SF: Universal Solvents #17
swede3000 at earthlink.net
Sun Dec 5 19:56:04 PST 2004
(a Tale of Sfstory!)
Gary W. Olson
<<In space, somewhere vaguely near the planet Mydrus, in the Goornashk Sector>>
It cannot be emphasized enough that Goornashkans do not taste
like chicken. Ask any Goornashkan you find if he or she tastes like
chicken, and he or she can be relied on to give an emphatic "no," and
perhaps a few rounds of laser fire to discourage further inquiry.
The homepage of the Goornashk Authority on the UWW (Universal Wide
Web) has several links to leading studies confirming the lack of any
form of chicken taste in the Goornashkan body. No less an authority
than Gargavix Ooolavant's Pocket Guide to the Space-Time Continuum
has dedicated many thousands of electronicized words on how the word
'chicken' ought never to even hove into general hailing distance of
one's synapses when contemplating what a Goornashkan tastes like.
There is such a singular body of opinion on the subject that one
would be crazy to even suggest it.
Which makes it surprising that, despite the staggering volume of
crazy people that gallavant about the universe on a daily basis, no
record can be found of anyone actually suggesting that Goornashkans
taste like chicken. Few races even know what chickens are, or the
planet they come from. Most of the few that do know what chickens
are don't know what they taste like, because they also know how they
are converted from clucking mammal-units into shapeless nugget-units,
and would almost rather eat Spam. The only race that is on record as
knowing what chicken tastes like has never had any record of any of
its members eating a Goornashkan.
The question of how denial of the
Goornashkan-Chicken-taste-alike proposition grew so ferocious in the
face of the lack of anyone actually making that proposition is one of
the many questions that vex Space Philosophers. Gargavix Ooolavant's
Pocket Guide to the Space-Time Continuum also has much to say on the
vexing of Space Philosophers -- mostly that it is jolly good fun, and
there are lots of ways to do it, some of which are described in
rigorous detail. But it has no answer to the particular question at
hand (or the slightly related question of whether or not Space
Philosophers taste like chicken).
Lucky, the six-foot-tall-at-the-shoulder black-furred mutant cat
which was the default mascot of the Earth warship _Challenger III,_
was not a Space Philosopher, nor had he eaten any, at least not on
camera. But he had eaten considerable amounts of chicken over the
years, and was considered by witnesses to his eating habits (at
least, those witnesses who could not find an avenue of escape) to
like the taste of chicken very much. He also liked the taste of
pizza, parfait, beer, waffles, roast mutant hellbeast, truffles,
varmints, cardboard, wood, velour, and many, many other things. He
was not a finicky cat.
Which is why, Steve Vogel immediately knew what happened when he
woke from his gas-induced sleep and saw a crew of ten naked
Goornashkans cowering in one corner of the bridge, with Lucky lying
down in front of them, crunching up the remains of their weapons,
electronic devices, and uniforms. At some point while he and his
crew had been passed out (thanks to an ill-considered display of a
newly-constructed weapon's knockout-gas-spraying capacity by one Lt.
Zacko), a party from a Goornashk ship had boarded his vessel, intent
on capturing his crew. Lucky, being a mutant attack cat and
therefore resistant to knock-out gas (through some compelling bit of
scientific reasoning I'm going to skip just now, save to note that
the word 'quantum' is used at least twice), saw the invaders and
decided it was time to chow. And, had the Goornahskans, contrary to
all denials, tasted like chicken, they would not be naked in front of
him, and Lucky's belly would be as bloated as a Macy's Day parade
But they were there, and Lucky was limited to snacking on what
they had brought. So they did not taste like chicken. Q.E.D.
"Ehrm," said Steve, as he forced himself into what was roughly a
vertical position. "Would anyone care to surrender?"
"He ate my DIESCUM pistol!" one of the naked Goornashkans shouted.
"He ate my P.D.A!" another exclaimed.
"He ate my entire digitized set of 'Space Ingenues Gone Wild'
video collection chips!" a third added.
"Is that a 'yes'?" Steve prompted.
The Goornashkans frowned. Lucky paused in chewing up a copy of
'Space Ingenues Gone Wild III', glared at the invaders, and growled.
