Charles Austin Muir

THE TIME I ROLLED WITH THE PRINCE OF DENMARK AND WE TOOK IT RIGHT INTO THE DANGER ZONE

The best thing about immortality is knowing you’ll never lose your edge when you ride into the danger zone.

Not that Princess Ardala, commander of the flagship Draconia, knows this fact. I never told her I’m immortal. Nor did I expose Her Highness—given her contempt for ancient entertainment—to any of my favorite old-school jams. In particular, the Kenny Loggins hit single off the Top Gun movie soundtrack released in 1986, “Danger Zone.”

The princess won’t watch Top Gun, either, one of the greatest cinematic events in Earth’s history. She’s pretty snooty for a glorified space pirate.

And to think I called her my boo. Not only does Princess Ardala dump me in front of Tigerman, her bodyguard, she wants to kill my main man and me by ejecting us into the void.

While we wait for her to send us off—as if space can harm two straight up superhumans—I squeeze the clutch and turn on my Kawasaki Hyperspace Ninja. The newly upgraded, superluminal motorcycle hums to life.

“You and that silly conveyance.” The princess gets one last dig in over the airlock speaker. “Well, we’ll always have New Paris. Farewell, Pete Mitchell. Kane—you may open the outer hatch.”

It’s time. Behind me, my main man, Ham Dogg, the Prince of Denmark, wraps his arms around my waist.

“To what dreams may come,” he says.

“For shizzle, Ham-Dizzle. And in case I never told you before… I love you.”

I throttle the hyper drive engine and shift into first gear. Kane releases us to the blackness of space.

Like Kenny Loggins, we take ourselves right into the danger zone.

***

Speaking of Kenny Loggins, here is how I ended up on a pirate spaceship in the year 2491.

My journey to the stars began in the year 2019. I, Pete Mitchell, was riding my newly restored Kawasaki Ninja GPz900R on I-5, through Portland, Oregon, when I saw a minivan driver flip off a pickup truck driver who had cut her off. Eager to bust a cap in misogyny’s ass, I told myself, “Pete, here is someone who needs to know not all the men in the world are hyper-aggressive scumbags.”

I switched from the fast to slow lane and pulled up alongside the fuming, middle-aged woman. I meant to tell her: “Ma’am, that man is a disgrace to the International Pickup Truck Consortium for Human Decency. I’m going to place him under citizen’s arrest and report him to the consortium.”

Unfortunately, to my eternal shame, I flipped the driver off instead. I gave her the bird for several seconds, too, like actor Tom Cruise as Maverick flying inverted above the MiG fighter pilot in the opening dogfight scene in Top Gun.

“Here ya go, pig-face,” I shouted, through the woman’s passenger-side window. “LET’S SEE HOW YOU LIKE IT!!!” A total dick move. And decidedly not a win for Bros Against Misogyny (a campaign I supported on behalf of the International Bros Consortium for Human Decency).

I couldn’t help myself, though. I felt as if I’d been possessed by a demon that sounded like Kenny Loggins barking orders inside my head. Which humbled me for reasons I’ll explain in a minute, and disturbed me because I enjoyed Kenny Loggins’s music.

As you might imagine, my gesture did not sit well with either the International Motorcycle Consortium for Human Decency or the International Bros Consortium for Human Decency. After their investigations, I lost my IMCHD and IBCHD voting privileges, my access to IMCHD and IBCHD events and activities, and my IMCHD and IBCHD real-estate holdings. My fellow riders and even many of my fellow bros ceased to acknowledge me.

My grandfather—who was also banished for harassing a motorist, albeit before the founding of the IBCHD—used to call the highway “The Great Lonesome.” Now, I understood why.

An outcast, I rode across America for the next six years. Desperately, I sought an expert to cure the neurological disorder that made me flip people off and taunt them in response to an inner voice that sounded like Kenny Loggins. I had always known the condition prevailed on my dad’s side of the family. But, being told I looked like Tom Cruise all my life, I figured I was too slick to inherit such a weird, self-sabotaging disorder. Talk about a lesson in making assumptions.

