Sunday, June 29, 2008

021: Warren and Lauren Peace

Fight: 1 vote
Run: 4 votes
Bluff: 3 votes
Charleston realized that the thing he wanted most in the world right now was to be away from these people, and away from this place. He needed to run. If he wanted to run without them following him, though, he needed a distraction. He looked down at the prone form of Tim Aneric, and came up with one.

"Hey! Before I knocked him out, Aneric said he was going to buy drinks for everyone!" said Charleston, side-stepping towards the door, "But you have to stay in here to get them! No following or attacking me!"

Many of the patrons shrugged, and went back to what the were doing before Charleston had knocked out Aneric. A few shrugged and went to the bar. An old man was left where the crowd had been. Charleston looked at him, bewildered. The old man noticed, and smiled at him.

"I likes me my disco," he said, "You had probably better get going, though, before that tubby bastard wakes up."

Charleston nodded, and walked out the door. In deference to the fact that he wanted to get away, he walked quickly. As he exited, the bouncer stopped him.

"Well, what do you think of our Tim Aneric?" he said, smiling like a shark.

Charleston looked the man up and down, and decided to be frank with him because he was leaving anyway. "To be honest, I thought he was the worst comedian I've ever seen."

The man smiled some more, and said, "Got a good eye on you!"

Charleston nodded, and walked away from the club. The only thing he knew now that he hadn't known before was that a woman called the Mouth of the Prophet hired comedians for the club. Ah, and that the club was the most bizarre place he had ever been to. He hated it, and hoped he would never have to go back there. After all, he wasn't after the club, but was after his girlfriend. However, he suspected that the Mouth of the Prophet and his girlfriend were one and the same. He really wished he had someone to walk and talk with at this point.

"Tell me about her," said a voice from behind him, "But don't turn around."

Charleston wished that people would stop coming up behind him and talking to him. "About who?"

"The one you're looking for."

"I recognize your voice, you know."

There was silence.

"Was that you at the club?" said Charleston.

"I thought I was doing a decent job of disguising my voice."

"You just have a bandana in front of your mouth, don't you?"

"They said it would work!"

"It only really works on people you don't know."

Silence again.

"I'm guessing you have your reasons for this, so I'll let you have your fun. You want me to tell you about her, then?"

"Thank you. And yes."

"Her name was Lauren Peace. She was the sister of my third partner, Warren Peace."

"Are you serious?"

"Yes. Why?"

"Never mind. Tell me about Lauren."

"Not much to tell, really. We dated for a bit, I thought things were going well, and then wham. She gets bitten by a vampire and absorbed into his little cult. Then she disappeared."

"What do you mean you thought things were going well?"

"I mean they were. Everything was fine. I'm sure if I can just find her and free her from the vampire's curse, then she and I can go live happily ever after."

"Of course."

There was a rush of wind. Charleston turned, and saw that no one was there. Now he had to plan his next move. If the Mouth of the Prophet was seeking out comedians, than Charleston either had to make friends with some comedians, or become one himself.

Hold on one second, thought Charleston. He worked at an insurance and security company, and a man had just been assaulted at the club that very night. A club which had many supernatural patrons, at that. It was the very sort of place TYRIS had been founded to sell insurance and security services to. The only thing was, he couldn't go in there and sell anything as he was not only on vacation, but he had also been the one who had assaulted someone at the club. He was sure doing something like that was both unethical and illegal.

However, he could get someone else to sell insurance or security to the club. Doing this was probably also unethical and illegal, but far less risky. He could send a message to TYRIS tomorrow, in order to get an agent in there. The agent would hopefully talk with the Mouth of the Prophet, and Charleston would be able to find out if the Mouth was Lauren. Of course, he would have to find out some way to rendezvous with the agent, but that shouldn't be too hard. He just had to choose the proper way to phrase the message.

He could either write down in the message that it was a special sort of mission, which it was, and that Charleston was to be contacted before and after the initial meeting. Or, he could insinuate the esteemed talents of the Land Captain were needed, so that Land Captain would be driving the agent to and from the mission. Then he could set things up with Land Captain from there. He could also just wait and see if the club bought any insurance or security, and look at the completed application. All three options were doable, and gave Charleston something to think about as he walked home.
CHOICE A: Find some way to set up contact with the agent being put in charge of the case.
CHOICE B: Set it up so that Land Captain becomes involved, and go from there.
CHOICE C: Wait to see if the place buys insurance, and then just find out the address of the Mouth of the Prophet from there.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

020: Indecent Proposal

Dumb: 3 votes
Cool: 5 votes
Angry: 1 vote
Charleston sipped his Yoohoo, and wondered how he should handle things. He really wanted to just punch Aneric right in the face and demand some sort of information from him, or at least punch him some more. Perhaps kick him a few times, in his soft bits. Then again, he was in some sort of bizarre comedy club that was some sort of night club as well, with a bar that looked like it had been taken from the ship. Any sort of hostility might somehow upset the delicate balance, and the patrons may descend upon him like so many freak-fish. Charleston did not feel like getting the living daylights beaten out of him tonight, at least not so early in the night. There was also no way in hell he would play it dumb, especially not with Tim Aneric. Cool it was, then.

"What sort of drink does Aneric like?" said Charleston to the bartender.

"Aneric mainly likes his booze, my good man," said the bartender, wiping a glass, "Mainly likes his mix drinks. The ones with the funny names."

Charleston thought about this for a moment, and asked, "Actually funny names, or funny according to him?"

"He comes here with the straightest face you ever saw and orders Fuzzy Navels and Sexes on the Beach. Everyone else giggles, because who seriously orders those without a smile, but Aneric? He just drinks them like a man."

"Well, when you see him walking over, mix him up something. I'll pay."

"You'll pay for what?" said a voice from Charleston's shoulder. He turned, resisted the urge to punch, and looked up at Tim Aneric.

"Anything you like, Mister Aneric. I got your message."

Aneric sat down, ordered a Vulcan Mind Meld without cracking a smile, and said, "I gathered, because you didn't leave."

"So, why did you want to meet me?"

"I find you terribly attractive. You have that whole detective chic thing going on, and I just find that so damned hot. I'm willing to offer you five million dollars for one night."

