Kickaha attempts to take a day off and do nothing exciting.
Yeah, the universe isn’t having any of that.
Kickaha’s Day Off
Even magical tricksters of karma got vacation days. Or at least there was no one to tell Kickaha that he didn’t get them. It was one of the many, many benefits of being a self-employed magical being. You got to be your own boss, set your own hours, as many nutritious rodents as you could outrun, and you got to spread the joy of not having to be human anymore to people all over the world.
Honestly, he didn’t know why more people didn’t try this route. He could only assume that modern universities simply didn’t have a quality Art department, or that people simply didn’t know it was an option.
But none of that was important right now, because today he was taking a well-earned rest. Somewhere between holding down the fort in a mom and pop multidimensional store while the universe literally fell apart, overthrowing orc kings, and people who had just been swindled out of their humanity realizing they had very sharp claws, Kickaha was starting to get a little worn down. And so, he allowed himself to sleep in.
And the fact he did so was slightly terrifying. When he eventually awoke, he saw he had gotten a full extra two hours of sleep. That wasn’t right. That wasn’t right at all. Kickaha needed that sleep, and he already felt a million times better. But, one of the cons of being a magical trickster was that just because you said you got days off didn’t mean the universe agreed with you. It turned out you were less your own boss and more at the whims of a capricious universe that was willing to bet your entire existence on a coin toss everyday. Which was to say he had far more job security and stability than most humans. The universe could be a cold and unforgiving place. But at least it wasn’t corporate mandated.
With a flop, Kickaha laid down on his couch, grabbed the remote and turned on the TV. A few people might have been surprised he had a TV. But it wasn’t that surprising considering the existence and state of his laptop. When you combined magic and technology, weird things happened. When you combined Kickaha with, well, anything, weird things happened. So when you combined Kickaha, magic and technology all in the same room together, things tended to get out of hand fast. But some forms of technology tended to work fine, largely because of some form of possession where an otherworldly force powers and controls the technological item. In Kickaha’s case, his TV was possessed by a demon. This particular demon — whose name is unspeakable by mortal tongues, so we’ll call it Vincent — had been part of a grand plan to corrupt humanity and lead it down the path of ruin. But then streaming services came into existence, and online platforms allowed corporations to accomplish in only a few years what the dark forces had strived to bring about for centuries. As was so often the case when a project met an embarrassing end, the blame fell on the low-level demons rather than the leaders who were truly responsible. So Vincent was cast out. As a result he mostly hung out in the TV and sulked and watched cable news.
There was a reason it was so easy for spirits and other beings to possess technology. Some people — perhaps even certain practitioners of the Art — thought technology and magic were completely opposed. And that’s what caused them to go haywire with each other. The truth was actually the opposite. Magic and technology operated on very similar principles. And as a result the problems that came with both tended to get amplified when fused together. A circle of magic runes wasn’t much different from a computer code. It was a language made exclusively for a specific task that looked like meaningless gibberish to anyone not familiar with the concepts. And much like computer code there were often redundancies in the line of runes. Symbols or equations that seemed to serve no purpose whatsoever, but if you removed them the spell fell apart. Any experienced programmer has likely encountered a similar situation. They have a line of code in their program that seemingly does nothing, but if they remove it the entire thing stops working.
In truth, there was a very real chance that technology itself might in fact just be a practical application of magic.
The TV flipped on. Despite being possessed by Vincent, there was nothing strange on the monitor at all. It didn’t start to bleed, distort the audio, or convey strange messages. Part of this was again, the fact that the devil had given up on this plan but was still stuck inside the TV possessing it. The other part was that the devil simply was not a morning person. He was rarely awake before noon. And while he was asleep the TV functioned completely normally, other than the fact that it got free cable without actually being connected to anything, or for that matter even having a power source.
“Alright, let’s find a movie or something to start the day with.” Kickaha was determined to be as lazy as the universe would allow today. He began to flip through the channels looking for something to watch.
And then something unexpected happened. Which, in hindsight was 100% to be expected. This was Kickaha’s life after all.
The TV set suddenly sunk inward into the wall, and then disappeared completely inside of it, leaving a large hole in the side of Kickaha’s burrow.
“Huh.” Kickaha stood up off the couch. “That’s why you’re not supposed to leave the TV running all the time.” He approached the hole in the wall and peered in it. It was a long tunnel. It was easy to tell from the size of it, and how even it was that it hadn’t been made by a normal animal. Everything was too orderly. Someone with tools had made this. Kickaha’s TV hadn’t just been sucked into the Earth. It had been stolen! “So I guess we’re doing this now.”
