Thank you, every single zebra who has contributed to this strange and wonderful collab thing. I have used three tubs of superglue to piece this together so you'd better start reading.
Don't go near dead things. That's what my aunt told me before I left to the park. Of course she has no idea what she's talking about. She hasn't met it. When I call it a park, it's more like a rubbish dump. When I call it a rubbish dump, it's more like a hole in the ground. But of course, we call it a park. It is technically a park. Technically.
Sitting in this hole in the ground, I notice a beetle crawling into an old tyre. You can tell I was bored. There are beetles everywhere. I follow it. The sun is blaring down on me. Forecasts are wrong. Again. Typical.
Ginny approached a little black beetle with a green stripe on its back, ready to poke at it with a stick. All the while cursing the weather gods for the heat and the swelter they wrought upon the whole of the rubbish. However, she was suddenly pleased when the wind let go of its doldrum, and picked up a squall. Whipping about the breeze, throwing garbage and scaring birds it was so powerful. But not the beetle, strangely. And certainly not a brave girl like Ginny. She held fast. She held tight. Even as she saw a shape begin to form. Out of the motes and dust and sunlight, and ozone and all the particles in the air. Spinning about together.
This whirlwind, this maelstrom, quickly turned like dancers until the shape was more a figure. With arms and legs and a face! A woman! My goodness! thought Ginny. Out of nowhere. And the lass checked her watch, like she meant to appear randomly in the park, squishing the little black beetle with the green stripe as she did so. Though Ginny suspected it was not a watch at all, but rather a time machine. And she stretched her hand down to Ginny and she said, "Come with me Princess Ginny. You're in grave danger."
The swirling of my mind, trying to accept the appearance of -- this traveller -- or guardian, of sorts, must have been plain to see. She stood, poised, still not completely present, but indisputably real, smiling at my shock and confusion. "It's a lot to take in, but you have to trust me, we cannot tarry here any longer."
I focused on her outstretched hand, ignoring the feelings that swept through me when she called me, "Princess Ginny." The gloved fingers twitched, then froze. My eyes returned to hers, just as the smile of reassurance morphed into something completely horrifying.
Her palette pink lips hardened into a firm line. She withdrew her outstretched hand, sighed, and started to pull off her gloves.
"Ginny, you were in the wrong place at the wrong time." My knees went weak. She turned her gaze away from me and stared, as though immensely bored, out into the distance. Her velvet gloves, she tossed nonchalantly into the dry dirt. I lowered my gaze and caught a glimpse of her hands.
Ginny couldn't help but stare at the space where the woman's hands should have been. When she had gloves on, she appeared to have normal hands like anyone else, but when she removed them, there was nothing there. It was as if her hands were invisible. Or they're made out of wind, Ginny considered numbly. The woman gave Ginny a pitying glance and raised an arm.
"Ginny, run! Don't just stand there!" A horse galloped to her side out of nowhere, and it seemed, though it couldn't be, Ginny sniggered to herself, that the horse had yelled at her to flee. How silly. It was a cremello, seeing as it appeared to be a blonde zebra. She couldn't help but admire it, since she might be slightly obsessed with animals, but only slightly. "This fiend is the you from the future who follows that green-striped beetle!" The horse whinnied again. "That's why she crushed the beetle! So there couldn't be two of you!" Yep, she definitely wasn't hallucinating about the zebra talking to her. It stood in front of her protectively and pawed the ground as threateningly as it could manage in the direction of the woman.
Ginny wondered what was happening. But no matter what happened she jumped on the zebra-ish creature. Yeah it was a magical talking zebra, Ginny thought, He seems nice. As the zebra was getting used to Ginny's weight, the invisible Ginny 2.0 stepped forward, her face changed into the face of a gargoyle. Blood sprayed over the invisible woman's clothes.
"Ha," she cried in a weird deep, croaky voice, "you fell for it, finally there can only be one."
Suddenly a huge herd of zebras rushed towards Ginny, pushing her onto the ground. Ginny struggled to be free but no matter what she did she was digging herself deeper into the hole, literally. She felt like she was digging a grave for herself. The zebras gnawed on her flesh and shirt. what am I to do, Ginny thought, what to do.
