The Jerrold Jumper Show presents:
INSIDE BETA MOUNTAIN AT NIGHT
"Hello, and welcome to our show. As announced our guests today are the.... GALAXY RANGERS! My name is Jerrold Jumper, and I will show you just what really happens.... INSIDE BETAMOUNTAIN AT NIGHT!"
The camera panned across the studio, showing full tiered seats, and a podium, covered with soft grey carpet and eight chairs. The four in the middle were already occupied with today's guests and the camera scanned from left to right, portraying each of them briefly: Galaxy Ranger Captain Zachary Fox, Ranger Shane Gooseman, Ranger Niko, and Ranger Walter C. Hartford. A teletext message beneath Doc's smiling face read: Ranger Hartford insisted his middle name to be only initialized because it is 'Carel'.
The camera returned to Jerrold.
"Of course many of you will expect this show to be about Ranger Gooseman and his seemingly omnipresent harem. But not only would his private life alone fill another airing, it has also been covered – elaborately and abundantly as I might add – by Oprah last week. So we will focus first on.... WALTER HARTFORD and ZACHARY FOX!
"Is it true, that the relation between you two is anything but strictly professional?"
The camera was filled with Zach's face, gaping, sputtering... "You think that Doc and I... that we..." The question finally registered. "ARE YOU PEOPLE NUTS?"
"Please, Captain Fox. Mind your manners. We aren't a late night show after all." Jerrold sniffed indignantly. "I take it that you deny your relationship?"
"I'm a married man, Mr. Jumper." Zach glared. "And a father of two. You can't possibly accuse me of–"
"Now this might be a good point–" Jerrold smoothly cut him off. "–to introduce our first surprise guest who might be able to shed some light on this issue: applause for MR. CODY CARSON, please!"
"Wildfire!?" Zach jumped to his feet. "We've got have a dozen valid warrants for him right now! I–"
"Now, now, Captain Fox." Jerrold shook his head. "You promised not to arrest anyone for the duration of this show, do you recall? Shall I show you the contract?"
"Not necessary." Zachary bit off, taking his seat again he glared at the broadly grinning Carson. "Consider yourself cuffed the moment the show credits run off!"
"But, Zachary." Wildfire looked appalled. "I thought you know by now that I'm not into the sadomaso stuff. Keep your metal plays to someone else."
"I take it that you know Captain Fox more privately then?" Jerrold cut in.
Wildfire claimed his proffered seat and leaned comfortably back, smirking. "Oh yes, there've been times–"
"YOU–!!" Two chairs cluttered from the podium into backstage. Niko pulled her legs close to avoid getting kicked as Zach struggled to get to Carson's throat. "Goose, let go! LET GO! That's an order!"
"The commander said not to kill anybody." The ST held the struggling Captain effortlessly around the waist. "He meant you, too."
Jerrold watched the scene for a moment, before he flashed his famous 10,000 Credit smile – actually, it was a 7,983.75 Credit smile, but who's counting? – and stepped in front of the camera, blocking sight of the turmoil behind him. "I think it's time for our first break. Stay tuned for the second part of INSIDE BETAMOUNTAIN AT NIGHT and what Mr. Wildfire has to tell us!"
"Hello and welcome back to today's Jerrold Jumper Show. Today's topic is INSIDE BETAMOUNTAIN AT NIGHT. I'm Jerrold Jumper and we're continuing with the interview of our first guest. Mr. Wildfire, before the break you were about to tell us some more about your acquaintance with Captain Fox."
"Sure thing, boy! We used to be like this–" He held his hand into the camera, thumb and index finger pressed together. "–but that was before he'd gotten all those stuck-up-the-BEEP-ish attitudes like wife and kids and so on." Wildfire smirked. "Not that the chair next to him got cold in his younger days."
Jerrold acted baffled. "You're saying that–?" –
"Sure thing. It's just the metal that's slowed him down a bit recently. Otherwise he wouldn't have needed the family as cover, you know?"