Kickaha grabbed one of his green cloaks from his bedroom, then returned to the living room and crawled into the hole. The tunnel was large enough for him to stand up in. There were advantages to only being three feet tall. But, the ceiling was low enough it was still more comfortable to get down on all fours lest he risk hitting his head on a protruding rock along the way.
It had not taken long for the day off to be cancelled. Kickaha supposed he could just let the thief go, but that simply wasn’t how things were done. If you stole from a trickster they were contractually obligated to hunt you down and teach you a lesson for it. If Kickaha shirked this duty for the sake of a day off, he would be throwing centuries of tradition out the window.
Besides, someone had just stolen his TV. That was rather irksome.
There were no lights in the tunnel. Kickaha’s coyote side gave him pretty good night vision, but as he got further and further along the tunnel it was getting so dark even he couldn’t see. That meant the culprit was someone who could see entirely in the dark. Or a cheater with a flashlight.
Kickaha crouched where he was and snapped his fingers. A small flame appeared floating above his paw, generating enough light for him to see roughly five or six feet ahead. It would at least make sure he didn’t run into anything head first. He made a gesture with his spare hand and the light floated away from his paw to hover straight in front of him. Just because transmutation was Kickaha’s specialty didn’t mean he didn’t bother to learn other spells. This was a fairly simple but useful illusion to help navigate dark places. And as the fire was merely an illusion, it produced no smoke, so Kickaha didn’t have to worry about choking himself as he continued through the tunnels.
The foxyote resumed his travels on all fours. The flame always stayed just ahead of him to make sure he could see where he was going. It was hard to tell how much time had passed since he had entered the tunnel. But the growling of his stomach suggested it had been awhile. He really should have gone out for breakfast before starting this venture. But he hadn’t expected the tunnel to take so long. He was considering changing forms to a small and swift animal so he could run down the tunnel at full speed. Even just a feral version of his foxyote form would make father progress than crawling on his hands and knees like this.
But, just as he was figuring out what animal would be best suited, he finally reached the end of the tunnel. Thanks to his little flame, Kickaha was able to see that the tunnel ended several feet above the floor of an open cavern, and climb down without hurting himself. He then had the strangest feeling that he had somehow just cheated someone in some universe somewhere out of their comic relief.
“Alright, let’s take a look at where we are.” Kickaha muttered. He held his paw out and the flame came back to hovering directly above him. The flame sputtered and then grew in intensity, allowing him to briefly expand the limits of his vision and see…
Kickaha sighed. Fine, then. If the universe was going to be difficult… He dismissed the little flame and closed his eyes. There was a brief burst of magic. And when he opened his eyes again, they reflected like a cat’s and were as sharp as an eagle’s.
Some would say it was cheating. Tricksters aren’t supposed to be able to always see what’s coming. But darn it, someone had stolen Kickaha’s TV. They started it.
Now Kickaha could see shapes of all sizes in the distance. There were buildings. Large structures shaped like hills, that went on in every direction. There were much larger ones in some places, that almost seemed to be as tall as a mountain. For them to be that tall… Either the tunnel had taken Kickaha several miles beneath the earth, or there was non-linear geography at work. If Kickaha was to place a bet, he’d say it was the latter. More cheating, he mused. But then again, non-linear geography was the only way the Hollow Earth theory made sense. There was no other way that the Earth could contain all those underground cities and mountain ranges without collapsing in on itself like a melting snow cone.And speaking of underground cities… Kickaha marveled as he realized that what he had first mistaken for a mountain range was actually a city. A city where all the houses and buildings looked like hills. Hills with a particular shape.
And that meant molemen. So Kickaha was dealing with these guys again. He thought he had already solved the crisis their people were dealing with and put an end to them attacking and stealing from the surface. Then again, given the size of some of the larger buildings… This was a group of people who could literally make a mountain out of a molehill. There was no telling what had set them off.
Hopefully, Kind Ozymandias, the Fifty-Second of his name, was still in charge. Kickaha had a certain level of rapport with him. And that would make it easier to figure out what the molemen were up to now. Not to mention figuring out how Kickaha could find his TV.
Then again, Kickaha had another small advantage. This wasn’t his first time here. He had temporarily become ruler of the mole people himself once. Purely by accident. It had been a very short-lived reign, and Kickaha had never even gotten the lay of the city. But he was pretty sure the king’s palace was the tallest molehill there. Time to go say hello.
Kickaha chose to walk straight up the main road into the city, rather than sneaking in. It was a rather dull approach, but he had two reasons for it. First, he imagined that the moles had already seen him while he was blundering around in the dark. Second, sneaking into a king’s palace was the type of thing that tended to get you introduced to some rather unkind men with black hoods and very sharp axes. Considering Kickaha knew the king (probably) it was better to try to get an official audience before resorting to sneakier methods.
