Friday, 16 February 2007

Boldly Gone, Part Nine


Boldly Gone is a story of nine chapters, posted serially by me, your host best served chilled, Cheeseburger Brown.

It's cold. It's really cold. It's like sunny-day-in-Edmonton cold.

The worst thing about winter is the way people try to kill me with their cars. My fellow commuters become indiscriminate assasins as they fish-tail diagonally across three lane highways and zealously force me to test my anti-lock brakes. I don't know what I did to make them so mad at me, but there you have it: dozens and dozens of people whipping tons of steel at me.

For my birthday I want a train that goes from my house to work. For bonus points it could be an old timey steam locomotive. Red, please. The caboose can be yellow.

Also, the train should have free Wi-Fi and dancing girls who sell breakfast sausage and hot, hot coffee.

(SPAM: Why delay grabbing a copy of the new
I am a Cheeseburger anthology today!)

And now, we conclude our tale:



9/9

"Can I help the next customer, please?"

Lansing stepped up to the teller's counter. "I'd like to speak with the manager," he said, his sweaty hands clutched behind his back.

"Is there a problem?" asked the teller.

"No, I'd just like to see Sandy."

"Sandy?"

"The manager?"

"Ms. Markovitz is our manager here, sir. Are you sure you have the right branch? Maybe I can help you: can I get you to swipe your bank card here please?"

"I'd just like to see the manager."

"Ms. Markovitz isn't in today, but if you'd like I'd be happy to mark a meeting request on her calendar and she'll call you back to arrange the details. Is this about a loan?"

Lansing turned around wordlessly and rushed out of the bank. In the parking lot he found himself loitering on the stretch of curb where he'd met Sandy after work, and as he searched up and down the row of placards reserving employee spots he noticed for the first time that none of the names were hers. Her job, then, was also a lie.

He didn't know what to do: he was too distracted to return to work, too upset to mope alone.

He decided he needed company, and perhaps counsel. The only person he knew who was at home during the day was Melody. Perhaps a woman's perspective would help him see things more clearly, he reasoned, hailing a fresh cab and giving the driver Scott's address...

He called work, told a lie. He hung up with shaking hands.

When the cab jerked to a halt he was startled out of a thoughtless place, overpaid for his ride, and then climbed out onto the sidewalk. He immediately had to dodge a moving crew carrying a bed between them up the ramp of a large trailer. The lobby doors were propped open for the movers so he didn't have to buzz up.

He craved sympathy. More, he craved an alternative explanation. He wanted somebody to hold his head and tell him not to worry, that it was all a complicated misunderstanding.

It should've been Sandy, but the thought made him ill and hungry and mad.

He strode the corridor with purposeless purpose, faltering when he turned the corner to see Scott's door wide open, the threshold being trampled by two movers wrestling a heavy chest of drawers between them.

Lansing blinked.

The movers squeezed past him down the corridor and then he stepped up to the jamb and called, "Scott...? Melody...?"

Melody appeared from inside the unit looking disheveled and tired, a stained tank-top and jogging pants hanging off her carelessly. "Lansing?" she replied, furrowing her brow. "What are you doing here?"

Lansing was baffled. He felt numb and surreal. "What's going on?" he asked, peering past her into the denuded condominium.

"Didn't Scott tell you that we're moving?"

"You're moving?"

Melody nodded cheerfully. "We found the most amazing place. I can't wait for y'all to see it! Waterfront view and everything. And we're going fifty-fifty on it so I don't have to feel like such a heel."

"Did you get a job?"

"What?"

"A job -- how are you going fifty-fifty without a job?"

"Oh yeah, I got a job. It's great."

"Where at?"

"Just some place. Pretty boring stuff, really -- just reception work. But you've got to tell me: why are you here now, Lansing? Aren't you supposed to be at work? Oh my God, y'all didn't get laid off, did you?"

"Uh, no."

"What's wrong, sweetheart? You look like somebody just ran over your dog."

"Can I sit down?"

"Sure thing, pudding. There's some furniture in the livingroom. I'm still packing up in there. Come on in."

She disappeared inside and Lansing followed. Melody's bum was no longer hypnotic to Lansing -- it just reminded him of Sandy's. The livingroom was full of cardboard boxes but there remained in place an easychair and the television, currently tuned to the lobby camera. As Lansing sat down the movers carrying the chest of drawers passed by on the screen.

