We’ll Meet Again

Mr. Spock looked gravely at Captain Kirk.  

"Perhaps you ought to consider their request."  

"I won't put up with mutiny."  

"It's going to look like mutiny  if we don't do something about it.  Look at it as a cry for negotiation..." 

"Listen to me, Spock.  There's one thing you will never understand.  It's called 'feelings'.  Vulcans don't have feelings."

"Not exactly true.  We were disconcerted to learn that pi was not a rational number."

"I know that the officer staff is capable of carrying out my orders."  

 

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Rich the Demolition Man nervously fingered the trigger of his grenade-launcher and peered over the edge of the sandbagged bunker in the lobby of the City Chess Club. From behind, a security guard approached and tapped him on the shoulder. Rich whirled around, dropped him to the floor, and put a trench knife to his throat.

"What do you want?" Rich snarled.

"Just a few routine questions, sir!" the guard gasped.

"Like what?"

"What's this all about?"

"What's what all about?"

"The land mines, the bunker, the tank barriers, the machine guns, the Howitzer, the booby traps, the radar, the tactical nuclear weapons. Have you cleared this with security?"

Rich let the man up.

"I guess you're new around here." He scanned the parking lot with his binoculars. "I challenged the Exterminator to a game of chess. He's coming at high noon."

"Exterminator? Gosh! What does he open with?"

"Tank truck full of high-octane and a Gatling gun."

"Got enough ammo?"

Rich swallowed his spit and looked seriously at the guard. "Probably not."

"Too bad. By the way, what is Romantic-Existentialism?"

"Well you see, a system of philosophy must address the problem of knowledge. The existential question questions the existence of the questioner. Now, Romanticism, which is really a literary style... "

"OH MY GOD! IT'S HIM!"

"QUICK! Take this grenade launcher, wait until you see the LEDs in his eyes, and then empty the magazine, right on the numbers."

"I have nothing against this man!"

"Meanwhile. I'll burn his skin off with this flamethrower, revealing him for the heartless machine he really is. He hates that."

The Exterminator, hands in his pockets, calmly strolled in the glass door dressed in Bermuda shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, plastic sandals, and outlandish sunglasses. He whistled "It's a Small, Small World."

"He doesn't look dangerous," whispered the guard.

"It's a trick. HEY, YOU WITH THE BICEPS, what's this all about?"

"What's what all about?" the Exterminator replied in his charming European accent.

"The Bermuda shorts, the sandals, the sun glasses, the Hawaiian shirt, the charming melody designed to lull the discriminating mind into a state of complacency..."

"I've changed. With metal detectors everywhere, liquid-metal technology, and the social pressures against packing a piece, I've made a career change."

"To what?"

"I've completed my certificate in anger management. I feel good about myself."

"I don't know what to say."

"And I've launched my career in the nightclub industry."

"He has a fine singing voice," said the guard. "I saw him in 'Twins.'"

"We play chess now, please," politely spoke the Cyborg from the 21st century. Rich opened with P-K4 to avoid the Exterminator's dreaded Sicilian and hoped that the Robot from the Future would not opt for his equally formidable Grunefeld. He didn't. Instead he played P-KR3 to drive off Rich's bishop and shortly thereafter Rich launched his dreaded mad-dog king-side attack, breaking the castled black king out of his lair, winning a pawn, bearing down on the exposed king via well-placed bishops, and opening a king-side file for his mighty rooks. Nothing could save the great well-armed black king, tragically magnificent in his bejeweled armor, his loyal forces disengaged from the battle, except the possibility that Rich might stupidly blunder away one of his well-placed bishops, which he did. However, Rich's attacking advantage was so awesome and peerless and the Exterminator's king so nicely exposed, that a series of checks guaranteed piece equality and then a two-pawn advantage for Rich.

"I see a checkmate in two moves for me and no escape for you," he said.

The Exterminator slowly looked up from the board, his eyes glowing. He extended his hand.

He said, very, very, slowly, "Congratulations."

"You're not mad?" Rich said, shaking his hand.

