Member Rewrite of Chapter 4 – Something Fishy at the Capital
The week's frantic festivities were finished, leaving me feeling a tad weak myself. The revelry had mostly died down ... in no small part because the revelers had mostly died off. Bodies lay strewn about, drained by debauchery, their terminal smiles permanently burned onto their mortal mugs.
As low on vim as I felt at the time, I was no more exhausted than the thousands of planets (with their teeming billions of planetspawn) subjugated and pillaged to fuel this blurry romp. Even if I was a few watt-hours short of a full NiLiWiFiCad load, my batteries were still in better shape that those in the legions of bedmistresses sent to personally recharge my squad. Ah to be young and me ... or someone near me.
In contrast, my surviving colleagues were truly overspent, thanks to their questionable constitutions as well their outlandish parade expenditures. A million monthly expense accounts, the landscape of the entire New Terra, and all known financial resources of every habitable planet within two gigajumps of New Terra would be feeling the pinch of this interstellar hootenanny for at least ten light years.
Of course, I can't blame the Heroes for bankrupting a galaxy or two in my honor. I'd saved all of the Known Existence yet again and I deserved their piles of discretionary gold, diamonds, and trans-Universal diplomatic-immunity vouchers. I was worth it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. No pain, no gain. Where there's a will, there's a way. Just do it. You can lead a Garvon-Five Triblet Mule to Venusian Pollen Cider but you can't make osmosis happen. [My mental powers were depleted enough to force the Cliché-O-Bot chip to commandeer my speech center.]
It was time to go home.
I didn't want to do ill with my privileges, which is precisely the reason the Oligarchs entrusted me with them. As a benevolent Übermensch, privilege-illery was out of the question. Having seen it all, done it all, loved it all--often immediately before abashed apologies for it all--I was ready for a break. No, not just a break. A vacation to end all vacations. In other words, I was ready for retirement.
We headed back to Charleston, capital of New Terra and the Milky Way. Upon our New Terran arrival, we saw that the terrain was a wasteland of tinder cut for the celebratory flames. Trash and vomit lay strewn across the landscape in puddles and piles of bio-unfriendly afterglow. Our caravan of Hummer H-360's drifted across the land, leaving impressions five inches deep in the thick hoverpavement. As we turned off the Crossworld Express and headed down along a metaboulevard lined with waving groves of beef trees, I knew I was almost home. The feeling warmed me from inside.
Nothing could have felt better than being in Charleston again, save perhaps the previous uninterrupted 200-hour orgy of man, woman, plant, animal, mineral, coca, poppy, mudma, and free-spilling cornucopia of greased-to-the-elbow alientalia. It may not sound like a compliment, but if the feeling of going home means as much to me as the pleasure of the deca-galactic gangbang, I'd call that a real tribute.
Most of my entourage was out of it: some asleep, some comatose, and the rest in the more preferred medically induced cluelessness variety. We arrived in Charleston around noon on this midweekish day in the middle of some month in a year I’d remember forever as “the year I never knew”. The Sun was shining. The Peace was everywhere.
Shortly after our flitter-pads touched the baccy-maceral, I descended the ladder from my cabin to the ground. The crowd waiting for us was about the size one would expect if one's Division II HipHopKetBall team was returning home from a first-round tournament defeat at the hands of an uppity Division III hyperschool. I planted my feet shoulder width, straddling the border between the two provinces (as is traditional upon arrival to the capital). With one foot in Northsylvania and the other in the Democratic Carolina Republic, I could feel myself finally accepting that it was all over. I was no longer the Hero of the Universe. My time had passed.
"Welcome, my Liege" said a kindly old man, whom I did not realize until much later was my father. "You've done it again! We welcome you home!"
He was a nice old crumb of crust. Old, and somewhat familiar. Well, he should have been, what with him being my father and all. I accepted his sentiments as if they were from a stranger, and thanked him accordingly. In retrospect, I’m sure it's best that I did. I wouldn't have wanted my father to hold me to other earthly standards nor think me too soft on an unfamiliar race or person. Oh the other hand, I didn't want him getting a book deal out of it just because I picked him out of a crowd.
