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"Um, It's not exactly what I had in mind!"
Ernie Ross looked ruefully at his imitation fur loincloth and
flimsy plastic broadsword. "Um, I sort of thought...."
The girl behind the counter gave Ernie a sour look. "You
wanted to play the `Goombah the Barbarian' Virtual Reality Game,
"Uh, yeah," Ernie replied.
The girl examined a sheet of paper, cracking her gum loudly.
"In that case, you have to wear the fur loincloth and carry the
plastic broadsword. It says so right here."
Ernie thought about this. "Well, in the ad it said that
playing the game would be just like being Goombah the Barbarian.
There'd be monsters and wizards and everything, just like the
"That's correct," replied the girl. "Here at the Virtual
Arcade, we offer simulated reality games of just about any popular
character or story line. Our huge mainframe computers allow us to
synthesize any reality in amazingly high resolution, allowing us to
believably create stories in which YOU can be the main character.
You can step into the role of a commando, a swashbuckler, a space
traveler, just about anything that any popular movie or book has
featured recently. You can act out the role of your favorite
character, doing anything that character could. You can actually BE
your favorite fictional character! You can live out your fantasies,
for only a few dollars a minute!" She seemed to reading from a
"Well..." Ernie was still unsure. He had heard that these
games were tremendous fun. They had become very popular in the last
few years. You could now find a Virtual Arcade at just about any
major shopping mall (they were franchised). Of course, you had to
pay through the nose to play, but nobody seemed to mind. They were
just so much FUN...
"I still feel silly wearing this fur loincloth and carrying
this big plastic sword," complained Ernie.
"That's what Goombah wears in the movie, isn't it?" the girl
said, looking bored.
The girl looked at the clock. "If you don't want to play
GOOMBAH THE BARBARIAN, I can let you play KILLER LESBIANS FROM
OUTER SPACE instead. I've got a game starting in ten minutes."
"No, no, that's okay," Ernie protested.
A chime sounded. "Your game starts in five minutes!" The girl
warned Ernie, fluffing her hair absently.
Well, I guess I'm stuck with this, Ernie thought. I paid my
$47.95; and there's no refund. I hope this turns out to be worth
the money. Ernie was, after all, just a college student, and didn't
have money to burn.
The chime sounded, again, this time more urgently. "Second
door on your right," the girl said brightly.
This is not starting off well at all, Ernie thought, as he
headed down the hallway. If this doesn't improve real quick, I'm
going to file a complaint, or something.
Ernie entered a small cubicle. A technician sat him down in a
large, comfortable reclining chair, and fitted him with the stereo
goggles and headset that made Virtual Reality come alive. He even
added the latest refinement: tactile sensation electrodes, which he
glued to Ernie's body at strategic locations.
As Ernie settled into the new visions and sensations that
awaited him, he began to feel somewhat better. There before him was
the mysterious landscape that Goombah inhabited in the movies, full
of forbidding crags and castles shaped like skulls. Of course, none
of it was actually there, but the illusion was amazingly realistic.
It was hard to believe it was all just synthesized artificial
reality. Ernie was impressed. Maybe this will be okay after all, he
thought. He unsheathed his huge plastic broadsword, preparing to be
attacked by dragons, wizards, or any of the other fearsome
mythological characters that Goombah customarily battled.
Suddenly, Ernie heard a loud, high-pitched bark. He looked
down and saw a little white dog with a black spot over one eye. The
dos looked up at him expectantly. Ernie was not prepared for
something like this. I'm supposed to be Goombah the Barbarian, he
thought. Goombah does not have any silly little dog!
The dog suddenly jumped up into Ernie's arms. He caught it
automatically. It peered up into his face, as though expecting him
to do something.
"This has got to be a mistake", said Ernie to himself
exasperatedly. "This dog must be from somebody else's game. What am
I gonna do with him?"
Before he could think about the problem any further, a bright
light in the sky attracted Ernie's attention. Here it comes, he
thought, gripping his broadsword tightly. What will it be, a demon,
a flying dragon? Ernie strained his eyes. It's...a flying saucer?
Sure enough, it was a flying saucer, looking as though it had come
straight from an old 1950's science-fiction movie. Ernie was taken
aback. There weren't supposed to be any flying saucers in Goombah
The flying saucer quickly landed a few yards in front of
Ernie, and two space creatures emerged. They seemed to be some kind
of humanoid reptiles. They reminded Ernie of giant iguanas. The dog
under Ernie's arm wriggled uncomfortably.
Ernie frowned. Space creatures? he thought. What am I supposed
to do with space creatures? This isn't what I was expecting at all!
Ernie frowned. What kind of game is this, anyway?! The creatures
began approaching Ernie.
Maybe I'm supposed to say something, he considered. Suddenly,
an idea occurred to him. He drew himself up to his full height.
"Klaatu barada nikto!" he announced.
One of the space creatures pulled out a ray gun and pointed it
at him. Hmm, thought Ernie. Maybe that wasn't quite the right thing
to say. It occurred to Ernie that a strategic retreat might be a
good idea. He looked around quickly. Unfortunately, the landscape
of swirling mists and forbidding hills didn't seem to contain
anyplace to retreat to.
Ernie turned back to the creatures. "Look, uh, what I said
about Klaatu, I didn't really mean..." The creature fired. Ernie
felt himself suddenly stiffen into immobility.
"It's stunned, sir," Ernie heard one creature say to the
"Good, load it onto the ship." The two creatures lifted Ernie,
who had become stiff as a board, and began carrying him, dog and
all, toward the ship.
In spite of himself, Ernie was impressed. These special
effects are fantastic, he thought. I wonder how they do that
Suddenly, a costumed comic-book character appeared, complete
with flowing cape and a big, red `M' on his chest. He blocked the
aliens' path. "Unhand that barbarian!" the comic-book character
The space creature looked at each other in confusion. "Unhand?
What does that mean? Are we supposed to cut off his hands?"
The comic-book character looked exasperated. "Look, just put
him down, okay?" he said, in a much more conversational tone.
"Put him down? Put him down?" One space creature looked at the
other. "What do we do now, sir?"
"Oh, I don't know", the other creature replied. "Just
disintegrate him, I guess." They drew their weapons.
The comic-book character looked confused. "Um..uh.." The
creatures advanced menacingly.
Suddenly, the comic-book character shouted what seemed to
Ernie to be a very odd thing. "JMP 08F1!"
Instantly, the entire scene vanished. Ernie, still stiff and
board-like, found himself unsupported, and dropped three feet to
land with a thud on a carpeted floor. "Hi guy!" Ernie heard someone
say. "Howya doin'?"
Ernie attempted to moan, but discovered that he was still
quite securely frozen. "Here, let me help you up," he heard the
same voice say. The room swung into view as he felt himself lifted
up and placed on his feet like a statue. He seemed to be in
someone's living room.
The owner of the voice came into view. It was the comic-book
character, who in the cold light of day appeared to be a pleasant,
although rather vacuous-looking fellow of indeterminate age. "Allow
me to introduce myself," he said cheerfully. "I'm Captain Memory!"
He extended a hand. Ernie instinctively attempted to shake the
man's hand, but discovered he was still quite frozen. It occurred
to him that he was still carrying the silly little dog, which was
The man dropped his outstretched hand embarrassedly. "Hey, I
forgot," he said cheerfully. "You're still paralyzed! Hey, no
sweat! It'll wear off in a few minutes!" The man seated himself on
a nearby sofa and began perusing a small book he had produced from
somewhere. Ernie, of course, continued to stand where he was,
This is a really weird game, Ernie thought. The special
effects are fantastic, but the story line is bizarre. Like, what am
I supposed to do now?
After about fifteen minutes, Ernie's little finger began to
twitch. The twitching slowly spread across his hand. Finally, with
great effort, Ernie was able to take a step towards the comic-book
character, who was still seated on the sofa, reading his book.
The comic-book character looked up. "Ah, it's wearing off!"
he said. "Are you feeling okay?'
"Ungph", said Ernie, discovering that the power of speech was
slowly returning to him.
Captain Memory took that to mean "yes". "Good, good," he
replied in a cheerful tone.
"Wharf gumg om?" Ernie got out with difficulty.
"You're probably wondering what's going on."
Ernie felt something sharp digging into his side. It was the
little dog, trying to get away. Unfortunately, that arm had not
Ernie's ability to speak seemed to have returned. "All right,
so what IS going on?"
"I had to rescue you from those creatures," Captain Memory
explained. "They were taking you to be a Cyberslave in the mining
Ernie frowned. "What's a Cyberslave?"
Captain Memory shook his head sadly. "They were going to force
you to operate mining robots, like so many other poor fools before
you. Like you, they thought they were going to play a game. The
next thing they knew, they were forced into a life of virtual hard
labor, operating mining robots 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, until
finally their bodies shrivelled up and their brains burned out." He
sighed. "I was too late for most of them, but at least I could save
the two of you!"
Ernie shivered. Some of this was beginning to seem a little
too real. "Man, this is a really strange game!" he said. "I'm not
complaining, mind you! I mean, the special effects alone make it
worth the money!" He looked around. He seemed to be in a huge
living room, all decorated in 1950's style. It all seemed very
solid and believable. Ernie couldn't help being impressed. "I mean,
this is, like, SO realistic! It's just that I'm having a real hard
time following the story! Like, what is supposed to be happening in
this game, anyway?"
Captain Memory sighed. "Look, I'm trying to explain this to
you. It's NOT a game, okay? That game business was just a ruse. It
was a trap to get you to come in and hook yourself up to their
Virtual Reality system. Once you're in, you can't get out! They
turn you into a Cyberslave, and make you work until your brain
"Oh, right," Ernie caught himself. "I get it. You're not
supposed to admit it's a game. You're supposed to pretend it's
real. Okay, I'll play along. So, what now?"
Captain Memory shook his head sadly. "I can see this isn't
going to be easy." He thought a moment. "Okay, if this is a game,
you should be able to quit any time you like, right?"
"Uh, yeah." This was beginning to make Ernie uneasy.
"So, how do you quit?" the Captain demanded. "Where's the ESC
button, or BREAK or whatever? HOW do you get out?"
Ernie suddenly realized that he hadn't been given any
information on what to do when he wanted to quit playing. "Uh,
well, I can quit anytime I want," he said defensively.
"Okay; try!" Captain Memory demanded.
Ernie shuffled uncomfortably. "Well, maybe I'm not ready to
"Try it, just to see what happens!" the Captain urged.
"Well", Ernie considered. "It looks like I got into the wrong
game here. I wanted to play GOOMBAH THE BARBARIAN. I mean, no
offense, this is a cool game and everything, but I really wanted to
Captain Memory looked upset. "This really isn't a game!"
Ernie sighed. "I'll tell you what. I'll just give up on this
for today, and I'll try again a week from Thursday, okay? So, I'll
just be heading home now, okay?"
"Great!" said the Captain enthusiastically. "Just quit right
"Well, okay," Ernie agreed halfheartedly. He tried to think of
what to do. "Hello!" he called up into the air. "Is anybody there?
I'd like to go now!" Nothing happened.
Ernie's heart began to pound. "Hey, c'mon! Isn't anybody
listening to me? I said `I wanna GO!'" No response.
This was beginning to be more than Ernie felt he could deal
with."Look, I'm not asking for my money back, or anything. I'll,
you know, try again some other time. I just want to go home, okay?"
Now Ernie really DID want to go! He began to panic. "Hey,
isn't anybody out there!? WAKE UP!! I don't wanna play anymore! I
wanna go home!" He wailed, "I WANT MY MOMMY!!" Nothing!
"All right, all right, calm down!" Captain Memory tried to
soothe Ernie. "We'll get you out of here! It's just going to
take...a little time!"
Ernie's left arm unfroze convulsively, dumping the little dog
on the floor. It growled unpleasantly. "Why can't you get me out of
here NOW?" he demanded petulantly.
The Captain shrugged. "Hey, I don't run this show! I was lucky
I could even get you away from those creatures! Getting out is
another story altogether!"
"Oh, this is awful!" Ernie wailed. He still wasn't entirely
sure whether this was a game or not, but whatever it was, he didn't
like it anymore!
"Maybe you'd better sit down." Captain Memory moved over to
one side of the sofa. Ernie decided that sitting down was probably
a good idea, and did so. This was beginning to get altogether too
real. "Anyway, it could be worse!"
"How?" Ernie moaned.
"You could be like that poor guy over there," the Captain
said, gesturing towards the dog.
"I don't need your sympathy," the dog snapped.
Ernie started. "A talking dog! This is unbelievable! What
"Yeah, yeah", the dog snarled. "Believe me, you don't look so
hot in that ridiculous fur loincloth either! Goombah the Barbarian!
I'm sure!" The dog pulled a cigar out of some invisible pocket and
began to smoke it, holding it in his front paw in a very un-canine
Ernie was suddenly very conscious of his loincloth. He looked
at the dog. "What..what...?"
"See what I mean?" the Captain gestured towards the dog. "In
Virtual Reality, you can be anybody, or anything! You're lucky you
came through as yourself! You could have wound up like him, as a
The dog made a wry expression. "Yeah, right. Or like YOU!" He
looked the Captain up and down. "A super hero?" he said
Captain Memory seemed nonplussed. "Well...what's wrong with
"I'm sure!" the replied. "Okay, what super powers have you
The Captain seemed defensive. "Well, I do have some powers!"
"Well..." the Captain thought a moment. "Like, I program in
Assembler, and he doesn't!"
"Wait a minute!" Ernie was confused. "WHO doesn't?"
"Why, the man behind all this, of course," the Captain
explained. "The evil genius, Waldo Stadium!"
"Oh, I get it!" Ernie brightened. "This really is a game,
Captain Memory sighed exasperatedly. "Look, for the last time,
this is NOT a game. The evil genius, Waldo Stadium, has embarked on
a plan to take over the entire world's computing power. He's been
breaking into people's systems one at a time, taking control of
them, and linking them to his other systems to create a vast
network that grows more powerful all the time. When he takes over
a system, he establishes complete control over anything and anybody
that happens to be in it at the time. That's how you fell into his
clutches. He's taken over the Virtual Arcades; anyone who was
playing a Virtual Reality games there is now his Cyberslave!"
"Oh, man!" Ernie sank his head into his hands. This was just
too much to handle! Suddenly, a thought occurred to him. "So, how
did we get here, anyway?" He gestured to the room around them.
Captain Memory pulled himself up to his full height. "I
brought you here!" he said proudly. He turned to the dog. "See, I
told you I had powers!"
"Great," said the dog sarcastically. "So where are we,
"We're in Virtual Reality," the Captain explained. "You know,
"Wait a minute," Ernie was finding this all hard to follow.
"If we're still in the computer, doesn't that mean that this guy
Waldo Supermarket has control over us?"
"Stadium", Captain Memory corrected.
"Whatever," Ernie said exasperatedly. "What about my question?
Who's in control here?"
"Ah, that the beauty of it," explained the Captain, warming to
his subject. "He's been taking over systems so fast that he can't
keep track of them. He doesn't even know what he's got! Remember,
when he takes over a system, he gets EVERYTHING that was in it.
He's got games, spreadsheets, database files, and hundreds of
different Virtual Realities, all mixed together in no order! That's
what gives us our window of opportunity. We can hide out in areas
he doesn't even know he's got, until we figure out how to bring
this diabolical scheme to a halt!"
Ernie thought about this. "Okay, we're in Cyberspace."
"But where in Cyberspace?"
The Captain slumped. "Well....I don't exactly know."
The dog snickered. "Some super hero!"
"Well, well, I was under a lot of pressure!" The Captain said
defensively. "Those creatures would have had you in another second!
So, I just picked a location at random and JUMPed to it!"
"You JUMPed to it?" Ernie was confused. "How do you do that?"
"That's the beauty of Assembler," the Captain answered
enthusiastically. "You can do stuff like that! Now, with a high-
level language, you'd never be able to do stuff like that. You can
only do what the language says you can do. In Assembler, you can do
ANYTHING." Captain Memory chuckled. "That's Waldo's weak point. He
refuses to learn Assembler. He insists you can do all this stuff in
C, or whatever language he using now. Well, we'll show..."
Suddenly, the dog broke in. "At RANDOM!?" he barked. "You
JUMPed at RANDOM?!!!"
"Well..." the Captain was taken aback.
"You mean," the dog continued. "We could have wound up in the
middle of a SPREADSHEET!!?"
Ernie tried to imagine life in a spreadsheet. It didn't sound
"It was a chance I had to take," Captain Memory explained
"Great," the dog snarled. "You take chances with our lives!"
"Okay, okay," the Captain said placatingly. "I've got a better
location." He rummaged furiously through the pockets in his
costume. "I wrote it down; it's here somewhere." he continued
searching. "Um, no, um AHA!" He brandished a small slip of paper in
the air. "Here it is!" He read the paper aloud. "It's: INSPECTED BY
"Some super hero!" the dog repeated.
The Captain frowned. "Well, maybe that's not the right one!"
He continued to rummage through his pockets. "I'm sure I had it
Ernie looked askance at the comic-book character. "You don't
Captain Memory fidgeted uncomfortably. "Hey, it's not easy to
remember a long string of numbers in Hex, you know! I'm doing the
best I can!"
Ernie moaned quietly. This was all giving him a terrible
headache. Suddenly a thought occurred to him. "Hey, this is all
really just a game, right?
Captain Memory looked annoyed. "No, it is not a game. It never
was a game. Will you PLEASE stop saying that!"
Ernie moaned quietly. Captain Memory glanced at his wrist.
"We'd better hurry. We're running out of time."
Ernie looked up. "You don't have a watch," he said
Captain Memory continued to look at his bare wrist. "Well,
no," he said, a bit crestfallen. "I always wanted one, though."
Ernie looked around. "Can't we just stay here? It's nice
here." They seemed to be in a very large living room of a well-kept
home. It appeared to be furnished in Fabulous Fifties style, except
for a few odd objects that Ernie couldn't identify.
"We can't stay in one place to long," replied Captain Memory.
"Waldo Stadium is sorting his data as fast as he can. If we stay in
one place too long, sooner or later he'll zero in on us. Anyway,"
Captain Memory looked around. "This place is beginning to look kind
of familiar to me. If I'm right, this isn't a safe place to be!"
"Okay, then where are we?" the dog demanded.
"I think we've landed in a game called `ATTACK OF THE GIANT
EGGPLANT.' If I'm right, this place is going to be nuked in" he
glanced at his bare wrist again, "oh, forty-five minutes or so."
Ernie began to be aware of a queasy feeling in the pit of his
stomach. This is making me anxious, he thought. I'm not going to do
things like this anymore. That's it, no more Virtual Reality for
"Maybe you'd like to watch some TV," Captain Memory suggested
cheerfully. "Maybe that would make you feel better."
"I thought we were in a hurry," Ernie answered.
"We can watch for a couple minutes," the Captain replied.
I guess that makes as much sense as anything else, Ernie
thought, and followed the Captain towards the other end of the
room, where he noticed a television with a ten-foot-wide screen
playing with the sound turned off.
As they approached the television Ernie noticed a large, high-
backed '50's-style sofa positioned close in front of the TV. As
they came around the side of the sofa Ernie was startled to see two
people sitting there, staring intently at the television screen.
"Hey!" Ernie uttered involuntarily.
The two people seemed oblivious to Ernie's presence. "Um,
hello?" Ernie said tentatively. "Excuse me?" The people did not
Captain Memory sighed. "It's too late for them, I'm afraid."
Ernie moaned. "I wished you'd stop saying depressing things.
It makes my stomach hurt."
"Oh, sorry." Captain Memory seemed concerned. "Um, how about
`It's too late for them, I'm pleased to say?'"
"That's not much better."
Captain Memory shrugged. "Hey, I tried." He fell silent.
Ernie looked at the people. They seemed frozen into position,
staring at the television. They seemed emaciated; their muscles
seemed to have withered in the positions they were in. "Okay, so
what's wrong with them?"
Captain Memory shook his head. "They've been in Cyberspace too
long," he said sadly. "There's a limit to how much of this you can
take, you know. Your brain burns out. I don't think these two have
much longer. All they can do is sit here in front of the TV."
Captain Memory sighed. "Terrible, just terrible. Look at them; they
can't even change channels anymore."
Ernie shuddered. This is gruesome, he thought. I think it's
bad for me to look at gruesome things.
"Oh well," Captain Memory brightened. "Can't be helped." The
Captain unceremoniously pushed the stricken couple off the sofa.
They fell stiffly to the floor, motionless except for their eyes,
which rotated to stay fixed on the television screen. Captain
Memory seated himself as comfortably as possible on the sofa. "So,
what do you want to watch?"
They heard a voice behind them. "Crap!" The dog was looking
ruefully at his half-burned cigar and cursing quietly.
"What's the matter?" Captain Memory inquired cheerfully.
"I'm almost out of cigars," the dog groused. "Here I am stuck
in this stupid pointless computer game, and I can't even get a
"Well, maybe we can get you some more, uh, what was your name
again?" The Captain inquired.
"Sterno." The dog intoned pompously.
"Sterno?" said Ernie dubiously. "What kind of a name is that?
Sterno is those little cans of heating stuff."
"I'll have you know that I am Lord High Keeper of the Sacred
Flame. Why, in better days...."
"Oh, I remember now!" the Captain broke in brightly. "That's
a game called `DOG STAR'! You must have been playing it when Waldo
took over your system! That's why you're trapped in the body of a
Sterno was taken aback. "Uh, well, yeah, I was..."
"Lord High Keeper of the Sacred Flame, huh?" the Captain
continued. "You were doing pretty good!"
Sterno brightened. "Well, yes, as a matter of fact..."
"Wanna watch `Stump the Stars'?" Captain Memory said to Ernie,
cutting off Sterno's tales of past glory.
"What's that about?" inquired Ernie.
"It's this game show where famous Hollywood celebrities have
to answer these questions, and if they get them wrong, they get
their arms and legs chopped off. Stumps, get it?" Captain Memory
Ernie frowned. "I don't like these new game shows." He glanced
at the television. The program seemed to be a game show. The MC was
an unpleasant looking man wearing a black military uniform with
skulls on the collar. He wore a monocle in his left eye, and
carried a riding crop, which he periodically cracked against his
"Oh, it's one of those sadistic Nazi game show hosts," said
Ernie. "Isn't there anything else on?"
Captain Memory was paging through a copy of TV Guide. "Doesn't
look like there's anything on except game shows. How about `Vomit
"Here's a movie," the Captain continued. "How about `The
Humpback of Notre Dame', starring Ronald Reagan? You know, the one
about the whale that plays football?"
Ernie sighed. "What's this we're watching now?"
"I don't know." Captain Memory reached for a dial. "Let's turn
up the volume and find out."
The off-camera announcer's voice came blasting out off the
set, painfully loud. "... time for Wheel of Torture! The show which
every week asks the question: How much can you take?"
The sound of applause welled up from the audience.
"And here's our host," the announcer continued. "The Gestapo's
greatest, that famous fiend, Sturmbannfuhrer Dr. Heinz von
Once again the sound of applause welled up. The sound seemed
to be growing impossibly loud. In fact, it seemed to be coming from
all around them.
The game show host smiled and bowed to the audience. "Tank
you, tank you!"
"Now, let's drag in today's first victim!" The announcer
continued. "From Palo Alto, California, let's have a big
round of applause for: CAPTAIN MEMORY!"
The huge waves of applause filled Ernie's head, blocking out
everything else. He clenched his eyes tightly, trying to regain his
composure. He opened them again, and staggered back in shock. They
were no longer in the suburban living room. They were actually
standing on the stage that they had been watching only seconds
before. They had actually been sucked INTO the game show!
Captain Memory seemed confused. "Hey, uh, wait a minute. I
The announcer continued. "And here's contestant number two!
From the Land that Time Forgets, let's have a big hand for:
Goombah the Barbarian!"
Ernie realized that they meant him. A Nazi SS trooper grabbed
him, and shoved him roughly forward. "Hey, lemme go...ow. Look.
I'm not supposed..."
"Say, I just LOVE your loincloth!", the announcer quipped.
Ernie could hear the audience laughing. He began to feel
"And what a CUTE little dog!" the announcer went on.
Sterno didn't seem to be particularly bothered by the state of
affairs. "Say, you got a cigar?"
"Why SURE!" The announcer handed him one. The audience
The announcer continued. "Well, all RIGHT then! Dr. von
Liederkranz, what are we going to start out with today?"
The Nazi smiled theatrically. "Vell, Biff, I tought I'd shtart
out vit a liddle infention of mein own: de Hot Vhirling Corshcrew!"
He pulled out a fiendish-looking device, made of glowing, whirling
metal parts. Without warning, he jabbed Captain Memory with it. The
Captain let out a blood-curdling shriek.
The audience applauded wildly.
"VERY good!" The announcer exclaimed jovially. "Now, let's see
how that rated on our applause meter. A 57! Well, that's..."
"Forget this!" shouted Captain Memory. "JMP 08F1!"
Suddenly, Ernie found himself back on the porcelain sofa. The
TV was now off. Ernie was trembling. "Wha...what happened?"
Captain Memory was rubbing his side ruefully. "Oh, I JUMPed us
back here. I really didn't like that Hot Whirling Corkscrew!"
"Good cigar, though." Sterno added, puffing away. The cigar
seemed to have improved his disposition somewhat.
"I...I don't understand," Ernie whined.
"You know how in a lot of computer games there's these little
doors or windows or something, and when you step through them
you're on a whole different level?" Captain Memory asked.
"Yeah?" Ernie replied tentatively.
"Well," the Captain gestured towards the TV. "That's one of
Ernie noticed an odd smell. He glanced towards the floor. The
two shrivelled people were...vibrating. Wisps of smoke seemed to be
coming out of their ears.
"Oh, I forgot," said the Captain. "You're never supposed to
turn the TV off on these people. Something bad happens... I forget
exactly what, but it's real bad."
Ernie continued to watch the couple in horror. The smoke was
coming more heavily new. Their foreheads seemed to be bulging.
"What...what are we gonna do?" Ernie choked out.
Captain Memory regarded his bare wrist carefully. "Some day
I'm gonna get a watch," he said thoughtfully.
"I really think we ought to do something," said Ernie
anxiously. Smoke was coming out of their noses now. Light seemed to
be appearing behind their eyes.
"A silver watch might be nice. Do you think silver would look
good with this outfit?" Captain Memory wondered.
"I really, REALLY think we ought to do something!" said Ernie
urgently. The TV addicts bodies were beginning to swell rapidly.
Ernie inched away from them.
"Oh well," said Captain Memory unhurriedly. "I guess it's
time to go. Uh, let's see." He thought a moment. "Let's try: PUSH
FF0C." With that, they were gone.
Ernie blinked and staggered. The scene had changed completely.
Now he saw an elaborate 18th century drawing room around him. The
walls were decorated with filigreed mirrors and candelabras.
Delicate furniture surrounded them. It all looked very expensive.
Captain Memory looked about, obviously pleased with
himself. "Hey, it worked!"
Ernie's head swam. He felt confused and disoriented. These
abrupt changes of scene were making him sick. He sagged into a
chair. "I don't feel very good," he complained.
Sterno puffed his cigar. "This is almost decent," he mused.
"You don't suppose there's a snifter of brandy about, do you?" The
sound of a harpsichord drifted in from somewhere. "Ah, Telemann,"
Sterno commented. "Very tasteful."
Captain Memory turned to Ernie. "Gee, I'm sorry you're not
feeling well," he commiserated. "Would it make you feel better to
watch some TV?"
Ernie sat bolt upright. "NO!"
The Captain had brought along his copy of TV Guide. "You're
missing the `Ozzie and Hitler Show'."
"I don't care."
"This is a good episode: `Ozzie forgets that the boss is
coming for dinner, so Hitler has to invade Poland on a moment's
notice.'" Captain Memory chuckled.
"I don't like these TV programs," grumbled Ernie.
"Well, you know," said Captain Memory conversationally. "If
you're going to travel to other Realities, you're not always going
to be able to get your favorite TV shows."
"I want to go home," Ernie sulked. Suddenly a thought occurred
to him. He brightened. "Hey, this is really just a game, right?"
Sterno glared at him. "This `game' business is getting really
old. Knock it off, okay?"
Ernie had begun methodically feeling the furniture. He
reasoned that if it were a Virtual Reality illusion, he would be
able to see it, but since it had no substance, he wouldn't be able
to feel it. If my hand goes right through this stuff, he figured,
I'll know it's just an illusion. Unfortunately, everything was
proving to be distressingly solid.
"You know, you look really stupid in that fur loincloth,"
Sterno commented. "And what in the world are you going to do with
that ridiculous plastic broadsword?"
"Well, I hadda put a deposit on it," said Ernie defensively.
"If I don't bring it back I lose 40 bucks."
Sterno shook his head. He turned to Captain Memory. "Do we
really have to drag this kid around with us?"
Captain Memory shook his head sadly. "I'm afraid so."
"Why?" Sterno demanded.
"Well, you know", the Captain said off-handedly. "We can't
just leave him to be a Cyberslave. It wouldn't be, you know, nice."
A thought occurred to Ernie. "So, what are we supposed to do
about all of this, anyway?"
"Hmm?" Captain Memory, still perusing the TV Guide, was not
paying very much attention.
"Like, are we just going to keep bopping around Cyberspace or
what? I mean, do you have a Plan, or something?"
Captain Memory pulled himself up. "Of course I have a Plan!"
He turned to Sterno. "See? I have Powers, and I have a Plan!"
"Okay, okay," Sterno agreed wearily. "You're a fine super
hero! So, what's the plan?"
"We have to find a way to terminate this reality within the
confines of it's own logic," the Captain explained.
"Huh?" Ernie didn't follow this.
"We have to end the game," the Captain rephrased. "We have to
carry it through to it's logical conclusion, so that it terminates,
and shuts down."
Ernie frowned. "What's the point of this game, anyway?"
"That's a problem," the Captain admitted. "This isn't a game.
It's dozens, maybe hundreds of games, all stuck together in no
order. The "point" of what we're in now could be the point of any
of the games, or all of them, or none of them. There's no way to
tell. Luckily, we don't have to win the game, we just have to end
it. Any ending that's logically consistent will do."
Sterno frowned. "Why do you have to end it within it's own
logic system? Couldn't you just crash it?"
Captain Memory sighed. "I could crash the system, but it
wouldn't be a good idea!"
"Why not?" Sterno demanded. "Why can't you just insert some
totally impossible instruction and crash out the whole system? Then
this whole thing would be over and we could get out of here!"
"That's true," the Captain admitted. "but you'd get some bad,
um, side effects."
"Like what?" Sterno wanted to know.
"You see," Captain Memory explained. "After you've been in
Cyberspace for a while, you brain gets synchronized with it, and
your system becomes adapted to it. If it suddenly crashes, it
causes a tremendous shock to your system."
"What, you mean we're going through all this just to avoid an
upset stomach or something?" Sterno asked sarcastically. "After
all, how bad could it be?"
"Well, um," the Captain looked very uncomfortable. "It's not
just an upset stomach...."
"Okay," Sterno demanded. "Then what DOES it cause?"
"Um, generally, cardiac arrest," the Captain answered
Sterno was shocked. "You mean, if you crash the system it'll
"Afraid so," the Captain nodded sadly. "Along with anybody
else who's hooked into the system at the time."
Ernie began to worry. "What about ending the game, then? Won't
that kill us, too? Does that mean we're trapped here forever!?" He
began to panic.
"No, no, calm down," said the Captain reassuringly. "if we end
the game within the confines of it's own logic, it'll shut down in
an orderly manner, giving your systems time to readjust before
you're returned to reality.It won't be a shock to your systems, and
your hearts won't stop. It's only if it suddenly, abruptly, stops,
like when the system crashes, that..."
"Okay, okay, we get the picture," Sterno broke it. "Don't
crash the system!"
"Okay." Captain Memory returned to the TV Guide.
Ernie sighed. It was bad enough being trapped in a computer
game. Now his life was in danger as well. And his only hope seems
to be this costumed clown who thinks he's a super hero. Wasn't this
ever going to stop getting worse?
Suddenly, Captain Memory started. "Oh NO," he wailed. "Not
"What happened? What happened?!" cried Ernie, panic-stricken.
What could possibly have happened that was worse than the
predicament they were already in?
Captain Memory was still holding the TV Guide. "We missed
Ernie cradled his head in his hands. "I can't stand it. I just
can't stand it."
Ernie was beginning to feel a little bit better. After all,
nothing really weird had happened for about, oh, twenty minutes or
so. Things were, relatively speaking, pretty quiet.
Ernie examined his surroundings. "What is this place?"
"It's a spaceship," said Captain Memory conversationally.
Ernie was skeptical. "It doesn't LOOK like a spaceship."
Sterno sniffed. "They don't have to always be those ghastly
chrome-and-glass space things. Utterly tasteless. This place,"
Sterno looked about approvingly. "Is actually not bad."
Ernie was unconvinced. "It's not moving."
"Sure it is," the Captain returned. "You just can't feel it.
Wanna look out?" Captain Memory stood up, and walked over to what
appeared to be a small harpsichord. He regarded the keys. "Let's
see. Um, C Major?" He hit the appropriate keys. With a deep
rumbling sound, the ceiling slid back, revealing a view of deep
space. "Ah!" Captain Memory was pleased. He returned to the sofa.
Ernie regarded the view with amazement. Stars and galaxies
burned brightly against the blackness of space. They seemed to be
an incredible distance from Earth. Ernie turned to Captain Memory.
"Where ARE we?"
The Captain shrugged. "Space."
"But where in space?" Ernie wanted to know. "Are we far from
Captain Memory concentrated. "Let's see, um, `Long, long, ago
in a galaxy far, far..." Ernie frowned. The Captain stopped. "Wait,
that's not right." He furrowed his brow. "Well, I can't exactly
recall where we are, but it doesn't really matter." Captain Memory
was absorbed in looking at the vista of deep space. "After all,
when you wish upon a star, it makes no difference where you are."
Ernie frowned. "Something about that bugs me."
"It doesn't sound quite cricket," agreed Sterno.
"Well, by jiminy," exclaimed the Captain. "We'll just have to
move on to something else. Wanna watch some TV?"
"I'd rather not," said Ernie.
"Aww." Captain Memory was disappointed.
Ernie looked around. "Are we safe here?"
"For the moment," the Captain shrugged. "As I said, we can't
stay anywhere too long. Waldo will zero in on us if we do."
"Then what?" Ernie wanted to know.
"I dunno," the Captain mused. "I suppose he'll come after us."
Ernie frowned. "You mean he'll come in himself, like
Captain Memory thought about that. "Well, I don't suppose
he'll come in AS himself. After all, you can be anyone, or
anyTHING, in Cyperspace. He'll come in the form of someone else,
some famous person, or someone he'd like to be..."
"Like you and your super-hero outfit," Sterno broke in.
"Well...yeah," the Captain admitted.
Ernie gave than some thought. "So, what form would an evil
genius want to take?"
Captain Memory shrugged. "I dunno. A Nazi, maybe..." He
returned to the TV Guide.
"This is much like my own Virtual Reality," mused Sterno. He
seemed to have found a snifter of brandy somewhere, which he
swirled pensively in his left paw. "I had a drawing room like this.
I wrote poetry there. Immortal odes to the glory of the canine
"Really." Captain Memory was not really paying attention.
"In fact, I happen to have some with me. Perhaps you'd like to
"Mmm." Captain Memory was gazing at the view. Sterno took his
answer to be a `yes', and handed him a piece of paper with some
verses on it.
Captain Memory barely glanced at it. "Looks like doggerel to
me," he said uncaringly.
Sterno's mood turned black. "I suppose you think that's
funny," he snarled. "I open my heart to you, and you mock me. Well,
we'll see who has the last laugh! I know when I'm right! I'm right,
and you're wrong, and that's all there is to it."
Ernie thought a moment. "Sounds to me like you're being a bit
dogmatic to me."
"You fool!" Sterno barked. "You don't even have the vaguest
idea what's going on here! You're a fine one to talk!"
Captain Memory abruptly changed the subject. "Wanna watch some
Ernie really didn't want to watch any TV, but he was feeling
very uncomfortable with the current drift of the conversation.
Maybe watching TV would be a good way to change the subject.
"Uh, this isn't gonna be like last time, is it? We're not
going to get sucked into the TV show again, are we?"
"Naw," the Captain assured him. "That was a fluke. One-in-a-
million chance. It'll never happen again."
"Well, okay then," Ernie agreed reluctantly.
Captain Memory returned to the harpsichord. "Um, F-sharp?" He
hit the appropriate keys. The ceiling view-screen suddenly changed
from a view of space to a television picture. They seemed to have
tuned in to a commercial.
The announcer was an dour looking man wearing a brown military
uniform and jackboots. He seemed to be making a strenuous effort to
"Hi, I'm Martin Bohrmann," the announcer held up two record
albums. "And if you remember me, you remember HITLER'S GREATEST
"I don't remember that," said Ernie to no-one in particular.
"Now, together at last on these two long-playing record
albums, 50 all-time golden hits from the Third Reich! You get the
Gestapo Glee Club with HEIL HITLER, DEAR!" Military-sounding music
started up in the background.
"Do we have to watch this?" Ernie complained.
"...you can't buy these records in any store, but if you call
this number, a secret messenger will knock on your door in the
middle of the night and..."
"Oh, okay, I'll change it." Captain Memory struck a key on the
harpsichord. The screen changed to black-and-white. Characters in
1950's clothing appeared.
"It's an old movie," Ernie commented. He felt better. An old
movie; that would be safe, right? Nothing bad could happen out of
an old movie, right?
A man in a suit with a cloth over his head appeared on the
screen. A pretty young woman came up to him, and suddenly yanked
the cloth away. Under the cloth, the man had the tremendously
enlarged head of a fly, complete with huge, multifaceted eyes,
antennae, and a long black snout. The young woman began to scream.
"Hey, I remember this!" said Ernie brightly. It's THE FLY -
the original version, too. You know, that movie about the scientist
who goes into a matter transmitter, except a fly gets in it, and he
winds up with the head of a fly? Hey, this is a great movie!" Ernie
settled back to watch, pleased that he could finally watch
something he understood.
The movie cut to a commercial. "Hi, I'm Martin Bohrmann, and
if you remember me..."
Ernie moaned. I wish they wouldn't keep running the same
commercial, he thought.
The commercial ended. "And now, back to THE DATING GAME!"
"THE DATING GAME!" Ernie sat bolt upright. "I don't wanna
watch the Dating Game! What happened to my movie?!"
Captain Memory looked up. "Oh, a game show!" he said brightly.
He hadn't been paying much attention up to this point. "I like game
shows! You know, you can really get into game shows!"
"I KNOW," Ernie interrupted. "That's what I'm AFRAID of!"
The man on the screen looked like a typical game show host,
wearing a plaid polyester suit with a large carnation in his lapel.
The only thing that seemed a bit odd about him is that he was
wearing jackboots and a monocle.
"Congratulations!" he was saying to an excited female
contestant. "You'fe von an all-expenses-paid dream date vit
bachelor number 3!" The game show host seemed to have a bit of a
"Oh, I just can't wait to see him!" The young woman was
jumping up and down with excitement.
"Bachelor number three, come on out!" The game show host
called out. A door opened, and out stepped a man, wearing a suit,
who had the enormously enlarged head of a fly. The young woman
began to scream.
Ernie looked confused. "Hey, what are we watching, anyway? Is
this THE FLY, or THE DATING GAME, or what?"
Captain Memory was looking at the TV Guide upside-down. "Mmm
hmm," he agreed, not paying much attention.
The host seemed to be wrapping the show up. "Vell folks, dis
is Biff Mozzarella, saying..."
"Wait a minute" Sterno interrupted. "I think something smells
Captain Memory looked up. "Got a problem?" he asked
"Think about it," Sterno considered. "His name: Mozzarella."
"Huh?" said Ernie. "You mean, Biff?"
"This guy's name is Mozzarella," Sterno noted. "The last guys
name was Liederkranz."
"So?" asked Ernie uncomprehendingly.
"Cheese, get it?" cried Sterno. "They're both cheese!"
I don't think I like the sound of this, Ernie thought. "Um,
well, you know," he began to Captain Memory. "Maybe we ought to
give this some consideration..."
But it was too late. With a deafening roar, the delicate panel
doors to the room were blown off their hinges. A dozen armed men
rushed in, pointing wicked-looking weapons at the trio. "FREEZE!"
one of them shouted.
Captain Memory looked uncomprehending. "It seems a bit warm
for that," he commented.
The group of armed men parted to make way for an unpleasant
looking man wearing a black military uniform, jackboots, and a
monocle. "Zo, ve meet again!"
The man, did, in fact, look somewhat familiar to Ernie.
"Haven't I seen you somewhere before?"
The man smiled warmly. "No doubt you've seen my TV show. THE
TORTURE GAME is a big hit these days. I'm..." He drew himself up to
his full height. "Sturmbannfuhrer Dr. Heinz von Liederkranz, the
Gestapo's greatest." He paused; he seemed to be waiting for
applause. His men looked at each other quickly, and began clapping.
Ernie thought it might be a good idea if he applauded too.
"ENOUGH!" Von Liederkranz silenced his men with a quick sweep
of his riding crop, leaving Ernie applauding feebly all by himself.
Ernie looked around, and quickly stopped.
Von Liederkranz prodded Captain Memory in the chest with his
riding crop. "Now! You will tell us your name, rank and serial
"My what?" Captain Memory looked uncomprehending.
"Your name, rank, and serial number!"
"Name, rank and cereal number?" mused the Captain. "But I
never even eat cereal."
"Do not be coy with us!" snapped the Sturmbannfuhrer. "We know
you are one of Them! Ve know you are a spy on a mission of sabotage
and destruction!" He paused calculatingly. "Remember, ve have vays
of making you talk!"
Ernie turned to Captain Memory in confusion. "Who are these
"They LOOK like a bunch of Nazis," the Captain replied
thoughtfully. "But they COULD be..."
"Enough!" von Liederkranz broke in. "You vill answer our
Captain Memory concentrated. "How about: Who Put the Bop in
the Bop-Shu-Bop-Shu-Bop?" he suggested.
Von Liederkranz's tone abruptly changed. "You know," he turned
to Captain Memory. "Ve do not haff to be enemies. Ve could be
friends. You vould like to be friends, nein?"
"Sure." Captain Memory was nothing if not agreeable.
"Then tell us vot ve vant to know!"
"Okay." The Captain thought a minute. "The attack is set for
exactly 10:30. Julius Caesar will march on Omaha, and the
Enterprise will attack the Titanic somewhere in the South China
Sea. Then Patton will drive up through the south of France, make a
right onto Route 66, go down three stop lights, turn right and it's
the third house from the corner."
"Just as ve thought!" This, of course, was not what the
Sturmbannfuhrer had thought at all. However, he had to maintain a
good appearance in front of his men. He smiled amiably. "Please go
Captain Memory decided it was time to stop. "I think I've said
too much already!"
Von Liederkranz's face turned hard. "You misunderstand," he
said menacingly. "I'm not asking you, I'm TELLING YOU! TALK! NOW!!"
"I'd really rather not." Captain Memory didn't seem to be too
upset by the proceedings. Ernie, however, was beginning to sweat.
Sterno was glaring at the other two, giving them an I-told-you-so
Von Liederkranz smiled sadistically. "You can't escape, you
know. Ve haff total control of all computation in zis sector. Ze
system vill not accept commands from anyone but me. Dere is no vay
out. Ve have you vhere ve vant you!"
"Well," Captain Memory began. "I'm afraid I don't have
"So be it!" cried von Liederkranz. "If dat's de vay you are
going to be - bring on de Hot Vhirling Corkscrew!"
Captain Memory looked pained. "You know, I really don't care
for the Hot Vhirling...I mean `Whirling' Corkscrew."
Von Liederkranz laughed sadistically. "You are very funny. Ve
vill see how funny you vill be after a few hours vit mein
Captain Memory seemed offended. "Well, if you're going to be
like that, I'm simply going to have to leave."
Von Liederkranz laughed sadistically, again. In fact, he
didn't seem to be able to laugh any other way. "Dere is no way
out!" von Liederkranz continued. "You cannot break into ze system
Ernie noticed his stomach beginning to hurt again. Stress, he
thought. It's not good for me to be under this much stress. I think
it's affecting my health. Maybe I'm getting an ulcer?
Von Liederkranz switched on his Hot Whirling Corkscrew, which,
true to it's name began to whirl and glow. Laughing sadistically,
as usual, he began to bring it closer and closer to Captain
The torture device edged ever nearer, inch by inch, spinning
and hissing as it approached Captain Memory's unprotected face.
Ernie shut his eyes tightly. It's too horrible, he thought. I can't
watch. He waited for the inevitable screams.
Captain Memory looked miffed. "Okay, be like that! JMP 08F1!"
Ernie opened his eyes. The rococo sitting room had vanished.
They seemed to be back in the huge Chicago living room that they
had originally found themselves in after leaving the Simulation
Arcade. Ernie's head swam. This is all changing too fast for me, he
thought. I just can't keep up with it. He found a chair and sat
down. Ernie didn't feel well at all.
Captain Memory was strolling around, ruefully inspecting the
surroundings. "Look at this place," he lamented. "What a mess!"
Ernie looked about. The place, was, in fact, in dismal shape.
