SHOCK VALUE 5: NO MUSE IS BAD MUSE
With utmost patience, finesse, and no small degree of artistry,
he performed the operation that would return the patient to life
and function. Few there were with the skill to attempt such a
thing, and fewer still with the courage, but for him, it was all
just a part and parcel of what he did, the everyday performance
of small miracles. Really, not too difficult for one of his experi-
ence. Just as long as he had the quiet, and the full focus of his
mind, success was practically assured.
"Boss! Hey boss! Hey! Yoohoo!"
BKWillis started violently, his welding torch bumping into the
spaghetti-thin copper capillary tube he was working on. The
tremendous heat of the torch's inner flame cone played across
the delicate metal, severing it instantly. Cursing, he swung the
torch away too late, but set the insulation around him on fire.
A few seconds later, a blackened and remarkably angry-looking
BKWillis crawled out of the huge air conditioner he'd been
laying in. He groaned and kicked at the mall roof. "Two hours
to get that capillary assembly welded in," he rasped, "and I end
up burning the damn thing in two. This had better be good."
Lydia eyed the Bradleyard doubtfully, and not for the first time.
She didn't really understand all the psychological mumbo-jumbo
that Davros had gone on about, but it sounded pretty dumb.
And looked dumber.
"I hate to tell you what that looks like," she said.
Davros gave her back an offended sneer. "It's not _my_ fault
that proper materials were lacking. I'd like to see _you_ build a
Memory-Trace Recovery Probe."
"No! Not the Memory-Trace Recovery Probe!" Captain Yates
shouted. Varne smacked him, and he subsided at once. "Sorry.
Force of habit."
The Bradleyard sat rock-still in the seat of the MTRP, which
until a couple of hours ago had been the Bradleyard's Barca-
lounger of Ultimate Might. The comfy recliner chair had since
been covered completely in tinfoil, and now sported various
pieces of silverware attached to it with baling wire, which were
to act as 'electrodes' according to Davros. More baling wire,
carefully insulated with duct tape and old newspapers, connected
the chair to its main power center, which had started out life as
a washing machine, a blender, two car stereos, a rabbit-shaped
table lamp, and a full set of Monopoly pieces. More wire ran
from there to the main viewscreen, which was a completely
unmodified TV set.
"We're almost ready," Davros said as the Kvetchians connected
up the last few wires. "Is the subject still in a hypnotic trance?"
"Looks like it," Darren replied, looking at the Bradleyard's vac-
"We must be absolutely positive that he is still entranced,"
"I'll do it," sighed Lydia. She stepped over to the Bradleyard,
careful not to touch any of the trailing wires or dislodge any of
the silverware taped to his body. She leaned over in front of him,
until her face was just above his head, then suddenly opened her
shirt right in front of his face.
Darren and two of the Kvetchians promptly fainted, but the
Bradleyard never twitched.
"I'd say he's in a trance," Varne deadpanned. "Or dead."
With suspicious casualness, Mike Yates crossed his legs and
tugged his tunic down toward his lap a little.
"Kajoobies," Davros mumbled, drooling slightly. He shook
himself out of it. "Okay, we can now place the helmet on the
Lydia refastened her shirt as Shugahmah and Lemielsch gently
set a frying-pan with several coathangers taped to it onto the
Lydia turned to find a smirking Varne snapping photographs of
the Bradleyard, chair and all. "Ken'll want to see these," she
explained. She neglected to mention the other photos she'd
gotten before Lydia closed her shirt, but those were just for her
Davros turned to face them all (except for the three unconscious
ones). "Now, when I power up this device, it will root out any
leftover fragments of memory which the Bradleyard may still
retain from his earlier life as BKWillis. Hopefully, we can use
this information to determine the identity and location of
BKWillis's muse, so that we can then kidnap her and force her
to work for the Bradleyard and call us Ethel. Are there any
questions before we proceed?"
"I have one," Kvetchian Commander Mucksch declared. "Are
you sure this will work?"
"Not at all," Davros replied without hesitation. "There is a
significant likelihood that the Bradleyard will simply be
"Yup. Sizzled away like cheap hamburger meat." Davros
shrugged. "Look at it this way, whether we succeed or we kill
him, either way the plot still gets advanced."
As everyone nodded in agreement, Davros threw the switch.
