Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Episode 110: Monumental Malevolence

   The helm was actually quite light. Alex carried it over his head as David opened the elevator door and Josh stood at the ready with the probe. When the door opened, Josh let out a cry and lunged forth with his weapon, bludgeoning the lizardman inside repeatedly before recalling that he had already killed him once before. Josh stood back, panting, and let David and Alex enter the elevator. 
   "Sorry," he grinned. "This place has me a little on edge." He stepped nimbly inside, straddled the deceased operator's head and pushed the 'down' button. Alex let the helm rest on the top of his head for the 20-second descent. He looked at Josh, who was clutching the anal probe and trying to move his feet away from the pool of congealed blood on the floor, then at David, who was looking at his phone and chuckling silently at the pictures Alex had taken of him with his doppelgänger.
   "This is without a doubt the weirdest elevator ride I've ever taken," he mused.
   The elevator came to a stop and door opened with its usual 'bing'. Josh led the way, probe at the ready, but nothing much had changed in the ten minutes they had been at the top. The door was still bolted from the inside, and Josh peered out the tall, narrow wired glass window. An empty white sidewalk divided the even emptier green lawn into two halves. He noted that the trees that were at the far end of the walk were different. They had either been totally replanted since the early 21st century, or a lot of time had passed. It made him feel more uneasy than he anticipated. 
   "These lizardpeople have fucked with just about enough," he seethed into the glass. His breath temporarily fogged up the window and obscured his view. 
   "Do you see someone? Should we wait?" David looked uncharacteristically worried. The idea of combat was a lot less appealing when you figure you have about seven hit points, if you're lucky.
   "No, the coast is clear. I say we just do this. Besides," he looked up at the sky as he slid the bolt back. "It looks like it's about to start raining." 

The smoldering remnants of what was The Apple Barn rained down upon the shell and deck of the turtleship beneath which David and Karl had taken refuge. David craned his neck out as far as he dared to look up at the sky. "I don't think the heavy stuff's gonna come down for quite a while." Karl turned to stare at him, his face a mixture of calm resignation and deep, mortal panic. 
   "Have you ever thought about what happens if we die in our real bodies, as ourselves???" David turned to face Karl. The air smelled deeply of burnt sugar and cinnamon.
   "Every damn day, Karl. Every damn day." Somewhere above them, Kate could be heard shouting.
   "If you two are quite done blowing up things, there's something happening in the sky over to the northwest. You might want to check it out." As long has DCM had been together, nothing good had ever come out of the sky - including them. They both crawled out from under the turtleship, stood to the sound of creaking bones and looked up at the sky. There was no need to check which direction northwest was, as the low ceiling of clouds overhead was moving at a fair clip in the direction of Bennington. Considering there wasn't even a hint of a breeze, the movement looked eerie and unnatural. Adding to the surreality of it all, the clouds were turning salmon-colored as they reached the horizon. A more paranoid person might inquire as to wether or not the clouds were moving in a vaguely circular motion around a central point.
   "Do the clouds look like they're circling around a central point to you?" David looked up at Karl, eyes squinting against the sweet-smelling smoke. 
   "Hmmm, maybe. Kate?" Karl turned to look up at the deck of the turtleship just as the business end of a wire rope ladder came tumbling over the railing and plummeted straight for his face. Karl dodged as nimbly as he could, getting out of the incident with nothing more than a slightly bruised shoulder.
   "Sorry," Kate's head popped over the railing, a barely-suppressed smile on her lips. "What were the chances you'd be standing right where I dropped the ladder?!" David grabbed an aluminum rung and muttered to Karl while looking up the ladder. "Oh, about ninety-nine percent, at this point, don'tcha think?" He swung a leg up and started an awkward ascent. Karl followed suit as the clouds sped up their movements across the sky.

The three cautiously exited the monument and crept down the sidewalk towards the memorial park. Alex looked around nervously, expecting to see a family of lizzies at any moment, but there were no cars in the parking lot, no one milling about the laboratory. No soldiers. No birds. No breeze.    

