Space Quest:Exodus/Chapter 35

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Chapter 35: The End of the Beginning

"As we join our heroes, we find them celebrating victory over the horrible beast Orat, and preparing to depart from this dad-blasted frozen heck-hole of a mother-talking planet."

Bioo slaps the Orat on a stick down on the table. Ada stares at the Orat on a stick and looks queasy. Bioo then passes out the cash and straps in.

MP-X301 climb... er... hovers back into the "pilot's" chair. "Well, are we ready to say goodbye to this dad-blasted frozen heck-hole of a mother-talking planet?" He buckles in.

Lombard accepts his share of buckazoids and seats himself in a perfectly serviceable seat, strapping himself in. Ada accepts her own buckazoids, examining them a bit dubiously for Orat bits.

"Can I help you with your seat strap, Ada?" Lombard asks.


The AI speaks up, "Thank goodness. I was worried you might actually get slaughtered by that creature and leave me here alone. Although..."

Bioo says dryly, "Yes, I'm sure you'd just *hate* that, AI."

Lombard tells the AI, "Hey, we killed the Orat as much for you as we did for us. You should be thanking us, I reckon."

"Computer, prep the ship for immediate liftoff. Take off when you feel like doing so, please." MP-X301 idly flicks at the various fake controls on the panel. "Computer, if I suddenly start yelling things like 'We need more power, Scotty!' and 'She cannae take much more o' this', please deactivate me."

The computer responds, "Gladly. Preparing for takeoff..." The engines begin to rumble again.

Bioo pulls some of those salt and pepper packets that one usually only finds in fast food joints out of some hidden coat depths, then grasps the Orat dinner before it is hurtled across the ship.

"Wait! Where on this barren orb did you get those condiment packets, I'lroe?" Lombard wonders.

"I didn't get them here," Bioo tells him.

"Ah. I could have used them for my MRE earlier..."

Ada looks even more queasily at Bioo and says, "Please tell me you're going to at least *cook* it first."

"I think the nuker is over on the far wall. It's either a nuker or a cappuccino machine, I'm not sure which," MP-X301 suggests. "Or you can roast it on the engine exhaust manifolds."

"Nah, they pop," Bioo says.

"Computer, is there a microwave oven or... ahem... toaster oven on board?" MP-X301 asks.

"I'm looking at one. Engaging engines, initiating liftoff..."

With a rumble, the ship lurches upward, and zooms off into the sky at just-under-breakneck speed. Before long, the infinite starry void of space is visible through the forward window again. Bioo rips open the packets and starts patting the contents into the Orat lump.

"Take us back to Polysorbate, computer." MP-X301 then kicks back, relatively speaking, and relaxes. "So, any comments about our little mission?"

Bioo speaks up, "Sucks that it has to be a round tripper."

"Eh, we'll hit Polysorbate and head out as soon as we get the information."

Ada offers her own commentary. "Let's see. We spent a 14 hour trip to a desolate snow planet, went through a by-the-numbers set of traps, and found that it protected... a geek shrine. And the mysterious artifact is a rusty plug. ...did you ever get the feeling that the universe has an odd sense of humor?"

Bioo jingles a pocketful of coins. "Not altogether unproductive, though."

"Well? Rusty plug or not... did it look like something you could outfit the ship with? Or a robot?" MP-X301 asks.

"It didn't look all that important to me," Lombard says.

MP-X301 responds, "Probably not. Or it could contain the keys to the Ultimate Whoopie Cushion of DOOOOoom!"

Bioo tells them, "You'd be surprised how much rusty old junk can go for. I once got my hands on these nasty old pots, and we're talking *really* ugly here. I must have sold those things for 1,000 apiece..."

"Did they have a really ugly face that looked like a Xenonian smushed his head in an Orat's jaw and then tried to cover it with Crazy Glue, Bioo?" MP-X301 asks.

"Totally worth being banned from that planet."

Lombard unbuckles his seat restraint. "Well, if you don't mind, lady, gentlebot, and... you over there, I'm going to use this time to catch up on my beauty sleep." He walks over to the bunk area and attempts to pull a bed down to lay on. MP-X301 watches Lombard, an electronic smirk on his face.

Ada shakes her head a bit at everyone in general, then says, "It looks like a machine component of some kind. A fuse or converter of some sort. You'd have to hook it into something, however."

