10:00 AM IN A CANONICAL, CREATOR-OWNED REALITY
In the past twelve months, The Middleman had gotten used to the feeling of utter, unadulterated and - frankly - de-goshdarn-lightful pride at the progress of his young apprentice. Without fail, the art student who had come under his tutelage a snarky, vinegar-veined quipper had turned into a reliable - if sometimes idiosyncratic - Middleman-to-be. Today was no exception - even if its events were causing him to suck air in a mad canter toward The Middlemobile, where - at the beck and call of a signal from his Middlewatch - the trunk would soon pop open to grant him access to the seldom-used-but-always-at-the-ready Middlejetpack.
The Middleman disliked the Middlejetpack: an archaic contraption harkening back to the days when former Middleman Guy Goddard - his sexual promiscuity as overt as his appetite for vehicular carnage in exotic locales - rode the thing in a green smoking jacket with a Beretta in one hand and a highball of Fleming's Commander Jamaica Rum in the other...but desperate times called for desperate measures, and flingety-flangety-foom, this time was more desperate than a Portland vegan at a Texas barbecue.
In the past twelve months, Wendy Watson had honed the cool and sardonic demeanor that first got her this job into a weapon as powerful as a 30-Megahurt Definit-Kil Photrazon cannon. Even now, as she made an uncontrolled ascent over the city, hands white-knuckling one of the control lines of a massive helium balloon in the shape of one of the adorable characters from "Ferrets of Fury" - the almost criminally popular game app that had taken the country's tablet and smartphone users by storm - her thoughts ricocheted with their usual post-modern tangentiality...but even as her mind ameliorated all the synaptic red alerts over her current predicament by busily trying to replace the lyric "high adventure beyond compare" from the theme to the old "Gummi Bears" cartoon show with the more descriptive "they're gelatinous with sucrose to spare" she truly could not tune out the screams of the fourteen year-old boy clutched beside her in the inflatable paws of this once adorable video game creation turned hateful harbinger of helium-filled hatred.
Wendy disliked it when the people targeted by the many villains she and The Middleman were tasked with neutralizing blew their Huggies in the face of danger, but even she had to cut this kid some slack: not only had he been put in the crosshairs by a time-traveling superbeing from three hundred years in an alternate future, he had also seen his first day volunteering at the Higbee's Department Store Christmas Parade turn into a Grand Guignol of mayhem at the hands of a hundred foot long inflatable ferret. Also, he'd grown up with the incredibly misguided name "Tiberius Davis." Poor kid, his parents really should have shown him mercy.
In the past twelve months, Khan Noonien Singh's life had taken some very odd turns - and it wasn't like the past few decades had been a picnic either. On Earth, three hundred years ago, he had been a Prince, with power over millions. Sadly, the intrusion into his life of one Starfleet Captain sent him not only into exile on a barren wasteland with only the trivial contents of a few cargo carriers and his genetically engineered superior intellect to insure survival, but also to what many assumed was his death in the detonation of a thoroughly misguided scientific project he had easily turned into a doomsday device. Of course, life in the twenty-third century invariably turned on the whim of the ever-escalating convolution of advanced technology, space exploration and narrative necessity; so he was not at all surprised when his body was instantaneously regenerated by the misguided science experiment...nor was he fazed in the least when a subsequent massive explosion threw his bouncing new form into outer space in a planetary fragment just large enough to hold a rudimentary envelope of air and sustain a few meager plants.
Khan Noonien Singh disliked living a life of subsistence farming on a runaway asteroid, so he was very much buoyed by his extremely unlikely - but very welcome - chance encounter with the disembodied spacefaring spirit of one Gary Mitchell. In an astonishing coincidence, Mitchell had also been wronged by the very same Starfleet Captain who had incurred the wrath of Khan...and had barely survived being buried under tons of rubble through the herculean effort of detaching his spiritual form from his corporeal being and taking to space as a hypercognitive, telekinetic being of pure energy and lust for vengeance...but mostly pure energy.
In the past twelve months, the lonely life of Gary Mitchell had taken a turn for the better. After traveling the spaceways for decade after endless decade as a being of pure energy and lust for vengeance...but mostly pure energy, he found himself merging with with the body of Khan Noonien Singh - another lonely man on a long and aimless trek through space.
