Thud, the Rebirth

Cross-posted from tumblr.

2014-09-23

The Rebirth

The distant mechanical whirring from the spam warrior manufactory had finally subsided. Kaz, Ahdkaw, Horab, penfold, lyric, Angus, Ed, nub, Eld, Ypiticus, and Cow Tse Tung waited. They waited precisely because they had been through this before. The kill-switch had been pulled previously, and it had only made matters worse. Instead of the expected outcome of peace throughout the kingdom of Thud, it had been harshly ripped from it’s citizens grasp with incredible force by the Chegwin Hoardes.

The hardy group had survived of course, through first for horab, his many clones, and thankfully through nub, who had managed to find and collect everyone who still survived into his amazing device which could travel through time and space and was called a Tardis. Nobody bothered to question the significance, if any, of this.

They continued to wait. Previously, it had been at least six hours before the retaliatory post had been made, but nothing came. They could only wait so long before they approved nubs generous offer of free drinks for everyone. They all agreed that it would best if they continue to wait, and drink, for now.

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Breaking the Party

Significant time had passed since the last post, many drinks had been consumed, and the party was in full swing. Everyone previously listed, not to be listed again, for brevities sake, were still there. Their surroundings, within nubs Tardis, had not actually been fully described in the prior post, so the group had chosen to remain oblivious until someone came along and did so.

Ed The Inebriated Zebra leaned heavily against the door frame, desperately trying to regain his composure. He had already emptied his stomach for what seemed a heroic length of time, and was now gasping for air in sharp, short breaths. He looked out to the vista beyond the door-frame, he found it hard to fully understand what he was seeing. The Cloning Plant could be clearly seen in the distance, with the great bubble-like formation of the defensive shield still holding the devastation within, yet all was quiet. The weird part he didn’t get was the weird waving parts around the edges of the image aforementioned. These weird waves seemed to extend all the way toward the door itself.

nub the squirrel played with Eds tail, "Careful Ed, don’t want to fall out."

Ed looked around, "Where is everyone?"

"Good question. All I can assume is that they vanished during the description of your state of mind. Something very odd is going on, no doubt."

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What the?

George looked up from an extremely tidy desk, his slave-bots did all the work around the place and they would upload all the necessary information to the overmind network for him to continue his important work. He had been battling the Thie'K Consortium ever since they broke through the space-time matrix thanks to those fools running The Land of Thud all those years ago.

None of the so-called “hardy group” realised the implications of their reality-merging antics. All possible realities had been merged into one, and it was a devil of a job just keeping up, never mind winning a galaxies-spanning war with a mindless enemy intent on destroying all it touched.

"Mr Washington, sir! News from the front lines." The young sergeant-general had only recently been promoted, and you could tell because of the fit of his uniform. For some reason the mysterious alien race that had found George all that time ago, burning spam warriors to a crisp on that cool and glorious day in the Arena of Death, said that it was extremely important that noobs should wear ill-fitting clothes for at least one campaign.

"What of this news? And why haven’t you just uploaded up it to the network? That is the appropriate channel, my boy!"

"I am sorry, sir. It’s just that, they stopped."

"What on Thud are you talking about? Come on, spit it out. Who stopped?"

"The Thie'K sir, they just stopped everywhere. It should be in the network, but I thought I’d pop in and wake you up."

"Ah yes," George said as he looked up the knowledge through his neural interface, "I see. Thank you, sergeant-general. Something very odd is going on, no doubt."

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How the War Ended

Courtesy of the Universal Translation Service:

"We have deduced that they are gone. We have calculated the possibility that they are dead, and the probability too high to be ignored. There may be peace in this universe at last."

— — — — –

"Trace that transmission!" Hantren Daefic shouted to Yantifral, Yan to her friends.

"Yes sir, but the translation service can barely keep up, we’ll have to divert power from life support."

"Very well," the Commander for the day flicked his chair comms switch, "Engineering, I need you to evacuate everyone in Bay 7, Section 4, we’re gonna vent the air."