As Ginny was busy being eaten alive by a zeal of zebras, the dashing Captain John "Good Guy" Salinger was fifty million miles away. With problems of his own. His spacecraft, the Guardian, was collapsing all around him as he struggled at the controls. Once he lost the shields, he would be a dead man. Then over the intercom, he heard something he didn’t want to hear. Something he already knew. From the assailing ship, the Cloud of Darkness, sounds of a treacherous laugh, and pointless exposition from his nemesis, the evil Doctor Insidious filled the bridge. “Ha ha ha ha ha! It is I! Your nemesis! The evil Doctor Insidious! Your shields are failing, Salinger; you have but seconds to live! What’s more, my evil associates, Ginny 2.0, and my dazzle of talking, man-eating blond zebras are about to destroy the Princess! Two hundred years ago! You have lost, Captain! Ha ha ha ha ha!”
Salinger chuckled in reply, “I have a few more tricks up my sleeve yet, Doctor! Watch this.” He turned to his left, “Random crew member, activate the time jumper!” The Guardian exploded. But with his last act, that random crew member pulled a lever teleporting Captain Salinger very far away from the ship, and a long time ago...
Blinded for several seconds by the white flash of the Guardian's warp drive exploding, Doctor Insidious froze, his mouth half open and his fists clenched. 'WTF?' was his first thought.
"Sir," his ship's computer warbled quietly, "It seems that the Captain modified his ship. I picked up an enormous burst transmission the moment before the hull disintegrated. It is likely that Salinger has escaped again, possibly affecting your deliciously overcomplicated plan." The computer made a sound, imitating a human clearing their throat. "Sir?"
Insidious turned to the spaceship's mainframe, clearly irritated: "Yes, what else, Stevejobs?" "Are you ready for the bad news?"
Two hundred years below, Ginny was staging a comeback of her own. If being mauled by a pack of ferocious zebras fazed her, the princess side of herself, now gaining ascendancy, wasn't about to show it. Seconds before herb-honed teeth ripped into the flesh of her vulnerable throat, her mind went into high gear. Zebras aren't normally aggressive creatures, right? So why are these so mental? Wait... that's it! By stepping with her ionized foot on a striped beetle, Ginny 2.0 must have rattled the cage of every banded living thing within bio-chronological range. It's a miracle her whole city wasn't stampeded out of existence... or was it? Ginny's fingers dipped into her pocket, where her secret weapon was. She withdrew her iPod Touch, switched to the jazz station, and maxed the volume. Monk and Coltrane at Carnegie Hall- perfect! Soon, a satisfied smile played on her weary lips, as she watched the last zebra clonk onto its side, fast asleep.
Wiping his brow with the last dry corner of his uniform jacket, Captain Salinger looked around for some clue as to his location. His whole body was feverish, gradually releasing time jumper energy, and sweat kept trickling into his eyes.
Ginny 2.0 fled, knowing her part in Doctor Insidious' scheming had failed miserably. Once she had snuck far enough away from her younger self, she dialed in the time coordinates that she had memorized.
Captain Salinger slowly oriented himself. He was outside, that much was certain. The sun shone with a fierce intensity, and the grass, though green, was beginning to look dead and scorched at the ends. "It's summer, then." he said to himself. "But summer when? And where?" Hungry for information, Captain Salinger studied the strange pentagonal buildings that lined both sides of a black strip. The buildings were made of red rock and had large squares of glass arranged in rectangles in places across the front.
Suddenly, sweet music filled the air. It was a beautiful melody, and it drew him in like siren song. A great white box on wheels rolled around the corner. Children began to pour from the buildings, screaming and cheering. Many of them clutched silver circles or green rectangles. Captain Salinger watched in wonder as they exchanged their shapes for brightly colored THINGS which they proceeded to eat. Salinger's stomach rumbled.
However, it became plain he would need to keep his hunger in check for a while longer, because from down the path there suddenly appeared an attractive woman with a bob haircut and wearing bell bottomed pants, wielding a guitar. The notes emanating out of her instrument, along with the crystal clear melody issuing from her vocal chords, began outsounding the dying chimes of the ice cream truck. "Sing..." crooned the artist "sing a song... sing out loud... sing out stro-o-ng!"
