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Sfstory Log 105

=========================================================================
Date: Sat, 20 Jul 2002 14:28:53 -0400
From: Gary (swede at acd.net)
Subject: SF: Universal Solvents #10 (0/1)
To: superguy at lists.eyrie.org

                               UNIVERSAL SOLVENTS
                              (a Tale of Sfstory!)
                                The Story So Far
                                       or
                              I Hope That's Pudding
                                       by
                                  Gary W. Olson

Trying to explain what's happened in the first nine episodes of 
Universal Solvents is a tricky proposition, especially if I hope to 
make slightly more sense than the episodes themselves.  So, rather 
than describe it episode by episode, I've separated the storyline 
into the various active plot threads, and character summaries for the 
characters involved with those threads.


THREAD 1: SPACE, NEAR THE FRINGMAR SYSTEM, IN GOORNASHK AUTHORITY SPACE

      The crew of the salvage vessel _Universal Solvent_ discovered a 
mysterious alien ship which contained several frozen, pudding-bloated 
bodies and a frozen, not-pudding-bloated bagel.  They attempted to 
tow the ship to the nearest salvage port, in the Fringmar System, but 
the bagel mentally hijacked one crew member and caused another to 
follow as it took control of the mysterious ship and flew off (into 
Thread 3, below), leaving the two remaining crewmembers to contend 
with hostile representatives of the Goornashk Authority, which 
controlled that region of space.
      Fortunately for the crewmembers, the _Challenger III_ happened 
upon the scene just then and interrupted the Goornashkans' 
interrogation.  The _Challenger III_, a warship obtained by Earth in 
exchange for a large quantity of valuable pudding, was also seeking 
the mysterious ship, or, more specifically, the bodies floating 
around in it.  Earth was under quarantine due to the presence of an 
extremely infectious and idiocy-inducing show called "Spammymon Z," 
and it was believed (for reasons not yet revealed) that the dead men 
had some link to it.
      (The dead men are now known to be minions of Kalvin Certain, 
present on the ship for reasons vaguely mumbled about in Thread 5.)
      While the crews of the _Universal Solvent_ and the _Challenger 
III_ compared notes, the _Universal Solvent_ was hijacked, and 
subsequently made to disappear from Fringmar space (see Thread 2). 
Those remaining are trying to determine just what the heck to do now.

Characters:
CAPTAIN STEVE VOGEL - The slightly effeminate captain of the 
_Challenger III_ (and former captain of the legendary _Challenger 
II_), Steve welcomed this return to captaining a starship and going 
on an important mission with the fate of Earth in the balance. 
Despite the interference from the Freedonia 5 crew and the low level 
of respect he receives from his own crew, he still believes he is 
making important progress in freeing Earth from the threat of 
Spammymon Z.  Poor man.

COMMANDER JEAN ST. THOMAS - Second-in-command of the _Challenger III_.

LUCKY - Six-foot-tall-at-the-shoulder mutant black cat.  Also a 
former crewmember of _Challenger II,_ he was let onto the _Challenger 
III_ by Chicobaldi.  Lucky contributes little to the smooth running 
of the ship (unless one considers prodigious displays of appetite, 
hairball-horking, and self-licking to be helpful), but he's too big 
and too obstinate to be evicted.

JERRIPHRRT - A Calican (catlike humanoid) male from the 000SUPERGUY 
altiverse, crewmember of the _Universal Solvent_, and husband of 
Gham, stranded on the _Challenger III_ after his ship was stolen.

GHAM - A native of the no-longer-existing planet Karma Chameleon II 
(a humanlike humanoid with two small hornlike things on her head) 
female, crewmember of the _Universal Solvent_, and wife of 
Jerriphrrt, stranded on the _Challenger III_ after her ship was 
stolen.

CAPTAIN J. MICHAEL SPAULDING - Captain of the space station Freedonia 
5, which is currently on Earth's Replacement Moon being repaired. 
Stowed away on the _Challenger III_ on a lark, and to provide Steve 
Vogel with a video of the miniseries based on the Breaking of the 
Fast at the Dawn of the Universe (see Thread 3).

SECURITY CHIEF CHICOBALDI - Freedonia 5's Security Chief, also on the 
_Challenger III_ as a lark.

LIEUTENANT ZACKO - Another Freedonia 5 crewmember, one with the 
somewhat inexplicable ability to appear in scenes that he couldn't 
possibly be in.

ZEPPUS COLESLAW - Another Freedonia 5 crewmember on the _Challenger 
III_ as a lark.

MAJOR LALAN - Leader of the Goornashkan ship that stopped the 
_Universal Solvent_ on suspicion that the crew was trying to take and 
sell the valuable pudding found on the mysterious (and already gone) 
ship.  He has an unexplained religious fixation on pudding, and 
recently lost his best friend, a large laser gun he called 'Mr. 
Funboy.'  He's currently locked up on board the _Challenger III,_ 
along with his crew.


THREAD 2: SOMEWHERE OTHER THAN ELSE

      Bagelos and Quooth, stranded on Alpha Rio VI (the Planet of 
Casinos), deep in debt and in danger of being offed by Assassin Yaks, 
were hired by Kalvin Certain (see Thread 5) to find out what happened 
to the minions he sent to bring back Shoon-Ma, a legendary Ur-Bagel 
'discovered' on a distant planet (see Thread 3).  They travel in a 
warp-capable ship from Thread 5 to Thread 1, where they hijacked the 
conveniently empty _Universal Solvent,_ which Bagelos recognized as 
being the ancient embodiment of the True Saucer, another piece of the 
enigma of the Breaking of the Fast at the Dawning of the Universe.
      Due to the inexplicable intervention of Lt. Zacko, Bagelos 
acquired an Omni-Galactronic Charger Chip, the one piece of 
technology he needed to fix the damage done to the _Universal 
Solvent_ and effect an escape.  The ship subsequently teleported to a 
destination as yet unrevealed.

Characters:
BAGELOS - A washed-up, middle-aged space villain (who possesses an 
eye-ruby that, when charged, can fire some potent death beams) who, 
after many failed entrepreneurial attempts, found himself in a hot 
spot on Alpha Rio VI.  He accepted Kalvin Certain's offer not because 
of his debts, though; his knowledge of the legend of the Breaking of 
the Fast, and the involvement of his grandfather, the space villain 
Baconos, in an earlier investigation of said legend, spurred his 
acceptance.  Whether he is still working on Kalvin's problem or is 
now following his own agenda is not yet clear.

QUOOTH THIIKSI - A wzaxtil (non-gendered large tentacled insect), in 
possession of a Holy Harmonica that has a wide variety of uses, on a 
quest so esoteric no one except Quooth has any idea what it is (and 
Quooth isn't saying).  Phe is accompanying Bagelos due to the vague 
possibility that following Bagelos might help Quooth find what phe is 
looking for as well.  Poor wzaxtil.

MEGABOT - A large, menacing red robot with a checkered past of 
working for a variety of space villains.  Kalvin had him accompany 
Bagelos and Quooth to make sure they were following his orders, 
perhaps not realizing that Megabot, despite the many cutting blades 
and other implements of death beneath his shiny red surface, is not 
the sharpest knife in the drawer.


