2: When Spam Attacks
Andrew Carreiro waved his hand arcanely. Under the light of his mystic arts, the scorch marks were made to glow, and reveal more intricate details; this way and that were whispy trails, like a spider’s legs tracing away from its body.
His gaze traveled up the brick-laid walls of his Castle. The wizard focused intently, wincing with concentration. His other hand raised his wand, its tip glowing with a slightly yellowed hue.
As he considered the sight of scorched masonry, he was interrupted by the vibration of the scroll in his pocket. He withdrew the item, and unfurled its pages.
The paper was weathered, yet sturdy. There was writing all over it, even overlapping in layers, and most of that in strange code – yet the characters constantly shifted, smoothly shifting their appearance with every passing moment.
Carreiro shook his head at the alert that was blinking in bright red letters. “This place is falling apart,” he grumbled under his breath.
Eric Bailey’s lips remained parted in slack-jawed awe as he stared at the glorious artifact in Eric Hunter’s basement den. “Yeah, Jason helped out a little bit I guess,” Hunter admitted, even as he swelled with pride.
It was on a stand. Various wires connected it to the flatscreen television hung on the wall above. It had several sets of cords for controllers too, yet was equipped for wireless controllers as well. While its original subtle coloring was intact, it glowed with extraneous LED bulbs and strange modifications throughout its frame.
“I’m just glad this guy is feeling better,” Bailey said before teasingly punching Jason Lamb in his arm; who, in turn, returned a polite smile, only to rub his shoulder afterward and suck in a pained breath through his teeth.
“That is definitely a fancy emulation machine,” said Jonathan the cat, in the oozing sort of voice that one could interpret as being sarcastic, or perhaps patronizing. “I’m guessing you have full ROM sets for all the classic consoles?”
“Oh, Jonathan, Jonathan! You have no idea,” Hunter chided in return with a sly grin. “Not only do we have an emulator for every existing console, but every existing computer operating system. There’s even some prototype software loaded. This Dreamcast has a Dreamcast emulator on it.”
The feline remained stoic. “What sort of boot disk are you using on that monstrosity?”
Hunter chortled. “I don’t know what the eff is on this disk, but I got it from Paul.”
And then he pointed to Paul Potvin! He was totally hanging out with them. It was always good to see Paul. He waved to everyone.
Hunter added, “Chris and Mae even pitched in.”
And indeed, Chris Swartz was there, along with his daughter Mae. Swartz nodded in humble acknowledgment. “I just hope you and Tom try it out tonight and put on a little co-op show.”
“Oh stop it, you!” Tom Hall replied with a hint of a blush. “But I bet we could arrange something, sure. I mean, it would be our duty, being Co-Community Managers and all, right?”
“Co-Op Stream Planned On Short Notice, Castle Fans To Be Delighted.”
Heads turned toward the source of the voice. There was Simon Reed, holding up his Game Boy Camera, recording footage.
Bailey leaned toward Lamb and whispered in convenient exposition, “He’s the retro news video guy. He always speaks in headlines.”
He hardly finished, though, when there was a loud knock at the door. Curious, Bailey approached and opened, making immediate eye contact with the somewhat perturbed figure of Co-Founder Carreiro.
“Sorry to burst in on your fun, everyone,” Andrew sighed, shaking his wizardly head. “I just wanted to let you know that I got an alert, and apparently there’s a hole in our spam filter. I’ll need to go repair it. So, for a little while, we’re probably going to get a lot more spam traffic in here than usual. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
Just like that, he left – and heads turned again, but this time towards Tom Hall, who was practically salivating.
“Tom,” Jason spoke coolly. “Calm down. Deep breaths.”
It was too late.
“OH GLORIOUS TIDINGS!” Hall said with a merry laugh, and bounded out the door, practically smashing it to pieces as he ran down the halls in wild-eyed search of his quarry.
All were silent, awkwardly so, before Simon broke the tension.
“Lucky Day For Spam Fan, But Will His Addiction Be His Downfall?”
Valerie and Alex were in the Retro Power offices, hard at work on the next issue. Dustin Faber was in to consult. He was laying a mock-up on the desk, showing an idea he had in mind.
Their conversation was interrupted when the window shattered. Jolted, they looked – and stared, as a clumsy monstrosity began crawling into the room through the busted frame. It looked like nothing they had ever seen before: The being looked to be comprised of salty, greasy meat, and somewhat kept together by chunks and sheets of tin. Amid the jutting metal could be seen blue labels that read, “SPAM.”
“What is that?!” Alex asked.
As if in response, the hulking meat-can-thing managed to garble some recognizable words through one of its meatholes:
“new v1agra supplier cheap pills canada”
The three Castle-dwellers exchanged a confounded glance; then, in unison, decided to run out of the office.