   "Hey, guys? Does anything seem strange to you?" Josh didn't appear to hear Alex's question; he still held the probe at the ready and was leading the way towards the wrought-iron gate that led to the memorial park where Der Mobile lay. David, however, fell back to Alex and said, "Strange? I mean, other than the fact that we, having been sucked into our own game of D&D, find ourselves labeled war criminals in a future Bennington populated by lizardpeople?" David gave one of his peculiar chuckles. "Other than that, I'm sure I don't know what you mean."
   "I mean, it's way too quiet. Especially since, not fifteen minutes ago, there were a bunch of soldiers coming after us from the lab." Alex, still balancing the helm on the top of his head, nodded his head in the direction of the lab as they reached the low gate to the park. "You hear anything now? I think something weird is happening." Josh held open the little iron gate to the park. They were now less than 30 yards from the shell of Der Mobile. As he gently closed the gate behind him, his eyes wandered skyward. It looked to him like the cloud cover above was thickening and swirling somehow. 
   "And considering there isn't any wind," Josh had caught them up as they approached the turtle. "How is it that the clouds are moving at all, let alone rotating around the top of the monument like that?" David had already made it up to the deck of Der Mobile, and was helping Alex hoist the helm topside. He glanced up at the clouds while giving Alex, then Josh, a hand up. He scanned the sky in all directions. Yep, there was definitely something paranormal going on. It looked like a hurricane was forming, and its eye was almost directly overhead. 
   David turned to follow the others down to the helm room, but a last glance at the sky revealed a group of dark dots silhouetted against the reddening clouds. He paused, and picked out a handful of objects low in the southern sky. They had the look of vague, weighty malevolence. "Flight of the Valkyries" popped into his head for some reason. He hurried to catch up to the others and called out to Alex in an uncharacteristically tremulous voice. "Didn't we seem to think the forward ballista looked like it was in working order?"

David sat at the forward machine gun station, gritting his teeth against the growing wind and hoping he looked like a fearsome bringer of hot death. Kate sat at the other gun turret and wondered at how a cyclonic atmospheric disturbance could exist inside what looked like a pretty stable artificial environment, as well as whether DTA was suffering from some sort of intestinal duress. But she had seen enough in the past five years of hanging out with DCM to understand that if the worst thing that happened in the next fifteen minutes was David shitting himself, they'd be getting off easy. She glanced back at the four other turtleships in tight formation behind her, each of them bristling with enough firepower to mow down a tiny village. She thought back to the plaques that detailed their so-called war crimes in the attack on Hoosic Falls - an attack that came from the sky in a turtleship... Was history repeating itself? Is this what karma was really about in a multidimensional universe? Kate had a flash of presque vu, the terrible feeling like the answer to the whole bloody thing was on the tip of her tongue, that all the familiar names and places were part of a pattern, part of an intentional plot binding them all together. If she could just figure it out in time, she'd save everyone and everything a whole lot of trouble.
   "There's someone down there," David snapped to attention, thumbs at the ready. Kate's thought her epiphany would have to wait, but wouldn't you know it - they were descending upon the Bennington Monument again, and the remains of Der Chelonian as it lay in the park behind the old gift shop. Why were they here again, and who was actually down there? She sat forward in her seat. The turtleships slowed their approach.   
   "It's David!" cried DTA as he hopped down from the turret. "And Alex! And Josh!" He moved to the railing and began waving his arms down at the three figures moving about on the deck of Der Mobile. They seemed to be hauling something out from an opening in the hull. David and Josh hoisted a long metal object up and out of a hatch, and were hastily moving it to what remained of the forward ballista. DTA's eyes widened in horror. 
   "Oh god all stop turn around shields up abandon ship!" Karl snapped out of the intricate daydream he'd been having while having a smoke at the back of the ship with Ted, the assistant gunner. Throwing his butt down at his feet, he gave Ted a perfunctory nod, then turned on his heel and slid cautiously around the ship's curved hull towards the front of the ship. He saw David scramble up and over the railing and hurl himself overboard. The brief interlude between his shrieking exit and the damp thud (also accompanied by shrieking) told Karl that his injuries were most likely not fatal. Karl briefly wondered how many hit points David had. He sidled up next to Kate while at the same time taking in the scene down below.
   "What's got him all in a tizzy?" Karl nodded down at the group on Der Mobile. He recognized David and gave a brief wave.
   "See that thing they're loading onto the ballista? It has a portable hole and a bag of holding hidden in its shaft. If they manage to fire it and actually hit us," She made a loud explodey noise while flashing Karl with her jazz hands. "We will cease to exist!"
   "I see." He moved to the front of the ship, and cupped his hands around his mouth. "Ahoy there! David! Is that really you?" The figures below paused, then turned to regard Karl more closely. The man that now appeared to be David looked up at Karl and replied, "Why, yes, it is! Are you really you?" Kate let a short burst of laughter escape her lips. She gave David two thumbs up, while turning to Karl. "Tell the helmsman to set her down, and to try to avoid landing on DTA. It would be a shame to lose him now..."

