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Akril last won the day on April 21 2015

Akril had the most liked content!

About Akril

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  • Birthday 06/06/84

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  1. The Time Machination

    Just a brief announcement to say that I finally got around to uploading a plain HTML verison of this story.
  2. Found two bugs in Space Quest 6

    Hmm. That's strange. That page opens just fine for me. Can you access this ZIP file? The version of SQ6 that I have came with the second SQ Collection that Sierra released.
  3. Found two bugs in Space Quest 6

    I would guess that there definitely are several differences bewteen version 1.0 and version 1.11, since I've never run into either of those bugs in version 1.11. I did some searching and found a couple of savegames for version 1.0 here. Neither of them are set close to the point in the game you described, but I think one of them starts off with Roger in the shuttle, which is about 3/5ths of the way through the game.
  4. Found two bugs in Space Quest 6

    Yep, SQ6 has a lot of bugs, and a few of them can render the game impossible to complete. This is why making multiple savegames (or knowing where to download savegames that other people have posted online) is so important. What exactly happened in this scenario? Were you unable to pick up the smaller gallstones that fell down after the large one almost squashed Roger?
  5. Gary Owens is dead

    I don't know what I can say that hasn't already been said, but I figure I might as well say my piece as well: Even though I was never that familiar with the majority of Gary Owens' work, what little I have learned about him over the years really made me feel even more amazed by him. His presence in SQ series transformed great writing into spectacular dialog, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who saw him as one of *the* defining traits of the series, despite only being in 1/3 of the games. I'll always consider myself lucky to have seen him and several other notable actors in a show called the Retro Radio Revue in 2004, wherein he was the narrator for several old time radio plays. At one point during the performance of an episode of The Lone Ranger, he began a scene with "Meanwhile, in another part of town...the announcer for The Lone Ranger lost his place." He was a remarkable person, and he will be missed.
  6. Space Quest Historian Season 3

    I think it's only available in Russian. This playthrough of it with an English commentary is fairly informative (I think it was posted here a few years ago), but if this game was covered, we'd probably just end up parroting a lot of whats said in this video.
  7. Space Quest Historian Season 3

    I would suggest a discussion of Space Quest knockoffs (like Altered Destiny, Rex Nebular and Ivan Lozhkin: Price of Freedom), but I suspect that that ground has been covered already. I'd also toss out the idea of a discussion of humorous sci-fi in general, but that might be too broad a topic, even if it were pared down to older and/or lesser known material.
  8. The Time Machination

    Okay, I just cleaned out about 30% of my PM inbox. Send away.
  9. The Time Machination

    Thanks, Chrono. I hope you enjoy the rest of the story.
  10. The Time Machination

    Thank you, Suejak.
  11. The Time Machination

    Well, I've finally got a simple "Behind the Scenes" page for this story uploaded.* It's got explanations for the many obscure in-jokes and references, a lot of deleted scenes, a few sketches, and some other stuff. *I say "finally" because when I first uploaded the page, it turned out...wrong.
  12. The Time Machination

    Wow. I'm touched. It's still going to be some time before I can sit down and start planning something like that out, though. Right now, I'm trying to get some work done on another project that I've really fallen behind on.
  13. The Time Machination

    Thank you very much for the comments, Blockmaster! I'm glad you enjoyed this story, and I appreciate the positive feedback. I was inspired to write this a short time after playing the two main SQ fangames of 2012 (a few weeks before the announcement of SpaceVenture), then fell into a pretty deep slump towards the end of that year which slowed my work on this thing to a slow crawl. I was just able to get going on it again towards the later half of 2014, and I was just able to get it to a point where I was satisfied with it towards the end of November. I never intended for this story to be this large -- it originally started out as my own take for how the series as we know it would wrap up, while at the same time sticking as rigidly as possible to the future that SQ4 laid out for us as well as keeping the spirit of the original games as intact as possible. However, it didn't take long for the page count to grow into the triple digits, and keeping track of the timeline of the official games as well as the SQ7 to SQ9 timeline that I formulated fr this story turned this into a very complicated affair. Still, I'm glad it's done, and I'm glad that it has (so far) been received so well. Now I just have to finish piecing together the Behind the Scenes page for this thing (along with the plain HTML version of the story itself).
  14. The Time Machination