“More are coming!” Dustin shouted, pointing to the window. More tin-canned meaty soldier-things could be seen climbing into the Castle.
Alex and Val began dashing one direction down the hallway, while Faber went the other, his priestly robes fluttering dramatically as he sprinted.
The Retro-Powered duo opened the first door they could find, quickly shutting and locking it behind them, panting to regain their breath. Their eyes began to adjust to this new chamber, dimly lit by many torches lining the walls.
Their eyes widened next, as they surveyed their surroundings, as the whole space was littered with objects of differing sizes, shapes, and degrees of shininess.
“What is this place?” Val whispered.
As they looked, they began to recognize some of the artifacts. A red scarf here, a glass sword there. A rare candy, next to a yellow cape. An empty bottle, sitting next to a tent. Various stones, gems, and coins were strewn all around. A couple yo-yos.
Bailey was whistling as he walked down one of 1 More Castle’s many halls. He came across one of the spamlings and swung his weapon. His weapon of choice had a broad handle, then a long steel blade that ended with a few sharp protrusions along the edge. It neatly cleft the intruder’s ill-defined head from his somewhat-armored shoulders. The moist body fell into a haphazard heap.
Jason Lamb walked beside the Admin, raising an eyebrow as he looked at Eric’s implement. “Is that a keybla–”
“Nope!” Eric replied quickly, and jabbed forward, thrusting the item-not-to-be-named clean through the chest of one of the interlopers, who hissed in what may have been pain.
“YES! SPAM! YES!”
Tom Hall was smirking with exquisite pleasure as he approached one of the lumbering golems of processed economy foodstuff and inexpensive metallic containers. The slow-moving invader groaned, approaching in return, its voice deep and gurgly.
Behind Hall was Simon Reed, holding up his Game Boy Camera, documenting everything per Tom’s request. He quipped: “Aliens Invade 1 More Castle: Community Manager To Make First Contact.”
The aforementioned Community Manager leaped forward and gave the SpamThing a tackling hug, pinning the gurgle-moaning thing to the floor, even as Hall’s arms looped underneath and gave the stranger a tight, warm embrace.
The tin-plated one was quite unable to move, stuck merely to writhe and wriggle beneath the loving arms of Tom Hall.
“Talk to me,” Hall whispered. The Spam replied:
“jennifer lopez to debut new gucci line is paris you cn get te exclusive coupon here”
Tom closed his eyes, his body rising with an intake of breath before he exhaled in a contented sigh.
Andrew Carreiro was on his trek to the spam fence. Occasionally, he would raise his wand and fire a bolt of lightning into any stray spammers he came across. He could see his goal. Hopefully, this nightmare would be over soon. They were entering the Castle in great numbers.
One of the spam entities slowly opened one of the innumerable doors of the 1 More Castle.
Inside, it saw a small black cat, sitting on the floor, licking his paws. He was surrounded by what seemed to be hundreds of pounds of shredded Spam and torn-apart cannery.
“Ah, yes,” the feline purred. “Do come in. Perhaps you will fare better than your comrades. Maybe, of your entire armed force, you are the chosen one of your people that some ancient prophecy spoke of, that will actually have half an ounce of brain enough to pose even the slightest of threats.”
The anonymous, faceless force shambled forward, zombie-like, and fired back a retort in a grumble:
“wow your blog is really great !!! i love your wordpress theme i got mine here chek it out”
Jonathan shook his fuzzy head in maximum condescenscion.
Pierre and Daniel stood at the fore of the GMZ offices, their clenched fists resting on their less-than-confident hips.
“I still don’t understand how you can be afraid of not meeting payroll in a month’s time,” Daniel scoffed, and waved an arm vaguely toward the thousands of staffers somewhere within the enormous maze of cubicles behind them. “We don’t pay most of our workers, and of the rest, many of them work for peanuts. Literal peanuts. They told us they would work for peanuts, so we bought peanuts in bulk. They’re still chewing on years-old nuts. I’m not even sure we have a payroll account. What’s the problem?”
Pierre looked downward, to the well-worn carpeting beneath him, reflecting on the many shoes that had tread across its surface. “Look, maybe I’m just making excuses to you. The whole issue, the big picture, it’s not that simple. I have my own future to worry about. I just don’t think there’s a fortune to be made in satirical retro gaming news anymore. Those days are over.”
Daniel threw his palms upward in mock surrender. “Well I guess we’ll just roll over and die then, huh? I mean, wow, now’s the time to finally grow some righteous dignity and come up with a long-term plan for our oh-so-precious future! C’mon, dude. Since when were we about the smart, responsible thing, huh? I don’t sit in my office worrying about my retirement. You mean to tell me you don’t think we still do amazing, boat-rocking work here? You really believe we’ve told all the stories there are to tell?”
