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734 words by Stanley Lieber


Thomas resumed haranguing him through the port hole.

"You have to listen to me. You have to come back with me to 1986."

"You've been talking for an hour. Oh, the plight of the noble graphic designer."

"I'm serious, Piotr."

"I can tell. And I bet you guys are having quite a laugh at my expense. Well, Ramadan's almost over. You'll be back here soon enough and then I'll have my revenge."

"This is not a practical joke, Piro!"

"Prove it. Walk me through the challenge and response codes."

"Was there ever a God?" asked Piro, starting off the sequence.

"Once. A long, long time ago," answered Thomas.

They continued on in this vein for some time, until Piro had satisfied himself that everything checked out. Thomas had successfully authenticated his identity, so Piro allowed the conversation to continue.

"Why me?" he finally asked, rubbing his eyes.

Gravy Needs hovered around the corner. Piro was not aware that the King had called an early end to the holiday. This was fucking great.

He decided to lay it on thick.

"Because we're twin brothers."

"Tom, that's impossible. You're from two thousand years ago."


"Furthermore, we look nothing alike."

"Not all twins are identical."

"And not all floating heads tell the truth."



Piro and Tom's brotherly reunion was interrupted by the return of the King. King Shit Mold's entourage marched into the room, elbowing Piro away from the port hole. The flap closed and no one seemed to notice the floating head outside the window. Dexter Styles, the King's Chancellor, took up his usual position between the King and the rest of the group.

"Let it hereafter be known that King Shit has returned to the station!" he declared.

The King reclined on his portable throne, his leg dangling over an armrest.

"Indulge me," said the King to Piro. "Why did you stay behind?"

"Your Highness," Piro bowed deeply, "My duties..."

The King put up his hand, as if to punctuate Piro's babbling. "Eff that noise. From now on, you're to be at my side at all times. I've grand designs on your future, Piotr." Piro bowed again.

A low rumble issued from the port hole. The flap blew back and the makeshift throne room was once again flooded with pale, colorless light. King Shit leaned forward as if to affirm his interest in the present goings-on.

"I wasn't finished," said Thomas Bright, Jr. through the port hole.

"By all means, carry on," smirked the King.

Gravy Needs was delighted. He hadn't intended for the King to become involved. But now that it had happened, the hilarity would only increase.

Gravy punched up the others on his forearm and told them the news. Stifled laughs echoed in the close chamber. Gravy blipped off and resumed his manipulations.

"I'm here to retrieve my brother," continued Thomas. "There's trouble back home, and he's needed to help smooth things over."

"Ah, I'm empathetic to family problems," allowed the King.

"This is more than just a family problem. There's an anomaly that threatens to engulf the entire universe."

"And only Piro can save you?" the King laughed, incredulously.

"That's my position, yes," answered Thomas.

The King could see that Thomas was going to stand firm on this point.

"Very well then. It would interest me to observe your adventures remotely. Piro! Pack up your monitoring kit. You're headed for the '80s. The nineteen eighties."

Piro climbed into his vehicle and turned on some soft music. Vangelis, as usual. Thomas' head appeared to float in the seat beside him. The two brothers traveled sans conversation, which was fine with Piro. He needed time to think.

Moments after Piro engaged the ship's percept drive, the orbital station had begun to wobble in and out of sight.

Gravy Needs had not anticipated that the King would send Piro away. The butt of his prank had been effectively promoted to field work.

I hate Ramadan, he thought.

Within an hour of the brothers' departure, Thomas' anomaly absorbed the station.

The King, from his vantage point, had a chance to see it all coming. Perched on his throne, he tittered at the symmetry between the waves of monochrome light on screen and the mountains of white powder piled on the table before him.

He sniffled as the station shuddered and faded from memory.


To be continued...





1OCT1993 | INDEX