You Can’t Kill the Multiverse (But You Can Mess With its Head)

by Ira Nayman

It's just another day in the Transdimensional Authority, with teams of investigators doing what they do best (well, after breakdancing) – investigating. Bob Blunt is en route through a Dimensional Portal™ to Earth prime 4-7-5-0-0-7 dash iota to investigate cars exhibiting most uncarlike behaviours – ribbit! (Breaking all of the Transdimensional Authority rules…number 127, he is without his partner, 'Breakfront' Balboa, who is on leave after an unfortunate incident with the Vulvar Ambassador to Earth Prime and a staple gun). Beau Beaumont and Biff Buckley have already arrived on Earth Prime 5-9-2-7-7-1 dash theta to find themselves surrounded by machines whose only intention is to serve human masters – even if it kills them! Recently recruited TA investigator Noomi Rapier, with her partner 'Crash' Chumley, is on Earth Prime 6-4-7-5-0-6 dash theta where all matter at all levels of organisation (from sub-atomic particles to the universe itself) has become conscious. Meanwhile Barack Bowens and Blabber Begbie, taking the Dimensional DeLorean™ to Earth prime 4-6-3-0-2-9 dash omicron, face multiple apocalypses (already in progress), and Bertrand Blailock and Bao Bai-Leung are having trouble travelling to their intended destination: the home of the digital gods. At first, they all appear to be looking for unauthorised and probably counterfeit Home Universe Generator™s, but could what’s really happening be more sinister?

(Yes. Yes, it could. We wouldn’t want to leave you in suspense…)

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Excerpt:

“It’s a garage,” said Biff Buckley.

And, it appears impenetrable,” added Bao Bai-Leung.

“Impenetrable?” asked Noomi Rapier.

“Bloody airtight!” elaborated Bai-Leung.

“Sorry about that,” Crash Chumley apologized.

“Why should you be sorry?” Noomi asked.

“I know you wanted your first raid to be on a warehouse, not a garage,” Crash empathized all over the place.

“What, that? Pfft!” Noomi pffted with a wave of her hand. “You’ve watched too many episodes of Jack Ryan, Transdimensional Authority Police!” But, there was an undertone of wistfulness to Noomi’s pffting.

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On the outskirts of London, a small band of Transdimensional Authority investigators were stationed in a parking lot behind a red VW microbus containing shovels and rakes and implements of destruction. They were surveilling a three story tall building with a sign out front that read:

JOE’S GARAGE

engines purring, gaskets blown

ENLIGHTENMENT NOT GUARANTEED

All of the entrances to the building appeared to have been sealed with concrete, leaving no apparent way in.

“We could blast our way in,” Blabber Begbie hopefully suggested.

“Crash, can you circle the perimeter and see if there is a way into the garage?” Barack Bowens half asked, half ordered. Ardered. He had been put in charge of the raid because, well, given his voice, the other agents were going to do what he said no matter what, so it might as well have been official.

“Sure thing, Barack,” Crash agreed.

“I could have done that,” Bertrand Blailock muttered.

“I know you could have,” Bowens half humoured, half agreed with him. Agumoured him.

“How would you know when you never send me to do reconnaissance?” Bertrand Blailock griped.

“I’ll send you next time,” Bowens assured him.

“You can send him this time if you think it would be best,” Crash stated.

“That would be okay with you?” Bertrand Blailock gratefully asked.

“Sure,” Crash replied. “I’ve done plenty of reconnaissance missions in my time. One more, more or less, won’t change my case closure rankings, and, anyway, who needs the paperwork?”

“Enough!” shouted Bowens. “I decided Crash should go this time, and Crash is going this time! Bertrand – next time!” And, since Bowen’s voice was in charge, everybody agreed. Crash stealthily hurried off.

“Course, we could just blast out way in,” Begbie rehopefully resuggested.

“I will keep that course of action in mind,” Bowens responded, adding, “but I have to be honest with you, Blabber: that’s not high on my list of priorities.”

“Why not?” Begbie belligerently asked. Well, only slightly more belligerently than usual.

“We’d lose the element of surprise.”

Inside the garage, a man was watching a video monitor on which six black and white CCTV images streamed. He was impatiently drumming his fingers on the armrest of a very comfortable (and surprisingly affordable – see the latest MultiMaxiMegaMart flyer for details!!!!) barcalounger. Next to him stood a woman dressed in a combination livery (not the kind that goes good with onions)/maid’s uniform. She was reading the lips of the people on the screens.

“…ment of surprise,” the woman tonelessly intoned.

The man stopped drumming his fingers on the armrest of his chair. He needed the palm of that hand to slap his forehead with. “Element of surprise!” he muttered. “A marching band of elephants would be more stealthy than this lot!”

“What if Crash finds that there is no other way in?” the woman asked, then immediately answered: “We’ll wait until somebody comes out. Sooner or later, somebody has to come out.”

The man bit his tongue, but began drumming his fingers on the armrest of his chair with heightened intensity.

Meanwhile, in the parking lot, Noomi asked, “Exactly how long do you suggest we wait?”