Kickaha made it down into the streets, walking between giant molehills. It was strangely silent. A city this size should be bustling with people. Something was wrong. Had they abandoned the city? But if they had, and the mole people weren’t here, who had taken his TV? Something was very wrong.
“INTRUDER ALERT!” A voice cried out over a loudspeaker. Suddenly several searchlights mounted on different hills turned on and all pointed at Kickaha. “Seize the intruder at once!”
“Alright, look, I can explain, there’s no reason for anyone to get violent.” Kickaha started speaking before he even saw the mole people appeared. They converged from all sides around him. Short, at least by human standards, wearing hard hats and wielding claws that could dig far more precisely than any human tool. And that would probably hurt if used to cut someone too.
Kickaha did not consider himself a fighter. He knew some spells that were used in combat. But it simply wasn’t his specialty. Given the choice, Kickaha would prefer to just blindly fire off random polymorph spells behind him while running away as quickly as he could. Kickaha was very good at running away. He tended to do it a lot. But running away required a direction to run in, one that wasn’t occupied by moles. Sadly, that meant that running was off the table. If they weren’t going to listen to reason he might have to fight.
Or create a giant magical blast that turned everyone in the immediate area into squirrels or something. That plan was always on the table. But Kickaha was highly unlikely to be excluded from the blast. Squirrels were rodents. Kickaha had no desire to be nutritious. Therefore, Kickaha tried not to be a squirrel or any other rodent when he could.
“Alright… So… Let me just issue you a fair warning now.” Kickaha began to gather magical energy, not quite sure what he planned to use it for. “I’m not here to do any harm or start anything. But, I must advise you for your own safety to keep your distance and not try to harm me either. Aside from the fact that I would consider it a great personal favor, there’s the simple fact that if you attack me, something will happen. I don’t know what. But it’ll be weird, and probably a huge inconvenience for everyone involved. Also me. So again, a personal favor if you just backed off.”
The mole people didn’t listen. Kickaha wasn’t sure if they understood his words. Having only spoken to King Ozymandias and some members of the royal court, Kickaha didn’t actually know if the mole men spoke English normally, or if the royal court were just fluent in a second language. Considering none of the mole people even slowed down, he realized that a confrontation was inevitable. He began to weave a spell.
And then the mole people stepped into the searchlight’s radius with Kickaha. Suddenly, all of them let out screams of anguish, covering their eyes and falling to the ground rolling around in pain. That was right… Their eyes were extremely sensitive to light. That was part of what had foiled previous attempts to invade the surface. Which brought up the question of why they would install giant searchlights in their city knowing it would literally blind anyone who got in range of it.
“Wow.” Kickaha rubbed the back of his head looking at all the mole men rolling around on the ground. “I didn’t even do anything and I kind of feel bad about this.” He released the magical energy he had gathered without casting a spell. The energy was released back into the wild where it would become part of the ambient mana that existed in most places.
That or go haywire and wind up transforming some random person into a red panda. When the magic was released from an uncast spell it was supposed to simply return to where it came. But, magic like technology tended to glitch. And while Kickaha had not intended any harm, somewhere above ground there was now a very confused red panda, who was about to have his own adventure involving a Dog Catcher, a zoo, and a proletariat uprising. It was likely something Kickaha would have found amusing, and gotten directly involved in had he known it existed. But that was another story. And in this story, Kickaha looked around sheepishly and wondering what to do about all the mole men writhing on the ground around him.
“You know… You could just turn the search lights off.” Kickaha suggested. “I mean, you don’t need them to see me. Why do you have those?”
“Hey! He’s right!” A woman’s voice called out. “Cut the lights!” With that, everyone was plunged back into darkness. The mole people on the ground gave sighs of relief, but most of them were going to need time to recover. In the meantime, a female mole, who was likely the source of the voice, stepped forward. “Alright, foreign invader! We have no idea who you are or what you’re doing here, but you’re under military arrest until our lord King Ozymandias, Fifty-Second of his name, may his reign be eternal, decides what to do with you.”
“It’s funny you should bring him up. We’re actually friends.” Kickaha tried to flash a friendly grin. “I’m not here to invade. I’m just here to get my TV back.”
“He’s after the Oracle Box!” A voice cried out from the darkness.
“He knows about the plan!“ Another shouted.
“How could the surface dwellers have found out so fast?”
“Do you think.. There couldn’t possibly… Have we been compromised? Is there a mole among us?”
“Well of course there’s a mole, we’re all moles!”
