"There are two types of people in this world: winners and corpses."
- Charm: Frightening
- Adaptability: Cockroach hyped up on illegal steroids
- Planning: Needs development
- Survival Preparations: Needs development
- Wealth: Boom and bust
- Weapons Skill: Deadly
- Intelligence: Cunning
- Warm Fuzzies: Warm, yet slightly oily
- Leadership: King Rat
The ESTP Raider is a fun, gregarious type that enjoys high intensity action. To them, the nuclear holocaust will seem like a non-stop 24/7 holiday. No sooner will they get bored of fighting zombies then they will be attacked by landsharks. No sooner will the landsharks be defeated then the man-flies will rear their ugly heads. This will go on and on, a never-ending supply of adventure and excitement broken only by the need to reload.
ESTPs are well suited for this rough and ready lifestyle. Resilient and resourceful, they are expert looters, clever barterers, and savage fighters. What’s more, they are natural leaders, and usually head any group they are a part of. They use their adaptive abilities to scrounge and skirmish their way across the post-apocalyptic landscape.
ESTP leaders change their plans moment by moment, and seldom find themselves committed to a situation which would result in a total party kill. However, they have one weakness: they tend to get distracted easily. For example, the party may intend to make a trek to a distant city, only to waste a month at a casino, during which time they will acquire a broken-down car in a high stakes game of poker. Several more months will pass as they scrounge parts to get the car working; finally they will head out. But soon they will discover that a much needed road has been turned into an expensive toll booth by an opportunistic ENTJ Warlord and his small army of thugs. Since the party is out of money they will be forced to take a three hundred mile detour down roads infested with bandits that they will fight incessantly. Eventually the car will break down as the ESTP tries to a ford the river; the vehicle will have to be abandoned. The party will string the empty gas cans together to make a raft and head downriver in the general direction of the city, only to be accosted by river pirates. And so on. Generally though, the ESTP’s flexibility serves the party well.
After the apocalypse, ESTPs will be one of the types which attempts to restore civil order, where “restore civil order” is defined as “assign yourself dictatorial powers.” Most citizens will grateful to have a strong leader protecting them, though others will be outraged at the offenses against freedom perpetrated by their tyrannical leader, namely the collection of taxes. Some of the citizens who are offended will even be other ESTPs, who will be happy to revolt against the current overlord and assume dictatorial powers themselves. Though not as known for commanding armies as the ENTJ Warlords or ESTJ Underlords, ESTPs nonetheless make excellent leaders for loosely organized mercenary armies, fleets of pirate vessels, and bands of machete-wielding guerrillas. The least scrupulous of the ESTPs will become criminal kingpins and overlords of drug cartels.
Although ESTPs offer many valuable services to a party; there is one problem with this type. As SP Artisans, ESTPs have little use for pointless rules or boring traditions. As Thinkers, they rely on logic and cool-headed analysis for their decisions. As Extraverts, their energy is directed towards the outside environment and other people. All this adds up to the fact that they will be the first type to turn to cannibalism.
One typical scenario in which this will occur is when the ESTP is on a party trying to reach safety in the form of distant enclave where there is law and order (i.e. boredomville). Grinning their toothy smile, the ESTP will offer their services to the party for a small fee. The party’s leader, a tall man with charismatic hair and an air of confidence, will mistake the ESTP for a friendly ESFP Daredevil and agree to take them on board. A fatal misidentification. The party will set off, and at first everyone will be delighted by the ESTP’s ability to gun down monsters. Naturally the ESTP will work up an appetite from all the slaying. When the rations are passed out, they will devour their pittance in seconds, lick the wrappers clean, and ask for more. At first the party will be understanding and generous.
But sooner or later the survivors will come to the Point of No Return, in whatever form that takes: a zombie infested swamp, a mountain pass positively choked with hibernating mutant bears, a radioactive desert full of ominously misshapen skeletons. The ESTP can see that only a fool would try to cross. Or as the leader puts it, “Follow me, boys!”
Naturally the journey will soon develop into a death march. Supplies will run low, and there will be strict rationing. The party’s leader will refuse to give the ESTP extra food, even though they are exhausted from slaying monsters. It is at this point that party members will begin mysteriously disappearing.
At first no one will mind, because the people who vanish will be the annoying, the shirkers, and the cowardly. Deserters. More food for the rest of the party.
But at some point the remains of last night's feast will be discovered. The ESTP will stare in horror and mutter, “Poor devil, the zombies must have gotten him. But why did he come all the way out here, away from the fire?” Female ESTPs will shed a few tastefully understated tears at this point. The natural acting talent of the ESTP will seal the party's doom.
But after awhile, the starving party members will become suspicious. “How come the ESTP always has so much energy?” they will mutter resentfully. “Have they been in the rations?” The party's ISTJ Sentinel will scrupulously audit the rationbook, but no sign of pilfering will be found. The ESTP's demeanor will take on a hurt, martyred look.
In the last stage, paranoid panic will sweep through the party. No one will sleep, and no one will leave the fire. The party members will just sit and stare at each other with bloodshot, sunken eyes. One night the ESTP will lean close to the leader and whisper, “Has anyone noticed how the ISTJ keeps licking his lips?” With such scurrilous accusations, the ESTP will spread dark suspicions about the ISTJ Sentinel. Then a severed finger will be found in the ISTJ's pack. The ISTJ will vigorously protest his innocence, but to no avail. The party will be roused to a fury.
That night everyone will enjoy the first sound sleep they have had in weeks. Except for the ESTP, who will quietly get up and make their way to the ISTJ's shallow grave, licking their chops. The ESTP will be back at the fire before dawn, patting their taut stomach.
Bolstered by false confidence, the party's morale will rise and they will walk cheerfully to their demise. By various contrivances the ESTP will kill and eat the rest of the party, while managing to pin the blame on other party members.
