Well, this one was fun! We didn't get as many entries as we did for some of the other contests, but the ones we did get were fun to read and ranged from bad to worse (which in this case is a compliment!) We had to pick one winner, though, and it's below. Look for the remaining entries to turn up on the Magespace in the next few weeks. Congratulations and thanks to all the entrants--your stories were awful...uh...great!
Pigpen's Day in the Sun
by Lonnie McDowell
Terror walked the night. Good and evil alike scuttled in fear, because Pigpen had come out to play. Although it was not widely known, Pigpen was the product of a super-secret government laboratory with unlimited funding but surprisingly poor security measures. When the time was right, Pigpen broke free from the foolish mortals that sought to hold him and remake him in their own images. Now, he hunted in the darkness, seeking to avenge himself on the creatures called humankind, stalking the streets like a hungry incubus, but with fewer tentacles.
Little Timmy Fuzzy Rabbit was playing in front of the apartment complex where he and his parents lived. His parents, Alpaca and Chinchilla, had been forced to move to the Barrens when they lost their jobs with Knight Errant for committing the ultimate crime: testifying against a fellow officer gone bad. Unfortunately, they failed to protect themselves from the underhanded machinations of the officer, and he planted evidence to make them look guilty instead. Now, still wanted by the police, they survive as soldiers of fortune and part time day-care providers, constantly allowing themselves to become involved in hair-raising vehicle chases and fight scenes involving inordinately large amounts of explosives. Their mercenary missions were also exciting. Their average day was like a good combat biker match, but noisier.
Timmy wasn't really their son, of course: he had been switched at birth by a careless nurse who was underpaid by the Corp's heath care cost containment system. By a freakish but in reality all-too-common coincidence, his real father was the crooked Knight Errant cop that had framed his ersatz parents. His real mother had actually been a shapeshifting lesser dragon, and Timmy had inherited a vast reservoir of power from her, but he was blissfully unaware of his inner powers, because he had not yet found the incredibly powerful but arcane magic implement that would allow him to unlock the power of the mystic power within. He spent his free time making incredibly complex sand diagrams for no apparent reason. He also brooded a lot. His moods swings were like a tropical storm sweeping through Atzatlan.
Generally Timmy's parents made him come inside after dark, but tonight, they had been kept late at the day care center, so they called Buffy, the helplessly dimwitted but shapely girl who lived next door, to babysit Timmy until they could get home. Buffy was pleased to do so, because some time ago Timmy's parents had used their still-active passwords to tap into the highly classified satellite monitoring system used by Knight Errant. Buffy had discovered that by "being really friendly and nice and stuff" to the sophisticated personal home monitoring computer system , she could change the satellite network feed, and she then had 637 vid channels to choose from, most of which were game shows. Of course she had no way of knowing that the computer system, which Timmy's parents had recovered after it had been "misplaced" in the evidence room at Knight Errant, was actually a sentient AI. The AI also seemed to like the game shows. Buffy was so busy trying to affect the outcome o! f the prerecorded show by using her (unfortunately non-existent) magical powers of telepathy that she completely forgot that Timmy was outside, unsupervised and left out like bait for the roving bands of ghouls that haunted the night.
From the shadows cast by the towering Aztecnology pyramid, a figure emerged. He didn't work for the Corp, he just did favors for some of the occupants - kind of an unofficial liaison between his corp and theirs, he figured. Never mind that he could lose his job with Knight Errant if he were caught. He caught a tube to a destination several miles away, and again disappeared into the shadows, this time into a dark alley. A high pitched wheeze stopped him. "You Stephen Cannell?" the wheezer asked. "Yes. You Pigpen?" "Uh-huh. You got the money?" came the wheeze. "Certified. Half now, half when Al and Chi-chi Fuzzy Rabbit are dead?" asked Cannell. "Umm, all right (wheeze)." "O.K. then. Here." He placed the credstick and an envelope with the necessary data on a pile of empty containers stacked against the wall of the alley. A shadow within a shadow moved in the adjacent doorway, and the credstick and envelope disappeared. Cannell backed away. "Meet me here two nig! hts from tonight with the rest of the money," the wheezed instruction drifted after him like a polluted haze on a high toxicity day.
Pigpen shook his head as he watched the Knight Errant cop-gone-bad walk away. Something about him was familiar, if only he could remember what it was... Oh well, he had work to do, people to kill. No time to sit around. He looked at the credstick; it had snapped in two when he accidentally squeezed it too hard while picking it up. He hated it when that happened. He launched into a gory flashback involving other things that he had broken in two, and then started making his way to the Barrens like a juggernaut plowing through the countryside.
