Friday, September 28, 2012

You: Chapter One (A Choose Your Own Adventure!)

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. Also, if you have a better choice or just want to throw me for a loop, you can always make a suggestion down in the comments and if enough people support it then that is what will happen.
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. If you have any questions, please write them in comments below and I will answer promptly.


Chapter One

You feel uncharacteristically nervous as you take the elevator down to the labs of the Omega Conglomerate. You know you shouldn't feel that way--that you are surrounded by the best of the best--but there it is.
You remember the over-enthusiastic corporate drone that eagerly told you all about Omega's formation and the super-secret projects that they had been working on. How only the smartest physicists from Lexcorp, the best geneticists from The Umbrella Corporation, and the brightest engineers from Omni Consumer had been allowed to join the company. The U.S. government was even involved, according to the drone, and had paid for the security provided by the joint partnerships of Blackwater, VENOM, and SMERSH.
Even the office and support staff come from a dozen different agencies and represent the pinnacle of human achievement in their respective fields.
You, on the other hand, are a complete fraud.
Of course, it wasn't supposed to have gone down like this. This was supposed to be a simple con, one you've played a dozen different times in a dozen different companies. Make up a resume, work long enough to fade into the background, gain access to the payroll or bank accounts, steal the company blind, and then kick back on some tropical beach somewhere. No harm, no foul. Except for the people harmed and fouled, but who the hell has time to think about them? That's what insurance is for.
Anyway, somehow you ended up qualifying for some kind of experiment they had been working on. People in the labs kept comparing you to Neil Armstrong and saying that your name would go down in the history books. “The first person to step onto the soil of a brand new Earth,” they said.
You probably shouldn't have said you had a PhD on your resume.
Or that you were an Olympic-grade swimmer.
Or that you knew karate and that your hands were considered lethal weapons.
What the hell were you thinking?
The only reason you've stuck around this long is that you figure there must be some kind of way to cash in on this. Maybe sell the diagrams of this machine of theirs to the Russians or something.
“There's the man of the hour!” General Fuller shouts at you as the elevator door opens.

Choice One

1. "What do you mean 'Man'? I'm a woman. Look, boobs!" 75%
2. “That’s right, I am a man! Look, testicles!” 25%

“All right, fine, sorry. Just put those away,” He says, waving his hands as if to ward you away. Straightening his coat, he gestures to one of the glassed in conference rooms that line the immense laboratory. As you trail the general, you take another look around.
The lab fills a natural underground chamber and the cave's rock walls can be seen behind the various scientific equipment and computers. In the middle of the chamber is a metal pad with what looks like six sci-fi ray guns pointed at it. Supposedly, this is the machine that will transport you to some parallel Earth. That is, if you don't run for it beforehand. All around you, white-coated lab technicians fuss about with the equipment. Many of them give you Cheshire grins as you pass. You aren't certain if they are smiling because they look up to you or can't wait to see if their little toy blows you up like an egg in a microwave.
“Have a seat,” Fuller says, pointing to a chair at the head of a large conference table. Also in the room, standing in front of a projection screen and fussing with a laptop, is the drone that you met on the first day of orientation. He also gives you one of those creepy grins.
“Oh boy, PowerPoint,” you say as you take a seat. “This day gets better and better.”
“You never mentioned that great sense of humor on your resume,” the drone says, looking genuinely amused. “I am so confident in our decision to pick you. This is a historic day, friends. Lets take a moment.”
The drone closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, his hands clasped in front of him. You and the general exchange a disgusted look.
“Moment’s over,” Fuller growls. “Let's get this started.”
“Of course,” the drone says, giving the general a slight bow. Punching a key on the laptop, the screen behind him brings up an image of the planet Earth with a row of shadow Earths radiating out of it. “As we know, our version of Earth and the universe is simply one of many.”
Clicking the button again, an image of the machine they expect you to stand on comes up.
“This is the Janus Array. With it, we plan on parting the veil between these universes and exploring what is on the other side.”
Click. A small satellite appears.
“We've already sent automated satellites through to three of these alternate “Earths” to gather some intel.”
Click. A satellite image of America. You can't see any of the sprawling cities that dominate your America.
Click. A closer image of the American west. A tiny town set along a dusty trail can be seen.
“This “Earth” seems to be a century or two behind us. They are just now settling the west and we've observed cattle drives and the beginnings of an intercontinental rail being built. The technicians have taken to calling it Westworld. We've also seen these.”
Click. A herd of something appears on the screen. The image is blurry. You and the general squint at it.
“What are those?” You ask.
“Dinosaurs,” the drone answers, as if that were obvious.
Click. A different Earth. Click. America. This one covered with blackened craters. Again, no cities.
“Some kind of apocalypse seems to have befallen this “Earth”. The image you see is a composite since the cloud cover over the planet is so severe. We did manage to locate this.”
Click. Again with the American west. This time a desert. A large, glass domed city dominates the screen. Inside, you can barely make out gigantic curved buildings and long, elevated sidewalks.
“This city seems like an idealized, 1950's version of the future,” the drone says. He chuckles a bit. “We've even seen people wearing jet packs and driving hovering cars that look like Cadillacs.”
“Click. This one doesn't look like Earth at all.
“I can't really call this one “Earth”, the drone says. He clicks the laptop. A close up of a castle appears, complete with a small surrounding village. “Our technicians have observed at least four different types of seemingly sentient species. Some of them are able to wield some kind of radiation...”
“You mean magic?” You ask.
“We're sticking with radiation for the moment,” the general answers.
The drone shuts off the laptop.
“We were going to pick a world for you, but we decided that a person who can climb K2 without assistance can probably pick a measly planet to explore for a bit. So, what's it going to be?”

Choice Two!

1. Old West Dinosaur World, for sure! 33%
2. Retro-future, 1950’s post apocalypse for the win! 58%
3. Who has two thumbs and loves some swords and magic? This guy! 00%
4. Screw you all, I’m going home and going to bed! 08%

Chapter Two

Ridin’ through the open prairie on a triceratops. Wranglin’ velociraptors. Shootin’ down tyrannosauruses and campin’ under the wide, starry sky. It’s all pretty durn temptin’...
But in the end you really couldn’t resist that almost primal urge to hover around with a jetpack or drive a flying car.
So you informed the drone, whose name you finally remembered is Reginald “Reg” Bowers (and, yes, he air quotes the “Reg”), that you would explore the domed city and ravaged landscape of Retropunk.
“Why did you name it Retropunk?” you ask the lab technician who is injecting you with something you hope is medicine. “I don’t get the ‘punk’ part.”
“Well...I guess...I don’t know,” he stammers for a bit, handing you a silver-colored bundle of clothes. “People just add ‘punk’ to things. Here, this is as close as we can get to their native garb. We have an oxygen tank and bubble helmet for you to put on when we transport you. Why don’t you go into the locker room, change, and pick out your final equipment? Remember the limitations though.”
In the locker room, you begin to change into your new clothes and consider your options for what you can bring with you. Due to some scientific law, the eggheads call it the Cameron Limitations, you can only bring one additional item with you to the new world. On a counter in front of you is a tiny .380 semi-automatic pistol (it looks like a tiny version of Magnum’s gun.), a Swiss Army knife (with two blades, bottle opener, screwdriver, and tiny scissors. It is missing the toothpick, though.) a tablet computer with a survival handbook and a few other applications (like Angry Birds!) on it, and a towel. Which one will you take?
Choice One

1. Gun 12%
2. Swiss Army Knife (no toothpick!) 62%
3. Tablet 0%
4. Towel 25%

After you decide what to bring, you take a look at yourself in the mirror. You are now clad in a skintight silver and red bodysuit, with a large, button-and-dial-studded belt that will supposedly controls the oxygen flow and a few other features. It is really damn tight, especially in the ass.
“How’s the suit fit?” “Reg’s” voice shouts in your ear. You would like to think you didn’t shriek at the sound, but let’s be honest with ourselves. You spin around, fist raised lamely. There is no one else in the locker room.
“Can you hear me, miss....?” Again you shriek. That voice, the voice of that corporate hack, is coming from inside your head!
“What the hell is going on?” you shout.
“Oh, no. They didn’t tell you, did they?” “Reg” sounds dismayed. “We injected you with nanites. Tiny computers that will allow you to interface with the satellite once you reach the surface of the planet. It will also allow you to record and analyze anything you see and hear. The visual interface should be coming online pretty soon.”
Once he says that, a blue-tinted film seems to glaze over your vision. It looks like a Windows startup screen. It is asking you to press F2.
“Where the hell is F2?” you ask, waving your hands in front of you.
“Just give it a minute,” a bored lab tech chimes in.
A minute passes. Then another. Then another. Finally, the startup chime sounds and a cascade of numbers drifts past your eyes before everything goes back to normal.
“There we go,” the tech says. “Now, it’s pretty simple. Blink twice to photograph something. Three times to record. Kind of like Steve Austin in the Six Million Dollar Man. Except I don’t think he could record, which you would think they’d have him do since they made everything else so awesome...”
“Shut the hell up!” you shout into the empty locker room. “Why didn’t you tell me you were going to inject me with machines and crap! Now I’m going to be seen talking to myself like that guy in Quantum Leap. You people are totally ripping off Quantum Leap!”
“We are not ripping off Quantum Leap,” “Reg” says in as soothing a voice as possible. “You only need to whisper for the satellite to hear you. And we had to do it this way because we were worried you might get separated from any external equipment and be unable to get home again. And we did tell you, it was all explained in the briefing packet we gave you. You did read that, right?”
“Yes, I read it.”
You didn’t.

After you calm down, you go see General Fuller for a quick debriefing. You can feel the all the lab techs looking at your ass as you walk by. Pervs.
“We’re transporting you here,” Fuller says, pointing down at a satellite image. “its about two miles from the domed city. Far enough away so we think they won’t see your arrival. We also noticed this...”
He stabs his finger on a blurry image of what looks like a small township. You can’t see see any dome surrounding it.
“We have seen some activity here and we’re curious about it. Once you get there you can decide where to go first.”
“So, remind me again what my mission is, exactly,” you ask. You really should have read that briefing packet.
“Observe and explore,” “Reg” says casually. He walks over to the office door and opens it, beckoning you to follow him. “We just want to know what kind of people they are. Get to know a few of them, check out their technological and medical capabilities, see if they are the kind of people we should make contact with.”
A lab tech begins to strap a backpack with a small oxygen tank onto you while another hands you a large, glass bubble helmet. They usher you over to the pad with the lasers pointing at it.
“Remember,” the lab tech says as he helps you put the helmet on. “In order to come back, you need to be outside and stationary for two hours so the satellite can get an accurate fix on you. We wouldn’t want a partial recovery, now would we?”
“What does ‘partial recovery’ mean?” you ask, fear crawling up your spine. Maybe you should have just gone home and taken a nap.
“Not something you’ll have to worry about if it happens to you,” the tech chuckles morbidly. He gives you an awkward pat on the back.  “Good luck.”
A million questions flood your brain and cause a traffic jam. You really should have read that briefing. You are just about to ask for another copy when everyone starts waving goodbye to you.
“Actually, hold on a sec...” you begin to say, but it’s too late. Each of the laser arrays begin to glow a bright, radioactive-looking green and a loud humming noise fills the room. All of people in the lab don dark safety glasses as the room grows brighter.
You suddenly realize you have to pee.