Friday, January 9, 2015

Episode 108: Human Nights

The party looked around in a slight panic. Being in a Spelljamming ship without a helm made some of the members a little more nervous than others. David and Alex scanned the helm room for any sign of the helm, while DTA and Kate listened for the approaching sounds of lizard security. Karl clutched his anal probe nervously. He could still feel the dull ache of the arrow wound in his shoulder...

Suddenly, the records room door flew open with a bang, and the rapid-fire 'Hut-hut-hut'ing of jackbooted feet could be heard marching up the steps and into the park. A small tremor passed over everyone as they scrambled to either escape or find a way to get Der Mobile flying again. DTA, Kate, and Karl crept towards the steps leading up while Alex noticed something on the floor...

He kneeled near the goban, and as he did, he noticed a salmon-colored piece of paper sticking out from underneath it. He reached down to pick it up, and was instantly covered by a light, tingling feeling all over. The room itself shimmered as if it were a mirage, and small, zig-zagging bolts of golden electricity traced every line in the room. No one else seemed to notice, though, as DTA and Kate tiptoed towards the steps leading up towards the front of the ship. Karl, however, rolled a 1...
...and was immediately surrounded by arcing blue light - small darts of electricity shooting across his body. His eyes rolled back in his head as his entire body was lifted slowly up the stairway, head bump-bump-bumping on each riser like a bizarrely giant Winnie-the-Pooh. With each bump his head exploded in a shock of white-hot pain until it all stopped, and he was left lying on his back, seeing stars. Billions and billions of stars...

When the tingling passed, Alex picked up the paper and read the hastily scrawled handwritten note:

Open the hatch! 

Alex turned to find Karl, but he was nowhere to be seen. Looking back down at the goban, however, Alex could see a faint, square outline in the floor. Having learned not to question weird, atemporal phenomenon, Alex shoved the goban aside and opened what just happened to be a hatch in the floor. He found it led to about fifteen feet worth of steel rungs, and alerting David and Josh, he began to climb down. At the bottom he found a steel door with a wheel in the middle of it, and turning the wheel, he pushed the door open into a black, musty tunnel. The three of them took out their cellphones and, using them as rudimentary flashlights, slowly made their way into the tunnel...

David had one thing in mind: getting to the special ballista bolt in the front of the ship. The lizardmen may have stripped the ship of its mundane weaponry, but maybe the dimensional mine had been left undisturbed. He crept up the stairs to the front deck, Kate hot on his heels. Gods knew what was about to happen, but she knew from experience it was best to not only be where you could see David when it happened, but also to keep him in visual range when it hit the fan as well. They emerged cautiously from the stairwell to see the front of the ship bathed in brilliant starlight. The park, the trees, the monument were nowhere to be seen. The ship, it would appear, was not only in space, but had been totally repaired as well. Curious traceries of golden lightnings zigged across the polished black deck of the ship before fading away into nothingness. David had the distinct feeling that they had jumped universes again, and he got confirmation of his hunch when he saw that instead of the fore ballista, this ship seemed to be equipped with dual 20mm machine guns. "Cool," he thought as he sneaked his way into the rotating gun turret. His hands grabbed the pair of handles. His thumbs lightly stroked the trigger buttons.

