The Mysterious Casefiles of Marie Magnum

The Cthulhu Cruise Caper

Marie Magnum sat in her desk, reading an ancient book, "The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Tales" by HP Lovecraft. On the cover was a squid headed figure with demonic wings rising out of the ocean. Charlie Chong walked into the room, holding a pitcher of coffee in hand and a mug in another.

"Here you go, Ree," Charlie sat it down onto a coaster on the edge of the desk. "Put some more of that cog-enhancer nanodrug in."

"You used vanilla flavor, right?" Marie sipped from the coffee mug. "Eh, you put some hazelnut in there."

"It all does the same shit, Ree," Charlie set the pitcher down. "Now, I'm gonna go man the front door and see who comes in or calls."

"Anyway, thanks for the book, Charlie!" she replied. "Better than most of the printed drivel you find today!"

"That mad Doktor had that on a list of books he was obsessed with," Charlie added. "I liked reading it, had a copy, and thought, "What the hell?" And you do like it."

"Don't bring up that damn loon so soon," Marie replied. "His ego was bigger than a Dyson sphere."

"Dyson sphere's an understatement," Charlie replied. "I'd say Bizarro's more like an unstable red giant. Old, erratic, and gonna blow sometime soon."

"I just hope we can take him out before then," Marie sipped more of her drink. "Or at least ain't near him."

"Hey, we're getting a transmission from a secure line," Charlie noted. His implant detected a high priority transmission. "Hello?"

The holo-screen in the center of the office buzzed to life. The image of a thirty-some year old Hispanic man with a mustache and dark hair appeared. The NCPD logo appeared in the background. It was obvious that this was Commissioner Jose Alvarez of the New Chicago Police Department, or a well done hoax or avatar.

"Excuse me, are you open for business?" Alvarez's gruff voice asked. "I hate to call you up so suddenly, but something unexpected's come up."

"Yeah we are," Marie replied. "Can I help yah?"

"I have a job for you guys, should you have interest and time," Wilson replied. "There are some risks, and likelihood you will not be able to achieve the backup you need. But, the pay will be very good."

"Okay, Commissioner," Marie asked. "What kind of task do ya want us to do?"

"I have a problem with manpower now," Alvarez continued. "Most of my guys, gals, and bots are tied up looking for Bizarro and keeping the clades civil. Singulartech, the Sci-Corps, and everyone else is also looking for Bizarro. So, I was unprepared when I got reports of this."

The image changed to live feed from an underwater camera cross-referenced with sonar data. There was a large shape in the distance, hidden under the waters of Lake Michigan. It was an elongated cylinder, and had a number of transparent viewing decks. It was obvious that this was a luxury sub of some sort. The conning tower was in some sort of vaguely humanoid shape. The specifics of the figure could not be seen.

"This was a luxury sub called Little Atlantis, and it was scheduled to dock here yesterday," Alvarez explained. "Instead, it's just sat right below the surface, not making responding to any sort of contact. There's a jamming signal coming from inside, and we've set up an exclusion zone around it."

"And ya want us to check it out?" Marie added.

"If possible, Marie," Alvarez added. "It shouldn't be too hard for you and Charlie. You'll be well compensated for it. I'll owe you a few favors."

"How would we get aboard?" Charlie asked. "I know Ree might try it, but swimming out there would suck."

"I have a contact with a minisub who can take you out there," Alvarez continued. "The sub's got a bay for minisub launching and retrieval. There's also emergency deep-suits in case it's flooded."

"Since nothing big's going on, I'm up for checking out this sardine can of yours," Marie replied. "How 'bout you, Charlie?"

"As long as we can get some schematics, relevant technical info, and list of possible reasons someone would want to attack the sub, sure," Charlie added. "I don't want to run onto a sub that could be crawling with hostiles without know who or what we might be getting into."

"We can send more all of those," Alvarez added. "So, do we have a deal? My one request is if that it does turn out to be Doktor Bizarro, you tell us. No way we can afford letting him to escape again."

"Will do, Commissioner," Marie replied. "Just have that minisub waiting, and we'll get right over."

"It will be on the North Side Docks, Craft 2 on Pier 16, and use these ID frequencies to get in," Alvarez said. "Good luck, and keep me informed on what happens. Alvarez out."

The commissioner's face vanished as the feed cut out.

