Previously on Hard Ticket to Baghdad: The real Bill Hicks aka Alex Jones arrived in Kuwait in a float plane and picked up Kurt Cobain, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and their tentacled companion Station. They’re in pursuit of the Yellowcake uranium Saddam needs to fuel his Omniopticon and possibly tear open the cosmic veil that separates this world from countless horrors beyond imagining. Meanwhile, blister-covered cultists have made contact with their operative Pauly Shore and taken him aboard a black freighter setting out from Carcosa to Baghdad. But Pauly Shore is not who he seems. Using dark magic (and Keeper fudging) Eazy-E has consumed the likeness of Pauly Shore and become so insane that he sometimes believes he actually is the Weasel himself. Can Paul-E Shore infiltrate Saddam’s Iraq or will he lose his mind and be captured by the agents of Saddam’s mysterious ally?
Zack: I know, I know!
Steve: We never even got a chance to judge the bikini contest.
Zack: Isn’t your life basically one long judging of a bikini contest?
Steve: I wish. There are a lot of parts of my life that do not revolve around smoking hot babes in bikinis.
Steve: I would say the majority of my life.
Steve: Up to 100%.
Zack: Don’t give up hope, Steve. There’s a smoking hot babe in a bikini out there somewhere waiting for every guy.
Steve: I don’t know if the math works on that.
Zack: We resume the game in the air over Iraq. Kurt, Left Eye, and Station are sitting in the back of the sea plane as Alex Jones is flying low to the desert to stay under Iraqi air defense radar. The plane shudders violently for the fifth or sixth time in as many hours. And it seems to be getting worse. Left Eye in particular feels uneasy about the flight.
Steve: She’s trying not to be sick and asking, “So, like, homeboy is going to fly us straight into Baghdad?”
Zack: Alex Jones leans out of the cockpit and shouts over the roaring prop engines, “No ma’am. Couldn’t fly us in there even if I wanted to. Some sort of meteorological event going on.”
Steve: “What the heck does that mean?”
Zack: He just points out the cockpit’s front windows. A massive wall of purple clouds looms across the entire horizon in the night air. Lightning crackles and reveals indistinct shapes moving within the clouds. Everyone loses one sanity from looking at the clouds.
Steve: Even Station?
Zack: No, not Station. That’s like a rolling meadow to Station.
Zack: “Gonna have to put her down soon. Don’t worry. I’ll get you transport. I’m a fixer. I know people. I make friends. I’m a throwback. I’m here. I got the fire of human liberty, man, and I’m settin’ fires everywhere.”
Steve: So how does a sea plane land in the desert?
Zack: Very carefully.
Zack: “Better strap in, humans.”
Steve: We are strapping in. Can we use Station as a giant airbag?
Zack: Sure. Station wraps his tentacles around various pieces of airframe and wraps Kurt and Left Eye up in more tentacles. He’s like a living five point harness. Only more like 20 points.
Zack: Alex seems to have the sea plane headed for a smooth landing on the flat desert beneath. You hear an unearthly roar and a sudden downdraft sends the plane spinning to the desert floor. The plane hits with a deafening crash and a shriek of deforming metal. Spark flash past you and are sucked away into the rushing night that is suddenly all around you.
Steve: Other than Station, who is like totally all around us.
Zack: The crumpled plane spins across the desert and comes to a halt. You smell fuel.
Steve: We gotta get out of here. Is everbody okay?
Zack: Alex Jones is pretty goddamn far from okay. The whole front of the plane is torn apart and he has been ripped in half.
Steve: “Are you okay dude?” Kurt is asking.
Zack: “I’m alive. My heart’s big. It’s got hot blood… going through it…” He slumps over, his guts spilling out of his sundered barrel chest.
Steve: It’s okay, he was probably a false flag actor or whatever.
Steve: First things first, we need to salvage what gear we can and get out of the plane.
Zack: You load up some weapons and you find some jerry cans filled with drinking water.
Steve: What about the jet ski?
Zack: It’s trashed.
Steve: Aw, man, I feel like Newt and Hicks just died during the opening of Alien3.
Zack: The plane catches fire shortly after you escape.
Steve: Viking funeral for Alex Jones. But now we’re in trouble. How the heck are we supposed to get to Baghdad?
Zack: It doesn’t seem that far. Maybe 20 miles. The lights of the city are visible in the distance beneath the ominous storm. There seems to be some sort of oil depot much closer to you.
Steve: That’s where we are heading then. They might have transportation there.
Zack: You trudge across the desert. The plane keeps burning and burning. No fire trucks comes. Nobody else comes to investigate.
Steve: They’re all busy in Baghdad destroying the veil between worlds or whatever it is they are trying to do with the Omniopticon.
Zack: That’s about right. They need the Russian yellowcake to finish constructing it.
