SF: Universal Solvents #22

swede at garywolson.com swede at garywolson.com
Mon Dec 27 13:49:25 PST 2010

                         UNIVERSAL SOLVENTS
                        (a Tale of Sfstory!)
                             Episode 22
                            Gary W. Olson,
                     who has a new email address


     Friends, it has often been observed, do not always do what you
want them to do.  Sometimes they take your car keys away, when you
want them to let you drive on both the highways in your wobbly frame
of vision.  Sometimes they suddenly depart, only to return six hours
later with an emu, a police officer, and a songbook, when what you
wanted was a cheeseburger.  Sometimes they do what you need for them
to do, even if you don't realize it at the time--though if you really
*did* need an emu, a police officer, and a songbook, without knowing
it at the time, you should also stop to reflect that you have a really
good friend indeed.
     Quooth was unsure if Bagelos would regard phim as a good friend.
The Wzaxtil had spent much time with the middle-aged would-be space-
villain, and had observed that Bagelos was not the universe's best
financial wizard, in the same sense that Richard Dawkins was not the
universe's best Pope.  All of Bagelos's many schemes for universal
domination relied on Bagelos's ability to raise massive funds (to be
spent on building warships, killer robots, Death Varmints, and the
like), and as that was the case, none had come to pass.  But now, for
the first time, Bagelos was trying something that did not rely on his
cash flow--albeit only because he had been sent to the planet they
were on (Zeta Ricola Beta) against his will, and had figured out how
to usurp the plan his grandfather, the space villain Baconos, had
started to implement forty years earlier.  There seemed a real chance
that he would succeed.
     By playing (on phis Holy Harmonica) the Song of Connection to A
Friend Who is Having Cosmic Things Happening to Phis Head At The
Moment, Quooth had attempted to see directly what Bagelos had been
doing while connected via the Proofs to the ur-Pancake that was the
universe before the Big Bang.  While phe was unable to witness
Bagelos's activities directly, phe connected with Shadebeam Moroboshi
and Slithis, two other friends who--due to having been shifted into
cosmic space by an Automated Beet-Peeler Sub-Atomic Re-Integrator
(ABPSARI)--knew what was going on.  Phe also knew that Shadebeam and
Slithis had been shifted into altiverse 000SUPERGUY and out of the
series altogether, and that meant that phe was now the only one who
knew what was going on, and how to stop it.
     As Quooth re-tuned phis senses to the physical realm and finished
phis song (with the notes that accomplished this sounding to the non-
Wzaxtils in the room much like 'shave-and-a-haircut-two-bits') phe saw
that the body of friend Bagelos was warping in and out of reality.
Watching this, and for some reason holding their ears, were Zeta
Ricola Beta natives Sark Flyby and Tarlus, an assortment of guards in
monk-appropriate brown robes, and the menacing red robot Megabot.
Quooth removed his feelers from the Harmonica.  Bagelos's body stopped
being so warpy and got on with full-time physical existence.  The Zeta
Ricola Betans lowered their hands from their ears and glared at
     "Did you *have* to do that?" Sark Flyby asked.  The grey-skinned,
Freddie-Prinze-Jr-featured gnome shook his head.  "My head hurts now."
     "Such is the price of cosmic connection, friend Sark," Quooth
replied.  "I would be glad to discuss it with you at great length..."
     "Another time," Sark quickly interrupted.  He looked up at
Bagelos, who had let go of the Proofs and was patting various areas of
his body to be sure they had all reported for being material.  "So,
was that it?  Is the deal sealed?"
     Bagelos shook his head, though the expression on his face was
insufferably pleased.  "I, Bagelos, have done that which I, Bagelos,
can at this point.  I, Bagelos, contacted Shoon-Ma from before the
Dawn of the Universe and conspired with him to steal the cosmic power
from his fellow ur-Breakfast Food Items.  Cosmic power was brought to
you in this fashion... forty years ago, from your point of view, as
Shoon-Ma saw me as an agent acting on behalf of my grandfather
Baconos.  It is, of course, not permanent... though today, it shall
become so.  I, Bagelos, decree it!"
     "That's nice," said Sark.  Quooth thought he sounded mildly
perturbed, a curious reaction to an announcement of impending cosmic
power-uppage.  "Very good work.  Our alliance with you has exceeded my
wildest expectations.  Care for some lunch?"