"So, Ree, up for a boat ride?" Charlie asked.

"Marine salvage normally ain't my thing," Marie turned her head back. "But I'll make a special case for the Commissioner. I mean, it's just some cruise for snobs. Could just be them too lazy to tell the engineer to nanofab a new communications array."

"When's it ever been that simple, Ree?" Charlie rolled his eyes. "Cripes. You'd think they assign us some normal cases, like chasing convicts with parole violations, or watching out for cheating spouses. But no, we find ourselves dragged into all these nasty situations. There was that bar fight you got involved in, that time we had to help Doktor Bizarro…"

"Cool it, Charlie," Marie sat back. "I don't know who or what caused the problems on that boat, but no use worrying about it until we get onboard. We'll worry about that problem when we get there."

"You know, Ree, you can't always get by on blind luck and improvisation," Charlie shook his head. "Don't you think you can look over the schematics to the vessel and come up with a plan of attack?"

"Eh, you can do that," Marie mused. "I'll play it by ear. You do it your way, I do it my way, and so far, they've worked pretty well together."

"I'm just worried about when they aren't," Charlie replied. "Anyway, let's roll out. I want to get back early and catch that new documentary series."

"Yeah, that did look kinda interesting," Marie nodded. "Okay, get dressed, grab your stuff, and let's get wet."

"I'll pack some of that special ammo that can fire underwater," Charlie added. "I'd suggest you'd do the same."

"I ain't one for planning, but when in doubt, bring lots of ammo," Marie replied.

The two gathered their things, and then headed to the docks. The pier seemed deserted, and looked like the sort of dock one might find in any other city. The main difference with the docks of Old Chicago was most of the menial work was done by robots of various shapes and sizes. A few operators would take shifts directing them, but the robots were able to run autonomously if necessary. There had been much less fatalities at the docks, but unnecessary activity around heavy industrial machines was discouraged. A few policemen and guards held a few spots at the dock, normally for port security and holding NCPD watercraft.

Charlie and Marie were able to hop a robo-cab and use their clearances to get to one of the police wharfs. Inside of a boathouse, they found the contact and the submersible. A robot with blue armor, badge, light-bulb like eyes, and a distinct retro "Asimov" look sat in a chair, reading a magazine marked "Custom Robo Monthly." A nameplate read "Inspector Steele."

"Hey, Inspector," Marie replied. "We're here on Commissioner's orders. You have a sub we can borrow?"

"First one on the left," the robot didn't bother looking up from his magazine and pointed to one of the parked boats. A few of the vessels were sleek pursuit craft, some were drones, and a few were subs of both the manned and automated sort. Most were blue, black, and white in color. The one that Steele pointed to was a small mini-sub with a circular hatch on the top, a reinforced bubble, gyrok mini-torpedo launcher, pair of manipulator arms, and pair of propellers behind it.

Charlie unscrewed the hatch and climbed in first. Marie followed. Charlie interfaced with both the wireless and conventional controls. In the rear of the sub were some emergency masks and suits. However, they were too big to fit through the hatch. But the rebreather masks would be useful if they had to bail out.

"You know how to steer one of these things, right?" Marie said as she locked the hatch behind them.

"Mostly," Charlie replied. "Back in the Sci-Corps, I knew my way around most things that moved. I've got the coordinates, and I'll plug them in to the autopilot."

Charlie took the pilot's seat and locked the coordinates down. The submersible began to move away from the docks, and then submerge beneath the murky waters of Lake Michigan. A searchlight activated, and the area in front of the craft appeared. A few genengineered mer-kids waved to the sub as it moved past, but eventually, the waters grew darker. A large object appeared on the vessel's sonar, and soon, lights appeared beneath the murk. As they drew closer, Marie and Charlie could see the luxury sub in all its glory.

The vessel, Little Atlantis, was supposed to have a Greco-Roman fantasy theme. Despite the fact archaeologists had drawn more connections between Minoan civilization and Atlantis than any Greek city, the popular impression had guided the minds behind the vessel's aesthetic. The duo recalled the pictures they saw from the infolinks. It was supposed to have entire segments and decks covered by transparent coating, so the person inside could see outside, and anyone passing by underwater would see the faux-marble "ruins" that comprised the design of the decks. There were plenty of columns and arches, all an anachronistic theme park version of historical Greco-Roman architecture. Floodlights along the hull were supposed to illuminate it. Instead of a conning tower, it was supposed to have a giant statue of Neptune. So, when the vessel surfaced, it would resemble Neptune surrounded by arches and columns to give the impression of a "rising Atlantis."

