"What are we doing here?"
"It wasn't my doing, the last I remember you were drinking quite heavily whilst Nub was controlling the Tardis," remembered Eldorado Sunshineface, "I thought we were going to the Space Bar."
Both 'Dora and Gregory studied their surroundings, the primary sun began to rise, swathing...
They were in some kind of building, a dusty room with rough dry-stone walls and slate roofing. A four-footed mini-cauldron was squatted in one corner.
The cauldron lit up as 'Dora waved her arm over it, "It's installed with ThudEX!" she cried.
"What the?" puzzled Gregory, "I thought your cauldron was destroyed back in Thud."
"It was," replied Eldorado. She closely studied the cauldron display...
Two fist icons were flashing urgently in the top-right of the cauldron screen.
It should be noted here that ThudEX is a unique open-source Witches Cauldrons Operating System (WCOS), loosely based on the ancient Earthen UNIX kernel, although obviously so advanced by now as to be vastly more powerful and featureful. One particularly innovative feature implemented the first simultaneously-auto-visual-adjusting-display for every user located around the cauldron. The very latest version introduced a simultaneously-auto-physical-adjusting-display, which cleared up the earlier system which meant that users would have to manually work out which button was pressed when another user pressed it (usually by asking). Now, each users hands and arms become symbiotically linked during the entire process. It could be a little disturbing to n00bs.
Eld quickly passed her hand over the one of the two flashing icons, Gregory felt sick.
The display quickly wiped to a scene of absolute horror, whilst Eld could not recognise the place, she was damn sure what these 'creatures' were. Tens of thousands of Keith Chegwins stood in regimented formations, carrying personal spam guns and pyramid scheme flyers. There was a deep chanting sound coming from the horde, "Um la la la. Um la la la. Biscuits!"
"What are they doing?" Gregory asked, "They seem to be just stood there."
"I'm not sure, but it can't be good," Eld replied, "let's see what the other icon is about"
"Prtz G'lokt! Prtz G'lokt!"
Ypicitus awoke to the sound of claxons blaring, and quickly looked around. The door to her room opened and Grzzk walked in with a worried look on his face. Ypicitus had spent many months with the Th'eik in order to learn some of their ways, and hence had to ability to spot what expression a Th'eik made when concerned. Something your ordinary Thuddite would never know. Especially considering it's recent destruction.
Ypicitus jumped from her bed and grabbed her robes and pocket-cauldron, then followed Grzzk out of the room. Both of them ran along the long dark corridors, passing other Th'eik dashing around in differing directions. They soon arrived at the ejection pod designated for herself and Grzzk, and climbed in. No sooner had they entered the pod, it was ejected into space, blasting it's directional thrusters to correct its course to the nearest habitable world.
Looking out of the porthole only confirmed Ypicitus' suspicions. A vast space battle raged across the blackness of local space. Th'eik mother ships had positioned themselves at the Lagrange Point in orbit around a local moon beyond a large array of fighters. Ypicitus and Grzzk looked toward the ship they had left behind, a great fire blazed across her bow - she was breaking up! The Chegwin hordes had somehow managed to break through the Th’eik defensive lines, and had mounted a concerted attack on the ship. They could see thousands of escape pods firing off along the sides of the great ship; many were picked off at almost the instant of launch by the highly manoeuvrable and heavily armed Chegwin crumb-fighters.
Never before had Ypicitus seen such ships, she had always assumed the Chegwins to be a one-off, but clearly there was a greater evil at work here. The attack on The Land of Thud only 5 years ago had clearly been a precursor to something far larger.
Ypicitus stared at the planet they were headed toward, clearly this was the same planet where the Th'eik had initiated their attack. The Th'eik had launched their bombers and fighter escorts a mere three hours previous. Only a few fighters remained when they returned, and were being chased down as what could only be described as a giant space-faring Jammie Dodger. Sending out more fighters to attack the Dodger proved fatal. Whenever a hit was placed on it, the Th'eik lost roughly 23 fighters, and the floating biscuit simply crumbled, each crumb becoming much faster ships and only bringing total defeat closer.
