Thursday, December 21, 2017

Coonskin: The Only Animated Blaxpolitation Film

Written and directed infamous animator Ralph Bakshi. Just coming off the heels of his two masterpieces Fritz the Cat (The first X-Rated cartoon) and the superior Heavy Traffic (Which wasn’t X-rated, even though it had more sex and violence than the previous one), he continued to break animation molds by securing funding for the first, and only, animated blaxploitation film. He apparently did this by claiming to producers that it would be a modern (70s modern) remake of Disney’s classic Song of the South. And in a sense it was, though more as an evil satire.  

It is set in the framing device of Scatman Crothers and Philip Michael Thomas (of original Miami Vice fame) breaking out of jail and waiting for Barry White and Charles Gordone to pick them up. To pass the time Scatman Crothers begins to tell the tale of three animated brothers, Brother Rabbit, Brother Bear, and Preacher Fox.
After getting in trouble for pimping out a Southern sheriff's daughter, the trio flee to Harlem to make it big. There, they run across all sorts of scams, brothels, drug dens, and religious leaders- each ripping off the community. Eventually it is discovered that they are all run by the mafia and its Godfather, leading to a violent showdown between the two groups.

Interestingly enough all of the Godfather’s sons are homosexuals. This was a take on the gay bar scene in NYC at the time. Every gay bar then was run by the mafia, as they paid off the cops to look the other way. Which is why the old gay bars had such a bad reputation for drugs and prostitution (Hey the mob had to do something with their gay family members). My favorite one is the son who wears lipstick, a leather vest and pants, straps on a holster, and talks like John Wayne.
Interspersed in the main plot are a series of vignettes with the residents of Harlem talking about racial problems, or a blond, blue-eyed Ms. America (the personification of the country) who seduces a black man only to beat or kill him.

One of the reasons why you may never had heard about this film (apart from your general ignorance) is that there were heavy protests surrounding its opening in New York. The Congress for Racial Equality lead by Al Sharpton condemned the film, harassed people going to see it, and set off smoke bombs during performances to disrupt the showings. On the opening night at the Museum of Modern Art they crashed the question-and-answer session and it degenerated into a shouting match. The NAACP claimed it was a “difficult satire”- whatever the hell that means- and half-heartedly offered written support for the protest, but did not engage in any activities. Baksi responded to the criticism by stating, “I called Sharpton a black middle-class fucking sell-out, and I’ll say it to his face. Al Sharpton is one of those guys who abused the revolution to support whatever it was he wanted.”
Of course, anyone who sees the film will note two things: First, the stereotypes are spread around. No particular racial group is shown as paragons of virtue. Italians, Jews, and Irish are also equally skewered. Second, the characters are all a reverse of black stereotypical characters as shown in old Hollywood films. Each one is carefully selected and turned on its head.
While this film may lack something in polish, it certainly makes up for that in style. Bakshi was the anti-Disney of the 1970s, when different film experimentation was beginning to be embraced by the mainstream. It has a coolness, a freshness that many other blaxploitation films do not. Deftly mixing animation and live action, the director managed to overcome budget limitations and give the film a realistic feel, despite the bizarre characters. This was also aided by Bakshi’s research where he went to Harlem and recorded people talking about life there. Much of this was used in the vignettes.

Bakshi was ahead of his time. Nowadays, with The Simpsons, Archer, Family Guy and so on, we are used to the idea of cartoons for adults. When Bakshi’s films broke out, they were really something different. As Bakshi once said. “The art of cartooning is vulgarity. The only reason for cartooning to exist is to be on the edge. If you only take apart what they allow you to take apart, you’re Disney. Cartooning is a low-class, for-the-public art, just like graffiti art and rap music. Vulgar but believable, that’s the line I kept walking.”
The entire film is below. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Monty Python Video Game

Now here is an interesting little tidbit from back in the stone ages, 1990, that I missed completely. It came out during my reclusive nerd phase and I would’ve snatched it up in a blur had I known of its existence. The Monty Python Video Game (the first of several such games) was developed by Core Design, the same people who created Tomb Raider, and released by Virgin Games for the Commodore 64, Amiga, and ZX Spectrum systems.  

The game play is pretty straightforward. It is a basic side scroller done in the style of the cartoons from the show, yet despite the standard style it is different and Pythonesque. You play as the Gumby characters negotiating around various weird obstacles and throwing fish (or sometimes shooting) fish at the weird creatures trying to stamp on him, drop 16 ton weights on his head, or whatever. All of the scenery and villains are, of course, straight from the series.

