WAR!


Chapter Fourteen

 

Yeeeeeecccchhhh! * by Greg Hartman

If Todd, Jeff, and Lender had looked behind them as they beamed away, they might have noticed that the equal amount of water replacing the Water-Feaster contained a bedraggled David. The coordinates Lender's transporter had selected happened to encapsulate David's location, thus transporting him back and saving him from drowning.

David, seeing the peril Greg was in, lunged at the computer in Todd and Jeff's former cell and typed in a special code. The computer, recognizing David's fingerprints and the code, accessed the ship's main computer and instantly slowed time to a stop in the control room, freezing the beast in midair.


Craig screamed and ducked as several dozen ravenous, toothy beasts leaped at him all at the same time.

Nothing happened.

Craig peeked out from between his quivering fingers. Nothing continued to happen.

He looked around. The teeming jungle had frozen into a scene that, if Currier and Ives had printed it as a lithograph, probably would never have been able to sell. The dozens of monsters leaping at Craig had stopped in midair in a cloud of teeth, claws, fangs, and other implements of destruction. A few of the beasts were only inches from Craig.

Craig crawled out from under the umbrella of death and stood, puzzled. Suddenly, he vanished, to be replaced by a confused Bandersnatch.

The dozens of midair beasts lurched into life again like a car whose driver has suddenly found first gear, banging their respective skulls together and sprawling in a heap. The furious Bandersnatch, convinced they had stolen his meal, attacked the dozens of even larger, more ravenous beasts.

Bandersnatchi are not noted for their intelligence.


Criag flashed into existence on the bridge of Greg's ship, only to be startled by a red alert horn. "Warp breach in 10 seconds!" shrieked a computerized voice.

"What--" Craig started.

"--took you so long?!!?" David yelled. He pressed a button on a small device which looked bizarrely like a cappuccino cup, and Greg, David and Craig winked out of existence seconds before the entire ship did.


Craig opened his eyes. He, Greg, and David were in a small brig.

"--'s going on?" Craig finished, stubbornly refusing to leave a sentence half-spoken.

"Lender accidentally transported David back when they replaced the Water-Feaster," Greg said.

"Lender! What's he doing back in this War!? I thought he was dead!" Craig exclaimed.

"Some lame excuse about 'temporal anomalies,'" David shrugged, rolling his eyes. "Those Bagels always did play by their own rules. Anyway, I froze time in the control room, then tossed in a lasso from outside the time-freeze field and dragged Greg out. Our analysis revealed that the matter-conservation circuitry in Lender's transporter left a subspace resonance trail between the objects it switched. That made it easy to figure out where he transported you to."

"Better yet," Greg said, "the trail conducted the time-freeze field back to the transported material's source, freezing time there, too."

"Then why didn't I freeze?" Craig asked.

"Your natural trans-continuum temporality field was attenuated along the subspace resonance trail," Greg explained smugly, "and the time-feeze didn't recognize you as a part of the Bandersnatch's planet. The problem was that when we located your transportation coordinates, we found out you'd moved away from them. We were searching for you when that guy we accidentally covered with chocolate attacked the ship and triggered a warp breach. He stole all our equipment except Dave's Pressor-Beam Residue Convertor, which, just in case, he had disguised as a cappuccino cup"--Dave held up the small device Craig had seen--"just as we were locking in your new coordinates. Dave's Pressor-Beam Residue Convertor traces the dispersion trail of pressor beams back to their source and changes them to transporter energy at the same time. So it beamed us back to the location of the pressor beams that had attacked us."

"Unfortunately," David concluded, "that happens to be the chocolate politician's ship. His security software probably routed us into this brig."

"Quite so!" said a voice behind David. David's cappuccino cup vanished from his fingers. Whirling, they saw the president. "And a nasty fate I have in store for you, too!"

"You mean you'd rather get rid of us than capture Lender's Bagels?" David inquired idly. "I mean, after all--all we did was accidentally get some chocolate on you. Haven't the Bagels been a thorn in your side for some time?"

"Name your price!" the president said, rubbing his hands with glee and motioning for a guard to release Greg, David and Craig. "What are your names, anyway?"

"We're the, uh--call us the Q-Men," Craig said. "Now, about our price..."


"The Fiero was TOO a cool car!" Jeff screamed.

"Yeah, for a plastic Hot Wheels toy it wasn't too bad," Todd snorted.

Jeff threw the dice from the Risk game they were playing at Todd, and soon a full-fledged brawl was underway.