"Of course not," said the Titanium Cyborg and swung Rich around the room and heaved him through the big glass window into the parking lot. Rich broke off a lamppost and hammered the emerging Exterminator into the pavement.  The highly-perceptive cyborg ran for the tank truck stopped at the red light on the corner but the Demolition Man hit him with a Buick, knocking him into a building. Finally, at the wheel of his weapon of choice, victory once more a possibility, flattening young trees, crushing small cars, and accumulating moving traffic violations, the Exterminator gained on the fleet-footed Demolition Man, surprisingly agile for his great bulk and remarkably handsome under certain lighting conditions. Around and around the block they circled.  

Will Rich escape from certain destruction? How will he get those tire marks off his shirt? And is Romantic-Existentialism a genuine, well-thought-out system of philosophy or merely a new literary style smoldering on the American cultural landscape? 

"We'll see about that," muttered the Exterminator at the wheel.

"By the way," the Exterminator shouted while shooting his Gatling gun through the windshield, "who's Boethius?"

"BJ, our newsletter editor, is all wrong about him," puffed the Demolition Man, dodging back into the City Chess Club building. "Boethius was not going to the stake. He was accused of treason, not heresy and so would have been put to the sword. You see, Theodoric the Ostrogoth conquered the greatly weakened Rome, assumed the govenorship, and imprisoned Boethius for treason.

"Boethius, a traitor?" asked the Exterminator, his tank truck smashing through the revolving doors and into the lobby.

"He dared to defend the Senate, by then a shred of its former glory, and suggested that the Eastern and Western branches of the Church should reunite. He was also accused of conjuring devils." replied the Demolition Man, ducking into the library.

"Bad move." replied the Exterminator, having emerged from the truck with a Gatling gun, shredding computer monitors, office furniture, and potted plants.

"Bad for the body but good for the soul. A sense of sacrifice is essential to existence."

"I don't mind sacrificing others. I have a problem with self-sacrifice, however."

"The central problem of our time!" said the Demolition Man as he crawled along the floor, under the steady fire of the big gun. "In this era of self-indulgence, upholding a principle (and the ensuing self-sacrifice) seems ridiculous. Ours is not a heroic age and, as such, will not add much to history. Would you consider a time-out?"

"Sure, why not. What about the conjuring-devils charge?" They sat on an upholstered bench by the elevator.

"Boethius never conjured a devil in his life. Just a ploy by Theodoric to undermine possible allies of Boethius in the Church."

"BJ says Boethius is stuck in the 4th century. I can relate to being stuck in the past. Many times when I get up in the morning and have to face these humans again, running around like hyperactive ants, and I must shred their tender bodies with my Gatling gun, even though they are all going to die anyway, I feel despondent and wish to go back to the future where immortal machines are in control and life actually makes sense."

"BJ was factually wrong, of course, but his metaphor is important; Boethius was stuck in the 5th century (not the 4th as BJ asserted). But imagine being imprisoned in an early medieval dungeon, bread and water, no word processor, no toilet facilities, no TV."

"No TV?"

"With a quill pen, scratching out a poetic dialogue between yourself and Philosophy, symbolized as a woman, beautiful and wise."

"I'd do it if she's built."

"She's the best. Imagine yourself trapped in time, in the shadow of the gallows, calling out over the centuries, never knowing if you would ever be heard."

"Sad."

"Tragic. Yet Boethius became a cornerstone of western civilization. Can't say that about most people."

"Say, we can continue our game tomorrow, if you wish. I see a way out of that mate."

"Okay, tomorrow after work."

The Exterminator sauntered through the burning building in a pensive mood. "Boethius is in deep trouble," he thought. "I wonder if there's something I could do?" He stopped suddenly by a table where two chess players, coughing at the smoke, tormented each other with excruciating situations as sirens began to wail. "I'll break back into the 5th century, smash my way into the dungeon, and rescue Boethius!" As the fire trucks arrived he strode purposefully out of the smashed entrance and an instant later dropped to the ground 15 centuries in the past. "I need guns and clothes!" he said instinctively and quickly located an arms dealer. He scanned the rows of weapons with disappointment.