My vagabond lifestyle proved a grim one-eighty from the hellraising, high-fiving life I had once led. Thankfully, my fortune shifted when I met my main man, Ham Dogg, the Prince of Denmark. I had outrun a biker gang that didn’t appreciate being taunted by me when I ducked into a bar and saw Hamlet at the counter, staring into his beer. We were in a dusty little burg called Higgledy Piggledy, South Dakota.

Blue-eyed, bearded, and brooding, the handsome patron looked like movie star Mel Gibson with a Caesar-like haircut. I took his presence there as a sign we were meant to become the closest of homeboys. I ordered two cold ones and sat beside him.

“Thanks for the replenishment,” he said, in an English accent. “But… do I know you?”

“Nah. I know you, though. You’re Mel Gibson, right? I’m a big, big fan. I’ve seen I Never Promised You a Rose Garden one-hundred-and-twenty-nine times.”

“Hmm, I’m sorry to disappoint you, sir, but I am not Mel Gibson. My name is Hamlet.”

“As in, ‘To be or not to be’ Hamlet?”

“That is the obvious quote, but yes. And you are?”

“Pete Mitchell. My parents named me after Tom Cruise’s character in Top Gun.”

Intrigued by the title, Hamlet admitted he had never seen the movie that inspired me to become a ruggedly individualistic motorcycle studmuffin. He had seen Tom Cruise’s earlier movie though, Losin’ It, one-hundred-and-twenty-nine times.

With his eager permission—and over the noise of locals discussing the upcoming International Tractor Consortium for Human Decency rally—I gave the prince a thorough plot synopsis of director Tony Scott’s turbo-charged, aviation thriller. He teared up when I told him about Maverick’s main man, Goose, losing his life in a training engagement. “Alas, poor Goose,” he said, squeezing my leg.

Hamlet excused himself to hit the head. When he came back, he looked extra brooding, like Mel Gibson giving the famous “To be or not to be” speech in director Franco Zeffirelli’s film adaptation of Shakespeare’s play about him (which I had seen, but had to watch again later to compare with the real deal). We toasted our luck meeting each other in a bar in Higgledy Piggledy, South Dakota.

“Pete, you’re my new main man,” my new main man said, leaning in. “So I feel there is something I should tell you.”

“Anything, Ham Doggy Dogg.”

“I am immortal.”

I almost spit my beer up. “Come on, homes, I’ve read the play. You spend all your time pondering your mortality.”

Hamlet shrugged. “I know. Stupid, right? Now I spend all my time pondering my immortality. But the reason I’m coming out to you like this is because pondering my immortality nonstop can become unbearably lonely. For centuries, I’ve been searching for someone companionable and—well, mobile enough, to join me as I wander the earth thinking about what it means to not die. On my father’s grave, Pete, I swear I would give you immortality for your company on my peregrinations. Would you accept this?”

“Hells yeah!”

“Then drink this.” The prince pulled a vial of pinkish liquid from his fanny pack. “It’s an experimental elixir I concocted to distract myself when my uncle forced me to consider killing him for poisoning my father. I thought it would help me speak with a Danish accent when thinking aloud in English… but instead, it made it impossible for me to not be. One sip of this potion, and you will not be able to not be, either.”

And that is the start of how I ended up on a pirate spaceship in the year 2491. Because life moves on a different time scale when you’re eternally youthful and roll with an over-analytical Hamlet who unintentionally arranged it so he can’t not be.

Unfortunately, my immortality did not eliminate my neurological disorder, but at least I had forever to find a cure for it, and, more importantly—with Hamlet’s support after fifty years of considering the matter—to fulfill my dream of jockeying jet fighters and graduating from TOPGUN.

It took us a hundred years, but once the prince and I got the hang of flying ultra-sophisticated military investments, we gained a reputation for being hell in the air and eventually in space. I just wished we’d gotten better call signs than “Bird Spasm” (for my compulsive hand gestures) and “Weird Caesar” (for Hamlet’s haircut).

For two centuries, on this world and beyond, we flew combat missions, macked on fly honeys, and whizzed around on my newly upgraded Kawasaki Sky Ninja. But finally, after the Darnivian Insurrection in the year 2390, we retired to Hamlet’s underground bunker outside Chicago.