THREAD 3: SPACE, MORE OR LESS

      Shoon-Ma, an Ur-Bagel (and Important Player in the Breaking of 
the Fast at the Dawning of the Universe) dug up on a remote planet by 
a group of alien archaeologists, fell into the clutches of Kalvin 
Certain's Team E minions.  By the time the archaeologists' ship was 
found adrift by the crew of the _Universal Solvent_ (see Thread 1), 
the minions were found dead, bloated by pudding, and Shoon-Ma was 
found, drifting and frozen.  Mistaken for an ordinary frozen bagel, 
he was brought over to the _Universal Solvent_, where he did a mind 
whammy thing on one of the crewmembers (Benjen) in order to get back 
to the alien ship.
      The Ur-Bagel piloted the ship out of Thread 1 and into his own 
Thread, where he picked up Dr. Bing Von Spleen's drifting 
warpshuttle, and surprised the crew of said shuttle by identifying 
one of their number as being the one he intends to make into his 
Champion, someone who would avenge (in some way or other) the 'wrong' 
(not explained) done to 'his kind' (say what?) at the 'Breaking of 
the Fast at the Dawning of the Universe' (some kind of sketchy cosmic 
power play at the beginning of time, involving breakfast items such 
as Shoon-Ma and the True Saucer, but that's about all we know about 
it as of the end of episode 9).  Unfortunately for Shoon-Ma, the 
Champion (Sajon) was teleported off the ship in an ABPSARI accident 
(and into Thread 4), leaving the Ur-Bagel fuming.

Characters:
SHOON-MA - The Ur-Bagel, which speaks telepathically with a voice 
that sounds much like that of George Clooney.  Has, through 
unexplained means, the ability to float, talk, control his starship, 
and generate a neverending breakfast bar for his captives.

DR. BING VON SPLEEN - Foremost spamologist on Earth (because he 
killed the other threemost), who escaped Earth in order to avoid the 
Spammymon Z quarantine (see Thread 1), only to be captured by 
Shoon-Ma.  He's expected to help transform Sajon into Shoon-Ma's 
Champion, when and if Sajon ever gets recaptured.  (Note: there is an 
older, time-travelling Dr. Bing Von Spleen in Troy Cheek's H.M.S. 
Golden Lance series.  Should the Spleens ever meet, its quite 
possible that time would blow serious chunks all over space, or maybe 
the other way around.)

TH1K1 - A cute toy robot whom most everybody loves, and who only Von 
Spleen realizes is actually a homicidal maniac (or would-be homicidal 
maniac; TH1K1's schemes have yet to show success).  In the recent 
confusion that resulted in Sajon, Shadebeam, and Slithis being 
teleported off the ship, TH1K1 managed to slip off the bridge and 
into the interior of the alien ship.

BENJEN - A Hottentotian male from the 000SUPERGUY altiverse, another 
crewmember of the _Universal Solvent_, who was temporarily hypnotized 
by Shoon-Ma into returning with Shoon-Ma to the alien ship.  Now an 
unwilling, albeit well-breakfasted, captive on board said ship.


THREAD 4: SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW

	While seeking to escape the quarantined Earth in a 
warpshuttle, Dr. Bing Von Spleen accidentally dumped a large quantity 
of pudding into the ABPSARI that powered the shuttle.  As a result, 
the shuttle and its crew (Von Spleen, Sajon, and TH1K1) were 
teleported far out into space, and Shadebeam, a former Sfstory 
character who had gone on to bigger things over in 000SUPERGUY, was 
yanked back into the altiverse and into the shuttle rather briskly 
(she had just stepped out of the shower, and had only her towel with 
her).  Soon after, the shuttle was drawn into the alien ship from 
Thread 3, and its occupants found themselves prisoners of Shoon-Ma.
	For three of the prisoners, that was not to last long.  Lt. 
Zacko, from Thread 1, made an inexplicable appearance, bringing with 
him the ABPSARI that had disappeared from the warpshuttle during its 
last teleportation.  A herring that was balanced on the ABPSARI's 
funnel caused another reality fluctuation, which resulted in the 
disappearance (from Thread 3, and reappearance we don't yet know 
where) of Shadebeam, Sajon, and Slithis.

Characters:
SHADEBEAM MOROBOSHI - A young woman forcibly returned to Sfstory 
years after she was forcibly removed from it.  Not at all happy to be 
back at first, she was pleased to run into two of her old cohorts 
from Renegade Anarchists days on the alien ship.  Despite not having 
use of the magical powers she acquired in 000SUPERGUY while in 
Sfstory, her attitude remains undiminished.

SLITHIS - A crewmember of the _Universal Solvent_ who pursued his 
best friend Benjen onto the alien ship (see Thread 3) and was pleased 
to see Shadebeam's surprise return.  He was less pleased to find that 
Shadebeam did not remember his name, despite their brief relationship 
in the old days.

SAJON - An unimpressive would-be hero (who, coincidentally, was born 
on Alpha Rio VI) who had fallen into being Dr. Von Spleen's errand 
boy.  Before being teleported away by the ABPSARI, he was told by 
Shoon-Ma that he would be Shoon-Ma's chosen Champion (see Thread 3). 
This makes no more sense to him than it does to anyone else.


THREAD 5: THE PLANET OF CASINOS (ALPHA RIO VI)

In addition to being a planet covered with casinos, Alpha Rio VI has 
proven to be a center of mystery, intrigue, and assassin yaks.  At 
its center is Kalvin Certain, the suave former mercenary and fop who 
orchestrated the kidnapping of Zark Flyby (see Thread 6) and sent 
members of Team E to retrieve the ur-bagel Shoon-Ma, sent Bagelos and 
Quooth out to retrieve the ur-bagel after Team E died on the alien 
ship, and employed other members of Team E on Dirk's Space 
Swap-o-Rama and Grill for vague reasons that may have been the 
subject of Williams's investigations (see Thread 7).

Characters:
KALVIN CERTAIN - Former space dandy, rogue, smuggler, Renegade 
Anarchist, and cad, Kalvin worked his way into middle management at a 
large casino on Alpha Rio VI, and in a manner as yet unknown, 
launched a variety of intricately related plots, as described above. 
The point of all the plotting seems to be related to secrets 
surrounding the Breaking of the Fast at the Dawn of the Universe, and 
the desire of various characters to refight it (see Threads 3 and 6).


THREAD 6: PLANET ZETA RICOLA BETA
Zark Flyby showed up at Interstellar University to give Ronald 
Hastings and Norman Sassafrass a case to work on for their senior 
project.  After doing so, he was teleported to a prison on Alpha Rio 
VI, where he poked out Kalvin Certain's eye with a rubber chicken and 
met his father, Sark.  Sark informed Zark that he was their people's 
Chosen One, and that he would be the one to save them from the 
dreaded Serving of the Check, which is probably part of the Breaking 
of the Fast at the Dawn of the Universe, even though no one's 
actually come out and said that yet.  Father and son were heading to 
their homeworld, Zeta Ricola Beta, in their last scene.

Characters:
ZARK FLYBY - Heavily armed, lightly brained, ultraviolent Commandant 
of Time Police Academy (and former Time Police lieutenant).  Has a 
long history of shooting at things, blowing things up, and so on and 
so forth.  He's been told that he's his people's Chosen One, which 
would have meant nothing to him even if he had enough functional 
brain cells to try to grasp what it meant.

SARK FLYBY - A grey gnome with a disturbingly Freddie Prinze, Jr-like 
face.  He's also Zark's father and the Grand Patriarch of planet Zeta 
Ricola Beta, which is apparently in such a dire situation that 
they're relying on Zark to save them.  Poor planet.


THREAD 7: DIRK'S SPACE SWAP-O-RAMA & GRILLE

	Two Interstellar University students took on, as their senior 
project, the rescue of the kidnapped Toni Williams, a case given to 
them by Zark Flyby just before he was teleported away into Thread 6. 
They hired a Space Ingenue and set out for Dirk's Space Swap-o-Rama 
and Grille, a bizarre space station where deals of all kinds go on 
all the time.
	They follow a lead to the Sonar Men.  In particular, Satik 
the Sonar Man, who already had arrangements in place to sell them out 
to the members of Team E that were on the station.  But our heroes 
managed to escape, and are currently being pursued by the villains 
through the corridors of Dirk's.