“Protocols suggest at least three hours, forty-seven minutes and sixteen seconds,” Bowens informed her.

“But, Skip, that’s only if you encounter a moat with crocodiles,” Beau Beaumont argued. “Add fourteen minutes and six seconds if the moat contains burning oil and an additional up to twenty-three minutes and five seconds if the drawbridge has been partially or completely destroyed, as determined by the formula in Appendix 3a Lime Green.”

“But –” Noomi started.

“Although, I will allow,” Beau Beaumont allowed, “that the situation cannot be considered entirely analogous.”

“Skip could have been thinking of storming a ship on the high seas in moderate gale wind conditions,” Bao Bai-Leung offered. “You know, one with a crew made up of crocodiles.”

“I think you’re missing –” Noomi tried again.

“Naah,” Bertrand Blailock disagreed. “I think it’s more like how much time to allow before you rescue the hostages at a Will Self reading!”

“Actually,” Bowens, feeling a little left out of the discussion, chimed in, “the closest analogue in the Transdimensional Authority Operations Manual is how long to wait before accusing somebody in the office of stealing your pudding from the back of the fridge.”

The investigators looked at each other, uncertain, but muttered general agreement because, well, Bowens was the skipper on the mission, and that gave him the prerogative to choose whatever metaphors he desired.

“Aren’t you forgetting something?” Noomi piped up.

“What’s that?” Bowens asked.

Before Noomi could tell them what they were forgetting, a little old lady walked up to them. It was hard to tell if she was leading the sheepdog (which was almost as big as she was), or if the sheepdog was leading her. No matter – it was now trying to jump on Bowens, whose commands to it to stop seemed to have no effect.

“Down Bitsy!” the old lady shouted. “Down, boy!”

Beau Beaumont and Biff Buckley moved to grab hold of the dog and tear it off their skipper. It turned its head momentarily to growl at them that that was a bad idea. It returned to licking Bowens’ face as they backed off.

“Okay,” Bowens said through the slobber, “I didn’t want to do this, but you have left me no choice!” He reached into his pocket and took out a package of jelly babies. When Bowens dropped an orange and a puce jelly baby to the ground, the dog immediately dropped to lap them up and start chewing them, a process that would last two hours, fifty-four minutes and seven seconds.

“You’ll have to forgive my Bitsy,” the little old lady told them. “She doesn’t get much opportunity to make new friends.” The little old lady considered this for a moment; then, her eyes narrowed. “You’re not from around here, are you?”

“No,” Bowens allowed. “No, we’re not.”

“Kent?” the little old lady asked.

“Uhh, no, little old lady,” Bowens responded. “Further than Kent.”

“Bradford?” the little old lady continued.

The Transdimensional Authority agents looked at each other. More or less at the same time, they realized that the more they denied her, the greater would be the little old lady’s geography lesson. So, more or less as one, they replied, “Yeah.” “Certainly.” “Bradford – why not?” “Absolutely.”

The little old lady nodded her head. Certainly. That just made sense, that did. She looked over her shoulder at the garage, and asked, “You’re not watching that nice Mister Cornelius, are you?”

Begbie nearly choked on his memory of lasagne. “Nice? NICE?”

“There’s no need to shout, young man,” the little old lady mildly scolded him. “It’s not like I need hearing aids. Well, of course, I do need hearing aids. But, I have them in right now. Okay, the battery in one of them is dying, but that wasn’t the ear turned towards you, so there is a reasonable assumption that I heard what you said.”

“And?”

“And…I don’t remember what it was.”

“Nice!”

“Oh, right,” the little old lady snapped the fingers of her hand that wasn’t holding Bitsy’s leash. “You were impugning my description of Miser Cornelius as ‘nice.’ Well, he is. Whenever Bitsy and I meet him on our walkies, he always has a doggy treat in his pocket. Why, just last week, he judged a pie baking contest at the local fair – ever so nice he was about it, too, saying he wished every one of the pies could be declared a winner.”

“Ah, yes,” Bowens, anxious to move the little old lady along, agreed. “That does sound very nice.”

“So,” the little old lady’s eyes narrowed again, “why you casing his joint?”

The TA investigators hemmed and hawed. “We were – umm – for his own protection,” Noomi suggested.

“His protection?” the little old lady asked, suspicious.

“Gotta make sure he doesn’t run afoul of…uhh…” Biff Buckley started.

“Yes?”

“People like us!” Beau Beaumont completed his partner’s thought.

“Yes,” the little old lady agreed. “That makes sense.” After a moment, she added, “Well, you seem to have everything in hand. Good protecting to you.” She grabbed the dog’s leash in both hands and pulled mightily. Bitsy slowly started to walk away.

“Oh, and if any of you need a place to stay,” the little old lady said over her shoulder as the dog gained momentum, “I have rooms to let in my house. I didn’t just a short time ago, but the nice old professor and his friends just…disappeared one day. They just disappeared. Ask anybody in the neighbourhood for Mrs. Wilberforce – everybody knows where I live. Ta –” And, with that, Bitsy pulled her around a corner.

