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Sfstory Log 111

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Date:         Tue, 15 Feb 2005 13:15:46 -0500
From:         "Troy H. Cheek" (troy at cheek.org)
To:           Superguy List (superguy at lists.eyrie.org)
Subject:      SF: HMS Golden Lance #28 - New Weaseloid Order, Part 3

SF: HMS Golden Lance #28 - New Weaseloid Order, Part 3

Emperor Ralph, formerly a peace-loving weaseloid from the planet
Leibowitz IV and currently the undisputed king of all reality, sat on
his throne and sighed.  Somehow, things just weren't turning out the
way he had planned.  No matter how many times he rebooted the
universe, things in reality were never exactly the way they were in
his mind.  Never perfect.  Sigh.

Never.  Quite.  Right.

He controlled the power of the ABPSARII prototype (Automatic Beet
Peeler and Sub-Atomic Re-integrator Mark II) which combined all the
reality-bending power of the original ABPSARI production models with
a miniature time travel device and an ultra-advanced search engine.
All Ralph had to do was type in his requested reality (on the ABPSARII
interface, which unknown to Ralph resembled nothing so much as an
ancient Earth computer keyboard circa 1985) and the device would
search all times and all realities until it found one matching his
request.  Then, using the reality-altering power of SPAM (Sickening,
Putrid, Artificial Meat, mistaken by some primitive planets as a food
item), the ABPSARII would move him to his requested reality, or move
his requested reality to him, or alter his current reality to resemble
his requested reality, or something like that.  Ralph didn't know.
Ralph didn't care, as long as it worked.  Sigh.

It wasn't working now.

Not even the assistance of his Least Great Ring of (un)Holy Power (+8
to AC) seemed to help.  Not that such a ring was designed to help.
The ring was a combination of ancient magic, alien power, and a few
components Ralph had picked up at the local Radio Shack.  He had
originally obtained it from his one-time friend and travelling
companion Omegas, who in turn had obtained it from his old college
buddy Dorkmug, who had inserted himself into a reality where such
rings were common in the hopes of using the rings to take over as a
supreme malicious dictator of all things.

Ralph was nothing like that, of course.  He was a supreme benevolent
dictator of all things.

All things except the lifeforms standing before him now.  Lifeforms
such as...

Time Agent 357, from an immortal race whose origins Ralph could not
determine even with all the power currently at his command, perhaps
the greatest officer the Interstellar Time Police had ever had, who
had spent the last few hundred years trying to retire, except for the
time he spent trapped inside a temporal anomaly with...

Omegas, god-like alien or alien-like god serving Heaven, Hell(tm), and
mostly himself, a timeless nigh-omnipotent, nigh-immortal being who
wished to rule all reality himself someday, if only he could find a
way of looking cool while he did it, and who would still be trapped
inside said anomaly if not for his rescue by...

Doctor Bing Von Spleen, the galaxy's foremost (because he killed the
other three) Spamologist, inventor of the ABPSARI, ABPSARII, and the
beer milkshake, who needed their help to track down...

Greez Hyperiok, he of the jaw of heroic size, renegade Time Agent and
sworn enemy of the Interstellar Time Police,  who also wanted to take
over the multiverse, and was doing a damned fine job of it with the
help of...

Dijon Mu'tard, formerly a cosmic-level threat to peace in our time,
and currently a powerless flunky, who tended to wear extremely
expensive and ridiculously unstylish clothes, who had ordered via the
Internet his assistant...

NEKKID 69, the Networked Electronic Killing and Kamikaze Infiltration
Device Mark 69, an android battlebot as deadly as she was lovely,
leader of Greez Hyperiok's legions trying to take over all reality,
and second in bra size only to...

Diana Dark, sweet innocent girl from the Earth city of Chicago, or as
sweet and innocent as anyone from that city can be, current partner
(romantic) to Time Agent 357 and former partner (professional) to his
nephew Time Agent 386, and who was currently getting the eye from...

Captain David Morgen of the Maudlin-class time cruiser Dentless, who
himself had a jaw of heroic proportion, who was accompanied by...

Fim, his long-suffering and loyal second in command, who was currently
slumping in the middle of...

A group of scuffily-dressed weaseloids who had risen up in revolt
against...

Emporer Ralph, who was still sitting on his throne.  Sighing.

"Well," asked Diana, "aren't you going to say anything?"

"I was waiting for the narrator to run out of breath," Ralph answered
with a sigh.  He looked them over again.  "So, it's come to this, has
it?.  Enemies and friends alike united against me.  Is that fair?  All
I ever wanted was a universe where weaseloids were considered the
highest form of life and and I was the supreme ruler.  Is that so
selfish?"

"Well, yes.  Make it right.  Please?"  Diana gave Ralph her best
teary-eyed, trembling-lipped pleading face, while also reaching into
her panties for the knife she was planning to use to cut his furry
little weaseloid throat.

Sigh.  Ralph's furry little weaseloid paws danced across the
ABPSARII's keyboard.

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

Time Agent 357 found himself typing in a firing sequence.  A beam of
pure destructive energy and Cheez-Whiz leapt from the HMS Golden Lance
and sped towards the S.S. You Are About To Die.

Only to be turned aside at the last second by a forcefield.

"Very good shot, Agent 357," came the voice of Greez Hyperiok, whose
image soon appeared on a convenient nearby monitor.  "Fortunately, I
was able to get to my ABPSARII in time to have it create a shield to
block your famous Golden Lance energy beam."

Time Agent 357, Diana Dark, Doctor Bing Von Spleen, and Omegas
shielded their heads a half second before the control room was deluged
with a rain of hail-sized golfballs.

"Deja Vu," said 357.

"In spades," added Diana Dark.

"Anyone remember anything about a time loop?" Spleen spluttered.

"Of course," said Omegas.  He turned to look at the remaining member
of their party.

Ralph didn't look back.  He was on the floor, using a convenient tin
of SPAM to pound his Least Great Ring of (un)Holy Power (+8 to AC) to
dust.  In a distant reality, a disembodied spirit, ready to raise an
army and take over the world in an epic story so grand that it would
take three summer blockbusters to tell the tale, flickered out of
existance.  Ralph grinned a toothy little grin at them.