"SAY WHAT?" Zachary yelled. At his back Goose's hand clamped unobtrusively around his belt in case the captain lost it again. "I'll have you know that those kids are mine, and I enjoyed every minute... uuhhhhh..." His cheeks looked as if they'd burst into flames any second as he shrank back into his seat, effectively trapping a flushed Goose's hand between his back and the chair.
Wildfire, feeling safe again, shot back. "And that from someone whose wife has been conveniently frozen the last couple of years! Sheesh, boy-o. A smart-BEEP like you! Thought you'd come up with something better than that."
Zachary's voice went very quiet. "Carson. Do. Not. Go. There."
Wildfire blinked with brightly shining innocence. "Where, Zachy? I doubt they have a broom closet for us. And I've grown a bit old for the toilet stunt."
"Wildfire," Goose said calmly. "Get the BEEP out of here. I don't know how long I can hold him back, okay?"
The audience snickered and howled. Some suggestive calls were quelled by Jerrold stepping in front of the camera, blocking sight of Wildfire's less than graceful exit. "Now that we've learned something about Captain Fox, we should also inquire about his partner in this. For this task, we present our next guest. Please welcome–" Jerrold confronted his note cards, while a small, slumped, greyish gnome more or less hopped on stage.
"Mr... LARRY. Maybe you can give us a brief summary of who you are."
"Of course, Jerrold, my friend." In the third attempt Larry managed to hop up onto his seat and waved at the audience. "I'm Larry, first assistant of Mogul, the Great, space sorcerer extra-ordinaire. We take cash, star stones, all credit cards, empire powers–"
"Please, please. Mr. Larry."
"Just Larry please."
"Okay, Larry. Please tell us what you know about our Doc Hartford."
"What shall I say? The crook pinched my girlfriend from me." The audience erupted in boos and hisses and it took a while before it was calm enough for Larry to continue. "You see, somebody like me seldom gets such a beautiful being as my Rusty, and then this– this– this gigolo with his robot fetish comes and takes her away from me!"
"Me!?" Doc gaped. "You fabricated an out of control love spell that nearly killed you and crushed Rusty and it's my fault?!"
"We were meant for each other." Larry sniffled and wiped his nose. The audience went into hush and shushing sounds of comfort. "Till you came!"
"I brought her with me, do you recall?" Doc barked. "And you–"
A loud POOOOOFFF followed by the faint WOOOMPH of an expanding cloud interrupted Doc as Mogul appeared floating above the stage. "Larry!" He snarled. "You were supposed to take the garbage out before you left. The whole kitchen stinks! And what's with my robe? I told you to iron it. The silver isn't polished either. And isn't that my shirt there on your scrawny little BEEP!?" The cloud formed a hand and snatched Larry off-stage. And POOF.
"Well, well." Jerrold beamed smoothly. "Tonight, nobody can claim this show lacks effects, can he?" He raised his hands, as if showering in the cheering applause of the audience, before he consulted his cards yet again. "And now we are proud to announce a guest who might be able to confirm Larry's outrageous claims about Doctor Hartford's preferences. Applause for.... RUSTY!"
The golden robot stalked on stage, causing more than a single whistle from the audience, when she crossed her long legs in her best playboy manner.
"Rusty." For the first time this evening Jerrold's smile seemed to bounce off someone. "You are here to tell us about the disastrous mission on which Ranger Hartford made his advances to you, aren't you?"
"Hey!" Doc called out. "I did nothing, you– BEEP! Tell him, Rusty!"
"Please, Doctor Hartford." The golden robot nodded regally in his direction. "Keep your composure." She turned back to Jerrold. "I can't testify about the mission, Mr. Jumper. Ranger Hartford deleted my memory during the repairs necessary afterwards."
"Nobody regrets that more than me, Rusty," Doc exclaimed.
