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Sfstory Log 091

=========================================================================
Date:         Tue, 24 Mar 1998 19:33:49 -0800 (PST)
From:         Automatic Me (brainy9 at eyrie.org)
Subject:      SF: Silver & Shadow #2
To:           superguy at eyrie.org

	"Once upon a time, there was a greedy old man who was a terrible
indian giver. I mean, really really horrible. You couldn't GET anything
from him or his wife without them wanting it back a couple years later,
even if it was, like, a birthday gift or something. They were AWFUL.
	"Now, in the posession of this greedy old indian giver of a man
was a tuxedo, which was as old as the hills, not nearly as dirty, and
about as stylish as a disco suit. It no longer fit the man, so he gave it
to his firstborn son. Neither did it fit the son, so the son stored it in
his attic, and promptly forgot about it. 
	"Some time later, perhaps three years later, the father of the
lovely wife of the son of the greedy old indian giver died, God rest his
drunken old soul. Since he was a penniless drunk, there was nothing to
bury him in, and his daughter (the wife of the son of the greedy old
indian giver) was in a panic as to what to do. Finally, in her searchings,
she came upon an old tuxedo, ancient as the hills, nowhere near as dirty,
and as stylish as a disco suit. Perfect, she thought, perfect! It matched
her drunken old dead father perfectly, except for the dirt part!
	"At the funeral home, the son of the greedy old indian giver
looked upon the drunken old dead father of his lovely wife, and spake unto
her, 'He looks good, darling.' The lovely wife answered, with a twinkle
in her eye, 'You know, that's your father's tux.'
	"Well, you could have picked up the son of the old greedy indian
giver's jaw from the ground and glued it back to his face, for it had
fallen so far. He despaired, and said to his lovely wife, 'My father is
going to want that back. You know it.' His lovely wife had a terrible time
standing up after that, for her knees had turned to jelly from laughter.
And this was her father's funeral! Ah, the Irish. Love 'em or hate 'em.
	"It so happened that two years hence, a call came from Vermont. It
was the greedy old indian giver! Just _guess_ what he wanted back."
	"Oh, god..."

				*
			Silver and Shadow
			     issue #2
			    written by
			   Gina Donahue
			 the Author Crash
				*
"One is not superior merely because one sees the world as odious."
                        -- Chateaubriand
				*

	"I swear to you, Hannah, it's true," said Hannah solemnly.
"Welcome to my family, right?" 
	"Dear -God- in Heaven. Do you know you're insane, Han?" asked
Kelly, grinning across the aisle of the schoolbus. "I thought -my- family
was bad..." 
	"Yeah, well, when you've got a mix like this, man...Irish and
French and German and Dutch and Sicilian and...and the cultures to go with
the lot of them...you can get a heck of a family history."
	"Mmn, yah," replied Kelly, grinning while Hannah stuffed her
headphones in her bookbag. They were approaching the school, and the
imposing black-robed, habited figure of the vice-principal was quite
visible against the faded asphalt of the school parking lot. If she knew
the girls had brought such terribly contraband items as walkmen into the
hallowed halls of the sacred institution, it'd be Hannah-Kelly Mystery
Meat in the sandwiches at lunchtime. No matter that everyone -else- did,
it was just that both girls -knew- they'd get caught if they didn't use
the utmost discretion. That was just the way it went.
	"Did you get your room cleaned out yet, Hanny-o?" asked her
friend, waiting just outside the bus as Hannah disembarked.
	"Mostly," said the girl shortly.
	"Mostly?" blinked Kelly innocently. "Don't you get your car when
you're done?" 
	"Kel...just /don't/ ask."

)) Meanwhile, back in Hannah's room...

	The darkly pulsating sphere grew, slowly but steadily, under
Hannah's bed. It looked kind of like the trailers for the new Godzilla
movie - y'know, the huge, ominous black reptilian thing rising up out of
the ocean, a monster of the deeps? And completely tearing up the dock the
old man was running along, trying to get away from it? Well, there wasn't
actually a tiny old guy running across her bed (which is a damn good
thing), and there wasn't really any ocean to speak of, unless you counted
the half-empty bottle of Snozberry Cola sitting on top (which was gonna
leave a really /horrible/ stain on her pillow) but it looked like it
anyway. The whole Cthulhu thing, see...it's got /spiff/ special effects.
	Slowly and steadily, it grew. It'd already engulfed about half of
the indigenous life down there, and it looked like it was gonna start
importing soon. Strange sounds came from within it.
	Sounds of imploding galaxies.
	Sounds of that damn car across the street that won't start at 5am.
	Sounds of younger brothers playing newly-acquired drum sets next
to your computer at ten o'clock at night, when you're trying to finish a
paper.
	Sounds...of silence.

	Then a panicked scream -

)) Onion Valley Parochial High School, 9:45 AM. Girls' Locker Room.

	"Get back here, Kelly...lookit," came a breathless whisper from
behind a shower stall. 
	"What the hell...?"
	"Too damn loud," came the whisper again, this time slightly
irritated.  "You wanna get out of gym or not, you geek? I got it open,
from this side, so we can get here from the stage." 
	An arm appeared from within the stall and yanked the squeaking
girl inside. Oh course, dear readers, you /know/ it's Hannah's arm - whose
could it really be, otherwise? Not that nun from the parking lot,
certainly. No one from last issue, because the setting was so utterly
different, right? So it absolutely /had/ to be Hannah. Well, not /had/ to,
absolutely; I could have introduced another character, and just kept
building up an insanely large cast. But I wouldn't do a thing like that,
so logically, it really couldn't have been anyone but Hannah. And it was!
Oh, you're all such bright students. You all get lollipops today. Suckers.
	Five minutes later, the girls were crawling along the insides of
the heating ducts that blasted the lower half of the school with a blazing
inferno during early fall and late spring, but were mostly non-functioning
during the winter. It didn't take long for them to get completely and
utterly lost, and interesting things happen when people get lost in the
heating ducts of ancient private schools. Oh, yes. 
	"What's that clanking sound?" whispered Kelly, clambering along
behind Hannah.
	"What clanking sound?" came Hannah's equally whispered reply.
	No response.
	"Kel?"
	No response. Hannah stopped. "Kelly?"
	When the other girl still didn't answer, Hannah turned around, and
saw -

)) Back in Hannah's house

	"(Where in the name of /anything/ you wanna believe in /are/ we,
Colm?)"
	*Not where we were before,* came the boy's nonvocal response.
	"(So very helpful.)"
	*Thanks!*
	The two kids (for kids they were, as much as they utterly hated to
admit it) stood in a cluttered hallway with a black, empty doorway behind
them. The stuff scattered all around them masked the sort of room they
were in, and pretty much all they could see of it was the way out, a
stairwell down. But...but! There was a woman lying in the way, a
motherly-looking woman in her early forties. In her hands was clutched a
worn blanket, and on her face was the look of peace that comes of being
unconscious.
	"(What the /hell/?)" gaped Fara, looking blankly at the woman.
Automatically, her hand reached up to rub the back of her neck as she
struggled to put things together. So far, she was adding two and two and
getting seventeen. Before Colm even had the time to give her another inane
response, our two heroes (two of our heroes? two of /my/ heroes...) were
rudely shoved aside to make way for whatever was coming out of the portal
after them.
	And whatever it was! A stinky, oozing mass of rotting flesh and
broken bones shambled between the spacefarers, leaving them gazing blankly
after it. As it made its way toward the staircase, it stepped on a
wrinkled issue of Seventeen magazine, then tripped on an empty Snozberry
Cola bottle, losing its balance. Luckily for the unconscious mother
figure, it missed her completely and plummeted headlong down the
stairwell.
	The being was quickly followed by another member of the Fun
Undead, which staggered drunkenly out of the portal and grinned jawlessly
at our friends. "(Whizh way ta da bahhr?)"
	Fara concentrated on two things at that moment: keeping her lunch
in her stomach where it belonged, and giving a coherent response which
would point the being somewhere far, far away from her location. "(Second
star to the right, and straight on 'til morning,)" she gasped.
	"(Gee, t'ankz,)" replied the dead guy cheerfully, and tripped on
the unconscious mother, who (unsurprisingly) was still in the same place.
All Colm and Fara needed to hear was the second wet, meaty thud, and that
was enough for them. They picked up the lady wordlessly, and went down the
stairs as quickly as they could, averting their eyes when they passed the
sodden mass of maggot-ridden flesh at the bottom.

