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Sometimes it took awhile to establish reliable contact between two FurNet bbss, and there was a practice echo used to test things out. I got tired of writing "Test... Test... Test..." and started releasing segments of the following, one per post, based on rather loosely disguised versions of myself and the two sysops involved... My thanks to Fa Shimbo, creator of the Klysadel Universe, and specifically the Universally Applicable Still.
by Kay Shapero
(Copyright Kay Shapero, 1993)
All is quiet in the early dawn as the intrepid band advances stealthily on the small spaceport field. As the otter distracts the lone guard with his card tricks, the two foxes overpower him, then all three board the nearest ship and blast off into the early morning sky. Into orbit without incident; out of orbit two jumps ahead of an inquisitive customs cruiser, and it's out to the jump point and gone into jump space.
Safely away from the planet, the vixen removes a small data crystal from her sporran and places it carefully in the ship's navigational computer. A few quick adjustments and the course is laid. "Next stop, the Universally Applicable Still!" she announces, triumphantly.
In space, nobody can hear you roar through the night, windows open and radios blazing. Oh well...
Deep into the blackness between the stars, between blazing nebulae and dark dustclouds. Out here, one is ultimately alone. Here the soul may find true solitude. Here there is but one ultimate cry... "Stop the stupid travelog already and get to the flippin' still!"
Oh, all right...
As the ship approaches the system which holds the fabled Universally Applicable Still, it is joined by two small grey ovoids, riding the bowshock. There is a signal from the radio. "Hey, will you guys pick us up a couple a' sixpacks?"
"OK - just give us your physical specs and we'll pick you up some bheer!"
This crucial matter attended to, our party continues into the system and drops out of Jump with all of the usual results. Ick. See the Universe and urp all over it.
Alas, reaching the system is only the beginning, for our hapless crew must still find the Still itself. Time to map the system.
|THE CURTAIN IS LOWERED FOR 48 HOURS TO DENOTE THE PASSAGE OF TWO DAYS|
There are four planets in the system. One is rather far out and cold, one is near the primary and VERY hot, one is a gas giant with about 14 moons and three rings about it, and the last is in the human habitable zone, and has a flashing beacon orbiting it in the shape of a large arrow picked out in green, blue, red, and yellow, pointing at the surface.
The vixen turns to the rest of the crew. "Offhand, I'd say THIS must be the place."
Target located, the ship proceeds through normal space toward its destination...
Several thirsty, weary days later, our heroes arrive at the planet with the large, friendly arrow. They circle the world (hey, a planet is a BIG place), searching the surface for some sign of the fabled Universally Applicable Still. At length, the otter spots a large, red, blue and gold target symbol, with an X in the center. "Looks like that's it!"
The other agree, and the ship begins it's descent. Smoothly into the atmosphere it glides, down, down until...
Suddenly the ship shakes violently, and veers sharply to the left. It is all the pilot can do to maintain limited control. "Hang on!" she calls, "Something's wrong with the ship. I'm going to have to get us down as fast as possible."
Through the ever thickening, dangerous envelope of air flies/falls the ship. Will they make it to the ground in one piece? Is this the end of the story?
In order, yes, and no. But then; you knew that, didn't you?
The ship lands heavily, damaging the landing legs but otherwise taking no serious harm, as our heroes soon ascertain.
Alas, the damage that crashed it in the first place appears to be in one of the control modules for the engines, and the manual merely says "replace it".
Well, maybe someone at the Still can help. Our heroes locate themselves on the map, and find that the Still is about 300 kilometers away roughly east of their current position. There is no reply to radio requests, so out with the ATV, and all pile in.
Across the dead sea bottoms... Nope, wrong book.
Actually the territory is almost park like, with naturally short grass, scattered trees, bushes, lakes, ponds, rivers and stuff like that there.
It is morning, and all is still and peaceful save for a few small creatures nibbling on the grass beside a small pond. With the exception of the patch of grass attempting to nibble on some of the small creatures, anyway. There is a rustling noise, that slowly grows into a mutter, then a low growl, and finally is recognizable as the engine of an ATV, which pulls itself over the nearest ridge and approaches the pond.
The creatures dive into the underbrush as the ATV passes, narrowly avoids the pond, and continues into the distance. Inside the ATV, three furry beings are visible, singing "Hi ho, hi ho, it's off for bheer we go..." Well - two anyway, the third is singing "I'm only here for the bheer..." The ATV continues over the rise and vanishes from sight, and more slowly from sound.
The small native creatures look at each other, shrug, come back out from the bushes and go back to what they were doing.
Across the landscape, our adventurers roll.
Rumble rumble rumble rumble
Rumble rumble rumble thump
Thud thud thud thud.
[various remarks deleted by censor]
Fzzzit thump Fzzzzit thump Fzzzzit thump.
Whirrr whirrr whirrr
[more remarks deleted by censor]
Whirrr whirrr whirrr
Rumble rumble rumble rumble
Tire changed, our heroes continue across the landscape.