The children, upon whom the strains of music had an almost magical effect, were fast becoming uninterested in their frozen desserts. Half eaten cones and pops were chucked into strategically placed garbage cans lining the well-manicured grounds. Their shoulders swaying rythmically back and forth, fingers snapping, they slowly gravitated towards the singer as though she were the pied piper, softly humming the tune in tandem with her. "Sing of good things, not bad...". Salinger found himself surrounded by more and more boys and girls, crowding him forward along the path. The entire troupe came to a stop and re-aligned itself several yards in front of the enchanting minstrel, their heads still bobbing from side to side enthusiastically, hands clapping joyfully in time with her vocalization. Soon, the mobile microphone was passed over to one of the rhapsodized youngsters, who eagerly filled in for the performing woman: "To last your who-ole life long!" Salinger's shoulders and hips seemed to take on a life of their own, and he caught himself twisting and turning almost as ardently as his junior counterparts. When the mike was ultimately handed to him for the chorus, he felt a tear roll down his cheek. "La la la la la la, la la la la la la..." sang everyone.
Bringing his lips to the microphone, Salinger's eyes fell back upon the belle with the bob and the bell-bottoms as she fled the stage. Suddenly he recognised her as an agent of Doctor Insidious. Someone he would have noticed immediately had it not been for her tranquilising melody. Mistress Malicious. But now that he knew he was under her spell, its soothing power could no longer lull him into that symphonic purgatory. Instantaneously, Captain Salinger broke his paralysis, drew his pulse weapon, and fired into a crowd of children. Which as we all well knew, were actually holograms, so the blast knocked only Malicious onto her backside. Effectively putting a stop to the syren's song.
In a flash, Salinger leapt off the stage and subdued Malicious, tying her wrists with the microphone's cord. “We meet again, Mistress Malicious. It seems I am now impervious to your entrancing wiles. Your bewitching sorcery. But never mind that now, temptress! By order of the Transdimensional Guild, I am placing you under arrest. Though first you're going to confirm what year it is, and where I can find the Princess.” To which the charmer hissed in reply, “Spare me your exposition! I will kill you next time!”
As Captain Salinger got the jump on the fiendish Mistress Malicious, the wise and powerful Princess Ginny, who had recently had her mind restored to its former glory, found herself alone in a field of sleeping zebras. And she gasped, “I need to find Captain Salinger! At once!” Harnessing her telepathic powers, she did just that. It took no more than a second to pinpoint his exact location.
With haste she made her way to her motorcycle which was parked nearby. The fastest and most ferocious motorcycle in the world. A chopper fit for a queen. The young and beautiful Princess Ginny revved the engine before she and the hog blasted down the city streets as loud as thunder. Her lustrous mahogany hair whipped in the wind, and her gorgeous amaranthine eyes glistened. At top speed she careened down every avenue and promenade, until she eventually found the venue and the bold Salinger therein. Slowing down, she brought her bike alongside the captain and his forlorn prisoner. Ginny smirked and asked Salinger, “Need a ride?”
Captain Salinger's forearms were around Ginny's waist- though not to give her comfort. He was holding on for dear life. The intrepid universe traverser was not unfamiliar with danger- but had never felt so close to death. "Gin, can you please process that asphalt is not warp friendly and slow down?" "You bet!" She pushed a bit harder on the motorcycle's accelerator and Salinger desperately tried to remember if he had already filed a will, and the name of the last girl on his home planet that he had a thing with. "By the way," he shouted above the engine's roar, "It's plain we're in America- every life form in the galaxy knows Sesame Street. But... any idea about the time period?" They had already filled each other in on their respective adventures, so Jenny had pretty much done the math by now. It went something like this: She had started out in a park near home. The little safari diversion threw her into a different time all right, but the road signs they were passing told her that, at least geographically, she hadn't ventured all that far from Kansas slash Folsom, California. Now, "Sing a Song" was written in the early seventies, when bell bottoms were all the rage, but bob haircuts were on their way out. The general appearance of the vehicles they kept flying past, with Plymoth Road Runners and Chevrolet Chevelles predominating, along with the sentiments expressed on those bumper stickers that were large enough to read in passing, bore out her approximation. "I think we're at about when they were almost ready to pull out of Nam," she finally answered. "Who is this Nam, and what did they need to pull out of him?" inquired Salinger. "John- you don't wanna know."
