Click to view original image source
Click to view original image source
How we think the fight will go
How Matthew Stover, creator of Caine, thinks the match will go:
The improbable fact that the featureless white mist through which he walked had become, instead, a featureless white wall into which he had walked was announced by the sudden impact upon this wall of his left eyebrow, accompanied by a resounding thump and a starburst of tiny glowing birdies who fluttered in circles around his head tweetling Build Me Up, Buttercup in twelve-part harmony. “Ow,” he said.
Ow is not to be mistaken for a direct quote; to relate what he actually said (an eloquent rhetorical inversion of a biologically implausible obscenity involving several generations of his maternal ancestors, two marmosets, and a butter knife) would result in this narrative being banned on 57.8% of all civilized planets, including yours.
“Cut it out.” To whom he spoke must remain a mystery, as his only companions in the small white room were a basket of wilted petunias and a soiled and—despite its cleverly reinforced hems—somewhat ratty towel. “Oh, this just keeps getting better.”
The small white room was furnished with a pair of sturdy-looking doors opposite each other. There was also a large stainless-steel safety rail and a large, glowing button below a placard bearing large red letters reading DANGER! DO NOT TOUCH! as well as smaller, pinkish letters reading No, really. Don’t touch. Seriously. Below these were even smaller letters in mauve, spelling out How many times do I have to tell you? terminating in literally microscopic electric green text that said Congratulations on your exceptional eyesight. Now don’t touch the button.
“Will you shut up?” he said, presumably speaking to the voices in his head, as he was still quite alone (saving only the petunias and the towel). He went to the nearer of the two doors, which also featured a pair of large windows. Through these windows he found only a brilliant star-field of the sort that can only be seen from interstellar space. This star-field was in the process of being sequentially eclipsed by a large object of eccentric shape; as the object passed close by the window, the man was able to discern that it was a fully-grown sperm whale in the midst of an existential crisis.
“An existential crisis? Give me a fucking break.”
Through the windows on the opposite door he discovered a deserted, cramped, uncomfortable-looking—but still very clean—control room of what he must now accept was in fact, against all probability, the starship in whose airlock he was currently trapped.
“Wait,” he muttered. “Against all probability. Oh, hell, I remember. Well, all right then. This shouldn’t take long.”
He knocked on the door. The deserted control room seemed disinclined to reply. He knocked again, and shouted, “Hey! Let me in!” apparently in the belief that even an empty room would do what he said, if he only spoke loudly and slowly enough. Thus was the mystery of his origin solved: he was clearly American.
Further knocking and a bit more shouting finally did elicit a response from within. “Go away!”
“Um, I’m in your airlock. We’re in outer space. Where am I supposed to go away to?”
“Wherever you came from!”
“If only,” he muttered. “Look, I’m completely—”
Wait—the tagline. “I’m mostly harmless,” he said, feeling clever.
This sally produced an eruption of five heads, peering up over the rim on the control bank behind which they had been prudently cowering. One of them said, “Mostly harmless? Or mostly harmless?”
Clever appeared to be, in this particular circumstance, something of a non-starter; he wondered if acting like an idiot might help. He picked up the basket of petunias and showed it to them. “I brought flowers.”
“That’s a good point,” the head replied. “I don’t think space pirates bring flowers.”
“You think I’m a space pirate?”
“It’s the black leather clothing,” another of the heads said helpfully. “And you do look, well, rather fierce. A bit. In a good way, of course. No insult intended.”
“None taken. Will you let me in now?”
The bodies attached to those five heads gradually de-cowered. The bodies in question were largely unremarkable, except that there were only four of them.
One of these bodies belonged to a rather sharp-looking blonde girl dressed as though she had taken the wrong bus on her way to a Star Trek convention. Another belonged to a decidedly ordinary fellow in a tattered bathrobe and pyjamas, while beside him stood an even more ordinary fellow wearing a tweed sports jacket and an argyle sweater-vest. The fourth body—and the remaining two heads—belonged to a tall, inexplicably attractive man who, in addition to the extra head, had three arms and an entirely alarming lack of fashion sense.
The man in the airlock scowled. It was a rather fierce scowl, and quite professionally rendered. “Zap something,” he muttered, and again it was unclear to whom he thought he might be speaking. “Zap . . . Shit. All I remember is the goddamn Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster.”
In this, the man in the airlock could count himself fortunate; very few persons who encounter the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster ever recover sufficient brain function to drool, let alone remember its name.
A hand belonging to one of the three arms (and, presumably, controlled by one or more of the two heads) dipped inside the alarming clothing and reappeared with an even-more alarming pistol—one with all sort of spikes and prongs and blackened bits all over it, making it entirely clear which was the right end and which the wrong end, and even more clear to anyone standing on the wrong end that things were going badly for them. “I say we let him in. What’s the use of a carrying a Kill-O-Zap if I never Zap-O-Kill anyone?”
The man in the airlock, however, was entirely accustomed to having things go badly for him—as the result of many, many things going badly for him over a large number of years, he had killed nearly every kind of creature that walks, flies, swims, or crawls in the dirt, while generally avoiding being killed himself—and he had a pistol of his own. He reached under the back of his black leather shirt to draw this pistol, but instead of the pistol’s grip, he found only the tail of a small, rather slimy large-mouth bass with protuberant eyes and a truly awe-inspiring vocabulary.
