Gods of Sagittarius – Snippet 28
Bresk turned out to be correct. The fuck-word seemed to be an essential component of Human speech. In a prison context, at least.
“What the fuck do you want?” demanded the Human seated behind a desk in the chamber to which the robot conducted them.
Fortunately, Occo had been coached by Bresk along the way.
“Shut the fuck up!” Occo bellowed. The Human sat back in its chair. The skin-excretions above its eyes seemed to elevate a bit.
<I think that’s what Humans mean by “raising eyebrows.” If so, it’s a good sign. But I wouldn’t push it too far.>
Occo lowered her voice. “I am Gadrax Never-Mind-My-Name, seeking retribution on those who inflamed my vengeance. To that end, I require your assistance.”
She spotted a slight movement to her left and turned in that direction. There was another Human in the room, sitting in a corner, whom she hadn’t spotted earlier. This was a smaller Human, wearing apparel that seemed identical to that being worn by the warden except for some slight variations in detail.
<Humans call those costumes “uniforms,” came Bresk’s thought. They seem to set great store by them. It’s some sort of status indicator.>
That was odd. Nac Zhe Anglan obsessed with social status chose costumes which set them apart and were individually distinctive.
But there was no point expecting sensible behavior from Humans, by all accounts. This was the first time Occo had ever encountered the species in person, but so far they were living up to their reputation.
“Oh, Christ,” said the Human in the corner. “She’s gone Grendel on us. Well, not on us. Walk carefully here, Chief. These critters can be touchy as all hell when they go Grendel.”
The warden looked back at Occo. Its supraorbital skin extrusions lowered noticeably.
<That’s called “frowning”> said Bresk. <Also a good sign in context. I . . . think.>
“It’s a ‘she’?” the Warden asked.
“It’s a little hard to tell with Knacks,” said the Human in the corner. “But, yeah, I’m pretty sure. You see the knobby knees? The size of the peds? If this were a male Knack, those would be less prominent. Knacks give birth not too differently from the way we do. Just squat down and drop the newcomer, like a peasant woman in a field. Which is a little weird seeing as how they don’t screw the way we do, not even close.”
“Huh!” The warden’s supraorbital skin-extrusions rose again. “Live and learn. So there aren’t any sex organs under that loincloth-thingy it — sorry, she — has wrapped around its midsection?”
“Well, no, there are. But they don’t look anything like what we’ve got.” The Human in the corner made a weird, wobbling sound.
<That’s called a “giggle”> Bresk informed Occo. <And if I’m matching the apparel decorations against my records correctly, this Human is known as a “lieutenant.” Or maybe an “officer.” Those are Human status-markers.>
“The way they have sex is really gross,” said the lieutenant. “Would you believe –”
The warden made a waving motion with his hand. “Shut up. I just ate lunch.” He brought his attention back to Occo. “So what do you want?”
“I have been informed that some prisoners here have suffer a peculiar demise which may have a bearing on my quest. If so, I wish to investigate.”
She remembered the affiche given to her by Heterochthonatrix Rammadrecula and brought it forth from her midpouch. As soon as she opened her hand, the affiche took shape as a dancing Human figure in midair and began to sing.
“It’s a long way to Tipperary,
It’s a long way to go.
It’s a long way to Tipperary
To the sweetest girl I know!”
“God, I hate that song,” said the lieutenant. “Doesn’t that Envacht Lu screwball know any other one?”
“Knacks, what do you expect?” The warden extended his hand “Cough it up, sweetheart.”
The figure stopped dancing and singing, bent over in the middle, opened its mouth and made a peculiarly horrible sound. Out of the mouth popped a whirling mote that landed in the warden’s hand.
He looked at it. “Fucking cheapskate. But, what the hell, why not? Annie, show Ms. Grendel here to the cell where the weird shit happened. I’d send the guide ‘bot but it’s waiting for a visitor” — he gave Occo a glance from those weirdly lowered skin extrusions — “who had an appointment.”
The lieutenant stood and went to the door. “Follow me,” it said.
<I think that’s a female. My records indicate that “Annie” is normally used as a name for females. And do you see those two extensions on the anterior thorax?>
Occo looked and thought she spotted the extensions that Bresk was referring to, although it was hard to tell. Humans seemed to prefer an excessive amount of apparel, which obscured most of their bodily form.
<If I’m right, those are what they call “breasts.” Also known as boobs, tits, jugs, hooters, bazookas, knockers — the list goes on and on. Humans breed words like vermin. The function of the breasts — brace yourself; this gets pretty disgusting — is to provide their younglings — >
The behavioral and anatomical description which followed was simultaneously fascinating and repugnant. Who would have imagined that a species forced to sustain its progeny on its own flesh could have developed intelligence?
