The Universe at Large
Why Ludwig von Koopa Should Have Stayed in Bed Today:
A Science Fiction Parody

By Fun Guy Fungi

Chapter 5: Endgame

Turn, Iggy, and Ludwig looked expectantly up at the R&D guy, who adjusted his glasses in a nerdy fashion.

“I’ve found that your Ludwig Koopa has an unusual influx of ether-ility and high levels of carbohydrates in his bloodstream.”

“Speak normal Galactican, I never did finish that high school Advanced Xenology class.”

“In other words, he’s got—“ the nerdy fellow was interrupted by the spilling of a water dispenser, which made the area around it rather wet and squishy. More important, however, was the cause of the spill, which was a Class A45 Photon Grenade, which made an inordinately bright light. It also resulted in the charring of all of those expensive posters that Ooblork Ysfield, the CEO, had put up. Finally, and least important in Ooblork’s eyes, was the hospitalization of thirty-seven R&D guys.

Sadly, the Space-o-tron™ Corporation has some of the worst benefits in the known universe for the Research and Development team, since all of the budget went towards financing the speakers that they ordered, which they are still trying to pay off the loan for. As such, the company doesn’t really treat the members of the R&D team as employees… or people for that matter.

Turn coughed and rubbed the ashes out of his eyes, which immediately began scanning the room for the source of the grenade. He saw it in a light grayish alien that bore the uniform of Sirius C. They were hideous. They were evil. They were the commandos from the skiing trip. Their blue uniforms were slightly ripped, their black hair was tousled from the lousy airline pillows, and their eyes were empty and cold from days watching the in-flight movie.

“Who are those guys?” Ludwig asked.

“We are the commandos who you have given so much misery!” the apparent leader shouted in a gravelly voice that he was obviously faking. “We chased you all the way to that stupid snow planet, and for what? A never-ending flight on the airlines! Well, no more! We escaped and we’re going to capture you once and for all!” The chief officer laughed with a deep rumble and Turn looked at Ludwig and Iggy quizzically.

“Ah… I wasn’t aware that we did you any great wrong,” Ludwig protested.

“Ah, but you did! You are going to kill us, aren’t you?!”

“No,” Turn offered helpfully.

“Of course you are! The Great Seer predicted it! The Seer never lies!”

“But I’ve— oh, wait, I know! I get my coffee from you guys! Yeah, you guys are great. I’d never kill somebody from Sirius C. What was that slogan that you say, something about waking up and—“

“Enough!” the chief bellowed and leveled a Sirius C Blaster-o-matic. A Space-o-tron™ salesman that had happened to be in the room to put up some new posters got up from his coma, took one look at it, and burst into laughter at the sheer quality of it. He yelled that they made better stuff in their garage over the weekends and that they should buy authentic Space-o-tron™ merchandise. He offered them a mini-Laser-o-matic for only 19.99 in any local currency and if he called in the next ten minutes, they could cut the price in half. In response, the chief drew his stun blaster with the hand that wasn’t leveling a lethal bit of machined metal and put him back into his coma.

“Now,” the chief said, “you can either come with us, or you can—“ Suddenly there was a great explosion of light and the north wall crumbled inward. There was a gigantic battle cruiser hanging in midair, with all of the usual weaponry, and copious amounts of extra weaponry, and large bins of weaponry procured with the money saved by calling in the ten minutes after the Space-o-tron™ commercials. The cruiser slowly and deliberately leveled its Ultra Super-Dee-Duper Laser-o-matic.

Before our story progresses, we would like to make a few words about the Ultra Super-Dee-Duper Laser-o-matic.

It was made by the infamous Ghalto Ghalli, the leader of the R&D guys who deliberately make useless products. He is also the current president of the Club for Better Partying and Drinks for Research and Development Team and Better Wages Too (otherwise known as the CBPDRDTBWT, which unfortunately does not spell out anything amusing). Mr. Ghalli is currently offering a free copy of Space-o-tron™’s best selling book, Typing for Today, to anyone who can come up with a witty and amusing title for the club. The book offers lessons on how to spell badly, which apparently is very trendy on the communication bands.