"Well, you know my line of droids. Would it install in me?"

"Not a chance. Much too big for your britches, hon."

"How about the ship, Ada?"

The AI speaks up, "Although the female meatbag's repair job is hardly elegant, I believe it will hold satisfactorily."

"Hey, computer. You think this would fit in you somewhere?" Ada points to the artifact, which MP-X301 holds up.

A small panel opens in the ceiling, and a holographic scanning eye on a metal rod lowers from it. It points towards the artifact and emits a green scanning beam, which sweeps the device's exterior. The eye then retracts back into the ceiling.

"AI. Are you hot enough to cook my dinner yourself, or do I have to heat you up myself?" Bioo pulls out a laser pistol and places it next to the kabob.

The AI speaks in a matter-of-factly manner, "The device appears to be designed to interface with the shield generation system of a starship, using the shielding system to generate an additional effect. As to what that effect might be, I am not sure."

"Computer, do you have a shield generation system on board this ship?" MP-X301 asks.


Lombard turns his attention to sleep again. "Well, since we can't use it on this heap, we might as well just leave the thing alone, and get some rest."

"That's the first good idea you've had, Lombard," Ada tells him.

"Darn it, Ship! I want my dinner! Now start talking!"

"If you want food, then I suggest *you* start eating. There is no device aboard capable of properly cooking animal flesh aside from the maneuvering thrusters. If you wish, you are more than welcome to open the hatch and step outside to take advantage of them."

"Fine. Ada, what part of this cabin would you say could take the heat of this gun?"

"Well, let's see. Anything to get *that* out of my sight for a while." Ada looks around the ship appraisingly.

MP-X301 suggests, "How about this cutting torch, Bioo?"

"Hmm, that might work."

MP-X301 pulls out the torch and offers it to Bioo. "Just watch out what you heat with that thing. Some things around here don't react well to cutting torches."

"Thanks." Bioo takes the torch and looks for a suitable panel. Lombard lays on the bunk and rolls over interestedly to watch the cooking technique. Ada closes her eyes and tries to lay back, relax, and ignore the icky smell of burning Orat.

Bioo picks one of the floor panels near the back of the ship at random and starts heating it with the torch. Before long, the panel is glowing a dull orange and giving off quite a bit of heat. Bioo sears the steak to a rare state.

As the choice Orat cut sizzles, a delicious smell wafts through the cabin. Mmm, just like your maternal parental unit used to make. Bioo offs the torch and heads back to the table. After slicing the juicy delight into manageable pieces, Bioo takes a bite and savors it. "Mmmmmm." The Orat meat is delicious, with a light, buttery texture. Too bad there aren't any seconds.

Lombard smirks and rolls over to get some genuine shuteye. Ada tries to hold down her MRE while listening to Bioo's mealage. Bioo enjoys every last, fulfilling bite, ending with a satisfied smile.

Many hours later, after lunch has been eaten, someone's breakfast has been thrown up, and everyone except MP-X301 has performed their post-landing wee-wee rituals, the group finds itself once again standing in front of the Orion's Belt bar. The bar's neon sign is off, and the bouncer (sporting a black eye) is standing in front of the doorway, which now has several black-and-yellow strips of police tape strung across it.

On the way there, they passed the parking space(s) where they left the totaled police cruiser. The aircar itself is now gone; instead, the area has been roped off with caution tape, and an aircar-shaped chalk outline adorns the pavement.

"You know, guys. This place is looking awfully familiar..." Lombard muses, "...but the yellow tape seems new to me. You think they're redecorating?"

MP-X301 approaches the bouncer. "Need to talk to your boss again. Whereabouts is he?"

The bouncer eyes MP-X301 with his good eye. "Eh, you guys again. Da Boss is waiting to see ya." He motions towards the door. "He's in his office."

MP-X301 peels off the police tape with a careful finger. "Anyone want a souvenir?"

Ada jerks a thumb at Lombard. "Already got one, so to speak."

"Good point." MP-X301 finishes peeling back enough for them to enter, and heads in and back for the office.

Lombard glares at Ada. "If you weren't so beautiful, I might... well... yeah."

Ada blows a raspberry at him. Bioo, who was sporting an almost eye-level coat collar (hiding everything else), shrugs the overclothes back to a more comfortable position upon entering the bar. Everyone follows MP-X301 back towards the office.