Every summer, we traveled the country on my self-repairing, fuel-recycling, flightworthy motorcycle. Other than a “bird spasm” that struck me in a biker bar in Zip-A-Dee-Ay, Nebraska, nothing much happened on these trips, although we did manage to see the Kenny Loggins Museum. I still appreciated the man’s music, despite my inner voice.

Our road trips ended shortly after the biker bar incident. My main man and I spent the next fifty-five years hangin’ in the bowels of the underground bunker.

Hamlet converted the garage into a science laboratory. His experiments saved him from the gloomy meditations he had cherished before he became sharp-witted radar intercept officer, “Weird Caesar.” As for me, I felt sad that I no longer had anyone to subject to my “bird spasms” except my main man and the walls of our domicile.

I got to thinking about this, because being sad about not bullying people is messed up.

After months of researching my family history, while Hamlet tinkered with a Losin’ It-themed lunchbox that took pictures, I came to this conclusion:

I don’t have a neurological disorder that afflicts men on my dad’s side of the family. I have a rogue element inside me that randomly takes over and acts like a dick. From what I can tell, all the Mitchell men carry this rogue element inside them.

It shows up shortly before middle age. Something about this stage of life triggers feelings of inadequacy that cause us to lash out at others. To take the blame off ourselves, we turn these feelings into a sort of evil spirit that commands us in the voice of someone famous. My great-grandfather, Dr. Atticus Mitchell, took our frontin’ a step further by attributing his John-Wayne-prompted outbursts to a hereditary neurological disorder. And so we’ve been framing our bad behavior ever since.

When I told Hamlet my theory, he took my picture with his lunchbox and showed me how enlightened I looked.

“Look, Pete,” he said. “Not to sound harsh, because you’re my main man and all, but I’ve always known you’re kind of a dick. That’s great you’ve finally realized it yourself, though. It looks like being cooped up in this place has been good for you. For me, too, actually. It’s funny… since we stopped our adventures, you’ve become more reflective while I’ve become more active. And now you’ve learned what you needed to and I’ve had my fill of inventing crap inspired by movies no one’s heard of. Maybe this means our work is done here.”

“So what? We join the Space Marines and—”

“Come on, Pete, we’ve seen enough war, haven’t we? I feel we should take on a creative project. And I have just the idea for it. If done well, we could fatten our bank account and help you get over your ambivalence toward Kenny Loggins… given your behavioral problem.”

“All right. Hit me, Ham Deezy.”

“We form a Kenny Loggins cover band.”

“Oh snap, homes. Right on!”

It took us thirty-five years to arrange our Kenny Loggins routine. But once we got the hang of harmonizing, we became hell at paying tribute to the singer-songwriter behind some of the most iconic movie songs of the 1980s. When the “Kenny Log Clones” hit the big time, all of civilized Earth would cut loose like in Kenny Loggins’s hit single, “Footloose.”

That was our dream, anyway. We found out the universe had different plans when we headed for Chicago.

For one thing, there was no Chicago anymore, only an urban ruins. For another, the streets teemed with badly burned, subhuman creatures that pelted us with rubble. They didn’t do much damage, seeing as my motorcycle repaired itself and my main man and I couldn’t shuffle off this mortal coil. Still, this was not how the Kenny Log Clones wanted to kick off its open mic tour.

Hamlet pointed at a city shining in the distance. Switching the bike to aerial mode, I got us to the city limits lickety-split. Outside the dome, a guard in a sky car escorted us inside.

“Perchance to dream,” Hamlet said, while we gawked at the towering spires, serpentine monorails and fountains of dancing light all around us. The city looked the way twentieth-century special effects artists imagined future cities would look.

Our escort led us to a building shaped like one end of a half-pipe. On the rooftop, we were met by Dr. Elias Huer, Colonel Wilma Deering, and Twiki, a child-sized robot. They welcomed us on behalf of the Earth Defense Directorate. They were shocked to discover we’d had no idea a nuclear war had ravaged the entire planet while we were down in the bunker honing our Kenny Loggins routine. Our magnificent surroundings, “New Chicago,” numbered among a handful of domed cites that had been constructed after the holocaust.

