The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round... Uh, Seven? The Oasis]

The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round... Uh, Seven? The Oasis]
Re: The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round Three: The Epigen Center]
Originally posted on MSPA by Agent1022.

A common metaphor or analogy attributed to corporations is that of the organism – every part working in concert to create, to produce, to facilitate, to progress, to live.

This analogy, however, is inaccurate.

The leviathan facility of Epigen Corporation was nothing like an organism – and if one could stretch the metaphor to the point where it could, possibly, be admitted to have some similarity, it would be an organism with multiple systemic organ failure and metastasized tumors running rampant in the vessels.

Alexander Fraze knew this. From his vantage point in Management – he smirked at that, as if anyone could manage this monster of a company – he could see the warring factions, the departmental skirmishes, the research and its implications. It wasn’t a single organism, but many – competing under a common name for budget, for recognition and for stationery*…

And he could see himself in the corporation too – a sensibility instilled in the walls and in the way everything ran. He was important to the company, valuable, and not to be lost easily – and so in that context Zimmerman’s words made sense.

On the other hand, his daughter was at stake. And disagreeable, contrary and stubborn as she was, she was also all he had in the world. She filled up the emptiness no number of paychecks and benefits could fill – and at the thought of her ‘ceasing to function’…he felt that hollow, empty ache in his heart again. Yet try as he might, he could not escape from Zimmerman’s – grip –

The metal…cloud’s voice jolted him once more. <font color="#666666">“Excuse me!”
He stared at it with hope and a dash of anger, daring it to say more about his daughter… [color=#66666]“Have you tried…talking about it?”[/color]</font>

*The most notable of which was the Battle of Red Stapler, fought between West Wing Personnel and Tier Two Human Resources, and had culminated in said stapler vanishing forever, as anything Inventory got its hands on was wont to do.




The djinni stared at the scrying panel, at the six contestants going about the Epigen Center. “Well, look at them! Nothing’s happening! Where’s the scene? The spectacle? The show? They’re just tottering around the offices!”

“Well, sir – if you don’t mind me saying – that tends to happen when you tell everyone to stay undercover.” The lime-green hat bobbed as Crumb shook his head. “What you need, sir, is to break the equilibrium that’s dampening everything down.”

“Breaking the equilibrium…” The Hedonist leaned back in his palatial cushions, swirling a glass of mulled wine. “Jerry, you mean to overturn the status quo? To change the playing field?”

“Exactly, sir.”

A wide smile spread over the Hedonist’s decadent features. “Then I think I’ve got it!”


In a sealed chamber far in the depths of the facility, bathed in the yellow glow of an anti-mass spectrometer, a relatively unknown scientist – one of many research associates – grasped the handles of a specimen cart. In its metal claw, it gripped a glittering crystal in a way that suggested that it would really rather not, and despite the fact that it had no brain nor intelligence to portray this fact it did so anyway. As the scientist stared at it through dual lenses, of his protective suit’s faceplate and of the thick spectacles he wore, a feeling in the pit of his stomach told him the same, that the sample was somehow not of this world

Which was the whole point, of course. Besides, his opinion didn’t matter, and he wasn’t much for volunteering it anyway. He was not a man prone to mincing words. He was not a man of words at all, really.

“Overhead capacitors to 105%. Uh, it's probably not a problem, probably, but I'm showing a small discrepancy in... well, no, it's well within acceptable bounds again. Sustaining sequence.” The PA sounded tinny and distant over the roar of the anti-mass spectrometer’s analyzing beam, jetting down from the rotating emitters high above his head. The scale of the project they were undertaking was astonishing, almost unbelievable for a simple R&D exercise – but that was another opinion the scientist kept to himself.

At the edge of his consciousness, he heard the control room give the go-ahead. Then slowly, almost without realizing it, he was pushing the cart and its unearthly cargo towards the crackling yellow beam, the well-oiled wheels uncomplainingly ready for duty, every piece of apparatus prepared for every eventuality – every consequence, forseen.

The lights dimmed as the crystal hit the beam. Flickered. Flickered green. “Oh dear-” “Shutting down-no, attempted shutdown! It’s not-it’s not, it’s not shutting down! It’s not – aaaaaaggh!” A bolt of energy tore space into shreds as it pummeled the control room, shrapnel and debris spraying the chamber walls. Green flashes lit the room, exposing for picoseconds arcane symbols of a language at once long-forgotten and universally spoken, the meaning-equivalent of Feynman’s Electron hurtling to every point of existence…

Slowly, the scientist staggered down the hallway. Behind him lay rubble, wreckage, the dead and dying of his colleagues, the shattered remnants of a world he sensed was now gone – forever. He ducked under a laser, torn free from its housing, and watched, helpless, as its misaligned path bisected the body of a prone security guard, spraying blood and filling the air with the smell of burning flesh. And just beyond, as if the guard had been crawling for its metal embrace, it lay.

And the scientist picked it up, gripped its body hard, and brought the prybar in a swinging arc, dealing a killing blow to the alien leaping for his head -


Epigen’s lights flickered, for a brief second, then – changed. They took on a yellower tint, of excited sodium.

“Warning. The Center is on Yellow Alert. Employees: all work schedules continue as planned, excepting Hazard Cleanup personnel to sector C.”

Elimine looked blearily up at the announcement system, disoriented first by the raspberry-sounding change of lighting and then by the purpley sort of voice emanating from the quavery speaker…

“Fuck. As if this wasn’t bad enough already.”

“Sector C! Daddy used to take me there all the time…” she sniffed slightly – “when I was small, and Mommy w-was…” a tear, unbidden, or maybe it was just the carpet being too flickery – “and…and..” without really thinking about it, Elimine’s feet moved, shuffled across the winding, juddering flooring, moving into a jerky, drug-addled walk-

“Wait. WAIT WAIT WAIT where are you going? Look at me FUCKING LOOK AT okay you’re staring into space now. FUCK. It’s not as if we’re trying to survive and SPEAKING OF WHICH DIDN’T YOU DIE?!”


Alexander was in mid-rant when the lights changed-

“Mr. Fraze, sir!”

The door was thrown open by a surprisingly stocky scientist holding the obligatory clipboard, upon which lay several multicolored printouts. The first, red, one was shoved under Alexander’s nose.

“At eight-fifty AM today, a sample of highly pure-” The scientist was interrupted in his report by the sight of the whirling conglomerate of metal in the center of the room, “-who the bloody hell built that?!”

“Brenner, focus! What’s happened?”

“There’s been an accident in Sector C, Mr. Fraze! We…well, are these others authorized to-”

Alexander waved impatiently. “Yes, yes, whatever. Are we being evacuated? Where’s Eli?!”

“I don’t know about your daughter, Mr. Fraze. All I’ve been is that there was an accident down at the sub-level testing area – some form of exponential dimensional disturbance – and its effect is spreading. Unauthorized biological specimens are being…transported into the facility – we’ve not heard back from…some…of the areas in the sector.” Brenner looked discomfited at the report, as if he felt it couldn’t possibly be true. “We need to evacuate vital personnel to the Isolation Bunker, as per a Yellow Alert, and that includes you, Mr. Fraze. The military is moving in to try and contain the area.”
“But…but what about Eli…”

Brenner shook his head. “If she’s been paying any attention from day one, she’ll know that she’s on the list of Yellow Alert evacuees. You’ll find her soon enough if she’s got any sense.” The tone in his voice suggested that he didn’t think she did. “Now come on, sir. You too, Zimmerman.”

AMP watched them go. Inside, Interface shook her head in a way that could have been derogatory, that could have been simply disappointed. He tried to ignore it, but it wasn’t as if she was going to leave him alone anyhow, and asked her what he should do now, since that whole attempt at interaction had gone just wonderfully, to which she replied that maybe he ought to try and help, show goodwill, which would be brilliant at helping relations get back to a proper level.

Absentmindedly, he shredded the doorway as he wandered from the room, leaving behind a bewildered Smith.



Nothing but sounds of crunching.

“Damn it, Cail, stop eating that…thing!”

Re: The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round Three: The Epigen Center]
Originally posted on MSPA by engineclock.

The door read Celestial Affairs, Lesser Deities and featured a handle very much designed with actual hands in mind, at which the heron glared resentfully. It was perfectly acceptable to cater to the majority of deities with humanoid forms but after a certain point things just became insulting. It took her a few more minutes of scrabbling with her beak to realize that the door was in fact locked and that a tiny hand-lettered sign was taped to the front: Will return soon. She pecked it irritably. No one had any courtesy these days.

From somewhere beyond her, a cold breeze whistled through the branches of long-dead trees. The tiniest whisper of a voice echoed from out of the air. “You’re early, Mawyg. I thought we agreed on ten.”

“It’s only nine thirty,” the heron snapped. Her head twisted around like a snake, glaring at the empty hallway. “Some people like to be on time.”

The air around the heron’s feet sluggishly began to stir. A chorus of ghostly women rose into a wail as the wind picked up and swirled into a towering column of air, howling and tearing at the carpets. Unearthly violins joined in as the billowing winds flashed a silvery white and an impossibly graceful figure slipped out from the whirlwind, bathed in blinding radiance.

The light wavered once, then abruptly extinguished as Maowyn stretched her wings and yawned. Her pinions clutched a chipped and battered coffee mug that she brought to her swordlike beak and clacked at tiredly, settling the feathers on her serpentine neck. She looked down at the irate heron and sighed. “I really did have things to do today. You’re lucky I’m between meetings.”

The bird puffed herself up, reaching her full height of somewhere around the goddess’s knee. “What kinds of things? Important things? Important enough for you to ignore an entire pantheon while some bumbling higher-up runs off with your latest devotee? Those kinds of things, or some other trivial nonsense you can’t be bothered to deal with right now?”

“Keep your voice down, Mawyg,” Maowyn said, eyeing the empty hall. “It’s not that easy, alright? It was rude but there’s not much I can-”

“He stole him! From you!” The heron shrieked, flapping her wings madly. Stray feathers puffed out and settled on the floor like fat snowflakes. “And all you’ll do about it is turn your head and look the other way! Where is your pride?”

The goddess sighed again and opened the door to her office, ushering Mawyg through with a sweep of her wing. Abandoning the mug on her desk, she turned to a worn-down filing cabinet and began to sift through it as the heron chattered indignantly about divine right and tax breaks. She pulled out a slim green-brown file from under a stack of bills and slapped it gently down in front of the bird.

“Open it,” she said in response to Mawyg’s curious glance.

The file was full of photographs of the same ambiguously young man, all taken from an overhead perspective and all just ever so slightly out of focus. In most of them he was simply staring at a variety of objects in polite confusion, but here and there was a graphic image of the same man in patchy armor wading through meaty pulps that could have been other humans once, a shimmering white knife in his hand. In every picture his face was blank.

“I didn’t even particularly want this one,” Maowyn said, shuffling through the pile. She pointed to one of the same man lying in water, cut nearly in half from throat to hip. “It was sort of a last-minute thing, I was on my way somewhere else and he just stumbles practically into my living room, oozing all over everything and making this awful crying sound and flailing around because he doesn’t know how to swim. I figured if I set him up the way I usually do it’d count as my good karma for the day and I could get some publicity out of it, but…” She shook her head. “That planet is so strange. Ten thousand years in a Medieval stasis. I think it does something to their brains, Mawyg.”

She leaned back and rummaged under her desk for a tumbler of scotch. “I never really wanted that gig. It sounded good on paper, mercy goddess and all that, but you get there and half of them are trying to kill the other half and all of them are lousy with disease, rarely get one that lives past forty or so, and you have to do that ridiculous accent…” She poured herself a glass and offered one to the heron, who sniffed in response. “I know you’re stuck there for the next few centuries, but it’s different when you’re away. My other worlds are infinitely more pleasant.”

“But it’s the principle of the thing,” Mawyg insisted, tapping her claws on the desk for emphasis. “The Tormentor stole him from you.”

The mercy goddess shrugged and swilled her scotch. “If it was another one of the pantheon I could do something about it certainly. Chtagga owes me a favor and Orune can’t resist anything remotely female, but we aren’t talking small-time anymore. Even if I wanted to I couldn’t challenge one of his kind. I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

“You can’t just ignore it, though,” the heron squawked.

“He can keep the boy. To be frank, it’s easier for me than to take him back.” She took a sip and looked away, ignoring the heron’s furious glare. “Besides,” the goddess said, “I expect he’s better off.”


It’s odd the way some things still seem generic when your pattern recognition skills are shot.

Cailean sat quietly between two huge hulking machines of indeterminate purpose, having been shoved there by a crew of irritable-looking lab assistants who had quickly ascertained that his grasp of English was minimal at best. The drone of their hidden engines was comforting; a steady blur of sound that drowned out the noises in his head. Beside him, Gaurinn was trying to flag down the swarm of technicians that crawled over the machinery like ants. They really were like ants, Cailean thought. Little white ants in coats.

> You know what happens when you break a Super Promise, don’t you?

No, he thought. Gaurinn hissed. Had he said that out loud?

“If you’re not going to move your worthless ass and help then could you do me the simple favor of not drooling on us? You’re not helping our case,” the centipede growled. Spotting a techie who’d strayed too far from the others, he launched into a tirade that was met with a frosty glare and promptly ignored.

“None of this would be happening if you hadn’t tried to eat one of them! We were this close to getting somewhere, Cail! Are you even thinking at all somewhere in that stupid skull of yours?” Gaurinn did a quick once-over. “Half-skull, anyway?”

The formerly living former soldier surprised himself by remembering how to shrug, and was the only one to notice when Gaurinn turned away in disgust and a small piece of paper fell into his bony lap.

Rauhoitu lapsi, loppu on yllämme, it read. Nukutaan.

Oh, he thought. Okay.

He looked up at the towering machinery and saw a narrow slot he hadn’t noticed before wedged in between two gently glowing pipes. It didn’t seem to belong with the other parts of the mechanism. It had a tacked-on look to it, and as he pondered (or more accurately completely failed to notice) this fact, a little equally out of place light lit up and a piece of paper slid out and fell to the floor.

Do you want to get out?, this one read.


Stupid boy.

An explosion tore through the lab with a deafening roar just as a siren went off, randomly screaming the words SECTOR and C and PANIC and DON’T in a variety of constantly changing orders. Several people went down, knocked unconscious by the sheer sound, as the others surged over their bodies to the banks of computers lining the walls. Frantic fistfights broke out and more than one marriage was dissolved as Cailean stumbled out into the fray, deflecting panicked labworkers left and right with undead stoicism.
Gaurinn swore prolifically but over the din Cailean couldn’t tell if he was telling him to keep going or turn back. Either way he ignored the insect. Things had very suddenly changed.

Swells of adrenaline were hitting his brain like a fist shattering a glass wall. The scent of a hundred frightened humans was triggering something far back in his skull, something that didn’t need words to tell him what to do- only blood rushing to his head, and the sudden agonizing clarity of each and every open throat darting in reach of his teeth. All thoughts of misery and escape and insects were evaporating; it was all he could do to push Gaurinn out of the way before he tore his way through the frightened herd. Dreamlike he heard the insect scream his name as he lunged for a white-coated shoulder, biting clean through to the bone and shaking his head like a rabid dog through the haze of blood. Far too easily he pushed the wailing creature to the ground and slashed at its neck with bony fingers. It was all so easy. It was all so easy!

The sad thing’s arms twitched and flapped uselessly at his head, tapping something hard into his skull. He snarled at it and snapped at a finger, severing it, and the creature dropped on object onto its chest. It was red, and round, or the squalling meat was red and its red was getting everywhere. Wasn’t it loud? He’d better finish it now-

Cailean stood, wobbling on a half-finished leg. A small red sphere was in his hand, but he didn’t care about that. There was flesh everywhere.

He started to laugh. Everywhere.

Re: The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round Three: The Epigen Center]
Originally posted on MSPA by Lord Paradise.

Brom didn’t consider himself to be all that close to the Hazmat crew—hard to form much of a bond with a body whose face is obscured by the glare off his helmet—but he was banking on the notion that his indifference wasn't reciprocal. Everyone fancies themselves friends with the elevatorman when the alternative is taking the stairs. “Sector C, I take it?” he asked.

One of the Hazmats shrugged, making a crinkling noise where the bits of his suit rubbed together. “If you insist,” he said, clutching his Cleanup Rifle to his chest like a newborn.

Brom turned the key and pulled the lever. “Going down.” And down they went.

An aside: you might be thinking that standard skyscraper procedure is to avoid elevators in times of emergency, because elevators are like to shut down or crash or explode or the like in response to happenings in the rest of the building. Not so much in Epigen, where the elevator is not only distinct from the power grid of the building as a whole, it is actually disconnected from the building itself; it is situated on a columnar gravity well around which the elevator shaft was simply erected to make people more comfortable with the whole experience. Thus, unlike the stairwell, which in the event of a power outage will turn into an exceptionally dangerous waterslide, the elevator will never betray you—at the elevatorman’s discretion, of course.

Brom pulled the lever back to the neutral position and the elevator decelerated to a halt with a satisfying “ding!”. The Hazmats huddled by the door with their weapons drawn and were met with the bewildering yet relieving sight of a bare concrete wall on the other side of the door.

The Hazmats turned back to Brom, who gave his best Wile E. Coyote smile. “Welcome to limbo, boys,” he said, leaning up against the lever. “Now, there are two ways outta this here purgatory. You could keep on going the way you’re headed and end up down among the demons. Or you can repent, and we can go see the man upstairs. What do you say?”

* * * * *

Tech Xodarap looked exactly like Quantos—of course—only older, and instead of having cyborg bits he was simply missing an arm and wearing an eyepatch, which depressed Gabe on a number of levels. He tried not to stare.

“Hi,” he said. “I’m looking for, uh, a spare janitor’s uniform.”

”No, you’re not,” droned Xodarap. ”You’re looking for the red orb. You’re about to admit it to me.”


”Don’t worry, Gabe. You can tell me. I’ve already seen how it all ends, so I have no agenda.”

”Okay, fine. I’m trying to find the red orb, but I have no leads and don’t even know what the thing does or what the breakroom is doing collecting... artifact... things.”

Xodarap sighed and explained what the orb did and where Gabe would find it. ”Now,” he said, as if it meant something important. ”If you do me a small favor, I will have just told you what the orb does and where you can find it.”

Gabe didn’t quite follow. “So can’t I just—“


”Okay. Sorry. What’s the favor?”

Xodarap paused for a very brief moment that seemed to take a very long time, as though he were looping that brief moment into itself over and over several times in succession. Then he broke it off and spoke. “Kill me. Please.”

Gabe groaned. The corporate world was getting to be too much for him. He missed being his own boss.

* * * * *

”Okay,” growled Mr. Clemens here. “I’m going to make a blanket statement here and then sort it out later. Absolutely everyone involved in or even sympathetic towards this so-called strike is f—“

”You sure that’s a good idea, Mr. Clemens?” asked that goddamn elevatorman, who looked a lot more smug with six heavily armed cleanup men backing him. ”Without us, who’s gonna clean up your alien problem?”

”Let me make this clear. Nothing, I mean nothing, neither money nor safety nor the threat of the domination of the human race by extradimensional arthropodal macrointelligentsia, are more important to me than the loyalty of my employees. And I would much rather just evacuate the whole building, have it all scrapped than acquiesce to the demands of a bunch of Negroes in rubber suits!”

”We all know that’s your fetish anyways, Clemens,” sniggered one of the Hazmats. ”I’m white,” mumbled another.

This wasn’t going well for Mr. Clemens. These people simply weren’t scared of him anymore, or else they were more afraid of the aliens, which was understandable. “No more jokes!” he roared. “You’d better hope the unemployment office finds you funny, cause you’re fi—“

”By the way,” chimed in Brom, jangling the elevator keys. ”I must have forgotten to set the elevator to auto on the way up. So when you talk about evacuating I hope you know you’re gonna have to take the stairs.”

Ah. Mr. Clemens took a look out the window to confirm that he was, in fact, sixty stories up, a fact that only ever registered in his brain as a metaphor for his success and not so much a physical, architectural fact. “Alright,” he conceded. “Step into my office, and we’ll talk.”
Re: The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round Three: The Epigen Center]
Originally posted on MSPA by Pick Yer Poison.

