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Kadauchi was the script king of MTC. No one could dispute that, and no one tried. Everyone wanted his scripts, badly, and some would pay just about anything to get their hands on them. He could write scripts for any HIT, from Brelig to VacationRentalAPI. He was writing scripts day and night. Things were going great for Kadauchi.
That is... until yesterday.
I popped another marshmallow in my mouth and flipped my notebook open. Kadauchi had been missing since yesterday. His wife, Coffeeowl, sat in front of me, a tissue held to her eyes. “I don’t know where he went. He was there last night, testing some script for PDS, and when I woke up he was gone..”
“It’s okay. Don’t worry, I’ll figure it out. Marshmallow?” She shook her head but the child behind her perked up.
“Can I have one?”
“SG777, sit down and hush! I’m so sorry!” She sniffled and wiped her eyes.
“No, it’s fine.” I pulled out the package of marshmallows and tossed it over to the kid. “Now you go play in there. I’m gonna talk to your mom for a little while.”
He smiled and ran off and I scribbled some notes down.
“So, about what time did you last speak with him?”
“Well, I didn’t really look at the time. I was laying in bed, almost asleep. It had to be pretty late, around reset, since Kad always maxes out pretty early and then writes scripts for the rest of the night.”
“Okay, well just start from the beginning and tell me again what you remember.”
“Well, like I said, I was laying in bed. I heard HITmonitor ding but I was more than half asleep so I just rolled over and ignored it. Kad was muttering something about missing semicolons in the office. He came in and said he had to run to the store for more batch supplies and that’s the last I saw of him.”
I nodded and closed my notebook. “Well, I’ll see what I can find, Ms. Owl. Don’t you worry, we’ll find out something.” Coffeeowl smiled, called to SG777 and stepped out of my office.
There was only one place to look if Kadauchi was heading out for batch supplies, and that would be Batches Я Us.
“Krikket,” I called to my faithful secretary, “hold down the fort. We got us a job. I’ll be back.”
She stopped me before I closed the office door.
“Wait, boss lady.” She tossed me a travel bag of marshmallows. “And there’s something you should know. There’s been rumors. Rumors about scripting away captchas. That’s the kind of script you might... kill for.”
“Let’s not jump to conclusions here Krik, he’s just missin’..” I laughed, but worry blossomed in the pit of my stomach. Was it even possible to script away captchas? If I was a betting gal, I know I’d put my money on Kad if it was.
I pocketed the travel pack of marshmallows - could never leave home without them. Some said it was worse than smoking but my tastebuds, and more importantly my lungs, disagreed.
The drive to the store was uneventful. I pulled into the store with an eerie feeling as I realized that the lights were all off. It was prime turking time, the place should have been lit up. There were cars in the parking lot and people pacing in front of the entrance yelling about throttling.
“What’s going on here people?” I yelled out as I walked up.
“Jharkan hasn’t opened yet! Doesn’t he know we’ve got work to do?”
“Yeah! I’m contacting his IRB,” someone else yelled.
“Yeah that only works for surveys,” I said, pushing the person out of the way. “Why don’t y’all get out of here before I start redacting you. Go on, get.”
The crowd dispersed but not before Infinity jumped from behind a bush and yelled “Drama Llama!” While throwing popcorn.
“Okay, you’re out. 1 day reply ban.” I said and wrote her name down in the back of my notebook as she ran off laughing.
“Okay,” I said and knocked on the door to Batches Я Us. “Hello?”
The door creaked open and I wandered inside.
“Hello, it’s Jaded. I’m here on an investigation.”
My voice echoed through the warehouse but there was no response. I sighed and pulled out my marshmallow gun. “This place is just a little too creepy,” I whispered.
I walked to the back room, passing half-stocked cases of Monster. My foot slipped on the floor and I caught myself before I took a spill. I was ready to blame my natural clumsiness when I caught the faint whiff of motor oil. I flipped the switch and the room lit up, revealing the slick of oil on the floor. Kadauchi had definitely been here. I followed the trail of oil around a tall stack of boxes.
“Aw crap.” I put my gun away and crouched down. There was Jharkan, dead under a pile of hard blocks. “Gosh dammit!”
The police arrived rather quickly, all things considered. They cleaned everything up and handed over the evidence once I cleared it with their supervisor. There was not much evidence, but what was there painted half a picture. A partially finished script had been in Jharkan’s hand, and it was a match for Kadauchi’s handwriting.