He held the fish up and gave it a brisk shake, after which it stubbornly remained a fish, as opposed to transforming back into a large pistol. And it was a very attractive fish indeed; no doubt the man in the airlock would come to value the fish, and cherish its companionship, so that eventually he would forget entirely about the loss of his—
To whom was the man talking now?
“You, dammit. I know what you are. You’re a, wait, what was it? Yeah. You’re a Babel fish.”
The fish certainly was not a Babel fish. It didn’t even resemble a Babel fish. The Babel fish was entirely dreary, and so predictably useful that its very existence annihilated the ontological argument for the reality of God. No, this handsome specimen was in fact a Babble fish—an elegantly useless creature who existed only to provide an endless stream of deadpan editorial commentary so involuted and self-referential that it could entirely hijack a narrative and effectively prevent anything at all from happening. Ever.
“You know what else a Babble fish can do? It can limit itself to terse, lean prose, or it can get its Babble face bounced off a bulkhead. ”
The fish, not entirely understanding what terse, lean prose actually was—and suspecting this was a phrase concocted by critics who lacked the necessary—
This OW, by the way, is in fact a verbatim rendering—
“Keep it up, slimy. I can do this all day.”
The fish knew when to shut up. The man holstered it. “Wait,” he said, “it’s not zap, it’s zafe.” He felt smarter. And terse, not to mention lean. “Zaphod Beeblebrox.”
Two-Heads came over to the airlock door. “Have we met?”
“I’m the president of your fan club.”
“All of them.”
“My Number One Fan?” Both heads frowned. “Perhaps we should blow you out of the airlock after all.”
“If I go, the petunias go with me.”
“Some threat. I’m allergic.”
He picked up the towel. “This too.”
The ordinary-looking guy in the tweed and argyle went pale and clutched at his chest. “That’s my towel!”
“Yeah?” The man in the airlock blew his nose on the towel. “Not sentimental about it or anything, are you?”
Tween-and-Argyle gagged. “Zaphod—you can’t. I’d never find it again.”
“It’s only a towel.”
“How long do you think I’ll have a job once the Guide finds out I’ve lost my own towel? Please. For the sake of our three mothers in common.”
“Oh, very well.” With one of his free hands, Beeblebrox touched the controls beside the airlock, and the inner door slid open. He brandished the pistol warily. “Hand over that towel.”
“Sure. Hold this,” the man in the airlock said, tossing in the basket of petunias.
Beeblebrox caught the basket. “What? Didn’t I just say I’m aller—al—ahh—ah-CHOO!”
The man wrapped one arm around the stainless steel safety bar and punched the large glowing DO NOT TOUCH button. “God bless.”
“I’m not religious,” Beeblebrox had time to say before the outer airlock door opened and the instant hurricane of escaping atmosphere blew him, and the petunias, into outer space.
The man snatched the Kill-O-Zap pistol from Beeblebrox’s hand as the ex-President hurtled past, then punched the button once more. The outer airlock doors slid shut, and shriek of escaping atmosphere faded. For a moment, the only sound was the guy in the bathrobe, whimpering in terror.
Sharp-Looking Blonde said, “You killed him!”
“I sure as hell hope so.” He pointed the pistol at them. “You all understand that things aren’t going your way, right?”
“Better for us than for my semi-cousin,” Tweed-and-Argyle said. “Still, hard vacuum may not actually kill him. He’s very durable.”
“I figured that. On the other hand, since he’s heading for that planet over there, he’ll probably burn up in its atmosphere.”
“That might do it,” the other allowed.
“And if it doesn’t—well, shortly after he touches down, he’ll be crushed by the impact of a sub-orbital whale.”
“Seems a bit, well, improbable, doesn’t it?”
“Exactly.” The man waved the pistol. “Everybody sit down. On your hands.”
“What—what are you going to do with us?” whimpered Bathrobe-and-PJs.
“Nothing. As soon as Beeblebrox is dead, I’m gonna activate your main engine.”
“The Infinite Improbability Drive?”
“I’m pretty sure it’s how I got here,” the man said. “I imagine I’ll be leaving the same way.”
“What about the Kill-O-Zap?”
“Taking it with me. It’s crude, bulky and hard to conceal, but in a gunfight it beats hell out of a handful of fish.”
Predicted Winner: Caine
NOTE: THIS MATCH ENDS ON THURSDAY, MARCH 15th, 2012, AT 5 PM, EST
Caine is a character from the Acts of Caine series by Matthew Woodring Stover; Zaphod Beeblebrox is a character from the The Hitchiker’s series by ~WarlordGrego. Douglas Adams image courtesy of Del Rey Books
Don’t forget–we’re always looking for fans’ depictions of these characters. Check out the details here
Cage Match fans: We are looking forward to hearing your responses! If possible, please abstain from including potential spoilers about the books in your comments (and if you need spoilers to make your case, start your comments with: “SPOILER ALERT!”