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Sfstory Log 104

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Date:         Mon, 18 Mar 2002 02:20:18 -0500
From:         "Troy H. Cheek" (troy at copperhill.com)
To:           Superguy List (superguy at lists.eyrie.org)
Subject:      SF: HMS Golden Lance #18 - Velocity

SF: HMS Golden Lance #18 - Velocity

Two beings, one cybernetic and the other flesh and blood, paced the
corridors of the HMS Golden Lance, one figuratively and the other
literally, as they pondered the fates of their lost comrades.  The two
beings were, by the way, the VAL 9000 computer and Doctor Bing Von
Spleen, inventor of the Automatic Beet-Peeler and Sub-Atomic Re-
Integrator and, coincidentally, the designer of said computer.

The adventurers Time Agent 357, Diana Dark, Ralph, and Omegas were
lost in time, space, and pretty much every other way imaginable.
Video playback had shown Omegas and Ralph constructing some sort of
device which 357 then activated (though probably accidentally).
Sensor logs showed that the device just might just have indeed
successfully returned their four minds to their own bodies (reversing
an earlier switch) before the device exploded.  The explosion just
might have blown them, singly or as a group, into another dimension or
reality altogether.  They were literally nowhere to be found.  Not
even Diana's Student Loan Officer had been able to track her down.
That was, in Spleen's mind, the very definition of the word "lost."

=What are we going to do?= wailed the VAL 9000 computer.  =I just
don't know how I can go on without 357.  We've been together forever!=

"Calm down!" hissed Spleen testily.  "We'll find them eventually, or
they'll find their way back here.  These things just happen from time
to time.  For the nonce, however, we've got to continue our random
walk through the cosmos to keep ahead of Greez Hyperiok.  We've wasted
too much time in this reality already, what with contacted Diana's
Student Loan Officer and ordering pizza and all.  Get moving."

=Sniff,= sniffed VAL.  =All right.  Random walk continues.=

No sooner had the ship bounced into the next reality before alarms
started to sound.  "Dare I ask for a status report?" Spleen asked.

=Sensors indicate an alien device attached to the hull near the
ventral plasma vents,= VAL announced.  =Say, why do I have ventral
plasma vents when the plasma inducer is on the dorsal side?=

"Because 'dorsal plasma vent' just doesn't have a ring to it.  What
type of alien device?"

=Some type of sensor package, a lot of decision circuitry, and a whole
lot of PU-238 explosives!=

"Well, get some more readings!  We have to figure out how to get rid
of it.  Jettison that section of hull plating or something..."

=The device is reacting to the scans!  It's sending some kind of video
signal.  On screen...=

On screen, the visage of renegade Time Agent Greez Hyperiok appeared.
In the background was the control room of the S.S. You Are About To
Die, which looked to be made of modeling clay and pipe cleaners and
designed by a small child, as did the rest of the ship.  This belied
the fact that the ship was possibly the most powerful destructive
force ever known to sentient life, created for Greez Hyperiok by
Doctor Spleen's ABPSARII, or Automatic Beet-Peeler and Sub-Atomic Re-
integrator Mark II, which sat in the corner beeping and buzzing and
contentedly and generally looking nothing at all like a food or sub-
atomic processing device.

Farther in the background, just behind a waste disposal cannister with
an Interstellar Huddle of Waffles logo on it, was Dijon Mu'tard,
former SAAL, or Satanic Agent At Large, and current toady to Greez
Hyperiok.  Despite the fact that he appeared to be strapped to a large
torture rack, Mu'tard still took the time to make several rude hand
gestures towards the camera.  Doctor Spleen could not decide if they
were directed at the crew of the HMS Golden Lance or at Greez
Hyperiok's back.  Not, Spleen supposed, that it mattered.

"Time Agent 357!" shouted the recorded image of Greez Hyperiok.  "If
you are receiving this message, it means that you've paused in one
alterverse long enough for one of my limpet mines to find you and bond
with your ship's hull.  Do not try to jettison that section of hull
plating or any of the other ideas you've no doubt come up with by now!
Any attempt to get rid of or defuse the mine will result in your ship
being immediately destroyed!"

Greez paused to gloat, then continued.  "This mine is very special.
Very special indeed.  For you see, it measures the velocity of the
ship to which is attached.  If you vary from your present course or
speed by more than 5%, it will explode.  And don't think you can
escape by going interdimensional.  If you try to make more than one
dimensional hop an hour, the mine will explode.  The payload is ten
gallons of New Coke and another ten of 7up.  When they mix, the
resulting cola/uncola reaction will produce an explosion large enough
to destroy a small planet."

Greez paused again, this time to cackle maniacally.  "You'd better
choose those little course corrections carefully, 357!  You're going
to have to stay in each universe for at least an hour before you can
hop out!  Eventually, you'll have to choose between flying into
something or hopping too soon.  And don't try to abandon ship, because
the mine will detect anybody trying to leave.  In any case, ka-boom!"

Greez paused yet again, this time to indicate the bound form of Dijon
Mu'tard behind him.  Dijon stopped making with the hand gestures when
he saw Greez pointing his way.  "My associate here feels that this
plan is entirely too complex and needlessly dramatic.  He thinks that
I should just have the ABPSARII blow you up and be done with it!  He
has no imagination.  That's why I'm a supervillian and he's just a
toady.  Bwahahahahaha!"

Greez stared straight out of the screen.  "You're dead, Time Agent
357!  And with you gone, there's nothing to stop me from ruling the
entire multiverse!  Game over!"

The signal cut off.

"The man is utterly mad," announced Doctor Spleen.

=We're fighting a lunatic,= the VAL 9000 computer agreed.

"That limpet mine can't possibly be all he says it is, can it?"

=I'm afraid my scans confirm that it is, Doctor.  I wish 357 were
here.  He'd know what to do.=

"Hmm," hmmed Spleen.  "Let me think..."

Spleen thought.  He figured.  He considered.  He consulted.  He
calculated.  He cyphered.  He even briefly conjugated.