Pierre spoke very quietly next. “Yeah. Or, maybe, I mean. Maybe we did tell all the stories worth telling.”
Daniel cocked his head and scowled. “What the hell, man? You used to be about the laughs. That was enough for you. For us. For everything. When did you change?”
Pierre suddenly raised his arm and pointed his index finger in Daniel’s face, spittle flying about as he shouted in response. “If you wanna make someone laugh, go ahead! I’m not stopping you from jumping off a rooftop and breaking your legs. I used to be about a lot more than just gettin’ a chuckle out of the Castle visitors. We used to have real writers, correspondents and reporters from around the world, but now look at us! Look!”
He moved his arm to point at the legion of typists, busy pounding away at countless keyboards, churning out piece after piece for their magazine empire.
Daniel rubbed his temples. “Why didn’t you say so? If the quality of our writers is what you’re so damned worried about, we can start recruiting. I mean, really recruiting this time. But keep in mind, you didn’t exactly stop me when I brought the internship into full force. We were happy just to get warm bodies walking in here.”
“I know,” Pierre said. “I just… I’m not optimistic. I don’t think we’re going to stumble across some genius satirist that nobody else hasn’t poached yet. Trust me when I say I’d be more upbeat if I thought there was someone out there for us, but I just don’t think we’re going to find him or her.”
Daniel gave a half-smile. “So you mean there’s a chance, at least? You’re not giving up? You’re telling me that if we do land on some real talent, and really come up with some revolutionary material, you’ll see this thing through with me?”
Just then, there was a knock on the door. Actually, it was more like a clumsy banging, without any semblance of rhythm or even much of an intention.
The two approached the entrance, and opened the door. Inside began stumbling one of the Spam.
Pierre was first to speak. “Can I help you?”
The spam construct bellowed:
“fantasy football gambling site free click here now”
Daniel clapped his hands together, and giggled in glee. “Did you hear that?!”
Pierre pumped his fist. “I think we found him! Right this way, sir!”
The two collectively shoved the lumpy creature into the nearest empty chair that had a set of keys in front of it. The Spamling tried to fight back, to flail its limbs or at least rise to its feet, but they kept it there, holding it down, shoving its knees under the desk.
“Go on,” they urged him, “Show us what you’ve got.”
And so it squealed:
“taiwan electronics resale for special product mikes review !! do you won’t believe this one weird trick for rapid weight loss”
Daniel screamed a jubilant “Woo hoo!” while a single tear slid down Pierre’s cheek. “This changes everything,” he said. “We’re going to be on every website.”
Another Spam opened another Castle door, tripping inside the once-private room.
In this quarter was a young woman, sitting on the floor cross-legged, her back to the doorway as she played a Super Famicom game. She wore an all-black shozoku. A katana was sheathed across her back.
“Before you move any closer to me,” she said, her attention never leaving the television screen, “Tell me: Do you really want to fight someone with a more-than-passing interest in the ninjitsu culture of feudal Japan?”
The Spam hesitated.
Andrew found the hole in the fence. He zapped a couple Spams out of the way, then began chanting a spell that should repair the gap. Indeed, the metallic barrier began intertwining itself anew. The mage hoped that the rest of the crew would manage to clean up whatever Spams remained back at the keep.
Tom bit his lower lip as he savored the warm sensations passing through his body.
“Simon,” he muttered, “Don’t stop recording.”
Reed gulped. “You Won’t Believe How Awkward This Video Will Make You Feel!”
The canned meat just mumbled something about shoes and handbags.
The Retro Critic sat in a chair in his room. He was facing the door. He glanced at his watch.
The door open with a burst. One of the Spam began slowly shuffling in.
Adam spoke wearily. “Most people are unable to grasp just how powerful my Time Zone power is. I know I myself was once unable. But it turns out that being able to travel through time means that you can do nearly anything, given enough thought, planning, execution, and patience.”
Moments earlier, a meteor had begun streaking through the atmosphere. It was very large, but was shedding matter quickly, as its varying minerals streaked off behind it in a spectacular display.
The Critic calmly stood to his feet, walked over to his window, and opened it. He stepped aside. The Spam was advancing.
“top 10 nigerian princes,” it blathered.
Then the meteorite, now the size of a pebble, flew through the window at several times the speed of sound. It exploded against the Spam’s chest, flinging the attacker backwards, and left a smoking crater.
The Spam’s foot mindlessly twitched a few times before it laid still altogether.
Wally crossed the bridge, over the moat, and knocked on the front gate of 1 More Castle. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, waiting. Inside, he thought he heard someone coming, but whoever it was seemed to really be taking their time.
When the front entryway opened, Jared Waldo was met with the sight of several human-sized, human-shaped Spam creatures, plated in pieces of canning metal.
The Canadian cleared his throat.
“I’m, uh, here to write a Dreamcast column…?”
One of the Spammers responded.
