Friday, December 28, 2012

You: Chapter Twelve (A Choose Your Own Adventure)


   Welcome to Choose Your Own Adventure time! The way this is going to work is pretty familiar. Each chapter, you will be given one or two choices that will dictate how the story progresses. The choices will be given in the body of the story and you vote your choice by clicking on the answer in the corresponding poll on the right side of this here blog. Voting begins on Saturday when the story posts and remains open until Tuesday night.
   A word of warning, though! Unlike a Choose Your Own Adventure book, you can't go back and make a different decision to get a different outcome. Whatever decision wins the vote on Tuesday is final, so choose wisely.


Chapter Twelve

You stay perched on the rickety pile of pallets for what feels like weeks. You can’t believe what you just heard. You always suspected that the Omega Conglomerate was up to something fishy, after all why would they pick you of all people to test out their trans-dimensional gizmo, but nothing prepared you for the truth.

Of course, how could you have predicted that they sent you here so that a mad scientist could scoop out your brain and replace it with his own simply because you look like this city’s Minister Of Agriculture? That kind of plan makes no sense at all.

And speaking of plans, you have to come up with one. For too long, you feel, you’ve been reacting to situations and not taking control of your own destiny. Climbing down from the pile of wood as quietly as you can, you start to scheme. A smile slowly spreads across your face as the pieces of a plan begin to take shape in your head. It’s a good plan.

Which makes you feel almost as shocked as Dr. Feldman looks when you find yourself hitting him in the face with a plank of wood. He hits the grounds, blood spurting from his broken nose, and begins to howl in pain.

“This was my plan?” you say out loud, looking down at the board in your hand. “Shit. What was the next part?”

“What the hell is going on?” the brain of Dr. Carver shrieks, the light on the top of the tank flashing frantically with each syllable. “Feldman? Feldman? Hook up the camera apparatus so I can see! Where did...?”

You throw down the board and pick up the tank. It’s heavy enough to make one of your vertebrae click when you heft it up, but you think you can make it a few blocks pretty quickly. Kicking open the garage door, you stagger out into the parking lot and begin to jog up the street.

To hell with plans. You are a woman of action!

“Who are you?” the brain yells. “Where are you taking me?”

“I’m taking you back home, you weirdo...brain...thing,” you grunt, wishing you had just taken the tanks rolling cart as well. “Now shut up before I drop you.”

You huff around the corner and up to the dilapidated, white-picket fence of the Carver house. Kicking open the gate, which simple falls off its hinges and collapses onto the walkway, you stagger up to the front porch and set the tank down with a heavy thud. Breathing heavily, you step onto the groaning boards of the porch and reach for the door handle.

“Wait,” the brain says. “Did you bring me to my old house? Whatever you do, do not open that door.”

“Why?” you ask, suspicious. “I know the handle isn’t rigged, I heard a neighborhood kid grabbed it and was fine.”

“I can’t go around electrocuting every Avon salesman that happens by my door, can I?” the brain says testily. “But if that child were to have opened the door he’d have gotten a face-full of shrink ray.”

“No way,” you say. “You do not have a shrink ray.”

“Look at the far corner of the porch.”

Taking a cautious step across the creaking boards, you see what looks like a small pile of sticks and cardboard surrounded by a length of clothesline rope. Kneeling down, you see that it is actually a small shanty town. Three two-inch tall people dressed in rags and holding spears made of rusty nails take a look up at you and wave lazily. You wave back.

“You just keep them like this?” you ask.

“I never figured out how to reverse it,” the brain says mildly. “but that’s their problem.

You are about to plead the case for saving the small people when you see a sleek, black limousine cruise by the corner. The same limo that brought the brain to the garage. You better get out of sight soon.

“So how do I open the door?” you say, shaking the tank. “Or do I just use you as a shield?”

“Push the knot on the top of the doorframe. When you enter, pull down the visor on the suit of armor to your right. That will disengage the ray.”

“Geez, paranoid much?” you mutter as you look for the knot in the doorframe. You find it, push it, and then rapidly follow the rest of the brain’s directions. Stepping inside the front hall, you turn and drag the tank over the threshold and close the door.

“Stay here,” you tell the brain as you walk down the short, gloomy hall. Set up at the far end is the shrink ray, mounted on an antique-looking table. Not taking any chances, you move the barrel so that it’s pointing at the brain of Dr. Carver. “And if your friends happen by you better shout something or else you join your buddies on the porch. I’m sure they’d love to meet you.”