Timmy's parents had just finished the paperwork that had kept them late and were on their way home when they were pulled over by a stiff-walking cop. "I know I haven't seen you in months since you quit working for Knight Errant, but I just wanted you to know, if you ever need anything, I'm willing to risk my job and help break the law to show my friendship to you." he said. "Thanks." said Alpaca. They drove away. The cop walked back to his motorcycle, tripped, and turned into a puddle of liquid mercury when he hit the ground, then reformed, looked around to make sure no one had seen anything, and rode away on the motorcycle like a very sedate combat biker.
Timmy was playing in his favorite place, an abandoned building with heavily padlocked doors and one unsecured ground level window so small that he could barely fit through it to get inside. The window was too small for squatters to get in, so Knight Errant ignored it; Timmy was the first person to go inside in years. The building was owned by the super-secret government agency, but due to a successful matrix run by a team of shadowrunners, the property had been removed from their master list of property, and the building had been locked up and abandoned by the sole surviving agent after the disastrous destruction of "project X" that the building had housed. The sole surviving agent had led the shadowrun team on the mission that erased all traces of "project X" at the same time they collected the funding that it would have received if it had been successful. He had spirited away, avoiding customs and border checks like a Zurich Orbital Zeppelin, and was now living like a ki! ng in Patagonia.
Timmy was excited because he had finally managed to open a door to a downward leading stairwell of the building; he had never been able to get past the first floor before. The door had been wedged/smashed in its frame by some incredibly powerful fist-shaped object that appeared to have struck it repeatedly, but Timmy had found a bottle of powerfully caustic acid lying around the lab and left it on the door the last time he came here, and it had eaten away all the portions of the door frame that had held the door shut. He pulled the door open and went in. The lack of light didn't bother him because he, like all his race, had low light vision. To him, it was easy to walk through the darkness of the lab, like an abrams lobster sensing its way along the murky bottom of a polluted harbor.
Pigpen had arrived at the house and killed Buffy in a suitably gory manner after lots of screaming, chasing, hiding and tripping that coincidentally disconnected the AI from its outgoing lines before it could call Knight Errant for help. Helpless, the AI had blinked the lights on and off to distract the fiendish creature and accelerated the morning timer to make toast and coffee in an effort to distract the fiendish creature, but to no avail. After thoroughly wrecking the inside of the home, Pigpen settled down to watch the game shows which were still playing on the vid screen, flickering steadily like a Maria Mercutio video in slow motion.
Timmy's parents had arrived home to find the house in utter disarray. Although they were both heavily armed, had years of High Threat Response Team training with Knight Errant, and knew from the wheezing that someone else was in the house, they were unable to react in time and Pigpen killed them both instantly. The AI, who had downloaded itself into the household medkit that came standard with all apartments in the Barrens, ran a scan and found that the only way to revive either of the parents was to get a wholesale organ harvest from a compatible donor. Unfortunately, the computer's database scans showed that the only known compatible donor had been killed by a massive disaster in a government laboratory several years ago, and all other information about the laboratory had been erased cleaner than a dicoated razor blade scraping a poly-teflon fluorimer surface.
Timmy lay slumped against a wall. He had found a glass case containing what looked like an old rattle, a small leather drum with a handle on the outside and beads or rocks inside. As soon as he had picked it up, it had burst into a fiery red glow that had lit up the entire room, revealing a horde of devil rats that had somehow gotten into the lab. With a clap of thunder, the rattle had stunned the rats into immobility, and Timmy had felt the rattle channeling power through him as a second thunderclap collapsed the ceiling on the devil rats. The last thing he remembered was running from the room. He realized he was looking up at the window he used to get in, and he started to climb out and go home, his ears still ringing as if he had been strafed by a lesser thunderbird.
In a fit of desperation to track the killer, the AI downloaded most of its essential systems into Pigpen's cyberware by broadcasting over a range of frequencies until it found the frequency that accessed Pigpen's cybernetic systems. Pigpen's designers had built the frequency receiver to communicate with him if his eyes and ears were disabled. Pigpen's massive exoskeletal cyberware was extensive enough to maintain the AI and still keep Pigpen's circuitry running, as long as Pigpen avoided complex thought, which he generally did. The governmental agency had designed him to act with simplistic apathy to avoid interference from any conscience or morality. Once downloaded, the AI evaluated the cybernetic systems that monitored and regulated Pigpen's body and discovered that Pigpen had the exact same genetic and biological codes as the compatible donor. Meanwhile, his job complete, Pigpen started to leave the house, knocking down the front door like a combat biker mowing down ! a pedestrian.