"Don't you get it, Stevejobs, don't you flipping get it?" ranted Dr. Insidious, becoming more agitated with every word he hurled at the chastised mainframe. "That buffoon Salinger doesn't realize it yet, but they can change the outcome of the war, dad-gummit! Heck, he's so illiterate he probably can't even spell Vietnam- but he'll piece things together eventually. Especially now that he's got an intellect upgrade in the guise of regal reinforcements, curse her!"
The evil scientist was reclining on a divan back on the Cloud of Darkness, sporting a cold compress on his forehead, courtesy of his personal attendant, Klutzo. The latter had also administered smelling salts, in wake of this morning's defeat, though he inadvertently substituted the small bottle of ammonia with a miniature canister of sulfur dioxide from the lab that had been lying about. It took hours for Insidious to recover from it all, and he still needed to spray spurts of Glade directly into his nostrils from time to time- but he would live to pollute another day.
So Insidious had Stevejobs fill one of the console screens with an aerial shot of a devastating conflagration scene that had been taken above a segment of Vietnamese jungle. "You see, they used napalm, Jobsie, napalm! It was the only idea they were able to come up with back then. That substance indeed destroyed the foliage concealing the Viet Cong fighters- but it also destroyed lives, some of them American. Scrumptious!" Insidious looked like he was about to lick his chops, but a sudden nose twitch heralded merely the application of more aerosol. "Well, what's the problem, Sir?" "The problem? Why, only that at the particular geo-chronolgical coordinates those meddling scoundrels are in the proximity of, lies a stash of illmudium gas camouflaged in the Pan-Epoch Continuum! It was inserted there some years ago by the infernal Galactic Council, of which odious Salinger is a member, so he'll find out about it as soon as he accesses the omnilog."
"Sir, isn't the Pan-Epoch Continuum a synthetic time/space corridor transcending matter, that spans infinity at particular global coordinates and in which inanimate material objects may be stored that consequently become available throughout its reach, yet remain reasonably undetectable to those locations' indigenous inhabitants?”
"Correct, Jobsie. Only the Galactic Council has the authority to dispatch and receive items through the Continuum. However, once they do, those things are subsequently reachable at the site where they were originally placed- by the denizens of any given era! This includes locales where the item constitutes a complete anachronism. When Salinger consults the omnilog which he routinely carries about during a time jump, he'll be apprised about the illmudium. Then, it's only a matter of exposing the ever-present atmospheric layer where the canisters are held- and the gas is theirs!"
"And the illmudium has the effect of putting its victims in a foul mood," completed Stevejobs, "so foul, that they start scrapping with each other, incapable of conducting warfare with outsiders."
"Yes- and here's the thing. Similar to Agent Orange, the vapors act through inhalation as well as touch. However, the condition is a temporary one! It lasts long enough to decide the battle's outcome, but leaves no permanent damage other than what they do to one another. Nowadays no one uses this weapon, because it was ultimately discovered that immunity to its influence may for some obscure reason be achieved by consuming an archaic form of comfort bar called "Snickers". But those primitive Vietnamese won't know what hit them, if Salinger supplies US forces with the gas. They need only vaccinate themselves by binging on Snickers, and, voila, abject defeat by diplomatic dysfunction is transformed into military victory." Insidious was becoming more excited by the moment: "Why, part of my origins may be traced to the evil that triumphed pursuant to the idiotic Peace Accords! Who knows how this development will influence the fortunes of my future self." His face took on a faraway, somber look.
The intrigued mainframe brought him out of his reverie: “But, Sir, aren't we getting ahead of ourselves? Perhaps Salinger is devoid of the know-how necessary to access the Continuum to begin with?”
Insidious snorted. “The Continuum is secured with a bio-lock. This mechanism is housed in a small, box shaped energy-field located near the corridor's opening. It's a bit tricky to find, but once this is unlocked, the user will observe the access port as a void framed by a shimmering, doorway-shaped outline. He can then simply reach in and remove what's inside. But he mustn't tarry, because no living thing can survive excessive exposure to the Continuum.”
“And the key to this bio-lock?” questioned Stevejobs.
“A drop of human blood. The crystalline cylinder is coded after DNA patterns.”
“Any human blood?”
“Of course not!” retorted Insidious. “Only royal blood.”
“Ginny,” said Stevejobs matter-of-factly.
Insidious didn't bother to respond. His mind was wrestling with the challenge of how to obtain enough plutonium to power a time jump on his current strained budget.