They pass through the main floor of the bar, which now looks like a war zone. Broken tables and chairs are strewn across the floor, shattered glass carpets several areas, and the entire upstairs balcony appears to have broken away from the wall and now rests at an angle against the far side of the floor. There doesn't seem to be any sign of the former rowdy clientèle.

Lombard comments, "I like what they've done with the place. It has that aloof, 'lived-in' feel."

"More like that puked, beat-on feel," MP-X301 counters.

"Glad I'm not the janitor here," Ada quips.

They all pass through the doorway in the far wall and follow the hallway back to the Don's office. The door guard is standing there as before; he doesn't appear to have budged an inch since last time. Without a word, he opens the office door and motions them inside.

MP-X301 enters swiftly. Lombard uneasily walks past the imposing statuesque guard. Ada heads back into the Room of Doom. Bioo walks in and reflexively cases the joint for any objects that might be feeling excessive.

Behind the desk, the large chair sits turned away from them again. A human hand waves from over the armrest, as the whiny, nasal voice from before greets them. "I see you've returned. I trust you have come to finish our transaction?"

MP-X301 answers, "Yes, indeed. I've got your item. How about some information?"

Bioo takes a look around, and notices that the Don has expensive taste... practically anything in the room looks like it would fetch a pretty penny. As Bioo looks around, however, the door guard notices Bioo's curiosity, and glares down from behind his sunglasses.

Bioo coolly looks at the guard. "Nice place."

The guard glances furtively at the Don (who still has his back turned), then leans down and whispers to Bioo, "It's all fake. Gold-plated, artificial upholstery, faux wood trim, the works. The Boss doesn't like spending money on interior decorating."

Bioo grins and whispers to the guard, "Heh, figures."

The Don responds, "All in due time, my robotic friend. First, I must confirm that you have upheld your end of the bargain. Place the device on the desk."

MP-X301 pauses for the briefest moment, then gently lays the device on the desk. He doesn't take his hands away from it, though. "Here it is."

The chair swivels around, and, for the first time, they all can see the Don himself. He's a short, considerably overweight man wearing a black suit, with greasy dark hair and pale skin. Black horn-rim glasses with coke-bottle lenses sit atop a large, bulbous nose. He glances down at the device and grins widely.

"Hee hee heh heh!" The Don places his hands on it, as though ascertaining that it is, in fact, actually sitting in front of him. "That's it, all right! Finally, I have it back! AH hah hah! Let's see that fat slug deal with THIS little beauty!" He cackles evilly to himself for a bit, then clears his throat and recomposes himself. "Er, ahem. Pardon me."

"Now, my payment? Information and a ship?" MP-X301 demands.

Ada raises an eyebrow and says, "What IS it, exactly?"

Bioo looks the guard over and likes the view. Leaning closer in a conspiratorial manner, Bioo again addresses the guard in a whisper, "Say, if you're ever off-world sometime and feel like drinks or *something*..." and slides a small card into the man's hand.

The guard takes the card, glances at it, then looks at Bioo and raises an eyebrow. "Er... sure, whatever." He resumes his "guard" posture, a bit more uncomfortably than before.

Calzone looks at Ada and grins. "This, my dear, is a device that will single-handedly give me an unbeatable advantage over that idiotic Slobba. My trump card..." He leans down and gently caresses the device as though petting a cat. "Soon, my dear..."

"Yes, but... what sort of advantage, exactly?"

The Don frowns at Ada. "That's none of your business. Now, MP-X301, it's time for me to fulfill my end of the deal."

Ada rolls her eyes slightly and waits for the real information they came for. The Don places both hands on the desk and leans forward, speaking softly to MP-X301 in a conspiratorial manner. "Now, you wish to know who posted that sizable bounty on you and your cohorts, correct?"

"That'd be a great start, yes."

"Cohorts?!? Is there a bounty on my head, too?"

Ada says dryly, "Nah, you're safe. Nobody would want you, Lombard."

"Shut up, Lombard, before I get disgusted by the high quantities of unintelligence dripping from your mouth," MP-X301 gripes.

Bioo continues to whisper, "Oh, yeah, we'd have a really *good* time," and pinches the guard in a soft pinchy area.