Charleston had stopped with his drink halfway to his mouth, and was staring straight ahead at the mirror behind the bar. The trained part of his mind registered that he, the bartender, and Aneric all showed up, as did a good number of the patrons. A few didn't, but was acceptable, and encouraging. Perhaps the vampires still had their hands in this place, after all. Then he coughed, and said, "One night what?"

"What do you think?" said Aneric, trying to put his hand on Charleston's thigh.

Charleston turned, "Sorry, I can't do that."

"Two million for six hours?"

"No. I'm not a prostitute."

"One million for two?"


"Ah, you're a detective. How about fifteen minutes of making out for information?"

Charleston paused, and looked over at the bartender, who shrugged. He had no idea why he was looking at the bartender, but perhaps he could still make this work in such a way that he could get the information without actually having to touch Aneric.

"I get the information first," said Charleston.

"It's a deal, sailor. Your place or mine?"

There was no way Charleston wanted Aneric to know where he lived, nor did he want to go to Aneric's residence.

Aneric stood up and slapped Charleston on the back, and said, "Just joshing you. Wanted to see how far you'd go to get to the bottom of things. Now, what do you want to know?"

Charleston took a deep breath, counted to ten, and downed the rest of his Yoo-hoo. "Who runs this place?"

"No idea. I got hired by some blonde woman, she said she was the Mouth of the Prophet. Whatever that means."

"Means a lot, actually. Where did you meet her?"

"Contacted me by phone. She said she saw my act and thought it'd be perfect for this club. Weird club, though."

"I don't get out to many clubs, but yes, I did think it was pretty weird."

"They pay well, and the audience is usually appreciative, but really? No music? Just my jokes and the laughter of the audience? What's up with that?"

"I intend to get to the bottom of it."

Aneric stood up, and pointed his dart gun at Charleston.

"I won't let you ruin this for me."

Charleston kicked him in the shin, and hit him over the head with a stool. He turned, and saw the club patrons staring at him, mouths agape. Some of those mouths had fangs. The bartender had ducked behind his bar.

Charleston sighed. He could stand and fight, run, or make some sort of excuse. He had seconds to decide.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

019: Tim Aneric

CHOICE A: Pay the cover charge: 5 votes
CHOICE B: Bluff his way in through the front: 2 votes
CHOICE C: Bluff his way in through the back: 2 votes
CHOICE D: Sneak into the back: 2 votes
Charleston was standing in line, trying to decide what to do. He would much rather sneak in through the back somehow. It would just make things so much easier for him, and he would feel much better about it. Unfortunately, he passed the alley before he was able to think of a plan of attack. Oh well. He would just turn his attentions to figuring out a way to get through the front. He really didn't want to pay the cover charge, after all. Perhaps he could say he was a critic or something. All in all, he really should have thought about it before he got into line. At this point, it would be quite foolish to leave the inexplicably long line. Charleston really disliked this line, this whole stupid comedy club thing. Especially the ridiculous notion of a cover charge. Admission, he would understand. He would have still tried to get out of paying it, but would be more willing to pay it than some stupid cover charge.

Charleston looked up from his thoughts, and saw that he had come to the front of the line. A muscular bald man in leather looked down at him, and said, "You goin' in?"

"I'm a critic?" said Charleston.

"You got a press pass?"

"It's for a blog," said Charleston. He had no idea if people with blogs really had any sort of authority, but really hoped they did. After all, some tech kid at TYRIS kept going on about how much authority his blog had. That had to mean something, didn't it?

"One of you people, eh? Well, you gotta pay the cover charge like everyone else."

"How much is it?" said Charleston, with a sigh.

"Fifteen bucks."

"Is this Aneric guy any good?" he said, handing over twenty dollars.

"You're the critic. You tell me after you sit through his act."

Charleston stood there for a minute staring at what he supposed was the bouncer. A bouncer for a comedy club? This whole thing was bizarre.

"What you waiting for, Hudson Hawk? Get in there," said the bouncer.

"My change?"

"I'll consider it a tip."

Charleston sighed, and went inside. At this point, he didn't want to make a scene. He went through the club's lobby, which looked like the lobby of an exceptionally good hotel. It even had a concierge at the desk. Charleston went though a pair of double doors, and stopped for a moment, and then went back into the lobby. He pulled out his tape recorder, and began to speak.

"Warehouse that was previously headquarters of a vampire cult is now some sort of comedy club. The outside looks like a dance club, the lobby looks like a hotel, and the actual club part..."

Charleston peeked through the double doors again, shook his head, and said, "I think I died when that instability cabin blew up, because none of this makes a bit of sense."

He went through the double doors. There was a bar in the corner, with a black man in a red vest selling drinks, looking like something from the "Love Boat". There was a chubby man on the stage, probably trying to be funny. There were people dancing in cages, and other people convulsing around them. Seizure-inducing lights were being projected everywhere, and over the loudspeaker, he could hear the comedian and the laughter of the audience. Directly in front of the stage, there were five rows of seats, with ten seats in each row. Charleston walked warily through the club, trying to avoid touching anyone, and sat down.

The comedian pulled out a live chicken, and said, "All right, all right, how about this one?" Then he snapped the chicken's neck and tore it in half. The audience laughed, while Charleston just looked at Tim Aneric with a mixture of confusion and horror.

Aneric wiped the blood off his glasses, and threw the chicken on the floor. He looked at the audience, and said, "Okay, okay, watch this." He stood on one foot, and hopped to the other one. "That was a Wyoming flip, everyone. A Wyoming flip." Once again, laugher. Real laughter, not polite laughter. Charleston was becoming increasingly confused. People were dancing to this man and the laughter he somehow induced?

"Okay, okay, watch this. I need someone from the audience. You there, Dick Tracy, come up here!" said Aneric. Charleston waited to see what happened. "Hey, Dick, come up here!"

Charleston chuckled, thinking it was an actual joke.

Aneric became angrier, "You there, in the back row. The guy in the stupid hat and long coat. Get up here!"

Charleston looked around. He was the only one in the back row, but he thought his hat was nifty. In any case, he stood up, and pointed to himself.

"Yes, you! Get your ass up here!"

Charleston made his way to the stage, and he noticed that everyone in the club was staring at him, with smiles. He stood next to Aneric.

