ZADOC THE PRIEST IX: ENDLESS SEPTEMBER

Back in May 98, in alt.religion.kibology, one Nick Bensema wrote of the Oracle: "Stupid 'ZOT' jokes and stupid 'Lisa' jokes and narratives were around since I was BBSing with my Amiga in early 1993. And this Zadoc guy got really old REALLY fast."

I'd just like to put on record how hurtful this kind of throwaway remark is. It has taken 4 years of unstinting effort - first working on my own, and later assisted by innumerable selfless incarnations who voluntarily gave up their precious time and brain cells - to make Zadoc really old. Mediocrity doesn't come naturally to everyone, you know - some of us have to work at it. "REALLY fast" indeed!

I'm all upset now.

Source/Digest:
1. Grovelling for Dummies    
2. Le Mort d'Arthur, Book 10    
3. Midnight Tryst   #1074-03
4. How 'Bout Me Not ZOTting You?    
5. Raiders of the Misplaced Oracle    
6. Reality Check   Daniel Baye
On the Plains of Endless September:   all episodes by Jim Evans
7. Part 1: The Mimes of Format   #1121-05
8. Part 2: The HTML Hydra   in rec.humor.oracle.d
9. Part 3: The Towering Todger of Spam   in rec.humor.oracle.d
The Siege of the Temple:  
10. Part 1: Revenge of the Mimes   pieceoftheuniverse (#1188-04)
11. Part 2: Conclusion   pieceoftheuniverse
12. Part 2A: ...Or Is It?    

Where no author is indicated, answers are the work of AIWOKAM (An Incarnation Who's Otherwise Knows As Moi)

 


1.

The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> Where can I find the book "Grovelling for Dummies"?

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

You're kidding! You mean to tell me Zadoc's written his autobiography? This I gotta read! Excuse me a moment while I locate it.
[10 minutes later]
Ah, here we are. Silly fellow that he is, he carelessly left it lying around under a loose floorboard underneath his cot, inside a reinforced chest with five padlocks and a combination lock. He'd even accidentally booby-trapped it with a capsule releasing cyanide gas, so it's just as well I'm immortal, eh?
Right now, what's this large red label on the cover say? "TOP SECRET: MOST HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL!!! On no account to be read by anyone, ever, on pain of instant death, pretty please." Well, I'm sure he doesn't mean that to apply to me. I'm his beloved master, after all. Let's have a look at some extracts.
[flip flip flip]
"March 1997:
The Fat Controller asks me to read the questions to him, see? And the first question is 'Tell me who I am', which you'd think would be clear enough to the meanest intellect. So I read it out to him and - get this - Mister Omniscient thinks I'm asking who I am, and he says 'You are Zadoc'. What a plonker! I try to set him straight as diplomatically as I can, and he starts getting stroppy with me, so I have to grovel bigtime to avoid a totally unwarranted Zotting, don't I? There's no telling what might have happened if Lisa hadn't shown up and answered the question for him. Hey, that Lisa's some hot chick, am I right or am I right? Lots more juicy details about her and her insatiable sexual appetite in chapters 5, 7, 12 and 16-29 inclusive."
Strange, there must be some mistake. This doesn't sound at all like Zadoc, and I've no idea who he could be writing about. Let's see if it gets any more lucid.
[flipetty flip flip]
"November 1997:
I don't believe it! Mister Wonderful-I-Don't-Think insists on shoving some implant into my skull, supposedly to make me smarm up to him even more. As if that's possible! This guy has an ego the size of a small planet! Grovel 98beta he calls it. He only has to remove one of my cerebral hemispheres and part of my hippocampus to fit it in, doesn't he? And then the effing piece of junk doesn't work properly! In the evening I pee in his daily vodka-martini, just to show him. The klutz doesn't even notice! I think I'll do this every evening from now on. Gotta get my job satisfaction where I can find it, is what I say."
There's something very odd going on here...
[flipetty flipetty]
"July 1998:
I've had to put up with some weird sicko shit from the arrogant goit in my time, but this takes the biscuit! He only goes and conjures up the Devil, doesn't he? And he demands I lick the monster! Why? Don't ask! Nothing this psychotic freak does makes any sense whatever to a rational human being. And what's more he humiliates me in front of that spotty surly work-experience kid, who's about as much use as a condom at a eunuchs convention. I'd quit this chicken-shit outfit in a second, but creep features still owes me nine years back wages."
Why, the little pusbucket! After all I've done for him! Which is, erm, well, lots of things! And this is how he repays me! How dare he? How dare he scribble such a vile catalogue of slanderous lies? How dare he besmirch what should have been a glorious paean about the delirious joy of being graced with the opportunity to bask in my reflected glory with a title like "Grovelling to Dummies"?
I'll show him! I'll rend him limb from limb! I'll shove rutting woodchucks up his nostrils! I'll staple his ears to his scrotum! I'll force him to answer all the Og questions! I'll...
Wait a minute. "Grovelling to Dummies"? You were after "Grovelling for Dummies", weren't you? Different book entirely. Well, it's a mistake anyone could make.
So where can you find "Grovelling for Dummies"? Dunno, try Amazon.
You owe the Oracle a staple gun.

 


2.

The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> Oh, wise Oracle, who knows the secret of immortality,

> How did Zadoc come to be in your service?