Gary Mitchell disliked the idea of uniting with another individual, but the incredibly fortuitous truth of his shared desire for vengeance against the Starship Captain named James Tiberius Kirk - and the notion of teaming up with someone who had both a corporeal form and a genetically enhanced intellect - made the merger a mutually acceptable proposition.
The only real hitch was coming up with a suitable name for the newly-formed entity. Gary Mitchell did not want to entirely subsume his identity into another man's by giving up his name -as his outward appearance would, by necessity, already be that of his host. Khan Noonien Singh, however, believed that the name "Gary" was - for lack of a better word - wimpy.
After many months of unceasing internal debate, the joint-venture settled on the irresistibly sinister monicker "Khary Mingh" and set about using his telekinetic ability to 1. set the asteroid on a course for Earth, 2. enact an elaborate kidnapping plan in the twenty-third century and 3. slingshot around the sun in a course so precise it could only lead to the time-jumping realization of their foolproof plan for final and furious vengeance...a plan that ultimately brought them to the early years of the twenty-first century, and a collision course with...
...The Middleman and Wendy...in:
THE PARADOXICALLY FESTIVE MORTALITY
THE UNREALISTICALLY SPACIOUS YET STRANGELY AFFORDABLE LOFT WENDY WATSON SHARES WITH HER IDEALISTIC ROOMMATE
FIFTEEN MINUTES EARLIER IN CLASSIC TV SERIES CONTINUITY
"Hey Dub-Dub - where's the red, yellow and green bunting?"
Lacey Thornfield and Wendy Watson were busily preparing their fourth annual Christmawanzaanukkah Art Crawl when the call came in on Wendy's Middlewatch, pre-empting her reply to Lacey's query - which was just as well, because the first thing that came to her mind was to call out:
"I'm not putting up the red, yellow and green bunting this year; it makes us look like a bunch of ganjavores celebrating the Fourth of July Kingston-style."
So Wendy merely shook her head, wondering if the just-say-no stylings of that cranky android Ida were rubbing off on her like a contact high, and took the call without answering Lacey.
Within seconds, Wendy was off to the Higbee's Department Store Christmas parade, where the HEYDAR had detected both a surge in chronometric particles in the upper atmosphere as well as a spike in the city's psycho-kinetic energy readings...
...by the time Wendy and the Big Green Cheese arrived at the scene, one young member of the parade crew seemed to have been targeted for elimination by one of the large, brightly-colored balloons in the shape of popular characters from cartoons and app-based games - now controlled by the surging psycho-kinetic energy from above and rampaging down the city's streets like some demonic spawn of both kaiju and kawaii.
That member of the crew was Tiberius Davis. His friends called him "Tibby," which was no better - and the moment Wendy laid eyes on him, he was scooped up in the furious paw of the giant air-filled ferret as the rest of the parade scrambled in a panic.
Though Wendy was able to leap out of the Middlemobile and grab onto one of the control lines still dangling from the balloon-turned-instrument of vengeance as it careened upward into the darkening sky, the Middleman's own attempt to join the party was stymied by the veering toward him of a troupe of scooter-driving daredevil Christmas Elves whom the managers at Higbee's must have thought would have been a nice attraction to pull older teens into the festivities.
"Sons of Anarchy!" The Middleman cried out in annoyance as he expertly dodged the motorcycling menaces down the length of a city block. No sooner had he cleared out of their panicking path that he realized that Wendy - and the victim of the rampaging air-borne rodent - were already well out of reach. Hence the need for the Middlejetpack - which now stood waiting on its spring-loaded berth in the trunk of the Middlemobile - already steaming with vapor from its bubbling tanks of liquid propellant.
The Middleman's death-defying arc over Higbee's department store was welcome by a hundred child voices squeaking "I WANT ONE," and an even greater number of weary adults simultaneously admonishing that "you'll put your eye out, kid."
In less than sixty seconds, The Middleman had taken Wendy in one arm, fired his weapon - setting the furious ferret-shaped helium envelope on fire - and scooped up the falling Tibby with his other arm after holstering the Middlegun.
Upon landing, The Middleman could not resist but to look up at the flaming beast above them - dissolving harmlessly into a visually stunning rain of ashes - and remark to himself "oh the humanity," right before the threesome found themselves surrounded by gawking onlookers.
The Middleman ably diffused their curiosity by indicating young Tibby and announcing that:
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm Stuntman Mike, this is my brother, Stuntman Bob, and this lovely lady is -"
" - Stuntwoman Zöe," Wendy completed the sentence, rolling her eyes with the knowledge that had she not, her honorable but sometimes annoyingly old-fashioned boss would have relegated her to the role of "assistant."