You wander into the living room. Piles of coils and wire spill out across the floor, electronic equipment is heaped haphazardly in the corners, and a thick coating of dust covers everything. A circlet that looks like a metal sweatband sits on an easy chair, a masking tape sign on it reads ‘Signal Blocking Circlet’’. You wonder if it would block Orson from being able to find you once he goes back online.

     The kitchen is in a similar state, though it looks more like an alchemical lab than a computer graveyard. A large beaker with a cork stopper sits on the counter. The words “giant serum” is written on a piece of masking tape across the side of it. You pick up the bottle of purple liquid and swirl it around a little, wondering what it does, before setting it down and moving to the dining room.

This room is relatively clean with no piles of junk or chemicals spilling out of the corners. The only piece of furniture is a large table. Of course, this being a mad scientist’s house and all, a large robot lies across the top of it. You step up and look at it. It’s not like the other robots you’ve seen around here. This one is lean and sharp looking. Simply standing next to it makes you feel uneasy, like at any moment it could reach one of its claw hands out and grab you around the neck.

The word “Murdertron” is written across its chest.

“Did you build a murdering robot?” you shout towards the front hall.

“No,” you hear the brain shout back. “It was sent to kill me. I don’t know who sent it, though I have my theories. It isn’t from this world. It was only by luck that I hit the ‘off’ switch behind its head. That damned thing is the reason my brain is in a jar and not in my body.”

You peer behind Murdertron’s head and see the switch. You wonder who sent it. Anyone who wants to kill Carver can’t be all that bad...

Should you activate Murdertron?
Choice One

1. Hell yeah! 75%
2. Hell no! 25%

The robot simply lays there, not moving. It’s vicious looking eyes remain dark as you make your way back to the front hallway.

“So was it sent by those guys who made the Bonanza show?” you ask. “Back in the garage you said they were from some other world, too.”

The brain sighs, somehow, and sends a small storm of bubbles loose in the tank. “You heard all that, huh? No, they didn’t send it. From what we’ve gathered they are from a world that tries, through non-direct means, to improve the lives of parallel Earths that are in crisis. They try to inspire people to act in their own best interests, but never take a direct hand in things. They would never even consider sending an assassin.”

“So you have no idea who sent it?”

“No,” the brain says. “Though I suspect it may have been our masters. The ones who we work for.”

“I don’t work for them anymore,” you say, leaning against the wall. “I decided to become self-employed once I learned about the whole ‘scooping my brain out my head and replacing it with yours’ thing.”

“Sorry about that. It wasn’t personal.”

“Why? Why me and why my brain?”

“To be honest, I have no interest in your brain. It was your body I was after. Or rather, I was instructed by our masters to scoop out your brain and replace it with my own. We needed you because you have a double in this world...”

“The Minister of Agriculture,” you interrupt.

“Yes, the Minister. She is one of four Ministers that are sequestered in a building called the Citadel. It is there that the Martians communicate with this city’s government. We needed to get inside so that we can find out how much the Martians know about trans-dimensional travel.”

“You think they know about our world?” you ask.

“We suspect it. We’ve heard rumors that the scientists of this city have been instructed to examine multi-world theory. We need to know how far their research has come and, if need be, destroy such efforts.

“We needed your body,” the brain continues, “to slip past the Citadel’s security system. Its keyed to recognize a body’s DNA sequence and only allows in certain approved citizens. We’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to infiltrate the building using other methods. It was my theory that we scour our own world for genetic copies of people who exist here, so that we can use them to fool the security system. That’s when we found you.”

“Why not just ask me instead of trying to kill me?”

“I wanted to. Our masters back home didn’t want to take that risk. It seems they think you are uncontrollable and impulsive. I don’t know where they got that impression from...”

You begin to pace up and down the hall. You should be moving on, it won’t take long for the chauffeur to figure out where you went and you had wanted to head to the town square, maybe find these Bonanza folks.

“So what are you doing here,” you ask as you take off your backpack and root through its contents. A cloud of dust kicks up around the table you set the binoculars on. “And how long have you been here?”

“I’ve been here twenty years,” The brain answers. “I came here because the laws of physics are different here. Radiation, for example, has more of a mutating effect here than its more lethal consequences on our world. I can conduct experiments here that would never work back home.

“In exchange for my stay here, I send back inventions and breakthroughs to our masters back home. Every technological advance we’ve made in the last twenty years is because of my work here. I’ve heard that the Ipod is quite popular.”