Ypicitus jumped as their escape pod began to rumble and shake, she looked at Grzzk expecting her life to end, but Grzzk merely smiled and said, "Rys'seTrd."
Sighing a breath of relief, Ypicutus began the systems checks she had been trained to do, they would enter the atmosphere soon, and any failures could be fatal.
"Oh my Dog, they annihilated them!"
"This is not good, how are we supposed to do anything about this?" Gregory asked, "What are we doing here? Where is Ed when you need him?"
"Slow down, slow down, Greg," said 'Dora, "All we can do for now, is locate that - " she pointed toward the image of a lone escape pod on the cauldron display, "whoever is in there will have answers for us."
"But the Th'eik were destroyed," protested Gregory, "you saw it too."
"Well, it's worth a pop," reasoned 'Dora, "we've got nothing better to go on."
'Dora returned to the cauldron, Gregory decided not to look this time.
She quickly called up the pertinant details on the mysterious Th'eik pod, it's location could be easily triangulated from the footage recorded, and it wasn't looking good. Over 3000 miles from their current location. They had no transportation to travel such distances.
"We need to steal a vehicle from those Chegwins," 'Dora calmly said.
"Are you mad?!!" Gregory blustered, "They'll kill us!"
"Not if they don't catch us they won't." replied 'Dora, "Start designing some Viagra adverts."
"What's going on?"
Grzzk was leaning over the Cauldron, his green pod-like fingers quickly tapping out numerous calculations, and his eyes bobbing around frantically upon their stalks.
"This subject," Grzzk frowned, "Doesn't appear to be made of spam."
"Oh, what could this mean?" Ypicutus asked. She was already quite shaken by the Theik's earlier defeat, at the hands of the Collective hordes, and this hasty retreat to the outerlying regions of Theik space, didn't fill her with a lot of confidence.
"Hard to say," Grzzk seemed deep in concentration, "...it also appears that he has made no attempt whatsoever to open communications."
"Well that's good isn't it?"
"No, we are relying on him making that connection," Grzzk brought up a display of the so-called Spam-Warrior taken from the warzone, "If he doesn't soon, we will have to kill him and find another."
Ypicutus didn't really like the sound of that, but her position left her with no options, "I'll find a way," she promised.
It should be noted at this time that Ypiticus and Grzzk escaped from the warzone, the means of which shall remain a mystery for the time being.
The leafleting campaign wasn't anywhere near as effective as the concentrated microwave blast arranged with the friendly Theik mothership that Eldorado had managed to communicate with using her Mini-Cauldron. Gregory wasn't incredibly over-joyed especially after delivering over 30,000 takeaway menus with the local free paper, The Weekly Collective, a wasteful article in of itself. The Collective were clearly immune to spam, and as far as Gregory could surmise, not made of spam. They were more consistent now, although slightly rubbery.
As soon as Eld and Gregory were uplifted, the ship fired upon the settlement. Being a mainly military-based settlement, it didn't take long for the place to fry.
Unbeknownest to them both, was the fact that they were not the only ones uplifted.
Shit. This is not good. I awake to see a room, some kind of padded room. My eyes twinge from the pain of the light. What had happened to me? I furiously scanned my databanks, they stored a continuous stream of sensual reality automatically. I pulled up the stream from my awakening and moved backwards through time.
Blackness. Then a sudden implosion. Stop. Forward. Big explosion. Skip back further. Myself exiting the weapons store returning to my commanding officer. Stop. Forward. Entering the weapons store with orders from my commanding officer. Get the guns.
I fast-forward to just before the explosion. Steady. Frame-by-frame now, scanning every sensation for something amiss. Anything. A definite sulphar odor permeating from the Eastern section of the store, the warhead storage area. Intense scrutiny of the surrounding area provides nothing to go on. Then the explosion starts, a string of explosions, in domino effect from one warhead to the next. Bodies are slowly flung across the room, thrown unforgivingly into walls, columns, through glass doorways. Broken and bloody bodies lying around, more explosions. Getting closer now. A large fire blazes through the storage area. People still capable of movement rushing towards the exits in a wild panic. Huge chunks of shrapnel cutting through those unlucky enough to be in the way. I slowly turn and run back out. Pain. I was hit. Blackness.
