In preparation for my intended brawl with this giant thing in the monster, I wanted to make sure some of those parties who contributed to all this on Ricca weren’t going to do anything to mess with it. I don’t need help here, but I didn’t want anybody doing any sort of prayers or sacrifices that could feed that thing. Stories inspired by this thing don’t speak to any magic spells or anything, just physical resilience. Supposedly it causes madness just looking at it, but I’m just not seeing it.
I had a couple of groups detained while I saw to the Cultists first. Old Man Hoodless was mighty contrite. I know that, because he looked down at his feet, ran his hand through his hair, and said, “I’m mighty contrite over my part in this.”
He’s been a straight shooter with me so far, so I patted him on the shoulder, leaving a marker behind that would track his precise location and allow the Intercept team at the base to fire on him with some of the artillery cannons they got working. They didn’t offer an explanation of where they got the expertise for that, and I didn’t threaten anybody with court martials or executions. Not like I’m picky. I had Qiang call Beetrice for me. The Queen of North Korea and of the Buzzkills really wanted me on the phone with her, but Qiang was cool. Nobody expects a kid to know everything about their dad’s schedule.
The addition of Buzzkills alleviated a lot of sudden manpower problems in holding onto the Faust delegation. I’d also locked down Captain Flamebird’s crew, but those guards are more like observers. As far as Flamebird’s concerned, his whole crew is partying it up and getting drunk. I don’t know for a fact they had their eye on Mu or Lemuria, a pair of mythical lands said to have existed and sunk below the waters in the Pacific, but it’s a risk factor I can eliminate.
The Buzzkills were also helping the Directory’s people sort through our new immigrants with a little help from the Cape Diem organization. It’s taking time, and there are violent encounters, but that’s how it goes when you have two sides not trusting each other, and one of them forcing the other to wait around in a cramped space while they sort through them.
But the group I absolutely needed to sit down with were those guys from Faustus. If I had my way, I’d just go charging off across the ocean and punch Cthulhu-ish in the nards. If it even has nards. Note to self: find out if it has nards. Regardless of the testical status of the giant monster from beneath the sea, I can’t walk on water. I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking out just any ship. Too small and easy to destroy. I want to fight this beast on equal footing.
I’d rather fight it on ground that’s ridiculously slanted in my favor, but I’ll take what I can get.
So I went to go see Alhazred. He and his buddies had been held at the military base. When I first delivered them to the guys at the base, they wondered why I didn’t leave them in one of the private sites. I haven’t had time to look into that, but I have an idea what they might be. This island had all kinds of secrets.
They kept Alhazred, Pickman, and Hero in separate rooms. I visited with Alhazred first, who on the floor praying. “Putting in a few words to whatever that thing is?” I asked as I stepped in.
He had his face to the floor, but sat up. “It is dead Cthulhu revived,” he said with his back still turned to me.
I shook my head. “It’s not Cthulhu. Looks nothing like it. It hasn’t magically taken over the world yet. I’ll bet you it was never dead, though it probably will be.”
“Death does not exist for creatures such as it!” he said.
I rolled my eyes. “Easy way to prove that. Bring it here.”
He turned and crawled toward me, spittle flecking his face and a wild look in his eyes. “To bring it would begin its reign over your people, the first of all kingdoms to fall to it on this Earth! The waters would seethe and boil withs its armies of degenerate creatures! Your technology and magic would be as nothing to the horrors it represents! It is a god, and it will pass its judgment upon- ow!”
I slapped him upside the face. He held his palm to that cheek, looking a little sensible. I slapped him again just to make sure. “You done with the ranting yet?”
He blinked, rubbing his cheek. “Ow, yeah. Geez. Death, destruction, the end of civilization as we know it… what am I saying? I I don’t want any of those things! I just worshipped it for power. I didn’t think about the end of times it would cause if it was ever real and true enough to show up!”
I patted him on the head understandingly, then grabbed his hair and yanked his head back just to cause some pain and focus him. “Ow!” he said again. “I wouldn’t want him to come here if I were you. He could destroy the world if he tries anything.”
“Whatever it is, it may have a few abilities, but the fact that people treat it like it’s that powerful seems to be the biggest thing about it. I do want it here, and I want to kill it.”