    Well, Happy New Year, folks. Here are the last two chapters of The Time Machination. Chapter XXXVIII "So...that's pretty much it," Roger concluded. "Really?" RJ asked, caught off-guard by the abrupt end to the story. "Yes. I don't think he missed anything," Beatrice said. RJ slowly rose from the patch of plasticrete that he had been sitting on. "So...when is this little lizard guy going to get here?" he asked dubiously. "Well...it looks like he was supposed to be here twenty minutes ago," Roger said, glancing at his watch. "You don't think something might've happened to him, do you?" Beatrice stepped inside the Raphus' cockpit and pressed a button on the radio. "Leapin' Lizard, this is Tera. Do you read me?" she asked. For a moment there was static, then Bohica's thin voice responded: "I read you loud and clear, Tera." "What's taking so long, Leapin' Lizard?" "Sorry -- I ran into a couple of snags coming out of the chronostream, but everything's okay now. I'll be there soon," Bohica replied. Beatrice acknowledged Bohica's answer, then rejoined her husband and son outside the ship. "Well, he said he's on his way," she said. Roger and RJ both nodded. The trio stared out at the darkening sky. The quiet twilight seemed to smooth the jagged angles of the ruined city, making it seem a tiny bit less sad-looking. After a few minutes punctuated by awkward attempts at starting another conversation, a bright pinprick of light suddenly appeared in a gap in the clouds. It slowly grew larger and brighter, and Roger could soon make out several other lights following it. It was an ominous, yet strangely beautiful sight. In fact, it looked almost like a cluster of falling stars. Soon it became clear that these weren't meteorites, but spaceships with their headlights on. Roger recognized the lead ship as the one Bohica had picked out for himself back at PlanetAid's fortress, and many of the ships trailing it seemed familiar as well. Bohica's ship dropped lower and lower, with the ships behind it following its every move. Eventually, Bohica's ship touched down on a large, bare stretch of pavement. Once all the other ships had landed as well, the Bohica's ship took off again, but this time, the rest of the ships didn't follow it. Bohica's ship then sped towards the Supercomputer tower's landing bay, and Roger, Beatrice and RJ barely had enough time to move out of the way as the ship made a tidy, but slightly unsafe landing just a few feet away from the Raphus. "Well," Bohica said as he hopped out of his ship, "This does look pretty bad...but not quite as bad as I'd feared. Most of the equipment I brought with me should help with the more urgent problems this planet has, but -- " "Hello, Bohica," Beatrice said coolly. Forced to put his speculations on hold for the time being, Bohica greeted Roger and Beatrice, then introduced himself to RJ, who stared at him skeptically. "So you're the guy who's going to help us?" RJ asked. "Well, indirectly, yes," Bohica said. "That is -- I've made most of the preparations for restoring this world, but it will take more than a single individual to do the actual restoring." RJ nodded solemnly. "Although..." Bohica said, "There is something that might get a lot of our work done for us very quickly." The three humans stared expectantly at Bohica. "Well?" Beatrice asked. "Er...I don't think you're going to like it," Bohica said, glancing nervously at RJ. "Try us," RJ said. Bohica shook his head and stared at the ground for a moment. "The Supercomputer," he said. There was a long pause. "But...when I took down Vohaul, I formatted that thing," Roger protested. "There's nothing on it anymore." "True," Bohica said slowly. "But you know, Mr. Wilco...one thing I learned very early on in my profession that every computer -- no matter how large or powerful it might be -- is susceptible to viruses." He slowly reached inside a pocket in his lab coat. "And another thing I learned is that any scientist with more than two functional neurons to his name..." He withdrew his hand, which was now holding a small, flat, square object made of black plastic, with one side of it sheathed in a tiny metal sleeve. "...would be sure to have at least one backup of his system available." Roger and his family gaped at the object delicately clutched in Bohica's fingers. "But...but how?" Roger eventually managed to stammer. "I do have a time machine," Bohica reminded him. "I travelled back to pre-Vohaul Xenon, found a backup disk for the Supercomputer and made a copy of it for myself." "Hey," RJ said, waving towards the wall of the Supercomputer, "You're not talking about starting this thing up again, are you? Because I think that's a really, really bad idea." "I understand your reluctance," Bohica said, "But this computer doesn't have to keep operating indefinitely once we've got it up and running again. If you really do want to pull the plug once and for all once we've gotten this world back to the way it was before, I'm not going to stop you...but we'd all be fools to