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Log of the Month for May, 2009

Guaranteed to Entertain
Posted on May 26th, 2009 by T'Kirr and Ian Blackthorne

T’Kirr and Ian Blackthorne

“You’ve come at the right time!” a Ferengi shorter than T’Kirr exclaimed. He took in the Vulcan and Betazoid as they approached with hungry eyes, not bothering to conceal his obvious pleasure at serving officers of high rank that no doubt had an endless line of credit. “I’ve just had my best suite open up. Is there a particular program I can interest you in, or would you care to look at the list?”

“Let’s see the list,” Ian answered, keeping his eyes on the diminutive salesman as the Ferengi handed him a PADD. He scanned the titles of the programs, hoping to find something humorous to get his mind off the scores of next-of-kin letters he had yet to write. “These all seem ostentatitious, don’t you think?” came his unenthusiastic reply as he handed the menu to T’Kirr. “These seem to be programs about being rich, famous, and powerful – sometimes all three. I’m in the mood for simple and funny, not for pretending to be the Pharoah of Egypt, or, what was that one – the ‘Tsarina of Tokyo?’ Tsars were Russian!”

The Ferengi’s face fell, nodding along with Ian and settled on T’Kirr as she read over the list, who appeared to not take much interest in anything either. He looked back to Ian suddenly, his expression righting itself. “Of course, of course! Complicated lives call for simple pleasures! I think I have just the thing for you.” The man began walking backwards towards one of the many arches containing the holosuites. “It’s not one of our bargains, mind you, but I see now that you are of refined tastes.” He tapped on the arch panel and brought up what appeared to be a random image from a classic 1960’s Earth town. “It’s inspired by someone named ‘Alabama,’ and is guaranteed to entertain! What do you say?”

Ian peered into the arch and commented, “It’s certainly unassuming, but small town life on twentieth century Earth? I’m not sure what people even did for fun back then. What do you think, T’Kirr?”

The Vulcan glanced in critically. “The program description isn’t very specific. You said it’s guaranteed?”

The salesman beamed at her. “Oh, yes, guaranteed to entertain. It’s meant to be a surprise.” He looked doubtful for a moment. “Although I don’t much like surprises, but some go for that.” Seeming to recover himself, the Ferengi beamed again, washing his hands. “People like you, yes?”

With a shrug, Ian looked to T’Kirr’s nod and answered, “Why not? Start it up for us.”

“Wonderful!” came the squeal of a Ferengi sensing looming profit. After tapping on the arch’s control panel a few times, he gestured for them to enter. “Do go on in, and have a great time!”

The pair of them stepped through as instructed and the doors sealed behind them and disappeared. They immediately found themselves crowded by vintage cars, and T’Kirr’s first assumption was that they had stepped into a sort of parking lot. She glanced around at the cars individually and noticed that they were all occupied. She wasn’t an expert at Earth history, but didn’t people park their cars in lots so that they could walk away from them?

Crickets were chirping all around, and beyond the cars in one direction there was evidence of a dirt road. Long grasses tinted red in the aft lighting of the cars swayed suddenly in a cool night breeze that picked up clumps of T’Kirr’s hair and teased her nose with the smell of… popcorn?

T’Kirr turned and found all the cars were facing a large blank white screen four times the size of a standard Bridge main viewer. Next to them was a shiny red car, sleek and sporty for the time period, if she recalled correctly. It was also the only one not occupied. “I think this is our car.”

“So I’m guessing we get in the car and watch a movie? That’ll be nice and cozy. I’ll, um, drive.” Ian started to circle the car, but then remembered something from another twentieth century movie he’d seen, and paused to open the passenger door and hold it for T’Kirr. “After you.”

T’Kirr responded with the arch of a canted brow and ducked inside, but not before Ian caught an amused satisfaction in her eyes. She seated herself gracefully on the padded front passenger seat and Ian snapped the heavy door shut.

