The Other Guide
The Other Guide: An Obsenad
Author's disclaimer: Oh boy. NOTHING is mine, here. Not even half the sentences. Plagiarism o'rama! But all in good fun, (I hope!)
Author's notes: My obsenad. Which is not very obscene. Please visit my new page: http://www.trickster.org/cesca/
"Jim, wake up. Jim. Jim!"
Jim Ellison came awake and stared up at his partner, who was perched on the edge of his bed.
Jim was irritated. "Chief, it's my morning to sleep in — "
"No it isn't," Blair interrupted. "You can't — not now — not today. You have to get up."
"Why?" Jim asked, sitting up. It seemed a reasonable question.
Blair set his mouth. "Jim, I've got something to tell you.
Jim crossed his arms. "So tell me."
"Get dressed." Blair got up off the bed and headed for the stairs. "Come downstairs. I'll tell you then."
Jim glared at him. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't just roll over and go back to sleep."
Blair stared at him, and Jim could see the tension on his friend's face. "It's important," Blair said simply, and then headed down the stairs.
Jim sighed. It was important. Damn the kid. He heaved himself out of bed, and then put on his terry-cloth bathrobe, tied the waist tight. Important, the kid said. Well, it had damn well better be.
He came down the loft steps. Blair was out on the balcony, staring out at the bay. He turned and took in Jim's bathrobe with a frown. "I told you to get dressed."
"This is good enough," Jim said, stepping out onto the balcony. There was a six-pack sitting out on the small wrought-iron table. "Isn't it a little early?" Jim asked, looking from the bottles to Blair.
"Have a beer with me," Blair said, pulling two bottles out of their slots.
"Chief, I just woke up," Jim objected, but Blair had already popped the tops, and was extending him one. Reluctantly, Jim took it. Beer for breakfast: this was new. Hell, something must really be up.
"Drink up," Blair said, "you've got three bottles to get through."
"Three bottles?" Jim said incredulously. "Why?"
"Drink up," Blair repeated firmly, gesturing at Jim with his beer bottle.
"Why three bottles all of a sudden?"
"Muscle relaxant, you'll need it."
"Muscle relaxant?" Jim stared down at this beer, then up at Blair. "Okay, look. Did I do anything wrong," he asked, "or have you always been like this and I've been too wrapped up in myself to notice?"
Blair sighed. "All right," he said, "I'll try to explain. Jim, how long have we known each other?"
"How long?" Jim thought about it. "About three years. Maybe four. Most of it seemed to make some kind of sense at the time."
"All right," Blair said, taking a step closer. "How would you react if I said that I'm not from Cascade at all, but from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse?"
Jim shrugged in a so-so sort of way.
"I don't know," he said, taking a pull of the cold beer. "Why, do you think it's the sort of thing you're likely to say?"
Blair gave up, turned away, and looked over the bay instead. It really wasn't worth bothering about at the moment, what with the world being about to end. He just said, "Jim, drink up."
At the moment, Blair really wished that he had Jim's eyesight. If he had, he could probably have seen the yellow specks in the sky above. But he didn't; so he couldn't. But, like a good scientist, Blair didn't need to see them to know they were there. They were registering on a small black device called a Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic which was nestled in the darkness inside a leather backpack which Blair habitually carried over his shoulder. The contents of Blair Sandburg's backpack were quite interesting in fact and would have made any Earth physicist's eyes pop out of his head, which is why he always concealed them by keeping a pile of bluebooks and a copy of the first chapter of his dissertation stuffed on top of everything.
The truth, which nobody, even Jim, suspected, was that Blair had only arrived on the planet Earth some fifteen years previously. Blair had worked to blend himself into Earth society — with, it must be said, some success. For instance, he had spent those fifteen years pretending to be a graduate student, which was plausible enough. He struck most of the friends he had made on Earth as an eccentric, but a harmless one. For instance, he would often gate crash university parties, get badly drunk, and start making fun of any astrophysicists he could find until he got thrown out.
But soon there would be no more university parties, no more graduate school — no more nothing. Blair sighed and stared up at the sky with a terrible sadness in his heart. He knew exactly what was going to happen and had known ever since his Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic had started winking in the dead of night beside his pillow and wakened him with a start. It was what he had waited for all these years, but when he had deciphered the signal pattern in his small dark room, a coldness had gripped him and squeezed his heart. Of all the races in all of the Galaxy who could have come and said a big hello to planet Earth, he thought glumly, didn't it just have to be the Vogons. His essentially non-violent nature was aghast.
"Ch-chief? Blair?" Blair turned and looked at Jim, whose face was contorted in pain.
Blair reached out and touched Jim's arm. "Jim?"
"Do you hear that?" Jim whispered. The beer bottle fell out of Jim's hand and shattered into pieces on the balcony floor. "Jesus, what is that?" Jim drew back slightly and raised his hands to his head.
Blair's eyes widened, he turned and stared up at the sky. Now he could see the yellow specks...yellow bricks...yellow ships. He ran through back through the balcony doors into the living room and grabbed his backpack off the sofa.
When he turned around, Jim was staring incredulously into the sky. "What the hell's that?" he shrieked.
Whatever it was raced across the sky in its monstrous yellowness, tore the sky apart with mind-boggling noise and leaped off into the distance leaving the gaping air to shut behind it with a bang that drove your ears six feet into your skull.
Another one followed and did exactly the same thing, only louder.