Lombard raises a finger and opens his mouth as if to speak, but then stops to reconsider his next action. Ada shakes her head and chuckles. Lombard shuts his mouth, lowers his arm, and takes half a step back. MP-X301 returns his attention to Don Calzone.

The Don nods. "Well, here's your answer, then." He reaches under his desk and pulls out a file folder, which he hands to MP-X301. "His name is Moznek Grebb. He's a professional conman and ex-con who was arrested for pitching pyramid schemes to retirement home residents."

Ada asks, "So, how'd a botched conman come up with a bounty? Or is that a con as well?"

"Ah, and that's the catch," the Don continues. "I know for a fact that Mr. Grebb does not have the kind of money to honor a bounty this high. I suspect that he is actually a front man, who posted the bounty in the name of the actual requester, who most likely wishes to remain anonymous." He motions at the folder. "Take a look."

Ada looks over MP-X301's shoulder at the file folder. Lombard looks over Ada's shoulder, but for other reasons... She elbows him in the ribs.

"Ugh!" Lombard grins coyly and takes a step back.

MP-X301 takes a look at the file. Inside the folder are several photographs. The first few photos depict a rather skinny insect-like humanoid, with green skin and large, black, compound eyes. From the angles involved, it appears the photographer was stalking Moznek and using a hidden camera to catch him on film. The last two photos depict Moznek speaking with a blond Xenonian in elegant white robes with blue trim.

The Don continues, "My sources inform me that Moznek has been carrying on a clandestine business relationship with this man," he points at the photo, "Senator Lazaro Corona of the Xenonian ruling body."

"Nice. This smells... political." MP-X301 glares at the pictures.

Calzone grins evilly. "Quite. Corona is more than wealthy enough to honor such a large bounty. It is my belief that he is the one responsible, and is using Moznek to cover his tracks. This, of course, brings up the obvious question as to why a Xenonian senator would apparently be involved with Sarien space pirates. I wouldn't mind knowing the answer to that one myself."

"Tell me... do you happen to know if my cruise line was pressured by this Senator or others?"

Bioo says gleefully, "Ooo, politicians have such nice stuff."

"I hate politics."

"Really, Ada? I hate politics, too! We have so much in common, you and I..."

"Don't make me elbow you again."

"Excuse me, Don." MP-X301 turns around and glares at Lombard. "One more BLASTED stupid remark out of you, and I'll put so many holes in you that even *I* can't patch you back together."

The Don clears his throat. "Moznek is on Xenon right now. If you can get your hands on the little rat, you can probably get him to tell you what he and the Senator are up to."

"Very good. Now, you promised us a ship. Got one with a hopefully less snarky AI and some real controls?"

Ada muses, "I don't know... I was kind of getting fond of the AI."

"Maybe a head, too..." Bioo adds.

Lombard finishes, "...and a nourishment warming device."

"I did indeed promise you a ship. And you have one." The Don smiles. "I believe this concludes our business, Mr. X301. Although, there is one more thing."

Lombard remarks to himself, "X301, huh..."

"One more thing?"

The Don reaches into his desk again, this time producing what looks like a laser pistol. He points it at MP-X301, and slowly pulls the trigger... which results in a satisfying *CLICK!*. He lowers the gun, grins, then tosses it to MP-X301. "Consider this a token of my gratitude. There's more where that came from, if you're ever interested in some more work. I can always use men like you. Er, robots."

MP-X301 snags the weapon with a frown. "I'll keep that in mind. I will be looking for work in the near future, I suspect."

"So are we headed off to, ah, shake down this Moznek individual, then?"

"Well, Don Calzone, it's been a pleasure doing business with you." MP-X301 turns to Ada. "Yep, shake down Moznek. Who else wants to beat this guy up, eh? We might even get to beat up a politician!"

Ada quips, "Almost as entertaining as beating up lawyers."

"You've beaten up lawyers? Can I watch next time?" Lombard asks.

"Wait, so we're not getting any cash?"

"We're getting a space ship and information. Here, want a laser pistol?" MP-X301 offers the pistol to Bioo. "If you take the laser pistol, I'll expect you to use it, though."

"Flerk, what a rip."

"Well, you got quite a few buckazoids from this trip." MP-X301 shrugs. "More will be coming, I'm sure."

