Friday, November 12, 2010

Chapter 4: Planet Terror, Planet Happy

A few days later, the Foie Gras neared a planet covered in swirling grey-green clouds. It was a huge planet, probably closer to Neptune than Earth in size, but was made of rock like Earth, and oddly had the same gravity as Earth. They were approaching the planet Vhoorl, which came up as a local-ish place to find a mystic who might be able to tell the group where to find a cure for Melvin’s impending zombieism.

The crew strapped in to seats and prepared for the entry into the atmosphere, which the on-board computer for the Foie Gras (named Brandy, after the drink) assured them would be hard, uncomfortable and probably quite painful. She said all of this with a cheery, good natured voice that was simultaneously reassuring and grating. Sure enough, as the ship entered the atmosphere, it was shaken violently by the clouds and wind. Rain washed over the ship even from high up in the stratosphere, and everyone had an eerie, uneasy feeling as soon as they broke through the clouds. It was daytime, but the planet’s surface was dark and grey-green like the clouds.

There was an eldritch fog that clung uncleanly to the cyclopean structures of non-Euclidean geometry that sprawled like a... big... rug... below them. Brandy’s navigation computer took them to the center of the gigantic, oddly shaped city and landed by the only structure that did not seem to have been built to accommodate creatures as big as the ship.

The front door read “mglw’nfah”, which they saw through the monitors on this ship. The streets were large enough for the Foie Gras to park like a car. They rose and fell unevenly, turned into buildings, or went up to the sky into nothingness. The group started suiting up with weapons to go visit the supposed mystic, had lowered the walkway, and were walking out of the ship when Brandy suddenly lifted 10 feet straight up into the air, almost dumping the leading Shorty onto the queer cobblestones, etched with gruesome and noisome(?) bas reliefs.

There was a general shouting and chastising of the auto-pilot until, around the corner, came a swarm of creatures that looked like spider crabs made out of black stone, except with glowing red eyes and what looked like shiny green fangs that dripped ichor that sizzled and smoked on the cobblestones (the queer ones, Shorty almost fell on).

“Sorry folks! Preliminary analysis shows that they are predatory and blessed by the almighty Shub’Niggurath. They would have eaten you!” Brandy said brightly. It took more then ten minutes of waiting and the sound of clacking, scrabbling legs before all of the creatures had passed. More than a few stopped and tried to leap up and bite the crew, but with no success, especially when the Foie Gras zapped them with their smaller laser cannons.

Finally, the coast was clear, and the crew walked down to the front door and gave it a knock. There was a loud scrabbling behind the door, and the group could only imagine some sort of dark, formless, nameless horror, that no human word could adequately describe; it’s loathsome bulk spilling bilously over the interior of the building... The door handled rattled, the door creaked open and...

“Oh, Hi! Neat! People!” It was actually a scrawny little old man. He wore a green robe, his hair stood up in all different directions, except for the massive bald spot on the top of his head, and what appeared to be all of his missing head hair on his face.

“Welcome to the Earth Embassy! You just missed the daily scragg migration. Good thing too! They like to poison you then nest in your brain. Come on in!”

The entire crew was completely taken aback; they had not expected a human, let alone one that looked like a stiff wind would shatter.They dumbfoundedly followed him inside. “So what’s your business, folks? Need a Visa? Not sure why you’d want one. Everything here eats everything else, and the cloud cover is 100%, so you barely see all the nothing before something steps out of it and drives you insane or has you for breakfast.”

“Actually, we were looking for a mystic.” Said Shorty.

“Oh! Oh, okay! Gotcha... Just a second, I will go get him.” The old man got up out of his seat, and walked over toward what looked like a phone, then grabbed a pointed hat and returned back to his seat. “Mystic here, at your service!”

They all looked at one another, then shrugged. Piper explained “Our friend here, Melvin, was bitten a few times by some zombies and we need to know if there is an antidote, and where we might find it.”

“Oh! Zombies is it? Hmm.... Get the hell out of my house.”

There was a unanimous “What?” and Shorty stepped forward. “The search engine said you were a mystic who knew how to cure zombie curses. You were the first link that was not creepy undead porn, so here we are. And we aren’t leaving until we get an answer.”

The old man’s face scrunched up. “Ah, shit. Very well. Let me see the idio-... the victim.” Melvin stepped forward. “Jesus, he’s big. How did you get bitten?”

“I was stopping them from getting on our ship.” Melvin stated.

“Ever think of closing the door?” Snapped the old coot.

“Our friend, Shorty was not on it yet.” Piper chimed in.

“Oh. What the hell was he doing outside of the ship during a zombie invasion? You all aren’t smart. I don’t deal with stupid people. Good night.”

