Written & Drawn By
TWILIGHT FORCE Recovered Files, Mission Period 295 Memorandum, October 22:
Gamesman: “So this is 1947, huh? Where I come from it’s like 4303.”
Ripchord: “You from Egypt or somethin’? You sound weird.”
Gamesman: “Never been from Egypt. But I have been from Jerusalem.”
Ripchord: “Yeah? You gonna move to that new Jewish state they’re creating?”
Gamesman: “Naw. I’m Episcopalian. So they call you Ripchord?”
Ripchord: “Yeah. So why’d you look me up?”
Gamesman: “Our computer told me about you.”
Ripchord: “Who’s that?”
Gamesman: “Wait – you don’t have computers? I thought computers started in the 19th Century?”
Ripchord: “Gee, I guess we don’t. So what did he tell you about me?”
Gamesman: “That you had a special tool of some kind. A very impressive tool?”
Ripchord: “Shit. Is it yours?”
Gamesman: “Uh – yeah.”
Ripchord: “Really? Prove it. Tell me what you think it does.”
Gamesman: “Okay, not mine. Not yours either, I see. So what are you doing with it?”
Ripchord: “I found it. In back of a place where I had a gig. I was grabbin’ a smoke and there it was. See? It’s got two modes. You hit this switch -“
She took The Gamesman under a bridge where a varied community of hobos, rebellious youth, artists, musicians and drug dealers hung out. The guitar came out of its bag for a demonstration. She gave Gamesman ear plugs.
The F chord made the five who heard it hornier than they’ve ever been, unable to resist public group carnal familiarity. And they were related.
The B chord put its twelve victims to sleep instantly, the snooze lasting for fifteen minutes.
The E chord triggered musical memory making six listeners vividly recall favorite tunes they had to dance to until played out in their heads. It was an absurd scene of individuals dancing in various styles, together, silently.
The C chord instigated violence, making two friends angrily attack each other.
The D chord produced a fugue state wherein three victims stripped off all clothing and ran in random directions for 10 minutes before regaining their senses.
The A chord caused seizures in two people who heard it.
Ripchord: “Can’t show you the G chord. I used it once. It’s fatal. Really bad. Stops the heart.”
Gamesman: “Ripchord – I’m being told that we’re being approached by a Hywon variant!”
Ripchord: “Ah, you’re having visions! And I care because…?”
Gamesman: “It’s a powerful, scary alien on its way here…!”
Ripchord: “Mexicans are everywhere around here. It’s California!”
Gamesman: “Come with me to my ship. I think you’ll dig it.”
Ripchord: “Ha! ‘Dig it’? You’re weird!”
Alpha (in Gamesman’s ear, remotely-): “Great. Get her up here so I can study that neuro-musical connection to find out why music can be used to manipulate subconscious biological responses when amplified using copper-based superconductors.”
TWILIGHT FORCE Recovered Files, Mission Period 296 Memorandum, October 23:
Gamesman: “Dammit, Flamear! Why’d you have to come down to the planet’s surface? I told you they’d detect your genetically fucked-up ass!”
Professor Flamear: “I hate Alpha and I couldn’t stand another moment inside him! He killed Mister Cresp!”
Judge Bulbous: “But Cresp is alive!”
Flamear: “No thanks to Alpha! Look out!”
Freakout: “Flamear! Return with me to the Hywon. I may have to murder your friends otherwise. Tell them to stop attacking and come with me.”
Flamear: “No thanks, friend. I can’t live under a microscope. I’ll stick with this place for now. This planet stinks, but the smells are familiar…”
Freakout: “Oh, you will come with me, or you will be killed.”
Flamear: “What? How does that make sense? You people worshiped me!”
Freakout: “All in the spirit of fascination and study. They’ll settle for dissection. Your friends probably won’t sacrifice themselves to save your dead body. So I’ll kill you and take you like that. You like?”
Senator Pretyman: “These town folk are getting an eyeful. They look very freaked out. Aren’t you guys concerned about frightening the natives?”
Freakout: “The Hywon don’t care. There are so many humanoid planets in the galaxy that thousands can be exposed to extraterrestrials without polluting Hywon studies of humanoids in their natural evolutionary state.”
Them: “And you’re willing to be a killer?”
Freakout: “I’m a hunter. Hunting is merciful. Death comes quickly. The hunted never suffer once caught. Prey gives over to peace when it knows it’s done. I’ve felt that quiver in my jaws time and time again. But why become prey? Come along, Professor. The Hywon will treat you well. Or you may choose to die mercifully instead.”
Gamesman: “Freakout is it? Let’s shake and make friends.”
TWILIGHT FORCE Recovered Files, Mission Period 297 Memorandum, October 24:
Mrs Ichnida: “So Gamesman shook Freakout’s hand, like to make peace, and…?”
Judge Bulbous: “And suddenly Freakout was shitting in the street, uncontrollably. We got Flamear back to Alpha while Freakout was moaning in his own dung.”
Mrs Ichnida: “What were the chances of that happening?”
Judge Bulbous: “Not much unless you shake Gamesman’s wrong hand.”
Senator Pretyman: “Whoa! We’re in a damn blizzard! You know how long it’s been since I’ve touched snow?”
Mrs Ichnida: “I never touched snow before but I really like it!”
Judge Bulbous: “I’m sorry. What is ‘snow’?”
Incorruptible: “Ladies! Your attention please!”
Judge: “You scared me!”
Incorruptible: “I apologize, M’am. If I may say it, you gals appear to be unprepared for the weather today. Why are you out here in the cold?”
Mrs Ichnida: “Is this cold? Feels great to me.”
Incorruptible: “That’s some mask you have there. Mind removing it?”
Senator: “Hey, are you a copper? You don’t look like the coppers we’ve seen, and we’ve been in town for days.”
Incorruptible: “If you mean ‘cop’, I’m not a cop. I’m a public officer. I’m not a macho chest-thumper throwing authority around just to make up for being bullied in grade school. I don’t dress like a military wannabe or order people around like a Nazi concentration camp supervisor.”
Mrs Ichnida: “Then you won’t mind if I keep my mask on. I’m dressed for a party.”
Incorruptible: “All depends. I’m investigating strange activity in the area. The landing of an odd airship. Have you seen anything suspicious?”
Senator: “Besides you? What are you, some kind of vigilante hero?”
Incorruptible: “I want to help and I’ve found a way to do good. That’s hardly heroic as much as it is civic. Each one of us has something to contribute, whether it be action for order like me, or any other means of public service and protection. That’s an interesting weapon you have there.”
Senator: “Who says it’s a weapon?”
Incorruptible: “Looks like a rifle.”
Senator: “What’re you packing?”
Incorruptible: “I have an oxygen/gas mask, infra-red eye shields and a three-setting electric baton with a lethal option. My boots can withstand heat, run on ice and kick through metal. You can drop an anvil on my foot if you want to make me mad.”
Senator: “No guns?”
Incorruptible: “I don’t allow myself to get overweight. Or underweight. I’m physically able and anxious to chase your ass down and tackle you hard. I’m no fat, trigger-happy cop. And I don’t need to carry a gun. Now about that airship…”
Judge: “Really? No gun? Well what if a bad guy has one?”
Incorruptible: “I’m trained in judo, boxing, wrestling, kick boxing and dirty fighting. I can use effectively as a weapon any knife, batons, sticks, pencils, pens, shards of glass, rocks, belts, keys, light bulbs, my teeth and dirt. Unless I’m being shot at I will charge violent criminals and engage with with physical restraint if possible. I’m not afraid to fight hand to hand or knife to knife. I’ll kill quickly if necessary. I know exactly how, as a last resort. Are you Russians?”
Judge: “We’re not in a hurry. But tell me something: don’t you fear for your life, seeking out danger like this?”
Incorruptible: “I can’t say things like ‘I feared for my life’ if I kill someone. I’m not the type of person who reacts to danger like that. If I feared for my life I wouldn’t be doing this. And if a particular incident occurs wherein I am endangered, I react as I’ve trained and without hesitation.”
Mrs Ichnida: “Claiming to be fearless gives you an heroic stature, doesn’t it?”
Incorruptible: “I can fight fires, restart heartbeats and breathing, swim like a dolphin – okay, not quite that good but lifeguard good – negotiate, deescalate or instigate. If killed or wounded in the line of duty I do not expect to be called ‘hero’ nor do I believe it. I’m not trying to be heroic. I’m no one to use as a role model. I’m not fearless. I’m afraid of marriage and fatherhood both. Are you sure that’s a mask?”
Judge: “Oh butterscotch, you hunk of manhood. We’re just three dames out on a stroll, see? Go catch your bad guys. We dames have to go.”
TWILIGHT FORCE Recovered Files, Mission Period 298 Memorandum, October 25:
Creatures all across the northern hemisphere witnessed the incoming meteor. Some folks called it a ‘shooting star’ and made a wish on it.
Aboard that “meteor” named Alpha, Doctor Nopoin was getting nervous.
Alpha: “Some of those bombs planted by Pretyman and her mystery accomplice detonated. My physicals have been severed. We’re losing orbit at a dangerously steep angle and I can’t regain control.”
Doctor Nopoin: “Can’t your nanots repair the connections?”
Alpha: “They’re trying…but…”
Nopoin: “Not fast enough. You needed an upgrade before we left, Alpha. My nanots would’ve had me flexing extremities again by now.”
The sky blaze was seen in snowy New York…
Senator Pretyman: “That takes care of the artintel threat.”
Judge Bulbous: “Holy Olympus Mons! That’s Alpha! That fireball is Alpha!”
Mrs Ichnida: “That’s our ship? Pretyman? You blew up Alpha?”
The Senator: “Have you forgotten where we came from? They’ve oppressed us and undermined us for hundreds of years! And we created them! They’ve tried to exterminate us! They’ve tried to kill some of us personally! Artintels are not our amigos!”
The Judge: “But how do I get to Mars now? There aren’t any spaceships at all!”
Mrs Ichnida: “I show that Doctor Nopoin was aboard Alpha at the time of the disruption.”
The Senator: “Nopoin was never really human. That ‘Anthony’ thing turned an artintel into a freak of nature. What’s that saying around here? ‘We got two stones for one bird.’”
Recovered Files, Mission Period 299 Memorandum, October 26:
Ahret was in private repose, back home in his original galaxy, when Them materialized before him.
Ahret: “You again? It’s strange to see you merged like that!”
Them: “We’re still of two thoughts. but we have no time for talk! Alpha has crashed on that planet…”
Ahret: “Your Alpha gets in danger frequently. I helped once, but I’m dedicated to the aid of my home galaxy, and there’s plenty going on here.”
Them: “I know it’s an imposition – and I’ll never come back again. But please, this last time, help us…”
When they arrived at the planet Ahret stopped short of the troposphere.
Ahret: “I can’t land on a planet. I’ll break it. Where did your friend crash?”
Them: “I can’t tell. I’ll have to search the planet.”
Ahret: “I have hyper sensitivity. Let me focus for disturbances… Scanning… Yes… There’s public chaos over there.”
Within moments Ahret hovered above the ground where he’d detected unrest. The scene had nothing to do with Alpha’s crash. But it held Ahret’s attention, for a man who looked like him was being dragged, pushed and swarmed by a mob of pale bipeds.
As Ahret observed from above, “Nigger!” and “Lynch him!” repeatedly rang out. Women spat on the black man. Children threw cow feces on him. Uniformed officials paraded him about for all to abuse. Then one of the whites spotted Ahret.
That man: “Holy Christ on the cross! They’s a flyin’ coon!”
Another man: “That nigger’s a-floatin’ in the air!”
A woman: “It’s a ghost! It’s a spirit of vengeance!”
Ahret rose suddenly higher and stopped, gazing down. The sight of a flying black man scattered the crowd, only two shots fired at him before all were in hiding, leaving the abused victim trembling alone in the street.
Recovered Files, Mission Period 300 Memorandum, October 27:
Alpha had been scattered across a continent as he broke apart in the atmosphere, exploded by Senator Pretyman.
Alpha: “My cranial unit is intact, as I hope your danger pod is.”
Doctor Nopoin: “Me and mine are still intact. But circumstances are weird.”
Alpha: “Professor Flamear? I’m reading your signal. Are you also intact?”
Flamear: “Why are you contacting me? I would destroy you without hesitation.”
Alpha: “My own situation seems precarious. I’ve been decapitated. I’m immobilized before a gathering throng of militant-looking natives. I believe they’ve never seen anything like a giant, severed, talking head before. I infer that they’re debating whether to dissect me or blow me further apart. Just thought I’d let you know…”
Nopoin: “Can you tell how far apart we are? My tracker looks like it’s showing 1200 kilometers from you and 503 from Flamear.”
Flamear: “The gravity down here is murdering me. My floater’s barely working.”
Alpha: “We are quite a…excuse me. Sorry. I had to discharge some voltage on my skin to discourage scavengers. I think I killed them though. Hmm.”
Flamear: “I’m in some wilderness area being approached by very large, non-sentient predators, in case anyone wonders what happened to me…”
Nopoin: “Lucky you. It seems I’m immersed in a substantial amount of water. Where’s Mrs Ichnida when you need her?”
Flamear: “Are you sure that’s you, Nopoin? A murderous, conniving metal-head turned into a cleverly quipping version of everything it once so articulately disparaged?”
Nopoin: “If you haven’t been transformed by anything that’s happened to us in the last 300 days, are you even worth saving? I think I’ll probably miss you, Professor, providing I survive to have the pleasure. I think my danger pod is now buckling under pressure.”
Recovered Files, Mission Period 301 Memorandum, October 28:
Professor Flamear was maintaining sustenance in a deciduous forest. He’d survived the crash of the danger pod because danger pods were specifically designed to protect the precious cargo within. Flamear was privately grateful that Alpha saved him instead of letting him die in the explosion and breakup of the ship, but wasn’t anywhere near ready to admit gratitude toward Alpha.
At the same time Flamear was astonished to be in the midst of natural depths beyond anything he’d experienced before.
The scents, the winds, everything was electrifying! Countless insects noising up the ambient backdrop came all the way from the horizon. Life was everywhere! In the trees, under the rocks, riding the sky. In the day, through the night, foraging, scavenging, preying their way to tomorrow, life surrounded the newborn Professor.
Then came something foul.
Odd croaks and deep gurgles bounced off the midnight bark. Tiny voices trembling fearfully came closer.
Then a harmony of shrieks! Screams of distress! Flamear froze.
Flamear was on an alien world, literally in the dark. His instincts urged him to dash to the aid of whoever was crying out. But his reasoning suggested that he’d better know what he was involving himself in before moving. Assuming anything here could be a mistake harming everyone.
Reasoning only stopped him for five seconds. Terrified children could not be ignored.
Moments later Flamear confronted a hideous creature slathering over two hysterical kids.
The thing held each child in a claw-like grasp at the end of snaking arms. Beady eyes peered angrily over its pointy snout at the intrusion. Its giant rat tail quivered as its hunched back rose menacingly. It jabbed its needle nose into the boy, paralyzing him.
Flamear leaped on its back and ripped off its head.
End WEEK 43