In the mean while, the VAL 9000 did her very best to maintain a
constant course and speed, using the ABPSARI drive to make dimensional
hops only when absolutely necessary.  So far, she had managed to avoid
hitting anything.  Twice, she had been forced to use the Golden
Lance's energy beam, also called the Golden Lance, to blast small
asteroids.  Once, she had steered right through a planet.  However,
this was in an alterverse where all planets were made out of whipped
cream, so there was no damage other than to the paint job.  Whipped
cream turns out to be rather corrosive in a vacuum.

=Doctor, I hope you've got an idea!= VAL 9000 announced with just a
minor hint of panic in her voice.

"Um, maybe," he lied.  "Just need a few more minutes to work out some
minor details.  Why?"

=Because this alterverse we've just randomly bounced into is only a
few hundred light-years in diameter.  At our current velocity, we'll
actually run into the edge of the universe in less than 10 minutes!=

Doctor Spleen's response was, unfortunately, unprintable.

=I will not!= cried Val.  =Besides, that's physically impossible.=

"Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking," Spleen mumbled
to himself as he entered the control room.

=You never quit drinking!=

Spleen raised his hand to make an obscene gesture at the nearest
internal security camera, but the quick motion almost caused him to
spill his beer, so he let the matter drop.

"Okay, I have a plan," he announced, punching buttons on a control
panel with a confidence faked almost to the point of believeability.
"Transit to this alterverse immediately!"

=But, Doctor!= Val protested.  =If we transit now, the mine will
explode and we'll all be killed!=

"You won't be killed.  You're not even alive.  Now transit already!
I can see the end of the universe from here!"

With the electronic equivalent of a gulp, the VAL 9000 complied.

                        =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

In an alterverse not all that far away when you consider just how many
alterverses there are in the multiverse, but pretty darn far away if
you had to walk barefoot, a medium-sized, human-looking male being
wearing impossibly expensive but utterly ridiculous-looking clothes,
taupe sports jacket over mauve trousers, sat at a control panel.  His
name was Dijon Mu'tard, former agent of darkness and currently toady
for a power-mad dictator, one Greez Hyperiok.  He hoped to change that
shortly, as Greez Hyperiok was pretty sucky as far as power-mad
dictators go, and power-mad dictators go pretty far in that direction.

Dijon's job was to monitor the monitor panel which was monitoring the
limpet mines that Greez had seeded through the multiverse.  Like all
other sentient beings who had ever been assigned to monitor duty,
Dijon was certain that he was wasting his time, comfortable in the
knowledge that he was monitoring this monitor panel for no good
reason.  There was absolutely no chance that Time Agent 357 would stay
in one alterverse long enough for any of the limpet mines to find him.

Due to this, Dijon was sound asleep when the monitor panel started
beeping, buzzing, and generally trying to get his attention.  After
several minutes, the monitoring panel gave up the beeping and buzzing
and simply sent a cybernetic signal to Dijon's chair that simply
dumped him onto the deckplates.

Dijon staggered to his feet and signalled Greez.

"This had better be good, Dijon!" Greez bellowed as he stalked into
the control room.  "I was just gaining the trust of my Anterean killer
marmosets.  They'll make perfect pets once I've taken over."

Dijon, noticing the many bite and claw marks on Greez's hands and
face, declined to comment.  Instead, he simply indicated the monitor
panel that he had been monitoring.

        +---------------------------------------------------+
        |                                                   |
        |   Limpet Mine #326 ceased transmitting at 0235    |
        |   local time.  Last recorded message indicated    |
        |   that it was priming to detonate.  Therefore,    |
        |   the target has most likely been destroyed.      |
        |                                                   |
        |                   HAVE A NICE DAY!                |
        |                                                   |
        +---------------------------------------------------+

"Excellent!" exclaimed Greez.  "This simplifies everything!"

                        =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Doctor Bing Von Spleen opened his eyes and let out a breath he hadn't
realized that he'd been holding.  He looked around, half-expecting to
see fluffy clouds, large Pearly Gates, and a grumpy angel named Peter.
He didn't.  He was instead still aboard the HMS Golden Lance, which
had decidedly not exploded into little bitty pieces.  This, he
decided, was a good thing.

"Val?  You still there?" he asked tentatively.

There was no answer.  In fact, a glance at the nearest control panel
showed that the question hadn't even started processing yet.  In fact,
the computer function monitor lights, which normally blinked so
rapidly that they were an invisible blur, were instead moving in a
stately waltz.  Spleen counted out the seconds as a set of lights
moved across the panel, did some calculations, and decided that
electrical impulses were moving at approximately one trillionth their
normal rate.  Organic beings appeared to be unaffected.

Doctor Spleen quietly congratulated himself on calculating the exact
particular alterverse (alternate universe) that he needed today.  He
celebrated by grabbing himself a beer from the nearest cooling unit.
He chuckled quietly when he noticed that the light in the cooling unit
hadn't even come on in the time he had the door held open.  He walked
down the corridor whistling a happy tune.

By the time he reached the airlock, Spleen was no longer whistling a
happy tune.  He was instead cursing steadily with every breath.  Every
door had to be cycled open manually.  Several rooms and corridors were
completely dark, the automatic sensors not even beginning to detect
his presense before he had bumped, tripped, and staggered his way
through them.  Cranking open the airlock took several subjective
hours, though of course the clock on the wall never moved.

Moving in slow motion, because building up any type of momentum in
zero gravity was generally a bad idea, Spleen made his way along the
hull of the HMS Golden Lance.  He eventually made his way to the
limpet mine.  He unhooked a sophisticated and very fragile portable
scanning device.

Spleen then used the scanning device to bash open the cover of the
mine.  He carefully unscrewed the two ten gallon containers and shoved
them away from the ship, New Coke one way, 7up the other.  After that,
it was only a matter of time before he unmelded the device from the
hull and sent it spinning off in yet another direction.  By his
calculations, the three would not meet up again for thousands of
years.  He hoped to be gone by then.

Reversing his direction, Spleen carefully made his way back inside the
ship.  He reached the engine room and punched in a series of commands
which would bypass the central computer and initiate an immediate
ABPSARI burn which would transport the ship into another alterverse.
Spleen popped open another beer and waited for the control signals to
reach the ABPSARI.

"7...  6...  5...  4...  3..."

The ABPSARI kicked in and the ship was transported.

