Saturday, December 8, 2012

You: Chapter Eleven (A Choose Your Own Adventure)


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


Chapter Eleven

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

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

Why would a robot be whistling the Bonanza theme?

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

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

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

“Y-yeah?” you manage to stammer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Percentage To Integration: 73%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The name this fugitive gave was Angela Lansbury.”

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

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

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

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

“Who?” the doctor asks. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you do?

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

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

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