)) Onion Valley Parochial High School

	"You kids! You kids are crazy, you crazy kids I-don't-know and
it-wasn't-me and all that crazy stuff cuz you think we're stupid! But who
do you think you are, you crazy kids! In the heating ducts! What's wrong
with you! What if you got stuck! You crazy kids!"
	The imposing figure of the school's janitor (who was rumored to
have been the janitor when Teddy Roosevelt was President, or maybe before) 
stomped down the echoing halls toward the Guidance office, ranting like it
was the Apocalypse, carrying Hannah and Kelly by the scruffs of their
necks, even as they struggled like hooked fish. Flop, flop.
	"Guidance you're going to have! Guidance is where you're going!"
he continued without even so much as an air break. "Because! Because you
see, that is where I'm carrying you, you crazy kids! You'll be the death
of me! The death, I say!"
	All the girls could do until they got there was try, oh so hard,
not to laugh out loud.

)) Hannah's house again...

	So there I was, standing in the driveway of my house - oh, sorry. 
I'm Hannah's brother, David. She's, like, a year older than me, but
sometimes she acts like she's two. I just don't get it. Most of my friends
complain that their sisters act like they're years older, but...I dunno.
It's weird. It's like she's stuck in a book or something, acting like a
kid because she doesn't think she did enough of that when she really /was/
a little kid. But I digress. 
	I was standing in the driveway, behind the car that'd be Hannah's
as soon as she got her room clean, staring up at her bedroom window. Er, I
mean, what was left of the side of the house where her bedroom window was
supposed to be. There wasn't a lot there...just this swirling black hole,
with really /random/ stuff falling out. Even as I'm talking, a couple of
penguins in party hats fell out and waddled down the street, and a few
pieces of twisted metal clattered down the garage roof. I'm telling you,
this is /bizarre shit/. Han's pulled some weird stuff in her time, but I'd
give my girlfriend's phone number to find out how she did /this/.
	So like, I figured, as long as I was here, I might as well not
/avoid/ going home, and I walked up the driveway and went in. Okay, so if
you didn't believe me before, you're gonna have me committed for this one.
There were a couple of kids a few years older than I am, sitting on the
couch watching TV, next to my mom who was konked out and hugging my old
blankie. Shut up! Yes, I had a blankie. Sue me.
	There were a whole bunch of zombies and stuff walking around, and
some vampires, and a couple of ghosts. Y'know, all undead (or just plain
dead) people. There was a disgusting stinky mess at the bottom of the
staircase, which positively reeked of gin and rotting flesh. I /swear/
this is /true/. The only thing was? They were frigging /eating/ all my
after-school food! 
	I was so annoyed that I just went downstairs to practice my drums.
Han wouldn't be home for another half an hour, so I could practice in
peace, without her yelling that she was writing a paper, even though I
/know/ she's always online or roleplaying or something stupid like that.
She never does homework! Then she brags about it. God, she's weird. I wish
she'd get some friends. Kelly doesn't count, cuz she...I dunno. Either
she's just as bad, or whatever. At least she gets her stuff done, y'know?

)) Onion Valley Parochial High School, Guidance Office

	The harmless-looking, habited, wizened old head of the Guidance
nun was bent over the permanent records of Hannah and Kelly, twelfth-grade
first-class innocence-radiating deviants. The girls shot each other
sideways glances, and entered the rest of the way, shutting the door
behind them. Wordlessly they sat in the uncomfortable wooden chairs;
wordlessly they stared at the nun, waiting for her to look up.
	She didn't. "Why?" came her soft, scratchy, aged voice. "Why do
you do this, your last year? Why do you do things that should have been
out of your system six years ago?"
	"Umn," started Kelly nervously, then coughed and lapsed into a
heavy silence.
	"Rhetorical question," hissed Hannah, jabbing her friend in the
ribs with her elbow.
	The wrinkled little nun sighed, then handed each girl a sheet of
paper. "I want you each to write down what you think of the other. Then
you must write what you think about yourself. Maybe it will grant me
insight into why you do these things."
	Hannah and Kelly simultaneously looked at the papers, looked up,
then at each other, grinning widely. Within seconds, they were scribbling
away busily.

	It was Independence Day a couple of years ago when I first met
Hannah. Since then, she's never ceased to amaze me, in thought, word, or
deed. Her ship was fast, faster than anything I'd ever seen or heard of,
and so sleek and beautiful. It was physical mathematics, physical poetry;
her ship was silver lines and sparkling glass. I tell you it represented
everything I ever wanted to be, everything I thought I /could/ be if I
just let myself. 
	When she got off the ship, she was wearing a pair of old jeans and
a flannel shirt, and a pair of cheap pharmacy antennae. Somehow, her old
pair of Converse were a bright silver, like plastic, but they were
still...I don't know. It was weird and impossible, and she was impossible,
and she wasn't worried about anything. I don't think she ever does. Yes,
she does. And she knew what floccipaucinihilipification meant...and how to
spell it.
	She got off her spaceship and gave me tips on writing, and was so
funny, and I love her. 
	Me? I'm nothing important. I can't even write well, or hold a
relationship, and I'm not even good at math, even though Hannah says I am,
all the time. But she's nuts, I swear. 

	Oh, my god. Kelly? Well, yeah. She's my best friend in the world,
and it's cool 'cause I know she's gonna remember that when I'm a starving
artist living on the street and she's a successful businesswoman. People
always put her down, because they're so goddamned jealous of her, and she
/believes/ them, and I don't know why...it's so frustrating. I don't
hesitate to beat them up for her, and I always say I will, but then she
never lets me. She feels bad for them, when they turn around and are nice
to her for a second.
	She's so like the religion teacher...she's so paranoid about
herself, but she doesn't wanna believe anything bad about anyone. I've
never met anyone I admire more than I admire her, and my /god/ it hurts
when she lets people step all over her, and take her work and use her
mind, just because they're all kissup for a second. She has so much going
for her! She's so smart, and she doesn't believe it at all.
	I wish she'd write more. She's so good at it, but that damn
English teacher twists stuff...I've read what she grades 'A', and it
bites. The essay that Kelly wrote that I liked the best and thought was
most well worded...that was the one that failed. Shit, I /swear/, if I
ever have half a chance, I'm gonna take an AK-47 to that evil nun for
doing what she does to budding authors. 
	God. Enough ranting. I love Kelly, she's my best friend, she's who
I know I could be if I tried hard enough, except I never can. And she
doesn't even know it.
	Me? I'm just an idiot with a talent for stringing words together
and making them readable, coherent sentences. Usually.

	"Can we go now?" they chorused.
	The nun only sighed again, and buzzed for the door to open.


WHAT -- wait. Hey. Wait. I'm Too Damn Cool (tm) for teasers. 

More Next SFStory, where Super Zombies can get away with being a band.
Wait, that's too close to real life.

