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Sfstory Log 114

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Date:         Sun May 28 13:05:00 2006
From:         thc2005 at cheek.org (Troy H. Cheek)
To:           superguy at lists.eyrie.org
Subject:      SF: HMS Golden Lance #37 - Alpha and Omegas

SF: HMS Golden Lance #37 - Alpha and Omegas

The HMS Golden Lance settled gently on a well-kept lawn, somehow managing to 
squeeze its landing gear between the white picket fences. A hatch opened and a 
group of people climbed out. They were, in no particular order, Time Agent 357 
(Champion of Truth, Justice, and the Ability to Consume Large Amounts of Alcohol 
in a Single Sitting), Diana Dark (sweet, innocent girl from Chicago, or at least 
as sweet and innocent as any girl from Chicago can be), 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), Doctor Bing Von Spleen 
(the galaxy's foremost Spamological Engineer because he personally killed the 
other threemost), Omegas (former streetwise servant of Heaven), and Valerie 
McSteel (robotic avatar of the VAL 9000 computer which was the heart, soul, and 
lower intestine of the HMS Golden Lance for which this serial is named).

Also with them was 357's mother Mildred. "So, 357, will you and your friends be 
staying long this time? I think I have space in the guest rooms for everyone."

"Not this time, Mom," 357 answered. "We've got a few minor plot points to wrap 
up before we can call this adventure finished. In fact, we need to be going now. 
Load up, everybody!"

Grumbling that they had just unloaded, the group made their goodbyes to Mildred.

"Remember to write," Mildred chided 357. "I do worry so when you're gone."

"Don't worry, Mother. I may venture far and wide, but I will always find my way 
back home." With that, he entered the HMS Golden Lance and warped away.

A short time later, in a universe far, far away, the HMS Golden Lance 
materialized out of Netherspace into normal space. In the ship's dining area, 
the wrap party was in full swing. Evil had been defeated. The ABPSARII had been 
recovered. Large amounts of beer were being consumed, streamers were being hung, 
music was being played, food was being eaten, and passive verb tenses were being 
overused.

Ralph was strumming his ukulele like he'd never strummed one before. Diana 
climbed on top of a table and began a dance which would have been illegal on her 
home planet. 357 listened to Doctor Bing Von Spleen tell the story of how he'd 
saved a planet that one time by recycling his own bodily waste. It was the third 
such telling of said story, but 357 didn't mind. Valerie McSteel had adjusted 
her internal processes and had the android equivalent of a good buzz. Even 
Omegas seemed to be enjoying himself, sticking in close to the crowd instead of 
staggering off to drink on his own as he was wont to do.

Everything was going so well that Time Agent 357 almost didn't notice when 
Omegas, who had been drifting aimlessly through the group, suddenly shoved 
Doctor Spleen aside and grabbed something off the table behind him.

"Look out!" 357 shouted. "Omegas has the ABPSARII!"

Omegas. No one knew the origin of Omegas. He appeared to be a male humanoid of 
unknown species, but hinted that he was much more. Most knew he had once been a 
servant of Heaven, yet he was not mentioned in the classical literature. As a 
servant of Heaven, he commanded awesome powers. Back then, if one wanted to list 
the Top Ten Most Powerful Beings in all of Creation, one would have to put 
Omegas way up there. But his powers had since been stripped, drained, taken, 
given, and duplicated many times. No matter how hard and how many times he had 
tried, he had never been able to regain his former power levels. He just didn't 
have the means.

Until now.

ABPSARII stands for Automatic Beet Peeler and Sub-Atomic Re-integrator Mark II. 
Created by Doctor Bing Von Spleen, the original ABPSARI was designed to... Well, 
even Spleen doesn't remember anymore. But he discovered, thanks to sabotage by 
rival scientist and hot piece of tail Rader Vogel, that when fueled by SPAM 
(Sickening, Putrid, Artificial Meat) the ABPSARI could alter reality at the most 
basic levels. SPAM-powered interdimensional, time-travelling ships soon became 
readily available. Entire new industries sprung up overnight. Nobody could top 
such an invention.

Doctor Bing Von Spleen tried anyway. He combined his ABPSARI with an advanced 
search engine and the computer processing power of a small planet. The resulting 
ABPSARII (note the II) could take a request for any place, person, thing, or 
condition, then search all possible alternative universes (alterverses for 
short) and all possible times, find that place, person, whatever, and make it a 
reality for the person who held the ABPSARII.

That's a great deal of power. Power best left in the hands of someone who would 
use it wisely.

Power currently in the hands of Omegas.

Time Agent 357 quickly drew his favorite sidearm from the holster at his side. 
The telechronal displacement pistol fired beams of pure chronatic enery, capable 
of sending individual atoms of a target into the future or past up to 10,000 
years, effectively shredding said target.

Diana Dark did a triple backflip off the table and extended her unbreakable 
staff towards Omegas. She carefully aimed the blow at a (presumed) nerve cluster 
in his (apparently) well-muscled arm.

Valerie McSteel might have been running the operating system of a peaceful time 
exploration vessel, but that didn't change the fact that her hardware was the 
latest and last production model of the famous NEKKID (Networked Electronic 
Killing and Kamikaze Infiltration Device) series 69 battle androids. The 
electron blast from her hand was sufficient to crater a small moon, though she 
had dialed it back just a bit to keep from holing the hull.

The VAL 9000 computer, known to her friends as Val, activated internal defense 
measures.

Doctor Bing Von Spleen and Ralph the Giant Space Weasel of Anthrax V, true to 
their characters, dove for cover. Spleen began a desperate struggle to save all 
the beer. He figured the safest way to transport it would be inside his own 
stomach. Ralph, knowing that he could not affect the battle one way or another, 
settled down to read the newspaper.

Omegas scattered their attacks with a wave of his hand. He had apparently been 
holding back lately, and had already regained a much greater fraction of his 
original power than anyone had suspected. Still, that would not be enough to 
protect him forever from the combined forces arrayed against him.

Omegas didn't need forever. He was a fast typist. Before his protective force 
bubble could batted aside, a new one shimmered into existance, summoned by the 
ABPSARII itself. Omegas cackled maniacally as he continued to type.

=357!= shouted the overhead speakers.

"What?" 357 answered, recognizing the sultry yet annoying voice of the VAL 9000 
computer.

=I'm registering massive energy flows. Omegas is sucking power from the very 
fabric of reality itself. Long before he regains his former Heavenly power 
levels, this whole region of space will be unstable. Omegas may destroy this 
entire alterverse. We have to stop him!=

"Tell me something I don't know!" shouted 357.

"That's not Omegas!" came a voice from under the table.

"What?" 357 dove under the table. Luckily, his fall was broken by Doctor Spleen. 
"Ralph! What are you talking about?"

"I just downloaded the latest news," Ralph explained, rattling the highly 
advanced newsreading technology in his hand, which resembled nothing more than a 
newspaper from 20th century Earth. "It confirms that Omegas is currently in use 
by a different author in a different storyline."

"Could it be an Omegas from the future or past, just as I've encountered Doctor 
Spleen here-" 357 paused to indicate the moaning form of Doctor Bing Von Spleen 
beneath him "-at different points in his life?"