     "Do you have any Oorglactovian Balls?" Quooth asked.  "In hot
effluence, if possible."
     "Oor... what?" asked Sark, a shade of green leaving his grey
     "Not balls," said Quooth.  "What is the word... eggs.  Yes, that
is it.  And when I said 'effluence,' I meant--"
     "Nope, sorry," Sark hurriedly said.  "Just sandwiches.  Bacon
sandwiches.  With mayonnaise."
     "I, Bagelos, do not hunger," Bagelos declared, "save for
universal conquest!  Nor shall I, Bagelos, fall for your ruses to
cause me to leave this room, where the Proofs and the Fiber are in my
grasp!"  The space villain gestured behind him at the large and
ungainly teapot-shaped machine, from which were suspended the
cardboard-appearing Proofs, and which had plugged into it the glowing
reddish rock known as the Fiber (which had until recently been at the
heart of the ship that Bagelos and Quooth had arrived in, the
_Universal Solvent_).
     "What... are you saying, friend Bagelos?" Quooth asked.
     Bagelos grinned.  It was a look Quooth had never before seen on
his friend's face--one of Space Evil Triumphant.  "Our host, Sark
Flyby, knows that the deal is not yet complete because Shoon-Ma has
returned to Zeta Ricola Beta.  As his prophecies have foretold, the
ur-Bagel, seeking revenge for the betrayal that I, Bagelos, just
recently commited, has made his way to this world, with his Chosen
     "Champion," Tarlus interrupted.  "*Ours* is the Chosen One--Zark
     Bagelos looked briefly exasperated.  "I, Bagelos, do not give an
effluence what you call him.  But Shoon-Ma is here, and his presence
prevents the circuit from achieving completion.  But once
Shoon-Ma's... Champion--whom I understand to be a former nuisance of
my acquaintance named Sajon--is vanquished, and Shoon-Ma is then
destroyed, the circuit shall be complete, and cosmic power shall be
mine!  Ahahahaha---"
     "Thunk," said a metal box as it connected with the back of
Bagelos's head.
     "Whump," said Bagelos's body as it sagged to the floor.  Tarlus,
who had employed the metal box to knock Bagelos out, glared at
Bagelos.  He seemed unsure as to what to do next with the box, so he
shook it at Bagelos.
     "*That,*" he said, "is for mocking my control box!"
     "Tarlus," said Sark, "we were going to have one of the guards do
that, remember?"
     Tarlus shook the box once more, then set it down.  He visibly
sagged, and shook his head.  "Just like the last one, Sark.  Baconos.
Too busy ranting to *think.*"
     "What do you mean, friend Tarlus?" asked Quooth.
     "He means," said Sark, as two monk-guards lifted Bagelos up by
the armpits and began to drag him away, "that the phrase 'cosmic power
shall be mine' has an important corollary, to wit: 'cosmic power is
not yet mine, and so I should watch out for blunt objects or asps.'"
     Quooth recalled how Baconos's pseudo-ghost, in the Temple of the
Ancients, had claimed he had met his end by asp-bite, while on his way
to meet his 'secret ally.'  This was despite the established fact that
there were no poisonous snakes on Zeta Ricola Beta, which meant the
asp had somehow been brought by the thief who stole Baconos's ship.
     "Are you, friend Sark, the 'secret ally' spoken of by Baconos's
ghost?" Quooth asked.
     "That's hardly a secret," said Tarlus.
     Sark nodded.  "It was a secret at the time," he said.  "I suppose
that old shade thinks it still is."  He smacked his hands, as if
dusting them off.  "Well.  Enough of this rot.  Bagelos has served his
purpose.  Now we must locate this 'Sajon,' send my son Zark after him,
and fulfill the prophe--hey!"
     Quooth was already heading for the ramp that led out of the
underground complex and to the surface, Tarlus's black box clutched
securely in phis feelers.  While phe was uncertain as to what phis
proper course of action was, it seemed to phim that if Sajon and Zark
met, and engaged in a universe-shattering cosmic battle, it would
severely impede, or at least inconvenience, his Holy Quest.  Also,
friend Bagelos would not like it if cosmic power came rushing in and
he could not partake.
     Monks moved swiftly to block his escape, so Quooth did the only
thing phe could think of--toss the black control box high in the air,
then quickly play his Holy Harmonica in an attempt to persuade the
monks of the nobility of his actions.