The walls were covered with soot, the furniture was singed. Much of
the furniture was knocked over; some was totally splintered. It
looked rather like a bomb had gone off in the room. Ernie recovered
enough composure to speak. "Why...why are we back here?"
"Oh, I apologize for that," Captain Memory explained. "I just
couldn't think of anyplace else on such short notice. I should have
known this place would be a mess."
Ernie looked around. "Yeah, this place has really gone to the
"I suppose you think that's funny!" Sterno growled.
Ernie noticed two piles of burned rags lying near the TV set.
They were still smoldering slightly. He shuddered. He would rather
not think about what might have happened here.
"Well...well," Ernie started again. "How did we get here? That
Nazi said we couldn't escape. He said they controlled all
computation in the sector!"
"That's right, Captain Memory smiled. "We JUMPed to a
Ernie decided to just accept that explanation, even though he
didn't entirely understand it.
"Makes about as much sense as anything else," Sterno agreed.
He seemed to have found another cigar, and was puffing away on it
contentedly. He seemed to be in a much better mood whenever he had
a cigar. "Pity you couldn't have transported that brandy along with
Ernie was desperately trying to make sense of all of this.
"So, who were those Nazi guys, anyway?"
"That's hard to say for sure," CM said thoughtfully. "They're
probably Cyberslaves, just like you would have been if I hadn't
Ernie shuddered. He really didn't like the sound of that
"What about their leader, Von Liederkranz?" Sterno wondered.
"He didn't look a slave. In fact, he seemed to be having a really
The Captain nodded. "I'm sure he's not a slave," he agreed.
"He's one of the Slavemasters. In fact," Captain Memory furled his
brow in thought. "He MIGHT even be Waldo Stadium himself!"
"So, what are we doing in all of this?" Ernie wanted to know.
Sterno rolled his eyes upward. "Hopeless!"
"Don't pick on the kid!" Captain Memory defended Ernie.
"Yeah!" Ernie agreed.
"After all," Captain Memory continued. "It's not his fault
"Yeah, it's..." Ernie broke off. That wasn't turning out the
way he'd hoped.
Sterno looked at the Captain. "So, what kind of super hero are
you supposed to be, anyway?"
"Me?" Captain Memory expounded. "Why I'm a strange visitor
from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far
beyond those of mortal men."
"Powers and abilities?" Ernie wanted to know. "Like what?"
Captain Memory continued expansively. "I'm faster than a
speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive; why, I can even
leap tall buildings in a single bound!"
This was beginning to sound a bit familiar to Ernie. "Anything
"I can also change the course of mighty rivers and bend steel
in my bare hands."
I've got it now, thought Ernie. "You don't, by any chance,
tend to go around disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter
for a great metropolitan newspaper, and fight a never-ending battle
for truth, justice, and the American way, do you?"
Captain Memory looked totally mystified. "Why, no. Why would
I want to do a thing like that?"
Ernie was nonplussed. "Well...I dunno. I just sort of
thought..." He trailed off.
There was an awkward silence. Sterno cleared his throat. "You
don't suppose these people keep caviar about somewhere, do you?"
Grateful for the interruption, Ernie began searching. He found
a small white cabinet that looked like it might be a refrigerator.
"Ah!" He pulled out a small jar. "How's this?"
Sterno examined the jar ruefully. "Oh," he sniffed. "American
caviar. Well, I suppose Beluga was a bit too much to ask. We'll
just have to rough it, I imagine." He looked around. "You wouldn't
happen to have a slice of fresh onion, by any chance?"
Captain Memory had returned to perusing the TV Guide. "Wanna
watch some TV?" he asked brightly. "It's almost time for that great
game show about the dinosaur age."
"Which one is that?" Ernie couldn't recall any shows about
"Oh, I'm sure you've seen it. It's real famous!" the Captain
explained. "It's called YOU BET JURASSIC!"
Ernie frowned. Something about that name did seem a bit
familiar. All these familiar-sounding things that he couldn't quite
place were making him very uneasy.
Suddenly, the television came on. "Prepare to die, inferior
creatures!" the speaker blared.
Ernie was annoyed. "I thought we turned that off!"
Captain Memory looked upset. "Oh, dear. I forgot about that!"
Ernie began to get that queasy feeling in his stomach again.
"Forgot about WHAT?"
The television screen showed a huge purple vegetable, lifting
itself up on a green stalk. It seemed to be gloating, insofar as a
vegetable can gloat. "You will soon respire your last, animal
scum!" the vegetable continued. "No longer shall we of the
vegetable kingdom be your helpless victims, to be bred and
destroyed at your whims! The day of reckoning is here at last!
Prepare to receive the Vengeance of the Vegetables!"
Ernie shifted his weight uncomfortably. "This sure is a weird
"Oh, it's not a program," Captain Memory explained. "The
Killer Eggplants are about to attack!"
Ernie thought he'd better sit down again. "Huh?"
"I told you, we're in a game called `ATTACK OF THE KILLER
EGGPLANTS'!" Captain Memory regarded his bare wrist. "Oh dear, it's
been almost forty-five minutes."
Ernie didn't get it. "I don't get it," he said.
"Remember those nukes I told you about?"
Ernie didn't like the sound of this. He tried to put the
pieces together. "They're going to nuke us?"
"Afraid so," said Captain Memory cheerily. He didn't seem
particularly upset at the idea.
"To put an end to the Revolt of the Vegetables," Captain
Memory explained. "And fry the Great Eggplant once and for all!"
Ernie was trying hard to understand all of this. "let me get
this straight - you mean the vegetables have risen up in revolt?"
"Of course not!" Captain Memory laughed. "How could vegetables
possibly do a thing like that?"
Ernie was getting frustrated. "Then WHAT is GOING ON!?"
Captain Memory chuckled. "Oh, it's all a big practical joke!"
Ernie felt relieved. "Then they're NOT going to nuke Chicago?"
"Oh no, they're really going to do it." Captain Memory seemed
to think this was all very funny. "After all, they don't know it's
a joke, do they? It wouldn't be very funny if they KNEW it was a
joke, would it?" Captain Memory chuckled. "Nope, they're going to
bomb the whole city back to the Stone Age."
Ernie heard the sound of jets flying very close by outside. He
began to feel very uneasy. "So, um, what are we going to do?"
"Do?" asked Captain Memory innocently.
Ernie began to feel an intense heat radiating through the
walls. He clenched his eyes tightly closed. I'll just close my
eyes, he thought. Maybe when I open them again this will all be
He opened his eyes.
It was all gone.
Ernie was taken aback. Wow, he thought. It worked.
He looked around. They were in the midst of a grassy field,
studded with wildflowers. Bright sunshine bathed the scene. Captain
Memory was idly toying with blades of grass; Sterno was sniffing
"Where are we?" Ernie asked dumbly.
"Why, the Stone Age, of course." Captain Memory seemed to
think this was quite obvious. "Somewhere in the Jurassic period, I
"You knew this would happen?" Ernie cried.
"Sure," replied the Captain offhandedly. "It's part of the
Ernie sighed. A gentle breeze swayed the tall grass. He could
hear birdsongs in the distance. It all seemed very peaceful. Good,
thought Ernie. I could use a break. He lay down in the grass and
rested. At least, he thought, we won't have to watch any TV.
The sun moved slowly across the sky as the hours passed. After
a time, Ernie sat up. It occurred to him that he might be getting
a sunburn. "So, what are we gonna do in the Stone Age?" he asked.
"Get stoned?" Sterno offered.
Captain Memory looked at his bare wrist. "I'm glad you
mentioned that," he said. "It's time we were on our way."
I knew I shouldn't have said anything, Ernie thought. Oh well,
it's too late now. "So now what?"
"We'd better find a cave before it gets dark, don't you
think?" Captain Memory said cheerily. "Wouldn't want to have a run-
in with one of those saber-tooth tigers, would we?"
Ernie frowned. He had forgotten that there would be things
like saber-tooth tigers in the Stone Age, although he supposed he
should have realized that. It suddenly occurred to him that Stone
Age caves often held giant cave bears. "Um, maybe we should think
about this," he called out to Captain Memory. The Captain, however,
was already far ahead of Ernie, striding purposefully towards a
ridge of white cliffs in the distance. He seemed not to hear Ernie,
or, if he did, he paid no attention. Ernie hurried to catch up.
"At least you're properly dressed for the occasion," Sterno
commented to Ernie. "I understand fur loincloths are all the rage
this year." Sterno snickered.
Ernie looked down at his garment. He had been wearing it so
long he had sort of forgotten about it.
"If we run into any saber-tooth tigers," Sterno continued.
"You can just chop them up with your plastic broadsword." Sterno
"Are you still carrying that thing?" Captain Memory called,
without looking back.
"Hey, it's a forty buck deposit, okay?" Ernie sensed that they
were both laughing at him. "Gimme a break, huh?"
"Hopeless, just hopeless," Sterno muttered, amused.
Ernie began to be able to make out an odd looking object in
the distance. It seemed to be some sort of primitive building. As
they approached, Ernie began to see it more clearly. It seemed to
be a house, made out of huge slabs of stone. Holes were cut in the
front slab for windows and a door. A huge flat slab made up the
roof. Sitting outside the house was a very odd object. It was a
wooden framework connected to two huge stone rollers. There was a
seat on the framework, and a piece of fur held up above the seat,
creating a primitive roof.
"How odd," commented Sterno. "Some sort of totem object, no
doubt. Perhaps a throne of some sort?"
They approached the house. It began to look a bit familiar to
Ernie. Those fur curtains on the windows, where had he seen those
before? A neat walk led toward the front door. At the end of the
walk was a stone box, held up on a pole. There was something
written on the box. The name confirmed Ernie's worst fears: "F.
"Hey guys!" Ernie called out.
"Hmm?" returned Captain Memory, continuing to walk toward the
house. He was, as usual, not paying much attention to Ernie.
"Um, I don't think we should go in there!"
"Why not?" Captain Memory did not even slow down.
"I've got a real bad feeling about this place!"
"Aww, is the big, strong barbarian afraid of the little
house?" sneered Sterno. "Well, then he can just stay out here with
the saber-tooth tigers if he likes." The two of them continued into
the house, leaving Ernie standing alone on the front walk. Ernie
looked around. The sun was slowly edging towards the horizon,
casting long, menacing-looking shadows. Ernie found himself
anxiously looking around for places large enough for a saber-tooth
tiger to hide in. Well, he thought. There's not much point in
standing here. I might as well go in.
Stepping inside the doorway, Ernie found himself in a living
room, appointed with furniture made of stone and wood. Captain
Memory and Sterno had made themselves comfortable on the stone-and-
fur sofa. The owners of the house were nowhere in sight.
"Rather luxurious for the Stone Age, don't you think?"
commented Sterno. Captain Memory was, once again, engrossed in his
copy of the TV Guide. Ernie noticed, across from the sofa, what
appeared to be a roughly carved, stone television set. He moaned.
"Whatever is the matter!" said Sterno impatiently.
"Hey guys," Ernie implored. "I really think we ought to get
out of here. I think this is some kind of a trap, or something."
Sterno rolled his eyes upward. "Paranoia," he commented. "The
poor creature would like to think he's important enough for anyone
to bother persecuting." He turned to Ernie. "Who in the world would
want to lay a trap for you? What possible use could they have for
you if they caught you?"
Ernie shifted back and forth uncomfortably. Suddenly, an
object caught his eye. "Paranoia, huh?" he demanded. "What about
THAT!" He pointed to an object in a dark corner.
Ernie's exclamation was enough to tear Captain Memory's
attention away from his TV Guide. He peered at the object. It was
a box with what appeared to be a lens attached to it. As they
looked at it, it whirred quietly, moving the lens back and forth.
"It's a hidden camera!" Ernie cried triumphantly. "We're being
Sterno was nonplussed. "Where did that come from?"
"Well, tear it out, then!" Captain Memory said.
Ernie strode over to the dark corner, grabbed to camera and
yanked it out of it's mounting. He dashed it to the ground, where
it shattered, revealing feebly glowing electronic parts which
slowly, one by one, went out.
"Well, so much for that," Captain Memory returned to the TV
"Is that ALL?!" exclaimed Ernie.
"Well, what else did you want?" asked Captain Memory,
"Look, I just proved to you that this is some kind of a trap
or something!" cried Ernie exasperatedly. "There was a hidden
camera watching us, for heaven's sake!"
"So, you took it out." Captain Memory seemed perfectly
satisfied. "So much for that."
Ernie was getting very frustrated. "Well, well, what if
"Oh, I very much doubt that," Sterno commented.
Captain Memory was still studying his TV Guide. "Wanna watch
some TV?" he asked brightly.
"NO!" Ernie was building up a real aversion to television.
"Why not?" Captain Memory couldn't imagine why anyone would
not want to watch TV.
"Look," said Ernie desperately. "This is the Stone Age, right?
There aren't supposed to be any TVs here. They haven't been
invented yet. This is before television!"
Captain Memory chuckled. "Don't be silly! No time is before
television!" He got up and walked over to the set.
"How primitive," Sterno commented. "No remote control. That's
only to be expected in the Stone Age, I suppose."
"Look," said Ernie urgently. "I'm positive there were no
televisions in the Stone Age!"
Captain Memory sighed. "Be reasonable," he said. "have you
ever seen, oh, let's say `I Was a Teenage Caveman'?"
Ernie thought a moment. "Um, yes."
"Where did you see it?"
"It takes place in the Stone Age, right?"
"Um, yeah." Ernie wasn't sure he liked the way this line of
questioning was going.
"Well, how could that be, UNLESS THERE WERE TELEVISIONS IN THE
STONE AGE!?" Captain Memory cried triumphantly. "I rest my case."
Sterno applauded. "Bravo," he said politely.
"Well...well..." Ernie was sure there was something wrong with
this argument, but he couldn't quite figure out what it was. He
noticed that no-one was listening to him anyway.
Captain Memory switched on the television. Being a primitive
set, it took a long time to warm up.
A picture of a room very much like the one the three were in
appeared on the television screen, taken from an odd angle.
"Eww, black-and-white," sniffed Sterno. "This really is the
Stone Age, isn't it?"
Ernie stared at the picture. A man in a comic-book-character
outfit, accompanied by a dog, entered the room, and they both sat
down. After a short wait, another figure, clad in a fur loincloth
and carrying a large plastic broadsword, also entered. The
characters seemed to be conversing, but their voices were too
indistinct to understand.
"I can't hear what they're saying," Captain Memory said.
"Seems to be a sound problem," Sterno sniffed. "Only to be
expected from prehistoric TV stations."
Suddenly, one of the characters pointed directly at them.
"...hidden camera!" They heard the figure say. "We're being
watched!" The other characters said something indistinct. The
figure in the loincloth loomed larger and larger in the picture,
until finally the screen was entirely taken up by a face not unlike
Ernie's own. A huge hand loomed up over the screen, and the picture
Ernie looked at the dead television screen. "I don't like the
looks of this at all," he said warily.
"Neither do I," agreed Captain Memory. "Let's watch something
else." He changed the channel.
A different scene appeared. In it, two men were seated at a
large array of electronic equipment, their backs to the audience.
They were peering intently at their devices, and conversing.
"Looks like they found the hidden camera," one said to the
"What are we gonna do?"
"Let's switch over to the second camera."
"What if they find that one?"
"They won't. They don't suspect a thing."
The two men flipped some switches. "Here we go," said the
first. "Wanna see it?"
"Sure." The man flipped a switch. Suddenly, the scene changed
back to the room suspiciously like their own. The figure in the
loincloth appeared upset.
"Hey!" cried Ernie. "`Hey!'" cried the loincloth-clad figure
on the television. "That's us!" "`That's us!'" echoed his TV image.
Captain Memory regarded the television picture. "Not a very
interesting show," he commented, echoed a moment later by the
comic-book-clad character on the television. "Seems a bit
repetitious. Might as well turn it off."
"Wait!" Ernie cried, but it was too late. Captain Memory had
already shut off the set.
Captain Memory was confused. "Wait? I thought you didn't want
to watch TV? I just turned it off to be nice. I can turn it back on
if you want." He reached toward the set.
"NO! No, uh that's okay. Uh, thanks. I'd just as soon we
didn't watch anything right now, if you don't mind." Ernie was not
prepared for the possible consequences of turning on the TV again.
He had more than enough to deal with as it was.
Ernie gathered up his thoughts. "Okay, guys, look. I gotta
tell you something. This place is not what it seems!"
"Really." Captain Memory had returned to the study of his
favorite reading matter, the TV Guide.
Ernie continued. "This isn't a typical Stone Age house, okay?
It's actually a set from a 1960's cartoon series called `The
"Oh, we know THAT," Captain Memory commented, not bothering to
"You DO?!" Ernie was upset. "Well, well, why didn't you SAY
"You didn't ask."
Sterno was considering something Ernie had said a few moments
earlier. "What makes you think `The Flintstones' isn't typical of
the Stone Age?"
Ernie dropped into a chair. This was getting to be to much for
him, he thought. The more he argued about all of this, the more he
seemed to be losing ground. He wasn't even sure what point he was
losing ground on.
Ernie decided to try another approach. "Okay, I give up. You
tell me, then: What is going on?"
"Oh, you want to know what's going on!" said the Captain
brightly. He always enjoyed telling stories. "Why didn't you say
so! Well," he went on, warming up to his subject. "All of this is
totally artificial. It was put here to be a trap..."
"That's what I was trying to tell you!" cried Ernie excitedly.
"It's a trap! I knew it!"
Captain Memory was annoyed. "Do you want to hear this or do
you want to talk?"
"Sorry." Ernie shut up.
"Where was I?" Captain Memory gathered his thoughts. "Oh yes.
Anyway, this is part of a game called `THE FLINTSTONES', in which
Fred and Barney thwart an attempt by aliens to take over the Earth
back in the Stone Age. It's really quite elaborate."
"An excellent game," Sterno added. "I've played it myself."
"Anyway," Captain Memory continued. "This house is actually a
trap set by the aliens to try to capture Earth people. We knew
that, but we thought we'd come in here anyway, because it's more
comfortable than a cave, don't you think?"
"Aha!" cried Sterno.
"What?!" Ernie was startled.
"Cigars!" Sterno had found a stone jar, and opened it. He
pulled out a cigar and examined it, sniffing it carefully. "They're
not very good, but I suppose they'll have to do. One must, after
all, make allowances in the Stone Age." He lit one, puffing little
clouds of blue smoke into the air. Captain Memory returned to the
"So, what about these aliens?" Ernie inquired. "What do they
"Oh, I don't know. Typical alien stuff, I imagine. `Take me to
your leader', conquer the world, steal your brain. You know, all
that stuff aliens always do."
Ernie was mystified. "But why?"
"Oh, I don't know. Probably from watching old science fiction
movies on TV. The aliens seem to think that sort of thing is
expected of them."
Ernie wasn't following this. "Watching TV? Aliens watch TV?"
"Of course," Captain Memory went on. "You'd have to expect
something like that to happen. After all, we've been beaming those
radio and television waves out into outer space for years. It was
only a matter of time until someone picked them up. Do you realize
that there are civilizations forty light years from here that are
now watching 1950's situation comedies? What do you suppose they
think of that?"
"Well..." Ernie began.
"Did you ever think that they might consider it a hostile
act?" Captain Memory continued animatedly. "They might think having
"I Love Lucy" reruns beamed at them is an act of war."
"Huh?" Ernie wasn't following this too well.
"Well, look at it from their point of view," Captain Memory
explained. "Here they are, they come home from a hard day at, well,
whatever it is they do, they just wanna watch a little TV, you
know? So they flip on their set, and what do they get? `Mr. Ed',
`The Flintstones', `I Love Lucy'! They don't wanna watch this! They
wanna watch, you know, ALIEN shows!"
Ernie considered this. "I Love Lucy, huh? Well, I can see
"So maybe they decide to flip on the stereo," Captain Memory
continued. "And what do they get? The Chiffons, the Ronettes, Chuck
Berry! Maybe they don't like rock n' roll! Did you ever think of
"No," Ernie was amazed. "I thought everybody liked rock n'
Captain Memory shook his head sadly. "You can't take anything
for granted in Outer Space."
Ernie found this disturbing. "Maybe it wasn't such a good idea
to let all those TV waves get out into space, then."
"Probably not," agreed Captain Memory. "But, it's too late
now. We'll just have to deal with the consequences."
Ernie didn't like that word `consequences.' He would rather
not think about what the `consequences' of all of this might be. He
rubbed his head. He especially didn't like that `steal your brain'
"So, what are we gonna do?" Ernie wanted to know.
"Do?" repeated Captain Memory distantly. He had returned to
Ernie heard a shout far in the distance. He strained his ears.
There it was again! It sounded like...`Yabba-dabba-doo?'
"Look, I think we ought to get out of here," Ernie pleaded. "I
think something bad is gonna happen if we don't leave, like, right
"Oh, my! What a coincidence!" cried Captain Memory.
"What now?" Ernie asked uneasily.
"You'll never guess what's on! And here we were, talking about
almost that very thing just a moment ago!"
Ernie had a bad feeling about this. "Not..."
"That's right!" returned Captain Memory jovially. "TRUTH OR
"I really don't wanna watch..." But it was too late. Captain
Memory had already flipped on the set.
The set came on. "...and here's our host," the announcer was
saying. "That fabulous Frenchman, Henri Gruyere!"
"This isn't the `Truth or Consequences' I remember!" said
Ernie suspiciously. As usual, no-one was listening.
"Gut efening, ladies und gentlemen!" the host was saying. He
was an unpleasant-looking man wearing a traditional French outfit:
red-striped shirt, scarf, beret. The only things that seemed a bit
out of place were his monocle and jackboots.
"First of all," he continued. "I vould like to point out dot
I am French. I am not German. Not at all. Not efen a little bit."
"Wait a minute," said Sterno suspiciously. " Something smells
"Hmm?" Captain Memory looked up unconcernedly.
"Think about it!" cried Sterno. "Don't you realize..!? His
name! Gruyere! It's...CHEESE!"
But, it was, as usual, too late. Sudden brightness dazzled
Ernie's eyes. As his vision cleared, he found himself standing on
a game-show stage, with Captain Memory and Sterno beside him. He
blinked and staggered, disoriented by the sudden change of scene.
He moaned and held his head until the sickening swimming sensation
Ernie looked up. He was facing the audience. He noticed
something odd about the people watching. Oh, that's it, he thought.
They're all wearing Nazi uniforms.
"I thought you said this couldn't happen," he said to Captain
Memory accusingly. "I thought you said there was a million-to-one
chance of us getting sucked in through a TV again!"
Captain memory shrugged. "So I was wrong," he admitted. "So
The game shoe host turned to the threesome. "Perhaps you vould
like to step through door number three?" the host said to them.
Ernie turned around. A number of very nice prizes were
displayed on the stage: a red sports car, furniture, some shiny new
appliances. Several very attractive women in cut-down outfits were
standing around the stage. Unfortunately, they all carried guns,
which they held trained on Ernie and the others.
Captain Memory was replying to the talk show host, "No, I
don't think we would care to step through door number three. Thanks
just the same."
The talk show host laughed unpleasantly. "I vould strongly
recommend dot you step through door number three!" he said
"No, we'd really rather not," answered the Captain pleasantly.
The host's face darkened. "You vill shtep through dat door!
NOW!" The women's fingers tightened menacingly on their triggers.
"Oh, well, if you put it that way," the three of them found
themselves prodded towards door number three. The door opened in
front of them, and they found themselves thrust into blackness. The
door slammed behind them with a resounding crash.
Ernie blinked. As his eyes began to adjust, he could see that
the room they were in was not entirely dark. A small amount of
light came in from a barred window high up on the opposite wall.
They were in a large chamber with damp stone walls and a dirt
floor. It seemed to be...a dungeon.
"Oh great," Ernie muttered. "So this is what's behind door
"It could've been worse," said Captain Memory jovially.
"Oh yeah?" Ernie returned glumly. "How?"
"It could've been door number four."
"So? What's the big deal about door number four?"
"Oh," Captain Memory shook his head. "You don't ever want to
go behind door number four!"
Ernie didn't like the sound of that. "So, what is it?"
"It's the worst," Captain Memory went on ominously. "I mean,
it's just too horrible..."
A voice came from out of the darkness. "Hi, guys!"
Ernie was taken aback. It hadn't occurred to him that someone
else might be in the dungeon with them.
A figure approached from out of the darkness. Ernie gasped. It
was a horrendous creature with the body of a human, but the
tremendously enlarged head of a fly, complete with huge, faceted
eyes, antennae, and a long, trunk-like snout. It was wearing rather
a nice designer suit. "Say," the creature continued. "Have any of
you guys seen my date?"
Ernie stared soundlessly.
Captain Memory shrugged. "Sorry."
The creature sighed. "She seemed like such a nice girl, too."
The creature shuffled back and forth, scuffing his expensive
designer shoes in the dirt.
Ernie peered at the creature. He didn't seem to be menacing at
all. Quite the contrary. In fact, he seemed quite unhappy. But then
again, Ernie thought, it's kind of hard to read expressions on a
"Aww, that's okay, guys," the Fly said sadly. "You don't have
to tell me. I can figure it out. She took off, right?" He sighed.
"Just like all the others."
Poor guy, Ernie thought. His date stood him up. Ernie could
sympathize; he'd been in situations like that himself. Of course,
this guy did have an unusual problem.
"I know," the Fly continued. "It's my looks, right?" His
antennae drooped sadly. "One little accident, and there goes your
whole social life."
Ernie felt awkward. What was he expected to say in a situation
Nothing, apparently, for the Fly went on: "I mean, I've got a
nice personality, I'm intelligent, I'm a fun guy, you know? I got
a good job, a nice car, I paid a lotta money for this suit." He
fingered the expensive silk lapels. "But girls nowadays, do they
care? Naw, all they care about is looks!" The Fly continued
animatedly. He really seemed to appreciate the opportunity to get
all of this off his chest. "I mean, I go into a bar, you know, not
one of those sleazy places, but a nice singles spot, where the
drinks cost like five bucks each, you know? I figure, maybe I can
meet some nice girls here. So, I see some cute chick, I try to
start up a conversation, and, like, does she even give me a chance?
Hell, no! I mean, she doesn't even wait to find out, like, what I'm
all about or anything. It's just `gasp, scream, faint,' `gasp,
scream, faint,' the same old thing over and over again. I mean,
what kind of a way is that to behave? Don't girls have any manners
anymore?" He sighed. "Looks. All they care about is looks."
"Gee, that's...too bad," Ernie really didn't know what to say.
"Thanks, guy," the Fly answered. "I really appreciate it. I
don't get to talk to too many people around here, you know?"
A disturbing thought occurred to Ernie. "Is this guy okay?" he
whispered to Captain Memory. "I mean, he's not an alien or
anything, is he?"
"Oh, no," laughed Captain Memory. "He's the Fly! You saw the
movie, didn't you?"
"Well, yeah," admitted Ernie. "But I thought it was, well, a
"You see?" replied Captain Memory. "I told you it could be
worse. At least you're trapped in Cyperspace as yourself. He's
trapped as the Fly!"
Ernie had to admit that the Captain was right about that.
Still, it didn't make him fell much better.
"Anyway," continued Captain Memory, looking at the Fly. "The
aliens are much prettier."
"I say," said Sterno to the Fly. "You wouldn't happen to have
a cigar on you by any chance, would you?"
"Sure, guy," the Fly pulled out an expensive gold cigar case
and flipped it open.
Sterno removed a cigar and examined it. "Lovely!" He seemed
very pleased. "Havana, no less! Thanks ever so much!"
"Hey, my pleasure," The Fly seemed to enjoy the opportunity to
show off his fine-quality things. It seemed to Ernie that the Fly
had gone to a lot of trouble to get the best of everything, but
didn't have much opportunity to impress people with it.
"Are we going to be leaving here soon?" Sterno inquired of
Captain Memory. "It is awfully damp in here, and it rather bothers
Ernie shivered. The dampness was getting to him, too. Wearing
only a loincloth as he was, he had little protection from the
"Hey, I like the loincloth, guy," the Fly said to Ernie.
"That`s the new `in' thing, right? Maybe I'll get one. You think
the girls would go for it?" Ernie didn't know how to reply.
"Well, I guess there's no point in hanging around here much
longer," Captain Memory decided. "After all, there's no TV."
"You guys gonna leave?" The Fly seemed crestfallen, or
perhaps, antenna-fallen. "But you just got here!" He brightened.
"Hey, you guys are gonna go someplace fun, right? Can I come? Huh?
"Well..." Captain Memory began.
"Do you know how we can get out of here?" Sterno inquired.
"Hey, no problem!" answered the Fly. "You can take the 5:15
out of LaGuardia, and that'll get you there in about, oh, two hours
forty minutes, but if you want the special rate you gotta stay from
Sunday through Saturday but not any Mondays, or you can take the
6:25 out of O'Hare, but then you gotta..."
"What about the door?" Ernie broke in.
"Oh." The Fly was disappointed. He enjoyed showing off his
detailed knowledge of travel arrangements. "Yeah, well, there's
always the door."
Ernie looked at the door. It was made of heavy steel, and
seemed to be secure bolted. "So, how do we open it?"
"Just knock." The Fly seemed to think this was all too simple,
and therefore not very much fun.
Ernie knocked. He heard the sound of a bolt being thrown back,
and the door creaked open. Outside were two burly guards in black
Nazi SS uniforms. "Ja?"
"Uh, is it okay if we go now?" Ernie asked brightly.
"NEIN!" The door slammed.
"Oh, not like that!" The Fly seemed impatient. "You gotta use,
like, subterfuge, you know? Here, I'll show you!" The Fly was
pleased to have another opportunity to show off his expertise at
something. He knocked on the door.
The door creaked open again. "Ja?"
"I gotta go to the bathroom!" the Fly said urgently.
The guards looked at each other. "Vhat are ve supposed to do
now? Dey didn't tell us vhat to do if dis happened." They looked
hesitant. "Vell, I don't know. I don't tink so..."
Sensing failure, the Fly quickly switched tactics. "Hey,
look!" he cried, pointing past the guards. "A naked lady!"
"Vhere?! VHERE?!" cried the guards, peering into the distance.
The Fly threw his entire weight against the door, which flew open.
"RUN!" he cried to the others. He sprinted toward center stage,
followed by Ernie, Sterno, and Captain Memory.
A startled von Liederkranz was on center stage, trying to
flirt with the chorus girls. "Guards!" he cried. "Don't let dem get
avay!" He grabbed the nearest weapon, which, in this case happened
to be an alien Blaster of unknown properties. He aimed it at the
foursome, who were sprinting towards a door marked "EXIT". "Shtop,
or I'll shoot!" Von Liederkranz threatened. The four continued to
run. Von Liederkranz pulled the trigger.
A huge ball of magneto-gravitational energy flashed from the
muzzle of the Blaster, instantly hurtling Ernie and the others into
a totally different Space-Time Continuum.
Von Liederkranz looked ruefully at the Blaster, and then at
the smoking hole in the stage where the foursome had been only a
nanosecond earlier. "Vell," von Liederkranz admitted. "Perhaps dot
vasn't der best veapon to use."
Ernie, Captain Memory, Sterno, and the Fly sat on a rocky
crag, overlooking a lifeless purple sea. They watched the waves
crash against the rocks beneath them.
Ernie sighed. "So, where are we now?"
"Well, as far as I can figure out," said Captain Memory
thoughtfully. "We seem to have been blasted back to somewhere on
the order of four billion B.C. Life has not evolved yet on Earth."
"Huh?" said Ernie. "You mean, we traveled in time?"
"Of course not," the Captain replied. "What really happened is
that we got sent to another sector of Cyberspace. Probably by
accident." Captain Memory looked around. "After all, I can't see
any reason for Von Liederkranz to have sent us here on purpose!"
Ernie looked out over the purple waves. "So, where ARE we? I
Captain Memory thought a moment. "We're probably in somebody's
Geology program. You know, like computer models of primeval Earth?"
He looked at the barren landscape. "While we didn't actually travel
in time, it's almost as if we did. This is like actually being on
Earth at the beginning of life."
Wow, thought Ernie. That's really cosmic.
The Fly looked at the bare rocks around them. "You know, man,
this place is, like, really dead."
"Exactly," Captain Memory agreed.
"I mean," the Fly went on. "There is, like, no girls. None at
"So, like, what good is it?"
Captain Memory thought a moment. "Good question."
Ernie watched the orange sun, in a green sky, which was slowly
setting against a purple sea. "This is really a weird scene," he
commented. "I have never seen anything like this. Not even on TV."
He thought about that for a moment. "Not even on TV? Why, that
could mean that there's..."
"No TV," Captain Memory agreed. "Not much reason to stay here
then, is there?"
Ernie noticed a motion out of the corner of his eye. "I'm not
sure you ought to throw those cigar butts on the ground here," he
said to Sterno.
Sterno looked annoyed. "Why in the world not?"
"Well, I don't know that much about this," Ernie said. "But it
seems to me I read somewhere that the further you go back in time,
the more effect your actions have on the future. Therefore, if we
make even little changes way back here in four billion B.C., it
might have some kind of real big effect by the time we get back to
our own time."
"Utterly ridiculous," scoffed Sterno, flicking cigar ash into
the sea."This isn't REALLY four billion B.C., it's only a computer
model of four billion B.C."
"Well, yeah," Ernie admitted uneasily. "But the Captain said
that this was almost the same as really being there. And, I dunno,
I just have a real bad feeling about those cigar butts."
"Really." Sterno looked totally bored. "I just can't tell you
how concerned that makes me." He yawned.
"Well, well, I just don't think it's a good idea, that's all."
"Well, you know how it goes," said Captain Memory jovially.
"It's all just six of one, twelve dozen of another."
Ernie frowned. "I don't think that's right.
"Isn't it? Oh well," said Captain Memory cheerily. "Math was
never one of my strong points. Anyway, no time to worry about that
now. Let's be off, shall we?" He though a moment. "Let's try some
Machine Language: 010F E4 61." The scene vanished.
* * *
The foursome found themselves standing in the middle of a road
in bright sunlight. Once again, Ernie blinked and staggered, his
stomach doing flip-flops. As his vision cleared, He could see
around him what appeared to be an idyllic country scene. A rustic
rail fence bordered the road. Beyond the fence stood farms,
surrounded by fields full of amber waves of grain. In the distance
stood majestic purple mountains. Ernie turned around. Behind them
lay a broad plain. Ernie was pretty sure there was fruit on it.
"I wonder where we are?" the Fly asked.
Sterno looked around. "Kansas?" he suggested.
Ernie began to get that queasy feeling in the pit of his
stomach again. A look down confirmed his worst fears: the road was
"I don't think I like this," said Ernie warily.
Sterno rolled his eyes upward. "You never like anything!"
Ernie tried to explain. "Well, you see..."
"I know, I know," Sterno interrupted. "You have a really bad
feeling about this. You've seen it all before. You think it's a
Ernie thought a moment. "Well...yeah."
Sterno sighed. "You know, this is all becoming really
tiresome. I do SO wish you'd find something else to go on about!"
Ernie thought a moment. Suddenly, he smiled broadly. "Hey, I
get it! This is all really just a game, right?"
Sterno moaned. "Not THAT again!" Even Captain Memory looked
The Fly was confused. "Like, what is this guy talking about?"
he asked Captain Memory. The Captain just rolled his eyes upward
and made little spinning motions around his temple with his
"Oh, wow," the Fly went on. "So is this guy, like, crazy, or
"Well, you know how it is," Captain Memory explained, not
unsympathetically. "Some people just don't deal well with travel.
It's too stressful for them. It upsets their systems."
"Oh, wow," said the Fly compassionately. "Poor guy."
Ernie was annoyed. "Awright, you guys, knock it off, okay? I
mean, enough is enough, all right?" Actually, he thought there was
probably quite a bit of truth to what Captain Memory had been
saying. The stress probably WAS upsetting his system. However, even
if he agreed with what the Captain had to say, he resented his tone
"So, like, what are we gonna do now, guys?" the Fly wanted to
"Well," the Captain began jovially. "I guess we'll just have
to follow the..."
"DON'T SAY IT!" Ernie broke in. "Okay?! Just don't say it!"
"Touchy, touchy," sniffed Sterno.
Captain Memory was somewhat taken aback. "Well...have it your
way. Let's go that way." He gestured down the road.
The Fly shook his head. "I shoulda known. Anybody who'd wear
a loincloth like that..." He noticed Ernie glaring at him, and
stopped. "Hey, no offense..." He shrugged.
They began walking down the road. Ernie peered ahead. Far
ahead down the road, he seemed to see something large and green.
Big and green?, Ernie thought. Is that, the Emerald...?
Suddenly, Ernie had an idea. He stopped, clicked his heels
together three times, clenched his eyes tightly shut, and said
"There's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no
place like home!"
He opened his eyes. The other three were standing around him,
staring. "What is WRONG with you?!" Sterno demanded.
Ernie was acutely aware of everyone watching him. "I'm having
a bad day, okay?" he said defensively. "Just leave me alone!" He
began walking forward again, quickly.
"My, aren't we sensitive today!" Sterno said snidely.
The Fly shook his head sadly. "The human mind is such a
They proceeded down the road. The green object in the distance
began to resolve itself into some kind of building. Ernie continued
to be very unhappy about the entire situation, but decided he was
sick of being made fun of, and said nothing.
They approached the green building. It was done in Greek-
revival style, with huge Classical columns in the front. "Hey, it's
a bank!" noticed the Fly. "Do you suppose I can cash a check?"
The letters carved into the Greek-style pediment of the
building did, in fact, identify it as a bank. Ernie was confused.
He hadn't expected to find a bank here.
"Why would there be a bank here?" Ernie asked incredulously.
Captain Memory regarded the building. "Looks like we might
have run into a piece of somebody's business program. Accounting,
or bank operations or something." He shook his head. "That's what
happens when you start sticking a bunch of unrelated systems
together. You never know WHAT you're going to wind up with!"
They proceeded up the long, marble stairway and entered the
bank. The interior was huge and very ornate, done in Victorian
style. Everything seemed antique, as though the bank were right out
of the 19th century. They walked up to a row of teller's windows,
each of which was protected by elaborate Victorian grillwork.
The Fly pulled a very nice quality leather checkbook out of
his suit pocket. "Hey," he said to the teller, a rather prim-
looking young woman. "Can you cash a check?"
"I'm sorry, we can't." She didn't really seem to be sorry at
all. "We can't do anything right now. Our computers are down."
Ernie looked around. He saw men at high desks carefully
copying numbers with long quill pens. Nowhere was there any sign of
electricity, much less computers. "You don't have any computers,"
Ernie said suspiciously.
The teller's expression turned ugly. "Well, we're still not
going to cash your check," she snapped.
"Why not?" The Fly wanted to know.
"We can't do any business. Our...our accountant has gone
crazy!" she concluded triumphantly.
Ernie looked at the teller suspiciously. Something very
peculiar was going on here. However, he decided not to say anything
about it because he didn't want to be made fun of.
"I wanna talk to the manager," the Fly decided.
"Good," the teller sneered. "The manager would like to talk to
all of you, RIGHT NOW!"
The teller came out from behind the counter and led them all
into a room which looked very much like a bank office. There,
behind a very large desk, sat a disagreeable-looking old woman with
a sour expression. Ernie somehow knew that the woman had something
unpleasant in mind for them.
"Well, it's about time!" she snapped as they entered the room.
"There's a little matter of an unpaid balance to be taken care of!"
Ernie looked at the woman. She was wearing a severely tailored
grey suit, with her greying hair pulled back in a tight bun. For
some reason, however, she was wearing shoes that didn't match her
outfit. They were a brilliant, sparkling red.
The Fly approached the desk. "Hey, I got this check..."
"Just one minute!" The manager cut him off rudely. "There's a
little matter to be taken care of first!" She pulled out a sheaf of
papers. "We have an invoice here for `Time Continuum Repair and
Reality Maintenance' which was referred to our department for non-
payment. Which of you is going to take care of this matter?"
Sterno was becoming impatient. "What ARE you talking about?"
The manager began reading from the papers. "It seems there was
a little problem with cigars butts left at four billion B.C."
Ernie glared at Sterno, who looked innocently off into the air,
twiddling his thumbs. "It seems these foreign materials left at
such an early point caused slime creatures to evolve into the
dominant life form on Earth. Precluding this disgusting development
required a maintenance order which took, let me see," she flipped
through the pages and pulled out a sheet marked "Work Order". "Here
it is: one million, two hundred and fifty-two thousand and three
standard Earth years, and forty-five minutes. Now, at $39.75 per
hour, plus time-and-a-half for overtime, and double-time on
Sundays, that comes to," she flipped through some more pages "One
hundred and ninety-five quadrillion, four hundred and twelve
trillion, seven hundred and seventy-one billion, two hundred and
thirteen million, three hundred and twelve thousand and thirty-two
dollars and twenty-nine cents." She peered at Captain Memory.
"Would you like to take care of this balance at this time?"
Captain Memory shrugged. "Don't look at me! I don't have any
The manager peered at the Fly, who looked uncomfortable. "Hey,
sorry, but I got obligations, you know? I got car payments, I gotta
pay the rent..." He trailed off.
The bank manager looked at Ernie. Ernie laughed. This was all
just too ridiculous. "Sure, put it on my charge," he said
The bank manager smiled maliciously. "Mr. Ernest Ross," she
said in an disagreeable tone of voice, carefully writing his name
on the invoice with a quill pen.
Captain Memory looked at Ernie, horrified. "Oh, you shouldn't
have said that," he said in an ominous tone.
Ernie began to get the feeling that maybe he had made a big
mistake. The bank manager looked up at him. "Now, when may we
Ernie looked desperately to the others. They were all
pointedly ignoring him. "Look," he said urgently. "Forget I said
that, okay? I take it back!"
"Oh, I'm sorry," she said in a tone of malicious sweetness.
"I'm afraid you can't do that. Now, will you be paying in cash or
"A hundred and ninety-five quadrillion dollars," said the Fly
wonderingly. "That's a lot of money. That's more than I make in a
Ernie was beginning to panic. "No! I won't! Forget it! I'm not
going to pay that bill!"
"You'll pay this bill, my fine little friend," the bank
manager cackled. "Or I'll take care of you," she looked at Sterno,
"and your little dog, too!" She laughed nastily.
"What a witch!" the Fly commented.
Suddenly, Ernie had a brilliant idea. He grabbed a vase of
flowers off the desk, yanked the flowers out of it, and threw the
water all over the bank manager.
"Eeyah!" she screamed. "I'm all wet!"
The Fly looked at Ernie wonderingly. "Why in the world did you
Ernie looked at the bank manager. She was glaring and hissing
at him, water dripping off her face. She was not melting at all.
Ernie became uncomfortably aware of everyone staring at him. "Uh,
well, I thought..." Ernie stuttered.
"You'll have to excuse our friend," Captain Memory ad-libbed
quickly. "It's the stress, you see. Financial problems. He's not
coping..." The three began hustling Ernie towards the door.
The bank manager arose, hissing and spitting. "You haven't
heard the last of this," she shrieked. "You'll see!
The four rushed quickly through the bank and back out onto the
road. The stopped to get their bearings.
"Well, I hope you're satisfied," Sterno said contemptuously to
Ernie. "You've really made a mess of things now!"
"Me!" cried Ernie. "Hey, I'm not the one who left those cigar
butts back in four billion B.C. It's not MY fault..."
"Oh, sure," Sterno interrupted. "Try and blame it on me..."
"Hey, guys!" the Fly broke in. "Look at that!"
The Fly's huge, multi-faceted eyes had picked up a detail the
others had failed to notice: behind the bank was a small, flat-
roofed brick building. A neon sign proclaimed: Deer Bar. There was
a large picture of a deer beneath it.
"Hey, guys, it's a bar!" the Fly continued. "Whaddya say we
stop in for a drink? Hey, maybe we can meet some girls!"
The others looked at each others confusedly. "Hey, it's okay,
guys!" The Fly went on. "I'll buy!"
Captain Memory looked relieved. "Well, in that case, sure!
Thanks!" They all started towards the bar.
Ernie was finding all of this very confusing. Every time he
thought he was beginning to understand what was going on, events
took a turn in an entirely different direction. Wasn't this
supposed to be the Emerald City? He didn't recall any bars in the
Emerald City! And what about that bank? And what happened to Judy
Garland? They entered the bar. Well, Ernie thought. I'm not sure if
this is a good idea or not, but I could really use a drink.
Ernie found the interior of the bar reassuring. It was cool
and dark. It looked like a typical corner bar, with a typical
corner bartender. In one corner behind the bar a TV set was
mounted, but luckily it was turned off. There were few other
customers in the place, but, of course, business was always kind of
slow in the middle of the day. They seated themselves at the bar.
They bartender, a portly, balding man smoking a cigar, came up
to them. "What'll you have?"
"What kind of beer you got?" The Fly wanted to know.
"Deer?" The Fly was puzzled.
"Deer Beer," the bartender stated matter-of-factly. "This is
the Deer Bar, we got Deer Beer. You want it or not?"
"Uh, yeah, okay," the Fly replied, somewhat confused. "Uh,
three Deer Beers."
Ernie looked at the Fly. It occurred to him that no-one around
here seemed at all disturbed by the Fly's looks. That seemed to a
bit odd. He would have expected the Fly to have attracted somewhat
more attention. But then on the other hand, Ernie thought, it
probably didn't mean anything. After all, everything is pretty
strange around here. Ernie appreciated the opportunity to relax and
have a beer.