He started to get up again; by this point, Shorty’s patience had worn out. He jumped onto the table and grabbed the old man by the front of his robe and pulled him close, his nose barely an inch away from the old man’s own crooked, hawkish proboscis. “Sit. Down. Now.”

The old man dropped onto his seat, but only managed to hit the front inch, which caused it to shoot out from behind him, dropping him on his butt. “OW! Please leave! You people suck!”

He glanced up to see Shorty pointing a gun at him. “I don’t fear death, little man; I have lived the past decade on the home-world of a great old one. There is no noticeable day or night, and those godamned star spawn make crappy liaisons. They try, every single GOD DAMN time to try and rive you insane. Every time.”

Shorty smiled. “Who said a thing about killing you? I was thinking that in your position, you have no need for reproductive organs...” The old man seemed to mull over his words for a few seconds. Then his eyes suddenly popped open as the words sunk in and he pulled his legs in close. “But, that would hurt...  Barry! Barry Turtleneck’s the name! Ambassador to Vhoorl and mystic-public. It’s been pretty boring over the past decade, but things are starting to pick up. You see, Great Cthulhu was dreaming, Now he is awake, and trade is beginning between the Mi-Go fungus and the Deep Ones, and there are some entrepreneurial cultists on Earth that have found a few ways to make a profit for those of us that don’t go insane.”

Barry got up and brushed off his robes, straightened his hat, and opened his desk. He rummaged a bit and then pulled out a device that resembled a clear piece of paper. “This is my scrying device. We don’t use crystal balls anymore; we use the Universal Google Plates now.”

Everyone gave him an incredulous look. “We used Google to find you...” Piper said.

“Mystics have better accounts. Did you know you could google the fabric of reality? Other planes of existence? Honest lawyers? Everything. But you have to be a mystic-public. You pay your fifty bucks and sign some paper and you get one of these. Now shut up and let me ask it your question.”

Melvin started to reach for it “What stops it from working for us?”

Barry yanked it away and blocked it with his body like a child coveting their toy. “BECAUSE! It uses biometrics, so it won’t work for anyone but me. So there. :P”

Melvin snatched his hand back and slumped against the wall. He felt sick to his stomach, and was breaking out in a cold sweat. Bert glanced over and flinched. “Jesus, Mel, you look like shit...” Melvin’s skin was turning pale and pasty.

Barry shook his head. “You know, you could just toss him into a star or something...” Shorty growled and pointed the gun at Barry’s face. “FINE. Fine. Whatever...” He set the UGP down and closed his eyes. He concentrated, breathed deeply and then said “Google, oh Great Google of the Universe and elsewhere... Where might we find a cure for this man’s zombie affliction?”

Suddenly the clear material flickered and lines of words began to scroll by. “Whoa, shit... I might need to narrow down the search on that one... Okay, let’s try this again....”

Barry once again concentrated, then said “Cure” “Zombie” “Where.” The UGP refilled with more words and this time Barry seemed pleased. “Ah, yes, much better. Let’s see... ‘The Zombie Survival Encyclopedia... Zombie Movies... Oh, cool. is still around. ‘7 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Outbreak Would Fail (Quickly)’.... Need to bookmark that one so I can tell the author how he is wrong....”

Piper was growing impatient. “Can you please hurry, Barry? We would like to find a cure before Melvin dies...” Barry nodded impatiently and held up his hand. “I was just bookmarking that one. Oh, here we, this looks promising. ‘Zombie Cures’. Let’s see...”

Barry scrolled through page after page of links before finally clicking on one. “What’s taking so long?” Asked Henry. Barry never looked up but said “Reality is even more choked with porn than the Internet was. I finally found one and they look pretty reputable... They have accreditation's in plague and curse cures. Zombies count as both, I think, so it’s about as close as you can get. Let’s see, they are located at 23 Happy Street, Beauty Falls, The Unicorn Continent on... Oooooh... Yuck.”

There was a simultaneous “What?” from the group.

“It’s on the planet of Fantasia.” Barry sounded disgusted. “What’s wrong with that?” Asked Henry.

Barry shuddered. “It has clear blue skies, crystal clear waters, tall purple mountains and endless fields of emerald grass.”

Henry shrugged. “So? It sounds wonderful.”

Barry’s face scrunched up “It sounds wonderful.” He mocked. “Pah! It sucks! I’ll give you some perspective. You see this planet? It is populated by monsters and evil gods, and I chose to be transferred here from Fantasia!”

Henry looked at him quizzically. “Why?”

