Tales from the Nexus: A Helot awakens

500-Helge-The-PitsThat smell. It’s pungently putrid — but familiar. It reminds me of something — something from my youth? — Yes, that’s it — from my youth. Memories instantly flood my mind of the Meatgardens and the years I spent training there in the Little Fucker League. Especially of this one match with a tentacled fellow — its name escapes me — who wrapped me so tight I couldn’t……WAIT. I CAN’T MOVE. Where…where am I? — Sounds of laughter and moans all around — my vision blurred as my eyes start to roll back into my head — I look and I can see I am strapped to a bed — I glance at my right shoulder and see meat dangling off the white bone of what remains of my right arm — A loud burst of laughter and more yelling from around the room. My memory is coming back to me now. I…I had won.

The room is darkened with fluorescent lights flickering every so often. Water drips through tiny spots of rust in the ceiling — one of those spots happen to be hitting my left knee — infuriatingly irritating — drip….drip…drip…– In the middle of the room, hanging from the ceiling is what looks like a miniature jumbo-tron — four televisions, one on each side. It is playing what every television plays in the Nexus — Blood.Stream — but we just call it BS for short. BS airs nothing but live or recorded Barge Fights sparing the viewer none of the graphical gore and prides itself in sacrificing media reporters for the very best of action. — And what is playing on BS right now is not just any Barge Fight — it is MY Barge Fight!

I watch myself on the television as I am fighting a giant Helot and we are lunging and dodging — I grimace as I know this part — I know what comes next. — drip — A foreign telepathic command combined with my desire to please the crowd inspire me to make a sacrifice. I watch on the screen as I  skillfully lunge my right arm out far, just grazing its left uppermost appendage. I purposefully stay outstretched just a little too long — knowing it won’t be able to resist the temptation of an easy strike — it uses its lower right appendage to slice my right arm off — in doing so, leaving its midsection — cough — its sexual organ — open for a fraction of a second. — I quickly uppercut with my left arm right into its meaty flesh driving my blade through its testicles directly up through its torso almost three feet deep — impaling it like some over sized Helot corndog. The giant Helot’s scream was only overshadowed by the roars from the stands as the massive barge began to rumble from the decibels. Last thing I remember is feeling completely fulfilled from the approval of the crowd just before its enormous body goes limp and comes slamming down on top of me rendering me unconscious. — The room I am now in explodes in yells of victory as the other Helots — all in differing states of disrepair — scream in blood lust and cheer at the creativity of the kill. — drip…Drip…DRIP!

Full of adrenaline from watching the kill and enraged at the incessant dripping — I jerk my body back and forth and the bed starts to slide across the floor with each movement. I manage to slide it just far enough to escape the dripping when I see horrid figures out of the corner of my eyes — figures I am all too familiar with. All the sudden my brain is filled with thoughts — thoughts that aren’t mine — commands that I must obey. “Rest. Relax. All is calm. You feel nothing.” — Instantly, I am in some sort of trance as I watch these beings approach me carrying what looks to be an arm. But this is no ordinary replacement arm, no– this arm is almost twice as muscular as mine and is plated with spikes and protruding daggers out of the knuckles. — Oh yes! I am getting an upgrade!

 

Here is a dramatic reading of the story: 

 

 

Tales from the Nexus: How I made it in the Nexus

When I arrived at the Nexus a little over a year ago with my meager life savings, I followed the advice of those before me. I was told to become a Lanista, hire the Gnoems to grow me some fighter Helots, and to become rich and famous in the arenas on the Barges — sounds easy right? — Hah! Not for me. I have never had the best of luck, but in the Nexus I learned quickly it’s not luck one needs — it’s money, and lots of it. You see, it’s not just having enough money to get things done — no, no — it’s having enough money for when everything goes wrong and you have to start over again — and again…

Everyone has heard of the famous Lanistas and their legendary Helots who dominated the Barge Fights, took down all opponents, and even survived bouts against the dreaded Barge Beasts. But for every one story of those that make it, there are thousands of others — like me — who don’t do so well and have to figure out how to survive here — bankrupt, disenfranchised, disillusioned — the Nexus is an unforgiving place. But alas, I am getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you how things REALLY happen in the Nexus for most of those who come here looking for fame and fortune. This is my story — and many others share it.

Being of high moral values and one who always tries to follow the rules, I started where one is supposed to start — if you want to become a Lanista and buy Helots to fight for you, surely you would start at the beings that genetically create the Helots, right? So, I went to the Gnoems — hideous beings — they just looked at me and told me telepathically, “must get papers from the INC.” — What the fuck is the INC?? — Well, let me tell you. The INC stands for the Inter-dimensional Nexus Commission. Think of the INC as the bureaucrats and regulators of the Nexus. Nothing — supposedly — gets done without their approval. Ever had to go to the DMV to get your drivers license renewed? Well — trust me — you’d rather go to the DMV every day than to have to deal with the INC just one time — incompetence, red-tape, lethargic — holy shit I never thought regulation could be this painful.

