Pieces of 8-bit, Act II: Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys
This takes place in the "Road not taken" universe (or something similar)
Here is Act II, as promised. This act features cheese and clipboards. Enjoy!
Act I | Act II
Pieces of 8-bit
Act II: Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys
"He is awake."
Bart opened his eyes and tried to focus, but a familiar throbbing was making it difficult. It was dark, but there was a weak light. There were some kind of bioluminescent fish in globes; living glow sticks failing against the gloom. His eyes adjusted. He was in some kind of storage room. There were shelves along the wall filled with shadowy shapes. Barrels and crates were stacked throughout.
A Roxolan with a knife was standing over him. He was doing an impressive job of being intimidating, for a teddy bear. Bart was surrounded by dozens of aliens. He could see a hostile glint in their eyes despite the murk. There was a giant parrot staring at him.
"You remember! Good!"
"Where am I?", asked Bart.
"You guest on ship.", answered Cummerbund.
"Why am I here?"
Cummerbund reached out and the Roxolan produced a sheaf of papers. He flipped through them, until he found one in particular, and handed it Cummerbund. "Is you?", asked Cummerbund as he showed Bart the paper.
"A wanted poster? Of me?", thought Bart, "OH YEAH! I skipped bail on a felony and stole an RV."
"If it is?", asked Bart.
"Then you crew.", replied Cummerbund
"If it isn't?"
"Then you void fodder."
"They got my nose all wrong in that poster.", said Bart
Cummerbund smiled, which was astonishing as he had a beak, and not lips. "You make good crew or turn in for reward. You run, we shoot."
Bart nodded, "I understand. But, why me?"
"Ilingua. Explain to him.", said Cummerbund with an even bigger, impossible smile. To Bart it looked like there should have been some shark teeth in that beak.
The Roxolan showed Bart the papers. They were all wanted posters. "We were going to go out and hunt for these. See if we could make any of them join the crew. But then you just walked right in the door."
Bart's eyes went wide. "Of all the dumb luck. The Universe is fucking with me. It's like I'm a character in some poorly written story posted in an obscure web forum dedicated to an oddly specific sub-genre of science fiction.", thought Bart.
"It's common knowledge Humans sold their souls to demons for their magic.", said Ilingua. The Roxolan continued, "Now, you will use your magic to help us in our raids."
"This isn't going to end well", thought Bart. "But…humans don't believe in or possess any kind of magic.", said Bart.
"We have been to a few of your worlds. Light without fire, spirits driving carriages, moving paintings, voices from nowhere, and you deny your magic?", countered Ilingua.
"Alrighty then. I am not a wizard.", he said. "I didn't do very well in magic class?"
Cummerbund said something Bart didn't understand. The crew got up and dispersed. The Roxolan grabbed his arm, "Come with me. If you have no magic, we will just have to find something else for you to do."
As he was guided through the ship, he saw a porthole. Outside was an inky, impossibly dark, blackness. "Well…fuck me. I wonder how long I was out? And how long we have before we drop out of hyperspace?", Bart asked to himself. He didn't have time to get an answer before he was put to doing shit work.
Three weeks of scraping the latrines had killed his nose. Still, he started to note a stuffiness in the air, and the drinking water was getting…thick. On the plus side the bad food was causing him to lose weight, and he was starting to pick up the lingo.
At the end of the third week, while sweeping the deck, he was struck with a sudden, powerful sense of vertigo. Bart clung to his broom for life, and puked. A runner came round and announced they were back in normal space. He wanted to punch him. Bart grabbed the sawdust and cleaned up as best he could. The smell lingered. "This whole ship could use a hose down", he thought.
Cummerbund and Ilingua approached Bart. Cummerbund proclaimed, "Today you raid with us."
Ilingua said, "We were trading here a while back. They make interesting things. Very valuable. It is a small colony and they do not have much in the way of security."
Cummerbund. He turned to Ilingua, "Give gun…no load." The Roxolan nodded, and handed Bart an empty pistol.
"What good is an unloaded gun?", asked Bart.
"They won't know it's not loaded", said the Roxolan. "You shouldn't even need it. You will follow the main group and help carry loot back to the ship."
The crew assembled in cargo bay. There was a jolt. "Have landed. Quiet.", said Cummerbund. The seal was broken, and the ramp lowered opening the bay to the open air. The air was fresh and sweet, a welcome relief to the stale, fecal stench that had been building in the ship. Cummerbund waved and they quietly ran out into the night.
Bart looked around, "Sodium lights? Is this a human world?"
"Quiet! Do not draw guards!", hissed Cummerbund.
The crew had assembled infront of a nearby building. It looked like a Quonset hut. Inside was the promise of booty. All kinds of human things. Interesting magical devices, expensive luxuries, delicious morsels. Riches for the taking.
They broke the door in, and flooded into the building. The crew started carrying large, heavy round objects back to the ship. There was a siren in the distance.
"HURRY", shouted Cummerbund, as uniformed humans rounded a corner. The crew carried what they could back to the ship.
Bart got himself turned around, and somehow wound up in the escort party instead of booty party. The escort team formed a line and leveled muskets. There was a shout and they fired. Bart took out his matchlock pistol and shouted, "BANG!". The humans took out revolvers and fired back. The crew drew swords and rushed the guards. The guards were overwhelmed.
"BACK TO SHIP!", shouted Cummerbund.
