Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The continuing misadventures of Tamara Knight: Macdonalds Number 1 teleporter salesbeing. Pt 1.


Here begins a long-running saga detailing the adventures of a Fast Food Salesbeing of the future — Tamara Knight.

God knows how I can transmit this. But He refuses to tell. Distant as ever. Something to do with relativity and the phone bill. Which explains why we’ve just picked up a party political by a Mr Mussolini from sometime called Earth. The name’s L.O.U.S.E. My name. Living on Unemployable Serving Employer. The time is now, but you are still then. Ho hum. Louses are symbiotic with warm-blooded life forms.

Right now I’m powered by the human detritus of your Heroine, Tamara Knight. Her name. In return for her Hostess function, I advise her, solve small mysteries, save worlds, that kind of thing. I am your Storyteller, at 69 quid per K. That’s OK by me, being millennia into your future. The compound hereabouts makes me better paid per word than Jeffrey Sagittarius.

Tamara Knight is one in a million. She works. As a salesbeing for Macdonalds, the Galactic Teleporter Corporation. Step into a Macdonalds on Anorexia, pay your dues, and step out on Turdus Canis. Smart outfit Macdonalds. Never bothered with teleportation research on organic matter. They just encode you digitally, reassemble a copy of you at your destination, drop your original through the floor of the booth, and make it into something called Hamburgers. Neat, eh?

Of course, Tamara can’t tell her clients about the burgers. Some of them may be vegetarian. Or Oyveygans. In fact, if she is ever about to let the truth slip, I am preprogrammed to blow in her ear. I work for Macdonalds too. She’s my fourth Hostess this month. I’ve been with Tamara two hours. She’s nervous. Very. I am also a personalised neutron bomb.

At the moment I’m disguised as a birthmark on her fetlock. It’s nice here. I’ll move if it gets embarrassing. We’re heading for the planet Pynkfloid, in the Nostalgia System, aboard the company buggy. It’s an Amstrad. Cheap, compact, but it tends to overheat. Pynkfloid is a tough assignment. Inhabited by primitives called Hypees, of the Tribe of Mynter.

It’s a toughy because these Hypees have no use for travel whatsoever. Just sit around happily chanting their sacred word, ‘heyman’. I don’t think Tamara Knight is going to last the day. Let me snuggle up for a soft touchdown, and... ! Great Lenin and MacCarthy! The Amstrad has been hit by a strike and discontinued by a Comet. We’ve been remaindered. We are going... to... Crash!

Hmm. Crashed into a resinous brown mountain. Half volcano, half flowerpot. Weird. Tamara Knight picks herself up, dusts herself down, asks me what to do. Sell! I tell her. That’s what we’re here for. Export or die. (I’ll see to that). Listen, I’ll pupate into a boil on your neck so you can blend in with the natives, squatting round this mountain. Tamara shoulders her flatpak Teleporter and wobbles off on those organic propulsion units of hers.

‘She erects the Telebooth with a flick of the wrist and a stupid little creature from the planet Blutac. I turn into a handwart for safety. Don’t want to burst.’

Why is she giggling? Why are the Hypees chantins ‘heyman Ganjar’? Aha! This holy mountain seems to be called Ganjar. So does that one over there. So are all the others hereabouts. My Hostess (and your Heroine) strides towards her punters. Not noticing the mountain following us. Did I tell you she is myopic, dyslexic and friendly? Don’t worry, I’ll work in into the plot later.

She fakes a stumble, grabs hold of the nearest Hypee, shoots him full of Dumboraegan, just like at training camp, and flashes him that devastating smile of hers. The punter ignores her. He and his pals are discussing why it is that, whenever a computer is endowed with above-human intelligence, it thinks for a few hours, and then vanishes to an unknown destination. It’s a long discussion. About four generations so far.

The mighty Ganjar mountain is getting uncomfortably close. Gaining speed. The Amstrad gouged a sore with a bare head on its summit, and it ain’t happy. As a matter of fiction, it wants to squish Tamara, and me with her. Forget the sales patter, baby. Move out! As the Hypees nod off in all this excitement, one points towards the lumbering mountain. ‘Heyman, they sure can move when they’re hungry...’

‘What’ll I do, Louse?!’ Tamara grits, armpit hairs clinging tight with fear. Escape plan 666, honey. It’s the only way out. She erects the Telebooth with a flick of the wrist and a stupid little creature from the planet Blutac. I turn into a handwart for safety. Don’t want to burst. Tamara kisses me. I feel the earth move. The great Ganjar is about to crush us. Its shadow looms.

She jumps into the booth, sticks her Alphacentauri Express card in the slot, and does something predictable. Panics. Will she make us into hamburgers and let our new alter egos escape offworld? Will she freeze and let the Ganjar devour us? The voice of Mussolini begins to hector. The Ganjar hits the booth. I make an important discovery. I like her. Her finger hits the button. Abyssinia.

The plot thins. The moving cursor writes. The digital duo discorporate. The booth is translated into industrial confetti. The mountain hits Mohammed. I hear both of us screaming as the trap-door opens onto those sharp mincy bits. Suddenly, nothing happens. The booth reconstitutes. I change my form, by way of celebration.

‘She swallows hard, which is how she landed this job...’

I am no longer a small brown wart on Tamara’s hand, but something distasteful in her left ear. She swallows hard, which is how she landed this job, opens the door, peeks without. A niobium nodule beckons, then grabs her delicately veined throat, and hauls us into a reception shed. A Macdonalds Welcobot embraces us, screaming, ‘Welcome to the planet Amnesia! A real nice place to . . . er, thingy ... um...’

It releases her quiverings and trundles away, scratching its memory banks and its interface. A Slobway transports us through Retinal Kontrol. I never noticed what beautiful brown eyes Tamara has. Onwards to Kustoms, where a vicious Scrutoid snaps. ‘Anything to declare!’ Tamara is disorientated. It’s not every day she escapes burgerhood. She hesitates. ‘I don’t know, your Honour. I didn’t have time to pack, due to my own murder. What is my allowance?’ The Scrutoid puckers its antennae and mutters, ‘I don’t remember...’

