Friday, 2 February 2007

Boldly Gone, Part Three


Boldly Gone is a story of nine chapters, posted serially by me, your automotively nervous host, Cheeseburger Brown.

Yesterday on my way to work I passed a freshly spun-out three car wreck on the highway. This was real world foreshadowing, for before the afternoon was out twenty cars would be mashed into a burning pile in the eastbound lanes, some drivers dead, some just broken or mangled.

Note to self: no crashing.

Such things freak me out a tad, and I'm liable to have the images in my head for days which puts a damper on my driving hours. Nothing can be a completely positive experience when you suspect it's possible that at any moment some tardy yahoo could plow into you, shatter your bones, flip you around or make your legs come off. My wife says I worry too much but I think I worry just enough.

And now, let's continue with our tale:



3/9

Scott's condominium faced south, overlooking the stacked squares of Bay Street's tall financial fingers. The rows of greenish fluorescents inside them always made Lansing think of Borg cubes.

"Wow," said Melody. "Nice view!"

Aaron snorted. "It's just a matte painting."

Scott flipped a row of switches on the wall and banks of track lighting came alive, reflecting off the granite kitchen counters and casting a bright vignette over the glossy, blue and white computer on his desk. The screen displayed the machine's progress rendering blocks of telescope data for the SETI project, software for which Scott was a beta tester.

The hour was near so the boys scrambled into their usual seats in the livingroom. Scott turned on the television and hopped to the correct channel, then turned around and furrowed his brow. "Hey Aaron, why don't you scooch over so Melody can sit somewhere?"

Aaron frowned rebelliously, then shifted over on the couch.

Lansing went to the kitchen and dished out a couple of bowls of pretzels and chips from Scott's cupboard and brought them to the coffeetable, which was covered in old issues of Wired and MacAddict. Aaron lit a cigarette and put his feet up on the coffeetable, his red and white sports socks standing in stark contrast to his Klingon regalia.

Eugene coughed.

"How did you get yourself a place like this, Scott?" asked Melody. "It's amazing."

Scott blushed, fumbling with the remote control. "It's a pretty affordable deal, actually. And my company's good to me, I guess."

"Plus he supplements his income by selling buttsex on Church Street."

"Shut up, Aaron."

"Don't deny it, streetwalker. I've seen how you work those glutes."

They hushed one another as the screen dipped to black to begin the second part of a cliffhanger, opening with a review of last week's drama -- the return of the Borg Queen, the kidnapping of Seven of Nine, the reedy vibrato of Captain Janeway declaring her fearless commitment to the poor drone's rescue against all odds...

Eugene and Melody reached into the pretzel bowl at the same time and their hands touched, which caused Eugene to knock over the bowl, scattering pretzels across the carpet. "Oh crap, I'm sorry," he mumbled, dropping to his knees to pick up the mess.

"Dude," said Lansing, "relax."

This was easy for Lansing to say because he was seated as far away from Melody as possible. He could, with minimal effort, pretend she wasn't there at all.

During a commercial break she got up to use the washroom, and the second the door closed the boys found themselves in a huddle. "Holy shit!" whispered Scott. "How did we somehow find ourselves in the company of the hottest girl in the world?"

Aaron shrugged. "She could stand to lose some weight."

Scott raised his brow critically. "So could you."

"Do you think she's into me?" asked Eugene, his forehead wrinkled with worry. "I'm trying not to say much so I don't ruin it by saying the wrong thing."

Scott groaned. "I don't think she's into anyone. She's just lonely."

Lansing was sceptical. "Hot girls don't get lonely, dude."

"Yeah, that's bullshit," said Eugene. "I mean, she's being really nice to me. I don't think that's coincidence."

"Coincident with what?" frowned Aaron.

"Just because a girl is nice to you does not mean she's into you, Eugene. It may just mean she's friendly. You know -- friendly? How people act when they want friends?"

"There is no word in Klingon for such behaviour," claimed Aaron.

"She said I was cute," argued Eugene, biting his lip and wringing his hands.

"That's cute as in pathetic, you fool."

"Shut up, Aaron."

Scott waved his hands for order, shaking his head. "Girls are human beings, just like us. Everything they say and do is not predicated on how it relates to your penis. They get lonely, they act friendly, they compliment people -- it's normal."