I did miss my father, and I had always loved him. Unfortunately, he simply didn't come to mind on this day. Had I known he was my father, I'd have thought him shorter and older than I remembered. "Thank you, old man," I said. His eyes lit up as if I recognized him and was calling him what I'd called him; my Old Man. I didn't and I hadn't. At least, I hadn't meant to.
His eyes were beaming. "You are home, my son," he said. "Come back with me now. There's much to see, know, speak of, and review." I smiled, nodded, quasi-graciously accepted the key to the city in passing from a pudgy man to my left (who I assumed was the mayor), and headed back to his flawlessly restored antique 2814 Toyanda Priapus.
"I bought one of those for the greatest man in the Universe after I saved this Galaxy the first time," I said to him. He smiled ear to ear as if he was a retardo-simpleton or a slack-jawed snake-man of an Andromedean outer civilization. No matter who I thought him to be that morning, I welcomed him as if he was my own father. It's a good thing as it turned out because ... well, you know, he was.
They've said since times of antiquity that you can never go home, but it just isn't so. No, you can go home alright. It's just that you'll feel like a useless, incompetent child and you'll count the very seconds until you can leave again. As relaxing as it was hanging out in New Terra's capital, little could have placated me against me desire to get either "out of Dodge", "the hell out of Dodge" or the "God damned, F'ing hell the F out the F of G-damned Dodge right the F now, for the love of F in the name of all that's F'ing holy, for Christ's sake, F'ing rescue me from this F'ing hell on this planet."
New Terra, however, isn’t all disappointment. There’s always the walkin' catfishin'.
It had been 800 years since all natural streams and lakes had finally lost the war against the commendably virulent Chinese Walking Fish. They're ugly as hell, terrifying, and taste like a septic foot. In short, they're not the best game for fishing. That is, however, part of their Darwinistic charm.
The only good fishing left on New Terra takes place on private lands in controlled ponds. If you want to fish, you have to know somebody richer than God. (It's not that hard, since the QuarkWorm Crusades to Black Hole .0001 in 2921 discovered that God was merely a multi-trillionaire who drives a very, very fast motorhome.) Still, fishing is tricky because the walking fish love to walk their ways, even to the most exclusive of private ponds. No discredit to them: They've been seen holding their breath, dressing as mammals, hitching rides on the metainterstate, and talking their way into country clubs.
If you've ever tried to fish in a public pond or waterway on New Terra, you know how dangerous it can be. I applaud these monsters for their undying dedication to the survival of their species ... even if it means the complete annihilation of any and every other species. I won't bore you with the details. But if you're interested in further reading, see "Human" in the Galactic Compendium. The theory of "Genocidal Species" is discussed there at exhausting length.
Rest? Relaxation? A long-overdue retirement? It didn't matter to me. I was just grateful for the respite. I would fish for the cat, I would roll my rocker back on the tail of the dog whilst strumming my twangity banjito, and I would sleep like a very old man for at least four hours a night.
As a solo-gunning straight shooter, it was well within my idiom to travel alone. On this occasion, however, I took two of my closest comrades in Vishnu-varied arms. Normally, any event I'd grace with so much as a cameo would end up being the Tek Jansen show. But today I chose my best two men and dragged them along for the sojourney. For their courage and valor, they deserved it.
Burggl Slackman was a great man, a trooper, a soldier like few others, an advocate for all things True and Right, and not afraid to commit crimes and injustices to get that point across. Though not the strongest of the Alpha Squad, he knew his limits and he always tested them. He had his head squarely on his shoulders and a big heart. It was something of a problem, that big heart of his. It had almost exploded twice on our last mission. But through peer and commander pressure, he'd succeeded in suppressing his death. I attribute it to his love of the long-lived form of religious statehood known as "Democracy" ... in addition to my constant beratement of "Don't you die on me! Don't you die now on the people who need you the most!!"
