balaclava wearing man hunched over his multiple computer monitors, Russian
Hardbass playing at dangerously bass-boosted levels. A half-empty bottle of
vodka was wreathed by stubbed-out cigarettes on the well-worn desk, cigarette
ash falling haphazardly into his many mechanical keyboards. The clacking noise
of his fingers against the keys provided an ever-present undertone to the
playlist – and it was only minute one out of a potential 96 hour marathon. The
similarly-clad agent on the other side of the skype call let out a mirthless
laugh, stubbing out his own cigarette on his keyboard.

“Cyka, you better be. We can’t do
this forever, but we can buy you the next few hours.”

“Tch, Blyad. With this clearance
level I can stay in here for weeks-”

“But you have 4 days.”

“Da. That’s all I need.”

“No, that’s all you have.
Our window of opportunity isn’t forever-”

his screen, a battle was waging – multiple accounts hacked, small amounts of
GRC moved here or there, wallets opened and checked before disconnecting and
sanitizing the server. He was playing a game of “how
much can I get away with before the algo knows I’m here” and the answer was,
surprisingly, a lot.

“Da, da. You done?”

“Pizda. Don’t forget this kindness.”

first breaker snapped, and suddenly the balaclava-clad man had sudo-user
access. For the first time, he smiled.

“Nothing I am about to do is kind,

a keystroke, a command was entered.

that keystroke, Zephyr Station 8 Descended into chaos.

= = = = =


two humans groaned as harsh light flooded their cold cell, the two beings
shakily standing to their feet. There was no way for them to know how long they’ve
been held, and there was no way to know when they would be rescued. They weren’t
exactly in … civilized space, after all, and their
“warden” – using that term loosely and generously –
constantly took advantage of that fact.

“[We’re up, we’re up! You don’t have
to be so mean!]”

smiled maliciously through the titanium bars. “<Oh? Sass? So early in the
day? Well I know just what to give you to shut that mouth of yours up->”

“[W-wait!]” The other human said,
reaching out towards the bars. “[Please, we didn’t mean-]”

was the sound of a squeak, and then a rushing torrent of cold water as the two
humans were hosed down. The cell was already kept cool, so the water absolutely did not help at all. After a
few moments of the humans fighting vainly against the torrent of water it was
shut off, only to be replaced with the mocking laughter of the warden.

“[Oh no!]” The one female said,
turning to the other. “[These threadbare prison clothes are now totally soaked
through! You can even see my enlarged and soft breas-]”



Shpressnrek yelled far too loudly,
reflexively slamming her console with her hands in a panic to change everything. “The
Misadventures of Warm and Wet” were very quickly replaced with spreadsheets,
crew manifestos, atmospheric readouts and … well, “The Misadventures of Warm
and Wet” – except now the audio was somehow coming out of the speakers.

– nee Eagle-screm – recoiled slightly at the quick and panicked movement, the
clipboard she was holding moving from “flat
table” to “desperate shield of last resort”.

right, humans. You’ll have to take off those wet clothes and huddle for

“[W-wait-]” Jessica said, lowering
her shield just a bit.

hands were a flurry over her console, trying to desperately figure out what the
fuck happened, what settings were changed, and how to get the very erotic and not at all work-safe sounds to stop coming from
her work console

big! There’s no way we can fit that all inside-]”

“[No way! Shpressnrek, I know it’s
the night shift but is that-]”

anxiety-hissed; apparently she had somehow
pushed the movie to a desktop that she didn’t even setup
and the damn thing had used her default speakers and she couldn’t
get in without 2FA and why did they ever let humans
help code their consoles ever-

right, both of->”

was a very loud PANG of
flesh-on-metal, and a soft whine as the speakers slowly lost their charge.
Eagle-Screm lowered her clipboard just enough to see that her shift co-worker,
Shpressnrek, had physically punched out the main speaker of her console. This
of course didn’t mean that the movie had stopped playing, and that meant that there was still shenanigans afoot.

“[Let me see.]”

“<See what?>”

“[The porno. Let me see it!]”

