In the science room of the mining ship Red Dwarf, the crew waited for Holly, the ship's onboard computer, to make an announcement. Red Dwarf is a city-sized spacecraft designed for mining precious minerals from the moons of the outer planets, but a tragic radioactive explosion in the late 21st century killed off most of the crew and forced Holly to steer the ship into deep space to avoid contaminating anyone outside the ship. Now, three million years later, the ship had now wandered (sorry, will wander) so far from Earth that the trip back was slow and tedious.
The crew consisted (or will consist) of Dave Lister and Kristine Kochanski, the only two humans who survived the accident because they were in "stasis" (a sort of suspended animation) at the time; Arnie Rimmer, a computer-generated hologram of a man whose flesh-and-blood body was long-since dead; Kryten, an android; and the "Cat", who looks human, but had in fact evolved over the three million years from an ordinary house cat.
They all were anxious to get back to Earth as soon as possible, and even though Red Dwarf could travel at high speeds, they seemed to make little progress. But now Holly said he had invented a means by which to get them all back to Earth in a flash, and he was about to reveal his plan.
"Ladies and gentlemen (and Cat and android) I hereby announce the unveiling of the Holly-Hop Drive, Mark II!" Holly proclaimed.
"Oh smeg!" growled Rimmer despondently.
"What is the Holly-Hop drive, Arnie?" Kris said, gently squeezing Rimmer's hand.
"You hadn't come to Red Dwarf when he did it," Rimmer replied, "But Holly invented this Holly-Hop drive to get us home, and it only succeeded in moving us into a parallel universe!"
The balding male head on the monitor screen (this was how Holly manifested himself) raised an annoyed eyebrow at Rimmer.
"Yes, but I have ironed out all the problems, and this time, it will work!" he assured him, "It will get us home in two shakes of a toad's tail!"
"Er--Toads don't have tails, Holly," Kryten reminded him.
"Oh no, of course they don't--I was thinking of sponges," said Holly, "You see, what I've done is hook up the Holly-Hop drive to the Artificial Reality machine, so that if we load an artificial world into the AR machine, we will be able to enter the real universe of that world! So what I've done is put several AR disks in that barrel and if someone would pick one out at random..."
Kris closed her eyes and picked a disk from the barrel. She then read the label on the disk she picked: "Wizard of Oz World"
"Then I guess we're going to the Land of Oz!" said Holly, "Load in the disk."
Kris slipped the CD-like disk into the slot in the side of the AR machine's CPU box.
"And now dudes, we will Holly-Hop! Press the 'start' button, Dave!" Holly proclaimed.
Lister reached over to the little, unpretentious plastic box marked "Holly-Hop Drive" and pressed the button. Suddenly, a blue globe with white clouds appeared in the view monitors.
"There it is! That's Earth!" Holly proclaimed triumphantly as he maneuvered the ship into orbit around the planet.
"Are you sure that's Earth?" Rimmer said skeptically.
"All the data checks out," Kris said, looking at a computer read-out of the planet's statistics, "'Diameter: 12,756 kilometers; Semi-Major Axis: 149 million kilometers; Surface Gravity: 1g; Length of Solar Day: 24 hours; Albedo 0.39; Number of moons: 3...'"
"Er, um, hang on one second! Last time I checked, Earth had only one moon!" said Rimmer.
"Well, remember this is a parallel Earth, and will be very different from ours, sir," observed Kryten.
"Is the Yellow Brick Road and the Emerald City really down there?" the Cat asked.
"The only way we're going to know for sure is to go down there and explore," said Kryten.
So it was decided, and everyone boarded the "Starbug" (a much smaller craft aboard Red Dwarf that was equipped with landing gear) and descended toward the planet's surface.
"Very curious!" observed Holly as they dropped below the cloud deck, "There seems to be a very large desert with a nearly perfectly rectangular oasis the size of Wyoming at its heart!"
"It's Oz all right!" said Kris.
"And the countryside appears to have color biases!" Holly continued.
"What?" asked Rimmer.
"Color biases? You mean that certain colors predominate over others?" said Kryten.
"Yeah--Right on!" confirmed Holly, "My spectroscopic analysis indicates a bias towards blue in the eastern region of Oz, yellow in the west, purple in the north, red in the south, and green at the very center!"
"Hm! You couldn't catch me dead wearing a freaked-out color scheme like that!" said the Cat disdainfully.
"Well, my favorite color is blue--I say that's where we should land," said Kris.
"Anything Kris is for, I'm for!" asserted Rimmer lovingly.
"Well, I vote for the red region!" said Lister.
"I'm with you, bud" said the Cat to Lister, "Red goes much better with the suit I'm wearing."
"Care to cast the deciding vote, Holly?" Rimmer inquired.
"No way!" replied Red Dwarf's supercomputer, wishing to stay out of this petty argument.
"Then it's up to you, Kryten," said Rimmer.
"I'm sorry Mr. Rimmer, but my programming mandates that I abstain and let majority rule...And my programming also mandates that the vote of a hologram doesn't count."
"Red it is!" cried Lister, triumphant.
Rimmer and Kris accepted the ruling, and Holly steered
Starbug down into the red country.
"Strike a light!" exclaimed Holly presently.
"Wha' now?" cried Lister anxiously.
"Is that a fabulous looking palace or what?" Holly said.
Out Starbug's window they saw a red field with red trees, dominated by a grand, sparkling palace of rubies.
"Land there!" cried Lister.
"Where, on the roof?" Kris said sarcastically.
"I will land the Bug at the foot of those steps," Holly announced, and a minute later they touched down in front of the great building. They stepped out of Starbug, and two young girls, who were apparently palace guardians, stepped forward to meet them.
"Greetings, galactic travelers," one of the guards said to them, "If you will follow us, her highness is expecting you."
"Who is 'her highness'?" Kryten asked.
"We are employed by her highness to guard the palace, not to answer questions!" the girl-guard snapped.
"This is Glinda's palace, or at least it should be," Kris whispered.
"Now follow us!" the girl-guard commanded, and the Dwarfers obeyed, as they were led down a long corridor and into a large room studded with rubies and lined with red satin. Sitting in a throne at the end of the room was a lovely young woman with short dark hair, a flowing red gown, and a golden crown.
Upon seeing the them, she stood, and said in a syrupy voice, "Are you good witches or bad witches?"
"We're not witches at all -- We're 'The Boyz From the
Dwarf'!" Lister proclaimed.
"And girls!" Rimmer added hastily, on behalf of Kris, who gratefully squeezed his waist.
"Oh...," said the woman in an even more syrupy voice, and pointed to Holly, whose disembodied head appeared on the display screen on Kryten's abdomen, "Well, is that the witch?"
"No," Holly replied, "I am a Tenth-Generation AI Hologrammatic computer with an IQ of 6000 -- The same IQ as 6000 Radio Talk Show hosts."
"Excuse me," said Kryten to the woman, "But my sincerity detection chip indicates that you are not speaking in your natural tone. We Dwarfers much prefer people we meet acting like themselves."
"Oh good!" said the woman with a sigh of relief and a switch in her tone to much more pleasant and intelligent-sounding voice, "Most people when they come here expect the 'Are you a good witch or a bad witch' routine, and it drives me nuts! But I'm glad to find you much more reasonable! I am Glinda, the Good Sorceress of Oz, and in fact I already know all about you from my Great Book of Records."
"'Great Book of Records'?" echoed Rimmer.
"It records within its pages all important events in the universe at the very instant that they occur! I read in it all about you and Red Dwarf and how you've been lost three million years from Earth, and how your 'Holly-Hop Drive' brought you here to Oz!"
"Then this is the Land of Oz, as in The Wizard of Oz?" Lister asked in amazement.
"Yes, indeed! And I'm sure that the Queen will want to meet you," said Glinda.
"Queen?? I thought the Scarecrow ruled Oz!" said Lister.
"Oh no, not for years!" Glinda replied, "Princess Ozma is our queen now -- The sweetest, kindest, wisest ruler a country ever had!"
"So we're not talking Margaret Thatcher here, are we?" Lister remarked.
"How do we get to the Queen?" Kryten asked.
"I will fly there in my pterodactyl-drawn chariot, and you can follow behind me in Starbug," Glinda replied.
"Pterodactyl drawn?" Lister asked.
"Oh yes -- Dinosaurs are alive and well here in Oz and the rest of Baumgea," said Glinda.
"What is 'Baumgea'?" asked Rimmer.
"This whole fairy continent," Glinda explained, "Oz lies at the center of the continent, and is surrounded by the 'Deadly Desert' that no mortal being can traverse. Various other lands lie outside the Desert, such as Ix, Ev, and Boboland. They are magical too, but not so much so as Oz, and Oz is the only place where everyone is immortal and leads a totally peaceful and contented existence."
"Except that there's no love and romance, right?" said Holly, whose computer text file archive included the text of Heinlein's The Number of the Beast.
"Of course there is! What made you think there wasn't?" said Glinda.
"WHEW!" Lister breathed a loud sigh of relief.