"Okay sir, let's see how that works out for you." someone with an amused tone replied.

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Yan gets a drink

"I’ll have a shot, please, been a long day."

The bartender made no indication of any interest in what Yan had just said, and simply placed a shot glass in front of her and poured. Yan took the drink and turned away from the bar, it was a busy night tonight and loud music was playing.

Erundan was stood across the room, leaning against the back wall, the lighting was very poor, but everyone had optical implants so could adjust the brightness for such a situation. He was of medium build wearing loose denims and a t-shirt sporting the words, "Just fuck off, alright?" in a large size Comic Sans font. Hard to miss even without the optical implants, really. He was laughing his arse off, and was chatting to another crew member that Yan did not know. As Yan strolled toward him, he looked up, smiled, laughed again, and waved her over.

The other crew member sat down and began what seemed to be an equally amusing story to others at the table.

"What's going on?" Yan shouted into Erundans ear.

"I hear Han fucked up again," Erundan replied.

"I only told him to divert energy from life-support, not vent air from an entire fucking section!"

"Hahahah"

"I said, 'what you doing?', he just cut me off and told me he knew what he was doing. I could only roll my eyes. What was in that section?"

"Hahaha. But seriously, that’s where it gets weird, something to do with organics according to the manifest, but the Traders Alliance won’t say any more than that."

"Organics?"

"Yeah," Erundan rubbed his chin, "It's kinda funny up until that point."

"So what’s going to happen to old Han?"

"Back to engineering, they want him to work with the Alliance to come up with some kind of arrangement. Serves him right."

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Contracting Matter

nub the squirrel stopped playing with Eds tail.

Ed? I think our universe is contracting. I'm not sure what to make of it."

Ed carefully pushed himself up from leaning against the door, steadied himself, and looked around to see nub frantically flicking switches and pressing knobs. "Not sure what that means, but I can prepare us some more drinks if you like."

nub was deep in concentration trying to make sense of what was happening. The Tardis was reporting a massive reduction in the size of the universe, and surprisingly the contraction was accelerating. But rather than the matter being pushed toward the ultimate singularity it was simply vanishing, like some giant matter-eating creature from beyond the outer darkness was gnawing away at the edges of the universe, consuming all it found.
"It looks like we are at the centre of this universe and it's collapsing all around us," said nub, "but that could well be our perspective." Nub looked concerned, rubbing his little beard with his left paw. "If what I’m reading is correct, this universe will cease to be in approximately four hours."
"Are we going to die?" Ed responded nervously, "Here," passing a strawberry daiquiri to nub.
"Ooh nice, thanks." replied nub, "Possibly. I've got four hours to work on the calculations, so another one of those please."


The sergeant-general, Kane Wallace, shuffled uncomfortably in his uniform. He’d recently been promoted and had assumed he would be brought back from the lines only a little, and maybe given the opportunity to direct an assault on one of the many worlds overrun by the Chegwin Hoardes. A mighty space battle that could really show that unlike all these other generals assigned within the ranks of Democratic Clusters' military, he could get results. He knew their one weakness, everyone knew it, but it had never been used. Now with the end of the war being announced, he was aware that he may well spend a long time wearing his uniform, there were no campaigns to speak of. Indeed the political arm of the Democratic Cluster had already begun scaling down, re-assigning former battlecruisers as cargo, mining, exploration and ambassadorial vessels, re-opening trade and communication routes across the nebula.

Kane leaned back in his chair, holding his hands together behind his head and stretched himself. The door to George’s office opened and General Washington wandered in.
"That's it," said George, "We can go now. Nothing left for us to do anymore."
"I'm sorry sir, I'm not sure what you are trying to say."
"We're dead, boy! Dead! D. E. A. D." shouted George a little too triumphantly.
A blinding flash of light occurred at just that moment, and the universe collapsed entirely.