     Some monks tried to catch the box.  Other monks tried to stop
phim, but ended up clutching their ears as a harmonica rendition of
'Rhinestone Cowboy' assaulted them.  Quooth zipped past them and up
the ramp.
     Friend Bagelos would no doubt want Quooth to directly come and
rescue him, Quooth thought, but rescue was not what Bagelos *needed*
at the moment.  What Bagelos *needed* was for the monks to no longer
have cause to hold him captive, which meant that the prophesied cosmic
showdown had to be averted.  And because phe could not cut off power
from Zark Flyby, having been forced to give up Tarlus's black box to
escape, that meant keeping Sajon from whatever event would give him
cosmic power.  Which first meant finding Sajon.
     Quooth hoped phis friend Bagelos would someday understand, as
phis friend Robert Downey Jr. had eventually understood about the emu,
the police officer, and the songbook.  If there was one thing Quooth
prided phimself on, it was in being a good friend.


     As sudden, involuntary translocations went, it was not the worst
Benjen had experienced.  In fact, parts of it were quite pleasant--the
part about now no longer being in a room on the Planet of Casinos
where a cosmically-powered ur-Bagel was laying into everyone who was
not a cosmically-powered ur-Bagel, for instance.  The transition
itself was brief and painless, and a bit tingly.  Only the last part
kept the experience from the 'wanna do it again' column, as it
involved appearing six feet above the ground, followed by landing on
said ground and discovering it consisted of prickly burrs and weeds.
     "Oog," Benjen commented, as he staggered out of the burr patch.
The Hottentottian then conducted a brief and informal inventory
process to ensure all his bits had made the transition with him.
"Horns, hair, nose, lips... hmm... nipples, beer gut, fingers, toes...
um, wait."
     Benjen silently reflected on the question of why, during the
translocation, he had suddenly been reclothed in a bodysuit made out
of lettuce.  Iceberg lettuce, no less.  After coming to the conclusion
that any further reflection on this question would start him on a good
and hearty round of gibbering, he redirected his thoughts toward
puzzling out where the hell he was.
     Around him was a forest, filled with large trees and--to judge
from the sounds--a large number of birds that considered his sudden
appearance as cause for comment.  It was daytime, though he could only
judge this by the quality of light seeping through the thick green
canopy overhead.  While it was true he could easily fly up--using the
bioelectricity-powered tactile telekinesis common to members of his
otherwise human-appearing race--to get a better view, he decided he
was better off staying on the ground for the time being.  At least
until he found out if anything else was around, carrying a gun and
having a broad view of the concept of 'skeet.'
     "Hey," said someone almost directly behind him.  Benjen whirled,
hand raised and bioelectric blast at the ready.  He saw a young-
looking human man in a torn velour shirt and pants that appeared to
have been fashioned out of beets.  He appeared to be as lost as Benjen
felt.  "I'm not here to hurt you.  I just... showed up here."
     "Same here," said Benjen.  He frowned, thinking the human seemed
somehow familiar.  "Do I know you?"
     "We briefly met on Freedonia 5 a few years back," the man said.
"I'm Norman Sassafras.  You're... Ben?"
     "Benjen," Benjen corrected.  "I think I saw you more recently,
though.  On a screen in Vino's ballroom."
     Norman blinked, then exhaled.  "Right.  Kalvin said it was Vino
that sent those things with the sharp legs and the singing."  Norman
shuddered.  "He must have wanted you to watch... but why?"
     "Long story," said Benjen.  "I managed to get taken captive by a
floating bagel bent on revenge, escaped the destruction of its ship,
and got captured by Vino.  How did you get into Kalvin Certain's
     "You know him?" asked Norman.
     "Unfortunately," Benjen replied, as he looked around.  "He's--"
     "--got a gun," another voice interrupted.  Benjen jumped and
whirled.  Stumbling out of some dense foliage was Kalvin Certain, his
human suaveness and charm marred slightly by the fact that he wore a
toga made of bacon.  In his right hand was a laser gun not made of
bacon and apparently quite functional.  Despite the fact that Kalvin
now sported an eyepatch over his left eye, something Benjen did not
remember him having, Benjen had no doubt Kalvin would not find depth
perception an issue when it came to shooting at people in his way.
     "I was his prisoner when the fight in his office started," said
Norman.  "He was going to interrogate me or something."