Ada offers, "Cheer up, Bioo. You got to manhandle the guard and Lombard and several bits of goodies... and an Orat on a stick. Ugh. I'd say you're doing pretty well."

Bioo takes the gun. "Well, at least I still have a ride. Has been a while since I've been home..."

Lombard says, "Well, if you'll at least take me off this lousy planetoid, I'll hang around with you for a while, boss."

"Xenon's a lot nicer than this place... I'm up for it," Ada says.

MP-X301 examines the chrome-colored pistol. It looks somewhat like a regular laser gun, although the design is blockier and more angular than most pistols. Scrawled on the grip of the gun is some very tiny print. The print is so tiny that he can't read it with his eyes alone. He idly wonders how they managed to etch it into the handle without smudging all the letters together.

"Hey, Ada... you've got some goggles... can you read this fine print?"

"They're more for, ah, protective purposes than magnification, but, let's see."

MP-X301 shows Ada the pistol. Ada takes the pistol, turns away from the Don, pulls out the nerdy glasses, and uses them on the off-chance the original wearer was farsighted.

Looking through the glasses, Ada almost loses her lunch, as the world around her is plunged into a chaotic multicolored swirl of indistinct shapes. Whoever this guy was, he had REALLY bad eyesight. She can barely make out the shape of the gun itself, let alone the text on the handle. She pulls off the eyeglasses, makes a note to rent them as a cheap drug trip alternative, and tries making out the text on her own.

Bioo addresses the Don. "What's that say, anyhow?"

The Don responds, "Beats me." He takes off his glasses, then pulls a cloth out of his pocket and idly polishes the lenses, while squinting at Bioo. "I never could read the writing on those things." He puts the cloth away and replaces his glasses.

"Well, do you perchance have a magnifying glass we could borrow?"

The Don raises an eyebrow. "Uh... yeah, sure, I guess." He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small red pocketknife, which he hands to Bioo.

"Ada, may I see those glasses a moment? And the pistol?"

Ada shrugs and hands MP-X301 both the pistol and the nerdy glasses. MP-X301 holds the pistol away from him, positions the glasses about midway between pistol and eyes, then moves them back and forth to attempt to find a good focal point. He fiddles with the glasses, but it soon becomes clear that if there is a focus point, his robotic optics can't detect it. Although, if he holds them *juuuust* so, he thinks he see an image of Pelvis Brelsford.

Bioo takes the knife and looks it over for the glass bit.

"Bioo... ready to try to read this again?"


MP-X301 hands over the pistol... again.

Bioo flips through the attachments on the Xenon army knife, and soon finds a tiny magnifying lens between the corkscrew and the potato peeler. By holding the lens just right, and squinting in just the right way, Bioo can just barely make out the words scribed on the handle:

"WARNING: Suffocation hazard. Not for children under 3. Ask about special guns for children under 3. Please consult manual before use."

"Heh." Bioo pockets the gun and tells MP-X301, "Just a warning."

"OK. Let's go on, then."

Bioo follows MP-X301 out the door, the knife having mysteriously disappeared before the exit.

"You know, you never gave me a chance to examine the gun..." Lombard follows MP-X301 and Bioo, and Ada brings up the rear.

Bioo hands the gun to Lombard. "You can handle my guns anytime."

Lombard extends his hand, takes the weapon, and stops with his mouth agape to ponder Bioo's last statement...

"Any good?"

Lombard recovers his composure and studies the gun. "Nah, I can't make heads or tails of it." He hands the weapon back to Bioo, who shrugs and re-pockets it.

Bioo then asks, "So, fearless leader. Are we going to get some snacks for the road, or what?"

"Shopping trip? Anyone want to see if Sears and Robot has a Port-A-John for sale? And a microwave oven?"

Bioo gets a sly grin. "One of my favorite places to 'shop'."

"Having finished their business with Don Calzone, the party heads for Sears and Robot to outfit themselves for the next leg of their journey..."

"I'll start by trying to get a line of credit." MP-X301 floats inside, and Ada and Bioo follow. The same bored clerk is sitting behind the counter. He doesn't appear to have moved an inch since the last time MP-X301 and Ada were in here. He stares at Our Heroes with a vacant expression.

"I'd like to get a Sears and Robot credit card, sir. Where are the applications?"

