Delivery Lemur Logbook : 13

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In the babble of the rabble, in the shaking shuddering cortex of the world, in the hot haze, the controlled chaos & the actual chaos, in the heart of all hearts, is my teeming steaming native land. This is planet Cloudout, capital and administrative keyworld of the Eight Galaxies. Specifically, we’re in the suburb Bobby_Cloud. I was born just around the corner from here back when I was a baby.

Feel what I’m feelin?

“Yes ~ I do,” Mocha Menosky thought to me. I wanted to show all this to her, so I reached out, and here you are, in my head.

“Twinkly warm feelings ~ A memory on every corner. Plastic toys in primary colors. Over in that tower ~ you’re recalling it ~ your classmates went rollerblading without you?”

I made an excuse to stay home. I was afraid I’d go too fast and fall over the guardrail and die in the boiling core.

Through the back of my head Mocha sees the wallpaper in my childhood bedroom. She tastes the undercooked seaweed soup my dad used to make, and feels how my cherry shampoo used to sting my eyes. It smelled so good I kept using it. I was 9 or 10. That brand doesn’t exist anymore. Too bad.

“We need to get uptown,” Lopcorn said. My meditation cracks open.

His voice. His face.

Tangible reality. The deck under me.

I’m Delivery Lemur (deliveremur). Hi.

“Ah yeah. Uh, hang on,” I say. I hit a few buttons and we accelerate.

Everything I see through the porthole is familiar but the vibe is very wrong. The planet’s frantic. Paranoid. The casual subversion of the reformists and the counterculture is not so casual today, if the din on the public comm is any indication. The vindictively persecuted Catfish Church was rallying lots of sympathy. The famine, believed over, was worse than ever now that the Commercial Spacefaring Commission’s fleet had been destroyed – rammed into the Bolo blockade by the renegade Berg Lazerson, crushing intergalactic trade and risking a mass breakout by the dreaded Possum Patrol. A mob blaming the Dept of Agriculture for the (yet again) empty grocery shops has been targeting the private residences of high-ranking officials. Civil liberty activists crashed a pro-Berg rally in Macula_Cloud; when soldiers showed up to disperse them, the uproar became a riot and spread to six other cities before President Gault got things under control. An hour later, anti-Gault fanatics were firebombing admin-centers all over Cloudout. Elsewhere in the galaxy, secessionists in Shark City had flooded the local barracks with nerve gas, killing the entire garrison. They dammed the harbor with corpses and were declaring independence. The stock exchange and board of trade in Jorora had been razed by rioters while a vast phalanx of police watched in silence and eerily did nothing. In Yugrug on Blurg XI, a cholera outbreak in the wetlands had driven peasants into the cities by the billion and 75% were expected to die. Psychics everywhere were returning to the Psy Santuary en masse. Road Lizards were rampaging in Karatoc for no known reason, laying waste to mineral extraction facilities and bombing unpopulated mountains. Hackers had devoured the វាលខ្សាច់ banker’s cyber-guild and instantly turned a million millionaires into destitute vagrants. A feud between SM grunts and Benzo Bears on Rialk Prime had escalated to hypersonic missile exchange and over 100 cities were destroyed this morning. Hyde Station had gone dark, all aboard presumed dead. Zura-Chalga Station had lost a thruster to suspected sabotage (culprit unknown) and fallen into the orbit of red dwarf star 324-Q; most of the overcrowded escape pods exploded on launch and only 1,471 of the 6,340,000,000 inhabitants survived. The planet-spanning bramble forest of Szymański had been ignited; no rescue operation had begun and the entire population was doomed. Floom-fearing alien cultists were holding ritual suicides in all cities and towns on all planets. The SM blockade around the Bolo system was stretched to the limit to contain a new all-out offensive by Possum Patrol. New Year’s Eve parties have been cancelled left and right.

Well. Not much I can do about that. I’ve got a job to do, after all. Gotta deliver a certain salad fork to a certain sloth. I’ve met the guy – Franz Welker. Some call him an evil mastermind, and blame him for everything that goes wrong in the universe. Some call him their papa, and revere him as an altruist. He uh, has really good manners? I think he’s a stress-head. Needs a vacation.