"I think we'd better get the to the Emerald City," Kris said, and they headed for Starbug and Glinda's guards prepared her chariot. At first, Glinda's graceful, shy, snow-white pterosaurs were terrified by the sight of Starbug, but after they were reassured that it wasn't some kind of green tyrannosaur, they willingly allowed Starbug to follow a safe distance behind as they pulled Glinda's chariot through the sky over the reddish landscape of the Ozian province of the Quadling people. The pterodactyls were swift, and very soon the sparkling green of the Emerald City was visible on the horizon.
On the opposite side of Oz, in the northern "purple" region known as Gillikin Country, stands a majestic, plateau-like mountain called Mount Flathead. On Mount Flathead lives three beautiful and clever sorceresses known as the "Three Adepts at Sorcery". The first Adept, Zsuzsa, has jet-black hair and brown eyes. She is very regal and dignified, and her specialty is artistic and musical magic. The second Adept is Sofia, with golden hair and blue eyes. She is free-spirited and sprightly, and her forte is sorcery garnered from nature. And last but light years from least is Judit, whose flowing reddish-brown hair and sparkling green eyes are bewitching to all. She speaks with a gentle, soft-spoken voice and moves with demure grace, and she is a skillful and brilliant specialist in mechanical magic, as well as the great and mysterious magic forces of the space-time continuum itself.
On the day that the Dwarfers arrived at Glinda's palace, the Adepts were also paid a visit.
"There's a lady to see you," the Butler told them in their magical experimentation laboratory, "A Miss Camille."
"What does she want?" Zsuzsa asked, looking up from a heavy old book of spells.
"She did not say, Madam."
"What's this Miss Camille like?" Judit asked, pausing from her attempt to harness a swarm of neutrinos.
"Oh, she's just lovely!" The Butler remarked in a dreamy voice, "She loves housework, drudgery and mindless tedium, and she believes as I do that servants and domestics should know their place. She even favors the abolition of voting rights for butlers, maids and housekeepers!" And he sighed like a schoolboy admiring the prom queen.
"She sounds like a deranged masochist to me!" Zsuzsa remarked, "And if she's looking for a job, I think we can do without her!"
"Well, we should go see what she wants and not sit and speculate," Judit said decisively and she rose, "Shall we sisters?"
"Miss Camille insisted that she speak to you one at a time," said the Butler hastily.
"One at a time? Why?!" Zsuzsa inquired with narrowed eyes.
"I did not inquire, ma'am," the butler replied with a snort, "My job is to do as I'm told and not ask questions!"
"Is that what they taught you at Gillikin School for Domestics?" Zsuzsa remarked, "Very well, lead me to this mysterious Miss Camille. I'll be back soon, sisters."
The Butler led Zsuzsa to the baize door leading into the reception room. Zsuzsa could hear Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, third movement emanating from within. She opened the door and entered.
Zsuzsa's eyes widened. Sitting on the coach, very erect and proud, was a handsome young man in a spiffy navy blue three-piece business suit. He had perfectly combed short dark hair, beautifully manicured nails, and newly shined black shoes.
"Ah, hello!" he said rising and courteously taking her delicate white hand, "You must be Zsuzsa. I am Camille."
Zsuzsa turned to the butler. "I thought you said this was a Miss Camille."
The Butler eyed his mistress as though she were ready for the booby hatch. "She is, ma'am."
"He looks an awful lot like a Mr. Camille to me!" she said to her servant, thinking him ready for the booby hatch.
"I hope you don't mind my playing some music while I waited...Off!" Camille said, his last word issuing the command to power down the magic jukebox, an invention of Judit's that can play any piece of music ever invented just by asking it to.
"Not at all," Zsuzsa said with a smile as the music obediently faded away, "I love classical music, especially Beethoven's Seventh. I once used it in a spell to launch Oznik I, so that Oz could enter the Space Race. That was before modern interstellar Ozoplanes and so on, of course."
"Yes, I love musical magic too," said the distinguished gentleman.
"You do?" she cried, then said to the Butler, "Did you hear what he said?"
"Yes, madam -- She said, 'I'm very sorry to have operated the jukebox without leave and pollute the air with Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner, Verdi, Puccini, Rossini, and other vulgar trash music of the former Axis Powers, and I promise that it will not happen again, madam!'"
Zsuzsa narrowed her eyes. "Is your hearing aid on the blink again? And why the hippikaloric do you keep calling him 'she'?"
"I have impeccable hearing and 20-20 vision, Madam; and a think I know a lower-class subservient maidservant when I see one."
Zsuzsa looked at the supposed "lower-class subservient maidservant" and saw only a high-class gentleman who likes Beethoven.
"Don't worry, Zsuzsa -- He'll never understand." Camille smiled, as he brushed a dust speck from his suit.
"Yes, I agree Miss Camille -- Sorceresses are blithely unaware of the bonding between fellow happily repressed servants." the Butler replied.
Zsuzsa glared at the Butler and said, doing her best Greta Garbo impression, "'Go to bed, Little Father -- We want to be alone!'"
"Very good, madam." And the Butler withdrew.
"So, what can I do for you?" Zsuzsa asked the handsome stranger.
"Let's dance first," he asserted, "On! Blue Danube Waltz by Strauss!"
"What conductor?" the jukebox inquired in a tinny voice.
"Er--Sir Alexander Gibson, Scottish Philharmonic." And the high-tech jukebox obeyed.
As they waltzed, Zsuzsa said, "This is wonderful! I've never danced in such ideal conditions before! Usually, it's to the heavy beat of music louder than a landing 747, under flashing colored lights like an explosion in a laser factory!"
"Guys who take you to places like that are clearly not good enough for you, my dear Zsuzsa."
She smiled, then after a few more bars of Strauss she asked soberly, "Can you tell me now what you've come here for?"
"Only you, my sweet!"
"Er--well, I think I'd better have a word with your sisters, first," Camille faltered.
Zsuzsa came out of the reception room and found her sisters waiting for her.
"Well? What's she like?" Judit asked.
"He is fantastic! A real man if there ever was one!"
"'He'?? But I thought--" Sofia began.
"Go in and see for yourself! He's fabulous!" Zsuzsa pressed. So Sofia went into the reception room...And saw sitting on the couch a man with long, wavy hair and a short, stubbly beard. He wore torn blue jeans, a tie-dye shirt and a "peace" pendant, and as Sofia entered he was playing the guitar and singing:
"If you want to sing out sing, sing out;
If you want to be free, be free;
'Cause a there's a million things to be;
You know that there are, you know that there are!"
Sofia was dumbstruck. "Er--you are--" she asked finally.
"I'm Camille, baby! Peace, sister!"
"But--but--I was expecting--"
"Expect! Hey, that ain't cool, sister! Expect the unexpected! And always do your own thing!"
"That's what I say!" cried Sofia, delighted, "No conventionalities, no stuffy
decorum -- Be yourself, and fight for freedom of expression and the liberation of nature!"
"Right on, baby!" Camille replied.
Sofia emerged, dreamy-eyed from the room.
"Well, isn't he great?!" said Zsuzsa.
"Oh yes!" sighed Sofia, "He loves rock music and ecology and abolishing war and holding demos on school campuses! He suggested we go over to Wogglebug College and picket the fine arts department for their crypto-fascist leanings."
"Crypto-fascist leanings?" said Zsuzsa incredulously.
"Yeah, like how they teach all about the succession of Ozian monarchs, but ignore the history of Tottenhots and other repressed Ozian racial minorities," Sofia explained.
"Balderdash!" scoffed Zsuzsa, "He's a level-headed nobleman with stature and dignity, not a some kind of anarchical hippie!"
Judit frowned. She knew there was something fishy going on. What would she see when she opened the door, she wondered.
So she opened it -- And beheld what appeared to be a gestalt composite of Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Stephen Hawking, and Clifford Stoll.
"Ah--Judit, my dear! I am Camille."
"You're Camille," Judit muttered.
"Tell me Judit, since we are of course dealing with the 11-dimensional non-Euclidean geometry of concave Hilbert spaces, does this mean that the field of Ozian sorcerial matrices is closed under addition and non-commutative multiplication; and should this have any bearing on the hyperbolic nature of space-time in proximity of Oz and other quantum-unstable Nonestican subsets in the presidigitational continuum?"
"Well?" Zsuzsa asked when Judit was back outside the room.
"He's an ultra-genius!" Judit replied, "An expert on quantum mechanics, relativistic astrophysics, higher linear algebra, analytical solid geometry, and computer programming in FORTRAN, COBOL, C++, and Oz-embly language! The kind of guy that makes my little heart go 'thump-thump, thump-thump'!"
"Okay, what's going on?" said Zsuzsa.
"There is no doubt in my mind," Judit stated with a discernible trace of disappointment in her voice, "This Camille is an 'AB'!"
"An 'AB'?" Sofia asked.
"An Aberrational Being," Judit explained, "ABs always appear to each individual as their own personal ideal companion. I've heard of such things before."
"So what do we do?" inquired Sofia.
"We ask him...her...it up front why he's here and what he...she...it...wants!" Judit said firmly.
Pete Tranter's Sister sat forlornly in the dark, dingy pub in London's East End. She figured that there were a lot of horrible things in the known universe, but surely there couldn't be anything worse than being Pete Tranter's Sister!