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

LE MORTE D'ARTHUR
By Sir Thomas Mallory
___________________
BOOK X, CHAPTER 1: How Sir Zadoc came unto Camelot, and how it came to pass that he was made Knight near the Round Table if not exactly of it.
        There rode into Camelot one day a young knight, with a squire with him. At least, the squire acclaimed his master to be a knight, and that he had performed many valorous deeds and won much worship; although he had no sword, rode upon a flea-bitten dray horse and wore clapped-out second hand armour bought from an Oxfam shop. The squire was named Kendai; yet his master's name he would not divulge at this time.
        When the two entered into the courtyard, they were there met by Sir Kay the Seneschal, who made mock of the unknown knight's poorly caparisoned steed and cheapo accoutrements.
        Then spake the stranger, "Fie on thee, Sir Knight! What cause hast thou to shew me such scant courtesy? I must needs have my satisfaction of thee."
        "I am ready," said Sir Kay eagerly.
        "Oh, ah..." spake the unknown knight. "In that case, expect a call sometime in, er, shall we say, the next two decades?"
        With these bold words, the stranger entered the Great Hall, where King Arthur and all his company of knights were seated at the Table Round.
        "Who is this fair youth?" asked the King.
        "My name's Kendai," spake the squire, and he didst preen him.
        "Not you, sonny," replied the King, "the other one - the one without zits."
        Whereupon the squire became sore vexed and stamped out of the hall, after which he enters no more into our story.
        Now spake the strange knight, "Your most noble-visaged magnificence, I am yclept Sir Zadoc the Indefatigable. I it was who slew the evil giant Gogmagog, who beat King Lot of Orkney at canasta, and who once kept a library book overdue for three weeks out of sheer devilment. I have come to take my rightful place amongst the Knights of the Round Table."
        "If thou hast performed these deeds, well dost thou deserve a place amongst this company," said the King. "Especially the bit about the library book."
        "I thank ye, oh magnanimous monarch, oh radiant royal, oh handsome- featured king," said Sir Zadoc.
        But King Arthur did not quite catch the last compliment, and asked Merlin, who always sat at his right hand, what the knight had said. Merlin, who had not been paying attention, replied, "Once and future king, methinks."
        "Once and future king," repeated King Arthur. "Hey, I like't - 'tis catchy! Thou hast well spoken, Sir Zadoc, and thou art welcome. There is, however, a slight snag vis-a-vis the seating arrangements, to wit, of spare places there are none at the Table Round."
        Whereupon Sir Zadoc indicated an empty chair next to Sir Launcelot du Lac. "What about that one?"
        "That is the Siege Perilous," said the King. "Only one who is truly pure of heart may sit upon't."
        "That's me to a T," said Sir Zadoc in passing great joy. "Make way, compadres!"
        "Be thou absolutely siker before thou sitst on't, oh Knight," warned Merlin, "for the consequences may be, as 'twere, perilous."
        "Erm, perilous, thou sayest?" said Sir Zadoc, stopping abruptly. "Hence 'Siege Perilous', no doubt. Perilous in what way, exactly?"
        "Perilous in the way that, all who have essayed to sit on't to date were destroyed by a bolt of green lightning which struck with a terrible ZOT sound and left nothing behind but ashes. Force Nine on the Richter Scale of Perilousness, I'd ween. I'm still trying to find out how it works - 'twould make a dandy weapon."
        Then spake Sir Zadoc unto the King, "Noble liege, lord of all he surveys and master of even the gradual subsidence and dry rot that the survey missed, mayhap I will not take my place upon that seat. The cushion is a tad threadbare, and one of those legs looks decidedly wonky, if thou askst me. I shall take my place kneeling in the corner, if that be all right with everybody."
        Then spake everybody to say it be all right with them, and thus Sir Zadoc took his place in the corner of the Great Hall at Camelot as one of the Knights near the Round Table if not exactly of it. And he delivered many fine grovels unto the King, who was passing pleased. And so matters rested for many days.
BOOK X, CHAPTER 2: How Sir Breunis came unto Camelot and challenged the Knights of the Round Table, and also those near it, to defend the honour of the King.
        Then one day there came unto the court that haughty knight, Sir Breunis Saunce Pité, a cruel and barbarous warrior that had no love for King Arthur. He brast into the Great Hall saunce even a by-thy-leave, and challenged the knights therein to fight with him for the honour of Camelot, of which he was siker it had none, else the King and all his court would be held in contempt by the lowliest villein in the land.
        Now this happened in the days when Sir Launcelot du Lac was away from court, having been so distracted by his love for the Queen that he had hied him away into the forest and shacked up with the Fair Maid of Astolat. The other knights were fearful of taking up Sir Breunis's challenge, mindful of the fact that that worthy had but recently beaten the crap out of Sir Gawain. Then, as they looked one unto the other, up spake Sir Zadoc from the corner, "What? Will no knight here present confound this wretched scalawag, whom meseemeth several sizes too large for his breeches, and whom hath the temerity to abuse our glorious lord of the gleaming white teeth and ring of confidence that paradoxically predate the invention of artificial dentifrices by at least one and a half millennia? For shame!"
        "Art thou taking up my challenge, thou kneeling worm?" demanded Sir Breunis.
        Replied Sir Zadoc, "I may consider it. What's this guy's resumé, fellas?"
        Then spake Sir Sagramore le Desirous, "At the tourney in Arundel held not a twelvemonth since, Sir Breunis didst slily and wonderly smite down twenty of the finest knights with but a single spear."
        Sir Gaheris said, "And when my brother Gawain and I did meet with him in the Forest of Logria, he lashed against us both passing thick the mountenance of an hour, till his sword was overhilled with our blood and we did scarper."
        Added Sir Agloval, "God defend us, but Sir Breunis be one tough cookie."
        "I see," said Sir Zadoc, and he did look pensive.
        "Well?" demanded Sir Breunis brusquely.
        "The thing is, Sir Breunis - or can I call you Bruno for short? - The thing is," said Sir Zadoc, "I'm kind of the new boy here, and I think 'twould be kind of impolite for me to jump in like that, kind of. Know what I mean? I mean, like, Sir Sagramore and Sir Agloval have been here simply donkey's years, and are still awaiting their turn to get their skulls smashed - I mean, to get their skills tested and honour enhanced. Meseemeth 'twould be a grave discourtesy for me to jump the queue like that, so I'll just sit on the sidelines and cheer the home team this time."
        Thereupon the other knights, and most particularly Sir Sagramore and Sir Agloval, all spake unto Sir Zadoc assuring him that they minded not in the least his jumping the queue just this once, as long as he did not make a habit of't, but he was not to be moved. And Sir Breunis waxed impatient and made many statements questioning the parentage of many of those present, and the mood did turn ugly. Then spake Merlin soothing words unto him, and invited him to take a seat and discuss the matter further. So Sir Breunis sat himself upon the one empty chair at the table, and there was an almighty ZOT sound, and he was no more.
        Said Merlin, "I really must learn how to do that."
        Then said Sir Zadoc that he knew Merlin was going to do that all along, and he spake many more fine grovels unto the King and anyone else who would listen, and all once more made great joy of him.
BOOK X, CHAPTER 3: How King Arthur let do cry a jousts, and how nearly but not quite all of the Knights round and about the Round Table did feats of arms there.
        Yet Merlin chided the Knights of the Round Table for their lack of gumption in the face of Sir Breunis's challenge. So, to cover their embarrassment, they asked the King to hold a tourney, so they might display their prowess. They were particularly keen to do this now as, sithen Sir Launcelot was still away going bonkers and/or bonking, whichever, somebody else would have a chance of winning, for a change. Then replied the King that, indeed, they had not held a jousting for at least ten minutes, so it was high time for another, and all rejoiced mightily thereat.
        Then rose the knights all in a body and went to prepare for the jousts, urging Sir Zadoc to join with them.
        Sir Zadoc did appear right keen, and he asked, "This jousting lark - 'tis but a bit of fun, right?"
        "'Tis indeed!" said Sir Gareth unto him. "The most fun that can be had without taking thy armour off; excepting if thou believest Nicholas Roeg's film 'Excalibur', wherein are depicted knights having more fun without taking their armour off, which is passing marvellous."
        "So, no violence or anything?" Sir Zadoc persisted.
        "I'faith not!" cried Sir Tristram indignantly. "Thinkst thou us barbarians? Why, when last King Mark did do cry a tourney in Winchester, ne more than twenty-eight brave knights were horribly mauled, and ne one was killed. At least, ne one who matters."
        "Ah, but thou forgettest Sir Galahaut the Haut Prince," Sir Bors remarked, "who didst lose an arm and a leg there."
        "'Twas but a flesh wound!" protested Sir Galahaut.
        "Marry, but so 'twas," agreed Sir Gareth. "Really, Sir Bors, if thou desirest to count every scratch and bruise, we wouldst be here all night and there would be some as would think thee a bit of a sissy-boy."
        "Verily, it doth indeed sound... fun," said Sir Zadoc, and then he spake no more but did look pensive.
        Then on the morn all the knight apparelled them to joust, every one determined to win the gree if they might. Sir Gawain and his four brethren did there great deeds of arms. Also Sir Ector de Maris did marvellously well, as did Sir Dinadan, Sir Lamorak de Gales and Sir Palomides the Foreign Chappie. All contended mightily excepting only Sir Launcelot who was, as was explained previously, otherwise engaged, and Sir Zadoc, who discovered at the last minute that his armour was in the wash this week, so he must needs regretfully give it a miss. And the King did glance at him sideways but forbore to comment.
BOOK X, CHAPTER 4: How the Holy Grail appeared at Camelot, and how nearly but not quite all of the Knights round and about the Round Table set off in quest of it.
        Then one day, as the Kind and Queen sat to supper, and every knight sat in his own place as they were toforehand, excepting only Sir Zadoc who knelt in the corner as was his custom, they heard a cracking and a crying of thunder, that them thought the castle should all to-drive. In the midst of this blast entered a sunbeam more clearer by seven times than ever they saw day, and within this beam there entered into the hall the Holy Grail covered with white samite, but there was none might see who bare it. And when the Grail had been borne through the hall, then the holy vessel departed suddenly, that they wist not where it became. And the King yielded thankings to God, of His good grace that He had sent them.
        Whereupon Sir Launcelot, who had meanwhile returned only slightly the worse for wear, avowed him that he would tomorn, without longer abiding, labour in the quest of the Sangrail, to find out where it had buggered off to so suddenly. And all the Knights of the Table Round, when they heard him say so, arose up and made such vows as Sir Launcelot had done, even unto Sir Zadoc.
        Then said Merlin heavily, "Alas, ye have grieved your King with these avows, brave knights. For know you that you rob him of the fairest fellowship that ever were seen together in any realm of this world. And when you depart from hence, shall we in all probability never meet again, for ye shall many die in this quest."
        Then spake Sir Zadoc, "Mighty wizard, comfort thyself; for it shall be unto us a great honour, and death, in any case, is siker. That said, um... how many, exactly?"
        "Very many," said Merlin sternly.
        "So God help me," said Sir Zadoc after but a brief bout of looking pensive, "for I yearn with every fibre of my being for to yede on this quest; yet meseemeth 'twould be folly to leave Camelot and our ever-bountiful lord entirely undefended, what with all these marauding Saxons about the place and such-like. I will therefore betake me to remain behind whilst you lot hog all the glory, in a spirit of subservience and self-denial such as befits a loyal knight of the greatest king that ever bestrode the earth like a colobus - or do I mean colossus?"
        And the other knights said "Yeah, yeah," and "Sure thing, Zadoc," and "Hope thou'rt wearing thy brown trousers," and departed upon their sacred quest, in the course of which most of them did indeed snuff it. And Sir Zadoc remained at Camelot with the King and Queen and grovelled as never before. And it occurred to King Arthur that perhaps thou couldst have too much of a good thing, after all.
BOOK X, CHAPTER 5: How King Arthur and Merlin parleyed of matters financial, and how Sir Zadoc entered upon a new profession, and divers other matters.
        Then one day, after Sir Zadoc had grovelled fit to bust a gut, King Arthur summoned Merlin unto him and spake thusly, "Gramercy, good Merlin, but Sir Zadoc doth begin to get on my tit. I beseech thee to take him off my hands."
        Then spake the hoary sage, with a serene dignity that befitted his ancient years, "Me??? Why should I take the little snotmonkey? It wasn't me that was dopey enough to invite him to join the Round Table. Nothing doing!"
        "As you love me, old friend," said King Arthur, "do this thing for me. Certes, Sir Zadoc would make a fine sorcerer's apprentice, what with his striking resemblance to Mickey Mouse. And he grovels nicely."
        And Merlin was moved near to tears by the King's gentle words, and he replied, "In your dreams, Arty!"
        Then spake King Arthur, as if to change the subject, "In truth, all these tourneys that we have been holding of late have been a severe drain on the exchequer. The ducat fares not well against the Saxon mark on the international currency markets. I fear me economy measures are in order, such as halving the salaries of varlets, palfreys and court wizards..."
        Said Merlin, "You bastard!"
        "But wert thou to have an apprentice," continued the King, "thou couldst pocket his salary and still break even, as 'twere."
        And so 'twere indeed, for the King was a crafty beggar and not king for nothing, witst thou. And Sir Zadoc the Indefatigable ceased to be a Knight near the Table Round if not exactly of it, and became instead Merlin's apprentice. Not that many noticed the difference, as he still knelt in the corner of the Great Hall and grovelled to any who would listen.
        And Merlin was passing wroth and, when he finally learnt the trick of the Siege Perilous, went about ZOTting everybody whomsoever so much as irritated him. And this happened one thousand years before woodchucks were even invented.
Here endeth the tenth book of Le Morte d'Arthur, which is of Sir Zadoc.
And here followeth the eleventh book, which pertaineth to the aptly named Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Oracularity.

