It's Thanksgiving. I did have time to write the story parts but didn't get to the art this episode. I hope I can get to filling in the art later. I don't have time for it just yet, because we're having like three different Thanksgivings! But, yeah, I love you guys! I wanted to at least get the story to all of you. There are some characters that I've really been anxious to introduce... Though no one really has all that long to live! Mua ha ha ha ha!
Hugh was resting in Alphadeus’s lair. The impact of touching Andy Dixon’s chest was finally washing over him. Touching another person and reading their history didn’t happen often. But these were extraneous circumstances. Andy had been assassinated and Hugh was intent on finding the killer. And, now, upon waking he imagined that the man with the red sweat shirt was also under orders to kill. Hugh considered that Andy’s death might have something to do with the massacre in Greenvale.
“You have to play this new game.” Alphadeus said.
“You’re playing a game?” Hugh said.
“Yeah, I found a cartridge with some software on it. I hooked it up to my new computer and this game was on it. It says it was developed by this guy named Fame Designer.” Alphadeus explained.
“Fame Designer…” Hugh thought out loud. “Hey, lemme see that list you were showing us last time.”
“This?” Alphadeus turned and handed Hugh the list of people with special talents.
“Yes, look here.” Hugh scanned the list. “Fame Designer is on the list.”
“Strange.” Alphadeus said. “Maybe his talent was for designing games, who knows. He has a pretty strange philosophy when dividing up attributes for the characters. The game is divided up between animate and inanimate objects. Every single object in the game has three attributes. Strength designates how much body mass you have, how much you can carry, and how much damage you can take before you die. Dexterity designates how much stamina you have, and how far you can go with the fuel you have. You can starve if you don’t get enough food. Intelligence is how good you are at memorizing things, how much capacity for information you have, how good you are at inventing things, and so on.”
“Interesting…” Hugh looked at Alphadeus’s monitor. “What’s the point of it all?”
“Oh, well, basically the game sets you in a world where you have to kill a bunch of people to save the world.” Alphadeus said.
“Hmm...” Hugh stared for a moment.
“I should get moving though. This thing is too addictive.” Alphadeus said.
“Yes, pack up. And bring your weapons. We’re going to Bright Falls.” Hugh said.
Knutaf searched around for Law in the Bright Falls Zoo. There were plenty of animals there. Lots of aquariums were home to sea animals like dolphins and sharks. He saw one man in the shark tank holding his breath for an extremely long time, like he was one of the sharks. The sharks didn’t seem to attack him, or maybe he was very good at fending them off. Supposedly his name was Hamza.
In the dolphin aquarium a man named Chad Concelmo. He was an animal whisperer and seemed to be able to communicate freely with any animal he came into contact with. This made him an extremely good trainer. Through out the day, as Knutaf spied on them, he noticed that birds would just land on Chad’s arms, talk to him, he would smile, and they’d fly away.
Finally, in the cold area where they kept animals stored in low temperature environments there was Law. He wasn’t sure if Chad or Hamza really had special talents, but Law made it obvious that he did. Knutaf had almost missed him. At first, Law had been walking around as a penguin in a cage. Maybe this was a way of communicating with the animals or doing some sort of experiment. Maybe it was for fun. But, Knutaf was there when Law spontaneously shape shifted into a human form.
Knutaf could only guess that his human form was his original form, and that he wore a Tuxedo in his human form because he particularly liked penguins. He was alone, outside of the cage. It seemed the opportune time to attack him.
He jumped off of the railing he was squatting on and attacked downwards onto Law’s back. He knocked all of the air out of Law, and it left him struggling to breathe. Law squirmed around and tried to come to his senses after being hit so hard. His back was torn and bleeding. Knutaf took a few more swings at Law’s neck before he found himself tearing at clumps of hair growing from Law’s back.
