Piper was laying in bed in the room LeDouche had given her, staring off into space, trying to calm down and get control of her emotions. She kept having dreams of the time she had spent with Shorty so far, and each time she beat herself up for not noticing they had left him behind. She knew she wasn’t to blame; the small man was more or less a loner, only really making friends with Piper and Melvin, and to a lesser degree LeDouche, but Piper had found she could not get enough of him. He was completely without fear or pretense, and she loved that she always seemed to know exactly where she stood with him. They had even started holding hands the day before they landed on Vhoorl the first time.
But that last little bit had wound up awkward, and she had been afraid that he had been avoiding her once they left the planet because of it. That last day, as Shorty had been coming out of the shower, Piper had been walking by. Off in his thoughts, he had walked face first into her boob and fallen down. He might not feel fear, but embarrassment was definitely in his portfolio of emotions because he had turned bright red, begged for forgiveness and slunk off quickly. She had given him some space after that so that the humiliation he might be feeling could wear off.
She hadn’t recognized that he had almost immediately gotten over it, and thinking back, she caught him on several occasions staring at her chest after that. It was amazing how crystal clear hindsight was. Now they were on their way to Earth, going as fast as the Foie Gras could travel, hoping like hell that they reached him before something ate him or the CEN found him.
She rolled over and screamed into the pillow, then sat up, composed herself, and prayed to summon something to eat to sedate herself.
On Earth, walking down the twisting, alien streets of R’Lyeh, Shorty was thinking about how he had not had time to think about Piper since arriving in this hellhole. He was still cloaked in Torch’s invisibility, making his way toward the nearby bay, hoping to steal a ship and be gone before any of the creatures discovered where they were. He saw at one point that Cthulhu had come out of his sarcophagus, and wanted to be out of there before the great old one found him. It wasn’t that he feared being eaten or smashed, it just seemed like the kind of thing he would rather avoid since he had all these new friends and possibly a woman waiting for him.
After rounding a corner(ish part of one the weird-ass Mythos buildings) they saw the water and a dock with several boats filled with mad, gibbering sailors, no doubt on their way to be devoured by Cthulhu, a shoggoth or some other otherworldly beast. Torch whispered in Shorty’s ear “There it is! Let’s hurry.” Shorty nodded, figuring the little dragon knew that he was, and started forward.
They managed to get within a hundred yards of it when a passing ghoul stopped and looked right at them. “What are you doing here? And what’s that thing on your shoulder?” Torch made a little “Eep!” noise, followed by an “Oh Shit…”
Shorty drew one of his pistols and said “I guess we know which ones can see us now.” The ghoul had a funny look on its face, as if it was unsure exactly what was going on, and a second later didn’t care anymore because Shorty shot it right above one of its eyes. “Fly ahead and clear a ship!” He shouted and then felt Torch let go of his shoulder. He started running, now visible, toward the ship, shooting any of the passing creatures that looked at him before they had a chance to respond.
the gunfire was attracting more monsters, but what Shorty noticed first and second were that he was slowly popping back into visibility in the opposite order he had disappeared, with his bones and organs, then muscles and eventually his skin reappearing. There was a short moment, no more than two or three seconds, where his clothes had not yet reappeared and he was, to the outside observer, butt naked. A couple of ghouls were gawking at him. “Get enough of an eyeful?” He snapped, and then shot each of them. (In the eye. Get it?)
The other thing he noticed was that torch, still invisible, was systematically burning every living thing on one of the ships in an attempt to clear it for the two of them. Insane men, screaming already because Cthulhu’s minions had terrified them beyond reason, leaped, flaming from the boat into the gentle waves below.
Shorty chuckled as he fired shots into the faces of more approaching ghouls; he had faith that Torch would have the boat cleared in no time. He also hoped he didn’t run out of bullets any time soon; at least not until it stopped being fun. After a few more staggering undead fell to the ground, Shorty turned and sprinted up the gang-plank on to the ship. A single flaming madman flailed on the deck; Shorty wasted no time hooking one of the man’s suspenders with a gun handle and spinning him toward the edge of the boat. A swift kick to his butt sent him ass-over-teakettle into the water.
Shorty dropped the guns and hastily unhooked the gang-plank from the boat, as several ghouls and deep ones started to scramble up it with hungry looks in their eyes. He chuckled to himself; wouldn’t that just figure, he maybe had a woman (if the boob thing hadn’t humiliated her), he made a new friend in addition to the six others he had recently made, and he had survived several days in the island stronghold of the universe’s most diabolical evil, only to get eaten minutes before total escape.
