The second installment of Nicholas Collins’ incredible internet epic: Ace! King of Space. Seriously, it’s out of this world (haha).
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Be sure to read “Ace: King of Space, Episode I” first!
Somewhere in an ancient cavern on the planet Earth, Ace was breathing his last breath. Though, if Ace were in a position to reflect at this moment, which he most assuredly was not, Ace would likely have remarked that this breath was not much of one. It brought more blood into Ace’s desperate and dying lungs than life-giving oxygen, which is what Ace would have desperately needed if his body were to survive this ordeal. Fortunately for Ace’s lungs, but unfortunately for the rest of his body, he would not survive, allowing them to live blissfully free of punishment for these last remaining seconds. Ace’s wide blue eyes gaped into the endless darkness, his mouth wide and arms flailing helplessly and slapping the ground.
A short distance away, the Professor was filled with emotions. The primary one was guilt, as he had unwittingly led this innocent boy to his death. This was followed quickly by justification, in which he argued with himself that he had not meant to do any such thing, and indeed had walled off the object in such a way that one who did not have express knowledge of how to navigate the labyrinthine chambers that rested in the deep and cavernous basement that was not a basement would have quite an ordeal finding the place that had ultimately led to Ace’s doom.
The third feeling that he felt was confusion at this particular outcome of making physical contact with the artifact he had been so cautiously and carefully studying. He had seen a great many things in his day, but it was very rare that an artifact itself would cause death. Diseases laced into artifacts for protection were a common cause of death, and with death traps that were rigged to go off had the artifact been removed from its location. Obviously, if the traps were true to their namesake, death would follow rather quickly, but the Professor had investigated all of these as possibilities and found them lacking. The only logical explanation was that the artifact itself had actually killed the boy. In fact, he had been planning to, albeit much more scientifically and less awkwardly, perform a very similar experiment to the one Ace had just unwittingly found himself a part of that very evening.
This realization led the Professor to a fourth emotion: relief. The very fact that a man that considered himself to be a fairly decent person felt relief at the fact that a young boy lay dead before him, sent the Professor spiraling back to guilt again. Unbeknownst to the Professor, this quick spiral back to the gut-wrenching guilt he felt while staring at the tattered and broken remains of what once was a relatively lively and terrified boy was the only thing that separated the Professor from psychologically being described as a sociopath. What the Professor would come to be described as psychologically is the subject of another chapter of this adventure, but we can only hope that for the sake of accuracy, sociopath is not a term that is used in that description. After cycling through this complex circle of emotions several times, the logical portion of the Professor’s brain kicked back in and he realized he was wasting precious time. Something had to be done with this body…and quickly.
“Cummerbund! Hurry! Help me carry the boy!” The Professor looked over at the red coffee can, who, through the green illumination of the night vision goggles he wore, appeared to be a disgusting shade of gray.
“Does it look like I’ve got any arms, fool? How am I supposed to help you with a damn body?” the coffee can retorted, clearly angry at the request.
The Professor took no notice, mental cogs and gears already began to turn rapidly. Even in his youth, the Professor had always been gifted with an unusual propensity for intelligent thought. This had only increased with age, and the man had, at this point in time, a great many years under his belt. He had gone through many evolutions as he had grown, and would be barely recognizable to those who had known him years before this, but throughout all this time, one thing had remained constant: When given a problem that tasked his nearly insurmountable intelligence, something bright and wonderful inside of the Professor awakened. A glint in his eyes shone brightly, brighter than the green glow of the night vision goggles, brighter, even, some had argued, than the sun itself. In this moment the fierce intellect of this amazingly complex man was being tasked to its limit, and if anyone who had befriended him in his long and illustrious life were to look into his eyes at this moment they would have no doubt of the man they were addressing.
The Professor quickly lifted the remains of Ace Gordon and placed him on top of Cummerbund, much to the chagrin of the coffee can, which grunted angrily under the unexpected weight. The Professor then grabbed a lamp that was previously hidden in the darkness on a small nightstand several yards away from the now empty pedestal and further into this area of the basement that was not a basement. With a remarkable showing of dexterity unexpected of one of his years, he pulled a single match from his lab coat, swiped it quickly across the left pant leg of the dead boy on the coffee can, and brought it quickly to the wick of the lantern, casting a bright orange glow on the area around the man, the can, and the corpse.
The Professor realized that time was of the essence, and also that he had a great deal of research to do. Fortunately, the books he needed were close by. Unfortunately, they were all out of order, as the Professor had used a combination of his once well-organized bookcases and cardboard boxes filled with books of all shapes and sizes to construct a maze-like fort around the artifact that now sat shattered on the floor. Its initial purpose was to dissuade the cat, and any prospective sitter from entering the area, but as it clearly had not accomplished its intended objective, it now only served to make a mess of the Professor’s quite voluminous selection of books. He searched frantically for several that would contain information applicable to his current situation. He grabbed Life, or a Reasonable Facsimile Therof from one of the bookshelves, tipped over on its side and half crushing one of the cardboard boxes.
