Zod: Part Two

Zod **Chapter 2**

By Neil McGill

Chapter Two
Undead, and loving it

Daeldus reclined in his chair, slung a pair of knee length lizard skin boots onto the desk and tightened his Prussian blue dressing down over thick tartan pyjamas. Snappy dresser, he possibly wasn’t, Daeldus preferred to think of himself as alternative dresser; and at this time of night when the heating was off, anything that was warm was acceptable, which was lucky, for his chequered deer stalker hat with extra fluffy lapels, looked truly ridiculous.

Space watch was a rotten job, and was one frequented by an assortment of hollow eyed zombies with purple-white skin and stare- locked eyes that bulged with great burrowing veins. Frequented by them… and Daeldus.

At first Daeldus tried to blend in. However, all the ‘uuuh’ing’ began to get him down and frankly, he just wasn’t up to having his limbs drop off just yet. Still, in this, his third month of consecutive night shifts, and no social life to speak off, Daeldus found he was developing an alarming tendency to dribble. This at least he thought, made him blend in a bit more, though it did wreak havoc with his console.

Despite these mutant co-workers and the nocturnal lifestyle, Daeldus found himself enjoying the night shift more and more. After all, it was a quiet time and gave him a chance to combine work with his favourite hobby, apart from pushing back the frontiers of style that is. It was a demanding hobby and one that required intense concentration and lots and lots of practice, but mainly comprised watching the backs of his eyelids; and then, preferably whilst unconscious.

Or perhaps it was because his boss worked days.

A washing machine that seemed to be on a perpetual and erratic spin dry, vibrated it’s way into the control deck and bobbed up and down in front of Daeldus. Based on the idea that little flashing lights are popular with consumers, this was an example of that concept dragged screaming to infinity. Every square inch of its body was covered, with a mesmerising collection of twinkling lights that depicted every statistical facet of its internal workings. Even the stubby feet weren’t wasted and were encrusted with deep crimson beads that pulsed the floor temperature in seventeen signalling dialects. The result was an eye singing cacophony of colour that in times of need, doubled up as a Zodmas tree. The result was called Charlie.

"Alright, Charlie, usual thing me matie. You watch yon screens over there for the next… erm, however long I’m on shift, beep if you see anything untoward, and I’ll… I’ll… collate the information when I wake up."


"There’s a good boy."

Charlie glided off to light up the corner. He tilted slightly on his repulsors and settled in for a good bit of watching.

The watch was an important duty and wasn’t generally trusted to the robots. They had a nasty habit of doing exactly what you told them. Ask a robot to watch out for an incoming vessel and it’ll do just that, happily ignoring that giant meteor on collision course. Tell it to watch out for meteors and it’ll still ignore that black-hole. Such robots hid in the assumption that it was the silly human’s fault for not giving enough detail in their orders; actually they secretly enjoyed bleeping up and often searched extensively for loopholes in their instructions, just to see that look of frustration.

Daeldus felt confident with Charlie. After all, he’d spent possibly entire… minutes training Charlie in the complexities of his job: "if the red light flashes, you press the green button." Perhaps not the most technical job in the galaxy, but an unimportant one none the less. And so, an ideal situation had been reached: Charlie did all the work, Daeldus watched it. He could watch it all night, but often chose not to. He had more pressing things to do. His hobby for one.

Checking for one last time that the command deck was clear, Daeldus sighed with pleasure, shut his eyes; and began to snooze.

Like a great black space limousine, the ship sliced it’s way through the ether of space with a distinctive ease and elegance at odds with it’s formidable dimensions. Its exact shape was hard to discern and could only really be guessed at by the stars that its never-ending hulk consumed as it oozed through the cosmos. This ship, with its provocative and fleetingly revealed curves, ate space, gave it a good spanking and spat it whimpering back out the other side with the lesson never to get in the way again. In a word, it was not only cool, but sub-zero.

Space twisted, turned, swallowed itself and then in a brief flash of ultra-black ejected the hyper-spatial hearse from in-between space and into the orbit of one, Bluppo-ZZZ1; a small and unbelievably insignificant world that cowered next to an equally insignificant world.