And then it’s over. No sense of motion or flash of light. Just a blink and you are standing in the middle of a crater. You crawl out and look around.
There is nothing to see really. A blighted desert. Dark, swirling clouds. A torn and ravaged road lies a quarter mile ahead of you. Other than that, it’s just blackened sand and deep craters. You know that the road leads to the domed city and that to the northwest lies the township. You are just about to decide between the two when a brief flash of light to the south catches your attention.
You squint and can just make out what looks like a large, metallic disc sticking up out of the sand. Smoke is rising from it and there seems to be a few small fires surrounding it. Looking up into the sky you can see an erratic contrail slowly dissipating, leading from roughly above your head to the disc. Whatever it is, it looks big.
So, where are you going?
Choice Two.

1. Domed, Future City here I come! 14%
2. Who would live in a small town when there are jetpacks to be flown? You must know! 0%
3. Saucer-shaped, flaming wreckage draws you like a moth to flaming wreckage. 71%
4. You're just going to stand by this here crater and see what happens. 14%

Chapter Three

“Flaming wreckage, here I come,” you say out loud for some reason as you strike off toward the distant smoke.
As you approach the road, you notice that it isn’t made up of asphalt, like a normal road, but is actually a long strip of fused, burnt glass. You remember from the satellite images you saw back home that it runs straight to the domed city, but you have no idea what lies at the other end of it.
“Maybe California?” you muse, again out loud. You are about continue on your way when your vision blurs and series of bright, red letters appear in front of you.
“What the hell?” you blink twice, trying to clear your eyes, and accidentally take a snapshot of the burnt road. You watch as the image slides into a folder at the lower right of your eye line and fades from view. The word remains. Waving your arms in front of you to clear the letters away, you begin to worry that you may be having a stroke or something.
“Crap,” you mutter, realizing what’s going on. “You’re the satellite aren’t you? What do you mean ‘select audio options’?”
“Oh. Let’s see....something nice and soothing like Morgan Freeman or maybe Sean Connery...Nina Simone...”


1. Pauly Shore 37%
2. Sam Kinison 0%
3. Yakov Smirnoff 50%
4. Andrew “Dice” Clay 12%

“Are you kidding me?” you shout. “Those are my only options?
“I’ll think about it,” you grumble, crossing the road and continuing your way to the wreckage.
As you get closer, you notice that the ground is furrowed in a trail that leads directly to the wreck. You pick up the first piece of debris you find, a small and glimmering square of metal, and examine it. It feels delicate and you crush it in your hand easily, but when you relax it springs back to its original shape without even showing a crease. Crushing it and then watching it pop back into shape amuses you for far longer than it should.
Slowly though, as you look at the wreckage and the furrowed ground and the area that you appeared in, a disturbing theory begins to take root. It isn’t a pleasant thought, so you push it back and continue on.
The flames have died down to only a few campfire-sized spots and weird, alien-looking equipment lays scattered everywhere. But looking at the overall shape of the wrecked and broken thing, and the path of destruction that leads to it, you can no longer deny what’s in front of you.
Somehow, your arrival made a flying saucer crash.
“Well that ain’t good,” you mutter.
But even the knowledge that your first contact with an alien life form may have killed said alien life form, you can’t hide your excitement.
You’re standing in front of a goddamn flying saucer!
Walking around it, you are amazed by how....flying saucery it looks. It’s a dark metallic color, with some sort of red pinstriping running along the edges, and a large glass dome (currently broken) sits at the top. From what you can see there doesn’t seem to be a front or back, though a good quarter of it is buried in the desert sand where it impacted.
As you make a slow orbit of it, you hear a groan. You freeze. The wind picks up slightly, howling through the empty saucer, and the sand makes a hissing sound as it shifts around. Then you hear it again. It’s coming from around the other side of the saucer.
Reaching into your pocket, you pull out your knife. If whatever is making that noise is dangerous, its going to get two solid inches of cold, hard Swiss steel jabbed at it. You are just about TO? peer around the corner when your eye catches on something. For a moment, you stop breathing.
What you see laying on the ground can only be described as a ray gun.
“Cool,” you say as you stoop to pick it up. Casting a wary glance around the corner, you lean back and examine it. It is much heavier than its plastic counterparts on your world, but it’s colored a bright blue and silver and even has those ring thingies running up the barrel. There is a dial along the side, one side is red and the other is yellow. If you had to hazard a guess, you would think that red is for killing and yellow is for stunning. Don’t all ray guns have a kill and stun mode?
Another groan.
Raising the ray gun, you make your way around the corner and see your very first alien.
He looks pissed.
You would look pissed too if you trapped under a massive computer bank, though. Holding on to your ray gun, you take a good look at Whatever it is, its face is white and insectoid looking. Large mandibles dominate its lower jaw and compound eyes that look too big for its head seem to take up the upper half of his face. You also see that it is wearing a what looks like a spacesuit, which would resemble yours if it didn’t have four arms on it. Looking at you, it begins to make a series of hissing and crackling noises.
“What are you saying?” you ask. “I’m sorry I crashed your ship. It was an accident.”
“I wasn’t talking to you.”
The alien stops clicking and narrows it’s multi-faceted eyes at you. Reaching up a trembling hand, which you notice is tipped with vicious looking claws, it clicks a button at the throat of its suit.
“You have made a grave error, human,” comes a mechanical sounding voice from the suit. “You have brought war upon your people. Tonight The Hive will gather and smash your cities, your children will be made slaves, and your elders will be set aflame.”
“Look, I’m sorry I broke your ship but that seems a bit harsh.”
“For too long,” he continued. “our kind has been held back from destroying you utterly. But no more. You have declared war on The Hive and The Hive shall blacken the sky with our ships and...”
“Why don’t I help you out from under that and we can talk about this,” you offer, really not wanting him to call on his space brothers to come down and kill everything. “This is all just a...”
“I don’t need your help, human!” the alien shouts, heaving the broken computer bank off its chest and sending it hurtling away. The alien stands. And keeps standing. It looms over you -- it must be over eight feet tall-- and perches itself on two powerful-looking legs. It flexes its four arms and growls at you. “I will feast on your skin and use your bones for furniture. I will hold your brain in my hands and squeeze it for its juices.”
“Your gross,” you say, staggering back and raising your gun. “Why don’t we just take a breath and calm down a bit. I think I may have a snack on me, we could make s’mores maybe...”
Your eyes blur as the letters dominate your field of vision. The alien begins to circle you, waiting to strike. It is hobbling a bit, and sickly looking orange blood leaks from some of the cracks in its carapace, but it still looks like it could make good on its threats.
“From where?” you shout, trying again to wave the words away and focus on the alien that’s trying to eat you.
One group of, hopefully people, from the town and another from the domed city. But neither will get to you in time. And who knows if you can trust either one of them? They may not be too pleased that you started a war, after all.
Looking at the ray gun and then back at the hissing alien, you struggle to make up your mind what to do.
Choice Two

1. Turn the dial to red and hope it kills this bug-eyed monster before it goes all Ikea with your skeleton, then hide. 25%
2. Turn the dial to yellow and hope it stuns it (this is sorta your fault after all) and then hide. 50%
3. Try to outrun it in the direction of the ground vehicles. 0%
4. Try to outrun it in the direction of the hover vehicles. 25%

Chapter Four

“Yakov Smirnoff!” you scream as you pull the trigger on the ray gun. You really hope that’s the last time you have to yell that out in a moment of passion.
A bright orange beam of light crackles out of the gun, striking the alien in the middle of the chest. Your nose is filled with the smell of ozone and burning alien space suit. The alien looks down at the smoking hole you’ve burned into its chest and emits a noise that sounds eerily like a chuckle. It begins to walk towards you.
“Oh crap.”
“I am seeink you havink a bad time of it,” comes the unmistakable sound of Yakov Smirnoff’s voice in your head. “Maybe you are aiming for the head?”
“Oh no, you really sound like that?” you yell, frantically backing away from the looming alien.
“Who are you speaking to, human?” the alien growls, his voice slurring a bit.
You answer the alien by shooting him in the head with another stun blast. Its head rocks back and for a moment it stands there glaring at you, multifaceted eyes glimmering with hate, before it finally pitches forward and lands at your feet.
“Good shooting, Tex!” Yakov’s voice fills your head. “You are havink one minute until vehicles are arrivink.”
“Great,” you say, stepping tentatively around the alien. “So what do I call you?”
“I am referred to as O.R.S.O.N. It is standing for Orbital Reconnaissance Satellite for Op...”
“Fascinating, Orson,” you shout. “Now where do I hide?”
“How am I knowing? You are in middle of desert.”
You spin around, frantically looking for a rock or, at the very least, a hole you can crawl into. Nothing. You can already hear the motors of the ground vehicles getting closer and  two clouds of dust are rapidly approaching you on either side.
You finally turn around and look up at the crashed flying saucer.
Eyeing the unconscious alien, you make your way over to the crippled vessel. You find an open hatch and peer inside. It looks exactly like what you would imagine the inside of an alien vessel to look like. It also doesn’t look very big. If someone decides to go poking around in it you are sure to be seen.
Crawling up into the ship, you close the hatch behind you and peer around. Moving around is awkward, since the ship plowed into the ground at an angle, but you manage to wedge yourself into a position that lets you look out of the broken dome of the ship while keeping you out of immediate sight. Looking around the cockpit, you blink and take several photos of the interior.
Three things leap out at you as the photos slide into their folder. A small cube sits nestled into a nook on the side of the pilot’s chair, it glows an eerie blue and an occasional image flickers across one of its surfaces. There is also another ray gun sitting on the floor, though it is much smaller and probably easier to conceal. The last item is a tablet computer, one that looks very similar to the one you almost brought with you, only smaller. You only have room to carry one of these, which will it be?

