Welcome back, fiction-friends, to another episode of The Armchair Adventures of Perilous Pauline! Hard-pressed heroes have written in, and Novelocity’s veteran ‘protagony aunt’ Pauline is here to dispense her own brand of silver-age wisdom. This week, we have time-travelling GIs, prison-planet refugees, and one stressed-out portal-hopping preteen. Add your own advice in the comments below!
There I was, just another officer minding my own business in the trenches, and suddenly I’m not in 1915 any more–I’m about a million years in the future! This place is crazy; they’ve recreated the dinosaurs, the mutants are out of hand, and a bunch of guys from outer space are running the place now. I hear there might be a time machine out there to help me get back, and I did sort of volunteer for the war back home, but honestly, they could really use me here, too. I mean, my old mates are all dead now anyway, right? What difference does it make now who won the Great War? And see, I’ve met this girl… What am I supposed to do–go back and fight for my country, or stay here and fight for humanity (and the girl)?
You see? You see, Willard? I told you this would happen. Total anarchy, I said. Cats and dogs living in sin together. Democrats in the White House. Well, I hope you’re laughing in hell, you rotten old pinko: the god-damned Bolsheviks have gotten clean out of hand, and now the future’s nothing but dinosaurs and mutants and chlamydia. Forty-nine years we had, Willard! Forty-nine years – and now the great-great-great grandchildren are going to be shacking up with little green men. This never would have happened under Harding’s watch.
Where were we? Oh, right. Stay where you are, OT/OT, and go get the girl. It sounds like we’ll need a few good men to repopulate the human race, and lord knows we’re not going to find any around here.
Look, this was supposed to be just a fact-finding mission. It’s not like I wanted to go to a brutal prison planet. Sure, it can be pretty here on Petra, but seriously—it’s a prison planet. Now some of the inmates have staged an uprising, claiming they have knowledge of a shattering secret. And Rolf Ankledge, Petra’s ruthless warden, will stop at nothing to keep it from reaching Ported Space. So through no fault of my own, I’m trapped in a hostage situation. And if that’s not bad enough, the prisoners want me to help them escape. If I involve myself, I risk losing everything I have. If I do nothing, I betray the last shreds of my ideals. And all I really want is to get home to my family. Is that too much to ask?
So what am I supposed to do now?
P.S. Communications are restricted, so I’m not even sure if this message will reach you, but I have to try. If anyone can help me, surely you can. Oh, wait, I think I hear someone com—
You know, IOP, that sounds like a sticky situation. Let me tell you a little secret about ideals: they sound pretty on paper, but they don’t pay the rent. You know who doesn’t need to worry about paying rent? Dead people. Catch my drift?
Now repeat after me: “not my space-circus, not my prison-monkeys.” As of right now, your job is to lie, connive, and fornicate your way out of there by any means necessary – ideals be damned. After you get home, you can embellish the good parts, cover up the sordid ones, and sell the whole story for a sweet book deal and Oscar-bait movie. (And let me tell you, IOP: option money buys a whole lot of therapy.)
Now get out there and get at it! I’ll look forward to receiving my autographed copy of “Escape From Shawshank Five.”
My name is Validus Smith (problem number one, thanks mom and dad!) and my substitute teacher is trying to murder me. Turns out a nearby world thinks I’m the only one who can save them from a creeping darkness called the Blight, and my sub works for said creepy darkness. Apparently this whole world thinks a middle schooler saving the world is normal. Any advice for how I might the able to save the world, get home, and finish my science homework before it’s due on Friday?
You know, Validus, I’m not sure you understand this whole anonymous sign-off conceit. Usually it works better if you don’t also use your real name. But let’s go ahead and run with it – if nothing else, the publicity means your sub will have to work that much harder to make it look like an accident.
So here’s the thing about portal worlds: time is notoriously widgety on the other side of the wardrobe. If you’re feeling the crunch, I would work on that whole saving-the-world thing first. It could be that you have a grand adventure, discover your own hidden strengths, save the day, and pop back into your bedroom two seconds after you left it – in which case you’re not even late for dinner. Or it could be that you come back to find that a hundred years has passed and everyone you know and love is dead, in which case you’re definitely off the hook for building that potato clock. It’s a win either way!
Oh, try not to judge your sub too harshly. Moonlighting for evil looks awfully attractive when you’re taking home $10 an hour.
Do you have a SFF book out in the world? Does your hero need a little help? Have them write to Perilous Pauline, c/o tex at thetexfiles.com!