Anyway, the Space-o-tron™ Ultra Super-Dee-Duper Laser-o-matic is an otherwise useless invention that has only two redeeming qualities: one, it has an extremely self-explanatory name, which is mainly used to reduce the size of smart-aleck self-referential stories like this. Secondly, it comes in a variety of cool paint jobs that can be changed at your nearest Space-o-tron™ servicing shop for a reasonable price (call 723.555.89034-39487 for a location near you). The laser itself is rather mediocre, and the Ultra Laser-o-matic is not only cheaper, but also more powerful. The Ultra Super-Dee-Duper Laser-o-matic has much better paint options. Furthermore, on the front of the barrel, it has a smiling, spherical humanoid face with two eyes and an arching grin. Printed underneath the face are the words “We apologize for the incoming laser blast. Please make peace with your personal god/guardian angel/spouse.” This is due to a bit of meddling legislature recently passed by the religiousogistical-militarionical-extremist Senator Kalluci Chronos that reads as follows:

Galactic Legislature #28734098: Any and all persons/bacterium about to be vaporized by an industrial-grade weapon and/or have their ashes spit upon and/or have their spit upon ashes vaporized again by the ionic drive of the ship that vaporized them to begin with must be presented with a smiling, spherical humanoid face with two eyes and an arching grin.

Shortly after getting this bill passed, Senator Kalluci Chronos was vaporized by an industrial-grade weapon, got his ashes spit upon, and got his spit upon ashes vaporized again by the ship that had vaporized him to begin with. He did get to look into a “happy” face before he died, though.

Sadly, this law now bans the much cheaper Ultra Laser-o-matic by Galactic Law.

Back to the story at hand.

The chief stared blankly at the battle cruiser. A smiling, spherical humanoid face stared back at him. He aimed his lethal Blaster-o-matic at the behemoth that was lightly floating in the air a few hundred yards away from him. He fired a deadly bolt of energized photons at the cruiser.

It bounced off.

A few years later, and a few light years away, a nearby bacterium named John was innocently reproducing when the bolt of energized photons struck him. It was determined that the Sirius C Blaster-o-matic qualified as an industrial-grade weapon, and John’s family decided to take legal action, partially for John’s memory, but mostly so that they could get a little quick cash. They were forced to go to Sirius C for the court, but as they were passing through the Horsehead Nebula, they were all swallowed by a gigantic mutant space dust mite measuring a massive three microns across.

Now, the battle cruiser currently menacing our heroic trio was perfectly within legal boundaries, except that it was about to commit multiple murders.

“Now hold on just a second!” the chief shouted at the top of his measly lungs. “I suffered hard and slogged through the galaxy to get this far, and I’m not about to blow it all when some random battle cruiser shows up to—“.  He never did get to finish his rant, unfortunately, because an incoming Space-o-tron™ Nuclear Atomic Super Bomb the Whales and Everybody Else for That Matter Missile was headed straight at them. Fortunately for them, the missile traveled very slowly, slowly enough for Turn to whip out a Space-o-tron™ Holo-projector that he took off of one of the R&D guys, and dialed up the Koopalings that were waiting innocently on Googorn. He seized the moment to talk to the Koopalings, who thanks to some fancy time-traveling relativity something-or-other on Turn’s part, had gotten out of their coma.


“How are we gonna do that?” Roy objected. “We’re not even there, remember?”

“Quick, give me some ideas!”

“Umm… run?”

“Sounds good to me,” Turn replied, and in no time the three heroes were high tailing it out of there with an irate chief hot on their heels. Turn decided that they should hide behind one of the speakers in the office, so they had just enough time to get back there and melt the speaker’s audio cone with the key-chain and generators he had dragged along so that they wouldn’t get killed by the sheer noise. Suddenly a massive sound and light show occurred outside. It was, in fact, the missile hitting home. Thankfully, down in the R&D area, all of the researchers had hidden in one of the cubicles that some random nerd had built with fortified walls. Because of this, there were, in fact, no casualties excepting a very unfortunate small lizard that was later given a proper military burial with full honors.

Back in the office, all of the partying people had survived pretty much unscathed, and everything except the walls was still intact. As it happened, though, the speakers had been set up in such a way that in the event of a Space-o-tron™ Nuclear Atomic Super Bomb the Whales and Everyone Else for That Matter Missile attack, the speakers could act as a secondary wall. They happened to be thick enough to withstand several more atomic blasts. Turn, Ludwig, and Iggy peered over the top of the speaker. They saw a sight that they never forgot for about three days. It was a gigantic mushroom cloud, reaching hundreds of miles into the sky, that had decimated the entire building. Huge funnels of smoke poured into the now-black sky with a determination not seen in this universe. The surrounding area broke several dozen Space-o-tron™ Refribulating Geiger Meters when they clicked so fast that they shut down and moped about for several years. Luckily, all of the speakers were radiation-proof, and the fortified cubicle that everybody else was in was as well.