Choice One

1. Blue Cube! 37%
2. Tiny Ray Gun! 0%
3. Tablet! 50%
4. Not a damn thing! 12%

You make your decision and a few seconds later a truck skids to a halt outside, just in front of the alien’s body. The truck looks old, like it was originally built in the 40’s or 50’s, but you don’t recognize the make or model. Not a speck of rust mars its cherry-red paint job and several odd looking skulls have been strapped to the sides of it. A car that looks almost, but not quite, like an old Cadillac roars up next to it and the passenger side door pops open.
A man, tall and wearing what looks like a homemade radiation suit, steps out of the car and walks over to the prone body of the alien. A few more people hop out of the back of the truck, each of them wearing a motley array of scuba gear and plastic sheeting, and surround the alien.
“Would ya’ lookit that, Jacob,” one of them says to the tall one. “I think he survived. He ain’t had time to suicide yet.”
“I see that, Enis,” the one called Jacob replies. “Why don’t you get the chains out of the truck and get him tied up before he wakes up and kills us all. Debbie, how’s the radiation count?”
“Fine, boss”, the one you assume is named Debbie answers, waving some kind of wand around. “We should be fine for an hour or two if you want to take the suit off.”
Jacob takes off his helmet and looks around, almost seeing you when he examines the fallen ship. He’s an older looking black man with grey stubble dotting his cheeks. Three bright pink scars run across the top of his close-shaved head, the width of them eerily matching the claws of the alien at his feet. He begins wandering over to the ship and disappears from your line of sight, but you can hear him talking to someone who must have circled around where you couldn’t see.
“What do you think, Larry?”
“I don’t know what brought it down,” you hear Larry answer. “Whatever hit it came from above, you can see where an energy beam or something punched straight through it here. Maybe the Venusians have started up with the Martians again?”
“If that’s true, we can ask our friends here,” Jacob says.
Three sleek hover cars glide up across from the trucks. They’re look like old convertible Corvettes, but with tail fins and a large rocket engine on the back. You really want to drive one and make a vow to do just that. Each car has two people in it, all of them armed with ray guns. One of them jumps out, stomps over to the alien body, and begins to yell at the men who are busy chaining it up. You also notice that each of Jacob’s people are carrying guns, though these are the more traditional rifles and handguns that look like they could’ve come from your world.
“Afternoon, Darius,” Jacob drawls as he saunters over to the newcomer. “What brings you out here today?”
“What have you done, Jacob?” Darius yells, removing his helmet. He’s white, almost to the point of being an albino, with long silver hair and a short goatee. Your years of being a con artist have given you the ability to size people up at a glance and you can instantly tell that this guy is a prick. He just has one those faces. “You’ve doomed us all! You attacked a Martian ship! And if the Martians catch you...imprisoning one of their Titans they will take it out on...”
“You’re right, Darius,” Jacob says, reaching into a pouch on his belt and bringing out a walkie-talkie. “My boys and I, in our cobbled together space suits, built an orbital cannon, launched it into space, and shot down a flying saucer as it flew over the desert at two hundred miles an hour. We are damned crafty.”
Jacob turns his back on Darius and begins whispering into the walkie-talkie. Looking over at Darius and the men who came with him, you notice that your space suit and theirs are almost identical. You begin to wonder how the people at the Omega Conglomerate managed to match them so well using only satellite images when you see a flash of green just over a small rise in the distance.
“Jacob,” Darius as walked over and lightly grabbed the taller man’s arm. “You have to hide all this. If the Martians find it, they will blame us and raise the tax. Or worse.”
“We wouldn’t want that,” Jacob says sarcastically. “Heaven forbid your little utopia gets a spanking from its masters. What are they going to do? Cut back on that food they give you and don’t tell you where it comes from? Make you cut your lawns in a more uniform manner?”
“You know what they’ll do,” Darius says flatly, his voice grave. Jacob looks defiant for a moment longer, then sighs.
“I’m already taking care of it,” he says, showing Darius the walkie-talkie. “I got a truck on the way that can haul this back to the base and we’re going to bring the insect back to the base for interrogation. We haven’t gotten a live one in years.”
“You have maybe two hours before another patrol will run through here,” Darius says, watching the other men strain to pick up the alien and carry it over to the back of the truck. “How are the other projects going?”
“I ain’t telling you. Bad enough you know we’re even out here. I can’t have you cracking under pressure and spilling the beans.”
“That’s probably wise,” Darius concedes. “We’re heading back to the city. Try not to leave any evidence.”
Jacob snorts and walks away. As Darius and his men climb back into the hover car,  you notice that green shape again. This time it just pops up for a moment and then ducks back down out of sight. You can’t even get an idea of its shape.
“Orson?” you whisper.
“Yes?” Orson seems to shout in your head, making you flinch enough to shake the ship slightly. Jacob turns at the sound and, again, almost sees you.
“Is something coming closer? Over to the....south?”
“Yes. I am seeink a glob.”
“A glob?”
“A glob is what I said. A green, moving glob that is gettink closer to you.”
Jacob and his people have gathered around the truck and seem to be looking at the alien. You see the man Jacob had been talking to earlier walk up to them. You’ve never seen a more mad looking scientist in your life. Jacob makes a few gestures and everyone, except Enis, gets back into the vehicles.
Enis, rifle in hand, walks over to a small rock and sits down. He waves at the group as they pull away and then he just sits there. Waiting. Your leg is beginning to cramp up a bit, but each time you shift your weight the ship groans a bit. The way he’s sitting though, you are pretty certain you can sneak out and get out of sight without him seeing or hearing you.
“The glob is very close now,” Orson informs you. You look over and see it. It is a glob all right. Its colored an almost radioactive green and you can almost see through it. It is moving with purpose up behind Enis, though you can’t see any eyes, ears, or anything that could be described as a sensory organ.
What are you going to do?

Choice Two

1. Reveal your hiding place and warn Enis about the glob. 37%
2. Keep hiding in the ship and hope you get towed back to Jacob’s base. 12%
3. Sneak out and head to the domed city. 37%
4. Tell Orson that this is all too weird for you and you want to go back to your own world. 12%

Chapter Five

Stuffing the tablet into your belt, you peek out through the busted window of the flying saucer to see if Enis has noticed the glowing glob sneaking up on him. No such luck. Instead, the dumbass is picking his teeth and humming loudly enough to cover the squelching sound the glob is making as it oozes its way toward him.
“You’d think people on a radioactive world filled with monsters would be more careful,” you mutter out loud. “But noooo! Damnit. Orson, how far away is that tow truck they mentioned?”
“By my estimates, ten minutes at the most,” says Orson, his Yakov-Smirnoff-accented English filling your head.
“That’s not soon enough, because it looks like around here....”
“Around here, Jello eats you?”
“You’ve been waiting to say something like that, haven’t you?”
“I am slave to program.”
The glob is getting closer to Enis and you are having a hard time making up your mind, as if the options to warn him or just cut and run to the domed city are at war with each other. You aren’t a nice person, your days as a con artist probably resulted in thousands of people going bankrupt and ruining their lives, but you never caused anyone any physical harm. Then again, what’s one less redneck in the world? And it isn’t as if there weren’t about a million other things in the immediate vicinity actively trying to kill him. He’ll probably be dead in five minutes even if you do warn him...
And your sole mission is to check out the domed city, right? That is what you are here for.
“Damnit!” you shout, hurling yourself at the open hatch of the saucer.
You hit the ground and roll, raising your ray gun at the glowing green glob. Twisting the dial to maximum power you shoot at the amorphous shape, drilling a scorched-looking hole straight through it. The thing lets out an otherworldly howl and begins to thrash about madly, the hole you burned closing almost immediately. Within seconds there is not a single trace that you even wounded it. You get the sense that it has turned its attention to you.
Enis has fallen off his perch and is staring up at the looming monster with his mouth hanging open. He’s even drooling a bit.
“Better run, dumbass!” you shout as you get to your feet and start running in the direction of the domed city. Enis is now officially on his own.
You’ve never been a capable runner - in junior high you signed on to the cross country team and the only time you didn’t come in last was when you bribed a fat kid to slow down - but it’s amazing what a glob monster can do for your endurance. Filtered air fills your lungs, making your legs feel strong and capable of carrying you for miles. The landscape is a blur.
You risk a chuckle. “Orson, is that thing chasing me?”
“It is one foot behind you.”
You look over your shoulder to see the glob looming over you. The flying saucer is maybe a hundred feet away and you can even make out Enis’s confused expression as he stands there gaping at you. You’re starting to feel your legs cramp.
Pointing the ray gun over your shoulder as you run, you pull the trigger and hope it hits the thing. The warble of the ray gun’s beam is quickly followed by another wail from the blob. You push yourself to run faster.
“That did not even slow it,” Orson sounds incredulous. “It was nice knowing you, you seem like good person...”
“Not dead yet,” you mutter and squeeze the trigger again. Nothing happens. Squeeze again. Nothing. You bring the gun around and look at it, a battery meter on the side has turned a dull red. “Crap!”
“You say that a lot,” observes Orson.
“Shut up!” you shout, deciding to face death head on rather than wait for the thing to jump onto your back. You spin around and stop suddenly. The glob also halts, maybe confused by your actions. Not certain what else to do, you throw the ray gun at it.
The gun makes a plopping sound as it sinks into the thing’s mass, its barrel already being eaten away as it moves towards the monster’s center. The glob begins to lurch a bit as it digests the gun, seeming to forget you for a moment. As it gets eaten away, you notice the core of the gun begin to glow and start emitting a high pitched whine.
You also notice Enis standing by the saucer frantically waving at you. Almost as if he is telling you to.....
“Run, you idiot,” Orson shouts.
You just turn and just start to move, your feet feeling like they weigh a million pounds, when the gun explodes.
For a brief moment, you wonder if you are living your dream of flying with a jet pack. The ground is far below you and a breeze begins whipping your hair. Tiny green globs, like stars, float in space around you.  As you sail through the air you start to smell something burning, like someone has put tinfoil in a microwave. No, not tinfoil. A spacesuit, maybe?
The ground lurches back up at you and punches you in the face. Everything goes dark.

“Shhh. Keep quiet!”
You feel a hand on your shoulder, gently shaking you. You bat the hand away and are rewarded with a shooting pain that travels up your arm and down your back. You gasp and flinch, which causes a few more waves of agony to course through you. After a few seconds you decide to focus on what parts of you aren’t sore or burning.
You think your pinky toe may be okay.
“Who’s Polly Shore?”
You open your eyes and see Enis kneeling over you. He has a dopey grin on his face, which is illuminated by a slant of reddish-yellow light. You look around him and see that you are in a very small, circular cinderblock chamber.
“Where am I?” you ask, your voice coming thick around a swollen tongue.
“Oh, we’re in a dug-out,” Enis answers with a whisper. “We got lucky there was one so close by. Otherwise we’d a gotten caught out when they showed up.”
Enis points out at a small porthole window set into the wall. You get up on your knees, hissing as your body protests, and shuffle to the wall. It looks as if the tiny stone Igloo you are in is buried in sand, but enough has been cleared away for you to see outside. The sun is setting in the distance, turning the sky a brilliant orange as it dips down below the horizon. You can see the shape of the crashed saucer in the distance, its shadow pointing at you like an accusatory finger.
Oh and there are about two dozen of those insect aliens prowling around about ten feet in front of you.
“Uh oh.”
“You betcha,” Enis agrees. “They musta seen that gomur blow up and came a’runnin’.”
“Goo Monster From Uranus.”
That word still makes you giggle.
“Now you know why we call ‘em gomurs,” Enis smiles. Then he looks confused. “Wait...where are you from? They must have told you about gomurs in New Vega.”