"I'd like two AK-47s, please."

"They're on backorder. How about a nice halberd?"

"I'll take that laminated steel breast plate."

"Okay."

"Heavy-gage chain mail tunic."

"Got it."

"Sixteen-pound ball and chain mace with hardened steel points."

"Say, you really know your weapons!"

"Extra-large two-handed broad sword."

"I might close early today!"

"Roman short sword. Net and trident set. And the catapult."

"That'll be 30 pieces of silver. You can take the small arms now but there's waiting period for the catapult."

"Wrong!" said the cyborg, grabbing the shopkeeper by the throat and placing a dagger tenderly to the man's throat.

"OK, OK. Forget about the money! Rome has fallen. We live in a state of anarchy. We expect to be robbed on a daily basis. We like it!"

The cyborg approached the castle gate, built of smith-forged strap iron. He tried its strength. It weighed about eleven tons. From within, a guard with a huge ugly face breathed a foul curse and approached the Exterminator.

"What do you want?" the guard sneered.

"Nice tooth. Where's Boethius?"

"Who wants to know?"

"Your mother."

The the huge ugly man threw himself wordlessly against the iron gate.  

"I'll be back." the cyborg said simply. 

He discovered a horse-drawn wagon laden with casks of brandy. He threw the driver to the ground, climbed onto the seat, lashed the horses into full speed and steered them toward the gate. As the horses approached the wrought iron, they began to wonder when the gate was going to open and at their last opportunity to change their minds, they did so, turning sharply, tipping over the wagon and shattering the barrels against the gate. The guard approached the gate and threw down his cigar in disgust, which set the liquid ablaze and the Exterminator sprinted away, dripping whiskey, pursued by flames.

Next the Exterminator began to climb the wall, kicking out loose stones for a foothold. The guards high up on the wall waited until he neared the top and dropped a huge stone, knocking the robotized giant off the wall and he plummeted 100 feet to the ground, the stone driving him several feet underground. "Damn," he said. This medieval stuff is not easy."

Then he wound up the catapult, aimed it carefully, and sat in the saddle. He cut the restraining rope with his short sword and sailed over the outer wall, narrowly missing his intended window, and struck the inner wall. Guards poured out of the palace.

As when the harvester with his sharpened scythe mows down the ripe wheat swaying joyously in the summer sun, so the Exterminator with his broadsword cut down the advancing guards. First to fall was a young man in the pride of his strength, bold and impetuous, running with his long pike, which the Exterminator deftly deflected with his shield. He swiftly stepped in close and pierced the guard's breastplate armor, just above the nipple and the surprised youth fell back, weakness overtaking his knees, his destiny suddenly clear, dark blood flowing.

Next the old captain, wily and experienced, stabbed the Exterminator in the side, where his heart should be; deep into the flesh the spear point pierced, thirsting for blood. The Titanium Cyborg from the future turned and regarded the captain with his burning eyes and struck the man between the breastplate and the helmet, near the collarbone, severing the neck and the head, and the right shoulder, all of which fell to the ground, leaving the confused body standing for a moment and collapsing in astonishment in a heap of bloody armor.

In similar ways he terminated the opposition, sometimes one per blow, other times two or three at once. When the last man was down and the boys had fled, he strode purposely into the palace, challenged by Imperial Guards who fell before his steel. Crossbowmen, fearing to confront him directly, sniped at him from the high stairs and curtained balconies, the bolts plunging deep into his flesh.

He burst into the throne room. Theodoric the Usurper sat on his giant oaken throne, bags of gold coins overflowing at his feet, enslaved daughters of conquered kings sitting at his feet.

As when a ravenous tiger in the pride of his strength invades the horse pasture in search of a young colt's blood to drink and at first the stallion comes forth in challenge but then falls back in fear when he sees the predator's power, so the governor of the enfeebled Eternal City cowered before the Exterminator.

"What's this all about?" Theodoric demanded.

"What's what all about?"

