Derek the Despot roared with laughter in brutal triumph.
I’d always wanted to fall in love with someone in a bookshop.
The strings bled pain in sympathetic appreciation.
I figured the odds were good, as I hung around them whenever I could.
Derek now had everything he ever wanted. The universe was his.
So it comes to this moment, this perfect moment.
He sat back on his command chair and surveyed the scene around him.
Cos I always figured that she’d been hanging around the science fiction section, looking too.
The planet was blackened beneath him. His enemies crushed; defeated.
After all, if I’m looking, here, she might be too.
Fire defied physics as the fleet of heroes burned.
What else is there to do on a Sunday afternoon?
Brad Fantastic, Derek’s nemesis, lay dead at his feet. Humanity’s last hope gone.
Read a book?
Since Derek first came to power, to rule the Company, his mission had been clear.
To take away the freedoms of mankind and machine-kind.
And so I stood browsing the classics, looking for new reprints.
To halt the spread of humanity and their toys across the galaxy.
I suddenly felt her, at my shoulder.
To stem the infection.
And the world went dark.
To end the beautiful melody with a discordant hell.
Because she said hello and I felt the blood run to my feet.
So there had been huge, dreadful battles in space.
I couldn’t even turn around.
Derek had made sure that planets had been destroyed and billions had suffered and died.
So she said hello again.
The good women and men had risen against him.
I continued to fail to turn around. I was becoming panicky.
Brad Fantastic and the Fearsome Five.
Breathing heavily, I plucked a book from the shelf. Ringworld.
About as fearsome as a wet fart in a swimming pool.
About a second more passed.
They’d built intelligent, living, weaponised ships and huge, scary robots.
But Derek crushed them all in his relentless pursuit of his ambition. His goal.
Sounds suddenly drown me, sounds never meant to be heard.
Derek the Despot reflected on why the good guys were all dead.
Certainly not in a bookshop, anyway.
In between bouts of hysterical laughter.
For a moment, I thought she would walk away.
You see, Derek thought, while watching the planet beneath his space ship catch fire.
I was being too slow, too scared.
It was never about the power.
But she reached past my shoulder and touched to book.
He boomed out another enormous guffaw.
And then gently, tenderly, she touched my hand with her thumb.
It was never about control.
I let go of the book which mind-numbingly, painfully, slowly fell to the floor.
When Brad was at his feet, his body charred from the energy pistol, with a moment’s breath left.
And I turned to face her.
He looked at Derek the Despot with pleading eyes, trying to understand.
And she was beautiful.
Searching for comprehension.
I think she said something, maybe about seeing me here before.
For a reason.
But all I heard were the angels singing her name.
Derek, like the good and proper villain he was, of course explained all to the dying hero.
Eventually, I managed to say ‘Hi’.
Derek, you see, didn’t want to be the ultimate ruler.
And when she laughed, the hearts of all the gods and demons broke with joy.
Didn’t want to be the tyrant with all kneeling down before him on a hundred or a thousand planets.
And she said ‘Hi’ right back at me.
It wasn’t about the power. It’s not even about you or me, Derek had said to Brad.
The orchestra of perfection played for me.
As Derek slowed his hysterical laughing he typed some commands into his control panel.
But then the sound cracked. Inharmonious.
Derek the Despot looked down at his final command.
As she tentatively reached out to touch me her eyes glazed over.
To destroy. For your own good.
She fell away.
He thought about the look on Brad Fantastic’s face. He laughed one more time.
Out of reach.
He’d told Brad that his one mission, his one true purpose, was the end of everything.
Including me, Derek had said to Brad.
I tried calling out, but the sound was drowning me; killing me.
He looked at the screen which said: ‘to destroy the universe, hit enter’.
And the world went black.