“I’ve got an unfinished script, a slick of oil, and a dead internets expert. What is going on here..?”
“You’re the investigator, you tell me.” I spun around, startled.
I thought I had been alone but someone stepped out from behind a shelf.
“Who are you?”
“I’m MerryLou, Jharkan’s business partner. Nice to meet you.” She held out her hand, with bright red fingernails. “I’m here with my wife, Heeheehahaha. We wanted to,” she paused. “Survey the damage.”
Another woman stepped out from behind her, and smiled widely. “Heeheehahaha,” she pronounced her name like a bout of evil laughter, “pleased to meet you.”
“I really don’t think you should be back here yet.”
“Oh, well I got permission from the detectives outside, they said there was nothing more they needed…”
“Is that so.” I narrowed my eyes. Her showing up so soon after Jharkan’s death was more than a little suspicious. “Why don’t we go talk to them.”
They smiled at me.
“Yes ma’am,” they said together.
That’s a little creepy, but whatevs, I thought as I walked out of the store. The officers were still talking near the front door.
“Hey, Jaded, we’re all done here. There were some creepy ladies that wanted-” The officer saw Merrylou and HeeHeeHahaha standing behind me and closed his mouth. “Whoops, I, um, I said they could go in. Here’s a copy of the piece of paper the dead guy was holding” He blushed as he passed over the half finished script, and crawled into his car.
“Well then,” I said and turned around. “I guess you were right. And I’m also guessing you have no idea what happened to your business partner?”
“Not a clue. Why don’t you pass over that script and maybe it’ll shed some light on the situation?” MerryLou held out her hand, but I kept the script gripped tightly in my hand.
“Tell me, MerryLou, do you have Masters?”
Her blush told me all I needed to know.
“Look, lady. Jharkan was my partner and I deserve to know what happened in my own building!” MerryLou burst out angrily while Heeheehahaha’s wicked smirk grew.
I popped a marshmallow in my mouth with authority.
“Hoo han heet he in mah ohice homorow.”
MerryLou and Heeheehahaha gave each other confused looks. “What?”
“Thorry,” I gulped down the marshmallow, “I said, You can meet me in my office tomorrow!” I turned on my heel and headed straight for my car. The act was just that, an act. Those women had spooked me and I intended to get back to the safety of my office as fast as possible.
As I drove, I mulled over what I knew.
Kadauchi, king of scripts, had gone missing last night. Today I had discovered the body of Jharkan next to a trail of oil, grasping a half finished script. A script that MerryLou, his business partner, was at the very least interested in.
Distracted by my drifting thoughts, I barely slammed on my breaks in time as someone ran out in front of my car. They slammed their hands down on the hood as I came to skidding halt. It was that crazy trouble-maker from the parking lot, Infinity.
“What are you doing! Don’t make this worse, I’ll IP ban you if I have to!” I yelled at her as I threw open my car door.
“Hey, hey, I saw you with those coppers. Hey, hey, you got that script on you, yeah? I heard about that script, yeah.” Infinity's eyebrows were doing a crazy dance as she jittered and jumped around in the road. I should have seen it before: script junkie.
“Calm down! Hey, hey! What were you doing this morning before Batches R Us was supposed to open? Huh?!” Script junkies like Infinity would do almost anything for a new script. If the one I was currently holding was what I was thinking, then it was the motherlode.
“Nothing! Nothing, definitely not a survey. Nope! Batches, batches, batches, all day and all night. What about that script though, huh? Ya’ll got any more of them copies? Huh?” Infinity was begging for a fix, but she wouldn’t find it from me.
“Get out of the road, you! But don’t go too far, I may have some more questions for you, you hear me?” I didn’t really think Infinity was capable of cold blooded murder, but I wouldn’t put anything past a script junkie.
I arrived back to the office late. Krikket had already left, but not before setting out a mug with some cocoa and mini marshmallows for me. She knew how I liked to end a hard day’s investigation. As I settled back to the sweet aroma of cocoa, I heard a knock at my door.
Office hours were long over, so I set down my mug and picked up my marshmallow gun. I peered through the peephole and recognized the face beyond.
“Kadauchi! Coffeowl has been worried sick about you!” I threw open the door and let the poor guy in. His metal body clanked and rattled as he shivered from the cold. I offered him a chair and he sat down, still shaking.
