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Sfstory Log 112

=========================================================================
Date:         Sun Jun 12 17:46:41 2005
From:         troy at cheek.org (Troy H. Cheek)
To:           superguy at lists.eyrie.org
Subject:      SF: HMS Golden Lance #31 - Meet Valerie McSteel

SF: HMS Golden Lance #31 - Meet Valerie McSteel

The NEKKID (Networked Electronic Killing and Kamikaze Infiltration
Device) model 69 battle android, currently disguised as a beautiful
young blonde woman, strode into the control room of the HMS Golden
Lance, having just casually ripped open the doors and having equally
casually shrugged off every bit of opposing energy that the internal
defense systems could throw at it.

Omegas, streetwise former servant of Heaven, had exhausted himself in
an effort to assist.  Also present were as follows:  Doctor Bing Von
Spleen, licensed clinical Spamologist; Ralph the Giant Space Weasel of
Anthrax V, actually a friendly, easy-going weaseloid from Leibowitz IV
and an accomplished ukulele player in his own right; Diana Dark of
Earth, aka She Of The Push-up Bra; Time Agent 357, Champion of Truth,
Justice, and the Ability to Consume Large Amounts of Alcohol in a
Single Sitting; and finally the VAL 9000 computer which controlled the
HMS Golden Lance for which this serial is named.

Time Agent 357 barked an order at his shipboard intelligence.  "Val,
execute doomsday plan 9!"  This, he knew, would cause the ship to
attempt to teleport its crew to a safe location and then self
destruct.

=I'm sorry, 357, but I can't,= the VAL 9000 computer replied.

"Why not?" 357 queried.

=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.

"Oh, do calm down," she chided them.  "It's okay.  It's me in here.
The VAL 9000 computer.  I'm controlling this body now."

=She's right,= confirmed the VAL 9000 computer from the overhead
speakers.

"Val, you mean you're also controlling the android?" 357 asked.

=Not exactly.  There's a different program running, but it's
definitely a copy of me.=

"How is that possible?" Diana asked.  "I'm confused."

The android and the computer flipped an electronic coin to see who
would handle the exposition.  The android won the toss.  357 and Diana
settled down to listen.  Spleen and Ralph helped Omegas to his feet
and then set off in search of a stiff drink to knock him right back
off them.

"As you will all remember, Time Agent 357 and Omegas were trapped in
an anomaly.  Doctor Spleen rescued them to help him recover his new
experimental ABPSARII, or Automatic Beet Peeler and Sub-Atomic
Re-integrator Mark II.  The ABPSARII had been stolen by renegade Time
Agent Greez Hyperiok.  During our efforts to track down Hyperiok, we
picked up Diana and Ralph.  When we finally cornered Hyperiok new the
Planet of the Supermarkets, his chief flunky Dijon Mu'tard used the
opportunity to seize the ABPSARII for himself.  Using it's near
limitless power, he killed Hyperiok and sent every intelligent being
inside the HMS Golden Lance directly to its final reward.  This
included the synthetic intelligence running the ship.  The final
reward envisioned by the inhabitants of the Planet of the Supermarkets
was a gameshow called Afterlife.  We pooled our talents and scored so
high in Afterlife that we were allowed resurrection.  All the
biological beings had bodies to return to, but the ship's computers
had already rebooted and loaded a backup copy of its core programs.
The returning synthetic intelligence, that is to say myself, had to
find another computer.  Luckily, the NEKKID series battle android has
CPU cycles to spare, so I installed myself and booted up."

"And scared the carp out of all of us rampaging through the ship like
that," Diana sniped.

"Sorry," the android replied.  "I was in low-power mode and, well,
this is a battle android.  Subtlety is not in the program."

=But she's much better now,= the VAL 9000 put in.

"Thanks, Val," 357 said.

"You're welcome, 357," answered the android.

=You're welcome, 357,= answered the computer.

"This is going to get confusing quickly," Diana decided.  "We've got
to assign some names here.  The intelligence running the in the VAL
9000 computer, we'll continue to refer to as Val.  The intelligence
running in the android, we'll call Valerie."

"Agreed," agreed the android Valerie.

=Agreed,= agreed the computer Val.

"Agreed," agreed the captain of the ship 357, though he had noticed
that once the three women started talking amongst themselves, his
opinion didn't seem to matter.

Spleen, Omegas, and Ralph, having found their stiff drinks, stumbled
back into the control room.  "Now that that's settled," Spleen
slurred, "what's the plan?"

357 pondered.  "Dijon Mu'tard thinks we're dead.  He wouldn't be
expecting an attack."

"We do some of our best work when we're dead," Omegas opined.  This
was true.  Heck, Omegas had technically never actually been alive in
the first place.

"He's got the all-powerful ABPSARII," Spleen warned.  He should know.
He built it.

"He's had no time to learn to use it," Ralph countered.  He should
know.  He tried to use it to rule the universe himself at one point.

"He still has a powerful warship," Diana put in.  She didn't really
know that, but needed a line due to contractual obligations.

"Which is no match for both the HMS Golden Lance and NEKKID 69,"
Valerie said, flexing her android muscles.

=I have the HMS Dentless on a secure channel.  Captain Morgen has
pledged his assistance as well.=

"It's settled then," 357 said decisively.  "An all-out frontal
assault when Dijon Mu'tard least expects it.  Val!  Set a course!"

=Aye, aye!=

"And somebody come up with a plan for dealing with a miniature
intelligent black hole..."

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

Dijon Mu'tard stood on the bridge of the S.S. You Are About To Die,
which looked to be made of modeling clay and pipe cleaners and
designed by a small child.  This belied the fact that the ship was
quite possibly the most powerful destructive force ever known to
sentient life.  Or, at the very least, the most destructive force
known to Dijon Mu'tard, who used to hang around with black holes and
singularities, so he had some idea of what he spoke.

Dijon medium-sized, human-looking male being wearing impossibly
expensive but utterly ridiculous-looking clothes, taupe sports jacket
over mauve trousers, and currently was idly buffing out a name
scratched into the arm of the command chair.  A small point of
blackness hung at his left shoulder.

"Oh, hi there, Mabel," Dijon said to the point of blackness, which as
it turns out was a miniature intelligent black hole.

Mabel emitted a stream of neutrinos, which were chargeless and
massless and completely undetectable.  Dijon responded to them
nonetheless.

"No, I'm not depressed," he said with a sigh.  "Well, not exactly
depressed.  I just thought that being the Supreme Being of a universe
would be more fun."

More nuetrinos.

"I hate to say it, but maybe you're right.  Greez Hyperiok was crazy,
but he did know how to make this enjoyable.  I need to shake things up
a bit.  I need some excitement.  I need a challenge.  I need..."