"Can I get you a drink?" asked Melody, wiping her sweaty brow ineffectually against her sweaty forearm. "Lord knows I need one. Packing's hard work."

Lansing nodded gratefully. "Water, please."

He sat down in the easychair, gawking at the emptiness.

When Melody returned from the kitchen they gulped from their glasses, draining them. She took his glass, put it aside, and then crouched next to the easychair and rested her chin on his arm. "Now are you going to tell me what's eating you, Lansing dear, or do I have to work it out of you?"

Lansing smiled fleetingly. "No, I'll talk, I'll talk."

She smiled fleetingly back. "What's the matter?"

"It's Sandy," said Lansing. "Or it's Aaron. I don't even know. No, I do -- it's Sandy."

"Honey, you're not making a lick of sense."

"I know."

Melody sat up on the arm of the easychair, which was still faintly green with Cassie Ten's paw-prints. She ran her fingers through Lansing's short, black hair and made an exquisitely feminine, soothing sound. "There, there," she whispered. "You're all bent out of shape now, aren't you?"

Lansing closed his eyes, the afterimages throbbing. He licked his lips and said, "Aaron says he has reason to believe that Sandy is a con artist who's setting me up to be fleeced."

Melody's hand froze, stopped still on Lansing's scalp. "...What?"

"He says she's been doing it for years -- something called a sweetheart scam," continued Lansing, opening his eyes and feeling them well up against his will. "He had pictures and everything. I think...I think it might be true."

"Lord Jesus!" breathed Melody, her face stricken. "What are you going to do?"

"I don't know," said Lansing sadly. "It doesn't seem real. I'm very confused. I should be at work. Fuck. And then just to make the day weirder than weird I come here to find somebody to talk to...and you guys are moving? Like, right out of the blue?"

Melody looked down, then continued running her fingers through Lansing's hair. "I think Scott may have kept all y'all in the dark for fear that the news might get a bad reception. There's been some tension, we can't deny it, can we?"

"I suppose we can't."

"We're getting more serious, and I think he worries that not everyone thinks that's such a good thing."

"Nah," said Lansing dismissively. "Everybody likes you, Melody."

"Aaron doesn't."

"Aaron doesn't like anyone. But more to the point, you're not the one he accuses of being a scammer. No, Scott gets a real girlfriend and I'm the loser who's duped into thinking someone might be into me. Why am I even surprised?"

"Why say a thing like that, kitten?"

"Are you kidding me? Scott can talk to people. He's good looking, he makes good money, and he doesn't look like him mom dresses him. He's always been about a thousand times cooler than I've ever been on even the best day of my life. He fucking deserves a girlfriend."

"And you don't?"

"I should just move in with Aaron and turn myself gay. Why fight?"

"That's ridiculous."

"Yeah, well, I'm ridiculous. A ridiculous loser, getting owned by a cougar. Just kill me now." Lansing mimed a self-execution with his thumb and index finger. "Pow."

"Aw, Lansing, don't be that way. You're not a loser."

Lansing shook his head hard, his near-tears quickly replaced by another flush of indignation. "I am a loser, Melody. Even my best friend is keeping secrets from me -- not about little things, but big shit going on in his life. He's too fucking worried about getting ragged on that he won't even give me the benefit of the doubt. I'm not even worth that, evidently."

"I'm sure he has his reasons, pudding. Don't get all mad."

"Fuck it," declared Lansing, fishing in his pocket for his phone. "I'm calling him right now. I'm not staying mum. This is bullshit. Is he my friend or isn't he?"

Melody reached out and grabbed Lansing's wrist. "Don't call him at work, sugar, he's all stressed about the deadline he's on."

"But I want to tell him how --"

"Hush now," she said softly, gently easing the telephone out of his hand and placing it aside. "I know you're hurting," she told him, continuing to stroke his head, "but going off on Scott ain't going to make things right. Not like that. You need to find a calmer place."

"I don't have a calm place today. Will you pass me my phone back please? I have to do this."

"Don't, Lansing. Let's you and I just chat a while longer until you feel more even keeled."

"Okay, fine -- I won't shit on him for keeping secrets. But I still need to ask him what he thinks about this whole Sandy thing."