"2...  Why do we even bother with countdowns?"

=Doctor Spleen!= came the voice over the ship's speakers.  =What
happened?  My sensors show that the limpet mine is gone!=

"It's a long story.  You see, organic and inorganic electrical
impulses travel at different rates.  I calculated that..."

=Oops!  No time for that now!  The temporal teleporter terminal just
came online.  We're receiving a transmission!=

What kind of transmission?
What alterverse are they in now?
Will Doctor Spleen ever be able to finish his explaination?

When life hands you lemons, make cornbread.  And tune in next week
for another exciting episode of...  SFSTORY!

Copyright 2002 by Troy H. Cheek troy at cheek.org http://www.cheek.org
=========================================================================
Date:         Sun, 24 Mar 2002 23:47:50 -0500
From:         "Troy H. Cheek" (troy at cheek.org)
To:           Superguy List (superguy at lists.eyrie.org)
Subject:      SF: HMS Golden Lance #19 - Bedroom Planet

SF: HMS Golden Lance #19 - Bedroom Planet

"Mmmmmmmm," said Diana Dark, snuggling close to Time Agent 357.

"Mmmmmmmm, yourself," answered 357.

"Good morning," she yawned.  "Or afternoon," she amended, seeing the
shadows on the wall.

"Yes, good," he agreed, snuggling close to her in return.  The bed
creaked ever so slightly.  "Very good."

"Honey," she said, "do you want to, you know, do it again?"

"Again?" he said incredulously.  "Dear, I couldn't."

"Oh, please," she begged.

"You can't be serious," he said.  "I can barely walk now."

"Just once more," she pleaded, her bottom lip quivering.

357 rolled his eyes.  "Well, okay.  Do you want to start?"

"Oh, no," she said quickly.  "I mean, It's just SO much better when
YOU do it."

"All right."

Diana lay back, quivering in anticipation as 357 moved over her, his
strong masculine hands reaching forward to grasp...

...the phone on the bedside table.  "Please connect me to room
service.  Room service?  This is Mister Smith in room 127.  Could you
please send up a chocolate triple-fudge sundae?"

There was a pause.

"Yes, *another* one."

Another pause.

"Good.  And remember, two spoons!"  He cradled the phone receiver.

"Thank you, honey," Diana purred.

"You're insatiable," complained 357, though if Diana asks, he meant it
as a compliment.

Diana Dark, previously of Earth, and Time Agent 357, formerly of the
Interstellar Time Police, stretched back out in bed waiting for room
service to deliver yet another chocolate triple-fudge sundae.  357
reflected that he was very lucky to have accidentally landed on a
planet with such good bed-and-breakfast hotels.  He glanced down at
Diana beside him and amended that to VERY lucky.

357 contemplated how he had arrived here.  After a minor ABPSARI, or
Automatic Beet Peeler and Sub-Atomic Re-Integrator, accident, 357 and
the rest of his crew found themselves caught in a very lengthy and
poorly-written body swap episode.  It was during the time that he was
trapped in Diana's body, and she in his, that he realized his feelings
for her, and she for him.  He personally hadn't felt this much in love
since that incident with the Niborian Princess on Bayrurn XXXVIIII.
He wasn't sure about Diana, but he remembered having heard that she
had kicked her boyfriend out of their apartment back when she was
still on Earth, and back before the apartment exploded due to a small
beer-Cheez Whiz explosion which propelled her into the storyline to
begin with, though the police have attributed her disappearance to a
bizarre Cruisinart accident.

They had remained trapped in each other's bodies, too squicked out to
act on their newly-discovered feelings, until Omegas cross-wired the
Temporal Teleporter Terminal with the Hypertechnical Orange Thingy and
tied it into the ABPSARI drive.  This returned them to their bodies
but also bounced them into another dimension.  After helping a local
detective solve a little time warp problem, they were bounced back
into the multiversal chaos stream and randomly ended up here.  357
couldn't quite remember exactly where "here" was, but they did accept
his Anterean Express card, which he never left his home solar system
without.  In spite of the holiday weekend (though 357 never quite
figured out exactly which holiday) they were able to get a cozy little
room and began a one-couple run on the kitchen.

Eight non-stop hours of wild, passionate, monkey sex will give one
quite an appetite, after all.

357 chuckled.

"What?" demanded Diana.

"I was just thinking about my old friend, the Intern," 357 explained.
"We always kind of figured that we'd grow old alone, having such
horrible luck in school with girls and whatnot.  We figured if we were
still bachelors when we hit 1000 years old or so, we'd look each other
up and rent an apartment together or something.  But he went and found
Rader Vogel.  Against all odds, they fell in love, which would prove
to me that there was a God if I hadn't already known He existed.
Rader and the Intern are probably married by now.  I was going to be
his best man, but I was trapped in that anomaly for so long, they
probably decided to have the wedding without me."

Diana made comforting noises.  "Well, maybe they're in an alterverse
with a different time flow, or they've just been busy, or she's
trapped somewhere about the be burnt at the stake waiting for him to
rescue her, and you can still be at the wedding."

"Maybe, but doesn't matter," 357 said, kissing her lightly.  "He found
her, and I found you."

Diana was so touched by his words that things might have gotten
decidedly non-PG-13 had the doorbell not rang, indicating that room
service had arrived.  They quickly demolished the sundae.  Diana,
eating AROUND the banana because real sundaes didn't have bananas
where she came from, asked "Honey, how can you eat so much and not
gain any weight?"

"Oh," mumbled 357 around a mouth full of chocolate sauce.  "It's this
silly metabolism of mine.  My recuperative and regenerative powers
require a lot of calories.  You didn't think I drank all that beer
just for the taste, did you?"

Diana admitted that she hadn't given it much thought.  "Well, I'm
lucky enough to have a minor hereditary genetic flaw.  The women in my
family are physically incapable of absorbing calories from any type of
chocolate.  My friends always hated me for it."

Diana headed towards the bathroom to take a shower while 357 made a
few phone calls.  Now that the holiday weekend was over, he felt
obligated to start trying to arrange a way to get them back to the HMS
Golden Lance for which this serial is named.  She half listened to
him while she tried to wash the chocolate sauce out of her...  Hair.
Yes, that's it.  Where else would she have chocolate sauce?

