A Final Vengeance
by Troels Pleimert
The floor of 8-Rear was a terrible mess after the officer's bash a few hours ago. Officers can get pretty far out when they've had a couple of drinks. From the looks of things, a few of them tried to scale the walls, still holding their drinks (and failing, apparently), and another had his own private party on top of the Mr. Soylent food replicator.
The rest of the cleaning staff had the day off, so it was up to the one man who'd saved the universe from the evil Sariens, survived the dangers of the planet Labion, tackled the evil Pirates of Pestulon and travelled extensively through time, mutations and innards, to clean up the mess. The man who had been honored with his deeds with the coveted Golden Mop award, the most prestigious award in his profession.
The communicator wristwatch crackled and the face of the ships commander, Kielbasa, appeared on the tiny LCD screen:
"Wilco!" he yelled, obviously upset.
Roger Wilco, having been fast asleep, jittered slightly as his eyes popped open. At first he hadn't the slightest clue as to where he might be located, but after a quick glance at the surroundings, he remembered. A chill ran down his spine as he glanced at the communicator wristwatch.
"Uh ... hi, sir!" he said and tried to flash an apologetic smile. Miserable failure.
"Don't tell me you haven't finished in there yet, Janitor Wilco!" said Kielbasa. Being of feline origin, he was probably the only officer on the entire ship who hadn't consumed anything alcoholic. In fact, nobody noticed he actually attended the party. He continued.
"It's 2:30 in the morning! Now get a move on. And when you finish, report to the bridge at 6:00. Kielbasa out."
"But sir—" Wilco tried.
"That is an order, Janitor Wilco. Out."
"Yes, sir," Wilco sighed as the image disappeared from his wristwatch. Grabbing his mop, he returned to work.
The large and ominous spaceship zoomed across the black stardrop of space. The craft had been colored black, and didn't look to be in its best shape — but a thing which immediately attracted attention was the heavily armed state of this vessel. The viewscreen up front was darkened, the engines were highpowered and the ship had all together a rather menacing look about it. It definately looked like a serious buttkicker.
As the ship increased in speed and finally reached escape velocity, the pilot hit the light-throttle and the fighter disappeared in a rainbow of stardust, accelerating to the speed of light.
The computer screen in front of the pilot was displaying a starchart, which was frantically changing position. The computer was searching for something. After a little while, the starchart came to a still and a red text displayed:
Identity confirm: Roger Wilco
Location confirm: Star sector 224/487 Rutheminon galaxy
Ship ident confirm: SCS DeepShip 86 LSL6-BFD, Star Confederation Exploration Vessel
DO YOU WISH TO PLOT A COURSE? (Y/N)
The cursor next to the question blinked for a few seconds. The pilot clicked a button on the keyboard and the letter "Y" appeared instead of the blinking cursor.
Again, the craft zoomed off into the nebulaset ...
It had been a hard days work for Roger. After the incident yesterday, he'd retired to his quarters, only to get up the next morning at 5:30 to meet with Kielbasa at 6:00. It can only be accounted to Roger's continuous string of bad luck that his alarm clock, built into his bed's headboard, chose to be nonfunctional that day.
As Roger slowly awoke, he was glaring straight at his alarmclock. The blurred vision made it hard to see what the clock was actually displaying, but it was quite clearly more than 6:00.
Roger rushed out of bed — a rare sight, actually — and got dressed. As he went over to the ComPost to transport himself to the bridge, and quickly rehearsed a pathetic apology, he noticed that a notice was flashing. "MESSAGES WAITING: 1 OF 1. PRESS PLAY."
Warily, he obliged, then turned to get the rest of his shirt on. The angry face of Commander Kielbasa appeared on the screen.
"Janitor Wilco!" he yelled. Roger almost hit the ceiling. It was a rare sight to see Kielbasa get this furious, but in this case, the apparent ignorance of his worst subordinate was getting to him, real up close and personal.
"I thought I told you to report to the bridge at 0600!" Kielbasa continued. "It's 1500 now! What in the seventh star cluster are you still doing in your quarters?!"
"Sir, I was —"
Before Roger had the time to finish his sentence, or Keilbasa had the chance to interrupt him, something punched into the hull of the DeepShip and caused it to perform a tremendous spin in space. Kielbasa's face jittered slightly, and the screen was briefly overrun by static.
"Kielbasa out," he said quickly and closed communications. It was easy to hear the chaos going on behind him on the DeepShip bridge.
Roger just stood there with a confused facial expression. However, it didn't take long for him to realize that something was definately up around here, and after that second photonic waveblast struck through the shields and crashed into the side of the DeepShip, it became quite clear to him that it wasn't good news either.
Up on the bridge, klaxons wailed, red lights were flashing and everybody on the bridge was going hyperactive. Kielbasa hit the all-hands-button, used only for emergency intership transmissions all over the ship.
"Attention, all hands. This is your commander speaking. The DeepShip 86 is under attack. This is not a drill, repeat, this is not a drill!"
"No, it's an attack," replied Dorff, the DeepShip's nearsighted and relatively clueless security officer.
Everybody turned to glance at Dorff, like he was a complete rampant loony. Which in turn wasn't a complete shot in the dark.
"What?!" he asked, the reasons for the staring from his crewmates going completely over his head.
Kielbasa turned back to the mike. "All hands, assume battle positions. All hands, assume battle positions. I say again, this is not a drill."
"What's all this dentistry business—" said Dorff.
"Oh, shut up!" yelled everybody on the bridge in unison.