 


3.

The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

>

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

Zadoc the Priest sat bolt upright in his narrow bunk. He was a light sleeper - his hard, lumpy mattress and sackcloth blanket ensured as much - and he was in no doubt that he'd been awoken by stealthy movements in the corridor outside his dank little cell. He looked towards the door. A thin sliver of light illuminated the crack between the bottom of the door and the uneven stone floor and, within that sliver, his eyes could just make out something. Something that looked like:
>
Zadoc clambered out of his bunk and tiptoed barefoot across the freezing stone slabs. He knelt down and examined the > closely. It appeared to be a small triangle of paper, perhaps the corner of a note pushed hastily under his door. He tried to take hold of it, but there was not enough of it protruding to get his fingers around. He could of course have opened the door, but there was always the danger of a passing priest on night duty seeing him and making fun of his Barney nightshirt. Best not to chance it.
He tiptoed back to his bunk, reached into the recess in the wall and retrieved the nail scissors he used for ritually puncturing his feet before attending on his Master the Oracle, to ensure he never forgot himself and stood up in the Great Omnignostic One's presence. He returned to the door. Placing one of the points of the scissors on the corner of the note, he gently dragged it across the floor towards him. It began to emerge from under the door.
When enough of the note was visible, he discarded the scissors, pulled it out and made his way back across the cell. He lit his bedside candle, sat on the bunk and studied the note.
My beloved Worm,
         
My body has been aching incessantly to
be joined with yours once again. The
pompous windbag has gone away for the
weekend, so now is our chance to
relive the heady delirium of that
intoxicating time that seems so long
ago. Come to me in the oratory at
midnight, wearing only a thong and an
ostrich feather clenched between your
buttocks, and let us rescale the
heights of passion!
          
Yours in breathless anticipation,
Lisa
Zadoc gazed at the piece of paper in bewilderment for ten minutes or so. A blank note? What should he read into a blank note? Was it perhaps a profound, one-hand-clapping Zen sort of message from his Master, hinting at the emptiness that lay at the core of all existence? In which case he'd better stay up the whole night preparing a suitably insightful response, as he was bound to be tested on it in the morning. But no, it couldn't be that - the Oracle was never up this late.
He stared at the piece of paper, cudgelling his wits, for another five minutes. He tried turning it upside down and even sideways a couple of times, to see if it made any more sense that way. Then, in a flash of inspiration, he turned it over and looked at the other side.
My beloved Worm,
          
My body has been aching incessantly to
be joined with yours once again. The
pompous windbag has gone away for the
weekend, so now is our chance to
relive the heady delirium of that
intoxicating time that seems so long
ago. Come to me in the oratory at
midnight, wearing only a thong and an
ostrich feather clenched between your
buttocks, and let us rescale the
heights of passion!
          
Yours in breathless anticipation,
Lisa
The note slipped from between Zadoc's trembling fingers. The Divine Adoratrice, longing for him! It was almost inconceivable, yet somehow not unexpected. He was, after all, a fine figure of a man, if he did say so himself (he generally had to, in the absence of others willing to do it for him). And it was not as if this was the first time this had happened.
True, it was a mortal sin to submit to her wishes, and the Oracle's punishment would be swift and bloody if he found out. Which, of course, he would - was he not omniscient? But how could be resist this plea? How could he deny this damsel in distress the chance to slake her yearning for his body? He had been just as helpless that time almost two years ago when she had enticed him away from his duty, sparkling with ingenue. Admittedly, not much had happened then, and he'd had a sneaking suspicion that it had all been part of some elaborate prank. But now he saw how wrong he'd been to doubt her sincerity. This note clearly showed that he meant more to the Raven-Haired Houri Regnant than he'd ever dared imagine.
Zadoc looked at his alarm clock. It was five minutes to midnight - there was not a moment to lose! He sprang from his bunk, bounced across his cell, flung open the door and raced down the corridor towards the storeroom, where he was sure to find a thong and an ostrich feather amongst all the bizarre and exotic gifts the Oracle was always receiving from his supplicants. So intent was he on his quest, he completely forgot that he was still wearing his Barney nightshirt.
Meanwhile, Lisa arrived at the oratory and gave the thumbs up to the waiting priests. Quickly, they finished spreading thumb tacks over the floor and balanced a bucket of treacle on top of the door. Then they picked their way through the various tripwires and booby traps to the far end of the room, switched off the light and hid, cameras at the ready.

 


4.

The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> How 'bout me not ZOTing you for everything?
> How 'bout how good it feels to finally digest you?
> How 'bout making one joke at a time?
> How 'bout unabashedly poking Zadoc's eyes out?
> How 'bout not equating digestion with deification?

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

Whaddaya mean you not ZOTting me? I'm the incarnation, Sonny Jim, I'm the one that does the ZOTing around here! Look, see, see? I got the curly brackets. I mean, not now, obviously. That is, not now when I'm typing this, but when you read it, curly brackets galore! So that makes me the incarnation, QED.
You, you got nasty pointy angled brackets, nasty right chevron signs. Nasty, greasy, crawly supplicant creature, you. Even now, when I haven't got my nice, manly curly brackets yet, you've already got nasty pointy ones. Yeuchh! That's how insignificant you supplicants are! And supplicants never ever ZOT - I'm almost positively certain about that.
I mean, let's face it, you gotta be a godlike being to wield ZOT power. Godlike like getting digested. I get digested lots! So much it doesn't feel good anymore, just normal, you know? Normal but still godlike. Okay, so the supplicants asking the questions get digested too, but it's not the same, at least, I don't think it is. I mean, supplicants can get digested without even typing anything at all! Like blanco questions! What's so special about that? Why, even Juno supplicants can get digested! No, I'm definitely, absolutely, positively, almost completely certain no supplicant has ever ZOTted an incarnation before. Probably. At least, not as long as I've been around. Not that ever got digested, anyway.
Oh hell, now you've got me all unsure. Zadoc! Zaaaaaadooooc!!!
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, cut down the noise, willya? Some of us are trying to sleep, I mean, work around here."
Sorry, but I'm suddenly beset by doubts. I mean, I'm an incarnation, right?
"Hang on, let me just put my Kirlian specs on. Let's see now... Ooh, yes, there's a definite nimbus enveloping you. I'd say that the muse of the Oracle is hovering about three inches above your head. Just as well it's not a pigeon, eh? Suppose I'd better start calling you Master, then."
So I can ZOT supplicants, but they can't ZOT me, right?
"Try to avoid ZOTs altogether if you can, um, Master. They're considered a bit of a tired old in-joke."
Yeah, but so are you.
"Look, if you want to annoy the tired young in-joke instead, I'll gladly call for Kendai."
Okay, okay, don't get all in a huff. It's just that this supplicant here talks about ZOTting me, and that kind of thing is, well, you know, unsettling.
"Let me see that question. Hmm..."
Bit of a liberty, in't it? I mean, where's he get off, suggesting I'm not deified when I get digested? What's the point of doing all this business in the first place if it doesn't get you deified? And what's he mean with...
"Calm down, calm down. I don't think the supplicant is criticising or threatening you. I think he's giving vent to an upwelling of poetic inspiration."
What, like waxing lyrical sort of thing?
"Exactly. It kind of resembles free verse, see? You can hardly ZOT him for that, can you?"
Oh, I don't know...
"Just answer the questions, there's a good incarnation... Master."
But there's a whole bunch of 'em! It'll take hours!
"Not at all. Look, he suggests you only make one joke at a time. So you need only answer one question, right? Otherwise, god forbid, you'd have to come up with serious answers for the rest, and that's sacrilege as we all know."
You're right, Zadoc, that's brill! I can't understand why they always make you out to be stupid. Which one shall I answer?
"Couldn't care less - pick one at random."
Eenie, meenie, minie... Say, could you take those Kirlian specs off now, please?
"Sure thing. Why... AAAAARRRGGHHHH!!!"
How 'bout you owing the Oracle a white cane? It's not for me, it's for a friend.

 


5.

The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> Is this the end for our plucky heroes? Will the Internet Oracle be
> dethroned by the mysterious Zadoc impersonator?
>
> Tune in next week to find out!