Steve: Well, we’d better get to Baghdad and shut it down.
Steve: By the way, what weapons do we actually have?
Zack: I’ll go with Kurt salvaged his tonfas and a revolver. Left Eye recovered a WW2 vintage panzerfaust and an AKM.
Steve: So we’re heading to this refinery or whatever it is and we’re going to get some transport.
Zack: In the distance you can see several fuel trucks and some sort of firefighting truck. They’re weirdly scattered around inside the fences of the oil depot. It doesn’t seem to be a refinery either. It has four huge storage tanks but none of the refining equipment.
Steve: We’re going to approach very carefully. Maybe instead of the gate look for a part of the fence that Station can tear down and go in that way.
Zack: Station burbles and flutes with delight and slithers over to the fence. He threads his tentacles through the chain links and tears the fence down like he’s opening a Christmas present.
Steve: Still no signs of life?
Zack: No, but as you get nearer you notice some weird, glistening lumps on the pavement.
Steve: Very cautiously approach one of the lumps, ready to tonfa it like crazy.
Zack: It appears to be a dead human, although you can’t be sure. They’ve been splattered and there are no recognizable organs bigger than a few fingers and a tuft of scalp with brown hair. There is also shockingly little blood.
Steve: That’s not good. Does it look like something stepped on this dude?
Zack: Before you can work that out, you hear a shrill cry from the clouds overhead. A trio of large winged shapes come wheeling out of the stormclouds. They look like pterodactyls crossbred with giant wasps, only even more disturbing than that sounds.
Zack: This is some fifth dimensional Dark Crystal monster shit.
Steve: Frigging byakhee!
Zack: Three of them. Spiraling down and definitely coming for Kurt and Left Eye.
Steve: I’m guessing a revolver isn’t going to scare them away. How about a Nazi bazooka?
Zack: You can have Left Eye give it a shot. Exactly one shot.
Steve: She’ll wait until they’re really close. Like 50 feet or something. And Station is going to try to tackle one of these things too. How big are they?
Zack: About the size of a small airplane like a Cessna. The body is longer, the wings are shorter, maybe. It’s hard to tell. The geometry of the wings hurts your eyes.
Steve: Kurt will go out tonfas blazing if one of these things tries to grab him.
Zack: One of them is definitely going to try to grab him.
Steve: On second thought, what is the closest vehicle?
Zack: The fire truck. And this isn’t a red ladder truck, it’s a tan, military type fire truck with a foam cannon.
Steve: Kurt is running for that. He’ll try to get it started.
Zack: Alright, here is how these things play out:
Zack: Kurt runs across the pavement, a screeching horror bearing down on him from above. He manages to leap inside the firetruck as a weight crashes onto the top of the vehicle, pressing down on its suspension and shaking the whole thing. Claws curls over the windshield nad begin to crack the glass.
Steve: If I can get it started I am using the foam cannon to get this thing off of the truck.
Zack: Noted. Station waits until this thing is close enough and he leaps into the air, wrapping numerous tentacles around it. The creature shrieks in pain and surprise and flies higher, dragging Station hundreds of feet into the night as the two cosmic horror wrestle for dominance. For once, Station is the smaller creature.
Steve: All Kurt can do is pray for his buddy. Azathoth has to have tougher servants than Hastur.
Zack: Left Eye has better luck than Kurt or Station. She kneels and braces the rocket launcher on her shoulder. The shot is slow and not very loud. The Byakhee seemingly could avoid the rocket, but it ignores it in its singular purpose to gets its talons on Left Eye. It’s a direct hit.
Zack: I’m ruling this thing as comparable to a LAW rocket, which does 8D6. So we’ll say 7D6. Roll ’em.
Zack: There is a directional blast right into the beast’s hideous body. Flames core through its loathsome ribs and its long neck flops lifelessly. It smashes to the ground only feet from Left Eye, a smoldering crater through its chest. Gore rains down onto her in a mixture of foul-smelling entrails and human like blood.
Steve: He chased the wrong MFing waterfall.
Zack: Kurt manages to scare the Byakhee off the fire truck by using the foam cannon. He barely hits it and it wheels higher into the air. It sees its fallen comrad and turns its attention on Left Eye.
Steve: Kurt is going to drive over to her to pick her up.
Zack: What is she doing?
Steve: Running like hell for the fire truck. What about Station?
Zack: Station chokes the life out of the Byakhee as it bites him repeatedly and drains some of Station’s vital ichors. Station finally succeeds in killing the creature and is now falling towards the ground from a height of about 1,000 feet.
Steve: He’ll be fine. He’s almost impervious to damage.
Zack: The remaining Byakhee lands between Left Eye and the fire truck. Kurt can’t get a good angle. Left Eye has one action before it attacks.