not take advantage of this technological marvel." RJ stared dubiously at Bohica, then at the ravaged city many feet below. "Well...all right," he slowly said after several moments of silent reflection, "But the minute that thing starts acting funny, I'll personally shut it down with this." He made a menacing gesture with his weapon, then remembered that he was still holding a time gun. He shuffled awkwardly for a moment, cheeks reddening. Bohica glanced uncertainly at RJ, Roger and Beatrice, then shrugged and began speaking again: "Since this Supercomputer was able to control the weather on this planet, it should be able to repair the atmosphere in just a few days, especially since it doesn't seem too damaged. I'm not sure what it has in the way of toxin removal technology, but the machines I've brought should be able to do whatever it can't. "I also collected genetic material from nearly all of this planet's native life forms on my trip to pre-Vohaul Xenon. After the Autotiller force-seeds the soil with the various plants I gathered and the vegetation reaches an optimal level, we can thaw out the other organisms that I've got in cold storage, give them a little time to acclimate to their surroundings, then turn them loose. And of course, the nanites should help reconstruct most of the buildings and structures once we've extracted the data about them from the Supercomputer." "Well...all right," Roger said, still not entirely sure he shared Bohica's confidence. "So, when do you plan on rebooting this thing?" Bohica suddenly seemed to wilt a little. He glanced nervously at the faces of the three humans, but said nothing. "Bohica..." Beatrice asked, using the tone of voice she had used with RJ in his younger days when she suspected that he had done something wrong, "What did you do?" "I admit that I...well...got a bit too eager," Bohica stammered. "While you three were talking, I opened a rip that dropped me inside the Supercomputer, and once I was able to find a working disk drive, I..." Three pairs of startled, astonished, and mildly alarmed eyes were now locked on Bohica. He fell silent and started to turn a shade of greenish gray. Roger suddenly became aware of a low, constant hum filling the air that hadn't been there when he and Beatrice had landed. "You restarted this thing already?" RJ said slowly, his voice low. Bohica didn't respond. "Do you realize what you might have DONE!?" RJ shouted. "I understand your concern," Bohica said nervously, "But please -- try to look at this rationally: the Vohaul Virus is gone. There's no trace of it left in this machine. Also, it wasn't the Supercomputer itself that did all this damage -- it was the virus. And like it or not, unless you want to start your civilization over from the Stone Age, this computer may be the only way of getting your world back on its feet...and already, it seems to be working very well." "Yeah? How?" Bohica looked out the bay entrance, staring upward. "Perhaps you might not have noticed...but there's been a change in the weather." Roger followed his gaze, and suddenly realized that the thick canopy of clouds that had covered the entire sky was dissipating, revealing irregular patches of deep blue, star-speckled sky. The air seemed to be noticeably less pungent as well, and there was a fresh, cool breeze blowing through the bay doors. RJ stared pensively at the sky. "So...you're sure nothing can go wrong?" he asked. "Without any new viruses infecting the system, I'd say we stand a fighting chance," Bohica said. "There is always the possibility of some setback, but hopefully, things should go well," "Then why do you sound so uncertain?" RJ demanded. "Proclaiming that absolutely nothing can go wrong with a major endeavor has been demonstrated to increase the likelihood of things going wrong with said endeavor by up to 1000%. It's a subset of Murphy's Law." RJ stared blankly at Bohica. "You're not serious, are you?" he asked. "I'm very serious," Bohica replied. "This theory has yet to be disproven in the many years since it was first postulated...in fact, I observed at least six distinct variations of the 'nothing can go wrong' sentiment when my former colleagues were preparing to operate on your father...and I'm sure you've heard how successful that plan turned out." RJ continued to gaze at Bohica for a moment or two, then shook his head. After several seconds of contemplation, he turned to face his now not-dead parents. The shock of realizing that they weren't dead still had yet to subside. The mental breakdown would have to wait until later, though. Right now, there were much bigger problems to deal with. "Well...I'd better get ready to start looking for survivors," he said quietly. "There's a cache of food and supplies hidden in an ancient sub-basement near here, and if there are any rebels still alive in this city, I'm sure they'll need both of those things. After we've gotten a good number of people assembled, we should start looking for the people who escaped to other planets, and possibly