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A Pile of Meat (August/September 2023)

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"You came in to wash your feet; 

I was eating a pile of meat,

and that as they say was that!" 


The prompt for this vignette is simple. 


Your character encounters - and has to deal - with a big pile of meat. 


So many possibilities! Maybe your hero is sitting down to dinner at the new restaurant in town, about to chow down on the Big Belly meat plate when trouble arises. Maybe you're taking a beach vacation when a giant sea monster washes up and you have to deal with it. Maybe your character works at a butcher's shop and is bonding with their friends as they work a late shift. Maybe your character's newly-developed super-empathy is about to drive you to veganism. Maybe your character has entered a hot dog eating contest - ON WHICH THE FATE OF THE WORLD RESTS. 




Your vignette is due September 30, 2023. 

(As a reminder, vignettes follow the same general rules as posts in terms of content, player character limits, and so on. You may have only one vignette per player character.


Each vignette should be at least one page (~500 words) in length; if posted in your thread counts at the end of the month, it is worth 1pp for the associated character. An especially long vignette, 1000 words or more, may be worth up to 2pp. An occupying image of your character confronting the pile of meat is also worth an extra 1pp.

Multiple players can collaborate on a single vignette - we recommend Google Docs for this, it's very useful - but the vignette should be about one page per participating player.)



Aquaria in [untitled] [link]

Bloody Mess in "Messy Blood" [link]

Captain Cosmos in "Flipping Burgers" [link]

Diamondlight in "The Stomach of Mr. Silk" [link]

Echohead in "Meateater MAdness" [link]

Flintlock in "Blubber and Rum" [link]

Gamma Buzz in "Hot Dog Trap, with Radiation" [link]

Haven in "A Feast for the Eye, but Not the Stomach" [link]

Horrorshow in "A Monolith of Meat" [link]

Lord Steam in "Pile of Meat Pie" [link]

Patriot II in "An All-American Cheeseburger" [link]

Peak in "Goat Curry" [link]

Rev in "Barbeque Storm" [link]

Snakebite in "The Meat Grinder" [link]

Starshot in "Meat for Meat" [link]

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  • 2 weeks later...

Flipping Burgers


Featuring Captain Cosmos


Buddy Brand was leaving work late again. His coat over his arm, his hat over his head, his fingers rubbing the bridge of his nose, trying to squeeze out the fatigue that streamed through his body like a venom. Another day, late at the office. And not a good day, either. His segment on interviewing the scandal of opiate distribution had ended up in a legal mess, and if anything had scuppered any chance of a conviction.


You win some, you lose some, he told himself. But losing still stung. And the frustration and disappointment of the day had really drilled under his skin like a swarm of burrowing ants. He felt infected by the day.


And he felt hungry. Tired and hungry. What he needed right now was a cheap burger. With fries, maybe. And mustard, strong mustard that would swirl around his mouth, charge up his nose like a Mongol Horde, and take away the taste of the day.


Off to McSanders, then. The cheapest burger joint in town.


The queue was not long, not long at all – but it felt longer. A dithering drunk at the front, a couple of obnoxious frat boys behind. Every second felt like two, and Buddy could feel the cooking fat and the charred meat crawl up his nose and tickle his saliva glands. It was truly lip-smacking good. Sometimes one didn’t want steak, one wanted something cheap, nasty, and so delicious because of it.


“One burger, with fries, and all the mustard you can spare!”


“Coming right up, mister… wait, aren’t you that Brink guy, from the TV?”


“Yeah, Brink. That’s me, but keep it down, willya? Five dollars and we keep it hush….”


It was bribery, but so what. It was money well spent, and the spotty kid serving at the till could use the cash more than Buddy. And a moment later, Buddy left the joint with a brown paper bag full of fries in one hand, and a burger in the other.




And then, the burger grew another layer. A double burger, straight out of the ether.


Buddy Blinked.


Did I order a double? I don’t remember ordering a double. But is this a double burger I see before me? Its tempting meat pointed towards me? Because I don’t object. But… I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a double burger a moment ago.


Unable to resist the delight any longer, he took a liberal bite.




And then his mouth and nose were assaulted by a third layer of burger that appeared between the two buns.


Maybe I ordered a double burger. But I am pretty sure I didn’t order a triple…


Pop, pop, poppity-pop!


Burgers piled upon burgers, until their sheer magnitude started to break out of the bun and cascade onto the street.


Buddy ran, his super strength squeezing the bun together like a vice, but to no avail. No matter how tightly he squeezed, he left behind a trail of burgers. A pile of meat!


There was only one plausible explanation he could think of. Somehow, he incredible cosmic powers were sucking in burgers from other dimensions! What unconscious skullduggery was his mind up to? Drawing in alternative dimension burgers to feed his hunger!


He started scoffing down burgers as he ran, as fast as his gullet could manage. His mouth and his stomach protested, and grease dribbled from his mouth and his fingers, ruining his suit. But even stuffed to the brim, the burgers kept manifesting.


Stray dogs, rats, and even a few desperate homeless persons might well have a feast tonight. If this curious phenomena was limited to feeding a few empty bellies, then Buddy would have no issue. But what if it wouldn’t stop? What if it accelerated? Soon the whole city would be a steaming pile of alternate dimension burgers, then the whole continent, and then the whole world!


And what if some exotic dimension burger appeared? A radioactive one? An explosive one? A zombie one? All sorts of hazards sprung to mind. Zombie burgers infecting each other and marching on the living to extract revenge… no longer the eaten, but the eaters.


‘Twas to the park he ran. At least there was space for a mound of cheap burgers to form. And the rats, birds, and foxes could presumably peck away at least some of the meat. Once there, his suit stained from flipping burgers, he paused, still manifesting the patties left, right, and centre.


There was only one thing for it. He had to summon someone who actually knew what they were doing. This was a job for Spaceman Buddy.


In a flash of inter-dimensional energy, Spaceman Buddy appeared, took a look around, a groaned.


“Not you again…”


Spaceman Buddy came from an alternate dimension where technology had developed much faster than on Earth prime. In that dimension, Buddy Brand was a pan-galactic reporter, travelling around the Lor republic shining a humane light on alien suffering. He knew space, and he knew dimensions.


“I told you” he started. “I’m a reporter not a spaceman, I don’t… wait, what the hell is this?” he said, slipping up on a smorgasbord of assorted squashed burgers. “Eugh…!”


“I’m desperate!” shouted Buddy, using his powerful arms to hurl waves of Burgers away, lest he and his variant reality self drown. “You can do it!”


“As you well know, merely being saying you can do it has absolutely no effect on whether an individual can, or cannot do it.”


Buddy resisted the urge to punch sort-of-himself in the face. Spaceman Buddy was born of a universe of logic and pedantry, and had absorbed those traits with aplomb. Even more irritating – those traits had created a universe light years ahead of his own.


“Irrespective,” he countered, taking a leaf from Spaceman Buddy’s book. “You know more than me. I’m summoning burgers from the multiverse!”


“With great power comes great…”


“Yes yes” said Buddy with a flap of his hand. “Great responsibility, great burden, yada yada yada. And great burgers, it seems….”


“You call these burgers great?”


“Well, plentiful…. And growing more plentiful by the second. We have to do something.”


Spaceman Buddy scrabbled to stay afloat atop the mound of burgers. “No…” he said. “You have to do nothing…”




“Zero dimensional! Reset your system.”


“Turn it off, turn it on again, why didn’t I think of that?”




Going zero dimensional was a theoretical step, but it would work. Worst case, he would cease to exist forever. Die, for lack of a better word. But better he die that this universe become known as burger verse.


“Very well” he said with a grunt.


Two dimensional. Buddy became flat as a pancake, which ironically was what some of the burgers at the bottom of the hill now looked like.


One dimensional. A mathematical line, invisible to the eye.


With a massive surge of effort…




….and there he was, back again. Alone, atop a hill of burgers, three dimensional, no more burgers appearing. His powers had reset. Had he, actually, become zero dimensional? How would he know?


The rats, squirrels and birds of the park did not care for such mathematical and philosophical pondering. They busied themselves with the feast of a lifetime, and it looked like they would be busy for some time…

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Barbeque Storm


Featuring Rev


The wind was wild, howling through empty streets, kicking up litter, knocking down trash cans, spinning the hard rain into a vortex. It was a stormy day in Bedlam, in more ways than one.


Diesel Dave and his posse were facing off with Petrol Pete and his gang. Two dozen yards between them, hands clenching baseball bats and knives. Calloused fingers adorned with knuckledusters. Driven rain streaking into eyes, soaking clothes, running of tattooed and scarred skin. Soon the backstreets would be running with blood, only for the storm to wash it clean.


Dave and Pete were bikers, and had never been the best of friends. Bad blood, stretching back three generations, had plagued their relationship. But it had never quite come to open warfare between them. Until today; Diesel Dave, egged on by the young and foolish in his posse, had elected to openly hold a barbeque on the turf of Petrol Pete, full of burgers, hot dogs, kebabs and beer, defying the unwritten rules of the street. Perhaps, if Dave had been wise enough to invite Petrol Pete to the festivities, things might have turned out different.


There was certainly enough meat. Diesel Dave had seemingly bought out entire butchers in an effort to rub Petrol Pete’s nose in it. Overflowing plates of meat, grills with meat packed into them like sardines.


Piles of meat.


And everyone single slice, sausage, joint or cut was a message: Petrol Pete – we are the kings around here. We are the feasters, you are the paupers.


The storm had not improved anyone’s mood. The grills had gone out as soon as they had started, the paper plates were soggy. Tempers had frayed, and taunts had been thrown. A few beer bottles had been lobbed, resulting a face full of broken glass for Petrol Pete’s second in command. The whole thing was about to explode.


Rev was running on fumes by the time she landed between the two gands. Her neck ports hissed methane, desperately trying to keep her jets firing, but it was no good – her tank was empty, and she fell the last twenty feet to the tarmac, landing in a crumpled heap. One of her arms fell off, and rolled along with the wind, till it bumped into the boots of Diesel Dave.


“Stay out, Rev” muttered Diesel Dave.


“This is street business” echoed Petrol Pete.


Rev groaned as she got to her feet, and forced her left arm to slither back to her like a snake. She had been shutting down some mad inventors Storm-Machine fifty miles north, and whilst the arrest had been made and the machine dismantled, the storm had still flown south and hit Bedlam. She had flown back as fast as she could but had only managed to keep pace with the storm.


“It’s my business” she answered. “You both use my shop. I fixed plenty of bikes for you both. C’mon, this would be bad for business!”


“Bad for your business” grunted Dave. “The dentists if going to have a field day picking out Pete’s shattered teeth…”


“And the hobbler is going to be extracting my boot from your back passage!” roared a defiant Dave.


“Guys, guys! This is Bedlam… plenty of dirty streets for everyone! Why, you could even be friends!” said Rev.


The mere thought brought both Dave and Pete to a laughter that quickly infected both of their gangs. Paradoxically, it closed the gap between them, making them brothers-in-contempt. Rev contemplated some foolish dance to build on the success. Maybe a robot dance, eight robot limbs wriggling some pantomime jig.


She decided against it.


“Why are you always at each other’s throats?” she asked. “Can you even remember?”


“Pete started it… he… err… he did something… what was it now?”


“Lies!” retorted Pete. “Dave kicked it all of when he… when he disrespected… no wait, what happened…. When he, ummm….”


“See?” implored Rev. “You can’t even remember who kicked who’s cat? Was it a cat? Hmmmm…. Maybe it was a dog. Even I can’t remember!”


