Excerpt for Nebb Tuk by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

NEBB TUK

By Chad Descoteaux

(turtlerocketbooks.com)


Mars.

Looking down at his sheet music from beneath his brimmed hat and strumming away at his guitar, a skilled Martian guitarist named Nebb Tuk sang his heart out. He was singing the blues in a dark, dingy bar called ‘The Red Sun Lamp’. This bar was in the middle of nowhere. Miles of red Martian desert surrounded it before a traveler could get to a city of any kind, so people came here to get away from their troubles, families, lives or a sad combination of the three.


Some of the bar patrons got louder the more they drank and others got quieter, staring blankly into their empty mugs. Nebb preferred the quiet ones, because he was passionate about his music and hoped to share his creative voice with whoever would listen. He didn’t like the idea of intoxicated drifters screaming over his art, especially since he used to be one of them.


Actually, he was worse off back then. He used harder substances. For a lot longer. But he was clean now. He was earning an honest living telling cautionary tales of his sordid past with his blues guitar. And he had a pure clarity of mind that was even sharper than before, because now his life had focus.


This evening was quieter than usual. At least at first. There were a few Martians sitting at the bar, drinking Mercurian beer and watching a bizarre, fascinating, action-packed show on a hologram TV. This show was broadcast from a cube-shaped space station orbiting the planet Uranus. It was an immensely popular show, a show that was broadcast on more than twenty different planets and inhabited moons and topped the ratings on all of them. It was a show on which those who were ‘genetically unique’, those who did not completely belong to any known sentient species, got to compete with one another in a wrestling ring or steel cage fight. It was called ‘Dookimon’, which meant ‘mutant battle’ in the native tongue of the Uranians.


As Nebb provided catchy background music, the vast majority of his audience was far too engrossed in the colorful characters and specific lingo of the Dookimon matches to pay him any mind. They reacted loudly when their favorite characters won a match, lost a match or were violently tossed out of the ring by another mutant.


‘Dookimon’ was not just a fighting or wrestling show. It was also rather heavily steeped in ancient Uranian mythology about the origin of the universe. The show always had these preachy voiceovers about how the combatants were “balancing the forces of orgo and pi to defeat the true monastic power”. While most just watched the show for the spectacle, die-hard fans knew the mythology and the lingo and would discuss it on whatever interplanetary social computer network that they preferred.


The most popular character on this show, at least tonight, was a three-eyed, frog-like Jupiterian with red spikes down his back. All Jupiterians are green and frog-like. But thanks to exposure to radiation a few years back, this fighter was stronger, had spikes and one extra eye that contributed to his razor sharp reflexes. He also had a much longer, sturdier, more whip-like tongue than most Jupiterians. He used this tongue to swing from the rafters above him before attacking his opponent with his spiky webbed feet. His name was chanted by these bar patrons as they banged their mugs of beer against the bar. Their eyes were glued to the screen when this mutant frog-man bounced off the ropes while swinging his large, green, glove-covered fists.


“POG! POG! POG! POG!”


Fighting a mutant from one of Saturn’s moons who was made completely of ink, Pog was technically fighting two enemies, as this ink-based creature had the ability to split himself into two admittedly-weaker versions of himself. Pog had two mutants on either side of him that were prepared to strike.


“Ball,” said the first.


“Point,” said the other. This mutant could speak, but only had the brain capacity to say his own name. His name was Ballpoint.


The crowd roared when both Ballpoints grabbed Pog and jumped on top of him. Pog swiftly knocked one of these creatures out with his elbow and lifted the second one over his head. He leapt to the top of the ropes with one of the ink creatures flailing its limbs wildly. The crowd got louder and louder as they anticipated Pog doing his signature fighting move.


“Slammer!” they shouted. “Slammer! Slammer!”


Pog tossed one Ballpoint from the ropes and when it hit the canvas that lined the bottom of the ring, the entire ring shook. The unconscious ink creature went airborne, flipping onto his stomach before landing again. Pog leapt off the top ropes and pinned the first Ballpoint to the mat for the obligatory three seconds with the creature’s arm twisted behind his back. The bell sounded and the Jupiterian mutant was declared the winner by the hovering robot referee.


