by Stephen van Ham
Aboard the starship Azure Drake, Captain Farnham and Ensign Wirt bent low over the view dish and drew in their collective breath with a hiss. Farnham watched the display for a few more seconds, a frown putting furrows in his brow that made him look even more wrinkled and weather beaten than usual. "That little wiggly line sure doesn't look good, does it Mr.Wirt?" he said in a low voice.
Farnham reached for his hip flask nervously, still a little overwhelmed with the stresses of commanding a huge battle ship. Just last week, for example, he'd been sitting on his front lawn trying to see if it in fact was possible to achieve a 101% blood alcohol level, when he was suddenly whisked away by two men in dark suits to attend a seminar called "From layabout to star captain in ten easy steps." He would have preferred "shaping your abs, buns and thighs in thirty minutes a day," but those two big chaps sure had been insistent upon which class he should attend. Still, the meals were good, and the cute little starship beds were better than sleeping in a ditch ...
He shook himself sternly and tried to focus on what Ensign Wirt was saying: "... would make me suspect that Lord Cool's BOOB is suffering a malfunction."
"BOOB, sir. Bilateral Oscillating Orientation Broadcaster."
"What does that mean exactly, Mr. Wirt?"
"I'm no expert, sir. All I know is how to read the pretty graph. I am, after all, merely following Chief Medical Officer Pepin's instructions on the 'daily operation of a remote Electromagnetic Lip Synching Interplanetary Endoskeleton (ELSIE).'"
"I see. And what did Pepin say to do in this situation?"
"He indicated that we'll need to reboot, sir."
"Reboot? How can we reboot ELSIE remotely?"
"We don't, sir. That's not what Pepin meant. We simply need to reboot our local transpondency unit. That's the one that we had to hotwire into the ship's navigation computer, sir."
"And why is it hotwired?"
"A lack of computer equipment caused by a budget cut, sir," Ensign Wirt informed his captain regretfully.
Farnham blinked. "I see. So what are you saying, Mr. Wirt?"
"I'm saying that we need a complete systems restart."
Farnham could feel a headache coming on. "But can't we just restart the navigation, uhhh, thingy?"
"We're running Windows 95, sir. It'll take a complete restart."
"But I thought we had the systems people in yesterday to upgrade us to Windows NT?"
Ensign Wirt shook his head. "I'm afraid not, sir. Another budget cut. Starfleet Command sent word that there'll be no more IT spending of any sort until first quarter next year, sir."
The headache was out in full force now. "And why wasn't I informed of this?"
Ensign Wirt flushed. "We tried, sir. But you were ..." He mumbled something and lowered his eyes.
"Pardon, Mr. Wirt? I didn't quite catch that."
Wirt tried to meet Farnham's eyes and failed miserably. "I said, sir," he murmured to his feet, "that you were, ahhh, incapacitated at the time, sir."
Farnham shrugged in bewilderment. "I was? I don't remember. Asleep was I?"
"Yes, asleep. Something like that, sir."
Farnham turned away from the computer deck and started to pace. "Well, you should have woken me. News from Starfleet Command is always important enough to disturb a rest period." He stopped his pacing. "What else did they say? Any data about the Adversary that CAIN doesn't already have stored in his logs?"
"Only that it's very big, sir. And mean."
Farnham groaned and clutched his temples. He hadn't expected too much out of the bureaucrats back at HQ. "Excellent. That's a lot to go on." He rubbed his face wearily and once again considering drowning his stresses in a nice swig of starship rocket fuel. Gathering his nerves, he sighed sadly. No time for a drink right now, he thought. Not when the future of mankind hangs in the balance. He opened his eyes and turned to look at the patiently waiting Ensign. "Well, never mind about the Adversary right now. First things first. Let's get the restart under way, Ensign Wirt," he ordered.
"Very well, sir."
And then everything went blue.
"Lord Cool ..."
"No, don't let the Gestapo take me! I didn't steal it! It was the other hot chick with the big boobies and the bright red pumps. It was Evette! I swear! Hell, I'm not even a woman! I'm a man for gawd sakes!" He reached down. "Look, I'll even introduce you to Little Cool. Oh crappers, where is he?" He fumbled around under in his skirt, eyes widening. "Little Cool? Come to daddy!" He sobbed, baffled at his loss. "Little Cool?"
He thrashed around wildly.