A child’s squeal drew his attention, and Ian spotted the source climbing a nearby car holding something away from his siblings. The other children started to climb out the rear windows in pursuit, complaining that the boy should give it back. A shrill voice, apparently belonging to their mother, yelled, “Drew, put that back where you found it! All of you, get back in here!”

Chuckling at the added domestic atmosphere to the program, Ian crossed in front of their car and noted that the front grill was decorated with the emblem of a galloping horse that he thought rather stylish. Upon sitting down behind the wheel, the horse made even more sense. “It’s a Mustang,” he pointed out to T’Kirr, gesturing at the center of the steering wheel with a grin.

T’Kirr’s eyebrows went up. “Were they named after this car?”

“No, our Mustangs were named after a warplane from earlier in the century, but now that I think about it, this car may have also been named after that same fighter.” He looked around inside the car, appreciating the styling and lines. “Good start to the program, I say.”

The screen suddenly flickered into brightness, and crude, monochromatic film began playing. T’Kirr squinted curiously. “Is this accurate to Earth’s history? Did people use such imperfect images with no sound?”

Ian looked around, remembering that they at least had sound, and located what looked like a speaker on a pole next to the driver’s window. He now recognized it as the object the child had been holding hostage on top of his family’s car. After figuring out how to roll the window down, he pulled the speaker close and managed to clip it onto the window. “Let’s try this,” he said, pressing what appeared to be the speaker’s power button, and the movie’s sound finally filled the car. Noticing the front bench seat, Ian slid over and put his arm around T’Kirr, pulling her close and settling in to enjoy the relative privacy. “I think I see why people liked these movies.”

T’Kirr showed her agreement by leaning into him. She couldn’t help but think it illogical that people would go to see a movie intending to ignore it completely in favor of some other activity. Why not just skip the movie and cuddle anywhere else?

Movement caught her eye as the door to a car two rows over to the right and ahead of them opened and caught the light from the screen. A scrawny young man with glasses stood from the driver’s seat and reached up to fiddle with what looked like an antenna. It looked completely out of place, now that T’Kirr studied it, not belonging to the car at all. The man slouched back into his car and picked up a box sprouting wires and more antennae. He pushed his glasses up with a finger and squinted up at the screen, looking back down at the box in his hands several times.

“What is he doing?”

Ian was no expert on twentieth century Earth, but he had seen enough movies to know that something was out of place. “You know, I’m not sure… I remember that people used to illegally record movies at theaters, maybe he’s trying to do that?”

A sudden explosion of laugher erupted from a couple in a car in the other direction, and Ian and T’Kirr looked up to see what they missed. A stern-faced man in a thin tie and horn-rimmed glasses was addressing the President of the United States, informing him that Earth was in grave danger due to an impending alien attack. Confused, Ian wondered aloud, “What was so bloody funny about that?”

Several minutes passed as they both watched the film looking for amusing parts. Once news of the alien attack spread, panic was erupting on the streets of what appeared to be New York. A curiously clad man in a robe was yelling to repent because the end times were nigh, and that the little green men from Mars would eat their souls if they weren’t saved. Ian did end up laughing at this notion, commenting, “Funny what they thought meeting other species would be like!”

“Indeed,” T’Kirr agreed, nodding earnestly. She watched the people running around the screen a few moments more then glanced down at the car to their left. “It is also curious that our fellow guests did not find it so amusing. Our differences in culture seem to have quite conflicting ideas of humor.”

“That’s probably part of it, I’m sure, but that couple also seems just a bit daft. Oh well.” Now a vast fleet of mostly featureless flying saucers was shown orbiting Earth and sweeping down above the major cities, and Ian was again amused at the early concepts of spaceflight.