"All combat personell to your stations. The rest of you, try to remain calm," Kielbasa continued.
"Isn't that a bit too much to ask?" added the weapons officer under his breath.
"Shields up!" commanded Kielbasa.
The weapons officer turned to report. "Sir, the shields are already up."
"Uh ... well, then power up the weapons!"
"Sir, the weapons are powered up."
"Okay ... then, assume defense positions!"
"Let me guess. We've already done that?"
"Uh, yes, sir."
"Good. Just ... just checking your alertness."
A third wave punched through the shields and caused numerous distasteful changes to the bridge interior.
"Everybody, what's our best option?" inquired Kielbasa.
"Getting the frick out of here," replied the weapons officer.
"Everybody, what's our best INTELLIGENT option?" Kielbasa tried again.
"I concur with the weapons officer, although he's a complete and total boogerhead," replied the navigations officer.
"A decision like this requires the consent of the entire bridge crew," Kielbasa explained then turned to Dorff. "Do we have your consent, Dorff?"
Dorff turned around and looked inquisitorically at the commander, holding a ham and cheese sandwich in his right hand, originating from the Mr. Soylent food replicator, situated in the corner of the bridge. "Huh?" he asked.
"Never bloody mind," mumbled Kielbasa under his breath and turned to the viewscreen. "What about fighting back?"
"Not possible, sir," replied the weapons officer. "The attacking ship is cloaked."
"How can it attack while it's cloaked?" asked Kielbasa.
"Beats me," replied the weapons officer.
"I'd rather not, if you don't mind," added the navigations officer under his breath.
"Stow it," said Kielbasa.
"Apparently, Captain," the Science Officer explained, "the photonic dischargers from the attacking vessel are somehow connected to the cloaking device, which allows for constant upholding of the—"
"Has anybody got a translator?" inquired the weapons officer.
"Alright then, get us the hell out of here!" commanded Kielbasa.
"Aye-aye, sir!" replied the navigations officer. "Warp 9! Hang on tight everybody, 'cos heeeere weee—"
"Just activate the goddamn warpdrive!" yelled the weapons officer.
"Wait!" yelled the science officer, once again providing nausea to the rest of the bridge crew. "That won't be nessecary, Captain—"
"Commander! Please, dammit, for the last time, please remember: I'm a Commander!" Kielbasa almost lost his temper there, which was a rare thing for his species.
"Whatever. The vessel is decloaking!"
"Power up the weapons!"
"Sir, we've already done—"
"Will you just fire the bloody weapons?!" Temper through roof.
"Too late. It's activating its cloaking mechanism again, sir," reported the science officer.
"Boy, you sure know how to ruin a mood," added the weapons officer under his breath.
"Sir, the vessel is leaving this sector," said the sceince officer while constantly keeping a close eye on his panel screen.
"How can you tell that when the vessel's cloaked?" inquired Kielbasa.
"Umm ... well ..." The science officer began developing what could be likened to the humanoid reaction of blushing, only that his particular species was not capable of such. The equivelent in this case was to frown the mouth 90 degrees anticlockwise.
"You don't know?" asked the weapons and navigations officer in unison. The idea of that seemed highly unlikely — the science officer was the smartest dork on the ship.
"Well ... yes, I do ..."
"You mean this whole time we could actually have shot the bastard down, using your tracking station as targeter?" inquired the weapons officer, seemingly very crossed.
"Well, I, uh ..."
"You simpleminded flathead!" yelled the weapons officer and looked ready to jump the science officer.
"Pipe down," commanded the Commander. The weapons officer unwillingly complied. "What happend? Why did it cloak, attack, de-cloak, not do anything, cloak, then leave?"
"Well, technically speaking, it actually did something when it was de-cloaked," explained the science officer.
"What?" inquired the weapons officer.
"I said: Techincally speaking, it actually—"
"No, I meant: What was it doing?"
"Oh. Well, while the ship was decloaked, the DeepShip 86 was subjected to a power surge of some kind, almost resembling that of a transporter beam in its initial molecular structure."
"Speak English or shut up," said the weapons officer.
"So the attacker beamed somebody off the DeepShip?" asked Kielbasa.
"Yeah. I just can't quite get a fix on it," said the science officer, while punching a few random buttons on his dash, pretending to be calculating.
"Well, this stupid science station is still running with a Pimptel 986-FX system. It'll take a while to precisely locate the beamland."
"Where's it round about?" asked the navigations officer.
"That's a toughie," replied the science officer. "The bleep's flashing all over the ship, but it seems to be centered around the cargo holds."
"Cargo holds?" Kielbasa wondered.
"The cargo holds are completely run by droids. There's nothing living down there," said the navigations officer.
"What about that last crewmember we picked up from a StarCon Orbital Station?" asked the weapons officer. "Y'know, the dorky janitor that always slacks off?"
"Janitor Wilco?" asked Kielbasa.
"Yeah. Didn't we arrange one of the cargo holds to be his quarters?"
"Yes, we did, didn't we ..."
The ComPost in Roger's quarters displayed the message: "MESSAGES WAITING: 1 OF 1. PRESS PLAY."
"Where am I?" asked Wilco dazed. The last thing he remembered was that the second blast which struck the DeepShip made quite a few of the socalled art he had hung on his walls fall down — one of which landed quite uncomfortably on Wilco's head.