The Fly pointed into the darkness at the far end of the bar.
"Hey, get a load of that babe!" he said to Ernie, his antennae
Ernie peered intently. He could just barely see, in the dim
light, a rather disreputable-looking young woman with bleached
blond hair and a skimpy outfit, perched on a stool at the far end
of the bar.
"What's your name, dear?" The Fly called out to her.
"Bambi," she replied.
The Fly was encouraged. "Hey, whaddya say we..."
"Cost you bucks," she interrupted.
The Fly's antennae drooped dispiritedly. "How come there
aren't any nice girls around anymore?" He turned back to his beer.
Sterno looked about worriedly. He sniffed. "Something smells
very peculiar around here."
"Probably just onions." Ernie was unconcerned.
"Hardly!" sniffed Sterno. "There is something seriously wrong
about this place!"
"NOW who's paranoid?" Ernie dismissed Sterno's fears.
Just then the door to the bar opened, and a woman walked in.
She had flaming red hair, and was wearing a 1950's-style party
dress. "Hi, there, fellas!" she said loudly.
"HI!" The Fly jumped up, his antennae waving excitedly. "Say,
can I buy you a drink?"
"Sure!" she answered in a brassy voice. Ernie looked at the
woman. Not my type, he thought. Too loud. He looked at her again.
Something about her seemed very familiar. Ernie was sure he had
seen her before, but he couldn't quite remember where.
"Gee!" she said to the Fly. "You sure are different-looking!
Where are you from?"
The Fly thought quickly. "Uh..France!"
"Oh, sure, I know France!" the woman answered brightly. "Ooh-
la-la, c'est-la-vie, Eiffel Tower, right?"
"Sure, you got it!" The Fly whispered aside to the others. "Oh
boy, oh boy, I'm really getting somewhere now!" He turned back to
the woman. "So, like, what's your name?"
"Lucy," she answered loudly. The door opened again, and a
swarthy man with slicked-back black hair entered. He was wearing a
Cuban shirt with huge ruffled sleeves, and carrying a pair of
maracas. The woman gestured towards the man. "And this is my
"Aww..." the Fly's antennae drooped.
"How you do!" said the man, with a heavy Spanish accent. "I'm
Ricky Ricardo, de famous Cuban bandleader." He shook his maracas
rhythmically. "Chick-a-boom, chick-a-boom."
"Yeah. Hi." the Fly answered glumly. He turned to the others.
"Wouldn't you know, she's married." He was obviously deeply
disappointed. He brightened a bit. "Say," he said to Lucy. "You
wouldn't happen to have any girlfriends you could ask over, do
"Friends?" said Lucy shrilly. "Sure, I got friends. In fact,
a couple of them are on there way over right now!"
The Fly was thrilled. "Oh boy, oh boy!" His antennae waved
excitedly. He turned to Ricky. "Hey, I like the shirt, guy! It's
the new `in' thing, right?"
"Chure!" Ricky agreed. "Ees de latest style in Habana!"
The door opened, and in walked an older couple, also dressed
in 1950's styles. "Oh," said Lucy. "Here's my friends now. Fellas,
this is Fred and Ethel Mertz."
"Aww." The Fly was disappointed. These weren't the type of
friends he had been hoping for.
Sterno leaned forward. "There is something terribly wrong with
these people," he said to Ernie and the Captain. "I can smell it."
"Leave me alone," said Ernie. He hadn't forgiven Sterno for
blaming the bank problem on him.
All these people looked terribly familiar to Ernie. Suddenly,
he had it!
"I've got it!" he shouted.
The Fly was more mystified than ever. "Now HE'S got it? What
is it, contagious?" He edged away from Ernie slightly.
"No, not THAT!" said Ernie impatiently. "I just
remembered...it's `I Love Lucy'!"
Lucy put her hand on Ernie's arm. "I love you, too." She said.
She edged closer. "Now that we're friends, I'd like to ask you a
"What?" asked Ernie suspiciously.
"It's just a little thing..." she began hesitantly.
"What?" He edged away uncomfortably.
"We'd just like to borrow it, just for a little while. We'll
bring it right back..."
"What?!" Ernie was getting impatient.
"Um," Lucy seemed a bit embarrassed. "We'd like to borrow your
"MY BRAIN!" shrieked Ernie.
"We just want to borrow it," said Lucy quickly. "Just for a
little while. We're not going to steal it!" Lucy laughed nervously.
"NO!" Ernie cried.
"Really, you don't have anything to worry about!" Lucy
continued. "We're not going to take it back to our home planet, or
anything! And we're certainly not going to put it into a giant
killer robot and use it to take over the Earth!" She laughed. "We
would never do that!" She turned to Ricky and the Mertz's. "Would
"Oh, no," they all laughed. "We'd never do that! Never!"
"There, that proves it!" Lucy concluded. "So, how about it?"
She reached towards Ernie's head.
"NO!" Ernie screamed, leaping off the bar stool. "Keep your
hands off my brain!" He whipped out his plastic broadsword and
brandished it menacingly.
After standing there a few moments, Ernie became aware of
everyone looking at him very peculiarly.
"Hey, guy," the Fly inquired. "Like, what are you gonna do
with that plastic sword?"
Ernie could hear the sound of muffled laughter, but he
couldn't tell where it was coming from. Ernie glowered. "Okay,
okay," he said, replacing the sword in it's sheath. "Just keep your
hands off my brain, all right?"
Lucy frowned. She looked at Sterno, and then looked at her
companions. "Dog brain?" she asked them. They all shook their
heads, no. She looked at the Fly. "Fly brain?" she asked Ricky and
the Mertz's. "Nope." They shook their heads. She looked at Captain
Memory. She smiled broadly. "I wonder if I could ask you a
"No chance!" Captain Memory cut her off.
Her expression became ugly. Extremely ugly. In fact, thought
Ernie, she was changing into just about the ugliest thing Ernie had
ever seen. Lucy snarled, revealing rows of pointed, reptilian-
looking teeth and a forked tongue.
"Foolish Earth creatures!" she hissed, pulling out a
frightening-looking weapon. "You will turn your brains over to us,
or we will destroy this miserable planet of yours!"
"Who ARE these people?" Ernie whispered to Captain Memory.
"Remember I told you about those aliens?" Captain Memory
asked. Ernie nodded. "Well, here they are!"
"Hey, guys, what do we do now?" the Fly asked Ernie and
Captain Memory, looking at Lucy's weapon uneasily.
Captain Memory looked up brightly. "Hey," he said to Lucy and
her companions. "Wanna watch some TV?"
Lucy and the other aliens were totally confused. "Watch TV? I
don't remember that! Is that in the script? What are we supposed to
do?" They looked at each other confusedly.
"Oh, wow, look what's on!" Before anyone could stop him,
Captain Memory had reached behind the bar and turned on the TV.
"It's time for `Wheel of Torture!'"
An image of Sturmbannfuhrer Dr. Heinz von Liederkranz filled
the screen. "Vis us tonight," he began. "Ve haff our contestants
from our last show." He turned to introduce them. "First, Captain
Memory!" Captain Memory bowed, to polite applause from the
audience. "Goombah de Barbarian!" Ernie blinked and staggered. Once
again, he suddenly found himself on the game show stage. His
stomach flipped over once again. He hated these abrupt changes of
scene. "Not again," he moaned.
Captain Memory shrugged. "Hey, that's show biz!"
The audience was staring at Ernie. They seemed to be expecting
something. He smiled and waved half-heartedly. The audience
tittered and applauded weakly. Ernie noticed that the audience was
still made up entirely of Nazis.
He sighed. He might have known he would wind up back here, he
thought. Whatever the worst thing is that could possibly happen,
that's what will happen. Ernie frowned. In fact, this was even the
worst thing that couldn't possibly happen, and it was happening
anyway! Wasn't that against Murphy's Law, or something? Anyway, it
was all very confusing.
Von Liederkranz turned to the other side of the stage. Ernie
noticed that the aliens had been transported onto the game show as
well, and were now staggering and blinking, just like Ernie.
"Und tonight, ve have vith us special guests," von Liederkranz
said, gesturing towards the aliens with his riding crop. "Lucy and
Ricky Ricardo, the famous Cuban bandleader, and their friends, Fred
and Ethel Mertz." Thunderous applause greeted the introduction.
The aliens were utterly confused. "Chick-a-boom?" asked Ricky,
shaking his maracas feebly. The Mertz's drew alien weapons,
pointing them in all directions uncertainly.
"Und now, ze big question," von Liederkranz said to the
aliens. "Vill you take vot's in dis bag," he held up a small paper
bag, which looked a lot like somebody's lunch. "Or try for vot's
behind door number four!"
The audience was hushed with anticipation. The aliens looked
at each other in confusion. "What do we do? I wasn't prepared for
this! I don't know what to do!" they told each other.
Captain Memory decided to help them out. "Anyone with any
BRAINS would take what's behind door number four!" he hinted.
The aliens brightened. "Brains! Brains! Yes, that's it! Let's
take what's behind door number four!" They looked pleased. "Chick-
a-BOOM!" said Ricky definitely.
"Door number four it is!" called out von Liederkranz. The
audience roared it's approval.
An attractive woman in a chorus-girl outfit opened door number
four, and the aliens filed in, looking very pleased. As soon as the
last alien was inside, the door slammed with a metallic crash. The
chorus girl reached over and daintily locked it.
Immediately, Ernie began to hear the sounds of commotion
coming from behind the door. At first, pounding, then thuds, then
shrill, blood-curdling screams. The screams continued for several
minutes, and then died away. Finally, all was silent behind door
The audience applauded. "Vell," von Liederkranz announced
jovially. "Looks like dey got vot dey had coming to dem, doesn't
it?" He laughed. He turned to Ernie, Captain Memory, and the
others. Ernie noticed that, while their attention had been drawn
elsewhere, guards with machine guns had surrounded them. "Shtill,
it vas very considerate of dem to find you for me," he said, with
an evil gleam in his eye. "I vas afraid ve had lost you forever
after dat unfortunate incident vit de alien Blaster." Von
Liederkranz turned to the guard nearest him. "...for vhich YOU vill
pay, schweinhund!" He lashed the guard with his riding crop.
"But, Herr Doktor," the guard protested. "I vasn't even
"Shut up!" von Liederkranz snapped. He turned to Captain
Memory. "Und now, perhaps ve vill continue vith ze questions, ja?"
He smiled sadistically. "You remember vhere ve left off? Vis ze Hot
A guard handed von Liederkranz the by-now-familiar diabolical-
looking device, which began to glow and whirl. Von Liederkranz
smiled evilly. He began slowly advancing toward Captain Memory with
Von Liederkranz was disturbed by the sound of a knock. He
looked around. There it was again; someone was knocking on the
stage door. Von Liederkranz was annoyed. "Answer ze door,
dummkopf!" he snapped at one of the guards. The guard opened the
"Mailman!" A fellow in a post office uniform walked in the
door. "Got a special delivery letter here!"
Von Liederkranz narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "For who?"
"Is there a `Mr. Ernest Ross' here?"
"Uh, that's me," Ernie said.
"Here you go!" The mailman handed Ernie a letter.
Everything stopped while Ernie opened the letter. Von
Liederkranz and the Nazis milled about confusedly.
Ernie was totally mystified. Who could be sending him a
letter, here? Nobody knew he was here, and even if they did, why
would they send him a letter here? Ernie tore the letter open and
"Dear Mr. Ross,
We still have not received payment on your outstanding
balance of $195,412,771,213,312,032.29. This account is now two
billion years overdue. Do not force us to turn this matter over to
a collection agency. Send in your payment immediately, before we
are required to take further action.
First National Bank of the West
P.S. If you have already sent in your payment, please disregard
Ernie looked up. Von Liederkranz was watching him very
carefully. Ernie had an idea. "Oops, looks like I gotta go pay a
bill! See ya!" Ernie started towards the door.
"Not so fast!" Von Liederkranz blocked Ernie's path. "Give me
dot letter!" He snatched it out of Ernie's hand.
Der Sturmbannfuhrer was very upset. How dare they interrupt
his game show to deliver a letter! And just exactly who was this
message from, anyway? And what did it really mean?
Von Liederkranz examined the letter carefully. "Zo," he said
thoughtfully. "You owe ze bank one hundred and ninety-five
quadrillion dollars. Just as we thought!" Of course, it wasn't
really what he thought at all.
The Nazi's eyes narrowed. "Zis one hundred and ninety-five
quadrillion dollars, it is a great deal of money, ja?"
"Ja. I mean, yes," agreed Ernie.
"It is more, even, than I make in a veek!" Von Liederkranz
eyed Ernie suspiciously. "Zo, how is it dot you come to owe zo much
"Well, you see, there was this problem with cigar butts two
billion years ago," Ernie explained nervously. He didn't like the
Nazi's tone of voice, and he particularly didn't like the Hot
Whirling Corkscrew. "And then, we were at the bank, and I had to go
and open my big mouth, and so then..."
"SCHWEINHUND!" Von Liederkranz whipped Ernie with the letter.
"Do you take me for a fool!? No-one could possibly owe zis much
money! Obviously, zis is some sort of secret code. Now, who vould
be sending you secret coded messages HERE, on mein own game show!?"
Ernie looked pleadingly at Captain Memory; the Captain just
Von Liederkranz continued reflectively. "Und how could zey
know vhere to find you vis zis message, unless..." He whirled to
face his guards. "One of YOU is a traitor!!"
"Nein! Nein!" The guards blanched and backed away. Von
Liederkranz looked at the audience. "Or perhaps, one of YOU!"
"NEIN! NEIN!" the audience cried out in unison, fidgeting
uncomfortably in their seats.
Von Liederkranz advanced on the audience, the Hot Whirling
Corkscrew spinning and glowing in his hand. "Zo, you vill not
confess, eh!?" he shrieked at the audience. "Perhaps a taste of the
Corkscrew vill loosen your tongues!"
Ernie felt a tap on his shoulder. Captain Memory beckoned
towards the back of the stage. All eyes were riveted on von
Liederkranz, and on the hissing, spinning torture device in his
hand. No-one was paying any attention to the foursome. They tiptoed
into the wings and back behind the stage. As they left, they began
to hear screams coming from somewhere in the audience.
They hurried along the corridor leading to the dressing rooms
backstage. Unfortunately, there seemed to be no exits anywhere in
that part of the building. The only exits were through the main
floor, which would have required them to go back out onto the
stage. This did not seem like a very good idea. An empty dressing
room beckoned ahead of them. They hurried into it and locked the
door behind them. The screams were still audible inside the room.
"Hey, guys," the Fly wanted to know. "Like, what are we gonna
Ernie sneezed. "I wish they wouldn't keep the air conditioning
turned up so high," he complained, shivering.
"Well, if you're going to go around wearing nothing but that
ridiculous fur loincloth, you have to expect to get a chill,"
commented Sterno unsympathetically. " We'd all feel a lot better if
you'd cover up some of that pallid skin of yours."
"Hey, that's an idea!" the Fly chimed in. "This is a dressing
room! Maybe there's some clothes here you can wear!"
That seemed like a good idea to Ernie. He'd been uncomfortably
cold ever since he'd put that silly loincloth on. He began looking
through the closet, but found only filmy negligees and harem-girl
"Hey, there's a whole wardrobe room next door," the Fly
pointed to an adjoining room. "Take a look in there!" Ernie
disappeared into the next room.
Sterno was searching the room carefully. "What'cha looking
for, secret passages?" the Fly asked eagerly.
"Actually, I was rather hoping someone might have left a spot
of brandy about," he answered. "Aha!" He pulled out a bottle. A
look of disappointment appeared on his face. "MD 20/20?" he asked.
"What in the world could that be?"
"Oh, wow," commented the Fly. "Mad Dog!"
"I beg your pardon!" snapped Sterno huffily.
"Hey, no offense!" said the Fly quickly. "That's just what
it's called, you know?"
"Hmmph!" Sterno opened the bottle and sniffed the contents.
"Dreadful!" he proclaimed, and dropped the bottle in the trash.
Ernie reappeared from the wardrobe room. He was now clad in a
Spanish toreador outfit, consisting of a scintillating gold suit,
covered with sequins, with knee breeches and white stockings, a
white shirt and tie, and an odd-shaped little black hat.
He noticed everyone looking at him oddly. "Hey, it was the
only thing I could find, you know? Ernie said defensively. "At
least it's warm!"
Sterno sniffed. "I must say, you have the most AWFUL taste in
clothes! But, at least it's better than looking at that sickening
body of yours!"
Ernie was offended. "What's wrong with my body?"
Sterno rolled his eyes upward silently.
Only the Fly seemed to approve of Ernie's new outfit. "Hey,
guy," he said enthusiastically. "I like the suit! It's the new `in'
Sterno regarded Ernie critically. "Why are you still carrying
that ridiculous plastic broadsword?"
Ernie shifted uncomfortably. "Hey, I told you, it's a forty
Sterno rolled his eyes upward. "Hopeless!"
Ernie sat down in a comfortable-looking chair. He thought he
had better take advantage of every opportunity to rest; he had no
way of knowing how long all of this craziness was going to
"So, like, what's with that Lucy chick?" the Fly asked Captain
Memory. "I mean, like, what's her problem?"
"Oh, she's an alien," explained the Captain.
"You know," the Captain went on. "Come from outer space,
invade the Earth, steal your brain, that kinda stuff." The Captain
made himself comfortable on a small sofa, and began leafing through
his copy of the TV Guide.
"Aliens?" Ernie asked confusedly. "Are they really aliens?"
"There as real as anything in Cyberspace, I suppose," the
"But what are they DOING here?" Ernie wanted to know.
"They're part of a game called `MENACE FROM PLANET ZERO'. It's
quite popular," the Captain explained. "I figured we'd run across
it sooner or later. With all the systems Waldo's been taking over,
the odds are that it'd be in at least one of them."
The Fly seemed a bit skeptical. "Well, gee, that chick sure
didn't look like an alien!"
The Captain was impatient. "She's in disguise, of course! You
wouldn't want to see what she really looks like!" He shuddered.
"Anyway," he continued. "That whole bunch are aliens in disguise.
They've been watching our 1950's TV shows, and they think those TV
characters are normal Earth people. They think if they disguise
themselves as 1950's TV characters, you Earth people will never
know the difference."
"They don't seem to be very smart," Ernie commented.
"Well, you know," said the Captain thoughtfully. "Intelligence
is not the only way to approach reality. There are other ways of
thinking. It's possible to approach problem-solving from an
entirely different perspective. There are civilizations in which
thinking is done in an entirely different way, where `intelligence'
is replaced by a whole different way of looking at the universe!"
Ernie had never heard Captain Memory get so philosophical
before. "So, do these aliens have a completely different way of
thinking?" he asked wonderingly.
"No," said the Captain reflectively. "They're just stupid."
He returned to his TV Guide.
"I mighta known," said the Fly reflectively. "After all, she's
hanging out with that Ricky guy! Man, he's something else! Anybody
who'd wear a shirt like that..." He trailed off, looking sideways
A number of magazines were scattered about an end table next
to Ernie's chair. A headline in one of the caught Ernie's eye:
"FANTASTIC ARCHAEOLOGICAL FIND REVEALED!" Ernie picked it up and
began to read:
"On October 16, 1978, an Arab shepherd following a stray
animal into a cave near the Sea of Galilee made an incredible find
- a find unparalleled in modern history. A find so monumental, so
earth-shattering, so threatening to world governments and religious
institutions that its very existence has been suppressed. Only now,
by means of smuggled documents obtained at great personal risk to
all involved, can this fabulous story come to light - the story of
the Dead Sea Phonograph Records!"
Ernie was intrigued. He read on:
"Our story must really begin in Ancient Egypt - deep in the
mysteries of the Middle Kingdom; an age which produced some of the
greatest wonders the world has even seen. Some of these, like the
Pyramids, have been known to the world for millennia. Yet it stands
to reason that any people capable of producing wonders like these,
wonders which the modern world has yet to equal, must also have
been capable of producing many other amazing things on a smaller
scale. Yet, all of these have been lost in the sands of time - or
Let us consider for a moment the phonograph - a relatively
simple device invented in the last century by Thomas Edison. In its
basic form it consists of a disc, or even a cylinder, driven by a
crank, that comes in contact with a needle attached to a cone. One
can then either play or record simply by turning the crank and
either speaking into the cone, or listening. That's all there is to
it. A simple device like this can be made with almost anyone with
basic tools. It could have been made thousands of years ago - it
could even have been made by the ancient Egyptians! Certainly, any
civilization capable of producing incredible engineering feats like
the Pyramids would be capable of constructing a simple mechanical
device like this!
Now there is evidence that they did! In the tomb of the
Pharaoh Pepto II at Bismol, hieroglyphics have been found which
bear an uncanny resemblance to Edison's early phonographs. Along
with these were others which were translated to read "...and the
voice of the Pharaoh shall speak on after he is gone
and...(fragment missing)...that we, who are as dogs to the mighty
Pharaoh, shall listen to Our Master's Voice!"
Ernie looked at the accompanying illustration. It was a
picture from an Egyptian tomb, showing a dog listening to some kind
of a device with a cone coming out of it. It reminded Ernie of
something. Didn't it look a lot like...the RCA Victor logo? Then
again, maybe not. He continued reading.
"But this is only the beginning! It would be monumental enough
if records of the voices of the Pharaohs had been found, but what
has actually been discovered is so spectacular as to make the
Pharaohs seem trivial by comparison. It was, of course, phonograph
records that the Arab shepherd found. They were in the form of
discs made of fine clay, a material much more durable than the
perishable vinyl that our present-day phonograph records are made
of, and were packed in the crumbling remains of an Egyptian-style
case. When played at approximately 78 rpm, they produced voices,
much like our own early phonograph records.
But - stop and consider. These records were found deep in
Israel, near the Sea of Galilee - in other words, nowhere near the
Egypt of the Pharaohs. There is no evidence that the phonograph was
ever used in ancient Israel; what's more, they were in an Egyptian-
style case, and bore Egyptian markings. How could they have come to
a cave near the Sea of Galilee?
There is only one way: They must have been brought there, from
Egypt - by the fleeing Israelites! Hieroglyphics prove that the
phonograph was in existence at this time; what would have been more
reasonable than for the fleeing Israelites, taking with them the
treasures of Egypt, to take with them this great treasure?
But what would they have used it for? What else but for the
same use as the Pharaohs, to record and preserve the voice of their
leader, so that his will can be known forever - the voice of Moses!
Yet, if this device, the phonograph, was in the hands of
Moses, wouldn't he have used it to record the things he considered
of greatest importance? In that case, wouldn't he have taken it to
Mount Sinai? Wouldn't he have used it to record - the voice of God
Now you can see why this find has been suppressed - why no
government, no religious institution on Earth can afford to let
these records be heard. They contain at the very least the voice of
Moses, and possibly even the very voice of God. There may be things
on these records which could change the life of every man, woman,
and child on Earth - now, today, in the 20th century.
But will these records ever be heard? Or will they be hidden
away in a secret vault, kept from a world that needs them so
They must be heard! The people have a right to this knowledge,
knowledge which affects each and every one of them in every facet
of their daily lives. Right now there is no way of knowing where
they are being held, or by whom, or for what purpose. But a find
like this CANNOT be suppressed. It is to earth-shaking, too
monumental. Word WILL leak out, people WILL be told! Already this
has begun to happen - secret documents have been smuggled out;
incontrovertible evidence has been uncovered. It is beginning - now
it is only a mater of time before the world learns the awesome
truth about the Dead Sea Phonograph Records!"
Ernie put the magazine down. Wow, he thought. This is really
heavy. Is this for real, or is this just more crazy nonsense? Did
this really happen, or is this just more garbage caused by sticking
together too many computer programs that don't belong together? How
can we tell the difference?
Ernie thought about the problem. This is an important
question, he decided. We may have stumbled onto something really
meaningful. Somebody ought to look into this. Somebody ought to
find out whether this is for real or not, because if it is real it
might be...really important! Ernie stopped. He hadn't the vaguest
idea how somebody would go about looking into a question like this.
Ernie looked at Captain Memory. "Here, look at this article."
He handed the magazine to the Captain.
The Captain peered at the article. "The Dead Sea Phonograph
Records? Get real!" Captain Memory tossed the magazine over his
"No, really!" Ernie protested. "This is important stuff! I
really think you should consider it! What if this really happened?
What if this is, like a secret CIA computer file or something? I
mean, stuff like that could be here, right? It's possible, isn't
"Aything's possible," the Captain admitted. "But how likely is
Ernie heard snickering coming from behind him. He turned.
Sterno had picked up the magazine, and was leafing through it.
"You actually READ this stuff?" laughed Sterno. "Here's a good
article: `Princess Diana says, I'm Carrying Elvis's Baby'. Or, how
about `I Was Raped by Killer Lesbians from Outer Space'".
Ernie frowned. Something about that last headline sounded a
Sterno continued. "Here another one: `Earth invaded by Aliens
Disguised as 1950's TV Characters'."
"Hey, lemme see that!" Ernie reached for the magazine,
convinced that they were onto something.
"What trash!" Sterno dropped the magazine in the wastebasket.
"Hey!" Ernie fished through the wastebasket, trying to
retrieve the magazine. "Oh no, it's all covered with sticky wine!
The pages are all stuck together!"
"Wow, man," said the Fly wonderingly. "That's really heavy
stuff. Imagine that: Princess Diana pregnant with Elvis's baby. I
never knew that!"
Ernie was trying to separate the pages of the magazine, but
the Mad Dog wine had dissolved most of the ink, and he was only
succeeding in making a big mess.
"Did you really think you were going to find the secrets of
the universe in that magazine?" asked Sterno sarcastically.
"I don't think you're going to get anywhere with that stuff,"
added Captain Memory. "I think you're barking up the wrong tree!"
"I suppose you think that's funny!" Sterno snarled.
He regarded Ernie for a moment. "You know, that little hat looks
"Yeah, guy," the Fly chimed in. "How come you're wearing that
Mickey Mouse hat?"
"It's not a Mickey Mouse hat, alright?" said Ernie,
frustrated. "It's part of the outfit. You're supposed to wear this
kind of a little hat. I dunno why, you're just supposed to!" Ernie
sulked. "Leave me alone!"
Sterno chuckled. "The only good thing about having him along,"
he said, gesturing at Ernie. "Is that he can always cheer me up. If
I didn't have him to laugh at, I don't know WHAT I'd do!" Ernie
The Fly was sitting at a dressing table, regarding himself in
the mirror. He kept examining various bottle of cosmetics, holding
each in turn up to his face, but he couldn't find any that matched
his shell tone.
"My, what big eyes you have!" quipped Sterno. "How about some
eyeliner? Or maybe some mascara for your antenna?"
"Aw, c'mon guys," the Fly complained. "Gimme a break, huh? I
was just looking for a little, like, bronzer, y'know? Y'think
bronzer would look good on me?" His antennae waved hopefully.
Ernie was feeling irritable. He was tired of everyone picking
on him all the time. "Why do you keep reading that TV Guide?" he
snapped at Captain Memory.
"So I can see what's on," answered the Captain reasonably.
"How can you possibly tell what's on, when you don't even know
where we are? You're never gonna have the right listings for here,
wherever THIS is!"
"Sure I do," disagreed the Captain. "I've got the listings for
"How could you have that?" Ernie was skeptical.
"This is the Inter-Continuum Edition, with Multi-Galactic Sub-
Listings, for the week of May 3-Infinity," explained the Captain.
"It's got the listings for all of Time and Space."
"Lemme see that!" Ernie snatched it rudely out of Captain
Memory's hand. "Why, the pages are all blank!"
"Are you a subscriber?" the Captain wanted to know, gently
taking the book back out of Ernie's hands.
"Well, no," Ernie admitted.
"Well, that's why you can't see it!"
Ernie sighed. He guessed that made as much sense as anything
CM examined the listings carefully. "Wanna watch an old movie?
Here's a classic: `Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream Horse'."
Ernie frowned. "You mean `House'."
Captain Memory was puzzled. "Mr. House Builds his Dream
Ernie shook his head. "No, no. It's supposed to be `Mr.
Blandings Builds his Dream House'."
Captain Memory peered at the TV Guide. "It quite clearly says
"That's ridiculous!" Ernie insisted. "You can't build a
"That's right!" the Fly chimed in. "At least, not without a
"Huh?" Ernie was taken aback.
"And an inspection!" the Fly went on. "I mean, you wouldn't
want to ride a horse that was built without a permit, and wasn't
inspected! It wouldn't be safe!"
"Uh..." Something about this didn't sound right to Ernie.
The Fly continued with enthusiasm. "I mean, like what if you
took this horse out on the freeway, you know, and you're cruisin'
along, doin' maybe 60, and all of a sudden - boom! A leg falls off!
Then what? Somebody could get hurt!"
Ernie didn't know how to argue with this. "Uh, I suppose
you're right." He fell silent.
Captain Memory broke the silence. "Hey, here's a good show!
8:30 - `Follow the Yellow Brick Road'. The Fab Four stop for a
drink at The Deer Bar, and meet aliens disguised as 1950's TV
characters.' Starring Lucille Ball, Adam West, and Rin-Tin-Tin. How
"Sounds okay to me," said the Fly agreeably.
Ernie looked around the room. "There's no TV!" he said
"Oh, there's always a TV!" the Captain assured him.
"Okay, where?" Ernie demanded.
"Hmm." Captain Memory looked around. He got up, walked over to
the dressing table, and peered into the mirror. "Let's try this:
`Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Ain't there no TV at all?'"
The surface of the mirror dissolved, and an image of The Deer
Bar appeared in its place. Four characters were seated at the bar,
"So, what are we gonna do now, guys?" asked the Fly, sipping
a beer through his long, flexible snout.
Ernie started, and looked about confusedly. They were suddenly
all back at The Deer Bar. His stomach flipped over again.
"What...uh..how did we get back here?"
"Same way we got out," said Captain Memory, gesturing towards
the TV set. He looked momentarily confused. "Either that, or maybe
we never really left at all. I forget which. Oh well, it doesn't
Ernie looked up at the television above the bar, which now was
turned on. A sadistic Nazi talk show host was using a diabolical-
looking device to torture members of the audience. "Uh, do you mind
if I turn that off?" asked Ernie.
"If you like," answered the Captain indifferently.
Ernie switched off the set, and breathed a sigh of relief. Now
they were safe. He frowned. Well, maybe they weren't safe, but they
were safER. He thought about it a moment. Well, maybe they weren't
really any safer, but turning the TV off made him feel better just
the same. That satisfied him, so he returned to his seat.
The Fly looked around. "Like, we're the only ones here!"
"Uh huh," Ernie agreed.
"So, what happened to, like, Ricky and Lucy?"
As if in answer, the door to the bar flew open, and in
staggered Ricky, his ruffled Cuban shirt in rags, his maracas
broken. Close behind him was Lucy, her hair disarrayed, her party
dress torn and smeared with dirt.
"You feelthy peeg!" shrieked Ricky, enraged. "You send us
behind door numero four! I keel you!"
"What did he say?" the Fly asked confusedly. "I can't
understand his accent at all!"
"I think he said he was going to `keel' us," Sterno
"What's that?" the Fly wanted to know. "Something to do with
Ricky advanced on the foursome, holding his shattered maracas
menacingly. Ernie noticed that they seemed to have acquired very
sharp edges. "I keel you, I cut your brain out!" he threatened
"Hey, he's starting up with that `brain' stuff again," Ernie
said to Captain Memory. "What do we do?"
"Have a beer," said Captain Memory, sipping his Deer Beer.
"That's easy for you to say! It's not your brain he's after!"
Ernie looked at Ricky apprehensively.
"Why don't you just let him have your brain?" snickered
Sterno. "You'll never miss it!"
Ricky slowly staggered forward. Ernie noticed that Ricky was
getting much more, sort of, reptilian-looking. He seemed to have
acquired long, sharp teeth, and a forked tongue, which flitted in
and out of his mouth in a snake-like manner.
"Hey uh, shouldn't we, uh, DO something?" Ernie urged Captain
The Captain looked annoyed. "Oh, all right!" He cleared his
throat. "And now," he announced pompously. "A word from our
Ricky froze. "Oh, ees a commercial," he said to Lucy. "We got
"Well, I guess we'd better get going, fellas," Captain Memory
said to the other three. "We've only got sixty seconds." He gulped
down the rest of his beer. "I hate to drink beer in a hurry. It
upsets my stomach." He burped. He brushed past Ricky and Lucy, who
were frozen into a state of immobility, and led the group out the
Once outside, Captain Memory checked his bare wrist. "Hmm,
ten more seconds. I know, let's try this!" The Captain led the
group around the side of the building, where they could not be seen
from the main door.
Fifteen seconds later, Ricky and Lucy burst out of the bar
door. "Where dey go?!" Ricky screamed. "Dey not suppose' to move
during de commercial! Dey got to wait for de show to start again!"
Ricky and Lucy looked quickly around, and then charged off down the
road in the direction of the bank.
The Fly peeked around the corner. "Looks like they're gone."
Ernie frowned. "Are these aliens really that stupid?" he asked
"I'm afraid so," Captain Memory replied.
Ernie frowned. Something about this didn't seem to make sense.
"If they're so stupid, how come they've got interstellar travel,
and blasters, and stuff like that?" he asked pointedly.
"Well, you know, aliens have brother-in-laws, too," Captain
"Brothers-in-law," Sterno corrected.
"Uh, right," the Captain went on. "Uh, relatives. They have
relatives too. Everybody has relatives."
"So?" Ernie wanted to know.
Captain Memory sighed. "Well, what do you do if your brother-
in-law needs a job, but he's not too, um, bright? I mean, you can't
leave him to starve, right? After all, he's married to your sister.
Okay, so maybe your sister doesn't have real good taste in men,
she's still your sister, right? And what about your nephews..."
"Get to the point!" Sterno demanded impatiently.
"Okay, okay," Captain Memory went on. "Anyway, you've got to
get him a job, but you don't want to get him anything too, like,
visible, because you know he's going to screw it up, and you'll get
blamed. So you get him a job that pays good, but is, um, out of the
way. Like, for instance, `interstellar scout.' Sure, he'll screw it
up, but he's millions of light years away, who's gonna know?"
Ernie looked crestfallen. "I always thought they'd send, you
know, their `Top Guns', their `best and brightest' to attack us.
You're mean they send their screw-ups to invade our planet?"
Captain Memory shrugged. "Well, you know, it's a bureaucracy.
This is the real universe. Life's like that." Ernie sighed.
Captain Memory looked at his bare wrist. "Anyway, I think it's
time to get going." He headed off purposefully down the yellow
brick road, going in the opposite direction from that in which
Ricky and Lucy had gone. The group trailed along behind him.
Ernie caught up to Captain Memory as the foursome headed down
the yellow brick road. "So, where are we anyway?" he wanted to
The Captain looked around. "Could be Kansas, I suppose," he
"You don't KNOW?"
Captain Memory shrugged. "You can't expect me to keep track of
all these PLACES," he said annoyedly. "Do you know how many PLACES
there are in Cyberspace? There's...there's..." He hesitated
confusedly. "Well, I don't know exactly how many, but there's a
whole lot of them! And they keep changing all the time, too! I
mean, you can go someplace you know real well, you come back in a
few nanoseconds, and it's all different! It was bad enough before
Waldo Stadium starting networking all these systems that were never
meant to be networked. Now it's impossible! So don't expect ME to
keep track of it! It isn't MY fault!" He calmed down. "Anyway," he
said, more composedly. "I guess it could be Nebraska."
Ernie peered into the distance. "What's all that smoke?" He
pointed to a large cloud on the horizon.
The Fly looked searchingly into the distance. With his huge,
multi-faceted insect eyes, he could see more clearly than any
human. "That's not smoke, that's dust," he explained. "There's a
whole lot of trucks and cars and stuff heading this way. There's
enough to be an army of 'em." He peered into the distance. "In
fact, it IS an army! They got tanks, and guns, and everything!"
Ernie felt uneasy. "So, whose army it is?"
They Fly squinted. "I can't tell; too much dust."
"Maybe we should just get out of the way and let them go by,"
This seemed like an excellent idea to Ernie. They stepped off
the road, climbed over a picturesque split-rail fence, and made
their way into a cornfield, where they hid themselves among the
tall plants. Ernie noticed a scarecrow out in the middle of the
field. He thought about it for a moment, but then he decided to
just leave it alone.
In a few minutes the first vehicles of the military column
began to pass them. Ernie noticed that they were armored personnel
carriers, painted tan and grey. On the side of each was the
insignia of a palm tree with a swastika at the base. Ernie
recognized it from watching war movies on the late show. "It's the
Afrika Korps!" he whispered to Captain Memory. "What would they be
doing in Kansas, or maybe Nebraska?"
"Aha," said Captain Memory quietly. "So that's it - Rommel
must be advancing on Omaha! Therefore, it will be up to Prince
Eugene to stop the Turkish hordes at the gates of Vienna. In that
case, Colonel Jackson must be heading down the mighty Mississippi
at this very moment, taking a little bacon and a little beans, to
fight the bloody British at the town of New Orleans! That means,"
Captain Memory looked at his wrist. "It must be 1814!"
"Oh." Ernie no longer expected Captain Memory's explanations
to shed much light on things, although, thinking about it,
something about the last part of Captain Memory's explanation did
sound a little familiar. But then, on the other hand, everything
sounded a little familiar, but none of it actually made any sense.
Ernie decided to try again, even though he didn't have much
hope of success. "So what's going on, anyway? Isn't this supposed
to be, like, the Wizard of Oz or something? I don't remember any
Nazi armies in the Wizard of Oz!"
"The Wizard of Oz?" the Captain asked wonderingly. "Whatever
gave you that idea?"
"Well, gee.." Ernie had thought it was obvious. "There's this
yellow brick road, and the bank manager was kind of a witch, and
she had ruby slippers and..." He trailed off.
"So what?" the Captain demanded.
"Well...If this isn't the Wizard of Oz, where did all that
stuff come from?"
The Captain was annoyed. "Sure, some of this is from THE
WIZARD OF OZ. But some of it isn't. Some of it's from other games,
or computer models, or databases, or whatever happened to be in the
systems that Waldo's been taking over. And there's no way to tell
what'll pop out where, or when. Even Waldo can't keep track of it.
It's taking all his computing power just to keep the system halfway
organized, so it doesn't crash. You know how hard it is to keep a
FATAL ERROR from creeping into this stuff? It's only because he's
got a multiple-redundant neural-net system that he can keep this
stuff running at all!"
Ernie moaned. He didn't like the sound of that FATAL ERROR
"One thing bothers me, though," the Captain continued,
watching the military vehicles go by. "These Nazis. They're showing
up way too often. They may be somehow picking up our trail."
"You mean Waldo Stadium knows where we are?" Ernie cried
anxiously. "He's zeroing in on us?"
"Could be," said the Captain thoughtfully. "It doesn't seem
like they know exactly where we are, but it does seem like they
know we're around here somewhere. I wonder how they know that?"
Ernie sighed again. He would have to remember not to ask for
explanations anymore. They just made things worse.
After a few minutes, the last of the military vehicles passed,
taking with it the last of the huge cloud of dust. Ernie coughed.
He and the others were all covered with a thick layer of dirt. He
looked at himself. All the sparkle was gone from his toreador suit.
Sterno shook himself vigorously, sending dust flying in all
directions. "Hey, watch it!" the Fly complained. "That stuff gets
in my eyes, you know?"
Ernie looked at Captain Memory. "How come you're not covered
with dirt?" he demanded.
"Oh, it's the suit," Captain Memory explained, fingering his
comic-book-character outfit. "It's got that dirt-repelling stuff;
you know, the kind you put in the dryer?"
Ernie examined his toreador outfit. On the inside he found a
small tag. Just my luck, Ernie thought. `Dry Clean Only'.
They made their way back on to the road, and continued in the
same direction they had been heading before the convoy went by. A
light breeze sprang up, and carried away the worst of the dust.
After walking for a few minutes, Ernie noticed a house in the
distance. As they approached, Ernie could see that it was an
elaborate Victorian cottage, covered with gingerbread-style
ornamentation. "Hey, let's stop in!" the Fly suggested. "Maybe we
can get a drink of water. All this dust is really buggin' me!"
"Oh, it's `bugging' you?" asked Sterno maliciously.
"Yeah!" the Fly answered ingenuously.
Sterno shrugged. There was no point in sniping at people who
were too dense to understand it.
As they neared the cottage, Ernie noticed that it was
surrounded by a white picket fence. However, a large section of the
fence had been knocked over. The lawn seemed to be all chewed up,
as though by the treads of a tank. Heading up the front walk, Ernie
noticed the door was broken off it's hinges.
As they climbed the porch, Ernie noticed that the gingerbread
on the cottage was - actual gingerbread, the edible kind. Ernie
broke off a piece and sniffed it. It seemed fresh. He took a bite.
Very tasty, he thought. He suddenly realized that he hadn't had
anything to eat for a really long time. The shutters looked
interesting - they had frosting and raisins.
"Oh wow, what happened here?" Ernie heard the Fly ask. He
looked through the door. Inside were obvious signs of a struggle.
The quaint, German-style furniture was scattered about. The walls
were pockmarked with bullet holes. On one side of the room was a
large, cast-iron stove. Next to the stove stood a large cage, with
its door open. The stove was red-hot, and a bad smell came from it.
Captain Memory considered the scene, and regarded the tank
tracks and bullet holes. "Looks like whoever was here got arrested
by the Nazis," he commented.
Ernie thought about this. Hansel and Gretel arrested by the
Nazis? But then again, `Hansel and Gretel' is a German story, isn't
it? In that case, Ernie decided, it's none of my business. I won't
worry about it. Instead, he decided to look for something else to
Ernie found an old-fashioned icebox, which seemed to be full
of pies, cakes, and other goodies. There didn't seem to be anything
by way of regular, wholesome food, though. Oh well, thought Ernie,
cutting into a Bavarian Black Forest Torte, I guess I'll just have
to rough it.
Sterno was helping himself to an eclair. "Very nice," he
commented. "Would you mind handing me a piece of that double-
chocolate rum cheesecake?"
"Hey, this is good stuff!" the Fly added, vacuuming up a dish
of frosted ginger snaps through his long snout.
Ernie stopped. "Hey, how do we know this stuff is okay? I
mean, maybe this is an alien trap, or something. Maybe this stuff
Sterno sniffed disgustedly. "We can always count on you to say
something utterly inappropriate at the table, can't we? Comments
like that can ruin everyone's appetite. The first decent thing
we've had to eat on this entire ridiculous escapade, and you have
to go and spoil it!"
Ernie was upset. "Well, okay, maybe you're right. That's not
dinner-table conversation. But still, how do we know?"
Sterno sighed. "The problem with you is that you have no sense
of smell. I, for one, would have known if there was anything wrong
with these delectable little morsels."
Ernie relaxed. "So, this place isn't an alien trap, or
anything?" he asked Captain Memory.
"Oh no, it's a trap alright," the Captain said unconcernedly,
helping himself to a dish of something with custard and cherries in
"But the food's okay," the Captain continued. "So we might as
well have some, don't you think?" He helped himself to a coconut
Ernie suddenly felt very anxious. "So, uh, where's the trap,
"Oh, I don't know," the Captain went on. "We'll find it,
though. We always do." He looked at Ernie's plate. "Say, are you
gonna eat that Black Forest Torte? If you don't want it, I'll take
Ernie seemed to have lost his appetite. "Uh, here. Take it."
He handed the dish to Captain Memory. Ernie's stomach was beginning
to feel queasy again. Stress, he thought. It's not good for me. I'm
gonna get an ulcer. I just know it.
Ernie noticed an open door in the back of the cottage. It
seemed to lead to a bathroom. Maybe I can get cleaned up, Ernie
thought. The dust was beginning to make him itch.
Inside the door, Ernie found a nicely-appointed modern
bathroom, complete with soap and fresh towels. I'll bet I have time
for a quick shower, he thought. He turned on the shower and let the
water run for a bit. Nice and warm, he thought. Not too hot. Seems
okay. He took off his toreador suit, shaking the dust off each
piece in turn, and got in the shower.
Ernie let the warn water run over him. Well, this is much
better, he thought, relaxing. There was a bottle of shampoo on the
tub shelf. He picked it up and examined it. "Placental Protein
Shampoo". Oh. That was the same kind of shampoo he used at home.
Maybe it would get the dust out of his hair.
"Watch ouph phrm trmp..." What? Was somebody talking to him?
Ernie couldn't hear over the sound of the shower. He stuck his head
out. "Did you say something?" he called towards the others.
"Yes," answered Captain Memory. "I said: `Watch out for the
"WHAT?!" Ernie leaped out of the shower. He was about to run
into the next room, when suddenly it occurred to him that he was
stark naked and dripping wet. He decided to take a moment to grab
a towel and wrap it around himself; he wasn't prepared to face the
ridicule he would have gotten otherwise. "What trap!? Where's the
"You're holding it," Captain Memory gestured at Ernie.
"The TOWEL?!" Ernie almost flung it away, but decided against
"No, your other hand!" Ernie looked at his left hand. He was
still unconsciously clutching the bottle of shampoo. "This? This
bottle of shampoo?" Ernie examined it. "What is it, a bomb or
"No, it's a bottle of shampoo," Captain Memory agreed.