So, I wait in a line that literally last for days — camping out in the waiting room — living off vending machine food — only to get to my turn and be told I am in the wrong line and I need to get in the line twenty feet over to my left which was twice as long.  — Yea, I told you this was bullshit. Oh, but it doesn’t stop there — Finally getting through that line after almost a week — yes, these are literal times — my paperwork is stamped and I am sent back to the first line. This incessant waiting keeps going on, seemingly endless line after line, stamp after stamp, fee after fee — and the next thing I know three months have gone by and I still haven’t left the INC offices. Finally, I pay my final fee and get my final stamp and I’m told, “Do you want to pay for expedited approval? Fourteen day response time guaranteed.”– Fuck yea I want the fast response! At this point it is costing me a fortune in just vending machine food! –I swear the INC makes a shit-ton of money off those machines — it’s a racket I tell yea. I patiently wait and on the fourteenth day — what do ya know? — I get a response! The envelope is tattered and has a tear down one side that has been taped back together haphazardly. I open it and find a letter inside that reads, “Unfortunately your paperwork has been misplaced. Enclosed, you will find your refund for expedited approval. Please visit the INC to refile your application.” — DO FUCKING WHAT?! — Oh, and yea someone stole my fucking refund too — that is, if they ever included it to begin with.

Myke - Lord Beakington of Snozataria
Art by Michael Rechlin

After going through this exact process — multiple times — they “lose” my paperwork time and time again — I look back and realize that over nine months has passed and I am still not making an income. Living on my reserves — eating vending machine food — I can see my savings going down faster than a date on prom-night. I am starting to figure out that going to the INC and doing things “the right way” — is apparently the wrong way to get things done in the Nexus. My virtuous values are hindering my ability to succeed as a Lanista. There has to be a better way — and I don’t give a fuck who I have to step on to get it done — I’m getting desperately low on savings — I need to make some quick cash just to stay afloat. One thing I have learned, is that the INC doesn’t know their head from their ass — the workers in the windows steal most the money that is given as fees and only pass along part of it to the INC — they are a totally fucked up, unorganized mess — but, as crazy as it might sound — I’m going back in again.

I purposefully start waiting in the wrong line — the one closest to the vending machine and the wall. It’s late at night on the fourth night — I think — it’s easy to lose track of time  here under the florescent lights — most people are sleeping, including some of the INC workers at their windows. I am patiently leaning on the side of the vending machine — the smell of body odor and mold are horrendous — the sound of buzzing lights overhead and the occasional cough or sniffle is about all that is going on — and then it happens. The worker at my window gets up for shift change — this is my chance. I quickly slide around the railing and sit down at the desk — I grab the stamping tool and hold it in my hand as the replacement worker slowly walks up to me. I ignore them at first — and they say, “hey, uh, man…was I not on the schedule tonight?”– “I guess not. You can have my shift if you want,” I answer — and the motherfucker turns around, chuckles, and walks away.

I click the “Next Button” and the person waiting in line — after rubbing their eyes from being half-asleep — comes up and hands me their paperwork. Looks like everything is in order to me — I collect their fee, stamp their paper, and send them on to the next line. I pocket most of the cash and put the rest in the drawer for the INC so no one will come looking for money. I find the schedule on the computer — enter my name in for the next night — and every night after for the next six months. It’s not exactly the fame and fortune I was told about — but I’m not going to starve — Oh yea, and I found the keys to the vending machine in the drawer — cha-ching!!!

 

 

Blood.Stream: Craziest Barge Fights Part 1

Hello! Thank you for tuning in to Blood.Stream! The only network that brings you the best Barge Fights 24 hours a day anywhere in the D-Verse. On today’s episode, we will be showing you clips from the craziest Barge Fights in history! Hold on to your seats, it’s gonna get crazy around here!

First up, we have a non-sanctioned barge fight with two rookie Lanistas at the helm controlling their Helot fighters for the first time. Rumor has it, these two arrived in the Nexus on the same day, minced some words, and have had it out for each other ever since. Here, we can see them in the Lanista chariot above the arena. It looks like they are exchanging some words. The announcers are doing the pre-fight introductions, the Helot fighters are being raised to the arena level. The match will start any minute now.

The starting bell rings and both Helots are looking up at their Lanistas, awaiting commands. But it looks like the two Lanistas are more interested in yelling at each other than giving commands to their Helots. This argument is really getting heated! The crowd is starting to yell and boo — throwing things in the arena — they came here for action! One Lanista gets right in the face of the other one — and then it happens. He gets pushed backwards by the other Lanista! His back against the railing he charges forward and punches his opponent in the head. Back and forth, the two Lanistas are exchanging blows as their Helots — down on the arena below watch their masters fight each other. The crowd seems curiously satisfied with the two Lanistas fighting, now blood running from their faces — but this crowd’s thirst for blood isn’t going to be quenched that easily.

The two Lanistas fight for several minutes. As they begin to tire out the crowd gets restless again and starts booing them and throwing bottles — one of which catches one Lanista in the side of the head — knocking him dizzy for a moment. The other Lanista sees his chance and charges him with the remainder of his strength — he pushes him so hard he flies over the railing — the crowd erupts in cheers as the standing Lanista looks down and sees his rival has landed in a bed of spikes — designed for Helot fighters, the bed of spikes has made short work of this tiny Lanista — with one spike driven right through his left eye — blood is dripping down off the spikes and pooling on the arena floor. The two Helots have sat down and begun to eat things they have found thrown into the arena. The announcers come on the airways and declare the remaining Lanista the winner and now the proud owner of an extra Helot. Let’s hear it for the rookie Lanista! He has won his first match!!

Now for a word from our sponsors —

This fight was brought to you by Monopo-Fuel! For all your fueling needs. “You are the only fueling station in the Nexus. Why are you making commercials?” You might ask — well, we make so much money, I get to spend it on anything I want, including watching myself on TV! Shout out to my Assistant – yo! bring me back some beer — and remember Monopo-Fuel, if you don’t buy fuel from us, you ain’t getting it!