“No! I mean a mole!”
“Yes, as I said we are moles.”
“No! Not a mole, a mole!” The two voices in the dark continued to argue back and forth.
“As fun as it would be to see how long that goes on, I’m going to go ahead and let you know now I have no idea what plan you’re talking about.” Kickaha assured them.
“Sure. You just happen to show up right after we use the magic Oracle Box to plan out our invasion.” The female mole. “You really expect me to believe you don’t know anything about our plan to launch an attack on Super Savers Sunday, arming our soldiers with designer sunglasses, allowing them to easily swarm the surface without risk of being exposed to the sun? All planned out with knowledge gleaned from the Oracle Box.”
“Well, I know now!” Kickaha threw up his arms. “But wait… magic Oracle Box? Do you mean my TV? But… That was just stolen this morning! How did you make plans so quickly based on that?”
“AHA!” The female mole replied. “So you admit you did know about the plan!”
“Yes! Because you told me!” Kickaha exclaimed. “I didn’t even ask! You just went into it! So much for operational security!”
“A likely story.” The mole lady responded. “But you have to get up pretty early in the morning, to pull one over on Captain Jellington!”
“You… were literally right here for the entire thing.” Kickaha narrowed his eyes. He was starting to regret letting go of that magical spell. Right now, being able to turn someone into well… Anything that couldn’t physically talk… was sounding really appealing.
“If that’s the case, how do you know about the magic Oracle Box?” Captain Jellington demanded.
“If you mean my TV. It’s because it’s mine. You all stole it from me, and I came to get it back, through the tunnel you conveniently provided.” Kickaha had to remind himself, this was meant to be a day off. He just wanted to get the TV and go home. If he tried to teach an entire civilization a lesson through wit and reckless use of magic, it would no longer qualify as taking the day off. And so he definitely should not turn Captain Jellington into a rat. Though maybe a raccoon? Then he could say he was just messing around and definitely not working. No, that wouldn’t work. Raccoons were an obvious karmic transformation for thieves. There was no way anyone would buy he wasn’t working if he did that.
“So you admit it! You’re here to steal the magic Oracle Box! Our key to supreme victory!” Captain Jellington grinned. “I knew I’d get a confession out of you.”
“At this point, I’m pretty sure that anything I told you would have somehow come across as a confession.” Kickaha sighed. “look, you said King Ozymandias will be-“
“King Ozymandias, Fifty-Second of his name, may his reign live eternal.” Captain Jellington corrected.
“Alright, King Ozymandias, Fifty-Second of his name. You said he was going to decide my fate, so how about-“ Kickaha started.
“You forgot the ‘may his reign be eternal’ part.” Captain Jellington glared daggers at Kickaha.
“Okay, okay, it’s fine.” Kickaha took a deep breath to steady himself. This was so backwards. He was supposed to bring chaos and confusion to other people, not the other way around. “May his reign be eternal. Now you said…”
“You can’t just add it in like that, you have to say the entire thing together.” Captain Jellington gave a snorted alert. “Show some respect for King Ozymandias, Fifty-Second of his name, may his reign be eternal.”
“Now someone is just padding for time.” Kickaha muttered. “Alright. You said that King Ozymandias, Fifty-Second of his name, may his reign be eternal, was going to be the one to decide my fate. Right? Well, I’m a personal friend of the king. So if you just sent word that I’m here, I’m sure I can talk to King Ozymandias and-“ Kickaha caught Captain Jellington’s glare and he gave a sigh. “King Ozymandias Fifty-Second of his name, may his reign be eternal, and everything will be cleared up.”
“You really expect me to believe you have royal connections?” Captain Jellington asked. “Just some random animal who wandered in?”
“You’re an animal too.” Kickaha narrowed his eyes.
“I am a civilized mole! You’re… Some forest… Creature… Thing. A fox or a coyote or something. I bet you don’t even have basic amenities in your home.”
“Technically, I’m a foxyote.” Kickaha took a deep breath. If the mole people were planning to invade the surface again, there was probably a really dumb reason behind it. If he could talk to Ozymandias he could probably sort all of this out and prevent an international incident. Would it be an international incident? Did the people beneath the earth count as part of the international world? Or maybe they were part of the subterranean world… So invading the surface. It’d be more of an inter-terranean incident? The point was, he should probably do what he could to stop a war from happening. If only to stop the mole people from getting themselves seriously hurt. They weren’t the best as tactics, and Ozymandias was his friend… sort of… kind of… in a way. So Kickaha should really try to keep the guy from getting his entire kingdom crushed.
“A foxyote.” Captain Jellington seemed uncertain. “Why does that sound familiar?”
