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The Reality Gun

I woke up in what looked like a lab. Which was weird, since I’d fallen asleep on my couch watching reruns of the X-Files. A young woman bent over me and smiled brightly.

“Good morning, Mr. Churchwater.”

“Where am I?” I asked.

“You’re in a secure location.” That was a bad sign.

“How do you know my name?”

“Everyone knows the name Gregory Churchwater,” the woman said. “You’re the most famous hostage negotiator in the world.”

I smiled to myself. Heck yeah, I was. Time Magazine had named me their Negotiator of the Year three years in a row.

“The thing is, Mr. Churchwater, you’re too valuable a negotiator to waste your time with bank robbery standoffs and small time stuff like that. So we decided to kidnap you and freeze you cryogenically until a really big threat came along that no one else could handle.”

I was still trying to get my bearings and understand fully what she was saying. “You mean the government kidnapped me?”

“Yes.”

“Which one?”

“All of them,” she said. “Well, at least 183 of them. They formed the PCP: Protect Churchwater Pact, just for that purpose”

“You could have just asked me instead of kidnapping me.”

“Oh, you know you would have talked us out of it,” she chided, with a you-should-know-better smile.

I sat up, my head spinning. The room was all white and Star-Trekky. “The last thing I remember, it was May 6, 2018. You mean I’m in the future now?”

“Yes, you are. We have a huge crisis that is threatening the universe in a fundamental way.” Her smile never changed as she said this and I wondered if she was an android.

“What is the date today?” I asked. To think, all my family and friends could be dead now.

“It’s June 20, 2018,” she said. “Frankly, if we’d known, we wouldn’t have bothered kidnapping and freezing you. But that’s hindsight for you. Now, Dr. Grimsword will tell you about the threat.”

A young man in jeans and a T-shirt walked in. He saw me staring at his clothes and glanced down. “Casual Friday,” he said, apologetically. “If I’d known, I’d have worn a tie. But that’s super-villains for you.”

“Super-villains?”

“That’s why we woke you,” he said. “There’s a scientist named Igor Paintspackle Wong who’s holding the whole world ransom. He has built . . . a reality gun.”

This is not a reality gun but it came up when I did a Google Image search. It is apparently the scariest MRI in the world.

This is not a reality gun but it came up when I did a Google Image search. It is apparently the scariest MRI in the world.

Dr. Grimsword stopped with dramatic effect. “Which means,” I said slowly. “That it’s real?”

“No, it’s a gun that destroys fundamental aspects of reality. To demonstrate it, he blew up 5+3=8. We’re not sure how he did it, but now, 5+3 just comes back as an error. On a computer, on paper, even on your fingers, doesn’t matter. Just try it.”

I held up my hands, five fingers and three. “Damn,” I said mildly. “That’s really weird. I’ve never seen an error on my fingers before.”

“Hawking is working on fixing it. In the meantime, just switch hands. He didn’t mess with the communicative property.”

I switched hands, three fingers and five and sighed with relief. “So, where is this guy now?”

“He’s in a coffee shop in London,” Grimsword said. “Now he’s threatening to destroy the concept of beauty.”

“That’s pretty fundamental,” I said. Being groggy made me say obvious things. “So, we’d think beautiful people looked ugly or something?”

“No, we wouldn’t even know what beauty was,” Grimsword said. “As you can imagine, the film and modeling industries are in a panic. The only group supporting it is UGGO, the Unattractive Girls and Guys Organization, although we suspect they’re only doing it for the free publicity.”

“Alright,” I said. “Get me a cup of coffee and get this guy on the phone.”

A few minutes later, the phone was ringing and I was slurping a little life-giving caffeine into my mouth.

“Hello?”

“Hey, is this Mr. Wong? This is Gregory Churchwater.”

“Oh, it’s you,” he said. “I was wondering if you were going to call. Don’t even try to talk me out of it.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” I said. “Sense of beauty? Who needs it? Fire away, I say.” I saw Dr. Grimsword give me a look of alarm, but I had a brutally effective reverse psychology. I once told a terrorist that if he didn’t kill every hostage he had in five seconds, I was going to shoot them for him. He gave himself up three seconds later.

“Don’t you want to know my demands?” Igor Paintspackle Wong asked.

I sighed. “Fine. Get it over with.”

“I want to win a Nobel Prize,” he said. “I have been nominated for an award six years in a row and never won. Do you know what that’s like, to always be a nominee and never a winner.”

“Here’s the problem with that,” I said, stopping to take another sip of that glorious coffee. “If we give you a Nobel Prize now, it sets a bad precedent. What’s to stop some other mad scientist next year—”

“What did you call me?”

“What? You sound angry to me and you’re a scientist, so you’re a scientist who’s mad, right? Anyway, as I was saying, other mad scientists will get the idea it’s okay to hold the world hostage to get an award.”