"Any luck?" she asked as she was towelling off.

"No," he answered.  "Looks like all the commercial and military
'matter transporters,' as they call them here, are still closed down.
There are a few in private hands, but they're all rich snobby types
who aren't likely to help us.  But I have a plan..."

After they checked out of the hotel, 357 and Diana rented an anti-grav
transport unit that the locals referred to as a 'slimmer.' 357 quickly
figured out how it got its name.  The anti-grav unit was powered by a
small electric generator which was turned by a set of bicycle-like
pedals.  The exertion guaranteed you'd arrive at your destination at
least a little slimmer than when you left.  357, thankful that he was
wearing a jumpsuit and not any type of uniform that required a belt,
decided that in a world with such good chocolate sauce, a transport
like this 'slimmer' made good sense.

"...and that's my plan," 357 finished as they coasted to a stop in
front of a large, ornate, mansion of a house.

Diana looked at him sharply.  "That's your plan?  Kidnapping?  Auto
theft?  Breaking and entering?  Shorting out the power supply for half
the city as a diversion?  Importing Superguys from another storyline
to handle the alarm system?  THAT'S your plan?"

357 paused in the middle of pulling on a jetpack and checking his
grappling hook.  "Oh, I suppose you have a better one?"

Three and one half minutes later, the robutler was escorting them into
the mansion.  "I must apologize, Mrs. Smith," it said in a more human
voice than most humans had.  "My masters must have simply neglected to
program me with the information that the open house was starting
today.  For that matter, they neglected to program me with the
information that they were selling the house at all!"

"That's quite all right, KBP74000-C," said Diana, reading the
robutler's serial number off his nametag.  "I'm sure it just slipped
their minds.  What, with such a fine unit as yourself running things,
they've probably gotten used to not having to tell the staff such
things.  They were obviously so confident that you'd be able to
instantly grasp the situation that it didn't even occur to them to
tell you about it.  What trust they must have in you!"

The robutler seemed to swell with pride.  In fact, 357 suspected that
if Diana laid the compliments on any thicker, the robutler with pop a
rivet or something.  "Hey, where's the matter transporter?  You do
have one, right?  One that works?"

"Beg your pardon, sir?" said the robutler, eyeing him suspiciously.

"What my husband means," said Diana smoothly, "in his own unique and
charmingly unsubtle way, is that a state-of-the-art matter transporter
is just a must if we are to purchase this lovely home."  She pulled
the robutler to the side.  "He fancies himself a do-it-yourself home
improvement type," she confided in hushed tones.  "I'd like to make
sure the matter transporter works flawlessly so he won't be tempted to
try to 'fix' it later."

"Of course, Mrs. Smith," said the robutler quietly, like some paragon
of complete understanding.  In a louder voice, "If you'll follow me,
I'll be happy to show you that the matter transporter is in perfect
working condition."

The robutler showed them the matter transporter platform, the battery-
powered back-up power supply, the triple-redundant safety features,
and the ultra-simple automated control panel, so easy to use that it
was virtually idiot-proof.

357 tapped a few keys experimentally and the entire panel shut down.

If KBP74000-C's photoreceptors were capable of rolling, it would have
rolled them.  Gently pushing 357 aside, the robutler showed him the
proper power-up sequence and how to set the coordinates.  Quickly
entering the set of coordinates that he had calculated earlier, 357
gave Diana the ultra-secret and totally undetectable signal.

"Excuse me, sir," said KBP74000-C.  "Is there something in your eye?"

"Uh, no, nothing wrong" stammered 357.  "I was just giving her the
ultra...  Um, never mind."

"KBP74000-C," Diana said.  "Could you be a dear and get me something
to drink?  Something fizzy and cold would just be wonderful."

"I'm not sure the masters would like me to leave you unattended..."
the robutler said hesitantly.

"KBP," Diana said familiarily, "if the home was sold, would you be
considered part of it?"

"I'm not sure I understand, ma'am..."

"Well," she said, fingers brushing against its trimwork, "you see, my
husband takes long business trips, and I'll need someone to take care
of certain needs while he's gone."  She paused to look it square in
the photoreceptors.  "You do know what I mean, don't you?"

"One cold and fizzy drink coming right up!" KBP74000-C announced.

357 rubbed his foot where the robutler had rolled across his shoe on
its mad dash to the door.  "Stupid machine."

"What kind of ultra-secret and totally undetectable signal was that
supposed to be?" Diana asked as she double-checked the coordinates.

"Give me a break," he said.  "It's not every day a man falls in love.
I'm bound to be off my game for a little while."  I used to be cool
until I started hanging out with you, he added silently.

"All right, all right," she soothed as she joined him on the platform.
"Are you sure this is going to work?"

"I've set interdimensional coordinates overlaid with a special homing
signal that only I and the VAL9000 computer know.  As long as the HMS
Golden Lance is still transiting within a few million milliverses of
this alterverse, her temporal teleporter terminal will automagically
detect the homing signal and pull us in."

"And if it isn't?  Or doesn't?  Or cant?"  Diana tried very hard not
to sound skeptical.

"Then we're SOL," 357 admitted.  "We'll be trapped between dimensions,
completely out of reach of the current author.  We'll be stuck,
floating helplessly in the endless reaches of Netherspace, unable to
even reach the Netherspace Nympho Beach, until we're adopted by
another author or fade from memory altogether."

"That's a big risk," Diana said.  "We'll still be together, right?"

"Always," promised 357.

"In that case, 'Scotty, beam us up!'" Diana shouted.

"Who's Scotty?"

"Just push the button, 357."

357 did, and they faded from sight, just as the robutler returned with
something cold and fizzy.  It looked around the now-empty room, gave a
mental shrug, gulped down the cold and fizzy, and returned to cleaning
up the place.

After all, KBP74000-C had a house to sell.

Will Time Agent 357 and Diana Dark get lost in Netherspace?
Did Rader Vogel and the Intern ever get married?
Just where is Time Agent 386, anyway?
Brain and brain!  What is brain?

Please turn to the Book of Wards, Chapter Two, Verse Ten, which
reads...  SFSTORY!

