Chapter VI: Fear and Loathing in Zool
We were somewhere around Alpha Centauri on the edge of the system when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like "I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive …" Then suddenly some foul and hideous shapes clouded my vision, swooping, diving and mocking us with an insane gibbering of unknown languages. "Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?!" It was all I could do keep my grip firmly on the controls of the starspeeder to stop us from loosing control altogether. Skipping between dimensional vortices in a frighteningly erratic spin, I suspected that we’d actually lost control a long time ago. Flying through hyperspace is a damn tricky business and it’s made even trickier when the pilot has been abusing most of the known drugs in the galaxy.
"The milk! The milk! There’s too much honey! Not enough money!"
These strange and savage sounds drifted into the cockpit from the smoky entrance to the lounge. What were these deranged sounds? Who was making them? What did all of this MEAN? There was far too much craziness going on. I needed to concentrate and think about important things like hyperspace and where it was we were going and the importance of our MISSION. I had to stop the insanity before we lost sight of the dream and bounced off a star. We needed a break; a time to pause, regroup, and refuel before moving on. It was time to ACT.
"Shut up you crazy bastard!" I screamed over my shoulder "The bats are here and the fuckers are messing around with the controls. Your nonsense is only getting them excited. I’m taking us out."
I slammed the emergency cut-off switch and we immediately dropped back into real space. As the stars reappeared on the viewscreen, I took a long, deep breath and tried to relax. It was pointless, however; the bats were still with me, swooping and diving around the cockpit like highly deranged moths. I could feel beads of cold sweat running down my forehead and my mouth was dry and cold. I knew what was coming next. THE FEAR.
This had to be avoided at all costs and only swift action could forestall the impending tragedy. I leapt to my feet and charged aft through the billows of smoke and into the lounge.
My attorney was sprawled over the couch and pouring beer over his distended stomach. His hair was matted with filth, an obscenely large cigar hung from his lips and his ankles were tied together with a long length of fibre-optic cable. Strewn around the lounge was the evidence of massive and varied consumption of highly illegal drugs. Though his eyes were hidden behind dark sunglasses, I knew they were screaming at me a message of complete depravity. It was quite clear that he was perilously close to the edge and drastic measures would be required.
"Get up you fucking animal! Do you think the monkeys will wait all day?"
My attorney paused for a moment, cocked his head to one side as though listening to unseen voices, and then threw his can of beer at me.
"Just what the fuck are you trying to SAY?!" he shouted at me while waving his arms around as though he were trying to swim.
"The monkeys, the monkeys on Vega-2. They’ve got your money, man. If we don’t act soon we’ll never get it back. It a CRISIS SITUATION." This of course was complete nonsense. I had no idea what I was saying. Where was this garbled insanity coming from? What disused corner of my brain had been triggered by these terrible drugs and awakened to do combat with my logic and speech centres?
"You’re right," responded my attorney "You’re so damn right. It’s a goddamn crisis situation and we need to do something. Those bastards won’t get away with it this time!"
"Now you’re talking!" I replied as I lit up a smoke, "Here we are in this ultra high-speed starspeeder and they’re out there with our money. Let’s go get them!"
My attorney rolled off the couch and staggered to his feet. He picked up a half-empty bottle of rum from the table and drained it in one gulp. He looked around through the debris for another bottle but came up empty handed.
"I’m so fucking thirsty," he said as he started opening up the storage lockers, "This is likely to be thirsty business. We’ll need more drink. Some fluids you understand, to keep us motivated."
"Not a problem," I said, aiming my attorney towards the cockpit and giving him a shove, "There’s got to be a planet somewhere around here just bursting with drink. We’ll just pop in for a friendly visit and then we’re back on the trail of those monkey-bastards."
"Back on the TRAIL man!"
We staggered into the cockpit and I deftly deflected my attorney away from the command chair and into the passenger seat. There was no way I was letting that twisted fiend get control of the ship. I quickly tapped out some commands and the main screen lit up with a map of the local star system complete with a full description. The third planet was the closest and most promising. I asked the ship’s computer for a fuller description and it responded with a massive holographic projection which filled the cockpit.
"What the fuck is that?!" screamed my attorney as he scrambled madly to get out of his chair but somehow managed to remain where he was.
"Keep quiet you fool, it’s just the computer." His erratic behaviour was giving me the creeps and I knew he was close to the edge again. Strong action was urgently required to keep him quiet until I got the situation under control. I dug into the pockets of my tattered vest and retrieved a handful of multi-coloured pills which I handed to my attorney. "Here, eat these quickly. They’ll make everything better."
