Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Something Wrong With Us? -- Jesus Still Screaming -- Hide the Drugs and the Weapons -- A late Night Lime Run

Something wrong with him, or was it something wrong with us? Or maybe something wrong with this cheapjack asteroid and its hyperthyroidal gamers, up from Wunderland, hoping to make the Big Score they could take home and show to the aristocracy?

Yeah, maybe that was it. But in any case, it was clear that by this late point in the evening Nessus and I were agitated and volatile compounds let loose in the bell jar. Tweedle Dee was the nitro-, and we were the glycerin. A retreat to our room, and a damn quick one, was called for. Then maybe, just maybe, this drug frenzy could end, and I could get straight enough to cope with whatever might happen at dawn.

Nessus and I both knew that in our state, meeting anyone could lead to vicious consequences for everyone involved. Without a word, we snuck back to our room through back-end tunnels and through access hatchways. Suddenly we were standing in front the door to our room. The Mint in its effort to prevent hacking had gone back to the metallic key model, and Nessus had two of them in his hands.

"Try them both first," I said. "if the door is booby-trapped like I think it is, it won't trip on the wrong key."

Nessus grunted and struggled with the first one. His knobbed mouthstalks were tremorless, and his motions were sure; it was just that he couldn't get the goddamned thing into the keyhole.

"Jesus Christ," he said through the keys. "They've changed the locks on us. Goddamnit. We're toast."

"Wait a minute," I said. "Give me that fucking--" and I reached to grab the keys out of his mouth, and they both fell to the floor.

"Now look what you've done!" Nessus roared, and his voice carried through the hallway like thunder. "You rat bastard! You wanted me to try the door first!"

I ignored him--clearly the idiot couldn't see that it was both of us who were in danger from these hotel fascists--and sat down Indian fashion on the hallway carpet, digging through the lush fibers, enchanted by the rich feel of it all, trying to find the keys, which were escaping me for some reason. After a long time I found one, and I looked up happily at Nessus, who was still screaming, Jesus, still screaming.

"You organlegging son of a bitch!" he yelled as I looked up and my mind began to process what he was saying again. "I've been on to you since Jinx! How much did you get for me? 50,000? A hundred?"

Then he saw the key I was holding up, and he grabbed it from me savagely.

"Ha!" he said. "You fucked up, now! Let me open this goddamned thing."

And he did. There was the sound of the key scraping its way into the keyhole, a thud as the bolt retracted, and the door swung backwards from Nessus and me, and we looked into our room, which looked, as best as we could tell, perfectly normal, and absolutely undisturbed.

"Quick," I said, leaping up and over the threshold into the room even before Nessus could enter. "Thank Ghod we made it back in time, before those jackbooted brownshirts got here. Hide the drugs and the weapons, and destroy everything else."

Nessus, once he saw the room, became entranced, stopped his yelling and got with the program. He immediately went for the kit bag, and for our holsters. Then he pulled something else out: the Sinclair molecule chain.

My eyes went wide, I'm sure. "Oh no, you don't." The molecule chain makes a straight razor look like a chisel, cut you clean in half without a drop of blood. Who knows the damage it could do in the knobs of a dangerous Puppeteer in the throes of an acid freakout?

"Nessus, put the molecule chain down," I said, trying to sound calm.

Instead, he swung the button heads through a light shade. It come apart effortlessly, the lamp beheaded without a sound, as the monomelcular wire disassembled the fabric and wire at the atomic level. The only noise save Nessus' cackling was the shade as it hit the carpet. Nessus moved towards the writing desk. He sliced it in thirds in fifteen seconds. Then he grabbed paintings off the wall, stood them up on the floor, and sliced them into thin strips. And then a bookshelf and then the vidscreen, and then he turned to me.

Turn your back on a man, but never on a drug, is what they say. I looked Nessus straight in his eyestalks. "Oh no, you don't. We need some sleep, you freaking psychopath. Put down the molecule chain, and let's get some rest. I wanna get down to the garage in the morning."

"Don't worry about it, Bey," he said, and he sounded almost reasonable. "I don't wanna hurt you."

"I just want to slice your jugular to see what happens."

Sometimes, when insanity shows up, the only thing to do is to split the scene. I backed towards the doorway.

"Alright, you twisted freak, last time I do acid with you. I'm gonna go down to the restaurant and grab some limes for my morning Cuba Libres. Hopefully you'll have calmed down--or just cut yourself to ribbons--by the time I return."