She pressed her lips together sceptically. "What's he going to be able to tell you?"

"I don't know, but Scott's always been there to tell me something. We're best friends. He has a way. He knows how to cut through the crap. He...cares about me. I know that sounds sort of gay, but it isn't. The truth is that Aaron's not the one in love with Scott: I am -- because I've fucking wanted to be him since I was twelve."

Lansing trailed off and they both sat in stony silence as the movers tromped through the livingroom on their way to the bedroom to start disassembling the computer desk.

Lansing sniffed back tears, feeling stupid. "Fuck," he said dully.

"Lansing..." said Melody soothingly.

He suddenly leaned forward and scooped up his phone, unfolded it and started thumbing through his numbers. He gasped in surprise when Melody struck it out of his hands. The phone bounced across the carpet and meeped. Before Lansing could react he found himself pressed into a warm and wet kiss and Melody was sitting on his lap.

"What...?" he mumbled.

"You need this," Melody said, pushing her lips into his again.

Despite the embrace Lansing managed to squeak out, "Scott!"

"You need attention," whispered Melody, her breath hot on his face. "Don't worry about Scott. Let me give this time to you. He doesn't ever have to know."

"No, I can't."

"You're hard. That means you can. Come with me to the bathroom. We can lock the door. I know how to make you relax, Lansing. Trust me."

She took his hand and dragged him from the chair. He stumbled after her, resisting but without zeal. She pushed him up against the washroom doorjamb and kissed him again, her hand stroking over his pants. "Melody..." he protested weakly.

She shoved him into the washroom. She glanced over toward the bedroom and then back again. A coy smirk played over her features and then she rolled off her tank-top and tossed it aside, leaving her chest bare and shiny with perspiration.

Lansing gasped. Melody winked saucily.

And then she slammed the washroom door, casting Lansing into darkness. He heard a sliding, knocking sound as Melody hauled over a diningroom chair and jammed it under the knob. Her light footfalls retreated.

"Melody?" called Lansing. And then again: "...Melody?"

A blurry, negative impression of her nipples and beauty marks drifted untethered across Lansing's scintillating shadow-blindness.

He stumbled into the door and tried to open it, but he could not. He stumbled backward again and barked his shin on the toilet, then set to slapping his hands along the wall in search of the lightswitch. Then he remembered that the lightswitch was on the outside.

He sat on the toilet, his heart hammering.

"Melody what the fuck?" he bellowed. His voice echoed dully. He smelled pineapple shampoo.

He became quiet. He heard Melody suggest to the movers that they break for lunch, listening to their heavy boots clomp past the washroom and toward the front door.

Lansing was more bewildered than ever, and it made him furious. What was the term Aaron had used -- a toy?

Unbidden, rage rose and his eyes burned. He leapt up and threw himself against the door, repeatedly smashing it with his rapidly numbing shoulder until, at last, he managed to collapse the upper section with a loud crack. An adrenalin powered kick bashed out the bottom half of the door and then he tore the diningroom chair away and tumbled out onto the splinter-covered carpet.

Melody was closing the front door behind the movers. Lansing screamed, "What the fuck, Melody?" as he barreled up behind her.

She turned around. Without premeditation Lansing punched her in the face.

Melody fell back against the wall, striking her head, and then slid down to the floor with a stunned expression. A trickle of blood showed from one nostril.

"Oh my God!" cried Lansing, suddenly aghast. "I'm sorry!" he blurted.

He knelt down in front of her and then, without warning, she kicked him in the testicles with both feet at once. Lansing toppled over backward with a pitiable moan, clutching at his groin. Melody climbed over top of him, got to her feet and ran.

Unwilling to play prey, Lansing played predator. He let his anger wash through him as he plunged after her.

He caught up with her on the far side of the diningroom, tackling her sideways against a box of plates that rattled alarmingly. She dragged her nails down the side of his neck as she scrambled to get free. Lansing howled, squirming after her.

At the mouth of the hall he caught the back of her jogging pants and yanked them down, tangling around her ankles. She fell hard and uncontrolled, her ass sticking into the air, her face pressed against the carpet with pink friction burns blazing on her chin. Her underwear had little hearts on them.

She kicked him in the forehead, entangling him in her jogging pants. She pulled her legs clear and dashed into the bedroom.