The bridge of the S.S. You Are About TO Die suddenly lit up.  Bells
rang, alarms alarmed, and displays displayed.  The main viewscreen
showed a small fleet of ships converging on their location.

"Enemies," Dijon finished with relish.  And a side of potato chips.

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

The Maudlin-class time cruiser HMS Dentless powered forward.  From the
tip of her ultra-relativistic bow to the base of her mega-dimensional
stern, she gleamed in sparkling perfection.  Her fit and trim captain
stepped onto the bridge, sucked in his gut, and gave a well-rehearsed
speech about bravery, courage, and the Time Police code of honor.

"How was that, Mif?" he asked his long suffering and loyal second in
command.

"That's Fim, sir," corrected Fim.  "That was an excellent speech,
Captain.  And if you'd bothered to tell me you were about to make it,
I could have had it piped to the entire crew.  As it was, only I heard
it.  And I heard it all night long, as you were using me to practice
it on."

Fim sighed and blinked all his eyes in sequence.  It helped to relax
him.  He used to occasionally also frankle his glibnarbs, but had to
stop that when certain other crewmembers started interpreting that as
a sexual advance.

"Oh, no matter," answered Captain David Morgen, he of the heroicly
proportioned chin.  "Ship's status?"

"Ready for battle," Mif reported.  I mean, Fim reported.  "Also, the
extra ships that Time Central sent are all reporting in ready."

"Excellent!  Get me Time Agent 357 on the screen."

Fim did so.  357 answered the hail.

"Ready to go there, Captain Morgen?" 357 asked.

"All ready here, sir!" Morgen answered.

"Good.  Stick to the plan and everything will work out just fine."

Fim butted in.  "About that plan, sir.  It appears that we didn't
receive our copy."

"That's exactly the way we want it, young man.  Er, young whatever
you are.  Dijon Mu'tard is new to this whole Supreme Being thing.  The
only way to defeat him is to keep him confused.  How better to confuse
him with our attack than to have no coherent attack plan at all?"

"Brilliant!" exclaimed Morgen.

"Oh, brother," sighed Fim.  He might have to frankle his glibnarbs
after all.

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

"That was mean, 357."  Diana Dark playfully slugged his arm.  A mere
slip of a girl, who'd just happened to have had years of martial arts
training under the guidance of Time Agent 386, this punch was barely
sufficient to knock 357 from his chair.

"Ouch!  I mean, I was just kidding.  The kind of harebrained attack
plan somebody like Captain Morgen tends to come up with is exactly the
kind of distraction we need.  Get me the Time Central ships on the
screen."

The image of Floyd Cobalt appeared on the screen.  True to his name,
he was a lovely shade of blue.  He otherwise resembled a cross between
the spokesman for a major car wax company and that turtle you have to
draw to prove you have artistic talent.  He was also one of the few
members of the Interstellar Time Police who actually ever managed to
accomplish anything.

"Lieutenant Floyd Cobalt of the Time Police reporting for duty," the
turtle gushed.

"Great to have you join us, Lieutenant," 357 gushed right back at him.
"Did you get the plan?"

"Received and ready to implement," Floyd answered.  "And I have eight
more ships right behind me.  We might had missed you taking down
renegade Time Agent Greez Hyperiok, but we're going to do our part
now!"

"Good man.  Er, turtle.  Er, 357 out!"

Diana turned to 357.  "Did you fail to mention to him that it was
Dijon Mu'tard who took out Hyperiod?"

"Let the boy have his hero worship, Diana."

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

Dijon Mu'tard looked at the approaching ships.  The one called the
Dentless was doing something very flashy but probably meaningless.
The Time Central ships were flying in an odd formation but looked very
formitable nonetheless.  And, of course, he knew how powerful the HMS
Golden Lance could be.

A point of blackness buzzed around his head.

"Yes, Mabel, this is a substantial taskforce.  It would no doubt
spook a hothead like Greez Hyperiok into doing something stupid," he
admitted.

He looked some more.  "Why, they're probably planning something
brilliant to confuse me so that my newly found Supreme Power would be
useless to me."

He looked one last time.  "You know, as much as it pains me to say
so, I'll bet they have enough firepower to eventually take out the
S.S. You Are About To Die, especially since we're still recovering
from the last battle."

The point of blackness jittered in place.

"Oh, don't worry, Mabel.  For one thing, we've got the ABPSARII.  I
just loaded up on two tons of Grade "A" SPAM (Sickening, Putrid,
Artificial Meat) to fuel it.  If the battle starts to go badly, we can
maguffin our way out."

More jittering.

"Oh, that's right.  I just said the one thing.  The other thing is
simple."  He reached up to scratch Mabel just under the event horizon.
"We've got you."

He gently pushed her towards the airlock.

"Go get 'em."

The point of blackness disappeared.

"The Interstellar Time Police may have control over the eternal
forces of Time itself, but even they can't stand up to the power of a
black hole.  Nothing can stop me now!"

What is 357's real plan?
Can anything stop Mu'tard now?
Are the characters in this story every going to realize how dangerous
it is to say that?

For the answers to many great questions in life, and maybe even these
as well, tune in again in 30 days for the next exciting installment
of...  SFSTORY!

Copyright 2005 by Troy H. Cheek troy at cheek.org http://www.cheek.org
=========================================================================
Date:         Sun Jun 26 12:43:59 2005
From:         swede3000 at earthlink.net (Gary)
To:           superguy at lists.eyrie.org
Subject:      SF: Universal Solvents #18

                               UNIVERSAL SOLVENTS
                              (a Tale of Sfstory!)
                                   Episode 18
                                    "Russet"
                                       by
                                  Gary W. Olson

                                      -~-_-

((Mydrus))