“Think of Fantasia as a candy bar. Candy is nice, right?” The old man asked brightly. Everyone smiled and nodded. “Now, eat candy for every meal, for every day, of every week, of every month, of every god-damned year!” His face was turning red and Barry was very nearly on the edge of rage. “After that year, you would fucking HATE candy! That’s why I hate Fantasia! Everyone there is so shit-eating godamn motherfucking happy I just wanted to shoot myself in the face! So I requested a transfer. My bosses wanted me to stay, because no one else wanted the job, so they said ‘You can have Vhoorl, home of mighty Cthluhu, who sleeps dreaming in Ry’leh’, because he hadn’t woken yet, and you know what? I said ‘YES!’” He was panting with anger.

“Because fuck that place, that’s why. Now, you know what you need, ask for Glenda at the front desk. Now you’ve ruined my fucking day. Can you go now?” LeDouche was about to smugly say “Oui.” When suddenly Ned shouted in alarm. “Brandy! She’s being taken!”

Barry threw his hands up “Oh GREAT. Just fucking perfect. This “Brandy” probably got grabbed by the scraggs.”

Piper explained. “Brandy is LeDouche’s ship.”

Barry nodded. “Oh! Okay. What is it with you people naming your ships after women.”

LeDouche explained “That is what shee was nehmed when they programmed hehr. I merly keept the nehme.”

“Oh. Then it’s probably a shoggoth that has your ship. They are huge. And amorphous. Anyway, good luck, I hope your freind gets cured, or at least gets put down before he bites anyone.”

“Umm. Thanks...” Said Melvin as they stepped out the door. Now they knew where to go, but their damn ship was gone. Sure enough, a large, black, nebulous form was racing off with their transport. “Meh shep! Brandeh!” LeDouche shouted. It was the first time anyone had seen LeDouche angry.

“Ah tek yoo peple weth meh on meh sheep and theess ees whet ‘appens?!?! Fucking ‘hell!”

Piper put a hand on his shoulder. “I am sorry, LeDouche, but we will get her back.” Bert had turned white. “You mean we’re stuck here! Down on a bottomless rock! It ain’t that fair! Game over, man! Game over!

Shorty grabbed the front of his armor and pulled Bert close. “Are you finished?”

Barry leaned out his door. “You’d better get inside. It’ll be dark soon, and they mostly come out at night. Mostly.”

Piper could not help but feel like she’d seen this exact scene play out somewhere before, but decided to let it go. “Barry, do you-” Before she could finish her question, Barry had slammed the door shut, and she could hear the sounds of several locks sliding into place. Then the scrabbling sound started from several blocks away.

“Uh oh. I think we’d better find a roof, now.” Said Shorty.

Bert gave shorty a dirty look. “I thought you people weren’t afraid of anything...”

Shorty stared hard at the much taller man. “I’m not afraid, but everyone else is, and honestly, I don’t think I would enjoy being eaten.” So the group headed off in the opposite direction of the scraggs, Shory leading the way, and luckily for them, “away from the scraggs” meant “toward Brandy (and the shoggoth, but no one wanted to audibly acknowledge that).”

Piper cast a latte version of the spell she had put on Shorty earlier, on the entire group so they could run until they found suitable shelter, or at least smelled tasty when they died and were eaten. They walked for miles before they found an enormous octagon with a staircase that went around its entire circumference. They hurried up the stairs and hoped to hell that the scraggs didn’t feel the need to go up them, too. (They didn’t. The scraggs were actually migrating en masse to the nearby sea to reproduce.)

They spent a restless few hours on top, watching the shoggoth get smaller in the distance. Meanwhile, Brandy was being dragged by a polymorphous glob of evil, and trying to talk sense into its insane alien mind. “You really should not be doing this, you are making my friends late and possibly endangering them. Please, monster, I am asking you nicely to let me go. I am well armed and you would be well served to do as I request.

If the shoggoth had any idea what Brandy was saying, it did not respond. It did respond when she trained a cannon at what she thought might be its face and shot. Black, billowing smoke and grayish goo burst from where she hit it. It shrieked and let go of her, which was all she needed to get away. Her blades slashed down the length of the monster as she flew by because... Well, because why not? It’s evil and she is covered in blades. Brandy shot straight into the sky and waited, just in case the beast could fly. It couldn’t. (Actually, it could, it just didn’t want to get shot again. Because it fucking hurts, that’s why.)

Unaware that the ship had gotten free, Shorty had decided that he needed to continue to follow her while the rest of the group was more than happy to stay put and wait. Shorty made sure that Piper and Henry had a gun, and provided Bert with a pointy stick. “To poke things with.” was his answer when the security guard asked him “Why a stick?” It all seemed so matter-of-fact that he didn’t question Shorty for a second. Shorty got a good laugh out of it because, really, the bugs here were the size of a dinner plate and ate meat, so the stick likely wasn’t even enough to annoy them very much.