"Look at the audience, you son of a whore," said Aneric, "Okay, okay, watch this." Aneric pulled out a gun, and pointed it at Charleston. He pulled the trigger, and a dart shot into Charleston's neck. The audience laughed uproariously, and Aneric patted Charleston hard on the back. He fell onto the stage.

"Good sport, good sport. Someone get this man a drink!" said Aneric, pushing Charleston off the stage.

Someone helped Charleston up, but he was too dazed to see who it was. They helped him to the bar, while everyone clapped, and sat him down on a stool.

"What'll it be?" said the bartender, washing a glass.

"Do you have... Yoo-hoo?" said Charleston, "I like Yoo-hoo. I like waffles, too, but you probably don't have any of those."

The bartender nodded, and poured him a glass of Yoo-hoo. Charleston tried to drink it, but most of it poured onto his shirt. Someone came by with a slip of paper. The bartender read it, poured Charleston another glass of Yoo-hoo, and handed the note to Charleston.

It read, "I'll meet you after the act. TE."

Charleston looked from the note to the stage several times, and drank his Yoo-hoo, more competently this time.

"Sort of wish that lady who brought you over stayed," said the bartender, "Most interesting hair I ever seen."

Charleston looked up from his glass, "I knew a lady who had interesting hair. Knew a few. One had living hair. She was a weird one."

"Nothing like that with this one. Just kept changing color, sort of."

Charleston sat up straight, and looked around, "Where did she go?"

The bartender shrugged, and washed a glass. Charleston stared into his. He remembered what Land Captain said, about people cheating death, and downed his glass. If it had been her, then she probably had her own reasons for leaving so quickly, and would make herself known eventually. Besides, he was here to find information on vampires, and perhaps this Tim Aneric could help.

Charleston could play it dumb, play it cool, or play it angry. He probably had a bit of time before Tim's act ended to decide.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

018: Charleston Begins his Quest

CHOICE A (Investigate the last place he saw the vampire cult): 6 votes
CHOICE B (Hook up with a group of hunters): 3 votes
CHOICE C (Solo it and hope for the best): 0 votes
Charleston's leg was still rather stiff, but he was able to walk without a cane. He knew that this might be disadvantageous, considering how a cane could double as a stake, and he was going to investigate vampires. He still remembered the conversation he had with Robin Banks and Land Captain before submitting his vacation request:

"You said you would either go and investigate the last place you saw the cult, meet up with a group of hunters, or solo it and hope for the best," said Land Captain, "What's the difference between the investigating and soloing it?"

Charleston shrugged, opened his mouth to say something, paused, and shrugged again.

"You weren't going to just blindly wander around, were you?" said Robin, looking over Charleston's request.

Charleston shrugged again, and said, "Maybe."

"So you were just going to wander around and wait for something to happen. No plan and no partner. Where were you planning on doing this wandering?"

Charleston shrugged again. By this point, he had taken off his hat and was holding it in front of him like a shield. He was also looking at the floor, downcast, like a child who had been reprimanded for shaving the cat.

"Also, you refuse to sign the form stating that Edolie DePrit died while on a mission. Why?"

"They didn't find a body."


"If they didn't find a body, then there's no proof that she's dead."

"He's right," said Land Captain, "Even then, sometimes it's hard to tell. In one of the universes I traveled to, there was this woman who was possessed by a cosmic force and she kept dying and coming back. Heck, look at Jesus Christ. They beat the living daylights out of him and buried him, and he came back three days later."

Robin pinched the bridge of his nose, "You're not helping, Land Captain."

"Just saying. Vampires and zombies, too, but I guess that's a bit different."

Robin sighed, and looked at Charleston, "So you've decided to go to the place you last saw this cult?"

"Yes," said Charleston, "It's a warehouse downtown."

"Are you taking anyone with you?"

"No sir. Edolie said she would help me, and I have faith she'll turn up eventually. Besides, I wouldn't want to put anyone else in harm's way for this. It's personal, after all."

"I reiterate, how is this different from going solo?"

"Well, if I went solo, I guess I'd just wander around dark streets and hope for a vampire to get me. Then I'd get information from him."

"Or you'd become an undead, at which point we'd have to cancel your benefits package and you'd be effectively fired."

Robin signed the vacation request form, and waved to Charleston, "Good bye, and good luck. Hope to see you back soon."

Land Captain shook Charleston's hand, and said, "If you ever need any help, don't hesitate to call me. Ishmael, Liana, and I will be there in a jiffy."

"They're Group LC," said Robin, "It seemed best that way. Now get out of here, you're wasting your..." Robin looked at the vacation request form, "Three years of vacation. Good lord."

Charleston stood up, put on his hat, and walked out the door, "See you soon!"

Now Charleston was standing outside the warehouse. When he had last seen it, it was an abandoned warehouse where the vampire cult had made a sort of shrine to their dark lord.

Now it was a club.

A comedy club.

Not only that, but a popular comedy club.

Charleston sighed. There was a fifteen dollar cover charge to get in, which he thought was rather absurd. He was also pretty sure that only night clubs had cover charges, and thought the word admission might be a much better fit. But no, the sign said cover charge. The comedian, or at least the performer who claimed to be a comedian, was a man named Tim Aneric. Charleston had never heard of him, but there was a line outside the club. Leading to the front door, where there was a cover charge. He had managed to figure out that a cabin was disrupting space-time and creating giant frogs, but was baffled by the fact that there was a cover charge. Chances are, there was also a side or back entrance as well, for staff and talent. He thought for a moment, and came up with four ways to go about this. Other than going home and forgetting about the whole thing and living off vacation pay for the next three years, that is.

The first way would be to pay the cover charge to get inside. The only problem was that this offended Charleston's sensibilities to a point where it hurt his mind. The second way would be to bluff his way inside through the front door, something closer to his heart. There was no outright sneaking into the front door, however, which is what the side door was for. Side doors were made for sneaking. He could also bluff his way in through the side door. He was bound to think of something.

He got into the line, confident that he would think of something before he reached the alley leading to the hypothetical side door.

Which should Charleston choose?
CHOICE A: Pay the cover charge
CHOICE B: Bluff his way in through the front
CHOICE C: Bluff his way in through the back
CHOICE D: Sneak into the back

Sunday, June 15, 2008

017: The Frog of Chaos

Hey, it's the author here. Sorry to get all meta on you, but before we begin with today's session, I'd like to know something. How many of you checked the comments for the previous session?