"And the daring feat you have just witnessed is but one of many featured on our television show Stunt Supremacy! Coming this summer to the History Channel!"
THIRTY MINUTES LATER IN A CONTINUITY NOT RECOGNIZED AS CANONICAL IN THE MIDDLEMAN GRAPHIC NOVELS PUBLISHED BY VIPER COMICS (EXCLUDING "THE DOOMSDAY ARMAGEDDON APOCALYPSE")
"I guess the Pineapple Express is still running on time," Ida declared upon sighting Wendy, entering the great room of the Jolly Fats Wehawkin Temp Agency.
"Would have gotten here sooner if it hadn't been pulling the cruddy-costume-jewelry-coach," retorted Wendy, giving as good as she got even as The Middleman and Ida exchanged mournful glances for the now-wheezing metaphor.
The exchange of insults and torture of the Wendy-as-drug-addict/Ida-as-gaudy-dresse
"Can someone tell me where I am and why the hell I was attacked by a parade balloon?"
At least three times every year, The Middleman was faced with the thankless task of giving some poor innocent - usually unaware of their importance as A. a chosen one of some sort, B. a cleverly hidden scion of some royal family of ancient and sometimes extraterrestrial, but somehow continuingly relevant royalty or C. an antecedent of an important actor in some future or alternate reality - the news that he or she was threatened by powers beyond the understanding of mere pink-skinned normals and would have to live the rest of his/her life in a safehouse.
It never went well. It certainly hadn't in the case of the last heir of the Qin Dynasty...or the bespectacled child of those hapless wizard wanna-bees with the unfortunate birthmark...or even that poor stoner who really and truly believed the entire world was a computer simulation and he was being targeted by post-structuralist-theory-spouting computer programs in the form of dark-suited kung-fu bureaucrats (that The Middleman and Wendy had quickly uncovered the truth that young Mister Anderson was merely the victim of an audit by an ultra-violent, para-military splinter faction of the Internal Revenue Service did very little to dissuade him of his delusion, so they merely plugged him into a computer in the basement and let him live his life under the illusion that he was a cassock wearing, Zen-quoting matinee idol in wraparound shades straight out of Mona Lisa Overdrive).
But even as The Middleman tried to acquaint young Tiberius Davis with the new normal - that even though his assailants were still unknown, he would most likely be spirited away somewhere far away under a new identity - the room filled with the accented voice of an entity they would soon know as "Khary Mingh."
Taking the form of a tall, aquiline, bronze-skinned man with slicked back black hair and red coveralls, the entity projected himself as a hologram from thousands of miles away, hovering above the compass flower at the center of their main operations hub.
"This is Khary Mingh," the hologram declaimed in a voice as supple as Corinthian Leather, "projecting myself as a hologram from thousands of miles away."
"Wait a minute, that's not some all-powerful telekinetic space villain," said Wendy before The Middleman could make his reply to the ethereal interloper, "that's some cosplay otaku in a Khan Noonien Singh costume from the original Star Trek!"
"You mean that old TV show starring the dude from Facebook, George Takei?" Asked Tiberius Davis, truly perplexed.
"Holy [BLEEP!] on a stick, kid, really?"
The Middleman quickly butted in to stop any further argument:
"You mean the as yet-to-happen alternate future history that inspired the fictional narrative from our past, dubbie."
Before Wendy could adequately express her confusion, The Middleman made the decision that this was not the time to explain how in the late 1940's, young Eugene Wesley Roddenberry - then a co-pilot for Pan American Airlines - had heroically guided his plane to an emergency landing in the Syrian desert. The emergency was widely reported as engine failure, but known only to a very limited few as a freak encounter with a temporal anomaly that allowed a man who was then but a fledgling writer a brief but very vivid and inspiring window into humanity's future.
Instead, he turned to the hologram and gave as harsh an admonition as he could muster:
"You have meddled in temporal affairs and I demand that you immediately return to your own timeline and cease and desist all activity in any and all canonical and non-canonical, mainstream and alternate realities in which this boy figures with whatever import you have discerned for him!"
"Great speech, boss, real concise."
"You are in a position to demand nothing, Middleman," spoke Khary Mingh, his voice filling the room with a great confidence for which there could be no price, "you will deliver the boy to me or pay a far less than pleasant expense."