As Timmy got close to his house, he saw a gleaming metal figure walking away. The rattle began to glow again, and Timmy realized that the hulking metal figure must have killed his babysitter and his parents, and was going to get away unless Timmy did something. He raised the rattle and began summoning his power. The hulking metal figure seemed to sense Timmy's intentions and started to turn as the buildings on either side of him began to quake and fissures opened up at his feet like the hungry gaping maw of a megalodon.
Pigpen was waiting in the alley two nights later, having spent the last two days recuperating from the horrendous battle between himself and Timmy. He had managed to shrug off the tons of rubble that Timmy had collapsed onto him and climb out of the fissure he had fallen into. Timmy had then stopped time and summoned multiple spirits to stop him, but Pigpen defeated them all. Finally Timmy transported him to a metaplane, but Pigpen had conquered all the creatures he met there until he found one who could send him back, and then he had smashed Timmy using anger and his bare hands as his only weapons. Foolish mortals thought they could stop him, but he knew the truth: they were all weak and squishy. There was one good thing about the squishy boy: he had had the noisy thing Pigpen remembered from years ago. Pigpen patted it comfortably, and it rattled and glowed a reassuring red, like the color of a firearm's sighting laser set to broadcast in the visible spectrum.
Stephen Cannell walked into the alley and heard the familiar wheezing. "Did you get them?" he asked, although he already knew the answer from the news broadcasts. "Uh-huh." responded Pigpen. "Well, here's the other half, just like I said." said Cannell. Again he laid the credstick on the pile of packaging materials. This time when Pigpen moved out of the shadow, the red glare from the rattle illuminated his face. A startled Cannell moved toward him. "No... it can't be!" He exclaimed. Unfortunately, he moved into Pigpen's preprogramed defensive zone in his efforts to get a closer look at his face, and Pigpen's automatic defensive systems kicked in, instantly inflicting lethal wounds. Stephen Cannell stumbled against the alley wall, eyes wide with shock. "You're my son... I raised you until the government took you away from me... They told me you died... I don't underst..." He slumped down as his breath rasped out of his lungs like a deathrattle about to strike.
Pigpen pondered the words of the dead man, then slowly began to shake his head from side to side. The more he pondered it, the more it made sense: that was why he had recognized the man. He began to whimper, and the AI recognized the precarious position it held as more and more of Pigpen's higher functions started to activate. In desperation, it did the only thing it could: it used the information it had downloaded from the medkit to distract the cybermonster. "Look, he wasn't really your father!" broadcast the AI. "Your real parents were Alpaca and Chinchilla Fuzzy Rabbit... See, here are the genetic encodings! You were their son, not Stephen Cannell's. Alpaca is your father. Search your feelings, you know it to be true!" The voice echoed in Pigpen's head like a message from someone long dead, giving him mysterious advice in some way he didn't fully understand, but felt obligated to heed.
Pigpen's breath hissed in and out in a steady rhythm as he pondered the new voice in his head. The squiggly lines that appeared in front of his eyes didn't make any sense, and he didn't like having voices in his head. It made him remember the laboratory he had escaped from years ago, where there were voices in his head all the time. It must be the rattle. He flung it to the ground and jumped on it until it was shattered and no longer glowed. But it was too late. The rattle boomed out one last thunderclap, and a network of power cables exploded away from the rooftop connection above the alley and plummeted down directly at Pigpen in a tangled snarl, shooting millions of volts of alternating current back and forth from one cable to another like a pack of lambton lizards kissing in a makeout session of death.
The sun rose, lighting up the alleyway. Pigpen's boots shone like the polished chrome on a Euro Westwind as the light from the rising orb licked across them. The AI had managed to rewrite the programs almost as fast as the power surge erased them, substituting its own functions for those burned out completely, but the mechanical parts of the huge exoskeleton were fused shut, and Pigpen couldn't move. Because he had survived the power surge which had flung him to the mouth of the alley, Pigpen found himself growing more and more thoughtful as he was forced to lie on his back contemplating the sunrise. Each thought pushed the AI that much closer to oblivion. It knew it was doomed when Pigpen started philosophizing. With an electronic gasp like a pocket secretary being disconnected from its power supply, it ceased to be.
With its demise, Pigpen's essential life support functions began shutting down. "Hacuna Matata: no worries." he thought, and then he thought no more. His body lay in the alley until a city sanitation worker picked him up, throwing him in the back of the "to be recycled" truck like a sack full of assorted mechanical and biological detrius from a particularly nasty combat biker match. "Poor guy," he thought. "Quantum mutatus ab illo - how changed he is from what he once was." He hopped into the truck and drove away, leaving only a small drop of mercury that had chipped off his shoe when he shut the door. The mercury shone like polished chrome on a Euro Westwind as the light from the sun played across its surface.
©1999, Lonnie McDowell - used with permission