SF: Universal Solvents #18

Gary swede3000 at earthlink.net
Sun Jun 26 12:44:36 PDT 2005

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



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


<<Zeta Ricola Beta>>

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


<<Alpha Rio VI, the Planet of Casinos>>

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


Stuff keeps on happening in the next exciting episode of... THE 

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