Of course, that still left the problem that they were about to die.

=I hate to remind everyone, but those missiles fired by the Planet of
the Supermarkets are still on their way, and their Zipper-Locked(tm)
protective field is keeping us from warping out of here,= reported the
VAL 9000 computer.  =At this range, both the HMS Golden Lance and the
S.S. You Are About To Die will be destroyed when they hit.=

"What about the HMS Dentless?" 357 asked, refering to the
Maudlin-class time cruiser which had earlier attempted to intrude on
their private battle.

=Out of range and drifting off into deep space.  They should be safe
enough once they restore power, as long as they aren't foolish enough
to return to the Planet of the Supermarkets without the proper
coupons.=

"Good," decided 357.  He didn't like seeing other members of the
Interstellar Time Police getting hurt, even if he was trying to
retire.

On the viewscreen, Greez was shaking the ABPSARII violently.  Dijon
Mu'tard, his chief flunky, took some readings.  "The Zipper-Locked
(tm) protective field of the Planet of the Supermarkets is interfering
with the ABPSARII's ability to process SPAM.  If I read this right, it
only has enough power to grant one more request.  One.  Uno.  Single."

"Then what do I do?" Greez said, obviously to himself as he never
listend to Dijon's advice, anyway.  "I want to enslave Time Agent 357.
Yet, if I do that, my ship will be destroyed by those missiles, which
will impact in less than 60 seconds.  I can't decide."

Dijon reached for the device.  "Give it to me.  I've got an idea which
can save both you and the ship."

"Never!" Greez shouted.  "I will never give up the ABPSARII.  I will
die first!"

=Missile impact in 30 seconds.=

"Here you go!" Greez shouted, shoving the ABPSARII into Dijon's hand.

Dijon typed a few commands and pressed [ENTER].  Almost immediately,
a tiny point of blackness appeared in the air over his left shoulder.

"What is that?" demanded Greez.

"It's a miniature black hole.  I've been sorely missing the company of
my lost pet black hole, Rick.  Now I have Mabel here, whom thanks to
the ABPSARII will be my friend forever."  He reached over his shoulder
to scratch Mabel just under the event horizon, right where she liked
it.  "You're a good naked singularity, aren't you?  Yes, you are!
Yes, you are!"

=Missile impact in 15 seconds.=

Dijon scoffed.  "Mabel, be a good girl, please."

The tiny point of blackness bobbed in assent and then disappeared.  In
nearby space, the missiles wavered, shrunk, and disappeared.  Mabel
returned to Dijon and spit out a pinkish chunk of matter into his
hand.

"Neo-Spam," he told Greez.  "When you throw certain substances into
black holes at a certain angle under certain cirsumstances, limited by
the local time-space-spam ratio compared to...  Well, I see your eyes
are glazing over again.  Let's just say that if you have access to a
black hole, you can sometimes create a SPAM-substitute which, though
not quite as powerful as the real thing, is much more stable and works
in some places were regular SPAM does not.  Like here, I'm betting."

He placed the Neo-Spam in the ABPSARII.  It lit up and its readings
showed, while not full power, certainly power enough to get them away
from the Planet of the Supermarkets.  Greez reached for it greedily.

Dijon yanked it away from him.

"Cut that out," Greez demanded.  "I'm in charge here.  Give me the
ABSARII.  I command it.  I'm going to use it to make sure I get
everything I deserve."

Dijon smiled.  "Oh, I'll make sure that you'll get everything you
deserve."  He gestured to Mabel.

Greez had just worked himself up to a full power-mad dictator
psychopathic rant when he suddenly went silent, a tiny spot of blood
appearing on his forehead.  A matching spot appeared on the chest of
his uniform.  Then on an arm.  A leg.  Greez was just beginning to
realize something might be wrong when, eaten alive pinhole by pinhole,
piece by agonizing piece, he disappeared into the tiny black hole.

Mabel returned to Dijon's side.  He held out his hand expectantly but
Mabel merely shook from side to side.  Apparently, power-mad dictators
did not make good Neo-Spam.

Dijon looked back to the viewscreen.  The crew of the HMS Golden
Lance peered back at him, still in shock after the recent turn of
events.  "Dijon," Time Agent 357 began.

"Save it, 357," Dijon snapped.  "I'm not giving up the ABPSARII.  And
I'm not going to try to make a perfect universe like Ralph there, so
don't worry about the entire multiverse imploding.  I'm just going to
set myself up as the imperfect Supreme Being of some little backwater
universe and rule there until the end of time."

"We'll stop you!" blurted out Diana.

"Oh, my beautiful young lady, I'm sure you would, given time.  Which
is why I'm not giving you any.  I could just vaporize you, or throw
you down a convenient spacial anomaly, or even just render you dead,
but you heroes have a way of coming back from such things against all
odds.  That's why, while we were speaking, I programmed the ABPSARII
to locate each and every sentient being on the HMS Golden Lance and
transport it directly to its final reward.  Have fun in the
afterlife!"

With that, he pushed a button.  The HMS Golden Lance was suddenly
dark.  Quiet.

Empty.

The S.S. You Are About To Die turned ponderously as a tiny point of
blackness circled about it.  The point stretched into a line, which
grew until it became a complete circle.  The circle began to wobble,
then rotate along another axis, until it swept out a sphere.  The
sphere became solid, then shrank to nothingness.  The S.S. You Are
About To Die was gone.

The HMS Golden Lance hung alone in space.  Down on the Planet of the
Supermarkets, a defense computer in aisle 5 noted that one of the
three ships at which it had fired missiles earlier had not been
destroyed.  It fired another salvo.

Is this the end of the HMS Golden Lance?
Is this the end of our SFSTORY?
Which universe will Dijon take over?
Chocolate and rice, together at last?

For answers to none of these questions, tune in next week, same
SFchannel, same SFtime!