AMP rolled along the center of the corridor, which unfortunately meant that anyone trying to pass him was forced to duck through a nearby door and wait for him to pass. Interface groaned and muttered about how rude he was being, but AMP paid her little heed. After some consideration, he'd decided to search for Eli and maybe garner some of the goodwill Interface had mentioned.

He asked Database if she knew where Eli was. She peeked out from behind her databanks and shook her head before ducking back in almost immediately, eliciting a giggle from Interface. AMP asked what was so funny, and she giggled again and shook her head, declining to answer.

Probability being the funny thing it is, Eli and Etiyr just happened to be walking down a corridor that intersected with the one AMP was rolling along. Eli was strolling along, staring wistfully into the empty air in front of her, Etiyr clutched tightly to her chest as if she was afraid she might drop him. Which, in her current state, was a very likely thing.

She finally snapped out of her reverie when she noticed someone shuffling towards her from the other end of the hallway. Really, it wasn't so much the shuffling that drew her attention as the moans and groans they were making did. But once she looked at it properly, she saw that instead of a head, it had some kind of...creature. Even in her drug-induced state, she could tell that something wasn't right with that, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it.

AMP paused to watch the curious stumbling creature cross the junction in front of him. After a moment's observation, he decided to Database if she knew what it was. She said she'd get on it. He waited patiently for a few minutes, then decided to follow the creature down the hallway so he didn't lose sight of it.

Eli stumbled towards the creature, not quite sure why. It moved towards her slowly, and the two eventually met. It groaned and raised its arms above its head, revealing sharp claws. Eli reacted instinctively, holding Etiyr up between herself and the monster.

AMP rounded the corner as the creature slashed down and to the side, knocking the madly clattering typewriter out of Eli's grasp. Etiyr hit the floor with a loud clunk and continued chattering away at no one in particular. Interface screeched at AMP to intervene before that thing took off her head she's your ticket to getting in good with that Fraze guy and you're was just standing by while that thing is about to kill her or something. In response, AMP puttered forward and shredded it.

Gore splattered her face, and Eli gaped at this new abomination, stumbling back even though it had stopped moving. She was even more confused when it addressed her. "Elimine? Is that you?"

She answered uncertainly. "Y-Yes? What are you?"

"It's me, AMP. Don't you recognize me?" AMP was hurt. How could Elimine not recognize him after all they'd been through? Database muttered that really they hadn't been through all that much and she had died and that probably caused a good deal of trauma and maybe this wasn't even her and hey are you even listening to me? AMP was, of course, not, as he had remembered something Mr. Fraze had said. "I need to take you to the Isolation Chamber."

This registered with Eli. "Of course. Right." She picked herself up shakily. Wasn't it just like her father to send a science project to escort her? She bent down to pick up Etiyr. "Well, lead away."

[color=#66666]Unfortunately, AMP didn't actually know. He turned to Database and was met with a shrug. Protocols scuffed his feet. Interface told him to just tell the truth, you can't help it if you don't know, darling, you're just dumb muscle after all, not much more than a bodyguard. That sounded like a good enough plan to AMP, and he asked Eli to lead the way.[/color]

She sighed and trudged back down the corridor she'd just been heading down, struggling not to trip into the whirling metal mass behind her while the colors on the walls leapt back and forth and the typewriter in her hands kept on clacking red letters at her.
[Image: zjQ0y.gif][Image: vcGGy.gif]
Re: The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round Three: The Epigen Center]
Originally posted on MSPA by Anomaly.

"Are you fucking happy now, you psychopath? Stop laughing! Shut the fuck up, Cailean!"

Cailean did not shut the fuck up. Nor did he shut up at all. The corpse of what might have once been a researcher continued to leak blood all over the floor as Cailean's horrible, gurgling laughter surged across the room. Panicked employees stumbled over each other, now running both from whatever had exploded and from the laughing, half-dead, murderous idiot which the centipede unfortunately remained attached to. Gaurinn continued to scream profanities over the cacophony of voices, but it wasn't exactly of any use. When the thing formerly known as Cailean began to lunge at another hapless researcher, Gaurinn decided to take more immediate action.

A surge of electricity traveled directly into Cailean's half-rotted brain from Gaurinn's conspicuously fully-intact body. Gaurinn didn't exactly have any idea what he's doing, but, fortunately enough, this electricity apparently stimulated the zombie's legs to ignore their owner and send them tumbling to the floor. Gaurinn's multitude of eyes widened. It had actually worked. Cailean frantically clambered to his feet and went after a screaming janitor, only to be brought down a second time. And a third. After the third he seemed content to lie on the ground and attempt to figure out why his legs had betrayed him. Significantly less enraged, Gaurinn tried sending a pulse somewhere else.

Cailean punched himself in the face. Gaurinn laughed.

It didn't take too long for Cailean to figure out that no, he wasn't going to eat everyone else, and yes, if he tried he would in fact end up on the ground again. "Now," the centipede began, "we're going to do our job exactly as we're told so that I don't get killed if we get fired. Yes, me, who cares what happens to you? You're already dead. In fact, maybe I can just get you fired. It might work. Nah, they'd fire both of us anyway. I don't think I ever got to congratulate you for being so fucking terrible at dying and living at the same time, by the way, so great job on that."

Cailean grumbled something in response. It seemed like, after Gaurinn had gotten him away from the mob, he had finally noticed the object in his hand. It was... well, it was red. Gaurinn could tell that much. He couldn't exactly tell what it was or what it was supposed to do, and he didn't particularly feel like finding out. He told Cailean to just hold onto it and preferably to not break it. Cailean was content enough to keep staring at it. Maybe he was hoping it would tell him where he could murder some more people. Maybe it was actually talking to him. Oh wait, that was stupid. Probably.

Finally not having to worry about Cailean eating anything that moved (and several things that didn't), Gaurinn took some time to think for once. What the hell was even happening? That morning he had been preparing for an alleged suicide mission, and the next, he was in a restaurant that wasn't, replacing the arm of an idiot who would later become a zombie and


If Cailean was a zombie, he wondered, why wasn't Gaurinn even slightly dead? Typically being biologically fused to something that isn't all that alive would result in at least partial death. Wouldn't it? Maybe... Maybe he wasn't actually as bound to Cailean as he previously thought. Maybe, just maybe, if he could get a hold of something sharp, he could cut himself loose... Who was he kidding? Things making sense had gone out the window the moment he had appeared in front of that genie in the first place. It had taken him a while to even realize he was in a battle to the death. Even now he didn't really know who everyone in it even was, and naturally, the only one he could possibly interact with was the one who had first been an idiot and now was virtually brain-dead.

Oh look, you're not even trying to do anything about it. What can you do about it? Goddammit, just drive this idiot somewhere else. Maybe they're researching a separation device I don't know this is so goddamn stupid

"Cailean, we're going somewhere. Can you break away from that orb for one moment?"


"Good enough. Just follow this hallway here, you decaying asshole. And don't fucking kill anyone, okay?"

Cailean responded by trying to kill the security guard that walked around the corner with very poor timing. He was immediately shocked into submission and stood back up reluctantly.

"Sorry about that. We'll be on our way now."

"No, you won't," the shades-bearing, mustached guard replied. "There's been a breach down in Sector C, and the... things are getting out. It's been decided that the two of you are better suited to stopping them than you are to anything else, so, go do that. And by the way," he said, glancing back toward the laboratory the pair had recently exited, "keep your friend in check, insect." Without so much as telling them what things they were supposed to stop or where Sector C even was, the guard walked away.

"Shit," Gaurinn added.

Re: The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round Three: The Epigen Center]
Originally posted on MSPA by Lord Paradise.

It wasn’t ever going to be enough.

The elevator operator had hit the top floor. There was nothing more that Brom could demand and receive, even if it meant the higher-ups firing everyone and getting eaten by aliens. And, frankly speaking, it was a pittance. A 10% bump of not-enough was never going to be enough. Increased safety protocols for a team trained to murder aliens were never going to be safe. And health insurance, in the end, wouldn’t be much help to the good men in the weaponized carcinogen lab.

He’d done the best he could. But something inside Brom wanted to throw it all away for a chance of getting what he really wanted—or, barring that, just to get out of this damn job. He wanted to slap Mr. Clemens across the face, to insult his family, to insist that he would settle for nothing less than the overthrow of capitalism altogether. He wanted to get fired, as though it would cause him some release from the pain of normal existence, which was nonsense of course. Thinking rationally, he’d take a lifetime of humdrum up-and-down movement over the decidedly horizontal unemployment line.

Brom overwrote the voice in his head begging him to end it all, walked out of Mr. Clemens’ office and addressed the Hazmat team. “We can have everything we could have asked for,” he said wearily, “More or less. But it’s conditional on your killing those aliens.”

He couldn’t see their reactions behind their helmets, but he expected it was much the same as his. Still, all of them together proceeded into the elevator, and Brom closed the door and pulled the lever downward.

Nothing happened. A voice blared over the intercom.
”Attention, elevator operator,” it said. ”The crew of Lucky VII is remotely taking control of the elevator for the time being. Please find a phone to state your case for why you want to descend.”

Brom suddenly felt embarrassed and impotent. “Well, this just takes the cake,” he said, more to himself than to the Hazmats. “Motherfuckers brought in scabs. You stay here. I’m going to sort this the hell out.

* * * * *

”Operator, Epigen.”

”Hello, this is Lucky VII. This is a courtesy call to say we’ll be handling Epigen’s communication remotely for the time being.”

This was all news to May. ”I’m sorry. You’re replacing me?”

”Don’t worry, your job is secure. In fact, reducing employee turnover is one of our primary goals here.” Click. Silence for a bit. Then another click. The voice this time may have been slightly different, May couldn’t tell. ”Actually, we have an important use for you yet. You’re familiar with the behavioral patterns of most of the employees here, no?”

May briefly considered the possibility that this was all some joke by the bosses trying to catch her eavesdropping, and weighed it against the likelihood that she was being paid to eavesdrop. “Yes I am,” she answered.

”Good. Our work has a certain... sociological component. We were wondering if you’d noticed any groups behaving oddly.”

Were they trying to sniff out the union? “No,” she responded. “Business as usual, except for the aliens.”

”Hmm. Listen in on our conversations. If anything seems out of the ordinary, we’d like to know right away. Lives are at stake.” Odd. Click.

May did her duty and listened as the new managers initiated a number of conversations at once, with the general goal of sniffing out a few particular employees and containing the alien infestation. Resolving that she didn’t know these people from Adam and had no real reason to let them know if anyone was acting “unusual,” whatever that meant (it was probably, she decided on some reflection, a euphemism for either “Communists” or “infected with alien parasites"), and focused in on a conversation with Brom.

”Hello, this is Lucky VII, how may I help you?”

Brom’s voice on the other end sounded a bit gruff. May hoped he was okay. “Yes, well, I’ve been informed that I need your say-so to operate my own elevator.”

”That is correct. We apologize for the temporary inconvenience. What do you need the elevator for?”

”I’ve got a Hazmat team that’s supposed to be killing the aliens down in Sector C. Our jobs are on the line.”

Brief silence over the line.
”Alright, the elevator’s yours, under one condition. I’ve been informed that two employees by the name of Gaurinn and Cailean are currently dispatched to do your team’s jobs for them. You are to ensure that they do not engage the aliens and that they are neither harmed nor fired. Kick some ass for the company, okay boys?” Click. Satisfied that things seemed to be going well, May sat in silence and let the drone of conversation wash over her. Apparently an employee had been found murdered in hallway C-II, well out of the alien zone. So there was that.

* * * * *

Gabe needed a break.

Luckily for him, that goal was finally within his sight. Gabe changed out of his blood-spattered clothes and into a spare janitor’s uniform and allowed cognitive dissonance to take him back to the cryptic last words the tech had spoken to him.
”Never forget, Gabe,” he’d said, intently watching Gabe’s hand turn into a straight razor, ”Every tool in the world was built with a specific purpose in mind. Though the razor can kill, it was made to shave. The razor knows this, and accepts that it is sometimes used to kill because it knows what it is. Do not despair that, in the end, you are just another tool. So long as you remember what you were made for, you will be well equipped to deal with whatever necessities are forced upon you. I’m ready now.” That was a funny thing to say. Well, not funny.

Cailean and Gaurinn, he remembered, had the orb. And he needed the orb so he could take a break. This all seemed very straightforward from here on out. On his way out he grabbed a mop so he would look busy.

* * * * *

The Isolation Chamber lacked the comfort of the Panic Room, the supplies of the Bomb Shelter, or the high-concept appeal of the Emergency Pocket Dimension, and therefore had the advantage that in the case of emergencies it was usually unoccupied. Elli sat down in the middle of the floor and tried to imagine something interesting she could do with her time. Even with the (fading now) assistance of the acid, it was hard work.

“Can I keep the typewriter?” she asked the science project. “It’s been growing on me.”

The furiously clacking typewriter was clamped between two of the science project’s metal bits.
“I think,” came the voice out of the speaker, ”That I should probably hold on to this. But is there anything else you need?”

Elli shrugged. “I’ve always wanted a cat.”

* * * * *

”Who called this meeting again?” asked Mr. Deels.

Everyone shifted uncomfortably in their seats before Mr. Itou stepped up. “I assume,” he said, “That we’re here to talk about either the alien invasion or the employees who have taken over all our communications. Does anyone here have any strong opinions as to how to resolve either of these situations?”

“I’ve got Hazmat on the aliens,” yawned Mr. Clemens. “That should resolve itself shortly. As to this other situation, rebellious employees are just a cancer in the corporate body, and how do we deal with cancer?”

“Cut around the tumor and remove it,” answered Mr. MacKenzie.

“And if you can’t, for whatever reason,” added Mr. Deels, “Expose it to radioactive materials until it quits of its own accord.”

“We’re agreed then,” resolved Mr. Itou. “We track down this ‘Lucky Seven’ and fire hi—“

The phone started ringing. The emergency phone. Mr. Clemens gestured for silence, picked it up and shouted, ”This had better be damned important!” It was. After half a minute of listening he put the phone back on the receiver and addressed the room. “That was Lucky VII. She... it... made a very strong case for its continued employment.”

“Elaborate,” demanded Mr. MacKenzie between sips of scotch.

Clemens took a deep breath. “One: somehow, this one employee accounts for 99.99994% of employee diversity, and firing it would legally constitute a hate crime. Two: apparently if we give Lucky the run of the place for twenty-four hours, it can cut down overhead by 76% and expose multiple conspiracies going on right under our noses.”

“Tempting,” mused Mr. Deels. “By conspiracies, they mean the Russians, I take it?”

“Actually,” said Mr. Clemens, “It said something about a break room. But that must have been a mistake, since we don’t have a break room.”

* * * * *

Fucking Gabe was walking down the hall towards them in a janitor’s uniform. Why did it always have to be this guy?

”Ah, hello, Mr. Ferrell! How goes the round?” Etiyr changed his mind. He was glad that Gabe was here because even Gabe’s general vapidity couldn’t be worse than AMP’s overly enthusiastic attempts at conversation. Gabe said:

”Hi. Sorry I can’t stop and chat. I need to find Cailean and then I’m taking a breakdown. Break. I meant break.”

Etiyr changed his mind again.

* * * * *

”Well, it looks like the cavalry’s arrived,” said Gaurinn.

The word cavalry stirred something deep in Cailean’s brain, and then it leaked out his nose and he licked it off his face. It tasted like feelings, so he spat it out.

The leader of the men in the rubber suits with the weird weapon-looking things stuck to their backs looked at nothing on particular on his wrist and cried out,
“Something here is driving chronal readings off the charts! Look around for time disturbances. Hi. Cailean and Gaurinn, right? Epigen HazMat. We’ll take it from here.”

Another one of the HazMats was sorting through the pile of dead alien bits that Cailean had been saving for later. For that offense, he bit into the man’s arm, but it tasted like rubber, and Cailean didn’t even know what rubber was, and it scared him. The zombie backed off and, inasmuch as he was still capable of making decisions, decided to let Gaurinn handle the making of these people to go away.
Re: The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round Three: The Epigen Center]
Originally posted on MSPA by MrGuy.

Re: The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round Three: The Epigen Center]
Originally posted on MSPA by veerserif.


Re: The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round Three: The Epigen Center]
Originally posted on MSPA by veerserif.

Bleeding out is a messy, time consuming way to die.

It shouldn't have been possible to bleed out with equal parts impatience and debonair disdain, but if there was one thing Xodarap prided himself on (and oh, he was proud of many things), it was in giving the universe the metaphorical middle finger and causing it to seriously reconsider trying to impose the Laws of Space and Time and Reality on him, really, what was it even thinking back then?

It made quite the impression on Gabe's (malleable, blanked-out) mind.

Every tool in the world was built with a specific purpose in mind.

Typewriters, for example. They typed. They were very good at that. Very... insistent.

So what are you up to these days?

He squinted at the machine, which was performing the mechanical equivalent of looking innocent.*

"I'm, uh, I'm helping some people. They got me this." He picked at the new metal nametag.

I almost envy your oblivious joy in your underpaid menial work. Aren't you going to join us?

Gabe merely shrugged, holding his mop with two hands. He was still mulling over Xodarap's words. "Uh, you go on, I'll catch up?"

Though the razor can kill, it was made to shave. The razor knows this, and accepts that it is sometimes used to kill because it knows what it is.

Well. He'd traded in one brainless minion for another, but at least Gabe had legs... "Let's keep moving. Pick me up?"

Obediently, he moved to do so.

And then he thought, Why should I?

"Do not despair that, in the end, you are just another tool."

What had he been doing? Running in corridors. Picking up demonic typewriters. Running in corridors while holding demonic typewriters. Running in jungles being chased by a primate marching band wielding some surprisingly vicious brass instruments. Running after something here, for a change. Always running -

at someone else's behest? Doing what other people wanted.

He was here for a fight to the death, the man had said. Well, he'd killed a man, now.

The dried blood under his nails stained the tips a rust-brown. Absentmindedly, he brushed them against the hem of his shirt.

So long as you remember what you were made for,

That lab - the white substance - his hand. He'd used it, them, himself, as a tool, and now a weapon. In a facility like that? That was probably what those researchers had intended all along, even if the method hadn't exactly gone according to their plans.

you will be well equipped to deal with whatever necessities are forced upon you.

All of a sudden he ached for his boring life and his boring job and the prospect-less days spent carving knickknacks and trinkets. And - well. Quantos had hit the car, right? But he was here, and unharmed. And Eli, too, had looked younger. He'd not seen her cat anywhere, certainly. Did death even mean anything anymore? To Gabe, it just looked like it took you back home, or at least, back before, and that was almost as good. He had tried so hard to stay hidden and not to stick out, to minimize the chances of his own demise. But if killing was why he was here, why fight fate?

A fight to the death, he had said.
I'm ready now. Let's give them a good show.

*The keys were shinier, the ribbon was untangled, and - if you were to type on it - the ding! announcing a new line was more insufferably cheery than usual.

Re: The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round Three: The Epigen Center]
Originally posted on MSPA by Pick Yer Poison.


“So, uh, tell me about yourself, AMP.”

The typewriter and conglomeration of metal slowly floated their way down the hallway, an inorganic silence settling between them. The psychedelic swirls of the place meant nothing to them, nor the hallways, nor their patterns, how every path and Technicolor swirl was pointing towards a single, central point. To them, it was just another curiosity of the beings with which they cohabitated the world.

A long silence. They floated around a corner, up some stairs, straight, to the left, through some office blocks, into a lab, and back down another staircase. It was mostly deserted here. Evacuated.

Eityr, always the one of ulterior motives, initiated again. Ccccclack Cccclack.

<span style="font-family: courier new">“It’s funny, actually, how little we know each other. We’re in a fight to the death and none of us has bothered to learn anything about each other.”

A camera slowly panned over to the typewriter, staring, unblinking. Thinking. More silence. No words. Nothing.

“Well, fuck you. If I’m gonna die in a goddamn battle to the death, I want someone to know something about me. So, I’m gonna type something out, right on this page here, and you’re going to read it, and you’re going to listen, capiche?”

Silence. Etiyr went ahead and took the cue to go clacking away.

“See, I wasn’t always a helpless piece of shit. I used to be strong, powerful. I had legs. Obsidian black, like the night sky, flecks of red blood replacing the stars. Oh, those were the times.

Hell, man, hell is one hell of a place. All the stabbing, killing and torturing you could want. And now look at me, reduced to…this. I can’t blame anyone but my self. We always knew, always, that the whole demon thing would be a temporary gig. I took the risks, and now I’m paying for them, I guess.”

AMP’s camera wobbled a bit, like it was looking to a conversational partner that wasn’t there, then returned, silently observing the typewriter, before finally, finally, a sentence escaped from the machine’s tinny drive-through speaker.

“Interface says there’s something a off about you—no, wait…crap.

“Who?” Etiyr replied, thinking through ways to utilize his suddenly gained ground.

“No. No. No no, no. I can’t say anything else. I wasn’t supposed to even say that.”

“Why not? What’s wrong? You can tell me,” Etiyr replied, pushing the subject. The corridors had gotten a bit more grey, more formal, as they began to run to their point of origin, the focal point of the Epigen Center. The Center of the Center, if you will.

“Well,” AMP began, despite Interface, yelling, screaming at him. DON’T DO IT. DON’T DO IT. DON’T

“Well, I have these…people in my head. Personalities, I guess. And they say stuff and tell me to do things. Interface is one of them. I shouldn’t be saying this. I should be saying anything-

Silence, again. Inorganic. Inanimate. They floated along, to the center of the center, the center of centers of centers.

Eityr typed a bit, click click ding

“You know, AMP, I don’t know if I should be saying this, but, uh, it seems that your mind is just as every bit as fragmented as your body.

Strange parallel, huh?”

Silence. Slowly, AMP turned his camera away from the typewriter, entirely away, panning as one would look away in shame. Or resentment. Or hatred.

And then they were there. The doors, too dinged and slid open, click clack click, and behold, the center of centers. (Holy of Holies)

And its chief priest.

Brom stopped a bit, stared, blinked with a tired look, but after a few moments finally smiled, and spoke.

“Well, you know what they say, boys,” the elevator operator said. “All roads lead to Rome.”

“Welcome to Rome.”

[Image: zjQ0y.gif][Image: vcGGy.gif]
Re: The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round Three: The Epigen Center]
Originally posted on MSPA by Not The Author.

“Epigen Center, Lucky VII speaking. How may we help you?”

<font color="#330099">“I’ve been receiving complaints. I can accept your meddling to a point, but why,” did they(?) have to be so insufferably cheerful about everything, wondered Mr. Itou, “has the elevator stopped running? Don’t you know we need that thing to evacuate safely?”

A pause, and a different voice cut in.
“Apologies for the inconvenience, sir, but it’s the most efficient way. We need the artificial gravity well the elevator rests in, and none of your other models are sufficiently stable or powerful.”

Itou ran a hand through his toupee. “And why exactly do you need that?”

“…To keep the black hole from getting out of hand, of course. Incidentally, we’ve commandeered your particle accelerator array. Hope you don’t mind.”


“Basically,” said Yet Another Someone Else, “we’re going to crush space together at the hole on our end, with the aliens and stuff. Space doesn’t like to have holes in it, so it should mend itself once it’s all scrunched together.”

This was all moving far too fast for one upper-manager to handle. Part of him wanted to call a meeting, part of him wanted to fire half the building (not the employees therein), and part of him was quietly calculating just how much money he could reasonably embezzle before the company quite literally imploded. “Can’t you just… turn off the machine, or something?”

“Two-fold problem there, sir. One, the wormhole’s self-perpetuating at this point. Shutting off the system’ll keep a new one from forming, in case it’s linked to an alien system on the other side, but then we run into problem the second: the system has its own internal power source. Power has to be cut manually, which we can’t-”

This pause went on long enough that Mr. Itou managed to ask his secretary to clear his schedule for the week, no, he didn’t care who was on it, he was going to need the vacation; before I’ve Lost Count Of How Many Different People This Has Been came back on the line. “Nevermind that; we can shut it down from here with a localized EM pulse. Might deactivate nearby systems, but shouldn’t hit anything too vital. Floor’s lights, ventilation… maybe some of the doors? Nothing important, at any rate. Probably. Hazmat squad will need to go in and shut it down for good.”

“Let me get this straight. You’re going to create a black hole… inside this facility… using decades-old atom-smashers and the only working elevator… to close a portal to an alien world that might reopen later anyway if a small squad of underpaid immigrants doesn't kill everything in there and destroy one of our company's most expensive projects?”

“Thereabouts. We’ll send your scientists a record of the process so you might perform it on your own, should this occur again.”

“Doesn’t this strike you as dangerous?

“You kidding? We could all die!” The man(?) on the line actually laughed. “Don’t worry, though, we do this sort of thing all the time.”

“That… You…” Mr. Itou struggled to find the most delicate way he, as a representative of Epigen, could properly express his sentiments to this errant underling.

“You’re fucking insane!

“No, sir.” He could practically hear the shit-eating grin through the receiver. “Just… ahead of your time.”

“Thank you for calling Epigen. Have a nice day!”

Re: The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round One: The &quot;Denny's&quot;]
Originally posted on MSPA by Not The Author.

There are some moments, throughout people’s lives, when the opportunity to do something completely idiotic presents itself in such a way that certain personality types can’t do anything but fall for the Obvious Trap. One such of these moments was now, and one of these personality types was an individual named AMP.

“…Rome…?” AMP said, staring at Brom with the cold, mechanical eye of a security camera. “But Rome… [accessing database… … …] Rome (English pronunciation: /ˈroʊm/; Italian: Roma, pronounced [ˈroːma]; Latin: Rōma) is a city and special comune ("Roma Capitale") in Italy. Rome is the capital of Italy and the capital of Lazio (Latin: Latium). With 2.8 million residents in 1,285.3 km2 (496.3 sq mi), it is also the country's largest and most populated commune and fourth-most populous city city city city—Rome is a city. How can an elevator be a city?”

Although, there was another individual who was not that kind of personality type at all.

“My god, AMP, he’s speaking fucking metaphorically, like a bullshitting Convolution bullshitter, which I can tell he is because I’m a fucking expert on this kind of thing,” Etiyr angrily CLACK CLACK CLACKed.

Brom looked down at the paper, scanned it, frowned, steepling his eyebrows in a sort of concerned look.

He glanced back over at AMP. “I don’t think your friend here quite understands the importance of, oh, how should I say this, eloquence.

Etiyr was not particularly fond of this man’s honestly quite disrespectful sass and CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACCCCCCC-

Which was why, quite deliberately, Brom ignored him completely.

“Anyway, metal’d sir,” he said, directing his attention to the whirring conglomerate of scrap before him. “Going up?”

“Uh, sure,” AMP replied, his camera doing something like the equivalent of a shrug. “Let’s go up.”

The liftman stepped to the side with a nod, let the robot slip in, with only some damages to the doorways, smiled, and pulled a lever.

“Going up,” Brom said, staring at the floor indicator as the number began to get bigger, bigger, bigger. Bigger. Better. “Quintessentially American, I suppose. An American Dream.”

The elevator hummed above the
furious clacking of a typewriter.


And then, of course, the elevator shut down.
Somebody bothered to mutter an apology over the intercom.

Pitch black. A CLACK, a CLACK, a CLACK, and a CLACK.

A four letter word. No one could read it, in that dark, but the point was pretty clearly made.

There was a gravity well, and a particle accelerator. They were being commandeered by a spaceship that held trillions and trillions of people.

The gravity well was Pretty Much O.K. with this set of circumstances, since it was getting Pretty Tired of its day job, anyway. The particle accelerator, however, took offense to the whole situation, particularly having to involve oneself with technology used to do such menial, non-scientific tasks and decided to fuck some shit up.

(In actuality, the reason for whole situation in regards to the particle accelerator would eventually be determined by a specially-assembled committee of post-mortem, and I do mean mortem, investigators: they concluded that the catastrophic failure re: the aforementioned accelerator was not due in any part to the actions of the rogue “Lucky VII” control module, but for the fact that the gravity well’s systems had been rigged to use Q.R.N.S.T.U.O.F. adapters, while the particle accelerator was using the much more universal set of USB/PARALELL PORT/PS/2 CONNECTOR adaptors more commonly found in most technology throughout the Epigen Center. Apparently, they said, this mismatch in electronic systems caused the Reality-Regulator-Cable/Plug-Transmission-Admission-System (RRC/PTAS) to meltdown cataclysmically and allow all fucking hell to break loose.)

And then, all fucking hell broke loose. For a moment, High Admiral Itzel stared at the information flooding in from the Science, Navigation, and Engineering Very Critical Data Reports, along with the High Red Alerts activated in the (fairly swamped) Security, Military, and Administrative departments. They all ended up saying pretty much the same thing: What was going to happen was what was going to happen. No further course of action could be taken.

“Fuck,” she said, and then put her head in her hands.

So, space, (un)like time, doesn’t really like getting messed with, and at this point, it was getting pretty pissed. It did not like the fact a hole had been torn in it, nor the fact that a Particle Accelerator was getting all up in its face and thinking it could take on The Most Important Fucking Dimension, You Idiot.

So, like any (ir)rational metaphorical anthropomorphization of an intrinsic property of the universe, it retaliated violently.

It bent. Bent back up through forth with/without a coat around, twisted knotted left right up down pitch yaw roll in an “X” and then a “Z,” but with one of those strikethroughs people sometimes write them with. It reflected retracted retraced, like a loop-de-loop crosshatch swerve, and with a fold-fold-expand-contract, the entirety of the Epigen Center essentially became a single room.

Not a normal room, mind you. A multidimensional one. And only very briefly, too. Like, for four seconds. Four and fifty four milliseconds, to be exact. But in that time, you could’ve taken a step and ended up on the other side of the facility. And you could know pretty well where you were going, too, since, y’know, light was curving with the contours of the fabric of spacetime.

Obviously, quite a large number of people took advantage of this. Brom was one of them.

Brom, and a lot of his friends.

Re: The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round Three: The Epigen Center]
Originally posted on MSPA by Lord Paradise.

Okay seriously this time though
Re: The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round Three: The Epigen Center]
Originally posted on MSPA by Lord Paradise.

You can learn a lot about a body from the way they perceive the experience of three-dimensional space becoming five-or-six-dimensional for four seconds. An artist, perhaps a musician, perhaps someone with extensive experience taking hallucinogens, would likely be highly unperturbed. She would react quickly and efficiently, seeing and seizing upon an opportunity to bypass the alien menace standing between her and a bite to eat, and step out into the lobby, feeling the breeze wafting in from a cool summer’s day outside.

A complex computer system with developing schizophrenia would obviously completely freeze up and not move anywhere at all. The paranoid typewriter accompanying it would blame an invisible force that it believed to be manipulating everybody around it, and briefly attempt to formulate an escape plan despite its lack of independent mobility.

A very frayed, if determined former construction worker would duck in fear that God’s judgment was upon him, inadvertently passing through several buildings of corporate structure in the process, and then find the time to steady himself and take advantage of his situation to propel himself straight to his target, a zombie with a centipede for an arm. Said zombie would experience a surge of endorphins and attempt to eat the entire facility at once, chipping his wall on a glass ceiling in the process. Said centipede arm would briefly brace himself for another madcap, disorienting time-travel ordeal before realizing that this was something different entirely and not something with which he wished to involve himself.

Within the corporate structure of Epigen, it is easy to imagine that people would tend to view the anomaly as something analogous to their jobs. Those in control of the corporation—the bosses, as it were—would react primarily to the fact of being able to view the entire entity at one time. Some would weep for joy at the beautiful symmetry of the thing that they had built up through their diligence and ingenuity, while others would weep in sorrow at its ultimate hollowness, the pain it had caused, and the aliens battling HazMat workers across the folds of space within its walls. The scientists whose hard work and ingenuity had actually built up the corporation would turn their ingenuity upon the phenomenon they were experiencing, and make the ultimate mistake of attempting to understand it. They would fail. None of these people would take the opportunity to move. People with simpler careers, however, accustomed to a life of specific and repetitive tasks, however, might have more success. A switchboard operator would come to see space as a switchboard, an aggregate of connections between individuals. As she had been doing for years, she would reach out to them—specifically to those with which she saw a kinship, with the ones on the bottom, those who had been pushed into menial minimum-wage tasks by dint of their gender or their race or their education or their economic circumstances. She would call to them and patch them through to the one who seemed to have a plan, someone who could lead them, someone who perhaps owing to the nature of his work for the company would in that moment view the entirety of Epigen as an elevator.

A narrator, forced to cope with the literary device of space itself opening up before him like a flower, would, apparently, choose to perceive it as an opening flower. He would then expound upon it at length in the conditional tense, perhaps to add a certain remove to an explication of something ultimately inexplicable. Even the fourth wall would fray and buckle under the stress of representation before normality, predictably, asserted itself.

Brom had had an interesting experience. His immediate thought when he perceived an ability to elevate all the people he cared for as far in either direction as he wished was to take them all the way up. For a moment they were all together on the roof, watching the sun set. Brom felt proud because, like Moses on Mt. Sinai, he had led them there, and now they were waiting for him to tell them what was next.

Unfortunately, they had not been the only ones to instinctively seek the high ground on the sinking ship that was Epigen. The secretaries, janitors, plumbers, electricians, receptionists and what-have-you that collectively, yes, may or may not have made up the current incarnation of the entity known as the Convolution were surrounded by the thousands of cockroaches, rats, pigeons, spiders, koi, and weaponized bees who had experienced the bend. Flying through the air, crawling on their arms, flopping about on the floor. Brom saw that this was not the promised land he had hoped for and slammed the metaphorical down switch, taking his people all the way back down to the lobby.

Elimine Fraze was on the way out the door when her immediate surroundings suddenly got a lot more crowded.

* * * * *

Cailean really was not looking well. Gaurinn was only doing a bit better. ”Hi, Gabe,” said the worm. ”Any idea what that was about?”

Gabe ignored both the worm’s pleasantries and the piles of dead aliens and rubber-suited men all around. “I need the orb,” he demanded.

”That red ball?”

”Uh... yes.” Gabe was confused by Gaurinn’s cooperation and Cailean’s slack-jawed—or maybe “no-jawed” would be the better descriptor—complacence. He had been certain he had come here for some sort of battle to the death.

”I have no idea what the thing does. Here. It’s yours.” Gaurinn reached into Cailean’s pocket to grab the object in question, but the zombie pressed his other hand into the worm’s face, moaning negatively.

Cail grabbed the orb and looked at it, sniffing it experimentally.
“Miiiiiiiine,” he decided.

“No, it’s not!” yelled Gabe, brandishing his mop threateningly. “It’s mine! I need it so I can take a break!

Cailean snarled.
”Miiiine!” he barked, popping the orb into his mouth.

Gabe reacted with the swiftness and decisiveness present only in the minds of the completely deranged. He jabbed Cail with the mop, forcing the zombie to spit out the orb, which rolled into a position just about halfway between the two of them. There was an awkward moment of silence, following which Cailean growled and charged.

* * * * *

So the good news, as Admiral Itzel understood, was that the black hole was gone, as ordered. The bad news was that a virtual army of Epigen employees with Convolution readings off the chart had just appeared in the lobby. And also that Gabe was mentally imbalanced and fighting Cailean. And, furthermore, scientists were attempting to make an educated guess as to what that red orb did, and none of them were good.

If Lucky couldn’t put a stop to this fight and get ahold of that orb, Operation Stall the Round was likely to come to a swift end.

* * * * *

Elli had no idea where all those people had come from.

Well, that wasn’t true. She had a pretty good idea that they’d walked to the lobby the same way she had, not that she really had any idea what that was. What was truly mystifying was how they had managed to all do so at the same time. And why they were all looking at her like that.

A grizzled old black man who Elli recognized as Brom, the elevator operator, walked up to Elli and gave her a hug.
”I’m sorry, he said, as though he understood why he was saying it.

”We’re all sorry,” piped up another. ”For everything.”

Elli released from the hug, a bit awkwardly. “It’s, um...” she started. “I forgive you? I just... I need to go, okay?”

Brom broke out into a sob.
”I know,” he said. ”I know you do. But could you just do one quick thing for us before you do? I know we’ve already taken so much from you, but... one last favor.”

Well, Elli was far too much of a bleeding heart to turn down that offer. “Okay. What is it?”

Brom turned to the crowd, then back to Elli, and took a deep breath.
”Fire us.”

* * * * *

Gaurinn really didn’t want the undead corpse of the guy whose arm he was to kill one of his fellow contestants—especially not Gabe, who was vaguely likeable. He wasn’t really sure what he could do about it, though. He could try yelling, he supposed. “Cail, stop!” he shouted, in his most paternal voice.

Cail stopped. Gaurinn felt mighty pleased with himself, until he realized that Cailean hadn’t stopped to listen to him at all. He had stopped to examine a point of red light that had appeared on the floor.

Some feet away, Gabe stood grinning, his hand morphed into the shape of a laser pointer.

Gaurinn clung to Cail’s side and said, “Oh, sh—“ before Cail dove into the point of light headfirst.

“Miiiiiiiiiiiine!” shouted the zombie, bashing his head into the floor over and over again. Gabe flicked his hand, and the light shown on the wall. “Waaaaaaant iiiiiiiiit” begged Cail, charging his neck through some plaster.

Gaurinn held on for dear life. This was the most frightening moment of his life. “Gabe, stop!” he cried. “Please?”

The red light returned to the floor. “Gauauaauriiiiiiin looooooooook” moaned Cail, collapsing to his knees to grab at the laser again. ‘Spreeeeeettyyyyyyyyy”

After thirty more seconds of this, the zombie was starting to seriously hurt himself, and Gabe saw no signs of attempting to grab the orb and run, so Gaurinn’s irritation at Cail was starting to turn into sympathy and his sympathy for Gabe was starting to feel a lot like irritation. “Gabe, cut it out!” he yelled weakly.

”What, take a break?” cackled Gabe cryptically. ”All in time, worm.” He pointed the laser pointer directly at Gaurinn’s head.

Cail raised one arm. “Hoooooooold shtiiiiiiiiiill—“

“Gabe, stop!” Gaurinn shot a bolt of lightning—meant only to stun--at Gabe’s arm. Gabe quickly turned his hand into a battery charger and absorbed the electricity, then turned it into a taser and launched it gleefully at Cail’s face.

The zombie didn’t seem overly perturbed by the electricity, and attempted to eat the barbs of the taser with limitless success. Grimacing, Gabe turned back to the red orb. He pointed his hand at it and turned the appendage into an electromagnet. This was a mistake. The orb, as it turned out, was not made of metal, while Gaurinn currently was.

Gaurinn’s forehead slammed into the magnet painfully, throwing spots in front of his vision. Cail trailed behind, still looking for the laser. “Gabe, you idiot—“

”I am not an idiot!” insisted Gabe, turning his hand into something that Gaurinn did not immediately recognize to be a set of Jaws of Life. The worm was only conscious of something very tight and uncomfortable clamping around his neck. ”I just excel in different areas than other people! I did very well in shop class, Gaurinn!”


“Whuuuuuhdiduh liiiiiiite goooooooo”

Gabe released Gaurinn and disabled Cailean one last time with a welding torch to the face for good measure. By the time the worm recovered his senses both he and the orb were already gone. “Okay, I don’t know what’s wrong with that guy,” Gaurinn told Cail, “But I’m pretty sure it isn’t just the Convolution.” Cail, still frantically searching the walls for a red light, did not deign to respond.

Re: The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round Three: The Epigen Center]
Originally posted on MSPA by Anomaly.

A parade of humiliation. A long line of defeats. Utter enslavement to moronity. A drawn-out coronation as Fate's bitch.

All of these described the situation in which Gaurinn had inexplicably found himself today. Or not today. Frankly, it was impossible to tell if time even existed anymore. Even space had given up for a moment. The entire universe had apparently unanimously decided to make Gaurinn out to be the fool. He was supposed to be a soldier. Fighting was his job, and he'd have liked to think he was damned good at it.

Unfortunately, being damned good at something means nothing when you're tethered to an idiot who soon becomes a virtually brain-dead zombie. He'd been defeated by a goddamned laser pointer. Every possible chance of alliance that had shown its face was promptly defeated by the fact that he had no mobility, and hardly any ability to control the murderous half-corpse that was once Cailean. Even electricity wasn't working very well anymore.

"Cailean... Let it go. It's gone, okay?" In spite of everything, Gaurinn still felt a vague sense of pity for his rotting companion, who was quite adamant about finding the magical disappearing red light. He'd once merely been a slightly-annoying, yet mostly reasonable imbecile, but events no one could really understand had reduced him to this... thing. He wondered if there was anything left of him that could be salvaged. But moreover, he wondered if there was a way to attain his own freedom.

"Wait," he said to an unlistening Cailean. "We're in a goddamned laboratory. A goddamned secret laboratory. Maybe there's something here that can help one or both of us. You don't have any idea what the hell I'm saying. Are you even listening?"

Cailean was not. He seemed content in gnawing on some pipes lining the wall, having little success in breaking through.

"Cailean, I, uh. I think I saw something red and shiny going that way." Gaurinn pointed down the corridor. To even his own surprise, he wasn't lying. A red warning light had managed to illuminate itself sometime in the past few seconds, accompanied by a quiet, but somehow still grating alarm.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Mr. Clemens sat in his needlessly-large office chair, staring out at the wall as if it weren't there. For a brief moment, everything that his career had been leading to was realized. He could see it all. Epigen was his, and it was beautiful. He stopped worrying about employee loyalty, if only momentarily. All that seemed insignificant compared to the vast, finely-tuned machine that was Epigen. Every tiny, insignificant employee played a role in the grand scheme, and it all came back to him. It was perfect. He didn't even think it odd that dozens of employees had suddenly congregated together in the lobby.

His daze was broken by the ringing of the phone. He shook his head as the moment slipped away into nothingness, then begrudgingly answered.

"This had better be important. I don't have time for you, whoever you are."

"Lucky VII speaking. I'm terribly sorry for interrupting you, sir, but it has come to our attention that the entire team sent to kill the aliens has relocated to the main lobby."

Mr. Clemens's eyebrow gradually furrowed. "Are you saying, 'Lucky VII', that the entire HazMat team has decided to ignore their orders?"

"Actually, sir, a large number of your employees have decided to do the same. The employees know as Cailean and Gaurinn are still on C-level, but they're no longer out of dan-"

"I don't care. Let the aliens have them, for all I care. I want you to make it clear to all of those employees that if they don't return to their posts, immediately, they're all fired. Understand?"

There was no response, except for a sudden alarm sounding across the building. Typical.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Gaurinn's job of directing Cailean was made much simpler by the prevalence of needless red warning lights. Each time Cailean approached one, he'd shoot it out and direct his zombified compatriot toward the next one. He kind of hoped he wouldn't run into any HazMats down here, although they seemed to have disappeared around the same time that physics did. No one to stop them now, he thought.

Except for the aliens. To Gaurinn's moderate dismay, a number of shambling figures appeared from seemingly nowhere to clog up the endless network of corridors. They looked like they might have once been Epigen employees, minus the fact that their heads were gone, replaced by some... things. He didn't really know what to call them besides that. Insectoid-looking things with numerous excessively-sharp appendages melded into the host's spinal cord. They didn't even have the decency to have eyes. On a normal day, Gaurinn might have been slightly unsettled by this, coupled with the numerous insectoid growths and appendages emerging haphazardly from the humans' bodies.

This was not a normal day. Gaurinn hit them with a heavy dose of electricity, blowing them off of the headless bodies, which quickly slumped to the ground. He'd already had to deal with several of these things. He could probably do this all day.

No, that wasn't true at all. He'd been hiding it, but he was starting to get extremely tired. He'd been making heavy use of electricity for a long time, and hadn't even had anything to eat except for a few inadvertent flecks of pancake.

Gaurinn continued to steer Cailean forward, looking for signs of any strange machinery that he could hopefully keep the zombie from destroying. Honestly he wasn't sure why they would have a convenient un-undeadifier or a magical separation device, but honestly he'd be willing to believe anything. Maybe he could just find a really big knife and cut himself out. If separation from Cailean could kill him, it probably would have already.

"Cailean, I don't see anything remotely useful here. This is a laboratory, there should be something here."

"Liiiiiiitteee is heeeeerrreee. Caaaaaatsh."

Gaurinn sighed. "Cailean, I want to help you, but I don't think that's possible. These lights aren't going to lead us anywhere interesting, Cailean. Can we go a different way?"

Cailean looked confused. "Liiiiiiiite."

"Dammit, Cailean. Look, just... keep trying to catch that light. You'll get it eventually."

A few minutes passed, very few of the alien parasite things showing up. A bit concerning in itself - what threat did they even pose? Considering the fact that they'd needed some kind of hazmat team just to take them on, Gaurinn thought there would be more danger than this.

And more like... that, he thought, as the pair turned another corner and found an enormous machine looming over them. It didn't look to be activated, but that didn't help the fact that it was surrounded by the alien-zombie things, much more heavily mutated than their counterparts elsewhere.

"Okay, look, this is not a good place to be in. Cailean, I want you to listen to me. Don't go in there."

"Deeelliiiishuuuuss..." Cailean began edging toward the machine.

"Cailean, if they see us they'll kill us. Don't do it."

He got a response in the form of a horribly loud screech from above, as one of the aliens dropped onto Cailean's head. Gaurinn felt vaguely ill.

Re: The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round Three: The Epigen Center]
Originally posted on MSPA by Lord Paradise.

Of the fast-acting reforms deployed by VII as an anti-Convolution method among the general populace, perhaps the most immediately irksome was a crippling tax on the sale of all alcohol and narcotics. Temporarily altered states of consciousness were judged to be a potential gateway to permanently altered states of consciousness. As outright prohibition was risky on a number of levels, the authorities had settled on a financial deterrent and a public plea for addicts to avoid congregating in large groups and get high in the comfort of their own homes.

It helped. A bit. Still, those of Lucky’s citizens who had unknowingly been Convoluted since the point of initial contact moved in droves to the worldships many sports bars to watch the networked broadcast of the Glorious Championship together on the big screen. They just had to suffer the indignity of sipping on root beer while they did so.

In one such bar, a friendly-looking five-armed insect clacked his pincers together and scooped a hodgepodge pile of bills, coins and credit cards to his chest. <Sorry, fellas,> he signed. <It’s looking like my pot.>

“They’re not dead yet, K’r’r’r’r,” groaned a four-eyed humanoid, intently watching Cailean and Gaurinn flail under a pile of parasitized office workers. “Don’t be so jumpy. These guys survived getting sewn together. And then Gaurinn survived having a time machine branded to his arm, and then Cailean actually died, and he’s fine now. Plus, it looks like the Convolution’s going to get fired. Twice.”

<It is? Where? I haven’t see it.>

“They’re with Elli in the lobby. Stupid thing can’t even—“

<That’s not the Convolution, Shoj! That’s just a bunch of guys! The Convolution’s in the break room.>

“I… what? K’r’r’r’r, you cannot be watching the same round I’m watching. The break room’s just some dumb conspiracy. Convolution’s all the ones with the dark skin. See? They’re a second-class race in this society. A lot of them are wearing purple.”

Sitting to the left of them, the right head of a two-headed armadillo-thing snorted smugly. “Still going on about this Convolution thing, guys? I mean, come on.”

A clamor of jeers filled the bar in objection to this. K’r’r’r’r signed several obscenities at once. Meanwhile, on the screen, Cailean’s disembodied leg kicked the alien attempting to mate with it several dozen feet in the air. “Shut the fuck up, THAM,” called Shoj. “If you’re so confident about your there-is-no-Convolution theory, put some money on it.”

“We’re all staking our lives on the Admiral’s ability to lead us through this battle, what’s the point of taking more risks? Look,” said the head. “It’s a classic psych experiment. Or a cheap prank. You put everyone in a battle to the death, and then you tell them that the most dangerous contestant is this invisible force that makes everybody do crazy shit, and then, surprise surprise, everybody does crazy—”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa,” interrupted THAM’s left head. “THAM, you’re embarrassing me. We’ve been over this. There is no battle. The whole thing was just invented by Itzel so she could put in place all these fascist-ass ‘stop-the-Convolution’ reforms. Then she keeps us docile with a high-concept televised apocalypse.”

THAM’s tail slapped his left head in the left eye His right head winked at Shoj and K’r’r’r’r. “You’ll have to forgive THAM, he’s a conspiracy theorist.”

“You’re both conspiracy theorists,” declared a grey-skinned, anemic-looking primate from the corner, “And you’ll be sorry to have ever doubted the Convolution once it wins this Championship.”

Shoj manifested two new eyes with eyebrows to match, and gave the grey thing a disapproving look with them. “Cut that morbid shit, man. If the Convolution wins this thing, we’ll all be dead.”

The grey ape narrowed its eyes and smirked obscenely. “Dead, eh? Dead like Elli and Quantos are dead?”

The bar exploded into raucous argument. Everybody stopped paying attention to the TV, less because of the compelling discourse than because Gabe was on.

The repairman had found a large bag of ball bearings, and was eating them by the handful.

Here’s something the Gabe had never told anyone: wood was sweet. He took his coffee with milk and two spoons of sawdust. Chalk, gravel, minerals like that were roughly analogous to fresh homemade bread. But metal… metal was meat. Gabe felt manlier for eating metal, the same primal hunter’s glee one feels upon digging into a satisfactorily undercooked steak. He liked to squeeze the mercury out of old thermometers and slather it on his potatoes. Gabe had shared the knowledge of his powers, and even the basics of his strange eating habits, with some close friends and a couple girlfriends, but he had never fully explained his own personal food pyramid. It hadn’t seemed important at the time, but now he saw that it was the thing that really separated him from other people. That, and his gift for fixing things.

This “championship” situation, for instance. The initial experience of being torn from his home and his perceptions of reality had mangled things so badly that for a while that, like something found in a junkyard, it was difficult to tell what he had been used for in the first place. But, after working on the problem through breakfast, putting his thoughts down on his trusty typewriter, fighting a pirate, killing a man who had already died and stealing a mysterious red orb on behalf of a shadowy non-productivity cabal, the problem was starting to seem a little more manageable. He had hit that magical “I-can-do-this” point that all handymen strive for, the point where he felt comfortable rewarding himself with a good long break.

Gabe called the elevator. He wasn’t precisely sure what floor he was on right now but was pretty sure he was headed downward. The door slid open with a satisfying “ding” and Gabe was surprised to see Etiyr and AMP waiting inside.

”Hello, Mr. Ferrell!” called AMP. Gabe grunted back noncommittally. ”Thank you for coming to get us! The elevator operator seems to have disappeared due to a spatial anomaly, and neither Etiyr nor I have the manual dexterity to activate the lever. I guess it goes to show you the value of teamwork!”

”Oh, thank God you’re here,” clacked Etiyr. ”This guy will not shut up.”

”Etiyr still has a lot to learn about teamwork,” explained AMP. ”Will you help me teach him?”

”No,” intoned Gabe. “Get out.” He pointed out the elevator. “Don’t try and follow me.”

”Now that’s not team spirit!” droned AMP, his enthusiasm waning.

Please,” italicized Etiyr. ”Just take me with you. Pretend I’m just your typewriter. Or your hostage. Just get me away from him.”

Gabe considered this. He sympathized with Etiyr, who had never been nice to him, but hadn’t ignored him either. He looked around to make sure no cultists were watching, then snatched the typewriter from AMP’s orbit, tore off his paper, crumpled it up and tossed it out the elevator. “Fine,” he said, “But keep quiet. AMP, you need to leave.”



”…Okay, Mr. Ferrell. If that’s what you really want. I’ll go.” AMP whirred sadly and hovered out of the elevator.

Gabe pulled open the panel next to the lever and entered the code Brother Flynn had shown him.

The elevator began to descend.

One of Shoj’s eyes let loose a tear. “Poor AMP. He’s so huggable.”

<I find him annoying,> signed K’r’r’r’r. The footage on the screen devolved into a long, eerily melancholy sequence of AMP gliding through the halls alone. The barflies quickly gave up their hopes that anything would happen and turned their attention to an argument between tentacle-armed local secondary school teacher Bjoris Thirrin and his date, an aggressively bearded woman whose name nobody could remember.

“Look, I’m not arguing that we never saw him die in Denny’s,” Bjoris was saying. “I’m arguing that we just saw him die in Epigen. Gabe killed him. That’s it, he’s dead. Whatever time shit he got up to in the meantime, that’s the end.”

“Why don’t we just ask him?” replied his date. “I know Quantos Xodarap. We went on a date once, I have his number. He lives four or five levels up.”

Bjoris was silent for a moment, then slapped his thigh gleefully. “And you’re only mentioning this now? I mean, that means we’re gonna make it, right? If Quantos is aboard VII, that means the ship must have lived through the battle so he could travel back in time and get entered by himself, right?”

K’r’r’r’r pounded the bar to get the teacher’s attention before signing, <How do you figure that? He could have gone to live aboard VII after escaping the battle in round one, and before leaving to work at Epigen. Makes sense, right?>

“None off hyou are accounthing for hElimine,” interjected Tarresst from the aquatic section. “She’s not a thyme travheller, and hyet she is at hEpigen as hwell.”

“Well, we’re clearly here before she joined the battle and got Elimine-ated,” Shoj shouted over a clamor of dissent, inviting a chorus of boos for the hackneyed pun. “She’s not even a superhero, or whatever she was, yet. That’ll probably happen as a result of her contact with the Convolution.” THAM cleared his throats disapprovingly. “Shut up, THAM.”

“Shoj has a point,” agreed Bjoris. “Convy spent all last round, like, torturing Elimine, right? Maybe it’s because she sensed on some level that Elli had already fired her.”

“Is the Convolution a girl now?” asked Bjoris’ date. “And since when is she ‘Convy?’

“What, are you jealous? Of course Convy’s a girl.”

<What’s going on with that, by the way?> asked K’r’r’r’r. <Bartender, can you switch to the lobby feed, circa a couple minutes ago? I don’t think Elli can fire a whole culture, can she?>

“For one thing, that’d be unfair discrimination,” pointed out the bearded woman. The bartender looked up from his pornographic magazine and fumbled with the TV.


Hanging suspended in midair above the lobby of the Epigen office complex is a giant metallic representation of Epigen’s logo. The logo cannot be described. It is a shape that has no name, designed perfectly by marketing scientists to stick in the part of the brain that handles discretionary spending. Like the organization it represents, it is both fantastic and grotesque, progressive and regressive, more of an immutable fact of the universe it inhabits than a consequence of anything specific.

Elimine Fraze tore her eyes away from the logo. She understood very little of what was going on.

“Oh, come on,” she told the assembly of skilled laborers who appeared to be bowing to her. “I don’t have the authority to fire anybody.”

”No one would go against you,” said Brom. ”Get your dad to sign off on it, maybe. No one cares about us. You can just… set us free.”

”Free? Out on the streets with the Hobots?” Elimine sighed. “Guys, you’re not thinking straight. And I’m the one who’s coming down off of acid.”

”Kiss me.”

”No. Look, I know the feeling. Sometimes I feel like doing anything to get Dad to fire me, or just quitting outright, or… I don’t know. Just getting out of the system entirely. Not because it’ll fix anything, but because it’ll make me feel better. I used to want to be a magician, or a superhero… But this is what we get,” she concluded, glancing up at the giant logo. “A job. Food on the table. A life.”


”No. No but. Epigen controls everything about our lives, but out there, there is no control. Aren’t you afraid of what would happen, living without that security, that structure?”

Brom looked past Elli, out through the revolving door to the street.
“No,” he concluded uncertainly.

“Well, then, you’re an idiot. It’s not good for people out there. You’ll starve. It’s not good for people in here either—for most people anyway—but in here, I dunno, maybe we can change things. That’s why I stay. And you should stay with me.”

A collective groan rippled through the crowd. An unspoken, unanimous decision was reached. At that moment the intercom blared to life with a moment of obstinant feedback.
”Attention all employees in the lobby! This is Lucky VII! Return to your posts immediately or risk losing your jobs! We technically lack the power to prevent your firings! We apologize for the inconvenience! Thank you for your time! This is Lucky VII, signing off!”

Elli stuck her tongue out at the ceiling. “Well,” she said. “Looks like I’m missing lunch today. Are you coming, or what?”

”Why do all of our public announcements always make us sound like such tools?” asked Shoj.

“Bah!” spat Terrasst. “hIt’s Bechause Itzel is a thool.”

<Seriously,> replied K’r’r’r’r. <I’ve never verbally communicated before, but I’m pretty sure it is not that hard to speak into a microphone without sounding like you’re warning your six-year-old not to cross the road.>

“It’s ‘cause they know they’re dealing with the Convolution,” posited Bjoris. “The ruder and more authoritative you sound with them, the lesser the chance of infection.”

“So hwhat do we think happened there?” rasped Tarresst. “Did the Chonvolhution hwish thoo die?”

“Have you ever heard the word ‘apophenia?’” asked THAM’s right head. “It’s a psychosis where you seek patterns amidst chaos.”

“Come on, THAM, they were breathing in synch,” said Shoj.

“Whatever you thought you saw, it’s over now. See? They’re going back to their jobs. Because they’re just people.”

<No, it’s because Elli convinced the Convolution not to commit suicide or auto-genocide or whatever.>

The grey-skinned ape harrumphed. “You’re assuming that Elimine isn’t part of the Convolution herself. What you saw was… a ritual. The Convolution is purifying itself for its conquest to come.”

“Oh, who the fuck are you anyway?” complained Bjoris’ date.

“Oh, just another cog in the machine. But unlike you, one with faith in a higher power. I have invited the Convolution into my heart. One day soon I believe it will take root. Perhaps it already has.”

“If you’re one of those Convolutions,” grumbled the bartender, “You can get the fuck out of my bar. Brainplagues are bad for business.”

“He’s not ‘Convoluted,’” insisted THAM’s left head. “He’s just delusional and wishes he could be Convoluted. Seriously, guys, you need to stop letting this ‘Glorious Championship’ shit get into your heads.”

“You see,” continued the grey thing heedlessly, “The Hedonist clearly failed to inform us of the Convolution’s true powers. Or by putting it in the battle, he has given it a power he never intended. Consider this: each round, the Convolution dies, in a sense, and is reborn to inhabit new bodies, new minds, new souls. And we have seen that those who have died are also reborn, in a new context. The Convolution has saved them, can’t you see?”

“I don’t know why we’re still talking about this,” said Bjoris. “It’s obvious that Elli’s still alive ‘cause of Quantos time magic. You guys aren’t paying attention to the fluxes, that’s all.”

“But realistically,” countered Shoj, “The Hedonist just threw them in everywhere ‘cause Quantos is kind of hilarious and Elli’s the hot one.”

“Time will prove me correct,” growled the grey thing. “One by one, the contestants’ physical forms will die and be reborn as archetypes—as repeating cultural patterns. The Convolution will use multiple iterations of these patterns to grow in power each round. Last of all, the ship will burn—all of us will pass on from our hopeless, caged existence and be reborn as part of the Convolution. And, as we are all the victors, the Hedonist will grant us a universe to live in. A violet utopia, where ‘Convolution’ is just another word for ‘we’. It was the Hedonist’s plan all along. You’ll see.”

The barflies considered this for a moment. “That’s it, I’m calling Quantos,” decided Bjoris’ date, pulling out her comm-widget. “He’ll settle this.”

“Do you really have to call your ex right now?” asked Bjoris.

You, mister, have no right to be jealous, going on about your ‘Convy’ all day. Huh.” She held up the widget for all to see. “It’s an automated response saying that he thanks me for remembering him and he’s explaining everything on VII in the Morning on channel Q-1-X-0 right now. Bartender?”

“Q-1-X-0,” assenteded the bartender, turning back to the TV. The image of Gaurinn trying to extricate himself from a web of Cailean’s intestines was substituted by that of a green-tusked cetacean talking to a photogenic talk show host.
“—Four quadrillion more in donations,” he was saying, “Until I can afford to power my time machine aga—“

Click. The screen returned to Gaurinn, who was curled up in a ball and seemed to be silently praying as the alien host swarmed all around. “Darling,” chided the bartender, “You ought have mentioned your Quantos was a sea mammal.”

“Yes, well,” pouted the bearded woman, “He’s a sea mammal named Quantos Xodarap. Spelled the same, too. That can’t just be a coincidence, can it?”

Bjoris smothered a sigh with the wet end of one of his tentacles. Action movies had told him that first dates taking place the day the world ended tended to end rather well, or at least lead to sex. Now he was just embarrassed. “Can you switch to Gabe and Etiyr?” he asked, hoping to change the subject.

Gabe imagined that Sister Siobhan was probably rather good-looking under that robe. He briefly wondered what she was wearing under it. Then he wondered if he would get a robe. His janitor’s uniform was starting to chafe.

“So, what does this thing do?” he asked her, handing over the orb.

“Science stuff,” she replied with an amiable smirk. “Nothing you should worry about. Your only priority right now should be your initiation ceremony.”

“Oh, it is,” ensured Gabe, dropping Etiyr off on the counter on top of the microwave. “Absolutely. I could really use a break.”

“Couldn’t we all?” Sister Siobhan took a disapproving look at Etiyr and picked the typewriter up. “In my old life, I was a secretary. A typewriter like this was my altar. It was a life of long hours, of endless monotony, of carpal tunnel syndrome, of unending sexual harassment.”

“Sounds awful,” commiserated Gabe, inwardly revising his plans to sexually harass her.

“We don’t like to have reminders of the old world lying around the Room. This piece of junk will have to be destroyed. Unless it has some sentimental value to you?”

Well that was no good. If Etiyr died, the round would move on, and breaktime would be over. Gabe formulated a plan as fast as he could, which was really really fast but it wasn’t a very good plan. “I’ll do it myself,” he declared, “After I’m initiated. I think that would be, um, good for me. To do that.”

“Hmm.” The sister gave one last look at the typewriter and shuddered. “Very well. We’ll complete the ceremony right away. Join the others in the Sanctum. I’m going to go take the orb… where it needs to go.”

Gabe bowed awkwardly and departed. Sister Siobhan held the orb up to the light and began to examine it from all angles. A noise from the counter distracted her.


The cultist walked warily over to the typewriter, which seemed to be jammed somehow.


There you are. Hi. I’m Etiyr. I’m a typewriter.”

“I can see that,” said Siobhan aloud.

<span style="font-family: Courier New">”I just wanted you to know that Gabe over there will never be one of you. Not really.”

“Is that so?” The note of caution in Siobhan’s voice wavered between incredulity and fear. Etiyr wanted fear. He could work with fear.

”Yes, Siobhan, it is so. For a couple reasons. First of all, Gabe is a traitorous son of a whore. He’s already lied to you by sneaking me in here, and he lied to ME when he brought me down here under the assumption that he wouldn’t be, and-I-quote ‘destroying’ me after his initiation into your crazy fucking bullshit cult. Secondly, consider this. Gabe LITERALLY is a guy who turns his hand into TOOLS. Tools, as in, ‘devices used to do WORK.’ He’s optimized for productivity. He WANTS to belong here because he knows as well as I do that he DOESN’T. Give him a week. He’ll play your game until something breaks, and then he’ll start WORKING. He represents everything you hate, even more than I do. You should be destroying HIM, especially now that he’s already gotten your bouncy ball for you.”

Sister Siobhan picked Etiyr up and examined him the same way she had the orb, as though looking for a little man inside. “Why should I trust you?” she eventually asked.

The woman was ready to break. Her weakness hung in the air like the moment before a lightning strike. ”Because I’m your altar,” he typed. ”All this time trying to get away from it and you’ve always known you’re still just a secretary. That means I OWN YOU, BITCH. NOW, TELL ME WHAT THE ORB DOES.”

Siobhan swallowed a sob. “It—“

There came a Ding! from the other room, followed by the distinct sound of an elevator door opening and several men in combat boots marching out in formation. “Attention, ‘break room!’” came a gruff voice. “We have orders from Lucky VII to break up your disgusting Commie operation and reacquire any company property you may have stolen!”

”Quick!” typed Etiyr, the slightly-louder ‘C’ adding a strange urgency to his typing. ”Ditch the robe, type on me and look busy!”

A few seconds later, a security officer walked up behind Siobhan, standing uncomfortably close to the back of her chair. “Secretary in her underwear,” he growled. “I like that.”

“Yes, well,” Siobhan replied nonchalantly. “It can get hot on these lower floors.”

“So I see.” The secretary couldn’t see the officer’s smile, but could hear it, a slow sound like asphalt cracking in heat. “So, what are you doing down on a floor like this?”

Siobhan gestured to the fresh sheet of paper in Etiyr. “Termination notices,” she said. “For the cultists. Starting with one… Gabe Ferrell. I understand he’s the leader.”

“Heh,” said the officer. “Now that’s the Epigen spirit. You keep on doin’ what your doin’ and we’ll be out of your hair in two shakes, alright?” He took one last look around, squeezed her shoulder and left.

Siobhan waited five seconds before opening up the microwave and pulling out the orb and her old robe. She clutched them to her chest and listened to the sound of bees, batons, screaming, and the complete destruction of the life she had built here. “You know,” she confessed to Etiyr, “I don’t know what this thing does either.”

”hWell, if hwe can see she has ith, Ithzel can see she has ith, hrighth?” challenged Tarresst. “And if the hAdmiral knows she has ith, she hwon’t have ith for long.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” said Bjoris. “There are a lot of cameras to look through, and the TV networks are probably better equipped to sort through them than Itzel’s people are. I’d say it’ll be a few minutes before the Queen Bee sees what we’re seeing.”

“The networks are Itzel’s people,” stressed THAM’s left head. “This was all filmed weeks ago, in a studio. Why do you think they’re lingering over the half-naked human woman? They just want to keep us complacent and entertained while they go about stripping us of all our rights.”

“Stripping,” agreed Shoj dreamily, ten or twelve eyes leering at the screen.

“Why else would the security forces be using bees, if not because we’re being trained to associate bees with authority? Everything that’s been on this screen has been the same sort of targeted imagery.”

“Alright, if you’re so smart,” riposted the bearded woman, “What does Quantos represent?”

“Obviously they’re trying to prop up your porpoise-Quantos as a messiah figure,” responded the half-of-an-armadillo. “He’s in on it.”

“You could not be more off-base,” sneered the grey-skinned ape. “The presence of Quantos inside VII is a sign of the ascension of the Convolution and its growing mastery over time itself.”

“Speaking of porpoise-Quantos, I’m curious: how’d that date go?” Bjoris asked his date.

“Oh, it was terrible. He’s a total blowhole.”

<That’s racist,> signed K’r’r’r’r.

“So, if we get ahold of the orb,” asked Shoj, “Do you think Itzel plans on using it or just keeping it out of, say, Etiyr’s hands?”

“hWhat handsh?”

<Meh. She doesn’t know what it does any more than we do.>

“Well, I have a feeling we’re gonna find out one way or another,” concluded Bjoris, taking a swig of root beer.

Two things that gave Gabe solace:

First, he’d had time to try on the robe. It was nice. Breezy. A bit warm.

Two, he’d made it through three of the security troops before they’d gotten his weedwhacker-hand pinned. Killing, it turns out, is a lot easier the second time. And then the third time, it gets harder again, because the guy’s wearing a helmet and won’t stop kicking. The fourth time is just gross.

The other cultists, to their credit, hadn’t gone quietly either. One had rushed over to the hydroponics facility and come back with an omega-flower that disabled the security forces’ bees. Brother Flynn had swallowed a pill that lit all his skin on fire, and didn’t go down until VII remotely activated the sprinklers. The Record Keeper had jumped out a window, disappeared for five seconds, and then reappeared in the pilot’s seat of a Russian-ordinance helicopter and begun shooting everything in sight. She should have just flown away, Gabe thought sadly, remembering the sound of a woman drowning in cockroaches.

The officer who finally got to Gabe injected a local anaesthetic into his arm, numbing and neutralizing his utility hand. The former-repairman and almost-cultist was led to the room where he’d been talking to Sister Siobhan. Etiyr was gone. Nothing was there except for a precisely worded termination notice, standard in every way except for the strange letterhead Quick! Ditch the robe, type on me and look busy! The pink slip was neatly folded on a table and held in place by a nondescript red paperweight. The security officer took the form; Gabe snatched the orb up and hid it in the folds of his robe.

The elevator operator was back in position, looking glum. “All the way up, Brom,” the officer instructed.

Brom turned towards Gabe. He looked familiar somehow.
“Going straight to the top, are you?”

“That’s right,” said the officer. “Gonna have words with Mr. Clemens himself.”

Brom shrugged and pulled the lever upwards.
“Guess everybody’s got to have a dream.”

The elevator began to ascend.

”Puth Chailean and Ghaurinn back on,” demanded Tarresst.

“No, don’t,” begged Bjoris. “It’s gross. Plus, Gabe’s gonna use the orb any second now.”


”Nowhere to go but down from here,” remarked Brom. The officer led Gabe out roughly onto the top floor, which was a single ring of spacious offices circling around an austerely-lit board room.

Gabe fidgeted with the orb as he was led into the corner office. If he was going down, he wasn’t going alone.

“Here’s the one, Mr. Clemens,” said the officer, putting Gabe down in a chair. “We found him wearing a robe and leading some kind of sick ceremony. We confiscated this.” He put the red stapler down in front of Mr. Clemens. “We think it may be some sort of… reference.”

“I see,” said Mr. Clemens. Gabe considered the man before him. Everything about Mr. Clemens said “boss.” He was clearly the kind of guy who wanted you to know that he could afford to spill coffee on a jacket that cost more than you made in a year. He held a cigarette and a glass of scotch to keep his hands and his heart busy while he spent all day not using them for anything. Purple veins crisscrossed his forehead were like a flowchart, constantly shifting around as though looking for a way to make you redundant. “Well, Mr…” –he glanced at some papers on his desk—“Mr. Ferrell, it looks like your little ‘break room’ scheme is over. And incidentally, so is your career.”

Gabe gripped the orb under the desk and thought back to a time when he didn’t have to deal with people like this. Before he could do anything rash, Clemens’ secretary poked her head in. “Sir? Lucky VII’s on line one.”

“Ugh, this guy again,” growled Clemens. “I’m putting him on speakerphone, officer, so if Ferrell says anything, hit him on the head.”

“Yes, sir.”

Clemens tapped a button on his phone. “Yes, Lucky, I’m in the middle of something, what is it?”

An unfamiliar voice buzzed out of the speaker.
”Mr. Clemens, remember we made a deal. We have full control over firing and hiring for the rest of our twenty-four hour—“

”Lucky, we’re very grateful for your work in exposing this conspiracy, but, let’s be honest, it’s not worth anything if I can’t fire the ringleaders, is it now?”

”Mr. Clemens, I beg you to hold off for just a few hours. Lives are at stake.”

”You think I don’t know that? Of course lives are at stake. Hell, that’s our company slogan. Epigen Corporation: Lives Are At Stake. It’s right there on the door. We make weapons, for Christ’s sake.”

“I’d appreciate an opportunity to speak on my own behalf,” blurted Gabe. “Ow!” he added, when the security guard predictably him on the head.

”Yes, let him speak,” said VII enthusiastically. ”We can sort this out without anybody losing their jobs.”

Mr. Clemens sighed. “Lucky, this man killed three security guards today. Alright, fine, fine, you win. Mr. Ferrell, I’ll hear what you have to say, if only because this alien incursion has slowed new business down to a crawl and I’m sort of bored.”

Gabe took a deep breath. He wasn’t very good at speeches. He was more of a man of action, but seeing as there was only one action left to him and it involved a mysterious weird-science artifact that he didn’t know what it would do, he figured he ought to try words first, just to see. “Well the thing is, Mr. Clemens,” he began. “Yesterday—I think it must have been yesterday—a genie called the Hedonist put me and a bunch of other people and things into a battle to the death. And this is the third place he put us and I don’t really work here technically and I was just looking for something to do instead of just following one of the others around and doing what they said. So owing to the fact that I was really in a lot of danger and hadn’t slept for a while and don’t even like Denny’s, and I think I’m the only human one left, I thought that I deserved a break. So you can see that it’s not really my fault that I killed all those people, and also, if you fire me I die, so please don’t. Sir.”

There was silence on both ends of the deck, and both ends of the phone line. Mr. Clemens considered recent events. “Yes, well,” he said. “Obviously we knew something like that was going on. We aren’t fools here at Epigen, no matter what your Arab genie friends would have you believe. Still… I don’t see how that excuses your behavior. If anything, all it shows is that you’ve been going around killing the wrong people. Officer, give me that termination notice.” The officer handed over the pink slip. “Hmm. This all seems to be in order. Mr. Ferrell, you’re—“

“Wait!” shouted Gabe. Under the desk, he was clutching the orb like it was a live preserver, or Mr. Clemens’ neck. “You forgot about one thing.”

Mr. Clemens rolled his eyes. “Always one more thing. And what would that be?”

”Gabe, listen to me. We know what you have. Don’t even think about—“

Gabe revealed the orb with a grin, as though he were pulling a rabbit out of his hat. “This,” he said.

Gabe threw the orb at Mr. Clemens’ face.

It hit against his jowls with a wet smack and fell to the ground ineffectively.

Mr. Clemens looked at the orb as one looks at a dead bird that has been dropped in one’s lap by an overeager cat. “Yes, well,” he said. “We’ve been looking for that, I think. Officer, my understanding is that Mr. Ferrell is about to die, but if that proves not to be the case, escort him out of the building.” Mr. Clemens signed the termination notice with the lit end of his cigarette. “Mr. Ferrell, you’re fired.”

The screen went black.

“What the fuck?” shouted Shoj. “We didn’t get to see what the orb did!”

“You should be happy,” consoled THAM’s right head. “Gabe died. You win the pot.”

“We didn’t see him die,” retorted Shoj. He shrugged. “Whatever, I’ll take your money.”

“Seriously, talk about an anticlimax,” moaned Bjoris. “I bet the next round is just five minutes of Cailean bleeding out. I’m going home.”

“Split a cab?” offered his date, squeezing his tentacle affectionately.

Shoj sprouted eyes all over his body and scanned the bar. “Who hasn’t paid up?” he demanded. “K’r’r’r’r, you’re still holding that money from when we thought Cail was dead… K’r’r’r’r? You okay, man?”

K’r’r’r’r had two arms clutching his chest and two arms leaning on the bar and holding his root beer as though praying for it to turn into alcohol. With a fifth arm he signed, <I don’t know, man. What happened to Gabe…>

“Hey,” said Shoj in a low voice. “Don’t sweat it, man. Just think of it as a TV show.”

<I don’t know,> gestured K’r’r’r’r. <Makes you think. Hey Shoj, if I quit the factory and started writing full-time, do you think I’d do alright?>

The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round 4: GBN2 Not Affiliated With The Network]
Originally posted on MSPA by MrGuy.

The contestants returned, less a man with a power tool for a hand, to find a djinni sucking down margaritas and a man in a suit waist-deep in forms.

The Hedonist clapped. "Excellent job, everyone! Congratulations on making it this far. As a prize, all of you will receive complimentary balloons." With a wave of his hands, these appeared, one tied to each contestant's wrist; in turn, another sheet of paper materialized on the desk, eliciting a groan from Crumb. "Careful, Gaurinn. You don't want your friend to pop it!" He laughed, then cleared his throat.

"Your next destination will be the Grand Battle Network 2® Not Affiliated With The Network. Hopefully, you'll be able to make some friends, maybe find some things to kill each other with! Don't bother trying to escape, though!" He proceeded to give a long wink; Crumb sighed heavily. The Hedonist glanced at him and chuckled. "Ah, yes, I almost forgot. You'll be having company, won't they, Crumb?"

The man in the lime-green hat stared back at him, confused. "I'm afraid you've lost me, sir."

"You're going with them, Crumb! I want autographs, after all, as many as you can get!"

"Sir, I'm still dealing with the paperwork from the lawsuits, in addition to the fact that we're over budget..."

The Hedonist narrowed his eyes, breathing deeply. "Crumb, I do hope you aren't questioning my orders?"

The man in the lime-green hat took a long, deep breath. "No, sir. I'll get right on it." Gerald Crumb stood tall, scowling, and with a wave of his hand, The Hedonist sent everyone away.

And with his study now emptied, the djinni floated over to the desk and picked up a single form; or, more accurately, two forms hastily stapled together, so that no matter how much you twisted the individual pieces of paper you couldn't quite get them to match up. Picking up a red permanent marker and smiling ever-so-slightly, he wrote five words directly above the first entrant's name:

"Lights!" The floodlights in the ceiling flicked on, illuminating the host's yellow-green body. It twinkled, as it should, given the hours of make-up devoted to it every day.

Meanwhile, a man in a white mask, a grey shirt and jeans frantically jogged back and forth, making sure everyone and everything was in place. "Camera one?"

One of his employees, a man in a rather uncharacteristic top-hat and mustache, gave him the thumbs up. "All set, old chum!"

"Camera two?"

The other cameraman, a shadowy figure with a second camera hanging from his neck, nodded and yawned. "Check!"

"Get ready to roll in three, two, one, cue intro!" The masked man pointed up at the booth; the first few bars of the opening theme played, and the crowd went wild. The man in the booth leaned forward and grabbed the microphone.

"Live, from GBN2® NAWTN Studio 3, it's Chrononomics, with your host Kracht! Our guests today are Adrian O'Gearailt and Coy Spender, here to discuss their new book Creation And Destruction: How to Make Wealth-Based Magic Work for You!"

The audience clapped until Kracht gave them the obligatory "settle down" motion, at which point they promptly settled into their seats. He slowly lowered himself into a leather armchair. "Thanks for the applause, folks. 80% of the time it's nowhere near as loud. Now then, before we speak with our guests, I'd like to discuss why President Doubledecker's four-year plan is almost certainly-"

In a spectacular flash of light, a man in a lime-green hat and a business suit slammed against the ground. There was a long pause before the host cleared his throat and shuffled his notecards.

"Could security come down here, please?"

Re: The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round 4: GBN2
Originally posted on MSPA by TimeothyHour.

“Sir, we have reports of Grandmaster involvement.”

“Which one, Jennifer?” The Broadcaster-Not-Affiliated-With-
The Broadcaster said, turning slowly in his CEO-grade swivel chair. His single eye scanned the blue-skinned secretary before him, before blinking in confusion.

“You aren’t Jennifer,” he commented, monotone.

“You uh,” she said with a nervous chuckle. “You fired Jennifer, remember? I’m Charlene.”




“We’ve confirmed that the… interference is being caused by one Mr. The Hedonist.”

“That fucking obese djinni!?” The “Broadcaster” replied, throwing his robotic arms up into the air. “Him!? How thick can he be!?”

“A meter in diameter, sir.”

A pause.

“I meant… I meant that as rhetorical question, Charlene.”

“Sorry sir.”


“Sir, we’re pretty sure it’s a grand battle.”


“He’s hosting round…” she began, checking her clipboard for the specifics of the situation. “Round 4, here, at GBN2® Not Affiliated With The Network.”


“Would you like me to repeat that sir?”

“What… what? No! NO! Just, fucking get The Lawyer on the line. I have a lawsuit I need to file.”

Etiyr, predictably, clattered to the ground. Angry, he, as was custom, started incessantly clacking.

Nancy stared at the typewriter, incredulous. This wasn’t her typewriter! She started looking around, in her purse, on her podium, and so on, but her beloved robin-egg-blue Remington-Rand Portable №3 typewriter was nowhere to be seen! Replaced with this, this… Woodstock, and not just that; it was a boring old black one! Do people have no taste in typewriters? Goodness gracious!

Oh, and was it typing… typing by itself?

CCCCCCCcccc oh good, it seems as though I’ve gotten your attention, miss. Would you mind picking me up?

“You’re a Woodstock,” Miss Little replied, not quite grasping the ridiculousness of the situation. “You’re a horrid typewriter.”

Wait…what?” Etiyr replied. “<span style="font-family: Courier New">...are, are you wearing period clothing?</span>

“What do mean ‘period clothing!?’” Nancy insisted. “I bought this dress last week!

Oh, God. You’re one of those people.” Etiyr hated the 1920’s, and he hated everyone from the 1920’s. It kind of comes with the territory of being a sucky typewriter in an era that knows that, yeah, you’re, you know, pretty sucky.

“And what do you mean by that?” Nancy said, glaring at the typewriter. She was not amused. Not amused at all.

Ok, look, miss,” Etiyr replied. “<span style="font-family: Courier New">I’m a self-typing typewriter. I don’t run out of ink, I don’t run out of paper, I don’t jam. I can type in italics on a whim. I also have feelings, and I don’t really take kindly to you making fun of my brand, you know? In many regards I’m the holy grail of typewriters, but people like you, you freaking prejudge me, and it makes me feel bad. It makes me feel horrible.</span>

“Oh,” the police station secretary said, taken aback. “I had no idea. I’m so sorry…”


“…Etiyr. My name’s Nancy. Nancy Little. It seems as though we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot. Could we forget all this and try again?”

Sure,” the typewriter clacked. “<span style="font-family: Courier New">Just put me up on that, uh, that podium, and all will be forgiven… hey, uh, by the way, why is the podium a, uh, a translucent blue?”</span>

“Well,” she said, after a moment of thought, slowly lifting the typewriter. “It’s because we’re—”

“Quiet on the set!” the director yelled. “We’re live in 5…4…3…”

The spotlights leveled, slowly, upon a finely dressed, cube-headed man. The in-house audience went wild.


Necessary dramatic pause.

Re: The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round 4: GBN2
Originally posted on MSPA by Anomaly.

Gaurinn blinked a few times, gazing around the very dark room blankly. He wasn't dead? He looked at the pile of vaguely human-shaped gore he was still somehow attached to in awe. Cailean was alive? In spite of his head being partially chewed off by an alien parasite, and in spite of the fact that his intestines were in a heap outside of his body, he was somehow still alive enough to have advanced.

And... he was sitting in a chair?

Without warning, dozens of lights flashed on across the studio, most of them pointed at the four chairs on a wooden stage. The chairs faced a man seated behind a podium (if he could really be called a man - the large, feathered wings on his back implied otherwise), scowling at the cheering audience behind him. A very familiar trombonist, some kind of harp-playing rodent, and a very short man in a top hat (standing on top of several phone books behind an electric keyboard) played an upbeat tune as the cheers slowly died down.

"Hello, and welcome to WHOSE GRAND IS IT ANYWAY!" the angel yelled, practically choking on his own words. The look of disgust never left his eyes as he glared directly at Gaurinn. He sighed, pulled out a sheet of paper, and continued. "The show where everything's made up, and the points don't matter! That's right, the points are like a round one eliminee."

The audience laughed. The angel frowned.

"As always, I'm your host, Sirius! Until my contract runs out next month. Now let's meet the contestants!"

A spotlight focused on each of the chairs and their occupants in turn.

First up was a weary-looking, sword-carrying woman in a long black dress.

"Virtually a witch, Karen!"

Next, a blob wearing some kind of bulletproof vest.

"Totally spineless, Bae!"

Third, a huge, feathered reptilian creature.

"A walking anachronism, Kerak!"

Finally, the spotlight focused on Gaurinn, as well as Cailean's remains.

"Two heads may be worse than one, Gaurinn and... Cailean?"

Sirius picked up a radio of some sort and began angrily mumbling into it. Evidently they hadn't expected the knight to be quite so dead. He managed to look even more pissed-off as he put the radio down, before he pulled an upside-down hat from beneath his podium. "First up will be Scenes from a Hat. You creti- wonderful audience members put in your own submissions before the show started. You know the drill. I pull something inane out of here, you act it out. Let's go."

He pulled a yellow slip of paper out of the all-too-flamboyant hat. "Bad things to do while in freefall!"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A very rotund djinni, margarita still in hand, sat in the back of the studio, taking up three seats by himself. A smile spread across his porcine face as he watched the dinosaur propose to Karen. He wasn't exactly here for entertainment - wait, yes he was - but that didn't matter. His scene suggestions would be coming up very soon.

Several more contestants took their turn - the Hedonist particularly enjoyed Bae's rendition of a certain vacuum cleaner building an army in a hardware store - before the host dejectedly slammed his fist on the buzzer. The Hedonist waved the hand that wasn't holding his drink.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"Next up will be... 'Extracting a giant centipede from the remains of a zombified knight'? Who even... You know what, sure. Do that."

Gaurinn stared as the blob-looking thing approached his chair. He wasn't sure if he should try to fight back or not - maybe they'd finally be able to help him out of this whole being-someone's-arm situation. He decided against fighting back, and remained very still as "Bae" created several blade-arms from his otherwise-formless mass and set to work, tearing away at Cailean's body. Gaurinn definitely wasn't a fan of the way the "surgeon" was operating - swinging his tools around maniacally with a huge grin on his face - but after roughly a minute of this, Gaurinn fell to the ground.

He lay in a daze for several seconds, not fully realizing what had just happened. Slowly, he attempted to move the legs on the back half of his body - the feeling of open air was almost unreal in its suddenness. Gaurinn began slowly walking across the floor, attempting to regain his bearings.

"Uh, thanks," he told the still-grinning blob. He hated that grin. It reminded him of the... thing that did this in the first place. But, on the other hand, he was finally free from the idiot who had caused him nothing but pain and misery for several days. Yet, strangely, he felt a bit sorry for whatever was left of Cailean. They'd both been forced into this, and he didn't end up as lucky as the centipede. He was probably better off, Gaurinn told himself. Anything had to be better than the life he was already living.

As the host began protesting against the utter lack of anything happening, Gaurinn's vision blurred. His hearing grew more and more muffled by the second. He knew this feeling well.

It was the worst feeling he had ever felt.

A repeat of the scenario in the Kestalvian Rainforest isn't entirely necessary - sufficed to say, Gaurinn spent quite a long time spasming around the floor in unimaginable pain, vomiting a synthetic, pale-blue sort of blood all over the studio as bolts of electricity fired off in random directions. His mind had at this point stopped perceiving anything but incredible pain. He forgot about Cailean. He forgot about the Glorious Championship. He even forgot about the fact that hundreds of thousands of people were watching him. He let the pain take him.

And, eventually, subside. Gaurinn's eyes slowly came into focus as he struggled to his feet, amidst the mess of pseudo-organic slurry that had quickly coated most of the stage. In spite of his throbbing headache, though, the centipede, on some level, had a notion that things had been made right again. He looked to Cailean's body. Eventually, it came into focus - what remained of Cailean's right arm was looking a whole lot more synthetic.

A few moments later, he came to the realization. He was finally organic again! Whatever processes that had turned him into some sort of artificial centipede-arm had just as easily (as in, not very) reversed the process. In spite of quite nearly being killed by alien parasites, Gaurinn's life had suddenly become a whole lot better. For the first time since he had been tossed, uninformed, into the parking lot of some kind of restaurant/government base, he felt something akin to happiness. It had become a foreign feeling.

Gaurinn also realized that he was alone. The audience, and the other contestants, had left sometime during the seizures and vomit stage. The only one left was Sirius, standing over him and scowling.

"Hey, uh. Sorry about your show. What happened while I was out, exactly?"

"Well, we had to cut it off early after you began shooting seizure-lightning and projectile-vomiting your own blood. Lasted a good twenty minutes. I guess you saved me from this idiotic show for one more day, though, for all the good that's going to do."

"What about Cailean?"

"I don't know. He disappeared right after you looked at him. Just... Just get out of my studio. There's a lot of cleanup to do."

Gaurinn made his way to the door as quickly as possible. He didn't want to be here any more than the host did.
Re: The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round 4: GBN2
Originally posted on MSPA by engineclock.

Somewhere in a highly unpalatable dimension, a shadowy figure sat on the snout of a worm the size of a continent.

“I’m just suggesting,” he said, a tone of voice that seemed to simultaneously indicate countless aeons of jaded sadism and a not-negligible amount of friendly concern, “That, you know, maybe you’re overreacting to all of this. Just a little bit.”

“Three worlds,” the worm whined in a voice that could have traveled solar systems. Unspeakable liquids of various thicknesses and descriptions pooled out from its teeth and washed over the floor in multicolored waves. “Three worlds of beings and I am still so empty, Tormy. Why am I so empty? Where is the rest of me? It hurts, Tormy, it hurts so much. Like holes in my hearts.” It ended with a miserable croon.

The Tormentor sighed and eyed the slowly congealing ocean on his living room floor. “We could have avoided all of this If you’d just bothered to look up the really fundamental basics of biology. Was it so difficult to pick up an encyclopedia? I know at least some of your eyes can read. You’ve got no excuse for this.”

“It wasn’t fair,” said the worm. It was a credit to its omnipotence that it could sound meek through a throat large enough to swallow small moons. “I just wanted a baby. Lots of people have babies. I…” It made a tremulous sound. “I thought it would be simple.”

“And look where it got you,” the Tormentor said. “How many of you are there now? Four? Five?”

The jaws of the Destroyer Worm trembled. It sniffled with the sound of an atmosphere imploding.

The expression of murderous joy on the Tormentor’s face faded to a gently dangerous resentment and he patted the ridge of the great hollow socket where the worm’s eye should have been. The surface of its scales rolled like an earthquake underneath him. “Oh, come on. It’s not entirely your fault. Everyone makes stupid mistakes when they’re young. It could have gone much worse, probably, somehow. It’s not the end of the world, after all! Well it was for the three you just ate, but they were boring little places anyway. They barely screamed at all.”

The coils of the worm shifted like tectonic plates, curling into a mountainous knot around the seated Grandmaster. The eldritch spires above them bent with the strain. “I wish Crowe were here,” the great beast said sadly. “He could help.”

The Tormentor frowned. “Kassie-”

A small blooping noise interrupted him. To his left, the air shimmered like a fine silk scarf and loudly split itself in two, briefly exposing a terrifying nothingness before a bluish djinni materialized respectively at the Tormentor’s elbow. Wordlessly it proffered a neatly typed memo and flinched when the Grandmaster carelessly disintegrated its arm as he snatched it away.

A few of the Grandmaster’s multifarious eyes flicked over the return address. “Can’t you tell the Hedonist that I’m busy?”

“Who is that, Tormy?” The worm said. It raised its head slightly, propelling them sixteen stories in under a second. The djinn considered vomiting but decided it would be rude under such circumstances. “Tell them to go away.”

“With all due respect, sir, the Hedonist-”

“What’s this about Gaurinn?” The Tormentor said, holding the letter upside-down.

“The… the centipede, sir, you attached him to a knight. Said knight is dead. ”

“Oh.” He sat back. “That was ages ago. Hasn’t that battle finished yet?”

The djinni blinked. “No, it’s only just reached the fourth-”

“Oh, do whatever you want, see if I care,” the Tormentor growled, shoving the spirit back through the portal with a small pop. The note flared into glittering black flames in his hand. “I’m bored with that anyway. A few parlor tricks, a little bodily trauma, and what did I get out of it? Some sob story in a trashy accent. Can’t get any entertainment out of anyone these days.”

“I thought you were pleased with that one…”

“Like an hour ago.” The Grandmaster examined the general area where his fingernails would have been if he had any. “I’ve got bigger plans now. Less dependent on worms and dead men. Er, sorry,” he said apologetically. “That was a bit tactless.”

The worm said nothing, only bowed its head to the ground and sighed.

Gaurinn had about two seconds of warning before it happened which, considered in the context of time/space distortion travel, is really a rather generous allowance. Subsequently the centipede had the privilege of anticipating very clearly what was going to happen, and it was not surprising in the slightest that he spent that time hating it with every fiber of his soon-to-be-recompromised being.

Even before his brain understood the situation the centipede’s legs were trying to flee, but the instant chitin met floor his body stiffened and he fell, heavily, onto the slick tiles, writhing mostly to make himself feel that he wasn’t completely helpless. Electricity exploded in his nerves, his spine, running down from the base of his head through his back and into the floor, and then something tugged at him insistently, and he felt himself slide unwillingly across the room, claws squealing madly as they dug into the tiles.

The studio flickered like a dying candle. The edge of Gaurinn’s vision frayed and split: a thousand threads unraveled from the seams of his being and the world around him, each a glittering infinity woven through a void that fell endlessly below him and arced aeons above his aching head. His body was a diamond, a burning point of light on the blackness of vacuity, and he found it uncomfortably familiar. It was not dissimilar to the effects of LSD or other ergolines, but since Gaurinn had never been under their influence his only connection was that it felt very much like the gestalt presence that was the Temporal Godhead, which up until this point he had mostly referred as Cailean You Fucked Up Big Time On This One Get This Fucker Out of My Head.

All things considered, he wasn’t entirely wrong.


When Gaurinn woke up he was struck with a powerful sense of déjà vu, mostly because he’d spent a significant amount of the Glorious Championship unconscious, but also because of the fact that he was no longer entirely sure that his lower half was there.

It took him a moment to realize, as well, that he was no longer in contact with the ground. His legs dangled limply a good three feet off the grubby tiles, the sight of which the centipede had come to loathe. That was fine. He’d gotten used to heights in the Kestalvian forest and in the military before that. Presumably he was trapped somewhere, and something had landed on him and was compressing him in between debris. There was a very clear reason that it felt like he was still attached to someone, there must be. He didn’t need to jump to conclusions. That would be silly.

From behind him there came a definitively female voice. It said, very clearly,
“Oh, no.

Gaurinn paused. His more than a little discomposed brain suggested that perhaps Cailean had turned into a woman again, shortly before he remembered that Cailean was several different kinds of dead. The voice had been louder, and- familiar, somehow- Where had he heard it before?

He turned around slowly and yelped as the beak of an enormous heron pecked him sharply on the eye.

“Fucking son of a goddamn bitch!” The heron screeched, narrowly missing Gaurinn with another jab of its head; he caught a watery glimpse of a furious yellow eye before the bird withdrew, hissing madly. “You will release me this instant,” it clacked, crest flaring out from its narrow skull. “You will, or you’ll lose those eyes, worm. I don’t know what possessed you to even begin to contemplate that this would be amusing, but I assure you that is far from the case.

This last line was punctuated by another peck to the eye, prompting a short scream from Gaurinn and a burst of electricity the heron did not seem to notice. Desperately he scrambled for something to say, but all his addled mind could manage was a mumbled “Maowyn?”

The bird’s head withdrew, coiling on its serpentine neck. It eyed him coldly, flicking to the side to see him better. “Who else?” It said softly. Beady yellow eyes burrowed into his skeleton with divine scrutiny and Gaurinn felt his stomach-analogue curl up in sudden fear, a bitter taste forming in his mouth. The temperature in the room dropped and he felt his armor begin to crackle with static, but then he shook himself angrily and gave Maowyn an indignant glare.

“Alright, listen,” he said, pointing at the goddess with a claw, “Let’s get this straight. I got a real shitty feeling about where this is going and I’m pretty sure my intestines are currently your spine, but you’re not my fucking boss. Cail wasn’t, and I almost liked him. I get the feeling that you get off scaring peasants with air horns and glitter but I’ve been in the fucking military. I was supposed to die on a suicide mission. I fought a cyborg in the basement of a franchised pancake repository. I’ve traveled through the goddamn universe, I got hit on in a multidimensional bar and I spent at least two weeks strapped to a drunk-off-his-ass PTSD victim and I am not, not even in the slightest fraction of a degree, intimidated by some bitch with wings and a silly-ass accent.”

The fear retreated, and the heron glaredly at him once and looked away. Pushing back a growing sense of foreboding, Gaurinn gave the situation a once-over and resigned himself to the fact that most of his fears had been justified. Just below his middle row of limbs his chitin merged rather jarringly into the side of what appeared to be a snow-white woman, near to seven feet tall if his estimation was worth anything. Her body displayed both a fine, pale down and curves that would have driven a man to distraction if her head had not been that of a giant bird’s. Her beak glittered a bright silver and instead of another arm a massive wing sprouted from her shoulder and was folded neatly against her ribs. It was the closest thing to clothing she wore, Gaurinn realized, and then immediately veered away from that train of thought because it made him feel both voyeuristic and very slightly squeamish.

“If it makes you feel any better,” Taccha Maowyn said, “I thought the accent was a bit much.”

She turned back to Gaurinn, and where her eyes had been a furious yellow they were now only a sort of pissed-off beige. Her beak clacked once distastefully. “Let’s cut to the bone,” she said, “I understand somehow my little champion and you have gone your separate ways, and I can’t separate us any more than I could the two of you. We’re fused at the ether, if that means anything to you, which I highly doubt. No wonder you and the boy were so close-knit.”

“Cailean,” Gaurinn said defensively.

“Whatever.” Maowyn took an unsteady step forward, flapping her wing for balance. It stretched out twelve feet before she fluttered it back to her side. As she spoke, she looked at their surroundings in a way that suggested they’d made a sly dig at her during a Christmas party once and she’d written about it in her diary for days. “This is just what I need. I was busy. You mortals always think it’s so easy, being a god. Do you even know the paperwork I still have?” The feathers on her neck puffed up in anger. “That fool got himself killed by something minor, I expect. Probably syphilis.”

“His head was eaten! And then, uh, his organs kind of fell out. He was a zombie before that.”

“Of course he was, I was there, did you forget?” the heron snapped. “I am done with this gig, I swear, this is the last time I scrub around down here with dirtwalkers. Mortals. You’re all the same. Turn your back and you die like rats in traps. I handed him a knife and told him to kill people, most of whom who were already dying, by the way, and what’s he do, he fucks it up. Gets himself in a goddamn battle to the death and then sticks me with his blood debts.” She sniffed. “Typical.”

Gaurinn growled. A bolt of static crackled along his spine and he would very likely have decided to do something about it had a sudden and highly insistent knock not suddenly resounded at the door.

The goddess and the centipede jumped as one at the sound, deafening in the otherwise empty studio. An urgently familiar voice called, “Cailinn, Gaurean, whatever you two are calling yourself, you’re on in six. Set 16, shake a leg!”

She cleared the room in three strides, moving with the grace only those who aren’t actually bound by gravity can manage and flung the double doors open with a flick of her wing. Burningly white lights burst into the dark room, causing Gaurinn to flinch, but Maowyn’s head snaked upwards and undulated warily at the disturbance, pupils shrunken to dots. An overwhelmingly average man with a clipboard for a hand squinted up at her, biting his lip and frowning distractedly.

“Hey, no one told me there was a cast change. You guys can’t just go switching things up like this at the last second, you have to keep-”

Gaurinn didn’t see her move, only heard a dull thunk and felt the sudden spray against his face, blinding him. He felt Maowyn’s muscles relax, felt her shift forward, and he scrabbled blindly at his face with his claws. His vision was still blurry when he thought for a very strange millisecond that Maowyn and Gabe had kissed, her head bent touching his, but then Gabe’s skull slowly slid off her beak and he crumpled to the floor.

“What the hell?” Gaurinn said. “What the hell?

The goddess gave him a cool look and scraped her beak against the door frame, flashing underneath the stage lights. Bits of hair and brain smeared against the paint. “I’m not going to play you mortals’ games, worm. Whatever you and that idiot boy had between yourselves died with him. I don’t have time for this. I will find a way to separate us. I do not particularly care what it takes.” She didn’t bother to look at what Gaurinn was only half-sure was Gabe’s corpse, and when she left she planted a single delicate foot on its chest before sweeping out onto the stage.
Re: The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round 4: GBN2
Originally posted on MSPA by Lord Paradise.

Television is a lie.

This might seem an obvious statement, but the nurse knew it to be true on a number of levels. People enjoy watching a story play out on camera because the camera directs the eye. Through the camera, events play out logically, systematically, with a polished visual precision. It’s a welcome change from real life, which is pressing, three-hundred-sixty degrees, a series of impressions; life, which doesn’t give you any hints about what to think or what to feel about it; life, which doesn’t provide convenient pauses for you to get a snack.

The nurse considered pitching a show to the network. The first episode of the show is about a happy little girl living in a world that generally made sense, at least to her. The inciting incident comes when the girl becomes a sacrifice to the gods. The pilot episode ends on a cliffhanger with the girl jumping down into a hole to die. The second episode, instead of following up on this, gives the girl uncontrollable god-powers and places her in a battle to the death where she is tortured and harassed. A love triangle flares up involving the appendage of a living disease and an evangelical warrior mad scientist. The third episode is similar except that the girl is a fish of some sort. In the fourth episode, all that seems to have been forgotten and the girl is a struggling child-actress-going-on-actress, confronting issues of faith, womanhood and identity in a world of cameras where fame is the only currency and truth was debt.

It wouldn’t be a very good show, because it would be real, and reality didn’t sell here. Here’s a better show: close-up on a young nurse’s high heels as she clack-clack-clacks her way down a corridor. Then show her from the front; she’s holding a tray; on the tray is a napkin, upon which are laid three syringes. In real life, see, there are better ways to transport syringes, but the tray symbolizes subservience. It’s one of many subtle cues being given to the audience. The nurse’s almost-red hair and basically-white skin match her uniform and set her apart as a member of the medical profession; her pretty face and the vaguely fetishistic nature of her candy-striper outfit mark her as someone worth paying attention to. The lingering sequence of her march down the hallway, rhythmic and precise, no emotion on her face, suggest a practiced routine, a long-term engagement with the three needles and the blue door at the end of the hall, while also serving to build tension. The blue door, the camera shows us, has the words “Lord Reginald Quickington Coma Room” written on it—and then, at the nurse’s push, swings open. I’m heading to the Lord Reginald Quickington Coma Room, the viewer is thinking. This must be where Lord Reginald Quickington has his comas. The viewer is correct. In the next shot a lordly, monocle-and-hat-wearing gent lies half-naked and comatose atop a gaudy hospital bed.

The nurse stops and smells the roses (fresh) on the end table. Then she shifts her tray to one hand and picks up a syringe with the other. She leans over the patient with the needle and is startled when--and of course appropriately dramatic music strikes up at the same moment--his eyes open and he sits up. The nurse puts her hands to her cheeks and screams. The tray falls, in slow motion, and crashes. The crashing tray cues to the viewer that this event represents order making way to chaos.

“What decade is it?” grunts Lord Reginald Quickington shirtlessly.

The nurse trembles. “It’s—it’s the 1890s, Lord Quickington.”

“Tell them I’m back,” says Quickington. “Tell Reccxer... that Quickington’s coming... for revenge!

“That’s a wrap!” announced the director. “H.M., that was beautiful. Just like we talked about. There’s the man in the coma and the man out of the coma... and they’re the same... but different.”

”Nothing to it, Felix old sport,” said Hatman, crawling out of the hospital bed. ”I only hope you’ve held up your end.”

”What, the hat full of cocaine? Why don’t you walk right on into your dressing room and see how Felix Atrum takes care of his people, okay?” Felix winked through his monocle. Dorin wheezed through her corset, some horrible apparatus that took two inches off her waist and three years off her life and Aphrodite smiles approvingly from the corner before withering at a reproachful glare of Hestia who suggests Dorin head home for the night and stole a rose from the set 'five petals one for each of My wounds,' demonstrates Christ gruesomely, 'and watch the thorns' and ran back to her dressing room, avoiding eye contact or monocle contact with anybody.

”You were great back there,” reassured Shik’skara, who was patiently by the door. Dorin shuddered a bit at the presence of the shard, as she tended to do nowadays, confusing his own voice with the voice he employs in his role as telepathic interpreter to the gods Jehovah kindly volunteers a Metatron to take the Shard’s place if she wants and Saraswati points out that he was the one who confused the languages of the Earth to begin with at Babel so maybe he shouldn’t get a say

”I screamed and dropped a tray,” dismissed Dorin, loudly, a hint to the higher powers that maybe they should leave her a moment of peace DID SOMEONE SAY PEACE yells Wohpe wife of the south wind. “And now I’m out of a job as Coma Nurse until someone else slips into a coma. Turn around.”

Shik didn’t really have a front side and had no concern for human modesty one way or another, but understood that Dorin appreciated the illusion of privacy, what with the cameras and the gods everywhere
and here’s a sympathetic pat on the shoulder from JackieMarilyn, the two-faced perfect-woman goddess of the American pantheon. She put on a simple green dress and had a glass of water which flowed from Vishuddha to Manipura and waited for the Gods to settle down for a bit.

”Well, I thought you stole the scene,” reassured Shik. ”Think of this as a gateway to new opportunities. You know you’d never be happy at Reccxer Diaries so maybe it’s best that you got out now before they tried to put a monocle on you, too.”

Dorin sighed and looked in the mirror. “I guess—“

There was a knock on the door.
”One of your adoring fans,” guessed Shik.

He was wrong.
”Dorin, it’s Felix. Could you swing by my office for a bit? Any time you’re ready.”

Dorin wilted. “Just a second,” she replied weakly.

* * * * *

Reccxer Diaries is going big,” the Director was explaining two minutes later, monocle leering at Dorin from the other side of an immaculately carved mahogany desk. ”We’ve arranged a deal with the studio to have the next season premiere right after the Rollo show under the new name ‘the Armidillo Diaries’—trick the kids into tuning in thinking they’re getting more Rollo and then Bam! they find themselves engrossed in the ongoing saga of Professor Armidillo Reccxer’s solitary quest for love and justice. Glass of wine?”

Dorin waved the bottle away. “I’m only fifteen,” she said.

”Exactly!” exclaimed Felix, pouring a glass. ”Couldn’t have put it better yourself. You’re. Only. Fifteen. Everyone loves a fifteen year old. A fifteen year old is like a friendly babysitter to your average Rollo audience. An authority figure, a role model, but not a grown-up... not one of them. And adult audiences, well, they’re more patient. They’ll sit down every weekday and watch you grow into a beautiful and immensely talented young woman, and then when you finally turn eighteen, well, that’s a conversation we’ll save for later.”

Dorin considered the wine glass in her hand and at the behest of Dionysus who produces any number of studies showing that moderate alcohol consumption between the ages of fourteen and sixteen reduces the risk of substance abuse problems developing in adulthood took a tentative sip. “So you’re keeping me on?” she asked. She took a glance at the door, knowing that Shik, who hadn’t been allowed into the meeting, was waiting just beyond.

”More than that, my dear. I’m going to make you a star.”

”So... is someone else going into a coma next season?”

”Think bigger, Dorin darling. Reccxer has the Cane of Materialistic Probability—it changes mass, it changes composition, but most importantly, it changes lives. Coma Nurse and Quickington share a special bond—the bond shared only between a coma patient and his nurse, that no one else can understand. He draws her into his game of cat-and-mouse with Professor Reccxer, eventually letting slip the secret that only he knows—Coma Nurse’s birthname is Capylara Reccxer, the professor’s own daughter. Which reminds me, we'll need to get you fitted for a monocle. Now, Capylara must make a fateful choice between the two father figures who—“

”Enough of this.” Dorin—or the entity that was currently inhabiting Dorin’s body—stood and walked up to the desk. ”I’ve known plenty of people like you, Mr. Atrum,” she said, sitting on the desk. ”You have every intention of ruining this girl’s life. Innocence doesn’t sell, isn’t that right?”

Felix’s nose twitched. ”Ah, yes,” he said. ”When I took on the girl’s contract, I was warned that she sometimes had these... episodes... May I ask, to which God am I supposedly speaking right now?”

”I’m not a God. I’m just this week’s guest star. Call me whatever you like.” The thing inside Dorin leaned over and tapped on Felix’s monocle with one fingernail. ”Now,” it said, ”You and I aren’t leaving this room until we seriously renegotiate the terms of Dorin’s contract.”

Felix quivered. He had a few tricks of his own, but wasn’t sure that he wanted to press his luck right now. ”Gladly,” he replied, forcing a smile. ”More wine?”
Re: The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round 4: GBN2
Originally posted on MSPA by Not The Author.

“Unscheduled off-world activation!”

“Everyone, in position! All non-essential personnel are to evacuate the gate room immediately!

“Chevron One encoded.”

“Who the hell is it this time?”

“General! We’re not sure, sir.”

“What d’you mean, we’re not sure? I thought we could track -”

“That’s just it, sir. All signs indicate we’re not being dialed through the known Gate network.”

“Chevron Two encoded.”

“Is that even possible?”

“Theoretically, yes. Someone may have reverse-engineered the Gate system and designed their own version. Wormholes aren’t that hard to make, relatively speaking, just… hard to keep stable without something like a Gate. Sir.”

“Chevron Three encoded.”

“What kind of being could do something like that?”

“Nothing we’ve encountered, sir, but the universe is a big place.”

“Well, let’s just hope they’re friendly.”

“Chevron Four-“


“I sought you said zhe systems vhere compatible.”

“They are.”

“Vell zhen, vhat’s taking so long?”

“Their hardware is severely outdated, and on top of that seems to be operating with bootleg software. We had to scour the archives to find something that would even register, and then create an entirely new program that would, essentially, translate two fundamentally different languages into each other simultaneously.”

“Couldn’t you jhust... uploadt modern softvhare onto zheir rigs, or...?”

“A, every time superior technology has been introduced to a less-developed civilization the results have been catastrophic; B... I don’t think you understand just how outdated we’re talking here.”

“Vhat, are zhey using dial-up, or somesing?”


“Chevron Five encoded.”

“Well, at least it’s not dialing itself this time.”

“Glad you could make it, chief.”

“What is it today? No, let me guess -”

“We don’t -”

“- we don’t know.”

“- know, sir. Yes. It’s like noth-”

“Like nothing we’ve ever seen before.”

“…Yes. Sir.”

“Chevron Six encoded.”


“You don’t sound surprised.”

“I’m surprised that you still do.”

“We can’t all be cynics, sir.”

“Well, I’ll try to carry your weight for you, then.”

“Chevron Seven... locked.”


With an eruption of cosmic energies, the alien ring burst to life, filling out with blue plasma. The soldiers on guard took the Obligatory Period in which Nothing Happens to Build Tension to adjust their aim.

The plasma film rippled, and out stepped a six-limbed insectoid cyborg clad in a skin-tight white and blue jumpsuit. It was shortly followed by a floating, fleshy jellyfish wearing a black-and-red hat, an aging human male in a white-and-orange robe, and a half-human half-snake woman dressed in white-and-green gloves and belts and well-placed scales. They all seemed to look over themselves, old man muttering something about not believing it’d worked, before noticing all the armed guards present.

The bee-person waved an arm. “At-ease.” It didn’t work. “I’m High Admiral and Chief Administrator Itzel of Exoplanet VII. These are my Chief Librarian, Archivist Bartholomew LeBeau...” The robed man bowed deeply. “...Chief Medical Officer, Ambassador Sithembil Ameretat...” The snake-woman purred, and... jiggled a bit. “...and Chief Fleet Commander, General, ah... Terrence? Terrence.” The jellyfish waved.

“Normally I’d ask to see whoever your leader is, and we’d have peace talks, and then one or the other of us would betray the other for some reason or another, who really cares; but today we’re here on business. Best you can do is not interfere.”

The tetrad moved towards one of the heavily guarded blast doors, but were intercepted, to no one’s surprise, by the guards guarding the blast door. Itzel clutched her head and sighed. “Look, do you want to do this the easy way, or not?” The guards made no response. “Fine. I didn’t want to do this, but you leave me no alternative.”

Itzel looked directly into the camera. “Cut!

Re: The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round 4: GBN2
Originally posted on MSPA by MrGuy.

Re: The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round 4: GBN2
Originally posted on MSPA by engineclock.

Crazy shirtless bird-woman woman-thing, god-person, he thought. Dumb motherfucker got yourself into this. Got yourself glued to an avian porn star. Great going. A+. You win a medal that says “WORST”.

“Quiet! Quiet on the set- Maowyn, no not another one! Damnit, woman. Someone get this girl a new PA. You! Go find- I don’t care what your union says! I said go!”

“Maowyn,” said Gaurinn, “You’re sitting on a pile of corpses.”

The goddess’s great heron’s head swiveled slowly to look at him, her yellow eyes flat and glossy. “Taccha Maowyn to you, worm,” she sniffed. The feathers on her face were freckled red and pink and she was cleaning her beak between two blade-like feathers with short, sharp strokes that occasionally sprayed Gaurinn with assorted viscera. “I’m a god,” she told him.

“Yes, I know.”

“I used to be a huge fucking deal,” she said, waving a blood-matted wing. “Three, four hundred years ago on that miserable heap of dirt. The White Age. My temple was staffed by hundreds at its peak. There were a few wars after that, some major tectonic movements, a couple genocides and a plague, all the major belief systems went into decline because, I mean, who wants to believe in a god that wants you to suffer?” She laughed a harsh tcchaa tccha. “Anyways, before that I was Laié Sicchat, Lord of the South Waters. My sacrifices were twenty virgins every spring drowned in a bog. Always the ugly ones. Gyse’s thing was pretty girls so they just assumed I didn’t want them. Typical mortal logic! Turned most of them into herons but they all still died of the plague regardless.”

A lost-looking PA wearing the same name tag as the last three sidled up nervously to Maowyn and Gaurinn’s chair, clutching a cup of coffee like a crucifix before a vampire. The heron goddess ignored her.

“Tell me, worm. What sort of gods do you have?”

“Don’t know any,” Gaurinn growled. He never thought he’d miss having a partner with a strictly utilitarian grasp on language. “Didn’t like any of the ones I met.”

Maowyn screeched. He’d given up trying to decipher her vocalizations sometime around when she decided roosting on the lights and nattering was an adequate explanation for what was wrong with her costume. The girl standing at her wing gave a cough that could have been mistaken for some dust motes settling and the heron’s head whipped around, fixing a great yellow eye on the girl’s face. “You. What is your name?”

“T-Taelia?” The P.A. seemed to be inventing a new way to completely avoid the fact that she was speaking to anyone.

“Taelia. That’s very pretty.”

“Oh, thank you. It was, um-”

Taelia,” Maowyn intoned, her voice suddenly a sonorous echo thundering up from unholy depths, “I damn you to the fifth and final hell to wander endlessly in the Hollow Earth until your cursed bones crumble beneath your rotting skin, until your eyes turn white from age, until your broken feet no longer tread, and there to suffer for all time and eternity in the bowels of the world amongst the forgotten and the lost. Let this be done.”

Gaurinn watched disinterestedly as Taelia’s expression moved swiftly from confusion to fear and then to horror as huge cracks began to open up in the ground beneath her feet, the faint whistles of distant banshee screams accompanied by plumes of noxious black smoke vomiting up like storm clouds. She stumbled backward only to be grasped around the ankle by a searching talon, gnarled and pale and wickedly sharp; a cameraman gave the girl a disapproving look as it bit into her skin and dragged her down, pulling her beneath the linoleum with a distant terrible howl of laughter that cut off abruptly as she vanished from view. The tiles healed over with a whisper. Only a faint glow remained where she’d stood, dissipating gently into nothing.

“You could just tell them you don’t like hazelnut.”

“I should think the first four examples were enough, but they insist getting it wrong.” Maowyn’s beady eyes followed a small swarm of crab-like arthropods now swarming over the shattered remains of her coffee. “It seems to me they’re asking for it. That’s standard procedure, by the way, for botching a sacrifice like that. Do you think that boy could have managed it better? I don’t. Hrmf. I should have damned him when he still had a soul to damn.”

“Cailean,” Gaurinn reminded her absently. A thought struck him. “Why can you send people to hell?”

“It isn’t hell, it’s five hells.”

“Whatever, that’s not the point. You can send people out of here, right? Like I’m assuming your hell- oh hells, sorry, that’s very important- aren’t here. So why can’t you send us out of here like that?”

“Mm. Complicated.” She settled into the chair, shivering as her feathers fluffed up. Her silver beak dipped down and began to rummage for loose plumage. “Think of it as, ah… well, a map, I suppose. And you only have a few places marked, a few places you know fairly well and could probably get there on your own without getting lost. But if you try to go somewhere new, you can’t because… maybe you can’t read or something. And now that we’re here it’s like looking at the same map, only it’s three miles away because you lost it.” Maowyn found a kidney in her wing and gave it a critical look. “In this case, though, I’m only asking a distant friend for help. It’s difficult to find something out of your home universe.“

“You found Cail pretty easily.”

“I owned him. Stupid thing stank like a corpse anyway, could have found him anywhere.”

Gaurinn sighed. “So we’re still stuck?”

She tilted her head noncommittally, or possibly to stare at a stagehand skittering up in the rafters. “Could I make a map so small I could not read it? For now, at least, we’ll have to wait. But if I could find some kind of nexus maybe I could move us to somewhere I could navigate from. I mean this is all on human terms, it’s really much more technical than that. Are you almost human, dear? I’ve just been assuming that you are.”

“Maowyn. We have a show to film.”

“Who DARES,” Maowyn screamed, whipping her head around furiously and screeching at the petrified workers cowering behind drywall props. Nestled directly in her blind spot, an alien-looking rabbit rolled it eyes. She banished three more souls to the abyss in the time it took for the creature to float to the top of her corpse-pile and lay a condescending paw on her shoulder.

“Honey,” Vigil said with the air of someone whose life is spent dealing with planetary egos, “It’s been two hours already and all you’ve done is sit your pretty ass down on some stiffs and kill all my extras. I don’t know what your agent told you, but here in Tinseltown we’ve got deadlines, sweetie.”

“I am a god,” she hissed at him, pupils shrunken to tiny dots. ”You will address me as such.”

“You could be the queen of fucking France for all I care, kiddo, but that’s not going to get Magic Fighter Punchy Punch shot any quicker, now is it, sweet cheeks? I got three kids and a gimp in the basement to get home to here. Now get your tits on the stage and for chrissakes keep the blood off your damn costume, you amateur!”

Maowyn opened her beak and made a noise like a tow truck ramming into a radiator. “I WILL NOT BE SPOKEN TO AS- squawk!

Gaurinn’s electricity rippled down the length of her back, neon sparks spitting out from her blood-matted feathers. “You wait, worm,” she whispered to him as she stalked down the length of the set, tearing her props from the quaking hands of the surviving costume department, “You wait until I tear us apart. You’re going to pray to me that I grant you the mercy to only face hell.”

Re: The Glorious Championship! [S3G5] [Round 4: GBN2
Originally posted on MSPA by Agent1022.

See the glowing web of lights flowing, streaking, spinning through the cosmic, virtual void; particles and antiparticles form from the quantum foam and in a neverending folk dance - perhaps the Morris - partners are swept from one another and brought into happy new arrangements, to be herded into little meson gates, to form pictures, words, prophylactic speech and political jargon. Talk shows and game shows and talent shows and the show must go on, and so it does; see the web cluster in corners and in the center stage, since the world must all see me, the star! Everyone wants to be a motherfucking DJ, but who sees the man with the music when the girl is on the pole? Hedonism? Fuck yes, hedonism.

See this cluster! Glowing bright white, a perpetual supernova spewing a spiderweb of fibers across the universes, broadcasting forever and ever. See the delightful programs spewing from the Grand Battle Network 2: Not Affiliated With The Network, not affiliated with the Network, of course, which is a much more serious black-and-ochre set underneath the brightly-advertised strong strings of information, commercials, infomercials, (commation? Don’t be silly, advertisements don’t contain any data. Bitless, but not biteless. Those things will eat your life and your credit if you let them).

See the sprawling megaplex everywhere and nowhere! See the crawling workers, building the megaliths of information technology on meager lifts and raises, both in wages and in life - move on, move on, they’re not important. They’ll never be important. Instead see the inside of the complex, so complex, that maintenance has never seen management. See the offices where the 4-Fs ply their no valued vocation, to create the greatest resource of all - entertainment!

“Production studio.”

“Yeah, we’ve got some kind of...magnetic anomaly all up in our systems? It’s messing with our feed.”

“You shielded?”

“Well, n-no, we haven’t-”

“Not my problem, then.” *click*


The robotic gameshow host looked disheveled. Everyone in the studio looked disheveled.

“Question...1,307...which piston-engined aircraft, manufactured by the Grumman Aerospace Corporation, achieved the fastest time-to-climb record in history until the advent of jet-engined aeroplanes?”

Nancy Little rubbed red-rimmed eyes, elbows rested on the narrow strip of podium surface not occupied by typewriter. “Haven’t we been at this a while?” She stifled a yawn. “I’m no bearcat, I won’t be snappin’ atcha, but-”

Six’s proclamation of <font color="#00FF00">“BEARCAT. CORRECT.” was interrupted by a sudden furious clacking from the podium. And furious was definitely the right word.


The angry keys hesitated for a second. A heat haze wafted around the paper, browning the letters slightly. Then with a slow click, the CAPS LOCK key disengaged, and the typebars finished the message with melancholy strokes.

things used to happen the way I wanted them to.</font></span>

And then AMP burst through the studio doors, magnetic flurries etching static into every screen and burning noise into what was once digital meaning. A few monitors detached themselves and joined the cloud computer's computational throng, even as anguished screams filled the studio - some cut off abruptly by flying screens. Technicians frantically gathered up tapes and hard drives, fruitlessly shielding them with their bodies as they ran from the great white spot of interference. Hard to say who did more damage.

“THIS IS A BROADCAST AREA. WE ARE CURRENTLY ON AIR. YOU ARE," Six’s sawblade whined, whirling in time with the magnetic maelstrom churning before the stage, "INTERRUPTING THE PROGRAM.”

Interface had a lot to say about common politeness, not bursting into places, especially apologizing to that nice deadly-looking robot that looks like it can cut right through our core, all that rot. Protocols opted to run, in bits and parts, an program that would convey the expression of mute, silent horror. Database blanked out her databanks theatrically for a moment, but quickly reactivated them when she recognized something through an ancillary camera.

“Etiyr? Etiyr!” The cloud of metal surged right through the spinning sawblade, almost tearing it off in the process, not to mention badly clouding the Gamehost’s lens. “It’s me! AMP! Remember me?”

<font color="#FFFFFF">And then Etiyr jammed. Jammed. He hadn’t ever jammed once since he’d been a typewriter - but there was always a first, especially one appropriate to the amount of drink-spewing shock and hatred he was feeling now. A few typebar hammerings produced an especially heavy


on the paper before they popped back into the typewheel with a final ‘clunk’.

Says it all, really.


It was a break. The GBN2® broadcast ‘24-7’: a misleading term, of course, without a planet to rotate upon, but easier and more compact than ‘constantly’. Bits, and broadcasting bits were an expensive commodity and an even more expensive business - so the less information you could actually convey the better. Which meant, of course, like most other broadcast networks out there the GBN2® consisted of talking heads, speculative news, game shows and meaningless violence, the latter two most fortuitously summed up in a single program. All filmed, recorded, edited and sent on its merry way in a never-ending story, beaming out into the multiverse...24-7.

Kracht wasn’t on the beaming waves at the moment, however. That was one of the perks of being the host, which in turn came from having been on his squillionth time around. He sat at a desk that was a miniature copy of the one on the set of Causal News (‘We Report Things After They Happen’), in an office configured to resemble the palatial pan-dimensional accommodations depicted on A Day in the Life of the Ovoid. His crystalline head lay buried in his mineral hands.

He’d failed. Every so often on his time around he’d land in a cameo round. And every time there were newcomers. The battles were still happening.

What had he done wrong? What was he going to do wrong? The mineral’s mind was a glittering turmoil of frustration, aimed towards a future that seemed farther away every day. But would he like it when it came? Would it be as painful as the gnawing hopelessness in his chest that leapt and gouged him whenever he saw someone he hadn’t seen before?

The rock that became a man stepped out into the glitzy halls again, locking his office door behind him. He needed a drink.


“My goodness!” Nancy took another sip of neon pink. “Now we’re really putting on the Ritz with some ‘a this bootleg giggle water, aren’t we now?”

<font color="#C90A0A">The bartender’s vials jingled as he filled a glass from one of myriad taps. “Really now, liquor’s hardly illegal nowadays.” He blinked as he pulled a vial from its strap and emptied it into the fizzing brew. “I don’t drink myself, but I see why people want to.” Carefully, Zimmer picked up the concoction and passed it down the bar. “There is so much we don’t know; what’s a little more to forget?”

You don’t drink. Well, I can’t. I’m thinking you don’t know a whole lot either, and among those things is some fucking tact. The paper slid out of the roller petulant, unforgiving, and ended up soggy as it slowly became part of the bar. <span style="font-family: courier">Ugh. Or how to clean, for that matter.</span>

The shoulder pads on the lieutenant’s leather coat came up in a short shrug as he read the words. “I try to learn. This is where a lot of it happens.” He pointed at a black streak on the bar, a scorch or skid mark nearly invisible against the dark purple. “And that’s what happens when you accidentally start a thermite reaction. Don’t ask how. And that reminds me...” Carefully, he plucked a tin cup from the hovering morass of shrapnel floating above a bar stool and looked, interested, at its contents.

“I’m sorry, Lieutenant...” AMP’s core glowed red as it always did, only now it had a tinge of embarrassment in it. “It just sort of happened...D-database says it’s because of ferromagnetism - oops!” With a sound just like rain, the iron filings in the cup disengaged themselves from their receptacle and floated, forming intricate patterns, in AMP’s magnetic whorls and eddies.

“Beautiful.” Zimmer looked into the swirling grey-red flecks. “Glory to His works, sing praises to His wonders-”

NO. FUCK NO. You’re one of those. Etiyr rolled back a couple spaces and bolded the last word, each strike of the typebars an imaginary blow to the holy man’s head. Unfortunately, they remained figmentary fantasies.

“Interesting, little typewriter. One of those?”

If the typewriter could hiss, spit venom, spew smoke or ooze oil, it would have. But alas, Etiyr lacked vocal cords, poison sacs and smoke bombs, or even the liter of lubricant it would have been needed to make it all worthwhile. So all the venom he put into his words, as per usual. Priests. Monks, divine alchemists. Holy men. The bell rang and the carriage slid back with a force that knocked Nancy’s drink over (cleanly into another pristine, empty glass that had been set down there just before, quite by chance. The falling one didn’t shatter, either.) <span style="font-family: courier">Holier-than-thou men, more like. Man of fucking God, aren’t you? Like to jump up there into the heavens on your happy prayer trips and tell Him to bend over?</span>

Nancy tried to twist her mind into the general area the typewriter had wandered - no, ran headlong towards and dived - into, and wished she hadn’t. “Etiyr! Your language!”

I am using language, Mrs Grundy!

“You take that back right now, you horrid little thing!”

A moment of silence in the bar. Kracht took the opportunity to slip in unnoticed, while all eyes were on the woman, the barkeep, the typewriter and the...floating shrapnel...thing. It wouldn’t do to draw attention to himself.

He noted with a deep, useless sigh that he hadn’t seen any of those contestants before either.

Seamlessly, the typebars switched gears; the change was from angry paper-pounding to a soft, apologetic and not quite sincere impressionism. CLACK to click. Of course. I was out of line. I shouldn’t have called you an excessively priggish and tight-laced lady of the 1920s, nor thought about going on to expand on your plain Jane looks in exhausting detail. Can you ever forgive me?


And here I thought sarcasm hadn’t been invented until the 1950s. The typebars eased back a little, reeling back the paper. <span style="font-family: courier">@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ there, all obliterated. Taken back. How about now?</span>

Carefully, Nancy Little hopped off the barstool, glare burning on the typewriter’s keys - daring another letter to appear on the page. “Well, I shan’t be taking you.”


“Good-bye now.” With barely a ruffle, the secretary was gone.</font>

CCCCCCCCCCCoh fuck it all. Etiyr sulked for a full half-second before bringing his not inconsiderable hatred to another target. <span style="font-family: courier">No. Not fuck it. Holy man. This is YOUR fucking fault. All you believers are the same; you can’t fucking shut up about how great your God is, how beauteous, how fucking far you can see up his left nostril when you talk up your own ass, but you. You’re twice as bad as any of them, ascribing science as fucking miracles - what kind of savage are you? No wait, don’t answer that. And another thing...</span>

“Oh hello, Kracht,” Zimmer talked over the angry dinging, “we don’t normally see you this time of day. Usually you show up on Kaja’s shift...?”

“Well, you know. I needed a change of scenery.” The mineral settled onto the recently-vacated barstool.

Almost immediately, a cloud of shrapnel descended to glowing green head-height. “I’m sorry, Interface says I shouldn’t be rude - do you drink?

He laughed. He shouldn’t have, seeing the cloud contract in shame, but it escaped him anyway - a little crystalline chuckle. “I’m not here to drink. I take solace in stories, not ethanol.” Sitting back, he looked into the red core amidst the floating metal. “Why don’t you tell me one?”

Databases started to look through the databanks, she really did. But when AMP launched into his own story - well, let’s just say she wasn’t surprised. Neither were Interface nor Protocols, who would have buried their faces in their hands had they either feature.

“Well, one day, I woke up! And there was so much happening! And then I found some eyes,” he wiggled the myriad cameras on his person, “and other things, and then there were these scientists who told me I was from space!”

<font color="#80BF00">“Oh?” Kracht leaned forward. “Well, that’s interesting. I’m from space too.”

Really? Maybe you know - do you know what I’m for?”

“Ah, I’m sorry...”

“AMP. No, that’s okay! Anyway there was this fat genie all of a sudden! Oop, sorry. Interface said that wasn’t polite. But there was a genie, and he was all ‘LEEEET’S GET THIS BATTLE STARTEEEEEEEDDDD’ and then we were all in a restaurant! I think there were pancakes. Oh. Interface says I should ask your name.”

The mineral looked on in amusement. “Kracht.”

“Okay Kracht! So then after there was a rainforest, absolutely spitting with trees! It - didn’t actually spit trees. Actually, it might have. But then I realized my purpose! My purpose was,” Pause, for dramatic effect - “Lumberjacking! That’s not right. L-lumber - being a lumberjack. But it didn’t work out since Protocols told me that was stupid. Also I couldn’t grow a beard. I tried!”

He stopped for a moment as Kracht attempted to unbend himself.</font>

“No, no, go on...ahaha-” Halfway through a laugh, with an abruptness that left an aural afterimage in the muggy barroom air, he stopped as well. The reason being two unpleasantly hammy hands, one on each green shoulder, each belonging to an equally hammy bodyguard in suits so badly-fitting that they could only have been designed to be badly-fitting on another set of bodyguards altogether.

The Personage they guarded, however, was dressed well. Perfectly, in fact. Not a thread out of place. Dust motes would rather burst into flames than land on the black fabric of that jacket. “Mister Kracht, sir?” its clipped and manicured voice intoned, “You have a meeting with the Board.”

AMP looked at the trio leading his audience away, at the still-furiously clacking typewriter on the bar, back at the departing motley crew and came to a decision.


<font color="#FFFFFF">And as an unholy sort of personage myself I don’t deny the existence of supernatural occurrences but there’s fucking science and then there’s fucking things that aren’t science - what the fuck? Where are we - oh shit, you’ve got me.

“I think Kracht’s in trouble, Etiyr!”

Who? Wait. No. I don’t need to know. And the worst fucking thing that could happen to me right now would be for you to answer me. It’d be so bad, so utterly fucking horrible if you did that, that everything we ever did after that would be just tainted with the incredible horrendousness you’re about to let go oh no no no no NO NO</font>

“-well, he’s this really interesting guy! And he said he liked to hear stories so I started telling him about how I started existing and...”[/COLOR]

NO SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP Sheet after sheet of paper rolled from the typewriter’s platen, leaving a trail of invective behind the two.


“I’m afraid, Mister Kracht, that the Grand Battle Network 2: Not Affiliated With The Network is in regulatory non-compliance with the standards set by the Ellsworth Conglomerate, majority shareholder.”

The suit, whose name was Suit, twiddled a knob on the communications console in front of him. On cue, the face of Lionel Ellsworth filled the big screen before Kracht’s desk, replacing that of the Network Board Summary Representative. Underneath Ellsworth’s highly photogenic profile appeared ‘Lionel Ellsworth: Legitimate Businessman, Notable Holdings: Ellsworth Conglomerate, MediaPolitics LLC, Vendofacture UnLtd. & Associates, Trust & Price Awl Manufacturers, Securiofter Personal Professional Guardforce Limited, Member of the Council of First Contact Ambassadors.’

“Megasenator - Megasenator! Listen, for the sake of our own self-respect as an organization, sir, we cannot allow Envoy to use this ‘tap-dance’ routine - are we on? Sorry. One second, gentlemen, ladies.” He turned the camera towards him, panning briefly over a littered obsidian table and the argument behind him. “Kracht - Kracht. Listen to me for a second.”

“Mr. Ellsworth, sir.”

“Now, we at the Conglomerate made you a host, and that means more than just presenting - you know all that, it’s in your contract. But cutting to the chase, it means we’ve got a problem. Especially regarding quarterly returns-”


“For crying out loud.” His face froze and retreated into a thumbnail on the display.

“Mister Wimblestaten? Mister Wimblestaten would like to continue.” Another twiddle, and Wimblestaten's iconically aristocrastic cheeks poked into the camera. Subtitle: ‘Jonathon Wimblestaten, CFO: MediaPolitics LLC, GBN2: Not Affiliated With The Network Board Chairman, Member of the Council of First Contact Ambassadors, Wimblestaten Estate Hereditary Benefactor, Head Director: Sociological Relation Analyses Incorporated, Notable Holdings: OPI Investment, Cline Transport Industries, Thingamabob Manufacturing, Anti-Trust Investigation Committee Trust and others.’ That inconspicuous last term held more weight than all the others - every so often, the corner of a phone or clipboard would project into camera view, followed by the shipping magnate cursing and pushing it away. Jonathon Wimblestaten was a busy man.

“What we’re trying to say, Kracht, is that the GBN2: Not Affliated With The Network gave you certain responsibilities when we made you host - Damn. Not now, Maddie - Most of them are regulatory principles brought down from the GBN2: Not Affiliated - all right, you know what I mean, I don’t have to say it every time - well, I do, yes, Suit, I do under the Who-gives-a-fuck Media Convention of Whenever-the-hell-that-was, but I am talking! I am talking to Kracht here - Bloody Christ -” He detached a slim screen from the phone poking into the screen, scrawled on it with a stylus, and tossed it back - “Most of these responsibilities are laid out in your contract and the regulatory principles of the GBN2 - Suit, I don’t give a flying fuck, all right? - and its parent advisory MediaPolitics LLC. Maddie, can you answer that and tell them I’m in a bloody meeting?”

Kracht took advantage of the temporary lull. “Mr. Wimblestaten? I hate to interrupt, but if we are to discuss contract matters, might I assume that discretion is of value?”

Wimblestaten, muttering curses into a tablet, waved a hand exasperatedly and gave the tiniest of nods.

“Then may I suggest-”

“Suit, bring in the guards. No sense in letting word get out that the host met with the Board with bodyguards looking menacing outside the door.”

“Mister Wimblestaten, sir - are you sure? We’d have to get some supplementary NDAs and-”

“All right, all right, don’t bother.” Pause. “Just-just send them to the bars or something, all right? Give them the hour off or something. Security systems - you have security?”

The mineral nodded. “State-of-the-art. Cameras, weight sensors, Taser beam, the works.”

“Taser beam? Christ. Hear that, Suit? You shouldn’t even have had them standing there in the first place. One misstep - Boom! - fried guard.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Now get them out of there, and you bugger off too. I think Kracht can handle a communications terminal.”

“Yes sir.”


The watchers watched them go.

“Do you think it’s safe now, Etiyr?”

<font color="#FFFFFF">Do I look like. I give. A fuck. You fucking floating magnetic tilt-a-whirl.

“All righty, then! I’m sure you won’t mind if I head down to that door, then! And if it turns out Kracht only likes me and not you, I won’t mind leaving you behind~!” An uncharacteristic tinge of twee, and a not inconsiderable taint of menace, contaminated the happy little core’s voice as he finished.

But Etiyr was of the demonic persuasion, and a demon who can’t tell hidden malice doesn’t last long on the glitzy streets and dark alleys of hell. And I’m equally sure that Kracht is going to take to a useful typewriter such as myself much more than he is going to take to the interfering oaf who’s been trashing his studios all day, hmm? Yet behind the patronizing words Etiyr wondered: could the idiot could be sneakier than his childish antics let on?

“Oooh!” AMP squealed and floated closer to the ceiling. “More eyes!” And a dozen-odd security cameras, hidden and obvious, uprooted themselves from their niches and joined AMP’s sensory throng.

Okay, probably not. But still...

But still, in fact, nothing - nothing that wasn’t par for the course when it came to AMP’s deteriorating brain.</font>

Neither party noticed the tiny camera sliding under the door, held suspended in midair by an entity completely ignoring the weight sensors set in the corridor, and to whom a Taser beam would be taken as complimentary recharging.


Nancy pushed past a bunch of bodyguards at the bar. She didn’t know why she hadn’t taken up drinking earlier. Here it was, discounts for employees, hooch just for consumption and no more worries about being caught in a speakeasy, and somehow she’d expected life to be so much more colorful, even when she was on game shows that she constantly won and gave rather unsuccessful educational kid’s programs (her maths lesson had to be called off when she tried to demonstrate that it wasn’t statistically likely to flip a thousand heads in a row). She didn’t know why she came back to this one, either. Perhaps she thought - oh, who was she kidding, of course she thought - that the little Woodstock would still be there.

Had that rude little thing actually brought some life into her life?

Well, it wasn’t there. So she’d decided there were other ways to bring life into her life, and perhaps find some reasons as to why Prohibition was a stupid idea.

She was on her second drink when she noticed the paper trail.


“We have a certain statute of standards laid out, Kracht.”

“Yes, Mr. Wimblestaten - but -”

Somewhere, a thread of patience snapped. “But what, Kracht?! We’re busy men! We don’t have time for protestations and bargaining!” Lowering his phone and his voice, he leaned into the camera. “If I listened to the union every time they tried to argue for higher wages, I’d be bankrupt, Kracht, and so would half the people round this table!”


“Lionel, no. You know it as well as we do.”

“Johnny, listen-”

“All right, why don’t you try talking to him, majority shareholder?” Wimblestaten’s face vanished from the screen, replaced once again with Lionel Ellsworth’s.

Kracht sighed a crystalline sigh. “Mr. Ellsworth.”

Ellsworth returned the sigh, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “Do you understand why we have to start censoring your output, Kracht? Beyond basic decency concerns, I mean.”

“Your,” and here, he would have spat if he could, “ideological concerns?”

“There’s a storm brewing, Kracht. War on the horizon. The Network’s humming, Kracht, you can cut the tension with a knife. We can’t risk spreading panic.”

“This runs contrary to - to everything broadcasting stands for.”

“I know it does, Kracht. But we’ve got to clamp down. We need to watch what we say. Just another layer of review, Kracht. It’s not much.”

“I don’t suppose it makes much difference what I decide.”

“We aren’t asking, Kracht. We at the Ellsworth Conglomerate-”

A crystal fist dented the desk. “Cut that shit out, Lionel.”

“Kracht - for what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”

“It’s worth nothing.”

“It’s worth noting.”

“I can’t enforce this.”

“You don’t have to. We’ll send troops if necessary.”

“You don’t have the authority.”


Adrian Marcus (‘Director: Aurelis Arms & Weapons Manufacturing, Marcsman Combat Materiel Shipping, Wartime Preparations Investment Fund, Notable Holdings: Assets in Perpetuity Incorporated, Institute for the Weaponization of Uae Metal, The United Nations Military and Constituent Holdings, Member of the Council of First Contact Ambassadors’) looked up from the other side of the table, and nodded at Ellsworth.

“We do now.”


“Don’t make us use them, Kracht. This conversation is over.”

The camera vanished back under the door.

See now the establishment as the hapless sadnesses move on; see the hatred blooming and rivalry consuming any semblance of order in the pristine filth of acting battlers. See Miss Little as she rises to her feet, following invective-lined sheets of neatly typed frustration and rage. See the mineral host bury his head in his hands once more, the rock whose name was durability, and force, worn down and himself forced into the end of liberty. See the strange motes of rebellion growing already in the borrowed heart and mind of its living embodiment, the very thing the corporates wish to kill.

See the clouds on the horizon, storms arising, company resizing, reevaluating our goals, our souls sold to the highest bidder you kidder, psyche! But we were serious; for a pallor now lies across the visage of the broadcasting world you hold so dear, for fear that they may turn and bite us all and consume us! See now their grip tighten on their prize, see the rebels rise...

See the radiating lines from the Grand Battle Network 2: Not Affiliated With The Network stutter and die, one by one. Already, the review process has begun.

Are you not entertained?!