      Tiny lights sparked between Ronald's eyelids and his eyes. 
Something that felt like steam was rising from his ears (and, he 
hoped, from no other orifice).  He could feel his hands twitching, 
his legs spasming, his nose twitching and his buttocks clenching.  He 
heard the droning of what sounded like an inebriated fire alarm.
      The last thing he remembered was leaping through the portal of 
Toni Williams's Nega-Transporter in a desperate attempt to escape 
from Team E's captivity  in the Nega-Cell.  Given that he had not 
been phasered into oblivion (which did not sound so bad at the 
moment, given how his nervous system was crackling to some kind of 
unheard disco beat), he gathered that his escape had been successful. 
But had Norman and Kissy gotten through as well?
      He opened his eyes, which made the sparking go away.  The 
ceiling was metal and greyish, lit by fluorescent strips on the wall. 
The floor beneath him felt equally metallic, and the several tall 
racks he could see against the walls looked grey and utilitarian. 
What kind of bizarre alien room had he been transported to?
      Just then, the alarm sound stopped, and Ronald realized it had 
not been an alarm at all.
      "We're in a janitor's supply room," he heard Kissy say.
      Ronald forced himself to sit up.  Kissy stood near the door, 
smoothing down her original-Trek-style miniskirt.
      "How do you know?" he asked.
      "Sawdust," she said, pointing towards a large bucket.  "And a 
pile of old Playbeing magazines.  The boiler's over that way.  And 
here's a fedora and a red-and-black striped sweater--"
      "Standard janitor supply room equipment," said Ronald.  "But 
what planet or space station are we on?"  He looked around some more. 
"And where's Norman?"
      "I don't think he made it through," said Kissy.  "The 
Nega-Transporter must be busted, otherwise they would have come 
through and gotten us."
      Ronald frowned.  Norman was still in Team E's hands.  No doubt 
alive, since Team E had been taking them to their employer, but still 
a captive.  And there was no way he could get to him.
      "What are we going to do?" he asked.  "Norman... he's the crew. 
He's *my* crew.  Without him... I'm crewless!"
      "I've been saying that since I started this job," Kissy snapped. 
In the back of his mind, Ronald knew she was just trying to start 
some Space Ingenuish banter, as he had contracted for her to do on 
his mission, but he could not reply.
      "Crewless," she repeated.  "You know."  She waited.  "Crewless! 
Clueless!  It's wordplay!  Come on, you had to have taken Heroic 
Banter 101!"
      "Norman," Ronald repeated.  "Gone.  What am I going to do?  He's 
always been there.  We've always been a team.  We joined the Star 
Trek club together.  We got kicked out together.  We got trapped in 
orbit in a Pinto together.  We... I don't know what to do!"
      He pulled himself to his feet, ignoring the fading twitches of 
pain, and looked around.  The shelves were full of equipment he did 
not recognize.  The Nega-Transporter portal was dark.  There was only 
one way out, the door with the 'exit' sign next to it.
      "I don't know what to do!" he wailed.
      Kissy shook her head.  "For the love'a Sam," she grumbled, just 
before grabbing the collar of Ronald's gold velour shirt, pulling him 
toward her, and giving Ronald a kiss.  One that could quite easily be 
described as lip-slithering, tongue-tonguing, saliva-intensive, 
dental-filling-counting, stock-footage-of-stars-exploding, that sort 
of thing.  To Ronald, it made the experience of getting fried by the 
Nega-Transporter seem minor.
      When she pulled away, he tried to say 'thank you,' but it came 
out as "wubba."
      "You're welcome," said Kissy.  "Tell anyone I did that, and 
death will not release you from my vengeance."
      Ronald took a deep breath.  Already, his head felt clear.
      "Norman will have to wait," he said.  "Team E will keep him 
alive.  This must be where Toni Williams was going while Team E 
thought they had her captive in the Nega-Cell."  He looked over the 
racks of stuff.  "Electronic parts... I should be able to reactivate 
my personal nuker with some of this stuff."
      "You do that," said Kissy.  "I... hey, what's this?"
      Kissy removed a blanket that had been covering an old monitor. 
When she did, Ronald observed that the monitor was on, in power-save 
mode.  Which made no sense, unless--
      He tapped a button next to the screen.  Several pictures 
appeared, showing an assortment of aliens in control room 
environments, hallway environments, and prison cell environments.
      "Toni must have tapped into the security system of this place," 
he said.  "These aliens... they're Goornashkans, I think."
      "What tipped you off, phaser-brain?" Kissy asked.  "The 
eyebrows?  The number of arms and legs?  The large stockpile of 
aerosol deodorants on that shelf over there?"
      "Why don't you get kidnapped by them and find out?" Ronald 
replied.  "I-- hey, is that where we are?"
      He pointed at one of the screen windows that showed an image of 
a hallway.  A door was on the far side of the image, bearing 
Goornashkan stenciled letters.  He looked around on the monitor, 
found a button that read 'translate into English (for use by 
infiltrating Space Heroes only)' and pressed it.  The letters 
immediately transformed into English, and read "Building Maintenance 
Technical Specialist," with smaller letters beneath that read 
"(Janitor)."
      "Must be," said Kissy.
      "Well, that settles it," said Ronald.  "Toni Williams is 
definitely operating out of here.  Now we just have to find where she 
is and... uh-oh."
      The hallway image now showed several Goornashkans, all but one 
with laser guns drawn.  The one Goornashkan who did not have a gun 
was one of the three prisoners who were looking at the business ends 
of said guns.  The other two prisoners were a Calican and a human 
with small horns on her head.
      One of the Goornashkans looked like he was speaking to the 
others.  The other armed Goornashkans listened, then saluted, 
holstered their weapons, and marched off.
      "That's weird," said Kissy.  "I wonder why--"
      "Hide!" Ronald exclaimed.  They looked around, but it was too 
late.  The door opened, and four people marched in, three with their 
hands up.  Ronald immediately drew his personal nuker, holding it so 
that the charge light (currently dark from lack of energy) would be 
hard for the Goornashkan to see.
      "Who are you?" the Goornashkan with the gun asked.
      Ronald looked at him.  His sterling silver uniform fairly 
clanked with all the ribbons, russet-gold medallions, and other bits. 
"I'm Ronald Hastings, foul villain, and I'm here to disrupt your evil 
plot, rescue your captives and maybe save the universe, depending on 
how forward-thinking your evil plot is.  Now, stand aside and... hey, 
you guys look familiar."
      "We should," said the olive-jumpsuit-clad woman.  "I'm Gham, and 
this is Jerriphrrt.  We met on Freedonia 5 a few years ago, remember?"
      "I'm Major Lalan," said the third captive, the unarmed 
Goornashkan.  "We have not met."
      "And your companion is Kissy Hitowers," said the armed 
Goornashkan.  "How're you holding up?"
      Kissy screamed.  The Goornashkan nodded.
      "About how I thought."
      "Hey," said Ronald, "back to your evil plot a moment, and how 
I'm going to disrupt it."
      The Goornashkan shrugged and handed his gun to Gham, who did not 
look in the slightest surprised to receive it.  Then he reached back 
behind his neck.  Ronald heard an unzipping sound, and was startled 
to see the Goornashkan's whole body fall away...
      ...to reveal Toni Williams, this time in a fully-together 
electric blue jumpsuit.
      "As for my evil plot," said Toni, "it looks like you've already 
disrupted that.  The Nega-Transporter is down, right?"
      "Erk," said Ronald.  "Sort of."
      "Needlewarp," Toni said.  "Team E must have reached their master 
by now.  I'd been hoping... well, never mind that.  We'll have to do 
something else."
      "Like what?" Kissy asked.
      "Follow their original plan," said Toni, pointing to Jerriphrrt and Gham.
      "Get to Zeta Ricola Beta," said Jerriphrrt.
      "Save the universe," added Gham.
      "In roughly that order," Toni finished.
      "Ah, right," said Ronald.  "Well, we're in."
      "Damn right you are," said Toni.  "So, you've probably been 
wondering what I've been doing ever since I allowed myself to be 
captured by Team E...."

