Chapter 505: In Which Our Hero, Sodden With Rum And Broken Hearted, Still Manages To Rob A Bank

…and look stylish doing it

We end “On New Year’s Eve…” week with a long one. Coming up for the next three weeks: The Alphabet.

The Doclopedia #141

On New Year’s Eve…: All Hell Broke Loose In Goldvale

…1971, at around 6:00 in the evening, young Andy Hamblin and his girlfriend, Josie Perkins, both 17 years old and both natives of Goldvale, California, were parked on “Makeout Hill”, which is located just east of town. Both teens were in the back seat of Andy’s ’66 Chevy Impala and the action was getting hot and heavy when Josie complained that there was a lump on the seat. Checking it out, Andy found a Hi Bouncy Ball that belonged to his younger brother, Teddy. He threw it out a window and went back to helping Josie lose her cherished virtue.

THE BALL bounced off a tree and then went bouncing down the steep and rocky side of Makeout Hill, which is in fact officially known as Six Mile Hill. As with all such balls made of the space age Hi Bouncy material, this ball bounced a long way on each bounce. Eventually, it made it all the way down to State Route 44, the main road into Goldvale. It was there that it clocked Dewey Littlefield upside the head.

NOW, Dewey had been standing at the side of the road minding his own business and taking a leak. He was just zipping up when the Hi Bouncy Ball hit him in the back of the head, knocking him down. It’s a testament to Dewey’s thick skull and small brain that he was able to jump up just a few seconds later, swearing and looking around for the guy who had sucker punched him. Seeing nobody there, or anywhere for a hundred yards, Dewey’s little used imagination took over.

MAYBE it was ghosts, he thought. Wasn’t there an old Chinese cemetery just back up the road a ways, where they had buried the ones who died working on the railroad? Maybe they didn’t much like white guys. Especially white guys who peed right there in their backyard. With every hair on his head standing up, Dewey jumped into his old pickup truck and got the hell out of there. Within a minute, he was doing 80 miles an hour and heading for town, 5 miles away.

REMEMBER that Hi Bouncy Ball? Well, it was now in the back of Dewey’s truck and when he hit one particularly large pothole, it bounced up, came down on a small shovel and caused that to knock a bag of quart beer bottles over. Now, the wind racing over those beer bottles caused a low moaning sound. Hearing that sound convinced Dewey that he was being followed by a horde of vengeful Chinese ghosts and with a high pitched scream of “Oh, Lord Jesus save me!”, he put the pedal to the metal. Screaming along at 90 miles an hour (that old truck wouldn’t do a hundred if you dropped it off the side of the Grand Canyon), Dewey looked back to see just how close the ghosts were.

WHICH is why he missed that steep turn out by Cutter’s farm and shot through the fence like it wasn’t there. The truck bounced and roared across the field straight towards Mr & Mrs Cutter and their seven children, aged 6 through 19. They had just come back from the grocery store with supplies for a night of baking cookies for tomorrow’s New Year’s Day Bake Sale over at the Southern Baptist church. It should also be noted here that Mr & Mrs Cutter had, during the drive home from the store, both had a few medicinal nips off of a bottle of peach brandy, what with it being New Year’s Eve and all. That could explain why, when they saw a speeding truck coming straight at them across their cow pasture, both of them panicked quite a bit more than was called for, even though seeing a speeding truck coming at you does allow for a fair amount of panic. Whatever the reason, everybody began running around and Mr. Cutter threw a ten pound bag of extra fine baking flour straight up in the air. When it hit the ground, it kind of exploded and coated all of the Cutters in a healthy covering of flour.

MOMENTS LATER, as his truck came to a stop by the simple process of ramming into a stack of hay bales, Dewey shook off his daze long enough for his eyes to focus and see a whole shitload of ghosts standing not 30 feet away, most likely discussing the best way to drag him to Hell. Not willing to go down without a fight, he grabbed his ancient shotgun off the rack and fired away. He missed the Cutters by a good 60 feet, but they didn’t stick around to let him try again. With an admirable fleetness of foot, they all set to running back into town. Dewey, emboldened by this, began chasing them, screaming for them to go back to whatever Chinese underworld they came from.