T’Kirr was again distracted a car door slamming far behind them and its recent occupant walking–no, stalking–through a lane of cars, and she wondered if people had to attend films several times just to know what they were about with how little they actually watched of them. To be fair, it became clear the man had just driven up and wasn’t a guest at all when he yanked the door open to a car ahead of them and hauled someone out from behind the wheel. There was yelling and a young woman’s muffled voice from inside the car as she appealed in vain to the intruder who was currently roughing up her companion.

Smirking, Ian remarked, “Now there’s something that transcends cultural boundaries. It doesn’t take an empath to sense jealousy there, holograms or not.” The larger man that had just arrived dragged the hapless would-be Casanova back away from the screen by the arm as his former date watched from the car, wondering how her new boyfriend found out about her other boyfriend.

“I can’t help but conclude that the program’s entertainment is not based mainly on the film.”

“It’s a good thing too, because this is a rather bad movie. Though I will concede that it’s entertainingly bad.” As if the holosuite had somehow offended its guests and was attempting to make amends, the sci-fi film proceeded to drone on without interruption, except for the frequent fits of laughter emitting from the car to their left. Ian found himself getting rather bored watching the plastic flying saucers attack buildings with what appeared to be hand-torch beams. He could almost see the strings holding the saucers above the miniature towns, but the quality of the film and projector was low enough to obscure them. Figuring that they were probably the only couple here actually watching the movie anyway, he looked to T’Kirr and placed a hand on her cheek, turning her to face him. “You know, since the film is terrible and no one else appears to be watching it anyway, why not blend in?” he said in a lowered voice, watching her eyes.

T’Kirr leaned into his touch, gazing back into his eyes and arching an eyebrow at his words. She searched his expression for verification of what she inferred his intentions were and found it in the sparks of desire looking back at her.

She had to admit, he was more interesting to look at than the old film.

What was even more demanding of her attention, however, was the growling of her stomach.

She squinted lovingly at him. “I want popcorn.”

Without missing a beat, Ian replied, “And you’ll have it.” Fingertips trailing on her cheek, he backed out the door and went in search of food, like a good hunter. The concession stand was a squat cement block building, lighted by fluorescent tubes along the eves, most of them burnt out or flickering sadly. Ian approached the window, and a bored pimply-faced teenage boy with a nametag that said, ‘Hi! My name is Eugene!’ looked out at him.

“What will you have, mishter?” Eugene asked through a mouth full of braces.

“One popcorn, and – ” What do they even drink around here? Peering at the menu, Ian spotted iced tea, and figured that if it’s tea, T’Kirr would like it. “One popcorn and an iced tea.”

“What shize, mishter? And do you want butter on your popcorn?”

“Ah, right, make them larges. No butter though.” He figured they could share. Eugene handed him the bag of popcorn and the tea, and Ian started back to the car after being informed that the cost of the food would automatically come out of his account.

“Heeeeeeey man, where did you get those far-out threads, maaaaan?” Ian turned at the voice and saw three long-haired guys passing a strangely-shaped cigarette back and forth as they slouched against the wall of the concession stand. Eugene leaned out the window and glared at them.

“Excuse me?”

“Your clothes, maaaan, they’re wild!”

“Ah,” Ian chuckled. “It’s a military uniform. Secret stuff.”

The long-haired fellow took another long drag and held the smoke in for what seemed to be a good minute before coughing it out. “Yeah, maaaan, you need to chill out and smoke with us, ditch that square get-up and reeeeeelaaaaaaax, maaaaaan.”

“No thanks, maybe another time,” Ian smiled, and continued on toward the car, sliding in next to T’Kirr when he arrived. He handed her the tea, set the popcorn between them, and said, “Apparently our uniforms are ‘far-out’, ‘wild,’ and ‘square,’ at least according to this bloke I met that was smoking something interesting.”

T’Kirr only glanced at Ian, her attention focused in the direction he had come. She pointed at the antennae-laden car they had noticed earlier. “That man seems quite interested in you. He had that contraption in his hands following you as you passed by him, and now he’s staring at us.” She lifted the drink to her lips and took a sip only to grimace and hand it immediately to Ian while still staring off.

