September 21, 1997
Jack Bright strongly considered a change in career. Science wasn’t working out. Too much contact with other human beings, for one. Lack of respectable, cackle-worthy science was another reason.
Third, and most importantly, was the distressingly high number of eviscerations, decapitations, immolations, castrations and all other sorts of mean, nasty, horrible things that happened in his general vicinity over the past fifteen minutes.
A head gone astray in its search for a body exploded on the wall next to Jack like a rotten melon, splattering him with gory pulp.
So far he had narrowed his choices down to: basement dweller, professional hobo, and male prostitute.
Concrete dust rained down on his head. He managed to stifle a sneeze.
Cadaver was also looking highly likely. He was already good at playing dead, why not try the actual thing?
The gurgling in the background petered out, followed by a body hitting the floor and an indifferent grunt from the one who tossed it.
Go to Germany, they said.
Meet with the Coalition, they said.
It’ll be fine, they said.
They know how to deal with the occult, they said.
They said this, they said that…ah fuck.
Seconds dripped by like a particularly painful flow of molasses. Jack’s strained ears picked up heavy breathing, a few pacing footsteps. Able was still there.
He had been expecting it, but it still sounded incredibly wrong to his ears. A ukulele did not belong in the middle of a secret ex-Nazi bunker, much less a secret ex-Nazi bunker being currently torn to pieces by a Neolithic war god. Neither did a voice that Jack could not stop comparing to Mark Hamill’s interpretation of the Joker.
“You know, I’ve been considering taking up a hobby. Knitting seems like a good option. Or maybe fly-fishing. Skiing…nah, I hate snow. Also, your mother was a whore.”
Jack leapt to his feet and began to run unsteadily towards the double exit doors, ears ringing. There was no such thing as a better distraction than Ukulele. The man himself was standing there in the doorway, holding an anti-tank rifle. His head was that of a red panda with an eyepatch. He nodded and grinned as Jack sprinted past him and down the hallway.
Four months in that cult compound, all on a hunch. Then you have some guy claiming he’d discovered a way to immortality, and life turns into a heist movie trying to swipe a philosopher's stone.
Jack felt at his labcoat pocket. The lump of the pendant wasn’t there. The adrenaline pumping through his brain told him that it was no big deal. He could pick it up later. Avoiding a grotesque and messy death, that was a big deal.
All he was going to do was drop it off. That’s all he was going to do. Drop it off with someone who knew what to do with it, let it be their problem, and then head out and have a beer. Or two. Most likely more than two. Enjoy a nice little vacation in Europe while he was at it. He deserved it. But no…
“Hey there. How’s it going?”
Ukulele jogged backwards nonchalantly next to him. His head was a television, displaying the words “Ceci n'est-pas une televisione" in alternating teal and maroon letters. The gun was slung lazily over his shoulder.
“Mint?” he held out a little metal tin.
Jack shook his head.
“Oh. Then you might want to hold on to this. You dropped it.”
Red flashed in the air. Jack caught the amulet, not bothering to question how or why.
Exactly three steps later an obsidian throwing spear impaled Jack through the gut. His body dropped to the floor, amulet firmly grasped in his fist. Ukulele stopped backpedalling, shook his fishbowl, and snapped the mint tin shut.
“Now why would you do that? Look at those shoes he was wearing. Those were nice shoes. Now they don’t have nice feet to fill them. Think of the shoes, Able.”
Able, now standing twenty feet or so away from Ukulele, grunted. A sizeable chunk of his chest had been torn open enough to see through to the other side. His breathing was a mix of a one-lunged wheeze and the gargle of a man choking on his own blood.
He stood where he was. No tensing of the body to leap, no weapon in his hand. He just stood there.
“Trezae shanis shanar, chy. Avskani?” he croaked.
Ukulele stroked the fringe of tentacles at his chin.
“Nope. Nope nope nope, I’m no good at canasta, so that’s right out."
"Xadr, chy. Zepiniki ca…
Ukulele held up a hand.
"Shshshshshhhhhh. I've heard enough. While you make some fine points, I think I should warn you that I am terribly clumsy, and so chainsaw juggling would just end up awful for everyone involved."
Ukulele closed the gap. Able continued to do nothing but watch.
"This is a stumper, to be sure. Can't find a good hobby. Makin' me bummed, dude." He spread his arms. "Hug?"
With that, he hit the detonator for the claymore mine strapped to his chest.
"He blew himself up for fun. For fun, Ben. Something needs to be done here. He's getting more unstable."
"Are you sure you're not overreacting, Sophia? So he blew himself up. He can regenerate. He's also designed to have insanity and murder to be his only two character traits."
"I trust my gut more than Adam at this point."
"Okay, you tell me. What are we going to do to take down the Chesire Cat and Mad Hatter's LSD-fueled lovechild? Without getting ourselves slaughtered in a matter of seconds."
"Not by ourselves. We have enough items to work with. We might stand a chance if we go about this with our heads on straight."
"What, kill, capture, lock him up?"
"Just something. Something's going to go wrong, I know it."
To: Site 19 Senior Staff
From: Dr. Adam Pathos Crow
Subject: The state of Dr. Bright.
As many of you have heard, Dr. Bright was reported as killed during a containment breach at our Coalition sister facility on the 21st. I am happy to announce that this is not true: Dr. Bright was found alive by Coalition recovery agents amidst the wreckage this morning, shaken but overall unharmed.
Dr. Bright’s condition is still sensitive due to exposure to anomalous items of unknown properties during the breach. However, I hope to have him back among us as soon as the situation permits it.
September 30, 1997
Dr. Glass scanned over his clipboard one more time. Yes, the photo he had was that of Dr. Jack Bright: male, mid-thirties, untrimmed brown hair, beard, a general appearance of scruffy un-washed-ness and a scowl.
The person sitting on the other side of his desk was none of those things, save the scowl: female, late twenties, decent tan, short lightish hair, scar on the left cheek. Her arms were crossed in a sullen expression of resentment, identical to Jack’s common poise and positioning. An amulet centered with a sizeable ruby hung from a gold chain around her neck. According to the paperwork he had been given, this was Steffi Fuchs, a field agent of the Global Occult Coalition of middling achievement.
Dr. Glass sighed and opened up his yellow legal pad to a fresh page. Something told him that he’d be taking a lot of notes.
“Okay, Jack, let’s start at the beginning. What were you doing when you became a woman?"