He looked at the pills doubtfully and then narrowed his eyes suspiciously at me. "What the hell are these things?"
I laughed. "I have no idea."
Hearing this my attorney immediately relaxed and started munching on the pills. "Good. Now I know you’re not trying to poison me, you filthy bastard."
The holographic planet spun on it’s axis while the computer droned out a description. Type-7 geomorphology. Type-Q atmosphere. Strong magnetic fields. Frequent dust storms. Dry, desolate, inhospitable. Great, just fucking great. There we were, out on the edge of nowhere with the MISSION in mortal peril, and when we really needed a good drink we end up popping out of hyperspace next to a desert planet.
"Shit!" shouted my attorney, "Just LOOK at that thing. Not a drop, not a goddamn drop."
At that moment the command console lit up like a Christmas tree mainlined straight to the national grid. Warning messages were pouring in from every sensor on the ship; a fleet of battle-cruisers had emerged from the far side of the desert planet and had immediately detected us. Their shields went up instantly and they started powering up their weapons. Alarms were howling like the bells of hell and the computer was shrieking multiple warnings simultaneously in four different languages. The holographic display replaced the image of the planet with a fearsome projection of some really nasty looking warships hurtling through space towards us.
This was simply too much for the two of us. Most of the drugs were out of my system but it still felt like I had entered into a new plane of existence. My attorney was deep into the drugs I had fed him moments earlier and I could only imagine what horrors his mind must be living through. In a spasm of complete desperation, I slapped the control panel until the noise stopped and the hologram disappeared.
"Sweet Fuck!" cried my attorney, "Don’t EVER do that again. You sick bastard. You did that on purpose, I know you did. I should KILL you, you understand?" He was doubled over and clutching his guts with obvious pain. His eyes were protruding dangerously and I had no doubt that he meant what he said. My only comfort was in the fact that those battle-cruisers would certainly kill us before he ever got the chance.
I looked up at the main display screen which was still showing the stats on the desert planet. It was only then that I noticed what it was called and only then that it all made sense.
Flashing on the top of the screen were the words:
ZOOL. DEATH PLANET WHERE THE INTRACTABLE CRIMINALS OF TEN THOUSAND WORLDS, ETC.
Oh shit, I thought, we’ll never get a drink there.
* * * * * *
Now, at the end of my days, I like to think back on those wild and crazy times and I often wonder how we ever managed to survive. We were two of the worst burn outs, drug addicts, alcoholics, and social deviants the galaxy had ever known. We had lied, cheated, and burned our way through most inhabited worlds and savagely exploited many powerful people in the process. We were living right at the very fringes of human existence, pushing the envelope so far we threatened to split off completely and form our own dimension. Ours was a dangerous life; at any moment we could be gunned down by bounty hunters, arrested by the space police, or torn to shreds by one of the many alien races we had offended along the way. But it wasn’t a life without rewards. We were famous, legends in our own time, and all we had to do was show up at a spaceport and we’d be besieged by legions of adoring fans. Raul Duke and Dr. Gonzo, forever on the heels of the American Dream.
But somewhere the dream got lost. The drugs and the alcohol, the women and the money… it all ran into a blur once we made it past Saturn. Years went by and we lived the dream, but the dream was fading and with it faded reality. What good was the American Dream if it was our normal state of being? Like the addicts we were, we needed to push farther and harder and make it work for us.
I felt cheated. We had worked so hard for so long and in the end all we were left with was a smelly spaceship and strange memories. I was about ready to pack it in and retire to that old-folks home in orbit around Venus when Dr. Gonzo came to me in a moment of rare sobriety and said:
"We’ve lost the dream, Thompson. Time to get it back."
I knew then that he felt it too. There was hope. We would go on one last trip, the burn to end all burns, and we’d find the Ultimate Truth. It was to be a change of course, one of those profound moments where you seize the reins and take control of a life that somehow got away from you. This was our mission.
It had started off well, we planned our route and "borrowed" a nice little star-speeder, but things got out of hand when it came time to buy provisions. One bottle led to some tokes which led to a suitcase of drugs, and pretty soon our ship began to resemble one of those educational displays the drug cops are always parking in the lobbies at the spaceport. We blasted off in more ways than one and headed out on our final epic adventure.
Approaching the dead world of Zool and with an unknown but evidently hostile battle fleet bearing down on us, I paused to wonder where we had gone wrong. For a brief time we had seized control and broken the vicious cycle, but somehow we’d fallen back into the American Dream. A horrific future lay before us, forever trapped in a life of barbaric excess. But then, when we needed it most, providence looked favourably upon us and sent a few dozen really scary space ships to fuck us up. This was just the right sort of shock therapy we needed. As I stared at their evil looking blaster cannons and rocket launchers, I came to the realization that this Zool planet must be something special. Fate had brought us here, and in that shrivelled portion of my brain that kept me attuned to the solar winds, I finally reached an understanding.
Zool was the key. Zool was the truth. It was what we had been looking for all along; the antithesis of the American Dream. Brutal medicine for two incredibly brutal people. Our subconscious, aided by some very dangerous drugs, had guided us there and our lives would never be the same again.
* * * * * *
"Get your hands off me you fucking savages!" I cried as the space marine threw me through the airlock. "Don’t you know who I AM? I’ll have your nuts in court you bastard, sue you for the shirt off your back!"
"That’s right you goddamn swine," bellowed my attorney, still in the throes of the drug trance but putting on a brave face and fighting for our lives, "I’m this man’s attorney and I’m ordering you to put us back in our ship and leave us alone."
SHUT UP, came the robotic sound from the speaker in the marine’s helmet.
"You fucking Nazi!" I screamed as I struggled to my feet. "Just wait ‘til I get back to my ship and get my gun. A bolt of plasma right to the brain!" The marine didn’t react at all, other than to coolly pick up my attorney and heave him through the airlock too. He landed on the floor with a sickening thump. I had a feeling these guys meant business. I looked around and found myself inside a large open room. Standing at one end of it were a number of men dressed in a variety of military uniforms.
"Mr. Duke," said a tall man who stepped forward from the crowd, "Or should I say Mr. Thompson? Your arrival here is very unexpected but not entirely unwelcome. I’m sorry we had to attack and board your ship but it was a necessary precaution. Things are very tense right now. You’re lucky we didn’t just blast you."
"Who the fuck are you?" My attorney was on his feet but swaying disturbingly from side to side. I suspected the events of the last 10 minutes were really taking their toll on his basic motor functions.
"I am Captain Zap and these men who stand with me are the generals and admirals of the fleet of the Combined Oxford College Kommandos. We are the only ones left who stand to fight against the dreaded Warlord. Ours is a mission of the utmost importance, responsibility, and honour. I would welcome any assistance you could offer us."
At this point my attorney began to giggle uncontrollably. Giggles soon became roaring laughter. "Excuse me mister Zap, but are you aware your super battle fleet is named COCK! That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!" I joined Dr. Gonzo and began to laugh wildly. Then some of Captain Zap’s aides began to laugh too, and even a few of the generals and admirals.
"Silence you fools! Silence! This is a matter of great seriousness and you mock me?! Take them away!" Captain Zap pointed randomly to a nearby door which, fortunately for us, lead to the ship’s bar. If we were going to be involved in some huge space battle, we must as well be locked in the bar and go out in style. Captain Zap then whispered to one of his aides, "Have Lieutenant Photon change our name immediately, and check the acronym this time you idiot! What kind of military is this? And prepare the fleet for battle! I sense the time for action is rapidly approaching."
* * * * * *
The ship’s intercom blared:
I HAVE COME FOR YOU, AND THIS PITIFUL PLANET OF ZOOL. I AM THE PLANET EATER. I AM UNICRON.
"Jesus," I said as I looked at a half empty bottle of GIN!, "This shit is dangerous."
"Tell me about it" mumbled my attorney from his position on the floor "I can’t feel my feet."
The ship shuddered violently as nuclear tipped rockets detonated against the shields and energy beams seared the outer hull.
"Get me another drink," I asked, "I can’t reach from here."
"Sure, anything for the Duke," said my attorney as he reached for the controls of the drink replicator. He pressed a few buttons at random. The ship shuddered again with even more violent explosions and shifted wildly to one side. The bottle that appeared in the replicator bay rolled out, across the room, and smashed against the wall.
"Sonofabitch!" I shouted, "Get me another one quick. If I don’t keep drinking this stuff I’ll realize how bad it is."
My attorney hammered on the controls again, but this time something entirely different happened. Instead of a bottle, the replicator produced a bright white crystal.
"What the fuck?!" My attorney reached for the crystal and it began to glow with a mysterious pulsating light. Through an alcoholic haze, I felt that something really strange and twisted was about to happen. The Gin! was burning a whole in my gut and I felt an odd sensation in the back of my mind like I wanted to be as far away from this place as possible.
The ship shuddered again as the battlecruisers of the three fleets were torn to pieces by the powerful weapons of Unicron. A white hot energy beam sliced through the hull of Zap’s flag ship, detonating several warheads in storage. Explosions wracked the ship and the grav generators failed. Bulkheads exploded outwards and men were sucked into the void of space. The ship was doomed.
At that moment, two very different yet oddly similar things happened. My attorney grabbed hold of the white crystal and we disappeared out of existence. A split second later, Captain Zap engaged his trans-dimensional ergonic translation projector and the remains of his flagship disappeared as well. With the heroes gone and the mighty space fleets destroyed, Zool was left to the dreaded Unicron.
* * * * * *
We flashed back into existence into what looked like a fine domestic living room back on good old earth. It was a terrifying change from the filth and squalor that I had become accustomed to over the last few months. There were some obvious problems, however, as it appeared that whatever craziness had brought us here had also taken part of the bar with us. The paralysing fear that gripped me during the teleportation immediately left once I saw that there were several bottles of liquor lying on the floor. My attorney already had one open and was guzzling it back as quickly as possible.
"You evil son of a bitch," he said wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, "You did this to us, sent us here to this place. Just when things were getting FUN!"
"Not me, you rotten pimp, it was that crystal thing."
"Did my crystal bring you here?" said a small girl standing in the doorway. I hadn’t noticed her there and the sound of her gentle voice sent me diving for cover.
"Who are you?! Are you with THEM?!" I shouted from behind a couch.
"My name is Sally and this is my house. Would you like to play Lego with me?"
Hmmmmm… Lego…. A very fine toy if I remembered correctly. Perhaps this was just what we needed. Sitting down and playing Lego with a sweet young girl in a nice earth home. I could feel the day’s craziness slipping away and I started thinking that maybe we could back to the MISSION.
"Okay there little lady, we’ll play with you. Just be sure to keep me between you and that man over there. He’s a filthy animal who’s addicted to some very dangerous drugs. There’s no telling what he’ll do in a place like this. ANYTHING is possible when Dr. Gonzo’s involved. We’ll also have to keep ourselves very drunk, but we’ve brought our own supplies so you don’t have to worry about that."
"Right-o, follow me." Sally lead us into the next room where she had set up a large town made out of Lego. My attorney looked completely dazzled by it all and the rolling glaze in his eyes had me worried.
"Drink some of this," I said, shoving a bottle of Scotch Whiskey! into his hands. "It’s fucking worse than the Gin! but it’ll keep you moving."
"Thanks man, this place is really starting to get to me. Making me all itchy, like I need to BUST something up."
"Just sit the fuck down and relax man, we’re playing the game and then getting out of here. Relax."
Sally was eager to show us her Legos and she went through the whole town describing the buildings and the little plastic people. I noticed that she keep hold of a bright white crystal the entire time.
" … and this is one of my favorites. I call him Prince Benedict. He’s actually from my castle Lego set but I like him so much I let him play with the others. And this is Captain Zap, he’s from my space Lego. And this is…"
Something jarred in my mind. Zap? That bastard back on the starcruiser? Just what the hell was happening here? I took a long pull on a bottle of rum and then looked down at the other small plastic figures.
"Who’s this one?" I said, picking up another plastic space man.
"Oh that’s Commander Bhond. Sometimes he’s bad and sometimes he’s good. Did you see Megatron? I made him myself, but he just fell apart a few minutes ago. I think I’ll try to put him back together again. Would like to play a game with me?"
Strange and disturbing thoughts were ricocheting around my brain. Could it be that Zap, Bhond, Photon and the others had been somehow turned into Lego figures? Or maybe this child was some kind of supreme being, a god playing around with the Lego set of Life. Either way, my attorney and I were in one seriously fucked up situation. The fates of Bhond, Zap, and Prince Benedict were literally in our hands.
"Sure thing Sally," I said as I took another long, hard drink from the bottle of rum, "I love playing games, especially with my friends."
"You evil bastard," said Dr. Gonzo as he too took another drink. "You’re a sick man Duke, but I wouldn’t be your attorney if you weren’t. Let’s get to work."
…….. And so ends Chapter VI of Zool: Resurrection
TO BE CONTINUED