Animatronica [Captain Spycer #3]
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by J. D. Crayne
Category: Science Fiction/Humor
Description: "Funny!" says Hugo winner Larry Niven about science fiction of J. D. Crayne. In the third adventure of Captain Spycer and her zany band of space heroes, the Earth is doomed! Or maybe it's Callisto that's doomed. On the other hand, perhaps it's just Anaheim, California. The only chance Earth has to avoid possible annihilation is to send the Command Force's intrepid Captain Sherilyn Spycer to the rescue! The Captain and her crew of stalwart civilization-savers are on their way, and the hero business may never be the same. A rogue pleasure satellite, missing for over two hundred years, is about to crash through the solar system, causing wide-spread destruction, the downfall of civilization, and the violation of beautiful young women. That's what one eminent scientist claims, but he and his team of research geniuses are missing in action. They took off for the satellite two weeks ago, and haven't been heard from since. The date of destruction draws ever closer and doom is staring humanity square in the face. Follow the incredible adventures of Captain Spycer and her crew as they brave the evil android Queen Animatronica, who is dedicated to the obliteration of all living things. Cheer them on as they face 150 meter roller-coasters and broken teeth from antique chocolate bars. It's danger, excitement, and nerve-tingling adventure, plus a lot of familiar faces that you know and love. The crew of the good ship RayRunner is on the job! The disembodied head of Professor Andre Groppe is here to imagine the unimaginable, while his scaly red aide, Col. Krabchake, is primarily interested in the satellite's savory green tree frogs. Rugged duraluminum robot Peter Decade has all of the answers, but only if someone asks the right questions. Dr. Brian Lefarge, the perpetually confused innocent, is certain that everybody means well and does the best he can with someone else's plastic arm. Space adventure at its very best; accept no substitutes!
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/PageTurner,
eBookwise Release Date: November 2006
16 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [208 KB]
Reading time: 121-170 min.
"Why can't you just blast the thing to bits?" Captain Sherilyn Spycer of the galactic Command Force asked, idly winding a lock of her red-gold hair around one white gauntleted forefinger and contemplating the remains of her gin and tonic.
"Goddamned lawyers, that's why!" Gen. Dickerson snarled, drawing his bushy eyebrows together in a ferocious scowl. He slammed his empty shot glass down on the bar and held up a finger for service.
The Cantina bartender, a large heavily built alien with no knowledge of Earth culture--and thus totally ignorant about that particular finger's message--poured a carefully measured shot of Eld Ubershu into the empty glass. On the other side of the crowded room a couple of bald guys and something with a snout were playing a jaunty little tune that set everyone's teeth on edge.
"Blow them to bits along with it," the Captain suggested, finishing off her drink. "Ten to one nobody will notice."
Dr. Brian Lefarge, a cultural anthropologist assigned to the Captain's ship, was sitting on the other side of Captain Spycer, neatly clad in a freshly-ironed and starched white lab coat and nursing a fizzy drink. He blinked his bright brown eyes and looked horrified.
"You can't blow up the Mouseteroid! That would mean killing the scientific secret-research team!"
"So?" the Captain asked, raising her delicate brows and looking back over her shoulder at him. "The last time I saw that group they were rolling around on the floor, trying to throttle each other. Not much of a loss, as far as I can tell."
Gen. Dickerson gulped down the liquor in his refilled shot glass and stared morosely at the holographic image of the nude, three-breasted, ivory-skinned female hanging over the bar. One corner was inscribed in gold, "Coming soon, Eccentrica."
Several stools further along the bar, Col. Krabchake of the Command Force--a red lizard-like Deltonian--was peering into the clear globe containing the head of Professor Andre Groppe. He was apparently trying to decide if the green tinge of the nutrient solution was appropriate to the occasion, or if he ought to add another shot of creme de menthe.
The disembodied astrophysicist, meanwhile, was singing a lusty version of Mademoiselle From Armentieres, punctuated by an occasional hiccup, and attempting to levitate packs of snacks off of the bar via electronically-enhanced telekinesis. His voice emanated loudly from two gold-colored acoustic filters, connected by a golden bail, that fit over his globe like a set of metallic earmuffs.
"She'll do it for wine, she'll do it for rum! And sometimes for chocolate or chewing gum!"
The scaly red Colonel, who was Professor Groppe's aide de camp, joined in cheerfully on the chorus, when he wasn't eating the peanuts and crisps.
A pleasant rhythmetic ping! from over by the wall made a nice counterpoint to the musicians' misguided efforts and Professor Groppe's inspired lyrics. It also assured everyone that Captain Spycer's PRT-10 robot, generally known as Peter Decade, was racking up record scores on the electronic pinball machine.
On the whole, the Command Force contingent was enjoying itself.
The sole exception was the General, who was in a foul humor and even scowled at the triple-breasted hologram.
