SG: Rad #91 (1/2): Home is Where
swede3000 at earthlink.net
Thu Aug 3 14:40:31 PDT 2006
He was facing the wrong way for watching the sunrise. The sun was at
his back, edging above the trees that screened the beach house from
the road. Its rays had not even directly reached his skin. The
beach was in shadows, even as the ocean filled with light.
It was the ocean he had come out to see. He had too rarely,
even back in the day when he lived in this place, been out in the
morning to greet the sun. Waking before noon had been a challenge,
and was accompanied by others, such as discovering his current
whereabouts, the current whereabouts of his swim trunks, and a means
of extricating himself from his companion of the moment and any
proximate relatives who took dim views of what he considered to be
healthy nocturnal exercise and were prepared to back up those views
with weapons or power tools.
*Like, ah,* Joe Moroboshi thought. *The good old, like, days.*
Days far gone, he knew. He was a month away from turning forty,
though thanks to [space science!] he looked closer to thirty. His
last visit to the mysterious and secretive Clan Bho'toqqs, on Planet
California, had removed the age lines from his face and restored the
oh-god-my-EYES gleam to his teeth. Even with this, he knew, he did
not have the look he had at age twenty-two. Time took its toll in
ways even [space science!] could not make invisible, having mostly to
do with how it changed the eyes that did the looking.
Not all the old days had been good.
Still, he was back, and the sight of the ocean slipping from
dark to brilliant blue was enough to peel back the years. He could
remember another beach, and another view of the same ocean, a view
that turned weird for reasons having to do with [time travel!] and
[space science! gone awry!]. It had been a day that transformed his
body, his mind, and his life. More importantly, it had transformed
his tan from being merely impressive to incomprehensibly amazing.
Even on a bad day, he could take comfort in that.
The diffused light against his back grew momentarily cooler, but
he did not turn. His tan knew the shadows, as well as the light, and
this shadow he knew like his own. Its owner sat on the sand next to
him, and kissed him on the cheek.
"Good morning, darling," said Glum. "Couldn't sleep?"
"Like, nah," Joe answered. He cracked a grin and kissed her
back. "I'm, like, too excited, like, y'know?"
He adjusted his swim trunks.
"Why do we have to wear suits, anyway?" she asked. "We're alone
here, and it's too early for anyone else--"
"Like, you remember what, like, Manny said, right?" he asked.
"Southern California, like, has been taken over, like, by the
"I've been meaning to ask, darling, what are they? They don't
show up on any list of known, evil, invasion-minded spacefaring race
that I know of. I even asked Uncle Ragna about them, and he couldn't
"Like, dunno," he replied. "Manny, like, didn't get into, like,
details. They could, like, be the result, of like [mad science! gone
"Maybe," she said. "I don't see what it has to do with this.
And you shouldn't talk in brackets. You know that irritates your
His wife smiled as she said this, as though even his bad habits
could not break her mood. The years had been kind to her as well,
even discounting the assistance of [space science!] in rolling back
the effects of gravity and time. He could not say that she looked as
good as she had when he first met her; if anything, she looked
better. Her body with its gorgeous curves and void-black hair was
roughly the same, but the mind that owned them had roughly twenty
years more experience. The flower of youth had nothing on the rose
in full bloom, as far as he was concerned.
"Like, what about you?" Joe asked. "You, like, have trouble sleeping?"
"It's your daughter," she replied. "She snores. Like you."
"I, like, do not snore!" he protested. "And, like, even if I,
like, did, I use those [space science!] nose strips, y'know?"
"They're not [space science!]," said Glum. "They... ow, that
hurt... they even have them on this planet. And your daughter isn't
"I'll, like, talk to her," he promised, though he knew it would
not work. Rumiko could be stubborn when she was in the mood, and she
had been in the mood ever since leaving Planet California. She had
wanted to stay with Ian and Chelsea, her older siblings, but Glum
insisted she had to come to Earth with them. Ian and Chelsea had
reached the age of majority as both Planet California and the
Ottsamaddawidu Confederation defined it (which translated into a
little more than sixteen Earth years), and were due to go to that
planet's branch of Hottentot University in a few months time, but
Rumiko had a year and change to go. Rumiko protested long and hard,
but came with them in the end. Snoring all the way.
They fell silent for a while, and watched the waves lap the
beach. The sun had risen enough that direct rays now reached them,
and he relaxed in the feeling. He had been on many worlds, and
tanned under many suns, but this one was special. This sun was home.