"I said, this had better be good." BKWillis glared at the two tiny
figures seated atop the air conditioning unit he'd been repairing.
"Oh, it's good, all right! You'll like this," exclaimed the one on
the left, bouncing happily. She was a small, delicate figure,
about a foot tall, clad in a shimmering gown of purest white and
with white-feathered wings on her back that fluttered slightly in
the breeze. She had a gentle, patrician face topped by a flowing
mass of chestnut-brown curls. All in all, she would have been
the very picture of angelic innocence, if not for the way the
second figure was draped over her. This one was also female,
and slightly shorter, but more voluptuously-built. She wore a
black leather jacket, skin-tight leather pants, and sunglasses, and
had a pair of bat-like wings furled against her back. Her long red
hair swirled around her when she moved, which she was not
doing at the moment, being too preoccupied with nibbling on the
other girl's earlobe and running her fingers down her neck. Had
the two been perched on BKWillis's shoulders (a habit he'd
broken them of, because they tended to get tangled in his hair
when they started necking with each other, which they always
did), they would have looked like the little cartoon representations
of the conscience in the form of miniature angels and devils. But
they weren't his conscience (it tended to hide in shame these
days). They were more annoying than that. They were...
"It's the best fanfic idea I've had yet!"
BKWillis sighed. He had plenty more to worry about at the
moment than writing another fanfic, like getting this A/C unit
up and running before the store patrons started complaining.
But, he also knew that he'd never get a second's peace until his
muses had given him their idea. "Okay, Nyssaias," he said
resignedly. "What's your idea?"
"Well, it's _mostly_ mine," the angel-muse said, "but Embericles
helped on some of the details."
The devil-muse quit blowing in Nyssaias's ear long enough to
give the author a wicked grin. "You'll know which bits are
mine," she drawled.
BKWillis lit up a cigarette and settled in to listen. "I hope it's
an inspiration for the rest of 'Feminine Mistake'," he huffed.
"Y'all two have a habit of running out on that one at times."
Nyssaias gently disengaged the other muse from her neck, then
lay back to let Embericles cradle her in her lap. "Actually, it's an
idea for a 'Ranma 1/2' story about Kasumi making a wish that
her life was more interesting, so these two goddesses overhear
"Well, did it work, or is he dead?" Varne demanded. "I need to
settle a bet."
"He's alive," Davros replied. Varne grumpily handed Mucksch a
twenty-pound note. "And, I think we may have some leads.
Write down the following names and locations of women from
"...and then Akhbar the buzkashi martial artist from Pakistan
shows up, claiming God has led him there and claims Kasumi as
his." Nyssaias paused for breath and a quick smooch from
Embericles, then went on. "Naturally, Kasumi's other suitors
aren't too pleased with this, and Akhbar and Kyo and Kai-chan
and Seijo end up in a great big brawl that demolishes the dojo
_again_. Then Mr. Tendou finds out that Akhbar and Kyo are
both wealthy, and wants Kasumi to marry one of them, but she
actually feels attracted to Kai-chan. But she isn't sure about
a relationship with another woman, especially not one with a
past as dangerous as Kai-chan's, so she gravitates toward Seijo
a bit." Nyssaias paused for breath again, and noticed that
BKWillis had fired up his torch and was crawling back into the
unit to work.
"Hey! Aren't you going to listen to the rest of our idea?" she
called, with a little whine in her voice that gave Embericles
"I've heard enough," the author grunted. "It's a fine idea, but
I've already got enough unfinished projects going, and I've also
got a job to do here. So, don't bother me unless it's _vitally_
important. Got that?" Without waiting for a reply, he crawled
back into the air conditioner and set about undoing his earlier
"Why, the nerve of him!" Nyssaias pouted cutely. "How rude
and unappreciative!" Her pout faded as she felt a pair of lithe
arms snake around her.
"To the Forty-Nine Mulvanian Hells with author-boy," the red-
haired muse husked. "C'mon, Nyssaias. Let's go make out 'til
we pass out."
And they did.
As the Bradleyard lay recovering from his time in the MTRP
machine, Davros took charge -- or at least, tried to -- and handed
out assignments to the various minions.
"Right," he said, "here's how we'll go about this: Lydia, I want
"I'm staying here and watching over the boss, until he's better,"
Lydia declared in a voice that promised severe groinal injury to
anyone who tried to argue with her.