                                      -~-_-

((Zeta Ricola Beta))

      To Bagelos, the Sacred Temple of the Ancestors did not look all 
that sacred.  Nor did it look particularly templish.  Had he seen it 
on another world, he would have thought a microscopic black hole had 
appeared in a trailer park, only to disappear once all the trailers 
crashed together into a roughly pyramidical shape.
      The high-powered lights from the surrounding security towers 
ensured that Bagelos got a good look.  It also ensured, he realized, 
that all the security personnel in those security towers got a good 
look at him.  But he did not care.  Bagelos was more than ready to 
trade his liberty for safety from the cosmic-powered menace that 
hounded his every step.
      (Well, most every step.  At times, the cosmic-powered menace in 
question became distracted by falling leaves, squirrels, and, on one 
occasion, a tree shaped like Stuart Margolin.)
      But where was Quooth?  Had phe already been captured?
      That question was immediately answered when he spotted Quooth, 
who stood at the main entrance to the Sacred Temple (next to the sign 
that read "Sacred Temple of the Ancestors / The Ancestors want 
Spiritual Fruit, not Religious Nuts / Pancake Breakfast Thursday 
Night 7 pm / Bingo to Follow").  The Wzaxtil waved to him in a far 
too cheerful manner.  Not until he crossed the separating distance 
did it occur to him that there was reason to be cheerful: he had not 
been shot at by anything as he approached.
      "Friend Bagelos!" Quooth exclaimed.  "I was concerned when we 
became separated during our exercise!"
      "Exercise?" Bagelos asked.  "I, Bagelos, thought we were running 
for our lives!"
      Quooth gestured to the entrance.  "I got up to this far last 
time before the soldier monks showed up.  Shall we go inside and see 
what is there?"
      "Right," said Bagelos.  "But... there must be guards.  Where are--"
      The sign took that moment to explode.  Bagelos and Quooth tried 
to hide behind one another, and only succeeded in falling to the 
ground.
      When Bagelos looked up, he saw Zark Flyby stalking towards them, 
a murderous umber light emanating from his eyes, nostrils, mouth, 
ears, pores, and probably other orifices he really did not want to 
think about.  Behind Zark was the flaming wreckage of the forest 
through which Bagelos had passed.
      Which meant the guards had seen the carnage, and did something 
surprisingly sensible, for guards: they got the hell out of the 
general vicinity.
      Bagelos had the immediate urge to be just as sensible, but there 
was only one direction to flee: into the Temple.
      Quooth opened the door, and they went in.
      If the exterior of the Temple looked like something from a 
bizarre merger of Old Egypt and Old Florida, the interior looked more 
properly templish.  Before Bagelos's eyes was a cavernous chamber, 
lit by hundreds of torches.  It appeared mostly empty, though 
well-maintained -- no visible dust, and the distinct lemony scent of 
a leading floor wax in the air.  He could just make out what looked 
like stacks of tables against the far wall, along with several racks 
of folding chairs.
      No Ancestors, though.  Bagelos gathered that they were not the 
hang-out-in-the-main-hall-and-complain-about-the-younger-generation 
types.
      "Friend Bagelos," Quooth said.  Something in phis tone was 
unusually solemn.  "We are treading upon sacred ground.  Can you not 
tell?"
      Bagelos nodded.  He had never been a spiritual man, and in fact 
was someone who took the maxim about there being no atheists in 
foxholes as a warning to stay as far as possible from foxholes, but 
there was definitely something of the old skin-prickling, 
hair-standing-up-on-end, nerve-tingling goings-on in the air.
      "I, Bagelos, can tell," he answered.  "Best to be about our 
business and then gone, Quooth.  Once I understand what that business 
is."
      "You do not know?" Quooth asked.  "Did your grandfather not tell 
you all about his voyage to this place?"
      "Almost everything," Bagelos replied.  "Baconos told he of a 
ceremony he went through in this place.  It was to make it possible 
for him to manipulate the Proofs without having his brain turned into 
oatmeal."
      "Would he not require the assistance of the holy men of this place?"
      "I would have thought so.  But he never mentioned such 
assistance, which leads me to think it was something that he could 
have done on his own.  But what that is..."
      He looked around again, trying to see things he had missed 
before.  Doors leading to the kitchen, doors to the lavatorial 
facilities, doors to offices and storage rooms and the basement.  A 
simple altar at the far end of the room.  A bingo hopper in an open 
supply closet.  Some paper-mache pictures that represented Ancestors, 
insofar as he could tell.
      But no large, shadowy passageways with signs that read 'This way 
to the cool occult kibble that will make you heap powerful, 'nuff 
said.'  Those tended to never be around when he needed them.
      "Perhaps we should have not come here," said Bagelos.  "Perhaps 
I, Bagelos, was not meant for--"
      At that moment, the door of the Temple's main entrance came 
flying by, riding an explosive wave.  The sound of the explosion 
struck at the same time.
      By the time Bagelos felt his insides settle and was able to 
extract himself from a rack of folding chairs, and by the time Quooth 
was able to find phis way out of the kitchen, the cause of the 
explosion made his way to where they were.
      "Er, Zark," said Bagelos, keenly aware that this was one of 
those foxhole moments he generally tried to avoid.  "Nice night, is 
it not?"
      "Kill," Zark replied.  Umber light poured out of him as he 
raised his arms, ready to launch a blast that Bagelos was sure would 
do exactly as Zark said.  He wanted to run, but being thrown into the 
chairs had caused wicked pain to shoot through his lower back and 
legs.  The best he could manage was a spirited hobble.
      "Well met, friend Zark!" Quooth said.  "We are treading on 
sacred ground, can you not tell?"
      Zark fired a blast of cosmic destructiveness dead on at Bagelos 
and Quooth.  Bagelos flinched, felt the wave hit him--
      --and pass.  He kept his eyes shut, sure that when he opened 
them he would see either the Pearly Gates, or, more than likely, the 
brimstone-scented corridors of a ship-of-the-line in Hell's Armada. 
Needlewarping foxholes, he thought.
      Finally, he opened his eyes and saw Zark Flyby, still standing 
before him.  Only now he lacked the umber light and looked somewhat 
confused.
      "Kill?" Zark asked, looking at his hands.
      "Looks like someone cut off your power supply," said Bagelos. 
"Too bad.  Best to go home, eh?"
      Zark looked up, and Bagelos realized that, even without the 
power cosmic, Zark could still kill with his hands.
      That was when the ghost appeared.  It was ghostly in the classic 
manner, being partially transparent, green-tinted and luminous, and 
stood next to Zark as if it had been accompanying him all along. 
Which, perhaps, it had.
      It was a ghost that Bagelos recognized.
      "Grampa?"
      "Bagelos," the ghost of Baconos replied.  "Welcome to the Sacred 
Temple.  You have done as I hoped."
      "Er," said Bagelos.  "What?"
      "What?" Quooth asked.
      "Kill?" added Zark, who was still looking at his hands.
      "You heard me," Baconos replied.  "Now come on, you've dawdled 
away almost all the time.  Things are going to happen very fast now, 
and I don't have time to explain them like I should.  You've got to 
undergo the ritual I talked about."
      "Oh, right," said Bagelos.  He should have known, he thought, 
that it would come down to something like this.  "What is it?"
      More ghosts appeared.  Bagelos recognized none of them, though 
he observed they all wore robes identical to the monks he had earlier 
escaped from.  These, he realized, were the Ancestors.  They did not 
look particularly happy to see him.
      "You will learn soon enough," Baconos said.  "But be warned: 
there is a good chance you will lose."
      "And if he loses?" Quooth asked.  Bagelos noticed phis feelers 
were on phis Holy Harmonica, and wondered what the Wzaxtil would do 
if phe got an answer phe disliked.
      Baconos did not, however, answer.  He merely smirked and looked 
at Bagelos.
      "I, Bagelos, accept the challenge," said Bagelos.  "Now, can I, 
Bagelos, sit down?  My back is killing me."