Everything pretty much copyright (c) 1998 by me, Gina Donahue, AKA G. Dare
Fenderson, R.S. We've got the FUN god. We've got the SUN god. Ra! Ra! Ra!


-- Gina Donahue | "Where are we now?" asked the boy. --
-- Apparition at LSH.Org | "Here," said his big sister, --
-- http://www.eyrie.org/~brainy9 | "Where we stand." --
=========================================================================
Date:         Wed, 08 Apr 1998 00:18:12 -0400
From:         "Gary W. Olson" (swede at acd.net)
To:           superguy at eyrie.org
Subject:      SF: Now It's Your Turn: Death for Sale or Rent (1/3)

[Editor's note: this officially concludes, at long last, the "Now It's Your
Turn" tenth anniversary Sfstory anthology," a few months after the 11th
anniversary rolled by.  So far as the editor knows, there are only two or
three people (Eric Alfred Burns, John Bankert, and possibly Ben Rawluk) who
have worked on and may possibly still be planning to finish stories for
this.  They can go ahead and use the grand and glorious "Now It's Your
Turn" name in their eventual subject lines.  The rest of you can start your
own anthology, sell beanie babies, compose rock operas that will star Donny
Osmond, or whatever it is you were doing instead of writing for NIYT.  This
is your editor, signing off and heading for the tub.]


                            Death for Sale or Rent,
                                      or,
                           Two Beers Before the Mast
                              (a Tale of Sfstory)
                                      by
                                 Gary W. Olson


     His head throbbed angrily, pulling him from dreams he dimly realized
were best forgotten.  Images of a man named Hemingway, a lab aboard a
flame-lit battle cruiser, a mysterious envelope, beings that called
themselves Quayles playing games--
     No flames crackled here.  He decided this was good.
     After a while, he decided to open his eyes, on the off chance that he
was someplace pleasant, such as behind the bar at Club Nympho in
Netherspace, or in his laboratory on Earth, or even in his cabin on Time
Agent 357's ship, the Golden Lance.  Upon forcing his eyelids apart, after
suitable grunting and a belch or two, he was quickly able to determine he
was in none of these places, or anyplace else that possessed the one thing
he wanted in a place, no matter where he went: an accessible way out.
     "Needlewarp," Dr. Bing Von Spleen cursed.  After a good hour's effort,
he was able to pull himself into a seated position, which did nothing to
improve the look of the cell he was in, or his analysis that he was on the
wrong side of the energy screen that blocked the doorway.  Using his
knowledge of scientific method, he set about examining his surroundings in
detail, by standing up, swaying unsteadily, and falling on his face.  He
contemplated the stone-tile floor for some time.
     When that grew boring, he decided to take a mental inventory of recent
events.  He recalled being recruited by Hemingway to conduct new
spamological research, for purposes Hemingway did not mention but the
message Von Spleen had found in his suitcase did: to kill Time Agent 357.
As Von Spleen had been an ally, sometimes by choice, of 357 at several
points in his life, he had felt quite vexed after receiving this new
information.
     Before he could do anything about it, however, things got strange.
The PLS Tolling Bell had pursued 357 to the secret deep space location of
Time Central, where a large space battle was being fought.  Von Spleen had
been in his lab on the ship, so he knew none of the details, only that a
spam-based reality fluctuation of pants-wetting magnitude had suddenly and
without warning struck the ship.
     That was it.  Next he knew, he was here in the cell, with only his
loved ones to keep him company.  He reached a hand into his labcoat
pocket....
     "Needlewarp!" Von Spleen cursed, finding no loved ones.  The same
proved true of every other pocket on his person, including the hidden ones.
After voluminous shouting of obscenities, kicking at the walls, falling
down again, and whimpering, Von Spleen realized that, for the first time in
ages, he was stone cold sober.
     After a few deep breaths, Von Spleen realized that he could turn a new
leaf, live the rest of his life free of pills, booze, joints, and other
such things.  Once he got out of his cell, he could start a new life.  He
could be all he could be.  He could just say 'no.'
     The thought had Von Spleen laughing for a good five minutes.
     After his self-induced mirth had run its course, he tried sitting up,
only to discover he was once again face down on the floor.  Rolling over
and then sitting up ultimately proved to be successful, and as an added
bonus illuminated him to the fact that he was being watched by two burly,
hairy, vaguely male blue-skinned aliens dressed in prison-guard
grey-and-black.
     "He's awake," one guard said to the other, in what sounded to Von
Spleen like a hushed tone made by someone who had heard of the concept, but
had never really had much reason to put it into practice.
     "After the fury of his arrival yesterday," the other replied.  "We are
truly blessed!"
     "What are you looking at?" Von Spleen asked, as confused as he was peeved.
     "'And his first words shall be a question that pierces to the heart,'"
said the first guard.  "Lo!  The prophecy is fulfilled!"
     "But what does the question mean?" the second guard asked.  "Do we
dare contemplate the levels of meaning, of understanding of the cosmos and
the overwhelming desire for freedom in all sentient beings?  What *are* we
looking at?"
     "We must not fear," said the first guard, as he deactivated the energy
field blocking the doorway.  "The Awaited One will give us a sign, one that
will inspire this world to rise against the Tyrant."
     Von Spleen looked over his shoulder to see who they were talking
about, but saw only the wall.  When he turned back, it was just in time to
see the first guard's fist hurtling toward his face, and subsequently in
time to see the wall rushing rapidly to greet him.
     "Ow," Von Spleen groaned, holding his jaw.  "That... hurt...."
     "Did you hear, Petrey?" the second guard asked.  "He feels our pain!"
     "Oh, I feel more pain than that, Deesh," Petrey, the first guard,
said.  "Hit him for me."  Once again, Von Spleen became violently
acquainted with a blue-skinned fist, and then the rock wall.
     "We're sorry about having to do this, Awaited One," Deesh said to Von
Spleen, using an even less plausible 'hushed tone.'  "But it is written
that we must continue until you give us a sign."
     At that point, Petrey kicked Von Spleen in the stomach, causing Von
Spleen to double over and make a sign upon Petrey and Deesh's boots.  This
seemed to drive the guards into new realms of ecstasy, for reasons Von
Spleen could not fathom.  He waited for his ears to stop ringing so he
could hear what they were saying, but they were gone by the time this
happened.