     "Water under the bridge, lads," said Kalvin, as he lowered his
gun.  "We're not on Alpha Rio VI anymore, and no longer being attacked
by giant mechanized half-spiders-half-lounge-singers.  And if I don't
miss my guess, we're on Zeta Ricola Beta, which is exactly where I
wanted to get to.  Hey, Benjen, where're the rest of your merry crew?"
     Benjen thought of responding with a bioelectric bolt, but decided
it was not worth getting into a fight--at least, not while Kalvin was
armed.  "You got me.  I last saw Jerri and Gham three days ago, before
I got abducted by Shoon-Ma.  Slithis I haven't seen since watching the
attack on your office.  Though if Norman's here..."
     "...Slithis is too," Norman finished.  "Probably.  And that woman
who was with him.  Shadebeam.  And the dude, Sajon..."
     "Forget them," Kalvin hissed.  "You were *with* Shoon-Ma?  Has he
selected a Champion?"
     "That would be Sajon," said Benjen.  "And how do you know
     Kalvin waved his hand, dismissing the question.  "Never mind
that," he said.  "How close are we to the Daaksvong complex?"
     "No idea," Benjen answered.  "Maybe Shoon-Ma knows."
     Kalvin frowned.  "But, how..."
     "That's him over there, right?" asked Norman.
     It was turning into a day for sudden appearances.  From out of
the woods shot a flying bagel, blue lighting arcing from it into
trees, dirt, and shrubs.  It abruptly halted less than a foot away
from Benjen.
     "It cannot be a coincidence that you are here," said Shoon-Ma,
its confident voice echoing in Benjen's mind as it hovered before him.
Though, as it was to all appearances an ordinary bagel--and as such
lacked eyes, or a mouth, or any other sensory apparatus--Benjen had
the strong feeling it was looking directly at him.  "Or, rather, it is
a coincidence so unlikely it could only have been engineered by an
ABPSARI."  Shoon-Ma flew over to hover in front of Kalvin.  "Which I
last recall seeing in *your* care... *Mister* Certain."
     "Don't have it," said Kalvin.  "Don't need it.  You... er... know
who I am?"
     "You sent several uniformed cretins to steal me from the
archaeologists who dug me up," Shoon-Ma replied.  "I turned said
cretins into zombies.  Sadly, they do not appear to have been brought
by the ABPSARI to this world with me--I could have used an army.  But
I suppose you three shall do."
     "Now wait a minute," said Norman.
     A bolt of lightning shot from Shoon-Ma and scorched the ground at
Norman's feet.
     "Um... orders, sir?" asked Benjen.
     "Yes," said Shoon-Ma.  "You shall... stop that man!"
     Benjen regarded Kalvin, who was hot-footing it into the woods.
He took off after Kalvin, determined to take a good long time in
chasing the man, at least until he was far enough away from Shoon-Ma
that he could peel off and start searching for Slithis and Shadebeam.
He took a few potshots at Kalvin to make it look good, and was
rewarded by the sound of sizzling bacon.
     "Ow!" Kalvin yelped.  "Stop that!"
     "Return at once, fool!" bellowed Shoon-Ma.  Benjen realized that
Shoon-Ma was flying alongside him, and silently cursed.  He risked a
look over his shoulder, and saw that Norman was huffing and puffing as
he struggled to keep up.  Clearly, today was not shaping up as a day
of goals achieved.
     Abruptly, Kalvin skidded to a halt--so abruptly that Benjen flew
into him and knocked him into a clearing.  They tumbled about, Kalvin
cursing and flailing, Benjen feeling a sudden breeze as his lettuce-
based outfit proved its ineffectiveness as crash-protection.
     "I hope no one around here's dressed as a tomato," Benjen said,
as he struggled to his feet.  He would have said more, but the sight
of what had caused Kalvin to stop caused the words to dry up.
     Below the waist, the three were fearsome, metallic, and sharp.
Each had six legs that were hinged blades, and moved with grace and
deadly precision.  Above the waist, they were Wayne Newton--white
tuxedo, thick gray hair helmet, toothy grin, and beady eyes.  Benjen
had seen these Arachno-Newtons on the attack before, and had a bad
feeling as to who they had been sent after, and who had sent them.
