|frangles > Flutonia > Skip > Writer's Bricks||<
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CLICHE BAR SCENE IN A CONVOLUTED SIFF FRWOA1/
"Ever get the feeling that it's always TO BE CONTINUED...?"
The man who'd introduced himself as Lt. Skiff Freckler sipped at a blue-green drink he'd called Athlorian Ale. He hadn't asked for it directly (as he'd been familiar with the pub's inventory), but had simply ordered a vifa Rum and Coke. Then he'd aimed his multi-siff device at the glass offered him, and with a single "shmeep" the color had swirled from black to a sparkly pre-drunk turquoise.
Skip--on a stool beside him--had commented that Skiff said it was just a scanning device, who replied, "Some substances react strangely to multi-siff devices. Something about the noise emitions annoying its composition on the molecular level, if you could imagine that alcohol and cola molecules can be annoyed! Anyway, this button has the inadvertent effect of turning Rum and Coke into Athlorian Ale." He pushed it to demonstrate, and a bottle of Tequila below the bar burst into flames as Frank the barkeep rushed to put it out.
Skip waited until the fire had been put out to order, but before he did was handed a tall metal cup of filtered water. Distracted, he glanced around the bar. Like most everything in Flutonia, it was more like a vague idea for a bar: a vifa bar, in a vifa time. Or *mix* of times. Or time *lines*. (Or something like that.) It was largely built of metal, and minute specs and flecs of light zipped and freckled the floors and walls. Two seemingly intelligent floating metal balls that looked absolutely nothing like a Doctor Who toclafane, Stargate Universe kino, or Babylon 5 ISN camera, wavered back and forth between a handful of access panels a dozen feet up. A plush chinchilla and a toy rocket at a diner booth were sharing an August issue of Asimov's Science Fiction.
If Skip had never lived a day before he'd entered it, the place would still have felt futuristic. Thoughts of his past--and his present--seem to fade away into irreleventness, as if it was only the future that mattered. Yet since the future never arrives until it does (Skip had noted in the past) this is probably why things seemed vague and incoherent. It was a perfect place to brainstorm a topic for the the most important Future Fiction frwoa Skip would ever write.
"Yes and no."
"...Like your life is just a single spec of sentience on a vast multi-net of zillions of pages? With no end, ever, because nobody on it thought to put up a linkless 'dead end' page to serve as an ending?"
"No. Not really."
Lt. Freckler visually scanned the bar with a mathematical precision that indicated he'd been spending way too much time with his multi-siff scanning device. Or perhaps the two were directly linked; maybe Skiff had a tiny micro brain chip lodged in his brain that allowed the two to communicate. Skip really had little idea for sure as he had almost no experience with the future.
"This sector of yours gives me the bizarre feeling that everything's just getting started. Not our conversation, or the day, or our mission to capture the cyberpigeons, but just, *everything*. Like this whole sector is a little sector-sized microcosm of the Big Bang."
Skip's head jerked upward like a novelist rabbit who'd heard the predatory howl of writer's block and was now frantically factoring the Write or Flight equation. This was in part due to the fact that a big *bang!* usually means someone has fired a gun--which isn't a good thing to hear when you're a rabbit--but more because the event of initializing something enormous and significant was something he was quite used to by now. Maybe because he was to write the greatest Future Fiction frwoa ever written, or maybe because he was present when the most important glowing blue button in the known universe was pressed. Of course, he wasn't sure if he was the one who'd pressed it--or even if it was really pressed at all for that matter--because his amnesia of recent and long-term history was definitely getting worse; or maybe better, he really couldn't remember, which is another reason the future seemed vague.
"What do you think of the observable universe, Mr. Novelist? As a writer, is science viable? Or do you think philosophy has it right? I've been thinking of switching and like a writer's opinion, because an artist is a very objective third party." Skiff spoke less genuinely and more nervously, as if he was only grasping to initiate a thematic dialogue to ward off a deadly crisis that would most certainly pause for a slow moment in the frwoa. He kept scanning the room methodically with his gaze. He seemed in an overly mundane place that was taking its bloody time to reveal the tragic crisis he was worried about. Every moment it didn't happen seemed to upset him and make him all the more antsy to get a meaningful conversation going.
"I'm afraid no type of celestial galactic is event is the foremost thing on my mind, Lt. Freckler."
"Oh, and what would that be?"
"The massive sluggish alien just outside the window behind you that I'm taking a wild guess is an urgg."
The alien entered the bar with the look of exhaustion from a long day of executing uncooperative humans. While Skip was sure he'd never seen a space alien before, he somehow knew how generic it was. It was greenish, slimy, ugly, had two small fidgety antennas atop its head, and a crude ray gun and uniform that suggested its race had gone to space long before it had evolved sufficient weapondry and tailors.
"Ah, my worthy nemesis! We meet at last! I hope you brought your wits and most accurate fluton disrupter ray, for you are about to meet your doom."
"Not today, you ugly waste of an unevolved puddle of swamp lard! It's you who I hope has brought your wits and most accurate slime gun, for now is the moment you will pay for the destruction of the Excaliber and the death of my father!"
"Father? Ha! You demean my prolific skills as a cold-blooded murderer. Need I remind you I've also elimated your sister, brother, mother, crew, first born, extended family on your late father's side, the other side, and everyone you've ever known or loved? If I die today I will die knowing your defeat is total and complete."
"Except for your own death, old foe!"
"Ha! We shall see! En guard!"
Skip's Write or Flight mechanism suddenly accelerated into high warp. While he might have a decent chance of reaching the door without getting shot, slimed, or vaporized, his writing career was in the same danger if he didn't start taking some serious mental notes. A climax dual between a mighty protagonist and his nemesis (which was which, he wondered?) would certainly award him material to jump start his vast and timeless frwoa about the vaccum of space beyond Earth, especially since the frwoa's non-manifestation by the end of the day would almost certainly result in his death anyway, and perhaps that of the known universe. It was pretty much a no-brainer for Skip to stay, which of course was totally inconsequential to Skip's lunge for the door. Only when he realized no one in the bar had done the same did he realize neither Skiff nor the alien had spoken at all; the plush chinchilla and toy rocket had been reciting lines from a science fiction screenplay they'd pulled out.
Skip walked nonchalantly back to his stool, and the sitting bar alien simply yawned and ordered a Rum and Coke. One of two youths at a diner booth in tight, futuristic military uniforms couldn't stop staring. Only when Skip saw a handful of action figures and a book labeled "Wars Trek" did he realize the two were probably visiting the time line for a Fue-fi convention. The very real-life alien gave a subtle "urrrgmmf.." as if expecting something inexorably annoying from them any time soon. The excited one tapped his buddy on the shoulder and pointed, who gaped as if laying eyes on the greatest being in the known universe.
"Oh my god! It's a V--"
"I'm an *urgg*, youg primitive twerp. Gret your frwoas straight. Flgurth is the most important grwoa in the entirety of your mgeasly ku, ngot some vrague idea for a flagranded friretale grory." At the word "urgg", Skiff had aimed his device toward the alien and begun tapping it. He was poorly surpressing an otherworldy terror, trying miserably to mimic the urgg's casual demeanor. It was surely a trick, and whatever trick it *was* was working, as Skip's expression suggested an internal struggle to keep the experience from imploding his brain.
The second Wars Trek nerd was whispering to his friend. "(And what does he mean by 'Flatlanded firetale story'?)"