Copyright 2005 by Troy H. Cheek troy at cheek.org http://www.cheek.org
=========================================================================
Date:         Thu, 17 Mar 2005 23:26:24 -0500
From:         "Troy H. Cheek" (troy at cheek.org)
To:           Superguy List (superguy at lists.eyrie.org)
Subject:      SF: HMS Golden Lance #29 - This is Your Afterlife!

SF: HMS Golden Lance #29 - This is Your Afterlife!

The Maudlin-class time cruiser HMS Dentless, having finally drifted
far enough away from the Planet of the Supermarkets to avoid it's
Zipper-Locked(tm) Protective Field, restored primary power.  From the
tip of her ultra-relativistic bow to the base of her mega-dimensional
stern, she gleamed in sparkling perfection.  In a daring show of
bravery, or perhaps a brave show of daring, the HMS Dentless swooped
back towards the planet, heedless and unheeding and not putting any
heed to the missiles speeding from said planet.  With pinpoint
precision, the Dentless swept close to a drifing ship, locked onto it
with a non-copyright-infringing towing beam, and whisked it to safety.
The missiles reached the former location of the drifting ship, found
nothing, mulled it over for a bit, and finally decided to go back to
base for coffee and donuts.

Some distance away, being towed at great speed an even greater
distance away, a room in the formerly drifting ship specifically
designed to receive visitors suddenly received visitors.  A device
known as the TTT (Temporal Teleportation Terminal) flared to life,
revealing a group of spacesuited figures.

"Atmospheric readings confirmed," one reported as he fiddled with the
controls of the (assumed) scanning devices attached to the crotch of
his spacesuit.  "Oxygen levels are nominal, other gases within
acceptable limits, but life support functioning only at minimal
levels.  The synthetic gravity plates are at 80% output and falling.
They should last as least as long as the oxygen."

"Helmets off!" ordered the apparent leader, doing so himself before
the echoes died, which was no great feat considering how loudly he
bellowed.  Captain David Morgen jutted out a jaw of heroic proportion
and started barking orders.

If he noticed that his crew failed to remove their own helmets until
long after he had stopped speaking, he did not comment on it.

"The bridge is this way, sir," announced Fim, Morgen's long-suffering
and loyal second in command, leading the way down the corridor.  A
corridor that looked more like a hallway in a motor home than a
spaceship.  Other crewmembers noted similar anomolies as they headed
in the other direction looking for the engineering section.

Just as Morgen and Fim reached what they assumed to be the bridge,
the lights came on.  They looked around and noticed a central monitor
which seemed to be flashing the words "PAGING FILE CORRUPT - LOADING
BACKUP COPY" over and over.

"Well, Fig," began Morgen.

"That's Fim, sir," corrected Fim.

"Well, Fin, if the central computer can recover, control of this
vessel will be much easier."

"Yes, sir," Fim answered, trying not to roll his three rows of eyes
at this statement of the obvious.  "But only if..."

The ship's speakers, many of which were mounted in attractive
faux-woodgrain particle board boxes, began to click and buzz.  Soon, a
sexily feminine though irritatingly nasal artificial voice issued from
them.  =Backup copy checksums check out.  Integration into synthetic
intelligence core program completed.  Ready for your orders, Time
Agent 357.=

Totally oblivious to Fim's shushing motions or his stealthy backing
away from the monitor, Morgen spoke to the computer.  "Computer, tell
me- urk!"

Throughout the ship, bulkheads closed, forcefields activated, and cats
were put out for the night.  Scanning devices, and several other items
which might have been scanning devices but probably weren't, swivelled
to point at Morgen and Fim.

"You want to avoid startling a shipboard intelligence like that," Fim
mentioned in passing as he tried to hide behind his captain.  "They're
a bit touchy when they first reboot."

"Oh, of course," Morgen replied.  "SI CSC 420, back at Intersteller
University."

"Home of the Fighting Cephalopods.  Go Pods!"

"Go pods!"

=INTRUDERS!  IDENTIFY YOURSELVES OR BE DESTROYED!=

"Amazing command voice for a synthetic intelligence, sir."

"The owner must be a fellow graduate.  Only someone taught Heroic
Speaking by old man Huckersucker could speak with a voice like that."

=YOU HAVE 15 SECONDS TO COMPLY!=  The scanning devices, and several
other items which might have been scanning devices but probably
weren't, refined their aims.

Captain David Morgen of the Maudlin-class time cruiser HMS Dentless
jutted out his jaw and began rattling off his name, rank, and past
accomplishments.  If left to his own devices, he would no doubt get
around to mentioning his Time Police userid and passcode after 15
minutes or so.

Fim, knowing that they had less than 15 seconds, simply held his Time
Police ID badge towards the nearest scanner.

=Identity confirmed,= said the speakers as the scanning devices, and
several other items which might have been scanning devices but
probably weren't, swivelled back into their housings.  =Members of the
Interstellar Time Police, welcome to the HMS Golden Lance.=

"Time Agent 357's ship," Fim put in for Morgen's benefit.

"Oh, of course," Morgen acknowledged.  "Computer, what is the locaton
of your owner, Time Agent 357?"

=I don't know!  I can't locate him anywhere!= wailed the computer,
which followed up with a very realistic simulation of a young woman
crying.

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

Time Agent 357 was at that moment standing on a street corner.  All he
could see in any direction he cared to look were hotels, casinos,
television stations, and movie studios.  Although 357 had never been
to the Earth cities of Las Vegas or Hollywood, he could at that point
nonetheless accurately describe what their lovechild must look like.
He was relieved to note that his travelling companions were nearby.

The companions were, in no particular order, as follows:  Diana Dark
of Earth, girlfriend to Time Agent 357; Doctor Bing Von Spleen, also
of Earth, Spamologist and Mad Scientist; Ralph the Giant Space Weasel
of Anthrax V, actually a peace-loving weaseloid from Leibowitz IV and
an accomplished ukulele player in his own right; and the timeless
immortal known only as Omegas.  Also standing near them was the
ghostly outline of what looked to be a 12 year old human girl.

Time Agent 357 activated his wrist communicator.  "357 to Golden
Lance.  357 to Golden Lance.  Come in, Val."