"Omegas is a timeless immortal being. It doesn't work like that for him. Ditto 
on alternate versions from other universes. They're all the same him."

"How did you get to be such an expert on multidimensional manifestations all of 
a sudden?"

"Well, there's this cute little sidebar to the article here..."

357 left Ralph to his mutterings and confronted Omegas with the news. "You're 
not Omegas! Who are you?"

"I am Omegas," said the being claiming to be Omegas. "Or, at least, a part of him."

"You must be Sagemo!" Diana shouted as she rattled her staff off the force 
bubble yet again. "His evil twin!"

"Omegas has an evil twin?" 357 sputtered in disbelief.

"Not exactly. Omegas was at one point stripped of the majority of his powers and 
the evil temptations they caused. Without them, Omegas became weak and 
ineffective, like the 'good' Kirk in that Star Trek episode, while the powers 
and evil formed an identical being who took the name Sagemo. They tried to fight 
it out, but were transported into the heart of a supernova and had to rejoin in 
order to keep from being destroyed."

357 fired another round at the force bubble. "If they rejoined, then why are 
there still two of them?"

"That was only one time of many," Omegas said almost conversationally, pausing 
in his typing. "The two halves were incomplete, but both learned something from 
the experience. Eventually, I learned to split myself into two complete 
semi-powerful halves, like the 'twinning' episode of Farscape. The plan was that 
each half would adventure in the multiverse until he could regain his powers. 
Once that was done, they would rejoin into a being with twice the power of the 
original Omegas. Lather, rinse, repeat. Eventually, I would be the most powerful 
being of all, more powerful than my former bosses, and could overthrow them. 
However, thanks to you and this ABPSARII, I can take a shortcut."

"It'll never work!" 357 exclaimed. "We'll find a way to stop you."

"Oh, I have no doubt that you will," Omegas admitted. "That's why I've been 
programming something very special into the ABPSARII. As your mechanical friends 
have mentioned, reality itself is becoming unstable due to the amount of power 
I'm absorbing into myself. I've shaped that instability into a trap for you. A 
trap that you will never be able to escape!"

Outside the ship, an anomaly grew from nothing to something slightly larger than 
the size of Rhode Island, which exists only so long as people continually 
compare it's size against other things. As it grew, the anomaly changed from 
brightest white to darkest black. Had Doctor Bing Von Spleen had the time to 
look at it, he would have thought that it looked somewhat familiar.

357 did have time to look at it and did think that it looked somewhat familiar. 
He suddenly knew what he had to do. He pulled Diana close for a kiss. Time 
seemed to slow around them as the kiss lingered.

"Wow, what was that for?" Diana said dreamily. "Hey, why has time slowed around us?"

"Standard Time Agent trick," 357 said. "It's an old dramatic convention that 
allows heroes to say goodbye in situations where not enough time actually exists."

"Don't say goodbye, 357. We'll get through this somehow. We always do."

"We will this time, too. Just not together. Goodbye, my love!"

Time Agent 357 shoved Diana Dark aside and slapped a button on his belt buckle. 
As the flow of time returned to normal, he shouted at the ship computer, the VAL 
9000, and launched himself at Omegas. "Val, execute escape plan 9 immediately!"

Compelled by programming directives she could not ignore, the VAL 9000 executed 
the order. In the next few microseconds, sensors and scanners were completely 
burned out as they searched for a safe haven for the crew. Nanoseconds later, 
teleportation crystals were shattered as they attempted to teleport the crew 
twice as far in normal space as had ever been previously attempted. A picosecond 
after that, the main engines overloaded.

Time Agent 357 felt, rather than saw, all his friends teleported to safety. 
Diana Dark, Doctor Bing Von Spleen, Ralph the Giant Space Weasel of Anthrax V, 
and even the android known as Valerie McSteel, were teleported to places unknown 
but assumed safe. As he knew they would, the teleporter circuits fried 
themselves before they could get a lock on him through the force field he'd just 
activated.

Omegas, though by no means in full possession of his former Heavenly power, 
nonetheless sensed the overload in the engines and exerted his will to stop it. 
This took a considerable amount of his attention away from directing the 
ABPSARII on how to best maintain his force bubble.

Intentionally or otherwise, the ABPSARII's force bubble was based on the same 
basic technology as the electrochonatic force field which 357 used. The two 
fields flexed and partially merged when they met. The sources of both fields 
realized that this was a bad thing and adjusted themselves to rectify the 
situation. The two fields repelled each other and snapped back to their former 
selves with a smack that sounded like twin guillotines.

"Ha!" shouted Omegas, who had just successfully suppressed, shunted, and 
otherwise dispersed the energy from the overloaded engines which should have 
been turning the ship into something resembling a nova just about then. "You 
should have known that even if you penetrated my force bubble, you couldn't hurt 
me when I'm at this power level!"

"I wasn't trying for you," 357 stated calmly. He held up his hand to show Omegas 
what he was holding.

One half of the ABPSARII, rapidly disintegrating into nothingness.

Omegas stared down at the other half in his own hands, trying to will it not to 
dissolve away. But his will was shaken, his powers in disarray, and his 
underwear bunched up in the back. Faster than it takes to tell, the Automatic 
Beet Peeler and Sub-Atomic Re-integrator Mark II was no more.

With a scream of primal rage, Omegas was on 357, battering his way through the 
force fields. "I may have lost the ABPSARII, but I still have enough power to 
destroy you!"

"That may be," 357 answered as he adjusted his force field to accomodate both 
Omegas and himself. "But you don't have enough power to escape this field before 
this ship is trapped forever."

"What do you mean?"

"That anomaly you just created? When you suppressed all the power to the HMS 
Golden Lance's engines, you also suppressed the thrusters keeping us from being 
sucked into it!"

"Nooooooooo!"

Diana Dark, Doctor Bing Von Spleen, Ralph, and Valerie McSteel materialized in a 
tangled heap on the bridge of the HMS Dentless, Captain David Morgen commanding.

Well, Captain Morgen was doing something. Currently, he was running around in 
circles shouting something about an intruder alert.

Fim, first mate and chief alien flunky, his skin currently a lovely shade of 
pink, blinked the 87 eyes he had that day and greeted them. "Please excuse the 
Captain. You interrupted his nap. We detected your ship and were approaching to 
see if you required assistance."

Diana looked about her. "Hell(tm), yeah, we require assistance. Time Agent 357 
is trapped aboard that ship with a repowered Omegas. We have to get back there 
to help him."

"Too late!" an anonymous Ensign shouted.

On the main viewing screen, the HMS Golden Lance was just disappearing into the 
anomaly.

"After them!" Diana ordered.

The anomaly fizzled out of existence.

"No!" Diana cried. Valerie McSteel caught her as she collapsed.

"Look!" someone shouted.

The anomaly had returned. Something had emerged.

The "something" appeared to be a ship, or rather what one could call a ship if 
one were legally blind and in a charitable mood. It tumbled end over end in a 
stately if somewhat nauseating ballet, sailing quickly away from the anomaly but 
moving more slowly every second. One part of the hull, a cyan-ish blue in color, 
sported the name "HMS Golden Lance." This was perhaps the largest and best 
preserved part of the hull. Another part said "HMS As Yet Unnamed." A third 
could possibly have read "USS Challenger II," if one squinted and looked at it 
sideways. Several other identifiers were simply unreadable, hence they did not 
even qualify as identifiers. It was obvious, even before the reaction chambers 
split, the engines shook loose from their mountings, and the warranties expired, 
that the ship could not escape on its own.

