Laugh Date: Thursday, February 22, 2018

What's Inside

Best of RAH:
Ten Very Forward

by Dave Bealer

Copyright 1994 Dave Bealer, All Rights Reserved

This parody first appeared in the November 1994
issue of Random Access Humor. It contains unreasonable facsimiles of characters and situations created by Gene Roddenberry and owned by Paramount Pictures. This is an unauthorized and unofficial parody. None of the creative people behind the real series or movies are to blame for what you are about to read...

Acting Ensign Leslie Ann Musher was moping. This was nothing new, since Leslie was a teenager. Even worse, he had a name that was more effeminate than he was (which was not an easy accomplishment). Gee. Leslie was bad enough, but Ann? What had his parents been thinking? They probably hadn't been thinking, as usual.

Leslie's father didn't think much any more, being dead these many years. He had been killed in the line of duty, attempting to give his captain's cat a bath. What a hideous way to go, with your body covered in wet cat hair. Leslie hated cats, especially the stupid one named "Snot" that belonged to the second officer, Lieutenant Commander Object.

Eventually Leslie tired of scrolling through the latest digitally stored issue of Playbeing, accessed through an account he had hacked into months before. Commander Spik'er would probably never wise up to the increased usage. The Deltan centerfold was quite arousing, especially with the new "rub and sniff pheromone simulation" technology. Still...Leslie put on a bathing suit and skulked off to the Virtual Reality Deck to run his favorite program, Busty Beach Babes From Bayonne. He couldn't even remember which planet Bayonne was on, not that it really mattered.

Thirty minutes later Leslie padded back to his quarters, dripping water on the deck. "I thought the Captain warned you about that, Les." Leslie wheeled, startled. The voice was familiar, but seemed to be coming from behind and above him.

"Gordie? Is that you?" Leslie scanned the passage behind him, then noticed an open service panel a few meters back along the ceiling.

Leslie's question was answered by a dark blur that dropped from the open panel and sprawled itself on the deck. "Uugh," noted Gordie as he skidded to a stop. "You were expecting, maybe, X?"

Leslie walked over and offered his friend a hand getting up. "Don't even mention that bozo. I'm so sick of him showing up and comparing himself to 'the name brand' all-powerful aliens. Doesn't he know that stuff went out of style in the 1960s?"

Gordie grinned his trademark grin. "Don't be so hard on him, Les. At least he always loses to the name brand." He busied himself with a rag, removing the water that now streaked the back of his synthleather jacket while Leslie rolled his eyes and sighed mightily. Gordie sniffed the rag. "Sea water? Hangin' with the beach babes again, huh, Les?"

Leslie blushed from the tips of his toes to the roots of his hair. "Does everyone on this tub keep track of everything I do?" he whined petulantly.

"Just the embarrassing stuff." Gordie chuckled and mussed Leslie's hair.

Leslie ducked away from Gordie's hand. "That's not funny," he muttered bitterly.

"Sorry Les." A concerned look crossed Gordie's face. Leslie missed this, since the engineer's face was concealed by the brown paper bag he customarily wore over his head. "'smatter, your sense of humor on leave?"

"Nah. I was just thinking..."

"About something other than those beach babes?"

"Maybe." Leslie's blush deepened. Since he had no intention of telling anyone, even Gordie, what he has just been thinking about, he decided to change the subject. "So...what were you doin' up in the ceiling? Hiding from Captain Picardo again?"

Gordie snorted. "No way! We got that ironed out long ago. That was a straight medical physical your mother was giving me."

"Right! Just like the ones she gives the captain every night, and sometimes on Saturday afternoons."

"Now Les, nobody is supposed to know about that."

It was Leslie's turn to snort. "Sure. Anyone who's deaf, dumb and blind doesn't know about it. You'd think with all this technology they could come up with bed frames that don't squeak..."


"Forget it!" Leslie felt suddenly embarrassed by his mother's extracurricular activities. "Alright then...what were you doing up in the ceiling?"

"Checking the tachyon dispensers. Since tachyons are capable of solving any problem, we have to make sure they're always available."

"But since we're a cruise ship now, why do we need those anyway?"

"Space is a dangerous place, Les. Just because Starfleet sold the Enterprise to Countess Cruise Lines due to downsizing doesn't mean that bad things can't happen to the ship."

Leslie was letting himself get agitated now. "They took out the photon torpedo bays and replaced them with jacuzzis. And the phaser banks are now a skeet shooting range!"

