Author: Chris Cook
Willow, Tara, Buffy and Faith poked their heads out of the door of their phone booth to find it raining, and themselves surrounded by an army of women in white body armour. Themselves looked back in confusion.
"That's us," Tara said. The other Willow, Tara, Buffy and Faith looked at them, then the other Willow jumped excitedly.
"This is it!" she yelped. "The time travel thingy, with the- okay, what did I say?"
"I think we went too far forward," the Willow in the phone booth said.
"Yeah," Faith nodded, looking at the top of the page, "we skipped a chapter, this is the start of Chapter Ten."
"Uh, three!" the other Willow exclaimed. "No! I mean, not three- uh, think of a colour- blue- no yellow- no- argh!" The other Tara shook her head, and sighed affectionately.
"Come on," Tara said, "let's try this again."
"Quickly, what did I say before?" Willow Two demanded.
"That," Tara shrugged. "Don't worry about it sweetie. Buffy, remember?" she said to the Buffy next to her.
"Be ya later," Buffy waved, reaching for the door handle. The other Buffy tossed a key to her, which she caught just as the phone booth dematerialised.
The Mobile Phone
"'Be ya later'?" Faith asked.
"It's from some movie, or something," Buffy shrugged.
"Actually, that raises an interesting opportunity," Willow said.
"Yeah," Faith nodded. "If we'd stayed longer, me and that other me could have... hey, can we go back?"
"I was thinking more in terms of paradoxical physics," Willow frowned.
"So was I," Faith grinned. "I mean, if both of us could do that trick with-"
"We just saw our own future," Willow persisted. "We could find out once and for all if our destinies are irrevocably predetermined, or if we have the ability to alter our own fate. Suppose I were to remember what I - I mean, the other me, the future one - just said, and next time, when I'm her and she's me... no, she'd be further on in the future... I mean, when I'm her, and me here in the present, no actually me a minute ago, is, well, still me, but from my future point of view-"
Tara took her by the shoulders and kissed her soundly.
"Ahhh..." Willow sighed, after Tara finally let her go. "Thanks."
"Anytime," Tara grinned, and returned to trying to work the uncooperative time/space controls.
"You know," Faith said to Buffy, "if you ever have trouble with babbling, I could-"
"So if I remember what I just said, and when in the future we encounter our past selves... phew, got through it in one go that time," Willow congratulated herself, "what if, then, I deliberately say something other than what I said before? Wouldn't that be cool? Philosophically speaking?"
"I'd be more worried about how future us were surrounded by soldiers pointing blasters at them," Buffy pointed out.
"Oh," Willow frowned. "Yeah... Okay, so perhaps avoiding people with blasters for a while would be good. In fact, if we don't end up surrounded, that'd also serve as a good example of a predestination divergence..."
"What's this key for?" Buffy wondered, holding it up.
"Where'd you get that?" Tara asked.
"You - other you - told the other Buffy to give it to me, I think," Buffy said, puzzled.
"Maybe it's the key to my chastity belt?" Faith suggested. "It could be your future self telling you to give in to your overwhelming temptation to do me like a-"
"What chastity belt?" Buffy asked incredulously. "You're wearing combat boots and the Presidential Seal of Office on a necklace. And what is it with you and wanting to just have sex with everyone you meet?"
"I don't just have sex with everyone I meet!" Faith protested. "I've done a lot of people I haven't met - it's tricky, but if you can get a wormhole and enough lubricant-"
"Well, I'm not interested," Buffy said firmly. "My destiny is to save the universe from utter annihilation, and I don't have time for relationships."
"We're landing," Tara announced.
Willow, Tara, Buffy and Faith poked their heads out of the phone booth again, and got an eyeful. Their alternate selves and the legion of armoured women were still there, but certain details had changed. For one, there was a lot less armour than before. In fact, levels of clothing all around seemed to have taken a nosedive.
"Oops," Tara grimaced.
"This is our future?" Faith asked. "Yes!"
"Hey!" Buffy yelled at her alternate self. "Put something on! People are looking at you!"
"Sure are," Faith gloated.
"Would this be...?" Willow asked Tara.
"I'm guessing so," Tara nodded. "Come on you two, let's go." She dragged an irate Buffy and a salivating Faith back into the phone booth, which dematerialised again.
The Mobile Phone
"What?" Faith protested. "That wasn't our future? But they were us! I mean, the four of them that weren't several bajillion naked blondes-"
"Theoretically," Willow began, producing her ersatz lightsaber and using it to carve a complex quantum diagram in the wall, "every decision taken radiates along a number of quantum strings equal to the potential outcomes of the decision. So-"
"Like the 'what if Buffy never came to Sunnydale?' episode?" Buffy asked.