He was simultaneously surprised, relived, and thoroughly entertained when a sudden inferno engulfed the mid-portion of the walk way so thoroughly that the wood weakened in seconds and the rope handholds disintegrated. Screaming ghouls and fish men threw themselves into the water, if they hadn’t already just fallen in.
Shorty laughed and gave a quick clap, and then a small salute as Torch faded back into view. The little dragon tucked his wings in and swooped over to Shorty. “Do you know how to drive one of these things?” Chirped Torch.
“Nope, but fortunately, most ships know how to drive themselves.” He replied hopefully.
Torch burned the moorings, showing Shorty a new trick; if he tightened his lips into a whistle, the flames came out like a welding torch, and had to be several thousand degrees hot. The huge ropes holding the ship in place were no match for the laser focus of plasma blowing out of the shimmerdrake.
The ship started to drift away from the dock, and Shorty ran to find the helm and see if he could coax it into taking them somewhere more civilized. Torch stayed close, still scared that maybe an Elder Thing or Nightgaunt might be around, even though it was day time. (This was a concern for him because both fly)
Shorty found the helm in no time. As he expected, it was a computer terminal, but he was a little surprised when he saw the “face” in the transparent monitor in front of the windows. It was obviously computer-generated, but it looked like a grizzled old sea dog with a poorly kept bear, one squinting eye, and a jutting chin.
“Arrr, who be ye, ye scurvy landlubbers!?”
Shorty shook his head. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding…”
“Yar! I be not kidding, ye swab! Where be me crew?” The ship shouted. “Speak! Or I’ll make ye walk the plank into the briny deep!”
“Okay, for starters, whoever chose this persona was a retard. You look like an old sea captain, but you talk like a pirate. Second, the worst you can do is just sit here, which is probably a bad idea because there are a bunch of pissed off monsters coming this way, not the least of which is Cthulhu himself, and I imagine he will just sink you. Arrr.” Shorty finished flatly.
“Yar… I see yer point, tiny one. We’ll head for the fair waters of Hawaii. Batten down, me boys! We’ll need to haul bilge to escape this lot, or we’ll end up in Davey Jones’s l-”
“Okay, shut up, right now.” Shorty snapped. The boat jerked a few times as it tried to pick up speed. It was struggling a bit, and Shorty figured there were deep ones stupidly trying to cling to the propellers. He and Torch rushed back, and sure enough, the water was churning red with mangled fish-man parts. Unfortunately, the dock was landlocked, to a degree, since it sat on the far inland portion of a great fjord. The ship went as fast as it could through the narrow reaches, and Shorty sat watching closely to see if they were pursued, and ready to put a bullet in anything that tried to get too close.
Torch watched intently as well, occasionally stealing glances at the small man standing next to him; he had made a good choice in revealing himself to this one. Very soon, he would once again prove his worth to Shorty.
Bart’s little mechanical hands clapped with joy and his yellow undead eyes gleamed at the sight of what was in the Short Leviathan’s cargo hold. The ship’s cargo bay was more than a mile long and half that wide and they had managed to scoop out a section of jungle that filled the entire thing; it was like they gouged an intact wildlife habitat out of the planet. Okay, they totally gouged an intact wildlife habitat out of the planet.
Flying creatures wheeled around the “sky”, uncountable numbers of bioluminescent plants and sessile animals covered the floor, which was also filled with trees. Sure, they left one hell of a scar back on the planet, but it had a couple of giant, grown over strip mines kicking around, so it’s not like it wouldn’t bounce back some day. Plus, he was an evil undead head, why did he even care in the first place?
He was overexcited about how great the Leviathan would look with all the new foliage and critters he was bringing. The others would be ecstatic, he thought. He didn’t know they had sent him out to find things to “redecorate” with in the hopes that his small undead form would wind up smashed somewhere or in the stomach of some giant vicious creature. Only The Mysterious Brandon knew that he had had any success, and he said to try and keep it on the down-low, to surprise the others.
Bart loved that idea; to see their undead faces light up would make his undead day. As he tooled around the new habitat, he saw things like predatory snails, and those viper-hound things he had seen on the planet itself. Sure, if you checked the edges of the habitat, plenty of animals were smooshed or chopped in half, but, he figured, they could feed the others. “Ah….” He thought, “The cycle of life, endless, eternal…. Entertaining…”
He drifted off to find something to eat. Brandon had recently restored his tongue, and he had rediscovered the joys of pizza. “Mmmmm…. Pizza….” He moaned as he drifted off.
The Mysterious Brandon had spent the better part of an hour trying to get a clear picture of Earth’s south eastern hemisphere, hoping to be able to find some high-res images of R’Lyeh, to see if his suspicions were founded. If they were, it was an exciting, albeit premature, time. He thought he had felt mighty Cthulhu stir, the source of his power and immortality, and he really wanted to meet the guy face to face.
The others did not know that Brandon was not actually undead, but rather immortal. It was a minor technicality, but one that could have the others turned against him if it was discovered. That was the reason he was always shrouded in darkness; because unlike the others, he wasn’t shriveled and gross, and didn’t need to rely on spells to not look like a rotted orange.
The rise of Cthulhu meant that the great old one would be more active in granting powers, and with that extra boost, Brandon could reveal himself to the others without fear of reprisal, or Mickey trying to eat him. He had felt the surge the other day, and was sure that it was the elder god awakening because he felt stronger than he had in years. On a whim, he called over a werewolf that was mopping the floor. “What’s your name, soldier?”
“Bb-b-Benny, Ss-s-s-sir!” Stuttered the werewolf enthusiastically. “Hmm….” Thought Brandon “Clearly this is why he is mopping floors.” He was originally going to see if he could cause insanity or maybe summon a writhing mass of tentacles to crush the werewolf to death, but once he heard him speak, that felt like he would be making fun of a slow kid while a mob laughed on, and even Brandon wasn’t that big of an asshole. Instead, he decided to focus on one of Cthulhu’s rarer powers.
“Have you had that stutter long, my friend?” He queried. Benny nodded. “Hmmm…” Hummed Brandon thoughtfully. He snapped his fingers, casting a simple spell that called three werebadgers into the room. The werebadgers were the current elite soldiers of the CEN, being stronger, smarter and more vicious than the werewolves. Brandon figured he had just thought of a way to create an ally, test his new powers and make sure the haughty werebadgers were kept in line, or at the very least, loyal to him.
The werebadgers entered the room and saw Benny standing next to Brandon. They all sported wicked smiles on their black and white snouts, all having before seen members of the PEN do something awful to a ghoul or one of the werewolves simply for amusement, with werebadgers looking on because they liked an audience. So that is what these three thought they were there for.
But Brandon had something else in mind. He placed one hand on Benny and raised the other upward, then began mumbling a bunch of that sounded like gibberish to the others; “M’glhbnyrt hugfythen buttocksych ftagn!”
Benny shuddered and flailed, and stuttered “G-g-g-g-g-g-g-g-g!” Then, before everyone’s eyes (Brandon’s being absolutely delighted), Benny suddenly grew. He now stood over 7 feet tall, his eyes were piercing blue and no longer was a scrawny, gawky man who occasionally turned into a vicious wolf-monster; he was a gigantic furred beast of terror. His snout had lengthened and had even more teeth, his canines were now easily 3 inches long, his arms were huge and rippling, tipped with long-rending-clawed fingers, and when he got down on all fours, he found he was perfectly designed to run like a man or a wolf.
He turned to Brandon and saw his glowing white teeth flash in a satisfied smile. He then turned to the werebadgers who were no longer smiling and said in a clear, rough edged voice. “Should I send them back to their posts, sir Brandon?”
Brandon nodded, then stopped and said. “Send two of them back; make an example of the third.”
Benny’s lips peeled back revealing rows of razor-edged white teeth. The werebadgers shoved the one closest to Benny in his direction and then turned and ran for their posts as fast as their feet would carry them.
Brandon laughed as the newly upgraded werewolf tore down the hallway chasing the frightened werebadgers. The badgers were great soldiers, but like any good despot, Brandon liked reminding them that ultimately, there are those who rule over them, and that their lives hang in the balance every day on their whims.
The three werebadgers tumbled and staggered as they ran away from the giant wolf-man. This was something they were unaccustomed to; they were the elite, basically Navy SEALS who could only be killed by silver and could rip people’s limbs off. Running away was just not something they did. Unfortunately for one of them, that unaccustomed-ness cost him when he tripped and fell. The other wasted no time in slowing down for him and just kept going. He turned to find Benny bearing down on him. Benny’s blue eyes glowed in the dark, and the werebadger almost screamed.
Almost, because before any sound could come out of him, Benny had pounced and buried his giant teeth in the werebadger’s throat. Brandon listened to the gurgling from down the hall, smiling to himself. The balance of power within the PEN would be shifting soon.