"Erm, yes. That's... ah... exactly what I was going to tell you to
do." Davros cleared his throat (not that it did much good).
"Now then, Varne, you are to--"
The tall redhead cut him off with an imperious wave of her hand.
"I have my own ideas about how to get this muse," she said.
Before anyone could say anything about that, she shimmered
and changed into the form of a largish housecat, then bounded
silently out the window (still broken from the postal delivery
back in 'Shock Value 4').
Davros seethed and flipped a switch on his mech-chair. With a
quick whine of servos, a hatch opened on the front of his chair
and the barrel of an Mishima Heavy Industries 20-millimeter
rotary-barrel autocannon slid out--
[The scene froze as Lady Akiko Natsume-Mishima, CEO of
Mishima Heavy Industries, popped up in front of the camera.
"Greetings, viewers!" she announced, inclining her head in a
gesture of respect to the audience. "I would just like to take a
moment to remind everyone that the MHI Model 87S Rotary-
Barrel Autocannon -- available in 20, 30, or 37 millimeter -- is
actually quite incapable of fitting into a space as confined as
the inside of this mech-chair. This is merely an example of what
I'm told is 'comedic exaggeration' on the author's part. Nonethe-
less, if it is serious, accurate firepower that is needed, the Model
87S can deliver. Tested, proven, and effective, the Model 87S is
perfect for providing that extra bit of firepower that gives you the
edge! Whether outfitting a major mechanized invasion force,
equipping tactical air-defense units, or simply trying to eliminate
a certain cat-brained cyborg as part of a messy child-custody
fight, the MHI Model 87S delivers! Order now, in time for
Lady Akiko bowed slightly and stepped out-of-shot as the scene
With a quick whine of servos, a hatch opened on the front of his
chair and the barrel of an Mishima Heavy Industries 20-millimeter
rotary-barrel autocannon slid out to point at the remaining
minions. "Right, then!" Davros shrieked. "Does anyone _else_
want to question my orders?!"
"We obey! We obey! Obeying's fun! We dig obedience!" they
"Ahem. Well then, Captain Yates, front and center!"
Mike Yates snapped to attention in front of Davros, taking care
to stand just to one side of the gun barrel. Davros handed him a
small piece of paper, saying, "I want you and Darren to go to this
address and collect the woman whose name appears below. Snap
to it!" Yates and Ullman were only too glad to leave.
Davros turned to Commander Mucksch. "Commander, take your
men to this place. Again, your target's name appears below.
Bring her here alive."
"Understood, sir!" Mucksch shouted, just because he enjoyed
being loud. The Kvetchians departed through the window.
"And what about you, Davros?" Lydia asked.
"I have a task of vital importance to perform," he informed her
grandly. More quietly, he added to himself, "That is, assuming
the liquor store is still open..."
BKWillis slid his service van out into the afternoon traffic,
thankful to be off the roof of that damned mall. His next job was
at a school, in a nice, cool basement. He liked that sort of work.
It would be nice and comfortable, with no people around, and
no angry customers demanding to know how much longer it
would be until he was finished. Just a nice little electrical job,
replacing some obsolete controls. He could feel himself relaxing
"Hey, big guy! I've got an idea for you!"
The van wove a little as he jumped at the voice shouting next to
his ear. "Crap! Do you mind _announcing_ yourself, Embericles?"
"That's what I just did, dude!" The red-haired muse hopped up
onto the dashboard, her partner in tow. Both of them had
changed out of their regular garb and into identical dark suits,
their wings poking out through the backs. They had their hair
pulled up in severe-looking buns, and wore black Ray-bans over
Willis eyed them warily. "What are you two supposed to be
"We're the Muses in Black," Embericles announced in a mono-
tone voice. "I'm E, and this is my partner, N." They tried to
look stern and menacing, but spoiled the moment with a giggling
"So, your idea has something to do with 'Men in Black', I take
"Not really," 'N' replied. "I just think Embericles is way too sexy
butched up like this. Isn't that suit _adorable_?" She squealed
and swatted her fellow-muse on the rear.
The van paused at a red light, and BKWillis rubbed at his temples.
"So, would you two like to tell me what your idea is before this
turns into Muse-Snogfest 2000?"