Wilco took a glance at his surroundings. From what he could figure, he was sitting inside a prison cell, set into the wall of a hallway. He was surrounded from all sides by superstrong titanium-wall, except for the exit to the front, which was blocked by a multithousand-volt transparent force field. Instant barbecue if he tried to make a run for it. From what he could tell, the room was extremely small, not much larger than the prison cells aboard the DeepShip. Sorta like four call boxes, placed next to each other with the walls in each side knocked down.
Light was very scarce in here. No windows, no light source whatsoever. The only thing in here providing just a tidbit of illumination was the sparkles of the force field and the lights down the hallway, which stretched as far as he could see to the left and right.
The opposite wall, outside of the cell, seemed like typical starship material, only a lot more messy. Actually, the scorch marks on the walls and tiny red stains looked like there'd been a cleanup crew here after some kind of fierce battle.
"Right where I want you!" replied a sinister voice from a speaker above. It sounded somewhat metallic and distorted, but it was a human voice, as far as Roger could tell.
"Normally I'd ask for a more thorough explanation of that, but in this case, I don't really want to know," said Wilco. To whom, he wasn't sure, so he just settled with talking to the ceiling.
"Don't be idiotic, you filthy bloated simpleminded emptyheaded rectumfaced sorry excuse for a humanoid!" replied the voice.
"Alright, don't get excited," mumbled Wilco and paced a while before continuing. "So, where am I exactly?"
"You're aboard my new battlecruiser. Make yourself comfortable in there, Wilco. You're going to be here for a little while."
"Why? Where are we going? And if you don't mind me asking, why tag me along for the ride?"
"Our current destination is the fourth planet in the Earnon system," replied the voice.
"That's Xenon," said Roger. He couldn't believe it — of all planets in the entire universe, his captor had chosen to visit his home planet.
"But why are we going to Xenon?" he inquired. "You wouldn't by any chance be from the Cippazoid Novelty Company? I told you guys, I mailed you my entire paycheck last week. Honestly, it's in the mail ..."
"I'm not from that stupid novelty company, you ignorant mop jockey!"
"Well then, do I know you?"
The voice hesitated to reply. "Yeah, I suppose you do."
"Okay, then who are you?"
"You'll find out." Dramatic pause. "You'll find out."
"Cryptic," Wilco added under his breath.
The communications officer turned to address Commander Kielbasa, who in a fit of anxiety had begun scratching his command center again.
"Sir, he's not responding."
"Is the ComPost in his quarters in operating condition?" asked Kielbasa, temporarily bringing his scratching ritual to a halt.
"Tests report it to be fully functional, sir," replied the science officer.
"Can't we just ask the computer to locate him?" Dorff suggested.
"That's a bit too obvious, innit?" grinned the weapons officer.
"And improbable," added the science officer and continued to explain. "It is a technical impossibility, Security Officer Dorff, since the computer does not have the sufficient data avaliable to make an adequate estimation of his whereabouts."
"Huh?" asked the weapons officer.
"Huh?" asked the navigations officer.
"Huh?" asked the security officer.
"Huh?" asked the commander.
"It means, it doesn't have a clue!" the science officer sighed.
"Is there any way of tracking the cloaked vessel?" inquired the navigations officer.
"I suppose it would be possible to track it down via the ion-trails left behind by the departing ship," replied the science officer, "however, it'd be tricky. The ion-trails tend to vaporize in certain weakened spots of navigation tracks, mostly at points where the ship was making a very sharp turn or other rapid course changes."
"Who cares. Can you do it?"
"Should be possible. I'll work out the starting coordinates and download them to your station."
"Right on, buckaroo."
A female metallic voice, probably the ships navigation computer, was audible through the speakers in the ceiling of the small prison cell.
"Approaching galaxy Earnon. Destination planet: Fourth. Name: Xenon. Gravitation: 1 g. Atmosphere breathable. Planet may sustain life. Coordinates locked and set: 212 dash 509 point 2 and several other totally meaningless figures."
Roger didn't pay much attention. He was desperately trying to find a way out of the cell. The force field wasn't going to yield, and the walls were solid titanium.
After several minutes of failure, Roger went into a fit of depression, as he lied down on the bed and smacked his head into the pillow. A faint clonk sound was audible, and Roger began developing a headache.
"What the heck—" he yelled and immediately jumped to a sitting position.
Something hard was lying under his pillow. He reached under and pulled out a SuperCut 99DX lasertorch. The only thing in the universe capable of slicing through titanium. These things had been banned by StarCon, especially on family cruisers, because it was highly possible for youngsters to accidentally slice holes in the ships hull, causing some rather hideous side effects to the oxygenated lifeform population aboard.
What the hell this lasertorch was doing under the pillow of a prison cell, and more importantly how it got here, Roger didn't bother contemplating. The fact that this seemed just a bit too convenient also flew directly over his head — this was his ticket out, and dammit, there was no time to dabble with such minutiae.
He located the camera in the cell. It was hanging in the corner just above the bed. A small portion of the corner below was apparently not being monitored.
Very slowly and cautiously, he moved the bed aside and sat down behind it. Pulling out the lasertorch, he began slicing a neat square in the wall.
"Entering Earnon system," said the female navigations computer system.
"Sit tight, Wilco. I'm sending a little party down to get you," said the pilots synthetic voice and finished with a spinechilling chuckle.
Roger began developing a nervous epileptic seizure.
"Sir, I think we've picked up an incorrect ion-trail," reported the science officer.
"What gives you that idea?" asked Kielbasa.
"Well, how else would you explain why we're currently orbiting the Monolith Burger frenchise in the Rutheminon-galaxy?" he proclaimed.