And back to our program.

That’s right and welcome back to Blood.Stream: Craziest Barge Fights! That first clip was crazy indeed, but we have more coming for you tonight ladies and gentlemen so grab a drink and a bowl of your favorite snacks, it’s going to be a wild night!

Next up is a crazy Barge Fight between the crowd favorite Lanista “G” with his Zealot-motivated Helot versus some other no name idiot with his Supremacist-motivated Helot. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a crowd this ravenous over a Lanista. The bleachers are filled with pennants with G’s on them, shirts, hats, cups, everything you can imagine is branded with the legendary G insignia. The announcers make their introductions and you can hear the crowd yell “Geeeeeeeeeeeee!” from two barges over! Their excitement is at an eleven!!! The Helot fighters are raised to the arena and the fight begins.

Lanista G jumps out to an early attack, hitting the Supremacist with a wild dagger throw cutting his left arm — then he charges the Supremacist but stops short to mock him making a frowning face and pointing at his arm. The crowd explodes in laughter “Geeeeee!” Oh boy, while the crowd loves nothing more than a good taunt, the Supremacist is enraged by it!! Look at him roar back!! The Supremacist lunges at G’s Helot, tackling him to the ground. He is striking him furiously. There is nothing he can do!! The blood is flowing out of G’s Helot, this could be the end for him!! The crowd is roaring boos and throwing things in the arena. They are really upset their favorite Helot is losing! G’s Helot looks to be losing consciousness being repeatedly struck in the head by the large fists of the Supremacist — then, the unthinkable happens.

As the crowd favorite, Lanista G’s Helot lay on the ground, getting beaten to a pulp — suddenly a few of the crowd jumps over the railing and starts charging the Supremacist. As others see them jumping rails, they too are inspired to join. Next thing you know, hundreds of fans are down in the pit of the arena charging after the Helot. The Supremacist swings wildly knocking back fans three or four at a time. It’s pandemonium in here! This is a first as far as I know! A few wild fans jump on the back of the Helot and he is now ripping them off and throwing them, some landing into the floor saws on the barge — cutting them instantly into bits of mush. More and more fans are piling onto the Helot as he is biting and clawing them, splitting their bodies open — but they just won’t stop coming! The frenzied crowd overpowers the Helot and pins him to the ground. I can’t believe what I’m seeing!!

The hundreds of crazed fans stab, claw, and bite at the trapped Supremacist Helot — his roars turn into screams as he knows there is nothing anyone can do for him. The fans are covered in the blood of their victim as he breathes his last breath. The fans erupt in a loud cheer “Geeeeeeee!” as they run over to their favorite Helot and hoist him up on their shoulders. He’s alive!!! Lanista G, the crowd favorite — wow! — Somehow, some way, he…YES, it’s official — G Wins!!!!! Now THAT is a loyal fan base ladies and gentleman!

Now for another word from our sponsors.

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And back to our program.

Yes! And welcome back to Blood.Stream Craziest Barge Fights! I told you tonight was going to be a night to remember! Don’t touch that dial! — Not that there are any other channels in the Nexus! — There is still more to come in tonight’s special episode of Blood.Stream Craziest Barge Fights!

Here we have a classic Barge Fight from way back. I bet your parents told you about this story. Well, tonight we have it for you ladies and gentlemen. Forgive the quality, it’s a bit grainy given the age of this clip. I promise you, it’s worth it! This Barge Fight takes place on the old style barges. Back then, the entire arena floor would raise up from the bottom with the Helots on it — not like now where just a tiny section is raised. Here you can see the Lanistas on their perch. The two Helots can be seen way down at the bottom of the barge waiting to be lifted up. Announcements are made and the Lanistas take their bows to the crowd. The signal is given to the Barge Captain to raise the floor — but nothing is happening.

The announcers give the signal again to the Barge Captain to no avail. They call out to him laughingly, “You sleeping up there Cap?” they say. Still no answer. Suddenly, the walls start quickly closing in on the barge floor — they used to have compactors built into the floors for faster clean up back in those days. The Helots are jumping up the sides of the walls, clawing trying to get out. They jump as high as they can and slide back down to the floor — being pushed to the center. The crowd is cheering. They can’t believe what they are seeing! The Lanistas watch in horror, helpless as their Helots get squished tighter and tighter until — pop! The two Helots explode like giant zits. Blood, guts, and brain matter spray over the top of the compactor. The two Lanistas are screaming towards the Barge Captain’s quarters — infuriated that their expensive Helot’s lives have been wasted and they made no money off of it. Someone goes to check on the Captain — then the internal lights come on in the Captains quarters.

Fully illuminated and on the big screen, we can see the Captain’s back. He’s sitting on the control board! Then a female pops up from between his legs and wipes her mouth. The Captain, now noticing he’s on the big screen, quickly turns around sheepishly and pulls up his pants. He runs and turns the lights off as the crowd erupts in laughter and cheers. The two Lanistas raising their fists at the embarrassed Captain — they cuss him for a minute but then — not able to hold it in any longer bust out in laughter themselves at the absurdity of what has just happened. Now THAT is one for the books ladies and gentleman!

Thank you for tuning in to the first episode of Blood.Stream Craziest Barge Fights! I told you that you wouldn’t want to miss this one! If you liked this episode, don’t worry! Part 2 of Blood.Stream Craziest Barge fights will be airing next week! Tune in and see the hilarious carnage of the most insane Barge Fights ever recorded!

