ZedneWeb / Library / Space Commander Buzz Williams
by David Menendez
There are certain traditions in space outpost design, things that can seemingly be found at almost every generic space outpost. Oftentimes, these things are so similar, it feels like it’s actually the same one at each outpost. One such example is the Dark, Grimy Space Bar. Certainly, not every space bar is exactly the same—if nothing else, the laws of probability provide many different patterns of stains on the walls, ceiling, furniture, and customers. But there are certain characteristics they all share. Darkness and grime are the most common, as without those they’d be Cheerful Space Bars, which are a different breed altogether. Typically, there will be some annoying music being played just slightly louder than the minimum level required for the customers to hear it over the chatter of the illicit businessmen that flock to these places, meaning the patrons can’t really hear it, but it irritates their subconscious anyway. What with the darkness, the grime, the crime, the lime, and the… lime? Sorry, wasn’t paying attention. What with the darkness, the grime, the crime, and the general air of hostility, it’s understandable that Space Heros avoid these places like the plague. Eventually, they figure, the minions of evil will leave the bar, and then they can catch them.
On Alpha Hydrox II, the Dark, Grimy Space Bar was called Looger’s Den of Vice and Sno-Cones. The night this story begins was like any other night there, the band playing some repetitive music with no discernable rhythm or melody, the various minor criminals making deals, the hot-shot smugglers talking with locals who wanted passage to distant planets without any… “Imperial entanglements”, and so forth. Abruptly, the darkness was broken by a shaft of light from the door. No one really paid attention, since that happened whenever someone walked in, but a few noted that this new entrant was striding in confidently, rather than slinking in stealthily. He was dressed in an outfit none in the bar recognized, aside from the grizzled old-timers who generally sat around waiting for someone to let them recount elaborate, meandering tales of their glory years, although they could all tell that the style was pretty dated. It was a shiny green outfit, with a badge on the chest displaying a generic futuristic logo. Its helmet, like parts of the suit, contained many, many small devices attached to it that served no obvious purpose, except to make it look complicated. Those in the bar who were paying attention quickly identified him as a Sonar Man, and went back to their flavored ice snacks.
The Sonar Man scanned the bar, quickly noting that the only available space were the seats immediately next to a small, fuzzy, mauve creature, who was serenely eating a sno-cone and seemingly ignoring everything else. The Sonar Man might have wondered why the patrons seemed to be keeping a respectful distance from this furball, but he wasn’t really into that “thinking” thing. He had just completed an assignment that Lord Ganush himself had given him, and he wanted to relax. He sat down and smacked the bar to get the bartender’s attention. “Hey!” he called. “How about some service?”
“A thousand pardons,” the alien to his side said calmly, “but I am holding that seat for a friend of mine.”
“Hey,” the Sonar Man replied, “I don’t see his name engraved on this barstool.” A pathetic line to be sure, but, as noted before, he had nowhere near the brain capacity to come up with a clever retort. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the others watching him nervously. No, not him; they were watching the other one.
“Nonetheless,” the other continued, “I am holding it for him.”
The Sonar Man was getting irritated. He wanted to be drinking, not arguing with some fuzzball. “So what are you going to do about it, huh?” he asked.
Instead of replying, the alien calmly drew what appeared to be a scaled-down shotgun with numerous lights and gizmos attached to it. The bartender materialized almost immediately, crying “No guns! Not in my bar! Looger’ll have my head if anything’s damaged!”
“Perhaps,” the alien suggested, still speaking calmly and quietly, “we should take this outside.”
The Sonar Man glanced at the high-tech-looking shotgun and the section of his mind devoted to self-preservation suggested following this strange creature’s order. As the remaining sections of his mind were busy being entranced by the neat flashing lights on the shotgun’s surface, the suggestion met with little resistance. The two exited the bar, and entered the brightly lit streets of Alpha Hydrox II.
“Ah,” a new voice said, “I see you found him. Good work, Tachi.” The Sonar Man turned, looking for the source of the new voice. He saw a trashcan, but quickly rejected that as a possible voice source. Continuing his scan, he saw an man who, despite his age, managed to look fit and able. More importantly, he saw the man’s uniform, which was just as dated as his own, except that it was blue and gold, rather than green. A voice in the back of his mind suggested that he should know who this person was, and, grudgingly, the rest of his mind agreed to dredge through his memory and to see if, in fact, he did know who this person was.
Oddly, it didn’t take long. “Space Commander Buzz Williams!” he blurted out.
“The same,” Williams replied, his voice resonating with heroism. “So tell me, Sonar Man, what brings you to Alpha Hydrox II?”
“Well…um…er…that is…,” he babbled, trying to come up with a convincing lie, “I’m here for a… flower show!” No, that wasn’t it.
Williams blinked. “A flower show?” he muttered, glancing at Tachi.
“A lie,” Tachi suggested.
“Yes,” Williams agreed, turning back to the Sonar Man. “What is your real business here? And no lies, this time.”
“You can’t make me talk,” he replied, determination in his voice.
Tachi whacked him with his shotgun. “Yes we can,” he said, still speaking calmly and quietly. Williams grimaced, but then hardened his expression. It looked almost comical; he was evidently unused to it.