The reason I ask, see, is because I played a bit of a trick on you. Very unethical and a bit unfair, I know, but I was feeling very mischievous last time. What I did was finish off the last session and give the actual choices for this session in the comments section. You can still go back and read it, if you like, and it wasn't a life-altering choice.

Oh, and for what it's worth, Charleston did end up eating the turkey Lunchable, which was the false choice A. Now, on with this week's session!
Choice A (Find the plopper): 4 votes
Choice B (Investigate the cabin): 3 votes
Choice C (Take a rest): 2 votes
There was another plop. Charleston stood up, clapped his hands once, and said, "Let's find that phantom plopper!"

He held out his hand to Edolie, to help her up, and she said, "That is a ridiculous name." She brushed her hair from her face, and Charleston marveled at how it seemed to shift its color depending on how the light hit it. He wondered why he hadn't noticed it before.

He smiled at her, tipped his hat, and replied, "Then let's find it and give it a proper one, eh?" He twirled his cane, surprised at how cheerful he was. After all, he was basically trapped around what appeared to be a man-made lake with something large, separated by things from a disturbing netherworld by nothing more than a music puzzle. On the other hand, he was trapped with an attractive young woman in a skin-tight suit. Granted, with Charleston's track record, she would end up dead or otherwise taken out of the picture by the end of this adventure. He was mildly surprised it hadn't happened already.

"How do you intend to catch the creature?" said Edolie, looking pensive.

Charleston paused. Right now, catching the creature was fairly impossible. They had no equipment, and unless Charleston wanted to wrestle it to the ground and hog-tie it with vines, there was pretty much no way it could stay caught. Then he pulled the spare Lunchable out of his coat and tore it open. He tossed the dessert and drink to Edolie, and started placing a trail of meat, cheese, and crackers. As he placed the crackers carefully on the water, he motioned for Edolie to step back. She had eaten the dessert and drank the drink. They both hid in some convenient bushes, and watched the crackers.

Several yards from the shore, two bulbous eyes broke the surface of the lake, staring in the direction of the scattered Lunchable. They moved quickly towards the crackers, and the giant frog broke erupted from the lake, devouring the crackers. It began to try to eat the salami and American cheese, but was unable to get them off the ground.

Charleston crawled to a slice of salami, and held it up. The giant frog stared at him, and moved toward him carefully. It opened its mouth, and Charleston tossed it the salami. The tongue came out, snatching the salami in mid-air, and the frog looked expectantly at him. It looked like the same frog Charleston had encountered some months ago, but there was a subtle feeling of wrongness about it. In fact, this entire area was wrong. The colors were much too vibrant, the water was much too pure. Now that he looked at it closely, this entire area was too symmetrical. And in the middle of it, a cabin. He felt Edolie's hand on his shoulder, and felt her breath on his ear as she whispered. It made him shudder.

"What do we do now?"

The frog was still staring at him.

What should have been a routine cryptozoological mission had turned into something that had forced Charleston and Land Captain to deal with aliens, mad scientists, unstable terrain, and nether-creatures from a disturbing beyond. And in the middle of it all, an oasis of something which was all too perfect, some sort of high-definition reality. Except there was a slight blurriness to everything as well, everything except Edolie and the frog. Charleston looked at his hand, and it was as clear as Edolie.

"I think I know what's going on," said Charleston, softly, "I think I've figured it out. We need to get to that cabin, though, and our amphibian friend is going to help us."

Edolie nodded. Charleston knelt down as well as he could and picked up some more meat and cheese.

"Try to get on the frog while I feed it," said Charleston, "It's going to take us to that cabin."

Charleston looked at the cabin, and began stepping back. The frog followed him, showing an amazing affinity to processed meat and cheese. It hardly noticed as Edolie climbed onto its back. Once they were back enough, Charleston carefully turned the frog around. He hurled the cheese and meat into the air, and crawled on top of the frog while it snatched each piece from the air. He carefully wrapped his arms around Edolie, taking care to be gentlemanly about it. He noticed she was blushing.

"Hold on tight, Miss DePrit," said Charleston, "We're going to go on a wild ride."

He removed one of his arms, and raised his cane. He brought it down hard on the frog's backside, and quickly held onto Edolie again. The frog croaked, reared, and leapt through the air, landing in the water several yards from the island the cabin was on. It was at this point that Charleston discovered that his bionic leg had not been modified for aquatics. He began to sink, and while he was sinking, he noticed that the island was anchored by several cables. He hardly had time to think about this when Edolie grabbed his jacket and pulled him to the island's shore, such as it was. He gasped for breath.

"Do you need the kiss of life?" said Edolie, kneeling in front of him. She looked quite concerned.

Charleston spat out water, and held up his hand. Once he had enough air in his system again, he smiled and said, "I'm fine. I'm fine." In the back of his mind, he reminded himself about his girlfriend, the one who had been seduced by a vampire cult.

It was a small island, really, about the size and shape of a moderately sized above-ground pool. The cabin was also quite small, perhaps as big as a four vending machines. Charleston used his cane to help himself up, and he walked over to a tree. Or, what looked like a tree. The bark was too smooth, and the leaves were actually a jumbled mass of green. He pulled out his tape recorder, and began documenting all he knew about this island.

Edolie poked at the other tree, which was exactly like the one Charleston was by, and said, "Why is it humming?"

Charleston paused, and listened. The island was, indeed, humming. Facts were congregating in Charleston's head, and all he had to do was sort them out. He walked over to the fake cabin, and saw that it was not a cabin at all. It was simply some sort of box painted to look like a cabin from far away. It, too, was humming.

"I think I know what's going on here," said Charleston.

"What is it?" said Edolie.

Charleston took a deep breath, and smiled. He liked doing this.

"I don't think this lake is man-made. I think those Alogrins made it."

Edolie gasped, "Why?"

"Well, Land Captain said that they had found a way to hang out in-between dimensions. Something like that would require either a massive power source, or some sort of thing causing the fabric of time and space to weaken. I think this island is that thing."

"Why the lake?"

