Title: Nine Months
Warnings: Speculation and Spoilers for anything beyond Season 2/Season 3
Pairings: None, but if you squint at it REALLY hard and turn your computer upside down you might be able to see some Nathan/Charles if you REALLY DESPERATELY WANTED TO.
Summary: This story was started during the 3rd Season. However, I decided to abandon it when it became clear that we would have a real idea of what happened to Charles when the 4th season started and in light of a factual revelation, I disbanded the story. It’s actually not bad as a guess goes, but as the 4th Season draws to a close, I couldn’t in good faith fanagle all the new information into it.
This story follows describes what might have happened to Charles during the 9 months between Season 2’s finale and Season 3’s premiere.
Disclaimer: Metalocalypse, Dethklok and associated characters are the property of Brendan Small. Darren (referred to here as 577701) is my own character and doesn’t really belong in the Metalocalypse franchise - however at the time I was still trying to get the hang of writing him and writing him in other people’s universes was a good way to focus on his character rather than his world. But anyway, he’s mine.
It had all been very carefully planned: right to the smallest detail. The squadron of elite Klokateers: some muscle, some doctors who accompanied Charles to the surgery. Dethklok was fortunately too incredulous at being made to wait outside to protest. It might have been fortunate that the manager was passed out at the time, as the look on Nathan’s face would have been more than enough on its own to prevent him from what he had intended to do to them all.
He had hoped, while he was still awake that nothing would go this far. Now that it had it was up to people who were not him.
“Sirs. We understand that Dethklok would prefer to use their own surgeons in matters of their employees health but we simply can not condone…”
The deep rumble of a particularly enormous Klokateer issued slightly muffled from behind his mask. “We are here to puruse the morgue. We require a body. You and your staff may work on the commander.”
“The morgue?!” sputtered the doctor. To the man’s credit, he was not in the least intimidated by the enormous man’s size. “Sir, I’m as big a Dethklok fan as the next man but may I remind you that these deceased patients are people’s loved ones and family! I simply can not allow you this kind of irreverence in my hospital to human life.”
“There are, I presume bodies in this morgue that do not belong to patients with families?”
“Well yes…” the Doctor said. “A few John Does are stored here.” His gaze narrowed with loathing and suspicion.
“Very good. We will compensate the standard $500 family burial fees, plus some extra for use of your facilities.”
The doctor’s face did a dance of eyebrows and a ghost wind of sighs and clucks escaped his lips. The fact of the matter was that some of these bodies that the Police stored in the Hospital’s much more spacious facilities belonged to the fringes of society, human waste who had died alone and exposed to the elements. For these poor souls to have a funeral was more than they would ever have expected otherwise. “Very well. Follow me.” It wasn’t quite defeat.
The body wasn’t quite perfect, but alongside the real Charles being stitched together, the Dethklok surgeons began reconstructing the corpse they’d retrieved to look like the manager. This wasn’t the usual work they did: destroying the faces of those whom they had to silence so Dethklok’s frequent media disasters wouldn’t affect the band’s reputation.
The unknown victim of the elements naturally had not had the luxuries of a training facility and three square meals a day, but once padded with imaginative tissue reconstructions and all scars masked by a clean suit, the resemblance was uncanny. On the other table, the real Offdensen sat up, long deep stitches slightly stretched as he grinned a mildly unnerving grin at the first sight upon awakening from blood loss, surgery and local anaesthetics being himself lying dead on the opposite side of the room.
“How much longer until I’m fit to leave?”
The same doctor who had initially warred with the Klokateer glanced at his charts. “Three hours. I would recommend that at least you allow a Nurse to take you to wherever it is you intend to go in a wheelchair. I assume you’re not going home.”
Charles gave the beleaguered man a wan smile. “You’ve probably figured out that Dethklok is not great at obeying orders.”
“Oh, I have.” With that, the doctor spun on his heel and made a harassed exit that in any other circumstance would have made the former manager proud. He clung to the notion of deliberate refusal to follow orders – it was what his boys would have done.
Three hours later, Klokateer number 577701 arrived in the waiting room. Although usually no Klokateer would dare appear before his Lords without his hood, the meaning behind the gesture could not be plainer: it was the equivalent of removing one’s hat in reverence for the dead.
“My Lords, we have done all we can…but Commander Offdensen is dead.”
Nathan opened his mouth but no long scream came forth. 577701 suddenly found his arms occupied: the right with a vehement Toki intent on beating him, the other with a frizzy haired bassist whose knife was about to find his throat. Luckily, 577701 was stronger than both and he managed to hold Toki until he’d calmed into hurt sobs and even Murderface was embarrassed and moved off.
Pickles quite obviously took solace in drug abuse but Skwisgaar surprisingly held out his arm for the drummer to inject a needle into. Once both realized that morphine didn’t exactly sooth hurt emotions, they both broke out the booze and it didn’t take long for whatever they were imbibing to relax the contours of their faces and put a dim shade behind their eyes.
“The hospital will keep Mr. Offdensen’s body here, my Lords.” 577701 retrieved his hood and put it on.
“Oh no. No…way. Hesh coming home.”
“Yeaaaah dood. Murdahface is right.” Pickles slurred.
“Uh.” Nathan hadn’t seemed to have come to grips yet. “Yeah. Having…y’know…dead body. Brutal.”
577701 frowned. This was not what they had planned for. “My Lords, the facilities here are clean and…”
“NO. No you…Fuck. Fuck you. He’s uh. Coming. Home. Yeah.”
The burly gear nodded and went to retrieve the body. Hopefully this would work.
Pickles and Skwisgaar were no trouble at all. Both had ingested a dangerous level of alcohol and drugs by that point and neither was in any position to judge an apple from an orange with any competency let alone a delicate plastic surgery job.
Toki turned away immediately at the sight of the dead body and Murderface lingered but if he’d felt something was amiss he didn’t say anything.
Nathan however prowled around the casket like an animal. The group of Gears who were Charles’ private guard stood unflinching. If any member of Dethklok was going to see through the plan, it would be Lord Nathan.
Finally, the big man sighed. “Close it.”
Two gears rushed forward to close the casket.
“We burn it in a for…forni…fourteen days.”
In a small pub located many miles from Mordland but not yet outside the United States of America, was Clawson Michigan. The restaurant was a run-down family style place, packed to the gills with families out for an evening and people who wanted a drink or two without getting drunk.
The man at the end of the bar hailed the bartender/waitress: a big lady with a lot of curves, dyed rust-coloured hair and a bunch of tattoos in the shape of roses, celtic crosses, barbed wire and other cliché favourites. As it was, the newcomer ‘Charlie’ was a favourite customer. He tipped well, didn’t bore her with maudlin talk and practically worshipped her pie-making ability.