"There was a message from Symon Andro this morning," said Glum,
after a while. "It looks like they managed to get Pakilo to come
back into the Confederation after all. They want us to attend the
Joe snorted. "Like, why? We're, like, out of it, y'know? And
it's not, like, he needs us. He, like, thinks he does, but, like, he
"Andro said it was just symbolic," she replied. "He's the first
non-Hottentotian head-of-state of the
ex-Empire-slash-Confederation... ever. He's done a lot to smooth
over relations with the Outlying Domains, but he needs a confidence
boost now and then."
"Like, miss him?"
She looked at him and smirked. "Yeah. Him, I mean, not the
job. He can have that. Even with Uncle Ragna advising, it was a
load of work. Never realized how much until we finally let it drop."
He nodded. They had run Ottsamaddawiduan affairs for about
thirteen Earth-years, overseeing its occasionally tumultuous
transformation from Empire to Confederation, and beyond. For the
first five, Glum ruled as Empress, sharing power with an elected
Parliament. After the shortcomings and dangers of the arrangement
became apparent, Glum did what at that time had seemed unthinkable --
nullify her own Imperial power, and giving it entirely over to a
newly-elected Parliament with an elected Prime Minister and
appointed, mostly ceremonial President. When the new Prime Minister
took over, her title as Empress became just that: only a title.
The transition was made smooth by the fact that she *was* the
new Prime Minister, having no serious opposition in her first
campaign, or the re-election campaign of four years later. Joe, in
the President's position, did much to boost her popularity, even in
the Outlying Domains, where anti-Imperial sentiment had grown common.
Her decision not to run for re-election three years ago was, as
she saw it, the final step in the transition. All that was Imperial
had finally been removed from Confederation government, save Glum and
Joe themselves. The election brought out a plethora of interests and
factions, and resulted in a close contest that Symon Andro, her
advisor and successor as head of the Party On Party, eventually won.
Glum later called one of the hardest decisions she had ever made, but
one she never regretted. At least, she never *admitted* to
In a way, it was the bountiful free time that came with
'retirement' that had brought them back to Earth, surly teenage
daughter in tow. Planet California was wonderful, but had a sameness
to it that worked on their action-accustomed minds. Planet Hottentot
was Glum's birth-planet, but was the center of exactly the kind of
action with which they were done. Other planets in the Confederation
on which Glum held land were nice, but in the end, there had been
only one choice.
*Most* of the good old days had been quite good.
"So," Glum said, "when do our guests arrive?"
"I, like, wish you hadn't, like, said--"
A sonic boom sent sand, water, and the less-secure sort of palm
trees hurtling into the air. A tremendous crash soon followed, which
shook the beach for several seconds. He lowered his hands from his
eyes and looked back in the direction of the beach house.
"--that," he finished.
"Good morning!" a deep and cheerful voice bellowed, causing a
funnel or two to spin into existence and start sucking up sand as
they hurtled toward the ocean. "Sorry to arrive so early, but we
couldn't wait to see you!"
"Where is everybody?" a higher-pitched-but-just-as-cheerful voice asked.
"Well," said Glum, as he helped her to her feet. "Looks like we
won't have to worry about waking Rumiko."
He took her hand as they walked up the beach, to where a massive
man in purple-and-bright-orange swim trunks was extracting himself
from a crater next to the still-standing beach house. The
blue-haired man did not seem to mind that he was not receiving much
help from the dark-haired, French-cut-bikini-clad woman next to him,
and no help at all from the blue-haired five-year-old boy who was
juggling anvils about six feet away.
The sun had almost completed its rise past the tops of the
remaining trees. It was going to be a brilliant day.
Joe Moroboshi, known to this world and many others as Rad,
reflected the sun with his grin.
[ Rad Returns, Part One of Ten ]
"Home is Where the Tan Is"
Gary W. Olson,
who knows he hasn't finished 'Arc of the Sun' yet, not to mention
'Universal Solvents,' so don't even get started, you youngsters with
your iPods and your Britneys and your anvils...
"On the next Oprah, my Book Club pick of the month, the
"--end of her third marriage, the former Mrs. Maccabee went back
to work today on the set of her new horror movie, _The Vexation,_
which also stars---"
"--welcome back as our guests, Dr. Sleaze and The Tapeworm, have
more to say about how to become rich by buying abandoned villainous
lairs for no money down---"
Rumiko Moroboshi, who went by the diminutive 'Rumi' and often
disregarded any attempt to gain her attention by saying her name in
full, tossed the television remote to the other end of the
spectacularly fluffy living room couch and regarded the now dark
plasma-screen television. All she had heard about entertainment on
this world looked like it would be true, which meant she might as
well not watch at all. Perhaps the problem was that it was only in
two dimensions, but she doubted it. The holovision networks that
spanned the length and breadth and depth of the planets of the
Ottsamaddawidu Confederation had far more possible choices, yet held
her attention no more.
