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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!”
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.
said the first.
said the other. This mutant could speak, but only had the brain
capacity to say his own name. His name was Ballpoint.
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.
they shouted. “Slammer! Slammer!”
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.
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!!!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
drink lots of soda. It’s part of my life.
would happen if soda machines came to life?
arms and some wheels, to travel around.
robots get angry, each other they pound.”
he thought in between chords. Nobody
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
young Martian,” said Balph. “How are we feeling today?”
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.
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.”
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.
one nurse replied. “We see much stranger things on this space
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.
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.”
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
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.
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!”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
can get my own record deal,
Nebb thought. On
my own planet. I don’t need to make a deal with these greedy
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”.
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.”
respectfully, Balph Bonzip thanked the mutated Martian musician for
his time and made arrangements for him to be taken back home to Mars.
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.
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.
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.
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.
whether directly or indirectly, Dookimon changes lives for people who
feel that they are different and don’t have a place to fit in.
from the same universe…
INTER-TERRESTRIAL and DOOKIMON: THE INTER-TERRESTRIAL volume 2
available on turtlerocketbooks.com)