The Goornashkans cowered some more. Lucky started in on 'Universe's
Most Astonishing Space Ingenue Chases.'
"Yes," the Goornashkans said in unison.
"Right," said Steve. "Commander! Where are you?"
"We're on B Deck," the voice of his second-in-command, Jean St.
Thomas, came from the intercom. "We ran out after that idiot started
spraying knockout gas everywhere, then we got locked out by the
invaders when they boarded. Can you let us back in, sir?"
"On it," Steve answered. The door opened and bridge crew
members started pouring back in. Commander St. Thomas stopped when
she saw the captured Goornashkans.
"Have those guys escorted to the brig," said Vogel. "Don't mind
Lucky, I think he's got more than enough to chew on."
St. Thomas nodded, but did not approach the prisoners. Instead,
she signaled to two guards, who approached the prisoners in her
place. Lucky looked up but did not growl. The prisoners and guards
alike breathed sighs of relief once they were off the bridge.
"What happened to the stowaways, sir?" St. Thomas asked.
Steve looked around. Spaulding, Chicobaldi, Zeppus and Zacko
were nowhere to be seen. Mr Funboy II, the laser-rifle-type weapon
they'd built at his request (and had been the source of the knockout
gas), was on the floor at Lucky's side. As far as Steve was
concerned, it could stay there for a while.
"Never mind them for now," Steve said. "Can you get any
information on how Gham's team is doing on Mydrus?"
Cmdr. St. Thomas peered at some readouts. "They reached the
planet. Long-range scans can't tell us any more than that." She
pressed some more buttons. "Looks like the Goornashkan ship tapped
into our computer before the invaders came aboard. I should be able
to use that to read their computer... there."
Mug shots of Gham, Jerriphrrt, and Major Lalan replaced the
picture of planet Mydrus on the screen. Lalan and Gham looked grim.
Jerriphrrt was doing his best 'Bill the Cat' impression.
"It looks like our ruse failed," said St. Thomas. "They got to
the prison checkpoint, but a General Varsoome came in and exposed the
plot." She read some more. "Um, sort of."
"He thinks it was Giant Radioactive Hamsters that captured Lalan's ship."
"What?" asked Steve.
"That's what it says."
"Did any of them look like Dick Cheney?"
"What?" asked St. Thomas.
"Never mind," said Steve. "How many Goornashkans are still on
board the vessel that 'captured' us?"
"None," St. Thomas replied. "Cheeky monkeys, they are." She
paused. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking, sir?"
Steve thought hard, trying to come up with a response that did
not sound like it was being ripped off from 'Pinky and the Brain.'
Unable to come up with one, he instead answered "I believe so. But
if we're going to pretend to be captured, we'll need to have control
of the Goornashkans ship, and we already know that's very hard for
any non-Goornashkan crew to do. Gham and Jerriphrrt were able to
come up with leverage to get Lalan's crew to cooperate, but will it
also work on the guys we just captured?"
St. Thomas considered the question for a few seconds, before a
smile spread on her face.
"If not, sir," she said, "I know what will."
<<Alpha Rio VI, The Planet of Casinos>>
Norman Sassafras opened his eyes and realized that he was
falling. There was a concrete wall before him, moving in a
continuous upwards direction. Every so often, flashing by his eyes
were yellow-stencilled words in some kind of alien language.
Probably, he thought, translating into "If you're praying, now would
be a good time to skip to the 'amen.'"
Something was digging into his stomach. Norman wondered if some
kind of alien thingie was going to jump out. It was not entirely out
of likelihood, he reflected, given his luck. Perhaps, if he twisted
just right, he could squash it when they both landed.
Another something flashed by his peripheral vision on the right.
He looked up and saw that it was a doorway. A doorway for very
short, very broad people who could fly, he guessed, given that it was
much wider than it was tall and it was located in the side of a wall
with no means of climbing to it--
At this point, the 'waaaaaaiiit a minute' circuits in Norman's
head finally cut in.
"Is it down this way?" he heard someone ask.
"Yeah," a voice close to his stomach replied. "At least, I hope
so. I'm getting tired."