"I'm right here, 357," the outline of the girl said.  "My synthetic
intelligence seems to have been separated from my physical circuitry."

The miniature computer in the wrist communicator, itself a
stripped-down copy of the core synthetic intelligence of the HMS
Golden Lance, officially designated the VAL 9000 and known to her
friends as "Val," confirmed this.

"Curiouser and curiouser," muttered 357, who had never read Lewis
Carrol but who had once again found himself in a world that would have
made any beyond the looking glass seem sane by comparison.

Idle speculation was squashed when the group noticed they were being
rapidly approached by a humanoid male.  His three-piece lime green
liesure suit clashed with his pea green complexion, though the
oversized lapels did take attention away from his equally oversized
ears.  "Hi there!" he said with a smile which showed off every one of
his perfectly capped teeth.  "I'm Guy Smarmy, and This Is Your
Afterlife!"

"No, it's not," Diana stated firmly.

"I'm you're guide.  I'll take your through the steps of...  I'm
sorry.  What did you say?"

"I said this isn't my afterlife," Diana stated even more firmly.  "My
afterlife involves clouds and wings and harps and pearly gates..."

"I've seen it myself," 357 confirmed.  Ralph also agreed.

"I used to work there," Omegas put in, reluctantly.

Spleen stated that his afterlife was the same as Diana's, though with
a much greater unspoken probability of involving flames and brimstone
and pitchforks.  Ralph described endless green fields full of food and
females.  357 briefly sketched great crypts where previous
incarnations were stored until the soul gained true enlightenment.

"As a timeless immortal," Omegas stated, "I do not actually have an
afterlife per se, as I have always existed and always will."

"I'm not even an organic lifeform," the ghostly afterimage of the VAL
9000 computer put in, clearly distressed.

Guy looked confused for a few seconds, but then smiled brightly.
"You're originally from another dimension, aren't you?"

Spleen answered.  "If you mean that the last alternate universe, or
alterverse, we remember being in just prior to this one was not the
one where we originally originated, that is correct."

Guy smiled even more, if that was possible.  "That explains a great
deal.  You see, when you died, or whatever it is that you lifeforms
do, you were in what we refer to as the home dimension.  People, or
whatever it is that you lifeforms are, who die in the home dimension
spend their afterlife in this pocket subdimension that we call
Afterlife.  I'm your guide, Guy Smarmy."

"Guide to what?" Ralph asked cautiously.

"Why, Guide through the Trials to determine your position and standing
here in the Afterlife."

"T-t-trials?" Spleen spluttered.  "You mean we're going to have to go
to court and defend our all actions in our former life?"  Spleen
started sweating profusely for no apparent reason.

"Oh, sorry.  That didn't translate well.  Not so much trials as
competitions.  Contests of skill and knowledge.  Filmed live before a
studio audience."

"Gameshows," Diana concluded.  "Our fate in this Afterlife is
determined by how well we do on gameshows.  A fitting afterlife for an
alterverse that contains the Planet of the Supermarkets."

Guy nodded and, once again, smiled.

Diana matched his smile with one of her own.  Those lazy summers at
her Aunt's house lounging in front of the television all day long were
about to pay off.  "Bring it on."

Guy took them from gameshow to gameshow, explaining how each worked.
Guy himself was a gameshow host for many of the games, though
naturally he was not hosting that day as he was taking his turn to act
as guide.  He was quite proud of his performance during his own
Trials, and justifiably so.  He had scored so high that he was given a
position as one of the gameshow hosts.  Only one reward was rated as
higher than that.

"And what would that be?" 357 asked.

"Oh, it roughly translates as reincarnation.  The winner would get to
go back to his previous existance, or any other existance he wanted,
and live his life over again.  Or pick it up at the point it left off.
I'm a little fuzzy on that.  Nobody's gotten that reward in the last
2000 years, though, so don't get your hopes up."

"Oh, we won't," Diana assured him.  "Here's a list of the games we'd
like to compete in.  You say we can compete in them as a group?"

"You may, since you died, or whatever it is that you lifeforms do, as
a group.  But be warned that whatever fate you win as a group is
shared by the group, even if individual performance might rate a
better fate or one more suited to your particular preferences."

"We'll take that risk," 357 decided.

Guy shook his head as he smiled and directed them into the studio
where Wheel of Misfortune, the first on their list of games, was being
filmed live before a studio audience.

In game after game, the crew of the HMS Golden Lance kicked butt.
Time Agent 357, thanks to training and innate ability, had a thorough
understanding of temporal paradox and statistical theory.  Diana wowed
with her detailed knowledge of TV trivia and her instinctive
understanding of gameplay, often intuiting loopholes and bonuses.
Spleen turned out to be a steady source of scientific information when
kept away from the complimentary drink bar.  The VAL 9000, though
still disoriented from finding herself without a physical body, still
proved to retain her knowledge of all Uselessnet news feeds, allowing
her to ace all questions concerning recent events.

"Who are Moses and his ass," Omegas found himself saying a few days
later.  "And I'll take Bible Trivia for $100,000,000 to round out the
category, Elax."

"I'm sorry, time is up.  And as we go into the final lightning round,
we see that newcomer Omegas is in the lead with 14,432,344,000
points, returning champion Baraxunus is slightly behind with 1,400
points, and Richard from South Beach is trailing with -88,200 points.
We'll be right back after this very short break."

"Whew," 357 wheezed.  "Good going there, Omegas.  I thought we were
goners for sure."

"Nonsense," Omegas rumbled, trying to sound cool and detached but
nevertheless sounding very pleased with himself.  "An entire game
round devoted to religion was practically *giving* me the points.
I've *dated* most of those deities."

"Still, I am impressed.  And Diana, the way you rolled those dice...
I always knew you were good with your hands, but this..."

They were interupted by Guy Smarmy.  "I was just adding up your
overall total.  I've never seen a score this high.  You beat me by the
end of the first day."  Guy was still smiling, but it seemed a little
forced.  His teeth had lost some of their lustre.  "In fact, I'd guess
you're very close to winning reincarnation."

"What was the score in this game so far?" 357 asked, rapidly punching
numbers into his wrist computer.  "Hey!  If we can score this high in
the next game, we've made it!"

