A Gig Nobody Asked For
rating: +10+x

BUUURP

Duke belched loudly, a few heads turning towards his table in disgust. Normally, he'd kept a sense of decor –he was, after all, a well-educated lizard– but given the establishment's infamy, he felt no obligation to do so. He reached for the half-empty bowl of multi-colored bugs squirming before him and swallowed one with unapologetic glee.

"I'm glad you are enjoying your meal," said the avian creature who also sat at his table, signaling the waiter for their next dish.

"Of course I am. You're buying!" the lizard replied with his mouth full. "Nothing beats a free breakfast, even if it is being served by The Man. What's the catch?"

"I'm not sure what you mean."

"Don't play coy with me, Ickis. You bird types ain't good liars; too much integrity for that. Makes for great reporting, not so much for extortion or bribing."

"I was just hoping we could discuss your signing over to The Wandsmen's Gazette as a full-time employee, that's all," Ickis the Wayward said. "The higher-ups have been most insistent in that regard."

"What's wrong with freelance work? I got you guys the exclusive with Syn, didn't I?"

"We had to edit out the whole incident with his would-be wife, but sure," the avian conceded. "It's just… listen, Duke, I've tried to put in a good word for you, but the truth is that some in the administration think you're too volatile. They want guarantees that what happened with Marshall, Carter & Dark won't occur again."

"And that's why they want me to join, huh? To keep me from fucking up? If your editors want to keep me in line, there are better ways of doing it than turning me into a godsdamned bird."

"The procedure isn't that bad," the Wandsman protested.

"Easy for you to say! Everyone in your realm of origin is already born as a bird person! What did the procedure do to you, besides making you ugly as fuck?"

"Coming from you, that insult means nothing."

The lizard and the bird erupted in laughter, their cackling again drawing angry looks from what few patrons remained at Ambrose Wanderers' Library.

"Fuck you, Ickis," Duke said while reaching for his glass of whiskey. "I got better things to do, like writing for the book deal I got. I won't join your birdhouse, but I will sure as hell still toast to us."

"I'm still hoping you'll change your mind, old friend. We could really use reporters as intrepid and uncompromising as you."

"Keep pushing me and I'll show you what a decade of bar brawls teaches a man," the chameleon threateningly pointed a fork at Ickis.

"Duke, at least consider it! My editors–"

"Fine! Maaaaybe I'll consider it. Maybe. But only after I've had that Narcoctopus."

"I thought you had ethical concerns about the food being served here," Ickis said while raising a feathery eyebrow.

"Pffft! Are you kidding? After all the shit they got from the Voidsphere, they'll just bring the drugs in a syringe!"


Entry 0959

Date: Dulrian 10th, 3121, Grimeay

09:15 hrs.

Had breakfast with Ickis the Wayward, the Wandsman of Kul-Manas; his treat. Gotta appreciate whenever a colleague shows actual solidarity: it's getting harder and harder to rely on fellow journalists, especially when word spreads that you've been blacklisted from one of the Library's top papers.

Times are hard. Not much work to go around besides that book I've yet to get started on: Niffs made sure to smear the fuck out of me with almost every newsource in the Library. Guess the bastard won't learn until he and his paper get in trouble again. Editors Rachmis and Rito fell to their greed; Niffs will one day succumb to his hubris.

That's why I thank the gods for the competition.

Ickis' employer has been Planasthai's biggest rival from the moment they opened up shop in the Library: top quality content and professionalism, daily coverage of events from across the Multiverse, available in every reality with absolutely no fucking paywalls… what's not to like? Only thing keeping them from getting a bigger readership might be their willingness to work alongside the Jailers. Guess no one is immune to controversy.

Regardless, I appreciate the old bird's kindness. Time and again he has offered to induct me into his paper (says that way I can get all the juicy stuff without dealing with the scum of the Multiverse), but all the prestige in the world ain't worth the price Wandsmen pay.

I've made sure to keep myself occupied. I've programmed a meeting today with one of my contacts, who I hope has all the info I asked him to procure. Ickis says I'm crazy to deal with this kind of people, but how else does one get anything done these days? "Down and dirty" doesn't even begin to describe the kind of shit I've done to get a good story.