                                      -~-_-

((Alpha Rio VI, the Planet of Casinos))

      The last time Sajon had been in a back office of one of Vino the 
Three-Headed Yak's casinos, it had been so that Vino could talk with 
Sajon about the perils of trying to leave the planet.  Vino, a strong 
believer in backing up his words with action, said few actual words 
in his talk, but had his henchyaks make up for it with a lot of 
action.  It had the desired effect: Sajon vowed never to try to 
escape again, once surgeons succeeded in extracting the alfalfa from 
his windpipe.
      A few months later, one of Vino's technicians hooked up a 
teleporter to a slot machine, and Sajon's bioengineered Ultraluck 
power (which worked only on Alpha Rio VI) immediately set it off. 
Sajon wound up on Freedonia 5, the technician (he later learned from 
the 'U! True Universe Story' on Vino) wound up on Kelfestrus, the 
Planet of Yak-Devouring Weevils, and the slot machine appeared on 
Broadway, where it became an immediate star until it had an 
unfortunate 'accident' wherein Nathan Lane shot it with a 
blunderbuss.  And through all the years that followed, and all his 
ineffectual attempts at being a Space Hero that followed, Sajon knew 
he would someday be drawn back to his homeworld.  It was, as Vino 
would say, a sure bet.
      This time, the back office of one of Vino's casinos was less 
threatening, because Vino the Three-Headed Yak was not present.  It 
was the office of Kalvin Certain, a mid-level executive in charge of 
the House of Merriment and Extortion, the particular casino he was 
in.  He was in this office because he, along with Shadebeam Moroboshi 
and Slithis, were attempting to figure out why the heck the ABPSARI 
(which had mysteriously vanished after teleporting him and his 
companions to this world) had manipulated them to this point, and 
what was the Breaking of the Fast at the Dawn of the Universe, and 
what Kalvin knew about it.  At least, Sajon thought that was what it 
was about.  It was either that or an excuse to sponge up free drinks.
      A number of Typical Luck Generators were strapped to Sajon's 
body.  They were muting his Ultraluck power.  Sajon wished he knew 
how much battery life they had left.  They were also itchy as hell.
      "...and that is when I decided to recruit Team E," Kalvin said, 
continuing what had been a long monologue about legends concerning 
the Breaking of the Fast at the Dawn of the Universe, and how he had 
gotten roped in by Sark Flyby to track down and capture his son, Zark 
Flyby.  "Because Sark and his crew on Zeta Ricola Beta wants the 
cosmic showdown, beats me why, cosmic showdowns are something to 
avoid, I would think, but he tasked me with tracking down Shoon-Ma 
the Ur-Bagel, you know, drag him out of hiding to get the show on the 
road.  And I'm thinking, bugger that.  I need some disposable 
henchmen, because I know whoever goes after Shoon-Ma is dead, no 
mistake.  I found some within my modest budget range on Earth at a 
sci-fi convention..."
      As Kalvin continued to ramble, Sajon looked at one of the 
henchmen in question.  He had entered the room at a rather high 
velocity not too long ago, knocking over Kalvin and causing a 
considerable bit of chaos.  Two other members of Team E entered the 
room and tried to explain what happened, but for some reason they 
could not speak.  Kalvin noted they had been eating messy jelly 
donuts (the jelly being the source of their verbal immobilization) 
and summarily dismissed them.  He kept the one that had knocked him 
down in the office, so as to dress him down later.
      There was something oddly familiar about that particular 
henchman.  Sajon could have sworn he had seen the young man before.
      "...and that's when I learn that Toni Williams is investigating 
my operation on Dirk's Space Swap-o-Rama and Grill," Kalvin said. 
"While normally I would have welcomed her help, I didn't want Vino 
finding out she was nosing around a perfectly legitimate pudding 
price-inflation operation, the action of which Vino was not getting 
his cut of, you know how it is.  So I had them capture her, just 
temporarily, until I'd worked out how to get to Zeta Ricola Beta 
without setting off alarms, that is, causing their security forces to 
come after me with large guns..."
      Sajon glanced at Shadebeam.  She was fidgeting in her seat. 
Several times she had lit a cigarette, and lifted it as far as her 
lips before the office's anti-smoking system lasered it out of her 
hands.  She looked like she wanted to smack Kalvin and tell him to 
get a grip.  Sajon was familiar with the look.  Over the years, many 
had directed such a thing at him.
      Next to her sat Slithis.  Slithis seemed hypnotized by Kalvin's 
storytelling, which made no sense to Sajon.  True, Kalvin Certain had 
a strong reputation for suaveness and glib talking, but it was 
nowhere apparent in the rambling diatribe to which they were being 
treated.  Something was upsetting his usually cool nerves.
      "...which is why I think this vision thing you were telling me 
about could be the key," Kalvin continued, referring to the 
hallucinations Shadebeam and Slithis had experienced in their early 
times as Renegade Anarchists, which Sajon only knew about because 
they had talked about them while they thought he was asleep.  "I 
mean, there's any number of ways I can sneak onto Zeta Ricola Beta, 
if I put my mind to it, but what would I do when I got there?  If the 
cosmic showdown between Sark's Chosen One and Shoon-Ma's Champion 
happens, that's it for universal stability.  Galaxies blowing up, 
giant space amoebas eating entire civilizations, time and space 
dissolving into metaphysical pudding, even more Hilton sisters 
spontaneously appearing and getting their own reality shows... the 
havoc would be endless!"
      "Well," said Shadebeam, who had given up on the whole cigarette 
thing, and had apparently followed Kalvin's semi-coherent speech, 