Copyright 2002 by Troy H. Cheek troy at cheek.org http://www.cheek.org
=========================================================================
Date:         Fri, 26 Apr 2002 01:35:38 -0400
From:         "Troy H. Cheek" (troy at cheek.org)
To:           Superguy List (superguy at lists.eyrie.org)
Subject:      SF: HMS Golden Lance #20 - My Weasel Friday

SF: HMS Golden Lance #20 - My Weasel Friday

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.  His only goal in life is 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.

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.

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.

Diana Dark - This sweet, innocent girl from Chicago (or, at least, as
sweet and innocent as any girl from Chicago can be) was transported
into SFSTORY by an explosion caused by the interaction of Cheez-Whiz
and beer, though the police have attributed her disappearance to a
bizarre Cruisinart accident.  Partner to Time Agent 386.

Time Agent 386 - Nephew to Time Agent 357 and heir to his Time Agent
legacy if and when 357 ever successfully retires, 386 is extremely
hard to kill but not immortal, unlike most of the rest of their race
which can be killed easily by violence but will live almost forever
otherwise.  386 is currently missing in action.

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 and Diana Dark, they are attempting to find
Time Agent 386 and recover Doctor Spleen's new and experimental
ABPSARII (or ABPSAR Mark II) which has been stolen by renegade Time
Agent Greez Hyperiok.  This attempt has been hindered by an accident
which switched our heroes' minds and bodies around.  Omegas and Ralph
were able to switch them back, but as a side effect our heroes have
been lost in space and time...

Omegas smiled.  This was not the smile of the mother of all evil plans
coming together, or the smile of a sadist enjoying another's pain, or
even the smile of realizing that the IRS (Intergalactic Revenue
Service) has lost all the tax records for your planet for the last two
or three hundred years.  It was, instead, the smile of happiness,
serenity, contentment, inner peace...

"Belch."

...and the consumption of large amounts of alcohol.

Omegas was stretched out on a folding deck chair, on a sandy beach,
under a sunny sky, the only sound being the surf breaking and the wind
blowing through the palm trees.

"Ralph!" Omegas called, cheerfully.  "Ralph, my good weasel!  Give an
old buddy a hand here, would you please?"

Ralph scurried right over.  Omegas using the word "please" in a non-
sarcastic tone was enough to get anybody's attention.  Ralph counted
the empty containers scattered in the sand near the deck chair.
That, he decided, explained everything.

"Yes, Omegas?" he asked.

"Huh?  Oh, yeah.  Give us a little hand here.  I seem to have depleted
my powers again."  Omegas gestured as if trying to summon something.

Ralph sighed and moved closer.  Holding aloft his paw, he willed forth
a stream of raw power from the ring he was wearing.  The ring was a
combination of god-like alien power, ancient magic, ultramodern
superscience, and a few components that Ralph had picked up at the
local Radio Shack.  While it was the Least Great of all the Great
Rings of Power created in the particular alterverse (or alternate
universe) in which they had acquired it, still, a magic ring is still
a magic ring.  In the wrong hands, the ring could be a great source of
evil.  In Ralph's hands, it simply provided the raw power that Omegas
could manipulate into yet another pitcher of beer.

"Ahhhh," sighed Omegas, sudsy foam outlining his mouth.  "That hits
the spot.  Thank you."

"You're welcome," said Ralph, still slightly off kilter at the sight
and sound of a polite, thankful Omegas.  "Um, don't you think it's
time we should be going?  We've been here for days..."

"Y'know, Ralph," slurred Omegas, "You think too much.  Besides, we've
already decided that the temporal flow in this alterverse is so much
faster than the ones we're usually in that days here are like hours
there.  We've barely been gone any time at all, objectively speaking.
Check out these equations..."

Ralph marvelled at the way Omegas, drunk as a skunk and unable to
stand upright by himself, could nonetheless discuss temporal physics
and make himself perfectly clear and understandable, unlike any known
temporal phyics instructor ever observed teaching a class on the
subject anywhere in the known multiverse.

"But, still," Ralph pressed.  "Greez Hyperiok.  ABPSARII.  End of all
life in all alterverses!  Dogs and cats living together!"

"Look, you don't want to upset our loyal subjects, do you?"

Ralph had to admit that Omegas had a point there.  The natives,
observing their entrance through a space/time/spam interdimensional
portal, had instantly proclaimed them gods.  Ralph, of course, tried
to talk them out of it.  Omegas, on the other hand, summoned a few
fireballs and a trio of scantily-clad dancing lemurs.  Their godhood
was assured.  The natives were quite happy to give Omegas and Ralph
anything they wanted, except help on how to find their way back to the
HMS Golden Lance for which this serial is named.

"Surely," countered Ralph, "we're here for some other reason than to
mooch off the natives."

Omegas was not impressed.  "Look back to the start of this chapter.
What do you see?  Character summary.  Obviously, we've been dropped
into a peaceful interlude of some kind.  No other reason for us to be
here, so I'm just going to enjoy it for a while."

"But..."

"It's filler, Ralph.  Entertaining filler, but filler nonetheless."

Ralph tried a different tack.  "Look, Omegas, I've been working on
this ring thing and I think I've got the hang of it now.  I can open a
portal that will take us back to the HMS Golden Lance, instead of just
tossing us back into the timestream, but only if you help me."

"And I'll be happy to do that," answered Omegas.  "Just as soon as
I've finished my little vacation here."  He stretched out and made
himself infinitely comfortable.  "Now, if you're finished hosing down
the beach with negative vibes, why don't you wander off and let me
take a little nap, hmm?"

Ralph sighed.  Omegas listened to the sound of the pitter patter of
little feet on sand as he scurried off.  With a sigh of contentment,
Omegas closed his eyes and slept the sleep of the innocent.

Or perhaps the sleep of the psychopath with no hint of a conscience.

Omegas sensed someone approaching.  Flopping over, he pulled his
sunglasses down to reveal his glowing red eyes.  He pierced Ralph with
his most evil, threatening, leave-me-alone glare.

Or would have, had it been Ralph approaching.