Randomly the game will switch gears and a bizarre non-sequitur mini-game or a scene from the show, or will even fake tell you the game is over. The character will go through random alterations after each level- swapping bodies into a fish form, a bird body, or a giant hopping leg- then tossing you into a different style of level. It is fun and obnoxious at the same time, and has a mean difficulty curve.

Honestly, I’ve always hated these types of games and this one quickly reminded me why I stopped playing side scrollers the minute I discovered something else. I believe I was really obsessed with The Bard’s Tale when this game came out, which is probably how I missed it. The game is fun for about five to ten minutes, then becomes repetitive. I don’t know if there’s an end to it, or if it loops back on itself infinitely. It was a quick little diversion. But a fun one. 

A video of the game is below. And here is a link to an emulator on if you want to play for yourself. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Foot Doctor Letters: A Serial Killer Speaks Out

Here is chapter one of the new novel The Foot Doctor Letters: A Serial Killer Speaks Out. The plot probably seems self explanatory: a serial killer describes how he became one.  It is available on Amazon in paperback and digital format. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor!

1 - Dear Dan

It’s been awhile. How are you? I suppose you might not want to hear from me, but I have a few things I want to explain. You’re my oldest friend. As far back as I can recall you’ve been in my life. I don’t even remember how we met, you were just always there-in the best days.
I have no real memories from my early life, just sensations. The sounds of screaming and cursing, and breaking glass, and dull thuds of flesh on flesh. The smells of blood and vomit and pungent alcohol. The feeling of a hard slap and the ache of a solid fist. All of that filled me up before I could walk.
My first solid memories were those days of kindergarten when you and I would run around, up and down the block, playing hide and seek, and freeze tag, and horse, and shoot the badger. There was that one time when I slipped while scampering up a tree and my ankle got caught on the crotch of a forked branch. Remember the sound of the snap, loud as a pistol crack? I hung there one foot straight up, like the Hanged Man from a tarot deck, until your mother came out and got me down. She stayed with me as I whimpered and pushed my head into her fat breast, until the ambulance came and I was whisked away to the land of the antiseptic.
Then there were the lazy summer afternoons when the sun beat down and the water boiled up and stepping outside felt like walking through soup? It must have been around kindergarten or first grade, when we played in your driveway and our green army men committed massacre after massacre. Over all of the normal neighborhood sounds, we could hear the jingle-jangle tones of the Mr. Softee truck as it shuddered onto our street. Everything stopped immediately and, tongues lolling about our faces, we galloped to beg for a creamy treat. Your mother always had an extra dollar for me to buy a cone.
Life drifted on; it seemed so long then, but so short now, and we were forced into those horrible days of elementary school, where three times five was a complex mathematical equation. There was that time when we were playing on the seesaw in the park and the Hand of God overtook me. I became flushed with fear and fell from the ride in a rhythmic, frothing fever. My temperature was one hundred and three degrees. No one in my house would get off their asses to pick me up, so your mother volunteered to take me in and be my nurse.
I spent those two weeks in a primordial state, with the Bearded Saints crowded around me, praying to Christ on the Cross for my immortal soul. Their halos glowed and their beards flicked down and tickled my nose. All the while, winged seraphs and barbed devils battled in the background. Your mother stayed with me the whole time. She wiped my nose, wiped my ass, and mopped up my puke. Without her I would have died. No one at my parents’ house seemed to notice my absence.
Then, after first grade, we went to summer camp. Well I almost didn’t because there was no money for little me to stay in the inn. No penance or appeals above or below would shift the wallets of my parents, until your mother offered to help. She scrimped and saved, and cut down on the Fritos and orange tinged soda pop, to raise the money. Do you remember? I hope you do because it was one of the best times in my life. It is special to me and I want it to be so for you too.
And oh, oh, oh remember all of the impromptu sleepovers which happened whenever my mother was having one of her little spells and needed some “special alone time” and my father was out doing whatever. They usually happened when my brother was in prison. One time in particular sticks out. It was when my brother was locked up for public indecency and corruption of a minor, I’d had some very special bad dreams and ended up peeing all over my sleeping bag. I went to your house crying at two o’clock in the morning, my Underoos soaked and stinking. Your mother woke up and saw me and changed my clothes. She held me close and said, “Everything will be all right, baby.” Then I asked her if she could be my mommy and she just smiled and hugged me again. How silly we were then.
For a while I lapsed and stopped believing in Angels and God and the Bearded Saints, because my every wish wasn’t granted. We talked about it, with our small understanding of how the world worked, and in the debate you made an excellent point. Just because we couldn’t see them, doesn’t mean the Angels aren’t there, like those insects who live in your eyebrows. It made so much sense that I slapped my forehead over and over again, until you made me stop. Don’t you see? You restored my faith in God and his plans.
There is a confession here I need to make. Something terrible I’ve done to you. I’m telling you this so you will believe what I say later is the truth and we can have a clean slate. Remember the cat you had, Poxer? The calico with orange stripes across its face and the weird pattern in the fur on the left side, like a black heart. Why was he called Poxer? I used to know, but I forget. I think it was some word you mispronounced as a child and everyone thought it was cute.