Lansing got to his feet, winded and aching, and threw the pants aside. He started making for the bedroom when Melody appeared on the threshold. Lansing looked down at the device she held in her hand and winced in anticipation an instant before she jammed the taser into his midriff and engaged it.

He was overwhelmed by a brief but sharp-edged pain, a cruel cramping that hit him everywhere at once, his muscles suddenly jellied and utterly out of control. Lansing pissed all over himself and dropped to the carpet, twitching and moaning feebly.

Melody hovered over him, weapon trained. Lansing didn't, and couldn't, move. He wondered in a disconnected way whether he were about to die.

He could see up her shirt. Not a bad last sight, he reasoned in a disconnected, giddy way.

Without taking her eyes off of him Melody leaned down to scoop up her jogging pants, pulling them on awkwardly as she kept the taser leveled. "Now," she said, all traces of her smooth Southern drawl suddenly gone, "you're going to lie there like a lamb or I'm going to stick this thing in your ass, got it?"

Lansing nodded from the floor, pins and needles tickling uncomfortably throughout his body.

He watched as Melody crossed the room and picked a roll of duct tape out of one of the cardboard boxes. She straightened and pulled out a long strip, the tape croaking in its particular way. To Lansing the mundane sound was filled with new threat, and it made him jump.

And then the television showing the lobby camera went to static. Then the screen went dark, crackling quietly.

Melody looked over, frowning. A second later the lights died and the refrigerator went quiet, leaving them in the uncomfortable wake of sudden silence. Lansing lay in a narrow shaft of sunlight spilling in from the windows, trying to regain his breath, his ears ringing, the urine making his pants feel cold.

"It's a goddamn blackout," muttered Melody distractedly.

She knelt down next to Lansing and bound his wrists behind his back. Lansing felt he might have the strength to resist just as she finished. Then she set to tearing off another strip to bind his ankles, heralded by the tape's ominous croak. "Why are you doing this?" he managed to whisper.

"You got in the way, kid," she said. "This is business."

"You..." he said, his chin quivering, "you're the spider."

"Spider?" she chuckled, pulling the tape around his ankles. "You're mental."

The front door banged open, startling them both. Melody jumped up. Lansing craned his head to see. "Oh Scott please save me..." he prayed. "Please."

But it wasn't Scott who walked into the livingroom next: it was Sandy.

She glanced at him but did not react, her face a steely study in determination, the taut muscles a kind of harsh masque that transformed her to the edge of Lansing's recognition. She said, "This is finished, Dana," and in that moment Lansing realized that he was caught in the middle of something bigger than himself. He lay helpless at the crosshairs of a brewing battle.

Whatever Melody was up to, it was not surprising to Sandy.

"I told you to mind yourself, old lady," said Melody, her chin high. "I can't even begin to tell you how sorry you're going to be for coming here today. My people are on their way."

"No," said Sandy with coldness and precision, continuing to advance slowly into the room. "They are not, Dana."

"You don't know anything."

A tiny smile curled the corners of Sandy's lips. She said, "You are utterly transparent to me, Dana, in every respect. There is no line in your inventory that will dissuade me, Dana."

"I have a gun."

"No, Dana, you do not."

"Stop fucking saying my name!"

"No, Dana, I will not."

Melody suddenly ran at Sandy with the taser extended but stopped short when Sandy blasted her in the face with pepper stray. "Fuck!" screamed Melody, her face contorted as she staggered blindly backward. She tripped over Lansing and hit the floor, pawing at her eyes.

She wasn't hit as bad she made out, apparently, because when Sandy walked over Melody jumped to her feet. Through red-rimmed, squinting eyes she saw enough to rake her nails down Sandy's face, then threw all her weight into the other woman and both tumbled, knocking over the easychair with a percussive double thump.

Lansing managed to roll over and sit up, his tied feet pinned beneath him. Melody and Sandy were tumbling over one another, hitting and shrieking, clawing and grunting, leaving half-crushed cardboard boxes in their wake.

He wondered what he would do if Melody won. The idea of Sandy being hurt horrified him, which only served to further confuse his feelings. He bellowed, "Kick her fucking ass, Sandy!"