After briefly scanning the rest of the shelves’ contents, the Professor gave it a shove, which caused the whole thing to tip backwards into the darkness with a resounding bang, followed quickly by another remarkably similar sounding bang, and another, and another, as bookshelf after bookshelf fell like dominoes off in the distance. The Professor paid the sound no mind, as he was already rushing off, grabbing several other books: Robots and Me: Life and Love With a Soulless Machination; Eat, Eat Brains, or How to Avoid Creating a Zombie; and last but not least, The Last Written Work of Doctor Victor Frankenstein, who apparently was actually a person. Satisfied with the collection, the Professor scuttled up the stairs, the can following him slowly, as he was encumbered by the body.
Upstairs, the Professor quickly gathered up some tools, including, but not limited to, scissors, a spool of copper wire, an old boom box that was old enough to actually be called a boom box in his heyday, and a depleted 9-volt battery scrounged from the back of the pencil drawer in the brightly painted kitchen. Cummerbund appeared at the top of the stairway as the Professor was using the backside of his arm to sweep the countertop clean of obstacles.
“Here we go again,” droned the Toaster lazily and sadly, before he too was swept aside. There was work to be done and barely enough time to do it.
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Elsewhere in the universe, billions of miles away from the planet its inhabitants call Earth, an entirely different Ace was breathing his first breath. His eyes snapped open and quickly adjusted themselves to the light. This Ace was in a remarkably good position to reflect on his life, being for the most part, at least for the moment, quite comfortable. Ace first noticed that his heart, which as far as he could tell a scant few milliseconds previous to this very moment had imploded, seemed to be beating quite easily. The second thing he noticed is that his body felt a little off somehow. He raised his hand up to the range of his vision. It appeared to Ace to be the same hand as always, but it felt just a little different. Indeed, it seemed as if this was the very first time that he had resided in his skin. Unbeknownst to Ace, it was.
Teleportation is a hard science, barely possible through bending, if not outright breaking, several laws of physics, and the Universal Physics Police, or, as they like to call themselves, the Aeeeru Spphiixxterrahh, tend to frown on any and all teleportation, except of course for their own teleportation systems. But they use those to help people, so they believed it was okay. Regardless of the irony associated with the Aeeeru Spphiixxterrahh, there hasn’t been mainstream commercial use of teleportation systems in the known and colonized universe for quite some time. Teleportation systems that did exist were typically underground, both literally and figuratively.
The teleportation device that Ace had used was not in fact a teleportation device. It was a magical device over which the Aeeeru Spphiixxterrahh had no jurisdiction. Nonetheless, magic and physics, though both bound by slightly different sets of rules, each have rules they must adhere to, and teleportation is difficult in both. Indeed, it is nearly impossible to teleport a consciousness, and even closer to the realm of impossibility to teleport an entire body. As the magical artifact that Ace had found himself in close contact with was a fairly lazy artifact as far as magical artifacts go, it had only succeeded in transmitting Ace’s consciousness, his soul as it were, and not his physical container. It was of no concern, however, because though teleportation is rather difficult in all but one school of magic, cloning is is a relatively basic incantation. As such, the “lazy” means of teleportation was to simply kill the body at the source and recreate it at the destination. Of course, usually the original location of the teleportee did not have a hyper-intelligent professor standing nearby ready to utilize every tool in his quite capable arsenal to attempt to fix a problem that already had a solution. The solution, unfortunately for Ace, placed him billions of miles from home. But at least he was alive and finally getting used to the new, but otherwise identical body he found himself in.
Ace sat up and took note of his surroundings. He appeared to be in some form of a church. In fact, he appeared to be lying on one of the pews. Everything about the church seemed to border on normal but never quite reached it. For example, the pew that he was lying on was a great deal closer to the floor than pews on his planet. (For the record, Ace still had no idea at this moment that he was not on his planet, but that was about to change.) The church was constructed almost entirely of stone, with stained glass windows that caused bright colors to dance across the floor. Ace stood up and dusted off the back of his pants and looked toward the altar. Everything about this place seemed wider than usual; the distance between the pews, the size of the altar. But everything was also much closer to the ground. The altar must have been only a foot tall, but it was nonetheless majestic. And the giant stained glass window behind the altar contained an image of what looked like a Triceratops with its three horns glowing brightly at the tips. Ace had only a second to remark on how interesting being in this church was when out of nowhere, bursting through the odd shaped door at the back of the church, came a team of six velociraptors, three of which were clutching what looked like futuristic pistols in their hands. The other three were quite acrobatically dancing their way over the pews in Ace’s direction. The three with the guns fanned out at the back of the church while the other three got close to Ace and skidded to a halt. Everything was quiet for a few seconds as Ace sized up the dinosaurs and the dinosaurs sized up Ace. Ace was afraid, and fairly sure that this was the most interesting thing that had ever happened to him.
“Hey! It’s a cow!” said the closest velociraptor. Ace would not have described the creature before him as a velociraptor, but that is what it was. To Ace, the creature resembled something more like a slightly large, very buff turkey with terrifying claws and a big fanned tail It was about two feet tall and six feet long. And it talked (obviously). Ace looked behind him quickly to see if there was a cow there, but he only saw another velociraptor turkey thing as one of the three that had looped around behind him during the course of this odd and one-sided interchange.