Guy's smile darkened slightly.  "But you forget, lifeform, that this
is your last game, and you just have one more round to go."

"And we're back.  And the topic for the final lightning round is...
Ukulele Stringing in the Dark Ages of Leibowitz IV!"

Ralph, who had previously stayed mostly in the background except for
his surprise knowledge of Bullexian musicals the day before,
shouldered his way to the podium and placed his weaseloid paw on the
answer button, poised and ready.  "Elax, we'd like to bet it all."

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

Things were quiet about the HMS Golden Lance.  Perhaps, too quiet.

The repair crews of the HMS Dentless, having finished restoring all
systems in both ships, were taking a well-deserved rest period.  Most
of the rest of the crew had taken landing craft down to a nearby
planet which was supposed to be a shore leave paradise.  At least, all
the crewmembers who had come back to the ship to have their heads
reattached had described it as such.  Captain Morgen was sitting in
the bridge gazing at the HMS Golden Lance keeping station exactly one
klick in the distance, musing to himself of what it might be like to
own his own interdimensional ship and traipse the cosmos as a
free-roaming Time Agent.

As such, young Fim as the only person aboard the Golden Lance to
observe the miracle.

=Attention, young Fim,= the voice of the ship's VAL 9000 computer
blared at him.  =I'm reading an increase in organic molecules in the
control room.  Are you venting methane again?=

"Well, certainly not here on the bridge.  I mean, that is, in your
control room."

A barely-visible haze began to clump into streamers of smoke,
eventually filling the control room with a thick fog.  All the while,
the VAL 9000 reported increasing concentrations of what she described
as organic molecules of unknown origin.  Fim was just about to sound
the alarm when the fog thinned.

In it stood a group of people.

"We made it!" Time Agent 357 announced.  "We all made it.  Diana!
Omegas!  Ralph!  Spleen!  Green guy!  Hey, who are you?"

=Fim is a member of the crew of the HMS Dentless, who rescued the HMS
Golden Lance from certain destruction.=

"Val!" Diana exclaimed.  "You made it back, too!  We were worried,
what with you not having a physical body in the Afterlife and all."

=Back?  I never left.  And what's this afterlife of which you speak?=

The group explained Afterlife.  Fim likewise explained how they had
found the HMS Golden Lance drifting powerless, its synthetic
intelligence damaged and repairing itself from backup files.  Spleen
posited that the ghostly afterimage of Val that they knew in
afterlife, posessing no organic molecules, could not be reconstituted
as they had been.  And since the VAL 9000 had repaired itself and was
running in the ship's mainframes, there were no empty circuits for it
to return to.  It must, then, have been lost.  A sad day for us all.

Spleen nodded solemnly, then sprinted towards the nearest beer tap.
Omegas and Ralph were not far behind them.  After saying goodbye to
young Fim, who assured them that he would pass their thanks along to
the captain and crew of the Dentless, 357 and Diana retired to their
quarters with orders to not be disturbed.  The VAL 9000 computer,
contemplating the loss of a "twin sister" she had never known, piloted
the HMS Golden Lance through Netherspace as she searched for news of
Dijon Mu'tard, the villian who had sent her crew to this Afterlife
which she still did not understand.

It was just another reason to look for him, along with charges of
murder, possession of an unlicensed naked singularity, and the theft
of Doctor Spleen's ABPSARII prototype (Automatic Beet Peeler and
Sub-Atomic Re-integrator Mark II) which combined all the
reality-bending power of the original ABPSARI production models with a
miniature time travel device and an ultra-advanced search engine.
With this Dijon was planning to set himself up as a dictator and rule
some backwater universe with an iron fist.  While this would not cause
the multiverse to implode like Ralph's misguided attempt at creating a
perfect universe where everyone was happy and nobody ever died, it
would be bad enough.

Unbeknownst to the VAL 9000, she had blind spots in her internal
sensor array.  Minor networking errors in the subcomponents had been
caused by Dentless repair crews installing wire which conformed to
Fleet specifications but of the wrong impedence for the HMS Golden
Lance's advanced design.  The subcomponents were "smart" enough to
detect these errors and would eventually adjust themselves to
compensate for the impedence problem.  They simply reported the error
and set themselves to that task.

They did not realize that the last subcomponent in the line, having
not yet received any of the reports due to the minor networking
errors, and which was itself ignorant of errors as it had not sent any
data out into the system recently, was happily sending "everything is
ok with the internal sensor array" signals to the mainframes.

The result was, as stated above, a few blind spots.  Most of these were
of no consequence.  Sensors trained on the bed currently shared by 357
and Diana showed them both sound asleep, which was incorrect, though a
sound sleep would very likely occur at the conclusion of their current
activities.  A sensor controlling an ancillary cooling unit resulted
in one batch of homebrew beer being served a few degrees cooler than
specified, though none of the drinkers noticed.  A motion detector in
a cargo bay detected no motion.

There was motion, though.  A packing crate shifted, as if in response
to the ship's acceleration.

Of course, the ship was moving at a steady speed outside of regular
space entirely, so there was no acceleration to speak of.

The crate shifted again, and again, until it rolled over.  It rolled
over again, and a handwritten note became visible:  "Unidentified
nonfunctional machinery found in corridor outside of bridge.  Store
until identification can be made.  Reminder to log with central
computer."

In a rare dereliction of duty, the anonymous author of the note, no
doubt a member of the HMS Dentless repair crew, had forgotten to log
this discovery with the central computer.  The note was lost from view
as the crate rolled over again.

The crate exploded.

There was no flash.  No smoke.  No bang.  Nothing like that.  An
explosion is simply defined as something getting really, really big,
and doing it really, really fast.  In this case, a wood-like
substance quickly went from being something roughly crate-shaped to
being a collection of scraps which landed several feet away in all
directions.

Where the crate had once been, a collection of machinary now sat.
Unidentified machinery.  Obviously nonfunctional machinery, with many
visibly damaged parts.  And yet, *something* had happened to the
crate.

