Quarantine did not suit the newly minted necromancer.
He found the space entirely too restrictive and due to the limited number of citizens, he couldn’t just go around and start sending them to his blood soaked and angry god; not without disrupting his long term plans anyway.
Mary, his precious chinchilla and mentor was no help. She was in a sort of stasis, as she waited for them to reach the new planet. He wasn't sure why and she had said it was none of his business, which also drove him a little crazy but he knew not to challenge her. Instead, his days were spent roaming the halls of the quarantine center looking for just the right kind of person to corrupt.
It took 2372 a bit to find the right kind of mind for him to mold, there were way too many of the self motivating, self sufficient types who wanted to leave the planet and save the world. He met a detective, a botanist who was absolutely bubbling about alien plant life, and even an aspiring singer. Her music was not his taste. He had begun to enjoy the chorus of screams of defeated foes, and that sound was hard to translate into digestible media.
It was on a sunless day while he was kicking up his heels in the shade of one of the quarantine structures, when he saw his mark. After a quick and completely obtrusive probe of the man’s mind, 2372 learned his designated number was 2678, but that he went by the name Giancarlo.
Before arriving at quarantine, the man had been an insurance adjuster, which was an evil the likes of which even 2372 could hardly imagine.
The man also had an obsession with this Amber VHS person and listened to her songs non-stop as he shuffled around the streets of the quarantine zone. None of that was particularly important, however, the capacity for evil was a plus. 2372 soon discovered something that the doctors on Earth had not. Giancarlo was a prime candidate for schizophrenic behavior.
2372 simply smiled and returned back to his room for the night to plot and plan. He would have an assistant yet, it would seem.
2372 had been debating for some time what mantle he should take on for this new persona of a game developer who moonlights for a cthulhu-esque empire as a collector of blood and sinew. It needed to be something that no one would bat an eye at. The immortal words of Johnny Cash rang through his mind as he recited the line “Bill, George, anything but…” Bradley Scott. Yes that sounded... very safe.
Bradley sounded like the name of a man that would try to seduce your wife at a country club, or maybe try and sell you some random software, promising a strong ROI across all of your verticals. Definitely not someone that would sell your soul to a giant chinchilla.
Bradley smiled and somewhere in the whirring disc drives in quarantine beside the number 2372, his old name was gone and the new one read Bradley Scott.
Bradley was not a kind man… not anymore however, and he found one of the ways to slowly break down and manipulate another person was to attack their vanity. Giancarlo had a full head of thick and glorious hair and Bradley decided that would have to go.
With a very very lite amount of necromantic magic the young necromancer dipped a drop of the oozing black power into the cup of Bug Brew that Giancarlo seemed to enjoy at all hours of the day and night. Didn't he know they didn't have to drink that stuff yet? Monster.
The magic worked like clockwork and within a few days a perfectly baldheaded Giancarlo was clinging even tighter to his beloved walkman and his daily doses of Bug Brew.
Now was the time for Bradley to start planting the seeds of conspiracy. He actually thought it would be pretty fun.
The next morning, Bradley arrived at the coffee station where Giancarlo visited every morning promptly at 8 o’clock. Bradley ordered his own cup of the undrinkable stuff and got another for his new friend. He wrote the number Giancarlo on the cup and sat it down at the table where the sad sack usually worked up the courage to go and order it for himself.
Bradley posted up across the street and waited.
Sure enough, right at 8, a tight ball of anxiety in the shape of a purple Giancarlo marched down the street and promptly sat at his table. It took the man a few moments to notice that there was already a warm cup of Bug Brew at the table that had his name on it. The man just shrugged and accepted the offering and was about to put it to his lips when Bradley sprinted across the street and shouted, “NO!”
Bradley slapped the bug juice out of the man's hands and into his unprepared lap. Giancarlo appeared to be frozen in shock.
Bradley quickly got to his knees and handed the man a stack of napkins he had put in his coat.
“My god's man! You could have been killed.” He said as he helped pat away the nearly boiling liquid from the man's multicolored suit.