Characters:
RONALD HASTINGS - Former member of an Earth-based Star Trek fan club 
with a long name, current undergraduate student at Interstellar 
University and best friend of Norman Sassafras, seeking to solve the 
mystery of Toni Williams's disappearance as part of his Senior 
Project.  His interest in her was revealed to have a personal 
dimension, as she was his first big crush in second grade.

NORMAN SASSAFRAS - Former member of an Earth-based Star Trek fan club 
with a long name, current undergraduate student at Interstellar 
University and best friend of Ronald Hastings, seeking to solve the 
mystery of Toni Williams's disappearance as part of his Senior 
Project.

KISSY HITOWERS - Space ingenue hired by Ronald and Norman to help 
with their senior project (whose rates they could afford because they 
made a fortune investing in the pudding futures market).

SATIK - Onetime feared armer of space villains and major enemy of 
Buzz Williams, now field manager of the Sonar Men's sales outpost on 
Dirk's.  Satik clings to the retro-'futuristic' styles of villainy 
past in his clothing and in the long, rambling stories he tells 
anyone who might possibly listen.  He colluded with the High Spock to 
turn Ronald, Norman, and Kissy over to Team E, but now that the 
heroism students have escaped, sees recapturing them as an 
opportunity to bring back his glory days.

THE HIGH SPOCK - When Ronald and Norman got their own spacegoing 
Pinto and left Earth, they made the High Spock, the leader of their 
Star Trek fan club, a bitter lad.  Kalvin Certain saw an opportunity 
to hire minions on a budget, plucked them from Earth, and put them in 
charge of the hyperdimensional transporter (used to kidnap Zark Flyby 
and send Zark and Sark to Zeta Ricola Beta - see Thread 6) and "the 
Nega-Cell," whatever that is.  The now-armed fan club took a new 
name, Team E.  Some members were sent by Kalvin to steal the ur-bagel 
Shoon-Ma, a trip that didn't turn out so well (see Thread 1).  The 
High Spock, meanwhile, was glad to see his archnemesises Ronald and 
Norman fall into his trap, and was sad to see them escape.  He is 
currently working with Satik to chase them down.

And that's it!  If that helped you understand what's been going on to 
date in this series, you have my deepest sympathies.

And now... on to Episode 10!

(following...)
=========================================================================
Date: Sat, 20 Jul 2002 14:32:06 -0400
From: Gary (swede at acd.net)
Subject: SF: Universal Solvents #10 (1/1)
To: superguy at lists.eyrie.org

                               UNIVERSAL SOLVENTS
                              (a Tale of Sfstory!)
                                   Episode 10
                                    "Beige"
                                       by
                                  Gary W. Olson

                                      -~-_-

      For Zark Flyby, homecoming wasn't.  His mind, limited in just 
about every sense imaginable save that of violence and its wide 
variety of possible applications, held no memory of Zeta Ricola Beta. 
In fact, it held no memory of what he had blown up for breakfast last 
Tuesday.  The peaceful forest he beheld meant nothing more to him 
than the prison cell on Alpha Rio VI that was his previous residence. 
The fact that said forest was kajillions of miles from said cell and 
that he had crossed that distance through the technological magic of 
a hyperdimensional transporter system meant less.
      "What do you think, son?" asked Sark Flyby, the grey gnome who 
had identified himself as his father.
      Typically, a tough question such as this would have kicked Zark 
into a fit of ultra-violence which would not have ended until he ran 
out of ammunition or consciousness (Zark occasionally forgot to 
breathe while engaging in ultra-violence).  But all of Zark's weapons 
had been turned into useless novelty items by the hyperdimensional 
transporter when he had been originally kidnapped.  Now, he had only 
his wits to fall back upon.
      "Son?" Sark asked, after Zark was silent for a couple minutes.
      "Um," said Zark, stalling for time.  "Kill?"
      Sark Flyby sighed.  "No, Zark.  No kill."  He scratched his chin 
and looked away.  "Not yet."
      They were silent for another couple minutes.
      "I bet I could destroy this whole forest using just my big toe," 
said Zark.
      "Please don't," said Sark.
      "But I lost my toe-grenade-launcher, so it would take longer," Zark added.
      "Look," said Sark.  "I know this isn't easy to understand. 
Especially for you, so I'm going to try to make this really simple. 
You were born on this world.  In this very forest.  I would say in 
this very house, but you burned it down after setting fire to your 
diapers and flinging them at the cats when you were one month old. 
You probably would have burned down the forest if we hadn't moved to 
Karua City the next day."
      Zark beamed with pride.  Sark sighed and continued.
      "I've brought you back here because this is also where the 
Proofs are kept.  Once your training is complete, they will be your 
source of power as you defend us as our Chosen One."
      "Defend against what?" Zark asked.  He looked around.  "Birds?"
      "Don't be sarcastic, Zark," said Sark.
      "Sarcastic?" asked Zark, struggling with the concept.
      "Never mind," Sark answered.  "You will soon  learn the source 
of the threat against.  For now, we must test the limits of your 
mind, a task I fear will take very little time."
      "My mind is strong," Zark insisted.  He proved his point by 
banging his skull against a large tree, which put a sizable dent in 
the tree bark and had no apparent effect on Zark.
      "Ehrm," said Sark.  "I meant something that involved... thinking."
      "Thinking?"
      "Cunning."
      "Cunning?"
      "Without taking a single step in any direction... find your mother."
      "Mother?"
      "Stop repeating me, Zark."
      "Zark?"
      "Argh..."
      After a few more conversational go-rounds, and some more 
smacking of forehead against tree, Zark finally grasped the general 
idea of his task.  He put his few non-violence-dedicated brain cells 
to work on it, and immediately fell down because one of those brain 
cells was the one reminding his legs to keep standing.
      Shadows lengthened as the sun of Zeta Ricola Beta began to set 
behind the trees.
      Finally, Zark realized the solution.
      "Hey, mom!" he yelled.  "Where are you?"
      "Over here!" a loud voice yelled back.
      Zark determined that the voice was coming from behind the stump 
directly in front of him, and he pointed at it.
      "She's over there," he said.
      A beige-skinned gnome in dirty, bluish robes waddled out from 
behind the stump and headed over to where the thoroughly-exasperated 
Sark stood.  Zark noticed that her face bore a disturbing resemblance 
to Bea Arthur's.
      "And you said he'd never make it past the first test," she said to Sark.
      "He wouldn't've, Myrtle, if you hadn't helped him!" Sark protested.
      "But I had to help him," Myrtle Flyby answered, as she turned to 
Zark.  "He's going to be the Chosen One, and I'm not going to let any 
namby-pamby set of wish-washy mystical tests say otherwise!"
      She hugged Zark's ankle hard.  Zark furrowed his brow, wondering 
if the next test would be how to stand up.