"So what's the big deal?" Ernie felt a little foolish getting
all upset over a bottle of shampoo.
"What kind of shampoo is it?" Captain Memory prompted.
"Placental Protein Shampoo? What's wrong with that?"
"Do you know what a placenta is?"
"Yeah. It's the thing that feeds an embryo in the womb." Ernie
had gotten an `A' in biology, and was proud of it.
"Ever wonder what proteins from embryos are doing in your
"Uh, now that you mention it, that does seem a little
strange," Ernie admitted.
"Ever wonder `proteins from embryos of WHAT'?" the Captain
prodded. "Or, `what KIND of proteins'?"
"I don't like the sound of this," Ernie said quietly.
Captain Memory went on. "DNA is a protein, you know."
Ernie thought a moment. "You mean, DNA, like in genetic
material, like `basic building blocks of life', the stuff that
determines what every kind of life form is going to be?"
"That's right," the Captain agreed. "Now, what do you suppose
would happen to you if you rubbed alien DNA from unborn space
creatures onto your scalp, where it could seep right down into your
Ernie looked at the bottle of shampoo uneasily. "You mean, it
could, like, take over your brain?"
"Could be," Captain Memory agreed. "However, it doesn't work
all at once. It has to seep in little by little. The more you wash
your hair, the worse it gets."
Ernie was suddenly glad he didn't wash his hair too often. He
thought for a moment. "So, people who wash their hair a lot would
get it the worst, right?"
"You got it," Captain Memory assented cheerfully.
Ernie considered the problem. "So, who washes their hair the
"Pretty girls!" the Fly chimed in. "They wash their hair every
day, sometimes more than once. I know, 'cause every time I ask one
out one, she says `I can't go today, I gotta wash my hair'!"
"That's true," Ernie admitted. He thought a moment.
"Wait a minute! We have this stuff at home. In fact, my girlfriend
The Captain considered this. "Noticed any changes in her
"Well, she has been kind of...cold," Ernie conceded. "And, now
that you mention it, I have noticed her skin getting kind of scaly,
but I thought it was just the heartbreak of psoriasis. I tried to
say something about it, but she hissed at me!"
"Mmm hmm," Captain Memory agreed.
"Y'know, I noticed that a lot too," the Fly added. "I'm real
observant, and I noticed that an awful lot of pretty girls nowadays
have forked tongues!"
Ernie frowned. He had noticed something odd about his
girlfriend's tongue, but he hadn't wanted to mention it. He didn't
want to get hissed at again.
"They also have real sharp teeth," the Fly continued. "And
slit pupils in their eyes. I don't think that's normal, do you?"
All of this was making Ernie very unhappy. "You mean, aliens
are trying to take over the Earth?" he asked.
"I wouldn't doubt it," Captain Memory answered cheerfully.
"Well, what are we going to do about it?!" cried Ernie.
"Oh, you don't need to worry about it," said the Captain
"Why not?" asked Ernie suspiciously.
"It's just a game anyway, right?" The Captain gave Ernie a
cheery smile, and helped himself to a piece of lemon meringue pie.
"There is one thing you could do," Sterno added.
"What?!" asked Ernie desperately.
"You could put some clothes on," Sterno said, looking ruefully
at the peach frappe' on his plate. "The sight of all that naked
skin is rather spoiling my appetite."
"Oh, all right!" Ernie snapped, stomping off to the
Sterno sighed. "Some people are so sensitive!" he commented,
reaching for a large Cherries Jubilee.
Ernie was somewhat placated to find that the luster had
returned to his toreador suit. The only thing worse than having to
go around in a toreador outfit was having to go around in a DIRTY
toreador outfit. He returned to the main room.
The Fly was eating what seemed to be large cookies of some
kind. "Hey, these are good gingerbread men!" he remarked, offering
one to Ernie.
Ernie examined the cookie. "It's not a man," he said
thoughtfully. "It looks like a gingerbread...reptile."
The Fly looked at the cookies. "Yeah, you're right." He
vacuumed another one up through his snout. "They're good, though."
Ernie looked at the cookie ruefully. "I don't know if I want
to eat a reptile."
"Might as well," Captain Memory volunteered. "It wouldn't
hesitate to eat you!"
Ernie put the cookie down quickly. He seemed to have lost his
Ernie heard footsteps approaching the house. A man in a post
office uniform, carrying a bag of mail, was coming up the walk.
"Howdy!" the mailman said cheerfully. "Nice day, isn't it?"
"Uh, yeah." Ernie thought he should be the one to answer,
since everyone else had their mouths full.
The mailman chatted on cheerily. "Had a few Nazis a mite
earlier, but it looks like it cleared up!" He looked through his
mail. "Is there a `Mr. Ernest Ross' here?"
"Uh, that's me," Ernie answered unenthusiastically.
"Here you go!" The mailman handed Ernie a letter. "Have a nice
day!" He left.
Ernie opened the letter and read:
"Dear Mr. Ross,
We are still awaiting payment on your unpaid balance of
$195,412,771,213,312,032.29. This account is now two billion years
and two days overdue. Do not force us to turn this matter over to
a collection agency. Don't let a little matter like this ruin your
credit rating. You don't want the shame of having your name dragged
through the mud, do you? You will never be allowed to buy anything
on credit ever again. People on the street will point at you and
jeer. Your entire family will be ostracized from decent society.
Your dog will turn upon you. Your aged parents will be thrown out
of their home, your children will be spat upon, even your
childrens' children, yea, unto the seventh generation!
Save yourself from embarrassment and inconvenience by paying
this balance now! Use the enclosed envelope for your remittance."
Ernie looked between the pages. There was no enclosed envelope. He
First National Bank of the West
P.S. If you are experiencing financial difficulties at the moment,
please contact one of our representatives to work out a payment
plan. As little as a trillion dollars a month could satisfactorily
take care of this account. Thank you!"
Ernie sighed. "Isn't there anywhere you can go to get away
from junk mail?"
"I doubt it," answered Captain Memory, cutting himself a big
slice of pineapple upside-down cake.
Ernie sighed, and sat down on the nearest piece of furniture,
which happened to be a child's rocking chair which was a bit too
small for him. Ernie noticed, while squeezing himself into it, that
the arms were scraping some of the sequins off his suit. Looking
down, he noticed that sequins had been falling off his suit all
along, leaving a sparkly trail as he walked. Oh great, he thought.
Now, on top of everything else, my suit is shedding.
Captain Memory looked at his bare wrist. "I guess it must be
just about time for the Eggplant Uprising," he commented.
"The what?" Ernie was confused, as usual.
"Oh, come on!" The Captain was annoyed. "Don't you pay
attention to anything I tell you? You know, the Revolt of the
Vegetables, the Purple Menace; remember, when they nuked us back to
the Stone Age?"
"Oh, sure," Ernie remembered being nuked well enough. He had
some vague recollection of the other stuff, too. He decided to
pretend he remembered the rest of it as well, since he was tired of
being picked on for not paying attention. "So, uh, what about it?"
"Well, anyway," the Captain went on. "After the Great Traffic
"The what?!" Ernie broke in involuntarily.
"Oh, you're right," said the Captain, slightly abashed. "I
didn't tell you about that. The Great Traffic Jam took place
because of this problem they had due to chronic over-production of
cars. You see, they just kept building all these cars, and people
kept buying them, just for the heck of it, even though they didn't
have anyplace to go in them. Well, of course, it had to happen: one
particularly nice summer day everybody decided to go for a drive
all at the same time. They wound up bumper-to-bumper, coast-to-
coast. The entire country was tied up in total gridlock. People
didn't know what to do; they didn't know how to get around without
their cars anymore. It was terrible; there was mass starvation.
Thousands died; vultures picked their bones through their
convertible tops. Well, I'm sure you can see that under
circumstances like these, people were in no mood for a practical
"Uh, right!" Ernie thought he'd just agree, and maybe the
Captain would go on with the story without noticing that Ernie
wasn't following the story at all.
Ernie was lucky. The Captain continued: "Well, you can imagine
how people felt when rumors began to fly about certain species of
giant plants that had escaped from the atomic testing laboratories
and had grown to enormous size by feasting on human flesh. And how
these plants were determined to get revenge on the entire animal
kingdom for the millions of years of abuse they and their plant
brothers had had to put up with at the hands (and paws, and
muzzles, and so on) of non-vegetable life forms."
Ernie furled his brow. "Does that have anything to do with the
Vegetable Rights Movement?"
"You got it!" agreed Captain Memory.
Ernie felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. In
spite of himself, he WAS beginning to remember all this! He didn't
WANT to remember it, because if he remembered it, that meant....
Ernie didn't want to think about what that meant.
"Anyway," the Captain continued. "They were going to organize
all the vegetables, stage a massive uprising, and eliminate all
animal life for ever! On top of all this, these plants were
invulnerable to conventional weapons, and could only be destroyed
by the atomic fires that had created them!
"Small wonder, then, that general panic broke out when
something very large and very purple raised it's leafy head over
the city of Chicago." Captain Memory chuckled.
"Oh, wow!" said Ernie. This was really creepy. It was a lot
like telling ghost stories around the campfire at camp. "So, it was
a giant, man-eating eggplant?"
"Don't be silly! How could there be a such a thing as a giant,
man-eating eggplant?" Captain Memory was amused. "No, it was just
practical joke. It was that zany Andreas Labyrinth and his band of
merry pranksters, up to their little games again." Captain Memory
chortled. "I still remember that phony Russian invasion. That was
really a riot! Or how about that bogus epidemic! That had everybody
Something about that explanation didn't seem quite right to
Ernie, but he wasn't in the mood to try to figure out what it was.
He wanted to hear the rest of Captain Memory's story. "So then what
happened, uh, will happen, uh...so, what about the Eggplant?"
"Well, as I was saying," Captain Memory always enjoyed telling
stories. "It wasn't really a giant Eggplant, it was really just a
big purple balloon. But it looked a lot like a giant eggplant, you
know, big scary face painted on it and all. I suppose, in saner
times, people might have questioned the whole thing a little more
closely. After all, there wasn't really any proof that it was a
giant eggplant. It could have been a giant grape. No reason to nuke
a giant grape, is there?"
"I guess not." Ernie supposed he might as well agree, since he
couldn't think of any reason on Earth to nuke a giant grape.
"But, people just didn't stop and think," the Captain went on.
"They just went ahead and dropped the bomb. And when they found
out, boy, were they mad!" Captain Memory chuckled. "Of course, it
isn't really funny if it doesn't make somebody mad, is it? That's
what practical jokes are all about!"
Captain Memory paused. "But, anyway, all of this should be
taking place just about" he looked at his bare wrist, "Now!" A
sound like that of distant thunder shook the house.
Ernie looked out the window. "Chicago?" he asked.
"Yup!" answered the Captain. "There it goes!"
Ernie thought a moment. "Did they nuke Chicago twice?"
"Why would they want to do something like that?" Captain
Memory wondered. "Once you nuke it, it stays nuked!"
"Well, in that case," Ernie pondered. "How could we be in
Chicago just before it got nuked, before, when we're here just
before it got nuked, now?"
Captain Memory frowned. "That is confusing, isn't it? I've
never quite figured that out." The Captain didn't seem overly upset
about the problem.
Ernie decided that it probably wouldn't be good for him to
think about that problem anymore. He decided to think about
"So, what ever happened to that practical joker, that Andreas
Whats-His-Name?" he asked.
As if in answer to this question, a figure burst through the
door. It was an older man, with a wild white beard and hair. His
clothes were in tatters, and he was covered with splotches of egg,
rotten tomatoes, and other things too disgusting to think about.
"Hide me, hide me!" he implored. "They're after me! They'll tear me
to pieces! It was just a joke! I didn't know they'd take it
seriously! It was just a practical joke!"
Suddenly, the man seemed to see Ernie clearly for the first
time. "A BULLFIGHTER!" He looked at Captain Memory. "A comic-book
character!" He looked at the Fly. "A GIANT FLY!"
"What IS your problem?" Sterno demanded.
"A TALKING DOG!" the man shrieked. "You're all worse than me!
I've got to get out of here! They'll tear you all to pieces!" With
that, the man threw himself through the nearest window, which,
luckily, had been glazed with large panes of sugar instead of
glass. He sprinted towards a group of trees behind the house, and
disappeared into a large hole beneath one of them. Ernie thought he
saw a large white rabbit with a watch disappear into the hole as
well, but he wasn't sure.
Captain Memory looked at his bare wrist. "I'd really like to
get a watch," he commented. "It doesn't have to be anything fancy.
A Timex would be okay."
The Fly was looking out the door. "Uh oh," he said ominously.
"Here they come!"
"Here WHO comes?" Ernie demanded anxiously.
"The angry villagers!" the Fly said unhappily. "You know, with
the torches and the rocks and everything? You don't want to mess
with the angry villagers, man. They're mean!" They Fly shuddered.
He seemed to have had some kind of bad experience with them in the
"Uh, maybe we ought to get out of here?" Ernie suggested.
"I haven't finished my strawberry mousse!" Sterno said
"Oh man, I don't know what we're gonna do," said the Fly
miserably. "They're closing in on us from all sides!"
Ernie peered through the broken window. He could see the smoke
from their torches in the distance. It occurred to him that perhaps
they should barricade the door, or something. Unfortunately, the
door had already been broken off its hinges by the Nazis. Ernie put
it upright in the doorframe as best he could, and shoved a small
rocking chair up against it to hold it.
"I don't think that's gonna stop anybody," the Fly said
Ernie could hear angry shouts. The villagers were approaching
fast. "I think we better do something!" Ernie urged Captain Memory.
"Oh yeah?" Captain Memory looked up unconcernedly. "Like
With a crash, a rock came sailing through on of the unbroken
windows. The angry shouts were quite close now. Ernie couldn't
understand them, though. They seemed to be in German.
A burning torch came sailing through an open window. Another
landed just outside the door. Thick black smoke began to fill the
"Ew, burning sugar!" complained Sterno. "How rank!"
The Fly peeked out a window. "Oh man, those angry villagers!
They're bad news!"
"Hey, this place is burning up!" Ernie urged Captain Memory.
"We've got to DO something!"
Captain Memory made a wry face. "Well, I guess there's no
point in hanging around HERE anymore!" He thought a moment. "Let's
try 011F 0D 0001!" The scene vanished.
* * *
Blinking, Ernie found himself once again in an entirely
different place. He staggered, and his stomach flip-flopped. "Oh,
man", he moaned. "I don't know if I can take these sudden changes
of scene anymore."
"Oh," Captain Memory seemed surprised. "Would you rather be
back at the gingerbread cottage?"
Ernie straightened up abruptly. "No, no that's okay. I'm fine,
just fine. I"d just as soon be right...um... He looked around.
Captain Memory, the Fly, and Sterno were all looking around as
well. They were in what appeared to be a large government office.
It was a big room, with a high, arched ceiling, lit by rows of
fluorescent lights. The walls were painted eye-saver green. `It
looks like an old-fashioned post office or something,' Ernie
In the middle of the room was a long row of tables with forms
in little pigeonholes and pens attached by chains. A row of windows
occupied one wall, each with a bored-looking clerk doing something
with papers. A sign above the windows said `Federal Bureau of
Ernie was puzzled. "Why did you bring us here?" He asked
"This isn't quite what I expected," admitted the Captain. He
seemed just as puzzled as Ernie. "Actually, I didn't really want to
leave. I really wanted to have another piece of cake - German
chocolate, as a matter of fact." He sighed. "I guess I won't get my
Ernie sighed as well. He wished he had taken advantage of the
opportunity to eat something while they were still at the cottage.
He was beginning to get really hungry, and it didn't look like he
was going to be able to find anything to eat here.
Ernie looked around. "What is this place?"
The Captain regarded the building thoughfully. "I'm not sure,
but I think it's a database."
"A database?" Ernie was confused. "I thought data in
Cyberspace was supposed to look like big, glowing geometric forms
that you could fly around in!"
"Yeah, well you could do that if you wanted," the Captain
explained. "But businesses usually don't. They secretaries don't
like 'em. They like something a little more, you know, traditional.
Like this!" He gestured at the building around them.
Their discussion was interrupted by a shrill, nasal voice.
"Next, please!" Ernie looked around confusedly. "That's you!" An
unpleasant-looking older woman with her hair pulled back in a tight
bun seemed to be pointing at him. "Step up to the window, please!"
Ernie looked at Captain Memory. "What should we do?"
The Captain shrugged. "I guess we should step up to the
window." They did so.
"Hello!" Captain Memory said pleasantly to the woman behind
the window. "Can you tell us why we're here?"
"Certainly," she said through tight lips.
Captain Memory smiled. "See," he said to Ernie. "This isn't
going to be hard at all!"
The woman behind the window smirked unpleasantly. "Just fill
out this form." She handed a thick sheaf of papers to Captain
The Captain's face fell. "What's this for?"
The woman smirked happily. "That's a form 4729, `Request for
Information'. I assume you have your authorized Form 7391 with
"Uh, I don't think so," the Captain answered confusedly. "What
"Oh, you must have your Form 7391, `Request for Request for
Information' completely filled out, authorized, and validated
before we can process your Form 4729, `Request for Information'.
Oh, you don't have a Form 7391? Here you are!" The woman handed
Captain Memory another thick sheaf of papers.
Captain Memory looked very unhappy. He leafed though the
forms. "These are real long," he complained.
"Be sure to read ALL the directions," the woman simpered
cheerfully. Her mood seemed to be improving with every passing
form. "And fill in all the blanks, except those marked `Do Not Fill
In This Blank'. Of course, if you fail to fill in any of the
correct blanks, or if you should happen to fill in any blank marked
`Do Not Fill In This Blank', then you'll have to start ALL over
again!" She cackled with glee at the thought.
"And, of course, you'll need a Form 6729, `Request for
Authorization of Forms', a Form 3451, `Request for Validation of
Forms', a Form 4472b, `Request for Instructions for Authorization
and Validation of Forms', and a Form 2392A, `Application for
Verification of Authorization and Validation.'" She handed Captain
Memory four more thick forms. He now had a pile of forms about
eight inches high in front of him. "And, of course," she said to
Ernie "We'll need a complete set of forms from you as well," she
handed Ernie a similar stack of papers. "And from you, and from
you." She handed the Fly and Sterno each their own stack. The woman
seemed positively ecstatic now.
Ernie looked at the pile in shock. "There's... there's
thousands of them!"
"Oh yes," said the woman gleefully. "There used to be only
hundreds, but ever since they passed the Paperwork Reduction Act
we've had far more!"
Ernie regarded the papers with dismay.
"After you've filled all those out," the woman continued
delightedly. "We'll start on the rest!"
The foursome took their piles of forms to the tables in the
middle of the room and began leafing through them despondently.
"These government offices are always so depressing," Sterno
complained. "Why must they always paint them that ghastly shade of
Ernie decided that he agreed with Sterno, but he was too
depressed to talk. He began leafing listlessly through his Form
2392, `Application for Verification of Authorization and
Validation', for no other reason than that it happened to be at the
top of the pile. It started out straightforwardly enough:
Name: Social Security #:
Father's Name: Mother's Name:
Mother's Maiden Name:
DO NOT WRITE IN THIS SPACE
Ernie tried to fill in his name, but the pen on the little
chain wouldn't write. Instead, he flipped a few pages ahead.
Great Grandmother on your Father's Mother's Side's Maiden Name:
Great Grandmother on your Father's Mother's Side's Dependent
Children Living with Her at the Time of Marriage (if any) Names:
DO NOT WRITE IN THIS SPACE
STOP! Did you write in this space? If so, take the letters of
your name, add their numerical equivalents to your date of birth,
and turn to the appropriate section as indicated by the table on
page 349. Follow directions carefully. Then, discard this form and
start all over.
Ernie sighed. He leafed ahead a few more pages.
ENTER ONE OF THE FOLLOWING:
(a)Your Adjusted Gross Income, minus Unrecovered
Depreciation otherwise deductible on Form 692A, but including
Accrued Losses not otherwise reported on this Form.
(b)The sum total of all the money you ever made in your
(c)The sum total of the sum total of all the money you
ever made in your entire life AND all the money your father and/or
mother made in their entire lives OR;
(d)How much you got?
Complete the above and roll again. If doubles, forfeit one
turn. Otherwise, proceed to the nearest RR and pay owner TWICE what
he would otherwise receive. Do NOT pass GO; do NOT collect $200.
DO NOT WRITE IN THIS SPACE
Ernie looked up. "Do you get the feeling they're playing games
with us?" he asked the others.
"Oh NO!" cried the Fly desperately.
"What!?" said Ernie, alarmed.
"I wrote in the space that says `Do Not Write in This Space'",
wailed the Fly.
"Tsk, tsk," said Sterno. "You're in big trouble now!"
Ernie was glad that it was someone other than himself who was
in big trouble, for a change. He looked over at Captain Memory.
The Captain was having a hard time filling out his forms. He
seemed to have gotten stuck. Ernie looked over his shoulder. As a
matter of fact, the Captain seemed to have gotten stuck on the
first space, `NAME:'. "Should I put `Captain Memory' or `Memory,
Captain?'" he mused.
Ernie noticed that the Captain's form was different from his.
In twenty-five (25) words or less, explain how you manage to
travel through Cyberspace without stopping at the approprite
checkpoints and/or checksums. Be concise; use specific examples,
and remember, neatness counts!
If you need more room, use a separate sheet.
DO NOT WRITE IN THIS SPACE
"I know!" said Captain Memory. "I can put `Memory' under
`Name:', and `Captain' under `Rank:'. I wonder what I should put
under `Cereal Number:'?"
Ernie suddenly became very uneasy. "I think maybe we should
just get out of here while we have the chance!"
Sterno was leafing through his pile of papers. "Aha!" he
cried. "Here we go: Form 1193, `Request for Authorization to Apply
for a License to Purchase Cigars'! Now we're getting somewhere!"
Sterno did not find the forms upsetting at all. In fact, he seemed
to be the only one able to deal with them. He began scribbling
industriously in the blanks. As Ernie watched, he took his sheaf of
forms to one of the windows, where it was stamped. He then took it
to another window, where a large gold seal was affixed to it. Then
on to another window, where several people signed it. He then
disappeared around a corner, and returned, moments later, carrying
a large box of cigars.
"Wow!" The Fly was awestruck. "That's amazing! I wonder how he
"It's not really that difficult," commented Sterno, lighting
up a big cigar. His disposition always improved tremendously when
he had a cigar. "I'll tell you a secret: the universe is actually
a giant bureaucracy. It's possible to get anything in the Cosmos
done, if you fill out the right forms. However, filling out the
right forms can sometimes be very difficult indeed." He puffed his
cigar appreciatively. "Havanas, no less! One needs a special permit
to get these, I'll have you know!"
The Fly, meanwhile, was intent on trying to erase what he had
written in the space marked `Do Not Write in This Space'. So far,
he had only succeeded in tearing a hole in the paper.
Ernie, meanwhile, was noticing the fact that all the clerks
and tellers seemed to be watching them. Another unusual thing
struck him. "Hey guys," he commented. "Did you notice that there's
all these clerks and all these officials, but no customers besides
"Egad, that IS odd," agreed Sterno. "Everyone knows that the
usual ratio is 116,312 customers per clerk." He looked around.
"Where ARE all the lines? I've never seen a government office this
empty, except of course at the Administration for Not Doing
Anything At All Building, and even there only after 5:00 P.M. on
weekends. It does seem suspicious!"
Ernie was thrilled that for once, someone agreed with him.
"Okay, well that proves it, right? So let's get out of here, okay?"
"I've got it!" cried Captain Memory. He grabbed a pen, and
wrote in large, childlike block letters in the space marked `Serial
Number:' `FROSTED FLAKES'. "There!" he said, beaming. He looked at
the next line, and his face fell. "Oh, it's an essay question! I
hate essay questions!"
"So let's get out of here, okay?" Ernie urged. He felt more
uneasy with each passing moment.
Captain Memory sighed. "I guess we might as well. I'm never
gonna finish this thing!" He pushed the pile of papers aside. Ernie
began slowly heading toward the door, acutely aware of all the
clerks watching him. He tried to act as nonchalant as possible,
whistling a little tune and shuffling his feet as he walked.
"Just a minute!" he heard the old woman clerk cry out. "Just
WHERE do you think you're going?"
"Uh..uh.." Ernie stammered.
"Don't you know you're not allowed to leave without filling
out a Form 9150, `Application for Authorization to Apply for
Permission for an Interruption in Completion of Forms'!" she
shrieked. "Get back here!"
Ernie thought fast. "Uh, I gotta go to the bathroom!"
The old woman glared at the other three. "And what about YOU?"
The others followed Ernie's lead. "Uh, we all gotta go to the
bathroom!" they chorused in unison.
The clerk scowled. "All right! Fill out this Form 7711,
`Request for Permission to Apply for Authorization for Admission to
the Sanitary Facility'!" she snapped. "Anyway, you're going the
wrong way! The bathroom's that way!" She pointed down a long
corridor which seemed to disappear into the bowels of the building.
Ernie looked at the others. "RUN!!" he yelled. They all
sprinted for the door.
"Stop them!" shrieked the old woman, but they were already
through the door.
Outside, they found themselves on the dingy streets of what
appeared to be a large city greatly in need of urban renewal. "We'd
better keep moving," Ernie urged. "They're right behind us!"
The Fly looked back. "No, they're not."
Ernie stopped, confused, and turned around. Sure enough, there
was no sign of pursuit. "Why aren't they chasing us?" Ernie
"Oh, here's the reason," said Captain Memory regarding his
bare wrist. "It's five o'clock. Civil servants never work past
five!" He continued to regard his bare wrist. "I'd really like to
get a watch!"
Ernie breathed a sigh of relief. "So, we're safe, then?"
"At least till nine o'clock tomorrow morning," Captain Memory
agreed. He looked around brightly. "Let's go for a walk! Maybe we
can find a jewelry store somewhere around here!" Captain Memory
paused reflectively, looking at his bare wrist. "It doesn't have to
be a Rolex. A Seiko would be okay. Of course, I wouldn't mind a
Rolex!" They began strolling down the street.
As they neared the corner, they began to hear music in the
distance. Ernie recognized the sound of steel drums and guitars.
"Reggae!" he said. "Somebody's playing reggae music around here!"
Ernie relaxed. While he wasn't a particular fan of reggae music, it
made him fell more at home to come across anything at all he could
As they turned the corner, they came upon a group of black
people who seemed to be having a party. They wore bright-colored
clothes, and had their hair hanging down in long braids.
"Dreadlocks!" Ernie recognized. "They must be Rastafarians!"
The Fly seemed totally confused by these people. "Hey, guy!"
he said to one of them. "Uh, do you live around here?"
"Oh, no mon," the man answered in a thick Jamaican accent. "We
not from here, mon. We from de Islands. We Rastas!"
In spite of himself, Ernie found himself becoming suspicious.
For one thing, they didn't look like other black people Ernie knew.
There was something funny about their skin tone. It was unusually
black, and it seemed to be coming off on objects around them. Out
of a corner of his eye, Ernie noticed a trash can nearby. It seemed
to be full of empty bottles of black shoe polish.
Another of the Rastafarians approached the Fly. "Hey,
brother," he said, pointing at the Fly's antenna. "You got de
dreadlocks too, I see. Here, smoke some of dis ganja!" He handed
the Fly a funny-looking cigarette.
"Uh, thanks." The Fly accepted the cigarette. However, he
couldn't seem to fit it into his snout, no matter which way he held
Ernie heard the reassuring strains of Bob Marley and the
Wailers drifting out through a nearby doorway, but he was unable to
shake his suspicions. He noticed something unusual about the man's
footwear. "Since when do Rastas wear jackboots?"
The man seemed momentarily nonplussed, but quickly recovered
his composure. "Oh sure, mon. We all wear de jackboots now. It's de
new `in' thing." He turned to the Fly. "Ain't dat right, brother?"
The Fly had managed to get a grip on the cigarette with his
snout, and was puffing away. He started to giggle. "Jackboots!
Sure! Why not!"
"Dere you go, mon," the Rasta said reassuringly, while taking
out a monocle and fitting it into his eye. "You got nothin' to
worry about! We just Rastas, mon. We not Nazis, or nothin'!" He
laughed. "Oh, no!"
The Fly was giggling uncontrollably now. "Hey, that's GREAT
music!" he said enthusiastically. "You guys are really alright!
This is FUN!" He broke down into fits of hysterical giggling.
"Take it easy, mon," the Rasta said to Ernie. "My name's Jack.
I from Monterey. Dey call me Monterey Jack!"
Sterno stiffened. "Monterey Jack! Do you know what that is!?"
he hissed. "It's...it's CHEESE!"
The Rasta stood abruptly up, the monocle dropping out of his
eye. "SEIZE THEM!" he shrieked, his Islands accent abruptly
"RUN!" shouted Ernie and Sterno together.
"Hey guys, what's the rush?" asked the Fly, his head lolling
from side to side. "Isn't this a FUN party?"
"Come ON!" Ernie grabbed the Fly's tie and pulled him along
like a puppy on a leash. The ran down the narrow street, the Fly
stumbling and giggling. Close behind them were the imitation
Rastas, discarding their Caribbean clothes as they ran to reveal
Nazi uniforms beneath. "Quick, in here!" Ernie pulled the Fly into
an open doorway, followed by Sterno and Captain Memory. Inside was
a flight of stairs. They ran up the stairs and through a door at
the first landing, to find themselves in a long corridor, lined by
rows of doors.
"Looks like an apartment building, or maybe a hotel," Ernie
observed. "Maybe we can find a room to hide in!"
"Good idea!" Sterno agreed.
"I'd like a room with a TV, if you don't mind," Captain Memory
added. Ernie glared at him, and hurried down the hall, still
dragging the Fly by the necktie.
An open door beckoned. The four rushed into what appeared to
be an ordinary, somewhat run-down hotel room, slammed the door
behind them, and locked it.
"Whew!" Ernie breathed a sigh of relief. "Well, I don't think
they can find us in here! Look's like we're safe!"
The Fly collapsed into an overstuffed chair. He held his hands
up in front of his face. "Oh wow," he said wonderingly. "Did you
ever look at your hands? I mean, really LOOK at them?" He started
"Hmmph!" Sterno sniffed. "Some people just can't hold their
There was a knock on the door.
"Ssh!" Ernie cautioned the others. "Let's just be quiet and
they won't know we're in here!"
"Ve know you're in dere!" a voice outside the door shouted.
Ernie was astonished. "How could they know we were in here?"
he whispered to the others.
"Dat's easy!" answered the voice from behind them door. "Ve
just follow ze trail of sequins!"
Ernie looked at his toreador suit. Large, sparkle-less patches
confirmed his worst fears. Sure enough, a faint, but clearly
identifiable trail of sequins led under the door.
Ernie became aware of everyone glaring at him, except of
course, the Fly, who was still busily examining his hands. "You,
again!" snarled Sterno.
"Well, hey..." Ernie shrugged defensively. "What am I supposed
to do, you know? I..."
The knock sounded again, this time louder. "Open up!"
Ernie looked at the door. I'll be cool about this, he decided.
Maybe I can fake them out. "Uh, yes?" he called out brightly.
"Nazis!" came the reply. "Open up!"
"Uh, no thanks! We don't want any!"
"You vill open zis door! NOW!"
Ernie thought fast. "Uh, I'm in the bathroom right now! Could
you come back later?"
"BREAK DOWN ZE DOOR!" Something large and heavy thudded into
Ernie looked around the room frantically. "The fire escape!"
Ernie pointed through an open window. "Quick! Everybody! Out that
way!" The ran to the window and climbed down the fire escape, Ernie
pulling the Fly by the necktie. "Hey, what's the rush, guys?" asked
the Fly, giggling. "We just got here!"
As they hurried down the fire escape, Ernie heard the sound of
the door breaking down behind them. "After zem!" a voice cried.
The bottom of the fire escape led to a narrow alley. Hurrying
along it, the found themselves facing a large iron door. There was
no other way out of the alley. The sounds of pursuit were close
behind them. Ernie tried the doorknob. It was unlocked. "Quick,
through here!" he shouted.
They four scrambled through the door and slammed it behind
them. Inside it was totally dark. Ernie felt along the doorframe
for a lock. He found one, and locked it. He found another, and
locked that too. There was also a large bolt, and a huge padlock.
He locked those as well. "There," he said. "That should keep them
out. We're safe now!" He breathed a sigh of relief.
"Where are we?" he heard Captain Memory's voice ask. "I can't
see a thing!"
Ernie inched carefully forward, his hands outstretched, hoping
to find a lamp, or a light switch, or something. Suddenly, from out
of the darkness, a voice rang out. "Ah, how nice of you to return!"
the voice said. "Ve haff been vaiting for you!"
"Uh oh," Ernie began. "I think we're in trouble guys!"
The now-familiar voice of the game-show announcer boomed out.
"You sure are, because it's time for WHEEL OF TORTURE!"
There was the sound of tremendous applause.
The entire scene erupted into blinding light.
The announcer continued. "And now, for our first contestant:
from Toledo, Ohio, it's Goombah the Toreador!"
"My name's Ernie," Ernie complained. "Gimme a break, huh?"
"SURE!" the announcer agreed cheerfully. "WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE
BROKEN?!" Ernie heard uproarious laughter.
"Say!" the announcer continued. "I just LOVE your suit! You're
missing a few sequins, though!" Ernie heard laughter again, this
time cut short in a very artificial-sounding way. His eyes were
beginning to adjust to the light, but he still couldn't see
"And here's our second contestant: from Des Moines, Iowa, it's
Seth Brundage, the Human Fly!"
"Aw, I wish you wouldn't call me that!" the Fly complained.
"It makes a real bad impression, you know? Couldn't you just call
"Sure thing, Mr. Fly!" the announcer agreed jovially.
The Fly moaned. "And I'm not from Des Moines, either!"
Ernie's vision was beginning to clear up. They were,
unfortunately, back on the stage of `Wheel of Torture'. They seemed
to have blundered (or been maneuvered) into the same stage they had
escaped from twice before. Ernie just hoped they would be able to
escape from it again.
He looked out towards the audience. There was no audience -
just empty chairs. Ernie looked around. There were no guards, no
chorus girls. In fact, there was only one person: the Gestapo's
greatest, Sturmbannfuhrer Dr. Heinz von Liederkranz, the man whose
name sounds like cheese! Ernie heard thunderous applause.
"Tank you, tank you!" von Liederkranz bowed in the direction
of the non-existent audience. He then reached out and shut off a
small tape recorder. The applause ended abruptly. He turned on
another small tape recorder. "And now, on with the show!" the
recorded voice of the announcer rang out. Von Liederkranz shut that
one off, too.
"Zo, ve meet again!" Von Liederkranz smiled unpleasantly. "Now
you are in my power! You vill tell me vhat I vant to know!"
Ernie looked at the empty chairs. "What happened to the
Von Liederkranz's face turned hard. "Dat vas most...
unfortunate. Dey all refused to confess, und I vas forced to...
eliminate dem. For vhich..." He looked around quickly. Finding no-
one else around him, he settled on Ernie. "YOU vill pay,
schweinhund!" he cried, slapping Ernie with his riding crop.
"Why me!?" cried Ernie. "I didn't..."
Von Liederkranz eyed them all suspiciously. "Unfortunately, I
vill not be able to interrogate you at de moment, due to a, um,
temporary staff shortage. Until zis situation can be remedied, I
vill be forced to keep you locked up. Zis time, however, you vill
not escape due to ze incompetence of guards! Ze guards have been...
liquidated." He smiled evilly. "Now, you vill go behind Door Nummer
One! MARSCH!" He gestured at them with an evil-looking
weapon. The foursome found themselves herded through Door Number
One, which crashed shut behind them with a very loud and ominous
Ernie looked around, his eyes slowly becoming accustomed to
the darkness. They seemed to be back in the same large dungeon cell
they had been held in before. The room was dimly lit by a torch
attached to one wall. The far reaches of the room disappeared into
the darkness, making it impossible to tell exactly how big the cell
"Oh man," the Fly complained. "Not here again! This place is
no fun! I waited for my date in here for DAYS, man! She never
showed up! I couldn't even get a drink while I waited! The service
in here is terrible!" He peered into the darkness. "Waiter!
Waiter!" He sighed. "It doesn't do any good. Nobody ever comes!"
Ernie peered into the darkness. No, he couldn't see anything
that even remotely resembled a waiter. However, straining his ears,
he did seem to hear something. It sounded like sniffling, and
perhaps crying. "Who's there?" he called into the darkness.
Two small figures began to approach into the light. As they
approached, Ernie could see that they were children: a little boy
and a little girl. They were both dressed in German national
costumes. The girl was wearing a dirndl, and the boy was wearing
lederhosen and a little alpine hat. They both seemed very sad.
Ernie was surprised. "Hi there," he said to the little boy in
a kindly manner. "What's your name?"
"My name is Hansel," said the boy, with a heavy German accent.
"Und dis is my sister, Gretel."
The Fly regarded the children. "Say, you kids haven't seen my
date, have you? She's about five-foot-two, eyes of blue..." The
children looked at him uncomprehendingly. The Fly sighed. "Oh well,
it was worth a try."
Ernie regarded the children with amazement. "How did you kids
Hansel sniffled sadly. "Ve vas arrested by ze Gestapo," he
explained. "Ve vas lost in ze forest, und ve found zis gingerbread
house, und a vicked vitch, und ve push her in ze oven." Hansel
sniffled tearfully. "How vas ve to know she vas a Gestapo agent?"
"Gee, that's tough, kid," Ernie said sympathetically. He hoped
Hansel wouldn't cry. He never knew what to do around crying
"Well, cheer up, kid," Captain Memory added in brightly. "It
could be worse!"
"How?" asked Hansel innocently.
"Uh..." Captain Memory thought for a moment. "I'll get back to
you on that!" He fell silent.
Hansel whimpered. "It's so cold and dark and awful in here!
Ernie winced. `Oh, he's gonna start crying', he thought. `What
am I gonna do? I don't know what to do when kids cry!' Ernie tried
to think of something to do. "Uh, cheer up kid! Maybe I'll tell you
Hansel brightened. "Oh, do you know a good story?"
Ernie frowned. "Uh, well,...no." He turned to Captain Memory.
"Hey, tell these kids a story! You know lots of stories!"
"Tell us a story! Tell us a story!" The children jumped up and
down in front of Captain Memory.
The Captain seemed confused. "Well, uh, I dunno."
"Oh man," said the Fly. "You're not gonna disappoint these
poor little kids, are you? Tell 'em something!"
Captain Memory hesitated. "Well, gee. I don't know what to
Hansel jumped up and down excitedly. "Tell us how you travel
from sector to sector in Cyberspace vithout getting shtopped at ze
checkpoints! Tell us dat one!"
Ernie frowned. How did these kids know about that?
Gretel, too, was jumping up and down excitedly. "Tell us how
you can JUMP from places dat are not supposed to accept any
external commands! Tell us dat one!"
The Captain seemed unsure. "Well, I don't know if I should
talk about that!"
"Oh, sure!" said Hansel reassuringly. "You can tell us all
about it! Dere's no harm in it! Ve're just little kids! You can
tell us everything you know!"
"I really shouldn't..." the Captain began.
"Oh, come on," Hansel cajoled. "Why not? We're just little
kids who want to hear a story! We're not midgets, just little kids!
And," he laughed. "We're certainly not Gestapo agents!"
Gretel laughed too. "Oh no, we're not midget Gestapo agents,
nothing of the kind! How silly to even think such a thing!"
Hansel gestured at Gretel. "See? Dot proves it! Und ve're
certainly not trying to pump you for information, ve just vant you
to tell us a story, ja?"
Captain Memory breathed a sigh of relief. "Well, that's a load
off my mind!"
"Gut! Gut!" Hansel and Gretel beamed. "Now, you vill tell us
vhat ve vant to know, ja?"
"Sure!" said Captain Memory brightly. "Uh," he scratched his
head. "What were we talking about again?"
Hansel fumed. "Talk, schweinhund! Or else ve..." He noticed
Gretel glaring at him. He caught himself. "Oh, ja." He laughed
feebly. "You vill tell us how you JUMP from place to place, ja?"
Sterno looked at the children suspiciously. "There's something
very peculiar about these children," he remarked. He looked them up
and down carefully. "You children," he demanded. "What is your LAST
Hansel and Gretel looked at each other in confusion. "Our
"You last name!" Sterno insisted. "Your first names are Hansel
and Gretel; what are your last names? Even Germans have last
Hansel and Gretel put their heads together and began
whispering furiously between them. "Last names...Dey didn't give
us...Vhat do ve say?" Finally, the looked up. "Uh, Colby! Dot's our
last name! Hansel and Gretel Colby! Ein gut name, ja?"
Sterno stiffened. "Do you know what that IS!?" he hissed.
"It's...it's CHEESE! COLBY CHEESE!"
A look of fury passed over both Hansel and Gretel's faces.
"Dummkopf!" Gretel screamed at Hansel. "You give away ze whole
show! Und ve vas zo close!"
"ME!?" Hansel shrieked back. "It vas you! You pick zis stupid
Suddenly, the door to the dungeon cell flew open. Von
Liederkranz stood in the doorway, framed in light. "Zo," he said
menacingly. "My liddle subterfuge does not fool you, eh? Dot is
most... unfortunate. Now I vill have to interrogate you meinself.
Out!" The entire group stepped out of the dungeon cell, and back
onto the stage of WHEEL OF TORTURE.
Von Liederkranz turned to Hansel and Gretel. "Und as for YOU,"
They winced. "Such incompetence is not to be tolerated! You vill
perhaps step behind Door Nummer Four, ja?"
The midgets blanched. "NEIN! NEIN! Not Door Nummer Four!"
"MARSCH!" Von Liederkranz gestured toward the door with his
evil-looking weapon. The midgets filed sadly through the door,
which slammed shut behind them. Ernie heard two piercing, blood-
curdling screams, and then silence.
Shaken, he turned to Captain Memory. "What...what is behind
Door Number Four?"
The Captain shook his head sadly. "You DON'T want to know!"
Ernie thought for a moment, and decided that probably the
Captain was right.
Von Liederkranz smiled evilly. "Und now, ze interrogation! Too
bad you did not tell ze midgets ze story dey vanted to hear! It
vould have been much easier... for you!" He stopped, sniffing at
something in the air. "Vot is dat smell?" he inquired of no-one in
particular. His eyes lighted on Sterno, whose cigar smoke was
drifting his way. "Vot are you smoking?"
"Oh, care for one?" Sterno offered politely. "They're
"Very nice!" Von Liederkranz accepted one. His eyes narrowed.
"Vhere did you get dese? It takes a special permit to buy dese!"
"Of course," Sterno agreed. "You need a Form 1193, `Request
for Authorization to Apply for a License to Purchase Cigars', and
you have to have it validated, verified, stamped, sealed, notarized
and signed; in triplicate, of course. Then you file it, wait for
your authorization number, and then..."
"I see!" Von Liederkranz interrupted. Of course, he didn't see
at all, but listening to this sort of thing gave him a headache.
"You must be very important, to have such privileges!"
Sterno puffed himself up proudly. "Well, as a matter of fact,
They were interrupted by a knock at the door. "Who dares to
interrupt me!?" von Liederkranz fumed.
"Mailman!" a cheerful voice answered.
"Vot do you vant?" von Liederkranz answered angrily. The same
cheerful-looking mailman entered. `How did he get through all those
locks?' Ernie wondered.
"I got a letter here for a Mr. Ernest Ross!"
Ernie waved weakly. "Right here!" The mailman handed Ernie his
letter, and left.
Von Liederkranz was livid with rage. "Vhy do you get all ze
mail?!" he raged. "I myself am avaiting important communications,
but do I receive zem? No! YOU get all ze mail! Just last veek I vas
informed dat I may already have won TEN MILLION DOLLARS! Prize
Notification Central is supposed to contact me any day now! But do
I hear from zem? NO! I don't even get ze magazines I order from
zem, either! YOU get all ze mail!" Von Liederkranz raged. "Zis
makes me very angry! For vhich..." He looked quickly around. His
eyes lit on the Fly. "YOU vill pay, schweinhund!" He slapped the
Fly with his riding crop.
"Hey!" the Fly complained. "It's not my fault! Gimme a break,
Von Liederkranz smiled evilly. "Vhat vould you like broken?
The Fly frowned. "Hey, guys, we gotta think of some other
phrase to use around here! I don't think it's safe to say `Gimme
a...'" He looked uneasily at von Liederkranz, who was smirking
menacingly. "...uh, to say that thing we just said, you know?"
Ernie opened his letter and read, even though he had a sinking
feeling that he knew what it was going to say. He was right:
"Dear Mr. Ross,
We have been retained by the National Bank of the
West to investigate the matter of an unpaid credit card balance of
$195,412,771,213,312,032.29. We understand that this account is a
little over two billion years overdue. Perhaps this matter has
slipped your mind. Perhaps you think you've got better things to
do. Well, LISTEN, you lousy DEADBEAT, if we don't get that money by
noon tomorrow, we're gonna send Vito to collect it! This is gonna
make Vito very angry! Vito is gonna get this out of you, ONE WAY OR
THE OTHER, if you get my drift! So send us this money, PUNK, while
you still can!