“The winnerrrrr!” a voice shouted from the booming speakers above as a separate stage started to rise up from the ground, from the levels below the ring. “And still Dookimon champion…” Pog lifted his eyes to the crowd and threw both fists in the air as the Dookimon house band, a trio of mutant worms, started to play his theme song on the second stage. “The POG!!!”


The live crowd cheered even louder for the house band. They were jumping up and down to the beat of music that pounded thousands of ear drums. Laser effects illuminated the name of the band, which had been spray-painted on the back of the stage in many neon colors. These odd-looking, slithering musicians were known and beloved by Dookimon fans as ‘The Meal Worms’. As they played loud and hard, with stubby fingers protruding from their sleek bodies, the wind from large fans underneath the stage blew the tails of their bandanna eye masks in any and all directions.


The Red Sun bar patrons joined the live studio audience in their cheering, applause and hurling of random objects through glass. On the TV, Ballpoint touched the clone of himself that Pog had knocked unconscious. He absorbed the ink that he was made of back into his body, gaining back a measure of strength that he had lost in the fight. “Ballpoint!” he said, nodding his head with frustration. “Ball! Point!”


In the bar, drunken Martian riff-raff celebrated Pog’s victory by hurling their beer bottles and mugs through mirrors and other glass objects. The frightened bartender took cover from the storm of exploding glass slivers under the bar itself. Two bouncers came over to handle the situation, which had clearly gotten out of hand, and started man-handling smelly Martian drunks.


At this point, Nebb had given up trying to sing loud enough to be heard over the shouting Dookimon fans. As the bartender and a few bouncers scrambled to get the rowdy crowd under control and clean up all the broken glass, Nebb sang his song at his normal volume because he was getting paid to do so. All of the passion had been sucked out of his work and his art and it was now just a job for him. He even tried to boost his spirits, to amuse himself, by making up sillier lyrics for this song than the ones he had written originally.


I drink lots of soda. It’s part of my life.

What would happen if soda machines came to life?

Grow arms and some wheels, to travel around.

The robots get angry, each other they pound.”


Nobody cares, he thought in between chords. Nobody cares.


After his set was over, Nebb collected his money from the bar’s owner and headed out to his motorcycle. He was tired, so he rubbed the cat-like whiskers that all red-skinned Martians have on their faces with his hands, trying to wake himself up so it wouldn’t be too dangerous to drive home.


Around the corner, Nebb saw something that made his blood boil. There was a man, standing in back of the bar that Nebb recognized from his days as an addict. This was Nebb’s former dealer. He was a long, haired Martian man with a ponytail, a leather vest and a whole sleeve of tattoos. These tattoos featured symbols for ‘peace’ in the language and imagery of a dozen alien planets. This was Schlock. He was handing a vial of bubbly liquid to a teenaged Martian who had just handed him a roll of Martian money.


Angered, Nebb put his guitar on his bike and ran over to Schlock. Seeing Nebb charging at him, Schlock got scared and started running, clumsily stuffing the money into his vest pocket. Nebb swatted the drug vial out of the teenager’s hand as he ran by hard. The vial smashed against a nearby grate and the drug itself flowed into the sewers.


“Dude!” the teenager shouted at Nebb as Schlock continued to flee. The teenager watched in horror as the last of his party drug dripped into the sewers. “Ah, crap, bruhhh!”


Nebb caught up with the inebriated drug dealer on the other side of the bar. Schlock knew he was in trouble when Nebb yanked on his vest and pulled him back hard. Schlock could see the anger in Nebb’s eyes as he was slammed up against the brick wall behind him.


“What did I tell you about selling this crap to kids, huh?” shouted Nebb, punching Schlock in the gut. “I’m not letting you mess with any kids the way you did to me! Not on my watch! I’ll die first, you piece of…”


Schlock shoved Nebb away from him with his boot after Nebb lifted his fist. A clicking sound was heard as Schlock pulled out a switchblade, the blade of which was thin, sharp, jagged and curved. It was more of a switch ‘shiv’. He let out a shrill squeal as he twirled the blade in between his fingers.