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

Priest: Well? What are you waiting for?
Incarnation: Six more days. It said "tune in next week".
Priest: Answer the question, smartass, if you don't want all your incarnatory privileges revoked.
Incarnation: Mutter, mutter, razzen frazzen...
Priest: And no Muttley impersonations if you want to appear in any of the next 20 digests!
Voiceover: Welcome back to "Raiders of the Misplaced Oracle"! Last week we left the redoubtable duo, Zadoc and Kendai, facing Certain Death!
SFX - dramatic chords. Cut to last week's closing shot - a large tank filling slowly with water. Zadoc is strapped to the side of the tank, the water up to his chin. Kendai is reading an X-Men comic, holding it above his head so the pages don't get wet.
Zadoc: I guess this is it, my faithful young companion. We're doomed.
Kendai: (reading) Yeh.
Zadoc: I don't suppose you've managed to loosen your bonds yet?
Kendai: (still reading) Ten minutes ago.
Zadoc: Ten minutes...? Then why haven't you freed me?
Kendai: I'm on me free time now. Don't have to report back for work till 6.30 tomorrow morning.
Zadoc: Priests don't get free time!
Kendai: The guy from the union said we did!
Zadoc: Fool! Priests don't have a union either. You must have been talking to the same R.O.U.S. agent that's now impersonating me!
Incarnation's Note: R.O.U.S., that's Rodents Of Unusual Size, a sinister and fuzzy organization dedicated to the overthrow of all things Oracular - as you would know if you'd been paying attention during earlier episodes.
Kendai: No union? What kind of chicken shit operation is this anyway?
Zadoc: Undo my bonds. And switch that damn tap off - my robes are all wet.
Cut to the peerless pair dashing dynamically along the corridors of the Oracular Temple.
Zadoc: Hurry! We must foil this villain's evil plot. Fortunately, I know precisely where he is at this moment.
Kendai: How come?
Zadoc: Because he told me his plans in the minutest detail when I was facing Certain Death...
SFX - dramatic chords.
Zadoc: ... in the pit of vipers episode before last, of course! He has gained access to the inner sanctum disguised as me and is, at this very moment, getting ready to reverse the polarity of the Staff of Zot. Then, next time our Master uses it, instead of striking the intended target, the charge will rebound onto His Glorious Self!
Kendai: That's the same plot device they used in "Superman 2".
Zadoc: Don't you know it's very bad manners for a character to reveal where the writer rips off his ideas from?
Incarnation: Yeah, shut up you little creep, or I may have to draw attention to your rampant acne again.
Kendai: Sorry.
Zadoc: Who're you talking to now?
Cut to the Oracle's inner sanctum. The R.O.U.S. agent, looking identical to Zadoc, has just picked up the Staff of Zot and is getting ready to reverse its polarity. The door bursts open and real Zadoc and Kendai enter.
Zadoc: Unpaw that staff, foul furry fiend!
False Zadoc: Drat! Yet again you've escaped from Certain Death!
SFX - dramatic chords.
Zadoc: Indeed we have. The game's up, rapscallion!
False Zadoc: Eat electronic death, you meddling do-gooders!
He aims the Staff of Zot at our heroes and fires. FX - pyrotechnic light show, or whatever feeble substitute the show's paltry budget can stretch to. When the smoke clears, the two are still standing, amazingly unharmed.
Zadoc: Hah! Don't you know priestly robes are designed to channel Zot discharges around the wearer? We may be a bunch of crawling, subservient sycophants, but we're not stupid!
Priest: I saw that. 50 digests!
Incarnation: Bastard.
Real Zadoc and the false Zadoc start to fight unconvincingly. Kendai grabs a chair and hovers, unsure of which one to hit.
False Zadoc: Quick, hit me! He's the real Zadoc!
Zadoc: Liar! I'm the real Zadoc - hit me! Wait a minute...
With a sickening thud, Kendai brings the chair down on the head of real Zadoc, who falls to the floor unconscious.
Kendai: Hang on, can you take me through that again?
False Zadoc: There's no time! Help me tie this impostor to the railway track.
Incarnation: Doesn't this damn show ever break for commercials?
Cut to exterior shot of false Zadoc and Kendai tying real Zadoc to the railway track. SFX - a train whistle in the distance.
Kendai: This still doesn't seem right...
Enter Lisa.
Lisa: Hi, boys! What's cooking?
False Zadoc: You're right! We should be tying her to the railway track!
Kendai: Hey, yeh!
Priest: Okay, you can break for advertisements now.
Incarnation: About time!
Priest: Be back in 3 minutes. And no using the executive cloakroom - that's for priests only.

 


6.

The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> Supplicant,
>
> I'm really very sorry about this. I called the company; they're sending
> someone over to look at the reality drive. He should be there by
> tomorrow.
>
> Feel free to help yourself to anything in the servant's kitchen, and ask
> the priests for anything else you need. Remind Zadoc to feed my
> goldfish, if you see him, and don't go up the west wing stairs (there
> are guards to remind you, just in case you forget).
>
> Do you want me to let the cat in?
>
> Again, I'm very sorry.
>
> Oracle

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

Bob Poorchick looked the letter over again. It was all so confusing. He had vague memories of sending an email to an "Internet Oracle," but he couldn't recall what it was about. For that matter, he couldn't recall how he'd come to be in this place.
Oh, it was a nice room. Much nicer than the Holiday Inn, which was where he usually stayed, when he was traveling, which wasn't very often. He'd never seen murals over the bed at the Holiday Inn. They also had an actual phone, instead of the series of bell-pulls. At least he assumed they were bell-pulls; they looked like bell-pulls look in the movies, but he'd never actually seen one in real life. He decided to try one. Since they weren't marked, and he wasn't sure what he wanted, he pulled one at random.
A few seconds later, a man in bright red robes entered the room. "Ah, you've come to! Excellent! How may I be of assistance?" said the man.
"Who're you?" asked Bob.
"I am Brother Paul of the Evolving Sigfile," said Brother Paul. "Being the newest novitiate to the priesthood, one of my duties is to wait on any visiting guests or displaced supplicants."
"'Displaced supplicants?' Is that what I am?"
"In a word, yes. You see," explained Paul, "sometimes The Oracle's answers, while witty, don't exactly line up with actual reality."
"You mean he's wrong," interpreted Bob.
Paul squirmed a bit. "Not wrong as such. Since he is omniscient, The Oracle is never wrong. Sometimes, though, reality is a little out of phase with his divinations, and therefore must be tweaked."
"In other words, when he gets it wrong, you guys muck about with reality to make him right." Bob was beginning to get the picture. He'd asked some question, the answer he got wasn't true, and as a result, they had fixed things to MAKE the answer true.
Well it explained about the cat. He was quite sure he hated cats, and would never own one, but at the same time, he also had memories of taking care of a gray tom called "Mr. Fluffy."
Brother Paul snapped him back to reality, or at least A reality. "We DO NOT 'muck about' with reality, thank you very much," he said, coldly. "We are the Keepers of the Truth! Since Truth often does not know what the hell it's supposed to be doing, it is our Duty to set it back on course! How DARE you, a mere sup..."
"That will be enough, Brother Paul," interrupted a bemused figure by the door. Another priest, by the look of it. "Why don't you go help Kendai gather the laundry."
"As you say, Brother Ian." Brother Paul glared at Bob, turned and bowed to Brother Ian, then stalked out of the room.
"Don't mind him," said Ian, walking into the room. "He's new, and just had his sense of humor surgically removed. Part of it will grow back, in time." Ian smiled warmly. "So you're the latest victim of one of the Big Guy's cock-ups, eh?"
"To be honest, I'm not entirely sure how I got here," Bob admitted. "From what Brother Paul was saying, and from this letter I've got, it seems that reality was changed, or is BEING changed, and that I'm stuck here until it gets sorted out."
"That pretty much nails it in one," said Ian. "Still, while you're here, you might as well enjoy yourself. The hot tub's down the hall to the left, the gym is to the right, and the golf course is just outside the East Wing. Oh, and the all-day buffet is on the lower floor of the West Wing. Enjoy!" With that, Brother Ian left.
Well, thought Bob, here I am, in the apparent lap of luxury. I might as well make the most of it.
This was a new experience for Bob, as most of his adult life had been spent sitting hunched over in a cubicle. Well, as much as he could recall, anyway. He thought he did something with computers, but the details were still hazy.
Filing that away under "Stuff to worry about later," Bob got up, and dressed himself. Apparently he had pushed some priest out of his room, as the only apparel in the wardrobe was a number of identical white robes with little symbols on them. He wasn't sure what the symbols were supposed to be. He supposed they were terribly occult, but for all that they looked an awful lot like bunnies and duckies.
Having dressed, he stepped out the door and was immediately run down by a truck. Well, it FELT like a truck, anyway, although, he had to admit, trucks normally didn't send papers flying everywhere, and weren't dressed in white robes with bunnies and duckies.
The truck, which now that he was focussing a bit better, was actually a rather small quivering man, sat up groggily and said "Wha..."
"Sorry about that, " said Bob. He didn't know what he had to be sorry about, as it was this other fellow who had plowed into HIM, but Bob was the kind of person who was always apologizing for what other people did to him. "I guess I wasn't looking where I was going."
"Oh, dear," said the small man. "Just LOOK at this mess!" He hurriedly started collecting the papers. "I've got to get these to the Oracular Chamber right away!" He looked up at Bob for the first time. "I say, why are you wearing my clothes?"
"Er, ah," quipped Bob. Bob wasn't much of a quipper. "Well, I woke up in this room," Bob said, waving vaguely at the door, "and it was all that was in there to wear."
"I see," said the small man. "You're the supplicant we're taking care of while He Whose Wisdom Shines Throughout The Ages corrects the imperfections of reality. It's so good to meet you. I'm Zadoc."
"Zadoc... Zadoc... Hey, you're the guy in the note!"
"What note would that be?" asked Zadoc, worriedly.
Bob pulled out the note. "This one from the Oracle," he said. "Apparently, I am supposed to remind you to feed his goldfish."
"Aiieee!" wailed Zadoc.
Bob stepped back. It was never a good idea to stand too close to people who actually said things like "Aiieee."
"I completely forgot about the goldfish! Please, could you do me a favor and take these to the Oracular Chamber? I need to feed the goldfish before..." Zadoc trailed off. "Well, I need to feed them BEFORE, and let's just leave it at that."
"I guess I could help you out," Bob said, amicably. "Um, where is the Oracular Chamber?"
Zadoc smiled, gratefully. "Thank you so much. It's not hard to find. Just go down this hall, turn right at the large intersection, follow THAT hall all the way to the end, at the West Wing. There, take the stairs up to the Oracular Chamber. You can't miss it."
"Well, that's easy enough," Bob admitted, "but I probably will have a bit of a problem getting past the guards." Bob showed Zadoc the note.
"A missive from He Without Whom The World Would Have Been Plunged Into Darkness Several Times Over! I must enshrine His Holy Words!"
"Um, Zadoc?"
"What? Oh, yes." Zadoc read the note, the feverish light of devotion in his eyes. "Well... I figure if you shuffle through backwards on your knees the guards won't even notice you."
Bob snorted. "Surely they're not THAT dense!"
"Oh, they'll see you," explained Zadoc, "They just won't NOTICE you. See, since you're dressed like me, if you keep your head down, they'll assume you're me!"
Sure enough, that worked. Bob wasn't sure if he could shuffle backwards on his knees up a flight of stairs, but apparently Zadoc was even worse, from the compliments the guards made on his progress.
When he got to the Oracular Chamber, he stood up and overawed with the majestic sight he beheld. After he had stared at Lisa's poster for a few minutes, he turned around and looked at the rest of the Chamber.
Most of the space was taken up by a large and ornate chair. Several monitors lined the walls. By the door was an in basket, so he dumped the papers off and started to look around.
Most of the monitors were displaying questions. One of them, however, showed a familiar looking room. Bob was pretty sure it was his house, although he didn't recognize either of the people in it. He noticed a volume button and turned it up.
"So, this is ground zero of the temporal-spatial distortion?" said the one wearing overalls.
"That's right, Sully." This one was a little hard to make out. He was standing at the edge of the view.
"Hmmm. Looks to be only about a 0.04 percent fluctuation. That's barely big enough to create a household pet! Are you sure you want to go to all the trouble of fixing this, Mr. O?"
"Listen, it's a flaw! I don't care if it's minor, I've got a service contract on that thing and I expect it to work correctly!"
"Okay, okay! No need to get your panties in a bunch! Here, let me just adjust the settings." Sully fiddled with some knobs on a machine sitting next to him. It looked a bit like a rack mounted stereo system. "Okay, I'll turn this on, and in a few minutes everything will be back to normal."
At this point, the picture started going fuzzy. Bob looked around for the fine tuning controls. Then he noticed a large red button marked ZOT. Since there wasn't a V-Hold, or anything else, he tried it.
> ZOT <
Bob was thrown back across the room. Unsteadily, he stood up and made his way to the monitor. In it, he could see his room clearly again. There was no sign of the two men or the machine.
"Oops," quipped Bob.
You owe Bob a new Oracle.

