The bridges and highways of Gamma Terra are always dangerous. Having an extra pair of eyes, or three, is always helpful. Strange roads make for strange companions as they always say. They were an odd mix, a half-catman, half-hawk with no knowledge of his past, a large quiet man with rat eyes, a young girl who kept talking and arguing with herself, another woman who radiated a kind of energy and of course, myself. It seems we had all received the same message, Come to the pyramid on the lake and meet with Max. A black, triangular patch with the letters I.D.C. stitched in gold thread had accompanied the message.
Hawkeye, the cat-man-hawk-creature, wanted some food. Seems like he is always hungry. “Figure if they gots some food, it’s good enough for me,” he mumbled.
“Whatever, maybe we can find some answers”, muttered Mouse. “These damn Porkers haven’t been very forthcoming with information.” As he looked ahead at the bridge spanning the sludge-filled chasm. Strange sections of the sludge glowed with a sickly-purple glow.
Phi, or is it Tau, I can never tell commented, “I guess we won’t be needing the boat here. I am pretty sure I don’t want to disturb that.” Evie nodded her head in agreement, “It’s better to let purple sludge alone.”
Moving across the bridge, they passed several old signs and the burned out wreckage of a variety of cars and trucks. The blasted out structures of buildings loomed to the right as they walked along the ancient highway. To the left, the sound of water crashing on the rocks echoed up from the great lake. And in the distance a large shape plunged into the waters and pulled forth with something wriggling in it’s beak. As the creature flew off to enjoy its bounty, several tentacles burst forth wrapping around the creature and pulling it into the churning waters below. A few seconds later and the water was calm and still.
The sun continued to rise in the sky as we approached a barricade of debris and junk. A porker in a leather jerkin and a helmet poked his head over the pile and shouted, “Oi! You be needing to pay the toll if you wish to enter Cleave-land. Da Boss will not be havin’ no miscreants and trouble-makers in his town.”
“Mmmm, bacon”, whispered Mouse as he moved his horse to the edge of the road and pulled out a strange looking gun. His Rat-Blaster, I think he called it. Hawkeye stretched his wings a bit and flexed.
“Wait a sec. Let’s see what they want.” Evie countered. Turning back to the barricade she called out, “We don’t have any cash.”
The sentry pointed at a strange old exercise bike the Phi was carrying around in her keel boat, and snorted, “What about da bike? We take that and you can go.”
“Kappa is not going to be happy,” Phi muttered. “He loves that bike… Fine, but you guys owe me.” The porker signaled and the barricade opened up in the middle. Two other porkers, dressed in combat gear with automatic rifles slung on their backs, came out and grabbed the bike. Mouse sighed and looked a bit disappointed, but grabbed his horse and moved past the barricade.
Crisis averted, I thought. As we moved past the pile of junk and debris, I noticed a fourth porker sitting is a mounted turret. Not entirely sure what type of weapon that was, but it is probably for the best that we didn’t find out.
We moved into the remnants of the city proper. The streets remained abandoned and empty. However, the faint roar of a crowd could be heard from up ahead. A large coliseum off to the left seemed to be the source of the noise. After a quick consultation the group decided to continue on past whatever event was going on.
A short distance past the coliseum, a black pyramid jutted up on the shore of the lake. “Well, this looks like the place mentioned in the letter. Strange, pyramid-like structure on the banks of a lake. Should we go in?” asked Evie.
Mouse shrugged, “I guess so. We’ve come all this way, we might as well see what this Max Factor is all about.” Entering the structure was easy enough. As they approached the building, a pair of sliding glass doors opened automatically allowing them access to a large, circular atrium. The same pyramid structure was engraved in black and gold on the atrium’s floor. Evie’s eyes lingered briefly.
“So now what?” asked Hawkeye.
“Look around and see if you can find anything.”
The search appeared to be fruitless. The only indication of anything else in the atrium was a barely perceptible seam that ran vertically along the back wall. No control panels, no access panels, no levers or buttons of any kind. Giving an exasperated sigh, Mouse complained, “Come find the I.D.C., but don’t frakkin’ tell us how to get in!” He gave a half-hearted kick at the wall.
“There has to be some way in,” Phi commented. As if on cue, a strange tune filled the air and a tiny pinpoint of light climbed the seam. The seam quietly opened revealing a small, metallic room behind. A short man, maybe three and half feet tall, with shoulder-length brown hair and brilliant blue eyes smiled at the gaping group. He was dressed in a tan jumpsuit with a black triangular patch on his right shoulder and the name MAX stitched on his left breast. “Ahh, you’ve arrived,” he replied. “Sorry to keep you waiting, the lift isn’t quite as fast as it used to be. My name is Max and I welcome you to the I.D.C.”