|20.20|21|22|22.2|22.22|22.222|23|24|25|Those Extra Four…|1|2|3|4|Back Cover|
Or Lack Thereof
“That’s a lot of fucking zombies, Chuck!” Sigmund screams from inside the run-down bunker.
After completing a secret sabotage mission for the Allied Forces, Sigmund and Jolon were flying a biplane out of a German science facility that was disguised as an airfield. Beneath the dirt runways and flimsy tin hangars was a massive top-secret laboratory where black project designs were brought from the drawing board to the wargame playing field. There were designs for weapons that shoot electricity, a time machine shaped like a bell, anti-gravity craft that, save for the swastikas painted on the sides, could be easily mistaken for extraterrestrial spaceships; there was also a gigantic cache of a mysterious glowing fuel source called Element 945, as the Nazis evidently got pretty uncreative by the time 1945 rolled around. And, strapped to the wooden crates this strange radioactive material was stored in? Bricks upon bricks of B4, the very same B4 that Sigmund detonated whilst screaming, “FUCKIN’ HELL YEAH!” in the deep, rugged American accent of his avatar in the old Call To Duty video game the gang was playing while they waited for the Dirt Eater Mk I to finish its voyage back to Cape Enterprises. Well, technically it finished its voyage before they blew up the lab, but Chuck, Tim, and AdultJack wanted to see how the campaign ended, so they’re still playing. And more power to them – these guys have a functioning fabricator. They can do whatever they want; it’s not like they necessarily need to go and have the tour right this second.
For the record, this second is the very second that Karen ducked underneath the conveyor belt of the literary printing press after she heard someone fiddling with the doorknob. You know, the literary printing press that Chuck bought and installed at the beginning of the week before he went to Brick City with Alvey?
What? Chuck notices things. In fact, he’s a great noticer! He’s the one; not AdultJack, not Tim-nah’tee, not either of the beings inside the video game but Chuck Leary, from his couch, noticed the glowing shockwave that swept across the ground under the biplane as it was taking off moments after Sigmund clutched the detonation button.
He was also the one to offer the obvious explanation that the wave of radiation following the detonation of the mysterious secret Nazi space fuel is what caused Sigmund and Jolon’s plane to crash. Fortunately for them, they crashed right next to a run-down bunker, complete with enough nails, hammers, and boards to barricade the windows before the hordes of resulting zombies (which Chuck also noticed) were able to catch up. While they unknowingly waited for the incoming horde, the duo searched the premises for guns.
Well, the part of the premises they could access, anyway. The soldiers were (and currently are) trapped in a room with a staircase and a closed door, the staircase blocked off with a large upside-down couch and the door scrawled with the letters P, E, H, and L, not in that order. The legs of the couch were (are still) wedged between the wrought iron railings, and the door was (is still) locked.
Then, Chuck being the man, pointed out a weird chalk outline on the wall behind Sigmund, said outline suspiciously in the shape of a boomstick. As Sigmund was observing the strange chalky phenomenon, Jolon’s avatar, a Russian man with a love for wudka, grabbed him by the cheeks and turned his head, cracking his neck in the process, to look out the window and see a lot of fucking zombies heading right for them. And then the zombies started to moan and groan, and that’s when Chuck (who wasn’t looking at the screen at the moment) asked, out loud, if that was a fucking zombie, before turning around to face the screen, as he was suddenly interested.
Sigmund, with his head clear following that one swift crackle, corrected Chuck’s observation. And now we’re here.
Sigmund snaps into action. Guided by intuition and Chuck’s erratic shouting, he sprints to the wall and punches it as hard as he can. Sigmund doesn’t feel a thing, being a video game avatar and all, but the wall certainly does, as evidenced by the double-barrel shotgun that pops out of the space enclosed within the outline. Jolon runs to the opposite end of the wall and punches the outline of a bolt-action rifle next to the window that only has half as many boards nailed to it as it did a moment ago. The zombies tore the rest down, obviously, and Jolon is ready. He takes a few steps back and readies his rifle. Three boards left, now two, now one…
A zombie’s skull gets popped, the innards splattering all over the apathetic zombies next to him. They climb in and get shot down one by one – Jolon even manages to kill three with a single headshot! Oh shit! He turns around and proclaims his victory to Sigmund, but dude can’t hear him, he’s too busy sawing zombies in half with the boomstick, his master key to the door that is the gates of hell.
‘Wait… master key… door… ah-ha!’
After sprinting through and laying waste to the many zombies flooding in from the courtyard, Sigmund runs over to the not-PEHL door and blasts the lock, but nothing happens. He then knocks on the door to make sure it’s made of wood, and this opens it for some reason. He calls out for Jolon to follow him but Jolon is busy cutting a smile into a headless zombie’s face with a shattered vodka bottle, so Sigmund ducks through the doorway alone.
This room is much narrower than the first one, and much more dimly lit. There’s also less windows, another staircase blocked with a couch, there’s a radio playing old German parade music and a… box? A glowing box, now what in the fuck… oh my, there are guns inside of it!’
Sigmund, being Sigmund, pulls out a futuristic, extraterrestrial-looking ray gun and pshews all the zombies, including the ones that broke through the fucking wall, into nonexistence. He then doubles back and saves Jolon from the hordes of undead that are spilling in through the windows. Outside, crowds shamble past the rusty red barrels that obviously contain fuel of the flammable variety.
“Why else would they have little fires painted on them, Jolon?! Shoot the shit out of them!”
Jolon pumps his last two bullets into the nearest barrel and it leaks a small stream of gasoline, but there’s no gratuitous explosion. Until, that is, Sigmund shoots it with a ball of unstable 945 that turns the barrel into a gigantic ball of fire that then turns the zombified Nazis into a fucking rack of ribs.
“Do you need to say fucking in front of everything, Chuck?” AJ asks from the middle seat on the couch.
“Fucking fuck fucking yeah fucking AdultfuckingJack, fucking now that you fucking ask, I fucking do!”
AdultJack rolls his eyes similarly to how a zombie’s head rolls across the floor of the darker room in the German bunker. Jolon grabbed a fiery red tomahawk out of the guns box, because of course he did, and he’s using it to chain together like thirty fucking zombie kills at a time, the maniac. Meanwhile, Sigmund is trying to figure out how to unwedge the couch from the staircase so the duo can get upstairs.
“Why don’t we just go up in the original room, I can chop the legs off the couch!”
“NO!” Sigmund shouts, a plan long formed in his head. “Look at how the building was designed! If we go up this way, we can use the other barricade as a… well, as a barricade! Then, the zombies can only get at us from the front!”
Jolon, not one to fight intuition, hurls his tomahawk at the couch and it splits in half. As the tomahawk returns to its high wielder, the couchlets are devoured by flames and reduced to ash.
“There, we’ll do it your way!”
The two run up the stairs, fight the temptation to see what’s locked in the cabinet the moon’s shining a beam of light upon through the large hole in the ceiling, and duck into a smaller room. Sigmund was right, with the couch wedged in the first staircase, the zombies can only come at them from the front. Plus, the dynamic duo has something of a balcony up here that provides a clear shot of the many barrels scattered amongst the courtyard. It’s hard to make out the barrels in the mob of zombies, of course, but uh… since when is something being hard to do a sign that one shouldn’t do it?
With nowhere else to go and enough ammo to last them at least an hour or two, Jolon crouches, Sigmund lays prone, and they both get to work. The horde does not relent, the hobbling fleshy sounds and haunted groans of the undead soldiers ring through the minds of our saboteurs like the clanking of the ghostly chain leashes hanging off of the hellhounds that keep appearing out of orbs of lightning that appear out of nowhere, but the shooters do not falter. Row by row the zombified Nazis are sawn in half, blasted, pshewed, burned, and tomahawked, the dead bodies and body parts dematerializing as they pile up because the video game console can only render so many assets at once.
From the couch, Tim, Chuck, and AdultJack watch the carnage in awe, steadily killing tub after tub of popcorn that the fabricator keeps making out of clumps of Tim’s constantly shedding hair. Or is it fur? Whatever.
After a long-ass while of silently watching, AdultJack breaks the silence. “This is not how I expected the campaign to end,” between handfuls of corny butter.
“Me either,” Tim concurs. “Imagine being the first human to discover this level. You said this was an older game, right Chuck?”
“Oh yah, came out like… twelve years ago? I think? Fuck I’m getting old, that’s around the same time that Steel Man came out.”
“I know, right!” Jack shouts. Then, “Wait, so you know Steel Man? Is that where you got the inspiration for your power armor?”
Chuck scoffs at the little boy in a man’s body. “Son, you best believe I know Steel Man. I fuckin’ love Marvelous. For the record though, I had the idea for my suit before the movie came out. And, if me and Steel Man fought, well, let’s just say I would make a Milky Way Galaxy out of him.”
Jack rolls his eyes, but playfully, not out of spite. Despite today’s drag of a morning, things are turning out pretty good. He can’t even remember what the fight was about. All in all, Jack’s glad that he decided to come on this tour… oh yeah!’
“Wait, so Chuck, what about the tour you mentioned before?” Jack asks, adding (as a joke), “Wasn’t that, like, the cosmic purpose of my deciding to come back here? So you could give us the tour?”
“Purpose?” Chuck demands, shifting his attention from the orgy of entertaining violence to AdultJack’s face. “Why the fuck’re you worrying about purpose, kid? There’s no such thing as purpose, it’s just a way for old school adults to fuck with your mind because they know you’re smarter than them.”
“Uh… what now?” AdultJack asks. He was kidding, but since Chuck brought it up, “I thought everybody has a purpose. Like, everyone comes to this planet with a specific task they’ve gotta do, a specific path they have to travel. And then they get to the end and they get to realize what their purpose was the whole time, right?”
AdultJack looks to Chuck, then to Tim, then to the TV screen, and then back to Chuck. “Right?”
“You wanna handle this one, Tim?”
Tim puts down the banana he finally managed to peel and says, “No, I’m kind of interested in what you have to say here, Charles.”
“Well, since you called me Charles, I am no longer interested in what I have to say here. Plus, I just said it and he didn’t understand, so like, activate, or whatever.”
Chuck then shoves two mouthfuls of popcorn into his single mouth to show that he will not be talking for at least a few minutes.
Tim sighs with a tired smile and, with a hand on AdultJack’s shoulder, says, “Well Jack, what you said would have some merit if it actually made any sense at all. But looking at things like that, as if there was a predestined path laid out for each of us to find and follow, that’s seeing life backwards. You’re so young, but yet you’re looking at yourself from your deathbed – your life is far from over. There’s no right or wrong path to take, no bad or good way to follow, there is just the trail we blaze through the infinite forest of reality, or in your case, the roads you pave as you run across your patch of planet Earth.”
“So… I have no purpose? Just to run?” AdultJack asks, meaning his words very literally.
Tim-nah’tee chuckles. “Your purpose, or lack thereof, is to make your own purpose. Blaze your own path to walk – or run it if you must – and learn everything that you can. Apply the lessons you’ve learned as you go so you can learn more lessons, and then take those lessons to the grave with you, or more realistically, to the next life. Life has no meaning unless you instill meaning into it, just like a body is a self-driving sack of atoms without a connection to spirit. Sure, you can just drift through your time in your body without ever interacting with it or the world around it; you can live your life doing what everyone else demands of you while consuming only what they give you, keeping a far distance between yourself and your soul, and never figure out who you are – the result? You’ll still die, just like everyone else, and move on to the next life without consequence. You can do that, or…” Tim pauses, trying to find the right words. “In life, we are what we become as much as we become what we are. As far as what we’re meant to become, well, that’s for each and every one of us to decide for ourselves. We’re all born into the world with brains in our heads and environments around us. Where we end up is more or less where we decide to end up – I mean, just look at Chuck.”
“Yeah, look at me, fuckwad. Wait, why are we looking at me?”
Tim just smiles, and so does AdultJack. Chuck has no idea what they’re smiling about, but he certainly doesn’t mind being the center of attention. He usually is anyway, but that’s because he forces himself into the spotlight. It’s nice to have someone else shine it on him every once in a while, although it is kind of bright. Almost as bright as the flash of colored light that brings Sigmund and Jolon crashing onto the floor of the Dirt Eater Mk I – tell ya what, it’s a good thing Chuck wears sunglasses!
“Allll righty, everybody!” Chuck announces as he stands up and cracks his knees, hips, back, neck, and knuckles without moving a single muscle. “That was great fun, but AdultJackyJack over here started talking about existential purpose, meaning he’s pretty damn bored. Shall we get on with the tour of my fine establishment?”
“Certainly,” Jolon says as he stands up and pulls the hood of his robe over his war bonnet that he grabbed before they left last night. “I’m quite interested to see firsthand how you humans were capable of achieving all these heights.”
“Well you definitely won’t see that,” Chuck assures him, “but I’ll show you where I grow all my Cannabis.”
Jolon smiles. “That’s exactly what I meant.”
With that, the squad-plus-one all pile into a single elevator and begin the long rap-fueled ascent to the forty-second floor of the Cape Enterprises, Uncorporated building. It’s a cramped, claustrophobic elevator ride, even more so with all these extra, sweaty, and hairy bodies all packed around Chuck like spoiled anchovies in a tin can, but he manages not to flip out and start cursing at them for being there. He does make some sny comments to Sigmund about the lack of tracks by his favorite rapper on the ‘vator’s playlist though, which Sigmund follows with, “You listen to rap?”
Even after that total lack of awareness from his best friend the rocket scientist, Chuck manages not to flip a shit.
That is, until the elevator doors open and he fucking walks face-fucking-first into a real goddamned fucking zombie and a square of its decomposing fucking face smears onto his fucking sunglasses.