The ideal place for a hideout.

With a squeal of brakes that never was, the ship rocked violently in sudden deceleration and amidst blooming and shimmering clouds of ice vapour liberated from the frozen hull; and came to a stop over the little green planet below. Actually, it could have been above, behind, left a bit or both could have been upside down. In space, everyone’s confused. The first rays of sunlight crept over the horizon, thought better of it and crept back. The ship just hung there. Black, ominously black. Small things in the jungle far below watched the hole in the stars and gave frightened little ‘ooks."

A pinprick of light tantalisingly revealed itself.

And then, it was gone.

Daeldus twitched erratically. It was a bad dream, and simply wouldn’t do what his subconscious wanted. He moaned discontentedly and returned to those ladies lacking in garmental coverage that just kept running to fast and keeping just out of reach.

Unfortunately, this dream jogging had activated his legs, as Daeldus’ toes, with no prior specific training of their own, managed to deactivate the early warning system. Well, it was only a paper cup half filed with coffee weighing down the `ON’ button; nothing fancy here.

Charlie noticed, but pretended he hadn’t.

A lone green dot inaudibly went bleep in a rather urgent fashion.

Charlie definitely didn’t notice that either.

Daeldus stirred in his slumber, plumped up his synthaflesh jacket and dozed off again.

Every cloud has a silver lining.

This one’s came from space.

Bursting from its vapour cocoon, the seed shaped vessel, like venom spat from the sky god, streaked for the surface. At the last moment, it arced upwards and attained level flight, skimming bare meters above the jungle treetops. Branches cracked and bowed, leaves scattered high in the air and more than one small mammal leapt for cover as it soared past, followed seconds later by a fiery shock wave that scorched whatever remained. The jungle was gone in a flash, and now it swept across an immense baking desert where only bleached bones bore witness to its passage. Mountains reared and between ragged peaks of avalanching snow it finally began to slow.

It seemed like just an ordinary valley. And it was. The craft sailed past and onwards to a lagoon of mist that swirled in the first embers of morning. Staggering pillars of knotted trees punctuated the mist like swaying plesiosaurs and between these the ship sank.

A still lake where great long shadows swam, revealed itself and in the midst of that, an island of bare rock and grass. The deep grasses rustled as it approached and upon landing, parted.

Sinking into the ground, the craft was soon gone.

The grasses returned.

Hiss. Pressure valves pumped and the door boomed open like a falling drawbridge. Dry ice that usually potters about eerily in low budget graveyard scenes dared to lap the edges of the gangplank but was soon ushered away by the incredible chill that gushed out. The chill of the undead.

There were only two of them, but each shuddering step carried the resounding cry of a pile-driver.. Echoing through the landing dock, they made their way to the personnel entry gate as whistling gasps of wind attempted to hurl themselves out of their path.

"HI GUYS!" enthused the lift personality as it saw the forms approaching. "UP BRIGHT AND EA—"

A dark cold glove placed itself over the speaker.


Nothing likes the undead. Not even the undead and especially not life insurance brokers.

"Holy bleep! Daeldus wake up!" cried the panic stricken private. A well placed kick and Daeldus attained the rarely attained state of not-quite-consciousness.

"…Hey man, what’s the steam?" came the croaking reply.

"Steam? Bleepity bleep man, look at your mother bleeping console!" Daeldus wiped the sleep from his eyes and slowly turned to face his place of work.

A sprout-sized green dot pulsed happily. A smaller one, perhaps pea-sized indicated that it was already present in the docking bay. Two further red ones, flashed urgently.

"Who are they?" asked Daeldus.

"How the bleep should I know, that’s your job man!"

Daeldus shot a glance at Charlie. If he had a gun, he’d of used that instead.

"Charlie, I thought I told you to look out for anything. Y’know, just in case I happened to… miss the odd thing."


"Well, why the bleep didn’t you tell me then!" he hissed.


Charlie felt pleased with this, the slightest of plays on words. Probability estimates reckoned this would drive the human into a frenzy of despair.


"Bing! Bing!" chirped the lift as it approached their level.