The group leader will be last to go. Exhausted and half-starved, the final thing he will see is the concerned face of the ESTP, patting him on the shoulder and saying, “Get some sleep. I'll keep watch.” When the ESTP is done picking the bones clean, they will yawn, stretch, take their gun and head off. Somehow or other they’ll make it back to civilization.
Those intending to add an ESTP to their party should consider the drawbacks as well as the benefits. Or at least make sure that you’re less annoying than the rest of your team members.
Your Post-Apocalyptic Lifestyle
Your parents said to stay inside while they went to get help. You waited several days for them to come back, during which time you and your sister helped yourselves to all the candy, ice cream and cookies you could eat. Still your parents did not come back. In desperation, you were forced to resort to healthier foods—yogurt, apples, and granola bars. Finally you ate the broccoli, beans, and rice.
When all the food in the house has been consumed, you and your sister finally set out to find your missing parents (alas, you will not succeed). Instead, you will be forced to fend for yourself in the grim, bombed out shell of the suburb you grew up in. You will spend your days hunted by slavers, zombies and mutations. Soon you will be hungry, cold, and dirty.
It’s not all bad news, though. It won’t be long before you became head of a group of fellow orphans. You create secret hideouts in abandoned houses and learn to pilfer and beg from the endless stream of refugees passing by. You’re still hungry, cold and dirty, but now you just take it for granted.
Which makes it something of a surprise when your sister announces cheerfully, “I’m going to live at the orphanage!”
“What orphanage?” you say, frowning. You didn't know they made those anymore.
As it turns out, a well-to-do ESFJ Bunkerdragon has fashioned a makeshift orphanage in the basement of a local elementary school. All the kids who live there get food, a warm bed, and free schooling. The ESFJ is happy to let your sister in; you, however, are too old (a hardened twelve) to gain admission. You try to explain the evils of school to your sister, but she blithely ignores your advice in favor of stuffing her face with spam sticks as she plays with her new friends.
Oh well. You tell yourself that you didn’t want to live at the orphanage anyway; you much prefer the freedom of the streets to the constrictive educational requirements of Mrs. Maple’s Loving Home for the Victims of War, Famine and the Undead. And you have new friends now—friends like Sharkface and Hammer, who always ignored you when you were dragging your kid sister along. You’re very, very happy.
The next few years of your life will be full of the usual grind: run, hide, loot, beg. Under Sharkface’s tutelage you will also add new skills: extort, scam, threaten, and more. The city you grew up in has become a gangland where rival groups fight bloody turf wars over the rights to rob the refugees who pass by on the nearby highway. Anyone who isn’t part of a gang is paying tribute to one.
Your street name is Dingo; that’s because you eat babies. (Not really. You just say that because it adds a nice little psychotic touch to your reputation. But if anyone seems even half credulous, you will go all out to convince them that you really do eat babies. Lying is like a sport to you, and you find it hilarious to make people believe your outrageous tales.)
Actually, your main victims are the drug addicts who lay on the sidewalks, dreaming of a time when the clouds were white instead of ashen grey. You step over a dozen of these human zombies on your way to buy milk. As for yourself, you’re not the nostalgic type, and unless you’re selling stims, you couldn’t care less what color the clouds are. Truth be told, you don’t care about anyone or anything—unless it involves money. Or a fine set of legs.
As you slowly develop the skills you will need to become one of the most notorious gangsters in this little corner of hell, your sister learns to read, write and calculate numbers. She will eventually become Mrs. Maple’s trusted assistant and work at the orphanage as a full time helper. You go to see her occasionally, but you have grown apart. Your sister disapproves of your activities; you can’t imagine any other life.
It is during one of these rare visits that your sister reluctantly introduces you to a friend: Mrs. Maple’s daughter, an ISFJ Assassin with warm brown eyes, a kind smile, and giggling orphans clinging to both legs. The moment you lay eyes upon her you realize that she is the most beautiful woman in one hundred miles. (You would know. You’ve dated most of them.)
As she discusses the daily goings on at the orphanage, you find yourself staring into those eyes. What a knock out! Before you know it, you find yourself volunteering to take a look at the stuck door in nursery, this being mainly an excuse to see her again. Besides being a total hottie, she seems like a very nice person, and is probably not a member of a secret sisterhood of assassins trying to kill every major gangster in the city. (Anyway, you never told her what you do for a living.)
You return again and again. Before you know it, you are fixing the roof, repairing the perimeter fence, and coaching the orphans’ baseball team—all the better to charm the young Ms. Maple. Your intentions aren’t gentlemanly, but you are a smooth talker and know how to ooze your way into people’s confidences. One day, as you are stringing concertina wire around the edge of the baseball diamond, the ISFJ appears with a glass of apple juice and some of the ubiquitous spam sticks. Now’s your chance.
You invite her to sit down and chat. She’s an introvert and hesitant to open up, but you easily make her feel comfortable. Soon the conversation is rolling smoothly along. You both hate the color orange, enjoy stormy weather, and love dogs. You casually imply that you are the sort of fellow with important friends, friends that you speak to favorably about the orphanage. This is a good start and you should have kept going like that, but then…something weird happens. Weird like a sucker punch to the gut.
You had just finished telling her about how much you love dogs—just like her—when you suddenly find yourself admitting how dogs secretly scare you a bit because you got attacked by a pack of hungry strays when you were a kid. Which is just about the stupidest thing you can tell someone that you're trying to impress.
Some panicked corner of your mind struggles to comprehend what is going wrong with your mouth. Maybe it’s the paralyzing power of her mind-blowing hotness. Or maybe it’s the sympathetic way she has been listening to everything you say, as if she actually gives a damn about you. If you had mentioned that little dog-terror anecdote to any of your friends, they would have laughed at you and told all at their friends, who would also have laughed and told all of their friends, and so on and so forth in a chain reaction of laughter and humiliation. But the ISFJ just listens with that understanding expression, and that only makes your temporary insanity worse. When you tell her about getting turned down by the orphanage, she practically cries. You feel very, very uneasy about the feelings stirring in you. What’s wrong?
