SHIP'S LOG:

Thot Slayer

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Slobodkina 12/5/2021 10:06pm


I was spending some time alone in the observation bar. Sky Tower didn't get a lot of visitors, so I had the place to myself. Seemed like it hadn't been properly cleaned since the Confusion, and the worn out office carpet could really use a zoom brooming, but the little pouches of peanuts I found behind the bar were still edible. Luckily the whole place had stopped rotating after Mr. Hammer agreed to our demands. Auckland looked nice.

"Well, I've got it all planned out!" said the Little Holographic Tour Guide Girl, who appeared out of nowhere and whose name I'd begun to capitalize. I'd never thought to ask her name. Do little holographic tour guide girls have names? Was it that long alphanumeric code on her tour guide girl badge maybe? Anyway, she had a way of just popping out of the blue, which in this case made me spill my peanuts.

"Oh I'm so sorry, did I startle you, young boy or girl or self described other? Tour guide girls must remember never to approach visitors in a way that is startling. Oh my I must report myself for a recalibration--"

"No, no no no. You're fine. Please -- no diagnostics are necessary. I'm looking forward to leaving you a five-star review."

"Oh that would be very sweet, young boy or girl or self described other. But not until the assessment survey! Which I'm sure is coming sooner than ever, now that I've booked the series of portals that will lead us to the wondrous land of Arvada!"

"That's very kind, Little Holographic Tour Guide Girl, but I promise you that Arvada is not so wondrous. Or at least is didn't used to be."

"Well anywhere with your mommy in it is just BOUND to be wondrous! But I will say I had to chart us an interesting route. The usual portals were closed to us, and the portals that are available between here and Arvada may be in some disrepair."

"Closed? To us?"

"I'm sure it was just some network latency error because we're already so far off the main grid. But don't you worry! I've been overseeing Mr. Hammer's repairs to the Thot Slayer and do you know what I had him include?"

"Uh..."

"I hope you like soft serve ice cream!!!!"






Slobodkina 10/12/2021 10:17pm


"See what a little positive thinking can do? And I'm 100% POSITIVE!"

The Little Holographic Tour Guide Girl was still glowing electric blue, floating about five feet off the floor, electrical discharges shooting out from her hair and fingers and toes. Mr. Hammer had left the room after agreeing to her demands, which were:

1) That my commission be reinstated (including a complimentary promotion to captain from Mr. Hammer).

2) That I be granted ownership of the Thot Slayer (based on some arcane law concerning salvage provision).

3) A lifetime warranty and free maintenance of the Thot Slayer at all Zephyr Air Quick Stations worldwide (apparently the Zephyr Air Transport company had devolved into a run-down but expansive franchise chain of combination airship stations and convenience stores).

It was everything I could ever need to make my way in this world. With the exception of knowing where the missing six years of my life went.

"Yes I guess Mr. Hammer was a victim of positive thinking alright."

"He's a nice man, but he's not really your mommy or daddy or guardian, is he?"

The Little Holographic Tour Guide Girl didn't sound disappointed. Just noting a fact.

"No, he's not."

"Well then it's time we set off on finding them, don't you think?"

I guess she really wasn't going to let that one go. It was in her programming.

"My dad is dead," I said. "But my mom lives in Arvada."






Slobodkina 8/28/2021 11:57pm


Mr. Hammer took us to his office, just a few floors down from the docking area. Level 52, according to the door in the stairwell.

"Please, call me Dean," he said. "Have a seat."

There was a single cheap desk in the center of the room with a pair of busted office chairs in front of it. The rest of the floor was bare and you could see the city in all directions.

"This whole floor used to rotate -- a full 360 degrees every hour! But we had to deactivate it and use it for parts."

The little holographic tour guide girl and I took seats. Dean sat behind the desk in his.

"So, well, as I'm sure you're aware," he went on, "records got a little frazzled when the Ancient Ones arrived. There were electromagnetic hurricanes and intelligent carnivorous computer viruses and everything just went a bit haywire. The Confusion they called it. But we were able to find some paper records from the time that you describe. You filled out a number of official complaints..."

"Yes, my Leading through Caring initiative." It all seemed like a million years ago. A different lifetime.

"Well it turned out to be a good thing, because our HR department ended up keeping quite a file on you. Wanting to make sure they had everything neatly documented leading up to your termination."

"My what?!"