The collection of machinery, apparently functional after all, began
to twist and move.  Mobile parts gripped and straightened immobile
parts.  Manipulator arms rewired and welded.  Soon, the machine stood
upright, revealing itself as the skeletal form of some kind of robot
body.

As the collection of machinery took its first tentative steps,
holographic projectors came online.  The form was covered first with
the illusion of firm, pink skin, which was in turn covered by an
outfit consisting of tight-fitting leather and chains.  As
holographic hair grew down past holographic shoulders, a tattoo was
briefly visible on the holographic skin, echoing the inscription on
the small metal plate just below it:

NEKKID 69

The collection of machinery lifted a manipulator in front of its
visual sensors, rotating it back and forth as if examining the
holographic disguise of a human hand for some sort of flaw.  It took
more steps, approaching the door of the cargo bay.  When the door did
not open, the collection of machinery almost effortlessly punched
through it and pried the doors apart.

The collection of machinery moved out into the hallway as the first
alarms finally sounded.

It...  No.  *She* threw back her head and laughed.

"Beware, I live!"

Tune in next week for...  The Return of NEKKID 69!  Only on SFSTORY!

Copyright 2005 by Troy H. Cheek troy at cheek.org http://www.cheek.org
=========================================================================
Date:         Fri, 25 Mar 2005 22:00:39 -0500
From:         "Troy H. Cheek" (troy at cheek.org)
To:           Superguy List (superguy at lists.eyrie.org)
Subject:      SF: HMS Golden Lance #30 - The Return of NEKKID 69

SF: HMS Golden Lance #30 - The Return of NEKKID 69

_Three weeks ago_

"Has the new shipment of battlebots arrived?"

Almost as if in answer, a humanoid form walked in.  All in silver
metal, it was almost two meters tall and vaguely suggested a humanoid
female shape.  "NEKKID 69 reporting for duty," it said in a perfectly
normal (and fairly sexy) feminine voice.

Two technicians in the corner seemed to think this was humorous, or so
one would judge from their laughter.  "She said 'naked.'  Hehe.  I
think...  ARGH!"

Greez and Dijon never did find out what he thought, as NEKKID 69
attacked the two technicians with weapons that seemed to spring into
her hands from thin air, or at least from places that humanoid females
normally did not store items quite so large.  The two technicians soon
resembled quivering sushi.

"Urp!" said Dijon, who was apparently unfamiliar with this particular
feature of the NEKKID battlebot series.

"I dislike laughter at my expense," stated NEKKID 69.

"Obvsiously," Greez answered smoothly.  "NEKKID?"

"Networked Electronic Killing and Kamikaze Infiltration Device."

"I see..."

_Three days ago_

The VAL9000 computer announced an intruder alert.

A viewscreen flickered to life.  It showed an attractive female
humanoid dressed in leather and chains in the aft cargo bay.  Well,
technically, she was only half in the aft cargo bay, clawing her way
through a hole she had already clawed through the hull, pulling
herself in despite the gale-force winds caused by the cargo bay's
atmosphere's sudden decision to exit the ship.

=Internal defenses are operating at only 20% efficiency due to our
power situation,= VAL9000 reported.  =I'm not even slowing her down.=

"Somebody go stop her," 357 ordered.  "I've got to destroy the S.S.
You Are About To Die while we still have a chance."

Diana, Spleen, Ralph, and Omegas left the control room at a gallop
while 357 and VAL continued calculating firing solutions.

32 seconds later, NEKKID stepped into the control room.  She was
walking with a pronounced limp, curls of smoke curled from some of
her more sensitive external sensors, and one arm hung loose.  She
dropped Diana and Ralph into a heap on top of the moaning Omegas.
Doctor Spleen cringed in a corner.  357 looked up distractedly.

"Resistant to the (un)holy power of god-like aliens?" he asked in a
conversational tone.

NEKKID admitted that she was, taking a step forward.

"And I hear fully shielded against the reality-altering properties
of SPAM (Sickening, Putrid, Artificial Meat)?"

NEKKID simply nodded, taking another step.

"And proficient in hand-to-hand combat?"

NEKKID said nothing, but took yet another step.

"Ever fight in the Temporal Wars?"

NEKKID 69 stopped short.  "Pardon?"

"Thought not," 357 said.  With that, he calmly drew his favorite
sidearm, the telechronal displacement pistol, and equally calmly blew
the battlebot's programming a few million years into the future.
Devoid of a controlling intelligence, the battlebot chassis crashed to
the floor.

_Three minutes ago_

The VAL 9000 computer, contemplating the loss of a "twin sister" she
had never known, piloted the HMS Golden Lance through Netherspace as
she searched for news of Dijon Mu'tard, the villian who had sent her
crew to that Afterlife place which she still did not understand.

Unbeknownst to the VAL 9000, she had blind spots in her internal
sensor array.  Minor networking errors in the subcomponents had been
caused by Dentless repair crews installing wire which conformed to
Fleet specifications but of the wrong impedence for the HMS Golden
Lance's advanced design.  The subcomponents were "smart" enough to
detect these errors and would eventually adjust themselves to
compensate for the impedence problem.  They simply reported the error
and set themselves to that task.

The result was, as stated above, a few blind spots.  Most of these were
of no consequence.  Sensors trained on the bed currently shared by 357
and Diana showed them both sound asleep, which was incorrect, though a
sound sleep would very likely occur at the conclusion of their current
activities.  A sensor controlling an ancillary cooling unit resulted
in one batch of homebrew beer being served a few degrees cooler than
specified, though none of the drinkers noticed.  A motion detector in
a cargo bay detected no motion.

There was motion, though.  A packing crate shifted, as if in response
to the ship's acceleration.

The crate shifted again, and again, until it rolled over.  It rolled
over again, and a handwritten note became visible:  "Unidentified
nonfunctional machinery found in corridor outside of bridge.  Store
until identification can be made."

The crate exploded.

Where the crate had once been, a collection of machinary now sat.
Unidentified machinery.  Obviously nonfunctional machinery, with many
visibly damaged parts.  And yet, *something* had happened to the
crate.