"Oh bleep! There here!" shouted the private.

"Daeldus, do something…"

Daeldus walked up to Charlie, looked him in what may have been his eyes, and then after consideration, head-butted him. Daeldus promptly fell over.

The lift doors flew open rather quicker than they usually did and ejected its contents like an enema.

"Good evening gentlemen," spoke a deep and hollow timbre that filled the mind and sent it cowering for cover. It was the sort of voice that made its living in dark alleyways. By stopping yours.

"My name is irrelevant. This however, is Mr Sanguinario."

"Pleased to meet you… Mr Irrelevant" said the private.

The young boy calmly watched the ocean scene as a ship, it’s sails billowing and catching the setting suns, drifted past the harbour walls and meandered towards the horizon. Legend spoke of the boiling turmoil where the suns met the sea each night and gave birth to the stars as fleeing sparks and Sod, son of God yearned to see it. Yet, what chance had he, lowly son of a clam gutter gutterer, who couldn’t even afford a paper boat, let alone passage on a real one.

Sod sighed. He often wondered where they went, who travelled on them, what sorts of exotic diseases they caught and would they have space for lonely child, keen to see the high seas. Or even the low ones. Any would do.

In truth, all Sod wanted to do was to escape. To reach some place where people were equal, nice to each other, and his name wasn’t part of the lingo.

A gentle nudge in his shirt pocket brought his attention back to the one friend he had and understood. A smallish friend admittedly and perhaps one not given to deep thought or meaningful discussions, but a friend. A friend who gave and didn’t ask. Except perhaps for the odd bit of cheese.

He stroked the silky black and silver speckled hair that comprised, Houdini, his pet rat, or personal rodent companion as Houdini preferred. Houdini had what could only be described as a serious tail, and a nose that could twitch with the best, but most important of all, he liked to nuzzle in warm places, and as Sod’s shirt pocket was always handy, or chesty, the two got on fabulously.

Sod spent hours, days, and even seconds up here. It was his place. His, and Houdini’s, and was so peaceful that the silence that reigned between the Slimy Bay Watchers* could almost be felt.

He would miss it dearly.

A new term was approaching and his parents had already decided to send him away. Originally he’d been happy with the idea, but then realised that they meant him to go somewhere specific.

"St Badger’s Military School!" he spat bitterly and with cold resentment. His parents were poor. Not even dirt poor, they had to steal other peoples dirt for that. But, one thing was sure. Their son, their only son would have an ‘idukashon’ as they so eloquently put it. The mere fact that Sod didn’t actually want one didn’t come into consideration. He would get one. He would learn his words, and even then, how they joined together.

The mountains were where Sod belonged, or rather, it was where everyone else thought he belonged, up high in the peaks, watching the world in its silent throes.

Another nudge.

"What’s up Houdini? Is it time to go?"

Houdini squeaked cutely. Squeaking is about the only line that Houdini gets, so don’t get disappointed.


The shock wave of air buffeted Sod to the ground as something incredibly fast passed within inches of his head and then ploughed into a nearby Juju tree. An explosion followed as burning sap and plain old bark burst high into the air. A further shock wave of melted air ripped over Sod’s crouched form and then… nothing.

Crackle. Fizz. Silence.

Sod regained his feet, after them having fallen off in the shock, and hopped across the smoking ground towards the twisted dendriform remains. If he’d been a tree, he’d probably of vomited, or perhaps shook a few leaves in horror.

"Squeak!" went Houdini.

"You squeaked it. Phew, what a mess. But… what’s that?"

There was a faint and pulsing crocus-yellow glow from a steaming egg shaped object, sitting, if it had a posterior, in what was now definitely a tree-stump.

Sod stepped carefully forwards, and prodded it with ‘The Handy Stick’ that lies nearby in such moments.

Something swirled inside.

Something with fangs.

"So, Mr… Sanguinario" spoke Commander Burnton in a voice that he hoped sounded calm and authoritative but achieved nether. "To what do we owe this visit of yours?"