Afterward you ponder that question at length. Was there a pill in the apple juice or something? You don’t know, but as you will discover, the street goes ways. At your next meeting, the ISFJ tells you that she cannot stand spam sticks, that she once fell in love with a kind man who died (good), breaking her heart (bad), and that she wishes she could have a life outside the orphanage. Good, she is beginning to trust you. You’ll make your move soon.
Three months later you are still waiting to reach first base. It’s not that you aren’t thinking about it. You're not a patient person, and your idea of a relationship is fast, fun, and physical. But this time something warns you not to push too hard. The ISFJ is...different...from your usual fare. You’ve seen a hundred opportunities to make a move and let them all go by.
You are making progress, though—just not the sort of progress you usually make. Despite your inexplicable slip ups, or maybe because of them, the ISFJ has come to genuinely care about you. You are not the sort of person that people genuinely care about, and you find that you kind of like it. Okay, you like it a lot. So you don’t put the moves on her, even though you want to. Instead, you try to shape yourself into the kind of person that the ISFJ would like. This may be the first time that you have ever fallen in love for real. It’s certainly the only time you have ever been loved back.
Naturally you avoid telling the ISFJ anything about what you do for a living. You say that you “sell medicine.” Your sister rolls her eyes when she hears that line, but you deliver it with such smooth confidence that there can be no doubt it is true. Yes, your occupation is the elephant in the room. You have always kept your visits to the orphanage secret from your business associates, because you didn’t want anyone getting any ideas about breaking the orphans’ kneecaps as a way to get at you. But it is becoming increasingly clear that you can no longer keep things quiet. Tongues are already wagging about who you're seeing, and your boss is beginning to wonder why you're not bringing in as many sales as you used to.
But it’s your sister who really worries you. You can tell that sooner or later she’s going to snitch on you to the ISFJ. Your sister doesn’t approve of your career, and she never was shy of pronouncing her opinion. Probably the only reason she hasn’t spilled the beans yet is because of all the free work you do around the orphanage. But if things start getting serious—and that secret kiss you and the ISFJ just shared in the boiler room says it is—then she will happily ruin everything. To top it off, old Mrs. Maple has gotten wind of you, and asks many polite but probing questions about your background. She might be a veritable living saint, but she can see through the flimflam as only ex-teachers can. You can see that you’re heading towards the edge of the cliff. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.
What are you going to do? One solution would be go to straight, but you don’t want to lose your career—you’re young, and you’ve already climbed further up the ladder than most stim-pushers get in a decade. If you keep looking out for number one you could eventually become number one. But the stim biz never gave you half as much satisfaction as the things the ISFJ whispers in your ear. Your business associates never baked a chocolate cake for your birthday, either, and they sure as hell doesn’t kiss like the ISFJ does. (After that moment in the boiler room, you and her will start sneaking off together to neck in ruins nearby. Your sweet little tiger has a surprising bite. When she kisses you the clouds seem white, and there is no stopping once you've begun. Your giddy demeanor will make your business colleagues suspect that you have begun shooting up your own product.)
You don't want to give up the ISFJ. But you don't want to give up your career either.
So what do you want, love or money?
You search your soul. Somewhere down there is your hardened little twelve year old self, who swore he would never be dumb enough to trust anyone again. But it seems that his plan has gone awry. Who would have guessed that your inner defenses would be breached by an ISFJ with a cup of apple juice in her hand? You feel depressed and cheated. Cheated out of your brilliant career.
So you tell your boss that you’re going straight. After you convince him that you’re not joking, there will be the iffy question of whether or not you're actually allowed to leave. The question is debated for awhile, and then several people who don’t like you die. After that, the boss OKs it. Good thing. You were outgrowing his kiddy pool.
The shock on your sister’s face when you tell her the news is a sight to behold. You smirk triumphantly. “Never thought I’d do it, did you?”
“Ha!” she snorts. “We’ll just see how long this lasts.”
“Watch and see,” you tell her, grinning.
So now you're not a stim-pusher anymore. It seems that the question of whether the ISFJ is a member of a secret sisterhood of assassins devoted to killing every major gangster in the city will remain theoretical for now.
ESTPs have several career options that don’t involve selling stims. First, they can use their skill at bartering to become shopkeepers. Second, they can use their skill at bartering to become used car salesmen who sell escape vehicles to people trying to escape from zombies. Third, they can become public service workers and attempt to overthrow the tyrannical post-apocalyptic government. These options are not mutually exclusive.
You decide to try your hand at shopkeeping. Your business is a sort of general store where you sell goods that you scavenge up from various sources. At first a few of the local thugs try to extract insurance from you, but you make them regret it. The savings on “insurance money” allow you slash your margins and offer cheaper prices than your competitors. Customers flocks to your store for savings, and to your surprise, you find that you’re actually making good money. It’s not that you weren’t making good money before, but the cut you had to turn over to the higher ups was no small change. Now all the money goes straight into your pocket.
The extra cash allows you to buy useful things (like candy and toys) for the orphans, dumbfounding your sister and delighting the ISFJ. You feel like Santa Claus when you come in bearing a scavenged tricycle, all the children shouting and dancing around you. Then afterward, you and the ISFJ sneak off for some private time. Now that you don’t have to dance around the truth anymore, you can tell her all about your job. You proudly show off your store to her.
“Oh, but where is all the medicine?” she asks.
“I, uh, had to get out of that line of business,” you say. “Supplies dried up.”
The ISFJ is disappointed for you, but you wave it off and produce tickets to Toxic-Fox Madness. She is delighted. You are beginning to think that you made the right choice.
Which is all to say that you had good intentions. You genuinely thought you were ending your criminal career, not launching an illicit enterprise that will soon make you universally hated. One might say you became the most wanted man in the world almost by accident.