“More apple pie?”
“Just a coffee.” She gave him a look. “Alright. You got me. Coffee and more pie. More importantly, I was wondering if you could turn that up.”
She followed his gaze to the small television in the corner which had previously been playing the local College football game but upon announcement of the score (the rival university had bested Michigan State so they didn’t dwell too long on it.) the news had switched to the Dethklok minute.”
“Heh, Dethklok fan hm?”
Charles gave her a nod. “You could say that.”
“You and everyone else in the world.” A slice of pie was set in front of him but his iced cream dissolved into a soupy mess without being touched as he watched his boys light the pyre of the man they thought was him. He listened to the uncharacteristically slurred speech of Skwisgaar as he stumbled through Viking prayer and his heart melted watching Nathan’s pain.
“I’m sorry boys. I’ll be home soon.”
“Yeh say somethin’ Charlie?”
Charles took a bite of pie, willing his voice to maintain the drawl he’d adopted. “Nah. Just that this is the best pie ever.”
Charles shifted under the threadbare comforter, trying to escape the sounds of people doing aerobics while performing dangerous and painful surgery. (He firmly refused to embrace the disturbing notion that they were having sex. Sex did not sound like that. ) To top off the evening a grinding shuddering noise alerted Charles to the fact that the radiator warming the room had just given up the ghost. What a LOVELY situation to be in.
Charles wasn’t weak-willed in the face of hardship but he was a man who had spent a good deal of time living very well. Certainly not the pampered lives of his boys, but nonetheless opulent. Now he only had the budget for this project which covered only the basics of travel, accomodation and food. It took some getting used to.
He could have done a bit better, but the indulgence of three slices of pie had to be paid for somehow. I’m becoming like my boys he thought wryly as he pushed himself out of bed to wrap himself in his jacket for extra warmth.
The disturbing noises had stopped above him…at least that was a plus.
“Mornin, Charlie. Breakfast special’s ham and cheese omelette.”
“Just coffee for me today, I think.”
“Suit yourself.” She went to get the pot as he sat down.
“Can you put on the morning news?”
She nodded and switched on. Almost instantly an image of the underbelly of Mordhaus was filling the screen.
“Earlier today Mordhaus was taken into the clouds where it will remain until reconstruction is complete.” The camera moved back to take in the hulking form of the familiar Gear who stood beside the reporter. “What can we expect to hear from Dethklok on this development?”
“Our Lords are unavailable for comment.” Rumbled the Gear. “They have decided to retire from public view for awhile. Because of people like you.” 57701 punctuated the point with a jab of his finger that the woman instinctively skittered back from.
“Good job, 577701.” Charles murmured. Charles liked using 577701 for dealing with the public. He was (mostly) all bark and no bite so his presence tended to herd people away from danger and keep record sales in the black. He’d also been lucky enough to avoid death for quite some time after joining so he was one of the closest people Charles had to a right-hand-man. Of course, the moment he made it official, the man would probably be ripped apart. 577701 was resigned to being the go-to guy for odd jobs ranging from assassination to holding some band member’s hair if they puked.
“Thank you.” Charles sighed. There would be no shot of his boys today.
The waitress put the cup down but didn’t immediately walk away. “I can’t get over how big a fan you are. You even know the number of that hood guy. You thinking of becoming one of them?”
“Not especially.” Charles replied. It was true too. He already was more one of them than she could ever dream.
For the first time since the conversation began, Charles actually looked up at her. “Not a fan?”
“No, I like Dethklok alright. It’s just…it’s hard thinking that every time I see one of my friends go to one of those concerts it’s probably the last time I’ll see ‘em.” Her hand tightened on the mug. “I’ve got the good sense to stay away. You should stay away too Charlie.”
Charles gazed after her. For a split second he thought perhaps she was one of them…but that was silly. If anyone was in a position to understand him, she was. However, this was neither the time nor the place. He put down money to cover his drink, took a long look at the TV and walked out.
In comparison to the hotel, the car was pretty nice. It was hardly the black Mercedes C-Class he drove when he wanted to be discreet (compared to some of the Dethvehicles, a Hummer would have been discreet) but the navy Saturn was functional and had heated seats. He toyed with the idea of sleeping in it, but calling extra attention to himself was not advisable.
In the glove compartment was a packet of papers, tobacco and a key. Charles hadn’t smoked since his first year of College and he gave it up pretty fast when the need to eat outstripped the need for nicotine. He rolled one, clumsily: it’d been a long time and if he was going to do this he most certainly wasn’t buying that filtered out store-bought crap, lit it and rolled the window to flick ash out onto the pavement. The sun caught the silver key and it gleamed bright glare into his eyes.
“How are you feeling, Commander?”
“I’m faring well, 577701. How uh. How are the boys taking it?”
“Well, sir. You remember that chat we had where you taught me the finer points of attempting to deal with Dethklok’s lawsuits?”
Charles just blinked at him.
“Well how the bloody feck do you do it? Lord Murderface touched her tits. Out of grief. For you!”
Charles could feel his lip tremble a little bit. He wasn’t sure if he was about to laugh or cry but he mastered himself. “And the crashes?”
“Lord Skiwsgaar wanted more drugs.”
This surprised Charles mightily. Pickles he might have expected to try coping via jag but Skwisgaar?
“The really big crash?”
“Lord Nathan wanted to see your body. I tried…not to bruise him too much. But uh…we’ll have to send a ham to 683’s widow.” 577701 rolled his shoulder like he was trying to work out a particularly painful kink. Evidently Nathan had put up a very good fight.
“There is one more thing.” 577701 paused and pulled out a small plastic shopping bag which he upended in Charles lap. “The remaining affects of the man who injured you, Commander.”
“Ah. What is the state of the man himself?”
“I shared it with the yard wolves.” There was a pause. “Ground. Up. Like hamburger.”
“Very uh, thorough metaphor there.”
“Metaphor. Yes Commander.”
577701 had clicked his heels, saluted and departed then, leaving Charles to peruse the trinkets at his leisure. A metal mask, bloodstained. A key, obviously taped to some discreet part of the man’s person. There was still some adhesive substance stuck to the ring. The shiv that had been used to cut his face.
Of most interest was the key. It looked like it should belong to a locker or trunk at first glance, but Charles recognized it for a padlock key. Not generic either.
As he recovered strength in the hospital bed he searched. Two areas in the United States had bunkers who used that company to secure their patrons affects. He’d chosen the Michigan one over the Florida one. Florida was too close to one of the targets for it to be a wise move.
“Alright you sick bastard, let’s find out what you’re hiding.”
The hour was late as the guard dropped off to sleep. For Charles’ purposes, he opted to enter the compound by stealth rather than force. He couldn’t help but think that he would wind up needing to kill before this adventure was over. The less attention he commanded the better, especially if someone got wind that a newly dead and buried man was walking around alive.
