Buckaroo Banzai and the Fen from Space
(Written by Ebony; posted January 2, 2007; revised January 12, 2007)
The 'wavium came into my possession much like any controlled substance ever did, by chance and circumstance and without me looking for it. A friend had some, was going to make a flying car, and was feeling generous. He gifted me a small amount, which I tossed in a Tupperware and stuck in the fridge. About a week later, I noticed that the Tupperware seal had popped. The small amount of ‘wavium was larger than it had been, to the point of almost overflowing the bowl. I couldn't tell what it had fed on, and to this day, I haven't a clue. I poured it into a larger container and moved it to the living room, where I could keep an eye on it. I felt that I was going to use it, eventually; I just didn't know how.
Frankly, I felt that some of the fen were going off half-cocked. Watching the news and the security theater that the American government was cooking up over handwavium just made me shake my head, and talking to the fen that were planning to take off for the Great Beyond sounded like reinventing the wheel 600 times over. There seemed so much that could be done with it here on Earth that everyone seemed hellbent on ignoring. I knew that the government was considering the stuff (they'd be stupid not to), so I bided my time and waited to see what happened. And then the Professor went off his nut in Paris, and the Really Real World slammed the lid. The 'wavium in my house suddenly became a lot more dangerous to own. I wasn't about to get rid of it, though; there were too many traps in simply turning it over, and flushing it down the toilet would have done God knows what to the local sewer systems.
So it sat, patiently, in my living room, sandwiched in the corner between my pile of comics and my DVDs. Occasionally, the pile would overbalance and fall on top of the container. One particular avalanche knocked the lid off, and some of the comics ended up partially inside. I have to admit it was entrancing, watching the ink slide off the pages and pool in a rainbow pattern like an oil slick on the pavement during a rainstorm, before disappearing into the goo. I spent some time and money buying extra comics, dropping them into the goo, and seeing what happened. It took some of them, and others it just rendered into a soggy mess. The goo grew, and I transferred it to another bucket. After a point, I stopped feeding it, simply because it was getting too big to manage.
And then, one day, I saw an old bus sitting in a junkyard. It wasn't too old, maybe 30 years or so, and in the flat-nosed style that Greyhound had made so well known. It still ran (poorly), and it was decked out for personal residence; I think it had been somebody's tour bus, once upon a time, since it had a second floor. When I saw it, I didn't think much of it, but sitting next to it was an old Ford truck, with a camper shell. Which, by itself wasn't that remarkable, and I didn't think anything of it until I got home and saw the 'wavium.
Archimedes was sitting the bathtub when he had his moment. I, at least, had my pants on.
The bus wasn't cheap, but it wasn't that expensive either. I bought it and managed to get it home. The guys thought I was crazy, but they were all for it, if it meant I would share the glory of a flying bus. None of them really liked their jobs anyway. We reupholstered the seats that we didn't tear out, added some equipment from an old RV, did our best to fix the bathroom and the kitchenette, jammed in a wi-fi and router and an extra generator next to the bathroom, and installed a satellite radio system. One of the guys went to work with the carpentry tools and rigged up a cabinet for storing computers, which we put where we tore out the seats on the second level. It kept the towers protected and gave us an anchor point for keyboards and monitors. He also managed to throw together a set of bunks, modifying the original sleeping quarters to fit eight in bunks. In the back of the top level, behind the computer cabinets, we hung a sliding door, making a small room, which we put down a padded mat and making a makeshift dojo about eight feet on a side. We replaced the tires, tuned the engine, and fixed the windows. We slapped some paint on the outside, and tried to add something approximating the mural. Not a bad job, in the end, but it was a kitbash. In the end, it took about six months of saving and eating a lot of mac and cheese and sharing cars, but we had a working bus. It was time to finish the project.
We drove the bus out to my family's land in the middle of nowhere for the final steps. I was worried about the 'wavium, but since work had started on the car, I had started feeding it again. It had grown to fill the bucket that I had kept it in and then more, forcing me to move it to more than one container. I tossed my copy of the book in last, along with as many of the fanzines that I could find. We coated the outside with a layer, covered the tires and undercarriage, and sprayed it over the engine. We even poured it into the crankcase, radiator, and gas tank. After that, we went to work on the inside. Everything was coated in the stuff. We painted, rinsed, sprayed, and bathed the entirety of the bus and all its contents.
I can honestly I didn't know what to expect from the boxy, black vehicle after we had finished and crashed out for the night. The stampeding yellow mustangs along the side seemed brighter, more developed. Where Gary had slapped on a set of fins ("To dissipate the heat!" he had jokingly insisted), the seams seemed smoother, the welds cleaner. Maybe it was the morning light, but the entire bus seemed more impressive, more heroic. But the biggest surprises were inside.