Jim was on his knees, hands gripping the edge of the balcony. His knuckles were white. Blair knew what he had to do. As the Vogon craft screamed though the air high above him he opened his backpack. He threw away the first chapter of his dissertation; he threw away the bluebooks; he threw away a copy of Anthropology Today; he wouldn't need them where he was going. Everything was ready, everything was prepared.
He knew where his towel was.
Blair said, "I brought some peanuts."
Jim Ellison moved, and groaned again, muttering incoherently.
"Here, have some," urged Blair, shaking the packet again. "If you've never been through a matter transference beam before you've probably lost some salt and protein. The beer you have should have cushioned your system a bit."
"Uhhhh...." Jim groaned and opened his eyes. "If I asked you where the hell we were, would I regret it?"
"We're in a small cabin," Blair said, "in one of the spaceships of the Vogon Constructor Fleet."
"Ah," Jim said and took a more critical look around. "How did we get here?"
"We hitched a lift," Blair explained.
"Fine," Jim said. "When can I go home?"
"You can't," Blair said.
"What do you mean I can't?" Jim asked, glowering at him.
Blair coughed. "You can't. The earth's gone."
Jim blinked. "Chief, I'm confused."
"Here, have a look at this," Blair said. He sat down and rummaged about in his backpack. Finally he pulled out a book and handed it to Jim.
"What's this?" Jim asked.
"The Guide," Blair said, and then coughed. "The other one. The one that's not me. It's a sort of electronic book. It tells you everything you need to know about anything."
Jim glared at his partner. "Unlike you."
"Unlike me, right," Blair agreed, feeling sort of embarrassed. "Here, I'll show you how it works."
"I like the cover," Jim said, running a finger over it. "Don't panic. It's the first helpful or intelligible thing anybody's said to me all day."
"You press this button here, you see, and the screen lights up, giving you the index," Blair explained. "Neat, huh?"
Jim glanced from his Guide to the Guide. "Yeah. Neat."
"I'm doing the field research on the new edition," Blair explained. "Of the Guide. The other Guide," he added hastily. "I sort of bounce from place to place doing research. Everything you need to know if you want to see the marvels of the Universe for less than thirty Altairian dollars a day. That's my real job. Fun, isn't it?"
"Fun," Jim repeated. He seemed lost.
"Unfortunately, I got stuck on the Earth for a little longer than I intended. I came for a week and got stuck for fifteen years."
"Chief," Jim interrupted, suddenly, "I don't know if this sounds like a silly question, but what am I doing here?"
"Well, you know that. I rescued you from the Earth."
"And what's happened to the Earth?"
"It's, um, been demolished."
"Oh yeah?" Jim asked levelly.
"Yeah," Blair said quietly. "It just boiled away into space."
Jim found himself having difficulty processing this. Earth. Demolished. Cascade no longer existed. Ok, he'd got that — hell, it always seemed on the verge of destruction anyway. America, he thought, is gone. No, that was too big, he couldn't grasp it. He decided to start smaller again. Wonderburger, he thought. There is no longer any such thing as a Wonderburger's hamburger.
He felt tears welling up in his eyes. "Look," Jim said hoarsely, "I'm a bit upset about this."
Blair nodded and touched his arm. "Yeah," he said sympathetically, "I hear you."
"You hear me?" Jim shouted. "You hear me??"
Blair sprang up. "Keep looking at the Guide!"
Jim stared at him. "What?"
Blair rolled his eyes. "Not me! The other Guide! " He pointed to the book in Jim's hand. "Don't Panic!"
"I'm not panicking!"
"Yes, you are."
"All right, so I'm panicking, what else is there to do?" Jim sighed and glanced around the squalid cabin, wishing he had thought to bring his dustvac.
"You just come along with me and have a good time," Blair said with a suddenly brilliant smile. "The galaxy's a fun place," he added. "Believe me. You'll see." Blair touched Jim's arm reassuringly and Jim shivered.
He wasn't at all sure that the Galaxy was going to turn out to be a "fun place" — maybe he hadn't known for sure that Blair was from another planet, but he certainly knew enough about his partner to have profound reservations about his idea of "fun".
But, on the other hand, Jim thought in a sudden, utterly uncharacteristic burst of optimism, there was the very definite comfort of knowing that life here in space with Blair was rather more plausible than the one that he had just left. What with animal spirits and tribal warriors and everything put together...
This thought lasted precisely fourteen seconds, until he heard Blair screaming — he turned and saw that Blair had jammed himself against the door to the cabin, trying to hold it closed, but it was ill-fitting.
Jim knew now that his earlier panic had been premature. This, clearly, was the moment to panic. Inexplicably, however, he was not, in fact, panicking. He was, in fact, oddly resigned to it all. As Blair would've said, he was ready to "go with the flow." He was "letting it go" — letting it all go. Hell, if he'd known how good it felt to let go, he would have done it years ago, right from the beginning.
Tiny, furry little hands were squeezing themselves through the cracks, their fingers were ink-stained; tiny voices chattered insanely. So Larry the Barbary Ape had returned, finally, to wreak vengeance upon them — and he had brought friends. Well, hell, Jim thought, squeezing his hands into fists. We can take them.
Blair looked up at him, clearly panicked, and vaguely put off his game by the fact that Jim *wasn't*. "Jim," he said desperately, "there's an infinite number of monkeys outside who want to talk about these scripts for Season Five that they've worked out."
Jim blinked. Hell, it was time to panic, after all.