“You made that?” you ask.

“In part. But if our world is invaded by Martians and Venusians than we can kiss all that goodbye. We need to find out what they know. We need to stop them.”

You finish emptying out your backpack and look over the contents. Binoculars, tablet, and Swiss Army knife. It looks like you may be able to fit one more thing inside.

“I know we tried to kill you,” the brain says, sounding desperate. “But we have to work together on this. We can’t let these aliens find out about our world. Or any world. These creatures are insane and bloodthirsty. They will decimate everything in their path.

“Downstairs, in the basement, is a portable tank. You can take me with you, we can work out how to get inside the Citadel together.”

What else will you fit into your backpack?

Choice Two

1. Shrink Ray! 37%
2. Giant Serum! 12%

3. Signal Blocking Circlet. 50%
4. Nothing. 0%

You turn toward the brain and think for a minute. Though he is evil, and seems to work for equally evil people, he has a point. You don’t want these alien bastards invading your world.

On the other hand, there is no way you can trust this brain. Maybe going with your original decision about going to the town square and finding these Bonanza guys is the way to go. Or maybe you can contact the Minister of Agriculture and find out what her deal is. After all, she is your genetic twin so how much different could she be. She might listen to you.

What are you going to do?

Choice Three

1. Ally yourself with the brain and work with him to develop a plan. 62%
2. Go to the town square, find the Bonanza guys. 25%
3. Try to contact the Minister of Agriculture. 12%
4. Stay here and poke around more. 0%
So, there you go! You have until midnight Tuesday, January 1st to make your choices and the new chapter will post on Saturday, January 4th. Have fun!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Woe Is Me


     So I'm afraid that after a week of fighting a horrible cold, dealing with retail Christmas shenanigans, and being all around depressed after certain national events ruined everything everywhere, I haven't written anything for this weeks Choose Your Own Adventure. Or anything for the rest of this week either. 

     So I'm taking a week off. 

      But don't worry, everything will be back to normal next week and I will deal with the results of the unprecedented three-way tie that occurred after our most recent chapter. 

     So until then, here is a picture of puppies.

     Thank you all for reading my stuff every week and being all around awesome. I'll see you next week. 


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Revenant: Chapter Ten


Chapter Ten

I could say that before I’d met Seamus I didn’t believe in spirits or magic or things of a supernatural disposition, but that would imply that I’d given such things even a passing thought. I hadn’t. I spent my days focused on getting through my days. I didn’t have much to do with God and it seemed He felt the same in regard to me. I believed in what I saw, ignored what I couldn’t, and didn’t dwell on the unknown.

Then I met the famous Dr. Seamus Harker, travelling medicine man and worker of miracles. Of course, back then I thought he was full of shit. Most, or rather all, of these hucksters just sold colored water and morphine to the desperate, drunk, or despicable. They turned a profit on the pain and ignorance of the unprepared and the hopeless. Nothing magical or supernatural about that. That’s just what folk do.

But after spending some time with him, originally as a bodyguard and then as a friend, I started noticing that his medicine worked more often than not. Over the years I’d seen him cure a blind man, bring a plagued woman back from the brink of death, and even reattach a severed pinky that had gotten cut off a child. Each of these efforts had drained him some, sure. Maybe caused a few more white hairs to appear on his scalp or bent his back a bit more for a few days. Nothing serious.

So it was that I almost didn’t recognize the ancient-looking thing that fell bonelessly out of the back of our wrecked wagon. The demon (I swear to God an actual red-skinned, horned, fire-snorting demon) had minutes before torn through the roof of our little travelling home and was now rampaging through the canyon after the assassin that had killed our friend Felix and critically wounded Clive. From the sounds of it, the gunfire and the screaming, things weren’t working out so well for him now that the demon had caught his scent.

I ran over to Seamus and knelt down next to him. He was awake, but barely.

“What the hell did you do?” I asked, feeling like I could cry if only my eyes weren’t dried up balls of jerky. “We could have found another way.”

“What’s the point of knowing how to summon demons if you don’t do it every once in awhile,” Seamus croaked, his chuckle quickly turning into a cough. “Besides, we’re running out of time, Titus. I don’t know how long you can this.”

He waved an old, liver-spotted hand at me. I knew how I looked. Mouth and nose sewn shut. Red-tinted glasses sewn over my eyes. Ears filled with wax plugs. My soul rattled around inside my body, howling to be released and sent on from this world, but I couldn’t let it go. I still had work to do. I still had to bring the man who killed me and over a dozen women to justice.