     "Welcome," the closest of the three said.  "Thank you for being
our targets for tonight.  Our host, Vino the Three-Headed Yak, sends
his regards, and hopes that in the next life you'll know better than
to show him disrespect.  Before we begin dismembering you, do you have
any requests?"
     "'Shangri-La,' maybe?" asked the Arachno-Newton on the previous
speaker's left.  "Or 'Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast,' or..."
     "Die! Die! Die!" exclaimed Shoon-Ma, as lighting arced from it
and into the lead Arachno-Newton.  The Newton lit up with blue energy
that soon went into the ground and dissipated.  The sheepdog grin on
the Arachno-Newton was unchanged.
     "Sorry, sir," it said.  "Don't know that one.  But... 'Danke
Schoen' for asking!"
     The three Arachno-Newtons opened their mechanical mouths, and the
air began to fill with an orchestral arrangement.  Benjen felt his
ears starting to hurt, even before the first of the banal lyrics of
the song named could assault them.  The Arachno-Newtons surged,
foreleg blades raised for the kill.


     Sark Flyby was not pleased.  Before his very eyes, a crack team
of soldier-monks had been made fools of by a man-sized, harmonica-
wielding bug named Quooth.  He watched in disdain as the last of them
disappeared up the ramp.  He shook his head and turned to Tarlus.
     "Is the control box intact?" he asked.
     "Ehrm," said Tarlus.  It was not a promising noise.  Sark grew
concerned.  Tarlus showed him the box--or, rather, the pieces of what
had been the box.  "It appears to have taken an unfortunate amount of
     "Can it be repaired?"
     "Ehrm," Tarlus answered.  Sark progressed from 'concerned' to
     "The final showdown," said Sark, "between my son and this 'Sajon'
of Shoon-Ma's is imminent!  Without the power moderated by that box,
Zark will stand no chance!"
     "Well, no worries there," said Tarlus.  "According to the control
station readouts, the cosmic power feed to Zark is at full.  He now
has full meta-destructive capabilities, which should be more than
enough to finish Shoon-Ma, his Champion, and anyone else in his way!
No one can stop him!"
     "Good," Sark replied, feeling the tension behind his eyes lighten
some.  He looked down at Bagelos's unconscious form, then up at the
menacing red robot known to him as Megabot.  Megabot's single ruby-red
eye-slit pulsed, as if the robot was excited.  "Megabot... you should
have gone after the... what do you call it... Wzaxtil."
     Megabot sagged slightly, then floated toward the ramp.
     "But never mind that," Sark went on.  "Pick up Bagelos here and
drag him to the prison cell two floors up.  He can wait there until--"
     "Er, Sark," said Tarlus.  "If I might interrupt..."
     Sark seethed, but managed to tamp it down.  "What... is... it?"
he asked.
     "I have just realized an unfortunate consequence of these recent
events," said Tarlus.  "Your ultraviolent son is now cosmically-
powerful in the fullest."
     "Yes," said Sark.  "We've been over that.  'Finish anyone in his
way,' I believe you said.  Also, 'no one can stop him.'  What of it?"
     "Well," Tarlus answered, "it's just that the 'no one'... includes
     Sark started to shout, then paused.  He looked at the broken
pieces of control box in Tarlus's hands.  He looked at the Proofs, and
the machine connected to them, which was glowing a very violent khaki
color.  He considered how ultraviolent and ultrastupid Zark Flyby was,
even before being cosmically-enhanced.
     "Oh, needlewarp," he said, at last.
     "Quite," Tarlus agreed.
     "Can you fix the box?" asked Sark.
     "Doubtful," answered Tarlus.  He considered the pieces in his
hand.  "It was of a piece with the great Teapot Interface designed for
us by Baconos.  Many of the pieces broken now have no replacements,
and cannot be refashioned into replacements."
     Sark frowned.  "So we now have no means to reduce the flow of
energy to my son, other than that of destroying the Teapot or removing
the Fiber.  Which would put an end to the cosmic circuit altogether,
losing us all the power we have worked for so long to attain."
     "Yes," Tarlus answered.  "Not to mention that the explosive
backwash would annihilate this complex, and us with it."
     Sark nodded, and frowned harder.
     "There is... one alternative," Tarlus noted.
     Sark raised an eyebrow.
     Tarlus gestured at the still-unconscious Bagelos, who was
presently being hoisted by Megabot off the floor.
     Sark's frown grew more vehement.
