Mare Inebrium Universe created by Dan Hollifield
Dedicated to Dan Hollifield
He stood at the bar's entrance. At his feet, a small black dog stared up at him sadly. The two studied each other.
"Can I help you, sir?" asked a passing barmaid politely.
The man was very average looking, brown hair, brown eyes and a mustache. Though his eyes seemed bright, right now he was obviously confused.
"Welcome to the Mare Inebrium," the barmaid said warmly. "My name's Blanche. Would you like a table?
The man allowed himself to be seated, but he only stared blankly when she asked his order. Blanche smiled and decided to bring the man some water. Wonder why he's confused, she thought, swinging deftly through the thick late night crowd. When she reached the bar she saw Max, the bartender, chatting with a lady perched on a stool. Blanche shook her head. That Max, she thought, dumping her dirty tray and getting a clean one from the shelf.
"So, may I inquire as to where you came from?" Max asked with a grin.
Max thought the woman was beautiful. But it was more than that; she was attractive. Something about her presence drew him like the other side of velcro. She radiated an aura Max did usually not associate with the female members of his species: command.
"Computer," said the woman, "Erase character."
"Erase character." Max's grin faded slightly. "Erase character!" the woman insisted. Nothing happened, and now the woman looked perplexed. She stared at Max with a furled brow. "Computer. . ."
Despite his attraction, Max felt too awkward to continue the conversation. "Please," he said, as she started to leave her stool, "Please, stay, I'll. . .have the barmaid refresh your drink." He quickly left the woman to her repeated calls of, "Computer, computer. . ."
"Odd," the beautiful woman thought as Max left. Captain Janeway felt uncomfortable whenever the holodeck computer did not quickly and obviously obey direct commands. The failure spoke of possibly hidden and disastrous malfunctions.
She sighed and downed her drink. Leaving the bar, she made her way awkwardly through the unruly crowd. This whole holodeck program appalled her esthetic sense. Everything was so alien yet so familiar--the tables with bizarre looking extraterrestrials in human chairs, floating bubble creatures slurping soda from straws--she felt a mild sense of vertigo. Who had recommended this program to her, anyway?
When she finally broke from the crowd, she drew toward a small, private corner and ordered the computer to open the holodeck doors.
No doors appeared.
Janeway's pulse leapt. Not again raced through her mind. How many times had she heard of insidious holodeck crashes, minuscule programming mistakes which trapped people inside illusions. . .
A yip at her feet made her look down. At her toes was a sweet little black dog. "Well, hello," said Janeway, amused despite herself. She knelt and gingerly pat the dog on the head, for it seemed to want it. The fur felt remarkably soft and fine. "You know," said Janeway, "You almost remind me of--"
The dog rose onto all four paws and ran away, through the maze of stomping feet and twisting alien appendages. He oriented on whatever scent appealed to him most, and eventually came upon a fat woman eating a large piece of pie. The dog sat promptly on its hind legs and stared at the woman, hard.
Blanche looked down with a puzzled expression. "Oh!" she exclaimed. The little black dog wagged its tail. Seemingly without a thought she handed the rest of her pie to the dog, who lost all focus on her and promptly began gorging himself. What an odd little dog, thought Blanche, as she started at the creature between her ankles. What had she been thinking? She had given that hound the rest of her pie!
Oh, well. Rising, she stepped over the dog, then wondered if the dog belonged to anyone. She scanned the bar in search of a dog owner. None were found, yet she did spot something peculiar. A woman was stepping timidly through the shadows, saying "Computer? Computer?" while casting about furtively. Since the woman seemed frightened, Blanche hastened toward her.
"Can I help you?" she asked kindly.
The woman looked pensive, then exclaimed, "Of course! If I just open the conduit faceplate in the holodeck wall, I can connect the Delta power quadrant to the ship's internal communication system and create a subsonic beep, which I could pulse in distress code and hope that when Chakotay uses the transporter next he'll do a subrelay check and find that the alignment numbers are off and somehow see the significance of that missing decimal point--yes, I know it's a long shot, but I have to try! Now. . .which wall was the conduit faceplate on, I wonder?"