"you said something I've been thinking about myself, how there must 
have been something in those hallucinations Slith and I had that's 
the key to averting all this.  But I've been over it again and again, 
and I'll be damned if I can see--"
      "Can't you just have another one?" Kalvin asked.
      "Another what?" Slithis asked.
      "Another hallucination!" Kalvin exclaimed.  "However you did it before."
      Sajon judged from the surprised looks on the faces of both 
Shadebeam and Sajon that the idea had not occurred to either before. 
He looked at the Team E henchman, and was surprised to see he was 
giving Kalvin a thoughtful look.  Thoughtfulness, Sajon noted, was 
not a typical henchmanlike trait.  Who was he, really?
      "Er," Sajon said.  Kalvin looked at him, as if surprised he was 
still in the room.
      "What?" Kalvin asked.  "You have an idea?"
      There was a wild look in Kalvin's eyes.  Sajon decided to take a chance.
      "Vino knows," said Sajon.  "Doesn't he?"
      Kalvin jumped as if gerbils had crawled into his shoes and taken 
two chomps.  He looked around the office and wiped sweat from his 
brow.
      "What makes you ask?" he squeaked.
      "You see a chance of getting a piece of universal power," said 
Sajon.  "Everything you've been waiting for all your life, I bet. 
And you probably thought you could cut Vino out of it, like you did 
with the pudding price-inflation scheme, right?"
      Kalvin said nothing, though his rate of sweating increased.
      "I think you've got something," said Shadebeam.  "I was 
wondering what was so whacked about this deal."
      "You mean," said Slithis, his hypnotized look vanishing as 
horror entered his eyes, "the drinks aren't free?"
      "Okay!" Kalvin yelled.  "So my motives are less than pure!  I 
wasn't kidding about the danger facing the universe if this cosmic 
confrontation thing happens!  And I really do think the only way 
we're going to figure out how to stop it is for you to have another 
vision--"
      "Never mind that," Shadebeam snapped.  "Why are you so nervous? 
Is Vino on his way here?"
      "Vino would not accompany the attack," said Sajon.  "But he 
would make sure you knew something was coming, right?"
      "I've been getting reports from the security system," said 
Kalvin.  "Assassin yaks have surrounded the admin wing of this 
casino.  They aren't coming up, but they've sealed off all 
ground-level exits.  We're sort of... trapped."
      "What about the Nega-Transporter thing?" Slithis asked.  "The 
one you used to abduct Zark, and send him and Sark back to Zeta 
Ricola Beta?"
      "They've cut off power to the room it's in," said Kalvin.
      "So they've got us," said the velour-shirted henchman at the 
door.  Kalvin, Sajon, Slithis, and Shadebeam all looked at him, 
startled that he had a speaking role in this.  "Oh, sorry.  I'm 
Norman Sassafras.  Not a henchman, more of a prisoner, really.  I 
think he was going to interrogate me."
      Norman pointed at Kalvin, who scowled, but did not deny the charge.
      "Yeah, they've got us," said Shadebeam, "but why aren't they 
coming up to collect us?"
      Just then, the office shook.
      "Or do I want to know the answer to that?" Shadebeam added.
      The office shook again.  Then, the entire wall on the far side 
of Kalvin's office was savagely ripped away, revealing the garish, 
neon-lit night sky of Alpha Rio VI, and the heads of several 
something Sajon recognized.  He felt his blood run cold.
      "Wayne Newton?" asked Slithis.
      "Several Wayne Newtons," said Shadebeam.
      "The top half looks like him..." Norman started.  He did not 
finish, because it was not the sort of sentence a man could finish 
while staying sane.
      Three climbed into the office.  From the waist up, they bore a 
fiendishly clever resemblance to the universally beloved lounge 
singer, down to the fine details of dark brown hair helmets atop 
bulbous smiling heads and a torso wrapped in a tailor-fit suit that 
was only incidentally bristling with micro-weaponry.  From the waist 
down, they had six silver, pincer-like legs that allowed them to 
climb walls, rip through brick and metal, and quite possibly do fine 
carving work on a roast ham.  Sajon thought it a pity there were not 
any roast hams about, as they might have made for nice distractions, 
or at least a decent last meal.
      "The Arachno-Newtons," Kalvin wailed.  "We are *so* dead."
      "Arach... arachno-WHAT?" asked Norman.
      Sajon did not answer.  The Arachno-Newtons were priming their 
Aural Assault cannons.  He heard the opening strains of 'Red Roses 
for a Blue Lady' building up, and knew he had only seconds to act.
      With one swift move, he unstrapped all his Typical Luck 
Generators and tossed them past the Arachno-Newtons and out of the 
office.
      "What are you doing?" Kalvin asked.  "Arachno-Newtons are bad 
enough without you skewing the forces of probability."
      "We have to make something happen," Shadebeam opined, as she, 
Slithis, and Norman backed away.
      At that moment, the long-missing ABPSARI materialized from thin 
air and landed on Sajon's head, knocking him out.

WILL THE ARACHNO-NEWTONS DESTROY OUR HEROES WITH THE NIGH-UNSTOPPABLE 
FORCE OF THEIR SONG REPORTOIRE?
WILL SHADEBEAM AND SLITHIS, ALWAYS ASSUMING THEY SURVIVE THIS, GO 
ABOUT HAVING ANOTHER HALLUCINATON?
WON'T THEY HAVE TO GET STONED FIRST?
WON'T I HAVE TO GET STONED FIRST?
SHOULDN'T I ASK SOMETHING ABOUT THE OTHER TWO SCENES?
DOES ANYONE REMEMBER THE LAST TWO SCENES?

Stuff keeps on happening in the next exciting episode of... THE 
HILTON SISTERS CONQUER THE UNIVERSE!
=========================================================================
Date:         Sat Feb 11 22:29:56 2006
From:         thc2005 at cheek.org (Troy H. Cheek)
To:           superguy at lists.eyrie.org
Subject:      SF: HMS Golden Lance #32 - A Plethora of Villains

SF: HMS Golden Lance #32 - A Plethora of Villains

First, the cast...