All her life she had stood in the shadow of her rich and successful brother. He had an I.Q. of 176, owned three mansions and a yacht from million-dollar sales of the album "Om" he made with his Secondary School band "Smeg and the Heads" and belonged to the highly successful law firm of Tranter, Tranter, and Tranter. (It was only him at the firm, but he was such a fantastic lawyer that everyone knew it was worth writing his name three times.)
Even in their childhood her parents had shown excess favoritism to him, to the point that they didn't even bother to give her a name. They just said to people, "This is our wonderful son Pete, and this is his sister."
It was horrible -- Pete had money, fame, wealth, everything. And what did she have? She had a famous brother named Pete. Even guys would only go out with her to get to him, and it wasn't as if Pete Tranter's Sister was unattractive -- on the contrary, she could have been a model if she weren't a half-inch too short to ride Space Mountain and the other fun rides at Disney World.
No, being the shy, petite sibling of a tall, charismatic overachiever was not easy. That was probably why she had decided to let her hair grow long and bleached it blonde, starved herself to lose weight, and took to wearing skimpy leather that fitted her like a straight-jacket. At least then guys noticed her good looks first, and only later tried use her to get to her famous brother.
But what really burned her up inside was the fact that Pete was making all that money from the "Om" album, and she knew smegging well he was not the sole writer. He had cowritten it with Dave Lister, another member of the group. But Dave was dead, or at least presumed dead -- He had vanished one night during a particularly wild party with his mates, and the only trace they had ever found of him was his clothes and ID cards on a strange, cheruby young girl with amnesia and a gold bracelet engraved "E.B." So Pete knew he could get away with not so much as verbally crediting Dave, because you cannot libel the dead.
But what if it turned out that he was alive and well? Pete Tranter's Sister had asked herself. What if he was living in the jungle somewhere living off berries? Pete Tranter's Sister had resolved to set out to find him, not only to pay him the millions that was due to him (she had "borrowed" five million pounds sterling from Pete for that purpose), but also to see him. She had always liked Dave...He had always looked at her in a wide-eyed way that said better than words that he considered her the most beautiful creature since Aphrodite. Yet, he had never had the nerve to talk to her...He was obviously just as shy and quiet as she was, which made her think they had a lot in common.
But where to start? How do you go about searching for a young man who vanished during a wild party circa three AM two years ago in that region she had always referred to with a shudder as "Darkest Liverpool"? And in this modern "Age of Exploration" one wasn't just limited to Earth -- He could be practically anywhere in the entire Solar System!
"Looking for someone?"
The voice startled Tranter (as she now resolved to call herself, since she had no given name) out of her reverie.
She looked up -- And then had to look down, as the little man who had spoken to her was even shorter standing that she was sitting. He was little all right -- About two feet tall, fat, elderly, with a funny red beard and dressed all in green.
"Are you Pete Tranter's Sister?" inquired the little man.
"Yes," Tranter admitted grudgingly.
"I sympathize with you -- I am Horace's Brother," he said, as though that name would have any meaning to her.
"I never heard of him," said Tranter.
"That's all right," he replied brightly, "We in Tir Na n'Og have never heard of Pete Tranter either."
"Where did you say??"
"Tir Na n'Og. My homeland. But that don't matter, at all, at all. I have been sent by Zim the Flying Sorcerer of Oz to lead you to Dave Lister."
"What kind of fairy tale are you giving me?" Tranter said, annoyed.
"I'm quite serious," he said firmly, "Look behind you."
Tranter looked, and saw to her amazement that a misty, spherical cloud was swirling behind her.
"Step through that!" the little man commanded.
Tranter, who was now afraid that this little weirdo was in fact an undercover constable administering a test for drunkenness, timidly obeyed. She stepped into the mist, and suddenly found herself in a beautiful, sunny countryside, surrounded by the loveliest flowers and trees she ever beheld. To her astonishment, all sign of the pub, the little man, and London itself had vanished, and the only bit of civilization she could see in this paradisical wilderness was a road of yellow bricks extending seemingly forever in both directions, and a sign on the road with an arrow which read, "Emerald City, 3 km."
And best of all, she realized as she glanced into the clear, pristine water of a nearby pond, she had somehow reverted to the natural appearance she really preferred: Short, dark hair, not so skinny, and clothes like a Liverpudlian highschooler.
"Hi, beautiful!" a passing Munchkin called to her.
"I don't know what all this is about," Tranter said to anyone in the universe who cared to listen, "But at least I think I'm out of Pete's shadow at last!"
"I'm glad were going to the Emerald City to the see Queen Ozma," Camille observed as she and the Adepts hiked with her through the Purple countryside of Gillikin Country.
"So am I," Judit concurred, "This is undoubtedly a monumental crisis involving Oz's worst enemies!"
"Well, they won't get away with it!" Zsuzsa promised, as they quickened their pace, "They will be brought to justice and no harm will come to Oz, believe you me!"
As they headed down the Red Brick Road towards the Emerald City, they encountered the Tin Man, on his way back to his tin castle in Western Oz.
The Tin Man stopped in his tracks as he beheld Camille, for to him she appeared as the beautiful young girl that he was seriously involved with as a flesh-and-blood human until the Wicked Witch of the East busted up their relationship by chopping up his body with an enchanted ax, forcing him to get a tin body as a replacement. His old love looked much the same as always, except that she was now made of tin as well!
"Nimee Amee!" the Tin Man gasped in astonishment.
"It's Nimee Camille now," Camille replied, "I'm glad to see you, Nick!"
"I'm so glad to see you! But what's happened to your flesh? How did you ever become tin?!" Nick Chopper the Tin Man cried.
"Let's just say that enemies of Oz have been giving me trouble -- It really pains my heart, which is as large as yours!"
"Oh, how terrible!" said the Tin Man sympathetically, "Is there anything I can do?"
"You'd better get back to your palace and protect your people," Camille replied, "Oz is in danger, I am sorry to say, and the Adepts and I are going to the Emerald City for help."
"If we need you," Zsuzsa added, glancing remonstratively at Camille, "We'll let you know."
"Very well, but be careful my dear!" And the Tin Man hugged his metallic love and placed a kiss on Nimee Camille's sweet red tin-copper alloy lips, which from the Adepts' now unillusory point of view, was a kiss on the left side of Camille's true form -- a pulsating, wrinkled, slimy blue-green blob with a single eye on a long stalk. Sofia giggled, Zsuzsa reached for a nausea tablet, and Judit discreetly averted her eyes from the pastoral love embrace.
Kris Kochanski and her fellow crewmembers from Red Dwarf arrived with Glinda at Ozma's palace in the Emerald City. The citizens of the city were astonished by Starbug, and thought it was some giant insect, something not unusual in Oz. (Well, at least less unusual than tourists from deep space and three million years in the future.)
Glinda escorted them straight through the palace gates (she had a VIP card), and into the great emerald-studded throne room where Princess Ozma, the young ruler of Oz, was seated. She had long, dark hair, fair skin, and dark green eyes. (It was very odd, but except for the royal green robes and the two big red poppies in her hair, she looked astonishingly like Kris!) Seated next to her was her husband, Prince Dan, with soft, kind blue eyes and freckled cheeks. The two royals were surrounded by Ozma's courtiers, including the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the Hungry Tiger, the Patchwork Girl, the Wogglebug, and many others.
"You majesty, I bring you some visitors from space," Glinda announced to Ozma, "They are from the mining space ship Red Dwarf, and have come here as part of an experiment in universe-jumping."
"I am very glad to have you here," Ozma smiled at her guests, "I am Ozma, the Fairy Queen of Oz, and this is my husband and lover, Dan!"
"Hi!" Dan said with a kind smile.
"I am Kris Kochanski, the commander of Red Dwarf, and this is Arnie Rimmer, my lover!"
Ozma's keen fairy ears detected the distant cringing of love-and-romance-hating arch-fairies, but she took no notice. She merely returned Kris' curtsy, and did her best to return Arnie's odd "Rimmer salute".
"This is an honor your majesty," Rimmer said in a stately voice, "Undoubtedly the biggest honor since that day we stumbled upon the King of the Space Weevils in Galactic Sector 66418!"
"So this is quite a shack you've got here," remarked Lister as he looked around the throne room, gnashing away at a stick of gum.
"Only been here two minutes, and already they're embarrassing me," Kris muttered to herself.
"That's Mr. Lister, Ma'am," Kryten said, continuing the introductions to Ozma, "and I am Kryten, this well-dressed fellow is the Cat and--"
"And I'm Holly, the ship's computer," Holly said with a yawn, still from Kryten's abdominal screen.
"If you're the ship's computer, how did you get here?" Ozma inquired with astonishment.
"He must be software-based, so it doesn't matter what hardware his DOS, executive, math, and graphical systems are using," observed Dan.
"Is that it??" said Holly, with a puzzled face.
"Well, I'm glad you're here," said Ozma, "We must have a welcoming banquet in your honor."
"Except him -- He ain't got no honor," the Cat said, pointing at Rimmer.
"Leave Arnie alone!" Kris remonstrated, and then said to Ozma, "We are all very honored, your majesty."
At that moment Omby Amby, the Soldier With the Green Whiskers who single-handedly constituted the Defense of the Realm entered and said, "Your majesty!"