Sandy grunted as Melody clubbed her in the temple with a die-cast Excelsior-class starship. She raised it to strike again but was bucked aside. In the ensuing scuffle Lansing lost track of whose limbs were whose.

"Sandy!" he cried out desperately.

And then Sandy was up again, straddling Melody, smacking the girl's head back and forth repeatedly. Blood was now running from both of Melody's nostrils and dotting her cheeks as it sprayed laterally with the impact of Sandy's swinging, careless blows.

"Sandy, stop!" Lansing shouted. "You'll kill her!"

Sandy stopped, her chest rising and falling heavily as she panted. She looked at the red on her palms, then looked down at Melody's running eyes and bloody nostrils. Melody stirred faintly, her lids fluttering.

For a second Sandy's face softened and Lansing could see the her in her, but it was quickly gone and she was hard again, eyes narrow and lips pressed into a thin, grim line.

Sandy stood up abruptly and walked out of the livingroom. She returned with a large canvas knapsack, which she opened and extracted from it a neatly coiled bundle of white silk rope. She sat down cross-legged on the floor and began to industriously and expertly tie Melody up. Without looking over she asked, "Are you alright, Lansing?"

"I don't know," he said lamely.

"Did you get tased?"

"Yeah."

She grunted as she pulled Melody's bindings tight, then set to gagging her. Melody was awake but offered no meaningful resistance, her eyes bleary and her cheeks red. Sandy said, "I'm sorry I flipped out on her. I...wasn't expecting to find you here. When I thought you were hurt I -- lost it."

"What are you going to do to her?"

Sandy pursed her lips. "I'll take her back to my lair and give her some education, then she has a date with the police."

"You're not going to hurt her, are you?"

Sandy snorted, her eyes on her work. "Why should you care? Who knows what she would've done to you if I hadn't arrived when I did? She's a predator, Lansing. She's very dangerous. Trust me."

"Trust you?" he spat, shaking his head wearily. "That's what she said."

Sandy scooted across the carpet and deftly cut the duct tape with a butterfly knife. Lansing carefully peeled the remaining strips away from his wrists, cringing as they caught the hairs. He watched Sandy as she cut his legs free. A strand of her hair had fallen loose from her bun and she blew at it, then flipped the knife closed and stashed it in her jeans with a practiced motion.

"What are you?" he asked.

"I told you," she said, eyes flicking up only briefly. "I'm a superhero. I clean up scum."

"Jesus Christ. This can't be real."

She reached out to touch his face but Lansing whipped his head out of the way. "Don't fucking touch me," he said.

"Lansing..."

"Just get away," he shouted. "You and Melody -- you're both monsters. You're both something awful. I don't want anything to do with you. You fight your fights but you leave me the fuck out of it, you understand?"

Sandy stood up. She unfolded a long, Naval duffel bag out of the knapsack and then put the mouth around Melody's feet and covered her up, drawing the string loosely at the top. "Don't worry," she said quietly. "She can still breathe. I'm not a killer."

"So you say."

Sandy flinched but did not immediately reply. She went into the corridor again and returned with a shopping cart, which she then loaded Melody into. Melody moaned. Sandy threw the knapsack on top of her unceremoniously and then hefted the handle experimentally, testing the weight. The cart rolled clumsily on the carpet, wheels twisting.

"Listen, Lansing," she said, dabbing at a cut on her temple. "I know this is fucked up. Don't presume to tell me, because I live it. And don't even ask me why, because the answer is longer than we've got."

"Fucked up is an understatement."

She considered this. "I think you'll agree that it's better than being taken for everything you have. I've been doing this a long time, Lansing. I know these people. They're ruthless and they're heartless. Dana here has been busy working up a pattern of spending on Scott's accounts that was going to come to a head today, leaving him penniless and his credit ruined. Look around -- she was even taking the furniture. Everything he had. Everything. Do you get it, Lansing? That's what I'm fighting against. So what I do may be fucked up, but it's less fucked up than the alternative."

"That's not as clear to me as it is to you," he said, and then, against his will, he started to cry. "How could you use me like this?" he begged, his voice catching in his throat.

"I never meant to hurt you, Lansing. Honestly, I didn't. I think you're a really great person. And maybe you think I'm horrible, but what we shared together was special."

"Bullshit," he blubbered.

"I mean it, Lansing. I'm going to miss you."