"Well, remember what I said about water not being affected by things like unstable terrain? They made the lake to be a sort of buffer, as they didn't want to totally obliterate the planet just yet. This island is just floating, tethered to the bottom by cables. I don't think they wanted to create all this unstable terrain, however. I think a common frog made it to this island and was somehow transformed into a giant frog, some sort of frog of chaos. Wherever it went, it caused some form of chaos. Since it lives here, the chaos field emanated from it, creating the unstable terrain."

Edolie thought about this for a minute. "Shouldn't we be affected by it as well?"

Charleston chuckled, and said, "We already are being affected by it. Your hair was red before, wasn't it?"

She nodded.

"It changes with the light, now. It looks quite nice, I'm just worried about the effects it'll have on reality."

"What about you?"

Charleston shrugged, "It's affecting my mind. I'm becoming more and more obscenely cheerful as time goes on. I know how to fix things, though. Or at least, stop them from getting much worse."


"I need you to get back to shore. I'm going to implode this thing," he said with a laugh.

"How are you going to do this?"

"I'll just shock it with my cane," said Charleston, "These things are pretty delicate."

"How will you get back to shore?" she said, staring at him. She paused for a moment, and added, "Will you be able to get back?"

He smiled, and then he was chuckling, with tears in his eyes. He was looking at her, and then he doubled over, laughing more and more. He dropped his cane, and said, "There's really no choice here. I have to do this, otherwise the unreality is going to spread farther and farther. Those tunnel things, they'll take over the world." He laughed more and more.

"Go and win back the woman you love, Charleston Charge. I will come back to help you with your task. This I swear," said Edolie as she knelt down to pick up the cane, and then she brought it down heavily on Charleston's head. "You are wrong, Charleston. There is a choice, and it is mine," she said, as he slipped into unconsciousness.

Edolie had been trained by the French secret service, yes, but she originally been a champion tri-athlete. She pulled Charleston into the water and swam across the lake to the other store. She breathed heavily for a minute, grabbed Charleston's cane, and swam back across. She looked at the cane for a moment, and pointed it at the pseudo-cabin.

Charleston woke up at this point, and was just in time to see the blinding flash of the cabin imploding upon itself. He shielded his eyes from the blast, and then braced himself as reality righted itself with a wave of force. The tunnels and their things were gone, as were the musical trees. The unstable terrain stabilized, everything became a bit more real, and the gap between universes closed in upon itself.

"Edolie?" whispered Charleston, with tears in his eyes once again, and then he passed out once again, wondering if there was some way she could have survived. He could not think of one.

Charleston woke up in the back of Ishmael, Land Captain's car. It was remarkably comfortable. What was more, someone had changed his clothes and mended his wounds. He no longer felt obscenely cheerful, but rather quite melancholic. The feeling worsened as he recalled what had happened to Edolie.

Land Captain seemed to materialize out of nowhere, and handed Charleston a mug of hot cocoa.

"Liana is using her fish to try and find Miss DePrit," said Land Captain, "Want to tell me what happened?"

"We had to save the world, and she decided to kill herself to do it," said Charleston, sipping the cocoa, "I was going to do that."

"Are you jealous?"

"No. I just can't imagine why anyone would give their life for mine. This is about the fourth or fifth partner I've lost, Land Captain."

"I know how it is. Way back when, I was flying around in space. I had a space car, and right by my side was a woman named Maria. She was everything I had ever hoped for in a woman, in a partner. Then, one day, we had to make a difficult choice. I was all set to give my life for the universe, but really, I just wanted to save Maria. She had the same idea, though, only she wanted to save me. So I know how it is."

Charleston and Land Captain stared at the horizon for a minute, with the silence being broken only by Charleston sipping his cocoa.

Charleston broke the silence: "A space car? Seriously?"

"That's right," said Land Captain, "Just wanted to let you know you have a sympathetic ear."

"I appreciate it. You have one too, if you ever need it."

Land Captain smiled, and gave Charleston a salute. Charleston returned it, and gave him a weak smile. At that point, he dropped his cocoa on the ground. The reason for this was clear: a giant frog had just come tearing through the trees and landed in front of him. It stared at him, and when no lunchmeat was forthcoming, it croaked, and leapt back through the trees.

"Looks like you've made a friend," said Land Captain, standing up. The frog had knocked him down.

Charleston nodded, "That frog shouldn't exist anymore. It should have gone back to being a regular frog."

Land Captain shrugged, and then waved at the returning Liana. The flock of freak-fish followed her.

"Any luck?" said Land Captain.

"No," said Liana, "There wasn't a trace of her."

Charleston was still staring at the gap the frog had made in the trees. Edolie had promised she would help him, after all. He only wondered how she would manage it. Besides, there was no body.

"What next, Charleston?"

"The woman I love is out there somewhere," said Charleston, "And the only way I'm going to find her is by kicking some vampire butt. There's no doubt about that, the only question is, what route should I take?"

Land Captain smiled, and said, "That's the spirit!"

Charleston smiled back, "I can either go to where I last saw her silly little cult, hook up with a group of hunters and kick vampire backside until we find who I'm looking for, or I can solo it and hope for the best. What do you think I should do, Land Captain?"

"I'd join a group, but it's really up to you, isn't it?"

Charleston nodded. It was always up to him.

CHOICE A (Investigate the last place he saw the vampire cult)
CHOICE B (Hook up with a group of hunters)
CHOICE C (Solo it and hope for the best)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

016: A Difficult Choice

Fight the slaves: 6 votes
Find the sequence: 5 votes
Charleston knew what he had to do. Edolie might be quite a competent fighter, but Charleston had the edge of a body honed by years of training in the lost city of Uhld. Not only that, but Edolie could move faster than he could at the moment. In time, the handicap of a new bionic leg would become the advantage of a bionic leg he was used to. He had no idea what the leg could do, but that would come in time. Right now, he had some things to fight. He kicked himself off the nearest tree into the first thing, and he fell with it into the tunnel. In the distance, he heard Edolie cry out something, but his mind was on the battle. While he beat the thing into submission, heard the now familiar tones of the musical trees, and smiled. The Earth was not very happy about things like unstable terrain, and would put up as much of a fight as it could. The musical trees were the evidence of such a struggle, the Earth's last ditch effort to allow its defenders to stabilize things. Charleston stood up, the thing-slave at his feet. It had died the moment the tunnel things had touched it, and so he felt no remorse that it had entered its final slumber.

