PRESIDENT FLASH: Greetings, MIT students, faculty, and interstellar tourists! On behalf of the United Planetary Galactic Allied Federation Society, I would like to welcome all of you to ZyzzlCon 3009! (general cheering) I'm President Flash, and as you all know, we're here to celebrate the daring exploits of Captain Blastoid and the Brass Rat crew! (VP enters) Ah, Vice President Gordon. Nice of you to join us.
VICE PRESIDENT GORDON: Sorry, Mr. President, I was just running the galaxy while you make public appearances.
PREZ: Well, do it faster next time. We've got a great program of events scheduled for you for this year's ZyzzlCon, with some mixers tonight, and our annual spaceship competition and swap meet tomorrow. But now, without further adieu, the main event, the reason we're all here. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you... the crew of the Brass Rat!
(There is fabulous music and ballyhoo as the crew enters one by one.)
PREZ: The helmswoman of the Brass Rat, Zoe!
ZOE: We made it! I told you guys I didn't need to ask for directions!
VP: The resident medical doctor, Ernie!
ERNIE: Hello, everyone. I hope you're all getting enough nanobots in your diet.
PREZ: Renowned xenobiologist, Ralph!
RALPH: (pointing into the audience) I don't think I've ever seen that species before... Oh, never mind, it's just a grad student.
VP: Recent Brass Rat recruit, Ensign Algernon!
ALGERNON: I only have to be a human shield five more times before they'll let me have my own blaster!
PREZ: Expert planetologist, Leah!
LEAH: I have to say, your climate was much more interesting back when you still had an ozone layer.
HAROLD: Just to clarify, that means I write holodeck programs. It doesn't mean "programmer with nothing inside." That would be redundant.
PREZ: The lovably intoxicated engineer, Scotchy!
SCOTCHY: I canna take much more of this, Cap'n! You know I refuse to do these conventions without a flask of Glenlivet!
VP: And, the hero you've all been--
PREZ: Excuse me, who's the President here?
VP: I thought we were taking turns.
PREZ: We are. Oh look, I just passed a law that says it's my turn. (snaps his finger). And now, the hero you've all been waiting for... Captain Blastoid!
(Blastoid emerges as the music and acclaim dramatically climaxes. She drinks in the applause and then speaks confidently.)
BLASTOID: Thank you, thank you, thank you. (to someone in the audience) And thank *you*. It's an honor to be here at ZyzzlCon 3009. When we're out exploring new worlds, saving the universe, and just generally being awesome, you know what keeps us going?
LEAH: The money?
ERNIE: The fame?
BLASTOID: Yes, but more relevantly, the fans. It's for you we've created the Escape From Zyzzlvaria Home Game, and I'm glad to announce that we're giving each delegation here a free copy! (pause for applause) It seems like the least we can do since your ZyzzlCon registration fee was many times more expensive than the game.
ALGERNON: My calculator burst into flames!
PREZ: That's great news, Captain Blastoid. But right now, can you tell us about your adventures in Zyzzlvaria?
BLASTOID: I'd be happy to, President Flash. You see, people think of Zyzzlvaria as a place, and it is. But it's also a fascinating and improbable physical and mathematical phenomenon which, using a complex chemical process not yet entirely understood, feeds off of high level brain waves. It sucks planets, cities, and even schools into its dark interior, and then grows larger by means of their presence. Many have tried to escape, failed, and formed permanent settlements instead.
VP: Hang on a second. Did she say schools?
PREZ: Shhhh, the Captain's telling a story. What sort of places does Zyzzlvaria attract?
BLASTOID: Well, it draws places where there is a high average intelligence. But it also thrives on frustration, so it prefers places where those smart people have been working really really hard.
VP: Mr. President, I really don't like where this is going.
BLASTOID: And if our previous adventures are any indication, it also attracts places where I happen to be. Especially if my appearance has been heavily advertised.
VP: Mr. President, seriously--
PREZ: Would you stop interrupting? You are ruining a perfectly beautiful convention where nothing has yet gone horribly wrong!
(There is some sort of noise indicating something big is happening. Several of us hold up signs that say "EVERYONE STAGGER TO THE LEFT!!" We do this, and hopefully so do the Hunters. Then we turn them around and they say "EVERYONE STAGGER TO THE RIGHT!!!" Then to the left one more time, then to the right one more time.)
VP: I have a theory.
BLASTOID: Crew, status report! Zoe!
ZOE: Captain, the entire Institute seems to have been spontaneously teleported thousands of light years away from our initial location.
ERNIE: No one appears to be injured, Captain, though several of us seem to have developed Space Chlamydia.
SCOTCHY: Blood alcohol concentration is steady at 0.12 percent. Also the ship seems to be fine.
ALGERNON: I'm scared!!!
BLASTOID: This can all mean only one thing. President Flash, I'm afraid we've all been teleported right into the heart of Zyzzlvaria.
