We have a tiny problem on our hands here in Ricca. As those used to my description of problem sizes should suspect by now, most people would not call it tiny. Most people would call it a giant winged squid monster. Possibly even Cthulhu, but I expected something more intimidating. It’s just a big monster the likes of which we’ve never expected, apparently ripped straight out of the pages of H.P. Lovecraft.
It’s really not Cthulhu, though. The head is a round and ringed with wriggling tentacles, but it only seems to have the one eye in the middle. It might have scales on it, hard to see. It doesn’t sit very still, and I haven’t been able to see to its body because of all the wings and arms. It has them all over, enough to hide any central trunk within. Can’t be easy to fly with those things on all sides like that, but then I haven’t tried. For all I know, the almost-Cthulhu thinks nothing of it.
It emerged from the water immediately after another oceanic bloop was detected, miles to our southeast. It has absolutely killed boat traffic from the Americas. I’m not just talking about proactive defensive measures, either. It did something with a cargo container ship carrying cars and smuggled people from China to the United States.
First thing I did upon seeing it, aside from fending off phone calls from foreign heads of state wondering what I did, was armor up . I made sure Qiang had plenty of knives and caught a glimpse of Silver Shark rushing out in a kimono before I jumped out the window. I paid a visit to the Agriculture Mall to figure out what the Cult did. They seemed as shocked as anyone else might be, though I noticed their camel-riding demon friend was calmly looking over paperwork without any apparent upset in attitude. “What about this thing? It looks like it knows what’s going on? What’s it know that I don’t?”
“I reckon darn near ever’thing,” replied Old Man Hoodless. “Paimon here knows just about everything happening on our planet on this plane of existence.”
I stepped over, sat on the stack of papers it was reading on a desk, and slid around so it was now staring into my crotch. It looked up, smiling just slightly. I pointed my thumb in the general direction of the eldritch abomination wading through the ocean. “Explain.”
I have no clue what language it spoke, but my ears could barely even hear it. It wasn’t a matter of volume, but instead that the words were hazy and faded from sound almost as soon as I heard them. I would later find out the sounds failed to record. It’s just silence there, as far as my digital memory is concerned. I’m not a fan of something doing that to my brain. If anyone’s going to fuck up my brain, it’s going to be me. And alcohol.
“You catch that?” I asked Hoodless.
He shook his head. “Let me try somethin’.” He looked to Paimon and addressed him firmly. “This is Emperor Psycho Gecko. You will address him in English like the rest of us and answer his questions.”
Paimon stiffened slightly, then relaxed and nodded its head. “As you wish. You pay my retainer. Greetings, Emperor Psycho Gecko. I wonder what your true name is.”
I shrugged. “Beats me. But before something else does so, I’d like to know what that thing is tromping around in my ocean? Thing looks like off-brand Cthulhu. Like someone made a Russian fake Avengers movie, or that movie who makes Transmorphers had to come up with something on the fly.”
Paimon’s grin was not amusement or good humor of any sort. It smiled like a predator about to enjoy a meal. I readied my pimp hand for bad news. “It is the being that fits the world’s cultural understanding of what you call ‘Cthulhu.’ It is not that monster you named, which is a fiction. It is the being existing within the subconscious of man that inspired it in dreams and whispers of writers who then erred in describing it.”
I blinked. “Sounds like a cop-out for using a knock-off instead, but I guess it would be strange if it really existed in spite of being a fictional mythos. Why is it showing up now? Did it have anything to do with the sacrifices that brought you here?”
Without confusion, it calmly stated, “Yes. No. It awoke because of the meddling of other powers in the ocean who seek the ancient lands of Mu and Lemuria in those waters. Nonetheless, rituals are about dramatic effect. At the same time they sought it, a group of knowledge seekers who led by a worshipper of this being spoke prayers to it in the hopes of making their own discoveries related to it on this island. Then many people were sacrificed on a tree spreading its roots to feed virgin blood into the heart of the island. This being does not perceive time in the way you do, and it found this confluence of events pleasing.”
I pondered this over. “So it showed up now because it made the best sense… narratively? Like in a story?”
Paimon leaned forward. “What would you do if you could read the future and past to decide when exactly to make a dramatic entrance?”
“Son of a fox-fucking sasquatch,” I muttered. “I’d be unstoppable.” I’d certainly have a knack for causing trouble just when it could result in my nemesis, Venus, having any attempts at sex interrupted. Preferably while saying “I came as quick as I could. Oh, but I see you didn’t.”
“I had one last question left. “Is it a threat?”
Paimon shrugged and held up a palm parallel to the floor, wobbling it slightly. “Fifty-fifty?”
Then the screaming began. Always with the screaming. I rushed out out and headed for the city. Cameras and satellites painted a nasty picture. Creatures emerged from the ocean, clambering up piers and docks, stomping their way up beaches. They had the thin skin of an amphibian, with webbed hands and feet. Or something like hands, but clawed. Bulbous eyes? They had ’em. Flat noses? Yep. Their mouths were filled with smaller teeth, though, and their gills were external, on branching pieces of flesh sticking out of their necks. I recognized that from a little knowledge I have of amphibians. I’m called Axolotl Xolotl in Mexico, and axolotls are amphibians with the same sorts of gills. They branch out, like coral.