Whew– I’m glad that’s over. That last one was funny as fuck! Makes me want to go get a blowjob myself hahah! What? Wait — the microphone is still on? Shit.. *ruffle…click*

 

 

 

Tales from the Nexus: Lion King Lanista

I don’t think anyone will tell you that being a Lanista and leading Helots in Barge Fights is easy — but because of a little surprise I got right when I first arrived at the Nexus — being a Lanista is extra hard for me Sweety. You see, when I first arrived I was excited — like most people are — and went out for a night on the town. Drinking, dancing, laughing, living life like there was no tomorrow. — I met so many great people that first night –in fact, I woke up with two of them in the bed next to me — I wish I could remember their names — but sa la vie! Well, wouldn’t ya know — a few months later — after some nice success in the Barge Fights, I found out I was pregnant. The Nexus certainly is no place for a baby — or anyone that is pregnant for that matter — but I was just having so much success as a Lanista, there was no way I was going home now. Here it is, over eight months later and I am about to start my biggest Barge Fight to date — I am certainly the underdog here and the timing couldn’t be worse — but this is my chance to make a break through in my career!

So, here I am again — perched above the arena in my Lanista chariot — waiting for the announcers to finish with their dribble so my Helot can get to fighting –“Snappie” I call it — I know you are not supposed to name your Helots, but I just couldn’t help myself after I saw Snappie for the first time — little cutie-pie it is. The announcers finally seem to be wrapping up their opening introductions and I see two small sections of the arena floor open. Down below is my Snappie and its opponent — some weird little Helot with what looks like 100 little bags of — well, everything all over it. Seems like it hasn’t thrown away anything its ever come across. I know this Helot’s Lanista — almost everyone does — they have acquired a nice winning streak with this little Helot and probably has a lot of tricks up their sleeve — I know Snappie has its work cut out for it today. I hear the sound of metal gears and I see the platform on the bottom of the barge start to raise as Snappie and Back-pack-boy — that’s what I’m calling my opponent’s Helot — arrive at the arena’s surface. The crowd is cheering and chanting my opponent’s name. I can feel my baby jump in my belly at the sudden sounds and a cramp of pain runs through my stomach and lower back. I calm myself — and after doing a few deep breaths, I connect with Snappie telepathically — my Helot looks up at me with a focused glare and nods. My cutie-pie is all ready to go! Let’s get this started!

Back-pack-boy jumps out fast — and in an almost sliding motion runs to his left behind a tall-slender pillar. Snappie runs to the right giving him a diagonal shot on Back-pack-boy — he lifts his arm and flings a dagger wildly — it clangs off Back-pack-boys shoulder. I see a flash of movement and a small sphere lands on the ground about five feet from Snappie — a bright light and a loud boom! — Snappie is thrown backwards and is now lying on the ground dazed. I feel another sharp pain in my stomach that radiates towards my back — I grimace from the pain. Suddenly Snappie’s head turns towards me and his eyes get wide. He jumps up off the ground and his eyes are clearly fixed on Back-pack-boy. Snappie dives towards him and his claws slash the small Helot’s back — tearing off several layers of bags — devices, weapons, and all types of debris fall to the arena floor. Back-pack-boy seems to be digging around for something — seemingly not able to find it — then, with a flash of light that seems to blind my Helot temporarily — the tiny Helot leaps on top of Snappie and starts unleashing a flurry of slashes against his chest, arms, waist, and legs. Clearly hurt, Snappie is on his back in a defensive posture. Back-pack-boy is continuing to slash at Snappie as blood is pooling up around his body — he’s able to block some blows but a lot are landing. — Oh the pain is coming again — I feel as I am going to pass out from the waves of sharp sensations radiating from my stomach through to my back. What is wrong with me? Am I sick? — Then it hits me — Oh hell — I am going into labor!

Every contraction seems to get more painful and closer together. I’m thinking this is going to be the end of my time — and poor Snappie — in the Nexus. Then I notice something interesting. Every contraction seems to invigorate Snappie somehow. The stronger the contraction, the more fierce Snappie seems to become. Another hard contraction hits and I scream in agony — Snappie forcefully pushes his opponent off of him and he falls backwards. Oh my god — this baby is coming now! I’m sitting in the Lanista chariot now with my legs up starting to push — the pain is unbearable. I can see down below — Snappie seems to be feeding off my pain — he is now completely focused on the tiny Helot in front of him. The baby’s head is crowning — ripping my flesh. Now dripping in his own blood, Snappie — in one swift motion, jumps with both hands high in the air — landing with both claws outstretched — they both hit their mark digging deep into the chest of Back-pack-boy. Now, screaming, the baby’s shoulders are coming out as I am slowly pulling the baby with my bloody hands. Snappie’s claws are inside the chest of the Helot and are pulling as well. The baby finally comes all the way out and I look down just in time to see Snappie ripping the heart out of the chest of Back-pack-boy. Holding my baby up, cord still attached — blood and afterbirth still dripping — I show it to the crowd. At the same time I see Snappie lift the still-beating heart up in the same, proud way. Here were are — connected by the satisfaction of everything the pain has brought us. The crowd erupts in cheers — and now they are chanting MY name — the announcers come over the air stuttering and stammering  — not sure how to narrate what has just taken place. I look down at my blood-soaked Helot proudly and — still connected telepathically — say “Well done Snappie. We did it Cutie-pie.”