Embericles stopped trying to get Nyssaias's tie off and started
explaining. "It's _my_ idea, actually, and quite worthy of your
Dark Muse. It starts off as an 'Evil Dead' crossover, with Ash
The Kvetchians stood at the front door of a small house in
rural Oklahoma, debating what the best approach would be.
"I think we should find out if she's even here, first," Shugahmah
"And we do that by...?" asked Gevahlltoy, blowing his green
bangs out of his eyes.
"We break down the door, overwhelm the defended strongpoints,
and interrogate prisoners for information!" Vayoy declared with
a firm nod.
"This isn't a fortress, idiot," Shugahmah shot back. "It's just a
house. There aren't any defended strongpoints."
"So? It'll be even easier, then."
Just as the argument was getting into full swing and Mucksch
was preparing to order a preliminary reconnaisance, the question
was answered by the door being opened.
"Can I... help you gentlemen?" the occupant of the house asked
mistrustfully. He was an Arabic-looking man in his early thirties,
and seemed a bit put off by the presence of a band of green-haired
strangers arguing on his doorstep.
They blinked at him for a moment, before Mucksch quickly
recovered his poise. "Ah, yes. Sorry to trouble you, sir, but is
a woman named Marina on the premises?"
"Marina's out back. If you have business with her, I can take you
"If it's no bother, I would appreciate it."
Vayoy nudged Lemielsch and whispered, "I didn't know the
Commander could be such a simpering weenie."
Lemielsch kicked him in the leg. "It's called 'manners', idiot.
You could do with learning some yourself."
The homeowner led the little knot of Kvetchians around to the
back side of the house. There, they saw a heavyset thirtyish
woman, a traditional Muslim chador covering all but her eyes and
hands, shooting arrows from a heavy compound bow into a man-
shaped wooden target. All six men winced a little as she put an
arrow squarely in the target's crotch.
"Dear, there are some gentlemen here to see you," the Arab man
announced. "I suspect they are some of your Greenpeace friends."
"Thank you, husband," she replied, walking over to them.
Mucksch noted that she neither put aside the bow nor took out
the arrow she'd just nocked in it.
"Are you Marina Willis?" he asked.
Her eyes flashed at him. "I _was_, but not anymore," she ans-
wered in a hard voice. "Is this something to do with my idiot ex-
husband?" Before Mucksch could reply, she advanced on him,
raising the bow slightly. "I should've known! Look, I want to
make this clear to all you weirdos! I don't have anything to do
with him anymore! Whatever he's done, it has _nothing_ to do
with me, now! I'm sick of Federal agents pestering me about
him! I'm sick of aliens landing in my begonias, wanting me to
make good on some check he wrote them! I'm sick of Orcs
dropping in to see if I can drive them to his house! I am SICK of
By this point, the Kvetchians were all backpedalling toward the
house, while the ex-Mrs. Willis advanced on them, an arrow
drawn back and aimed. Her husband looked on admiringly.
"Get this straight, you green-headed goofballs," she growled.
"I am no part of my loony ex-husband's plans, okay? I am Mrs.
Marina Yusuf, a normal housewife and schoolteacher, leading
a normal married life with my normal husband, going to mosque
and working as a Greenpeace activist. I have _had_ it with nuts
and psychos intruding on my life!"
Mucksch eyed the razor-sharp broadhead that was aimed at his
chest, and gulped. "Ah... aren't you Greenpeace types pacifists?"
"We are," Marina replied, "but I sometimes have lapses. In fact,
I feel one coming on now..."
"Thankyouforyourtimesorrywedisturbedyoubyebye!" A cloud of
dust marked the path of the Kvetchians' headlong retreat.
Marina Yusuf -- schoolteacher, devout Muslim, pacifist (usually),
and expert archer -- set aside her bow as her husband put an arm
around her. She gazed at him adoringly, a gentle smile on her
face. "I doubt they'll bother us again, dear," she said, giving him
"I shouldn't think so," he agreed with a laugh, then looked at her
inquiringly. "Orcs?" he asked. "I knew about the Feds and the
spies and the aliens, but your ex was involved with Orcs?"
She shuddered and held him tight. "You don't know the half of
"Relax, Darren. I learned this at Sandhurst." Captain Mike
Yates worked the needle inside the doorlock while Darren stood
watch to make sure they were unobserved.