“You weren’t even in Bedlam!” retorted Dave.


“Too busy caping it up in Freedom City!” said Pete.


“I was in school. And for your information, I never wore a cape in my life!” replied Rev, putting an indignant hand over her indignant chest. She would be very unwise to wear capes when she flew around on jets. The cape would almost certainly catch fire.


But not much else would in this storm.


She pointed at Dave. “Diesel Dave! If I get this barbeque started, will you share it with Petrol Pete?”


“Share, with that scum?”


“Otherwise all you will have is a load of spoiled meat, fit for rats and crows…”


This caused some mumbling amongst the soaked bikers. The meat had cost some considerable dollar, and, well, obviously Petrol Pete was a scumbag for reasons they couldn’t quite recollect at the moment, but, well, shame to let all that food go to waste…


“Petrol Pete!” shouted Rev, pointing at the man with her other arm. “If I cook this meat, will you have a party with Diesel Dave?”


“Party with Diesel Dave? Are you outa your goddam mind?”


Again, there was murmur of discontent. Clearly Diesel Dave was a villain given things he had done which had temporarily slipped their mind, but my, those burgers did look good. Lean, meaty, with just the right amount of fat on them. And getting soaked. Well, shame to let all that food go to waste.


The murmurs bubbled and frothed, and started to erode convictions. Both Petrol Pete and Diesel Dave were hungry, and, well, it was shame to let all that food go to waste.


“Right then!” said Rev, seizing the undercurrent. “I need fuel!”


“Petrol!” said Petrol Pete.


“No! Diesel!” said Deisel Dave.


This could potentially have reignited the flames of war, but Rev jumped on a compromise!


“BOTH!” she shouted. “Petrol in the left port! Diesel in the right! Jump to it, folks!”


And a minute later, Diesel Dave and Petrol Pete stood either side of her, pouring their preferred fuel into the neck ports of Rev. She gave a belch, a hiss of methane, and then burped out a three foot long breath of fire.


“That’s the spirit!” she roared, her tanks brimming, her internal systems in overdrive, processing the gas into the hyper-refined fuel she needed.


Another few massive belches of methane, and she was ready, lying on her back under the barbeque. The various gang members, even Pete and Dave, craned their necks to get a better look-excitement and curiosity had melted away the animosity. This was history in the making-a fiery, blazing Barbeque in the midst of a devilish storm.


“Stand back, folks, if you want to keep your eyebrows!” said Rev, taking a deep breath in. She didn’t need to take a deep breath in, but it felt symbolic, like a dragon preparing to exhale flame.


The crowd stepped back. Maybe not as far as Rev would have liked. But far enough.


“JET… SET…. GOOOOO!” screamed Rev, and, just as a dragon would, breathed a plume of fire to the sky.


The Barbeque lit instantly – how could it not? The meat at the bottom of the pile turned to ash, and it was fair to say that even the rest of the meat was significantly more cooked on the underside than the topside. But the job was done! Burnt, charred meat for all! Who cared about the taste?


This was a spectacle. A spectacle the gangs had shared. And, bolstered by the sharing, the beer, and Rev’s promise of a 25% discount at her chop shop for the next three months if they refrained from violence, the gang’s had a party in the rain, a barbeque in the storm, that would be laughed about in the years to come amongst both biker gangs. Even if Diesel Dave did kick Petrol Pete’s cat. Or wait… was it a dog? Or his uncles dog? Or was it Petrol Pete?


Nevermind, was the shared epiphany. Nobody could quite remember, so everybody decided it couldn’t have been that important after all.

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A feast for the eyes, but not the stomach


Featuring Haven


It was Edward Beckett’s final hour.


Stomach cancer was not the prettiest way to go, either. Edward Beckett had made a small fortune selling customised Microchips in Emerald City, and the chips that Beckett Boards made were always popular amongst that shady side of cyber security-they weren’t actually illegal, but the only legitimate use for them was penetrating other security systems.


Haven had had his eye on Becket Boards for some time, and had successfully implanted some backdoor software-but they were a slippery customer, always changing security systems, software, hardware. He knew they were a malign force, but he also knew the evidence he had procured against them was gathered illegally, and was probably too complex for a lawyer to understand anyway.


The data of the moder world was becoming too complex for any human mind, bar the geniuses of the superhero world like Docktor Archeville. Maybe Milo Mikano could have understood. Maybe. But Milo Mikano was gone, the flesh now dead; all that remained was an Echo of Milo Mikano, Haven. And Haven was not human. He sometimes wondered what he was-but preoccupation with such impossible questioning was not something he dared dwell on, for where might it lead?


Edward Becket was in hospice care, a tube up every orifice-some of them artificially created such as the surgically created feeding tube. Most of his stomach was gone, and he had not eaten orally for weeks. Edward Becket spent his morphine-addled hours reflecting on his life, his accomplishments, his regrets, and his achievements. It was a mixed picture, he decided. But most of his time he spent thinking about food. He loved fine food, from the Pasta Place and High Steaks of Freedom City, to the Hong Kong Dinerman and Spice of Bengal in Emerald City. Fine food, fine wine. This, he did not regret-simple delight in the pleasures of the palate.


And he had not eaten in weeks.


His last hours were spent fantasising about food, and Haven had arrived to offer just that.


Haven was no nurse, but he had assumed the form of one, and cyber-forged clearance to the hospital. And here he was, alone, with Edward Buckett, offering some kind of cyber deal with the cyber-devil. Haven wondered who the devil was – Edward, or himself.


The electromagnetic telepathic induction made its offer to Edward.








Edward had little to lose. Under an hour.




And they there were, in a wooden hall in an icy forest, the trees coated with snow, the sun bright, a crackling fire in the corner, sitting on carved seats adorned with animal furs. Of the many virtual environments, Haven judged this most—poetic. A Valhalla hall for feasting.


“What is this place?”


Haven sat, in an incongruous suit, opposite virtual Edward, who was the same man but healthy; the lines still on his face, the fleck of grey in his hair, but without the ravages of cancer and chemotherapy consuming his body. Here, he was Milo Mikano, that steely eyed, black haired man of half Asian heritage. Or at least, how Haven remembered looking as Milo Mikano.


“It’s a virtual reality. It is a Haven from your suffering.”


“It feels so real…”


“It is not. You are still dying. You should still feel the morphine in your brain…”


Edward winced, even though there was no longer any pain. “I feel…sleepy? How long do I have?”


“Less than an hour, the medical records indicate. But I am no physician. It may be shorter. It will not be longer.”


“Not much respite…”


Haven examined the virtual Edward with a cold scrutiny. Here came the bargain-but Edward was a hard bargainer, and the lamentations if incumbent death had only served to harden him further; harden him with spite.


“This place runs at an accelerated pace. A week here is a but an hour on your deathbead.”


“A week?”


“If you have an hour. You may not.”


A sly look came over virtual Edward, a reflex born of years doing deals. “And what are you buying? You don’t look like a man offering charity…”


For the first time, Haven blinked, and gave a microscopic wiggle. As subtle and nuances as the movements were, it did not escape the notice of Edward.


“No, no you aren’t here for charity, are you? What do you want?”


“The access code to the XPP chip.”


“Access code?”


“Don’t take me for a fool. You know exactly what I am talking about. The backdoor your built into your security chip. I want the access code.”




Haven leaned forward, slightly, eyes shining with blue light.


“Then you will spend your last hour in pain.”




“The absence of my relief.”


“A week in any icy hall? I would die of boredom before the week was up.”


Haven leant back again. Here was the deal in all its glory.


“A week of feasting. I appreciate your fine palate.”


This was a virtual world, and Haven controlled it. A banquet table sprung into existence betwixt them, and it was not empty. Plates of every foodstuff, roasted, fried, boiled, baked, the finest cuts, the freshest fruits, elegant mixes of spices and herbs that swirled up the nose, and oily flavours that slid across the tongue. Fat’s dripped, cakes steamed, and meats sizzled. Big meats, a whole boar, a stuffed peasant, a leg of lamb, all vying for position on a table two dozen feet long and four feet wide.


Piles of meat.


Edwards tastes were varied, but he was at heart a carnivore. Even in this virtual world, with a virtual body, he drooled and licked his lips.


“This isn’t real…” he tried.


“But it is a feast nonetheless” replied Haven. “Try some. You can taste it, you can smell it. You will even feel it slide down your throat and into your stomach.”


“I… I can’t remember what that feels like…”


“You won’t need to. Not any more. I offer you a week. If you give me the XPP code.”


Edward paused, eyes locked on some succulent beef.


“A week…”

Haven pressed forward his argument. “Here, you can eat constantly. You will not fill, you will not fatten. The feast is yours for the taking.”


Edward flicked his eyes back to Haven. “I need longer.”


“That is not in my gift to give.”


Edward reached out to try a slice of honeyed pork, his fork trembling in anticipation.


“Ah! The code, if you please…”


“I cannot drive a higher price?”


“This is all the coin I have.”


Edward chewed his virtual lip. “Very well then, if I am die, I will die feasting!”


It was a fair sentiment, thought Haven. For any man, it was as well to die with a feast. But his concern was not with the dead, nor the dying. His concern was with the brutality of the powerful towards the weak; and in Emerald City such brutality ate at the city like a cancer. It was not strength of arm or sharpness of steel that gave power, it was wealth, and the cruelty required to weaponize it.

As Edward Beckett started his week long final meal, eyes glazed over in joy over every succulent morsel, he gave Haven another arrow in his quest. Yes, the XPP code would do very nicely…

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The Patriot II 

An All-American Cheeseburger 

It's a simple enough picture. The Patriot is sitting down in a 1950s-style diner with a cheeseburger and french fries on the plate in front of her. The burger is big, with a thick brioche bun, melted cheddar cheese, and a succulent slab of beef on the inside; lettuce, tomatoes, and onions so thick you can see them from outside. The fries are thin-cut shoestring fries, crisp and salty. The drink is a Coke, brown and bubbling, the image so vivid you can practically hear the pieces of ice clinking together inside. It's a vivid scene, like you might find anywhere in America. But there are complications. 


First, the Patriot's costume has to be completely immaculate (or nearly so, anyway) - red white and dark blue polished spotlessly but not so bright that she reflected off the overhead lights in the diner. Her jacket has a few new buttons on it; symbols of the Lor Star Navy's medical corps if you happen to know a lot of alien lore. You can't see her red and blue dyed hair with the helmet on but she has to make sure that looks okay anyway, just to be on the safe side. The same goes for her makeup; enough that she looks like she's wearing makeup, not enough that you can tell that she is. Luckily the Patriot has a very good set of costuming and makeup people. 


The diner has to be just the right kind of place, owned by just the right kind of people. This one is a veteran-owned business on the South Side of Freedom, the owner a stocky, middle-aged woman whose hair is still in an immaculate crewcut from her days in the Marines. (This isn't one of _those_ Fifties nostalgia places; Madge has mostly fixed up the old fixtures that were already here when she bought it.) Her teenage son Lawrence (carefully vetted, just like his mom) is the Patriot's server and he makes sure you can see the rainbow pin on his apron when he brings the Patriot her burger and fries. There was a time when the Patriot herself was the person who did that kind of vetting, and honestly she misses it. But these are nice people, eager and excited to be on the national stage with the national hero; it's going to be all right. 


It has to be just the right kind of day outside. It's okay if it's raining (it is) and it's okay that it's not a perfect day; you never get perfect in Freedom. But it's a quiet day with the Freedom League not on active duty and crime low. The Patriot can afford to take some 'time off' today - though a day of signing autographs, making a few remarks, and shaking hands isn't really a day off. 