Shorty ran down the stairs and started off in the direction of the shoggoth and ship. He had made it several miles and was nearing the waterfront of the city, when a tall tentacled creature stepped out in front of him. It was thick-set, with tentacles on its face and wings; a Star Spawn of Cthulhu. It spoke:

“Glack hrm morg chebnuk grotath.” (Who are you? What are you? What do you want?)

Shorty arched an eyebrow and  simply said “Something .” Before starting to step past the monstrosity. It put its arm out to stop him, but Shorty just ducked underneath it. It tried to grab him as he went underneath the arm, but Shorty merely ducked under it. Then it tried to hammer him with its club-fists. Shorty easily ducked under the blow and gave one himself to the back of its knee. Its leg buckled and the spawn went down.

He could see it conjuring some magic, and it was clearly pissed. “Whoops” Shorty blurted and unshouldered his shotgun. He made sure the shot was lined up and fired a shot right into the top of the spawn’s head. The creature gurgled and slumped, then let out a sickening hiss. Then, he began to crumble into a pile of messy, gooey pieces, that smelled like old bacon and cold cream.

“Jesus! Is there a rule that evil has to stink? What the hell?” Shorty coughed out. He continued his run for the coast.

Back on this octagon.. thing, the rest of the group was resting and discussing if they were ever going to get off this planet and if Shorty was okay. Bert wanted to take bets on whether he would make it back or not, but Piper gave hi a dirty look and threatened to make him smell like an apple fritter, which would no doubt cause every monstrosity in the area descend upon him. Henry was attending to Melvin, making sure he got water, that his bandages were clean, and that he had a small blond woman perched on him, because it would totally make him feel better and it was not at all for her pleasure. (“Well, maybe a little” she admitted.)

Piper sat down and prayed to her donut and coffee deities, hoping the could hear her through the hell that was Vhoorl and answer her prayers. She had her answer when she opened her eyes and delicious donuts, coffee and gift cards appeared. “Truly, the great Skidds god has blessed us everyone. Eat, drink, and make sure to grab those gift cards, they are a rare gift indeed, only bestowed upon the most favored priests.” Piper was more than a little bit proud.

The crew pocketed their gift cards, and enjoyed the tasty food and hot beverages, and waited to see if Shorty and the Foie Gras would return. Melvin stared at Henry, alternately fantasizing about her doing a strip-tease out of her armor and eating her brain like soup. He got up and began to pace. Dying sucked, but he was not too terribly worried about that. Despite not being immune to fear like the Shorties, the Dozers were simply too large and strong to be afraid of much. However, the thought of dying and trying to eat and kill these people who had recently become his friends disturbed him more than a little.

We think this would be a good time to mention that roughly 90% of the people who lived and worked back on the Alderaan meat packing station were loners or had no extended families. This is why none of these characters are worried about their loved ones and what may have happened to them; they simply don’t have any. This is also why they bonded so quickly. From a narrative perspective, this is incredibly convenient.

Plus, we’ve already had plenty of tangential back-stories, don’t you think?

Anyway, while Melvin was mulling over his fate by himself, the others were listening, rapt, as Piper explained the origins of the Skids, explaining about the VHD, and why cuddlebeasts are revered and trained by Skids priests. She showed how the priesthood could summon food and drink from nothing, and explained how they could go many days and nights without sleep, thanks to the aromatic powers of their CEO/God.

Brandy was speeding back in the direction from whence she came, hoping to find her crew. She was elated when she saw their small forms standing on the top of the great stair-wrapped octagon.

Unfortunately, she passed over Shorty without seeing him. he tried to flag her down, called out both her name and the name of the ship, then swore angrily, shot at her (he missed, she was too far) and finally ran after her.

The Foie Gras arrived at the octagon, much to the delight of everyone on it. Melvin pondered staying behind for only an instant; these people had risked much so far, and he could only imagine they would refuse to leave if he did. The thought of getting them killed bothered him as much as killing them himself. Piper was about to ask if Brandy had picked up Shorty when the ship cheerfully exclaimed “I got him!” So Piper and the rest got on board.

Unfortunately, what Piper and the others mistook as the ship saying she had picked up Shorty, was actually her bragging that she shot the Shoggoth in the “face.” When the others got on board and could not find the small man, they assumed it was because he was taking a shower or using the restroom. This would turn out to be a bad assumption further down the line.

The Foie Gras flew up and out of the atmosphere, and not a moment too soon, since a crowd of Elder Things were gathering to come devour them.

From down below, Shorty watched the ship disappear into a tiny speck as the swarm of nightmarish horrors flew slowly, futilely after them. “Well that just fucking figures...” He mumbled to himself as he realized that he and one obnoxious old man were the only humans on the entire planet.

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