There was a rank scent on the wind as the Manager crept through the various storage garages. Charles couldn’t quite place it, it smelled something like decay and must: neither of which seemed out of place in a storage facility. Some people didn’t know how to properly store their belongings and naturally there might be an unfixed leak in such a poorly upkept spot.
Charles’ stomach gave a weak clench as he arrived at the bunker marked 214, corresponding with the number on the key. The scent was most powerful here and his brain registered it as the awful smell associated with the dungeons of Mordhaus when that flesh-eating virus strain had gotten into the Gears’ food.
He knew what he would find on the other side. He just wasn’t prepared for the extent.
The second the full extent of the smell hit his nostrils, he gagged. The heap of corpses in the corner comprised the dreadful aroma. It wasn’t that that made it difficult to control the bile in the back of his throat. It was the fact, much as he disliked the notion, of the method in which the pile of bodies had been destroyed. Not with knives, guns or even cruder items like hatchets and chainsaws. With someone’s bare hands. The same bare hands that had eagerly given him the scar that the hospital staff had not had time to repair.
Charles held no delusions of grandeur regarding his mortality but he retained a healthy amount of pride in his own ability. He was thankful no one was around to see him fall to his knees, senses and emotions overwhelmed as he gasped and choked on bitter bile that tasted of sour, half-digested coffee and cigarettes. Ironically had he not done so he would not have noticed the small scrap of paper lying wedged between the blood encrusted surgical table and the wall.
It took a few tries but eventually Charles managed to retrieve it. It had on it a number: mobile phone by the looks of things, accompanied by a name and title: General Emmett Crozier.
Charles was surprised to find that he knew the name. It was of course possible that it could be a different Emmett Crozier than the one he had encountered in college, but that would be a strange coincidence indeed.
The scope and coverage of the news had been magnificent, even for a University as prestigious as Harvard. Charles could see the news crews from his dormitory room. He almost didn’t get up to answer the knock at his door.
“What’s going on, Off?”
Too engrossed in the goings on to protest the nickname, Charles Offdensen, barely turned 21 years of age pulled back the curtain so his across-the-hall neighbour; a football star by the name of Callum could see outside.
“Dr. Selactia quit the department and now Emmett has too. I think I heard that he plans to join the military.”
“That History brain with the scholarships?”
Charles nodded, neglecting to chide the other student’s irreverence for intelligence. “Indeed.”
There was good reason for the news coverage. The work of Emmett Crozier had brought Harvard University a truly amazing amount of money via grants and scholarships that had kept the University in the news for many years thus far. To have years of research and donations dismissed as ‘bunk’ was an enormous blow to the prestige of one of the most prolific Ivy League schools in existence. Privately, Charles himself thought that the idea of a ‘band’ being the catalyst for the apocalypse utterly ridiculous, but there were some serious repercussions that would likely affect the whole Arts department, if not the University as a whole. As a law student, Charles wasn’t just a member of the school of Business.
“Oi, Off, you look like you’re gonna lose your shit.”
Charles sighed. “I don’t like to think about how this is going to effect our relationships with other Universities. We will probably have funding pulled.”
Callum looked at him blankly and Charles pulled his shoulders up near his neck in a very expansive shrug for him
“There goes my international study opportunity. Just cause that douchebag Selactia decided to bail.” Charles was angry enough to be cruder than normal in his word choice. “I don’t blame Emmett for wanting out. Maybe I should have gone to Princeton.”
“Y’don’t mean that Off. Their rowing team is shit.”
Callum might have been sports-minded but he had respect for the parts of the institution that he represented.
Charles sighed. “No, I suppose I don’t. It’s just that next year is the LSATS.”
The conversation dissolved into banter by then. Charles made it to Oslo and later Edinburgh in Scotland for a few conferences before the end of his University career but the damage had been done. He still resented it.
Charles pocketed the card and retired to his car. A nearby McDonalds restaurant provided him with a cup of white coffee and some french fries which nullified the ache in his esophagus until such time as the local drugstore opened and he could purchase Pepcid.
Crozier weighed on his mind. He’d known the man, if not quite peripherally speaking. Hopefully the scope of Harvard university’s extensive campus would be enough to cloak him this time.
For a man who was supposed to be head of Military Operations, General Crozier was a difficult man to trace. Even his hobbies and activities seemed to be shrouded in a mysterious fog. Charles recognized these minor dodges as the hallmark signature of some very smooth cover-ups. It was something he himself did when the press wanted details about Dethklok that neither he nor the band were interested in giving out. A normal person would probably eat up useless trivia about Nathan taking an interest in hunting or the fact that Murderface often spoke to Dr. Carol Parker who kept the collection at the Civil War Museum. What it didn’t provide them with was the whens or wheres that would draw out the fan troupes in hoards. There were a million spots, including the grounds of Mordhaus themselves on which the boys could partake of their favourite activities or have people brought to speak (or have sexual relations) with them.
Thus, Crozier’s news spots glossed over his time at Harvard and focussed on generally useless notes about the General’s American patriotism and dedication to training on base. The photographs depicted an unattractive man of shorter stature but of the same build as Nathan; on the heavier side though sporting no shortage of muscle. Although older, one thing was completely certain: this was definitely the man that Charles had remembered.
He set aside the microfilms for the day and exited the public library, heading for the city centre of Baltimore Maryland. He had a vague idea of how to proceed with pursuing the General; the search he’d performed on the cell phone number from the bunker back in Michigan had turned up the area code as belonging to the Baltimore area and he’d driven the eight hours to save airfare in case this turned up a dead end.
His purpose was simple; he needed a disguise. No doubt that Crozier would recognize him; his disguise so far wasn’t much of a disguise. In the city, he found a charity shop and bought for himself a pair of ratty jeans and a few t-shirts with questionable slogans as well as a buttondown and khakis. These served well to make him look less like the professional businessman he truly was.
A drugstore yielded a pot of ladies’ foundation makeup in his skin tone which covered up the scar and a spray-in tube of black hair colour (Charles considered the idea of bleaching his hair as a line not to be crossed). Green prescription contacts covered his natural brown irises and completed the look of just another jackoff Nathan Explosion fanboy wannabe.
Victor Fjordslorn now gazed back at Charles from the other side of the mirror. He’d picked the name of his competing manager because he’d been an asshole who tried to trick his boys and now he was doing the exact same thing. It was a sobering thought.
When he returned to the latest hotel (It actually had proper heating this time), it only hurt worse to see them in one of their first public appearances in the past month vehemently telling a reporter that they would rather take on Dethklok’s financial issues themselves than try to replace him.