Choice One

1. “I have amnesia. The kind where I remember who I am but have no idea what’s going on in the world.” 38%
2. “I’m from far away. It’s a pretty obscure place, you probably haven’t heard of it.” 0%
3. “I come from a town called ‘Nunya’, located in a state named ‘Bidness’.” 15%

4. “I’m from a parallel world and I’m here to gauge whether or not we want to sell Reeboks to you or something.” 46%

“Hold on a sec,” Enis says before you can answer. “Looks like the Titans have some company. Maybe we’ll see a Martian.”
A soft humming fills the air above you and you press your face against the glass to get a better view. Another saucer, this one much larger than the one you accidentally wrecked, slowly spins into view. It hovers over to where the insect aliens are congregated and bathes them in a beam of light that emanates from the bottom of the craft.
“I thought those insect guys were Martians.”
“Most folk do,” Enis says, a note of pity in his voice. “Those there are Titans, as in they come from the moon Titan that orbits Saturn. They been enslaved by the Martians for thousands of years. Or they will be...I don’t know, time is kind of weird around the Martians.
“The Titans are sorta foot soldiers. They do all the Martians’. grunt work. Truth is, no one’s seen a Martian in decades. There could be one on that mothership though.”
The Titans all stop what they were doing and look up at the mothership as if they are listening to it. After a few minutes of silently staring, they split off into pairs and walk out your line of vision. Soon the hum of the mothership is joined by sounds of other, smaller craft powering up.
Six craft, identical to the crashed one, rise up around you and circle the mothership. As one, they glide over the desert toward their fallen vessel.
“Cover your eyes,” Enis warns, putting his hand over the porthole and looking away. A blinding light flashes and the ground rumbles. Dust and sand falls down from the ceiling onto you, getting into your hair and filling your mouth with grit.
Looking back out the window, you watch as the small fleet rises straight up into the sky, disappearing into space just as the sun finally slips down behind the distant hills. The crashed saucer is now little more than a smoking hole in the ground. As darkness claims the world, you notice that a green light is suffusing the igloo.  
And that it’s coming from you.
“I’m glowing!” you shout, looking down at your emerald hued hands. “Why the hell am I glowing?”
“You got caught in a gomur explosion,” Enis says as if it were obvious. “what did you expect? Those things soak up radiation like a sponge. You’re probably gonna mutate.”
“Radiation?” you ask, incredulous. “Wait, did you say ‘mutate’?”
“I wouldn’t worry about it. My cousin Roscoe got dosed once, now he grows antlers every spring. It’s kind of pretty, really. Course, I also knew a guy once who got a little too close to a Venusian engine and his eyelids turned into batwings. That wasn’t so great to see.”
“Radiation doesn’t work like that!”
“How do you think it works. Where did you say you were from, anyway?”
You can’t stop staring at your glowing hands.
“Look,” Enis crouches down and looks you in the eye. “My people probably think I’m dead, which is actually pretty good news. See, a lot of our folk back home are sick and we need medicine. And a doctor. I’ve been planning on sneaking into New Vega for months now, but Jacob wouldn’t let me. Now he ain’t here to stop me.
“If we can get into the city, we can probably find a way to cure you before you start...I don’t know...growing fifty feet tall or something. I could use the help.”

Choice Two

1. Go with Enis to New Vega. 23%
2. Gently knock Enis the hell out and go to New Vega on your own. 61%
3. Convince Enis to go with you to meet with his people. 0%
4. Antlers? To hell with this, I’m going home. 15%

Chapter Six

“So, who built this place?” you ask Enis as he slides a metal plate over the porthole window. The small, concrete igloo you’ve taken refuge in is bathed in the disquieting green glow that’s emanating from your skin. You look around. Along one curved wall is a small cot with a metal foot locker set next to it. A shelf against the opposite wall holds a few gallons of water and some unmarked cans of, what you hope, is food. You also see what is left of your helmet (not much) and that Enis has propped up his rifle next to the window.
“The U.S. Army,” Enis says as he rummages through the foot locker, eventually pulling out an old kerosene lantern. Lighting it makes the room look a little less sickly. “we think. The way Jacob explains it, just before the civilian government fell, the army was under orders to build a bunch of fallout shelters and underground bunkers for any survivors of the invasion.”
“Invasion?” you ask. “You mean by the Martians?”
Enis gives you an incredulous look and sits down on the cot. “Okay, before I say anything else I want to know who the hell you are.”
Amnesia! You could tell him you have amnesia. That would work, wouldn’t it?
But as the thought crosses your mind, you realize you are just too goddamn tired to lie to this guy. After all, you did save each others’ lives.
“I’m not from around here,” you say as you slide down the wall and sit on the floor.  “As in, not from this version of Earth....”
And so you spill your guts. Over the next two hours you tell Enis all about the project that brought you here, what life is like on your Earth, and all that. Enis interrupts with a lot of questions, like what a Walkman was and why Les Nesman thought turkeys could fly in that one episode of WKRP, but all in all you manage to fit in all the important parts of your world’s history.
You’re pretty tired by the time you finish, but there is no way you can sleep without Enis answering a few questions.
“So,” you begin, waving your hands around to indicate the room and the planet it rests in. “what the hell?”
“From what you describe,” Enis says, sitting with his back to the wall and cleaning his rifle. “life here was pretty similar to yours up until the mid-nineteen forties. According to Larry, who’s like the smartest guy ever, the whole world was involved in this big war with the Europeans fighting each other and Americans fighting the Japanese and everybody having some kind of problem with everybody else. And in the midst of it, this one country who was really warlike ended up making contact with the Venusians.”
“Was it the Nazis?” you interrupt, confident you know the answer. “It’s always the Nazis.”
“No, the Swiss,” Enis says. “They claimed to be neutral all during the war, that they didn’t want to get involved so that they could help broker peace when it came to it, but that was all bullshit. Turns out they were building an army of their own and were selling parts of the world to the Venusians in exchange for advanced weaponry.
“So, just when it looked like the war was about to come to an end, they strike. The Swiss nuked Germany and England, the Venusians attacked the Soviet Union, and America retreated from the Pacific to protect its own borders.”
“How do the Martians play into it?” you ask.
“The Martians and the Venusians hate each other. They’ve been trying to conquer each other for thousands of years. The only thing they ever agreed on was that Earth was off limits for some reason. When the Venusians broke that agreement, the Martians invaded. They tried to establish a foothold in Africa while the Venusians tried to conquer Russia and China. It took them a couple decades, but when they finally succeeded they started fighting each other on the only land mass left untouched. The Americas.
“The only silver lining was that we had time to prepare. We built radiation proof dug outs like these, underground networks with cached supplies, everything you’d need to maintain a long term guerrilla war.”
“So what’s up with the big-ass domed city?” you ask. “New Vega, was it?”
“They’re a bunch of collaborators,” Enis spits out the last word. “It didn’t take long for the government and organized military to collapse and when it did a bunch of people just surrendered to the nearest alien menace. The Martians in New Vega’s case. We don’t know what the Martians get out of it, we’ve been trying to figure it out for years, but it can’t be good. Whatever it is, in exchange they give the Vegans a cushy life. Food, medicine, Pidthburgian servants, you name it.”
“And what’s your deal?” you ask, too weary to bother asking what the hell a Pidthburgian is.
“I’m part of the resistance,” Enis replies proudly, jutting out his chin. “We’ve been holed up in one of the underground bunkers for years now. Learning how to fight aliens, building our own equipment, growing our own food. I grew up there. One day, we’re going to liberate New Vega and use it to bring the aliens down and kick them off our planet.”
“I saw your leader, Jacob, talking to one of them....Darius?”
“Yeah, Darius is the head of New Vega’s border patrol. He knows we’re out here, but not where specifically. He’d get executed if the Martians found out he knew about us, Jacob has a price on his head for destroying some facilities or something. He and Darius have a kind of truce going.”
“It’s getting pretty late,” you point out. “If we’re going to break into this city we should get some rest.”
“Good idea, I can take the first shift. You don’t look so good, with the green glow and all, so you should get some sleep first.”

Even though you are bone tired, it takes you awhile to fall asleep. Every time you manage to drift off you are snapped awake by visions of horrible green globs chasing you or white skinned insect-men trying to eat you.
It also doesn’t help that your eyelids are glowing.
But sleep, sweet dreamless sleep, eventually claims you. A few times you stir, thinking you hear a voice with an exaggerated Russian accent trying to get your attention, but you drift back to sleep. When you wake up, you see that the lantern has burned out and that Enis, bathed in the fading light of your skin, has fallen asleep.
“Finally,” you mutter, getting out of the cot as quietly as you can. You reach over and gently take the rifle out of Enis’s lap and set it down next to the door. Lifting the lid of the foot locker you examine the contents and are happy to find a small messenger bag, a set of dirty-looking clothes, and a pair of binoculars.
The space suit you arrived in is toast. The back end, where the fabric still exists, is a mess of black, melted goo that crackles when you move. You silently slip out of it and put the foul smelling pants, shirt, and army jacket on, disliking how the material seems to stick to your skin. You empty out your belt pouches, putting your knife and tablet into the bag with the binoculars, pick up the rifle and take a quick look around.
Enis is staring at you.
“What’s going on?”
“Look, you seem like a nice guy, but...,” you begin lamely as he stands up. You can’t think of what to say next. Should you tell him that he’s a bit dim and would probably slow you down? That you work alone, or as alone as one can be with the voice of Yakov Smirnoff in her head, and don’t play well with others? That his name rhymes with penis and it’s too hard to resist making mean jokes about it?
In the end you decide that the most sensible thing to do is smash him in the head with the butt of the rifle. It’s really the only solution.
So you do that, feigning for a moment that you are going to set it down before swinging it up and cracking it into the middle of his forehead. He goes cross-eyed for a moment and takes a staggering sideways step and for a moment you think you may have to give him another whack. But soon enough he keels over and lands heavily upon the concrete floor.
“That takes care of that,” you say, slinging the rifle over your shoulder and reaching for the door. It takes a few tries to get the door to open and when it does a drift of sand flows into the small room. Climbing up out of the sand filled hole, you take a look around.
You have maybe a few hours before dawn and you can see the glow of the city off in the distance. You have a couple of miles to go before you get there, so you begin to jog over the sand. You make sure to keep your head low as you go and keep an eye out for any other goo monsters.

