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Saving Science Fiction City

by David Marshall

Space Patrol Captain Darwin Ward, Lord Greezstayne, looked out across the City. He knew that good Science Fiction deserved nothing less than a new Golden Age of hard Science and soft women. So he had come to manifest his destiny, and save the City from the unspeakable evils of soft Science and hard women.

The City had once been a glowing beacon, fabricated from hopes and dreams, plasteel and glass, rising towards the stars. There had even been a kernel of hope deep within the burning chrome and gritty cyberpunkrete of the industrial suburbs.

Now, the few structures that still stood were burnt and twisted shells, their shattered spires clawing at the sky like dying beasts. The white skulls of fallen citizens carpeted the streets like the frozen heralds of a new Ice Age. Corpses choked the flow of the once mighty Slipstream.

The sky was the colour of a television set that had been nuked.

Darwin stood at the gates of hell. He stared out across a broken reality.

And smiled.

Darwin was an orphan, the sole survivor of a failed mining colony amid the steamy jungles of Venus (after the terraforming, of course). Raised by Great Excavators, he had all the subtle nuances of character of a Tonker TAC542 Big-Digger running on a heavy-testosterone fuel cell.

Darwin was a man who liked nothing better than playing with his great big Tonker.

Darwin was a man determined to change the course of future history, even if it meant rewriting the past. He was a man who not only laughed in the face of Death, but kicked Death in the cojones that that anthropomorphic personification technically didn’t have.

He knew that his mission had been an unqualified success. Well, there had been some collateral damage, but Darwin knew that it was Scientifically impossible to make an omelette without breaking eggs, burning down the henhouse, beating the farmer to a bloody pulp, and hunting the noble chicken into extinction.

And Darwin hated the Scientifically impossible.

He reached up and removed the fishbowl helmet from his regulation Space Patrol spacesuit of silvery foil. He posed heroically, his helmet held in the crook of his left arm, his right hand resting on the butt of his Atomic Disintegrator Pistol.

He moved his right hand to adjust the enormous bulge in the groin area of his suit, the one that always interfered with the draw of his Atomic Disintegrator Pistol. His hand then came to rest on the butt of Space Cadet (Second Class) Mary Sue Hornblower.

She wore the regulation bioform for a Space Cadet: blonde, slim and buxom. She bore a fishbowl helmet identical to Darwin’s, but she was not permitted to bear arms. She was permitted to bare almost everything else, for all that covered (if that was the right word) her body was a tiny silver bikini so skin-tight that it must have been painted on using a monomolecular spray.

‘Like, smile!’ cried Space Cadet (D Grade) Mary Lou Honeywell, who was Hornblower’s twin in every aspect except that her hair was flaming red in a gesture to diversity that was breathtaking in its minimalism.

Darwin had forged the silver bikinis himself, using a superconducting mesh. He liked his Space Cadets dressed in a manner that assumed no impudence, and set their resistance to zero.

A 5,000-volt bikini will do that to any woman.

Cadet Hornblower ran her gaze across the groin area of Darwin’s suit, smiling as she spied the enormous bulge of his wallet. As the only survivor of the Venus mining colony, Darwin had inherited the mineral wealth of an entire planet... and that gave Cadet Hornblower seventy billion reasons to hold onto him.

Darwin smiled. Cadet Hornblower smiled. Millions of former citizens grinned, but they didn’t really have any choice. Like a square-jawed singularity, Captain Darwin Ward had taught them the only true meaning of posthuman.

There was a brief flash as Cadet Honeywell took a holograph of the ob-scene for posterity.

The FTL ships docked at the northern spaceport suffered from a complete handwavium failure and folded back into unrealspace. Dark matter was illuminated. Time machines? Not on his watch! The time machines melted and ran out of time.

Darwin looked around at the destruction he had wrought. There had been a lot of collateral damage, but his noble brow was untroubled by doubt. That was a burden for lesser mortals.

Lesser mortals, bah! They dared to scorn him for sleeping with two women half his age. They said it was some sort of mid-life crisis, but they were just jealous! Besides, Darwin knew that two women half his age added up to one woman his own age. Mathematically, it was the same thing.

Darwin stood amid the destruction he had wrought, and saw that it was good. Soon the hard Scientific core of the ancient city would be cleansed of the parasitic growth of Speculative Fiction that had flourished during the Age of the Dark Lords. ‘I have done it! I have saved Science Fiction City!’

The Street of Magic Realism exploded in a multi-coloured fireball that made Darwin’s Space Cadets shriek and quiver. ‘Are you, like, sure?’ asked Cadet Hornblower.

‘Yeah, like, really?’ added Cadet Honeywell.

Darwin’s noble nostrils flared with anger. How dare they question his superior intellect? He searched for the remote control unit that would send 5,000 volts through silver mesh and tender flesh. But he could not find it, for one law of nature is constant across every facet of the multiverse — the remote control unit is always missing in action.

Darwin’s anger melted under the blowtorch of his rational mind. After all, both Cadets were such girls! Their understanding was limited by their very gender in the retro-future universe Darwin was hell-bent on creating. Besides, your average Space Cadet wouldn’t know a Dark Lord from a Dozois, thought Darwin. They needed Captain Darwin Ward, Lord Greezstayne, to re-educate them.

‘Don’t you worry your pretty little heads about it,’ he said, patting Cadet Hornblower’s head. He remembered that nothing of interest lay within, so he moved on to pat other, more interesting parts of her. And Cadet Honeywell, too.