Tales from the Nexus: The Bio-matter Hustle

I’ve been out of work for about four months after being “let go” at the ship valet service. How was I supposed to know that button labeled “PB”  wasn’t a parking-brake but a “Plenum Blade” — which apparently is a version of a warp drive? Needless to say, smashing through a parking lot of ships at warp speed, leaves quite the mess — and they of course blamed me — not the ship’s manufacturer like they should’ve for all the damage. Anyways, I’ve been out of work for a bit and I finally picked up a new job cleaning up the arena after Barge Fights. It is a nasty and smelly job, but the barge pays you — then they tell me, you get to take whatever weapons you find — sell them at D Mart — then whatever bio-matter you can scoop up from what’s left of the dead Helots — they say, you can sell back to the Gnoems. It’s not a way to get rich, but honestly — if you can stand the stench and ick — supposedly you can make a decent living off it.

Danny - Spleen TeamMy first week on the job was pretty horrible. There was a double-header Barge Fight three nights before and I guess there was no one to clean up the mess. So it sat there — exposed in the open for three days, just rotting away and liquefying. I was puking my guts out and just trying to breathe out of my mouth — but it didn’t help much. Even the guys who had been around for a while couldn’t help but gag at the smell. It took us four days of mopping and scooping to get to the point that you could even see the bottom of the arena. I personally only scooped up six barrels of bio-matter and only managed a couple of daggers and a weapon belt. The other guys fared much better — I guess with experience you figure out what things are the most valuable and pick them up first. I was too busy just trying not to vomit to even think about it much. My troubles didn’t stop at the disgusting mess I had to clean up, but also when I went to sell off my haul of weapons and bio-matter.

First, I headed to D Mart — the place where all the vendors sell weapons to the Lanistas. I show off my daggers and weapon belt and was quickly told to fuck off by everyone I ran across. I thought this was going to be easy — apparently not.  After about two hours of walking around and getting called a dumb-ass, I decided to go to the bar and pour back a cold one. I’m sitting there drinking a beer and the guy next to me wrinkles his nose — I guess I still had the stench of the arena on me after I showered like five times. He leans over and says, “let me guess, clean up squad?” “Yea, first week on the job.” I answer, “I’m having problems selling these weapons I got to the D Mart vendors.” The guy bursts out in laughter. He says, “You are trying to sell used weapons back to the guys that sell new weapons? You are a special kind of dumb-ass.” Yay! Another person calling me a dumb-ass today! He goes on to explain to me that if I want to sell used weapons, there are guys that buy them, but they do so at a deeply discounted price — of course. He said he would be willing to introduce me to them if I bought his drinks the rest of the night — to which I agreed. Eventually, I would meet the right buyer and sell my daggers and weapon belt for a lot less than I originally thought they would go for — but I guess everyone needs to make a profit. That wasn’t the end of my headache though. I still had the bio-matter to sell back to the Gnoems.

I rent a hover-dolly and drag my six barrels of bio-matter all the way up to one of the Gnoem production areas. One of them glances up at me and slithers over — I shiver every time I see these guys. I tell him I have bio-matter to sell to him and then I have a weird feeling in my head — “I’ll take all your bio-matter” — the thought suddenly pops in my head. I hate it when they use that telepathy crap — it just feels creepy! I push the hover-dolly over to the area with all the other barrels and turn around and he is slithering away. “Uh, sir? What about my payment?” I ask. He turns back around to me and in my head I hear — “You have money to live on. You do not currently need money. You may leave now or you may join the other bio-matter in the barrels.” — What the fuck!? Somehow he knows I have some money and since I don’t “need” more money, he doesn’t pay me?? Damn-it I worked hard for those barrels of slop! I better get the fuck outta here — I think he was serious about wanting my bio-matter. Leaving with my tail between my legs — I figure there has to be a way to do this — back to the bar I go.

Here I am, a week later and back at the cheapest bar in the Nexus — it is less of a bar and more of a long square hole cut in the side of the barge with bar stools lined up next to it right in an alleyway.  People are walking by — Blood.Stream is on the television showing some Barge Fight — I can’t even watch it without remembering the messes I’ve been cleaning up the last couple weeks. I can still almost smell it — wait.. I CAN smell it! I look at the guy to the right of me and ask “Cleanup crew?” He nods — holy shit, now I know what I smell like — gross. I’m drinking my beer and this odd looking creature walks up to me — he smells worse than the guy next to me — “C-cc-can you buy me a drink and possibly a bite to eat?” he says to me. “Get the fuck outta here! Can’t you see I’m having a drink!? You broke, begging fuck!” I yell. — he turns and slowly starts to walk away. I angrily take a swig of my beer –then it hits me. This poor homeless bastard might actually be of some use to me.

“Hey! Hey you! Come here, I got a little job for ya,” I tell him. He comes jogging back over to me happily. I buy him a beer and have him sit next to me. I reveal my plan to him — which I have to repeat several times — no wonder this dude is homeless — he’s an idiot! After about thirty minutes of explaining, he can finally repeat the plan back to me — and I send him off. About an hour goes by and he comes jogging back around the corner with big smiles on his face. “I d-dd-did it!” he stutters. “Oh my god, I can’t believe that worked!” I exclaim. — He hands me a wad of cash and I strip off a little of it and hand it back over to him. “Good job. Go tell a couple of your friends to meet me here every Friday and I’ll give you a part of their cut,” I tell him. Proud of myself — I lean back in my chair and take another swig of beer — I savor it and feel the bubbles pop on my tongue. Maybe the Gnoems aren’t so smart after all — and maybe those fucks at the ship valet service and the D Mart were wrong about me. I’m no dumb-fuck after all.