The burger itself has to be carefully vetted. The beef is from a Jersey farm; the brioche bun is from a national bakery chain that's never done anything too illegal. There's enough cheese to taste good without any risk of it spurting out onto her costume; the burger is thin enough that she can take a big wholesome bite without looking weird on national television. The potatoes are from a local urban farm; not actually very cost-effective from what she hears but a touch of green is great for any small business, and it's great for the Patriot to be seen patronizing a place that agrees. The Coke is from the Coca-Cola corporation, a big, powerful business with international ties, friendly relations with the US government, and a universal brand. She tries to keep the label out of sight of the cameras but everybody knows what it is. 


It really is a very good burger; and she's not above mopping up some of the juices with her fries when she's done. The Patriot knows she doesn't eat right but with her lifestyle she's certainly burning these calories as fast as they come in. She does a one-handed pull-up and hits the "I ate well!" bell on the side of the door as she's heading out. The darkly-painted van outside is big and well-equipped, with all the people she'd been missing. 

She's done public appearances with her wife, talking about the importance of marriage and family - all-American values she believes in very much. She's already talked this over with Stesha; Fleur de Joie, a friend and mentor and many other things, has always told the press that she and her daughter and her son are a family that does just fine for itself, thank you very much. But Fa'Rua had good reason to stay in the van with the support crew; Ashley still hasn't sold her on burgers and fries, though she has passed the non-negotiable test of eating the banh mi po'boy. There was no reason to make her pretend not to gag while Ashley ate her "perfectly, uh, normal Terran food." 


And besides, Fa'Rua had a mission of her own, with somebody who Ashley was not going to put on-camera for a long time. Kids deserved a normal life, even if their parents weren't very normal at all. 


One-month old Phillip Starshine Tran's mother and biological sister (it was better not to think about, really) passed him off to his mommy, who smiled and swept him up in her arms. The bright green Sanctuary-knitted blanket matched his eyes. 


"Hi trẻ nhỏ! Hi trẻ nhỏ! Did you miss me?" 

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  • 2 weeks later...

When the adventurers breached the lair of the Great White Worm, it reared back to its full height and gave a shout of fury that shook the cold, compressed waters of the depths to their utmost. In the eerie bioluminescent light of the vast cavern, it towered as high and wide as a building, undulating with a wet, squamous sound, and opened its great mouth to bellow in the ancient tongue of lost Lemuria: “WHO COMES! WHO COMES FOR WHAT IS MINE!” 


We come!” declared Sea Devil, her helmet open to show a face both shark and frog, voice as loud as thunder as she struck her armor’s chest plate with her trident. “We come - for we are strong enough - for the flesh of a so-called god!” That the Worm was a great being of magical power and no particular moral compass made it tempting; that it preyed on divers and undersea dwellers alike and called itself a god, made it irresistible. Assuming they weren’t crushed in the process. 


Sergeant Shark felt the nails on his fingers itch, the teeth in his mouth grind. His stomach quivered in his belly, ready to digest sinew, bone, blood. Sweet, sweet blood. Oh, the Shark in hims craved the hunt, and the fleshy reward of the hunt. He could eat a whale-the juicy fat would split asunder as his teeth carved their way through blubber. 


It was military discipline that kept the Shark focussed on the goal. The Worm! The Worm! What would it taste like, he wondered. 


Why was he so hungry?


“We come for what is yours!” he echoed. “And we will take it!”


He is such a beautiful male, thought Aquaria wistfully - and not for the first time - as Shark joined her in bellowing at the Worm. She tried to tell him so whenever he seemed to be feeling poorly about how differently he looked from the Surfacers he’d been born among, she knew positive reinforcement was the best thing a friend could do for another friend in trouble. 


His alien visage lacked the hideous hairiness of a Surfaceman and instead had the exotic good looks of an undersea predator. But since he wasn’t interested in being her mate, she was content to have him as her companion in other ways. 


The Great White Worm undulated its immensity again, its vast bulk enough to match that of any whale Aquaria had ever seen. “COME AND BE TESTED! COME AND PIT YOUR TEETH AGAINST MY PUISSANCE!” 

Well that was a word Aquaria didn’t actually know (only having learned Lemurian in the oral tradition) but it was certainly said with great intensity, like pitting oneself against a raging volcano. It was magnificent. With a wordless bellow of excitement, she kicked her powerful legs forward and raised her trident as she charged the beast! 



The Sarge was a military man, but an educated one too. That was quite the poetic word for some bestial beast!


Now was not the time to debate eloquence and articulation, now was the time to charge. He wished Sea Devil was not quite so… gung ho about tactics. But then, she didn’t seem to understand tactics. She looked at him funny when he discussed tactics. In fact, she looked at him funny quite a lot. And he wasn’t quite sure what that funny look was, or how he felt about it. 


But if the horn of charge had been sounded, then the tactics of the day would have to be charge. 


“CHARGE!” he roared. “FIX BAYONETS!”


He didn’t have a bayonet, but it sounded good.




That sounded good, too. 


It was a difficult battle, even for the two mighty champions. Their foe was not mortal as such and so had great power to match its sheer bulk - but luckily that meant certain tactics were acceptable here that would not be acceptable among Surfacemen. 


But neither of them were Surfacemen; and the battle was being waged far from them and against a foe they could never really understand. There was much mysterious about the deep. Deep Ones didn’t die of disease or age, Aquaria had told Sgt. Shark once, only if killed - she would either die in a battle like this one day or simply grow bigger and bigger until she was the size of the Worm they fought. 


Aquaria lived today, though it was close. The Worm did not - at least not in the same sense that mortal beings lived. What mattered was that it was dead, its power banished, and all that left behind was the great treasure of the Worm. And it was delicious. 


When Aquaria was done, she poked her head out of an empty eye socket and bellowed “SGT. SHARK! DO YOU LIVE?” She’d neither heard nor smelled him die but the water was full of all sorts of wriggling things that lived and bled now, mostly the lesser worms that were leaving the Great Worm’s body now that it was dead. 


Sgt. Shark looked at his ripped abdomen. It was normally ripped with muscle, but now it was ripped in a totally different way. His tough shark hard had been split asunder and a string of sausages dangled from the wound. At least, it looked like a string of sausages. He knew it wasn’t, of course. Military medical training was quite sufficient to inform him that it was, in fact, his intestines. But he was struck, in a detached way, about how they looked like a string of intestines. 


He hoped Aquaria didn’t gobble them up. She did look at him like she wanted to eat him up sometimes. But the Sarge guessed she didn’t like sausages. He hoped she didn’t anyway. 


“I live!” he said proudly, carefully replacing his bowels back into his abdominal cavity. It was a good thing the super shark serum made him as tough as nails. 


“And the Worm?”


Aquaria throbbed audibly when she caught sight of Sgt. Shark amid the cloud of blood and flesh, the sound reflecting off the walls of the cave in a moment that might have embarrassed a less ebullient female. “It will heal for the next who come.” This was not the first time Deep Ones had punished the Worm for its perfidy, or gained power from its flesh. 

She lashed out with her tongue and caught a great chunk of meat, pulling it into her mouth with a loud sllllurrrp. Look at him! He bleeds but he stands. So strong


You should take what you want,” she told him slyly, her eyes huge as she watched him in the dim darkness of the cave. “Use your strength on the meat.” 


“A feast! An army does march on its stomach, so it is said…”


Sergeant Shark wondered how much his tangled intestines could manage. But it was true… sustenance of any sort would help him heal. And the Worm? Maybe the Eldritch energies would add extra vitality to the meat!


“Yes, let use gorge! Let the blood drip from our mouths, let our teeth sink into blubber and fat, let us sup on sinew, let us grind our incisors on bone to suck the marrow! If it has bones… and if not? Well, its organs and intestines can be masticated and devoured, until the Worm’s ichor spills from our lips. Come! Feast! A pile of meat awaits!”


When the feast was done, Aquaria stuck herself to the rocks and let her body relax as she digested what had been a truly impressive gorging. (She’d avoided eating so much she vomited even though it was sorely tempting; that wasn’t how you acted around a male even if he wasn’t your mate.) 


As the scent of blood and flesh filled the cold water of the deep shelf cave, she bathed meditatively in the feeling that things were all right. An eldritch doom was coming to annihilate this world, of course; and life on the Surface was life on the waterless, mute Surface. 


But for now, there was a friend, there was a male, there was all the meat she could eat…things were all right. 

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The Meat Grinder

It would not be possible, or even wise, to count the number of years-it was an age ago. Here, in this temple of Lemuria, the snake people fed their snake beast the flesh of men. Cogs of brass and gold turned smoothly, coated with eldritch oils and human blood, grinding together against the screaming bodies of human sacrifice. Bodies that were crushed into a mangled pulp, and ejected as a blend of splintered bones and ground sinew into the pit below.


Sacrifice after sacrifice.


Body after body.


Until the bottom of the pit was a pile of meat.


Human meat.


Lemurians priests beat drums made from human skip, Sorcerers praised dark gods, and soldiers with pointed bone spears poked yet more sacrifices into the grinder. The drums quickened, the chants grew louder, and a dark snake, fifty feet long, slid from a hole. It curled around the base of the pit and started to gorge on the meat the worshippers had provided.


And then Snakebite took her hand from the cave entrance, bringing her back to the present. Her eyes, jet black from the vision, regained their normal colour. Her skin tingled, her spine shivered. For all the horror, something in the ritual quickened her Lemurian blood. She licked her lips.


In the present day, deep in the rainforests of South America, men and women were being driven crazy by a song only they could hear. A sound of madness and alure. Each one of them had wandered into the jungle and disappeared. Some said it was a ghost, some said it was bandits. Some said it was an disease brought on from eating too many mushrooms.


But Snakebite had her own suspicions. This rainforest was home to one of the centres of the Lemurian empire all those ages ago. She had consulted dusty tomes at the British Library, half mad occultists, and talked to the natives of the forest, gleaning snippets from oral histories and antique songs. This was a malign Lemurian power.


More local inquiries, more village elders, more scraps of ink on suspicious looking leathers. It was difficult work, but Snakebite was the woman for the task, applying her mind and skills to piece together the jigsaw, then trekking though thick jungle, fighting off mosquitos and wild board and, yes, snakes. It was hot and sweaty work but, fuelled by exhilaration and excitement, she had arrived at the ancient and hidden ruins of the Lemurian sacrificial temple. At the meat grinder. A testament to the cruelty of ancient Lemuria.


The Temple was now underground, slow tectonic movements creasing the landscape and driving the pit below the surface. Cracks of sunlight shone through the caves, providing a dim illumination. The acute senses of Snakebite could see through the darkness with no difficulty. Her hand brushed damp cobwebs that littered the cave wall. She could smell rotting flesh.


And a slow, beating grind. Like a siren, something hypnotic and magnetic in the rhythm. Something that… it… was… hard… to… resist.


She had dragged herself twenty yards down the cave before she woke up and shuddered. The beat was still there, but some primitive reflex had stopped her from stepping over the ledge. She slapped her face, hard.


“Get it together, Cassie!”


Her cheeks reddened, not just from the slap, but from the burning shame that she had let herself become hypnotised. What was she? Not just some yank hat-wearing professor of archeology! Not just some two-bit raider of tombs!


She was snakebite!


