Saturday, December 1, 2012

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


You  


  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.

-Rich

P.S. If you need a quick recap of events, just click this.

   
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.”

“Killball?”

“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%

So, there you go! You have until midnight Tuesday, December 4th to make your choices and the new chapter will post on Saturday, December 8th. Have fun!

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