In a case of mistaken identity, Bob tries to save the Known Universe.
It was cold. But hell, it’s always cold in space, nothing new about that. What was new, was the fact that I was floating around in it. I mean, it’s one thing to see pictures of space on the Discovery Channel in the safety of your own living room, but it’s a whole different story when you’re the one drifting out there all alone in that vast, black, utter emptiness with nothing but those shiny-sparkly things all around.
I always thought they were stars, didn’t you? But it has been brought to my attention that they’re not really stars at all. Actually, they’re complex navigational points for the use of the Universal Time Machine. And that brings me around as to why I’m here in the first place.
You see, I’m supposed to fix it! At least, that’s what I’ve been told by a couple of appalling aliens, and of course, I don’t have the foggiest notion on how to go about doing it.
But I’m getting way ahead of myself here, because it all started way back on planet Earth. All the way back to the time of the dinosaurs. Well, no, actually, that's a bit too far back. Let's fast-forward a bit to just last night.
Yep, that’s when it all started . . . last night.
I remember it like it was yesterday. In fact, it was yesterday, but I’m probably confusing you a bit. So, I’ll just start at the beginning.
“Holy crap! Jesus H. Christ!” Which is what any of you would probably have said if you had been awakened by two abominably alien . . . aliens.
Nice enough fellas, I guess, a little slimy and disgusting in a vomiting kind of way. And damn pushy too. But never let it be said, by God, that Bob Galaxy is prejudiced against aliens. I want it to show on the record right here and now that I hold all alien races in equal and absolute contempt. They are presumptuous and domineering, and think that the whole damn Universe revolves around them without ever having a care as to who they wake up at 2:57 in the morning with their whispering and scratching and farting noises, and then transport that person on-board their alien spaceship in the middle of the night so that they can go tearing through space at totally unimaginable speeds.
But I digress. Allow me to explain.
I woke up startled and screaming, of course, because there are these two enormously grotesque creatures in my room staring at me like I'm what's on tonight's dinner menu. One was very tall, about eight foot, I guess, pink-skinned and hairless as a newborn rat, with these red blotches and scratch-marks all over him that look like he'd tried to peel his skin off. You know, as if maybe he’s suffering from some sort of incurable ‘space rash’ or something. He has these dark glasses on his rat-shaped snout, as thick as coke bottles, and all the while he keeps nervously twitching and scratching at himself until I became so annoyed, I started scratching and twitching along with him.
The other guy, the fat one, the one who looks like an overweight toad making all these farting and belching sounds, decides to point this contraption at me that looks like a lonely girl's battery-operated best friend; when, BAM, there's a blinding flash of light, and we're not in my room anymore. Instead, we're in this huge circular cabin that's all shiny and silver like it's made out of chrome or something. Then rat-boy, speaks up, in a very high-pitched Mickey Mouse kind of voice, "My name is Phipz, General Phipz, of the Fornacarian Empire, and you're now aboard the, ‘BlindAsABat’, the fastest ship in all the known universe.”
“How duya know it's the fastest ship in all the known universe?” I queried.
“Well, uh . . . because it's really, really fast.”
“Yeah, really! It’s really, really, REALLY fast!"
“Oh. Okay, if you say so.”
“What? You don’t believe me?”
“Well, I didn’t say that, but you can’t just go around saying your ship is the fastest in all the known universe without having been all over the known universe. So, have you?”
“Have I what?”
“Been all over the known universe.”
“Well, no, not exactly. But I’ve been around.”
“Uh-huh, I see.”
“Look, are you calling me a liar or something. Because if you are . . .”
“ENOUGH!” the alien toad screamed, his pudgy body shaking and making all kinds of disgusting noises that sounded like overly wet farts that were so loud they’d probably rattle the beer bottles in your refrigerator. “Please, General Phipz, we don‘t have time for this!”
I sized up the toady, and then looked him straight in his amphibian eyes. “And you are . . .?”
“I am Belchen!” he croaked. “And you may address me as His Excellency, High Lord Belchen.”
“Oh . . . High Lord, is it? Now, just isn’t that special.”
He approached me with a look of warning stretched across his frog-like face. “And who are you?” he belches. Followed quickly by, “And where am I?”
Now normally, as a reporter, that’s the exact kind of questions I should have been asking. And knowing this, because he is, the, High Lord Belchen, he decided to ask it first, to kind of just get that part out of the way. Hey, you gotta figure that you don’t get to be the High Lord by just sitting around waiting for people to ask you questions? You gotta take the initiative--anticipate what is going to happen next. And this guy was smart. You could see it in his stupid, blank stare.
I scratched my foggy, dream-riddled head and thought about what he had asked me for a moment. “Well . . . let's see . . . I guess, I’m Bob, Bob Galaxy of the planet Earth.”
“Hmm, Bob, huh? And this place called Earth, it is where you live?”
“Uh . . . yeah, right. I just said so, didn‘t I?”
“Good!” Then he brightened noticeably and yelled to General Phipz. “See . . . what’d I’d tell you? We’ve got the right man!” Then turning back to me he began again. “As I was saying, I am High Lord Belchen from the planet, Indamiddle. And we have . . .”
“In the middle of what?”
“Your planet. What’s it in the middle of?”
“Indamiddle is the only planet that sits exactly in the middle of all the known universe. And our coordinates are equivalent to the number one. And because of that, we were given the responsibility of maintaining the Universal Time Machine, which is broken and needs to be fixed by the way. Being a Space Raider, you should have known that, Bob.”
“Uh . . . Space Raider?”
“Yep, that’s right. You’re the leader of the Galactic Space Raiders of GetMore 6.”