                                      -~-_-

      If you die in the dream, Bagelos remembered, you die for real. 
He wasn't quite sure where he remembered that bit of folk wisdom 
from, but he couldn't discredit it.  Even though the biggest threat 
at the moment was the danger that his arteries would harden into 
battleship steel if he looked at the greasy, fatty breakfast foods 
for much longer.
      He knew it was a dream because there was nothing in existence 
besides himself and the Foods, and he wasn't too sure about himself, 
since his body seemed to be missing.  How long they had been around, 
he couldn't say.
      Paramos, the ur-Omelette.  Cerille Nine, the ur-Toast.  Lord 
Valder, the ur-Coffee.  Arimna Bekili, the ur-Bacon.  Hominahomina, 
the ur-Sausage.  Warzon, the ur-Pancake.  Shoon-Ma, the ur-Bagel.
      So ancient.  So powerful.  So saturated in real cosmic butter.
      If you get high cholesterol in the dream...
      "There is a disturbance," murmured the large, menacing slab of 
whole wheat toast that loomed before Bagelos.  "A non-symmetry."
      "One of us seeks to upend the balance," replied Arimna Bekili. 
"To avoid being consumed by the beginning of this universe, as have 
all of our kind save those now present."
      Bagelos imagined that he frowned.  Had there been more?  Had 
they been consumed or not?  Why didn't cosmic omnipotence ever seem 
to bring greater clarity to speaking skills?  How did he know their 
names?  Why did ur-Bacon sound like Ted Danson?
      "It is Lord Valder," said the ur-Bagel, sounding strangely like 
George Clooney.  "Observe!  He has formed a Cup and a Saucer to 
protect himself from the ravages that beset us."
      Bagelos looked at the ur-Coffee, which was contained in the 
Ideal Cup, which was supported by the Ideal Saucer.  Even the coffee 
looked saturated in real cosmic butter.
      "Look," Lord Valder, in a Tom Waits kind of voice, said, "do you 
guys have any idea how difficult it is to be a liquid and just float 
around in the grey nothingness?  I was losing caffeine integrity!"
      "Excuses," said the ur-Omelette, in a voice entirely unlike that 
of any Hollywood star ever.  "You must dissolve the Forms."
      "No," Lord Valder answered.  "Shoon-Ma is the one seeking to 
usurp your power.  See how he attempts to use your envy of my 
superior dishware design to blind you to his nefarious plans!"
      "What nefarious plans?" Shoon-Ma asked.  "I've just been 
floating around, minding my own business--"
      "And does that business include opening hyperdimensional 
channels so that thieving beings from billions of years in the future 
can steal our energies?" asked the ur-Coffee.  "Do you think we are 
so blind as to not see this happening?"
      "Is that was that was?" asked the ur-Toast.  "I thought I was 
just going stale."
      "Explain, Shoon-Ma!" the ur-Omelette demanded.
      "Oh, *that,*" said Shoon-Ma, as sheepishly as a floating cosmic 
bagel could.  "I didn't really have much choice, now, did I?  I saw 
the channels opening up, and knew that if I did nothing, they would 
drain us all, and thus the Fast would never Break, and there'd be no 
universe, or at least not a universe where we were the dominant form 
of breakfast food, and we'd be in one of those annoying paradox 
thingies..."
      "You could have warned us," said the ur-Bacon.  It dripped with 
greasy menace as it advanced on Shoon-Ma.
      "And we might have solved the problem," the ur-Coffee noted. 
"Righting the balance.  Allowing the proper creation of this 
universe.  Destroying us all, in these forms."
      "Well," Shoon-Ma allowed, "there is that."
      "So," said the ur-Omelette.  "What shall we do about you, then?"
      "I say we drip on him," the ur-Toast growled.
      "I can scald him some," said Lord Valder.
      "I contain all things an omelette will ever contain," the 
ur-Omelette threatened.  "Including bagel bugs."
      "You may have weakened us," said the ur-Bacon, "and our number 
may have dwindled, but this is still six on one..."
      Predictably, at that moment, Cerille Nine dissolved into little 
ur-Toast particles and was drawn into the fabric of the Dawn of the 
Universe.
      "Er, five..."
      "You forget something very important," said the ur-Bagel.
      "What?" the other remaining ur-Foods asked.
      "I don't know," said Shoon-Ma.  "I forgot it too."
      With that, the ur-Bagel launched itself at the ur-Coffee. 
Bagelos, who just remembered he was still in this dream and in this 
scene, yelped with surprise, as the ur-Foods began vigorously 
fighting amongst themselves.  All around, the greyness was 
shuddering, straining--
      A particularly violent shudder brought Bagelos headlong out of 
the dream and headlong into Quooth, who had likewise been sleeping. 
Human space-villain and wzaxtil quest-follower tumbled out of their 
chairs, through the air, off a wall, and into the broom closet.
      After a brief chorus of profanity and discordant notes that 
sounded rather a lot like the opening theme of 'Bonanza,' Bagelos and 
Quooth fell out and floated around in the now-artificial-gravity-less 
bridge of the Universal Solvent.
      Megabot, which had been hovering in sleep mode nearby, woke up, 
looked at them for a long moment with his single red eye, and 
promptly went back to sleep.
      "That... was weird," said Bagelos.
      "You speak truth, friend Bagelos," said Quooth.  "I never 
thought I'd see Tommy Kirk in a thong bikini.  It was very 
instructive."
      "I, Bagelos, have a feeling that I, Bagelos, didn't have the 
same dream that you did," said Bagelos.  "And thank Space Evil for 
that!"
      "We appear to have survived our escape from the Earth 
battleship," noted Quooth.  "According to the readout on this control 
panel, the ship is stable and in orbit around an unidentified planet."
      "Enemy vessel!" the ship's communicator blared.  "You have 
violated the territory of the sovereign star system of Zeta Ricola 
Beta!  Surrender at once to the heavily armed Zeta Ricola Betan 
battle cruisers that are surrounding you even now!  Etcetera! 
Etcetera!"
      "Good news!" Quooth exclaimed.  "I've identified the planet as 
Zeta Ricola Beta!"
      Bagelos groaned, even as his hand went out to press the large, 
white 'auto-surrender' button conveniently located on the control 
panel before him.