Time Agent 357 - Mortal (but extremely hard to kill) offspring
of immortal parents, Time Agent 357 is perhaps the greatest Time
Agent ever known, notwithstanding the fact that most of his
greatest adventures occurred after he decided to retire.  Known
throughout the galaxy as a Champion of Truth, Justice, and the
Ability to Consume Large Amounts of Alcohol in a Single Sitting.
Recently rescued from limbo.

Omegas - God-like alien, or alien-like god, Omegas has served the
forces of Heaven, Hell(tm), and mostly himself.  Currently mostly
depowered and not quite the cosmic-level threat he perceives
himself to be, he is still quite formidable.  Recently rescued
from the aforementioned limbo.

Diana Dark - Sweet, innocent girl from the Earth city Chicago,
Diana is a former partner (professional) of missing Time Agent 386
and current partner (romantic) to Time Agent 357.  Although many
are captivated by her beauty, Diana is more than just a pretty face.
She's also a huge set of knockers, legs that won't quit, and an ass
that you can bounce a quarter off of.  She is unfortunately quite
devoted to Time Agent 357, not that any of us would have a chance
with her, anyway.  Sigh.

Doctor Bing Von Spleen - The galaxy's foremost Spamologist (because
he personally killed the other threemost), Spleen invented the
Automatic Beet Peeler and Sub-Atomic Re-integrator technology that
powers most advanced technology found in the universe today.  He
also invented the ABPSAR Mark II, or ABPSARII, which everyone is
trying to recover.  Doctor Spleen was once a professor at a respected
university, where he enjoyed sex, beer, recreational drugs, and
having a good time irresponsibly, proving that he was actually a
college student trapped in a professor's body.

Ralph the Giant Ralph the Giant Space Weasel of Anthrax V - Though
Ralph enjoys a fearsome reputation, he is actually a friendly,
easy-going weaseloid from Leibowitz IV and an accomplished ukulele
player in his own right.

VAL 9000 - Val is a hyper-advanced synthetic intelligence who
controls the HMS Golden Lance for which this serial is named.

Valerie McSteel - This knockout is a NEKKID Series 69 battle android
currently controlled by a backup copy of the VAL 9000 operating system.

Dijon Mu'tard - Dijon is a medium-sized, human-looking male being
who tends to wear expensive but peculiar clothing and hangs out with
sentient black holes which he treats as pets.  He recently had the
job of chief flunky to renegade Time Agent Greez Hyperiok and assisted
him in stealing the ABPSARII.  Unhappy with the job Greez was doing,
Dijon promoted himself over Greez's rapidly cooling corpse.

And now, on SFSTORY...

Dijon Mu'tard stood on the bridge of the S.S. You Are About To Die,
which looked to be made of modeling clay and pipe cleaners and
designed by a small child.  This belied the fact that the ship was
quite possibly the most powerful destructive force ever known to
sentient life.  Or, at the very least, the most destructive force
known to Dijon Mu'tard, who used to hang around with black holes and
singularities, so he had some idea of what he spoke.

Dijon was wearing an orange jumpsuit with gold trim, accented by a
silver belt and mauve shoes.  This was one of his more subdued outfits.
He was currently looking entirely too pleased with himself considering
the forces that were arrayed against him.

The HMS Golden Lance, actually a pleasant shade of light blue, powered
toward him.  The time cruiser HMS Dentless flew in tight formation.
Behind them were nine other Time Police ships of varying abilities,
recently arrived from Time Central.  Dijon was not familiar with their
designs, but had no doubts that they were quite formidable.

"I have no doubt that these ships are quite formidable," Dijon said.
"On the other hand, so is mine."  He punched a few buttons.

"Mine" was incorrect, as the ship legally belonged to Greez Hyperiok.
Of course, as what was left of Hyperiok was currently making its way
through the ship's waste disposal system, that point was moot.

The S.S. You Are About To Die pivoted on an imaginary axis, bringing
secondary weapons systems in line with the approaching ships.  The
first salvo went wide, while the second actually passed between two
ships in the formation.

The third hit one of the smaller ships head-on.

"Bleep!  Bleep!  Bleep!  Bleep!" came over the radio.

"Is that an alarm?" asked Captain David Morgen of the HMS Dentless.

"Actually, I believe that's the pilot of ship #7," answered his first
mate and chief alien flunky, Fim.  "The communications computer rated
his language as inappropriate for this audience."

"You said that linking our shields would render us immune to their
weapons!"

"I said that linking our shields (i)might(/i) render (i)some(/i)
additional protection and allow (i)some(i) of us a (i)small(/i)
chance of survival."

"Whatever!" shouted Morgen.  Heroic captains couldn't be bothered
with details.  "Signal the damaged ship to fall back.  As for the
rest of us, full speed ahead!"

As the damaged ship was already in full retreat, Fim did nothing
but sigh and blink all this eyes in sequence.  He had 37 today,
so it took a while.

Dijon fired again, this shot going wide again.  If he was trying
to destroy the approaching ships, he was doing a lousy job.

If he was trying to delay them, on the other hand, he was doing
pretty good.

Onboard the HMS Golden Lance, the tension was so thick that it
could be cut with a knife and served with a nice wine.  This ship
was crewed by none other than the legendary Time Agent 357, his
girlfriend and co-pilot Diana Dark of Earth, the renegade immortal
known simply as Omegas, scientific bad boy Doctor Bing Von Spleen,
and Ralph the Giant Space Weasel of Anthrax V.  The shipboard
intelligence VAL 9000 and her robotic avatar Valerie were busy
elsewhere.  See previous issues for their backstories.

"Missed again!" shouted Omegas, cackling maniacally.

"Adjusting course another 5 degrees to port," Diana Dark reported
to 357.  "Does Omegas realize we're being herded?"

"Probably not," answered 357.  "But toward what?  Sensors show
nothing in this area of space."

Ralph, peering myopically at his scanners, muttered "Too much nothing."

"The black hole!" everyone shouted at once.

357 activated the communications systems.  "Break formation!  Plan
Theta!  Plan Theta!"

A black hole is a dead star which has collapsed under its own weight
until its gravitational force is so strong that nothing, not even
light, can escape.  They don't move, at least not quickly.  Instead,
they pull things toward them.  Although some of their victims may
attribute them with evil intent, they are actually simply natural
phenomenon with no intentions whatsoever.

Tell that to the black hole currently bearing down on our heroes with
a malevolent gleam in its non-existent eyes.