"Yes, you know, there was all kinds of official paperwork that had to be filled out for that kind of thing back then. On paper! God, the amount of things I had to sign. Anyway, that's where your disappearance had been recorded. Yes... here it is... 'Last communications received just before entering the Bermuda Triangle. No further transmissions detected. All hands considered lost.' And yet here you are, and here's the Thot Slayer. What happened to the rest of the crew?"

The crew. Sigh. Guess I hadn't given them much thought for awhile. But they always marched to the beat of their own drum I suppose.

"Bermuda City, sir," I replied,

Dean Hamer looked startled. "Bermuda City? All this time? Well things did get a bit mixed around during The Confusion. Like you, they had their commissions cancelled after not checking in for six months."

"My commission's been cancelled?"

"Well, technically, yes. But now you've arrived, and in possession of Zephyr Air Transport property..."

The Thot Slayer.

"Please, Mister Hammer," the little holographic tour guide girl squeaked. "Now's not the time to play the blame game! We've come a long long way together, through the hard times and the good. Now I think it's time for us to CELEBRATE!"

And the little holographic tour guide girl turned a kind of electric blue, with thin strands of lightning coming from her hair. The overhead office lights started blinking, and with a mighty creak, Level 52 began to rotate.







Slobodkina 7/15/2021 10:58pm


CLUNk-CHING!

The Thot Slayer docked with a satisfying Clunk-Ching. Much more resonant and real than the magneto fields (or whatever) generated at the prior facilities we'd been.

Auckland's Sky Tower wasn't originally created as a moor post for airships. Like all such towers of their era, winds were too unpredictable to allow for safe docking in such a dense urban environment. But through the the intervention of the Ancient Ones (who restored peace and harmony to our war-exhausted planet), world weather patterns were altered to allow for it. Even here in a backwater like Auckland. According to the little holographic tour guide girl.

"Oh I can't wait to meet your mommy or daddy or guardian!" she twittered. We were waiting for the passenger boarding bridge to lock onto the main hatch. "My job is SO rewarding."

"DISARM DOORS AND CROSSCHECK" came the voice over the speaker.

I disarmed the door, and the little holographic tour guide girl and I looked at each other.

"Cross-checked" I replied.

After making visual contact with us, Auckland ground control decided we weren't meddling hacker kids and guided us in. But they weren't exactly what I'd call welcoming. There weren't any other ships in dock, but a number of long abandoned ships and rotting hulls lay on the tops of the surrounding buildings.

"CLEAR TO OPEN" came the voice.

I opened the doors, and over the threshold came cool air and the smell of the ocean and earth and green.

A man walked down the gangway. Long hair and a white beard. Army shorts and a black t-shirt. Socks and loafers.

"Welcome, Thot Slayer. I'm Dean Hammer. CEO of Zephyr Air."

"Is it your DADDY?" asked the little holographic tour guide girl.








Slobodkina 5/28/2021 11:19pm


"Ooof! And here we are. Auckland!" the little holographic tour guide girl exclaimed. "Any more of that Monte Cristo left?"

I hadn't been able to eat another bite after viewing the wreckage in the portal at Hanga Roa. And the foul weather in Pape'ete hadn't helped.

"Uh, sure." I handed her the box.

"Oh, ugh! What did you do to it? There's really no point when they're all mashed up like that."

Auckland lacked the graceful spires and monstrous curved structures of the other cities we'd passed through. There were the famous skyscrapers, like the Pacifica, Commercial Bay and Seascape buildings, and of course the old Sky Tower, but it seemed stuck in a different era from everywhere else we'd been. Like me.

"I just know your mommy and daddy or guardian are nearby. They'll be so happy to see you I am sure! Would you like to give them a call?"

The little holographic tour guide girl gestured towards the comms panel.

I picked up the headset and opened up the HQ frequency.

"Uh. Come in Zephyr Air Transport actual. This is the Thot Slayer. Come in Zephyr HQ. Over."

Static.

"Come in Zephyr Air HQ. This is Thot Slayer. Come in."

More static.

The little holographic tour guide girl looked at me expectantly.

"Oh I'm so excited! This really is one of the best parts of my job."

The line continued to hiss with white noise. I tried using the little morse code button. I tried hailing a few more times.

Then, just as I was about to hang up...

"Who is this? How did you get this frequency? If this is you hacker kids meddling again..."