His eyes drifted over the faces of each in turn. They wore their usual stoic expressions but he could see every bit of pain, sorrow and hurt in their eyes. He could see Murderface’s relief in finding some outlet for it as he jumped up aggressively to attack the hapless TV host. Several of the Klokateers who rushed forward to break up the attack were ones he recognized as knowing the truth about his state of being. Those men and women were his troops, not 577701’s or 43’s or any of the others in leadership roles. He wondered if they hated him for being unable to make this right and ease their beloved Dethklok’s pain with only a few words:
It’s all a ruse. He’s really alive.
Maybe the boys could keep a secret. Could they?
If they could, then what kind of a monster did that make him?
“I’m…uh. So sorry boys.” He whispered, years of expensive academic and business training failing to provide him with the vocabulary to express the sentiment.
“Good afternoon, My Lords.” 577701 knew they couldn’t see him smile behind his hood but he tried to inject friendliness and confidence into his voice by whatever means possible. The Commander had charged him with as much of the upkeep of Mordhaus as he could handle. This was easier said than done; 577701 had no power over the finances of Dethklok as Charles had had, nor did he know where and how the intrepid manager managed to find the time to keep tabs on and attend to everything that seemed to happen at once all over the place. The chaos had been increased twofold now that renovations and reconstruction were taking place. “Is there anything I can do for you?”
“Uhhh yeah.” Nathan droned at him. ‘So uh. We’ve decided that we need um. Scream activated lighting. In every room.”
“I will alsos be needings yous to builds me this.” Skiwsgaar looked up from his guitar long enough to press a paper into 577701’s hand. The poor gear got about a second’s worth of a glimpse at the words ‘ruby’ and ‘metronome’ before Pickles piped in with his two cents.
“Heey. Dood. Are condoors endangered dood?”
“Um, yes I believe so Lord Pickles.”
577701 opened his mouth. “My Lords. You do realize that…” he shut it again. The first rule of being a Gear was that you do not question your Lords. 577701 was a competent and capable man but he was still first and foremost a Gear. After all if they spent a bit more on renovations than was strictly necessary, Dethklok might feel better and get back to recording. Knubbler was still around and he could be counted upon to herd the band when appropriate. As long as there were no more vanity projects… ”Nothing. I will go inform the scientists about your lighting scheme, Lord Nathan.”
Once the Gear had left (none of Dethklok really knew or cared that some Gears showed up more often than others) Nathan sighed and retrieved a bundle of papers from his pocket. He had been through the manager’s files after their dramatic TV pronouncement and now he and he alone knew what they were facing. Money, Nathan could sometimes handle when things were dire.
“Listen up. There’s some…special transfer fund that takes care of paying the hood guys so we don’t have to care about that. All the rest of you jackoffs are in charge of pa..hey. HEY. LISTEN. You’re in charge of paying some bill, okay?”
Murderface peered over his shoulder at the list. “Guesh I’ll do the electrical billsh. I’ve alwaysh been good at taking care of houshehold necesshities.”
“Is wills be in charge of de phonebills and de lightighses and the interksnecks.” Skiwsgaar decided. “Is can gets de GMILFS Gone Wilds on de Paysperviews.”
“Fine. I’ll be in charge of th’ food shopping. ‘Least this time we won’t wind up with paper towels and no bread.“
“Okay. Okay. So um…yeah. That’s good. I’m uhhh gonna pay our credit cards and um….try to…do…security and junk.”
“I’s wants to gets a bills toos, Nathans!” Even when it was something as mundane as paying the bills, Toki didn’t dare allow himself to be left in the dust.
“Aww, Toki, you can’t be trushted with money. You knowsh that. Dontsh you knowsh how you can’t be trushted with money?” The bassist clapped a meaty hand on Toki’s shoulder.
“Cans to Moiderface, youse big jerks! At leasts Ims nots de ones makings stupids ideas about sandscapes whats gets in the halls and ons our shoes ands thens Nathans has to vaccums its!”
“Aw come on Murderface. Stahp bein’ a dick. Heey, Toki, you cahn be in charge of snacks! You wanna be in charge of snacks dood?”
“I don’ts wants to bes in charge of snacks, Pickle! It ams stupids jobs! I wants de real cools names-money jobs likes yous all haves…”
As the argument faded away down the hall, Nathan fell silent. Sure, they missed Charles but he was replaceable. No, not as a person but as an employee. They could find a new manager. Wouldn’t be the same but it was like the hood guys. One hood guy died, someone else could be found to do the job. No. that wasn’t right. Nathan grunted and growled to himself. He hated having to think this hard. That whole funeral ceremony hadn’t felt right. Like when your mom made you go to some douchebag Uncle’s funeral thing and you didn’t give a shit because who remembers some dead guy who you met once when you were two?
Fuck it. Maybe Murderface was actually right for once and they just needed more time to grie…get used to the idea.
Harvard Scholar’s Portal was an easy hack fortunately for an experienced man like Charles. Of course his old credentials were voided, his account erased now that he was deceased. A small pang of vanity struck him. Did anyone remember him?
He shook the thoughts from his head and ran a few searches. The articles were there – readable online only of course. No matter how much Crozier may have been disgraced while in attendance, he was now famous enough that the University would never want to entirely deny all ties. They were merely pushed into the blackest corner, ready to remind the world that perhaps it was their distinguished alumni who incited this promising young scholar into pursuing an even more promising military career.
Selactia’s work was mysteriously not there at all. How…interesting.
Neither would be staying mysterious much longer.
The article seemed to focus on a particular then-recently located Sumerian tablet:
…it seems to be a part of a much larger work. Many scholars have to date dedicated their lives towards validating the argument that Sumerian art is prophetic, my esteemed colleague being one of them. This is the first time however that historians have discovered a piece that has been thought to be near to the end of the tablet. Extensive archaeological and geological research has proven that these markings are newer than any previously discovered. Many religious organizations have depicted their versions of the end of the world or apocalypse, often heralded by the appearance of gods or their divine servants. What is truly unusual about this interpretation is that the harbingers appear to be five musicians…”
Charles paused here and pawed through his bag until he found the print-off of the small article.
Part of University collection missing. Discraced Professor Top Suspect, Say Police
The crunch of paper was loud enough that several of the other students in the library looked around at him.
“Hey, keep it down. Some of us are trying to study.” one belligerent younger man hissed at him.
Ignoring him and clutching the ruined paper so tight the bones on his hand stood out in white, Charles stood, ripped his printout from the machine and stormed outside.
Some ridiculous mystical prophecy conspiracy-theory bullshit was the reason this asshole was hurting his boys? Charles wouldn’t stand for it.
Was all that destruction…necessary?
