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Part 3. Sugarpig Productions

XV. Danny


Danny Fishfingers could not believe his motherfucking luck.


He just turned eighteen years old and had been an orphan since he was about six wandering the streets ever since. Like many of his generation, he wandered from homeless shelter to youth center to abandoned building, going wherever the wind would take him.


But today was different.


Swinging by one of his favorite scavenging spots, he had found what usually was a permanently locked door, magically unlocked. The location was amazing.


From what he could tell, this was a game development studio that must have been locked by some poor bastard thinking they would be coming back to work the next day. However, their world had been one of the many that had ended.

Danny felt for those people for several seconds before he thanked all of the dark gods for delivering him such a prize. There were comfy seats, a clean carpet, and even a little kitchen with a supply of canned food. He had found his new home.


If any of his friends were still living, or not strung out so badly they couldn't be trusted, he would love to have shared it with them.


The office space that was now his private domain, covered several floors of the industrial looking warehouse building and he knew it would provide him with days of mysteries to solve.


It was funny to him that these places once had been all over the place, game studios that had employed hundreds of people and made games for the masses and not just the wealthy.


What a time to be alive.


The first day passed for Danny like a dream. He found a way to lock the door and slept the first night and most of the next day as soundly as he could ever remember.


By the second day he was getting a bit bored in his comfort and safety, and began to roam the halls and offices looking for anything interesting to distract him.


He was walking along a darkened hall when he saw a light coming out of one of the offices. That was pretty odd he told himself, considering the rest of the building seemed to be without power.


Carefully he pulled out his ‘lucky charm,’ a giant screw driver that had been filed down to make a metal spike about two feet long. Silent as a shadow Danny clung to the wall and slowly crept over to the office door. It sounded like a TV was playing. Danny pushed it open and peered inside… and found heaven?


The office was empty except for what looked like a perfectly clean leather sofa along, a functioning big screen TV and a small humming refrigerator!


Getting on his knees Danny hugged the fridge and once again thanked the gods.

“Thank you, thank you!” Danny moaned and kissed the inanimate object with fucking conviction behind his lips. He was just about to open the fridge when he heard footsteps behind him.


He slowly turned and raised his spike ready to strike at whatever was behind him and found a fat white chinchilla?


“What the fuck?!” He screamed at the fat short eared rat-beast. “You scared the shit out of me!”


He chuckled to himself for being so scared of what turned out to just be a chunky rodent. Then, from behind him a calm voice said, “You didn't scare us.”


XVI. Detective Brant McCain


Detective Brant McCain was a local, which was rare in this city.


He was a local in the sense that his family was from there, and had been for generations. They weren't transplants from various other countries or states that had been flung there from one job to another.


His father had been a cop, and so had his grandfather; both serving the same communities outside the metro area. Brant had no plans to follow in their footsteps. That is until his junior year at Georgia State, when his mother and father were both gunned down a block away from his apartment on their way for a visit.


Once he buried them, he swapped majors to criminal justice and joined the downtown precinct and began to try and clean up the crowded, violent streets of downtown Atlanta.


That was fifteen years ago and as far as he could tell there were more criminals now.


The crumbling world around him had caused more people than ever to be on the wrong side of the law. People like this kid laid out on the floor in front of him. Well the pieces of him anyway.


Danny Mazeretti aka ‘Fishfingers,' had been arrested half a dozen times. Only once for aggravated assault, the rest were mostly minor offenses. All and all, he was a good kid in the world he was living in. How in the world did he wind up like this?


Brant walked over to the medical examiner. “What the hell happened here? Can you tell what did this? A dog maybe?” The detective asked, looking at the mangled body.


“Teeth marks are wrong.” the examiner said pointing at the lower part of Danny's neck, which besides his head was one of the few places that still had flesh attached to it. The rest was gnawed down to the bone.


“What do you think then? Rats?” He said, his mind not ready to go where the examiner wanted him to.


“This was people,” the examiner said matter of factly.


“Dear God.” Brant shuttered and went out of the room to spray his lunch on one of the nearby walls.