The excitement had died down for Giancarlo and he did not love interacting with people so he looked down at the ground and mumbled.
“It's just Bug Brew…excuse me.. I need to go.”
The man stood to leave, but Bradley grabbed him by his arm.
“Not yet my friend. Trust me.” Bradley motioned for him to follow and the pair stepped over to the shade of a large tree.
“Don't you want to know why that Bug Brew was waiting for you?” Bradley asked in a whisper.
Giancarlo was still very uncomfortable with this level of personal interaction and kept looking down at his feet. He then hesitantly managed to get out a “...someone left it for me I guess.”
Bradley looked around conspiratorially. “You think they just give anything away out here for free? You poor naïve soul.”
“It's the aliens,” Bradley said and looked around again carefully. A teal skinned citizen with a buzzcut and a pink jacket was standing in line at the drink counter and turned to look at the two whispering men.
“I've said too much.” Bradley said and began to walk away quickly. “Meet me here tomorrow,” he added and sprinted off into the quarantine zone.
Giancarlo was left feeling very confused and very scared. What had that man meant about aliens? He had read the news reports about some plants and maybe water at the colony but nothing about intelligent life. Still something about that thought made him very uncomfortable.
Giancarlo slept fitfully that night and had not yet decided if he would meet the stranger from the coffee shop.
For a few minutes in the darkest part of the night, Giancarlo slept unstirring as a dark figure approached his bedside. Like Peter Pan's wayward shadow, this one had taken the form of a perfectly black and ethereal Bradley. The specter sat down on the side of the bed like a trusted family member and bent down to whisper troubled dreams into the unfortunate man's ear.
In his dream, Giancarlo found himself on an alien landscape that could only be Moebius-9.
The distant star shone on his skin and he felt the sweet, sweet locks of his hair once again. As he raked his fingers through his luscious locks, he smiled up at the alien sky.
Life was good.
The dream continued and Giancarlo sat in the strange grass looking out on the vast desert plain. He could see the occasional sand creature glide across the dunes of the beautiful dry landscape. If this is what life was going to be like, maybe he had made the right decision after all.
Giancarlo found himself napping in the dream and woke up to see himself surrounded by black suited men who each grabbed one of his arms and legs.
“Wha.. what are you doing?” he screamed into the alien night.
The men remained silent, but he could tell they were marching him towards the desert and something much bigger was moving around in the sand. With each step the five men took towards the grand dunes, Giancarlo caught a glimpse of another appendage even more alien than the last. The first had appeared to be a tentacle, a great hairy arm and then he would have bet his family's lives that he heard the curling roar of a Wookie. What the fuck was happening!?
Giancarlo woke up screaming in his bed in the quarantine center, covered in sweat and genuinely terrified. What if there was something to the aliens? Were they really after him? Maybe he should meet that strange man again.
Giancarlo decided that he would sleep and did not find him again that night. The next morning he was up earlier than usual and for the first time he noticed his eyes… they did not look quite right? And was that…. A worm? For a split second he imagined in the corner of one of his eyes a strange green cylindrical creature had stuck a piece of itself out and then just as quickly it disappeared. His heart pounded even faster, he went to the drink bar and waited.
Bradley woke up promptly at nine o'clock and was in quite the chipper mood. He dropped a piece of ambiguous looking flesh into Mary's cage and began to dress for the day.
Some of the dreams he had thrown at the poor man had very nearly terrified him, and Bradley was certain that the poor soul had been standing out in the rain since god knows when, waiting for his arrival.
Another hour wouldn't kill him.
Bradley whistled while he walked down to the coffee station and as soon as he could see his mark, he changed his expression to a hunted expression and changed his pace to a determined trot as he made his way over to Giancarlo.
“Thank god you're still here.” Bradley gasped and looked around the area again.
“Yes.. I wanted to talk about what you said.” Bradley cut him off
“They very nearly got me last night you know?” Bradley gave his eyes a bit more crazy than usual and then gasped when a citizen entered the street wearing a black suit.
“We can’t meet here!” he pleaded and looked at the haggard and confused Giancarlo.
“Where's your room? Can we meet tonight? I'll tell you everything?”
Giancarlo mumbled and nodded along and accepted the man's offer. He needed answers.
“Third tower room 74. On the eighth floor.” Giancarlo got out.
Bradley looked deep into his blood orange eyes and kissed his cheek.
“Thank you for saving me.” Bradley took his hand for a moment and then ran off the way he came.
Laughing the entire way.
That evening, Bradley repeated the same tactic and waited until well into the night to make his appearance at Giancarlo’s door. For added theatrics he punched himself in the face a few times, enough to bruise and bleed a bit.
Bradley walked up to the door and made sure to compose himself in the worst way possible. Leaning up next to the door, he hastily began knocking in a desperate way. Loud enough and frequent enough but not a pound. It was a fine line.
A dreary eyed Giancarlo came to the door and peered through the crack. Bradley pushed the door in as hard as he could and saw it strike the man between the eyes.
“Sorry! Sorry!” Bradley hissed and bent down to help the man.
“I was attacked!” Bradley said and began to show off his own bruises.
“Who attacked you?” The dumbfounded Giancarlo asked, dizzy and confused.
“Those men in black!” Bradley moaned, “the ones from the dreams.” He added and looked around the room.
“You've seen them too?” Giancarlo asked his purple skin, losing a shade or two.
“Of course.” Bradley nodded and sat down at the small table in the attached kitchen area.
“Do you.. Do you have any Bug Brew? I don't care if it's cold. I just need something to settle my nerves.”
Giancarlo was still holding his head where the door had hit him and nodded and walked over towards the fridge. He pulled out a chilled bottle of the bug juice and handed it over to the crazed blonde man that was sitting at his table. Could all of this be true? Hell, any of it?
Giancarlo sat down in the opposite seat and finally worked up the courage to ask.
“Can you tell me what's going on? What do the aliens want with us?”
Bradley sighed rather dramatically and nodded.
“I think so. As long as you can keep a few secrets of mine.”
“You see, you and I are special, Giancarlo.” Bradley said and pointed to himself and to his host. Giancarlo looked a little confused so Bradley went and reassured him.
“No. no. It's true. Trust me… we are some of the only special people in this whole place.” Bradley raised his hands in a placating gesture and gave the ‘let me finish’ signal to him. “You Gian. Do you mind if I call you Gian? Anyway, there's a war on my friend and you and I are two of the only people that can help the side that needs to win. For the good of the freaking universe.”
Giancarlo was not sure what the hell he was talking about, but with his genetic predisposition and the subtle magic being woven into his mind, he chose not to interrupt.
“Now this part… this part will sound a little crazy my friend. So bare with me. The folks that are in control of this project and many of the citizens themselves…” Bradley paused here for dramatic effect.
“Are lizard people.” He continued.
He let the fake bomb sit there and let the other man digest it a bit. Bradley had done a bit of reading on reptilians this afternoon and decided it would be just the right seed to plant in the poor man's mind. Not to mention make his dreams reflect it.
“Lizards?” Giancarlo asked, “No.”
“Yes.” Bradley said and shook his head strongly.
“But.. what do they want with us?” Giancarlo asked
This was going to be the tricky part Bradley knew and decided to go ahead with it anyway.
“The chinchillas. They want access to the chinchillas.”
“Rats?” That made some sense Giancarlo guessed, he knew some reptiles ate rats, but he didn't understand what it had to do with him or this other guy.
“Why don't they just go to a pet store?” He said excitedly thinking he had come up with a solution.
Bradley feigned exasperation and put his head in his hands.
“I don’t think you are ready.” Bradley stood and made for the door.
“No! Please. Let me help. I need to know!” Giancarlo begged and grabbed Bradley by the arm.
Bradley took another step towards the door and hesitated before he turned back to the now kneeling man.
“Very well. But there will be a price you know?” he said looking into the man's eyes.
Giancarlo nodded that he accepted it. Bradley looked back at the man one last time, looked dramatically back at the door and then lowered his head and shook it.
“No. I can't do it alone. I’m not strong enough.”
He came back to the table and took off his shoulder bag and pulled out two virtual reality headsets.
“This will explain it better than I can. “
The pair placed on their helmets and the next thing he knew Giancarlo found himself overlooking a peaceful village in a far away jungle.
Bradley ushered the now profusely sweating Giancarlo to follow him and soon after the pair arrived, Bradley had found their way to a well worn footpath that wound its way towards the sleepy little village.
Giancarlo noticed the large clearing surrounding the small thatched structures and asked Bradley about them.
“It’s for defense,” he answered and pointed out the charred remains of a few burnt huts.
“These creatures are honorable, but are often hunted for sport.” Bradley said and lowered his head.
As they approached the buildings several fat and happy chinchillas came out and welcomed Bradley to the village. “Our friend! Welcome, welcome! Have you brought us another champion?” The chinchilla asked and pointed to Giancarlo.
“I believe I have.” Bradley said and nodded towards the other man. “He is also hunted by the vile reptile men, I thought I would show him what and who he will be fighting for.”
“This is wise.” The chinchilla said and nodded and continued to welcome the group to the little village.
“Come sit with us by the fire and let us tell you of our troubles, and how your brave friend has come to help us.” The entire village was there from what Giancarlo could see and they were all smiling up at him and cheering. They cleared a spot close to the fire and presented him with a cushion.
A small chinchilla said “Take this sir. It is our village's most prized possession.” Giancarlo looked at the beaten and split cushion and felt his heart ache. What a poor village of rat creatures. He still did not know what the hell was going on, but he knew poverty when he saw it.
The elder who had welcomed the pair of humans to the village sat down in between them and looked over at Giancarlo.
“Has Bradley told you of our plight? Of the evil guinea pogs and the menacing lizards?”
Giancarlo gave a half nod.
“He has told me of the lizards, not of the guinea pigs? Pogs?” he said and looked over at Bradley.
The chinchilla nodded.
“As you can see, we are not a wealthy village.” it said and raised his hands to take in all of the village.
“We used to be more prosperous and there were many more of us that sat around these fires at night.” The chinchillas in the crowd bowed their heads and some began to weep.
“Of course that was before... they came.” The chinchilla stopped here and raised a fist towards the heavens and shook it menacingly.
“First it was the dreaded pogs, taking our children in the night, murdering the men and the women. But then it got worse. We learned who their true masters were, lizard men from the stars. They began to enslave us, all the chinchillas and every race that stands for good. We are all that is left and will not make it without your help. Please be a champion for good. Help Bradley!”
At the end of his plea Giancarlo reached out and hugged the giant rat man and began to weep. He could not believe the injustice of it all. The monsters that lurked out in the night. He would do anything to help.
Bradley knew it too.
The pair eventually took off their headsets and found themselves back in Giancarlo’s quarantine apartment.
Bradley could see that the other man was shaken and he knew that he was probably close to breaking the man entirely.
“Well...” Bradley said and waited.
“What can we do to help? How do we stop them?”
“We fight,” Bradley said and smiled, “together.”
Over the next several days as the pair began to make their arrangements for the one way trip to the colony on Moebius-9, Bradley and Giancarlo drew up their plans.
Bradley explained how the strange magic of the chinchillas allowed him to make video games that could touch other worlds, and it would be their job to help defend all of the helpless species out there from the evil lizard men and their allies, the dreaded guinea pogs.
Obviously the best way to do this on the colony would be to open up a video game arcade in Neo-Miami, and not tell any of the patrons of the consequences of their little games.
Giancarlo agreed and promised to serve as whatever Bradley needed from him, as well as his own personal guard from the dreaded lizard men.
Before departing for the new planet, the two applied for a joint business license.
Sugarpig Pizzeria and Multiverse Arcade.
In the description of intent they promised to provide the closest approximation that crickets could allow when serving pizza, while also creating custom VR gaming experiences for the citizens of Neo-Miami.
Bradley and Giancarlo will return. On Moebius-9.