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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Sci-fi · #957090
Some bargain electronics aren't such a bargain after all. :)
         "Universal Remotes only five dollars, while supplies last" the radio proudly announced.
         "Man, that's a deal. Wonder what the catch is?" I thought out loud.
         After putting in my week pushing computer parts and software at work, I was more than ready for the weekend. College night classes and work all day didn't leave much time for recreation. My girlfriend Marcie's ready for me to finish school and get a real job. Says she wants to settle down, buy a house, do the family thing. At this rate I'll be in school another four years.
         The store's only a few blocks out of my way, and what with a satellite, dvd, vcr and stereo, a single remote would sure come in handy.
Marcie would sure like a single remote. She fussed last weekend about having fifteen remotes lying around. It wasn't fifteen, it was only tweleve. Besides, each one does something important in a diffrent way. It's just five bucks, and there's the store on the right. Whoops, better take off my store shirt first; it might be a little hard explaining to Byron, the manager, why I'm buying from another electronics store.
         Inside looked like the usual discount electronic store. Close out bins with last years gadgets lined the wall, and flashing lights strobed to grab your attention. Dusty plastic bag smell permeated the air, like a nearly forgotten Christmas morning. Behind the fake marble checkout counter, a skinny, high school kid dressed in a too large German rock band t-shirt leafed through the latest issue of Playstation Magazine. Looking up as I approached, he managed to pull off his headphones and stash the magazine under the counter all in one blurry motion.
         "Excuse me, would you have any of those universal remotes on the radio?". I tried not to sound too interested, in case the price decided to go up on the spot.
         "Sure, we got some."
         "What's the catch? Are they defective or something?"
         "Nah, they work. Just no instructions. You want one?" he replied with a longing look down at his waiting game magazine.
         "Sure, I guess I'll take one.".
         Handing over a crumpled five and some change from my pocket, I thanked the sales clerk and left. Starting my car, I noticed the sales clerk already enjoying his magazine and music.
         After a quick, Hearty Guy T.V. Dinner, I plopped down on my sofa, and kicked off my shoes.
         "Let's see if this thing really works."
         Ripping the remote box top off, I tapped the contents onto my expectantly waiting hand.
A sleek brushed aluminum beauty covered with crystal buttons tumbled out.
         Pointing the remote at my television, I clicked the TV1 button and ON. A slick dressed info-mercial conman posing as a concerned financial advisor smiled from the screen. I clicked around channels until reaching the end of my list. The remote flashed red twice, and suddenly I was getting the sports channels, movie channels, and something that sounded like an onboard airline commercial.
         Looking down, the remote's advanced feature LED glowed a welcoming amber. Pressing the TV2 button brought an answering yell from Mike in the aprtment next door. A few clicks of the channel button, and a loud "Thanks Man!" erupted from next door.
         Things went on happily like this for hours; my new remote even turned off the microwave popcorn that was cooking a little too long. Early saturday morning I decided these universal remotes made great gifts.
         Hopping back in my car, I raced over to the same out-of-the-way electronics store with the same kid reading the same Playstation magazine. Glancing up with a slight smirk he reached under the counter for a box crammed full of remotes. I bought all the universal remotes they had for sale, and felt like I just hit the jackpot!
         Comfortably back on my own couch, I pulled out my own universal remote and turned on my tv. The remote's display faded out like a dying animal, and it lay lifeless in my palm.
         "Must be the batteries."
         Flipping over the remote, I bumped open the battery compartment. Two AAA batteries concealed a tiny switch marked, "Vendor feature use only!". As every guy knows, buttons are for pushing, and switches are for switching. So I did.
         My television flashed and suddenly the salesclerk's face appeared on the screen.
         "Ah, I see you have found the Advanced Features select switch. Good, good."
He held up a universal remote of his own and pointed it at me from the screen. I tried to stand and turn off my televsion by hand.
         "Now, Now. Can't have that. Where's that pause button? Okay, hold it right there."
         A tingling blue-white light from his remote froze me in mid-stance, neither standing or sitting. Unable to move a muscle, other than to breathe.
         "You see, our planet Arlunn outlawed fighting centuries ago so galatic conquests are frowned upon. Of course nothing was said about buying the planet. I believe there is a story about trading the island of Manhattan for $24 and some beads. We still need room to grow and your planet will work quite nicely for our needs. Earthers have this new gadget fixation. Add in the universal remote's great price, and we had a sure hit. Of course we can't allow you to remember any of this, so I'll just use the CLEAR button and reset your programming. This won't hurt a bit. Now repeat after me,"We don't want to keep this planet all to ourselves when we want to help our friends the Arlunnians".

         I woke to a home exercise and gym commercial. A long haired brunnette claimed she was fifty or sixty, but I don't belive it. Some people will buy anything they see on tv.
         Now you take this box of universal remotes I bought. They were a great bargain, all my friends could use one too. Maybe a remote will help them out. I feel like helping lots of other people out with a remote too. I feel these remotes could help out lots of people.
         For some reason I hope these remotes really catch on!

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