Everyone in the bar was a little tipsy.
Yan proposed a toast, "To the future success and happiness of the crew of the OTS GoneInSixty," and raised her glass to everyone at the table around her.
A cheer went up and everyone raised their glasses. Yan had been introduced to the crew around the Formica table by Erundan. They were all engineers of course, assigned roles that intersected with Erundans in some way, and they had agreed to join him at the DownInSixty bar for a few drinks at the end of the workday. It was at that point Yan received a message through her implanted communications device, "We need you on the bridge immediately."
Yan stood up and advised everyone she was needed elsewhere, "Don't worry about it, I'm sure it'll be nothing."
Fumbling through her pockets she found the small pack of sober-up pills, took a few and looked up, "I’ll be back soon."

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teh adventurz ov ed n nub

As usual, George was sat at his desk, it had been only an hour since he had been advised by Kane of the news about the Thiek, and he was reading a particularly interesting book on home decoration. He looked up as he noticed a brief flash of light from the corner of his eye and a blue box appeared in his office. The left-hand door of the box opened slightly and a small squirrel popped his head around to face George, "Come on then, hurry up, we've got work to do."
George followed the squirrel inside the blue box, it was no surprise to him that it was bigger on the inside than the outside, he had been here before. There was a central control panel area, the surrounding walls were decorated with large circles, corridors leading to separate rooms seemed to go off in every direction, and a zebra could be seen preparing drinks at the far end of the central chamber.
"No time to explain," Nub said to George, "we noticed a strange blip in the fabric of space-time that occurred at the same time as the message of peace from the Thiek.
"After researching this strange phenomenon and many an experiment, I have concluded that the Thiek piggy-backed something else on the communication."
"Something else?" George questioned.
"Yes, it would appear that they packaged up a consciousness of some form, perhaps to preserve their knowledge in some way, but knowing the Thiek as we do, for something more sinister."
"What do you need me to do?"
"I think we can do the same and you might know where we can find the appropriate conciousness. But we don't have much time, owing to the San Dimas High effect."
"Okaaay... I'm still not sure how I can help." mumbled George.
"Well, you remember the strange alien race that found you and put you in your position?" asked Nub.
"I only ever met one of them, Kerplik I think his name was."
"That's the guy!" shouted Ed from the bar, looking up from preparing three shots of strong liquor.
"We are aware of him, it's what he was doing and where he was doing it that really matters. We also know that Kerplik was deeply involved in the research that began and followed the cloning of Spam Warriors, and we know that he was using stolen Thiek tech to achieve his goals."
"That can't be!" protested George, "We knew about cloning before we heard about the Thiek!"
"Yes, and again that's the problem with all this. But we cannot consider that now, we need to find his last experiment."
"Only Kerplik will know that answer." said George.
"Then that's where we must go."
"Drinks are served!" Ed yelled across the chamber and pulled a large floor-mounted crank.
Nub quickly scurried across the control panel, deftly leaping from one control panel to the next, inputting data as he went. After reaching the far side of the console, Nub span around and quickly caught two shot glasses between his paws and furry chest. Bounding back to a bemused looking George, Nub passed one shot to George, and necked his in one, "Drink up, George," nub pulled a lever and George nearly lost his footing as well as his drink as the room began to shake.


They stopped in the middle of the walkway, and Kerplik turned to Repfunk.
"She's too powerful."
"What do you mean too powerful? We need the best, it's the Thiek we're talking about here, they will never stop of their own accord."
"I know," lamented Kerplik, "But I fear for the universe itself, she is just too powerful."
"She's on our side you old fool," scolded Repfunk, "Why would she hurt those who gave her life?"
"Pah. She is self-conscious, self-aware, and most of all knows how much power she has."
"She has never used her powers for bad, and you know that. To be honest, I think you're losing your way, old stick."
"Dismiss me as you wish, but I have seen how these things work over long periods of time."
"How? I have not seen any evidence of your assertion, and I am well read."
"I am privy to knowledge that I cannot reveal to you at this time," Kerplik dryly stated, not for the first time.
"Well, when you feel like sharing that information, maybe I'll take your concerns more seriously. We need her."
"We do, but I am worried."
"Fine, you worry. I'll explain our new strategy to her, she'll be okay with it."