"But how do we know for sure?" asked Eugene.

"When the show comes back on try to cop a feel," suggested Aaron.

Eugene's eyes went wide, then he shoved his inhaler in his mouth and took a hard hit. The boys slowly turned around to see Melody standing right behind them, one hand on her hip. "I don't mean to interrupt y'all," she said, a wry little smile playing over her lips.

"We were just, uh, joking around," stammered Scott, breaking out in a sweat.

"I couldn't find the light in the bathroom," she said.

"Here, I'll show you."

As soon as Scott and Melody disappeared around the corner Eugene and Lansing started punching Aaron in the shoulder, repeatedly hissing, "You Klingon bastard!" When Scott returned Aaron was rubbing his arm ruefully.

"You do realize her naked ass is touching your toilet seat, right now, as we speak," Aaron said to Scott. "Got wood?"

Scott ignored him. "Listen, if she is into Eugene the least we can do is try not to screw it up for him, right? Let's get a grip, guys. Try to act like regular people if that's at all possible. I know that's a stretch for you, Aaron, but just try, okay? For Eugene's sake: try."

Aaron farted ponderously. "What's in it for me?"

"We'll keep being your friends."

"I'm not convinced. Can you sweeten that deal?"

"No."

They stared at each other for a moment, then Aaron began to nod. "Oh, alright," he conceded, ruffling Eugene's hair. "If it's for the little guy."

"I'm not little," grumbled Eugene, brushing his hair back into place frantically with his hand, inadvertantly covering his scalp with pretzel salt. "I'm just skinny. And I'm going to start working out soon. You know, build up some muscle mass."

"You will be so sexy."

"Shut up, Aaron."

Melody returned as the commercials ended and squeezed herself back onto the couch between Eugene and Aaron. Scott took drink orders, offering cans of pop or beer -- Jolt, Dr. Pepper or Heineken. At Melody's request he mixed up a gin and tonic for her, and then one for himself. Eugene looked at his can of Jolt sadly, suddenly feeling like a kid at an adult party. "Maybe I'll take one, too, instead," he said. "Um, Scott."

"Whenever you drink, you barf," warned Aaron.

"I'm not going to barf."

"Well, it's Scott's carpet."

"Of course you can have a gin and tonic, Eugene. Anyone else?"

Lansing shook his head. Aaron didn't answer, eyes glued to the screen. "Keep it down," he muttered. The episode wound to a climactic but familiar conclusion, the starship Voyager cruising off into space beneath the producers' credits, all members of her crew restored thanks to some strategic sub-atomic emissions from the warp drive.

The boys then debated the relative beauty of various starships, with Eugene coming down in favour of Voyager while Aaron argued that it looked like a "space fish." Scott, as usual, insisted that the pinnacle of starship design came with the Galaxy class 1701-D, while Lansing shook his head and chuckled sceptically. "From fish to whale," he weighed in.

Melody listened to rapt interest but contributed little. She sipped her drink and crossed her legs, watching each speaker attentively as they argued, giggling at their jokes and barbs. Finally, in a lull, she said, "I know you guys are really into the ships and stuff, but for me what makes Trek compelling are the characters."

"Oh yeah," agreed everyone quickly. "Totally."

"Take Seven of Nine, for example," she continued. "She's my favourite. She's such an interesting mix of human and non-human, but very different from, say, Spock's mix or Data's mix. She's out of her element and she wants to learn, but she has her own way of doing things and she's not going to change who she is."

"I think she's like a metaphor for the struggle of immigrants," said Eugene.

"Or lesbians," added Aaron.

"Well, I'm an immigrant but I'm not a lesbian," laughed Melody.

"That's good," said Eugene.

Melody laughed again. "Is it?"

"Um," said Eugene.

"I for one think you're integrating into Canadian culture very smoothly," said Scott boiterously. He raised his half-drained gin and tonic. "A toast -- to Melody's new life here in the country of real Trekkers."

They tinked glasses to cans and drank. "Cheers!"

Aaron bellowed, "ReH nay'meylIjyIn Dujablu'ja!" and then crushed his empty can of Dr. Pepper against his leather armour.

Eugene drained his glass, paused, and then got up and ran to the washroom. A moment later came the sound of enthusiastic retching. "Oh, crap," sighed Scott.