“It was just for the brutality.” Charles reminded himself, now exceptionally glad that he had picked Nathan as the basis for his disguise. A fellow Explosion fan on the street gave his mutterings an approving nod as opposed to a raised eyebrow.
But they summoned a troll.
But they were his boys.
Charles had to duck into a nearby pub and order two brandies before he had calmed down enough to take any decisive action. He returned to the library, opened an account for ‘Victor’ and checked out some books on Sumerian mythology and religious practice. If he was going to go track down this Crozier nutcase he needed to be prepared and knowledgeable. That included most unfortunately, knowing his enemy.
In the hotel with the channel tuned exclusively to the Dethklok minute, Charles sipped some complementary tea half-heartedly while he turned the pages of the text he had checked out of the library, only part of his mind taking in the information.
On television, the ever-cheerful Dethklok Minute newsman was reviewing the recent band activity. “The Klokateers at Mordland have locked down security even tighter than ever, refusing to let us glimpse any sight of the fortress as it drifts above the clouds.”
The Sumerians worshipped the temple itself as a sort of deity…
“…millions of vanity projects including converting hundreds of acres of grain and silos into cool ranch Dorito dispensers…”
…Often building around important resources like grain in order to channel these important resources to their earth-bound gods…
Charles put the book down and cleaned the tea he’d just spat out away from his nose with shaking fingers. He was cracking up out here. Time for some more decisive action.
Darren stared at the enormous mess of…whatever-it-was and resisted the urge to smack his head into the wall. Next to him, Gear 214, a younger man who kept his hood on to hide his adorable and definitely not brutal boyish face. (Never mind that he was at least 53 years old. He just looked ridiculous with a moustache and had spent his whole adult life being deadly with a gun and looking cute.) 577701’s companion remained briefly silent as he gawped. “But, what IS it?”
“Our Lords have named it ‘The Super Tits Candy Snake Project’. Pardon the crude expression but Commander Offdensen must be spinning in his grave.”
577701 pulled off his hood and rather thought that although he knew the man was still alive, it was quite likely that he’d heard the news and a part of his soul had died a horrible shrieking death. “So much candy…and boobs…” There was a pause. “I do have a healthy respect for American cinema so I must add the following: But why did it have to be snakes?” The enormous gear fell silent then, having apparently gone somewhat catatonic thanks to an over-stimulation of breasts and sugar-laced food. Eventually he pulled himself out of his state and turned to the other gear. “What is this costing us?”
214 shifted nervously. “Well Big D, you’re going to love this.” He hemmed and hawed a bit more. Everyone knew Darren had infinite resources of kindness and patience but the guy WAS taller than Skwisgaar and could likely crush him with one little finger. “…Twenty million and our Lords have decided to scrap the project.” He said in a rush.
Darren grit his teeth, but the expression cleared up a second later. “Well mate, I’d wager that there is only one thing to do in a situation like this.”
214 managed to refrain from crapping himself. “Sir?”
“You like candy?”
‘My wife does know I occasionally watch porn. Sometimes we—”
“Then get eating, or I’ll do it all myself.”
“That’s not a bad idea. Perhaps I can convince my wife to put candy on her…”
Darren glanced at him. “Too much information, 214. Cram it and eat.”
Mordhaus was falling. As the massive house whistled downward, Klokateer 577701 made a flailing grab at the laptop which mercifully slid forward off the table and into his outstretched hands.
“Haven’t they invented faster wi-fi?” he grumbled frantically, jiggling the track point in a frenzy. Finally, the page for the First Bank of Mordland came up and the bill was paid. The haus slowed and then began a reverse climb back into the clouds.
“D?” a second hood peeked around the corner, voice quavering with shock. “What was that?”
Darren recognized her as being 381 from load-in. She was a smaller klokateer, curvy and well-built from hauling around equipment all day.
“That was the world’s fastest electrical bill payment.” 577701 whipped off his hood to reveal ashen skin and a sorry looking waterfall of black hedgehog spines.
381 was no fool. “Where did the money come from?”
The enormous klokateer shook his head to clear it, still apparently a little shell-shocked. “Let’s just say that Mordhaus is going to have to do without a significant portion of its staff for awhile.” Correctly interpreting the expression under his coworkers’ hood, he shook his head. “No, Load-in is safe. Dethklok’s still got the concert to do in a few months. We can’t do it without roadies.”
381 joined 577701 at the table, sitting down next to him. “We’re…not doing so well are we Big D?”
Darren nodded miserably. Some head of operations he was turning out to be.
The other Gear adjusted her position in the chair so that she was sitting closer to the bigger employee. No one was around to see them not being metal on the job so he obliged and comforted the smaller woman with a hug. “I miss Mr. Offdensen.” She muttered into his shoulder.
“You have no idea. I’m sure if anyone could come back from the dead it’d be the Commander.” Please, please do it soon, sir. We need you bad.
Charles was standing in front of the mirror, trying to look comfortable in a pair of khakis and a button-down shirt. This was the outfit he planned on wearing to meet Crozier. He looked and felt like the robot that the boys always said he was. Ironically it was the lack of suit that made him like this, since he spent all day in it most of the time, it was what he was most comfortable wearing. Maybe he’d tell his boys when this was over. IF it was ever over.
A vast amount of research had told him that General Crozier was going to be at a restaurant tonight in Baltimore Harbour to celebrate his being made head of Military Operations. The place was expensive and Charles had had to do some rather impressive budget shuffling to come up with the money to go. At least he was going to be eating something more nutritious tonight.
At precisely half-six, the car was parked a half-block from White Lion Bistro. The place had valet of course, but he was already spending enough on this operation. It needed to go smoothly. He was woefully underdressed for the establishment, but that was the point. Victor Fjordslorn was not as socially aware as was Charles Offdensen.
“Fjordslorn, party of one?”
The host checked his guest book, eying Charles’ outfit somewhat distastefully. “Right this way Sir.”
“May I start you with something to drink?”
Without thinking, Charles replied: “Half-carafe of 1945 Mouton.”
The waiter’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head. “Are you quite sure you can afford something like that, Sir?” His tone spoke volumes of his surprise that Charles would know anything at all about fine wine.
“Yes, I can afford it.” Cue two more weeks of nothing but instant ramen made with the hotel coffee pot. Or, at least, Victor Fjordslorn’s new credit card would cover it. This whole plan was becoming more and more expensive. Sure, he could have gone back and ordered something cheaper but it was just too tempting. Charles had long learned to appreciate good things after watching Dethklok fritter their money away on items simply because of the price, barely appreciating if not outright ignoring the culture attached to them.
It was around the time his crab cake appetizer arrived that his stake-out plan was rewarded. The man was unmistakably the same Crozier who had attended Harvard. He looked rather similar to how he had when he was a younger man, only now his hair was now in a military buzz-cut and there were deep lines in his face. To Charles’ delight the long table by the window was where Crozier’s party had been set up for – only a few paces away from his own.