ACME COLLECTION AGENCY
P.S. If you have already sent in a check for this amount, please
disregard this letter. Have a nice day!"
The letter ended with a Smile face.
Ernie moaned. It was all just getting worse and worse.
"Give me zat letter!" von Liederkranz tore the letter out of
Ernie's hand. "Zo, just as ve thought!" he said, reading the letter
quickly and then tossing it aside. "Zo, you have problems vith
money, eh?" Ernie nodded, smiling weakly. "I can understand zat,"
said von Liederkranz commiseratingly. "I, too, have problems vith
money. In fact, I begin to see, now, vhere some of my problems come
from!" He pulled out a wicked-looking weapon and held it in Ernie's
face. "VHAT HAVE YOU DONE VITH MY PRIZE NOTIFICATION?!"
"ME!?" Ernie began. "I never..."
"Do not trifle vith me!" von Liederkranz snapped. He held the
weapon up for Ernie's inspection. "Do you know vhat zis is?"
"Well..." Ernie began.
"It is a pain generator," von Liederkranz went on menacingly.
"You vould like a taste, perhaps?"
"Well..." Ernie began again.
Von Liederkranz pulled the trigger. Instantly, Ernie's entire
body was engulfed in intense, searing pain. "YEEOW!"
VOn Liederkranz smirked evilly. "Ze pain generator has
intensity settings. Dat vas a number `1'. Ze numbers go up to
`100'. You vould like to try, perhaps, a `25'?"
Ernie blanched. All he could think of to say was "Well..."
There was a knock on the door. "Mailman!"
"AHA!" Von Liederkranz cried excitedly. "I knew it! ZE PRIZE
NOTIFICATION!" Von Liederkranz ran to the door and threw it open
The door flew open, and von Liederkranz froze in horror. "MEIN
GOTT!" he shrieked. There, an inch outside the door, was a huge
Post Office dump truck, it's bed lifted, its tailgate open, ready
to dump. Von Liederkranz had time for only one short scream before
he was completely engulfed in a huge flood of slick paper
Captain Memory shook his head sadly. "Poor guy, he should have
read the fine print. It clearly says that ordering all the
magazines won't increase your chances to win."
"Tough," Ernie said callously. After his brush with the pain
generator, he wasn't in the mood to be too sympathetic about
anything that happened to von Liederkranz. "So, why don't we get
out of here, okay?"
"Hmm," said Captain Memory thoughtfully. "`Out of here', you
say. Well, that's all well and good, I mean, anybody can just say
`let's get out of here', but..." He trailed off.
"Do you have a problem with that?" Ernie wanted to know.
"Well, um," said Captain Memory thoughtfully. "I'm not exacly
sure where we should go next. My last location didn't work out
quite the way I intended it."
"Hoow about the Dead Sea Phonograph Records?" Ernie suggested.
"Maybe we should go and check them out!"
"Will you get off that `Dead Sea Phonograph Records'
business?" Sterno snapped. "That's the most ridiculous thing I've
heard in...in..." He thought a moment. "...two billion years!"
"Well, have you got a better idea?" Ernie said exasperatedly.
"Loot, rape, and pillage," said the Fly thoughtfully.
"What!?" Ernie didn't know what to make of that statement at
"You know," the Fly continued. "What the Nazi was saying,
`Loot, rape, and pillage'. It reminds me of something, but I can't
quite recall what." The Fly concentrated. "Doesn't it just drive
you crazy when you can almost think of something, and then, just
when you think you got it, it gets away from you?"
"I know what you mean," said Ernie sympathetically.
"Let me see now," said Captain Memory reflectively. He seemed
to be taking the Fly's problem very seriously. "That was: Rape,
Loot and Pillage?"
Sterno frowned. "I don't think that's right."
Captain Memory looked surprised. "What's wrong with it? It's
not a song title, is it?"
"No." Sterno thought a moment. "It could be a heavy-metal rock
song. But I don't think it is."
Captain Memory breathed a sigh of relief. "Well, that's one
less thing to worry about!" He fell silent; he seemed to be lost in
Sterno continued. "I think it's supposed to be `loot, pillage,
The Fly considered this. "`Loot, pillage, rape', not `loot,
"How about `pillage, rape, loot'?" Ernie chimed in.
The others glared at him. "Don't be ridiculous!" Sterno
"Attila the Hun!" the Fly cried excitedly.
"What?!" Ernie said exasperatedly. "What in the world does
that have to do with anything?"
"That's what I was trying to think of!" The Fly was jubilant.
"Boy, do I feel better!" He turned to Captain Memory. "Hey, it was
Attila the Hun!"
The Captain seemed to have sunk into a reverie. The Fly's
comment seemed to suddenly startle him out of it. "What? Oh, Attila
the Hun? Well, I guess. I can't think of anything better!"
Ernie didn't like the sound of this. "Wait a minute! What..."
But it was too late.
"0028 CE 21!" Captain Memory cried. The scene vanished.
The foursome found themselves standing on a grassy hill. In
this distance a column of smoke rose heavenward from a village that
was being pillaged - possibly looted and raped as well (it was too
far to see).
"There you go, guys," said Captain Memory cheerfully. "Attila
the Hun! Now what?"
"What do you mean, `Now what?'?" Ernie demanded. "If you don't
know what we're going to do here, then why did you bring us here?"
"I thought you wanted to come here!" Captain Memory protested.
"It wasn't my idea! I was just trying to be nice! Actually, I
thought it was kind of a weird thing to do. I mean, we could have
gone to Vegas, we could have gone to Hawaii, but no, you want to go
see Attila the Hun!"
"Well, whose idea was it, then?" Ernie wanted to know.
"Well, it certainly wasn't MY idea!" Sterno demurred.
They all looked at the Fly. He shifted uncomfortably. "Hey, I
was just making conversation, you know? I didn't mean we should
actually come and SEE Attila the Hun. I don't even know the guy,
Captain Memory chuckled. "How about that! We came all the way
to ancient Rome, and nobody really wanted to go at all! Funny how
things work out, isn't it? Well, I guess we'll just have to make
the best of it!"
Ernie looked out across the fields. "How can we be in anciant
Rome, anyway?" he asked.
"Educational software," the Captain explained. "THE HISTORY OF
THE WORLD database. All the schools have it."
"Oh." Ernie looked down. He noticed they were standing on a
road. He would have assumed it was one of the famous Roman Roads,
except that it was made of yellow brick. Ernie was almost certain
that the Romans didn't build their roads out of yellow bricks, but
he decided not to say anything about it, just in case he was wrong.
He was sick of being made fun of.
"I wonder where this road leads," Ernie speculated.
"Rome," Sterno answered with certainty.
"How do you know?" Ernie was skeptical.
"Everybody knows that," Sterno answered with authority. "`All
Roads Lead to Rome'!"
"Hey, that'll be fun!" the Fly chimed in. "Maybe we can get
togas! Maybe we can have a Toga party!" He started chanting. "Toga!
"Yeah, maybe we can get shot full of arrows by the Huns, too,"
Ernie added glumly.
They began walking down the yellow brick road. In the distance
a pall of smoke rose from nearby pillaged villages. "Hey, there's
a building up ahead!" the Fly observed.
They walked nearer. "Oh, it's a Roman villa! They're supposed
to be very luxurious! Let's take a look at it!"
Ernie was doubtful. "What if it's been pillaged?"
"Don't be ridiculous!" Sterno snapped. "It's a `villa', not a
`village'! You can't very well pillage a `villa'! It doesn't even
"Oh...sorry," Ernie felt like he just couldn't stop making
"They education they give young people these days!" Sterno
sniffed. "It's just a disgrace! Whatever happened to the classical
education? Where I come from, EVERYONE who is ANYONE has a
"I don't have a classical education," the Fly commented.
"My point exactly," Sterno smirked.
The Fly frowned. "Hey, are you putting me down or something?"
"Oh, perish forbid," said Sterno sneeringly. "Far be it from
me to put you down, when you do such a wonderful job of it
"Oh, uh...thanks." The Fly seemed confused. He brightened.
"Say, do you suppose there'll be any beautiful harem girls in that
Sterno looked disgusted. "This is ROME! They don't have harems
in ROME! Only the Arabs have harems!"
"Aww." The Fly seemed deeply disappointed.
A thought occurred to Ernie. "Hey, this is ancient Rome!"
"You just noticed that?" Sterno said sarcastically.
"I'll bet this has something to do with the Dead Sea
Sterno sighed disgustedly. "Will you PLEASE get off that Dead
Sea Phonograph Records business? You are the only person I know who
organizes their entire life around articles in sensational
tabloids! Why can't you worry about something serious, like alien
A serious look came over Ernie's face. "Do you suppose I
Sterno sighed again. "Hopeless!"
They approached the villa. A large white marble porch, held up
by Roman columns, greeted them. Ernie noticed something moving in
the shadows nearby.
The Fly peered at it. "Oh, it's a horse!" he exclaimed.
The horse walked towards them out of the shadows. Ernie saw it
was a good-sized palomino, well-groomed, wearing a bridle.
Something looked a bit odd about it, but in this light Ernie
couldn't tell what it was. But then, he didn't really know that
much about horses anyway.
The horse approached them. "Hi there!" the horse said in a
deep, drawling voice.
Sterno started. "A talking horse!"
The horse started. "A talking dog!"
Ernie sighed. "A talking horse, right. I guess I might have
expected something like that. What next?" There was a time when all
of this would have seemed very unusual to him, perhaps even
startling. Now, however, it was getting kind of routine.
The horse regained its composure. "Say, have any of you guys
seen my friend Wilbur around here?"
The Fly regarded the horse carefully. "You know, this horse
looks very familiar. That voice sounds familiar, too."
The horse tossed his mane. "Oh, maybe you've seen my TV show.
My name is Mr. Ed!"
"Sure!" cried the Fly gleefully. "I used to love that show!"
He began to sing. "A horse is a horse, of course, of course..."
"Will you please stop singing that stupid song?" snapped
Sterno irritatedly. "I've always hated that song!"
"You don't like the theme song?" asked Mr. Ed incredulously.
"But everybody likes the theme song! It's one of the most popular
parts of the show!"
"Well, I don't!" Sterno barked.
Mr. Ed pawed the ground. "Well, I guess that's all you can
expect from a talking dog!"
Sterno glared. "Where I come from, we grind up animals like
you and feed them to our pet humans!"
Mr. Ed whinnied. "Let's not get personal, now!"
"Hmmph!" Sterno fell silent.
"Well..." said the Fly hesitantly. "I liked the theme song!"
"Thank you," said Mr. Ed. "I'm glad somebody here has some
"Gee, it's really neat to actually meet Mr. Ed," the Fly
enthused. "You know, I always thought your voice was, like, a
special effect or something."
"A what?" asked the horse.
"You know, like dubbed or something," the Fly explained. "I
mean, I thought you weren't really talking."
"Why would you think a thing like that?" Mr. Ed wondered.
A thought occurred to Ernie. "Say, Mr. Ed," he said to the
horse. "What are you doing in ancient Rome, anyway?"
Mr. Ed tossed his mane. "You know," he said thoughtfully. "I
was just asking myself that very question!"
Ernie narrowed his eyes suspiciously. That didn't seem to be
a very satisfactory answer to him.
"Let's go inside, shall we?" suggested Sterno. "The smoke from
that burning village is bothering my sinuses."
"Good idea!" said Mr. Ed, and led the way.
They crossed the Roman-style marble porch, walked through an
open atrium with a gurgling fountain in the middle of it, and came
to a huge oak door covered with iron studs. Inside, was a 1950's
style suburban living room, complete with blond furniture and a
free-form coffee table.
Ernie frowned. "You know, somehow this looks out of place to
Captain Memory sighed. "Now THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD database
is all screwed up, too. Somebody's teacher's gonna be really mad
Ernie continued to frown. "You notice that we come across an
awful lot of fifties-type stuff? How come we don't get forties
stuff, or seventies stuff? How come it's always fifties stuff?"
Captain Memory sighed, and dropped heavily into the green
fifties-style sofa. "Oh, I'm sure there's a logical explanation for
it. I just can't think of it at the moment."
Mr. Ed pawed the ground nervously. "Say, you're not suspicious
or anything, are you? There's nothing to be suspicious of!
Everything's perfectly safe!" Somehow, this reassurance failed to
make Ernie feel any better.
Mr. Ed pointed his muzzle towards a large, floor model,
fifties-style television set. "Say, you wanna watch some TV?"
"NO!" Ernie was not ready to cope with any more TV.
Mr. Ed seemed taken aback. "You don't have to shout," he said
in a hurt tone, clopping off to the other side of the room.
"Aww, now you hurt his feelings!" said the Fly accusingly. He
set off to try to console Mr. Ed.
Captain Memory was pulling some objects out of hidden pockets
in his costume. "Ah, here it is!" he said, producing his favorite
item, the TV Guide.
Ernie felt his stomach grumbling. He was getting really
hungry by now. He hadn't gotten anything to eat back at the
gingerbread cottage, when the others were stuffing their faces. He
was beginning to really regret that now. He noticed an open door at
the other end of the living room, and decided to go and investigate
Through the door was a typical suburban kitchen. His eyes
immediately fixed on one object: the refrigerator. He threw it open
excitedly. Unfortunately, it was empty, except for a box of baking
soda. Maybe there would be something in the freezer? Ernie opened
the freezer door, and started back in horror. There, frozen into
immobility, was the most hideous, disgusting, totally alien
monstrosity that Ernie had ever seen. One of it's tentacles, or
pseudopods, or whatever they were, was frozen into the ice cube
tray. Another seemed to be reaching for a box of popsicles. Ernie's
stomach turned over, and he slammed the freezer door in disgust.
Ernie ran back into the living room. "There's the most awful
thing in the freezer!" he exclaimed excitedly.
"Oh yeah?" Captain Memory wasn't actually paying attention.
"Yeah!" Ernie went on agitatedly. "It's some kind of weird,
alien thing, and it's frozen into the ice cube tray!"
"Oh, yes," Sterno commented calmly. "Aliens in the ice cube
trays. We get them all the time. Rather a nuisance. Unsanitary,
don't you know."
"Must you always shout?" Sterno said reprovingly. "I have very
delicate hearing, you know."
"Oh, um, sorry," Ernie was embarrassed. Apparently no-one
seemed to consider the alien very important.
Sterno thought a moment. "Were there, by any chance, some
popsicles in that refrigerator?"
Ernie was surprised. "Uh, yeah, there were. How did you know
"Oh, yes," Sterno continued. "They're always found with
popsicles, you know. That's why they come to Earth, we believe. To
steal popsicles. But then, they accidentally step into the ice cube
tray in the "Quick Chill" section, and get frozen stiff."
"Wasn't that a movie?" the Fly chimed in, momentarily breaking
off his conversation with Mr. Ed.
The word "movie" caught Captain Memory's attention. "Oh yeah?"
"Sure," the Fly went on enthusiastically. "I remember that
now. `THE THING'! It was a '50's science fiction movie about this
alien frozen into the ice at the North Pole."
"Great movie!" Captain Memory agreed. "With James Arness as
"I thought James Arness was Marshall Matt Dillon on
`Gunsmoke'," said the Fly, puzzled.
"Mmm hmm," Captain Memory agreed. "But he was also the alien."
"Imagine that!" the Fly shook his head wonderingly. "Marshall
Matt Dillon was an alien! No wonder he was so quick on the draw!"
Ernie fidgeted anxiously. "So, what should I do about it?"
"About what?" Sterno asked, only half paying attention.
"The ALIEN!" Ernie cried.
"Please!" winced Sterno, putting his paws over his ears.
"Oh. Sorry." Ernie lowered his voice.
"That's better," Sterno lowered his paws. "Just don't thaw it
"DON'T thaw it out!" Sterno repeated emphatically.
Ernie considered this. "Why would aliens steal popsicles?" he
"Because they haven't any money, I suppose," Sterno mused.
"They can't buy them if they haven't any money, now can they? I
suppose they'll just have to steal them, then!"
"Uh..." Ernie felt unsatisfied by this line of reasoning.
"They can't very well just go out and get jobs, now can they?"
Sterno continued. "After all, who'd hire an alien? McDonalds? Would
you really want to buy a hamburger from an alien?"
Ernie thought about the frozen alien, and his stomach flipped
over again. "Um, no..."
"Well, that proves it, then!" Sterno leaned back triumphantly.
Ernie sighed, and sat down on the sofa. The others all seemed
absorbed in their own pursuits. Ernie fidgeted uncomfortably. His
stomach growled. He was beginning to get ravenously hungry. He
looked at the kitchen door. Maybe he could try the kitchen one more
The kitchen looked a lot like something out of a 1950's
`Better Homes & Gardens' magazine. It was painted in cheerful
colors, with cast-iron trivets hanging on the walls as decorations.
Ernie would have found it quite homey, if he hadn't known that
there was a Thing in the freezer. Avoiding the refrigerator, he
walked over to a row of cabinets and began rummaging through them.
The contents of the cabinets turned out to be disappointing.
There were none of Ernie's favorite foods. He looked through the
containers. `Hearts of Toad'? No. `Poisonberry Yogurt?' I don't
think so. What's this? Ernie grabbed a box of what appeared to be
peanut brittle. `Great!' he thought. `I love peanut brittle!' He
was just about to tear into it, when he noticed the label:
`Cockroach Crunch'. He put it back gingerly. He decided that
perhaps he wasn't all that hungry after all.
Ernie was just about to give up and go back into the living
room, when he noticed a familiar-looking object on the counter
nearby. He looked at it more closely. It seemed to be an old
1950's-style coffee maker. It seemed to Ernie that he could sure
use a cup of coffee right now. He examined it more closely. `Hey!
This is Bakelite! Genuine Bakelite! This must be one of the first
coffee makers ever made! What a treasure! Plastic collectors would
pay a fortune for this!' He picked it up and carried it into the
"Hey, guys!" Ernie announced. "Look what I found!"
Captain Memory started as he saw what Ernie was carrying.
"Wow! Where'd you get that?"
Ernie was excited. "It was just sitting on the counter in the
"Do you know what that is?" Captain Memory enthused. "That's
a Psion Megaforce Generator! I wonder what it's doing on this
Ernie's heart sank. "Does this mean I'm not going to get a cup
Captain Memory continued to enthuse. "Wow! A Psion Megaforce
Generator! Right here! Right in our own living room!"
Sterno, who, up to this point had not been paying any
attention, looked up irritatedly. "What? What kind of nonsense are
you going on about now?"
"It's a Psion Megaforce Generator! I can't believe it!" The
Captain seemed really enraptured by it.
"I just can't tell you how thrilled I am about that," Sterno
yawned. "Or rather, I could, but I'd rather not be impolite. So,
instead, why don't you just tell us what this thing is supposed to
"It's a Psion Megaforce Generator!" The Captain was, indeed,
Sterno sighed. "Okay. We understand that. Now, why don't you
just calm down, and tell us what it's supposed to do."
Captain Memory seemed taken aback. "Do?"
Sterno spoke each word slowly and carefully, as though talking
to a small child. "What is it supposed to do?"
Captain Memory shifted uncomfortably. "Hmmm, lemme think. Uh,
I used to know that. I used to know all that stuff..."
Sterno repeated himself, speaking even more slowly and
carefully, as though to someone who did not speak English very
well. "What is it supposed to do?"
Ernie examined the device. He turned to Captain Memory. "Are
you sure this thing is really a Psion Megaforce Generator?"
"Oh, absolutely!" The Captain looked very relieved that
someone had broken the awkward silence.
"Then how come it says `Mr. Coffee' on it?"
"It's a `Mr. Coffee' brand Psion Megaforce Generator. What's
wrong with that?" the Captain wanted to know.
Ernie was becoming more and more skeptical. "So, how come it
says `makes 1-4 cups. Drip grind only'?"
"Well, uh, I'm sure there's a logical explanation for that,"
Captain Memory said evasively. "I just can't quite think of it at
Ernie narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "Are you sure this isn't
a coffee maker?"
"Uh..." Captain Memory stopped. Suddenly, his eyes lit up.
"I've got it! NOW I remember! Of course, why didn't I think of it?
Now I remember what a Psion Megaforce Generator is supposed to do!"
Sterno was not impressed. "Okay. What?"
"It makes coffee!" Captain Memory cried out triumphantly.
Ernie set the coffee maker on the table and sat down on the
sofa, rubbing his head wearily. Why did everything always have to
be so complicated?
Captain Memory looked around at everyone, obviously
disappointed. Sterno was pointedly looking in another direction.
The Fly was talking to Mr. Ed. Ernie was wearily cradling his head
in his hands. No-one seemed to be greeting the Captain's
announcement with much enthusiasm.
"Of course, I could be wrong," The Captain said tentatively.
Ernie began examining the coffee maker. He wasn't quite sure
how to work an old model like this. He turned it over. There seemed
to be some directions on the bottom, but the were all covered with
coffee stains, and were practically impossible to read. He would
probably just have to figure it out himself.
"Wait a minute!" The Captain said urgently.
Ernie looked up. "Now what?"
"It just occurred to me that, uh," Captain Memory looked
embarrassed. "Maybe the Psion Megaforce Generator doesn't make
coffee after all."
"So what does it do instead? Make tea?"
"Um, no." The Captain looked uncomfortable. "I think it, uh,
Ernie gave the Captain a disgusted look.
"There, uh, isn't any place to put peanut butter in that
thing, is there?" the Captain asked intensely.
Ernie examined it. "No."
"Nothing about peanut butter? No little door, or compartment
Ernie looked it over. "Nope."
The Captain seemed relieved. "Okay, okay. Forget that. Forget
I said anything about peanut butter. I'm absolutely sure that it,
uh, destroys planets. Or makes coffee. It for sure either destroys
planets or makes coffee!" Captain Memory beamed, pleased with
himself for having solved this difficult problem.
Ernie examined the machine more closely. There was a lever on
the top which was labelled `Mild' on one side, and `Full' on the
other. He also found a two-position switch on the side. There were
little words printed next to each position. Unfortunately, the ink
had rubbed off of them, and they were very difficult to read. Ernie
peered closely. He wasn't sure, but the positions seemed to be
labelled "Brew" and "Destroy." Ernie sighed. He was rapidly losing
interest in the entire subject. Idly, he flipped the switch.
Instantly, the earth rumbled, the building shook. Ernie
hastily flipped the switch back again.
Sterno turned to Ernie irritatedly. "Who did that? Did you do
"Uh, yeah, I..."
"Well, you could at least excuse yourself!" Sterno snapped.
"Oh. Sorry." Somehow, Ernie always seemed to wind up feeling
that he was at fault.
Captain Memory was beaming. "Well, that settles that, doesn't
it? It destroys planets! I was right all along! Of course I was!"
Ernie regarded the device ruefully. He noticed a small, faded
tag on the side which read "WARNING: Follow instructions carefully.
The manufacturer assumes no responsibility for damage to planets
due to failure to follow said instructions. Such failure will also
void your warranty." Ernie sighed. "There goes my cup of coffee."
Captain Memory returned to consulting his TV Guide. An object
on the coffee table caught Ernie's attention. It was a small
rectangular object wrapped in paper. He picked it up. It seemed to
be a candy bar. Ernie's stomach started grumbling again. He was
feeling very sorry for himself at the moment. He hadn't had
anything to eat for a very long time. How come everybody else got
to eat, but not him? He couldn't even get a cup of coffee! He
unwrapped the object. It looked like a candy bar. It smelled like
a candy bar. A wave of guilt suddenly came over him. He probably
shouldn't eat it. It probably belonged to Captain Memory. But then,
on the other hand, maybe it had been on the coffee table all along,
and he just hadn't noticed it. Ernie brightened. In any case, that
sounded like a good excuse to him. He took a bite. Quite tasty,
although it did have an odd crunch. He ate the rest of the bar, and
tossed the wrapper under the sofa.
Ernie was beginning to feel somewhat better. Suddenly, the
telephone rang. Ernie looked at Captain Memory. Captain Memory
looked at Ernie. "Well?" the Captain demanded.
"Uh, the telephone's ringing," said Ernie uncomfortably.
"Are you going to answer it?" the Captain wanted to know.
"Um, you want me to answer it?"
"Well, it's on your side!" It was, indeed, sitting on an end
table right next to Ernie.
"I thought they didn't have telephones in ancient Rome," said
"For god's sake, answer the telephone already!" cried Sterno.
"That ringing is driving me crazy!"
Ernie picked up the phone. "Yo!" cried the voice on the other
end. "Ernie Ross, right?"
"Uh, yeah," answered Ernie uneasily. He wasn't expecting to
get any calls in ancient Rome.
"Dis is Vito. We got a little matter to discuss about
a...uh...$195,412,771,213,312,032.29, PLUS INTEREST, you know what
I mean? We're gonna get dis money, you know what I mean? So, uh,
are you gonna make it easy on yourself and give it to us now, or
are we gonna have to get it outta you, like, da hard way?"
"Well, look, I got this problem..."Ernie began desperately.
"You tink you gotta problem now," Vito interrupted. "It ain't
nothin' compared to the problem you gonna have if you don't pay
"Well..."Ernie tried again.
"Look!" Vito broke in. "I'm comin to get da money, punk, and
you better have it, OR ELSE!" He hung up.
Ernie turned to Captain Memory. "Maybe we should go someplace
else," he suggested.
"Okay," said the Captain agreeably. "Where?"
Ernie concentrated. "I know!" he said brightly. "How about we
go to the Middle East and look for the Dead Sea Phonograph
Sterno moaned. "Not THAT again!"
The Captain looked doubtful. "It's kind of a long walk!"
Ernie frowned. "Can't you just transport us there?"
"Well, you know, I don't really like to do that too often,"
answered the Captain. "There's always a certain amount of risk.
With these locations changing all the time, there's always a chance
of a FATAL ERROR creeping in, and..."
"Okay, okay," said Ernie quickly. "Forget I said it, okay?"
"Have it your way", said the Captain agreeably.
Ernie sighed. All of this was just too much for him. "If only
we had some kind of vehicle or something. A spaceship, or even a
Captain Memory looked thoughtful. "Oh, you want a spaceship?"
"You have a SPACESHIP?" Ernie cried.
"Well, it's just a little something I take out on the
weekends," the Captain explained modestly. "It's no big deal. I
mean, it doesn't have a kitchen, or a porta-john or anything. It's
just for short hops, like around the solar system or something.
It's called the Luna C."
"Lunacy?" Sterno inquired.
"Oh, no," Captain Memory laughed. The Luna C."
"Why C?" Ernie was curious.
"Well, you know, after the Luna A and the Luna B, there's the
Luna C!" Captain Memory explained.
"So, what happened to the Luna A and the Luna B?" Sterno
wanted to know.
Captain Memory suddenly became very quiet. After a few
moments, he muttered "Well...well...it wasn't my fault!"
Ernie frowned. "What wasn't?"
"It was a stupid place to put a planet anyway!" Captain Memory
went on, suddenly indignant. "I mean, how was I supposed to know
there was a planet in that sector! Nobody would've expected a
planet to be in that sector!"
"A planet?" Ernie asked incredulously.
"Well, okay, okay," Captain Memory continued defensively.
"Maybe I was a little way out of the spacelane. It could happen to
anybody! A couple of light-years this way or that..."
"A couple of light years?" Sterno inquired.
"Okay, okay," Captain Memory seemed very ill-at-ease. "So
maybe I had a couple of drinks. Big deal! I mean, I was at a party,
right? What do you want me to do, just stand around all night?
Okay, so maybe I shouldn't have been doing Warp 9 in a Warp 3 zone.
So I made a little mistake. Big deal! I mean, what am I supposed to
do, pay for this the rest of my life, or what?"
"Let me get this straight," Sterno said. "You hit a planet at
"It was a stupid place to put a planet," Captain Memory
repeated petulantly. "It should've had a guard rail, or something."
"So what happened?" Ernie asked incredulously.
"Oh," Captain Memory looked at the ground. "I hadda pay for
"You had to pay for a PLANET?"
"Well, I had insurance..." the Captain said brightly. "Um,
that is, I had insurance..." He trailed off.
Sterno caught the drift. "You don't have insurance any more?"
Captain Memory looked very uncomfortable. "Well, my premiums
kind of went up..."
Sterno thought for a moment. "You said there was a Luna A and
a Luna B. That accounts for one of them. What happened to the other
Captain Memory fidgeted. "Can't we talk about something else?"
Sterno rolled his eyes upward. "So, are you going to be flying
"Well, uh, no..." the Captain began.
"Thank Heavens!" Sterno broke in.
"I would, I mean, I could," Captain Memory continued. "Just as
soon as I get my license back..."
Sterno sighed. "So, what are we supposed to do, wait?"
"No, no," the Captain said reassuringly. "They gave me a
Sterno breathed a sigh of relief.
"So, where is this spaceship?" Ernie asked excitedly. He was
really looking forward to the prospect of seeing a real live
"I left it parked up in orbit," the Captain explained. "Want
me to call it down?"
"Okay." The Captain began looking around. "Where's my remote
control? I had it here a minute ago!"
Ernie began looking around as well. "What does it look like?"
"Oh, it's about so," Captain Memory motioned with his hands to
indicated a rectangle about six inches long. "It's wrapped in white
Ernie began to feel uneasy. "What color was it? Under the
paper, that is?"
The Captain was still looking around. "It's brown, and kind of
soft." The Captain looked under the sofa. "That's funny. Here's the
paper from it, but it's all crumpled up! And the remote is gone!"
Ernie began to get a real bad feeling in the pit of his
stomach. "Um, was it, by any chance, uh, chocolate?"
"Well, sure! After all, it was either that or strawberry!" The
Captain laughed. "I couldn't very well have a strawberry remote,
Ernie moaned quietly. "Uh, I think I know what happened to
Sterno looked at Ernie, aghast. "You DIDN'T!"
Ernie nodded sadly.
Sterno turned to Captain Memory. "He ATE it!"
Captain Memory looked at Ernie incredulously. "How could you
EAT a remote control unit?"
"Well..." Ernie was embarrassed. "Actually, it was pretty
good!" Suddenly, a disturbing thought occurred to him. "Say, it's
not poison or anything, is it?"
Captain Memory looked thoughtful. "I don't know, nobody's ever
eaten one before." He thought a moment. "I guess we'll find out,
Ernie moaned quietly. "Well...well...If they're gonna make a
remote control unit that looks like a candy bar, they ought to put
a warning on it or something!"
"They did," Captain Memory answered.
"I didn't see any warning!" cried Ernie indignantly. "All I
saw was a piece of blank white paper!"
"That's the warning," the Captain explained. "It means `Don't
Eat this Remote Control Unit' in Franglian."
"You know, like they speak on the planet Franglia?" Captain
Memory acted as though this were perfectly obvious to everyone.
"But nobody on Earth speaks Franglian!" Ernie protested.
Captain Memory considered this. "Well, then I guess it's not
much good, is it?" He pulled out his TV Guide. "Hey, you wanna
watch some TV?"
Ernie's stomach was beginning to feel very bad indeed.
Actually, watching TV was about the last thing he wanted to do, but
considering the looks everyone was giving him at the moment, he
thought perhaps he had just better keep his mouth shut.
The Fly and Mr. Ed returned from the other side of the room.
Mr. Ed seemed to have cheered up considerably. "Hey, what's on TV?"
the Fly asked Captain Memory.
"Let me see," the Captain leafed through the pages. "Wanna
watch a movie? How about `Beach Blanket Chainsaw Massacre'? `Irate
viewers get sick of aging beach stars and cut them up with power
tools', with Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Lucille Ball, and
"Maybe," said the Fly thoughtfully. "What else is on?"
"You like horror movies?" said the Captain. "How about
`Goldfish from Hell'? `Suburban family discovers their pet is
possessed by evil spirits', with Flipper, Lucille Ball, and Desi
"Nah," said the Fly. "I don't like horror movies."
"How about `Gidget Goes Berserk'? `Gidget gets a chainsaw for
"Oh no," Sterno broke in. "I simply cannot tolerate Gidget
"How about `Kung-Fu Tigers Go Hawaiian', with Bruce Lee,
Lucille Ball, and Desi Arnaz?"
Ernie noticed something odd about the TV listings. "Say,
doesn't it seem a little strange that Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz
are in all these different movies?"
"No, I don't think it's strange at all," drawled Mr. Ed. "Do
Sterno glared at Ernie. "After all YOU'VE done, I should think
you'd be content to sit quietly and mind your own business!"
"Hey, you'll like this!" Captain Memory said to the Fly.
"Wanna watch the `Miss Galaxy Pageant'?"
"Sure thing!" the Fly enthused. "Turn it on!"
"Okay, I'll get up and turn it on. I'll have to get up
because," The Captain glared at Ernie. "I don't have a remote!"
Ernie shrank into his seat.
The Captain turned on the television. "...and here's our
celebrity judges, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz!" The camera panned
in to the two celebrities.
`That's odd,' thought Ernie. `They don't look the way I
remember them. I don't recall them having such pointy teeth. Oh
well, it's probably just the lighting, or something.'
"Now, our first contestant..." The girls began parading by.
Ernie noticed that the girls in this pageant didn't look quite like
the one's he was used to seeing. For one thing, they were all a lot
plumper than the beauty queens at home. None of them seemed to have
much personality, either. They all looked sort of bovine.
"Isn't she a delicious young lady," the announcer was saying.
"Look at those scrumptious legs, those mouth-watering shoulders,
those tender, juicy thighs!"
"Gee, these girls aren't very cute!" said the Fly,
disappointed. "Not like at home!"
"They look positively delicious to me!" commented Mr. Ed.
Ernie looked at Mr. Ed suspiciously. That seemed to him to be
a very strange comment to be coming from a horse. But then, come to
think of it, any comment was strange coming from a horse.
"You wanna watch something else?" Captain Memory asked the
"No, no, that's okay," said the Fly quickly. "I'm sure they'll
The pageant continued. "...our next mouth-watering
contestant..." The camera cut to the celebrity judges. They seemed
to be drooling slightly. A little forked tongue seemed to dart in
and out of their mouths. Or maybe it was just a trick of the light.
Ernie felt uneasy. Beauty pageants at home weren't like this. He
decided to try not to look at it. He regarded the horse instead.
There was definitely something peculiar about that horse,
Ernie decided. It seemed to be somewhat lumpy and misshapen. There
seemed to be a line going around its middle, almost like a seam.
Why would a horse have a seam?
"...the new Miss Galaxy!" The shouts and applause drew Ernie's
attention back to the television, where the winning contestant was
being crowned. "And now.." The celebrity judges leaned forward
expectantly. Their broad grins revealed rows of needle-sharp teeth.
Their forked tongues flicked in and out of their mouths in
anticipation. "...it's CARVING TIME!" The announcer whipped out a
whirring chainsaw and advanced on the hapless Miss Galaxy, who
struggled feebly while the two runner-ups held her in place.
"Oh man!" the Fly complained. "I told you, I don't like horror
movies! They give me the creeps! Let's watch something else!" He
changed the channel.
A commercial was on the new station. A man was sitting behind
a desk, looking deadpan directly at the camera. The phone on the
desk began to ring. "Does your heart sink when the telephone
rings," the man said. "Because of bill collectors constantly
threatening you about unpaid debts?"
`Hmm,' Ernie thought. `As a matter of fact, it does."
"Why not call Acme Debt Counseling Service?" the commercial
continued. "We've helped millions avoid the nightmare of bad debts.
We'll set up a payment plan you can afford, and get those bill
collectors off your back once and for all. Call today!"
`That's an idea,' Ernie thought. `I don't know if it'll work,
but it's worth a try. Maybe they can keep Vito away long enough for
us to get out of here, at least!' He picked up the phone and dialed
the number that was displayed at the bottom of the screen.
"Acme Debt Counseling Service," a woman's voice answered.
"Yeah, I just..." Ernie began.
"Ah, Mr. Ross!" A man's voice cut in. "We've been expecting
you! I have your file right here in front of me!"
"Oh." Ernie was taken aback. How could they have known he was
going to call?
"You'll be pleased to know that we've worked out a very
convenient payment plan to take care of this matter," the man
continued. "The collection agency has agreed to accept the payment
plan, and has agreed to call off Vito, who was on his way
to...well, we'd rather not say what Vito was going to do. But
anyway, you don't need to worry about that now. Everything is all
taken care of!" Ernie heaved a sigh of relief. This collection
agency business was really beginning to bother him. They seemed to
be able to find him, no matter where in time or space he was. He
was really glad that he wasn't going to have to worry about it any
"We've broken this down into small, easy-to-afford weekly
payments," the man on the phone continued. "Now, if you'll just
send in the first week's payment - in cash, of course," the man
laughed. "You can't expect us to accept a check from someone with
YOUR credit history - we'll get the ball rolling on this!"
"Um, how much is the payment?" Ernie asked hesitantly.
"Only $412,865,945.43 a week!" the main exclaimed glowingly.
"Hey, don't thank us, it's our job!"
"Uh..um..ahem," Ernie cleared his throat nervously.
The man on the phone stopped. There was an awkward silence.
"You're NOT going to tell us you don't have $412,865,945.43, are
"Uh, well..."Ernie began. "Um, I don't exactly have that much
on me, right now, that is. If you could give me a little time...a
couple of years, maybe...?"
The man on the phone sighed. "Oh, that IS unfortunate! Well,
there may still be something we can do. I'll have to talk to my
supervisor about this. Please hold!" The man's voice disappeared,
and tinny Muzak came over the receiver in it's place.
Ernie sighed. Well, he hadn't really thought that was going to
work anyway. Still, maybe they could come up with something yet. He
waited, listening to low-fidelity versions of 1950's pop hits
played by the Million and One Strings. Ernie sighed again. He hated
being left on hold.
After what seemed a very long time the man's voice reappeared.
"Good news!" he exclaimed cheerfully. "My supervisor said we may
still be able to work something out!"
Ernie breathed a sigh of relief. "Great!"
The man continued. "My supervisor says that if you don't have
the cash right now, we might be able to accept something else of
"Like what?" Ernie couldn't imagine what he might have with
him that would be worth $412,865,945.43.
"Oh, I don't know. Just some little thing," the man said
evasively. "Like, maybe...your brain."
"MY BRAIN!" Ernie shrieked.
"Now, now, don't get excited," the man said soothingly. "After
all, what's one little brain among friends? You'll never miss it!"
"FORGET IT!" Ernie slammed down the phone.
Mr. Ed shook his head sadly. "I think you should have taken
that deal," he advised.
"Forget it! I'm not going to give them my brain!" He glared at
the horse. "What business is it of yours, anyway?"
"Hey!" The Fly interceded. "Don't pick on Mr. Ed!" He stroked
the horse. "Nice horsey!"
"Why not give them your brain?" Sterno suggested. "You never
Ernie glared. "Leave me alone!"
Ernie looked at the TV. Black-and-white images of Lucille
Ball and Desi Arnaz were on the screen. Lucy seemed to be upset
about something. "What are we watching, anyway? More `I Love Lucy'
Captain Memory looked at the TV Guide. "That's funny. This is
supposed to be a movie called `Nazi Cheerleaders from Planet X'."
Ernie looked at the TV. "Oh yeah? Who's in it?"
Captain Memory consulted the TV Guide. "Let me see, uh...
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz."
Ernie frowned. "I dunno. It looks an awful lot like `I Love
Lucy' to me." Ernie thought a moment. "Doesn't it strike you as
just a little bit odd that absolutely EVERYTHING on TV right now
has Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in it?"
"No, I don't think that's odd at all," said Mr. Ed in his
typical, low-voiced drawl. "Why shouldn't Lucille Ball and Desi
Arnaz be in everything? They're probably the two greatest
performers who ever lived!"
"Huh?" Ernie didn't know how to answer that.
"In fact," Mr. Ed went on rapturously. "I'd say that they are
definitely the finest performers that show business has ever
produced, the greatest that ever COULD be produced, in fact, in all
of time and space, no-one, anywhere in the universe, could possibly
even approach the greatness of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz!"
"Oh, come off it!" snapped Sterno irritatedly. "They're just
a couple of second-rate TV actors!"
"Ay, carramba!" Mr. Ed cried furiously. "What chu talkin'
about! Dey de greatest! Especialmente Desi Arnaz, de greatest Cuban
bandleader in de world!"
Ernie looked at Mr. Ed suspiciously. "Hey, what happened to
your voice? Where did you get that Cuban accent?"
Mr. Ed was flustered. "Hey man, I...uh...oh.." Something very
peculiar seemed to be happening to Mr. Ed. He seemed to be writhing
in a very un-horselike manner.
Suddenly, Mr. Ed fell in half. Both halves lay on the floor,
each writhing independently. Ernie was stunned. He stared at the
two halves of Mr. Ed, jaws open with astonishment. Suddenly, a head
covered with rolled red curls popped out of the back half of Mr.
Ed. "Oh, uh, hi guys!" It was Lucy.
Lucy turned to the front half of Mr. Ed, which was still
writhing on the floor. "Oh, Ricky! I told you to let me be the
front half of the horse! Now look what's happened!"
A voice came from the front half of Mr. Ed. "Lucy! I stuck in
dis horse suit! Help me out, okay?" The front half of Mr. Ed
thrashed wildly, filling the room with the sound of thuds and
Lucy struggled out of her half of the horse suit, and ran over
to help Ricky. However, the more she tried to help him, the more
tangled up he got.
The Fly looked ruefully at the horse suit. "Poor Mr. Ed!"
Ernie turned to Captain Memory. "Now what?"
The Captain was still reading his TV Guide. "How about `She-
Devils of Green Gables', with Shirley Temple and..." He was
interrupted by a loud pounding on the door. "Open up!"
They all looked up, startled. The pounding came again. "Open
da door, punk! I know you're in dere!"
Lucy turned to Ricky, who was still stuck in the horse suit.
"Oh, Ricky! It's Vito! Let him in, will you? Maybe he can get our
brain from that awful Ernie person!" She glared at Ernie.
Ricky struggled in the horse outfit. "You got to get me out of
here!" He cried, distressed. "I can't see nuttin' in dis suit!"
Ernie turned to Captain Memory. "I think we ought to get out
of here, okay?"
The Captain continued to peruse his TV Guide. "Oh, you'll like
this one! `A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Attila the Hun'
with Zero Mostel and..."
Ernie paced anxiously. "Look, we've got to do something! All
these people are after my brain!"
Sterno shrugged. "Call the police!"
Ernie started. The police! That was worth a try. He grabbed
the phone, and dialed `911'.
Ernie fidgeted impatiently while the phone rang. He heard the
sound of the phone being taken off the hook. "You gotta help me..."
He stopped. The voice on the other end was a recording: "We're
sorry, all of our officers are busy at the moment. If you're being
murdered, please leave a clue, and one of our detectives will
contact your next-of-kin as soon as possible. Thank you, and have
a nice day!" Ernie slammed the phone down disgustedly.
Vito pounded on the door again. "Open up!" Ernie looked
apprehensively at Ricky, who was still struggling to get out of the
horse suit. "Look, I really think we ought to get out of here!
Captain Memory looked up in annoyance. "Well, if you're going
to be that way about it...!" He got up and strode across the living
room, and through an open doorway which seemed to lead into the
"Hey, wait for me!" cried Ernie, chasing after him. As he ran,
he grabbed the Psion Megaforce Generator. He wasn't about to leave
a fortune in precious Bakelite behind! He continued to follow the
Captain. He didn't know where Captain Memory was going, but he
figured it would have to be an improvement.
The Captain walked through the next room, which was the
typical suburban kitchen, opened a typical suburban back door, and
stepped outside. Ernie and the others followed quickly behind him.
They found themselves once again standing in a countryside of
green rolling hills. The village in the distance seemed to have
burned itself out, and only feeble wisps of smoke were rising from
"I'm awfully glad we got out of there," commented Sterno. "It
was really getting dreadfully noisy! My ears are very sensitive,
The Fly was the last of the group to leave the villa. He shook
his head sadly. "Poor Mr. Ed! It must have been a real shock to
him, falling in half like that!"
Ernie considered trying to explain the situation to him, but
decided it wasn't worth the trouble. He turned to Captain Memory.
Captain Memory looked around. "Nice day, isn't it?"
Ernie tapped his feet impatiently. "I think it would be a good
idea if we went someplace else! They're going to be coming after us
any minute now!"
"Not after US," Sterno corrected. "After YOU."
Ernie frowned. "Yeah. They want my brain. They don't want your
Sterno thought about this, and decided he was offended. "Well!
That just shows what those silly aliens know! If they knew anything
about brains at all, they'd realize mine is clearly superior!"
An idea occurred to Ernie. "Yeah, you're right. Maybe I should
Sterno frowned. "You know, I think we should go someplace
else. It's suddenly become awfully boring around here!"
"Nice day for a walk, don't you think?" said Captain Memory,
strolling off towards the yellow brick road. The others followed
After a few minutes walking, the four travelers through
Cyberspace began to see an encampment of some kind in the distance.
"What do you suppose that is?" Ernie wondered.
"I dunno," commented Captain Memory. "Want to turn around and
go the other way?"
Ernie thought of Lucy, Ricky, and Vito, all of whom were
somewhere behind them. "No, let's just keep going."
"It doesn't really matter which way we go," commented Sterno.
"After all, all roads lead to Rome."
Ernie thought about that. "It seems to me that would cause a
lot of traffic problems," he said reflectively.
The Fly peered into the distance. "Somebody's coming!"
