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.
Nobody was happy. But they tried.
Zel offered Vincent a bottle of Jameson. “Courage.”
“Should you really be drinking hours before an epic battle with the Combine?”
“Doesn’t affect me. Not much, anyway. Why do you think I’ve been drinking like a fish all this time? Just tastes good. So, yeah, have one with me. You’re gonna need it.”
Vincent took the bottle and drank.
They had a scant few hours before the Combine arrived. Just enough time to realize what was happening. To prepare Zelda – outfit her and program some key information into that wonderful Grandefudlian brain of hers. Like the Combine capital ship schematics.
“This is exciting,” Dick said.
“It will be interesting,” Asimov said.
“We will die fighting,” Heinlein said.
Vincent bought a dozen bottles of really good wine on Zel’s tab. A carton of Nat Sherman’s from the flagship store in midtown. He splurged and ordered a shitload of food from local restaurants – though Zel and Sprosty wanted nothing more than to gorge on falafel.
Eat and be merry before cometh the Combine.
Elvis stood at the center of the table. He gnawed at a spicy catfish sandwich from Baoguette / Pho Sure. He dipped his red tentacles into a tumbler of whiskey and sucked the alcohol from his fur. He stopped and swallowed. He addressed the rag-tag team. “No matter what happens, I want to thank you. All of you. I want to thank Zel for saving me. I want to thank Sprosty for cuddling me. I want to thank Vincent for welcoming me. And I want to thank you great minds for fighting.”
Vincent, Zel, Asimov, Dick and Heinlein bowed their heads.
Zel said, “Thank you, Elvis.”
Heinlein stood. He raised his glass. “To Earth. To us. To you–” He nodded to Vincent, Sprosty and Zel “–May you live as long as you wish and love as long as you live.” He laughed. “A society that gets rid of all its troublemakers goes downhill. Maybe that’s why we’re here, second lives notwithstanding.”
Vincent said, “Yeah. I guess we’re pretty good troublemakers. So are you.”
Asimov said, “Gentlemen, above all things, never think that you’re not good enough yourself. A man should never think that. In life, people will take you at your own reckoning. And our reckoning is now. I am proud of us.”
“Here, here,” Sprosty said.
“Shit,” Dick said. “Guess I need to say something now, huh?”
Vincent said, “Don’t want to embarrass yourself on the eve of The End, do you?”
“No. I suppose I don’t.” Dick smirked. “Smoke?”
Vincent tossed him a Nat Sherman.
Dick lit it and inhaled. He eyed everyone standing around the table. He exhaled plumes. “Reality is what doesn’t go away when you stop believing in it. It’s what we face. The ultimate heroic trait of ordinary people is that they say no to the tyrant. And then take the consequence of resistance.
“That is us.
“And, my friends, that is all.”
The Band bowed.
They reveled in what they still had – each other. Traded stories and dirty jokes. They had fun.
Vincent said, “I have one more thing.”
The Band convened on the roof.
“Got these from a weird dude on the corner,” Vincent said.
He handed out sparklers, giving them to the men who were once strangers but had now become friends.
The sparklers had the little red flag at the top. They burned bright but short. The band laughed and spun. They twirled around each other. They painted pictures in the sky.
Even Elvis danced with fire in his tendrils.
For the coup de grace, Vincent gave them all Roman candles.
They shot off fiery missiles into the Manhattan night.
Their faces glowed with reds and yellows and greens.
They weren’t worried about cops or complaints.
Hell, there might not even be an Earth tomorrow.
Zel said, “This is what we’re fighting for.”
The Band nodded and launched another volley into the darkness.
Chapter 35: All Hands On Deck
We will be there very soon, Kahunakrat thought. I need to get ready.
How should he appear? It wasn’t so much a matter of what to wear. It was very hard to tailor fabric to lizard skin. His flesh tended to rip through most anything.
No, he would appear, as he had at other moments of victory, in the Tripod Walker. Unseemly thoughts of H.G. Wells sputtered in his mind. The Tripod Walker kept him safe – a virtually impervious engine of annihilation – and it made quite an impression. From the walker, Kahunakrat could fire the Destructo-Beam at whatever structure or running figure had the misfortune of finding its way into his gun sights.
Pow! Pow! Kerpow!
Just as long as there was something to shoot at it really didn’t matter what.
Maybe school children. Perhaps a nursery. Nothing turns warriors into supplicants quicker than the graphic slaughter of their own offspring. Hauling them off to a meat locker. Putting them on display at the end of hooks.
Perhaps a few dozen mewling Earth kittens could be deep fried and served to the Vildajaws.
Those animals made even KKK shudder.
On the other hand, why waste fresh meat? Maybe he would want to do some noshing?
But the point was spectacle. Kahunakrat was planning a big show, a really big shew, he chuckled to himself. He was a genocidal Ed Sullivan.
Bullhockey! It was happening again. These weren’t his thoughts. It was that ancient earth broadcast with a TV host who looked like the coat hanger was still in the jacket he was wearing. Irritating. While I’m invading Earth, Earth is invading me. This aggression will not stand! Not much longer anyway, KKK gleefully told himself.
Kahunakrat had had his minions construct a stadium on the dark side of the Moon. It was built with multiple functions in mind. If he decided he wanted the Super bowl, for example, it would serve. Pluck up the best football players on the Earth, say. Be it a Tom Brady, Eli Manning or Victor Cruz. Transport them to the dark side where they played for life and death.