Gritting her teeth, she took hold of a nearby boulder – probably a half ton of solid rock, if not heavier, and, with a strength quite beyond her frame, hauled it to her chest. Few humans on earth could have done the same, but Snakebite was no longer entirely human.


Didn’t mean she wasn’t going to get a hernia from the effort, though. Sweat poring off her face, trickling down her arms, face red from effort, veins in neck standing to attention, she hefted the giant rock over the ledge.


“Chew on that!”


The gold and brass gears did just that, but it did not go well. The teeth splintered, the axels cracked, and with an almighty screech of wrenched metal and cracking rock, the whole cruel machine broke and tumbled down to the pit below.


Snakebite put her hands on her knees and panted, body complaining. The boulder had been effective, no doubt, but it had cost her too. And now she had to climb.

Fingers clasping jagged rog, boots scrabbling for ledges, she descended. It was not the hardest climb she had made-the icy mountains of the Himalayas took that crown-but she was already tired. Her fingers slipped once, and her boots slipped twice, leaving her dangling by her fingernails. But it was at least not a long climb. Forty, fifty feet, and then her boots touched the bottom of the pit.


Human bones, cracked, splintered and sucked from marrow littered the floor, but not just bones. Fresh meat from the natives who had been hypnotically sucked into the grinder.

Strings of sinew, pulped organs.


Piles of meat!


And the sound of slithering. Snakebite could smell it-the smell of some twisted Lemurian abomination. The ancestor of the anaconda, twice the size. The source of myths about colossal monstrosities that haunted the jungle.


From one of the side holes it poured, black skin, black eyes, fetid poisonous breath that would have killed a man and ten paces. But Snakebite had no fear of poison.


She was poisonous herself.


Her canines sharpened and grew from instinct, tiny beads of paralytic poison dripping from the tips.




Snakebite reached out a hand and commanded the snake in snaketongue.


The giant serpent paused, surprised that a human could speak.


“Who are you!” it demanded.


“Does it matter? I speak your tongue!”


The snake paused. It was clearly not the quickest of wits, but it was no mere animal either. “It is true…”


Snakebite cast her eyes around the pit as she spoke. The Snake was too large-even for her. If they came to a fight she was more than unsure as to her victory. Lemurian runes and script had been carved into the pit walls, ancient, eldritch, daubed in congealed blood. Runes she could read.


“Ezu’sthzt Mzstho! Sthenzth Theth-ooth!”


Snakebite realised she was probably saying the ancient commands in a peculiar accent.


The Snake ignored her, and raised its huge head, filled with huge fangs.


Snakebite held both hands out again. She really did not want to die at the bottom of an ancient pit as sacrifice to an ancient snake. She did not want to join the pile of meat!


Desperation kicked a few brain cells this way, a few synapses that way, and the jigsaw puzzle of ancient Lemurian runs kicked into place!


“Ezu’sthzt Theth-ooth! Sthenzth Mzstho!”


There! The Command of paralysis! A poisonous spell, designed to petrify the beast-snake. It was born of sorcery, and by sorcery it would die!


The giant snake slid into complete stillness. Its eyes beamed fury, its fangs dripped venom, but it was helpless. The only remnant of movement was its slow breathing.


“Bon Apetit!” laughed Snakebite as she started the climb out of the pit. It was a fitting vengeance on the creature. It would starve to death, all the while tantalised by the smell and sight of sacrificial meat right in front of it!


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Starshot in


Meat for Meat


It had taken two days of hunting. Two days on Gelven-3-2, the jungle moon orbiting an orange gas giant. A hot world, with a thick, humid atmosphere. A world teeming with life, mainly from the jungles basking in twin stars, but also full of insects and omnivores. A dangerous, beautiful moon that only the bravest would go hunting in.


Starshot was brave, but more than just brave. He was about the best at what he did. And what he did was hunt.


The Research station there was well financed, and was paying him well. They needed a Green Raxor, perhaps the most dangerous predator on the planet, and certainly the largest. Apparently the ichor of one of its five spleens was a biochemical marvel-something that the Lor desperately wanted to study.


The problem was getting that spleen to study. Three scientists and then four contracted hunters had died trying.


Starshot had no intention of following them. The problem, as he saw it, was that the hunters had gone after the predator, rather than setting a trap for it. He had spent a day studying the research on the Green Raxor, learning its movement pattern, its behaviour, its mating rituals and digestion, and most importantly its favourite foods. The Green Raxor was a glutton with a discerning palate. And therein lied its flaw. Starshot could lay a trap.


A pile of meat.


But not just any meat. Meat that the Green Raxor would find particularly seductive. Its chemo-receptors would activate, the olfactory nerves would transmit, and the fronto-limbic pathways of its secondary brain (located, unusually but poetically wrapped around all three stomachs) would demand the beast masticate and swallow the delicious feast.


And so Starshot had spent two days hunting the meats that the Grean Raxor would find especially delicious. All in the name of medical science. After all, the galaxy desperately needed a cure for Woodling Chips disease, and the spleen of this beast might just hold the cure.


The anterior abdomiser of the Gelatin Frisco Parrot


The spinal gloop sac of the Roostering Redpaw


The synaptic plexus of the Paranueral Worm


The parasplenic digesterator of the Flying Antiperambulator


The secondary orifice of the Bony Groundhopper


Each required careful hunting. Studying the environment and behaviour of the target, surveying the land, setting the target. Some, Starshot could trap with elaborate pits and snares. Some required a more direct approach-tracking the beast through the thick jungle and catching it unaware. A quick blast from his customised plasma rifle was usually enough to kill the beast, if aimed carefully enough. The Roostering Redpaw was perhaps the most difficult beast to capture, ending up in a dirty fight in the middle of a swamp between the Redpaw’s bloody claws and Starshot’s equally bloody machete. A brutish fight, but ultimately a successful one, even if Starshot had another scar to show for it. It didn’t bother him muchly; every scar was another story to tell, another piece of literature engraved on his body.


And now the pile of meat lay in the jungle attracting zuzu flies and iridescent beetles. Irritating insects that also tried to suck blood from Starshot-he paid them no mind. They would not devour the meat before the Green Raxor arrived, and he could tolerate the insect bites, he had blood to spare and a med kit in his ATV ready to calm down the inflammation.


But damn, they were vexatious.


He slapped another feeding Zuzu fly, creating a shattered exoskeleton and a purple smear against his hand. He could already feel the itch. He muffled a curse under his breath. The thermal dissapators running down his spine and limbs started to whine in protest; the heat of the moon was insufferable. Even with the regulators and the coolant of his helmet, he could feel drops of sweat on his brow. But as toxic as the environment was, he loved the job. This was hunting at his finest, the challenge, the pulse, the primal instinct. Here, he didn’t have to worry about finances, or forms. Here, he could just concentrate on what needed to be done!


There! A wriggle in the undergrowth. His Infrared HUD picked up the signature amidst the foilage. The Green Raxor. Two tons of thick hide, long claws, and muscle. Poisoned teeth, Four eyes, six limbs, and a nose that could smell a rat from ten thousand paces. A nose that could smell this banquet trap at twenty thousand.


The beast wriggled towards the pile of meat, its black nose sniffing the air. The plasma rifle felt cold to Starshot’s hand, as the thermal focusing lens started heating up. He flexed his cybernetic hand, an old habit, no longer needed but part of the ritual before pressing the trigger. The HUD provided the data-distance, heat, dimensions. He took it off and breathed the hot jungle air. Sometimes you needed to use your own eyes.


The beasts head was in the crosshairs. A spike of adrenaline nailed Starshots half cybernetic heart, and he held his breath. His finger squeezed the trigger as it had done so many times before. And the beam of searing plasma shot from the muzzle of the rifle, accurate, powerful, precise.


The Green Raxor roared in pain.


Starshot had to admire the beasts endurance. Missing half a head, but still roaring, still breathing, and still, more concerningly, running to him. Just one of those razor claws could take Starshot’s head clean off.


He fired off as many rounds as he could, but it was not many-the beast was fast. Without the benefit of aiming, and firing through warped and twisted jungle trees, not all struck the beast. Singed branches and cindered leaves fell to the ground. Two-three bolts of plasma singed the beast, took off one of the six legs, but the beast kept running.


Closer, closer, so close that Starshot gave up firing, cast the rifle to the ground, and jumped to one side. The Green Raxor ripped through the forest, leapt and missed its target by an inch. It was fast, but didn’t turn well. It collided with three trees, flattening them all, before it skidded to a shot.


Starshot didn’t pause to catch his breath. He pulled out his side arm, the laser tracker sweeping smoothly until it locked on to the target. With a hiss of gas, he fired of three rounds, three darts loaded with knockout sedatives, three darts that swooped and turned to follow the beast.


The Raxor had the endurance of a hundred men, but its hide was no thicker than a pigs. All darts found there way to the Raxor and embedded themselves in its flesh.


“That should stop you…”


Should wasn’t the same as would. The beast stumbled this way, stumbled that, but turned and rammed its charred and halved head into Starshot. He was caught more by surprise than speed, and was tossed three dozen feet through the air. He consoled himself with the thought that the spleen of so hardy a creature might well hold the cure for Woodling chips disease. Maybe every disease… how the creature was still alive was beyond him.


Alive, but only just, it started a drunked walk towards him, craws raking the ground. Starshot discarded the handgun and pulled out his machete. It had come to this-a brutal hand to hand fight. One claw swiped at his shoulder-he ducked. Another caught his chest, raking open the military jacket and drawing blood, but not deep. His cybernetic filters started work on the poison as soon as it hit his blood stream. He raised the Machete and, with both hands, with cybernetically enhanced muscles, drove a foot and half on alloyed steel straight through the predator’s spinal column.


Even the mighty Green Raxor couldn’t survive that. With a tonic spasm, it collapsed to the jungle floor.


Breathing hard, Startshot pulled out the machete and wiped it on a nearby waxy leaf. He gave the creature a salute. It deserved that much. And then he got to carving. There was a spleen to recover from the pile of meat!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Diamondlight in


The stomach of Mister Silk


It was a busy night at the High Steaks. The normal varied crowd, gamblers, would be gamblers, diners, winers, and capes. A few less savoury characters; the crook had been robbed and was in a foul mood. He ordered fowl just to emphasise the point. The one handed Yakuza known as Devil-Hand. Professor Armitage, the occultist who was surely involved in smuggling, but was nevertheless a respected authority and fine company. The sultry singer, Velvet, who seemed to attract villains and vultures like a flame attracts moth. Plenty got burned by her red hair and smooth voice.


August Zoss, the owner, kept an interested eye on all of his customers when he dined there. But what really caught his eye, as he tucked into a medium rare steak and glass of Pinot Noir, was the Chinese Chemist Bruce Yum-Fat, also known as Mister Silk.


The man was known for trading in silks and textiles. But the rumour was, he was really smuggling illegal pharmaceuticals, illicit drugs, anything that his scientific mind could weave into his fabrics. He had amassed millions in months, and the authorities had not a thing on him. He ran his “business” with an iron fist, enforcing absolute loyalty on pain of death. Or pain of pain, which in his case was even worse. Bruce pulled no punches. He was, apparently, a master of Kung Fu.


He was also massive. Six foot six, and just as broad, with layers of corpulent fat jammed into every limb, levered onto his bones from the top of his head to his oversized feat. He was probably well of two hundred and fifty kilograms. But not just obese, he had a ferocious strength. It was said that Bruce Yun-Fat was once a foot shorter and weighed a third of his current size, but some experiment with chemicals had given him his height, strength, and extraordinary obesity.


And extraordinary appetite.