“Why?” he asked.
I grinned. “Because we’re one of the closest places to it. Because it’s causing my problems for me and mine. And, finally, because how else am I going to fuck its corpse?”
He closed his eyes and shuddered. When he regained control of himself, he held up his hands. “I think I can help bring it here, but you better be sure you can kill it. There are legends passed down in fragments predating what people know of history, and they do not make this look easy.”
I shrugged. “Bunch of pansies, always exaggerating. The river floods once, they make up a world flood story. They run into a monster before encountering gunpowder, and it’s some sort of apocalyptic deathbeast. Oh, and they decide that it’s somehow driving people mad. That thing’s on twenty-four hour news right now and the only people its driving mad are a bunch of horny Japanese. All the other religions are claiming it fits with so and so prophecy of the end times and are about as bad as you, forgetting that they don’t want the world to end. After all, if they thought they deserved their own heaven, they’d have gotten themselves killed so they could go to it sooner.”
I pointed off in the general direction of the creature.“That thing says it’s a god. Big deal. I say I’m a god. It’s just a basic tip of life that if someone asks if you’re a god, you say yes. But it’s the god of a bunch of people who hadn’t invented armor, let alone guns, tanks, bombers, aircarft carriers, and nuclear weapons. It impressed people who never could have imagined spaceflight and computers. They were scared of something really, really big that looks like a jellyfish, the same way they were scared of lightning and eclipses. It is a god that commands fear only because of ignorance. So help me, I will find its ass and kick it. And if I can’t find it, I’ll make a new one. And then, I’ll stick my dick in the hole. Now, are you with me?”
I got a cheer both from him and from nearby guards who wandered over to eavesdrop. All hail the Man-Emperor of Mankind, right?
Alhazred agreed to help me out now that he’s come to his senses, though I stuck one of my explosive leashes on him. With some of the soldiers having proven themselves, they didn’t need theirs any longer. Pickman and Hero were left locked up, Alhazred insisting that they didn’t really know rituals related to this thing like he did. But he still hoped to have some help from people who knew some of the prayers.
That’s when I introduced him to Gillbert. Well, that’s what I call the Deep One who I first talked to the other day and who had been thrust into something of a role helping with the immigration effort. Alhazred had sudden-onset religious fervor, which caused the one-gilled Deep One to facepalm. “This again? This wanker’s acting like someone from down below saw the god awake and rise up.” He shook his head at the sight of Alhazred kneeling and praying. He reached down and lifted the guy’s head up, slapping him across the face. “Cut it out, you wanker! You wanna bring that thing down on all of us?”
“Actually, yes,” I said.
“The fuck you say!”
Geez, what’s with all the exclamation points? “I’m gonna kill it. I was serious.”
Gillbert gestured to Alhazred. “This wanker’s useless to you then. Messed up in the head, strewth.”
In response, Alhazred got up and began running through the Deep Ones toward the ocean, crying out in prayer. A few of the Deep Ones ran to join him. Gillbert nudged my arm. “I had my doubts about those ones. Now we know. If you’re serious, your friend here could run all along starting prayer circles. Save us all a headache and bring the big guy here.”
I patted him on the shoulder. “Good idea. Let them get eaten first, and separate some of them out.”
“I’m sorry it’s so many of them,” he said. “So many cunts.”
I shrugged. “Might not be anything. Religions turn on other sects all the time. Either way, you’re looking at, what, a couple dozen there? A few hundred others? Makes it easier to get the rest of y’all out of the way. This will call this thing, right?”
He shook his soggy head. “Dunno. The stories always said he liked worship. Stories said he was a cunt, too.”
“Not a fan?” I asked.
“Fuck them and their god. I just want to sit back and find a way to steal more land tele.” He snorted and spat something into the shallow water at our feet.
“Don’t we all,” I said, patting him on the shoulder.
Later that afternoon, as the hulk in he ocean turned toward us and began to make a beeline for the island, I knew it had worked after all. I put the Intercept team on alert. More than that, I authorized the nanomachine factories to work full time, bringing in as much help and paying as much overtime as needed. They acted confused about the overtime thing until I explained it to them and the fact that they’d be compensated. We were going to need a lot of nanites. After all, I’ve got a god to beat down.