More important, though, was what Turn saw next to the cloud.

A solitary battle cruiser, the same one that had fired the missile, was heading away. It had needed more Space-o-tron™ fuel, and decided to raid the building for it, but not being of first-rate intelligence, it had destroyed the entire building.

What Turn saw that boiled his eyeballs and threw his brain for a loop was the similarly solitary sheaf of papers inexplicably attached to the back of the starship that was running away from the building it had just destroyed.

“Guys, I think we have a problem.”

“What?” Ludwig asked.

“I think the results of your test are going away on that ship.”


A recent phenomenon that has been propagating slowly over the communication bands is that of artists/writers/Poligian ogan-herders who post their works of art/ogans on the bands, for all Q people in the universe to see.

Before we proceed with this already off-topic discussion, we must first explain something about the number of people in the universe.

A some three eons ago (an eon is another ambiguous measure: for more information, please read Ambiguous Measures of Time and Space for Fun and Profit, which nicely explains these things, and how to use them in mass-mailing scams) a study occurred. It was as follows:

A group of scientists decided that they would go out and count how many organisms there were in the universe—not just species, mind you, which had already been tried and not completed to the satisfaction of everyone involved, but the total population of the universe. Crazed students (and others not so crazed) at Universal Universities everywhere declared that the population of the universe must be somewhere between zero and one hundred percent. The not so crazed students then proceeded to whack the ones screaming one hundred percent about the head rather violently. S-shirt making companies went up in the stock market as every organism in the universe ordered a shirt with the words “Don’t Count Me” emblazoned on it in largish sorts of letters. The scientists were stumped. How could they get around student protests, they asked themselves?

Then one particularly clever scientist realized that if every organism in the universe had bought an S-shirt, it stood to reason that all they would have to do would be to look at the ledgers of the S-shirt companies and add up the sales.

Things were not quite so simple. They utterly failed to take into account that some organisms bought several shirts, though none bought none at all, and they also utterly failed to take into account all of the infant organisms being born every squanosecond, wearing several layers of “Don’t Count Me” shirts to keep warm.

Furthermore, some crazed students noted that the scientists themselves, by their own logic, would have had to wear “Don’t Count Me” shirts. A quick look under their lab coats revealed that they were, indeed, protesting against their own experiment.

Later scientists, wishing to avoid all this ruckus, threw up their hands and declared the population of the universe to be Q, a symbol which translates into:

“A really big number. Or perhaps a really small number. At any rate, it’s a number which is not entirely set in stone, but it isn’t variable either, so if you ever need to sell something to everybody, and I mean REALLY everybody, use this.”

Later research showed that nobody really used this impossible-to-pronounce symbol except the marketing division of Space-o-tron™, who used it regularly in posters to describe how many of each product they wanted to sell. Oftentimes, it was followed by a plus sign, and then some other number, occasionally another Q.

Back on the subject of writers/ogan herders.

Basically, these beings will post their work on the communications bands. Frequently, critical acclaim and Universe-Pay donations will come flooding in. These beings, being more creative than you or I, will then add “annotations” or “news updates” to their communications bands. This is all well and good for a while, as they talk about how they got that particular ogan to sit upside-out in just that particular way, until they suddenly start complaining in these annotations or news updates about their personal life. Sometimes it will be a galactic plague—sometimes a severe case of writer’s block, and sometimes just plain laziness. The point is that the viewers do not actually give 19.99 in any local currency about this sort of thing—all they want is the item they came to see.

What is the point of telling you all this, you say? Well, for one, it is because we ran out of better things to tell you, and our writing substantially increases in quality when we have some sort of tangent to go off on. Furthermore, we’d also like to state that here at UAL Publishing, we do not sink to such depths! We will not complain about our personal problems in our writing! We stick to the plot, and only to the plot! No getting sidetracked, no getting off-topic, nothing! Just the plot and nothing but the plot!

Now, back to the plot.