Nebb was taken aback by Schlock’s ferocity. Schlock usually displayed a calm and smooth demeanor, talking his way out of tough situations. So, when he suddenly lunged forward, plunging his weapon into Nebb’s belly as deep as it could go, the shock had less to do with the crippling pain of being stabbed than Nebb’s expectations of this normally charismatic drug dealer.


Dropping to his knees, blood staining the cement beneath him, Nebb looked up with disbelief as Schlock started laughing. “Getting your wish, junkie?” he quipped as Nebb lost strength quickly. He keeled over hard, scraping his forehead on the pavement. Schlock looked at his blood-soaked hand and retracted the blade of his weapon back into the handle. “Don’t mess with my business again,” Schlock said, coldly walking away and leaving the bleeding musician there to die.


Nebb managed to roll over onto his back and look up at the night sky as his strength poured out of him faster than his blood. Suddenly, three round lights started to hover over him, rotating around each other like planets around the sun, creating a faint buzzing noise. The religious stories that Nebb’s mother used to tell him about the afterlife, where his father had gone, started flooding back into his mind. His eyes got heavy as he was calmed by the idea of an angelic, rainbow-pooping unicorn spirit with fiery dreadlocks whisking him away.


He blacked out. Nebb would never see the chrome-colored Uranian spaceship that came to help him, but he would be teleported aboard it with a single blast of energy. He would be the focus of the most advanced medical technology in the solar system as Uranian robots skilled in the medicine of numerous planets patched up Nebb’s rather deep stab wound.


“This will be easier than we thought,” a Uranian doctor named Krin Primja remarked after reviewing some of Nebb’s medical stats. “Apparently, healing faster than most Martians is part of his mutation. He just needs the appropriate nutrients to help the process along, especially with a wound this deep.” A second Uranian doctor agreed, fascinated by the uniquely-mutated Martian specimen that his med-droids were currently working on.


Soon, Nebb woke up in a hospital bed with a throaty gasp. He was shirtless. He sat up, sub-consciously stretching the wings that were attached to his shoulder blades. To a human they would look like the pointy wings of a bat, but they were actually more like a Martian animal called a flimp, with which Nebb’s genes had been spliced during a medical experiment. This was the ‘mutation’ that the Uranian doctor was referring to and something that made Nebb ‘genetically unique’. Looking down at the bandages that covered where he was stabbed, Nebb knew that he was being taken care of by someone. But whom?


The door to his room creaked open. A Uranian doctor and a few nurses came in to see how he was doing. The first thing they did was explain to Nebb that they had fitted him with a translator chip that would allow him to understand their language. Nebb touched his neck, right underneath his hairline and felt the microchip. It was translating the words that he was hearing before they got into his brain. Nebb then started to ask a few of the thousand questions that were weighing on his mind at that moment.


Uranians would perhaps be considered the oddest-looking creatures in the solar system, if every citizen of every planet was given a ballot to vote on the matter. They have no visible eyes, just slits that they can see out of that look more like dimples. Their heads consist of two enormous cheeks with a vertical mouth that opens and closes from left to right when they talk. And their language sounds like the sound that Tupperware makes when you ‘burp’ it. Or farts. Their language also sounds like farts. All kinds of farts. Long farts. Short farts. Wet farts. Louder, drier-sounding farts.


After the doctors checked out the healing progress of Nebb’s stab wound, another Uranian walked into the room. He was a Uranian with an expensive business suit on and a well-combed toupee on his head. Although Uranians are naturally hairless, this particular Uranian businessman thought the toupee would make him more relatable to people he did business with on planets where they did have hair. He was the president of the ‘Uranian Planetary Network’, the television station that created and broadcast Dookimon. His name was Balph Bonzip.


“Welcome, young Martian,” said Balph. “How are we feeling today?”


Nebb groaned a little bit as he stood up onto his feet. His stomach was still a bit achy. “Like I just got stabbed,” he quipped.