     "Doctor Brazier," the intercom said, "report to the bridge at once."
     Cerulean Brazier shook his head, telling himself once again that
intercoms didn't talk.  Therefore, he could ignore the message as just
another hallucination.
     The medbay doors opened, frightening the pink Elurian vontids that had
been doing an elaborate pantomime of exploding in the vacuum of space.
Brazier watched, fascinated, as two pairs of enormous boots strode through
the hallucinations and advanced rapidly on Brazier's position, which was
prone, on the floor, and next to a chain-smoking zebra who was explaining
the finer points of tantric accounting.  The owner of the boots, one Greez
Hyperiok, did not waste time or words on the stoned Doctor, instead lifting
him up by his collar and carrying him out of the room.  Brazier barely had
time to grab a hypospray off the counter by the door.
     Two minutes later, Brazier and Hyperiok were on the bridge of the
V.S.S. Vatican II, looking upon an intensely mundane scene.  Cardinals Van
Cleef and Hagen were at the navigation and tactical positions,
respectively, and snoring, loudly.  Sajon, the helmsman, was at his
console, playing a game of hyperchess with the ship's Science Big Shot,
Professor Parsasentence, and being kibitzed by the ship's resident cute,
windup-toy-like robot, TH1K1.  The communications officer, Lenin, was
watching the Extra-Sensory Perception Network's rebroadcast of Radar
Vogel's legendary volleyball matches.  Of the crew, that left only Greez's
mother, Priscilla, and the ship's Talk DJ, Blob, unaccounted for, and
Brazier wasn't all that keen on accounting for them at the moment.
     In the center of the bridge, nearly lost in a pile of empty Schlitz
cans, Captain Pope Joe Don I reclined, looking as though he was sleeping.
Only when Greez checked to see if he was awake, by bellowing in his ears,
did Joe Don I show signs of life.
     "Oh, doc, I was calling you earlier," he said.  "Why didn't you answer
the intercom?"
     "Intercoms can't talk, sir," Brazier replied, amazed the man had
become Captain, without that vital piece of information.
     "Mmm," Joe Don I replied, noncommittally.  "Doctor, I have a mission
for you.  One of vital importance to this ship and its crew.  One that
could put us out of commission for good unless you come through.  One that
may be the crucial element that keeps this universe from--"
     "You want me to make a beer run," Brazier said.
     "Yeah," Joe Don I admitted, a bit sheepishly.  "We're in orbit
around... um... hey, Van Cleef!  Where are we?"
     Van Cleef continued to snore.  Joe Don I looked at Hyperiok, snapped
his fingers, and pointed to his snoozing Navigator.  Hyperiok grunted and
spent the next few minutes pounding Van Cleef into wakefulness.  Joe Don I
then helpfully repeated his question.
     "In orbit around... Angilus Prime," Van Cleef said.  "Um, correction.
We're not so much 'in orbit around' as 'falling down towards.'  Oh,
Sajon...."
     Sajon, deeply involved in considering his move, did not hear Van Cleef
call his name, though Parsasentence did and valiantly tried to pull the
ship out of its dive.  It was TH1K1, however, who saved the day by floating
down to the helm console and pressing the 'Undo Sajon's Screwups' button.
The Vatican II immediately stopped dropping, instead hovering in the lower
atmosphere.
     "You've saved us again, TH1K1!" Parsasentence exclaimed, glowingly.
     "Only to insure your deaths will be longer and more painful," TH1K1
replied, his words understood by none save the reader because they came out
as a tiny, high-pitched squeak.
     "We're above Angilus Prime's biggest city, Angilor," Van Cleef said.
"The Doctor should be able to simply beam out and get the beer."  That
said, he passed out, due to the earlier violence he had experienced.
     A fact penetrated Brazier's hallucinogen-soaked mind, one he felt
compelled to bring to the Captain's attention.  "Sir," he said, "Angilus
Prime has strictly enforced prohibitions against any kind of mind-altering
substance."
     "I'm not sending you for drugs, just beer," Joe Don I said, angrily.
"You're the one with the substance abuse problem," he added, as he pulled
another six-pack out of the mini-fridge by his chair.
     "They also have a prohibition against all forms of alcohol," Brazier
noted.  "The implementation of their 'no tolerance' policy is the envy of
repressive governments all over the galaxy -- even Hell isn't more
restrictive.  Sir, why don't we just go back to Planet Schlitz...."
     "Can't," Parsasentence said.  "The engines also run on beer, and aside
from that six-pack, we're out."
     "Ah," Brazier replied, "you're taking it rather well."
     "The sedatives helped," Parsasentence replied, sitting back down to
resume his chess game with Sajon.  Brazier turned back to the Captain, in
time to see him drink the last of the beer.
     "You have your orders," Joe Don I said.
     Brazier nodded and headed for the elevator, intent on going to a
shuttle bay, taking a shuttle out, and getting the heck away from the ship,
permanently.  He was prevented from doing so by Greez Hyperiok, who picked
him up, slung him over his shoulder, and carried him to the transporter
room.
     "Boss ordered me to go with you," Hyperiok explained.  "Said I might
help you find an underground supplier."
     "Right," Brazier sighed.  "Two to beam down, then."
     Hyperiok stepped onto the platform next to where he had dropped
Brazier.  Brazier watched to make sure that the large, muscular man was not
looking, then lifted the hypospray to his own neck and injected half of the
contents.  If he was going on a mission, Brazier decided, the last thing he
wanted getting in the way was reality.
     "Wait a minute," said Brazier.  "If we have no beer, we have no
engines, right?"
     "Um, yeah," was Hyperiok's intellectual reply.
     "And if we have no engines, we have no power."
     "The engines have just enough power to pull the ship back into orbit
and operate life support and the ice machine for another two days.  Doesn't
matter, as this transporter's never worked."
     Brazier considered this, as Hyperiok stepped onto the transporter
platform next to him.  "So why are we here?"
     Just then, two circles in the floor opened up, dropping Brazier and
Hyperiok into the Angilonian atmosphere.
     "Aieeee!" was Brazier's reply to the situation.
     "Hahahahaha!" was Hyperiok's.


     Belzor Mordraninozzelbloog, better known to the hundreds of millions
of Angilonian's he had subjugated planetwide as 'The Tyrant,' or 'He Who
Gets Really Ticked When We Make Fun of His Name,' circled the hologram of
the huge, gleaming, lethal-looking laser cannon.  He appeared deep in
thought, so Bubba Wojahowitz waited patiently.
     "Interesting," Belzor said, finally, his long, drooping, white
mustache twitching as he spoke.  "But a bit too pricey.  I'm on a budget,
you know."  Bubba could believe this, as the colors of the robes the Tyrant
wore clashed so violently that he half-suspected Zark Flyby had a twin
brother in the fashion business.
     "Sir, I think you will find that the U-Nukem-Goode Model 4000 Cannon
will go a long way to making inroads against your enemies, not to mention
large holes *in* them.  And you must be aware that your policy has created
a lot of enemies that are running an underground of illicit substances,
booze, and harmonicas."
     "But my interdiction policy is the envy of the galaxy's most
repressive governments!" Belzor protested.  "You said so yourself!  Even
Hell... hey, wait a minute.  You're from Hell, right?"
     "New York, actually."
     "But your card said...."
     Bubba knew the card Belzor was referring to.  He pictured it in his
mind, thusly:
     +----------------------------------------------------------+
     |                     Bubba Wojahowitz                     |
     |                                                          |
     |                           a.k.a.                         |
     |                                                          |
     | Bubba the Wanton and Invincible Death Merchant from Hell |
     |                                                          |
     |     Arms for All the Galaxy - Death for Sale or Rent     |
     |       Easy Credit Terms - Highest Quality Weaponry       |
     +----------------------------------------------------------+
     "I was with Hell, briefly," Bubba said as he shook his head to rid
himself of the card's beguiling image.  "I actually was given the name some
time before, though, by G.X.P. Varneyloop, the Namemaker."
     "Ah, yes," Belzor said.  "He gave me the 'He Who Gets Ticked When We
Make Fun of His Name' moniker, after I tried to have him arrested one time."
     "Right," said Bubba, anxious to change the subject.  "Anyway, we have
many more models to look at which you might find more budget-friendly.  And
don't forget, my sellers also have a credit plan for every customer."
     "I imagine," the Tyrant grumbled.  "I'm tired of looking at holograms.
Do you have any demonstration models?"
     "A few on my ship," said Bubba.  "Various personal nukers, blasters,
lightsabers, proton grenades, a Mark III E-Z-Deth Autocannon--"
     "Yes, that," Belzor decided.  "I'd like a demo of the Mark III.  How
soon can you set it up?"
     "It takes the batteries a while to charge up," Bubba told him.  "How's
this evening for you?"
     "That'll work," Belzor told him.  "Now I've just got to decide who
you're going to test the weapon upon...."
     "It doesn't have to be *upon* anyone," Bubba told him, but Belzor was
already giving him the brush-off.  Bubba shrugged and headed toward the
hallway, on his way out of the Palace, escorted by the Tyrant's well-armed
guards.
     Unfortunately for them, they were not well-armored guards, as the
large, screaming and laughing mass that landed upon them made them realize,
even as they died.  Bubba, no stranger to sudden, random death, peered at
the mass and saw that it was comprised of not one but two figures.
     "That was fun!" said the larger one, who looked like an amalgamation
of Ronald Reagan and Fat Albert but was instantly recognizable as Greez
Hyperiok.  "I want to... I... think I'll pass out now...."  Greez promptly
did so.
     "That hurt!" said the smaller one, whose survival Bubba attributed to
having landed atop Greez's substantial belly, and whose injuries Bubba
attributed to having set off the various weapons that adorned said belly.
     "You're under arrest!" a troop of similarly ill-armored guards
announced, their proclamation lacking the usual force as they kept looking
up to see if any more people would fall out of the sky.  Bubba looked up,
but all he saw was a shape that looked remarkably like the Vatican, only
smaller and better contoured, ascending into space.


