Previously on Hard Ticket to Baghdad: Eazy-E has traveled to the throne room of Saddam Hussein under the guise of Pauly Shore, but he is experiencing unspeakably strange sensations that threaten to reveal his identity. Meanwhile, Kurt Cobain and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes have fought their way into Baghdad, sacrificing an old friend and commandeering a fire truck to make their way to Saddam’s palace. Can they reach the Omniopticon before it permanently opens the way to the cosmic horrors of space? Will In the Army Now ever get made or has getting eaten and worn like a skin suit sidetracked Pauly Shore’s career? Find out in this shocking finale of Hard Ticket to Baghdad.
Zack: A dread storm hangs over the deserted streets of Baghdad. Violet bolts of lightning crackle within the clouds, illuminating giant, monstrous shapes moving languidly just beneath the caul of reality. An inaudible whine of current seems to build inside the heads of Kurt Cobain and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. Our heroes do not need to look up to know that reality has begun to disintegrate.
Zack: Kurt and Left Eye are driving a military fire truck through the streets. In the distance, looming over the modern skyline of Baghdad, is a giant black palace with minarets that seem to twist and writhe and reconstruct themselves at impossible angles. Directly above it, the storm cell swirls.
Steve: I don’t think we need to break out Map Quest for this one.
Steve: Are these streets empty or what? No resistance?
Zack: You have to weave through abandoned vehicles that seem draped in moss and tanks that appear rusted by decades of weather. Some streets are filled with sand dunes, the leaning apartment towers and government offices as lifeless as skeletons. The closer you drive to the palace, the more difficult it becomes to understand the geography and even the passage of time.
Steve: Time is a flat circle. Like a pizza. Covered in tragedy.
Zack: My default order in the Domino’s pizza app.
Steve: So are we actually getting closer to the palace or are we driving in circles?
Zack: You are close, but you do not seem to be getting closer. You’ll turn right and the palace will be direclty in front of you. Turn right again and it will be directly behind you. It towers over you, casting a shadow that covers the streets. If you look too long in those shadows, the terrain itself will seem to squirm and unravel.
Steve: I know these nightmares. It’s when the killer is chasing you and no matter how fast you run, you don’t go anywhere.
Steve: And in cases like that, the only way to get where you want to go is like lucid dream it man.
Zack: So you are going to try to lucid dream your way to the palace in a fire truck?
Steve: Well, Kurt doesn’t have any DMT does he?
Zack: Fresh out.
Steve: Right, that’s it then, man. Going to think to himself “This isn’t real. This is just a phantasm or something. I can reach this evil palace by taking the next left.”
Zack: You turn the firetruck left at the next intersection. The buildings bounce and shake like peering down open railway cars on a moving train. The road ahead remains straight and now passes on a bridge over the Tigris river, straight into the sinister gates of the black palace.
Zack: Above you, minarets curl and twist like restless serpents reaching to the storm overhead.
Steve: Kurt is like, “Guess you can’t go chasing waterfalls, you’ve got to let them come to you.”
Zack: “How many times are you going to reference that song?” Demands Left Eye. “We’ve got a whole catalog. No Scrubs. Baby, Baby, Baby. Come on, Kurt.”
Steve: All apologies.
Zack: Yes, that is also a song.
Steve: And a good sentiment after you have hurt someone’s feelings.
Zack: The fire truck crosses the bridge and drives into the palace. You are in some sort of motor pool from hell, with baroque golden limousines, steam-belching golden tanks, and various armored vehicles scrawled with maddening couplets of blasphemous poetry. Many of these vehicles are decorated in flayed corpses.
Steve: Kurt is looking around at the horror vehicles as he drives as far as he can into the motor pool. “I asked Hertz for the Mustang. I’m not seeing it in the lot.”
Zack: You reach a gate too small for the firetruck. Several mutilated soldiers in Republican Guard uniforms lie sprawled around the gate.
Steve: Kurt and Left Eye are getting out of the truck, weapons ready, Tonfas akimbo, searching the dead soldiers for anything useful.
Zack: What qualifies as useful? They have a lot of blood and assorted viscera.
Steve: Can we take uniforms and weapons?
Zack: Sure, there are eight dead soldiers and between them you can piece together two uniforms that aren’t completely drenched in gore. They have AK-47s. There are a few shell casings on the floor like some of them got some shots off before they died.
Steve: I’m sure Left Eye can tell Kurt is having second thoughts, but she is a rock. She is like, “We got this.”
Steve: Going into the palace, I guess heading up as much as possible. The bad guys always have their evil lair in a tower or something.