“What’s the matter? That’s supposed to be iced tea.” He took a drink and was surprised that the tea could hold that much sugar. “Too sweet?”

She nodded distractedly, pursing her lips as if she had been sucking on a lemon. “Yes, and we’re about to have company.”

Ian looked up to see the geeky-looking man standing right outside the car window, the box with its mess of wires between his hands. He was staring at Ian in what could have been stupified wonder through his square-rimmed glasses, one of his eyes squinted halfway. The noisy couple laughed loudly in the background. Rolling down the window, Ian addressed the odd fellow. “Can I help you?” he asked, really hoping that he couldn’t.

The young man flinched backwards, as if surprised Ian could talk. After another moment of ridiculous goggling, he croaked, “Are you… an alien?”

“Of course not, are ye off yer nut? I’m Irish!” It wasn’t really a lie, but he did fake the accent.

The man frowned and pushed the glasses up his nose. “Um… okay, ’cause this thing measures proton wave activity, and you’re making it beep, so… that’s really weird. Can you tell me why you’re emitting proton waves?”

“Now that’s Arthur Guinness talking, innit?” Ian gestured as if the geek had been drinking too much.

“Um…” the man scratched his head and looked down at his ‘machine’ in thought.

“It’s actually quite natural that you would pick up proton waves from someone who has recently traveled through Roswell, New Mexico,” T’Kirr assured the man calmly.

He looked up in surprise, his eyes widening as his mouth fell open. “How do you know about Roswell?” he squeaked.

T’Kirr frowned. “Well you’re obviously one of the few authorized to study the incident.” She nodded to the homemade device in his hands. “And we’re not supposed to inform the public, so we would appreciate it if you would keep our presence quiet. We’re here on official business.”

Ian dropped the fake brogue. “Note the uniforms – secret branch of the military. I’d advise you forget you met us.”

The man’s mouth snapped shut and he looked about ready to salute, but stopped himself. He then grinned absurdly. “Actually, I made this thing myself. I can’t believe you guys are really here! I mean,” he pointed at the screen, “you’ve got to be here for the proton waves! I found them two hours ago and I’ve been trying to figure out what’s causing them!” He went silent suddenly, peering around as if he’d realized he had been shouting secret information to the world, and came in close in a harsh whisper. “I think it’s a portal from outer space. The aliens are trying to invade right here!”

“You have an overactive imagination, but rest assured, we’re here to make sure that doesn’t happen. Return to your car, enjoy the movie, and most importantly – keep what you know to yourself.” Ian looked at T’Kirr for support, who nodded importantly.

This time, he did salute and wrapped his arms around the wire-laden box. He shuffled off, looking back at them all the way to his car.


T’Kirr picked up the popcorn and fingered a few kernels. “Early Earth discoveries. Part of my Xenology course in the Academy.” She began munching on the popcorn, finding it considerably better than the tea, and snuggled up into Ian’s side to watch the film.

“Far-out,” Ian agreed as he wrapped his arm around her and sipped at the super sweet tea.

The occupants of the shiny red Mustang managed to get several minutes of quality vintage film-watching in before there was a sudden shouting coming from the concession stand.

“Oh, what now?” Ian complained and leaned past T’Kirr to look.

Two black and white cars with blue spinning lights on top had pulled up, which startled the smokers something fierce. Four policemen got out of the cars and were waving sticks at the three long-haired fellows, who looked really disappointed at this turn of events.

“Is smoking not allowed at films?” T’Kirr’s watched the event curiously, her expression puzzled.

“They weren’t smoking tobacco, but something more intoxicating that must be illegal.” Ian shrugged and turned his attention back to the movie, which was showing an army of gray alien troops marching down Broadway, shooting crudely animated lasers at anyone that moved. A mass of screaming people fled the army, toward the camera, and the shots that didn’t turn someone into a pile of ash seemed to hit the viewer.