"It could've been worse," the other answered. "You remember how
big he used to be."
Norman winced. He had once been, way back in the time when he
had first been introduced in Sfstory, described as 'morbidly obese.'
The description also applied to his best friend, Ronald Hastings.
Had it not been for the fact that they had once had to spend quite a
few months in space, trapped in an abandoned (yet still somehow
spaceworthy) Pinto, with all the weight-loss implications of such a
feat, he had no doubt it would have still been true. But the fact
that the speakers remembered that he had once been of such size gave
him clues about who they were.
They were members of Team E, a group that had once been nothing
more than a Star Trek fan club with excessive delusions of grandeur.
He and Ronald had once been part of such a group, before internal
politics forced them to leave. Norman tried to remember just what
had been so important and had provoked such fierce emotions at the
time of the split, and found he could not.
Years had passed, and circumstances changed. Norman was now on
the verge of becoming a Space Hero, once he and Ronald finished their
Interstellar University senior project of rescuing Toni Williams (and
what a balls-up *that* had turned out to be, he thought), and the
group he had left was now working with an as-yet-unknown Space
Villain. And one of its members was carrying Norman down a corridor
in an undignified, over-the-shoulder position (that being Norman's
position, not the carrier's), leaving him looking at the floor as it
And leaving them unaware that he had revived.
He wondered if they had Ronald and Kissy as well. The last he
remembered, they were escaping from the Nega-Cell, through the
Nega-Transporter that Toni Williams had secretly set up in her room.
Norman had not gotten to the transporter in time before it blew up,
but he had seen two flashes before that happened, so it seemed
possible that Ronald and Kissy had successfully escaped. He hoped
that wherever they were, they were all right.
His captors stopped before a door. Norman closed his eyes to
slits, so they would not think he had awoken.
"He's still out," one of them said.
"Good," said the one carrying him. "I gotta set him down."
"Come on," said the first. "I'll get the door. The High Spock said--"
"The High Spock isn't here. My back is, and it hurts. Ow."
"Okay, okay. Be careful--"
Norman landed on the hard floor without much in the way of
gentle preparation. He held in his reflexive 'oof.'
"The High Spock said that K.C. wants him out of the way while
he's with his guests, and that K.C. wants to interrogate him
"As opposed to impersonally?"
Norman heard a door swish open, and knew now was the time to
make his move. He kicked out with his right leg, intent on tripping
his guards, and experienced an immediate and massive charley horse.
As it happened, he was so close to their legs that the resulting
wild spasms and screams and so on and so forth knocked them over
anyway, and furthermore panicked them so much they dropped their
keycards, their phasers, their communicators, their tricorders, and a
half-full box of Krispy Spleen Donuts. Norman, who had been trained
to take advantage of flimsy plot contrivances such as this as part of
his Space Hero training, straggled to his feet, picked up a keycard,
a phaser, a communicator, a tricorder, and a
lemon-type-substance-filled donut, and took off down the corridor.
His charley horse was subsiding, and he was able to reach a half-run,
half-stagger that he hoped was enough.
His captors, he realized, must have recovered with alacrity, for
he could hear their steps behind him.
"Halt!" one of them called out. "Halt or we'll fmhlrrfff!"
"Hmmmmffff!" his companion added.
Norman decided to try out a yell of defiance. He had gotten an
'A' on the subject in his Heroic Bellowing 204 class, but it was the
first time he had a chance to try it out in the field.
"Ynnnf nvvvhhh cmmmmf mffff!"
It was at this point that Norman learned a little something
about himself, and a little something about life. To wit: heroic
bellowing and donut consumption do not mix. He tried to spit out the
mouthful he currently had, but the lemon-type-substance within had
already effectively immobilized most of his jaw.
"Hmmmmffff!" called one of his former captors, who were in the
process of discovering the similar lesson that villainous flunky
bellowing and donut consumption also do not mix. Norman decided it
was time to let his phaser do the talking, and turned his head to see
what he was aiming at.
What he saw were two decidedly nonmuscular guys in red velour
shirts and black pants, one attempting to aim a phaser at him, the
other attempting to call someone on his communicator. Norman fired a
wild shot that hit the floor in front of his pursuers, leaving a hole
that caused them both to trip.