MEANWHILE, the Hi Bouncy Ball…you remember it, right?…had been thrown from Dewey’s truck by the impact of hitting the hay bales. It soared through the air and hit the side of the barn, then began bouncing down the road in long bounces. Later, we’ll come back to it, since it still has a place in this story.

NOW, the Cutters and Dewey were heading into town from the east on State Route 44 and that would take them right past the 49er Theater, which was just letting out from an all day triple horror feature that had “Night of the Living Dead” as the headliner. About 300 kids had packed the place and gotten good and scared and grossed out by the movies. A light rain had begun to fall as the theater cleared out. This same light rain fell on the Cutter family, turning them from merely flour covered into gooey dough covered. Add to that a fair amount of road dust and they were soon looking pretty creepy. Behind them, Dewey was still screaming about Chinese ghosts and brandishing his shotgun.

AS THE Cutters and Dewey crested the small hill by the theater, all 300 of those kids, plus several early partiers over at the Gold Nugget Saloon, saw what sure as hell looked like a horde of the living dead and a shotgun wielding maniac coming at them. Amid deafening screams, both kids and drunks began hauling ass down the road away from the no doubt hungry for living flesh monsters. Within seconds, the crowd had picked up several folks out for a stroll, a group of older ladies who had just finished a meeting of the Daughters of the Golden West, three guys who were on their way to go night fishing and a fair number of dogs.

ON THE OTHER SIDE of town (which at that particular point is maybe half a mile away), at the First Church of Christ, Reverend Young was setting up a movie projector so as to screen a movie about the End Times for his parishioners. Across the street, Father McCallister was just stepping out to greet those folks coming to early Mass. Both men heard the screaming and Reverend Young stuck his head out to ask if Father McCallister knew what was going on. The good Father was equally clueless. Both groups of churchgoers looked at their respective leaders, hoping to get a signal on what to do.

THAT’S WHEN the Hi Bouncy Ball, careening down hill at about 60 miles an hour, bounced up and hit Father McCallister right between the eyes, knocking him out cold. The ball then continued on and got Reverend Young right in the nose. He stumbled back, bumping the projector as he fell down. This caused the projector to point out a window, where it projected onto the side of Dell’s Feed & Grain a huge image of Satan laughing and pointing, apparently at the various parishioners, all of whom believed they had just seen two men of the cloth struck down dead by Satan himself. Naturally, they ran away…back towards the oncoming mass of those who thought the dead had risen from the grave. The two groups pretty much crashed into each other right in front of the Sheriff’s Office.

FROM THERE ON, things get too complicated to write about, except to say that, short of the 1850 gold strike that gave the town it’s name, there had never been more excitement in Goldvale. In the end, Sheriff Ford got things sorted out and more or less calmed down, once he stopped laughing.

The Cutters got cleaned up and all went to bed early. The next day, they took a bunch of store bought cookies to the bake sale.

Dewey got his shotgun impounded and was told to pay Mr. Cutter for any damages. He never again peed anywhere near the Chinese cemetery, or for that matter, anywhere near anything that even looked vaguely Asian.

Most of the kids who left the theater, including most of the teenagers, went home and slept with the lights on. Several of the adults did the same thing.

A couple of the drunks called it an early night.

The women from the Daughters of the Golden West all went to Rooney’s Tavern and had a good stiff drink, then went home to tell their husbands about the Big Panic of ’71.

The three guys who were going fishing decided to go play poker instead.

A few of the dogs didn’t make it home until four days later

Father McCallister let Father Suarez do the Mass while he laid down with an ice pack on his head. He now believed that the Lord worked in damned mysterious ways.

Reverend Young had to be treated for a broken nose and a case of nerves. His flock took the night’s events as a sign from God and never again missed a prayer meeting.

Andy and Josie went 3 for 3 and then drove on over to Pinedale and went to the party they had been on their way to in the first place.

And four days after the Big Panic of ’71, Teddy Hamblin found his Hi Bouncy Ball by the side of the road near the fire station. He never did figure out how it got there.