"Yes, Omby Amby?" Ozma asked.
"The Adepts at Sorcery are here, with their friend, Camille," the Soldier With the Green Whiskers stated.
"With who??" Kryten said with a start.
"Camille." Omby Amby said, "She is one of those lady soldiers -- SLAPs, or whatever they're called--"
"WACs," Dan corrected.
"Yes," the Soldier With the Green Whiskers continued, "And astonishing enough, she's the same rank as I am -- a four-ZAMS-star general -- and she is very tall and lean and has long, green hair."
"Maybe it's a Quagaar Warrior!" Lister grinned and playfully nudged Rimmer, "Does she by any chance have six breasts?"
"Er, no--" Omby Amby said, giving Lister an odd look, "But she is definitely the most attractive creature I've ever beheld!"
"Well, tell them to come in!" Ozma asserted, and Omby Amby withdrew to do just that.
"Er--A word in your ear, your highness," Kryten said to Ozma hastily, "I think we'd better explain to you about Camille..."
"If you will step this way, her majesty will see you know," Omby Amby said to the Adepts, who followed him, with Camille close behind. But Camille, dragging along her slimy, shapeless body like an oversized slug, found it difficult to keep up with the Green-Whiskered Soldier's brisk military pace, and she quickly fell behind. Very soon she found that she was lost in a maze of palace corridors!
As she passed by various doors, she tried to open them in hopes that one was the door into the Queen's throne room, but most of the doors were either locked or opened into empty rooms.
She came to a door marked, "Palace Library", and she went in, hoping that the librarian would give her directions.
"Excuse me," she said politely to the wire-thin old woman with her hair in a bun that was tighter than the lid of a Laura Scutter's peanut butter jar.
"Excuse me," Camille repeated, but the librarian took no notice, and continued reading about the Queen of Boboland's continuing weight problems in The Ozzy Enquirer.
"May I help you?" said a voice, and Camille turned and saw a man-sized, upright-standing insect dressed in a three piece suit with a carnation. A pair of wise-looking glasses balanced on his wire-like nasal antenna, and he held a book under each of his left arms -- The Complete Works of Shakespeare and Christian Huygen's The Celestial Worlds Discovered.
"Allow me to introduce myself," he said to the ravishing and scholarly-looking female insect he beheld before him, "I am Professor Wogglebug, Headmaster of Wogglebug College in Munchkinland. I was just doing some research for my next address to the student body. Are you new here?"
"Yes, I am Professor Camille of Rinkitink University, instructor in British Literature, Norwegian Literature, Ancient History, Planetary Geology, Paleozoic and Mesozoic Flora and Fauna, and Baumgean Politics."
"Wow! Impressive!" the Wogglebug breathed.
"What's impressive?!" snapped the librarian.
"Professor Camille, may I introduce the Palace Librarian, Miss Euphemia Hynkel."
"I see no one," the librarian snarled at the Wogglebug, "I suggest you go and get your head examined." And she returned to the engrossing article about fairies who have been abducted by aliens.
The Wogglebug was quite puzzled, but Camille rightly surmised to herself that she was utterly invisible to the Librarian... Apparently this bitter, spiteful old harridan's idea of an ideal mate was no mate at all.
"Well, never mind her," the Wogglebug said, leading Camille away, "I would just like to say what an honor it is to meet me."
"And you must be very honored to meet me!" Camille agreed emphatically.
"Ah, great minds think alike!" the Wogglebug sighed in self-satisfaction.
"Now, can you tell me the way to the Queen's throne room?" Camille asked.
"Certainly!" And with a deep breath, the Wogglebug said as fast as a CD on fast-forward: "Gothroughthesedoorsheaddownthefirsthallonyourrightturnleftproceedpasttheser-vantloungegopasttheconservatorygotwoflightsupthegreatstairsproceeddownthemainhallpast-
"Er--uh--," Camille faltered.
"Now I have to be on my way my dear," the Wogglebug said, patting Camille on the head in a manner that she could only regard as condescending, "I have to give a speech to the Emerald City Revolving Club on paganism and anti-family values in children's literature!" And he swept off, leaving Camille to silently curse the genetic engineers who put her race in the position of having to put up with these fruitcakes.
Camille slithered out of the library and lumbered down the hall. Turning a corner, she encountered a lion, a big, brawny, fierce-looking lion!
"AAAAARRRRRGHHHHH!" Camille screamed.
"AAAAARRRRRGHHHHH!" the Cowardly Lion screamed, for although he saw a lovely, shapely lioness, he was vastly afraid of lovely, shapely lionesses. So both of them turned on their paws and darted off in terror. Camille dashed into a dark, unoccupied guest room to hide and catch her breath.
Jellia Jamb, the young, sweet and much-beloved housekeeper of the Royal Palace, saw a blurry figure zip like lightning into the room; and putting down the household account book and the Oz edition of Who Was Who (both very small volumes, since there is neither money nor death in the Fairyland of Oz!), Jellia stepped into the room -- And saw a young, dashing man in a suit of sparkling metal, seated gallantly atop a white equine mammal.
"Gadzooks! It's my Knight in Shining Armor at last!" Jellia gasped.
"Yes, Jellia! I am Sir Camille, and I've come to carry you away to my castle, where we will live happily ever after!"
"Really?" said Jellia.
"No," Camille replied, "I've just got to stop the illusions and show myself as I am...There's too much at stake!"
"What do you mean?" a disappointed Jellia inquired.
"Oz is in great danger...I must warn the Queen, but it must be done in my true form...You promise not to be shocked, Jellia?"
Jellia nodded. A second later the Knight and his horse vanished and in their place stood the slimy blue-green blob with one big eye on a stalk.
"You're not taken aback," Camille observed.
"Of course not," Jellia smiled, "In Oz one finds weirder things than you sitting at the Queen's conference table!"
"So this Camille is a 'Pleasure GELF', a Genetically Engineered Life Form designed to look to everyone like their ideal companion?" Queen Ozma said in the throne room.
"Yes," Kryten confirmed.
"Well, I was close anyway," Judit remarked, "ABs and GELFs are much the same."
"So Camille serves as a companion to an arbitrary individual...But surely it's not incapable of love itself!" asked Zsuzsa, still holding out a spark of hope that she and her version of Camille might get somewhere.
"Of course she is -- In fact she is married to another blue-green blob named Hector," Kryten explained, "But she has only one true love...Me!"
"You?!" Zsuzsa cried.
"Yes, she found me quite captivating when we last met...That's why the thought of seeing her again makes me so nervous that I think I'm going to experience something never before experienced by a mechanoid...Palpitations of the CPU!"
Just then, Jellia skipped into the throne room.
"Camille, Milady," she announced to Queen Ozma. Kryten's CPU skipped a machine instruction.
Tranter hurried down the Yellow Brick Road toward the Emerald City. She enjoyed the cool wind blowing her face as she ran joyfully toward the great city where she knew she would find Dave Lister, or at least someone who knew where he was.
She halted with hideously sharp abruptness as she ran into an old witch on the road. Most wicked old witches are ugly, but this one was nearly unbearable to look at. Her face was composed of jagged angles and sharp edges, and coated with a slimy glop-like substance. Her eyeballs had no pupils and her cranium was hairless. Her body, which vaguely resembled that of a crocodile's, was twisted and contorted like an animated pretzel, and an evil leer seemed to be burnt into her icky visage.
This was in fact, not a wicked witch (to call her such would cause all wicked witches to sue for defamation of character), but Queen Ra, the Queen of the Engineered Rogue Beings, or ERBs. The ERBs were a race of GELFs very similar and closely related to the Polymorphs, and like them, could metamorphose into any shape. These horrible beings had been engineered by the arch-Fairies of the Forest of Burzee to enforce the 'Law of the Forest' that was meant in days of yore to keep mortals out of Fairy Realms, before these enlightened days when fairies and mortals live in an integrated society. Now anti-mortal laws are arcane, but the ERBs remained, and made trouble for fairies and mortals alike, their contempt and hatred for both knowing no bounds.
"How dare you attempt an escape!" Ra sneered at Tranter when they met.
"What are you talking about?" the Tranter archly, I never saw you before in my life!"
"Don't you dare sass me, Camille! And assume you proper form this instant! It's bad enough that my husband, King Umb happens to have an ideal mate that resembles a psychedelic rock star without your maintaining that form to my eyes and then running out and foiling my plans!
"I don't know what you're talking about! I'm not Camille!" Tranter insisted.
"Who are you then!?" Queen Ra demanded.
"Pete Tranter's Sister!" with a sigh.
"I suppose this Pete Tranter is what my ideal mate would be, were I not immune to such nonsense!"
"What the smeg is all this about 'ideal mates'??" Tranter cried indignantly, "I'm not anyone's ideal mate! I'm my own woman!"
"You know perfectly well!" Ra snapped, "My plan is to send you to the Emerald City to appear to all the goody-goody Oz people as their ideal mates, and then steal Ozma's Magic Belt and bring it to me, so that I can use it to wipe out Oz once and for all! Here, read the manual if you want the details!" And she slapped into Tranter's hands a book entitled, How to Oblivionize a Fairyland, and started to march off.