It will start off with shoplifters stealing the bread right out of your mouth. They will work alone or in concert to deprive you of your hard-earned stock, and laugh at you behind your back. To your frustration, it will be impossible to prevent this, because the thieves will be other Artisans and just as cunning as you are. You won't be able to prove anything, but you can tell because the same smug people keep coming to your shop again and again, always without buying anything. You would riddle them with bullets, but the ISFJ might be upset if she found out. What can you do?
One day a wandering adventurer will turn up at your shop and offer to sell you some guns which he looted from some corpses that he just happened to stumble upon. After examining the guns suspiciously—no one takes you for a dupe—you will become almost certain that they are burning “hot” in both the stolen and the radioactive senses. Just as you are about to refuse the weapons, a smirking customer walks out of the store without buying anything. Smiling grimly, you purchase the lot.
The next time a smug-looking customer prepares to walk out of the store, you stop them. They look alarmed for a moment, but you offer a friendly smile. “Congratulations! You’re my 1,000th customer. Here’s a coupon for 50% off your next gun purchase.” When they come by later to redeem their coupon, you offer them a selection from your special stock of prime guns, which you keep locked in the lead safe in back. Soon you will be able to recognize the shoplifters by the fact that they are glowing in the dark and budding a second head.
At first you will only give special discounts to your “favorite” customers. Soon, however, you’ll start giving special service to others: jerks who loudly demand attention when you’re busy trying to help someone else; slobs who take out all the merchandise and don’t it put it away afterward; gripers who complain about how expensive everything is even though your prices are the best in town; and people who leave the bathroom a disgusting mess. You figure that growing a second head is a good way to teach people manners.
Since guns are expensive, you will diversify into discounted candy bars, MREs, water purification pills, and other radioactive merchandise. Cunningly, you will also provide a dummy Geiger counter at the front counter so that customers can check their merchandise for dangerous radioactivity. More adventurers will turn up at your shop to fence—sell—their hot merchandise and your shop will become known for its rock bottom prices.
And here is where the temptation comes in. The orphans are always needing something—milk to build strong bones, new clothes, medicine for colds, etc. If you could just make that little bit of extra money, you could help them. But your prices are already as low as you can go. So how can you turn some extra profit?
Again, the answer is diversification. Rationalizing that your customers were going to die slowly of radiation poisoning anyway, you will open a used car outlet marketing escape vehicles to people who are trying to escape zombies. Naturally you will give the hottest deals to the customers who deserve it most, justifying your actions as a means of getting back a piece of your own. Caveat emptor, suckers. Enjoy the zombies. In addition, you will start selling a phony cure for radiation poisoning; no sense in letting the suckers die rich.
In the final stage of your moral backsliding, you will come to think of your activities as a tax on the annoying, stupid and gullible. Such people would have died anyway; does it really matter where the final blow comes from? You will also expand your definition of “valued customer” to include people who make annoying body noises, people who track in dirt, and people who sneeze without covering their noses. If some moron can't tell the difference between healing mountain herbs and the weeds you plucked in your backyard, that's their fault. They should have bought themselves a copy of The Guide to Floral Medicine when it was on sale, or else bought their healing herbs from the overpriced stall of the Guardian next door.
The downside of your new business model is that you will have to move your store around frequently, change its name, and have frequent “Going Out of Business” sales in order to get return customers. Not that you care. You are looking at diamonds rings. The ISFJ deserves something special.
Alas, it is inevitable that the consequences will catch up with you—though not in the form that you might expect. One particularly slow Tuesday morning, a ratty-looking bum walks into your shop looking for a tin of dehydrated milk. You notice nothing out of the ordinary about him except that he has the words “Veni, Vidi, Vici,” tattooed on his forearm. But that doesn't mean anything to you, because you don’t understand Latin. All you think is that your dingo tattoo is way cooler.
You do, however, notice how he sneezes without covering his nose, spraying your merchandise with an aerosol of suspended snot and spreading germs everywhere (they're probably cholera germs or something). To show your gratitude for this deed, you offer him some of your “special” stock. He walks out the door with enough radioactive milk to make a Geiger counter weep. You forget about him, but he will not forget about you. In fact, when he discovers what you have done, he will vow to make you pay.
Alas, the ratty-looking bum you have just ripped off is an ENTJ Warlord who used to be a famous general in these parts. Right now he is down on his luck thanks to an unfortunate turn of events, but if you heard his name, you would recognize it. In a few months, luck will turn his way again, and when it does, it'll stay. He will not only regain his former power, but increase it, and other warlords will be forced to swear fealty to him. In an impossibly short period of time—about a year and a half—he will conquer the continent you are living on.
If you had merely hurt him, he probably would have forgotten all about you. But that radioactive milk was intended for someone very, very dear to him. He broods upon your deed every day, and finally, he will seek vengeance. Specifically, he wants to throw you into a vat of nuclear waste to see what kind of mutant you turn into. It’s a good thing you move your store around so often, or you’d be in trouble.
At first, you will assume that the bounty hunters who turn up at your doorstep were sent by one of the “insurance companies” operating in the area. No big deal. You bury the bodies out back, plant some pansies (pansies are the ISFJ’s favorite flower), and start a little garden. But after awhile things begin to get serious. Wanted posters with your picture on them pop up like lice on a druggie’s scalp. The bounty offered is ridiculously high. You can’t even comprehend why anyone would want you so badly—maybe you’re not the most upstanding guy in the guy in the world, but are your crimes really worth ten million pseudodollars?