Turn watched as the huge warship turned itself around. There was a tremendous noise, and its Space-o-tron™ Plasma Drives engaged, setting most of the ionosphere on fire because of the sheer volume of energy being released as it launched itself out of the planet’s gravity.

“Quick, we’ve gotta get those papers!” Iggy yelled.

“You don’t think they got burned up?”

“Nah,” a nearby R&D guy explained. “These papers are triple-laminated and heat tested. Makes printing tough, but they can withstand temporal slipstream.”

“What now?” Turn asked, having never heard of such technology. The R&D guy explained.

Temporal slipstream is the latest breakthrough for Space-o-tron™. Recently, a brilliant inventor discovered that, with the right atoms being fused at the right time, you can reverse distance or time. You see, previously, distance and time were thought inseparable—when you went a long distance, it took a long time. Now, however, you can reverse either one, so that the longer distance there is to travel, the less time it takes. However, this works both ways, so that when the inventor tested it at distances of one centimeter, his ship disappeared into the slipstream and will come out again some 400 million years from now. Unfortunately for his patents, he left detailed blueprints behind.

At any rate, Space-o-tron™ now owns the plans, and has sold a large amount to both sides of several wars, including this one.

“And the best part is,” the R&D guy finished, “we put an automatic extinguisher on it! Any atmosphere ignited by a large Plasma Drive is immediately put out if you go into temporal slipstream!”

Suddenly, and without any warning, the ionosphere stopped burning.

“How are we gonna catch them now?” Iggy lamented.

“Patience, Iggy,” Turn said soothingly. “We’ve got a vehicle that goes ten times the speed of light.”

“Well… judging by the distance they’re going, and the direction, they’re traveling at 111 times the speed of light.”

Turn frowned. Ludgwig, meanwhile, jumped into The Imagination. “Maybe if we start the Plasma Drive…”

“Yeah!  We’ll catch them easily!” Iggy shouted. Turn shrugged, got in, and hit the Plasma Drive, igniting the ionosphere again.

“Once again, our customers fail to use the included bicycle.” The CEO sighed as he took a gulp of punch.

“Good thing it only happens on our planet, or civilization’d be taken out,” the Vice President said as the flames remained unextinguished as The Imagination totally failed to go into temporal slipstream.

If there were warp factors in this story, then The Imagination would be approaching Warp 9.5.

“Where are we even going?” Ludwig yelled over the roar of Matt’s deranged, yet imaginative raving.

“Well… if we’re following that cruiser, I think it was headed to the center of the galaxy.” This information did nothing to allay their fears.

At that very moment, the Holo-Projector flared to life.

“Ahem,” the Ludwig clone coughed. “We came to tell you that the telescope we had was actually powerful enough to see the center of the galaxy. Believe it or not, it’s a supermassive black hole.”

Understandably, the two real Koopalings’ fears remained unallayed.

“Relax,” Turn said. “Our lowest speed is ten times the speed of light. We’ll be fine. In the meantime, who’s up for some peanuts?

It is well-known throughout history that when you make a legend, you leave out boring bits about peanuts. This, however, is a chronicling. As a result, things that on a cosmic scale aren’t all that important got left in.

You may remember at the speed they were going, they could cross the galaxy in thirty minutes. Since they were going to the center, they went halfway across, talking fifteen.

Seeing how it would take days, even at temporal slipstream speeds, to reach the center, the first thing the ten pairs of eyes in The Imagination saw was a total lack of warship.

The second thing they saw was a huge black hole.

Of course, they didn’t really see it, because light can’t escape from it. However, the viewscreen automatically switched to Space-o-vision, showing them a spiral of rocks and gasses from less fortunate celestial bodies being drawn into it. That in and of itself, however, was mostly unremarkable. Far more remarkable was the lone planet sitting nicely where rocks were being pulled in.

“How’s it doing that?” both Ludwigs asked at once.

“Where are we gonna wait for those papers?” Turn asked. Right after he said this, however, he saw the space colony behind them advertising postcards.

“Would anyone,” Turn inquired later at the snack bar, “like a peanut?”

Peanuts, it has been noted, are a nigh-universal crop. On nearly every planet, it comes as a great shock to them that other planets have peanuts. This means that if you don’t like peanuts you have to import very expensive off-planet foods to your flat.