The sun is beginning to set, casting long shadows across the land as our fearless adventurers approach the goal of their quest. Ahead, in the distance, a single spire rises, seeming as tall as the mountains behind it from the perspective of the ground.
The ground itself changes texture, becoming rock covered with varicolored sand. For the first kilometer or so, the sand is pure white, then, within two yards, it turns to jet black for another kilometer, only to return to white again, for yet another klick.
Another klick, another band of black, the edge noticable curved. Finally it dawns on our heroes - they're crossing a gigantic target, with the enigmatic spire at the center.
As the sun sinks behind the mountains, the tip of the spire becomes luminious, then suddenly a gigantic hologram appears above it; an immense golden arrow reaching down from heaven towards the spire, labeled (in large, friendly letters) "Bheer!"
Eagerly the adventurers press forward. Here at last, their goal! Rumble, rumble, rumble, Sliiiiiddddddddddddddddeeeeeeee....THUD!
It appears the black sand has concealed the edge of a rather deep pit into which the ATV has just tumbled. The sides are slanted, but made of loose sand - even when the crew has righted the ATV, it cannot seem to climb out.
"Wow," says the vixen, "just like a giant Ant Lion trap.. Gee I wonder if..."
"SHUT UP!" say the other two, hastily.
From somewhere underneath comes the rustle of falling sand.....
The rustling stops, and a small, roughly wedge shaped head pops out of the hole, and looks at our adventurers. It squeaks, and hastily pulls back inside. The adventurers hastily dive back into the ATV.
Suddenly, a small army of three foot gopher-like critters swarm out of the hole, pick up the ATV, and somehow carry it up the slope and drop it unceremoniously on the white sand.
"Excuse us?" says the otter.
A trapdoor opens nearby, and dumps out a heap of black sand, nearly missing the ATV.
"Hello?" asks the fox.
The gophers take out shovels and start busily shoveling sand into the pit.
"Can you please tell us where the bheer is?" asks the vixen.
The gophers continue to shovel sand.
"Let's go" says the otter.
"That ought to be the tower anyway," says the vixen.
"Fine" says the fox.
They get back into the ATV and continue towards the tower. All is still save for the scratching of the shoveling gophers and the distant sound of a voice asking "But why did it look red from orbit?" and two more replying "I DON'T want to know!"
Off again, over the changing sands, which turn blue, then white, then gold. Always the spire looms before them, silhouetted against the darkening sky. One by one, the stars come out, and a full or nearly full moon about one third the size of that of Earth slips over the horizon as the sun departs.
Finally, all is dark save for the light emitted by the stars and the pale golden radiance sifting down from the sign in the sky, far, far above. The spire seems tall beyond belief, as the weary travellers roll up to the foot in their ATV. Taking out a large flashlight, the fox shines it on the near side of the spire, which is made of some slightly shiny green rock-like substance. Before them is a massive door, beside what appears to be a small window, currently shut, and a rope bell pull. The vixen looks at it and comments, brightly "I know - the red was the poppy fields." The other two give her strange looks.
The otter pulls the bell rope, eliciting two low bongs, and a highpitched squawk, as the window slides open. A ferret wearing glasses sticks his head out and says, in portentious tones, "Password please."
The foxes and otter chorus in unison "Door Out of Order, Please Knock."
The ferret laughs. "Let me guess, you're only here for the bheer?"
The door swings open...
The door swings open, to reveal a large room, lit by lamps hanging from the 20 foot ceiling. In the middle of the room is a large, curved bar behind which stand a large beautiful golden bird, a blue-black birdlike woman, a tentacular entity resembling a tree or maybe an overgrown Hydra hydra, and a cheerful looking human male tending bar. The bar is decorated with pictures of spaceships, and flanked by several potted palms and a large, stuffed, grey flamingo. There are many beings present, though not enough to really crowd the place.
The nearest, a polar bear, walks over. "Welcome! Glad you could make it!" He hands each of the new arrivals a mug. Another fox, an ermine, several small trolls in business suits, and some wolves wave in greeting, while a mink, a griffin, a unicorn, a sleek catwoman and a pink flamingo raise mugs at the bar. Three hyenas, a coyote, some dragons, a winged woman, more humans (one in a natty uniform somewhat the worse for wear), a serval and some other beings of less identifiable species also turn in greeting.
Over behind the potted plants, two satamurai look at each other, grin, and stealthily stalk towards the bar intent on mischief.
"A toast!" proclaims an otter seated at a nearby table with a squirrel, several H'reli, a tigermorph, and a cougar. "To the Universally Applicable Still, and all who find it!"
To a universal roar of approval, all lift their mugs and drink.
The vixen takes a deep draft from her mug. "Ahh.... Now that's just right."
And they partied happily ever after.
The End (sorta)
BheerTrek is copyright Kay Shapero, 1993
As you might have guessed, the above was written in daily installments. The three main characters are thinly disguised versions of the three of us who were testing transmission of the echo in which the story originally appeared. It seemed a bit more fun than "test…test…test…", anyway…Kay
Oh yes - The Universally Applicable Still is, of course, based on Fa Shimbo's creation.