"Ever since that so-called magical kingdom went bankrupt in the mid twenty-first century, the receivers have been arguing over who gets what," he said. "The damned pleasure satellite is one of the corporate assets. When a terrorist attack sent it out of orbit and whizzing off into space everyone thought it was gone for good."
"That's reasonable," the Captain said, picking up her glass.
She glanced over her shoulder and then leaned gracefully away from her commanding officer as someone in the rear threw a little man in a robe between them, over the bar, and into the bottle display on the back wall. The bottles crashed to the floor in a froth of multicolored liquid, the smell of alcohol, and a spectacular tinkle of shattering glass. The bartender made a quick tally, emptied the pockets of the offender, and tossed him back.
The Captain signaled for a refill on her gin and tonic.
"The insurance company took twenty-two years before they agreed to pay off on it," General Dickerson said, getting another shot of Eld Ubershu from the imperturbable bartender. "Of course, the corporation's receivers didn't collect for another fifteen years after that. Anyway, now that the asteroid has cycled back toward the solar system again, the insurance company has dug in its heels and the lawyers are threatening to sue the government if anyone damages as much as a square meter of its duraluminum shell!"
"But they can't just stand around and wait for it to slam into the Earth!" Dr. Lefarge said in protest, as he peered around the Captain's shoulder.
"Oh can't they!" the General said, fuming. "We're at a stalemate. That is why you," he jabbed a finger toward the Captain's opulent breasts, which were covered but not concealed by her blue and white Command Force uniform, "are going to stop that miserable hunk of junk from hitting the middle of Anaheim!"
"Sounds like the end of Anaheim, Azusa, and Cucamonga," the Captain said with a yawn, as she checked the time on the chronometer set into the cuff of her left gauntlet.
"That asteroid is set to wipe out most of the West Coast, and probably cause a massive tsunami that will take out everything around the Pacific Rim!" the General snarled. "You are going to land on it, rescue those idiot researchers, and do something to keep the damned thing from destroying the Earth!"
"Must I?" the Captain said, trying to catch the lime wedge at the bottom of her empty glass. "My accumulated vacation time adds up to twelve weeks and six days, and I think the crash would be entertaining to watch from a nice safe orbit."
"Spycer, stop trying to jerk my chain!" the General said in a roar that carried over the noise in the bar and even made the bartender look up. "I want you, and that gang of misfits you call a crew, off the ground no later than Saturday and doing something about this!" * * * *
"So that's it," Captain Spycer said, finishing up her explanation the following morning in her ship's staff room. She surveyed her officers and civilian employees, and said emphatically, "The Mouseteroid is hurtling toward earth and we're going to intercept it, deflect it without damage, and rescue the jerks that are aboard it. Any questions?"
"What's the motive power?" First Officer Valerie L Kovsky asked.
"Atomic engines," the Captain said. "They're arranged in two intersecting bands around the asteroid's outer hull. The firing sequences have to be changed to redirect the asteroid, and that must be done from the control center."
Prof. Groppe, bored with the briefing, was amusing himself by practicing telekinesis on nearby objects, including coffee cups, pens, pencils, and the Captain's front zipper.
Science Officer Charlie Forte frowned. "Just how exact are the current approach coordinates?"
"Peter?" the Captain asked.
"Give or take ten degrees," Peter Decade replied, in his mellow simulated baritone voice. "Although the primary danger is that the pleasure asteroid will slam into the Earth, there is also a chance that it might clip Io, Callisto, or Luna on the way in."
"Fascinating!" Professor Groppe, who had finally heard something that interested him, chuckled inside his nutrient-filled globe, which still had a faintly green hue. "It could destroy the extra-terrestrial colonies and send their debris Earth-ward as well, spelling death and destruction for all life forms on the planet. It would take the entire super-secret scientific research team out along with it," he added, gloating.
"The engine room crew is running a pool," Science Officer Forte murmured. "Fifty credits if you want in."
"Hasss Phobosss by the night of the sssixteenth been taken?" Col. Krabchake asked, his tongue twisting around the sibilants.
"I don't know," Forte confessed. "I got Charon for the fifteenth."
"Enough of that, you two!" the Captain said sternly.
Dr. Brian Lefarge nodded emphatically. "You shouldn't be thinking of things like that when hundreds of millions of lives may be at stake!"
"And especially when you can get into the commissary's pool for only twenty credits," the Captain amplified.
"Who authorized the scientific expedition to the Mouseteroid in the first place?" First Officer Kovsky asked. She was a square-jawed, square-bodied woman with short dark hair and a no-nonsense attitude.
"As nearly as we can determine," Peter Decade said, "the expedition was not actually authorized. Apparently the science group was celebrating the birthday of Wernher von Braun..."
"With enthusiasm and a lot of lab alcohol," the Captain said.