"Don't just stand there!" Ra commanded, "Get to the Emerald City and execute Phase One of our plan before I brain you!"
Tranter, seeing the extreme exigency of informing the Emerald City of this danger to them, acquiesced.
"And remember," Ra screamed from the distance, "You try to double-cross me, and I'll make you into GELF-burgers...with cheese and special sauce!"
As she raced toward Oz's capital, she opened the ERBs manifesto book and read about the grand plan.
"Oh...," groaned Tranter, with a sickly feeling in the pit of her stomach.
"So," Kryten said to Camille after she had related her story to them, "Ra was wandering deep space in exile for previous crimes against the Continent of Baumgea when she found you and kidnapped you?"
"And she came up with this plan in which you would appear as every Emerald City citizen's ideal mate, and then when everyone at Ozma's palace was in a stupor of starry-eyed infatuation, you would steal Ozma's Magic Belt?" Kris added.
"Yes!" Camille admitted, nodding the upper half of her shapeless, slimy form.
"I can't believe it!" Sofia said nervously, "Queen Ra and her ERBs are causing trouble in Oz again!"
"Well, I don't think they will succeed, as they are gravely underestimating us!" Ozma asserted, "Even if I weren't happily married, I would never have succumbed to such 'starry-eyed infatuation' that I would forget my royal duties, including seeing to it that the Magic Belt remains securely on my person!" And she authoritatively gripped the jewel studded Belt adorning her slender waist.
"But how did the ERBs get here? I thought Ozma's cousin Ozana was patrolling the Deadly Desert and preventing any evil folks from crossing it into Oz!" said Judit.
"She apparently vanished some time ago," Camille explained, "So the ERBs have been free to plan their rampage of Oz...And this time, they plan to obliterate Oz altogether!"
"And how, pray, do they plan to do that?" Zsuzsa asked.
"I'm not sure," Camille said, "But it has to do with the Magic Belt."
"I'll tell you how!" cried a voice, and before Jellia could announce her, Tranter dashed into the throne room.
"Holy smeg!" Lister gasped, "Pete Tranter's Sister!"
"Hello, Dave," Tranter smiled at Lister, "It's been a long time."
"T--T--Three million years as I reckon things," Lister stammered.
Tranter laughed. "You were always so cute!"
After Lister introduced Tranter to Kris and the other Dwarfers and then to Ozma and her court, Kris said, "You say you know about the ERBs' plans?"
"Yes, I ran into Queen Ra, and she mistook me for Camille--"
"Yes, you do look like the form I oddly enough took as Ra's husband King Umb's ideal mate!"
"--and she gave me their ERB manifesto book," Tranter continued, "And they want Ozma's Magic Belt to not only 'terminate' Oz, but to wipe it from space-time altogether!"
"You mean --," the Cowardly Lion gulped, "Oz would not only cease to exist, but it would cease to ever have existed??"
"Yes," Tranter confirmed.
"This is beginning to sound like the Inquisitor!" Rimmer remarked, remembering how he and his comrades had once narrowly escaped getting erased from history.
"Well, maybe there's a reason it sounds like the Inquisitor," Kris observed.
"Oh smeg!" cried Rimmer, "You don't mean to say that these ERBs have the Inquisitor's Time Gauntlet!"
"I'm afraid so," Tranter sighed.
"But I broke it!" Lister protested.
"That's why they want the Magic Belt -- It has the power to fix it!" Tranter explained.
"But how'd they get hold of the Time Gauntlet?? After we vanquished the Inquisitor when he tried to erase us from history, and then I broke the Gauntlet, I cast it out into space into a wormhole," said Lister.
"A wormhole??!!!" Rimmer screamed.
"Isn't that an object that anything that falls into it can never escape and is irrevocably destroyed?" asked the Cat.
"That's a black hole! A wormhole is a tunnel through space-time, with an entrance and an exit!" Kris groaned in despair.
"And I did say 'throw it into a black hole', Mr. Lister sir!" Kryten said with respectful remonstrance.
"And Queen Ra was apparently waiting at the wormhole's other end for the Time Gauntlet to drop right into her lap, miladdo!" Rimmer snarled.
"Well, how was I to know?" Lister cried in his defense, "We didn't do wormholes in my High School science class; we just rolled toy cars down inclines and watched science films that featured Donald Duck."
"Wait a minute!" said Dorothy (who is now a resident of Oz, having after several sojourns in Oz finally grown tired of Kansas' sepia tones), "You said they need the Magic Belt to make this Gauntlet thingy work?"
"Yes," Tranter confirmed.
"Well, then there's nothing to worry about!" Dorothy proclaimed, "The Magic Belt has a safety feature on it so that only authorized personnel can use it!"
"But you forget that the ERBs can morph into any form, so all they have to do to override the safety lock is to morph into a 'carbon-copy' of Ozma," observed the Scarecrow.
"But this is absurd!" Ozma cried with indignation, "Our allies in other fantasy universes would never permit our destruction!"
"If you're talking about Narnia, Middle Earth, and so on, I'm afraid those 'allies' of yours are jealous of Oz," Camille said, "Oz isn't like other places that have aging, death, war, pestilence, poverty, famine, suffering, and elevator music. Oz strives for happiness and contentment in its people, and love and caring to all living creatures. And the extreme extent to which Oz has succeeded makes other fantasy worlds hopping mad!"
"Oz has always dared to be different," the Scarecrow remarked, "Do you know that until a few years ago we were still officially on the octal number system?"
"The what??" Lister asked.
"The octal system, you gimboid!" Rimmer snapped at Lister, "It means that their petrol was high-octane."
"It means," said Kris patiently, "That they used a number system based on eight rather than ten as we do. For instance '12' in the octal system is one times eight, plus two, or ten; and '347' is three times eight squared, plus four times eight, plus seven, or two hundred thirty-one. See?"
"No, it's a blank to me!" said Lister.
"That's what you said about the concept of coming in out of the rain!" Rimmer muttered.
"But what about the Supreme Fairy Tribunal in the Great Forest?" the Scarecrow asked.
"Under severe pressure from other Fantasy-universes, they have voted to approve Oz's erasure, on the pretext that Oz has Good Witches (which they say is satanic blasphemy), talking animals (also sacrilegious paganism they say), and fairy-mortal intermarriages (which they equate with archangels mating with mushrooms)!" Tranter said sadly.
"This is absurd!" said Locasta, the Good Witch of the North indignantly, "I am not 'satanic'!"
"And I love Ozma and she loves me! There's nothing 'evil' about the true love we share!" Dan proclaimed in outrage.
"Woof!" said the Cowardly Lion.
"Poppycock!" cried the Wonderful Wizard of Oz (who returned to Oz and has been trained by Glinda to be a true, non-humbug Wizard), "We shall fight this, and Oz shall prevail!"
"Indeed we shall!" Ozma asserted, "I will contact Lurline, Queen of all the fairies of Baumgea! She will put a stop to this bogus 'Fairy Tribunal' that has no power on our planet!"
"If I may interject, your highness," Glinda said, "But Lurline's using her political muscle to override the Fairy Tribunal will take many weeks, and I fear there isn't time!"
"Yes you're right, Glinda," Ozma agreed, "We must stop these rampaging, psychopathic ERBs first!"
"But how?" Sofia said.
"Might the Wishing Pills help?" Dorothy asked.
"I hope we Adepts at Sorcery are able to cope with this situation without resorting to that sort of cheap gimmick!" said Zsuzsa contemptuously.
"It is not a gimmick! Those Wishing Pills are one of my greatest inventions!" the Wizard proudly asserted.
"What are 'Wishing Pills'?" Rimmer asked.
The Wizard produced a pill bottle from his black bag. Rimmer took the bottle and read the label:
"It only grants 'small or not-too-specific' wishes? What's the point of that?" asked Lister.
"Well suppose you being attacked by a Fruminous Bandersnatch," Judit replied, "Now you couldn't wish for the Bandersnatch to suddenly turn into a harmless, cute, fuzzy little doggie...That would be too big and too specific a wish. However, if you said, 'I wish that somehow I will escape this Bandersnatch!', that would work...It might not be immediately obvious then what that 'somehow' is -- Perhaps an invisible Bandersnatch gun has just materialized in your pocket, or maybe a tunnel out of the Bandersnatch's lair has just opened up a half-mile away -- But once you've worked it through, it will come out all right."
"But you obviously have to be a fast thinker -- Not one of my many strong points," the Cat remarked.
"That's why we Adepts prefer modern high-tech magic," Zsuzsa said.
"Well, I assure that your Krumbic magic will be useless on these ERBs," said Camille, "so long as they have the Inquisitor's Time Gauntlet, which is more powerful than any magic that Ozites know!"
"Yeah," Holly agreed, "We must destroy the ERBs before they have a chance to use repair the Time Gauntlet."
"When I get my hands on they lazy, irresponsible Ozana, I'll box her ears so hard she won't be able to listen to her Madonna CDs for a week!" growled General Jinjur, head of the Ozian police force.
"No! I will not hear of violence against any of my people!" Ozma asserted.
"Well, there's no point in fussing about it now -- There must be some way to overcome them!" Kris insisted.