With my hands in the air, I carefully backed towards the doorway. Nessus watched me go, and he looked almost sad as I left the room and shut the door, which had been open the entire time.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Drug frenzy and massive panic at the Venus Venus

The Venus Venus is crammed full of gambling tables, just like all the other casinos, but beyond that it's like a replay of decadent Ancient Rome -- all too-much-food and Acres of soft-focus bare flesh and pastel orgies, and it's NOT for Big Kids. Only serious gamblers or serious sensualists show up here.
We were both, of course, or at least we liked to THINK we were.
Here's the picture: Above the frenzied action of the gambling tables, hanging from the ceiling, the Four Flying Karamazov Brothers vied with the Six Nymphet Sisters and a couple live wolverines in an attempt to distract the gamblers so they wouldn't realize how many of their hard-earned Stars they were actually LOSING. The House was raking it in.
This madness went on and on, but nobody seemed to notice much. The gambling continued 24/7 on the main floor, and the trapeze action never ended. Meanwhile, on the upstairs balconies, ignorant tourists were being fleeced in every conceivable kind of bizaare schuck ever invented to separate a guy from his legal tender.
All kinds of funhouse-type booths: Shoot the pasties off the nipples of a 10-foot-tall policewoman in less-than-half a uniform (half of her was LEGS that went on FOREVER) and win a giant cotton-candy goat.
Or step right up in front of this fantastic machine, sir, and for only 1 Star your likeness will appear, 200 meters tall, on the face of a giant hyperwave screen orbiting around Tweedle-Dee once an hour. Add another Star and record a voice message.
"Say whatever you want, fella, they'll hear you, don't worry about that! Remember, you'll be 200 feet tall!"
Good Ghod. I could see myself lying in bed back at the Mint, half-asleep and staring idly out the viewport, when suddenly some vicious Nazi drunkard appears 200 feet tall in the midnight sky screaming gibberish at the world: "No more trickle-down economics! ... I did NOT have sex with that woman!...."
I will be closing the drapes tonight. A vision like that could send a drug fiend careening around the room like a ping-pong ball. Hallucinations are bad enough. But after awhile you learn how to deal with things like seeing your dead grandmother crawling up your leg with a knife clenched between her teeth. Most acid fanciers can handle that sort of thing.
But NOBODY can handle that other trip -- the possibility that any moron with 2 Stars can walk into the Venus Venus and suddenly appear in the sky over Tweedle-Dee 12 times the size of God, howling anything that comes into his head.... No, this is not a good place for mind-twisting drugz. Reality itself is too twisted here.

Good mescaline comes on slow. The first hour is all waiting. Then about halfway through the second hour you start cursing the creep that burned you, because NOTHING is happening....
...And then ZANG! Fiendish intensity, strange glows and vibrations ... a very heavy gig in a place like the Venus Venus.
"I hate to say this," my attorney said as we sat down at the Centrifuge Bar on the second level, "but this place is getting to me. I think I'm getting The Fear."
"Bullshit," I said mildly. "We came out here to discover what's left of Humanity's Dream in Known Space, and now that we're right in the absolute vortex of it you want to quit." I grabbed one of his long, serpent-like necks and squeezed gently. "You must realize," I said, "that we've found the main nerve."
"I know," he said. "That's what gives me The Fear."
The ether was wearing off, the acid was long gone, but the mescaline was running strong. We were sitting at a small gold-topped table, orbiting speedily around the bartender.
"Look over there," I told Nessus mildly. "Two women fucking a Bandersnatch." Nothing seemed to phase me. Had to be the mescaline.
"Please," he said, "don't TELL me these things. Not now." He signaled the waitress for two more Wild Turkeys -- both for himself, no doubt. "This is my last drink," he said. "How much money can you lend me?"
"Not much," I said. "Why? And what about that Twenty I gave you at the Gaga concert?"
"Never mind that," he said, "I have to go. I have to get off this asteroid. Now."
"Calm down," I said. "You'll be straight in a few hours."
"No," Nessus said. "This is serious."
"Osama bin Laden was serious," I said. "Al-Qaeda was serious. And you know what happened to THEM."
"Don't fuck around with me!" he shouted. "Another hour in this place and I'm gonna kill somebody."
I could see he was On The Edge -- that fearful intensity that comes at the peak of a mescaline seizure.
"OK, easy, easy," I said. "I'll lend you some money. Let's get out of here and see how much we have left."
"Can we make it?" he said.
"Well, that depends on how many people we fuck with between here and the door. You want to leave quietly?"
"I want to leave FAST."
"OK," I said. "Let's pay this bill and get up very slowly. We're both out of our heads. This is going to be a LONG walk."
I shouted at the waitress for a bill. She came over, looking bored, and my attorney stood up. He was a little wobbly, his necks waving all around.
"Come on, Doc, let's go downstairs and gamble." I got Nessus as far as the edge of the bar, the side of the Centrifuge's capsule, but he refused to step off until it stopped circling.
"It won't stop," I said. "It's NEVER going to stop."
"Will it at least SLOW DOWN a little bit?" he asked.
I stepped off and turned around to wait for him, but he wouldn't move... and before I could reach out and pull him off, the centrifuge slowly but steadily carried him away. "Don't move!" I shouted. "You'll come back around!"
His eyes were staring blindly ahead, squinting in fear and confusion. But he didn't move a muscle until he'd completed a full circle.
I waited until Nessus was almost in front of me, then I reached out to grab him -- but he jumped back and went around the circle again. This made me very nervous. I felt on the verge of a freakout. I could only imagine what Nessus was feeling.
And the bartender seemed to be watching us....
I jumped back onto the centrifuge and hurried around the bar, approaching my attorney on his blind side -- and when we came to the right spot I pushed him off. He staggered out onto the second floor and uttered a hellish scream as he lost his balance and went down thrashing into the crowd, rolling like a log, then back up again in a flash, looking for somebody to kick.
I approached him with my hands in the air, trying to smile. "You fell," I said. "Let's go."
By this time, people WERE watching us. But the fool wouldn't move, and I knew what would happen if I grabbed him.
"OK, you stay here and go to jail," I said. "I'm leaving."
I started walking fast toward the escalators, ignoring him. That finally moved him.
"Did you SEE that?" he said. "Some sonofakzin kicked me in the back!"
"Probably the bartender," I said. "He'd been wanting to stomp you for awhile, I think."
"Good Ghod! Let's get out of here! Where's that elevator?"
"Don't you go NEAR that elevator -- that's just what they WANT us to do, trap us in a steel box and take us down to the basement." I looked over my shoulder, but nobody was following us.
"Don't run," I said. "They'd love an excuse to shoot us."
Nessus nodded, seeming to understand. We walked fast along the huge midway -- shooting galleries, tattoo parlors, money-changers, cotton candy booths, orgy cubicles, the usual -- then out through a bank of glass doors, out into Tweedle-Dee's main tunnels again.
I was exhausted, coming down from the mescaline rush. "You lead," I told Nessus. "Find us some light and quiet where we can count what's left of our money. I think there's something wrong with me."

