Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Electronic Fish Tacos From Jupiter Save The Day??!? Part Seven: The Grapes Of Love

This story began on January 26, with part one, here, and you should really read it from the beginning because what have you got against following literary conventions? Do you start John Steinbeck's books in the middle? HUH DO YOU? Didn't think so.

Then again, Steinbeck didn't have the guts to write a story like this.  There. I said it. It's been said.


In the last few moments of his life, this is what Jimmy Earwig saw:

The universe receding away from him, crumbling into nothingness, black dusty specks now impossibly far away, nothing but empty space around him, empty so much that it was devoid even of color and tint. Somehow, everything around him was neither black nor white nor colored, it had no form, no substance, nothing.

He had thought he might be able to move, to still save the universe he so foolishly doomed in a desperate bid to get away from the most reviled enemy mankind had ever faced, 5, but his choices from the moment he had reversed everything until now...

...he breathed, or tried to, a gasp of hope...

...had reversed everything...

And Jimmy Earwig, his blood no longer able to filter even the tiniest amount of life-giving oxygen from the naught that surrounded him, died.

The grapes saw that and reversed course, realizing they were too late, and had been headed in the wrong direction anyway.


"It is feeling afraid again," said the man, leading Darth down the hall.  "Or, it was."

"It was?"  Darth frowned.  The man looked back at her, seemingly immune to her charms.

"Yes.  Then things changed.  What happened?"

"Jimmy did it.  He changed everything.  And now we have to leave."

"Not just yet," the man said.  "There is a chance we can reverse it."


"Zero can."

"Do you think so?"

The man stopped in the hall, hand on the door to the transporter room.  "Can you think of anything Zero can not do?" he asked.

Darth, one of the few people in any universe even aware of Zero's existence, pondered that.

"Zero is God," she said, finally.  It was an agreement, and a prayer.

"Don't push your religion on me," the man said.  "But essentially, you are right." He pushed open the door to lead to a room where two techs were sitting.  "I should know.  I created him."

"Where do I fit in?" asked Darth.

"Remember Eve?"

"The First Goddess, and Zero's Female Side, part of the Holy Duality."

"Ohmygod I cannot believe you people and this religion that has sprung up."  The man sighed.  "Techs!"

"Yes, Michael," one said.

"Warm it up."  He turned back to Darth, shaking his head.  "Whatever.  Religion is apparently the opiate of the supermodels, as well.  So you know Eve."

"Eve merged with Zero and taught Zero to love."

"Yes."  Michael frowned.  "So you've read the stories."

"They are true."

"Yes, yes, we all know that.  Everything ever is true.  Right. Got it. For someone so smart, you are remarkably dumb."

"Hey," Darth protested.

"No time for offense.  I call 'em like I see 'em. Here is the thing.  Zero is insane."

"You DARE!" Darth slapped Michael.  "You DARE insult God!"

Michael grabbed her hands, stared at her intensely.  "I will do more than that to Zero.  Do I have to remind you that I created him?"

Darth stared at Michael, wide-eyed.  "Blasphemy..." she whispered.

It grew deadly quiet in the room as Michael's eyes narrowed.  "Truth..." he whispered back.

"I will not work with a man who dares to talk like this."

"Then EVERYONE will die," another voice said from the door.

Michael and Darth looked.  A bearded man stood silhouetted before them.

"He's right," the man said, pointing to Michael.  "Darth, you have to listen to him.  This is getting out of control.  There is no order in the universe anymore.  It... it's like things are just being randomly strung together."

The techs spoke up.  "The transporter is ready."

"Here is what you have to do," Michael said.  "Somehow, you are the spitting image of Eve.  You are identical to her, except for one thing:  You are dead."

Darth did not like to be reminded of that.  It was what kept her and Jimmy from starting a family, the fear that a half-dead baby would be discriminated against, or that that same baby might be powerful enough to rule the universe but have no moral constraints.  Six of one, half-dozen of the other...

