by Jim Parnell

One Step Forward
Two Steps Back
Three Steps to the Side

Some of you may have been following Bubba's adventures in New Jersey, where he first lost that lucrative job as a Porta-Potty salesman, or that nasty little incident with Agents Scuzzy and Mildew shootin' off that tactical nuke.  Or maybe you've heard rumors of strange things happening out in New Mexico and on the dark side of the moon (no such thing, by the way).  Maybe, just maybe you've heard Bubba mention that strange black helicopter that was always flying around up there, too high to see any markings, and too far away to hear.

Well, it turns out there's another side to the story.  You may not like it any more than I did when I heard it, so maybe now's the time for you to click through and bail out of here.  If you can't take it, just go on, now.  Git!

Still here?  Well, you're made of sterner stuff than me, so have at it and keep that stern stuff off the sofa, whatever it is.

The Puppeteers -- Tools, in the most Machiavellian sense, are best manipulated at a distance, as Ohmm and Flipper know well.  So they use everything at their disposal against the beleaguered electronics firm, even local talent.
    Muscle boys prowl the halls, decked in pinstripes and fedoras, twisting arms and shattering kneecaps to keep the young yahoos in line.  Behind the scenes, the big bosses rule the roost from their cozy cells and patrolled golf courses, security courtesy of the State of New Jersey. With cell phones and short-timer runners hoofing it back and forth to deliver The Woid in Poison, it's just another day at the office.

    In the joint, a decision is reached.  Soon, a hard-eyed character with an ominous bulge under his armpit and a face uncreased by laugh lines appears at the front desk with a message:

    "Get the stock up 3/4 by next week, or you sleep with the fishes!"

    A new product line is hastily announced, with 64 gazigabytes of phloomable traumatic storage, a telepathologic interface, and a money-back guarantee that it'll do more for your sex life than a trainload of Viagra.  But the stock's got a mind of its own.  It drops, and it ain't even October.

    The Don is pissed.  He gives the Woid...

    On Mahogany Row, there's a run on large briefcases and shipping crates as everything of value is systematically looted before The Boys can arrive to deliver on their promise.  A middle manager from Direct Marketing is hurriedly named CEO, and the clueless chump is left sitting in that big-ass leather chair as the executive staff hauls butt en masse to Thailand.

    Later, the chopper squad finds the patsy making phone calls and eagerly plotting his first executive decision from atop his elegantly appointed thunder mug.  By the time they're done, there's not much left for the coroner to identify.

    Of course, there wasn't a whole lot to begin with, anyway.

    On the 18th hole, the Don smiles, teeth blazing a startling white against his evenly tanned face.  He strokes a 15-footer for a double birdie and thoughtfully sends the boys on a well-deserved vacation ... in Thailand.

The power upon the trone? That's gonna leave a mark.

Bosnia in Burlington -- Or maybe you saw this related incident on CNN after Episode 8713 of the Elian Saga?
The Therapeutic Qualities
of Electronic Interactivity
and Related Topics

In-your-face journalist Kate Hacklin shoves the microphone in the face of the hapless executive and shouts, "Is it true you've hired the Pinkerton detective agency to find out who's been posting incendiary email on the Yoohoo message boards?   Is it also true you've been on the boards yourself, posing as a regular employee and posting misleading messages in an attempt to expose the malcontents?"

The suit bats the mic away and snarls, "Lady, we've got nothing but disgruntled employees."  He flinches as gunfire erupts in the building behind him.   "And now we've got some postal ones, too!"   He breaks for his car and dives into the driver's seat just as a wild-eyed woman who's having a really bad hair-day bursts from the entrance brandishing a MAC-10.  She catches sight of the exec in his vehicle and opens up on full automatic.

He sits in the front seat and cackles hysterically -- it's bulletproof glass!   She shakes her head and turns the gun on the rear of the car, hunting for the weak spot.   She finds it right below the gascap.  Fuel gushes onto the ground as the gleeful expression on the suit's face changes to one of abject terror.

Pulling a Zippo from her pocket, she looks him right in the eye and smiles.  She thumbs the wheel, tossing the lighter into the trail of gas.  She walks away, absently dragging her weapon behind her.  The ground shudders and a fireball claws its way skyward.

Again the door bursts open.  A tall guy with executive hair staggers into the parking lot.   He's been stripped naked and covered with rubber cement and shredded financial statements.  He grabs the cameraman and pleads, "Can't we all just ... get along?"   He stumbles too close to the flaming trail of gas and the flammable suit of petroleum products and paper goes off like napalm.  He goes down, shrieking horribly as he too, is burned to a crisp.

Kate Hacklin screams at the cameraman, "Oh God, they never told us about assignments like this at Vassar!  Out of my way!"  Ditching their gear, they flee to the van and screech out of the parking lot, hubcaps flying.

Inside, with no one to stop them now, old grudges are being settled once and for all...

Hope I didn't give anybody any ideas...

Thinning the Herd -- Who says karma never strikes twice in the same place?

January 1, 2000, on the far side of the moon:

Molten slag bubbles upward into the vacuum of space.  Gases long incorporated directly into the rock matrix hiss soundlessly into the void as the crust cracks and reforms.  Massive girders and columns of esoteric super-materials tilt and sink into the caldera; their once-mighty burdens have disappeared -- reincorporated into the crust of the Moon, or ablated into space by the multi-terawatt hit from the Alludium Q34 Space Modulator jutting like a dried hanger from the left nostril of the Face on Mars.

Paybacks are Hell, and the Slugs have just been handed their accordions by the Grays.

Burlington, New Jersey:

Dr. Ohmm NiSciens and Flipper, in their silent black helicopter, once again hover over that tiny company in the south of Jersey.  A strained silence ensues.

"Gee, boss, maybe you shouldn't have gone out with Miss Gray," Flipper began.

"SILENCE, you idiot," Ohmm belched.  "I'm trying to think!"

"Oh boy, are you thinking about how we're going to get our revenge?"  Flipper ejaculated excitedly.

"No, I'm trying to think my way out of this stupid story!"  Ohmm fumed. "Every time we're about to wipe out these apes, the writer pulls a SODOM* and spoils everything!"   Peering suspiciously in all directions (an advantage of having eyespots on every side of your head), he said, "I bet he's one of Them -- one of those monkey boys with an overactive imagination and too much beer and time on their hands!"

Ohmm began to poke and pull at the corners of the chopper, trying to find a hole in reality that would allow him to squeeze through and kick the writer's cojones.

Flipper darted his head this way and that, trying to see what Ohmm was looking for.  Eventually, it dawned on him Ohmm would never find it.  He backed slowly toward the ansible and dialed 9-1-1.  It would be a few years before help could arrive from Homeworld -- it would be a long, strange wait.

Seattle, Washington:

In the back room of a dilapidated Starbuck's in the burnt out husk of post-WTO Seattle, a hundred chimpanzees bang away at their Office2000 word-processors, churning out the next heroic episode, statistically arriving at...
The End


Double-Wide, Copyright © 2000 by Jim Parnell

Jim Parnell breeds bugs for a living -- the ones that infest your computer.   With deadlines approaching and the insatiable Aphelion staff whipping him like Satan flogging the hounds of hell, he hurriedly jots these maniacal ravings down upon the page, without the slightest care given to continuity, grammar, or thematic coherence.

You can e-mail Jim Parnell at

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