Whereupon the beautiful woman started feeling along the nearby walls in what looked to be a frantic search of some kind. Blanche's mouth fell open, and she hurried to the bar--through the crowd, shimmering air and strange yet familiar scents--to say to Max, "That woman you were hitting on is crazy!"
"Crazy?" Max looked across the room at the woman, and gasped as she pushed aside a table and began tearing paintings from the walls. He stepped round the bar and nearly tripped over a small black dog. "What the--"
The dog whined sorrowfully. In a split decision Max scooped the dog into his arms and rushed toward the woman, shouting, "Lady, have you lost your dog? He's right here--" He dashed forward and slammed into a large man.
The man grabbed him with one arm and easily righted him. "Hey, thanks, buddy," said Max, a bit flustered. "Some strength you got there," he added. "Hey, I'm really sorry--get a drink on me, okay?"
The tall man nodded, and watched the bartender rush after an attractive woman. Taking a deep breath, Superman looked away from the man and his dog and concentrated on the surroundings. Even though he was in his Clark Kent disguise, he felt tense. Though ostensibly he was here to write up the Mare Inebrium for a newspaper review, he was really after Ioisiou. Ioisiou was a dangerous criminal with designs to destroy the galaxy, and Superman had to stop him, or her, or it--for no one knew how Ioisiou truly appeared.
Ioisiou, master of disguises. . .Superman peered suspiciously across the room to a rather average looking man, who seemed to have fallen asleep at a table in the midst of the crowd. Yet perhaps that man was too normal. Perhaps he was too average. Was he hiding something? Look at that man, there--to find a more commonplace soul would be impossible. Superman felt as if the man--he called him Average--was not even visible. Could that be suspicious?
Fluttering over the crowded tables and the strange, unearthly background hum of alien dialogue, a white alien looking suspiciously like a flattened insect landed neatly on Average's table. Superman listened as the creature spread its mandibles and said in perfect English: "You desire Qui?"
Average started awake, then promptly paled at the sight before him: a white, moth-like alien with glittering compound eyes. . ."What, excuse me?" said Average, blinking and rubbing his face.
"You desire Qui?"
"Qui? What's Qui?"
"You desire Qui?"
"Um. . ." Obviously at a loss, Average said, "Yes, sure, thank you."
The alien ruffled short wings, laboriously took flight and slowly began flying over the crowd. It dodged waving limbs and other flying creatures until it had left the main bar. Entering a restroom, it flew into one a bubble shaped stall and closed the door. Then it started dismantling the waste receptacle.
"I tell you, Bones," a voice said, the sound dulled by the plastic and the noise the alien was making, "I can't help but feel at a loss. Who knows how we got here? One moment I'm talking to Scottie and the next. . ."
"It was probably that repair he was doing on the transporter, Jim. You know what happens when he has to use Romulan parts. . ."
"I know, I know, but--Spock, you done in there yet?"
"I'm doing as best I can, Captain."
The alien jabbed a long appendage down deep into a small pipe. Gross sucking and popping noises filled the small bubble until the white creature yanked forth several slimy globules. Taking some paper from a dispenser, the creature wiped the goblets free of filth then left the bubble. "Gosh, Jim, I bet there's not another Starfleet officer within a million light years of this dump."
Swiftly the restroom doors swung shut as the alien flew past, right over a woman who was swearing and brushing her hands along the walls, "Beam me up, Scotty," she sighed.
As it passed the restroom egress and approached the crowd, two tall brown creatures--each one sporting exactly six and half legs--with elongated mushroom heads rose from a table. They quickly intercepted the white alien. Emitting a screech as the mushroom men hobbled forward, it attempted to reverse direction in midair but flailed and fell. It fell to the ground but not before throwing away some white things, which went sailing through the air. The mushroom men tackled it, and the alien was forcefully restrained while one alien said, "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will. . ."