Nobody else knows what you did either, so they just assume you must have done something horrible to warrant being thrown into a vat of nuclear waste. Something horrible, say, like eating babies. Rather like some kind of wild dog. Your reputation, never good at the best of times, will balloon out of control. Your enemies will claim that you poisoned the orphans, chopped them up, canned them, and served them as spam at your store. Your friends will feebly insist that you only chopped up your customers. These lies horrify you—you would certainly never stoop to selling chopped up customers under the label of spam when you could get twice as much by labeling them as prime quality roast beef. But you doubt that anyone would appreciate the niceties of the argument for your innocence, so you settle for changing your name, hair, and contact lens color on a weekly basis. In the end, it is not enough. You have to run for your life, relying on your wits and your innate ESTP acting ability to conceal yourself. Soon your only companion is the half empty bottle of nuke juice you managed to loot at the last town before moving on. You never settle down long enough to learn any names.
As word spreads that the ENTJ Warlord wants you brought in, a competition will ensue to see who can get you first. Your fellow ESTPs, always found of competitive sport, will join in the hunt, all hoping to get you first. Soon other goody two shoes types (ISTP Vigilantes and ENFJ Luminaries, for example) will show up, determined to stop your “evil.” Perhaps there is even a secret sisterhood of ISFJ Assassins who has determined to kill you.
The ISFJ is the last person who still believes in your innocence, but last time you visited her, you saw doubts in her eyes. This weighs on your mind even more heavily than the massive manhunt underway. But there’s nothing you can do. You do not dare return to the orphanage, where everyone would recognize you.
For months you evade your pursuers. One night, you find yourself in a burnt coffee shop. You sift through the ashes of the kitchen until you find a years-old coffee bean, which you hungrily devour. It does little to quiet the gnawing emptiness inside you.
Wearily, you sit back against the wall. The moon shines down through the gutted roof beams. Reaching into your jacket, you pull out your sole remaining possession: the diamond ring. For a long time you stare at it. You could get good money for the gold, and the ice on top would feed you for weeks. You need money bad.
The diamond glitters in the moonlight. What is the ISFJ doing now? Is she still waiting for you? Has she found someone else? You wish you had given her the ring before you left. Would she even accept it if you gave it to her now? If you just knew the answer to that question you could bear any amount of hardship.
Not for the first time, you ponder your odds of sneaking back to the elementary school without getting caught. You know that going back there would be really dumb, but maybe if you were really, really careful...
No one ever said you were the sharpest knife in the drawer. The most overoptimistic knife, maybe, or the most reckless one. When the sun rises, you strike out toward home. Home: where everyone recognizes you on sight, and a good many people want you dead. But you're going anyway. Yes, it's time to add another entry to the “stupid shit I pulled when I was young” list.
You approach the elementary school from the direction of an overgrown park. It is dusk. Everything looks deserted. You are just about to make a dash across the street when a familiar figure strolls around the corner. It’s Rudy the Rocket, a fellow ESTP. He is wearing a sharply cut suit and munching a spam stick. Years ago, you and Rudy were friends, but not anymore. The only thing that has kept you from his throat all these years is his amazing ability to suck up to the right people and your amazing ability to smile through clenched teeth. As he munches his spam stick, you notice a satisfied smirk on his face. It is identical to the one he wore when you caught him screwing around with your girl all those years ago.
You leap out of bushes. Rudy’s smirk changes to “oh crap.” No words are necessary; you fight. The resulting scuffle is short and bloody, and finally Rudy flees like the coward he is.
“Come back here and I’ll break every bone in your body!” you scream after him.
“We’ll see!” he taunts.
Rudy will go tell everyone that the ten million pseudodollar man has turned up. Your time is short. Licking the blood from your lip and wiping your nose, you head towards the orphanage. What a sight you are in your torn clothes. Your face is bruised, and your nose keeps dripping blood. You compare yourself with Rudy in his shiny new threads and a cold stone settles in your belly.
The ISFJ Assassin is startled when you explode into her room. She looks at you as if seeing you for the first time—and not in a good way.
“What was Rudy doing here?” you burst out. “Did he say anything about me? It’s all lies.”
She nods uncertainly.
As it turns out, Rudy has dropped a whole dump truck’s load of dirt on you. You might be able to explain everything if you had time, but you don’t. In mere minutes before he'll return with backup. Desperate, you produce the ring. If the ISFJ can just see how much you care, surely she will somehow overlook the past you tried so hard to hide.
The ISFJ jerks her hand away as you attempt to slip on the ring. Angry tears well up in her brown eyes. “You’ve been lying to me all this time.”
“I didn’t want to,” you protest. “I didn’t think you’d ever care about me if you knew.”
“Maybe you were right,” she says bitterly.
The words twist in your gut like a knife. From outside come the eager yells of human hounds baying on your scent. There is no time left.
“Please, just think about it,” you plead, pressing the ring into her hand. “I’m sorry.”
You try to embrace her; she turns away.
Then you are forced to flee out the back entrance. Your sister sees you as you dash by. Her sneer makes it obvious what she thinks of your shabby appearance and hasty departure.
“I knew you were faking it,” she says.
“I wasn’t faking,” you growl. Not much, anyway.
“Don’t come back.”
She slams the back door shut behind you.
Later that day, you will come to the realization that you are going to die friendless and alone—or so says the ISTP Vigilante who is holding a gun to your forehead. ISTPs are dreadful busybodies, always poking their noses into other people’s business. Smug, self righteous, and thoroughly convinced of their divine right to pass judgment, they’re the morality police of the post-apocalyptic world. Never set up your shop in a town infested with ISTPs.
You try to grin and laugh as though it is all a joke between friends. “Hey, are you from the Better Business Bureau, by any chance?”
“You wish, slimeball,” the ISTP hisses. His finger draws tight on the trigger.
Your life flashes before your eyes, a touching montage of tender scenes from your youth, followed by less touching scenes from your adulthood. Reflecting on the downward progression of your life, you have a sudden flash of revelation: you should not have sold the ENTJ radioactive milk. Alas, the revelation is pointless, since you are about to die at the hands of a smug, self righteous ISTP. You search his cold, pitiless eyes, hoping for some gleam of mercy.