     By the time a different sent of guards, these two much more guardlike
in their grimness, terseness, and body odor, brought dinner around, Bing
Von Spleen felt recovered from both the aches and pains he had woken with
and the aches and pains visited upon him by Petrey and Deesh.  As dinner
had a chunkiness and green coloration that looked pretty intent on causing
him further aches and pains in vulnerable areas, Von Spleen decided to go
hungry, just this once.  Instead, he set his scientific mind in motion on a
plan to escape the cell, a plan that would use the spamological principles
that he worked over the years to formulate.  He abruptly stopped that
motion when he realized he had no spam on his person, and so could not use
such principles.  A brief moment of hope flared and was gone when Von
Spleen examined dinner again and saw that it was not spam, just some
well-aged baloney.
     "Fzzt," the cell door energy screen said, as it went out.
     "Waaah!" a man in a blue-and-black uniform said as he was tossed into
the cell.  "Thunk!" his body said as it hit the floor.
     "What's going onnn... yikes!" Von Spleen exclaimed, as another body,
much larger and familiar to him as that of Greez Hyperiok, was heaved into
the cell, on a trajectory that caused it to land upon Von Spleen.  "Thoom!"
it said.  "Owchie!" moaned the Doctor, as soon as he managed to roll
Hyperiok off him.
     "Enjoy the company, prisoner," said the guard, who Von Spleen noted
had a number of injuries.  Von Spleen looked at Hyperiok and saw that his
body was unadorned with weaponry, and conjectured that the guard's injuries
had come about in the lengthy and dangerous process of disarming one of the
galaxy's most violent and devious fellows.  Several other guards, all
similarly injured, formed a somewhat ragged line behind the guard who had
spoken.  One man who was not a guard was also visible, partially hidden by
the doorframe.
     "I'd like to talk to Von Spleen for a few minutes, Captain," the man
said.  For some reason, his voice sounded very familiar.
     "Okay," said the guard, which surprised the heck out of Von Spleen, as
the man did not appear to have any official status, or even the same
species in common.  The man stepped through and the energy screen snapped
on.  It was then that Von Spleen recognized him.
     "Bubba?" he asked.  "Bubba the Wanton and Invincible Death Merchant
from Hell?"
     "Bing Von Spleen?" Bubba asked back.  "It can't be... but it is!  I'd
recognize that clean complexion anywhere!"  At this, Von Spleen nodded,
somewhat vainly, as his clean complexion had long been recognized as the
cleanest in the field of spamology and was a small reason for his fame.
"How'd you get locked up here?"
     "Beats me," said Von Spleen.  "I apparently arrived yesterday, having
been transported here by a spam-based reality fluctuation.  Though I awoke
here in my cell this morning, I must have materialized elsewhere and done
something that caused me to be arrested."
     "Not necessarily," said the man lying on the ground beside Von Spleen.
"Greez and I were arrested simply for falling out of the sky."
     "That's nice," Von Spleen said, irritated.  "And you are?"
     "Dr. Cerulean Brazier, of the V.S.S. Vatican II," was the reply.
"And... you're Von Spleen?  Dr. Von Spleen?  *The* Dr. Bing Von Spleen?
The Earth's foremost spamologist (because you killed the other threemost)?"
     "Yes, yes, yes, and yes," Von Spleen answered.  "Though I didn't
*mean* to kill them -- it was all a huge accident."
     "Some accident," Bubba commented.  "They were lured into your lab by
you with promises of extravagant new applications of your spamological
theories to the fields of drink-mixing and picking up women, only to be
crushed by sixteen tons of spam that dropped down on them once they were
all standing on the 'bullseye.'"
     "Can we just get past this for a moment?" Von Spleen asked, angrily.
"What do you want, aside from gloating at my predicament and reminding me
of certain less-than-savory episodes from my past?"
     "What makes you think I'm here to gloat?"
     "Well, didn't I once make you my slave?"
     "Oh, yeah," Bubba said, not really remembering the incident as such,
though he did remember reading about it in a recent 'Sfstory Classics'
posting.  "Well, despite that, I'm here because I know you've changed since
those days, as evidenced by your work with Time Agent 357.  If he thinks
you're all right, then so do I.  And being as you're an all-right guy, I'd
hardly like to see you get turned into a nasty smear on the wall of the
Tyrant's execution chamber."
     "Tyrant?" Von Spleen asked.
     "Belzor, the Tyrant of Angilus Prime," Brazier informed him.  "Angilus
Prime being the world we're on now."
     "Needlewarp!" said Von Spleen, recalling what he'd heard about the
horrifying effectiveness of Angilus Prime's interdiction policies.  On the
PLS Tolling Bell, Hemingway had made no effort to search the Doctor,
despite Hell's stringent guidelines, probably because he wanted Von
Spleen's willing cooperation, which he'd gotten, up to the end.  Which
meant, when he materialized on Angilus Prime, the pills in his pockets had
been discovered and confiscated, and he had a death mark in indelible ink.
     "Now, I'm going to spring you, doc," said Bubba, "but you've got to
play along with me."  Von Spleen nodded.  "I'm going back to the palace to
recommend you for immediate execution this evening."
     This did not seem like an auspicious plan to Von Spleen, a fact the
Doctor communicated to Bubba with a great deal of invective and not a few
punches, which were mostly ineffective against the hulking New Yorker.
     "I'm here as an arms merchant," Bubba explained, after getting Von
Spleen to calm down by punching him in the gut.  "I've arranged a demo for
Belzor of a Mark III E-Z Deth Autocannon.  I can turn it against him and
his guards, and make a sales arrangement with his successor.  Deal?"
     "Urgh," Von Spleen groaned, clutching his gut for the second time that
day.  "I mean, yes."  The part of his mind that wasn't occupied with
thoughts of anger, retaliation, cowardice, spam, mind-altering substances
or blondes wondered why Bubba would jeopardize his business to help someone
who had, previously, treated him very badly.
     "What about me?" Brazier whined.  Bubba obliged him by punching him in
the gut, too.


(continued in part two, following...)
=========================================================================
Date:         Wed, 08 Apr 1998 00:31:28 -0400
From:         "Gary W. Olson" (swede at acd.net)
To:           superguy at eyrie.org
Subject:      SF: Now It's Your Turn: Death for Sale or Rent (2/3)

(continued from part one...)

