An Ephemeral Briefing

Captain Salinger took advantage of Ginny's sortie to the "kybo", as the long-haired gas station attendant so charmingly put it, to touch base with his handlers. This could be accomplished by activating the omnilog, which, as its name implies, has the ability to hook up anyone, anywhere, anytime with a visual projection of the agenda set for them by the all-knowing (or, as Salinger preferred: "know-it-all") Galactic Council. The feed could either be live and capable of reciprocating conversation, via 2-way holographics, or could involve a 'dead drop' of info relevant to the receiving party.

The cosmic explorer made his way towards a clearing back of the low building that made up the station's reception area and convenience store, which bordered on a copse of trees. With his back to the commercial structure's cement wall, he rubbed his belt buckle a certain way and a conical pink glow shot from it that expanded outward to yield a hologram image at its farthest end, with the real-life poplars acting as backdrop. It was of a grim, statuesque, positively pallid looking babe, in a long, flowing white robe and what seemed like a pair of headphones growing out of either side of her head:

"Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi!"

Oops, wrong frequency. More fiddling with the buckle.

After being subjected to a tirade by someone calling himself "Jor-El", and scrolling past a grinning nut-job who saluted him with what sounded like "nanoo nanoo", an utterance Salinger just knew had a filthy connotation, the Galactic Proctor (-logist amongst the rank-and-file) came into view. She was a chubby, bubbly matron, whose name shifted in accordance with the time frame of her interviewee.

"Ah, the renowned Captain Salinger! What a pleasure! And, FYI, those 'hologram' children you blew to smithereens back at Sesame? Quite real, I assure you, and perfectly innocent!" All of this she announced cheerfully. "But I implore you not to let it weigh on your conscience- 'move on' is the thing! BTW, you may address me as Miss Moneypenny."

Salinger had a sneaky suspicion the real Moneypenny would never approve of someone with those looks using her name, but decided to keep that to himself.

"Listen, Money-whatever, I know a mirage when I see one. I'll admit, though, those realistic flying gut parts did throw me off just a smidge. Now, how can I be of service to the Council?"

"Not a fan of foreplay, are you, my dear Captain? Very well. But I will need verification first. The Galactic Animated Code sequence, if you please."

The reproduction which hitherto had intervened between himself and the patch of greenery in the background flickered into static. Her Moola-ness had vanished. It was now up to the intrepid space captain to bring her back to real time by providing the right set of moves.

"I can do this," Salinger assured himself, straining his memory to recall the exact progression he had been assigned. First, a set of forty jumping jacks. No sweat. Now, the Highland Fling. Piece of cake.

Some minutes later, Salinger was panting and nursing a stitch in his side, having just completed a czardas ("F***ing Hungarians!"). The Proctor would not come back online, however, before ascertaining he shooed away a small audience of derelict admirers that had collected, the members of which showered him with: "That's boss, Dude!" And: "Daddy-O's a real gone cat!"

The tete a tete resumed, Money-etc.'s moon-face having reappeared, a barely concealed snigger betraying how entertaining she had found the 'code' show.

"May I call you Sallie?" Not waiting for an answer, she rambled on: "You and your royal companion have a unique opportunity, Sallie. See here:" The image changed to one of a 3-D rendition for a long, torpedo shaped metal canister. As it rotated along its vertical axis, Salinger could make out the word "Illmudium" painted across its side.

"That, Sallie, is the key to a nation's redemption." She then explained its premise to the resolute venturer. "So... you and your enchanted princess need to make tracks over to the Kumbaya Cafe at Berkeley. Roland will guide you in the location and use of the Pan-Epoch Continuum, and fill you in on the other details needed for you to procure the gas containers- assuming he's not stoned. Deliver the containers to Colonel Smithen "Shoot First" Wesson at Fort Blast. The fate of the free universe depends on it. Oh, my! If I don't burn rubber my beauty parlor will send out a search party. Nanu Nanu!"

"Et Tu?" thought Salinger as the image faded into nothingness.

Just then, Ginny emerged from around the corner, a brown paper bag in one arm, a few yellow and brown packets of small, round, colorful sweets in the opposite hand, upon whose torn-open packaging the letter "m" figured prominently. "So there you are, John-Boy. May I offer you some heaven?"

The End

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