 


7.

The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> This is a multi-part message in MIME format.
>
>
------=_NextPart_000_0021_01BF14BF.C785B180
>
Content-Type: text/plain;
>
charset="iso-8859-1"
>
Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable
>
> When will I be able to get a cable modem in my area?
>
>
------=_NextPart_000_0021_01BF14BF.C785B180
>
Content-Type: text/html;
>
charset="iso-8859-1"
>
Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable
>
>
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN">
>
<HTML><HEAD>
>
<META content=3D"text/html; charset=3Diso-8859-1" =
>
http-equiv=3DContent-Type>
>
<META content=3D"MSHTML 5.00.2014.210" name=3DGENERATOR>
>
<STYLE></STYLE>
>
</HEAD>
>
<BODY bgColor=3D#ffffff>
>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>When will I be able to get a cable =
> modem in my
=20
> area?
</FONT></DIV></BODY></HTML>
>
>
------=_NextPart_000_0021_01BF14BF.C785B180--

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

By dawn the storm had broken. Several of the horses had broken free in the early hours, and some time was lost rounding them up. By the time the sun was clear of the distant mountains, we were breaking camp and preparing to continue the journey.
As we began the ride, Zadoc rode up beside me.
"Oh Mighty Oracle, whose wisdom is as a galaxy of stars to the - "
"Yes, Zadoc, what is it?"
"Forgive me any implications of doubt in your thousand-fold wisdom, mighty one, but have we no other choice but to cross the Plains of the Endless September?"
He gestured nervously at the barren landscape ahead of us. I turned my Oracular gaze on him, darkening eyebrows and all. Zadoc managed to cower without falling off his mule.
"Zadoc, you dimwit, pay attention at the meetings! It's either cross the Plains of the Endless September or go around through the Foothills of the Mist, adding three months to the trip. Do you want to be the one to deal with an extra three month's worth of whining supplicants in the queue?"
"No, your infinitely wise -"
"Good. Then stay up here and keep your eyes open."
"For the Three Dangers of the Plain, oh mighty of prowess?"
"No, Zadoc, for a gas station where I can wash my horse's windshield. OF COURSE for the Three Dangers of the Plain, you gangrenous annelid!"
That kept Zadoc sufficiently cowed that he left me alone for the rest of the morning. We rode through the Stones of Aol about eleven o'clock, careful not to say a word for fear of the infamous echoes - the shapes of the rock in that area are such that any voice is distorted and reflected back in an unearthly chorus that sounds like "me too".
As we rode on, I pondered our destination, on the far side of the Plains. A trivial matter, perhaps, but the consequences would be dire should we fail in our quest.
Suddenly...
"AAAGH!! The Mimes! The Mimes of Format!!"
They were everywhere! I cursed as I realized they must have been following silently for hours. A pack had pulled Kendai off his horse and were busy sealing him in an invisible glass box. Others were prancing around mimicking the priests, climbing down stairs, pulling invisible ropes...
"Your Ominpotency! We're surrounded!"
"The pastrami, Zadoc! Everyone, use the pastrami!"
Foreseeing this First Danger of the Plain, we'd each packed a pastrami loaf in our bags. They're the most effective weapon against these white-faced devils. I leapt from my horse and swatted one aside with my pastrami, then waded into the fray.
The carnage was terrible. The priests fought well, Darkmage in particular seemed unstoppable, but the silent clowns threatened to overwhelm us with sheer numbers. By mid-afternoon, the tide had turned, and the survivors were starting to flee. Soon there was but one left.
*WHACK!*  *WHACK!*
"Go! Get out of here!"
*WHACK!*
"Go on! Get!"
*WHACKWHACKWHACK!*
"What do you want with us?!!"  *WHACK!*
Dazed, he staggered back.
"Well?? What is it?!!"
"When will I be able to get a cable modem in my area?"
I was caught off guard. I had never heard a mime speak before.
"Check with your cable company. Most... AAAAGH!"
While I was distracted, he leapt forward and pulled an invisible flower from my ear and started mooning over it. I hit him across the back of the head with the pastrami, then again, and again, until he collapsed in heap at my feet.
Zadoc raced up beside me and gave the still twitching figure a completely unnecessary whack with his own, barely battered luncheon meat.
"And stay down, infidel! Good work, Oh All-Powerful Oracle!"
I sighed as I slipped my own pastrami into my belt. One Danger of the Plain was beaten, but two more awaited.
"Zadoc?"
"Yes, Mighty One! I am yours to command!"
"Tell Lisa next time she needs 'feminine protection' when the car's in the shop, she can go to the drugstore herself."
"*gulp*...Y-yes, Omniscient One."
We rode on.

 


8.

On Sun, 7 Nov 1999, Al Sharka wrote:

} 101jokes wrote:
}}
Content-Type: text/html; charset=us-ascii
}}
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
}}
}}
<HTML>
}}
}}
<BLOCKQUOTE TYPE=CITE>101jokes at
}}
<A HREF="http://www.codraw.com/101.htm">http://www.codraw.com/101.htm</A>
}}
<BR><FONT SIZE=-2>
}
} AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH! Run for your lives! It's the HTML Hydra!

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

<epic mode=mock>
The following day was uneventful. I had Kendai ride point, as Zadoc had proved utterly useless at the task. "If you can't see a legion of clowns in black leotards against nearly white sands, what good are you?!" I railed against him.
"Your Magnificent Magnificence, Whose Prowess In Battle Outshines Hercules as Your Wisdom Outshines Zeus, I was blinded by your stupendous Oracular presence!"
"Oh for $Deity's sake, Zadoc, take a Tums or something..."
Lunch was pastrami sandwiches, of course. I told Zadoc to add pastrami to Lisa's list, so we'd have a fresh supply for the trip back.
The next day we set out just after sunrise, after a hearty breakfast of more pastrami sandwiches. Some of the priests were mumbling about the menu. Zadoc gave them one of his "rally round for the Oracle" speeches, which was good for a laugh, and they pelted him with cold cuts, which was even better. Morale improved greatly.
We soon came to an outcrop of rocks. Farther one, vultures were circling overhead. I called a halt.
"Be watchful, Kendai. These stones mark the edge of the HTML Hydra's territory. We must proceed quietly and with caution."
"Uh.., the what?"
"The HTML Hydra. The Second Danger of the Plain. Bloodthirsty spawn of Netscrapula and the Explorasaurus."
"Huh?"
"TAKE OFF THOSE HEADPHONES BEFORE I THROTTLE YOU WITH THEM!!"
"Uh, sorry dude. Had my headphones on."
Five minutes later, Zadoc was again riding point and Kendai was tied upside down to the backside of the mule. We proceeded cautiously.
Not long after we were picking our way through the bones of dismembered GIF's and broken links. A horrible stench filled the air; the HTML Hydra was near. It was Sharku who spotted the Horror...
"AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH! Run for your lives! It's the HTML Hydra!"
The creature reared up ahead of us, a mass of writhing tags and tangled frames. It's foul breath stank of blood and coffee. With great effort I kept control of my panicked horse and my equally panicked head priest.
"Stand your ground! ZADOC! The Staff, quickly!"
He tossed me the Staff of Zot before diving for cover. The Staff was the perfect weapon for dealing with Hydra; it both cut off the head and cauterized the neck, so the Hydra couldn't pull it's trademarked regeneration trick. I would've lent it to Hercules if he hadn't wrecked my Calliope tapes, the git...
###ZOT!### 
<BLINK><CITE> RAAAAHHH!! </CITE></BLINK>
###ZOT!###ZOT!###ZOT!####
<BLINK><CITE> HISSS! SPIT! </CITE></BLINK>
After a mere twenty minutes, it was over. The HTML Hydra lay smoking on the ground, a burnt-out hulk feebly blinking "404 Error".
"Another astounding Victory, Oh Mighty Slayer of-"
"Yes, thank you, Zadoc. Fat lot of good you were, as usual."
We were now free to proceed through the rocks. We had beaten two of the Plains of The Endless September's great Dangers, but the third awaited. And even my omnipotent courage feared it'd be a bit dicey.
"Hey, Oracle dude, how much farther?"
"Not far now."
"Cause dude, all the blood's rushin' to my head, and this mule's got some pretty wicked gas..."
We rode on.
</epic>

 


9.
 