“What am I seeing, Orson?” you ask the voice in your head that connects you to the orbiting satellite.
“It is domed city,” is its answer. Smart ass.
New Vega does indeed lay before you. You are crouched down behind a dune and using your new found binoculars to check it out. You make sure to stow them when you see a border patrol jeep though, just in case they give off a glare.
The city, and its dome, are immense. The city and the wall around it must be five miles across, with a massive gate dominating its western side. Along the south you see what looks to be a large vent, the distance between the slats look big enough to crawl through. An occasional wisp of steam puffs out of it and a dribble of bluish liquid runs down the wall below it.

The city on the other side of the glass is breathtaking.  From where you are crouched, you can just make out the tips of what must be skyscrapers dominating the northern edge of the dome and the flitting streaks of, what you hope, are flying cars or jet packs. You wish you could see more, but the rest of the city is hidden behind the large wall that circles the base of the dome. 

“Another patrol is coming,” Orson informs you. You duck down and watch one of the Cadillac looking hover cars glide by with three heavily armed guards occupying the vehicle. The patrols seem to pass by every fifteen minutes, occasionally checking in with the guard house that sits outside of the main gate.

“So what is plan?” Orson asks.
What, indeed, is plan?

What do you do?

1. Walk up to the guard house, announce that you want to speak to Darius, try to blackmail your way into the city. 55%
2. Sneak over to the vent and crawl your way into the city. 36%
3. That tablet I found is mysterious, I’m going to lay here and examine it. 9%
4. Jetpacks ain’t worth it, I’m going home! 0%

Chapter Seven

Who knows what lies up that vent? Could be rats, or bugs, or, knowing this place, radioactive rat-bugs. So to hell with that, time for a little blackmail and con-artistry.
You smooth out the wrinkles in your filthy clothes (which doesn’t do much) straighten your hair, and double check the contents of your rucksack. Swiss Army knife, check. Mysterious tablet, check. Binoculars, check. Rifle, check. Everything checks out, so you stand up and begin to walk confidently around the dune and toward the city.
“What is it you are doing?” Orson asks, his voice filling your head. He sounds incredulous. “Have you been losing marbles?”
“I’m doing what I do best, Orson,” you say with confidence. “Lying, blackmailing, and being-all around awesome. I’m sick of slinking about, getting monsters blown up on me, and not being in control of things. Time to turn the tables on this weirdo world and let it know that it’s met its match: Me!”
Your arms fly up almost of their own accord and the rifle flies out of your hand, landing uselessly in the sand a few feet from you. You would like to think that squawk of fear didn’t come from you, that maybe some bird flew overhead at that moment, but you know the truth.
Three border guards are standing in a silently floating hover-car, each pointing a lethal-looking ray gun at you. The one who shouted, a big lout with curly hair, hops down from the car and strides over to you, a self-satisfied smirk on his face. He motions for you to hand over your backpack. Considering they could melt you in an instant, you comply.
“It’s about time you losers found me,” you say, regaining your composure. “I’ve been stomping around here for a half hour waiting for your sorry asses to open your damn eyes and see me. What kind of operation is Darius running around here, anyway?”
This makes Curly stop smirking and look over to his buddies for back up. They both just shrug at him and keep pointing weapons at you, though not as confidently as before. Excellent.
“Well, good to see we keep the dumb ones outside,” you say, walking up to the hover car and hopping up into the back. “Now let’s get a move on, I have news the boss is going to want to hear.”
Curly stands there for a moment, holding your bag and gaping up at you, before he seems to snap to it and climb into the passenger side. Exchanging a look with the driver, Curly motions toward the city and the car begins to glide around toward it. The guy next to you scootches away from you a bit. You aren’t certain if it’s because the clothes you are wearing smell bad or because your skin is still faintly glowing green. Either way, more seat for you.
The trip on the hover car is disappointingly short. You don’t even get a chance to ask the driver to let you take if for a spin before you arrive at the west gate and the other guys jump out. They aren’t actively pointing guns at you anymore, but they aren’t putting them away either. Curly tells you to stay put as he walks up to the gate, a colossal steel-barred door, and depresses the button on an intercom.

After a few seconds of frantic communication, a thin metal cord snakes out of the intercom and begins waving in your general direction. You have a distinct feeling of being watched. It slides back into the wall, Curly nods his head at some unheard instruction, and then walks over to you
“Darius will see you,” he says, “but you look like you got dosed pretty hard out there, so

we’ll need to decontaminate you and your belongings. Do you have any special attachment to those clothes?”
“Hell no,” you say. “I will need to keep what’s in the backpack though. You guys can keep the rifle.”
Curly and the others sneer at the homemade weapon and you feel a bit sorry for knocking Enis over the head and taking it. These fools certainly wouldn’t appreciate the work that was put into it.
“If you enter there I will not be able to help you,” Orson suddenly shouts, sounding strangely panicked. “I am not being able to penetrate dome.”
“Uhhhh,” you groan, stopping in your tracks. “Why haven’t you told me this before?”
The guards look at you strangely.
“I was meaning to,” Orson says. “You will need to establish antennae within dome. It is simple.”
You scratch your head and fake a cough, anything to hide the fact that you are talking to yourself.
“How the hell do I build an antennae?”
“You do not build. You bleed.”
“Excuse me?”
“You have nanites in system. They are made to react to water and reproduce, form antennae for me to penetrate dome and observe your actions. So that I am helping.”
“So I have to....”
“Bleed in water. Preferably as large a body as possible, if in pinch within public sewer system or drinking water reserve.”
“I don’t know about this...”
“Hey!” Curly shouts. “Darius is waiting.”
You walk with them through the gate, but any hope you had of walking into the majesty of the domed city of New Vega is dashed once you realize that you are simply entering an administrative building. It actually looks eerily like your old elementary school.

The next few hours are boring. A team of nervous looking scientists in full HazMat gear take ownership of you and tell you to follow their instructions to the letter. They first escort you to a shower room and tell you to bathe as thoroughly and rigorously as possible, which seems an odd way to phrase that instruction. When you are done they give you a new set of clothes, a silvery jumpsuit similar to the one you arrived in, and lead you to a different room. Here you sit under a pale blue light for over an hour, assuring you that this is necessary to bleed any excess radiation out of your system. When you are done they have you sign a form relieving them of responsibility should you develop mutations. You boldly sign “Daffy Duck” and go on about your day.
Finally, just as you are about to get fed up and see if you could throw your weight around again, you are escorted to an elevator and instructed to proceed to the top floor. The elevator is also not the least bit futuristic. It’s slow. There’s bad, worn carpet on the floor. There is even this world’s version of Muzak playing over a tinny speaker.
Then the doors open.
The room inside takes your breath away. The floor looks like melted diamond, curving up here and there to form tables and chairs and shelves. It flows up around you, walls and ceiling and floor forming one solid, seamless structure. It’s like walking inside of a bubble. And outside of that bubble, the city!
You walk in a daze to the edge of the wall/window which parts before you like a curtain. Tentatively you step out onto a transparent balcony, but you keep a hand on the edge of the wall just in case. You may not be scared of heights, but that doesn’t mean you’re immune to plummeting to your death. You take a moment to orient yourself and then slowly scan your eyes across the cityscape.
To your left, the north side, you see a multitude of gleaming spires. They all have the same poured diamond cast of the room you are standing in and each seems to spray about a dozen rainbows throughout the dome. Tubes and roads connect each of the towers together and a constant flow of flying cars and (Hells, yeah) jetpacks speed between them. This must be some kind of commerce or political quarter of the city.
Moving your eyes to the east you what looks like one gigantic, miles long building with grass on top. Squinting, and wishing you had your binoculars, you see that the building has several levels, like the universe’s largest parking garage, and that each level seems filled with vegetation. Livestock moves through a few of the levels and you realize this must be where they grow the food to feed the populace.
The south side is similar, only instead of even banks of levels, each is beveled back like a giant staircase. Upon each step is a neighborhood. It’s like a dozen “Leave It To Beaver” towns stacked on top of each other, each level a little more opulent than the one beneath. At the top rest three staggeringly large mansions.
You can’t really see what is below you, but it doesn’t look nearly as nice as the other three quarters. The buildings below you look like they were built in your own world. Concrete, brick, asphalt and wood. It actually looks kind of like shit compared to the rest of the place. Spray painted slogans and symbols mar the roofs and sides of structures, billboards batter the eye and compete for attention, a din of street noise and confusion rise up around you.
Kind of makes you homesick.
In the center of it all, like a beautiful blue marble, sits a lake. Monorails and bike paths wind their way through a thickly wooded park that nestles around it and four, straight-as-an-arrow rivers flow into it. If you are going to bleed into anything for Orson, that looks like the place to do it.
“Have you been gone long?”, a voice from behind you asks. You turn, for a moment afraid you are going to fall of the balcony, and then place a heavy foot back inside the room. Darius is standing at a desk you would swear wasn’t there a minute ago.
“Um,” you say, trying to regain a train of thought. “yeah. Been a while.”
“You seem to know my name,” Darius says, reaching into the desk and bringing out a bottle of wine. He uncorks the bottle and just begins to pour it straight onto the surface of the table. A thin fluted glass rises up to take the liquid, a second forming right next to it. Picking both up both of the newly molded glasses, he makes his way around the desk and towards you. “It would be wonderful to know yours.”

Shit. Quick, come up with a fake name!

Choice One
1. Wilson Phillips 16%
2. Ida Know 16%

3. Angela Lansbury 66%4. Puddintane, ask me again and I’ll tell you the same. 0%

“How unusual,” he says mildly, handing you a glass of wine. “So, care to tell me why you crawled out of the wasteland and demanded an audience from me?”

“I know about Jacob,” you say, sipping the wine and smiling. “And I know that you know about Jacob. And now you know that I know that you know about Jacob, so tell me, what do you know about Jacob.”

You feel awesome, there was no better way to say that.