Kielbasa gave the navigations officer an inquisitive, though not entirely pleased, look.
"So I was hungry," said the navigations officer, trying to justify himself.
Kielbasa didn't bother answering, and just glanced heavenward. "Can we still pick up the cloaked vessel's ion-trail?"
"Look, why go through all this trouble for a measly janitor?" asked the navigations officer.
"Dunno," said the weapons officer.
"Dunno," said the science officer.
"Dunno," said Kielbasa.
"Huh???" said Dorff.
"Well then, why are we traipsing all over the universe after him? Can't we just file a report with StarCon that the poor sod blew himself out of the airlock or something?" suggested the weapons officer.
"I suppose we could," mumbled the navigations officer with a somewhat sadistic grin.
"But that would be lying, sir!" interrupted the science officer.
"So? Sue us," retorted the weapons officer.
"No, he's right!" said Kielbasa. "One of my crewmembers has been kidnapped by the unknown, and personally I'm not going to rest one moment until he's back in the protective care of the DeepShip and the protective care of the Star Confederation!"
The same second Kielbasa finished his speech, the bridge speakers crackled shortly and the voice of an 8-Rear attendant was audible. "8-Rear to bridge. 8-Rear to bridge."
Kielbasa punched the reply-button. "8-Rear, this is Commander Kielbasa. Go ahead."
"Lunch in the officers department, guys," said the attendant.
"Does 8-Rear have an officers department?" asked the weapons officer.
"Not really. We just told all the current occupants to sod off," grinned the attendant.
"Great! What's for lunch?" asked Dorff.
"Chicken?" inquired everybody on the bridge, their voices not exactly reaping of rampant enthusiasm.
"Monolith Extra-Fatty Chicken!"
Suddenly the bridge went hysterical. "Last one to 8-Rear is an astro-ass!" yelled the weapons officer and ran over to the ComPost, on direct collision course with the wall on which it was mounted.
Within seconds, the entire bridge was empty.
Two security drones headed down the walkway towards Wilco's prison cell. Actually, a more appropriate word would be "hovered", since the drones were mounted with a Hovermatic globe instead of normal walking appendages, thusly making the droids hover approximately 5 cm above the ground. Made it a whole lot easier to adapt to different terrains without damaging internal circuitry.
When they reached the prison cell, one of them turned off the forcefield, while the other armed the laserrifle mounted on top of his head.
"All right, Wilco," said the pilot, "just follow these two nice security drones and you'll be fine."
No reply. Nothing.
Tension began to mount.
Wilco ran down the hallway, which was a terrible mess. He still couldn't get over the messy state of these hallways. As a janitor, you pick these things up. The entire place looked like a nuclear war — or the head after one of Roger's visits.
It was quite obvious, even to him, that the ship's pilot wasn't nessecarily its owner.
As he rounded another corner, a flashback from a previous adventure fell on him. Bodies were strewn around the ship, each of them having been either shot or horribly mutilated. The walls were decorated with blast marks and blood spills, and the floor was a mess of broken hardware, destroyed machinery, empty rifles, bloodpools and leural intestines.
Wilco suddenly felt an urge to involuntarily retch. But who'd have noticed?
However, one shock is usually followed by another, and Wilco did jitter quite a lot when the red alert went off. Klaxons were wailing, lights were flashing red and the metallic, distorted voice of the pilot yelled through every speaker on the entire ship.
"Security drones! Escaped prisoner! Search and destroy! Repeat, search and destroy! All security drones, take immediate action!"
Apparently, whoever was in charge of all this didn't care much for guys playing tricks on him — especially not lowlife janitors.
Wilco decided it wasn't going to do him much good to stand around here and let himself be horribly mutilated by a passing security drone with an itchy trigger finger. Running down the hallway, he desperately scanned for a janitorial closet to hide in, but none was to be found.
From what he could guess, it wouldn't take long before he'd accidentally run into a security drone. Putting two and two together had always been tough for Roger, and to tell the truth it took quite a while, but after a minute or so of muddling it over, he deduced that the dead people strewn around the hallways were probably the result of them getting in the way of some drones with temperamental flaws.
But who the hell could've done this? And why? The first question was pretty vague, and the last one was next to impossible to answer. What was the purpose of all this? Could it have something to do with him? The fact that they were heading towards Xenon didn't make him anymore comfortable. He decided not to let his imagination run rampant and instead concentrated on his current task: finding someplace to tremble in.
As he passed a guy who's stomach lining had been ripped to shreds and his insides were partially hanging out of that huge blast hole in his gut, Roger couldn't help but thinking if that was to be him in the next couple of minutes.
What he needed was a place to hide.
"Gotta go to the loo," announced the weapons officer.
The entire bridge crew had relocated themselves to 8-Rear, which — in order to fool any subordinate crewmembers who'd transported themselves in here for a quick snack — had been decorated with printouts of the word OFFICER'S DEPARTMENT, hung up on several walls with cellular tape.
"Thanks for sharing," mumbled the navigations officer.
"You mean we've got toilets on this ship?" inquired the science officer, rather startled.
"Yeah. What'd you think?" asked the navigations officer while giving him a weird glance.
The science officer sighed. "And all this time I used the garbage disposal chute ..."
"Uh, this has been lots of fun, but really ..." said the weapons officer while making his exit.
Within seconds, the science officer found himself sitting alone, in a state of being completely baffled.
The toilet stall was a small, but relatively safe place for Wilco to hide. He had just entered, locked the door and turned around when he saw that the previous occupant wasn't in a very good shape.