Beyond that, the same blackness until I return to the present time.
I tried to sit up, I was strapped down to a table of some kind, I looked around at the room. Plain white padded room. Your standard fare, not much to describe.
Open communications to the Collective. *Communications Blocked*
At that moment, the door to the padded room opened. A human walked in. A human?
"Hi," the woman smiled at me, "I'm Ypicitus, but you can call me Yp."
"Fuck you!" my records have a whole section on this woman.
"I'm just here to let you know, your communications array is being blocked," she became serious now, "I've been advised that any attempt to open communications, or circumvent our block, will lead to instant death."
"I know who you are you bitch," I raged, "Go ahead, kill me now, you won't get any help from me."
Ypicitus snarled, "We already have what we want from you, you're only alive because I am going to disconnect you," she paused, possibly for effect, "for good."
"You fucking whore! When I escape I'll have your head on fucking pole!"
She ignored me, and left the room. The door sealed shut.
Meanwhile in a completely unrelated parallel universe...
George sat and stared glumly out of the coffee shop window. He watched as the people scurried past trying in vain to reach their destination without getting 'too wet' whilst the rain began to fall. He warmed his hands on his Moccachino, knowing he would be going out there soon.
George Washington (no relation) was a very ordinary man. He had learned at an early age, along with everyone else on his planet, that life was to be spent working, adding to the Productivity. 'Nose to the grindstone' they would say, 'Work is freedom.' They never mentioned it's unfortunate consequences on society.
Now, at the ripe old age of 156, he was becoming tired. He should really take himself in for processing, but he felt that there had to be something better.
Processing was essentially optional, but there was very often no option for most. The System could not support their own unless they could provide productivity in exchange. It was simple economics.
He picked up the leaflet again, and perused it's contents a little more. The official literature for the Processing Centres stated, "End your life with dignity. Purchase the luxury process and your chosen next of kin gets a free premium process when their time comes!"
He sat drinking his coffee and reading for some time. The coffee shop Prime was beginning to get agitated at this client who seemed to be taking an awful long time to drink a coffee.
George gathered up his accoutrements and stood up. Putting his large jacket on, he walked out of the door, pulling his hood over his head.
The weather was awful, what had earlier been light rain had now turned into heavy rain, with dark, thunderous clouds hanging overhead. The rain struck his face, and the wind wrapped around him and attempted to push him in the wrong direction. George grimaced and crossed the road heading up towards his home in Greater Purpose. It was short walk, no more than a mile, perhaps less. It wouldn't take long.
Halfway through his journey, just after passing the park, the soaking George stopped.
"Fuck it," he thought, and turned into a small alleyway heading off from the main road.
He stopped at a non-descript doorway and knocked 3 and a half times. Eventually, the door opened a touch. A shifty-looking, unshaven fellow squinted and looked out.
"C'mon, Frank, it's me, George," George impatiently said, "It's pissing out here."
"Come in, George, come in," Frank opened the door and stood aside.
George bundled into the bar and felt a huge relief for some unknown reason (probably the heady scent of beer that hung in the air). He took off his jacket and hung it on the coat rack next to the bar. Frank quickly closed the door behind him.
"Usual?" Frank said as he passed George and headed to the bar.
"Yes please," George acknowledged, "And I'll have a bag of peanuts too."
Frank was already pouring the pint, and reached behind him to get the peanuts. He threw the pack on the counter in front of George.
"That'll be 37CC's please"
George fumbled in his pockets for the change, he knew he could afford it, but it was all in the fiddly square low-value FQ's.
He put them all on the counter and raised an eyebrow at Frank.
Frank huffed, gave George his beer, and began counting.
A few moments later, Frank nudged George.
"Thanks," George picked up his remaining FQ's and looked around the bar for any familiar faces. It was very dark, and hard to see beyond the jukebox.
Bars on the planet Superbia had been outlawed early in their present cultures birth, it was said that the bars were serving drinks that could 'addle the brain' and 'stimulate conversation', and such things were unproductive to the whole. The authorities were of course fully aware of the illegal side-street bars that had begun appearing over the last 15 years.