It might have been better to go around the long way.
The tunnel turned out to be almost 300 feet long. Damp, with an earthen floor and rotting brickwork walls. At the far end, an older wooden door stopped their progress. Josh tried the door. Locked. David and Alex cast about with their cellphones, looking for something to help them open the door. In the distance, they could hear the echoes of the lizardman security team. They had forgotten to shut the trapdoor behind them. But then suddenly, Alex noticed the same salmon-colored notecard on the floor. He picked it up, and in the pale blue glow of his cellphone, read the handwritten note:

 The key is inside the rat. (sorry!) 

And sure enough, tucked into a hole in the brickwork by David's ankles, was a dead rat. "Does anyone have a knife or something?" asked Alex. Josh, who had knelt down to get a closer look, laughed out loud. "Haha, you're not going to need one." Josh gingerly retrieved the dead rat from its niche and held it up to the other two, lifting its tail. David winced, and Alex chuckled mournfully.

"Hey! You there!" Karl had quietly gotten to his feet after the two men had walked around the curved hull of the turtle ship. They were headed to the front of the ship when one of them suddenly called out. Karl hugged the curved wall and sneaked as quietly as he could after them, trying to shake the remnants of his headache as well as the tiny, golden tinglies that still zigzagged their way across his beard, his glasses and his fingertips. He heard conversation up ahead. He saw David and Kate. they were talking to two uniformed men. Human men, not lizardmen. One of them was explaining something to David, quite like one would explain something to a child. A very slow child. "Yes, sir. The space station. The one filled with lizardmen. We need to attack now, before their simulation is compete. No, it's not armed. Yes, it's just a simulation. Of Bennington. Earth, yes - that Bennington. I'm sure our five turtleships have more than enough firepower to- Ah, Karl, there you are. Will you help me convince David that attacking the space station was his idea in the first place?" Karl turned to David, whose eyes were lit with that all-too-familiar look of paranoia verging on existential panic. He locked his big, calming gaze on David. He, too, spoke slowly. "He says it's time to attack the space station, right?" David, seeing where this was heading looked defeated, miserable. "Yes." "And he says we are more than armed for the fight?" "Yes." "So I think we should do what the man says, don't you agree?" David, who could read between the lines of Karl's calm, patient manner, gave up. "Sure, OK. We attack the space station. But I get to use these babies..." He hopped back into the turret of the twin 20s, bouncing in the seat with some of his recovered exuberance. Kate shook her head. This was not going to end well.

As the three men moved through the door, Alex rubbing his hand vigorously on his jeans, David and Josh looked around. The first thing they saw was the staircase leading up. It was of the 'rusty industrial' variety, and a single bare bulb illuminated the cache of trash cans, tools, brooms and assorted maintenance equipment that was stored underneath it. A sudden whirrr in the walls resounded through the room, and as Josh and Alex crouched into defensive positions, David looked up and said in a calm, flat tone "I think that must be the elevator up into the monument." The others agreed and quickly tiptoed up the stairs to the ground level door. They opened it and peered out into a hallway where the opposite wall was largely occupied by a diorama set into the wall behind a plate of broken glass. Inside the diorama, amidst hundreds of shards of broken glass, was the Bennington Battle Monument of old, amidst dozens of miniature dead lizardpeople. Attached to the top of the monument, driven by some sort of internal mechanism, was a tiny model of Der Chelonian on a wire, circling endlessly over the dead lizardpeople. A gout of flame-colored tinsel hung limply from its mouth as it circled over its victims. A plaque on the nearby wall told the tale of what was happening, the so-called "Second Battle of Bennington"whereupon the crew of DCM Enterprises committed the wholesale slaughter of hundreds of lizardpeople. Tucked behind the plaque was yet another salmon-colored card. Alex plucked it from its place while the others kept watch. It said:

The little turtle is the big turtle.
Xeno David Xeno 

After a nod from Josh that the coast was clear, Alex reached in and grabbed the tiny turtle and yanked it free from the wire. He put it in his pocket and they continued on through the monument.

