway, he saw Malcolm Guillard trying to remove a lobster from his office, only for it to climb onto him, the weight forcing him into the water.

Keith Partridge stepped out of the elevator, ducking as the drop ceiling caved in and the top of a palm tree appeared, nearly depositing a coconut onto his skull. From the fronds of this tree, an owl with brown feathers and unusually prominent legs looked down at him, before flying off the tree and down the corridor. Dr Jacob Kola— Michelle Kola's uncle and part of the parazoology department— sprinted past Partridge, giving chase and yelling into his walkie-talkie something about a 'stilt-owl'.

As Partridge walked on, he saw more trees bursting from the ceiling, and Partridge yet again wondered how Site-87 still stood; with all of the structural damage it had taken over the years, from the giant clump of mistletoe that had devoured an entire floor on Christmas 2008 to the damage caused by the same conifer that had turned him into a pear tree in 2014 to the firecrackers that were still found in air vents, the site should have caved in years ago. Then again, a site collapsing on itself wouldn't make for a compelling narrative.

Quentin Harrison's lab was occupied not only by him, but by a very unhappy-looking, very wet Director Nina Weiss. The cause of her sogginess was obvious— there was a waterfall in the ceiling that seemed to follow her around wherever she walked. On the table by her and Harrison was the sample jar containing the smoothie, whose pinkish structure had turned a slight shade of sea-watery green.

"Partridge," Weiss sighed. "What is this?"

"It's a smoothie from the place that popped up in town."

"I mean this!" Weiss pointed to the area around her, as well as out the door, where some poor computational containment intern ran past, guarding his laptop from a swell of seawater. A scream of utter anguish was heard down the hall as the wave crashed on his back, followed by the sparking of a dying computer. "What the hell's causing this?"

"I don't know! I— the woman at the bar told me to drink the smoothie, but Grimm Countenance protocols dictated I shouldn't."

"And you followed protocol perfectly, so points for that. On the other hand, Sublevel 7 is right below us, and we've not prepared the servers down there for the flood that's going to inevitably happen when the floor drains get backed up by sand or plant life."

"Can't you just… dispose of it?" Partridge asked.

"We've tried," Harrison explained, picking up the jar and emptying it onto the floor— or attempting to. At some point, the smoothie stopped flowing, and returned to the jar. The waterfall over Weiss's head increased in output.

"How many times have you tried pouring that out?" Partridge asked, taking the jar back from him.

"Five or six," Harrison admitted.

"And has there been any correlation with this —" Partridge waved an arm around him — "and the amount of times you've tried that?"

"…ah." Harrison chewed his lip, and looked at the director apologetically. "Oh."

"We'll discuss this later," Weiss shook her head. "Partridge, drink the damn thing."

Partridge uncorked the jar, bringing the smoothie to his lips, and taking a sip. Despite what the woman had warned him about, the drink was cold, painfully so. When the liquid hit the back molar, he gasped, and dropped the jar, smoothie and all. "NO!" He called as the current from the water carried the jar out of the room.

"Partridge!" Weiss groaned.

"I have teeth that are sensitive to cold. Shit!" He ran out of the room and flipped on the intercom as he saw the current carry the smoothie around the corner. "Attention all personnel on Sublevel 6: if you see a jar full of a strawberry-banana smoothie, for the love of god, pick it up, get on the intercom, and tell me where it is."

Partridge had failed to realize that he had broadcast this Site-wide; above him, several confused looks were exchanged between members of the department of theology. One of them, Father Richard Plum, looked at his own creamsicle smoothie he had on his desk and scooted away from it, giving it a suspicious stare.

Day Fourteen: We've run low on food. Carl has had to kill a lobster with his own boot. It's going to rot in a day, and Patricia is allergic to shellfish. She gets the rest of my rations; a buxxom lass like her needs meat on—

"What the hell are you doing, Hastings?"

Christopher Hastings looked up from his notepad, where Dr. Partridge stood, shirtless, wearing a set of swim trunks he had somehow acquired. He had been reading what Hastings had been writing for the past several minutes. "I'm taking a writing course," Hastings shrugged. "Survival in a jungle seemed like a good idea for a story."

"…'buxom' has one 'X'."

"Oh. Well, I never said I was a good writer."

Partridge rubbed his face. "You said you had the smoothie?"

"Yeah." Hastings adjusted himself on the trunk of the mangrove tree that had sprouted in front of one of the biosaftey labs, and reached under the roots, pulling out the sample jar and handing it to Partridge. As the older scientist took it, Hastings looked around. "So I take it the new smoothie place in town isn't getting a good Yelp review from us?"

"What do you think?" Partridge scowled at the joke, downing the rest of the smoothie. He winced as his teeth reacted to the cold again, but managed to keep the jar in his hands until he drained it. He savored the taste, blinking. The Strawberry Banana, true to its name, had the texture of a banana, the tartness of a strawberry, and the complex sweetness of both. There was also an undercurrent of orange and… something else. Something slightly unsavory.

Something… pear-flavored.

Partridge sneezed, and a large pear fruit came out of his nose, landing on Hastings's lap. He stared between the empty sample jar, himself, and the pear.

"Son of a bitch," Partridge groaned. "Not again."

Several hours later, Keith Partridge was back in the Volcanic Glacier Smoothie Co., watching the sole employee brew another drink. She claimed this one would counteract the barking on his skin, as well as stop him from sneezing pears. She looked at him pitifully. "I told you to drink it before it got warm."

Partridge looked across the beach; tiki torches were lit up, and people were down by the water, playing in the fish-free ocean, clad in swim suits. He sighed, and rubbed his face. "Why did you manifest here of all places?"

"Because this town is one of the few areas in the country where I can set up a franchise that's visited by semi-normal people. I tried setting up shop in Three Portlands, BackDoorSoHo, Hastily Made Cleveland Backdoor— those are all full of freaks."

"This is coming from the woman brewing magic smoothies," Partridge snorted.

"Goddess," the woman corrected, in a tone that made Partridge sit up straighter— those this may have simply been his spine turning to wood. She handed him the smoothie. "That'll be $6.21."

"The last one was free."

"Yes, well, I'm paying for the repairs to your little operation up on the hill. So…"

Partridge grumbled, reaching for his wallet with wooden fingers and pulling out a $10 bill. "Keep the damn change," he huffed. "What goddess are you, exactly?"

"The kind of goddess that knows that you'll like a pawpaw smoothie better than anything else on the menu."

Partridge raised a brow, and took a sip at his drink. He lost the straw, and instead drank it straight from the glass, the bark of his skin fading away as the sweet, creamy taste of pawpaw came through the ice and the milk of the smoothie, bringing a grin to his face.

Excerpt from the Sloth's Pit Tourist's Guide, 2018 Edition:

Volcanic Glacier Smoothie Co.:
A relatively new establishment, renowned for its tropical atmosphere, real fruit smoothies, and tasty grilled paninis. Clean indoor pool and beach for those hot summer days. Ask for the "Wisconsin Tropical Special"— a combination of strawberry banana and pawpaw. Live music on Fridays.

Food Rating: ★★★★
Atmosphere Rating: ★★★
Fun Rating: ★★★★
Overall Rating: ★★★★

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