You see, I figured out that if the Gnoems can read minds and can tell if you “need” the money — why not hire a broke person to sell bio-matter to them? You pay them on the back end so they have no money to their broke-ass name at the time — and the Gnoems pay them top dollar. I give them a small cut — enough for them to live on for about a week — and I meet them the following week to do it all over again. The poor bastards can eat — and I get some extra coin in my pocket. I even worked out a deal with my coworkers where I buy their bio-matter from them and then have my broke-crew sell it at top dollar for me. Fuck the ship valet parking service and their parking-brake bullshit! I am bringing in some good money now! At this rate, in a couple turds, I’ll be a Lanista!

 

Unification through Absorption

Long, long ago, before the Gnoems were a single hive-brain, they were comprised of smaller groups — the individuals in these small clusters each shared their brains with other members within the group. The Gnoems as a species are very curious beings, always on the search for knowledge. The diversity the different groups brought allowed them to make many different discoveries in all sorts of sciences. Some groups were more drawn to astral studies, while others were drawn to other disciplines like medicine, or element manipulation. Over generations, some groups started merging with other groups — some through choice and some through force — as the greater the number of minds in a group can easily overpower a smaller group and take over. Forced takeovers were not allowed unless a case could be made that the smaller group’s work was deemed uninteresting or if their science was considered complete. These cases had to go in front of a committee that met once a year — it was comprised of at least one member of every group and had to be an unanimous decision. This practice went on for generations but would eventually have unforeseen consequences.

Over time, the committee got smaller and smaller as groups were taken over by other groups — this continued until there were only two main groups left. The first hive-group, nicknamed the “F Group” specialized in the “softer” sciences — they consumed groups that had expertise in things like psychology, communication, theology, philosophy, and persuasion. This group found success because it could easily make a case against pretty much any other group and quickly became dominant in the realm. But they were not without competition.

The second, and smaller group, nicknamed the “M Group” specialized in the “hard” sciences. They concentrated on absorbing groups that specialized in genetics, biology, mathematics, chemistry, physics, and telepathy. That last specialty was the subject of contention between the two groups. The last group to be absorbed by the M Group had picked it up as a hard science — the F Group classified it as a soft science but allowed it because they figured telepathy would not be useful once the inevitable happened and they would merge to become one large hive-brain — something the M Group was determined to not allow. They liked being different from the F Group and felt the two different teams could concentrate on their respective specialties better if they remained separated. And that is where our story begins.

Since the F Group and M Group are the only two left on the committee, one would have to willingly be absorbed by the other according to Gnoem law. F Group, being an expert in persuasion has repeatedly been trying to convince the M Group to allow their absorption — but their efforts have been unfruitful for years and they cannot understand why. The little trick that M Group has that F Group doesn’t know about is advanced telepathy — this not only allows the M Group to communicate with other beings without talking, but it allows them to read their minds. The M Group is always one step ahead and knows the techniques of persuasion the F Group is trying to pull and never falls for it. This little game goes on every year at the committee meeting as both group’s aggravation towards one another steadily increases. The M Group is tired of  F Group’s attempts to manipulate them into absorption and the F Group is frustrated that their best attempts are failing — delaying the unification of the species. The tension continues to mount until the F Group decides to play outside the rules.

The F Group decides they have been patient enough and being the dominant group, they will forcefully absorb the M Group once and for all. They will do this at the next committee meeting next month. What they don’t know is that the M Group has read the hive-mind of the F Group and knows what they are planning. If the M Group wants to survive, it’s going to have to come up with something creative to stop it. For the next several weeks, the M Group spends every moment in the lab, feverishly working away to try to come up with a solution to the coming absorption. They try using quantum mechanics to try to tie up their neurons so they can’t be absorbed — but that turns out to be a total waste of time. Then they try psycho-neural-plasticity in an attempt to rewire their brain as to not be able to be absorbed — that too turned out to be a dead end. They finally deduced the answer must come somewhere out of biology — something they haven’t practiced in so long they now consider it old science.

The M Group comes up with a 2-tiered plan to prevent the absorption by F Group. First, they will create an airborne virus that weakens the mind of F Group. This will negate their position as the dominate hive-mind and inhibit a hostile takeover. Second, they will inject themselves with modified DNA that will make their hive-mind stronger, giving them the net advantage over the F Group. With the meeting coming in just a few days, the M Group doesn’t have any time for testing. They are going to have to run with it live — being creatures with millennia of hard science behind them, they trust in their abilities and start executing on the plans for the committee meeting. The M Group has another bit of knowledge that will come in very handy for their plan.

The M Group knows that the F Group all house together — they do this because of their background in Communication sciences — this proximity ensures a tight bond of the hive-mind. The M Group uses this to their advantage. They put the virus delivery system on a timer the night before set to go off early in the morning hours — before they awake on the day of the committee meeting. The M Group will also inject themselves with the DNA modifier about the same time since they designed it to give a big spike in the strength of their hive-mind powers for the first several hours after injection — this will give them the biggest chance at countering the F Group’s attacks. The M Group haven’t slept in almost two weeks having been working non-stop to get everything done in time for the committee meeting. Everything is finally in place — they will sleep tonight and wake up early. After tomorrow, nothing will be the same again.