"Just so," Peter Decade acknowledged, his iridescent black eyes blinking. "Shortly after midnight one of them made a certain proposal."
"Let me guess!" Professor Groppe said, with a smirk that sent his white whiskers spiraling through his nutrient solution and up around his ears. "Professor Jetson bet Professor Munroe something, right?"
The tall duraluminum robot nodded. "Specifically, he said that he would wager a month's pay that Professor Munroe was an over-the-hill, outdated, old fart who wouldn't have a prayer of operating anything more advanced than a jet-propelled baby buggy."
"He does have a point there," First Officer Kovsky admitted. "Munroe hasn't been above the outer atmosphere in years."
"He hasn't been higher than a penthouse bar since he wrote Catching Up With Uranus," Forte said sourly.
Professor Groppe was still snickering inside his globe. His white beard and mustaches fluttered in the pale green liquid as he added, "Munroe always was a sucker for a bet."
"To give him the benefit of the doubt," Peter Decade said, "I believe there were quite a few side bets and some extra encouragement going on at that point."
Col. Krabchake licked his scaly eyelids and said, "Ssso, the ssscientissstsss decssided to intercssept the Moussseteroid?"
"Yes, and unfortunately there was an experimental ship nearby on the landing field," the Captain said, sounding rather distracted as she watched the Deltonian's long limber tongue. "The entire group boarded it, terrorized the crew into agreement, and took off."
"I am informed that Professor Calvin was elected to hold the bets," Peter added parenthetically.
"Then she's still on the Earth?" Dr. Lefarge asked.
"Oh no," Captain Spycer said, dragging her eyes away from Col. Krabchake's talented lingual apparatus. "Calvin went along to be sure that nobody cheated. Professor Barkward went because he heard about the Storyville sector on the asteroid, and Dr. Zarkov tagged along to look after Barkward."
"Because everyone knows that Barkward can't be trusted out without a keeper," Science Officer Forte muttered.
"It's only one juliaset jump to the Mouseteroid," the Captain pointed out, "so they didn't even have time to sober up before they got there."
"But why didn't they come back?" Forte asked.
"Because the ship's captain left the entire science group at the passenger lounge by the main concourse, radioed back to Command Headquarters that the shake-down cruise had been successful, and made for home before they could be accused of piracy, theft, and being AWOL with a government carrier."
"Good sense of self preservation there," Groppe said with approval.
"Has anyone heard from the scientists?" Kovsky asked. "Do we know that they're alive and okay?"
"They were okay," the Captain said. "After she sobered up, Professor Calvin managed to find a communications cubicle and reported their whereabouts. We have a set of the original Mouseteroid plans, and it was easy enough to locate their position."
"The asteroid is still operational?" Kovsky asked, surprised.
"Parts of it apparently are," Captain Spycer said.
Peter Decade nodded his metallic head. "It has extensive battery storage capacity, and the collector banks automatically recharge whenever it is close enough to any energy emitters. I obtained the scan stats yesterday and there is apparently power available for basic life support."
"As well as some of the vending machines and entertainment devices, according to Professor Calvin," the Captain said. "It's a self-contained pleasure palace, on a gigantic scale. There are eight amusement sectors, two four-thousand room luxury hotels, health clubs, theaters, and several casinos. Everything the rich tourist on vacation could possibly want."
"Gravity?" Forte asked.
"Slightly less than Earth-normal," the Captain replied. "There are gravity generators built into the asteroid's shell, but some of the amusement rides and other attractions are powered by pin point gravity enhancement units rather than depending on the overall pull of the main generators."
"What about the rest of the scientists?" Dr. Lefarge asked. "How are they doing? Being stranded on a deserted asteroid like that might lead to deep-rooted psychological problems, you know."
"Again according to Professor Calvin, and this was two weeks ago, they went from celebrating Wernher von Braun's birthday to celebrating the vindication of Galileo, and were still drinking to Mandelbrot and fractal geometry while she was talking to Command Force Headquarters. Calvin said they were maxing out everyone's credit cards at the liquor kiosks."
"That makes sense," Kovsky said. "The asteroid prices are behind inflation by over two hundred years." She paused, and then added thoughtfully, "I wonder what the duty-free shop is like."
"Unfortunately," the Captain went on, "there was some sort of problem at Professor Calvin's end during the fone conversation. She screamed, there was the sound of a struggle, and then a whomp! like someone was hit over the head. That was two weeks ago, and was the last anyone heard from them."
"They could be in real danger!" Dr. Lefarge said, wide-eyed.
"Of a monumental hangover, yes," the Captain agreed.
Forte yelped as Prof. Groppe lost his telekinetic grip on a coffee cup and spilled the contents into the science officer's lap.
"Do we facsse any unusssual problemsss with ressscuing the ssscientistsss and sssaving the sssolar sssyssstem?" Col. Krabchake asked, as he took a polishing cloth out of his uniform jacket pocket and began buffing a slightly dull spot on Groppe's globe.