Anyway. We’re zipping along through the vapor. Grey, grey, grey. I love driving around here. I know this place like the tip of my tail. I could navigate Cloudout with my eyes shut. In fact… let me try that.

Tum tee tum, ta ta tee, ta ta ta

BONK

Ah we have hit something. That must be my house. I open my eyes. It is – Yeah it’s my house.

Hahah ~ be careful,” Mocha thinks, a galaxy away in her asteroid conservatory orbiting Febris, deep in Psy Sanctuary Space. I smell hornwort broth through her nostrils. It’s suppertime over there.

“Did you have your eyes shut?” Lopcorn wanted to know.

“Yeah! Don’t worry. It’s my parents’ place,” I explain.

I guess my mental map or my muscle memory or whatever guided me back here. “I should really pop in. Haven’t been back for a while. There’s clean laundry I’m supposed to take.”

I wonder if Mom got that stain out of my neck-warmer? Peanut oil in polar-fleece. That’s beyond my power. I bet she did it though.

I buzz out a docking pylon and disembark. Ceaseless traffic streams in all directions. The hot wet breeze washes over me. The boil-coils of the artificial planet-core exhale the nostalgic swimming-pool scent of chlorine with a hint of charcoal or burnt coffee. Though it might just be that Dad left the percolator on.

Lopcorn follows me out.

“Your parents? Don’t tell me – is this their actual address?”

When I swivel around to answer, I stumble on something. But when I look, there’s nothing there. That’s a very weird and suspicious thing to happen. Well whatever haha

“Yeah, why?”

He grips my shoulder and steers me back into the ship.

“We’ll come back tomorrow,” he whispers. “We can’t show our faces here.”

“Why not?”

“Me and your friend Stackland were supposed to kill each other, remember? That’s why we were sent out to the edge of the world.”

“Oh right.”

“They might be surveilling your house in case you make it back.”

That would be so freaky.

He’s right ~ you’re being watched.” Mocha’s thoughts float up. I hear and I know.

“Good point,” I say. “Let’s get out of here.”

Your family is okay ~ run ~ hide.”

Confirmed FREAKY.

“We should ditch the ship now,” I say.

“Yeah,” Lopcorn agrees. “Where’s somewhere y-”

“The old forum.”

Afraid, kind of. Anxious and stiff in the shoulders. Rushing. Go go go.

Omnipotent Mocha Menosky feels my impatience. She sees my bad feelings; sees the sprawling, curling branches of worry and fret. If this goes wrong then that could happen then this or that or

There there ~ it’s alright.”

Mocha shows me psychic artwork and soothing sounds of something and unwritten brain-books in the language of raw emotion and pre-thought. See? See?

[yeah]

She reads every synapse in my brain and fathoms the full shape of my fear. It’s effortless for her, fluent in all feelings, to suss out exactly what’ll console me. She understands everything and she takes care of me. I feel better.

The local forum is the Formido Tremendum. There’s free parking. I tuck us away in the back corner of the lot. Mocha’s looking at the memories I’ve made here. I feel like a large-print softcover. It’s unusual but not embarrassing. She grasps my perspective on her perspective and she furnishes those thoughts with some special context. Mentally she shows me snips of her own past and present. It’s too much to write down today but I’ll get to it at some point.

Physically, Lopcorn eases himself onto our beanbag chair and I know he’s looking at me. The warmth of him on my right side makes my left side feel colder. Mentally, Mocha slips away.

“…gonna be okay,” he’s telling me. Crap, he’s been talking. What’s he been saying?

“What is a what?”

“Your ship.”

“Oh. Yeah, it’s a, uh, it’s okay to leave it here for now.”

He asks me lots of stuff that I don’t really parse. He’s nice and warm though. I notice I’m blinking alot.

I stand up.

“Let’s go in.”

In. What? Where – oh the forum. Oh gosh I was here all the time when I was younger. On chilly days I used to get hot rosewater and put the bottle in the inner pocket of this olive-green jacket I had, and just hold it when I was walking around, feeling so cool that I had this secret heat source. And I had these yellow-foam headphones with glow-in-the-dark comets on them for listening to white noise and ocean sounds before I discovered podcasts. Hahha!

