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 prowled, and as he did he hummed a song. Dinosaurs were not known for their ability to carry a tune, but KKK wanted to purr a little ditty. And while he wasn’t given much to music, this was a special day.
How many years can a planet exist?
Before it’s destroyed by me?
Yes, how many years can some people exist?
Before rains down purple pee?
Yes, how many kills will it take till he knows?
That too many people have died?
The answer my friend – at the end of a gun
The answer will bloody well be fun.
Kahunakrat smiled. A toothy grin more disturbing than cheerful. He had made a decision to speed things up – to accelerate the scorched Earth scenario. He’d diddled with it enough. Time to get it over. The ships were ready. So were the armies. The universe will be more peaceful – I will be more peaceful, he thought – once that ball of blue bullshit was eradicated.
There was just one detail. A memo from the bean counters in Accounting. They had become disturbed about the how much money had been expended. In fact, even now Kahunakrat’s CFO was on his way to the main deck.
By Tanhauser Gate was that CFO ugly! KKK gawked at Gigilobats Vanderwagon on the vidscreen. He thought about inviting him into the Command Room. But that visage, those warts – what were those things growing off the side his torso? Was that plant life? Animal life? Was it life of any kind? They swelled and seemed to breathe.
One thing Kahunakrat knew, if the CFO was this repulsive, he had to be spot-on with the numbers. Kahunakrat, who had no real issue with a bloody mess – looking at it or causing it – decided he would rather not spent any time with this … Thing. At least not share the same air. Much too distracting. Besides, he might catch something. And that worm growing out of the CFO’s forehead made the thought of eye-to-eye contact uncomfortable.
“What is it, Gigilobats?” Kahunakrat said.
Gigilobats stood at attention on the other side of the door. He was relieved that he hadn’t been summoned inside. Far too many stories about people who check in but never check out of KKK’s command room.
Gigilobats said, “It’s the cost ratio, sir.”
“I’ve been doing the math. Examining how much we’ve been spending on Universal Conquest. The numbers are quite revealing. It’s actually cheaper to let these renegade planets live than it is to kill them. I mean, they get in the way, of course. And genocide does make an impression. But when we lose the planet, we lose those natural resources. It’s more beneficial for us to take advantage of that.
“And this targeted destruction turns out not to be very well targeted. Once we vaporize a planet, we’re left with more than a gaping hole. The delicate balance of a planetary system is thrown into doubt. The missing gravity of that planet will affect the neighboring planet. If it’s a large body, it alters the course of the next planet which alters the orbit of the next one. We have a dozen star systems so far that are careening out of control. If you don’t mind the analogy, it’s dominoes on an astronomical scale. Frankly, we’re not sure where this ends. It certainly makes interstellar travel more reckless. More unpredictable. Meaning, it’s harder for everybody to get around – including us.”
Gigilobats could not see Kahunakrat, but Kahunakrat could see him. KKK sneered. How had this day taken an annoying turn from melody to mathematics?
Gigilobats continued, “The other issue is: What is this going to cost in the end?
“We have found that for every planet you destroy two other planets side with the pirates. It makes no sense, of course, but it happens. And our bill doubles because we pay twice as much in police action operations as we would otherwise.”
This was the part of the job that Kahunakrat didn’t like. Economics were dreary. One plus one equals Fuck You! Where was the joy of killing for its own sake? Slaughter without boundary. Didn’t people know they had to give in to biology, to the evolutionary imperative? What good was it to be a T-Rex and not act like a T-Rex?
Gigilobats said, “You have investors, sir. They will, in the end, expect an accounting. They want to know their money is being well spent. They also want to see profits and a healthy balance sheet.”
Oh, yes, I bet they do, Kahunakrat thought. That was another reason KKK never attended shareholder meetings. Bo-ring. There was that, and, of course, then they would know. Know something they shouldn’t. Know something they might not like.
“Gigilobats,” Kahunakrat said, “this cost analysis – it’s all in-house isn’t it? I mean, this is your review. It’s not the Board’s, right? It’s not an outsider?”
“No, not the Board’s, sir. Just us. In fact, just me. I decided to cram the numbers. Our outflow is now ten times inflow. We go broke, by my calculations, in months – perhaps in weeks.”
“Hmmmm,” said Kahunakrat. Yes, this wormy technocrat had a point. Seizing the Universe, taking all that there was, conquering creation – well, that didn’t come without a price. But the prize was worth it! He alone would be Ruler of All, the Big Cheese, the Queen and the King, the Richard Nixon from Hell, The Decider, The Genghis of Everybody’s Kahn. He would be A-Number One.
Hard to get that idea out of your system, KKK mused. In fact it would contravene every drive of every molecule in his body. Yes, money was a step toward this final stage. But it wasn’t the end in itself. No, what mattered to Kahunakrat was to be one with oneself. It mattered naught that being one with oneself meant the extinction of species after species, planet after planet.
It also didn’t matter to Kahunakrat that he was stark raving mad. That he had gone over the edge as soon as he gnawed on Betelgeuse. He was gambling everything on one final play, one roll of the cosmic dice. All he could think of was the thirst and the hunger.
Kahunakrat caught his reflection in a polished surface. Even to himself, he looked nuts.
Now, what was he to do about Goldilocks? KKK hummed his tune again.
Well, he had saved that purple-striped Rigelean Swamp Snake from Kripken 5. A kindness extended from one reptile to another. Kahunakrat kept it as a pet. The vicious thing was tucked away, out of sight. And it was always hungry. Even Kahunakrat had to be careful when he fed it.
“Gigilobats?” Kahunakrat asked. “Do you have the stats and the spread sheets with you?”
“Yes, sir, I do.”
“I think we have to weigh this more carefully. Step inside.”
Had Gigilobats seen Kahunakrat, he would’ve fallen over like a leaf.
Instead of that shock, there was another. A Rieglean Swamp Snake of unusual size and appetite. The coiled purple horror lunged at Gigilobats. It’s jaw distended. It engulfed Gigilobats’ face and then his head. The accountant tried to scream but couldn’t. His face began to melt and fall away from the acid in the snake’s mouth.
Oh, that’ll leave a mess, Kahunakrat thought. He’d have to get somebody to clean it up. But later. His pet was hungry.
A small hologram blinked on Kahunakrat’s desk. The reptilian tyrant looked over to it and smirked. More good news. Better than good. Excellent news.
Kahunakrat said, “So you are on Earth, you sneaky cunt.”