Then Charleston realized that he was now in the tunnel, but close enough that he could still see Edolie running through the clearing and hitting trees. He could still hear the tones, but they were faint. So now he had two missions: he had to get back to the clearing while fending off the thing-slaves. However, then he looked around, and realized that he not only had to battle the thing-slaves, but the tunnel things themselves.

He held up his cane like a sword, scowled at the nearest antagonist, and brought the cane down hard. It cracked the thing's skull, or what Charleston assumed was its skull, and it howled. He pointed it at the monkey-like tunnel thing he had seen before, still playing with its rocks but now with an unmistakable malevolence, and pressed a button. They weren't labeled, and were indistinguishable from each other, so it was a gamble. Gas shot out, and the monkey-thing screamed. He turned and brought the cane heavily into another thing-slave, then jabbed it into another thing. He pressed another button, and felt what could only be described as a poit. Charleston had been hoping for the electric shock, and made a mental note to label the buttons somehow. Since the dart did absolutely nothing, he pressed the other button and an electrical shock ran through the thing. Charleston nodded as the thing writhed and fell to the ground. This was incredibly easy, and this fact made Charleston uneasy. He looked up, and saw several thing-slaves heading out of the tunnel. He swung the cane heavily around himself while spraying gas, idly wondering how much gas was in the cane, and ran through the cleared path. He pressed the dart button three times while swinging the cane in a small arc, hitting three thing-slaves. It only annoyed them, and they turned to Charleston. He punched one in the fact with his silver-gloved hand, took a small amount of joy in the act of punching someone in the face, and used his cane to launch himself into the air and he kicked the other two in their faces, and then trod heavily over their bodies. He was in the clear, and just in time: he heard the sound of wood scraping against wood. Edolie had found the sequence. He felt her hand grab his arm, and the pair ran through the newly opened doorway. It was not a tunnel, but a gateway into a stable area.

There was a plop, and the door scraped close.

The area they found themselves in was heavily wooded, with a large body of water in the middle. Charleston noticed that it was edged with cement: a man-made lake. In the middle of the lake was a small cabin with a tree on either side of it. The poor devil who had lived there was probably dead by now, consumed by the things.

"What do we do now, Charleston?" said Edolie, her face flush from trying to find the sequence.

Charleston was not remotely winded, and he took a small amount of pride in this fact, "Well, something is plopping around here. We could either look for it, or try to get to that cabin. We could also maybe take a nap. Hey, I think I have some Lunchables in my coat somewhere, we could eat those."


Charleston searched through the inner pockets on his coat. "Oh yeah. They're these little lunch things for kids. It comes with meat, cheese, and crackers. Some of them come with a drink and dessert, too. They're good."

"Wouldn't the meat and cheese go bad?"

"I've got a special pocket that keeps things fresh indefinitely. My coat is more than meets the eye, Edolie."

Edolie nodded, with a worried sort of smile.

Charleston finally found the pocket which contained the Lunchables, and he pulled some out. He had three. One was turkey with cheddar and wheat crackers, another was ham and Swiss cheese with butter crackers. The third was salami and American cheese on butter crackers. Charleston scowled at the Lunchables. The drinks and desserts were inconsequential. Indeed, this would be his most difficult choice yet...

CHOICE A (Turkey, cheddar, and wheat)
CHOICE B (Ham, Swiss, and butter crackers)
CHOICE C (Salami, American, and butter crackers)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

015: Musical Trees

Left: 6 votes
Right: 0 votes
Straight: 1 vote
Edolie was becoming impatient.

"Let's just go straight!" she said, attempting to pull Charleston along.

"No," said Charleston, "Chances are, going straight would just lead us into an infinite loop."

"What about going right?"

"I don't trust going right. I don't trust it at all."

"Then we are going left?"

Charleston nodded, "I've got a good feeling about going left." He put his hat on Edolie's head and pulled it down over her eyes. "There might be some mind-melting terrors from beyond our world in the tunnel. As long as you don't look at them too closely, they'll leave you alone. In your case, I think it'd be best if you saw nothing at all until we came out of the tunnel."

Edolie nodded, and held the hat over her eyes with her free hand. Charleston fixed his hair a bit, and started into the tunnel. There were indeed terrors from beyond their world in the tunnel, indescrible in their appearance, unknowable in the terror they could evoke.

One of them, looking like a monkey made of bone and stone with hollow eyes but much more terrible, took one rock and tapped it on another in an arrhythmic beat. It stared at Charleston and Edolie as they hurried by.

They left the tunnel and came to a clearing with five trees in it and no other tunnels. Charleston took his hat back from Edolie and put it back onto his own head. He walked to each tree and tapped it with his cane, and each one made a metallic sound.

"This is worse than unstable terrain," said Charleston, "This is magic. Someone, or something, is trying to get through to this world and they found some sort of opening. It might have been those Alogrins Land Captain talked about, or it might be something far more sinister. In any case, whatever is going on here is much bigger than an abnormally large frog or some aliens. The worst part is that we might be stuck in this forest."

"We tied the string to a log," said Edolie, whose eyes betrayed her concern.

Charleston gently pulled the string. It fell to the ground, and when Charleston pulled it to him, he saw that the end had been chewed through. Edolie looked at it with horror.

"We might be screwed," said Charleston, "We can't go back the way we came because every time we go through the same tunnel, we increase the chances of being noticed by those things. Even if we did make it through the tunnel again, we would probably end up somewhere else entirely. Also, unless I miss my guess, there will still be nightfall."

"What happens at nightfall?" said Edolie, pulling Charleston closer to her.

"I've been in one of these situations before. My partner and I decided to try our luck with a tunnel, and those things got him. At first, we thought he had just been freaked out by those things. Instead, they turned him into a walking shell of a man. Over time, he lost his hair, his skin, everything, until he was just a skeleton, kept moving because those things never told him to stop. Since he was out of communication with them, he just stood around and did nothing. If there are any in these woods, though, they'll be in communication with those things, and they're nasty."

There was a plop from the other side of the clearing, opposite the tunnel. Both Charleston and Edolie turned towards it, and then they went over to investigate the wall. There was a hairline crack in it.

"Does this mean we are not stuck?" said Edolie.