"Oh great and powerful Omegas," said the native, whom Omegas thought
resembled nothing more than a Centauran meercat on stilts.  That
Omegas had never been to Centaurus, never seen a meercat, and had only
the vaguest theoretical notion of what stilts were did not cross his
mind as he thought this.  He was, after all, Omegas.

"That would be me," Omegas answered quickly, hoping to forestall
another of the endless native chants.  "And you're blocking my sun."

The native looked up into the sky, saw the four suns, and moved so
that he was no longer blocking the largest, careful not to block any
others.  "Oh great and powerful Omegas," he began again.

"Pass me that pitcher, would you?" Omegas interjected when the native
paused to give proper reverance.

"Oh great and powerful Omegas," the native began for the third time.
"WhereisthegreatandpowerfulRalph?" he asked in a rush.

"The great and powerful Ralph," Omegas answered slowly and with great
sarcasm.  "Ralph irritated me, much as you are doing now, so I sent
him away.  If you really want to find him, follow the pawprints."

The native's auditory appendages perked up at this.  "The great and
powerful Omegas and the great and powerful Ralph have had a..."  He
paused to check a notepad.  "...a 'falling out'?"

"Yeah, so what?" Omegas asked.

"As foretold in the prophecy?" the native asked hopefully.  "As
written in the ancient sacred texts?"

Omegas had never thought much of prophecy, but he did know that when
you're being worshipped as a god, it was wise to hide your contempt of
ancient sacred texts, even if you are yourself more ancient than most
said texts to begin with.  "I suppose.  Why?  What of it?"

"Then it is truly The Time, oh great and powerful Omegas?"

"If I confirm that it is truly The Time, will you go away?"

"Oh, most certainly, oh great and powerful Omegas!"

"Then it is truly The Time," intoned Omegas in his deepest and most
resonant tones, which sounded not at all unlike his normal speaking
voice, which also sounded not at all unlike unbridled sarcasm.

Omegas looked around to see that while the author was distracted
typing the last paragraph, the native had left.  He went back to
inspecting his eyelids for holes.

When Omegas next awoke, he noticed that he was several feet up in the
air.  At first, he thought that his full powers had returned and that
he was flying.  Then he realized that his deck chair was being held
aloft by several Centauran meercats on stilts.  He reached down and
tapped the nearest native on the head.  "Mind telling me what's going
on here before I barbeque your face off?"

"Oh great and powerful Omegas, now that you and the great and powerful
Ralph have had your falling out and you have confirmed that it is The
Time, we are carrying you to the Volcano of Cleansing.  Once there,
you will be lowered into the fiery depths of AAAAAEEEEIIIYYY!"

There was perhaps more to the description of the process.  However,
none of the other natives felt like having their faces barbequed off
at the moment.  Omegas was still blasting fireballs at the retreating
forms when Ralph scampered up to him.

"Omegas, I was just reading the Sacred Texts.  If anybody asks you
about The Time, stall."

"I figured that out on my own," snarled Omegas as he brushed sparks
from his hands.  "Ready to go?"

"Um, yes."  Ralph raised the Least Great Ring and Omegas flexed his
fingers.  Combining their respective powers, Omegas and Ralph created
a portal and stepped through it.

                        =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a tall figure approached a rustic cabin
in the woods.  His faded and broken-down hat and his much-patched
leather vest were dusty.  His mirrored sunglasses reflected the
setting sun.  Silver spurs jingling, he stepped up onto the porch.
The figure did not appear to be at all surprised when the door opened
before he could reach it.

"I came as soon as you called," said the small, timid man holding the
door open.  "When you weren't here, I kind of hoped..."

"Sorry to get your hopes up," answered the tall figure.  "They'll be
here soon.  Stay inside until they leave."

"And then?"

The tall figure looked over his sunglasses.  "And then we'll see if
any of those nice things I told your parole board are true."

                        =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

On board the HMS Golden Lance for which our serial is named, a very
agitated Doctor Bing Von Spleen hurried into the Temporal Teleporter
Terminal room.  "Status!"

=It's just like I reported two chapters ago,= came the precise
response from the ship's VAL 9000 computer.  =The Temporal Teleporter
Terminal came online and we're receiving a transmission!=

Doctor Von Spleen watched as one, two, three, and finally four
shimmering forms began to materialize on the platform.  He waited
until Time Agent 357, Diana Dark, Ralph, and Omegas were fully formed
before approaching them.  As happy as he was to see them, Spleen had
no particular urge to merge molecules with them.

"357?" he asked tentatively of 357, mindful of the recent lengthy and
poorly-written body swap episode.

"Yes, it's me doctor," 357 answered.  "Diana and I have returned to
our proper bodies."

"357!" Spleen shouted joyously, gripping Agent 357 in a huge hug and
slapping his back in a glad-to-see-you sort of way.  He then turned to
Diana Dark.

"Diana!" Spleen shouted joyfully, gripping Diana in a huge hug and
slapping her butt in a glad-to-see-you sort of way.  Diana's spinning
hip toss left him sprawled on the deck plates in front of Ralph.

"Ralph?" he asked as he climbed to his feet unsteadily.

"Over here, Doctor," stated the body of Omegas.

Everyone stared blankly at Omegas for a full minute.

"Ha!" Omegas laughed loudly.  "Fooled you!  Oh, if you could have
seen your faces.  Hahahaha!"

While Omegas rolled around on the floor clutching at his sides, Doctor
Spleen and the VAL 9000 computer recounted recent events to 357.

"And so," Spleen concluded, "I dismantled Hyperiok's bomb before it
could explode, but his instruments didn't record that.  He thinks
we're all dead."

"Excellent!" exclaimed 357.  "This simplifies everything!"

"What do you mean?" asked Ralph.

"If Greez Hyperiok thinks we're dead, he won't be expecting trouble.
He won't be on his guard.  That will make it much easier to sneak up
on him and steal back the ABPSARII, or Automatic Beet Peeler and Sub-
Atomic Re-integrator Mark II."

"You mean we can actually win this?" Diana asked incrediously.

"Yes!  Nothing can do wrong now!" said 357, smiling smugly.

And 357 was still standing there smiling smugly when he faded from
sight and memory like yesterday's boy band.

Ralph, Diana, and Spleen once again stared blankly.  Dramatic and
menacing music rose in volume as the screen faded to blank, the only
other sound being Omegas guffawing...