Not In This Issue: Beans, Glass Cutting Tips Or Reviews Of Computer Games

…but there is a cat

The Doclopedia #140

On New Year’s Eve…: A Cat Got Lucky

…1821, at 3:12 in the afternoon, a pampered pet cat of the Royal Family of Russia managed to get outside the house and become lost in the vast snow covered gardens. Scared, cold and having been sexually assaulted by a common alley cat (though he was a handsome and dashing fellow), she accidentally fell into a tiny doorway between dimensions. She ended up on a world full of primitive people who, upon hearing of this beautiful creature that had fallen from the sky, commenced to worshiping her and tending to her every need and, a few months later, swearing that she and her descendants would be worshiped as gods for all time.

The cat was glad to have found a world where humans knew their place.

Ovoviviporous Snakes Ate My Phalaropes

…I love writing stuff like that

Ok, so I’m still one day behind. I suck. Two posts tomorrow, I swear!

The Doclopedia #139

On New Year’s Eve…: Yu Ming Got A Sweet Deal

…of 1460, a poor Chinese farmer named Yu Ming was walking home from his fields when he was approached by two very tall men. Yu Ming himself was 5’9” tall and these men towered over him by at least two feet. Thinking that they must be agents of the Emperor, he cast his eyes downward and awaited whatever they had to say.

It was with great surprise that Yu Ming heard them speak in the most wonderfully musical voices he had ever heard. It was as though the songs of birds had been blended with human speech! He was even more surprised when they called him by name and told him that they wanted to buy his land and would give him much gold for it.

NOW, Yu Ming had never heard of the Empire buying a person’s land and even if he had, they would not have offered as much gold as these two men (whose skin, Yu Ming now noticed, seemed to have a decidedly blue tint to it) had offered. Yu Ming was beginning to think that perhaps these were not men at all, but demons of some sort, when they emptied out a small bucket of gold onto the road in front of him. If he would but accept this as the first payment on his land, they said, he would be very wealthy and powerful quite soon.

It may be argued that, having actually had some education in his early years, Yu Ming was not nearly superstitious enough to avoid dealing with these two strange giants. What cannot be argued is that he began scooping up the gold and telling the maybe demons that his land was theirs.

AT THIS POINT, the two men thanked him and told him to continue using his land as he saw fit, because they would not come to take ownership until 30 years had passed. However, regular payments in gold would arrive every year for the next 5 years, if that was alright with Yu Ming. Our formerly poor farmer told them that it was certainly alright by him. With that, the men bade him good evening and walked off.

For the next 30 years, Yu Ming lived a very good life indeed. Being a kind hearted man, he helped many people in his village improve their lot in life. By the time the men were due to come claim his land, former farmer was a powerful and beloved man. He had many children and grandchildren and his business interests were spread out across the Empire.

AND THEN, the very tall blue men, who were really truly demons after all, came back with untold thousands of their race to claim Yu Ming’s land. And by “Yu Ming’s land”, they had meant China. All of it.

And that, my friends, is why China was ruled by giant blue demons who kept the human populace as both slaves and food animals until 1823, when a group of Tibetan mystics summoned up a “cleansing wind” that swept down out of the Himalayan Mountains and wiped the blue demons off the face of the earth. Which, due to China’s vastly reduced and cowed population, allowed everyone from India to Japan to Russia to England to those upstarts in the United States, to start claiming portions of the country for themselves. Which, as you might imagine, is another story.

Winker, Queen Of The Amazon Bassets

…just ask her

The Doclopedia #138

On New Year’s Eve…: A Conqueror Died

…of 2005, Orloon VinHutaPrib, a Class 7 Exterminator/Conqueror from the planet JetoKrigBex, was successfully teleported onto a small country road near San Luis Obispo, California. His mission: kill Terrans until they stopped fighting back and accepted his Words of Conquest.

UNFORTUNATELY, just as he was powering up his TsinVix weapon, a group of 9 drunken teenagers came flying over a small hump in the road at 90 miles an hour, catching some pretty big air and crushing Orloon VinHutaPrib, a Class 7 Exterminator/Conqueror from the planet JetoKrigBex, into a bluish green smear on the road. They never ever slowed down. A few minutes later, his TsinVix weapon overloaded and vaporized itself and everything organic for a 100 yard radius.

Back on JetoKrigBex, his sudden demise scared his people into a life of pacifism.