"Close on that ship!" ordered Diana, back on her feet. "Prepare to grapple! 
Ready the teleporters!"

"We can't get a lock," Fim reported. "There's some kind of temporal exclusion 
effect. We literally can't do anything that would affect their passage through 
space/time."

A research vessel appeared, well within the temporal exclusion zone, which towed 
the battered remains of the HMS Golden Lance away from the anomaly. The anomaly 
fizzled out again.

The research vessel and the HMS Golden Lance shimmered out of existence.

As those about the HMS Dentless watched wordlessly, the HMS Golden Lance 
shimmered back into existence and was sucked into the anomaly again, only to be 
rescued once again by the research vessel.

And once again.

And again.

Doctor Bing Von Spleen, who had just finished yet another beer, explained. "It's 
obviously a time loop. Time Agent 357 and Omegas are returning to the anomaly 
from which I rescued them in my research ship. There they will spend 150 years 
together until they forget why they're fighting and combine their efforts to 
escape, starting the whole loop all over again."

Ralph tottered up to Spleen. "Time loop? You mean we're going to have to go 
through that all over again?"

"No, Ralph. We've already been through it and are out. 357 and Omegas, however, 
are stuck inside. They will relive this adventure over and over."

"I refuse to accept that!" Diana shouted. "We're breaking 357 out of that loop!"

"Can't be done," Valerie told her. "And even if we could, that would break 
Omegas out of the loop as well. As powerful as Omegas is, the time loop is the 
only way to hold him."

Spleen patted Diana on the back. "With Omegas, or rather this aspect of Omegas, 
trapped in the loop, he can never become an all-powerful threat to all of 
reality. Time Agent 357 knew this would happen when he had all of us teleported 
to safety. He sacrificed himself to protect all of us."

"But it's not fair! He deserves better than that!"

"Look at it this way," Valerie whispered. "In the loop, he will meet you, get to 
know you, and fall in love with you, over and over again. Doesn't that make it 
sound better?"

"Well, maybe," Diana admitted between sniffles. "But that doesn't mean I'm ever 
going to stop trying to figure out a way to rescue him without releasing 
Omegas!" she added fiercely.

Valerie hugged her tight. "In that case, I'll likewise dedicate my life to 
helping rescue 357. Doctor Spleen, are you with us?"

Spleen belched politely. "I'm too old for adventures in time and space. I'm 
going to try retiring again. But I do have a nice little timeship I can sell you 
cheap..."

"Thanks, we'll take you up on that. How about you, Ralph?"

Ralph buffed his claws against his pelt. "Sorry, but I've been away from home 
too long as it is. But do feel free to visit anytime."

The HMS Dentless blasted away into another universe, leaving behind a simple 
warning buoy.

"Warning! Temporal anomaly! Do not approach!"

"Atencionay! Piso Mojado! Nay trespassiona!"

"Warning! Temporal anomaly! Do not approach!"

Doctor Bing Von Spleen went on to retire and lived a long, productive life. He 
died peacefully in bed at the age of 143 in the arms of a 19 year old redhead, 
shot by her jealous husband. His friends and family turned his funeral into a 
six week long drug-induced orgy. His former professional rival Rader Vogel was 
quoted as saying "He would have wanted it that way. Pass the KY."

Ralph returned home and never ventured into space again except for vacations and 
the occasional zero gravity 2nd honeymoon with his 500 wives. He turned over the 
mantle of Giant Space Weasel of Anthrax V to his oldest son, Ralph Jr.

Captain David Morgen and Fim of the HMS Dentless had many further adventures, 
some of which may some day be chronicled in these pages.

Diana Dark and Valerie McSteel will return in TIME DETECTIVES.

Time Agent 357 never did find his way back home.

THE END
=========================================================================
Date:         Mon Oct 22 11:37:41 2007
From:         swede3000 at earthlink.net (swede3000 at earthlink.net)
To:           superguy at lists.eyrie.org
Subject:      AD/SF: The Sfstory Archives New Home

Just a note to let everyone know that the Sfstory archives are once 
again available after a lengthy absence.  The archives have been made 
web-ready (all html, instead of ftp), and are now in a subdomain of 
their own on my novitious.com site:

http://sfstory.novitious.com

The old site at http://home.earthlink.net/~swede3000/sfstory.html has 
been replaced with pages pointing to this new site.

thanks,
Gary W. Olson,
Your Sfstory Archive Maintainer and Guy Who Will Someday Finish the 
'Universal Solvents' Series, He Promises

P.S. I missed Sfstory's 20th Anniversary by a mere... um... eight 
months.  Or so.  Dohw!
=========================================================================
Date:         Sat Nov 24 08:08:26 2007
From:         swede3000 at earthlink.net (swede3000 at earthlink.net)
To:           superguy at lists.eyrie.org
Subject:      SF: Universal Solvents #19 (1/2)

THE STORY SO FAR:
 
      It all started with Slithis and Gham of the _Universal Solvent_ 
finding his spaceship drifting around, and there were these dead guys 
floating around in it, only they turned out to be zombies, but that was 
later.  And there was this talking bagel on the ship that wanted to go to 
this one planet to take revenge or something, only these other guys came 
around and screwed it up, so he had to go to the Planet of Casinos, and
his ship blew up, but he got rescued, and so did the people on the ship,
and they were threatened by a yak.  And there was something about a 
Chosen One, like that ever works out, and there were these completely 
different people who were trying to get to this other planet past these 
aliens with big eyebrows so they could get transported to the same planet
the talking bagel wanted to get to, where this big police officer guy was
blowing stuff up, and there was this wannabe space villain dude who was
talking to the ghost of his grandfather and...
     Never mind.  I'm just going to start the episode.
 
                                -~-_-
 
                          UNIVERSAL SOLVENTS
                        (a Tale of Sfstory!)
                             Episode 19
                               "Ebony"
                                 by
                            Gary W. Olson,
                 hailing Sfstory's 20th anniversary,
                        only nine months late!
 