He was still sitting in the, uhm, position, with his throat having been ripped apart by a photonic blast, his eyes wide open and his jaw hanging. All this while facing in Wilco's direction. He just seemed to be staring at Roger in this deathpose.
He found himself waking up with a serious hangover. However, it didn't take long for him to deduce that he wasn't located in the stall anymore. Not only did this worry him a lot, the fact that he hadn't a clue as to where he might be now made him freak out completely.
His eyes took a while to dial into focus, and the shimmering blurs in front of him started to confuse his brain and caused a slightly blunt headache.
Wilco emitted some strange grunting noises. He could hear this attracted somebodys attention. Footsteps coming closer. His vision, while still desperately trying to focus, could see a large figure moving towards him. Not walking ... moving.
"Ah, so you're awake."
That same mechanized, metallic, menacing voice.
"I was beginning to think we'd have to resort to drastic measures to awake you. Oh well." He sighed.
Roger's eyes finally shot into focus and the blur vanished. He wasn't exactly pleased with what he saw in front of him. Actually, it caused him to make a tremendous reactional leap a meter and a half backwards.
Vohaul grinned. "I see you recognize me."
"Yeah, but ... how?" Wilco stuttered.
"Dammit, Wilco, do you have some kind of amnesia sufferage?!" yelled Vohaul. "Don't you remember what happened in the Super Computer, in Space Quest 12?"
Something triggered a distant memory in Wilco's mind. Most of it was a blur, the result of not having thought about it for a very long time (at least, he assumed), but something did remain.
Wilco's mind began rambling.
Time rips. Time guns. Time pods. Time holes. Something about rebel activity, something about droids, something about an extensive pursuit across a long distance, perhaps over time as well as space, something having to do with global importance.
He remembered something about a maze of pipes, ducts, machinery ... an almost surrealistic labyrinth of walkways above walkways, suspended over a seemingly bottomless shaft of computer equipment. Something else — the threat of danger. He was being pursued by someone — or something. Memory block.
The memory shifted. He remembered somebody telling him that he would have very little recollection of his adventures and then the guy threw him through a rip in the space/time continuum. The next thing he knew he was sitting in a bar on Magmetheus, sipping light-alcoholic drinks, telling his vastly exaggerated tales of adventure to unsuspecting aliens who'd just dropped by to say hi.
"You mean we're ..." Roger was fishing.
"Yes." Vohaul grinned and eagerly completed the sentence. "We're reusing a plot device."
"Ughh, gruesome," Roger added under his breath. "But how'd you ...? Where'd you ...? I thought you were ...?"
"Dead? Yeah," Vohaul continued, "but I needed a body to transfer myself into upon escape into actual reality. And what better body to choose than this handsome number?"
"Transfer? Actual reality? In italic, even? I don't understand."
"I didn't expect you to. Anyway, the italic is just there because the writer thought it'd look cool. And as for the transferring bit ..."
Vohaul turned around and headed towards a large door on the wall behind him.
"... I'll show you," he concluded.
Two security drones, which he had not noticed previously, began pushing him from the rear. Another distant memory kicked in — he knew he'd seen these mechanical menaces before ...
The door in front of Vohaul opened and the two of them, not counting the droids who promptly left, entered a large, circular room.
The room was enormous — like a gigantic, round hangar. The walls were decorated with readouts, computer equipment and keyboards. The result of which lighted up most of the room with the green and white text from the screens and miscellanious readout machinery, this coupled with the light fixtures in the ceiling high above made for a very well-lit room.
The floor was a mess of computer consoles, readouts, paper, machinery parts, some of which was connected and fully functional, the rest of which could easily be labelled 'useless junk'.
In the center of it all stood an enormous machine, labelled "the Dreamator". It took up most of the room in a radius of 60 meters. The room was approximately 120 meters in diameter.
It was basically a huge console, with an operating table serving as the centerpiece. The operating table was fully automated and seemed extremely hightech. The bed was surrounded by diagnostic circles — circles that moved up and down along side the bed, scanning the occupant constantly, allowing the operator to maintain a constant eye on his subjects state.
However, judging from the rest of the machine, which contained several heavyduty computers and calculation machines, coupled with quite a remarkable array of modifiable VR-equipment, it was quite clear that "the Dreamator" was not intended to be used for medical purposes. Something a bit more sinister, judging from the overall look of the thing.
Next to it, a large chair with an ominous-looking helmet was connected to the Dreamator. The helmet looked like something out of an old science fiction movie he once saw in the library. As far as he could recall, the villain was wearing this and sounded like he was breathing through a bog roll.
The whole place looked like something out of a William Gibson novel.
Roger, of course, didn't understand half of what was going on. In fact, at this point, he probably wasn't even aware of what century he was currently in.
"What the hell is that monstrosoty?" he asked.
"That's the Dreamator," replied Vohaul.
"Yeah, who could've guessed that?" Roger retorted sarcastically. "I meant, what does it do?"
"You'll find out." Dramatic pause. "You'll find out."
"Has anyone ever told you you're a very cryptic guy?"
"Shut up. You're ruining the suspense."
"Sir, we've got a signal!" yelled the science officer's voice through the ship communications system very excitedly.
"So?" replied the weapons officer, who was at the moment chowing down on another portion of a Monolith Extra-Fatty Chicken and Uncle Ben's Really Bad Rice, with a sea of soy sauce to boot.
The science officer, being a dork at heart, couldn't live fully 20 minutes without being engaged in work. Even when he was asleep, he was dreaming of scientific equations and astrogational starcharts. So he'd brought his lunch up to the bridge to continue work.
