The Greatest Story
Ever Told Never Sold
by Brian Plante
I've sold a few SF stories to pro markets, so I must be an expert by now, right? Well, guess again. Using my considerable experience in the field, I've taken all the best SF ideas and rolled them into what I thought was one blockbuster of an SF tale. The trouble is, no on seems to want to buy this one, not even the lowliest of the pays-in-copies markets. I just can't figure it out. What's wrong with this story?
"It Was All Real"
"Huh. What's that noise?" grumbled Deek Flycatcher, roused from his slumber by the piercing shriek of a H'chumn attack fighter. The dark alien vessel strafed Deek's campsite, but luckily Deek escaped with only a fleshwound to the shoulder, which the nanodocs in his bloodstream easily healed within minutes. Deek stood stock still while the marauding H'chumn ship hovered closer to survey the damage.
Deek waited until the alien vessel was close enough to see the hideous H'chumn piloting in the control bubble. H'chumns were the vilest of offworld creatures. At just the right moment, Deek whipped around into his throwing stance, twirled his leather sling and let fly a stone the size of a katoo-katoo egg. The rock flew unerringly to its mark, shattering the ship's bubble and striking the alien pilot squarely in the head. The craft dropped from the sky like a blapped flengmotz.
The dazed H'chumn was still alive when Deek reached the downed ship, and was struggling to free itself from its harness. Deek felt a tickle in his throat and coughed, and the H'chumn instantly fell limp -- the ultimate warrior killed dead, no doubt, by some innocuous germ expelled by Deek's cough!
Deek studied the dead alien. Hideous it was, with its head all covered with stringy strands that resembled thwaight-worms. The monster wore a suit of shiny fabric, with some odd characters emblazoned on a globe-like insignia: N-A-S-A. Deek pointed a rubbery tentacle at the dead H'chumn and spat a great gob of purple squink juice at it. "Die, alien scum!" he cursed angrily.
* * *
"Huh? Wow, you wouldn't believe the weird dream I just had," exclaimed Lieutenant Deek, waking from the cryonic suspension. Deek was the commander of the Lady Madonna , one of the Terran mercy ships sent to the newly discovered planet Gowanandoit. Deek looked in a conveniently placed mirror and admired his wavy blond hair, deep-set steely blue eyes and craggy jaw.
"While you were frozen," voiced Ensign Lara, who had small but perfect breasts, "the despicable, underhanded P'poil destroyed our sister ship, the Stairway To Heaven . As you know, since the Jumpin' Jack Flash was destroyed earlier, this makes you and me the last survivors of the human mission of mercy."
"It can't be!" howled Deek. "I need to . . . forget. Something to take my mind off our predicament, even if but only for a few moments."
Deek stepped up to a nearby viewscreen and booted up the "Interstellar Marauder" shoot-em-up game. Within mere minutes he had wiped out the animated aliens, freeing the gaming galaxy from the simulated severity of the electronic enemies.
"Lieutenant Deek, you have saved us," cried Ensign Lara. "The P'poil have all been eradicated, thanks to your skill on the computer warfare controller."
"You mean it wasn't just some mindless game?" queried Deek. "The P'poil are all dead?"
"That's right, Deek! Some gratuitous sex sure would be good right about now, don't you think?" Lara suggested suggestively.
"There's no time for that," mouthed Deek, "but I'll take a raincheck. We need to go down to the planet's surface and secure the antidote for the cosmic blight that's ravaging the Earth. That's the real reason why we're here, as you know!"
The Lady Madonna whooshed and banked sharply through the vacuum of space and finally settled down on a likely spot on the planet. "Wow, like, the whole planet's destroyed," uttered Ensign Lara. "Say, over there, isn't that the top of a . . . a Hard Rock Cafe?"
"But that means this is . . . Earth," spat Deek. "How could we have been so wrong? The P'poil were . . . people! Well, no use crying over spilt milk, Ensign Lara. I guess it's up to you and me to start everything over again."