“hot singles in your area SEDGWICK GEORGIA no credit card commitment live cams now”
Waldo craned his neck, and began to wonder if this was the right place.
Jason Lamb casually stabbed a Spam in the back. “How many more of these things are there?!”
Eric Bailey winced. His blade was stuck somewhere in the torso of another Spam, who was howling, and waving his arms in what seemed to be a completely random manner. “I dunno,” he blurted, “But this is definitely getting tedious.”
Dozens of Spam wandered the corridors of the Castle. Some 1MC-dwellers, such as Paul Potvin and Eric Hunter, had given up even bothering to fight them, knowing that someone was bound to come up with a more efficient solution to the infestation of unwanted guests.
A group of Spam halted their march in the broad hallway, detecting a noise in the distance. That distance was plainly closing, however. A dull roar approached.
Two go-karts abruptly drifted around the corner, speeding towards the batch of salty foes, driven by Alex and Valerie.
“Retro Power activated!” Alex let forth in a battlecry, keeping one hand on the steering wheel as the other tossed a green shell slightly ahead.
Val steered skillfully with her knees, teeth grit in concentration as she brought a baseball bat up, then swung it forcefully. With a loud “ping!” the green shell shot forward and plowed through a few of the Spam, their bodies colliding with each other violently.
Imagine this next part in slow-motion.
Alex slapped a pair of remote mines onto the sides of his kart. He deftly backflipped out of the craft, and watched it hurtle towards another few Spammies. As the kart entered their midst, even running over a couple and going airborne, Alex detonated the mines, and a fiery explosion engulfed the enemies of mass consumption.
The smell would be awful.
Valerie Minnich reached behind as she drove, and pulled a Spread Gun out from a makeshift holster across her back. Balancing its barrel across the wheel, she began pulling the trigger at a rapid pace, letting loose with dozens of energy projectiles, mowing down all the Spam in her way.
A horse galloped up to Alex Weiss. He nimbly jumped atop it as it kept its pace. “Onward!” he cried out, and the steed lowered its head in fierce pursuit. Weiss drew a sword. It was also a gun. He shot a Spam right in the face. He decapitated another. It was pretty sweet.
Andrew arrived at the Castle gate. He entered, finding Bailey waiting. “How are we doing?” the wizard asked. Eric began walking alongside him, the two entering the castle proper at a brisk fine. “Good,” he explained. “The waves stopped a while ago, I’m guessing when you repaired the filter, and we’ve just been batting clean-up ever since. The last of them should be dealt with soon.”
“Great,” Carreiro said. “Do you mind just doing a round and checking in with everyone, making sure they’re fine and let them know everything’s repaired?”
“Not at all,” Bailed nodded, and the two parted ways.
Overall, Andrew was fairly upbeat. The spam did seem to be taken care of, even if the whole oredeal left behind quite a mess. That was little bother for him, though, as the right spells would deal with it quickly. He knocked on Adam’s door.
“Come in,” called a voice inside.
Carreiro stepped in, laughing lightly at the sight of the dead Spam lying prone by the wall with a charred hole in its body. “I see you dealt wi–”
But as Andrew turned to speak to Retro Critic directly, he froze in place, and stopped speaking as well. He noticed an odd mark on the wall, a sort of charring. It was very distinctive, and he recognized it right away.
“Adam,” he said solemnly, in a measured cadence. “What is that?” He began to notice other burn marks throughout the area.
“Oh, that,” Ezagouri chortled. “It happens when I time-travel.”
Andrew paused. His countenance softened somewhat. “Okay. Well, look, could you just make sure you’re outside when you do it? I don’t mind if you singe the lawn, but I hate to have to keep repairing this stuff inside, y’know? That’s all.”
Adam, for his turn, turned his gaze downward. He also now spoke in a gradual, solemn tone.
“Andrew,” he said quietly, and paused before finishing. “Yeah, I can watch it, that kind of thing, but the thing you have to understand is that, well, how to say: I can’t account for what my future self does.”
“There you are,” Hunter chuckled, shaking his head as Tom Hall entered. Eric was holding a Dreamcast controller, the other out and ready. “What took you so long? Everyone else was back in their rooms a while ago.”
Tom wiped the last beads of sweat from his brow. “Nothing,” he curtly muttered, and sat down. “You ready to play or what?”
“Yeah, let’s do this.”
Hunter turned the console on. It began to emit a low hum. He turned to his second player. “Did the room just get darker?”
Tom frowned. “Yeah. Maybe it’s just using a lot of power?”
Hunter squinted. “Is the TV on, though? It was on when you came in, right? Why didn’t,” he yawned before he could continue, “the…”
Tom’s eyelids slowly drooped.
Seconds later, the two were sleeping, their heads bowed, controllers still in hand.
The Dreamcast hummed along.