                                -~-_-
 
((Zeta Ricola Beta (The Temple of the Ancients)))
 
      The Ancients were watching.  This fact gave Quooth Thiiksi a slight 
chill, which in a human would be expressed by a shiver and the hairs on 
his or her neck standing on end.  Since Quooth was a Wzaxtil, phe 
expressed the slight chill in a way common to Wzaxtils: by twitching phis
antennae incessantly while humming something that sounded to Earth humans
like the theme from 'Petticoat Junction.'  The Ancients, if they 
recognized the tune, gave no indication.
     Bagelos, surrounded by the ghostly Ancients (who looked rather like
the monks that Quooth and Bagelos had spent no small amount of time 
running away from in the past three days, save for the green aura and 
partial transparancy) as he was, gave no indication of being creeped out
or even mildly perturbed.  He appeared focused, to a degree Quooth had 
never witnessed in the failed entrepreneur and would-be space villain he
called a friend, on completing the ceremony the Ancients had given him as
a task.  His hands were sure, his movements quick and sharp.  A few 
times, he let out a murmur of satisfaction, which was soon echoed by the
Ancients.  Whatever he was doing, Quooth could tell he was doing it to 
their satisfaction.
     Quooth was unsure as to why they were satisfied.  To phim, it
appeared that Bagelos was doing nothing except waving his hands around 
in empty air.  Quooth was forced to conclude that either Bagelos was 
doing something on a plane of existence that Quooth could not currently
perceive, or that ghosts are just plain easily amused.
     "Excuse me, friend Bagelos," said Quooth.  "Could you describe what 
you are--"
     "Done!" Bagelos exclaimed.  "Who would like the first one?"
     The murmuring of the Ancients soon became the hubbub of the 
Ancients.  Bagelos made a gesture as if handing something to one of them.
The Ancient looked down at the nothing in his hand, smiled, and walked 
away.  The space villain repeated his gesture again and again, and each 
time, another ghost left.
     "Friend Bagelos!" Quooth repeated.  "What is going on?"
     "Haven't you been paying attention?" Bagelos asked, as he handed 
another imaginary something to another ghost.  "I, Bagelos, was told to 
perform an extraordinary ceremony, one not performed since my 
grandfather, the space villain Baconos, last walked this planet!  It is a
ceremony that shall ensure my ability to manipulate the Proofs that 
control the energy stolen by my grandfather from the Cosmic Pancake that
was the entirety of existence before the Big Bang which triggered the 
Breaking of the Fast at the Dawn of the Universe!"
     "Yes," said Quooth, suppressing phis awe at Bagelos's space-
villainous prowess in barking out heavily over-qualified run-on 
sentences.  "But what are you *doing*?"
     "I, Bagelos, am preparing the pancakes!" Bagelos replied.  "And 
serving them!"
     "Yes?"
     "The ceremony is the Ritual of the Serving of the Pancake 
Breakfast."
     "I... do not understand, Friend Bagelos."
     "It's just this thing," said Bagelos.  "I, Bagelos, do not quite 
understand it either.  My grandfather's ghost told me generally what the
ceremony involves, but not how to do it.  And yet... my movements are 
sure.  It is as though I, Bagelos, was born to do this!"
     The ghost of Baconos, which was hovering not far away, frowned and
floated closer.
     "I, Baconos, told you before, boy," said Baconos, "I, Baconos, am 
not a ghost.  None of us are.  We're all shades... copies, I, Baconos,
guess you could say... captured by the energy that drenches this planet.
If you were to identify all of us, you'd find none of us who died any
earlier than forty years ago.  I, Baconos, should know!  I, Baconos, was
the first!"
     "But, Friend Baconos," said Quooth, "did you not leave this planet,
so that later on, you were able to instruct your grandson on the story of
the Breaking of the Fast at the Dawn of the Universe, and how you nearly
achieved universal domination?"
     "That is so," said Bagelos.  Now that he was done serving imaginary
pancakes, he was at a loss for what to do.  He settled on holding an 
imaginary pancake and taking imaginary bites.
     "I, Baconos, told him all my tales, yes," said Baconos, "but not the
last.  Not the one where I, Baconos, came back to this world one more 
time."
     "That must be a stirring tale!" Quooth exclaimed.
     The elderly ghost shrugged.  "It lasted less than five minutes.  No
sooner was I, Baconos, off the ship and headed with my secret ally for 
where the Proofs are stored than some guy runs past me and into my ship.
Seconds later, it takes off, stranding me!  Five seconds after that, I,
Baconos, get bitten by an asp and die."
     Quooth was puzzled.  "I thought there were no poisonous snakes on 
this world."
     "There aren't!" Baconos replied.  "Just like there are supposedly no
ship thieves."  He shrugged.  "But there you are.  I, Baconos, died, and
the energy soaking this planet made an impression of me.  Kind of like 
play-dough.  There's actually a highly scientific explanation for it, but
you'd have to be a Spamologist to understand.  I, Baconos, just float 
through the walls and utter fortune cookies to the living now and again.
Sad, really."
     The tale inspired feelings of sorrow in Quooth.  He attempted to 
cheer phimself and Baconos up by playing a jaunty tune on phis Holy 
Harmonica.  Baconos shrieked and flew away.  Bagelos shrieked and dropped
his imaginary pancake.
     "I, Bagelos, wish you would not do that," said Bagelos.  "Very soon,
the Champion of the ur-Bagel Shoon-Ma shall appear, and I, Bagelos, must
be in place at the controls of the Proofs.  I, Bagelos, at last 
understand my destiny in this strange and forbidding universe!  I, 
Bagelos, at last have a plan to conquer said universe that does not 
require me to raise large amounts of ready cash first!  I, Bagelos--"
     "--are under arrest."
     Bagelos sputtered and turned to the door.  Quooth turned as well, in
time to see a grey gnome with Freddie-Prinze-Jr-like features saunter in.
Behind him was Zark Flyby, who Quooth had thought was already in the 
room, having pursued phimself and Bagelos there only to suddenly run out
of cosmic destruction power before he could administer the final blast.
Behind Zark was the red, floating, heavily-armed robot known as Megabot,
which Quooth had last seen on the _W.S. Universal Solvent._
     "Friend Zark!" Quooth called, as there was a good fifty meters 
between the front entrance of the Temple of the Ancients and the 
cafeteria window that phe and Bagelos were near.  "Friend Megabot!  
Friend Sark!  Over here!"
     Megabot floated toward them.  Zark, still lacking the munchy-crunchy
cosmic energy that had been pouring from him earlier, stomped over.  Sark
seemed to hobble, a condition caused by the fact that his robe was 
bunched up and twisted about, as though an extremely localized tornado 
had passed between his stumpy legs.
     "Your robot," said Sark Flyby, after he caught up to Megabot and 
Zark and stood before Bagelos and Quooth, "now obeys *my* orders."  He 
frowned, noting that Bagelos was having to fight to keep from giggling.
"It's not funny!  It attacked me!  I could have been hurt!"
     "What did it do to you?" asked Quooth.  "I see no laser burns or 
blade gouges or melted flesh upon your person."
     "He... swizzled me."
     A swizzle stick popped out of Megabot's chest cavity, spun about a
few times, then zipped back in.
     "Anyway, once the medical monks got to me and were able to use the 
jaws of life to de-wedgie me, my programmer monks reprogrammed him to 
serve-- I said stop laughing!"
     Bagelos managed to get his giggling under control.  Quooth was 
concerned, as Bagelos had never giggled in phis presence before.  Phe had
been around enough enough humans to form some opinions, and one of phis
opinions was that Bagelos was not a giggler.
     "Now," said Sark, trying to assert something resembling authority
whilst simultaneously finishing a half-done job of extracting a wool 
robe from a place where wool robes were not, at least by any humans 
Quooth knew, welcome.  "You'll come with us quietly back to your cells,
or--"
     "No," said Bagelos.  "You need us."
     Sark stopped picking at his robe.
     "Why is that?" he asked.
     "Because, thirty-seven years ago, my grandfather, Baconos, tried to
open a circuit between himself and the raw power that existed in the 
universe prior to the Breaking of the Fast at the Dawn of the Universe.
He tried to steal the energy with which he could build an armada to 
conquer the universe."
     "And he succeeded," said Sark.  "As you will note by the existence 
of our space armada, our heavily armed soldier monks, and the force 
shield that effectively prevents all who we do not wish to come to our 
solar system from doing so."
     Bagelos shook his head.
     "No," said Bagelos.  "My grandfather failed.  He told me so.  I 
thought perhaps he succeeded on his final trip here, but he died within
five minutes of landing."
     Quooth marveled at how Sark's face, already pale from having his 
robe almost permanently swizzled into a wedgie, grew almost completely
white.
     "How did you--"
     "He never conspired with Shoon-Ma the ur-Bagel," said Bagelos.  "He
never double-crossed the ur-Bagel, thus setting up, here, millennia 
later, the meeting between your Chosen One and his Champion that will 
surely decimate this world.
     "That is MY destiny."
     Quooth shivered with concern again.  Sark winced.
     "Stop it!" he yelled.  "I hated that show!"  He got his annoyance 
under control and looked up at Bagelos.  Quooth saw a calculating gleam 
in his eyes.  Bagelos seemed too busy with his gloating to notice.  "Very
well, Space Villain.  You win.  We will take you and your companion to 
the Proofs at on-- Zark!  Stop trying to knock down that wall with your
skull!"
     "Oh," Zark grumbled, as he staggered back.  Quooth could see he had
made good headway (no pun intended) with the wall, seeing as it was the
less dense of the two objects that had been violently meeting.  "Okay."
     As the group headed for the door, Quooth glanced behind phim, and 
saw the green shade of Baconos and the other 'Ancients,' all watching 
with grim faces only slightly stained with ghostly 'Aunt Jemima' syrup.
Phe turned back and looked up at Bagelos, who was following Sark and 
looking smug.
     Friend Bagelos had fallen for some kind of trap, Quooth decided.  
But until the nature of the trap became apparent, phe could not 
intervene.  Phe wrapped phis feelers around phis Holy Harmonica.  All phe
could do was be watchful.
     Sooner or later, phe would see phis opportunity, and would know what
to do.
 
