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..."

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