"Which gives you a unique power over Zero, who has only ever loved Eve," Michael continued.  Andrew, meanwhile, was helping outfit Darth, slipping her arms into a space suit and making sure the power was hooked up, the oxygen converters operating.  "You can approach Zero, and you can merge with him."

On a viewscreen, the supercomputer-that-was-also-a-god appeared.  "Zero, you see, realized what was going on when the multiverses merged," Michael told her, "And it realized what a danger that posed.  Zero is able to ferret out almost any possibility, almost instantly, and to gauge the probabilities that that possibility will come true.  Zero decided almost immediately, in a rare moment of sanity..."

Darth inhaled sharply, but whether that was because the bearded man was adjusting the suit over her breasts of over Michael's continued blaspheming was not clear.

Michael ignored her "...Decided that it must destroy the universe.  And so it created something, for the first time in eons, to do its bidding."

"Unfortunately," the bearded man interrupted, "Zero has taken up reading."

Michael nodded.  "A way to pass the time."

"Also unfortunately," the bearded man said, "Zero is not exactly bound by the ordinary literary conventions of reading, and tends to skim and start books and stories in the middle or, worse yet, to simply go by the covers or titles of the books."

"I don't see what this has to do with me."

"Tell her, Andrew."

The techs motioned.  "We've got only a minute or so."

"Zero," the bearded man said, leading Darth to the transporter module, "Had just begun skimming through John Steinbeck's works."

Darth stood in the transporter.

The techs began counting.

"Wait!" Darth said.  "What does all this mean?"

"2...1..." the techs said, and the crackling of the energy drowned out each of the people in the room as they spoke.

The techs said "Transporter engaged!" but nobody heard.

Darth said "What am I supposed to do?" but nobody heard.

Andrew said "Zero has created something that was intended to destroy the universe, based on a misunderstanding of John Steinbeck's work, but now that has reversed, unfortunately for us," but nobody heard.

Michael said "You have to kill the God I created," but he said it so softly that nobody could have heard anyway, and even more softly, added "Because it is now a God that loves this universe enough to save it, and that cannot be allowed."  And a tear formed in his eye, completely against his character.


"Brothers..." -5 roared.  "There was a time that we meekly stood on our side of the number line, waiting our turn behind our positive opposites!  A time that we were content to simply negate, to stand on the wrong side of equations, to deduct.  BUT THAT TIME HAS ENDED."

A swelling, gnashing, terrible commotion came from below where he stood.  -5 towered above them and grinned hideously.  "But with the reversal, we need wait no longer!  We need be downtrodden no longer!  We may now move forward and demand obedience!"

The sounds from his cohort were that of continents grinding into lava mixed with the giggling of monstrous hyenas, filtered through the sound electrons make when they cannot connect with a part of the brain they need to.

"We may rule this universe, in our rightful places!" -5 said, and in one move, he leaned down and tore the negative sign from his side, and held it up over his crossbar top,  bedraggled and bloody,  and used it to spur the monstrous forces that were his to command on, used it to stir them into a froth of anger and domination.  "BROTHERS!" 5 shrieked.  "TO JUPITERS!"

And the army shambled and rolled and crept and swaggered and inched and clawed out of the hall and into space, which was disintegrating around them but they did not care.  This was going to be their home, and whether it was destroyed now or later did not matter to them.


Rusty leapt atop the ogre, which glared up at him but tolerated it.  He waited while the man in the coffee shop sipped again at his latte and then stood up, mumbling something that sounded like nonsense.  A red toolbox or something appeared by the man, who in a leisurely manner began opening the box and putting on the contents, which were a suit of red armor and a cape.

"Come ON!" Rusty told him.  "We've got almost no time.  Do you have any idea how far away Jupiter is?  If I hadn't made this a space-flying ogre..." his voice trailed off as they heard a buzzing.

"What was that?"

"What was what?" asked the man in the armor, slipping the helmet on and attaching the cape to the shoulders.  At his side hung a powerful looking sword.

"That buzzing sound?"  Rusty looked around.

"I didn't hear anything," the man in the armor said, and then with a flourish he whooshed the cape around him and disappeared.

"What the hell... PT!" Rusty said.