The men sat and ordered drinks, toasting the General, who stood and gave a short salute. Strangely, not all of the individuals seated with him belonged to the Military. One gentleman had a russet beard and a great deal of long similarly coloured hair. Another elderly silver-haired man, more physically imposing than Nathan and taller than Skwisgaar and maybe even 577701 sat at Crozier’s right. He did not salute as the army guests did but rather shook Crozier’s hand.
Perhaps it was a trick of the light but when the General turned to speak to this man, his eyes seemed unfocussed.
Charles pretended to put his full attention on his food but kept his ear open to the conversation, determining for himself as to how to proceed with the operation. He had planned to set himself up as an idealistic younger man interested in joining the army. Now he knew that bubbling excitement would not work. He would have to understate everything and take it very, very slow.
While waiting for his entrée, Charles refilled his wine glass, glancing up as he put the carafe back on the table, now two-thirds empty. He caught the eye of one of the men at the next table and held up his glass to compare. “Wonderful year, isn’t it?”
The man looked at him. “The 1945.” He elaborated.
“Uh…yes.” This gentleman was showing as much surprise as the waiter had.
“I wasn’t aware that the US Army were connoisseurs.” Charles pressed the advantage.
“Well, we’re not exactly, I suppose.” Charles checked the man’s uniform. A Lieutenant. Perfect. “However, the General has been made head of Military Operations.’
“I heard the news.” Charles said smoothly. “To be honest, I wasn’t planning on heading out for dinner tonight, but when I learned that he would be here, I decided it was within my budget to catch a glimpse. Who would have thought I’d be so lucky.”
“Indeed?” The man with the silver hair turned in his chair to face Charles as well. “Perhaps you would be interested in joining our party, if it is alright with our guest of honour of course.”
Crozier glanced over. “Certainly. Please come join us.”
It was however the silver haired man that summoned the waiter to make space at the long table. As they moved around, Charles about to be seated next to that tall man himself, he found himself thinking, for the second time that night of 577701. This man reminded him powerfully of the tall Klokateer and yet, he didn’t know quite why. Darren was professional perhaps, certainly clever and quite imposing when he needed to be, but everything about him was tinged with genuine kindness. This man was pure cold and ice. Charles had the unpleasant feeling that he was being observed just as much as he himself was observing Crozier.
Once seated and it was understood that his stuffed chicken, potato mash and vegetables would be delivered to the new table, the man on his right turned to him.
“I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Mr. Selactia.”
It was with Herculean effort that Charles didn’t react to the name. “Victor Fjordslorn. I’m an intern with a law firm.”
“It’s good to see a young man with a respectable profession these days. I myself have been starting to look for work in the government circles.”
It was a long shot but Charles thought perhaps it was worth the effort. “General, your name is familiar to me. I had to take this totally awful History course once y’know…when I was still in school, for an elective? I’m so sure I saw your name…and…yours Sir…but you’re Mr, not Professor or Doctor, so it must be a coincidence.”
“What class?” Crozier said suddenly.
“Ancient Civilizations. Um…HI…109.” He invented course numbers wildly.
“Did you read the article?” Selactia sounded stiff.
“Eh, no.” Charles said, keeping up his disaffected ex-student thank-God-I’m-finally-out-of-there routine.
“I don’t suppose you have any lasting interest in History, do you?”
“Well…ah…” Damnit, Charles. Keep your speech patterns in check. “Ahh…—-um. I guess it’s kinda cool.” He fiddled with his fork a bit.
Crozier sucked in a breath. “I can’t believe it’s still on Scholar’s Portal.”
“So it was your article! So…what was it about?”
Strangely, the General glanced at Selactia (did he nod?) before replying. “A Sumerian tablet.”
“Neato!” Charles had the overpowering urge to rinse his mouth out with soap. “I’d be very interested in hearing more. I mean, I really did find History pretty…um…cool, it’s just that I would be better off pursuing law, since the recession is um, an asshole, to quote some popular musicians.”
Crozier’s lips pursed at the mention of Dethklok. Nonetheless, he agreed to meet Charles for a drink later in the week after his inauguration ceremony.
Charles found himself shuffling over to the Lieutenant who had spoken to him earlier over desert. Lieutenant Halford seemed to be a wealth of information and Charles was eating the information up faster than he could spoon up pie.
“We were expecting General Kakko to receive this honour.” The man said, his eyes darting around nervously. This was of course to be expected; a lack of confidence in one’s commanding officer was not held in high regard. “General Crozier has more experience however. Five star General.”
Halford was speaking loud as though he wanted to be overheard. Realizing he wouldn’t get any further information out of the man, Charles excused himself from the party.
“Work tomorrow, Gentlemen.” He said, hailing the waiter. Courteously, he paid his own tab, despite protests to the contrary.
‘I look forward to our conversation Tuesday.” The General said, shaking his hand. Selactia and Halford also bid him adieu and he made the half-block walk to his car in good spirits.
When he reached the vehicle, there was a note stuck beneath his wiper. He’d paid for eight full hours of parking. Plucking the small folded slip out and unfolding it to read, he felt his blood turn to ice.
Dear Mr. Offdensen.
I am intrigued by your intrepid perusal and disguise. By all means, meet with the General. Learn what you can. I shall enjoy the results.
Charles stood against the car, brain working desperately. This situation could be made to come back under his control. It would have to. He opened the door a crack and sat heavily in the drivers’ seat, hands on the wheel in a perfect ‘two-and-ten’ position. For the first few moments all he could think about was having a drink; but he was at least rational in deciding that doing so would not restore his nerves.
There had to be more to this Selacia business than merely a long-beloved professor. It had been his role as Dethklok’s manager to take things in stride, even should it be something as preposterous as a lake troll.
He re-played the evening in his mind. The only thing that had really seemed odd to him was the fact that any major-decision making on the General’s part had always included a glance at the enormous man. It was those moments of something missing in his eyes whenever he spoke to Selacia that stood out. All at once a thought struck him: could the General possibly have been slipped some Totally Awesome Sweet Alabama Liquid Snake? All the signs pointed to ‘yes’. It would certainly explain the inexplicable proximity maintenance and the uncertain body language ill-befitting someone entrusted with the military organization of one of the largest nations in the world.
Why then, did he continue to want to believe in something silly and supernatural?
Charles rolled his cigarette with fingers that he was pleased to find were deft yet. He took one or two drags, drawing the smoke deep into his lungs with far less of a hitch than the first few times he’d relapsed into old practices on this trip. This habit would need to be kicked the moment he got back to Mordhaus, if not sooner. He put the tip of the fag to the note he’d been left, letting the embers and ashes float to the ground in defiance of both his old vice and as a challenge to the man who had dared leave him such a threat.