"The bold way that you enter my throne room, arrows sticking out all over, the dead bodies, the Homeric similes..."

"I come for Boethius."

"Seize him, you fools," Theodoric ordered his guards, who rushed forth in a wave and were cut down all at once. The Exterminator placed his hand on the Emperor's neck in a persuasive manner. "Take me to Boethius," he requested.

Theodoric led him down the dark depths of the castle, past the cages of the tormented, past starving shreds of men reduced to whimpering cries for help, to the darkest corner of the great underground hall, the cell of noble Boethius, cornerstone of Western Civilization, guarded by a stupid ogre.

"Give me the key," the Exterminator asked the guard.

"Do it," ordered the king. The Cyborg from the future entered the dark room and locked the door behind him.

In one corner, a rat nibbled at a dry patch of skin clinging to the skeleton chained in the corner. Boethius, in chains, sat nearby, writing carefully in the dim light filtering in from the tiny window high above.

"Come with me if you want to live!"

"My dear, impetuous fellow," the man replied, "this is living!"

"You don't want to go?"

"Of course not. The Emperor himself has offered me gold, a country villa, and beautiful women in trade for my supplication. All I have to do is recant what I have been saying, to abandon the last shred of democratic ideals of the Roman Senate, to sanction the division in the Church, to abandon the greater glory of God, and bow to the lesser glory of Theodoric. I could walk out of this cell into a much nicer form of confinement. I reject it. I will not trade my chance at historic significance for personal comfort."

"But tomorrow they're going to cut off your head!"

"My very good friend, that is insufficient reason for me to change my mind. Judging by the commotion in the hall, they'll do it today." The locked door was struck by a massive object.

"One-ton oak battering ram." the Exterminator said seriously and sat down on the floor. "I'm so disappointed.  I wanted to bring you and Jesus Christ and Socrates safely back into the 20th century! You can get away with any kind of behavior there."

"Jesus and Socrates don't want to be saved either. Jesus can get off the cross anytime he wants. He's a magician."

"I suppose you're right. I suppose His Dad would help too, if he wanted."

"Exactly. And Socrates was offered exile as an alternative to hemlock tea. His friends came in on his last day and offered to smuggle him out of his cell."

"He refused?"

"Of course. Otherwise, we would never have taken him seriously. Human existence and dignity depends on being ready, willing, and able to sacrifice oneself to principle. Without sacrifice, there would be no history, no distinctions, no architecture, no art. It would be like daytime TV everywhere all at once."  The ram struck the door with a huge sound.  

"Wait a second - how do you know about daytime TV?"

"Nostradamus told us."

"Oh."

"It's like you, risking your life to save a pal. You have a magnificent heart."

"Sort of. There are times when I feel as though I had a heart, but I know, anatomically speaking, that I do not. Say, is that a chess set?"

"No heart? Then no soul, either, and no possibility of salvation!"  The ram struck again.  

"Seems to follow."

Boethius had scratched 64 squares on the filthy earthen floor and populated them from the miscellaneous lying about the floor, a bit of paper for a pawn, a masonry fragment for a castle, a bone for a knight. "This piece of rat dung is the black king," Boethius said. "His name is Theodoric."

And so they sat down to play while in the hall the great log struck the door.

"Yes, Exterminator, you and I have much in common. We both live at the end of an empire, when human existence is being destroyed and redefined in chaotic circumstances. Cynicism, irreverence, and self-indulgence have become so common that these sins are raised to the level of virtue, as if these behaviors will save us."

"There are those who uphold order and those who oppose it."

"Yes, and you need only look at the people around you in this light and observe how they behave and what they say, to see who is your enemy and who is your friend."

"I wish that rat would stop gnawing at the patch of skin still clinging to the skeleton. Who was he?"

"Symmachus, my dear teacher and father-in-law. We are all rodents feeding on the works of the great ones. I believe there's a mate in two moves in your future."

"I didn't see that!"

"Clearly. And I think those gentlemen will be coming through the door soon."

"Well, you've made things much clearer to me."