We go in. It’s dim and deafening. The floor is sticky fauxstone. I stepped on a hard nugget of feces. In an environment so damp and crowded, you can’t pamper your paws. Locals such as myself learn to ignore their feet entirely. An empty Midnight Muktuk can is rolling around, kicked by everyone. The frantic pulse and stifling anonymity of the universe’s most densely populated planet is best exemplified here in the forums. The self itself is muffled, and the we has the volume turned all the way up.

They’re rowdy today. Its worse than I’ve ever seen. The public and the tribunes are debating the Bolo Blockade, Berg’s mutiny, the intentions of Franz Welker, and most of all, this the latest news item:

{Transcript of the Pope’s confession!}

{Catfish Pope under INTERROGATION by captor Berg L.}

At long last, the fledgling Catfish Pope had been caught and put to the question. The staggering &700,000,000R bounty put on his head by Franz Welker had drawn no shortage of attention. Our buddy Rudler Stackland and his buddy Felix Rølvag were supposed to nab him but they lost the chase to Berg Lazerson.

I double check again that Lopcorn is behind me. We’re deep in the throngs now. The cyclone of chatter is wrapped around an mp4 video.

{Health Minister Anna Siong Leaks CFP Interrogation Tape!}

{“…bound by my oath of office to make this information public…”}

We watch it. Yikes.

In the grainy video: the ancient fish was bleeding from his mouth and face.

“May Gog forgive you. Gog forgive you,” he was moaning.

“You were the chaplain of the SMV Callier during the Floom Expedition ?” the lilting drawl of Berg Lazerson was unmistakable.

CFP: “Yes.”

BL: “Did you see the aliens?”

CFP: “There are no aliens. Stop asking. Stop asking me!”

BL: “Who was your commanding officer?”

CFP: “Franz Welker. It’s – that’s common knowledge!”

BL: “You never encountered any aliens?”

CFP: “No, child. There’s no such thing.”

BL: “What happened on the expedition?”

Narration played over a looping clip showing a very old spaceship.

Year 3404: Anomalous energy wavelength detected on the far side of the gargantuan Sheol Nebula by a prototype isotropic transducer being tested by the Space Military’s science directorate [SMsD]. Experts believed the phenomenon could be evidence of intelligent life.

The chief of the SMsD at the time, F. Welker, was ordered to investigate. He commissioned the construction of a long-haul carrier, the SMV Callier, and departed with an elite crew hand-picked from the academic elite, Psy Brigade (now defunct), and Possum Patrol. It was estimated that the Callier would reach the source of the anomaly in eleven years, and take eleven years to come get back. F. Welker returned – Inexplicably alone – in 3417, 13 years after the mission began. He told the cabinet that on January 1st 3432, when the gravitation of neutron star YXY-18309 pulls the Sheol Nebula into its perihelion and the anomaly becomes directly observable from our galactic cluster, an alien race called Floom would exterminate our civilization instantly. Tomorrow’s the big day.

CFP: I was a preacher. Spacefarers of this era don’t seek spiritual guidance… But the diplomatic corps asked our church for a representative, considering the… what the mission may entail.

He wheezed and shuddered.

CFP: ………….. I’m afraid of the dark. Closets and corners… Dying. The fate of my soul. That most of all. Will I ever hear the voice of Gog? Is every one of us alone? The Ancients struggled with the mystery forever. It did them little good. Ah. I said yes, I – I agreed to go with Franz Welker into the abyss. We sailed off the edge of the map.

He laughed until he started coughing. He looked like the most terrified and insane person I ever saw.

BL: You went to the Floom Empire. What did you see?

CFP: Like I told you before you flogged me, child: There’s nothing out there. The void is the void. You can shine the light of your childish imagination on it. But there’s nothing there. The aliens at Floom are Franz’s fantasy. The Callier was hijacked… Oh, pray for Gog’s forgiveness. Molder in quiet water. Swim into the rippling dawn. Splash in the rivers of heaven. Be purified by Gog’s love. You still have time.

BL: Thank-you, no.

Berg snapped his fingers four times, trying to bring back the Pope’s attention.

BL: What happened next? What about the hijacking? Why did Possum Patrol betray the SM? What’s this really about?