“<Eagle-screm I have absolutely
no idea what you’re talking about. I am a professional with a stellar and clean
track record with over 200 confirmed years->”

“[200 years of watching porn! And
warmcuddle porn too!]” Eagle-screm grinned, physically tossing the clipboard
away as she started to climb over the railing to invade Shpressnrek’s personal
space. “[Now come on let me see the good stuff!]”
Jessica’s over-excited scramble to get into the same console-seat as the larger
Jornissian would, at any other time or day be considered adorable and somewhat
welcome. As it stood now…, well. A very large yet very firm and unyielding hand
pressed against Jessica’s forehead, holding her in place.


“[Was it Warm-and-ready?]”


“[The actress. She sounded like
Warm-and-ready; I can absolutely tell that it was warmcuddle-produced, as that
prison/guard trope has been used tons of times, especially in lesbian and
bisexual porn.]”

blinked and furrowed her brow. “<And how exactly
do you know this? You’re not
yet 50->”

sighed with a full-body sigh. “[Stop that. Besides,
I only watch the good stuff. Sounded like they
were going to double-team the guard, eh? Possibly slip away once he’s
been “exhausted”, aaay?]”

“<. . . It’s nothing more than .
. . An education->”

“[An education in booty.
Besides, I didn’t take you for a – I mean, I
thought you were hetero.]”

“<What? I am!>”

“[So you want to see two chicks
double-team a dude?]”

“<I-I mean, it’s more like, uh.
It’s just, he’s very well endowed and has a commanding presence and there’s a
bit of power play a- and stop kinkshaming me>

huffed as she (very gently) tipped the inquisitive human backwards over the rail,
making sure she landed on her feet with a gentle tap. “<J-just what do you want?!>”

“[Nothing! Well, I mean, it’s a
little something. There’s a bit of a-]” Eagle-screm suddenly stopped mid
sentence, her eyes seeming to focus on some middle-distance only she could see.
Shpressnrek turned behind her at a glance, and saw that the clock had struck
midnight. After a few moments of silence Shpressnrek turned back again, to see
Eagle-screm physically shaking.

“<O-oh. Oh Gods, Eagle-screm are
you ok->” Shpressnrek slowly reached out a hand, her other dancing on her
console to quickly key in a code blue.

“[M-mid… Fri…]”

“<Eagle-screm, come on. Focus on
me little one.>”

turned her head slightly to look at the Jornissian, and looked through her. For you see, the clock had
struck midnight.


“<What? Eagle-screm, you’re


tensed as the human started to look around frantically before full-body launching herself at the Jornissian.
Human reflexes and speed and… well. Most
everything, really, posed no immediate threat to a CQC-trained Jornissian, and
Shpressnrek was able to dodge the initial flurry of blows-

Not a flurry of punches, they’re all open palms-

a screech Eagle-screm attempted to throw herself at Shpressnrek’s
console. The Jornissian wrapped her arms around the smaller human and full-body
lifted her up, earning another surprisingly loud and long
screech as the warm-cuddle flailed in her arms. With an errant tap of her
finger, the console sent out a medical alert.

“<IRT this is Shpressnrek Keycode
Thressn-Predre-78. I’ve got a mental break of some sort on->”

internal comm was lit up with the sounds of screaming, banging, and – was that weaponsfire?!

“[Shpressnrek Keycode
Thressen-Predre-78 look I’m going to be brutally honest with you everything has
absolutely gone soullight-out over here-]”

“<Where is here->”

“[Yes – that’s absolutely correct.
We’ve gotten 1100 code blues in the last 30 – no – 45 seconds. 1250. 1500.
By the eternal light-]”

“<What’s going on?! Nerve gas
attack?! What’s happening to them->” Shpressnrek started
to yell, concern sitting icy in her stomach, it’s pressure raising her voice.