“Yes, well, rest some more, my unique friend,” Balph said with compassion and sincerity. “We have a wonderful meal prepared for you. It will be ready in about fifteen minutes.”


Balph’s hospitality was a welcome to change to how Nebb had been treated so far today. He climbed back into bed as the nurses administered drugs that would help with his healing and the pain. “You ladies aren’t weirded out by the wings, are you?” he asked the nurses.


“No,” one nurse replied. “We see much stranger things on this space station.”


“You wanna know where I got em?” Nebb said with a smirk, sort of flirting with these buttock-faced Uranian nurses. One nurse agreed in the most patronizing way possible as Nebb started to tell a story about his addiction to a specific hallucinogen called Klunk. It was something that he had found in his father’s room one day and shared with some of his more troublemaking friends when he was just a boy of eight years old, in order to impress them.


His addiction only got worse from that point until he sought help from medical professionals when he was well into his adulthood. “I was so low at one point that I started volunteering for medical experiments for extra cash, but I didn’t tell them that I was doing Klunk,” Nebb confessed. “Wrong combination of drugs, one of which was derived from a flimp enzyme, gave me these. Cured my herpes. Made me a freak.”


After the nurses were finished treating him, Nebb played around with the computer that was on the wall. He found a way to order food and to have it delivered to him by speedy, hovering robots called service priority droids. In the kitchen, the same computer that delivered Nebb’s order to the cook via the network popped off of the wall, sprouted robotic arms and became the floating robot waiter/bellhop. This service droid was referred to by the cook as SPD-26. Nebb was very impressed with the speediness of the service and how well prepared this Martian food was, given he was on a space station orbiting Uranus.


***


After dinner, Balph Bonzip took Nebb on a tour of the largely-automated space cube that he ran and operated. Only when Nebb saw some of the familiar mutant characters from the Dookimon TV show sparring with one another in a large arena did it truly sink it that he was on THE Dookimon space cube.


A creature with an insect-like body, pincers on his face and two muscular arms was sparring with the ooze-covered Ballpoint. This being had come from the laboratory of the same Saturnian scientist as Ballpoint, so he too could only say his name. “Earrrrrrwiiiiig!” the beast bellowed after throwing Ballpoint across the room with his pincers and a powerful flick of his neck. Ballpoint responded by hurling balls of ink from his fingertips that caused Earwig to lunge backwards to avoid them. “Earrrrrwig!”


“The radar systems on our satellite ships peruse the galaxy for those who are genetically unique,” explained Balph as Nebb watched the sparring match, laughing hard when Earwig found himself stuck to the floor with strings of sticky black goo. “And we give them a place to shine.”


“Earrrrrwiiiig!”


Nebb certainly appreciated having a place to shine, or at least stretch his wings. It had been years since he had a place to walk where he didn’t feel he had to cover up his wings under a shirt, wrapping them around his body in such a way that the muscles would easily get cramped. Now, with Balph’s permission, Nebb was walking around this ship with shirt off and his wings outstretched as he watched with wide-eyed wonder many unique mutant creatures. They had come from one alien species or the next, but they had become truly unique when their genes were mutated in some fashion, a lab experiment, an accident, harmful energy on a space mission. Their backstories created endless match-up possibilities for the show.


Nebb followed Balph through a long hallway with a series of picture windows on either side. Most of these windows allowed Nebb to watch Dookimon cast members, a rich array of diverse mutants, either sparring with each other or training. One window even allowed Nebb to watch a band practice that the Meal Worms were having. Fun-loving and gregarious drummer worm Haohmaru was greeting some female fans of his that had seen the show live, signing autographs for this interplanetary group of loyalists. Big brother, guitarist and lead singer Lau was tuning his guitar while the focused, intense, angry yet brilliant worm known as Scorpion was hard at work fixing a speaker that had malfunctioned. Scorpion took off his black eye mask, which had a skull painted on it and wiped his forehead of excess sweat as he continued to work on these wires and fuses.