Wendy was the most noticeable. She'd slipped inside during the night, after we'd gone to sleep. I suspect she'd been hoping for the transgender – the hormones were slow and she certainly couldn't afford the surgery, and psychologically Warren had been Wendy for a number of years now. She looked good, positively jubilant. We didn't find out about the ratgirl part of it until later.
As for the bus, it looked much more impressive than I had hoped. The second level was as I had hoped, with the bank of computers, televisions, and other communications equipment smoothly integrated. The satellite radio was already on, and one of the computers was tuned to a streaming radio station, while a second one was rapidly pulling music off three p2p sites at the same time. The small set of bunks still took up the back half of the lower compartment, and the 'wavium had taken the rough fabrication that we'd started with and reinforced it.
Looking at the driver's seat made it clear that moving the bus was going to be difficult. I had no idea how I was going to get it off the ground. As I sat in the driver's chair, confessing that my inability to fly the thing without crashing, J. said, in a good-natured, mocking tone, "Nice going, Blackstone. Only you would create a vehicle without any idea of how to run it."
My retort died on my lips as we heard the Voice. "Hey, now. Don't be mean. We don't have to be mean."
The laptop mounted next to the dashboard flickered to life, and we saw his face. He didn't look exactly like Peter Weller, but we could see the resemblance. He smiled, and said, "Howdy, partners. You ready to get this show on the road?"
When Buckaroo Banzai asks a question like that, there's only one answer. We had the bus packed in six minute flat, and in 10, the bus lifted off the ground under my nervous control (with Buckaroo's tutelage), and we headed for orbit.
That was 18 months ago. We've still got a little bit of the ‘wavium; it responds well to rock ‘n' roll and comics. I fed it a copy of Campbell's Hero of a 1000 Faces at one point, and it turned the color of mother of pearl and eventually expanded to four times its volume. I'm wondering what would happen if we fed it a copy of Hamilton's Mythology or any of Dent's stories. Part of me is still a little scared of it.
We grabbed the old Ford truck as quick as we could, and found us a turbine engine that nobody was using. We're still working on the overthruster, but Buckaroo's a patient teacher. It seems that he's managed to download everything from a number of archives, including the Library of Congress and a number of BitTorrent sites that specialize in music. Not legal, I know, but he just made copies, and he didn't touch anything else. Or so he says. I believe him. For now, though, the Jet Car has a nice docking clamp up top, behind the sensor bubble, and it makes for a pretty decent shuttle. As for the bus, only one name was appropriate. You should have heard the first Pulpers we hailed when we identified ourselves as World Watch One.
We got the blazers last month. We even got Earl Mac Rauch's blessing, after he and Mr. Richter had a conversation with Buckaroo over the go phone. Buckaroo keeps us in shape. There's not a lot to do in space between destinations, and he has a good sense of what we need to do to make our minds sharper and our bodies fitter. His room has become our gymnasium; everyone spends at least an hour a day in there. Buckaroo doesn't get mad, if we don't do it, but he does get disappointed, and World Watch One's performance seems to hinge on our continuing desire to better ourselves and the world. We lost Gary to that; he didn't want to keep it up. Buckaroo was okay with it; we dropped him off at his place with a go phone. He said he'd let us know if he changed his mind.
Buckaroo has a lot of fans. Quiet fans that prefer to live on the Earth, helping the planet and her children in ways that have little to do with outer space. Fans that didn't know they were fans until we starting spreading the word. Gary found a way he could still be part of the team. He got the old World Watch One forums expanded, organized, and began discussions how to help seriously people. He and Mrs. Johnson got the Institute up and running. Our global network helps itself solve problems. The Banzai Institute was there for the California earthquake in September and for the evacuation during the Mumbai floods. And we're in the Fenspace as well. We spend a lot of time near Earth, occasionally dropping down to the planet to provide help. I can't say the Boskonians are real, since we haven't seen any yet, but we're helping people help themselves and protecting them from the petty evils of the System, both Mundane and Fen.
We're not the Cavaliers, not yet at least. We will be soon, or so Buckaroo assures us. We're the crew of World Watch One, better known as the Blue Blazer Irregulars. We help, because we can. And as the Boss says, "No matter where you go, there you are."
Bonus Story Fragment
"Can't you just slip in unnoticed and take the guy out?"
Blackstone smiled. "You're thinking of J. He's the Ninja Rockstar Firefighter. I'm the Samurai Magician Deejay."
"Generally? It means that I mow through about twenty or thirty goons before taking the guy down in a standup fight. Occasionally, I die in some tragic, meaningful sacrifice that shapes how others view the world."
"Sounds like a raw deal."
"Doesn't it? Let's make sure I don't have to do that."