Darius takes it in stride.
“I see,” he says, setting his wine glass down. “I assume you are a member of PHIL then?”
“Assume whatever you want,” you say, wondering what the hell PHIL is and what it could stand for. “Just answer my question.”
“I do know about Jacob,” Darius sighs, looking out over the bustling city. “He and I grew up together, right below this office as a matter of fact. Both orphans, both angry at the world. We were like brothers, he and I, and together we....”
“Ugh!,” you shout. You hate melodrama. “Get to the point. Jesus.”
“Fine,” Darius sags a bit. ”Jacob fancies himself a...resistance fighter. He wants to fight the aliens, all of them, and get them off Earth. And he thinks he can win. He’s convinced of it.”
“And you think so too?”
“Please. I see the world for what it is. This is as good as it gets. And it isn’t bad, not
entirely. We have a semblance of freedom. A chance to be happy. Beats what the rest of the world is going through.”
“So what’s going on between you two?”
“Jacob is...a magnetic man. He draws people to him. I watch him, I see who is drawn to him.”
“I don’t get it.”
Darius gives you a look that seems to indicate that he thinks you are an idiot. What a jerk.
“Jacob thinks I help him. That he has me around his finger. I supply him with bits of information, like where a Martian weapons cache is, and he pays me a paltry sum. In truth, I look at the people around him and take note. Inevitably they come here, to New Vega. My men follow them, observe who they speak with, see who is drawn to Jacob, and then arrest those individuals and subject them to questioning.
“We nip insurrection before it can take root.”
“Pretty slick,” you say. “But tell me....”
You are interrupted by the sound of the elevator doors opening. Curly is standing inside, holding your backpack. He walks in quietly, makes eye contact with Darius, and sets the pack on the desk. You start getting a real bad feeling.
“Now it’s your turn,” Darius says, strolling across the room to his desk. Curly steps back and crosses his arms, glaring at you. “according to my men, you popped up out of nowhere wearing homemade clothes, holding a handmade weapon, and this pack. And you were literally glowing with radiation poisoning.”
Wait. You were glowing? You look down at your hand and notice that it’s returned to normal hue. Thank goodness.
“So tell me,” Darius continued. He begins to rifle through the bag, his back to you. “how does one infiltrate Jacob’s camp, steal his possessions, and then make it back through the wasteland in relatively one piece?”
“I’m resourceful,” you say. You begin to hear a high pitched whine from the balcony. Turning you see another man dressed in a border guard’s uniform land on the balcony, the gleaming jetpack strapped to his back sputtering gently. “Say, think I could take that thing for a spin?”
“Oh, I don’t thinks so,” Darius says mildly. “We tend not to lend our equipment to liars.”
Uh oh.
“What the hell are you talking about?” you say, making your voice stern. “If my employers, our employers, find out about this...”
“Be quiet,” Darius says, waving at his men to flank you. “Jacob is even more paranoid than I am. If you had really spent any time at his camp he would have searched you. Thoroughly. And when he did, he would have found this!”
He throws the Swiss Army knife across the room at you. It clatters to your feet, the empty space where the toothpick goes staring up at you. Damn it! You had forgotten this world hated the Swiss.
“Jacob may be an extremist, but he’s loyal to humanity. If he even thought for a moment that a spy from the Venusian/Swiss Confederation was among his people he wouldn’t stop until they were found. And he would have told me.
“Gentlemen! Seize her!”


Choice Two
1. Time to go Bruce Lee, Jet Li, and Sara Lee on these bastards, then take that jetpack and get the hell out of here. 66%
2. Give up. You’re sure they have a fair and impartial justice system. 16%
3. Start screaming that you are from a parallel Earth and you here on a mission of peace. 0%
4. It’s time to flirt your way out of this mess. 16%

Chapter Eight

      You’ve spent way too much time over the last couple days hiding and then running away. Now it’s time to start fighting and then running away!

      As the three men close in on you, you crouch and take a quick assessment. Jetpack is the biggest of the bunch, though he is encumbered by the bulky rocket on his back. Curly looks toughest (you base this off the fact that he has a very punchable-looking face) and Darius looks like a hair puller. From the expressions on their faces, none of them expect you to put up much of a fight.

      “Say,” you drawl, giving Jetpack the ol’ “creepy eye and grin” routine. “that’s a nice jetpack.”

      He looks like he’s just about to say something witty and menacing when your foot lashes out at the big red button on the jetpacks belt. Luckily, the button does what you hoped it would and a great plume of exhaust and flame shoots out of the rocket booster. The man emits a brief, high pitched squeal before the rocket lifts him off the ground and slams him head first into the crystal ceiling. He goes limp, the rocket presses him against the ceiling for a moment then flips and shoots him across the room to land behind Darius’s desk. He begins to slam around between it and the wall.

      One down.

      Curly lets out a growl and lunges at you. He tries to get you in a bear hug, but you duck down under his arms at the last second and head-butt him in the chin. It hurts like hell, you know that you’re going to end up with a massive bruise right in the middle of your forehead, but considering the amount of teeth that suddenly clatter to the floor you figure Curly isn’t faring any better. He lets out a howl and covers his bloody mouth. He gives you a look, almost like you hurt his feelings, and then runs off to the elevator.

      Two down.

      “Where the hell are you going?” Darius screams. Curly turns, looking like he might take a swing at Darius himself, when Jetpack lurches up from behind the desk and careens at him. The rocket slams into Curly and the two of them begin sliding across the floor in a tangle of limbs and fire.

     Darius turns and gapes at you. For a moment, the two of you just stare at each other. Jetpack and Curly, the rocket finally sputtering out, slide to a halt between you. Darius takes a tentative step towards his desk. He starts wagging his finger at you.

      “Don’t you make a move. I’m going...,” you never find out what Darius is going to do because you’re too busy flattening his nose with your fist. He hits the ground like a sack of flour, knocked out cold.

      You quickly pick up the Swiss Army knife and run over to the desk. Shoving the tablet, binoculars, and knife into your knapsack, you take a look around the room and try to think of a way to escape.

      The elevator is a no-go, you have no idea what is waiting for you at the bottom. You could wake Darius up, take him hostage and make him help you escape. You could...

      “...take the jetpack,” you say, eyeing silver rocket. You smile, this choice is obvious.

      Stripping the jetpack off the one you had nicknamed Jetpack, you consider the three men laying on the floor around you. All of them are still alive, Curly’s beginning to stir even, and will probably hold quite the grudge against you. In fact, you wouldn’t be surprised if they do everything they can to hunt you down and jail you. They may even want you dead.

    As you strap the rocket to your back and snap the belt shut, you consider your options.

Choice One
1. MURDER! 0%
2. Leave them be, but totally rifle through Darius’s jacket and see if he has anything worth taking. 30%

3. Just make your escape and worry about them later. 50%
4. Pee on the floor and then make your escape (Sorry, I couldn’t think of a fourth choice. -Rich) 20%

      So you do that and then step to the balcony. The city lies spread out before you as you walk to the railing. You examine the control panel on the belt. It has three buttons on it; a red one that you already know triggers the rocket, a green one, and a yellow one. What you figure is a fuel gauge lies just under the button. It looks to be half full.

      Looking up to make sure nothing is hanging directly over your head, you press the red button and hope for the best.

       You launch into the air with alarming speed. The wind whips through your hair and your eyes water. The ground looks miles away the people walking around the large, round lake look like tiny specks. Adrenaline, which for some reason didn’t kick in during your fight, now surges through your system and makes you feel jittery.

      You’re having the time of your life.

      But you also know that you have to find someplace to lie low for a while so you can get your bearings. You also need to make contact with Orson, though the idea of bleeding into the water supply makes you feel queasy.

      You glide through the air, the dome that seals in the city just a few feet above your head, and take in the sights. Tractors, bulldozers, and what looks like a bunch of robots toil away at the top of the agricultural quarter. There are a lot of potential hiding places from what you can see, though there are quite a few people as well. You also wouldn’t want for food and you are getting quite hungry.

      The gleaming spires and elevated roadways of the business quarter hold a certain appeal to you though. There are also a lot of people, but in such numbers blending in shouldn’t be a problem. If you wanted to see what this future city had to offer, this would be the place to go.

      You angle your body a bit and spin around, looking back over the area you escaped from. It looks like the remains of pre-invasion city might have been here before the dome was built. It could be the dome was built around this area to begin with. You can see that the same crystal that was used to mold the fancier parts of the business quarter were used here to prop up crumbling brickwork or, in some cases, poured over existing structures making the buildings look like bugs stuck in amber.

     Spray painted graffiti and billboards (GO SEE DR. PHILOX FOR ALL YOUR RADIOACTIVE MUTATION NEEDS! 24 HOUR SERVICE!) are plastered over every flat surface and the people are dressed in rags. If you want to disappear this looks the ideal place.

     Which leaves the suburb levels. Except for the three stately manors at the very top level, each section of this part of the city looks like the same small town copied over and over. Each level of the parking-garage-like structure has a collection of quaint little houses, a schoolhouse, a grocer, a theater, and so on. Everything you’d want in a small town is located right there. It might be the last place someone would think to look for an escaped...whatever you are.

     So what’s it going to be?

Choice Two
1. Agricultural Quarter. 0%
2. Business Quarter. 20%
3. Slum. 20%

4. Suburbs. 60%

Chapter Nine

As you angle your jetpack toward the rows of quaint little towns, you see swarm of black and white hover-vehicles blast out of the business quarter and make a beeline to the office building you just broke out of. It looks like Darius must have woken up and called in the cavalry.

It won't make your getaway and eventual escape any easier, but you feel good that you didn't kill anybody. Or pee on things. Who knows what kind of tracking technology they have around here and you'd hate to have your pee used against you. For the moment though, you know you should go to ground and wait for the heat to die down. And though it breaks your heart, you will also have to ditch the jetpack.

There look to be five levels of identical-looking small towns. Aiming for a wooded area on the third layer, figuring it would allow you to flee easily to the other two if shit hits the fan, you propel yourself through the air. As you go you try to figure out ways to sneak the jetpack back to your own world. You could make a mint selling these things online.

Too soon, the open expanse of the domed city is replaced by a small forest of trees zipping by just under your feet. Hovering for a moment, you spin slowly and take several pictures of the surrounding area. Filing the images in a new folder, you cut the power to the jetpack and lower yourself down past the branches. Landing on the pine-needle covered ground, you strip off your jetpack and lean it against a stump.

If you didn't know better you would swear you were standing in the middle of a natural forest. The ground is soft and, you check to make sure, certainly made of dirt. You can hear the chirping of birds and, not too far away, the babble of a small brook. Looking up past the branches, you are surprised to see a blue, cloud-filled sky instead of the underside of the level above.

Sitting on the stump, you call up the pictures you just took. You know that you landed on the westernmost edge of the level, a few hundred more feet in that direction and you'd be in what you have taken to calling the Agricultural Quarter. If it comes down to it, you could always hide out there.

Sifting through the pictures you note that a series of five or six scattered farmhouses lie to the south of you. Each one has a large barn and several outbuildings that look like barracks. Several dirt roads wind through the area, all of them seeming to lead to the farming quarter.

Moving along to the east lies the well-manicured grid of suburban homes. From the looks of it, there are maybe three different styles of house in this neighborhood. Each one has a conservative paint job and an immaculately kept backyard. Small playgrounds and parks are scattered at regular intervals along the six block square of the neighborhood.

At the easternmost edge of the level lies the town proper. You zoom in on the pictures you took of it and can make out what looks like a town hall, a movie theater, a gas station, and a library. A large statue of a man dominates the center of town and seems to look down on the entire neighborhood.

In all of the pictures, you can see people milling about. Most are dressed as if they just stepped off the set of Leave It To Beaver. Men are dressed in suits and hats, women in flowery sun dresses, and the children are clean and presentable. It's all terribly suspicious. Squinting at the photos and zooming in as much as you can, you swear you see the occasional glint of what might be a robot moving among the citizens. You quietly make a vow to see one up close if you can.