<epic mode="is it bloody well over yet?">
We spotted the dread landmark about a half day's ride from the desolation of the HTML Hydra. Not long after, Zadoc, in a rare moment of usefulness, spotted a small pool of water. After making sure it was safe, we filled our nearly empty canteens. I let Nolan and Lawrence untie Kendai and haul the dazed kid into the pool for a much-needed bath. Several miles immersed in mule exhaust had not improved his charisma any.
I stood and contemplated the ruin ahead as Zadoc and the others prepared lunch.
"Pastrami on rye, He Who In Contemplation Makes Descarte Look Like Des Horse?"
"Pastrami! Don't bother me with luncheon meat, Zadoc. We're treading on thin ground even talking about luncheon meat."
"I don't follow you, He Who Leads By Example."
I pointed to the object in the distance.
"Do you know what that is, Zadoc?"
"It appears to be the ruins of a Viking long-boat, Oh Sharp of Eye and Sharper of Wit. But what is it doing in the middle of the Plains of the Endless September, Knower of All Conundrums, Riddles and Knock-Knock Jokes?"
"It marks the edge of the the third and final Danger of the Plain, Zadoc. Think: what Unnamable Horror are Vikings most associated with?"
Zadoc puzzled a moment. "Lutefisk?"
"Err... okay, I'll give you that one. What other Unnamable Horror are Vikings most associated with?"
Zadoc puzzled a further moment. I could tell he'd got it when the colour drained from his face.
"Not Sp- "
"NO, YOU FOOL! Don't say the word! It is the Gruesome Thing That Greps that lies beneath those sands! Our survival depends on not waking it! That ship is the crumbled legacy of Rudolph the Red, a Viking warrior who thought he was a match for the Ancient Thing beneath the sands."
"Well, Mighty One, he wasn't very bright in the first place, thinking he could sail a long boat across the desert."
"That's beside the point, Zadoc."
Zadoc gazed at the ruin with undisguised, soul-wrenching horror. Or maybe the pastrami had gone off and was disagreeing with him, he's hard to read at times.
"Oracle Most Stupendous, how can we pass beyond this Horror and Accomplish Our Urgent Mission, hopefully with our lower intestines still snugly ensconced within our torsos?"
"I am not without a plan, Zadoc. Ah, the others are back..."
As Nolan and Lawrence led a dripping wet, sweeter-smelling and still slightly-dazed Kendai back, I called everyone around and explained the situation. Using appropriate hand signals, I was able to convey the nature of the Hideousness that lay beyond. I then described my plan to the assembled priests.
"Number One: Don't mention the Horror's name. Number Two: we leave this enchanted parchment at the long-boat. As you can see, it has our names and email addresses on it, and some large magic Viking runes in the subject line which say 'REMOVE'."
The priests looked dubious. From the back I heard Kendai mock my stentorous tones: "Number Three: no poofters!"
"Shut up, Kendai. There is no Number..."
I turned to look back and then faced forward again.
"Hmmm. I have this feeling of...no, stop that. It's getting too silly. Anyway, trust me. I'm the Internet Oracle. It will work."
They looked slightly less dubious. I gave the order to pack up.
We were moving again shortly, and within an hour we reached the wreck. Zadoc taped the parchment to the side while the rest of us stayed well back, wary of the place's bad karma. Zadoc hurried back to the group, and we proceeded on.
"All right, group, total silence from here on in! Let's take no chances."
"Uh, hey, Oracle, dude? I got one question..."
"Make it quick and discreet, Kendai."
"If we go leaving our addresses around like that, aren't we gonna get spammed?"
The ground beneath us began to tremble, then buckle as a huge form rose out of the ground. My bowels turned to ice, as I even forgot to cuff Kendai.
An enormous shape burst through the ground ahead of us, rising several hundred feet into the air. The great worm had a vaguely helmet-like head, and an enormous metal ring piercing it part-way down the neck. It had a single orifice - a mouth? a blowhole? - at the top of its head.
"My God, it's the Towering Todger of SPAM!!"
"Mighty One, can we use the spice to control it?!"
"Before, maybe, but now that Ginger's left, there's no chance!"
"!!!!!!MAKE MONEY FA$T!!!!!!!"
Its voice thundered across the plain like an avalanche would, had it gotten lost on its way down the mountain and ended up in the middle of a plain. We covered our ears, trying to stop its maddening calls.
"XXX HORNY LESBIAN ESKIMOS!!!!! CUM TO OUR ELEET WAREZ SITE, D0000D!!!!!!"
The Horrible Thing would drive us all insane with its bizarre cries, then drag us back into the sands with it.
"Must... resist... spammers! Must.... mallet... arg!!"
"URGENT WARNING ABOUT GAZONGA VIRUS!!! IT WILL ERASE YOUR FILES AND MAKE YOU STERILE!!!! NEW $$$ OPPERTUNITTY, NOT MLM!!!!"
"A ha ha ha ha!! It's totally legal! It says it is! I'll make bazillions in just a matter of weeks! HA HA HA!!!"
"Hemming! Dave, for God's sake, don't let it get to you!! You must be strong, man!!!"
Zadoc had fallen off his mule and was curled in a ball muttering about the horny Eskimos.
Our last chance was the Staff of Zot. Leaving my ears unprotected, I pulled it from its holster and fired it at the Todger's metal piercing.
$$$ ZOT!!!! ZOT!!! ZOTZOTZOT!!!
I held onto the trigger, giving it all the juice I had. The ring was engulfed in blue lighting, and the Todger writhed as the odour of cooked sausage filled my nostrils. With a final shriek about getting paid to surf the web, the beast sank back into the Earth, leaving a gaping hole which was quickly filled with sand.
I dropped the wand, feeling shell shocked. It was several minutes before I could clear my head, many more before the others were able to form coherent sentences. The others peeled Zadoc off the ground and threw him over the back of his mule.
"Ian... casualties?"
"Just ol' wormy 'ere. An' 'e'll bounce back, always does, the buggah. Is... that thing... dead?"
"No. I just chased it off. It'll go back to sleep. We'll still have to be careful what we say. KENDAI!!!"
"Uh oh. Dude, not the mule?"
"No. I have something worse in mind. Now SHUT UP until we get there!"
We rode on.
- - -
It wasn't long after that we passed out of the Plains of the Endless September. At long last we sighted the drug store. I lead us into the parking lot, where we tied up the mounts. I called the priests together just in front of the door.
"All right, we've reached our destination. It's been a long hard journey. But it's not over yet. You three, go across the street to the grocery store and buy us supplies and pastrami for the trip back. KENDAI!!"
"Heh heh heh.. 'long and hard'..."
"Kendai! Here! Now!"
"Uh.., yeah, oh, uh, big, uh Oracle, dude?"
"Here's the money. Get in there, buy two boxes of the 'Girlex Ultra Feminine' with wings - the pink box, not the blue - and no looking at the dirty magazines!!"
Kendai's spotty face went white as his robe.
"Oh, no! Man, no, you wouldn't - you can't - make me buy - "
"You bet I can, punk. I'm sending you, a teenage male brimming with testosterone, into a drug store to buy two pink boxes of 'Girlex Ultra Feminine' pads with wings. Wearing the rather dress-like priestly robes, to boot."
"Man, this sucks! Next year I'm workin' in my uncle's body shop!"
"Remember, the pink box. Not the blue."
Shamefaced, Kendai slouched into the drug store. The priests, especially the priestesses, were having a hard time not snickering. I understand, it's hard to snicker when you're laughing your ass off.
I heard the beep of a car horn and turned around. It was Lisa, behind the wheel of my exotic European convertible.
"Orrie! Oh, you came all this way? You're so sweet."
"HI LISA!"
"Oh, hi, priests!" The priests looked moony-eyed. The priestesses mimed gagging.
"You got the car back."
"Yah, Og finished early! He borrowed the right size of club from Kendai's uncle so we didn't have to wait. I already got my stuff. Want a ride back?"
"Sure!"
I vaulted into the passenger seat beside her. I turned to the priests. "Hoi, Ian! You're in charge on the way back. Zadoc!"
"Yes, Most Wise Consort of the Groovy Chick in the Red Convertible?"
"When Kendai comes out, you're in charge of telling him to return the pads."
"With pleasure, Oh Mighty Oracle!"
"Excellent." I turned to Lisa. "Home, my sweet?"
"Whatever, Orrie."
We drove on.
</epic>
                     JIM, ghod bless us every one

 


10.

