Chapter 46: V


V is for versus,” Petersen muttered as if they were sitting ringside at some Friday Night Fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, which annoyed Kodek, though at least only slightly. For all Kodek knew maybe he – or a version of himself from some other-worldly dimension – had shared a ringside seat with Petersen in Las Vegas. Petersen’s subconscious could right now, even as they spoke (in this dimension) be synapsing off of some doppelganger experience he and Kodek had shared on some other plain of existence.

It was all too much for Kodek to think about right now.

The corpse of Zarana splayed out (scattered about) in front of him was enough, and he could also do without the constant and headache-inducing flashbacks of Shotgun Mary’s diner right now, thanks very much.

Petersen had been order to hand-deliver the finished propaganda Betacam tape for broadcast to Brain, as Brain was about to head off to Derrikson’s office for some executive shareholder’s meeting anyway later this afternoon. So they swung by, and now here they were, no Brain in sight, but one of the corporate actresses/assassins Lizzie Borden was here – and she was dead tired. Obviously. Because she was fast asleep and snoring like a fucking Mack truck right now on the couch in the corner of Brain’s lab. Covered in Zarana’s blood and some unidentifiable black goo-shit that left a bad taste in Kodek’s mouth just by looking at it. And if Kodek remembered her yellow waitress uniform to be splattered and fucked up before, it was now in need of complete incineration.

Do we need to do something about this?” Petersen asked.

Kodek wasn’t sure. He’d swear to Christ himself that he’d seen Zarana dead before. Perhaps more than once?

Are we getting paid to do anything?” he asked – it was a diplomatic enough answer, under the circumstances.

There weren’t any organs.” the voice from the couch, making Petersen’s and Kodek’s head spin suddenly.

She’s awake,” Petersen noted aloud. Kodek didn’t feel the need to respond to that.

What?” Kodek asked Lizzie.

Lizzie indicated the scatted pieces of corpse meat across the floor of Brain’s lab.

There weren’t any organs at all. Just that black junk.”

Kodek could see for himself. Tentacles, dead-spider-looking things. Melting slug-creatures. Things with arachnid legs and pieced that looked like black, bulbous, cancerous tongues. Nothing human. Nothing human from this world, anyway. Another Earth might be a different story.

You were, uh…” Kodek’s mind stuttered, then he took his eyes away from the alien carnage and focused on the previously-yellow waitress uniform Lizzie was wearing.

Bad flashbacks, man.

…Looking for her organs?”

The question at least caused Petersen to hoist an eyebrow.

Yeah, Kodek.” Lizzie stood up and humorously (Kodek thought) used the palms of her hands to smooth out her black-slime-splattered uniform skirt. “Isn’t that what we’re all doing for the corporation?”

Since when?” Kodek asked, and now he felt like Petersen’s raised brow was directed at him.

Am I the weird one here? He wondered.

Lizzie was definitely making is-he-being-serious? eye contact with Petersen now. At least Kodek wasn’t being paranoid, he was absolutely missing something here.

Since always,” Lizzie told him humorlessly.

What the hell do you think we’ve all been doing this whole time?” Petersen asked, but his eyes were now focused on his own shoes. He wouldn’t look Kodek in the eye. Like finding out your good buddy has AIDS and his face is spattered with leaking pustules – he was sidling ever so slightly away from Kodek, like his ignorance might be catching, or something.

The whole time?

Yeah,” Lizzie said.

Did I say that?

No, you didn’t say it, but I’ve been digging my hands through – touching – all that alien black shit inside of her,” she indicated the scatted corpse once again with a flick of her head. “Messes with your head.”

I guess,” Kodek knew. Messed with heads in all sorts of ways.

Organ harvesting? Really?

Yes, really. In fact, didn’t you have some documents or some shit on that-?” Lizzie’s question was stopped cold by Petersen’s gun. Not that he’d had a chance to fire a bullet from it, it was a fucking miracle he’d had enough time to even aim it at Lizzie’s head, she was damned fast.

She had him disarmed and down, squirming in the black/bloody mess on the faux-tiled floor of Brain’s lab and by the way he was now creaming, she’s busted his elbow in the process. She was pointing his own gun at him now, and then she shut her eyes, took a few deep breaths (out-two-three-four, in-two-three-four…) and relaxed, letting the aim drop away, if not the gun.

Why did you come here in the first place?” Kodek asked.

We shouldn’t be talking about this. You’ve gotta figure it out, bright boy.”

Great, Kodek thought, Now I’ve gotta be Raymond fucking Chandler.

I think you meant Philip Marlow. He’s the detective,” Lizzie informed him. “Chandler’s the author.”


Now, help me get Petersen up. We should get him out of here.”

To the hospital?”

No, fuck-wad, this place is going to explode in about…” she checked her wrist watch. “…three and a half minutes.”

A sudden shrill beeping came from the watch. She hit a button and it quit. “That’s my alarm,” she told him.

Oh, shit.”

Yeah. Come on, then!”

You set a bomb? Why?”

Brains is trouble with The Corporation. Big trouble. It’s all official, I’ll explain later… Now COME ON, MAN!”

Kodek leaped into action.

Sure enough, three minutes and sixteen seconds later, Brain’s entire lab – with the remnants of Zarana’s corpse and all of the slimy inter-dimensional black/tentacled shit in it – erupted in a glorious mushroom cloud. Just like the movies, Kodek thought, as they were making their getaway on foot.

I heard that,” Lizzie teased.


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