“Fine,” the Sonar Man said, deciding that these two were more of a threat than Lord Ganush, since they were right here and Lord Ganush was not. “I came here to deliver a working Pepsi/Coke reaction drive to the local planetary conqueror, General Protectionfault. Here’s his address.” He handed Williams a business card.
“ ‘General Protectionfault, World Conqueror’,” Williams read, nodding. “Right then, we’ll look into that. So tell me, where might I find Lord Ganush?”
The still-unnamed Sonar Man gulped. “I have no idea,” he said, truthfully. “Although I heard he visited Planet Gloom recently.”
Williams shuddered at the name of that dreaded place. Tachi seemed unmoved. Or maybe asleep. “Well,” Williams said, “we can’t have you coming after us, so we’ll just tie you up and leave you in an alley. Any requests?”
“Yeah. Can I have a beer first?”
After dealing with the Sonar Man, Buzz Williams and Tachi returned to the Rocket Racer, Buzz’s private spaceship. Inside, they quickly informed the third member of their party, Bert, about what they had learned. As usual, Bert was highly impressed.
“Wow,” he said, highly impressed. “Are we going to stop this General Protectionfault’s no-doubt nefarious schemes?”
“I would assume so,” Tachi answered, from where he appeared to be meditating. Or sleeping. It’s hard to tell with Zen Masters.
“Yes,” Buzz agreed, “we cannot allow such a villain access to a Pepsi/Coke reaction drive. Although I regret being sidetracked from our primary objective, we must not allow ourselves to be so caught up in the big picture that we forget the little people. For instance, did I ever tell you about the time I was searching for the T’ung Men’s Shotputting Team, when—”
“Yes,” Tachi interrupted, calmly and quietly. Also simply and elegantly, but that’s not our joke.
“So what’s a Pepsi/Coke reaction drive?” Bert asked.
“I am not an expert in these newer systems,” Buzz admitted, “but I believe the basic concept is rather simple. Most companies attempt to distinguish their products, so they’ll stand out in the minds of the consumers. The more similar the products, the more energy expended to differentiate them. Coke and Pepsi, for instance, are two very similar products—I can’t taste the difference, myself.”
“Although I can,” Tachi added. “It comes with Enlightenment.”
“Cool,” Bert said, highly impressed.
“Anyway,” Buzz continued, “if Coke and Pepsi are mixed, the difference between them is no longer apparent, so the two beverages will expend enormous amounts of energy in a futile attempt to distinguish themselves from their competitor. The Pepsi/Coke reaction drive merely harnesses this energy.
“Now,” he continued, changing subjects, “normally, we’d require hours or months of painstaking research and snooping to discover where this General Protectionfault is hidden. Fortunately, we’ve got his address right here, so we can skip right to assaulting his base and disrupting his evil schemes.”
“Sounds good to me,” Bert said.
“What if he hasn’t had sufficient time to find a Space Ingenue to capture and threaten?” Tachi asked.
“Hmm,” Buzz replied. “I suppose that’s a risk we’ll have to take.”
Elsewhere, General Protectionfault, the Scourge of Alpha Hydrox II and this episode’s Designated Antagonist, was engaging in the tradition of Gloating Over the Important Device that all Space Villains are taught. “With this device,” he shouted, while gesturing at the Pepsi/Coke reaction drive that he had purchased from the Sonar Men, “I, General Protectionfault, shall finally achieve my goal of world domination!”
“How so?” asked one of his henchmen. “I don’t see how a space drive will help us achieve planetary domination.”
The General drew himself up to his full height and adjusted his crimson robes. “Of course you don’t,” he sneered, “it’s far too complex for your little mind.”
“I thought you were going to threaten to overload it thereby holding the planet hostage,” said a different henchman.
“Oh,” the first henchman replied, “you’re right. That is too complex for my little mind.”
“Are you making fun of me? General Protectionfault?” the villain demanded. “If so, then perhaps I, General Protectionfault, have no further use for your services.”
“Do you really have to say your name every time you mention yourself?” the henchman, who was evidently feeling rather suicidal, asked.
ZAP!, replied the General’s blaster.
FOOF!, retorted the henchman as he rather suddenly lost molecular cohesion.
The blaster had no response for that, although it didn’t really matter since it’s opponent in the debate had had to forfeit for reasons of sudden non-existence.
The General took this opportunity to indulge in some diabolical laughter. His remaining henchman went back to doing whatever it is that henchmen do when no one’s watching.
The General might not have been so cheerful, however, had he known that Buzz Williams, Tachi, and Bert were currently walking up to his front door. “This looks like the place,” Buzz observed, glancing at the card in his hand and comparing it with the address given on the door.
“Indeed,” Tachi agreed, gesturing at the sign next to the door which bore the legend “General Protectionfault” with his sci-fi shotgun.
“Good,” Buzz replied, “let’s gather some clues before we sneak in.” Buzz walked over to the nearby trashcans and began estimating the number of henchmen inside. Tachi walked over to a window and quickly glanced inside, to gauge what they were up against.
