About The Kulture Vultures
(and the Plot to Steal the Universe)
“Only five people can save the world. But there’s a problem. They’re dead.”
In the black of the cosmos, the Combine rules over entire planetary systems with an iron fist. Having harvested and destroyed the culture of billions upon billions to ensure that they, and only they, are the dominant form of entertainment in the universe, the Combine maintain a monopoly over hearts and minds everywhere with their terrible sitcoms.
Just so happens that the best pirated culture comes from Earth. The human monkeys might not be smart, but damn if they aren’t entertaining. Earth’s biggest fan, a lowly intergalactic cab driver named Zel, joins a few not-so-loyal companions in a race to prevent humanity’s extinction – by resurrecting Earth’s great pulp writers and scientists. The only ones with enough creative craziness to figure out how to stop the Combine.
Kahunakrat had a rare twinkle in his eye. And was in a frighteningly good mood. He’d hit the sweet spot. He’d had his orgasm. It made him want to watch sporting matches where the fix was in. As it turned out as well, sales of his latest Suicide Booth – produced by KahunaKorp – were through the roof.
Outstanding. More than enough to elevate KKK to sanguine.
And now, ooh, they were coming upon Grandefudlia.
Kahunakrat hated the Grandefudlians. He didn’t hate them as much as he hated the Earth monkeys. But he hated them. They never bought anything from KahunaKorp. Or the Combine. They were just happy. All the fucking time. Happy. Why? They didn’t have much. Didn’t have things. They didn’t even seem to understand the concept of private property and ownership.
The fuck was wrong with them?
The lumpy idiots would pay.
“Bring the planet up on my main screen,” Kahunakrat growled. A light green orb shimmered into existence at the center of the Kommissar’s control room. He said, “Show me the surface.”
The hologram stuttered. Then he was watching the Grandefudlians as they talked to each other – as they got along, making nice. Smiling.
They were a weird looking bunch too. Big circular bodies with three legs that moved with grace. They were hairy and they nuzzled each other. As if intimately.
Some were reading. Text just seemed to appear out of nowhere to peruse. How did they do that? A few plugged an appendage into an adjacent Grandefudlian and they appeared to be exchanging data – or was it bodily fluids? Then, the Grandefudlian who was plugged, the female socket so to speak, went off in search of someone they could plug into. Kahunakrat knew it was data transmission. Little organic computers, they were. But it was more fun to think they were fucking.
Still, no one was fighting. Nowhere. One big happy family.
It was horrible.
“Bring the death frigates online,” Kahunakrat said.
The hologram pulled back. He had a space-side view of the planet. At the corners of the screen, the death frigates went into formation. The ships were shaped like tridents with three prongs pointing outwards. As they powered up their weapons, they hummed.
“Cut the planet into, hmmm, ninths,” Kahunakrat said.
Bright white beams shot out from the death frigates. They sliced and hacked and cut away at Grandefudlia. Like it was nothing more than a hard fruit being chopped up for breakfast. KKK, of course, would rather start the day with meat.
The planet erupted with the force of a star going nova. A massive pulse of light and radiation. The vibration of the blast shook space itself. That ripple, as it spiraled out, carried with it with the screams and agony of an entire race. It was a wave of horror and emotion but also a blast of pure thought – sheer mentality.
That was bizarre, he thought.
He sniffled. Exhaled once and sharp.
The feeling of strangeness passed. He laughed. “Hahaha!” Then he took a step back into smug satisfaction knowing that many foolishly nice, pleasantly happy, caring, loving beings had just been turned to dust.
They had failed at the checkout lane. While that made for one less planet of potential customers, a smaller market for the Combine meant percentages were up. More money for KKK.
He felt so good that he didn’t need to jerk off. Again.
Betelgeuse watched from a duct above the office. He watched as Kahunakrat cackled and smirked. He scratched his arm, grateful his own planet didn’t matter.
There were times when it was smart not to be seen and not to be heard.
Chapter 20: Elvis Sings the Blues
Zel, Vincent and Sprosty were toasting to their victory at NYU – getting Asimov’s blood. Hell of a thing, really. And that meant they were more than halfway toward their goal. Just two more men. Just two.
The three clinked glasses and then–
A voice. A small voice. One sad and full of woe. “Grandefudlia,” it said.
Just shy of their lips, the three drinkers stopped.
“You say something?” Vincent asked Sprosty.
“No. What the fuck is Grandefudlia? Zel?”
“No idea,” Zel said. But part of him did know.
He drank Jameson from his glass. Slow.
Vincent felt a tug on his jeans. It was Elvis. Little red Elvis, asking for attention. His big fat puppy eyes stared up. His thin tendrils wrapped around Vincent’s leg like a confused kid looking for a hug.
Vincent knelt and picked the furball up. He placed it on the counter next to the cash register, which was now an impromptu wet bar.