     "He has shown he can interface with the Proofs," Tarlus said.
"I see no alternative."
     Sark fumed.  Sark swore.
     Finally, Sark said, "Okay."


     Sajon was not sure if he was having a good day or not.  He was no
longer on Alpha Rio VI--something he generally considered a good
thing, for it meant he was just another man trying to make his way in
the universe, instead of a bio-engineered piece of meat who could
cause entire rows of slot machines to spontaneously gush coins.  He
was also no longer on the same planet as Vino the Three-Headed Yak,
which meant Vino would probably forget about him after a while and he
could stop checking his bed for horse heads or telemarketer spleens.
So there were reasons to look up.
     On the 'not a good day' side of things, he was running through a
forest, evading laser fire from a group of the most muscle-bound monks
he had ever seen.  And he was, for some reason, wearing a tutu made
out of carrots.  Already, he had been flushed out of two hiding spots
by rabbits who thought he had dropped in to be lunch.
     He had had little time to process the change in planetary venue
and clothing edibility factor he had undergone while he had been
passed out.  The last thing he remembered was tossing all the Typical
Luck generators he had had strapped to his body out the window, in the
hope that his bio-engineered luck powers (which only worked on Alpha
Rio VI) would come up with a way of keeping him from being carved up
by the Arachno-Newtons that had been sent by Vino.  Evidently, they
had, though he had been too unconscious to know precisely how.
     But he was no longer on Alpha Rio VI, and artificial luck would
not lead him to answers, or do much of anything else for him.  He had
to make his own luck; or, failing that, his own gravy.
     Laser bolts slammed into the tree trunk closest to him.  It was
closely followed by a loud cracking sound that Sajon realized was the
rest of the tree beginning to fall over.  He narrowly avoided being
hit as it thundered to the ground.
     "Sajon!" someone exclaimed.  For a moment, Sajon thought it was
one of the monks calling to him, but realized they had no way of
knowing his name.  Well, unless *they* had been behind translocating
him to another world, but if that was the case, would they not have
planned it out a bit better, or at least given him a robe instead of
     Then he saw the man behind the bush revealed by the fall of the
tree.  He was bald, slightly shriveled-looking, and in a surprisingly
stylish red, green, orange, and yellow robe.  He was beckoning Sajon
to run toward him.  As his previous strategy of 'run through the
forest at random and hope for the best' was not proving successful,
Sajon did as beckoned.  It was not until he was close that he
recognized the beckoner.
     "Dr. Von Spleen!" Sajon exclaimed.  "How..."
     "...did I get here?" Von Spleen finished.  "Involuntary and
highly inexplicable ABPSARI-caused translocation."
     "...am I wearing?"  Von Spleen examined his robe.  "Fruit roll-
ups.  Not as tasty as one would expect, given all the dirt that is
sticking to them."
     "...um... do birds cry?" Von Spleen finished.  Sajon realized he
must have looked confused, because Von Spleen shrugged.  "Sorry, that
was a stretch.  Keep down!"
     Von Spleen pulled Sajon down behind the bush, as Sajon heard
crashing sounds from beyond the downed tree.  He waited, quietly, as
the sounds grew louder.
     They waited.  And waited some more.
     Finally, the crashing sounds came again.  Whatever was causing
them, he realized, was moving away.
     After waiting a while, with no crashing or suspiciously armed-
monk-like sounding noises to be heard, Von Spleen risked a peek over
the top of the bush.  He was evidently satisfied, as he then stood.
Sajon stood as well, and saw that the forest appeared empty, save for
the two of them.
     "Well, boy," said Von Spleen, "it *should* boggle my mind that
we would meet in such circumstances, eh?  But I expect there's some
ancient prophecy that covers it.  Can't be helped, given the
     "...are?" Von Spleen said.  "Ha, got that one.  The circumstances
are: one, you are Shoon-Ma's Champion.  Or Chosen One.  I'm not sure
the nomenclature matters at this point.  Two, despite sneakily being
ABPSARI-translocated away from Shoon-Ma's ship three days ago, leaving
me behind to unwillingly do Shoon-Ma's bidding, we've managed to be
reunited.  Three, we've been reunited on Zeta Ricola Beta, where the
circumstances behind the Breaking of the Fast at the Dawn of the
Universe were both initiated and are destined to be fulfilled.  Five,
swallow this."