"Hmmf!" he exclaimed. "Thkff thhhfft, vfffnfffs shcmmmff!"
He turned his head back to see where he was running.
"Auuugh!" yelled Kalvin Certain.
"Auffffff!" Norman replied, just before the collision.
<<Still on Alpha Rio VI (The Planet of Casinos), only someplace else>>
Benjen snarled and threw his spent laser pistol at the nearest
velour-suited zombie. It struck the zombie's dead-yet-still-pimply
head and clattered to the carpet. The zombie groaned. Benjen cursed.
Any second now and the ship would blow up. It had been his own
fault, having accidentally triggered the self-destruct mechanism
while trying to search the computer for any means of escape for
himself, the diminutive robot TH1K1, and Dr. Bing Von Spleen. And
had he found any means of escape? No. Had he found any means of
sending a distress call? No. Had he even found a good bottle of
scotch and the unedited version of 'Space Ingenues Spring Break in
the Horsehead Nebula'? No! There was nothing on the ship but
zombies and pudding and dark-black-steel corridors--
Corridors which did not have carpeting.
Corridors which certainly did not have worn, funky-patterned
carpeting that looked as if it had previously been used in
reupholstering Elton John. Even the zombies seemed confused.
"Benjen?" a semi-familiar voice asked.
"Dr. Von Spleen?" he replied.
Benjen peered over the shoulders of the disoriented zombies and
saw Earth's foremost spamologist standing by a large buffet table.
Floating next to him was the villainous and deranged ur-bagel known
"Well," Shoon-Ma intoned, "I guess he really did get everyone."
"Um, right," said Benjen. "He did." He paused, and looked
around at the zombies. He peered over their shoulders. He looked
under their legs. "Where's TH1K1?"
A lump beneath a shirt of one of the zombies shifted. Moments
later, the tiny, toylike form of TH1K1 flew out from under the
zombie's collar. The zombie reacted to the sudden development by
TH1K1 emitted a loud series of bleeps and gleeps. Benjen applauded.
"You're ingenious, TH1K1!" he exclaimed. "Is there anything you
The robot gleeped some more.
"He says," Von Spleen told them, "he can't seem to send us all
to the gory and painful deaths he feels we all so richly deserve."
TH1K1 turned and gleeped at Von Spleen.
"Never mind him, TH1K1," said Benjen, as he shouldered his way
past zombies to get over to where Von Spleen was standing and
Shoon-Ma was floating. "He's just being a grouch. So... what's up
with the changed decor? This your doing, Shoonie?"
The ur-bagel trembled with anger. "In a manner, mortal. I
empowered Dr. Von Spleen to contact someone known to him on this
planet, who had the means to effect our immediate escape from the
self-destructing ship. That we are still here and intact should
indicate that he was successful. And if you call me 'Shoonie' again,
you will experience a brief but powerful moment of regret as my horde
of zombie agents fall upon you, rip you to shreds, and consume you
with brie on these little tiny crackers."
Benjen looked back over his shoulder at the zombies, who were
clearly over their confusion and were now re-focused on him.
"Urk," he commented. "No problem, Shoon-Ma. Sir. Er."
More comments along these lines were forestalled by a sudden
dimming of the overhead chandelier lights and an equally sudden
brightening of a large, rectangular section of wall close to where
they stood. Benjen took advantage of the confusion to horde the last
of the buffet's cocktail shrimps.
"This," a crusty, Ed Asneresque voice commented from hidden
speakers, "was the ship in which you came to our world."
"I don't see it," said Von Spleen, as he nibbled on a sausage-on-a-stick.
Benjen squinted. The viewscreen was showing an outer space
scene, and as such, it was filled with a lot of inky darkness and
only the occasional bright spot. It took a minute or so before he
caught the outline of the alien ship. He had almost forgotten how
hard it was to see from the outside.
"That's it, all right," he said.
Suddenly and without warning, it exploded.
"That was it, all right," he said.