"I told you!" cried Aaron.

"At least he made it to the washroom this time," said Lansing.

"I'd better go see if he's okay," Scott said, getting up from his armchair. Melody followed him.

Scott knocked. Eugene's muffled voice sounded after a moment: "Don't open the door."

"Why?"

"I don't want Melody to see me like this."

"Are you covered in barf or something?"

"No," called Eugene. "...I just feel stupid."

Melody sidled up next to Scott and put her face near the door. "Don't feel stupid, Eugene. We just want to help. Are you okay?"

"I'm cool," claimed Eugene, and then he noisily threw up again.

Scott worked to maintain his focus despite the awareness of Melody's sweet, warm breath on his neck. "Can we get you anything, man? Water, a towel, Tylenol?"

"I'll be out in a minute."

Back in the livingroom Aaron and Lansing were watching The Simpsons, snickering as Homer was ludicrously injured. When Scott and Melody walked in Aaron said, "So is pukey catching a lift home with us or what?"

More noises of digestive distress sounded from the washroom. "Or what, I think," said Scott. "You guys can get going. I'll call a cab for him when he settles."

Lansing tossed his empty pop can into the blue bin and picked up his parka. Aaron wrestled himself into his coat and felt around until he found his keys. He looked up. "Am I giving her a lift, too?"

Scott looked to Melody. She shook her head. "I'm going to stay on to make sure poor Eugene's okay...so long as Scott doesn't mind playing host a while longer, that is."

"Of course I don't mind," said Scott.

Aaron looked back and forth between the two of them for a long moment, then shrugged, wandered over to the door and shoved his feet into his boots without tying them. "Let's go, asswad," he called over his shoulder to Lansing as he opened the door and stepped out.

"He's a charmer," noted Melody, smiling wrily.

"Live long and prosper," said Lansing, waving. He turned and scurried out after the grumpy Klingon. The door sighed closed as their footfalls thudded away down the corridor.

When Eugene came out of the washroom looking pale and forlorn, Scott escorted him into the bedroom and ordered him to lie down until he felt less dizzy. He put a plastic bowl and a glass of water on the night-stand and then quietly pulled the door shut.

Eugene slept fitfully for an hour and then sat up in the dark bedroom and struggled to remember where he was. All he could see were the numbers on Scott's clock-radio skewed and refracted through the glass of water. He picked up and glass and drained it, then spat some of it out as he noticed the time: it was past midnight and he had to get up for work tomorrow. "Shit, shit, shit," said Eugene, rubbing his temples.

He got out of bed and banged into the dresser, then moved slowly along the wall, feeling out with his hands until he discovered the doorknob. He released himself into the dark, silent apartment.

The television was still on but it was muted. David Letterman was going through his Top 10 list.

Eugene figured Scott had fallen asleep on the couch and when he peeked over he did indeed see an irregular human mass in the shadows. As quietly as he could he stole by to collect his parka and lace up his boots. He decided he should say thanks to Scott before disappearing, so he crept over to the couch and searched the darkness for a shoulder to gently shake. "Scott?" he whispered. "You awake, man?"

A sort of wet, smacking sound came from the mass on the couch. Eugene furrowed his brow. Then the mass groaned.

"Scott?"

Eugene opened his mobile to shed a little light from its glowing blue screen just as a pillow dropped aside and Melody sat up, her long auburn hair in disarray. Without conscious effort Eugene tilted the phone down and cast the dim blue light lower, revealing her swaying bare breasts, beauty-marked and plump.

"Oh my God!" said Eugene, dropping the phone.

"Eugene!" cried Melody, pulling a pillow over her chest.

"Eugene?" echoed Scott, sitting up suddenly from the opposite end of the couch and then, mid-flail, falling off of it onto the carpet. He wasn't wearing any pants, his pale bum faintly blue from the dropped mobile's light. "Shit!" said Scott.

"What the fuck?" gasped Eugene. "Scott -- what the fuck?"

"Um, you fell asleep," muttered Scott.

Eugene knelt down, scooped up his phone, then turned on heel and starting walking to the door. "Eugene, hey -- wait -- don't go," Scott called, stumbling to his feet. "Eugene, man -- come on."

Eugene threw open the door to the corridor and paused, Scott blinking against the influx of light. Eugene turned calmly and looked into his friend's face with an expression of bilous contempt. "From Hell's heart, I stab at thee," he hissed icily. "For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee."

"What?" stammered Scott, one hand cupped over his genitals.

Eugene walked out and slammed the door in his face.


15 comments:

orick of toronto said...

Take it easy with the drive, I remember dozing off at the wheel for split seconds back when I had to do 90 minutes commutes. So glad I left that behind.

"From Hell's heart, I stab at thee," he hissed icily. "For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee."

For a second I thought that was a trek quote. :)

To continue the comments from last episode, I for one, would like a complete book. I don't think having sci fi stories in the book would really turn off the non sci fi readers, especially if all the stories are related.

If you do a best-of, some one will be disappointed when it's missing his/her favourite. I think a good amount of illustration would be great.

As for your PDF troubles, I would be happy to help with both Acrobat 6 and 7 on my computer here should you want to try that. They have worked very well for me.

This episode has been particularly amusing with many funny moments.

I guess the next story will be dark enough to clean the pallete? I guess I will finally take that self-imposed exile from internet and work on my next website/project. sayitt has been a fun learning experience but need to work on something that will actually make some money.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Orick,

Say, how come you're not running ads on SayItt?

About the quotation: it's a twofer -- while the passage originates from Herman Melville's Moby Dick, it is also a reference to the climax of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan when these words are uttered by a bloody and mutilated Khan as he engages the Genesis Device on a countdown to ignition, vowing to go out with a bang and to take Admeeeral Kirk with him.

"To the last, I grapple with thee!"

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

Simon said...

Oddly, I'm half-way through my first read of Moby Dick right now.

I hear that Ahab bites it in the end. Who-da thunk?!

This is getting better than a Trekker geek-fest, I must say.

Evan said...

Hey CBB,

I've been reading your work for a year or two now, I guess. Stumbled across the Darth Side, moved from there on to your old blog and various side stories, and have been keeping up with this one on a regular basis. Up til now I guess I've been a part of that silent majority out there.

I just wanted to throw my two cents in about your anthology. I feel--considering how connected the stories on this blog are, and apparently how connected at least some of them are to your other work--that it would be a shame to leave out parts, as in a 'Best Of' edition. I think it would be ideal to have all of them in there. Also, genre distinctions shouldn't matter, considering it's all you in the end anyways. Maybe people who normally don't read sci-fi would find something they like, right?

I like the direction of this story, by the way, and I think it's fantastic how the characters manage to convey so much using TV and movie quotes.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear all,

After reading the various comments about the anthology ideas, I've made up my mind.

I'm going put everything in one anthology, and I'm going to do it soon so the book doesn't become ridiculously expensive due to size. I will follow up COLLECTED STORIES VOLUME I with VOLUME II as soon as there are enough stories to fill it.

As I mentioned, I will include at least one bonus story which has never appeared on the blog.

I will begin my layout experiments tonight after I put the kids down, as my wife will be out of my hair for the evening. Pricing and release date will be announced as soon as I'm ready.

I will try to include the illustrations for each story provided it doesn't bump up the printing costs too substantially.

P.S. Simon, Moby Dick rocks and is definitely a cornerstone of American fine literature. And I have no trouble admitting that I was inspired to finally read it by -- you guessed it -- The Wrath of Khan.

Thanks for chiming in all those who did, especially those who are usually silent.

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

Moksha Gren said...

Sadly for poor Eugene, I was braced for this. She had to hit the guy with the confirmed income. Not sure if Eugene will find comfort in this, but I'm pretty sure he just dodged a bullet.

Mark said...

I slid around a bit on the way into work this morning. Glad you're still safe.

I knew that was a Khan quote of a literary work, but didn't know which one (never read Moby Dick, but apparently now I've had the ending spoiled.)

This is still a lot of fun. I like that you show there are both abrasive and wimpy personalities among fanboys of this level of devotion. They have social group dynamics just like anybody else.

Poor Eugene. I think he just didn't make his move fast enough. I remember in high school dating a girl and being very gentlemanly, only to walk in on her and my buddy in the hot tub. But, if Melody has ulterior motives, then it's obvious why at this point she went for Scott: she knows he has a nice place and makes good money.

orick of toronto said...

CBB, great to hear you made up your mind about the book. Have you consider going the traditional route with a publisher and all that? Also, I belive you can list your own book on Amazon these days.

sayitt doesn't have any ad because it's not worth it. It has no focus, everytime someone sends an anon message through it, it has a new topic. Adsense doesn't know what to display. I built it to learn Drupal and it worked really well. It has PR of 4 after 8 weeks and it was in the top pages for such interesting keywords as "donkey ear hats". But it's time to work on other more interesting projects.

How are you doing with the ads if you don't mind me asking, CBB? I notices some irrelevant ones lately like "soul mate calculator" and "wrinkle injector in OC". You can target the ads a bit better with sectioning.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Orick,

The AdSense blocs on the blog tend to fluctuate a lot unless the topic of the story is very clear. I expect some of the ads to shift over from cosmetic surgery and bicycles to more Star Trek oriented fare come Monday after another adbot crawl.

Do you have any sectioning tips?

On the blog I don't get a lot of clickthroughs but I do get micro-payments for the sheer volume of visitors, much like Simon of Space which generated a reliable 30 or 40 cents a day without any clicks. The clicks only come when the ads are tightly topical to the content, snaring users who have mis-searched. Ads on this blog are a bit of crapshoot, but ads on the main site are doing fairly well and remain my #2 contributor to AdSense cheques (#1 still being The Darth Side, of course).

About the anthology: I can pay Lulu for an ISBN number to qualify for an Amazon listing, but I'm not sure it's worth the investment (or delay). I'll investigate further for this book. I'm not really considering shopping it to publishers since a) that's a whole enterprise unto itself, b) that means nobody could acquire an anthology for months if not a year while the details are hammered out and editing happens, and c) that might piss off Ephemera Bound.

Speaking of which, it's probably time to bug them again to see how the 2nd edition of SoS is coming, isn't it?

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

Simon said...

Yay for a full anthology! I feel like a politician, having spoken for the masses whose opinions I never garnered nor really cared about in the first place.

Back to this story:

Melody doesn't know (I don't think) that Henry and these guys are connected. That should make for an interesting dynamic once that salient point comes to light. But will it happen before or after Scott gets fleeced?

(I'm still assuming a LOT here. For all I know Melody could be a prototype for the chicks killed in Yves' big-rig crash, and she was tested on the Trekkers convention because the guys there would be more amenable to overlook character flaws in her programming.)

Either way, she appears to have nice boobies.

orick of toronto said...

Adsense is rather a dark art. I stumbled upon it when I was learning SEO. I will email you on Sunday so as to not distract from discussion about the story. We can compare some notes. I would have imagined you to be a master at it from reading "Two Moments of Invention" :)

Back to that quote, I thought it was a Romulan curse at first, not Klingon because it sounds too vindicative. Don't think I ever watched "Wrath of Khan". TNG is the series I am most familar with, having watched proably 1/3 of the episodes. Enterprise is my least watched because it was so... well blended with the rest of the sci fi tv series. Now if you start quoting Futurama, I can proabably match any of y'all out there.

Sheik Yerbouti said...

Evan,

Your comment reminded me of the TNG episode with the culture whose entire lexicon consisted of allusions to prior events. Creative idea, if a bit underdeveloped in the execution.

Soooo curious to see who's who and why as this unfolds.

Pneuma said...

Man. That really sucks. There's nothing like the pain of thinking you've got a chance, only to find out you don't in a horrible way.

Ouch.

P.

Evan said...

Sheik:

A similar tactic is employed by Gene Wolfe in his four-book sci-fi saga "The Book of the New Sun;" a race of humans lives under a regime wherein citizens may only speak in quotes from their religious texts, or else it is heresy. However, I wouldn't recommend starting the series because of interest of this race, considering that they only play a minor minor role in a tremendously long story. It's an amazing read, but terribly difficult to get through.

Rob said...

Further to your comments about adsense content relevance, I find that the mini articles I write about the stories can attract quite relevant adverts.

I love your writing and have added your Simon of Space novel to my list of selected online novels at http://novels.hopcott.net/

Hope it helps

Rob
(Rob Hopcott)