They’d be playing for the home team, that spitball of blue spinning as a third rock from the sun.
They lose, Earth is mattress stuffing. They win, so does earth.
But not really!
Kahunakrat had to admit this was as pernicious as he’d ever been and he was proud of it.
Yes, they would be told that they had a fighting chance. They would be told he’d spare them if they won. But that wasn’t going to happen.
Earth is toast. Otherwise, it would spoil the other show. To teach a lesson to every other fucker out there. This would be the most-watched broadcast in the history of the universe. As big as the Big Bang because that is how Earth is going out – with crushing finality.
But KKK had yet to decide if he wanted a Super Bowl or an NBA Championship, the Olympics, perhaps a Soccer Cup World Final, or even Bowling for Dollars.
The Commander of the Fleet, Funkinitch, who was traveling in their flagship, The Planetender, told him that whatever game he decided to play, they had identified logical candidates, the very best specimens, for capture. Their locations had been identified and they were already being watched. Once the Combine arrived, it would take nothing more than the flip of a switch.
So, Earth would be watching one game and the rest of the universe would be watching another. A perfect irony, KKK concluded. Instead of watching scum from Earth, like they do now, all the planets – absolutely everyone – would be watching him. Just as it should be. They would see the end of it all. The final transmission of garbage from terra firma. And they would witness the punishment. KKK called it Earth: The Death Movie, Special Edition.
One thing’s for sure, there won’t be a sequel, Kahunakrat thought.
There were other details Kahunakrat was working on. A side show, maybe. Surgery without anesthesia? Woodstock where all the bands take the brown acid? A political convention where if you lie, you’re electrocuted?
Wait, that was too easy.
What if the candidates talked themselves to death? There actually was an enabling bacterium on the planet Fung that would do just that. Once infected, politicians couldn’t keep their mouths shut. Not even to eat or drink. They had to talk and talk.
While that would serve up a slow, lingering death, KKK had to admit it might take a wee bit too long.
Kahunakrat had a much longer laundry list.
Put the Pope in a sealed room with thirty former altar boys, now thirty years older and all of them have spent time in the clink – behind bars – with other men.
A supermarket where the front of the checkout line is the back of the checkout line.
Mandatory hillbilly heroin, oxy, free for everyone on the planet for two weeks then mandatory withdrawal.
More new rules: Only the blind will be allowed to drive.
Only the illiterate get permission to write.
Smoker Enders class will be terminated.
What else can I do to make this Reckoning a final Fuckoning?
There were stories about Zelda, that cab that Zel cruised around in. Stories about what it could do – that it had powers that surpassed that of his own empire. Tales about the dead on a walkabout.
Well, let’s bring somebody back from the dead who’s really worth it!
Pol Pot, perhaps. Nothing wrong with a little genocide before the Earthocide. Throw in mass murderers. From Jack the Ripper to Ed Gein. Mix in a little demagoguery, say Huey Long, and maybe Stalin. Add one of the crazies, like Caligula. Herman Goering – now he knew what to do with culture!
Last, but far from least, that slightly unwrapped Christmas Day bomber, who engaged in self-bugging – or was it self-buggery? Tricky Dick Nixon. Yes, reinstall him in the White House.
Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m a man of wealth and taste. Yes, that was on the right track. Just call me Lucifer. Or I will lay your soul to waste. Because where there is hope, I bring despair. Where there is love, I bring hate. Where there is honor, I bring contempt. Where there is life, I bring death.
Anything else? Hmmm, require everyone to see the Virgin Mary in the lint in the navel of a porno queen? Oral sex performed with peanut butter on a midget who has allergies?
Pogroms and porn. The killing to come was making KKK come – or cum as earth kiddies call it. Kahunakrat was erect down there and up there, in his head. He snickered.
Kahunakrat would get satisfaction when that vile planet was obliterated.
But he wanted some foreplay. The boys had been working on it, nominating Brazilian-born Priscilla Sol. Herself the Venus award winner and star of Pornochic 6. But Priscilla had competition: Eva Angelina. That chick had a thing for wearing glasses while superfucking and boy-oh-boy was she enthusiastic.
The glasses make her look so cute, mused Kahunakrat. The research team couldn’t make up their mind between Priscilla and Eva. Frankly, neither could KKK. Why not a twofer? From the films, it was clear these gals could enjoy each other and entertain Kahunakrat at the same time. He’d just had a waterbed and disco ball installed in the leather bar. He might even keep them, for a little while at least, ‘til something better came along. But for now he wanted AAA-rated fun for his XXX-rated brain.
KKK was famished. If he couldn’t mollify one appetite, he would deal with another. “Commander Funkinitch,” he said into the vidscreen. “Have someone send over a Maine Coon. That plump kitty that I was eyeballing the other day.”
It was ship to ship communication. Kahunakrat usually traveled alone when he was preparing to end worlds. He traveled in his own vessel. Alone these days, anyway, since the disappearance of Betelgeuse. “Disappearance” was how KKK chose to explain it.
And riding solo made things easier.
Easier to keep secrets.
His ship was called the Murderboner.
“I’m glad you called, sir,” Funkinitch said. “Look out your viewscreen. We’re here. That is Earth.”
KKK smiled. “Battle stations, Commander. Lock and load.”