"(It's alien sarcasm. He's mocking NASA's early progress in space travel, like we might as well think the Earth is flat if we haven't fully explored Sol yet, nevermind the Milky Way.)"
"Try nerber mind the rgest of your *ku*, worm." The urgg answered without turning as if the insult came like breathing and required no actual focus.
"(If real life is anything like 'The Phonetics of Wars Trek', then I think it's probably slang for 'known universe'. He probably says he's from another one and his race's sciences have advanced so far that they've managed inter-universe travel, when he probably just licked the wrong swamp frog and passed out into a fantasy where he has more than 10 brain cells.)" Their comments faded into techno-babble Skip didn't understand; the urgg gave a bored sigh and looked to Frank for a standard sympathetic barkeep shoulder to pour his soul out to. Unfortunately, Frank was busy doing barkeep things that didn't appear to necessitate an urgg's input. Neither did Skiff appear to need it--who was still busy scanning the urgg in poorly masked terror and he probably wanted the urgg to keep as still as possible for multiple reasons. Neither did the bot orb things indicate they would even log the story if the urgg output it, and the rocket and chinchilla were still reciting their screenplay; interrupting it with a similar real-life equivalent looked too much situational irony for the urgg to deal with. So, he turned to the only person in the bar who looked unimportant and bored enough to shrug and nod at his story.
"Wghy is it always 'V'? They arlways think I'm some grace that stargs with 'V'. I've grotten Vulcan, Vorta, Vorlon, Vorc, Vorcoran, Vorcacorian, Vinean, Venek, Versus... Do I lgook like a gr@#$ing Vgulcan? Do you sree any pointed eargs? Do you see me carryinrg a logic circuit borg? I gran't even put my hand in thart dgumb V shape. And if I'rm a Vorglon I'd lig to know where I misplaced my encrounter suit."
"What's a 'versus'?" The urgg gave a noticable twitch of mirth that Skip would not only shrug and nod, but actually interact with him.
"Darmned if *I* knowg. I thgink someone saw 'Arlien Vs. Predator' and thgought 'Vs' was an arlien, and somehow frigured I lgooked like one."
"I don't think you look like a 'Versus'. I mean a 'versus' seems like he would have more of an edge. You know, be a little bit more dangerous than a--"
"Oh! And 'Vgogon'. That's the wgorst! I gret that the most beguz I'm big and stupid and slow, so of course I must be a member of the most idiotic race portrayed in 20th century 188th billennia Eargth fiction. Wgorst frwoa ever written. Makes all big ugly green look like brgainless retards. I've had gree cligs of twerps recite award-winning poetry agt me just for the irony. They all have a great laugh someone gets vaporized. In fact, that entire grwoa is just brainless human lard mush as far as I'm concurged."
The second Fue-fi fan stirred a lemon iced tea he'd ordered mumbled to his friend. "I dunno what he means. I rather *liked* Hitch--"
There was an utterly nonvogonic sound as the urgg vaporized the defenseless Wars Trek nerd. The gun intentionally paused for effect at the other, who took the hint and bolted for the door (which was fortunately very close). Optimistically, the battle scene foreshadowed at least one survivor; until the urgg vaporized him anyway just as he was safe beyond the bar. Skiff--oblivious to both executions--was still blmeeping his siff device at the urgg, tapping it with almost android relentlessness. The urgg treated the scan like a harmless swamp fly doing its thing and turned to Skip again, whose Write or Flight mechanism had now fully kicked in, booted, crashed, and frozen.
"Art what point in yourg evolushun do youg humans mutate some braigs in your head?"
As if to demonstrate his question was either rhetorical or unanserable, two exceptionally regular and *literally* bird-brained pigeons interrupted it by awkwardly fluttering in. The crash landing snapped Skip out of his cryogenic stance.
"Skip! What are you doing here! Boy, are we glad to see *you*!" The one Skip had called Ed flew up to the bar table next to him in a pseudo-clumsy manner that said he was either already drunk or had just recently learned to fly. Since it didn't seem like there was any verb he knew of that could describe the action just right, he decided to call this "fluplupling". Eagle fluplupled in place and got just as excited.
"Yah! We found some white breadcrumbs by this raggety guy with an empty cup but we still haven't figured how to get them into our mouths yet. He looked like was enjoying them so you gotta come back and help us pick them up before they're gone!"
"I don't think those were bread crumbs, guys."
"See! I *told* you it was E!"
Skiff--who'd forgotten the dangerous alien and stolen Skip's cryogenic stance--quickly regained enough of his wits to move. His device dropped to the ground as he yanked the urgg's ray gun from its holster and slashed it point blank at the pigeons. Skiff flicked his thumb and the device gave a charging sound like it was preparing to nuke a small starbase. Out of Skiff, Ed, Eagle, himself, and almost everyone else in the bar except Frank and the urgg, Skip couldn't tell who was more scared. He might have lunged for the door now if the opportunities for collecting Future Fiction material hadn't been increasing exponentially by the mot. Soon Lt. Freckler fully unfroze and stared the pigeons down in a deadly anger.
"Wretched beasts! Back to hell from whenst you--"
In a single motion, the urgg took a last swig of his drink while plucking the gun from Skiff's hand, flicking back the thumbswitch as he lifted it, which charged down as if it remembered it had something to live for and martyring itself for whatever cause it was turned on for wasn't worth the self-sacrifice.
Frank--seemingly oblivious to everything that had happened since the urgg walked in--now looked up from his cleaning, gave a brief frown of concentraion as he mentally replayed the scene, decided there wasn't anything currently worth worrying about, and resumed his tasks, which included dumping a non-alcoholic Athlorian Ale one of the now-late nerds had ordered. At the same time, one of the non-kino, non-toclafane, non-ISN-camera ball-things got distracted and hovered down to the scene as if turning on a fairly new soap opera it had only just now discovered. It could only watch for a moment before the other yanked it back to its terminal with a slinky-esque tractor beam, despite a disgruntled bleep of protest.
"So, Skgrip, see angrything wgurth writing about yet? Wgouldn't blame you if you didn't, this whole bgar is a pretty unorganized lump of mush for a writer to gret any kind of cohergence from." The urgg chugged another drink and ordered a third.
Lt. Freckler, two pigeons, and soon Skip looked as confused as if someone had asked them to render an infinitely dimensioned fractal on an inverse abacus, filter it through a trumpet ostrich difibrulator, then pick one pixil to unclog the local blacksmith's garbage disposal. Even Frank raised an eyebrow, and Skip thought he heard one of the non-kino, non-toclafane, non-ISN balls above emit some sort of "fatal error" sound at its terminal. The reason Skip's confusion took so long to register was that his confusion alone was about why everyone else looked so confused. When you're a distractable person and a conversee references something unfamiliar, you should just poliely seek clarification about whatever you haven't been paying attention to.
"'Skgrip'! 'Skgrip'! *Ygou*, you bird braiged warm blgooded idiot!" Now everyone could put their confusion aside of why Skip hadn't looked as confused as they had, but the now-unanimous bafflement of how the alien knew the clueless novelist remained. Eagle, upon hearing the strange new phrase 'bird-brained', flipped from confused to insulted, and began contrasting the sizes of the humanoid heads in the room with that of his friend's to see if the insult had any weight. Lt. Freckler--still in full primal survival mode--was just beginning to mask his adrenaline and sweat. The pigeons and the urgg still hadn't yet shown signs of attempting to obliterate him, so perhaps the best play would be to join in on their strange mind game and act casual. Skip, however, was too confused to worry about any non-immediate dangers.
"I don't believe you and I have met."
"I wrould reply 'nort yet' if it didn't risk steering the moment too closely to an Eargth frwgoa scene I'm thinking of. Fgrank here is the only bgartender in your blroody race who actually has the decengry to respect local frgwoa space infringement laws. So I'll just quote an old urgg grwoa and say, 'Aint amnersia a britch'! Hga!"
Frank took a moment let himself enjoy the cozy campfire that had materialized inside a timeless black hole of customer cruelty.
"Alright, lgook. I'll do youg all a fravor and explain this all bluntly, as grajully revealing to spgare you the surprice is jgust going to grive me a headache."
At the promise of a story that might enlighten them to the mirthful complexities of the universe, the pigeons instantly forgot their long-gone life-threating assault and fluplupled over to the urgg as if joining the cozy campfire he had started for Frank. Ed landed six inches in front of it; Eagle landed himself on the urgg's shoulder for a front row seat but was shooed off with a polite flick. Lt. Freckler--now better masking his increasing terror given the finalized alliance between his local nemeses--slowly took a seat a few stools away. He now seemed sure an elaborate mind was game being played on him, and joining in by acting completely nonchalant seemed the best way to get to the bottom of it. He ordered a bottled water, picked up his multi-siff device, and tapped it deceptively lightly as if texting or playing Tetris.
"My name is Glorg. As your braigless officer over here probably suspurgs, I'm from vrery farg away: a ku called Blorkk. I was--"
"What's a ku?' Eagle pipped in. Skiff raised his eyebrows a tad.
"A univerg. The whole giant mulgmush of galashies you can sree out there in space, except a whole seprate mulgmush of them. Yourg ku is Okuaka, and I'm from Blorkk. Grot it?"
"Angryway, I was heading for--"
"What's a galashy?" Ed butt in.
"Galashy! A whole big bunch of solar shystems of stargs, bird braig. You should knowg this sgr@#."
"We just sort of got here," Ed defended.
"Yah, I suppose we beamed in or something, we're not sure. Maybe we're from another one of these ku things."
"Pigeon Vs Predator: The third known universe!" Skip created/suggested.
"And anyway we're pigeons; I don't see how much theoretical quantum astrophysics you expect our little 'bird braigs' to absorb without forgetting it a couple days later."
"...Or a couple minutes."
"Sgo, I was headring for--"
"What's a 'starg'?"
Glorg slammed his slimy fist on the metal bar table, slightly denting it and rippling minor frowns of worry through the room. Frank shook his head at the dent with the acceptance of a barkeep who -- by the time the future's rolled around -- has experienced enough bar damage not be overly bothered by its daily monotony. He simply returned to his cleaning and mumbled a solitary lingering agitation.
"Formula for adamantium my *ass*."
Everyone in the bar glanced at Frank as he hadn't said anything since Skip and Skiff had entered the room. Even the distracted non-kino / non-toclafane / non-B5 ISN cameras beeped some sort of error and mentally documented the moment for future reference. Eagle--long over Glorg's outburst--fluplupled back up on his shoulder as a dog might put its comforting head on its masters lap. Skiff was mock-texting even more casually as if forwarding wedding pictures from his first marriage to a thrice-removed aunt-in-law.
There was a feeling of a puppet theatre darkening, complete with the sound of an adult audience member annoyingly beeping buttons on a cell phone he'd not turned off when the sock frog asked everyone to.
"My name is Glorg..."
"We covered that," Ed pipped in.
"--and I was on my way back to Urgg Prime, when I detected--"
"Where were you before that?"
The urgg gestured a reach for his gun. Frank frowned and glanced at the vaporized doorway, and the pigeons fluplupled just a couple meters away as they might to a teenager holding a loaf of bread who might feed them as soon as he got exhausted at shooing them away.
"I was on my way back to Urgg Prime when I degrected a massive flugonic anomaly in this sector of grwoa space, which I brelevie you call Flutonia, here."
"Whole 'nother universe, unh? Boy, those must be some kickass good sensors." It was Skiff who'd spoke up, having blackbelted his nonchalantless to the point of being capable of casual conversation. Glorg frowned that his conversation sensors couldn't determine the level of sarcasm in Skiff's tone. Even Skip wasn't quite sure how to interpret Skiff's tone as he still had much to learn about the relationship between the alien and the starship leutenant and what precise physical environment each of them inhabited. He even considered the idea that Skiff himself didn't know much more about himself or his starship's scope of space, as if in some future dream with little idea where is ship even was or whether or not it was ever coming to get him. The pigeons, of course, were much too preocupied on the firetale to devote any concentration to even considering sarcastic to genuine tone ratios, and simply seconded Skiff's question by blinking rapidly, hoping it didn't count as interruption.
"There's a vrery simple ashiom you humans will disgover the morg space you explorg: The furtherg point U is to point G, the greater the chances of some twerp physicist thiging up a shortcut to skgrip the distance. Hence we disgrovered that some univergs sit on torp of other univergs. And if yourg lucky, and you loog long enough, youg can find a slorshcut from one to the other."
Eagle instinctively pitched in without thinking. "Like the isomorphic light and dark worlds in 'Zelda: A Link to the Past'!" The evereavesdroping Frank gave a defeated frown at something and kept cleaning.
"Did you just make that up, Eeg?"
"I don't think so."
"I think you just made that up."
"Sorg, I degrected this anormaly in a swamp nebula near Rgorlvrn-9. Then I followed a slurmhole I found--"
"What's a slurmhole?" Ed butted in. Glorg's sigh of defeat revealed the final decision of his debate between the polarized options of tolerating the annoying birds in favor of an enthusiastic audience, or blasting them to hell in a whiff of feathers. Skip and Skiff--aware that the birds were testing Glorg's patience, and a bit out of peer pressure--were blinking a little faster themselves.
"You knowg. A... a slurmhole." This didn't help.
"Do you mean a 'wormhole'?" Skiff asked in the possibly-sarcastic voice no one could really figure out the intentions of.
"Srort of, maybe. I mean I gruess a slurmhole is a brit like a slurmhole--"
"You just said the same thing, Glorg."
"You said 'slurmhole' twice."
"Wrell, they sound about the same."
"Well try again, Glorg."
"Arlight. I suppose a sslurrmmhole..." Glorg's faced showed the concentration of a Hooked on Phonics dropout about to be vaporized on a deadly future version of The Weakest Link if he didn't come close to the right answer on an unfortunate pronounciation question that had popped out of nowhere. "...is abrit like a... wrrrrumhole..."
"--eggsrept thgey're... youg know--"
"We don't. Tell us!" butted in the pigeons.
"Lig, a Blorkk slurmhole, and an Oguagan sl--wrumhole, where an Oguagan wrumhole is mrostly for space distance travel and a slurmhole is more like... youg know! Lig--a slurmhole to Blorkk.com. And a wrumhole is more--"
"Whowhwhowhwoa!!" The pigeons' especially harmonious hyperactive flupluple managed to knock and break an impressive 4 glasses, 8 shotglasses, and an open bottle of tequila. Frank simply stared at the mess with an indecipherable expression.
"Whoa! Hey! That was *great*! How did you do *that*, Glorg??"
"He told you, duckbrain, it was a slurmhole!! Can you do it again, Glorg?"
"Can *we* do that?"
"Can Skip do that?"
"Can *we* do that?"
"I think our abilities are limited to fluplupling and annoying comic relief, Eag."
Frank, now sweeping up the broken glass, didn't seem to put much stock in the "comic" or "relief" parts of the statement. Eagle hadn't absorbed Ed's comment whatsoever as is full concentration was devoted to fluplupling a slurmhole. Ed quickly followed, and even Skip started to devote his attention to how to achieve what Glorg had. He kept opening his mouth as if to narrate or correct someone's grammar, but kept shutting it as he realized nothing he was attempting was likely to come out, and he didn't want to seem a failure until he was sure he could get it right the first time. Even Frank gave an infinitesimally calculating look, as if he'd probably have more luck than Skip and Eagle if he devoted the duration between now and his next spoken sentence to making it as meaningful as possible. Perhaps the already-heavy weight of his spoken words given the long stretches of time he placed between them already landed his usual talk in the ballpark of significance of a hyperlink. His hint of focus devoted to the matter soon disappeared, either abandoned, tabled, or reduced into the infinite back burner subconscious sea of thought proceses of any good bored bartender with a dozen penniless customers and increasingly damaged property.
Neither did Skip or Eagle's attempts appear to have any sucess, although unbeknowest to both of them, the proximity of the flouderirng devoted bird's and nitpicky novelist's intense focus did manage to materialize the Frangles glossary term "flupluple" in its main Index of Terms, creating another slurmhole within any local frwoa narration informing freers of this fact. (If for no other reason than to have plugged the index itself, however shamefully by necessity.) Finally Lt. Freckler joined in by pressing keys on his siff device a bit more intently, reinforcing his life-threatening origined mock-nonchalantness with a couple sensor notches of genuity.
Glorg continued with only a fraction of the attention span he'd had from anyone who was previously listening. At least he wouldn't have to define his terminology as thoroughly. "So, I followed slurmhole here to invrestigate the anormalyhere, and frigrued I had something intereshing to do for the day--"
Lt. Freckler nodded while tapping in intense understanding already of where Glorg was going with the thought.
"-- but so farg I harven't made any progress locating the anormaly's source. At leagst, until I walged into the barg and noticed Skgrip ."
"How do you know Skip?" Eagle completely broke off his slurmhole-flupluple attempts to ask, having lost the fear of death from interrogating the urgg long before even that.
"Duh, duckbrain, he probably heard us say his name when we flew in and picked the rest up from context." The insult worked, as Eagle looked ashamed at his unintelligent tiny brain. Of course, this effect was quintupled on everyone else in the room listening, who until now hadn't even considered this as a possible explanation. This collective duckbrained feeling was sadly only slightly lessened by what Glorg said next.
"Ngo. I recognized him rgight when I walged in."
All listening--which now included the chinchilla, rocket, and the distracted non-kino / non-etc-etc bot orb--who'd either taken a lunch break or quit its job in order to watch the show--showed various signs of Exedrin depletions and oncoming seizures. And yet, all were curious enough to table their orders for migraine anticonvulsants and and slurmhole-creations to paradise indefinitely.
Skip took a deep, introspective moment out to glance at the future clock and wonder why time wasn't flying by properly. While the events since he sat down with Skiff didn't intrinsically reek of taking a long time--in fact, they seemed perfectly punctual given the polarization of the bizarre and unlikely clash of characters in the vicinity (which didn't seem unlikely at all actually given it's the general purpose of a bar)--he still got the gut feeling that something was *relatively* wrong about the progression of it all. In the past, his talks with friends here seemed to take a drink or two. In the present they seemed to span more of them, and now by the future his stay here seemed to be taking even longer than the present which was already longer than the past. This could only mean one thing: Skip was developing an increasing resistance to alcohol over time.
This didn't seem *too* traumatic a crisis in and of itself, but the question now was what was to be done about it. Supposing time is infinite and that the axiom that the simplest answer tends to be the correct one holds in any capacity, then it seemed correct to assume that one has zero resistance to alcohol at the dawn of time, and as time progresses one develops a resistance the more one drinks on the grand journey to infinity, at which point total tolerance will render the accomplishment of producing infinitely-fermented wine useless. Since Skip didn't care for this idea at all, the only solution was to move on from the present, past, and future, to whatever might come next. (This might also have the benefit of escape from his supposed destiny of writing the future fiction frwoa that would change space and time as everyone knew it, because he was also developing a resistance to *that* idea as well). Skip made a firm mental note to get out of the whole general area of the future as soon as soon as he had the chance.
Of course, already new to the *future*, Skip had no clue how to procure the plutonium and temporal physics degrees he'd likely need to *get* to after the future. Since the urgg was the most likely one in the room to have any sort of knowledge that might help, it would probably make sense to inquire about the matter. It would be tricky, though, since he'd have to subtly imbed his inquiry with the question that everyone who was now staring at him had been expecting him to ask since he'd got distracted and glanced at the clock (which was now feeling quite awkward that someone in the bar kept staring at it). To boot, since any inquiry on *either* matter would likely raise some interesting story-telling techniques from the urgg (useful if his plan to eschew his novelist responsibilities by the time he got to beyond the future failed even if he managed to get there at all), it was a no-brainer (though a challenging one), to ask the urgg anything vaguely to do with anything, as those that were staring at him patiently just a moment ago were now themselves staring introspectively at the clock, which was becoming even more nervous at why the hell everyone was staring at it.
"Go on, Glorg."
"How did you recognize me?"
"Oh. Well, you, Mr. Skgrip, are one of the most infamous xwoa griters in the history of the urgg race."
This of course torpedoed Skip's hope for importance-eschewal tactics into a black hole of eternal unattainability.
Eagle gave a few hard blinks and an uncomfortable flupluple in supressing an urge to ask Glorg what a xwoa griter was and whether or not he was pronouncing it correctly. Sensitive to the birds' moods by now, Glorg stirred the swamp mulg he'd ordered with an estranged sigh. His expression said he deserved more faith by now that he wasn't the type of urgg who would simply abandon two small innocent creatures to drown in a mush of confusion of the same texture (just yet).
"A xwoa griter is a--"
"(Wait does he mean 'frwoa writer'?)" Eagle excitedly fluplupled Ed to confirm his epiphany.
""(I think so, Eag, shhh.)"
"Ngo, I mean 'xwoa griter'."
"But how do we know you're pronouncing the word right if you can't pronounce it to confirm that you are?"
"Brut I *cgan* pornornce it gright."
"Well, we trust your honesty, Glorg, but honestly, how can we be sure you're not trying saying 'frwoa writer' every time you say 'xwoa griter'?" Glorg gave a tiny frown of shame that not just his alien accent but his ability to argue logically were shut down by a brainless flying rodent. Skip spoke up in a logical nitpicking voice passionate only for its own sake and not for the court-worthy defense that it inadvertanetly provided the urgg.
"Because he can obviously *hear* you say 'frwoa writer', and if he's talking about something else, he's going to correct you whether or not he can 'pornornce' his own phrase correctly. If he actually *meant* 'frwoa writer' then he wouldn't bother making a distinction, because dumb fluttery pigeons have naturally higher phonetic abilities than ugly, sluggish aliens."
Glorg gave a triumphant sludgey sigh akin to saying,"Gree, bird braing?", but then noticed that Ed's flupluple was one of offense rather than defeat. He seemed focused only on Skip's last words. It was a look that Glorg's expression soon mirrored as he mentally replayed Skip's comment and deteremined that *both* of them had been mocked rather than either vindicated. Both urgg and pigeon changed their minds, however, when Skip indifferently yawned in place of gloating. Perhaps he hadn't meant to offend them at all, which was even worse, because if so, his superior objective logic had proven them both idiots *intrinsically* witout any room for argument. Finally, in an unsual harmony, the urgg and pigeon shrugged off the matter via very similar vices: a oversized sluggish brain and a tiny hyperdistractable one (respectively).
Glorg gave a cathartic swig of his drink and decided to attack the explanation from a different angle. His antennas twitched and fidgeted as he spoke like a coral reef fungus who'd seen a dolphin swim by and was attempting to mutate itself into one.
"Glife, is lig... uh..."
"Glife! Is leig! Uh..urgrhrgr..."
"A swamp! Glife is like a swamp!"
Eagle fluplupled with philanthropic pride.
"And if ygou live there, you..yughgh.."
"You'd be home by now??"
Glorg's face crumpled in fierce calculation for a moment and gave up. "Sgure! Great. And, if ygu're horm, then horm is wghere...whughrr.. urghh..." Glorg surpressed a pleading glance at Eagle while Skip's hope of obtaining creative ideas from the urgg sank further into oblivion. He had become the passing dolphin, pulsing a stuck distress whistle at the fungus stressing the importance he obtain directions to the Grand Canyon as soon as possible.
"Ygou'd... grupflug? Ygogug.. Urrh..."
"I take it your universe doesn't offer any graduate Creative Writing classes." Lt. Freckler yawned with sarcastic ambivolence, coming out of a long nap of boredom with the adventureless pub events. The pigeons' heads flocked toward Glorg in anticipation of a reprimand, who surprisingly just lowered his in shame.
"Yges, that's it exarctly."
"What do you mean, Glorg?"
"I jgust mean, that, well, urggs in general aren't very, ugh... you know..."
"Creative?" Eagle rushed to help, expecting a metal.
"Yges, that's the... the--" Glorg sank solemnly into his cold guacamolish mush. Eagle took a step forward to comfort him but didn't want to risk falling in. Skip already sympathized so well he assumed he already *was* the mush and that actually moving toward it would create a black hole and implode Frank's bar. Or maybe a green hole. A brown hole?
Glorg opened and closed his mouth a half dozen times as the evesdroppers gave up on their hope for an immersing story. They gravitated back to their original positions like Red Sox fans who knew there would be a grand slam in the final inning but were too tired of losing to bother sticking around. Skip glanced at the clock with the feeling his whole *life* had been unnecessary extra innings after losing the game at birth. Frank's sigh said he agreed that Skip's stay at the bar was no imperfect microcosm as Skip hadn't had anything but a cup of filtered water during his recent life as a customer. Skip sighed in agreement but for slightly different reasons. He debated whether a gut feeling he was late for something important was a good enough excuse to disrupt the flow of conversation and allow him to exit before the scene properly contrived itself to let allow him to do so naturally (if it was even kind enough to try).
"Alright, well, it was very nice meeting you, Glorg. I wish I could stick around and chat but I'm afraid I'm already late for--well, for..." Skip's full attention was suddenly focused on whether the death-ray facing him point-blank could have been avoided if he'd simply been born a better liar. Lt. Freckler and the pigeons weren't sure whether to freeze, fight, flupluple, or flee to the other side of the bar where the possibility of a violent death didn't seem so worrisome to those there. They seemed more fearful of the expression by the cash register that had been firing warnings shots around the room for awhile now.
"Mrove," the urgg ordered.
Skip broke most of his focus to figuring out where Glorg wanted him to move if he hadn't been trying to say another word entirely. A good chunk refused to unleech from the previous issue as Glorg nudged up the power knob, now emitting a nails- on- nuclear- chalkboard engine hum.
"Move to w--?"
But in twisting to look for safe ground, Skip had already shifted enough for Glorg to fire a beam of needle-thin molton energy out the window. It peirced a surgical hole in the glass and obliterated a skinny 4-eyed teenager three blocks back pointing excitedly toward the bar. When all heads in the bar turned back from the cinema-worthy mushroom cloud, none could deduce whether Glorg had even turned away from his sludge to look where he was firing.
"Let's sree a Vgogon make *that*."
Everyone in the bar now looked confused about whether they'd lucked out and caught the ninth inning slam, or had died in the explosion and been accidentally sucked into Skip's nirvana afterlife of infinite situational irony. (No one could quite figure what type of irony was involved, but the smoke left from the shot certainly seemed to reek of its stench.)
"...A xwoa griter," Glorg continued near- non sequiturly from further back than anyone listening could remember (further evidence they'd gone to Skip's Nirvana, as a being who can't finish the phrase 'that's the word' shouldn't be able to outclass their collective short-term memories), "is the most important being anyone amorng my people can imargin exersting. In farct that's about *allg* we can imargin, so it's up to the xwoa griters to think up everything else."
This made decent sense to Skip, partly because he was very logical, but mostly because he was now the only one listening with full attention, as no one else in the room was blessed with the world view that your life is a grade-B screenplay that can't harm the reader or writer no matter how many innocents or actors are killed on paper. The pigeons, with no time to dwell on life-and-death matters no matter how susceptible they were to them, were also quick to pop to full attention. They blinked away the catastrophe, quickly mentally re-parsed what Glorg had said, and fluplupled a prompt for him to continue. His two-sentence definition fully covered what a xwoa griter was and why one was important, and it was quite time to move on to the rest of the story. (The urgg didn't share their haste.)
"How's *Skip* a xwoa griter?"
"Is Skip an alien?"
"Is Skip an urgg?"
"Are *you* a xwo--" Frank's bar table suddenly recieved a denting fist slam and a splotch of terrified pigeon excrement.
"Xwoa griters sgee the worlg like a... like a *bgook*, like a xwoa, urshually a *bad* xwoa, beguz who in hrell would bother sitting around allg day and write about me eating a bowl of crappy mulg," Glorg deeply spoke into the introspective depths of his crappy bowl of mulg. Although the recursive definition of "xwoa" by mentioning it thrice in one sentence did clarify what one was for Ed and Eagle, it was still largely excessive information, and they were getting more antsy for saga-worthy entertainment. The fact that they couldn't *express* their frustrations due to fear of death wasn't helping Glorg hurry up either. It was quite calming to have a friend less bothered by fear of death and who wasn't as high up on Glorg's hit list.
"Glorg, I'm afraid I'm confused," Skip approached. This was an understatement, as the usual rate of expansion of Skip's bafflement had been accelerating off his mental sensor charts more than usual since Glorg walked in. "I'm not sure if... well... wait, *am* I an urgg?"
Frank, evereavesdropping, looked surprised at the stupidity of the question, but mentally examined Skip's head for any green antenna he'd missed just to be sure. The vindicated pigeons catwalked the bar table by the dent, displaying their pride that one of their ostricized questions had been seconded by one of the greatest xwoa griters to ever exist.
"Ngo. If ygou were an urgg, you wgouldn't be a xwoa griter. Sgee, we need outsiders to help us thig up whateber we carn't, which is jgust about ervrything." There was a brief pause as the more studious non-kino/etc bot orb floated non sequiturly down to the group and emitted a momentary flash as a policeman might photograph a suspicious pedestrian who'd been standing in the middle of the road for twenty minutes but was right on a crosswalk and not technically doing anything illegal. Skip glanced at the chinchilla and rocket's empty booth who'd had abandoned their screenplay to examine the wreckage from Glorg's shot.
"Glorg, I hate to inform you, but I developed impenetrable amnesia this morning. Most of my... my *griting* skills seemed to have stuck, but no memory of anything that's ever happened to me. Since then everyone around here has been telling me I'm the most important this or that in the whole huuuge whole of the entiiiire slomp mush of all infinity. I was finally starting to develop a tolerance, but that I'm just as important in the universe next door is something I just don't have time for today. I have a xwoa due tonight that's so self-important it's literally impossible to exaggerate it in order to mock its inflated ego. Yet the more I learn about the world and my place in it, the further away I seem to get from my eventual topic, my skill in writing it, my ability to solidify my ideas to tangible reality, and why any of the former are worth acquiring! That's probably why I'm here in the future, to see if any of it worked out, how it did if it did, why it mattered if it did, and whether I should bother to go back to the present and relive the useless ordeal again! And so, I'm afraid I haven't a sludge of a a second for your ploys for a billion-dollar n autograph, for, for the *record*..."
Skip raised his voice to the room as if god was hiding under a table somewhere.
"My plate is shwamped!"
Glorg tried to clap his antennas together in an immitation of human applause but they wouldn't reach. "Wrell done, Griter Skgrip. I crouldn't have saig it better if I was youg. One thing, though, Skgrip. Just joke me. What dgo--"
"Do you mean 'humor me'?" Ed butt in. Skip was obviously too emotionally compromised to nitpick the correction and somebody had to take responsibility.
"I think he was trying to say 'choke me', Ed."
"Why would he say 'choke me, Ed'? What am I supposed to do, fly down his throat when he's done with his veggie mush? He has a bucket of surloin stench right in front of him, how hungry could he be?"
Ed and Eagle looked down. Glorg's dish was already empty.
"Alright, Eag, you fly out that door, I'll fly out this one. He only has one gun, so hopefully you're the only one he'll have time to shoot."
"Got it." The pigeons fluplupled upward and did their best to tread air.
"Get ready. Get set..."
"Dguck Hunt," Frank mumbled to himself as he turned the page of the newspaper he was reading. This confused the pigeons, as they had never heard of the classic Nintendo game Frank was likely referring to--nevermind pronounced with an urgg slur---and were baffled at what the hunting of what might as well be their mortal nemeses had to do with their present situation. This was inconsequential, though, since the fact that the near-mute Frank had spoken up at all was a supernova-scale bad omen and vaporized their strategy for escape and any possible offshoots of it. One of the bot orbs, however--who perhaps had never heard Frank allude to copyrighted or patented material--gave an error noise as if space-time had imploded and there was no one around to click "OK" and reboot Windows. The less delinquent one seemed to beep an explanation at the other, who seemed to nod and continue its chores with a sound akin to Windows restarting on a spherical but very expensive netbook.
Glorg continued, oblivious to any possibility that Frank may have just mocked his slur. "...What do you grot so farg, Skgrip?"
Skip gestured around the room. It took Glorg a moment to realize it was his answer. "Ah."
" 's all here in a microcosm, mgy friend." Skip suddenly melded with the cliche setting by taking the stool next to Glorg and drunkedly tilting his filtered water at him. Skip foreshadowed a telling of his life's story with an exaggerated sigh of life-long regret. He was so convincing that no one seemed to wonder how he'd turned drunk so quickly. As he spoke Frank nodded, impressed at Skip's skill in cloaking his parody of Glorg's slur with that of a drunk customer. It was a rare, sacred ray of empathy in the way a 1 strip/week Dilbert comic is to an 70 hour/week customer assistance cubicle veteran.
"...'s all herg, Glarg! 'Sgall heer and that's allg there'll erfer be! Tgish ish my story and it ain't goin' anywhere 'til the sdhay I die! Just lgook at the shbeauty, Glarg! It hash it allg! Non sheguitur shetting! Nornexishint quest! Shegeric shgwoa sgyle... Non shequigur mroral themsh... Bland shtatic caragers..."
Ed fluplupled a protest; he'd have prefered being called "non sheguitur" or "sheneric" as least he didn't know what those meant.
"...Confusing plort, confushing style, non sheguitur nish..." Skip wavered his cup toward the room like a drunk radar hitting every major literary term he could think of that could be tolerably modified by "confushing" or "non sheguitur". Frank filled it with hard liquor each time it swung by him with the win-win prediction that Skip would have to order a good deal anyway as soon as his stamina at parodying drunkedness wore out on its own. Skip took the hint and downed the mug after he'd snowballed his story to its incoherent epilogue. He paid and tipped with a slap of his empty hand on the bar and got up to leave. Frank almost moved to politely notify him that he had forgotten to take out money first, then reminded himself that Skip wasn't actually drunk yet and was hence grasping at straws to get away without paying (although of course there was also the chance that Skip was trying to think some sort of payment into existence and just didn't corporealize it correctly). Glorg and the pigeons in turn weren't sure how or if Skip had gotten smashed, but letting the most important xwoa griter in two known universes stumble out into the street to get hit by a car wasn't a chance any of them were willing to take. Lt. Freckler, on the other hand, yawned as if turning into the extra away-officer just in for the episode who's only purpose in existing was about to be fulfilled.
Glorg stomped his foot on the floor and the door Skip was heading toward tremored shut.
"Sgtik around a bigt, Skgrip."
"Hgahh! Ordering arung Emperor Orishinal! Who dush he thig 'e ish, eh??" Skip turned to Frank. "Eh??!" He looked up to the non-kino/etc bot orbs. "Egh!?!?" He yelled outisde to the Wars Trek nerds gaping in at Glorg just in time time to get a word in before they exploded in a resentful mush of glop. "Eghgh!?"
Frank--who had put off mourning all the damage until Glorg was far enough away to not take offense at his grief--shook his head at that Skip's satiric genius was halving every few seconds as the actual alcohol took effect. Skip shrugged and re-took his seat in defeat. "Arlright, Glorsh, you wrin. I shupose you warna better endink to my Story of Nonsheguigur Nonshense in Shrank's Bargle shmurvgrlvy! Wellg, shwy don't we wlrarp it all up by bullshishing some good fgillers for all the shplot holes that dridn't make sense, climags with the blanket shplot hole that the wghole thing was produgsed by mongeys typig on shripwriters, and shtie it all up frorever with a killer shcliffhargner so mighty it will riterally implog the minds of the freers and drop them all dread for life!"
"Alright," said Ed, "Let's start with why this guy wants to blow us to duck turd." The birds looked at Lt. Freckler, who was asleep with his siff device bleeping softly on the bar table. Any danger the alien and killer pigeons posed seemed indefinitely postponed, and the lack of a serious threat of death had nearly put him in a coma. "Okay, skiff *that* idea." Skiff seemed to sense the inquiry and yawned awake. Skip was too buzzed to calculate whether Skiff's slight sleepy slur resembled the phonetic satire he and Frank had evolved by absorbing in subconsciuosly while sleeping, or if it was just cooincidence.
"Wuhy? Well, hrow about I nutshell it with 'Urggs and cyberpigeons nuked my homeworld and all I grot was this lousy siff device!' "
"What's a cyberpigeon?" the birds fluplupled in a curious, excited harmony. Glorg, a little surprised at the question, curiously lifted up a patient Ed and examined him like a rotating turkey. After a quick inspection, he released him into the air like a magician-produced dove and yawned a quick, "Nope." Skiff--realizing he hadn't even given the birds a scan--snatched his device and tapped wildly. "You're right! No metal! Gods of Florbb, how could I have--" Eagle was already on Skiff's shoulder in an unwaveringly sympathetic dog stance. Frank by now was accumulating a near-perfect inverse look, as nothing had been ordered in quite awhile and nobody showed any intention of paying with actual money before leaving.
"Oh, right!" Ed fluplupled on the bar table just in front of him. "Bartender, could I get--uh...uhr..." He scanned the bottles of liquor for breadcrumbs but Frank seemed to be out of them. "Some--uh...how about a shot of Skyy?" Frank simply shook his head and pulled out a small dish of popcorn from under the table. *"EAGLE!!"*
"Hunh? Ahh!! Bread crumbs!!"
Forgetting they'd declared earlier they barely knew how to eat yet, the two sudden carnivores feasted while Frank gave Skip, Skiff, and Glorg a reminding stare that it was approaching time to either pay and get the hell out or order something else.
"On me," Glorg offered, and pulled out a moderate glop of mush-stuff from his under his armpit and generously smooshed it onto the bar where Skip had slapped his empty hand. Frank looked back and forth between it, Glorg, Skip, Skiff, the pigeons, the free popcorn, the vaporized door, Glorg, Skip, Glorg, and finally took it. Whether he'd decided it was worth something or that any further interaction with the bizarre quintette was more trouble than it was worth was anyone's guess. His look that Glorg's offer seemed to violate a Vogon copyright issue was only a minor factor.
" 'Skip's buzz and mock-buzz burnt off as he jealously brooded out the window at the vaporized Wars Trek nerds. A puff of defeated smoke still lingered in the air as if it's job description was to slowly shock and burn them on maximum stun but not actually grant them the escape of death. A handful of ashes of the remains of their books lay to the side waiting for the wind to sweep them up into Nonbeing; someone had crafted them--enslaved them--as corners of the mighty Wars Trek frwoa franchise, puppets of the master writers, themselves puppets of whoever thought up the whole wretched slew of Wars Trek books--and here was the penultimate pause before resuming the freedom of never having been a part of it--or anything, for that matter, supposing that being a part of anything at *all* is phylically equivalent to being a slave to the fabric of Being itself, a supposition of course depending on the determinist beliefs of that in question as a premise and rendered invalid if the thing puts any type of stock in free will.
Was Skip the enslaver or enslavee? Perhaps the former, since the latter didn't sound like a proper word. For as long as he could remember people had called him a master of frwoas; hence, a master of fragments, since all elements of plot and character and theme were all instruments in the self-sustenant whole of a finished frwoa, if indeed the finished frwoa wasn't itself still part of a vast and more complex frwoa beyond it. A writer's job was to enslave each word and phrase of their work as puppets of their master demi-god role in the universe of art, each writer themselves a puppet of a greater enslaver, etc etc etc...but watching the obliterated Wars Trek franchise books--a fragment-enslaving character concentration camp cult frwoa niche so successful as to piss off aliens from entire nother known univi to the point of murdous rages--Skip seriously brought his competency as a master literary enslaver into question. It felt like he hadn't lit a candle to a frwoa as mighty as Wars Trek (if indeed he'd ever even gotten one lit to the success of brainstorming a poor haiku).
Either way--success or not--it really didn't seem that much different from being enslaved himself. Perhaps his own writer was as trapped as he was. He supposed that's why he found himself in the future, to not just find a way to bypass universal procrastination for the sake of all involved, but to skip over the end result entirely so there'd be nothing that would ever *need* procrastination. It almost seemed providential; perhaps he was named "Skip" for a reason, to frite by skipping over all the work involved in friting and find precedents for everyone else to do so, too, leeching off a method that wouldn't mind being milked for all its worth as it would never be experienced or fritten about to begin with.
But the plan had failed, for if all anyone ever did was Skip over the work of getting there, all existence would be out of work. And if all existence was out of work, how would anyone pay for the pens and paper needed to not write and let others leech off of your non-work?
The future was a deep well he'd lept into for hope of a better future, but only at the bottom did he even realize he'd jumped into some sort of well than up into the sky he'd been aiming for, since of course gravity only worked in one direction. The well cover became an eclipse... the eclipse became a slightly more metaphorical eclipse of his soul, and then that turned back into the well, since the well had only been a metaphor for his hopeless situation to begin with.
Ande so, since the future held nothing but empty lack of escape from procrastinated tasks, it was abundantly clear he was to return to the past and give up his eternal question for infinite procrastination.
...Unless the parting with procrastination could be put off.
"With all these... slurmhole sciences the urgg have apparently mastered--"
Glorg gave a subtle repressed fidgit of the attack on the general honesty and honor of his race, which while subtle could not be excluded from the slew of hints which might reveal a supressed fury that the urgg was about to unleash if not humored.
"--have mastered via your enviable vigor and power over the very laws of the physical blorkkan universe themselves,--"
Glorg shifted away his fidgit of annoyance to a less dangerous faint perception that he may have just been mocked.
"Do you... can you. I mean, is there any possibility that you might..."
Glorg's fidgit lost a gram of its pride in one of hope that Skip wasn't about to tax his massive patience by continuing this way for the next several minutes. For once in his life Skip seemed rushed and unable to verbalize his question without intentionally violating sophistication or copyright. That his penultimate glance at Frank to see how well he was listening foreshadowed his upcoming guilt was no help.
"Can you tell me how to get... how to get to somewhere out there? Over the rivers of time, where there's a red-bricked land of lakes and reading rainbows less traveled through the hills and woods of snow-capped mountains of Moria--"
Frank slammed his fist on the dent Glorg had left so hard that all in the room who weren't looking thought it was the urgg who'd done so. Skip's write-or-flight defenses kicked in as the question was probably a severe crime of multi-layered infringement he'd hoped to get away with. He'd intended to intermingle references to An American Tale, The Wizard of Oz, Reading Rainbow, Land o Lake's Cheese, Magic the Gathering Sixth Edition, a Robert Frost poem, and several Christmas songs so expertly as to mask their colective presence; or at least create the feel he was simply speaking normally and that anyone who actually caught every reference would look like an overanalytical idiot if he tried to call him on all of them. However, his slip at directly naming a foreign external term via his allusion to J.R.R. Tolkein --even having replaced "mines" with "mountains"--had either piqued Frank's anger at tolerating the barrage of minor infringements to that point, or was a jolting catalyistic flag that Skip had been engaging in the deceptive behavior for the entire speech. Or, of course, Frank could have simply been mad at the single last violation--or been swatting a fly for all Skip knew--or even demanding money from some particular or unspecified person in the room, but none of these seemed significant enough to cause the outburst's vehemency. Unless, of course, it was some accumulation of these smaller factors and Skip was still generally in the clear. It was an incredibly slim chance that an attempt at figuring out precisely what Frank was angered about would yield a postive outcome (as such a quest would likely involve further pissing off Frank to some extent or another), but Skip seemed so deep in conviction by now that he didn't have a whole lot to loose.
"-- -referencing novelist siff nerds roleplaying at home under full legal allowance to mention the terms in their handbooks that they contributed a good number of weeks' allowances to supporting by purchasing them legally at an overpriced local Barns & Noble outlet along with a Magic the Gathering reference manual, a copy of the Wizard of Oz somebody had abandoned in the future fiction section, a Christmas guitar tab book, and a poetry collection including The Road Not Taken and a slew of poem-based commentaries on Reading Rainbow, Land O' Lakes cheese--"
"Grounds like shru need some mrore threpary, shrip!" Ed's and Eagle's mouths were still full, as they were nowhere near done with the popcorn given the bowl looked like it weighed a comparable fraction of their combined weights.
"...or a shole in the head."
"How about a shecretary?"
"I bet a prublishing contrapt might helpf."
"Hey, shrip, maybe in the frusher they've shgot shychiatry down even better! Why shmon't you go shee if Dr. Vipsh is still around. Maybe shychiatry shucks in the past and works right in the fusher!"
"Like the isomomofic light world and smark worlds in Zelda: A Link to the Shpast!"
"Yah, where ya gosha do everything all ofer again when the happy shtuff runs out and things get all nighmatry and everything."
"Duckbrain. We're supposed to be helping him."
"Feels like I've been doing everything over quite a lot more than twice, lately, Eag."
"Prolly jush your desha vu," Eagle offered.
"You werg saying something, Skgrip?" Glorg seem bored enough to have ordered another bowl of mulg, even after paying for everyone at the ambivolence of Frank, and Skiff was asleep again to do the wrenching boredom of not being an active part of the scene for quite a few commercial breaks.
Skip had completely lost his precise previous train of thought and gambled that no one else would remembered either by jumping somewhere vauguely in the ballbark of what he'd been trying to say earlier.
"--away and beyond, out, out, candle of the Lake Wizard Rainbow! How sweet the sound of--"
"You were on 'Land O' Lakes'."
Anyone in the bar who was paying even subconscious attention to the scene gave at least a small frown of confusion that Glorg would have remembered where Skip had left off when no one else did. He had proved himself to be an expert sniper, but this surprised skill didn't seem to translate to the level of surprise that his brain wasn't as sluggish as everyone previously thought. Hence, he was probably attempting to play Skip's game and fake that he could remember where Skip had left off better than he had. It was a dual of wits that if won, would promote Glorg's seemingly molasses-slow response rate from being due to intentional ambivolence rather than stupidity. Perhaps he knew fully well precisely what everyone was saying but simply didn't give a damn. Frank's bizarre twirk suggested a deep-rooted disturbance that he'd finally met someone who had comparable skill as an inadvertant attribute to that he devoted his entire life to pursuing.
" '--Groad Nog Traken an a slewg of proem-barsed crommentaries on Greading Grainbow, Larg O' Legs chreese--' "
"Thgat's where youg left off." Glorg took a last gulp of his bowl of mush as if a swig of a mug of ale and slammed it down for another fill. "I said was uncreative, I nerber said urggs don't have photograrpic memories."
" 'Photographic'," Ed corrected.
"Thgat's what I said. 'Photograrpic'."
"No, not 'photo*grarpic*', 'photo*graphic*. Fooh-- tooh-- graaaaaff-- ick."
Glorg looked like his photograrpic memory had fluplupled out the door, as he couldn't keep Ed's correction in mind each time he said it long enough to pronounce it just afterward. He gave his usual disgruntled sigh.
"Start ober, Skgrip." Skip paused, glanced back out the window, and resumed his semi-monologue introspection with a hint of upcoming adventure and a reason for any freers not already in a narcoleptic coma with the whole 7 billion-PLP bar scene to stick around.
"Glorg, do you know the way to... beyond the future?"
Both the non-kino/etc bot orbs emitted a mangled beep as if choking on a billion-node pregnancy due-date database whose time stamps had all suddenly cross-linked with all the most confusing Time Trek episodes.
"Sgure! Why not." It wasn't the answer Skip had expected but it would do.
"Alright. How to we get to... beyond the future?" The phrase seemed idiotic invented on a whim but as Glorg had already said he knew the way there he didn't want to risk an intolerable literary barage of attempts to coin a more elegant phrase for the place. Frank had a surreal look of intolerance with the quintette's presence was getting a tad intolerable even for their continued orders as no one present gave a hint of paying for all their orders with anything other than an empty slap or mush of snot. And yet he gave an aura of exitement that a journey to "beyond the future" would lead to them paying before leaving or at least get the hell out of his bar and stop depleting his storehouse of filtered water, Athlorian ale, free popcorn, and mulg.
"Tell youg what, Skgrip. I'llg take ygou to... dunh dunh dunh... beyond the fguture if you promise to grite me up some seriously creatib grwoa stguff to tgake back to Blorkk and gret some newg stuff happening therg. My swamp's gretting krind of struck in a grut and we could greally use a good xwoa griter." It was as a deal with a child to hand over their fifty bucks when they got to the junkyard a block away you'd re-named "Happyland".
Skiff yawned awake with a steeled resolve to tolerate his decreasing role in relation to anything relevent in the situation. He didn't share Skip's desperate delusional stock in Happyland. "And how to we get to... Beyond the Future, precisely?"
"Weeg just wait a couple mogs until the episode is orber."
Glorg snatched Lt. Freckler's multi-siff device with extremely little resistence and began sloppilly tapping it. "In the meantime..."
"What the--what the hell are you doing?"
"Trangsporging us to the center of the grutomic anormaly, of course."
"I thought you didn't know where it was?"
"I dridn't have an Oguagan siff device."
Skip felt an increasing gut instinct that Happyland was about to be indefinitely bypassed in favor of a life-time profession as a swamp tourist guide's low-payed sidekick.
"I stillg..er, still don't get what this fluplupic anormaly is, Glorg."
"And what if you get something wrong, and teleport us to the center of oblivion?"
"Or a ghetto train station?"
"Or a boring office building?"
"Or right here?"
"Or a stale jelly belly factory?"
"Or right here?"
"Or over there?"
"Or back to the part where we were annoying comic relief?"
"I remember those days."
Glorg sludgedly tapped the siff device with increasing frustration as if it should have worked by now and mumbled a few unpronouncable curses.
Skip glanced back at the clock. "If I've learned anything from the past, I wouldn't be surprised if we're just some nerd Wars Trek fan's dream who's about to wake up to a Wars Trek alarm and pillowcase and a mother yelling to take out the morning trash. In fact, that Flutonia is just a mush of symbolism for a vague dream we might each be about to wake up from is probably the most solid and corporeal thought I've had since 1:11 this morning."
"Knock on crumbs."
Frank knocked on the bar table by popcorn-crumbs the birds had left, just next to where Skip had slapped his hand and Glorg had mushed his lump of copyrighted armpit glop.
"In fact, if given the chance, I wouldn't put it past space-time to erase us all from existence entirely. Glorg, maybe this isn't a very good--"
There was an utterly nonvogonic sound and a crash of confused flutonic thunder as Skip, Skiff, Glorg, Ed, Eagle, and an unexpecting bot orb vanished from Frank's bar in a vague idea for a gooey swirl of quantum teleportation slime-goo.
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