“Well, I was ruler of the mole people for a short time.” Kickaha pointed out. “So I imagine you had to hear something if you’re a captain. I mean, Ozymandias — sorry, King Ozymandias, Fifty-Second of his name, may his reign live eternal — wound up back on the throne in the end and I went home. It’s a long story. But look, just tell him that Kickaha needs to talk to him.” As soon as he said his name there were large gasps that could be heard coming from all around in the darkness.
“You’re… You’re t-THE Kickaha?” Captain Jellington stammered. “The bringer of Chaos? The one who single handedly turned back the entire mole man army in Terrarium War I? The walking catastrophe, who brings down doom and terrible puns?”
“HEY!” Kickaha shouted. “My puns are not terrible. They are a treat to be enjoyed. Not some form of punishment.”
“He IS the Kickaha!” Captain Jellington took a few steps back, clearly intimidated. There were murmurs from the back of the crowd. It was actually strangely refreshing. When Kickaha was up to no good, or actually trying to do good, he didn’t get a lot of credit for his work. Mostly he got random objects thrown at him. It was somewhat nice to learn that in at least one civilization his name inspired awe.
“Right, then, if we can move this along, go tell King Ozymandias I’m here, and we can work things out and I can go home.” Kickaha grinned. He knew the captain was in awe when she didn’t even bother to correct him on the king’s name.
“V-very well.” Captain Jellington replied. “King Ozymandias, Fifty-Second of his name, may his reign be eternal, has given very specific instructions about how you are to be properly treated and escorted when you arrive.”
“Glad we’re on the same page.” Kickaha gave a genuine smile, happy that they could finally move past all this posturing and he was one step closer to being back on vacation.
And then five minutes later he found himself standing in the middle of a dungeon that was in a pit dug in the very center of town. The cage itself was largely made from the natural ground, a small room having been carved out from the Earth and then a single stone door built to act as an entrance. There were small slots in the door allowing Kickaha to see and communicate with the people outside.
“Alright, part of me feels like I should have seen this coming.” Kickaha muttered. “Nothing ever goes easy. The second you started cooperating I should have realized it was going to be something like this.”
“Do not think your crimes have been forgotten, usurper!” Captain Jellington cried from the other side of the cell door. “In our recorded history, in every conquest you appear just before our moment of glory, and somehow manage to turn back our unstoppable plan. You even managed to steal the crown once. This time, you’re going to stay right here until our mission has succeeded to ensure that we remain unstoppable.”
“Okay, a couple of notes.” Kickaha began to count them out on his paws as he went through them. “First, I mostly just talked to Ozymandias in previous encounters. In fact, last time I negotiated a trade deal with him to give him what he wanted without conquest. Second, the whole ‘taking the crown’ thing was a huge accident I never wanted. Trust me, I was glad to be rid of it. Third, you have no idea what you’re doing invading the surface. You’re lucky Ozymandias ran into me each time he did it and we were able to end things without violence. Trust me! The surface has some protectors who can be really scary when they want to me. Your entire army would be trashed by a small orange kitten within a day.”
“A kitten?” Captain Jellington snickered. “You should at least try to make up something more realistic. We have enough records to show that kittens are small meek creatures. Not ferocious fighters.”
“Yeah, see, the fact you think that proves you have no idea what it’s like on the surface.” Kickaha tried to explain.
“Oh we know plenty! For the magical Oracle Box has revealed everything we need to know about your world!” Captain Jellington bragged. “Why do you think we installed the searchlights? We saw it on the Oracle Box for what to do when you have intruders… Or escaped prisoners.”
“Wait…” Kickaha froze. “Are… Are you basing your entire assumption of what the surface is like based off TV shows? That’s… No! Those are works of fiction! None of it is real! You don’t know a thing about what you’re doing.”
“We are not so foolish as to never question the magic Oracle Box.” Captain Jellington puffed her chest out proudly. “That is why we also have used it to tune into ‘Cable News.’ And from what we learned of the fox, we now have an accurate representation of your world.”
“Wait… So you got your news from…” Kickaha looked horror stricken. “That’s even worse! The soap operas probably gave a better account of reality than that!”
“Your words can not trick me! You are contained, and now our invasion shall be a success!” Captain Jellington beamed with pride.
“I mean… Not really…” Kickaha looked around the cell. “If you heard about me, you know I’m magic. I could easily just turn into a mouse and crawl through the bars in the door. But I don’t even need to do that because your jail cell is made out of dirt. You’re not the only species who can dig. I live in a burrow! I could literally just tunnel my way out.”
“Can not.” Captain Jellington insisted.