The audience was full of sheeshes and boos. Rusty ignored him and waited patiently till it calmed down again. "I will never know what really happened on Walk-Up."
The audience burst again into angry calls for justice against Doc.
Jerrold took the lead of the talk again. "Then how can you help us?"
"After my reactivation, Ranger Hartford hugged me, called me his, and wanted me to call him 'Doccie-poo'. It is beyond even my abilities to calculate the reasons for his behavior, Mr. Jumper. But it was really disturbing. I ran two system checks afterwards, just to be sure I was functioning correctly."
"I practically puzzled her pieces back together!" Doc protested but was drowned out by the audience. "I–"
At the first BEEP rapist!-calls, Jerrold stepped into the middle of the stage, drowning out the turmoil by announcing the second commercial break.
"And here we are again with the Jerrold Jumper Show. Our topic today is INSIDE BETAMOUNTAIN AT NIGHT. I'm Jerrold Jumper and it's time for our conclusions:" Jerrold indicated first Doc, then Zach. "Here we have a robot fetishist deprived of his metallic lust object, and a man, half robot–" another look at his notes, "–pardon, bionic, who hadn't missed a thing till he got his metal. We at Jerrold Jumper think, you ought to decide yourself!"
He made a smooth sweeping gesture at the audience.
"And as always, it's now time for our traditional audience questions. Yes, you over there." Jerrold directed the microphone droid.
"Hi, my question goes to the young lady. You haven't said anything all night. What's with your BEEP life?"
"Well, what can I say?" Niko daintily folded her hands demurely in her lap. "It's not as if I have many opportunities when all the men in my unit are occupied with each other."
Some snickers and giggles erupted in the audience. Some male voice called, "What a waste!"
"And we come to the second question." Jerry quelled the disturbance as he buzzed the mike bot over. "Yes, you?"
"Why don't you care more about your gorgeous colleague, man? Yes, I mean the blond one, what's his name? Gasman?"
Goose narrowed his eyes. "I–"
"STOP!" Two men in ill-fitting grey business suits stormed the stage. Their sunglasses reflected the countless batteries of spots on the ceiling. "ISA! Don't say a word!" One actually pulled his service weapon. Some screams erupted from the audience, as the second agent marched up to Jerrold and handed him an official decree.
Jerrold flipped it open, read the content, and announced. "Apparently, the Board of World Leaders doesn't wish Ranger Gooseman to say a word, at peril of arresting me, my crew, and the whole audience in the name of National Security." He drew a long, sad sigh. "I only wish I knew why a high level senator like Eric Wheiner–" he threw a highly suggestive look at Goose, who went bright-red. "–goes to such lengths. Maybe our Ranger and the senator have a history?"
Goose went from bright-red to deadly pale.
Zach jumped to his feet and hurried over, hugging Goose closely. "Don't worry, honey. It doesn't change anything between us, I promise."
Ten Minutes – and a lot of turmoil – later, backstage:
"Next time you pull a stunt like that, give me a warning." Goose growled.
"Sure thing, boy," Zachary sighed, involuntarily quoting Wildfire. "But you have to admit it worked to get them off the Wheiner track."
"Yea," the ST snorted in disgust. "And I was this close to removing your spinal column!"
"And I can't help but notice–" Goose whirled round at the thick suggestive tone in Zach's voice and caught his captain eyeing his behind rather admiringly. "–you have cute buns, Lieutenant."
"You had to do that, hadn't you, Zach?" Niko asked dryly, watching Goose fleeing from the building.
"Absolutely," Zach smirked. "You have a problem with that?"
"No." She shrugged. "You're right. He has cute buns. – Doc, don't you think so, too?"
"Oh yea..." The hacker whispered dreamily, staring on Zach's backside. "Zach, could you add just a little bit more sway–?"
The captain purpled. "No way!" He stormed after Goose.
Doc arched an amused brow at the telepath. "Ah, these love birds. Shall we, dear maiden?"
She giggled. "Yes, my prince."