This week, we bring you another episode of Previously, our series of ultra-short Weird Luck prose pieces that take place sometime before the beginning of the main storylines on this site.
I wrote this one. Andrew’s also been doing some new writing, which you’ll be seeing soon.
See you next Wednesday,
Jonah Gets Offered a Job
Apart from a few anachronistic touches — the microphone and speakers on the small, slightly-raised stage in one corner, and of course the pizza — the large windowless dining area of Lloyd’s Pizza resembled the interior of an old stone-and-wood tavern from an era without electricity, plastics, or industrial mass-production.
Smiley and Jonah, whose respective worlds of origin had never gone through an industrial age, had grown up in such taverns. Jonah had even been born in one — and Smiley might have been, too, for all he knew. Of all the places where interdimensional travelers congregated, Lloyd’s Pizza was the one where both Smiley and Jonah had always felt most at home.
“What in the Nine Hells is THAT?” Jonah said, grimacing at the pizza Smiley had ordered for them.
“It’s pizza,” said Smiley, helping himself to a slice. “Specialty of the house? I’d swear I’ve seen you eat pizza here dozens of times, old fellow… unless you’re a version of yourself from earlier in your timeline, or a cognate…?”
“On the pizza. What’s that on the pizza.”
“Oh, that. Pineapple. Marvelous stuff. Some manner of tropical fruit, I believe. Didn’t exist on my native world — nor yours either, I imagine — but I’ve acquired a taste for it.”
“I know what pineapple is,” Jonah said. “What’s it doing on pizza?”
“Enhancing it, some would say. Or ruining it, according to others. I understand there’s considerable controversy on the matter.”
“Hunh,” Jonah said. He picked up a slice, took a large bite out of it, chewed thoughtfully for a time, and swallowed. “Hunh,” he said again. “So what’s this job you’ve got for me?”
“There’s a grouping of small artificial satellites,” Smiley said, “currently floating in space in the middle of the six-star Mizar system in the vicinity of the planet Mizar Five, in Reality S13. I would greatly appreciate it if you and the stalwart crew of your fine fleet of ships could see your way to flying up there and blasting said satellites to smithereens.”
“Yeah, I know Mizar Five,” Jonah said around another mouthful of pizza. “Whose satellites are they, what are they for, and what kinda defenses they got?”
“The satellites were put in place by the cult of a would-be deity commonly known as the Space Goddess. Their purpose is to generate a sizable interdimensional rift in space, which is the central component of the ritual by which this so-called Space Goddess intends to attain the godhood to which she has up to now been merely pretending. The satellites must be eliminated before they can be used for this purpose. I suspect they have few built-in defenses, if any, given the relatively limited resources of their creators. The cultists seem to be relying on secrecy as their primary defense – the whole operation is being conducted with the well-paid assistance of one of the big Mizar Five gang bosses, who acts as their intermediary so that all their preparations appear to the untrained eye to be part of a perfectly reputable and innocuous smuggling operation instead of a highly dangerous ascension ritual.”
Jonah bit into a second slice of pizza while he considered this. “And all you want me to do,” he said after a few moments, “is blast these satellites to smithereens?”
“Or into debris, if you prefer. Or to bits or pieces, or even all to hell. Just so long as they’re blasted.”
“Blasted I can do. But why me? Doesn’t the Reality Patrol usually do this kinda thing themselves?”
“Usually, yes,” said Smiley. “But there are aspects of this particular situation, and complicated political considerations within the Reality Patrol, that necessitate a certain discretion in regard to this operation… a certain, shall we say, delicacy.”
“Delicacy, huh?” said Jonah, as he stuffed a third slice of pizza into his mouth. “Guess I’m your guy, then. What’s in it for me?”