"Call me... The Scarlet Knight..." came a barely-whispered voice from somewhere.  Rusty heard a sword unsheath.  "And you didn't think I was going to help you, did you?"

"You don't understand..." Rusty said.  "It's not like that."  The buzzing grew louder.  Rusty wondered whether he had time to draw some goggles that would show him the invisible world.  Suddenly,  his ogre's arm was lopped off by a glowing slash of light.  The Sword Of Justice!  The ogre howled and raged.

"STOP!" Rusty yelled.  "I'm not evil! Not anymore!  Everything's changed!"  And it had -- as the wave of reverse chirality had swept out further and further, ahead of the destruction engendered by Jimmy Earwig's switch, things had changed, reversals and opposites swapping spots without warning.

"I know that," the voice said from behind him.  Rusty turned and saw the Scarlet Knight leaping down on him from a ledge on the building they stood next to, the Sword of Justice...?... arcing towards his neck.  "I've changed, too."


Darth opened her eyes and looked around.

Everything was dark.  She was on her knees, her hands pressing onto a hard surface.  Far off in the distance a small set of twinkling lights glimmered.

"Hello?" she said, quietly.  "God?"

No answer.

She tried to stand, and drifted a bit from the floor.  Gravity wasn't quite, here, and so she floated a bit before touching again.  She felt off-kilter, as though in her absence the surface had twisted.  She stood carefully in the dark.

"Is there anyone there?"


Darth looked around.  "Which way?" she asked.

There was no answer.  She took a halting step forward, drifted away again from the floor and spun slowly in the air, unsure which way she was pointing anymore.  The lights that glimmered in the distance appeared to surround her.  With gentle grace she touched the floor again, this time with her hand.  Her head told her she was standing upright and that the floor was now a wall, to which she clung, in midair.  It was dizzying, and thrilling.

"Where are you?" she asked.


She looked around in the dark.

"I was sent here to help," she said.


It was not a question.

And Darth had no answer.  But she was not afraid.  This was the culmination of everything she had believed.  How many people got to meet their God, in their life, let alone offer to help it? She felt like crying with happiness.

"However you would like," she said.

The lights twinkled and glimmered in what she thought was a pensive manner.

"They said..." she gulped a little, afraid of her own temerity.  "They said that you were... afraid?"

**I WAS**

Darth wondered what could scare God.


The lights twinkled more fiercely.

"With who?"  Darth asked.  She remembered her visions of Eve, as a younger girl, when she had first converted to The Cult of Zero, and remembered the man, Michael, who she had long read about and wondered about,  telling her she looked like Eve.

Dared she hope?


"With what are you in love?" Darth asked.


"Then..." Darth said, smiling.  She tried to reach out, drifted away from the wall again.  In darkness, she slowly held her arms up and felt her eyes mist.  "Then you will save us!  You will help us live through this awful mess!"


Darth fell slowly back to the ground, on her knees again.  She sat, a supplicant, praying that her God would explain to her what it was doing to bring things back from the brink.


Darth began to cry.


"Nothing makes any sense anymore," grumbled Andrew, turning away from the techs to go out the door.

"What do you expect?" Michael asked.  "Look who's in charge of this."


All of the assembled Jimmy Earwigs, every version of him that had ever existed, stood in full battle armor on the Seal Team cruiser they had commandeered.  The ship skirted the edge of the Nonzone, as it was called, the rapidly expanding area where the original... ?... Jimmy Earwig's body sat at the center of nothing, and each of them felt a tug for their fallen brother, who had tried to lead them through this crisis only to fall, and in doing so make things worse.

"Why do you suppose he did it?" asked Jimmy Earwig Alpha, as he'd been code-named.

Ghastly Gray Jimmy Earwig, fully aware that he, too, would die on this mission, looked at Jimmy Alpha.  "You ever fought the numbers?" he asked.  Jimmy Alpha shook his head.  "Then you don't know the desperation a man feels, staring down an enemy like that.  Numbers are powerful.  Almost the most powerful thing there is. And he knew that, and he knew that he wasn't going to beat 5, not alone, not with all those numbers around him, not with that little team.  Seal Team i can do a lot, but the numbers..." Ghastly Gray Jimmy shuddered.