Turn, Iggy, Ludwig, and by proxy, the seven clones, were on the space colony Reyul 3, the first two having sunk into the proverbial swamp—that is, the black hole. This third incarnation was using the combined power of three hundred atomic bomb blasts every minute to keep itself up.

“Turn,“ Roy began, ”where are we going to stay?”

“You nitwit, you’re not there,” Wendy replied.

“Well, we’re sleeping in the motel here,” Turn said anyway.

“I can’t sleep. The bomb blasts are keeping me up,” Iggy complained.

While it is generally accepted that there is no sound in space, to add to the excitement in battle, early programmers created their own noises in the ship’s speakers. This became such a ubiquitous feature that today, it is impossible to turn off without a mallet and a map of where the speakers are.

By the next day, most of Turn’s pocket change had been spent on peanuts—in fact, most of his bank account. It was at this sobering position that a graying old man approached him. He wasn’t a pretty sight, or even a blindingly ugly one. His hair was about as colorful as his socks. He smelled of cheap aftershave, and his third tentacle was disgustingly mottled. Raspily, he said:

“Eh, a young whippersnapper keeping tourism alive. Listen, sonny, you don’t know this, but that planet’s a lot more important than you think.”

“Yeah, I know, it’s—“ Turn started. Without pausing for breath, the old man/thing continued.

“It’s got the true secret of it all!”

“What’s it all?” Turn fumbled for grammar.

“You know. It All! It must be worth billions!” Turn was considerably less confused by this.

“Get in the ship,” he said to the Koopalings thirty seconds later.

“But the warship isn’t here yet!” Larry protested.

“That’ll give us just enough time,” Turn badly explained. So they all hopped into The Imagination, nine of them bewildered,  until they shot out of the colony and into the hole’s event horizon. That left a lot less to be confused about.

Eleven voices, including Matt’s, screamed in terror as a number of high-pitched alarms went off. Turn hit the button labeled “Imagine” but Matt was in a far too excitable state to travel.

It was by a pure stroke of luck that they landed on the planet.

Thankfully, The Imagination was largely undamaged. Physically, its occupants were the same. Psychologically, however, they could use a little work.

Ludwig staggered to his feet. Slowly, the others did the same. Matt lay on his side—or rather, his monitor did. A slight trembling sound came from it, and the screen bore a message on a blue background:
There has been an error at 50E3489
Please consult the online manual.
All access to any online manuals has been shut down to prevent further damage.
The upshot of all this was that Matt was, for the time being, frustratingly incapacitated.

“Well, so long as we’re here, we might as well find that secret,” Turn said.

“If you found this so-called secret, where would you sell it?” Ludwig queried.

Turn stopped midway to the door. “That old man tricked me!” he ranted. “By golly, I’ll get rich anyway, just to show him!” And with that highly illogical statement, he ran out the door.

There were a few things of interest outside. Most notable was the fourty-foot burning effigy, but more on that later.

Firstly, the planet was all jungle, which was odd, because there was no sun nearby—in fact, thanks to the hole, there should’ve been no light.

Secondly, there was light. Something was casting off as much light as a midday sun in the tropics.

Thirdly, there were a great deal of blue-painted savages surrounding the crashed Imagination.

“Turn!  What is this, a football game?” Iggy hissed.

One would expect these savages to, at the very least, roast the three of them on a spit, but instead they very politely asked:

“Food?” Turn was initially puzzled, then thought for a while, remaining puzzled.

“Er, no, we have no food.” This did not go over well with the natives, who proceeded to chant, “Heart disease! Heart disease!” and tied the trio onto spits. Instead of being roasted, however, they were carried to what was apparently another wrecked spaceship. From the logo on the side Turn surmised it was one of the ships of the failed Space-o-tron™ Food Division. One of the savages, who had more paint than the rest, raised a blue plastic box.

“It’s… it’s…” Turn stammered.

What it was was an empty box labeled “Instant Dinner for Three”.

Although the products had been short-lived, Turn recalled they had a warning about heart disease and various forms of radiation on the side.

“We have followed your heavenly instructions!” the shaman bellowed to the skies. Turn goggled.

“Fred?” he asked.

“What? No, I—why, my name is Phri’ankwop now.”

“Fred, it really is you! From that religious place! Reescalph X, right? But how’d you get from one religion to this one?”