Early in the morning the alarm clock sounds and the M Group awakens. It is time. They gather in the main hall and form a line — their numbers are in the thousands even as the smaller of the two groups. One by one they receive their injection of the DNA modifier. It doesn’t take very long before they realize something is wrong. Is it possible — the M Group thinks to itself — that we made a mistake derived from the combination of  sleep-deprivation and practicing a science that hasn’t been performed in hundreds of years? Their bodies seem to be changing as some unforeseen reaction is taking place from the DNA modifiers.

The M Group hive-brain starts to go into a panic as multiple changes start happening to their bodies. Their heads start to swell until it is over twice its normal size. Blisters start forming on their skin and face. Their noses shrink until its just a bump on their large heads. Within minutes the entire group of thousands is completely deformed — their bodies have mutated so much they are entirely unrecognizable. They no longer look like Gnoems — the M Group knows that there is nothing they can do about it. Their DNA might be changed forever. But body mutations are not the only change that has taken place in the M Group.

One thing did go right when they made the DNA modifiers — their hive-brain is much much stronger than before. They also notice their abilities are stronger — the ability to compute advanced mathematics, understand patterns in astral physics, and their understanding of the universe as a whole are all much more clear now. They can now understand their errors when developing the DNA modifiers and the —- wait, the virus was wrong too, the M Group now realizes. All the sudden, the M Group begins to pick up something in their mind — it’s coming from their increased telepathic ability. They can hear — can feel — tens of thousands of their fellow Gnoems from the F Group in pain. The M Group as a whole run to the F Group housing as fast as they can.

Upon arrival at the F Group housing center, everything seems quiet from the outside — but their telepathy is picking up a horror on the inside. They enter the building and see thousands upon thousands of F Group Gnoems dead on the ground. The few left were barely alive — the M Group approaches but knows it is too late. One of the F Group looks up at the M Group member and is in complete horror at sight of the physical mutation now standing before him. He manages to let out a few words as he lay there dying. “You have killed us all. Our hive-brain, once merged would have dominated all of the universes. Now, our sciences die with us and you have doomed our species forever,” the F Group member says as the last bit of life leaves his body.

All of the “soft” sciences were now gone from the lexicon of the Gnoem species. Theology, philosophy, psychology, communication, empathy, — all the things that help a species fit in to the universe socially — are now gone forever. The M Group is deformed and will spend part of it’s time over the next thousand years, attempting to reverse some of that deformity, but they will never be the same again. The Gnoems from that point forward go on the best they can — continuing to master the hard sciences at an incredible pace — especially without the obstacles of  ethics or morality in their way. The M Group might have protected itself from absorption, but paid the most valuable price in the eyes of the Gnoems — they paid the price of knowledge that they will never be able to get back.

Hand-me-down, Push-me-down Barge

My dad left the house when I was young but I still grew up a pretty good kid even without him around. I had a few great friends, school was going well, and I had an ACT score in the top 5%.  After high school, my father contacts me and asks me to come join him in the Nexus — he owns a barge there and seems to be doing really well. Since I really didn’t have a lot of options lined up at the time — and a little adventure sounded like fun — I went to work for him on his barge. I was young and excited to be working on a big barge in the Nexus — especially since I would be learning from my dad  — a guy who seems bigger than life. So, I gather my belongings and move to the Nexus — and instead of working next to my dad, he puts to me work with the cleaning crew. And not the crew that cleans the arena and gets good pay, he put me to work in the janitorial department, cleaning the bleachers — picking up all the crap the crowd left after the Barge Fights. I figure he doesn’t want to play favoritism and wants me to learn everything from the ground up — so I put in my time and do the best job I can.

Several years go by and I am still on the janitorial crew — I haven’t gotten to work with my dad at all although we party together at all the company functions. Over the years, I have learned everything there is to learn about the job and I am now in charge of everything janitorial. I hire the new guys, I fire the lazy assholes, I do the ordering, I am in charge of getting rid of the waste — it’s a shitty job, but I am owning this thing — I made improvements in processes which allowed us to shave off half the crew and still get the job done in the same amount of time. I meet with my dad to have my yearly review — I tell him about all the accomplishments and how the janitorial team is running better than ever with less people. My dad responds, “Yea, that’s your job. We’ll talk about things again next year.” — ok, that was a little less appreciative than I was expecting. Maybe things will get better as I continue to prove myself to him. I hear a guy in the maintenance department is retiring soon — maybe I can try my hand at that.

Fast forward six years, I’m in my late 20’s and I am now in charge of the maintenance department. When I first started, I didn’t know the difference between and wrench and a screwdriver. Over the last several years, I have mastered every system on the barge. I can fix anything from electrical, to the engines and warp drives, all the way to the arena floor saws — they always seem to get jammed with the bones of poor Helots that get in their way. Since I started here, I have implemented proactive maintenance programs that take care of systems before they break — this means we spend less time and money fixing things and need less staff to keep the barge running in better shape than ever. It’s not really what I had pictured I would be doing with my life, but I do feel good making a difference around here. Still not working with my dad, but man we throw down at all our company events! — he even put me in charge of running most of them and everyone has a great time. Whenever I try to talk to him about work, he pretty much blows me off unless there is a problem in my area — in which case, it’s less like talking and more like being yelled at and called a dumb-ass. I’m pretty sure he is proud of me though — how could he not be? There is an operations management position coming up — I know enough about pretty much everything — I’m going to put my name in the hat.