get some more help from them." He holstered his time gun and walked towards the large orange patrol shuttle once piloted by the Sequel Police. After clambering into the cockpit, it didn't take long for him to figure out how the shuttle worked. As its engine began to rumble, RJ waved good-bye to his parents, promising them that he would be back soon. Then the shuttle sped out of the bay doors and was soon out of sight amidst the dark ruins. Roger turned to Beatrice. She was standing motionless, looking out at the skeletal cityscape, and Roger suddenly noticed that she was crying. "Hey, don't worry, Bea," he said gently. "I know it looks really bad now, but we'll make it better somehow. It may be hard, but it can't be impossible...especially now that we've got help." He moved closer to her. Then, to his surprise, he realized that she was smiling. "My little boy," Beatrice said, her voice trembling with joy. "My little boy, a member of the freedom fighters! I...I can barely believe it!" "Oh...yeah. I know," Roger agreed. He glanced at his right hand -- the one which he was about to place reassuringly across Beatrice's shoulder -- then quickly hid it behind him. Bohica looked at Roger and Beatrice, tried to come up with something to say that would lighten the mood but also would stay well within the boundaries of good taste, but eventually gave up. He quietly informed them that he was going to find a safer place to park his ships, then shuffled back to his shuttle. Soon, he too had departed. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Chapter XXXIX (SQXII||XENON||00:03:01:02:45) "Roger?" "Yeah?" "What are you thinking?" Roger stared up at the sky. By now, it had cleared enough for him to see many of Xenon's largest constellations. There was Ositha the Comet-Rider, Norell the Overachiever, and Margot and Riley the Platypuses. "Nothing," he eventually replied. Beatrice wasn't convinced. She looked up at the stars, then back at Roger. "Roger...you're not thinking of going somewhere, are you?" "I don't know. Maybe." Beatrice stared at him, astounded. "No, wait," Roger said quickly. "Don't get me wrong, Bea; I'm going to stay here and do as much as I can to get my planet back to the way it was. Once everything is okay, though..." Voice trailing off, he looked back up at the stars again and sighed wistfully. Beatrice was tempted to ask Roger what on Xenon would make him want to leave his home world, after spending so long trying to return to it. But no...this was no time for bickering. Perhaps she never would truly understand him, but this was no longer a problem that would keep her up at night. It was just another idiosyncrasy of his that she would have to get used to. She thought about the many people whose professions required them to remain several light years away from their spouses for weeks, months or even years. As unpleasant an ordeal as this was, it wasn't as heartbreaking as it had been in the early days of interstellar travel, a time when married couples (or triples, quadruples, etc., depending on the species and/or traditions of the individuals in question) spent the majority of their waking days in one another's company. Though this custom had long been associated with matrimony, as the average lifespan of Xenonites grew longer and longer, so did the rate of divorce and domestic violence. After many decades of scientific research, the ancient saying "familiarity breeds contempt" was determined to have a sizeable grain of truth to it, and it eventually came to pass that the idea of married couples spending time apart on a regular basis was not only suggested, but flat-out encouraged. Much to the chagrin of the older citizens and many of the self-proclaimed "Traditionalists", this new trend quickly took hold, and in the years that followed, the number of divorces and spousal abuse cases (as well as various neuroses associated with married life) began to decline. For the most part, Roger and Beatrice's marriage followed the "Together But Apart" ideology fairly closely. Beatrice's job kept her away from Roger for days at a time, and once RJ was old enough, Roger was more or less free to do his own thing (which was usually staying at home watching old Holovision shows). Still, the last few years Beatrice had spent travelling from planet to planet with Roger weren't as mentally scarring as the research had suggested. Despite the worry, the fear, the frustration, the hopelessness and that unpleasant incident with Zondra, she didn't feel traumatized by being in Roger's company for such a long stretch at a time. In fact, she felt almost as if she could live alongside him for a few more years. However, even though he was her husband, first and foremost, he was Roger. Roger Wilco. A janitor who had saved the galaxy, yet had remained an unsung hero for most of his life, a simple-minded yet inexplicably cunning, unlucky but fortunate, loveable (but perpetually enigmatic) guy. As much as it pained Beatrice to think it, she realized how unfair it would be to