Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Dec 27, 2005

Fiction: Eberhard Brome

As Told by Dakota Sue

I was still a little iffy about changing my career path so dramatically, so I decided to go for some legal advice.  I’m not entirely sure why people do this.  I think the idea is that your lawyer is supposed to assure you that you’re going to end up naked, bankrupt, incarcerated and publicly humiliated, and if this doesn’t kill your enthusiasm he’s supposed to have you committed.  In any case, I was pretty sure I could rely on him to talk me out of it.

My lawyer isn’t bad, although he’d be better if he knocked off the theoretical physics. He won’t hear a word against it; he refuses to stop until he figures out how to get back to his own universe.  Eberhard Brome got shunted here from an alternate timeline a couple of years ago.  He was a lawyer there, too, and got involved in some godawful debacle of a case that seemed likely to ruin his career, so he decided to appeal to a higher power, namely this fellow called (really) Notorious Maxwell, who’d invented a Theoretical Future Generator, aka Wish Machine.

Eb paid him to swing the case and the machine worked perfectly, apart from that teensy little side effect of transporting him into an entirely different universe.  He appeared, with his client, in the middle of The Jerry Springer Show.  Jerry made them tell their story and hammed it up big to the crowd.  Somewhere there is a video of Eb with a truly appalled expression on his face as he’s being hugged and cried-on by an enormous lady wearing nothing but a bikini.  So, he won the case in the court of public opinion.  I don’t think I need to add any further instructive commentary about being careful what you wish for.

Eb hates it here, he cannot stand all the Americans.  I didn’t understand his complaint at first, so I asked him, “Eb, aren’t you an American?”

“I’m British!” he yelled, mortally offended.  I always thought that if you were born in America, you were an American.  It turned out that in Eb’s original universe there never was any Revolutionary War.  If you call someone “American” there, what you really mean is that they’re an Indian.  No, not from India!  I meant like someone whose ancestors came from America.  No, not me!  Okay, look, I knew what I meant, so if you’ll just be quiet maybe I can finish this story before next week.

Anyway, I then asked Eb why he didn’t just move to Britain.  He said he tried it but the football was worse than the Americans.  Hey, don’t look at me, I don’t claim to understand it, I’m just telling you what he said.  So instead he does experiments with theoretical physics and pays for it by giving legal advice.  

In order to avoid too much contact with Americans he lives in this little cabin out in the middle of nowhere and does his consulting over the internet.  There was an amusing incident last year when he got arrested as a suspected terrorist after a failed experiment exploded.  (I warned him about those sunglasses and hooded sweatshirts.)  He got off because technically he’s a super, although the only power I’d ever seen him exhibit was an amazing ability to narrowly escape being blown up every week or so.

There’s no road to Eb’s place that will handle my rig, so I parked it down at the old Boy Scout campground and hiked instead.  It’s only about three miles and sometimes it’s nice to stretch your legs a bit, so I didn’t mind.

The cabin was dark when I arrived and the door was locked, but there was usually a key under the porch unless it’d been stolen by raccoons again, so after grubbing around in the leaves for a while I climbed up the stairs to let myself in.  I grabbed a Coke out of his fridge and went into the living room to sit down, where I encountered the naked man.

Ever see Michelangelo’s David?  This was that guy.  He looks better in real life.  He was lying sprawled on a divan covered with leopard skins, a piece of furniture I was pretty sure Eb had never even thought about owning, and tossing what looked like a shot-put idly from hand to hand.

“So who are you?” I asked.  “New roommate?”

He snatched the round stone out of the air and lazily raised himself on his elbows to look at me.  “Heed, Human, you hail Herthagon, Games-Hero, anointed by Hera, speak thus immoderately and lose thy head.”

I scowled, but sometimes you just have to be diplomatic however much you might prefer otherwise.  “As we are both guests in this house of Brome, if Herthagon finds my speech offensive, he might convey me to our mutual host so I might conclude my business and remove myself from his presence.”

“Well, I don’t know, what’s the magic word?”

I blinked.  “Please?”

He chuckled.  “You are acquainted with Mr. Brome, I take it?”

“He’s my lawyer.”

Herthagon shook his head sadly.  “I fear you may wish to obtain another; he has offended lovely Aphrodite and must face me tomorrow upon the field of battle.”