"Why don't we poison them? That's always one of Agatha Christie's favorites," Holly suggested.
"Poison will not work!" the Wizard said sadly, "In a mere nanosecond they would metamorph into something immune to the poison!"
"Then we must find something that would take effect in a mere half a nanosecond!" Kris asserted.
"How about one of Lister's vindaloos!" Rimmer said wryly, "Eat that spicy, white-hot stuff and it will blow out your own nose hair!"
"Hey Rimmer, you're right! That's it!" Lister exclaimed, "We'll force feed them some curry and poof! They'll vanish faster than public support for a politician who's just admitted that he'll raise taxes!"
"What do you think?" Ozma asked of the Adepts.
"It's terrific!" Sofia cried, dancing around exuberantly.
"I like it," agreed Judit in her soft, demure voice.
"Zsuzsa?" Ozma inquired.
"It's the most absurd, preposterous, idiotic, deranged, imbecilic idea I've ever heard -- Which personal experience dictates that it's sure to work!" Zsuzsa declared with a lovely smile and a twinkle in her beautiful brown eyes.
"Then it's settled," said Ozma, "Jellia, go tell Cook to whip up a large bowl of extra-potent Emerald City curry!"
"Yes, Milady!" said Jellia eagerly and bounded off, giggling.
"Now, where are the ERBs, exactly?" Ozma asked.
"They're hiding out in the Black Forest of Winkie Country," Camille replied.
"What is 'Winkie Country'?" Rimmer asked.
"The Winkies live on the opposite side of the Emerald City from the Munchkins," the Scarecrow explained, "And they are in many ways the opposites of the Munchkins -- Munchkinland is in the East, Winkie Country is in the West; the Munchkins are small, the Winkies are fairly tall; the Munchkins' favored color is blue, for the Winkies it is yellow; the Munchkins are mostly agricultural, the Winkies tend to be industrial."
"Would you be willing to escort our friends?" the lovely Queen inquired of the Scarecrow.
"I would be honored, your majesty," the man of straw replied with a bow.
"May I go too? I need an adventure!" Dorothy asked.
"Yes, of course my dear!" said Ozma,
"Is that a good idea?" Dan remarked, "Should we really be putting them at such risk like this? Couldn't you just command your Magic Belt to destroy the ERBs in one fell swoop? Or get Glinda or the Adepts to use similarly powerful Magic?"
"Yes, I could, Danny," Ozma told her mate with a smile, "But if I don't let my people have some kind of adventure periodically they'll go crazy! Living in a pristine, paradisical, utopian land like Oz is wonderful...But it can get monotonous at times."
"We'll be observing you in Ozma's Magic Picture," Glinda said, "And if you get into real trouble, Ozma, the Adepts, or I will use our Magic to help you."
A few minutes later Jellia returned, bearing a large tureen of Extra-Hot Mutton Vindaloo with an generous garnish of Emerald City peppers and tobasco, hot enough to melt even a mountain range on Pluto or the heart of Donald Trump.
"Then shall we be on our way?" Kryten asked as Jellia handed him the "secret weapon".
"I'm coming with you, Kryten!" Camille asserted.
"Absolutely not, my love!" Kryten insisted, "It's far too dangerous for a sweet, delicate and dainty blue-green blob like you. We'll be back soon, I promise!"
"Please, Kryten!" Camille implored.
"Very well...You are very brave, my dear!" Kryten whispered with a tender kiss to the lump of slime just above Camille's eye-stalk, and without another word they set off out of the palace gates and down the Blue Brick Road into Winkie Country.
"We must pay our respects to my dear friend the Tin Man...He rules over the Winkies you know," the Scarecrow said after they had traveled several miles.
"He does?" Lister asked.
"Yes," replied the Scarecrow, "After Dorothy liquidated the Wicked Witch of the West and freed the Winkies from their servitude, Glinda appointed the kindhearted Tin Man King Niccolo the First, Emperor of the Winkies, and she transformed the Witch's old evil black castle into a shiny tin palace, so he would feel more at home. There it is now!"
And the Dwarfers were nearly blinded by the sight of the Tin Man's great palace which sparkled so brightly in the Ozian sunlight reminded Lister of driving westward without sunglasses an hour before sunset. But the glare subsided as the road took them to the south side of the castle, and approaching the great door, Dorothy rang the tin bell.
A burly Winkie butler about six foot seven and with a nose like Durante answered. "Come in," he said in a bassisimo voice, "His Majesty is expecting you."
"Hey, how'd he know we were coming?" the Cat whispered to the Scarecrow.
"He didn't -- But he always expects me!" the straw man said jovially.
Their feet clanked against the tin floor as the butler led them to the throne room...Everything in the castle -- walls, floors, ceiling, furnishings, even the paintings and sculptures -- was made of tin! They reached the door into the throne room and the butler bade them enter.
The Tin Man rose as the Scarecrow led the others into the room, and the two old friends greeted with a loving hug.
"Mush!" Lister muttered, and got elbowed by Kris.
After a hearty dinner in the great tin dinning room, Kris explained the plan to vanquish the ERBs to the Tin Man.
"Are you sure it's potent enough?" Niccolo the First remarked, "Those ERBs are very formidable!"
"We think it is," said the Cat.
"That may not be good enough," observed the Tin Man, "I'd better have my Royal Taster sample it." And he rang a bell.
The Royal Taster appeared, and after eyeing like he expected the unsavory stuff to take a bite out of him, he tasted it. A second later, Carbon Monoxide billowed from his nostrils.
After the Winkie fire brigade was called and the Royal Taster was restored to normal, he remarked, "Very strong indeed, but it's missing something...It's got plenty of green stuff in it, but it definitely needs some Winkie yellow...I suggest some yellow mustard, extra spicy; some yellow extra sharp cheddar cheese; and for the finishing touch, some special yellow Winkie Wasabi, the hottest thing outside the heart of a supernova!"
The Royal Taster proceeded to add these ingredients, and the result was a curry so potent that it would have been considered illegal in several states. Thanking the Tin Emperor and his Taster, they continued on their way.
As they came in sight of the dark and forbidding Black Forest, they slowed their walk to a tiptoe.
"We're off to waste the ERB GELFs, the hideous ERB GELFs of Oz," Lister sang, and was shushed by Dorothy.
"My nose is picking up something fishy...Only I wish it was fish!" the Cat remarked as he sniffed the air.
"What's it smell like?" the Scarecrow asked.
"Hmmm...Sort of a cross between a dog in a rainstorm and a dung beetle's den!" the Cat ascertained.
"Could it be a wild animal?" Dorothy said uneasily.
"Shouldn't be surprised -- We are approaching the Black Forest!" remarked the Scarecrow.
"Oh dear--!" Dorothy said with anxiety.
"I'm with you girlie...I'm allergic to wild animals!" said the Cat.
"Well, I wouldn't worry -- We've dealt with wild animals before in our adventures," the Scarecrow observed.
"That doesn't mean I want a replay!" Dorothy remarked.
"The smell is getting stronger," the Cat said in alarm, "Whatever it is, it sure doesn't believe in using body cologne... Barbarian!"
Just then a creature emerged from behind a tree. It was the size of a large, upright-standing ape and had the head of a tiger and the body of a bear. It growled and snarled at them.
"It's a Kalidah!" Dorothy said in a whisper, although her gut emotions of terror actually wanted to shout it.
"What is a Kalidah?" Rimmer asked.
"That!" the Scarecrow explained, pointing at the beast.
"It's a GELF, isn't it?" Kris suggested.
"Yes," the Scarecrow confirmed, "Like the ERBs, Kalidahs are Burzeeian fairies' creations that went amok...They are extremely fierce and nasty."
"Heavy-Duty curry on standby," Kryten announced.
"No, we have to save the curry for the ERBs...We must find some other way to escape this beast," said Kris.
"I'll handle this!" Rimmer said boldly. He stepped out and stood before the slobbering creature. "All right you lousy stinking, brute--" he began huskily.
The creature shook the ground with a roar.
"You don't scare me!" Rimmer continued stoutly, "The triumph of man over beast has always been the simple question of who is the master, and I know who the master is!"
The creature roared again, opening its sharp-toothed jaws so wide you could see its uvula.
"It's you!" Rimmer said in a squeaky voice and went and hid behind Kris.
The Kalidah trudged towards them like a rogue elephant. As Kris tried to do some quick thinking, Camille announced, "I have an idea!"
A few seconds later the Kalidah stopped its advance like a train breaking at the sight of a damsel ahead who is tied to the tracks. A look of longing crossed its tiger-esque face and it started to visibly salivate. It leaped at Camille and began to lick her like an overgrown amorous puppy.
"What's going on?" Dorothy whispered.
"It's seeing me as an ideal she-Kalidah," Camille explained, "Now run! Run!"
"But--we can't leave you!" the Scarecrow began.
"We certainly aren't!" Kryten asserted.
"Why not!?" cried Rimmer, still cowering behind Kris.
"I'll be fine!" Camille insisted I've had to be a mate to much more hideous creatures than this! Go and stop those ERBs!"
Reluctantly, they acquiesced and disappeared into the Black Forest.