keep someone like Roger perpetually at her side. Besides, no matter how far he wandered, thanks to the tracking device he begrudgingly agreed to have reinserted, she would still know where he was. "Well..." she said quietly, "If you really do want to go somewhere else...I won't hold you back." Roger looked at Beatrice in mild surprise. "Really?" he asked. Beatrice nodded, and Roger grinned meekly. "Just promise me you'll try to keep in touch," Beatrice said. "And please...let me know when you're going." "I will," Roger said earnestly. "I'll even try to visit you and RJ when I have the chance." Beatrice nodded again and smiled. As Roger returned his gaze to the night sky, he began his inevitable reflection on the various events that led up to his current spatial and temporal location. Though Xenon was still in pretty bad shape, the thought that it would eventually look better than it currently did was somewhat reassuring. However, the thought that most of Xenon's people (and most of the galaxy) would never know about the role Roger played in Vohaul's defeat and the planet's restoration was slightly less positive. Still, as unfair as this concept seemed on the surface, it didn't seem to bother him as much as it might have a couple of decades earlier. If Keech Kwidnunk had been privy to what Roger was currently thinking (and was capable of speaking rationally), he might have reflected on how, given what he had discovered about Roger's nature, it seemed perfectly reasonable that while the universe itself was intimately familiar with Roger, at the same time he was completely unknown by nearly all of its inhabitants. Perhaps he never would regain the fame he had once had, but that didn't seem to bother him as much now. Perhaps there was a grain of truth to what Kwidnunk had said about his obscurity keeping him safe after all: Being presumed dead as well as obscure would probably make Roger far less likely to run into crazy scientists, evil geniuses he had unknowingly wronged, or (he fervently hoped), borderline-insane aging fangirls. He faintly recalled the question he had asked his son in the same location he was currently occupying, both several decades and several hours ago: Why wasn't I available in this time? What happened to me? After all these years, he finally had the answer to that question. His absence in Space Quest XII wasn't because he was dead -- it was because he was somewhere and somewhen else, unknowingly keeping his past self safe from Vohaul's detection. Now that he had finally returned to his home world -- Roger's train of thought came to a shuddering halt. He had the sensation that he was being watched. Strangely, though, it wasn't a frightening feeling, but a familiar one. He looked up at the stars -- even though he knew that such a gesture was pointless, since the thing he was looking for existed all around him and spread out into infinity -- and spoke with his mind: "Don't worry. You don't need to watch me anymore. I think I should be all right from now on." Something beyond the stars seemed to stir slightly. A quiet, bemused sigh seemed to reverberate through every atom in Roger's body. Then, a voice audible only to him said: "Well, don't come crying to me if anything else goes wrong, Wilco." Though Roger was a little irritated by this reply, he resisted the temptation to respond to it. Instead, he said: "Well...thanks again, universe." For a moment, there was nothing but silence. Then, Roger thought he heard a faint, distant voice reply: "Happy trails, Pantload." Roger continued to stand on the landing pad as the night lumbered on, gazing out at the city and the stars. Beatrice remained by his side, and Roger was so deep in thought that he didn't realize her hand was on his shoulder until she was kissing him. As he gingerly returned her embrace, he was suddenly seized by a feeling of triumphant elation. He had won. The future he had been dreading for so long had come and gone...and he had survived it. Beatrice was also alive...and she was still beautiful. Xenon had gone through a pretty hard time, but not only was it still there, but there would soon be lots of people (and one slightly neurotic reptile with a collection of highly advanced machines) to aid in its recovery. He would definitely stay there to do whatever he could to help, but after that... ...after that, he was free. Though the conversations he had had with the universe had been brief and pretty unenlightening, he was now more eager than ever to start exploring it again. With an unburdened mind and a newly restored body, the urge to travel the stars in search of strange creatures, exciting worlds and intriguing tourist attractions burned more strongly within him than ever. Perhaps he could find the Aluminum Mallard again. Perhaps he could visit some of the less dangerous planets he had explored in the past. Perhaps he could simply look up some old friends. But before any of that happened, he had an incredibly large mess to help clean up. The End
  15. The Time Machination