You thought he ran away, except he didn’t. I wanted to know. I was curious and thought, “Why not?” Or perhaps the idea wasn’t really as coherent as that. It was more of a sensation I gave into. Whatever the result, I knew the cat couldn’t tattle.
I took a Swiss army knife my uncle Dick had left in the couch. It was dull and rusty with a cracked brown waffle covering. Looking back, I’m surprised it even worked it was so old. I took the cat behind your garage and cut him right through that black heart. He cried and clawed, and I yelled at him until the blood ran out and he stopped. I looked and saw a few things, then buried him behind the garage and washed myself down with the garden hose.
It was quite a disgusting experience actually. I didn’t like it. Very messy and smelly, with all sorts of slimy things sliding about and getting the blood out took forever. I had a sense of myself very early on and this was not me.
Later on, when you were all looking around for it, I said, “Did you look behind the garage?” and giggled. Your mother gave me a sidelong glance, as if something about me bothered her. I never forgot the look.
Then a turbulent time came upon us. We all graduated to sixth grade and had to go to a new middle school building. And I hated it! No more naps or free time or fun. It was all just class, class, class, then lunch. You had lunch, I didn’t have lunch. They wouldn’t give me a free lunch because my mother wouldn’t send in the paperwork. She said she didn’t want people to think we were poor, so she got me a yellow plastic lunch box and told me to fill it with something in the mornings. The first day I piled Oreos into it and when my mother found out, she hit me with the belt because those were her Oreos. Your mother later noticed the welts on my back and asked why. After that, there was always some food for me in your lunch box, but I think you kept the desserts for yourself.
When we moved from sixth to seventh grade and were put on separate teams, which was even less fun. They stuck me in the “remedial team” or as all the other kids called it, “team retard”. I had no friends in this new group of people. They were all deformed, spacy weirdoes. The teachers hated us. Maybe they thought they were wasting their time. The worst was having to deal with that one evil woman, the vile cunt, with all her ugly smells and warty face. You remember her? Mrs. Brockington, the math teacher, and her bad temper.
There was the one terribly bad day, when the clouds blackened in my head and every other second I felt as if I was going to vomit up the handful of stale Cheerios I had scarfed down for breakfast. Mrs. Brockington was unhappy with how messily I had written my multiplication problems. She grabbed my arm and yelled at me. Her disgusting hot breath hit me and sparked a storm in my brain. Like lightning, the idea struck to stab her with the Swiss army knife. Then apparently, I did. I don’t remember really doing it, but it happened, about six or twenty times. I’m not sure. I went at it until I was pulled off her, saturated in blood.
 I was surprised to see they knew who I was down at the police station. I had never been there before, but then I realized I was known via the other members of my family who got out more than me. The cops called me by my first name and had me phone someone. I knew no one would show up from my house, so I called your mother. She came down very nervous-like and brought me some new clothes, as the police had taken away the ones I’d been wearing. She didn’t give me a hug, only stared with that same look again, as if scared by something around me. She just put her left hand kind of near me, so I could feel the heat, but would not make actual contact.
She went into an indoor room with windows and talked to the police for a long time. When they came out, she smiled briefly and then hesitatingly patted me on the arm. For a second, I thought everything would be all right and I could go home. Then they took me away. Now you won’t remember this because you weren’t there, but I wrote lots of letters to you about what happened, which were sent on. At least they told me they were.
After a brief stay in a prison cell where I received no visitors, we went to court. There were lots of talking and sitting around and standing. The people all doing this looked really creepy, like windup toys. A monkey banging his symbols. A plastic dog stiffly walking forward. The clerk briskly rattling off the charges. The stenographer with her teased-out hair lightly tapping in response to the slightest sound.
To keep me quiet, the lawyer gave me some crayons and a few sheets ripped from a coloring book, so I don’t remember much beyond the general stale atmosphere of the room. It was dull, lifeless. Everyone was going through the motions, not really interested in what they were saying or what was being said. The coloring was much more interesting and I spent a relatively happy afternoon carefully shading in between the lines of Donald Duck and his three nephews, and Charlie Brown and Snoopy.
The only specific words I remember are when the lawyer came over and practically stuck his finger in my eye. I don’t think he noticed because he wasn’t looking at me, but gesturing for semi-dramatic effect while mechanically clipping, “Your honor, this boy isn’t here because of what he has done. He’s here because his family is poor. Too poor to afford the help he needs. Can we punish him for that?”
I guess so.
Over the two days we were in court, I looked around and didn’t recognize anyone. I didn’t expect to see anyone from my family, but I didn’t see your mother either. I had assumed she would show up, but nothing.
No one was there for me at all. Then or later. No one but evil faced boys with pink lips who had been beaten and raped their whole lives. They waited inside, just counting the time until it was their turn to get some. No one but droopy-eyed, minimum wage guards who didn’t care what the hell happened as long as it was quiet. No one but exhausted and exasperated social workers with one thousand and one child inmates on their plate. No one but ragged-looking teachers, not good enough for even the ghetto public schools.