PREZ: Us? In Zyzzlvaria? This is a disaster! A catastrophe! Not to mention the sort of possibility I would think my right hand man would have foreseen and warned me about.
VP: I hate you.
BLASTOID: Relax! This is no problem! I have a brilliant plan! Harold!
HAROLD: Yes, Captain?
BLASTOID: What's my brilliant plan?
HAROLD: Well, Captain, after our last misadventure in Zyzzlvaria, I took the liberty of creating an ingenious device I call the Covertly Operational Inversion Node.
BLASTOID: The Cobra Opera Whatzit? You couldn't come up with a shorter, catchier name?
HAROLD: Well, let's see... (slowly) Covertly... Operational... Inversion... Node. (long pause) Sorry, I got nothin'.
LEAH: With all due respect, Captain, can we skip ahead to what the thing does?
HAROLD: Fair enough. It's relatively simple; when the Node is activated, a timer counts down—5, 4, 3, 2, 1...
PREZ: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1? That's the combination to my luggage!
HAROLD: ...and then inverts the numerical distance between every molecule in the universe and the Node's fixed location. Thus anything inside Zyzzlvaria is transported outward.
RALPH: Harold, I don't mean to pry, but wouldn't any person or object near the center be grotesquely distorted and enlarged after the inversion?
HAROLD: Dude, we've been teleported into space and yet we can all still breathe. Let's try not to overanalyze.
BLASTOID: All right, everyone! Let's return to the Brass Rat and retrieve the Copacabana--
HAROLD: The Covertly Operational Inversion Node.
BLASTOID: You seriously need to come up with a nickname for that thing. We'll rendezvous with everyone on Zyzzlvaria Alpha and then activate the device.
PREZ: Ummm, not to be ungrateful, but... how shall I put this... I believe your crew is contractually obligated to host a number of events at this convention.
BLASTOID: (pause) You're serious. We are currently trapped in Zyzzlvaria. Do you not realize the gravity of this situation?
RALPH: (to Harold) And there's still gravity! That doesn't make any sense either--
HAROLD: (to Ralph) Quiet, you.
PREZ: Well, we did already pay you...
BLASTOID: Fine. We'll prerecord ourselves as holographic projections and hold the events in the Immunity Zone. All the events will proceed as planned as if nothing is wrong. Satisfied?
PREZ: Yes, thanks.
BLASTOID: All right, we'll see everyone in Zyzzlvaria Alpha! Thanks for coming to ZyzzlCon, and sorry about this whole teleportation thing. Can't be helped, really. We love you, Cambridge!
(The crew departs with pomp and circumstance.)
PREZ: Excellent. To Zyzzlvaria Alpha we go! Mr. Vice President, lead the way.
PREZ: Why would you think I would know where a planet I've never heard of is?
VP: Well, given that your primary concern was making sure events didn't get canceled, I kind of assumed you had a handle on the "Where the hell are we going?" issue.
PREZ: We're doomed!
VP: Hey, actually, I have an idea. These board games are based on the Brass Rat crew's adventures in Zyzzlvaria. If we inspect the game carefully, I bet we can figure out where Zyzzlvaria Alpha is.
PREZ: We're saved!
A MYSTERIOUS STRANGER: (appearing) Mr. President, there's a problem.
PREZ: What is it, Mysterious Stranger?
STRANGER: I opened one of the board games, and it's incomplete. We've got a box and a board, but most of the accessories are missing. Apparently you have to buy the rest of the game separately in the form of expansions.
PREZ: We're doomed!
STRANGER: But there's still hope. The five expansion packs are all sold in nearby zones.
PREZ: We're saved!
(By this point, the VP should be encouraging everyone to shout "We're doomed" and "We're saved" with the president.)
STRANGER: It's not that easy. The zones each have their own currencies, and we're not sure what the game dealers want to give them in exchange for the expansions. To make matters worse, our ships aren't currently powerful enough to reach all the zones.
PREZ: We're doomed!
STRANGER: Fortunately, there are puzzles in each zone that need to be solved. Solving puzzles will earn you dollarbucks, which you can use to upgrade your ship and reach more zones. Plus, the answers to the puzzles in each zone will help you determine the local currency, so you can buy that zone's game expansion.
PREZ: We're saved! Provided you're all really good at puzzles! Oh right. MIT.
VP: Thank you so much for you help, Mister... Um...
STRANGER: Oh, I don't have a name. I'm just here to advance the plot. (He leaves.)
VP: They're incomplete, but they're free!
PREZ: All right everyone! Good luck finding your way to Zyzzlvaria Alpha! Your online ship interfaces will become active at 12:45 PM. The United Planetary Galactic Allied Federation Society will be happy to help you in any way we can, even though we are in no way legally responsible for this unfortunate situation.
VP: Don't even start with us. We have kickass lawyers.
PREZ: Happy hunting!
(And so, to Hunt.)