But those planets had *other things to do.* She could explore
the capital city or the surrounding jungles with her friends on
Hottentot. She could play volleyball and swim and tell stories to
her friends about her older siblings, their friends, and what they
got up to when they did not know Rumiko was watching. Most
importantly, she could walk outside and breathe the air without
feeling like she should jump into her parents' ship's autodoc a
Not that the air around the beach house was *too* bad. But they
had stopped at a public beach in Los Angeles the day before, so her
dad could point out the exact place where he had gained his
superpowers. It had just been sand, like all the sand around it.
She kept her mouth shut this time, however, and managed to fake
looking interested. The air had been horrible, even though the
people nearby said it was a *good* day, with hardly any smog.
Staying quiet meant she could leave sooner.
Worse, they had come here to *live.* For, as far as Rumiko
could tell, the rest of their lives. No more intergalactic political
intrigue. No more parties, at least not on the scale that you got on
Planet California. They had come back forever to the weirdest planet
in the known universe: Planet Earth.
And how their eyes lit *up* when they woke up yesterday morning
and saw Earth on the main viewscreen of their approaching ship. She
had expected her dad to get excited - it was his home planet, -after
all - but her mom surprised her by looking even *more* happy to have
arrived. Mom had talked about all their adventures and intrigues of
almost two decades before, with evil supervillains and death rays and
disco and people wrecking the universe and putting it back together
before other people noticed and felt inconvenienced. Rumiko had no
idea why any sane person could feel nostalgic for such a time.
But all she had to do was make it through a year. Then she
could ride a Transmat beam out to Planet California, claim age of
majority status, and that would be that. It sounded like a good plan
during the ride over, which was the main reason she had not voiced
Less than a day on Earth had changed her mind. A year was going
to be an unbearably long time to wait.
Exhibit one: the commotion from outside. Two of her parents'
friends from the 'good old days' had dropped in. Rumi had known it
would happen, but had not expected them to be so early or so literal.
Were it not for the Awesomeantium reinforcement of the structure of
the beach house or the self-repair upgrades her parents introduced to
the structure last night, she would have woken up to the ceiling
falling on her head, rather than a loud crash followed by equally
loud bellowing of greetings. Had she switched on the noise-dampening
field in her room last night--as she had in the living room this
morning after stumbling downstairs and ascertaining that the
explosion she had heard had merely been the arrival of their
guests--she would probably still be asleep, instead of exploring the
wasteland that passed for entertainment in this section of the world.
With a sigh, she headed for the kitchen. If she greeted their
guests before her folks tracked her down and dragged her in, it was
possible they would let her go back to her room and log in to ConNet
after maybe a half hour of the torture of listening to old people go
on about old times and what their old friends were doing.
Dad was at the kitchen counter, making an omelet out of tofu,
eggs, shredded cheese, and several spices, while tapping his foot to
the rhythm of the song coming at low volume out of the radio beneath
the cupboard. Mom was at the table, a cup of coffee in her hands.
She was talking to the woman across from her about something that
made her ears burn, even though she only caught the tail end of the
"'--fault! The sand got into the cat, too!' I... oh, good
"Morning, Mom," said Rumi, not bothering to hide the sullen note
in her voice. "Hi, Aunt Key."
Key Clark, nee Li Pan, known to the world as MeltDown, had been
forced to cover her mouth and nose to avoid snarfing her coffee, and
so did not immediately acknowledge Rumi. Rumi hoped that her mother
had not told the whole story about the cat and the sand and Aran, her
first and so far only real boyfriend (now her ex by reason of immense
distance). The telling only reminded her about Aran, another reason
she wanted to get back to Planet California as soon as she legally
Before Rumi could say anything, Key was out of her chair and
scooped her up into a hug. Key had done that the last time Rumi saw
her, almost six years ago, at Key's wedding. The problem, from
Rumi's perspective, was that Rumi had been nine at the time, and much
more scoopable than she felt she was now. Actually being taller than
Key was paramount among her reasons for feeling this way.
She was already a few centimeters taller than her mother, though
she had stopped growing as fast as she had when she was eleven and
twelve. She had also filled out a bit, though not nearly to the
extent her mother, or Aunt Key, could be considered 'filled out.'