Ernie started. "Uh oh, what do we do now?" He thought a
moment. "Are they Romans or Huns?"
"How should I know!" The Fly answered.
"Well, what are they wearing?"
"Funny outfits!" The Fly shrugged. "What are they supposed to
Ernie sighed. "I dunno. I sort of hoped they'd be wearing
togas, or something." The men approaching were coming into Ernie's
range of vision. They seemed to be a military patrol. They wore
armor, some kind of leggings, and carried shields, bows and spears.
"So, what are they?" the Fly wanted to know. "Romans or Huns?"
"I dunno," Ernie said. "Might as well flip a coin, I guess."
"You got a coin?"
"I left all my money in my other pants pocket," Ernie
"So, just pick one, then," the Fly urged.
"Well, Romans then. If they're Romans, we could talk to them
in Latin. I don't know what we could do if they're Huns. What
language do they speak, Hungarian? I don't speak Hungarian."
"Do you speak Latin?" asked Sterno sarcastically.
"Well...well...I used to watch a lot of gladiator movies,"
said Ernie hopefully.
"Good enough!" said the Fly encouragingly. "You go talk to
"It was your idea!" the Fly returned.
"It was NOT my idea! I never..."
"We'll just go hide in these bushes in the meantime!" The Fly
sprinted off towards a little group of bushes on the other side of
the hill, followed by Sterno and Captain Memory.
Ernie saw that the soldiers had noticed him. They were
pointing in his direction and saying something that Ernie could not
make out. Ernie decided his only course of action was to brazen it
out. He bit his lip uncertainly, and walked forward in what he
hoped would seem like a confident manner. He tried to think of
something to say in Latin. "Uh, `E Pluribus Unum'!'" he called out.
"`Gallia est divisio in partes tres!'"
They soldiers looked at him. "Hey, get a load a this!" the
first soldier said. "It's a Roman in a funny outfit!" He turned to
the soldier next to him. "Hey Frank, gimme an arrow, will ya? I
wanna shoot this guy!"
Ernie realized that he had made a serious tactical error. He
decided that the correct move at this point would be to beat a
hasty retreat. Turning abruptly, he sprinted towards the other side
of the hill, half-expecting to feel an arrow in his back at any
moment. As he ran, he could hear little bits of the soldier's
conversation drifting in his direction: "...whaddya mean, you don't
got any arrows! I told you to save some arrows! How come nobody
never does what I tell 'em?"
Ernie ran for the bunch of bushes the others were hiding in.
"What happened?" the Fly asked eagerly.
"We guessed wrong," answered Ernie glumly.
"Well, we better do something," said the Fly. "'Cause they're
coming this way!"
"I don't think they can find us in here!" said Ernie
"Oh, yes, they can," returned Sterno. "There's a trail of
sequins leading right to us!"
Ernie's heart sank. He knew he'd never hear the end of this.
"Oh man," said the Fly. "You better ditch that suit! It's
getting us in a lot of trouble!"
Luckily, Ernie still had his fur loincloth, sandals, and
plastic broadsword. He had been afraid to discard them, since,
after all, he had put a forty-dollar deposit on them. He quickly
changed into the Goombah the Barbarian costume, and hid the
toreador outfit under a rock.
No sooner had he finished changing then they heard a voice
coming from behind them. "Hey, what are you guys doing in those
The same group of soldiers Ernie had encountered on the road
was there behind them. Ernie thought fast. "Uh, we're looking for
blueberries! You guys see any blueberries around here?"
"No," answered the first soldier. "And anyway, it ain't
blueberry season, so why don't you guys come out of there, real
slow?" The soldiers held their spears in a menacing fashion.
"Sure, whatever you say," Ernie laughed nervously.
The soldiers inspected the foursome suspiciously. The first
soldier looked at Ernie. "So, what are you supposed to be?"
"Uh, I'm Goombah the Barbarian!" Ernie announced.
The first soldier guffawed. "Hey Frank, get a load a this!
This guy thinks he's a barbarian!" The other soldiers laughed
Ernie sulked. He didn't see what was so funny about it.
"What did he say his name was?" asked Frank. "Gumby? Gumby the
Barbarian?" The soldiers all laughed hysterically. "Lookit this -
he's got a plastic broadsword! A real tough guy!" He doubled over
The first soldier gradually composed himself. "Say," he said,
wiping tears of laughter from his eyes. "You didn't see a Roman in
a funny suit go by here, did you? He left a trail of sequins that
led right in here!"
Ernie thought fast, again. "Uh, as a matter of fact, yeah. He
went thataway." Ernie pointed down the road.
The soldiers looked in that direction. "Aw, we might as well
forget it. We'll never get him now!" The second soldier looked at
Ernie. "So, what are we gonna do with Gumby here?" At the mention
of the name `Gumby', the soldiers all started laughing hysterically
"`Gumby the Barbarian', huh?" the first soldier commented,
after he had stopped laughing to the point that he could speak
again. "Well, I'm Joe the Hun," he said, introducing himself. "This
here's Frank the Hun, and back there, that's Pete the Hun." He
looked at the foursome. "What a weird bunch! I guess we'd better
take all you guys to the boss!"
"Who's the boss?" asked Ernie.
"Attila the Hun!" answered Joe.
`That figures', Ernie thought. Ernie decided that maybe he
would go along and meet Attila the Hun, especially since he
couldn't see any alternative at the moment. The foursome headed off
down the road in the direction of the burning village, escorted by
the Hun soldiers.
After a few minutes walk they entered the encampment of the
Huns. The soldiers led them to a large tent, where they were
ushered into the presence of an imposing figure. A large, heavily
muscled man in armor sat or a golden throne, leaning on a huge
broadsword. "Attila, King of the Huns!" a soldier announced.
Attila regarded the foursome carefully. "Why have you brought
these creatures before me?" he demanded in a thunderous voice.
"Uh, well sir," said Joe the Hun timidly. "We didn't know what
else to do with them." He started to giggle. "This one," he pointed
at Ernie. "He says his name's Gumby the Barbarian!" He put his hand
over his mouth to stifle his laughter.
Attila regarded Ernie seriously. "Is that correct?" he
"Uh, actually it's `Goombah'" Ernie said timorously.
Attila erupted in thunderous laughter. "That's great! `Gumby
the Barbarian!' That's hysterical!" He turned to the soldiers. "You
guys dressed him up like this for a joke, right?"
"No, it's for real!" Joe protested. "We just found 'em like
Attila doubled over with laughter. Wiping the tears from his
eyes, he turned to the Fly. "Hey, lookit this guy's mask! It's
"That's not a mask!" the Fly was offended. "That's my face!"
Attila erupted into hysterical laughter again. "He says it's
his face! That cracks me up!" The laughter was contagious; all the
soldiers were doubled up with laughter, too.
"Hey, Gumby!" Attila chortled. "What are you gonna do with
that plastic broadsword? You gonna loot, pillage and rape?"
"Well, uh," Ernie stammered. "I'm, uh, not exactly sure how to
do that. Besides, uh, don't you need a license for that, or
Attila broke up again. "`License to loot'! I love it! These
guys are hysterical!"
Sterno was getting annoyed. "This IS getting a bit tedious!"
Attila's jaw dropped. "Wow! A talking dog! What a great act!
I get it now, you guys are traveling clowns, right? You're part of
a circus, right?"
Captain Memory looked perturbed. He seemed to be sensitive
about being called a clown. "Is that an insult?"
Attila collapsed in laughter again. "`Is that an insult?', he
says, and he says it with a straight face! You guys really crack me
The foursome shifted about uncomfortably while Attila buried
his face in his arms, laughing uncontrollably. After what seemed to
be a very long time, Attila looked up, tears of laughter still
streaming down his face. "Say, you guys are just great! We've been
doing so much raping, looting, and pillaging that it's just not
that much fun anymore! What I really need these days is a good
laugh! I feel a lot better now!" He thought a moment. "I think I'll
give you guys a reward!" He turned to Ernie. "How about a bag of
gold? Would you like that?"
Ernie considered that. "Yeah, I guess that would be nice. I
owe kind of a lot of money right now, and I've been having a lot of
problem with bill collectors."
Attila chuckled. "Yeah, I had a lot of trouble with bill
collectors, too. But I solved that problem. Wanna know how?"
"Yeah!" Ernie was excited. Maybe he could use this solution
for his bill-paying problems.
Attila chuckled. "I chopped their heads off! You should have
seen their faces!" He thought a moment. "In fact, I think I still
have them around here somewhere. Wanna see 'em?"
Ernie grimaced. "No that's okay. I'm not supposed to look at
severed heads. It makes my stomach hurt."
At this, Attila collapsed into helpless laughter again. "You
guys are just a laugh a minute! Just when I think I've heard it
all, you come up with another one!"
Ernie frowned. None of this seemed very funny to him at all.
"You Huns really have a strange sense of humor."
Attila's brow furled. "We do, huh?" he said menacingly.
Sterno and the Fly turned to look at Ernie. Ernie shuffled
uncomfortably. It occurred to him that maybe he shouldn't have said
A broad grin appeared across Attila's face. "That's funny! I
like it!" Ernie heaved a sigh of relief.
Suddenly, a messenger ran up to the King of the Huns. "Your
magnificence, we found these strangers lurking around the edge of
Ernie looked behind him. Hun soldiers were dragging forth
three struggling captives. The first was someone Ernie did not
recognize - a beefy man in an ill-fitting suit. The other two were
Lucy and Desi. "Oh, Vito!" Lucy said to the beefy man. "Make them
let us go!"
"Oh my gosh!" said Ernie involuntarily.
Attila looked at Ernie sternly. "Do you know these people?"
"Uh, sort of," Ernie admitted. "They're, uh, bill collectors!"
Attila's face lit up. "Bill collectors! My favorite! Oh, what
fun! Let's see," he paused reflectively. "Shall we boil them in
oil, or flay them alive? Maybe we could boil them until they're
tender, and then flay them? Or maybe..." He strode off to examine
his new captives, leaving Ernie and the other alone.
"Looks like you've solved the bill collector problem," Sterno
said to Ernie.
"Uh, yeah, I guess so," decided Ernie. "So, why don't we get
out of here before Attila decides to do something like that to us,
"Oh, he wouldn't do that," the Fly said. "Attila likes us!"
Ernie watched as Attila fingered Lucy's red curls. Lucy bit
him. Attila drew his sword.
Ernie decided he didn't want to watch what came next. "Just
the same, let's go, okay?"
"What's the matter?" said Sterno tauntingly. "Don't you want
to see what Attila's going to do to them?"
"Uh, I'd just as soon not, all right? Let's just go, okay?
Sterno continued to look back. "Looks like Lucy's losing her
head over Attila," he said, smirking. Ernie's stomach turned over
again. He hadn't really felt very good ever since eating that
remote control unit; he was sure he didn't want to see anything
that might make him feel worse.
Attila strode back to his throne, his huge broadsword
dripping bright red blood. "Gee, that was fun!" He sighed. "Well,
I guess I gotta get back to business. Who am I supposed to see
"Three representatives of the King of the Parthians, your
majesty," an attendant told him.
"Oh yeah? What are their names?"
"Larry, Moe, and Curly," the attendant answered.
Attila thought a moment. "Are they funny?"
"I believe so, sire."
"Well then, let's see 'em!" With that, the foursome found
themselves ushered out of the tent.
The four of them stood outside Attila's tent. "Well, now
what?" The Fly wanted to know.
"That's a good question," Captain Memory began. "Yes sir,
"Okay, okay," Ernie cut him off. He didn't want to hear that
whole thing all over again. "Let's just get out of here, okay?
Everybody keeps pointing at us and laughing!" Sure enough, as they
looked around, they noticed the passing Huns all pointing the
foursome out to each other and making what Ernie was sure were
snide comments. Ernie in particular was getting very sensitive
about snide comments made at his expense. "Let's go, guys, okay?"
They began walking down the yellow brick road, heading out of
the Hun's camp.
Soon they were out of the camp, and heading once again across
the green hills. The road rolled on before them, over hill and
dale, heading towards Rome - maybe.
The road seemed to stretch on endlessly in front of them.
Ernie sighed. It looked like it was going to be a long walk.
After what seemed to be a very long time they noticed
something up ahead of them. It seemed to be a huge cloud of dust
heading across the countryside. Whatever it was, it was going to
cross the road a short distance in front of them.
Ernie strained his eyes. "Can you make out what that is?" he
said to the Fly.
"Oh wow," said the Fly. "It's a cattle drive!"
"Don't be ridiculous!" snapped Sterno. "Cattle can't drive!"
"No, no," the Fly protested. "It's cows! A whole bunch of
"`Herd' of cows," Ernie corrected.
"Of course I've heard of cows!" snapped Sterno. "Don't be
"Well, they're coming this way," the Fly said.
As the four walked along, they began to make out more clearly
a vast number of cattle, raising a huge cloud of dust with their
hooves. "What are all these cattle doing here?" Ernie wondered.
As if in answer to that question, a lone figure on a horse
came galloping toward them.
"Hey, it's a cowboy!" the Fly said cheerfully. "Hiya, cowboy!"
The cowboy galloped up to them and stopped. "Howdy! Any of you
boys know the way to Abilene?"
Ernie looked around. "Uh, sorry. I'm a stranger here myself."
The cowboy scratched his head. "This country don't look at all
familiar! We ain't seen a thing we recognize fer quite a spell,
now. Y'all know where this here road leads?"
Ernie thought a moment. "Uh, I think it leads to Rome, but I'm
The cowboy considered that. "Rome? Is that in Kansas?"
"I don't think so," Ernie said.
The cowboy stroked his horse's muzzle. "Well, Toto," he said
to his horse. "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore!" He turned
back to Ernie. "Well, thank ya'll kindly!" he said, tipping his
hat. He galloped back to rejoin the herd.
Ernie turned to Captain Memory. "What do you make of that?"
"Tsk, tsk," the Captain shook his head. "The file corruption
is getting really severe. More and more data is turning up in the
wrong sector. I really don't know if the system is going to be able
to stand much more of this!"
Ernie found this comment disturbing. "Why? What'll happen
The Captain shook his head sadly. "Well...well, it might..."
He trailed off.
Ernie hated it when people trailed off. It always made him
terribly uneasy. "It might...what?" he prompted.
Captain Memory looked uncomfortable. "Are you sure you want to
Ernie thought about this for a moment, and decided the Captain
was right: he didn't want to know.
The Fly, however, had become interested in the subject. "Oh,
I get it, we're supposed to guess, right?" he said brightly. "First
syllable? Sounds like?" He began gesticulating in a peculiar way,
as though trying to act out some unknown word. "This is fun!"
Sterno grimaced. "Will you please stop making those disgusting
motions? I can't even begin to tell you how utterly offensive they
The Fly paid no attention. "I know, I know, it's a movie star,
right?" He began prancing about in a very disconcerting manner. "Is
it a dancer, huh? A dancer?"
"Well, no..." Captain Memory looked very uncomfortable.
"I know! I know!" The Fly jumped up and down excitedly. "It's
Fred Astaire, right? Fred Astaire?"
"Uh, no..." Captain Memory shifted about awkwardly.
"Gene Kelly!" The Fly shouted excitedly. "It's Gene Kelly,
"Uh-uh." The Captain looked at the ground.
"For heaven sake's, tell him already!" snapped Sterno.
"Nothing else is going to shut him up!"
Ernie winced. He really didn't want to hear this. If it was
bad enough for Captain Memory to warn him about, it must be really
terrible. Especially considering all the terrible things the
Captain had told him WITHOUT warning him. He shuddered. No, he
definitely didn't want to hear this.
Captain Memory looked very unhappy. "It's...uh..."
"I know! I know!" The Fly was totally involved with the game.
"Carmen Miranda! It's Carmen Miranda, right?"
Captain Memory sighed. "It's...well, it's...TOTAL SYSTEM
The Fly was totally taken aback. "Huh? Sister Failure? Who's
she?" He sulked. "It's not fair to use people who aren't famous!
How am I supposed to guess that? What movies has she been in,
Ernie sighed with relief. System Failure. Well, that wasn't
that bad! He frowned. It suddenly occurred to him that he might
feel differently if he had any idea what a `system failure' was.
"What..." he started to say, then stopped. On second thought,
perhaps he'd rather not know.
"What in the world is a `total system failure' supposed to
be?" Sterno demanded irritatedly.
Captain Memory sighed. "That's when you totally exceed the
operating parameters of the system, to the point where not even the
multiple-redundant neural-net backups can compensate for it any
"Huh?" Ernie wasn't following that.
"Well," Captain Memory simplified. "It's sort of like the
system has a heart attack."
Ernie thought about that. "And, if the system has a heart
"Then WE have a heart attack," Sterno finished for him.
Ernie moaned quietly. He'd had a feeling it was going to be
something like this. Why did they have to tell him this, anyway?
What was he, Ernie, supposed to do about it? What did they have to
tell him if there wasn't anything he could do about it? His stomach
hurt. He decided to try to think about something else.
Their path was now blocked by the herd, forcing the foursome
to cool their heels and wait for the animals to pass. They waited
while thousands of cattle went by, raising a huge cloud of choking
dust. Finally, the herd passed and the four continued on their way.
They walked for what once again seemed a very long time,
finding nothing. Finally, the Fly noticed something. "Seems to be
something going on up ahead," he commented. "Looks like a chariot
pulled over by the side of the road."
As the foursome approached, they could see that it indeed was
a chariot. Four Romans in togas stood around it. A tire on one of
the wheels seemed to have gone flat, and they were pumping it up
with a hand pump. Ernie frowned. "Are chariots supposed to have
The Fly looked at the chariot. "Hey, it's got old-fashioned
skinny tires on spoked wheels, like a Model T Ford. What do you
"I dunno." Ernie was trying hard to remember what the
chariots looked like in the gladiator movies, however he hadn't
been paying attention that closely. "With all the stuff that's been
happening, you can't be too careful!"
"Don't be such a worry wart!" snapped Sterno. "Suppose it IS
a phony chariot, what difference does it make?"
"Uh..." Ernie hadn't thought that far ahead. His thoughts were
interrupted by one of the Romans who approached them. He was a
tall, thin man, wearing a toga. He seemed like a typical Roman out
of a gladiator movie, except for the fact that he wore a monocle
The man's arm swept out in a Roman salute. "Heil...I mean,
Hail!" he said cheerfully. Ernie frowned. Weren't Romans supposed
to wear sandals?
The man continued. "Ve chust finished fixing our chariot.
Perhaps you vould like a ride, ja?"
"You bet!" said the Fly enthusiastically. "Boy, I'm really
sick of walking!"
"Well, I dunno..." said Ernie. Something about this just
didn't seem right to him. He looked at the two white horses that
the chariot was hitched to, carefully examining them for any sign
of seams or lumpiness. No, they looked okay. Perfectly formed, with
no seams. One thing did seem odd about them, though: they didn't
move at all. They stood absolutely still, like statues. But then,
on the other hand, Ernie didn't really know that much about horses.
Maybe they were supposed to stand like that. It probably didn't
"Oh, come ON!" said Sterno impatiently. "Quit making such an
issue about everything! Let's just get in, all right? I've had it
"I bet you must be dog tired, right?" said the Fly.
"Spare me your attempts at humor, you insectile moron!" Sterno
The Fly looked upset. "What did he mean by that?" he said to
"Time to go!" urged the Roman. "All aboard, ja?"
Sterno and the Fly quickly scrambled aboard the chariot, which
seemed unusually large and spacious to Ernie. He got on as well, in
spite of his misgivings. Captain Memory brought up the rear. The
other three Romans then got on behind them, blocking the entrance
and making any escape impossible. Ernie felt very uneasy about
that. He was, however, relieved to see that Captain Memory did not
seem the least bit bothered by the situation. But then, Captain
Memory didn't seem the least bit bothered by ANY situation.
"Vell, avay we go!" said the Roman cheerfully. "Giddap!" He
snapped the reins.
Nothing happened. The horses stood there, totally immobile.
The Roman laughed nervously. "Giddy UP!" He lashed the horses with
the reins. Still nothing. From somewhere in his toga he produced a
riding crop, and began lashing the horses unmercifully. "You vill
MOVE, you shtupid animals!" The horses stood absolutely still,
The Roman turned to the foursome with a nervous laugh. "A
liddle problem, nothing to vorry about! No need to get out!" He
jumped over the side of the chariot, and approached the horses
"Uh, Herr Sturmbannfuhrer," one of the other Romans spoke up.
"There is something ve forgot to tell you..."
The first Roman gave the closest horse a swift kick in the
hind leg. The leg broke neatly off. The Roman jumped frantically
out of the way as the horse toppled slowly over and crashed to the
pavement, shattering into a million pieces.
The first Roman turned on the other Romans in a fury.
"Idiots!" he shrieked. "You brought ze plaster horses! I told you,
ve must have ze REAL horses!"
"But, but Herr Sturmbannfuhrer," the second Roman sputtered.
"Ze real horses, zey make doo-doo on ze floor!"
"Dummkopf!" shrieked the first Roman. "How can ve travel vith
The other three Roman looked at each other in dismay. "Oh. Ve
didn't tink of dat."
"Idiots!" The first Roman lashed the others with his riding
"Oh man!" said the Fly sadly. "Does this mean we're gonna have
to walk after all?"
The first Roman stopped abruptly, and turned to the foursome
with a bright smile. "Oh no, of course not! Dis is chust a minor
problem, ve fix in chust a moment!" The Roman pulled some sort of
small electronic device out of his toga, and scanned the
surrounding area with it. It beeped. "Ah! Ze solution to our
problem is coming right down ze road!"
An object appeared over the horizon, moving quickly down the
road in their direction. As it approached, Ernie could see that it
was a large chariot, pulled by four beautiful white horses. It
looked somehow familiar.
The four Romans stood in the middle of the road, blocking the
path as the chariot aproached. The man in the chariot stopped,
"You!" the first Roman shouted. "Out of ze chariot! NOW!" He
pulled an evil-looking weapon out of his toga, and pointed it at
the man in the chariot menacingly.
"Make way! Make way!" the man in the chariot cried out. "I
have no time to waste! I'm on my way to the chariot races in Rome!"
The man in the chariot looked very familiar to Ernie. Could it
"I have no time to vaste, either!" The first Roman fired his
weapon at the man in the chariot, who vanished in a flash of flame.
"Now," he turned to Ernie and the others. "Ve vill take ZIS
"Oh man!" said the Fly mournfully. "They're ruining all my
favorite shows! First Mr. Ed falls apart, and now they disintegrate
Even Sterno was now beginning to get suspicious. "Say," he
said to the first Roman. "What's your name, anyway?"
"My name?" the first Roman seemed nonplussed. "You vant to
know my name?"
"Yeah!" Ernie picked the question up. "What's your name?"
The first Roman laughed nervously. He elbowed the second Roman
sharply. "Quick!" he whispered. "Vot's my name?!" The second Roman
whispered something to him. The first Roman smiled agreeably. "Oh
yes, my name! I am Marcus Provolonicus."
Sterno froze in horror. "Provolone...It's CHEESE! Oh my god,
it's CHEESE! Run!"
The other three Romans suddenly whipped out evil-looking
weapons. "DO NOT MOVE!" shrieked the first Roman. "Or you vill
suffer ze same fate as our friend here!" He gestured towards the
other chariot, which now contained only a little pile of ashes.
The first Roman tore off his toga, revealing a Nazi SS uniform
underneath. "So, our liddle subterfuge does not fool you, eh?" he
said menacingly. "Dat is most...unfortunate. For vhich..." He
looked around quickly. His eyes came to rest on the second Roman.
"...YOU vill pay, dummkopf!" He lashed the man with his riding
"But, Herr Sturmbannfuhrer..." the man began.
"SILENCE!" shrieked von Liederkranz. "It is impossible to get
good help zese days!" he sulked. "Ze quality of ze Cyberslaves is
not vhat it used to be!"
He turned to Ernie and the others. "Now, you vill get on zis
chariot, and ve vill be on our vay!" Ernie looked at von
Liederkranz's evil-looking weapons, and decided to do it the Nazi's
way. They boarded the other chariot. This time, the horses worked,
and they moved off quickly down the road.
"Hey, this sure beats walking!" said the Fly cheerfully, as
they thundered along the yellow brick road.
"I dunno," said Ernie ruefully. "Considering where we're
going, maybe we'd rather walk." Ernie frowned. "Say," he said to
von Liederkranz. "Where ARE we going, anyway?"
Von Liederkranz smiled evilly. "You'll find out soon enough!"
Ernie looked on ahead. They appeared to be approaching
something. "Oh, it's a town!" said the Fly.
"Vot!" von Liederkranz snapped. "Dere's not supposed to be a
town here! Whoa!" He stopped the chariot. "Vhere's my map?" He
pulled out a map and began regarding it carefully. "Ah, here's de
problem! Ve get on ze autobahn, und turn left at Heidelberg..."
The other Romans had removed their togas as well, and stood
revealed as Nazi SS troopers. One of them peered over von
Liederkranz's shoulder. "Uh, Herr Sturmbannfuhrer," he began
tentatively. "Dat's a map of Bavaria!"
Von Liederkranz started. He looked at the legend of the map,
and then crumpled it up angrily and threw it on the ground. "I know
dat!" he snapped. "I vas chust...testing you. Very good!" He
prodded the SS trooper with his riding crop. "Okay, Mr. Know-it-
all, vhere do ve go now?"
The trooper regarded the road carefully. "Vell, since dere's
only one road, and dis isn't de right vay, I vould say ve go...de
Von Liederkranz thought a minute. "Uh...right! De other vay!
Ve go de other vay!" He wheeled the chariot around and they
galloped off in the other direction.
They charged on down the yellow brick road in the direction
from which they had come in the first place, moving faster this
time as von Liederkranz whipped the horses bad-temperedly. After
some time, they began to approach what seemed to be a town.
"Oh wow," said the Fly. "It's the same town! How did we get to
the same place when we went the opposite direction?"
"I told you so," smirked Sterno. "`All Roads Lead to Rome'.
You're just going to have to go there. There's just no getting out
Von Liederkranz peered ahead. "Gottverdammter! Vhere's my
map?" He pulled out another map and regarded it carefully. "Ah!
Here's ze problem! Ve chust get on I-94, turn right at
The SS trooper looked over von Liederkranz's shoulder again.
"Uh, Herr Sturmbannfuhrer, dat's a map of Illinois!" Von
Liederkranz started. He quickly crumpled up the map and threw it on
the ground. "I know dat!" He turned to the rest of the group. "Ve
are going to zis town! Ve intended to go to zis town! It vas NOT a
mistake!" They continued down the road, and into town.
The town consisted of one unpaved road, flanked by one story
wooden buildings with broad fronts. Their names were clearly
legible on them: SALOON, GENERAL STORE, U.S. MARSHAL. The town
looked somehow familiar to Ernie.
"Oh wow!" exclaimed the Fly. "It's Dodge City!"
"That's impossible!" snorted Sterno. "You can't have `All
Roads Lead to Dodge City'! That's not right! I have a classical
education and I know!"
"Could be Abilene, I suppose," mused Ernie.
"`All Roads Lead to Abilene'?" said Sterno sarcastically. "Fat
"You must be right," Ernie agreed. "I don't see any cattle
around. Must be Dodge City after all!"
As they passed through town, Ernie noticed a tall, thin young
man who looked at them with alarm. The young man began hurrying
towards the U.S. Marshal's office, walking with a pronounced limp.
"Mr. Dillon! Mr. Dillon! Somethin' strange comin' into town!" he
A tall, imposing man, dressed in Western attire and wearing a
U.S. Marshal badge stepped out of the marshal's office and into the
street, blocking the path of the chariot. "Hold up there, now! What
do you boys want in our town?"
"Get out of my vay!" hissed von Liederkranz. "I haff no time
for dis shtupidity!"
"Now hold on just a minute there..." the Marshal began.
"Idiot!" snapped von Liederkranz. He turned to the SS
troopers. "Disintegrate him!" von Liederkranz and the SS troopers
reached for their evil-looking weapons.
With lightning speed, the Marshal's gun flew into his hand.
Four shots rand out, catching each of the Nazis full in the chest,
the force of the bullet hurling their bodies from the chariot.
"I seen it, Mr. Dillon!" cried Chester, the young man with the
limp. "They drew first!"
Ernie threw his hands up over his head. "Don't shoot! We're
Sterno get down on all fours. "Woof!" he said emphatically.
"They don't shoot dogs, do they?"
"They were holding us prisoner!" the Fly chimed in. "They shot
"Ben who?" The Marshal looked confused. Just then, a woman in
an elaborate red dress ran out of the saloon. "Oh Matt! Are you all
right? I heard the shooting..."
"Don't you worry, Miss Kitty, I'm just fine," the Marshal
Ernie looked at the ground behind him. The bloody bodies of
von Liederkranz and the other Nazis were lying motionless in the
Ernie turned to Captain Memory. "Are they really...dead?"
"Oh yes," said Captain Memory cheerfully. "Too bad they won't
stay that way!"
"Huh?" Ernie was confused.
"Well, you know how it is in computer games," the Captain went
on. "If you get killed, you just start over again with another
"I dunno, they looked pretty dead to me!" Ernie said.
"Look again," the Captain advised.
Ernie turned. The bodies had vanished.
"See?" the Captain said. "They've gone back to the beginning.
They'll have to start all over!"
Ernie turned back to look at the Marshal, who had been
conferring with Miss Kitty and Chester. "You boys are free to go,"
the Marshal said. "Just stay out of trouble!" He went back into his
"Whew!" the Fly breathed a sigh of relief. "Boy, are we lucky
to get out of that one! You don't want to mess with Marshal
Sterno stood back up and brushed himself off, trying to
recover his lost dignity. "You can put your hands down now," he
said to Ernie snappishly. "You have no idea how ridiculous you look
surrendering when there's no-one there!"
"Oh." Ernie lowered his hands. He looked around. "So, what are
we gonna do in Dodge City?"
The Fly looked at the Saloon. "Look at all those pretty girls
in there! Whaddya say we go in for a drink?"
"Well...okay." Ernie couldn't think of any reason not to.
Besides, his throat was feeling pretty dusty after that long
They got out of the chariot and walked towards the saloon, the
Fly leading the way. They walked up to the doors, when suddenly
their way was blocked by a burly bartender. "Hold it right there,
boys! We don't allow no Injuns in here!"
"Huh?" The Fly was confused.
"That means you!" The bartender prodded the Fly in the chest.
"Imagine that, trying to come in here with feathers..." he gestured
toward the Fly's antenna, "...and a war mask!" He gestured towards
the Fly's face. The dance-hall girls laughed derisively.
"Hey, wait a minute!" the Fly protested. "I'm not..."
A shotgun suddenly appeared in the bartender's hands. "I said
`Git!'" he said menacingly. "NOW!"
"Okay, okay," the Fly backed off. "I'm gittin'!"
"And don't come back!" the bartender called after them.
The Fly sighed as the foursome walked back to the chariot.
"Aw, gee. I never get to have any fun!"
The foursome walked slowly back towards Ben-Hur's chariot.
Suddenly, the lead horse reared up, whinnying loudly, and the four
horses galloped out of town as fast as they could run, the empty
chariot bouncing along behind them.
Ernie was totally taken aback by this. "Hey, they started up
all by themselves!" he said, as the cloud of dust raised by the
horse's hooves drifted over them. "Can they do that?"
"Well, obviously they can!" Sterno sneered. "And it's all your
"MY fault!" Ernie coughed. "Why is it MY fault?"
"Because it's always your fault!" Sterno snapped. "YOU didn't
tie them up!"
"Me?" Ernie protested. "I didn't know you had to tie them up!
Can't you just, like, turn them off or something?"
Sterno rolled his eyes upward. "Hopeless!"
Captain Memory looked up at the bright afternoon sun. "Nice
day for a walk, don't you think?"
Ernie looked down the road. It seemed to stretch endlessly
through a scrubby, dusty, semi-desert landscape. It looked exactly
like the scenery he'd seen in hundreds of episodes of "Gunsmoke".
It did not look like a pleasant place for a walk. "Maybe we could
just stay here," he suggested hopefully.
Just then, Marshal Dillon stepped out of his office. "You boys
better get movin', before you get into more trouble," he said
sternly. "I want you out of town before sunset!"
Ernie sighed. "Well, okay, maybe we won't stay here, then."
The foursome started off down the road, occasionally glancing over
their shoulders to see if the Marshal was still watching them.
Unfortunately, he was.
After what seemed like hours, they approached a fork in the
road. One branch seemed to head off into the mountains, and another
into the valley. They stopped.
Ernie looked at both branches of the road. "Well, which way do
we go? The high road or the low road?"
"I know!" the Fly chimed in brightly. "You take the high road
and I'll take the low road!"
"Because then I'll be in Scotland afore ye!" The Fly beamed.
"Gimme a break", moaned Ernie.
"Wait a minute," Captain Memory interrupted.
"What?" Maybe the Captain could come up with something that
would get them out of this desolate landscape.
"Isn't it supposed to be `you'll take the low road and I'll
take the high road?'"
The Fly frowned. "No, I'm sure it's supposed to be `you take
the high road and I'll take the low road'!"
Captain Memory shook his head. "No, I think it's the other way
"No, it can't be!" the Fly answered. "Listen!" He started to
sing. "You'll take the high road..."
"That's enough already!" Sterno broke in. "What difference
does it make, anyway! We're not going to Scotland!"
Ernie looked around. "Okay, then where are we going?"
"Rome!" stated Sterno confidently. "`All Roads Lead to Rome!'"
Ernie regarded the landscape skeptically. "I dunno. Rome,
that's in Italy, right? This doesn't look like Italy to me. It
looks like..." He stopped.
"Like what?" Sterno demanded.
"Like...well, well...I don't know what it looks like, but it
doesn't look like Italy."
"It's pointless to argue with me," said Sterno pompously.
"Because I have a classical education and I am, therefore, always
"Aren't there supposed to be, like, grapes, and pizzas, and
people playing those little accordions?" Ernie wondered. No-one
paid any attention to him.
The Fly looked down the road into the valley, and up the road
into the mountains. "Okay, so which way do we go, then?"
"It doesn't matter," said Sterno self-importantly. "`All Roads
Lead to Rome'!"
The Fly started up the road into the mountains. "You guys can
go any way you want," he called back over his shoulder. "But I'm
going this way!"
"Why?" Ernie called after him.
"'Cause then I'll be in Scotland afore ye!" The Fly laughed
and started running. "Last one there is a rotten egg!"
Ernie turned to Captain Memory and Sterno. "Well," he said at
last. "I guess we might as well follow him."
"I'll say!" Captain Memory agreed. "I wouldn't want him to be
in Scotland afore me!" The three of them turned, and began walking
up the road into the mountains.
The road headed upward at a moderate angle, making walking
somewhat difficult. They began to notice the terrain around them
changing as they walked. They seemed to be moving into a cooler,
moister environment. The desert was giving way to cool Alpine
meadows. The road narrowed into a path, threading it's way between
the growing hills. `Actually', Ernie thought. `It's kind of nice
here. Maybe taking the high road was a good idea.'
They had not seen the Fly for quite some time, but they were
fairly confident that he was just a bit out of sight ahead of them,
since they could hear someone singing "I'll take the high road..."
in the distance. Suddenly, the singing stopped.
Ernie frowned. He hoped the Fly hadn't fallen over a cliff or
something. He strained his ears. No, no singing. Suddenly, he heard
another sound. "Did you hear that?" he said to Sterno.
"Of course," said Sterno assuredly.
Ernie frowned. "What did that sound like to you?"
"I believe it was `Yodellay-he-hoo'", Sterno replied.
Ernie knitted his brow in concentration. "I've heard that
before. That reminds me of something!"
"Like what?" asked Sterno, with a slight air of sarcasm.
"Fondue, perhaps? Chocolate? Watches? `Heidi'?"
Ernie brightened. "Switzerland! We're in Switzerland!"
"Very good!" applauded Sterno. "Go to the head of the class!"
Ernie frowned again. "So, what are we doing in Switzerland?"
Captain Memory shrugged. "We seem to have wandered into
somebody's Geography program."
"So now what?"
"We go on to Rome, of course," Sterno answered confidently.
Ernie looked at the rising mountains and Alpine meadows around
them. "Are you sure we're going the right way? I mean, are we
supposed to go through Switzerland to get to Rome?"
"Of course," said Sterno with great assurance. "Don't you
remember Hannibal, taking his elephants through the Alps on his way
"Hannibal!" Ernie's face lit up with recognition. "I saw that
movie! Starring Victor Mature, right?" Ernie looked at the narrow
path on which they stood, and frowned. "What are we gonna do if we
run into an elephant on this trail?"
At that moment they turned a corner, and came upon the Fly,
who was standing still, looking at something. "Hi, guys!" he said.
"Take a look at this!"
The trail at this pointed rounded a curve at the top of a
cliff. The Fly pointed over the side, into the valley below. There
was some sort of commotion going on in the valley. There seemed to
be a large crowd of some sort moving through the valley, carrying
Ernie peered into the valley. There were a lot of people, or
animals, or something, moving around, but he couldn't make out what
they were doing. "Another cattle drive?" he suggested.
"I doubt it," remarked Sterno. "Look at all those torches!"
"Must be a torch drive!" the Fly said brightly.
Sterno glared at the Fly, and muttered something
"Those torches sure are pretty, aren't they?" commented
Captain Memory. "Maybe we should go down and join the party?"
Ernie could hear some kind of chanting drifting up from the
valley. He strained to hear what they were saying. It seemed to be
something like `Oom alla boom'. He frowned. Somehow, he just didn't
like the look of that crowd. "Uh, maybe we'd better not," he
Sterno agreed with him. "Maybe another time," the dog
Captain Memory looked at the others. "You guys are no fun," he
complained. The foursome watched the commotion below for a few
minutes, and then continued along the trail.
The narrow trail wound along between huge boulders, making it
impossible to see very far ahead. The foursome passed through a
narrow opening, and found themselves facing a large, open field,
which seemed to stretch on for miles.
In the middle of this space was a large, English-style
mansion, surrounded by carefully-tended grounds. The foursome
A low, ornamental fence surrounded the grounds. A road led
through the fence, and up to the front door. Lacking any better
ideas, the foursome walked down the road and up to the front door.
The door was massive and imposing, with a huge cast iron door
knocker in the middle. Ernie looked at Captain Memory. Captain
Memory looked at the Fly. The Fly looked at Sterno. Sterno looked
at Ernie. Ernie looked around. Everyone was looking at him. Ernie
sighed, and stepped up to the door. Tentatively, he raised the
knocker and let it drop. It made a surprisingly loud sound. Ernie
He waited. Nothing happened.
"Try it again," Sterno demanded.
Ernie frowned. "Why don't you try it?" He had a bad feeling
about this place. It looked like someplace he had seen in a movie
sometime. He didn't remember what movie it was, or what happened,
but it was something bad.
"Well, obviously, I'm not tall enough to reach it," said
Sterno patronizingly. "Anyway, it's your job."
"Why is it my job?" cried Ernie indignantly. "Why is it always
"You started it," retorted Sterno.
Ernie sighed. He knew there would be some reason why it was
his job. He always got stuck with things like this. Who knows what
kind of horrible creature would answer the door. Even if it was a
normal person, what was he supposed to say to them, anyway? Oh
well, might as well get it over with. He raised the knocker and
slammed it down several times, raising a tremendous din that no-one
in the house could have missed. They waited.
"Well, nobody's home," said Ernie lightly. "I guess we might
as well go."
"Oh, come ON," snapped Sterno irritatedly. "Where are we
supposed to go, anyway? Try the doorknob!"
Ernie shifted the coffee maker to his other hand, and gingerly
touched the huge, cast-iron doorknob, half expecting an explosion
or an electric shock. Nothing happened. He tried to turn it. It was
very securely locked, and totally unmovable.
"Well, door's locked," said Ernie in a cheerful tone. "Might
as well go!"
"We'll find another way in!" said Sterno sternly. "Let's walk
around the building."
Ernie grimaced. The others, however, seemed content to follow
Sterno as he headed off around the corner to the left. Ernie
supposed there was no way to get out of this, so he followed as
well, bringing up the rear.
A small garden path led around the corner of the building,
through the English garden, and to a nicely-tended stone patio.
French doors led from the house to the patio.
"Just as I thought!" Sterno declared. He strode purposefully
up to the doors, and tried the knob. They were unlocked. He led the
way into the house.
They found themselves in a luxurious English-style study, the
walls panelled with dark oak, and lined with shelves containing
leather-bound books. Sterno headed immediately for a small
occasional table by the wall. "Aha!" he cried. "I knew it!" He
flipped open a dark wood box, revealing a store of excellent
cigars. He grabbed a handful of them, lighting one immediately.
"Ahhh!" He exhaled a cloud of blue smoke. His eyes lit upon a
decanter sitting next to the humidor. "Lovely!" he exclaimed.
Ernie sighed wearily. All this stress was just too much for
him, he decided. Luckily, there was a large, overstuffed Victorian
sofa placed in the middle of the room. Ernie dropped heavily onto
it, followed by Captain Memory and the Fly.
Captain Memory scanned the room slowly. "I wonder where they
keep their TV?" he said pensively.
The sofa faced to large oak doors, which Ernie supposed must
lead to the rest of the house. Ernie considered them, wondering if
they should try to explore the house further. No, he decided, let's
just leave well enough alone.
At that moment the doors flew open. In the doorway stood a
tall, very British-looking gentleman, with a white handlebar
mustache, wearing a smoking jacket and a top hat. "How good of you
to come!" he announced jovially. "I'm Lord Foofaraw. Do make
yourselves at home! Tea, anyone?" A butler entered, carrying a
silver tray full of teacups, and three large, covered, silver
dishes. Ernie gratefully accepted a cup of tea, and peeked under
the covers of the dishes. The first two contained unappetizing-
looking little ornamental sandwiches. They seemed to be made of
plastic, or some other not-entirely-edible material. At this point,
however, Ernie was so ravenously hungry he would have eaten
practically anything, even items that were only marginally edible.
However, Ernie decided to check the third dish. What luck! It
contained a large pile of fresh, hot, sizzling lamb chops, broiled
to perfection. Ernie loved lamb chops. He grabbed the entire dish
off the tray and began wolfing them down, eating them with his bare
As Ernie's hunger subsided, he began to feel self-conscious.
They seemed to be having an elegant English tea with a titled
British nobleman, and here he was wearing a fur loincloth, carrying
a plastic broadsword and a coffee maker, and eating lamb chops with
his bare hands. It didn't seem proper to Ernie. Certainly it was
very un-British. Ernie frowned. Then, on the other hand, it wasn't
his fault. Lord Foofaraw was the one who served the lamb chops.
They shouldn't serve lamb chops if they don't want people to eat
them. And anyway, they didn't give him any utensils, so he had to
eat them with his hands. That settled, Ernie returned to stuffing
his face with chops.
"Pip, pip! Cheerio! Eh, wot?" said Lord Foofaraw jovially.
"How very British!" exclaimed Sterno delightedly.
"Rather!" agreed Lord Foofaraw.
Ernie turned to the nobleman. "I wonder if you could tell us
where we are?" he managed to ask between bites.
"Where you ARE?" Lord Foofaraw seemed amazed. "Why, I should
think that would be quite obvious! You're HERE, old boy!"
Sterno chuckled. The Fly waved his antennae confusedly.
Captain Memory continued to look around for a TV.
Lord Foofaraw settled comfortably into an overstuffed chair.
"Ah yes," he began. "This reminds me of the time I was lost in the
jungles of Poodawumpus, surrounded by cannibals!" He leaned forward
animatedly. "There were cannibals to the right of me, cannibals to
the left of me! The light of their torches flickered through the
dense undergrowth. I could hear their infernal chanting: `Oom alla
boom! Oom alla boom!' Over and over, until I thought the infernal
din should surely drive me mad! Suddenly, I...." He broke off,
looking at Ernie oddly. "I say, my good man, why ever are you
carrying that coffee maker?"
Ernie fidgeted uncomfortably. "It's not a coffee maker, it's
a Psion Megaforce Generator."
"A WOT?" the lord was amazed.
"A Psion Megaforce Generator!" Ernie repeated. Lord Foofaraw
looked at him skeptically. Ernie looked again at the device he was
carrying. He sighed. "On the other hand, it could be a coffee maker
too, I suppose." Ernie admitted. "Anyway, it's genuine Bakelite!"
"Ah, yes! Bakelite!" the lord seemed to consider this answer
reasonable. A faraway look came into his eyes. "That reminds me of
the time I was trekking through the desert of Duzzlebuggy..."
"But, what about the cannibals?" the Fly broke in, his
antennae waving excitedly.
"Don't interrupt His Lordship!" snapped Sterno.
Lord Foofaraw looked confused. "I say, old man, there are no
cannibals in the deserts of Duzzlebuggy!"
The Fly's antennae drooped disappointedly. "I wanted to hear
about the cannibals!"
"Oh, dear!" The lord seemed quite flustered by all these
interruptions. "Where was I? Ah, yes, there I was, scaling the
mountains of Muffiedump...."
Ernie's mind wandered. He noticed a beautiful silver bell
sitting on an end table next to him. It seemed to be a very unusual
design. It was covered with dozens of tiny pushbuttons, each with
an odd little symbol next to it. Ernie picked it up curiously.