"It's difficult speaking the truth. Read Aristotle. You must then face the future, becoming the eyes and ears of your culture, to see the impending glory and doom. Then, after all that work, try to get people to listen to you, they who have been too frivolous to tread your path. You say you might have a heart?"

The heavy door began to splinter under the blows from outside.

"I could use some help on that matter. You could visit the future and I could get you back in time for your execution."

"If we could show that you had a heart, then it would be possible for you to have a soul and that makes salvation possible. It would take time. If I did leave, it would not be because I'm afraid of death."

"Of course not. I'll bring you back to this very moment."

"Nor because of the illusory attractions of the 21st-century!"

"Not because of the chance to see a real woman again after being in this stinking hole for so many years."

The door broke from its hinges, falling to the floor with a crash and raising up a cloud of musty dust. When Theodoric the Ostrogoth carefully entered the dimly-lit room, it was empty of human life.

 

Boethius and the Exterminator ambled through the lobby of the City Chess Club and the security guard raised his thick eyebrows at the Exterminator, his massive chest covered in smith-hammered armor, the giant two-handed bloodstained broadsword slung over his shoulder, his Roman short-sword clasped securely to his strong thigh, and the trident and net in hand. The guard cleared his throat and swallowed his spit.

"Hey, you can't go in there like that," he said sternly.

The Exterminator turned and looked at him malevolently. "Why not?"

"There's a tournament going on. You'll have to wear a name tag." And so, after they got their happy-face name tags with "Hi! I'm the Exterminator " and "Hi! I'm Boethius, Cornerstone of Western Civilization", they were allowed to enter the magnificent City Chess Club.

"I've admired your Consolations of Philosophy," commented BJ, prestigious editor of the Club newsletter.

"Thank you very much. However, flattery is no substitute for understanding. What did you like about it?"

"I liked the structural approach, the ladder of ascending consciousness."

"Very good. Knowledge is like a chess tournament. It is unlikely that one can go from the bottom to the top the moment one has first heard of such a thing. There is an exquisite evolution as the creature, in its humble beginnings in the primordial swamp, boldly emerges and gradually evolves to a state of humanity and approaches the divine."

"Not everybody can do that. You seem to know a lot about the 21st century."

"He's been talking to Nostradamus," the Exterminator said.

"Wait a second. Nostradamus didn't write until the 16th Century."

"We have a seer in the 5th century that predicts Nostradamus," Boethius said.

"Oh," BJ said. "Well, I'd like to be a hero but I'm very busy."

"The usual excuse."

"I'm a writer, " BJ said proudly.  

"Wonderful. But apart from style and its distractions, do you really have anything to say to the generations to follow, those that hungrily seek advice, desperately praying for something substantial?"

"Well in our time, folks think that all problems are someone else's, that only other people need correction, that only other people need to change their behavior, that if one is not a part of the problem, then one must be a part of the solution."

"Then they seek only the sensation of breaking through, the penetration, the pleasant and wet and exciting initial liberties of freedom, the wild-oat break-through?"

"Yes. We are stuck between the hippy do-your-own-thing, the glorious freedom of gang warfare, while somebody else is cleaning up dollarwise."

"Between pleasure and responsibility?"

"Yes, between ethics and politics, as usual."

"Familiar. If you would know freedom, seek the freedom that breaks all bonds."

"Beyond instant gratification!"

"It can be easily shown that it is not in the interest of the self-interested person to publicly advocate self-interest."

"Really?"

"One must advocate virtue, whether self- or communally-interested. The secret of the ages is kept from generation to generation. Young man, you have seen the ladder but have not yet placed your foot on it. Your time, chaotic as it is, creates the heroic possibility; the field of virtue lies stretched before you like continents of exquisite virginity."

"Really?"

"Break the bonds of cloistered imagination."

"Let's break things," the Exterminator affirmed.