“Really?  What did he do?”

“I know not, I was in California until called here to act as Champion.  Knowing Aphrodite, he may simply have sneezed at the wrong time.”

He shrugged elegantly.  “He could have apologized.  If you wish you may act as his champion, but you must first pass several trials.”

“Like what?”

“I am not permitted to say.”

Ah, hell.  Eb’s not really a great friend, but you can’t just leave people to get killed because some pagan goddess is ticked at them without at least making an effort.

“All right, all right.  Bring on the trials.”

Herthagon sprang lightly to his feet and led me through the house to the back door.  When I followed him through I stepped out into the middle of a wide, dusty field under a blazing sun.  Not far away stood another naked man.  I was beginning to detect a theme here.  This particular gentleman was shorter and older than Herthagon with a permanently dissatisfied expression.  He took one look at me and snorted, then pointed to a nearby set of benches and armor stands.  “Get dressed!”

I sighed and peeled out of my clothes, picked up a pot of olive oil and coated myself with it, and then grabbed a couple of handfuls of dust to get the oil off my hands.  The older fellow snorted again and Herthagon nodded, so apparently my guess was correct.

The three of us trooped over to a wide track where a skinny young guy was warming up.  He started to smirk when he saw me and announced, “You’re paler than a dead fish!” I stuck my tongue out at him and he laughed.  “I am Hermes, piscine one.  Are you ready to race?”

“Sure, although you’ll beat me hands down.  I’ve heard of you.”

“We will see.”

“Line!” bellowed the old guy.  I barely had enough time to step up next to Hermes before he howled “race!” and we were off.

I dug my toes in and sprinted, making it maybe a quarter of the way down the track before I realized Hermes was tagging along right behind my left shoulder and grinning at me.  I slowed down, hoping he’d go past, but he slowed down, too, his unnerving grin widening slightly.  Finally I came to a dead stop and glared at him.

“After you,” I announced, gesturing down the track.

“No, after you.

I opened my mouth, closed it again, shrugged, and started running with the mad grinning godling a half-step behind me.  At least, until about five feet before the finish line, when he abruptly darted around me and finished first.  Twit.

I frowned at Herthagon.  “What was the point of that?”  He handed me his shot-put solemnly.

“Throw!” the old guy howled, and before I could react a Titan picked me up and chucked me over the field.  I got the breath knocked out of me when I landed, but otherwise I wasn’t much hurt.  After lying in the dust for a while and wheezing, I got to my feet and looked up at the Titan, who was bent over laughing.  So I threw the shot-put at him and, not surprisingly, missed.  Still laughing, the Titan disappeared over the horizon.

I trotted back to Herthagon and the old man, to be handed a javelin and pointed at some targets further down the field.  I groaned inwardly; my aim is terrible, if you couldn’t figure that out after I failed to hit a fifty-foot-tall Titan even when he was holding still.  There was no point in making a fuss about it, so I hurled the javelin as best I could.

Amazingly, it hit one of the targets, although not, of course, the one I was aiming for.  The roughly man-shaped wooden block opened its eyes, glared at the offending weapon, and charged me.  I booked it; that golem or whatever-it-was chased me across the field for almost half an hour before it gave up.

Finally Herthagon and the old guy came and found me where I was hiding behind a bench.  The old man grunted something and left.  I glanced at Herthagon.

“He says you passed.”

Some time later, as he was leading me to see Eb after I’d had a bath and been given a clean tunic and sandals, I asked him, “So what was the point of all that, anyway?  To see if I’d lose my temper?”

“I couldn’t say,” was the only response.

“Do you think you could be any less helpful?”

He paused, then turned around to look at me.  “Do you think I like this any more than you do?  I was enjoying my career in Hollywood when I was yanked here by a goddess in a snit, possibly so that I can fight and die for her pleasure.”  He sighed. “Entering Aphrodite’s service seemed appealing when I was young and trying to break into show business.  It gives you a real edge in the looks department.  Unfortunately it winds up costing you more than it’s worth.”

“Hey, you signed up for this of your own free will, something that can’t be said for either Eb or myself.”

“I know, I know.”