That was nothing like what Marie and Charlie saw. Instead of a vessel with fake white marble columns, they were greeted by a sinister change in the aesthetic. The ruins now had a sickly green color to them. Instead of columns and arches, the mock ruins now were bent at odd angles. There was little symmetry among the ruins. The lights alongside the side of the ship now flashed erratic colors, transitioning from red to green to yellow and back. Most disturbing, however, was the conning tower. Like the rest of the ship, it now had a sickly green color. Instead of the grinning Neptune, the head area had been drastically changed. Instead of an old man with a beard, it was now a tentacle-faced monstrosity. Wings had been added to the back, and the hands and arms had been reworked into talons.

"Whoever took over has a weird taste in decoration," Charlie mused. "They turn Neptune into Cthulhu, and the Little Atlantis into the Little R'lyeh."

"Could it be Dok Bizarro?" Marie suggested. "You mentioned he was obsessed with the book."

"It's unlikely he'd go this crazy. That's just one book among many he liked," Charlie continued. "Besides, if it was him, he'd be turning everyone onboard into zomborgs and sailing it right into the docks. Whoever's doing this has a definite taste for style."

"Let's hope they don't have much substance," Marie replied. "I've had enough stories of gimmicky criminals. The last thing we need's one with a Cthulhu tentacle gimmick."

"Especially if their mind's in the gutter while they're thinking of those tentacles," Charlie muttered. Marie either did not seem to hear him, or was ignoring him. He switched to manual control, and headed for the bottom portion of the sub. There should be a mini-sub bay there, and Alvarez had given them the access codes. The metal door did not respond to his codes. So, he connected to his nanoimplant to the sub's mini-computer, and tried brute-force guessing the code. A few minutes later, the door opened, and the two headed for the mini-sub bay. Normally, it would be where escape pods were stored in the event of an emergency, and passenger mini-subs would be parked for patrons with their own aquatic craft. A few amphibious passengers were also able to use it as an access point. Now, it was opened again, and the duo had free access to the sub. Above them was an air pocket, and a well lit mini-sub bay.

Charlie exited the craft first, opening the hatch. The nose of his P90 stuck out, and he scanned the area around him. He had his nanoshield protecting him from any would be attackers. Cautiously, he climbed outside the sub and looked for any motion. Marie climbed up after him, with her Mateba autorevolver out. Both stood back to back, looking for any hostiles around the room. A few small submersibles bobbed nearby, mainly ones for underwater sightseeing. A few manta ray-like repair drones hung from the ceiling.

"Nothing moving around so far," Charlie noted. "But when I cross reference power use and heat sources, there's something using a lot of power near the communications section of the bridge."

"Lead the way," Marie pointed her revolver at the door. "I've got my Enhancer gloves ready to sock anything in our way, and heater's ready to fire."

Charlie walked through the door, keeping his P90 up and ready to fire. He entered the automatic door, and looked down an empty hallway. There was a green carpet, white walls, a dim light, and several doors on either side. Charlie scanned for any signs of movement. Marie charged in behind him, keeping watch on the side of the room that Charlie wasn't.

Suddenly, footsteps echoed through the hall. Charlie trained his gun on the door. Something began to drip down from the ceiling. A strange fluid dropped onto her hand. Marie looked up and saw something dripping from the vent above. She pointed her gun up. Charlie followed her motion, and looked at another vent above him. There was a trickle of slimy substance from above. It was transparent, and a quick analysis from his nano-probe showed it was mainly a soup of organic and bio-nanotech components.

Before they could react, more of it began pouring out of the vent. The trickle turned into a torrent. Vents down the hallway were dripping. The fluid began to congeal, connecting together. The substance began to form into a central mass about a meter in height and twice as wide. Eyeballs and teeth began to form, and then were consumed inside the mass. Charlie grabbed Marie's hand and pulled her down the hall.

"What the hell is that thing?" Marie shot at it a few times.

"Tekeli-li!" the bionanotech blob madly chattered back. "Tekeli-li!"