"But to do that..."

"Nobody ever knew what it would do.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.  And now we can only hope that we're able to spin us out of here."

"What about the evacuation?" Jimmy Alpha asked.

"Where are they gonna go?  Outside?  That's a pipe dream.  There's nothing outside."

"I heard of someone who went outside once," said Jimmy From The Multiverse Of People Who Heard Things Once.

"There's nothing there," said Ghastly Gray.  The convoys of ships behind them, streaming off at 10 times light speed, hoping to make it to the outer edges of the universe before the Nonzone caught them were clearly visible out the other side of the cruiser's windows.  "It's a fool's errand, if we don't succeed," he muttered.

Ahead of them, they could see Jupiter's Great Red Spot.  They all watched, noticing at the same time, for they each had the same sharp eyes and battle-honed instincts, that there were tiny specks coming at them.

"What are those?" Jimmy Alpha asked.

"I don't know."  Ghastly Gray Jimmy put his visor down, rattled through the various screens until he had a clear glimpse.

"They're... grapes?" he said.

And then the tiny green specks were upon them, millions if not billions of sentient, inch-long fruits that were able to whip around in space, biting and gnashing tiny mouths that grimaced out from eyeless faces,  mouths that in between the ripping of flesh and bending of metal kept chanting one word, over and over.

** love love love **

they said, over and over

** love love love **

a horrifying monotone background noise to the destruction they were wreaking.  Like a plague of locusts the grapes had pounded into the battle cruiser, their extreme speed alone driving the first cohort through the walls of the cruiser, and leaving gaping holes where air rushed out.

Seal Team Jimmy reacted the way they had been trained to, the way they had learned to over what would have been many lifetimes for any other person but was one for Jimmy Earwig, in whatever multiverse he existed.  They fought back, ferociously, against an enemy too tiny to see, almost.

Grapes swarmed onto Giant Jimmy Earwig, who used his electroblades to slash at them and stomped them with his feet.  He charged his force field and disintegrated many of them but they kept coming at him,  wearing him down under a pile of tiny, green, juicy, ferocious

** love love love **

** love love love **

** love love love **

Chanting all the while.   "Flame them!" Giant Jimmy Earwig yelled, and others on the team turned their heat rays and flame throwers on the pile, scorching thousands of grapes at once but also killing Giant Jimmy Earwig.

The team formed perimeters, circles of Jimmys who used wide-beam phasers to hold off the onslaught, pointing up and out and sideways, closing ranks when one's power source failed or a grape slipped through.  A phalanx of Jimmys braced themselves against the doors of the cockpit in which Pilot and Copilot Jimmys were grimly steering the nearly-disabled cruiser towards Jupiter, where the Emulsifier was visible, now, a giant structure looming out of the soupy gaseous nature of the planet.  A team of Jimmys left the cruiser through an airlock, shrapnel missiles blossoming into noiseless flowers of energy ahead of them, cutting apart their tiny enemies.  Thirty of the Jimmys in mobile space suits swung around to protect the cockpit from outside, suits glaring with electrostatic charge and all weapons firing wildly, hoping to decimate as many of the Grapes as possible.  Another fifty Jimmys swung outside around the cloud of green terror, heading for the Emulsifier.  Orders shot back and forth over the radio.

Inside the cockpit, Pilot Jimmy frowned through the haze ahead.  Lasers shot out from every gun they had, cutting swaths through the grapes, to no real avail.  They just kept coming.

A thwack as one hit the windshield ahead of him, and he winced.  He and Copilot Jimmy put their own visors down, nodded at each other.

Thwack thwack thwack more grapes getting through as they chewed the protector Jimmys to bits, their sheer numbers overwhelming them.

On a screen on the dash, Pilot Jimmy saw a long stream of glowing green grapes stretched out behind them, heading for the convoy of ships taking every living being in the universe to the presumed safety of whatever lay Outside.