"What d'you mean, 'so'? It might be a clue to locating the whereabouts of the missing janitor!"
"So?" asked the entire population of 8-Rear, not counting Commander Kielbasa who leapt to his feet and went over to the ComPost.
"This is not acceptable in views of StarCon regulations. Any crewmember, no matter how deranged or useless, is entitled to the help of the entire vessel, and I've been put in charge of doing just that!" he said. "Now, what are you? Men or mice?"
"We're hungry," replied the weapons officer.
"Actually, I'm not human," replied the navigations officer.
"Come to think of it, neither am I," mumbled the weapons officer under his breath.
"Okay, then what are you? Sentient intelligent beings or mice?" Kielbasa retried.
"Actually, with all due respect, I wouldn't consider the navigations officer an intelligent being," replied the weapons officer with a deeply sarcastic grin.
"Okay, then let me put it this way: What are you? Wage earners or non-wage earners?" Kielbasa tried a third time.
"Wage earners! Wage earners!" they both yelled, leaping to their feet to follow Kielbasa up to the bridge.
"What is it, Science Officer?" inquired Kielbasa, while everybody were settling into their positions up on the bridge. Kielbasa had placed himself comfortably in his command center/scratching post, where he proceeded to scratch it, just a tad, to make it slightly more comfortable.
"Well, we've seemingly closed in on the ship which attacked. It has entered the Earnon system, and it seems to be heading for the fourth planet in the system," explained the science officer.
"That's Janitor Wilco's homeplanet," said Kielbasa, pondering.
"So?" inquired the navigations officer. "Should I set a pursuit course?"
Kielbasa pondered for a while, then replied: "Yes! But keep a safe distance. I have a rescue plan all figured out."
"This doesn't involve dressing up as merwomans again, does it?" inquired the weapons officer warily.
"And it doesn't involve launching our waste disposal items at the enemy again, does it?" the weapons officer continued.
"I told you, it was an accident!" whispered an angry navigations officer. "Like I'm the only person in this room who can hit a wrong button!"
"This is not a tactical decoy plan," explained Kielbasa. "This time, I've thought it through carefully and planned every single element in minute detail."
"That's what I was afraid of," added the weapons officer under his breath.
Before being able to protest loudly, or even physically, Roger found himself being dragged towards "the Dreamator" by six security drones.
Vohaul approached a control console next to the large machine and began keying in some kind of sequence code.
As Roger was being strapped into the operating table on the Dreamator, he could get his first clear look at Vohaul. His face hadn't changed much from his hologramatic self in the future of Space Quest 12, and his body was connected to the same type of life support system as it was in the past of Space Quest 2.
The unit was a bit different, though. It was a portable unit, fitted onto Vohaul's back. The life support pack connected to Vohaul's already dead corpse via hoses, effectively keeping him alive. Roger immediately noticed there was no grating to enter in order to shut down the life support system. He chuckled. It actually did look kinda cool when Vohaul snapped up and fell to the floor, after Roger had shut down his life support system on his hidden asteroid fortress, orbiting the planet Labion.
Anyway, he'd deserved it. Unfortunately, it seems, there's always some writer dork who has to bring back and old nemesis for the "last time". (As if that promise is ever kept.)
Vohaul punched some figures into the console in front of him as he watched the automatic strapin system put the finishing touch on rendering Roger immobile in the clutches of the Dreamator.
"You're probably wondering why I'm going through all this trouble," said Vohaul.
"Let me guess: You're still a bit miffed about that asteroid deal in Space Quest 2?" retorted Roger sarcastically.
"Yeah, part that," replied Vohaul, his voice seemingly becoming more agitated as the memories of past failures washed over him. "And part the fact that you ruined my Sarien operation, destroyed my reign as ultimate superior on the planet of Xenon and killed me TWICE!"
"Somebody's gotta do it."
"Shut up!" yelled Vohaul. If his face was capable of turning red, it would. After a little pause, he seemed to calm down.
"After my somewhat disappointing attempt at getting rid of you in the future of Space Quest 12, my computerized self was effectively deactivated after you ..." He stopped, and another fit of anger seemed imminent, but he managed to control himself.
"Anyway." He began pacing around the console. "Any good scientist makes backups of his work. And that was exactly what I did. I figured I'd be a fool to keep the backup on the drives of the Super Computer, since it had a format-feature, so I kept it on a write protected disk."
"Then what's all this business about actual reality and this Dreamator thingy?" Roger immediately realized how stupid he sounded.
"I'm just coming to that!" replied Vohaul quickly and agitatedly. "So, just after you skipped out of the Super Computer and back to your own time period, I was busy transferring my backup into an alternate system. I didn't bother figuring out what system I was transferring into, as long as it was somewhere far from the juristiction of the Super Computer."
"You're not making sense," Roger interrupted.
"Will you just—" Vohaul began grumbling obscenities. After that, he continued. "Turns out I'd transported myself into the Virtual World Systems Inc. main computer banks. I was still able to control my subordinates, since I kept my verification passwords from the Super Computer system, but too weak to command a battle. So I instructed them to start building a device that could effectively bring me back to life."
"The Dreamator," said Roger. "This is a giant Virtual Reality machine! You've strapped me into a giant Virtual Reality machine! What are you going to do? VirDUUM me to death?"
"No, you twirt! This isn't just a typical VR gamemachine!" replied Vohaul. "This is a gateway! A gateway between the VR-world and the actual reality!"