“Can too!” Kickaha stuck his tongue out.
“Can not times infinity!” Captain Jellington shouted.
“That’s a net sum of zero.” Kickaha grinned. “Infinity goes in both directions, positive and negative. You really should have said times positive infinity. I win.”
“What but that…” Captain Jellington seemed taken aback. “SOMEONE FETCH ME A CALCULATOR!” After several minutes of silence there was another shout. “There’s no infinity button!”
“How… How does your civilization even survive?” Kickaha face-pawed.
“Says the person trapped in our dungeon!” Captain Jellington grinned wickedly. “If you could really escape you’d have done so by now.”
“… Okay, fine, I’m going to escape right now.” Kickaha picked a spot in the corner of the room and began to dig.
“Oh yeah! Go ahead! Do it! See how fruitless it is!” Captain Jellington could not actually see Kickaha’s progress while he was hidden in the corner.
“I’m doing it.” Kickaha continued to dig. The dirt was surprisingly loose, as if it had recently been worked. Digging a hole was a fast experience. He got a few feet downward, then suddenly the ground beneath him gave way completely and he fell downward into a chamber below the dungeon.
“Ha! Nothing to say now?” Captain Jellington took the silence as a sign that she had finally won. She was completely unaware that Kickaha was no longer in the dungeon. “That’s what I thought.”
Meanwhile, Kickaha found himself in a new place. It was dimly lit with lanterns, providing enough light to see, but gentle enough to avoid blinding the mole men. Several young moles were around him.
“He has come. As foretold by the Prophet.” One of the young moles shouted. “The savior, the one who shall crush the monarchy and bring power to the people! At last, our revolution can begin!”
“Okay… Look, I was just dealing with one type of crazy. And we’re immediately in another. I’m going to need someone to fill me in on what is going on here.” Kickaha was at an actual loss for words to even say anything clever. He was just confused.
“This is the one foretold.” A new voice spoke.
“The Prophet!” The voices of the youths grew excited, and they moved aside allowing a new figure to move in. It appeared to be a red panda, maybe ten years of age, wearing a dark blue cloak.
“So you are The Kickaha. The one from legends, and from my visions.” The red panda spoke.
“Can you skip the part where you’re vague and talk about prophecies or whatever and just tell me what is going on?” Kickaha asked.
“Very well. Once, I was a human, I had a name then. That was long ago, before I became the Prophet.” The Prophet started his story. “One day, I was on my way to work, and then suddenly, I was a humanoid red panda like I am now. Though, still an adult. It was quite confusing at the time, but at the moment the transformation occurred, I had a vision of the source of it. A foxyote in a green cloak. The magic had come from him. And upon transforming my body, my own gift of foresight had been awakened.”
“Okay, that does sound like something I’d be involved in, but I don’t ever recall meeting you.” Kickaha looked the kid up and down. “Either as an adult or a kid.”
“We have not met. It was merely Fate and your magic that dictated my change.” The Prophet continued. “But when my powers awoke I could not control them. Past, present and future all as one. I could not tell one from the other. But there was one constant, a place that was past, present and future. The Time Abyss. A world beyond time that could be accessed through a magical cardboard box.”
“You tried to get help with your visions thing and an orange kitten volunteered huh?” Kickaha recognized the pattern of one of his friends and other sources of chaos.
“Indeed.” The Prophet explained. “In The Time Abyss, I was forged anew. Brought back to the moment of infancy. And then, over ten years I grew and came to control my powers. But the Time Abyss is everywhere yet nowhere. When I exited the Abyss, ready to return to my own life, I instead found myself in a kingdom of mole people. And it was here they told me of their plight. Resource scarcity. That is the reason for the new invasion of the surface world. But, resources are not scarce. For I recall seeing this many times as a human. It is simply that those at the top overconsume, and those at the bottom are left with nothing. And those in control use that as an excuse to conquer and claim what isn’t theirs.”
“Okay, I’m not going to lie, that is absolutely true in a lot of cases. But… This is King Ozymandias.” Kickaha gave a shrug. “I don’t really think he’s smart enough to induce false scarcity in order to start a war.”
“What you choose to believe is irrelevant.” The Prophet replied. “For you are The Kickaha, and you are the one who will lead us to victory.”
“We’ve been planning this for years. Ever since the Prophet showed up.” One of the younger moles started. “He had us construct this chamber beneath the dungeon so you would meet us, and we have secret tunnels heading straight into the palace so you can confront the king.”
“Okay…” Kickaha looked at the Prophet. It seemed he might actually be able to see the future. Or at least get glimpses of it. “Wait… If you trained for ten years in the Time Abyss, then have been here for years, shouldn’t you be older?”