                                -~-_-
 
((Mydrus (Tamask Citadel)))
 
      The alliance between the Goornashk Authority and the monks of Zeta
Ricola Beta is not one well-known by the universe in general; if it was,
it would be considered highly inexplicable.  The Mydrus system and the 
Zeta Ricola Beta system are nowhere near one another, and even 
considering that access to overly-hyped space has made mere distance less
of a consideration than it used to be, most civilizations would think it
more trouble than its worth.
     As in many cases where things seem inexplicable, Gham reflected, it
helped to know the history.
     "Wait," said Ronald Hastings, as he fiddled with the circuitry of 
his personal nuker.  "You're saying the monks of Zeta Ricola Beta came 
from this sector?"
     "They used to live on this world," replied Toni Williams, as she 
worked at putting on her Goornashkan disguise.  "Thousands of years ago,
when the Goornashkans conquered this world and made it part of their 
Authority, the people here became the chief video game suppliers to the
entire Goornashk race.  Then, the High Priest of Enlightenment and Fully
Destructible Environments had a revelation concerning the Breaking of the
Fast at the Dawn of the Universe, and declared that his people had to go
to a planet called Zeta Ricola Beta, where they would create The Game to
End All Games."
     Gham did not like where this was going.  Too many words were being
spoken in Capital Letters for No Good Reason.  She looked over at 
Jerriphrrt, her Calican husband, who was busy figuring out how to work
an omni-camera he had swiped from the shelf in the janitor's room.  He 
noticed the look and blew her a kiss.
     "The Goornashkans didn't like it, of course," said Toni.  "But 
without the game makers, there would be no video games.  Plus, with the
game makers on another, far away world, it would be much easier to import
consumer electronics from other star systems without having to suffer 
being sneered at and poo-pooed by the game makers."
     "What?" asked Ronald.
     Toni shrugged.  "That's just what I found out.  The Goornashkans set
up the game-maker monks on Zeta Ricola Beta and kept them busy with game
requests.  Then, forty or so years ago, everything changed.
     "The space villain Baconos got through to Zeta Ricola Beta.  He'd
heard of their tech and their religion and thought that they might have
access to a power that would let him conquer the universe.  Unfortunately
for him, he was right."
     Gham had heard the rest of the story, though it was somewhat 
fragmented.  Forty years ago, through a conspiracy between Shoon-Ma the
ur-Bagel and an unknown party (and the subsequent betrayal of Shoon-Ma by
that unknown party), Zeta Ricola Beta gained a great deal of power.  The
monks upgraded their planetary defense shields to a hyper-mumbo-jumbo-
energy-tesseract and set things up so that the only way in and out (for 
non-Zeta Ricola Betans) was the hyperdimensional tele-transport system
controlled from Tamask Citadel on planet Mydrus.  The Goornashkans--while
not particularly happy about the change in the balance of power--were no
fools, and knew that the power of the new Zeta Ricola Beta would shield
their increasingly dodgy Authority from uprisings, rebellions, and so
on.
     "Once that was done, the Zeta Ricola Betans gave up their native 
tradition of video game creation," Toni continued as she zipped her 
Goornashkan costume into place.  Immediately her voice became more 
masculine and raspy and Sylvia Browne-like.  "And then, for forty years,
they waited."
     "Just waited?" Jerriphrrt asked.
     "And did monk things," Toni said.  "You know.  Monking around."
     "Right."
     "But they've got these prophecies," said Toni, "and we're getting 
close to when the events in 'em are supposed to kick off.  Pretty 
standard stuff--a champion versus a chosen one, whack stuff happening to
the fabric of space and time, entire planets being overrun with Hilton 
sisters--but these things have to be checked out.  Especially after a 
Nega-Cell and Nega-Transporter got stolen.  'Dad'... I mean, Buzz 
Williams... was busy foiling a plan by the Chrono-Meks of Negaverse 
Dimension 110 to take over our universe by causing various weak 
civilization to crumble via exposure to a show called 'Spammymon Z,' so I
ended up taking the assignment.
     "'Spammymon Z?'" asked Gham.  "Captain Vogel said that back on 
Earth, the entire planet was overrun with that show.  He'd been sent out
to find a way to free Earth from the horror."
     "Well, he can relax," said Toni.  "The last communication I got from
Buzz said that he and his companions succeeded, and he crossed that off
his 'to-do' list.  The Chrono-Meks made it look as though Dr. Bing Von
Spleen was responsible, and the Doc probably believes it himself, which
was why he fled Earth.  Buzz said he'd see if he could get me some backup
for finishing this operation, but I never got the chance to update him on
how thoroughly the situation has been foo-barred."
     Ronald grimaced and turned away.  Gham felt for him--as a former 
Renegade Anarchist, she was no stranger to inadvertantly foo-barring 
others, or being foo-barred in turn.  As far as she was concerned, if you
were going to gallivant around in space and mess with Space Prophecy, you
had to expect Foo-Bar to happen.
     Toni's explanation of what she had been doing over the past year, 
while pretending to be a captive of the henchmen of Kalvin Certain, had
been terse but complete.  She let Kalvin believe that it was his pudding
price-inflation scheme that she was investigating, and that it was the 
theft of the Nega-Cell and Nega-Transporter by Kalvin's agents that had
drawn her to Dirk's Space Swap-o-Rama and Grill.  Toni soon learned it
was Sark Flyby of Zeta Ricola Beta who was stringing Kalvin along.  Sark
was trying to help his planet's prophecy toward completion by getting
Shoon-Ma the ur-Bagel out into the open, and by bringing his son, Zark
Flyby--the commandant of the Time Police--back to Zeta Ricola Beta, 
because he was either a Champion or a Chosen One or something like that.
Toni opined that, regardless of how goofy something like Shoon-Ma 
sounded, any prophecy of destruction was made much more likely to come to
pass if Zark was involved.
     Since the tech that let Sark tele-transport between Zeta Ricola Beta
and Alpha Rio VI was highly advanced, beyond even Toni's ability to 
crack, and the only other way to Zeta Ricola Beta was via Tamask Citadel,
i.e. here, that was where she focused her efforts.  Since time within the
Nega-Cell where Team E (Kalvin's aforementioned henchmen) kept her 
'captive' passed faster than time on the outside, what seemed like the 
work of a few weeks to set up a Nega-Transporter link to planet Mydrus 
seemed like over a year to everyone else.  Then someone at Time Central--
probably Zark's secretary, Toni opined--decided to be pro-active and 
'delight the customer'--the customer being himself--and send Zark away 
with an assignment to give to a couple seniors at Interstellar University
who were looking for a creative topic for their Senior Project, and now
they were all stuck on Mydrus.
     "I think I'm ready to go," Ronald said.  He brandished his nuker 
with one hand while doing the Vulcan hand-sign thing with the other.
Gham guessed it was a hard skill to master, or quite possibly a sign of
advanced insanity and/or Space Heroism.
     Jerri's camera was set, and Toni was back in her disguise as General
Varsoome.  Gham checked her sound equipment and nodded.
     "Okay," said Toni.  "Everyone set?  All exposition and plot-hole-
filling delivered?"
     They nodded.
     "Right.  Let's go."
 