Molly rushed over and took Seamus’s hand, making an odd cooing noise at him when she saw the extent of his sacrifice. I stood and walked over to Clive, the man responsible for my condition, and saw that he had succumbed to his wounds. I picked up the book he had tossed at me and put it in the pocket of my coat. Reaching into the smoking ruins of our wagon, I grabbed the sack of items I had taken from the bordello and made my way up the canyon, following the sounds of growling and screaming.

I passed Felix and said a silent goodbye to him, stooping to close his eyes as I did so. I had just grabbed a rock and hoisted myself up when a body hurtled past my head and landed with a bone-shattering crunch a few feet behind me. I guess I didn’t need to look too hard for our assassin. The demon wasn’t far behind, cloven hooves striking sparks off the canyon wall as it leapt down and picked the shattered man up by the head, preparing to finish the job.

“Wait!” I shouted, waving my arms to get the demonic abomination’s attention. It swung its giant, bovine face toward me and if I had any blood left in me it would have turned to ice water. “I need him alive for another minute. I have a question.”

The demon let out a frustrated snort and shoved the man’s face at me. I couldn’t tell what he’d used to look like, his face was like too swollen and bruised, but he did look younger than I had imagined. He also didn’t look long for this world.

“Where is he?” I asked.

“Triple Star Saloon,” the assassin gurgled. “Town called Folly. Please, don’t....”

“Don’t start begging for your life now,” I said, annoyed. “We tried to talk this out and it didn’t work out.”

“No. I know that,” he chuckled, blood bubbling from his torn lips. “Wouldn’t be professional. I...I have a partner watching the guy who hired me. He’s there to make sure...he pays up. Don’t hurt him. Please. He ain’t the one pulled a trigger on your friends.”

I looked over at the dead bodies of Felix and Clive, but I couldn’t feel any anger toward the man who killed them. That honor belonged to Darryl Farnsworth.

“I’ll see what I can do,” I said. “I won’t go out of my way to hurt him, but I won’t hold back if he gets in my way.”

“He won’t. he’s a bit of a coward,” the assassin waved a hand, broken fingers wagging limply, at the demon. “You sure weren’t kidding about Hell, were you?”

“Afraid not,” I sighed. “But I have a feeling I’ll be seeing you there soon enough.”

“I’ll keep an eye out for you.”

I turned so I wouldn’t see the demon crush his head, but hearing it turned out to be worse. I walked out of the canyon, toward the town of Folly. It was time to put an end to this little dance.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Revenant: Chapter Nine


Chapter Nine

None of us even heard the shot that sent Felix tumbling off the driver’s seat of the wagon. One moment he’s riding up with Molly, boring her with some story about about a play he had been in, and the next he’s falling to the ground like a sack of grain. I’d like to think he didn’t feel a thing, but having been shot myself, I knew that weren’t true.

I’d also like to say to that, seasoned veterans that we were, we all reacted with lightning speed, rushing to either side of the canyon we’d been riding through and taking cover. Ready and willing to serve a heaping helping of death back at the bastards who’d just killed Felix.

Instead, we just stood around staring at each other like a bunch of cows chewing cud. It took Clive taking a bullet in the upper thigh to get the rest of us to snap out of it and run for cover. Molly, bless her, had the brains to pull the pin on the wagon and let the horses thunder off. I don’t know what we’d of done if we’d lost Seamus’s supply of unguents, elixirs, and bottled weirdness. Seamus dove into the back of the wagon and began loudly chanting in that disturbing, other language he knew. I bravely hid behind a rock while Clive did his best to crawl, thick clots of dirt and blood in his wake, under the wagon.

Bullets tore up the dirt around Clive, peppering him with rocks and chunks of lead. His right shoulder, the one closest to whoever decided to use us as target practice, exploded in a spray of blood and bone. You wouldn’t of known it by listening to him though. The old man just grunted a bit and kept pulling himself, one armed this time, under the wagon and out of the line of fire.

I poked my head up over my new favorite boulder to try and get a bead on our new friend and almost caught a slug between the eyes for my effort. Bits of stone bit into my face and I, not for the first time, cursed the fact that even though I was dead as a dog turd I could still feel pain. It sure would have been convenient if I could have strolled, all dramatic and impervious, up the canyon wall and personally throttled the person or persons who intended us harm. Instead, it looked like cowering behind a rock and waiting to die or run away was the plan for the day.