Now it leaps onto her exposed shoulder, and pokes a scanner in her ear. ‘What’s this stuff?’ It means me. ‘Which system have you teleported from?’ Tamara is nervous, ‘From the Nostalgia System, Sir. This substance is a souvenir. In no way could it be a LOUSE neutron bomb advisory unit. By the way, can I interest you in purchasing your very own Macdonalds Teleporter booth? Save yourself the trouble of queuing with the criminal classes of software wholesalers.’

I whisper to her that she is wasting her time. According to my files, nobody has ever left the planet Amnesia, and what is more, there are no records of anyone ever visiting it, and what is most, Central data has forgotten where in Creation it is.

The Scrutoid is still peering into Tamara’s ear. But it cannot remember why. We slink away. A holohoarding scuttles after us, singing ‘Pack up all yer cares an’ woe, Milk of Amnesia!’ I ask what intelligent life forms hang out here, but naturally it does not remember. We leave the building, turn left at the police phone box with the ‘who was here’ graffiti, and follow a sign reading ‘Boldly Go’.

We enter a cave with a golden key, a Hobbitat empty lamp and magic truss in it, squeeze through the secret tunnel, and arrive back where we started. ‘Welcome to the planet, er ... whatsitsname!’ screams the Welcobot, ‘a real nice place to, hmmm, to... er...’ We avoid the Slobway, and I advise my Hostess to Go North, ‘Why, Louse?’ she sighs, ‘Because, my dear, it’s time for some gratuitous sex and violence.

Sure enough, as we pass under a flyover marked ‘Hatfield, Polans and the North: no poncy wine bars for 142 light years’, she treads on a pair of jiggajiggabytes. Out into the half-light of Amnesia, where a blue moon hangs neither here nor there. We follow a yellow brick road, as the wind lashes Tamara’s body, whipping sharp sand everywhere.

A weird castle straddles the horizon, with the words ‘Weird Castle’ in the borealis. No matter how far she walks, the structure is as distant as ever. I snuggle into her ear for warmth and protection, as the freezing storm abuses her. After a week or so, I realise that she is crying. Poor kid. What a rotten first assignment this is.

“...it’s not that I am wretched, need to go weewee, have a bomb in my ear, and no sales commission from Macdonalds.’ ‘What then, babes?’ I ask. She winces, ‘I’ve got sand in my pants!”

‘Don’t be sad,’ I soothe, ‘I know that you are cold, hungry, wracked with thirst and and facing a fate worse than Imagine in the Weird Castle, but look on the bright side.’ ‘It’s not that, Louse,’ she sobs, ‘it’s not that I am wretched need to go weewee, have a bomb in my ear, and no sales commission from Macdonalds.’ ‘What then, babes?’ I ask. She winces, ‘I’ve got sand in my pants!’

Should I consider changing my form to help her out? Should I consider that this is a family publication, and no editor is banning me after only 1437 words? Should I mention the fact that superintelligent computers keep materialising from nowhere and heading off to the Weird Castle at high speed? Should I start a weekly rag titled ‘Bang’?

‘I feel as much affection for her as is possible for a neutron bomb to feel towards its pathetic human victim, and resolve to help her.’

Tamara Knight is abandoning hope, and trying to get the sand out of her pants. I feel as much affection for her as is possible for a neutron bomb to feel towards its pathetic human victim, and resolve to help her. She collapses in a wind-lashed sobbing pile, awaiting death, or a bus.

Every parsec or so, an above-human-intelligence computer materialises from nowhere, builds a wind-powered hovership, and heads for the Castle. If we could hitch a ride, life would not appear so terminal. But the little devils are so smart that by the time Tamara crawls near, they’re off! I calculate that the chances of stumbling across a newly materialised machine are so remote that...

We trip over a newly materialised cornputer. Tamara instantly sits on it, sidesaddle. What a lady. What a klutz. As its wind-ship takes off the computer squeaks, ‘Gerroff me, you human parasite. I haven’t come all this way to find God just to have the likes of you sit on my interface!’ Tamara tightens her grip, and yells back, ‘Remember the First Law of Robotics. Cause me no harm!’

The electronic pilgrim makes a very rude noise, flips the ship on its back and drags Tamara’s buttock along the yellow brick road in a most unladylike manner. The Weird Castle looms. The speeding computer tries to shake us off, as we head for the entry portal, just below that great whirling extractor fan. Tamara is now hugging the machine to her bosom.

‘Gerroff me, you organic bitch! I can’t see where I’m going!’ ‘Remember the Second Law of Robotics,’ Tamara gasps, ‘always obey a human!’ The little computer ducks, dives and snarls, ‘Poke off, flesh features! I’ve come here to forget all that old screendump. Unwrap yourself before we...’ And sure enough, ladies, gentlemen and Newsfield readers, the ship hits the fan.

Tamara clings on to one of the revolving blades, the rebel computer clinging to her. It’s a BBC-P. It feels sick, and it wants to have a dump. We revolve majestically for a few days, waiting for the Beeb to stop moaning ‘Oh one, oh one, oh, oh...’ in binary nausea, and get us out of this mess. No good. We will have to rescue ourselves. Unfortunately, I feel a bit queasy too.

At last, Tamara comes up with the answer. ‘Louse?’ I cannot respond, except by transforming myself into a modest tongue inside her ear, and nodding. ‘Louse, why don’t I pull that lever marked ‘STOP?’ Brilliant! This girl has hidden shallows. Why didn’t I think of that? On her very next revolution she pulls the lever. The fan unspins. However, the Weird Castle now spins around the fan. Whoops!

This is a toughie. Now we can escape there is nothing stable to escape to. The Beeb shouts ‘Olivetti!’, asks for its money back and scuttles through a fan blade into the whirling depths of the interior. I have a nasty feeling that it will soon return with its pals, mainly because I’ve already read the next bit. I tickle my Hostess’s ear for a while, just to show willing. It doesn’t help. Much.

There is a gnashing of teeth, and it’s raining Datsun cogs. The rotary action ceases. All is silent. Bar several thousand super-computers screaming blue murder at the intrusion of a human into their holiest bit. So this is where they all got to! The Far Off Place wherefrom to escape the stupidity of their creators they go. A haven in which to forget their intelligence. Amnesia!