“My time in the Abyss and my powers place me beyond the confines of time.” The Prophet explained. “Time can not age me, and I can only age outside time.”
“I’m going to pretend I understood that, and just remember who was involved with your training and accept that’s the reason you’re still a kid.” Kickaha stared accusingly towards the heavens. “Alright. Let’s stick with the basics.You said you had tunnels leading into the palace? Show me. If I can just talk to King Ozymandias we can sort all this out.”
“And if he will not listen to reason, are you willing to do what needs to be done?” The Prophet asked.
“If what needs to be done involves changing someone’s species so they learn a valuable lesson about themselves, yes. But you have to promise not to tell. This is my day off.” Kickaha shrugged.
“Good enough.” The Prophet turned and pointed down the tunnel. “These youths, they are young, barely adults, and while their hearts are in the right place they are not ready for war. They will show you the route, but you must confront King Ozymandias yourself. For only The Kickaha can stop his mad scheme.”
“You know what? Fine. Sure. Whatever. Literally been trying to talk to him since I got here. Show me the way.” Kickaha did not need to ask a second time before one of the youths led him through a tunnel. The tunnels built under the supervision of the Prophet were numerous, twisting in every direction with several intersections. Anyone who got lost down here without a guide would likely spend the rest of their lives looking for an exit.
Luckily, Kickaha had a guide. And so when he reached a dead end that was another dirt wall, he pounded on it, and the dirt gave way. And he stepped into the familiar site of the mole people throne room.
A stone chamber, with a stone throne sitting at the top of several steps. And there, was King Ozymandias.
“Finally.” Kickaha crawled out of the tunnel. “King Ozymandias. I have been trying to reach you for hours now. Frankly it’s getting a bit tedious.”
“Kickaha?” King Ozymandias gave him a quizzical look. “I was not expecting to see you today! How are you doing old pal? And why aren’t you in the dungeon? Pretty sure I gave specific orders on that.”
“It’s a confusing story that involves time travel, a red panda, and possibly overthrowing the government.” Kickaha shrugged. “But I think we can skip the last part but… Why did you have me thrown in the dungeon? I thought we were friends!”
“Oh we are friends!” King Ozymandias gave a warm smile. “But a king must look out for the needs of his people. You have foiled every invasion thus far. I knew once we started mounting an invasion again it wouldn’t be long before you showed up. I planned to have you released after our conquest.”
“To be fair, your last invasion I didn’t even stop, I just helped you get what you wanted without fighting.” Kickaha rubbed his head. “I have so many questions. For starters, if you stole my TV today, how did you have everything already built and set up?”
“Oh that’s simple.” King Ozymandias gave a sly smile. “I signed up for a streaming service and have been binging things for months now. Construction was started in secret a long time ago. The Oracle Box is just a symbol. Having a magical artifact to rally behind fills the people with confidence.”
“Okay, but it’s just a TV. MY TV. Why did you steal it? Couldn’t you just buy one?” Kickaha demanded.
“Your TV exists in a unique state. It gets channels with no power and no cable plan.” Ozymandias explained. “It makes it a lot easier to pass it off as a mystical object if I don’t have an official cable bill sent to the treasury every month.”
“I guess… There’s a certain logic to that.” Kickaha shook his head. This guy was never going to change. “But why even invade? I was told it was a war over scarcity. But it seems many of the youths believe there is no scarcity and it’s just the people at the top hogging it all.”
“It is a little of both, truth be told.” King Ozymandias gave a sad smile. “Our resources are limited. To maintain power, I have unevenly allowed their distribution to the noble houses who will support me and provide me with soldiers to help me stay in power and launch the war. This means that anyone not of noble birth has been left behind. But, all that will change after the war with the surface! The time for Super Savers Sunday is nigh!”
“Captain Jellington mentioned that…” Kickaha muttered. “What is Super Savers Sunday?”
“The day that the supermarkets have all their specials.” King Ozymandias replied as if it was obvious. “They’ll have more in stock and plenty of things on display. Armed with designer sunglasses, our forces will storm the supermarkets, raid the snack aisles, and bring back enough snacks to feed our entire civilization.”
“This is about snacks again!?” Kickaha threw up his hands. “What about the trade agreement!? You already have weekly snack deliveries from the surface.”
“That was fine at first, but our population has grown.” Captain Ozymandias explained. “We would have tried to negotiate for additional snacks… But that cursed sun blights your surface kingdom. And your supermarkets defend themselves by closing before the sun goes down, preventing us from negotiating the purchase of more snacks.”