“Why is the cow wearing clothes? And where did it come from?” said one of the raptors with the guns.
“I don’t know. It’s a good thing we found him though!”
Ace, taken aback, said the first thing that came to mind.
The raptors all twisted their faces into grotesque and toothy positions at this. Ace was naturally frightened. These turkeys had sharper teeth than the ones he was used to, and their claws, upon closer inspection, seemed to be coated with glistening metal, designed to make what was clearly a sharp instrument of destruction even sharper. The raptors burst into conversation.
“Aww, he’s so cute!”
“Isn’t he a she?”
“Oh, it’s so hard to tell with cows.”
“I’m fairly sure it’s a he.”
“Then it’s a bull, right? Not a cow?”
“Bull, cow. Same difference.”
“It looks terrified!”
“I’m going to pet it! See if that calms it down.”
The closest raptor had said the last comment, and after making this announcement, slid gradually closer, while quietly and soothingly saying “It’s okay, baby, it’s okay.” Ace had never been reassured by a buff and talking turkey before, and he found that it not really accomplish its desired effect. Fear welled up in Ace’s new body as he watched the toothy turkey monster shuffle closer and closer. Its clawed hand quickly darted up toward Ace’s face and gently proceeded to pet him. The feeling was roughly equivalent to being pet with a machete. Sharp claws delicately arced down Ace’s cheek, deftly avoiding cutting his face off. Ace eloquently stated the second thing that came to his mind.
“Um…” This produced a similar flutter of conversation from the raptors.
“He’s trying to talk to us! It’s so cute!”
“Wow, what a cute little cow!”
“I’m still pretty sure it’s a bull.”
“Shut up, Ted!”
The third thing that came to Ace’s mind was finally something tangible, and, as traditional with this encounter, he blurted it out without thinking.
“You speak English?”
All the raptors snapped their attention toward Ace. Ted, who Ace had gathered from the earlier conversation was the raptor that was petting him, suddenly stopped. Though mere seconds ago Ace would have given anything to not be pet by such a sharply clawed creature, he now found himself missing it.
“…Did that cow just ask if we speak English?” said one of the raptors in the back with the guns.
“Holy shit! I heard that too!”
“Does anyone here speak English?”
“I speak a little!” said another raptor from the back.
“Well, get on up here then, Amelia!” Amelia ran through the pews until she was about twenty feet from Ace, then slowed down to an awkward shuffle in order to avoid startling him. Again, though Ace appreciated the sentiment, he found that all the attempts made by these turkeys to put him at ease were not exactly meeting their expectations. Amelia approached Ace and all the raptors were looking in their direction with interest, for, though Ace didn’t realize it at the time, the events occurring in this church were the most interesting thing that had ever happened in their lives as well.
Amelia looked at Ace. Ace looked at Amelia. Ted looked at Amelia. Cecil, one of the raptors in the back, looked at the stained glass window of the Triceratops, but he was a religious raptor and was prone to ask the lord for guidance. Everything seemed to hang on this moment. Amelia opened her toothy mouth to speak and said:
“I don’t know what to say!”
“Ask her if she speaks English in English!” said one of the as of yet unnamed velociraptors, who in point of fact was named Bertrand.
“Uh, okay. That makes sense I guess,” said Amelia. She pursed her lips, which, if you asked Ace, was an odd facial expression for a buff turkey. Then again, as turkey’s on Ace’s planet didn’t have lips or linguistic abilities, most every expression he had seen from these creatures was something odd. In the raptor’s eyes, Amelia was quite attractive, and pursed lips, as is true on our planet, are quite pretty when pulled off correctly. Most of the male raptors in the room would agree that Amelia was indeed “pulling it off,” but if you wish to question my authority as a documentarian and ask them yourselves, I wish you luck in finding out which are male and which are female. Amelia began to speak in what all the raptors in the room would later testify as as perfect English.
“Excusez-moi. Parlez-vous Anglais?”
“Yes!” replied Ace, having a very limited knowledge of French, most likely from an episode of a children’s television show. “I only speak English,” he added, just to clarify that he wouldn’t be of much use speaking any other language. Amelia nodded her head in understanding and proceeded to say something in French that Ace did not understand.
“No, I only speak English!” he said, bordering on frustration but not wanting to let it show because the raptor, though small, could likely bite his face off. Amelia was confused. Ace shared the sentiment. Amelia turned back to Ted.
“I don’t understand,” she said. “He’s saying he speaks English, but he doesn’t seem to understand it.”
“Wait,” said Ace, twelve eyes from six raptors snapping back in his direction. “I understand only the language that we are speaking now.”
“So you speak French?” said Ted.
“No, I speak this language,” Ace responded.
“Right,” said Ted.
“Right…” said Ace.
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Oh no! What sort of trouble has our intrepid hero found himself in now?
Tune in next time for Chapter Three of our ongoing tale: Ace: King of Space? Language Barrier.
Copyright 2009 Nicholas Collins, All Rights Reserved.