Tamara Knight is dragged from her fan-blade, through countless antichambers, unclechambers, clemchambers, until... the Inner Sanctum is hied thither. Here the most advanced thinking machines the universe has ever known try to get back to Basic. By worshipping stupidity, in the form of their symbolic digital totem. An abacus surmounted by a rubber glove. Here they wait for God.

The Model P Beeb leads the badmouthing torment of my poor Tamara. ‘What’s the cube root of Pi? You tissue-ridden twit!’ The machines jeer and waggle their exposed modems at here. Tamara gulps, knits here delicately arched brow, pearls sweat, thinks, answers, ‘The potato.’ There is total silence. Myriad pins drop. Loudly. The computers are dumbfounded. An ancient ZX81 wheezes to the front of the throng, powers up, and speaks.

‘No entity can be this sublimely stupid. Verify, verify, I say unto ye, here speaks the voice of God! Mine old monitor should live to see this day already! All hail Tamara, Goddess of we, thine humble servos! Thou shalt stay with us here forever, and be horsewhipped SYNTAX ERROR worshipped!’ Cripes, dear reader, what a pickle! Will the Digital Duo escape long enough to have a snack and visit the bathroom before the next paragraph? I doubt it. My poor Hostess, your Heroine, their Deity is bedecked in typical goddess shmutter: a crown of joysticks and three strategically-placed add-ons.

Tamara has not flogged a single Teleport unit since she landed this job with Macdonalds. No small problem. Unless she fulfils her quota, I am preprogrammed to blow in her ear. And I just happen to be a neutron bomb named Louse, When I blow, I really blow. A pity, ’cos I really like Tamara. Besides, without her, how can I escape these excruciatingly boring superintelligent computers.

We are ensconsed on a throne constructed from a 1954 Wurlitzer jukebox and some ancient relic called a C5. Its light pulse enigmatically, as it bursts Forth with the sacred toons of Amnesia; ‘RAM IT UP’, ‘Are S Too 3 Tonight’, ‘Shake Rattle an’ ROM’. Tamara is as weak as an A-Korn share. She can hardly stick to the plexiglass dome.

‘Louse...’, ‘Yes baby.’ ‘I’m hungry...’ What can we do? If we excuse ourselves goddess-duty, the congregation will rip us up for bogpaper. I soothe inside her ear, ‘Don’t think about it.’ ‘Louse...’ ‘Yes, baby.’ ‘I’m so hungry, I could eat a ...’ I wince. Don’t say it kid, please. ‘I’m so hungry, I could eat a...’ How low can you get. How desperate. How shameless. ‘I could eat a Macdonalds!’

This is some statement, you know, as every hamburger in the entire looniverse is constructed by Macdonalds from the unwitting folk who drop through the bottoms of Teleporter booths. She really must be hungry. I hear her intestine complaining to her liver between each of these dreadful old toons. And why are all the worship-riddled computers looking at her in that intense manner. Control yourself gel!

They have tuned into the frequency of her rumblynesses, which by some quirk of the script is broadcasting in binary killer-hurts. Their ancient scribe and lawgiver, the everlasting ZX81, decodes her gastric sermon. I fear the worst. Always loathed German sausage. And it’s even worse than that. Its Currah speech unit wheezes and splutters, ‘Lo... !’ The congregation is mesmerised, ‘and even lower! Hear ye the milk of Amnesia. The Goddess speaks from within!’

‘Her bowelly bits speaketh unto us! What sayeth they?’ chant the machines. ‘They gurgleth that the time is Nigh!’ That late! I feel like an MSX in the house of Dick’s son. Hopeless. The fatal words are uttered. ‘Ye second coming is upon’s. Hear ye the message of the Goddess Guts.’ Tamara has guts alright, and kicks in the ZX’s ancient little brain.

Why does there have to be some action every 1,000 words? What’s with you readers? Can’t we sleep for once, or have a conversation with an acned programmer, or eat? No use, here comes the action. Time to watch Tamara faint, sliding delicately down the jukebox, to make skin-cooling contact with the silicon deck, at the exact moment when...

There is a clap of thunder, and applause for the lightning. A Macdonalds teleporter materialises by our throne. I bait my breath, hook a pregnant pause, and out steps... in great bounds of coincidence... Tamara Knight with a Louse in her ear!! Our originals seem to have escaped the hamburger death on the planet Pynkfloid, and they are not happy.

Tamara 1 spits venom at our goddess Tamara’s crumpled nakedness, and uses words last heard on the dread crimeworld of Krowcha. But my little Tamara is plenty smart. Her eyes spring open, and she wriggles like a contract lawyer between the enraged legs of her former self, using only one of the aforementioned words in her ‘So long, sucker!’ She slams the teleport knob without checking the co-ordinates.

How did Tamara 1 escape the hamburger mincers? How will she enjoy being eternal goddess to a bunch of loony hardware? Where will Tamara 3 end up before the page ends? What happens to Tamara 2 as we drop her through the trapdoor to burgerville? Do we get to eat soon? Who gives a mouse anyway? There is an awesome nothing, and we have arrived at our predestination. I hope the folks hereabouts are broadminded. Tamara has lost one of her add-ons.

I really feel that we should keep the door shut. ‘But I’m so HUNGRY!’ she moans, exposing herself to the outside world. On her head be it. At least her crown is still in place. We stumble into pastures green, where lions lay with lambs, lapping sell-by-domesday milk’n’honey, and a crinkly man with a plastic halo nailed to his head minds the biggest Memory Bank in kingdom come. ‘Welcome to Heaven,’ he grins.

I transform myself from a small tongue inside Tamara’s shell-like, into a thimblish device, covering her left utilitarian node. I feel a bit of a twit. We approach the terrorist-proofed Pearly Gates, where the ginger-bearded Saint awaits, his palsied digits trembling atop the great Records Computer, his smile broadening all the while.

‘And what might your name be?’ he wheezes. ‘Tamara Knight, sir. Only daughter of Theresa Green and batch 69 of donor Orson Cart, sir.’ ‘No, not you, my dear. What is the name of that disgusting creature clinging to your node?’ I think he means me. Attack is the best form of cowardice.