(continued in part two, following...)
=========================================================================
Date:         Sat Nov 24 08:11:41 2007
From:         swede3000 at earthlink.net (swede3000 at earthlink.net)
To:           superguy at lists.eyrie.org
Subject:      SF: Universal Solvents #19 (2/2)

(continued from part one, preceding...)
 
     The door to the surprisingly well-stocked janitor's room opened. 
Outside, Major Lalan--a Goornashkan they had corrupted with promises of 
weaponry and pudding--snapped to attention.  Kissy Hitowers--the Space 
Ingenue hired by Ronald for her ability to be kidnapped and menaced by
Space Villains--blew on her fingernails and gave Ronald a glare.
     "It's about time you got ready," she said.  "I was thinking of 
getting kidnapped just to pass the time."
     Ronald nodded.  That was why they had told Lalan to keep an eye on 
her.
     "Time passing's... over," he said, lapsing into his Shatner 
impersonation.  "The show... is... on."
     "Glad something is," Kissy said, before stalking down the corridor.
Ronald looked at Lalan, shook his head, and followed.  Lalan seemed 
confused.
     "Not bad," said Toni.  "Kissy's a professional, I can tell, but 
Ronald struck me as being a bit green behind the ears.  Plus, the 
Shatner impersonation is kind of lame, even by Shatner-impersonation 
standards.  Is that a thing with him or something?"
     "I think so," she said.  "Him and his friend Norman, who's not here.
The last time I met them, they were really into 'Star Trek.'"
     "Huh," said Toni.  "I knew a boy like that, when I was growing up 
on Earth.  He... wait, was that what he was talking about three days 
ago?"  She looked thoughtful for a few minutes, then shook her head and 
followed the others.
     Having offloaded just about all the exposition and plot-hole-
filling the author had larded them down with, the group made excellent 
time to the entrance to the control chamber for both the planetary 
security grid and the hyperdimensional tele-transport (which Gham had 
earlier erroneously referred to as a 'transmat').  It was convenient 
that both were located in the same chamber, as they would have to shut 
down the planetary security grid before the _Challenger III_-- the ship 
that Gham, Jerriphrrt, and Lalan had come in on--could approach the 
planet and get tele-transported to Zeta Ricola Beta orbit.  But that 
was about the only bit of luck Gham could see in their favor.
     The chamber, Lalan had assured them, held over twenty armed-to-
the-large-bushy-eyebrows Goornashkan marines, in addition to the dozen 
console operators that controlled the flow of traffic to and from 
Zeta Ricola Beta.  The chamber was monitored by outside security with 
access to dozens more marines.  A direct assault had a very low 
probability of succeeding.
     But there were other ways.
     "Excellent," said Gham, as soon as the doors swished open to reveal 
three Goornashkan marines.  "But somewhat obvious.  What if there were 
only two here, plus one just on that side of the door there waiting in 
ambush?"
     "We'll have to make this look darker in the game," said Jerriphrrt 
as he swung his camera around.  The light made the marines look like 
startled tanks.  "Should those pipes be oozing noxious chemicals?  
Bright green and all that?"
     "I refuse to be menaced by bright green chemicals," Kissy snapped 
at them as she stalked past the marines.  "It makes me look grotty.  
I look more vulnerable against red or violet."
     "So I dash in here to save you," said Ronald.  "But... come on, 
the layout of this place is all wrong.  I mean, maybe on the super-
difficult setting, sure, but you've got to give me some cover in the 
lesser settings.  A console here I can hide behind, maybe...."
     "What's going on here?" a Goornashkan finally asked.  He was the 
only Goornashkan in the room in a command uniform (you could tell 
because it had lots of medals and clinky shiny bits), so Gham guessed 
he was the Commander Vilif that Lalan had told them to expect.  "Who 
are---"
     "They are here on my authority," said 'General Varsoome.'  "Our 
Citadel has been accorded a great honor--it will be level eighteen in 
the currently-in-development Final Vengeance of the Death Stalkers 
IV!  These people are here to evaluate our command center as the sight 
of this level's Boss Fight, and---"
     "Four?" asked a tech seated next to where Commander Vilif stood.
"They haven't even released three yet!"
     "And how can it be the 'final vengeance' if it's their fourth go-
round?" a marine asked.  Another marine slapped him on the back of his 
head.  "What?  I've been wondering that since two..."
     "--this will not do," said 'Varsoome.'  "The game players will 
expect a decent environment for a boss fight, but this... *this*... 
THIS... would not even inconvenience Super Needlewarping Mario!"
     Both soldiers and technicians flinched at this scathing 
assessment.
     "...acoustics are probably all wrong for a 'terrified princess' 
scream..." Kissy muttered.  "My agent will be furious...."
     "It's all right," Jerriphrrt said, with an airy wave of his hand 
and a dismissive swish of his tail.  "What I'm concerned about is the 
post-boss objective."
     "Would it happen to be," said the Commander, "'the party must 
shut down the planetary defense grid, reprogram the tele-transport 
system, and then tele-transport back to their ship and get to where 
they're going before the enemy gets wise?'"
     Gham blinked.  Jerriphrrt blinked.  Lalan blinked.  Ronald 
blinked.  Kissy screamed and blinked.  'Varsoome' did not blink, 
because the suit was not built that way.  The marines did not blink, 
because they raised their weapons.  The techs did not blink, but they 
did snigger.  Commander Vilif did not blink, but he did smirk.
     "Captured human ship _Challenger III_ has been brought into 
orbit under guard," a tech reported to Vilif.  "Awaiting your orders."
     "Tele-transport the prisoners... including the so-called 'General 
Varsoome'... to this _Challenger III_.  Once they are there... destroy 
it."
     The techs applauded this as the marines herded the group to the 
tele-transporter, after forcing Toni to remove her Varsoome costume, and
after disarming Ronald and taking Jerriphrrt and Gham's computer 
equipment.
     "Was this part of the plan?" Ronald asked.
     "No," said Toni, "but don't worry, there's always a chance, if we
can break away before they trans---"
     She did not finish her sentence, as she and Ronald, Gham, 
Jerriphrrt, Lalan, and Kissy were tele-transported away.
 
