“Here we stand
Or here we fall
History won't care at all”
“I thought I might find you here.” said Carl.
“Oh, it’s you.” said Rob, not even turning around.
“Aren’t you glad to see me alive?”
There was a pause. Carl pulled up a chair and sat down on the table opposite Rob.
“Rob, I’m sorry for everything I’ve done, including selling you out to Randall. I never should have done that. I’ve got your back from now on, buddy.”
He was looking deep into Rob’s eyes now.
“OK” said Rob monotonously.
“God gave me a second chance on this earth.” Carl continued. “To help you to complete your good work.”
There was another pause.
“You mean a religious experience is what it took for you to come to your fucking senses?” said Rob. Carl nodded. “Just how exactly do you plan to help me anyway?”
“I know where Randall keeps his server.”
“OK” said Rob. “Tell me.”
“It’s at the end of the ground floor corridor, and on the left.” Carl said. “Right next to the room where he keeps Megan.”
Rob’s eyes lit up at the mention of Megan.
“What? Which house?”
“I don’t know.” Carl admitted.
“OK” said Rob. “You can go now.”
“Wait!” said Carl. “If there’s anything I can do to help you, you only need to ask. First tell me what’s our plan, and what are we gonna do when we find Randall?”
“Does it matter?”
“Look, Rob. I can understand if you’re mad at me. I haven’t done anything to earn back your trust, but if there’s anything I can say...”
“So why did you do it?”
“Do what?” said Carl.
“Because things are not the same as how they used to be.”
“No they’re not.” said Rob. “If anything XKCD sucks now more than ever.”
Carl gave a deep sigh, and said: “When I first started Xkcdsucks, I was doing it out of a frustration I no longer feel. I felt that I was the only one who knew really how bad it was. Nowadays there are alot of people who openly admit to hating XKCD, and now I don’t have a purpose. So I made the logical decision to end my life with an M9 to the temple, and I don’t regret that decision.”
“You wanted to give up because people are agreeing with you? Are you fucking crazy?” Rob gesticulated.
“Alot of the problems in the new comics are the exact same problems as in old comics, so to criticize them properly would be to merely repeat myself. I don’t want to beat a dead horse. Sometimes I think we criticize it too harshly.”
“I would have believed you.” Rob said coldly. “If it weren’t for that last bit. Now tell me, where is Carl?”
“What do you mean? I’m right...”
Before he could finish his sentence, rob picked up a fork, and stabbed it into Carl’s jugular vein. He didn’t bleed. Carl only stared at Rob through dead eyes. All the emotion had vanished from his lifeless face.
“Just what the fuck have you done with Carl?”
“Carl is in Hell. Care to join him?” Carl’s words came out in a robotic monotone, but the mouth didn’t move.
“Did Randall send you? Tell me where the fuck is Randall!” shouted Rob.
“Sudo tell me where the fuck is Randall!”
“robm is not in the sudoers file. This incident will be reported. robm@homebox ~$” said the Android Carl.
With a look of death in his eyes, Rob grabbed the robot’s arm, just as it tried to punch him in the gut with that arm. The immense force of the blow was absorbed by Rob’s gut. He placed his other hand on the robot arm, and attempted to break it off. But before he could do so, the machine levered itself off the arm Rob was holding, and kicked him in the face.
Rob stumbled back into a wall. A table was pushed into the window, breaking it. Rob made no effort to stop himself. The wall buckled under his weight, and then he rocked forwards. Android Carl readied itself into an attacking stance, but then Rob took two paces, and fell on top of the Android, crushing it. There was a dull crunching sound, and the twitching of a robotic limb. Rob pushed himself up, as the Android Carl spoke its last words.
“The process com.xkcd.destroyRobMason has stopped unexpectedly. Please try again.”
But Rob didn’t give it time to try again. He force-closed it as quickly and thoroughly as possible by stamping on its neck, several times just to make sure. Finally he picked up the remains of the robot, and ate it.
Rob looked around. People around him were gasping in shock. He’d already caused quite a scene in this cafe, but now he couldn’t see why they were still staring at him. Then he remembered.
His fly was still open and his dick was hanging out. Remorselessly, he zipped himself up and made for the exit. But the people around him continued to stare disapprovingly. So he shuffled back to his table, wiped up the cum with a pair of ten dollar bills, and left them as a tip.