She had been created. She was not the first, she was produced from generations of clones that went before her. But she was the first of her type. Of anywhere. Effectively a god she had been told. Useful in situations where the author needs something god-like to happen. She knew they were coming. Kerplik won't come in, he's too soft, doesn't want this to happen. Repfunk will tell her his "strategy" confident that all will be well once this task has been completed. Of course, if you remove the initial characters from a universe, the universe will collapse, it's a well known effect of the old-universe-new-universe-writing-paradigm. She could see into the authors mind, even if that author didn't exist. She would do as he asked, one last time.

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The Grill

Yantrifal slowly made her way toward the nearest transportation pod, letting the pills work their magic and wondering why she had been called to the bridge. Had something changed? She was not due to be on bridge duty for at least another three months, having just completed her second assignment over the previous month. She was supposed to be on break now, three more days of blissful relaxation before being assigned her latest role down in the computer core, working on new calculations recently proposed by the brilliant Tipfali Ferraane who was previously in the position. The proposal involved improving network efficiency with advanced quantum-based compression techniques, creating quite a stir amongst the scientific personnel. She was looking forward to the challenge, it had been too long since she had got down and dirty with some raw coding.

She climbed into the transportation pod, "Bridge," she half-mumbled.
"Voice identification successful." The pod replied, "Enjoy the ride!"
"Vwooosh!" It was a speedy vehicle, capable of VTOL, powered through battery charge, using anti-gravity technology for movement, fitted with basic inertial dampeners and automated by distributed networks. This allowed the pods to accelerate at incredible rates, as well as change direction in the flash of an eye, and speed through the network of tunnels and arteries that connected the various parts of the cargo ship at otherwise breakneck speeds. Each pod could hold up to seven passengers and were freely available to all the crew and their families.

She began to let her mind wander as she stared out of the window. It had to be something to do with Han, she knew it. Had she failed to do her duty? She didn't think so. But what else could it be? She was frantically searching her thoughts for answers but only more questions came. Why did he evacuate the air? Han was certainly a fool, but he hadn't been reckless like this ever before. Did he know something about the bay he was evacuating? It certainly caused a lot of confusion, and many people had to be relocated before the action was taken. What did she know about that area of the ship? Not a lot.

"Pffftt"

The pod had stopped at one of the available bays just outside the bridge, "We have arrived. Please exit the vehicle as quickly as you are able, thank you."
She was already heading through the door to the bridge by the time she heard the "thank you".
Rebert was sat in the commanders chair and noticed Yantrifal entering, "Ah Yan, I see you have deemed us worthy of your presence at last."
"Hi Reb," she replied, "problem?"
"Er yes." he looked concerned, "Ready room please."
Reb got up from his chair, and he and Yan walked across the bridge to the ready room. In the room was a medium-sized oval-shape Formica desk, surrounded by a number of seats. In three of those seats sat three very stern looking individuals.
"Yantrifal," Rebert declared, "These fellows are the newly appointed oversight committee for the recent unfortunate incident involving Han and yourself."
"I..."
"Please," interrupted one of the stern fellows, "you can speak in a moment, but let me first state that you are under no suspicion, we just want to ask you a few questions to aid in our investigation.
"My name is Frenswan, this is Galbri and Holltan," he waved to his left, then right, and each nodded in turn at Yantrifal, "would you like a drink?"
Frenswan proffered the variety of drinks in the middle of the table.
"Erm..." Yan responded, "I'm alright, thanks."
"Very well," Frenswan enabled his recording implant, "Let us start."