"Can you describe the expense?" Wendy offered, trying to be helpful.
"You have foiled our clever plan to lift the boy to the upper atmosphere in a helium balloon, but that does not mean that our revenge shall go unfulfilled."
"Can you...describe the revenge?" Coaxed Wendy further, trying to disguise her already growing annoyance with this grandiose monologuing fool.
"Our plan is sheer elegance in its simplicity."
"OK...can you...describe the elegance? Or the simplicity? Or the sheerness?"
"I, the entity formerly known as "Gary Mitchell" and "Khan Noonien Singh" have kidnapped the aging, doughy, Admiral James Tiberius Kirk - along with his unconvincing hair replacement system - from his equestrian ranch and love nest in the violent ribbon of temporal energy known only as the Nexus..."
The hologram enlarged to show a larger portion of Khary Mingh's asteroid: showcasing an angle of an aging, doughy man in a burgundy vest with a trapunto turtle neck - as well as his accurately-described-as-unconvincing curly wig - tied movie-serial-railroad-tracks-style and dangling from mid-air over an open grave. The headstone was carved with the words "JAMES T. KIRK" in an appropriately melodramatic font.
"Tiberius Davis is a distant but direct relative of Admiral Kirk's mother Winona Davis Kirk. You will deliver him to my asteroid - conveniently cloaked and in geosynchronous orbit over your city - and he shall be slain over this second funeral plot over here -"
Khary Mingh waved his hand to reveal another open grave - this one also featuring a headstone, also melodramatically inscribed with the name of its intended occupant: "TIBERIUS DAVIS."
"- and I will watch as Admiral Kirk watches his distant relative watch his own demise."
"Sweet mother of Laura Mulvey, that's a lot of watching," muttered The Middleman, head-scratching at the thought of everything that this entity could have accomplished had it only set its considerable power and skill, long-term ability for logistical planning, and flawless follow-through to the cause of good instead of byzantine revenge.
"Well, I hope you got a plan-B, chumpmaster general," came Wendy's verbally pugilistic counter as she put herself between the hologram and the now truly-freaked out Tiberius Davis, "'cuz in the pantheon of "crap that ain't gonna happen," what you just described sits on the Zeus throne."
"I have plans both B and C, my impudent little scamp," replied Khary Mingh, waving his hand to expand the holographic field of vision before The Middleman and his sidekick to include a further view of the tableau assembled in his personal asteroid...
...and delivering onto Wendy Watson a tsunami of dread that choked the snark from her voice and brought in its stead an unmitigated rage.
"You incredible [BLEEP]hole!" Shouted Wendy Watson as the sight unfolded before her...
...of Lacey and Noser!
Tied up and gagged - and hovering over open graves and melodramatically-fonted headstones of their own!
"Spoons of Uri Geller!" Cursed The Middleman, "he must have read our minds while we saved young Tiberius at the Christmas Parade, discerned our shared soft-targets, and abducted them while we brought our charge back to headquarters."
"That is correct, Middleman," confirmed Khary Ming with a satanic smile, "and while the protective layer of asbestos covering your building effectively shields you from my prodigious telekinetic ability, I hardly have the time to wait for the two of you to expire from mesothelioma before claiming my prize!"
The Middleman turned to Wendy and whispered his next order: "clear your mind from this moment on, dubbie, we may not know how effective our shielding truly is and will have to keep our wits about us!"
"[BLEEP] your [BLEEPING] wits, farmboy! I want proof of life, you psionic pig [BLEEP]er!"
With a magisterial arch of his thickly-bushed eyebrow, Khary Mingh mentally caused the gag to vanish from Noser's mouth.
Proof of life arrived quickly in that inimitable youthful bard's characteristic idiom:
"Yo, Wendy Watson - there's a storm that's threatening my very life today."
"It's them all right..." snarled Wendy, turning away as the gag reappeared over Noser's mouth:
"...and I'm gonna give that boy some shelter," she growled with growing resolve.
"You have one hour to put Tiberius Davis in your Middlejet. You will then bring him to your upper atmosphere and within the reach of my telekinetic ability," demanded Khary Mingh, "and you two shall join my victims in witnessing my bloody, bloody satisfaction."
MIDDLEMAN HEADQUARTERS - MIDDLELORE VAULT
TWENTY-THREE MINUTES LATER IN A CANONICAL REALITY NOT INCLUDING THE SHOUT! FACTORY DVD COMMENTARY
"Lacey and Noser are going to die and you're updating the Middlelore?"