“Oh, really,” I laughed, but it sounded more like the chortling of someone totally out of his mind, so I quickly stopped. “No, no, no, I don’t think so, fellas," I explained. " I’m just plain old Bob. Plain old, everyday Bob, who’s never been a Space Raider, or Time Machine fixer, or nothing like what you just said. I'm just Bob . . . that’s it.”
The pink rat guy looked me over once or twice again. “Bob, you have just forgotten, that’s all,” he says, squinting at me. “Sometimes the teleporter has that effect on people. You are The Bob.” He abruptly scurried to his seat and played around with some controls. From over his shoulder, he said, “It’ll all come back to you in due time.”
“Gee, fellas, I dunno. Are you sure you got the right guy? I mean, I’m just Bob Galaxy, reporter for the Daily Star, not . . . The Bob.”
Belchen starts in again, “We have paid the standard fee in advance for your services, and we expect you to undertake this quest across the known universe with all due haste, and repair the Universal Time Machine. In fact, we demand it.”
“A quest across the universe? A time machine? You’ve got to be kidding, right? I mean, look guys, let’s get serious. I don’t know squat about the galaxy, or any old time machine thingy. I’m telling ya, you’ve got the wrong guy.”
They exchanged dumbfounded looks. Then they both started cracking up. “HA! HA! HAAA! That’s a good one, Bob. A real knee-slapper. Now, can we get down to business?”
“Where‘d you guys come from anyway?” I asked.
“I mean, how’d you end up here?”
“Well, we used the Universal Time Machine, of course. We‘re from the future.”
“I thought it was broken or something. How could you use it?”
“Oh, that" says the High Lord. "Well, it still operates, but the calculations keep coming up wrong. We just programmed it for Earthtime 2027, and bingo, here we are, and . . . here you are.”
“Whoa, whoa, hold on a minute. Did you say Earth 2027?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“No, I’m sorry, something’s wrong here, frogman. I’m from Earth 2017. I think you’ve made a terrible mistake.”
That stopped him cold in his tracks.
“2017?” Belchen slapped his forehead with his tongue. “Phipz! The machine is doing it again!”
“Yes, yes, but it can’t be helped,” said the General. “Besides, this is still an ancestor of Bob. So, we’ll just have to make do with what we’ve got.”
“What you’ve got,” I said sarcastically, “is the wrong year, and the wrong Bob!”
“Tut-tut, it’s just a technical error, that’s all,” said Phipz. “Only, The Bob, and his ancestors, or, as in this case, your descendants, can do this. Now, get out there and just fix it.”
“Out there? Are you nuts? There’s nothing out there but space. Plus, I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”
“Not to worry. We have all the necessary tools you‘ll need,” he said as he handed me a roll of duct tape and a paper clip. “Besides, the sooner you fix it, the sooner we can all go home.”
“But how? I’ve never even done this before.”
“Look,” said High Lord what's-his-name, “you go out there and move stuff around until everything’s back to normal. That’s it! Simple, huh?”
“Move what around?”
“Oh, you know . . . those shiny things you call stars. Just put them all back in their right order and everything will be fine. Only The Bob can do this, Bob, just as it has been done by The Bobs for the past million millenniums.”
“But . . .”
He pointed that thing at me again. “Sorry, no buts . . . .”
The next thing I knew, I was ‘popped’ outside the spaceship with no suit, no oxygen, no life line, nothing. I was just floating endlessly end over end in space like a bungling, bumbling, bobbing . . . Bob.
After the first initial shock of being in space without a suit, and after I quit screaming because it came to me then, that in space, no one can hear you scream, I eventually calmed down. That was when I began to notice something I had never noticed before. The stars, all gazillion of them, were numbered, just like you'd see in one of those paint-by-number paint kits. Without knowing why, I reached out to touch one and it moved. Not only did it move, but the number slightly changed, and then it slid back into place. Most of the numbers were colored white, but there were a few I noticed that were red. So I moved one of the red numbered stars. Immediately, the number turned white, but when I released it, it slid back to where it was originally and turned red again.
“Hmmm . . . very interesting,” I thought.
This time, tearing a piece of duct tape from the roll, I moved the star again until the number turned white and then I taped it into position. I repeated this several times, until there was only one planet left with a red number. It was the planet Indamiddle. It proved to be very stubborn, because no matter how much duct tape I used, it kept sliding back out of place. Then I noticed there was this beautiful moon beside it, and that was when I decided to try the unimaginable. With all the skill and expertise of a guy named Bob, I paper clipped the planet to its moon to hold it firmly in place. And, believe it or not, it worked. The number was now white instead of red, and then I was immediately popped back inside the waiting spacecraft.
“Good job, Bob,” Belchen said. “I knew you could do it! You the Bob!” He tried to high-five me, but I felt so sick to my stomach I couldn't return his enthusiasm.
“Please,” I asked, “can I just go home now? I don’t feel so good.”
“Oh no, space sickness!” yelled General Phipz. “Don’t you dare get sick in my spaceship, mister. Hang on, I’ll have you home before you can say . . . Bob.”
The next thing I knew, I was waking up in my bed. And there on my night stand was a roll of duct tape and a little message from High Lord, Belchen: “Thanks for everything. I knew you were, The Bob, all along. See ya in a hundred or so.”
I set the note down and tried to rub the sleep from my face. The clock still said, 2:57 AM. No time had elapsed at all. I staggered over to the sliding glass door, opened it, and then stepped out into the chill of the night.
The sky was full of stars. And the more I looked, the more I began to realize what a fascinating universe we live in, and that, somewhere out there, in the middle, one of those stars was being held in place by a paper clip, and one helleva lot of duct tape.