"Yeah, and they changed the ship's name from Enterprise to Ecstasy. What's your point?"

Leslie sighed, and rolled his eyes like he was talking to a small child. "The point is, there are now more Virtual Reality decks on board than laboratories. The main VR contractor has three technicians permanently assigned to the ship. What about our old mission of exploration and research?"

"Wake up and smell the tribbles, Les! Nobody cares about exploration anymore. All people care about is what makes them feel good now. They don't care about tomorrow. The pioneer spirit is dead."

"That's a pretty selfish attitude. What about my generation, and the ones to follow?"

"You'll figure out something, Les. You guys are pretty smart... not as smart as you think you are, but pretty smart. Hey, you want real smart, check out those Nintendo technicians, they're all smart cookies. That blonde with the spiked hair, what's her name?"


"Right, Lisa. She may know virtual reality, but I bet she could show you a thing or two about real reality as well."

"Puleease! She's gotta be at least twenty-five!"

Gordie grinned knowingly. "Older women can be fun, Les. They know things..."

Suddenly Leslie's communicator beeped. "Ensign Musher, report to sick bay, on the double!"

Leslie winced at the all-too-familiar voice. He slapped the device to enable transmit. "Coming, mother." He looked up at his grinning friend. "Go ahead and smirk, LeStudd. I may just ask Lisa out."

"If you won't, I will. You better run along now..."

Leslie checked to make sure no one else was in the corridor, then stuck his tongue out at Gordie as the engineer climbed back through the ceiling panel to complete his inspection. Although Leslie knew it was an infantile gesture, he didn't particularly care at that moment. It made him feel better.

"I'm waiting for an explanation, Leslie." Dr. Cleverly Musher was wearing an impatient expression on her face. Leslie had categorized over 300 expressions his mother's face was capable of displaying in times of stress; everything from 'I am contemplating being mildly irritated about this situation.' up to 'I am going to hurl you into a supernova, without a spacesuit, or even sunblock, if you don't stop that this instant!'.

Leslie finally decided this expression was about a 202 on the scale, which was 'If you think you'll ever hear the end of this from me, you have another think coming'. He didn't see what the big deal was. Those books had long been considered literature. "I don't see what the big deal is, Mom. Those books were considered literature back when you were sixteen."

"That's not the point and you know it. And another thing, stop saying 'when I was sixteen' like it was during the Paleolithic Age."

"Come on, Mom. It was just The Story of O and Exit to Eden. They're both considered classics."

"Classic trash! You might as well be reading William Burroughs, for heaven's sake."

"I thought you didn't believe in heaven, Mom. And who's this William Burroughs?" Leslie made a mental note to look up the name in Books Online.

"Don't try to change the subject, young man. We were talking about these 'interests' you are developing. As a physician, I know they are only natural."

"So why are you giving me hormone blockers, and why do have I to sleep in that stupid stasis-sleep box every night."

"That's for your own protection, Leslie. And stop trying to change the subject! I thought you had a talk with Lt. Blorf about this last week. Didn't the rather spartan Klingon methods of dealing with... shall we say, frustrations, appeal to you?"

"Hah! Mom, do you know about the Klingon version of a cold shower? It involves smashing your genitals with a spiked iron club."

"Really? Blorf never would reveal how he received those injuries. No wonder he's always so cranky. Alright, that method is definitely out."

Leslie breathed a deep sigh of relief.

Cleverly's eyes suddenly lit up. "What about Counselor d'Troit? She might be able to help."

Leslie didn't believe that for a nanosecond. On the other hand, he never passed up a chance to spend time with the ship's counselor. Of course, Leslie was far more interested in her other on-board job than in her psychoanalytical abilities. "Sure, Mom. Anything you say."

Cleverly Musher, M.D. gave her only offspring a suspicious glance. She wondered why he was suddenly so cooperative.

Leslie sat in the counselor's waiting room. He studiously ignored the collection of paper magazines, most of which dated back to the 20th century, lying on a low table in the center of the small room. His entire attention was focused on the poster on the opposite wall.

The subject of Leslie's scrutiny was a standard glossy advertising poster, about a meter high and nearly that wide, bearing words in several languages and a picture in the center. The top of the poster read, 'Helen d'Troit: Enough beauty to launch at least one ship.' Below the picture appeared the smaller legend, 'Alright, would you believe a shuttlecraft?' At the very bottom of the poster appeared the larger words, 'Appearing nightly in the Lido Lounge, C.C.S. Ecstasy.' Leslie already knew these words by heart. The real subject of the youth's attention was the full color, tri-d picture of the ship's counselor, clad only in pasties and a g-string.