“Walk,” he says, pointing down the road at a waiting vehicle.
Oh. You had assumed he was going to kill you. You paste on your best grin. “Sure, but I think you’ve got the wrong guy.”
Despite all your protestations of innocence, which you punctuate with attempts to kill your captor and escape, the ISTP brings you before the ENTJ Warlord. The germy bum you ripped off two years ago is now clothed in power and success. He sits at a giant polished oak desk, a chess board to one side and a book open in front of him. The title on the cover is, "Commentarii de Bello Gallico," by Caesar. You take in the tailored suit, the prominent chin, the formidable brow, and the respectfully silent attitude of the ISTP minion. Your only consolation is the fact that the ENTJ Warlord’s expensive suit is covered with long white cat hairs. You might be tied up and dressed in rags, but at least you aren’t covered in cat hair. How disgusting!
After a moment the ENTJ looks up from his book. He stares at you dispassionately. “So, you.”
Oddly, you are a little disappointed by this reaction. You had hoped for some acknowledgment of the fact that you are his ultimate enemy, that you have eluded him for months. Now that it’s all over, you feel like you deserve some kind of pat on the back.
“Throw him into a vat of nuclear waste,” the ENTJ says, picking up his book again.
You are outraged at his indifference. “That’s it?!”
The ISTP shoves you towards the door, but you resist. “No!” you scream. “If I’m going to get thrown into a vat of nuclear waste then you are going to watch me writhe in excruciating agony and know that you turned an innocent man—a father, with a family and children—into a horrible mutant! And your shirt is covered with cat hairs!”
The ENTJ glowers at you. “Maybe I will watch you die in agony.”
Your ISTP captor pushes you down the corridors of the fortress, the ENTJ following behind. You are thrust into a cylindrical room that smells of chemicals. There is a pit of lurid blue liquid in the center of the room—a toxic waste disposal. A flimsy catwalk is suspended over the center of the pit.
You stare morbidly down at your fate. Suddenly you feel a renewed urge to change your life. You will start by apologizing to the ENTJ Warlord for saying that his suit is covered with cat hairs. You will then proceed to grovel for your life.
“Uh, what I said about your shirt being covered with hair—” you begin to say, putting on your most humble and repentant expression.
“Don’t mention Boopums with your filthy lips,” the ENTJ Warlord snarls.
“Oh, do you like cats? I do too. They’re wonderful, really. Such noble creatures. Like miniature lions.”
The ENTJ’s eyes are shards of ice. “My cat was kidnapped by my worst enemy and now I’ll never see her again. So instead I’m going to throw you into this vat of nuclear waste. It will slightly lessen my suffering to watch yours.”
The ISTP shoves you onto the catwalk. Below, the toxic waste bubbles hungrily.
“Wait!” you exclaim. “I can help! I can save your cat!”
“I very much doubt that,” the ENTJ says. “Goodbye, ESTP.”
“No, I can! Think about it—I evaded you for months, right? I can disguise myself as anyone, get into anywhere. I can rescue Boopums. Give me a chance.”
“Shut up and die like a man,” the ISTP growls.
You ignore him and focus on the ENTJ. “You want your cat back? I can do it. Throw me in this toxic waste and you gain nothing. I can help you. You know I can.”
The ENTJ crosses his arms and stares down into the vat of toxic waste. Your life hangs by a thread. But the ENTJ is considering your request, because you actually were very difficult to catch. For all the money he threw at the problem, he expected results sooner. Maybe your slippery ways would work where all his previous attempts to rescue his cat failed.
Finally the ENTJ looks up, a sardonic smile playing on his lips. He gestures for the ISTP to haul you back off the catwalk. That smile seems to promise that you may not be grateful for his mercy, but you thank him profusely nonetheless.
You are taken back to his office, untied, and seated in a comfortable leather chair. With easy confidence, you help yourself to a cigar from the box on his desk. The ENTJ stares morosely at the empty cat basket in the corner. Behind you, the ISTP grinds his jaw as if trying to chew nails. You smirk up at him. You knew you would find a way to talk yourself out of this mess. Charm and guile top smug self righteousness every time.
When the ENTJ turns back, you are all smiling solicitude. He unrolls a map across his desk.
“This is the Australian Empire,” he says, brushing the map flat with a manicured hand. “The latest reports indicate that Boopums is being held on Kangaroo Island, just below the southern coast of the mainland.” He taps the island in question, then pulls out another map and spreads it over the first. It is a larger view of Kangaroo Island, with roads and cities marked in red. “This is the research facility where she was last seen,” he says, pointing to a triangle. “You will have to penetrate into the compound, locate her, and extract her without being noticed.”
“No sweat,” you say. No sweat—as in, you are going to bolt to the ends of the earth the second he releases you, and then you’ll never have to worry about any of it.
“If you succeed, I will make you rich beyond your wildest dreams,” the ENTJ says.
Your resolution to flee to the ends of the earth weakens fractionally. But you know that it is better to be alive and poor than rich and dead.
The ENTJ continues, “But if you betray me, you will die.”
Die, shmie. You nonchalantly puff a smoke ring. “Well, when you put it like that. I’ll be loyal to the death.”
It turns out that the ENTJ’s definition of “loyal to the death” is somewhat more literal than yours. When you leave his fortress the next day, you are wearing a collar rigged with explosives. The ISTP, who is your new “partner,” carries the detonator on his belt. You had expected that the ISTP would collect the reward and go be rich and happy, but he didn't. He is such a goody two shoes that he refused to accept a penny of the ten million pseudodollars. You were naturally prepared to hate him for being rich and happy at your expense, but this latest display of self righteousness fills you with unspeakable loathing. The feeling appears to be mutual. You exchange a baleful glance with him as you climb down the hatch of the nuclear submarine that will take you to Australia. It is obvious that only one of you is going to survive this trip, and you intend the survivor to be you.