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Prepared and the Ill-Equipped . . . The Inscrutable Bandersnatch . . . Balsa Playing Cards and Grapefruit Juice

The bouncers, convinced by now that whatever it may have been that was driving the behavior of this frantic Puppeteer and this deranged albino, it wasn't the officially sanctioned spirits of their establishment, moved towards us as we ran towards the banks of turnstiles. They appeared to have us trapped for a moment, then the two of us--tapping into similar reservoirs of the Drug Power--catapulted ourselves over the 'stiles, while the tuxedoed doormen struggled with the one-way mechanisms. Seeing the few seconds we'd bought, I fished in my pocket for some hundredth-star coins, and tossed them in the air where they caught the thousand neon lights and flashed like Chinese sparklers in the smoky air.

"A little something for you! Thanks for the show, boys!" I shouted, and then we ran for the doors with everything the drugs could provide, cackling like chickens at feeding time.

We got into the tunnels, took a few turns, found a maintenance access tunnel, and finally collapsed against the a generator, consumed by laughter and cheapjack hallucinations.

I went for the kit bag, and soaked yet another towelette with ether, huffing deeply, and passed it to Nessus, who did the same.

"Totally ill-equipped," I slurred in between my laughter, as the ether miasma spread through the dim tunnelway.

"They have," laughed Nessus, "no means to deal with psychos at our level."

"None whatsoever," I agreed, and could say no more, lost in more laughter, barely able to breathe.

Finally, I caught my breath and pulled out the hash pipe. "So then," I asked as I sparked the thing up, "what shall it be? The Dunes? The Circus Circus? I hear they've got a captive Bandersnatch."

Nessus' eyes lit up at the end of their stalks. "Captive?"

I shrugged. "Well, you know, it's kind of agreed to the arrangement."

He grabbed the pipe from me and took a long hit. "Agreed? What the fuck is that about? Why would a sentient creature agree to be put on display for a bunch of drunken mongoloids on a rock 30 light years from home?"

I threw my hands up, annoyed by the questioning. "Shit, Nessus, who fucking knows Bandersnatch logic. Why the fuck do they allow themselves to be hunted on Jinx? They're twisted fucking aliens."

"Ah shit," he said, "never mind that. It's too deranged even for us. Let's just go to the Venus Venus, we can play poker and get loaded on Wild Turkey, let these drugs fade slowly."

It sounded to me like a plan. I grabbed the pipe from Nessus' mouth, and stood up as steadily as I could. "At any rate, we need to get out of here. Those neanderthal doormen are probably still combing the tunnels for us, and I'm sick of this ether stink."

Nessus arose, and, grabbing each other for support, we stumbled back towards the main halls as well as the sick drug allowed.

* * * * * * * * * * *
The Venus Venus is what all our public places would look like if the Kzin had won the First War. The proprietors have built massive dioramas in homage to Burroughs' Amtor, complete with tropical biota, and massive algae-stoked pools stocked with hyper-adapted fish brought in from Plateau. The whole thing is kept sweltering, 90 degrees fahrenheit and 90% humidity. Everyone inside is half-frantic from the climate, and it keeps the clientele drinking better than some half-assed bowl of salted peanuts.

Nessus and I sat down at a poker table. They were using cards made of balsa, I saw. I guess even plastic-coated decks became soaked with perspiration. The ether was for the most part gone, and the mescaline, too, leaving just the hash. I ordered Wild Turkey with grapefruit juice; for better or for ill, Nessus made the determination to skip the juice.