For now, you are going to have to find someplace to hide out, and you know you can't stay in the woods. You are still dressed in the silver uniform of a border guard and, though you are sure that some of them must live in the neighborhood, it might be wise to find some civilian clothes to change into. It may also help to get back into contact with Orson, though the idea of bleeding into the towns water supply is kind of icky.
So what are you going to do?

Choice One

1. Bleed into the nearby brook so you can establish contact with Orson 66%
2. Bleeding is icky, Orson can wait. 33%

Choice Two

1. I’m going to the farmhouses, it looks like there are lots of hiding places there. 0%
2. I bet I can find an unoccupied house in the neighborhood to break into and get what I need. 50%
3. Hiding is boring, I’m heading to the the center of town where the action is. 33%
4. Maybe suburbia isn’t the place to be, I’m hoofing it to the Agricultural Quarter. 16%

Bonus Chapter

Stowing the jetpack under a pile of leaves, you begin to play over the events of the last 48 hours and try to sort them out in your head. You tell yourself that it’s high time you formed a plan instead of just stumbling around blindly reacting to things. Though to be honest, it isn’t like you had much of a choice other than to stumble blindly and react.

First off, accidentally causing an alien flying saucer to crash in the desert immediately upon your arrival wasn’t exactly the greatest way to start your exploration of this weird, parallel world. You’re pretty sure that isn’t what your bosses back at the Omega Conglomerate had in mind when they sent you here either. You were just supposed to infiltrate the domed city, take a few pictures with the nano-bot computers they injected into your bloodstream, and then get the hell out. All of this, supposedly, was so that you could help them form an opinion on whether or not to make contact with the inhabitants of this world.

If you were asked right now, though, your suggestion would include the words ‘hell’ and ‘no’ repeated maybe a dozen times. 

Of course, that may have something to do with being attacked by two alien species immediately upon your arrival, the most recent of which left you irradiated, glowing green, and quite possibly mutated. And the humans haven’t been much better, taking you prisoner and accusing you of being a spy for a rebel faction that’s hell bent on overthrowing this world’s various alien oppressors. The fact that you are a spy - though for an entirely different organization - is neither here nor there. They were extremely rude to you. 

The only thing currently holding you back from writing this world off entirely is the rebel Enis, who saved your life and gave you a brief history of this planet. He alone has been kind to you and helped nurse you back to health after that goo-monster exploded all over you. 

It’s really too bad that you had to knock him out, steal his gun, and leave him in an underground bunker out in the desert. 

Oh well, no use dwelling on the past. You figure it would be unfair to judge this world entirely on the actions of its despotic alien overlords, radiation monsters, and crooked leaders. It’s time to strike out and see what the common man is like.

Confident that the jetpack is well hidden, and that you will remember where it is in case you need it for a rapid escape, you make your way over to the nearby creek. The water is amazingly clear and you can see little fish darting around the rocks at the bottom. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear you were in a natural forest back on your own world instead of a glass-enclosed artificial city built in the middle of an atomic wasteland. 

So, naturally, this water needs a little blood in it. Looking around for a scab, of which you’ve acquired many since arriving here, and finding a good one on your elbow, you proceed to pick at it for a bit. Just before stepping into the machine that transported you here, an egghead injected you with a serum laced with microscopic robots that installed an entire computer system in your head. Without it, you couldn’t use your eyes as a camera (Something that makes you feel like the Bionic Woman, which is awesome!) or contact the satellite that your bosses put into orbit just before your arrival. 

And out of all of the decisions that you’ve made since getting here, giving that satellite’s artificial intelligence the voice of Yakov Smirnov is the one you regret the most. Not like the other choices were that great either, though. 

A small counter pops up in lower right corner of your field of vision just as a drop of blood leaks out of your elbow and fall into the water. 

Percentage To Integration: 1%

It slowly fades away as you grab your backpack - containing your purloined binoculars, unexplored tablet computer, and handy Swiss Army knife - and begin your trek through the woods. The neighborhood you are heading to is a little over a mile away and you spend the time thinking about how you are going to go about finding out more about the common people of this world. 

In the end you come to the conclusion that the best course of action is to break into someone’s house, steal a few things, and then try to blend in as best as you are able. After that it should just be a matter of making conversation with a few locals, find out what this world is all about, and then make contact with Orson so you can get home. 

Should be nice and simple.

Chapter Ten

You set out from the stream and start to jog out of the woods in the direction of the suburbs. Within a few minutes, you find yourself along the edge of a deeply rutted dirt road. From the looks of it, a lot of heavy vehicles pass through here. Keeping just inside the woods, you follow the road and keep an eye out for any people.

Peering up ahead, you see a brightly colored sign declaring that you are just about to enter Gammaville, population 5,412. Apparently, according to the sign anyway, this is also the proud home of the Gammaville Guardians. A picture of a happy family (proud father, smiling wife, precocious boy, and adorable daughter) stand holding hands and gazing at an idyllic neighborhood scene adorns the lower right corner.

As you stare at it the sign shimmers briefly and seems to blur. When it refocuses itself you notice that population counter now reads 5,411.

“Creepy,” you mutter aloud.

Just before the sign, the dirt road turns into a smoothly paved, two-lane street. A sidewalk begins right on the corner at the edge of the woods, which ends in a perfect right angle at the town limits. Beyond that, a grid of perfectly straight streets, immaculate lawns, and clean houses stretch into the horizon. Say what you will about the alien overlords around here, they sure know a thing or two about suburban planning.

The first thing you are going to have to do is find a new set of clothes. The silver border guard uniform you were given is filthy and will certainly not help you blend in. But you have a feeling, considering the whole Home & Garden magazine feel of this place, that finding some spare clothing won't be much of an issue.

Sure enough, as you sneak along the treeline and peer over the fences and into the backyards of the outermost houses, you see a set of perfectly clean clothes that have been hung out to dry. Among them is a pleasant looking peach colored dress that, though you wouldn't be caught dead in it back home, is just what the doctor ordered around here.

You lurk for a few minutes, using the binoculars to peer into the windows, and then hop the fence. Hopefully, no one is home. You quickly grab the dress and a pair of sandals that had been left by the back stoop and then scurry back over the fence. Just as your head clears the fence and you drop down on the other side, you hear the backdoor open.

Crouching and crossing your fingers, you half expect to hear the shouts of some distressed housewife that noticed your theft and is now frantically calling the police. Instead you hear a mechanical whistle. It takes a moment for you to place it, but soon enough you realize that its the tune to Bonanza.

“What the hell?” you gaze up over the fence. There's a robot standing less than ten feet away from you. And it's the most roboty robot you've ever seen. Square head, cylindrical body, segmented, telescoping arms and legs. The whole thing is painted silver and a series of lights and dials adorn its chest. And it's whistling Bonanza.

You briefly recall a time when this would have been the strangest thing you'd ever seen. As it stands now, a robot whistling television themes songs and doing laundry isn't even in the top five. You scamper back off into the trees and begin to strip.

After a brief moment of indecency, you are in your new disguise and are happy to find that it fits well. A second or two spent finger-combing your hair and using the tablet as a makeshift mirror you decide that , though you still look a little disheveled and are carrying a grubby looking backpack, Gammaville is ready to meet its most recent citizen.

“Here goes nothing,” you mutter as you step out of the woods in front of the welcome sign. “Time to get into character.”

Not seeing any nearby hover-cars or pedestrians, you shake your head, close your eyes, and take a deep breathe. When you open your eyes again, you are wearing an excited, yet demurely pleasant smile on your face and begin to almost glide onto the sidewalk and into town. Nothing about your attitude or demeanor indicates that you are anywhere other than where you should be at this moment. You found that, after years of playing the con game, if you look like you belong somewhere, most people won't doubt that you don't.

As you walk nowhere in particular, while still looking like you have a destination, you start to build a mental map in your head. It looks like the streets that are running north and south are numbered, the first one you pass being 1st Avenue, while the east to west streets are alphabetical. Boring, but it makes it easy to tell where you're going.

Within a few streets, you begin to see some of the other fine citizens of Gammaville. A few kids playing hopscotch on the sidewalk, a milkman (an honest-to-God milkman!) strolling up the sidewalk making his deliveries, a middle aged man with perfect hair mowing the lawn. All of them give you hearty wave, which you enthusiastically return as you stroll by. A hover-car, built to look like an old wood-paneled station wagon, cruises by and gives you a friendly toot of its horn.

The whole thing is so pleasant and nice you find yourself getting increasingly nervous that something horrible lurks under the surface of this place. No group of people is ever this friendly unless there is some kind of threat being made.

Turning onto 4th Ave, you finally see a sign that not everything is perfect around here. An ambulance has pulled up in front of one of the houses and two men in paramedic uniforms are wheeling out a stretcher. The white blanket pulled over the body seems to be a universal custom. You stop next to a blond haired boy with a prominent cowlick and both of you watch the men put the body in the back of the ambulance.

“Who're you?” the boy asks, looking up at you and pulling a slingshot out of his back pocket.

“I'm new here,” you answer. “and I wouldn't get any ideas about using that slingshot if I were you.”

“Don't worry. Ma says if I ever even aim it anybody she'll blister my backside. And she'll do it to. Or get the house-bot to. Either way, I'm not gonna hit you with it. So, who're you?”

“I'm...Jane. Who're you?”

“I'm Dennis,” he says, reaching out to shake your hand.

“Of course you are,” you shake his hand. You point at the departing ambulance. “Say, do you know what's going on here?”

“Yeah,” Dennis takes a look around to make sure no one is listening, then he leans in and whispers. “That's Mrs. Pearson. I overheard one of the ambulance guys saying that her house-bot malfunctioned and squished her head.”

“Oh, no. Where's Mr. Pearson?”

“He died years ago. But I think he had a heart attack or something. He wasn't killed by a robot. Anyway, they shut down the house-bot but it's still inside. They'll send a mechanic out tonight to take it away. That's why I have my slingshot, in case it wakes up and comes outside to squish us.”

“That's very brave of you. Look, I'm new around here and looking to move here. Is there anything I should know?”

“The Guardians are the best killball team ever.”


“You don't know what killball is?” Dennis asks, suspicious.

“Oh, I know killball,” you say quickly. “I'm more into...stab-racket. No, I meant what should I know as far as where to go or who to meet. Anyone on vacation or out of town?”

“Well, the Kennedy's are up in Betaton on a fishing trip.”

The two of you stroll down the street to the end of the block. Shortly after passing the Pearson house, Dennis puts the slingshot back into his pocket.

“Where are you from?” Dennis asks. “Are you from the Farm Zone? You look like you're from the Farm Zone.”

“Why do you say that?”

“You're have cuts on your hands and a stick in your hair.”

“Well, I guess I can't pull one over on you,” you say, picking the twig out of your hair. “My...husband and I are thinking about moving up here. You know, settle down and maybe have a kid or two.”

“You haven't had a kid yet?” Dennis says with awe. “You better hurry or you'll get put in jail.”