He would meet with the General. Drugs and scare tactics would not work on him and he was furious with himself for even believing in this Sumerian bullshit for one second.
The Inauguration was shown on television and Charles took it upon himself to watch it from start to finish. The speech itself was no more or less than Charles would have expected from Military personnel and it was competent but not great. It had probably been written by a mediocre speech writer and Charles knew that if the boys actually read the speeches he made for them, anything he wrote would have been better.
“I vow to do my best to protect Dethklok for the nations of the world!”
Charles started. Protect Dethklok? That was strange. Very strange. It could have been a popularity stunt but the General had written a paper that very explosively stated his opinions on music. It would be a simple matter for any third-rate muck rake to drag that up. Not only that, there were several other routes he could have taken that did not mention Dethklok but still presented the political aspect of the position positively. Not even the must amateur among their number could have or should have glossed over such things, yet there was Crozier, lauding the band with a smile etched into his features as though chiselled in by graphite point.
As the speech slipped away into other political promises, Charles’ eyes scanned the chairs behind him. A few other military people were there but the gaze came to rest specifically on one member of the audience, predictably a head or two above everyone else. Removed from the man’s immediate presence, it was not his Klokateer who sprang to mind but rather Nathan. No, not simply Nathan. All of them. Mr. (Doctor? Professor?) Selactia was a compilation of all of them. Nathan’s leadership, Murderface’s manipulative nature, Skwisgaar’s arrogance, Toki’s tenacity and Pickles’ charisma.
Charles flicked off the channel with an unnecessary flourish. His left hand twitched unnecessarily as though it longed to scrub the makeup from his cheek and reveal his scar. He lowered it and opened the night stand drawer to sweep the papers and tin of dried nicotine craving into it instead.
Simply put, he had dealt with his boys for this long. If he was right about this drug business, then it was a simple matter of a battle of wits. He was Charles Offdensen and the number of battles won in this war was distinctly in his favour.
“Good afternoon, General.” Charles had found a navy sports jacket to accompany his khakis and button down, tucked in today for an aura of ‘attempt-at-professional’. In his mind he cycled through acquaintances for an average young person to emulate. Charles himself had been too much of a loner. Toki wasn’t finished being a child due to his forced labour and strict religious upbringing stunting that part of his mental growth. Damien Carnickleson or Pickles’ brother Seth? Forget about it. He settled on his old across the hall roommate Callum with whom he had kept up correspondence right up until Dethklok had made it big and he no longer had time for pen friends.
The non-imported domestic lager tasted sour in Charles’ mouth but he forced himself to gulp it, a feat that he soon learned was easier when the stuff was ice cold and relatively tasteless. The burst of alcohol hitting him all at once gave him the relaxed patter of a far less stiff person, something the General seemed to appreciate and warm up to.
“Yes, my father either wanted me to join the Airforce; that was his service Sir. Else, he would have me attend law school.’
“Fjordslorn. Major Fjordslorn.”
It was all partly true. Kenneth Offdensen had indeed been in the air force and had offered his son exactly that choice in the matter when he had completed his initial business degree at college. The only difference was that his dad had been a Major when Charles had been a mere thirteen years of age. By the time the elder man’s plane had been gunned down, Kenneth had already been a 2nd Lieutenant.
“You said you intern. Where are you working now?”
“Ah, a firm called Collins, Burrows and Haughey. They operate out of Washington DC. Haughey and Burrows work mainly in family law however since Collins specialized in Copyright law, they saw fit to look into other ideas.
To a certain amount of guarded relief, Crozier did not decide to pursue the flimsy story. “It’s good to see a young man with a respectable profession these days.”
Hadn’t Crozier said nearly the exact same thing at the restaurant? This was almost definitely drugs in Charles’ mind. “Thank you, Sir.”
There was a lull in the conversation. Charles was used to the constant stream of short-hand huckster babble from the suits he dealt with every day of the week and thus the silence pervaded though it may be by a bit of Pink Floyd was quite unwelcome. He drained the last of his third pint while it was still palatable enough to do so.
In retrospect it was a poor idea. The room lurched a little more violently than Charles wished for. Had this really only been two pints? Or…was it three?
“I’d like to show you something…”
Did that sibilant hiss belong to Crozier? Certainly not…
Charles’ vision went black, but before he could yell, he saw it. A flash of grey,
Both wrong: Mine.
It was a brief respite. With the Gears mostly gone save for those required to work on the show, Dethklok had been forced to think for themselves and slowly but surely the need to fend for themselves prompted them to practice and scale their expenses back. They even had a go at rebuilding Mordhaus themselves but fortunately, no lasting damage was done. Less getting drunk made sure no more fans snuck in on the coattails of the band and while one of the Gear team would always shuttle back and forth between the concert area and Mordhaus, things seemed to be in some semblance of order. It was very hard work for the little team of fifty, but they persevered.
In addition to the small Gear crew, Dick Knubbler made every effort to pitch in. Between Knubbler’s persistence and 577701’s intimidating presence the two almost scratched the surface of a fully functional Charles Offdensen. The most expensive concert ever may well happen without a hitch yet, despite the fact that both Dick and Darren got into intense fits of what would well be arguments between more hot-headed people.
“Well, our Lords have just gotten back from the 7-11. Lord Toki was passed out wearing nothing but a thong. A bright red banana hammock.” 400 had never gotten the tact thing down and he didn’t notice 381’s severe blush under her hood. “Turns out he’s strips on ‘Amateur Night’.”
381’s face was positively burning. “R—right. So, everything’s okay?”
“I think so.”
“Yeah. I’ll report to D an…hey where is he? Shouldn’t he be out here having kittens? I was gone far longer than ‘the projected time’.”
“Fell asleep, actually. Let him.”
“Fell asleep where?” 400 looked around him. It didn’t seem like there was a lot of places that would be comfortable to rest.
“He’s passed out against one of the amps. He was standing up at the time so I had to wake him up to get him to lie down.”
Sure enough the massive form could be seen sprawled out by where a stack of Krank amps were waiting and ready. 400 wandered over. “Poor guy. He’s not the Commander, but then, who was…or ever will be?”
577701 made a grunting noise in his sleep and turned over, his face screwed up. “Not…Commander…” he all but moaned.
The expression of the other Gear immediately went from sympathetic to diabolic.
“Don’t do it!” 398 pleaded. “Come on, it’s mean.”
400 toed the sleeping Gear awake with his boot. “Wakey wakey!”
577701 jerked away with a start. “400! You’re back! I…fell asleep.”