“Sweet Jesus,” he croaked in between violent convulsions.


What was this world coming to? Brant was glad he hadn't made it to dinner yet, and as he was still hunched over cleaning off the sides of his mouth, he saw a very shiny and very expensive black pair of shoes enter into his frame of vision. He looked up to see someone he didn't expect.


“Good evening officer.”


XVII. The Crime Scene


Brant followed his gaze up from the designer shoes to the white dress pants and matching jacket. The man's shirt was an off pink and was cut in a deep-v.


The detective was not a fan of this 80’s throwback style, but it was fairly common for the up and coming crowd of the city's elite.


“This is an active crime scene sir.” The detective said gathering himself. He noticed the stranger was several inches shorter than his own 6-foot frame, and was extremely slim.


“Terribly sorry officer, I just purchased this building and was just doing a final walkthrough of the property.” The polished man said as he tried to look through the open office door.


“What sort of crim..” he started to ask.


Brant did not have time for a nosey civilian and ushered the man down the hallway.


“A murder actually,” the detective said, regaining his composure and pulled out his pocket notebook.


“Your name?” The man answered and he wrote it down, though he couldn't say if he had heard the name before.


“You said you recently purchased this building? Did you have any idea that someone was squatting inside?” The officer said, and studied the man's reaction to his questions.


Television shows would have you believe that every criminal could wear a mask of nonchalance, but the truth was they usually folded immediately and often returned to the scene of the crime.


“Yes, my company purchased the property.” The man said and tried again to look around the big detective like he might catch sight of something interesting.


“And your company's name?”


“Sugarpig Productions. We’re a gaming software developer. That's why we purchased this building, a big gaming studio used to be housed here.”


Well that at least made some sense Brant thought, continuing with his notes.


“..and the squatter?”


“I had never seen one here, this is only my second visit. I know this city has quite the problem with it though.” The man said in a voice that told the detective that the man didn't know about this problem firsthand.


Brant heard the medical examiner moving the parts of the body onto the stretcher and he motioned for the video game executive to make his way down the stairs and out the door.


“Sir, if you have a card I will contact you when you can re-enter the structure. I may also have some follow up questions for you, if that's alright.”


“Yes.. certainly detective McCain” the man said smoothly and like magic pulled an all black business card from between the fold in his suit.


“Anytime.” he said and walked out into the street.


McCain found the whole encounter odd, and as he turned a corner he thought to himself, he had never told him his name. Curious, he thought to himself and looked down at the card.


He was going to need to follow up on this.


XVIII. A Lead


Over the next several weeks Detective McCain and several other members of the Atlanta Homicide department picked up a string of unsolved, seemingly random murders that all had one thing in common. They all were more grisly than anything he had ever seen before, and they also all seemed to have a ritualistic aspect to them.


While none were as ‘bare-bones’ as the first murder, none had pleasant or quick deaths.


One had been completely exsanguinated. Another had been de-fleshed and left in a strange pile on the floor. All of them had indecipherable writing left at the scene, written in the victims’ own blood.


Lastly, animal hair was found at almost every crime scene.


McCain was stumped, the whole department had lost interest as crimes continued to pile up and if they were not solved almost immediately, they likely never were.


Sitting at his desk, McCain slowly moved his tooth pick from one tooth to the next looking at each crime scene photo and then the next. He spent hours pouring over it, and still nothing came to mind.


He decided he had done enough for the day, and decided to pack it up. Standing up and putting on his coat, he walked past the front desk and waved to the night duty officer. As he waved, he bumped a patrolman and his paperwork went clattering to the tile floor. The officer immediately apologized and helped the detective gather his work.


“No problem. Thanks for the help..” McCain said and shook the younger man’s hand. As he watched him leave he noticed in a waiting area a local area magazine sitting open on the table.


It was one of those puff pieces on local businesses, and this one was about a rising star in the video game industry. It was none other than the man he saw at the murder scene, and he was holding a large white rodent of some kind?


The next morning, McCain arrived early to the office and began to pull all the information he could on this company, Sugarpig Productions, and its mysterious president.


He was surprised at how little was actually out there. From what McCain could tell, the company and its president literally appeared out of nowhere just a few months before. However, they were already being hailed as a staple of the city. Strange.


Looking up his last known address, McCain found that it was not in a nice part of town. That was also strange, he thought as he stood up from his desk, scraping off two empty coffee cups into the trash.


He was going to go for a little ride.


Taking I-75 south a couple of exits McCain exited the decrepit remnants of the Eisenhower interstate system and began to navigate the confusing labyrinth of post-collapse Atlanta.


There were parts of the city where no one went; no cops, no red cross, nobody. That was one of the areas this address was supposed to be in. McCain had to leave his patrol car at a nearby police station and make the rest of the walk on foot. If he had left his car anywhere else it would have been picked clean in minutes.


The walk was not a short one, but not many people crossed the officers path. As soon as he left his vehicle, shouts of “5-0!,” followed in his wake. This led to most of the residents of this area of town clearing out before he had a look at any of them.


Turning a corner, he came up on the only pristine apartment building anywhere in downtown Atlanta.


XIX. The Old Man


McCain looked around and blinked his eyes several times to take in the scene. What looked like a newly renovated apartment building, sat surrounded by crumbling, dilapidated structures on their last leg.


None of the homeless who lived in the area were anywhere near this particular building, and he could see on the far side that what had once been blocked roads were cleared, with several nice SUVs parked in freshly painted parking spots.


“What the hell?” He said out loud to himself.


“Weird shit going on over there my man.” Someone said from behind him.


McCain turned around to see an old man with heavy limp making his way to the other side of the road, carrying a clinking bag of gathered refuse. McCain followed him.


“Sir, what do you mean? What's going on over there?”


“Weird shit, 5-0. This block ain't safe no more.” The old man said and increased his pace away from the officer.


McCain jogged up to catch the old man and stopped him. The old man flinched, fear clearly on his dirty and lined face.


“Not here to bust you. Just tell me what’s going on.”


The old man looked around, hesitated, and then whispered “not here,” and motioned for the detective to follow him.


McCain followed the old man for several blocks, watching him closely as he continued to look over his shoulder. The old man refused to say anything until the building was out of sight.


“God damn boy.” the man said, looking the detective up and down. “You trying to get me killed?”


McCain apologized and said “Just following up on a lead. What’s got you spooked? And who has spent all that money on that apartment?”


He laughed and pointed at the officer.


“You askin’ a couple of the right questions now,” he said and struck his thigh.


“You ain't gonna believe this shit. I was living there not two months ago. Then one day most of my friends was gone and there was all these smiling dead eye fucks cleaning the place. All of a sudden everyone started keeping a pet rat, and they all seemed to care about that one boy, but he wasn’t never nothing special. Just another kid living on the street drinking and doing shit to get dead quick.”


“Wait. You mean this guy? “ McCain said and pulled out the picture of the gaming executive he had taken from the magazine.


“Yeah that's him!” the man said. “He was as homeless as me two months ago!”


McCain did not know what to say. Finally he asked, “What else has been going on in the neighborhood?”


The man told him of the local boys who had disappeared from the street. He also cleared up what kind of rats all the residents of his old apartment complex.


Big white ones.


XX. Sugarpig Productions


McCain sat in the stylish lobby of the up and coming video game production company, Sugarpig Productions. It was located in a wealthy part of the city that has stood as a bastion of success while so many other areas of Atlanta had completely fallen into ruin.


The building was very new and used the new building style for office spaces. In the old world, buildings were made of large glass panels and let in the natural light and showed off the surrounding area. Now the style was still glass but it was “smart” and instead of showing what was outside it showed whatever the girl behind the desk wanted, today it was a jungle scene. Something about it made McCain feel uneasy like something was watching from under the simulated leaves. He swore he saw a pair of eyes from under a broad leaf when he was startled by a voice in his ear.


“Detective McCain, he’ll see you in his office now.” The secretary said and smiled in an ‘it's my job to smile like this’ kind of way. Playing his part he smiled the same way back and said, “Excellent, thank you mam.”


He stood up from the comfortable chair and looked back at the still shaking leaf.


He followed the secretary through the lobby and through a set of fine dark wooden doors, She sat herself behind a large desk and motioned for him to continue through.


Sitting behind a large black stone desk sat the president of Sugarpig Productions, he saw the detective enter and stood to shake his hand.


“Officer McCain, a pleasure to see you again sir.” The executive said with genuine warmth in his voice. McCain noticed that none of it touched his eyes.


“Yes. A pleasure to see you again, I hope this meeting is not as gruesome.”


The other man in the room seemed for a moment to not realize what the police officer meant by that remark and then laughed to himself.


“Oh yes, that horrible incident with the young man in my building.” The pair had still been shaking hands and with that comment McCain stopped.


“No one has released that information to the public. How did you know the victim was male?”


Not breaking his stride at all the slick man answered “I just assumed, it seems most of the people on the street seem to be men.”


The host motioned for the detective to have a seat in a black leather armchair while he returned to sit behind the large stone desk.


“An interesting desk. A custom piece?” McCain asked, rubbing his hand on the carved stone noting the art style as somewhere south of the border.


“Ah yes. Aztec actually.” He said “Our first project focuses on a group heavily influenced by early South American civilizations, so I picked up something to keep my mind sharp and on task.”


McCain nodded.


“Some of those South American groups, the Aztecs in particular, were known for human sacrifice were they not? I heard it's part of the reason they collapsed. Something about sacrificing too many people instead of solving their real problems?”


The man sitting behind the desk laughed.


“Ah yes some of that good old Georgia education. No, no detective, the Aztecs and many South American groups, as well as countless groups around the world for that matter, engaged in human sacrifice at one time or another. The Aztecs collapsed however due to the invasion of the Spanish. Sadly nothing to do with their... erm.. preoccupation with sacrifice.”


The detective just nodded and looked toward one of the large windows.


“Is that a rat?” he asked and stood and walked over towards the large glass case containing a large white creature. Before he could reach in and touch it the man was at his heels and quickly picked up the small creature and held it to his chest.


“It's not a rat, it's a chinchilla!” he barked.


“My mistake.” The officer said and looked down at his notepad.


“I was just speaking to a man in your home neighborhood yesterday and he mentioned that everyone in your building seemed to own one of these rat… chinchillas.”


The man appeared to be flustered at this and strangely enough so did the animal.


“Checking up on me officer?” The man asked, stroking his chinchilla and walking back to his desk.


“Just following up.” McCain said and stayed where he was carefully watching the man and his pet.


The tension in the room began to rise and McCain became very conscious of where his service weapon was and slowly began to move his hand towards the strap securing it. As if on cue, the secretary opened the door and came into the room.


“So Sorry sir, and Detective McCain.” The woman said, sounding genuinely sorry. She was another one whose emotions did not seem to go all the way to her eyes. Like a doll going through the motions, something fundamental missing from her that the officer couldn't quite put his finger on.


“Yes?” the man said with some annoyance in his voice.


“Sir. They've come to a point in development and well. They would like your input.” The man sat there for a moment and nodded.


“Bring me two headsets please.” He said and the woman quickly left the room.


“Detective, let me show you what exactly we've been working on here.”


XXI. The Game


The tension remained in the room as the secretary returned quickly with two VR helmets for the men. Undoing the sleeves of his shirt and rolling them up, the man looked at the detective.


“Mr. McCain, I believe you have the wrong impression of me, and perhaps of my company. We are developing a game set in a fantasy world with a civilization of chinchilla-like beings that live in Aztec inspired cities.”


McCain looked down at the floor. Despite all of that sounding a bit ridiculous, it did make sense with the information he had at hand. He did have a few more questions that this did not satisfy, but he could at least hear the executive out.


The man handed him a VR set and the detective put it on. A game began to load on his screen.


Seamlessly, his visual existence transferred from the upper floor of the business office, to a lush jungle environment. The experience felt so real McCain felt a bit of panic rising in his chest.


“Amazing isn't it?” The man asked the detective, seeming genuine for the first time.


“This has become my happy place.” He added and twirled about in the small opening in the jungle.


McCain was at a loss for words. It had been a long time since he had played a VR game, but this was so much more than he thought was possible. He was truly impressed.


“I can see where your office theme comes from now.” He said, chuckling to himself.


“Yes, yes. Come on, let me show you the city.” The man said and headed off into the thick foliage.


The detective silently began to follow the man through the thick jungle terrain. After several minutes the video game developer stopped at a large stone and motioned to a black void beside it.


“This is a shortcut.” He said and jumped into the void. McCain felt a little uncomfortable at the void before him, but decided it was only a game and stepped forward into the black.


The next thing he saw was a giant city scape that covered the entire horizon before him. All the buildings were made of black stone and the entire city seemed to be encased in a cave? Or maybe an asteroid? Either way it was extremely impressive.


McCain saw the gaming executive and approached him.


“I can see what inspired the desk.” The detective said and laughed, “wow, your team created this?” The man nodded.


“It's my new life.” He began walking towards the giant city and once again the detective began to follow.


“I've spent most of the last few months here learning everything I can about this amazing world.”


The two men stopped at the edge of the massive black stoned city and Detective McCain got his first glimpse at a full sized chinchilla... person... thing.


“Sweet tap dancing Christ!” The veteran officer exclaimed, and his tour guide laughed as he watched his hand fumble for the pistol that should be on his side.


“Sorry.” The man said and nodded towards his hip.


“No guns here, just a little magic,” and with a puff of smoke, he produced an exact look alike for the officer's Glock 13. The man gave it a little twirl and handed it to the detective.


“If it'll make you feel better.” He said and stepped on to the busy thoroughfare.


McCain decided he did feel better with the familiar weight of the 40 caliber handgun on his hip. He did not have a holster so he simply stuck it between the waistband of his pants. He even checked it for ammo and found it fully loaded.


The walk through the city was a very strange one, looking at all the strange scurrying creatures. He observed some sort of zombie working class, and a host of other creatures he did not even begin to have a name for.


“So what is the purpose of this game?” The detective asked in a near shout to be heard over the general roar of the moving crowd.


“It's an RPG!” The man shouted back.


Brant roughly knew what that was. He had played some of the older games back when he was a kid.


“Great!” The developer said, seeming to get a bit more excited and started to explain some of the story behind the game.


“The player is given a choice at the beginning, you can either be the user, or the used. You can even try to play both for a while if you want. I did.” he said and looked down at the ground for a moment.


“But once you choose to come around to the dark-side, if you will. You really open up the mechanics of the game. It's a little like you said earlier, stuff dealing with sacrifice, dark gods, the whole Lovecraft-ian spiel. But after that you get access to the good stuff. Magic.”


The detective mulled that over and continued to follow him through the streets. He kept asking questions here and there, trying to get more general information on the culture of the world. He was feeling kind of excited actually. The two eventually came to the foot of one of the great pyramids.


“Want to see it from the top?”


McCain nodded and just as he was about to begin the climb, the executive snapped his fingers and the pair were slowly raised up from the bottom of the pyramid all the way to the very top.


The view of the city from up there was amazing.


“I might have to buy a rig and play this game myself.” McCain said laughing.


“Why thank you detective. I appreciate your vote of confidence”


With another snap they returned to the world of gravity and stood on the large platform at the top of the great work of stone. The detective began to look around and saw all the blood. And a peculiar writing he had seen a couple of other times before. A chill ran up the back of his neck and he felt again for the assuring weight of the Glock at his waist.


“This writing is unique.” the detective said, keeping his voice light and inquisitive.


“Yes.” The man said, keeping his eyes locked with the detectives.


“It's their own script. We occasionally translate some of it, but mostly we leave it how it is. The words don't translate well into human speech. It offends their God.”


“Their God?” McCain asked.


“Yes. The only one that matters.”


McCain felt like the winds had just shifted for some reason but he had yet to place his finger on why. He kept his hand on the sidearm and looked up to see the other man's eyes glowing a strange and hypnotic red.


“You know I assumed my last soul would be a nobody” The red eyed man said and began to walk in a slow lazy circle around the Atlanta homicide detective.


“I wasn't sure how many more I needed. That's one thing you have to give our city, no lack of people to go missing without much of a fuss. The one last night? That old homeless guy? I doubt anyone even knew his name.”


“Wait… what did.. what did you do?”


“I eviscerated him for my dark goddess of course.” The man said casually.


“I took some of his blood for my own strength, but most of it goes straight to her.” He said, pointing to a malformed statue of a horrible creature that was at least part chinchilla.


“What's that thing’s name?” The detective asked, still fingering his pistol.


“HER name is Cheeksasquattle, dark goddess of th-”


McCain yelped with laughter. That was just utterly ridiculous.


“You had me going for a second man!” the detective barked in between belts of laughter. “But Cheeksasquattle? That’s too much!” He said with with tears in his eyes


Looking up he could see that the other man was not laughing and his eyes were completely red now. He looked around to see that they were no longer alone either. He was completely surrounded by dark robed figures.


Brant McCain never left the jungle.


As the detective's pooling blood was guzzled by the thirsty black stones of the altar, a feeling of completion came over the once homeless man.


The detective had been the last piece in a puzzle commanded from on high, and now he was truly one of them. But what did it mean?


His mind flashed back to the gored and brutalized, sometimes even cannibalized, corpses left in his wake. Has he always been a participant? An active one anyway? He honestly didn't know anymore. Mary walked up and stood beside him, placing her gnarled claws on his shoulder.


“You have done well.” Mary chittered in the odd dialect of her people, “the dark one is pleased.”


At first he said nothing, and just watched the blood of the only other human in the city seep down the staircase.


“What is it that she wants with me, Mary? Why my double life back in my world? Why can't I just stay here now and never go back?”


Mary looked around nervously before she answered. Even though she was allowed to tell him more, commanded by the high priestess herself, one must always be careful with direct orders from Karen; she was known to be unreasonable.


“We have procured something of great value from this world.” She said and pointed to the world above.


“A magic that… we will not lose again. To secure it, I was sent to Earth. However, we found that we cannot take our proper form there, but that's when I found you.”


The man nodded, remembering his pitiful life before.


“Your world is wonderful with corruption and rot, but we fear it's too unstable. That's when we discovered the project; Disco Solaris.”


The newly minted necromancer looked up at this. “The eccentric Mr. Blue’s experiment? What would that…” It all started to make sense to him. His improved looks, the clothes, a successful job, successful neighbors. All of it was to make him appear like someone they would want to take along.


Mary watched as the realization dawned on his face. She pulled from the pog skin satchel at her side one page of a very old and very powerful grimoire. As he read the offered page, he understood exactly what he was protecting, and nodded his consent.


XXII. Welcome to Neo Miami


The only thing left of Brant McCain on Earth was a car in the parking deck. This was simply moved a couple of streets over and picked clean to an empty husk in the matter of hours. His name was briefly mentioned in an Atlanta journal Constitution article, noting he was one of ten officers to go missing that year. With a flick of his fingers all mention of the gaming executive and his address were erased from anything Brant McCain had ever touched. Brant’s life force had given him the last bit of energy he needed to conjure his final move. On a warm April morning, a large envelope from an eccentric billionaire named Mr. Blue arrived at the Sugarpig Productions office. A week later, a young looking man with an eighties haircut and wardrobe showed up to the quarantine zone, ready to join earths first extraterrestrial colony on Moebius-9; Neo Miami. As he checked into the facility, he brought with him his clothes, some computer equipment, and a clear backpack containing his best friend in the whole world, Mary. As he passed through the doors to enter the quarantine zone, a punk-rock looking girl reached out and stopped him. She handed him his identification and said “Welcome to Neo Miami, 2372.” ------------------------ 2372 will return. His goddess demands it.


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