"My olfactory cavities are working overtime again," the Cat announced, "The pungent small of GELF is unmistakable!"
"We must be near the ERBs...This may be a good moment to make use of the Wishing Pills," the Scarecrow remarked.
Taking out the bottle opening it, Tranter extracted a pill.
"Remember, once you swallow it, you must make a wish immediately, or else you'll get an acute and inconceivably agonizing stomach-ache," the Scarecrow warned her.
Tranter nodded, put the pill in her mouth, and was about to swallow it when she looked again at the instructions: "Count to 17 by threes."
How the hippikaloric do you count to seventeen by threes? She asked herself. You either get bogged down at fifteen or overshoot to eighteen!
The next thing she knew, she felt herself being grabbed by snake-like tentacles...An ERB that resembled a long-tentacled starfish had found them all and taken them prisoner!
"Ah, human vermin!" hissed the ERB gleefully.
"Let us go, or we'll report you to Ozma!" cried Lister.
"Fear not, Davey boy!" Rimmer said, suddenly in a deep and surprisingly heroic-sounding voice, as he inexplicably burst out of the tentacles and switching a dial on his hologram light bee remote, he acquired a long wig, a leather jacket, a white turtleneck, and thus assumed his heroic alter-ego, Ace Rimmer!
"Fear not! I'll soon deal with this overgrown starfish!" Ace asserted, "This beast of baseness will be seafood faster than you can say 'Jacques Cousteau'!"
"What a guy!" cried the Cat admiringly.
"Ah, Ace Rimmer!" snarled the starfish-like creature, "What a prize! It will indeed be an honor to destroy you, fine sir!"
"What a slimeball!" snarled Lister.
"But polite," observed Kris.
"Stand by to become seafood salad!" Ace cried, as with a flourish he produced a very large cleaver and hacked the monster to bits. The Dwarfers cheered and Kris kissed her Arnie.
"It was nothing!" said Rimmer modestly.
"It certainly was!" snarled a voice. They looked, and saw that there were now hundreds of starfish-like monsters!
"Of course!" Kryten said in that annoying way he has of having a joyous burst of insight and saying "Of course!" after it's too late, "Starfish are creatures that 'regenerate', so cutting them up will make each piece grow into a complete, full-sized creature!"
"It never fails!" Rimmer whimpered as the monsters advanced on them, "Every time I try to do good I cock it up!"
"Yes you do," Kris said soothingly as she held him and lovingly caressed his cheek.
"I try to be brave and heroic but it always turns out a disaster!"
"Yes it does," Kris cooed tenderly.
A second later the monsters seized Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Dwarfers and carried them into a dungeon-like chamber where they were tied and chained to a wall. As they were being chained, they heard Queen Ra giving a "pep talk" to her army of ERBs of diverse sorts and sizes (all vile and hideous though):
"For years my comrades, Oz has survived all attempts to do it harm. Why? Because there were many people who read Oz books in those universes in which Oz is a fictional place. But those numbers have gradually diminished. Oz is now recognized by rational, level-headed literary critics as 'dated, trite, and of no literary quality'. Modern children read horror-containing, ultra-violent things that we ERBs approve of, and they no longer believe in wimpo, goody-goody, lovey-dovey fairylands like Oz! And with no one left who believes in Oz, nothing can stop us from eliminating it!"
"I believe in Oz!" Lister cried.
"So do I!" Kris asserted.
"Me too!" Rimmer proclaimed.
"And us!" added Kryten, Holly, and Tranter.
"What is Oz?" said the Cat, puzzled.
"Silence, fools!" barked Ra, "We'll deal with you presently!"
The wicked hag continued:
"Oz is a place of depravity and malfeasance -- It has good witches, when everyone knows that all witches are evil and satanic; there is the profane use of machines and technology to create magic, when everyone knows that only nerds and geeks use technology; women like Ozma and Glinda in leadership positions, when everyone knows that a woman's place is in the home; and talking, thinking animals, when everyone knows that all creatures are either men made in the Supreme Being's image, or are mindless dumb beasts! Oz is has enough trash to fill a landfill!"
The ERBs hooted with agreement.
"And because the wise Fairy Tribunal of the Great Hyperspacial Omnizone agrees with us," Ra sneered, "That Oz is vulgar, vile, depraved, asinine, and consequently unwholesome for the children in your community, they have granted us permission to delete Oz from the rosters of juvenile literature, and therefore erase it from the multiverse altogether!"
All the ERBs cheered in frenzied glee, and then gathered to gloat at their prisoners.
"So, you tried to outsmart the ERBs of the Black Forest, did ya'?" the vile hag Ra sneered, "Well, it will soon be over for you now!"
"You won't get away with this!" Tranter asserted.
"Shut up, traitor!" Ra barked, "I was a fool to try to use a pip-squeak Pleasure GELF like you for my plans! But my new course will succeed! My herd of mad Kalidahs will rampage the Emerald City, trample Ozma and her goody-goody friends, and retrieve the Magic Belt, with which I will be able to jump-start my late spirit-brother's Time Gauntlet and erase Oz from History! But first, we will choose the fates for these meddling interlopers from space!"
"Er--How'd you like some vindaloo!!??" Lister blurted out in desperation.
"Ha! Thought you could poison me, eh?" Ra sneered as she took the tureen from the inside of Lister's jacket and dumped its contents into a disposal bin.
"So much for your grand plan!" Ra hissed gleefully, "Now we will proceed with mine! First, for the traitor Camille!"
"I'm not Camille!" Tranter cried for the last time.
"I don't care if you're Jean Harlow!" Ra growled, "You have stolen the affections of my husband, King Umb, so I'm going to let him have you!"
With these words, King Umb, who looked like a tattered, moth-eaten old man who had been stuck on a desert island for twenty years, entered the room and immediately began to leer at Tranter. A hideous, insect-like ERB who was an Injustice of the War united Tranter and Umb as man and wife, and he proceeded to embrace his "bride".
With Herculean effort, Lister squirmed to free himself from the ropes that bound him. He skillfully managed to free one foot, and with it he gave the slobbering Umb a sharp kick which knocked him out. Tranter smiled gratefully at Lister.
"Meddling fool!" Ra snarled at Lister, "For you, the man who gave the world beer milkshakes, you shall drown in you own invention!" And a large, several-hundred-fathoms-deep vat materialized, and began to fill up with enough beer milkshake to drown a Sperm Whale.
"For the hologram," Ra continued while the vat slowly filled, "His light bee shall be slowly corroded until he wastes away!" And a swarm of mangy, dirty, malicious-looking birds known as 'light-bee-eaters' swirled malevolently around Rimmer, in preparation of spitting fatal levels of corrosives at his "light bee", the little mechanical device that whizzed around and generated his hologrammatc form.
"And for the Cat," leered Ra, " It's payback time for all the little fishies!"
Ra pointed at the Cat and a swarm of bipedal piranhas with leering eyes and hungry saliva dripping from their razor-like teeth materialized and started to dance in a menacing circle around the Cat, gleefully singing:
gonna eat you little kitty!
"We're gonna eat you little kitty!
"We're gonna eat you little kitty!
"'Cause we like eating cats!"
As Ra proceeded to choose fates for Kryten and Kris, Tranter understandably started to feel panicky -- It looked like it was now truly and totally all over for the crew of Red Dwarf at last.
Then suddenly, a thought occurred to her -- She remembered what the Wizard said about the ancient Ozians using an octal number system...What would '17' be in a base-8 system? she asked herself...It would be eight times one, plus seven, or fifteen.
That's it! Tranter's mind cried with silent glee, '17' is actually fifteen written in octal form! You need to count to fifteen by threes! That can be done!
Silently, she swallowed the pill, counted, "three...six... nine...twelve...fifteen," and she whispered, "I wish for some way to stop these ERBs and save Oz!"
"I'm hungry!" the evil queen remarked suddenly.
"So are we!" her ERBs concurred.
"But we can't stop to eat now! We must crush our enemies and destroy Oz!" Ra declared.
"No, we must eat! We must! And right now!" the ERBs pleaded.
"Yes we must! I'm so hungry!" Umb cried.
"Yes, I am as well...I feel like I'm going to explode if I don't eat!" Ra finally agreed as she scrambled desperately to retrieve the Emerald City Vindaloo with Winkie Wasabi from the garbage bin. With praying mantis-like quickness, she sprung into the bin and dug greedily into the ultra-hot delicacy.
The other ERBs joined her and they lapped up the Vindaloo like monstrous grizzly bears.
There was a pause as an odd look clouded all the evil faces. A steam-like smoke began to emerge from their slimy mouths.
"AAAAAHHHHHH!" Ra screamed in agony as the hotness of the dish made her insides turn into a sort of molten lava.
"AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!" the ERBs agreed as the intense spices of the Emerald City Vindaloo with Winkie Wasabi boiled the lot of them away like water on a hot skillet. In a few seconds, Ra and all of her vile army were utterly obliterated!
"You did it!" the Scarecrow cried.
"Yes you did! That was brilliant!" Dorothy agreed.
"Yes it was -- However there's just one little problem."
"What's that, Kris?" Lister asked.
"How are we gonna get unchained from this smegging wall??!!" she cried.