“You were also apparently having a wonderful dream. Moaning about the Commander.” The theatrics that accompanied this statement were epic.
“No it was the nightmare where I have to do this job forever while wearing a suit and tie.”
“Sure it was, Darren.” 400’s words lacked their usual bite.
The room Charles Offdensen awoke in was cold and grey. The walls were a darker, more sinister grey, not brick and no steel save for the door. The rest was just concrete of some unknown thickness. It was plain flat foundation-like stubble common to houses built with unfinished basements, which suggested to Charles that he was in a basement himself. Who knew to what depth and where, To complete the effect a silver-plated grate storm drain lay in the midst of the floor and a half section of the wall had been painted with a tar-black sealant. It didn’t keep out the chill.
Charles had a moment to sit up and look around. It wasn’t in his style to beg or scream, so he simply stock of his surroundings. He could berate himself later for not thinking of a better disguise. With a start, he realized he was wearing a very telltale pair of grey slacks. There was no mirror in the room but patting himself down revealed that his jacket was Armani and the tightness around his neck that he hadn’t felt for four months was a white collar and red silk tie. His hair was still ruffled loosely and uncut around his ears and cheeks. His eyes itched from green contact lenses gone dry from sleeping in them. It figured his glasses were cruelly tucked in his coat pocket and he knew that at least his disguise gig was up so when he came to he clawed the dry nasty things out of his eyes, blinking tears back into his raw vision and pulled his specs once he’d wiped away the moisture.
A small panel in the front of the steel door was pushed in. It was roughly the size of a small dog door, obviously meant to be insulting and puerile. Charles ignored the food that was sitting on the delivered tray. Honestly, what were they expecting? The (ironically) late and great Mr. Offdensen to be impressed with a continental breakfast that wasn’t worth a ‘Holiday Inn’?
“Just open the door. I ah, don’t have time for this.” He shoved the watery eggs and undercooked bacon aside. He pocketed the Heinz ketchup packet though. He’d always privately agreed with his boys those little not-near-enough packages you got in hotels and places like ‘Dimmu Burger’ tasted better than the ones from the grocery and he reluctantly ate the tinned beans with toast. It was also greasy and cheap but he knew that if he wanted to see Dethklok again, there was no sense in starving himself.
“As you wish.” It was probably supposed to be some ingenious psych-out surround sound methodology, the voice coming from everywhere at once, but Charles was too much of an expert and too good a chess strategist to stop now. The fact that the door was open and he was freed was a bit of an issue though. An unusual manoeuvre.
Pushing the door all the way to, Charles stepped from a florescent bulbs into a warm light given by torches mounted on wall brackets. Behind him the long modern lights in the cell he’d just exited hummed their death knells into obscurity and flickered into a dying hiss. Before him laid a narrow but long hall filled with art of what looked like Egyptian hieroglyphs upon first glance.
He would have to go on or literally walk back into darkness. The way forth was firelight clear.
No new voices rang out as Charles walked along the stone passageways and observed the pictures as he went.
The first pictures seemed to him benign.
It showed five figures (so familiar) playing instruments for people. The people in the perspective ‘audience’ seemed happy. All of them were benign really. A mass of what was basically stick figures just apparently overjoyed to be entertained. The musicians in the etchings seemed to be happy to be providing this service. The look of the drawings was simple. Nothing more than representations. It still didn’t take a genius to derive the emotion conveyed.
Halfway down the hall the musicians looked meaner. The phrase ‘mind your P’s and Q’s’ came to mind. Charles disliked the look of these musicians and the art style they were drawn in. He couldn’t ignore the new figure standing, always there but somewhere off to the side that was in every one of these depictions. He couldn’t stand the people watching them. They seemed to be, well no longer happy. They were manic, Charles decided and he looked until he couldn’t stand watching them anymore.
Charles could see the exit door in the distance, or what he presumed to be the exit door, but he wasn’t there yet and he disliked the drawings here worst of all. They were starting to look too familiar, gone from etchings of symbolic musicians to vaguely familiar shapes to uncanny representations of three men with long flowing hair, one that resembled all too obviously Rastafarian dreadlocks and one with a triangular shaped cut. They no longer wished for a demanding and understanding of their music from their onlookers. They wanted to be popular and wealthy and loved by everyone and…
Charles felt nauseous. He had felt nauseous a lot these past months. He threw up there anyway, spending a few moments in the corner and feeling unembarrassed about emptying himself. It would make the last revelation easier and he knew what he would find.
It was all making more sense than he wanted it to. He swallowed bitter bile and tried to ignore the awful rancid smell from the floor or even look at it. The side figure here he swallowed twice and didn’t look at, either the flash of glasses and smug smile. Oh god. He knew, and he knew already what he would see when he reached the end of the hall.
The walls swam like he’d been drinking, but Charles knew he wasn’t drunk. He fell to his hands and knees, feeling a deep ache in his guts.
“Hey. Hey. Get up. Man not sleep on ground. Man sleep in hut.”
“We get you food?”
Charles pulled his head up. He tried to focus through the haze. “Boys?!”
Gear 577701 sighed deeply, his joints cracking like a New Years party favour.
“Mmm, Walk down my sacroiliac one more time babe.” He earned a firm nudge in the hip from 381 which made him twitch violently in a ticklish response but the huge Gear hadn’t moved in spite of the incessant probing and prodding and the fact that people were walking on his back.
“D, please. We are running out of time.”
“Don’t remind me, I’m not thinking about it.”
The enormous Gear was still spread eagled at the base concert stage still while both 400 and 381 tromped over his back. Eventually 400 stepped away. “D, we know you’re making an effort to do everything.”
The sincerity pouring from 400’s lips was bizarre and 381 walked off the man’s back as well. “Lord Nathan’s doing well with the finances.” She added.
“Yes, he’s doing okay now that he’s on a tight budget.” 577701 noted as he took the reports and looked through them. “He’ll be out of money in about 3 months’ time though. Even with the reductions.”
“But Toki’s the one worrying me.”
“Why is that? His stripping is making the most cash.”
“Well.” 400 was the one to hold out the computer.
“Don’t panic too hard D, please.”
Darren blinked. “What’s the problem with internet dating?”
“Have you seen the kind of people that frequent those sites?”
“What kind of people?” Darren asked, pushing himself into a sitting position.
Gear 386 made a hasty exit. 400 didn’t notice at all. “They’re kind of…well…you know…”
“Fat.” The word escaped 400’s lips and he found himself in a headlock.
“Don’t worry.” Darren looked at 381 as he continued to squeeze 400’s neck between two large and powerful thighs. “Toki won’t get harmed. I promise. No Internet predators.”
And thus did Darren get up. 400 rubbed his neck and gazed at his back scratching accomplice. “…I saw his crotch.”