Gods of Sagittarius – Snippet 18

It had eyes, too, as it turned out. They peered at her from somewhere deep within the ornate shell.

Huge eyes, of a size to match the thing. Red eyes. One might almost think they were furious —

“The Great Glai! Oh, and it’s angry!” chirped the Warlock Variation Drive. “If you don’t immediately worship it by chanting the secret text known only to the Devotees of Glai the last of whom perished forty-six geological periods ago, it’ll lose its temper! And it’s short-tempered! Look! It’s already –”

The something-like-a-derrick-arm began to unfold. Objects emerged that looked very much like weapons.

< — okay, not that one. Try — >

The image that Bresk brought into her mind this time was that of a simple sphere, with three large dots — eyespots? who knew? — located equidistantly on the side.

Now they were in still another chamber. A much smaller one. The sphere was perched on a small pedestal on top of a larger one on top of a larger one in the middle of the floor.

It was very small. No bigger than one of Bresk’s eyes.

The sphere began to spin. It felt as if something was sucking at Occo’s consciousness.

“The Marble of Mental Mayhem!” chirped the Warlock Variation Drive. “No one knows how it works because by the time they find out — well, probably long before then but who knows? — their brains have been transformed into the state known by the Psychists of Lawal as Consistently Uniform Paste. ‘CUP,’ for short.”

Occo sent a psychic snarl at her familiar.

< — think this is so easy you try — something — ever organized this stupid catalog — something — maybe this one — >

The image came to mind of an object that looked vaguely like a ceremonial tureen. Seeing no other option — her brain now felt like it was starting to shred at the edges — Occo brought it into focus.

The chamber they were now in was about half the size of the Hall of Saints. There were alcoves inset along the walls which contained small statues of . . .

Whatever they were.

“The Absolutist’s Toy Army!” chirped the Warlock Variation Drive. “And look! They’re coming alive!”

Sure enough. The hideous-looking little things — she’d call them creatures except they looked more like misshapen lumps of coal and clay — hopped out of the alcoves and landed on the floor.

And began growing. Quickly. As they grew, features began to emerge from their surfaces.

She found herself missing the simplicity of mere lumps.

“Aren’t they ugly?” chirped the Warlock Variation Drive. “We’re menaced by a fate so horrible that even the Nebular Harpies refuse to sing –”

<I think that’s it.>

Occo stared at the elaborately-decorated tureen resting in the center of the floor. It was fairly large, but delicate looking. She hurried over and picked it up.

The thing was heavier than it looked, but she could hold it easily enough, at least for a while.

The Warlock Variation Drive began chirping excitedly. “It’s the Skerkud Teleplaser! The Skerkud Teleplaser! Oh, the Toys are done for now unless they get back into their niches!”

But the Toys didn’t seem at all fazed by the sight of the Teleplaser in Occo’s hands. They began moving toward her, in a gait that was something like a snail’s movement. Slime was left on the floor behind them.

Happily, they were moving at a snail’s pace. Unhappily, the pace of a very large snail. They’d be upon her in a few minims.

“How does it work?” she demanded.

< — supposed to know? This catalog was compiled by a cretin, from what I can — >

“Who will eat who first?” chirped the Warlock Variation Drive. “Oh, the terror! The trepidation!”

Eat . . . Tureen . . .

Occo imagine the tureen full of Toys. Tiny ones.

The tureen was instantly full of very small Toys — and they’d all vanished from the chamber itself.

The Toys looked angry, though. At least, they were flopping around energetically and some of them were already sliming their way up the side of the bowl.

Soup. She pictured the tureen full of boiling water.

And so it was. The Toys began squirming frantically.

“They won’t last long! They won’t last long!” chirped the Warlock Variation Drive. “The Teleplaser uses only the fiercest blight!”

Occo looked more closely. The Toys were starting to dissolve. And the boiling water . . .

Didn’t look much like water, actually. More like . . .

Transparent mercury?

She didn’t know. She was pretty sure she didn’t want to know. Only traces of the Toys were now left and they’d be gone within . . .

They were gone. The liquid vanished from the bowl.

“You are the meanest Mama I’ve ever had!” chirped the Warlock Variation Drive. “This is such a grand adventure! What next? What next?”

Occo could hear noises coming from beyond their chamber. That was the sound of troops and military equipment being brought forward.

She didn’t know the capacity of the Teleplaser, but she was skeptical that it could devour entire armored vehicles.

And she saw no reason to find out. She was by now confident of her grasp of the Drive’s workings to think that she could finally use it to reach her destination.

“Stay linked,” she ordered Bresk. “Show me VF-6s-K55.”

The image of an astronomical photograph came to a mind. An arrow pointed to one of the multitude of faint dots on the image.

They were still in the chamber in the Repository. The sounds were getting louder.

“Oh, you sillies!” chirped the Warlock Variation Drive. “You need to see where I’m going! That’s not a place! How am I supposed to find it?”

“What does the planet look like?” Occo demanded.

<How am I — something — when all you gave me was — something — images in my records are only — something — names, not stupid — something — alog numbers. Give me a name!>

Occo didn’t know the name of the planet. She wasn’t even sure it had one. For Nac Zhe Anglan, anyway. But she remembered that there were some Humans living on the planet. And now that she thought about it . . .

The creatures did have a name for it. Katha . . . something.

“Do your records include Human catalogs?”

<Sure. Humans are stupid and crazy — something — never boring.>

“Look for a planet named Katha-something. Or maybe it’s Ktha-something.:

<Katha . . . nothing. Ktha . . . nothing.>

Kathi? Kthi? Ktho?

No — she remembered!

“It’s Kthu-something.”

<Kthu . . . Here it is! Cthulhu!>

The image of a murky-looking planet came to Occo’s mind. Murky-looking, because superimposed over the planet’s image was that of some sort of peculiar . . .

What was that thing?

“Cthulhu!” chirped the Warlock Variation Drive. “I haven’t visited the old guy in such a long time!”

They were hurtling toward a gigantic monster perched on a cliff. Its torso seemed to be that of a reptile. Its head . . .

The closest analog Occo could think of were some of the molluscan predators she’d seen on the water world Tweddle. But they’d been tiny compared to this horror.

“It never goes well! He’s eaten all five of my Mamas who came to visit! Well . . . Using the term ‘eaten’ pretty loosely. What will Mama do now?”

The tentacles were spreading out, beginning to engulf them on all sides. At their center gaped a beak that looked like a cavern.

Or a wormhole.

Well, of sorts. Close enough. Occo brought the image of the planet into clearer focus, doing everything in her power to blank out the monster.

“No Mama’s ever thought of that before! Wheeeeeeeeee!!!

They swept into the beak, through the — maw? the gullet beyond? who could say? — and —

Emerged in empty space. Floating before them was a brick-colored planet with no visible seas and little in the way of cloud cover.

“The hell-planet of the Old Ones!” chirped the Warlock Variation Drive. “Oh, you are the very very best Mama I’ve ever had!”