In Episode 5 we brought you the story of how Asteroid Arnie, the greatest intergalactic superhero of all time and his trusty sidekick Moomaroof, saved the entire race of adorable, fuzzy little Mushiblooms from certain death at the hands of the Stinky Lollies.
This time, Asteroid Annie, the greatest intergalactic superheroine of all time, along with her trusty sidekick What's-His-Name, face off against the evil Mushiblooms and their villainous leader Hutt Poppa. Will they be able to save the alternate universe? Listen to find out!
An auditory extravaganza four months in the making.
A Rude Awakening
The banging on my front door woke me around midnight. I grabbed my nueclatic phaser, tiptoed downstairs, and made my way to the living room. A low growling sound filled the room, giving me goosebumps. The banging continued. It must be an emergency, I thought. Were the Mushiblooms back? Did they need my help again? Or was it something more nefarious? Maybe uber dangerous? Okay, then. I'm in! I'm nothing if not a risk taker.
I opened the door. I didn't have time to see who or what was outside because suddenly there were four breath-stealing blue eyes floating and staring at me from the darkness of my hallway. The Mushiblooms. They'd been gone all day. Escaped again, the slippery bastards. So when did they slither back in? And why did they seem all riled up?
It must've happened after dinner when I went to bed early to avoid the witching hour. A shiver ran down my spine as the eyes glowed with an eerie blue luminescence. After all this time they still creeped me out though, with their hideously deformed fuzzy, feral faces, and those slappy Medusa-like tentacles.
They seemed confused by the sudden light, but turned instantly aggressive when they saw it was me. One of the Mushiblooms lunged and bit my finger! I shouted in surprise and dropped my phaser. The other three flew at me, their furry bodies vibrating as they growled menacingly. They walloped me with their tentacles.
My plan to befriend them had foiled again. A terrible sense of panic boiled up inside me. They’d never been this worked up before. What did it mean?
I scrambled back and grabbed my phaser, but it was too late, now they were all on top of me. They nipped and smacked, windmill-style all over my body, while I struggled fiercely to fend them off.
I managed to throw one of them against the wall and then pinned another. But it wasn't easy. A third jumped on top of my head just as I got another one under control by pile driving it onto the floor. That’s when I felt sharp teeth sinking into my neck.
As my body began to numb, I felt them latch onto my feet and start dragging me towards the basement stairs. I managed to hide my nueclatic phaser in my pants before an enormous furry hand covered my mouth from behind, muffling my shrieks.
A deep and raspy voice echoed inside my head: "Give us the phaser."
With a final burst of strength, I swung my fists, landing two blows against my abductor's revolting skull. Just when I thought I would break free, a large, scaly tail wrapped around my ankles like two steel cables. It dragged me thonk-thonk-thonk down to the basement.
My terrified screams didn’t even make it halfway up the stairs. I began thrashing and fish-flopping with more intensity, making more noise than I ever would in my own bedroom.
We hit the basement floor.
I attempted one final outburst when a loud click sounded in my head. A starlight night-vision feature came on under my eyelids and flooded the room in pink wobbly light. It was followed by total quiet and I knew a message was coming through.
“Hey, Pal!” It was Asteroid Annie, dripping swamp goo and smiling down at me. But I could tell it wasn’t her real form because her outline had shimmering rainbow highlights along the seams.
“I suppose you want me to save you again, huh?”
I snorted a puff a smoke out of my nose holes. “Gimme credit for trying,” I replied.
“Well, you’re going to have to hang on a little longer. I’m a little indisposed at the moment.” It sounded like she was watching some space opera war movie in 3D. Her voice started breaking up like an old radio receiver. That’s when I heard something heavy shift in the room close to me.
“Dont go anywhere. I’ll try to make it in time.”
Were the last words I heard before a rush of warm breath released directly into my face. The smell of rotted fish assaulted my senses and my vision swam. Finally, my eyes rolled upward and stayed there.
An Even Ruder Awakening
I was fully awake now. I realized my hands and feet were secured with zip ties and my body slumped to the floor. The air felt like thick syrup on my skin. A turquoise glow from bioluminescent fungus illuminated the walls and floors.
Wait. This wasn’t my basement. Where was I?
As my head lolled from side to side trying to focus, the blurry outline of an abundantly wooly, human-sized torso appeared before me. This was no ordinary Mushibloom. It was none other than Hutt Poppa, the infamous big daddy himself.