CFP: Hah……… haahhahahahahahaAhhahahahahahahahahahahHahah–

The video feed was cut. Everybody lost their shit.

The projector played a health & safety warning about a float-gas leak. A voice on the intercom was calmly instructing the forum-goers to evacuate in an orderly fashion. The seething mob complied, with much cursing, grumbling, and petty vandalism.

“It was a hoax all along,” an old bluejay was muttering as we shuffled along. “I fuckin knew it. Fuckin load o’ shit…”

“They’ve got to hang Welker for this,” brayed a donkey behind us. “Building those Space Beams bankrupted the United Galaxies. It was all for nothing. They’re starving out there, ya know.”

“Oh snap, look,” said the gopher in front of us, showing his pals something on his phone. “Gault’s going after him. “’The office of the President has ordered the Justice Minister to countersign an arrest warrant for Franz Welker.’ lol crazy!”

“Franz just declared martial law in Galaxy-1!”

We were almost back to the hangar. A paramedic in a gas mask was scanning everyone at the exit with a thermometer or something. “You two, get over here!” he ordered. He was pointing at me and Lopcorn. We exchanged a look and stepped out of the queue. “You’ve got elevated pleural hydrocarbons. You might have inhaled float-gas. Head down to the first aid station for a checkup.”

We’d all be sneezing blood if there really was a leak, right?

“Thanks but I’m late for my big baseball,” I lie. He waved insistently back down the hall.

“Can’t let you go without an exam. Sorry. Just doing my job.”

So. We gotta go down in an elevator to the deserted basement level and find the little first-aid room.

The nurse was a squirrel. She scampered toward us. In a flash, Lopcorn had her by the throat. I gasped and she gasped. Lopcorn peeled her respirator off and revealed her face.

“Oh hi Dr. Siong,” he said, and let her go. He was right. It was the health minister herself.

Anna Siong recoiled and glared at Lopcorn, looking outraged, but regained composure by the time she could breathe again.

“I was just going to lock the door,” she insisted, her voice crackling. She waved her paws. “You s–Nevermind, nevermind.” She poured some chalky green Wakeup=Dead (a powerful stimulant drink) into a paper cup and quaffed it.

“How did you find us? We’ve barely been on the planet an hour.”

She cleared her throat. “Auto-census. The health department doesn’t + can’t compile everyone’s DNA profile but we bio-scan every ship entering + leaving Cloudout to track occupancy species. I’ve been watching for #lemur and #hare arriving on the same timestamp…” she spoke quickly, and nodded furtively while glancing back and forth at us. “It’s rare for hares and lemurs to fly together. It was quite straightforward. If I can find you, so can Franz Welker – so I’ll make this quick.”

“Do that,” said Lopcorn, locking the door. Anna Siong took a deep breath and let it out, like she was about to start singing in front of an audience.

“Berg is going to invoke Chapter 55 – No Confidence Clause – against President Gault. I’m going to sign as sponsor and we’re going to impeach her. Berg will run unopposed in an emergency election on New Years Day and he’ll be the new president, with me as VP – on paper. But – as I’m sure you know – the title is worthless without the means to enforce the rule of law.” Her face was dramatically animated during this frenetic spiel. “No matter what we say, the military can do whatever it wants. Franz isn’t going to step down. And he’s been declared a rebel as of – more or less – five minutes ago. These next hours are crucial…” she gesticulated eagerly to emphasize this part. “We have a narrow, NARROW window of opportunity. Berg – against my advice – insisted on releasing the interrogation video. He’s impatient to resolve this all today. He’s being… so rash.”

“That’s Berg,” Lopcorn said flatly. “And you know, he got stabbed and had his tongue ripped out. I’d be mad as hell.”

Siong’s demeanor changed; her flagpole posture tilted and she blushed, seeming to lose her place in her long recital. “That knife was poisoned. What- what a catastrophe it could have been. But he had the best of care. I saved him.”

“I hope he thanked you for that. And I hope he learned from it.” Lopcorn looked at the wall. “But I’m betting he didn’t.”

“That Cutbarf boy…” she rasped, hugging herself.

“I’ll deal with him,” Lopcorn said, like a babysitter casting out monsters from under the bed.