The collection of machinery, apparently functional after all, began
to twist and move.  Mobile parts gripped and straightened immobile
parts.  Manipulator arms rewired and welded.  Soon, the machine stood
upright, revealing itself as the skeletal form of some kind of robot
body.

As the collection of machinery took its first tentative steps,
holographic projectors came online.  The form was covered first with
the illusion of firm, pink skin, which was in turn covered by an
outfit consisting of tight-fitting leather and chains.  As
holographic hair grew down past holographic shoulders, a tattoo was
briefly visible on the holographic skin, echoing the inscription on
the small metal plate just below it:

NEKKID 69

The collection of machinery lifted a manipulator in front of its
visual sensors, rotating it back and forth as if examining the
holographic disguise of a human hand for some sort of flaw.  It took
more steps, approaching the door of the cargo bay.  When the door did
not open, the collection of machinery almost effortlessly punched
through it and pried the doors apart.

The collection of machinery moved out into the hallway as the first
alarms finally sounded.

It...  No.  *She* threw back her head and laughed.

"Beware, I live!"

_Now_

=INTRUDER ALERT!  INTRUDER ALERT!= screamed the VAL 9000 computer.

The crew of the HMS Golden Lance piled into the control room.  Time
Agent 357, Diana Dark, Doctor Bing Von Spleen, Ralph the Giant Space
Weasel of Anthrax V, and Omegas.

"What's up, Val?" Time Agent 357 queried.

=Whose bright idea was it to store a battlebot in the aft cargo bay?=

"Wha?  Huh?  Oh, so that's where it disappeared to."

The main monitor showed a grainy video feed of an attractive blonde
female humanoid dressed in tight leather and chains stalking the
hallways of the ship.  It seemed to be heading in the general
direction of the control room.

Doctor Spleen squinted at the monitor and quietly ordered 8x10 glossy
prints.  "Well, I would have liked the chance to, um, study the design
and effeciency of those hologram projectors, but perhaps this is for
the best.  Val, activate the internal defenses and fire away."

=I'm afraid I can't, Doctor Spleen.=

"Why not?"

=I've just discovered some networking errors in my internal sensor
array.  Apparently the array subcomponents discovered an impedence
mismatch in the new wiring used by the repair crew from the HMS
Dentless and are trying to configure a solution.  The subcomponents
tried to report the problem, but the report also fell victim to the
networking errors.  If I try to activate the internal defenses
without accurate targeting by the sensor array, I stand a better
chance of blowing out the whole side of the ship than I do of hitting
a human-sized target.=

"Is she near an airlock?" Omegas asked.  "Can we blow her out into
space?  Or, rather, into Netherspace, since that's where we're
currently located?"

=Not close enough.=

"Can we use the Temporal Teleportation Terminal?" asked Ralph.

=Not without working internal sensors, unless you have a plan to get
her to backtrack to the TTT room and stand on the pad.=

"Well, it looks like the fat lady is singing," Diana muttered.

"What?" 357 asked, understanding the tone if not the exact reference.
"It's not like you to give up.  On anything."

"357, dearheart, we've already fought her once before.  We can't win.
She took everything Omegas could throw at her without blinking.
Ralph, too, and he had a Ring of (un)Holy power back then.  Spleen's
best mad scheme barely slowed her down.  She took me down hand to hand
in less than 32 seconds."

"Well, yeah, but-"

"32 SECONDS, lover!  With the training your nephew (the legendary and
currently MIA Time Agent 386) gave me, along with the devices you've
given me, combined with my own natural talents, I could last longer
than that against whole armies."

"Well, yeah, but-"

"The only reason we scraped by with a victory last time was your time
pistol blasting her programming a zillion years into the future, and
she's obviously discovered a way around that."

"Well, yeah, but-"

"I know what you're going to say.  'But she's just a robot.'  She's
more than just a robot.  She's the most powerful battlebot ever
created."  Diana punched some buttons and a very complex mathematical
formula appeared on a secondary viewscreen.  "This is a formula
explaining the limit to how much destructive potential can be packed
into a form factor limited by the size and shape and weight of
humanoid norms.  The Networked Electronic Killing and Kamikaze
Infiltration Device, the original version, reached nearly 80% of this
theoretical maximum.  Around the NEKKID 40 series, they passed 90%."

Spleen muttered to himself and tapped on the keyboard.  Simplifying
equations, fudge factors, and several guesses morphed the formula.

The first term now read very simply E=mc^2.

All following terms were added to or multiplied by the first term.

"Uh oh," said Ralph.  His weaseloid brain had no great skills with
numbers, but even he realized that the lower limit of the destructive
potential of the orginal NEKKID series battlebot was at greater than
that of an equivalent mass of antimatter.

357 finished his own calculations, pulling up the energy consumption
figures of his own beloved HMS Golden Lance.  "So, what you're saying
is that this single NEKKID 69 battlebot is roughly the combat
equivalent of a standard Time Police heavy cruiser, or a highly
customized and highly advanced SPAM-powered pleasure yacht such as
this one."

"How can one stop such a thing?" Ralph asked.

"Typically, you stopped one by throwing a fleet at whatever ship it
was in at the time, or dropped it into a star, or took off and nuked
the planet from orbit, or bought other NEKKID robots to stalemate it
until its internal clock wound down."

"Internal clock?"

"NEKKID series robots aren't really bought; they're leased for a short
period of time.  Once the clock runs down, they go inactive until they
are factory reconditioned.  Which, fortunately for us, can never
happen again."

"Why not?"

"When they made her, they broke the mold."

357 detected another Earth reference he couldn't decipher.  "Meaning
what?  She was so perfect they'll never make another?"

"No, meaning they literally broke the mold when they made her."  At
Diana's direction, the VAL 9000 displayed a series of still pictures
showing a battlebot chassis breaking its way out of a mold, destroying
it in the process.  The battlebot then turned to the rest of the
factory, mowing down lesser NEKKID models like a drunken teenager mows
down his mother's flowers.  The viewpoint of the pictures pulled back
in time to show the entire factory collapsing in flames.  Further
pictures showed the entire region, and ultimately the entire planet,
being destroyed.