                                -~-_-
 
((Alpha Rio VI - The Planet of Casinos (Vino's House of Merriment 
and Extortion)))
 
      Shoon-Ma's explanation of the Breaking of the Fast at the Dawn of
the Universe was succinct, if a bit one-sided, Dr. Bing Von Spleen 
thought.  Since it was something like the twentieth attempt since this 
story began to make sense of a legend about the theft of the power of 
breakfast food from before the universe was created, Von Spleen tuned it
out and instead focused on the only thing in the universe that interested
him more than getting loaded: getting his ass out of danger, and the 
rest of him with it.
     Though Vino had not specified which of his humble establishments 
that Von Spleen and the rest of the group on the once-derelict (and now
destroyed) black alien vessel were now in, Von Spleen at once identified
it as Vino's House of Merriment and Extortion--specifically, the 24-hour
buffet on the north side of the high rollers sector.  He had spent about
six months a few years back as a 'security consultant' paid by Vino to 
use his spamological knowledge to shore up casino security, though what
Von Spleen had done for most of that time was shore up his levels of 
pharmaceutical consumption.  He recognized the buffet room because he 
had spent incalculable time on its carpet, staring at its complicated 
and faded patterns and wondering if he had become some form of aardvark.
     The cushy gig had ended abruptly when Icthor--the Marauding Goat 
with a Thousand Whining Teenage Goat-Young--broke through the fabric of 
time and space and demanded to know just who it was that was getting 
around forty of her goat-young corrupted by the fast-paced, high-living,
booze-intensive Lifestyle Of Today.  Had Vino been around, he would have
handled the situation--even though it was the very kind of situation that
Vino was paying Von Spleen to prevent.  Von Spleen--his chemical-dosed 
mind already unhinged by the alarming visage of a being whose mere 
presence shattered rational thought, and whose pearl necklaces and 
pancake makeup somehow put him in mind of Minnie Pearl--could not 
control his thoughts.  Across his mind's eye flashed an image of Vino's 
sons, Frankie and Artaud, giving martinis and a bunch of pills in an
Altoids box to a group of forty or so teenage goats.  Icthor saw the 
image, shrieked, and disappeared.  When Frankie and Artaud later went 
missing, Von Spleen knew it was time for him to disappear as well.
     It had been a minor relief to learn, after convoluted circumstances
brought him back into Vino's clutches, that Vino did not know who had 
inadvertantly tipped Icthor off.  Von Spleen knew that, had Vino known, 
he would already be dead, and possibly part of one of Vino's casino 
shows (Vino was one of the pioneers in the small but profitable field 
of zombie musical shows and chorus-line revues).  Vino, unknowing, was 
focused on the main power-broker of Von Spleen's group--Shoon-Ma, the 
ur-Bagel.
     "Now that I have told you of the Breaking of the Fast at the Dawn 
of the Universe, and why I yearn for revenge by pitting my Chosen One 
against Zeta Ricola Beta's Champion--"
     "I thought it was the other way around," said Benjen (a native of 
the planet Hottentot who had become one of Shoon-Ma's prisoners when 
his company, _Universal Solvents_, tried to salvage the apparently-
derelict ship Shoon-Ma had been on).
     "Hush," Shoon-Ma replied.  "Vino, I would ask of you... how have 
you suppressed most of my cosmic abilities?  I can float and I can talk,
but as for the rest---"
     "This world is more than just a planet-sized gob of Las Vegas 
cliches," Vino interrupted.  One of the Yak's three heads removed a 
cigar and spat on the carpet.  "My Science Yaks are pioneers in the 
field of chance manipulation.  We developed luck-suppressing 
technology, and once bioengineered... well, never mind that.  The
point is you're not the first cosmic being to come down here, throwing 
his weight around, acting like a big shot, and not giving proper 
respect to your betters.  Hell, planet Aragan's God of Luck and 
Fortune and Free Drinks dropped in on another of my casinos just last 
week, thinkin' he was the biz.  But now his luck is gone and he's 
working off his debts as a bouncer in one of my entertainment houses in 
sector twelve."
     Shoon-Ma, Von Spleen noted, was a quicker study than was to be 
expected from an ur-powerful talking bagel.  He bobbed in what Von 
Spleen guessed was an approximation of a bow.  "No disrespect is meant, 
sir.  I have always been a friend of---"
     "Sir," said one of the armed Assassin Yaks next to Vino.  "We've 
got the live feed from Mr. Certain's office ready."
     "Right," said another of Vino's heads.  "Light it up, boys."
     The giant screen over the buffet, which had earlier shown the 
explosive destruction of the ship that Von Spleen and the others had come
in on, lit up with a display of a battle going on in an office.  It was 
initially very hard to make sense of what was going on, a fact that 
Von Spleen blamed on his current incurable sobriety.
     "Hey, there's Slithis," said Benjen, pointing at a green-scaled 
humanoid who was busy ducking a sharp pincer wielded by some kind of 
android that was half-terminator-style-arachnoid, half-Wayne-Newton.  
(Von Spleen was not sure which half he found more frightening.)  "And 
Kalvin... what happened to his eye?... and a guy in a velour shirt, 
and... hey, that's Shadebeam!  What's she doing in this altiverse?"
     Though he had only met her once, thanks to an ABPSARI-related 
accident that had transported her to his ship, Von Spleen recognized 
Shadebeam at once.  She, along with Slithis and Sajon, had been on 
Shoon-Ma's ship until *another* ABPSARI-related accident teleported 
them away.  Shoon-Ma had tracked them with his cosmic abilities to 
Alpha Rio VI.  But where was Sajon, the former assistant that Von Spleen
had been charged with turning into Shoon-Ma's Champion...?
      There he was.  On the floor of the office on the screen, with the 
ABPSARI next to him.  Judging from the welt on Sajon's head, the APBSARI
had re-entered time and space directly above him and knocked him out.
     Despite himself, Von Spleen felt a chill.  He had *known* it would
happen this way, ever since the robot TH1K1 had unlocked his perceptions
three days before.  The events of today, both in this room and in 
Kalvin's office, were so spam-saturated they defied time itself and 
projected into the past.  How TH1K1 had known was something Von Spleen 
could not fathom--could the tiny toy-like robot be spam-powered?--but 
it had known, and it had overridden the homicidal furies that were its 
ordinary motivation for any action in order to adjust Von Spleen so *he* 
knew.
     Kalvin, Slithis, Shadebeam, and the velour-shirted guy were 
fighting a losing battle.  One of the... the...
     "Hey," said Von Spleen.  "What are those half-arachnoid, half-
Wayne-Newton things?"
     "Arachno-Newtons," Vino replied, deep satisfaction causing his 
voice to boom.  "I have instructed them to put on a good show for us.