“I’d offer you a cup of cocoa with mini marshmallows but I know how you like your oil.”
Kad raised a hand and waved away my offer. “I suppose you know about Jharkan?”
I nodded gravely. I noticed a few drop of dark liquid on his tin torso. I wanted it to be oil, but it sure looked like blood. I tried to keep my cool.
“I found him in the warehouse earlier. I know you were there Kad.”
“I was meeting him there about the script I was writing. Jaded, the rumors are true, I think I found a way to get around captchas, once and for all.”
I gasped and choked on a mini marshmallow.
“I know! But I couldn’t finish the script. I needed Jharkan’s help, at least, he said he was an internets expert, but when I got there I realized he didn’t even make over $30 a day on mturk!”
I gasped again, and choked on another mini marshmallow.
“I know! So I tried to get my script back from him, and that’s when he turned on me. I saw the dollar signs in his eyes and I knew I had to get out of there. So I ran.”
“I want to believe you Kad, but I have to know first, what’s that on you?” I had emptied the ammo from my marshmallow gun into my hand and threw it at his chest. The marshmallows bounced off and rolled along the floor. We watched as if in slow motion as they came to a stop. The marshmallows were spotted with bright red.
My wide eyes turned toward the robot I thought I had known.
“I didn’t do it, Jaded. I swear! Would I do that to Coffeeowl? To SG777?”
But I already knew the truth. I knew the murderer was….
@Tigerpants awoke with sunlight glaring in her face. She checked the time, 10 am.
"Not bad," she thought.
Slowly, she rose from the bed and looked over, @Vanyanka and @JenniLeigh were still sound asleep. Even being on the island did nothing to fix everyone's sleep schedules and the uncomfortable cots certainly didn't help the situation. Tigerpants quietly got dressed and made her way down the hall to the kitchen. Coffee was the only thing on her mind.
As she entered the kitchen, she was greeted by the bright, peppy (and obnoxious) face of @Drwho10.
“Morning!” he exclaimed as if it was the greatest thing since sliced bread.
She grunted at him, grabbed a cup of coffee, and sat down at the breakfast table.
Along with Drwho10, @nickhatesyou and @freedolphin were both already up, eating their breakfasts. Drwho10 sipped a cup of black coffee, accompanied by a sensible meal of eggs, bacon, and toast. Nickhatesyou had the biggest stack of pancakes anyone had ever seen, slathered in an ungodly amount of syrup and butter. Tigerpants had no idea how he stayed so skinny, and the monstrosity made bile rise in her throat. Freedolphin nibbled uncomfortably on his own piece of toast. He always seemed tense, and Tigerpants could never quite figure out what was going on in his head. The group in a silence broken only by the occasional slurp or crunch.
“So, what do you think the next challenge is going to be?” Drwho10 asked, pushing his glasses up on the bridge of his nose.
“I'm not sure,” Tigerpants responded, “We've already done a lot of singing and graphic art, it's hard to tell what @TQueen has in store.”
“Probably another damn popularity contest,” Nickhatesyou muttered cynically before returning to gorge on his breakfast. Tigerpants frowned when she heard the sound of someone padding towards the kitchen.
“Morning,” JenniLeigh mentioned as she went for the coffee.
“Good Morning” Tigerpants returned, “How'd you sleep?”
“Terrible!” she said “Those cots suck! I can't wait until we win this motherf***** and I can get back to my comfy bed at home!”
“Tell me about it,” Drwho10 replied, “and NotARobot's snoring is the worst! It's louder than my motorcycle!” He grinned.
“Is Vanyanka still asleep?” Tigerpants asked
“Yeah, still totally passed out of course,” JenniLeigh replied.
“Well, I'm gonna try to get some work done, then I guess I'll try to get her up in an hour or so,” Tigerpants said as she rose.
Along with rooms, each cabin came outfitted with office spaces, the large room was partitioned with cubicles, so everyone had their own workspace. Tigerpants made her way to her cubicle and started the arduous task of loading up scripts and the forum. Not long after, she was followed in by the rest of the group, who all made their way to each of their spaces.
“Where's Not A Robot?” JenniLeigh piped up, “He's usually up before me.”
“Not sure,” said DrWho10 “I'll go che-,” he was interrupted by the sound of an ear piercing scream. Shocked, everyone ran toward the source, the men's dorm.
