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The Gods of Sagittarius: Chapter Twenty One

       Last updated: Friday, April 28, 2017 20:30 EDT



    Tabor opened his eyes, spent a moment focusing them, and found that he was lying on a stone floor, facing an open doorway. He placed a hand to his head to assess the damage, winced at the touch, and frowned, trying to remember exactly what had happened.

    “Damn!” he muttered. “You’re always nailed by the one you didn’t see.”

    He got carefully to his feet, stared out the doorway at a long corridor with numerous open doors lining it, and prepared to leave the cold stone room in which he found himself.

    “I wouldn’t do that,” said a harsh voice from behind him.

    He turned and found himself facing a very large and heavily-muscled creature. Its overall appearance was vaguely reptilian, but that was mostly due to the scaly, armored, crocodilian hide. The creature’s face wasn’t the least bit like that of a reptile’s. It was quite flat, with no sign of a nose at all. Four bulging orange eyes rested above a gaping maw which had insectlike mandibles instead of jaws. What looked like a rasping tongue covered with spines substituted for teeth.

    The monster was a quadruped as far as locomotion was concerned, but had six tentacles emerging from the shoulder area. Four of them were supple and ended in a delicate trifurcation, suited for complex manipulations. To make up for it, the remaining pair of tentacles were thick and ended in flat palps covered with brutal-looking hooks. Those were clearly designed for grappling and rending.

    In short, it boasted the worst features of a pocket dinosaur, a giant praying mantis and a walking squid combined in one package. Its epidermis was mottled, the colors best described as jaundice-yellow, puke-green and disemboweled-entrails-pinkish-red. A sensitive enough interior decorator would probably drop dead just at the sight of the creature.

    “Who the hell are you?” demanded Tabor.

    “A fellow prisoner,” was the reply. Tabor now spotted something that looked like gills just above the tentacle ring, from which the voice emerged. But these organs were apparently designed for speech rather than breathing. Or maybe they could do both, if the monster was submerged.

    “What prison?” said Tabor. “We’re in some room somewhere, and I’m about to walk out.”

    The creature picked up a plate that had once held its breakfast and tossed it through the open doorway. There was a crackling sound and a flash of light, and the plate totally vanished.

    “Iron bars do not a prison make,” said the creature. It gaped its mandibles wide, which Tabor interpreted as its way of grinning. “I heard that somewhere.”

    “So we’re in prison?”

    It made no reply, but the quasi-grin became even wider.

    “You’re a Vitunpelay, aren’t you?” continued Tabor. “I’ve seen images but never met one of you in person.”

    “I am indeed a Vitunpelay.”

    Tabor extended his hand. “I’m a Human. My name’s Russ Tabor.”

    “Rusty Bore?” repeated the Vitunpelay. He gazed at Tabor’s outstretched hand but made no move toward it. “I like you already!”

    Tabor decided not to correct him. He withdrew his hand, just as glad the huge alien hadn’t touched it. “You got a name?”

    “Certainly,” came the reply. “What day of the week is it — any kind of week you prefer to use?”


    “And the month?”

    “I think it’s November on Earth,” said Tabor. “It’s Sixth Month on my home world, and who the hell knows what it is on this dirtball?”

    “Splendid!” enthused the creature. “My name is Jaemu.”

    Tabor stared at his curiously. “Why is that splendid?”

    “Who wants to go through life with just one name?” answered Jaemu. “If you didn’t have names for the months of your year, I couldn’t change mine every month, and that would have left me with just the merest handful of names.”

    “So Jaemu is just one of your names?”

    “One of my two hundred favorites.”

    “Does it mean anything in your native language?”

    “Shameless Footkisser Who Betrays His Friends,” answered Jaemu.

    “And you’re pleased with that?”

    “Certainly. It is unique among my acquaintances.”

    Tabor stared at him for a long moment. “You are a very strange critter from a very strange race.”

    “Perhaps,” agreed Jaemu. “But I wasn’t preparing to walk through a forcefield that could reduce me to dust in a microsecond.”

    “You got a point,” admitted Tabor.

    “What are you doing in here?” asked Jaemu.

    “Waiting for my friend to make my bail, I suppose.”

    “I mean, why were you incarcerated?”

    “I slugged a few policemen,” answered Tabor. Jaemu frowned.

    “Murder, huh?”