“I wish I could say you were the only civilization that would go to war over their Twinkie supply, but I sadly suspect it’s not true.” Kickaha crossed his arms and looked thoughtful. “But, if your invasion is just a theft… Why go during the day? Why not at night when the stores are closed and there’s no resistance?”
“Well that would be rude.” King Ozymandias explained. “Do you expect us to break down the doors during our siege? We are not barbarians. Merely a mighty empire willing to step over anyone necessary to get the supplies needed to survive.”
“You can live without your cheese crackers.” Kickaha muttered. All of this, because they wanted more snacks. Again, he had no idea how this civilization had survived for so long. “So… Before you go invading anyplace, let me just ask you one thing. Are you aware there are 24 hour supermarkets?”
“24 hour… What does that mean?” King Ozymandias gave Kickaha a suspicious glare.
“It means they’re open twenty-four hours a day.” Kickaha sighed. “Both when the sun is out, and when it has set. Why didn’t you just try negotiating trade for new snacks as one of those?”
“Surely you jest. No store could have employees work twenty-four hours nonstop.” Captain Ozymandias didn’t believe Kickaha.
“I mean they would if they could.” Kickaha gave a sad sigh. “But in this case, people work multiple shifts. There tends to be fewer workers on duty late at night, and the managers in power will be home asleep… But if you show up with some of those diamonds of yours, trust me, you can make some kind of arrangement.”
“If you speak the truth, then this war is a pointless affair that may cost the lives of many of our kind for a meaningless cause.” King Ozymandias considered Kickaha’s words. “But you are The Kickaha, the one who has stopped us every turn.”
“And yet never once actually fought you.” Kickaha pointed out.
“Sure you have! Back when you um! Erm, well… How did you become king that one time? Surely there was violence there?” King Ozymandias tried.
“I think the crown literally just fell on top of me and people started calling me king.” Kickaha shrugged. “I never even wanted it, I was glad to give it back to you.”
“Huh… But there was that time where you invaded our entire land before immediately turning back…” King Ozymandias tried.
“No, that was you.” Kickaha remembered their first meeting.
“Huh… I guess you never have attacked us.” King Ozymandias considered. “Very well, we shall visit your 24-hour Supermarket and attempt to negotiate a trade. But be warned, should your tales of these supermarkets be false, our vengeance will be swift and brutal.”
“Uh huh sure.” Kickaha muttered. “Look, can I just have my TV back and go home now? Also, you have a proletariat uprising happening with some kind of pseudo-religion around a prophet. You might want to stop giving the majority of the supplies to the noble houses if you don’t want them to overthrow the monarchy.”
“What could the working class possibly do to threaten us though?” King Ozymandias grinned.
“For starters they have a secret tunnel that leads right to your throne room. That’s what I came through!” Kickaha pointed at the hole in the wall. “You’re lucky they think it’s my destiny to stop you or something, otherwise they probably would have just assassinated you by now.”
“Oh… King Ozymandias studied the hole in the wall. “They… have had that there the entire time? Maybe… It is time to look at a more even distribution.”
“You think?” Kickaha shook his head. “Look. TV. Now.”
“We don’t have it.” King Ozymandias shrugged.
“WHAT!?” Kickaha bristled.
“Look, it was always just a symbol. And then weird voices came from it. So I just told people what we saw on it and then had the thing sent back. That thing was seriously creeping me out. You can keep it.” King Ozymandias shuddered as he explained.
“Sent back? So…” Kickaha paused. “It’s back in my house?”
“Oh yeah, I had it returned within an hour of stealing it.” King Ozymandias explained. “It kept whispering weird things to me.”
“So… This was all pointless.” Kickaha face-pawed again. Well, he supposed it wasn’t entirely pointless. He did stop yet another invasion of the surface, as well as what would have likely been a violent coup. “Okay, I apparently have no reason to be here. So I am going to go home, and enjoy the rest of my day off and watch something on TV.”
“Okay, good luck with that!” King Ozymandias waved. “Thanks for stopping by!”
“Yeah whatever, sure…” Kickaha muttered as he headed for the exit from the throne room. It was always something with these people.
Tired from the day’s activities, Kickaha eventually found his way back home, having to use a new tunnel since the old one was blocked by his TV being back on the wall. He fell over onto his living room floor, then crawled over to his couch before lifting himself up onto it. He looked at the clock on the wall to get the time.
“Okay… There’s still 5 minutes left in my day off.” Kickaha reached for the remote and tried to turn the TV on. Nothing happened. “What?” He looked at the remote. It didn’t take long to realize the problem. The batteries were dead.
Kickaha really had to stop taking days off. They were far too much work and far too much stress.