More and more the laser beams were turned toward the audience, and the flashes across the entire screen began to annoy T’Kirr. She was about to ask Ian what it was about when the screen–the actual screen— began to shake, as if actually being hit. The pair of them stared, confused, and in seconds the shaking became a crash. Both started on the bench seat, and a blinding flash lit up not only the screen but a brilliant, humming beam of light over their heads.

An explosion behind them turned the sea of cars orange. Ian and T’Kirr stared at the back window in alarm as the cop cars shrieked in a receding ball of flame. Policemen were thrown to the ground, and screams from cars all around rose up in panic.

T’Kirr shared a look with Ian.

A different sort of humming erupted from above, and they looked up to see a flying saucer that had no business holding itself up bleed through the screen, followed by another and another. Three saucers, now in proper three dimensions and looking somewhat more menacing yet somehow still ridiculous hovered impossibly above them.


T’Kirr perked a brow at Ian. “The Ferengi did guarantee entertainment. I, for one, am amused.”

A cone-shaped light blinked on from the center of the floating disc and little dark child-sized silhouettes drifted towards the ground. People in the cars below, most being crowded in by the other vehicles and having little room to move them, started scrambling from their cars and running in confused terror.

“You know what? So am I, let’s play along.” Ian got out of the car and walked around to the front, joined by T’Kirr, to watch the ‘First Contact’ play out.

The geek with the wirey box was standing on the hood of his car, proclaiming to the sky with a pointed finger and cracking voice that was barely heard over the chaos, “I knew it! I KNEW IT!”

Shadows alighted onto the ground and stepped from the beam of light. The aliens were gray skinned with heads shaped like inverted teardrops, and large black eyes shaped much like their heads, just angled slightly inward. They brandished plastic ray guns at the crowd of horrified movie-goers who had stopped to take in the sight. The laughing couple laughed, breaking the sudden awkward silence, and were promptly hit with a beam of red light that seemed to be superimposed even now that the aliens were ‘real.’ They keeled over onto the ground, guffawing as they died, finally laughing at something that was genuinely funny.

People began screaming again in response and ran away from the extraterrestrials wielding death rays. Most people, anyway. The weed smokers, now freed from conviction by default, had actually come closer and were grinning. All three showed no signs of alarm or the slightest bit of tension. They gawked at the aliens, and the lead stoner drawled, “Coooooool.”

Apparently, their comment wasn’t offensive, as they were not shot. The policemen, however, were too stubborn to run from their charges and those responsible for the grander cause of anarchy in general and moved forward timorously. Three of them grabbed the weed smokers and a fourth stepped toward the aliens with fragile authority and a weak wave of his baton. “Now see here, what is the meaning of all this?”

The unwelcome visitors responded with a series of blasts from their plastic guns. Instead of dying, the policemen vanished instantly and were immediately replaced by a group of oinking, apparently content hogs. The smokers snickered, then appeared to completely forget about the aliens, instead deciding that they could really go for some bacon right now, and wandered away after declaring that they were off to the all-night diner.

One of the aliens then stepped forward and raised his toylike gun into the air, and began to speak in a voice that actually sounded like someone pinching their nose and talking too close to a microphone. “Take us to your leader!” he proclaimed. The crowd stood mute, save for the oinking of the cops.

Ian covered his face with his palm in disbelief of just how cheesy this was. No one appeared to be stepping up, which wasn’t surprising. He scanned the crowd, wondering where the self-proclaimed alien expert with the proton-wave detector had gotten off to when someone elbowed him in his ribs. Turning, he peered down at T’Kirr, who looked up expectantly at him. “Me? There must be someone-” Her anticipatory gaze did not falter. “Oh bloody hell why not?” Stepping up onto the Mustang’s hood, Ian adopted a melodramatic pose and proclaimed, “I am he, President Blackthorne of America!”

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