The clerk raises an eyebrow, then glances to his left, towards the cash register. A small sign on the side of the register reads, "No cash? No sale."

"Ah, gotcha. Well, that'll be fine. Thank you! Where are your Portable Restroom Facilities and Cooking Stoves?"

Bioo stands behind a stand and looks for security cameras, but can't *see* any... either there aren't any, or they're well-hidden. So, you have to ask yourself... do I feel lucky? Well, do ya... PUNK!?

Lombard stands outside and attempts to wipe Orat remains off the sole of his boot while still maintaining his cool persona.

The bored clerk fishes around under the counter, again without moving, and produces a pair of objects, which he places on the countertop. One looks like a hotplate, while the other appears to be a cardboard box with writing on the side: "BobCo Insta-John(tm) - From the makers of Nad's Hamster Tape."

MP-X301 raises an electronic eyebrow at the cardboard box. "Just add urine?" He chuckles. "How much?"

The clerk glances at the price tag on the box: "70 Bz". The clerk then glances at another identical tag on the hotplate, which reads: "35 Bz".

"Who wants to chip in for a toilet and a hotplate?" MP-X301 asks.

"I'll chip in for the toilet..." Ada offers. She thinks, then adds, "Well, and the hotplate, I suppose. Maybe we should get some cans of soup. Or beans."

"And a couple pots and pans," MP-X301 agrees.

While MP-X301 has the clerk's attention diverted, Bioo stealthily leans over another section of the countertop behind Ada, using her to block the clerk's view while reaching for the stock shelves. Bioo manages to snag a length of rope and a lighter before Ada shifts position, forcing a break off of the attempt prematurely. Bioo quickly slips the stolen goods into a pocket.

The clerk reaches down again and places a pot, two pans, and several cans of food on the counter.

"Hey, could you add a pair of binoculars and some climbing equipment to that?" Bioo calls out. "And, do you have anything better than soup?"

"Beans?" Ada suggests.

"*Not* beans. Ever."


"Fruit works."

Ada tells the clerk, "OK, some cans of fruit, too. And, can you add a few bottles of solvent to that?"

The clerk fishes out a pair of binoculars and an old cardboard box with a hook and hammer in it, and places them on the counter. He then replaces the cans of beans with several cans labeled "Hilldale Farms 'Fresh' Fruit", and tosses two bottles of solvent onto the growing pile of stuff.

"Got any canned bacon?" Bioo asks.

The clerk produces a pair of cans marked "Hilldale Farms 'Fresh' Bacon" and adds them to the pile as well. Bioo sadly hands over payment for the fun new stuff and whimpers as the clerk takes the beautiful money.

Ada goes over and sticks her head out the door. "Psst. Lombard. Give me 40 buckazoids."

"Hunh? Oh, yeah. Right." Lombard reaches into his duffel, pulls out the moolah, and hands it to Ada. "Here you go, sweetness."

Ada takes the money. "Thanks!" She then ducks back in and hands it to the clerk, along with 40 of her own stash.

MP-X301 hands the clerk his 40 buckazoids. "Get Lombard in here to carry this mess, Ada. I've already got too much crap."

The clerk takes the money and reaches over to poke a key on the register. *Ka-ching!*

Ada sighs and sticks her head out the door again. "We need your massive stuff-carrying assistance, Lombard."

"Yes, Ada. Sure thing. You can count on me." Lombard enters and grabs a manly amount of purchased goods.

Carrying their newly purchased (and stolen) goods, they return to the ship, which still sits in the hangar where they left it. Standing atop the ship, a starport service droid holding a shovel is attempting to scrape the freeze-dried body of the Orat off the roof.

"Hey there, Ship, glad to see us?" Bioo asks.

MP-X301 pauses, wondering if he can somehow get that droid *inside* the ship and strip it of useful parts and that shovel... then comes back to his senses. "Well, are we ready for another exciting trip, computer?"

"We better get this stuff on and stowed. A new adventure awaits!, my arms are getting tired."

Ada snorts at Lombard. MP-X301 hovers on board the ship. Lombard embarks and seeks an appropriate repository for his portage.

An unfamiliar synthesized voice responds pleasantly, "Ah, welcome back, Captain. It's good to see that you and your crew are all right."

Bioo climbs aboard and gets situated before starting to play with the shiny new rope. "You feeling all right, AI?"

The AI's voice seems different than before... deeper, though considerably less antagonistic. "Why, certainly, I feel just fine. Thank you for asking."

Ada heads into the ship and raises an eyebrow at the unexpected AI responses.

"I think it's the backup personality. Thank you, computer!" MP-X301 says cheerfully.

"Backup? Well, not exactly. Mr. Calzone felt that you probably deserved a reprieve from the original AI for your help. While you were gone, his technicians replaced the old AI system with my own programming."

Lombard says happily, "No, it's a gift from the Don. Thank you, Calzoney!"

"Aw. I was kinda getting attached to the old personality." Ada makes a mental note to reprogram the AI later.

"Yeah, he fit in with us so well," Bioo agrees.

"I must say, it will be quite enjoyable to be space-bound again," the AI comments. "I can only hope that I can be of as much help to you as possible."

"Well, MP, it looks like we've finally gotten everything we need. Shall we leave this planet, once and for all, Captain?"

"Yes, Lombard, that's wonderful. Tell me, computer, did Calzone leave the old AI in the memory banks?"

The AI pauses for a moment. ", I am afraid the old AI core was completely overwritten. I'm terribly sorry."

"No, no... thank you very much, that's EXACTLY what I wanted to hear." MP-X301 beams a smile of great warmth. Ada still makes a note to reprogram the AI later.

The computer actually snickers at MP-X301's remark. "Heh. Glad to be of service."

"Too bad."

"Yeah, I agree, Bioo. Oh, well."

Lombard notes, "You women and blue-skinned aliens are so odd, you know that?"

Ada goes over and whispers to Bioo, "Don't worry, I got it sorted. Somehow." Bioo smiles at Ada's comment.

The AI voice takes on a slightly disapproving tone. "Hmm..." The AI then addresses MP-X301. "Shall I begin preparations for takeoff, Captain?"

"Yes, computer." MP-X301 then says, "Ada. Don't mess with the AI. I'll make it up to you later."

"C'mon... listening to the AI pick on Lombard was the highlight of my days..."

"Now, where did I leave that emergency bottle of root beer..." Lombard muses.

The ship's engines rev up, and the ship begins rumble in preparation for blastoff...

"If so, then you are getting to like Lombard a little TOO well, don't you think?" MP-X301 shrugs. "Don't worry... code a snarky subroutine that I can activate and deactivate at will, OK?" He floats into his seat and buckles up.

"All right, I guess I can live with that idea. How about it, Bioo? Custom Snarkiness?" Ada also sits and buckles.

"Doesn't seem fair to the AI... But..."

"But it seems fair to us." Lombard gets seated and straps in for takeoff.

"Of course it would be a shame if the 'switch' were to break."

"Bioo... the old AI wanted off this scrap heap for decades. This finally puts it where it wanted to be," MP-X301 notes. "I don't know about you, but I'm rather happy for the AI's good fortunes. A new life without dealing with the carbon-based lifeforms it hates."

Bioo shrugs.

Lombard agrees, "Yup. Things are looking up for our haphazard little club. I have a good feeling about our missions. Let's get to it, shall we? Together?"

Ada says, "Well, I guess the prospect of beating up on politicians makes up for no snarky AI... almost."

With a roar and a rumble, the Crowe leaps upward into the crimson sky. The starry heavens shine through the cockpit window as the ship lazily drifts to a stop high above the planet's atmosphere.

"We have cleared Polysorbate LX's gravity well. What do you wish to do now, Captain?"

"Set course for Xenon, computer. Ludicrous speed!"

The AI responds, "As you wish, Captain. I live to serve..." The ship's engine's rev to life again, as the stars outside erupt into a rainbow explosion of light and color. Next stop... Xenon.




Ada looks at the other three like they've all gone insane, but says, gamely, "Yar! ...but I draw the line at an eye patch."

"As our heroes fly off into the nebulaset, we are left to ponder their fate. Will MP find his missing crew? Will they discover the fiendish mind behind the Sarien attacks, and bring him to justice? Will Lombard stop hitting on Ada? Will Bioo stop hitting on Lombard? Will this campaign ever be finished?"

"Those questions and more will be answered (hopefully) in the second installment of "Space Quest: Exodus". Until next time, space cadets, this is Cap'n Ascii, signing off!"