What?
How?
Why?

For the answers to these and other equally pointed questions, tune in
next week for another exciting episode of...  SFSTORY!

Copyright 2002 by Troy H. Cheek troy at cheek.org http://www.cheek.org
=========================================================================
Date:         Wed, 05 Jun 2002 03:13:27 -0400
From:         "Troy H. Cheek" (troy at cheek.org)
To:           Superguy List (superguy at lists.eyrie.org)
Subject:      SF: HMS Golden Lance #21 - Enter the Cowboy

SF: HMS Golden Lance #21 - Enter the Cowboy

Miss Diana Dark and Doctor Bing Von Spleen, both formerly of Earth,
Ralph the Giant Space weasel of Anthrax V, actually from Leibowitz IV,
and the VAL 9000 computer, installed in the HMS Golden Lance for
which this serial is named, all stared blankly at where their former
leader and captain, one Time Agent 357, had formerly been standing
before he disappeared like a big network science fiction series.

Well, technically, the VAL 9000 scanned futilely while her cognitive
banks repeatedly came up with repeating sets of null equations, but in
practice it was much the same as staring blankly.

Omegas, former immortal and current immense pain in everyone's arse,
continued to roll on the floor clutching his sides, amused to the
point of tears by his own wit and the untimely disappearance of the
aforementioned Time Agent 357.  Omegas did not get along with 357.

Come to mention it, Omegas didn't get along with anybody.

=Temporal disturbance!  Temporal disturbance!= shouted the VAL 9000
computer.  =Temporal disturbance detected!=

Several alarms, klaxons, and sirens began sounding.  "Bleep!  Bleep!
Bleep!" bleeped the bleeping bleeper bleepily.

Diana Dark, having not quite the most profound intellect of all the
reasoning beings onboard but having a fairly deft grasp of character
traits, turned on the most obvious source of the problem.  "Omegas!  I
don't know what you did, but bring him back, you...  you..."

"Ruthless, heartless, backstabbing, murdering son of a bitch?" Ralph
suggested helpfully.

All beings present did a doubletake towards Ralph.  The aforementioned
weaseloid, busy grooming his whiskers, did not seem to notice.  After
a moment's pause, Diana took to the suggestions.

"Yes!  You ruthless..."  Kick to the head.  "...heartless..." Another
kick to the head.  "...backstabbing..."  Kick.  "...murdering..."

"Whoa there, little lady!" Omegas shouted, spouting off a gigavolt
discharge that scorched the far wall panel and would have done worse
to Diana had she not catapulted herself out of the way.  She performed
a triple flip in the air and landed in a split.  Ralph cheered and
clapped and Doctor Spleen spilled his beer.

Omegas climbed to his feet.  "I don't care how hot you look (and
admittedly you are a hottie) nobody kicks me around like that.  And
what makes you think I had anything to do with 357's disappearance?"

Diana glazed.  She then realized that this was not the look she meant
to project and instead glared.  "You're the only one laughing," she
pointed out in a not entirely unreasonable tone.

"Of course I'm laughing," stated Omegas, though in truth he was
beginning to look quite surly.  "Computer, play back Time Agent 357's
last statement before he disappeared."

"Yes!  Nothing can go wrong now!" said 357's voice from the overhead
speakers, muffled only slightly by the VAL 9000's heartrending sobs.

Omegas, whose heart was fairly unrendable even on a good day, ignored
her.  "Anyone who's spent any amount of time in SFSTORY knows that you
never, never, NEVER tempt the Fates like that.  Or the Universe in
general (whichever one you might happen to be in).  Or the Authors."
Omegas paused to place his nonexistant hat over the place where his
theoretical heart should have been.  "Lord knows that anything can and
probably will happen to prove you wrong."  And, given his employment
history, Omegas probably knew better than most what the Lord knows.

"Still, bring him back," Diana ordered through clenched teeth.

"I think not," Omegas said slowly, almost as if he were actually
giving the matter thought.  "It occurs to me that without Time Agent
357 around, I'm not likely to encounter nearly as much resistance to
my regularly scheduled schemes involving gaining immortality and
limitless power.  None of you have the power to oppose me."

Ralph stepped forward and held his paw aloft.  On that paw was a ring.
This ring was a combination of god-like alien power, ancient magic,
ultramodern superscience, and a few components that Ralph had picked
up at the local Radio Shack.  This Least Great of all the Great Rings
of Power, resembling nothing so much as a cubit zirconia embedded in a
beer can pull-tab, crackled with energies even Omegas did not fully
comprehend.  "I beg," Ralph said gruffly, "to differ."

Omegas actually backed down.

Ralph grinned toothily and turned to Diana.  "Fear not, Miss Dark.
While I don't understand exactly what's going on, I think I have a
feel for the energies which removed Time Agent 357.  It should be a
simple matter of suppressing them."

Time Agent 357 materialized in front of them.  "I just had the
strangest dream.  You were in it.  And you were there.  And you..."

Diana caught 357 just as he fell forward.  Omegas looked as if he very
much wanted to start laughing again, but stifled it with difficulty
after Diana looked sharply in his direction.  Omegas stood aside while
Ralph, Spleen, and Diana dragged 357 to the nearest medical bay.

The AutoQuack v1.7, state of the art in medical science, scanned 357
and immediately pronounced him completely healthy.  It also pronounced
him a Centauran meercat on stilts who was three months pregnant with
triplets.  Ralph, Spleen, and Diana dragged 357 to the nearest machine
shop.  Diana made soothing noises while Spleen threw together some
equipment and Ralph made shadow puppets on the wall.

"Ralph, that's a very nice rendition of George Washington crossing the
Mississippi, but you're blocking my light!" Spleen vented.  Ralph, his
feelings hurt, wandered off to help Omegas dismantle the AutoQuack
v1.7, it being tradition to destroy the things every time that they
are introduced into the story.  Spleen snatched at pieces they were
tossing down the corridor and added them to the collection of engine
parts, eating utensils, adult novelty items, and sensor suites that he
was assembling around 357's inert frame.