Ozma watched these proceedings in her Magic Picture, and she and her courtiers applauded Tranter's cleverness. However, she and her companions still remained bound to the wall, so with a command to her Magic Belt, Ozma brought them safely to the Emerald City, and Camille as well, although she had by now succeeded in using her alluring, she-Kalidah ways to persuade the entire herd of Kalidahs to return to the forest and leave the Oz people alone.
That evening, Lurline the Fairy Queen of the Forest of Burzee appeared and told Ozma that the ERBs' plan to erase Oz would not have succeeded anyway, as all the things Ra said about Oz were untrue -- Millions of children and adults still love and believe in Oz, and the other fantasy-lands and Fairy Tribunal were committed to Oz's protection. So no harm would ever come to Oz! Everyone was very relieved at this news, but they were still grateful to Kris, Tranter, and the other Dwarfers for bravely facing the ERBs and foiling their plans so quickly.
The next day, Ozma took the Dwarfers on a "grand tour" of Oz where they visited all of Oz's major provinces and kindly, amiable people. While they were enjoying the serene countryside in the northwestern province of Oogaboo, Tranter took the opportunity to get aquatinted to Lister, and found him a wonderful guy; and Lister found that there many good things about her, and not just her good looks!
"Here, Dave," Tranter said as they headed back toward the Emerald City at sunset, and she placed a check for five million pounds in his hand.
"That's what my brother owes you in royalties for the 'Om' song," she explained.
"Thanks," Lister said with a grateful smile, "But in the depths of deep space in AD 3,000,000 we have little use for money. Maybe we could donate it to the good people of Oz."
He glanced at Ozma, who smiled and said, "We don't use money in Oz either."
"Sensible people," Lister asserted, "Money is vulgar and crypto-fascist anyway."
"It has been known to come in handy to people," Rimmer observed.
"For our next other-universe jaunt, we'll go to Louisa May Alcott World and donate it to the March family so they'll be rich and then Beth need not die and Dan -- her Dan [with a wink at Ozma's similarly named husband] -- won't have to go west and get shot!" Kris proclaimed; and the other Dwarfers agreed, as she was the commanding officer and they had no choice.
It was clever Jellia who finally disposed of the Time Gauntlet once and for all. In order to ensure that it was totally lost and that no one would ever find it again, she took various pieces of the malignant instrument and hid them under the beds in the dorm rooms of various male students at Wogglebug College.
That evening, Ozma held a huge banquet on the Palace Lawns to herald the Heroes from the Dwarf.
"My dear friends!" Ozma cried, "I give you our heroes -- Kris Kochanski, Arnie Rimmer, Dave Lister, Cat, Kryten, Holly, Tranter, and Camille!"
The Oz people cheered, and proceed to indulge in food, fun, laughter, and good conversation, which is how the Oz people generally spend their time.
Then suddenly and unexpected, a blaring fanfare of trumpets was heard, and into the encirclement of happy Ozites strode a beautiful, long blonde-haired young woman in royal red robes. It was Zixi, the good witch-queen of Oz's neighbor, the Land of Ix.
"Your majesty," Zixi said to Ozma with a curtsy, "I heard about your recent plight with Queen Ra and the other renegade GELFs."
"Yes, but the danger is passed now, thanks to our heroes from Red Dwarf!" Ozma proclaimed.
"Yes, I realize that," said Zixi, "But still, I wondered why your cousin Ozana, Custodian of the Deadly Desert that surrounds Oz and High Protector and Guardian of the Ozian Borders, did not keep those monsters out of your kingdom. So I looked into the matter, and it appears she has run off again!"
"That is what I feared," sighed Glinda, with a weary air, as this was apparently not the first time this had occurred.
"What the hippikaloric are we going to do with her?" Zsuzsa said angrily, "She's more irresponsible than a teenage Quadling on Champagne and Ozade!"
"Well, I took it upon myself to set off on a quest and use my witchcraft to locate Ozana. I combed space, time, and parallel realities backwards and forwards, and I finally found her drunk in a pub in Liverpool in Cosmic Dimension #667749, stricken with amnesia and living under the name of Emily Birkinstein!"
Lister nearly choked on the curry sandwich he was munching on.
"Smeg!" he gasped, "You mean that Emily Birkinstein is really Ozana, High Protector of Oz?"
"You'd better ask her!" Zixi said solemnly, and she beckoned to a meek-looking figure in the doorway, who reluctantly entered.
She had fair skin, like her cousin Ozma, but her hair was platinum blonde, she looked like she was swearing several layers too much makeup, and she was dressed in loosely-fitting robes. She shyly and reluctantly approached where Ozma was seated at the head of the banquet table.
"Well?" Ozma said sternly.
Ozana sighed and proceeded to tell her story: "Well you see cousin, I was doing my best to guard the Deadly Desert and protect Oz from invasion...But you know how that desert is -- sand, sand, sand with a small smattering of sand on the side! I often get so bored that I'm ready to burst! And, well, it had been so many years since the Nome King or anyone had attempted an invasion...I didn't see any harm in strolling off to a quick party and come right back...But how was I to know that that party I went to in Boboland was in fact a convention of dimension-jumpers, including this really dashing guy named Ace Rimmer!"
"Oh smeg! You mean one of my stupid, smug, self-important other-dimensional counterparts started all this?" Rimmer said with disgust.
"Oh, he wasn't that way at all! He was handsome and charming, and said 'Smoke me a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast' in a way that made my little heart flutter!" Ozana cooed in a gushing, love-struck voice.
"Oh, please -- Not while I'm eating!" Rimmer moaned to himself.
"Anyway, Ace promised to carry me off to his castle--"
"He doesn't have a castle, you enchanted git!" snarled Rimmer.
"Yes, I realize that now," Ozana said sadly, "After we had partied some and he showed me the sights in Dimensions #00039, #72623, #44982, and #92037, he dumped me in a London back-alley. Having lost my memory the day before at a party where they served drinks made from Arabian Blue Roses, I assumed the identity of Emily Birkinstein; and having to raise money so that I could go to more parties, I signed up for a commission planting old-growth forests on the newly terraformed Saturnian moon Mimas. But the night before my departure, I went to another wild party -- this one in Liverpool -- where I lost my memory a second time, and when they found me the next morning I was wearing men's clothes and my ID card read 'Dave Lister'!"
"So you're the one!" Lister sputtered in rage, "You're the one whose identity I unwittingly got stuck with so that I wound up on Mimas and ultimately marooned in deep space!"
"While meanwhile Oz was exposed to invasion by any witch or demon who cared to come in and help themselves!" Judit said with a glare at Ozana.
"I'm so sorry I put Oz in danger," Ozana lamented, now on the verge of tears, and to Lister she added, "And I'm sorry I got you stuck on Mimas so that you wound up stranded in deep space three million years in the future on Red Dwarf! Maybe someday I'll learn my lesson and attend to my duties and not stray...too far!"
"Forget it," said Lister in a more affable voice, "I've gotten used to all that inky blackness out there. And besides, I probably never would have got together with Pete Tranter's Sister otherwise!" And he squeezed Tranter's waist affectionately.
"And without you, Dave, the Cat's people never would have existed and Kryten would still be stranded on a forgotten moon," Holly pointed out.
"And I would be dead!" Kris pointed out, "If Dave hadn't brought the Cat's unquarantined feline ancestor on board Red Dwarf so I got put into stasis and survived the disaster that wiped out the crew."
"And after my death, I would never have been brought back as a hologram to keep Lister sane, and I never would have found Kris!" said Rimmer.
"So all in all, we really owe Ozana a lot!" observed Kris as she put her arms around Rimmer.
"Yeah, I guess it's true that everything turns out for the best," mused Dan, "But still, perhaps, Ozma, you should arrange it so that in future when Ozana is watching over Oz, someone is watching the watcher!"
"Yes, my sweet Danny, you speak wisely," Ozma replied, "I think that I shall have to periodically look in on Ozana in the Magic Picture...Perhaps every day at four, as I used to do with Dorothy before she moved to Oz."
Ozana sighed. "I accept your judgment, Ozma...And I promise to stay devoted to my duties in future."
"I'm glad," said Ozma with a forgiving smile that made Ozana feel much better.
After a few more days of festivities, the Boyz and Girlz From the Dwarf decided it was time to depart.
"Thank you, Ma'am, for your hospitality," Rimmer said, shaking Ozma's delicate hand.
"You are quite welcome...We have enjoyed having you here in Oz and hope that you will come back!" Ozma said, in behalf of herself and her people.
"We certainly will!" Kris asserted.
So the Dwarfers returned in Starbug to Red Dwarf. Tranter was immediately made a fellow Dwarfer, and Camille promised to visit Kryten whenever her husband Hector was too busy serving as the ideal mate for some other being to pay attention to her.
The Dwarfers did return to Oz, many times, and they were dubbed honorary Oz citizens by Ozma. Holly's new version of the Holly-Hop drive came in handy in allowing the Dwarfers to visit other alternate realities as well, and their adventures thereafter were far more exciting and fulfilling than they ever before imagined, and were no longer limited to the confines of Red Dwarf and all that "inky blackness" that infinitely surrounded it.