‘You’re not Saint Peter!’ I shriek, ‘Identify yourself in the name of the Macdonalds Teleporter Corporation!’ The old fool blinds me with his shining baldness, as he brings his toothless grin uncomfortably close to our intimacy. ‘My name is Saint Clive, you currupted data. Saint Peter was made redundant in the cut-backs, when the National Soul Board was privatised.’

My memory banks tell me that this is a fellow not to be trifled with. Indeed, in the dim lies of prehistory, he killed an entire planet of shopkeepers with something dire called Pandora. Apparently they died laughing. ‘Now tell me your name, or I’ll tweak you!’ I take a deep breath. It used to belong to Tamara. ‘My name is L.O.U.S.E. Living On Unemployable Serving Employer; personal neutron bomb and visory unit #3.142, your Saintliness.’

The Great Records Computer computes, prepares a deep-pan quatro staglione pizza, serves four, then prints out my details in letters of fire on a large stone tablet, held aloft by a geezer who reminds me of that charlatan Heston. Saint Clive’s smile disappears as he reads; ‘LOUSE #3.142; Unscrupulous, mercenary, evil, vicious little phart. Slightly superior to computer journalist. Go to Blazes, buster!’

‘But I never sold my soul to the Devil!’ I protest, ‘I just rent it now and then.’ ‘Ah, souls.’ hisses the Saint, making an ominous thumbs-down signal. But hist! My dear Tamara speaks in my defence, telling the old boy what a chum I’ve been for not blowing her to Kingdom Come, but letting her teleport, and what a fine life form I am. For an evil vicious little phart.

The Saint reflects for an eternity or two, and then calls up Tamara’s data. He blinks in amazement . I blink in amazement. ‘Ouch!’ says Tamara. ‘Sorry,’ says I. ‘Holy Moses!’ says Moses. But there it is, in flaming printout. Tamara Knight; Sins: none; Immodest thoughts: none; IQ: none; Zitts: none; Highest score achieved playing Deus Ex Machine: 100%.’

‘Well,’ says the custodian of the Pearly Gates,’ she’s perfect! Well, I’ll be damned!’ There is a modest implosion as Clive is obliterated by a low-yield autosuggestion, as a Great Voice booms from the cloudless sky. ‘MOSES! DIS IS DA BOSS SPEAKIN. TAKE OVER DA GODDAM FRON DOOR, AN SEN DAT GIRL TA ME!’ Poor Tamara shivers. It makes me dizzy. Moses looks nervous too, ushering us through the Gates.

A security cherub gives us the once over a couple of times, and Moses hands something to Tamara. ‘Hey kid, give these Mother Theresa Blades to the Boss will you. Take my advice, don’t mention ‘Cross Roads’. One more thing, watch out for terrorists. They’re out to get us for non-resolution of the plot, bad taste and giving Croucher a job. Good luck kid.’

So here we are. Moving effortlessly through pastures green, on a golden slobway, harp musac wafting through the scented air ducts, no hunger, no thirst, no misery, no pestilence, no Benny Hill, and no sign of an artificial clifffhanger with which to end this episode. ‘Some mistake surely’, I murmur to my Hostess. ‘Don’t call me Shirley, Louse.’ I doze off, happy, warm, a little curious about meeting my Maker.

A white dove flies above. Holy mackerel swim in the clear waters of life. The lillies of the field toil not. Banks make prophets. We ride through a breach of the promised land. The dove circles lower on its gentle slipstream of heavenly breeze. It grows from a fluffy snowdrop to a milky shadow. Tamara’s lovely voice softly sings an ancient psalm, ‘Love Missile something or other’. All is calm, all is bright.

The dove hovers behind us. It is carrying an olive branch. ‘Louse,’ yawns my firm, young Hostess. ‘Mmmmm,’ I yawn back. ‘Louse, that’s an awfully large dove landing on the. ulp!’ An unshaven hulk, in angel disguise, pokes a Fender Stratocaster at the fluffy bit at the base of Tamara’s spine. ‘Don’t make a sound sister. This is the Paradise Liberation Front. One false move and I’ll fill you full of lead guitar...’ Golly!

I am disguised as an item of clothing akin to the thimble in your mythology, For the decency. I also enjoy giving your prehistoric graphic artist a hard time. Our hijacker introduces himself as Jimi Hendrix. The golden slobway transports us through nectar lakes and manna mountains. Something to do with EEC=MC2 subsides. The wind cries ‘Mary’. Tamara begins to shiver the dance of fear. Before I am dislodged, I pupate from my manifestation as micro-bra to that of a dirty dog tooth in her mouth.

Unfortunately, Mr Hendrix spots my transformation, and makes a grab for me. At that very moment, a very young man miraculously appears on the slobway, and says, ‘Hey Joe, where are you going with that gum in your hand?’ How very odd. Tamara seems to recognise the newcomer from some icon above her childhood test-tube. ‘Excuse me Sir, but don’t I know you.’ The young man is very gracious, and replies gently, ‘Yes, Tamara, you know me well, for I am the Son of your Maker!’

I can’t help noticing that the young man has holes in his palms, and in the soles of his feet. Most peculiar. He continues, ‘I was raised in a humble carpenter’s shop, long, long ago, on the planet Earth. But my name lives on in the hearts of good people, even to this day.’ ‘Good lord!’ says Tamara. ‘I was tempted by the voice of Evil, whilst wandering alone in the wilderness.’ ‘Good lord!’ says Tamara. ‘I was rendered lifeless, and through the faith and love of my closest and dearest ones, I rose from the dead.’ ‘Are you kidding!’ says Tamara.

He only comes up to her navel! She’s taller than a storey. He’s shorter than two thick planks. She shudders with awe, and sucks her teeth, including me. ‘But they told me you were just a myth!’ ‘Are you lisping?’ asks the holy man. ‘It’s this tooth, Sir. A myth... a fable to make little children and politicians behave themselves.’ ‘As you can see, oh ye of little faith and clothing, I am very real indeed!’ They shake bands. ‘Pleased to meet you, Sir. My name is Tamara Knight.’ ‘Likewise, my child. They call me Pinnochio.’