Lansing shook his head in disgust. "You're the same as her. You two are exactly the same. You exploit people -- Melody for money, you for some insane idea that you're a superhero and you're somehow doing something good. But you're not, Sandy. You're destructive. You're just a sick vixen with delusions of grandeur."

"Would you rather get robbed?" she asked sharply.

"Maybe, I don't know," shrugged Lansing, looking her in the eye. "Being violated is being violated. Maybe you took my virginity but you also took my trust. I don't know what the fuck you've really done to me, in the end. I guess I'll find out. But I do know one thing, Sandy or Justine or whatever you name is."

"What's that, Lansing?"

"I wish I'd never met you."

Sandy's face froze, and then she slowly began to nod, the skin under her eyes quaking. She hung her head sadly and said, "I understand."

And then she turned and wheeled the shopping cart filled by a bound and gagged girl out the front door of Scott's naked condominium, and away. Lansing leaned into the overturned easychair, hearing the squeaking of the shopping cart's wheels echo off the corridor walls and diminish.

He cried.

Far down the corridor, so did Sandy.


20 comments:

Sith Snoopy said...

I hadn't known who Sandy was until last night. I finally took the time to read Sandy the Spider.

Fell in love with her character instantly. And loved how the bartender decided to open a bar in Toronto that Mike Cuthbert was going to end up inside of, LOL. And that the Cuthberts were in the story, as well. :)

Feels like an exercise in 6 Degrees of Separation.

Was already rooting for her. Got the impression she was one of the good guys. That was increased admittedly by another reader's comment. "Is this the Sandy from..."

Anyway, the way she really respected Lansing... I already had good vibes from her before I had a clue she was the Spider, LOL.

And now... poor Sandy. :(

I don't agree with Lansing's assessment. Sandy is a predator, but a predator of predators, out to save the good guys. Yeah, she is dedicated to her mission with a scary level of zeal, but it's a good mission. I'd love having her watch my back, LOL!

Sigh. I hate seeing her hurt, after just having read her story, too. :(

Sigh.

Ahem.

Ok, I also have a question. But it's related to Sandy the Spider. Did they really have Capri Sun's back when they didn't have computers in banks yet, or ATMs?? I get the impression the Spider story was set in the early 80's...

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Sith Snoopy,

Capri Sun definitely did exist then, but, as a sharp reader pointed out when the story was first posted, the flavour I mention was not currently offered.

Damn me and my slapdash drink research!

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

Mark said...

I love that you just used the word "slapdash."

The tormented superhero, torn between sworn duty and living a normal life with love and friendship. Of course we know she has a conscience in this case because we know why she started doing this in the first place.

It is too bad Sandy couldn't have used someone who was a jackass like Brian, and that she couldn't have a relationship with a nice guy like Eugene.

Save the spider, save the world. (sorry)

Mark said...

Oh, and I just ordered the anthology.

itchy said...

My question is, was Melody the same girl who screwed Henry over, or is this just another Trekker-predator?

I felt so sad for Sandy in the end, but of course Lansing felt used!

I'll be ordering the anthology as soon as my paycheck comes in...

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Mark and Itchy,

Thanks for anthologizing! Your contributions to the I am a Cheeseburger effort are greatly appreciated.

And yes, I did mean to imply that Melody had been with Henry -- which is why Sandy was tracking her in San Fran.

Come Monday we begin a new tale: Stubborn Town.

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

CodeWright said...

Hmmmm.

Hyped up on that much adrenaline, titillated like he was, and faced with the let-down after intense fight or flee, I suspect Lansing would have had a different reaction to Sandy.

Relief, bonding.

Not as poignant perhaps, but more believable.

mandrill said...