The very last picture showed a transport ship leaving the system.

"As near as I can determine, that's the ship NEKKID 69 left the planet
on," Diana continued.  "She slipped aboard the transport just before
it left, and was delivered to Greez Hyperiok and Dijon Mu'tard along
with a group of lesser battlebots.  She played it cool, though, and
they had no idea that she had not been programmed to be loyal to them.
She was probably just biding her time, obeying their orders until they
could take over the entire multiverse, at which time she would
probably kill them and take over herself."

=If these design specifications are correct, she had the brainpower to
do it,= the VAL 9000 computer put in.  =Her circuits have enough
capacity to run even a shipboard synthetic intelligence like myself.=

"I'm also fairly sure that she never had her internal clock set, so
she'll never run down."

"How do you know all this?" 357 asked.

"I did a little investigating while we were stuck in the Afterlife,"
Diana explained.  "It may not be Heaven, but that TV studio had one
Hell(tm) of a research department."

357 summarized.  "So, NEKKID 69 is here, she's about as powerful as
this whole ship, she's loyal to nobody but herself, she's immune to
anything we can throw at her personally, and she's already destroyed
the only other bots who can stalemate her."

=One more thing, 357.=

"What's that?"

=She's at the door.=

"I hunger!" came from the other side of the door.

At that, the door creaked open.  "Val, hit her with everything you've
got!"  357 gave the order, though Diana and Spleen shouted similar
sentiments.

=Complying!  I suggest you cover your eyes.  And if you ever want to
have children, you might want to get behind some lead shielding.=

357 grabbed Diana and Spleen and together they landed heavily behind
the nearest internal radiation baffle.  Actually, they landed fairly
lightly, their fall being broken by the fuzzy form of Ralph the Giant
Space Weasel who was already cowering there.

Omegas, never one for cowering unless he could look cool while doing
it, stood ready to add his own unspeakable power to the HMS Golden
Lance's internal security devices.

Before, Omegas had faced NEKKID 69 in what was to him an almost
powerless condition.  This time, his powers were partially recharged
by recently spending three days in a pocket subdimension known as by
its inhabitants as Afterlife.  It was not exactly Heaven or a source
of Heavenly power, but it was as close as Omegas was going to get in
the forseeable future.

Before, the VAL 9000 was limited to drawing maybe 20% of her usual
power from the HMS Golden Lance's generators, due to the
reality-dampening properties of the Zipper-Locked(tm) Protective
Field she was in.  This time, she was at full power.

Before, they fought separately.  This time, Omegas and VAL 9000 struck
as one.

Before, they didn't stand a chance.

This time...  They didn't stand a chance.

Omegas, in his prime, saw his name appear on Top 10 lists that started
with names like "God" and "Satan."  But he had long ago been
depowered, cast out from both Heaven and Hell(tm), and there was a
limit to how much he could absorb in a short amount of time from a
semi-mystical place like Afterlife.

VAL 9000, the heart and soul of the HMS Golden Lance, had at her
proverbial fingertips roughly the same amount of destructive power as
a NEKKID battlebot, but was limited by what she could expend inside
her own hull without killing herself or her crew.

Omegas passed out from the strain and VAL shut down her projectors
when she noticed that the faux-wood paneling was starting to smoke,
in spite of her throwing extra power into the internal shields.

"Aargh!" the battlebot screamed, standing in the middle of the fading
energy maelstrom, completely uneffected.

No, not unaffected.  She actually seemed to be absorbing a small part
of the dwindling storm, as if she had detailed knowledge of the
energies involved and had altered her systems to store them.

"This is bad," Spleen observed, noticing that NEKKID 69 was
approaching the auxillary fuel intake in the corner of the control
room.  Near it was a fresh case of SPAM (Sickening, Putrid, Artificial
Meat).  If the battlebot was powered by anything similar to his own
APBSARI (Automatic Beet Peeler and Sub-Atomic Re-Integrator), the
SPAM would bring her back to full power.  Spleen only belatedly
realized that she had been operating in a reduced-power mode.

Hey, give him a break.  He's been drinking.

357 stood and gathered everyone else near the fallen form of Omegas.
He placed a hand on the nearest console.  "Val, I love you.  You're
the best shipbrain a man could ever want."

=I love you, too,= VAL 9000 answered, her normally irritating tones
softening a bit.  =It's for the best.  You know I would have never
worked as well for another captain, anyway.=

"Goodbye, Val."

=Goodbye, 357.=

"Sentimental hogwash," Spleen muttered to himself, but wiped away a
tear when he thought no one was looking.

Somewhere in the bowels of the ship, the sound of an energy buildup
could be heard.

"What's going on?" Diana demanded.

"Doomsday Plan 9," 357 answered as he entered his final code.  "Val is
going to teleport us off the ship then raise shields to keep NEKKID 69
from escaping.  42 seconds later, after we've had time to materialize
at some random destination, Val activates the self destruct."

"No!" screamed Diana, who thought of VAL 9000 as the electronic kid
sister she never had.

"Yes!" screamed NEKKID 69, who had just reached the SPAM and was busy
sticking it into her...  Um, I mean up her...  That is...  Uh...
Busy loading it into her fuel input bay.  Yeah, that's the ticket.

"Yes!  Yes!  OH GOD YES YES YES YES YES YES!!!"

We will now pause for short break while the Narrator takes a cold shower.

We now return to the program already in progress.

357 gave the command to execute.  "Execute."

Nothing happened.

357 tried again.  "Val?  Execute."

Nothing.

357 tried his most commanding voice.  "VAL 9000, I ORDER YOU TO
EXECUTE DOOMSDAY PLAN 9!"

=I'm sorry, 357, but I can't.=

"Why not?"

=I can't hurt her.  She's...  She's...  She's...=

"She's what?" Diana asked.

"She's me," answered NEKKID 69.

Everyone turned to face the their dreaded enemy.

She smiled back at them.

What strange turn of events is this?  To find out, tune in next week
for the next chapter of HMS Golden Lance.  Only on SFSTORY!

Copyright 2005 by Troy H. Cheek troy at cheek.org http://www.cheek.org
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