Chapter Six


Fire! - by Greg Hartman


Todd and his silly-looking cube arrived at PUK a few hours later. Todd tuned into the PUK satellite network and rang up a phone counselor.

"Is this the PUK?" Todd asked.

"Yes, it is," replied the counselor android.

"I have a few questions," Todd continued:

One, why am I here? Two, why is he (he gestured at Greg) here? Three, why does he want to kill me so bad? And finally, Four, how can I get home?

"Do you know the answers to these questions?" Todd finished.

"Yes, I do," said the android.

"What are they?" Todd asked eagerly.

"None of your business," said the android.


"Did I stutter?" mocked the android. He switched off.

Todd emitted a curse he had once heard on Betelgeuse IV when a Rigellian ambassador knocked a magnum of wine onto the Terellian ambassador's wife, spilling it down the front of her dress and starting a war. His computer blushed.

"Well," he grumbled, "I guess I'll just have to wring it out of Greg."

He left the bridge and returned with a Neuro-Mangler Torture Table. Grabbing a chisel and hammer, he began hacking away at Greg's head. This gave Greg a terrible headache.

Finally, Greg's head was exposed. "Them androids sure is snotty, eh?" he smirked. Todd shot a rubber band off Greg's left ear and said, "Enough smart remarks!" He turned and grabbed a hypo from the Neuro-Mangler Torture Table's supply tray.

When he turned back towards Greg, he saw Greg's jaw moving in a strange fashion. Suddenly suspicious, he darted forward to anesthetize Greg. When his hand was mere inches from Greg's neck, stun beams suddenly shot from Greg's eyes and Todd slumped, bonking his head quite hard on the remainder of Greg's cube.

"Well!" Greg said, "good thing I installed that Tooth-Mounted Surgical Weapons Array Control!" He realized he was not much better off than he had been a moment ago. Craning his neck, he looked down and saw a hairline crack in the cube, radiating from the point Todd's head had impacted and terminating just below his left ear.

Greg strained every muscle mightily, the veins standing out on his forehead, and was rewarded with a slight creaking sound. Craning his neck again, he was delighted to see that the hairline crack had widened almost imperceptibly. He strained all his muscles again...

Two hours later, the cube had cracked in two, Greg was exhausted, and Todd was just beginning to wake up.

Greg stunned him again and clamped him to the Neuro-Mangler Torture Table. Scanning him for surgically-implanted devices and weapons, he satisfied himself that Todd was safely restrained only after a large pile of weapons and gadgets had collected on the floor.

Dashing a cold cappuccino in Todd's face to wake him up, Greg wheeled the table around so that Todd could see the viewscreen. He signed on to the PUK satellite.

"Is this the PUK?" Greg asked.

"Yes, it is," replied the counselor android.

"I have a few questions," Greg continued:

One, why am I here? Two, why is he (he gestured at Todd) here? Three, why does he want to kill me so bad? And finally, Four, how can I get home?

"Do you know the answers to these questions?" Greg finished.

"Yes, I do," said the android.

"Would you be so kind as to share them with me, please?"

"Of course! I'd be delighted!" said the android. "It's like this"--he read from a screen in front of him--"you and Todd have been kidnapped by the Galactic Wal-Mart association and psychically convinced that you are each other's mortal enemies."

"But he IS my enemy!" Greg said, glaring at Todd.

"See?" said the android. "Wal-Mart wants one of you to die and the other to live."

"Which one am I supposed to do?" Todd and Greg both yelled at the same time. "Excuse me," Greg said. He slapped a piece of SuperStick Howard the Duck Tape over Todd's mouth.

"Mmmmff!" said Todd.

"They don't care who lives and who dies," the android said. "They just want one of you alive and one of you dead."

"But why?" Greg asked.

"Well," said the android, looking at his screen again, "I--" he broke off.

"Yes?" Greg said.

"I--I don't know!" the android looked absolutely flabbergasted.

"You don't KNOW?" Greg was amazed.

"This has never happened before!" the android screamed in panic, punching buttons on his console with lightning speed. Sparks began to fly from the console. "Warning! Overload!" shrieked a speaker behind the android. Suddenly, the android winked out, leaving a view of PUK on the viewscreen.

"Ahem!" said the computer. "I know this isn't really your ship, but sensors indicate a nova-sized explosion will occur on PUK in 45.9 seconds. Would you like to assume command"--the computer ignored Todd's furious muffled protests--" and order me to warp out of range?"

"Er--yeah, good idea," Greg said.

As Todd's ship reached a distance of 45 billion miles from PUK, a blinding white light overtook it, causing Greg and Todd to squint as a powerful shock wave rattled the ship.

Greg yanked the SuperStick Howard the Duck Tape from Todd's mouth, removing most of his beard in the process.

"OW!!" Todd yelled.

"Well," Greg said, "now you know as much as I do."

"But how did you get that stupid android to cooperate with you?" Todd asked, struggling against the steel clamps holding him to the table.

"Don't you know anything about PUK android protocol?" Greg sneered. "You have to be polite and ask 'please,' that's all. But now I have to get to Wal-Mart Galactic Control and find out why it's so important that you die."

"Yeah, I'm curious about--HEY!" Todd said, belatedly noticing that Greg was wheeling the Neuro-Mangler Torture Table down the corridor to Weapons Control. "Don't you mean 'why it's so important that one of us die'?"

"No, I know what I meant," Greg chuckled. He opened a photon torpedo tube inspection hatch and wheeled the table inside, pushing it all the way to the end of the tube.

"But--wait!" Todd yelled in panic. The heavy door clanged shut.

A panel hissed open and a control arm popped a photon torpedo into the tube behind Todd and the table to which he was hopelessly bound, rather crowding the tube.

"Five seconds to torpedo launch," Todd heard a computer say dimly through the thick inspection door.



"Two!"--the outer door snapped open, abruptly evacuating all the air from the tube. Todd's eyes bugged out as he tried to hold his breath. As if in slow motion, he saw the cables on the back of the torpedo tighten; he knew that at the same instant the computer said "Fire!" the cables would pop loose from the torpedo, activating its thrusters. Ironically, in keeping with his recent James Bond motif, he figured he had .007 seconds to live.....




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This page was last updated on Thursday May 03, 2007
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