The creature began to move, sticking out a pseudopod made of protoplasm and pulling itself forward. It used the floor, walls, and ceiling, using its bulk to fill the entire hallway. The detective duo darted from danger.

"Shoggoth!" Charlie shouted. "Some joker made a nanoschematic for it on HP Lovecraft's birthday!"

"We ain't at the South Pole, though!" Marie replied. She looked over her shoulder. The shoggoth was moving surprisingly fast. She fired her gun at it, but the blob merely harmlessly absorbed her bullets. Charlie fired a few rounds blindly over his shoulder.

"Whoever took over the sub seems to like Lovecraft too much!" Charlie shouted. "I never would have planned to get attacked by a damn shoggoth!"

"That's why you better improvise!" Marie shouted, ducking as a pseudopod almost grabbed her.

Ahead of them was a set of closed double doors. There were no alcoves in the wall or open doorways they could enter. The distance between them and the doors were rapidly decreasing. Marie's lungs were about ready to give out. She could feel burns on the back of her fedora coat, from where the monster's pseudopods had grazed her. She did not want to think at what would happen if it grabbed her and started digesting her.

Suddenly, Charlie stopped, and threw up a nanoshield around him. He shot out a nanotech pseudopod of his own, making contact with the shoggoth's tentacle. A blast of electricity was seen, and the creature let out a high-pitched shriek. It still had momentum, however, and prepared to surround Charlie's shield.

"Ree! Quick! Open the door panel! I'm going to try to hack it!" Charlie shouted. The creature surrounded and subsumed Charlie's nanoshield. He vanished under the torrent of shoggoth fluids.

Quickly, Marie saw a door panel in front of her. She didn't have a hacking tool or uplink with her. She also didn't have a lot of time. The shoggoth was still coming towards her. It had surrounded Charlie, it was coming to get her. The tentacles, pseudopods, and teeth began to surround her on all sides. She was about to get utterly consumed. So, she relied on one of the most proven techniques. She pulled out her Mateba and shot the door panel. Strangely, both the doors opened. She ran through, and the shoggoth kept following her. Half of it tried pouring through each hole, and it reconstituted itself on the other side.

Marie kept running, but her strides were shorter and pace had slowed to a jog. The creature was gaining. Suddenly, Marie saw another obstacle: There was a pile of skeletons in front of her. They were piled high enough to utterly block the corridor. It was either face the shoggoth, or smash through the pile of bones. She ran towards the bones, shielded her face with her hands, closed her eyes, and threw herself at the bones.

Marie realized she did not come into contact with the pile after an instant. She turned around and saw the shoggoth had restrained her with two pseudopods holding her legs on the ground. Charlie stood next to the shoggoth, snickering to himself.

"Damn, I had you good, Ree!" he snickered.

"What the hell just happened?" Marie's face flashed with anger. "I thought it ate you!"

"Close, but then I realized how easy these things were to hack," Charlie replied. "Say 'hi' to our new friend!"

"You managed to turn a nanotech shoggoth monster into a pet?" Marie's face twisted in disbelief.

Charlie stroked the creature's protoplasm, his hand creating gentle indentations in the surface. Two eyes and teeth manifested nearby. "Tekeli-li," the nanotech blob purred as the eyes turned towards the two.

"Do you think Shoggy or Gibbers is a better name?" Charlie asked.

"I honestly don't care, Charlie," Marie muttered. "Now, did you learn anything useful from it?"

Charlie nodded. "I got some sensory feedback from a few hours ago. Shoggy here wasn't used for nice things."

"Like those, maybe?" Marie pointed her thumb towards the pile of skeletons. Of in the distance, Marie thought she heard some footsteps.

"Yeah. But they made Shoggy eat them. They ate most of the crew and passengers, and mutated the rest," Charlie continued, as he recalled the memories from the shoggoth. "Into something else from Lovecraft."

"Let me guess: those fish-man things from Innsmouth," Marie replied. "The guys who worship the Esoteric Order of that fish man guy."

She heard the steps getting louder. Marie quickly looked down the hall, but saw nothing. The sound suddenly ceased.

"Yeah. He mutated them into Deep Ones, but he had a few bio-engineered Deep Ones with him from the start," Charlie continued. "He was already aboard in disguise, and the Deep Ones met up with him over the voyage. He nanofactured the shoggoth and more monsters afterwards."