    Okay, so I'm obviously not going to get the entirity of this story posted by 2014, but since today is New Year's Eve and tomorrow is New Years Day, I'm posting two chapters two days in a row. Chapter XXXVI Two officers of the Northwest Arm of the Galactic Police Department were making their way through one of the upper hallways of the immense fortress that orbited the planet Pygalgia. As they rounded a corner, they encountered a body lying in the floor. It was the body of a humanoid male with a large head. He was wearing a white lab coat, and both his hands and his feet were bound. Approaching the man, the officers soon realized that he was breathing shallowly, and a gentle shake of the shoulder was all it took to awaken him. He murmured groggily for a moment, then his eyes snapped open. He attempted to spring to his feet, but only succeeded in flopping forward like a drunken walrus. "All right, Buddy," the younger officer said. "Take it easy. We're not gonna hurt you as long as you do what we say." The man seemed completely oblivious to the officer's words. "Wilco," he hissed, his eyes darting about wildly. "You haven't beaten me yet, you sneaky little maggot! You can't run from science forever!" The older officer stared quizzically at him. "What are you talking about?" she asked. "Who is this 'Wilco?'" "Roger Wilco," the man panted. "Man with all the secrets of the universe locked up inside him...My key to greatness!" "Roger Wilco?" the younger officer repeated. "What the hell are you talking about? I thought that guy died when that glorified asteroid he and Ambassador Wankmeister were on exploded." "No...Not dead. Not here, but not dead. Both of them." "'Both of them?'" "Yes. Wankmeister. She was the first one who walked into our trap...led us to Wilco. We were so close...so close..." The two officers looked at each other and shook their heads. Then a voice sprang from the older officer's communicator: "Officer, as soon as you're through up there, you'd better come have a look at this shuttlebay." "Why?" the older officer asked. "What's in it? "Nothing," the other officer replied. "That's what's so weird. A gigantic shuttlebay that's completely empty. There's plenty of stains and wear, but absolutely no vehicles." "What about all those big storage rooms on that level? Anything in those?" "So far, all of those seem empty too," the other officer said. "They look like they might've been used to store machines at one point, but right now they're not storing anything but stale air." The large-skulled man lying on the floor was starting to make a high-pitched moaning noise, his body twitching spasmodically. "Bohica," the man hissed, "You no-good, slimy, back-stabbing, useless, incorrigible, pusillanimous, slimy...thing!" "All right, who in the Pleiades is Bohica?" the younger officer asked. "And why did you call him 'slimy' twice?" "I have my reasons," the man snarled, his voice suddenly much more guttural and much less sane. The officer wasn't sure how to respond to this. His partner, however, merely rolled her eyes. "Yes, I'm sure you do," she said in a tone of voice that conveyed a meaning which was the exact opposite of what just the words themselves would imply. The man suddenly shuddered violently and let out a small yelp. Before either officer could ask him what was wrong, the older officer's communicator came to life again. "Officer," said the voice on the other end (a different one this time). "Remember that inexplicable axial shift on the planet Fiovis that was in the news a while back?" "Uh..." the older officer said uncertainly, "I think so..." "And that pandemic that hit Tlopra VII that they could never find the origin of?" "Yes..." "And that moon orbiting Quabair II that had no recorded tectonic activity on it whatsoever that was suddenly hit by a huge quake?" "Yes...but what are you getting at?" There was a long pause before the other officer responded: "I think we've found the reason for all of those disasters...and then some. There's an office down here with papers taped up everywhere -- things like blueprints for machines that could knock a world off-balance, charts detailing the chemical compositions of genetically engineered diseases, schematics of devices designed to bore holes deep