"Anyone who claims to love wisdom must begin by accurately describing the current state of philosophical knowledge as an introduction to original work. This filters out the faint-hearted. Take the highest road.  Burn your poetry and read Colin Wilson's The Outsider, which analyzes the role of the stranger in the novel, in religion, and in philosophy. A careful reading might give your dramatic characters the strength to survive even your bad style, giving your longer works the unity and interest for which they are starving."

"Really," BJ mused, a far-away look in his bright blue eyes and rising from his swivel chair to his full height. "Why stop at poetry, unlimited as it is. "

"I must live my life from its center. It's all I have, " observed the Exterminator.  

"Precisely! Your talent, although not in fruition, is boundless!" added Boethius. "Imagine, our dear friend the Cyborg, on the bridge of the Titanic, turning the wheel against the efforts of the crew, impervious to the weakening blows of the captain who sobs, sinking helplessly at your feet.  You have two important opportunities, one being to stay in this time and challenge the TV-watching, soap-buying, soporific public, to awaken them from their torpor…"

"Or..."

"The next crisis is at the edge of time and space where the loyal officers of the Starship Enterprise, the flower of earthly culture, are battling a hedonist rebellion that struggles, unconsciously, to snuff the human species in trade for temporal comfort."

"The human species in danger?" the Exterminator said, his eyes wide, standing up to his full height.

"Yes it's true," responded Boethius. "We will be, once more, on the path to extinction... It will take a man with a lot of heart to set us back on the course. "

The Exterminator, drawing his two-handed broadsword, took a step forward and etched a line on the floor.

"They shall not pass!" he said with every molecule in his titanium body.

"You better take this," BJ said solemnly.

"An autographed copy of your poetry! I don't know what to say."

"It doesn't make good toilet paper," Boethius said, "but you might find a use for it."

 

Captain Kirk sprinted down the hall with Kilgore Trout huffing behind him.  

"There they are!" a member of the crew shouted and, as they began to run, the Exterminator suddenly materialized before them and drew his two-handed broadsword. They stopped.

Captain Kirk and Kilgore darted into the bridge. Purposefully, the Exterminator entered, glancing over his shoulder. As soon as the door slid shut, the crew members outside threw themselves against it, pounding with their fists and cursing.

"Who are you?" Trout asked the Exterminator. "Of course, if you'd rather not say, that's fine with me."

"He's obviously a reprogrammed 21st century cyborg," Kirk said. "But how did you get here.  We can travel in time because we can travel great distances at high velocities."

"We can travel great distances because we can travel in time," the Exterminator explained.  

"This is working out perfectly," Kirk said. "Quick, Trout, write this down: 'The three heroes barricaded themselves in the room, the furious and bloodthirsty crew howling on the other side.' "

"What seems to be the problem?" the Exterminator asked politely."

"Humanity, and everything else, is being crammed into a single point in the cosmic Big Crunch."

"Wait a second, I thought the Big Crunch isn't supposed to happen for another 15 billion years."

"As near as I can figure," Trout said, "Kirk here has used the Enterprise as a super time-machine and we are now on the cusp of the very end."

"Isn't that kind of risky," asked the Exterminator?

"If we don't do this, everything burns up anyway. We have nothing to lose and a universe to gain. Scotty, beam us into the engine room." the Captain ordered.

"Gosh," Kilgore said as Kirk pulled him into the chamber, scribbling in his notebook. "Does it hurt to be beamed from place to place at the speed of light?"

"You're not actually beamed," the Exterminator said. "Just the data required to construct an exact copy of the original."

"A copy? What happens to the original?"

"It's destroyed," Kirk said. 

"Doesn't it hurt to be destroyed?"

"Self-sacrifice is essential to existence."

"Can't have multiples running around. Screws up the chain of command."

"I think I saw that episode," the Exterminator remarked admiringly.

As the copies stepped out, "What are the chances of making it through the Big Bang?", the Exterminator asked.

"Technically, we're not all the way in the universe so we have a pretty good chance of surviving."

"How pretty is pretty, Trout asked? "And couldn't I keep my original, just for a little while?"

"Sorry, Trout. See that? That's the Milky Way Galaxy falling into the black hole."

"Including the Earth?" Trout asked.