"Hooray!" cried the little holographic tour guide girl. "We found them!"






Slobodkina 4/15/2021 11:54pm


"Well I guess we ran into some traffic," said the little holographic tour guide girl.

We had taken a table at a little outdoor cafe at Hanga Roa. There was a slight breeze. Lines of airships filled the sky, backed up waiting their turn through the portal.

"Once in awhile a ship gets stuck in the portal, and it can take a little while to clear it," she explained. "Ooooo they have a Monte Cristo on the menu. Don't you just love Monte Cristos? If you like grilled cheese, then you're in for a real treat!"

"I know what a Monte Cristo is."

"Well I'm sure your mommy or daddy might have made you a grilled cheese, but a real Monte Cristo is really something that's best at a restaurant. It has powdered sugar!!"

"But you don't eat sandwiches. You only eat electricity I thought?"

"Yes that's true, but have you ever seen a perfect Monte Cristo sandwich? Would you like to split one? You can have my half too!"

We placed our order with a waiter.

"Oooo and look! You can see the statues from here! Look behind you!"

I turned and saw the most colossal, unnerving sculpture I'd ever seen in my life. I'd seen pictures of the Moai before, but they looked nothing like this. Instead of a smooth, clean profile with the long nose and brooding forehead, this one had an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind.

I was at once startled and deeply nauseated. I wanted to run.

"That... doesn't look anything like the postcards," I said.

The little holographic tour guide girl paused for a moment. It was that glitch-state again. Then she spoke.

"Oh, yes, you're talking about the postcards from the before time that were all destroyed. As well as all other print and digital images of the---"

She froze for a moment more, then:

"Oh look here comes our food! Yummy!"

The waiter set down a plate bearing the most beautiful looking Monte Cristo I had ever seen. Which was immediately followed by a terrific explosion in the direction of the portal. Our little table rattled in the rumble from the blast.

"Ah ha! Sounds like they've cleared the portal!" said the little holographic tour guide girl. "Things will start moving now and it will be our turn before you know it. Waiter, can we get this to go?"






Slobodkina 3/3/2021 9:07pm


Visit Zephyr Air HQ? I'd never been there in my life! I joined up and was hired remotely (in Arvada), but didn't board the ship till Virginia Beach (they'd just come down from the Finger Lakes).

Anyhoo, with HQ refusing my hails, I guess going there in person would be the next best thing. Get the ship and my commission reinstated, maybe find out if they know anything about the missing six years of my life.

Plus, what else was there to do? And the long trip to Auckland would at least give me time to think. Long stretches of ocean and clouds and nothing to do. Sounded kind of nice, actually. Exactly how long was this going to take? At least a couple of weeks.

"Hold on to your hats, buckaroos! It's time to enter the Bermuda City portal!" cries the little holographic tour guide girl.

"Portal?"

"We're up next. And shouldn't all boys or girls or self described others be wearing their seatbelts?"

"Seatbelts?"

"Strap in!"

A sudden explosion of light filled the bridge as we sailed through a giant ring floating just offshore. It knocked me off my feet and against the comms panel.

"And now just a weensie bit of a ride..."

Outside the windshield was a... prismatic void? So... deep. Dark. Pretty...

"And, welcome to Havana!"

Somehow the prismatic void had coalesced into a different city. The same insane techno spears of Bermuda City, but colorful. Bright blues, gold, pinks.

"It'll be about a half an hour until we're allowed to enter the Havana portal," said the little holographic tour guide girl. "But I got us right in line. No layover here!"

"So, how long till we get to Auckland?"

"Well," she said, "let's see. Next stop Managua, then Panama City, Quito, Hanga Roa, Pape'ete, and finally Auckland. Definitely less than four hours if we don't run into any traffic."

So much for my relaxing me time.






Slobodkina 1/19/2021 10:05pm


"Well good morning little boy or girl or self-described other! Are you ready find your mommy or daddy or guardian today?"

The little holographic tour guide girl had way too much energy, jumping on my bed like that. And finishing off the hotel mini-bar last night put me in a somewhat degraded position.

"I'm fully charged, and ready to help you find your family!"

It was time for me to be honest with the little holographic tour guide girl.

"It's time for me to be honest, little holographic tour guide girl," I said, raising my head as much as I could without feeling more nauseous. "I didn't come here with them. My mommy or daddy are not here Bermuda City. All I have is my ship."