DrWho10 was the first through the door, barreling through to see what had happened. Vanyanka stood in the middle of the room, shaking and crying. She gestured wildly, blubbering nonsensically. That's when we saw... something.
There in his bunk was Not A Robot, or at least they thought it was Not A Robot. His face was covered in blood, and a strange thick, green substance was oozing from his mouth. The sheets and pillows were soaked clean through. It was hard to believe so much blood could come from one person. His face was black, blood had been streaming from his eyes, nose, mouth and ears, and was now cracked and crusty like dry mud.
JenniLeigh rushed to Vanyanka to calm her, hugging her and whispering to her, while everyone looked on in horror. Blood drained from Drwho10's face
“What the fuck?” Tigerpants whispered.
“What the hell happened!?” Nickhatesyou exclaimed, looking towards Vanyanka.
Vanyanka looked up from JenniLeigh's shoulder “I don't know,” she muttered ”I came to look for everyone, and I found... This...”
DrWho10 had composed himself and moved closer.
“I've never seen anything like this,” he stated, “This substance.”
“What are you, some sort of CSI expert now?” asked Tigerpants incredulously “What do you know about this!?”
“Well, for my day job I analyze chemicals, and this looks like nothing I've ever seen before.”
“Oh,” she looked embarrassed for a moment, before looking back towards the body. “Do you think someone murdered him?” With that DrWho10 threw back the remaining covers exposing the rest of Not A Robot for everyone to see.
“Woah, dude, at least use gloves,” Freedolphin said, to everyone’s surprise.
“Do you see any gloves around here?” Drwho10 asked, before turning back to the body.
With the covers gone you could see that the rest of Not A Robot was pink. Not from blood, but flushed like he'd spent too many hours in the sun with no sunscreen.
“This is incredible,” Drwho10 said “I've never seen anything like this before, This is no natural death...” he trailed off.
“You don't mean..” JenniLeigh started. DrWho10 nodded, and everyone knew. Not A Robot had been murdered.
“It must have been those SOBs!” Nickhatesyou spat out angrily, “They've been gunning for other players since the start! First the Hit Busters, now us!”
“Not likely,” Vanyanka said, she had since composed herself and sat thoughtfully in the corner, “they're just as locked down as we are on their side of the island.”
“Then it must have been...” JenniLeigh started, sweat began to bead on her forehead. Everyone looked around at each other confused.
“No way!” Tigerpants yelled “There's no way anyone could have done this! Not A Robot was the most skilled artist on the island!”
“I don't know, Drwho10 seems pretty comfortable with this dead guy here” Nickhatesyou accused.
“You're the one who's always pessimistic and shitty,” Drwho10 shot back.
“Guys guys calm down, now is not the time for infighting.” Tigerpants said, “We need to figure out what happened here. Drwho10, with your science background what can you tell us?”
“Well... This isn't natural, nor are there any known poisons that could do this,” he said.
"No shit, it isn't natural. Thanks for that brilliant flash of insight," said Vanyanka as she rolled her eyes.
“Well, then how the fuck did he die?” JenniLeigh asked.
“I don't know,” Drwho10 shrugged, “This green substance and the pink skin are like nothing I've ever seen before. And the blood, it's like he bled out through his head only, but he'd be pale from that much blood loss.”
“You guys,” Vanyanka stood “You remember that freaky story he posted to the forum yesterday? The one with that doll @aveline? Everyone dies just like that!”
Freedolphin looked as if he was going to speak up again, but continued to stay quiet, as if he was contemplating the importance of what he had to say.
“What, that's ridiculous,” Jennileigh stated.
“Actually...” Nickhatesyou started, “There was something to that. When I was with the Hit Busters, we shared stories like that, and I remember a few people sneaking off to do some weird ritual shit like it was going to help us win.”
“What the fuck are you talking about? That shit couldn't possibly be real,” said Tigerpants.
“You never know, at this point, it's impossible that anyone from the School of Hard Blocks did this, and I doubt anyone here did it...” Vanyanka trailed off uncertainly.
“What did you do?" asked Drwho10
“I didn't do anything,” said Nickhatesyou, “I just heard about it. I thought it was ridiculous.”
“Well, then how the fuck did Not A Robot die!?” JenniLeigh lashed out “Did anyone else read that post he made??”