"Oh, I get it. You transferred your computer conscience to the real world by strapping somebody onto this bed and then throwing your mind into his brain." Roger began developing a nauseaus feeling. "Ewww."
"Yeah, but I needed a body," said Vohaul. "And that's why you're here."
"You've already got one," replied Roger, not grasping anything. "What do you need mine for?"
"You twirt!" yelled Vohaul. "Does this look like the body of a conquering genius? I can't commander the universe looking like a crash dummy with a jetpack! I need a young, fresh body!"
"And you think I'm going to willingly supply that to you?" retorted Roger. "No chance, Vohaul!"
"Oh, I don't think you have much of a choice ..." Vohaul positioned himself behind the console, threateningly holding his hand above a large red button on the control array. "... do you?"
"Throttling engines back. Orbiting fourth planet of Earnon system. Planet name: Xenon. Life form readings: 10 different known species. Population amount ..."
As the navigation computer continued to list the readings of Xenon, Vohaul's laugh intensified maniacally. Suddenly, Roger felt very afraid and helpless. The straps which tied him to the Dreamator were too strong to pull from each other, and in a moment his brain was about to be flushed out to be replaced with his arch enemies, who in turn was going to conquer the entire universe using his body!
Suddenly, he knew how Stellar Santiago felt.
Vohaul took a seat in the huge chair with the helmet. Ominous-looking. They were a nicely matched pair. Roger was silently hoping Vohaul had made some kind of mistake and brought in an electric chair instead, but the reason kicked in and he realized the helmet was far too large to be able to conduct electricity, and furthermore, he wouldn't be able to escape, should the evil mad scientist kick the bucket while he was strapped into this monstrous excuse for a game console.
His eyes blocked by the eyeshield on the helmet, Vohaul began typing in security codes on a small keypad.
"Commence interface," he commanded.
Sparks began flying around as the giant machine started its bootstrap. Vohaul's evil grin turned into a maniacal laughter. The whole thing looked like something out of an old Jerry Lewis-movie.
Then, a large screen high overhead (actually made up of 20 or so normal screens) displayed:
Commencing mind transfer. Please stand by. While you are waiting, please fill out the registration card and send it in.
"Sir, sensors detect the ship in orbit of Xenon!" reported the science officer.
"Is he still cloaked?" asked Kielbasa.
"Affirmative," replied the science officer.
"Right. Time to set my plan in action," announced Kielbasa.
"Oh, must we, sir?" complained the navigation officer under his breath.
"It's the same procedure every year," mumbled the weapons officer, deeply sarcastic, in reply.
"To the transporter room!" commanded Kielbasa and made his way down from the command center, after giving it a few extra scratches.
Roger's body was flooded by electricity, as was Vohaul's. Not that Vohaul would notice, seeing as his body was already physically dead and kept alive artificially, but Roger felt like the time four of his Zero-G Rugby teammates at NucleoTherm decided to play an extra game of rugby, using him as the ball.
The overhead screen displayed: Commencing mind empty procedure.
Roger held on tight. "This is it," he thought. "I'm going to become an evil genius bent on universal domination. And I'll probably get a free parking space, but that's about it."
Suddenly, everything stopped. The machine powered down and Vohaul's helmet automatically retracted itself into the ceiling. Roger remained strapped into the Dreamator.
"What the hell?!" Vohaul mumbled confused as he got on his feet (after much trouble) and went to the diagnostic computer. He punched the display up on the giant screen above.
Could not start mindempty procedure. Non human lifeform, it displayed.
"WHAT?!" Something snapped and Vohaul turned into a drooling frenzy, like most of the inhabitants on the Golden Lightyears Orbital Retirement Village. He glanced up at Roger.
"What the hell do you think you're doing, you dimbulb?!!"
Roger had been purposely confusing the machinery by forcing himself to singing Welsh folk songs. The computer couldn't identify this as intelligent behaviour, and therefore assumed that the subject wasn't human, and consequently wasn't a suitable host body.
"Stop that infernal singing!!!" screamed Vohaul.
Roger kept going. "Three pints of bitter on the baaartop, the lasses in the bedlay going wonkyyyy ..."
"Shut the hell up, mop jockey!!"
"... on the mountain high was where I kept my goat cheeseeee ..."
Vohaul became hysterical. "WILL YOU SHUT YOUR STUPID FACE, YOU FILTHY SANITATION SLIMEBUCKET!!"
"... wait for me, talley ho, there's whisky in the jaaaaar ..."
Just then, the door behind them swooshed open and 10.000 highpowered photonic laserblasts shot through the door. Vohaul attempted to skip into hiding, but found his range to be too short and his feet too weak, and consequently smacked his face into the Dreamator.
After the rapid fire had ceased, a familiar voice from somewhere behind the door yelled: "Dorff, you crazy boogerhead! Quit that!"
Kielbasa entered the room. At first, Roger didn't recognize him because of his attire. He was wearing a Xenon army-uniform with camouflage, a green military helmet and camouflage paint all over his fur. Three highpowered photonic phaser-dustbusters were parked in his belt, and inside his armyjacket, a fully armed laserrifle was situated.
After him followed Dorff, who had been dressed up somewhat like Kielbasa, only without any firearms. After him came the weapons officer, who had confiscated all of Dorff's ammunition. Dorff was looking rather unhappy.
Kielbasa approached Vohaul, who was lying face down in front of the Dreamator. He glanced up at Roger, who was developing a near-spastic seizure, while still stuttering Welsh folk songs.