Zack: You head into the palace in your blood-smeared uniforms. You do not encounter any other people, but you see things and hear things that fill you with dread. You round one corner just in time to see a soldiers legs being dragged kicking down a dark hallway. Another room you start to go into you look up and realize there are millions of red eyes staring at you. Shadows flit across the ceilings of rooms, strange music or chants can be heard through doorways, and the floorplan of the palace makes little sense.
Steve: Staying with that lucid dream tactic. I just need to will myself into the throne room or orrery or whatever Saddam has in this nightmare dump.
Zack: One staircase leads to another and with each step the inaudible tone seems to press more painfully on your mind. You climb a staircase through a space so vast and empty that you cannot see the walls or ceiling. Corpses hang in the air as if suspended in water. A school bus rolls slowly past you, going vertically, its seats filled by silently screaming skeletons. Light blooms in slow motion from a bomb bursting near the staircase. You can see the bomb’s casing slowly rupturing and fire spilling through the seams.
Steve: That would look awesome in a video.
Zack: You continue up the stairs as they come apart and you and Left Eye are forced to leap from one step to the next.
Steve: I hate 3D platformers.
Zack: Each step is so large that it is fairly easy. At last, you arrive at a golden door set into a red frame. There is no wall around it, just the door standing there connected to the final step.
Steve: “Alright, Left Eye, stack up on the door. We breach on 3… 2… BREACH!”
Steve: Doing a Krabi Krabong roll and strike through the door. Double tonfa on anyone in my path. Left Eye will follow Kurt in, ready to blast anyone in sight.
Zack: You roll into the room and you see numerous corpses and smashed furniture. A glass skylight has been completely shattered and glass crunches beneath you. You rise to your feet standing in a vast dining room. The wind howls through the broken windows. An overturned throne lies atop a man who looks unmistakably like Saddam Hussein. His sons have been decapitated and piled over the throne.
Steve: Well that was anticlimactic.
Zack: Behind the throne is a strange, humming machine large enough to fill the back half of the room. Centrifuges spin nearly at their breaking point and steam gusts from an impossible tangle of pipes. Dozens of tuning forks are vibrating atop the machine’s central pillar, which rises towards the violet-hued storm above. An insane mass of tentacles writhes in the clouds. Tendrils droop down intermittently and drag through Baghdad, leveling entire blocks of buildings.
Steve: That seems fine.
Steve: Everything is fine.
Zack: Sanity check.
Steve: Kurt failed, Left Eye passes.
Zack: Kurt loses 22 sanity as he gazes into the swirling entrails of creation. Coils of impossible size drop from the storm as the city is slowly being consumed. There is no hope. You are paralyzed for ten turns simply staring into the sky. After that, Kurt will be permanently insane as he realizes there is no possible escape from such cosmic evil. Left Eye loses 7 sanity. She feels her insignificance in the face of such a vast monstrosity, but she steels herself to fight to the last.
Zack: A figure staggers out from behind the throne.
Steve: “E! You’re alive!”
Zack: Left Eye realizes she is looking at Tupac Shakur not Eazy-E. It takes her a moment to realize that his arms have been torn out of their sockets, leaving ragged sleeves dripping with blood.
Steve: “Oh, shit.”
Zack: “Of the many facets I am but one side,” snarls Tupac. “Famous cause we program worldwide.”
Zack: Two huge hands grab the sides of Tupac’s head from behind and tear it off along with his spine. The headless corpse drops and you see what has decapitated him.
Steve: Oh no…
Zack: Eazy-E stands twice again as tall as a man, his lopsided head stuffed into a COMPTON fitted hat made out of human skin. His human arms hang vestigial from his shoulders, like epaulets dangling over the massive arms and clawed hands he now possesses. His skin is covered in the putrid lymph of weeping buboes. His chest yawns open into a vertical mouth and he pops Tupac’s severed head and spine in and crunches it down. His eyes bulge out from behind black Ray Bans.
Zack: “YALL FOOLS TO COME TRIFLE WITH ME.”
Steve: Left Eye shouts, “E, what happened?”
Zack: “THESE MORTALS THOUGHT THEY COULD BRING THE G’s, BUT THERE IS BUT ONE G I WORSHIP. THE KING WHO WILL SIT UPON THIS THRONE.”
Zack: He heaves the throne upright, scattering crushed corpses.
Zack: “THE UNSPEAKABLE WILL RULE THIS MUTHAFUCKIN’ GLOBE, BITCH. NOT THAT SPACE SPAGHETTI BULLSHIT AND NOT SOME PHAROAH.”
Steve: I don’t think there is going to be any negotiating with E at this point. Can Left Eye drag Kurt to safety.