“Well, then kiss beauty good-bye,” Wong said. “And it won’t stop there. Every day until I get my Nobel Prize, something else goes. Tomorrow it’s the concept of humor, then fashion, then justice, then pi, then being on time, then—”

“Yeah, I think I got the picture,” I said. “Listen, I hesitate to do this, but I think there’s something else I could interest you in. There’s another prize, much more exclusive than the Nobel Prizes, called the I.G. Nobel Prizes. The I.G. stands for “Intense Genius”, by the way. They don’t even award them every year, it’s that exclusive. I think you could win one for this reality gun of yours, if nothing else.”

There was a pause. “You really think so?”

“Oh, I know so,” I said. “You’re more than qualified. Look, let’s do this: you go get yourself another cappuccino and I’ll contact the Ig Nobel Prize people and see what we can set up, okay?”

“Okay, sounds good,” Wong said. “You know, I thought you were going to be mean, but you’re really nice.”

“Yep, that’s me,” I said, then hung up the phone. I turned to Dr. Grimsword. “Now, you get a contract agreeing never to kidnap me again or I’ll call him right back and tell him what the Ig Nobel Prizes really are.”

He nodded in defeat and left. “And get me another coffee!” I shouted.

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Lust by Number – Friday Fictioneers

copyright Dawn Q. Landau

copyright Dawn Q. Landau

Lust by Number

One lonely shack by the shore of an unremembering sea.

Two lovers locked in the frantic embrace of the desperate.

Three days immersed in the depths of sin and escape.

Four men in a skiff, gold band gleaming on the leader.

Five minutes of pain, screams and shots.

Four men recede back over the horizon.

Three days of silence before a fisherman comes to spend a hard-earned weekend, soon spoiled.

Two desperate lovers carried away under sheets, leaving behind the life they pledged each other.

One shack, festooned with yellow tape, sitting lonely by the shore of an unremembering sea.

 


The World is my Stage – Friday Fictioneers

copyright Sandra Crook

copyright Sandra Crook

The World is my Stage

“1 billion hits by midnight or New York City is gone!” screamed the title of the live Internet feed. Seven hours left: 540,000,000 hits needed. The CIA considered them a credible threat and now the whole world watched, breath held.

Jason sat in front of the nuclear weapon mock-up, webcam capturing everything except his own screen. Members were reporting from all over the country. Everything was almost ready, and then the real strike, the hammer blow of vengeance, would fall.

The first rule of sleight of hand, Jason thought. Keep the audience focused anywhere but where the real action is.


Knick-Knack Paddy Whack – Friday Fictioneers

Knick-Knack Paddy Whack

Gut-twist, I call it—that hard, acidy stomach punch that comes when I smell the bright-red odor and see the crimson flowers blooming all over the walls and floor.

I do clean-up. Paddy lets all the red out and I collect it up in a bag, along with Miss Gone-Far-Away (it’s always Miss).

Paddy laughs at my knick-knacks, calls me a baby. But he lets me do it ‘cuz Miss Gone-Far-Away don’t need them anymore. So I take a coin, a charm, maybe a watch.

Sorry, I whisper to them every night. Sorry you met Paddy. I just do clean-up.

(Find this confusing? Want an explanation? Click here.)


The Mystery of the Missing Amulet: Epilogue

 In this Decide Your Quest story, The Mystery of the Missing Amulet, you were a police officer assigned to guard an estate auction. During the auction, an ancient Egyptian amulet was stolen. The beautiful granddaughter of the  deceased, Brittany, had tried to steal it but she had grabbed the wrong thing because of her eyesight. You also find that she is addicted to danger. Your investigations lead you to Wombat Joe’s Grizzly Bear Emporium and an employee there,  Midnight Gillespie. You retrieve the amulet and Gillespie is arrested. Last week, the viewers voted to ask Brittany out because although she’s addicted to danger, at least she’s hot.amulet

The Mystery of the Missing Amulet: Epilogue

“Brittany, would you go out with me sometime?” you ask.

“Oh yeah,” she says. “I love a man in uniform.”

“This isn’t just the danger addiction thing, is it?”

“No, not at all.” She glances down at your holster. “Does that pistol have a safety switch on it?”

“Yes, of course!”

She sighs. “I see. Pity.”

You date her for a few months and eventually ask her to marry you. You get married but then she joins the professional bear-jitsu circuit and she is away from home a lot. This is fine with you though since she keeps putting cobras in the closet and slipping bits of broken glass in the food. Love is tough sometimes.

Midnight Gillespie is sentenced to five years in prison until the judge takes pity on him for his sheer stupidity and lightens the sentence to house arrest. Even there, he inadvertently gets locked in a closet and spends much of the sentence in self-imposed solitary confinement.