The Frightfully Clever, Yet Still Rather Innocent, Story Of Mostly Purple Patty And The Sleepy Horse

…featuring her new best pal, Happy McMurray

The Doclopedia #137

On New Year’s Eve…: Virtual Reality Happened

…of 2019, everybody who was anybody in the adventure gaming hobby/industry was attending the huge VR based party being put on by New Realities Unlimited. NRU was premiering it’s flagship virtual reality world, Delandros, and had sent out invitations to 3,000 gamers and 300 various media outlets. Those invitees were now hooked up in luxurious VR beds in 20 cities on four continents and their virtual selves were sipping virtual wine in the courtyard of King Valen, the alternate identity of NRU founder and CEO, Dennis Valenzuela.

The general consensus among the party goers was that this was pretty much the coolest thing they had ever seen and almost certainly the attainment of that long held tabletop gamers dream: a computer generated setting that a party of players could adventure in without a GM and with all the options of face to face gaming. If NRU was to be believed, this game world not only had a rich history, but would behave just like a real world, growing and changing, even if nobody was plugged into it.

People were trying all sorts of things: firing off spells, fighting monsters with sword & shield, haggling with merchants, picking pockets…even attempting to seduce serving wenches and handsome men at arms. It was geek heaven. As reports from the party began popping up on various internet sources, the stock of companies that produced traditional MMOs began to plummet while NRU stock gained a nearly 200% increase.

RIGHT NOW, many of you are waiting for that big twist wherein it is explained that the VR experience drove all of them mad or they became addicted to it or something happened and they were all stuck in the VR world fighting to get out. The truth is, everything went swimmingly and two months later the company had it’s grand public opening with 50,000 people plugged in at 62 locations around the world. Within a year, those numbers quadrupled and on the second anniversary, the home VR chairs began selling at $500.00 each (including your first 30 hours free) and they sold 4.25 million units in the first month. By their third anniversary, they had 250 million regular users. They were also employing a small army of former pen & paper RPG writers to create new content, from villages to continents and farmers to monsters.

BUT THEN one day a very minor level technician did a bit of figuring and came to the conclusion that even the huge number of server farms that NRU maintained were not nearly powerful enough to create the entire world of Delandros and all of the people and creatures in it. True, many of the shops in the game were staffed by characters controlled by human players who got free game time for X number of hours served, but that was a tiny drop in the cyberbucket. Where were the extra servers located?

This curious techie…let’s call him Bob…went home that night and mentioned his conclusions to his two roommates, both of whom were computer geeks and top of the line hackers. Loving nothing better than a mystery, the three of them set off into the internet in search of the truth. Two weeks later, the only thing they had turned up was that NRU owned a “radioactive waste containment” facility way the hell up in the Yukon. Actually, the facility was owned by a subsidiary of a spin off company that NRU had bought three years before the release of Delandros. The more they thought about that, the stranger it sounded. NRU had plenty of startup money, but not enough to be buying up anything like that.

NOW, this being 2022, it was fairly easy for our three investigators to buy a slightly outdated military grade infiltration bot and do some mods on both the hardware and software. Once that was done, it was time for a road trip to Alaska with a short detour to turn the bot loose about 180 miles from the alleged containment facility. The bot (which was about the size of a large rat) reached his goal four days later and began scouting around. Since the three amigos had shielded their bot from detection by other bots, it was able to get into the air venting system and begin searching.

Right off the bat, it stopped detecting radiation after it got below the first level. However, the second level only contained thousands of large drums labeled as rad waste but actually containing stuff like sand, old chunks of asphalt and plain old dirt.

On the third level, the bot located life support machinery nearly identical to that used on the new International Space Station. Most of it was tended by bots, but there were a few humans about. The fourth level held spacious living quarters for about 20 people. The fifth was home to a pretty large server farm and a whole lot of bleeding edge tech.

It was levels six through ten where the little bot struck gold, if by gold you mean rows and rows of human heads in tanks that were hooked up to headsets that looked a whole lot like Delandros VR helmets. It would not be an understatement to say that Bob and his pals nearly wet themselves when they saw the video.

The bot had counted as far 31,670 heads when the video feed went blank and the door to Bob’s apartment opened and a half dozen NRU security personnel walked in, faces grim and guns drawn. About then, at least two of our three heroes didwet themselves. In short order, they were taken to waiting vans and then driven to what appeared to be a warehouse. They were allowed to sit and contemplate their predicament for about half an hour when in walked Dennis Valenzuela himself.