                                      -~-_-

      Benjen pushed away from the buffet table.  It was a difficult 
task, as he had eaten enough greasy, cholesterol-laden food to 
incapacitate Detroit.  He attempted to stand, wobbled, realized he 
had eaten so much his center of gravity had relocated without leaving 
a forwarding address, and sat back down again.
      Since it looked like he was going to be sitting for a while, he 
looked around the dark, eerie bridge of the alien spaceship that was 
currently under control of Shoon-Ma, a millenia-old ur-Bagel intent 
on avenging some sort of wrong done to 'its kind' at the Breaking of 
the Fast at the Dawn of the Universe.  The aforementioned ur-bagel 
was still floating around in front of the dark viewscreen, sputtering 
and muttering to itself as it had ever since the untimely, 
ABPSARI-assisted disappearance of three people it had thought were 
its prisoners.
      One of those prisoners had been Slithis, his fellow Universal 
Solvent crewmember and best friend, who risked much to come chasing 
after him.  Another was Shadebeam Moroboshi, a friend from the first 
two Renegade Anarchist series who had disappeared over to the 
000SUPERGUY altiverse and was now back for unclear reasons.  Benjen 
remembered the conversation he'd had with Slithis, and how he'd 
reminded Slithis of his 'chemically enhanced' trysts with Shadebeam 
in the old days.  He remembered how Slithis had looked when 
Shadebeam, upon her recent return, utterly forgot his name, and hoped 
that wherever the two had gone, they weren't together.
      Benjen knew little about Sajon, the third escapee, save that he 
looked kind of like Han Solo would have if Harrison Ford had been a 
scrawny, weenie-looking kind of guy.  Sajon had been introduced as 
Dr. Bing Von Spleen's assistant, and had looked quite surprised when 
Shoon-Ma pronounced that he was Shoon-Ma's "Chosen One," who would 
avenge the wrongs, and so on, and so on.
      A fourth prisoner had escaped, but not via ABPSARI.  The small, 
cube-shaped robot called TH1K1 had taken advantage of the confusion 
to zoom out an open door.  Presumably, he was still somewhere on the 
ship--
      "The Planet of Casinos," said Shoon-Ma, his first clear words 
since Shadebeam, Slithis, and Sajon had disappeared.  "That is where 
they have gone."
      "Oh, needlewarp," groaned Dr. Von Spleen, the only prisoner, 
besides Benjen, who had not escaped.  "Sajon!  Sajon!"
      "That's strange, doc," said Benjen, leaning forward as much as 
his stomach would currently allow.  "You didn't seem all that 
attached to him before."
      "He has my charge cards," said Dr. Von Spleen.
      "Ooh."
      "Do not be concerned about your charge cards," said Shoon-Ma, as 
it hovered over to where the ultra-clean-complexioned spamologist had 
collapsed into a wicker chair.  "You still have the task I have set 
before you: to transform Sajon into my Champion--"
      "I thought he was your Chosen One," said Benjen.
      "Shut up!" Shoon-Ma bellowed.
      Benjen shut up.
      "I don't see how I can do that," said Von Spleen.  "Even if I 
were willing, which I am not, Sajon is not here.  So, how...?"
      "You can set up the process that will transform him," said 
Shoon-Ma, "and prepare the machine that will do the transforming, in 
anticipation of his arrival."
      "But how will I test it?" asked Von Spleen.
      "You have a choice," Shoon-Ma answered.  "Either perform the 
necessary hideous genetic experiments on yourself, or on Benjen over 
there."
      "Erk?" Benjen asked.
      "Him?" Von Spleen asked.  "That would be highly unethical.  I 
couldn't do it while sober."
      "Thanks," said Benjen.  "I... hey!"
      "You shall have to adjust to sobriety, Doctor," said Shoon-Ma. 
"My cosmic senses have detected a recent change in your biochemistry, 
possibly brought on by one of the recent abuses of the ABPSARI."
      "I know it sobered me up," said Von Spleen.
      "Yes, it did," said Shoon-Ma.  "Permanently."
      A look of horror spread across Von Spleen's face.
      "Yes, Doctor," Shoon-Ma said, its George Clooney-like voice 
shaking with maniacal glee.  "No longer shall little red, blue, 
green, or plaid pills bring you to altered states of consciousness. 
No longer will alcohol, or froodling juice, or the scent of a 
Nurasian Yam affect you one iota.  Not even your most recent method 
of getting high is available to you any longer."
      "No--"
      "There is a can of spam in the pantry," said Shoon-Ma.  "Along 
with a bunsen burner, a spoon, and a needle.  Perhaps you would like 
to try medicating yourself--"
      The pantry cabinet door slammed shut.  Benjen observed that Von 
Spleen had already set up the equipment.
      "--again," finished Shoon-Ma.
      What followed, to Benjen's eyes, was a hard-to-follow series of 
odd things done to processed luncheon meat, strung together with hazy 
dissolves and set to peppy surfing music.  At the end of it, Dr. Von 
Spleen had a syringe filled with liquid spam in one hand and was 
moving it towards the exposed inner elbow of his other arm--
      --until the needle stopped.  Von Spleen strained, trying to push 
it into his flesh.  The needle would not move.
      Finally, Von Spleen gave up and tossed the needle down.
      "Er," said Benjen.  "Dare I ask...?"
      "It happened only a few weeks after the last time I returned to 
Earth," said Von Spleen.  "I was in the outback of Iowa, a little off 
my game after waking up in a barn with only a bowler hat, a tin of 
spam, and a motivational tape telling me how I could get high on 
life."
      "Did you?"
      "Did I what?"
      "Get high on life."
      "Yes... then I built up a tolerance.  So I decided to try the spam."
      "That'll happen."
      "No, it doesn't," said Von Spleen.  "Spam is many things, but 
something that is meant to go inside a human body, in any form, it is 
not.  And the form I chose was an infinitely dangerous one: the 
liquid form, which I injected directly into my bloodstream."
      Benjen thought about saying something, then remembered that his 
own past was somewhat checkered with ingestion of suspect substances, 
particularly on his visits to Barbados, the Planet of Physical 
Delights.  Even though those days were well behind him, he realized 
he could hardly be too critical.
      "What followed was a blur of images," Von Spleen continued, as 
he lowered his head so that it was cradled between his hands. 
"Nights and days became one big pinkish smear.  I vaguely remember 
something about a topless cow... and Martha Stewart telling me to 
sell all my shares of Hell, Inc... and designing and selling a 
television show... what was it called...."
      "Spammymon Z," Shoon-Ma helpfully supplied.
      Benjen reconsidered his position on personal hypocrisy, and 
decided it was okay after all.
      "Doc," he said.  "You are whacked."
      "That was the real reason I had to leave Earth so quickly and so 
secretly," said Von Spleen.  "They blame me for the virulent 
outbreaks of blithering idiocy and mindless consumerism the show let 
loose.  But I didn't know the Spam Marketing Board would sell it so 
enthusiastically, or that the Earth would be quarantined as a result."
      "No, Doctor, you did not," said Shoon-Ma.  "Nevertheless, here you are."
      "Which sort of brings us back," said Benjen, "from this long, 
meandering capping of a dangling plot point, to what Dr. Von Spleen 
previously stated, that there was no way he would perform hideous 
genetic experiments upon an unwilling subject, namely myself, while 
sober.  Since he is now permanently sober, there's no way he's going 
to be your Frankenmonkey."
      At that moment, the main bridge doors opened, and several 
humanoid beings in ripped, ill-fitting Earth military uniforms 
shambled in.  Benjen recognized them as the 'dead' bodies he and Gham 
had found floating on board the derelict ship way back in episode 
one.  Their bellies were even still bloated with pudding.
      They all carried large laser weapons in their pale, rotting 
hands.  And all of those weapons were aimed in the general direction 
of Von Spleen.
      "Oh!" said Von Spleen, upon taking in this new development. 
"Hideous *genetic* experiments.  I thought you said hideous 
*geriatric* experiments.  Right, I'm in."
      Two of the zombies hauled Benjen to his feet and dragged him 
toward the exit.  Inside he had a sinking feeling, which he was 
almost ninety percent sure had nothing to do with the twenty sausage 
links he ate earlier.
      He glared at the spamologist, but Von Spleen had already let his 
head sink back down to his hands.