Knutaf was blasted off of Law. And from where Law laid a giant grizzly bear rose up and howled at him. Law had shape shifted before Knutaf could strike a death blow. Knutaf stood up, confident that he could still take him down. But, before he could charge at Law in bear form, something bit him.
Knutaf twisted to look at what was behind him and there stood Chad Concelmo with a two ligers. One of the two ligers was sinking his teeth into Knutaf’s ankle. The other liger bit into Knutaf’s shoulder. Chad, staying behind these animals, was talking to the animals and they were obeying every command.
“Get his arms.” Chad ordered.
“He tried to kill me!” Law said.
“Don’t worry, we got em.” Chad said. “Time to ask this guy some questions.”
With a scream and a dislocation of bone and flesh, Knutaf sacrificed his arms to get away. He ran awkwardly out of the zoo and away from further harm from the animals. The ligers each had one of Knutaf’s arms dangling from their teeth.
“Go ahead and eat.” Chad said. "You okay Law?"
Immediately the ligers propped up Knutaf’s arms between their paws and chomped away.
"Growl." Law said giving Chad a bear's thumbs up.
Wolf walked with Miss Alice Dixon towards the zoo and saw an armless man with a red hooded sweat shirt busting out of the front door of the building. He seemed to be in a hurry and brushed past wolf. The man was looking straight at Miss Alice Dixon and said something under his breath. Wolf barely heard him say, “I can’t handle this shit right now.” He thought this was a strange thing to say coming from a stranger.
“What was that all about?” Miss Alice Dixon wondered.
“Not a clue m’lady.” Wolf said at a loss for words.
They entered the zoo building and there a man and a bear were looking out the window. The bear shape shifted amazingly into a human in a Tuxedo. They introduced themselves as Chad Concelmo and Law. They worked there and Law was in charge of the zoo tour.
“Why do people call you Law?” Miss Alice Dixon asked. “Are you a policeman?”
“Ah, no. My full name is Law of Thermal Dynamics.” Law pointed his finger upward to make a point. “I’m named after a law of science that I myself made up on my own. You see, I can shape shift into animals and my favorite animal to be - is a penguin! And when I wanted to shape shift into my human form in the penguin area, I couldn’t because I would get too cold! Also, I didn’t look like the penguins, and they didn’t like that. So I wore thermal underwear to stop from being cold, and a Tuxedo to look like the penguins. Now I can live with the penguins and study them freely. And that’s also where I made up the Law of Thermal Dynamics. ‘Always wear your thermal underwear in cold places’.”
“When did you start working here?” Alice asked.
“What is this, an interview!?” Law said. “No time for that! I’m giving a tour here! Follow me!”
Wolf and Miss Alice Dixon walked through the zoo with Law, looking at all the different animals. They adventured around the building which housed all of the temperature sensitive areas as well as the underwater aquariums. And outside there was an ice rink where a strange dinosaur looking creature played hockey against human opponents. When the dinosaur was left alone in the rink, it just skated around the rink and practiced its puck handling skills.
After seeing all of the sites at the zoo, Wolf and Alice packed some food and supplies and made their way to the edge of Bright Falls. When they started to leave, they were stopped by a woman with a katana.
“Hey guys!” Elsa said. “Is this the girl?”
“Alice?!” James yelled from a distance behind Elsa.
“James!!” Alice cried.
The two of them ran towards each other and Alice jumped on James to give him a big hug. Beyamor, Elsa, and Kraid stood behind them.
“You came looking for me.” Alice sobbed. “That’s so nice of you.”
“We just wanted you to be safe.” James said looking at a man in shining armor.
“Oh yes, James, this is Wolf.” Alice introduced him. “He has been protecting me this whole time. He took me to the zoo and stopped a strange man in corduroy from hurting me. He’s a policeman.”
“You almost look like a paladin.” James said.
“It wouldn’t be far from the truth, my good man.” Wolf said.
“Where were you guys going?” James said. “Much farther than this and we wouldn’t have been able to find you."