Steve: Blasting it with the machine gun I guess. I doubt she can hack a bug/dinosaur from Carcosa.
Zack: She fires a burst from the AKM and it misses. The Byakhee rears back to snatch her in its insect-like mandibles.
Zack: And Station lands directly on top of it from a height of 1,000 feet. Byakhee guts fly all over Left Eye and cover the front windshield of the fire truck.
Steve: Kurt is getting out of the truck and running to Station. “Station buddy! Talk to me! Station!!”
Zack: Station burbles weakly, his tentacles flopping and his flute sounding bent and unusually discordant.
Steve: Please, don’t die on me, Station.
Zack: One tentacle reaches out and wraps feebly around your hand. You hear a sound like air going out of a balloon. Station stops moving.
Steve: This is the most painful character death ever in Call of Cthulhu.
Steve: Jeez, man, I’m tearing up. Is he really dead?
Zack: Yes, he has returned to the incomprehensible realm of the Nuclear Chaos, to play the mind-shattering music for which he was always intended.
Steve: Well, at least he died doing what he loved: killing things brutally.
Steve: Man. Okay, Left Eye and Kurt are getting in the fire truck and driving for Baghdad. This just got personal.
Zack: Meanwhile, across mindbending distances and into strange realities, Eazy-E, disguised as Pauly Shore, has boarded the black freighter in Carcosa. Roll percentile again.
Zack: Alright. Noted. You feel the skin-crawling sensation of being watched. This time you swear you can hear a soft, rasping voice calling your name. Somehow, you know this is Hastur.
Zack: On the ship, the hooded men lead Paul-E to the ship’s bridge, where a blindfolded Iraqi general is speaking to another hooded figure.
Zack: The hooded figure turns, but the hood is deep and you cannot see a face inside the dark awning of cloth. It speaks smoothly, “You have returned to us, Mr. Shore. The shipment has been tested. It is sufficient for our purposes.”
Steve: Going to play it cool and be all, “Yeah, that’s what is up. You know the weeeeeeee-ssullll keeps his promises, buuuudddy.”
Zack: The figure holds out a sheet of paper and a pen. “Your reward, as promised, is a five picture contract with the most powerful movie studio in the world: New Line Cinema.”
Steve: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles buuuuuuuuuuudy.” Signing that contract.
Zack: “I am an authorized notary by the state of California,” says the hooded figure and he KA-CHUNK stamps the movie contract.
Steve: Looking at the notary seal.
Zack: You see the seal of California, a number, and the rest is written in text that seems to crawl like insects, forming new and more blasphemous words the longer you strain to read the text.
Steve: E can read some dead ass evil languages. Are you sure he can’t decipher this?
Zack: No. He has this feeling of dread. It seems as if understanding the name would him completely insane.
Steve: You’re talking about a man who ate Pauly Shore’s face.
Zack: The hooded figure goes back to conversing with the blindfolded Iraqi general. Beyond the windows of the freighter’s bridge, you see strange moons crossing an unfamiliar sky. At first the moons seem to be reflected and distorted by the surface of the dark lake. You realize that these disconcderting lights are actually the glow of some underwater creatures or vehicles, following alongside and beneath the huge freighter.
Steve: Oh, sure, Carcosa dolphins. I’m sure they are friendly. Just following along and playing in the surf.
Steve: Can I look around this ship?
Zack: No one is guarding you, but poking around the ship seems about like searching the basement in the murder house while you’re there alone. Also, you see a shimmering a mile or two ahead of the ship and a daylight view of what looks to be a stormy city on earth. The ship must be approaching a portal back.
Steve: I guess I’ll just wait things out. Maybe I’ll get a chance to meet with Saddam or something.
Zack: Speaking of Saddam, the Iraqi general with the blindfold seems to be listening to the whispered words of the hooded figure. You realize the general’s nose is beginning to bleed and he is shaking.
Steve: I’m going to casually edge closer and try to listen in.
Zack: You can’t really understand the words. They are ancient, evil, and they seem to rhyme. The sound of them produces mild disorientation and nausea. You get the feeling that this hooded figure is not speaking to the Iraqi general, but through the man, using him as a conduit for communicating with someone or something else.
Steve: There is only one man evil enough to be on the other end of that phone call.
Steve: But I killed Suge Knight so it’s probably Saddam.
Zack: The ship begins to slow as it passes through the portal and emerges from Lake Hali into the Tigris River. The portal trembles and closes behind the ship’s passage. Thousands of dead fish float in the river. Several Iraqi military gunboats and a tug moving to guide the freighter.
Zack: Beyond the river lies Baghdad. A storm cell is stationary above the ancient city. Dominating the Baghdad skyline is a huge black palace ringed with anti-aircraft guns and military vehicles. Iraqi soldiers begin to throw ropes up to the freighter and you notice that many of the soldiers seem sick, covered with scabs, gaunt, with sunken eyes.