"You took a lockpicking class at Sandhurst?"
"No. I was carrying-on with one of the instructors' daughters,
and I used to break into the toolsheds so we could 'get it on' in
"For privacy?" Darren asked.
"No. Lulu just had a thing for tools. Ah, got it!" The UNIT
Captain gently twisted the knob and let the two of them into
the little white house.
"Who are we after, again?" Darren asked as they crept into the
"According to the note, there should be some skirt named 'Guin'
in this house. We snatch her and find out if she's Willis's muse."
"Shhh! Listen." The sound of footsteps came from around the
"That must be her," Yates whispered. "On three, we pounce.
Before he could get to 'three', the source of the footsteps came
groggily around the corner. She'd been taking an afternoon nap,
and been awakened by the opening of the door. Hopefully, it was
_him_ coming home, so she got up to go see.
"Aheh heh," Yates laughed sickly. "Nice doggie."
Standing in the hallway in front of the two would-be kidnappers
was a large, very muscular black dog. The animal had a mildly
puzzled look on its face.
The dog was still not fully awake, but that changed rapidly as the
smell of strangers made itself known. There were two men in the
house, and neither of them was _him_. What to do? Well, that
wasn't all that difficult a choice, really. Most dogs only have a
few set patterns of behavior, and this one was no exception. She
really only had three emotional settings. There was 'off', for
when she was napping. There was also 'cheerful euphoria', for
when _he_ was home. Neither of these seemed an appropriate
response to the presence of unescorted strangers in the house,
so she decided to go with her third setting: 'snarling homicidal
lunacy'. This all took about one-eighth of a second to decide.
Darren felt his bladder loosen as the big dog's expression changed
from mild puzzlement to simple murderousness.
"AH! Bad doggie! Bad doggie!" Darren and Mike screamed as
they fled, the dog tearing at their legs. They charged out the
door and into the yard, managing to leap the fence as the dog
ripped at them. In a panic, they kept on running even though
the dog had stopped at the fence.
The dog gave them a last few barks and growls as they disap-
peared out of sight. Satisfied that they were gone, she curled
up on the back porch, where she could be in a position to
attack if they came back. As she lay her head down and went
back to her doggy dreams, the sunlight glinted off the tag on
her collar, highlighting the name 'Guin'.
"What a strange, strange dream," muttered the Bradleyard.
"Feeling better, boss?" asked Lydia with just a little bit more
concern than one might expect an employee to have for their
superior. She helped him sit up a little. "You were out so long,
I was starting to wor-- wonder if the MTR Probe might have
"I feel fine, just a bit tired, my dear Lydia. And, I just had the
"Tell me about it, boss. Maybe, if it bothered you, that'll make
you feel better."
"Not 'bothered', really," he sighed. "More confused than anything
else. I dreamed that I was a soldier, an armored horseman in the
armies of the Byzantine Empire. I was sent out on a mission to
find out where all our cows were disappearing to, because there
was about to be a terrible beef shortage. So, I rode out, with my
bow and my spear and my trusty sword and axe, looking for the
source of our dearth of cows. Finally, I came to a waterfall, and
there I found our cows being stolen by a large group of overpriced
General Motors luxury cars. In a rage, I charged the cars, striking
them from horseback with my axe. And then..."
"Then, I woke up." The Bradleyard looked up at Lydia. "Do you
think it's an omen, perhaps? What could it mean?"
Lydia thought furiously for a moment. "Let me get this straight,"
she said at last. "You dreamed you were a cataphract, fighting
Cadillacs with a battleaxe at a cataract over a cattle lack?"
"That's it exactly! What could it mean?"
Lydia winced and shook her head. "It means your subconscious
should be hit with a big stick. Go back to sleep." She started to
"But I'm not tired," he whined petulantly. "In fact, I feel like
wreaking some evil on the world."
"Well, you can't, because all the other minions are gone on
missions, except for Davros. He's passed out in the kitchen
with a bottle of Thunderbird."
"Crud." The Bradleyard kicked at the covers. "And I felt like
being really wicked, too..."
Lydia considered for a moment. "How about depravity, then?
That's a sort of wickedness."
"Have we got any mashed potatoes?"
"A whole pot."
"And the trapeze?"
"In the closet."
The Really, Really Evil author grinned and started sliding across
the bed. "Well, then, my dear," he purred, "let's break out a
fresh crate of chickens and get to it."
