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Guest Writer

Yessir, this explained a lot
by Jess Gulbranson

Just for the record, our yellow-haired, red-sweatshirted, space-traveling and somewhat scruffy hero has been bouncing between dimensions since early last year. Here’s episode 15 ...

el spent most of the day grimacing. Anne quit her job over the phone, but had to go to the coffeehouse to box up her things and share a sentimental goodbye with her girlfriends.

Mel opted to stay at the apartment. For one thing, he wanted to avoid what promised to be a Gen-X "Steel Magnolias." He'd also developed a nasty headache.

Anne disappeared into the bedroom after directing him to the medicine chest. Three aspirin and a half-hour later, his headache remained and Anne was still dressing.

He was actually becoming annoyed, and flopped himself onto the sofa.

Somewhat surprisingly, the sofa had been his bed for the last two nights – though things had been heating up steadily between him and the red-haired girl. Just the previous night a swift grab at a burning wok had brought Mel an accidental and pleasant brush with Anne's smallish breasts. A few minutes of mutual stir-frying ended with a roll on the couch. But that was it.

Mel hadn't braved the terror and peril of alien worlds just to get a piece of ass, but he felt amazing with Anne and it seemed a logical next step. Maybe she was protecting her maidenly virtue.

That thought went out the window when she emerged from the bedroom. Anne was bedecked as a beautiful punk-rock girl. The only constants were her shiny red hair and tight black shirt. She added a tiny plaid miniskirt over black tights, legs terminating in tanker's boots. To top it all off, she wore spiked bracelets and violet eye shadow.

Come to think of it, Mel thought, she accessorizes one hell of a lot better than Frank Burley – though, all things considered, an Uzi wouldn't look too bad in her hands.

"Like what you see?" Her sneer twisted up her perfect lips nicely. Mel felt movement downstairs.

"Not bad," he said with a silly grin. He didn't expect her to pounce, but suddenly she was perching on his legs with a delicious weight. Her slim hand forced him back into the couch.

"Not bad? You're seriously telling me," she said, leaning in, "that all you can say is 'not bad'?"

Mel opened his mug to reply, and was cut off at the pass. Anne's mouth closed over his, and her tongue darted in. Before Mel could respond, the girl was headed for the door. "I'll be back in a few hours," she said. "Feel free to check out a book or something if you get bored."

The door shut and she was gone. Mel addressed the general direction of his pants. "It's just you and me now, old hoss," he muttered to himself. "Alone again, naturally."

Preparing to wear the weary hours by, Mel took up a magazine, "Physics Journal," dated five years prior. He'd opened it to an article on Jet Propulsion Laboratories, the place Anne had worked before the coffee shop.

There was even a picture of her, looking five years younger and nerdy. She was at a lab bench with a man whose back was to the camera. Mel deduced from the caption that this was Victor Hausmann, her old mentor. Something about the man seemed familiar, and it took Mel's blackmailer's brain all of 30 seconds to figure how to check it out.

Anne's bookcase was full of an assortment of titles that added to Mel's headache, but he found what he was looking for at the bottom of the shelves. Photo albums.

Luckily, Anne seemed to be rather anal with organization and he was able to find the exact one he wanted – a gray vinyl album labeled JPL. He began flipping plastic pages and found that they were mostly pictures of equipment, presumably atom-smashers and nuclear reactors and weird crap straight out of Dr. Seuss. Some of the photos contained Hausmann, but in all of those he either had his back turned or his hand on the camera lens.

The guy must be camera shy, Mel thought. He could empathize. Mel hated to have his picture taken.

Then, at the end of the book, Mel found what he was looking for. A lone Polaroid showed Anne and Hausmann standing in front of a dismantled thing-a-ma-bobber, the "numinous knot" plain as day in the guts of the machine. That distracted him, but when his eyes finally settled on Hausmann, he almost dropped the book.

Mel was puzzled for a moment until he noticed Hausmann's sinister grin and green turtleneck underneath a natty blazer. Hausmann's horn-rimmed glasses and slicked-back hair couldn't conceal the in-the-mirror image of Mel's own face – twisted in predatory madness.

Yessir, this explained a lot. Smith.

Find out more about Mel in our archives.

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