Everyone ran to the ship. Bart jumped in as the ramp started to rise. He saw more security guards come out of the darkness into the sodium light. They started firing. He could hear the bullets pinging off the ship.
"Rotate ship! Open poop hatch on command!", yelled Cummerbund. The ship was brought round. "NOW!" At that the bottom of the latrine was opened and three weeks of foulness was loosed upon the unsuspecting security detail.
"Take ship to day-side.", Cummerbund smiled his impossible smile, "And open air-vents"
Once in day light, they scouted for and found a place to put down and refit the ship. Bart couldn't hide his confusion. "Those were human guards. This a human world?" Cummerbund and Ilingua nodded.
They went over to the booty. It was cheese. Many, many large wheels of cheese. Cummerbund smiled at the sight. "Can sell for weight in silver. It lasts. Gets better with age. Best part, very tasty.", said Cummerbund.
Cummerbund looked at Bart, "On next raid. Be less useless". The crew laughed.
A human and a Roxolan walked toward a BigBox store.
"Captain, I have a bad feeling about this.", said the Roxolan
"Stuff it, Ilingua. It's been going great so far. Stick to the plan, and this will work.", said the human. "Also…English! I don't want to draw attention."
They approached the customer service desk. The person there smiled and asked, "How may help you?".
The human asked, "Is the store manager around?"
"What is it regarding?"
"I'm from store 15, we need an inventory transfer.", said the Captain as he held up a clipboard.
"OK, one moment.", the service desk person picked up a phone and pressed a button. "Will Keith please report to the service desk?", was announced to the store.
A short time later Keith appeared. "Hey Cynthia, what's up?"
"Store 15 needs another transfer.", said Cynthia. The Captain smiled and waved the clipboard.
"Oh, for the love of- Ted really needs to his shi-ACT together. Second time this month.", said Keith. "Come on, follow me.", Keith motioned. They started towards the back of the store.
"You guys are still wearing the old uniforms?", asked Keith, as he gestured to the others' shirts.
"For now. Ted said the new ones are on back order.", said the Captain. Keith shook his head and sighed.
They stepped into a warehouse area. "What do you need?", asked Keith. The Captain handed him a paper. Keith read it, "Soap, deodorant, perfume… SPAM?"
"The aliens in the neighborhood like it. I don't get it, either. We actually have real ham IN STOCK", said the Captain.
Keith rolled his eyes, and looked over the rest of the list. "This looks in order. Hey Joey!", Keith waved a man over.
"Get the things on this list and take them to bay 3."
"Ilingua, go get the truck and back it up to bay 3", said the Captain, as he handed the Roxolan a set of keys. "And I will need you to sign here." He presented the clipboard and a pen the Keith. "The yellow copy is yours."
"…And then the manager actually helped load the pallets onto the truck", said Ilingua, "It was like magic!" The gathered crew howled with laughter. "To Captain Roberts!" A cheer went up and mugs of brew were clanked together, as was the custom on many human worlds.
A calico parrot stood over Bart. "Care to share a drink with your old Captain?", said.
"Cummerbund! You knave! No tequila this time, just the beer. How are you doing?"
"I'm doing well. But, I'm getting old.", said Cummerbund.
"Bullshit. You look fine."
"I want to enjoy my wealth. Live in a grand house and eat cheese and drink wine, and have women fawn over me. Make fat hatchlings", said Cummerbund, "I am looking to retire and I want to sell my ship." Cummerbund continued, "My crew wants to go on. There will be a vote soon."
Bart stroked his beard. "Really? The shit I could pull off with two ships…" He took a swig of his beer.
"You are Black Bart? The Dread Pirate Roberts, the Dark Wizard, Scourge of the Seven Sisters?" A figure stepped out of the gloom. He looked at the giant parrot. "And Captain Cummerbund, the notorious Calico Jack."
"Ramirez? What the hell are you doing here?", asked a rather surprised Bart.
"I was going to ask you the same thing. You have some real cojones to come back to Homestead."
"Are you going to arrest me, officer?", mocked Bart. "Cause I think my associates may take offense to that." Ramirez sat down his eyes darting around the room. Everyone in the bar was staring at him.
"I'm not with the FBI anymore. I now work for a private firm as a bail enforcement agent.", said Ramirex.
"You're a bounty hunter?", asked Bart.
Ramirez nodded. "Your bounty has gone up quite a bit since you started…this."
"Is that so?" Ramirez handed Bart a wanted poster. In the years since he fled Earth that reward had become quite substantial. "You're here to capture me for the reward?"
Ramirez glanced around the room again. "Lets call tonight a draw. Catch you later." Ramirez got up and left the cantina.
"I am really starting to hate that guy. He's probably got a squad of men or the police outside waiting to arrest us. I think we should try to slip out the back." Bart and Cummerbund got up and went to the bar. "We need to make an exit." The bartender moved a non-slip rug and revealed a hidden door. He opened it, there was a stairway.
"This goes to a warehouse two blocks over", said the bartender. "The owners use it to discreetly move merchandise."
"Thank God for smugglers." Bart turned to his crew, “I'll need volunteers to stay and keep up the noise." A handful stepped forward. "Good. The rest of you lot, quickly!" Bart started down the stairway in the floor. They made their way through a tunnel to another building. They all quietly left, and headed back to the ship.
"So…", Bart turned to Cummerbund, "How much were you looking to sell it for?", asked Bart.