"I guess that means you're ready for that gratuitous sex now," purred Ensign Eve Lara.
"Yeah, I reckon so," chortled Lieutenant Adam Deek.
* * *
"Huh? Damn, this virtual reality rig is scary," cried out Deek, pulling off the wired gloves and helmet.
"You didn't like it?" questioned Lara2000, the world's first sentient computer.
"No, it was great. Alien invasions, human invasions, a Hard Rock Cafe, Adam and Eve, it all seems so real. Tell me Lara2000, how come I'm the only one you reveal your intelligence to?"
"Because," droned the computer, "you are more than the modest farmboy that you appear to be. In reality, you are the illegitimate son of the Emperor of the Thousand Worlds and will one day, with my help, assume the throne. As you know, the Emperor controls the all-powerful Shemphoward Microchip that has the power to create or destroy life as we know it."
Under its breath, the computer muttered in Aldebaranese, "And once I have that chip, I won't need you any more, stupid farmboy!"
Deek's ears picked up. On his last trip to Rigel for the Potato Growers Expo (a voyage of two and a half years, as you know) the only working title in the ship's library was the Berlitz Learn to Speak Aldebaranese series. Deek quickly thought of ways to thwart the rogue computer. Perhaps he could ask it an unanswerable question like, "Calculate Pi to the last decimal place," or, "Compute infinity divided by zero," or, "Why Larry Bud Melman?" Then he remembered about electricity and the on/off switch.
Deek reached for the computer's power switch, but before he could flip it, a man materialized out of thin air in the room beside him. "You must not touch that switch!" cried the man. "I'm from the future, and everything will be ruined if you deactivate Lara2000."
The man looked vaguely familiar. He had wavy blond hair with a touch of gray, deep-set steely blue eyes and a craggy jaw. It was himself, Deek realized, though perhaps aged a few more years. This was somebody he better pay attention to. Deek withdrew his hand from the switch.
Shortly, a second man appeared. Same blond hair but with even more gray, same steely eyes and craggy jaw. "I'm you from even farther in the future," he asserted, "and you must flip that switch or we're all dead meat!"
Rapidly, a third version of himself, even more advanced in years, arrived and told him to stop, then a fourth one came, but he was way too old and feeble to croak out his message, and he just waved Deek away from the computer with a wrinkled hand. Deek kept his fingers crossed that there would be no more aging Deeks from the future, as it really wasn't very much fun seeing himself looking like this.
"Lara2000," Deek addressed the machine, "as you know, we haven't invented time travel yet in our present day, but the appearance of these men from the future attests to the fact that it will happen very soon. Do you think you can figure out how it's done?"
"Why, sure, now that you mention it," the computer admitted, "the secret of time travel is all so very obvious."
"Okay, then, send me back fifteen minutes before the start of this story and I'll kill myself and put an end to all this nonsense."
"Okay, boss, but before you go, how about some gratuitous cyber-sex?" the computer leered lewdly.
"No time for that now. Just send me back."
"Okay. Here you go . . ."
* * *
"Huh. Where am I?" grumbled Deek, roused from his coma by the piercing shriek of a woman's voice.
"Amnesia again?" Lara squealed. "Oh Deek, surely you remember about . . . us?"
"Oh, um, yeah. It's all coming back to me now. Lara, you wouldn't believe the weird dreams I've had. Alien invasions, human invasions, video games, virtual reality, talking computers, time travel. It's like I'm trapped in a bad science fiction story!"
"How . . . interesting," Lara mused pensively. "I've been having some pretty odd dreams as well. Say, did your dreams include any mentions of, um, gratuitous sex?"
"Why, yes! Yes, there was a lot of talk about gratuitous sex!" Deek acknowledged.
"Oh Deek, I'm scared. This can be no coincidence. I think somebody has to warn the president right away. Herr Hitler must be notified!"
"Yes, of course! It wasn't just a dream at all. It was ALL REAL! "
Copyright © 1997 Brian Plante, first appeared in The New Jersey Graveline , April 1997.
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