"What do you mean he said he didn't know what was happening?! It just came out of the blue, the recordings show it!"
"His testimony is that he was not aware of the event at all, we have shown him the footage, but he remains adamant that he does not recall any it."
"But what has this got to do with me?"
"Did you notice anything strange at the time?"
"What? It's all there on video for Thuds' sake!"
"Anything at all... Wait. What did you just say?"
"It's all on the video."
"No the last bit," Frenswan reviewed his recording, "Thuds' sake?"
"Oh it's a common phrase of frustration."
"Has anyone around this table heard this term before?"
Everyone around the room held confused expressions and shook their heads, including Rebert.
"We've known each other a long time, and I've never heard you say that."
Yan looked around in dismay, "What? But, Thud, it's… it's…"

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Wrong George

George stepped out of the Tardis with nub in tow, whilst Ed had graciously offered to get some drinks lined up for when they got back. They were in an empty room with blank white walls on all four sides. The flooring was well-polished with off-white mottled effect, and a plain flat ceiling. Although there was no immediately obvious source of light the room was well lit. A heavy door set in a thick frame was directly across the room. George looked to nub, who looked back at him and shrugged.

As George moved toward the door, there was a loud crackling sound followed by a disembodied voice, "Stay where you are and identify yourselves."
"We're looking for Kerplik?" called George, not sure where to direct his voice.
"Identify yourselves now!"
"Sorry, I am General George Washington of the Democratic Cluster, and this here is nub the squirrel. To whom am I speaking?"
"I am..." the audio suddenly cut out, and there was a moment of silence before the same voice returned, "We are friends, but this is somewhat disconcerting to say the least. We'll unlock the door now, but we have a problem that you're going to have to explain to us."
A loud clunk came from the door, and it slowly opened to reveal George standing next to a Thiek. "Er..." said George.
nub looked at both Georges and suddenly realised what he had done wrong. This was one of the worst rookie mistakes he had ever made, he couldn't believe it. How could this have happened? He thought about all those drinks.
"Sorry guys, my fault," admitted nub, "I only went and got the wrong George."
Both Georges were stunned into silence, whilst Kerplik and nub laughed.
"Take him back," advised Kerplik.
"What?" pleaded George, "Kerplik, what is going on?"
"I am Thiek, George, I am not the same Kerplik you met."
"Hang on," George paused, "You're a Thiek?! We can't listen to this..." he pointed at Kerplik, "thing! He's the enemy!"
"Sorry George," nub said soothingly, "you can't stay here, you're from the wrong dimension. But thanks for your help in finding this place, couldn't have done it without you."
George was bewildered by this sudden change of fortune, his doppelgänger merely stared stonily ahead, "What the hell, I help you out and then you send me back to die?"
"We are all going to die, and very soon." nub replied, "We do this for the story to continue. And look, you'll still exist here for a while longer as well. Ask Ed to take you back, it'll be fine, I bet he has some nice drinks prepared for you."
He couldn't believe it, let down by the one squirrel he thought he could trust. He looked around forlornly at everyone in the room, nobody moved except for nub who was tugging on his trouser leg. "Fine." was his response before he bundled himself back into the Tardis for the very last time.


nub sat on the table chewing on some peanuts and enjoying a nice Pinot Noir and laughing about his uselessness in identifying clear differences between the parallel universes.
George looked concerned, "You know, that is another me you are laughing about."
"Oh right, yeah sorry." said nub, between mouthfuls of nuts.
Kerplik frowned, "So what exactly are you doing here?"
"Well, my George," he waved a paw in some general direction, "had some information about this place that I wasn't privy to. He mentioned something about cloning and the origination of Chegwin clones, something about this going much deeper.
"The calculations I have made suggest this Universe is going to end quite soon, and then there was the transmission."
"Yes," Kerplik noted, "Not from us. We identified as Chegwin Hoarde origin. We have a report. From our George," he dropped a summation of the report in front of nub.
nub read carefully, "Oh my, who are these Tyanan?"
"The ones who created the Hoardes. Ancients."
"So how does this help us?"
"Not a lot. We have a subject. Did as we asked. We failed to see the ultimate outcome."
"A subject?"
"She exceeded expectations. Dangerous. Cannot be stopped from here."
"I don't understand."
"She escaped."