     He thrust a pink pill at Sajon's mouth.  Sajon, surprised in the
middle of asking why he skipped 'four,' was too surprised to stop him.
He did take a half-step back, however, and tripped over a rabbit that
had chosen that moment to nibble at the carrots that made up his left
trouser leg.
     "...is that?" Von Spleen finished, as he extended a hand to help
Sajon up.  "It is your future, boy.  Your destiny.  The pinnacle
application of my unsurpassed spamological knowledge."  Sajon did not
take Von Spleen's hand.  Instead, he scrambled to his feet and backed
     "You were ready to just hand me over to Shoon-Ma three days ago,"
Sajon said.  "Hand me over, say 'go ahead and make him your Champion,
I'm outta here.'"
     "Hey, you're the one who left *me* behind," Von Spleen replied.
"You and that Moroboshi woman and the Reptiloid.  Just vanished with
     "Okay," said Sajon.  "Technically true, though I had no control
over that."  He paused, reflecting that the discussion had grown
rather awkward.  "What did Shoon-Ma make you do?"
     "He made me create this pill," said Von Spleen.  "It puts the
consumer in direct contact with the Primordial Spam from which this
entire altiverse arose."  He held up the pill between his thumb and
forefinger.  "It is a direct line to the ur-Spam, as it were.  The
only thing that can counter the power of the ur-Breakfast Foods."
     "If that's so," said Sajon, "why have *me* take it?  Why not take
it yourself?"
     "Because," Von Spleen, sharp bitterness creeping into this voice,
"due to the ABPSARI's manipulations, I am now painfully and completely
sober.  I cannot take even a simple aspirin, let alone a pill that
bestows cosmic devastation-dealing abilities.  Because of this, and
because Shoon-Ma would have killed me if I did not, I made it so that
only contact with your saliva can unlock its power.  Only *you* can
ingest this... and be the Champion."
     Sajon considered this.  All his life, he had been in the service
of others.  First Vino, then Bagelos, then Professor Parsasentence,
and then Von Spleen.  If he accepted the pill, would all that really
change?  Or would he simply enter the service of Shoon-Ma?
     Before he could answer this silent question, a wide beam of
pulsing light sliced the air just above his head.  The forest seemed
to explode.  He and Von Spleen fell back as multiple trees toppled to
the ground--all with smoke curling from the severed ends of their
     A gleeping and squiggling noise drew Sajon's attention.  He
turned to see someone he considered a true friend fly out of the
billowing dust.
     "TH1K1!" Sajon exclaimed.  "We're over here!"
     TH1K1 emitted several beeps and whistles, and flew over to him.
It gleeped and whistled as he plucked its tiny, toylike form from the
air and cuddled it.
     "TH1K1, you wonderful, funderful little buddy," said Sajon.  "If
the ABPSARI brought you here, then I know everything will be all
     TH1K1 emitted a stream of electronic noise.
     "He's laughing," Von Spleen said.
     "Of course he is," Sajon said, as he released TH1K1 into the air.
"Because he's overcome with joy at finding us."
     "No," said Von Spleen, as he looked around.  "Because he believes
he will witness our complete cellular-level annihilation in just a few
moments, by a being he has personally led here to do just that."
     Sajon scowled at him.
     "I keep telling you," said Von Spleen, "I understand everything
that homicidal maniac says!  Why can't anyone believe that?"
     "Because you're the Patron Saint of Drug Abuse," said Sajon.
"Don't worry, TH1K1, I don't believe any of his sland--"
     At that moment, the dust clouds parted, and they heard something
stomping towards them.  The ground shook with every step.
     "Needlewarp," Von Spleen sighed.  He took out an Altoids box from
an inner pocket of his fruit roll-up robe, tucked the pink pill in,
and put the box away.
     The figure that emerged resembled Ronald Reagan, though he had
the dimensions of Fat Albert.  He wore a torn Time Police Academy
Commandant's uniform and a very violent expression.  Red energy rose
from him as if smoke from a fire.  His eyes were pools of exuberant
power, and Sajon instantly deduced that they were the source of the
forest-decimating beam.
     "KILL," said Zark Flyby.
     Sajon gulped.


Find out, in the next patience-testing episode of Universal Solvents,
a tale of SFSTORY, only on the SUPERGUY mailing list!
Gary W. Olson        swede at garywolson dot com
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