"If we can figure out a way to open the door, we might stand a chance," said Charleston, trying to lever the door open with his cane. It wasn't working.

Edolie thought for a moment, "The trees made a noise when you hit them, did they not?"

Charleston nodded, and then looked at Edolie with a smile, "It's some sort of sound puzzle! Five trees, five different notes! All we have to do is figure out the proper sequence and the door will open, hopefully!"

Edolie smiled, "How much time do we have before night falls?"

Charleston looked at the sky. The sun was nearing the tree line. "There's not much time. There are five trees, and I think we can safely assume that, since this puzzle stems from nature itself, that each tree can only be hit once in the sequence of five. I think that's twenty-five different sequences, though I could be wrong, I'm terrible at math." He undid the string tying his hand to Edolie's hand, and felt a bit sad about this. He pushed the sadness aside, however, and pulled out a marker. He wrote "1" on the nearest tree, and marked each tree with a different number.

He walked over to the One tree and tapped it with his cane, then repeated the process with trees Two through Five. The door ceased to open. He tried again...

"One, two, three, five, four. No."

"One, two, five, three, four. No!"

"One, five, two, three, four. No, damn it!"

"Five, one, two, three, four."

"One, two, four, three, five."

Edolie watched as he went from tree to tree, again and again, and she shuddered when a wolf howled in the distance. Charleston stopped and stared at the tunnel. Any moment, the slaves of the tunnel-things would emerge. If they could open the new tunnel, it could lead to salvation. In fact, it was their only chance at salvation, since there was no way they could last the night against a constant siege. Someone would have to fight them off, and someone would have to continue trying to hit the right sequence.

"Edolie, come over here," said Charleston, still staring at the tunnel.

"Yes?" she said, walking over to him.

"Any minute now, those things I told you about are going to start coming. One of us could fight them off while the other tries to get the sequence. I want you to try and get the sequence while I fight," said Charleston.

"No. You are not yet able to fight against so many. I shall fight, you shall solve the sequence."

"I'm slow right now, but I don't really need to be able to run to fight these things. We can't both fight, or both try for the sequence, either. We'd never last the night if we fought, and if we both tried for the sequence, we'd probably keep messing it up."

A tunnel-thing slave walked through the tunnel, bits of flesh clinging to its skeleton. Its eyes were empty. Charleston and Edolie looked at it, and turned to each other. Charleston knew he had to move quickly if he wanted to be the one to fight the slaves, and he had to decide now.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

014: Lost in the Woods

Wait for Edolie: 4 votes
Don't wait for Edolie: 0 votes
Charleston could not, in good conscience, abandon Edolie to her fate. She had many redeeming qualities, after all, and Charleston was sure that, together, they could wrap up this frog thing quite quickly. He sat down on a fallen tree and waited for Edolie.

Fifteen minutes later, he was still waiting for Edolie. He hopped off the fallen tree, grimaced as he landed hard on his bionic leg, and then stumbled back through the woods. He decided to retrace his steps, and eventually found himself right back by the fallen tree.

He pulled out his tape recorder, "More nonsense: after leaving Edolie DePrit by a pond, I decided to go back for her. Despite going straight back the way I came, I ended up back by the fallen tree. Something fishy is going on here."

Charleston knew what to do in this situation: he pulled a spool of string out of his pocket, tied one end to a branch, and began walking, making sure the string remained straight. He wound up back by the fallen tree, with the string still perfectly straight. He sat on the fallen tree again and sighed deeply. He hated unstable terrain.

While he debated about what to do, Edolie came into the clearing, following the string.

"Charleston! Why did you run off and leave me?" she said.

Charleston shrugged, "I thought you might want to change out of your wetsuit."

"It is not a wet-suit. It is an action-suit."

Charleston nodded. Many of the newer agents were opting to wear action-suits, all purpose suits which gave them maximum mobility while showing off their physiques. Charleston was unsure why they needed to wear them while selling insurance, but appreciated their use in a case like this. Besides, thought Charleston, Edolie filled her suit out nicely.

"Why is there a string?" she said.

"I was checking for unstable terrain. Unfortunately, I found out that it was."

Edolie sat next to him, "What do we do?"

Charleston tried to remain professional, and reminded himself of his vampire-possessed girlfriend. "Well, in some cases, there's naturally unstable terrain. You just go in the loop a few times or check for it, and it stabilizes for a bit. Then there's unnaturally unstable terrain, which is terrible since you can't figure out which way is which. Something is probably causing it."

"Oh," said Edolie, looking sadly at the ground.

Charleston felt his heart break a little at the thought of her sadness, tried hard to remember himself and ignore her, and he cursed and blessed whoever assigned Edolie to him. Then he heard a plop, coming from the same direction it had before. Both he and Edolie turned towards the sound.

"I think whatever is making that plop is making the terrain unstable," said Charleston, "I think it's trying to draw people towards it."

Edolie hopped off the tree, and asked, "What if it's a trap?"

She held out her hand to help Charleston down. He gladly took it. "I've a brand new cane and a young woman in an action suit. I'd say we'd be giving it a pretty good fight." Edolie smiled, and Charleston forgot why they were there for a moment. He recovered himself, and added, "I don't know how far away the plopper is going to be. We might have to go through the unstable terrain a bit, and if we do, well, there are some things that live in unstable terrain. Things which are pretty terrible, Edolie."

"I laugh at terror!" said Edolie, "Ha ha ha!"

"You can't be flippant about this," said Charleston, "This is serious business. You mustn’t interact with any living creature except me until we get to a bit where the terrain has settled down."

"I will hold your hand, then, so that we do not get separated. Good idea, yes?" She grabbed Charleston's hand.

"Yes," said Charleston weakly, "Very good idea."

"How will we know when the terrain is stable?"

"We'll know if we come to a large body of water. Water is naturally unstable, so it's unaffected by unstable terrain. This doesn’t mean some of the unstable creatures don’t live in it, though."

Edolie nodded.

Charleston stared at her for a moment, and then at the spool of string. He untied it from the branch and gave it a good yank, bringing it towards him. He took a length of string and wrapped it around his and Edolie's joined hands. Then he tied one end to a branch again, and the pair set out. Shortly after, they encountered a fork in the path. The woods had become quite dense, but there were three large hollow logs. They were dark inside, but looked large enough to walk through.