In front of him, Bruce Yum-Fat had:


Eleven steaks, Rare, with double cooked chips

Nine Pork Sausages, served on a bed of mash potatoes

Seven Chicken Kiev on an asparagus lattice

Six Halibut, with lemon and herb dressing


That’s right, thirty-three main courses.


A pile of meat!


To his credit, Brice Yum-Fat did not drink. He had a large jug of mineral water to help his digestion. And he did avoid the vegetables with a passion. Bruce Yum-Fat was taking his time, working his way through the banquet, nay, the mountain of meat. He gave a fierce glare to anyone who gave him even the slightest of disapproving looks.


It was enough of a glare to put anyone of their food. Enough of a glare to make anyone suddenly very interested in the nearest wall’s artwork, and very disinterested in looking at Mister Silk again.


Despite the mammoth order, August decided that this was not good for business. The High Steaks was were you could lose your money, but it would not do for a fight to break out, or for Mister Silk to give some of the more venerable patrons a heart attack with an evil eye.


Mister Silk was wearing an expensive black suit embraided with gold thread. But, as was his usual style, he was wearing a signature white silk shirt. The finest silk money could buy, the cleanest white one could envisage. Yes, Mister Silk, chemical engineer, also dabbled in dry cleaning. Even August Zoss, one of the richest men on the planet, looked upon Mister Silk’s silk shirt with a touch of envy.


So smooth! So white!


So red!




Velvet, the singer, drunk on red wine (and plenty of it) had tripped on one of impractically high heels whilst staggering to the casino tables, saying she fancied her luck at the Roulette wheel. But fate – and bad footwear and alcohol – had a bad hand in store for her that evening. She twisted her angle, ripped her too-tight red dress, and emptied her entire glass of red wine over Mister Silk’s shirt.


Nobody moved, or even blinked.


Mister Silk frowned, took half a fillet steak from his mouth with a fork, and placed it, gently, back on his mountain of meat. It was half masticated. He took a napkin and patted his mouth.


“Ooopsie…” said Velvet with a hiccup and a giggle.


Oopsie indeed….


In a flash, August was beside the two of them. Literally in a flash. With a burst of silver-blue light, he teleported across the High Steaks and interjected himself between Mr Silk and Velvet. He did not keep his super powers a secret, something he regretted from time to time, but right now he was glad he did not have to change into a costume or wrap a napkin around his head. Every second counted.


“Please accept my apologies, Mister Yum-Fat” he said, with a polite nuanced bow. “And it goes without saying the meal is in the house.”


Mister Silk clenched his fists. August could not help notice that they were very big fists, with knuckles decorated in callosities. Mister Silk could break bones with those fists. Possibly even punch a hole through a Diamond light forcefield. He did not care to test the theory.


“She ruined my shirt,” said Mister Silk. “Not you. Her. Clumsy drunk…”


“I’m just a bit tipsy…” giggled Velvet, who was clearly more than a bit tipsy.


August liked Velvet. She was an excellent singer, and fun company. And she was, one couldn’t help say, very beautiful. But right now, he felt like stapling her mouth shut.


“Mr Yum Fat, your palate and appetite are surely legendary. Please, consider my kitchens at your disposal,” he said, bowing again, and making sure his backside shoved Velvet away from the conversation. She was duly shoved, duly twisted her ankle on one of her ridiculously hazardous high heels, and fell to the floor.


“Ouchie!” she moaned.


Serves her right. And a twisted ankle is nothing compared to Mister Silk’s fists…


And yet August bristled, wrestling with an itching in his throat that urged him to scream, fighting the gnawing heat in his hand that told him to slap Mister Silk in his elephantine jowls. Bruce Yum-Fat was a thug, a bully, a blight on the world. Would the world truly care if Diamondlight impaled Mister Silk’s face with a laser-sword?


No… that’s the path to being some dark vigilante. Tempting, but it’s the road to ruin. This was the High Steaks. Tempers might get frayed, drinks might get spilled, cards and dice might get thrown in frustration. But it wasn’t a place for brawls. It had a reputation to protect, and August Zoss was going to protect it.


He gave a smile at Mister Silk. “All you can eat, courtesy of the house.”


Mister Silk gave August a dark look. He had small, black eyes that reminded August of a shark.


“I expect your chef’s to excel themselves.”


August looked at the pile of meat and discarded bones that lay infront of Mister Grab and wondered how the man could possibly eat any more.


“I apologise. Was the food not to your palate?”


Mister Silk snorted. “I confess it was… acceptable.”




August kept a warm smile plastered over his simmering rage. “I am sure they will be delighted to hear it. And equally delighted to assail your appetite with further gastronomic delight!”


It was a bold claim. The High Steaks had excellent food, but there were a couple of other restaurants in Freedom City which could be bolder. Not many, but a few.


August spent the rest of the evening fawning over Mister Silk and making sure that Velvet exited the building as safely as possible. Every compliment August gave was sour in his mouth. Every smile tasted bitter. He was catering to a bully.


But now was not the time.


He swore to himself that a time would come. He would take down Mister Silk and his gang of thugs.


Patience was a virtue, he told himself. But damn, it rankled.



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  • 2 weeks later...

A Monolith of Meat 

featuring Horrorshow

cw: body horror


Mid-September, 2023

Freedom City, New Jersey, USA, Earth


“But… what is it?,” one asked.


“It’s obscene,” an older onlooker replied, sickened yet curious.


“It’s only obscene if you think it’s obscene,” another said.  “It’s a, whatchacallit… an abstract.”


The newest addition to Southside was, to all appearances, a towering obelisk of meat, in the middle of a grassy field on the Freedom College campus.  It stood over twenty feet tall – visible from State Route 6, and the airspace immediately around Jordan International Airport – and was estimated to weigh over 20,000 pounds.  It was the raw pink of exposed muscle, and appeared to have the texture of ground beef or pork, though it remained still and unshifting.  A group of drunk students were the first to stumble upon it, but word quickly spread throughout campus, then through all of Freedom.  


Opinions and theories quickly formed, ranging from the mundane (“it’s a student art project, a traditional object made from non-traditional materials,” “its phallic shape represents patriarchal power, yet its organic composition shows how such power is temporal and ultimately fleeting”) to the macabre (“it’s some stunt by PETA,” “it’s the work of a new serial killer!”) to the fantastic (“the Flying Spaghetti Monster has blessed us with His Meaty Appendage!” or “it’s an alien seed pod!”).  The notion that it was an art project was quickly discarded, as the only ones who claimed credit for it were quickly revealed to be frauds or trolls.  A few grad students from HIT came over to perform some tests, but each result raised further questions.  X-rays and similar scans showed it was a mass of undifferentiated meat, no bones, no discrete organs.  And it was meat, of Earthly origin, but all tests to determine what kind of meat were inconclusive.  It also extended several feet into the earth, though it was well clear of any water lines or other infrastructure.  The pillar maintained a core temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit – the same as a healthy human body, and about 20 degrees warmer than the surrounding air temperature – though how it did so was unclear.


Various authorities were called, but none knew what to do.  Fears that the pile of meat might pose a health risk were dismissed, as it showed no signs of rotting, and attracted no vermin.  No one complained of any stench, as it had no odor at all.  Moving it posed a number of challenges, as no one wanted to risk ten tons of meat toppling over and splattering everywhere (or worse, falling on someone and smothering them). 


The pile of meat continued to draw a crowd throughout the day, and into the evening.  Candlelight vigils were set up, in hopes of spotting its creator, or of the meat itself doing something.  People drank, and sang, and danced, and prayed.  Night inevitably surrendered to day, and as the rising sun cast its rays on the pile of meat, a few claimed to sense a change in the meat.  Some said the color had shifted slightly, while others insisted it was smoother.  The folks from HIT resumed their measurements, and their most sensitive instruments determined that, yes, the meat was indeed changing… but was this simply a slow process of decomposition, or something else?


The meat continued to slowly shift, losing an inch or so of height each day, and slowly darkening to a deeper shade of crimson.  The ground beef texture shifted to something more like chicken breast, or a well-marbled steak.  Scans showed even more drastic changes going on inside, with long sausage-like tubes slithering up and coiling around random masses of denser tissues.  Calluses of thickened skin appeared across the meat, then patches of keratinous scales.  The tower’s compression accelerated, to a few inches each day, then a foot, two feet, three.


On the tenth day it was less than eight feet tall, and was now more akin to a great leathery egg, the color of clotted blood.  Scans showed a denser mass inside, approximately five feet around, but could not render any fine details.


The meat awoke.




“... and after chasing him through the quad,” Horrorshow continued, taking another sip of coffee from the back of the ambulance, “he stopped and, well, glared at me.”  When the meat-egg split open, he was inside, huddled in a fetal position.  As consciousness slowly returned, the leathery membrane contracted about him, forming a brown skintight suit, but leaving his feet, hands, and narrow head exposed.  Few had seen his true form, the thin lipless mouth, two tiny slits instead of a nose, skin a muddy mix of blacks, browns, pinks, reds, and yellows, and solid eyes filled with glittering swirls, but it was the form he’d awoken in, and he saw no point in changing.  


“Next thing I know, I woke up here, surrounded by all of them,” he gestured towards the crowd being held back by a mix of campus security and city police.  He shook his head slowly, still trying to clear his vision, “I don’t think I’ve ever been hit that hard before.”


“And that happened over a week ago?,” he asked the EMT, who simply nodded.  The vitiliginous vigilante let out a low whistle, “wow, that kid’s got power.  I’ll be sure to file a report with the League, so they can keep an eye out for him.  I’d like to chalk his actions up to someone lashing out out of fear, not malice.  If we can get him some proper guidance…”  He trailed off, remembering the chaotic times when he’d first gained his powers.  


After a moment’s reverie, he shook his head again, downed the rest of the coffee, and hopped to his feet.  “Again, I thank you, but I have got to get going.  I’m sure I’ve missed a lot!”  He grabbed the top of the ambulance’s back door and pulled himself up to the roof of the vehicle, then took to the air on great leather wings that had sprouted from his back.


My folks must be worried sick!




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Gamma Buzz




Hot Dog Rat Trap, with radiation.


The subways were cool.


The sewers were cool.


And sometimes, the two clashed together. Which was even cooler.


Baltazar Botez, aka Gamma Buzz, aka the Cockroach Kid, loved the subways and he loved the sewers. The lighting was poor, the smells were a fragrant awful, and the cockroaches were lively. Nobody here would gasp when the say a half cockroach teenager with glowing eyes. And nobody would run screaming.


When people ran away from you, screaming, it tended to knock your confidence. It was tough enough being a teenager anyway. And when they retched or even emptied their stomach it was a full-on, ten round pummelling of your confidence.


Much better to crawl along the forgotten network of Freedom Cities underbelly, pretending to be the deadly superhero of the underworld. That was cool. Sometimes, he fired out green laser beams from his eyes to fry a supervillain rat, just to prove his point. Gamma Buzz, protector of the sewers!


That was his hobby, his fantasy, his retreat. And it served its purpose; the solitude of dreams. But today Freedom City needed a real protector of sewers.


It had a rat problem.


Not your regular rats, although they were of regular size. Radioactive rats, surrounded by a toxic green vapour that would choke and poison any foolish creature that approached.


Any creature, except Gamma Buzz. For him, radiation was little more than a tickle in the nostrils (if he had nostrils). He could stand in the heart of a fission reactor without a single strand of DNA complaining.


A horde of mutated radioactive rats? In the sewers? This was a job for the Cockroach Kid! For real!