The little holographic tour guide girl froze for a moment, as if finally processing it. Then, she looked at me more carefully.

"Your ship. The Thot Slayer, registry 9353-420 of the Zephyr Air Transport fleet, ... reported missing in action six years ago..."

She trailed off, internally generated data reflecting off her eyeballs. Internally.

"Yes! Yes, exactly. Now, I'll just be off with my ship, and you can consider this case closed," I said.

The little holographic tour guide girl froze up again, and this time glitched.

She glitched again, and then resumed.

"Case closed? Oh my dear no! The Planetary Heritage Parks Procedure Manual clearly states that visual confirmation of parents or guardians is required before the guide or other Planetary Heritage Park employee relinquish responsibility for said minor. Your ship's registry is quite definite. We must assume your mommy or daddy works at this Zephyr Air Transport. We must go to them!"

"Go to Zephyr Air Transport? Headquarters?"

"Exactly," said the little holographic tour guide girl.

"It's in Auckland..." I said.

"Then it's time we got going! Rise and shine! Check out time is at eleven!"






Slobodkina 12/6/2020 11:33pm


I decided to make the most of my situation.  

“Room service? Yes, I would like six of your most delicious grilled cheese sandwiches. Just one tomato soup, but put it in a bowl. And a flagon of your best apple cider. Room 1007. Thanks."

My little holographic tour guide girl was purring away in her bed, plugged into the outlet in the wall.

"Well. So."

The room really did have a great view. 270 degrees of Bermuda Triangle City at night, all its spires and spines, dotted with lights.

Oh! TV! Where's the remote? I wonder what's on.

CRRRRKSS

"BREAKING NEWS! The Court of Heralds of Her Most Glorious Ruler of the Sixth Segment Seven Times appeared today at Bermuda City Hall to deliver the monthly tribute list. In other news, Squid Reduction Ceremonies are taking place across the Great Reef--"

CRRRRKSS

"Are you tired of someone hijacking your lens? It's time to turn the tables with G.G. Tickler's Spy Eye Reverter Technique! Merely fold the eyelid o--"

CRRRRKSS

"Oh Linda, put your tentacles down where I can see them. Yes! YES!!!"

CRRRRKSS

Ooops. Don't want to get charged for the pay per view. But what kind of world IS this?






Slobodkina 10/18/2020 10:30pm


I wasn't exactly in trouble... but this little holographic tour guide girl was complicating things.

Who was I kidding? I'd just learned that I'd somehow... missed the last six years? And that an ancient extraterrestrial culture of inconceivable power had taken control of the world in the meantime? But there had been a race of ancient alien rulers even before them who had been hanging around and was responsible for turning my former crew into mindless zombies?

I should be thankful I have a little holographic tour guide girl.

"So, little boy or girl or self-described other," said the little holographic tour guide girl. "Which hotel did you say your mommy and daddy were staying at?"

She certainly did know how to fly the Thot Slayer. Definitely better than I did.

"Oh, yes... about that. I really don't remember it well. How about you just take me to each one, and I'll see if it rings a bell."

"Coming right up! First stop, the Grand Marquis!"

There sure were a lot of hotels in Bermuda Triangle City. Spending so much time hauling its garbage, I hadn't really had the chance to see its finer side of life. Such beautiful buildings--spires, really--colonnades like coral ridges, arching into the skies forever. Mooring posts and grand foyers. Bellboys and floating luggage carts.

"I'm hungry, little holographic tour guide girl."

"Oh I'll bet you are my little good natured tyke! A hungry tummy makes an angry camper! Luckily, I have a stipend for just this kind of emergency. Come with me."

Soon, we're sitting in the dining room at the Mondo Excelsior and I've got the most incredible grilled cheese sandwich I've ever seen, with a tiny ramekin of tomato soup, and a glass of apple juice. I really am famished.

"Oh dear. I'll be needing a recharge soon too! But I don't eat the kind of food kids eat. I eat pure e-lec-tricity! Luckily, I have a stipend for that too. I'm accessing the front desk, and... reservation made."

"A room in this hotel? Make sure it has a view!"

"Reservation changed."

"And, plenty of rooms. A suite! I need my privacy."

"Reservation changed."

"Japanese tub?"

"Reservation changed."

The little holographic tour guide girl is turning out to be real handy.






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