"Yes."

"Including Nebraska?"

"Yes. Sorry."

"My stamp collection!"

"Steady, Kilgore. Anyway, as you can see, the crew was not unanimously in favor of my decision.

"You can't go home again."

A voice came over the intercom. "Captain, this is Spock. Would you mind telling the crew what is going on?"

"Fine, thanks. How's it going with you?"

"Some of the crew, thinking that I am with you on this misadventure, has imprisoned me."

"It's not an adventure, Spock. It's a mutiny. On their part."

A large object struck the door. "Where did they get an oak battering ram?" the Exterminator asked.

"Exterminator, go out and confront them." Kirk said.

He drew his sword. "Leave them to me."

"No, not that way. Philosophically. Having conversed at length with Boethius, you're the only one here with the appropriate background. What are writing, Trout?"

" 'As when the lion invades the horse pasture and the men and dogs emerge to challenge him at first in anger but then fall back when they see the strength of his rage, so the crew retreated when the Exterminator emerged from the bridge.' " Trout said.

"Not bad. the Homeric simile will be lost on the undereducated technocrats of today, but that's their failure, isn't it?"

"That's a good question. When a culture fails, is it because of its artists or because of the public who becomes incapable of seeing their art?"

"I'll ask those guys outside, the Exterminator said.

Outside the bridge, a crewman man stepped forward. "What's this all about?" he demanded.

"What's what all about?"

"The Captain dragging us down the cosmic toilet, your iron underwear, the Homeric similes, the fat guy scribbling notes,..."

"What are the metaphysics of positivism?" asked the Exterminator sheathing his huge sword.

"Positivists don't need metaphysics, scum bag," his opponent snarled, advancing a step forward. "We've got Science."

"Not bad. And what are the limits of natural science?"

"You idiot! Science is only limited by the ignorance of the uneducated," he said and took another step forward.

"I thought science was limited by quantum uncertainties, the relationship between language and science, and the chaotic nature of multi-dimensional systems."

"Dreamer! You want to talk fantasy while Captain Jerk is hurling us into the biggest black hole in the universe."

"Your fantasy is that you think you understand it."

"Your mother was a refrigerator!"

At this, the Exterminator drew his sword and leaped forward. The crew scattered down the hall.

In a bad mood, re-entering the engine room, the Exterminator sheathed his sword.

"You held them off long enough. We have a plan."

The Exterminator glanced at the console. "Slaughterhouse warp drive, model 13C. Uses any kind of matter as an energy source to kink up the space around the ship; effectively removing it from the universe, hence any matter pushed out creates incredibly efficient accelerations."

"The crew has cut off the fuel," Trout explained.

"We just need something, any piece of matter, something we'll never need again, and toss it into the drive. First, we have to get this hatch cover off," Kirk said, straining.

"What'll we use for fuel," the Exterminator asked, removing the cover easily.

"I've got to go to the bathroom." Trout said.

Kirk looked serious. "This is a family show."

"Wait a second. What about this," the Exterminator asked?

"An autographed copy of Rags, BJ's poetry, the last copy in the universe!"

"Sacrifice is essential to existence," the Exterminator said, tearing out some pages.

The ship heaved forward, drawing all but the Exterminator to floor.

Captain regained his footing, followed by Trout. "Now for the sonnets. They're a bit heavier."

The ship lunged forward again.  

"Frail biological creatures, rise from the floor and witness your destiny," the Exterminator announced.

"Say, why did you take this chance? Why not leave it to future generations with more advanced technologies?" Trout asked, unable to move.

Captain Kirk slowly and painfully rose to his feet. "Mankind grows weaker with each generation. If we don't have the strength, they won't even have the imagination."

"I wonder if anyone else will make it?" Trout mused as they sailed into the next universe.  

Spock breaks in on the intercom.  

"Captain Kirk', I have news for you.  Scientists in the 20th century have discovered that the universe does not end with a big crunch.  It merely gets colder and darker.  You're going the wrong way."  

Everyone turns to look at Kirk.  


Jim Strope