But even for the amazing Gamma Buzz, the sewers and subways of Freedom City were large and complicated, and scurrying radioactive rats could squeeze through the million tiny gaps that peppered the cracked walls. What Baz needed was a trap. What he needed was bait.


What he needed was a pile of meat!


More specifically, Baz had noted that the radioactive rodents had a particular fondness for the subway hot dog stalls. Something about the stale bun and tepid processed meat clearly appealed to their rumbling stomach. Unlike human consumers, they didn’t even have to drape the hot dog in a mountain of mustard and ketchup to make it palatable.


Baz had to persuade three hot dog stall owners. They were being plagued by the rats, which would render all their meat inedible anyway – nobody much cared for glowing hot dogs, except the kids. And kids eating radioactive hot dogs was not a good thing. If they could just donate a truckfull of hot dogs, then Gamma Buzz would sort the problem out. Honest.


Ok, maybe he embellished the story slightly, with Space Nazi’s and Zombie Werewolves. But he got his point across. And maybe he helped himself to a couple of hot dogs (with mustard and ketchup) free of charge. But he managed to get a large sack full of hot dogs as bait.


And he managed to arrange the meat in a pile!


A stinking pile of half cooked hot dogs, already attracting a swarm of bacteria and a battalion of fungus. It sat there, in one of the larger cracks in the sewer, an irresistible prize for mutant rats.


An irresistible prize they could not resist! For lo and behold, around the corner of one of the ancient sewer tunnels, full of dried excrement and not so dried excrement, Gamma Buzz could see a lurid green glow.


The rats were coming! And he would catch them like…


Like… errr….


Rats in a trap?


Well there were some rats. But what was the trap?


Therein lied the massive flaw in his otherwise perfect plan. Gamma Buzz kicked himself on his armoured shin plates. Fool! Now he thought about it, he could have constructed some cool cage that fell from the ceiling, or a pit full of poison spikes. Well, maybe he couldn’t, but he could ask someone else to make them. And passed it off as his own work. Which was nearly as good. In some ways, it was better. The sweet deliciousness of naughty tricksters.


He had to deal with the swarm another way, and time was running out. He could seem them now, like a hundred green lights scuttling through the tunnel filth, towards the hot dog prize.


Radiation wouldn’t do it. Gamma Buzz might have been immune to their toxic vapours, but equally they would soke up his gamma beam eyes without blinking. He could stomp them – but that would be unpleasant, and how many could he stomp? A dozen? Two dozen? They would flee before he could squash even half of them under his super powered four toes.


The rats might be immune to gamma beams, but the architecture was not. To be honest, the crumbling forgotten sewers looked like they would crumble and collapse with a stiff sneeze, let alone a thermal-radiation charged ion blast.


Baz pulled himself closer to the ceiling, hanging by his mutant hands and mutant feet. Careful now… he was itching for action, hardly able to resist the urge to live out his fantasy as Gamma Buzz, Superhero of the Sewers! But he had to wait until every single on of the rats was feasting on the pile of meat!


It did not take long, for the rats were hungry and the hot dogs were just about edible. Soon, a living carpet of rats undulated over the hot dogs. It was a disgusting sight, making the rat genocide that much easier to stomach. Maybe he might have felt sorry for them, but the way they nibbled and gnawed, filing gamma bellies with cold hot dogs, fighting amongst themselves for the tastiest portions-this all made what Baz was about to do that much more satisfying.


“Gamma Buzz, Baby!” he yelled, and leapt into an acrobatic spin, ending with blazing gamma beams lancing across the pipes and masonry above the trap. The metal groaned, the concrete split.


And that was it.


“Oh shoot…”


He was heating things up, no doubt, but there was no cave in. Heat was not the same as force, and he needed force.


“I said…” he started. “Gamma Buzz…. BABY!”


With his battle cry echoing down the tunnels, Gamma Buzz leapt, his stubbly three fingered hands grabbing on to a hot and twisted metal pipe upon which the whole crumbling masonry seemed to rely. He pulled.


“Oh come on!” he screamed. “I am meant to have super strength!”


He plated two feet on the walls and hefted with all his might, heaved so hard he feared he might crack one or two of his armour plates. But with all his strength in the right place, with optimal leverage, he pulled the pipe free, and shot across the tunnel to land in a crumpled heap.




As hard as he had hit the ground, as much as it hurt, the rats had it far worse. The masonry and concrete, twisted rusted beams and splintered rotten planks all came crashing down on the hapless rats. Had they not been so distracted by the feast, they might have scarpered, but alas they were too slow. In seconds, they were buried under rubble. A few rat screams were heard, and then silence. Toxic radioactive vapour started pouring from the rubble, and rat blood oozed across the sewer floor.


All in a days work for Gamma Buzz, superhero of the sewers!


All thanks to a pile of meat!

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Goat Curry


A helicopter ride across Kashmir and Doctor Rocky Rambeaux reached the foot of the Himalayas. Even at this relatively low altitude, he could feel the crisp air in his lungs; thin, cold. To his mind it was best described as bracing.


Positive mental attitude.


Hiking came with hardship, with effort and strain. It would not do to fall into a negative mindset. He stopped frequently, not to rest limbs or heart, but to take in the mountain view. Layers and layers of spikes in the landscape, each topped with shining snow that swam downwards across mountain crevasses. The air may have been crisp, but it was clean, unmarred by the pollution of the urban world. There was no finer view in the world.


Rocky was not here just to admire mountains. He had rumours, whispers. Mountaineers gone missing, local myths, and goat bones.


Goat bones happened of course. Animals fed on other animals, and would gnaw the last scrap of flesh of the smallest of bones. Sometimes, humans would slaughter goats for food. In fact, a goat curry was a local speciality. But these were bones high in the mountains, half covered in snow. How had the goat got there? And what mountain beast would stalk the snowy and dangerous terrain of a Himalayan mountain.


Rocky had to investigate. If the myths of primitive undiscovered sub-terran humans were correct, it might only be time before someone found human bones. He had packed all his mountaineering gear-ropes, spikes, picks-as well as the warm clothing and survival equipment he might need on the cold mountainside. And he packed his 9mm Automatic. He hoped he would not need it, but he would rather have it in case he did.


The initial ascent was steep, but could be managed on foot, even if it did make his thighs hot with strain. Just as the mountain turned from hiking to climbing, he spied a pair of local Indians, sat by a campfire. Hands up, he approached them. They were nervous, but once he sat by the fire and started conversing, they relaxed. Rocky was fluent in Urdu, but the Kashmir were less so. Still, they managed a shacky conversation and were polite enough to share their meal; the best goat curry Rocky had ever tasted.


The locals had heard the stories, heard the legends. Ancient cavemen, hidden beneath the mountains, feeding on whatever meat they could find. Recently, they had been bolder, hunting the goats of the tribe.


Rocky tried not to think about what else they had been hunting and eating. Mountaineers had gone missing. Maybe just the hazards of the terrain, maybe buried under snow. Maybe something else.


Time for Rocky Rambeaux to do some hunting of his own. And the best way to hunt was with a trap. And he had a good idea what to use as bait.


A pile of meat!


A pile of goat curry, to be precise. Delicious goat curry, so sensuous and delightful to the nose that even the whiff of tepid meat made Rocky’s mouth water.


He patiently waited until the sun set, lighting a small fire to keep himself and the curry warm. Then, behind him, he heard the crunch of foot against rock, the gentle slide of snow. They were stealthy, and quick-two sub-terrans. Rocky turned, but turned to slow. The two filthy humanoids pounced him!


Rocky lost his footing, but so did the sub-terran’s. In the thump of a heart, all three were tumbling down the mountain, kicking up snow with every turn of body and flail of limb.


With a crunch, the three bodies smashed against rock; an undulation of the stony mountain. Rocky let out a gasp of pain, feeling something snap in his ribcage. The medical part of his brain-the doctor that had drilled in a thousand trauma assessments-started diagnosis. A broken rib, maybe two. Breathing painful, but not impaired. The risk; a rib splintering into the lung, causing air or blood to fill the chest cavity. Pneumothorax, Heamothorax, it made no difference. He would be dead either way.


The two sub terrans were relatively unscathed; unfortunately, Rocky had taken the brunt of the impact. But they still had the wind knocked out of them. They had dark eyes-so dark Rocky felt he might fall into them. Adapted for the underground, where there was no light.


He booted one in the face and heard the satisfying yet uncomfortable sound of a nose breaking. They at least had human anatomy. And more than human determination. The other was on him, hands round neck, drooling into Rocky’s face.


“Why you come? Give meat!”


The words were in halting Urdu. This creature had learned basic human tongue. Was it more than a beast?


“Stop stealing goats!” Rocky spluttered, getting a foot on the sub-terrans belly and, with a grunt of pain and effort, forcing the creature off him.


The two creatures scuttled back a few yards, slipping on snow but not falling.


“Stealing? What stealing?”


Rocky took a defensive pose, ready for another pounce.


“Goat. You eat. Yum-Yum…”


He got a snarl in response. “Yum-Yum… very tasty. Yum-yum… we hungry. Rat.. bird.. mushroom… no taste good. We like yum-yum…”


“You like goat curry?” asked Rocky, clutching his side. It grated every time he inhaled. If he wasn’t halfway through a fight to the death, he would have reached into his medical kit and taken a short of morphine. He wasn’t a stranger to pain, and could endure plenty of discomfort, but this was the kind of pain that would drill into his brain and wear him out.


“Yum-yum!” agreed the Sub-terrans, miming putting food in their mouth and lovingly masticating.


“Yum-yum is pretty good, I admit…”


The two sub-terrans nodded emphatically.


Rocky was no billionaire, but he had money. And goat curry was cheap. If he could pay the tribesmen, then he could bribe the sub-terrans. If the rumours were true-of a vast underworld populated by sub-terrans, presided over by the Machiavellian Terra-King, then Rocky could do with some allies. He could do with some inside information.


These two might become his spies.


The deal was struck – awkward, clumsy – using pidgin Urdu, hand gestures, and on one occasion, drawing pictures in the snow with a stick. Rocky could not swear that everything was properly understood on either side, but hopefully he some kind of deal was made. Broad brushstrokes – Yum-yum for information. And the tribesmen would no longer have to fear random attacks on their goats or other animals.


Rocky conveniently forgot to discuss the mountaineers. He didn’t want to know. Hopefully, yum-yum was a lot tastier than raw meat. Even raw human.

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Bloody Mess




Messy Blood


It was an impressive pile of meat. Three feet high, six feet wide, compromised of every edible meat known to man. Pork, Beef, Chicken, Fish for starters, although some exotic and even questionable meats lay within the mountain; swan, crocodile, zebra. And raw, blood raw.


A raw, stinking, bloody mess of messy blood.


The flies were already at work, buzzing around the meat in search of some finer feast amongst the banquet. And not just the flies, the bacteria and moulds were also encroaching on the prize, beginning their endless cycle of consumption and division.


But one particular bacterium was winning the brutal scrabble for nutrition. A very strange bacterium. And alien bacterium. A sentient bacterium.


And this was the problem. At Sandy’s slaughterhouse, the slaughtermen and slaughterwomen had been reporting spooky activities for days. Now Sandy’s Slaughterhouse was not your upstanding slaughterhouse. It was based in the slums of Freedom City, in a kind of slum-corner that did not always operate above the radar of the law. Exotic meats for rich clientele? Check. Borderline condemned meats that with otherwise be destroyed? Check? Any law that could be bent was bent at Sandy’s Slaughterhouse. And sometimes broken. Dirty cash occasionally passed between dirty fingers to make sure that hygiene inspectors looked the other way.


