Thursday, March 03, 2005

It's Finished!

Friends In High Places, Part Twenty


Ramen And Whipsnade Are Feeling Better Now

By Leslie Bates

Whipsnade woke up in a slow and groggy manner. The universe
seemed to have gone dark on him until he brought his right hand
up to his head. Apparently some joker had laid his boater over
his own face.

Nice of him, her, or for he knew, it.

Whipsnade saw that he was in the lower bunk of what appeared to
be a crew cabin on an Imperial warship. In the workstation chair
opposite the bunks was his partner Fred Ramen.

"I thought we were dead" Said Fred.

"We were." Said Larsen.

"But now," said Fred. "Now, I'd say we were on one of the old
COBRA class escorts."

"Or a CARRONADE," replied Larsen. "By the non-regulation paint
job in this cabin it would have to be one in private hands."

Hopefully not in pirate hands, he thought. "Want to see what's
out there?" He said pointing to the door.

"Sure," said Fred. "What's the worst that can happen?"

Fred stood up and opened the door of the crew cabin only to find
himself staring at the muzzle of a Imperial 7-millimeter ACRS.

"Urk!" said Fred. It was his turn to say it this time.

Larsen saw that the ACRS was being held by woman with short brown
hair wearing an "I (HEART) H.E." tee-shirt along with a set of
Marine grey shipboard boots and trousers, she also had an 11.4
millimeter auto-pistol in a belt holster.

She didn't look a day over thirty in age.

"Good morning Lady Windhaven," said Larsen. "My goodness, you
look lovely today."

"Thank you, Mister Whipsnade," said Lisa. "Dennie would like to
have a word with both of you."

Dennis was sitting with hands folded at the table in the officers
wardroom. Laying on the table was an 11.4 millimeter auto-pistol
identical to the one in Lisa's holster.

He didn't look a day over thirty.

"Gentlemen," said Dennis, "we have a bit of a problem."

"We're on the CHAUCHAT, aren't we?" Asked Fred.

Dennis visibly suppressed a twitch of the right hand.

"In a manner of speaking, yes," said Dennis. "Now, If we may
return to the business at hand."

"Manner of speaking? Larsen piped up. "That should have been
simple 'yes' or 'no' answer."

Dennie's right hand twitched again. It was at this point that the
ship decided to jump into the conversation.

"Except for the original Imperial Standard transponder suite,
which Ditzie was supposed to have destroyed, this vessel is a
close copy of the original CHAUCHAT." said a French accented
feminine voice. "And in a manner of speaking, Dennis are Lisa are
also copies."

Dennis dropped his head into his hands and began to softly groan.

"I told you we didn't need that particular upgrade," Lisa once
again said to Dennis. "But did you listen...nooooo..."

" CHAUCHAT?" Said Fred.

"I prefer to be called SOPHIE," said the ship. "There is
something fundamentally not nice about naming a ship after the
worst automatic firearm issued to an army in human history. Of
course that's my opinion. You should hear Woody go on about it,
he actually had to use one of the damned things."

"Woody?" Fred and Larsen asked simultaneously.

"Woodrow Wilson Smith." Said Dennis. "And that gentlemen, in a
manner of speaking, is the problem."

"Problems, plural." Said Lisa.

Fred and Larsen looked at each other and then turned back to
Dennis and Lisa. Larsen spoke first.

" do these...problems involve us?"

Dennis answered.

"It's the fallout from your recent trip to the Hellbelt."

"During your romp through the fictional universe memes," said
Lisa, "you made a stop in what appeared to be Woody's universe."

"Um." Said Fred. "Ah. Yes."

"Well, the thing is," said Dennis, "in that universe, that
version of 'Woody' was running around and setting up
Spartan/Helot type colonies for the benefit of his fellow
Howards. While there would be some Howards who were dumb or
depraved enough to engage in such behavior, the real Woody would
never deliberately set up something with moral stench of a
Master/Slave society."

"He's funny that way." Said SOPHIE.

"But it was a fictional meme," said Larsen, "what could possibly
be the problem?"

"By the rules of the Woodyverse," said Dennis, "fictional
universes, including this one, become real universes."