During the trip over, you puzzle over how to get the collar off. You can’t fiddle with it, or it will explode. You can’t touch (not even touch!) the ISTP’s detonator, or it will explode. You could try to kill the ISTP and run, but then the dead man's switch on the detonator would time out, causing the collar to explode.
You’re sure there must be some way of getting the collar off, but every option you can think of seems to end in an explosion.
Sulkily you try to comfort yourself with the thought of the ultimate riches the ENTJ will shower you with if you succeed. You can completely renovate the orphanage, silence the doubts in the ISFJ Assassin’s eyes, and live as a respected member of the community again. But it’s a lot more likely you’ll end up buried in a shallow grave. And then greasy-haired Rudy will have the field clear to flirt with your girl. You can just imagine him flashing his smarmy grin at the ISFJ as he works his slimeball moves. The very thought turns your face red with blood. You should be back there pounding him with a tire iron, not heading off on some stupid trip to Australia. You don’t even speak Australian.
You turn to the ISTP. “Hey, why don’t we stop at a pet store when we get to Kangaroo Island? I bet we can find a persian cat that looks just like the one he wants back.”
The ISTP fixes you with a cold stare. “No.”
“In the first place, I was paid to do a job and I intend to do it.”
You roll your eyes. “Oh, so you do take money now?”
“In the second place, the cat we’re looking for has six toes on its left front paw. A mutation caused by drinking radioactive dehydrated milk.”
You squirm inwardly. “Wonder how that happened.”
The ISTP makes no response in his self righteous way, and you return to sulking.
As the days pass, you get bored enough to read the materials that the ENTJ Warlord gave you so that you could understand what’s going on in Australia. Basically, the gist of the matter is that Australia is ruled by one man, a (guess what) ENTJ Warlord who happens to hate the ENTJ Warlord who rules your continent. Although they are not prosecuting an active war with each other at the moment, they are nonetheless carrying out a petty little cold war that expresses itself in finding ways to personally irritate each other—i.e. theft of cat. You can hardly believe that you are risking your life for a Rational hissy fight.
After two long, dull weeks, the submarine deposits you and the ISTP on a deserted beach on the western end of Kangaroo Island. If you could see anything, the island would probably be scenic. Kangaroo Island used to be a tourist destination, and even now, years after the collapse of civilization, it remains something of a gated paradise. There are working phones, plumbing, and other pre‑apocalyptic amenities, all maintained by its powerful ENTJ master. Stripping off your fins, you hide your equipment in the bushes. According to your map, you are several miles away from the nearest town.
You walk all night under the stars. City boy that you are, the empty country road creeps you out. You don’t care for the bugs, either. Or those rustling noises coming from the bushes alongside the road. For a guy nicknamed Dingo, you have surprisingly little liking for your native land.
By the time morning dawns, you are worn out and creeped out. It is a relief to arrive at the decrepit little town of New Wallaroo, which is surrounded by an anti-tank barrier and a graffiti-covered cement wall. Out of habit, you stop at the wall to see if there are any bounties posted on you. You see the usual ads for guns and good times, but your name is nowhere to be seen. That is when you know you aren’t in Kansas anymore.
You head up to the gate and bang your fist on the aluminum siding.
"Who is it?" growls a voice from the other side. (They speak English here, but with a funny accent.)
You toss a pack of cigarettes over the gate. “Your fairy godmother.”
There is a long pause. "Alright, come in.”
The gate swings open, the sentry on the other side shoots you a suspicious look. His fellow sentry fingers his drawn AK-47. But they let you enter without gunning you down and stealing your valuables. Nice place; good people.
You and the ISTP head down the main street, taking in the ramshackle scenery. The grim-looking townsfolk follow you with their eyes as they lean against the sides of the shops or lounge at dirty streetside tables. At last you check into the New Wallaroo Bed & Breakfast. The owner sullenly brings you a plate of cold eggs, carrots, and a glass of tepid water. You are hungry enough that it tastes good. Then you head up to your room.
The bed is lumpy, the table unwashed. A spider has built its web in the empty light socket, and a picture of a kangaroo hangs crooked on the wall. You throw down your kit in the corner. You figure you’ll wash up a little, then head out and see if you can sniff up some info on the research facility.
The ISTP observes you suspiciously. “Any plans, scumbag?”
“Yeah, minion. I’m going to see if the pound has any six-toed cats.”
“Don’t leave the area,” the ISTP warns. “Or…” He mimes an explosion with his hands.
“Yeah, yeah. Whatever.” You tuck your gun inside your jacket and head out.
Finding a nearby store, you haggle for a new canteen, some dried meat, and a few boxes of cartridges. The place is almost empty, the merchandise covered with a patina of red dust. You size up the shopkeeper, a bored looking man who constantly itches his beard, and decide not to ask him any questions. Instead you slap down a few more of the local bills and ask, “Do you sell candy by any chance? And how about a baseball, or something?”
Stocked up with hideously overpriced sweets and an old volleyball, you head off to find some informants. Kids know everything, and you’re betting one of them will have information about the mysterious compound reputed to be located eight miles north of New Wallaroo.
It isn’t long before you find a gang of kids playing with a tire on the street. You bounce the volleyball against a crumbling wall, and soon you have an audience. You smile at the little crowd of curious faces. “You guys know how to play basketball?”
By the end of the afternoon, you are best friends with Spitball Mickey, Fireman, Lips, Rags, Bandit, and the Spider. During a candy break, you begin asking questions.
“Yeah, there are army men,” Spitball Mickey says, nodding sagely. “They come when it’s dark and take away anyone who’s bad.”
“They have guns,” Rags adds.
“And they’ll make you into a mutant,” the Spider says. He lowers his voice to a whisper and adds, “Me and Sunny snuck out to see. We heard them.”
“The army men?” you ask. “…Or the mutants?”