    “Just disorderly conduct, I should think.”

    “You didn’t kill them?” said Jaemu, surprised.

    “No, of course not.”

    “Why not?”

    Tabor stared at him, and decided that he was even more alien than he looked. “I’m almost afraid to ask what you did?”

    “Oh, something exceptionally trivial,” answered Jaemu.

    “Trivial?” repeated Tabor.

    The Vitunpelay shook his head. “Yes. And once the survivors get out of the hospital, I’m sure the insurance policies on the others will pay for their artificial limbs and keep them in comfort for the remainder of their lives.”

    Tabor stared at Jaemu for a long moment. “Fucking clown,” he muttered.

    “You see?” said Jaemu. “You don’t have to be Jarkko Jarvinen to call us that.”

    “How long have you been in here?”

    “Eleven days,” answered the Vitunpelay. “Or twenty-two exceptionally vile meals. Or half the life expectancy of that no-legged thing that is crawling alongside your foot.”

    Tabor looked down, saw a large worm or small snake opening its mouth to take a bite out of his toe, shoe and all, and stomped on it with his other foot.

    “Well, half the life expectancy if he was eleven days old,” continued Jaemu.

    “Just out of curiosity,” said Tabor, “what are you doing on Cornwallis IV?”

    “Am I?”

    “Are you what?”

    “On Cornwallis IV?”

    “Yes,” said Tabor.

    “How comforting to know,” said Jaemu. “Anyway, I was invited to come here.”

    “By the government?” asked Tabor.

    “Well, by a government.”

    “They have more than one here?”

    “You are understanding me too fast,” said Jaemu. “It was suggested I come here by the government of Batelliot VII.” He paused thoughtfully. “And I’m pretty sure the government of Milago II was in full agreement.”

    “I take it you’re not the most popular clown in the galaxy,” said Tabor.

    “Not even the second most popular, if truth be known,” answered Jaemu. He paused thoughtfully. “What planet or planets were you thrown off of?”


    “Really?” said Jaemu, surprised. “Then what are you doing here?”

    “I told you,” replied Tabor. “I slugged some police officers.”

    “I mean, what are you doing on this planet at all?”



    “It may take a while to explain it fully,” said Tabor. He looked around, then shrugged. “What the hell. It’s not as if you’re going anywhere.”

    And he explained as much as he understood about the magic of the Old Ones, about the origin of the term Old Ones and Cthulhu, about his experiences on Cthulhu, and as much as he knew — which was minimal — about what he and Shenoy were doing on Cornwallis.

    “Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?” he said in conclusion.

    “Certainly not,” replied Jaemu.


    “Not crazy,” said the Vitunpelay. “Just wrong.”

    Tabor stared intently at him. “Wrong in what way?”

    “I know what your boss is looking for,” said Jaemu, “and it’s not on Cornwallis. But it was here, once upon a time, as the saying goes.”

    “Those goddamned bastards!” snapped Tabor.

    “Oh, I like that!” said Jaemu.

    Tabor frowned. “What are you talking about?”

    “Goddamned Bastards!” enthused Jaemu. “In ways it’s even better than Fucking Clowns!”

    “Get back to the subject!” growled Tabor.

    “My subject or yours?”

    “The Old Ones’ artifacts!”

    “You needn’t yell,” said Jaemu. “I’m right here. Mostly.”

    “When did they destroy them?” persisted Tabor.

    “When did who destroy what?” asked Jaemu, clearly confused.

    “When did the Paskapans destroy the Old Ones’ artifacts?”

    “They did?” asked Jaemu. “When?”

    It took all of Tabor’s will power not to take a swing at the Vitunpelay. “You just told me they did!” Jaemu shook his head. “No, I told you that the artifacts aren’t on Cornhole.”

    “Cornwallis, damn it!”

    “Right,” agreed Jaemu. “They aren’t on Cornwallis Damn It.”

    “Then where the hell are they?” demanded Tabor.

    “Oh, they’re not in hell yet.” A paused. “At least, it seems unlikely.”

    Tabor closed his eyes and forced himself to take ten deep breaths in succession. Then he turned to Jaemu again. “Do you know where the artifacts are right now? Answer yes or no.”

    “Seems silly, but all right: yes or no.” Jaemu stared at Tabor. “You face is becoming a bright red, did you know that?”