The most disconcerting aspect of his appearance, however, was his face. He had the appearance of having just eaten a really rotten fish and couldn’t get the stink off right away. His skin was like melted butter mixed with seaweed. One nostril was twice as big as the other. He had three triangular yellow teeth overgrown beyond anything considered normal. And worst of all was above his greasy membraned eyeballs was the thick stubbly line of psycho monobrow.
Hutt Poppa examined my lower extremities with interest. Then he settled his stare directly into my unblinking eyes. All around his ominous giggling head, the mini, rounder Mushibloom hovered.
Slowly, I reached my zip-tied hands for the confidently hidden nueclatic phaser. I withdrew it in a flash and pointed it directly at Stink-Face Daddy Mushiboom's chest. Ha! I squeezed the trigger.
Apparently, the firing pin hadn't quite fallen into place yet. I pulled the trigger again. There was no difference except that the trigger got a little sticky and I felt a woozy vibration running up and down my hand.
"Wait!" I said. “You didn’t think I was going to kill you with this thing, did you?” The last thing you wanted to do was piss off a Mushibloom.
Hutt Poppa roared, knocked my nuclatic phaser from my hand, and crushed it with his tail. He then pulled a weapon from behind his back. You know the one that looks like an 8-ball of elastic compressed gerbil guts that explodes on impact? It’s a hellacious thing, codenamed the Tizzle Blast. He extended it, chain clinking, and aimed it directly at my forehead.
I thought this might be a good time to use my Jedi mind skills.
"Oh, please, don't kill me with that thing." Hutt Poppa grinned insanely. Monobrow waggling.
"I want nothing to do with this situation. So just hand over the weapon and we’ll be friends, okay?”
The head-voice returned. "Who's gonna pay for your hospital bills now, huh?”
I felt the enormity of the weapon as it charged up making a hizzy-hizzy sound that set my brain thrumming. Here comes the headache. No doubt what would happen next. The mini-Mushibloom all gathered closer, fur twitching, singing some kind of freaky song, egging him on. This was it.
I was preparing myself for the end when suddenly there was a whoosh of air and a loud thud as Hutt Poppa’s head connected with the wall. An unholy squeal sliced through my brain.
There was a moment of dizzying silence. Then the smell of magic that comes from freshly cracked wood, campfires, and burning leaves.
"Hey, Pal! It’s the real me.”
It was Asteroid Annie in the flesh, no rainbow highlights, just pony-length blue hair, her usual raggedy jumpsuit with dozens upon dozens of pockets full of various magical supplies, ranging from comically sized wrenches, to packets of chips and tubes of jelly babies. She’d been splashed all over with mud.
“Well, it’s about time!” I looked at my watch. It was getting late. “I was starting to panic. Where have you been?”
“Fightin’ crime with the best of them,” she said.
She reached down and pulled me up by my zip-tied hands. I caught the delightful scent of sugar cookies. Suddenly the lights and the world around me seemed clearer somehow. A strange warmth permeated my entire being as if thousands of tiny little sparks were dancing on my skin. Hutt Poppa was down, the Mushiblooms had retreated into a corner to work on their Plan B. And my headache was gone. Maybe today would be a good day after all.
Asteroid Annie's Secret Laboratory
“What kind of mess have you gotten yourself into this time?”
Annie had that weird calm look she gets whenever she has to clean one of us up. I wasn’t sure if that was a rhetorical question or not.
“Anyway, I think we need to get the hell out of here.” She pulled a pair of scissors from a thigh pocket and cut my ties. Next she carefully scooped up the Tizzle Blast. But she frowned when she noticed the chain attached it to a metal link embedded in Hutt Poppa’s tail.
“Do you know how outrageously dangerous this thing is?”
“Uh...very?” I said, hoping that was the right answer.
“It’s a remnant of the Berserker War and needs to be destroyed properly. But not today.”
She gave the chain a little tug, but it wasn’t coming off. Hutt Poppa groaned and something inside his body made a rattling noise that filled the room. Asteroid Annie set the Tizzle Blast back on the ground, grabbed my hand and together we sprinted to the metal steps that led out of the basement.
There her hovercar was waiting. We hopped in and with the Mushibloom racing after us and Hutt Poppa, thundering mad, getting to his feet, Annie smashed the go button and we shot off.
A little while later we arrived at her Space Lab, cleverly hidden in the middle of a swamp. No one ever expects an inter-universal, super hero like Asteroid Annie to be living in an abandoned dump like this. It was the perfect hiding place. We jumped out of the vehicle into the ooze and sloshed our way to the lab.