Firing is easy. Stopping is hard.
David sat in the forward 20s as the ship glided through space. They were bearing down on the great circular space station that the lizzies had constructed - the one that was an exact duplicate of 20th-century Bennington. Underneath a large glass dome, he could make out the Monument at the exact center of the station. This station had been constructed in order to give the lizzies and earth-environment to practice passing as human. Lenny had told of plans to infiltrate earth as humans and prevent the rise of DCM Enterprises. That sounded like a good plan to thwart. As the five turtleships neared one of the four portals that led into the great dome, David gave the signal and Wagner's "Flight of the Valkryies" boomed from everywhere. It was 'raining hot death from above' time. The ships swung into line with the portal, passed through the environmental forcefield and opened fire...

The ground floor of the monument was empty. David tiptoed over to the main door and, switching the sign from "We're Open For Business!" to "Sorry We're Closed!", he pushed the door shut and slid the bolt. "This should buy us some time," he said. Alex and Josh flanked the elevator doors. Josh held an anal probe like a billy club as Alex pushed the button to summon the elevator. The familiar whirrr returned and after 30 very long seconds, the bell dinged and the door slid open. Josh was on the elderly bellhop in an instant, bludgeoning him mercilessly to death with a dozen well-placed blows with the probe. Then, dragging the body inside, David hit the single button on the operator's panel, closing the door and sending them up towards what awaited them on the top of the monument.

I get misty-eyed every time I pass by.
The assault bale entered the station though the south portal, just in front of the Apple Valley Inn and Cafe. Sweeping northward on 7, and spraying hot metal death into the crowds of lizardmen in human form, both Kate and David found themselves scanning the crowds intently for familiar faces. David found a few, and took care to shoot them first. It wasn't until Kate spotted the lizzelgangers of Karl and DTA himself leaving the Apple Barn together that she took her fingers from the dual triggers and yelled 'Hey! That's you!" to the real DTA, who had already run through 1,000 rounds of ammo and was loading another belt. He turned to her, then leaped to the front railing. The other Karl and David had stopped at the edge of the parking lot and were staring up at them in horror. They both dropped what appeared to be cider donuts, turned on their heels and headed back towards the store. Karl appeared at David's side at the railing. He had a weary but focused look on his face. He was wearing what was known as Iryien's Death Ray on his shoulder. He gripped the firing pin in one massive hand.  "I think we should go interrogate those two."  David turned from Karl to the building below and bellowed to the fleeing replicants while waving a hand high over his head, "WAIT! WE JUST WANT TO TALK!!!" The two didn't listen. The other Karl heaved open the door, there was a faint tinkling sound, and they were gone.

It is kind of significant.
The silver doors slid open, and the first thing they saw was David Pearson. Or, to be more accurate, a gnarled, waxen simulacrum of David. He was sitting on the helm of der Mobile, leaning ever so slightly forward with a look of twisted mania on his face. He was on a small dais behind a velvet rope, with a placard mounted on a golden post in front. Josh exited first and, holding the probe at the ready, performed a taut, if perfunctory, sweep of the room. Alex peered at the wax statue with a grin and laughed. "Cool! David, you're famous!" David had stepped up to the placard and was reading it. He shook his head ever so slightly. "Or infamous. This is a depiction of me at the Battle of Hoosick Falls." He looked up at the rather unflattering likeness of himself. Without taking his eyes away from the thing, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. "Would you mind taking my picture with it?" He handed it to Alex and ducked under the rope. He looked down at the stones on the goban in front of the wax David. "Huh. It's the Blood Vomiting Game. I wonder if that's significant."