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The Switch

As the ceremony begins she notices a squirrel and a perpetually inebriated zebra enter through the main doorway, a set of fine oak double-doors, intricately hand-carved by incredibly skilled craftsmen at the time when the magnificent building was built. The doors were the entrance to a large carved-stone theatre, topped with spires on all sides, a truly dramatic building in amongst the usual stone-cladding and brick buildings surrounding it. The theatre had been host to some of the most well known musicians and actors from around the local solar system (as well as a respectable number from neighbouring systems), and was scheduled for a musical extravaganza this evening. A collective of artists had weaved their work together, leading to a dark tale of treachery and woe, each song perfectly complementing the next. Tonights’ show may not go ahead.

Nub presses something into her hand, she looks down but before she can see what was passed to her, the squirrel firmly clasped her hand tight shut, and stared desperately into her eyes. He seemed to be yelling something but she couldn’t hear a thing, the ceremony was causing the expected temporal flux in the immediate vicinity around the ceremonial table she had found pushed up against a wall, and had moved to the centre of the foyer at the bottom of a wide set of stairs that lead up into the theatre proper.

She tried to voice that she couldn’t hear anything over the extreme noise of everything in the foyer area smashing, falling over, or being picked up and thrown around the room by the vicious cutting wind that whirled around her, the table, and now unexpectedly, Nub. The wind was intestifying and she knew that the switch would occur very soon in the ceremony, she had to remove the squirrel from the affected area, otherwise the entire thing would be ruined, leading to possible death for both herself and Nub.

Nub looked wide-eyed and somewhat shocked when suddenly she grabbed him by the tail, swung him around her head three times, and threw him across the room. Then the switch occurred.

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This is it

There were only a few moments left. Nub was surprised that the calculations to find this god-like clone creature created by Kerplik and his Thiek cohorts led to an actual location in time and space.

"I think this is it, Ed," Nub spoke softly as he cautiously passed his empty shot glass over. Ed took the glass and nervously began loading the dishwasher.

"I need another drink first."

"I'm sorry, old chap, it's been a fine old time with you."

"And you," Ed raised a hoof with a pint glass of lager in a ghoulish plastic hand, "cheers."

Nub smiled, and waved goodbye to Ed, before turning and stepping through the boundary of the Tardis doors one last time. He was fully kitted up and prepared for anything, but he knew his final moments were coming. All he wanted was answers, that would satisfy him. He’d got this far, it was the least this universe could do for him.

Nub looked around the strange area in which he found himself, a solid beechwood flooring underfoot, with large luxurient carpets carefully placed around, walls featured large portraits of Thud characters, he noticed a wonderful portrait of Arizu hung in one corner, and another of the little featured but mighty warrior Angus. A large fireplace dominated the room and two chairs faced it, the light from the flames flickering and creating long shadows upon the floor.

"Come, sit down, enjoy the fire," a voice called from one of the chairs.

Nub hopped over to the arm of the chair, at last being able to put an image to the legend, the god-like, over-clone, queen of time herself. At least that was the way Nub saw it, he had heard such things of her abilities! She was beautiful with long red hair, wait, now it was long blonde hair, her features moved, never the same face twice, it was incredible to behold, "Oh my," he managed to mumble.

"Hi Nub," she said as she touched the tip of his nose with her finger, "I’m Tolah, thanks for doing such a great job with this universe, you are great."

Nub felt humbled, but still angry that this… thing, she/it killed everyone and triggered this accursed collapse.

"You killed off the original characters! And you knew that would destroy the universe! Why would you do that?" Nub began to redden in the face.

"It was Kerplik. He asked me to do this, to stop the Tyanan. I told them but they wouldn’t listen."

Nub paused, "Kerplick ordered this?"

"Yes, well, Repfunk did. It was Kerpliks' intent all along, he had 'a vision' that came to him in the night, he saw some other universe, a cargo ship of some form. I could read all their thoughts you know. Kerplick was an old but useful fool. But that transmission, even I’m not sure about the long-term effects of that."

"Some kind of conciousness was piggy-backed onto it is what I’ve heard."

"Yes. But not a whole one. From what I could decipher it’s some kind of modifier, and consciousness modifier. Designed to cause some kind of change in the next universe."