I have been the Operations Manager for about eight years now. Things are running incredibly smooth all across the barge — it took a lot of work. I laid off about 60% of the entire crew after writing SOP’s that improved efficiencies in every department. I have this barge running lean and mean. Now, we host less Barge Fights per month — limiting our risk of getting raided by the INC — but we make more profit overall because of less overhead and the renegotiated Barge Fight contracts I got pushed through a few years back. My dad is now retired and only comes on the barge a few times a year — I’ll never forget his words to me when he retired, he said, “with me gone, this barge will be shut down in 6 months.”  Always the supportive father figure. To be honest, when I first started working here, I never thought I would still be on this barge over 20 years later — I always kind of wanted to try my hand at being a Lanista — I think I would have been good at that, I’m too old now — but hey, at least I’m making a difference around here and the people I employ get to feed their families. I’m taking a vacation next week — going to go see my dad on his luxurious retirement ship.

My dad and I have a great time while I’m there. We party, get drunk, eat very well, and go watch some sanctioned Barge Fights together — those are the expensive ones where everything is top-notch. Boy are those sanctioned Barge Fights the way to go — personal waiters never let your glass get empty. Anything we want is sitting within arms reach. The seats are all reclining leather and the place smells way better than any of the barges I’ve ever been on. Anyways, afterwards we head back to his ship — we have a nice little talk where he says he is finally ready to turn over the barge completely to me — I can pay him every month until I get it paid off and I can run it like I want to. This thing will finally be all mine. I go home proud that my dad finally trusts me enough to sell the barge to me — and mean, why wouldn’t he? I’ve been killing it in every department all these years. I’ve been in great spirits running the barge ever since that meeting with my dad — I think I’ll call him up and see what we need to do to get the paperwork all rolling.

I call my dad all excited — the day is finally here — I’m going to own my own Barge. My dad answers and I tell him we should go ahead and get the paperwork together to sell the barge over to me. He responds, “why the FUCK would I ever sell the barge to you? What makes you think I would do that? Are you stupid?” — wow, that was not the response I was ready for. “No dad, I’m not stupid. Remember, we talked about this when I was over there on vacation a few weeks back?” I answer. “I don’t know who the fuck you think you are! That’s MY barge and will always be MY barge you little shit!” he fires back at me. — No, he’s not psychotic, that’s his way of changing his mind. A huge lump forms in my throat — my dreams destroyed — “ok, ok. Forget I ever brought it up.” I tell him. He hangs up in my face as tears roll down my cheek. I can’t take this anymore.  I have stayed up for days in a row working on this barge, making sure everything is perfect. I have expanded my skill-sets to ensure I know everything there is to know about this vessle — I have given my entire adult life to this barge….to HIM! I gave up my future for THIS!? But my dad isn’t done with me yet. No, he doesn’t stop there. I’m not completely pushed down.

A few days later, I get an email from him. Basically, telling me the same type of stuff. “I am crazy if I ever thought he would sell me the barge. Why would I ever think I could own a barge like this?” — so on and so on. I am about to fucking snap…. I jump in my little cruiser and fly off around the corner — I just gotta get out of that barge for a minute. “FUCK THIS!” I scream to myself…”I’m calling this motherfucker right now!” — I dial the phone and he picks it up. “You didn’t take long to process my email.” He snarks. “You’re damn right. I didn’t even need to read it after the phone call. Here’s the deal…I’m out. You figure out whatever you are going to do with this barge — and you figure it out without me. I’m done.” I retort. “What do you mea–” “I’m DONE! What don’t you understand?” and I hang the phone up. — breathing hard and a tear in my eye, I sit there in the ship — staring off into the Nexus. Looking at all the barges tied together, there must be hundreds and hundreds of them. I think about what might have been. I know I am better than most at pretty much whatever I put my mind to. I think about how if I would have chosen to become a Lanista and how I know I would have been rich and famous beyond imagination by now. All those barges…I better hope that one of them is hiring — I’m pretty fucked right now, I have no clue what I’m going to do.

The next couple of days I go into work at the barge as normal. I haven’t heard anything from my dad — but if I know him, he’s going to be high-tailing it over here as soon as he can. His wrath is never one to go un-quenched. I’ve seen my dad in these situations many times before. He’ll come in, tell everyone they suck, and they are horrible at what they do, and that their lives have no meaning. He’ll demean me — again — and possibly throw stuff around the room. Then he’ll either tell me to get the fuck out or he’ll settle down and come to some sort of compromise — who am I kidding. Compromise? No, best case scenario is he’ll figure out a way to make me ask to keep my job and then allow me to do so. It will be any day now.

Here is the part where I tell you that everything worked out and there is some snappy-twist ending that just blows your mind. Well, I got news for ya. This is real fucking life in the Nexus –the snappy-twist ending is that hopefully I get to keep my job long enough to either formulate a strong Plan B to keep me afloat, or change my dad’s mind about selling me the barge one day — if past behaviors are the best predictors for future events, I’d say there is a Helot’s chance versus a Barge Beast against that happening. Either way, I meant what I said. I’m done — done with him being my boss and I’m done with the status-quo. Somethings gotta change. But I’ll be patient and play it smart the way I always have. I didn’t get to where I am by making rash decisions. As for now, I await the arrival of the one I have seen as my dad all these years who apparently never really saw me as a son.