Steve: “Hey, hoodie man, I’m parched after that trip across the universe. I’ve got to weez some juice.”
Zack: “Of course,” says the man. “A feast has been prepared to celebrate the opening of the ways, the joining of one to all, and the dawning of the new age of enlightenment.”
Steve: He means when everybody gets eaten by the great old ones. But okay, I’ll go to this feast. I’m looking for some way to contact Kurt and Left Eye or, failing that, some way to blow up this ship and its cargo.
Zack: The freighter docks and the yellowcake is immediately being unloaded to trucks and to rail cars.
Steve: This is not the wild bikini party I was hoping it would be.
Steve: I guess I’m going to this big feast.
Zack: You are escorted into the black palace and taken to a chamber where you are giving robes and vestments befitting some sort of evil warlock. Everyone in this place seems to be suffering from various stages of a disease ranging from a few blemishes on the face to their entire body withered and covered in burn marks and sores.
Steve: Nothing gets me hungry for the big feast like looking at a bunch of lepers.
Zack: You are brought to a great room that reminds you of a cathedral with a glass ceiling that peers up at the ominous swirling clouds above. You can no longer tell if it is day or night, the sky is so dark and lit from within by flashes of lightning.
Zack: A banquet is spread across tables. Some of the food seems familiar, but most of it is strange. Whole roasted animals that seem like insects, broiled limbs that might be human, dishes of food that heaves and wriggle.
Steve: Peeled grapes for eyeballs. Spaghetti brains. Canned tomato heart.
Zack: At the head of the table, flanked by several less-sickly bikini babes, is Saddam Hussein. He is dressed like a warlock wearing a beret.
Steve: Can I get close to him?
Zack: You have to circulate through the party. People keep bumping into you and telling you how much they loved Encino Man and Son in Law. You actually forget you are Eazy-E for several minutes and just walk around talking about how amazing the script is for In the Army Now.
Steve: It skewers American militarism.
Steve: Also can I Sarkeesian this thing up and talk about how it’s disgusting that you keep using bikini babes as decorations. In the original Hard Ticket to Hawaii the bikini babes were the heroines.
Zack: Who just happened to have all their dialogue topless or in hot tubs or doing workouts.
Steve: Topless babes have stories too. Even if they are about shooting rockets at toilet snakes.
Zack: I will keep your criticism in mind, Steve.
Zack: You make your way towards Saddam. As you approach him, almost reaching him, you feel a powerful hand on your shoulder. A familiar voice says, “You did not really believe you would get away this, did you?”
Steve: Turn around.
Zack: It’s the robed figure from the freighter.
Steve: “I’m just trying to talk to the big man in charge, buuuuddy.”
Zack: He pulls back the hood of his robe and reveals…
Zack: Tupac Shakur!
Steve: It had to be another Death Row dude. Ruthless 4 life.
Zack: “Did you really believe I would be fooled by these tricks? I stalk among the stars. I am older than time, E. My rhymes are from before you bare-skinned apes had language.”
Steve: Ape? Friend, that sounds racist. Buuuudy.
Zack: You are seized by two robed guards with impossibly strong hands. They drag you towards Saddam, who sits upon a throne of skulls surrounded by beautiful, although somewhat sickly, bikini babes.
Steve: Don’t make me @ Anita on this.
Zack: Saddam smiles beneath his bushy mustache. “Mr. Shore, it seems you have betrayed me. It is no matter. You have come to witness the birth of the new world.”
Zack: He gestures to a huge spinning divice that looms above the windows overhead. It begins to spin and emit crackling bolts of purple lightning.
Steve: That’s not good.
Zack: “Already your fuel is at work. The walls are weakening. In only a few hours, gods will walk among us and I will join their pantheon!”
Steve: “Friend, do you really think Azathoth is going to let you turn into some sort of god? You’re like a bug. Or like a Spaghetti-O or something. They are just going to eat you!”
Zack: “So more like a Spaghetti-O?”
Steve: “Yeah, but stupider than that. You’re like a Spaghetti-F.”
Zack: We’re going to end it here, but before we go, E begins to feel tremors in his hands. His jaw clenches. A burning pain shoots through his body and in his mind he hears a voice thick with contempt. “Fools. The pharoah and the insect will not rule. You, sir, should unmask, for there is but one king.”
Zack: Eazy-E begins to scream.
Steve: Oh shit. Oh, no. That means?
Zack: You shouldn’t have gone to Carcosa, E.
Zack: Next time! The exciting conclusion of Hard Ticket to Baghdad! Will Eazy-E and the others survive? Will they save our world from doom? Or will Saddam and Tupac succeed in transforming earth into the playground of the elder gods?