It was the kind of slaughterhouse that supplied cheap meats for cheap joints. Like the Schwarma joint that Bloody Mess and the Hound frequented. It was hear that the detective-ish duo first heard of the rumours that scuttled around the streets.


“Ay!” remarked Hazem, owner of the finest Schwarma joint of 22 Grumblebone Road, Freedom City. “Ay! They say the meat moves in the night! What a lot of mumbo jumbo and hocus-pocus! Supernatural bah-loney! Would you like some of da special Halloween kebab? Grilled under da light of da full moon! Only five dollar extra, small price to pay for da mystical fortune of witchcraft!”


Bloody Mess and the Hound elected to buy the regular kebab, and elected to investigate. As usual the Hound wanted money, and as usual Bloody Mess convinced him otherwise. If they put in a few favours with the local community, they could get a few favours back, he said. And he cracked his knuckles – both lefty and righty – to emphasise his eloquent point.


It was dusk when they arrived at the slaughterhouse. The kind of dusk that stuck in your lungs and crawled on your skin; dirt, smog, humidity. Combined with the emptiness of the slaughterhouse, there was something uncanny in the air. But not as uncanny as the pile of meat in the floor?


How did it get there? Bloody Mess could smell the multiple trails of blood – the meat had crawled to the centre of the slaughterhouse. There it lay, rotting, attracting the flies. A bloody mess of messy blood.


“That don’t look right…” muttered the Mess.


“I concur. Right is what it ain’t look like…” muttered the Hound.


They both looked at each other, and approached. The Hound made sure he was almost exactly one and half paces behind the Mess.


“It moved…” said the Hound.


“Don’t be a numbskull. Meat don’t move!” replied the Mess.


“I swear, I saw it! It moved!”


“How does a pile of meat move? It don’t have no legs!”


“It… crawled!” protested the Hound.


The Mess sighed. “Look… ain’t no way a pile of meat crawls. Its dead…”


“The dead can move! If you listen to Machete Max had his army of the dead…” said the Hound, eyes shifting left and right, spying zombies in the dark corners.


“Hur hur hur…. You see any voodoo sorcerers here?”


“It doesn’t have to be sorcery! It could be anything! This is Freedom City. It could be a shapechanging Grue… it could be an a giant underground rat… it could be a mutated alien bacteria!”


By pure chance, the Hound had it correct. A mutated alien bacteria had ended up in Sandy’s Slaughterhouse. Quite how is another story. A story involving a cocktail bar, a clown, and a pencil.


This time, the pile of meat quivered, and rose. Not even Bloody Mess could argue against the Hound. He took a step back, more from surprise than fear. The Mess feared nobody, not even a meat golem.


“Pfsheesht on meee…. Human shhhhcum!”


The pile of meat had formed a mouth of sorts. Gathering stray muscle fibres had created lips, and its tongue was, well… its tongue was, predictably, a tongue. The mouth, centred in the centre of the mess, was functional, but its articulation left plenty to be desired.


“Feast on this!” roared the Mess, his body swelling as he pumped super powered blood into his arms and legs, making him look like a sack of watermelons.


A sack of watermelons that could bench press a tank. So empowered, the Mess got to work. Bam---Bam Bam!!!! Lefty and Righty, his two mighty fists, plunged deep into the pile of meat, coming out bloody.


With fists that hit like cannonballs, the Mess clearly had done some damage. But not much. The pile of meat was still there, spitting blood. Its amalgamation of fetid meats absorbed impact.


“Fhlllolish huuuumans!” spat the pile of meat. “Your fisssssht are yooshhhhleshhh!”


“But this isn’t!” screamed the Hound.


He was an anxious fellow at best, but in truth a terrified coward. But when your back is against the wall, when your friends are in danger, and when you are facing a pile of meat animated by a mutant alien bacteria, you will sometimes find an unexpected courage.


And the chainsaw helped.


It was a Slaughterhouse, and slaughterhouses needed to slaughter. Amongst the myriad of instruments, they also had a chainsaw to help carve up the dead meat. And the Hound had wisely decided that he should arm himself.




The Chainsaw cut through the animated meat, spraying blood and flesh like a B-movie nasty. The Hound was too scared to be terrified. Instead, he roared the howl of a wolf, and kept cutting whilst speckles of blood dotted his face.


“Take that! And that! And that!” he yelled, whilst hacking and slicing like a psychotic mass murderer, cutting again and again into the flesh of the pile of meat until there was no more to cut. And yet stilled he screamed, the chain saw now scraping against the concrete floor, sending up a fountain of sparks instead of blood.


“That’s enough… job  done…” said the Mess, clamping both of the Hounds wrists with his mighty hands.


“Wh.. wha… what came over me?” asked a trembling Hound, trying to wipe blood from his brow but succeeding only in smearing it all over his face.


“Fear?” offered the Mess.


“Eeeek! Look at that!” said the Hound, pointing at the shredded pile of meat. Whatever malign bacterial intelligence was inside the thing, it was no more.


But they had to be sure.


A few cartons of petrol and a cigarette but later, and the remains of the pile of meat were cooking. Wafts of smoke and the smell of crispy bacon filled the streets of Freedom City that night.

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Meateater Madness


[Events occur just after The stomach of Mr Silk]


Meat! Must have meat!


“But I’m a vegetarian!”




Umberto had been a fool, not for the first time and certainly not for the last. Was it fear, that drove his foolishness? It was a good guess. The bullied child became the terrified adult. Umberto had a small frame, a short stature, and a face that said “hit me”. Whenever threatened he would gabble and panic.


Since finding out about his amazing mutation, he was a sliver more confident, but only a sliver. His fear remained, but now he had an unpredictable urge to reach out and steal the bullies mind. It was uncontrolled, wild, and dangerous but he struggled to contain it. Sometimes, it would be helpful, for instance stopping the bully in his track, unable to move, or making the bully forget that Umberto existed.


Sometimes he would copy the brain, gleaning skills and abilities. This, in itself, was no bad thing and had even saved his (vegetarian) bacon from time to time. But when he copied someone immensely strong willed, the psyche would try to assert control, try to dominate.


Bruce Yum-Fat was a bully. A big fat bully. Also known as Mr Silk, the chemist from Hong Kong who specialised in exotic poisons and addictive drugs. Bruce Yum-Fat was also huge. Close to seven foot tall and just as wide. His appetite, and his girth, were seemingly limitless.


Umberto had been loitering outside the High Steaks, sparkling and elegant restaurant to the heroes of Freedom City. He wondered if he should go in, try and network. But he was cripplingly lacking confidence. As he was procrastinating, Mr Silk and a few of his goons burst out of the building, a thunderous look of fury on his face, and red wine on his shirt.


“That red head singer. Get her name. Get her location. I’m gonna kick her in the face. And that idiot owner. What you looking at, squirt?” he shouted, shaking a fist at Umberto.


Umberto felt his heart doing an uptempo Irish jig in his mouth.


“I… er… um… that is… I…”


And then it happened, he copied Mr Silk’s brain into his own skull.


At first, Umberto felt cool. He knew kung fu! He felt lighter, his feet drifting across the pavements from one form to another-snake, eagle, monkey. He could feel the muscles in his arms loosen, like a waterfall. Fluid motions swam around his brain. He could shift his feet there, turn his waist thusly, and extend his arm so, and by doing inflict a tight whiplash punch more powerful than his otherwise lacklustre body could have imagined.






The whispers started. The copy of Mr Silk, furious at his condition, enraged by the spilt wine, and on a background of narcissistic vexation, was less than happy at being a copy. The echo started to whisper, then speak, then shout, then scream. A primal demand.


Mr Silk (echo) needed to sate his insatiable appetite. He needed to salivate over food. Not just any food, either. This was not the time for cheap spaghetti at the pasta Palace. No! He needed meat, sweet succulent meat that he would swirl around the palate, be torn by teeth, and eventually settle and slumber in the stomach.


From the feel of it, even a third of Mr Silk’s regular meal would cause Umberto’s stomach to explode. And yet the copy was so primal in its urge that self preservation was of no consequence.


All that mattered was… a pile of meat!


The Kung Fu legs evaporated and wobbled. For a moment, Umberto felt drunken master style kick in, until that too submerged under the weight of screaming appetite. He staggered left, staggered right, and clutched a lamp post to remain on his feet.


“I’m a vegetarian!” he protested, loudly, to the voice in his head. His proclamation drew a few glances. Many, observing the staggering and the shouting at nothing decided-understandably-to give Umberto wide berth. A few even crossed the street.


Umberto staggered forward, brain a mess, navigating half understood streets. He paused by a French restaurant, grappling with Mr Silk about whether to barge in an order veal. He twisted outside a hot dog stand, a spasm of internal conflict that only resolved when the vendor threatened to squirt mustard in Umberto’s eyes. The potential pain was enough for Umberto to temporarily regain control and stagger onwards.


It was the deli that broke the back.


I fine Italian deli, that Umberto knew. He liked the cheeses; especially the goat’s cheese. But Mr Sill (echo) had no taste or time for diary products. Ravenous eyes swung over the rack of smoked meats hanging on the back wall, over the sausages and prime cuts behind glass in the counter.


“Meat!” he roared. “Big piles of meat!!!


“Are you alright, Umberto?” asked the owner, a fat middle aged man with a handsome face, wearing a white apron and tinted glasses. Mr Falzoni was a man who took pride in his work, and knew half his customers by name.




“I thought you were vegetarian. I have some nice Northern Italian Goats ch…”




Mr Falzoni was aware of Umberto’s special abilities-he had some minor fame. He gulped, and started bringing down to the hanging smoked meats. “Never thought I would see the day…” he muttered, clearly discombobulated. As were the other customers, who seemed, by osmotic common sense, to exit the building in as inconspicuous and subtle a manner as possible. Nobody wanted to deal with a madman, especially with carving knives lying about.


Trapped inside his own skull, Umberto flailed uselessly against the iron will of Mr Silk (echo). How he lamented his stupidity! No Kung-Fu skills were worth this! Not only had he a bully inside his head, he was about to put…



Put meat in his mouth!


The vegetarian inside him recoiled. Meat! Horrible! Immoral! Rotten, stinking meat!


Ironically, it was this very disgust that saved Umberto. Mr Falzoni dutifully carved off a generous slice of smoked ham, and Mr Silk (echo) with a knee jerk reflex, tore into it, stuffing as much as he could into Umberto’s mouth.


The powerful response to the flavour saved the day. Smell, taste, it was this sense that evokes, in humans and most animals, the most powerful and primitive of emotions. In this case-disgust. Surfing the wave of horror, Umberto resurfaced, his disgust more than swamping Mr Silk (echo)’s appetite. Crying, frustrated, incandescent with fury, Mr Silk (echo) sunk into blackness and oblivion.


And Umberto spat out the meat, choking, inserting his little fingers into his mouth to spoon out the last remains of half-masticated smoked ham.

Saved. By a pile of meat.


“I’ll have some of the goats cheese…” said Umberto. “Fast as possible. I need to get rid of the bad taste…”


In his mouth, and in his head.

Edited by Supercape
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Blubber and Rum


The lost journals of Captain Goerge Portland, British Navy, Arctic Expedition.


Flagship HMS Highhorn.


December 1922


The ship is stuck. I know not if some error of navigation or other seamanship, or just a misfortune of weather, but the ship is resolutely stuck. The men have braved the temperature and been at work with picks and shovels, and we have burnt much coal firing the engines, at risk of breaking the propellors from strain.