Bert, on the other hand, remained on the doorstep, transfixed by the General’s custom doorbell, which, admittedly, was pretty neat looking. Slowly, as if acting on its own, his hand crept towards the button.
Buzz and Tachi started as the doorbell played a brief sample from Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue.”
“Bert,” Tachi called, calmly, “You generally do not ring a villain’s doorbell if you wish to sneak in.”
“Why is it always ‘Toccata and Fugue’?” Buzz wondered. “Do villains get complementary copies from the nefarious device mail order catalogues?”
The front door opened, prompting Buzz and Tachi to hide themselves as best they could. “Yes?” asked the henchman who had opened the door.
“Er,” Bert fumbled, “Hello.”
The henchman seemed unimpressed by this answer. “What do you want here?” he asked.
“Um,” Bert said, “I’m, um, looking for a General Protectionfault. Do you know where he is?” Silently, he hoped the henchman would just assume he was too stupid to be a threat.
“No,” the henchman lied, “there’s no one here with that name.”
“My apologies,” Bert said, making sure not to glance at the name plate to the side of the door. “I’ll go look somewhere else then.”
“Would you like to step inside?” the henchman asked. “We’ve got a phone book you could check.”
“Um,” Bert said, again, “er… all right.” Hoping that Buzz and Tachi were coming up with a clever plan, he followed the henchman into the building.
Inside, they quickly reached a large room filled with a half-dozen henchman and a man wearing a flowing red cape, whom Bert assumed was the General. Especially since he was wearing a military uniform underneath with a large name tag that read “Hello! My name is ‘General Protectionfault’.” The not-quite-infamous villain was standing next to a complicated-looking piece of machinery that Bert assumed was the Pepsi/Coke reaction drive, for no particular reason.
“Wow,” Bert said, much impressed.
“Impressed by my nefarious device, are you?” the General asked. “I’m not surprised! Even I, General Protectionfault, am impressed by it sometimes! Soon, I, General Protectionfault, will use it to hold this world hostage and achieve my goals of… world domination!” He laughed some more.
“Wow,” said Bert, impressed much.
“So tell me,” Protectionfault said, as he stepped closer to Bert, “are you a Space Ingenue or a Sidekick?”
“Sidekick,” Bert answered. “D’oh!” he added, as he realized he’d given away his secret.
“A sidekick, eh?” Protectionfault said. “That means the heroes are already here—at least with an ingenue we’d have some time for tormenting and, in most cases, innuendo.”
“There’ll be no tormenting today, fiend!” Buzz shouted, as he leaped out from behind a convenient crate. The henchmen started to move towards him, but he waved his Ray Gun at them and they stepped back nervously, some glancing at their boss as if to request further instructions.
“Hey! You’re Space Commander Buzz Williams!” Protectionfault said, secretly pleased that such a well-known hero had come to try and stop him. “Is Toni around? She is someone that I, General Protectionfault, would not mind making some innuendo about, if you know what I mean.”
“Hmm… I probably don’t,” Buzz said, “but that isn’t important. Please step away from the reaction drive.”
“I, General Protectionfault, do not think so! Step no closer or I, General Protec—”
“We know who you are,” Buzz interrupted. “If you’re going to say your name every time you mention yourself, you really should come up with something shorter.”
“You think so, huh? Well, I, General Protectionfault, do not care if you know my name! Soon the galaxy shall know my name! People will tremble at the mere mention of General Protectionfault! Children will run screaming! Stocks will plummet! Cats will chase dogs! ‘Married With Children’ will get picked up for another season!”
“You twisted fiend,” Buzz spat, “I will not rest until the day your evil plots are foiled!”
“Come no closer,” the General warned, “or I, General Protectionfault, will set the drive to overload and destroy the planet.”
Buzz froze. Bert also froze, but, since he hadn’t been moving before, no one noticed. “But… you’ll be killed too!” Bert protested.
“What does it matter?” the General ranted. “As long as the galaxy remembers the name of… General Pro—” he cut off abruptly as a thought occurred to him. “Isn’t there another in your group?” he asked Buzz.
“There is,” a calm voice behind him answered.
The General turned to see Tachi standing between him and the drive’s control panel. “How did you get past my henchmen?” he asked.
“I snuck over while you were pontificating,” Tachi answered. He hefted his sci-fi shotgun and added, “I recommend you surrender. We have other things to do.”
“And resolve this conflict without violence? Bah! I, General Protectionfault, can barely conceive of such a concept! Henchmen: attack!”
The heroes tensed, and then relaxed as they noticed there were no henchmen in the room.
“Your henchmen seem to have fled,” Bert noted.
“Indeed,” the General agreed. “It seems that I, General Protectionfault, have chosen a rather cowardly group of underlings.” He sighed. “You win, Williams. I’m no match for you.”
“Why not?” Bert asked. “You seem reasonably fit.”
“Bert,” Tachi cautioned, “you generally do not want to encourage the villain.”
“Sorry, Tachi,” Bert apologized.
“Tachi,” Buzz said, as he walked over to the others, “if you will go and fetch the local authorities, I’ll watch our prisoner.”
“Very well,” Tachi replied. “Shall I pick up a Dr. Ploodux while I’m out?”
“If you have time.”