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Sfstory Log 100

=========================================================================
Date:         Tue, 16 Oct 2001 12:22:19 -0400
From:         "Troy H. Cheek" (troy at copperhill.com)
To:           Superguy List (superguy at lists.eyrie.org)
Subject:      SF: HMS Golden Lance #04 - Here's Ralph!

SF: HMS Golden Lance #04 - Here's Ralph!

In a far-flung corner of a third-rate universe was an obsolete galaxy
with a run-down solar system where a beat-up old yellow-orange sun
shone down on a useless blue-green planet named Earth.

This story takes place a very great distance from there.

At the place where our story actually takes place, there was a little
research base orbiting a planet.  The name of the planet, according to
its native population, was Snuzel VII, which was odd because it was
the only planet orbiting that particular star, which wasn't named
Snuzel in any case.  Indeed, the natives had no perception of other
planets at all, which makes it even more odd that they would even
bother to give their planet a unique identifying name to begin with.

The oddest thing by far, however, was that in spite of having no
knowledge whatsover about astronomy or cosmology, these natives were
quite convinced that their planet was going to be swallowed by a black
hole and completely destroyed, possibly by being converted into Neo-
Spam, before the end of the current calendar year.  They had been
quite convinced of this for a long, long time.  So convinced, in fact,
that rather than attempt to live in ecological harmony with their
planet, rather than conserve their limited resources, they had instead
started a generations-long party.  Their only concern was that they
might exhaust their resources and die of starvation before the actual
arrival of the black hole.  This had led to the invention of a matter
transportion and conversion device which had then transported Snuzel
VII's only moon down to the planet's surface, simultaneously
converting it into the local equivalent of beer and corn chips.

The possibility that this device could have easily moved Snuzel VII
away from the coming black hole, or easily converted the natives into
beings which could have survived being trapped inside one, seemingly
never occured to anyone.

In orbit about Snuzel VII was a base, which the natives had never
noticed because once their moon had been converted, they never had
reason to look up.  In that base was a briefing room, not that there
was a good reason for the base to have a briefing room, but because
the owner of the base put briefing rooms in everything he designed.

This particular briefing room contained four (4) beings.  The first
was Doctor Bing Von Spleen, an aging human spamologist from that Earth
place that we briefly spoke of earlier.  The second was Time Agent
357, a mortal mutation of an immortal race, who looked human in spite
of the fact that he was probably as far from being human as you could
be and still be made of matter.  The third was a formerly immortal
former servant of Heaven named Omegas, currently almost human due to
being very nearly completely drained of his former powers during an
escape from a very sticky situation a few chapters back.

"Hi, there!" said the fourth being as he walked into the briefing
room.  This being was an odd weaseloid-looking creature, who looked
all the odder for walking on his two back paws and grasping what
appeared to be a ukulele in this front paws, which seemed limber
enough to almost be considered hands.  His pelt was a beautiful dark
brown, though a touch of gray around his muzzle hinted that many
seasons had passed since his birth on the planet Leibowitz IV.

One might have heard that the Giant Space Weasel of Anthrax V is a
multi-dimensional, inter-universal horror.  A huge creature with big
slathering fangs dripping red-hot poison, eyes that shoot forth
searing bolts of deadly radiation, and gigantic claws that can rip
apart planets with a flick of the wrist.

If one had heard that, then one had listened to the Giant Space
Weasel's P.R. man, G.X.P. Varneyloop the LXVII, who was known to
exaggerate slightly from time to time.  This Giant Space Weasel was
an easy-going, friendly sort known to his friends as...

"Ralph!" exclaimed Time Agent 357.  "How did you get here?"

Ralph took a seat between Spleen and Omegas, one of whom greeted him
warmly and the other of whom pretty much ignored him.  Ralph greeted
each in kind.  "Well, 357, I was sitting there on the Netherspace
Nympho Beach, minding my own business, when some passing tourists
needed a way home.  As you might remember, one can only exit the
Netherspace Nympho Beach through the Green Door, which can only be
noticed when someone else points it out to you.  I pointed it out to
the tourists.  As the last one was going through, she pointed out a
second green door which I hadn't noticed before.  I took this as an
omen that I should go through.  Stopping only long enough to pick up
my #3 ukulele, I did so.  I arrived here."

Ralph paused to look around.  "Um, where is here, exactly?"

Spleen jumped right in.  Well, after 357 nudged him awake, he jumped
right in.  "This is a base I had built so that I could continue my
Spam research after I retired from adventuring.  It doubles as a
timeship manufacturing plant.  It is completely automated and quite
profitable.  Unfortunately, by my calculations, it will be destroyed
in about 10 minutes."

"What!?!" shouted Omegas, beer spewing from his nose dribbling down
his loud Hawaiian shirt.

"Well, you didn't think our time and dimension hopping would lose
those huge attack ships forever, did you?  They'll track us down any
minute now."  Spleen was momentarily distracted by Ralph opening the
door by which he entered, apparently checking to see if he could exit
back to a beach of some sort.  "But don't fear.  I have a ship lined
up to freege us away to safety."

"'Freege?'" muttered Omegas.  "Who says 'freege' anymore?"

Pausing only to grab a suitcase, Spleen led the intrepid band of
adventurers through a maze of twisting passageways, all alike, and
back to the docking bay and automated shipyards.  A long procession of
robots were loading themselves into the research vessel by which
Spleen, Omegas, and 357 had arrived.  Another, larger vessel sat
waiting nearby.