Mr Sanguinario was a smallish man who compensated for his vertical girth in circumference. He wore a thick double breasted coat that ran to his shoes, and would have ran a lot further were it allowed to. Rings encrusted both hands and the left sleeve was retracted slightly to bring attention to a chunky and gleaming antique watch that caught the light like a vice. It had a strap that doubled his wrist size; which was fortunate, for the wrist was slim, skeletal slim and the taught skin about it had a lack- lustre cadaverous quality to it, which was thankfully mostly obscured. He had not only the air of money, but appeared to have most of its physical manifestations also. However, one thing appeared to be ‘not quite normal.’ It wasn’t that his clothes, although magnificent and appeared to be of a fashion from a forgotten and dramatic period. Neither was it the blank poker face and still listless eyes.

Burnton had it, it was his teeth.

He wasn’t smiling, far from it, but you could still discern the pair of canines that hung just above his bottom lip.

Burnton shivered and fished for a cough sweet. The man was a vampire, and did menthol work as well as garlic?

"As I said before, Mr Sanguinario, representative of Sanguinario Fratelli Enterprises is here to inquire as to why your account is in arreas," spoke the tall spindly creature that was acting as the voice.

Burnton surveyed it and wished he hadn’t.

He’d never actually seen one before, and honestly, he hoped he never would. It was a ghoul.

It was vaguely recognisable as human but the long curving nails, uneven teeth and dishevelled hair gave it away. Either that or it was a student. Skin clung to the over-long bones in tatters and were it not for the long flowing night-black cloak that it wore and billowing pearl-white shirt, believed that it might fall apart before him.

"Erm, I don’t actually follow you there on that one. In fact, I don’t even know what you’re doing here or… Who actually told you we even exist?" Burnton was feeling good now, he liked telling people off. He continued "You see, we are a covert military organisation, operating in one might say, certain activities against the cruel empirical regime. We simply don’t have accounts. Period." Burnton smiled politely. "So why don’t you and your friend here, just go away and we’ll forget you ever came? Eh?" Burnton hoped big time that they would agree, but managed to keep a confident face. It was a pity his quivering legs didn’t follow the lead.

"This, my client is aware of Mr Bumton."


"Whatever. Never the less, your organisation has managed to acquire a great deal of debt. A most severe amount," the ghoul added, baring it’s yellowed fangs in a grimace that might pass for a smile in your worst imagined nightmare.

The ghoul looked to the impassive face of Mr Sanguinario for instructions. A mere blink was all that passed between the two. "My client, Mr Sanguinario, and his brother, Mr Pipistrello, who is currently unavailable due to his extended business trip out on the rim, are aware that your organisation is what could be loosely called, a rebellion. And, as such, is subject to rebellion tax." Obviously prepared for an outburst in response to this sort of statement, the ghoul paused, permitting Burnton to burble.

"Rebellion tax! What bleeping tosh, never heard of it."

"It exists."

"Really, and I suppose, you just invented it?"

"My client informs me that the Rebellion Tax Act has now been in enforcement from…" he checked his watch, ‘about now.’

"Bleep that! Were not paying any bleeping tax to you, you bleeping corpses. We’re a military organisation, we don’t need to pay anyone anything. What exactly do you think you’re going to do about that then?"

The ghoul stared serenely with the air of one that knew precisely what would be done.

Mr Sanguinario cleared his throat of whatever nefarious substance he collected in there.

"Well, what are you going to do!" repeated Burnton.

He turned and gave a quick smile of reassurance to his command, which, it as to be said, were standing rather far behind. And getting further all the time.

"Things can get broken, people hurt, starships go missing," spoke the ghoul quietly.

"Pfah! We have over a thousand vessels, I’d like to see you try."

There was a distant explosion. The ground shook violently.

The valley next door was no more. Well, you can’t really destroy a valley, it was possibly just deeper, that’s all.

"I’d like to see you try," repeated Burnton, not trying to sound aghast.

Burnton looked down at his hand and wished he hadn’t.

The ghoul had hold of it with a force, not in itself uncomfortable, but with the likely possibility that it would increase to that stage rather soon. He hadn’t even seen it move.

"Shoot them!" screamed Burnton as he tried to push away from the Ghoul.