"Which way?" asked Edolie.

"I don't hear any music," said Charleston, "Sometimes you can hear music coming from a certain tunnel. It's sort of creepy, but quite helpful. So I guess we leave it up to chance and go left, right, or straight."

Edolie nodded, and Charleston hoped that they would choose the correct direction. He would hate to die in these woods.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

013: Edolie's Fury

Liana's laboratory: 0 votes
Up the stream: 9 votes
In the woods: 3 votes
"Well," said Liana, "The best place to find frogs is upstream."

"Brilliant idea," said Charleston, "Except I just realized that we probably can't go upstream in this thing. Unless we have some sort of boat."

"No boat," said Land Captain, "Mister Banks did send two pairs of fancy water-shoes, though."

Charleston stared at him in disbelief, "He sent water-shoes on a mission with a man who is walking with a cane?"

"Well, maybe you can build a little raft and Miss DePrit can sort of drag you along, Charleston," said Land Captain, "Liana and I will stay here and set up a base."

"Why aren't you coming?"

"I can't stand the water, sir."

"You're a captain, though!"

"The Land Captain."

Charleston pondered this for a moment, and then nodded, "Yes. Yes you are. Do we at least have some tents we can take with us in case it takes longer to get upstream than I think it will?"

"I have already prepared the supplies," said Edolie, "We are ready, Mister Charge!"

"I like your gumption," said Charleston, tipping his hat.

"Thank you, Mister Charge. Liana has gone to fetch a rubber raft she kept in her lab. When she returns, we can depart."

Charleston nodded, and exited the RV. The last time he had been here, Liana had attacked him with a school of murderous flying fish. He hoped this time would go better. Liana emerged from the very lab she had attacked him in, with a self-inflating raft. She inflated it and placed it in the water. Edolie put the supplies in the raft, and beckoned Charleston forward. He eased himself into the raft as Edolie put on a pair of water-shoes and a skin-tight wetsuit.

Well, thought Charleston, at least the view will be nice.

The pair set out, with Charleston trying not to stare at Edolie’s backside. Unfortunately, it was the most interesting thing to see. Ten minutes later, they came to the end of the stream, to a small pond. The raft completely covered it. Edolie helped Charleston out of the raft.

"Well," said Charleston, "I've seen this frog. It couldn't fit into this pond."

Edolie nodded, "I have heard your report. I do not think any frog lives in this pond, to be honest. It is not the right sort of place for a frog."

Charleston could not help himself, "So you say there are no frogs here?"

"There are no frogs here."

"Ah, but there's one frog here," said Charleston, pointing at Edolie, "You're French! You're a frog!" He laughed.

Edolie looked at him coldly, "That is not funny, Mister Charge."

Charleston laughed some more, and said, "I know, it's terrible. I just couldn't help myself."

Edolie went from cold, to pouty, "I thought we might be friends, Mister Charge, and then you go and make fun of me." She turned around. "You make me sad. Why do you do this?" She began to cry.

Charleston's heart broke. "I'm sorry, Edolie, I just thought it would be funny, is all."

The tears vanished, and she turned around and poked him in the chest, "It is not funny, Mister Charge! Why do you make fun of me for my own amusement? I cannot help being French! The only one who could receive any amount of joy from your terrible joke is you! There is no one else here!"

Charleston backed away from Edolie’s fury. "I'm sorry, Edolie, I really am. I didn't know-"

"You did not know? You did not know? Oh, I shall make fun of her and not know it would hurt her! I read your file, Mister Charge! It is no wonder your girlfriend left you for a vampire, if you are this rude!" Edolie’s hand shot to her mouth.

Charleston looked at the ground and covered his face, "She was under mind control, or something. He had a glamour on her I think. Someday I'm going to go free her, and we'll be happy. Until then, please don't mention her. It hurts too much to hear about her, to know that I might never get to see her again, to hold her again. I can win her back, I just know I can, if I just get a chance. I don't care what anyone else says. I can win her back." He turned around.

Edolie and Charleston stood by the pond for a moment, in silence. In the distance, there was a plop.

"I am sorry, Mister Charge," said Edolie, "I was out of place to say that."

Charleston said nothing.

"Please, Mister Charge!" said Edolie, stepping forward and putting her hand on his shoulder, "Please do not hate me! We have only known each other for not even one day, and I do not want us to get a bad start!"

Charleston put his finger to his lips, and shushed her.

In the distance, there was another plop.

"Did you hear that?" he whispered.

"Do you think it is the frog?" asked Edolie.

"Maybe. I think we should go after it."

"Yeah," said Charleston, "Get the capture stuff out of the raft. I need to take some notes."

Edolie trotted over to the raft, and Charleston pulled out his tape recorder. He sighed happily, and turned it on, "During a brief verbal confrontation with my partner, I heard what sounded like a plop in the distance. We suspect it may be the frog we are looking for. Edolie has gone to get supplies, and then we are setting off after it." He put the tape recorder away as Edolie walked back with a satchel.

"This will be all we need, Mister Charge," she said.

Charleston took Edolie’s hand, and looked her in the eyes, "Edolie, before we go, I want to apologize for what I said. It was very rude of me, and I'm usually not like that. I have no idea what came over me."

Edolie was blushing, and she smiled a little, "I would also like to apologize. It was unprofessional of me to bring up your personal past, Mister Charge."

"Well, we have time to make it up to each other. Oh, and call me Charleston." He pulled his hand back, smiled, and walked off in the direction of the plop. "Hopefully you'll live! All my other partners have been killed or otherwise disposed of in the line of duty!" He tipped his hat to her, and walked off into the woods.

"Are you making a joke again, Charleston?" said Edolie, with a chuckle. After a few seconds, she said, "Charleston?"

He was already out of earshot, adapting nicely to his cane and bionic leg. He honestly did hope Edolie would live, and therefore stopped for a moment to plan his next course of action.

He could continue on without Edolie. This would give him the chance to investigate by himself. Unfortunately, this would also leave Edolie alone in the woods. Charleston distrusted the woods, and really didn't want to leave Edolie in there alone.

Then again, if he waited for her, she would be put directly into harm's way. He could protect her better, but the fact remained that all his other partners met their fate when Charleston was there to watch. It was a difficult choice, but one he had to make quickly.