“We’re going to a place in the forest where there is a rumor of a masked man residing there. I have been trying to find a particular masked man for years now. If this is him, then he has to be brought to justice.” Wolf said as James looked wide eyed at Beyamor.
“Didn’t Hugh say that the man we’re looking for may have been wearing a mask?” James asked Beyamor.
“It might be him.” Beyamor said. “We have to find out.”
“What did he do?” James asked Wolf.
“He… Took my life away from me.” Wolf said.
“Wait, then why are you still here?” Beyamor squinted.
“No, I mean…” Wolf became depressed. “He made me old.”
“Shit,” James said. “That’s the same guy we’re looking for.”
“Then let’s travel to this location and see what is there.” Wolf said.
James looked around him and felt confident that he was getting closer to solving this mystery. There were so many people involved this time. Usually he was lucky enough to just run into people, cuff them, and throw them in jail. But this time, something was different. He was amassing a party of people: Elsa the deadly ninja assassin, Beyamor the weather man, Kraid who can change a man’s nature, Wolf who can carry a large weight, and Alice who can fly.
The walk was short. They arrived at the location Reverend Anthony supplied and there sat a masked man in a warehouse, building dolls. The dolls were all shapes and sizes. Alice spied a few dolls that she wouldn’t mind buying from him. But there were life size dolls as well. Some of them seemed to be anatomically correct – some male and some female. There were dolls in different stages of development as well. The man had used wood for the skeletal doll frame and then used a flexible rubber for the muscle structure. Then he used a synthetic skin that stretched and was sewn over the muscle structure. Some of the finished dolls were quite lifelike.
“What the hell is this guy out here making these things for?” Beyamor said. “This must be the guy.”
“Whoever he is, he has very good ears.” James said.
They saw the man stand up and turn out the window to look at them hiding behind some bushes. Opening the door he stepped out and yelled in their direction.
“Come out! All of you! Or I’ll be forced to kill you all and use you for doll parts.” The masked man said.
They all crept out slowly. Beyamor clenched his fists and fought back from unleashing his wrath against this masked man. James pulled Beyamor’s shoulder slightly back and told him not to attack until they knew it was really him.
“Welcome to my whore house.” The man said. “My name is Kraby.”
Knutaf found the masked man in Bright Falls eating at a restaurant. His mask was slightly pushed up over his mouth so that he could eat.
“What news do you have?” The masked man looked over at Knutaf and noticed his lack of arms. “Or should I not ask?”
“Things didn’t go as planned. Chad Concelmo threw a wrench in my planned attack. He came out of nowhere, but I know what his power is now. He can give commands to animals, and they’ll listen and obey.” Knutaf said. “I need you to heal my wounds.”
“Ah, Knutaf. Regenerating your arms is certainly possible, but extremely complex. The only way I know how is to bring back your age so far back that you hadn’t even grown arms yet, in your fetus stage of growth.” He said. “I’m sorry. That’s just too much to ask of me.”
“What? No, you can’t do this now. I killed for you. I want compensation. This is the least you can do.” Knutaf said angrily.
“I wondered, if aging you could even really kill you.” The masked man said.
“Wait…” Knutaf said. “Don’t… What are you doing?”
“But it’s clear that it will. With age comes death for us all.” The masked man said. “Except me of course.”
Knutaf scrambled for a mirror. He picked up shiny plates and threw them to the floor looking for some sort of reflection. In the restaurant bathroom he saw his new face, shriveled and sagging off of his dry bones. Knutaf wondered if he was going to go all the way. He looked like he was eighty, ninety, one hundred years old.
Slowly, Knutaf felt his life slip away. The mirror showed a face so disfigured he struggled just to look at it. Then his bones broke. He fell over and looked up at the masked man. The last thing Knutaf saw as the man took off his mask was his real face.
“You…” Knutaf cackled as he died. “I should have known it was you all along.”