                                      -~-_-

      There is a reason for all things.  All good things.  All 
horrible things.  There's even a reason for Carrottop, though it's 
probably not a good one.
      Shadebeam Moroboshi searched in vain for any reason she would be 
on board the Red Emma, on her back while the multi-colored lights 
swirled and the fuzz-tone guitars fuzzed and the blood thundered in 
her ears.  This had been so long ago, so long she had forgotten--
      Forgotten how good it had been--
      What it had been like, leaving Earth in the company of people 
she had only met in a jail cell that very day, only weeks after 
breaking up with her first and only lover, who had done many things, 
but nothing like this--
      "You forget something very important," a George Clooneyish voice 
interrupted.
      "What?" Shadebeam asked, conscious that a host of other voices 
were asking the same question.
      "I don't know," the Clooneyish voice answered.  "I forgot it too."
      The lights parted, and Shadebeam saw a food fight.  Only the 
foods themselves seemed to be doing the fighting...
      But not for long.  Scarcely had the battle begun, when a giant 
vortex opened up in the grey void.  The coffee disappeared into it, 
taking the cup but leaving the saucer behind.  The toast went next, 
then the omelette--
      "Nooo!" the Clooneyish voice bellowed.  Shadebeam finally 
recognized it as belonging to Shoon-Ma, the stupid-looking floating 
bagel thing that had been ranting at her on the command deck of a 
dimly-lit alien spaceship only moments ago.
      "You have betrayed us!" the Bacon screamed as it disappeared.  "You--"
      "Not I!" Shoon-Ma bellowed.  "Not I!  This was not in the 
agreement!  You and the others who remained were supposed to remain, 
as my eternal servants!  They were not to take so much!"
      The vortex disappeared.  Only Shoon-Ma was left.
      "A little..." it muttered.  "For what you have taken, though, a 
new check must be served... and so shall it be...."
      With that, the Fast Broke.
      The Universe Dawned.
      Shadebeam's Stomach Rumbled.
      She frowned.  She was hungry, sure, but it wasn't an All Caps 
kind of hungry.  It was more of an 'okay, the cryptic dream sequence 
is over, so wake up and get some toast' kind of hungry.
      Shadebeam opened her eyes.  She was no longer at the Dawn of the 
Universe.  Nor was she on the Red Emma.  Nor was she on the alien 
ship.  So where...?
      "Shade!" a familiar voice exclaimed.
      "Slithis," she replied.  It would have to be him with her now, 
wouldn't it?  "Where are we?"
      "I don't know," said Slithis.  "A casino of some sort."
      "I don't hear any casino noises," Shadebeam answered.  "And the 
lights are so bright, my eyes are having trouble adjusting."
      "You wouldn't like the sights," said Slithis.  "The lack of 
sound is because all gameplay and music has been suspended, and the 
players all ran away."
      "And they did this because..."
      "The assassin yaks, I would guess."
      Shadebeam finally managed to make out the forms of two large 
Yaks standing before them.  One had a grenade launcher in its mouth, 
pointed in their general direction.  The other was juggling throwing 
stars with its two front hooves.
      "Welcome to Alpha Rio VI, the Planet of Casinos," the one 
without the grenade launcher in its mouth said.  "On behalf of our 
employer, Vino the Three-Headed Yak, whose casino you have rudely 
teleported into, please accept our regrets that we must kill you."
      "Oh, Nee--" Slithis started.
      "Oh, shi--" Shadebeam started.
      The grenade launcher roared, and neither finished.

DOES THEIR LACK OF FINISH MEAN THAT THEY ARE FINISHED?
DID SHADEBEAM LEARN ANYTHING BY SEEING THE FOOD FIGHT?
DID BAGELOS LEARN ANYTHING BY SEEING THE FOOD TALK?
DID BENJEN LEARN NEVER TO OVEREAT BEFORE BEING HAULED OFF TO BE THE 
SUBJECT OF HIDEOUS GENETIC EXPERIMENTS?
DID QUOOTH LEARN ANYTHING FROM HAVING A VISION OF TOMMY KIRK IN A THONG BIKINI?
WILL ZARK FLYBY EVER LEARN ANYTHING?
AND WHAT *IS* THE REASON FOR CARROTTOP?

Get your SFSTORY on!
=========================================================================
Date:         Thu, 17 Oct 2002 14:49:23 -0400
From:         "Troy H. Cheek" (troy at cheek.org)
To:           Superguy List (superguy at lists.eyrie.org)
Subject:      SF: The HMS Golden Lance #22 - Cowboy Roundup

SF: The HMS Golden Lance #22 - Cowboy Roundup

[begin extended flashback mode]

Time Agent 357, Champion of Truth, Justice, and the Ability to Consume
Large Amounts of Alcoholic Beverages, flew through Time and Space in a
sleek Spam-powered timeship.  However, Time and Space didn't mind this
intrusion at all.  As a matter of fact, they rather liked it, as both
were slightly kinky.

Val, the ship's VAL9000 computer and for all intents and purposes the
mind and nervous system of the ship, had finally picked up Omegas'
teleportation trace.  Omegas was a very powerful ex-immortal who had
stolen a new experimental time machine and a new experimental
miniABPSAR, and then teleported off to Parts Unknown.  Parts Unknown
is a little town in Texas, population of 319.

Anyway, Val was close in her estimate of Omegas' position.  He was in
actuality currently merged with the atoms of a '78 Pinto in a New
Orleans junkyard, less than 900 miles from Parts Unknown, Texas.
Omegas and his two assistants (Ron and Norm of the Association of
Extremely Dedicated Watchers of Star Trek Who Dress Like Crew and
Pretend We Have Phasers) were at this very moment preparing to
liftoff, as they had successfully converted the '78 Pinto into a
warp-driven craft capable of interstellar voyages.  Or so Omegas said.

But I digress.

=Autopilot programmed,= reported Val in a clear, concise, yet somehow
irritating female voice.

"What's our ETA with Earth?" 357 asked.

=Assuming we don't use time travel, 5.23 days,= reported Val.  =Uh,
357?  Are you running the microwave oven?=

357 looked through his mental filing cabinet, cross-referencing
'microwave' with 'oven' and 'running' and came up blank.  "Not that I
remember.  Why?"

=Because my internal scanners are still a little glitched from our
battle with Time Central.  Last night I read an intruder in the galley
and it was just the microwave oven running.=

"But the microwave oven isn't running now," said 357, walking towards
the galley.  "Which means that this has to be a real intruder."

=Or simply an attempt by the author to put some life into an otherwise
boring entry,= quipped Val.

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

Zerox, the copying demon, had had a bad week.  First, he had botched
his attempt at copying The Book.  Not just any book, mind you, but THE
Book, which contained all the histories of SFSTORY to date.  He had no
idea where the copy had ended up.  Now, he had really screwed up.  On
direct order from one of the Big Guys, he had been sent to Earth to
perform a very special assignment.  Let me explain...

In addition to being able to copy The Book and other documents,
Zerox's powers also allowed him to copy people.  This was very
important for Satan's recruitment program, in that Zerox could
replicate important people, and the replicas could be subverted into
Satan's service.  Afterwards, they could take the place of the
originals and go about subverting others.

Zerox's assignment was very important.  He was to teleport to earth to
make a replica of an important political figure who was to win the
next Presidential election.  Unfortunately, he was still rather badly
burned from his brief stay in Heaven, which caused him to miss his
destination by a slim margin, and incidentally copy the wrong person.

"Needlewarp!" exclaimed Zerox as he realized what he had done.  "I've
got to get rid of him."  So he picked a random spot in space and
teleported the person there, confident that that was the end of his
problems.

It wasn't.  You guessed it, he happened to pick the exact location of
the HMS Golden Lance.

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

357 arrived at the galley, to find a very confused man standing there.

The new arrival looked about the galley of the HMS Golden Lance.  He
was rather close to panic.  "Damn," he muttered to himself.  "This had
better be a dream." He pinched himself rather roughly, and succeeded
in bruising his arm and proving that it was not a dream.

"I'm in trouble," he said to the empty galley, which he suddenly
wasn't quite empty after all.

"You certainly are," said 357.  "Keep your hands where I can see
them."

"Don't shoot, 357!" said the man.  "Don't you recognize me?"

Time Agent 357 squinted over his gunsight.  "You do look a little
familiar.  Didn't you used to host the night spot on ESPN?"

The man huffed and lowered his hands, only to raise them again as
357's finger tightened on the trigger.  "You know me," he said.  "Look
at me real close and imagine a golden aura all around."

"Why, you're the Cowboy," mumbled 357.  "This can't be right.  You're
an author.  How can you be here while you're righting this entry?"

"That damn demon Zerox made a copy of me, and accidentally injected
one of us into the story.  My original is still on Earth, typing away
and believing he's making this all up as he goes along."  Cowboy
looked around and spotted a comfortable chair, and decided to take the
load off his boots.

357 was very intelligent, but still needed a little help.  "Val,
what's he talking about?" he asked of the ship's VAL9000 computer.

