I've Got an Idea

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Ace's new hand was amazing. His sense of touch and gripping ability were as sensitive and strong as his natural hand. It really was a fine piece of Valdovian craftsmanship. After running the hand through a series of tests and a short trip to the Caddy to look up some stuff on its computers, Ace met Ivan, April, and Hank in front of a Dippin' Dots stand where the three were enjoying the Ice Cream of the Future.

"I can't believe you guys have this stuff out here!" April said as she spooned little frozen ice cream balls into her mouth. "It's just like the same Dippin' Dots on Earth!"

"Yeah," Ivan said. "It was one of the things that slipped through before the blockade went up. Some carpetbagger from the Glorbon Cluster started selling the stuff on Earth. It was right after the Hasselhoff Incident, and it was the straw that broke the camel's back. The Galactic Union erected the shield to keep aliens from messing with Earth right after that."

Hank lapped up ice cream from a little cup and wagged his tail, "Well. Shit. It's good as fuck!"

"The Hasselhoff Incident? You mean David Hasselhoff?" April asked.

"Yep. The one and the same. Didn't know he was an alien, huh? He really ticked off a lot of people when he single-handedly brought down the Berlin Wall."

"Ummm," April said. "I don't think that's how it happened. I mean, I remember he did some sort of stunt where he had, like, a concert on top of the Wall in some sort of electric light jacket. And German people really love him. Which is super weird. Like, they really, really love him. Like he was some sort of god or something. I've heard he could get people to do anything he wanted. And oh my God, he did bring the wall down!"

"Yup," Ivan said. "Messing with an unenlightened culture's politics is a big no-no. Kind of like the Prime Directive in Star Trek. Between Hasselhoff and the sudden introduction of super advanced culinary tech, the big wigs at the Galactic Union had enough." Ivan tilted his treat cup back to get the last few frozen balls onto his tongue.

"Hey, Face! You look like a hundred bucks!" Hanks said when he saw Ace approaching.

"Yup," Ace said wiggling the fingers on his new prosthetic hand. "Good as new."

"I hope they calibrated that thing properly," Hank said. "Wouldn't want you to accidentally rip your crank off next time you take a leak!"

Ace ignored him, but Ivan and April giggled.

Ace was ready to get to work. "Ivan, who's the best mindtapper you know?"

"Huh," Ivan said. "I think Bleeborp still works for one of the big networks on Alpha Centauri Prime. Probably him?"

"Think he can cook up a quick vignette about a galactic apocalypse?"

"Yeah. I bet he could," Ivan said with a smile. "I think I know where you're going with this. I'll give him a call and get him to start working on it."

"Well," April said. "I'm lost. Can you two spacemen fill me in? I feel like a fifth wheel over here."

"Not me, sister," Hank said. "I don't know what the fuck's going on either, but I don't care. This ice cream is just too goddamn good!"

"That's good, Hank," Ace said. "Because you're probably not going to remember any of this by the time it's over."

"What?" Hank said and started growling. "You come near me, and I'll bite your n—"

"Yeah. I know," Ace said, patting the air to try and calm Hank down. "You'll bite my nuts off. Look, I don't like it either but what I'm trying to do is make things right."

"Yeah!" Hank said. "We can make it right by not having any of this fucked up shit happen in the first place! All we gotta do is go grab the first time machine from the pencil neck who invented the shit. No Zimmy Zon's time machine, no going to Andromeda. No starting a war. No reason for the Shiny Man to kill Elvis."

"OK," Ace said. "But then how will we still be here right now? In this particular locale in space-time? Look, we're somehow instrumental in all of this. Think about it. We need to get the Caddy out of Graceland for it to be here with us now. We have to meet Elvis at Sleazon Nebula's party. The Shiny Man has to chase us to Earth. All of that."

"Well, then what's the point?" April asked. "If all this is fated. Why bother going back to change anything?"

"Because," Ace said. "Before I met you guys here, I went back to the Caddy and started poking around in the computer. I was able to get into a program called the Chronomicon."

"Yeah! The Shiny Man said he had one of those!" April said.

"Yes," Ace said. "It's a system for reading events of the past. And the future."

"Whoa," April said.

"Yeah. For instance, I found out what happened to Betty when we left her."

"Poor Betty," Ivan said. "What happened?"

"Well, the self-destruct worked," Ace said. "She exploded over Tupelo in 1936."

"1936? I thought we were in 1935?" April said.

"We were," Ace said. "But we jumped ahead a year when I accidentally hit a button in the Caddy while fighting that shiny dickhead. Anyway, Betty blew up in the sky over Tupelo and caused massive devastation. The papers reported it as a tornado strike because no one on the ground had any clue what had happened. Elvis was one year old at the time, and he survived, but it was a close call."

"Holy shit!" April gasped. "I know about that tornado strike! My brother was always spouting Elvis trivia, and one of his favorite bits of arcane knowledge is how the King was almost killed by a tornado when he was one year old. Wait a second...how can I know that if it just happened?"

Ace smiled. "See? Because it happened in the past, you know about it now. Time is pretty malleable. And our brains are different now because of the time-jumps. It's one of the artifacts of being a time traveler, I'm guessing."

"The Chronomicon keeps mentioning dates in the future where Elvis does all this crazy shit. He's totally alive. And there's something else," Ace said.

"What?" Ivan asked.

"All our names are in the footnotes," Ace said. "I don't understand it all because it's written in a language my translator can't fully decode. But the gist I'm getting is we're somehow responsible for...everything. We're responsible for getting him off world and faking his death. We're responsible for planting the Caddy in the master bedroom. All of it. And somehow we fix it all, so Elvis survives in the twenty-first century and becomes some sort of politician that brings Earth into the Galactic Union."

"Holy shit," Hank said.

"Which brings me back to Hank," Ace said. "We can't change anything up until right before the Shiny Man kills Elvis. Things need to play out just as they have before. But once we do make the change, everything after that moment will be different. We probably won't remember any of this. It'll be like it never happened."

"Well, fuck it then!" Hank said with a little hop. His long toenails scraped on the ground when he landed, and he kicked his Dippin' Dots cup away. "If we can save the King I don't give a shit if I think I'm Joan of fucking Arc afterward. Let's go save him and tear that shiny fucker a new asshole!"

"So," April said. "We go back and save Elvis from getting turned into hamburger by the Shiny Man. How?"

"I've got an idea," Ace said. "I'm not sure it will work, but we've got to give it a shot."

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