After a bit of religious explanation, Iggy and Ludwig interpreted Fred as saying he was part of a team to find some missing dinners. After a successful mission, they realized the natives were worshipping the dinners, and Fred decided to convert, feeling that this new religion would, at least, have better benefits.

“So Fred, I don’t suppose you know any true secrets, would you?” Turn asked afterward.

Fred looked back at them wide-eyed, and shook his head in amazement. He turned to the natives, and flicked his hand twice, hissing as he did so.

The natives immediately started roasting them.

“I’ll give you a hint,” Fred said. “The secret has to do with the phrase ‘The Universe at Large’.”

Death by roasting is not pleasant, but being confused makes it worse.

“Wait wait wait!” Iggy yelled. “Uh, we’ll play 20 Questions for it!”

“No time. It’ll have to be 10.”

“All right, all right,” Ludwig said before Iggy would prolong their stay. “Um, does it have anything to do with philosophy?”

“Nope,” Tim replied, throwing some onions into the fire.

“Tea kettles?” Turn blurted out.

“No.”Ludwig, had he not been roasting, would’ve cheerfully zapped Turn into a crisp.

“How about the phrase ‘The Universe at Large'?” Iggy asked. Ludwig entered a series of violent spasms.

“Yes. Seven questions left,” Fred said as he started dicing carrots. The heat started affecting the trio’s brains. Suddenly, the holo-projector flickered to life, as the Ludwig clone cried:

“Grammar!  These people couldn’t string together a sentence if their life depended on it,” he cried from a homemade computer.

By a stroke of extraordinary luck, Fred misinterpreted this as a very badly-worded question, probably because of the crackling flames interfering with his hearing.

“Yes, it does have something to do with grammar,” he announced with no small amount of surprise.

Nine pairs of eyes widened. Ludwig v2.0’s eyes narrowed in grammatical fury.

Then there was a flurry of questions. Fred, having extraordinarily good hearing now that the flames were at a nice temperature, answered them all.

“Yes, no, no, yes, yes, yes.”

There was a grim silence punctuated only by a potato exploding in the fire.

“Can’t believe it.  Dying while stuck in the Universe at Large,” Iggy said.

“That’s not very grammatically correct, you know,” the cloned Lemmy said. The clone was imperfect in that it not only corrected the smallest of errors, it did so offline.

Strangely enough, this phrase made Fred very uncomfortable. He shuffled his feet around, throwing an entire bag of onions in the fire. It was so hot now, though, that they just went up in a cloud of tear-producing smoke.

“I got it! The true secret is ‘grammatically correct'!” the cloned Morton cried. Roy smacked him.

“Uh, the universe at large is a phrase that’s used the wrong way when we say it?”Turn asked desperately.

Fred stopped dead in his tracks.

“I don’t believe it,” Ludwig said.

“How many times have we used that phrase?” Larry asked.

“And we sounded like idiots the entire time,” the cloned Ludwig said.

“Well, we guessed your secret. Let us go,” Iggy said cheerfully.

“That wasn’t the deal,” Fred explained. “You’ll just die at peace with everything now.”

“Guys, I’m not feeling very peaceful,” Roy said, despite his dangerless position. Iggy smacked him, creating a full-blown attack of the clones.

Turn grasped for an escape route.

“Then there’s no chance of surviving, huh?”

Fred contemplated this, then announced, “Nope.”

“I’ve got coffee!” Turn yelled, hoping that he could bribe Fred. In response, Fred pointed to three crates of the stuff behind him.

“Say, why are you so mellow now? Last time you bellowed a lot more,” Iggy noted.

“Anti-anxiety pills. You should try them, they work great in near-death situations.” And he threw one to all three. They swallowed.

An extremely odd feeling resulted, like being whacked over the head with a cricket bat, yet like it was your lifelong ambition. On the plus side, their brains were no longer affected by the extreme heat. Their livers were.

“Tell you what,” Turn said smoothly. “If you don’t let us go, I’ll block out the sun until you do.”

“That’s ridiculous. The boxes prophecized no such thing.” The natives nearby chimed in with a shout of “Trans fat!”

But fate had decided to make a fool of trans fat, because a perfect eclipse blocked out the sun-like object. Odder still, whatever was blocking out the sun was growing bigger.

Turn looked pleased. Fred looked terrified. The natives looked hungry.