The invasion went mostly unanswered. A few fights were breaking out, mostly in ex-military who managed to retain weapons or enhancements. Something of an unofficial reserve, even though I never pushed most of them. At least the ones I did persuade into service realized there was nowhere to flee to. That’s an issue with soldiers of questionable loyalty, but we’re on an island being attacked from all shores and hardly any aircraft.
The thing is, aside from fighting back when attacked, most of them were making themselves at home instead. They skittered into shade and helped themselves to whatever food was around. Which, come to think of it, made me realize just how few stray dogs and cats crawl around this island. I landed in front of one who was on top of one of my guys. The soldier’s laser rifle had been knocked clear and the Deep One clawed at his chest, attempting to gauge out something bloody and necessary.
I grabbed it by the gill, picked it up overhead, and smacked it onto the pavement, tearing off the the gill in the process. It writhed there, and a few of the Deep Ones started forward toward it and me. I put my boot on its head and raised a hand toward them. “Stop right there, you fish-faced barnacle-humpers!” I yelled.
They did. “You understand me? Raise your right hand if you know what I’m saying.” No response. I tried Japanese, then Cantonese, both being important languages in close proximity. Neither of those worked so I thought I may as well try English. Before I could, the one under my boot spoke up. In an Australian accent.
“Bugger me, it hurts. Ripped of my gill, you wanker.”
As if in response, the soldier groaned and stood up. He coughed up some blood, then reached over and grabbed his laser rifle. He aimed it at the head of the one I had pinned, but I grabbed the gun and held the barrel toward the ground. He looked at me, then moved his finger off the trigger.
I put a little more pressure on the Deep One’s head to shut him up from his continued grumbling. “Ok, good, now we’re speaking the same language. Now, do I have to kill each and every one of you to solve this little crisis, or are you going to stand down and surrender? I only ask because I had other things to do today.”
“I only hit ‘im because he shot at me first, strewth. We don’t want a fight. That’s why we’re up here.”
I eased up on him a bit. “Explain this invasion.”
“Invasion? Things are crazy down there! The priests and religious ones are giving each other a wristy over their god waking up. They’re killing nonbelievers. You gotta believe me, mate, we just want to get away from a bunch of fanatics!”
I looked up at the rest of the Deep Ones, who saw me looking and put their hands up. I turned back to the one on the ground. “Ok, here’s what I want you to do. You and your friends need to get the rest of your people, wherever they are, and stop going inland. Assemble on the beaches. You don’t have to go all the way back to wherever, but let’s get you all organized before we go tearing up the whole city. Do we have an understanding?”
“Emperor, they’re attacking,” said the wounded soldier with me.
“They’re moving toward us and being shot at. There is a difference, and some of them might even be taking advantage, but this way stops the fighting. I can let it go on if you’re that set on revenge. I won’t die. You might, especially if you don’t get medical care. Going to be a lot of wounded or dying ahead of you if it isn’t stopped, though. Well, if they don’t go after the hospital in retaliation, that is. And at the end of the day, if they’re lying to me, I can just kill them all. Power means never having to say you’re worried.”
The soldier glared, but bowed and relaxed. “As you command.”
I nodded. “Good. Go get yourself looked at.” He saluted and jogged off at a pretty good speed for a guy whose chest can be described using the word “gauges”. I reached down and helped the wounded Deep One up. I nodded toward the others cowering nearby. “Go spread the word to your people. We’ve got a public address to make.”
They went around and I sent out a message to the Intercept team and other units I actually do have on the plan. Try not to shoot at them, because it’ll start a fight. If a fight breaks out, finish it quickly in a way that doesn’t escalate. Try to address the Deep Ones in English and get them to wait at the beaches. Prevent looting and protect Riccans if they should be attacked by these guys.
For good measure, I had the Deep One with me talk into my ear in the squishy tongue of the Deep Ones so there wouldn’t be any translation issues, telling them to go to the beaches where they would be sorted out. I then followed it up with some words of my own to everyone.
“This is your Emperor speaking. As many of you know, this was kind of a dick move by the Deep Ones to rush up here. But I’m also a dick. Many of you are dicks. If there’s one thing the new Ricca is going to be about, it’s giving dicks of all shapes and sizes a fair shake. These people are fleeing religious oppression, and I’m willing to give them a place for now. The people who came for them might soon come for us. Their god, this Cthulhu beast in the ocean, may attack as well. What we should be doing is working together to keep dicks like that from coming here and fucking everything over. To that end, I make you all a promise now, my fellow Riccans. I am going to kill that Cthulhu. Then, I’m going to fuck the corpse.”
And there was much rejoicing in the streets and beaches.