Siong wavered for a moment, then started nodding alot. “Berg – He and I will collaborate on strategy, going forward. I can handle his reckless tendencies. It’s – this is a tangent. Main point: I want stable politics. I want to stop the bloodshed. I want to set up a new status-quo. I want the Space Beams taken apart. I want to dig up the Floom Expedition Logbooks + prosecute Franz. I want to be the one to tell the public everything. Now that we know the alien empire was a hoax, it’s – it’s almost worse, isn’t it? Because if Franz didn’t do – didn’t cause all of this to prevent the apocalypse, what – what was the point? What have we been bombarding for six years?”

“Haha I dunno,” I add. This is like one of those complex questions on a test when u wish u could just walk around the room for a bit and not think about it before starting to actually try, know what i mean?

“I have my own idea about that,” pronounced Lopcorn. “But for your coup to work you need Armando. He can veto your plan any step of the way. Did you talk to him?”

Anna shook her head and shrugged, smiling in a plastic way, as if she had practiced for this question. “. Armando will do what Armando will do. I think he doesn’t care what happens. Or – ah. Nevermind. What I wanted to talk to you about was your plans for next year + and onward. Mr. Lopcorn. I’ve looked into your curriculum vitae. Your history is – frankly – extraordinary. Stranded – at that age – where you were – must have been quite an ordeal.”

“Yeah quite.”

“And – Hero of the Sarissa campaign…You ended the Eagle War and Verückter War single-handedly… You defeated the Ostrich King and Sniper-X. Fernand Veek, Bully Transe, Grand Panther, Luke Horab, the legendary Captain Svalbard – the list is beyond belief. 1,000,000 confirmed kills. I think it was asinine for Welker to demote you over the debacle at Bolo Gamma; Everyone knows Franz planned it all out with Kelly Bookbean to ruin your reputation. Personally, I consider your record of victories to be unbroken.”

She smiled toothily at Lopcorn. He didn’t reply.

“That’s why I took the trouble to – that’s why I wanted to have this private conversation. You’ve demonstrated your value a hundred times over. I, for one, appreciate you. You’re effectively a one-man-army. Exactly what I need.”

“I can see why you’d think I could be useful.”

“Mr. Lopcorn. I want you to go to department of defense in my name, and subdue the Space Military by force. Capture the criminal Franz Welker. Take control of the Space Beams + the SM fleet.” She took another deep breath and let it out quick. “There is no alien menace. With Welker de-clawed, the 8 Galaxies will be at peace and we can rebuild them. I’ll appoint you minister of defense. When Berg’s term is up, you’ll be a shoe-in for president. I’ll back you. I just need you to save all of our lives – today. Right now. Right now.”

“그는 이것을 두려워했다,” he said under his breath. “No thanks. I was gonna go get him anyway. I don’t care about my career or yours.”

He moved toward the exit. Anna Siong looked startled and affronted and confused.

“Don’t worry. You’re gonna end up where you wanna be. Just don’t attach my name to what you’re doing.”

“But, have you considered-”

“We’re just gonna go,” he said. I got up. “Oh. Since your head of the health dept. You’re gonna wanna make sure there’s lots of hospital beds ready for tonight.”

“I already have.”

He turned the knob and opened the door. “See ya. Good luck.”

We got in the elevator. I pushed the button for the hangar level and up we went. The hum of the magnetic actuators sounds pretty cool. Chugachugachugachugachugachugachuga. I reach into my pocket and make sure the salad fork is still there, and it is.

The doors iris open and the misty airflow obliterates the basement-staleness in my nostrils. Fresh air and the raucous chatter of the commons swirl around us. The city is transformed, and the people transfixed. Space Military frigates were appearing in the skyway.

“We’ve got to get to the department of defense before they decide to enforce a curfew,” Lopcorn said. “We can’t take your ship. We could steal one, but if we get recognized it’s easy to shoot us down. It’ll be tricky to get past the fleet…”

“We could get the bus,” I say.

“I don’t think the bus is running to Lugdunum today.”

Lugdunum. That’s the Presidential City where the highest government offices are.