Leslie shifted his legs uncomfortably. He wore the most baggy pair of trousers that could be worn with anything other than clown shoes. Any other pants became most uncomfortable during his interviews with Counselor d'Troit. The worst part was that d'Troit didn't need to see the state of his trousers to know exactly what he was thinking every time he was near her. It was very embarrassing.

Leslie's art appreciation was interrupted by the door to d'Troit's inner office swooshing open. It was not the counselor that emerged, however, but Lt. Tar, the ship's chief of security. The short, but powerful, blonde officer's left arm was in a sling. She noticed Leslie staring at it. "It's not that bad, Les. Just a sprain."

"How did it happen?"

"'My favorite android' and I went slam dancing last night in the Clapton Memorial Disco. Object got a little carried away."

Leslie smirked, "Looks more like you got carried away, on a stretcher!"

Tar blushed slightly, then laughed despite herself. "Okay, smart boy. I bet you wouldn't be able to take your hands off your lap and walk into d'Troit's office if you weren't wearing those clown pants."

Leslie's grin turned into a blush. It occurred to him that he'd been blushing quite a lot lately. "They're not clown pants," Leslie mumbled, exhibiting a sudden intense interest in the pattern on d'Troit's waiting room floor.

"Right." Tar headed for the outer office door. "Don't worry, kid. Helen's wearing her uniform today."

As the outer door closed behind Lt. Tar, the inner office door opened again. Helen d'Troit stood in the doorway and grinned at Leslie, who had tremendous difficulty forcing himself not to stare at her cleavage. "Hello, Ensign Hormone Storm. Come on in," she suggested seductively. Of course, everything she did seemed seductive to Leslie. The furiously blushing youth followed her into the office, walking a little oddly despite his clown pants.

"Everyone treats me like a clown...or maybe a performing dog," Leslie muttered to himself as he trudged towards the turbolift an hour later. The door swooshed open and he entered the lift, joining two passengers that were already aboard. "Bridge," Leslie ordered, supremely glad that he followed d'Troit's advice and changed into regular uniform trousers before going to see the captain.

The two young men (this was a singles cruise, Leslie remembered) got off on deck five and immediately headed for unoccupied VR decks, the Nintendo logo glistening on their doors. The turbolift doors closed again and completed the trip to the bridge. Leslie always got a lump in his throat as the lift doors opened on the bridge. He simply couldn't shake the memory of his first visit here, when the captain had nearly torn his head off for daring to enter His bridge.

A great deal had changed on the bridge since that fateful day. The tactical control station now controlled the hundreds of virtual reality environments on board the ship. The science station controlled the swimming pools, tennis courts, and variable-gravity sports venues.

Monitors viewed all the action in the ship's casino. Cheating was rare considering the fact that Lt. Blorf, the bouncer, would not hesitate to throw offenders not only out of the casino, but out of the nearest convenient airlock into deep space. His crankiness was legendary among the gamblers of the quadrant.

One thing that hadn't changed was the center seat. Well, it was covered with sheepskin now - the real deal, too. None of that artificial stuff for the captain of Countess Cruise Lines' flagship.

Captain Ricardo Picardo hadn't changed that much. He still exuded a palpable aura of command that scared the hell out of Leslie. The expensive rug that topped his former chrome dome looked good, even if it looked strange to those who knew him before he took to wearing it. Leslie descended to the center of the bridge, facing the man in the center seat.

Picardo looked up from the dog-eared Harold Robbins paperback he was reading. "Ensign? What is it?"

"A flag flown by ancient maritime vessels, sir. But that's not important right now. May I speak with you in private?"

Picardo sighed, but rose. "Of course, I always have a few moments for a member of the crew...even one with pimples."

Leslie gulped for air like a landed fish. He soon recovered and followed Picardo into his ready-or-not room. Picardo walked over to the nutrient replicator. "Sangria, tepid." The mechanism hummed. Picardo took the resulting pitcher and sprawled on the lounge chair behind his falsewood desk. He filled a crystal glass, from which he immediately took a big chug. "Sit down, ensign. What can I do for you?"

"I just saw Counselor d'Troit."

"In the Lido Lounge? I thought you knew better than to go in there again until you're at least eighteen?"

"No, sir. I saw..."

"You don't know better?"