Sith Snoopy,
All these stories are linked in some way or another, you'll see people from other stories turning up either in pivotal roles or as extras. We are tourists in Mr. Brown's personal universe which extends from the deep past (The Long Man) into the far future (SoS).
I don't want to jinx it but Mr. Brown seems to be building an epic of gargantuan proportions, each story revealing just a small portion of a wider and more marvellous canvas, which when completed will reveal a cosmos and mythology to rival those of Herbert or (dare I say it? Yes, I think I do) Tolkien.
Just how I see it, not gospel you understand.
On to the current instalment:
A rather more understated and subtle outing this one, again we see Sandy'e exploits from the point of view of those she encounters, in this case a group of the marginal beings known as 'die-hard trekkers' There is humanity overflowing from this piece, I find it very easy to relate to all of the characters. I was Eugene once, maybe some small part of me still is. I've known Aarons and Lansings, and I've envied and admired Scott's by the dozen. As I mentioned in a previous post (and I find myself wondering if it influenced the ending or was simply a form of prescience) Sandy's existence is ultimately unfulfilling, whatever past event she is seeking revenge or atonement for she is doomed never to find it. I feel pity for her, but I pity Lansing more. Sandy made a choice to be who she is and do what she does, Lansing made no such choice.
Then there is the deeper question; Do the ends of Sandy's heroism justify the means. It is an age old question and cuts to the heart of human nature. Is it justifiable to do awful things in the name of a good cause? unfortunately there is no clear cut answer, and possibly never will be.
Sorry to go on but my muse possessed me (my muse just happens to be my 5th year english teacher, dunno what that would be in Canadian or U.S. grades, sorry.)
In conclusion; Good job as ever Mr. B. Looking forward to your next.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Codewright,

Notes on credibility or the lack thereof are always appreciated. Thanks.

And thanks to Mandrill, too. I'm glad to see you back in the commentary zone.

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

Sheik Yerbouti said...

Tough ending, but what a ride. I still think there could have been a better conclusion for Lansing and "Sandy".

So what's with the USB drive? Did we ever find out what she did with that? I'd also love to know which of her "operations" brought her into contact with Shatner, though I suspect we'll never find out.

Can't wait to see what you've got in store for us on Monday. Did you know it was 15F (-9C) in Dallas this morning? I feel your frozen pain (though I'm not sure dancing girls should serve hot coffee).

Simon said...

My inability to comment from work is the single most frustrating part of my day now. KHAAAAAN!

I'm going to disagree with Sheik's last comment a little. I think perhaps there *should* have been a better ending for Sandy and Lansing, but I don't think there could have been. This story felt, to me, like it was all about Sandy the same way Star Wars is really all about Vader.

The ending ties in directly with one of the first conversations Lansing and Sandy had where she intimated that she took what relationships she could. I don't recall the exact quote, but it stuck with me and was the very first thing I thought of when I knew she was crying at the end. She was walking away from the sort of thing she wanted because of her commitment to what she perceived as her duty.

*****

Sunny-day-in-Edmonton cold can be a great thing. Ice crystals hang in the air and you don't need a big slurpee to get a brain freeze -- just step out your front door and inhale real deep through your nose.

*****

Can't wait to meet Uncle Miss!

"awfes" -- where men end wimmin go when they haf two wurk.

Teddy said...

it's -11C in Grand Forks right now, and that's a heat wave. last week we were getting into the low-negative 20s and 30's. I distinctly remember preflighting my airplane one day at seven in the morning with a temperature (not wind-chill, temperature) of -29C.

Dallas is f*cking lucky.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear all,

Regretfully, Monday's post has been delayed until Tuesday.

This is because it's now Sunday, I'm very sleepy, I have several hours of family commitments ahead of me, and I haven't got my post or the next story's illustration finished.

Realistically, I don't think I can make it.

It saddens me to fall off-schedule. I'm sorry to disappoint. Please do remember to check back on Tuesday.

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

Sheik Yerbouti said...

Heck, we'll be checking back just to see if there are any new comments!

I hope you got some rest last night, CBB; we love your art enough to wait for it.

Oh, and Simon: I didn't mean they would end up together or anything. It just seemed like there could have been less hatred at the parting... not that it wasn't believable the other way.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear all,

Tueday's post has now been re-branded as a Wednesday post.

I am too spent.

And maybe I just need winter to be over too badly. I don't know. But between busy work and a busy household, I've got nothing left these past few days.

I'm not hungry. I'm tired of sitting in traffic. I'm fed up with accounts that don't quite balance, and it makes me grumpy. Simple tasks seem onerous.

Obviously I'm out of sorts, one way or another.

So. Very. Tired.

I need a vacation but I can't afford one right now. Even if I could afford one my passport's not in order, and the necessary processing is working in slow motion due to the recent tightening of the American border. Even if my passport were in order, though, it's a busy spell at work and I really couldn't be excused for more than a couple of days.