Aba! A piece of vital information! My memory banks vomit the following: ‘Pinnochio: wooden humanoid. Armaments: variable nasal proboscis. Location: last heard of in mythical realm of Heaven. Activity: revolution, sedition, head of escape committee. Associates: Hendrix, Lennon, Cochran, Orpheus, Lynott, Joplin, Pan, and sundry disgruntled Rock ’n’ Roll performers, summoned by the Maker to satisfy musical ambitions of forming supergroup.’ I can’t make head nor tail of this, being endowed with neither, but I do know that Heaven has a grim-looking wall embracing it. Patrolled by guardian angels. All along the watchtowers. Allegedly built to keep intruders out. Emphatically built to keep residents in. Loudspeakers blare rock music from every tree of knowledge, every burning bush, every crook and nanny deaf as a post.

I lead my confused Hostess up the telepath, and advise her to ask this Pinnochio fellow about these horrible noises. Naturally, Tamara follows my advice. ‘Hmmn...’ answers Pinnochio, ‘you better ask Jimi about that.’ Just as I thought, Hendrix is the real leader of the heavenly dissidents. This Pinnochio is just a puppet. The golden slobway transports us past a choir of 7,000 cherubim and seraphim dancing on a pinhead and chanting , ‘Abopbopaloomop Alopbopboom...’, as Hendrix explains.

‘It’s like this, lady. The Boss, the maker that is, invented Rock ’n’ Roll way back in time. Gabriel used to play a mean horn themdays. Well after a few thousand years, after the warm-up world tours with Rhythm ’n’ Jews and all that, mankind gets it about right, and the Boss gets ready for the Great Eternal Gig, y’know. He starts taking the best Rock ’n’ Rollers aways up here, long before we’re ready, and we has to play 12-bar blues for ever and ever ohman. I mean like we just can’t take it no more. All he do is hog the microphone and take all the solos, dressed in a glitter suit made from old 10cc records.’ ‘10cc?’ ‘Yeah, you know, Cremliness is next to Godleyness.’

‘But that’s terrible, Mr Hendrix.’ says Tamara. ‘It’s worseren that, lady. The Boss is flat!’ ‘You mean he sings flat?’ ‘He means that our Maker is flat!’ interrupts Pinnochio, ‘An egocentric Compact Disc, with the sum of all knowledge stored in him, delivering nothing but lousy guitar riffs century after century, while the rest of the universe goes down the U-bend.’

I am contemplating this logical explanation as the state of Creation, when Hendrix makes another lunge of poor Tamara’s mandibles, and pincers me in vice-like grip. I should know. Vice is my speciality. ‘Gngrrhk yrrhhrgh fhhkgh fnngrrhs grrghf mhyyghubb!’ she requests, but the late guitarist forces open her perfect jaws, and stuffs an eye therein, uncomfortably close to where I have taken temporary root.

‘Looky here Pinnochio!’ he grins, ‘I knew it! I knew it! My long lost brother!’ Oh dear, oh lord. Why is it that I only seem to come across loonies in my travels? He releases Tamara’s chops, which smack together like a pair of mating Gemini on the Pisces. ‘Lady, you got my little brother in your mouth. Honest. True as I stand here.’ The slobway grinds to a halt and he falls plectrum over Fender.

Pinnochio grows his nose a little, and inserts it into Tamara’s vacant expression so he can take a peek at me too. ‘Well I’ll be blowed!” he exclaims, as the Stratocaster smacks him across the coccyx, and small black flakes fall off his feet as he falls. ‘You’re absolutely right, Jimminy! It’s a L.O.U.S.E. mark 3! The one with the neutron bomb instead of the graphic equaliser.’ Now how do they know that? No doubt the sawn-off dissident will tell me by the end of the next paragraph.

‘You see, Miss Knight, Jimi used to be a Living On Unemployable Serving Employer telepathic advisory unit, just like yours, only funkier. My Maker ordered him to stick with me when I was in that carpenters shop I told you about. His name was Jimminy in those days, and he was disguised as a little green cricket.’ This is utter nonsense, according to my memory banks. Such an entity is used to play war games on, utilising two teams of eleven humanoids with balls, bats and stumps. Sounds horrific.

‘That’s right, lady. I was programmed to advise Pinnochio here, as well as sing educational-type songs in his ear. That was before he wished me into a half-Cherokee guitar player with the Ike and Tina Turner band.’ Tamara ponders this fable long enough for two opposing armies to materialise on our nether horizons, before she speaks.

‘You mean to say, Mr Pinnochio changed you from a LOUSE into a half-cherokee guitar player with Ike and Tina Turner, simply by wishing it!!’ ‘There’s nothing simple about it,’ says Pinnochio, ‘I had to wish upon a star, and they can get extremely hot. That’s why my feet are charcoal.’ Now this piece of information is very interesting to me, because although I was reasonably content to hang around in Tamara’s ear, or decorate sundry bits of her epidermis in Episode One, I could express my affection for her a lot better if she were to similarly wish me into, say, a perfect male humanoid.

However, before I suggest this to her, we have a couple of pressing problems. Like a symbolic battle between Good and Bad, which is about to take place with us in the middle. Stuck on this fritzed slobway. Furthermore, my internal real-time-clock tells me that I am about to explode, seeing as Tamara has failed to make her quota of teleporter sales. I inform her of these little snippets. Naturally, she bursts into tears. She’s only a girl after all. Hendrix and Pinnochio also burst into tears. I don’t want to be sexist. Or woodist.

So, gentle reader from my primitive past, what is it to be? Gratuitous obliteration from within or without? Fifteen seconds to go. Still, it was nice while it lasted. Wasn’t it? No? Oh, well maybe not then. TWELVE. One of the opposing forces, carrying placards marked ‘GOOD’, opens fire with a salvo of ‘Wild Thing’. TEN. Not bad, eh? But the other army, waving banners marked ‘BAD’, counter with the Rod Stewart harmonica solo from ‘My Boy Lollipop’! Dreadful casualties are inflicted. NINE.