"You of all people should know that I would die a thousand deaths before seeing Lacey give up the ghost at the hands of some poorly retconned, recombinantly psychic, hybridized megavillain, dubbie."
"OK, then. So what are you doing?"
"Updating the Middlelore in the knowledge that your plan is going to work. How is the Phynberg Oscillating Framizam working?"
"This is ridiculous! How can you -"
The Middleman stopped Wendy's irate questioning in its tracks with a seemingly oblique question:
"Are you aware of Schrödinger's Cat?"
"The idea that certain particles exist in a permanent superposition of seemingly paradoxical states and can be more than one thing at the same time as expressed by the analogy of a cat that is simultaneously dead and alive?"
"It's no different from being a Middleman: failure is not an option, yet it remains a definite possibility. One has to live with the true yet contradictory knowledge that it will arrive inevitably even though it never truly is a factor."
"That is NOT what Schrödinger meant," snapped Wendy.
"Maybe," shrugged The Middleman, "but I have nothing but faith that your plan to entrap Khary Ming will work...and I already prepped the Middlejet, so here I am, updating the Middlelore...now, how is the Phynberg Oscillating Framizam?"
"Tip-top," replied Wendy, shuttering her simmering anger and getting back to the pressing business of saving her friends - grateful that her boss had gained so much trust in her as to let her run with her plan:
"I combined it with an Irvingoscope to create a convincing hologram of Tiberius Davis to be broadcast through a modified scramble suit. When we get up there, I'll look exactly like Tiberus. I'll get close enough to Khary Mingh, detonate a Psionic-Level-Obstructing-Telekinesis-De
"Not to mention that once you take away Khary Mingh's psychic powers, his asteroid will uncloak with him stranded on it. It won't be long before NASA sends a flight of Titan missiles to destroy it.
"It's sheer elegance in its simplicity," Wendy concluded.
"And you two better not BM the bivouac this time you freakus-foggers," added Ida, strolling in with the final coordinates for the flight of the Middlejet, "'cause I sure as shellac don't have the energy to recruit another two!"
Ignoring Ida, Wendy once again trained eyes on her employer, mentor and surrogate father figure for a final question:
"Is this place really covered in asbestos?"
"It was either that or tin foil hats for everyone," demurred her boss.
Wendy Watson shook her head and made her way to the rooftop landing pad for the Middlejet, her mind clear but for the thought that you really do learn something new every day.
A CONVENIENTLY CLOAKED ASTEROID IN GEOSYNCHRONOUS ORBIT ABOVE THE CITY
FORTY-FIVE MINUTES LATER IN A FAN-FICTIONAL YET CONTRADICTORILY CANONICAL TIMELINE SOON TO BECOME AN ALTERNATE REALITY
"FOOLS!" Yelled Khary Mingh, "I WILL DESTROY YOU ALL!"
In the past twelve months, The Middleman had gotten used to the feeling of utter, unadulterated and - frankly - de-goshdarn-lightful pride at the progress of his young apprentice. She had never let him down as a comrade in arms and he had so rewarded her with his trust in her tactical abilities that even the failure of her plan to rescue her friends - and Admiral James Tiberius Kirk and his dubious hair-do - could not erase the beaming sensation of satisfaction with her accomplishments that daily warmed his soul.
The undeniable truth was that her scheme was as good as any he might have concocted - and probably better.
The reason for their failure might have been the simple reality that the human mind can never truly be clear of a secret...Khary Mingh's ESP was probably able to uncover The Middleman and Wendy's deception somewhere in the deepest recesses of one of their cerebral cortices...or maybe it was just that their Psionic-Level-Obstructing-Telekinesis-De
...but these possibilities were academic now that The Middleman and Wendy's best-laid strategy had been shut down in a blaze of defeat...and their one chance to rescue the ones who mattered most to them had been blown to smithereens.
What mattered now was getting away from Khary Mingh's ruthless and ingenius counter-attack: a manifestation as nefarious as any The Middleman had ever encountered...
...for their desperate flight from their adversary was currently made far more precarious by the appearance of a legion of angry baobab trees, their roots - controlled by the god-like mental abilities of their maker - plunging into the rocky asteroid with the thundering BOOM of a thousand Shai Huluds: all of them reaching out to viciously strangle their prey!