Eb peeked out of his cell further down the hallway.  I was hoping he’d look sort of happy to see me, but he just gave me a reproachful look.  “Well if that doesn’t beat everything.  What are you doing here?”  Although he claims to be British, Eb doesn’t have much of an accent.  He sounds like he’s from Ohio.

“Nice to see you, too, Eb.”

“Answer the question!”

“I thought I might stand as your champion during tomorrow’s festivities.”

Instantly the furious glare dissolved as his face lit up.  “Really?”

“I figured I was marginally better suited for it than you.”

He looked suspicious.  “So what’s in it for you?”

“Two words.  Ree fund.”

“A refund?  What sort of refund?”

“The sort where I get back all the money I’ve paid you.”

“What, all of it?”


“Really all of it?!” he was starting to sound a bit panicky.  “That’s a lot of money!”

“Hey, I could leave and let Herthagon cut your head off.”  That notable flexed his muscles helpfully.

“This is base extortion!”

“Take it or leave it.”

“Fine!” Eb shouted and threw himself down on his cot.

Herthagon shook his head.  “Later.”  I took a seat on my own pallet and leaned back against the wall.

“So what happened, exactly?” I asked Eb.  There was no response, so I picked up a pebble and pelted him with it.  “Hey, bean-brain, what happened?!”

“Ow!  Hmph.  Aphrodite and Hephaestus were having an argument and I walked in on it.”

“I need details!”

He sighed.  “I accidentally created a spatial vortex during one of my experiments, and the next thing I know this necklace falls out of it and hits me on the head.  Five seconds later this woman appears and offers me love, wealth, happiness, you name it, if I’ll just give it to her.  Then a big guy shows up and says that it already belongs to him.  Then the argument started.”

“Oh, let me guess, you offered to consult?”

“Exactly.  Come on, I’m a lawyer, what do you expect?  Aphrodite yelled ‘mortal hubris!’ and here I am.  I hate gods.”

“Heh.  What were they arguing about, anyway?”

“Oh, Aphrodite commissioned this necklace from Hephaestus, but when it was finished he changed his mind about the payment.  Aphrodite refuses to pay on the new terms, so Hephaestus refuses to give her the necklace.”

“Lord, sounds like something from Judge Judy.”

He snorted.  “I will never understand your fascination with daytime television.  So why are you here?”

“I wanted you to help me sell my rig.  I figured, since you arranged the purchase for me, you could help me out.”

“Getting out of the trucking business?”

I shrugged.  “Something like that.  I’m going to get some sleep.”

The fight wasn’t much to talk about, since I went into it with no intention of ever fighting fair.  I nailed Herthagon in the elbow first thing, robbing him of his sword, and after that it was a bunch of undignified rolling around and pummeling, which ended, predictably, with me sitting on him and twisting his arm until he gave in.  Aphrodite was irked.

“What a useless servant you are!  I’m of half a mind to give you to Hades for a while!”

Hephaestus rumbled, “Give me the necklace, lawyer-man, and let us be done with this, although I would rather have an engine in any case,” he continued, glaring at Aphrodite.  She snarled.

Eb started doing some sort of pantomime in my direction, but I was way ahead of him.  “Miss Aphrodite, could I trade you for your servant?”

She blinked at me, nonplussed.  “Trade?  What?”

“Well, I have this semi I’m looking to get rid of, I figured you might have a use for it.”

She glared.  “What possible use could I have for some dirty . . .”

“Well, for the engine at least.” I interrupted.  There was a long pause.  Gods are slow on the uptake.  Then she sniffed, although there was a greedy gleam in her eye.

“It’s probably worth more than he is, however dirty.  Take your men and go!”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Thanks,” Herthagon managed as we limped back to Eb’s house.  “I owe you.”  He smirked.  “Do you have any particular sort of payment in mind?”

I glared at him.  “Cash please.  Those rigs are expensive.”  He pouted a bit, but didn’t say anything.

Eb chuckled lewdly.  “And here Miss Trash-Talker turns out to be a prude.”

“I’ll thank you to keep your opinions to yourself.”

“You’ll thank me?”

“Yeah, because I know you’re going to do it.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because only an American would be so crude as to make intimations about the personal life of one of his lady friends.”

Eb shut up.

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