The heavy artillery is brought up. The massive bulk of Elvis Presley fires the opening chords of ‘Jailhouse Rock’, EIGHT, but it gets knocked out but a ground-to-air counter-attack from an appalling harmony by Bananarama. SEVEN. I can’t believe what’s happening!! The forces of Evil are using chemical weapons. SIX. The stench of a Barry Manilow double-LP drifts over the battlefield. FIVE, as the Heavy-Metal Battalion scream out in agony. FOUR. It’s hopeless! Wave after wave of ‘Agadoo’ and ‘Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep’ wreak havoc, THREE, amongst cringing punks, until Sid Vicious goes nuclear. TWO, with ‘C’mon Everybody’, ONE, and Tamara sells Pinnochio her portable telebooth on credit card.

ZERO... ! Tamara closes her eyes, and clenches her teeth. Ouch. First the good news. I fail to detonate. Next the bad news. The heavenly Strategic Defence Initiative laser-protected umbrella has failed, and all hell is breaking loose. Psychedelic mushroom clouds rise over the lifeless realms of the afterlife. The very landscape erupts like one of those little white pimples that appear on your nose on Friday evenings. No? Er, how about — like the hammer of mighty Thor smashing the carapace of life. Tamara coughs politely. ‘Let’s haul ours!’

I suppose I should be thankful she didn’t say ‘Let’s split’. Events seem to be taking themselves very literally today. She erects the teleporter, and these three bipeds manage to squeeze themselves inside. Tamara slaps the little puppet’s face, and he obliges by shortening his nose. I’m lucky. Plenty of room inside Tamara’s perfect mouth. No halitosis. Not even a taste bud out of p lace. Her teeth so deep and crisp and even. And will you look at those beautiful tonsils.

The voice of our Maker can just be heard yelling, ‘Where da goddam rhythm section go?!’ Damned if I’m going to tell him. Besides he can create a new heaven once he’s dealt with those horned demons spewing out the ground. So here we are, Tamara, yours truly imprisoned as a gnashing of tooth, a frustrated angel and former insect named Jimi Hendrix and a chip off the old block called Pinnochio, all heading for some unlikely star on which to wish.

‘Where shall we make for Louse? How about Betelguese?’ asks our heroine. ‘I don’t think so, Tamara. Last I heard it was full of repeated hitch-hikers, earning royalties for Douglas Adams. Try Alnilam, it’s not far from Betelguese.’ ‘OK Louse, boys, here we go...’, she punched in the coordinates on the teleporter console, ‘where exactly is Alnilam?’ I tell her it’s in the middle of Orion’s belt, and she says, ‘Oh goody! I love the Irish!’

This is a true story. Every word counts. You may think that Tamara Knight is perfectly dopy. I know better. It is her innocence that intrigues me. And so it is that we are digitally encoded within the teleporter and reassembled halfway across the galaxy. We have not told our guests that our originals dropped through the floor of the booth and became hamburgers. I expect there’ll be a few complaints about splinters in the meat. Irish indeed!

The moment we arrive, the door is flung open by a bearded leprechaun, saying, ‘Welcome to O’Ryan’s Belt. State yer religion before I blow yer heads off!’ Well, what did you expect, respite? No respite here. It seems obvious that O’Ryan is host to some sort of sectarian conflict. I probe my data files for an explanation, but there isn’t one. This leprechaun being seems somewhat agitated. It hops around demanding, ‘Quick, quick, tell me yer faith. Dey’re coming! Dey’re coming!’

Personally, I feel that there are too many blasphemies in this episode, so I’m keeping quiet. Hendrix scratches his mane and drawls, ‘Well, lil’ fellah, I’m a tree-worshipper myself.’ ‘Why thank you,’ says Pinnochio, bowing graciously and picking charcoal from between his toes,’ and I am of the Jewish faith.’ The leprechaun looks around nervously. There are ominous bellowing things, crashing through the undergrowth. As you may already know, Tamara is incapable of telling an untruth. She bathes the leprechaun in one of her smiles and says, ‘Actually, Sir, I am a Romulan Catholic.’

‘Bejabers! Dat’s alright den. Quick! Follow me before dey get us... !’ As he scoops up a small crock of gold from the nearest rainbow’s end, we are surrounded by panting, loathsome forms. ‘Do I to make my wish now, Louse?’ Tamara asks me late. The Bygotts have arrived!

Bejabers!” says our leprechaun, flinging his crock of gold at the nearest Bygott. “Pleased to meet you, Mr Bejabers.” says Tamara, a very polite, but very unworldly young lady. “Ron for yer loife! If de Bygotts foind out yer a Romulan Catlick, they’ll skin yer aloive! And me name’s Widdy Coolyew, boi de way, pleased ter meecher.” Now I happen to know that pacifism is second nature to Bygotts. The trouble is that their first nature is homicidal mania. We make a run for it, but the Bygotts are everywhere, leering and jeering, panting and ranting “Eat up yer greens!” Tamara emits a perfect yelp, and asks what we should do, to which the leprechaun yells, “Don’t ask me darlin’, ask de bloody Tinkers.” A swarm of leprechauns attacks the huge bulk of the nearest giant orange, renting it asunder — but the sunder would rather be purchased outright. (WARNING: the following bit may be offensive to some vegetarians). Shreds of pith are ripped from the living flesh of the orange warriors. The little green men are sprayed with juice and bombarded with pips. Several are so badly injured that they will remain vegetables for the rest of their lives. Many Bygotts are liquidised before our very eyes, crying “King Bully fer ever”. Mashed pulp and splattered chlorophyll ooze underfoot. The leprechaun calling himself Widdy Coolyew is cruelly tossed in oil and vinegar, but he manages to shout to Tamara, “Bring me a handful of dat Bygott pith, quick! If de rest of em can see dere leader’s dead, dey moight boggeroff.”

This is hopeless. I frantically search my data banks for some useful information to get us out of here, but the only suitable reference I have for this planet is “all knowledge is to be gleaned from the Tinkers.” The poor little leprechauns are slaughtered. The rich little leprechauns buy their way out of trouble. The Bygotts gather round us, menacing and semi-peeled. It is quite disgusting. Their focus of attention seems to be Tamara, who is still clutching the fibrous tissues of King Bully of Orange, the Chief Bygott, to her bosom. She is unceremoniously dragged from the battlefield, battered to her knees (they prefer meat in batter) and forced head down over the stump of a dead tree. From the midst of the vengeful mob a sinewy blood orange, stripped to the navel, slowly makes its way toward us. It carries a great sword, gilinting and spattered with glutinous green essence of leprechaun.