We have provisions and coal to last us several months, if need be. Morale is high. We have done much soul searching and cannot, despite every effort, find any error with our maps or our course. It appears we have been party to a freak meteorological occurrence. We pray to God that our fortunes reverse, and every common sense says that it should. We should be free of the ice in days.


January 1923


We remain stuck, and morale ebbs.  We attempted to raise spirits with Christmas celebrations, including double rations of rum, but alas it was a tepid affair.

Why? Why is the sea frozen? It bewilders us all, even the most experienced sailor.


The ice cracks and groans. Some of the men, cursed with nervous disposition, claim it is a supernatural thing. A curse. That the ice, or something in it, is a live.


February 1923


It is not merely the uneducated men who fear something supernatural. The officers, too, have started whispers. And even the strongest spine crumbles amongst the ice, with the groaning and weeping. I fear it myself. The rum helps, but we are running low.


Why does the ice groan so?


March 1924


It was to be the last voyage of old Scrumble, the carpenter. I no not his real name, although the legers record him as John Smith. He is known as, and referred to, as Scrumble by both officer and sailor alike. He is a storyteller, and I cannot decide whether his knowledge of naval myths is a blessing or a curse. Perhaps it raises morale, perhaps it crushes it. And maybe there is a morsel of truth in his tall tales.


He tells of leviathans and sea-demons, and such is common fair amongst naval men, although I confess Scrumble speaks with a haunting voice of conviction that gives his tales a weight that is hard to shake. He also tells the tales of Captain Flintlock, the pirate queen and sorcerer, who sails the dark oceans of strange realms in her ship the Black Flag, manned by the dead.


Flintlock and the Black Flag, pirate scum, necromancers, witches. All these are undoubtedly correct to any god-fearing man. But then there are other stories. Of Flintlock and her unholy crew protecting seafarers from leviathans and monstrosities that, truth be told, sound far worse than ever her.

The crew lap up Scrumbles tales told in the endless arctic night. Tales told by candlelight, often lubricated with rum. Some say Captain Flintlock will save us. Some say that she has summoned the ice as part of some satanic witchcraft. I cannot say either. My faith is in God, and a pray every night. This is surely a test the almighty has chosen us for.


But my, how the ice whispers, and doubts crawl in my mind.



April 2024


The ice has fallen to the picks, and the Highhorn is moving once more, although at a crawl. Progress is slow. Morale should be high now, but for strange things found in the ice. Tentacles, thick as a mans torso. The men whisper of the Kraken.


I have taken one of the tentacles aboard. The ships surgeon, Doctor Lovecraft, a strange looking and nervous fellow, has examined the monstrosity. He told me, in private, that it was alien, not from this world, and then retreated to his quarters, barricading himself inside. I hear him scream at night and fear for his sanity.


May 1924


We are now on our way to Freedom City. Forgive the poor calligraphy of this final entry, but I write with shaking hand. I am consuming too much rum, and I cannot recall a night unbroken by terrifying dreams. I can hardly believe what happened this last week, and fear to share my journal with any, for fear of being committed to an asylum.


The beast we had all feared awoke. The time was early morning, the stars concealed by unnatural darkness. The whispers of the ice grew louder, till the cracks and splinters echoes throughout the wooden beams of the ship and even the screams of grown men were drowned out.


The beast was twice the size of the Highhorn. I could not count the number of flabby tentacles and black eyes. Too many, too  many too count, too many to be natural. I realised then that Doctor Lovecraft had been right. This was not some ancient giant squid, but something not of God’s earth.


Its body was like a whale, blubber, fat, sealed in a waxy skin. Enough to feed a crew for a dozen years. The lumpy beast was a pile of meat, but rancid, horrible, infested. Strange and equally alien parasites crawled over its skin; and some underneath it.


The men and the ship would both have perished then, crushed by the thousand flailing limbs of the hideous beast. But we were saved.


First we heard the roar of cannons, then the flap of sail. A pirate ship, skating along the ice on ethereal green waves, as if the aurora borealis had come to settle on the ice. Its flag was black.


There it was! The black flag of legend. Its crew and captain all dressed like pirates. I could not say whether they were alive or dead, saints, sinners or witches. Captain Flintlock herself was red of hair and red of face, drunk on rum, waving a cutlass in one hand and gesturing in the other.


Perhaps it was the cannonfire, that drilled into the vast creatures meat. Perhaps it was the gesticulations of Captain Flintlock, and the strange magic she commanded. But the beast started to tear itself asunder, ripping in twain and then in twain again, until the ice was coated with dying fat, dripping with bloody oils, and alien tentacles danced and twitched in the throes of death.


And then the Black Flag sailed past us, with Captain Flintlock giving a theatrical bow and a call of good fortune.


I do not know how much of what I or the men saw is honest in recollection. Was it a dream, or a nightmare? Was it witchcraft, or some alien creature from stars and planets as yet unknown? All I can say for certain is that it has frayed my sanity to its core. The bible has helped, and so has the rum. As for me, I will resign my commission rather than sail on arctic seas again.


And I will never look at a pile of meat again, without remembering the blubber and rum of our ill fated expedition.

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Lord Steam




Pile of Meat Pie


It was quite the conundrum. In all his years of super-sleuthing, neither Lord Steam not his butler come cook, Blakely, had ever seen anything quite like it.


The biggest pie he ever did see had been delivered to Steam Manor, and was now lying on the long dining table, warm to the touch. It was behond huge. A man could comfortably sit inside the moist pastry on the outside. And that was what worried Lord Steam.


And assassin? Or a body? Arguably, given the rumours of zombie yardies going around Freedom City, it could be both. However you cut the mustard (or in this case, pie), it was far from good.


“Get the largest knife you can find, Blakely. And best get your rifle, too. Just in case…”


The knife and rifle procured, with Blakely taking aim two dozen feat back, Lord Steam cut the pie.


Inside, a moist and tender pile of meat.


“It smells like chicken, Sir…” said Blakely.


“Smells like a crime, Blakely,” said Lord Steam. “And that means we will be off to the crime lab!”


It was fortunate that Steam mansion had a crime lab. But then again, Lord Steam was a super sleuth. The lab was dressed out in the very best in steampunk gadgetry. Pipes, whistles, Bunsen burners, strange colour chemicals, oils, powders. A vast array of brass magnifying glass. And a big gong with purple feathered hammer. Nobody knew what that was for, not even Lord Steam. But it did, he claimed, look rather splendid.


The findings, however, were not so splendid.


The meat was well cooked, and human.


“My nose was correct,” said Lord Steam. “A crime has been committed. A crime most foul. A murdered body, cooked and baked into a pie, and sent to Steam Manor.”


“Reprehensible, sir,” said Blakely. “Quite reprehensible.”


“Somebody’s goading me, Blakely. Sending me evidence and asking me to solve it. Asking me to chew on it…”


“Literally, sir. Quite literally!”


Further tests came, with Lord Steam applying the full might of his resplendent mind to the task. No crime would go unsolved, especially not this one!

Lord Steam had a strong stomach, but it felt queasy now. He swore he would not eat another pie until the mystery was solved. Not a hard resolution to make – the thought of even the finest steak and ale pie would twist his intestines into defiant knots right now.


What would the Raven do? Or Midnight, or Ghost, or the Hound? Lord Steam would be damned if asked for help, even from such famous super sleuths. No, pride demanded he solve this all by himself.


With Blakely serving tea and crumpets of course.


The flesh was put through the DNA-spectrochemiscope. Male, with telemore length indicating middle age. More chemical tests-the man was loaded with morphine metabolites. Infected with Hepititis-B and C, and in poor health.


A vagrant. And an unhappy one at that. Lord Steam could hazard a reasonable guess at the man’s life. Was the murderer trying to “clean up” the streets from the “unworthy parasites”? or projecting his own self loathing onto unfortunates?


Or was it simply a man who would not be missed. Sometimes the simplest solutions were the best.


Why the pie? Why the pie?






The pie was ciricular, and the number Pi was all about circles. Further measurement of the dish served to confirm the hypothesis had legs. The Pie was indeed perfectly circular, and its radius was approximately 3.14 feet. Feet… an old British measurement. Yes, there was something mathematical about this.

The murderer knew that Lord Steam was more than capable with mathematics.


Taunting with a pie. Taunting with a pi.


“Blakely, I have a hunch!”


More than a hunch, but less than proof.


It was a short ride in Bessie, the steam powered mechanical car. Lord Steam’s list of vexed and insulted enemies was long, but few (as far as he could guess) would murder. At least not murder innocents.


But a few months ago, Lord Steam had got into quite the argument with the chef at the annual symposium of historical mathematics. The beef wellington was outstanding in quantity – quite the pile of meat – but less than satisfactory in quality. Lord Steam was rather intoxicated on the fine wine, and had demanded the chef account for his terrible cooking.


Lord Steam recognised that he had publicly humiliated the oaf.


With hindsight, he regretted his action. Some poor sod had paid the ultimate price.


Bessie pulled up outside Freedom City University. Lord Steam could not resist honking the brass and silver horn. Then, with long strides full of confidence, he took a brisk walk to the University kitchens.


“Cuthbert Wranglepork, I accuse you of murder!”


Cuthbert wranglepork was a wide man with a wide moustache. He had the kind of body that was engaged in a wrestling match between fat and muscle, and had plenty of both. Lord Steam was athletic, but this man had the strength of an ox. And was holding a meat cleaver.


“Bah!” hissed Wranglepork. “You can’t prove nothing!”


“Really?” replied Lord Steam. “Then you won’t mind if I inspect your oven!” he said, brandishing his magnificent microscope. “You see, your victim was a heroin addict. And metabolite dimorphinase will cause a very specific black residue when heated. A residue that is quite impervious to regular cleaning agents. Unless you used triphenylyoxycarboate, of course. But I guess you didn’t!”


It was quite the bluff. But Lord Steam was good at bluffing. And like all successful bluffs it was built on one truth. Wranglepork had no idea that the victim was a heroind addict.


But Wranglepork had one trick up his sleeve. His carving knife burst into a brilliant purple flame.


“Think yourself clever? Well I’m going to get carving! DIdn’t count on my mutant powers, did you?”


“Why, of course I did!” said Lord Steam, who had absolutely no idea about Wranglepork’s mutant powers. “There was clear evidence from the trisilicate weave lattice on the deceased paramuscular fibroids!”


Another outrageous bluff. Wrangepork crossed his eyes trying to compute, gave up, and charged Lord Steam with his flaming carver. Lord Steam brought up his cane and so began an elegant sword fight.


Wrangleporks strength was brutal, bordering superhuman, and the flames on the knife were hot even to look at. But his blows were furious and unskilled, and Lord Steam elegantly danced around Wranglepork, tripping him up, parrying, tapping, and insulting him. Eventually, the wild swings started to take their toll, and Wranglepork slowed, his body dripping with sweat, his lungs and heart unable to keep up with the demands of the fight.


And then Lord Steam struck. The poison tip of his cane delivered straight to the neck. Wranglepork went stiff, his eyes rolled to the back of his head, and he collapsed, like a pile of meat.


It was with some satisfaction that Lord Steam noted Wranglepork had fallen flat on his face. His nose was flattened, and gushed blood that oozed over the kitchen floor.


“You bloody fool!” he said, as he clamped up Wrangleporks feet and legs with brass cuffs. All that remained was to call the police. Another job well done for Lord Steam, and the mystery of the meat pie.

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