As it turned out, it wasn’t an eclipse. It was not, in fact, even a moon, which went nicely with the fake sun. It was a spaceship. It plowed right through the effigy, through the boxes, and through the trees. The spits our heroes were on decided to make a run for it and fell off their stands, miraculously missing the flames, but still burning off the ropes.

The three got up, picked up their projector, and got a good look at the effigy. It was the face of the Space-o-tron™ CEO, who had his mug on every package of Space-o-tron™ food ever sold.

With a froosh, the hatch of the newly ground-based vessel opened. The natives surrounded it, waving spears and clearly a bit bummed out about all the destruction. Stun bolts from the hatch wiped out half of them. The other half ran away, crying for their corn syrup.

The commandos from Sirius C popped into view.

Time stood on a chair with its skirt held up.

Fred ducked for cover.

The leader raised a shaky gun.

Turn dived in with Fred.

Another eclipse occurred, growing bigger again. The warship had finally arrived.

This time, however, the eclipse stayed a set size after growing a bit. There was a terrible silence, and then a roar. Then everything went annoyingly dark. The lights of the two spacecrafts and what remained of the effigy lit the immediate area. They were unnecessary, however, as moments after the darkness a flash brighter than the sun-thing could ever dream to be lit it up.

Although it was far away, it was unmistakably the result of a Space-o-tron™ Excess Sun-Destroying Missile.

This missile had been developed to let planets with twin suns enjoy ice ages and skies without light pollution. Inhabited planets, or uninhabited planets for that matter, were immune to being shot with it, so the universe lucked out there.

After a brilliant mini-nova, Turn ran for his life at The Imagination.

“C’mon!” he yelled. “We’ve got the secret, now all we need is the papers!”

Turn, for one, would just be glad to get this all over with.  He planned to relax with his newfound riches and a minimum of five very attractive maids.

The commandos by now had woken up out of their awed reverie, and chased the two Koopalings back to their ship in a hail of gunfire. One of them even sprayed stun bolts with a heavy repeater. But it was too late: The Imagination had gone in a flash of idea.

By giving Matt video games, they managed to keep The Imagination going at exactly the speed necessary to keep it from being pulled into the black hole.

It was clear from this angle that the “sun” was nothing more than the glowing gas of a star the hole was dismantling—or rather, it once was, before it was introduced to the Space-o-tron™ Excess Sun-Destroying Missile. Apparently, though, physics had taken the day off, because light was easily escaping the ultramassive black hole’s gravitational pull. Ultramassive black holes have a reputation of telling logic to shove off.

The Imagination edged toward the massive warship’s bow. It bristled with weaponry in the same way that The Imagination didn’t. Zap Cannons glistened in the physically impossible light. Happy faces in their ends gleamed.

Ludwig’s hand moved towards the button that he had pressed that started the whole war.

Even though it was just some strategically unimportant little starship, the warship opened fire on The Imagination.

At this point, physics woke up, and every bolt and missile fired plunged into the event horizon. So, for that matter, did every nearby photon.

In many parts of the universe, there are terrestrial caves where they turn out the lights so as to show gullible tourists true darkness. They’re lying. That isn’t true darkness.

This was.

At around the same time the ultramassive black hole’s physics stopped working again, a large clunk greeted the passengers of The Imagination. The Space-o-vision viewscreen flickered on, revealing it to be a torpedo with a bundle of papers attached to it.

“I guess those papers were caught in a torpedo tube,” Turn theorized.

“Well, now we just get them and go home, right?” Ludwig asked.

“Not quite,” Turn said. “We’ve gotta get out there in suits and get it ourselves.  This would not be such a problem if not for the voracious black hole that could start getting its act together any second.

Fifteen minutes later three ridiculously suited beings stood in the airlock.

“Iggy, if I ever see you like that where I can punch ya, write your will,” Roy said over the projector.

“Now, you’re sure we won’t be sucked into space?” Iggy asked.

“Naw, I put glue on and everything,” Turn explained.

The LLF tells galactic travelers that, when in the presence of a black hole, use glue. Hopefully, the glue will be strong enough to endure the most intense gravitational field known to science.

The air blew out of the airlock, and the trio stuck their sticky hands to the hull for dear life. Iggy flailed his arms wildly, grabbing a sheet of the papers with one hand and The Imagination with the other.