All these authority figures said the same thing. They raged and recited platitudes about ideas and morals and themes and pledges. All of them meant nothing. They said the words because it was the official party line. None of them seemed to believe it. Pure regurgitation.
“You are here to fit in with society. So, you can go out and get a good job and have a good life. Do as we say and everything will be all right,” they told us.
I learned very early liars were in charge and the world is rotten because everyone’s too lazy to change it.
The memories keep flooding back. What comes up next is when I was released after a year in the pen. There was no one to meet me except some wrinkly-faced, sour-mouthed battleaxe from Child Protective Services, who coldly dragged me off in a broken-down Honda. She put me into the car seat like I was a thing, a dirty ragdoll instead of a person, and would not look at me the entire trip.
I could feel her disgust towards me. She acted as if not looking at me would cause me to disappear. I wanted to cut her throat. I wanted to stab her eyes. I wanted to make her go away. The whole trip I burned and thought of nothing else.
The social worker took me to a house filled with broken children, both older and younger than myself. All molested and molesters. Each one on a different spoke of the same vicious cycle. The house “parents” were disinterested slobs who always wore dirty clothes. The place was bare, drab, and worn- the thinnest veneer of civilization draped over starvation bones. We had the basics-three hots and a cot. That’s all they had to give us and that’s all we got, and they were constantly annoyed at having to provide even the bare minimum. They took their low pay and let us do whatever we wanted the rest of the time.
I tried to call you, but I had forgotten the number. I walked around the streets a lot looking for your place, but all of the houses were strange and hostile. I wanted to hear your mother’s voice. For some reason, I thought just the sound of it would make the Angels beam down on me again. But that didn’t happen for there was a monster in the house.
His name was Jobiah and he was bigger than me. He had been forcibly removed from his crack whore mother, who had pimped him out since he was five. I remember the way he licked his stupid thick lips and the slow sideways glances he would give me out of his almond eyes and the ugly black birthmark, like a clover, by his left eye. The adults around never knew or cared what he did.
The first time was late at night when I had gone to the bathroom. He followed me out and kicked the door open as I tried to close it. He stuck a towel over my mouth and pushed my face hard against the wall. I tried to struggle, but he kept slamming my head until I was too dazed to fight back. He pulled down my footie pajamas and stuck his knobby penis up into my anus. I remember him grunting and groaning, until his filthy seed had been spent and he left his oily stink all over me. It was my first sexual experience, a homosexual rape.
That was not the only time. Whenever he got me alone and could threaten me with a knife, he fucked me. It got to the point where I stopped struggling and just let him get it over with. I learned to almost stop feeling anything. When he was in me, grunting and sweating, my mind would soar off and take tea with the Bearded Saints, who stroked me and told me it will all be good in the end, everything happened for a reason, and the lights would one day explode revealing the Lord’s smile. Then all of the karmic secrets of the universe would expose themselves for a split second and slip away.
I suppose I should have told an adult, a teacher, a cop, one of the lumps hanging around the group home, but I was afraid and ashamed. I also didn’t think anyone would care. It was easier to pretend nothing had ever happened and throw myself into a fairy tale world where things were nice.
Then one day I was told someone was coming to visit. A song sang high in my soul, because I was sure it would be your mother. I pictured her grabbing me in her arms, hugging me near to death, and holding a swinging purse overflowing with chocolate treats.
But no. Unfortunately, it was just my Mother, the alcoholic whore. Now she seemed different however. Clean and alert, not the dopey crag-faced woman I had seen all of my life. She carried a desperate hope in her eyes and swore to me things would be better. She had found Jesus, or the equivalent thereof, and would be taking me home soon. She hugged me and told me my life would be filled with joy, but I didn’t believe her. Still, I was happy to go for obvious reasons, not the least of which was I would be with you and your mother again.
I had to wait two entire weeks, which to a child is three lifetimes. Sensing I was going to slip out of his grasp, Jobiah increased his assaults, especially at night. I was near despair and half convinced it was all a cruel hoax against me.
Then it happened; the yawning house “father” took me to court and the judge officially remanded custody of myself back to my mother. I was talked about in court, but my name was never used once. My “care and well-being” was discussed as one would talk about raising a ferret, or weeds on the back of a chia pet. No one looked at me. Neither judge, nor jury, nor executioner acknowledged I was there. Except once, when my Mother turned around and saw me, and seemed almost surprised at my presence. She smiled quickly and turned away, back to the more important proceedings of listening to the lawyers drone on. When she smiled, her face crinkled with five thousand lines. For the first time I noticed the sagging flesh on her face and the red unhealthy splotches from decades of chemical abuse. I wanted to throw up right there, but I didn’t.
When it was over, my Mother took me by her puffy hand and led me out. She asked if there was anything else I wanted from back at the group home. No. It could all stay behind and burn. I needed nothing.
Speaking of droning lawyers, I’m going to have to stop here because mine is whining that I’m not paying attention while he’s going over his “strategy” with me. If you ever need a lawyer, do not get Laurence Sims. He’ll get one bad idea in his head and then won’t shut up about it. I’ll write again soon.

Hope you enjoyed it. Once again you can purchase the book digitally or in paperback.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Red Nightmare: Some Good Old Fashioned Bad Propaganda

    This was commissioned by the Department of Defense Directorate of Armed Forces Information and Education, whose primary duties were producing training films, but also moonlighted with propaganda shorts to inspire the nation. They began mass producing these during World War II. Once that conflict was over, they turned gears and churned them out, attacking communism and the Soviet Union. Not that the Ruskies didn’t have it coming, but some of this material is downright bad and trite.
    The difference for this short is that while commissioned for release as a short and educational film, it also premiered on TV in the GE True series. The program was a series of shorts, sometimes starring big names, which recreated articles that had appeared in True magazine. True, put out by Fawcett Publications (the same group that created the original Captain Marvel) advertised itself as a men’s magazine that specialized in articles about adventure, true war stories, sports profiles, and the like. 

The episodes falls into a “what if” scenario of the propaganda genre. It imagines an average slob from an average town suddenly placed in that same town if there had been a Communist takeover of the country. This is certainly a scare story, but not without merit. Various aspects of what happens in that town are based on true events in other countries. What makes it hysterical is the main character’s flabbergasted hysteria on finding himself in his altered town, and how everyone else’s acting talent suddenly evaporates upon becoming commies. Like Data from Next Generation, they cannot figure out how to use contractions. “Do not interfere,” instead of “Don’t interfere.”
    The feature is presented like an episode of The Twilight Zone with infamous commie despiser and law-and-order advocate Jack Webb taking the Rod Serling narrator role. Jack Webb, for those who don’t remember, is best known for his detective drama Dragnet where brutal moral lessons are rotely clipped out between gunshots and drug addled hippie vermin. This story isn’t much of an exception. 

    The protagonist, Jerry, takes his sweet life and hot wife for granted. He refuses to participate in the social structure that keeps America strong. He ditches the PTA meeting to go bowling and he intends to blow off his Army Reserve training because it's a pain- which it is. The narrator appears and explains how safe Jerry is in his world but when Jerry goes to sleep,  he will  have a Red Nightmare, here in the Twili...whoops not there. 

    Suddenly, he has no freedoms. Jerry is forced to address the PTA on the glories of communism. His children are turned against him by school teachers and other evil minions of the state (not much different from today). The local church has been converted to a museum dedicated to communist propaganda. His daughter has been brainwashed into volunteering to spend her life on a collective farm (and probably starve to death). And Jerry, poor Jerry, is eventually put on trial for speaking against the state. He is allowed no defense. After his wife testifies against him, his execution is ordered. Jerry makes a speech about the Soviet people awakening one day to overthrow communism, then gets a bullet in the head. Jerry emerges from this nightmare to appreciate America and all her glory, and promises to never, ever, take her for granted again.
    The entire episode is below. Caveat Emptor.  

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Christmas Evil: Best of the Killer Santa Genre (Santa-spolitation?)

I’m not sure if santa-spolitation is recognized as an actual sub-genre of the horror film, but it should be. The tradition of having a sadistic killer dress up as Santa Claus has a long and storied one, dating back to the 1950s and EC comics Tales from the Crypt. Naturally this was one of the first stories adapted to film in the 1972 Tales from the Crypt film with Joan Collins as the killer Santa’s victim, and was adapted in the first season of the HBO show of the same name.
The tradition carried on with Silent Night, Deadly Night and its four sequels. Don’t Open Till Christmas, Yule Die, Satan Claus, To All a Goodnight. And it even continues on today with 2005’s Santa’s Slay (though this one is about the actual Santa killing people), 2010’s Rare Exports, and 2015’s A Christmas Horror Story.
But the best of the best of all these tales of yuletide slaughter has been, and will always be, Christmas Evil. Essentially it is the tale of a man who likes Christmas too much. Having had a shock as a child when he sees his mother being felt up by his father who is dressed as Santa, Harry grows up to be a disturbed individual. Well if he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have much of a film. Of course if such a little thing sets a guy off, he probably had some other issues as well. Eventually he morphs into a weirdo that spys on the local children, logging their activities into the “naughty” or “nice” book.  
The vent that triggered the murders.

Harry isn’t very well liked by anyone. His co-workers at a toy factory use and abuse him. Even his own brother doesn’t really want him around. After learning how few adults respect Christmas, he cracks. Again, if he didn’t, there would be no film. Unlike most of these slasher films, Harry alternates the slaughter by bringing presents to needy children and people deemed “nice”. Eventualy it culminates into a bloodbath between local police and Harry, and results in one of the best endings I have ever seen in a Christmas slasher film.

Strange as this may sound, what sets Christmas Evil apart is that the film has heart. Despite the murders, Harry is a likeable character that you cannot help but root for. He genuinely wants Christmas to be nice for everyone and wishes the whole world would get presents. He simply becomes irritated (a little too irritated) at those who are consistently “naughty”, thus the inevitable murders. If you have to see one film starring a maniac dressed like Santa Claus, make it Christmas Evil

The entire film is below. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Across the Wounded Galaxy

Across the Wounded Galaxy

by Rex Hurst

Softcover 267 pages
Amazon Listing 

        A forced grown Gen-Human, only three months from his decanting bottle, is shanghaied by a sadistic pirate clan. Three aliens track a gleeful villain who is hell-bent on destroying his own world. A military failure on a ruined planet finds only one chance left for personal glory. All their paths collide together in a galaxy at war. Worlds destroyed. Civilizations ruined. Cities devastated. Join them on this trek across a wounded galaxy. Included here is Chapter 1. 

Across the Wounded Galaxy- Visual Glossary


Zen Rigeln


                   Chapter 1

Species: Gen-Human

Planet of Origin: None
Description: An artificially engineered species, designed to shore up the ranks of the genetically wounded Human race. They are force grown in vats with an average gestation period of four months. Their occupations are predetermined according to commercial demand and a skill set is chemically implanted into their brains. They are mostly employed in bureaucratic and middle management careers or commissioned as lower echelon military officers. While their memory and physical skills are a step above the average Human, their emotional growth varies greatly from their parent race.
Freaky Fact: Due to a lack of childhood indoctrination and societal bigotries, Gen-Humans tend to be attracted to people who they feel are “interesting looking”; ie those who differ wildly from the high standard of beauty to which Gen-Humans themselves are sculpted. Those people usually believe that they’ve hit the jackpot.

            There was a splash of gore and intestines. The masked Phentari whirled, a chainsword clutched in each of its four tentacles. The guard fell apart before him, sliced into four sections across the torso. Ah what skill, what nerve, it took to do that. An accomplishment requiring hours of practice. The Phentari swiped at a cowering nurse, carving off half her face. It was an act of pure sadism, doing nothing to advance the plot. The Phentari revved its swords and lurched into the maternity ward.
            There were two guards in the ward, both firing pistols with impunity. Rather risky thing to do in a hidden room filled with babies. After taking a few hits, the Phentari summersaulted over a crib and speared one guard in the abdomen while simultaneously decapitating the other. The obstacles dealt with, the Phentari raised its weapons. Remember, babies were worth 10 points and preemies 20.
            With the second warning Drake flipped off the game, Lone Phentari 2: Mass Murder is My Hobby, and sat up in his steel chair, pretending to be engaged in his work. He had uploaded a restricted program into his system that warned him whenever the supervisor or any of his cronies were logging in to monitor Drake’s work, giving him time to spruce himself up.
            Drake- DKE-k0018 (as was his full name) was employed in an administrative capacity on the Brethia Stargate Project. Stargates created a stable wormhole from one gate to another. They allowed a ship to move easily from star to star, galaxy to galaxy, without needing to employ warp drive or dip into hyperspace. Easily the quickest method of travel, the demand was so great that a ship could wait for weeks before getting clearance to enter. And with the energy required to maintain these holes, the cost for Stargate travel was appropriately astronomical.
            The Brethia Stargate was an attempt by the Mutzachan Trade Council to create a structure to power hundreds of stargates. To achieve this, they were building a Dyson sphere around the system’s star (with a surface area of 92 billion Earths) to absorb every iota of solar energy emanating from the heavenly body and, after 104 years of construction, it was only 35% complete. It was, quite simply, the single greatest feat of astro-engineering ever attempted. And Drake was bored silly by it.
            By its nature this amazing attempt created incredible amounts of administrative difficulties in all areas- from storage of construction supplies, to housing the ten million workers, to the acquisition of enough paper products so that everyone could clean themselves. This is where Drake came in, or rather Drake’s batch. The entire DKE series, all 50,000 of them, had been developed to address the organizational issues, specifically spoiled food indexing, hazardous material disposal, and septic management. Laugh if you want, but the amount of excrement generated each month could have created its own small moon orbiting the station.
            Day after climate controlled day it was the same grind. Type figures, check figures, adjust figures, order figures. Then walk back to his designated rest area, consume the daily food allotment, complete the regulation exercise regimen, engage in the compulsory social hour with his assigned friend group, watch the film being shown that night, and pass out in his sleep cylinder. One day meshed invisibly into another.
            A waterfall of tiny numbers streamed over Drake’s monitor. It took all of his effort not to sigh or yawn. To the average supervisor (and Drake’s was very average) it looked as if he was sitting in rapt attention, taking in each integer flooding his vision. In reality, his mind was elsewhere.
            After I take care of the Maternity Ward, I should double back and see if any patients have respawned in the Leukemia Ward. If they haven’t, I can toss an incendiary device into the Burns Unit and see who blows up. If that goes well, I should have enough points to earn the Blood Soaked Achievement!
            A further buzz indicated that his Mutzachan superior’s omnipresent eye had cast his gaze at another hapless middle manager. Drake slouched back in his chair and sighed. He wasn’t bad at his job. He couldn’t help but be competent. Having been decanted only three months prior, practically the only knowledge rattling around in his head was the implanted managerial skill suite. It’s just that the thing he was bred to be good at didn’t interest him. 
            Technically the Gen-Human species were designed to be fanatically enthusiastic about their assigned field, but as Drake himself was a living testament to, it was extremely difficult to genetically engineer a body’s personality. One minor fluctuation in the DNA coding could result in a host of new quirks and mental disorders. It was probably why the species had such an abnormally high rate of schizophrenia.
Jake-DKE-r0865, Drake’s co-worker from down the hall, popped his head into the pod.
“Hey,” Jake said. “Did you see? I got in the upper twentieth for Mazian Bubble Bounce this week! Now that’s a feat!”
“Great, buddy. Congratulations.” 
Mazian Bubble Bounce was a game where you tried to keep an amorphous grey blob afloat using a combination of green, red, and blue bubbles, while avoiding random dropping needles. This was a favorite among the DKE series as it depended primarily on muscle memory and required no actual higher brain usage. Some of the others had created a secret leaderboard where they competed for the high score, but Drake didn’t partake. He just liked to lazily shoot things.
“When are you gonna join in?” Jake asked. “That way we can challenge each other. It’ll be fun. Match our wits.”
“I dunno if I want to.”
“Ahh you never know what you want,” Jake said and left.
            What did he want? He wasn’t so sure. Something exciting that he could brag about. Something on the edge. Something that others would ooh and ahh over when they heard. Like a hero from the movies, or the Spiff Blasthandy Tri-V show. They’d slap him on the shoulder and call him brave, maybe buy him a beer. He’d never had any alcohol, but the vids made it look great. Yeah that was Drake’s dream, as vague as it was.
            He snapped to. There had been a noise far far away, one that was distinctly different from the usual hums and buzzes of his artificial environment. He couldn’t exactly place it. Then his screen flickered and the near fleshless face of a Zen Rigeln appeared.
 Drake knew the species without having met any, they being one of the 12 core races making up the Galactic Alliance. They tended to adhere to a religious philosophy of pacifism and healing, codified in a series of interminable rituals and exhausting canons that was of little use to any outsider except as a cure for insomnia. The Zen’s had a reputation for being sanctimonious, but this one seemed different.
“Hello,” the Zen said in the standard trade dialect, “I don’t know you… but I hate you!”
            Drake heard the words echoed in the hallway and stepped out to see that every monitor and screen had been hijacked. If this unknown person had managed to send his message to the entire station, it was indeed an impressive hack.
            “I hate you because you live. I hate you because you breathe. I hate you because you can think. I hate you because you have ideas other than my own.”
            All of the overhead lights turned to a warning red and the evacuation alarm boomed, drowning out the rest of the figure’s words. The monitors cut in with a yellow circle- the universal symbol for emergency. Drake panicked. He knew the routine, had been drilled on escape procedures, but when imminent atmospheric collapse loomed all discipline deserted him.
            He ran down the hall screaming and shoving others out of the way. The hysteria was infectious. Soon the entire section broke down into a free-for-all with Gen-Humans, Mutzachans, Orions, Goola-Goolas and a host of other races all pushing, kicking, tripping, and biting each other to reach the survival bubbles.
 Drake had just accidentally knocked another Gen-Human down a flight of stairs when an explosion rocked his section, bowling everyone over. Then what had just been a confused struggle turned into a murderous riot. People clubbed and stabbed whoever was ahead of them. Mutzachans let loose fatal blasts of matrix energy to clear the decks. Sporadic gunfire was heard further down the section.
“Remain calm! Remain calm!” a voice yelled over the intercom.
But the toothpaste was out of the tube. Drake stumbled, his knees nearly buckling with fear, and steadied himself on a desk. He picked up an oblong paperweight and judged that it might be a good weapon. Several voices, overlapping each other, squawked through the monitors. 
“Sebe engaging… electrical systems compromised, launching fighters… flux shield holding… configuration unknown, seems to be a hodgepodge of inconsistent parts…..”
Was the station under attack? No way, it had to be sabotage. This was the best defended area in the quadrant. They had three battle cruisers in rotation around it at all times. Any assault would be a suicide run. And yet…
White gas vented into the room. Definitely not part of the evacuation procedure. It was some sort of acidic mist that liquefied any flesh it alighted upon. The mist was scrubbed away in seconds by the station’s atmospheric conditioners. But the damage had been done. Jake, who had somehow gotten ahead of Drake, lurched before him, screaming. He had taken a spritz dead in the face. His eyes had melted and were running down his cheeks like giant globulous tears. Large chunks of meat still clung to his face, attached by thin strands.
It was enough to make a person vomit and Drake was no exception. He heaved his stomach contents onto the floor as a further explosion shook the station. Drake knew that he had to get out of there now. He readied his paperweight and…
“Help… help me,” Jake hoarsely cried.
… paused. Damn it! He couldn’t just leave the guy. He’d known Jake his entire life (all three months of it) and he deserved better than this. Drake hoisted him up and helped him walk down the hall. Unfortunately this slowed them down greatly.
“Hold on buddy,” Drake said, “We’re almost there.”
Jake said nothing more. Most of his tongue had plopped out of his mouth and was smeared down the front of his shirt, yet the jaw continued moving in a foul mimicry of human speech. Drake vomited a second time.
By the time they finally managed to make it down to the evac chamber, most of the section had already ejected. There were a few broken figures lying about, some burned, some bleeding, some trampled, but otherwise it was empty. He boarded the bubble (a device designed only to be a short term solution) and hit the large, idiot proof, eject button.
Hope you enjoyed it. Here is the Amazon Listing for a full copy.