Zack: Safety is sort of relative at this point. You can drag Kurt behind a pile of dead bodies, but E seems more concerned with adjusting levers and dials on the Omniopticon.
Steve: Going to pull Kurt to cover and then Left Eye is going to try to figure out what Eazy-E is doing.
Zack: Mechanical Engineering or Cthulhu Mythos.
Steve: Failed mechanical engineering, which was higher.
Zack: Try Cthulhu Mythos.
Steve: Critical success!
Zack: As you watch him move crystals around and change tuning forks and pull levers you notice that the vision of the monster in the sky is dimming, but another figure is coalescing in the room. He stands even larger than E, roughly human in outline, but wearing a robe that hides the actual dimensions of his body. His face is covered with a filthy cloth mask. His fingers are long and misshapen.
Zack: From your many mythos investigations, your recognize this figure is Hastur. Since you already suffered a loss for the thing in the sky and Hastur is only partially visible, I am going to say you lose half as much sanity as before. So 3.
Steve: I hate to do this, but I think the only way to stop all this is destroying that machine. Trading a whole bunch of evil gods for one evil god isn’t really helping us much.
Steve: Left Eye is creeping closer to the Omniopticon and then opening fire on it full auto with her AK.
Zack: The assault rifle roars and bucks in her grasp. Bullets smash crystels and steam shrieks out of ruptured vessels. The contraption begins to shake violently, but as your gun clicks dry, it is still functioning.
Zack: As you are reloading, Eazy-E lopes over and grabs Left Eye by her throat. He lifts her up off the ground, his huge clawed hand squeezing so hard it is threatening to pop her head off.
Steve: She’s trying to choke out, “E, you gotta remember who you are, friend. We are all in this together.”
Zack: His hideous rage slips for a moment and he hurls Left Eye aside. Take 6 HP damage as she breaks her arm landing on a table.
Steve: She is hurt pretty bad.
Zack: Kurt snaps out of his paralysis. He watches E go back over to the machine and start pulling levers again.
Steve: Man, E was our magic dude.
Zack: Kurt is your muscle.
Steve: Yeah, but compared to monster Eazy-E? Not even Krabi Krabong is going to beat this dude.
Zack: E’s adjustments are nearing completion. The tentacles in the sky have faded, but now the towering figure in the throne room has almost solidified.
Steve: Are there any other weapons in the room?
Zack: Have Kurt make a spot hidden.
Steve: Made it.
Zack: Clutched in Saddam Hussein’s dead hand is a golden hand grenade. The pin has already been pulled, but the spoon is still attached.
Steve: Kurt is grabbing the grenade and throwing it at the machine.
Zack: What’s your throw skill?
Steve: Base of 25.
Zack: This is a difficult throw so I’m going to say to hit a critical component you need to roll under a 15.
Steve: Kurt looks over at Left Eye struggling with her broken arm. He’s running this one in. He can’t risk throwing it.
Zack: Are you sure?
Steve: Kurt is all, “Is this the part where I’m supposed to quote one of my songs?” Then he runs it in. Kamikaze style.
Zack: The grenade explodes in Kurt’s hands, obliterating numerous crystals and bursting the main steam channel in the machine. The Omniopticon gives a last shuddering screech and begins to break apart as pistons misfire and the tuning forks launch into the air like vibrating missiles.
Steve: The best kind.
Zack: Eazy-E is thrown off the side of the palace, disappearing into the distant Tigris river. Left Eye is peppered with debris, but otherwise unharmed. Almost immediately, the storm over Baghdad begins to clear.
Zack: The vision of Hastur disappears as rays of sunlight break through the retreating clouds.
Steve: Is it over?
Zack: It’s over man. But there is a double epilogue.
Steve: Alright, let’s hear it.
Zack: Weeks later, a fishing boat in the Persian Gulf lifts the catch of fish over the deck and opens the nets. Fish and squids spill out and onto the sorting tables. A huge, misshapen human figure crashes among them. Though strewn with seaweed, it lifts its hideous maw and screams. The word across the front of its hat mean nothing to the terrified fishermen. They’ve never been to Compton.
Zack: Outside the ordered universe lies that amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the center of all infinity—the boundless daemon sultan Azathoth, whose name no lips dare speak aloud, and who gnaws hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time and space amidst the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes.
Zack: From somewhere amidst the idiot god’s countless servitors can be heard the wail of a mistuned electric guitar. The discordant notes of the flutes seem to rise with the guitar. By the unhallowed light, a man in jean shorts dances and capers with the attendants of that obscene realm through boundless time.
Steve: Yes! YES!
Zack: The End.