into a planet's crust before planting powerful explosives at the bottom..." The officer paused for a moment, and then continued: "And that's not even the tip of the iceberg," the officer continued. "Remember all those machines that we found in that huge hangar? Pretty much every single one of them has a blueprint describing its design and its function...and there's a bunch of journals open on this computer describing exactly how these machines were used to wreak havoc on various populated worlds." Both officers stared at the communicator in mute shock as the man on the floor quivered and swore under his breath. "I think we've stumbled upon the most insidious and convoluted racket this galaxy has ever seen," the officer said with a slight tremble in his voice. "But someone managed to incapacitate most of the perps before we even got here." "You think it was the same person who projected that message on the side of that planet?" the older officer asked. "I have no idea...but we'd better get these guys to a medical center and save the speculating for later. Some of them look pretty roughed up." The older officer agreed, then returned her attention to the large-headed man that was still lying on the floor, and was now practically convulsing with fury. With the younger officer's help, she hoisted the man to his feet. "All right, Sir," she said. "You have the right to remain silent, odorless, thoughtless and motionless. Any action you perform that is determined to be part of an established language can and will be used against you in -- " "Wilco!" the man shouted. "The secrets of the universe! I almost had them!" "Yeah, I'm sure you did," the younger officer remarked. At these words, the man violently shook again, and this time, the older officer noticed that his wrists were bound with something that resembled a tape measure attached to a large belt, and this device had buzzed shortly before the man had shaken. "Hey," the younger officer said to his superior, "Do you think we should put this guy in an AntiGrav straightjacket instead of just the cuffs?" For a moment, the older officer didn't respond. She was studying the thing that was binding the man's hands and trying to figure out what was happening. Eventually, she turned to her partner and said: "I think cuffs should be enough. I'm sure our special friend here wouldn't dare cause us any problems." At her words, the tape-measure-like device buzzed loudly, and the man vibrated once more. The younger officer looked perplexed for a moment, but when the older officer silently gestured towards the device and then her mouth, the dawn of understanding slowly began to light up his face. After their prisoner had been suitably restrained, the officers began leading him back down the corridor, towards the spot where they had parked their shuttle. "Listen to me!" the man growled. "If you incarcerate me, you'll be holding back years of scientific advances!" "Yeah, right," the younger officer shot back brightly. After the resulting spasm, the man remained silent, save for a few incoherent whispers. The younger officer grinned and glanced at his partner, who suddenly seemed as if she were lost in thought. "Hey," the younger officer said. "Hey, Santiago, are you okay?" The older officer blinked her amber eyes several times and shook her head. "Yes, Fairbain," she replied quietly. "I'm fine." As she and the younger officer continued down the corridor and were about to descend a long flight of stairs, she paused and gazed through a lone porthole set into the wall. She stared at the millions of distant stars that shone through it, idly wondering if the focus of her attention was somewhere among those innumerable points of light. Oh, Roger, she said to herself bemusedly. I should have known that you were the kind of guy who would never let a thing like death slow you down. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Chapter XXXVII Several light years away from Pygalgia was a small, arid planet dominated by craggy mountains and vast deserts. Its hostile wildlife, unsavory inhabitants and remote location made it a world that most life forms -- either intentionally or unintentionally -- would avoid at all costs. This was the main reason why Roger Wilco decided to go there after Beatrice had found him in the scientists' fortress. He and Beatrice parked the Raphus on top of a remote, flat-topped mountain which gave them an excellent view of the planet's very first Orat Reserve. This project had been protested by many of the planet's locals, and many of them were sure it would end up in failure once work on it began, but surprisingly, the Orat Reserve turned out to be a greater success than anyone could have anticipated. There was still the occasional inebriated individual who would crash his ship inside the reserve and end up eaten or dismembered, but these occurrences had a negligible effect on the planet's overall death count, and very few of the locals complained about them. In the words of Rixianni Ia'lla, the wealthy (and remarkably persuasive) benefactress from the planet Muu who been the driving force behind the formation of the reserve, "It is truly inspiring to see these majestic creatures back from the brink of extinction. I hope that someday, Orats will be appreciated more for their cunning and intelligence than their delicious taste." Kerona. It was the planet where Roger's career as a space hero had officially begun, the planet where his single life had ended, and now it was going to be the planet that would be the last stop before he and Beatrice finally returned to Xenon. Though the prospect filled Roger with apprehension, somehow he wasn't afraid anymore. As he stood near the edge of the cliff watching the sun set, he was soon joined by Beatrice. "I just got a call from Bohica," she said. "He says he's ready." Roger nodded solemnly. He glanced at the large watch on his wrist, a creation of Bohica's which had a display that was essentially a miniaturized version of the display on the time gun. Roger glanced at the current time and their target time, and a look of concern appeared on his face. "What is it?" Beatrice asked. "Is something wrong?" "We've been together more than twenty years since we got sent back in time..." Roger said slowly, "But when we get back to Xenon, we're just going to miss our 20th anniversary." Beatrice looked puzzled for a minute, then smiled and shook her head. "We'll deal with that later," she said. "Come on -- it's time to go." Once settled into the Raphus' cockpit with Beatrice, Roger gently turned on the thrusters. The Raphus slowly lifted off the ground, the dust kicked up by its ascension looking like luminous clouds in the moonlight. Once they had reached an elevation of about thirty feet, Bohica's voice came in over the radio: "Okay...rotate about 20 degrees to port and let 'er rip. I'll join you in about four Xenon hours." Roger turned the ship in the direction Bohica advised, and ended up facing the side of a huge mountain. Cautiously, Roger reached for the large blue button that Bohica had attached to the dashboard. He double-checked the readings for their current time as well as their destination time, made sure the doors were securely locked, then, after one final moment of hesitation, he firmly pressed his palm against the button. Bolts of blinding, bluish white light shot from nozzles mounted on the front and sides of the Raphus, and a strange, shimmering hole appeared in the side of the mountain which lit up the evening sky like an aurora. Roger gaped at the familiar spectacle before him with a mixture of awe, excitement, and uncertainty. This is it, he realized. We're finally going back. But... Was he really ready to return to that future he had left all those years ago? Was there something that he had forgotten about, something that might render the future even more loused up than it already was? Then, somewhere in the back of his mind, he heard the voice. This time, it wasn't a persistent repetition of an increasingly aggressive command. It was just a single phrase, and as brief as it was, it was filled with kindness, understanding, and even something that seemed like relief: Go ahead. You're ready. Heart suddenly swelling with confidence, Roger stared boldly into the tantalizing lightshow of the time rip and reached for the throttle. A light tap from Beatrice swiftly brought him back to his senses. He turned and stared at his wife, who gazed earnestly at him and pointed to his lap. "Seat belt," she reminded him gently.