As soon as the turtle had reached the ground, David and Karl were off, hitting the ground running and heading up the ramp and into the Apple Barn. David hauled the door open for Karl, who, scurrying in a low crouch as quickly as he was able, swung the deathray back and forth quickly, ready to disintegrate the next lizzie he saw. The two gained the store unmolested, but were immediately set upon, candy apples and trays of peppermint bark flying at them from behind the counter by the false Karl and David imitator. Karl took cover behind a cranberry relish display and pressed the black button on his shoulder harness. A beam of black light - to say, unlight - burst forth from the deathray's shoulder-mounted screen and caused a three-foot segment of the counter and about 50 cider donuts to disappear. The fake Karl looked down in horror at the smoking void in the donut counter and let out an anguished cry, while the quicker and more deciduous David clone popped up from his hiding spot behind the peanut brittle and harassed the real Karl with a furious volley of candy apples. One smartly-thrown apple in particular hit the deathray's shoulder harness squarely, depressing all three of it's command buttons at once before exploding the panel in a confectionary explosion of red candy, teflon, and Macintosh apple. Karl fell back, the left side of his beard ornamented with tiny red shards, and he now noticed the deathray was not only smoking, it was also emitting a high-pitched whine as well. "That doesn't sound good!" the real DTA yelled from behind a stack of tubs of apple butter. He had been pinned down by some expertly-aimed handfuls of fudge. "I think you should get rid of it. Like NOW!" Karl didn't need to be told twice. He unshouldered the smoking contraption and hurriedly hurled it at the dopplegangers behind the donut counter. He and DTA then took advantage of the impostors' surprise and dismay and fled out the door in which they came. They had barely made it to the end of the ramp when the deathray, unable to resolve the requests to simultaneously fire the disruptor beam, the heat beam and the flame plane, decided to settle the issue by exploding as violently as possible. Karl and David were thrown twenty feet into the parking lot by the blast. When they turned to see that the Apple Barn was, indeed, no more.

David took up his position behind the wax dummy of himself and smiled for the cameraphone Alex was now holding. Josh had finished his security sweep of the top floor of the monument, and reported that besides historical displays pertaining to DCM's savage attack on lizardkind, the only thing of note he found was, in fact, a note. It was tucked into the ear of a wax replica of DTA, standing on a replica deck of a replica Chelonian, looking all fire-eyed and bloodthirsty. The note was in a feminine hand and simply read:

Why did I get stuck with DTA? 
Miss you guys.

David and Alex laughed uneasily, both realizing that while dealing with the rat had been one of the more unpleasant experiences they had shared, it was still probably better than what the others were going through at the moment. If they were even alive, that is. David took back his phone from Alex, and crouching next to his waxen twin, reached out and touched the helm upon which it was seated. Instantly, David sensed the entirety of the top floor of the monument, as well as touching the minds of the other two with him. "Whoa," he said, a surprised smile lighting up his face. He pulled his hand back and stood up. "This thing still works." "Really?" Alex's face lit up. "Can you lift the entire monument up and fly it?" David shook his head. "Not unless we dug out the entire foundation. No, I think our best chance is to remove the helm and take it down to the Chelonian. Now if we only could figure out how to unbolt it from the floor..." Josh stepped forward with the anal probe and wedged it between the seat and the floor. "Mind taking care of him?" Josh nodded towards the wax David. Alex stepped up and removed the dummy from the helm, and set him down gingerly at the back of the dais. As he did so, the wax David's head fell off and rolled back towards the goban, disturbing the stones and upsetting the game. Alex winced, and as Josh yanked upward on the probe and tore the helm loose from its restraints, David looked cooly down at the stones remaining on the board and said to no one in particular, "I wonder if THAT'S significant as well..."