"Uh, yes, like that," Willow nodded.
"Or the 'what if Buffy and Faith had lots and lots of sex?' episode?" Faith added.
"Ye- no," Willow shook her head. "There's a theory that these quantum strings remain roughly parallel to each other, kind of like there's some sort of meta-historical imprint on them, so you can get alternate universes that are very close to the original, except for one key difference. Usually something easy to build an adventure story around, like what if everyone was evil instead of good, or-"
"So that was the universe where everyone is naked all the time?" Faith asked.
"Looks like," Tara said from the control panel.
"Let me go back!" Faith shouted, throwing herself at the closed doors and beating on them with her fists. "I belong there! It's my destiny! In fact you know what, I'm probably from that universe, and just ended up here through some bizarre wormhole thing, or-"
"Yeah, I'll buy that," Buffy grumbled. "Um, Tara, Willow? Do you guys know how to steer this thing?"
"I thought I did," Willow admitted. "But it's a bit more complicated than it says in the manual..."
"I just did a 'fleet course in elementary time travel," Tara shrugged. "It didn't cover this. According to these controls, there's five possible directions for the flow of time."
"Let me see that," Willow frowned. "Huh, I didn't notice that, no wonder I got it wrong first time..."
"Five?" Buffy asked.
"Forwards, backwards," Willow read, "sideways, Quantum Leap, and... in and out of Faith?"
"Hah!" Faith crowed, slapping her ass for emphasis. "I'm so sexy even the space-time continuum wants a piece of this!"
"Who built this thing?" Tara wondered.
"Stand aside!" Buffy declared. "Clearly this is the moment when I, Buffy Summers, save the day." She strode over to the control console, gave it a hearty kick, and hit the 'land' button.
The Moulin Rouge
Willow, Tara, Buffy and Faith poked their heads out of the phone booth a third time. They had landed unobserved in a darkened corner of the main concert hall, where a crowd in fancy dress were watching an exceedingly erotic stage performance by a dark-skinned woman wearing fake cat ears and a tail, and five assorted backup dancers, also in cat-themed costumes.
"Nice!" Faith grinned.
"Where the frilly heck are we now?" Willow demanded in a whisper.
"Uh... oh," Tara frowned, poking at the controls on her EyePod. "According to this, Smut Bunnies, chapter fifteen."
"But that hasn't been written yet!" Willow protested.
"I know, what's up with that?" Tara glared at no-one in particular, while Willow and Buffy together managed to drag Faith back into the phone booth.
The Mobile Phone
"Okay, clearly I save the universe at some later juncture," Buffy concluded, as Willow and Tara set to figuring out the controls once and for all.
"You know, I saw you and me in the crowd out there," Faith smirked.
"No, I did-"
"I mean, clearly this is yet another attempt to proposition me, so no," Buffy said, crossing her arms.
"Don't make me pout," Faith warned.
"You pout?" Buffy asked incredulously. "Bring it on!"
Faith pouted at Buffy, but was unprepared for Buffy's answering pout.
"I'm sorry!" she said at once, near-hysterical. "Whatever it is I'm sorry, I'll fix it, what do you need me to do, I... hey," she muttered, calming down. "That was... how the heck did you do that?"
"Aww-assisted pouting," Willow said over her shoulder. "Plus I'd say about a forty, maybe forty-five giga-puppy stare."
"That was pretty neat," Faith said, with genuine respect.
"Promise to stop trying to seduce me?" Buffy asked.
"Well... okay, how about I stop trying to seduce you a little?" Faith suggested.
"Alright, that's probably as good as I'm going to get," Buffy shrugged. Faith nodded in agreement as Buffy wandered over to see how Willow and Tara were getting on.
"Bet you all thought I was going to do a 'bring it on' joke back then, huh?" she said under her breath.
Willow, Tara, Buffy and Faith poked their heads out of the phone booth one last time, and quickly retreated, only to emerge again with umbrellas. The rain for which the planet had been named was teeming down like some kind of vertical tsunami. Tara led the way across the landing platform, able to see through the battering downpour thanks to her EyePod; Willow held her hand, and in turn led Buffy, who with some reluctance allowed Faith to hold her hand.
"You know, this'd fit- okay, okay, I'll give it a rest," Faith gave in, under the glare of a forming pout.
"Doesn't this planet have landmasses they could've built on?" Willow asked, nearly shouting over the din. Ocean stretched away in all directions around the domed habitat they had landed on.
"They did," Tara shouted back. "We're on one. I hear it's a drainage problem, the plumbers keep saying they'll turn up next week..."