“Hello down there,” a voice called from up on the canyon wall, on the opposite side of my rock. I angled myself a bit so I could face that direction a little easier. I could see Molly, hiding under the wagon with Clive, do the same. Seamus continued muttering away in the wagon and Felix was still lying dead on the ground, his eyes seeming to stare right at me. “Sorry about your friend. That ain’t my normal way of meeting folks.”

Looked like it was up to me to be the diplomat here and that never boded well.

“That’s okay,” I called as loud as I could through the stitches running through my lips. “You can explain it to him when you meet him in Hell. That’s gonna be in about....ten minutes maybe?”

“Aw, c’mon now,” came the killer’s shout, sounding almost bored. “Can we just skip the whole tough talkin’ routine? I got a job to do and I aim to do it. No need to get all dramatic and personal.”

“‘Not personal’?” I yelled. “What the hell is wrong with you? You’re trying to kill us!”

“Well,” he seemed to consider. “I guess I can see how that could be taken as being personal, but it ain’t. I just got hired to come down here, kill a huckster and an old man, and then go collect my pay. Understand that I mean you no ill will.

“Now since the woman ain’t part of the deal,” he continued. “she can go. I have a professional ethic that forbids me from going above and beyond a contract.”

“What about me?” I asked. If he’d let us both go I could maybe circle around and get him from behind. I didn’t get my hopes too high, though.

“I’m afraid not,” he said, sounding genuinely sorry. “You’re one of those big, scary looking men who seem prone to vengeance. I can’t let a man like that just go out in the world to start plotting my demise. Again, it ain’t personal. You may be the world’s nicest man who does nothing but raise puppies and save orphans, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to judge you based on your appearance, which is a loathsome habit I tend to despise, and reckon you for a threat.”

“Don’t let him get away,” Clive croaked at me, staring at me with watery eyes. “Don’t let that bastard get away with it.”

I knew he didn’t mean the assassin on the hill. Clive was struggling inside his coat for something and he almost exposed his head. A cloud of dirt and rock kicked up where the bullet nearly took of his scalp.

“You take this,” Clive moaned, holding a small, leather-bound book in his shaking, blood-covered hand. “It’s what I used to bind you. What I used to bring my poor Shelly back. You use it. You use it to get that bastard.”

He feebly tossed the book in my direction. It fell onto the canyon floor a good four feet away from where I crouched.

“You should pick that up,” the assassin suggested.

“You think I’m falling for that?” I said.

“Worth a try,” he sighed. “Seriously, lady, you can go. I won’t shoot you, I give you my word.”

“Piss on your word,” Molly yelled. “You shot my friend, you think I’m just going to let that go. I’m going to spit on your corpse, you bastard?”

“Jesus,” the assassin actually sounded shocked. “You are a vengeful, angry group ain’t you?”

“Did a fellow named Darryl hire you?” I shouted. Maybe I could negotiate us out of this. Or at least stall until Seamus finished doing whatever he was doing in the wagon. “Short, craven-looking little man with squirrely demeanor?”

“That’d describe him, all right. Didn’t ask for a name though.”

“That man is a criminal.” I said. “A murderer who preys on women. He just killed a whole bordello a few towns back and he’ll do it again. We’re here to stop him. If you have any decency you’d let us go and bring justice to that man.”

“Well, I do have a few ounces of decency,” the assassin seemed to consider for a moment “But no, I’m afraid I got hired to do a job and if I don’t do it how would that look? Folk who don’t finish jobs tend not get jobs in the future.”

“What if we paid you more?” I asked. It was worth a shot.

“Nope,” he shouted. “Again, that would hurt my professional standing. I can’t have that.”

I was just about to start telling Molly to make a run for it - this guy did seem oddly trustworthy for an assassin- when a warbling hum began to emanate from the wagon. Slowly, the wagon started to rock back and forth, the axle groaning and creaking. As I watched, the gaudy paint that we’d slapped on it years before began to bubble and warp, as if someone had lit a fire inside. I could see Molly and Clive begin to sweat, despite the cold morning air.

“What the hell is that noise?” the assassin yelled down, sounding uncertain.

The wagon was bucking and shaking wildly, Molly desperately pulling Clive away from the wheels that now threatened to crush them. Our assassin friend fired a couple of rounds at the wagon, but that only seemed to make whatever was inside angrier.

“That, my friend,” I yelled over the noise. “is the sound of tables being turned.”