However, they had become so bloated and apathetic from their years of luxurious living, they did not crack down as hard as they originally had in those heady days. In fact, a lot of the top hierarchy had their own private bars, with drink smuggled in, purchased from organised criminal networks.
George moved away from the bar and headed to his usual corner. As he passed by the other tables, he glanced at them, not recognising anyone. He reached his corner and was somewhat upset when he saw someone, or rather, something, sitting drunkenly in his chair.
"Hi George," said what could only be described as an inebriated zebra, "I'm Ed The Inebriated Zebra"
"Er hi," stammered George, "Erm.. "
"Sit down, I have something important to tell you."
George sat down at the opposite end of the table to the inebriated zebra, and took a large gulp of his beer.
"How do you know who I am?" George finally summoned up.
"Sunshineface knows you." Ed pointed a drunken hoof at George.
"Who's 'Sunshineface'?" George was starting to become exasperated.
"Later, drink first."
George had been working for the Theik now for over seven years, in that time he had seen the final annihilation of the Chegwin Hordes, at the extremely high cost of yet another planet, and had been deep in research attempting to decipher the information held within the cloning devices salvaged from the war. There was nothing strange in the actual existence of cloning technology, the Theik had had similar technology for aeons, the mystery lay in the devices origins. He was still no closer to discovering who had built the devices, but it was clear now that they were ancient, perhaps hundreds of thousands of years old.
He clutched his latest report waiting outside the High Office. He was perspiring lightly, unsure how his latest results would be taken by Kxpir, the current head of technological research, his paymaster.
When the door began to open, Georges' tension went up a little.
Kxpir was sat behind a large oak desk, in an adequate-sized room, large paned-windows looked out onto the homeworld of the Theik, Zrpclik. The two adjacent walls were filled with bookcases, overflowing with Theik books, maps and scrolls.
"Come in, George, come in," Kxpir called out.
It had always intrigued George that all the Theik he communicated with spoke in his native tongue rather than Theik-Speik. A situation clearly of concern to a few people, he had been told. He rarely spent time away from his Theik research collegues, so hadn't really noticed that he was being treated differently. Perhaps he should broach the subject with Kxpir?
"Ah, you have your report I see?" Kxpir noticed as George approached the desk and sat down in the chair.
"Yes," George motioned to his report, "But it's not what I'd call great news, I'm afraid."
"No matter, " Kxpir said, "Whatever it is, it has to be faced. Is this about the origin of the devices?"
"No, it's regarding how they got here."
"Okay, sounds interesting. Biscuit?"
George looked down in horror as the Theik revealed a bone china plate stacked high with Jammie Dodgers, he couldn't believe the Theik would have them, especially considering the Chegwin Motherships had been designed from them.
"Don't worry, we found a good supplier on some Earth place. They're quite fresh."
George looked at the Theik, and slowly reached for the nearest Dodger, "Er, thanks."
"Now, do go on," Kxpir put the plate to the side of the desk.
500,000 years ago, a race called the Tyanan had ruled the Universe with an iron fist. Upon discovering cloning technology, the Tyanan elite chose to eliminate the general populace, and instead populate the Universe purely from clones. Not your standard clones by any means, with the ability to manipulate their DNA, it was a simple process to remove the undesirable elements and add more useful elements, such as the desire to work hard, and to not question authority, amongst others.
Late in their reign however, strange things happened with some of the clone colonies. It started quietly at first, production levels fell, and more and more clones began referring to themselves as Keith. It was later discovered that during the usual 15 minute break per day, a transmission from the future was broadcast to these colonies. The programme was later identified as "Cheggers Plays Pop", but it's significance is still unknown.
After several bloody wars, and the destruction of thousands of planetary systems, the remaining Chegwins fled to a little known black hole. The Tyanan were in hot pursuit when all thirteen Chegwin vessels vanished just before reaching the event horizon.
Kxpir leaned back in his chair, "Wow, so potentially we have time-travelling crazy aliens that could appear at any time? Worse than the Chegwins?"
"I'm afraid so, sir," George looked sadly into his lap.