"How aren't you cold?" Buffy asked Faith, shivering as the group reached the relative dryness of the entry alcove and Tara pressed the doorbell.
"I once took a skiing holiday on Ruhra Penthe," she shrugged. "This is pretty mild by comparison. Well, it wasn't so much 'skiing' as 'ski-instructor-doing', but I still had to get from chalet to chalet."
"Isn't that planet twenty degrees below zero?" Willow asked.
"Twenty below absolute zero," Tara added. "And that's in the summer."
"Yeah," Faith chuckled. "The hatch to the shuttle froze shut, and I ended up cutting through the hull with my nipples..."
"Someone's coming," Willow interrupted. "Let me do the talking. We'll need to convince them we're part of whatever conspiracy is going on, and that'll take delicate handling."
The door opened to reveal the bottom half of a very tall alien. It leant down, revealing a wide-eyed, guileless face, and smiled uncertainly.
"Are you here to fix the drains?" it asked.
"No," Willow shook her head. "Sorry, we're-"
"We're here to see the conspiracy stuff," Buffy broke in. "You know, secret... whatever's going on. We're in charge of it."
Willow, Tara, and Faith stared at her incredulously.
"So, could you show us around?" she went on hopefully. "Give us a basic run-down of what's going on, which we totally already know about, naturally. But just show us anyway, okay?"
"Alright," the alien shrugged. "This way please."
"What," Faith said flatly, as they followed the alien inside, "the hell?"
"Sorry, but I was bored," Buffy said. "I figured if we get this out of the way, we can get to the bit where I save the universe quicker."
"Okay," Faith nodded. "Tara?"
"Don't ask me, I'm a starship captain," Tara shrugged. "I have no idea what just happened."
"Willow?" Faith asked.
"Uh, I guess it's possible she's so sure she's doing the right thing that she unconsciously warped reality," Willow suggested. "Which is kind of scary. That kind of subconscious quantum manipulation could be really dangerous if-"
"Oh," the alien paused ahead of them and turned back. "I forgot... I'm supposed to ask you for the password before I show you any of the secret cloning facilities- oh, I wasn't supposed to tell anyone about those unless they said 'Barbie'- oh, drat, that was the password. Did you girls know that was the password?" It blinked hopefully at them in the ensuing silence.
"Yes?" Tara said eventually.
"Oh good," the alien sighed. "That's a relief. Sorry, follow me."
"Or we're just dealing with a very gullible conspiracy," Willow whispered.
"That shouldn't really have been a surprise," Tara said. "Glorificus hasn't exactly been Kaiser Sozay so far."
"What was that about cloning?" Buffy asked.
"Here we are!" the alien announced proudly, opening a door in front of them. They entered a circular chamber, in the centre of which was a pedestal bearing a DNA sample vial, above which was projected a hologram of a naked woman.
"Hey, that's... that's me!" Buffy protested.
"Nice!" Faith grinned. She quickly crossed the room to the holographic pedestal and started searching it. "Are there controls to this?"
"So that's what they did with Buffy's DNA," Willow mused.
"You guys knew about this?" Faith asked.
"Oh, that's right," Willow nodded to herself. "You missed chapter seven."
"Whatever. Can you make her bend over?" Faith asked the alien.
"No," Buffy said flatly, snapping off the tip of the holoprojector. "Now, what are you weirdos doing with my DNA? Uh," she hesitated under the alien's quizzical stare, "that I totally know already, and just want you to jog my memory on?"
"No problem" the alien smiled. "I'm like that myself a lot of the time - names, places, security procedures... I think this should explain everything." It pressed a button on the pedestal, and the walls of the room rolled up to reveal floor-to-ceiling windows. The room was atop a spire in a vast chamber, filled with women exercising, eating, sleeping, studying, training, and sparring with all manner of weapons. All of them, to Faith's delight, were wearing only bras and g-strings.
"Oh, boy," Willow muttered.
"Are they more Buffies?" Faith asked. "Score! I'll take twenty! Do you do gift-wrapping?"
"They don't look a lot like me," Buffy frowned.
"We call them Barbies," the alien explained. "They are of course clones based on your genetic sample, but the process of accelerating their grown to maturity caused various alterations in appearance as a by-product."
"That's a pretty lame explanation," Tara observed.
"Yeah, I bet they just wanted to be able to use the clones all the time without having to pay the original actor," Willow suggested.
"Over here you can see the deployment stage," the alien continued, drawing everyone's attention to the rear of the chamber, beneath the enclosed walkway they had come across. The Barbies were lined up in rows, mechanically removing their underwear, patiently waiting while small pepper-pot-like robots barking "Ex-fo-li-ate!" groomed them, then donning white armour and assembling in ranks. As each platoon of Barbies was completed a cargo airlock beside them opened revealing the interior of a waiting troop ship, which they boarded.