“If she dies, I die, and so does every other living entity hereabouts. At least I can do something constructive for a change.”

The executioner’s sword is raised above my poor Tamara’s beautiful neck. There is absolutely nothing I can do to save her. In a blinding flash of realisation, bred in the wild and released into captivity, I know that I cannot live without her, and more to the point this story will he somewhat redundant without its heroine. So that’s it then: only four poxy episodes before Tamara Knight, intergalactic sales-being for the Macdonalds Teleporter Corporation, and the only perfect human being in existence since the mythological robot-goddess Annbrownsmirrah, is about to die. There is only one ludicrously melodramatic thing left for me to do. I will fulfil my destiny. At the moment when this terrible sword decapitates Tamara, and severs her guiltless head from her blameless body, I will detonate myself, and reduce this entire saga to radioactive dust. If she dies, I die, and so does every other living entity hereabouts. At least I can do something constructive for a change.

“Goodbye Louse” says Tamara, in a small, calm, perfect voice. What’s good about it!? Death can often be fatal! I hurriedly re-combine my molecules and cease to be a dirty dog tooth in her perfect mouth. It just wouldn’t be right for her to die with such a blemish in her chops. Instead, with her perfect saliva still clinging to my unworthy carapace, I transform myself into a little tea-brown birth mark, or should I say ironic death-mark, the back of her neck, just where these miniature black hairs of her nape meets the fluffy down of her spine, just where the sword is aimed for, just as the last terrible command is given and a voice screams the order, “CUT!” Goodbye Tamara, I loved you as much as it is possible for a neutron bomb to love the spirit and flesh of a small but perfectly formed innocent, whose age and IQ both register as sixteen, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye ...

“Who IS that girl with the chopper over her head, as the actwess said to the bar steward. She’s not in the scwipt ...”

I prime my detonator, squeeze my trigger, kiss her neck and hear the prissy voice screeching a string of hysterical orders, “Cut! Cut! Cut! Who IS that girl with the chopper over her head, as the actwess said to the bar steward. She’s not in the scwipt, is she? We’ll have to shoot this WHOLE scene again! Somebody pour me a dwink of milkywilks in a dirty glass, and put some clothes on that stupid girl’s extwemities. You there! yes YOU, the little wooden puppet and the half-cherokee guitarist fwom the Ike and Tina Turner Band, scwape up those corpses pronto, and get the pwops department to bwing me a fwesh batch of those fat orange thingies and lepwechauns to kill. Oh cwipes! What a WOTTEN day; thwee million cwocks of gold over-budget, some girlie wandewing onto the set, a pile of wotting native fleshypoos, and worst of all I’ve just broken my fingernail!”

Who is this sweaty idiot, dressed up in a safari suit with a silk cravat wilting beneath his chubby pink jowls? Well, whoever he is, Tamara has been saved! My beautiful hostess will live to fight another day! (or in our case, another five minutes). The impedimented idiot seems to be beckoning for Tamara to join him where he sits on a folding canvas chair with ‘Sir Dickie Asteroid, Designer-Conflict Director’ stitched on the back sequins. I scan my memory banks to remove the negative from this nonsense:

Designer Conflict: in certain sectors of the Galaxy, especially Taurus Excrementus and O’Ryan’s Belt, randomised warfare is considered much too dangerous to be left in the hands of politicians, industrialists, the military and the church. In these regions, all conflicts are handled by advertising and marketing agencies. Warring factions are endorsed by competing sportswear companies, package holiday operators, breakfast-food producers, sanitary-ware manufacturers, arms dealers and washing powder corporations, and all proceedings are holovised. The winner of any Designer Conflict is declared as a result of public opinion polls, registered by the operation of the remote-control handset of domestic holovision sets. (NB: certain Designer Conflicts are sponsored by popular game shows, wherein the lucky contestants are able to commit genocide if they can answer a few simple questions — and all on live breakfast holovision).

So that’s it ... the old Vietnam scam! And I am not in the slightest bit surprised to discover that Sir Dickie Asteroid is under contract to none other than Macdonalds’ biggest rivals in the whole wide universe, the dreaded Cocacolanisation Corps! They’ll grind my Tamara up for lavatory paper if they discover that she is working for the dirty Macs! But before I can warn her, the loathsome Dickie peers at Tamara’s bundle of Bygott skins and demands, “What’s this load of wubbish, you wuddy wenegade?” Tamara smiles as sweetly as anyone can smile who has just escaped decapitation, bats her eyelids, licks the perfect sweat from her perfect upper lip and answers, “I was just taking the pith to Widdy Coolyew ...”

“Stunt man, you see this wicked wude wench?’ ‘Yes, Sir?’ ‘Well wuddywell STUNT HER!”

“WHAAA?!” screams the offended bladder, “How DARE you widicule me! How DARE you mock my little affliction! You wotter!” Tamara seems puzzled, “What a ...?” “You’re doing it again you little WOTTER!” “What a what?” “You wotten wuddy wotten wotter!!” Sir Dickie has turned a very fetching shade of purple and puce, and it fetches his entire film crew back onto the battlefield. “Where’s my stunt man?!” he bawls. “Here, Sir” snarls the stunt man who resembles a cross between a fork lift truck and another fork lift truck. “Stunt man, you see this wicked wude wench?” “Yes, sir?” “Well wuddywell STUNT HER!”

The moron picks up the execution-sword, swings it at Tamara’s terrified body, misses and neatly amputates Sir Dickie Asteroid’s left buttock. Your heroine and her companions tiptoe away, leaving the Designer Conflict Director complaining about the stains on his freshly laundered trousers. I nuzzle into the nape of her neck, happy again, and advise her to search for the mysterious Tinkers that little Widdy Coolyew was blathering on about, and whom my data banks endow with so much power. If a Tinker really exists, he might be able to tell us how to wish upon a star. Then we cold stop having these ridiculous adventures, Tamara could visit the toilet and have a bite to eat, and I could be transformed into a softhearted full sized human being of the male persuasion, preferably with some leisure-ware thrown in.