     By the time Dr. Cerulean Brazier stopped seeing stars, Bubba was gone
and the cell door energy screen was up and humming.  Dr. Bing Von Spleen
was sitting on his bed, seemingly lost in thought.
     Bing Von Spleen, Brazier thought, almost rapturously.  The Earth's
foremost spamologist.  The cleanest-complexioned spamologist the universe
had ever witnessed.  Ph.D., M.D., S.o.B.  And, most importantly, the Patron
Saint of Drug Abuse.  Brazier had genuflected before a holographic image of
Von Spleen for years, before losing the image and all his other personal
possessions in the odd destruction of Near Space Three.
     Now he was here, before Brazier, strangely sober and not at all as
impressive as Brazier figured.  Brazier pressed his hypospray against his
neck again, and injected himself with the rest of its contents, figuring
that would help his perspective a great deal.  It did not, as he could
clearly perceive that he was still in a cell with Von Spleen, Hyperiok, and
not a whole lot else.  Brazier looked at the hypospray and groaned.
     "What's your problem now?" Von Spleen asked.
     "This hypospray doesn't contain hallucinogens after all," Brazier
whined.  "It has anti-hallucinogens.  How the hell'd they get in there?"
     "You probably mixed them up when you were high," Von Spleen told him.
"I've done it a few times myself, kid, though I never took to one of those
newfangled hypospray things."
     "Huh," Brazier said, as he leaned back against the wall.  "So we
escape tonight."
     "*I* escape tonight," Von Spleen corrected.  "You're on your own."
     Brazier gaped.  "But... but sir!  Your eminence!  I've been a loyal
admirer of yours for years--"
     "Then you know the value I put on saving my ass when it's in a sling,"
Von Spleen replied, testily.  "Besides, as far as we know, you're not
marked for death, and neither is Hyperiok, however much he may deserve it.
How did you two ever meet, anyway?"  He listened, patiently, as Brazier
related the story of Near Space Three's demise, and his subsequent visit to
and battles on board Freedonia 5.  When it was done, Von Spleen let out a
deep belch, which impressed Brazier, as the only food in the cell was a
plateful of moldering baloney which the Doctor had evidently not touched.
     "So you think I can make it?" Brazier asked, eagerly.
     "Well," Von Spleen replied, "no.  In fact, you'll probably be lucky to
get executed by Belzor before Hyperiok wakes up, finds out he's in a cell
because of you, and proceeds to use you to redecorate said cell in blood
red."
     "I could tell him it's your fault," Brazier pointed out.
     "It wouldn't stop him from killing you."
     "Maybe.  But he'd go after you next."
     "Good point," Von Spleen said, glancing at the still-slumbering
Hyperiok.  "So all we have to do is wait for evening, and hope--"
     Suddenly and without warning, the section of the back wall that Von
Spleen was leaning against drew back by about five feet, leaving the Doctor
sprawled on the floor.  Brazier stood in time to see Von Spleen being
helped up by two blue-skinned male Angilonians who were apparently
responsible for retracting the wall.
     "It is time, Awaited One," one of them said.  "You are to meet with us
and deliver your vision for freeing the people of Angilus Prime from the
Tyrant!"
     "What are you on?" Von Spleen asked.  "And can I have some?"
     "We have no time to meditate on the mysteries only you can know,
Awaited One," the other said.  "Your followers are waiting for you now."
     "I'm not going anywhere," Von Spleen insisted.
     "Oh, then we'll have to kill you," the first Angilonian told him.  "As
it was Written that the Awaited One would joyously come to us to reveal his
sacred vision and drink our sacred beer and shake his sacred groove thing
with our sacred priestesses--"
     "Right," Von Spleen said.  "That's what I meant.  Shall we be off?"
     "Er," the second Angilonian said, evidently thrown for a loop by Von
Spleen's sudden change in expression and willingness to go.  "This way...."
     "Ahem," Brazier ahemed.  Von Spleen turned to him and scowled.
     "Can we bring my... ah... my disciple?" Von Spleen asked.
     "I don't see why not," the first Angilonian said.
     "Great," Von Spleen replied.  "Brazier, this is Petrey and Deesh, two
of the biggest foo-- er-- cool guys I've met on this planet.  Petrey,
Deesh, this is Dr. Cerulean Brazier, my disciple, who you may feel free to
pummel anytime you get the urge."
     "Hey-- oof!" Brazier exclaimed, as Petrey punched him in the chest,
then picked him up and slung him over his shoulder.
     "Thanks!" Petrey replied.  "You sure are one understanding Awaited One."
     "I try to be," Von Spleen replied, as he followed Deesh into the
passageway behind the cell.  The secret wall slid shut a second later,
sealing Greez Hyperiok inside.


     As blue-skinned aliens in rough purple robes watched him with a
directness and intensity that was either due to pathological obsession or
nearsightedness, Bubba yawned and finished his second beer, pretending a
nonchalance that was close to the opposite of his interior state.  In one
hour, he was due in the Tyrant's Palace for a demonstration of a laser
cannon, one that would be difficult to give while lacking a throat, the
certain result of arriving late.  Not that Bubba feared death, as such; in
his experience, death was, for a surprising number of people, including
himself at one point, merely a temporary career move.
     The reason for his risking his throat was that he had a deal to swing,
one equally as important as the one he was trying to swing with the Tyrant.
And, as the leaders of the Underground he was meeting with repeatedly
assured him, there was only one being in all of space and time who could
swing such a deal, and it was this being that they, and he, awaited.
     "He's here!" Bubba heard someone exclaim, followed by more
exclamations, such as "he's shorter than we expected!" and "he's got a
disciple!" and "my, what a clean complexion!"  While Bubba was not exactly
the sharpest knife in the drawer, he instantly realized who the
Underground's 'Awaited One' was.
     "Hey, Bubba!" Dr. Bing Von Spleen exclaimed.  "Small planet, eh?
Guess I won't be needing you to spring me now."
     "Hi, Doc," Bubba replied, calmly.  "And you too, Doc."
     "Hi," Dr. Cerulean Brazier grumbled.  "Ow," he added, as the alien
carrying him, who Bubba recalled was named 'Petrey,' dropped him on the
floor by the table where Bubba was seated.
     "Here for the party?" Von Spleen asked.  "Feel free to stay.  You are
hereby... um... the Patron Saint of... whatever it is you do."
     "I sell weapons to whoever wants them," Bubba told him, helpfully.
     "Right," said Von Spleen.  "You're the Patron Saint of Death for Sale
or Rent."
     "Great," Bubba grumbled.  "Now, Von Spleen... Bing...."
     "Hey!" Von Spleen exclaimed toward a knot of robed Angilonians.
"Where's the Sacred Beer?  And the Sacred Priestesses?  Tall sacred
blondes, if you have any."
     "Doctor," Bubba said, menacingly.  "I'm here to cut a weapons deal
with the 'Awaited One.'  If that's you, fine.  But you will do it now, on
my terms, and quickly.  Call it a prophecy."
     "Based on what?" Brazier asked.
     Bubba leaned in close, so that only Von Spleen and Brazier could hear.
"Based on the personal nukers I have aimed at your stomachs, under the
table, both armed and ready to fire."
     "As if getting pummeled there wasn't bad enough," Von Spleen, suddenly
no longer mirthful, said.
     "I'll say," Brazier said.  "Not very saintly, if you ask me."
     "I didn't."
     "I know," Brazier replied.  "Speaking of which, Dr. Von Spleen, how
*did* you get to be Patron Saint of Drug Abuse, anyway?  Did you get made a
Paladin, like Matt DeForrest and Linda Madison?"
     "What?" Bubba asked, dazed by the sheer g-force of Brazier's
conversational shift.
     Von Spleen was less dazed, though he was by no means pleased by the
personal inquiry.  "No.  The whole Paladin bit for them was God's idea, so
far as I know, about the same time he made DeForrest the Patron Saint of
Hot Chocolate, Apple Cider and Other Hot, Nice, Toasty Drinks and Madison
the Patron Saint of Lacy Underwear.  I'm no Paladin.  Not my nature.  As
far as how I was named a Saint, I think it was some Author's idea.  I was
probably stoned at the time, so I can't remember exactly--"
     "If we could just get back to the arms deal for a moment," Bubba
prompted, "I--"
     "Still," Brazier interrupted, "becoming a Patron Saint must have had
*some* effect on you.  Maybe it's why you developed a conscience and
started working with 357...."
     "I highly doubt it," Von Spleen replied, smugly.  "Here, we'll test
it.  I just named Bubba as a Patron Saint.  Bubba, have you suddenly
developed a conscience?"
     "Nope," Bubba confirmed, cheerfully but without much volume.  "I can
prove it by nuking you both into microscopic ashes, if you like."
     "Er," Von Spleen said.  "Right.  Arms deal, you say?"
     "Arms deal, I say," Bubba said.
     "Shoot."
     The sweets trolley that one of the priestesses had been wheeling
towards them during their almost entirely irrelevant discussion on the
effects of sainthood suddenly and without warning was reduced to
microscopic ashes.
     "Er," Von Spleen repeated.
     "Sorry," said Bubba.  "Reflex.  And wandering aim.  And old joke."  He
pulled his arms from under the table and brandished his nukers openly.
Petrey and Deesh, not quite as stupid as they appeared to be, recognized
them as such and stayed well back.  "Unfortunately, due to your stalling, I
no longer have time to swing this deal in the way I'd like.  I've got to
get to the Tyrant's to perform an execution, and you have to be there as
well, for the reasons we earlier discussed."
     "But I don't want to--"
     Bubba hefted his nuker menacingly, something he was exceptionally good at.
     "--without leaving instructions for my brethren who have waited for me
all these years."
     "Good idea," Bubba said.  "In fact, it gives me an idea."
     "It gives me the willies," Brazier confided, shivering.  Bubba ignored
him some more, while continuing to discuss the idea and its details with
Von Spleen.
     Ten minutes later, instructions agreed upon and delivered by Von
Spleen, he, Bubba, Brazier, Petrey and Deesh departed the Underground's
secret hideout, a small building with a neon sign ("The Church of the
Awaited One and Interplanetary House of Pancakes") (the Tyrant's guards, in
addition to being ill-armored, were ill-literate) and headed rapidly toward
the Tyrant's Palace.


     "This is stupid," Bing Von Spleen muttered under his breath, while the
Tyrant Belzor was inspecting the Mark III E-Z-Deth Autocannon.  Bubba stood
next to Belzor, hands clasped behind his back, looking for all the world
like a salesman who was certain of a sale and could afford to put up a
front of extreme patience and blank facial expression.  "Very stupid."
     "How stupid is very stupid?" Cerulean Brazier asked.  Like Von Spleen,
he was shackled to a stone wall that had evidently seen its share of
bloodshed, not to mention muscle-tissue shed, bone-shed, major-organ-shed
and spilled office party punch.  Unlike Von Spleen, he seemed taken with
the experience, as though he expected his shipmates to barge in at any
moment to rescue him.  Unfortunately, of Brazier's shipmates, only Greez
Hyperiok was on the planet, so far as they knew, and execution would
probably be preferable to the kind of rescue Hyperiok would mount.
     "Very," repeated Von Spleen.  "Very very very very very."
     "Stupider than a five-mile-wide key lime pie?"
     "Yes."
     "Stupider than Zark Flyby dressed as Col. Sanders and riding a giant
chicken?"
     "Mmmmm... yes.  Barely."
     "Stupider than resurrecting Lisa Bonet?"
     "Well, not *that* stupid... but lord knows this ain't smart."
	Belzor, who, in honor of the impending executions, was wearing his
Formal Imperial Robe (which, Von Spleen thought, looked like it had been
designed in committee by Liz Taylor, Elton John, Ming the Merciless and
Caspar Weinberger following three days of relentless consumption of
Mickey's Big-Mouth Malt Liquor, Hostess Ding-Dongs and whole boxloads of
Smarties), turned to face them, not noticing as the stuffed badger mounted
on his left shoulder fell off and rolled inconspicuously away.
     "Any last words," he said, sharply and maliciously, "before you are
reduced to so much atomic debris, leaving only your shadows on the wall and
a vague scent of soiled trousers?"
     "Yes," Von Spleen and Brazier said, simultaneously.  But before Von
Spleen could start reciting the first of his six hundred scientific papers
on spam and its meta-properties, Belzor signaled to Petrey, who slapped a
handy strip of duct tape over Von Spleen's mouth, while Deesh did the same
to Brazier.
     "Good," Belzor replied.  "Tell them to whatever deity is willing to
listen."  He turned sharply to face Bubba, causing the stuffed,
candy-striped llama adorning his right shoulder to go flying until it
landed atop the helmet of one of the three other guards in the execution
chamber.  "Is everything ready for their complete and utter annihilation?"
     "Yes," Bubba confirmed.
     "How ready?" Belzor asked.  "Do you have to set the power-knob thingie?"
     "Automatic."
     "What about the power feed?  Is it open?  Is the safety off?"
     "It's all set," Bubba assured him.  "I just have to press one button
in order to blow them completely away."
     "Ah, good," said Belzor.  "Then I have no more need for you.  Guards!
Seize him!"
     "Mmmph!" Von Spleen said, or tried to say.  He could only watch
helplessly as the three guards converged on Bubba, who was whipping out his
personal nukers, only to discover that the guards moved faster than he did.
Petrey and Deesh had also moved forward, but not to hinder Bubba, as the
first three guards discovered.  There ensued a scene of merciless battle,
defiant struggle, and epic screaming, which lasted a while and kicked up a
dust cloud that obscured most of what was going on, making it easy to
narrate.
     When the dust cleared, Von Spleen could see Bubba, Petrey, and Deesh
on the floor, Belzor's three guards in clumps of ash on the floor, assorted
stuffed mammals in disarray around the base of the laser cannon, and Belzor
holding Bubba's personal nukers pointed in the general direction of
anything and everything with a pulse.
     "Up against the wall with the executees," Belzor ordered.  Bubba,
Petrey and Deesh reluctantly complied.  "Now, the one button I have to push
to annihilate you all... which is it again?"
     "You really expect me to tell you?" Bubba asked.
     "Yes," Belzor replied.
     "Oh.  Third button from the top, left hand side.  Marked with a
skull-n-bones."
     "Mmmmph!" Von Spleen and Brazier exclaimed in unison.  Petrey and
Deesh looked simply confused, occasionally glancing at Von Spleen as if he
could do something about the terminal situation they faced.
     Chuckling heartily, Belzor pushed the marked button.  Violent, scarlet
bright death entirely failed to leap from the barrel of the cannon.  A
sharp scream of annihilating terror was noticeably absent in the air.
Belzor, on the other hand, was distinctly visible and audible, and was
angrily cursing at and striking ineffectually at the control console.
     "I forgot to mention," said Bubba, "it requires my fingerprint ID to
work."
     "And you were going to *sell* me this?" Belzor asked.
     "I would have changed the print-lock."
     "Oh."  Belzor thought for a few minutes, his face showing the strain.
"I could just cut off your thumb, I suppose, or your entire hand--"
     "Life sensors," Bubba said.  "Even if you got it over there right
away, it wouldn't work.  I could come over and fire it for you--"
     "Except you'd turn it on me," Belzor noted, "and I am not so enamored
of my own fighting skills to think I could hold my own in a struggle
against you for possession of your nukers."  He thought some more, making
Von Spleen wonder if the Tyrant was constipated.  "I've got it!"
     "Yes, you do," said Bubba.  "But what you do about it--"
     "Shut up," Belzor ordered, as he withdrew a small egg from his pocket.
"I knew this would come in handy someday."  He opened the egg, withdrew a
small, tan blob, then advanced until he was standing directly before Bubba.
"Hold out your hand," Belzor told him.
     "Which one?" Bubba asked.
     "The one with the thumb that controls the lock on the cannon."
     Bubba held out his right hand.  As Belzor had the nuker aimed directly
at his chest, and Petrey and Deesh had apparently gone immobile, he had few
options.  Belzor pressed the blob against Bubba's upturned thumb and
withdrew it rapidly.  He then walked backward to the cannon, stepping
around it to get to the console.  Once there, he shoved his thumb into the
blob, so that the impression of Bubba's thumb-print was just above his own.
     "Just remember, my soon-to-be-dearly-departed friends," Belzor told
them, pleasure pouring from his words like milk over froot loops, "you can
never outsmart the Putty."
     With that, he pressed his Putty-covered thumb against the button.
Violent, scarlet bright death leapt.  Annihilating terror screamed sharply.
The blast, however, did not emerge from the barrel of the cannon.  Or,
rather, it did, just in what, for the Tyrant, was the wrong direction:
through the back of the barrel.  He had literally no time to voice his
displeasure at this sudden development, as he disappeared in a flash of
light and a moderately-gratuitous thunderclap of impact.
     "Well," said Bubba, without any hint of having had a near-brush with
death, "that wasn't quite how I expected it to work out, but what the hey."
While Bubba strolled over to retrieve his personal nukers, which had fallen
to the floor upon Belzor's absenting himself from existence, Petrey and
Deesh freed Brazier and Von Spleen from their shackles and duct tapings.
     "I suppose I can still count on you to give me a lift off this
planet?" Von Spleen asked Bubba.
     "Sure," Bubba replied.  "Unless you'd prefer to travel with Dr.
Brazier.  You might not like where I'm going."
     "Fine with me," said Brazier.  "Will we be picking up Hyperiok?"
     "No," Bubba and Von Spleen said.
     "Fine with me," said Brazier.  He looked at Bubba.  "Did you rig the
laser cannon to do that?"
     "Not exactly," Bubba replied.  "What Belzor tried might have worked,
if he could have taken the print without getting the reverse image on the
Putty.  I guess the Putty outsmarted him."
     Von Spleen said nothing.  Everything would be all right now.  All he
had left to do was get out of the Palace, which would be easy, given how
well-armed Bubba was.  The future, for the first time that day, seemed
assured.
     "Aren't your followers supposed to be here by now?" Brazier asked.
     "Your Eminence!" a slender Angilonian woman in a flowing green dress
exclaimed as she barged into the execution chamber without knocking.  "The
Palace is surrounded!  We are in danger!  We-- er."
     "We're just leaving," Von Spleen assured her.
     "Where is the Tyrant?" she asked.
     "Gone," Bubba replied.  "To someplace he won't return from."
     "Oh, great," the woman growled.  "I suppose he won't be needing the
women of his harem any more."
     "Harem?" Von Spleen and Brazier asked.
     "No, I only hear you," she replied.  "Speaking of hearing things,
haven't you heard the horrid commotion outside?  Don't you know we're
surrounded by a horde of deranged, ranting beings?"
     Von Spleen recoiled in horror.  "Not Sfstory authors!" he wailed.
     "No, just a few thousand cultists shouting the name of some sort of
'Awaited One.'  When they're not punching one another in the stomach or
throwing up, they go on about how the Awaited One shall show them the true
way to live, how he shall have the best of what was formerly forbidden, and
so on and so on.  It sounds to me like they want him to be the absolute
ruler of this world, and that his every whim, no matter how decadent or
perverse, is to be granted without question.  You wouldn't happen to know
who they're referring to, would you?"
     "They're talking," Von Spleen said, hurriedly, "about m--"
     "Me," Petrey said, slapping his large blue hand over Dr. Von Spleen's
mouth.  "Right, Deesh?"
     "S'right," Deesh answered.  Von Spleen noted that both Petrey and
Deesh had lost both their immobility but also their looks of worship,
replaced by a quickness and looks of calculation that, while probably not
getting into using the advanced function keys like sine or cosine, were
sufficient for totaling their combined mass and seeing that it compared
favorably to the combined mass of Von Spleen and Brazier.  As for Bubba, he
seemed less than surprised by this sudden development.
     "So I deal with you, then," he said.  "Unfortunately, I seem to have
had a sudden attack of ethics.  If you intend to establish a dictatorship
with your newfound status, I cannot, in good conscience, sell you any
weapons."
     "But you were going to sell to Belzor!" Deesh protested.
     "Special circumstances," said Bubba, without elaborating.
     "Mmmmm!" Von Spleen protested, ineffectually, while trying to kick at
Petrey's leg.  Though he missed his target, he encountered resistance, and
looked down to see what he had struck.  A plan began to form in his mind.
     "How about this, then," Petrey said.  "I allow the population to vote,
say, every two years, to determine who gets to be the Awaited One and his
Disciples.  That's maybe thirty days in the whole of an average
Angilonian's adult lifetime.  For all the other tens of thousands of days,
they have to obey whatever law we pass, no matter how irrational or
self-serving, and if they don't like it, we tell them to shut up and wait
until the next voting day."
     "Ah, a democracy," said Bubba, nodding.  "How many weapons of mass
destruction would you like, then?"
     "Hmmm," Petrey hmmmd.  "We'll probably need a lot."
     "You'll get them," said the Angilonian woman in the green dress,
startling everyone in two ways.  First, she reminded them all that she was
still in the scene.  Second, by reaching up to her scalp and pulling upon a
long zipper that went from her scalp and down her back, she demonstrated
that she was not a she at all, but was instead Greez Hyperiok in an
extremely clever and unlikely disguise.
     "Needlewarp," Bubba muttered, as Greez's bulk parted the image of the
slender harem tart like the Red Sea parting Moses.
     "You said it," Hyperiok sneered as he aimed his nukers at them.  "The
second Von Spleen and Brazier left, I woke up, busted out, retrieved my
weapons, and used my skills at disguise to infiltrate the Tyrant's harem,
all in the span of about an hour."  Everyone applauded politely.  Now, I'm
going to waste all of you, then get out of here."  Everyone failed to
applaud, politely or not.
     "Greez," said Brazier, his mouth no longer held by Deesh, who was too
dumbfounded to keep the pressure up.  "How is it you can suddenly talk in
complete sentences and come up with plans that actually work?"
     "I always could," Hyperiok replied.  "I was just suffering from a
temporary brain fugue during Renegade Anarchists III and IV, due to the
fact the author didn't read my history right.  Falling from a great height
seems to have cleared it up.  Now, you all die!"
     It was now or never, Von Spleen thought.
     Actually, he corrected, it was neither now nor never.  It was a large,
stuffed badger that had fallen off the ex-Tyrant's robe.  Nevertheless,
when Von Spleen kicked it up into Greez's face, it startled Greez into
firing wildly, blowing away the far wall of the execution chamber and
causing Petrey and Deesh to run away rapidly.
     Von Spleen and Brazier took this as a sign that it was high time to
get the expletive outta Dodge, as it were.  Unfortunately, several thousand
cultists, no longer blocked by the Palace wall that Hyperiok had handily
disintegrated, saw it as a sign to come on in, fists swinging and lunches
flying with the fervor of true believers.
     Even more unfortunately, Bubba seemed to take it as a sign to hit Von
Spleen on the back of his head with the handle of one of his nukers, which
cued the floor to rush up at Von Spleen's face and his consciousness to
flee with annoying rapidity.


(concluded in part three...)
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