It was lucky, then, when all the escaped air kept around the ship via suction was pulled back in with the trio as a result of the Space-o-tron™ Air Suction Device.

Once inside The Imagination, Iggy peeled off the single page he had gotten, ripping most of it. The other glove, unfortunately, was still stuck to the hull, leaving his hand that was exposed to a vacuum quite tender.

“What’s it say?” Wendy asked.

“Will you have secret powers?” Lemmy asked.

“Like a mutant?” the Iggy clone inquired.

“Maybe the power is the reason he’s got blue hair,” Larry suggested.

“Lucky him,” Roy sighed.

“Just hurry up and—“ Morton began.

“READ IT!” Ludwig roared.

Iggy carefully wiped off as much glue as he could, smearing most of it.

“In conclusion,” he read, “we find Ludwig von Koopa’s powers to extend mainly in the programming video recorder area.

All nine beings stared. Iggy just pulled at the solidifying glue.

“That’s it? He can program a video recorder?” Larry asked incredulously.

“It’s a tough thing to do,” Turn helpfully added.

“Uh, guys,” Matt said worriedly. “The black hole’s not working again.”

“Quick, launch the missile!” Ludwig heroically shouted.

“What missile?” Roy gibbered. Ludwig ignored him and hit the button for the missile. The screen flashed “Reload.”

 “Couldn’t we just run away?” Iggy asked.

“Nope,” Turn replied. “We need to stop the ship somehow. It’s sending Matt television signals.”

All ten thought hard. Suddenly, the image on the projector canted to the left, and the clones fell over. Mario jumped into view.

“Take-a that, you scoundrels!” he shouted, not realizing the Koopalings weren't doing anything remotely evil. Roy threw a punch and hit Wendy by mistake. She zapped him with her wand, and Bowser showed up and, in a fit of panic, burned all of them to a crisp. The projector was included.

All three now thought hard. Ludwig snapped his fingers and leapt for Matt’s terminal. He snapped the antenna off, blocking the TV signals. Unfortunately, the drives had to warm up before imagination speed could be reached. Turn, however, had another bright idea. He employed his infamous quick thinking skills and flicked the switch labeled “Turn Off Excess Imagination” to the off position.

Ideas burst forth from the Imagination like an astronomer who just learned the Spanish inquisition was out for brunch. The drives in the ship processed this raw energy into increasing the shields ten thousand-fold. Outside, every incoming bolt and missile was given several thousand good, creative novels to read, stopping them dead in their tracks.

The planet was moved to a much more agreeable location near a nice, middle age star, which gave Fred plenty of time to ponder this quite literal deus ex machina.

The captain of the warship could only look on in fury as the Imagination raced off into the void.

“So, here we are again,” Turn said as they approached Plit. “I guess the weatherman was wrong about that magnetic storm.” In fact, he was a notoriously bad weatherman, and was being lynched as they spoke.

“Turn,” Iggy asked. “Where will you go? Where will you stay?”

“Who, me? Oh, I was thinking of being a salesman. I can get to potential markets before anyone else.”Turn looked at the two.

“Before we go,” Turn said, “I’d better give you this.” He handed them a small box.

“It’s a cure for every known disease. Just materialized now from Matt’s inventive side.” They opened the box, revealing a small scrap of paper with the words “The Universe at Large” written on it.

Turn was both furious and confused. Iggy scratched his head, while Ludwig tried to figure out what to do with it.

“Do we eat it?”

“I thought it would do what it says on the tin!” Turn yelled.

“It does! Once you see those words, you’re cured of all known space-borne diseases!” Matt yelled gleefully.

“And the planet-borne ones?”

“You can’t please ‘em all,” Matt replied noncommittally.

Turn shook his head and gave the box to Iggy. “I suppose if you ever get the space flu, you can use this.” So the three wheeled down to Plit, through the non-existent magnetic clouds, carrying a box that held the secret of it all along with the cure to all space-borne diseases, with a turtle that could program video recorders.

“Say,” Turn said brightly. “If you haven’t invented video recorders yet, I’ve got a Space-o-tron™ Cultural Acceleratron on hand…”

“I don’t think we’ll be needing it, Turn.”  And so they pedaled, back to the huge castle with inordinately tall towers on a slightly larger planet than Earth, near a slightly larger sun, in a slightly larger galaxy, in a very, very large universe.

The End

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