"Ordinarily, I'd say no," the Captain replied, "if it weren't for that unknown problem with Professor Calvin's fone call. "It's just a case of landing, picking up the research group, and then going to the control center to adjust the asteroid's coordinates and nudge it into a stable orbit. However," she looked pointedly at Dr. Lefarge, who was making a chain out of some paper clips that he'd found in his lab coat pocket, "past experience indicates that some minor incident will go wrong, throwing us into dire peril and putting our very survival in question."
First Officer Kovsky nodded. "Business as usual, in other words."
Science Officer Forte, who was standing up and blotting at the front of his trousers with a pocket handkerchief, glowered at Groppe. The Professor ignored him and began a close harmony rendition of "Up in the air junior birdmen," with Col. Krabchake.
Dr. Lefarge dropped his paper clip chain back into his pocket with an air of accomplishment and adjusted the felt tip pens in his pocket protector, which had sprung a leak. * * * *
Finding the Mouseteroid was simple. By the time the rescue team was ready to leave Command Force Headquarters, the constantly changing coordinates were being reported by astronomers around the solar system on an hourly basis.
Evacuation plans for the outer colonies were not coming along very well. The on-coming asteroid exhibited some extremely strange and unpredictable changes in its path, and no one knew where a safe location was going to be from one moment to the next. Refugees found themselves boarding ships, rushing to one potential safety haven, and then reversing course and heading back to the first one on the basis of the latest trajectory calculations. Some frustrated souls were talking about moving out of the solar system completely and conduction business from between galaxies, which would also put them outside of the six light year limit and thus exempt from Solar System Revenue Authority taxation. * * * *
Captain Spycer's ship, the RayRunner, was the latest in a series of cutting-edge Command Force vehicles. Its motive power was supplied by cosmic rays, which were concentrated by means of a huge telescoping collector and focused through a carefully engineered hyper-crystal lens. The ship could traverse the limits of the galaxy in a matter of hours, utilizing the advanced mathematics of fractal equations and occasional WAG coordinates. It was also fully armed with the latest sub-atomic weapons and capable of blowing any given planet into small unrecognizable fragments.
The crew strapped themselves into their acceleration seats, the RayRunner made the jump, and they bounced back into real space within vue screen distance of a round metallic object that glittered in the dim light of a distant sun. The rescue team gathered on the navigation deck for an advance look at their destination.
"How do we get inside of it?" Dr. Lefarge asked, his bright brown eyes looking perplexed as he peered at the image on the screen.
Captain Spycer gestured to the Communications Officer to zoom in on the image and then pointed to the enlarged picture. "That is not a problem."
There was a bright red metal banner over a series of docking ports which announced, "Welcome to the Happiest Place in the Universe!"
"Would you look at that!" Professor Groppe said from inside his globe, which was dangling by its golden bail from Col. Krabchake's black talons. "They even charged for parking!"
"Probably added overtime charges too," First Officer Kovsky said. "Are you going to take the scout ship down, Captain?"
"No. It only seats eight and I don't want to make multiple trips. We'll land the RayRunner in one of the docking bays and go in from there. Peter Decade, Colonel Krabchake, and Professor Groppe will go with me."
There was a sound of shuffling feet.
"Yes, Dr. Lefarge, what is it?"
"Uh, well, I had kind of hoped to go with you. I mean, Uncle George ... that is, General Dickerson, specifically said that my assistance would be invaluable in dealing with the archaic customs of a defunct entertainment complex."
"That's because Uncle General has some irrational fantasy about your input to this operation!" The Captain's emerald green eyes glittered dangerously. "Do you know what you did on your first expedition with this ship?"
"Well, no," Dr. Lefarge admitted. "I had my biorec restored at the wrong time and it wiped out all of my memories." He brightened up. "But I'm sure that we all had a really great time together!"
The rest of the people on the navigation deck were carefully looking at the ceiling or the floor.
"Right," Captain Spycer said through gritted teeth. "Do you remember the second expedition, and the way that we had to save you from two separate groups who wanted you for lunch?"
"That was just a misunderstanding!" the little anthropologist protested.
"How about the inconvenience that you caused by falling through that ice crevasse and losing the fones?" she demanded.
"After all of the trouble that you've been, why should I take you along this time?" She towered over him, gauntleted fists on her hips, 176 centimeters of voluptuous, red-haired--and currently exasperated--womanhood.
He looked up at her, his bright brown eyes uneasy. "I'll dedicate my book on Cultural Shifts in Mechanized Entertainment to you," he offered.
Captain Spycer threw up her gauntleted hands.
Groppe and Krabchake started singing "Let me entertain you," with the scaly red Colonel providing the bumps, grinds, and an occasional flick of his meter and a half long triangular tail.