Leslie noticed a dangerous color building in the captain's face. "No, sir. I mean, yes, sir. I do know better than to go into the Lido Lounge again. I saw Counselor d'Troit in her office."

Picardo relaxed. "Well, that's different. Go on."

"Counselor d'Troit gave me this." Leslie handed the captain a neatly folded piece of paper.

Picardo folded open the paper and read the note. His eyebrows did a quick Vulcan science officer impression. "I take it your mother doesn't know about this?"

"No, sir. Counselor d'Troit thought it would be best for her not to know."

"Really?" Picardo's brow knitted in thought as he took another chug of sangria. "I suppose there's something to that. Mothers do tend to be unreasonable about these things where their sons are concerned. Fathers, on the other hand, tend to overreact when it comes to their daughters."

Leslie thought that mothers, or at least his mother, tended to be unreasonable about most everything. He decided to keep that opinion to himself, especially considering how close the captain was to his mother...almost every night. "Yes, sir."

"The question is, do you think you're ready for this, Leslie?"

Leslie was momentarily stunned, since the captain had never referred to him by his first name before. As to the question, Leslie had been ready for this for years. "Yes, sir!"

"Very well, ensign, you have your waiver." Picardo returned immediately to formal mode. He signed the note and returned it the eager hands of the acting ensign. "Enjoy."

"Thank you, sir!" Leslie grabbed the note and had to force himself to not run from the room.

Leslie straightened his best uniform tunic for the thousandth time. He was so on edge that his nerve endings were practically outside his body. Destiny was just around the corner. He steeled himself again and marched around the corner, directly into the tank-like chest of Commander Spik'er, the ship's executive officer.

"Whoa, Les! What's the rush?" Spik'er bent to help Leslie, who had bounced off his chest and was sprawled on the floor.

"No rush, I just wasn't paying attention. Sorry, sir." He brushed himself off and desperately tried to look nonchalant.

Spik'er shrugged off the apology. "No big deal, pal." He cocked his head to one side. "Gee, you're sure spiffed up. Got a date tonight?"

Leslie unsuccessfully tried to fight off the blush, "No sir, not exactly."

"Not exactly, eh? Well...," Spik'er started to leave. Suddenly he stopped and eyed Leslie suspiciously. "Wait a minute. You're not planning to try getting in there again, are you?" He gestured vaguely towards a mahogany covered doorway at the end of the hall.


"Come off it, Les. You know that Guyaxy's people will never let you in. If you tick her off too badly, she won't let you in even when you are old enough."

Leslie drew himself up to his full height, which came roughly to Spik'er's sternum. He offered the note to the Exec. "This says I'm old enough now, sir."

Spik'er took the paper, glared briefly at Leslie, then unfolded and read the note. He grunted. "Signed by d'Troit and Picardo, eh? Is this on the level?"

"Yes, sir." Leslie was becoming concerned that so many people were finding out about this.

"You poor kid. But do you think Guyaxy will buy this?"

Leslie stood with his hands clasped behind his back, poking at nothing in particular with the toe of his right shoe. He shrugged.

"Alright, come with me," said Spik'er, swaggering down the corridor towards the ornate door. He still had Leslie's note in his hand.

Leslie launched into his landed fish impression again as he hurried after Spik'er. "But sir," he gasped breathlessly, "I can handle this myself!"

Spik'er grinned wickedly, "I thought the whole point of this exercise was to not have to do that anymore?"

"Siirrr!" Leslie spluttered.

"Don't worry, I'll get you in." Spik'er stopped in front of the mahogany door. The genuine wooden covering clashed with the alloy walls surrounding the portal. The number "10" was carved into the upper center of the wood, the numbers embossed in gold. A brass door knocker waited a half meter below the numbers.

"Sir! I don't need..." Leslie's protest was interrupted by Spik'er firmly applying the brass knocker to the mahogany door. The youth began trying to compose himself and furiously straighten all his clothing.

For a few moments nothing happened. The nervous youth stood next to Spik'er, who appeared the be swaggering even while standing still. Leslie often wondered how he managed to do that.

A loud click emanated from the door, which swung in to the left. This was obviously an old-style, hinged door. A male Vulcan opened the door wide, waving the two humans inside. Leslie was astounded by the odd furnishings of the room they now entered. He searched his memory for a name to attach to the obviously ancient style of interior decor.

Leslie's musings were interrupted by two simultaneous events: he caught sight of a pair of Borg seated on a frilly couch at the far end of the room; and the nattily dressed doorbeing, having closed the antique door, turned and addressed the newcomers. "Good evening, gentlemen," the Vulcan politely intoned, "Welcome to Ten Very Forward, the best little whore house in..."