AFTER introducing himself, Dennis explained that the heads they had seen had all at one time been on the bodies of people who were either dying of incurable diseases, trapped in paralyzed or otherwise useless bodies or criminals awaiting death. There were, he said, 104,000 such heads in that facility and 214,000 in another facility located in Nigeria. A third, much larger location was about to open in Kyrgyzstan. The goal was to have a million heads online by 2024.

He went on to explain that during the earliest VR interface tests, it had been discovered that if the brain of a rat was kept alive while plugged in, the rat would continue to control a VR rat body even if the head was detached from it’s real body. The same went for every other animal they tested. In fact, Dennis told them, they were able to upload tons of behaviors that later were used to control all of the normal non-sentient lifeforms in Delandros. That was a good thing, since it freed up a huge block of programming time.

And then one of the driving forces behind the development of the project, Wayne Delmont, found out that he had incurable prostate cancer. He volunteered to be the first human test subject and after being hooked up to both the VR and a life support system for his head, had his body removed and became the first permanent citizen of Delandros.

Based upon that success, NRU started seeking out the terminally ill and extremely physically challenged and offering them a deal: life in a healthy body in a new world. Rather surprisingly, almost nobody turned the offer down. Of course, everything was done on the QT, but things went very smoothly. Pretty much every NPC you might meet in Delandros had once been a real person.

Before long, death row inmates were being used, although their higher brain functions were “edited” and their memories wiped so they could be installed in monster bodies. Still, once their monster bodies were killed in game, they were just transferred to another monster.

This was all necessary, Valenzuela explained, because the cost of creating server farms to run Delandros at the current level of realism was just too high, to say nothing of the cost of programmers and techs. Besides, they were giving people virtual immortality, which was a good thing, right.

He ended by telling Bob and the boys that their own memories would be edited to feature a road trip of epic proportions, including many sexual encounters with ladies they could never really hope to meet, let alone screw. All recollection of what they had found out about NRU would be erased and Bob would be reassigned to monitoring guild interaction data. The boys thanked him for not just having them killed.

A year later, Delandros, had half a billion regular users…not counting a million heads in tanks.

The Rare And Beautiful Spinning Cactus Cat Of Potawango Island

…beware of the poisonous spines

The Doclopedia #136

On New Year’s Eve…: A Party Went Wrong

…of 1864, Colonel Geoffrey Bellstock and his wife Olivia attended a party at Lord & Lady Dillingford’s home in London. It was not a large affair, but was the first such event the Bellstocks had been able to attend since their return from India two weeks earlier. Being old family friends of their hosts, they had brought with them a present, a small earthenware statue decorated with gold and ivory.

His Lordship, being something of a collector of that sort of thing, was delighted and placed the statue among the other pieces he had in his “museum room”. He then returned to the party, which was quite a fine affair and was written about in rather glowing terms in several of the weekly publications that cater to the well off partygoer.

BUT, as the more imaginative among you might have guessed, our story does not end there. After the party had ended and the guests had left, Lord Dillingford went into his museum room to have another look at his newest prize. Unfortunately, his intake of spirits that evening had rendered him unsteady and he stumbled, dropping the statue onto the stone floor. It broke rather neatly in two, revealing that it was hollow inside. Had he been a bit less intoxicated, His Lordship might have noticed a faint roaring sound and smelled a slightly putrescent smell. As it was, he merely cursed himself a fool and bent to pick up the pieces. You may well find it very discomforting to know that when he stood back up, he was no longer his drunken old self.

BECAUSE he had been possessed by the spirit of a Rakshasa, a vile form of demon found mostly in India and outlying lands. Being very hungry after a nearly 1,500 year imprisonment, the creature immediately set about killing and eating Her Ladyship, two servants and a second cousin of His Lordship whom nobody much cared for anyway. After this rather filling meal, the demon changed shape into something younger and better looking and went out into the London night.

OF COURSE, we all know the rest, don’t we? 26 murders in just over a month, panic in the streets, innocent people jailed or killed by mobs and finally, the demon was destroyed by a pair of masked individuals known only as Mr. & Mrs. Moonstone. Later, our brave forces in India were ordered to destroy anything that was even suspected of being of a magical nature.