Vincent said, “You can talk?”
Sprosty did his shot. “Bloodfart can’t talk. It’s a stupid pet.”
“Shut the fuck up,” Vincent said. “Something’s wrong.”
Elvis stared at Vincent. Sad and tired.
Vincent leaned over. He petted Elvis. Gentle. He caressed the little thing. Vincent tried to act as though Elvis was a cat. He moved slow, nice, and careful.
Vincent did his shot. Lit a cigarette. Exhaled through his nose. He offered Elvis his arm and the fuzzy red thing clamored up his shoulder. It sat there and sighed.
Vincent said in a quiet voice, “What is Grandefudlia?”
Elvis wrapped a tentacle around Vincent’s throat. A quick, soft hug. Elvis said with a purring voice, “All dead now.”
Chapter 21: The Chapter With No Name
Kahunakrat paced the Command Room. Back and forth, and as he walked, tick-tock went his tail. He stared at the Map of All Things. He now had the Arcturan Nebula. That was good. The pirate asteroid was gone. That was good. The Grandefudlians were no longer among the living. That was good. So why had his mood become dour?
It was something of a rhetorical question. He was, after all, a reptilian monster. His natural state was one of appetite. Hunger. His large teeth wanted to masticate raw flesh.
He had to admit, he was not good in a crowd. He didn’t socialize. All he saw were victuals, sizing up everyone in the room according to chewiness. What would that one taste like? Would she make a good hors d’oeuvre? What if he was slathered in salsa? Bruschetta? Chutney? Sweet and sour? A leg from Column A. An arm from Column B. And all the letters of the alphabet that followed.
Prime rib. Steak tartar – the great variegated menu of life usually cheered Kahunakrat. Life was about food. Food, fighting and sex were the engine of civilization. It was not Leave It to Beaver or whatever those dirt bags on Earth thought it was. Libido and its cousins perked him up, but he wasn’t smiling.
Earth was next on the agenda. It was just as astronomical minute-hand away from becoming a cloud of debris and interstellar gas. That nonsense they were contaminating the rest of the universe with was about to end. His worst enemy brought to heel, no longer a threat. Then again, victory – being on the brink of it – didn’t have the aroma he thought it would have. It was strangely tasteless.
Kahunakrat couldn’t get his teeth into it, so to speak, because Earth didn’t know he was coming.
Fear was missing. He wanted them to feel it. He wanted them to cower. To beg. And in their despair, he wanted them to serve up a sacrifice.
Yes, that had a certain appeal. Virgins thrown from windows. Captains of Industry in flight like bugs to light. Rebels reduced to supplicants. But they had to know their time was short. They had to know there was no escape.
Kahunakrat thought, they have to pray to their new god – me!
But they didn’t know. They were too dumb to know. Unaware of their fate as they plodded along. Doing the same thing they always do. Mindless. They kept broadcasting that virus 24/7. They were inflicting a metastasizing malignancy on all of creation without even knowing it. Earth was conquering the universe, yet blind to it all. The monkeys were heroes by accident. It was too much for Kahunakrat. The idea, even the possibility, was unfathomable.
He boiled with rage.
He had to hurt something.
The pleasure of pain drove him now. Not suffering or enduring pain – but inflicting it. The darkness of the room around him was an extension of the blackness in his mind. He had become darkness itself, not a place where the sun had set, but one where the sun never rose.
One thought alone occupied him.
To take pleasure in hurt demands a particular protocol. It’s not enough to draw blood. It’s not enough to merely end a life. Any well-directed Jovian gas fly fart can accomplish that. There’s no joy in it.
Real satisfaction requires awareness. To know pain you have to feel it in the right measure. To feel it in tandem with the subject upon whom the pain is inflicted. Naturally, it’s worse for one than it is the other. But it involves a degree of shared sacrifice. For Kahunakrat to truly enjoy the pleasure of pain, he needed to know who he was hurting. It helped if it was someone close, someone loyal, and preferably, someone unsuspecting.
“Oh, Betelgeuse,” KKK called.
Betelgeuse emerged from the vent. He looked tired, as though he’d been in a sleep cycle.
Kahunakrat paused for a moment. Betelgeuse had always done everything he was asked. He had been long-suffering. He got little in reward. He was one of the very, very few who were privy to the Command Room. He had been his dedicated servant, day and night. Quite selfless. Even admirable. He knew Kahunakrat’s secrets – and there were many.
He would be hard to replace.
Kahunakrat played with Betelgeuse for a while. Chased him. Let him run this way – then that way, stopping him with a foot or a claw like a cat in pursuit of a mouse.
Betelgeuse pleaded. Sobbed.
Kahunakrat’s teeth were last thing Betelgeuse saw. The mewling came to an end. Replaced not by silence but by wet gnawing.