The globules flew over the many shaped heads of alien bodies. For some ambiguous reason one parted from the rest and landed in Average's mouth.
He sputtered and coughed and choked, and only once he awoke did the discomfort ease. Now disoriented and confused, he saw himself sitting at his table, a glass of water before him. He looked up and saw himself staring at himself. "What the. . ."
His mouth fell open, he gagged as the air started pulsing in strange, neon colors. After rubbing his eyes the man slowly rose, looking in wonder at the flickering air and the floating alien bubble creatures around him, all who were cooing sweet loving words as they eagerly pulsated. The man laughed and sang, "C'mon, everybody, let's disco!"
With a hoot and a howl he started freak dancing with incredible energy. "Is that guy on drugs?" someone chittered.
Average grabbed someone walking past. "Hey!" he screamed at the man carrying a black dog. "Let's Rumba!"
Instantly loud, pounding music began playing and Average started thrusting his crotch in all directions. The man with the dog paled. "No!" he screamed. "Not Disco--don't start the Disco--"
A giant, scorpion-like D'rrish leaped to its feet. Everyone gasped in fear. "No, no!" the monstrous alien boomed reassuringly, its translator rising rapidly in volume, "I just love, love, love, LOVE to. . ."
"Look what you've done," moaned the man with the dog.
The D'rrish scuttled onto the main floor, pushing aside tables and upsetting customers. With a yell, the deluded man thrust the dog and its carrier away, and rushed full throttle at the giant scorpion, screaming at the top of his voice, "Dance, dance!" while the humongous D'rrish rushed at him, croaking, "Dance, dance!" In the middle of the bar, customers scrambling for the cover, the human and the giant scorpion alien began bogeying while the scorpion's translator droned "Yyyyy Mmmm Cccc Aaa, Yyyy Mmmm Ccc. . ."
"Oh, no," moaned the man with the dog. "They'll wreck the bar!" He put the dog at his feet and ran toward the dancing duo.
The dog whined pitifully and sat on its haunches, while aliens and humans walked round and over it, most never noticing the tiny creature. Never had a sadder creature been witnessed.
Superman was in the throes of indecision. That dog looks so helpless, he thought behind his whiskey tumbler. But how do I know it's not Ioisiou? How can I help anyone if I can't figure out who to help?
Cautiously, Superman put down his drink, and slowly began to approach the little black dog. Its back was to him, and his step was cautious, so Superman had gotten pretty close when a tiny ear twitched and the cute little thing looked over its shoulder.
Slowly, carefully, Superman reached to pet the dog's head. Nothing bad happened. Soon Superman was petting the dog and feeding it pretzels from his jacket. All the while he listened through the din of clinking cups and chittering conversations, for that key, that clue of Ioisiou. Taking the dog, Superman wandered toward the bar in search of better clues.
"I want to believe, Scully," he overheard someone say. "It's just that you make it so hard for me sometimes. How would you like it if I went around all the time, questioning your core beliefs?"
"But Moulder," said someone else in reply, "Can't you just relax and unwind? Look at this--this is all you could have ever wanted. Don't you see? The Mare Inebrium is a dream come true!"
"I don't know, Scully. Look at this--all of this. It's all so tawdry! What, we get killed, we get reincarnated as mushroom men sent to patrol vice in some stupid bar?"
"No, no, Moulder--I think we've discovered the truth! It's all about experiencing life and sharing those experiences with others! It's all about creating. Who cares about truth--what have you really given to the world, Moulder? What have you built? Someone built this bar, and now everyone comes here from all over the universe just to swap a tale. . ."
"Waxing poetic, Scully?"
"All the while--" the other continued in all a rush, "I just thought my life was. . .well, like a long, ever ongoing piece of fiction. Now I realize that I can just relax--coming here is just like picking up a book, you know? I'm in another world."