"Who? The perp?" Marie asked. "Why the hell would the perp go through all this trouble and kill a bunch of people just for some tasteless Lovecraft tribute?"

"The Crawling Chaos himself," Charlie replied. "Hey, Ree, you hear something?"

It was then the pile of bones exploded outwards, and loathsome, bulbous eyed fish-men charged through. They were well muscled, and had flippers and fins in various places around their bodies. The batrachian henchmen ran towards them, hissing and shouting words in an unintelligible language. They emerged from the pile of bones like creatures from a nightmare. Whoever had made them obviously did not send them with benevolent intentions.

Charlie opened fire with his P90, dropping one. Marie lined up two behind each other and fired. Her round went straight through the first one, and into the chest of the one right behind it. She pulled the trigger again, but the autorevolver was empty. A pair of Deep Ones charged at her. One telegraphed a hook punch, but Marie acted quicker. Her Enhancer-glove covered fist socked the attacking fish-man in the stomach,causing it to pause while Marie's other hand socked it in the face. She brought both her fists down on its head, knocking it out.

Before she could celebrate, she felt a set of cold, slippery hands wrapping around her neck from behind. The second Deep One had got her. She elbowed the creature in the stomach, but couldn't gain enough force to land a solid hit. A wet, slippery hand wrapped around her throat. She could see Charlie run out of ammo, and get tossed to the ground by the Deep Ones. She tried struggling, but another Deep One punched her in the stomach. The flow of oxygen was being cut off to her brain. It could very well be the end, she realized.

Suddenly, the choking arm around her neck went limp. The Deep One's body was suddenly yanked back, and the Deep One that had punched her went flying. Looking back, she could see the shoggoth's pseudopods knocking the Deep Ones around. Some of the unlucky prone ones got yanked back into the creature. The Deep Ones began shouting as they were yanked back inside the creature. The shoggoth began dissolving them. Their skin was ripped off layer by layer, and then their bones were all that remained. The shoggoth excreted them out the rear. The remaining Deep Ones tried to flee, but were cut down by a burst of gunfire from Charlie's P90. He had reloaded in the confusion.

"Ree, can I keep him?" Charlie asked. "I think he'll be useful!"

"Tekeli-li!" the shoggoth chirped happily.

"Eh, fine," Marie muttered as she reloaded. "Let's just find the perp and get the hell off this tub. What did you say his name was?"

"The Crawling Chaos," Charlie replied. "Guy thinks he's Nyarlathotep himself. He's got some pretty impressive tech backing him up."

"So far we've seen bioengineered Deep Ones, a shoggoth made of nanobots, and a sub modified to look like R'lyeh," Marie replied. "And now we've got someone dressing up as the Black Pharaoh himself? Someone's been reading into this stuff too much."

"Let's just get to the bridge, Ree. He's up there," Charlie pointed to a set of stairs. "Or should be."

"Can that blob even fit through the door?" Marie asked. "I mean, no offense to ya, but you've got a lot of mass."

"Don't you remember him chasing us, Ree?" Charlie added. "Shoggy can dissolve into a puddle and even fit through vents if he needs to."

"Hey, Shoggoth, mind leading the way?" Marie suggested. "That way, you can eat any more mooks he throws at us."

Two eyes and a grinning set of teeth materialized on the side of the shoggoth that faced them, and grinned. "Tekeli-li!" it chirped in agreement.

Shoggy went up the stairs, with Charlie and Marie following. The stairs were fairly wide, and the shoggoth had little difficulty climbing them. It used its pseudopods to climb up the railings and sides of the walls. The creatured moved as fast as they did while it chased them, and was digesting bits of Deep One gore inside itself as it ascended the stairs. While it did look strange, Marie realized that it was definitely a useful pet.

They finally got to the top of the stairs, and the shoggoth smashed through a set of doors. Charlie and Marie looked around, and saw they had probably just jumped from the frying pan to the fire. They stood on the bridge of the sub. The bridge was covered by a transparent covering, and they could see the massive Cthulhu statue towering right above them. There were the dead bodies of the crew and passengers scattered across the floor. A few consoles and instruments were scattered around the bridge. The captain's seat was on a slightly elevated chamber, accessible by ladder with an escape pod nearby. It seemed as though some new machinery had been added to the bridge recently. Nanomedical tubes had been brought onto the bridge of the vessel, with figures bobbing inside them. Marie could see grotesque humanoid figures with the heads of various beasts. Many of them had been dressed in Egyptian garb.