“What an odd creature,” Begbie muttered.

“Alright, then,” Bowens tore his attention away from where the little old lady disappeared towards Noomi, “You said we’ve forgotten something?”

“I did?” Noomi replied.

“You did. What was it?”

“I’ve forgotten.”

“Did it have anything to do with the War of 1812?” Bertrand Blailock suggested.

“Is that really relevant in this day and age?” Noomi mused.

“The brash impotence of the World Trade Organization?” Biff Buckley suggested.

“Noooooo.”

“The case we’re working on?” Begbie suggested.

“No. Yes. Yes, that’s it. You – we seem to be forgetting that there’s a maniac in that building who plans on blowing up the multiverse!”

“Hmm…that’s a fair point, I believe I would have responded before we were so…daintily interrupted,” Bowens allowed. “Tell you what. If Crash comes back and says that there’s no way into the building –”

On cue, Crash came back and said, “Sorry, Skip, but I couldn’t find a way into the building.”

“Well, that’s that, then,” Bowens cheerfully stated.

“I should get out the gelignite?” Begbie eagerly asked.

“We’ll take five – no, the urgency of the situation demands seven – minutes off our waiting time!”

“…off our waiting time,” the woman inside the garage repeated.

“Seriously?!” the man shouted interrobangingly. He angrily threw the closest object to hand at the monitor; unfortunately, it was a Nerf scale model of Apollo 11 that he squeezed whenever he felt the need to release tension, and it bounced harmlessly off the screen. “These clowns were able to uncover five different universes where the plan was taking effect? They actually managed to arrest two of my cognates?”

“…want to play Parcheesi?” The woman turned to face him. “Transdimensional Authority agents are legendary for working singly or in pairs, but their collective intelligence appears to go down with each additional investigator assigned to a case.” Then, she turned back to the screen and added: “…ictionary is the official board game of Transdimensional Authority stakeouts.”

“Yes, yes, I know all about the Wachowski Formula for Investigative Effectiveness!” the man muttered. “I was the one who suggested the Daylight Savings Time Variable to Lana! Can’t a man complain to his subordinate without being challenged?”

“…take full responsibility for the fact that nobody brought dice,” the woman responded.

“Enough!” the man screamed. “Minion!”

The woman turned towards him. “Sir?”

With a resigned sigh, the man said, “Let them in.”

“Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of the concrete?”

The man shrugged. “That was for the planning stage. Now that everything is in place, I want an audience.”

A couple of minutes later, Buckley announced, “Something’s moving!”

Part of a concrete barrier that may once have been the front window of the garage slowly descended into the ground. Before the investigators could put down their cards and put up a motion to debate the meaning of this, a woman stepped out of the empty space. She was beautiful, tall, slender, with high cheekbones and blazing blue eyes. She wore a uniform that was at once different from anything they had ever seen and achingly familiar. The woman waved in their direction.

“Yoohoo! Boys!” she shouted.

They pointed at themselves and coyly mouthed, “Who, me?” Even Biff Buckley! Even Noomi!

“You’ve found us!” the woman shouted. “Why don’t you come in and say hello? We’ve got cookies!”

COLLAPSE
Reviews:David Kilman on Amazing Stories wrote:

EXCERPT: Nayman employs something of a kitchen sink style of humor. By that I mean that he throws everything but the kitchen sink at the reader (actually, he throws the sink too), utilizing diverse humor techniques in a rapid fire manner. His style is heavily metafictional, regularly breaking the fourth wall for comic effect. And he uses cultural references (mostly SF/F) almost as frequently as he makes jokes.

Eric Swett on My Writer's Cramp wrote:

EXCERPT: I would definitely recommend this book to anyone. While I did not like this book as much as I enjoyed Welcome to the Universe, but it was still a really fun read. The different chapters were enjoyable all on their own, but they are brought together to form a terrific story that anyone with half a sense of humor would enjoy.

on Stranger Views:

EXCERPT: The first point to make about this book is that it is hilarious. Ira Nayman has a rare talent for writing humour and that should be applauded. The dialogue is witty, the situations funny and the narration hysterical. The author packs humour into every paragraph, making it slightly dizzying at times.


About the Author

Ira Nayman is a comedy writer who stumbled into science fiction 15 or so years ago and decided to hang around and see how it played out.

He is the author of six books in the Multiverse series, the most recent of which is Good Intentions: The Multiverse Refugees Trilogy: First Pie in the Face. The seventh and eighth books in the series, including the second book in the trilogy, are currently awaiting a decision by Elsewhen Press. In addition, Ira has self-published 11 books in his Alternate Reality News Service series; the most recent of these is Idiotocracy for Dummies. He is also the creator of Les Pages aux Folles, a web site of political and social satire that has been updated weekly since 2002.

In another life, Ira has a PhD in Communications from McGill University and taught in the New Media Programme of Ryerson University for five years. He is currently the editor of Amazing Stories magazine. Yes, that Amazing Stories magazine.


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