BKWillis hooked up the last of the connections on the chiller's
new freeze protect switches, then rechecked his wiring against
the new diagram. Everything should be A-OK, now he just had
to run the pain-in-the-ass diagnostic sequence before he could
call the sucker done and leave it running. He punched the Start
button, eyes flicking across gauges and readouts as the system
went into its warm-up cycle. He had to be ready to shut down
instantly, should anything go wrong, to avoid compressor
"Got another brilliant notion for you, dude!"
Willis ground his teeth and tried to stay focussed on pressures
and temperatures and current draws. "Not now, girls. I'm kind
"But this is _so_ cool!" Embericles, back in her 'normal' garb,
hopped up on the chiller's control box, the white-clad Nyssaias
right behind. (Why they bothered with clothes was a mystery,
since their main concern always seemed to be getting each other
out of them.) "See, you do a John Woo version of 'Arc of
Infinity', where all the guards carry submachineguns and stuff,
and the High Council chamber looks like a big church inside."
BKWillis tried to check the discharge gauge, but Embericles's
leg was in the way. He eased her out of the way with his hand
as she nattered on.
"So, Nyssa comes in to rescue the Doc, and there's this _huge_
shootout, and everybody gets killed except Nyssa and Maxil,
who end up in this big standoff with the Doctor between them..."
Nyssaias shook her head, but didn't stop playing with the other
muse's hair. "I don't like that idea. It's too dark."
"Well, duh." Embericles affectionately swatted Nyssaias on
the back. "Of course you'd say that. You're the Light Muse."
Willis was trying to mentally figure the chiller's compression
ratio, which was getting difficult with all the chatter.
"That's right. And, as the Light Muse, I think we should do
something with puppies in it!"
Embericles considered. "Well... we could have some vicious
Rottweilers guarding the Council chamber, I suppose..."
He'd had enough. "Look, you two," he grated. "I've got a
hundred-ton centrifugal chiller to put back on-line, here. I
don't have time for fan fiction right now."
The muses looked at each other and shrugged. "Okay,"
began Nyssaias, "we also had an idea for a marketable novel..."
"I don't have time for _any_ of this right now!" Willis shouted.
"I've got work to do! Chattering muses are the last thing I need
at the moment!"
Nyssaias's lips trembled and tears welled up in her eyes, while
Embericles just looked offended and made a rude gesture. Willis
saw neither, though, as he was too busy with his readings. "Fine,
then," Embericles huffed. "We know when we're not wanted.
C'mon, Nyssaias. I'll show you a new use for rubber cement that
I've come up with..." With that, the two stalked off, Nyssaias
sniffling slightly as they went.
The cat watched the two little figures flounce away from BKWillis,
into the shadows. Perfect. She hadn't been close enough to hear
what was going on, but at least one of them had to be a muse.
Unless Alabama was suffering a pixie infestation, one-foot-tall,
winged girls had to be muses.
Varne purred to herself and selected the white-winged one as the
most likely candidate. Eyes glowing red, she stalked after her
The chiller was running without a hitch, the last job was done,
but BKWillis felt bad.
"Maybe I shouldn't have shouted at them," he thought. "It's just...
How come they only decide to work while _I'm_ at work? They
pester me all day, then, when I finally sit down at the keyboard,
they do their big disappearing act! Still, I do need the little fairy
sex-fiends. Crap, it's a wonder I don't write flat-out porn, the
way those two carry on. Maybe I'll just apologize when they
"Oh, dude!" BKWillis was almost knocked over as a tiny flying
form slammed into his chest, crying inconsolably.
"There, there, Embericles," he said, awkwardly patting her. "I'm
sorry I was so abrupt earlier."
The Dark Muse pounded on his chest. "It's not that, you big jerk!
Nyssaias is gone!"
She clung to him, sobbing, then blew her nose on his shirt. "A
big cat took her!" she wailed. "A big red cat with big red eyes!
I tried to fight it, but it just laughed at me and disappeared!
With my poor little Nyssaias! WAAAAH!!"
Willis paled. "Oh, God. This means... This means that with
just my Dark Muse, all I'll be able to write is 'Badlands'!"
That was when BKWillis found out how well a one-foot-tall
body, when backed by wings, could perform a bitch-slap.