"As per the Republic's instructions, we've so far produced over five million Barbie Troopers," the alien burbled on happily. "The submersible troop ships can begin orbital ascent in five minutes once the order is given, which should be plenty of time to defend the Republic from... what was it we're doing all this for, again?"
"Something to do with the Kilkrazi?" Tara suggested.
"That's it," the alien beamed. "They're to defend us against the Kilkrazi."
"How'd you guess that?" Faith asked Tara.
"Well they showed up so much at the start of the story," Tara shrugged. "They had to figure into the finale somehow."
"So just theoretically," Willow said to the obliging alien, "if we were all to very quickly return to our ship and get the heck out of here, would you find that suspicious at all?"
"Oh," the alien said. "Well, perhaps - I mean, if there didn't seem to be a good reason for you all to leave so soon-"
"Suppose we'd left the laundry in the machine back on our homeworld?" Willow asked.
"Yes, that would be an adequate explanation."
"Okay. We left the laundry in the machine back on our homeworld," Willow said. "So we'll just be going now, okay?"
"Of course," the alien nodded. "Feel free to come back any time you need to have your own scheme explained to you."
"Thanks, we'll do that," Tara nodded as they sidled towards the door.
"I couldn't just get a free sample?" Faith tried one last time, as Buffy dragged her away. They ran along the corridor, only to see the door to the landing pad closing ahead of them.
"Crap!" Faith swore.
"Sorry!" the alien called from the other end of the corridor. "It wasn't me! I'll make a call and see if I can get that opened for you..."
"This is taking too long," Tara muttered.
"Wait!" Buffy said, staring at the door. "The keyhole - I've got the key! My other self, I mean my future- whatever. Here." She quickly inserted the key, which caused the locking mechanism to flash green and slide open.
The heroic foursome raced back out onto the landing pad, only to find themselves surrounded by armed and armoured Barbie Troopers.
"Hey we just got called a foursome!" Faith exclaimed.
"Not like that," Tara shook her head. One of the Barbies took a step forward and held out a holocommunicator, which projected an image of a gloating Glorificus.
"So, you thought you'd escaped me," she, well, gloated.
"Point of order," Willow said, raising a finger. "We're here tracking down your conspiracy, so I don't think we could really have been said to be trying to 'escape' you, in any meaningful way."
"Yeah," Faith scoffed. "If anything, we made it easier for you to catch us. I don't think you should get full credit for this, even. It's an assist, at best."
"Shut your trap, skank," Glorificus snarled.
"You're calling me 'skank'?" Faith snapped back. "Listen honey, I may have had sex with representatives of every sentient species in the universe - in fact, in seventeen cases, with the whole species - one time simultaneously, but it's not as tricky as it sounds, some aliens can do stuff humans can't, so... what was I saying?"
"You were insulting Glorificus," Tara reminded her.
"You sure I wasn't having sex with someone?"
"Not that I noticed."
"Damn, I haven't had sex in fifty seconds," Faith grumbled. "I'm going to forget how it's done."
"Fifty... wait, we've all been together for the last half hour at least," Willow said with a puzzled frown. "How...?"
"Oh, I had it off with that alien while you were all watching Buffy unlock the door," Faith grinned.
"Call me, honey!" the alien waved from inside the dome.
"How did you do that?" Willow asked, intrigued despite herself.
"It's a knack," Faith grinned modestly. "Believe me, you can't have more sexual encounters than the galaxy has hydrogen atoms if you don't make an effort."
"Uh-huh... I think I'll stick to taking my time," Willow concluded.
"Whatever works for you," Faith shrugged.
"It works for me," Tara murmured in Willow's ear.
"Are you people done?" Glorificus's hologram interrupted. "I'm ordering you executions here!"
"Actually you haven't yet," Buffy pointed out. "You made some nebulous, and I think we proved erroneous, reference to us not having escaped, but you didn't really get any further than that..."
"Shut up!" Glorificus exploded. "Barbie Troopers! Shoot them!" The Barbies raised their rifles, aimed, and waited.
"Uh, what's going on?" Buffy asked.
"It's a cliffhanger," Tara whispered. "The chapter has to end with them about to shoot us. So they can't open fire yet."
"Huh," Faith said, looking around at the Troopers. Buffy whistled a tune, and Willow looked at her watch.
"Kiss?" she asked Tara.
"Any time," Tara smiled, ducking to nibble Willow's ear, then kissing her slowly and thoroughly. Faith turned to Buffy.
"You sure you don't want to-"
"No," Buffy shook her head.
The thrilling conclusion to Space Quest!