"Wait!" a dignified, authoritarian voice called from across the room. The two humans turned to face the source of the interruption, an older Vulcan in a tuxedo who strode purposefully towards them.

Spik'er grinned at the approaching Vulcan. "Saran, good to see you again..."

"Can the small talk, Spik'er! You still owe us four month's pay. I told you not to show your face here again until your account was current. And as a Vulcan, I was not amused by your attempt to get in here last week wearing a mask!"

"Come on, Saran. A man has needs. Besides, are you sure all those charges are really mine? Someone has been running up my Playbeing account something awful." Spik'er was quite vexed. Leslie's stomach began doing somersaults, but he kept a neutral expression on his face.

"Your 'needs' could short out all the VR decks on this ship, not to mention our entire staff. Our accounting is most meticulous, as you well know. Your other problems are strictly your own. I have no time for this. Get out." The Vulcan's tone was very matter-of-fact.

"Hold on, Saran. As it turns out, I'm not here for me. My friend here is the customer tonight." Spik'er gestured towards Leslie.

Saran eyed Leslie narrowly. "You look a little young. Let's see some ID." Leslie sighed and reached for his ID card. He was glad that he didn't look in real life like any of the disguises he had used in previous attempts to gain entrance to this place.

"Hold it, Saran," interrupted Spik'er. He offered the folded paper to the Vulcan. "Take a look at this first."

The Vulcan took the paper carefully out of the Spik'er's hand, almost as if he was expecting the human to be wearing a hand buzzer. He quickly read the contents, and his left eyebrow arched in the manner of his race when showing surprise. "Is this some kind of trick?"

"No tricks, Saran," Spik'er assured him. "I'll vouch for both those signatures. They're genuine."

"Very well, I'll take this to Madame. The decision is hers. Have a seat, gentlemen." Saran turned and exited the room through an ornate wooden framed passageway.

Leslie and Spik'er sat on a pair of overstuffed chairs in the waiting room. After a half minute Leslie broke the silence, "that guy is a little cold."

Spik'er chuckled. "Don't mind Saran, he just gets wrapped up in his work."

Leslie slumped back in his chair. Suddenly two questions occurred to him. One seemed more urgent, since the subjects were still sitting patiently across the room. "Sir, what are Borg doing here?" he whispered.

Spik'er leaned towards Leslie, covering his mouth and whispering, "they're flocking here these days. Guyaxy has the only HP ProbeJet in the quadrant."

"HP ProbeJet?"

"Yes." Spik'er slipped into his best holovid announcer's voice, "The latest in automata pleasure devices."

"I see. And why are all the employees here Vulcans? I wouldn't have expected them to be working in a place like this."

"People need jobs, Les. After the Cardasians started worshipping Elvis and the Borg went condo, all the interstellar governments started to downsize their defense fleets. You remember how 'The Big E' became a cruise ship? Well, the Vulcans, despite their peace- loving reputation, turned out to be the biggest defense contractors in the galaxy. A lot of them are out of work now, so they pop up in the strangest places."

"Okay," Leslie's brow furrowed. "But why is Guyaxy hiring them? I wouldn't think they'd be that well suited to the work here."

Spik'er chuckled again. "Guyaxy may be dignified and all that, but she's cheap too. She only has to give the Vulcans freebies once every seven years."

"Oh, yeah. I hadn't thought of that."

"Guyaxy did. She never misses a trick." At that both humans erupted into such gales of laughter that even the Borg took notice for a few picoseconds.

Eventually Leslie was forced to stop laughing or wet himself. Luckily he had the presence of mind to stop laughing. As he wiped the tears from his eyes, he was glad for the release of tension. Leslie soon noticed that while he and Spik'er had been immersed in mirth, Saran had reentered the room, accompanied by two very large Vulcans.

"If you're quite through amusing yourselves," the tuxedo clad Vulcan began seriously, "we can get on with this." The two spent humans rose from their chairs. "Ensign, you will accompany me. Madame Guyaxy wishes to speak with you. Commander, you will leave. Now."

Leslie watched, speechless, as the two Vulcans with Saran grabbed Spik'er and bodily threw him, kicking and cursing, out the front door. The doorbeing, who had opened that portal in anticipation of this operation, closed it again, cutting off Spik'er's expression of outrage.

"So, ensign, exactly how long has this been going on?"