Both Fred and Larsen both thought, oh bloody hell!

"So instead of one Long Family bouncing around the multiverse,"
said Lisa, "we now have a Long Family and an Anti-Long Family
shooting it out."

"And Woody's usual tactic of simply outliving the opposition
really, really, really isn't going to work in this situation."
Said Dennis.

That was a horrible thought. But then Larsen had another thought.

"Lord Windhaven," said Larsen, "It's been some time since..."

Dennis interrupted him.

"Of course," He said. "I have been remiss as a host, something
with an ethyl alcohol content, of course."

Under the circumstances, something with a methyl alcohol content
would be acceptable too.

Lisa slung her ACRS and then pulled two gray labeled bottles of
Old Bilandin from the wardroom fridge and handed them to Fred and
Larsen. Old Bilandin was the worst mass produced beer in the
known universe. Legend was that it brewed with well-used sweat
socks and day-old dog drool from a millennia old Vilani recipe.

Fred watched in horror as Larsen slammed down the entire contents
of his bottle in one sustained chug.

"Its really the only way to do it." Whipsnade gasped.

Ramen looked down at his bottle, closed his eyes, and gulped down
the contents as quickly as possible. Fred let out a belch and
then took a deep breath.

"God!" Said Fred. "That was..."

Fred was going to say dreadful, but then he saw that the 11.4
millimeter auto-pistol was still on the wardroom table and that
Dennis was visibly using his left hand to hold down his right

"That was very kind of you, my lord." Said Fred.

"Thank you," Said Dennis. He stopped twitching.

"So anyway," said Lisa.

"Three kilograms," Dennis replied. "Anyway, all other factors
being equal in an armed conflict, he who brings the most
firepower to the party usually wins."

Fred and Larsen both made an empty hands gesture. If there was a
way to make a fast credit on this situation either one would have
thought of it by now.

Damn. Perhaps they could make a not-so-fast credit or two.

"Granted," said Dennis, "you two really can't do anything to help
clean up the mess, but at least you can come along for the ride."

The image of both men in vacc-suits being hull-taped to the
exterior of the CHAUCHAT suddenly came to both their minds.

Before either Fred or Larsen could reply, a higher pitched female
voice cut into the conversation from the behind them.

"Are we there yet?" Said the voice.

Ramen and Whipsnade both turned to see a raven-haired and very
well constructed young woman in an "I (Heart) H.E." tee-shirt,
very short white shorts, and long and tight white leather boots.
She also wore a brushed stainless steel pistol of an
unidentifiable type in a white leather thigh holster.

She didn't look a day over thirty.

"No, not yet." Dennis said. "Gentlemen, I believe you've already
met my niece, Ditzie."

Ditzie did a cute little girl wave.

"Hi guys!" She said.

Fred and Larsen waved back. It seemed like a good idea.

"And yes," Dennis said, "there _are_ some things that should be
done to the human genome."

"Well, duhhhhh!" Ditzie replied in a mocking tone of voice.

Lisa crossed her arms and glared at Dennis.

"What?" Said Dennis.

"Oh, come on!" Ditzie said to Dennis. "Uncle Woody says that its
not really incest!"

"Not that it ever stopped him!" Lisa cut in.

"No." Dennis responded to Ditzie. "I won't, but you're welcome to
have a go at Woody."

Before anyone could say anything else an "ahem" emanated from the
aft entrance of the wardroom.

Standing at the hatch was a bald and overweight fellow in his
mid-forties, he had a mustache, wore an old grey tee-shirt,
camouflage trousers, and a pair of eyeglasses.

"Could you guys speed it up a bit?" He said. "I want to get back
to work on my screenplay."

"Les, you could work on your screenplay anytime you wish." Said
Lisa. "But, you don't have the rights to use the official
universe or the money to put your film into production."

"I'll deal with each of the problems one at a time, my lady."
Said the Author.

"Oh, really?" Dennis spoke up. "Deal with the problems? You
haven't even finished _Friends_In_High_Places_, you creep!"

"Yes," Said Fred. "I was wondering about that."

The Author sighed, and then replied.