"So now we go from "Shadow Out of Innsmouth" to "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs,"" Charlie muttered.

"Figures I haven't read that one yet," Marie muttered. "Let's just find this palooka and ventilate him."

"Hey, got some movement in the captain's seat!" Charlie pointed his P90 upwards. "I'll cover, you flank! Shoggy, go protect Marie in case those beast-people come out! Last thing I want to get attacked by are some screwed up pod furries!"

They saw a figure stand up in the captain's seat, and walk over a catwalk towards the escape pod. He looked down and laughed maniacally. Charlie had his P90 on him from one angle. Marie had her Mateba pointing at him from another, taking cover behind a bank of consoles. Shoggy oozed between her and the nearest pods. The laugh was slow, deep, and sinister. It seemed to resonate in Marie as even some sort of primal madness.

The most notable thing about the man was that he was black. Not black in the sense of someone with African ancestry or dark skin pigment, but black in the literal sense. The figure was more a walking, amorphous mass of darkness. His height and stature were that of a tall man, and he had no face. His body had strange sources of illumination coming from it. Looking closely, Marie could see small bits of light scattered across the void that was his body. They resembled the night sky, with stars, nebulas, and other cosmic objects. The effect was probably just the result of a nanotech suit and holograms, but it was certainly eerie.

"Oh my God! He's full of stars!" Charlie shouted. He opened fire at the Crawling Chaos, trying to get him to stop. Instead of moving, Nyarlathotep simply materialized two bright red eyes and a mouth on his face.

"Pathetic humans!" he snickered, utterly unconcerned with gunfire. "This statute of the Great Cthulhu has an antenna inside of it, shall rise to the surface, and broadcast a virus to infect every AI, cyborg, and augmented person in your city of ants! They will turn upon each other, and the stars shall be right! The time of the Great Old Ones is coming!"

Marie put several rounds where his head should have been, but the bullets did not even seem to physically make contact with him. Charlie tried firing a burst at him, but the same thing happened. It was as if he did not even regard the laws of physics. "Pathetic mortals!" he continued walking towards the pod. "You may play at being the masters of this world, but the Great Old Ones shall truly inherit this world! My faithful minions, Knights of the Silver Twilight, attack!"

With that, the Crawling Chaos entered the escape pod, and locked the door behind him. The pod doors opened up, and the beast-headed men came out. They did not emerge unarmed. Some held devices resembling old cameras, while others had strangely shaped scimitar-like blades. Many had the heads of hawks and jackals. Most of their equipment seemed like Egyptian head-dresses. Some held syringes of a glowing, bright green fluid. Marie fired her autorevolver at one of the closest pod-people, while Charlie riddled one with a sword at close range. "Tekeli-li!" Shoggy shouted as he smashed two pod mutants with pseudopodia.

Looking up, Marie saw the escape pod detach, and the Crawling Chaos ascend towards the surface. Marie noticed the sub was also surfacing, but much more slowly than the pod. The light from the surface was growing brighter. She ran for the controls, but one of the beast-men leveled a camera at her. He fired it, firing a bolt of lightning. Quickly, Marie took cover back under a console.

"Hey. Charlie! We've got to stop this thing from broadcasting or surfacing!" Marie shouted. "Think you can get to the captain's controls?"

"No, got two idiots with those Yithian lightning guns keeping me pinned!" Charlie replied. "Can you and Shoggy take them out?"

"Hey, Shoggy, Charlie needs help!" she shouted at the shoggoth.

"Tekeli-li!" the shoggoth sounded as it charged through the bridge to get to Charlie. It plowed over two swordsmen, quickly absorbing them. He was pinned behind a bank of consoles by two beast-men with camera-like lightning projectors. One of the gunners turned towards the shoggoth and fired several bolts at Shoggy. The blob let out a wounded, "Tekeli-li!" before smashing towards the gunner in wounded desperation. The second lightning gunner fired at the shoggoth, firing bolts as it hissed. The smell of burning ozone filled the air. The shoggoth was covered with burns. Just then, the two gunners fell dead. Charlie had shot them while they were distracted.

"No one hurts my Shoggy and gets away with it!" he shouted.