"The next universe?" Nub rubbed his nose, it was beginning to itch.

"The one that will surely come after this. The reason the transmission has crossed universe boundaries is unknown, but then the original characters did collapse all our alternate universes into one, so things are a little confused in this place." Tolah replied, "But don’t worry, I am able to effectively take your place in the story going forward. I may have to stay under the radar for a while before making any moves though."

"Wait, so the transmission went to some other universe?"

"Yeah," she began to look a little confused, "Isn't that what I just said?"

"Just clarifying." Nub apologised, "So what now?"

"This is where it ends for you, nub. I however, have places to go. Farewell my pretty squirrel."

She kissed him on the cheek, and a blinding flash of light was the last thing he saw.

RIP Nub & Ed

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Quick Zip

Where was she? The bright light faded slowly, leaving shifting blots of purple, blue, and green in her vision. She looked around her, she appeared to be in a large cargohold, rows upon rows of packaged and palletised goods, stretching in all directions. She rose to her feet and leaned left, right, looked behind herself, but couldn’t make out which direction would lead to an exit of any kind.

Walking along one of the rows, she soon came upon a set of crates all marked with military-style insignia, the crates were sealed shut and made of a thickened plastic-based material. Small images on the crate seemed to suggest some kind of hazard caution, which piqued her interest immediately.

Opening the crate was easy enough, merely flowing a little life force in-between the seals, and expanding outward soon popped the latches. Cautiously peering inside and reaching in, she grabbed one of a number packages held within the crate, the same messages were featured.

She carefully pulled open the padded envelope, looked inside and found a vial, inside of which was a strange viscous liquid. As she shook the vial, the liquid inside moved around in unexpected ways. Something very odd that would require further analysis, she felt.

Suddenly a siren began blaring, followed by an automated announcement, "Warning, Venting air from this section!"

"Uh-oh," said Tolah. She grabbed a couple more of the packages, took a deep breath, and quickly zipped herself to the next unknown location. "Handy power, but somewhat clumsy, maybe I should look into fixing that," she thought.

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Dreaming of Another Land

She dreamed.

She dreamed for a long time. Stories of great battles in unknown lands, of talking animals, campaigns for young conservative strips, ninja-sheep, a cow of great philosophical importance, bellowing in pain at the destruction placed before him, the processed meat warriors who wreaked havoc across the glorious land, smiting all of those not armed with weapons of fire, or the mysterious powers of herbalists.

She saw the brave defiance of the residents of this once peaceful place, the places of knowledge, communication, and relaxation built to house them and hold them safe. The fight was lost, the land was lost. But the embattled heroes pushed on in the face of annihilation, certain that their story would be told. She saw a squirrel and a very drunk zebra. And parties, so many parties. Some so deafening, competing ear-splitting parties were opened further down the beach.

She saw the transportation system, she saw the desert, she saw the somewhat appropriately named Suburbs of Doom. She saw the great waterslides of the Rumpian Mountains, she saw the hidden landfill, overflowing with pyramid scheme and lose weight now flyers, hurriedly dumped there after the ultimately futile clean-up of Thud City.

She saw a forest, the Village of Ping nestled deeply within, the transparent village hall, the orange plastic chairs, the central well and rough bramble oddly placed nearby to enable awkward character entrances. It was the stronghold of omnivores intent on not eating young conservative strips, advocating choice instead. She saw the land, so much to see.

Then she saw the Thiek, an ugly reptilian-like species, initially thought responsible for the destruction of Thud, but later great allies in the galactic wars against the Tyanan, an ancient race of aliens that had sent spam warriors from the past, and threatened to do the same to all other universes. She saw timelines and alternate realities merging, she saw the great ships battling across the oceans, the destruction of the Giant Iron Lady, with her handbag of problematic issues for you.

Finally, she saw a strange woman and a squirrel in front of the hearth of a large fire, they appeared to be deep in discussion, but she could hear no words.

Yantrifal awoke with a start, sweat beads upon her brow.

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