My wife is combing wax out of my daughter's hair. "I'm so genius," sings my daughter. "And I like cheese."

The wax comes from a small wheel of cheese she didn't consume in favour of playing with the wax container. Now the wax is in her hair and the cheese is AWOL. It could turn up anywhere.

More things are broken in my house than I have the inclination to fix. Sometimes this makes me feel like a squatter, or a member of some shantyfolk. In this way I am very lazy.

It's cold, but I don't mind the cold. The snow bothers me because it increases the likelihood of people trying to kill me with their automobiles. I want the snow to go away. I'm sick to death of driving in a state of wide-eyed bristled mammalian survival mode.

I think it's taking a toll. I'm half way asleep and half way awake throughout the day and even when I lie in bed, daydreaming of galaxies.

Galaxies are cool.

I want someone to make a cool timelapse movie of a galaxy, churning slowly, novas popping here and there like paparazzi's cameras. I'd make it myself but I'm too tired.

I'm watching Teletubbies. Mercy. Do people rate their preferred Tubby like they used to rate their preferred Spice Girl? Which Tubby would you hit?

I think I need a drink. Or seven.

I could stay up tonight and finish the chapter and do the drawing, but then I think I might die on Tuesday shortly aftering posting. And if that happened you'd never find out how the story turned out, and I wouldn't want to cheat you that way.

Wednesday. Yes, Wednesday -- the sun'll come out on Wednesday.

I really want to tell this story well. It needs more petting. I still don't know what's what, or how far into people's heads we're allowed to go.

My body feels heavy. I need a nice hot shower but my shower's broke. Fucking reality, eh? Some part of it is always on the fritz.

Maybe I can work the galaxy image into the new Felix story. Somebody make a note of that. I'll forget.

It's my daughter's bedtime. I am called on to cough up a new story for her. I'm thinking something about a butterfly who travels to outer space in a rocket-powered tea kettle.

Okay.

Got to go.

Again, apologies for the delay. We're working hard to restore service as soon as possible.

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

Moksha Gren said...

Hang in there, my friend. We'll be here when you're ready because no Cheeseburger should be served before its time.

Simon said...

Delayed service just means we have a chance to get up, stretch our legs, and maybe grab one more beer before the show starts.

I don't know if it helps, but Lulu told me today that my anthology shipped. Well, it makes me feel better and I'll try to ooze a little happy karma to wend its way east by and by.

(But we're also getting rid of our Boxer dog, so there's some UNhappy karma pouring off my wife and I'll do my best to get a containment berm in place to keep it from polluting anything else.)

Good luck not getting killed by rampaging automobiles this week!

Mark said...

CBB - It's nice to see how human a respected talent is. Thanks for sharing.

I don't know whether you've noticed more hits from the Dallas area lately. I've spread the word about "Boldly Gone" to at least 30 sci-fi fans (specifically, Star Trek fans) that I know, but e-mailing the link.

Also, teddy, I cringed a bit when I saw Sheik compare our cold Dallas morning to anything in Canada. We hit 68 degrees today and are expected to hit 78 on Tuesday.

I welcome the few cold, crisp 15-degree mornings, because I know that around here that sh*t won't last long.

I feel for anyone who has to put up with bitter cold for any length of time.

Compu73E said...

Jezz CBB, don't be so hard on yourself! This is free fun we're having here, we'll wait until your muse is talking to you again. Everyone gets ground down every now and again, being pulled from family to car to work to car to family again, but most of us don't produce gripping serialised fiction for free on a thrice-weekly basis on top of all that. Rest, relax, see where that butterflt ends up. We'll all still be here when you get back.

Sheik Yerbouti said...

Okay, okay, so I should've kept my trap shut about cold weather! I miss snow.

Now in a few months when it cracks 105 for thirty days straight, then we'll talk.

CBB, PLEASE take it easy. If you need to -- nobody shoot me -- post the thing Friday. We'll wait until you get back.

This reminds me of the old Simon days when the comments would stretch on for infinite pages as the tension climbed...

Oh, and if you ever think of it, consider taping these bedtime stories. Tolkien managed a couple of books out of his; perhaps you'll find similar treasures there, and you *know* this bunch would listen.