“The freelance charters down in Low Fog are always running, unofficially,” I inform him. “Taxi Eels are totally indifferent to whatever goes on up here. We can get into Lugdunum from the bottom.”

He looks impressed by my idea. “In the Low Fog…”

“Lots of utility access at 4H altitude. There are always a few commuters who try to beat the shift-change traffic by diving under 5H, so we’ll blend in.”

“Makes sense. We only have to get inside. The guards might insist on slowing us down but they can’t stop me,” Lopcorn muttered. He stared hard at nothing and he got quiet for a while. I take his elbow and direct him to a broad escalator. We go down to the lowest air terminal in the forum. Condensation adheres to every surface in damp beads that quiver and streak in the draft. I speed-dial the Taxi Eel Taxi Service.

“Hi could I get a ride from the bottom terminal of Formido Tremendum please?”

“Ohhhhh there’d be no meaning in that,” the eel whined. It’s well known that Taxi Eels are nihilists.

“Would there be special meaning in denying my request?” I ask.

“Ohh none at all, that would be meaningless! I’m on my way!”

“He’s coming,” I tell my hare.

We arrive on the huge platform with dozens of ships coming and going, beeping at each other and flashing their spotlights. The people were in an advanced state of agitation, squabbling noisily and sometimes tussling among each other. An elk spray-painted HANG WELKER on the wall while passers-by snapped photos. Space Military grunts appeared and dragged her off. A bunch of dogs and giraffes pelted their ship with trash as they took off.

“It might be bad for me to get recognized,” Lopcorn muttered. I found a Delivery Lemur hat in my backpack and put it on his head. It fit so poorly over his long ears that it made him laugh out loud. Yeah, no one will recognize him with such a big smile on his face.

“Help! Help me! Please help!” a high voice was calling. A crowd was gathering by the edge of the pier.

“She’s stuck!”

“Hang on!”

A pink balloon was caught on the end of a 40-foot antenna jutting horizontally into the sky. A little girl, who must have hopped the safety rail to retrieve it, was dangling for dear life by her fingertips.

“She’s going to fall,” a gerbil wailed, covering his eyes. I looked into the blank and endless void below.

The kid was losing her grip. Her fate hung on four little human fingers curled around wet metal. I don’t want to see someone drop today. I turn to my companion.

“Can’t you-”

Lopcorn’s already vaulting the guardrail. With a fearless face he stepped out onto the antenna. He looked smaller against the vast, all-erasing flow of cloud.

“Hey! I’m coming,” he called, carefully inching toward her with a gymnast’s balance. “Don’t let go.”

I should get ready to pull them up.

I see a gap in the crowd and rush through so I can help, but I trip over something invisible. That’s annoying. Second time today.

“Give me your hand,” Lopcorn was saying. He made it all the way out to the end.

The girl gave him a wicked grin. She snagged the balloon’s string and floated away on it, sticking out her tongue at Lopcorn.

“Now!” she cried. A grenade or something exploded in the steel truss holding up the antenna and it broke off of the platform and plummeted into the fog. Lopcorn whirled around and I caught his eye. My hat slipped off his head. He fell.

The horror-stricken onlookers scrambled in all directions. I struggle to get to my feet but invisible bodies are pressing all around me. Their perfect camouflage fades to opaque green and I realize I’m surrounded by Commando Chameleons.

“Here sir! Here!” they’re saying.

A human comes out, talking on his cell phone. “He’s down. Told you so, Daddy-O,,, no need to wake up Milo,,, See you soon.”

It’s Cutbarf. I get a sickening rush of adrenaline but I’m too scared to move or do anything.

The balloon girl drifts back and lands next to him.

“Got him, commander! Ya see that? Did ya see?” she frothed.

“Good job Bubblegum,” he said. “You earned some icecream cake,,, Run home now. Eat whatever you want,,, Do not wake Milo up. Don’t wake him up.”

“Thanks boss!” Bubblegum saluted and skipped away, chanting. “Fuckin ICE fuckin CREAM fuckin CAKE . YEAH da da da dee dee dee da dee de de da fuckin la la laaa!”

The young commander of the Space Military turned his eyes on me.

“Hey dumbass,,, night-night.”

He stuck a black syringe in my neck and I fell asleep.

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