"Kind of a waste, don't you think?" the speaker voice asked. "I
mean, what exactly was the point of having a self-destruct on that
thing in the first place? I mean, it wasn't exactly a warship, now
"We do not know who triggered the self-destruct," Shoon-Ma
replied. The bagel fluttered about, doing the equivalent of a wobbly
shrug. "Nor did we realize one was available to be triggered in the
Benjen scuffed at the carpet with his foot, while projecting
nonchalance with an intensity that bordered on the maniacal.
"But there is no point in considering the question further,"
Shoon-Ma continued. "It is gone, and we are not, and we have you,
our hidden host, to thank."
"Oh, don't thank me yet," the voice said. It was immediately
followed by a loud squealing sound, then a couple clicks, and some
static. "Needlewarp," the voice muttered. "Is it this one?"
It evidently was that one, for the speaker hiss was cut off.
"We're in trouble now," Von Spleen said.
"You mean you are in trouble now," Shoon-Ma taunted. "You knew
the tradeoff for asking this particular individual for help."
"It doesn't work quite like that," Von Spleen replied.
"Who are you talking about?" Benjen asked.
TH1K1, who was busy trying to change the molecular composition
of the little crustless tuna sandwiches into something that would
explode on contact with teeth, gleeped a short reply. It sounded
very cheerful to Benjen, but not so to Von Spleen, judging from the
unhappy expression on his face.
"They are talking," said the Ed Asneresque voice, this time from
inside the room, "about me."
Everyone -- humans, humanoids, little robots, floating bagels,
and zombies alike -- turned to regard five Yaks that had risen up on
a circular platform in the middle of the room. The lights rose as
The one-headed Yaks all wore armor and carried nasty-looking
gun-shaped objects, the business ends of which were aimed in the
general direction of the new arrivals. They stood, two on either
side, by the three-headed Yak in the center. That Yak's six eyes
radiated a mixture of iron-willed benevolence, no-nonsense business,
and a complete and utter willingness to have Benjen and company
turned into corn fritters at the first sign of lack of respect. Two
of the three heads smoked fat cigars. Its black robe and gold
jewelry gave it the look of a gaudy and malevolent three-headed
drinks trolley with a tail, but Benjen knew that no one present would
"My name," said the Yak, "is Vino. Welcome to my humble establishment."
"Vino," said Von Spleen, who rushed forward and immediately
prostrated himself. "We owe you our lives! I beg for mercy! You
have always been like a father to me! You know it wasn't me who
betrayed your sons to Icthor the Marauding Goat with a Thousand
Whining Teenage Goat-Young, right?"
"Oh, shut it, Spleen," Vino snarled. "If I wanted you dead, I'd
have left you on that ship." The head on the left looked around.
"Which one of you is Shoon-Ma?" it asked.
A 'duh' question, Benjen thought, but Shoon-Ma floated forward
-- as if to distinguish himself from all the other floating bagels in
the room -- and bobbed once in the air, the closest it could come to
"Good," said Vino. "Now, you've got sixty seconds to explain
the Breaking of the Fast at the Dawn of the Universe, why one of my
underlings has gone to great lengths to get in on it, why the price
of pudding is so goddamn high, and why I shouldn't have you as a
snack with cream cheese."
"You are unwise to threaten me so," said Shoon-Ma. "Behold, my power!"
Everyone waited, while thunderous things failed to happen.
"Erk," Shoon-Ma said. "I do not understand."
One of Vino's heads let out a puff of cigar smoke.
"You're in my house, sir," another head said. "and the House
always wins. Now... talk."
WILL SHOON-MA TALK?
WILL BENJEN HAVE TO GIVE UP ANY COCKTAIL SHRIMP?
WILL NORMAN BE ABLE TO GET AWAY FROM KALVIN CERTAIN?
WILL HE OFFER KALVIN A DONUT?
HOW WILL JEAN ST. THOMAS GET THE CAPTURED GOORNASHKANS TO COOPERATE?
DO SPACE PHILOSOPHERS EVER 'GO WILD' ON 'SPRING BREAK'?
DO GOORNASHKANS TASTE LIKE TURKEY?
Ask your doctor if SFSTORY is right for you!
Visit the (Almost) Complete Sfstory Archives at
Gary W. Olson
swede3000 at earthlink.net
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