"Lisa gets dumped by her first husband. Ditzie sets a distance
record for a ship kill with a spine-mount particle beam. Dennis
kills the rogue engineer, and his long lost brother Harry dies in
his arms, but not before he picks up a mental image of the
'Empress in Black.' Aramanx Jack then wears a feather boa to the
victory celebration. And in the epilogue, Strephon signs the
order for the construction of the Longbow-II array."

"Are you all happy now?" Said the Author.

Dennis sat on his own right hand.

"Wait a minute," he said. "Are you saying THAT I AM RESPONSIBLE
for the destruction of the Imperium?"

"What?" Said Larsen. "What happened?"

"Something you guys missed out on." Les replied to Larsen. "Don't
worry about it." He then turned to Dennis.

"No, it was the Archduke Dulinor." He said. "But you guys did
take care of that problem rather nicely."

"Really?" Said Fred. "They did? How?"

"Oh! That was lots of fun!" Said Ditzie. "We went back in time
and I dumped nine gigawatts of coherent light onto Dulinor's
landing boat before he could land and walk into the throne room
and shoot the Emperor!"

Ramen and Whipsnade looked at each other.

Time travel? If only they could...

"The real fun," said Lisa, "was presenting our bona-fides and our
history files to the Emperor. And the cover-up, of course. We
were a bit at loose ends until Woody contacted us."

The Author strolled over to the wardroom fridge, opened it, and
extracted a bottle of Old Bilandin.

"Dennie," the Author said, "how many times do I have to tell you
to stop hiding the good stuff?"

With a wave of his right hand the Author transformed the label on
the bottle from the dull gray of Old Bilandin to the blue with
white letters of something called Samuel Adams.

Dennis was now visibly twitching.

"You invented that swill for that screenplay of yours!" He said.

"Had to," said the Author, "an authority told me that Scout Brew
was no longer in the canon." He took a sip from his bottle. "If
I could think of something worse, I would have used it."

"What about a light beer?" Ditzie asked.

The Author stopped in his tracks. He looked at Ditzie.

"Thank you," he said, "I never thought of that."

Old Bilandin Light, what a truly evil idea. The Author started to

Dennis stood up, picked up his 11.4 millimeter auto-pistol from
the table, and shot the Author in the chest.

The impact of the first round caused the Author to drop his beer.
His eyeglasses also flew off and hit the floor causing the right
lens to pop out of the frame.

Dennis fired again.

The second round deformed the Author's head and caused his brains
to be splattered on the wardroom wall.

The Author's body impacted on the deck with a loud thump.

When the ringing in Whipsnade's ears dropped to a tolerable level
he spoke up.

"That was your author?"

"Yes." Said Dennis.

"And were all still here?." Said Ramen.

"We've been, 'here', as you put it since Woody contacted us."
Said Lisa.

"But I thought you liked him." Ditzie said "He liked you."

"He didn't like me," Dennis said levelly, "he never liked me!"

"If he really liked us," said Lisa, "he would never have used us
as the butt of all those pathetic jokes."

"Captain," SOPHIE cut in, "we have returned to normal space."

"Can we have a visual please, SOPHIE?" Dennis replied.

"Oui, mon capitaine!"

Ramen and Whipsnade looked around for the wardroom's holotank.
Instead they saw the walls and ceiling of the room dissolve into
a field of stars. In the starscape above and forward of the ship
was a verdant earth-like world.

"Gentlemen," Dennis said to Fred and Larsen, "welcome to Tellus
Tertius, our new home."

A tall and statuesque brunette woman stepped into the wardroom
with a 7-millimeter ACRS. She almost tripped over the remains of
the Author.

She didn't look a day over thirty.

"I thought I heard gunfire." Dana said. She looked down at the
corpse of the Author and said. "It was about bloody time you did
something about him."

"Yes," said Dennis. "SOPHIE, would you please land the ship."

"Oui, mon capitaine!"

Dennis took one last look at the body on the deck, and then

"And would someone please take that trash and stuff it into a
mass converter. And do not mention to me the name of Leslie
Bates ever again."

Ditzie softly spoke to Fred and Larsen.

"Could you guys help me with this?" She said as she pointed to
the late Author.

Sure, they thought, why not? It seemed like a good idea.

The End.

No comments: