Dressing room spy tube

Easily find out an exact number of days between any two dates with our online calculator. Toggle navigation Toggle search box Calendar-12.com 12 months a year, day by day. Calendars 2020 Calendar 2021 Calendar 2022 Calendar October 2020; November 2020; December 2020; Printable 2020 Printable Calendar ... The days of the week are something that are in constant use within our language and conversation. But what many do not know is there are secret hidden meanings and messages embedded within many of the word we use giving them a far more significant and symbolic meaning than that of just a simple sound. The United States has now seen its highest number of new COVID-19 cases since July, with more than 69,000 new cases reported nationwide on Friday. In Wisconsin, one in every four coronavirus tests ... There's a day hidden between the days. Close. 6. Posted by 2 hours ago. There's a day hidden between the days. I’ve stumbled upon something that concerns everyone, something so disturbing that falling asleep will forever remain a terrifying ordeal to anyone who knows about it. It’s all around us – an omnipresent horror – and yet it’s ... Help and Example Use. Some typical uses for the Date Calculators; API Services for Developers. API for Business Date Calculators; Date Calculators. Time and Date Duration – Calculate duration, with both date and time included; Date Calculator – Add or subtract days, months, years; Weekday Calculator – What Day is this Date?; Birthday Calculator – Find when you are 1 billion seconds old The Days Inbetween is a low budget, hand-held indie about a group of young Londoners who are trying to steer their lives toward meaning and happiness through a maze of low paying jobs, broken relationships and family tragedy. Confined by a flagging economy and by personal demons, there is every reason to expect hopelessness and despair. The first three days are written the same way as the next three. So if we let the language speak to us, all six days were ordinary earth days. . . . The sun is not needed for day and night. What is needed is light and a rotating earth. On the first day of creation, God made light (Genesis 1:3). The Roman weekday ‘dies Veneris’ was named after the planet Venus, which in turn took its name from Venus, goddess of love. Detail from Venus and Mars, Botticelli, tempera on panel (c1483). Lyric / Motion graphics video for the song "In Between Days". This song is owned by "The Cure" and its representatives. Want me to animate a song? Leave your... Read a sampler of poems from Brenda Hillman's Extra Hidden Life, among the Days (Wesleyan University Press, 2018). - The Academy of American Poets is the largest membership-based nonprofit organization fostering an appreciation for contemporary poetry and supporting American poets.

2020.10.18 19:28 Odd_directions Dressing room spy tube

I’ve stumbled upon something that concerns everyone, something so disturbing that falling asleep will forever remain a terrifying ordeal to anyone who knows about it. It’s all around us – an omnipresent horror – and yet it’s nowhere to be seen. I’m not here to explain it – I’ll leave that to someone more suited for the task – I’m only here as an involuntary witness.
My awakening, which is what I’ve come to call it, happened yesterday. I was homesick in my small New York apartment. I was on the couch in my underwear watching the news, drowning in tissues and eating cereal even though it was dinner time. It was a typical sick day for a bachelor in his thirties, that is: completely uninteresting. That’s partly why this is so difficult to explain. There weren’t any warning signs, not even an uneasy feeling. I went to bed early, expecting the next day to be a repetition of the day that had passed, and I was lulled to sleep by the ambient sound of the New York traffic outside my window.
Startled, I woke up to the unusual sound of silence. My heart was beating rapidly as if I had already noticed that something was wrong. A bluish, electric light shone through the window like a lightning bolt had been frozen in time outside. I looked at the alarm clock on my nightstand. It said it was midnight, but I soon realized that the clock had stopped.
I felt a bit feverish, but I was clearheaded enough to tell the difference between a dream and reality. The light from outside, combined with the eerie silence, confused me. I got out of bed with a groan. First, I sat on the ledge and tried to collect my thoughts, and then I walked up to the window to see where the light came from.
I expected a huge spotlight pointed at my window, but that wasn’t it. The strange voltaic light covered the entire city, as far as I could see, but even though the light was everywhere it didn’t seem to come from anywhere. Down on the street, I saw that every car had stopped and been abandoned with their doors still open. Did I miss an emergency alert? I couldn’t fathom what was going on.
Two people, a man and a woman, stood on the sidewalk. I was relieved to see them, but after watching them for a while I realized that they weren’t doing anything. They were just standing there, like mannequins. I turned on the TV to see if there were any news about what was going on. They were sending live, which was expected given that the news channel was broadcasting all the time, but the news anchor wasn’t saying anything. She stared into the camera without blinking a single time. The blue-white light from the outside illuminated the right side of her face.
From the left, something strange entered the frame. It looked like a tentacle, but it didn’t have any texture. It was pitch black. It slowly moved toward the woman’s head. Its movements were fluid, almost as if it wasn’t affected by gravity. Even though I knew that the woman was sitting in a studio several miles away, it still felt uncomfortable being stared down by her while that thing approached her from the side. I flinched when the tentacle effortlessly, without causing any physical damage, entered the side of her head. It just phased through it. A shadow from something large nearby fell over her, and then she let out a senseless scream of horror.
I immediately turned the television off, almost dropping the remote. What the fuck was that? My mind was in a disarray. I looked out the window again. The people were still standing there, motionless. I noticed a few more people inside the cars. The traffic lights had stopped, just as my clock. It was as if everything had been frozen in place.
I stepped away from the window. A shadow had appeared on the ground. I carefully peeked outside to see what cast it. It slowly moved into view. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a huge, squid-like being floating above the ground. I recognized its tentacles from what I had seen on the television. It approached the people standing on the sidewalk and slid two of its tentacles into their heads. They didn’t seem to notice anything of what was going on.
This time, there wasn’t any screaming. The couple just took off all of their clothes and walked away, as if controlled by the being floating above them. I tried to see where it was taking them, but they walked out of view. Next, another black squid appeared. It phased through a building, just as if it didn’t exist on the same plane of existence as ordinary matter. This made me feel unsafe. It meant that there was no way to keep them outside. They could just float into my apartment at any moment.
I sat down with my back against the wall. My thoughts touched upon every possibility I could think of, everything from a sudden onset of insanity to an alien invasion. I crawled into my bathroom and lay down in the tub. It wasn’t safer there, of course, it just felt that way. I couldn’t tell for how long I stayed there, but it must have been for at least half a day. After that, in a blink of an eye, the strange light shining into my apartment disappeared and the sounds of the city returned. I picked up my phone and looked at the display until it finally showed one minute past midnight.
Tired, I climbed up from the tub and looked out the window. Everything seemed to be back to normal. The cars drove by like normal. No one had noticed the mysterious twelve hours that I had just experienced. Except… The couple that had been led away by those beings weren’t there anymore. They never returned.
As you can probably understand, it felt as if my entire world had fallen apart. I quickly put on a pair of sweatpants together with my stained robe and ran outside. People stared at me condescendingly as soon as I exited the building. I didn’t care. I needed answers. Someone must have seen the couple vanish from the sidewalk, I thought. I ran up to a cab and approached the driver.
“Excuse me!” I yelled even though I tried to speak normally. “I live next door and, um–“ The driver looked at me as if I was a meth addict. I didn’t blame him. “Did you see the couple that stood right there?” I pointed at the spot where they had been standing. “I saw them from the window, but–”
“I didn’t see any couple,” the man said.
“Are you sure because–“
“Dude,” he said. “I’ve been staring in that direction since I parked here and I didn’t see any goddamn couple.”
“But they took off their clothes!” I said. “How could you have missed that? Look, the clothes are right there!”
I picked them up from the ground and showed him.
“Hey, dude, don’t bring that trash into my car!”
“But they were right there!” I yelled. “Hey, you there!” I turned to a lady waiting for the bus on the other side of the street. “Did you see the couple standing over there?”
The woman shook her head dismissively.
“Freaking crackhead,” I heard the driver whisper before he drove away from me.
I felt stupid, even though I was sure I was right. The clothes on the ground proved it. I saw that couple take them off. If that was a hallucination, I thought, the clothes wouldn’t be here now. I returned to my apartment and turned on the television again. The news anchor reported on the news, as usual, oblivious of the tentacle in her head that had made her scream earlier.
I sat down on my bed and tried to make sense of what had happened, but I was too tired to think. I hadn’t slept for an entire day worth of time, and yet no time had passed at all. The only thought I managed to produce before I nodded off was that I had been stuck on some kind of surreal crossroads between this day and the day before. I had no idea if that was a proper way to describe it, it was merely how it felt. After I woke up – in the middle of the day – my experience from midnight lingered in my mind.
I managed to think about it a bit more clearly now that I had slept, although I still couldn’t make heads or tails of it. It was just as if the entire world had been put on pause during those hours, allowing those horrible creatures to do whatever they liked to us. I left my apartment to get some air. The woman’s dress was still laying on the street, blowing across the sidewalk with the wind. Did anyone miss her, or had she disappeared from everyone’s mind just as she had disappeared from the world? Questions like that bounced around in my head. I stopped at a street corner and looked up at the sun with squinted eyes. This was something more than even the most far-out theory I could imagine, such as an alien invasion. It concerned reality itself. How else could the entire sky have turned into that strange, electric blue? The normal sky felt off somehow now. It didn’t look any different, but after having seen what I had seen earlier I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was nothing more than a picture projected on a vast screen. It left me with the claustrophobic feeling of being trapped between the walls of a house without an outside. It made me dizzy. I couldn’t stay outside, because it didn’t feel like outside anymore, and I ran home again.
Later, as the watch on my wall slowly approached midnight, I considered taking some sleeping pills. I didn’t want to wake up in the same, strange in-between–day as before. In the end, however, I decided against it. I needed to know if it would happen again or if it had just been a one-time thing. So I sat at my kitchen table, anxiously waiting for the final hour of the day to strike.
The blue light flooded my apartment the same instant the watch on the wall stopped ticking. It wasn’t over. Just moments later, one of the enormous, floating squids passed through my living room. I froze in my place as I watched it exit through the wall on the other side of the room. This can’t be happening, this can’t be happening, this can’t be happening. I wanted to escape, to run away, but there was nowhere to go. What if they saw that I had broken free from the state of trance that everyone else seemed to be in. Everyone else? I sneaked over to my computer and watched a live broadcast on the BBC. The same thing was happening there. A man had stopped moving in the middle of an interview, but he was still talking. It wasn’t English, though, but some kind of gibberish. Tower Bridge was visible behind him, and several creatures soared in the air around it. Just to make sure this was a truly global phenomenon, I went to YouTube and clicked my way to a live stream of the Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo. All the cars had stopped, and the black cabs reflected the buzzing, blue sky. The people either stood perfectly still or walked around in strange patterns. One of them laughed hysterically.
A noise came from upstairs. I quickly closed the laptop, afraid that someone might have heard me. It sounded like a struggle. A frail, old lady lived in the apartment above. I couldn’t imagine her being capable of making those sounds. Worrying that she might be in trouble, and also because I wanted some answers, I decided to sneak up to her floor and see what was going on. The hallway outside my front door was silent and vaguely illuminated by the strange light from the outside. Ascending the stairs, the atmosphere got more and more electric. I slowly approached my neighbor’s door and put my ear to it. Her apartment was quiet now. I looked through the letter slot. At first, I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, but then a flickering shadow on the floor caught my attention. I stood outside the door for a few moments, hesitating, before I decided to try and open it. Perhaps my neighbor was awake just like me, I thought as I slowly turned the doorknob.
“R-ruth?” I whispered.
I didn’t see her, just the strange flickering shadow on top of the Persian carpet. Then I looked up at the ceiling. Ruth, completely undressed, was spinning around at ludicrous speed in the middle of the air. For a few seconds, I just stood there and looked at her in disbelief, but then – which was common for her when she walked down the hallways with her walker – she urinated. The entire room was sprayed with her piss, and some of it landed on my face. I quickly withdrew from there and ran back to my room where I made sure to clean myself.
I looked out the window. Was I truly the only one awake, able to see what was going on? I picked up my phone and tried to make a phone call to a friend. I didn’t expect it to work, but after about five ringtones he picked up. I was overwhelmed with relief.
“Yes?” he said.
“Hey, man, it’s me–“ I said, but was interrupted.
“Yes?” he repeated.
“Are you seeing what is going on?! I mean, it’s like the entire world has turned into–“
“I’m a forester, not a historian.”
“E-excuse me?” I said, feeling my panic coming back.
“Following the direction of the screaming, you’ll find the big, black moose’s head at the entrance of a tunnel.“
He was clearly not himself.
“Come on man, snap out of it!” I said, holding back my tears.
“Please return me to my original form... please.”
He sounded less robotic now. Did I somehow wake him up?
“You there, man?!” I yelled. “Stay with me, okay, I’ll–“
“The muscles of my limbs are stretched to their limits.”
He was sobbing now, whispering the words into his phone.
“Are you hurt, man?” I asked. “Did one of those creatures–“
“As I am dying, my internal organs shift inside…”
He was crying now.
“Shit, man…” I didn’t know what more to say. “Listen, don’t go anywhere.” I looked around for my car keys. “I’m coming to–“
“I can feel them shifting in my flesh, and the sheer mass of it is so great that it shakes the grounds as I stagger and tremble to my feet.” I listened to him while I grabbed my car keys from the cabinet in the living room. “If only there were a way I could stop the things in front of me!”
“W-what,” I said, “what’s in front of you?!”
“The smell of blood surrounds me.” He kept talking as if he didn’t hear me. “Blood and death. It’s everywhere. Bodies of the living are coagulated and blood gushes from their wounds.”
“Are you at your place?”
“Yes?”
The dullness in his voice was back.
“Stay with me, man!” I said. “Don’t–“
“I’m a forester, not a historian.”
“What does that mean?!” I yelled. “I’m coming!”
The only response I got to that was a petrifying scream, and then the phone call ended abruptly.
Outside, I immediately noticed the lack of weather. There weren’t any winds, and the temperature was the same as inside. The pigeons on the sidewalk had stopped, just as if someone had put them on pause, and a little boy stood in the street corner making jazz-hands over and over and over again while blood dripped from his nose. I didn’t know how to blend in since everyone was acting erratically, so I didn’t even try. I just ran to my car, put the key in, and started the engine. But before I could drive away, the little boy jumped in front of the car – still making jazz-hands – and blocked my way. More people gathered around the car, mumbling nonsensical words.
I climbed on top of my car through the sunroof. An airplane was frozen in the middle of the sky and one of the horrifying creatures was leading one of the passengers outside with its tentacles. I had nowhere to go. The people weren’t attacking me, but they made sure I couldn’t escape from where I was. One of the creatures came floating by, casting its enormous shadow on the street. Did they know about me? I stood on my car's roof, yelling at the people to wake up until my voice failed me.
“Why aren’t you listening to me?!”
“You’re crazy!” someone yelled back.
“That’s why you’re in my room!” a little girl yelled. “Get the fuck out.” She laughed. “Also, this is why I’m still here, doing this shit.”
“But you’re not saying anything!” an old man yelled at me.
I sat down and put my face in my hands, giving up my attempts at reaching out to the people. It’s hard to say how much time passed while I sat on the roof of my car like this, but I eventually stood up again – ready to jump over the crowd.
One of the creatures ominously appeared from beneath the ground, just a few hundred meters away from me. It floated toward me, reaching for me with its enormous tentacles. Although it was moving relatively slow, I would never have been able to run away from it on foot. Its ability to phase through anything made that impossible. The closer it came, the more electricity filled the air. My hair stood on end, positive charges rising through me. I climbed into my car again, turned on the engine again, and – acting purely out of desperation – put it into reverse gear and hit the pedal as hard as I could.
The crowd dispersed quickly, but I still felt a small bump under my tires. I didn’t have time to think, I wasn’t going to let that beast penetrate my brain with one of its hideous tentacles. I swung the car around and zigzagged between the cars in front of me until I reached a relatively empty pedestrian street where I hit the gas as hard as I could. Two of the creatures phased through the buildings next to me, and several more descended toward me from the sky.
I drove around for a long time, hopelessly trying to escape the monsters that relentlessly chased after me. I only stopped once to push a stroller off the sidewalk I was driving on. The baby inside it was wailing, but no sound came from its mouth.
I drove past individuals partaking in the most bizarre behaviors I had ever seen in my entire life, the least weird being a young woman in a business suit having sex with an old taxi driver on the hood of his car. From there, it only got worse; a middle-aged man was binge eating all the fecal matter he could find inside a dog park, a two-hundred-pound man was standing on his head with an eerie grin on his face, a teenage girl was holding her own eye – still connected to her skull – in her hand, watching herself sing a lullaby.
Manhattan, as well as the rest of the world, had turned into a living nightmare under the oppressive presence of the black, giant squids. I thought about the people around me, and everyone else as well. Tomorrow, they wouldn’t remember anything. To them, it would be just as if it had never happened at all. But it did happen, that guy really did fill his mouth with dog turds and that lady really did have sex with that old man… For how long has this been going on? I had no answers to my questions, just more questions. Have I been acting like this between the days as well, perhaps for my entire life? The thought of it made my stomach turn.
I took a sharp turn onto Park Row, aiming for the Brooklyn Bridge. When I got there, I stopped in the middle of it. Several creatures approached me from both ends. There was nowhere for me to go. The East River reflected the galvanizing sky and turned into a shining, white silver. I walked over to the edge and grabbed the railing with both hands. For the first time in my life, I contemplated ending it all.
A little girl came up to me. For a moment, I thought she would try to comfort me, but all she said was:
“As a symbol of Farölk, they used to put me on my knees before I was old enough to drink wine so that I could be taught the true form of Farölk.”
Listing to her nonsense, I began climbing the railing.
“The ancient gods have made it so that the world is blind to their power.” She didn’t take any breaths while talking, the words just streamed out of her little drooling mouth completely unhindered. “These gods are both power-hungry and charming. Although these malevolent beings are relentless in their goal to rule everything, none are the true monarch of a ravaged world. They are insidious creatures that impose their will on the living and shape their nature, acting as constant tempters in their perceived petty struggles. This is the true danger of these gods. They work, they speak, they spy, they manipulate, they–“
She stopped mid sentenced and returned to the car she had gotten out of. Everyone seemed to be returning to their original positions, spitting out whatever they had put in their mouths and adjusting their clothes. The creatures were almost upon me now, but then – in an instant – the midnight sky came back and the airplanes in the sky shot forward without any need to accelerate, just as if they hadn’t stopped at all… and the creatures vanished just before their tentacles reached me. I climbed down on the sidewalk again and burst into tears. The little girl looked at me from the car, just as if she had never seen me before in her life.
My friend, who lived near Fort Greene Park, opened his door – surprised to see my exhausted face at this late hour. There were no indications of a struggle, he was perfectly fine. I urged him to check his phone. Confused, he picked it up.
“Can you see if you received a phone call from me in the past few hours or so?” I said, hoping there would be some evidence.
“No, there’s nothing–“
“Goddamnit!” I said. “I was hoping–“
“Hey, what’s going on with you?” he said with sympathy in his eyes. “Are you alright?”
“I’m okay, it’s just that… Well, I don’t even know where to begin to be honest.”
“Why don’t you try from the start,” he said and paused the game he had been playing on his Xbox.
I told him everything, albeit a bit incoherently.
“Are you on drugs?!” he said. “That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard, and – trust me – I’ve heard a lot of crazy shit.”
“I didn’t expect you to believe me,” I said. “But during this… this day between the days, I really did call you and you picked up. I really thought I got through to you. You said something about… something about not being a historian, but a forester.”
“Wait, woah!” my friend said, suddenly pale. “What did you just say?” His lower lip trembled with a fear I hadn’t seen in his eyes before. “Did you just say…”
“You kept repeating it: ‘I’m a forester, not a historian’,” I said.
“I-I just… Just now when I was playing video games, I had this déjà vu to a dream I thought I must have forgotten a long time ago. I was talking to someone, and my body was twisted in some macabre way. It was freaky! There was blood everywhere, and I remember saying those exact words: I’m a forester, not a historian.”
“It wasn’t a dream, man!” I said. “It was me, you were talking to me on the phone and you said those words.”
He walked over to the window.
“I don’t see anything out of the ordinary,” he said.
“This isn’t something you would see just by looking through your window,” I said. “It’s completely hidden from the world. You only experience day and night, not what happens in-between!”
I sat down on my friend's sofa and turned on the news. They were reporting from a crime scene.
“Wait, that’s outside my place,” I said. “What’s going on?”
There was a picture of me on the screen, wanted for a hit-and-run. The victim was a little boy. It was the kid making jazz-hands. They displayed a city map, showing the crash location and a red line going from my place to the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge.
“Several police cars were involved in the chase,” the reporter said, “but lost track of the subject after he exited his car on the bridge–“
My friend walked over to me. I quickly turned off the TV before he saw my face on it.
“What was that?” he said.
“N-nothing,” I said. “Just some car accident near my place.”
But it wasn’t nothing. It was them, the creatures, trying to manipulate everyone into doing their bidding. I’m hiding at a McDonalds right now. I have nowhere to go, chased both during the days and in-between them. Nowhere to go except maybe another edge to jump off from
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2020.10.01 19:41 normancrane Dressing room spy tube

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- - - 2025, Pre- I graduated with a degree in one field, found a low paying job in another, got married, worked my way to slightly better pay, wanted to have a child, bought a Beagle named Pillow as a temporary substitute, lived in an apartment overlooking a green garbage bin that was always full of beer cans and pizza boxes, and held my wife, crying, when we found out that we couldn’t have children. Somewhere along the way my parents died and Kurt Schwaller, a physicist from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, proved a grand theory of everything that rather than being based on the vibrations of strings, was based on a property of particles called viscous time force. I never understood the details. To me they lacked imagination. The overriding point, the experts on television told us, was that given enough data and computing power we could now predict the outcome of anything. The effect was that no one wanted to study theoretical physics and everyone wanted to make breakthroughs in data collection systems and biological hardware. Hackers created a version of Linux that ran from DNA. Western Digital released the first working holographic storage drive. The NSA, FSB, BND and other agencies rushed to put their suddenly valuable mass of unprocessed raw spy data to prognostic use. A Chinese bookmaker known only by the nick ##!! wrote a piece of Python code that could predict the outcomes of hockey games. Within a month, the NHL and KHL were scrambling to come up with ways of saving their leagues by making them more unpredictable. They introduced elements of chance: power plays without penalties, a tilting ice surface, fluctuating rules that sometimes allowed for icings and offsides and sometimes not, and, finally, a pre-game lottery by which the names of the players on both teams were put into a pot and randomly drawn into two squads. Given enough variables, the strategy did thwart the code, but the inherent unfairness of the innovations alienated the players, the draft made owners question why they were paying the salaries of superstars who played against them half of the time, and the fans simply stopped paying attention to a league full of teams for which their already dwindling loyalty had bottomed out. Besides, the code was basic. ##!! had room to expand. The KHL folded first, followed by the NHL, and then the other sports leagues, preemptively. They didn’t bother to wait until their own codes were broken. I remember seeing an interview with ##!! while this was still front page news. The reporter, a perpetually smiling big-breasted blonde with blindingly white teeth, asked him if he thought that hockey could be rescued by the creation of roving blue lines that would continually alter the relative sizes of both offensive zones and the neutral zone. ##!! answered that he didn’t know what a blue line was because he’d never watched a hockey game in his life. His voice was cold, objective, and there was something terrifyingly inhuman about the idea that a person with no knowledge of a subject could nevertheless understand it so completely. Content had become a mere input of form.
By 2025, mainstream interest in the theory of everything faded, not because the theory was wrong but because it was too right and too abstract and now there weren’t any young theoretical physicists to help explain it using cute graphics on YouTube. We consumed what we understood and passively accepted the fallout while going on with our daily lives. The people who did understand made money, but for the rest of us the consequences were less than their potential, because even with enough time, memory and microprocessors the most we could know was the what and the when, not the why. For the governments and corporations pouring taxes and tax-free earnings into complex models of world domination, that didn’t matter. They weren’t interested in cause. They were in the business of exploiting certainty to gain power. As long as they could predict lightning, they were satisfied. If they could make it, all the better. Away from the cutting edge, however, like ants or ancients, what we craved to know was where the lightning came from, what it meant, and on that issue the theory was silent. As Kurt Schwaller put it in a speech to the United Nations, “All I’ve given you is a tool—a microscope to magnify the minutes, so to speak—with which to investigate in perfect detail the entirety of our interrelations. But the investigations still have to made, ladies and gentlemen. Have a hay stack, look for the needle. Know there might not be one.”
In January, my wife and I began a fertility treatment for which we’d been saving for years. It was undoubtedly the reason we became so emotionally involved in the media attention around Aiko, the lovely, black-haired and fashionable Crown Princess of Japan, who along with her husband was going through the same ordeal that we were. For a few months, it seemed as if the whole world sat on the edges of its seat, wishing for this beautiful royal couple to conceive. And we sat on two, our own and one somewhere in an exotic Japan updated by the royal Twitter feed. It strikes me now that royalty has always fascinated the proles, a feeling that historically went in tandem with hatred, respect or awe, but it was the Japanese who held our attentions the longest and the most genuinely in the twenty-first century, when equality had more or less rendered a hereditary ruling class obsolete. The British declared themselves post-Christian in 2014 and post-Royal in 2021, the European Court of Justice ruled all other European royals invalid in 2022, and the Muslim monarchs pompously degraded themselves one-by-one into their own exiles and executions. Only the Japanese line survived, adapting to the times by refusing to take itself seriously on anything but the most superficial level. They dressed nicely, acted politely and observed a social protocol that we admired without wanting to follow it ourselves. Before he died, my father had often marvelled that the Second World War began with Japan being led by an emperor god, and ended with the American occupation forcing him to renounce his divinity. The Japanese god had died because MacArthur willed it and Hirohito spoke it. Godhood was like plaque. If your mother told you to brush your teeth, off it went, provided you used the right flavour of Colgate. Kings had once ruled by divine right. By 2025, the Crown Princess of Japan ruled our hearts merely by popular approval. She was our special friend, with whom we were all on intimate and imaginary terms. Indeed, on the day she died—on the day they all died—Princess Aiko’s was the most friended account on Facebook.
That’s why March 27, 2025, was such a joyous occasion for us. In hindsight, it’s utterly sick to associate the date with happiness of any kind, but history must always be understood in context, and the context of the announcement was a wirelessly connected world whose collective hopes came suddenly true to the jingle of a breaking news story on the BBC. I was in the kitchen sauteing onions when I heard it. Cutting them had made me cry and my eyes were still red. Then the announcer’s voice broke as he was setting up his intro, and in a video clip that was subsequently rebroadcast, downloaded and parodied close to a billion times in the one hundred thirty-two days that followed, he said: “The Crown Princess of Japan is pregnant!”
I ran to the living room and hugged my wife, who’d fallen to her knees in front of the wall-mounted monitor. Pillow was doing laps on and off the sofa. The BBC cut away from the announcer’s joyful face to a live feed from Japan. As I held my wife, her body felt warm and full of life. The top of her jeans cut into her waist. Her tears wetted the top of my shirt sleeve. Both of our phones started to buzz—emails and Twitter notifications streaming in. On the monitor, Aiko and her husband, both of their angular faces larger than life in 110” 1080p, waved to the crowd in Tokyo and the billions watching around the world. They spoke in Japanese and a woman on the BBC translated, but we hardly needed to know her exact words to understand the emotions. If them, why not also us? I knew my wife was having the same thought. We, too, could have a family. Then I smelled burning oil and the pungency of onions and I remembered my sauteing. I gently removed my arms from around my wife’s shoulders and ran back to the kitchen, still listening to Aiko’s voice and its polite English echo, and my hands must have been shaking, or else my whole body was shaking, because after I had turned down the heat I reached for the handle of the frying pan, knocked the pan off the stove top instead, and burned myself while stupidly trying to catch it before it fell, clattering, to the floor. The burned onions splattered. I’d cracked one of the kitchen tiles. My hand turned pale and I felt a numbness before my skin started to overflow with the warmth of pain. Without turning off the broadcast, my wife shooed me downstairs to the garage where we kept our car and drove me to the hospital.
The Toronto streets were raucous. Horns honked. J-pop blared. In the commotion we nearly hit a pedestrian, a middle-aged white woman pushing a baby carriage, who’d cut across Lake Shore without looking both ways. She had appeared suddenly from behind a parked transport—and my wife instinctively jerked the car from the left lane to the right, scraping our side mirror against the truck but saving two lives. The woman barely noticed. She disappeared into a crowd of Asian kids on the other side of street who were dancing to electronica and waving half a dozen Japanese flags, one of which was the Rising Sun Flag, the military flag of Imperial Japan. Clutching my wrist in the hope it would dull the pain in my hand, I wondered how many of them knew about the suffering Japanese soldiers had inflicted on countless Chinese in the name of that flag. To the right, Lake Ontario shone and sparkled in the late afternoon light. A passenger jet took off from Toronto Island Airport and climbed into the sky.
In the hospital waiting room, I sat next to a woman who was reading a movie magazine with Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s face on the cover. The Cannes film festival was coming up. My wife checked me in at the reception desk. The woman beside me put down her magazine and told me that she was there with her son, as if needing to justify her presence. I affirmed by nodding. He’d hurt his leg playing soccer for a local Armenian junior boys team, she went on. I said I’d hurt myself frying onions and that I was here with my wife. She said my wife was pretty and asked if I liked movies. Without meaning to do it, I tried to guess her age—unsuccessfully—and proceeded to imagine having doggy style sex with her. She had dark eyes that barely blinked and plump thighs. When I started to feel guilty, I answered her question: sometimes I watched movies at home, but I hadn’t been to a theatre in a decade. When my wife sat down, I let the two of them talk about the woman’s son. I was having trouble concentrating. I took my phone out of my pocket and read all the new emails about the royal conception, then stared at the seconds hand going slowly around its digital clock face on my home screen, wondering why we so often emulated the limitations of analogue machines on devices that were no longer bound by them. I switched my clock type to a digital readout. Now the seconds no longer rotated but flickered away. They called my name over the crackling intercom and a nurse led me to one of the empty rooms. “How about that baby,” he said while we walked. I didn’t see his face, only the shaved back of his head. “The things they can do these days, even for infertile couples.”
I waited for over thirty minutes for a doctor. When one came in, she inspected my hand for less than ten seconds before telling me that I was fine and hinting that I shouldn’t have wasted her time by coming to the emergency room. She had high cheek bones, thin lips and bony wrists. Her tablet had a faux clipboard wallpaper. Maybe I had only misinterpreted her tone. “How about that baby,” I said.
“It’s not a baby yet,” she answered.
This time her tone was impossible to misinterpret. I was only repeating what the nurse had said, I told myself. But I didn’t say that to her. Instead, I imagined her coming home at night to an empty apartment, furnished possibly in a minimalistic Japanese or Swedish style, brewing a cup of black coffee and settling into an armchair to re-read a Simone de Beauvoir novel. I was about to imagine having sex with her when I caught hold of myself and wondered what was up with me today.
When I got back to the waiting room, my wife was no longer there—but the Armenian woman was. She pointed down the hall and told me a room number. She said that sometime after I left, my wife had gotten a cramp and started to vomit all over the floor. Someone was still mopping up. The other people in the waiting room, which was filling up, gave me tactfully dirty looks, either because I was with the vomiter or because I’d shirked my responsible by being away during the vomiting. Irrationally, I wiped my own mouth and fled down the hall.
Inside the numbered room, my wife was sitting hunched over on an observation bed, slowly kicking her feet back and forth. “Are you OK?” I asked.
“Come here,” she said.
I did, and sat beside her on the bed. I repeated my question. She still smelled a little of vomit, but she looked up at me like the world’s luckiest puppy, her eyes big and glassy, and said, “Norman, I’m pregnant.”
That’s all she could say—
That’s all either of us could say for a while.
We just sat there on the examination bed like a pair of best friends on a swing set after dark, dangling our feet and taking turns pulling each other closer. “Are you sure?” I finally asked. My voice was hoarse. I sounded like a frog.
“Yes.” She kicked the heel of my shoe with the rubber toe of hers. “We’re going to have a baby.”
It was beautiful. The most wonderful moment of my life. I remembered the day we met and our little marriage ceremony. I thought about being a father, and felt positively terrified, and about being a better husband, and felt absolutely determined, and as I kissed my wife there in the little hospital room with its sterile green walls, I imagined making love to her. I kept imagining it as we drove back to the apartment through partying Toronto streets. “Not since the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup!” the radio announcer proclaimed—before I turned him off. I also turned off my phone and my wife’s phone. No more buzzing. In the underground parking lot, I leaned over and licked her soft neck. I pushed her through the open apartment door and straight into the living room, onto the sofa, and wished I could be the cushions beneath her thighs and the air invading her lungs. Pillow barked a greeting and wagged her tail. The monitor on the wall showed talking heads and fertility experts. I unbuttoned my wife’s blouse. She unbuckled my belt. The picture on the monitor dissolved to a close-up of Aiko’s smiling face. My wife and I took turns sliding off each other’s jeans. I kissed her bare stomach. She ran her hands through my hair. I dimmed the lights. We made love.
When we were done it was starry nighttime. My wife bandaged my hand. We turned off the television. The silence was refreshing because people on television too often talk like they’re trying to push you off a ledge. My wife excused me from the duty of making supper because of my ineptness with the frying pan, and handed me a leash instead. I hooked it up to Pillow’s collar and took her outside. While she peed, I gazed up at the sky and identified the Big Dipper. It and the Little Dipper were the only constellations I could identify without using a smartphone app. After Pillow finished, we ducked into a nook and I peed, too. The March sky was amazingly clear of smog. My urine splashed on the concrete and I felt embarrassingly primal. I breathed in, shook out the last drops and zipped up.
In the apartment, we ate grilled portabella mushrooms topped with parmesan and parsley and drank brown rice tea. My wife had changed into fresh clothes. I had changed into fresh skin. Every time she said “mom” and “dad”, the words discharged trickles of electricity up and down my peripheral nervous system. We were happy; we were going to have a baby. The whole world was happy; the Crown Princess of Japan of was going to have a baby. The sounds of drunken urban celebrations drifted in through our bedroom window all night like fog, and we barely slept.
- - - Continue Reading
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2020.09.08 00:16 rubilec Dressing room spy tube

[PART 1]
[PART 2]
In the darkness of my vision, red flowers bloomed and bounced.
I could feel hands on my limbs. I was being moved. The back of my left hand hurt.
My pleas came out as moaning sobs. I didn't know what was going to happen but it scared me. There was an unnamable dread sitting in my chest.
Was my grandmother going to hurt me? Why weren’t they talking? Where's Mom?
I tried to move, but I could only open my eyes halfway and see figures moving above me. There were two people here with me. Where was I again?
Right, Grandma's living room. I could make out the great gray mantle and the family portrait above that. Dad was there as a child forever.
“Dad,” I called, and I saw one of the figures stop moving. After a brief moment, they were busy again.
Busy with what?
“Ritual?” I heard my voice repeat in my head. What for?
Grandma’s house, Mom driving, my apartment, panic. Why was I panicking? Right: hair in my mouth, just this morning. Or had it been yesterday? The other day?
And hair under a fingernail, too. Today, definitely.
What's happening to me?
Why is this happening to me?
I felt tears filling up my eyes, but I willed myself to hold back the sound in my throat.
***
When I came to, I was not on the floor. There was disorientation at first, and then I quickly remembered. I struggled to get up from what I was expecting was a hard horizontal surface but which turned out to be a softly-padded couch. My head was resting on a pillow and I was in a reclining position. There was even an afghan draped over my body.
Grandma was sitting across the coffee table on the other couch with Jeremiah. They were watching me. “You were talking in your sleep,” Grandma said. “You must've been dreaming.”
Dreaming?
Oh.
I let out an inaudible sigh of relief. Of course my grandmother wouldn’t hurt me; my mom brought me all the way here because Grandma had agreed to help.
Hadn't she?
Had I really thought she would harm me? I closed my eyes in shame.
“What happened, Grandma?” I asked, hoarse.
“You passed out, Ammon. You must’ve been tired from everything that's been happening. Are you hungry? Lunch is almost ready.”
“Grandma, did you say we were going to do a ritual tonight?”
“Yes, honey, but don't worry. It will be a harmless little thing. I know what I'm doing. Just look at your finger; the hairs are almost gone. My brew's effective, and so will my ritual be.”
It was true; when I raised my right hand, I saw that the three strands of hair had retreated back into the underside of my nail.
No need to be afraid, I told myself, but a part of me was still uneasy, wary almost. The word ritual conjured images of blood and sacrifice in my head.
***
Jeremiah was with us at lunch. He had obviously helped Grandma carry me to the couch after I'd fainted on the floor. I knew sign language, but I didn't want to move my hands while eating. I also didn't know what Grandma would say if I started signing; she spoke to Jeremiah like he could hear. He read her lips and answered in nods and shakes of the head. My grandmother didn't talk a lot at the table anyway, not even to me. Besides, I was really hungry to the point of rudeness.
After lunch, I offered to do the dishes, but Grandma told me to take a rest and unpack in my bedroom (my father's old one). Jeremiah had already brought my luggage up there.
“How long will the…process take, Grandma?” I asked, anxious.
“Depends on how cooperative you are.” She had her back to me. I could hear water sloshing over china. She was really careful about those, I noticed.
“I will be. Sorry about earlier.”
“What do you mean?”
“I thought I'd mumbled something weird while passed out.”
“No, you were just moaning.”
Encouraged, I added, “Will this thing really go away for good?” I remembered Mom saying there had been one survivor of this family condition.
Grandma seemed to have read my mind. “Your father's cousin who overcame it is now a successful businessman abroad, living a happy life with his family. He sometimes still calls me to thank me for helping him.”
I shook away the thought of checking the family tree to track down that uncle (her brother's son, certainly), because my grandma needed my full trust. There was no reason for me to doubt her; I was just apprehensive.
“Thank you, Grandma.” I was starting to leave when another curious thought occurred to me. “What is it, anyway, Grandma? Where did it come from? Is it a disease?”
The tap went quiet. Grandma raised her head but did not turn to face me.
“It's a curse, Ammon. You don't want to know about it.” She finally looked at me, and even gave me a little smile. “When it's all over, I'll tell you. Now, go take a rest. You'll need your strength and full focus for the ritual tonight.”
***
When I was in my dad's old bedroom, which always smelled of fresh linens, I took the suitcases at the foot of the bed and carried them to the closet in the corner.
It somehow felt like moving in to take my father’s place. I had to take a pause.
The overhead light was bright enough, but it was still artificial, so I crossed to the window that faced the backyard. When I drew the sheer white curtain, the view outside wasn't much of an improvement. I couldn't even tell what time it was anymore. We'd just had lunch so it must be early afternoon, but the woods was covered in a permanent dusk. I wondered how dark it got out there at night.
Turning my back on the window, I took out my phone and messaged my mom.
Are you home safe? Grandma said I need to be ready for a ritual we'll be doing tonight.
I wanted to know if Mom had any idea about this ritual. It honestly felt like going to the dentist’s as a child and dreading what they were going to do to my mouth, which I only had the sketchiest idea about.
I'm home safe, Ammon. Don't worry about me. Do as your grandma says and everything will be okay.
Despite my misgivings, I decided against asking. My mother probably didn't know about the ritual, or she would've already told me.
Thanks, Mom. Take care.
After putting the phone back in my pocket, I eyed the suitcases again. This time, I ignored the uneasy feeling and filled my dad's closet with my things.
Since there was nothing in there and I didn't have a lot, I was done before I knew it. But hurrying the task in the enclosed space had made me feel stuffy I had to get out of there.
As I was pushing the last drawer shut, though, something from underneath dropped to the floor with a faint click.
When I looked, it was an old photo showing Grandma and my dad when he was a tween. They were smiling, standing side by side in front of a dark, wide tree trunk. It was a full-body picture, so I could see that they were in a clearing.
On the back was a careful script which I recognized as my father's. I still had the personal birthday cards he'd written me when I was a child, so I knew it without a doubt. The caption said, The tree where a forebear has slain a demon.
On a separate line:
Mama said to keep away from it just today. She heard a voice in the woods calling her to the tree.
Does this history have something to do with the family curse? Should I ask Grandma about it?
And why is this photo here?
At first, I thought maybe my dad had taped the photo under the drawer to hide it. But there were no tapes or tape marks on the picture or on the drawer. Besides, what good reason could there be to hide it. It must've gotten lodged in there by accident.
I had this habit of scratching at things (mostly wood) when I was trying to decide. My fingers made a sound against the drawer as I kneeled on the floor and stared at the picture.
Finally, I got up and put the thing in the pocket of a jacket inside the closet. Then I left my dad’s bedroom. No one would miss the photo, I decided.
On my way out of the house, I didn't see Grandma, which made me think she must be preparing things for the ritual tonight.
I rushed out the front door into the mist. It had gotten much colder I had to put my hands in my coat pockets. I wondered if it was going to rain.
The crunch of gravel under my walking shoes was loud in the gray silence. Where was I even going?
Pausing in the middle of the rock yard with the house behind me, I beheld the smothering growth of trees to the left and right and beyond.
I had to turn around to make sure my grandmother's house was still there.
A movement made me pause. There was a fat white rabbit a little to the right, between me and the garage.
When I bent to look more closely, the rabbit turned so violently it kicked gravel in my direction and made such ruckus I nearly fell back on my rump.
It was hop-running in this strange way rabbits had, but it was still only a few feet from me.
Has it been watching me?
I tried to follow as fast and as quietly as I could, taking striding steps while making squeaky noises with my pursed lips. I really didn't know how one called a rabbit.
The white fur paused to glance at me while its nose quivered. Was it trying to smell me? Was it agitated? Finally, it flashed me its dusty hind legs when it galloped away, faster this time. I'd seen the direction it had taken and let it be for the time being.
Grandma's garage was to my right. It was detached from the house and looked like a little dwelling in itself. The roll-up door was shut, and I imagined the two vintage cars rotting in there.
Ridiculous. I walked on between the house and the garage towards the back. Grandma always drove her old brown sedan to town on weekends to shop, I knew that. Maybe I only wished the car was rotting because I'd seen it in a nightmare where my father had turned into a tiny person whom Grandma had dropped on his head on the sidewalk.
I wondered if she'd let me drive it.
In the backyard, there were two additional structures that completed the compound—one old and one new. There was the tool shed, which used to be my grandfather’s. He'd passed on when I was only three, and I had only the murkiest memory of him in there. It was half the size of the garage and had been modernized with more durable materials sometime in the recent past.
The shed wasn't what interested me, though. It was the other smaller installment farther back. It was long horizontally and covered with screen.
There were about ten white and black rabbits inside, motionless. Well, I knew they must be gnawing at leaves or carrots and I just couldn't discern their tiny little motions because of the distance.
So this is where you came from, I told the escaped bunny in my head. It was now between me and the cage. The backyard was covered in trimmed grass, alive unlike the front.
What should I do? Should I let it go to the woods where it could go wild or be eaten by a predator?
The rabbit was just sitting there, with its back to me. When it turned its long-eared head towards me, it bared its long teeth in what seemed to be surprise. Its eyes had gotten comically big the expression was almost human.
“What’s wrong?”
A shadow zoomed from my left towards the rabbit and lifted it expertly it didn't have the chance to leap away.
Jeremiah turned to me and just stared with a somber expression. He had sad-looking eyes that tilted down at the outer corners.
Okay, maybe the rabbit had been pleasantly surprised at the sight (smell?) of Jeremiah, not scared. He smelled of freshly-mowed grass, now that I noticed it.
“I didn't know Grandma had rabbits now,” I signed.
Jeremiah just kept staring. When I didn't add anything more to that, he closed the gap between us and gently nudged at my arm with the round white bunny in his own. He was leading me to the cage, and I followed without complaint. The furry thing looked utterly comfortable in his embrace.
Up close, I could smell the other rabbits. It wasn't an entirely unpleasant odor, this smell of nature. I guess it was only the association with excrement and urine that made it more disagreeable than it really was. There was also the rich and vigorous scent of verdure mingled in there.
Jeremiah was nudging me on the arm again. This time when I looked, he was pointing at the door of the cage. I caught a glance of his extra thumb, which he had adorned with a thin stainless steel band. I thought it was radical.
Wasting no more time, I unhooked the little door, and Jeremy put the bunny inside. It leaped in without any complaint, and then it was watching us with its huge black irises with such stillness that was both admirable and creepy.
“Ammon,” he finger-spelled, flashing me quick glimpses of his ring. I showed him how I signed my name, and he repeated it.
He was looking at me so intently I had to ask, “What is it?” I was both signing and speaking out of habit, even if there was no one with us who didn't sign. And as I was moving my hands to sign, I felt a sharp pain on the back of my left hand.
When I looked, I saw the strip of Band-Aid my mom had put there. I remembered scraping my hand against the door of her car.
It had only been a shallow wound, but now there was something else there that didn't belong.
“Oh no,” I whispered. Jeremiah didn't have to read my lips to know that something was wrong. The trepidation must've been clear on my face. He moved even closer to me, and we both looked as I ripped the Band-Aid off.
“Oh my God,” I muttered trembling. Jeremiah took a step back.
I raised my head and swallowed hard to keep from throwing up. Jeremiah's gaping surprise reflected mine.
I wanted to look away forever, but it was there in my own hand. Denying it was impossible.
Okay, I told myself encouragingly. This is just like ripping a Band-Aid off. Just do it.
I looked again.
And it was still there.
“Is it bone?” I asked both myself and Jeremiah, even though I was closer to my hand than he was—even though I knew it wasn't bone.
This time, as I was bringing said hand closer to my face, Jeremiah looked with me.
It was a molar.
There was a tooth growing out of my wound.
***
The tooth might have been the one that I'd lost. It was the same size and shape, only, this one was white and clean, definitely not dead.
With my right hand to try to pick it off, but just touching it was painful. The flesh around it was tender and red.
Still, I went for it again. Jeremiah held my right hand away. He was shaking his head when I looked up at him. He was a full head taller.
“Put the Band-Aid back on,” he signed.
I didn't even realize I was still holding the thing. I carefully covered my mew hand tooth with it, shaking even if I didn't want to.
“What should I do?” I signed slowly. Jeremiah put my hands down.
“You have to leave,” he signed.
I wasn't sure I got that right, so I asked aloud, “I should leave? Why?”
“Ammon.”
I jumped at my grandmother's sudden voice. Jeremiah went back to the rabbits, while Grandma hurried towards us.
“What is it, Grandma?” My hands were casually on my sides.
She was wearing a long overcoat with her red-flower dress showing inside. Her face looked cold.
“I need you inside, to prepare for the ritual.” Her clothes smelled of broth.
“Now, Grandma?”
“Why, yes, now, Ammon.”
I took a quick glance at Jeremiah, but he was busy feeding the rabbits. The back of his black coat had one small blade of grass near the collar.
Ignoring the desire to pick the green speck off of him, I turned and followed Grandma into the house.
He was asking me to leave the rabbits and go back inside, I told myself and left it at that. What else could he have meant?
***
We took the backdoor, and Grandma led me down the hall to the stairway in the foyer, where she hung her coat at the rack. She then turned to the basement door under the steps to unlock it. I'd never been down there.
I was nervous but didn't say anything. I had to remind myself that this ritual was for my own good. I need this now more than ever; other things were now growing out of my body in places they shouldn't.
Should I show her? Why had Jeremiah asked me to cover it up?
Grandma flicked on a switch, and the darkness inside retreated in the corners.
“Come,” she said while holding the door for me.
I stepped in and waited at the top of the stairs.
“What’s down there?” I asked, trying to sound casual, the tooth momentarily forgotten. It didn’t throb like the gum hairs had.
My grandmother was pulling the door closed. We were standing very close in the claustrophobic space I could smell the aloe essence in Grandma's hair.
“Preserves,” she said simply and again led the way down. “Also the black room.”
“What’s the black room, Grandma?” My voice sounded muffled on the steep stairway.
“You’ll find out very soon.” The stairs opened up to a high-ceilinged room filled with shelves upon shelves of bottled and canned food. The space looked like an entire section at the supermarket where I worked—only, the lighting was dimmer and the cold felt natural.
I expected to smell the food as we passed down the aisle in the middle towards the back, but curiously, it only smelled cold—not damp, just cold. When I glanced at the high shelves, I saw colored glasses with curious shapes inside of them. Some didn't look like mere pickles or preserves. There were roots and leaves and things that looked like rocks—natural remedies.
I didn't have to ask my grandmother if one of these objects was the brew she made me drink.
Finally, we reached the back, where there were two small rooms that faced each other on either side of the aisle. Grandma turned to the left door and unlocked it.
“This is the black room.”
I looked inside and saw nothing. Grandma turned on the light to reveal a square space that was half the size of my dad's bedroom upstairs.
It was empty, and all four walls were black.
Black room, of course.
“You’ll stay here and let the walls absorb all the negative energy from your body,” Grandma said. “This way, you'll be ready for the ritual.”
She was ushering the way in with an outstretched arm, so I stepped in. It was noticeably warmer here, but not hot. I spied an exhaust vent high up a wall.
“What should I do while I'm here, Grandma?”
“Nothing. Clear your head of worries. You can lie down on the floor and sleep. It's quite comfortable in here.”
I just noticed that. The floor was padded, and so were the walls. It's like a room at a psychiatric hospital, only the color wasn't blinding white. There was also an observation window high up the door when I subtly checked.
“Will I be locked in?” Curiously, I wasn't nervous anymore. I'd thought the preparation was going to be more rigorous—weirder even. Maybe I should really stop worrying about the ritual to come.
“Of course not, Ammon. Why would I do that? Just don't get out before it's time. And no distractions. I need your phone.”
Hesitantly, I handed her the device. “Will you come get me?”
“Yes, Ammon, you got that one right.”
It was when Grandma had already shut the door that I remembered about the tooth growing out of my hand wound—and also the photo from Dad's closet. I walked to the door and looked out the observation window, but she wasn't there anymore.
This can wait, I told myself and then went back to the middle to sit in a meditation pose. I started chanting a mantra of releasing negative energy, which I learned from a YouTube video. The noise I was making sounded contained, and that's when I realized this room was soundproof. It now felt to me more like a booth at a recording studio than a room in a psychiatric hospital.
Smiling, I turned my calm chanting into full-voice singing. I ignored the throbbing in my left hand, which had arrived belatedly. In a few moments, I was numb to it all and still singing.
***
After singing about five full Disney songs, I opened my eyes at a sudden thought.
Other people had been here, preparing for the ritual. Unless Grandma had been planning to be a YouTube singer all along, all these padded walls wouldn't have been installed just before I'd come.
Did the paddings look new?
I ran my hand over the floor and found it smooth and unscratched.
Did someone die in here?
I shook my head, refusing to entertain that thought, refusing even to move. When I sang again, my voice was shrill. But I didn't stop even as I lay down on my back and stared at the white lights on the black ceiling.
Someone said singing in this position is supposed to be good.
Someone said screaming gets rid of negative energy.
I sang even louder. I even stretched out my limbs as I belted. I'd never get this chance to be as loud as I could again.
After another set of five songs, I felt mellow. I'd already had my eyes closed by song number seven anyway. I rested my lungs and hummed myself to sleep.
***
A dripping sensation on my face made me blink dizzily at the lights on the ceiling.
What was that?
Groaning, I brought my hand to my forehead and felt something wet there—which caused me to sit up in alarm.
Am I bleeding again? Have I grown something out of my face this time?
When I checked my fingers, I didn't see blood. It was clear fluid—and sticky, too.
“Ew, what is this?” I whispered to myself, wiping the goo on the padding on the floor. With my other, clean, hand, I patted the corners of my mouth to see if I'd drooled.
I was dry. But now, I could also hear a strange hissing sound behind me.
Right. That must be the exhaust fan in the wall.
Is it defective?
I got up on sore legs, turned around, and fell back down, gaping at a giant flesh-colored spider on the wall. I could feel myself shrinking into my own body, wanting to disappear.
The fan was there, but it was spinning quietly. Next to it, a hundred times bigger, the spider creature hissed—louder this time. Sticky saliva flew in my direction, missing my eyes by a few inches.
Is it venomous? I thought as I tried to quietly scoot towards the door.
When I saw the thing move one long leg, I sprung for the door … and dropped a few good feet from it. The creature landed with ease between me and the exit.
I was staring at the face of my own death—and it curiously looked a little like my own. Up close, the thing didn't really look like a spider. It was more like a human who had sprouted a lot of limbs, some dead, some very much alive and branching out.
In the middle of all the limbs was that face—small in proportion to the “body”, round-featured, sightless.
It hissed to the drum soundtrack of my heart.
“Who are you?” I asked in a voice cracking with fear.
The hiss became a gurgling wail, and then a whisper: “This is what you'll become if you don't do as she says.”
The note of fear in the creature's voice confused me. I was about to ask something else when it leaped back to the wall and disappeared in a hole behind the padding.
When I got up on wobbly knees to open the door, my grandma's wrinkled face was in the observation window. She was staring at me disapprovingly.
What disturbed me when I woke up was that I'd woken up from the dream because of my grandma's face, not the creature's appearance.
There was no spider-human in the black room when I looked, but there was something on my left hand when I stretched and the Band-Aid fell off.
Now there were two other molars next to the one that had been there before. It looked as though an entire jaw was growing in my hand.
***
Grandma opened the door just as I was trying to cover up the teeth with the wilted adhesive bandage.
“What’s that?” she said, already coming towards me and zeroing in on my hand, which I tried to hide behind my back at the last second. She pulled it up aggressively, making me wince.
“When did this happen, Ammon?”
“Just while I was napping here, Grandma.”
“And you weren't going to tell me?” This was the first time I ever saw Grandma angry. It made me want to get out of there.
“I was, Grandma. I was gonna tell you.”
“‘Going to', Ammon, not ‘gonna’. And you were hiding your hand behind your back. Don't lie to me.” She let go of my hand and turned to leave. “I thought you were ready, but I think I made a mistake.”
The creature's warning from that dream came back to me. “This is what you’ll become if you don’t do as she says.”
“I’m sorry, Grandma. I just panicked. I'll do what you say, just please help me. I don't want things to be growing out of me.”
My grandmother stopped just inside the door. I waited nervously until she faced me. “You know I want to help you, Ammon. Your full trust is all I'm asking.”
I nodded my head, relieved. “I know, Grandma. I promise it won't happen again.”
“Come, let's first have dinner. Staying here must've purged you.”
“Will Jeremiah be joining us?” I asked, gladly stepping out of the black room. I didn’t add for dinner and the ritual?
Grandma turned off the lights inside. While locking the door, she said, “No. Jeremiah doesn't want to be here after dark.”
***
Grandma’s dining room was awfully big for just the two of us so we had our dinner in the kitchen. She must’ve been cooking in here while I’d been purging in the black room downstairs; it was pleasantly warm, and the aroma of slow-cooked broth made my stomach growl.
“My, you're hungry, aren't you?” Grandma said, now in high spirits. She had replaced her black coat with a peach blouse.
“I didn’t even realize I was. How long have I been down there, Grandma?” It was dark outside when I looked out the window, but that didn't say anything. It had been dark when I'd gone down there.
“Oh, only about two hours.” Grandma served us both big bowls from the huge pot on the heavy-duty gas range. I'd just noticed that there was no clock in the kitchen. And Grandma still hadn't given back my phone.
I'll just ask her later. She might’ve forgotten.
“It didn't feel that long, somehow,” I said just to be saying something.
“Time flies in the black room, Ammon. Now let's say grace.”
She led the prayer and we started eating.
The stew was so flavorful I stirred it around just to see the many bits of herbs and vegetables in the thick white liquid. There were also very tender shreds of meat I couldn't identify.
“Mmm, Grandma, this is delicious. Which stew is it?”
“Wild rabbit.”
I don't know what I'd been expecting, but something about that didn't sit right.
“Oh, you've already finished yours? Here, have some more.”
Grandma had already taken my thick ceramic bowl before I could protest. I was feeling too weird to have said anything anyway.
“Thank you, Grandma.”
The thing was, I was still hungry. It's like I was eating for two people.
When I was nearly finished with my second serving, I felt something with my spoon at the bottom of the bowl. I thought maybe it was a bit of bone, but when I scooped it up, I saw a color that didn't belong.
It was metallic and round.
It was a ring.
Hands trembling, I picked up the warm steel thing and immediately dropped it to the floor, where it rolled under the table, perhaps towards my grandma’s feet.
Grandma was saying something, but I didn't really hear her.
I flashed on Jeremiah signing my name, showing glimpses of his ring—the one he had on his extra thumb, the one I'd thought was rad.
No, that's impossible.
I smiled in spite of myself, my vision blurry, my breath warm, my sweat cold. There has to be another explanation, I told myself even as my stomach protested and bile started rising in my throat.
Finally, I threw up on my grandmother across the table when I saw a thumb-length piece of pink cartilage float to the surface of my stew.
[PART 4]
submitted by rubilec to nosleep [link] [comments]


2020.09.05 00:58 Zithero Dressing room spy tube


---------------------------------Table of Contents-------------------------------------
Chapter 1 l Chapter 2 l Chapter 3 l Chapter 4 l Chapter 5 l Chapter 6 l Chapter 7 (NSFW) l Chapter 8
Chapter 9 l Chapter 10 l Chapter 11 l Chapter 12 l Chapter 13
“We have an extremely tight schedule to meet, Mr. Sorjoy,” Cleo said as she picked up her tablet, following Sorjoy as he left his office.
“I’m well aware, but the press conference to unveil the diamond literally could not wait,” Sorjoy explained.
“No point in using the word literally…” Cleo mumbled.
“Excuse me?” Sorjoy said, narrowing his eyes at Cleo.
“Nothing, sir,” Cleo said, tapping her tablet as the elevator doors closed behind them.“Because of the regulatory summit in two hours, this press conference cannot even run fifteen minutes late.”
“So you keep saying,” Sorjoy said, exasperated.
As the elevator opened, Cleo noticed security was clearly tight in the lobby. A number of angels in police uniforms were inside of the lobby. In front of the building, multiple armed guards stood before a large square box with blue velvet draped over it.
A mob of reporters and onlookers had gathered outside the front steps of Fondsworth Inc,’s entrance.
“Well, let's get this show on the road,” Sorjoy said to Cleo as he opened the front doors of the building. Sorjoy made his way from the front doors to a podium set-up not too far from the large covered object and the top of the steps leading to the entrance.
The crowd hushed as the microphone gave a tone through loudspeakers set-up around the outside, signifying that a statement was about to be made. Sorjoy smiled confidently, his red wings held slightly further out on either side of him than normal, but not spread out fully. “Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m sure you’ve all heard the rumors surrounding Fondsworth Inc.’s latest acquisition.”
The crowd’s excited murmured grew louder as flashbulbs popped again in another round of photos.
“Amidst the recent tragedy that Fondsworth Inc. has experienced, there was a surprise among the minerals we had found. This past week we have been working on presenting this brilliant find to the masses.”
More flashes illuminated Sorjoy and the podium.
“Without further delay…” Sorjoy smiled devilishly as the velvet cloth was removed from the large square item behind him. He stepped to the side to reveal the massive stone behind him.
The stone was no longer rough in any place. Rather the surface was now flawlessly cut, with thousands of facets catching every light shown. Rainbows shimmered deep within its flawless depths and the crowd gasped in awe. As the cameras flashed, even more, beautiful patterns of lights emitted from the massive stone. The glittering marvel behind Sorjoy even reflected fleeting beams of light off of his slightly opened crimson wings.
“The weight is over 226 kilos for this single stone alone, there are ‘shavings’ which weigh in over one thousand carats! Those will be marketed separately for the most part,” Sorjoy continued.
A hand quickly rose from the mob of press, and Sorjoy grinned, noticing a familiar face, “Ah, Mr. Resome? Nice to see you again, you have a question?"
“As a matter of fact,” David Resome from Feather News smiled at Sorjoy, “I do. Do you actually plan to sell such a valuable and rare find? Shouldn’t such a thing belong in a museum?”
Sorjoy grinned, “If the Museum can afford this gem then they are more than welcome to it sir. However, I am a businessman.” There were murmurings, “A very successful businessman – the profits from this find alone will stimulate this economy in ways that most could only dream of.” Sorjoy’s sly smile grew only more confident before saying, “Unless you’re advocating that this sort of find be seized by the government…?”
David sat down, narrowing his eyes on Sorjoy. If he continued further he knew where this line of questioning would lead: Accusations of Socialism, anti-business acquisitions, and other such slander. Things the older reporter was smart enough to avoid.
“Tomorrow we will announce official bidding for the gem… The cut, as it were, was done by renowned gemologist and jeweler, Mr. Finnis Jarvis.”
Finnis, the same smallish imp from the lab, stood next to the police security. He had brown skin, wore a white coat, and suit underneath. He took a bow, a distant look in his eyes as he reached for the gem, only to have a uniformed officer adjust his position to separate the imp from it.
“Are there any other questions?” Sorjoy asked the crowd.
Another reporter stood up quickly, raising his pen. “Mr. Sorjoy, New Evangelical Post. What are you going to name this incredible diamond?”
Sorjoy stood closer to the diamond, opposite Finnis. “We’ve decided to name it.” He paused for dramatic effect, looking over the swath of reporters, “The Heart of Lucifer.” As Sorjoy said this, his own eye caught the blue liquid within, trapped for however long it was inside. He wondered what it was, but wanted to leave it a mystery to drive up the price. Let the buyer find out about the liquid within.
“Sir, the blue liquid inside the gem, has it been analyzed?” another reporter shouted out.
Sorjoy tore his attention from the gem, looking to the reporter, sparkles of the facets still lingering in his vision, “We have not been able to identify exactly what the fluid is, but we have affectionately referred to it as the Blood of Lucifer.”

Hoffman sat in his darkened office smoking a thick cigar. His TV blared, “the Blood of Lucifer.” Hoffman shut it off, grumbling to himself. He sat on his office chair wearing a white dress shirt, a cigar in one hand, and a brandy in the other. “Little whelp is going to have even more leverage in the organization…” He stood up, growling to himself. “How do you take a corporation from near bankruptcy to profitable in under two years?” He shouted, “Lucky break after lucky break!”
A thin blond-haired man with flawlessly white feathery wings walked into the room in a similarly well fitted light blue suit. “Sir, I have excellent news for you.”
“Oh?” Hoffman sat down, puffing his cigar.“What have you got for me, Robert?”
“It’s actually, Richard, sir,” Richard Smith, the blond-haired angel, explained as he approached Hoffman, “We just received some interesting confidential information sent our way.” Richard beamed, “We have the beacon codes from that Fondsworth Inc. fallen miner.”
Mr. Hoffman raised an eyebrow, “Why does this interest me?”
“She’s the miner that found this stone sir, she may be worth recovering,” He showed a small handheld device with a very detailed colored screen, showing a map with multiple points on it, one of them blinking. “While the biometrics is showing that she has flatlined, the girl has moved since last Fondsworth bothered to report it. Considerably, I might add.”
Mr. Hoffman puffed out another thick plume of caustic smoke. “Really now…?” He took another long drag from his cigar.
“Yes sir,” Richard coughed as the smoke blew in his direction.
“Has anyone seen this information, the beacon codes?” Hoffman asked.
Richard shook his head, “No, and we want to do a satellite flyby of the area, see if we can pinpoint the location. Her movement is pronounced enough that it seems the girl’s body, or at least her suit, is moving in very specific patterns. It’s possible she’s alive, just that the biometrics are damaged.”
“Robert,” Hoffman began.
“Richard, sir,” Richard corrected.
“Richard, of course,” Hoffman inhaled another pull from his cigar, “mind if I ask if you can tell me how we got this information?”
Richard frowned, giving Hoffman a small note, “That’s the more concerning part, sir. It’s apparently some kind of encrypted message. The bulk of the email said to send it to your phone.”
My phone?” Hoffman lifted an eyebrow, “well send it.”
Richard gave a nod and tapped a few things on his tablet.
Hoffman got a buzz on his phone and then pulled it up. As he opened the email, a prompt appeared: “Enter Biometric Security.”
Hoffman raised his phone up to his eyes, opening them wide as his camera captured an image of his iris.
Hoffman glanced back down to the phone to see: “Biometrics Accepted. Access Granted to Albert Hoffman.”
Hoffman read the message, his eyes wide, “Get out,” Hoffman barked.
“Sir?” Richard asked, confused.
“Get out!” Hoffman shouted. Richard jumped at his tone and turned to leave quickly. “...I need to make some phone calls,” Hoffman growled as he finished his brandy in one gulp, slamming the glass down on his desk.
...
“A very lovely press conference, Mr. Sorjoy,” Cleo praised as she tapped a few items on her tablet, sitting in the limo. Cleo sat across from Sorjoy as she tapped away, “Mr. Sorjoy? Do you have the notes for your speech for the regulatory committee?”
Sorjoy grumbled, “I hate doing this sort of thing in public forums. Hoffman and I normally just set the rules we agree upon anyway, it’s not like these regulators have any idea what they’re doing otherwise.”
“Be that as it may, Mr. Sorjoy,” Cleo began, “here are your speech notes,” she offered a small set of index cards.
Sorjoy pushed them away, “I won’t need them. We’ve rehearsed the questions and answers enough times.”
“I’ll send them to your phone, regardless,” Cleo grumbled and placed the cards in her messenger bag.
Sorjoy’s phone rang and he reached for his pocket, blinking in surprise to see it wasn’t the phone he was used to that was ringing. Another chime and Sorjoy’s eyes went wide. “Shit.”
“Something wrong sir?” Cleo asked, concerned. “I only just sent over the e-mail.”
Sorjoy reached into his lapel pocket and answered a much simpler phone, “Sorjoy.”
A voice on the other end spoke, “Emergency Meeting.”
“Thank you,” Sorjoy ended the call, looking to the building they had just pulled up to, “Cleo head in, I may be a while.”
Cleo frowned, “Mr. Sorjoy the conference is in less than an hour, and they will not reschedule. If you’re not present, Mr. Hoffman’s competing group will set the mining regulations for the next decade,” Cleo explained.
“I’m well aware, Cleo,” Sorjoy said, opening the door, “I’ll be there as soon as possible. Something else has come up.”
Cleo frowned as she slipped out of the limo, “Something else? Sir this is very import-”
“Do what you usually do, Cleo,” Sorjoy ordered before he shut the door, “and handle it,” Sorjoy demanded as he rolled up the window, the limo pulling away shortly thereafter.
“Prick,” Cleo scoffed before turning and walking towards a large white government building.
She walked up to the building, checked in with the security detail, and provided her credentials.
“Will Mr. Sorjoy be present?” The clerk at the front desk asked.
“He said he would be here as soon as possible,” Cleo informed, “but not at this moment, no.”
The woman nodded and handed Cleo some documents and a lanyard with her face printed on the front, “the committee is meeting down the hallway, auditorium C.”
“Auditorium?” Cleo questioned.
“Yes,” the clerk shook her head, “this is apparently an impromptu hearing as well.”
“What?!” Cleo shouted, “We were not informed-”
“No one was,” the woman explained, “now move along.”
Cleo grumbled as she spotted another man behind her with blond hair and white wings. “Oh, hello.” Richard, Hoffman’s assistant, smiled to Cleo, “Well, aren’t you a lovely little thing.”
Cleo narrowed her eyes, “I am not a thing, Mr?”
“Smith,” he said, extending his thin hand, “Richard Smith.” He looked over Cleo as if appraising a painting, “I have to say, the dye job is impeccable, even your eyebrows.”
Cleo peaked one said eyebrow, “Excuse me?”
“The white,” he spread his own wings as he checked in. “Pain to dye your wings, but it’s a striking look, don’t you agree?”
Cleo took a deep and calming breath as Richard spoke.
“The hair is a bit much though, I mean-” Cleo cut him off.
“This is my natural hair and feather coloring,” Cleo snapped, “I suffer from a form of albinism, a lack of pigmentation in my wings and hair.”
Richard blinked at her, “wait, you mean, your eyes aren’t even contacts?”
“No,” Cleo widened her eyes at him, as proof of this, “if you’ll excuse me, I have a conference to go to.”
“Wouldn’t you know,” Richard grinned lecherously, holding up a similar lanyard to Cleo’s, “so do I?”
Cleo glanced at the ID, and turned on her heel, “then I’ll see you on the other side of the podium.”
Richard snickered to himself as he shamelessly watched Cleo’s rear saunter off, “cute little white bird…”
Once inside, a few security personnel checked her ID and she was brought into a staging area. “The committee meets in twenty minutes, all cell phones and mobile devices need to be set to silent in fifteen,” the large angel advised.
“Thanks,” Cleo said as she moved to a set of chairs in the staging area. Cleo sat, tapping on her tablet and sending yet another series of texts to Sorjoy’s cell phone. She looked up from her tablet briefly to see Richard, who gave her a creepy smile before looking rather distraught himself.
Cleo fixed an earpiece onto her ear, and tapped a few buttons on her tablet, using it to spy on Richard’s conversation.
“Mr. Hoffman? Sir? Where are you? I am certain you received my messages about the regulatory conference? Sir, it’s a hearing! You need to be here!” Richard whispered into his phone.
Cleo frowned, leaning back in her seat and removing her earpiece. “Why would both Sorjoy and Hoffman not be at this event? It’s beyond important.” she thought to herself.
Naberious soon tapped Cleo’s shoulder.
Cleo looked up to him, “...not who I was expecting.”
“Sorry,” Naberious sighed, “got some bad news for you.”
“Is that bad news you telling me: ‘I accidentally killed Sorjoy before you could get to him’?” Cleo narrowed her eyes, “Because if you’re about to tell me-”
“He ain’t comin’,” Naberious explained.
“Brilliant,” Cleo snapped, “Where is he?”
“Honestly?” Naberious shrugged, “I don’t have a clue. Told me to come back here and wait for you. Didn’t feel like waitin’ in the car so…”
“I’m having a nightmare,” Cleo shook her head, “wait,” she turned to Naberious, “did you happen to see anyone following that guy around?” Cleo motioned to Richard.
Naberious looked up, “...the creep?”
Cleo nodded.
Naberious shook his head, “no, can’t say I did.”
Cleo grinned, “perfect,” she checked her phone, looking at the time, “okay, there’s still time to save the situation.” She got up, making her way towards one of the representatives who sat at a large, shared podium with multiple microphones and seats. Each seat was filled with a representative or senator of some sort.
An older fellow looked to Cleo, his hair was gray and his wings were wilted, though clearly once a vibrant blue.
“Excuse me,” Cleo began, glancing at the placard in front of his microphone ‘Sen. Joseph Snode’, “Senator Snode?”
Snode smiled to Cleo, “Yes, dear? What can I do for such a lovely lady?”
Cleo smiled brightly as she tried to push back her disgust, “I’m Cleopatra Cassandra Walters, from Fondsworth Inc, representing our S.M.A.C division.”
“Ah,” Senator Snode chuckled, “the S.M.A.C’er!”
Cleo’s smiled wilted, “I suppose, uh, listen-”
The Senator cut her off, “perfect timing love, have a seat there, I’ll get a new nameplate for the cameras.”
“What?” Cleo gasped, “no, sir, you don’t-”
“Hey, Fran!” Senator Snode waved to an intern who rushed over, “Get this young lady seated, she’s representing Fondsworth’s S.M.A.C!”
“Senator if you could just-” Cleo frowned as the Senator turned to the colleague to his left, ignoring Cleo.
Fran, a beleaguered looking young woman with heavy framed glasses, a frumpy suit, and disheveled, but tied back hair shook her head, “come on hun, he’s done chatting.”
Cleo frowned, “Fran, listen I’m not here to rep Fondsworth.”
“I’m not paid to question the Senator,” Fran explained, “name?”
Cleo hesitated for a moment before she cracked, “Cleopatra Cassandra Walters,” she sighed, “Executive Assistant to CEO Erik Sorjoy.”
Fran blinked as she was arranging letters on the nameplate, “yeah, this is the best I’ll get for you.” She handed Cleo a nameplate with letters arranged to spell out: “C. WALTERS. S.M.A.C."
Cleo frowned, moving to the small table which was set with one chair. Fran removed the nameplate which had read: “E. SORJOY. S.M.A.C.”
“Sorjoy is either going to be happy or furious with me,” Cleo shifted in the seat, as she looked up to the massive panel of senators and representatives. She pulled out the index cards in her messenger bag. “Luckily, Mr. Sorjoy and I went over everything together… and he did tell me to ‘Handle it’, didn’t he?”
Cleo looked to the other table sitting opposite her, there, a nameplate was set as well: “A. HOFFMAN. DMC.” No one was seated.
At least I won’t have any cross-examination from that side of the aisle,” Cleo sighed. To her dismay, however, Richard soon wandered over, sitting down at the table, his name being swapped out for Hoffman’s.
Cleo grumbled and turned to her left, where she saw Naberious grinning ear to ear. He gave her a thumbs up and vanished into the crowd.
A gavel slammed down onto the conference table as Senator Snode spoke up.
“Let's bring this committee to order, we have our private sector representatives for asteroid mining present, so let's get this show on the road, yes?” he grinned, eliciting chuckling from the other representatives and mild responses from the small room of reporters.
Cleo shifted in her seat, knowing the first steps.
“The regulations today are primarily on miner safety and workers' rights, so we’ll begin with some opening statements,” Senator Snode announced as he turned to Richard, “Let's go alphabetical and start with Dei Mining Corp, yes?”
Richard cleared his throat, leaning to the mic, causing it to ring with feedback, “Dei Mining Corp has no opening statements we’d like to make.”
“What’s your name, son?” Senator Snode asked.
“R-Richard Smith, sir, sorry sir,” Richard stumbled.
Senator Snode leaned back in his chair, “you’re certain about not having an opening statement, son?”
Richard was sweating nervously and gave a nod, “yessir.”
Senator Snode shrugged and turned to Cleo, “how about Fondsworth? Are you equally unprepared?”
Cleo smiled brightly as she was prepared. She was much less nervous now as she noticed Richard was having a panic attack at his table, “I have some opening statements on behalf of Fondsworth Inc’s S.M.A.C division.”
“Well little lady,” Senator Snode grinned, “the floor is yours.”
“Thank you, Senator,” Cleo beamed as she began, “My name is Cleopatra Cassandra Walters, I am here to represent Fondsworth Inc’s CEO Erik Sorjoy, who sadly could not make it here today and sends his sincerest apologies.”
“Well, Ms.Walters, glad to see Mr. Sorjoy is at least apologetic for his absence,” Senator Snode chuckled.
Cleo took a sip of water, trying to ignore the Senator’s comment. She spread her index cards out for reference points, though she didn’t need them as she looked up to the committee.
“Miner Safety,” Cleo began, “is paramount for our employees and for Dei’s mining industry. The free flow of minerals, while important, is not worth the life of any miner. That is why Fondsworth would like to voice our full support for any measure to protect our brave miners.” Cleo paused gauging the reactions of the committee before she continued. “However, consideration to infrastructure, sustainability, and profitability cannot be too heavily impacted. That is why we are reaching for protections that are both meaningful and efficient.”
Senator Snode smiled to Cleo, “well, nicely put.”
Another representative, a middle-aged woman with brown wings and short brown hair in a brightly colored power suit, spoke up, “Ms. Walters, what is your exact position in the hierarchy of the Fondsworth Inc S.M.A.C division?”
Cleo took a moment to adjust her microphone, “I facilitate scheduling, as well as oversee the proper flow of time management for all of Fondsworth Inc’s many activities. I’m the primary point of contact for press relations as well.”
The representative, who’s placard read ‘REP. C. WARREN’, gave a nod, “And you feel that this position gives you the proper authority and knowledge to make these regulatory decisions on behalf of Fondsworth Inc?”
Cleo smiled to the representative, “about as much authority as you have to set them, Representative Warren.”
The press made some chuckles and some cameras snapped as Cleo leaned back from her microphone.
“So, miner safety then?” Senator Snode interrupted, “Ms. Walters, there’s been a pretty public report that floated regarding survival kits in the event of a ‘Dei Fall’, with this information coming to light, primarily that one item is a loaded pistol with a single bullet. Is Fondsworth Inc providing proper care to their miners, really?”
Cleo reached for an index card, checked it, and leaned down to the microphone, “Fondsworth has taken the event of the Fallen Miner, Yuki Karkade, very seriously. We have put forward a number of suggestions, such as an increase to the minimum distance an object has to be to Nite’s orbit, in order to prevent such a tragedy from happening in the first place.”
Senator Snode nodded, turning to Richard, “any input there, son?”
Richard cleared his throat, “so, we can keep putting guns into survival kits for miners to shoot themselves?” He sputtered.
The press murmured and cameras snapped.
Warren turned to Cleo, “while this isn’t a cross-examination, he makes a good point, Ms. Walters. I find it barbaric that you would suggest that this practice isn’t coming to an end.”
Cleo reached for another card, taking a sip of water, “Representative Warren, have you ever experienced a nightmare?”
“I’m sorry?” Warren narrowed her eyes.
“Have you ever experienced a nightmare, perhaps where you’re alone and being chased by a monster of some sort?” Cleo asked.
“Is this a serious question?!” Warren scoffed.
“It is,” Cleo said, flatly, her eyes locked on Warren’s.
Warren cleared her throat, “Everyone has had a nightmare like that.”
“How large was the monster that was chasing after you?” Cleo asked.
Warren laughed, “a big hairy boogeyman, it was the size of my closet, very scary when I was a toddler.”
“So, you’d say about two meters tall then?” Cleo said, glancing at an index card.
“Roughly,” Warren asked, with a grin, “do you plan to propose we maintain a safer distance from boogeymen?”
Cleo tapped a screen, showing a blurry image of a massive creature with fur-like feathers and a massive jaw full of teeth. The creature was a Scavenger from Nite. “This is drone footage of a creature we observed on the surface of Nite.”
Warren frowned at the image.
“Mean looking mother,” Senator Snode remarked.
“If I were to ask the committee, about how large would you guess this animal is?” Cleo asked.
Snode grinned, “Well I’ll bite: four meters?”
Cleo smiled, “this creature stands six meters tall, is twelve meters long and we estimated it is conservatively ten tons.”
There was murmuring in the room, more photos snapped.
“This is not the apex predator of Nite,” Cleo said flatly, “but it is a creature which roams freely. We took a stab at the numbers, and determined that to have proper stopping potential, a .945 caliber rifle, which weighs in at 50 kilos, would be the only thing which could penetrate the hide of the creature while providing enough damage to fend it off.”
Warren now leaned forward, looking to the image.
“It’s impractical to load such defenses on a ship,” Cleo continued, “and this is not the largest animal which roams the planet, I’ll remind you.”
Richard shifted in his seat nervously.
“So if my competitor’s representative wants to fill mining pods with an extra 50 kilograms of weight while providing only limited protection and survival odds and requiring a miner to square off against creatures like this,” Cleo reasoned, “I would respectfully call him insane.”
Senator Snode looked over some paperwork, “and looks like adding that weight would limit fuel, distance, and safe travel…”
Warren leaned back, “and I doubt that is a compact weapon.”
“The rifle is normally something mounted on a military vehicle,” Cleo pointed out, “those who test-fired it stated they would have preferred to have been hit by a motorcycle, regarding the recoil.”
Senator Snode laughed, “Well, that puts that to bed then,” he looked to the council, “I don’t know about you but… if that was about to eat me? I’d like to go peacefully.”
Cleo smiled wide to herself as far more regular questions popped up, each having a precise and efficient answer to them on her index cards.
As the hearing came to a close, Senator Snode once more addressed Cleo and Richard, “Well, I think that wraps us up. I want to thank Fondsworth Inc for sending a knowledgeable rep to our chambers.”
“Happy to be here,” Cleo said, “I want to thank the committee for hearing our case as well.”
“Well, I think we can call this meeting adjourned,” he looked to the other representatives for approval, “alright then.” he knocked a gavel on the table, “we are adjourned!”
Cleo got to her feet, collecting her index cards and packing them into her tablet’s carrier bag.
“Cleo?” a man’s voice whispered from the crowd.
Cleo spun around so quickly she nearly snapped a heel and who greeted her was someone she had not expected to see ever again. She narrowed her eyes at the man before her. He stood in a three-piece suit and had the same slicked-back dark hair Cleo remembered. A pair of small glasses sat on his face.
“Hello, Father. You’re looking…” Cleo looked him up and down, “...destitute.”
The man narrowed his eyes, “what are you doing here?”
“Well, at the moment,” Cleo said, pushing her chair under the table, “Leaving. And you?”
I’m working for the Senator,” Mr. Walters snapped. “This isn’t a strip club, young lady.”
“No, it’s not,” Cleo said, turned from him and walked away.
“I was not done talking to you!” he shouted.
Cleo continued to walk away from him.
“Don’t you turn your back to me you little slut!” Mr. Walters shouted, causing a scene.
Senator Snode stopped Cleo as she walked past him, placing his hand gently on her shoulder, “Is that man speaking to you?”
Cleo turned to face her father, “I would assume so. I pay no mind to men who belittle me based on my appearance, Senator Snode.”
Senator Snode gave a nod, his face hardening, “yes well, I give plenty of mind to my subordinates when they insult a young woman as intelligent as you.”
“He works for you?” Cleo asked.
Senator Snode nodded, “Not for long.”
Cleo looked back at her father, her brow furrowed, “Please, don’t fire him.”
Senator Snode chuckled, “intelligent and forgiving? You must have a very lucky man at home.”
Cleo smiled to Senator Snode, “Now, Senator, if I had a man to take care of I don’t think I’d have the time to be so intelligent.”
Senator Snode laughed and shook his head, “Well, Miss Walters, I hope this isn’t the last we’ll see of each other.”
Cleo handed him her business card, “I hope it isn’t the last time we meet either, Senator Snode. Mr. Sorjoy is always looking for a friend in government affairs.”
Senator Snode nodded, “Well I’ll give you and Mr. Sorjoy a favor, for my employee’s rude outburst.” Snode strode up to Cleo’s father, reprimanding him rather harshly in front of the crowd.
Cleo gave a slight smile and headed towards the back where Naberious was waiting.
“So,” Naberious chuckled, “old client?”
“Like a client would out himself like that,” Cleo shook her head, “no that was my father.”
Naberious lifted an eyebrow, “Well,” he checked his watch, “It’s late and this sounds like a story to be told over some drinks.”

Cleo sipped a fruity and heavily alcoholic beverage across from Naberious, who sipped at a beer.
“So,” Naberious leaned forward, “Daddy issues?”
Cleo rolled her eyes, “father was destitute when I was in college. He worked as a high profile lawyer. However, between a number of lost cases and fumbled business decisions, daddy found himself in a mountain of debt with almost no new clients.”
Naberious gave a nod as he sipped his beer.
“Needless to say, he wasn’t pleased the first time I told him about Palma,” Cleo frowned, taking a long swig of her drink, “he blamed me for his downturn in won cases, claimed the DA had it out for him since his daughter accused the police chief’s son of rape,” Cleo sneered, “falsely.”
“Rich people,” Naberious shook his head.
“Watch it,” Cleo mocked, “I come from rich people.”
“Yeah, but you wised up,” Naberious pointed out.
“Yeah,” Cleo took a long swig, “getting raped twice by the same asshole while no one believes you or comes to your aid, will do that.”
Naberious cleared his throat, “so, was that the only reason for the falling out?”
Cleo nodded, “Him never believing me, blaming me for everything… oh… yeah… and the day I got kicked out of college was fun.”
~~~
I remember the taxi I had climbed out of after being kicked out of college. It was a long trip, I was tired and I couldn’t even bring my bags in. I decided to head inside and ask my father to help me with them. That went well.
“Daddy,” I began, “I’m home and I know you’re probably surprised-”
My father’s gaze was all fire and fury as he opened the door, “I spoke to the dean, he told me all of your scholarships was revoked, and that I was going to have to pay it back tens of thousands of dollars if you couldn’t!”
I shrunk back from him, “I need your help, we can clear it up, I know we can, you just have to believe me for once.”
“Believe you?” my father laughed, as he shook his head, “the dean told me what you were expelled for: Prostitution.”
Tears welled up in my eyes, “No, Daddy it’s not what it sounds like! It was Azrael Palma, he has a vendetta against me, I swear if you would just-”
“Azrael again?” My father barked, “If anyone has a vendetta, young lady, it’s you trying to sully that poor boy’s name! That's it!” he screamed.
“Daddy, please!” I begged.
“Julius, please!” I heard my mother from behind the door, “don’t do this!”
“I have one way to avoid this debt,” he glared at me, pointing to the taxi, “get out of here.”
“What?!” I shouted, shocked and hurt, tears streamed down my face in a mix of sorrow and anger. “Daddy, I need your help and you’re-”
“Get. Out!” My father bellowed, “I don’t want to see you here, you filthy harlot! I won’t hear this ridiculousness about that Palma boy! You’re a liar and a whore! You are not the little girl I raised!” the door slammed in my face.
I recalled pounding on the door for the better part of five minutes before the taxi honked.
A sudden realization hit me: I had no money, I had no place to stay and my parents wouldn’t help me. My mother was useless against my father and despite her objections, I knew she’d never defy him.
As I made my way back to the taxi, that’s when I felt around in my pocket and I found Mimi’s card.
I got to the taxi, drying my eyes, “Uh, so, I need to go somewhere else.”
“Meter’s running,” he said flatly.
I nodded and picked up my cell phone, calling Mimi.
“Hello, this is Mimi,” she said shortly.
“Hi,” I sniffled, “uh, my name is Cleo and I-”
“Teryn's friend?” Mimi said, sympathetically.
“Y-yes,” I choked out.
“What’s wrong, hun?” Mimi questioned.
“I…” I turned from the taxi, “my father… disowned me… and I have… nowhere to-”
“I’ve got you, sweetheart. Teryn just moved in, you are more than welcome to stay with us. I’ll give you the address. Do you need some money for a cab? Don't answer that! Just come to the address and then we’ll work something out,” Mimi said, kindly.
The only person to give me any kindness that night was Mimi.

Naberious took a long drink of his beer, placing it down on the table hard. “Wow… fuck.”
“Yeah,” Cleo leaned back, taking a long sip of her own drink, “fuck.”
Naberious was silent, not sure how to respond to Cleo’s story.
Cleo was silent as well, looking out the window of the small diner the pair were sitting at.
Naberious shook his head, finally saying something, “I can’t imagine my daughter ever disappointing me, and if she needed my help I’d never turn her away.”
Cleo looked down into her glass.
“I would fight for her even if I thought she was wrong,” Naberious turned to Cleo, “that’s what fathers are supposed to do.”
Cleo gave a nod, her eyes devoid of emotion.
“You seem oddly calm,” Naberious pointed out.
“I’ve cried all my tears,” Cleo took another sip, “he’s not worth any more of them. My father decided he would leave me to the wolves.”
Naberious nodded.
Cleo smiled as she looked at the ice shifting in her glass, “I wonder if he ever suspected I’d join them? Speaking of wolves,” Cleo thought to herself. “Nab, where did Sorjoy run off to?”
Naberious chuckled, “him? Oh… well here’s the thing…”
...
Sorjoy leaned back in the limo and pulled up his phone, “Driver, new address if you would,” he announced the new destination to Naberious.
“Not a problem,” Naberious announced as he drove Sorjoy to a location on the far side of the city.
Sorjoy got out, approaching the driver, “head back to where Cleo is, I’ll have a ride back to the office.”
Naberios lifted an eyebrow, shrugged, and drove off.
Sorjoy made his way to a building and walked into an alley. He placed his finger against a door lock. After a brief click, the door opened to an elevator and Sorjoy entered.
Sorjoy descended quickly from the dingy above-ground facility down into a well kept and modern looking hallway.
As he walked to another doorway, he placed his thumb against the double doors, both unlocking.
“Nice to not be in front of annoying government regulators, huh Sorjoy?” Hoffman chuckled, walking up behind Sorjoy from an adjoining hallway.
“Hoffman,” Sorjoy turned to him, “seems we were heading to the same place when we got the call.”
Hoffman scoffed, “Something you want to tell me about said committee meeting?”
“Outside of effective time management and scheduling, no,” Sorjoy said.
“So you know nothing about this?” Hoffman growled, showing a stream of the committee hearing on his phone to Sorjoy.
Sorjoy’s eyes went wide as he watched Cleo give the opening statement to the committee, “What?!”
“You had a rep lined up?” Hoffman growled, “well played, you little shit. I thought I would have caught you with your pants down with this meeting and the committee would have to reschedule. But no matter,” Hoffman grinned.
“Caught me off guard?” Sorjoy questioned, his eyebrow lifting. “Wait, how could you have known about this meeting beforehand?”
Hoffman grinned, “oh, Sorjoy, I’m the reason this meeting is happening at all.”
“Mind cluing me in?” Sorjoy asked.
“No,” Hoffman said snidely, “I don’t think I will.”
Sorjoy narrowed his eyes and Hoffman forced himself past Sorjoy, walking to the long table as other members of The Scale filtered in here and there.
Both men took their seats at the long, opulent table, Trueman sitting at the head, his oxygen tubes hissing as he labored his breaths.
Hoffman sat to Trueman’s right and Sorjoy even spotted Palma’s father, Gabriel Palma, sitting next to him.
Others all filed in and Sorjoy took his seat opposite Hoffman.
Mr. Trueman knocked on his gavel, looking around the room, slowly getting to his feet. “It seems everyone is here.”
Sorjoy and Hoffman’s attention was fully on Trueman as he spoke.
“It would seem that the scale has a problem,” Trueman announced.
There were murmurs before Trueman knocked his gavel down on the table again, “Mr. Hoffman has provided unsettling information to me,” he turned to Hoffman, “Mr. Hoffman?”
Hoffman grinned and got to his feet, “It would seem that the Yuki situation has not resolved itself.”
Sorjoy placed his elbow on the table, biting his thumb in frustration.
“In fact, one of my men was provided satellite data that showed that the fallen miner had not died when the official report states,” Hoffman grinned to Sorjoy.
Trueman turned to Sorjoy, “Sorjoy, explain.”
Sorjoy got to his feet, taking a swift to inhale, “Mr. Trueman, the situation is very much unchanged. I only learned of Yuki Karkade being alive very recently from my Niten contact.”
There was an eruption of murmurs and grumblings.
“Enough,” Trueman shouted, glaring at Sorjoy, “and you were going to tell me, when, exactly?”
“During the next meeting,” Sorjoy confessed.
“Something I must take your word for,” Trueman narrowed his eyes on Sorjoy, “going forward, if there is such a development regarding Yuki Karakde, you will inform me immediately. Understand?”
“Yessir,” Sorjoy cleared his throat, “my apologies, I did not consider this such a matter to call an emergency meeting over.”
“It isn’t,” Trueman explained, “Mr. Hoffman will explain further.”
Mr. Hoffman held up a single sheet of paper to the entire room, “attached to the information that was leaked to my group, was the following encrypted message.” he placed it on the table, where it was projected up above the table for all to see.
“Good Evening,
I know the truth about Nite.
Sincerely,
Persephone.”
The room erupted into a cacophony of murmurs and shouting before Trueman once again slammed his gavel down on the table. “Gentlemen,” Trueman announced, “this message was encrypted and was only seen by Mr. Hoffman after biometric verification.”
More murmurs filled the room.
“It seems,” Trueman announced, “that we have someone from the outside, who wishes to get in.”
“I’ll flush out this, Persephone, whoever it is,” Sorjoy announced.
“No, Mr. Sorjoy,” Trueman narrowed his wrinkled eyes on Sorjoy, “I want you to see this "fallen miner" task to its completion. Do I make myself clear?”
Sorjoy nodded, “Yes, Grand Patriarch.”
“Good,” he turned to Hoffman, “Mr. Hoffman, I am putting you in charge of this "Persephone" situation, as you seem to be the only one that this mysterious Persephone is reaching out to, so far.”
“Whatever you need, Grand Patriarch,” Hoffman grinned smugly at Sorjoy.
“I want you to find out who this Persophone is,” Trueman glared down to Hoffman, “and bring them to me.
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2020.08.31 10:09 Meda31Augl Dressing room spy tube

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2020.08.30 10:39 chico2794 Dressing room spy tube


Chapter One
I was going to a yard sale in my town with my girlfriend. It was a spring day and the weather was nice, so we decided to take a walk. While we were walking, we came across a sign that was stapled to a telephone poll advertising a yard sale.
“Hey, a yard sale. Let’s go check it out,” my girlfriend said.
I looked at the sign, and saw that the yard sale was only a few streets away, so we decided to walk over there and take a look. The yard sale was set up on the front lawn of an old Victorian style house, which had to be built in the 1800s. We noticed a few people there, browsing the items that were for sale.
Monica, my girlfriend, collected antiques. She was always on the lookout for something for her collection. A young couple were waiting on the browsing people. Monica was checking out a table with some assorted knick-knacks on it, while I was looking at some old paperback books. I noticed that she was holding up a small brass bell studying it.
“David, come look at this,” she said to me, and I walked over to the table to join her.
She handed me the bell to examine, and to me it just looked like an old bell, but I am not into antiques like she is, so I just said, “This is very interesting honey.”
“It’s very old, that is what drew my attention to it,” she exclaimed. “I would like this for my collection.”
The lady who was running the yard sale came over to us.
“Hello, do you see something that you like?” she asked us. She was very pretty, about 5 feet 7 inches tall, with a petite build, and shoulder length blond hair, and I guessed around 25 years old.
“I would like to ask you about this bell,” Monica said to the lady.
“That belonged to my grandmother,” the lady exclaimed. “My name is Cheryl, and this was my grandmother’s house. My husband John and I, are selling some things from her estate, because I am afraid, we are selling the house. I am only keeping the pictures and jewelry and other little keep-sakes, but we are selling the rest.”
“John, honey, come over here.” He came over to join us, and he immediately looked familiar to me when I saw him.
“I have forgotten my manners Monica laughed, let me introduce myself, my name is Monica and this is my fiancée David.”
“Well I’ll be damned that’s John Robertson,” I said to Monica.
Both her and Cheryl looked at each other a bit puzzled.
“David, I thought that was you,” he said and we shook hands.
“Babe, this is David Jones, we went to school together,” he said to Cheryl.
“Oh? How nice, “she said
“John, I thought that you had moved to California?” I asked him
“I did, and we still live there, when Cheryl’s grandmother passed away, we came back here to settle her estate.”
“This is my fiancée Monica,” I told him. “She collects antiques and she was admiring this bell.”
“I remember my grandmother telling me that the bell was from the 1800s, I think? It belonged to some eccentric old guy.”
“I would like to buy it for my collection,” Monica said to Cheryl
“Let me give it to you as a gift for your upcoming wedding,” she told Monica
“Really? She asked. Are you sure? I mean I could pay you for it.”
“Please accept it as a gift, “Cheryl said
“Thank you, Cheryl, that’s very sweet of you,” she replied
“Your very welcome Monica, and how would you and David like to join John and I for dinner tonight?”
She looked at me and I nodded my approval. We said our farewell’s and Cheryl asked us to come by around 5:30 that evening.
We walked back to our house, it belonged to my mom, who had passed away a few years ago. It was also a Victorian style home; it had been totally renovated about 10 years ago. It was a beautiful home.
It had 2 main floors and also a third smaller wing, with 5 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a large country style kitchen, with a living room, and a parlor, and a few smaller rooms that could be used for an office or spare bedrooms etc. The attic was very large also. It was really too big us, but I wanted to keep the house in my family, so I kept it.
In the entrance hall there was a glass display case, where Monica kept some of her antiques on display. She had collected various things over the years. She had old plates, coins, dolls, figurines, etc. I liked books myself and had a modest collection.
“That was nice of Cheryl to give you the bell,” I said to her
“Yes, I thought I would bring some nice wine with us for dinner as a gift to them.”
“That sounds like a good idea honey.”
I had gone to school with John, and we hadn’t seen each other since graduation. We had both went off to college, he was going to be an electrical engineer and I majored in English. It would be good to talk with him and catch up, I wasn’t really big on going to my high school reunions, I was sort of a loner in high school. Monica left to go get some wine for dinner that evening, and I decided to take a shower and get changed into more suitable clothes for dinner.
It was 3:15 pm
Chapter Two
We arrived at Cheryl’s grandmother’s house right on time. We just walked over there again from the house. I didn’t see the need to bring the car. Monica looked very elegant dressed in a black cocktail dress, and a pearl necklace and earrings. She had purchased 2 bottles of wine from the liquor store. One bottle of Chardonnay and a bottle of Burgundy. We walked up the path onto the front porch and rang the bell.
John opened the front door and welcomed us in. He was dressed casual like I was. He had on a short sleeve button down shirt with Dockers.
The front hallway was a similar design to my house. To one side of the hallway was the staircase to the second floor. It had old fashioned lighting fixtures and I could see where originally it had gas lights. The hallway entered into the dining room.
“Cheryl is in the kitchen, I wanted to grill he laughed, but she wanted to cook so…” he trailed off
“Let me go find her and give her the wine,” she said to John
“Sure, the kitchen is left of the dining room, you can’t miss it.”
She walked into the dining room and went to the left to find Cheryl.
“David, come, let’s sit in the living room while we wait for the ladies.”
I followed him into the dining room and to the right of it was the living room area. It was about the same size as my living room maybe 20 feet by 30 feet. It had a very nice oriental rug and was decorated with antique furniture.
“We better not let Monica see this furniture, she’ll want to buy it,” I commented, and we both laughed we sat down and started to talk.
“How long has it been David?” he asked me.
“God, must be 20 years John, since our graduation.
We chatted a bit and then Cheryl and Monica came into the room and announced that dinner was ready.
“This is a beautiful house Cheryl.” Monica commented
“Thank you, I really wish we could keep it, but we have our careers out in California. Unless I rented it out, I don’t see how I could possibly keep it.”
“You said this was your grandmother’s house? Was it in your family a long time?” Monica asked.
“Oh yes my great, great, grandfather built it. He was a railroad tycoon of some sort, my grandmother never talked much about her family. I had got the feeling that there were some skeletons in the closet, and you know how older people are about scandals,” she laughed.
“So, your maiden name is Gellar then?” Monica asked
“Yes, it is, I guess this is kind of a historic house after all. It was the railroad that put this town on the map and my great, great, grandfather. His name was Fredrick Gellar. He helped found this town.
“You have a very interesting family history,” Monica replied
“This is a great dinner Cheryl, thank you for inviting us,” I said
They were enjoying a dinner of roast beef, mashed potatoes with gravy and fresh vegetables and fresh baked bread. The wine that David and Monica brought, went well with the meal.
We finished up our dinner, and Monica and Cheryl cleared the table and went into the kitchen to do the dishes. We all went into the living room to talk, after we had a dessert of homemade chocolate cake with coffee.
John asked if we wanted an evening cocktail and we both excepted. He made me a scotch on the rocks and Monica had a martini. We started talking about the usual thing, jobs and stuff, and I could tell that Monica wanted to find out more about Cheryl’s family.
“Monica, would you like to see the rest of the house?” asked Cheryl
“Oh, I would really like that.”
“David would you like to come along?” asked Monica
“I’m going to stay here with John and have my scotch, you go ahead babe,” I replied, and the ladies walked out of the living room.
Monica followed Cheryl into the hallway and they went up the stairs to the second floor.” I really wanted to keep the house, but I don’t think we can,” Cheryl said, and she looked distraught. Monica felt bad for her, so she said, “Listen, Cheryl, if you and John have to go back to California, why don’t you wait on selling the house? I mean David and I can keep an eye on the house for you while you’re gone. I really don’t mind, and if you want to look into renting it out to a family, I can help you with that too.” She looked at me with tears in her eyes and gave me a hug.
“Thank you, Monica, that would mean a lot to John and I. Are you sure that it’s not a problem?”
“Not at all, I will discuss it with David later okay?”
She showed me the bedrooms and bathroom upstairs, they were all very beautiful rooms, and I could tell that her grandmother took really good care of the house. We finished our little tour; we didn’t go into the attic. We walked back downstairs, and rejoined John and David. We said our goodbyes for the evening and I got Cheryl’s cell number and gave her mine. Then David and I walked back home.
Chapter Three
Monica and I got back to the house and we were both ready for bed. We retired for the night.
Monica was dreaming…
She heard the sound of a bell ringing, and started walking toward the sound. She could not see that well because it was very misty. She knew that she was in some kind of forest because she could see the outline of the trees. She was scared, but also curious. She wanted to know what the sound of the bell meant? After a time, she came to a clearing in the forest, the mist started to clear. Standing atop of a large boulder was a figure dressed in dark robes, he was ringing the bell with his left hand, and in his right hand he held what looked like a stick or a staff of some sort? He was calling these ‘creatures’ out of the forest. The creatures looked like a large misshaped human being, but not quite human, they were deformed, with ash-gray skin that was stretched tightly against their bones. Their eyes were sunk back into their skulls. It looked as if the skin was falling off from them, and she could see the exposed bone beneath. They looked emaciated. She also noticed this noxious smell coming off of them, like rotting flesh and garbage. The smell almost made her gag. She stood there frozen; she could not move nor look away. All of the creatures assembled in front of the figure with the bell. One of the creatures turned around and looked right at her, she could see its coal-red eyes burning into her with its gaze. The dark figure also saw this, and he too looked at her…
She woke up.
Monica woke too the smell of fresh brewed coffee, and the wonderful aroma of bacon. This almost made her forget about the strange dream she had. She got out of bed and found her robe and slippers, and made her way downstairs into the kitchen,
“Good morning baby,” I said to her.
“Good morning honey,” she replied and walked over to kiss me. “Breakfast smells wonderful.”
“Take a seat babe, I’ll get your coffee.” I told her as I went into the cabinet for a coffee mug, rinsed it out and poured the coffee into the mug. I set the mug down in front of her, and went back to the stove. “It’s just about ready.”
“Great, I’m starving,” she said
I had placed four slices of bread in the toaster shortly before Monica came into the kitchen, and the toast popped up. I put two plates on the counter and placed four slices of bacon, two fried eggs, and two slices of toast on each plate. I brought them over to the table and sat down to join her. We started eating and Monica said.
“I had the strangest dream last night David,” she recalled the dream for me and I replied.
“Maybe it was the talk we had last night, and you getting the bell for your collection?”
“Maybe that’s what it was? She replied. “Cheryl wants to keep that house in her family, so I told her I would ask you about us keeping an eye on it for them when they go back to California?” she asked me.
“Sure, I don’t see why not?” I said
“I am very curious about that house and about her family, but I don’t want to seem like I am nosey,” she laughed. “I am going to go to the library, and do some research while you are grading your papers okay honey?”
We finished up our breakfast, and Monica headed out to the library.
The town library was located in the central business district. The post office, DMV, police station, fire department, and city hall, were all located in the business district along with the library. There was a large municipal parking lot located there, where Monica parked her car, and walked to the library.
It was a large building, and Monica was very familiar with it. This is where her and David met for the first time, when she was in college and studying for one of her courses. It was quiet on the streets, because it was a Sunday. A lot of people were in church, or at home relaxing and enjoying the last day of the weekend, before the Monday-Friday grind.
She entered the library, and went to the front desk, where an elderly woman was.
“May I help you?” she asked,
“Yes, I am doing research on old homes in town, and I wanted to know what kind of information the library might have on the houses?”
“We have a lot of the old records stored on micro-film, and also the tax records and titles,” she tapped a few things on her computer and looked up. “You can use the machines downstairs, the young lady there will assist you.”
Monica thanked the lady, and went to the downstairs level of the library. She had always wondered why a lot of places keep their records in a basement or lower level, when if there was a flood or something, the records would be destroyed.
The young girl who assisted Monica, was a college intern, and very helpful. Her name was Jennifer. She showed Monica how to operate the machine for the micro-film, and brought her several small rolls to look at. Monica found the information on the Gellar Estate and indeed Frederick Gellar was the original owner and built the house in 1840. He had made a fortune in the thriving railroad business of that day. He probably could have afforded to build an even grander house than this one, but I guess he was modest? Monica found a newspaper article dated 1841 announcing the marriage of Frederick Gellar to Elizabeth Barlow.
The Daily Gazette March 14, 1840
The marriage of Eastern Railroad tycoon Frederick Gellar to Elizabeth Barlow.
Railroad magnet Frederick Gellar married Elizabeth Barlow at Our Lady of Sorrows Church this past Sunday. Barlow, who’s family is well known in the coal business, is 23 years old socialite from Baltimore, Maryland.
Monica found the original blue prints for the estate and was stunned when she saw that there were two full floors below the first floor. This was very unusual for a house of that type to have something like this, and this made her even more curious than ever to find out more on the Gellar family.
David was sitting at his desk in his small office grading papers. He was currently teaching English classes at the local high school. He liked being a teacher very much, but he really wanted to be a writer. He glanced at his watch, and saw it was 11:45 am, he had told Monica that he would meet her downtown for lunch. There was a small café that they both liked, and they went there often. The name of the café was ‘The Shamrock Inn’ and it was run by a man named Patrick O’Malley and his wife Mary.
Monica was so engrossed into her research of the Gellar house; she almost forgot the time. She glanced at the clock on the wall and saw it was 11:50 am. She was meeting David for lunch. She shut down the machine, and gave back Jennifer all of the materials, and explained that she had to meet her fiancée for lunch. The library was closing at 2:00 pm that day, so she would have to come back another day to continue with her research. She left the library to meet up with David at the café.
Chapter Four
I was sitting at our usual table in the corner of the café. I had ordered a pint of Killian’s Red, and Monica walked into the café. He was a lucky man; Monica was a beautiful woman. She had green eyes, and long dark hair, she was 5 feet 6 inches tall, and a curvy figure. They had meet in the library when David was doing some research for his classes, and Monica was in her Junior year of college. They immediately hit it off, and soon they were an item. He was ten years her senior, but the age difference never bothered them.
“Ah, there she is. Hello las, would you care for a drink?” Patrick asked her. She liked Patrick, he was always in a good mood and had a cheery outlook on life. He was in his 60s and had white hair with a full beard, a sort of Irish Santa Clause.
“Hi Patrick, I’ll have a light beer please,” she told him
Monica told me what she had found out in her research into the Gellar Estate. And that she planned on going back to the library in the morning. Then her cell phone rang.
It was Cheryl and she told Monica that John and her had to go back to California right away, because John was needed at the construction site of the new high rise he had designed. She asked Monica if she could stop by the Estate and she would talk to her more then.
We finished our lunch, and we couldn’t leave without having the delicious apple pie that Patricks’ wife Mary made. We finished up and drove over to the Gellar Estate.
Cheryl greeted us at the front door and we went inside. John was upstairs, she told us packing up for their flight in the morning.
“Thank you for coming over right away,” Cheryl said “I wanted to give you the keys to the estate, and I wanted to ask Monica if she could put an advertisement in the paper to rent the estate out. John and I have decided to keep the house.”
“That’s great Cheryl, I would be more than happy to help you get the estate rented. I could take some pictures and upload them to a few web sites that rent properties. I think you will get better results other than just advertising in the newspaper.”
“Okay, I will leave that part up to you Monica, I am sorry again for the short notice, but John’s company really wants him back ASAP.”
I could tell that Cheryl wanted to get back to her packing, so we said goodbye and left. We got back home and I had to finish up grading my papers, while Monica got on her computer to do some more research.
Monica looked up the history of the Eastern Railroad Company, and wanted to see if she could find any information on Frederick Gellar. She somehow thought that the dream she had was connected to Frederick Gellar. She found this article on the website.
Frederick Gellar aged 35, Recently married to Elizabeth Barlow, makes plans to build estate in upstate New York. He has hired architect Manfred Von Heller to design and build the house.
Von Heller is famous for his Victorian style homes, and much of his work can been seen throughout New England. Construction of the Gellar Estate to begin in April 1840.
The other articles were just about the railroad’s business dealings, with earnings and other boring financial information. Monica hoped the library would have more information than this, that she could investigate.
The next morning, I had to go to work, and Monica was heading back to the library, but she would meet me for lunch later. I kissed her goodbye and left for the high school. My students liked me well enough and I got respect. Teenager’s hormones are all over the place at this age, so I get where they are coming from. I try to get my students into reading classic literature, and a lot of the time they get very interested in certain books like George Orwell’s ‘1984’, or J.D. Salinger’s ‘The Catcher in the Rye’. I would often have the students take turns reading out loud in the classroom. The papers I had graded over the weekend were their book reports on Salinger’s novel. They had some interesting views, and I was happy with their papers, everyone passed. I headed into my classroom and got ready for the day.
Monica realized that she had the strange dream the day that she was examining the bell. She had put the bell in the display case that was in the entrance hallway, and she had not touched it since. She decided to do a little ‘test’, and went to get the bell from the display case. She was going to take a closer look at it. The bell was about 3 inches in diameter at its bottom, and then tapered up to the top where there was a handle. She turned the bell over and looked at the inside, that’s when she noticed some symbols, that she had not seen the day she first examined it. She didn’t recognize the symbols, but she was going to see if she could research them at the library. She got ready to leave for the library.
📷📷📷[1]
When she got to the library, she got a few books on the occult, to start looking for the symbols that were on the bell.
The first symbol was The Eye of Horus and according to the book it was an ancient Egyptian religious symbol for protection. The second symbol was called an Ouroboros which meaning was that of infinity, and also the cycle of death and rebirth. The third symbol was a Pentagram, which had several meanings. It represented the five elements earth, fire, water, air, and soul, and also the five wounds of Christ. Upside down it was a satanic symbol of the sigil of Baphomet.
📷 [2]
This was very confusing for Monica, and she started to wonder if Frederick Gellar was involved in the occult? She had to meet David for lunch, so she would come back to the library after, and continue her research.
This time she met David at a pizzeria that was near the high school. Her and her girlfriends used to go there often when she attended high school, the name of the place was Nick’s Pizza, and they made really good pizza, but also the other food was equally as good.
She entered the pizzeria, and saw the David was already there sitting at a table near the rear of the place.
“Hi, honey how is your day going?” she asked David as he got up and pulled out a chair for her.
“It’s going good so far,” he replied and kissed her on the cheek. “my 11th grade class was happy that they all passed their book reports on ‘the catcher in the rye’”
The waitress came to take their order, and David ordered a meatball parmesan hero, while Monica ordered an Italian anti-pasta salad. She started to tell David what she had learned at the library, and about the symbols on the bell. He looked at her with concern and said, “I want you to be careful honey.”
“I have to go to the Estate tonight to take pictures, so Cheryl can rent out the Estate to a client. Maybe while we’re there, we can snoop around a bit?”
“Okay, but again, I want us to be careful, we just met John and Cheryl, and we really don’t know much about them, I mean I went to school with John, but that was a long time ago.”
“I’ll be careful David, I promise.” Their food came and they ate their lunch, not mentioning the Gellar Estate. A few of David’s students were also in the pizzeria, and they stopped over to say hi. Monica noticed how much his students liked him, and that he was really good at teaching, she had a college degree in business, but she wasn’t working right now. Her family was wealthy, and she really didn’t need to work, so for the last few years she helped get their house in order, and looked after her mother, who had died the previous year. David never pushed her, and he was a proud man, never asking her for a dime, she had over ridden him on a few occasions and he relented. She had always said that what good was having money, if she could not use it? So, they had come to a silent agreement that they both understood.
Chapter Five
We arrived at the Gellar Estate at 7 pm. One of My hobbies was photography and I had several nice cameras. I brought My Nikon D3500 DSLR digital camera. Monica planned on taking pictures of the outside of the Estate, and then the inside.
“Would you help me with the pictures?” she asked Me
“Sure honey, no problem,” I said laughing a bit. Monica knew how to use the camera, but I was much better at it. Monica wanted to have good pictures of the estate to put up on the website, so that Cheryl could rent out the place. We had finished taking pictures outside, and had the first floor done. Recalling the blueprints, Monica was looking for the door to the lower floors, and off the kitchen, in the butler’s pantry there was a door. She opened the door and found the light switch, when she turned it on, she saw the stairs leading down to the basement. She checked to make sure that I was with her, and he even asked her if she wanted him to go down first, but she started down the stairs.
Cheryl and John arrived at the airport, and were waiting to board their flight.
“Honey, you should have told Monica,” he said with a serious look.
“I was going to, but Monica seems so nice, I didn’t want to scare her. “What was I going to say? That my grandmother was a witch?” she said and started to cry. “I didn’t believe it myself, but I remember things that happened at the estate when I was a girl,” she said
Cheryl was eight years old, and was visiting her grandmother over her summer vacation from school. She had always enjoyed spending time with her grandmother June. At the time, June Gellar was 62 years old. She was exploring the estate one day, when she came across the basement door. She was curious, so she decided to explore further. She got down into the basement and saw the usual stuff in a basement, hot water heater, furnace, oil tank, and there were several boxes, and on the far side of the basement, she saw a door. She immediately went towards the door. She felt a little guilty by spying, but her girlish curiosity got the best of her, and she opened the door.
Monica reached the bottom of the stairs, and saw the basement area, and it had the usual stuff you would expect to find in a basement. Then she noticed a bookcase along the far wall of the basement, that kind of looked out of place. She walked towards the bookcase and saw that is was very old, and very heavy.
“David help me move this,” and tried moving the heavy bookcase to the left. I helped her and we managed to move the bookcase to reveal a door behind it.
“I knew there was a door somewhere,” she exclaimed excitedly. And she proceeded to open the door.
Cheryl opened the door, and saw a stairway leading down, she looked for a light switch, but didn’t find one She couldn’t go down there with no light, so she ran back upstairs and got a flashlight and returned to the stairway, and started to descend it. At the bottom, she saw a long hallway with several doors on each side. She went to the first door on the right, her heart was pounding in her chest. She opened the door, and saw that it was an office of some kind, with diagrams of the human body on the walls, but they looked very old. The office looked like it hadn’t been used in a very long time. There was a desk and some file cabinets, nothing very special except she wondered why this floor was down here? She exited the office and went to the first door on the left. She opened the door and saw an examination table in the center of the room with overhead lights, there were some cabinets against the wall with glass doors and inside she could see several glass jars that were labeled. Cheryl was even more confused now, she didn’t know that any of her relatives were doctors, and if that was the case? Why was all this under the estate? She exited the examination room and went to the second door on the right, she opened this door and saw that it was a library. All the walls were filled with bookshelves and there must have been 100s of volumes. There was also a desk in the room with two large chairs in front of it. The next room she entered the second door on the left was filled with animal cages of all different sizes. The cages were all empty, but she thought this was very strange also. She was down to the last two doors now. She entered the last door on the right and saw that it was a laboratory. She recognized a lot of the equipment, A microscope, Bunsen burner, test tubes, beakers, petri dishes, and a bunch of other stuff. She went to the last door on the left and opened it. Inside she saw rows of storage shelves, this was some kind of storage room. On the far wall she noticed another door. She was curious to see what was on the other side of the door and started to walk towards it, when she heard her grandmother’s voice from behind her.
“Cheryl, you shouldn’t be down here. Come upstairs with me right now young lady,”
Cheryl was disappointed, but she obeyed her grandmother and went back upstairs with her. She was not defeated; she would wait until her grandmother went to bed and then sneak back down here and see what was on the other side of the door.
Monica opened the door, and saw the stairway leading down. She got out her cell phone and switched on the flashlight. “Let’s check it out,” she said to me. And we proceeded down.
They came across the office, examine room, library, cages, laboratory, and finally the storage room. They noticed the door on the far wall and Monica remembered the blueprints of the house showing another floor under this one. “I’ll bet this goes down to the second level,” she said and opened the door. The stairway was much longer and went in a circular pattern, on the walls they noticed sconces for torches, and followed the stairway down.
When they got to the bottom or the stairs they were in a large ani-chamber that opened into a large circular chamber and on the floor was a huge pentagram. It looked like some kind of religious place and they saw more sconces on the walls and looked up, the celling must have been at least 2 stories high. There was also a large stone alter in the center or the pentagram. There was a lot of candles on the alter. Monica was studying the alter and noticed a drawer on the side of the alter, and she opened it. Inside she saw a Ouija Board and planchette. She also saw a deck of Tarot Cards.
“David, look at this,” she motioned to the objects in the drawer.
“This just keeps getting stranger and stranger,” I said, “What do you want do? “I asked her.
“I think that I should ask Cheryl if she knows about these lower floors, and see what she says,” she replied. She took out the Ouija Board, and Tarot cards from the drawer and said, “I’ll take these and see what I can find out.” “Okay, but let’s be careful. I don’t want to start messing with things that we know nothing about.”
I noticed a hallway off the chamber and Monica and I went to explore it.
Cheryl was remembering the night she was awakened by voices coming from downstairs. She very quietly crept down the stairs and listened. She heard her grandmother’s voice along with other voices, they were coming from the parlor. She sneaked into the hallway and peeked through the dining room into the parlor. She saw everyone sitting at a round table, and noticed a Ouija Board on the table and her grandmother was asking it something. Cheryl got scared suddenly and quietly as she could, she got back upstairs and hid under her covers. She wanted to explore what was behind the door in the storage room. She waited until her grandmother went to bed, and sneaked back downstairs into the storage room, she got to the bottom of the stairs and into the chamber, and the hallway. She was scared again, but she kept going. There was a small wardrobe room with robes hanging in it, a small bathroom, and at the end of the hallway there was another door.
Chapter Six
Monica and I saw the wardrobe room, and bathroom, and finally the door.
“I don’t like the looks of this,” I said to Monica
“We’ve came this far, let’s see what’s in there,” she said
She walked towards the door. It was a very heavy oak door with some of the same symbols on it that were on the bell. She looked at David, and then slowly opened the door.
Insert picture of door here
Inside the door, we saw a row of cells on one side of the corridor, and we were both shocked at the sight of the cells, fortunately the cells were empty. They continued down the hallway, and came upon another door. We tried to open it, but it appeared to be locked.
“Damn it,” Monica said. “Maybe we can find the key somewhere in the house?”
“Let’s head back upstairs babe”, I said to her, and we went back upstairs to the dining room.
It was getting late and I had to work in the morning, but soon summer vacation would start and I would have more time to help Monica figure out this mystery. We headed home.
Monica was dreaming…
She was in the chamber that her and I had discovered, and there were people there dressed in robes chanting
“Hear us Dark Lord. We offer you this sacrifice of innocent blood. Give us your blessing we beg of you.”
A young woman was laying on the alter, and one of the robed figures were standing over her with a dagger.
“Behold, the sacrifice,” and the figure took the dagger and cut a lock of hair from the woman on the alter. There was a brazier of hot coals next to the alter and he tossed the lock of hair into the flames. He then took the dagger and cut into her arm and collected blood in a golden goblet. He held the goblet over his head and said, “Receive this blood of the innocent, in our devotion to you Dark One,” he then tossed the blood into the brazier and the flame went from a yellow-orange to a bright blue. She then saw a mist form over the brazier and start to take the form of a face. When it took full form, it spoke to the group of robed figures.
“I hear your plea my faithful family, and I will come soon. I need more innocent blood; only then can I take human form.”
Monica saw that the woman on the alter was still alive, and one of the figures had bandaged her wounded arm and she was led away. The young woman looked like she was either drugged or in some sort of trance.
Monica woke up.
I have to find that key she thought as she got out of bed and went downstairs.
I had made us a breakfast of French toast with syrup and more bacon. (We both loved bacon for breakfast). She told me about the dream she had and she was more determined than ever to find the key to that door, and also to find out more about Frederick Gellar. She still wondered if she should ask Cheryl about what her and I had found at the estate?
I got ready to leave for work, and Monica told me that she planned on going back to the estate and looking for the key to the door.
“Okay, but promise me that if you find it, you will wait until I am with you before you open that door.”
“Don’t worry honey, I’ll wait for you. If I find anything, I will call you okay?”
I kissed her goodbye and left for work.
Monica went back to the estate. She had remembered the yard sale that Cheryl and John had, and decided to look for the boxes of stuff they had left over. That was as good a place as any to start.
She found the boxes that were stored in the hallway closet and took them out and started looking through them. She opened a box that had assorted knick-knacks inside and started to take out the contents. At the bottom was an old jewelry box. She opened it, and there was a small drawer inside the box, almost invisible. Monica knew the drawer was there, she had seen similar boxes before, so she knew what she was looking for. She opened the drawer, and there were three keys inside. Her heart started beating faster, and she got excited of the prospect that one of these keys might open the door. She wanted to try the keys and see if they opened the door, but she promised David that she would wait. She called him
“Hi baby, I miss you,” I said as I answered the phone
“I miss you too honey,” she replied. “I found some keys in an old jewelry box.”
“Wow, that’s great babe,” I said
“I was tempted to try them, but I told you I would wait, so I will.”
“Well, it also might be dangerous.”
“I’ll wait for you here when you get done at work, and I will make us some dinner okay?”
“That sounds great babe,” I said “I love you.”
“I love you too honey,” she said and we hung up
She still wondered if she should call Cheryl, she decided to wait until David got there. She headed to the market to get their dinner. She got some steaks, potatoes, and fresh asparagus. She also picked up a bottle of chianti.
She got back to the estate and went out to the back patio and found the grill. It was a nice stainless-steel grill master. She put the potatoes in the oven to bake and started the grill to make the steaks and asparagus.
I got to the estate, and was surprised by the dinner Monica had prepared for us. I kissed her and said, “This looks wonderful babe, but you didn’t have to go through all this trouble.”
“I enjoy cooking, and it’s no problem,” she said kissing him.
She had set up their dinner in the dining room, complete with candles. She knew that steak was one of my favorite meals, and I dug into the meal, it was delicious.
After they ate and finished the dishes, they were ready to try the keys. The headed downstairs to the second level and were standing in front of the locked door. Monica tried the first key and it didn’t fit, she tried the second key and it slid into the lock, she turned the key and heard the lock disengage with a loud click. She looked at me, and then opened the door.
[1] Pictures from Wikipedia ‘list of occult symbols’

[2] Picture from Wikipedia ‘list of occult symbols’
submitted by chico2794 to DrCreepensVault [link] [comments]


2020.08.25 21:56 Taxi_Dancer From The Halls of Montezuma to the Depths of Outer Space II: Return to Willow’s World (5/6)

From The Halls of Montezuma to the Depths of Outer Space II:
Return to Willow’s World (5/6)
“I’m getting a very serious case of deja’ vu, Sam,” said Jenn from the Valkyrie.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” answered Gabriel, communicating with Jenn via a comm-link from the cargo bay of the Helios.
The descent planet side passed without incident and Warrant Officer Dessantes landed the gunship inside the perimeter of the Chinese base less than 100 meters from the Wutai Shan’s port side. The demonic HELLUS entity glared at them from only a few miles away, as if in anticipation. Jenn flew in tight circles overhead, keeping a watchful eye for any threats coming from the dead zone. With 3rd Squad still aboard the USS Subic Bay, the crew of the Helios gunship took up the task to provide ground perimeter security while the rest of the platoon went into the Wutai Shan itself. Gabriel deployed his platoon in a wedge formation with 1st Squad on the left and 2nd Squad on the right and directed his Marines to move slowly and cautiously towards the Chinese ship. In the distance on their right, the HELLUS bellowed angrily, waving its arms and grasping with its six fingered claws, but unable to leave the perimeter of the dead zone. All of the Marines gasped and shuddered at the sight of the hellish demon with its blazing eye sockets and mouth and its broken tipped horn nearly spanning 100 feet.
From above, the Chinese base seemed to have been bathed in a pink and red dust. On the ground, however, the pink and red proved to be blood and gore, as if whatever caused such a massive amount of carnage was trying to paint the ship and structures in blood. Some of the younger Marines heaved and threw up, although they didn’t lose their place in the formation and kept moving.
“Barf and move, Marines! Barf and move!” Their squad and team leaders encouraged them onward, reminding them that they were Marines, and therefore, the deadliest things in the Valley of Death. Gabriel looked at his new CommSpec, Pfc. Rojas. He was pale as a sheet, eyes wide and head down.
“Are you okay, CommSpec?” said Gabriel. Rojas only nodded, sweat beading on his forehead. “Rojas! I said, ‘Are you okay?’”
“Yes, yes, sir,” he said, panting. “I’m fine, sir.”
“Keep your cool, Marine,” said Gabriel. “I need you by my side at all times with that CommTrans. Stay cool and we’ll be fine. Remember, most of us have been here before and we beat that thing once before. If it comes down to it, we’ll beat him again.” He said this louder so that all his Marines could hear.
“Yes, sir,” said Rojas with more confidence.
They passed the two, semi-circular metallic structures which the Chinese had constructed. It stood about 100 feet tall and, although separated, it was clearly meant to be put together to form some type of enclosure as the flat ends on each curve had three, ten feet in diameter, magnetic locking rings. It looked surprisingly light weight with relatively thin sheets of metal skin covering the supports. The reason for this was made clear with the multitude of small, maneuvering thrusters mounted on the sides of the structure as well as several remote antennae protruding from the top and sides.
“What do you think, El-Tee?” said SSgt. Boyer, who was walking next to Gabriel.”Does that look like some kind of stasis field generator?”
“Yeah,” said Gabriel. “I think so. Looks like they planned to remotely fly it to the dead zone, maneuver it around the HELLUS, then connect the two pieces using those magnetic locking rings. Once connected, they’d activate the stasis field and trap the HELLUS within to do whatever nefarious thing they planned to do with it.”
“That’s a crazy theory, sir,” said Boyer. “It’s not like the HELLUS was going to let them do it. Plus, inside the dead zone their remote transmitters would be operating at half its capacity, which would make maneuvering those giant half donuts nearly impossible. But, to tell you the truth, I can’t think of a better explanation.”
“Maybe that’s why they took so much time studying the HELLUS,” said Gabriel. “To see if their crazy plan would work.”
The Marines quietly approached the side of the ship, seeing a fifty foot wide metallic ramp extending down from the first deck thirty feet to the ground. The outside of the spy ship was completely black, but unlike the wrecked star ships in the dead zone, the Chinese had purposely painted the ship to be completely black. The Marines looked up the ramp into the massive interior of the ship. The interior of the ship was pained in a dark, olive drab color, though both the outside and inside had been smeared with blood and gore. There were long smears of blood, signs of bodies being dragged, as well as bullet holes peppering the ship, both inside and out. But again, there were no bodies. Ranging sensors also revealed no life signs or movement anywhere within the base outside of the Marines. They stacked at the base of the ramp, preparing to run up and enter.
“Boyer, your squad break left. Talley, you got right,” said Gabriel. His squad leaders nodded in understanding.
“Go!” nodded Gabriel and the Marines ran up the ramp, boots clanking on the metal surface. Boyers 1st Squad immediately cut left upon entering, the Marines covering every sector of fire with their weapons as they entered single file into the dark cavernous bay. Talley’s 2nd Squad repeated the process as her Marines simultaneously infiltrated the bay to the right. Lieutenant Gabriel, the medic Cpl. Chapman, CommSpec Pfc. Rojas, and LCpl. Chensi with her flame-gun brought up the rear, entering through the right closely behind Talley’s 2nd Squad. Upon entering, Pfc. Rojas finally threw up. The backup power generators were still working, so the emergency lights were on in the giant empty bay, although they were dim and cast an eerie yellow glow. But the air conditioning and circulation systems were offline and it was hot inside the hull, despite the giant ramp being down and it smelled like a slaughter house of rotting carcasses and flesh. Despite this, there was no sound of buzzing insects swarming over the feast of torn flesh and drying pools of blood. There was only the sound of clanking boots as Marines reported, “Left clear!” “Right clear!” said the squad leaders.
“Go to oxy-boost,” said Gabriel, holding his breath and reaching into his upper body armor plate.
Rojas backed out of the ramp, taking deep breaths of fresh air. Chensi chased after him, grabbing the heaving young Marine and pulling a black tube out from under a compartment hidden under his upper left breast armor plate. Two rubber nose plugs and a nose clip were attached to the end of the tube and Chensi attached it to Rojas’s nose, shoving the nose plugs into his nostrils. Once the tube was pulled out of its housing inside the Marine’s armor, a small battery pack activated, sucking in the surrounding air and filtering out most of the smells and other toxins or pollutants. This system was used in environments with less than optimal levels of oxygen, or in places where there were contaminants or toxins in the air. The battery charge was good for about three hours before it had to be changed under normal operating conditions. The oxy-boost also had the other normal benefits that cool purified oxygen provided to a human body and the color quickly returned to Rojas’s cheeks.
“Thank you, lance corporal,” gasped Rojas.
“Get back to the El-Tee,” said Chensi. “He needs that CommTrans.”
The two ran back inside the darkened bay and rejoined Lieutenant Gabriel. All of the Marines had black oxy-boost tubes connected to their noses. Gabriel glared at Rojas, but said nothing as the Marines fanned out and scanned the bay of the ship. It was roughly eighty feet high, one hundred feet wide and three hundred feet long. Boyer jogged up to Lieutenant Gabriel, the clanging of his boots echoing across the chamber.
“Looks like the Chinese really gutted the bay of all non-mission essential modules and equipment, sir,” he whispered.
“Yeah,” agreed Gabriel. “But even so, there is no way they could fit the HELLUS and their stasis generator inside here. If they wanted to fit the HELLUS inside here, they’d have to cut it up.”
“Sounds like something they’d do,” said Boyer.
“Sir,” said Talley as she approached the group. “Those lead up to the first and second decks.” She pointed to several sets of metal stairs built into the side of the bulkhead leading to metal grated landings that ended at closed metal hatches. “Do we even know where to start looking? All these plaques are written in Chinese.”
The walls and corridors were indeed lined with signs and plaques which, no doubt, named locations and gave directions on where certain compartments were located. Arrows with numbers pointed up and down p-ways, but all of the text was written in Chinese.
“Do we have anyone who knows how to read Chinese?” asked Gabriel. “It’s going to take a lot of time if we had to search all of the compartments on the upper decks.”
“Maybe we should split up?” suggested Pfc. Houser.
“Shut up, Houser!” said SSgt. Talley. “What did we tell you last time about Marines splitting up?”
“I’m afraid we may have to this time,” said Gabriel. “I don’t like it, but we may have to sacrifice fire superiority for coverage.”
“Hey, Chensi,” said LCpl. Maggas, Lieutenant Gabriel’s former CommSpec. “Can’t you read what it says?”
“And what makes you think I can read what those signs say?” said Chensi, visibly offended.
“Well, you are Asian after all, so I fingured…” LCpl. Maggas stopped speaking, seeing as how he didn’t want to be incinerated by the platoon’s flame gunner.
“So just because I’m Asian, I’m supposed to be able to understand Chinese?” said Chensi. “I’m Japanese, you idiot!” Chensi rolled her eyes and groaned. “Ugggg! C’mon, follow me. The deck directory says that the data storage main frames are on the first deck overlooking this hanger bay.”
“Wait,” said SSgt. Boyer. “I thought you said that you didn’t understand Chinese!”
“No, sergeant,” said Chensi, bounding up the nearest set of metal stairs next to the bulkhead leading to the upper decks. “I said that all Asians can’t be expected to speak each other’s language. My mother is part Chinese and she works with fleet intelligence as a Chinese translator!”
Boyer followed Chensi up the stairs, looking down behind him at Lieutenant Gabriel as the Marines quickly ascended the narrow metal stairs. Gabriel just shrugged. “Her mom is Chinese.”
The hatch at the top of the stairs was unsecured and the Marines piled through, securing the narrow corridor on the other side. Chensi read a directional schematic on the wall, then turned down the left corridor, leading her platoon behind her past several side corridors. They soon came to a four way junction and Chensi turned left again. The entire time, the squad leaders were monitoring their ranging sensors which thankfully indicated that the Marines were the only ones moving within the ship. This corridor ended at a t-junction which seemed to be the site of heavy combat as thousands of shell casings, dropped weapons, and bloody scraps of equipment and uniforms littered the ground. Chensi followed the gore soaked corridor to the left, not bothering to step over the scraps of slowly decaying flesh and body parts. The corridor ended at a closed hatch.
“How much farther, Chensi?” said Gabriel.
“Just beyond that hatch, sir,” she replied.
Gabriel turned to SSgt. Talley. “That’s a dead end. Boyer, I need your squad to secure this corridor. Talley, your squad double back and secure the last one.”
“Aye, aye, sir,” they said as the squad leaders positioned their Marines to secure the two corridors which they had just come down. Gabriel led Chensi, Rojas, and Chapman down the narrow corridor to the sealed hatch and turned the handle.
“It’s secured,” he said. “Chensi!”
“On it, sir,” she said, closing the aperture to her flame-gun to its narrowest setting while regulating the power setting. A brilliant surge of pencil thin white plasma emerged from the weapon’s muzzle and Chensi set to work cutting away the bulkhead which housed the locking mechanism. Once the panel was cut away, it took Chensi a few minutes to melt through the magnetic steel rods which locked the hatch in place. However, once the last rod was cut in half, Gabriel was able to turn the handle and burst into the compartment on the other side. Inside the roughly forty-five square foot compartment lay the bodies of two Chinese Marines and another Chinese person dressed in a bloody lab coat. They all had bullet holes in their heads. Gabriel recognized Chinese rank structure and could see that one of the Chinese Marines was a major, while the other was a senior captain.
“That’s the commander and the executive officer of their Marine detachment, I’d say,” Gabriel whispered.
Chensi looked at the name tag on the civilian in the lab coat. “I don’t recognize his name, but his title reads ‘Lead Astrophysicist’.”
“Looks like they were the last ones left alive here,” said Chapman. “I guess they didn’t make it out with the others.”
“Or they were here to prevent anyone getting through those doors,” said Gabriel, nodding to a set of thick, metallic, red doors at the opposite end of the room. Though he could not read Chinese, the bold, white characters painted on the red doors definitely meant that only authorized personnel were to be allowed access. “Chensi?”
Chensi looked at the doors, a worried expression on her face. “Those doors and the bulkhead panels are a foot thick. I may be able to cut the lock away, but it will take an hour, maybe more, and that’s if I have enough juice in my flame-gun to do it.”
“They really didn’t want anyone getting through,” said Gabriel, looking at his timer. “Three and a half hours. Not much time left.”
He thought about having Chensi cut in just enough to allow Boyer to plant some dets, but the exploding dets would risk damaging the data storage file that they were sent to retrieve. Rojas knelt down next to the Chinese astrophysicist who was missing a face, reaching into the breast pocket of his bloody light green lab coat and pulled out an identification badge encased in plastic. On the opposite side of the badge were thin lines of gold embedded in the card containing various entrance encryption codes.
“Sir?” he said, handing the card over to Lieutenant Gabriel.
“Oh, yeah, sure,” said Chensi. “If you insist on doing it the easy way.”
Gabriel smiled at Rojas and swiped the card on a card reader mounted on the bulk head next to the massive red door. The dim red light turned green and the red doors slowly began to slide open, obviously due to the dying back up power generators. Gabriel and Chapman pushed the heavy doors apart as far as they would go, but the automatic doors lost power and stopped, allowing room for only one person to squeeze through. “Stay here,” Gabriel commanded as he slipped into the other room.
The room beyond the red doors was long and narrow with wide, thick, Plexiglas windows overlooking the bay which the Marines had entered the ship from. Monitors and sensor banks lined the wall under the windows. Two bodies, both wearing light green uniforms, sat at seats in order to monitor the displays and sensors. One of them, a young female, clutched a picture of a little boy in her hands. Her male partner apparently shot her in the head first, before turning the handgun on himself. Ignoring them, Gabriel looked around for the main frame, recalling what it would look like from the visual displays which Commander Dorset had provided. A yellow and black handle protruded from a wall of computer hard drives. Gabriel activated a small lever switch which released the handle from its locked position and Gabriel grasped it, lifting up and sliding it back. It released with a click and slid backwards revealing a metal rectangle roughly seven inches wide, nine inches long, and an inch thick. The upper half nearest the handle was colored red with white Chinese characters. The lower half was white with red Chinese characters. The metal box-shaped object matched Dorset’s description of a data storage file from a Chinese capital ship, but he had to make sure this was the right one. Squeezing back through the sliding red door, Gabriel held up the box.
“Chensi, what does this say?” Gabriel asked.
“Made in China,” Chensi answered.
Gabriel rolled his eyes. “And what does it say underneath?”
Chensi squinted. “Wutai Shan Data Collection File// Operation Immortal Fire Soup // Top Secret // Preserve by any means necessary.”
“Operation Immortal Fire Soup?” said Chapman. “Did you read that right?”
“Soup. Broth. It could even mean drink or tea,” said Chensi. “But the most logical translation is ‘soup.’”
Gabriel pulled off his ruck sack, carefully strapping the data storage file into a compartment inside it.
Speaking into the platoon comms net, he said, “Boyer! Talley! We got what we came for. Prep your squads to move out!”
“Roger, sir,” said Talley, relief evident in her voice.
“That was easy, sir, “said Boyer.
“Dammit, SSgt. Boyer,” snapped Talley. “What the hell did I tell you last time about jinxing things?”
Suddenly, the ship shifted and the Marines were rocked slightly back and forth. The abrupt movement of the Chinese star ship wasn’t enough to cause anything to shift and fall, nor did any of the Marines lose their balance. It was as if something just nudged the massive vessel. Chensi looked wide eyed at Lieutenant Gabriel.
“Sam!” It was Jenn in the Valkyrie calling over Rojas’s CommTrans. “We got company outside!”
“Boyer, I’m going to choke murder you!” yelled Talley over the platoon comms net.
“Let’s move, Marines!” yelled Gabriel, shouldering his pack and sprinting out into the corridor. They met Boyer’s squad which was already up and moving down the way they had come. The ship bumped again, this time more violently than before. Soon, they reached Talley’s position and the platoon scrambled down the corridor to the right which led to the stairs leading back down to the main hanger deck and the open ramp. Along this corridor there were small viewing ports where the running Marines could look down into the base camp. Literally every inch of ground was churning upwards as hundreds, no, thousands of black, alien skeletons pushed themselves out of the ground, growing like a garden of unspeakable horrors.
“That’s how they snuck up on the Chinese,” yelled Boyer. “That thing can somehow move the undead underground!”
After one of the undead pulled itself from the ground another, and then another would pull itself up after. Warrant Officer Dessantes, her gunner and her navigator made a fighting retreat up the Helios, barely closing the back ramp ahead of the clawing appendages of alien dead. They swarmed up the gunship, climbing over each other in waves upon waves oozing like black oil from under the Helios. The skeletons of larger undead aliens, some as tall as ten feet, grabbed with skeletal claws or bony tentacles at the gunship as Dessantes began the engine start up procedures. Jenn flew overhead, but was hesitant to use her weapons in such close quarters as the targeting system on the damn Valkyrie was so unreliable.
“Dessantes,” yelled Gabriel into the CommTrans as they came to the stairs leading down into the hanger bay. “Can you get airborne?”
“We can’t maneuver! If any more of them pile aboard my gunship, they’ll damage it to the point that we won’t be able to fly,” yelled Dessantes.
“Can you get your people out of there?” yelled Gabriel.
“Negative,” replied Dessantes. “If I open any of the hatches, we’re screwed! But we should be good for awhile. The Helios can take a lot of punishment! It just can’t take this much weight!”
By now the Helios was literally buried under the carcasses of the undead which had climbed all over its fuselage and upper structure. Strangely though, of the thousands upon thousands of undead which had now risen and infested the base camp, none of them had paid any attention to the Wutai Shan or the Marines trapped within. The landing struts on the Helios began to buckle, and the massive shocks began to give way. The gunship creaked as the pressure began to build.
“Listen up, Marines,” yelled Gabriel. “They aren’t attacking us because they didn’t see us! They saw the gunship crew and that’s why they are attacking it!”
“El-Tee, I hope you aren’t thinking what I know you’re thinking!” yelled SSgt. Boyer.
“We have to get those things off the gunship,” said Gabriel. “We have to lead those things away!”
“Sir,” said SSgt. Talley. “The second we leave out of here, those things will be on us!”
Gabriel exhaled and nodded. “Dessantes!” he yelled into the CommTrans. “We have a plan to get them off your ship. Do you think you can clear us a little space and give us a little maneuvering room?”
“What do you have in mind?” answered Dessantes.
“We’re going to lead them away from you,” said Gabriel. “If we make enough of a commotion, hopefully they will come after us!”
“What?” said Dessantes. “What if that works? They’ll be on you instead of us!”
“My platoon has been through this before,” said Gabriel. “Once they follow us, hopefully they will lessen the load on the gunship to where you can lift off! We are faster than them and can get some distance on them. Once we’re clear, you can drop in and get us! We just need a little elbow room to maneuver!”
“I don’t like it,” said Dessantes. “But okay! I’ve got 4% maneuver thruster power under this weight and I’m facing completely the wrong way. If I fire, I’ll end up hitting the ship! Take cover and stay down. You’ll know when to go!”
The maneuvering thrusters of the Helios gunship whined and strained, carrying several thousand pounds of extra dead weight beyond what it was rated as being able to lift. The giant mountain of creeping, slashing and clawing alien corpses rose two feet into the air and slowly spun as Dessantes struggled to maneuver the gunship.
“Thrusters are going supercritical,” said the navigator. If we don’t shut down soon, they’re going to blow!”
“Just a few more seconds,” said Dessantes. “Gunner, get ready to fire guns! Then, on my mark, fire all of our rockets!”
“This close to the ground?” said the gunner.
“Just do it!” Dessantes had absolutely zero vision as the vision blocks were filled with the heaving, crawling, writhing bodies of the dead. She had no external sensors as well, as they had been retracted to protect them from the horde that was climbing aboard the outer hull. Relying strictly on memory, she struggled to turn the gunship’s nose away from the Wutai Shan, at the same time yelling at the gunner to fire guns only. When the gunship’s nose was at an angle pointing slightly away from the entrance ramp to the Wutai Shan, the gunner opened up with the Helios’ six 8.8mm machine guns and twin .50 caliber chain guns. Like a scythe cutting through wheat, the buzz saw effect of the guns sliced through the hordes of the undead immediately beside the Chinese vessel, although many of the rounds entered the lower cargo bays. Lieutenant Gabriel was standing at the top of a set of metal stairs on the first upper deck, his Marines stacked closely behind him. Below him, a line of bullet holes appeared as the sparks and ricochets of stray rounds entering the bay pinged and dinged off of equipment, computer banks, monitors and bulkheads. However, even though a few rounds bounced only a few feet below his boots, as soon as the ricochets ceased, Gabriel yelled, “GO! GO! GO!” He led his Marines down the metal stairs, down to the deck which ran parallel to the bullet ridden bulkhead and sprinted towards the main exit ramp.
By now, the Helios gunship was somewhat perpendicular to the Wutai Shan, still only two feet off the ground and still covered with angry black corpses. “Gunner,” yelled Dessantes. “Fire our pod loaded 72mike-mike rockets! Two-by-two! Aarg!!” Dessantes grunted as she pulled the stick back, trying to anticipate the recoil of the massive rocket launch.
“On the way!” responded the gunner as two underwing mounted rocket pods, each loaded with twenty-two Mk-9 Ultra Hydra rockets, launched from their tubes. The explosive results were immediately felt as, because of the densely packed bodies, many rockets exploded as close as fifty meters in front of the gunship. Shrapnel and shard pieces of black bone flew in all directions as dozens of rockets exploded in blossoms of fiery red flames. The gunship pitched and buckled, as some of the dead were thrown off the front of the gunship like melted glaciers falling away from a mountain face. The cockpit was awash with red warning lights and screaming alarms as Dessantes struggled to keep the gunship steady.
“Maneuvering thrusters are going super critical!” warned the navigator. “We only got seconds!”
“On the way!” said the gunner again as the second two underwing rocket pods fired into the writhing sea of the dead, the resulting impacts and explosions extending the carnage in the rank upon rank of black skeletons. More of the dead were thrown off the front of the gunship, making it heavy to the rear. Combined with the recoil of the rockets, slight though it was, it was enough to tip the gunship off balance. The Helios slipped backwards, landing with a tremendous crash that bounced it up into the air again like a ball only to crash down in a heap of smoke.
“Shut down! Shut down! Shut down!” yelled Dessantes. “I need a damage report!” The bouncing around and the weapons firing had dislodged most of the undead from the gunship, perhaps even making it so that it could take off. But the supercritical strain on the maneuvering thrusters would mean that the gunship would need time to cool the engines and the crew would need time to access the damage to see if the gunship was air worthy, much less space worthy. Still, the rugged Helios had done its job as the tremendous display of firepower had cleared a narrow corridor through the sea of dead nearly twenty meters wide and three hundred meters long. But it was a corridor that would only be opened for a short time.
“Follow me!” yelled Gabriel and thirty Marines trampled down the metal exit ramp, each firing their weapons in controlled bursts into the horde. They ran parallel to the Wutai Shan which was relatively free of the undead thanks to the gunship’s gun fire. Gabriel looked back at the Helios, surprised that relatively few of the horde had noticed them as they were still concerned with ripping into the gunship.
“Wait! Wait! Wait!” yelled Gabriel, holding up a fist for them to stop. Several Marines bumped into each other behind him, looking at their platoon leader like he was nuts. By now, they were near the fore of the Wutai Shan with a wall of the undead shambling towards the gunship only fifty meters away.
“We have to distract them away from the gunship,” said Gabriel. “We need to get them to follow us!”
“Grenadiers, target the ground around the gunship,” yelled SSgt. Boyer. Make sure that your rounds don’t impact closer than ten meters to the Helios!”
Each squad had a designated grenadier, a Marine which had a three barrel 25mm grenade launcher mounted under the rifle barrel of their M88 assault rifle. The two Marines turned and methodically fired their grenades into the sea of the dead, making sure to aim ten meters to the side and front of the gunship. Meanwhile, Boyer directed the squad automatic weapons gunners to fire on the dead things crawling on the gunship, cautioning them not to hit the gunship itself, although there was little chance of that as the corpses piled on the gunship had once again covered every inch of it. The rest of the platoon joined in, laying down a withering hail of small arms fire into the mass, and although many of the dead finally turned their attention to the yelling and hollering Marines, it wasn’t enough to distract the majority of them away from the gunship.
“Dammit,” yelled Talley in frustration. “We want them to follow us and they ignore us. We don’t want them to follow us and they are always up our ass!”
“We need a bigger distraction!” yelled Gabriel.
“Coooooooooming up!” said Chensi as she ran back towards the gunship, flame-gun up and ready. Opening the aperture to its widest setting, she squeezed the trigger and a jet of plasmatic flames shot fifty meters from the front of the aperture as Chensi swung the weapon in a wide arc. The wide aperture setting allowed the weapon to disperse in a greater area but at the cost of range, accuracy, and concentration of intensity. Dozens of the dry, brittle, undead alien corpses went up in flames every time Chensi squeezed the trigger, which lit up more of the dead and spread deeper into their ranks as she continued to run back in the direction they had come. Yelling and cursing, Chensi steadily closed the aperture of the flame gun little by little, increasing the range and concentration of the heat energy to burn deeper and deeper into the sea of the dead as she steadily walked towards the gunship. Soon, she was surrounded on three sides by a flaming wall of the walking dead. Looking up, she saw that the undead had noticed her and were now climbing down off the gunship. She smiled in satisfaction. “There,” she said to herself. “Now we got them exactly where they want us!”
Her heart was pounding in her ears and she could barely hear the faint yelling behind her. She turned, still smiling, and saw the rest of the platoon one hundred meters behind her screaming frantically and waving. Her lieutenant had his hands cupped around his mouth, loudly yelling, “RUN!”
Chensi looked around, seeing that the burning sea of undead were only a few feet away. A rush of heat behind her caused her to duck and turn as a burning claw attached to a dead alien with a squid-like skull lumbered towards her.
“Oh, shit,” she said, sprinting back as the rest of her platoon fired rifle rounds to clear a path back. As she made it back to the platoon’s perimeter she didn’t stop. Instead, she kept running, yelling, “They don’t like me! They don’t like me! They don’t like me!”
“Fall back,” yelled Gabriel. “By the numbers!”
Boyer’s 1st Squad fell back first, following the path Chensi took for about thirty-fire meters before they stopped.
“First up!” Yelled Boyer over the platoon net. “Go!”
Gabriel was with Talley and her 2nd Squad who was providing covering fire, although there were so many of the undead concentrating on them now, it was like shooting spitballs at the approaching tide. They fell back to Boyer’ position and continued running, after which Boyer’s squad began laying down a field of fire. They were running through the forest now, and Gabriel yelled, “Stay together! Don’t get separated!”
Each Marine had an individual tracking chip embedded in their shoulder armor which connected via-data-link to their squad leader and the platoon leader. Using a datapad or ranging sensor, the platoon and squad leaders could track the whereabouts of their Marines anywhere in a one mile radius. As Talley’s 2nd squad took firing positions, Gabriel continued running, his CommSpec Pfc. Rojas sticking faithfully by his side. With firing going on behind him, Gabriel ran up a small mound in a grassy clearing, using his ranging sensor to locate a more defendable position for possible extraction. There, about a mile northwest was a relatively flat part of a foothill rising above the trees which would give his Marines elevation and fire superiority. He grabbed the CommTrans from Rojas.
“Jenn, I’m taking the platoon to a ridgeline at the coordinates I’m sending you. How do we look?”
Jenn was piloting the Valkyrie in tight orbits over the retreating platoon, alternately watching their progress and keeping an eye on the HELLUS three miles to the north. It was still at the edge of the dead space, looking in their direction and angrily screaming as if to urge its minions to hurry and slaughter these pesky Marines.
“Your path is clear, Sam,” she said. “But you need to hurry. There are far more than a few thousand undead chasing you this time. They are going to try to flank you from the south and drive you towards the dead zone like they did the Chinese!”
“Not gonna’ happen, Jenn,” said Gabriel. “Keep me informed if there are any changes!”
Switching to the platoon net, Gabriel said, “I’m sending you all a grid dot to our next rally point! It’s a plateau roughly one mile from here to the northwest. Head there by teams!” Instantly, a transparent disc slid down from small rectangular housings located over each Marine’s non-aiming eye. The disc focused to the Marine’s individual eye movement then displayed a small dot in the Marine’s field of vision. The dot turned green when the Marine was looking in the direction of the coordinates which Lieutenant Gabriel had plotted, and turned red when the Marine was not looking n that direction. In this way, the only thing that the Marine had to do was follow the green dot until he reached his objective.
By now, Boyer’s 1st Squad had made it to Gabriel’s position with Talley’s 2nd Squad providing the covering fire. Gabriel looked back towards the way they had just come. Talley’s squad was about thirty meters away still firing back the way they came. The slow advance of black smoke and wisps of flame rising from the treetops indicated that the Marines had gained a good 200 meters on the undead.
“Talley,” said Gabriel. “Pull your squad back. We’re falling back to the rally point!”
“Roger, sir!” she answered. “We’re moving!” SSgt. Talley double timed her squad back to the rest of the platoon which was already in a slow jog towards the plateau. With the platoon linked up again, the Marines begin to quicken their pace, retreating towards the coordinates which Gabriel had chosen. Without having to conduct a fighting withdrawal, the Marines were able to lengthen the distance between themselves and their pursuers. Gabriel did a quick head count of his Marines. To his relief, everyone was accounted for and his platoon was still intact
Gabriel grabbed the CommTrans again from Rojas. “Dessantes,” he said, panting as he ran. “How are we looking?”
“There are a few of them still shambling around the base and there are a few of them crawling around the gunship,” replied Dessantes. “But the majority of them lit off after you guys after that little crazy Marine decided to set everything on fire!”
“I’m not little!” yelled Chensi, having overheard the transmission.
“Shut up, Chensi,” yelled Gabriel. “How is the gunship? Is she flight worthy?”
“We’re still running internal diagnostics,” answered Dessantes. “Landing struts are screwed and the internal weapons panels are jammed so all internal weapon stores are unavailable. Maneuver thrusters are still in the red. We need to cool them down a bit before we can even start up the engines.”
“How much time are we looking at?” said Gabriel.
“Four or five hours,” said Dessantes. “We’re trying to redirect the gasses from the cooling systems into the thruster system to try to cool the maneuver thruster generators and speed up the process.”
“Right,” answered Gabriel. “Let’s hope it works. We only have three hours!”
Jennifer Nasri-Gabriel swooped down over the platoon, pointing the nose of the Valkyrie towards the pursuing undead. The Marines were several hundred meters ahead of the walking dead, and Jenn wanted distance between them before she engaged with the Valkyrie weapon systems as she still distrusted the tracking systems.
“The main boresight is still showing that we are at zero mils deflection,” said the gunner.
“What about the gun boresight?” said Jenn.
“The gun boresight is still off by 12 mils deflection,” said the gunner.
“Can we offset the main boresight at 12 mils to compensate?” said Jenn.
“Negative,” replied the gunner. “The main boresight will not let me fire if the main boresight isn’t at zero!”
“Dammit!” said Jenn. “That means I’ll have to bring the Valkyrie 12 mils off target just to get the ordinance on target!”
Jenn lined the Valkyrie up for a long strafing run on the undead. In truth, there was little need for accuracy as the dead literally carpeted the ground below them. Still, the gunship’s job was close air support, and not being able to work closely with the Marines on the ground for fear that your messed up targeting systems might kill them annoyed Jenn to no end. As the Valkyrie dived on target, the gunner fired into the sea of dead. The Valkyrie shuddered as the four 8.8mm Gatling guns, two on each wing, and the 12mm chain gun mounted under the cockpit fired hundreds of rounds towards the ground. Sure enough, the rounds impacted 12 mils to the left of the Valkyrie, causing the rounds to impact as much as fifty meters from Jenn’s aim point. They still destroyed dozens of the undead, however, as there was just no way to miss.
Jenn pulled up and banked left, looking down at the Chinese base. The undead had all but abandoned the Helios, with only a few hundred stragglers stumbling about. Smoke bellowed from all six of the Helios maneuver thrusters, never a good sign. She then banked right to get a better look at the HELLUS. Its attention seemed to be drawn away from the Helios gunship on the ground and turned its gaze towards Gabriel’s platoon which was still running towards a more defendable position. Its black fists were clenched and it raised its skeletal arms into the air, the flames in its eyes blazing even brighter. Then, the HELLUS did something that the Marines had never seen it do. It laughed. Or at least it made a similar sound that a human would make if a human wanted to laugh manically.
“Jenn, what was that?” said Gabriel. “Did I just hear that thing laugh? Do you have visual?”
“Yeah, Sam,” said Jenn. “That thing looks like its laughing.” She glanced at a seismic sensor warning. “Oh shit! Sam! Change your heading 60 degrees! Hurry!”
Gabriel held his fist up, halting his platoon from their mad dash. “What’s up, Jenn? That will take us towards the dead zone!”
“Sam,” said Jenn. You’ve got multiple seismic activity coming from your west and north about 100 meters!”
Talley pulled out her ranging sensor and pointed to their left. “She’s right, El-Tee!” All of a sudden, blackened bones began reaching out from under the ground as more of the undead began pulling themselves up. These undead were unlike the others which had been pursuing them. These one’s used to be human, victims from the colonizer ship CSNS Sydney Point as well as the Chinese Wutai Shan. A deep, haunting laugh echoed from the horned entity. Gabriel looked at the direction which to escape. It was relatively clear and open, with almost perfect fields of fire. The only thing was, it led directly into the dead zone with no elevated defensive positions should the Marines be forced to stop. The HELLUS was smart. It had learned from its last few encounters and was herding the Marines towards itself.
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2020.08.25 21:55 Taxi_Dancer From The Halls of Montezuma to the Depths of Outer Space II: Return to Willow’s World (4/6)

From The Halls of Montezuma to the Depths of Outer Space II:
Return to Willow’s World (4/6)
At 200,000 miles above Willow’s World, the USS Subic Bay was in position to begin sensor scans of the planet. Also by this time, the probe drone which had been sent ahead had already penetrated the planet’s atmosphere and was in a lazy orbit over the dead zone. Lieutenant Gabriel, his squad leaders, the two gunship pilots, and the Seabee company commander were gathered in the ships operations center along with Commander Dorset commander of the USS Subic Bay, and Admiral Etheridge and several other staff officers. They were all staring intently at a large vid-screen which was projected above a holograph of the topography of the dead zone, the 122 mile circular anomaly of completely dead earth set in the middle of what appeared to be a lush, tropical forest. The image was still static and fuzzy, but it was obvious that something horrendously large was moving about on the very edges of the south eastern perimeter of the dead zone. The ensign remotely piloting the probe drone flew it to a distance of one mile from the grainy looking object just outside of the dead zone.
“I’ve got the drone at a hover altitude of just six feet off the deck. The image should sharpen in a moment,” said he pilot, and when it did, there was a collective gasp in the operations center. There standing inside a border between a dead zone of black rock and a living zone of lush vegetation stood a hellish giant which was all too terrifyingly familiar to most of the 4th Platoon Marines. The black skeletal entity stood 500 feet tall on two hooved legs. Red flames glowed angrily from empty eye sockets and flames dripped from its gaping maw. There was a hole about twenty feet square blown out the middle of its rib cage, where the jury rigged torpedoes had detonated the last time the Marines encountered the thing. Gabriel looked to the HELLUS’ massive black horns, breathing a sigh of relief when he saw that twenty feet of the tip of the right horn was still blasted away. The HELLUS was facing the probe drone, but seemed to be raging at something unseen behind it. All of a sudden, the image seemed to jump and point into the air as if the probe drone had been bumped from behind. The ovular four foot wide, eight foot long remotely controlled vehicle crashed to the ground.
“Something impacted it from the back,” said the ensign pilot. “Whatever it was, it was big enough to knock my quarter-ton drone down on its side. But I think I can get the maneuvering thrusters…”
The ensign froze, as did everyone else, as the camera, now tilted to one side on the ground, showed the apparently dead and decaying forms of as yet undiscovered alien creatures moving away from it and marching steadily towards the looming HELLUS monster who seemed to be beckoning them back towards the dead zone. The army of the dead walked over the probe drone, trampling it underfoot as the ensign tried to right the craft, but to no avail. Untold numbers of alien, skeletal feet were trampling all over it, breaking off sensors and knocking off transmitters. Suddenly, the camera jerked again and a muffled explosion could be heard over the intercom, as if something massive had just stepped on the aft end of the drone.
“I’m losing power to the drone,” said the ensign as the image of what appeared to be an enormous armored boot, circular in shape and six feet in diameter, appeared on the screen walking away from the drone. A black skeletal leg rose out of the boot, wrapped in the decaying remains of what was left of some type of space faring clothing. The screen went to static, then went black.
“Ensign, contact the hanger bay and have them prep another probe drone,” said the USS Subic Bay commander, Commander Dorset. “Switch the visuals to the long range sensors and magnify to maximum!”
USS Subic Bay’s long range sensors showed a top down view of the scene above where the probe drone had crashed. Around the crushed shell of the drone which was camouflaged in shades of greens and browns, were the black crawling, writhing, dragging, walking, and slithering skeletal forms of thousands of undead alien creatures, all shambling slowly back towards the awaiting HELLUS.
“Pan the camera back,” said Admiral Etheridge. “Let’s see how large this mass is.” The image got slightly smaller as more of the surrounding area was captured on the screen. Finally, almost the entire black horde of undead things was captured on the monitor.
“Looks like a length of five kilometers and a width of two-hundred meters,” said the long range sensor operator. “By the relatively narrow look of their advance, I’d say they were chasing something.”
“And our probe drone just happened to hover right in front of them?” said Gabriel.
“More than likely, whatever the dead things were chasing started running towards the drone,” said the ensign. “We didn’t see it because they came from the drone’s rear quadrant.”
“Sir,” announced another operator monitoring a separate display of data telemetry. “I’m picking up life signs.”
“Be more specific, ensign,” said Admiral Etheridge.
“Roger, sir,” said the ensign. “Sorry. I’m picking up human life signs! Roughly one hundred thirty!”
“Where, ensign?” said Commander Dorset .
“They are heading towards the dead zone, between the HELLUS and the dead things,” she reported. “They look to be trying to avoid going towards the HELLUS and are moving at an angle parallel to the dead things and the dead zone!”
“Find their location and put it up on the monitors!” ordered Commander Dorset. The screen froze as new ground coordinates were input into the sensor. The cameras shifted for a few seconds, panning over what seemed to be an endless variety of monstrously grotesque alien dead things. Soon, the scene was projected on all of the monitors from the same overhead perspective. The group of humans were fleeing from the army of skeletal horrors, surrounded by what seemed like other humans dressed in battle uniforms of bright greens and olive. They were trying to keep the other humans, dressed mostly in light green lab coats and medical scrubs, inside their protective perimeter, as they ran parallel to the dead zone, firing at their pursuers with small arms and automatic weapons. The fleeing humans all appeared to be Asian.
Gabriel turned to Boyer, who nodded his suspicion. “Chinese Marines,” Gabriel whispered. “Look at the camouflage pattern of their uniforms.”
“Sir, we have movement from the dead zone,” announced the ensign. “It’s about a quarter mile from where the humans are running!”
“Pan back some more,” said Admiral Etheridge. Sure enough, another horde of undead things was shambling out of the black rocks and ridges which marked the boundary of the dead zone, headed inexorably towards the fleeing humans to cut off their escape. “Commander, can we get a signal to them?”
“Comms,” said Commander Dorset.
“Negative, sir,” replied the Comms officer. “They either have no communications or they are on a secure net which allows them to only talk to their higher ups!”
Everyone in the operations center watched helplessly in horror as the undead that were pursuing began to spread out, forming a half moon shaped wall of grasping appendages which slowly closed the gap. Meanwhile, the horde of undead coming from the dead zone had formed another wall to the front, preventing any humans from escaping. They were trapped. Meanwhile, the giant HELLUS began slowly and awkwardly stomping towards the humans who had now bunched up inside an ever shrinking perimeter, the Chinese Marines firing wildly as the undead closed in.
“One hundred ten life forms,” said the ensign. “Eighty-six… Sixty-one… Thirty… Fourteen… Sir,” she finally said. “They’re all gone.”
The last few survivors who were left alive were shot by the Chinese Marines who would have rather they died quickly instead of being torn apart. The newly slaughtered bodies were dragged into the dead zone by their undead killers. The HELLUS stood above them all, eagerly watching as its thousands of minions laid out the fresh kills in organized rows on the black, rocky ground. Once the dead bodies of the Chinese were laid out on the ground, the HELLUS seemed to scream eagerly with hunger. The Marines aboard the USS Subic Bay watched in horrified fascination at the macabre ritual as the HELLUS clutched its massive skeletal hands into fists and shook them at the sky. The bodies on the ground began to sink, seemingly eaten by the black earth, sinking deeper and deeper until there was no trace of them left behind. Meanwhile, as the bodies slowly sank into the ground, a red mist seemed to rise up out of the ground at the feet of the HELLUS floating as if with a purpose towards its open, flaming maw. The flames of its eyes and mouth grew brighter, but not by much. The demonic entity raised its horned head towards the sky, towards space. It reached up, touching the damaged part of its horn which once housed a powerful beam which could snag star ships of all sizes and drag them down into the dead zone. The Marines and the fleet officers watched the monitors as the thing then reached up with both arms, looking directly right at them through 200,000 miles of space, and screamed in frustration and hatred.
“It wasn’t enough,” said Warrant Officer Nasri-Gabriel. “It wasn’t enough to sustain it. The HELLUS is still hungry.”
“And apparently at this distance, it could sense us being here,” said Lieutenant Gabriel. “Luckily, we put its ‘beam horn’ out of commission last time. But what the hell were the Chinese doing there in the first place? They know we set restrictions on the planet after we left.”
“Ensign, plot a path back from where the pursuing horde had come and put it up on the monitors,” said Commander Dorset.
“Ate, aye, sir,” she said. The sensor view shifted again following the last path it took to the destroyed probe drone and a perpendicular course behind where it lay. About two miles from there to the south, the sensor began showing signs of wrecked equipment and man-made habitats.
“Pan back,” said Admiral Etheridge. The detail was not as crisp or clear as if a probe drone had been there, but it showed enough. A large, black colored, star ship was landed in the middle of a clearing in the jungle, surrounded by prefabricated living structures, observation towers, communication masts, and a plethora of other smaller structures and equipment. Everything seemed to be in a state of disarray and abandonment, and several fires were visible both inside the encampment and from within the star ship itself. Dark red stains covered the grounds, and it was easy to assume where those came from. Near the center of the encampment were two semicircular rings, each about two hundred feet across. The semicircular rings were an oddity, looking like a silver metal donut that had been broken in half. At 200,000 miles orbit, they would not get a clearer picture unless they dropped closer to the planet.
“Let’s get an identification on that ship,” said Commander Dorset.
“Aye, aye, sir,” said another ensign. “Coming up on the monitors now.”
A computer generated overlay image of a terrestrial designed star ship appeared over the one already on the monitors.
“That’s the Zhongfu Class Wutai Shan, a military space exploration and exploitation ship outfitted with the latest stealth capabilities, sensor absorbing materials, and heat dampeners,” said the ensign.
“To easily avoid detection from the USS Ranger carrier group so that they could sneak down here to exploit what we’ve found,” said Gabriel. Admittedly, it was relatively easy to travel undetected out in the rim worlds, or any system for that matter which doesn’t have ample monitoring and tracking satellites and relays. But the fact that the Chinese landed a military spy ship disguised as a space exploration vessel on a restricted planet tended to lend credence to Lieutenant Gabriel’s assumption.
“Okay, let’s talk about what we know,” said Admiral Etheridge. It was thirty minutes later and he was now sitting in a smaller conference room surrounded only by mission critical personnel. “What can we assume from what we’ve seen? Theories, anyone?”
“Well, it appears that our previous assumption was correct,” started Lieutenant Gabriel. “The HELLUS cannot leave that area of the dead zone, though we still aren’t sure why. What we didn’t expect was that it can control the undead things and use them to operate outside the dead zone. We know that it has control of them inside the dead zone, but this was the first time we’d seen them operate outside of it. For how long and at what range is still speculation.”
“Also, it appears that whatever the HELLUS’s minions- for lack of a better term- kills, they must be brought inside the dead zone in order for the HELLUS to feed,” said Warrant Officer Nasri-Gabriel. “Otherwise, we can assume that all things which have died on Willow’s World would be subject to the HELLUS’s control.”
“Yes,” said Etheridge. “It appears that only by burying a fresh kill inside the dead zone can the HELLUS actually drain whatever energy that it feeds off. Things outside of the dead zone which, say, died naturally, could not be a source of food for the HELLUS.”
Admiral Etheridge turned to one of his aides. “Tell me again the measurement of the dead space anomaly?”
“Sir,” said the aide, “Its exactly 122.14756 miles from end to end, an increase from the first measurement by 0.00068 miles.”
“Thank you,” said Etheridge. “Okay, the last measurement was just over six months ago, when you were last here, Lieutenant Gabriel. If we round that to 0.0007, then we can assume that the dead zone increases by 0.0014 miles a year. So we can calculate that the HELLUS probably landed on this planet approximately 87,000 to 90,000 years ago. This means that in about…” Admiral Etheridge did some calculating, writing with his finger in mid-air. “In about seventeen to eighteen million years, Willow’s World will look just like DDR-017G where we found the remains of the other of his species. At that time, the HELLUS would either die of starvation or find some way of projecting its life energy to another living planet. Who knows? This HELLUS might just be the exact duplicate prodigy of the dead one we found on DDR-017G, or it may be one of an entire species of demonic parasites which feed off living planets for millions of years.” The gravity of what they were dealing with weighed down on everyone in that small conference room. For decades they had found evidence of intelligent life and civilizations which had far more advanced means of interstellar travel, but as yet, mankind had never encountered any of these civilizations.
“What is the estimated crew complement of the Wutai Shan,” asked Etheridge.
“The average crew complement of a Zhongfu Class exploitation ship is two hundred twenty-six, including a Marine detachment of fifty, and a passenger capacity of up to five hundred, “ answered Commander Dorset.
“So the HELLUS sent an army of the undead from the dead zone to their encampment and slaughtered them, driving the survivors back towards the dead zone where they could be killed and fed upon,” said a fleet astro-biologist. “But we didn’t see any evidence of dead Chinese bodies at their base camp, just blood stains. Did the undead take the bodies with them?”
“Theories about what those two large half-circular structures are?” said the Admiral.
“Looks like some type of containment,” said Lieutenant Gabriel. “They may be using some rudimentary stasis field, but on a larger scale.”
That type of technology was new and still in the experimental stages with US naval fleet vessels. It wasn’t anti-gravitational tech. Rather, the stasis field would suspend a small space of time in real space, allowing time to continue while the object in the stasis field remained unchanged. Theoretically, this would allow a human to travel hundreds of years through space but remain relatively unaged when the journey was complete. Initial experiments had been carried out on fruit such as apples which had remained suspended in small stasis fields for years, then brought back to real time still as fresh and edible as the day they were suspended.
“So the Chinese snuck into a restricted planet that has been blockaded by the US Navy, rigged up an experimental stasis field generator, and were attempting to kidnap a 500 foot tall, skeletal, near immortal death-god,” said Warrant Officer Nasri-Gabriel. “Not the craziest thing they’ve attempted to do.”
“Looks like it,” said Commander Dorset. “The question is, why would they risk it?”
“I don’t know,” said Lieutenant Gabriel. “Grind the bones up? Make soup? Live forever?”
“One thing we do know is that putting a large scale exploration team down on the planet is out of the question, now that we know the HELLUS’s capability of moving its undead armies from the dead zone onto the living parts of the planet.” said Etheridge.
“That’s another thing that bothers me,” said Warrant Officer Nasri-Gabriel. “At their fastest, the undead walk at a slow, shambling gait. The Chinese base camp was over two miles from the dead zone. They should have seen the undead coming from a long way away and had time to either prep their defenses or escape. By the condition of their base camp, they were taken completely by surprise.”
“More questions remain than answers, I’m afraid,” answered Etheridge.
“Yes, sir,” said Lieutenant Gabriel. “And the only way we’re going to get any answers is to put my Marines back down on Willow’s World.”
Over the next two days, the USS Subic Bay remained in orbit around Willow’s World, dropping cautiously to 100,000 miles above the surface of the planet. A second probe drone was launched and this one stayed above 2,000 feet sending back more data telemetry from the surface, as well as clearer pictures of the Chinese base camp. While the images gave clearer images of some kind of massive struggle having taken place, there were no signs of any bodies. Just like what the Marines encountered when they searched the CSNS New Castle six months earlier, there were only blood splatters and bits of torn uniforms and flesh. The drone also overflew the dead zone, but the interference proved to be so great that it was forced to leave before the pilot lost contact or control with it. The long range sensors still picked up the HELLUS on the monitors. It still walked the edges of the dead zone, seeming to scream angrily at the life on the other side of its boundary. Occasionally, it would look up directly into space and directly at the USS Subic Bay with malice and contempt, rubbing its destroyed horn from which a beam once emitted which dragged untold numbers of star ships down to their doom.
Admiral Etheridge, Commander Dorset, Lieutenant Gabriel, the two gunship pilots Nasri-Gabriel and Dessantes, as well as a few other staff officers were gathered again in the conference room thirty hours later, going over the 3D schematics of the Chinese ship Wutai Shan. It was small for its stated purpose as an exploration vessel, as its main function was spying and infiltration onto worlds which had been discovered by other nations. At only two-thirds the size of other nation’s exploration vessels, the Wutai Shan was extremely cramped, presumably loading only the barest of personnel and stores to carry out this mission, which would include creating a space to contain the 500 foot tall death-god in a stasis field if they had intended to take it off the planet.
“She has four decks which take up the upper portions of the ship,” said Commander Dorset, using illuminated dots to highlight portions if the large 3D computer projected model of the Wutai Shan. “The entire lower half is dedicated to equipment. In fact, if they were successful, they would have to leave all of their equipment behind in order to make space for the HELLUS.”
“Where can we likely find their data storage banks?” asked Lieutenant Gabriel.
“More than likely, it would be either on their first or second decks,” said the intelligence officer. “It would be in the most secure section of the ship. More possibly the first deck above the hold which I expect they would have had to hold the HELLUS.”
“I want the most direct route in and out,” said Gabriel. “I don’t want to spend any more time on the planet than we have to. If that HELLUS can track us at 200,000 miles, it would probably sense that we were coming back.”
“I agree,” said Etheridge. “How the undead were able to apparently surprise the Chinese is still disturbing. In and out quickly is the order of the day. When can your platoon be ready to go, Lieutenant?”
“I want us on the ground in 24 hours,” answered Gabriel. “I want to do some hours of close quarters training for my new Marines who haven’t yet done any real world ship hull searches.”
“Very good” Etheridge was about to say, but suddenly alert warnings began to sound across the ship.
“Commander Dorset to the bridge,” came the XO’s voice on the ship’s intercom. “Commander to the bridge. Two ships have emerged from hyperspace and are approaching our position.”
“Identify them,” Commander Dorset said as he made his way up to the bridge superstructure.
“Sir,” came the answer. “They’re Chinese destroyers.” Dorset nodded to Lieutenant Gabriel.
“Well, that was fast,” said Gabriel, turning in the opposite direction and racing to the hanger deck along with the two gunship pilots.
The two People’s Liberation Star Vessels, or PLSVs, approached the USS Subic Bay from the fore. The Chinese destroyers Zibo and Nanning both had their forward kinetic energy projectile turrets unsheathed from their weapon bays and pointed at the USS Subic Bay as well as their twin, quad missile launching tubes. Though the destroyers were only half the size of the USS Subic Bay, they had far superior firepower. The Chinese warships halted ten miles from the USS Subic Bay, facing the very weakly armed American exploration vessel.
Commander Dorset took his time getting to the bridge, taking several minutes to get there even though the secured conference room was across the p-way from the bridge. “Commander on the bridge,” announced the watch.
“As you were,” said Dorset, taking his place at the commander’s seat.
“Sir,” said the comms officer. “The Chinese are trying to hail us on a secure channel. Their commander is feeling rather displeased that we are making them wait.”
“Make them wait longer then, ensign,” said Dorset, opening an encrypted channel to the USS Ranger battle group, Priority: Alpha. Since their last mission to Willow’s World, the US Navy secretly emplaced two military retrans satellites in the sector that only fleet ships could access via an encryption code that only ship commanders knew. Everything that transpired would be transmitted directly to the battle group in a matter of minutes instead of days.
Okay, ensign,” said Dorset. “Open the channel.”
On a small vid-monitor projected in front of Dorset’s seat, the image of a Chinese naval officer wearing a battle uniform of various shades of blue-grey camouflage appeared. A second officer, presumably his executive officer, stood next to him. He was young looking, with a fair complexion and close set, dark brown eyes. His expression betrayed displeasure and impatience. The small vid-monitor in front of Commander Dorset allowed the Chinese to see only him on their monitors. A larger monitor image was projected above the forward viewing port, allowing the entire bridge crew of the USS Subic Bay to see the Chinese, but did not allow the Chinese to see the bridge crew.
“This is Commander Dorset, commander of the USS Subic Bay.”
“I am Captain Xian Peng, commander of the PLSV Destroyer Zibo.” Like all Chinese naval commanders, Peng spoke in perfect English. “Your country has stolen something from our nation and we are demanding its swift return to us undamaged and uninspected.”
Commander Dorset leaned back in his commander’s seat, looking at the Chinese captain with a relaxed and almost bemused expression. “Captain Peng of the PLSV Zibo, the USS Subic Bay is a research vessel. I’m going to need you to be more specific with what it is you claim we stole, Captain Peng.”
“Yours is not a research vessel, Commander,” snapped Captain Peng, “You are an American spy! Your claims to this planet and its resources are unfounded and your actions here are criminal! You will hand over what you have unlawfully stolen immediately!”
Commander Dorset stared coolly back at the Chinese captain, steepled his fingers, and smirked slightly. “We’ve had this debate for over two hundred years, Captain Peng. The recipe for General Tso chicken was created in New York, not China. So ‘no’, Captain Peng, you cannot have the recipe for General Tso chicken.”
The Chinese captain grimaced in anger, clenching his fists and cursed in Chinese. Spittle flew from his lips as he raged at the comm-vid screen. “I do not have the time for this idiocy! You know exactly what it is we are demanding that you return to us!”
“I assure you, Captain Peng,” said Commander Dorset. “Your government was the one who decided to send two of her destroyers half way across the galaxy to pay a United States research vessel a visit. You have all the answers, captain. I do not have the slightest idea what you are talking about.”
The Chinese captain cursed again. “The data files of the PLSV Wutai Shan, dammit! You will hand over all of the data files which you have stolen from the space exploration vessel Wutai Shan now! If not, we will board your vessel and take what is rightfully ours by force!”
“Ahhh,” thought Commander Dorset. “We were right. The entirety of the Chinese infiltration mission to Willow’s World has been recorded on a data file located inside the Wutai Shan. Everything they discovered and documented up until the day they died is stored there. They probably didn’t transmit it to their higher ups because they knew it had to be boosted using our retrans satellites, so they didn’t want to risk their data falling into our hands. So the hand off had to be made in person to these destroyers.”
“Captain Peng,” said Dorset. “I cannot confirm whether or not we have what it is that you claim we have.” He wasn’t lying. “But I’ll tell you what we do have. We have an entire assault carrier battle group operating in this sector of space. As you know, I cannot do anything without orders. Now, the USS Subic Bay would be more than happy to assist you to retrieve the crew of the Wutai Shan if it, ah, accidently made planet fall on Willow’s World.”
There was a look of confusion on Captain Peng as he spoke to his executive officer. The XO responded with a nod. Lines of worry etched across his face as he tried to compose himself. “It will take six hours for your battle group to arrive here. You have five hours to turn over the stolen data files from the Wutai Shan or else your battle group will arrive to find only the floating debris of your ship!”
Just as Commander Dorset expected, the main prize that the Chinese were after was the data file. With a population of over 19 billion people, the Chinese government couldn’t care less about a few hundred of their people who were sacrificed on Willow’s World. In truth, Commander Dorset was only stalling the Chinese, buying a few minutes of time. He glanced surreptitiously at the lieutenant who had communications with the hanger launch bays. A yellow light on his ready panel turned green. The lieutenant looked back, nodding and flashing a thumbs up.
“Thank you, lieutenant,” said Dorset, smiling calmly as he turned his attention back to the Chinese captain. “Well, Captain Peng. I’m going to tell you something that I always say when we are outgunned and given little choice.”
Captain Peng smiled triumphantly, folding his arms. “And what is that, Commander?”
“Fire cloaker,” said Commander Dorset.
“Firing cloaker, aye” said the weapon systems operator. Two small vessels launched from the rear hanger decks, descending rapidly down towards the planet. A second later, the USS Subic Bay bumped just a little bit as an STG-482 Communications, Sensor, and Relay Systems Jamming Satellite, nicknamed the ‘cloaker’, shot from a launch tube at the rear starboard of the USS Subic Bay.
Lieutenant Gabriel and his 4th Platoon were in the cargo bay of the Helios gunship, descending as quickly as possible towards the surface. Jennifer was off to the Helio’s right, piloting the Valkyrie. Close behind them was the cloaker.
“Lieutenant Gabriel,” came Admiral Etheridge’s voice over the comms. “Did you hear all of that?”
“Roger, sir,” said Gabriel. “We got five hours to grab those data files out of the Wutai Shan.”
“Yes,” said Etheridge. “They seem to believe we already have it and I’d rather they still think that way. As long as they think we have it, they won’t open fire!”
“We’ll get it, sir,” promised Gabriel.
“Good luck, Lieutenant,” said Etheridge. “We will not have comms with you in a few seconds. We will only know that you’ve succeeded when to return!”
“Don’t worry, sir,” answered Gabriel. “Forth Platoon is used to it. See you in five!”
Lieutenant Gabriel descended with only his First and Second Squads, Gabriel deciding to leave SSgt. Hernandez and his Third Squad aboard the USS Subic Bay. The two Chinese destroyers had a contingency of Chinese Marines aboard and it was not inconceivable that the Chinese would try to board the USS Subic Bay and take the ship by force. SSgt. Hernandez’s squad was heavy weapons support, meaning that they had the best equipment necessary to repel boarders. He had made this contingency plan with Commander Dorset and Admiral Etheridge earlier, but unfortunately they had not had the time to prep the hover packs for use and had left them behind.
“Oh, no! No! No! No! No! No!” protested Chensi. “Sir, you can’t leave me behind again!” Chensi was part of Hernandez’s Third Squad.
“We don’t have time for this, Lance Corporal,” yelled Lieutenant Gabriel as the platoon rushed to assemble at the gunships. They didn’t know how long Commander Dorset could stall the Chinese. Chensi looked at SSgt. Hernandez with pleading eyes.
“Sir,” Hernandez said. “It may be best to have Chensi with you. You might need her flame-gun to cut through any hatches or bulk heads. We can handle any boarders”
Gabriel exhaled. “Hurry up and get your shit, Chensi,” he said. Chensi scampered after her platoon, pausing to look back at her squad leader and mouth the words ‘Thank You!’
The cloaker raced behind the two gunships towards the planet, achieving geosynchronous orbit three hundred miles over the coordinates of the doomed Chinese exploration encampment. Immediately, the almond shaped cloaker deployed several spike shaped antennae which began emitting powerful transmissions which trapped and scrambled the Chinese destroyer’s sensing probes, scattering them to over a trillion different frequencies every second. An area of two hundred square miles around where the Chinese spy ship Wutai Shan had landed was now blacked out from all orbital sensor scans, communications, and monitoring known to mankind.
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2020.08.19 16:20 WarZoneN7 Dressing room spy tube

For context up until this point never even considered playing DnD, but when 'rona hit I had a lot of free time and YouTube started to recommend me vids by Critcrab, Neckbeardia, SkyDieRay and some others. So when I found out a buddy in a Discord server I was in was a DM I asked if we could give it a shot and thus our quest began.
Sadly this is also where the problems began to arise. Initially the party was to be myself, a friend and the DM's brother, however due to some software issues and the brother's work keeping him busy it was just me that was left. Now I didn't want it to just be the 2 of us as I thought it would be a bit weird and awkward (especially cause I built my character to be more of an enforcebodyguard/brute-type character), so i made a really big mistake and invited a dude I thought would be cool to play with... as stated earlier in this very sentence, this was a mistake.For more context's sake we are playing a homebrew mix of 4th and 5th edition (4th edition for the players, 5th edition for monsters, as too even out the number as our DM put it).
Our character were as follows:
Me: Kragmar StoneFist, an Orc Monk who later multi-classes into aWarlock (it works fairly well believe it or not).
That Guy (or Kyle as i shall refer to him,if I don't use his charactername);Lord Inquister Daniel Xiao Long (or Danny Boi or Gimp), aWarpriest who took levels in Cleric.
Now this is not all of the PCs as we found workarounds and more people got interested in giving it a shot. These new additions include a Tiefling Fighter, a Genasi Swordmage and a Doppelganger Assassin. Everyone gets along fairly well except for Danny Boi. He's always been an odd guy outside of or DnD sessions, but like our DM says DnD can bring out one's true self and what was brought out was a really cringy and annoying dumbass.
Now I'm sure you humble reader want to get to the good stuff, we here we go.
We start with the first mission we were given by the Mayor (who's name escapes me), our mission was simple, find and escort a convoy of goods back to Paradon, sounds simple no? Wrong! Genius decides to instead talk to random fucker who's burning some shit, cause he's in debt to a bordello (whorehouse) and Danny gives him the most generic advice ever, I think it went something along the lines of 'pay your debts and leave the city', you know ignoring the fact that if this guy could he would have done so long ago and needed some random Half-Elf in Gimp-Like Chainmail armor to tell him. Unfortunately he then proceeded to succeed on his Diplomacy check and the dumbass listens to him and Danny Boi gains some random room numbers for said bordello. You might be thinking that's not that bad keep 2 things in mind, he wasted time during which the convoy could have been attacked by bandits (which it was later) and secondly consider this is the mildest of our problems.
After some other shit involving combat that gave us enough exp to level up to allow us to multi-class (which I did) and we did the job and got paid ( though a bit less cause of a Shambling Mound wreaking some shit), we went our ways/translation we did one on one sessions to flesh-out some backstory, during which I gave a reason for the multi-class and made some contacts and found a place to crash. What did The Gimp do? He decided to investigate the Bordello named The Crescent Rose for human trafficking, during which he was the most suspicious motherfucker alive. How you may ask? Well he ordered the girls from very specific rooms to come see him, was still dressed in chainmail and didn't have sex with them just told them to wait in the room so he can shower and so he can ask them questions when he gets out. Naturally because of him being the most obvious motherfucker possible they sent security to beat the shit out of him and take him prisoner after the girls left and told the receptionist about his weirdness. What followed was a really stupid fight during which Danny Boi forgot he had he had Daily's, Encounter Powers or even FUCKING-AT-WILLS!!!! It was kinda funny cause he grabbed a guy and used him as a meat-shield to block attacks form a Bugbear guard. Unfortunately his meat-shield got knocked out and he tried to run, only for the Bugbear to Opportunity Attack and he got knocked the fuck out. After that he was put in a cell and was replaced with a doppelganger.
We are then introduced to our Doppelganger Assassin; Shinobou Kuro (yes the player knows it's weeby and no she doesn't care). She decided to spring the Gimp and they make it all the way to the surface...only for them to be found-out by a Drow prostitute. Shinobou thinking quickly on her feet starts to make out with Danny Boi to get the Drow (who had no idea about the kidnapping ring) to leave them alone. Also I should mention that Shinobou had taken the form of a man. During this make-out session the shifted woman had propositioned the woman to join them, which she took them up on it. After the intercourse (during which Danny claims he didn't get it taken in the back, but we all now he did) he asks our DM a question that we still mock him for to this day. What was you ask?
"Can I roll a Fertility Check?"
At this question we all proceeded to burst out into laughter. After we calmed down the DM (who seemed to have kept his composure) used a percentile roll (with disadvantage) and it came up negative. He then decided he wanted to tie the lady of the night up and interrogate her, at which point the assassin said no and they should get out as soon as possible. Since he hadn't been able to do something stupid yet, when he noticed that the receptionist might have recognized him he wanted to shoot the man in the head...in a crowded room...full of witnesses, only for Shinobou to once again save his ass and have him not snipe someone in the middle of the foyer. He then proceeded to dead-sprint out of there drawing a lot of unneeded attention to himself, while the Doppelganger Assassin just strolled out. After mounting his horse he tracked down Kragmar and proceeded to tell him what happened. Kragmar then proceeded to laugh at him and berate him for his foolishness. On the bright-side Kragmar and Shinobou got along extremely well (both in part to Shinobou's player and I being good friends and some decent roll playing). After some teasing we would try to get Danny Boi's name cleared the next day...after stealing half of his cash.
Before continuing, I feel I should comment on Kyle (Danny Boi's player) and Kelly (Shinobou's player) and how rather...creepy it was at times. To put it bluntly the boy is a S I M P, no if's, and's or but's about it. The dude always wanted her to notice him and always desired her attention and for her to only focus on him. When it comes to the game he had found a set of bracelets that allowed the wearers to feel the heartbeats of the other wearer, and wanted to do a romance sub-plot with Kelly, which she completely forgot about when building her character, so his simp-scheme was thwarted...well this one was. The one that was particularly annoying was constant unwanted flirting on his end to her (which she was quite clearly uncomfortable with) and to this day he still does, even though she was clearly not interested and slight spoiler her character has a boyfriend.
Now Back to the story.
The next day Kragmar and Shinobou went out to try and clear Danny Boi's name and in the process we committed an assassination (which really bit us in the ass later) and then Kragmar almost fucking died, but with the power of Drugs I managed to survive, and what should we find after we return to the home base? The fucker was gone, no note, nothing!!! At the point both Shinobou and Kragmar decided to fuck that guy and just go on our own.
Some stuff then proceeded which lead to us gathering 2 new members to our group, Shaltis The Tiefling Fighter (who has a deep hatred Gnolls) and Torrent The Genasi Swordmage (who's player has him as a bit of an autist) and us fending off an invasion force using sheer intimidation, we later found ourselves assaulting a cult lair dedicated to the Demon Prince Zuggtmoy (or Zuggy for short, or even Zugg-zugg as Mephisto calls her). During our impromptu raid the party discovered that others were also attacking the cult, so we let them do the hard work and we don't have to take damage and we can loot all the bodies. As we continued our trek we overheard 2 inquisition members and one of them had a voice that was rather familiar (and after hearing that his name was Malcodor Magnus), I summoned my familiar to tell if it was who it was, and I was fucking right cause lo and behold it was the Gimp. After a long conversation in which he tried to act like he is not The Gimp we all decided to work together (after the Inquisition Of Thedus, which now thanks to him is filled with the Primarchs from 40K, fucked off to get more Battle-Brothers), we had to take out people in 6 rooms. We split into teams to kill the people in the rooms, with Danny Boi he and a DMPC (a good on e not the cringy ones that are just the bestest evar) took down 2 people that were looking over something.The Gimp slit one's throat and Shatten (pronounced Scotten) set the other on fire, however the spell used set the body Danny Boi was holding on fire. Gimp then threw the flaming body forward onto what they were looking at, which turned out to be a baby....this nigga set a baby on fire. At this point Kyle was freaking out and we were laughing our asses off and teasing the shit out of him out of character. After we had done our killings we went to the other rooms and took those people out and he and the DMPC took some time and the rest the party questioned him about it (we really just wanted him to fess up about making Baby-back ribs, so we could take the piss out of him in character) but he avoided it and we ventured into The Spawning Pit.
Fast-forward a bit and we are in a near TPK state. My character has been killed and resurrected as a Mushroom Person (now I'm a true 40k Ork) and was sicked on Danny, Shinobou was distracted by her Mushroom-Clone (forgot to mention that), Torrent had a stroke (his player had to got to bed cause it was getting pretty late), Shaltis was too far to do anything and Danny was getting his ass beaten by Evil Kragmar. With some quick thinking from Shinobou we managed to not get TPKed and now we worked for Zggy (also Shaltis then proceeded to bang Zggy and Kragmar gained 2 girlfriends in Shinobou and her Mushroom-Clone).At this point Kelly and I went to bed (cause we played till it was nearly nearly 4 in the morning for me and God knows what time it was for her), when I spoke to the group they told me that Zuggtmoy, an Immortal Being that has existed before time itself as we know it , was annoyed to by him to the point that she told him to fuck off and not let him join The Mushroom Kingdom.
At this point I feel I should mention Danny Boi's backstory. You may be wondering why bring this up now and not sooner? The simple answer is that, it was at this point that backstory started to cause problems not only for the players, but for the DM as well. Again why? You may ask yourself. Or even how bad can it be? It goes something like this: "Lord Inquister(he spelt it like this) Daniel Xiao Long was the Head of His Religion's Inquisition, a career solider and is a man in his Mid-Forties, with a couple thousand members (which he just magically has), with thousands of spies, solders and assassins which are completely and utterly loyal to him, to the point of throwing away their humanity (or whatever they are) to become Mushroom People". For context The City Of Paradon has a military force (which includes constables and other law-enforcement) of about 200 members. This dumbass has his own mini-Kingdom. The 2 best things about this is that His Inquisition is full of healers and he has access to all of these resources at level fucking ONE!
But wait! There's more!
It turns out that when Zggy told him to fuck off he didn't leave the place, instead he just spent the night reading shit in library to gain info on Zggy and the cult and he got some shit we were told already and then he went to Zggy to propose a plain get rid of the Primarchs. A plan so long, and with so many moving parts (some of which would blow our cover as no-one knows about us as Mushroom People) that Zggy herself just hand-waves it off. Also he wanted to fuck a Crime boss who was doppelganger (that he shouldn't know about) vampire, ignoring the fact that she is sadist and a necrophiliac. He also wanted to fuck Count Strahd's daughter ( I might have made one too many Curse of Strahd jokes, so now The Count is coming over and we have to kill him).
At the moment that's all that I have, there might be more (I pray there isn't), at the moment we haven't hadn't continued as our last session was last night. I pray that he's gonna get better but i doubt it.
TL;DR; First time playing DnD is being hampered by friend who became That Guy.
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2020.08.13 01:30 A_Vespertine Dressing room spy tube

"Damn it, Jess, you told me this place was abandoned! I'm out," I cursed as I turned my back to the stately, well-kept house that was very obviously not abandoned, making me lose whatever nerve I thought I had. Jess and I were what you might call ‘disenfranchised youths’. Our prospects for the future were pretty bleak, and we were pissed about it. With things only getting worse for us this year, we had decided we were finally pissed enough to do something about it. Or, at least pissed enough to do something that made us feel like we were doing something about it.
Our plan was to raid what we believed to be an unoccupied home of our town’s wealthiest resident, taking anything of value we could carry while tearing the place up to ‘send him a message’. Ostensibly, anyway. Looking back on it, we were just lashing out, with no real reason to believe one act of petty theft and vandalism would be the impetus for any great social change. It would more likely be the impetus for us spending the rest of the pandemic in prison.
“I never said it was abandoned. I said it was unoccupied,” Jess insisted as he grabbed me by the shoulder. “It’s a guest house, where Chamberlin keeps any out-of-town guests when his mansion is overflowing with pussy.”
“I’m pretty sure Chamberlin’s gay, actually,” I muttered disinterestedly, turning my attention back to the house to see if there was any merit to what he was saying. It was a squat, stone, rectangular house that looked to be about fifty feet by forty. Two stories, plus an attic and basement. That gave it at least four thousand square feet of living space, and twice that if the attic and basement weren’t just for storing wine and antiques.
But it was the spacious, well-landscaped lawn that really made me doubt it was vacant. Weeded flower beds, trim bushes, and grass that had clearly been mowed within the last week were enough to make any hooligans looking for an easy target think twice.
“You’re missing the point, Az. It’s a guest house, and he can’t exactly keep his Illuminati bros somewhere shabby, now can he?” Jess asked. “If it will make you feel better, we can stake the place out for a bit, but I’m telling you; no one’s home.”
I let out a reluctant sigh, folding my arms across my chest as I considered the admittedly quiet house.
“Even if no one’s home, there’s no way it’s not monitored by security,” I insisted.
“It isn’t. Chamberlin values his privacy; as anyone who’s into as much messed up shit as he is would,” Jess claimed. “There’s no live monitoring, just security cameras that feed into an encrypted, onsite hard drive.”
“And how would you know that?” I asked skeptically.
“There was a news story about it a while back,” he replied. “There was a whole court case or investigation or something trying to get access to his surveillance footage. It wasn’t about this place in particular, but it’s how he operates. Look, this is the safest of his properties to target because he doesn't waste his bodyguards here when there are no guests. What the fuck does he care about the maid and gardener popping in to keep everything looking swanky? No one’s going to be watching the camera feed, and even if they do look it over, we’re covered since we got these.”
He gestured to his now completely non-suspicious bandana, which he wore because he thought that the nose wires in face masks were 5G antennas meant to increase adrenochrome production, or some bullshit like that.
"Even if no one's watching the surveillance cameras, there will still be motion detectors and entry sensors that will alert Chamberlin's goons to a break-in,” I argued. “They’ll be here in minutes.”
“Not without video confirmation they won’t. They got other priorities,” Jess countered. “Chamberlin’s got his mansion, his villa, his financial firm, his luxury apartment building, his hotel, his country club, I think the strip club, and probably shit we don’t even know about. His security isn’t going to be in a rush to check out what might just be a false alarm on what for him is basically a spare mattress. They’ll take their sweet time, which means we can take ours.”
I sighed, trying to figure out if anything he was saying made any sense. He really was piling a lot of assumptions on top of each other, and for all we knew we'd already been spotted and flagged as suspicious by the most advanced security AI money could buy. But the news report he mentioned did ring a bell for me, and it made sense that Chamberlin wouldn't risk anyone spying on him through his security cameras. He also owned a lot of real estate, so it wasn't unreasonable to assume that a comparatively small guest house would be a low priority for his security force. Maybe, just maybe, they wouldn’t come running right away.
The thought of the Dragon Smaug, exploding into a murderous rage upon noticing a single chalice had been stolen from his massive hoard, suddenly injected itself into my mind.
“Let’s find someplace we can watch the house unnoticed until after dark. If we don’t see any lights on, we’ll go for it,” I proposed. I was actually trying to save face, since even if no one was home, I was sure the lights would be automatic. An unlit house like that would be way too tempting to burgle. Jess agreed, and we faded back into the trees that shrouded the entirety of the property, mostly shielding it from public view.
Sunset came, and daylight faded, and yet not one light in, on, or around the house was lit up. It became so dark it was actually hard to make the nearly mansion-sized house out in the gloom.
“What did I tell you, man? Nobody’s home,” Jess declared as he started heading towards the stone fence. I started to object, but couldn’t think of anything to say. If Chamberlin didn’t even care enough about this place to put the lights on a timer, then Jess was probably right about the security being lax. I jogged over to him and together we hopped the fence and sprinted across the spacious lawn.
“Watch out for the koi pond,” Jess warned as we narrowly avoided walking into the decorative pool. “That’s more of what I’m talking about right there. Chamberlin’s real mansion’s got peacocks and flamingos and shit, and he has riding horses at his villa. A koi pond is some cheap ass landscaping for someone as loaded as him.”
“Jess – have you been to Chamberlin’s houses?” I asked curiously.
“What? No. What the hell would someone like me be doing in places like those?” he scoffed. “As far as he’s concerned, people like us aren’t even qualified to scrub his toilets.”
“It’s just that, this is starting to sound kind of personal, and I thought we were just trying to ‘stick it to the man’ or something,” I explained.
“That is all we’re doing; grabbing what we can and shitting on the rest from someone so rich they wouldn’t give a damn if we burned the whole house down,” Jess claimed as we reached the back door. He tried turning the knob, but it turned out that the maid did lock up on her way out. He reached into his pocket and pulled out what looked to be a pair of improvised lock picks he’d learned to make from a YouTube tutorial.
“You’ve done this before, right?” I asked skeptically.
"I've been practicing, yeah. Don't worry, I'll have this open in a couple of minutes," he assured me. I sighed, and as the seconds ticked by, I started to wonder if bashing the door down or breaking a window would make enough noise for a neighbour to call the police. Fortunately, it seemed I’d underestimated him, and he had the door open in barely a minute.
I froze, expecting some kind of alarm siren to start blaring, but there was nothing but silence and a dark hallway before us. Far from being emboldened by our level of success so far, a feeling of dread began to wash over me.
“Call me paranoid, but this is starting to feel too easy,” I said, the anxiety knotting in my stomach, pushing me to the verge of vomiting.
“Az, how many times do we have to go over this? Chamberlin not springing for decent security on this place is no weirder than an average guy leaving a tool shed unlocked,” he insisted, his tone growing irritable and impatient. “Get your flashlight out and let’s go! We’re wasting time!”
With a reluctant nod, I fumbled with my flashlight and followed him into the house.
The back hall led directly into a large living area, with furniture arranged in a way that reminded me more of a ski or hunting lodge rather than someone’s house.
“Holy shit, check out that TV! It’s almost a hundred inches, and probably 8K!" I said in an excited whisper. Without saying a word, Jess unsheathed his crowbar and started smashing it. "Dude, what the hell! Do you have any idea what we could get for that?"
“We can’t smuggle a hundred-inch TV out of here. Use your head!” he chastised me as the television fell off its mount and crashed to the ground. He moved his way into the kitchen and started smashing what I could only assume was antique bone china, something which was definitely transportable and pawnable.
“Not personal, my ass,” I muttered under my breath. Rather than join him in whatever catharsis he was trying to achieve, I slowly moved my flashlight across the living room in the hopes of finding something worth pocketing. My beam settled on a large, 19th-century portrait above the mantle, depicting three well-dressed businessmen. The one in the middle looked like Chamberlin – tall, slender, and handsome with dark brown hair, dressed all in reds, and that same punchable smug smirk on his face. I assumed it was his great-grandfather or something. I knew he had roots in Sombermorey going back a couple of hundred years or so.
The frail man to his right was older, with bushy white hair, pale greyish skin, and a pointed beard and nose. The only thing about him that didn’t look old and fragile were his vibrant green eyes. I got an odd sense of déjà vu then, like I had seen people who looked like that before, but I had no idea where.
The man on the other side of the portrait was the shortest of the three, but also the heaviest, looking to weigh more than the other two put together. There didn’t appear to be any neck connecting his round head to his pear-shaped torso, and he had a moustache and hat that were both small enough to be slightly comical.
It suddenly clicked in my head that these must be the Crow, Crowley & Chamberlin that Chamberlin’s financial firm was named after. It seemed that the Chamberlin line was the only one still around – an idea that made me more than a little uneasy.
“Jess! Hey Jess!” I hissed, hoping his little temper tantrum in the kitchen was drawing to a close.
“What?” he gasped between breaths.
“I don’t know what’s going on with you, and right now I don’t care, but I came here for loot,” I reminded him. “Let’s go upstairs and check the bedrooms for jewellery or something."
Jess nodded and sheathed his crowbar. He didn't look sated, just resigned to the fact that what he was doing wasn't actually going to make him feel any better about whatever was bothering him.
We crept quietly up to the second floor, though I don’t know why. Since Jess’s little rampage in the kitchen hadn’t brought anyone downstairs, it seemed safe to assume the house was deserted. Once we were upstairs, I just turned the first doorknob in front of me, expecting to find nothing more extraordinary than a neatly kept spare bedroom.
Instead, what I stumbled into was some kind of 19th-century laboratory. It ran most of the length of the second floor, and I suspected that maybe it had at one point been multiple adjacent bedrooms, since there were a couple more exits into the hallway further down. There were tall bookshelves holding well over a thousand hardbound tomes, alongside shorter, sturdier shelves for jars and vials of strange liquids, preserved specimens, and unsettling looking artifacts. There was a writing desk, a telescope, and three workbenches, none of which had any chairs by them. A section of ceiling was missing at the far end, enabling a mechanical lift to ascend into the attic, and likely down to the lower floors as well. Throughout the room was a haphazard collection of steampunk looking contraptions of all shapes and sizes, the crown jewel of which was an actual brain in a vat.
The brain, along with a little bit of its original spinal cord, was buoyantly suspended in a clear, bubbling liquid. The vat was mounted on a wheeled podium made from dark oak and polished brass. The front side sported several closed panels and an analogue interface of glass dials and ebony knobs. Beneath and beside the panel was a pair of shelves, each of which supported a folded-up, mechanical arm with a claw grasper. To one side of the vat itself was a polished gramophone horn, and on the other side was a miniature Tesla coil. On the backside there was an accordion-like bellows, constantly rising and falling, which was presumably what was aerating the vat.
Strangest of all, perched on top of the vat was a vintage bowler hat.
“What the fuck?” I muttered as I stepped into the room, taking in the bizarre scene as quickly as I could. I spun around to Jess, who looked just as confused as I was. “Did you know about this?”
“No way man, I swear. This is some Jules Verne shit or something,” he replied, slowly stepping towards the brain in the vat. “I’m not a doctor, but this brain looks real to me. This thing isn’t just some Halloween decoration or something; it’s an actual preserved human brain.”
“That is so fucked up, man. Why would someone preserve an actual person’s brain like that?” I asked, shirking away from the abomination in mortified horror.
“Like I said, Chamberlin’s a fucked-up dude,” Jess replied, a devilish grin spreading across his face.
“Jess, dude, what are you thinking?” I asked, already know what he was going to say.
“Only that this freaky thing here must be a hell of a lot more irreplaceable than a TV and some dishes," he answered, raising his crowbar to smash the vat to smithereens.
Before I could object, the Tesla coil sprang to life and shot him with a bolt of indigo electricity, sending him tumbling backwards and crashing to the floor.
“What the fuck!” he screamed, clutching his torso in agony. The brain began to glow with a ghostly blue aura, tendrils lapping out at the vat like a plasma ball, and the podium rolled itself on creaking wheels towards us.
“Well lads, I was hoping not to have to play my hand, but you’ve gone ahead and forced the issue,” a monotone voice boomed from the gramophone horn.
“Jesus Christ, you’re alive!” I screamed.
“Better! Alchemically Reanimated!” it boasted. “A proprietary concoction of protoplasmotic rejuvenatives and protectorants was all that was required to keep me from the Dread Persephone’s realm.”
I told myself that it couldn’t be real, that it was some remote-controlled prop someone was using to scare us, but… the brain, the undeniably real, human brain, was able to move about inside the vat with the ease of lively fish. It was moving itself with that inexplicable aura that flickered when it spoke. I tried to think of everything I knew about cryogenics and brain-computer interfaces to find some possible rational explanation, but there wasn’t one. I was staring at a glowing, disembodied, still conscious brain in a vat that was telepathically controlling a clockwork, lightning-shooting automaton.
“Az, run,” Jess gasped, pleading with me to leave him behind. I wasn’t ready to leave him just yet though, so I tried dragging him towards the door. Another bolt from the Tesla coil not only slammed the door shut but locked it as well, demonstrating far more precision than should have been possible.
“Sorry gents, but I’m afraid an Irish Goodbye is quite off the table,” the brain informed us. “Allow me to properly introduce myself then; I am Professor Whitaker C. Crowley, or at least what’s left of him; occult scholar, alchemical consultant, and silent partner in the enterprises of Seneca Chamberlin.”
“Silent partner?” I scoffed. The thing had the volume control of a Dalek.
“I am aware of the irony of that title!” it screeched. “Your friend is dying, so I’d advise you to watch the sass if you expect any help from me!”
I looked down to take a good look at Jess, and saw that the brain was right. He was bleeding out, no doubt about it. I nodded my head in somber agreement, slowly rising to my feet and lifting my hands over my head.
“Can you help him?” I asked softly.
“No, Az, please. I know what this thing does to people. I won’t be one of its experiments!” Jess ranted as he coughed up blood.
“You make it sound like I’m some sort of mad scientist,” the glowing brain in the vat chuckled through its gramophone, the pattern of arcing light forming the outline of a smile. As horrifying as it was to look at, the implications of what Jess had just said sunk in nonetheless.
“You know what this thing does?” I asked him coldly. “Jess, what the fuck have you gotten us into?”
“I know. I lied. I’m sorry. I was in pretty deep with Chamberlin, but that’s over now, and I swear to God I didn’t know that this was where he kept that thing!” Jess screamed as the red splotch on his chest grew larger.