Cadet Hornblower wondered if this would be a good time to tell Darwin that his wallet looked like it had lost a little weight lately. Cadet Honeywell wondered if this would be a good time to tell Darwin that, prior to bioforming, she had been a man. Or should she tell him later tonight, in bed?

Darwin did not wonder. He knew. He had Science on his side. And if, occasionally, reality did not match his calculations, then Darwin knew it was reality that was truly at fault. Not him. Never him.

And if reality dared to defy him again, well then, reality would find itself replaced by something better. Something made in the image of Space Patrol Captain Darwin Ward, Lord Greezstayne.

There would not be more things in the heavens and on earth than were dreamt of in Darwin’s philosophy. Not if he had anything to say about it. And he had plenty to say about it.

Today, Science Fiction City, tomorrow, the worlds!

‘Er, like, what is that?’ Cadet Honeywell cried, staring at something chaotic and spiky that was stumbling towards them down the Singularity Expressway.

It was in fact an angry mob, filled with more unnatural selections than the City had ever seen in an angry mob before. Darwin’s theories had made for some very strange bedfellows, indeed.

Chronal Librarians saved lost manuscripts from the ravages of Time. Combat Cheerleaders from the Post-Apocalyptic Wastelands of Mars believed books were the most conveniently packaged lavatory paper ever. They should have been fighting each other for the right to practice their opposing philosophies upon the contents of the Great Library of Science Fiction City.

But they weren’t.

And though the wizened Goblins of the Engineers and Moonshiners Guild swarmed around the Clockwork Dragons of Praxial IX, not one of them tried to dismantle a Dragon to see what made it tick.

Even the super villain Cockroach Man had crawled out of the sewers to join forces with his arch-nemesis, the super hero Nuclear Girl. All had put aside their blood feuds long enough to ensure that Darwin would inherit the earth.

A plot of earth about six feet long should be more than enough.

The mob snarled and wept and swore. In keeping with tradition, most of them waved pitchforks and scythes and half-bricks and chainsaws, and many carried flaming plasma-torches. In clear breach of tradition, vampires were part of the mob, for there are monsters that even vampires abhor.

Darwin looked at the mob, and saw all of the hobgoblins that had consistently plagued small minds. And he knew how to deal with their kind.

‘Ah, my adoring public,’ sighed Darwin. They would be giving him awards, next. No, they would be naming awards after him.

‘There he is!’ cried the last Bureaucratic Gladiator of the Immortal H’rullish Legions, as he cocked his blamethrower.

The force of Darwin’s belief washed over the oncoming unwashed masses. It should have reshaped them to conform to Darwin’s worldview. But probability curves only so far before it snaps back.

All Darwin did was slow the mob down. Slightly.

The Space Cadets looked at the oncoming mob, and then at each other. In unison, they took one step backwards. ‘Er, like, we’re not with him,’ said Cadet Hornblower.

‘Totally,’ added Cadet Honeywell.

The mob ignored the Cadets. They only had eyes for Darwin.

An elderly greybeard robed in a star-spangled manner outran the rest of the mob to reach Darwin first. ‘You bastard,’ he cried, waving a small stick under Darwin’s noble nose. ‘You’ve destroyed all the magic!’

‘Magic?’ sneered Darwin. ‘Superstitious nonsense. Pure Fantasy. Get with the program, you stupid old man. Hard Science Fiction is the way of the future. I will accept nothing less.’

Darwin did not want one trope to rule them all; he just wanted one trope. No more of this n-tropic nonsense for him.

‘You will accept nothing less? You’re just one man.’

‘One man who is right makes a majority,’ replied Darwin, and in a way, this was true. Science Fiction City was a dimension with its own special rules. A dimension of ideas, where one man could make a difference. Even if he really shouldn’t. It all worked on the willing suspension of disbelief.

Unfortunately, Darwin believed very firmly in his disbelief. The unbelievable suspension that kept two bulging silver bikini tops upright in defiance of gravity and good taste was the only exception he allowed himself.

The wizard’s impotent wand fell limply from his hand. With a curse that wouldn’t be found in any reputable grimoire, he balled his fists and punched Darwin in the nose. ‘Ha, that still works!’

Darwin shrieked and clutched at his nose, trying to turn back the crimson tide. ‘Why did you do that, you stupid old man?’ cried Darwin. The two Space Cadets grabbed Darwin to steady him, but he shook them off. He didn’t need their help. ‘Can’t you see that I’m saving Science Fiction?’

‘What gives you the right to decide who lives and who dies?’

This gives me the right, you stupid old man,’ said Darwin, drawing his Atomic Disintegrator Pistol.

The two Space Cadets decided that discretion was the only part of valour. If they could get far enough from Darwin’s paradigm, maybe they wouldn’t twist their ankles and lie helpless and awaiting rescue.

Darwin realized that his wallet hadn’t interfered with the draw of his Atomic Disintegrator Pistol. He didn’t know that his wallet was currently receding from his position as fast as Cadet Hornblower could carry it.

White light burned across the narrowing gap between Darwin and the mob. The mob snarled and wept and swore some more, until they could see clearly again. And what they could see was that Darwin had just shot them with Space Cadet Honeywell’s holographic camera, and not an Atomic Disintegrator Pistol at all.

Darwin felt a sudden dampness in the groin area of his spacesuit. But that was just a testosterone leak. Surely.

Copyright © 2007 by David Marshall

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