Marie had tried to use the distraction to advance. She made it to the ladder, but saw the beast men had changed tactics. Some of them were injecting the green reagent into the many corpses on the bridge. The corpses then shuffled forwards, moving towards the wounded shoggoth and pinned Charlie. Marie fired a round at one of the re-animators, and then another who tried to re-animate his fallen comrade. She climbed up the ladder as fast as she could move, narrowly missing a zombie biting her leg. She put a bullet through the zombie's brain in retribution. Thankfully, none of the beast-men with the lightning guns seemed to notice, as they could electrocute the entire metal ladder.

Once on top of the room, she ran sprinted down the catwalk toward's the captain's controls. She interfaced wirelessly with the controls, trying to find out how to make it stop from ascending. The computer locked her out. The Crawling Chaos had tried to ensure no one would hack into it. So, she shot it. Immediately, the ballast tanks evened out, and remained at their current depth. With the city-wide threat neutralized, she focused on the more immediate concerns. Charlie and Shoggy were pinned by beast-men with swords, lightning guns, and zombies. She needed to help them out.

Marie reloaded, ran away from the captain's controls, and jumped right back into the fray. She fired twice with her pistol, shooting a hawk-headed man aiming a lightning gun at her. Her first shot missed, and second one went right between his eyes. She landed on top a rack of servers, with a bunch of hungry zombies under her. A beast-man fired a bolt at her, singing her hair. She fired a round in reply, dropping the beastman with lightning gun.

"Hey, Charlie! Think you can help me out a bit?" Marie shouted.

"Bit busy here!" Charlie relied. "Say, any more of those lightning gunners still out there?"

"Don't see any! Just swordsmen and zombies!" Marie said as she surveyed the crowd.

"Hear that, Shoggy? Those nasty bastards with the lightning guns are dead!" Charlie shouted to his new friend.

"Tekeli-li!" the creature cheered as it emerged from behind a wall with a vengeance. It began to subsume some of the nearest swordsmen, who tried to put some of the zombies between them and the shoggoth. The shoggoth's bulk moved fast across the bridge, consuming the hapless zombies and swordsmen in the way. The shoggoth consumed all the zombies surrounding the server rack that Marie was standing on. The shoggoth formed part of its body into stairs, leading down to the floor. Looking down, she could see some struggling zombies and swordsmen still getting dissolved. So, she headed down the stairs, trying not to look at Shoggy eating too much.

Suddenly, a swordsman jumped up at her from behind a console, but she shot him in the face before he could get up. "Stay down!" Marie shouted. "I've had enough with you guys today!"

Looking around, Charlie and Marie found no more hostiles. Shoggy, in the meantime, was eating well. Both sat on the bridge, establishing a backdoor communications channel with the NCPD. They didn't want to risk infecting the city with any virus that the Crawling Chaos had left.

"Say, Charlie," Marie mused. "This is going to be fun to explain to Alvarez. The sub was taken over by creatures from Lovecraft stories, lead by some joker who thinks he's Nyarlathotep."

"And we prevented Cthulhu from rising," Charlie mused. "Not a bad day. We didn't even have to ram him this time."

"What are we going to go with him?" Marie pointed to Shoggy. "I don't plan on bringing him along."

"I do," Charlie grinned. "It'll be nice to have a shoggoth around the apartment! Think of how much easier cleaning will be! And he can adjust himself to fit almost any size and shape!"

"Tekeli-li!" Shoggy chirped as he assumed the shape of a sofa.

"Eh, he's your pet, and you clean up after him," Marie replied. "I just want to get back home and get back to reading that book over a nice cup of joe."

"Why, want to get to know our possible enemy more?" Charlie replied. "Is the great Marie Magnum finally taking some initiative?"

"Nah, I just want to finish it. I was right in the middle of "The Temple," when we got this job," Marie replied. "I'm just glad the doors and consoles here respond so well to being shot."

"Who knows what he did to the wiring?" Charlie shrugged.

Marie also shrugged. Shoggy, meantime, manufactured and excreted an object. A pseudopod extended, and handed it to Marie. It was a cup of coffee. Shrugging, Marie grabbed the handle. It was insulated, and the coffee was nice and hot. It was a bit plain, but nothing some training and the proper nanoschematics couldn't fix. Looking again at the nanotech blob monster, Marie recalled that sometimes, the best things weren't planned.