There followed a variety of further explosions, seemingly distant and getting closer.

Burnton’s personnel opened fire.

The troll’s studded club swung with a ferocity that would have decapitated its target.

Unfortunately, it did.

Sknarf sprung from her crouched position, avoiding the fell blow, but falling over the flailing body of her now dead companion. Sprawled on the ground, she gazed up into the glowing eyes of her attacker, burning with pure malice and giving off a smoke of hatred. It raised the club high above what passed for a head in troll life and then powered it down towards the downed woman.


"Grok!" cursed the troll. The club crushed the ground where she had lain but moments before, from fine dust to slightly finer dust. Sknarf struck back with a suitcase-sized block of flint. The blow, though well aimed, had no effect, other than to chip off a small chunk of troll. She tossed the rock aside in failure. "Har! You no can hurt Gor!" it laughed heartily. The chunk was growing back before her eyes. Damn trolls, she thought, how can you kill something that keeps re-growing its limbs.

Turning with typical slowness for the species, it brought its great limbs to bear.

The shadow towered and loomed over her. She had no chance, this was the end.

Oh well, she thought, at least it’s a ticket out of this place.

Sknarf closed here eyes and waited.


The troll lurched sideways, jolted by the impact and giving a furious foiled roar.


Attempting to turn and trying to face the unseen attacker, the troll floundered. It was being pushed, unbelievably, closer to the mine entrance.


Now it was falling backwards.

Sknarf opened her eyes. This was not expected. Looking over at the cheering faces of her co-workers, she followed their gaze.

And saw him.

The attacker was a young man, that although Sknarf had seen and admired before, she didn’t know his name.

Now, the troll was down on all fours and not looking happy at all. Possibly even slightly perturbed at the outcome of the situation. It’s almost impossible to harm the trolls, as the miners, the last indigenous life forms on this planet found to their peril. However, there was one thing, above all else that they couldn’t tolerate. Actually, they couldn’t tolerate most things, but this one really annoyed them. "Aargh!" cried the troll, as its head, burning, was dragged further into the early morning sun. The heat was gentle, still being spring yet it was enough.

The young man kept going, and now, the full hideous form of the troll guard was ablaze. He stepped back, and with a calmness that one would have expected to be tinged with psychotic fury, but wasn’t, impassively watched the figure.

The flames abated and the troll began to stiffen and cool rapidly from a deep lava colour to the dark fused and unpliable rock of its bleak homeland. It would never move again.

With any luck.

"Holy Zod!" The commotion had attracted the other guards who thundered out from the subsurface levels, angry at having their tormenting interrupted. They formed a half-ring, all carefully keeping within the shade, and around the young man.

"Aright, get in ere… Now!" growled a particularly large troll, his teeth grinding together with a hungry gravely sound and it’s sulphurous eyes squinting into the infant daylight.

"You know, outside is guard’d, and we’d get ya anywise when ra night comes. So… movvirt!"

Reluctantly but with chin held high, the young man stepped back into the cool shade of the mine. And into their fists.

One troll slammed him across the shoulders whilst the other kicked in his leg. He went down, but didn’t cry out or show any form of pain. This undoubtedly annoyed the trolls, whose only pleasure in life is to drain the emotion from all that meet them. Trolls aren’t very good at parties.

Double shackles were locked about his legs and joined with those already on his tensed arms. Dangling and clanking, the chains were taken by one troll and held like a leash.

Regardless of the considerable weight of the chains and shackles, the young man, blood streaking down his back and dripping onto oil covered rocks, still managed to stand proud and faced his oppressor with unwavering eyes.

This one’s goin’ to be a lorra trouble, thought the troll who we’ll later discover is called Dingus.

"Take ‘im down to ra prison level. Keep ‘im there for…" Dingus pondered this; they needed all the workers they could, but he had to appear in authority over the human scum.

"…A week. And no food nor water neither." It wasn’t a harsh punishment, the miners hardly ever got food and water anyway, indeed, Dingus was silently indebted. He’d just been promoted as a result of this, and he’d never liked Gor anyway.