The top of the wagon exploded in a rain of timber and smoke. A clap like thunder echoed through the canyon, causing even my wax-plugged ears to ring. As debris rained around us and Molly let out a scream, a vision from Hell itself rose up out of the destruction.

I prayed to whatever god would listen that Seamus hadn’t paid too high a price for our salvation.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

You: Chapter Eleven (A Choose Your Own Adventure)


   Welcome to Choose Your Own Adventure time! The way this is going to work is pretty familiar. Each chapter, you will be given one or two choices that will dictate how the story progresses. The choices will be given in the body of the story and you vote your choice by clicking on the answer in the corresponding poll on the right side of this here blog. Voting begins on Saturday when the story posts and remains open until Tuesday night.
   A word of warning, though! Unlike a Choose Your Own Adventure book, you can't go back and make a different decision to get a different outcome. Whatever decision wins the vote on Tuesday is final, so choose wisely.


Chapter Eleven

You’re halfway to the Carver house before you change your mind. Something about that garage is nagging at you. Why would an ambulance carrying a dead body drop said dead body off at a garage and not a morgue? There are an awful lot of things that are different around here, but there’s no logical reason for that to be one of them. There has to be something sinister going on, and maybe this will be the thing to help you decide what to tell your bosses back home about making contact with this place.

You make it back to the garage and, acting casually, sit on a bench that gives you a clear view of the front of the building. Picking the tablet out of your bag, so it looks like you are doing something, a question suddenly rampages through your head that almost makes you drop everything.

Why would a robot be whistling the Bonanza theme?

That makes no sense. Even in a world filled with weirdness like this one, the chances of it happening to develop the exact same song that was used on a television program on your world are astronomical. More than astronomical actually. More like impossible.

Which means you may not be as alone as you thought.

“Citizen!” A loud, mechanical shout from behind you startles you out of your thoughts and almost makes you shriek. Craning around, you see a gigantic, black-and-white-checkered robot standing behind your bench. The words “News-Bot” are stencilled across his chest just above an embedded television monitor.

“Y-yeah?” you manage to stammer.

“I apologize for alarming you!” it shouts. It ambles around the bench, arms and legs moving like the grand marshall of a parade, until it’s standing in front of you. “But I have alarming news. Do not be alarmed!”

“That makes me feel more alarmed....” you say.

“Do not be! A fugitive is on the loose in New Vega! Observe my teleportal!”

A flickering image appears on its monitor and you are not even a little surprised to see yourself. Luckily, the photo of you escaping Darius’s office is blurry enough so that it only vaguely resembles you. You figure if your current disguise can fool a robot, maybe you shouldn’t be too worried yet.

“The fugitive goes by the name Angela Lansbury! Be alert! She may be a Venusian spy sent to spy on us by spies working for the Venusians!”

Maybe this robot isn’t the best gauge to test your disguise against. It might not be a bad idea to get out of sight for a little while.

“Thanks, I’ll keep an eye out,” you say, putting the tablet away and getting up. “Say, is there a show on Bonanza?”

“Yes! It has been quite popular for many years!” The robot shouts a little less loudly “All of the humans watch it, though many criticise it for its subversive storylines! Many fear that it will cause the youth to rise up and rebel against our benevolent Martian leaders!”

“That might be a show I should tune in to,” you say, wondering how you could arrange that. You debate going to that empty house Dennis mentioned and, if anything, wait for Orson to make contact with you when a black, hovering limousine glides up in front of the garage.

A chauffeur hops out of the driver’s side and scampers to the trunk, leaving his door wide open. A man wearing surgical scrubs and holding a medical bag gets out of the back seat just as the chauffeur begins pulling out a large apparatus. The doctor begins giving the chauffeur terse instructions as the news-bot makes his way over to them.  

“Citizens! I have alarming news! Do not be alarmed!”

“We know,” the doctor shouts, waving the robot away. “Go bug someone else!”

“Have a good day, citizen!” the robot shouts at them as it continues on its way down the street. Soon enough, it begins shouting the news at a stray dog.

You stay on your side of the street and try to look natural as you saunter by. The chauffeur, under the tense tutelage of the doctor, has finished assembling whatever the hell he pulled out of the trunk. It looks like a fish tank on wheels, with a multitude of tubes and wires snaking around it. Frantically, the two of them wheel it up to the garage, where a man in overalls opens a door and beckons for them to get in.