=Apparently, one of the authors has been injected into the plot of
SFSTORY as a character, and without his author's powers.=

"You can say that again," said the Cowboy.  "I've been trying to
teleport out of here since I arrived.  No dice."

"Is there any way to regain your powers?" asked 357.

"Only by breaking the Jeff Smith Accord and involving undue divine
influence.  'Ceptin, of course, I go back to Earth and kill my
original, which is what Zerox's copies usually do."

357 considered.  "Val, what are our options?"

=We could return him to Earth.=

"I don't think so," said Cowboy.  "Bringing me and my original into
close proximity might cause problems."

=We could just kill him and dump the body,= said Val.

"Ha.  Ha.  Ha," laughed Cowboy sarcastically.  "I have a better idea.
This ship has multidimensional travel capabilties, right?  Well, just
find me an alterverse where I'm an author.  I can live out my life
happily and I'll be out of everyone's hair.  Besides, I'd be better
off it Satan doesn't find me."

"How'd he get into this?" asked 357.

"Well, way back when, I was sorta responsible for having Satan sent to
alterverse 723, which is inhabited solely by fast food places.  I
believe he's out to get me.  And now that I'm a character, I'll be a
lot easier to capture."

=Last reports say that Satan is still in alterverse 723.  Don't
worry.  Be happy.=

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

Down in Hell, things were getting pretty hot for Zerox.  He lay
grovelling on the floor in front of a much larger demon named Angorax.
Angorax was a refugee from alterverse 8891, as he was kicked out for
being a wimp.  However, the laws of physics were very different in
8891 when compared to most of the multiverse.  Though Angorax was a
librarian in his native alterverse, he was a very powerful demon most
everywhere else.

"You did what?" asked Angorax in his normal conversational tone,
which would shatter windows at two miles and given even an INXS fan a
splitting headache.

"I copied the wrong person," said Zerox.  "So I destroyed him."

"Hardly," hissed Angorax as he summoned a viewing portal.  "Look here.
You teleported him right to the person who could help him the most,
namely Time Agent 357."

"Hey, I'm so sor- YEEEOOOWWWW!!!!!!" said Zerox, who suddenly found
himself changed into a giant slinky and walking down the stairs.

Angorax snarled.  "Not half as sorry as you're going to be.  You had
one of the authors in your power and you let him go.  Not just any
author, mind you.  You picked the one author that the Big Dude really
has it in for."  Sensing that Zerox was trying to speak, Angorax
released his spell and allowed him to assume his normal, if somewhat
worse for wear, shape.

"But Satan is still trapped in alterverse 723," snivelled Zerox.
"He'll never know of the opportunity he missed."

"Wrong.  I have it on good authority that Satan will be releasing
himself sometime in the near future.  And he'll know because I'll tell
him."  Angorax was not a nice demon.  He was certain that Satan would
send him to capture the Cowboy.  He would no doubt be tortured to
death.  Even death would be no release, as then his Zeroxed soul would
belong to Hell.

Angorax summoned some minor demons to drag Zerox away, and began to
formulate a plan of revenge of his own.

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

The HMS Golden Lance, which was shaped nothing like a lance and was a
nice shade of blue, sped through the multiverse, traversing all ten
dimensions at once.  Of course, you'd have to be in the non-existant
eleventh dimension to see this, so I guess you'll just have to take
our word for it.

Onboard, Time Agent 357 was having an indepth discussion with the
Cowboy, a Zerox clone of one of the authors of SFSTORY.  "...so the
way I figure it," finished Cowboy, "is that we'll have to go to
Netherspace and see if Doctor Bing Von Spleen has found a solution
yet."

"How does he even know there's a problem?" asked 357.  "Nobody's been
in touch with him."

"Doctor Spleen's been watching ESPN (Extra-Sensory Perception
Network), and last night they had a special on this problem."

"How would you know?"

"Remember, my original is an author, and he was thinking of something
like that just before he was copied."

"Uh, yeah," agreed 357.  "Val, how long to get to Netherspace?"

=About two entries,= answered the ship's computer.

"Good," said the Cowboy.  "We'll have this problem solved before
anyone can try to stop us."

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

He was wrong.  Angorax whirled his clawed fingers and dismissed the
viewing portal before him.  He was not pleased with this turn of
events.  Barking orders at his various servant demons (who were canoid
in form and only understood barks), he made his way to a secret
hanger.  There, he found his ship, the DMS Oxide.

The Oxide was the ship Angorax had flown to escape alterverse 8891.
There, ABPSAR was an ancient art, and interdimensional travel was so
old as to be passe.  His sleek, angular ship would easily reach
Netherspace before the Golden Lance.  Although it was barely the size
of a greyhound bus, it contained powerful ionic and matter/antimatter
engines in addition to an ABPSAR (Automatic Beet Peeler and Sub-Atomic
Re-integrator) of a very advanced design.  Turbo-lasers, jaccuzzi, and
a 50,000 year/5 mile drive train protection plan was also included in
the sticker price.

"Angorax to Hell Central," said Angorax as he lowered himself into to
cockpit.  "Clear the runway."

"You don't have clearance," came the reply.  "What's your code?"

Angorax growled as he brought his ship's offensive systems on line.
Within a heartbeat he had cleared the runway himself, except for
occasional pieces that still drifted down with the wind from time to
time.  He casually tossed his safety helmet out the window and took
off, not bothering to close the window until he was well into deep
space.

"Nothing like vacuum to clear the lungs," he laughed.  He then began
to scheme and plan.

"I'll find this Cowboy," he said to himself, as villians are wont to
do.  "And then I'll bring him back to Hell and when Satan returns
he'll torture him to death.  Nah, I have a better idea.  I'll bring
him under my control, and then have him kill his original and take his
authorly powers."

Angorax chuckled, which filled the ship with fire and smoke.  "I'll
have an author in my complete control!  I'll be master of SFSTORY!
AHAHAHAHA!!!"

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

The sleek, streamlined form of the HMS Golden Lance raced through the
multiverse towards Netherspace.  With clockwork precision it arrived
and set down in the parking lot of the new Hotel Nympho, right next to
a sign:

       ****************************************************************
       *              Come stay at the brand new                      *
       *                                                              *
       *                    H O T E L   N Y M P H O                   *
       *                                                              *
       *      featuring:                                              *
       *                 Deluxe accomodations                         *
       *                 Free Radar Vogel movies                      *
       *                 Hot and cold running maids                   *
       *                 Hot and cold walking maids                   *
       *                 Hourly rates on request                      *
       *                                                              *
       *       And a free medical checkup for you and your family     *
       ****************************************************************

However, their business was urgent, so they proceeded directly to Club
Nympho.  Pausing only long enough to order a round of drinks from a
very round waitress, they proceeded to the rear of the establishment
which contained, among other things, the offices and labs.

By way of introduction, allow me to mention that 'they' are Time
Agent 357 and a Zeroxed copy of an author called the Cowboy, who was
accidentally sucked into the story.  They are looking for 357's
longtime friend and companion, Doctor Bing Von Spleen, founding father
of Spamology, and perhaps the cleanest complexioned man in the known
universe.  Spleen, incidentally, was the reason why a gambling casino
and bar would have offices and labs in the back.

357 leading the way, the pair proceeded to the main lab and walked in
without knocking, which got them shot at by several automated defense
systems.  But since said systems were designed to keep out drunken
nymphomaniacs, and not relatively sober heroes, they quickly disposed
of said systems and proceeded onwards.  Inside, they found Doctor
Spleen conversing with old man in a funny robe.

"St. Peter!  Doctor Spleen!" called out 357, as he was acquainted
with both men.  "How's it going?" he asked St. Peter, shaking his
hand.