I took the news with due seriousness. Secretly though, I couldn’t help but laugh… because what a way for humanity to produce a dystopia. With a few nukes, it had recreated the premise of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, a film and television show I had watched in the ancient times via endlessly syndicated reruns. It was as though my ten-year-old self were writing this story.

With that said, please don’t think I failed to see the enormity of the most devastating war in human history. I just wanted to direct my energy toward happier thoughts.

Because there we were, a Danish prince and a Tom Cruise look-alike with a futuristic Top Gun motorcycle, in a Buck Rogers future with an opportunity to introduce the Kenny Log Clones to a post-apocalyptic population. If there was one good thing about our time in the bunker, it was that we had strengthened and composed ourselves for just this sort of scenario. My main man and I wanted only one thing, now: To make New Chicago cut footloose.

Unfortunately, my inner voice still took control sometimes. It was on a luxury sky liner, popping out from behind Hamlet to serenade Wilma Deering with “That Lovin’ Feelin’”—like Maverick does to Charlie in Top Gun—that I told the colonel she looked like she wore a fat suit painted to look like a metallic, purple jump suit. As a result, Colonel Deering schooled me in the art of face-planting with her metallic, purple stiletto boots.

Needless to say, my action did not sit well with either the Earth Luxury Sky Liner Consortium for Human Decency or the Earth Defense Directorate. Captain Buck Rogers ordered us to return to the mutant-haunted, radioactive wastes beyond the dome. Rather than head back to the bunker, however, Hamlet and I decided to visit the lunar colonies. Using parts he salvaged from bombed-out “Old Chicago,” he upgraded my Sky Ninja into a Space Ninja.

Halfway to Luna, the Draconian space pirates seized us during a stop on a gentlemen’s star liner. Kane took Hamlet in as his drinking partner, and Princess Ardala made me her boy toy. She adored my obscene outbursts against her.

Around this time, I discovered something else about myself: I have a contrary, rebellious streak. Go figure. At the height of our romance, my Kenny Loggins voice told me to do a one-eighty with the princess. The moment I massaged her royal shoulders and said, “I love you, boo,” I knew Hamlet and I were going to get kicked to the space curb.

“Sorry about that, Ham-my-man,” I said, moments before the princess got her dig in about my motorcycle.

“That’s all right, Pete Mizzle Dizzle.”

And now we’re caught up with my story, living in the present moment again.

Taking it right into the danger zone.

***

Whizzing around in hyperspace—AKA the danger zone—presents hazards unique to the adventurous interstellar motorcyclist. Good thing I’m hell with a sport bike, even a Space Ninja that has been upgraded to a Hyperspace Ninja, thanks to Hamlet’s appropriation of Draconian hyper drive tech while Kane slept off his hangovers.

A spill in hyperspace won’t seriously harm us, considering our unable-to-not-be status, but a mistake could kill the Faster-Than-Light-Speed buzz.

The prince and I are racing through fields of pulsating, multi-colored light. The bike’s hyper drive engine sends vibrations that shoot up my thighs to the top of my skull. I am simultaneously at war and in harmony with the upholstery, handlebars, and foot pegs shaking against me with superluminal acceleration. And why wouldn’t we speed up? We’re riding the ultimate crotch rocket, not some dingy old space tug. With my main man, Ham Dogg, the Prince of Denmark, hugging me tight, I shift up to sixth gear and see just how close we can get to the walls of the throbbing light vortex.

God, this feels good.

For extra dopeness, I hold a wheelie on the final stretch. One click of the Normal 3-D Space button and we jump into… wherever we are.

And what do we have here? Looks like Earth.

Must be an alternate version. And what will we find on the surface? Armies of talking apes? Biker gangs roaming a desert wasteland? Hardened criminals in a maximum-security prison formerly known as Manhattan Island? Some other recreation of a Seventies or Eighties science-fiction movie? Whatever awaits us, the Kenny Log Clones are going to make the world a nicer place. Because no matter what Earth you inhabit, you can always use more of Kenny Loggins’s music in your life.

We are descending into the planet’s atmosphere, now. Thanks for listening to me, homeboys and homegirls and other homepeople. You’re the best.

And in case I never told you before… I love you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s