The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

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------=_NextPart_000_0086_01C0288E.99285C00--

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

Darkness.
From the shadows stepped a silhouette, ever so slowly making his careful way upon the marble floor. Step, pause, step, careful not to make the slightest sound. A scuff of the foot, the creak of a bone, the waft of air escaping lips - none of this could be afforded. Shoeless (for sneakers would squeak and betray his position), Kendai made his trip to the Oracular Terminal.
He knew better. Obviously. If he didn't, he would have just walked right up to the console, set off billions of alarms, tripped millions of triggers, turned on all the lights, and therefore been stopped before he could so much as answer a single question. But not this time. The power had been temporarily cut to everything but the computer; there was no stopping him now.
He hoped.
He reached the Terminal, and sat down in the cushioned throne. He winced at the squeak as the padding adjusted to his particular posterior, and tensed for a moment as he considered leaving, giving up on the whole idea. But the chamber was silent, and no guards seemed to be about. No, it was still safe.
He flicked on the monitor, squinting at the sudden glare, and then the hard drive. The anti-noise buffers kicked in, rendering the scene completely silent as the system began to make its seemingly slow way to activation. Finally, the auto-loader punched up the e-mail program, and a light flashed: You Have Mail!
He smiled. At last, he could be an incarnation. "Dude," he muttered, congratulating himself, "most awesome work."
He was so enthralled when he double-clicked on the first message that he didn't even notice the white hands until it was too late.
- - -
Zadoc was up, as usual - or rather, it should be said he was down, since he was on his hands and knees attempting to get a particularly nasty zot stain out of the kitchen tile. The burn mark stretched from just in front of the cutting board clear over to the refrigerator -- practically seven feet! -- and was refusing all regular avenues of previous success. The smell of burnt flesh hung over the air, hence the main reason Zadoc was attempting to clean. It was immensely difficult to so much as prepare food in such an atmosphere, let alone eat a midnight snack.
He dunked the sponge once more in the semi-acidic soap solution and prayed the gloves would hold, just as he always did. Then out comes the sponge, rub rub rub, and no result. "Damn," he mumbled, "who was supposed to know the Oracle doesn't like humus?"
He was so intent on his work he didn't see the many pairs of black shoes until it was too late to scream.
- - -
Lisa was curled up in the dark, trying to get some sleep. She always had trouble dozing off, due to her libido, and even the seventeen sessions they had gone through tonight barely took the edge off. But, as usual, she had to be careful she didn't tire anyone out too much, ever since that one night in Philly where she had squeezed that poor man to his death. Ah, well, at least he had died satisfied, which was more than she could say. It wasn't easy being a net.sex.goddess, that was for sure.
She shivered a bit, and tried to pull some more covers from her Orrie's grasp. Surprisingly, she was successful, and then she realized the main reason - he wasn't there. Well, he only needed about fifteen minutes of rest per day, maximum; he was probably downstairs answering more questions. She closed her eyes and tried to concentrate on getting some rest.
She was almost out when she suddenly smelled chloroform, and from then on nothing would wake her for a while.
- - -
The Oracle was restless. He had sent Zadoc to get him a midnight snack over an hour ago, and there was still no sign of the lazy bugger. He started to head into the kitchen, and noticed the abandoned bucket and sponge just before he stepped in. Wait just a minute...
His omnipotence didn't help him this time, and he was knocked over the head with his own Zot Staff just as he caught sight of several MIMEs.
- - -
All four woke up, and instantly regretted doing so. Heads pounded, curse words were muttered, and the bonds were just a bit too tight. Worse yet, they were surrounded by the MIMEs of Format.
Will our heroes survive? Will the Oracle be able to fight off the MIMEs with both his arms and his legs tied behind his back, and the Zot Staff nowhere to be found? Who is behind all of this nonsense, anyway?
That's what you get for sending MIMEs to the Oracle, and now you may never know. Unless, of course, if you also sent a duplicate message (#QsXa4Ct), in which case you'll find out shortly...

 


11.

The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

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And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

When we last saw our heroes, they had been trussed up like turkeys by the infamous MIMEs of Format, captured unawares in the middle of the night whilst separated in the Oracular Temple. The Internet Oracle, Lisa the net.sex.goddess, Zadoc the Head Priest, Kendai the, er, something, and of course the several dozen Temple Guards are bound in restraints made of refined null queries, courtesy of -- who? Who would be so devious, so dastardly, so forthright in capturing the Oracle in his own home?
From the darkness, a slow and hearty chuckling, interspersed with the occasional hacking cough. Perhaps we're going to find out all too soon!
"Well well well," intoned a semi-deep, quasi-rough voice. "If it isn't my old pal, the Internet Oracle. Nice of you to -- he he -- drop on in."
"The pleasure's all mine," said the Oracle, still managing to come off with an attitude that practically demanded respect, and all saw the MIMEs catch themselves before bowing to him. "It's always nice to have guests. You should really have called first, though; there's nothing I hate worse than people who just barge on in as if they own the place."
"Tough talk for a deity wrapped in unescapable null queries," grumbled the voice, and a large silhouette shifted from side to side. "Do you know who I am?"
"Of course. You're the Anti-Oracle."
Sure enough, Rush stepped into the light, and the MIMEs of Format all too readily bowed and curtsied before his huge self. "That's right, Orrie. I just wanted you to know who the guy was that has the ability to take you out. I'm tired of the endless insults, the put-downs, the 'fat guy' jokes. I want respect. Everyone grovels before you, so they figure since I'm the opposite, I don't require any of that. I'm sick of it. I'm taking over your little operation."
The Oracle just grinned. "Oh really now? And just how are you going to do that?"
"The MIMEs of Format have suffered defeat at your hands time and time again. It wasn't too hard to persuade them to join forces with me. Separately, you can handle us. But together? I don't think so."
The Oracle grinned even wider. "So you think you're ready to step into my shoes?"
"A-a-ah! Where's that grovel?"
"No grovel for you today, Rush; not now or ever. Do you really think you can handle my queries, day in, day out?"
"Not a problem!"
"How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?"
Rush staggered backwards for a minute; the impossibility of the question, and the implications of answering it, ever, hit him like a freight train to the gut -- which, really, would be an improvement.
Zadoc gasped at his master's use of the "W Word" without the asterisks, but was quick to catch on. "How much work could a net work net if a net work could net work?"
Kendai chimed in, "How many monks could a chipmunk chip if a chipmunk could chip monks?"
Lisa joined the fray. "How much tail could a cocktail catch --"
With each question, Rush backed up a step, then another, then another. The null questions, powerless under such ruthless insanity, began to dissolve, and all too soon -- for the MIMEs, at any rate -- the entire Temple team was free to do as they pleased.
The Oracle advanced on the Anti-Oracle, towering over him, pressing him further and further back, until he was pressed up against the wall.
"What say you now, Rush? Do you think you could really deal with those kind of questions?" Kendai, Zadoc, and Lisa were still rattling off queries from memory, each having been subjected to the Oracle's complaints of such insanity. Only now did they realize the need. "Do you still think it's no problem at all?"
"I will be in power!" said the Anti-Oracle, cringing even as he realized how much it would hurt if he was mistaken. "MIMEs, attack!"
The white-and-black costumed fiends descended upon the Oracle and his companions, wave after wave. No sooner would one be knocked down than three more would take its place. "Dude!" exclaimed Kendai. "No way can we win this one, man!"
Lisa pummeled MIME after MIME, but even she began to realize the fruitlessness of their endeavour. "There's too many of them, Orrie!"
Zadoc whipped out a log of pastrami from the freezer, but even he was having trouble, as there was barely enough room to swing the deadly luncheon meat. "Oh Grandiose One, I fear for our lives!"
"I get the picture already!" cried the Oracle, delivering a perfect roundhouse to three MIMEs at once. "Try to make your way to the Throne! I have something there that might help!"
Gradually, stepping over bodies and beating any of the silent white- faced menaces that barred their way, they made it into the next room, and the next, and the next. At long last they reached the Throne room, and the Oracle ducked under one MIME's punch, gave an uppercut to another, and opened a secret drawer underneath the Oracular Terminal. He then pulled out a special staff, held it over his head, and shouted, "SGV5IE9yYWNsZSEgI!"
And the MIMEs vanished.
The Internet Oracle tucked the staff underneath his arm and marched back to the kitchen, companions in tow, where they found the Anti-Oracle, much reduced in size, cringing in a corner.
"Just as I thought," said the Oracle. "He's been changed."
"Man, I -so- do not get this," muttered Kendai.
"It's very simple. He was the Anti-Oracle, supposedly my opposite. But what, really, is the opposite of an omnipotent deity who answers questions?"
Lisa spoke up. "A mortal who poses questions!"
"Right. In other words, a supplicant." He bent down and shook the supplicant gently by the shoulder. "Supplicant? Oh, supplicant?"
"He made me," groaned the now-ex-anti-Oracle. "He took over. I had no control."
"I know, I know," crooned the Oracle. "But that's what happens when you use MIME and html-email; you open yourself up to a whole range of bad things."
"H-how did you defeat him?"
"The Staff of UUENCODE, of course. By speaking a line of their own language and holding the Staff, it was all too easy to reduce them to the nothingness from which they were spawned."
"How can I ever repay you?"
"You owe Kendai an incarnation, Zadoc a stronger soap, Lisa a good night's sleep, and the Oracle a midnight snack."

 


12.

[Unaware that POTU had written his own followup to #1188-04, I also provided one. The main difference is, mine thickens the plot further rather than bringing matters to a satisfactory conclusion. If anyone wants to take up the baton, let one of us know. We're game if you are - Ed.]