It may sound like a silly argument, but it's worked for me whenever I've proclaim't, and it obviously worked for him as a subservient neo-martyr. He didn't die. He pulled through it as I promised him he would. He saw the parade in (my, our?) honor and today he's come home with me to retire and take it easy for a time I would swear will be Forever.
Even though he's never been my Number One Man on a mission, he's always been unbeatable when it comes to tying a lure. That's an invaluable skill in a Neutroboat.
The only other crewmate I could bring myself to invite was Melo, a hulking brute of a fellow better known for his temper than his strength. Melo is a deadly combination of seven-foot-tall stature and no less than two hundred kilograms of pure, lean, semi-mechanical muscle mass. If you wanted to throw a bar brawl, he'd be just the man-machine to invite.
He was an early victim of the Parallel Universe swindle. You've heard it before: There are an infinite number of parallel Universes and that, for a hefty price, you can purchase a fare from your Universe to another for whatever reason you like. The scam is invariably effective on perpetrators and would-be perpetrators of crimes. You want to assault a planetary ruler or try out the Cannonball Run? You've always got a way out ... or so the hucksters would have you believe.
Melo's weakness was the murdering. He just loved to get his kill on. After a good round of sport stabbings, he ponied up his fortune, gave it to one of those parallel Universe guys, climbed aboard the Parallelabalator, and poof, he was transported.
At least that's how it plays out in the glossy brochures. In practice, it's not quite as idiot proof. For the passenger, or "dupe," it's a strange experience. When you "emerge" at the "other end," you don't feel any different, things don't appear any different, and in every known instance, you're still in the same mess you were already in. In Melo-the-Murderer's case, he allegedly swapped universes. But he ended up in a place where the parallel Melo had also just gone on a killing spree, paid a ton of money, and hopped into a high-tech parallelobox.
See what I mean? It's a scam. What's the point of traveling to a parallel Universe if it's exactly, precisely the same as the one you just left? You can't even meet your other self, since that self just came here to fill your shoes! Stupid, really, and Melo walked right in to it like a big, hulking, two-hundred kilogram cybersucker.
Less than thrilled with the parallel Universe fraudsters in his "new" Universe, Melo took out his frustration by killing more than a few of the scam artists. For that he earned a pardon. Why lock up a natural killing machine when you could put him in the service of the government? That's how he and I came to be acquainted. When it comes to sticky situations, unscheduled fisticuffs, or lakes that may or may not be infested with walking catfish, there's no other man nor bot I'd pick in his place. Melo's handy with the pain: a good sort of person to have on your team.
Come hell, heaven, or modestly highish waters (in pre-swollen rivers littered with the poisonous remnants of party poppers, streamers, tapes of the ticker variety, and human urine loaded with cocaine post-cursors), we were going to catch us some fishlike objects. We had the cool, azure waters, warm, spring air, and clear, open, peaceful skies mandated by a three-thousand mile "no fly" zone just for this very expedition.
We were ready to catch 'em, but don't kid yourself. As brazen and brash as we were, we sure as hell weren't about to think about eating 'em. Fishing is a great, passive sport in which there really are no winners, no matter what the ESPN-27 folk of so many centuries ago insisted. It's just a sport of losers. We were ready to make all these fish into greater losers, and ourselves--as their killers--into lesser losers. There was no way we would extend that folly by either eating or making trophies of said vanquished losers. Both of those post-fishing options would invite near-certain perils that we'd rather sidestep.
Still, fishicide is relaxing and good fun, isn't it? That's what this trip was all about.
We stepped in to the lodge and put our bags down when the inevitable happened. The red phone rang. I figured it would at least take until late afternoon to get the call. Needless to say ... well, I won't say whatever it was ... needless ....
"Tek. It's for you," intoned the portly deskman from between thick rivulets of musky sweat. "I think it's the President."
Member fiction provided courtesy of user Walt Schmerz.
(You can also read the chapter that inspired this here.)
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