Rob made his way to Inman Square, muttering something about ‘service charge’. He was the first to arrive, and sat on the big semicircular bench, waiting nervously for the others to arrive. For the next half-hour, there was nothing to do but hurl insults at random pedestrians, until eventually a young woman approached him nervously.
“Hello, satanic hell-bird.” he said to her.
“Oh hi Rob.” said Ravenzomg. She sounded Canadian. And from the way her long straight black hair was combed across her face, she appeared to be blind in one eye. “Eh, wait a minute. How did you know it was me?”
“Have you just been saying that to every female who walks by?”
“Only the gothy ones.”
“So you really are Rob? You’re not not as fat as I expected.” said Raven, eyeing up Rob’s 300-pound physique.
“I’m fatter than I look.” said Rob. “What were you expecting?”
“Well to be honest I was expecting you would look like Randall.”
“Why, because me and Mr Munroe are obviously the same person?” Rob drawled sarcastically.
“So you’re not the same person?” Raven asked.
“Not even his twin brother?”
“Not related in any way?”
“Ah well.” said Raven. “There go most of my slash-fic ideas.”
There was a long uncomfortable silence.
“I’m sorry.” Raven said in her Canadian accent.
Eventually, two men pulled up in a taxi, bantering to each other in English Cockney accents.
“This must be the place. Rob’s gravity is pulling me inwards.”
“Don’t get too close to him, or he’ll...”
“Suck, I know!”
“Arrrgh!” they screamed as they both ran into Rob’s bulging belly and embarrassingly fell over.
“Hey cuddlefish.” said Rob. “What are your names?”
“We’re not cuddlefish. We have Blogger accounts.”
“Like I care.”
“I’m Ann Apolis and he’s Kitten.” said Lord_Kitten.
“Nice try.” said Ann Apolis. “I’m Ann Apolis, and he’s Jon Levi.”
“Do I look like a Jew to you?” said Kitten.
“For all I know, you operate both identities.” said Rob. “So I’m calling you Jon anyway.”
The one who called himself Ann Apolis looked like a lanky blonde English hipster, who used a feminine name online, and sometimes pretended to be a doctor. The one called Lord_Kitten was tall, dark and handsome, if not for the fact that he had the face of a 12-year-old caveman.
“Out of curiosity, what are your real names?” Ravenzomg asked curiously.
“No, don’t tell us.” said Rob. “You left your real names in Cockneyland. From now on, we go by our pseudonyms.”
“But my real name is Raven.” said Ravenzomg.
“Doesn’t matter.” Rob said. “Rob is both my real name and my pseudonym.”
“I thought it was Randall.” said Ann.
“Not this again.” said Rob exasperatedly.
“My real name is ENERGY PANTHER!” said Kitten.
“No” said Rob.
“Is Jon coming?” asked Raven.
“No.” said Ann. “He said he was too busy writing a slash-fic of Kitten and ALT-F.”
“Does he even know what slash is?” said Raven. “It has to be between two males.”
“Does ALT-F even have a gender?” asked Rob. “I always thought of her as more of a thing.”
“I would totally bone ALT-F, regardless of gender, race or species.” said Kitten.
They waited around for a few more minutes, as Rob said he was expecting Capn to arrive, until finally one more person came walking up towards them. He was a swarthy man who looked like he’d recently fallen out a window. This was evident from the way he walked with a slight limp, and the glass shards in his hair.
“Hey guys, Capn here.” he said.
“Hello Capn.” said Rob. “Why didn’t you respond to a single one of my emails?”
“Long story.” said Capn, brushing the glass from his hair. “I don’t wanna talk about it.”
“Alright, so I think this is everyone.” said Raven.
“Wait, who’s that guy?” said Capn, pointing to the stranger behind them, who had a cropped haircut, and a red college hoodie with armpit stains. He had been standing there for a while, but Capn was the first one to notice him.
“Dunno.” said Rob.
“I don’t trust him.” said Kitten. He took a few steps towards the man. “Oi, mate...”
“Chris Houlihan’s room.” said the stranger.
The five of them stared at him.
“Ohhh, it’s this guy.” said Rob.
“Eh, is it a video game reference?” asked Raven.
“Chris Houlihan’s room.”
“STFU already.” shouted Kitten.
“Don’t feed the troll.” Raven cautioned.
“Chris Houlihan’s room.”
“Chris Houlihan’s room.”