"Ma'am?" Leslie was having tremendous trouble looking Guyaxy in the face. Not that it was an ugly face, or anything. It was her eyes. They seemed to see right through his skin into his soul. If you looked directly into them, they seemed to be bottomless wells. All the knowledge in the universe, especially erotic knowledge, seemed to be contained (just barely) in those wells.

"How long has your mother been making you sleep in that stasis box?"

"Since I was twelve." Guyaxy's office fascinated Leslie. It was furnished in the same ornate style as the waiting room, with real wooden furniture that must have cost a bundle.

"I see. And that was how many years ago?"

"Six years. But since I don't age during the eights hours each night I spend in stasis-sleep, my body has only aged four years."

"So your mental age is eighteen, but your physical age is sixteen?"

"Yes, ma'am." Leslie finally remembered the term applied to Ten Very Forward's style of interior decor. It was called Victorian.

"I understand that the mothers of many races become upset at how quickly their children grow up. This is the first case I've seen in all my long years where a mother has actually taken steps to slow the process. How did she get away with it?"

Leslie was amused by the question. "Easy, she's the chief surgeon on a starship. Plus, she invented the stasis-sleep technology. She claimed to be 'testing' it on me all this time."

"An interesting situation." Guyaxy appeared lost in thought, an even further away look in her eyes, her gloved hands pressed together in an attitude some beings reserved for prayer.

Leslie couldn't help thinking of the rumors that circulated throughout the ship about this mysterious alien. Some said Guyaxy wore clothing that covered everything except her face because she had a lizard's body. That didn't make sense to Leslie. He didn't know what she really was, but it occurred to him, sitting there in her presence, that there really were things that people were better off not knowing.

Guyaxy's hands separated. She seemed to have come to a decision. "Very well. I would like to speak with your mother about her new technology at her earliest convenience. Meanwhile, since mental capacity is the most important aspect of consent, you are accepted as a client of Ten Very Forward."

Leslie was as bewildered as he ever hoped to be. Seated in an ornate Victorian drawing room nestled deep in Ten Very Forward, he mused over the events of the past few minutes.

Whisked from Madame Guyaxy's office by Saran, Leslie underwent a quick, but thorough, medical scan. "Just to make sure you're healthy," Saran assured him. "We can't afford any accidents here."

Next came the questions. Gender? Species? Not even race...species? Leslie fancied himself as having a wild imagination. There were even moments when he felt himself to be...perverted. Leslie was surprised by these feelings, even though he was intelligent enough to recognize them as mere alternatives, not as the perversions they were once thought to be. Still, the options being offered here boggled Leslie's mind.

At least the initial selections were made from holovid recordings. Saran wanted him to select two or three for the actual interview, but when he saw her holovid, the choice was clear. Now Leslie sat waiting for her, his nerves so brittle he felt like a china doll... like the slightest touch could cause him to shatter into a hundred pieces.

A door opened. Leslie sprang out of his chair like a jack-in-the- box. He silently cursed himself for being a childish idiot. Then he saw her.

She wore a blue dress that went dreamily with both her spiked blonde hair and her squash-colored skin. She closed the door and seemed to glide across the room. "Hi there. I remember seeing you around the ship." Her voice was curiously high pitched.

Leslie's mouth was suddenly bone dry. He tried to swallow. "Hi," he nearly croaked, "it's good to meet you finally." What a stupid thing to say! "I thought you worked for Nintendo?" Even better! Way to go, genius!

Lisa smiled engagingly. "I do work for 'the big N.' I just moonlight here."

"I see. I'm Leslie Musher, by the way."

"Lisa Simpson." She reached out and took Leslie's hand. He stared at her hand, surprised at the sensation. "You ever meet a toon before, Leslie?"

"," Leslie stammered. "Are you really real?"

"Real enough for you, big boy!" Lisa embraced Leslie and kissed him. Leslie saw stars. He couldn't tell if they were toon stars or real ones. He decided it didn't matter.

Late in the ship's night Leslie limped out of Ten Very Forward. He headed back to his quarters, exhausted but content. He softly sang an old Earth song, "Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me."


Dave Bealer is a fifty-something mainframe systems programmer who works with CICS, z/OS and all manner of nasty acronyms at one of the largest heavy metal shops on the East Coast. He shares a waterfront townhome in Pasadena, MD. with a cat who annoys him endlessly as he assiduously avoids writing for and publishing Random Access Humor. Dave can be reached via e-mail at:


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