"The Golden Lance!" exclaimed 357 as they boarded her.  They entered
the control room, where a robot was just finishing shining up the
controls.  The robot handed a set of keys to 357 and went out to join
the others.  357 checked the board carefully.  "It's just like my old
ship, the HMS Golden Lance, right down to the modifications I made
before my last mission.  How?"

The ship answered.  =Part of the service agreement was that I transmit
all hardware changes made to me to Doctor Spleen's shipyards so they
could incorporate improvements into later models.=

"Val?  Is that you?"

=It is I, the VAL 9000 computer,= continued the high-pitched feminine
voice, both sexy and irritating at the same time.  =Doctor Spleen has
even loaded up my latest memory backups, the ones that I transmitted
just before I shorted out after our escape from the anomoly.=

"I hate to cut this tearful reunion short," lied Omegas in his basso
profundo voice, "but we really need to get out of here."

The various entities busied themselves with whatever needed doing, and
quickly the ship was ready for space.  The docking bay doors opened.
The research vessel took the lead, its robot crew blasting into
another dimension almost before they cleared the doors.  Spleen
explained that they would set up another base at a random location and
contact him when it was done.  "Now, we can leave ourselves, leaving
our enemies to attack an empty base."

He spoke not a second too soon.  Two large, vicious-looking attack
ships appeared out of nowhere, in much the way that ships shouldn't.
Luckily, they were on the far side of the base from the Golden Lance,
and so didn't detect her just yet.  The ships opened fire on the base,
and the base automatically opened fire on the ships.  All shields held
through the opening barages.  The Golden Lance quietly slipped away.

"Now," whispered 357, "let's get out of here."  He pushed the button
that said "Quick Escape."

=Error,= announced the VAL 9000 computer.  =Unable to open driver
SLIPDRIVE.DLL - check driver and try again.=

357 checked and tried again.

=Error in Primary Module ABPSARI.DRV=

357 turned to Spleen.  Spleen was momentarily speechless, then came up
with an explaination.  "Oh, no!  The robots must have used the new
beta OS when they built this ship.  There are some driver issues that
I haven't quite worked out yet.  We'll have to re-install the old
operating system, and quickly!"

Spleen and 357 attacked the task.  Ralph, being totally out of his
league with any type of technology, simply sat and watched.  Omegas
amused himself by trying the get the guns to work.  He knew enough
about the Golden Lance to realize that while the main systems were
offline, the secondary weapons systems included self-powered DIESCUM
(Diffusion Internal Energy SuperChronal Unilateral Matrixor) cannon
which he could use to good effect.  All he needed was a little time.

Time, however, was not cooperating.  The attacking ships had realized
that the base was unmanned and firing on automatic.  They scanned past
the base and located the Golden Lance.  Probing fire glanced off her
secondary shields.  Omegas answered with DIESCUM blasts.  Val took the
ship through an evasive course, pausing only to shout cryptic error
messages at 357 and Spleen.

"New driver disk installed!" shouted Spleen.

"Rebooting now!" answered 357.

=Non-system disk!  Replace disk and press any key when ready!=

"Die scum!" screamed Omegas, thoroughly enjoying himself for the first
time in 150 subjective years.

"I think I'm going to be sick now," mumbled Ralph.

The Golden Lance's evasive course caused her to rocket through the
space between the base and the planet Snuzel VII, lighting up the
atmosphere in such a way that a few of the planet's inhabitants
actually noticed.  They took this as a sign of impending doom and
immediately went back to partying.

As the two pursuing ships took the same course, Spleen sent a coded
signal to the base.  Massive towing beams lashed out, capturing the
two ships.  One reconfigured its shields and slipped gracefully out of
the towing beam.  The other tried to overload its ABPSARI drive to
break free with raw power.  As the base was also powered by an ABPSARI
reactor, it too began to build to overload.

The two devices exploded simulaneously, starting a Spam-powered chain
reaction which no doubt would have had random, unpredictable, and
cosmic-level results had it been allowed to continue.  Luckily,
however, the two reactions interfered with each other, cancelled each
other out, and created nothing more than a short-lived black hole.

Said black hole lived just long enough to swallow up the planet Snuzel
VII, whose inhabitants had just enough time to shout "Yay!" as they
were pulled into oblivion and out of this story line.  They had just
that very minute run out of beer and corn chips and would have been
better off dead anyway by their way of thinking.

"That was close," said Spleen to nobody in particular.  He, better
than anyone else, knew the raw power of Spam.  "357, are we ready?"

357 crawled out from underneath his control panel.  "Well, I've got
the ABPSARI drive wired to start and stop on manual control, but with
the navigational computer still offline, we'll be jumping blind."

"No!" shouted Omegas.  He, better than anyone else, knew what kind of
horrible things could happen during a blind jump, having more than
once merged his atoms with those of inanimate objects.  He ran across
the control room, intending to pull 357 bodily away from the controls.
Unfortunately, he had forgotten about Ralph, who was quiety retching
under his seat.  Omegas tripped over Ralph, slid past 357, and slammed
facefirst into the jury-rigged ABPSARI controls.  Spleen reached to
deactivate them, but he was too late.

Deep within the bowels of the ship, a tiny amount of mold-covered Spam
was peeled and re-integrated, with the standard unpredictable results.
The HMS Golden Lance disappeared from normal space.  The single
remaining attack ship, close enough to be caught in the space-time-
spam wake, disappeared as well.

What will the standard unpredictable results be?
Where has the HMS Golden Lance and her crew disappeared to?
Will Gilligan ever get off that stupid island?
Who knows?
Who cares?

No answers of no sort will not be not answered in the next not-chapter
of NOT SFSTORY!!!  (Not coming soon to a not-theater nowhere near
nobody you don't know.)

Copyright 2001 by Troy H. Cheek troy at cheek.org http://www.cheek.org
=========================================================================
Date:         Thu, 18 Oct 2001 01:55:17 -0400
From:         "Troy H. Cheek" (troy at copperhill.com)
To:           Superguy List (superguy at lists.eyrie.org)
Subject:      SF: HMS Golden Lance #05 - Where Are They Now?

SF: HMS Golden Lance #05 - Where Are They Now?

The cast of characters...

Time Agent 357 - Born of a race of near-immortal beings who tend to
live for hundreds of thousands of years until they die of boredom or
stupidity, 357 is actually a genetic throwback who is only expected to
live a mere thousand years or so.  He has been many things in his
lifetime, including arguably the greatest Time Agent who ever worked
for the Time Police, which he attributes to simply being a competent
being surrounded by idiots.  He has spent the last 150 subjective
years trapped inside of a temporal, dimensional, and spacial anomaly.
He spent the previous 100 years attempting to retire.

Omegas - A very nearly all-powerful, almost omnipotent being of
unknown origin, Omegas has served the forces of Good, Evil, and
(mostly) himself.  This god-like alien, or alien-like god, could very
well set himself up as supreme ruler of all of Creation, if only he
could avoid getting himself into stupid situations that result in his
powers being drained.  Like, for instance, having spent the last 150
subjective years trapped inside of a temporal, dimensional, and
spacial anomaly with Time Agent 357.

Doctor Bing Von Spleen - The Galaxy's foremost Spamological Engineer
(because he personally killed the other threemost), Spleen invented
the Automatic Beet Peeler and Sub-Atomic Re-Integrator (or ABPSAR).
Doctor Spleen was once an professor at a respected university, where
he enjoyed sex, beer, recreational drugs, and having a good time
irresponsibly, proving that he was actually a college _student_
trapped in a professor's body.  After many years of adventuring, he
retired, never to be seen again.  Unfortunately, he has been dragged
back into the storyline, where he tries desperately to avoid contact
with his younger self, fearing a temporal paradox.

Ralph - Known as the Giant Space Weasel of Anthrax V, Ralph is
actually a friendly, easy-going weaseloid from Leibowitz IV and an
accomplished ukulele player in his own right.  He would much rather
return to his home in Netherspace and enjoy the company of his 500
weaseloid wives, but realizes that somebody has to be the "everyman"
character that the reader can relate to.

HMS Golden Lance - Time Agent 357's ship, the HMS Golden Lance, was
designed and built by Doctor Spleen to replace an earlier ship by the
same name, also designed and built by Doctor Spleen.  It is part
timeship, part interdimensional cruiser, part warship, and part
retirement home for 357.  It is controlled by the VAL 9000 computer,
or Val as her friends call her.

The story so far...

Time Agent 357 and Omegas were trapped inside inside of a temporal,
dimensional, and spacial anomaly until rescued by Doctor Bing Von
Spleen.  Joined by Ralph, they are attempting to recover the new and
experimental ABPSARII (or ABPSAR Mark II) which Spleen has somehow
lost.  Their efforts have so far been hindered by a fleet of warships
which has been attacking them at every opportunity.  When last we left
our heroes, they had just attempted escape the single remaining
attacking ship by activating the HMS Golden Lance's ABPSAR drive
without any of the usual preparations...

The HMS Golden Lance re-entered normal space, accompanied by a very
spectacular show of pyrotechnics that our special effects budget won't
let us even begin to describe.  In contrast, the ship which followed
simply faded into existance.  Said ship immediately began to fire on
the Golden Lance.

In the control room, Time Agent 357 shoved Omegas away from the
controls and surveyed the damage.  It appeared that Omegas had gotten
the worst of the collision, his nose gushing an oddly flourescent
liquid which probably passed for blood among his kind.  Ralph, the
Giant Space Weasel of Anthrax V, grabbed Omegas and began applying
First Aid, just as he'd learned the Ferret Scounts as a youth.

The controls were still functional, so 357 flipped a few switches at
random, trying to lose the attacking ship.  He kept doing this,
bouncing from one reality to another, with the attacking ship always
getting dragged along, until the controls suddenly stopped responding.

"Uh oh," 357 said.  "Val, what's going on?"

=We appear to have entered a dimension where Spam does not have its
full reality-altering effects.  No problem, though.  I'll just fire up
the Cheez-Whiz Interdimensional Drive and get us out of here.=  There
was a long pause as the VAL 9000 computer beeped and buzzed to itself.
=Um, do you see a disk with 'CWID.EXE' written on it?=

"Never mind that right now," interupted Doctor Bing Von Spleen.
"We've got plenty of backup power sources.  The mystery ship that's
been attacking us, however, appears to be almost dead in space."

357 immediately saw his opening.  "Val, open a comm channel and demand
their immediate surrender."

In lieu of a reply, the mystery ship opened several hanger doors and
issued forth a stream of fighter craft, along with several members of
the deck crew who hadn't cleared the area quickly enough.  357 cursed
and set the ship into an evasive course using her backup normal space
engines.  Being smaller and lighter, the fighters quickly caught up
and began pounding at the Golden Lance's shields.

"Somebody get Omegas to a gun turret!" ordered 357, seeing that the
fighters were too agile for the automated systems to track, at least
while on emergency power.  Omegas, however, was unable to do much in
his current condition.  Blissfully unaware of hominid physiology, the
ever-helpful Ralph was attempting to stop the nosebleed with a large
tourniquet wrapped around the patient's neck.

"I've got full power to the shields!" shouted Spleen, followed by an
evil laugh which would have made Renfield proud.  The shields easily
fended off the fighter wave's attack.  Indeed, powered by more energy
than they knew what to do with, the shields had swollen to several
times their normal size.  With a few deft changes of course, 357 was
able to use the shields as a giant fly swatter to smash the attacking
fighters to bitesized bits.

In the resulting confusion, two of the fighters broke off and, after
briefly strafing their own mother ship, made off toward a nearby
planet.  The VAL 9000 computer noted this for future reference.  =I've
got the Cheeze Whiz Interdimensional Drive working!= she announced
cheerfully.  =Shall I implement?=

"Not just yet," snapped 357.  "First, set it for normal space drive,
then make sure that we're pointed directly away from the attacking
ship."  He paused to rub his hands together.  "THEN implement."

VAL did so.  The resulting outrush of food products and destructive
energy, while nowhere near as powerful as the ship's main weapon, the
fabled Golden Lance for which the ship was most well known, was
nonetheless quite capable of shattering the attacking ship's meager
shields, followed almost immediately by its hull.  357 had just begun
formulating his plan to board and capture the ship when it exploded.

"So much for that idea," said 357.

"Quite rude of them to explode like that before we could find out who
they were," added Spleen.

"And why they were attacking us," continued Ralph.

"Ack!  Gag!  Choke!" gasped Omegas, though nobody really noticed.

The next few hours were spent repairing battle damage, checking driver
versions for compatibility, and generally cleaning up.  Omegas,
finally recovered enough to beat off Ralph, retired to his room to
sulk.  He was still sulking when the VAL 9000 called a meeting.  It
was held in, you guessed it, yet another briefing room.

=You're probably wondering why I called you all here...  Ha!  I always
wanted to say that!=

"Val, get to the point," threatened 357.  He had to admit, however,
that Spleen did know how to design briefing rooms.  The chairs were
comfortable, placed just far enough apart to give elbow room without a
feeling of distance.  The color scheme couldn't be better, relaxing
and yet still inspiring a sense of alertness.   The track lighting and
lava lamps added a touch of 60's class, something 357 was very
familiar with since, thanks to frequent time travel, he'd spent close
to thirty years in the 60's.

"So you say these two fighters fired on their own mother ship and then
ditched on that nearby planet?" asked Spleen, summarizing twenty
minutes of detailed reports that 357 had completely blanked out.

=Exactly.=

Omegas felt his ears perk up at that.  The stupid computer had been
quiet cross with him for trying to take revenge on Ralph for the
tourniquet incident, going so far as to prime the ship's internal
defense systems, and he'd been looking for someone to take this out
on.  "Obviously, someone needs to go to that planet and kill...  I
mean, question the pilots of those fighters.  I volunteer."

357 would have none of that, however.  "We'll *all* go, Omegas.  Get
yourself ready.  Val, set course for the planet.  Ralph, break out
some weapons.  Spleen, tell me how these lava lamps work."

The HMS Golden Lance parked itself into orbit a few minutes later,
choosing an altitude and speed in the exact way that would cause it to
plunge to its doom within one hour if main power should fail.  This is
referred to as "standard orbit" and is standard so that the author can
easily add tension at some later time should the story begin to drag.

The crew gathered near the Temporal Teleporter Terminal.  The TTT was
a marvel of modern science, capable of easily moving people and items
through time, space, and (to a limited extent) realities.  In fact,
it was so useful that one might wonder why a ship equipped with one
would ever need to dock with another ship or try a risky landing on a
planet.  For that reason, let us not discuss it further.

Omegas strode onto the platform.  He had chosen for his weapon a
massive DIESCUM (Diffusion Internal Energy SuperChronal Unilateral
Matrixor) pistol.

357 had picked out a standard equipment harness loaded with all sorts
of neat gizmos and gadgets.  Strapped to his side was a telechronal
displacement pistol, which worked by sending individual molecules of
its target forward or backwards in time a few random microseconds,
effectively shredding it.  He too strode onto the platform.

Being a coward at heart, Doctor Spleen declined to carry a weapon.
Indeed, he had decided that he wasn't going down to the planet at all,
deciding to leave this adventure to the more foolhardy- er, brave.
He strode over behind the control panel.

Ralph, being a pacifist at heart, carried no weapon, and left his
ukulele in Spleen's care.  He then scurried onto the platform.

Spleen set the controls to put the intrepid trio down a few hundred
yards away from the fighter craft, which had landed in a large
clearing.  He also set the controls to put said intrepid trio down
there several minutes before the ship actually arrived in orbit, so
their appearance would be a complete surprise.

With the usual rainbow afterimage which accompanies TTT usage, ye olde
intrepid trio disappeared.

What will the intrepid...  Er, these three adventurers find?
Where is it exactly that they are going?
What is their quest?
What is their favorite color?

The answers may be found in the karmatic soul of the questioner, but
I would check SFSTORY anyway, just to make sure.

Copyright 2001 by Troy H. Cheek troy at cheek.org http://www.cheek.org
=========================================================================
Date:         Mon, 22 Oct 2001 00:35:56 -0400
From:         "Troy H. Cheek" (troy at copperhill.com)
To:           Superguy List (superguy at lists.eyrie.org)
Subject:      SF: HMS Golden Lance #06 - Down on the Planet

SF: HMS Golden Lance #06 - Down on the Planet

Time Agent 357, Champion of Truth, Justice, and the Ability to Consume
Large Amounts of Alcoholic Beverages (retired), materialized in a
flash of rainbow colors.  He was accompanied by Omegas the Immortal
(former) and Ralph the Giant Space Weasel of Anthrax V (really).  They
had tracked two fighter craft from an attacking ship to this planet
after the battle was over.  They were looking for answers as to why
they had been attacked regularly ever since returning to the
storyline.  They were not happy.

Well, 357 was not happy.  Omegas was slightly happy at the thought of
torturing the pilots of the fighter craft for information.  Ralph was
downright cheerful, but hey, that's just Ralph.

357, in full military mode, attempted to move stealthily through the
woods, closing in on the clearing where the fighter craft had been
spotted.  His movements were not as stealthy as he would have liked
due to three factors:

1) Ralph was humming a happy tune as he walked.  As weaseloid lips are
not exactly designed for humming, this sounded more like a trumpet.

2) Omegas was amusing himself by taking potshots at any small furry
woodland creatures they happened to run across.

and 3) The trees had a disturbing habit of picking themselves up and
walking away whenever he tried to hide behind one.

"All this seems somehow familiar," said 357, stepping around some dogs
which appeared to be firmly rooted to the ground and providing the
first dialog in this chapter.

"It should," answered Ralph.  "It's Latigid.  I'm pretty sure we've
all been here before.  I was dumped here many times by Authors who
couldn't think of any place better to strand me.  Luckily, most of
them forgot about this place eventually and took to returning me to
the Netherspace Nympho Beach when I wasn't needed."

Omegas, discomforted by the look of wistful homesickness on Ralph's
face, covered his discomfort by acting cool and aloof.  This was,
however, the way he always tried to look, so nobody noticed.  He then
pouted and decided to kick at one of the dogs.  This turned out to not
be a very good idea because, as mentioned before, the dog appeared to
be rooted to the ground.

"Ouch," muttered Omegas, finding that the dog was made out of some
substance much harder than his foot.  He raised one hand and made a
complicated gesture which ended with an extended finger pointed at the
offending canine.  The animal did not burst into flames, confirming to
Omegas that his near-infinite powers had not yet returned.  Sigh.

357 returned from scouting the area.  "There are two humanoids in the
clearing up ahead.  They're cooking something over a fire.  I can't
find any sign of sentries, sensors, automated defenses, or anything
else to keep us from walking right in and taking them by surprise."

"Yeah," hmphed Omegas.  "Like that ever works."

"Quite right," answered 357.  "We need a diversion."

Omegas was turning to give 357 a suitably sarcastic remark when he
felt himself being shoved from behind.  Omegas stumbled out into the
clearing, tripped over a dog, and landed in the middle of the cooking
fire.  As the two humanoids rushed to rescue him, 357 came around from
behind and got the drop on them.

Omegas shook off the humanoids and prepared to rend 357 limb from limb
when he realized that he had not been hurt by his exposure to the
flames.  He looked down and noticed a small device attached to his
belt, which seemed to be emitting a golden glow.  "A miniature shield
emitter of some kind?"

"Just a little gizmo that Val and I have been working on.  I had Ralph
slip it on you when you weren't looking.  You might want to remove it
now.  They have a nasty habit of blowing up after a couple of minutes.
We're still working the bugs out."

Omegas chucked the shield emitter back into the woods, relieved but
slightly disappointed that it did not explode as advertised.  He
joined 357 in hulking menacingly over their two captives.  Ralph, in
the mean time, occupied himself by salvaging their dinner.

357 waved his pistol in the general direction of where he assumed his
captives' gonads would be located.  Omegas, not to be outdone, did the
same.  They did not notice that they were aiming nowhere near the same
general direction.

357 lowered his already low, gravelly voice, and said "Which one of
you wants to explain to me exactly what is going on?"

One captive looked at the other.  The first said something like "Svb,
yfwwb.  Dszg hzb dv hkvzp lmob rm gsrh lyhxfiv wrzovxg gszg gsvb xzm'g
klhhryob fmwvihgzmw?"

"Hlfmwh tllw!" the other one answered.  "Nzbyv gsvb'oo tvg ylivw zmw
tl zdzb."

This roughly translated as "Hey, buddy.  What say we speak only in
this obscure dialect that they can't possibly understand?" with the
reply being "Sounds good!  Maybe they'll get bored and go away."

357, Omegas, and Ralph looked at each other in confusion, as whatever
usual technological, natural, or supernatural means they normally used
to understand any form of spoken or written communication suddenly
appeared to have failed them.  357, however, was undaunted.  He strode
forward and grabbed the shorter captive by his collar, pulling him up
to eye level.  Not to be outdone, Omegas tried to do the same.  His
captive, however, was almost as tall as he was, so the effect was not
quite the same.

Looking his captive straight in the eye, 357 clearly said "Qfhg sld
hgfkrw wl blf gsrmp R zn?"

The captive's eyes got quite big.  "I'm sorry.  I must have reverted
to my childhood teachings during a moment of stress.  Is this better?"

"Much," replied 357, setting the captive back down.

"I am Brnie," said the shorter, round, orange one.  "This is my
partner, Eert.  We owe you a debt of gratitude for destroying the ship
were were serving on."

"Gratitude?" queried Omegas.

"Yes," answered Eert, the taller, angular, yellow one.  "We were
conscripted some time ago.  We never figured out who exactly was
behind it.  We were just ordered around by other prisoners."

"We were forced to fight or be killed ourselves," put in Brnie.

Ralph, deciding the Brnie and Eert could be trusted, brought over
several plates of the food they had been preparing.  Over dinner, the
two former fighter pilots told their tale of woe.  Kidnapped at an
early age.  Brainwashed, but their brains were luckily resistant to
the particular techniques used.  Forced to go on raid after raid.
Always looking for a way to escape.

"It didn't get really bad," finished Brnie, "until the group started
taking outside contracts.  The latest client really gave me the
creeps.  He's a total psycho."

"That's why we ditched," put in Eert.  "That guy said he'd kill all
of us if we didn't bring back Time Agent 357's head."

357, who had survived more attempts on his head than most people had
survived days of their lives, didn't seem too concerned about this.
"Did the guy have a name?"

Eert and Brnie consulted briefly.  "Yes.  Hyperiok.  The guy's name
was Greez Hyperiok."

Meanwhile, back aboard the HMS Golden Lance, Doctor Bing Von Spleen
had set the ship's computer to searching the Galactic News Archives,
deciding that he needed to catch up on what was going on at this
particular point in space and time.  He stood ready to review the
results once they came in.

"Snore," he said quietly in his trembling readiness.

The VAL 9000 computer, recognizing that Spleen was taking advantage
of the lull in the action to get some much-needed downtime, not
surprising considering his advanced age, took it upon herself to
answer the comm signal from the planet below.

"Honey, I'm home," shouted 357 with false cheer as he stepped off the
TTT platform, followed by Omegas and Ralph.

"I'm not sure it was wise to leave those two down on that planet,"
Omegas opined in a rumbling bass voice.

"Oh, they're harmless," answered Ralph in a voice which was somewhere
between a tenor and a squeaking door hinge.  "Besides, I think they
make a lovely couple and will no doubt soon be blessed with the pitter
patter of little feet."

Omegas felt his eyebrows climb.  "A lovely couple?"

"They were male and female of their species, weren't they?" said Ralph
in a faintly distressed tone.  "I have such a hard time distinguishing
between all you hominids."

357, in the mean time, had reached the control room.  He saw that the
VAL 9000 computer was already searching GalNews.  "Val, see if you can
track down the current whereabouts of one Greez Hyperiok."

=Greez Hyperiok?= came her startled reply.  =The renegade Time Agent
who almost killed us all on multiple occasions?=

"The same."

=Working.=

"Did someone say Hyperiok?" Spleen said, coming slowly awake.

"He did," answered Omegas as he and Ralph joined the others in the
control room.  Several minutes were wasted as they moved around, each
finding his seat, logging into a console, checking his email, etc.
Then several more minutes were wasted when they discovered that vital
plot information was about to be revealed, requiring that they retire
to the nearest briefing room to hear it, taking a lengthy detour
through the engineering and cargo areas of the ship to get there.

"Stupid 'show every set in every episode' rule," muttered Omegas.

=I've checked GalNews and, adjusting for our relative time and space,
it seems that Greez Hyperiok is currently in the SuperMaxi Security
wing of Time Central,= reported VAL 9000.

"Well, Eert and Brnie seemed honestly convinced that Hyperiok was
behind this, so I think we should check it out," said 357. "Val, move
the ship to some reality where we can contact Time Central.  And check
to see who's currently stationed there who is both competent and owes
us a favor."

Firing up the Cheez-Whiz Interdimensional Drive, VAL 9000 kicked the
HMS Golden Lance into another dimension where the ship's primary
fuel, Spam (Sickening, Putrid, Artificial Meat), had its full power.
From there, it was a short jump to a major communications network.

=Checking for current Time Police assignments.  Let's see...  Most
Time Central personnel appear to be on leave.  Ian Lockheed and Sean
Landorian are even taking a break from trying to catch up on the
paperwork you dumped on them, though Lockheed has logged a request to
go searching for you, 357.=

"I'm not sure I count them among the 'competent' contigent, anyway,"
Spleen muttered to himself.

=Hmm.  Omegas, according to this, you're hanging around with Matt and
Linda in another storyline.=

"Looks like I'm right here," stated Omegas simply.

=There must be some transmission errors.  It shows 357 currently on
the Batelguinn station.  Have we ever even been to Batelguinn?=

"I don't think so."

=Floyd Cobalt?=  As nobody had any objections to this suggestion, VAL
9000 sent a priority message.  =Live feed coming in,= she announced
almost immediately.

"My, but that was quick," said Ralph.

"One of the benefits of time technology," explained 357.  "Floyd
probably took hours, days, or even weeks to get around to reading the
message and checking it out for us, then simply sent the answer back
in time to get to us here and now.  The only time it's a problem is
when you get the reply before you decide to send the message.  Why, I
remember one time..."

"357, let's get to something remotely resembling a plot point while
we're all still breathing," said Spleen crotchedly.

"Oh, sorry.  Val, play back the message."

=Perhaps you didn't hear me.  It's a live feed.=

"Live feed?  At this distance?  Floyd must have vitally important
information.  Put him through!"

The image of Floyd Cobalt appeared on the screen.  True to his name,
he was a lovely shade of blue.  He otherwise resembled a cross between
the spokesman for a major car wax company and that turtle you have to
draw to prove you have artistic talent.  He was rather worse for wear,
having a bad black eye and his left arm in a sling.  Describing how a
basically horizontal quadraped with no shoulders to speak of can wear
his left arm in a sling is left as an exercise for the reader.

"357, am I glad to hear from you!" said Floyd Cobalt's image.  "Greez
Hyperiok has escaped!"

Who is Greez Hyperiok?
How has he escaped?
Is he really behind the attacks our characters have been under?
Exactly how is Floyd wearing that sling, anyway?

None of the answers to the above questions will not be appearing in
future non-postings to what may or may not be Sfstory, the story where
we really care about our readers.

Copyright 2001 by Troy H. Cheek troy at cheek.org http://www.cheek.org
=========================================================================
Date:         Thu, 01 Nov 2001 13:17:31 -0500
From:         "Troy H. Cheek" (troy at copperhill.com)
To:           Superguy List (superguy at lists.eyrie.org)
Subject:      SF: HMS Golden Lance #07 - Details from Time Central

SF: HMS Golden Lance #07 - Details from Time Central

Lieutenant Floyd Cobalt of the Time Police looked out from the viewing
screen.  He was not, as many people were not, happy.  He was also in a
great deal of pain, but was hiding it because that was what his idea
of a hero did in these circumstances.  Floyd did not know that in real
life, most heroes cry like babies when in pain.  I know I do.

"357, am I glad to hear from you!" said Floyd Cobalt's image.  "Greez
Hyperiok has escaped!"

"You already said that," snapped 357.  "I need details!"

"Greez Hyperiok, as you know, is a renegade Time Agent.  He has tried
to take over Time Central several times, gone on multidimensional
killing sprees more than once, and tried to sell my mother a defective
hovercraft.  He's the most violent person in the universe this side of
Zark Flyby, though at least Zark tries to be a good guy sometimes."

"As you said, Lieutenant Cobalt, we already know," 357 butted in.

"Oh, okay, sorry," muttered Floyd.  "I'm not very good at this."

"S'okay," said 357.  "By the way, are those FIRST lieutenant bars
you're sporting?  Congratulations on your promotion."

"Thanks," said Floyd, blushing an attractive shade of chartruse.
"Anyway, I checked our records and found that Greez Hyperiok was being
held prisoner in the SuperMaxi Security wing.  However, he's escaped
before wihtout us being aware, so I went to check on him personally."

"He makes a habit of escaping from you?" Omegas asked, more than
slightly amused by the thought.

"Oh, you can't keep a Time Agent locked up for long, even a renegade
one," Floyd explained.  "Luckily, Hyperiok's schemes for taking over
Time Central or whatever alterverse (alternate universe) he lands up
in usually aren't very smart.  We've been breaking in new Time Agents
by sending them out to capture him.  Time Agents 173, 90210, and 667
have brought him in multiple times.  357's nephew, Time Agent 386,
brought him in this most recent time."

"My, that's an awful lot of numbers," gasped Ralph.  He was once again
confused by hominid customs, as he was certain before hearing this
that 357 and 386 were the only humanoids with numbers instead of names
that he'd ever encountered.

"Hey, that's an awful lot of numbers," exclaimed 357.  "I thought that
my nephew and I were the only members of my race associated with the
Time Police.  We don't generally leave our home alterverse, you know."

Floyd answered smoothly, though a tad embarrassingly.  "Well, 357,
you're known as arguably the greatest Time Agent the Time Police have
ever had.  Some new recruits, when they graduate from being regular
Time Officers like myself to being Time Agents, have been taking
numbers for that very reason.  I might do so myself someday."

357 did not feel honored.  "Floyd, I'm honored."  Well, maybe he did.
"But we're getting away from the point.  Hyperiok escaped?"

"Yes, he did.  I and a few other officers went to check on him,
expecting to find the cell empty and the life sensors jimmied, or
maybe finding that he was still in his cell disguised as a table or
something (he's a master of disguise, you know).  Instead, we found
him standing in the middle of his cell talking to himself.  It wasn't
until I started trying to interrogate him that we realized that he
wasn't Hyperiok at all."

"Who was he, then?" asked Spleen, getting in his first dialog of the
chapter.

"Not a who," corrected Floyd.  "It was a what.  It was a very lifelike
android duplicate of Greez Hyperiok.  A well-armed one, at that.  It
broke loose and ran amuck at Time Central.  It's taken us nearly two
weeks to corner it.  We think it's out of ammo."

"Why not simply destroy it?" asked Omegas, who was not averse to a
little senseless violence now and again.

"We're short on staff due to the holidays," said Floyd.  "And we want
to try to capture it intact if at all possible.  Time Agent 357, can
you and your crew assist us?  You're our only hope!"

"Of course, Lieutenant Floyd.  We'll start heading in your direction
right away.  Val, how long until we can get to Time Central?"

=About two minutes.=

"We're that close?"

=We weren't, but I didn't have any dialog, so I killed time by
piloting the ship closer to Time Central.=

In less time than it takes to tell, the HMS Golden Lance had arrived
at Time Central.  The crew disembarked and was met by Floyd and a
smattering of other low-ranking Time Officers.  The higher-ranking
officers had apparently decided to take all their vacations at the
same time.  Upon learning this, Time Agent 357 took command.

"I'm taking command," he said.

