Foie Gras

Edited by L. D. Lewis

Copyedited by Chelle Parker

April 2020

Listen to this story, narrated by Victor Ramos:

“We’ve been seeing a marked uptick in Napoleons,” Dora says. “Isn’t that strange? I blame the recent fascination with ancient British culture. They had a real hard-on for hating Napoleon. And so….”

She waves at the engine room.

Pollux frowns at the short French man cackling from behind the force field that separates Engineering from the rest of the ship. Above their conversation and his laughter, the ship’s self-destruct announces their impending destruction.

“So…. What do we do?” he asks.

There is no future where the Captain allows the ship to fall under the complete control of a maybe-sentient hologram, so if they want to live past the next three minutes and forty-eight seconds, they need to hurry. And since everything he’s tried has failed miserably, their last hope rests with one of the ship’s civilian passengers — a self-professed “fixer.”

Dora cracks her knuckles and pulls out a pad from her pack.

“I have a protocol for Napoleons,” she says. “It’s pretty simple, actually.”

Pollux watches as she types something in, then reaches back into the pack and pulls out….

“What the hell is that?”

“Foie Gras. It’s…. Look, I’d rather not get into exactly what it is. The British had some ideas about the French. Just trust me. So it was holo-created, so it can be holo-foiled. Or… holo-Foie Gras-ed.”

She smiles, as if waiting for him to laugh, but he only stares at her in mute shock. Shrugging, she walks to the force field and holds up the dish. On the other side, Napoleon pauses and perks, eyes darting to the food in her hands. His maniacal laughs cease and he steps closer to Dora and Pollux.

“This makes no sense,” Pollux says. “This is a hyper-intelligent hologram who has managed to escape the confines of illusion and has taken control of most of the ship. He’s ruthless, brilliant, and… French. Why is he stopping?”

“Prejudice,” Dora says. She waves the dish seductively. “The British installed in him all of their fear and awe. He’s a bogeyman, a ghost far more powerful than the man ever was. Sexier, smarter, and fiendishly shorter. But for all that went into making him a monster, they also gave him… weaknesses.”

“He said he wanted to rule the galaxy,” Pollux says.

“Yes, but he wants this… more. Just give it a—”

The force field drops, and Pollux steps back as Napoleon rushes for the dish. For as fast as he moves, though, Dora is faster. The Foie Gras disappears, replaced by a mechanical device with a trigger that Dora pulls. There’s a beam of light and Napoleon is… gone.

Pollux blinks and looks around.

“What… just happened?” he asks.

Dora smiles and motions at the device in her hand. It’s not a laser pistol, but he’s not sure what it is.

“It’s a teleportation gun… modified, of course, to re-digitize Napoleon’s holographic matrix.” She says it like it should make complete sense.

“And that…?”

“Sent Napoleon to a holo-world full of other Napoleons. It’s the easiest way to deal with these situations. Like I told you, I have some experience with this kind of thing. Luckily for you.”

Pollux squints. “So there’s a whole… world of Napoleons.” The thought begins churning in his head — a world full of evil geniuses. “Do they form armies and try to conquer each other? Or are they plotting together to escape their imprisonment and return to wreck their will on the universe? Or….”

“They fuck,” Dora says. “I mean, duh.”

Pollux looks down at the gun, then back at Dora, who smiles widely and pats him on the shoulder.

“Anyway, I’ll send you a bill.”

© 2020 Charles Payseur

About the author

Charles Payseur

Charles Payseur is an avid reader, writer, and reviewer of all things speculative. His fiction and poetry have appeared in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed Magazine, and many more. He runs Quick Sip Reviews, has been a Hugo finalist fan writer, and can be found drunkenly reviewing Goosebumps on his Patreon. When not hunting Hodags across the wilds of Wisconsin, you can find him gushing about short fiction (and his cats) on Twitter as @ClowderofTwo.