"BONG! BONG!" Loud, synthesized bell-sounds appeared as though
out of nowhere.
Lord Foofaraw looked up in annoyance, stopping his story in
mid-sentence. "I say, my good man! Whatever ARE you doing?"
Ernie looked up disconcertedly. "I...um..it..." The bell
continued to bong loudly.
"How RUDE!" Sterno glared at Ernie.
Ernie examined the bell frantically, trying to figure out how
to turn it off. He could see now that is wasn't a real bell, but
rather an electronic, synthesized bell, with orchestral sounds, a
rhythm machine, and full MIDI capability.
Ernie pushed the tiny buttons frenziedly, desperately trying
to turn the thing off. The sound changed. "Chick-a-Boom! Chick-a-
BOOM!" Ernie had accidentally turned on the rhythm machine.
The door to the study opened. The Butler entered, a swarthy
character who looked somehow familiar to Ernie. The sound abruptly
stopped. Ernie breathed a sigh of relief.
The Butler looked at Ernie, and then at Lord Foofaraw. "Chu
rang?" he enquired.
"Ah, yes!" Lord Foofaraw seemed to have regained his
composure. "More tea, Richard!"
"Chure!" the Butler said agreeably, and began refilling their
His Lordship resumed his story. "...and there I was,
surrounded by techno-savages! They had decided to sacrifice a
virgin, but the first one they selected was discovered to be, how
shall I say, damaged, so they were obliged to move on to the next,
who became Virgin 2.0. But she was found to be not entirely
suitable, so they settled upon Virgin 2.1, revised...."
It seemed to have gotten dark outside, although they had
hardly noticed it, since the Butler, or someone, had turned on the
lights. That was odd, Ernie thought, because it had been the middle
of the afternoon only a few minutes ago. He was going to consider
it further, when abruptly, the lights went out, plunging them all
into total darkness.
From out of nowhere, a gust of wind blew up, throwing the
French doors open violently.
Suddenly, a shot rang out. They heard a cry, and a body fell
heavily to the floor.
The lights came on again. There, in the middle of the Persian
carpet, Lord Foofaraw lay dead in a pool of blood. Nearby lay a
smoking gun. Ernie was stunned. Before he could even think of what
to do, the oak doors leading to the rest of the house flew open,
and a man in a trench coat and a fedora strode purposefully in.
"Scotland Yard!" he announced. "No-one leave this room!"
A crowd of Bobbies seemed to have materialized outside of both
sets of doors. Clearly, no-one was going to be able to leave this
room until the detective was ready to allow it.
Ernie frowned. This was beginning to remind him an awful lot
of some movie or other, although he still couldn't remember which
one it was.
"Oh, I remember this!" Captain Memory exclaimed delightedly.
"This is a game called `MYSTERY', you know, one of those who-dunnit
things? We have to solve the mystery!" The captain seemed very
pleased. "This is great fun!"
The detective scanned all of their faces carefully. "So, here
we all are, at last!" he said.
`At last?' Ernie thought. "Uh, we only just got here," Ernie
said tentatively, wiping his greasy hands on his fur loincloth.
"And we really don't know anything about this, so, if you don't
mind, we'll just be on our..." He started to get up.
"Sit DOWN!" shouted the detective. "No-one leaves until I say
Ernie sat. He hadn't really thought he was going to get away
with that, but he'd though he'd give it a try anyway.
"So," the detective continued. "We know you all had a reason
for wanting Lord Foofaraw dead!"
The foursome all looked at one another. Ernie shrugged.
Captain Memory shrugged. The Fly shrugged. Sterno shrugged, in a
very un-doglike manner.
"Well, actually," Ernie began tentatively. "No, I..."
"A likely story!" interrupted the detective. "Here you are,
wearing a fur loincloth and a plastic broadsword, carrying..." He
cocked an eye quizzically at Ernie, "...a coffee maker? And you
expect me to believe a story like that? And just WHERE did you get
that bag of gold, anyway?"
Ernie began to feel very self-conscious. He decided that
perhaps he had better keep his mouth shut. It didn't seem to him
that saying `Attila the Hun gave it to me' would go over very well.
"And what about those LAMB CHOPS?!" the detective thundered.
"Everyone knows that one never serves lamb chops for tea! So, just
what is the meaning of all this?" Ernie shrank down into his seat.
"And YOU!" The detective jabbed a finger at the Fly, who
flinched. "You blamed Lord Foofaraw for your terrible accident,
didn't you? The accident that left you horribly disfigured, and
left Lord Foofaraw free to start an affair with YOUR WIFE!"
"But, but, I don't even have a wife!" The Fly began, his
antennae waving in consternation.
"All these years you've plotted revenge, haven't you?" the
detective continued. "And now, suddenly, mysteriously, Lord
Foofaraw turns up DEAD! What are we to make of THAT, my fine Fly
"But, but...." The Fly's antennae waved wildly.
The detective, however, had already gone on to the next
"And YOU!" He jabbed a finger at Sterno. "You've had no reward
for years of faithful service, have you? You've worked like a dog,
running and fetching every time his Lordship snapped his fingers.
We know how you resented it, how you longed to even the score. Yet,
year after year you let his Lordship treat you like an animal, with
never a whimper of complaint. And NOW, here you are, helping
yourself to his Lordship's best brandy and cigars! What would his
Lordship have thought of THAT!?"
Sterno thought fast. "Woof!" he answered. The detective,
however, had already gone on to the next suspect.
"And finally," the detective said, leaving a pregnant pause,
"we have YOU!" He jabbed a finger in Captain Memory's face. "The
famous Captain Memory! `Through Space and Time Without a Dime' I
think you've been heard to say!"
"Actually, I sort of prefer `Through Time and Space to a
Better Place'", answered the Captain conversationally.
"A likely story!" snapped the detective. "We know what you've
been up to! We see you when you're sleeping! We know if you're
awake! We know if you've been bad or good, so be..." He stopped
abruptly, glancing suspiciously about him. "Never mind! The
question here is: just exactly how do you JUMP out of sectors that
aren't supposed to accept any external commands, anyway?"
Captain Memory frowned. "What does that have to do with Lord
"You know very well what it has to do with the case!" snapped
the detective. "Just answer the question!"
Suddenly, a light went on in Ernie's head. He suddenly
remembered how all the pieces fit together. "I know!" he shouted.
"The BUTLER DID IT!"
The butler blanched. "Hey, mon!" he cried out. "What chu
talkin' about? I don' do nothin'!"
The detective looked irritated. "Don't change the subject!" he
snapped. He turned back to Captain Memory. "Awright, youse guys!
Talk! Youse guys ain't gonna play me for a patsy!"
Ernie and the Fly looked at each other in confusion.
The detective continued. "You lousy two-bit gunsels think you
can take a rod and..." One of the Bobbies came in hurriedly, tapped
the detective on the shoulder, and whispered something in his ear.
"What...?!" the detective snapped. He laughed nervously. "Oh.
Right. BRITISH detective." He laughed again. "Pip pip! Cheerio! Eh,
Ernie frowned. There was something very suspicious about this
detective. For one thing, his large, British-style handlebar
mustache did not seem to be attached to his face very well. It was
slowly drooping off one side of his face. There was something funny
about his clothes, too. The trenchcoat was okay, the hat was
okay...Maybe it was the jackboots?
Sterno gave the detective a pitiless glare. "You lost your
character!" he accused.
The detective laughed nervously. "Character? Vot character?
I'm not a character, I'm...uh..." He looked flustered. He elbowed
the bobby next to him. "Quick!" he whispered. "Who am I?" The bobby
whispered something in his ear.
The detective seemed to recover his composure somewhat. "Oh,
yes! Of course! I'm the famous British detective, Thomas Cheddar!"
Sterno's fur stood on end. " Oh, no! It's cheese! CHEESE!
RUN!" he wailed.
But it was too late. The detective whipped an evil-looking
weapon out from under his raincoat, which parted to reveal a black
SS uniform beneath it. "Enough of zis shtupidity!" he cried,
holding the foursome at bay. "You vill perhaps recognize me now,"
he said confidently. He screwed a monocle into one eye, and whipped
off the false handlebar mustache with a flourish. He immediately
regretted this, and winced with pain as the glue on the false
mustache tore out half the hairs of his real mustache. He quickly
regained his composure, however, and waited for some response from
Captain Memory looked at Ernie. Ernie shrugged.
The detective looked from one to the other. "You DO recognize
me, ja?" he asked, a bit uncertainly.
"I'm sure we've seen you someplace before," said Sterno
"Of course," agreed Captain Memory. "It's on the tip of my
tongue! It's...uh..." He trailed off.
The Fly's antennae waved uncertainly. Suddenly, he brightened.
"Oh, I get it! It's a game, right? First syllable? Sounds like?" He
began gesticulating wildly. "I know! I know! It's Fred Astaire,
right? Fred Astaire?"
"Enough!" the detective shouted angrily. "I cannot believe dat
you do not recognize me, Sturmbannfuhrer Dr. Heinz von Liederkranz,
de most famous Nazi in all Televisionland. Obviously, you haff
recognized me all along, and you are chust toying vith me. Vell,"
he smiled evilly. "Ve shall see who toys vis who!"
Sterno frowned. "Whom," he corrected.
"Vot?!" snapped von Liederkranz.
"Whom," Sterno continued. "It's not `who toys with who', it's
`who toys with whom'."
Von Liederkranz's monocle dropped out of his eye. "Was fur ein
shtupid language! I haff no time for dis! We must get on vis de
questioning!" He smiled evilly.
"Okay," said Captain Memory agreeably. "Why do fools fall in
"Nein, dummkopf!" von Liederkranz shrieked. "I ask ze
The Fly sulked. "Why do you always get to ask the questions?
How come we never get to ask any questions?"
"Quite right!" Sterno asserted. "And why must you always wear
that dreadful uniform?"
Von Liederkranz stopped, startled. "Uniform? Vot's wrong vis
"I mean, really!" Sterno sniffed. "It's hardly the thing for
High Tea, is it? I should think a top hat..."
"Puttink on a top hat?" von Liederkranz asked incredulously.
"White tie, tails..." Sterno went on.
"Puttink on a white tie?" The Nazi seemed amazed.
"PUTTING ON THE RITZ!" The Fly shouted joyously, finishing the
line of the song. "I knew it! I knew it was Fred Astaire!"
Von Liederkranz drew himself up to his full height. "Ja, I DO
look a great deal like your Fred Astaire, nein?" Of course, he
didn't look anything like Fred Astaire, but no-one wanted to be the
one to tell him that.
"Oh yes," Sterno enthused insincerely. "You've all the
elegance, all the grace of the greatest dancer of all time!"
Von Liederkranz preened. "Ja, dat's right! I do!" Looking
down, he noticed Lord Foofaraw's top hat, which had rolled off his
head when he collapsed, dead. He picked it up, tossing his own
military cap aside. Using Lord Foofaraw's top hat and his own
riding crop as a cane, he attempted to do a Fred Astaire-style top-
hat-and-cane number. He began to do a few awkward, shuffling dance
steps. "Puttink on mein top hat..." he began to sing.
The `Bobbies' had by now shed their English policeman uniforms
to reveal their Nazi uniforms beneath. They were totally confused
by this turn of events. They shuffled about awkwardly, not knowing
what to do.
Von Liederkranz glared at them. "Sing!" he commanded. The
Nazi's lined up and formed a chorus line, swaying with the music,
singing off key "...puttink on mein white tie..."
Von Liederkranz attempted to do some slightly more complicated
steps, but succeeded only in knocking over the silver tray, sending
the tea cups and little plastic sandwiches crashing to the ground.
This threw the other Nazi's off their rhythm. Half of them
swayed left, and half swayed right, causing them to violently bump
into each other, knocking some off their feet. Their voices trailed
"Sing!" von Liederkranz commanded ferociously.
The Nazi's resumed singing with feigned enthusiasm. "PUTTINK
ON DER RITZ!!
"I knew it!" the Fly enthused. "I knew it was Fred Astaire!
That means I win, right?"
Von Liederkranz and the Nazis began dancing gracelessly
towards the door that led to the hallway, singing "Dum de dum de
dum dum...." since they couldn't remember the rest of the words.
"Bravo!" Sterno applauded enthusiastically. "Keep it up,
you're doing great!"
Von Liederkranz grinned broadly and began dancing with greater
enthusiasm, although no better rhythm. He headed out the door and
down the hall, the Nazi chorus line crowding awkwardly behind him.
"Fabulous!" Sterno enthused. He signalled to Ernie, the Fly,
and Captain Memory, who caught the hint and began applauding as
well. "Wonderful! Tremendous!" they all cheered.
The Nazi's voices began receding down the hall. Sterno
gestured towards the French doors leading to the outside. The four
got up, and began tiptoeing towards them.
Suddenly, the heard a resounding crash coming from down the
hall. "Dummkopf! Schweinhund!" cried a voice, followed by the snap
of a riding crop.
"RUN!" cried Sterno. The foursome charged through the French
doors and went sprinting across the field behind the house.
In a few moments, the English Tudor mansion was out of view.
Peculiarly enough, as soon as they left the mansion it was mid-
afternoon again. The darkness seemed to have been confined to the
study. The four slowed down to a walk, exhausted and out of breath.
Ernie looked back. There was no sign of pursuit.
"Looks like they're still trying to get their act together,"
Captain Memory commented.
"That act has got, let's say, a few rough spots that need to
be ironed out," Sterno snickered. "I think they're going to be
working on it for rather a long time."
Ernie sighed with relief. Those Nazis made him very uneasy.
The four continued walking. They were in the midst of what
seemed to be many acres of lush, grassy meadow. A short distance
ahead Ernie spotted flock of sheep peacefully grazing.
"Sheep!" Ernie exclaimed.
"Really?" Sterno asked sarcastically. "How clever of you to
figure that out!"
A small group of sheep detached themselves from the flock and
walked up to the foursome. Ernie noticed that they looked much like
the other sheep in the flock, except for the fact that they were
wearing dark sunglasses. Looking closely, he could see that some of
them seemed to be carrying some objects that looked a lot like....,
hmm, well, like surfboards. "Baa!" the first sheep said, as if in
"Baa Baa!" Sterno replied. The sheep seemed to respond
favorably to this.
"You speak their language?" Ernie was astounded.
"Of course," Sterno replied offhandedly. "I was always a great
student of foreign languages."
"But, what language do they speak?" Ernie wanted to know.
"Sheepish, of course," Sterno replied in a patronizing tone.
"Everybody knows THAT!"
The lead sheep continued. "Baa Baa Baa!"
"Ba?" inquired Sterno.
"Baa Baa Baa!" the lead sheep repeated vigorously.
A second later, the next sheep repeated the same thing, "Baa
Baa Baa!" And then the next sheep picked up the refrain; soon they
were all chanting "Baa Baa Baa." Suddenly, the lead sheep launched
into the main verse: "Baa Baa Baa, Baa Barbara Ann...."
"Oh, it's the Beach Sheep!" the Fly exclaimed.
By now the entire group of sheep had launched into the song,
in full chorus. "They're not bad," admitted Ernie.
"Even the President likes the Beach Sheep," the Fly asserted.
"Of course, they're not really the Beach Sheep," Sterno
"They're not?" the Fly seemed very disappointed.
"Don't be silly!" Sterno sniggered. "You couldn't expect the
real Beach Sheep to be performing in a little, out-of-the-way
meadow like this, could you? The only play the really big fields
"Aww!" The Fly's antennae drooped.
"No," continued Sterno. "They're just one of a whole flock of
Beach Sheep impersonators. A good imitation, but not the real
Ernie thought a moment. "You mean, like Elvis impersonators?"
"The Sheepish equivalent," Sterno agreed.
Having finished their song, the Beach Sheep began discussing
something with Sterno in very serious tones. Ernie, of course,
couldn't understand a bleat of it, since it was all in Sheepish.
"So, what's the deal?" the Fly wanted to know.
"It seems the sheep have a problem," Sterno explained.
"They're being oppressed by one of their own kind, a cruel tyrant
who will stop at nothing to get his own way."
"Gee, that's tough," the Fly shook his head sadly.
"What's this tyrant called, anyway?" Ernie was curious.
Sterno paused dramatically. "They call him....the Wooly
Ernie frowned. That name seemed somehow familiar to him.
The Fly started snapping his fingers and humming. "Wooly
bully, wooly bully..."
"Will you STOP that!" barked Sterno. "Have some respect,
please! This is a serious problem!"
"Oh. Sorry." The Fly fell silent.
Sterno continued conversing with the sheep. "They're asking
our help in breaking free of this awful tyranny."
"Wooly Bully, that reminds me of something." Captain Memory
became thoughtful. "The Hully Gully, perhaps?"
The Fly's antennae perked up. "The Frug? The Jerk? The Mashed
Potato?" he suggested.
"The Swim?" Sterno added. "Or even, The TWIST?"
A brilliant idea occurred to Ernie. "I know! This must be `The
Land of 1,000 Dances!'"
Sterno turned to Ernie with a look of utter disgust. "Look,
we've been through this before, remember? `Fondue, chocolate,
watches, `Heidi'', remember?"
Ernie became subdued. "You're trying to tell me this is
The Fly's antennae twitched excitedly. "Oh, I remember that
now! `Land of 1,000 Dances!' That was a song by Cannibal and the
"Cannibal..." Ernie started. He thought for a moment. "On the
other hand," he went on. "Switzerland is fine! Chocolate,
`Heidi'..... Fine, just fine!"
"Well!" Sterno sniffed. "I'm glad THAT'S settled!"
Captain Memory looked at his wrist. "Watches? Did you say
Ernie looked at the sheep. He noticed that each of them wore
rather a nice Swiss watch on one of their front forelegs.
Captain Memory continued to look at his bare wrist, and
sighed. "Oh dear, I'm afraid it's getting late. We'll have to be
Ernie was nonplussed. "Aren't we supposed to, like, help them
overthrow the evil ruler, or something?"
Captain Memory shrugged. "It's not my problem, you know? I
mean, we can't do everything!"
"Baa Baa!" said the lead sheep insistently.
"The sheep wants to know," Sterno translated. "If you can't
help overthrow the Wooly Bully, could you at least give him some
clue as to the whereabouts of his daughter? She's been missing
since yesterday, and he's afraid something terrible might have
happened to her, the poor little lamb!"
Ernie burped. Everyone turned to look at him. "Uh, who, me? I
don't know anything about it! Why would I know anything about it?"
He fidgeted uncomfortably, compulsively wiping his still-greasy
hands on his fur loincloth. "Stop looking at me like that!"
"I think we'd better get going!" said Captain Memory
The four turned to leave. Ernie looked back at the group of
sheep. He smiled weakly, trying to think of something nice to say
in Sheepish. "Ba!" he waved good-bye.
The lead sheep started, and rose up on his hind legs looking
very angry and offended.
"That was very rude!" Sterno reproved Ernie.
"Uh, what did I say?" asked Ernie, bewildered. "I only
"After ALL!" Sterno continued. "You've never even met his
mother! And even if you had, I seriously doubt she would have
consented to do anything like that with YOU!"
"Gee, I'm sorry, I..." Ernie decided that perhaps the safest
thing to do was simply be quiet.
The four continued walking. Ernie noticed that it seemed to be
getting warmer. Substantially more humid, too. Even though he was
wearing only a loincloth, Ernie began to perspire. The others also
seemed to be feeling uncomfortable from the heat. All except
Captain Memory, who never seemed to be uncomfortable at all.
As the sun began to set, Ernie noticed that the vegetation
around them was different, now. The warm area they were heading
into seemed to full of tropical plants. Lush flowers and tall trees
loomed ahead of them. In fact, they seemed to heading into a
Ernie noticed an object lying in the grass. It appeared to be
the broken remnants of a vandalized sign of some sort. Ernie could
just barely make out a few words through the layers of graffiti.
"Pooda....something," Ernie read. "No alcoholic beverages allowed.
Do not feed the..." The rest was gone. Something about it made
Ernie feel very uncomfortable.
"Um, is it really a good idea to be heading into the jungle at
night?" Ernie asked nervously.
"Oh, you're right," said Sterno sarcastically. "Let's just
check into a Holiday Inn instead!"
"Well, it's just that it's awfully, well...dark," Ernie
"It gets that way at night," Sterno pointed out. "You know of
some way to prevent it, perhaps?"
Ernie eyed the thick jungle vegetation ahead of them with
misgivings. "What if there's, um, hostile natives or something?"
At that exact moment, drums began pounding in the distance.
Ernie began to feel very uneasy. "Do we have to go in there?" he
"No, not at all," Captain Memory pointed out. "We can just
stay here and wait for the Nazis to catch up with us, if you like!"
Ernie moaned. "No, that's okay. Let's just keep going!"
Captain Memory shook his head sadly. "I dunno, nothing seems
to make you happy! You don't want to go, you don't want to stay...
You know, you really need to have a more positive attitude!"
"Yeah, right," Ernie grunted. They continued along the way
into the jungle. The vegetation seemed to swallow them up. The
heavy masses of green foliage on all sides seemed to offer little
possibility of escape. The continued along the trail, which became
ever narrower as they progressed.
"Look!" the Fly pointed ahead. It was now almost night. The
jungle before them was almost pitch black. However, off to the left
small points of light could be seen, weaving and bobbing in and out
of the foliage in the distance.
"What's that?" Ernie wanted to know. "Fireflies?"
"Torches!" the Fly corrected. "It's those villagers we saw in
the mountains! They've come to meet us! Isn't that nice?"
Ernie was still uneasy. "Are you sure they're friendly
The Fly peered into the distance. "They sure LOOK friendly! It
looks like they're having a party! They're all singing and
As the villagers approached, Ernie began to be able to make
out what they were singing. They were chanting rhythmically to the
beat of the drums. "Na, na na na na, na na na na,..."
Ernie frowned. "I KNOW that song! It's, um it's...."
"Sure!" the Fly broke in. "`Land of 1,000 Dances'! What a
"AHA!" cried Ernie. "See, I told you! I was right!" He turned
to Sterno. "See? This is The Land of 1,000 Dances! I was right
"You were not!" sniffed Sterno. "That was there, this is here!
That was Switzerland, this is the Land of 1,000 Dances!"
Ernie sulked. "Well, I was sort of right! Anyway, this is The
Land of 1,000 Dances, so those guys with the torches must be..." He
suddenly turned pale. "CANNIBAL AND THE HEADHUNTERS!!"
"Cool!" agreed the Fly. "Great band, huh?"
"What are we gonna DO!?" wailed Ernie.
Suddenly, they were distracted by a loud crashing in the
forest behind them. "Gottverdammter! Schweinhund!" The crack of a
riding crop could clearly be heard. They turned to see bright
fingers of white light, as though from high-powered flashlights,
probing through the foliage.
"Zey must be in here somevhere!" they heard a voice call out.
"Ze trail of isotope tracers from ze radioactive lamb chops leads
right zis vay!"
Ernie pressed his hands to his stomach. "I don't feel good,"
Ernie looked up to find the other three glaring at him. "How
was I to know the lamb chops were radioactive?" he protested
loudly. "Do you think I would have eaten them if I knew?"
"Ssh!" The four heard the voice behind them call out. "I tink
I hear zem!" Ernie quickly put a hand over his mouth.
Up ahead, the bobbing torchlights were weaving ever closer.
The pounding drums and chanting was getting louder. The chanting
had changed now. "Oom alla Boom!" Ernie could hear. "Oom alla
BOOM!" From behind, the searchlights were weaving ever more in
their direction, slowly beginning to focus in on their position.
Ernie whimpered quietly.
"Hey guys, look at this!" the Fly pointed to something in the
darkness. Off to the right, visible only to the Fly's huge insect
eyes, a faint trail split off from the main path. "Let's try this!"
The Fly hurried down the trail. The others followed as closely as
possible, so as not to get lost in the increasing darkness.
The four scampered along the dark, narrow path, attempting to
move quickly, but also quietly, and not doing a very good job of
either. The sounds of pursuit behind them seem to grow ever louder.
The trail led to a large clearing, and then stopped.
Surrounding the clearing was an impenetrable thicket of thorn
bushes. In the middle of the clearing was a large iron pot, big
enough for all four of them to fit into at the same time. It sat on
a large pile of neatly arranged firewood. A heap of neatly cut-up
potatoes and carrots lay nearby.
"I don't like the looks of this," Ernie moaned. He turned to
Captain Memory. "Can't you get us out of here?" he pleaded.
Captain Memory frowned. He seemed lost in thought. "Well, I
suppose it's worth a try," he said dubiously. With that, he turned
suddenly and slugged Ernie in the stomach, hard.
"Oof!" Ernie doubled over in pain. "Hey, what....BEEP BEEP
BEEP!" Ernie was astounded at the sounds coming out of his mouth.
"Good!" Captain Memory cheered. "It still works!"
Ernie coughed. "What..what still works?"
"The remote!" Captain Memory seemed particularly cheerful. "I
just remembered that a Franglian remote will still work, even if
you eat it! Quality construction, you know!" He nodded wisely. "I
paid a little extra, but it was worth it!"
The Captain regarded Ernie carefully. "The only problem is,
it's a little hard to press the buttons! Let me see..." Without
warning, he elbowed Ernie violently in the kidneys.
Ernie fell to the ground in pain. He opened his mouth: "BEEP
Captain Memory looked embarrassed. "Oh, sorry. Wrong button!"
The toe of his boot slammed into Ernie's ribs. "BOOP BEEP!"
"There we go!" Captain Memory exulted. "Now we've got it!"
Ernie lay in the dirt, moaning. Captain Memory reached down to
help him to his feet. "Sorry about that," he apologized. "Still,
you have to expect that sort of thing if you're going to go around
eating remote control units!"
Ernie staggered to his feet, moaning.
"Look!" the Fly pointed up into the sky. A bright object
seemed to be descending in their direction.
Captain Memory looked at his bare wrist. "Ah, here he comes!
Right on time!" The Captain looked at his wrist more closely.
"Well, almost on time."
As the bright object approached, Ernie began to make it out
more clearly. It looked like, well, it looked like an overly-large
1957 Plymouth taxi. It had huge fins, two-tone paint, and rather a
lot of rust.
Captain Memory gestured proudly towards it as it came in for
a landing. "There it is, guys!" he announced proudly. "The Luna C!
Ain't she a beauty?"
Sterno glanced behind them. The sounds of commotion back on
the trail were increasing. "Not a moment too soon!" he muttered.
Ernie watched the Luna C as it approached for a landing. He
noticed that it seemed to be coming in rather fast. With a
deafening crash, the Luna C slammed into the ground, throwing a
cloud of dust and dirt in all directions. As the dust settled,
Ernie noticed a hubcap rolling listlessly away, finally coming to
a stop by a nearby tree.
Captain Memory winced, but then quickly regained his
composure. He started towards the spacecraft.
The driver's side door of the Luna C opened, and a lanky
individual with long, unkempt hair got out. He was wearing a loud
Hawaiian shirt, and dark sunglasses, even though it was night.
He waved at Captain Memory. "Hey dude, what's happenin'?"
"Hey, Ralph!" Captain Memory waved cheerily at the driver.
"This is my pilot, Ralph!" he introduced the man to the group, as
they all sprinted towards the spacecraft.
Sterno eyed the Luna C suspiciously. "This is your ship?"
"That's it!" Captain Memory waved at it proudly.
"Then how come it says `Taxi' on it?" Sterno asked pointedly.
Captain Memory's face fell. "Well...well... I was supposed to
get a limo! Well, they told me I could have a limo, but there was
this budget problem... Anyway, I could've had a company car, for
sure, except, um, there was that problem about my license. So,
anyway..." He trailed off uncomfortably.
"So you hadda take a cab!" Sterno finished for him.
"Well... well..." Flustered, Captain Memory broke off. "Yeah."
Ernie noticed that the sounds behind them were getting awfully
close. "Uh, could we talk about this someplace else?"
Captain Memory glanced back down the trail. "You're right!" He
turned to Ralph. "Let's cruise!"
Ralph looked uncomfortable. "Uh, I wanted to tell you, dude.
We got a little problem..."
"Let's talk about it on the way," he suggested, glancing back
down the trail. "The guys around here are, um, uncool!"
Ralph nodded understandingly. "I can dig it!" He got into the
driver's seat, while the other four piled into the roomy back seat.
Ralph shifted into `Fly', and stomped on the accelerator. The
Luna C instantly shot thirty feet straight up into the air,
violently flipped upside-down, and hung there, unmoving.
Ernie, Sterno, and the Fly suddenly found themselves upside-
down, in a very uncomfortable position, laying halfway on the roof
and halfway in their seats. Captain Memory and Ralph, however, were
sitting quite comfortably in their seats as though glued into them.
"So, like I was saying, dude," Ralph went on conversationally.
"We got this little problem..."
In the position he was in, Ernie could see the ground beneath
them quite clearly through the Luna C's large rear window. Their
seemed to be some kind of commotion taking place. The probing
searchlights and the bobbing torches seemed to have come together.
Ernie heard shouts, screams, machine-gun fire. Then, all was
After a few moments, the drums and chanting began again. "Oom
alla boom! Oom alla BOOM!" Ernie could see a fire being lit beneath
the huge iron pot. It looked as though the Cannibals were going to
have their feast, after all!
Ernie's attention returned to the conversation inside the
space taxi. Ralph was telling his story animatedly. "....so I wired
the framistatter to the quark generator..." Ralph could see that
Captain Memory was about to say something, but he cut him off.
"Yeah, I know you're not supposed to do it. I know, `Warning: Do
Not Bypass Overload Protection....' Who listens to that crap? So
anyway, it really kicked up the horsepower, you know what I mean?
And when the light turned green, man, I was outta there! Those guys
in the 'Vette, man, they couldn't believe it! You shoulda seen
their faces! It was...."
"So, what happened?" Captain Memory interrupted.
Ralph became suddenly subdued. "Okay, so maybe the left rear
antimatter coupler got toasted! It's no biggie! We'll stop at the
parts store, we'll pick up a new one! It's just a couple bucks! It
was worth it! You shoulda seen those guys' faces!"
Captain Memory shook his head sadly. "I got some bad news for
you, Ralph. The parts store's closed."
"Oh, MAN!" Ralph was annoyed. "You mean we're gonna have to
hang out until the store opens? What a drag!" Ralph shook his head
unhappily. "So, like, when does it open?"
Captain Memory regarded his wrist carefully. "Let's see, it's
9:30 right now.... So, I would say, it'll probably open in about,
oh, two billion years!"
"Oh, MAN!" Ralph was really upset. "I can't wait two billion
years! I got a date on Friday!"
Ernie whimpered. "Does that mean the ship won't fly?"
"Hey, be cool!" Ralph said comfortingly. "Sure it'll fly! It's
just a little, uh, handling problem! That's all! Fly's great! Just
doesn't, uh, handle exactly right!" It was beginning to occur to
Ralph that perhaps wiring the framisttater to the quark generator
might not have been such a good idea, after all.
"Handling problem?" inquired Sterno, and he wriggled about
trying to find a comfortable position in the upside-down vehicle.
"Is this part of the `handling problem'?"
"Hey, it flies fine!" Ralph insisted. "So, maybe it's upside-
down! I mean..."
"And sideways!" Captain Memory reminded Ralph.
"Oh, yeah," Ralph became quiet. "Sideways. Okay, so it only
goes upside-down and sideways. Hey, it's no biggie! It gets you
where you're going, right? Okay, so maybe you wouldn't want to take
any long trips in it right now, but it get's you.... Uh, well, it
gets you to the parts store!" he concluded triumphantly.
"The parts store's closed, Ralph," Captain Memory reminded him
The Fly's antennae suddenly quivered. "I know!" he said
excitedly. "How about Road Service? Can you call for a tow?"
Ralph fidgeted uncomfortably. "Well, um, I sorta been having
this problem with the towing company... There's this, um, unpaid
Ernie and the Fly looked at Captain Memory. He shrugged. "Hey,
I don't got insurance, you know?"
Captain Memory suddenly perked up. "Hey Ralph!" he cried.
"What about Warp drive?"
Ralph brightened, and then slowly resumed his glum expression.
"Uh, well, I don't think you wanna use the Warp drive right now,"
he shook his head sadly.
Captain Memory frowned. "Why not?"
Ralph fidgeted. "Well, it's been kinda acting up a little," he
explained. "I been meaning to get something done about it. Just
yesterday, I said to myself `Ralph, you know you really oughta get
that warp drive took care of' But, uh, you know, it's like fifty
credits minimum just to have 'em look at it, and, uh..." He trailed
Captain Memory looked confused. "Didn't you get the Repair
Requisition Voucher from the Main Office?"
Ralph looked very uncomfortable. "Um, uh, yeah. Well, the
other night me and the boys was playing a little cards, see, and I
had this great hand! I had three Galaxies! How could I lose, right?
But I was all outta chips! All I had left was the Voucher, so I
Captain Memory shook his head sadly. "That's against the
Ralph sighed. "Well, how was I to know the other guy had five
Nebulae? You know what the odds against that are?"
Ernie racked his brains for a solution to the problem. "Maybe
we could just, sort of, give it a try," he suggested hopefully.
Ralph sighed. "Well, I thought of that, but last time I tried
it, I wound up in, um, Dimension 9!"
Captain Memory was startled. "Dimension 9! Oh, no wonder!" He
chuckled. "You sure don't wanna wind up in Dimension 9, do you?"
Ralph nodded his head glumly. "That's for sure!" They all fell
After a few minutes, Ernie heard the sound of snoring. He
squinted through the near-complete darkness, the only light coming
from the lights on the dashboard. Ralph seemed to have dropped off
to sleep. Captain Memory seemed to be nodding as well. Lacking any
better ideas, Ernie slowly worked himself around to a comfortable
position, and fell asleep as well.
It was dawn when Ernie awoke. During the night, the Luna C
seemed to have drifted quietly to the ground, and was now lying on
it's top in the dirt. Ernie peered out the windows. The clearing
was deserted, but signs of last night's revelry remained. The large
iron pot was tipped over on it's side, empty. Various bones lay
scattered about. Lying here and there was what appeared to be an
occasional jackboot. Ernie tried not to look at them.
After a few moments, the others began to stir. The Fly moaned.
"Oh man, I hate sleeping in the car! Look at my suit! It's all
rumpled!" Only Sterno seemed comfortable, curled up in a doglike
position on the ceiling of the upside-down space taxi.
Ernie twisted uncomfortably. He was feeling very stiff and
achy after sleeping in an odd position in the car. Thinking about
it, his stomach didn't feel very good, either.
Captain Memory blinked confusedly and looked around. Ralph
yawned. The Captain looked pointedly at Ralph. "Well," he said
unhappily. "I guess there's no getting around it, is there?"
"Oh, no," said Ralph dejectedly.
"You gotta do it," Captain Memory shook his head despondently.
"You're gonna have to call the office."
"Oh MAN!" Ralph didn't seem to like this idea at all. "I hate
calling the office! They always give me a hard time! They'll
probably leave me on hold forever, too!"
Captain Memory shook his head sadly. "It's gotta be done,
Ralph sighed. "Oh, okay." He reached under the seat and pulled
out what appeared to be a car phone. He picked up the handset and
dialed, looking very glum.
"Hi Stella, it's Ralph." Ernie could only hear Ralph's side of
the conversation. Ralph seemed upset. "Look Stella, don't start up
with me, okay? I'm having a bad day, okay? Look, it wasn't my
fault! Anyway, I gotta talk to the boss, is he... Oh no, Stella,
don't put me on..." Suddenly, Ralph froze into immobility. Ernie
peered at him. Ralph was absolutely motionless, like a statue. He
didn't even seem to be breathing.
Ernie turned to Captain Memory. "What happened to Ralph?"
Captain Memory seemed unconcerned. "Oh, they put him on
"On `Hold'?" Ernie was uncomprehending.
Captain Memory shrugged. "Well, you know, they always do that
when you want to talk to the boss. You can't expect him to drop
everything just to talk to YOU, can you?" The Captain chuckled at
Ernie peered at Ralph. "He's not breathing!"
"No, he doesn't need to. He's in suspended animation," the
Captain explained, yawning and stretching. "That way, you're not
aware of how much time has passed while you're waiting for your
Ernie frowned. "I don't think I'd like that."
Captain Memory shrugged. "I guess they feel it's kinder that
way," he conjectured.
"`Kinder?'" Ernie was having a hard time with all of this.
"It's either that or Muzak," Sterno explained.
"Oh." Ernie considered this. "Yeah, I guess suspended
animation would be better!" He looked over at Ralph. "So, how long
is he gonna be like that?"
"Let me see..." Captain Memory examined his bare wrist
closely. "It's ten o'clock now, so I'd say, oh, about two billion
"Two billion years!" Ernie was aghast.
"Look at the bright side," Captain Memory went on cheerfully.
"By then, the parts store will be open!"
Ernie moaned. "What are we supposed to do in the meantime?"
Captain Memory frowned. "Good point! We can't very well sit
around here, can we?" He chuckled. "Might as well hit the road!" He
opened the car door, and flipped himself neatly around from his
current sitting position, which was, of course, upside-down
relative to the others, and landed neatly on his feet on the ground
outside. He turned to Ernie. "Coming?"
Ernie crawled painfully out through the open car door, and
struggled to his feet on the ground outside.
The group assembled themselves outside the upside-down taxi,
all of them stretching and yawning. Ernie peered into the interior
of the taxi until he spotted his coffee maker, which he carefully
retrieved. He stood up beside the taxi, and looked about
Sterno seemed to have regained his composure more quickly than
the other members of the group. "What is this `Office' that you and
Ralph were talking about?" he asked Captain Memory pointedly.
The Captain looked suddenly uncomfortable. "Well, uh, you
know, everybody's got to work for a living..." He trailed off.
"You mean you're not a full-time Super Hero?" the Fly
inquired. He seemed disappointed.
Captain Memory shuffled awkwardly. "Well, uh, you know, Super
Hero-ing doesn't pay too good..."
"What exactly do you do at this `Office'?" Ernie wanted to
"Oh, you know, a little programming..." The Captain seemed
"Oh," said Sterno with relish. "This is beginning to make a
lot more sense to me now! THAT'S how you manage to do all these
tricky things here in Cyberspace! You're using the Company
computer! You've got a mainframe to work with, don't you?"
"Well..." Captain Memory seemed very uncomfortable.
Sterno continued. "I bet you're not running all this from a
"Well, no," the Captain admitted. "I got a Cray."
"A CRAY!?" Even Ernie, who knew very little about computers,
had heard of the awesome power of a Cray.
"Well, it's not mine, personally, you understand," the Captain
"In other words," Sterno said reflectively. "You're using the
Company's Cray to break into Waldo Stadium's stolen systems and
free the Cyberslaves." Sterno's eyes narrowed. "Aren't you supposed
to be doing something more productive?"
"Hey, this is important!" Captain Memory insisted indignantly.
"Anyway, it's part of R & D, you know? After all, I could...."
He was suddenly interrupted by the thunderous BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! of
jungle drums. A distant chanting reached their ears. Ernie
struggled to make it out. It seemed to be something like "Oom alla
boom, YUM YUM YUM!"
"Maybe we should, um, get moving?" Ernie suggested.
"Uh, sure!" The Captain agreed, glad to change the subject.
"Let's go!" He began striding purposefully forward. He walked right
up to an impenetrable thicket, and stopped, looking at it
"How about this trail?" Ernie suggested, pointing to a narrow
path that led through the underbrush in the opposite direction from
the trail they had come in on. It was also, luckily, leading the
opposite direction from the jungle drums.
Captain Memory snapped his fingers. "Of course! That's it! A
trail! We need a trail! Now, why didn't I think of that?"
"Good question," Sterno agreed.
Captain Memory headed purposefully down the trail; the others
following behind him.
Within seconds the forest seemed to close in around them.
Ernie could see nothing around him but dense underbrush. All he
could see ahead of him was Captain Memory's back. He supposed that
he didn't have much alternative except to just keep moving along
the trail. At least the sound of the jungle drums was diminishing.
Ernie began to be aware of a sound in the distance. A sort of
whooshing sound. It sounded almost like distant traffic noises. He
considered it. It was probably just the wind in the trees, he
Captain Memory stopped abruptly, causing Ernie to just about
pile into his back. "Hmm," he said, peering intently forward.
"You can get through that opening right there," the Fly's
voice came from behind. As usual, his hyper-acute vision had
spotted details which everyone else missed.
Captain Memory pushed through a narrow gap in the bushes. The
Pushing through the dense brush Ernie emerged on to.... a
clearing? No, it was a lawn. A big mowed lawn. About fifty yards
ahead was a large parking lot, followed by a huge chrome-and-glass
office building. In the distance was what appeared to be a major
highway, from which Ernie could hear what were, indeed, traffic
"HEY!" A gruff voice interrupted them.
"Huh?" Ernie looked around confusedly.
"Get outta da flower bed!" Ernie looked down. He was standing
on top of a dozen beautiful, but crushed, tulips.
"NOW!" the voice demanded. Ernie rushed forward onto the
grass, destroying dozens more beautiful flowers in the process.
Ernie looked back to see the rest of the group carefully picking
their way forward through the flowers, careful not to cause any
Ernie looked up to see the owner of the gruff voice
approaching. He was a short, heavy-set man in coveralls, smoking a
cigar. He appeared to be the groundskeeper.
He glanced at the group, and singled out Ernie. "Look whatcha
did to my flowers! Whatsa matter with you kids, anyway? You wanna
use the Park, you follow the rules! You stay on the trail, you
don't go walking through the flower beds!"
"Park?" Ernie was uncomprehending.
"Poodawumpus Park!" the gardener repeated insistently. "What
you just came outta! You stay on the trail, you follow the signs,
you don't be tearin' up the bushes!" He glared at the entire group.
"Um, we didn't see any signs," the Fly said carefully.
"Aaah, the damn kids tore up the signs again! Little brats!
I'll kill 'em!" The groundskeeper chomped his cigar angrily.
"Um, there were these natives..." Ernie began uncertainly.
"Yeah, o' course there's natives! It's a nature park! There's
natural natives in it!" He looked at Ernie suspiciously. "You
didn't feed the natives, didja?"
"No, no!" Ernie protested. "We didn't even get near 'em!"
"Good!" The groundskeeper seemed slightly placated. "They eat
what's not on their diet, it makes 'em sick!" He continued to
regard the group suspiciously. "You didn't leave no junk in there,
didja? Damn kids party in there on weekends, leave the trail fulla
junk! I once hadda haul a whole junk car outta there!" He glared
accusingly at the foursome.
"No, no," Ernie protested. "We're real neat. We never litter!"
"We don't allow no dogs on the trail, neither!" He glared at
Sterno. "Sign says so, right at da entrance!"
"Um, we didn't see..." the Fly began.
"Yeah, yeah, I know. Damn kids stole da sign! Awright, I'll
letcha off dis time, but next time I swear I'm gonna calla cops!"
"We're real sorry!" Ernie began edging away. "It won't happen
again!" The group started moving slowly in the direction of the
"Yeah, yeah," the groundskeeper was looking ruefully at his
The Fly shook his head. "Boy, is he gonna be mad when he finds
"Sssh!" Sterno warned.
"What?!" the groundskeeper turned back to them.
"Uh, have a nice day!" Ernie said quickly. "Good-bye!" He
waved cheerfully, and started walking quickly towards the office
building. The others followed.
Ernie was confused. "Why is there an office building here?" he
asked Captain Memory.
The Captain thought about it for a moment. "Looks like it's
somebody's architecture program."
"I've heard of that," Sterno commented. "The architects model
a building in Virtual Reality, so that the clients can see if they
like it or not before it's actually built."
"Well, we might as well take a look at their handiwork," the
The continued over the large parking lot that lay in front of
them. It was almost empty; only an occasional car was parked here
and there. They soon reached the doors of the building and entered.
In front of them lay a small, utilitarian lobby, typical of
cheaply-constructed office buildings. In the center of the lobby
was a booth marked "Information", but there was no-one manning it.
Most of the offices appeared to be closed.
On the wall was a directory to the offices in the building,
which the Fly was reading carefully. "Mostly lawyers," he said
"We may need a lawyer after all the damage HE's caused,"
Sterno said, looking at Ernie accusingly.
"Me!" Ernie protested.
"Oh, look!" the Fly broke in. "There's an office that's open!"
He pointed down a long corridor.
"Great!" Ernie enthused, glad for an opportunity to change the
subject. "Maybe we can go in and ask..." He stopped, and looked at
Captain Memory expectantly. "Uh, what should we ask them?"
"Good idea!" Captain Memory agreed, although Ernie wasn't
exactly sure what it was that the Captain was agreeing with. The
Captain started off briskly down the hall, in the direction of the
open office. The other three followed behind him.
"Ah, good, you're here! We've been expecting you!" An
efficient-looking receptionist in a crisp white uniform greeted
"See?" the Fly pointed out brightly. "They've been expecting
us! Therefore, we must be in the right place!" The Fly was quite
pleased with this leap of logic.
Ernie looked around. They were in a large waiting room,
decorated in doctor's office green. The room was filled with rows
of chairs, and an occasional table, on which there lay heaps of
very old magazines. In the background some easy-listening music was
playing quietly. There was, as usual, no-one else there. Ernie
moaned. "Oh, man! Why would they be expecting us? We're not even
supposed to be here! What's going ON!?"
The Fly shook his head. "I dunno, man, sometimes you can be
just, such a downer! Why don't you like, lighten up a little?"