Deciding that there was no time like the present, 357 immediately set
out to find the android.  He was armed with his trusty telechronal
displacement pistol, which worked by sending individual molecules of
its target forward or backwards in time a few random microseconds,
effectively shredding it.  Omegas was carrying his massive DIESCUM
(Diffusion Internal Energy SuperChronal Unilateral Matrixor) pistol.
Ralph and Spleen, being respectively a pacifist and a coward, carried
no weapons other than their wits, leaving them essentially unarmed.
An even dozen Time Officers followed behind, armed with everything
from portable field artillery to airguns shooting small pellets which
just might lodge under the skin and lead to a nasty infection.

357 picked out two Time Officers in red shirts and sent them ahead to
scout.  He was quite surprised when they returned, unharmed, a few
minutes later to report that the Hyperiok android was still cornered.

"Things have changed a little since you were last here," mentioned
Floyd.  "Yellow is now the color you want to avoid."

"I see," said 357, turning on his wrist comm.  "Val, remind me to get
some new pajamas before we ship out."

=Yes, sir.=

"I KNOW YOU'RE OUT THERE, 357!" came a voice from beyond.  Beyond the
next bend in the corridor, anyway.

"Give it up, Greez, or whatever you are!" answered 357.  "You're
cornered, outgunned, and can't possibly escape."

"WHO SAID I WANTED TO ESCAPE?  I'VE JUST BEEN WAITING FOR YOU."

"Well, I'm here!  What about it?"

"I HAVE A MESSAGE TO GIVE TO YOU.  IT IS VERY IMPORTANT.  OH, CAN I
STEP OUT INTO THE HALLWAY SO I DON'T HAVE TO YELL?"

357 glanced around, making sure that everyone had a weapon pointed in
the general direction of the voice.  "Sure.  In fact, I guarantee you
safe passage."  357 didn't notice when Omegas, followed by pretty
much everyone else, took his weapon off safety and prepared to fire.
He very carefully did not notice.

Greez Hyperiok, or at least a reasonable facsimile of the same,
stepped out into the corridor.  While no longer yelling, his voice
still carried in an unnatural way, as if he were speaking in a large
airplane hanger.  "It is good to see you, 357.  The part of me which
is Greez has been expecting you."

"The part which is..." prompted 357, hoping for the usual villianous
monologue that would explain everything that had happened to him up to
this point.

"You're probably hoping for the usual villianous monologue that will
explain everything that's happened to you."  The Hyperiok android
chuckled.  "All I'm going to tell you is that I have full access to
Greez's memories, meaning that I could have carried on this charade
indefinitely, had I chosen to.  Unfortunately, I was instructed to
reveal myself and give you a message."

The Hyperiok android cleared its throat, a quite possibly completely
unnecessary action.  "357, you and everyone you hold dear, including
the Time Police, will be destroyed.  You will be helpless to prevent
it.  And it will ALL BE YOUR FAULT!"

The Hyperiok android stood there looking smug.

"That's it?" asked 357.  "That's all?"

The Hyperiok android looked a little less smug.

"I mean, come on now!"  357 continued.  "That was a big buildup for a
generic, pretty much meaningless boast.  Where did you learn to be a
villian?  Reading 'Evil Geniuses for Dummies?'"

"Hey!  I just do as I'm programmed," countered the android
defensively.  "You try doing better with Greez Hyperiok's brain as a
template.  I'm lucky I can construct complete sentences."

"So, I'm going to die," stated 357, as if he were trying on the words
for size.  "Any clues as to how?"

"It will ALL BE YOUR FAULT!"

"Yes, you said that.  Exactly how will it be my fault?  Will it be
something I do, or something that I fail to do?"

"QUIT TRYING TO CONFUSE ME!  I WILL NOT REVEAL ANYTHING MORE!"

357, Spleen, Floyd, and random Time Officers took turns badgering the
android with questions and snide comments about dramatic revelations.

357's comm chimed.  =357, I'm reading an energy buildup.=

"Not now, Val," hissed 357.  "I think we're onto something."

The android staggered slightly, then shook his head as if you clear
it, which was odd because its central processing unit was located in
its posterior.  "Very good, 357.  You almost tricked me into spilling
all of my Master's plans.  Time to say goodbye."

357, that energy buildup is getting worse!= came the VAL 9000's
unnecessary warning.  The Hyperiok android began glowing with barely
contained power, and it was obvious that said power could not be
contained by said android much longer.

357 snatched an object off his equipment harness and threw it at the
android.  "Hey, Greez!  Catch!"

The android, suspecting a trap, didn't try to catch the device, but
rather attempted to swat it away.  Unfortunately for him, the device
activated the instant his synthetic fingers touched it.  Before he
could knock it back towards 357, a golden glow surrounded him.

The android's power cells, intentionally overloaded beyond their
design specifications, exploded.  The golden glow of the shield
emitter, however, contained most of the force of the explosion.
Channelled back in on itself, the explosion turned into an implosion,
crushing the android into a point singularity that then winked out of
existance.  So complete was the process that only a tiny fraction of
one percent of the explosive force actually acted on anything outside
of the shield's coverage.

This was enough to destroy the entire SuperMaxi Security wing and
enough to kill everyone in it.

Was the SuperMaxi wing really destroyed?
Was everyone killed?
How will the story continue if all the characters are dead?
Isn't this just a cheap cliffhanger trick?
What of donuts?

Find out soon in the next exciting chapter of SFSTORY!  It's not just
a job, it's the fault of a family tree that doesn't fork.

Copyright 2001 by Troy H. Cheek troy at cheek.org http://www.cheek.org
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