“Is that all he says?” Ann asked.
He never finished the sentence, because Capn had swung himself forwards and punched the troll in the face.
Capn aimed a flying punch at his chin, forcing the man’s jaw closed on his tongue. And still he didn’t fight back. Capn punched him several more times, then kicked him too the floor.”
“Shut the fuck up!” bellowed Capn, and he proceeded to stamp on his neck.
“That’s enough, Capn!” said Raven.
“Shut up the fuck piece of shit die die die!!!”
Capn continued the assault until he broke every rib in the man’s body, and there was red stuff everywhere. The sight of blood seemed to calm him. “Sorry guys.” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “I’ve had a bad day today.”
“Save some of that Anger for later.” said Rob.
They stared at the bleeding man for a little while, until Raven broke the silence.
“So... what do we do first?”
“Find his house.” Rob replied.
“And how do we do that?” she replied.
“Hunt him out by scent?” Ann suggested.
“Already tried that.” said Rob.
“Sorry.” said Raven. “So what now?”
There was an embarrassingly long pause among the group, as if none of them wanted to admit they’d come here for no reason. Eventually, it was Capn who broke the silence.
“I know where Randall lives.” he said through gritted teeth. All eyes turned to Capn, and he continued. “I’ve been round his house before, no big deal, I just... forgot to mention it. He lives at 101 Rogers Stre-”
A bullet ploughed into Capn’s forehead, leaving a bullet-shaped hole, and stopping him from speaking immediately. The back of his head burst open from the exit wound, and he fell down backwards. Capn’s blood splattered on the paving slabs, mixing with the blood of the Chris Houlihan’s Room guy.
“Dammit.” said Kitten. “Now we’ll never know where he-”
A hook-nosed figure squatted on the roof of Inman Square Fire House, his beady eye pressed up to the sights of a sniper rifle. Through his magnified view of the plaza, he watched them scatter and regroup. He took great pleasure in firing the next few shots, though he only intended to scare them. One of them may have ricocheted and hit a pedestrian, but Capn was the only one he’d needed to kill. Then he relaxed the trigger, and checked the time a digital pocket watch. Not a second too late. He folded up the weapon, climbed down the ladder, and persuaded the security guard to look the other way with a sack of money. Then he slinked off into an alleyway.
He took out a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket. It depicted a stick figure without a face, lying bloodied on the floor. There was a date and time written below it. He pulled out a lighter, and set fire to one of the corners, watching blithely as it burned away, before dropping it on the ground.
From the same pocket, he took another piece of paper, and unfolded it, more carefully this time. It depicted a man and a woman as stick figures in a bed, having quirky stick-figure sex, with another date and time below them.
He pushed a few buttons on his pocket watch, and the digits changed. Now it displayed 31 hours, 41 minutes, 59 seconds, and counting down.
When she heard the second and third gunshots, Raven yelled “RUN!”
Everyone panicked, running in every direction, until Rob called out.
“Everyone get behind me!” and he ran off before they could get behind him.
They sprinted after Rob until he was out of breath, stopping to stand in a parking lot behind a hospital.
“Randy... must have known... we’d be here.” Rob spoke in between pants.
“Damn him!” said Kitten
“Shooting people with guns doesn’t seem like his style.” said Raven. “Maybe there are other forces at play here.”
“Does Randall have henchmen?” asked Ann.
“His fanboys... would most likely... do it for free.” panted Rob.
“Yes damn you, Randall!” Kitten screamed at the sky. “DAMMMN YOUUU!”
“Anyway...” said Rob. “We have to get to... 101 Rogers Street.”
“Already found it.” said Ann, looking at his smartphone. “Let’s go everybody.”
Kitten sniffed. “We’d never have known to go there if it wasn’t for Capn.” he spoke sobbingly. “Oh! How could he be cut down in his prime like that?! Capn, you were too good for this sinful earth! My only hope is that you might-”
“Oh shut up.” said Ann. “You barely knew him.”
“And there’s nothing we can do for him now.” said Raven. “We must accept his sacrifice and move on.”
“Capn would have done... the same for us.” said Rob.
“It’s alright. Who is this ‘Capn’ anyways?” said Kitten.
“There never was a Capn.” replied Raven.
“How... ORWELLIAN.” said Ann.
DISCLAIMER: this story and its characters are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons or cuddlefish living or dead is purely coincidental.