Mom told her that it was natural, that the rest of her would catch up
with her height if she ate right and exercised and avoided Baldwin
brothers (whatever *they* were). Rumi hoped it would happen soon.
Key let her go and looked down, and then up, at her.
"How did you get so tall?" she asked, a wide grin breaking
across the smooth bronze tones of her face. "And... you were right,
Glum, she definitely has Rad's eyes."
"And, like, I want them back," said Rad, as he let an omelet
slide out of his frying pan onto a plate. "I can't, like, tell if
I'm, like, making omelets or, like, frying the newspaper, y'know?"
"Grill me up the sports section, Dad," Rumi replied, as she made
herself smile for Key, who was not really her Aunt. She had only one
*real* Aunt, and her parents had said nothing about Shadebeam
Moroboshi planning to visit. But out of all her *honorary* Aunts,
Key was her favorite. She was someone who would understand about the
cat, and had undoubtedly got sand into a few cats in her day.
To Rumi's surprise, Key actually had some lines on her face.
Rumi realized she had assumed that all of her parents' friends made
full use of whatever skin and body rejuvenating technology was
available on this world, or made trips to Confederation worlds for
that purpose. Though Key never made the trip to Planet California to
visit the Clan Bho'toqqs, it surprised her that she had not taken
advantage of similar services on Earth.
"Are Ian and Chelsea here too?" Key asked. "Your mom was saying---"
"They got to stay on Planet California," Rumi interrupted. She
did not add how lucky she thought they were to be older, and did not
need to. Her mother made a 'stop that' face.
"That's too bad," said Key, after releasing Rumi. "I haven't
seen them in years, either. I was wondering... well, never mind
that. How've you been?"
Rumi knew exactly what Key wondered, and could have told her
that Ian and Chelsea looked nothing like they had twelve to fourteen
years ago, when an absurdly complicated series of circumstances led
to them magically growing to adulthood and becoming powerful mages.
Some even more absurd circumstances led to all this being undone, and
them reverting to what their ages and body shapes would have been if
the magic had never happened. Now, they were adults all over again,
only this time with appearances that owed much more to genetics.
"Okay," Rumi answered. "Where's Uncle Kent?"
Rumiko was told later on by Glum that the crashing sound that
followed was required by narrative convention. She was almost
certain her mother was pulling her leg, but always took care with
that sort of question after that.
Though the beach house had long ago been overhauled by
Ottsamaddawiduan engineers (sober ones, unlike the inebriated Dalan
ones who were responsible for the old CalForce HQ's more entertaining
non-Euclidian features), was reinforced and anchored with
Awesomeantium, and had the latest damage-resistance and self-repair
upgrades freshly installed, her parents had warned her that a visit
from the Clarks would provide the sternest of tests. As an added
precaution, they'd left their more breakable possessions on board
their ship, and instructed the ship's computer to, for the duration
of the Clarks' visit, remain in orbit around the planet. Of Jupiter.
Kent Clark, known to about all the world as Mighty Guy (though
Kent himself remained blissfully unaware that the world was not
fooled by his attempts to maintain a secret identity), bounded into
the kitchen, trailed by all of the door and much of the surrounding
wall behind him. A five-and-a-half foot-long shark was tucked
beneath his incredibly overmuscled right arm. Two skinny human legs
protruded from its toothsome mouth.
"Dear," said Kent, "where is the sunblock?"
"In here," Key replied, as she rooted through the
orange-and-white striped beach bag by the foot of her chair. "How'd
he do this time?"
"Three anvils, a shark, and the hot tub!" Kent exclaimed,
sending plates and pieces of wall flying. Most of the pieces
appeared to bounce off a near-invisible wall that protected herself
and her folks. Her dad dropped his arm and grinned. "But the shark
was pointed the wrong way again!"
"Like, what happened to the hot tub, dude?" Rad asked.
Another crash followed, this one also no doubt required by
"Like, never mind."
The legs in the shark's mouth continued to wriggle.
"Um," said Rumi, "shouldn't you do something about... that?"
Key looked up.
"No, the shark's fine," she said. "Or will be, I expect, once
Johnny gets his anvil back. That was what happened, right, dear?"
"Indeed!" Kent replied. "And good morning, Rumiko! My, you have grown!"
He stuck out his hand to shake, and Rumi took it with a feeling
of trepidation. The technology of the house would not be all that
would be tested that morning.
[continued in part two, following...]
Gary W. Olson
swede3000 at earthlink.net http://gwox.livejournal.com/
swede at novitious.com http://www.novitious.com/
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