Joe Wombat’s Grizzly Bear Emporium is shut down for being a horrible place for the bears to live. They are scheduled to be returned to the wild, until someone points out that they do not know how to survive in the wild anymore. So, instead they are released into the New York City subway tunnels and forgotten about. This causes a drastic drop in the rat and pigeon populations in the city and despite the occasional bear attack in Central Park, everyone is much happier.

The End

I hope this installment of Decide Your Quest was fun to read, since it was fun to write. I will probably do another one at some point, although not right away. In any case, what type of story would you like to read and participate in next?


The Mystery of the Missing Amulet #6: Everything Wrapped Up

 This is the sixth and final chapter of my Decide Your Quest story, The Mystery of the Missing Amulet. In the last story,you go to Wombat Joe’s Grizzly Bear Emporium and find Midnight Gillespie, who has the amulet. He throws it into the bear pit and you jump in and grab it. You dodge them with your ballet knowledge and Brittany knocks them out with bear-jitsu. Midnight Gillespie takes off in a helicopter. Last week the readers voted for you to shake your fist in impotent rage.amulet

The Mystery of the Missing Amulet, Chapter 6: Everything Wrapped Up

You shake your fist in impotent rage at the retreating helicopter. Probably best since there was nothing appropriate to throw at him.

“He’s getting away!” Brittany yells. “Why didn’t you throw the baby grizzly at him?” You’re rather shocked she would even think of such a thing.

“You know, I’m not sure why I’m doing this all on my own,” you say. “I’m going to call back to headquarters.”

You call back to police headquarters and get roundly yelled at by the lieutenant for not reporting in earlier. However, he grudgingly accept your story about the theft and promise to send a police helicopter out to find Midnight Gillespie.

You go back to the police station with Brittany to make out your report, although you neglect to mention that Brittany had been attempting to steal the amulet all along.

The next day you find out that Midnight Gillespie has been arrested. He had gotten away in a local TV news helicopter after he promised to give them an exclusive on who stole the amulet, effectively confessing to the crime and giving himself up.

Your lieutenant describes him as “an incredibly dim individual and the worst criminal I have ever seen.” He goes on to add that “only a series of freakish events and a colossal amount of incompetence on the part of the guard and auction house staff could result in Midnight Gillespie successfully committing any crime.” Apparently the bear hair and his name tag left at the scene were accidental.

However, then he commends you for regaining the amulet and your suicidal bravery in leaping into the bear pit. For some reason, he likes it when you do suicidal things.

“You’re one special officer, sonny boy,” he says in an avuncular way. “I’m promoting you back to the rank of Rookie, from the special rank of Sub-Rookie we had to demote you to after that . . . unpleasantness last year with the mayor and the K-9 unit.”

“Thank you,” you say, saluting. There is no medal, but he does let you take the special Sub-Rookie badge of shame off your uniform.

Brittany is waiting outside for you. “Well, hot stuff. I guess we made it. It’s almost dinner time. Can I take you out on a date?”

Hmm, she is pretty hot, but on the other hand, she’s got some pretty big issues. Big, scary, exciting issues.


The Mystery of the Missing Amulet #5: Bear-jitsu

 Chapter 5 of my Decide Your Quest story, The Mystery of the Missing Amulet. In the last story,you go to Wombat Joe’s Grizzly Bear Emporium and find Midnight Gillespie, who has the amulet. He throws it into the bear pit. Last week the readers voted for you to jump into the bear pit to retrieve the amulet before the bears ate it.amulet

The Mystery of the Missing Amulet, Chapter 5: Bear-jitsu

There isn’t a moment to lose. Your boss always says that the best thing about you is your willingness to do something insanely stupid without thinking. You leap into the bear pit without another thought, landing next to the amulet a second before the bears reach it. You snatch it up and then dodge a swipe from a bear paw that undoubtedly would have disemboweled you.

You are surrounded by hungry grizzly bears. A large female charges and you dance to the side, ducking under another and pirouetting around a third before making a flying leap over the biggest male. Apparently those ballet lessons your mother made you take when you were small were worth all the emotional scarring.

Someone lands in the pen beside you. It’s Brittany and you can tell by the fire in her eyes that she is in heaven.

“This is awesome!” she screams. “I haven’t been in this much danger since the Bleach ‘n’ Piranha Water Polo Classic.”

“Get out of here unless you know ballet,” you shout, pulling a complicated evasive arabesque.

She doesn’t know ballet, it seems, but it also doesn’t seem to matter as Brittany explodes on the bears, becoming a tornado of fists and flying head kicks. A minute later and all the grizzly bears except one baby (because seriously, who kicks a baby bear?) are lying stunned on the ground.

“How in the world did you—”

“Bear-jitsu,” she says. “I’m only a rainbow belt, but I think I did okay. You got the amulet?”

“Yeah, it’s right here,” you say.

At that moment, you hear a helicopter above you. A ladder is let down and Midnight Gillespie leaps on.

“He’s getting away!” Brittany shouts, totally unnecessarily.

If only you could stop him somehow.


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