“[We don’t know. 27 – no, 4,500. We’ve
been trying to reach the stationmaster but we’re getting nothing. 7,860. Incident Response is quarantining the entire station;
nobody in or out. We can’t raise anyone in fleet, and the
other stations aren’t taking our hails. Use backdoors – the official channels
are flooded with useless data – 9,942 -]”

“<Useless data?! Harsak-crushed lies. What is it?>”

“[Look Shpressnrek I really shouldn’t
even be taking your call but we’re friends so-]”

“<An example. Just one. Just->”
Shpressnrek held Jessica a bit tighter, the human trying to full-body wiggle
out of her grip. “<Give me an idea.>”

“[Fine, fine… uh. 7,500% off of Wumbo.]”

“<7,500% off of Wumbo->”

screeched, thrashing about ever-more-violently in the Jornissian’s grip.

“[That’s all I can give you.
Suggestion is support them through their spasms, let them tire out, and then
move to a medbay – any medbay. IRT’s setting up triage- good luck.]”

comm link went dead. The clock struck midnight, and all hell broke loose.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

Russian hardbass had not stopped. If anything it only got stronger.

balaclava-clad man was now wearing an ushanka, allowing him to upgrade from 3
keyboards to 5 – it didn’t matter that only 1 of them was
connected to anything; it was all about the setup, man. Soon, he would have to
break out the programming-squats, a dark art only used in the most dire of

one had passed, much as planned. 4 deaths on Zephyr Station 8 – bodies on ice,
roughly 500 other hospitalizations. The entire station had been sealed; nobody
goes in or out. Data traffic had also been closed up tight, which means that
only people with sudo-level access could access the net at large. Everyone else
was stuck with either broadcast television or whatever information they could
get in print. Worst case scenario, you’d have to
make your orders through the nanofabricators themselves.

was, of course, all according to kekaiku.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

pressed her body against the hallway wall, sliding up it slightly to use as a
support. With a higher vantage point she peeked around the corner and frowned
at what she saw.

no, 20 warm-cuddles. Milling about as if they had no purpose, staring fixedly
at one of the hallway monitors, the bright colors and flashing images
mesmerizing them completely. Their hands moved in silent rythms only known to
them – as far as Shpressnrek could tell, the issue was with some of their
implants, or implant-related. It didn’t matter, not anymore – she had left
Eagle-screm in her console after she passed out, and watched with morbid
curiosity as she woke up, threw herself at the screens, and began to place
orders for nonsensical things. Services, items, widgets to contraptions she
didn’t even own – whatever had possessed
her friend had so completely taken over her will with that of blind
consumerism. Eagle-screm didn’t look up, didn’t
move, didn’t blink, so focused was her
concentration on draining her bank account…

Until someone broke that concentration – then the warm-cuddle would turn on the
transgressor as one hive-mind unit, tearing them apart. She was able to fight
off Eagle-screm very easily, and a few other humans she met in the hallways
were easy to subdue as well.

groups? She’d seen them swallow a Dorarizin whole.
Just. Crest over the poor Janitor like a wave, and when they receded, there was
nothing left.

… except for a Dorarizin. Sitting in
a pile of GRC.

Without anything to his name.

slunk back around the corner, mind racing. She could probably just slide right
past them at full sprint, but, doing so might end up crippling one of the
warm-cuddles if she ended up body-checking them into the wall. She knew, like
everyone who was stationed at Dirt, that when push came to shove their lives
came before her own; a simple and horrific mind-parasite affecting everyone on
the station was no excuse to use
lethal force.

“[I agree completely.]” Tr’Grakz,
nodding sagely.

“<WHA->” Shpressnrek recoiled
as she made eye-contact with the Karnakian that had suddenly snuck up on her.

“[Hello friend. Dark Skies ahead, it
seems.]” Tr’Grakz said, pushing past the hyperventilating Jornissian to peek
around the corner. “[Mmmm. This is less than ideal.]”

“<Just – how
did you. What?->”

“[Not important right now, is it?
Where are you headed?]”

“<Uh. Hangar. I thought that
maybe one of the->”

“[All shuttles are AWOL. None have
come up from Dirt, none are going between stations.]”

“<What? But I’d think that the
warm-cuddle government would be notified about->”

“[It’s affecting everyone.]” Tr’Grakz
said, as matter-of-factly as a sapient could when presenting such horrific
news. “[I’ve only been able to verify 14 and 3, but. Same thing; Hermetic
seals, quarantine. Nothing in or out, and noisy data flooding every spectrum.]”