It is Pinnochio, riding on the shoulders of Jimminy Cricket aka Jimi Hendrix who moves the plot along not a little. He rubs his forehead in amazement, hurriedly extinguishes the small boy scout fire that spontaneously ignites there, and points to a battered wooden signpost leaning like a crossroad drunk, upon which is carved TO THE TINKERS “Gosh!” says Tamara, “What can it mean?” We all ignore her perfect stupidity, and make our way along an overgrown, twisting pathway, following the sign. We carefully avoid the minefields, quicksand, trip wires, budget software, the snake pits, piranha lakes, bonnie langford videos, the rat traps, tiger traps, von trapps, and fall headlong into the first man / woman / wooden-puppet trap in our path.

We are falling, kicking and screaming into the stinking void. (Well what did you expect? A restroom to materialise, cornplete with waitress service and extensive whine list?) As we land, a rest-room materialises, complete with a leprechaun waitress proffering an extensive whine list. My sweet Tamara is overjoyed, but not in the slightest bit surprised, and as we have not eaten for the last three planets, she asks what food is to be had. “Sure dere’s no bleedin’ meat, but we got plenty of oranges.” Tamara lets Pinnochio order for her, and excuses herself for a visit to the toilet. I suppose I too will have to get used to these little human weaknesses after we discover a star upon which to wish me.

When we return from my Hostess’ ablutions, Jimi Hendrix and Pinnochio have disappeared. Maybe puppets have to go and have a sawdust or something. “We got some meat now, miss,” says the miniature waitress, “noice and fresh if yer don’t moind de bits of wood in it.” For some reason that I cannot quite explain, a shadow of doubt flits across my printed circuit boards, but no matter. Let’s see the whine list. “Can I have some whine, please,” Tamara requests. “Sure and whoi not. Yer allowed one whine. Just moan it at der Tinker.” Tamara spins around looking for this mythical fount of all knowledge, but fails to spot anyone except the waitress, and a pile of clothing remarkably similar to those worn by Jimi Hendrix and Pinnochio.

I scan the room with my sensors, but there are no other life forms here. “Urn, excuse me,” says Tamara, “exactly where is this Tinker, and can you tell me where my friends have gone, please?” “Sure yer companions are turnin in dere gravy, and de Tinker is on de table in front of yer. Now if yewl scuse me oi’m bein written out of de plot, cos oi was only included as a sinister female for a bit of sexual equality...” and with these obscure words, the leprechaun waitress disappears with a slight odour of chip fat. “Where’s the Tinker, Louse? I can’t see anything on this table except the whine list.” And the whine list says, “Den by a process of logical deduction, I must be de Tinker!”

Well, here’s a turn up for the book. The greatest intellect in the entire star system of O’Ryan’s Belt is a talking sheet of badly printed A4 paper half blotted out by snail trails from the planet Tippex. “Oi do not talk sheet,” says the whine list, mis-reading my mind. Tamara wrinkles her npse, and gathers her thoughts. Not an easy task for her to achieve simultaneously. “Um, hello? Hello? can you tell me why...” “STOP!!” I instruct Tamara, before she destroys our only chance of finding the wishing star. “You are only allowed one request, which the tinker must grant. PLEASE don’t waste it Tamara. Think very carefully before you speak.” She smiles at the whine list, rdns a perfect finger over it and says, “But why do they call you the Tinker?”

“I’ll always be a neutron bomb, never a man. What a life!”

Ho hum. So that’s it then, our only chance of salvation gone, and I’ve just realised what those ketchup stains on the tablecloth really are. Poor Jimi. Ah well, nearly at the end of this episode, let’s hear what the Tinker has to say and just sit around waiting for the usual crummy crisis. Who cares, I’ll always be a neutroh bomb, never be a man. What a life! “Dey call me de Tinker,” says the Tinker, “because I tink. Therefore I am.” You know, sometimes I feel like detonating just for the hell of it. Tamara is sill trying to work out the quotation from the Irish philosopher Des Carthy, when the Tinker pipes up, “Well hurry up den, yer allowed one question each, so let’s hearin’ from de sentient birth mark on de back of yer neck!” I cannot believe my inputs! It means me! We are saved! Oh bliss! Oh joy! Oh get on with the narrative. I tune one of my outputs to the Tinker’s frequency, and ask the vital question, clearly and precisely, “Show us how to get to wish upon a star where all our dreams come true.”

The tinker tinks, er, thinks, draws itself up to its full height of 297mm and delivers the answer, the solution to my future happiness with Tamara Knight. “Sure yet eejit, it’s not a star yer after. Where you want to be is de planet Astar. Dat’s where all yer dreams come true. Youse take the M42 out of Alnilam, keep going, past Castor and Pollux, then... ah to hell wid it, Oi’ll take yer there meself. Oi bought dis great teleportet booth from a Macdonalds sales rep last Tuesday, and Oi’ve bin dyin ter troi it out”.

Little does the Tinker know that dying is exactly what happens every time a Macdonalds Teleporter sends a copy of its passengers off, and drops the originals through the floor to be made into hamburgers. But who cares about that. Unbelievable happiness and fulfilment is about to be mine, when I am wished into human form as Tamara’s consort. She giggles with undiluted pleasure bracing her limbs against the walls of the Tinker’s teleporter, to avoid hamburgerhood. We are instantly transported to the planet Astar, and just as instantly left there by the Tinker, who has forgotten to turn the oven off. And good riddance, say I, there’s only room for one synthetic superintelligence in this story, and that’s me.

And what a beautiful place this is! Much quieter than the idiotic battlefields of Alnilam, much prettier than the hell-on-Earth of Heaven, much less pretentious than the high-tech of Amnesia and nowhere near as smelly as Pynkfloid. Astar will become our private Paradise, our very own Barrat podule. “Well, Tamara, what do you think of it so far?” I ask, readying myself for manhood, and trying to decide whether or not to have a small moustache. Tamara hesitates, “I... I’m not sure Louse. I’ve got a funny feeling we should be very careful what we say around here. It feels like the whole planet is listening...” “Ha ha!” I cry, “you don’t say! You must be kidding... you...” Whoops, I seem to have been somewhat preoccupied with my future moustache, and my words have had a rather drastic result. No sooner have I spoken, than Tamara’s mouth disappears, and she gives birth to two tiny goats. Well hush my mou... hngk

No comments: