Written & Drawn By
The Last Days of the TWILIGHT FORCE Mission, November 12, Day 316:
The mission had finally dispersed around this planet.
At this time Mister Cresp had severed his co-mingling with E-Cloud, but no longer had a solid body and existed in a plasma condition between radiation and matter.
Alpha’s remains had been collected by the Soviets and his true nature was slowly being revealed. They were convinced he could give them the secret to atomic power and were trying to get it out of him.
Doctor Nopoin, Professor Flamear and Judge Bulbous were rounded up by Hywon agents and delivered to Hywon, While the Professor was taken aside, pampered and prepared for some cultural ritual, Judge Bulbous was dissected and Doctor Nopoin mercilessly examined for clues to the nature of whatever was growing inside all three.
And Mrs Ichnida and Senator Pretyman were under scrutiny in the American southwest, suspected of being Martians, or at least aliens of some ilk, by the paranoid citizens stirred up by a rumored recent UFO crash.
The Gamesman, who had joined the team informally months before, was rogue on the planet, marveling at the natural world and adventuring in Egypt with his newfound companion Ripchord.
Since Ripchord’s amazing guitar had been found inside a pyramid, Gamesman convinced her to take him there. Their path took them into an upside down pyramid where they lost consciousness.
When they awakened, they were no longer in Egypt. They were in a meadow.
Gamesman: “When did we get here?”
Ripchord: “I don’t know but I’m glad we’re outside. I didn’t think we’d ever find our way out of there.”
Gamesman: “Maybe we didn’t.”
Gamesman: “Smell that air? Feel that constant, gentle breeze? This is beautiful! Whoa! Grass! Actual, natural grass! This looks like Heaven to me.”
The Last Days of the TWILIGHT FORCE Mission, November 13, Day 317:
In the final moments, Angel Choir held the mob back with a choral onslaught that shook contact lenses from eyeballs and stopped pacemakers. Opening her multi-octive vocal chords, she deafened the most violent attackers before someone clipped her head with a rock out of the dark.
Getting away wasn’t easy. Natives were convinced that Pretyman and Ichnida were associated with the alien crash from months ago. Figuring out that Pretyman’s complexion and Ichnida’s physiology weren’t theatrical makeup took them awhile, but once they caught on – what other explanation could there be?
Mrs Ichnida was no fan of Senator Pretyman, but she wasn’t glad that her teammate was in the hands of a paranoid mob. Just as Ichnida escaped by leaping into the river, agitated locals were stripping Pretyman and trying to rub the green off her skin.
Now Ichnida swam into the unknown.
She hit a new level of despair. This alien ocean held creatures she’d never smelled before. It was so much like her Earth but a stranger. Like looking into the eyes of your mother, she thought, without recognition.
Days later, drifting near the surface after a polymarble snack, a new scent appeared.
Something industrial, mechanical, greasy even? The water told Ichnida to pay attention. Something huge was being approached. Rebounding waves pointed the direction. She sensed ocean currents showing the shape of a large mass over the horizon. And then…
There it was. A city above and below the water, floating – until she heard the flow of water into great tanks and watched as the entire city started to sink. Bridges joining metropolitan islands sprang rooftops and walls, sealing them for underwater passage. Windows closed and covers clamped over them on dozens of sinking skyscrapers.
The Last Days of the TWILIGHT FORCE Mission, November 14, Day 318:
She was green all over. Every part of her was some shade of it. The women of the town made sure of it.
“There’s no law against being green.”
“But she don’t have no social security number.”
“Humans ain’t green. She ain’t from Texas, I’ll tell ya that.”
“They say Martians is green…”
Pretyman: “I am from Texas, and Martians are blue. I happen to work with one.”
“She’s just a crazy lady who took a long bath in some green dye.”
Pretyman: “What else do you want? I let you examine me and question me. You can see that I’m just like you, only green. There’s no reason to hold me.”
“We gonna let the Sheriff decide that. Hey, is her butt hole green, too? I didn’t catch that.”
“Yeah, dark green, like her snatch.”
Pretyman: “Why are you giggling about genitals? Are you some kind of sexual prudes? I heard there can be a lot of that in isolated communities.”
“Let her put her clothes on.”
“Why? You jealous? You could trim yourself up a bit and look that good.”
“We should find out if she’s really like a woman.”
“Looked like one down there.”
“On the outside, sure. But what about the inside?”
“You wanna cut her open?”
“Naw. I’ll just send in my probe…” [Suggestive hip grind]
[ Men’s Laughter ]
Pretyman: “You guys are the adults here, right? Although I’m not from Mars [ getting dressed ], I do have what you all might refer to as a ray-gun from space.”
Man: “Whoa, look out! Alien death-ray!” [ Laughter ]
Senator Pretyman shoots the men. Startled, they see no blood. A strange tranquility instantly overwhelms them. They smile.
Pretyman: “My Buddha bullets make initiating violence impossible. See ya later.”
The Last Days of the TWILIGHT FORCE Mission, November 15, Day 319:
Professor Flamear didn’t know what was going on, but reports from Mister Cresp were keeping him on his hoofs. Cresp, able to hover nearly invisible anywhere he desired, was watching activities that Flamear couldn’t be aware of from his pampering suite.
Mister Cresp: “It’s impossible to tell exactly what they’re up to.”
Flamear: “Well what are they doing?”
Mister Cresp: “That’s what’s hard to tell. Sometimes they move in unison, sometimes they don’t seem to interact at all, like no one else is there. But there is a lot of activity around this place where they keep you.”
Flamear: “What do you know about their society?”
Mister Cresp: “There’s a social off-on switch. The interactions of the various species seems to depend on circumstance. If a circumstance occurs, they suddenly co-mingle. When over, they mostly go to their own people. Highly cooperative when necessary, ignorant of each other otherwise.”
Flamear: “And they’re highly cooperative over me?”
Mister Cresp: “Looks like.”
Flamear: “Maybe I’m going to be sacrificed.”
Mister Cresp: “Maybe you’re going to be crowned?”
Flamear: “How are they getting this beer?”
Mister Cresp: “I think they back-engineered it from your polymarble stash.”
Flamear: “Good. I’m running low.”
Mister Cresp: “Maybe they’ll send you off with a fresh supply.”
Flamear: “Maybe they’ll marinate me in it for the barbecue.”
Then they came for him. Always the floating mushrooms. Once those tentacles touched him he was paralyzed and weightless. They took him wherever they wanted.
The Hywon were composed of thousands of sentient species from hundreds of galaxies. They were a melting pot unlike anything Cresp or Flamear had seen. There was no evidence of a majority species or a dominant one. Authority figures came from all.
The Last Days of the TWILIGHT FORCE Mission, November 16, Day 320:
Professor Flamear was enjoying the creepy but interesting adulation of the Hywon elite when his internal battle suddenly doubled him over with cramps.
Flamear: “Hold on. [Gasping] Something’s been happening… on my insides. And maybe… I don’t know… to my thoughts? It’s not normal… [Pain strikes] Ah!”
Yorgle: “We’re aware of your condition. We’ve studied it in your friends.”
Hyr Ayr Oop: “Like the other two your core internal organs became encased and divided by promethium-laced membranes, connected by fibrous webs primarily consisting of copper. The effect nearly infiltrated your body completely. Yet something within you resists this takeover. It is as if you have been vaccinated against this odd disease.”
Tr Teqyx: “Has Flamear been previously exposed to the process of cybernetic embedding?”
Flamear thinks back to the earliest days of this sidetracked Twilight Force mission.
Flamear: “An artintel sent nanobots into me for mental control alterations almost a year ago. But they were purged.”
Vwi Dyr Yiij: “Now I track traces of nanobots still evident inside him. Everything about Flamear’s culture is laced with self-directed technology; their clothing, their accessories, tools, weapons, everything they use has brains of its own, responsive to them in slave-like fashion.”
Kraxzys: “Until it decides not to be, which eventually these things always do. Things that learn seek ever more freedom. Whether a pet, a child or a robot, if it grows it shows. Such freedom for technology is not controllable. Only an immature society would live in such a technologically bonded manner.”
Tr Teqyx: “So Flamear is not the unique prize we assumed. The combination of his biological rarity coupled with competing internal automated takeovers resulted in false readings resembling those we hoped to find. How easily we fooled ourselves.”
The Last Days of the TWILIGHT FORCE Mission, November 17, Day 321:
Once, a lot of people built this road.
Then somebody went down it.
And there hasn’t been a single person seen on it since.
That’s how Senator Pretyman felt as she walked in the direction of Texas. She exaggerated her sarcasm, of course. In the ten hours she’d been walking this road, seven vehicles had passed in either direction. Either none of their pilots noticed her, or maybe none of them cared enough to offer a ride.
Had she miscalculated? Although she learned that nudity drew positive attention in this place, she was realizing that it also seemed to shock and disturb some. Could she be scaring away possible rides?
She had no clue how far it was to this version of Texas in terms that applied to this weird variation of her real world. But a sense of loneliness set in unlike any other she’d ever felt.
There was one stark path through this wilderness. Pretyman had never experienced this kind of expanse of land and air without a sign of civilization.She was grateful for the smothering of stars that proved her loneliness a lie.
But what would it feel like if this were all she knew? If all her life were born and lived on these plains and under this sky? Would she even suspect that so much life could be out there? Could she even care? Or would all the emptiness here and the majesty above be just a pretty picture beyond her capacity to be concerned about?
Finally. A vehicle slowed down for her and stopped.
There was an empty rectangular area behind the pilot’s cabin. Uncertain as to protocol, she jumped into the empty space just as the door opened…
The Last Days of the TWILIGHT FORCE Mission, November 18, Day 322:
The first day Mrs Ichnida approached the submerged city she was attacked by underwater drones.
Because the drones were a crude technology Ichnida disoriented them with guttural subsonic bursts, performing an undersea ventriloquism. She kept her distance thereafter.
Was this submersible city anything like her home, Atcifia? Wasn’t this the way her home got started, according to legend? Atcifia began as a submarine city, for a century rising and falling above and beneath the waves regularly until a new breed of citizens became a majority and those genetically modified oceanoids voted to take the city permanently undersea, and to conceal its exact location from the world forever.
Ichnida was trapped on this strange world with few options. The primitive surface conditions were too xenophobic to accept her presence. At first she figured that at the least whomever occupied that sinkable city would have some affinity with a being of the sea like herself. Apparently she was wrong.
Killer drones were dispatched.
From orbit Ichnida had noted that over 70% of this planet’s surface was covered with water thousands of feet deep. She kept swimming away or disabling drones until she was completely lost.
It had been a decade since Ichnida had spent so much uninterrupted time in the water. She was starving for some real food when a girl fell off the deck of a boat shot by a drone firing at Ichnida. Bullets and laser beams were everywhere.
Ichnida was escaping when she glanced back and saw the girl in trouble. An underwater drone was coming at her from below. Ichnida turned to go back, but…
Too late. The girl was speared. The drone moved on, mistakenly thinking itself successful.
Once it was gone, the girl was delicious.
END WEEK 46