    “Let’s try it again,” said Tabor. “Do you know where the artifacts have been moved to?”

    “Yes, absolutely,” said Jaemu.

    “Are they on this world?”


    Tabor exhaled deeply. “All right. Now, where are they?”

    “I won’t tell you,” answered Jaemu. “But I’ll show you.” He smiled. “Get me out of here and I’ll take you to them.”

    “It’s a deal,” said Tabor. “As soon as Rupert gets here I’ll have him pay both our bails and we’ll be on our way.”

    It sounded simple enough when Tabor said it, but it got considerably more complex when Shenoy showed up in another hour. He approached them, walking down the long corridor to their cell, accompanied by two uniformed Paskapans, and stopped at the doorway.

    “No farther,” warned one of the guards.

    “Are you all right, Russell?” asked Shenoy.

    “Yeah, except for a couple of bumps on my head and a slight hole in my pride. How about you?”

    “I’m fine. But I had to drop all charges against them for assault and harassment and what-have-you in order to be able to see you.”

    “And here you are,” said Tabor. “Pay my bail and get me the hell out of here. And this critter is Jamie.”

    “Jaemu,” the Vitunpelay corrected him.

    “Jaemu,” said Tabor. “He’s going to be very important to our mission, so pay his bail too. We can bill your employers for it.”

    “Important?” repeated Shenoy. “How?”

    “He knows where the artifacts have been moved to, and is willing to lead us to them.”

    “Excellent!” said Shenoy enthusiastically. He turned to his guards. “All right, take me back to the magistrate.”

    Then turned and accompanied him down the long corridor, turning to their right as they reached the end of it.

    “That was your partner?” asked Jaemu.

    “Why would I talk to him like that if he wasn’t?” growled Tabor.

    “I like you!”#8221; said Jaemu.



    Shenoy was back ten minutes later, still accompanied by his two Paskapan guards.

    “That was quick,” said Tabor. “All taken care of?”

    “I’m afraid not,” replied Shenoy.


    “It seems your cellmate killed six Paskapans with his bare hands. Well, tentacles. He’s awaiting execution in five days. No bail.”

    Tabor turned to Jaemu. “You didn’t tell me that!” he said furiously.

    “You didn’t ask,” replied Jaemu.

    “I’m afraid that’s not all,” continued Shenoy.

    “What else?”

    “You roughed up a bunch of police officers. There’s no bail for you, either.”

    “I’m stuck here?” demanded Tabor. “For how long?”

    “I don’t know,” replied Shenoy. “I’m flying in a top lawyer. The problem is that it may take two or three months before the trial.” He turned to Jaemu. “He’ll represent you too, if you’re still alive, though your case seems quite hopeless. Anyway, if you’ll just tell me what I need to know, I can begin my quest, and I assure you your name — once I learn it — will be prominently mentioned in all my notes and scientific papers.”

    “I thought I was supposed to be the only Vitunpelay here,” said Jaemu.

    “I beg your pardon?” said Shenoy, frowning.

    “If I tell you what you want to know, you have no reason to pay your lawyer to defend me, no reason to pay any expenses required to get me out of here. I know what you need to know, but I’m not sharing it while I’m in jail.”

    “I hope you’ll reconsider,” said Shenoy. “But whether you do or do not, I simply cannot spend two or three or six months waiting for the pair of you.”

    “Six months?” bellowed Tabor.

    “Who knows how long trials take on Cornwallis?” replied Shenoy. “You’ve already seen how much paperwork and bribery it takes just to get through the day here.”

    “And what exactly do you plan to do in the meantime?” demanded Tabor.

    “I’m not quite sure,” admitted Shenoy. “I intuit from what the two of you have implied that what we’re looking for is not, or is no longer, on Cornwallis. I’ll spend two days studying everything I can find in their library here in this godforsaken new village, and then I’ll head off to the likeliest location, wherever that may be.”

    He turned and began walking back the way he had come, still accompanied by armed guards.

    “He won’t find it in the library, will he?” Tabor asked Jaemu.

    “No,” replied the Vitunpelay. “If there was anything useful to be found, it would have been found already.”

    “I was afraid of that,” said Tabor. He grimaced. “Well, we’ve got two days.”

    “To do what?”

    “Break out of here and join Shenoy before he takes off from this dirtball.”

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