“Struggle all you want boy; you’ll only bleed out faster,” Crowley said as he wheeled over to his shelf of potions. His bronze graspers unfolded, and began preparing a syringe. "Do you feel him yet? Cold Hades grasping at you, pulling you down to his Underworld? You don't want to spend eternity there. Trust me, I know. But one shot of this to your brainstem and your consciousness can stay bound to your central nervous system forever. Granted, if you've yet to master astral projection, the experience seems to be… less than idyllic, but I’ll leave it to the philosophy majors to debate if it’s worse than literal Hell.”
“Az, don’t let him stick me with that stuff man!” Jess pleaded, tears of existential terror streaming down his cheeks. Crowley was coming straight at us now, his Tesla coil already crackling, ready to put either of us down in an instant if he needed to. My eyes darted around wildly for any possible weapons, but the only things within reach were monstrous deformities preserved in formaldehyde.
I grabbed one and held it out like a crucifix between us and Crowley, hoping he was smart enough to realize what I was threatening him with.
"What are you doing?" he demanded, though the fact that he backed up a bit while turning down his Tesla coil suggested he knew exactly what I was doing.
"This is formaldehyde. It's flammable, even explosive, right?" I asked. "You pull any more of your Palpatine crap on us and your whole lab goes up in flames!"
Crowley made a sort of sighing sound with his bellows, and shut his Tesla coil off completely.
“Now drop the syringe!” I ordered. This time, Crowley hesitated. “Drop it!”
"I'll set it down; it would be a shame to waste it," he said as he placed the needle onto the nearest table. Jess started to laugh, and with his last remaining strength brought himself to his feet.
“Now, my friend and I are leaving, and you’re staying here, got it?” I asked authoritatively.
“No Az, you’re the only one getting out of here,” Jess said, picking up a jar with a pickled Polyphemus inside. “I’m dying no matter what, and I’m not going to die for nothing.”
Before I could say anything, he charged at Crowley, smashing the jar right over the Tesla coil. I watched in horror as the two grappled each other, Crowley’s graspers crushing Jess’s hands, but Jess slamming Crowley against another shelf, bringing multiple jars of formaldehyde down on both of them. Either in panic, desperation, or just a short circuit, Crowley fired his Tesla coil, immediately sparking a blaze that engulfed them both.
“Run!” was Jess’s final word to me. There was nothing I could have done to save him then, so I ran. I ran past them and out the next door down from the one we came through, down the hall, down the stairs, and out the back as the second floor burned behind me. I’m not sure how I managed to jump the fence without Jess’s help, but I did. Adrenaline, I guess.
The next day, the news reported that Jess had died in the fire. They said the fire was arson, that Jess was the arsonist, and made no mention of a secret laboratory run by a floating brain.
I don't know if Crowley survived the fire. I don't know if he managed to inject Jess with whatever that stuff was, or if it really did what he said it did. I also don't know if Chamberlin knows I had anything to do with the fire or break-in, but I left town in a hurry anyway. I’ve gotten pretty far north, pretty remote, but maybe not remote enough. There's a real nice gold sedan parked across from where I am right now, probably too nice for anyone who lives nearby.
If the worst happens to me, I want to make sure that a public record of what really happened exists somewhere. Jess wasn’t an arsonist; he died trying to kill an abomination that never should have existed in the first place.
I only hope for both of our sakes, for all of our sakes, that he succeeded.
submitted by A_Vespertine to clancypasta [link] [comments]


2020.08.11 21:57 A_Vespertine Dressing room spy tube

"Damn it, Jess, you told me this place was abandoned! I'm out," I cursed as I turned my back to the stately, well-kept house that was very obviously not abandoned, making me lose whatever nerve I thought I had. Jess and I were what you might call ‘disenfranchised youths’. Our prospects for the future were pretty bleak, and we were pissed about it. With things only getting worse for us this year, we had decided we were finally pissed enough to do something about it. Or, at least pissed enough to do something that made us feel like we were doing something about it.
Our plan was to raid what we believed to be an unoccupied home of our town’s wealthiest resident, taking anything of value we could carry while tearing the place up to ‘send him a message’. Ostensibly, anyway. Looking back on it, we were just lashing out, with no real reason to believe one act of petty theft and vandalism would be the impetus for any great social change. It would more likely be the impetus for us spending the rest of the pandemic in prison.
“I never said it was abandoned. I said it was unoccupied,” Jess insisted as he grabbed me by the shoulder. “It’s a guest house, where Chamberlin keeps any out-of-town guests when his mansion is overflowing with pussy.”
“I’m pretty sure Chamberlin’s gay, actually,” I muttered disinterestedly, turning my attention back to the house to see if there was any merit to what he was saying. It was a squat, stone, rectangular house that looked to be about fifty feet by forty. Two stories, plus an attic and basement. That gave it at least four thousand square feet of living space, and twice that if the attic and basement weren’t just for storing wine and antiques.
But it was the spacious, well-landscaped lawn that really made me doubt it was vacant. Weeded flower beds, trim bushes, and grass that had clearly been mowed within the last week were enough to make any hooligans looking for an easy target think twice.
“You’re missing the point, Az. It’s a guest house, and he can’t exactly keep his Illuminati bros somewhere shabby, now can he?” Jess asked. “If it will make you feel better, we can stake the place out for a bit, but I’m telling you; no one’s home.”
I let out a reluctant sigh, folding my arms across my chest as I considered the admittedly quiet house.
“Even if no one’s home, there’s no way it’s not monitored by security,” I insisted.
“It isn’t. Chamberlin values his privacy; as anyone who’s into as much messed up shit as he is would,” Jess claimed. “There’s no live monitoring, just security cameras that feed into an encrypted, onsite hard drive.”
“And how would you know that?” I asked skeptically.
“There was a news story about it a while back,” he replied. “There was a whole court case or investigation or something trying to get access to his surveillance footage. It wasn’t about this place in particular, but it’s how he operates. Look, this is the safest of his properties to target because he doesn't waste his bodyguards here when there are no guests. What the fuck does he care about the maid and gardener popping in to keep everything looking swanky? No one’s going to be watching the camera feed, and even if they do look it over, we’re covered since we got these.”
He gestured to his now completely non-suspicious bandana, which he wore because he thought that the nose wires in face masks were 5G antennas meant to increase adrenochrome production, or some bullshit like that.
"Even if no one's watching the surveillance cameras, there will still be motion detectors and entry sensors that will alert Chamberlin's goons to a break-in,” I argued. “They’ll be here in minutes.”
“Not without video confirmation they won’t. They got other priorities,” Jess countered. “Chamberlin’s got his mansion, his villa, his financial firm, his luxury apartment building, his hotel, his country club, I think the strip club, and probably shit we don’t even know about. His security isn’t going to be in a rush to check out what might just be a false alarm on what for him is basically a spare mattress. They’ll take their sweet time, which means we can take ours.”
I sighed, trying to figure out if anything he was saying made any sense. He really was piling a lot of assumptions on top of each other, and for all we knew we'd already been spotted and flagged as suspicious by the most advanced security AI money could buy. But the news report he mentioned did ring a bell for me, and it made sense that Chamberlin wouldn't risk anyone spying on him through his security cameras. He also owned a lot of real estate, so it wasn't unreasonable to assume that a comparatively small guest house would be a low priority for his security force. Maybe, just maybe, they wouldn’t come running right away.
The thought of the Dragon Smaug, exploding into a murderous rage upon noticing a single chalice had been stolen from his massive hoard, suddenly injected itself into my mind.
“Let’s find someplace we can watch the house unnoticed until after dark. If we don’t see any lights on, we’ll go for it,” I proposed. I was actually trying to save face, since even if no one was home, I was sure the lights would be automatic. An unlit house like that would be way too tempting to burgle. Jess agreed, and we faded back into the trees that shrouded the entirety of the property, mostly shielding it from public view.
Sunset came, and daylight faded, and yet not one light in, on, or around the house was lit up. It became so dark it was actually hard to make the nearly mansion-sized house out in the gloom.
“What did I tell you, man? Nobody’s home,” Jess declared as he started heading towards the stone fence. I started to object, but couldn’t think of anything to say. If Chamberlin didn’t even care enough about this place to put the lights on a timer, then Jess was probably right about the security being lax. I jogged over to him and together we hopped the fence and sprinted across the spacious lawn.
“Watch out for the koi pond,” Jess warned as we narrowly avoided walking into the decorative pool. “That’s more of what I’m talking about right there. Chamberlin’s real mansion’s got peacocks and flamingos and shit, and he has riding horses at his villa. A koi pond is some cheap ass landscaping for someone as loaded as him.”
“Jess – have you been to Chamberlin’s houses?” I asked curiously.
“What? No. What the hell would someone like me be doing in places like those?” he scoffed. “As far as he’s concerned, people like us aren’t even qualified to scrub his toilets.”
“It’s just that, this is starting to sound kind of personal, and I thought we were just trying to ‘stick it to the man’ or something,” I explained.
“That is all we’re doing; grabbing what we can and shitting on the rest from someone so rich they wouldn’t give a damn if we burned the whole house down,” Jess claimed as we reached the back door. He tried turning the knob, but it turned out that the maid did lock up on her way out. He reached into his pocket and pulled out what looked to be a pair of improvised lock picks he’d learned to make from a YouTube tutorial.
“You’ve done this before, right?” I asked skeptically.
"I've been practicing, yeah. Don't worry, I'll have this open in a couple of minutes," he assured me. I sighed, and as the seconds ticked by, I started to wonder if bashing the door down or breaking a window would make enough noise for a neighbour to call the police. Fortunately, it seemed I’d underestimated him, and he had the door open in barely a minute.
I froze, expecting some kind of alarm siren to start blaring, but there was nothing but silence and a dark hallway before us. Far from being emboldened by our level of success so far, a feeling of dread began to wash over me.
“Call me paranoid, but this is starting to feel too easy,” I said, the anxiety knotting in my stomach, pushing me to the verge of vomiting.
“Az, how many times do we have to go over this? Chamberlin not springing for decent security on this place is no weirder than an average guy leaving a tool shed unlocked,” he insisted, his tone growing irritable and impatient. “Get your flashlight out and let’s go! We’re wasting time!”
With a reluctant nod, I fumbled with my flashlight and followed him into the house.
The back hall led directly into a large living area, with furniture arranged in a way that reminded me more of a ski or hunting lodge rather than someone’s house.
“Holy shit, check out that TV! It’s almost a hundred inches, and probably 8K!" I said in an excited whisper. Without saying a word, Jess unsheathed his crowbar and started smashing it. "Dude, what the hell! Do you have any idea what we could get for that?"
“We can’t smuggle a hundred-inch TV out of here. Use your head!” he chastised me as the television fell off its mount and crashed to the ground. He moved his way into the kitchen and started smashing what I could only assume was antique bone china, something which was definitely transportable and pawnable.
“Not personal, my ass,” I muttered under my breath. Rather than join him in whatever catharsis he was trying to achieve, I slowly moved my flashlight across the living room in the hopes of finding something worth pocketing. My beam settled on a large, 19th-century portrait above the mantle, depicting three well-dressed businessmen. The one in the middle looked like Chamberlin – tall, slender, and handsome with dark brown hair, dressed all in reds, and that same punchable smug smirk on his face. I assumed it was his great-grandfather or something. I knew he had roots in Sombermorey going back a couple of hundred years or so.
The frail man to his right was older, with bushy white hair, pale greyish skin, and a pointed beard and nose. The only thing about him that didn’t look old and fragile were his vibrant green eyes. I got an odd sense of déjà vu then, like I had seen people who looked like that before, but I had no idea where.
The man on the other side of the portrait was the shortest of the three, but also the heaviest, looking to weigh more than the other two put together. There didn’t appear to be any neck connecting his round head to his pear-shaped torso, and he had a moustache and hat that were both small enough to be slightly comical.
It suddenly clicked in my head that these must be the Crow, Crowley & Chamberlin that Chamberlin’s financial firm was named after. It seemed that the Chamberlin line was the only one still around – an idea that made me more than a little uneasy.
“Jess! Hey Jess!” I hissed, hoping his little temper tantrum in the kitchen was drawing to a close.
“What?” he gasped between breaths.
“I don’t know what’s going on with you, and right now I don’t care, but I came here for loot,” I reminded him. “Let’s go upstairs and check the bedrooms for jewellery or something."
Jess nodded and sheathed his crowbar. He didn't look sated, just resigned to the fact that what he was doing wasn't actually going to make him feel any better about whatever was bothering him.
We crept quietly up to the second floor, though I don’t know why. Since Jess’s little rampage in the kitchen hadn’t brought anyone downstairs, it seemed safe to assume the house was deserted. Once we were upstairs, I just turned the first doorknob in front of me, expecting to find nothing more extraordinary than a neatly kept spare bedroom.
Instead, what I stumbled into was some kind of 19th-century laboratory. It ran most of the length of the second floor, and I suspected that maybe it had at one point been multiple adjacent bedrooms, since there were a couple more exits into the hallway further down. There were tall bookshelves holding well over a thousand hardbound tomes, alongside shorter, sturdier shelves for jars and vials of strange liquids, preserved specimens, and unsettling looking artifacts. There was a writing desk, a telescope, and three workbenches, none of which had any chairs by them. A section of ceiling was missing at the far end, enabling a mechanical lift to ascend into the attic, and likely down to the lower floors as well. Throughout the room was a haphazard collection of steampunk looking contraptions of all shapes and sizes, the crown jewel of which was an actual brain in a vat.
The brain, along with a little bit of its original spinal cord, was buoyantly suspended in a clear, bubbling liquid. The vat was mounted on a wheeled podium made from dark oak and polished brass. The front side sported several closed panels and an analogue interface of glass dials and ebony knobs. Beneath and beside the panel was a pair of shelves, each of which supported a folded-up, mechanical arm with a claw grasper. To one side of the vat itself was a polished gramophone horn, and on the other side was a miniature Tesla coil. On the backside there was an accordion-like bellows, constantly rising and falling, which was presumably what was aerating the vat.
Strangest of all, perched on top of the vat was a vintage bowler hat.
“What the fuck?” I muttered as I stepped into the room, taking in the bizarre scene as quickly as I could. I spun around to Jess, who looked just as confused as I was. “Did you know about this?”
“No way man, I swear. This is some Jules Verne shit or something,” he replied, slowly stepping towards the brain in the vat. “I’m not a doctor, but this brain looks real to me. This thing isn’t just some Halloween decoration or something; it’s an actual preserved human brain.”
“That is so fucked up, man. Why would someone preserve an actual person’s brain like that?” I asked, shirking away from the abomination in mortified horror.
“Like I said, Chamberlin’s a fucked-up dude,” Jess replied, a devilish grin spreading across his face.
“Jess, dude, what are you thinking?” I asked, already know what he was going to say.
“Only that this freaky thing here must be a hell of a lot more irreplaceable than a TV and some dishes," he answered, raising his crowbar to smash the vat to smithereens.
Before I could object, the Tesla coil sprang to life and shot him with a bolt of indigo electricity, sending him tumbling backwards and crashing to the floor.
“What the fuck!” he screamed, clutching his torso in agony. The brain began to glow with a ghostly blue aura, tendrils lapping out at the vat like a plasma ball, and the podium rolled itself on creaking wheels towards us.
“Well lads, I was hoping not to have to play my hand, but you’ve gone ahead and forced the issue,” a monotone voice boomed from the gramophone horn.
“Jesus Christ, you’re alive!” I screamed.
“Better! Alchemically Reanimated!” it boasted. “A proprietary concoction of protoplasmotic rejuvenatives and protectorants was all that was required to keep me from the Dread Persephone’s realm.”
I told myself that it couldn’t be real, that it was some remote-controlled prop someone was using to scare us, but… the brain, the undeniably real, human brain, was able to move about inside the vat with the ease of lively fish. It was moving itself with that inexplicable aura that flickered when it spoke. I tried to think of everything I knew about cryogenics and brain-computer interfaces to find some possible rational explanation, but there wasn’t one. I was staring at a glowing, disembodied, still conscious brain in a vat that was telepathically controlling a clockwork, lightning-shooting automaton.
“Az, run,” Jess gasped, pleading with me to leave him behind. I wasn’t ready to leave him just yet though, so I tried dragging him towards the door. Another bolt from the Tesla coil not only slammed the door shut but locked it as well, demonstrating far more precision than should have been possible.
“Sorry gents, but I’m afraid an Irish Goodbye is quite off the table,” the brain informed us. “Allow me to properly introduce myself then; I am Professor Whitaker C. Crowley, or at least what’s left of him; occult scholar, alchemical consultant, and silent partner in the enterprises of Seneca Chamberlin.”
“Silent partner?” I scoffed. The thing had the volume control of a Dalek.
“I am aware of the irony of that title!” it screeched. “Your friend is dying, so I’d advise you to watch the sass if you expect any help from me!”
I looked down to take a good look at Jess, and saw that the brain was right. He was bleeding out, no doubt about it. I nodded my head in somber agreement, slowly rising to my feet and lifting my hands over my head.
“Can you help him?” I asked softly.
“No, Az, please. I know what this thing does to people. I won’t be one of its experiments!” Jess ranted as he coughed up blood.
“You make it sound like I’m some sort of mad scientist,” the glowing brain in the vat chuckled through its gramophone, the pattern of arcing light forming the outline of a smile. As horrifying as it was to look at, the implications of what Jess had just said sunk in nonetheless.
“You know what this thing does?” I asked him coldly. “Jess, what the fuck have you gotten us into?”
“I know. I lied. I’m sorry. I was in pretty deep with Chamberlin, but that’s over now, and I swear to God I didn’t know that this was where he kept that thing!” Jess screamed as the red splotch on his chest grew larger.
“Struggle all you want boy; you’ll only bleed out faster,” Crowley said as he wheeled over to his shelf of potions. His bronze graspers unfolded, and began preparing a syringe. "Do you feel him yet? Cold Hades grasping at you, pulling you down to his Underworld? You don't want to spend eternity there. Trust me, I know. But one shot of this to your brainstem and your consciousness can stay bound to your central nervous system forever. Granted, if you've yet to master astral projection, the experience seems to be… less than idyllic, but I’ll leave it to the philosophy majors to debate if it’s worse than literal Hell.”
“Az, don’t let him stick me with that stuff man!” Jess pleaded, tears of existential terror streaming down his cheeks. Crowley was coming straight at us now, his Tesla coil already crackling, ready to put either of us down in an instant if he needed to. My eyes darted around wildly for any possible weapons, but the only things within reach were monstrous deformities preserved in formaldehyde.
I grabbed one and held it out like a crucifix between us and Crowley, hoping he was smart enough to realize what I was threatening him with.
"What are you doing?" he demanded, though the fact that he backed up a bit while turning down his Tesla coil suggested he knew exactly what I was doing.
"This is formaldehyde. It's flammable, even explosive, right?" I asked. "You pull any more of your Palpatine crap on us and your whole lab goes up in flames!"
Crowley made a sort of sighing sound with his bellows, and shut his Tesla coil off completely.
“Now drop the syringe!” I ordered. This time, Crowley hesitated. “Drop it!”
"I'll set it down; it would be a shame to waste it," he said as he placed the needle onto the nearest table. Jess started to laugh, and with his last remaining strength brought himself to his feet.
“Now, my friend and I are leaving, and you’re staying here, got it?” I asked authoritatively.
“No Az, you’re the only one getting out of here,” Jess said, picking up a jar with a pickled Polyphemus inside. “I’m dying no matter what, and I’m not going to die for nothing.”
Before I could say anything, he charged at Crowley, smashing the jar right over the Tesla coil. I watched in horror as the two grappled each other, Crowley’s graspers crushing Jess’s hands, but Jess slamming Crowley against another shelf, bringing multiple jars of formaldehyde down on both of them. Either in panic, desperation, or just a short circuit, Crowley fired his Tesla coil, immediately sparking a blaze that engulfed them both.
“Run!” was Jess’s final word to me. There was nothing I could have done to save him then, so I ran. I ran past them and out the next door down from the one we came through, down the hall, down the stairs, and out the back as the second floor burned behind me. I’m not sure how I managed to jump the fence without Jess’s help, but I did. Adrenaline, I guess.
The next day, the news reported that Jess had died in the fire. They said the fire was arson, that Jess was the arsonist, and made no mention of a secret laboratory run by a floating brain.
I don't know if Crowley survived the fire. I don't know if he managed to inject Jess with whatever that stuff was, or if it really did what he said it did. I also don't know if Chamberlin knows I had anything to do with the fire or break-in, but I left town in a hurry anyway. I’ve gotten pretty far north, pretty remote, but maybe not remote enough. There's a real nice gold sedan parked across from where I am right now, probably too nice for anyone who lives nearby.
If the worst happens to me, I want to make sure that a public record of what really happened exists somewhere. Jess wasn’t an arsonist; he died trying to kill an abomination that never should have existed in the first place.
I only hope for both of our sakes, for all of our sakes, that he succeeded.

submitted by A_Vespertine to nosleep [link] [comments]


2020.08.02 01:18 Archibald-Doo Dressing room spy tube

Part 1, 2, 3
I glanced around the room with my eyes. There was no sign of Sarah. I started to panic, and said the first thing that came to my mind. “Uh, hi. How are you?” That’s the best you could come up with I thought to myself. I sighed internally but outwardly remained motionless. The man didn’t say anything but his expression took on a bemused look.
He gestured with his pistol for me to move to the side and then to sit down. After I was seated, he spoke for the first time since I entered the room. “What are you doing in here?” he asked in a deep voice. “Where would you like me to start?” I asked. He rolled his eyes but didn’t answer. “So… I’ll just skip to what I’m doing in here right now, then” I said.
I told him that I was investigating on the property for a local newspaper, which was a total lie, but I didn’t want to give up information that could expose Sarah. Remembering that one of the camera feeds showed what appeared to be a waste disposal room, and I added that I followed a drainage pipe that gained me access to the building. The man looked at me with what appeared to be an indifferent frustration. “I know you’re lying” he said slowly, his voice sounding menacing. “Why would you think that?” I stuttered. “Because Thomas works for me…” said Sarah stepping into the room.
My jaw dropped. This man worked for Sarah? Why would she have someone here with a gun and how did he get in. The man was still well dressed and didn’t look dirty or disheveled, and Sarah was now wearing an outfit that resembled Black Widow from the Avengers franchise. My mind was reeling. “I’m sure you’re confused but I have no desire to explain it to you, as you’ve already cost me enough time” Sarah said disgust dripping from her voice. I was crushed in more ways than one.
“What are you planning to do with Mark?” I asked, finding a short burst of courage. Sarah looked at me and laughed. “You should be more concerned about yourself” she retorted. “Thomas, take him to see his friend.” Thomas pointed the gun at me and grunted “move!”
I was led down a couple of corridors, and some stairs. We finished our walk, ending in front of a large metal door. Thomas motioned for me to open the door. It was heavy, but I was able to make it move. Inside there were several small spaces, about 5 feet by 8 feet, that were enclosed by cell bars. In the far-right one was Mark. I stayed quiet, and Thomas put me in the far-left cell. He closed it and locked the cell door, putting the key on a ring by the door, and proceeded to walk out.
As soon as he left, I called out to Mark who was sitting on the small cot in his cell. He looked up, and I could tell he was worse for wear. He appeared to have not shaved, showered or changed his clothes in weeks, and his eyes were wide. “Ryan…” he muttered. “It’s me man” I said. He looked both relieved and crestfallen. “You shouldn’t have come” he said. I chuckled. “Like hell I wouldn’t man, I mean if I would have known what I was getting into I might have come better prepared, but I would have still come.” Mark smiled a little.
“Mark, what the heck is going on here dude?” I asked, explaining the crazy things that I had experienced since arriving at his property. “I think I know, but I barely believe it, and I doubt you will” he stood up and replied. I pushed him to elaborate. “I was setting up a new cache site and I stumbled upon the vent that led me here.” He paused, taking a breath and then continued. “I found this facility and investigated. Turns out it was created to investigate and experiment on a UFO that crashed here in the fifties. It also turns out it wasn’t fully abandoned. A small group of pretty messed up people were also investigating.” He continued to explain that since the facility was under his property, he was the legal owner, but when the government left, they didn’t destroy everything properly.
“They were trying to breed alien eggs dude” Mark finished with “and these creeps are completing the process.” I was fairly certain that my mind couldn’t be blown again, but this day was consistently proving me wrong. “Mark, why is Sarah in on this?” I asked. Mark looked at me confused. “I don’t know, it doesn’t make sense to me either.” He sat back down, defeated.
I started trying to figure out how I could get a key and get out of this cell. I remembered that there was a camera in the corner of the room, but I also recalled that it didn’t capture the entirety of the room. If I was able to stay on the far left of my cell I should be out of its view. I casually walked over to the blind spot and watched the camera, it didn’t move. I breathed a sigh of relief. That was something I had going in my favor today.
I walked over the cot in my cell and say it was made out of metal tubes welded together. It was pretty rusted and I was confident that I could break it down. The mattress, if you could call it that, was also very old, musty and torn. I thought better of my plan to break down the cot and instead focused on the mattress. I sat on it like I had given up, and slipped my hand into a ripped section. I found a spring that I was able to work loose and pull out. I leaned forward and slid my hands along my pants until the spring was on the floor behind my foot. Then I kicked the spring to the edge of the cell out of view of the camera. I repeated this several times and then moved to the camera’s blind spot.
In the blind spot I worked on the springs. It was painful and I scraped up my left hand a little but I managed to turn them into a crude rod. I used the rod to reach for the key, and managed to knock it onto the floor. I thought to myself that this looked a lot easier in cartoons, and laughed a little to myself. Small victories I suppose. I caught the key with the rod and scooted it across the floor to myself. I pocketed the key, then put the rod at the base of the cell so it would blend with the horizontal bars.
I didn’t think the security cameras could pick up sound so I called over to Mark. He looked up and I flashed him the key. He smiled then went back to putting his head down. I wondered if Thomas or Sarah were looking at the camera and decided that I couldn’t wait forever and unlocked my cell door. I walked directly under the camera and pulled out the wires leading into it. I figured there wasn’t much time so I ran to Mark’s cell and unlocked the door and we both left the holding room.
We moved to the hallway, and I remembered that there was what appeared to be some sort of armory or similar room on the cameras. It made sense to me that it would be nearby the holding cell so I tried the next room on the left. The door opened to a catwalk looking down on the large canisters with glowing green liquid in them. The liquid appeared to be churning and there was a human like shape inside.
I told Mark that we should double back but I heard footsteps running toward the holding room. I went to close the door when I also heard the unmistakable squick noise followed by a roar. Gunshots echoed out in the hallway, another roar and then a loud scream that I guessed came from Thomas. I peeked out and saw what I could only describe as an 8-foot-tall grey alien that looked wounded throw Thomas against the wall with a crunch and a sickening thud. His body slumped and his head was at a grotesque angle.
The hallway was out of the question, and I wondered how the alien creature got into the facility. My guess was that it followed Sarah and I inside. Mark nudged me and pointed to a ladder leading downward to the canisters. I nodded my head and followed him down.
When we arrived at the bottom, we saw the canisters had creatures inside them similar to the alien we saw. I was freaking out at this point. Whoever these people were, they were trying to bread more of these aliens that seemed to be killing machines. I found a computer terminal sitting by the canisters. It contained a lot of research notes. There was also a protocol for terminating the subjects. I turned to Mark, “dude there’s an option on here to kill these subjects.” Mark also looked terrified but enthralled at the same time. “I don’t know man; this is so wild…” he murmured. “Mark, we can’t have these things getting out, you’ve seen what they are capable of” I said, then added “besides what if the government got their hands on the live specimens? Imagine what kind of crazy things they could do.” That seemed to snap Mark out of it. “You’re right Ryan, do it” he said, convinced that it was a bad idea to let the experiments continue.
I hit enter on the protocol to terminate the subjects and it prompted “are you sure?” and asked for a password. I flipped over the keyboard but there was nothing there. I cursed my luck, then started opening drawers in the desk it was on. Inside the drawer was a moldy binder, and inside the binder was a sheet labeled emergency protocols. That sheet had the password for an emergency abort of the experiment. I typed the password in and alarms started to blare. The color of the liquid changed to red and I watched as the aliens inside started disintegrating. There must have been acid ready to inject in case the experiments started to get out of hand, like a failsafe. I breathed a quick sigh of relief until I heard the door above me explode inward. I gasped and looked to Mark. We both started looking for a way out.
Mark found it first and we ducked through the door just before a loud thud followed by the squick noise of the alien walking around. The room we were in was dark, but we felt around and I found a door. I tugged on Mark and we slipped through it. I didn’t know what this alien’s capabilities were but it seemed like it could either see through things or could sense stuff even when it was obstructed. We found ourselves in a hallway on a lower floor. We made our way along until we saw another door on the right side. We decided to open it.
We were lucky enough to find the armory, or at least what was left of it. It was pretty well cleaned out, but after thoroughly investigating, Mark found a Smith and Wesson 44 caliber pistol, and a pump shotgun. I found a really old M-16, and about 40 5.56mm rounds, a handful of shot gun shells, about a dozen .44 rounds, and two empty magazines for the M-16. I also found two sets of body armor, one for over your clothes and one for under.
Mark and I finished gearing up and left the room cautiously. He had the pistol and the shotgun and I had the M-16. I also had a small concealed 380 ACP pistol with a magazine that I found, but kept that to myself. At the rate my night was going you never know when you’d need an ace in the hole. We made our way back to the floor where I came in when we heard cursing from the security room.
We listened to what sounded like Russian being said at a very fast pace on what we thought was a phone call. When it sounded like the call was over, I kicked open the door and went inside, gun trained on the occupant. Mark followed me in. The female turned around and it was Sarah, dressed in the black spy looking outfit. Mark was the first to speak “What the **** Sarah!?!” Sarah laughed and pushed the center of a jewel on a low hanging necklace. We both stared amazed as her face began to change.
Finale
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