We have a steep hill to climb, but still have plenty of time to do it. So again, I urge you to spread the word. Let's make Cthulhu: Strange Aeons a reality!
And to further whet your appetite, here's tone final piece of flash fiction that further expands the setting you'll be playing in:
Flash Fiction #3:
For Simon, this experience of waking up wasn’t like that of waking up from normal sleep. Instead of going from some fuzzy unconscious state to waking, he went from a total lack of existence to existing, or at least that’s how he would describe it. He knew what this feeling meant; it wasn’t his first mind wipe. He had a pretty good idea of what he’d see when he woke up, even if he couldn’t remember how he got there.
Simon opened his eyes to see the barrel of Hotchkis’s assault rifle pointed at him, Hotchkis’s face just visible behind it. The look on Hotchkis’s eyes was one that Simon had seen before: the look that meant he was no longer convinced you were human and thus he would not hesitate before killing you. From what he’d heard Hotchkis had had to kill several of his own men to prevent further xeno-morph infection on some previous re-contact mission before he left the Space Force. Simon did his best not to think about this.
Simon tried to look around, but found more than the most cursory glance difficult due to the hulking frame of Hotchkis in front of him. The camp he and his comrades had set up was messy but intact. It looked like a wild animal had torn through some of the supplies. Still, this caused Simon’s gut to sink a little bit. The alien ruins they had been exploring were visible in the fading sunset a few hundred meters away, but Simon’s recollection of them was a bit…hazy. “What happened?”
“You lost your damn fool mind, that’s what happened!” Mr. Carver leaned in to yell at Simon, making sure the pure displeasure he was feeling was properly communicated. He was the money on this operation and it was his corporation that owned the colony they were investigating, so he thought he owned everyone here. The research team usually let him keep this illusion as it made things easier.
“Hostile memetic attack on that tablet you read,” professor Caverty said from her chair to Simon’s left. The head researcher on the trip, she was the real person in control but she didn’t feel the need to force the issue. “Simon, that was a rank amateur f*** up. You know nothing gets read until we have controlled conditions. You have no idea what sort of knowledge virus or memetic threats could be in these things.”
“Yes ma’am,” Simon said, rightly chastised. It had been a stupid thing to do, but curiosity had always been his curse. “How long did I lose?”
"Six hours,” Hotchkis said, not moving his gun. “Not sure if you suffered any long term memory damage, but the short term memory of whatever was on that tablet was wiped. We found you reading it aloud.” Simon gulped. All Miskatonic students were taught to never read anything aloud, ever, outside of approved rituals. This was not good.
“So…can I get up now?” While Simon had accepted the gun in his face, it didn’t exactly make him comfortable.
“That depends,” said Caverty. “Are you still you?”
“Your pupils are dilating normally,” Caverty said, leaning closer and shining a flashlight in Simon’s eyes. “Your respiration and heartbeat have been normal for a while, at least for someone with a gun pointed at his face. So physically, you’re fine… but you know how these mindwipes can be. If it erases any of your core identity memories…well…it gets bad.” They all knew well the stories of those unfortunate few who had lost some key part of themselves to the mindwipe and been unalterably diminished by the process. Most eventually succumbed to one of the hostile memes occult researchers often encountered shortly thereafter. Simon had lost bits and pieces of memory to the five mindwipes he had over the years, but nothing more major than the name of his secondary school. Professor Caverty leaned back in her chair, pulling out her handcomp. “So Simon, what’s your first memory?”
Simon knew some of the questions used in these core memory tests, having gone through them before. Different questions were randomly selected for each test to keep anyone from faking out the system. All possible questions were answered on his personnel file and he was mindwiped of having answered them, so even Simon didn’t know the right answers for sure. “Playing with my first pet dog with my sister.”
“Other sister’s name?”
Simon stopped for a minute, confused.
“I only have one sister.” Something began to tug at the back of his mind.
“Simon, what is your other sister’s name?” Caverty repeated, more strongly.
“I only have one sister!” Simon said, starting to panic. He could feel it within him; some part of him was missing and something else was in its place. Some horrible knowledge deep within his brain was fighting him. “Oh, god something’s wrong. Something is in my-“
The single shot echoed across the desolate, alien canyon with a finality that ended all conversation. No one made a sound as Simon’s head exploded, Hotchkis’s bullet turning it to blood and fragments instantly.
“Dammit,” Caverty said as the echoes of the shot died away, turning her back on the scene.
Carver turned on Hotchkis, his eyes livid with rage. “What the hell was that? He hadn’t even given any stage two signs of mental infection! That man could have been saved?”
Hotchkis wiped the blood off his rifle, looking completely unbothered by his action. “What the papers say about mental infection and the truth are two different things. Man forgets his address or a first kiss, sure, that can be recovered from. Man forgets his own sister, he’s gone and there is something else in there taking up the space. He was never getting better.”
“It will take months to get another linguist out here. What are we supposed to do now?” Carver was thinking completely of the bottom line on this operation and the death benefits he would now have to pay out, but he knew that taking such a tack with Hotchkis or Professor Caverty would get him nowhere.
“We call it a day,” Caverty said, turning back towards the two men. “We found those two alien energy projectors in the ruins; the tablets were always extra. They may have had something useful for us, but they’ve proved too dangerous to pursue. Hotchkis, get the Leon prepped for launch. We’re leaving as soon as we get a good window.”
Hotchkis saluted, old habits breaking hard, and started heading for the small freighter they had used to reach the planet. The colony on this world had not survived until re-contact and there had been no effort to re-colonize so its spaceport was non-functional. Their warpship pickup wasn’t scheduled for two weeks, but given the choice of staying on a ship or on planet during that time both Hotchkis and Caverty preferred the ship.
As Hotchkis reached the makeshift landing pad a short distance away, the last sliver of the sun went below the horizon. They’d been on this world a month, so night was nothing new, but the sounds that accompanied it this time were. The world was a desolate, desert world with little more than eight-legged Gila monsters for company, but tonight when the sunlight disappeared Hotchkis heard something else. A low rumbling seemed to come from beneath the earth, a sound he had heard before: a stampede. He unslung his rifle and headed back to the camp.