“What do mean 'hurry' I'm not that ol...Wait, jail?”

“Ordinance 42. All married couples have to have two children. A boy and a girl. Don't they teach you that stuff down in the Zone?”

“I guess not. What's that place?”

You point down B Street at the only dilapidated house you've seen here. The grass is brown and overgrown, weeds choke the cement walkway, and the formerly white picket fence has fallen in and now lays on its side. Bright yellow caution tape is strung around the property and several white signs that read “Quarantine” are plastered to the windows.

“That's the old Carver place,” Dennis says with awe. “They say Old Man Carver was a scientist for the Martians, but he went crazy. He used to do all these crazy experiments in his house and now you can't go in there because the whole house is poisoned. No one knows what happened to Mr. Carver either. These guys from the government came one day and just plastered all those signs up all over the place. My dad says to never go near it, but Billy Fitzsimmons went up and touched the doorknob once.”

“What happened?”

“Nothing,” Dennis says, sounding profoundly disappointed. The two of you continue to walk up the block and up ahead you see gas station/garage. “Looks like the ambulance had some engine trouble.”

“Guess they aren't in a hurry,” you say vaguely, thinking about where you're going to go next. “not like Mrs. Pearson is going anywhere.”

“She isn't in the back,” Dennis points out.

It's true. The back of the ambulance is hanging open and the stretcher holding Mrs. Pearson is nowhere in sight.

“Is there a hospital nearby? Or a funeral home?”

“No, both places are on the other side of the town square.”

“Maybe it's a different ambulance.”

Just as you convince yourself that's true and start to move on, the two medics you saw earlier come around the far side of the garage wheeling an empty stretcher between them. Both are chuckling ominously. They unceremoniously pitch the stretcher into the back of the ambulance and then speed off down the road.

“That's weird,” Dennis says mildly. “But they were probably just telling the mechanic about the house-bot, they're the ones who come out the fix 'em.”

“Yeah, that's probably it,” you say, not feeling convinced. You've been around a lot of malarkey in your time and you know it when you see it. That right there, with the ambulance and the chuckling medics, seems extremely malarkous to you. “I should probably be headed back to..”

“The Zone?” Dennis says helpfully.

“Yeah. It was nice meeting you.”

“Hey, if you're looking for a place around here there's a house for sale on 4th and G. The house-bot inside can give you a tour and everything.”

“That's really good to know, Dennis. Thanks.”

“No problem,” he says, raising his index finger to his eye and giving you a salute. “Be seeing you.”

You watch as Dennis runs off back the way you came. Looking over the neighborhood, you try decide where to go next.

Where will it be?

1. I want to see one of these robots up close, so I'm going to Mrs. Pearson's house. 0%
2. That Carver place sounds interesting and there might be something useful inside. 33%

3. That ambulance business is too weird to ignore. I'm going to do some sleuthing. 50%
4. I'm going to 4th & G and waiting for Orson to contact me. 16%

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%

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%

Chapter Thirteen

Okay, Brain,” you say, placing the signal-blocking circlet onto your head. “What’s the plan?”

“First off,” The Brain of Carver says testily, the little light on the top of his tank blinking furiously. “stop calling me ‘Brain’.”


“Fine,” Brain manages to sigh, again prompting a bunch of bubbles to rise in his tank. “I need you to go down into my basement. I constructed a smaller, more portable tank that will make our journey far easier. You can’t miss it, it looks like a glass scuba tank.”

“Okay, glass scuba tank. Check,” you say. “Then what?”

“I don’t know. I’ll be thinking while you are down there. Now go, before that psycho of a chauffeur shows up.”

“I thought he was working for you?”

“Oh, no. He works for our masters back home,” Brain says. “I think it may be time for us to go solo. It is my suspicion that they sent that murdering robot after me. For years they have exploited my genius, profited off the sweat of my brow, made a mockery of....”

“Yeah, I’m going to go down in your basement,” you say, getting up and walking down the hall. Brain is still talking as you walk past the dining room to the kitchen, where the basement door is. It takes a moment for you to register that the table where Murdertron was laying is empty.

And that the door to the basement is ajar.

Grabbing a heavy cast iron pan from the stove, you make your way to the door and peek inside. It’s dark. Opening the door a bit, which creaks ominously and loudly, you slowly ease your head into doorway, pan raised high.

“H-hello?” you whisper as you set a foot down on the top step. “Is there anyone down there? Any murdering robots, for instance?”

No answer. You reach over and flick the light switch, a series of fluorescent lights stutter to life, illuminating a dead body slumped over a work station. You leap back for a moment, ready to flee, when you remember Carver saying earlier that his body was down here. Stepping cautiously, you make your way down the stairs.

Though the first floor of Carver’s house is a mess of spare parts, down here everything is in order. A chemistry lab dominates the far wall, the old remains of acid burns marring the floor beneath the table, and a bank of old school looking computers (complete with reel-to-reel tape deck) line the opposite wall. If it wasn’t for the fly-covered corpse, you’d almost feel like doing a science experiment yourself down here.

It’s all so organized and neat, it takes a moment for you to notice the murder-bot standing in the corner glaring at you. Suddenly, your pan doesn’t feel like so mighty a weapon.

“Human!” Murdertron suddenly shouts at you, almost making you wet yourself. “You are the one who reactivated me!”

“Uh...,” you say, inching your way back to the stairs. “Yes? Was that a question?”

“It was a statement,” it replies smoothly, no longer shouting. Murderton walks, almost saunters, over the Carver’s corpse and picks up the empty bowl that used to be the top of his head. “It seems that, after accidentally deactivating me, my target expired on his own. This alarms me."


“I can’t collect a bounty on a kill I did not complete,” Murdertron states. “I’ve never before lost out on a bounty. This is most distressing.”

“Well...,” you really don’t want to tell this robot that his target is sort of still alive and in a tank in the upstairs hall. “Do you have a laser beam weapon thingy?”

“Of course,” Murdertron demonstrates by opening his hand, a thin red beam flickers for a moment, and the chemistry table splits suddenly in half. Beakers and tubes shatter against the cement floor. “What kind of murder-bot would I be without a laser hand?”

“Well, there you go,” you say. “You shot him in the head with your laser, he accidentally shuts you off, he stumbles down here, sits down, and his skull falls apart. Makes sense to me.”

Murdertron seems to consider it for a moment, one metallic finger tapping his chin. “That works for me. I like you human. Here, take this as token of my appreciation for reactivating me.

Murderton takes a thin sheet of metal, about the size of a business card, out of a compartment in its thigh and hands it to you. You take it and look at it.

This Card Entitles You To:
One Free Murder
Courtesy of
(Touch Icon To Activate)

A picture of Murderton’s head rotates slowly in the corner of the card. You nod your thanks, uncertain of what to say about the notion of free murder, and slip the card into your backpack. Murdertron walks back over to Carver’s body and uses its laser to slice off his right hand. Placing it into a compartment in its other thigh, which lets out a blast of cool air when opened, Murdertron moves to the center of the basement.

"You aren’t from this dimension,” it says, looking back over to you. “I can tell. Don’t stay here too long, things tend to get unpredictable on this particular world. If you need me to kill someone, just tap my face there, I can hear you no matter where I am. Be seeing you.”

Murdertron gives you a two fingered salute with his right hand, while his left chops at the air and seems to slice a hole in the universe. A howling chasm erupts in the middle of the basement and a strong smell of brimstone blasts you in the face. Murdertron steps through the hole and disappears, leaving you standing alone at the bottom stairs.

“Things get unpredictable, huh?” you ask no one. “Who’da' thunk that?”

“What’s going on down there?” Brain shouts down at you. “We don’t have time for fooling around!”


“Seriously?” you ask with dismay, looking down at the tank strapped to your chest. “This looks like one of those baby carrier things. A Baby Bjorn. You have me wearing a Baby Bjorn.”

“I don’t know what that is,” Brain gurgles up from his new tank. “I had originally intended to have myself conveyed by robot when I transferred my brain to a tank, but I ran out of time and never designed the robot. Now, after we leave here we are never coming back and I do not intend to let my designs fall into the wrong hands. I will set off the self-destruct mechanism after we go, so if you want anything take it now. I think I have some jerky in the kitchen.”

If you want to grab something, you will have to leave something. What will it be?

Choice One

1. Binoculars 33%
2. Tablet 33%
3. Swiss Army knife 16%
4. Nothing 16%

What, if anything, will you take?

Choice Two

1. Shrink Ray 33%
2. Giant Serum 50%
3. Beef Jerky 0%
4. Nothing 16%

“Okay,” you ask, shifting your backpack back on. “What now? Do we head to that capitol building and try to sneak in?”

“We could do that,” muses the brain. “I remember that we also gathered some intel that seemed to indicate that a cell of the local resistance was holed up in the Agricultural Zone. They seem to be disciples of a man named Jacob who lives out in the desert.”

“Yeesh,” you say, chewing your lip. “What else you got?”

“We also gathered that an agent of the Venusians is at work in the city. Supposedly, he or she operates out of the park in the center of town. We could use this person to stir up trouble, cause our enemies to look to matters closer to home while we investigate their para-dimensional capabilities.”

“That sounds promising,” you say. “We could also forget about going rogue and I could contact Orson. I’m sure he’s done...infiltrating the city’s water supply or whatever he was doing.”

What will it be?

Choice Three

1. Head to The Citadel 16%
2. Contact Jacob’s people 16%
3. Try to find the Venusian spy 66%
4. Contact Orson and The Omega Conglomerate 0%

“Whatever we do, we’re going to leave here,” Brain says. “I’m tired of being their lackey and I’m sick of them using my inventions for their own profit. They can think I died in the house explosion. So, no matter what we decide, we need a means of conveyance.”

“What are our options?” you ask as you peer out the front door. The coast looks clear.

“There is the local rocket-train,” Brain says. “It’s safe and fast, though more people will see us. I have a hover-car in the garage, though it is registered to me. As long as we drive safely we shouldn’t have problems with local law enforcement. We could walk, that’s the healthiest option. Good for the heart. And then there’s....”

The brain mumbles the last part. You tap the side of the tank in agitation.

“What was that last part? Speak up.”

“Don’t tap the glass!” Brain shouts. “Out behind the house experiment of mine. I was playing with atomic motors and made a...motorcycle. Of sorts. It’s dangerous and highly unstable. But fast. It could be the fastest thing in this city. And it looks awesome. But it’s dangerous. Real dangerous.”

“Sounds cool,” you say, intrigued. “You said atomic. Is it radioactive?”

“A bit,” Brain says reluctantly. “It shouldn’t be a problem as long as neither of us have been irradiated in the last week or so. I know I haven’t. What about you?”

“Me? No, no, not me,” You lie.

What will it be?

Choice Four

1. Rocket Train 0%
2. Hover Car 16%
3. Atomic Motorcycle 83%
4. Aching Feet 0%

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