When the coast is clear, you make your way across the street and sneak along the side of the garage. A pile of pallets is stacked up next to the wall, almost to the bottom edge of a grubby looking window. You weigh your options for a moment, wishing you had some back up.

“Orson?” you whisper, hoping to hear that broken Russian accent of his. Instead the counter pops up in your field of vision.

Percentage To Integration: 73%

“Damnit...” you swear. You know you should just lay low for a bit and not climb that rickety pile of pallets. You know that the smart thing to do is just wait for Orson, try to figure out a way out of the city, and go home. All things considered, a world full of dumb robots and vicious aliens maybe isn’t the kind of place your world should have anything to do with. In the end, who really cares about some dead little old lady?

Your argument is so convincing you’re actually surprised when you find yourself climbing up to the window. It takes a few minutes of carefully balancing, and making sure you don’t get any splinters because splinters are the worst, before you make it silently to the top. Peering in through a broken window pane, you look down on the garage floor below.

The place looks more like a computer lab than a garage. Stacks of circuit boards, coils  of wire, and haphazardly stacked metal beams lay scattered about the floor. Oddly, the whole place an nearly antiseptic cleanliness to it. Looking at the window panes in front of you, you can now see that the grime that coats them is actually painted on. Come to think of it, except for the limo, you don’t see any cars anywhere around this garage.

“Hold this,” a bland, yet urgent voice floats up from the garage floor. You look back inside, pressing your face slightly against the glass. The guy in the scrubs is standing at the head of a gurney - you can see old lady Pearson’s slippered feet sticking out on the other side - trying to hand the chauffeur some kind of bowl. “Hurry! Take it!”

“I ain’t touching that,” he says, reaching out for it anyway. He groans as the doctor puts the bowl-thing into his hands. You can see a few strands of gray hair sticking to the outside of it. “This is disgusting.”

That’s when it sinks in that the chauffeur is now holding the top of Mrs. Pearson’s skull. 

“Disgusting is what Professor Carver will do to you if we screw this up,” the doctor growls. He turns to the mechanic. “Is the solution ready?”

“Yeah,” the mechanic grunts, wheeling the fish tank over. You can see that a faintly glowing, bluish fluid now fills it. “I followed your instructions to the letter.”

“Excellent,” the doctor mutters. He starts yanking at Mrs. Pearson’s corpse, her feet begin to spasm. With a final grunt, the doctor yanks out her brain. He rushes over to the tank and quickly dumps the brain inside. You feel your stomach roll as he begins inserting a myriad of tubes and wires into the wrinkled gray lump of tissue. “Let’s hope this works.”

“What happens if it don’t,” the chauffeur asks, still holding the top of Mrs. Pearson’s skull. 

"Then I shoot you both,” the mechanic says casually. The doctor and the chauffeur both stiffen and look at each other. The mechanic pulls a gun out of his overalls and holds it to his side. You notice that it isn’t a ray gun, but a .45 caliber handgun that wouldn’t look out of place on your world. “Nothing personal. The professor just wants you to make sure you work your hardest.”

“It should just be a second or two,” the doctor says nervously. All three men proceed to stare at the brain in the tank. You do too. 

A few minutes go by. The brain, floating in that strange, luminescent solution, does absolutely nothing. The doctor and the chauffeur begin to fidget and grow more agitated, while the mechanic calmly reaches into his overalls and pulls out a cigarette. You can see the chauffeur edge closer to a crowbar that is sitting on a nearby bench, but the mechanic notices and gives him a glare. The chauffeur stops edging. 

“This was a delicate operation,” the doctor says, a pleading note in his voice. “Surely even the professor would understand that to perform this operation even once is unprecedented, while two times is...”

“Who knows what the man would have understood or not,” the mechanic says, shrugging and working the slide of the handgun. The ominous click-click echoes through the garage. “Maybe you’ll get a chance to explain it to him.”

The chauffeur and the doctor back away from him, each man beginning to beg, when a speaker mounted on the tank emits an ear-splitting squawk. A light set on top of it flashes red once. Twice. 

“Let me go!,” a high pitched, wheedling voice shrieks from the speaker, the light flashing with each syllable. “You foolish pile of creaking bolts! Don’t you know who I am? I’! Set me down! Don’t...!”

The mechanic warily steps away from the tank and motions for the doctor to step up to it. He does so reluctantly, his scared eyes still on the gun. The chauffeur takes a small step toward the back door. 