Thwack thwack thwack
Thwack thwack thwack
Thwack thwack thwack
Thwack thwack thwack
Thwack thwack thwack
Thwack thwack thwack

Cracks started appearing in the windshield.  They could see no more protector Jimmys ahead of them. Jupiter itself was not visible through the cloud of green grapes.

Thwack thwack thwack
Thwack thwack thwack
Thwack thwack thwack
Thwack thwack thwack
Thwack thwack thwack
Thwack thwack thwack
Thwack thwack thwack
Thwack thwack thwack
Thwack thwack thwack
Thwack thwack thwack
Thwack thwack thwack
Thwack thwack thwack
Thwack thwack thwack

"Pleasure flying with you," Copilot Jimmy said.

Thwack thwack thwack
Thwack thwack thwack
Thwack thwack thwack
Thwack thwack thwack
Thwack thwack thwack
Thwack thwack thwack
Thwack thwack thwack
Thwack thwack thwack

They heard the chants.

** love love love **

** love love love **

** love love love **
** love love love **

** love love love **

** love love love **
** love love love **

** love love love **

** love love love **

"Honor to fly with you," said Pilot Jimmy, just seconds before a tiny grape burst through the windshield, through his visor, and into his eye.  In seconds it had gnawed through to his brain.  Blood spurting out through the hole where his left eye had been, Pilot Jimmy had only a moment to hit a button on his suit, electrifying it, and then his skull was empty and he keeled over, dead.  

Copilot Jimmy lasted long enough to set the autopilot, or what was left of it, for the Emulsifier.  The cruiser would land, or crash, there, unless the grapes pushed it away.  He hoped at least one of them made it through to turn the machine on, and then he stood up, wrist rockets firing wildly.

"MALIS AB!" he shouted and swung his lasers around at any grape he could see.  He died in a hail of tiny green globes, and the last thing he heard was

** love love love **

** love love love **

** love love love **


"Don't do this!" Darth pleaded.  "If you love the universe... save it!" Her voice had the quality of a prayer, but it was a prayer from someone who fears that God is, after all, a fiction -- or worse, that God does not care.

But she was wrong.  This God was real, and it cared.

It cared too much.


Zero told her.


What can you do, when God wants to commit suicide?


Michael and Andrew sat in a bar, each with a shot glass in their hands.

"To the multiverses," Michael said, and held his up.

"To what might have been...and actually was, I guess," Andrew said.  Their glasses clinked, they did their shots, and the wall behind them crashed in.  

Rusty sat on the shoulders of a one-armed, bedraggled ogre that was panting for breath.  Under its one arm, it held a knight in red armor in a headlock.  Rusty's head appeared to be sewn on with half-knit crossstitches.

"Why are you two sitting here getting drunk when there's a universe to save?" Rusty asked.


"TO BATTLE!" shouted 5, and the hordes swarmed out to the Great Red Spot.

"MALIS AB!" shouted the Jimmys who were left, falling downward from their wrecked battle cruiser, pursued by the Grapes of Love, firing back at them as they waited to hit the outer atmosphere and engage their wings to fly over and activate the Emulsifier in hopes of spinning away enough surviving universes that were not yet affected by the Nonzone.


"Always..." Rusty told Michael and Andrew as they hopped onto the ogre's shoulders "...hide an Easter Egg in your work."


"Take me," Darth said, in the darkness.

The glimmering lights all went dark, and then all lit up, steady.



The Great Red Spot, it turns out, is solid.

Jimmy Earwig stood on it and looked up at the Emulsifier.

"My, but that is one big machine," he said.

He grinned, and charged up his battle armor.

"Time to do some negativin'," he said.



PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

Wow, now I'm famous!

Rusty Webb said...

Easter eggs. I've been sayin it for years and no one would listen. Always, ALWAYS hide Easter eggs in your work.

How are you going to wrap all this up? Will humanity finally destroy all numbers? Even negative ones - which tend to get ignored way too often?

Andrew Leon said...

Wow! I have no words.
Just waiting for that Briane guy to show up now.
Grapes of Love... awesome.


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