Could be worse, I guess. I could have been disappeared by some shadowy government agency.

Or I could be a sell-out.


"And that's when I got turned into a spider-like monstrosity! The horror!"

"Huh?" Duke poked at his nostrils, the remnants of the Snapper he'd inhaled that morning threatening to make him sneeze. "Ah, right, right. The punishment for–"

"For DARING to be a free man in an oppressive system!" the Apostate Fawn screeched, earning some infuriated shhhhs from nearby patrons. He cleared his throat, regaining his composure. "I spent a millennia, one thousand Earth years, acting like a servant, dusting shelves, sweeping floors, working my chitinous knuckles to the bone! I was demeaned, forced to help even the most idiotic patrons find whatever shit they were looking for! I had a life, and I missed out on it because of these fuc– I mean, these oppressors!"

"Uh-huh," Duke replied, still trying to get high on what little drug particles remained on his bodily orifices. "Figure it was awful."

"Oh, you have no idea! My column went out of circulation, people forgot my name. Even my sworn enemies, the SCP Foundation, decided to stop monitoring human printed media for my writing! I was a socialite before, you know? Renowned, appreciated, celebrated and– ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION?!"

SHHHHHHHHHH!!!

"I'd keep it down if I were you," Duke said. "New Chief Archivist ain't as tolerant as you'd think. Especially when it comes to people making a ruckus."

"Oh, that multi-legged– you know what? Fine. I'll be calm. Don't need another century on Page duty. "

"Good. Now, it's all very interesting, I swear, all the suffering you endured, the horror," the lizard motioned with his hands dramatically. "But I got to work, so I need what you promised. You got the goods or am I gonna have to mug you?"

Duke's contact sneered with indignation before handing the journalist a mangled envelope. Inside were some scribbled notes, a few photos, and an ancient-looking recorder.

Right on the money, Duke thought.

"How the hell did you get these?"

"Oh, I'll tell you, Mr. Gathers," the Apostate Fawn said. "I'll tell you… if you will please listen to the rest of my story!"

"Sure, sure," Duke waved him off, already placing a tiny piece of blotter paper beneath his tongue. "But I gotta refuel first."


Entry 0959 (cont.)

Date: Dulrian 10th, 3121, Grimeay

15:50 hrs.

Contact was late, as usual. Kept babbling about defective Ways and having to dodge Pages and Librarians to get here. That's what I get for dealing with wanna-be celebrities.

Fucker's name is Saturn Deer, magician, serial reincarnator, snake-oil salesman and general nuisance. First got in touch with me via floating orb of light, so there is at least some credit to his mystical abilities. Oh, and he also claims to be the Prophet of the Sabbateans.

I fucking hate prophets.

Our deal is simple: in exchange for his info, Saturn Deer wants me to write an exposé about his time as a Page, the harrowing tale of a man unfairly sentenced to serve by the draconian rules of the Wanderers' Library and its enforcers. Through my work, he said, he would finally be able to expose the injustices that took place under the Chief Archivist's watch and demand justice for himself and all others still transfigurated against their wills, slaves to the Library.

Sounds like bullshit? Absolutely. Will I go along with it in order to get my info? You bet your ass I will. Not that I'm planning to uphold my word: conning conmen is a moral obligation of all sapient beings.

Besides going along with his idiocy, I had to do next to nothing to make Saturn Deer spill his guts. People like the Apostate Fawn just love gossip and listening to themselves talk. I didn't even have to threaten getting him turned back into a Page for scamming patrons with his less than accurate tarot.

Here's what he got for me: for the last two months, the Viper's Fang, the most violent branch of the Serpent's Hand, has been keeping camp on New Gomorrah, a world just outside the borders of the Immortal Empire. No word on how long they'll remain there before relocating to their next base of operations, but Saturn Deer overheard they ain't on that planet just to keep a low profile.

Something is going down, something big. New Gomorrah is known for being a technological hub unlike any other, an ecumenopolis where the highest tech goes hand in hand with the lowest life. The Fang doesn't play around: whatever they got planned, my best shot is to catch up to them then and there, before they take what they want and get the fuck out of town.

Will get to work soon. I hope the Serpent's Hand (and my new publisher) can wait while I grab a drink.

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