Suddenly, a steel hand grabbed the back of Todd's shirt and tossed him across the recreation deck of Lender's ship like a bean bag chair. Spluttering, he rose, and was astonished to see that the steel hand was attached to a steel arm, which was attached to a steel body, upon which Greg's face smiled. Craig and David stood just behind him, clad in similar steel bodies.

"What's going on?" Jeff yelled. An army marker was stuck in his left nostril, but he appeared not to notice.

"Ever seen Robocop?" Greg asked.

"Yeesss...." Todd said, not liking the direction the conversation was taking.

"So has our friend." Greg pressed a button on a small remote. The rec deck's comm screen flickered to life, revealing the president standing on the ship's bridge. He was smiling, and not a speck of chocolate was to be seen. Behind him stood Lender and the rest of the Bagels. They were in chains and heavily guarded.

"So!" said the president brightly. "Your tracking method let us follow Lender's transporter emissions right to him. A deal's a deal. All your money back, new cyborg bodies, and we keep Lender. Ta-ta, pals!" They winked out of sight.

Todd aimed a kick at Greg's head. CLANG!!

As Todd hopped about in pain, the Q-Men chuckled at his foolishness. Meanwhile, Jeff whipped out a phaser and drew a bead on Craig's head.

With a quiet whir, David's thigh snapped open. He snatched the pistol that protruded from its hidden holster and aimed it at Jeff.

BRRRRTTT!!

Jeff looked stupidly at the phaser butt left in his hand after David had shot away the barrel.

Greg whirred and clumped across the room. His large metal paw grasped the butt of Jeff's phaser. SCRUNCH! Jeff howled in agony.

"Oops! Forgot you were still holding it!" Greg said unrepentantly. "Don't worry. You won't need your hands where you're going."

The Q-Men hoicked Todd and most of Jeff (minus one hand) down to the medical deck.


Todd's eyes opened. Well, sort of. What he saw was a video display of a large steel tube full of icky brown muck.

"YeeeeEEEECCCCH!!" he suddenly screamed. The worst taste he could ever imagine had suddenly flooded through his mouth.

"Hi!" said a voice in his ear. Todd whirled, or tried to. With horror, he realized that he could taste and see, but had no body that he could feel. "You're hearing me over a radio circuit," David's voice continued. "The president liked Robocop so much that he started a condemned prisoner program based on it. Your brain has been removed from your body and wired into a treatment facility on a toxic waste processing planet. Your taste buds are wired into a set of sensors that analyze incoming waste from the transporter bays on the far end of the tube you see and send it to the various areas of the plant for processing."

"Where's my body?" Todd yelled. Or tried to. His tongue felt funny behind the horrible taste that continued to make him want to gag, if he had still had a stomach. He could feel the sensors protruding into the muck at the bottom of the tube. He realized that he was thinking over the radio circuit.

"Look sharp!" David chuckled. "Here it comes now!" Todd watched in horror as his and Jeff's bodies washed down the tube. A valve automatically diverted them toward a tube labeled "Solid Waste Processing." They disappeared into a whirling maw of steel teeth and were gone in seconds.

"Yep--those processors can grind up ANYTHING!" David's voice continued. "They make fertilizer paste for the president's farming colonies. Well, before we sign off, we're going to switch you and Jeff into a hardwired communication curcuit with each other. Wouldn't want you to get lonely!"

"Wait!" Todd heard Jeff yell in panic. "How long do we have to stay here?"

"You didn't listen, did you?" David said. "This is a CONDEMNED prisoner program. All prisoners wired into the treatment facility will be here permanently. Bye bye!" With a click, he was gone.

Todd tried to struggle, but felt no arms or legs to struggle with. He felt around for another circuit to yell for help, but could feel nothing but the circuit connecting him to Jeff. With mounting nausea, he saw a great wad of greenish-black bubbling gunk come down the tube toward him. He tried to turn his head, but he had no head to turn. He tried to close his mouth, but felt nothing but the sensors, alertly poised to deal with the new waste material. He could hear nothing but Jeff's mindless babbling and shrieking.

The greenish-black gunk impacted the sensors and sent raw data couring into his exposed taste bud nerve endings. With a shriek, Todd experienced the taste of the concentrated waste of the 316 chemical toilets from a Klingon battlecruiser, which had just been emptied after a five-year mission.

Meanwhile, Jeff bawled with pain in Todd's ear as 25 tons of disposable Tellerite diapers were processed by his sensor array.

Todd felt his sanity dripping away like candle wax.............

continues



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