"Lord C- Elsie!" Hands shook him so hard that his capped teeth rattled. He pushed the hands away, ready to make a break for the stairs that would lead to freedom. Pulling at his bonds, he tried to get his feet under him. Cool tensed in anticipation of the rifle butt slamming into his temple.
He futilely tried to raise his hands to ward of the blow that never came. Faces jeered at him from all sides. They pushed and they prodded. He felt someone fondling his chest. With a yell of fury, he lashed out with his one remaining weapon, his teeth. Another hand planted itself with insistent purpose on his round, firm posterior. He screamed at the top of his lungs. "Get the hell off me you pervert, or I'll call the cops!"
And then everything went blue.
Lord Cool opened his eyes, blinking rapidly as he adjusted to the sudden assault of sunlight. He saw a group of familiar people. Stupidhead. The big barbarian Dolt. The glamourous bard Solo. His love bunny Red Vex. Green grass. Blue sky.
And those incredible boobies of his.
Reaching up to touch himself, Lord Cool sighed in relief. It had all been but a dream.
The black haired witch fixed the small group that approached her with a penetrating look that plunged into their emotions and bared them wide for all to see. "I sense a soul in search of answers," she prompted, flicking back the lock of night black hair with the streak of snow white that ran down its middle. "Come closer," she beckoned. "Come closer so that I may see those that would seek answers. And be at peace, for I'm sure your problems are much tinier that you believe."
Solo, after glancing around to make sure Red Vex was still conscious, stepped forward to confront the witch. "Yes," she began, "I am a soul in search of answers." She fumbled around in her poncho and pulled out the strange looking devices. She held up the twin vibrators for Adria to see. "What am I supposed to do with these?" she asked.
Adria's eyes widened and she reached out her hands hastily. "Here, I'll take those," she said, staring at the devices in Solo's hands. "They're obviously magical and will require many, many hours of ... study." The Bard handed them over. Adria took them eagerly and shuffled away into her shack. When she returned, she glanced at the Bard, all business-like. "Was that all?" she asked.
Solo shook her head. "Actually, no, it isn't. We've got a problem. A big problem." She gestured over to the north. "There's a big evil cloud, over there somewhere, floating around and destroying things. Also, there's a madman around here with a big black Hell Horse that wants to kill us. Added to that, he's taken Sugar captive."
Adria sucked in her breath with a whistle. "Mindy?!? He's taken Mindy?"
"Mindara Sugara Witchapoo. Sugar." Adria's eyes were suddenly moist. "My beloved sister."
"Really? I thought she was related to Starshine and Nightshade ..."
Adria blinked back her tears. "Who? I never heard such names before. I think you have my sister confused with someone else." The witch rocked back on her heels, eyebrows arched in anger. "By Zakarum's Chariot, many will pay for this. My beloved Sugar, forced to squat down in damp, dark places, bowed before the will of a cruel lord. Oh, love, what a grim fate!"
Dolt put down his Cardboard Sign of Slaughter, uncomfortable with such public displays of affection (or over-dramatics). "You forgot to mention that he has Wirt as well."
Solo shrugged. "Oh, did I? How could I forget something like that?"
Dolt shrugged. "Perhaps the g-string is too tight."
Solo glared at the barbarian and give him that "you really should consider being somewhere else" look of hers. As Dolt lowered his gaze, the bard glanced over at Elsie. The former warrior was sitting with his shapely back leant against the wall of Adria's shack. As Solo watched, Elsie glanced at Rex Vex out of the corner of his/her eye and then stroked his/her own thigh. Red Vex looked ready to faint again. "If that wasn't enough," Solo added, "Lord Cool is now a woman. An hallucinating woman, at that."
Something butted Solo in the back. The trailing locks of her platinum blonde wig hit her in the nose as she turned around to see what had hit her. It was a large disgruntled looking holstein. The Bard groaned. "And," she muttered, "just to make sure we had plenty to do, the CowLord's Bovine Plate keeps morphing into a plain, non magical bovine. I can't even begin to imagine what kind of power it takes to do that!"
"Moo!" explained the CowLord. He snuffled Solo's poncho with his big whistling nose and then stamped one hoof.
Then everything went blue again.
Once the blue faded, the cow was wearing gumboots and a bright red cape with a big yellow "C" embroidered on its center. "THE COWLORD FEARS NO MORPH" it bellowed and jangled its udders ominously. "COME FACE THE WRATH OF THE SURLY GUMBOOT, ADVERSARY!"
"COME?!?" sobbed Red Vex and fainted again.
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