"Obviously," sniffed Sterno. "We must be in the right place,
because they are, after all, expecting us! How could they be
expecting us if we weren't in the right place?"
"But..." Ernie began. The receptionist interrupted.
"The doctor will see you now." She opened a door to another
"Oh, good!" The Fly was pleased. "You know, I've been having
this pain in my neck..." He began rubbing it vigorously. "Maybe he
can give me something for it!" He strode purposefully through the
Ernie shuffled uncomfortably. "I hate going to the doctor!"
"Oh, come ON!" Sterno stood impatiently behind Ernie. "Don't
be such a baby about it!"
Ernie sighed, and followed the Fly, accompanied by Sterno and
They found themselves in a large room, with a dozen chairs set
in a circle. A few of the chairs were occupied. In one, a fat blond
woman sat, nervously munching something from a bag on her lap. Two
chairs to the left sat a very depressed looking young man, wringing
his hands constantly and moaning quietly. He looked steadfastly at
the floor, never looking up. A little further on sat a dishevelled,
wild-eyed man who kept constantly lighting matches. Every time one
lit, he would laugh hysterically.
Against one wall was a chair that was larger than the others.
In it sat an older man in an old fashioned, black suit. He was
bald, with a goatee beard, and smoked a cigar. He carried a
notepad, and seemed to be taking notes on everything that was
happening. He looked up.
"Ah, gut!" He smiled at the foursome. "You are chust in time
for ze group therapy session! Please, sit down." He gestured
towards the empty chairs on the opposite side of the room from the
other patients. The foursome sat down. Ernie carefully placed the
coffee maker by his side.
"Oh, you must be the doctor!" The Fly observed. He looked
around confusedly. "But, what kind of doctor are you?"
"A psychiatrist, of course!" The doctor replied. "You have
been having, hmm, some problems in regard to your appearance, ja?"
"That's right!" The Fly was amazed. He turned to the others.
"I wonder how he knew that?"
Sterno looked at the doctor's cigar excitedly. "I say, you
wouldn't happen to have an extra cigar, would you?" The
psychiatrist produced one from an inner pocket of his jacket.
"Thanks ever so much!" Sterno lit the cigar, and puffed
Ernie was suspicious. "You've got a German accent!" he said
The psychiatrist drew himself up, looking very offended.
"Dat's an AUSTRIAN accent!" he sniffed. "I have studied in Vienna
with ze great Dr. Freud himself!" He peered closely at Ernie. "Zo,
you have zis feeling zat you are being persecuted, ja? Zat everyone
is against you?"
Ernie was taken aback. "Well, um, now that you mention it,
"Chust as ve thought!" the psychiatrist said, scribbling
something on his notepad. "Classic paranoia!"
Ernie was about to protest, when suddenly the door opened, and
two more patients entered. Ernie looked up, and then moaned. It was
Lucy and Desi.
"Hi, guys!" Lucy waved brightly to the foursome.
"Chick-a-BOOM!" agreed Desi. He seemed to have acquired a new
Cuban shirt, and another pair of maracas. They sat down on the
unoccupied chairs across from the psychiatrist.
"Gut!" exclaimed the doctor. "Now ve are all here; ve can
begin!" He turned to Lucy. "Now, Lucy, last veek you vere telling
us about your problem..."
"Oh, doctor!" Lucy exclaimed. "It's all those TV shows from
Earth! They're driving me crazy!"
"Ach, zo!" The psychiatrist exclaimed quietly. "Und, vhy is
"Oh, doctor!" Lucy exclaimed again. "Every time we turn on our
Vidicom sets on my home planet, all we get is old TV shows from
Earth! Our sets are very sensitive, and your signals keep drowning
"I zee," said the doctor thoughtfully. "Und you find
"Oh, doctor!" cried Lucy again. "We're not humans! We're
reptiles! We don't wanna watch Earth TV shows! They're all about
mammals! `Lassie!' `My Friend Flicka!' `Leave it to Beaver!'
They're all MAMMALS! We want to watch our OWN TV shows! About
REPTILES!" She seemed very upset.
"Ach zo," the doctor nodded. "Und you think dat if you conquer
ze Earth, you vould feel better, ja?"
"Oh doctor!" Lucy seemed very agitated. "Don't you see? We've
got to do something to stop those TV signals! We just can't stand
it anymore! They're driving us CRAZY!"
The doctor nodded thoughtfully, scribbling notes on his pad.
He thought for a moment. "But, you are 40 light years from here, so
you are just now receiving signals from 40 years ago, ja?"
"Yes?" Lucy agreed tentatively.
"Zo," the psychiatrist continued thoughtfully. "Even if you
stop ze signals today, you vill continue to receive ze signals zat
have already been sent. You vill continue to receive ze Earth TV
shows..." He paused expectantly. "...for ze NEXT 40 YEARS!"
"NO!" Lucy screamed. She buried her face in her arms, sobbing
hysterically. "I can't stand it! I just can't stand it!" She
continued to sob uncontrollably. Ricky patted her back. "Chick-a-
BOOM!" he said commiseratingly.
The Fly's eyes clouded sympathetically. "Aw, gee!" His
antennae waved in consternation. "I hate to see a woman cry!"
Sterno nodded sagely. "I suppose I can see her point." He
thought for a moment. "I've always rather enjoyed `Lassie',
A thought popped into Ernie's head. "What about `Rin-Tin-
"Not bad," Sterno agreed thoughtfully, puffing on his cigar.
He looked almost like a canine version of the psychiatrist. "And
then there's `Sgt. Preston of the Yukon'. It wouldn't be a bad
show, if only King could get rid of that silly fellow in the red
"MAMMALS!" Lucy screamed, sobbing with renewed intensity.
The psychiatrist stroked his beard thoughtfully. "Zere is,
perhaps, a solution!"
"Yes?" Lucy looked up expectantly, her makeup streaked by
tears. It seemed to Ernie that he could see a hint of something
green beneath it.
"Perhaps... ze time machine!" the doctor seemed deep in
Ernie turned to Captain Memory in confusion. "Time machine?"
"It isn't a real time machine," the Captain explained. It's a
Virtual time machine. You aren't actually travelling through time,
but you might as well be. Like when we went back to four billion
"Oh." Ernie was not exactly following this, but he noticed the
others glaring at him, so he decided to stop.
The psychiatrist continued. "Perhaps, you could go back in
time, back 40 years, und stop zese signals before zey start?"
"Oh doctor!" Lucy cried hopefully. "Do you really think it
"Stop TV!?" cried the Fly, obviously very upset at the
thought. "Oh, no! How could we survive without TV!? It would be the
end of... of..." The Fly tried hard to think what it would be the
end of. "Of civilization AS WE KNOW IT!" he cried triumphantly.
"True," the psychiatrist agreed pensively. Lucy's eyes began
to fill with tears.
"But, perhaps..." the doctor continued slowly. Lucy peered at
The psychiatrist went on. "Perhaps it would not be stopped,
but chust changed a little. So dot it vould not be a bother to ze
Lucy sat up excitedly. "Oh, yes! Yes!" She turned to Ricky.
"Oh, Ricky! We could do it! I know we could do it! If only we had
a time machine!"
The psychiatrist smiled. "Vell, as a matter of fact, I chust
happen to have one right here..." He gestured towards a door that
Ernie had assumed was a closet.
Ernie was, once again, suspicious. "What would a psychiatrist
be doing with a time machine?" he wanted to know.
"Oh, it is chust ze thing for ze childhood trauma," the doctor
explained. "You go back in time, prevent ze traumatic incident, und
ze patient is cured!"
Ernie had to admit that this did, in fact, sound reasonable.
The psychiatrist peered intently at Ernie. "Vhen did you first
notice dat you felt suspicious of everyone?"
Ernie was somewhat taken aback by this sudden change in
questioning. "Um, actually," he though about it. "It started when
I first went into the Virtual Arcade..."
"Bye, guys!" Lucy interrupted. She and Ricky were standing at
the door of the closet, or time machine, or whatever it was. "We're
going into the past now, so we probably won't be seeing you
"Take it easy!" cried the Fly cheerfully. He was relieved that
Lucy had stopped crying.
"Um..." A thought occurred to Ernie. "Does that mean that
you're not going to needing my brain, after all?"
Lucy's brow furled thoughtfully. She looked at Ricky. He
shrugged. "No, I guess you might as well just keep it." Ernie
sighed in relief. Lucy continued, "If it turns out we need it after
all, we'll get back to you, okay?"
"Uh, yeah..." Ernie fidgeted uncomfortably. He had hoped that
the problem would go away completely, but that seemed to be too
much to expect. At least he didn't have to worry about it right
Lucy opened the door to the time machine. She waved at the
foursome. "See you...uh...later? Uh, earlier?" She looked confused.
She turned to Ricky. "Bye!" he said, and ushered Lucy into the
machine. The door closed behind them.
Captain Memory yawned. He was finding this all rather boring.
"I wonder what's on TV?" he mused, pulling out the TV guide. A look
of concern came over his face.
Ernie noticed this. "What's the matter?"
"It's the programs," the Captain said, looking distressed.
"They've, um, changed!"
"Changed?" Ernie was uncomprehending. "Changed how?"
"Well, for instance," the Captain explained. "Instead of `I
Love Lucy', there's now `I Wanna Donna', starring Donna the Iguana,
and her husband Ricky the Reptile. In fact," Captain Memory flipped
through the pages quickly. "They all seem to be Reptile shows!"
Ernie buried his face in his hands. "Oh, no! Now, instead of
them having to watch our shows, we have to watch THEIR shows!"
Cm continued calmly perusing the TV Guide. "Aside from that,
they're pretty much the same. The plots seem to be about the same."
He chuckled. "Oh, look! Here's the episode where Ricky Jr.
Sterno seemed lost in thought. "That reptile lady's name
wasn't really Lucy, was it?" he asked the psychiatrist.
"Oh, no," agreed the doctor. "Dat's only her stage name!"
Sterno's eyes narrowed. "Her real name wouldn't, by any
chance, happen to be...." He paused for effect. "...DONNA, would
it?" He watched the psychiatrist closely.
The doctor fidgeted uncomfortably. "Uh, I'm, um, not allowed
to divulge personal information about...."
Sterno cut him off. "Just as we thought!" Sterno puffed his
cigar contemplatively. "You know, some people will do anything to
get into show biz!"
The Fly's antennae waved worriedly. "I don't know if I'm going
to like watching Reptile shows all the time!"
The psychiatrist regained his composure. "Vith every
successful therapy, there is always a period of readjustment for ze
family. In time, you vill learn to deal vith dis new situation."
He turned to Captain Memory. "Und you must be ze one vis ze
The Captain looked up. "Who, me?"
"Dat's right!" the psychiatrist looked at him intently. "You
have ze amnesia, ja?"
Captain Memory looked confused. "Not that I recall!"
"Chust as ve thought!" the doctor said triumphantly,
scribbling furiously on his notepad.
All of this was making Ernie very uncomfortable. "Hey guys,"
he whispered to the others. "I think maybe we ought to get going!"
"What IS your problem?" said Sterno loudly.
"Um, uh..." Everyone was looking at Ernie. He didn't know what
The Fly looked puzzled. "Is something the matter?"
"Oh, don't pay any attention to him," scoffed Sterno,
gesturing in Ernie's direction. "He's just paranoid!"
"I am not!" said Ernie defensively.
The Fly seemed confused. "Paranoids never admit they're
paranoid," explained Sterno.
"Please, please, gentlemen," the psychiatrist broke in. "Ve
must return to ze topic. Everyone vill get his turn to speak." He
tuned to Ernie reassuringly. "Ve must not allow our paranoia to
carry us away, ja?" He smiled. It seemed to Ernie that the smile
wasn't very friendly. But then, he thought, that's what a paranoid
would think! Could it be that the doctor was right, and that he,
Ernie, had become paranoid? Ernie didn't know what to think any
"Zo," the doctor turned again to Captain Memory. "You vere
telling us about your computer hacking activities, ja?"
"I was?" The Captain looked puzzled. "I don't recall that!"
Ernie's eyes narrowed. He didn't recall that, either!
"Ja, ja," the psychiatrist said reassuringly. "Amnesia is a
terrible thing! Ve must begin your therapy right avay!" He pulled
out a gold pocket watch on the end of a long chain, and began
swinging it slowly back and forth in front of Captain Memory.
"Vatch de vatch," he whispered to the Captain. "Now, go back,
back....Vhat do you remember?"
Captain Memory seemed to be completely hypnotized.
"It's...it's so confusing! Images, numbers, it's space...yes,
Cyberspace! And it's all filled with strange images! Games,
pictures, old movies and TV shows! They're all coming at me! All at
the same time! They're filling my head! They're taking over my
brain!!" The Captain was becoming very agitated.
"Relax, calm yourself," the psychiatrist whispered. The
Captain seemed calmer now. "Go back, further back. Vhat do you
The Captain seemed to be in a daze. "Pyramids...Pharaohs..."
"No, no," the psychiatrist protested. "Not THAT far back!"
"I knew it!" Ernie broke in. "Ancient Egypt!"
"Please!" the doctor snapped, glaring at Ernie. "Do not
interrupt! Your time.... vill come!" He smiled evilly. Or, on the
other hand, perhaps Ernie only imagined that he smiled evilly?
Maybe he was really trying to help, and Ernie's paranoia was making
him imagine something else? Ernie just didn't know anymore!
"I remember... breaking out of an egg..." The Fly was talking
now. He, too, seemed to be in a daze.
Oh, wow! thought Ernie. The Fly must have been watching while
the doctor hypnotized Captain Memory! Now he's hypnotized, too!
The psychiatrist glared at the Fly. "Quiet, please!"
The Fly paid no attention. He kept on talking. "A larva!
That's it! I'm a larva..."
The doctor attempted to coax more from Captain Memory. "Now,
The Fly broke in again. "I'm a larva, and I'm on a nice, warm
pile of garbage! Yes..."
The psychiatrist cursed under his breath. He turned to the
Fly. "Wake up!" He snapped his fingers in front of the Fly's face.
Both the Fly and Captain Memory awoke instantly. The Fly put
his hands up to his head. "Oh wow!" he said uncertainly. "I must
have dozed off!"
Captain Memory yawned. "That's funny! So did I! And I've been
having the strangest dreams!"
The doctor turned to Captain Memory with keen interest. "Zo,
tell me about zese dreams!"
Captain Memory scratched his head. "Well, I was in Ancient
Egypt, and I...." He trailed off.
"Please, go on!" the psychiatrist urged.
The Captain looked confused. "That's all I can remember!"
The doctor cursed again. He suddenly became aware that Ernie
was watching him. He cleared his throat, and regained his
"Zo," he began. "Now, ve give ze other patients a turn."
The doctor turned to one of the patients that had been in the
room when the foursome arrived: the depressed-looking man who kept
wringing his hands. "Why don't you tell us your name, and vhat has
brought you to see us today?"
The other patient looked somehow familiar to Ernie. "Vell,
doctor, my name is Holger Horses. Und mein problem, vell, it's mein
job!" He continued to look steadfastly at the floor, never once
looking up at the others around him.
Ernie thought it was very odd that this patient, too, had a
German accent. But then, on the other hand, perhaps he was just
The patient went on. "Mein boss, he is so...demanding. If I
make even one liddle mistake, he hits me vith his riding crop! Und
if I don't make any mistake, he hits me anyway!" He sniffled. He
seemed about to cry. "It makes me feel so....inadequate!"
"There, there," said the doctor commiseratingly, handing the
man a handkerchief.
The man blew his nose noisily. "I mean, it's not mein fault
dat they keep getting avay! Ve lock them up good! But somehow, dey
get out, and I get blamed!" He sniffled. "Vhy do dey keep doing dis
to me? All ve vant to do is torture dem a liddle!"
"Oh, ja, ja," the psychiatrist said compassionately. "Ze
vorkplace is so demanding dese days! I understand exactly how you
"Do you, doctor?" The man looked up hopefully, pleadingly, at
the psychiatrist. "Does dat mean you von't hit me vith the riding
crop any more?"
"Dummkopf!" the psychiatrist hissed. The man caught his breath
suddenly, and looked quickly back down at the floor. He began to
moan quietly again.
The doctor laughed nervously. "Vell, uh, perhaps ve had best
go on to ze next patient!" He turned to the other man, the one who
continuously lit matches. "Und your name, sir?"
"Vell, Herr Doktor, mein name ist Horst Manure," the man
continued to light matches as he talked.
It seemed very odd to Ernie that this patient, too, spoke with
a German accent.
"I zee," said the psychiatrist. "Und vhen did you first notice
zis fascination vith...fire?"
The patient giggled. "Vell, it shtarted vhen Rome burned.
Flames, everywhere. The whole city in flames. People running,
screaming. It was chust...SO much fun!" He stared fixedly as the
match slowly burned down to his fingertips.
Ernie couldn't help interrupting. "Wait a minute! How could
you be old enough to be in Rome when it burned?"
The patient looked taken aback. He looked quickly at the
doctor. The doctor seemed very uncomfortable. "Uh, um...ze time
machine! Oh yes, he use ze time machine!"
"What's he doing with a time machine, anyway?" Ernie demanded.
The psychiatrist quickly regained his poise. He peered at
Ernie. "Zo, do you haff zese attacks of paranoia often?"
Ernie was caught off guard. "Um...uh...yes! Uh, I mean, NO!"
He was becoming very confused.
The psychiatrist nodded knowingly. "I zee!"
Ernie pouted. "I think there's something pretty suspicious
about this whole business!"
"Of course you do," Sterno puffed contentedly on his cigar.
"No, I'm...." Ernie began.
Sterno continued, cutting Ernie off. "You know, I've always
suspected as much. But, now that we have the doctor's diagnosis, we
know for sure!"
Something occurred to Ernie. "You `suspected' as much?"
"Yes, all along," Sterno maintained smugly.
"Well, if you're `suspecting' things, than maybe YOU'RE the
paranoid!" Ernie cried out triumphantly.
Sterno harrumphed. "I don't think that's..."
The Fly cut him off. "Oh, I get it, it's a game, right?" His
antennae waved excitedly. "It's `Find the Paranoid', right?" He
began bouncing up and down in his seat. "I know! I know!" He waved
his hands in the air excitedly, making incomprehensible gestures.
"First syllable....sounds like...!"
"SHTOP DIS!" the psychiatrist screamed angrily. From out of
nowhere, a riding crop had appeared in his hand. He was about to
lash out at the patient nearest him, when he noticed that everyone
was looking at him.
He stopped, and laughed weakly. He quickly tossed the riding
crop under a chair, and tried to regain his composure. "Zo, uh,
where vere ve?"
Ernie's eyes narrowed accusingly. "You had a riding crop!"
The Fly bounced up and down excitedly. "Oh, wow! He had a
riding crop! He's not supposed to have that!" He pointed an
accusing finger at the psychiatrist. "Personal foul! Lose 10 yards!
Do not pass `Go', do NOT collect $200!" He folded his arms
The doctor smiled weakly. "Uh, I can explain..."
"I bid twenty," the Fly interrupted. "Three strikes and you're
Ernie noticed a framed diploma hanging on the wall behind him.
He turned to read it. He looked at the diploma, and then at the
doctor, and then at the diploma again. "Hey, guys!" he called out
to the others excitedly. "Do you know who this `doctor' is? He's
Dr. Heinz von Lie...."
"ENOUGH!" The psychiatrist slammed a riding crop against the
seat of an empty chair, commanding everyone's attention. Ernie that
the first riding crop was still under an empty chair, where the
doctor had thrown it. He appeared to have an endless supply of
"All right!" He took off the thin, pince-nez glasses he had
been wearing, tossed them aside, and replaced them with a monocle.
"Zo, you haff discovered my true identity, eh?" He laughed evilly.
Ernie was pretty sure that the doctor really was laughing evilly;
that he wasn't just imagining it. "It does not matter," von
Liederkranz continued. "The interrogation will proceed!"
The Fly was confused. "Interrogation? I thought it was
"Interrogation, therapy, what difference does it make?" the
Nazi answered. "It's all ze same thing!"
Ernie pointed indignantly at Sterno. "See?! And you thought I
was paranoid! You were wrong!"
"I was not!" Sterno declared defensively. "I still think
"But..." Ernie was totally taken aback.
"Just because he's really a Nazi doesn't mean you're not
paranoid," Sterno continued self-importantly. "Even paranoids have
Ernie could only sputter with indignation.
The Fly looked at the Nazi accusingly. "You said you were a
psychiatrist! We trusted you!"
"Ach, but I am!"
"Huh?" The Fly was confused.
The Nazi explained. "I told you, I am Sturmbannfuhrer Doktor
Heinz von Liederkranz! Und, vot kind of doctor did you tink I vas?"
Sterno puffed thoughtfully on his cigar. "That DOES make
sense," he admitted. "After all, if a Nazi torturer were going to
be a doctor, then a psychiatrist would be the one to be!"
"Precisely," von Liederkranz agreed.
The Fly's antennae waved agitatedly. "You're not going to
torture us, are you?"
"Oh, no!" laughed von Liederkranz. "Ve don't do dat anymore!
Dat's barbaric!" The Fly sighed with relief.
"Now ve have psychiatry!" the Nazi smiled evilly. "It's MUCH
Ernie began edging slowly towards the door.
"Don't bother!" the psychiatrist called out. "It's locked!"
Ernie lunged for the door anyway. No-one made a move to stop
him. The door was solid steel, and securely locked. Ernie glumly
returned to his seat.
Von Liederkranz turned to Captain Memory. The Captain hadn't
been paying much attention to the proceedings. He was still
engrossed in the TV Guide. He appeared to be diligently searching
for something to watch other than Reptile shows.
The Nazi smiled malevolently. "Zo, you didn't like ze Hot
Vhirling Corkscrew, eh?"
Captain Memory looked up annoyedly. "Not THAT again!"
Von Liederkranz laughed diabolically. "Oh no, of COURSE not!
Ve have something, heh, heh, MUCH vorse!" He peered closely at the
Captain. "Your mother never liked you!" he announced.
Captain Memory's eyes went wide with shock. "Aaugghh!" he
screamed, burying his head in his arms.
The Nazi chuckled sadistically. "I told you, psychiatry is
MUCH vorse! Und much more effective!" Ernie noticed that the Nazi
had discarded his cigar, and was now holding a cigarette in a long
holder. "Now, vill you tell us how you gain access to the system?"
Poor Captain Memory could only whimper.
Von Liederkranz didn't seem to mind that the Captain refused
to talk. It gave him more opportunity to practice his sadistic
psychiatry. "Very vell," he smirked. "You asked for it!" He peered
intently at the Captain, choosing his words carefully. "You're
"NO!" screamed Captain Memory, curling himself up into a tight
"Heh, heh!" the Nazi chuckled. He looked closely at Captain
Memory, preparing his next shot. "You're..."
The Captain couldn't take any more. "Uh, 007C D0 C8!" he
Suddenly, the scene vanished. Ernie staggered with vertigo,
and sat down heavily on the ground. His eyes stung as a gust of
wind blew sand in his face. His head swam, and he felt nauseous. He
closed his eyes tightly, and put a hand over his stomach. "I think
I'm getting the flu," he moaned.
After a few moments, he opened his eyes, carefully wiping the
sand out of them. At first, all he could see was sand. Then he
looked up, and saw... "The Pyramids!" Ernie breathed, in awe.
Ernie looked around. The Fly was sitting in the sand,
attempting to make sand castles. Sterno was prowling around the
sand, obviously looking for something. Captain Memory was still
curled up in a ball.
Ernie struggled to his feet, and attempted to brush some of
the sand off himself. He walked over to where the Captain lay, and
tapped him on the shoulder. "You can come out now. He's gone!"
Captain Memory peeked out tentatively. He breathed a sigh of
relief, and uncurled, sitting up in the sand. "Whew! I'm glad
that's over! That was awful!"
The Fly peered at Captain Memory curiously. "That stuff he was
saying, was it true? I mean, like, about your mother and
The Captain looked puzzled. "Um, actually, I can't quite
recall. But if it had been, it would have been pretty awful,
"Wow," said the Fly in agreement. He thought a moment. "And
what about that stuff about being totally inad..."
"I don't want to talk about it!" The Captain cut him off
Ernie looked up, and once again beheld the majesty of the
Pyramids in the distance. They looked a lot newer than he
remembered them. "Wow!" he breathed. "We must be in Ancient Egypt,
Captain Memory looked perplexed. "Um, well, I could be wrong,
but I think we're on a beach in New Jersey!"
"Ah, well," Sterno chimed in, still sifting through the sand.
"That explains all these cigarette butts and ring-pull tabs."
Ernie stared at him. "What are you doing?"
"I seem to have dropped my lighter," Sterno explained. "You
haven't seen it, have you?"
Ernie looked around. "Afraid not."
"It's so difficult to find anything in this shifting sand!"
Sterno stopped, and picked up something. "Here's a penny."
"Oh, yeah?" This might be a clue to they're location, Ernie
thought. "What kind is it? A Lincoln?"
Sterno turned the penny over. "No, a Cadillac."
Ernie scratched his head. "Well, that's close, I guess. What's
the date one it?"
Sterno examined it closely. "2,500 B.C."
Ernie's face lit up. "Oh, that explains why the Pyramids look
new!" He frowned. "But, what are the Pyramids doing on a beach in
"I've got it!" Sterno cried.
"You do?" asked Ernie in amazement. "Great! What..." He
Sterno was holding a small object triumphantly aloft. "I've
found it! I..." He stopped. "Wait a minute! This isn't my lighter!
It's just an old BIC!" He flicked it. A small flame appeared. "Oh
well," he sighed. "I suppose it'll have to do." He placed it in his
Ernie looked at the Pyramids again. "Uh, anyway, as I was
Captain Memory sighed loudly.
"What's the matter?" the Fly wanted to know.
Captain Memory shook his head sadly. "It's a real bad sign
when you get Pyramids showing up on a beach in New Jersey."
"Bad sign?" The Fly's antennae waved nervously.
Captain Memory sighed. "Yeah. It means that the fabric of
Cyberspace is coming apart. We're getting really close to that
final, total sys..."
"Don't say it!" Ernie pleaded.
"..tem.." Captain Memory continued.
"Please!" Ernie begged.
The Captain stopped. "Why not?"
Ernie moaned. "It makes my stomach hurt!"
Captain Memory just shrugged.
Ernie moaned again.
"Hey, guy," the Fly chimed in. He took a small package out of
one of his suit pockets and handed it to Ernie. "Here's what you
need. Have some Rolaids!"
"Oh. Thanks." Ernie tried a few. Actually, they did seem to
help. Well, maybe a total system failure wasn't that bad, after
"So, what do you wanna do now, guys?" the Fly piped up
"Beats me," answered Captain Memory.
"Haven't the foggiest!" replied Sterno absently. He was
engrossed in trying to light a cigar using the tiny flame from the
Ernie looked around. "I dunno. What do you wanna do?"
"Wanna go see an ancient, undiscovered, tomb? That sounds like
fun, huh?" The Fly's antennae waved expectantly.
"Oh, let's!" answered Sterno brightly. He was in a much better
mood, now that he'd gotten his cigar going.
Ernie frowned. "How do you know where to find an ancient,
"Simple," the Fly replied cheerfully. "Just follow the signs!"
He pointed to an object in the distance.
Ernie peered in the direction the Fly was pointing. Sure
enough, he could just barely make out a sign, which said `THIS WAY
TO THE ANCIENT, UNDISCOVERED TOMB', with an arrow pointing the way.
"Well..." Ernie wasn't sure this was going to be such a good
"Aw, come on, guys!" the Fly enthused. "It'll be fun!"
"Well..." Ernie was unconvinced.
"Do you have something better to do?" Sterno demanded.
"Well..." Ernie hesitated.
"That's settled then!" Sterno stated with finality. He glared
at Ernie. "And I DO wish you wouldn't keep repeating yourself all
"Well..." Ernie began.
"PLEASE!" Sterno cut him off. Ernie decided to just be quiet.
The foursome trudged through the dry sand. Luckily the sun,
though bright, was not very hot. Ernie hoped they didn't have far
to go. Trying to walk through the shifting, blowing sand was very
tiring. The approached the sign.
The sign seemed to be pointing to something behind one of the
Pyramids. As they rounded the corner, they became able to see what
"Wow!" breathed Ernie in awe. A fabulous Egyptian temple stood
in front of them. Crumbling columns towered 200 feet into the sky,
supporting a sandstone roof that had collapsed at various points.
In the center of the temple stood a large stone structure with no
windows, and only one door, which was closed.
After a few moments, Ernie noticed that there was a small,
brightly-colored wooden building standing in front of the temple.
A sign on the little building said `SEE THE ANCIENT, UNDISCOVERED
TOMB! Admission: $2.00.'
Inside the small building was a portly, middle-aged man
wearing a bright plaid suit and a straw hat, and smoking a cigar.
"Step right up, gentlemen!" he cried to them. "Yer just in time!"
"Oh, wow!" said the Fly, obviously excited. "We wanna see the
"Of course you do, sonny," said the man, flicking the ash of
his cigar. "Everybody wants to see the tomb! Let's see, there's
four at two dollars each..." He looked the group over. "I'll tell
you what I'm gonna do. Because I like yer, uh..." He looked at the
Fly with puzzlement. "...face, I'm gonna give you a special price.
Only $10 for all of ya!"
"Gee, thanks!" said the Fly enthusiastically. Ernie opened his
mouth to speak.
"Hey, that's okay, guys," the Fly cut him off. "It's on me!"
He handed the ticket-seller a $10 bill.
"Step right on in, gentlemen!" The ticket-seller gestured
towards the door of the tomb.
As they approached, Ernie examined the hieroglyphics on the
walls of the temple. Suddenly, one caught his eye. "Look!" He
pointed it out. "It's the RCA dog! And the phonograph! This must
"Oh, your not going to start that `Dead Sea Phonograph
Records' business again, are you?" Sterno said irritatedly.
"Well..." Ernie began.
"Will you PLEASE stop saying that!" Sterno cried in
exasperation. Ernie shut up.
The interior of the building did, in fact, look like an
ancient, undiscovered tomb. Mummy cases lined the walls. Strange
carved containers, some shaped like animals, lay on all sides.
Drifting sand lay piled up against everything.
"Wow!" The Fly was amazed. "An ancient, undiscovered tomb! I
bet we're the first people to be in here in a zillion years!"
An ancient wooden cabinet caught Ernie's attention. The figure
of the RCA dog was carved into it. Ernie opened it gingerly. "Aha!"
he cried. "Look!"
Inside, sure enough, was an ancient, acoustic Victrola-type
record player. Lined up neatly in slots were dozens of flat black
disks that could only be 78 rpm records. "See?" proclaimed Ernie.
"I told you so! It's the Dead Sea Phonograph Records!"
"Cool!" enthused the Fly. "Play it!"
Ernie was taken aback. This could be the greatest find of all
time! It could change the world; completely alter Life As We Know
It. He had to be very careful. One mistake might ruin the whole
thing. If he made the wrong move, the greatest discovery in history
might be lost forever - and it would be all his fault! "Um, play
it?" Ernie hesitated uncomfortably. "Um, I'm not sure..."
"Play it!" demanded Sterno irritably. "You've been going on
and on about this for...for..." Sterno thought a moment. "Actually,
for BILLIONS of years, now, and we're all just about sick of it!
All right, here it is! Now, play it, already!"
Ernie looked over the machine warily. "Um, I'm not exactly
sure how to work it." He tugged at one of the 78 rpm records. It
refused to come out of it's slot.
Sterno sighed in exasperation. "It's simple enough! Look!" He
pointed to a corroded metal strip on the bottom part of the
machine. There were a number of buttons on it, and a slot. Next to
the slot Ernie could just barely make out the words "Insert Coin."
Ernie searched through his pockets. "Um..."
"Oh, all right!" Sterno snapped annoyedly. "Here!" He handed
Ernie the Cadillac penny.
"Um, thanks." Ernie dropped the coin into the slot. For a
moment, nothing happened. Then, slowly, the ancient machine began
to creak into action. A small, dim, light appeared behind a little
square next to the slot. Brushing away the dust, Ernie could just
barely make out the words `Make Selection'.
"Oh, wow," said Ernie. Next to each button was a small
rectangle, which was obviously supposed to contain the name of the
song. Unfortunately, most of them were so covered by dirt and
corrosion that Ernie couldn't read them.
"Um, which one should I pick?" he asked in confusion.
"Who cares?" barked Sterno in exasperation. "Just pick
Ernie peered at the selections. He was desperately afraid of
making the wrong choice. This might be his only chance to learn the
Secret of the Universe, or something like that. He had to make the
right selection! Suddenly, he saw something he recognized. "Hey,
look at this!" He pointed at one of the selections. "It's Sam the
Sham and the PHARAOHS! See, I told you..."
"Play it!" Cried the Fly enthusiastically.
"Play it!" snapped Sterno annoyedly.
"But...but..." Ernie peered at it more closely. "The song is
`Walk Like a Man!' I don't think Sam the Sham ever did that song!"
"PLAY IT!" shrieked Sterno, his patience gone.
Ernie frowned. He looked at Captain Memory. The Captain just
shrugged. "Well..." Ernie said hesitantly. "...okay." He pushed the
The ancient machine slowly creaked into action. A 78 rpm
record dropped on to the platter, and the device began to play.
Within the first few notes, Ernie knew something had gone
terribly wrong. The music was growing louder with every second,
much louder than an old Victrola could ever have made it; in fact,
painfully loud. "This isn't `Walk Like A Man'!" Ernie cried. A
terrible realization hit him. If you took `Walk Like A Man', and
crossed it with Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, you'd get..."
Suddenly, it was all too clear. He recognized the music plainly
now. "Oh, no!" Ernie wailed. "It's `Walk Like an Egyptian!'"
"What?!" yelled Captain Memory. The music was too loud,
drowning out their words. He looked at the others. He could see
their mouths moving, but he couldn't hear a word they were saying.
The music was too loud, drowning out everything.
The music grew louder with every passing second. The pain
began to build in Ernie's head. He tried to cover his ears with his
hands, but found it very difficult to do while holding the coffee
maker. It didn't help, anyway. The music was so loud that it
vibrated through his hand, through his head. The whole temple was
Ernie looked at Captain Memory. "Do something!" he shouted.
The Captain shrugged and pointed to his ears, obviously meaning `I
can't hear a word you're saying.'"
Ernie looked at Sterno and the Fly. They had their hands over
their ears, their eyes clenched tight in pain. Sterno especially
seemed to be suffering, his keen dog hearing more affected by the
sound than the others.
Ernie was miserable. Not only was he in pain from the terribly
loud music, but his very best idea ever, to go find the Dead Sea
Phonograph Records, had turned into a disaster. The music grew ever
louder. Ernie knew that excessive sound levels can be fatal. They
were all going to be killed by `Walk Like an Egyptian' played at a
million decibels - and he didn't even like that song!
Ernie tried to hold his hands more tightly over his ears. If
only the coffee maker wasn't in his way....Suddenly, it hit him!
The coffee maker! He set the selector to `Destroy', aimed it at the
ancient Victrola, and flipped the strength lever to `Full'.
Suddenly, the Victrola vanished - along with the cabinet, the
wall of the tomb, half the temple, and just about everything else
Ernie could see. In fact, Ernie now seemed to be standing at the
edge of a huge chasm. It was so broad that Ernie couldn't see the
other side; so deep that he couldn't see the bottom.
Ernie felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned. The Fly was
pointing at the opposite wall of the tomb, and saying something,
but Ernie couldn't make out what. Although the music had stopped
when the Victrola was destroyed, Ernie's ears were still ringing so
badly that he couldn't hear a thing.
Looking at the wall, Ernie guessed what the problem was.
Without the other side of the tomb to hold it up, the huge stone
wall was swaying. It looked as though it might crush them at any
Without thinking, Ernie aimed the coffee maker at the wall,
and flipped on the power switch. This time, his ears were just
barely recovered enough to hear the tremendous roar as the Psion
Megaforce Generator destroyed the other wall, and everything else,
for as far as the eye could see.
As the dust cleared, Ernie could see that where the opposite
wall had been, there was now what seemed to be a bottomless,
measureless chasm. On that side, too, there was a steep drop, as
though they were standing on the edge of an infinitely tall cliff.
All that remained was the 8-foot by 10 foot patch of sand and rock
which had been the inside of the tomb, where they now stood.
Looking around, all that Ernie could see was the little piece of
land that they were now standing on, and the sky. Everything else
appeared to have been disintegrated.
As the ringing in Ernie's ears slowly subsided, he began to
hear Captain Memory saying something.
"Wow!" The Captain was peeking over the edge of the precipice.
"That Psion Megaforce Generator sure is powerful!"
Ernie carefully peered over the brink. He tried to see the
bottom of the crater, but he couldn't see a thing. No, wait a
minute. He did see something; he saw....stars? How could there be
stars at the bottom of a hole?
The Fly peeked over the edge as well. "Whew! That's some big
hole you blew there, buddy!"
Ernie continued to peer into the hole, trying to make some
sense out of what he saw. He turned to Captain Memory. "Um, how far
down does that hole go, anyway?"
The Captain shook his head sadly. "All the way!"
"Huh?" Ernie was uncomprehending. "All the way to where,
Captain Memory continued to peer downward. "Further than that!
From the look of it, I'd say just about all the way to Mars!" The
Captain shook his head sadly. "You know, you really should read the
directions to those things before you use them!"
Ernie looked at the coffee maker in dismay. He placed the it
carefully in the sand, and gingerly edged away from it.
"Hey, this is really cool!" the Fly continued to look over the
rim. "I can see stars looking down," he looked up, "AND looking
up!" He peered over the opposite edge. "Hey, there's stars on all
sides! Neat! How did you do that?"
Sterno stared at Ernie, his eyes widening in horror. "You
Captain Memory shook his head sorrowfully. "He did!"
"What?" demanded Ernie. "What did I do?"
Sterno seemed to be in a state of shock. "You mean, that one
little device could..."
Captain Memory nodded dismally. "I'm afraid so!"
"WHAT?" Ernie was becoming very agitated.
Sterno glared balefully at Ernie. "How could you DO such a
"Will somebody please tell me what I did?!" Ernie wailed.
Captain Memory sighed. "Well, let me put it to you this way.
You see this little patch of ground we're standing on? That's all
"All that's left of what?" Ernie wasn't following this at all.
"Of the planet Earth!" the Captain declared morosely.
"WHAT!?" Ernie was horrified.
Captain Memory shook his head dejectedly. "I'm afraid you blew
just about the entire planet away! Everything except the little
patch we're standing on!" He peeked over the edge. "Looks like you
nailed the moon, too."
"But...But..." Ernie protested weakly. "How could that
The Captain sighed. "I told you that thing was powerful!" He
continued peering over the edge. Something caught his eye. He
brightened. "Ah, good! That's a relief!"
"What?!" Ernie was desperate for any good news.
Captain Memory smiled. "You'll be glad to know that Mars is
fine! The blast didn't even touch it!" He peered more closely. "It
might be a little off it's orbit, but aside from that it's
Suddenly, Captain Memory straightened up. He began looking in
all directions, a look of consternation on his face. "Something's
Sterno glared at Ernie. "This is all your fault!"
The Fly put his hands up to his head. "Oh, wow! My head!
It's...What's happening to me?"
Ernie's jaw dropped in amazement. The Fly's head was beginning
to...change. As the others watched in astonishment, the Fly's head
shimmered, disappeared, and was replaced by the perfectly normal-
looking head of a man in his mid 30's.
"Whoo!" complained the Fly. "I feel really weird!" He
squinted. "There's something wrong with my eyes! I can't see too
"You're....you're normal!" Ernie gasped in astonishment.
The Fly put his hands up to his head, feeling out it's shape.
"Oh, wow! It's my old head! I got it back!"
Ernie turned to Captain Memory is helpless astonishment.
Captain Memory, too, looked amazed. "It's the game! We've
ended the game!"
"Of course!" Sterno caught his drift immediately. "By
destroying most of the world, you've brought the game to an end!
There's not enough of the planet left to play with!"
"Right!" Captain Memory beamed. "And you've done it within the
logical confines of the program! Using materials found within the
program, in a manner consistent with the program's logic!" Captain
Memory reached out to shake Ernie's hand. "Good job!"
Sterno looked ruefully over the edge of the chasm. "Of course,
I don't think we got very many points!"
"It doesn't matter," said Captain Memory cheerfully. "It's
`Game Over'. That's all we need!"
Ernie was finding this all difficult to follow. "So, now
"Now the system shuts down, in an orderly manner, and we're
all free!" cried the Captain jubilantly. "The evil genius Waldo
Stadium is thwarted, his Cyberslaves are set free! We win!"
Ernie's eyes narrowed. "You talk about all of this almost as
if it was a game!"
Captain Memory seemed taken aback. "Did I?" he said
innocently. "Well, I'm sure I didn't mean to...." He trailed off.
Meanwhile, the Fly was engrossed in examining his head. He had
pulled out a small pocket mirror, and was looking himself over
carefully. "Hey, this is great!" he enthused. "I've got my looks
back! The babes are gonna love it! Awright! It's time to PA-A-A-
Ernie looked around thoughtfully. There wasn't much to see.
All that was left of the planet Earth was the little patch of
ground that they stood on. "What's...what's going to happen to us
"Well..." Captain Memory scratched his head. "I guess we'll
all be going home!"
Sterno put a paw over his stomach. "I...I feel very strange!"
he complained. "I..." Suddenly, Sterno shimmered, and disappeared!
Ernie was aghast. "Oh my god, he's gone! What happened to
"It's beginning," Captain Memory replied calmly. "We're all
going back to our proper place and time...." the Captain hesitated.
"...wherever that is!"
"We're going back?" the Fly was enthusiastic. "AWRIGHT!" He,
too, had begun to shimmer. He flashed Ernie the `thumbs up' sign.
"It's PARTY TIME!!" With that, he was gone.
Now there was only Ernie and Captain Memory. "But...but what
should I do when I get back?" Ernie wanted to know. "I mean, after
all this, shouldn't I....I dunno, DO something?"
Captain Memory shrugged. "I guess you'll just have to wait and
see!" Suddenly, Ernie felt ill. The world began to shimmer around
him. The Captain's shape was becoming vague and indistinct. The
last thing Ernie saw was the Captain gazing ruefully at his bare
wrist. "I sure wish I could have gotten a watch, though!" he said
sadly. With that, the scene vanished.
Ernie's head swan. The strange, distorted shapes of a surreal
landscape swirled around him. He stumbled backwards, and his hand
fell upon a doorknob. Reflexively, he pulled it open and stepped
A bright, fluorescent light dazzled his eyes. He became aware
of the sound of many voices in the distance. He staggered forward.
"All done?" A girl's voice startled Ernie. He looked up. He
was back at the Arcade! "Did you have a nice game?" the girl at the
information booth was asking him, twirling a finger through her
"Uh..." Ernie could only mumble.
"HowEVER did you get that loincloth so dirty!" she reproved,
cracking her chewing gum loudly. "There's a five dollar cleaning
fee for that, you know!"
Ernie's mind was slowly clearing. "Uh, yeah?..." he managed to
"You can change in there," the girl pointed to a dressing
room. "When you return the loincloth and the broadsword, you'll get
your deposit back," she looked at him pointedly. "Minus the five-
dollar cleaning fee!"
As Ernie changed, his mind began to clear. Putting his own
clothes on again made him feel almost...normal. Had all of this
really happened, or had it all been just an illusion? Maybe it was
all just a malfunctioning computer program? Ernie couldn't be sure.
Ernie walked slowly home from the Arcade, trying to put his
mind in order. He looked carefully at everything he passed. For
some reason it seemed to him that things would be somehow
different. Yet, the neighborhood looked about the same, as far as
he could tell. But then again, he'd never really paid that much
attention to all the details. Some of them might be different, and
he'd never even notice.
After what seemed a very long time, he approached his own
house. He examined it carefully. It looked the same, as far as he
could tell. He took a deep breath, and went inside.
"Hello, dear," he heard his mother's voice come from the
kitchen. "Did you have a nice game?"
"Uh, I guess..." he called out in reply. "It was... uh...
"That's nice!" his mother answered. "Dinner's ready!"
Ernie walked into the dining room. He was still feeling pretty
woozy. Maybe something to eat would make him feel better.
Ernie's mother entered, carrying a large covered dish. Ernie
gasped. "Mom! Your hair...!"
Ernie's mother looked confused. "What about my hair?"
"It...it's green!" Ernie choked.
"But it's always been green!" his mother was puzzled. "Are you
feeling all right, dear boy?"
Ernie collapsed into a chair. "No," he moaned. "I don't feel
good at all!"
"It must be that awful Virtual Reality Game," his mother said
knowingly. "I've always said those things were unhealthy! It's just
too much stimulation for young minds!"
"Uh, yeah," Ernie agreed pitifully.
"Have some dinner and you'll feel better!" she said wisely,
dishing out a plate of food for Ernie. "I've made your favorite:
squid with mothballs!"
"Uh..." Ernie began.
"Your favorite TV show's on tonight," his mother continued
cheerily. "`I Wanna Donna' with Donna the Iguana! In fact," she
went on brightly. "All your favorite Reptiles are on tonight!"
Ernie sighed deeply. Well, he thought. It looks like I'm home!