That is why they have not yet gone for the kill."
     "Ah," said Von Spleen, and returned to his thought.  One of the 
Arachno-Newtons had battered Slithis pretty hard, and the velour-shirted
guy was clutching at his ears.  Because Vino had the sound turned down,
the cause of his distress was not immediately apparent, but it appeared
that the Newtons were singing something--which would have explained the
distress even if their lower halves were not mechanical arachnids with
sharp-bladed legs.
     Von Spleen saw TH1K1 hovering over the buffet, apparently watching
the battle.  The velour-shirted zombies that had been tele-transported
from the ship with them had stopped milling around and now appeared to
be filling out employment applications.  Shoon-Ma was hovering over
the swedish meatballs, no doubt trying to figure out how to free himself
from Vino's cosmic-power-suppression field.  Benjen had a plate of bacon
and hors d'ouvres in one hand, and a honey dijon mustard squeeze bottle
in the other....
     Suddenly and without warning---
     "Look out!" Shoon-Ma exclaimed.
     Suddenly and with warning, Benjen heaved the bacon and hors d'ouvres
plate into the air, exclaimed "pull," and squeezed the mustard bottle.  A
stream of mustard shot out, hit the plate, and deflected onto one of the
zombies.  Von Spleen was unsure of what Benjen hoped to accomplish with
this culinary maneuver, until he saw Vino's Assassin Yaks surge forward.
     Benjen was creating a distraction.  No doubt he expected Von Spleen
to make full use of it.
     The platform that Vino had used to showily rise into the room was
slightly elevated, and Von Spleen saw a gap between its edge and the 
floor.  Vino was regarding the melee Benjen started with a bemused 
disdain, and was making some no-doubt-cutting remarks to the Yak on his
left.  Some zombies stumbled past, trying to pick up the pencils the 
combat had caused them to drop, along with the hands that had been 
clutching said pencils.  Von Spleen used the zombies as cover until he 
reached the platform edge, and dove into the gap.
     He landed on the Tech Yaks that were beneath the platform doing 
something inscrutable with an allen wrench and a diagnostic tool.  Von 
Spleen snatched up both as he disentangled himself from them, then 
sprinted down the badly-lit corridor.  Soon he was in the audio room from
which Vino had spoken to them before making his appearance.
     His TH1K1-powered visions had left this part out.  Von Spleen knew 
he would have to disable Vino's suppression field before those visions 
came to pass.  Though Von Spleen did not doubt that Vino held the 
controls himself, the actual generators had to be accessible to the Tech
Yaks that actually knew what was what down here.
     "Over here, Doctor," he heard TH1K1 gleep (a noise that Von Spleen
could translate in his head to English only because the volume of 
pharmaceuticals he had abused through the years had altered his mind 
enough to make it possible).  Von Spleen turned and saw TH1K1 hovering 
over a set of controls.  "Hook the diagnostic tool here.  You can 
overload the suppression field relay circuits with ease."
     "Why are you helping me?" Von Spleen asked, even as he sidled to the
controls TH1K1 indicated.
     "Why do you think?" TH1K1 gleeped.  "You, with cosmic power?  Should
be good enough to finish off several star systems, at least.  Maybe a 
galaxy or two, if I can get Zark Flyby to fight with you instead of 
against you...."
     Von Spleen gulped.  It was as he feared.  TH1K1 was playing him like
a spam-powered accordion.  The only honorable thing to do at this point 
would be to refuse to do anything further that would serve the tiny 
homicidal robot's grandiose (and thus far ineffectual) dreams of 
slaughter...
     "He went down this way!"  The cry came from far back in the 
corridor.
     "Bring him to Vino at once!"
     Well, okay, thought Von Spleen, as he plugged the diagnostic tool 
into the controls.  Maybe just *one* more thing to help the grandiose 
dreams of slaughter along.  Honor could wait.
     It was the work of moments to locate the suppression circuits and 
overload them.  Suitable, since Von Spleen had only moments before 
several armed Hench Yaks burst into the room and applied a yak-style 
smackdown.  As they dragged Von Spleen back out of the chamber, he 
wondered if exclamations such as 'I am BeoYak!' were typical of yak-style
smackdowns, or if his was a special case.
     The Hench Yaks pulled him through the gap between Vino's platform 
and the floor, then dropped him.  Von Spleen knew, even before he 
struggled to his feet, the reason for their sudden lack of interest.
     Shoon-Ma had wasted no time in setting things more to his liking 
once his cosmic abilities were restored.  The Assassin Yaks were on the
ceiling, pinned with their own weaponry and kept silent with stale bread
rolls.  Vino's three heads were knocking against one another in what 
looked to be a rather painful example of a perpetual-energy 
demonstration.  Benjen was hiding under the table with a plate of sliced
ham.  TH1K1 floated over to Benjen and pretended to cower as well.  The
zombies seemed annoyed by the gratuitous blue lighting that shot from 
Shoon-Ma at odd moments, since it usually meant damage to them and a 
need to get a non-bloodsmeared copy of the application.
     "You have done well, Doctor!" Shoon-Ma roared.  "Once Sajon, my 
Chosen One, has defeated the Champion of Zeta Ricola Beta, you shall be
amply rewarded!"
     "I didn't do it for you," said Von Spleen.  His eyes were on the 
viewscreen behind Shoon-Ma, where it appeared that the Arachno-Newtons 
were finally getting down to the business of the slaughter.  One held 
the velour-shirted guy and was prepared to rip his throat open with its
impossibly shiny teeth.  Kalvin Certain was sprawled on his desk, either
unconscious or dead.  Sajon was still a lump on the floor, and Shadebeam
was cutting a lock of hair from his head.
     A moment later, as an Arachno-Newton loomed over her, she fed the 
lock into the ABPSARI.
     Von Spleen smiled without mirth, as the ABPSARI came to life.  Her
choice of fuel for the ABPSARI was clearly not random, though he wondered
if she had worked out the full extent to which Sajon's luck was 
intertwined with this particular ABPSARI's manipulations of space and 
time.
     Then he wondered no more, as space and time gave him a smackdown 
that even BeoYak would envy.
 
WHAT FUNKY THING IS HAPPENING TO VON SPLEEN NOW?
WILL IT AFFECT THE EMPLOYMENT CHANCES OF THE ZOMBIES?
WILL GHAM AND COMPANY EVER MAKE IT TO ZETA RICOLA BETA?
WILL THEY BREATHE EASIER NOW THAT THE AUTHOR HAS GOTTEN THROUGH HIS FIT
OF EXPOSITION?
HOW WAS BAGELOS RESPONSIBLE FOR EVENTS THAT HAPPENED ON ZETA RICOLA BETA
FORTY YEARS AGO?
HOW IS THE AUTHOR RESPONSIBLE FOR DROPPING THIS SERIES FOR TWO YEARS,
THEN TRYING TO RE-START IT AT A VERY AWKWARD TRANSITIONAL STAGE OF THE
STORY?
 
SFSTORY has the answers you seek.  Good luck getting them.
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