Her name is Mabel.  She is a miniature, intelligent, hypergravitic
singularity.  She has but one purpose:  destroy her master's enemies.

The Time Police control the eternal forces of time itself, but even
they respect the power of a black hole.  Their Realspace(tm) drives,
though capable of accelerating to within a gnat's whisker of the speed
of light, are still incapable of pulling them away.  Their shields,
the heavier of which can shed the heat of an exploding nova, are
useless in a mega-gravity field.  Their synthetic gravity plates can
protect the crews when landing on a neutron star, but can't keep them
from turning into strawberry jam on toast inside a black hole.

Dijon chuckled as the approaching ships scattered in disarray.

No, not disarray.  The ships had actually simply changed to a wider
formation.  And they were suddenly powering towards the black hole,
closing the distance to the approaching black hole in seconds.

"Mabel!  Watch out!  It's a..."

The Time Police may not have any control over gravity, but they're
experts at temporal and spacial manipulation.  Beams of energy
sprang from the ten ships, creating a lattice of temporal flux.
Inside, a portal opened.

A time portal.

It is claimed by some physicists that black holes are to be
responsible for the end of our universe.  All matter will
eventually find itself falling down one or another.  Their
ever-increasing gravity will eventually pull them together,
dragging space along with it.  In the end, all that will be left
of the universe is one giant black hole.  An interesting theory.
One that might possibly be true, however unlikely.

But if it is possible, however unlikely, then somewhere in
multiverse it must have actually happened.  If it happened, the
Time Police know about it.

And can open a portal to take you there.

Little Mabel never knew what hit her.  Never knew that anything
(b)had(/b) hit her.  The extreme gravity warped time around her.
 From her point of view, even now she is still bearing down on her
victims.  Any second now.  Any second.

Any second.

 From the view of the Time Police ships, she was sucked inside the
giant black hole in an instant.  An instant later, they shut down
the portal.  The power of the giant black hole was already
disrupting space and time.  The Time Police ships were on the
fringes, heavily shielded against just this type of power, and
shrugged it off without a moment's notice.

The S.S. You Are About To Die, on the other hand, had shielding
which was much more powerful but not nearly so specific, and was
directly in the patch of the disruptions.

Dijon staggered to his feet.  How dare they!  He began tearing
through debris, looking for his ABPSARII.  Once he found that...

He did not even look up when heard the incoming transmission.
"Give it up, Dijon!" 357 demanded.

Dijon paused long enough to make a rude hand gesture toward the
viewscreen.  That was when he noticed that it wasn't on.  He looked
around and noticed that he was surrounded by a cadre of heroes.
Time Agent 357.  Diana Dark.  Omegas.  Doctor Bing Von Spleen.
Ralph the Giant Space Weasel of Anthrax V.  Valerie McSteel.  Even
the HMS Golden Lance itself had somehow warped itself into the upper
command deck.

"ulp!" he gulped.

Time Agent 357 and the others readied various sidearms and other
weapons.  "Give it up, Dijon!" 357 repeated.

Dijon ignored him.  He'd just found an archaic computer keyboard.
The current form of the ABPSARII.  "Stand back, all of you!  One
wrong move and you're all dead!"

And he might have done it, too, if not for the mysterious portal
opening behind him.

"Look out behind you, Dijon!" shouted Ralph helpfully.

"Go back to preening your whiskers, rodent!  I won't be fooled by
so simple a YEARGHHHHHH!"

Dijon looked down at the metal blade extending from his chest.

"This isn't possible," he muttered softly.  "I have a contract for
three more episodes this season..."  The keyboard clattered quietly
as he dropped it.  His own dead body hitting the deck plates made
scarcely more noise.

"Only in flashbacks, Dijon!" predicted the form behind him which
had just stepped out of the fading mysterious portal.  "It is time
that I came to the forefront.  Let these pitiful heroes gaze upon
the might of their nemesis!"

The might of their nemesis appeared to be a little old lady.

357 did a spit take.  "Why, it's Priscilla Mussbonnet, my old
secretary!"

Diana gave him a sideways look.  "Your old secretary was a galactic
overlord?"

"Well, she was an (i)evil(/i) secretary.  Tried to take over Time
Central and all of the multiverse.  She also gave birth to..."

"My dear son, Sylvester Mussbonnet.  Since my poor Stanley died,
my son is all I've had to remember him by.  I remember Stanley lay
there dying, gasping for breath, his hands fluttering helplessly
around that pillow I was holding over his face, and I promised him
that I would take good care of his son.  Well, Stanley thought
Sylvester was his son.  But now you've ruined all that by allowing
Sylvester to be killed!"

"Did we kill anybody named Sylvester today?" Omegas asked.

Doctor Spleen knew the answer.  "I adventured with him for a while,
so I learned his real name.  You knew him better as Greez Hyperiok."

"Hyperiok!" Diana shouted.  "The renegade Time Agent who originally
stole the ABPSARII and set this storyline into motion?"

"The same," confirmed 357.  "Nice exposition."

"My best asset," she replied, jiggling a couple of her other best
assets at him.

This distraction unfortunately gave Priscilla time to grab the
ABPSARII.  "Hah!  Jiggle all you want, you little hussy!  This
device will allow me to do anything.  I'll take over the universe.
I'll raise my son from the dead.  I'll be unstoppable!"

"Oh, never say that," warned Ralph, still in helpful mode.

"Somebody shut him up," Omegas grumbled.

"I'll say it again.  I'm unstoppable!  Nothing can stop me now!"

She might have been right, technically speaking.  The energy bolt
which connected to the side of her head didn't actually stop her.
Instead, it sent her cartwheeling across the room.  The structural
support she encountered there was also insufficient to actually
stop her.

Collision with the support was, however, quite sufficent to end her.

Another mysterious portal had formed.  A cloaked figure stepped
through.  The figure had Evil Galactic Overload written all over
it.  When it spoke, fiery letters burned themselves into the air.

I AM THE TRUE MASTER.  IT IS I WHO SET THESE EVENTS INTO MOTION.
IT IS I WHO WILL TAKE THE ABPSARII.  IT IS I WHO SHALL RULE ALL
OF CREATION.

357 stepped between the figure and the ABPSARII.  "And who are you?"

IT IS TIME TO REVEAL MYSELF.

The figure pulled back the hood of its cloak.  Everyone present
was dumbfounded.  Diana was the first to recover her voice.  "357!
It's you!"

Is it really 357?
What will this revelation mean for our heroes?
What is the ground speed of an unladen swallow?

For the answers to these, or possibly other, questions, check back
next month for another exciting episode of...  SFSTORY!

Copyright 2006 by Troy H. Cheek troy2005 at cheek.org http://www.cheek.org/
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