The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

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> How many way to obtain the documents in Internet
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------ =_NextPart_001_01C03CA0.3D44AD1E--

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

In last week's exciting episode, our four heroes - the Oracle, Lisa, Zadoc and Kendai - were captured and tied up by the sinister MIMEs of Format. How can they survive with the Zot Staff nowhere to be found? What is the MIMes' evil plan? Now read on...
- - -
The Oracle looked around to get his bearings. The cobwebs, the pipes running along the ceiling, the heaps of empty crates, oily rags and long-forgotten digests mouldering in corners - all these indicated they were somewhere in the cellars beneath the Oracular Temple. Around them, pale and silent as lurkers, hovered the MIMEs, their white-painted faces taking on an eerie spectral aspect in the gloom.
Zadoc struggled furiously against his bonds. The Oracle gazed briefly at him with something approaching despair, then stood up and stretched his cramped muscles. Zadoc's already loose jaw dropped further.
"M-master! How... how...?"
The Oracle interrupted his floundering efforts at speech. "Zadoc, we are dealing here with MIMEs. What do you suppose they tied us up with?"
Kendai got there first. "Imaginary ropes!"
"Precisely."
Lisa and Zadoc also rose - Zadoc no further than his knees, as he was still mindful of being in the Oracle's august presence - both looking not a little sheepish.
The Oracle turned to Kendai. "Well now, um..." as ever, the one lacuna in his omniscience was remembering the name of Zadoc's spotty assistant, "sonny Jim," he ended lamely. "Since you appear to be relatively on the ball, perhaps you'd like to take the lead in overpowering our captors."
"You got it, dude!" Kendai leapt up and rushed at the nearest MIME. He crashed headfirst into an unseen barrier and fell back, unconscious.
"As I suspected," said the Oracle mildly. "They took the precaution of trapping us inside an invisible box."
"What do they want?" asked Lisa.
"Perhaps to watch us die slowly as the air runs out," mused the Oracle. "Otherwise, I imagine they'll make their demands known presently. I suggest we wait and find out."
"Is that the best you can do?" Lisa exclaimed in exasperation.
"The rest of the priesthood should be up and about by now. They'll notice we've disappeared and instigate a search, if that makes you any happier."
- - -
Morning.
Darkmage ambled down the corridor from the priests' cells, scratching his stubble. Was it too early in the day to crack a tube, he wondered? Bloody stupid question, he chided himself - it's never too early for a shot of the amber nectar! He turned into a side passage that led to the refectory, and found himself staring down at a large blob of fluff.
He knelt down to study the thing. It was a ball of purple fur about two feet in diameter, with two large feet at the bottom and a pair of goggly, rolling eyes near the top. As he bent over it, the manifestation squawked: "Where's the faq? Where's the faq?"
"Jeez!" Darkmage spat. "A goddam cluebie!"
This was bad - where there was one cluebie, there were bound to be more. He edged past the raucous creature and ran down the passageway. Turning a corner, he found his way blocked by a dozen more blobs of fluff.
- - -
Inside the glass box, the air was beginning to grow stale. Lisa judged it to be at least five hours since her last sexual encounter. Her hormones, which normally coursed through her body at an energetic canter anyway, were galloping. She tried to damper her ardor by reminding herself that Zadoc and Kendai were the only available partners. Normally this worked a treat, but as the minutes dragged by, even these two specimens were beginning to take on an unnerving allure.
To distract herself, she turned to the Oracle. Indicating their ever impassive captors, she complained, "That bunch of clowns is starting to get on my nerves. Can't you do something?"
"Not without my Zot Staff," murmured the Oracle.
"What is it with you and that lousy staff? I remember a time when you just had to point your finger to atomise supplicants who displeased you."
"True, but then some D&D-obsessed incarnation invented the staff, and it was rapidly established as an in-joke. About the only thing I can do with a pointed finger nowadays is pick my nose. There you have the danger of in-jokes: they restrict my freedom."
"Great Master," cried Zadoc, "ye who transcend all in-jokes, even the one about your being a fat old bald guy with a white beard - could that be why the MIMEs have captured us?"
"In order to force a new in-joke on me?" The Oracle considered the idea. "Makes sense. Zadoc, for a moment there you were almost intelligent. I wonder what they have in mind?"
"Perhaps an intelligent Zadoc?" the high priest suggested hopefully.
"Dream on. No, it could be almost anything but that. A new character. A new attribute. Say, a speech impediment for yours truly - maybe they'll make me talk like Elmer Fudd. Whatever it is, we won't like it, so make sure you don't play their game. We must be vewwy, vewwy careful..."
"Stop that!" Lisa squealed.
"Sorry. Couldn't resist."
- - -
"The meeting will come to order!"
Steve Kinzler leaned across the lectern to look down at the worried faces of the Oracular priests. Silence descended on the Temple's council chamber.
"We are faced with a double crisis," Kinzler announced. "In the first place, the Oracle has vanished, along with his three most tried and trusted in-jokes. Already, the question queue is building up to critical mass."
Alyce Wilson asked from the floor, "Have you activated all back-up incarnations?"
The walls of the council chamber groaned; priests looked around anxiously. Kinzler steered them back to the matter in hand.
"Yes, but in the absence of Lisa, Zadoc and Kendai, they're having to rely on originality, so they're not managing to clear the questions as fast as they come pouring in."
"Has anyone tried looking for Orrie?" asked Tim Chew. Again, the walls of the chamber groaned ominously.
"We're having problems getting around the Temple at present. Which brings me onto the second crisis..."
With a rending crash, one wall of the council chamber gave way. A tidal waves of colorful fluffy bodies - some pink, some yellow, some turquoise - erupted into the room, knocking most of those present off their feet.
"...We appear to have an infestation of cluebies," Kinzler concluded unnecessarily.
The air was filled with screeching cries: "How to use email!" "Help needed with Oracle database application!" "Please tell me everything about ancient history for an assignment tomorrow!" "WHERE TO GET N00D GIFS!!1!" "I got this message from this kid with terminal cancer..." "Is it true you can get Ebola virus from Word macros?"
Kinzler regained his feet and plucked a cluebie off his shoulder. "This remind anyone of anything?" he asked no-one in particular.
"Yeah," Mike Nolan answered him. "Star Trek TOS, 'The Trouble with Tribbles'."
"What I said about incarnations and originality... Say, do you really think I look like Captain Kirk?"
"Almost indistinguishable, boss."
- - -
The heat inside the glass box was becoming unbearable. Lisa had already divested herself of most of her attire, making Zadoc and Kendai hotter still. They were all having difficulty breathing. Only the Oracle seemed unaffected. He had been busy exchanging gestures with one of their captors for a while now.
"What's he say?" Lisa demanded irritably.
"He says: <gesture> <gesture> <run on the spot> <gesture> <sniff flower>..."
"In English!"
"He says: 'How many way to obtain the documents in Internet'."
"And what's that supposed to mean?"
"That he doesn't mime grammar very well."
Lisa loved the Oracle more than words can express, but there were times she wanted to rip his head off and play petanque with it. She tried to control her exasperation.
"What do they want?"
"It's as we feared. They want an informative answer to a serious question."
"So give it and let's get out of here! Autoerotic asphyxiation is one thing, but death by slow suffocation is going to do nothing for my sex drive!"
The Oracle favored her with a smile of mixed affection and sorrow. "Don't you get it? This is the in-joke they're trying to force on me: the Oracle giving proper answers to newless cluebie questions. It would undermine everything we stand for, and wipe out eleven years of hard work by Kinzler and countless others."
"Master," cried Zadoc, "although I take immeasurable pride in being your third longest-lived in-joke, I would gladly be snuffed out of existence to help prevent such an abomination!"
"Not me, man!" screamed Kendai. "Answer the friggin' question!"
"You would annul the self-sacrificing genius of generations of incarnations to save your own worthless fictional hide?"
"In a nanosecond!"
"We could get their addresses," Lisa suggested, more breathlessly than entirely necessary. "The incarnations, I mean. I could pop round - I'm sure I could come up with something to make it up to them..."
The Oracle found his resolve wavering. "If only Og were here," he muttered.
"Why isn't he?" asked Lisa.
"The incarnation writing this episode hates Og jokes."
"We're doomed! Doomed!" Zadoc wailed.
The Oracle made up his mind. Turning to their captors, he beckoned to one of them. As the gaunt figure approached, the Oracle began to gesture...
- - -
Scene: the Temple's council chamber, filled up to chest height with a heaving sea of cluebies. The noise of their incessant chatter makes any further discussion impossible. Most of the remaining priests are unable even to move against the press of fluffy bodies, and some of the shorter ones - such as Kirsten Chevalier - have been submerged.
Kinzler - shirt partly torn away from its collar to reveal his manly chest, a smudge of red at the corner of his mouth - looks even more like Captain Kirk, if such a thing is humanly possible. "I sometimes think I've created a monster," he murmurs.
At his shoulder, Otis Viles grins humorlessly and bats aside a cluebie insisting he visit its travelling salesman jokes Web site. "Could be worse, boss. At least there aren't any Rodents Of Unusual Size in this answer."
From the direction of the doorway, a piercing, squeaky, feminine voice cuts across the din, freezing the blood in their veins.
"Don't speak too soon, hairless one!"
- - -
Who is the terrifying newly arrived in-joke? Will the Oracle succumb to seriousness? What else can go wrong? And just how lacking in creative imagination can incarnations get? Find out in next week's devastating instalment, entitled:
MIME'S A LARGE ONE!!!
Oh, and Lisa - if you still want my address, it's #@*D}}4\NO CARRIER

 


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