"... there's ... there's ... there's whisky in the ... ja-ja-jar ... jar ..." he stumbled.
"What is going on here, Janitor Wilco?" asked Kielbasa.
"Sir ... sir ..." Wilco didn't seem to be able to form a complete sentence. But then, Kielbasa was already used to that.
"Sir ... he's ... he's ..." Wilco glanced down at Vohaul, who was slowly awakening.
Vohaul began grunting and ghasping for air. Nobody realized why until his life support pack was in vision. One of the hoses had been shot off when Dorff made his dramatic entrance (cough cough).
"I'll ..." ghasped Vohaul and attempted to look at Roger. He barely managed. "I'll ... get you ... someday!" He collapsed to the floor.
"Wow," said the weapons officer and approached Roger. He pointed down at Vohaul's corpse with a huge sarcastic grin. "Is that guy cryptic or what?"
Vohaul's body emitted a final spasm before his life was effectively terminated.
"Yeah ..." Roger's brain was slowly beginning to function again. The power of the Welsh folk songs had almost affected his brain as much as it had the Dreamator.
He shook his head. That seemed to clear things up. He was able to move again, to think, to form sentences, to pronounce words with more than four syllables.
"Yeah, I certainly hope that's the last we'll see of him," said Roger. "Now would somebody please get me out of this?"
Kielbasa nodded at the weapons officer, who acknowledged and then began to study his photonic phase-dustbuster.
"What are you doing? Get on with it," commanded Kielbasa.
"Well, I was just wondering which setting I should use," replied the weapons officer sarcastically. "Well done or Bar-B-Qued." He grinned sadistically at Roger, who began to feel a chill run down his spine.
Roger gritted his teeth and shut his eyes in tight as the photonic beam cut through the straps.
Within moments, Roger was free. He leaped up from the operating table and attempted to jump down from the Dreamator, but in the middle of the air he realized that his feet were too weak and tired to be able to land. He smacked onto the floor, face down.
"Get up, Janitor Wilco. Don't make this any harder on yourself," commanded Kielbasa. Obviously, he wasn't happy about this whole situation.
"Is that really nessecary?" mumbled Roger sincerely. "I feel like my strength has just flown out of my body."
"I thought I smelled something," remarked the weapons officer.
Roger painfully got on his feet.
"Shh!" Dorff shushed.
"You wha'?" retorted the weapons officer, but was cut off with another "shhh!".
"What's that noise?" Dorff whispered.
"What noise?" replied the weapons officer, also whispering.
"That beeping noise!"
All four of them simultaniously glanced up at the overhead viewscreen.
Self destruct sequence initiated. Time remaining: 00 hours, 00 minutes, 03 seconds.
"You old bastard!" Wilco gritted at Vohaul's dead body.
Kielbasa ripped out his transport signaller and punched the button: "Four people to emergency transport! Now!"
The beam swooshed down on the foor people and their molecules were dissolved and transported across subspace into the databanks of the DeepShip transporter console, which then transmitted the molecule data to the DeepShip transporter pad and rematerialised the party.
Vohaul's face seemed to develop a slight grin.
Thank you for using Bobco Self Destruct Mechanism Systems. Have a nice day.
Kielbasa punched a communicator button. "Navigations officer, warp 9!"
"Which direction?" was the reply.
"Any direction, you schmuck!"
"Okey-dokey," the navigations officer acknowledged and the DeepShip began zooming off at top speed.
Kielbasa glared out of the viewscreen. The DeepShip was moving towards Vohaul's ship at an amazing speed. He leaped across the room to punch the communicator again.
"Not THAT direction, you bloody fool—"
The DeepShip's front end slammed into Vohaul's cruiser, sending it flying across the star system at a seemingly unheard velocity, sending it out into uncharted and unpopulated space. The DeepShip was consequently brought to a halt with a jitter. The transporter room became a huge mess.
The bridge was once again relaxed, the individual officers performing their individual duties, except for the navigations officer, who had been placed on a tall stool in the corner of the room with a triangular paper hat on which the words "BOOGERHEAD" were printed. It had been the weapons officer's idea, and amazingly enough, Kielbasa actually agreed to it. In fact, he cut out the hat.
Roger was back in his comfortable janitorial duds when he pneumatically transported himself onto the bridge via the ComPost.
"Ah, Janitor Wilco," said Kielbasa, sarcastically soothingly.
"Yes, sir?" Roger replied and attempted a salute. Miserable failure.
"You've recieved a special assignment for your deeds of bravery," said Kielbasa and emitted two artificial coughs.
"Well, what is it?"
"You've been assigned to head duty for a month."
"Wow, head duty? What am I the head of?"
"No, not head of something. Your job is to clean the head," said Kielbasa and smiled sadistically. A very rare sight, but a thing Kielbasa secretly enjoyed subjecting his subordinates to.
"Oh." Wilco's two-mile wide smile faded.
"Dismissed," said Kielbasa and turned to the viewscreen.
Roger sighed and transported himself to the cargo decks. He was going to get a nice nap before beginning toilet duty, that's for damn sure.
Kielbasa turned to address the weapons officer, who was temporarily acting as both weapons officer and navigations officer, causing some unmentionable fits of stress, but nonetheless within his capability.
"Set a course for the Restaurant Universe," Kielbasa commanded.
"Sir, we're still on patrol," replied the weapons officer stunned. "We're supposed to check out a distress call along the Azwipeio sector."
"So?" Kielbasa grinned. "Sue me."
This story is ©; 1996 Troels Pleimert.
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