"So how's your Friend-A-Bloom campaign coming along?”
“That was the last time. I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t trust them.”
We climbed ashore and she opened the door to her mysterious hideaway. I loved this place. The ceiling swirled with Nova Lights in canary-yellow and radiation-green. All about the room, in no particular order, were long tables strewn with all kinds of medical and scientific equipment.
Old-timey screen savers bounced on outdated monitors next to bowls of pipettes and droppers and tubing. Dozens of oversized beakers bubbled and smoked brightly-colored liquids, as bunsen burners underneath flamed vigorously. Everything here had a stern sense of purpose and that was exciting.
Asteroid Annie went to tap on one of the yellowing keyboards, squinting at the screen, while I examined a strange X-ray machine in the corner. It resembled the ones used back in the late twentieth century. I remembered as a student we all lined up in the basement of the school nurse’s station. Every hour we’d have our chests, knees, and heads tapped for tumors. Ah, the good ol days.
Annie had moved to the other side of the room and was rummaging through a file cabinet, cursing under her breath. An antique phone rang nearby and she answered it. Meanwhile, I wandered over to the futon bed with the hippie quilt. It had been designed purely and simply to remind you how safe life could be if things worked out according to plan. Sleeping here was like snuggling down into a nest constructed entirely out of cotton candy spun through honey with icing sugar sprinkled on top. This was the bed Annie had slept in when we first met, back when I helped her recover from an overdose of toxic gasses. But that’s another story.
Right next to the bed was a large window that looked out onto the moonlit swamp. There stood skeletal trees and in the water itself sleepy marsh-turtles floated on their backs exposing their soft underbellies for maximum moon glow.
“Hey there, what could be you day dreaming about?” Annie asked, coming up behind me. She was carrying a large jar filled with shiny objects resembling some sort of tiny seeds.
“Nothing,” I said. I didn’t like to lie. I changed the subject. "What are those?"
“They’re something I’ve been working on,” she said and handed the jar to me. “Careful now, don’t drop them. At least not now.”
“What are you talking about?”
She put her hand on my shoulder and leaned in close to whisper. “You’re going to find out later.”
Just then a blood chilling cry filled the room. About fifty softball-sized Mushibloom appeared all around us, bobbing in the air. All at once they began to dart around menacingly.
They Meet Again
“They found us!”
Asteroid Annie’s voice took on an emotional quality. “Hey listen, out there, in the field,” she said. “If anything happens to me, if things get real bad remember three things.”
The Mini Blooms were zipping this way and that. They began taking potshots at our heads with their wildly swinging tentacles.
“What three things?” I said, ducking.
“Number one: Shake jar. Number two: Open jar. Number three: Remember, sometimes the only way to change the world is be kind to the babies.”
“What are you talking about?”
An ominous sound like a bow being drawn across a cello echoed throughout the room. That’s when I saw him standing in the doorway. With his long matted fur, pointed teeth and sci-fi-colored eyes, that brow. Hutt Poppa.
Then I heard his voice in my head again. "Your friend Asteroid Annie is the real threat. Don't listen to anything she has to say. Now give me that weapon. Let’s be friends.”
He raised one tentacle like a lance. Boy, was he dumb.
“This isn’t a weapon. It’s a jar of seeds.”
One of the Mini Mushibloom came shooting toward me. It was the finger biter. Asteroid Annie created a distraction by jumping up and dangling upside down from the edge of a table for a moment. Then while still in midair, she twisted her body and launched herself at the drone. With a burst of energy, she stuck her fist into the Mushibloom's soft underbelly. Her hand instantly became covered with gelatinous mucus. She yanked it out and wiped the sticky goop on her jumpsuit pants. All the mushibloom-drones pulled back, shocked.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Hutt Poppa use one of his long tentacles to snatch a boiling beaker of viscous liquid from the table. He hurled it at Asteroid Annie.
”Annie! Look out!”
“Huh?” she said, trying to unstick her hand from her suit.
“Hutt Poppa just chucked a beaker at you!”
“Oh crap, not the copper colored one, is it?”
“No, if I had to describe it, I’d say it’s more like the color of sea mist stirred up by grasshopper pebbles and clumps of scrub brush.”
Just in the nick of time, Asteroid Annie freed her hand, made an eep sound and tucked and rolled.
“Come on!” We bolted for the door. I hugged the jar close.