Another window showed Nebb the cube central computer, also known as the ‘3C’ or ‘Cube Cubed’. It was a relatively smaller cube in the direct center of the cubed space station. It consisted of countless three-foot-wide computerized pods that were each responsible for a function of the larger space station. Everything from food preparation to the lights, environmental control, broadcasting, living quarters, service robots, you name it.


Nebb could only see two sides of this cube-shaped computer, but it went on for miles and miles, as far as the eye could see, one pod after another. Numerous tree trunk-sized wires came out of this cube as bolts of electricity wrapped around them, throwing sparks that were the same size as the spaceships that the Uranians used to recruit.


Nebb kept walking and listening to Balph explain all the benefits that cast members on Dookimon received. At this point, they had reached an enormous gift shop where people who came to the Dookimon space cube to be part of the studio audience could purchase souvenirs. There were T-shirts, mugs, action figures, posters and countless other items with either the Dookimon logo or a picture of a cast member streaking across it. Nebb frowned at the blatant commercialism that was apparent here, especially when he saw that the Meal Worms’ album ‘Coming Out of the Dirt’ was on sale in this gift shop as well. Even the prospect of a large platform where he could perform and sell his music was not enough to pique Nebb’s interest in becoming a cast member of Dookimon.


I can get my own record deal, Nebb thought. On my own planet. I don’t need to make a deal with these greedy butt-clowns.


Fortunately, Nebb did not call Balph and his business associates “butt clowns” out loud, but he did respectfully decline to join what he would later refer to as “a freak show with a pulse”.


“Yeah, sorry…” he complacently told Balph. “I don’t believe in shoving your crap in front of people’s noses, trying to force people to accept you. Bigots are stupid. They’re just gotta hate you anyway. Some people change, but I believe in just existing, man…not letting the haters mess with your inner peace.” Nebb thought about the wings behind him. Then why do I cover these bad boys up all the time? he thought. I must be a coward. “Anyway,” he continued to speak with Balph. “I appreciate what you’re trying to do for us here, cuz a lot of mutants have to take a lot of grief from ‘normies’ and can’t even make a living on their own planet, but this place just isn’t for me.”


Bowing respectfully, Balph Bonzip thanked the mutated Martian musician for his time and made arrangements for him to be taken back home to Mars.


***


When a mutant declines the offer of being a cast member on Dookimon, there are eight pods in the 3C known as the ‘specimen restoration units (SRU-01-SRU-08) who handle arrangements to have the specimen (Nebb, in this case) brought back to their home world. And they are activated by an ‘override card’ that one of the Uranian CEOs has to swipe into the computer system. Balph did just that, swiping the override card into the nearest port and sending commands to the ‘specimen restoration units’ in the central computer.


Today, it was SRU-01’s turn to shine. Proud of his opportunity to be useful to the system that he called home, SRU-01 sent many electronic impulses from his pod body to the other pods through metallic tentacles that were attached to the 3C. SRU-01 arranged for a chrome spaceship to fly out of the storage area, where it was hanging upside down with other ships just like it, to find Nebb again. This ship beamed the Martian onto it and brought him back to the parking lot behind the bar in the Martian desert where he was found. When the task was completed, SRU-01 felt a sense of accomplishment and contentment in the form of tingly electronic impulses that raced up his tentacles and into his pod.


Nebb went back to his normal life as a folk singer with an increased sense of pride in who he was. Even though he had dismissed Dookimon as being too ‘showy’ for him, being on the space cube inspired him to start performing with his shirt off, stretching his mutant wings proudly for all to see. He would even paint symbols and positive messages on his wings to spice up his act.


Weeks later, when a record producer just happened to wander into a bar where Nebb was performing (when his car broke down), it was this unique feature of Nebb Tuk that caused him to look twice. After hearing Nebb’s music and loving his “whole vibe”, the producer signed him to a record deal that made him one of the biggest music acts on Mars at the time.


Yes, whether directly or indirectly, Dookimon changes lives for people who feel that they are different and don’t have a place to fit in.


Stories from the same universe…

THE INTER-TERRESTRIAL and DOOKIMON: THE INTER-TERRESTRIAL volume 2

(now available on turtlerocketbooks.com)


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