“<… who?>”

“[We don’t know. It seems to be
originating from Dirt itself, so.]”

“<… Mnemonic hazards have been
outlawed for millenia->”

Karnakian rounded on Shpressnrek with such speed and fervor that he appeared as
a blur to her own excellent vision. “[Do not insinuate what
you are.
cleaned that planet of everything,
and they were children.]”

two stared at each other for a few moments, each small increment of time
sagging with the weight of history and unsaid fears before Tr’Grakz
turned back to the hallway, crouching down in thought. “[… we simply must play
to the disease in order to move forward.]”

“<… so where do we even go?>”

“[First, here is truth; I am
Intelligence and Whispertalk. Nothing dirty.]”

stared at her friend – well, at the back of his head – and thought for a few
moments before responding. “<… Field Medic.
Wetwork. Pandemonium.>”

bobbed slightly as the revelation rolled over him. “[… what an interesting choice to send here.]”

“<I could say the same.>”

“[Still. You’re doing good for
someone used to taking directives. I’m trying to rally as many people as I can
to get to the food court.]”

“<Wait, food court? Why?>”

waved his tail in a “get back” motion, and Shpressnrek obliged. He inhaled
deeply –


was an unreasonably loud chorus of screeching as the mob turned towards the
noise and began to run.

“<What the->

Tr’Grakz hissed, pressing himself hard against the wall. After a few agonizing
moments the group of humans ran past them, bodies hunched over and arms
stretched back in their wake as they ran past the duo to the mythical Aisle 5.
After a few moments the sound of the pitter-patter of little feet dwindled to
nothing but background noise.

“[We go. I explain on the way, but,
the long and short of it is that in all warm-cuddle media when something like this
happens, the answer is to go to a retail store. They’re
safe, stocked, and large – so we should be safe there too while we regroup.]”

nodded and fell in behind Tr’Grakz as they raced
towards the elevator, towards the lower decks, towards the safety of a massive
retail chain.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

in sky, western spy.

on ground, camrade found.

on seat of computer chair while spinning softly, chain smoking and overdosing
on krokodil, that’s still not

had lost meaning to the triple-balaclava wearing madman; he could no longer
see, but he didn’t need to see. He was one with the
Hardbass. He was one with Mother Russia. He was one with the hacker known as
four chan. Newly-fingerless gloves grinding down keyboards, his window open to
allow the frigid arctic air into his brutalist lair, the hacker continued his
mad quest.

had been… a day. No. Three. It was the last
day – soon, he could rest. Soon it would be over.

it would be his.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

this was a terrible idea->”

was coiled around the tallest point of a warehouse shelf, a veritable sea of warm-cuddles thronging below
them. The Karnakian – whose claws were usually so adept at latching onto metal
– found himself wanting, as with each claw-gouge he would weaken his own
platform, causing various packaged goods to fall into the sea of humanity…

…and be utterly

was I to know they purposefully make bad decisions?!]”
snapped back, trying to maintain balance on an ever-shakier middle shelf. “[Why
would they even make movies like that?! Why would they
teach themselves wrong? Is it a joke-

“<L-look. I know things have been
hard since we lost Rgrezneh->”

“[She… when she lost her mate, she
just… let go, and, she just-]”

“<Tr’Grakz, look at me. She gave up, that was her
choice – but we can survive this, ok?! Just hang on->”

“[…she looked like she had such
peace. Like… she just… let go. Of everything.]”

mouth went dry as she looked at her friend – her fellow survivor – and tried to
reach out across the aisle. “<Tr’Grakz. Don’t. Don’t look down, don’t look
at them.>”

platform rocked as the horde far below them shook it, nothing more than the
animalistic desire of wanting stuff to fall onto them, to be
absorbed, to be devoured. A few more
errant boxes found their way down to the masses below, and like before, they
were ripped apart. Tr’Grakz watched with morbid curiosity
as some bits of what was in the package made it’s way to the front, to the
back, to all points of the store in a pattern only the human hive-mind could

“[I bet it was peaceful.]”