The universe was a bizarre place; often, a grotesque one. Which, of course, was just further evidence if any were needed of the dangerous nature of the Old Ones as well as their enemies. Trying to choose between them and assigning “high” and “low” status to one or the other was a fool’s errand. No wonder Heterochthonatrix Rammadrecula was a loon. Being raised a scion of the Flengren Apostollege would fry anyone’s brain.
As Occo followed the Human lieutenant through a warren of corridors lined by cells — most of them empty, so far as she could tell — she found the experience more disconcerting that she’d expected. Abstractly, Occo had been aware that Humans were bipedal. She’d even seen holopics of them. But she now realized that she’d never seen a video depiction of Human locomotion.
The process was . . . bizarre. Bipedalism was not unheard of among sentient species, but the Human manner of it — tall, incredibly slender, completely upright — was unlike that of any other such species. Chlarrac, for instance, had a rational body plan. Their two legs simply served as the pivot on which a horizontally inclined torso was sensibly balanced by a thick and heavy tail. There was none of this preposterous balancing act that Humans had to undergo with each and every step they took.
How did they keep from falling over? Half of their nervous system must be occupied just staying upright! It was amazing that they had enough brain cells left over to feed themselves, much less engage in complex speech and logical reasoning.
They paid a steep price for their extreme bipedalism, of course. Between the excessive amount of nervous tissue devoted to the task of maintaining balance, and the inevitable strain on their circulatory system of sustaining a sufficient ichor flow to a brain so insecurely perched at the very top of their bodies, it was no wonder they were prone to theological absurdity.
She was still linked to Bresk so she could question the familiar privately.
Is it really true that they think their deities look just like them?
Bresk issued the mental equivalent of a derisive fart. <You’re giving them too much credit. Most of them think there is only one deity — they call it “God” — and believe that they were created in that deity’s image. More precisely, half of them were, since they are also firmly convinced that this God of theirs has a gender.>
Occo was dumbfounded. A gender? Why would a one-and-only-deity (and what a grotesque notion that was to begin with!) require a gender? What possible use could it have for a sexual apparatus?
I knew Humans were half-witless, but this relegates them to quarter-wit status. I can’t think of anything more ridiculous than a female deity with no male counterpart.
Again, she sensed her familiar’s neural version of a fart. <You’re still giving them too much credit. All of their religions that think there’s only one deity are firmly convinced that it’s a male, to boot.>
Again, she was dumbfounded. Occo prided herself on not sharing the unthinking disregard of males that was common among Nac Zhe Anglan, but still . . . It was just a simple fact that males were given to whims and whimsies, prone to flightiness, excessively emotional and always subject to fetishism and obsessiveness. There was the occasional exception who was a credit to his gender, but not many.
A solitary male deity! What nonsense!
It took a while, but eventually the Human lieutenant came to a stop in front of an open cell door. “This is it,” she said.
Occo was a little surprised. “It’s not locked?”
The lieutenant made an odd up-and-down motion with its upper arm joints.
<That’s what they call a “shrug”> Bresk informed her.
“Why bother?” said the lieutenant. “Whatever happened here — and we still don’t have any idea at all what it was — happened over a year ago.”
“Local year?” Occo asked.
“No, Standard T-year.”
<A “standard T-year” is based on the solar cycle of the Humans’ home planet> Bresk explained. <It’s 34.8% as long as a Mellan year.>
They entered a bleak cell that contained nothing beyond some sanitary facilities for simple hygiene and evacuation and three narrow and rather flimsy-looking items of furniture that looked a bit like rest benches.
<Those are called “beds” except when they’re this narrow. Then they call them “cots,” I think.>
Portions of the cots, the floor and the walls were covered with dark stains of some sort. Gauging by the pattern, those were old splatter marks.
“A lot of ichor was spilled here, I take it?” she said to the lieutenant.
The Human made that “frowning” expression. Then: “Ich — ? Oh. We call that ‘blood.’ Yes, these are blood stains. The three people in this cell were attacked by an invisible monster — well, we assume it was a monster, anyway. Then it ate about half of their bodies before it went wherever it came from. In whatever manner it came. We still have no idea what happened or what did it.”
<They must have visual recordings of some sort.>
Occo was sure Bresk was right, but saw no point in asking for them. Even if the Humans were willing to show the recordings to her, which she rather doubted, what would they show? The key to the whole incident lay in the identity of the being or beings who killed and half-devoured the Humans who’d been held captive in this cell.
There was only one sort of being who could manage such a feat. It had to have been an Old One, or one of the Other Old Ones. Or, conceivably, if the Warlock Variation Drive was to be believed, some other as-yet-unknown supernatural entity.
So. She was right to have come to Cthulhu. But Occo didn’t think the Humans who ran the prison would be of any further use to her. She needed to cogitate upon the matter.
“I thank you,” she said to the Human lieutenant. “I have seen enough.”
Without another word, the lieutenant left the cell and returned the way they’d come, with Occo and Bresk following behind.