"It's not the truth, Scully. I'm not after beauty. I'm not after relaxation. Just the truth."
The truth? thought Superman. Is that how I could see through Ioisiou's disguise?
"Will you two just stop it!" someone screamed. Superman looked over his shoulder. A man--the one who had run into him earlier--was shouting at Average and a giant D'rrish. The two seemed to be dancing together, though exactly how Superman could not even begin to fathom. A twist in the music and the D'rrish tried to make a sudden twist himself--and caused six or seven empty tables to fly across the room. The barmaid screamed as the debris headed straight at her while the bartender hit the dirt. Superman leaped through the air and whisked the barmaid from harm's way just before the tables smashed into the bar.
"Ohhh RATS!" the bartender cried, but Superman ignored him as he gallantly placed the barmaid on firm ground. "Are you okay?" he asked. The black dog yipped.
The barmaid smiled. Quickly Superman shuffled the dog from one arm to the other. She threw her arms around him. "Thank you," she said. Then she kissed him. It would have been a perfect moment except for the woman who edged past them just when it was getting good, whispering "Excuse me," and then ripping away at whatever wallpaper happened to be decorating the area.
Janeway was near tears. "I'm never going to find it," she whispered with despair.
"Hey," said Superman, "Why don't you do something useful and find who this dog belongs to?" He handed the dog to Janeway in such way as she could not help but take it, less he drop it on her. She protested anyway. "I have far more important--"
"See ya." The man and woman walked away.
Janeway seethed. Abruptly she pushed her way through the disheveled crowd and the debris. Soon she was in the thick of it all, right where the disco man lay slumped upon a chair, the huge D'rrish beside him, who was drinking a noxious beverage with long, satisfied slurps. "That does it!" Janeway stomped her foot. "Where the hell am I? Who the hell are all you people and what do you want with me!"
"Can it be?"
Everyone's attention shifted. The snoring man had awakened. He moved slowly, craning his neck, eyes wide, mouth agape in wonder. "Can it be?" he whispered with awe. "Can it really be?"
Some curious patrons cast sense organs in the man's direction. The man had gained his feet by the time the D'rrish diplomatically asked, "What is it? What are you talking about?" Though his eyes seemed clear, no one could tell if the man was sober. "Are you okay?" the scorpion asked, its translator taking a mild paternal tone.
"I-I know you!" the man exclaimed. "You're--"
"Look, this is supposed to be about me!" Janeway said despairingly.
"Why?" the D'rrish asked.
"Because--because. . ." Janeway looked up, into the sea of sense organs stretched out in her direction, and somehow her zest to accuse them all of being unreal faded. "Um. . ." she stammered, suddenly feeling rather average, "W-well, because I have this little lost dog here."
Various sounds popped, echoed and sighed through the bar: a consensus of sympathy. Janeway huddled the sad looking dog a little closer in her arms while the D'rrish said, "Let us deal with this man's problem first, the dog second."
"Fine," said Janeway, though rather nonplused that it was not she giving the orders.
"Hey!" the man exclaimed. "I know you! You're Captain Janeway!"
Janeway eyed the man carefully. "Do I know you?"
"Um. . .no," the man stammered. "In fact. . .none of you. . ." he glanced about insecurely, ". . .none of you are even real."
"Real?" said Janeway, surprised.
"Real?" the scorpion asked
"You're the ones who aren't real," said Janeway quickly.
"Have any of you seen a little black dog?" the bartender asked, stepping from the crowd to the table. He blanched when he noticed Janeway. "Oh. There it is." Swiftly turning his attention from Janeway, he snapped at the man beside her. "What's your name? I want to know the name of the man who got a D'rrish disco dancing and wrecked half my bar!"
"Yes," said the scorpion, "Tell us who you are."
The man stuttered and stammered, but he finally managed to say, "D-dan Hollifield."
"That's a peculiar name," noted the scorpion.
"Who's he?" asked the bartender.