“<Tr’Grakz, no. No. Look at me,
take my hand, I can pull you up->”

“[…It was so quick too-]”

“<Tr’Grakz no->”

watched in mute horror as her last friend – and last survivor – looked at her
with sad, quiet eyes. He smiled, though it didn’t
light up the room as it once did, and nodded.

smiled a slightly hopeful smile and reached out a little further, stretching as
far forward as she dared. Tr’Grakz reached up and
gave a very human wave –

and fell backwards.


Shpressnrek roared in sadness and frustration as she watched the Karnakian
plummet to the floor. As one the humans descended upon him, and she saw him no


clock struck midnight.


“[Excuse me, Ma’am?]”

“<-Oooooo…oh?>” Shpressnrek
petered out, slowly deflating from a defiant-rage-against-the-gods to a living
questionmark. She looked down at the rapidly-dispersing human mob, who seemed
absolutely none worse the wear for their past multiday ordeal.

fact, they looked ecstatic. As they
dispersed she saw the very-much still living Tr’Grakz,
naked as the day he was hatched save for a significant pile of GRC laying on
his chest.

So that’s what that looks like.>’
Shpressnrek thought idly, before shaking her head
clear. “<I uhm. Yes?>”

“[Yes, you. Ma’am, I’m going to have
to ask you to not climb the shelves at Low-Home*Mart & Beyond. If you need
help, an associate will help you.]”

“<I um. What. What just – What just happened?!>”

“[Ma’am I don’t know what the
problem seems to be but I need you to get off the shelf; you’re not an elf and
this will only raise our insurance premiums.]”

two sapients stared at each other for a few moments, the happy murmur of human
conversations and the merry beep of
the checkout lines settling in as an omnipresent white noise.


human sighed and wiped his hands on his smock before turning towards her fallen

“[Shpressnrek! I’m alive!]” Tr’Grakz
chirped happily, waving up to his friend in a daze.

“[Sir, I’m going to have to ask you
to put on pants… again.]”


= = = = = = = = = = = = =

Abramson stumbled out of his impromptu crypt, the acrid scent of cigarettes,
terrible food and illicit drugs clinging to his disheveled form like a man adrift
at sea clings to what floating scraps he can find. He stood at the viewport
window, steadying himself with a hand as he tried to will the world to stop spinning.

“Well, comrade?”

frowned and turned to his partner-in-crime, Ivan Ivanovitch Ivanovsky and
growled. “Fuck, give me a moment.”

“No, no. Not after that investment.
I want what we need, now. You say the future
of this station and everyone rests on it-”

“It’s being delivered you inbred

“Davai. Coffe is made, da?”

warm mug was thrust into Glenn’s chest, which he
readily accepted and drank with zero apprehension.

“So? What is it? What is worth
shutting down the entire station network, multiple deaths, and the public
maiming of our… visitors?

swirled the half-drunk mug in his hand for a moment before smiling softly.

“I got a great deal on replacement
caps for those disposable bic ballpoint pens.”

face fell. “No… such caps – it is legend.”










Bonus Ending]

“Nope.” Grinned Glenn. “It’s real as
you and me – and as real as the merchandise you can now buy of They are Smol – all at cost, physical shitposts, delivered right
to your door just in time for the holidays.”

“Aaah! It’s the utopian promises of
communism, made manifest!” Ivan exclaimed, looking directly at the reader
reading these words with their eyes. “That promise being, as Marx wrote, the
propagation of rampant late-stage capitalism. So, in the spirit of this holiday
shopping season, we are happy to shill out with terrible and obnoxious product
placements. Go buy your physical shitpost today!”

the secret bonus ending left everyone with a bad taste in their mouth but also
a morbid curiosity that could only be quenched by going to a website that would
give google a bunch of questionable
algorithm connections to make.

Holidays, from the Writeforge/TaS team to you. We do love you.

remember: If you died during black friday your bloodline is weak and you
deserve to be culled.

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