“Professor?” the doctor asks, kneeling down to look at the brain. “Is that you? Can you hear me?”

“Of course I can hear you, Feldman,” the voice snaps, light flashing. “Where am I? Did that accursed robot kill the body I was wearing?”

“It looks like it. Can you tell us what went wrong, Professor Carver?”

The brain growls. “I must have triggered the robot’s intrusion detector alarm. Figures the paranoid old bat would have it set it to use lethal force.”

“What do we do now, sir?” the mechanic asks, still holding the gun. 

“Back to the drawing board,” the brain makes a sighing noise, which causes a bunch of bubbles, and more than few questions, to arise. “We now know that a clone body isn’t sufficient enough to fool even a lowly house-bot, so we have no chance of infiltrating the royal palace. Damn it all! If only that doppelganger from the other world hadn’t been killed upon arrival!”

“Well, she might not be as dead as we assumed,” the mechanic drawls, putting the gun away. Turning to face the floating brain of Professor Carver, he doesn’t notice the chauffeur take a few more tentative steps toward the door. “There’s been a few disturbances in Old Town. Supposedly, a fugitive has escaped into the city.”

“What does that have to do with us?” the brain hisses. 

“The name this fugitive gave was Angela Lansbury.”

“Wh...Wait,” the brain tilts a bit in its tank. “Isn’t she from Murder She Wrote?”

“Yup,” the mechanic says. “My mom used to watch that show all the time. And only someone from homebase would know that name.”

“You mean someone from your world is running around loose here?” Dr. Feldman asks, sitting down hard on a toolbox. “Is she on our side? We should be trying to find her.”

“No shit, Sherlock,” the mechanic says, finally lighting his cigarette. 

“Who?” the doctor asks. 

“Shut up, both of you,” the brain of Professor Carver says. “To answer your second question, Doctor, no, she is not on our side. Or at least she wouldn’t be if she knew that she was the doppelganger of this planet’s Minister Of Agriculture and that we intended to scoop out her brain and insert mine into her body.”

Well that was certainly not mentioned in the Powerpoint presentation you attended. You decide that you are not on their side. 

“Do you think she’s hooked up with those Bonanza people?” the mechanic asks, still not noticing that the chauffeur has almost reached the door. “Do we still think that whole thing is just a coincidence?” 

“It was my theory that our constant punching of holes in the quantum veil that separates our realities was simply causing some....anomalies,” the brain says. “But now, maybe you are right. It does seem odd though, if she is working for some unknown third faction, that she would choose a name that sent up such a red flag.”

“Maybe she’s just a dumbass,” the mechanic says, making you hate him. “Who knows, maybe she’d dumb enough to bleed those nanites into the water supply and hook us up with that AI. If we can hack the dome’s computer system and take it over, our job becomes a lot easier.”

“What are the chances of that happening?” Feldman says. “Unless that AI is really good at making itself seem harmless there is no way it’s going to convince someone who isn’t a supervillain to taint a whole city’s water supply.”

“Are you implying that I am a villain, Dr. Feldman?” the floating brain asks with an air of menace.

“Well,” Feldman stammers. “we...we are trying to....”

At that moment the chauffeur slams into the back door, bursting through it. He stumbles and falls outside just as the mechanic draws his gun and begins shooting at him. The sound, loud in the enclosed garage, makes you jump, causing the pile of pallets to sway dangerously. The sound of a ricochet bullet wings through the garage, causing the men and floating brain within to duck down. The projectile finally lodges itself in the dead clone body of poor Mrs. Pearson. 

“Stop shooting, you idiot,” the brain of Carver screams. “Go after him! Dispose of him quietly! No one must find out what he knows!”

The mechanic runs out of the garage, hot on the heels of the runaway chauffeur. The brain begins whispering to the doctor, who begins to pale noticeably. The pallets beneath your feet shifts ominously. The graph in the lower left corner of your vision that tracks how long it will be before that traitor Orson can make contact with you clicks over to eighty percent. You have a decision to make....Quickly!

What do you do?

1. Go after the mechanic and the chauffeur, you can’t just sit by while a hapless man gets murdered.
2. Go down and confront the brain, that doctor doesn’t look like much. 33%
3. Go to Carver’s house, see if you can dig something up. 33%
4. Go to the town square, see if you can find something on this Bonanza show and  this doppelganger of yours. 33%

So, there you go! You have until midnight Tuesday, December 11th to make your choices and the new chapter will post on Saturday, December 15th. Have fun!