Time Agent 357, who had been fading in and out of reality, faded in
and became solid as Spleen made some final adjustments.  He then faded
in a little too solidly and began turning inside out.  Spleen backed
the last dial back a notch or two.

=That's done it, Doctor,= reported the VAL 9000 computer.  =All of the
temporal disturbances have been completely damped down.=

"But what caused them to begin with, Val?" Diana wondered.

=Unknown,= VAL responded.  =But now that I've had a chance to analyze
it, it seems that 357 has been doing this for some time.  His swapping
bodies with you slowed it down for a while, but now it's accelerating
at an accelerating rate.=

"Surely you know something, Doctor?"

"I know a great deal about a great many things," Doctor Bing Von
Spleen agreed amiably.  "You don't get to be the cleanest-complexioned
Spamologist in all of known space without knowing something.  Why,
I've probably forgotten more than most people will ever know."  He
paused to chug down another beer, killing millions of brain cells in
the process.  "But I'm afraid I don't know what's happening to 357."

=I have a suggestion,= came the voice from the overhead speakers.

                        =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

"This is the jingle for Cthulu Chips.
Crushy smushy Cthulu Chips.
Close your eyes and try to picture
Spiny evil Cthulu Chips.

"That is unless you're flying.
Oy Vey! Now, that reminds me..."

"Dijon, turn that off!  We have plans to make!"  Renegade Time Agent
Greez Hyperiok was in a good mood, and expressed it by being extra
nasty to his subordinates.

"What plans?" answered Dijon Mu'tard, Hyperiok's head flunky and
bottle washer.  "You've won.  Besides, it's almost finished."

"...you know they're made with real souls
by gods who live in dark holes.
The snack that bites back: Cthulu Chips!"

Dijon finally turned off the radio.  "Snappy jingle, huh?  I'm
thinking of buying out the franchise."

"You are odd," Greez said slowly, as if noticing this for the first
time.  "Plans to take over the multiverse, of course."

"What's to plan?" Dijon said snappily.  "Just pick up the ABPSARII,
type in that you want to be the ruler of the multiverse, and press
'enter.'  The Automatic Beet Peeler and Sub-Atomic Re-integrator Mark
II will search through all possible times and altiverses until it
comes up with one that gives you what you want."

Greez snorted.  "That plan lacks flair.  Sure, I could get everything
I want in one fell swoop, but to do so in such an uncouth manner would
get me kicked out of the supervillian club."

"Then use the ABPSARII to make yourself president of the club."

"You're no fun," said Greez dangerously.

Dijon, who finally realized that he was really cheesing off his boss,
backpedalled furiously.  "Look, I'm just concerned that if we don't
cement our victory quickly, we'll lose what we've gained so far."

"Lose?  Impossible!" scoffed Greez.  "There is no one who can stop us
now.  Time Agent 357 and his companions, who are the only nominally
effective heroes in this storyline, are dead dead DEAD.  Now, let's
start taking over altiverses one at a time..."

Dijon had to agree that Greez had a point.  357 was undeniably dead.

                        =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

"Oh, I feel like I'm dead," moaned 357.

"Stop being such a crybaby," fussed Diana as she mothered him.  "Shut
up and listen to Val's suggestion."

=Whatever's happening to 357 is outside the realm of science, even as
it is normally mangled in a science fiction epic such as this.  This
smacks of divine influence.  I suggest that we contact one of our
divine sources of information.=

Omegas, who had gotten tired of people trying to kick him every time
he started laughing, considered this for a momemnt.  "I don't know,
Val.  The Jeff Smith Accords limit the amount of help that we can get
from that quarter.  Besides, I'm persona non wanted in those circles."

"The Oracle at Delphi?" Ralph suggested.

"Nope," answered 357.  "She's gone to a pay service."

"I have some Muses who owe me a favor," suggested Omegas.

"I've heard some of your records," said Spleen.  "I'll pass on
anything one of your Muses inspires."

"Ouija board?" Diana suggested.

"Wait, I've got it!" Spleen shouted.  "Val, set course for alterverse
8891 immediately!"

=Doctor, with the recent multiversal renumbering, that is no longer a
valid selection.  In fact, I can't even find an appropriate conversion
of it in the new listings.=

"That's right," Spleen agreed.  "It's one of the special alterverses
that has been kept hidden for reasons which will become clear some
time during the next couple of chapters.  In the mean time, just punch
in the numbers and hit the gas!"

With a lurch, a jerk, a shudder, and several other unseemly actions,
the HMS Golden Lance blasted through Netherspace and towards the
unknown and mysterious alterverse 8891.

                        =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a tall figure stepped onto the porch of
his rustic cabin in the woods.  His faded and broken-down hat and his
much-patched leather vest were dusty.  His mirrored sunglasses
reflected the setting sun.  Silver spurs jingling, he propped one
booted foot up on the porch railing in a dramatic pose.  He idly
played with the silver holster at his side.

He did not seem to be the slightest bit surprised when the HMS Golden
Lance materialized in his front yard.  He stood patiently while all
the other characters in the story filed out of the ship.

"Welcome to Alterverse 8891," the tall figure said in a husky voice,
sort of a combination of Waylon Jennings and Don Williams.

"Hi, there, Cowboy!" said 357.  "Nice to see that you've settled in."

"Cowboy?" asked Diana incredulously.  "Not THE Cowboy?"

"Well, more 'A' Cowboy than 'THE' Cowboy," Spleen explained.

"I'm confused," Diana admitted.

"It's okay, little lady," the tall figure said.  "Just pull up a
rocking chair and I'll explain everything."

As they settled in, he admitted "Of course, this will require an
extended flashback sequence..."

"NO!" screamed everybody as they tried to run for it.  Unfortunately,
rocking chairs are hard to get out of in a hurry, so by the time they
had regained their feet, overpaid special effects artists were already
morphing the screen with wavy lines signifying that the flashbacks had
indeed already begun.

Who is this tall figure and what help can he be?
Why does he use flashbacks?
Say, didn't I used to go by the handle of "The Cowboy?"
Why do fools fall in love?

Tune in next week for thrills, spills, and little pink pills, all in
the next exciting episode of...  SFSTORY!

Copyright 2002 by Troy H. Cheek troy at cheek.org http://www.cheek.org
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