Somewhere, in an infinite universe, there was something. This should be slightly surprising. There is a lot of nothing, and very little something, in the universe as a whole. This something was a piece of pseudo-plastic two inches long and one inch wide. It was not very thick at all. It floated through empty space rather comfortably. It bore a holographic image and some text. The image was of a cheerily smiling teenage human girl. The text read: "Etta V. Pohligeneris, anarchist and mechanic. Current location: Eamon Rotund's Asylum and Correction Facility for Reprobates and Prodigies, Room 17B, West Wing."
Unfortunately, the location was not up-to-date, so it would do little good if anyone found the identification card.
But someone did find the card. A spaceship had happened to be passing by the card, and the on-board sensors detected it. The woman in the spaceship smiled to herself as she viewed the card on a video-monitor, and ordered the computer to pick up the card. In a few minutes, the woman was holding the card in her hand. She was dressed in evening dress, but a lasershooter was strapped to her waist, and her red hair was tied up in a ponytail. She tapped her impeccably manicured fingers on the control panel, and announced to the computer: "We're going to the Oligarch, Terry."
The computer replied in a perfect British accent: "As you wish, Madame Hunger."
And the spaceship moved on, and another spot of nothing was created where the spaceship had been, and another space of nothing was filled with the spaceship. And the card flickered in the harsh light of the spaceship's interior, making the girl's face look malignant and evil in the dancing light.
At that very instant, somewhere in the universe, an orchestra began playing, and their music went: Dun dun dun... S
Sometimes it seems like the world is full of coincidences. But it's really not. The world is full of the stories of the man and the woman who meet each other on the street, and who didn't meet twenty years before in Singapore, or the story of the woman who swerved to avoid a deer in the street, and didn't crash into the car of her former hairdresser. We just don't hear about them. The only ones we hear about are the one-in-a-million chances that actually came through. So, if this story begins to seem too coincidental, just remember that there are plenty of other stories where Madam Hunger didn't find the card, and where the orchestra started playing three seconds too early. But those stories are boring and end sadly and generally are unfulfilling.
Coincidentally, on the O.S.S. Ginormous, an Imperial Class Monster Space Battleship, a cadet first class had just finished writing a story about a million-to-one chance that didn't come through. This story left him bored, sad, and generally unfulfilled. But his life was about to become much more exciting in the next seconds, although he didn't know yet. Suddenly the door to his private quarters swooshed open, and two enigmatic personages entered. One was holding a hologramiton recorder, and the other was holding a stereoscopic audio-recorder. Or, in short form, a videocamera and a microphone.
"Surprise!" The man with the microphone yelled out. "You're on live Holovision, on Livin' With The Troops!"
The cadet screamed and fainted.
After an awkward pause, the man with the microphone turned to the camera with a huge smile, and said, "Yes indeed, another successful interview on Livin' With The Troops, a 5-D Holovision Better-Than-Reality Show! Until next time, I'm Mike Brewster, for Livin' With The Troops."
The cameraman lowered the camera, and the cadet got up. Mike shook his hand, and handed him a large amount of Galacto-Dollars. "Thank you, Leonard. You can get back to your assignments now. We appreciate your willingness to debase yourself on live holovision for money."
Leonard left, counting the money in an ecstatic manner. It was enough to finance another novel! Mike watched him go with some evident disgust. Turning to the cameraman, he said, "Don't you hate actors? They take all the reality out of reality."
The cameraman grunted. "That was deep, Mike."
Mike chuckled. "Hey, faking intelligence is a good way to get a bigger paycheck. Remember that, Jimmy."
Meanwhile, Leonard reached his desk on the bridge of the O.S.S Ginormous just in time to answer an incoming radio alert.
He deepened his voice to what he called his 'official and sexy soldier voice', and spoke into the radio receiver: "This is the Oligarchic Space Ship Ginormous. Identify yourselves immediately."
A crackly and non-human voice came back over the radiowaves. "This is the good ship Ginger and Spice, piloted by the sexy chimpanzee Crunchy. We would like to request urgent medical assistance."
Leonard chuckled. "Sorry Chimp, but we're a battleship, not a medical facility."
The entire bridge laughed along with Leonard. Imagine! A simple spacecraft requesting medical assistance!
The voice on the other side chuckled as well. "Did I mention that the captain of my ship is a certain Gideon Manic?"
And there was silence on the bridge. And then there was instant action. Leonard practically screamed into the receiver, "Bring him in! We'll prep the hospital facilities immediately."
A famous Earth-poet once asked "What's in a name?"
Most people would answer thusly: "Well, there's some letters, and..."
Some people would say: "What's up with the way you write, dude?"
But everyone in the Oligarchy would say this: "If your name is Gideon Manic, you can be darn tootin' sure that there's a LOT in your name!"
Only two people really know why. But it's a secret, so you can't learn it yet. Needless to say, the camera crew of the infamous hit show Livin' With The Troops soon learned that the eccentric and rather famous traveler and inventor Gideon Manic had been brought onto the ship completely comatose, and they leapt at the chance to interview the famous man's crew.
In the uninhabited corner of the monstrous engine room of the Ginormous where the holovis makers had squirreled the crew, it was crowded. The holocamera was poked almost right into Etta's face, and Mike was bombarding her with questions.
"What is it like living on the same ship as the famous Mr. Manic? Are the stories true? And what about his diet? And why did he name his ship Ginger and Spice?"
Etta stared at Mike, and in a monotone, inquired, "What question do you want me to answer first?"
Mike chuckled an incredibly fake chuckle. "What an acerbic wit you display, Miss...?"
"I'm not telling you my name."
"But then how do I address you?" Mike protested.
Crunchy interjected - "Just call her 'girl' or 'silly' or 'human'. That's what I do."
"Ah, and you are...?" Mike interposed eagerly.
"I am one sexy hunk of chimp-flesh, Mike." Crunchy almost screeched in glee. He hated the Livin' With The Troops show for its racial monotony (the Oligarchy didn't employ chimps in service positions), and felt eager to ruin Mike's whole day. But Mike just smiled his entirely fake smile, and said, "Ah, so you must be the infamous Crunchy that we heard over the radio?"
"That's Mr. Crunchy to you, Mike!" Crunchy hooted, several decibels louder than necessary. Etta rolled her eyes but didn't say anything. Internally, Mike was berating himself for leaping at the chance to dig up some dirt on the galacticly acclaimed Gideon, but his fake smile was plastered in place on his face.
Crunchy, eager for a chance to both see himself on 5-D Holovision, and to berate the show for its racisim, poked his face right up into the camera, and began talking extremely fast, muddling his words together in his excitement. "Howdy ya'll 'cross the galaxy, my name is Crunchy, and I am a single chimpanzee looking for some very pretty females of my species so as to get acquainted with potential mates! Yeeeha!"
Then he ran off, waving his hands over his head in wild testimony to his insanity. Mike glanced over at Etta, and asked, bewildered, "Is he always like this?"
Etta merely smiled maliciously, and answered, "You have no idea."
And that concluded the Live 5-D Holovision broadcast for Livin' With The Troops, a Better-Than-Reality Show.
And the universe was quiet.