"Ents of Middle-Earth!" Shouted The Middleman as he and Wendy Watson, her scramble suit now in tatters, tumbled into a ravine - a momentary respite from the verdant onslaught.
"No! You cannot get away!"
Khary Mingh's echoing threat shook the air around Wendy and The Middleman, followed by the unistakable sound of:
"Maniacal laughter, what a welcome variation," she harrumphed before turning to her boss, "so what now, Clarence?"
"Did you forget what I said back in HQ?" Replied The Middleman, tinkering with his watch as the booming sound of the baobab roots - shattering the earth and clamoring for their lives and limbs - got closer and closer.
"I hope your Code 47s are in order."
"I do NOT plan on dying here!" she bellowed, unable to believe that the man to whom she had trusted every fiber of her existence would give up so easily.
"Schrodinger's Cat, dubby," he replied with a wan smile and a what-the-hey turn of the head, "multiple realities; we are always in a superposition of states - every choice we make branching out into infinite diversity in infinite combinations."
"Bull[BLEEP!] - I will not go down philosophizing like a college freshman in a haze of bong smoke! What the [BLEEP]'s the matter with you?"
A baobab root punched through the dirt wall to which they clung, sending the two of them tumbling down in a violent roll to the bottom of the ravine.
The end was near - the logical conclusion of a life of unfettered heroism - and no sooner had The Middleman risen to see even more baobab roots coming toward them like so many guided missiles of despair that he confirmed this to Wendy:
"The end is near," he said, "the logical conclusion of a life of unfettered heroism. I'd mourn if I didn't believe that we were dead already."
"If we had succeeded, we'd still be alive," he explained cryptically. "It's a good thing I updated the Middlelore."
"Why are you so obsessed with the [BLEEP]ing Middlelore?!"
The answer to Wendy's irate question was one and the same with her salvation...
...as the tied-up form of Admiral James Tiberius Kirk vanished in a light show worthy of a thousand nights spent listening to "Welcome to the Machine" at a local laserium, leaving nothing but the fluttering of his tall-tale-toupee as it fell to the ground...
...and as Lacey and Noser followed suit, disappearing in a rain of fireflies, this time taking their natural hair with them.
The sky then opened over The Middleman and Wendy - a hurricane of rainbow fluorescence eventually dissipating into a shape recognizable to her from hundreds of hours of tween- and teen-age late night viewing.
A Galaxy-Class starship!
Twin nacelles blazing with the mixing of matter and anti-matter into reality-bending, life-giving energy - the ship resolved from the maelström of warping space just above the asteroid...and the truth of The Middleman's statement resolved in Wendy's brain!
"You updated The Middlelore as a message to the future. If we had succeeded in rescuing everyone and defeating Khary Mingh, that starship would have never appeared because you would have amended the entry - but because we did - in fact - die here today, some Middleman in the 23rd -"
"24th, by the looks of that ship," he corrected.
"- century read the entry like some temporal distress beacon and came to our rescue!"
The Middleman smiled and nodded, his pride infinitely enhanced by his learner's newfound understanding of his own uniquely idiosyncratic interpretation of the paradox of Schrödinger's Cat.
"Brains of Braga," mused Wendy, "what a mind-twister!"
"I never met a deus-ex-machina I didn't like," enthused The Middleman.
But there was little time for further rejoicing at the inevitability of death, because no sooner had he completed his sentence that they were dematerialized at the molecular level by a transporter beam and returned to the woody warmth of the Jolly Fats Wehawkin Temp Agency...
...and the last image to cross the retina of their dematerializing eyes?
Khary Mingh: deluged by torpedoes both photon and quantum, and showered with phaser fire.
"Why? Why can't I get a break? What about MEEEEEEEEEEE?"
THE UNREALISTICALLY SPACIOUS YET STRANGELY AFFORDABLE LOFT WENDY WATSON SHARES WITH HER IDEALISTIC ROOMMATE
TWO HOURS LATER, IN A REALITY AS CANONICAL AND REAL AS THE JOYS OF THE SEASON - OR THE STAR WARS EXPANDED UNIVERSE
The fourth annual Chrismawanzaanukkah Art Crawl raged in the hallway to the chortling screams of hipster mockery that always accompanied Pip's customary reading of his yearly-revised epic poem "The Hey, Mister God Holiday Special."