"Wait--let me do a search through my translator's computer." The D'rrish keyed a sequence into his translator.
The man was still trying to speak. "This--this really is the Mare Inebrium!"
"Yes," the bartender said.
"The Mare what?" asked Janeway.
"The Mare Inebrium!" Dan's mouth was hugely agape as he stared with wonder round the large room. "It--it's a dream!"
"Or a nightmare," the bartender muttered.
"It says here," stated the D'rrish, "That Dan Hollifield was the name of an editor who created a small shared universe and a ‘zine' named something no one remembers, now. The zine used to be part of a whole universe made by an electronic spider. People used to send stories there, and they would be caught in the web for all to see. Unfortunately, no one really cared about the stories because back then humans had decided to stop reading, so it all faded from memory. Some said the writers were never really that good, anyway."
"Right," said Janeway, her patience long since worn thin. "Have any of you ever heard of a little thing called, ‘The Federation?' I need to get back to my ship, and I'll tell you right now they're searching all over for me. . .what's the matter?"
Dan looked rather ashen and pale. "I didn't know it would all be forgotten." he said. He fumbled for his chair. "I think--I think I need to sit down." He did. Looking up at the splendidly high ceiling, he gulped and said, "How did I get here?"
"How did I get here?" grumped Janeway.
"That's easy," said the scorpion wisely. "This is a bar. People come from all over to drink. So we drink together. What are you having?"
"Nothing," said Janeway curtly. "Now will someone take this dog?"
"What is with you?" said a fat barmaid from the fringes of the crowd, as she unhurriedly started righting the tables. "A simple dog too mundane for you?"
"No!" cried Janeway.
"I'll take it," said Dan. He held out his hands.
Janeway shrugged. She approached and placed the puppy in Dan's arms. "Ah, he's so cute," said Dan. For the first time the dog seemed to show a spark of cheer. "How could anyone abandon him?"
"I don't know," said a tall man, stepping from the crowd. He had lipstick smears on his cheek. "Does it have a name? Maybe it has an owner somewhere."
"I can't believe this." Janeway shoved past the tall man. He watched her go.
What's wrong with that woman? Superman wondered vaguely.
"Maybe I could call him Toto," said Average.
"It did say one other thing in my computer," said the D'rrish. Superman looked at the huge scorpion, and saw that a small screen had been extended from its translator. Insane-looking alien writing zipped over the screen in a blur too fast for human eyes.
"What?" Dan asked.
". . .lifield was the name of an editor who created a small shared universe and a zine to which. . ."
Maybe it is all just in my mind, Superman thought, losing interest in the conversation. How will I ever spot Ioisiou? The one who'll destroy the whole galaxy--maybe the universe--if I don't stop it--where could it be? Unable to repress a mounting feeling of panic, Superman cast round the room again.
". . .the title is unknown. However, the zine is considered of minor consequence, as some historians have linked the complex social-political-technological situations of the time and have concluded that your zine was indirectly responsible for. . ."
Where? Who? Who could it be?
". . .the human discovery of faster than light travel. . ."
"Ah-hah!" cried someone joyously. Superman looked across the room to see that crazy woman who ripped up wallpaper opening a conduit in the wall--"Stop her!" Superman screamed--
"Yes!" Janeway straightened triumphantly from the opened panel in the wall. Bits of machinery dangled from her fingers, as she fervently surveyed the small, dark and empty room. "Chakotay, I love you!" With a huge sigh of relief Janeway started for the now plainly evident doors across the room.
Before they opened, however, she stopped and looked back. Though darkness made it difficult to tell, one could argue that she left with a smile.
Biography:"D.K. Smith is a young, aspiring writer who lives in Los Angeles. He has appeared in Aphelion, Cosmic Visions, Titan, and is also the Science Fiction editor of a multi-genre zine named "The Little Read Writer's Hood."
The URL of the Hood is: http://www.summit.net/writers_hood/
He can be E-Mailed at:email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
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