"Pretty good," answered St. Peter, squinting at the form behind 357.
"Say, isn't that one of the authors?"

"Dammit, 357!" cursed Spleen.  "Last time you brought in Omegas, and
this time you've gone and brought an author.  What are you trying to
do, get me killed?"

"Relax, Spleen," said the Cowboy.  "I'm not an author.  I'm a Zerox
copy."

"So, Zerox is still at work," mumbled St. Peter.  "We have reason to
believe he attempted to copy The Book a few weeks back."

"That would explain why he was in such bad shape," said Cowboy.
"You'd expect a demon to be burnt to a crisp after visiting Heaven."

Spleen finished his hissy fit and spoke.  "What are you doing here?"

"We have to get Cowboy out of SFSTORY before Satan can return,"
explained 357.  "If Satan gets ahold of him, he can get to the author
Cowboy, and eventually control SFSTORY, or at least this part of it."

"Anyway," Cowboy cut in, "we figure that one of your Spam-powered
devices might be able to get me out of here."

"Why not just take him away in the Golden Lance, 357?" asked Peter.

"Because the HMS GL can be tracked as it travels through the multi-
verse.  Hopefully, Doctor Spleen can rig a device that can't be
tracked, like when we modified the TTT to jump dimensions and bypass
Time Central's defensive screens."

"Hmm," Spleen hmmed.  "It just might work.  Actually, I've been toying
with an idea very much like this for some time.  Our big lab should
hold the HMS Golden Lance very nicely.  357, have Val fly it in, and
we'll hook it up to our main ABPSAR and start re-wiring the Temporal
Teleporter Terminal."

And they began, not knowing how little time they had.

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

Angorax, flying his ship, the DMS Oxide, appeared in the skies above
the Netherspace Nympho Beach just in time to see the HMS Golden Lance
land inside the main lab.  "They're up to something," he growled.
With a precisely aimed laserbolt, he silently sealed the docking bay
hatch to the lab, trapping the Golden Lance.  "That will keep her out
of the way."

Setting his own ship down several miles from the Club, he climbed out
and began walking towards it.  He was quite sure that with the Golden
Lance out of the way, he could take on everyone in the building with
his own powers, and therefore didn't have to risk messing up his
ship's new paint job.  Angorax whistled an ear-splitting tune, which
was actually a love song in his native alterverse.  His twenty foot
tall crimson body cast a wicked winged shadow over the beach as he
approached.

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

Angorax, the 20-feet tall crimson-colored ex-librarian-turned-Demon
stalked towards Club Nympho.  His ship, the DMS Oxide, lay hidden in
the brush behind him.  He casually conjured up a pair of sure-as-Hell
disruptors and proceeded to vaporize the nearest group of nymphos.
However, one of the nymphos, whose partner was particularly untalented
and did not trim his fingernails often enough, happened to notice
this, kick her lover into the line of fire, and run like hell towards
the club.

By the time she had notified St. Peter and the rest of the gang
inside Club Nympho, Angorax had frightened off the rest of the nymphos
and was strutting towards the front door.  He laughed hysterically as
St. Peter, the owner of the establishment and head bouncer of Heaven,
and Time Agent 357 appeared to block his way.

Inside, Doctor Bing Von Spleen and The Cowboy worked feverishly to
finish the modifications to the HMS Golden Lance's Temporal Teleporter
Terminal which would allow the Cowboy to leave SFSTORY.  Modifications
completed, they boarded the HMS GL and prepared to fly out of the lab
and help with the fight against Angorax.

They didn't notice that Angorax had sealed the bay doors shut on his
way down out of orbit.  The resulting crash, the sound of which
resembled remarkably that of a freight train hitting a gravel truck,
rendered the Golden Lance unflyable, gave its VAL9000 computer a bad
case of PMS, and scrapped all the modifications that were mentioned in
the preceding paragraph.

Outside, St. Peter and Time Agent 357 had their hands full.  357 sent
blast after blast from his telechronal displacement pistol towards
Angorax, who simply absorbed them without effect.  Angorax was
currently ignoring 357, and instead was sending occasional low-power
blasts towards St. Peter, amused at how he teleported to avoid them.
St. Peter's blasts of energy did not seem to bother Angorax, though
the resulting craters did slow his forward progress.

"We're in it deep!" shouted 357 as he dove to avoid what appeared to
be a swarm of bees, except that they were white-hot and gigavolt
electric discharges arced between them.

"I know!  I know!" yelled St. Peter, as his tattered, yet immortal,
body barely avoided another blast.  He cursed as the Cowboy and Doctor
Spleen ran out of the building and began to fire at Angorax.  "What
are you doing here?"

"He stole my pills," complained Spleen.

"We trashed the Golden Lance," explained the Cowboy.  "And since I
couldn't get away, I figured I'd help."  He pulled a bottle of pills
from his pocket and threw them towards Angorax.  "And this was the
only way I could get the good Doctor to help."

357 set his telechronal displacement pistol on "super-ridiculous-
overload-that's-sure-to-do-in-the-bad-dude" and chucked it at Angorax.
He was only slightly surpised when Angorax caught it one-handed and
swallowed it.  Angorax appeared only slightly distressed when the
pistol overloaded five seconds later, sending him approximately two
minutes into the future.

"Okay," said 357.  "We've got about two minutes before we catch up
with him.  I'm fresh out of ideas.  Anybody got a plan?"

"'Fraid not," said St. Peter.  "We're too far away from Heaven for me
to summon Divine Aid.  And if I did, I'd be violating the Jeff Smith
Accord.  And as long as we're going to die anyway, call me Pete."

"Er, thanks, Pete," mumbled 357.  "What about you, Cowboy?  You're a
copy of an author."

"Man," said the Cowboy.  "On the other side of the screen, it all
looks so easy."

"Don't look at me," whined Doctor Spleen.  "You're the hero type."

"There's got to be a way to get out of Netherspace in a hurry," said
the Cowboy.  "I remember reading about it, but I just can't recall."

"Of course!" shouted Spleen, slapping his head in the precise way that
people in V-8 commercials do.  "Just go through that green door right
over there."

"What green door?" said everyone else.  Everyone else's jaws dropped
as they noticed a green wooden door floating in space a few feet away.

"Good," said Cowboy.  "Where does it go?"

"It's always diferent," said Spleen.  "You never know where.  Usually,
it ends up being the one place you don't want to be, but since right
now this is the place you don't want to be..."

Angorax appeared, right on time.  He did not seem to be bothered by
the battel so far.  In fact, he seemed refreshed.  Actually, he was
refreshed, as his two minute trip to the future had taken him several
days, most of which he had spent sleeping.  He summoned a fresh
arsenal and was preparing to fire when he saw the Cowboy leap through
the green door.  Disregarding the others, he leapt in after him.

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

In alterverse 8891, the Cowboy arrived, followed shortly by Angorax.
Or at least, what used to be Angorax.  Angorax looked about him and
screamed.

"What's the matter with you?" asked Cowboy, noticing that Angorax was
no longer a huge, fierce demon, but was rather a small, timid
librarian.

Several policemen came charging through the door.  "Angorax, you're
under arrest for violating your exile," growled the largest one.  "Now
who are you?" he asked, pointing towards the Cowboy.

But the Cowboy had already slipped out the back door, and was heading
towards a bar he had just spotted.

[end extended flashback mode]

Isn't this just a repeat of a story of mine from October of 1988?
What does it have to do with the current story?
Have I been reduced to stealing story ideas from myself?
Does this mean that everything since has just been a dream?

To see what this chapter has to do with the price of tea in China, you
have little choice but to tune into the next exciting episode of...
SFSTORY!

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