The Mission of the Marsh
Outside, the marsh was alive with the sounds of night and the gentle crash and rush of swamp waves. The moon was bigger than I'd ever seen it before and the water was the richest green imaginable. If we weren't running for our lives, it might be what you call romantic.
We waded through the uneven morass looking for where Annie had parked her hovercar. Along the way, we spooked the lazy turtles who all flipped right side up and disappeared under the surface. The Mushi-Drone were quick to follow us out. Within seconds, they were everywhere, even more than before. There was nowhere to escape. We stopped.
Suddenly, Hutt Poppa’s looming drippy figure rose up from marsh not far from where we stood. Annie rested a hand on my shoulder.
“Remember our promise.” She tapped the jar. Next, she plunged her arm down into the thick mud below the water. Seconds later a loud pop echoed through the swamp as a thin column of silver steam shot thirty feet into the air. Within a blink of an eye, the water rose a little, reached up and swallowed both my rescuer and Hutt Poppa whole.
They were gone. She was gone.
There were swarms of Drone Blooms. All of them smacking and taunting me with their tongue-like tentacles. I stumbled.
What was happening? I held tight to the jar, trying to remember the three rules Annie had spelled out earlier, when one of the Mushibloom came chomping at me with its toothy tentacles. It sliced my shoulder in several places.
But that was just it. This was nothing new for a Mushibloom. They'd torn me apart and devoured me a hundred times over. Nothing was different. I was always put back together again.
““Number one: shake jar! Number two: open jar!””
I held it above my head as the shiny seeds swirled and danced filling the air with a sweet musky scent that almost knocked me over.
Suddenly a huge burst of energy flew through me, hitting me in the chest, and launching me upwards in the air. I opened my mouth wide and sucked the contents of the jar into my stomach, just as my heart was being ripped out of my chest. My eyes burned as fire flowed through my veins.
In my head I saw the future of the universe spread before me, brighter and bolder, and fizzing with colors. For an infinite amount of seconds, hours or possibly days, the entire universe hung suspended in a sparkling web. I wanted to draw upon this knowledge stored away somewhere in my brain that would unlock an idea as to who or what to destroy next. Then I tasted the rainbow.
Good Triumphs Evil
All the Mushibloom stopped and looked at me with the same curious expression of awe they used to get when they thought I was a monster. They knew me. And they couldn't help but watch how their very existence was made up of me.
For a moment I felt weightless. I felt like my body was no more substantial than an orb, like I was no longer bound to a single space in time and a specific form.
The metallic seeds scattered and attached to every single Mushibloom. Then they changed. Their hue went from flesh tones of pink or purple and was now dimming to an eerie shade of green. A few of them puked their guts out. Literally.
Then all at once they began to shrivel and die almost immediately, dropping from the sky and splashing into the water below. Within minutes only black, empty shells remained.
“Wow! That was amazing,” said Annie sloshing up next to me. She was completely covered from head to toe in muck. She always seemed happier that way. I couldn’t help but notice the Tizzle Blast stuffed inside her belly pocket, the chain, cut, dangling like a tail.
“I have just one question,” I said.
“Why couldn't you release the seeds yourself? Why did it have to be me?"
"Because this was one of those times when you had to do things the hard way."
"What does that even mean?"
“It means sometimes the best way is simply doing it the hard way. Unanticipated benefits come later.”
“It was a test.”
“What kind of test?”
“A test of your character in extreme conditions. You had to decide for yourself whether you can hold true and endure everything this planet can thow at you.”
She started wading back to her lab hideaway. I followed.
Everything was glowing moon blue in the dark. The flipped marsh turtles had already returned, and were swishing lazily. Peacefully, deftly avoiding the hundreds of fast-rotting Mushibloom carcases.
We reached the shore, both of us drenched in mire. One last look over my shoulder at what we’d later refer to as the Mission of the Marsh. The dead ‘bloom bodies all looked like bone cups now, skin hanging, exposing the eggs inside, shiny and glistening like obsidian, every one of them thumping with life.
“Now you can leave if you want,” Annie said. “Or you stay and help me close out this chapter and start a new one.”
I hesitated trying to find the right words.
“Your choice. Not mine.”
I gazed deep into her eyes, the color of a windswept forest. I made my decision. The only one there was to make.
“I choose to help,” I said.
She smiled, reached out and took my hand. "Me too, pal. Me, too."
As she led me back into her Space Lab, I checked my watch again. Almost the Witching Hour, time for both of us to take a break from this world and ready ourselves for tomorrow. It would be a good night.