Two trolls of lesser ranks picked the perpetrator up bodily with exaggerated ease and marched past Sknarf and the other miners and down the tunnel.

"Who are you?" called out Sknarf.

"Shurrit you," bellowed Dingus. This insolence was intolerable. They should have rid the whole planet of this vermin.

"Spiff!" came back the distant but chirpy reply.

Sod held the small creature aloft and beheld it.

It had a coat of silver sparkling flecks and a long spiked and lashing tail that wrapped itself about his finger affectionately. The young eyes bore into Sod’s awe-struck face and formed a bond that would last far longer than at least one of their lives.

Sod couldn’t quite believe his luck. They were mythical, or so he had believed, and yet, here it was.

A Dragon.

Mr Sanguinario surveyed the many holes in his body.

He was not amused.

Neither was Burnton’s staff. But then, they were all dead and weren’t prone to demonstrate any emotions at all.

"Holy Bleep!" croaked Burnton.

He hadn’t even seen the ghoul move. Again. Now, his staff, and presumably a large percentage of his armed forces appeared to be… damaged.

"As my client said Mr Burnton. Things can get hurt. Even military forces need protection. Look what happened here now Mr Burntbum, an easily avoidable accident. Wouldn’t you agree?"

Burnton nodded slowly with a complete lack of knowledge as to why he was nodding.

"Accidents… happen…" he murmured.

Burnton snapped out of the intense gaze of the ghoul and regained his composure, "This can’t be happening. It’s ludicrous!"

The ghoul grimaced; or smiled.

"Never the less, I hope you will sign here, backdated of course, and I hope you don’t mind, but we’ve included the cost of a nice new suit for Mr Sanguinario and a small tip for prompt service. After all, we’re business associates now. Consider yourself part of our family!"

The ghoul produced an archaic looking piece of tea stained parchment, unrolled it and presented it to Burnton. It appeared to be made of skin.

"I…I… don’t have a pen."

It was a feeble way to delay the inevitable.

The ghoul took one of Burnton’s fingers, snapped it off and handed it back to him, with a polite smile.

"Sod!" The shout boomed across the haze drenched classroom and started a quiet torrent of sniggering.

"SOD!" A small burst of spittle drenched the unfortunate at the front of the class.

Unreserved sniggering and a rolled up ball bounced across Sod’s desk.


"Yessir!" Sod jumped to a start.

"What in the name of Holy Virgin Father are you doing in that desk?"

Mr Thik marched down the aisle between the desks, cane in hand and soaking in the power that he had over a bunch of terrified kids. Sod gently eased the desk lit shut and took an air of assured innocence.

"Well then…Sod!" he boomed. Mr Thik liked to speak loudly, and in particular, the badly chosen name of his most detested pupil. It’s not that Sod was noisy or troublesome, actually, the opposite was true. In truth, Mr Thik just hated people who had names that sounded like words. His own name, had often been compared to one word in particular, although Mr Thik couldn’t see the similarity.

He was well suited to be a school teacher, having been sacked from his job as prison warder, for acts of dubious and obscene cruelty with the prison mascot, it was the only career that would accept them. Children needed discipline, lots and lots of it, and in particular, young Sod. "What do we have here then… hmm.?" Turning slowly and giving an arrogant sneer to the children, he just kept cranking up the humiliation dial.

"N…nothing sir," spoke Sod timidly.

"Well, I think I’ll be the judge, jury, executioner, grave digger and body snatcher of that you detestable little bleepard!" Mr Thik grinned wildly ad leant close to Sod’s face and spat:

"And I do hope you brought enough for everyone?"

"Oh I think so Sir… I think so." There was a slight, almost undetectable, except to the author, sliver of a smile.

Mr Thik yanked back the lid and whilst smiling confidently at the surrounding children, plunged his hand into the depths of the desk. There was a snap. A not inconsiderable fireball. A muffled scream, a thump, and then lots more of the same.

Sod left school early that day.

To be continued...


* Two tooth like monoliths of reflective volcanic rock that faced out towards the ocean and served as beacons for passing ships. Quite the most interesting thing that Slimy bay has to offer.

Copyright 1997 by Neil McGill

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