"AND WHY CAN'T THERE ONLY BE A SINGLE INCARNATION IN THE GODHEAD? WHY DO WE HAVE TO HAVE A FATHER, A SON AND A HOLY SPIRIT? MISTER GOD?"
But inside the loft, neither Lacey nor Noser could will themselves into the holiday spirit. Though they had neither been introduced to Admiral James T. Kirk - or his reality-bending rug - nor borne witness to the Galaxy Class Starship that had been their salvation, they still had a lot of questions about their recent abduction: questions even Wendy Watson could not Middlemansplain her way out of.
"AND THAT BOB CRATCHIT WAS A LOSER WHO HAD COMING EVERYTHING THAT CAME TO HIM! WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT? MISTER GOD?
In truth, Wendy's perspective on their rescue was not very different from Noser and Lacey's. Neither she nor The Middleman had actually been inside the Galaxy Class Starship - they had merely been beamed back to their headquarters without any further explanation.
The Middleman would later explain that people from the 24th century had very strict procedures barring those from other times from seeing too much of the inner workings of their civilization...god forbid they write a television show about it.
"AND WHAT THE HELL IS NOG? WANNA GIVE ME A CLEAR ANSWER TO THAT? MISTER GOD?"
Wendy approached her shellshocked and traumatized room- and floor-mate - trying once again to breach the topic of the day's events with them - but they simply remained at the dining table, drinking coffee silently, their trauma apparent with every sip.
Shaking her head, Wendy wondered how she and The Middleman would handle this breach in the secrecy of their work, and its undeniable emotional impact on her friends...
...but her train of thought was broken by the bursting open of the front door to the loft, and the appearance in the doorway of a black cloaked-and-hooded figure:
"The time has come for me to tell your fortunes!"
Wendy threw her head back. The last thing she needed in this crisis was a guest appearance by Jamie - the building's resident Nag Champa-stinking goth - with her Tarot cards and her mind-reading and her weak and gullible belief in psychic phenomena. However, before Wendy could raise her voice in protest, Jamie had closed the distance between the entrance and Lacey and Noser, and had placed a hand on each of their faces.
"Forget," she said softly.
"AND WHY DID YOU PICK PINE, MISTER GOD? IT'S SMELLY AND MAKES A MESS, AND IT'S NOT LIKE THEY HAD VACUUM CLEANERS BACK IN YOUR TIME!"
"Oh no!" Lacey cried out, popping up from her chair, "we're missing out on making fun of Pip! C'mon Noser! C'mon dub-dub!"
And with that, Lacey darned-near grabbed Noser by the scruff of the neck - having forgotten every last one of the day's events up until now - and immediately bounded to the hallway, joining in the hoots and cat-calls that inevitably greeted every one of Pip's prolonged performances.
As for Noser, whose mind had also been summarily wiped of every one of the bad memories of his abduction, he gave one look at the cloaked figure on his way out, and shrugged - their building was always teeming with weirdoes - before grabbing his guitar in preparation for his all Christmas Carol edition of "Stump the Band."
"Mind meld, eh?" Wendy asked rhetorically, her lips curling into a thankful smile, "well, at least I figured out that you aren't Jamie the local goth."
The cloaked figure whipped off the vestments to reveal a tall, sleek woman with severe, Bettie Page-like bangs, Faye-Dunaway-as-Joan-Crawford eyebrows, and Hugo Weaving-as-Elrond ears.
Though her uniform was a one-piece affair with a great deal of black from the boots up to the waistline, Wendy recognized on her torso the tell-tale shade of military olive that distinguished her as a Middleman...not to mention the small, shiny badge on her chest...a crest she saw daily at Middleman HQ.
The pointy-eared woman returned Wendy's smile with a wizened stare, then lifted her hand and separated her fingers in a V-shaped salute.
"Live long and prosper, Middleman," she said with logical solemnity.
Wendy racked her brains for a reply.
She briefly considered countering with the Middleman motto: "Pugnantes Malos Ne Hos Pugnetis," but there was clearly no need to impress upon this person that they were part of an unbroken chain.
She also thought of saying "Happy Holidays" - but that struck her as a weird thing to say to an alien being of pure logic and no clear denominational religious affiliation.
The time to make a grateful gesture was quickly running out. The tell-tale trill of a transporter beam filled the room and the woman standing before her was now bathed in light and about to vanish completely...
...so Wendy Watson simply held up her fist and spoke her truth:
All was right with the world.