“Mutants! Huge slobbering mutants with—”
Lips rolls his eyes, dragging at a cigarette. “You didn’t see any mutants. They don’t keep them outside.”
“But there are mutants?” you probe.
“Yeah. They buy ‘em. The nastier the better,” Lips says, jerking his head in the direction of the unseen compound. “And don’t cause trouble or you’ll end up as a volunteer for an experiment.”
“Wait. So you’ve actually been out to see this…place where the mutants are? I gotta see this,” you say, trying to sound curious despite the chill running down your spine. “How about it, anyone want to show me sometime? I’ll pay in candy.”
A chorus of eager offers goes up.
“I’ll take you,” Lips says. “But the price will be in nicotine.” He taps the ash off his cigarette as the other children watch in envy.
“Deal,” you say. “Tomorrow night, then?”
You make arrangements with Lips, then leave the rest of the candy with the kids and head off. You haven’t gone half a block before you find the ISTP slouching against a building, chewing on a matchstick. He stares at you with the kind of disgust reserved especially for people who can orphans and sell them as spam.
You glare at him. “Go ahead, say it.”
He spits out the matchstick, saying nothing.
“I never canned a single orphan in my whole life,” you growl. “Oh, and I found someone to take us out to the compound tomorrow. You’re welcome.”
You head back to the motel and try catch a nap, but it’s hard to find sleep. You don’t have a clue how you will get into the compound. And even if you do get inside, how will you find the cat? Uneasily you tug at the explosive collar around your neck.
After tossing and turning for a couple hours, you decide to hit the local bar and grill. You’ve been wanting to practice your accent, and this will be a good place to begin.
You had planned to go alone, but the ISTP accompanies you like a good little chaperon. How are you going to kill him? You haven’t come up with a way yet, but somehow you will. ISTPs are the world's most obnoxious type.
The centerpiece of the bar is a stuffed kangaroo knocking back a bottle of booze. The flag of the Australian Empire hangs on one wall; very patriotic. You order whatever the kangaroo is having. It feels remarkably good to have a drink in a place where no one is trying to kill you.
Since you’re here, you might as well see if you can dig up more information about the facility. You strike up a conversation with a woman who wears a shotgun shell hanging around her scarred neck.
“So what’s up with that?” you say, pointing to the empty shell.
“I hunt roos for a living,” the ISFP says, idly fondling her necklace. “The killers, anyway.”
The ISTP leans forward with interest. “Really? I do a little bit of hunting myself.”
“Oh?” she says. “What do you hunt?”
“Killers,” he replies, glancing at you. “Of the human variety.”
Haha, you think. But you smile suavely at the roo hunter and buy her a drink.
As it happens, you’ve stumbled over a goldmine of information. The woman is an ISFP Ghost who tracks down the mutant kangaroos that terrorize the area. She brings them in to the research facility to collect the mutation bounty.
“Yeah, those reds can be nasty,” the ISFP says, pulling back her sleeves to reveal lurid lines of scars. You have a hunch that every inch of her skin is scars. “They weigh as much as a man, and the big ones stand six feet tall. They can outrun you, outjump you, and outkick you. And that’s just the normals. The mutant ones—well, they don’t go down easy. Once I tranqued a big venom spitter with three darts. Took him half an hour to—”
“Tranqued? You use tranquilizer darts?” you ask.
She shrugs. “The labcoats pay double if you bring ‘em in alive.”
“They want to study the mutations so that they can map radiation zones. It’s a big government project.”
You exchange an intrigued glance with the ISTP. “Say we wanted to bring in a mutant. Where would we go to drop it off?”
“Head ten miles up the road,” she says, sipping her drink. “There’s a whole big lab complex. You can leave your catch at the gatehouse up front.”
“Labs, huh? I bet they do creepy experiments in there.”
“Nah, it’s all pretty dull. Well, mostly.” She gives a lopsided smile. “Once, one of the big boomers I sent them—Rojo Grande they named it, a red—woke up before they had him caged. They had to call me back to catch him.”
You imagine an angry kangaroo hopping about in some sterile white laboratory. “That must have been…interesting.”
She takes a deep drink, then itches the scars on her neck. “It killed twelve people before I put it down.” Then she laughs. “But you know what? The thing still wasn’t dead, and that was after I sprayed a full clip into its chest. Finally we managed to trap it in a cell.”
Sounds like a whopper, but you don’t call her on it. “Tough job.”
She shrugs. “I like it.”
You are tempted to ask about whether she has seen a cat while she was at the labs, but you know better than to ask.
The ISFP Ghost entertains you for the rest of the night with her stories of mutant roos, and the ISTP shares some of his stories about hunting down innocent people that he has labeled as evil criminals. You shift restlessly, trying to turn the conversation to another topic, but the ISFP Ghost smiles at the ISTP and nods encouragement. He buys her another drink. By the end of the night they are practically batting their eyelashes at each other. How sweet.
You walk away from the bar with a thorough knowledge of kangaroos. There are large grey kangaroos and even larger red kangaroos. There are also medium kangaroos called “wallaroos” and small kangaroos called “wallabies.” The ISTP walks away from the bar with the ISFP’s phone number.
The next day, you meet Lips at the arranged place. He looks you and the ISTP over; you can see him wondering why you want to go to the facility, and whether it would really be a wise idea to take you there. Before he can chicken out, you make a down payment of cigarettes.
“How long will it take to get there?” you ask.
Lips hesitates, looking at the package of cigarettes pressed into his hands. Greed overcomes common sense. “Couple hours.”
The sun hangs low. “Will we make it in time?” you ask.
“If we go fast,” Lips says. “You brought a torch? We’ll need it for the way back.”
You produce a flashlight. “Let’s go then. I wanna see.”
Just as you are about to depart, you hear the patter of little feet. You look back and find Spitball Mickey, Fireman, and the Spider hurrying up. They are grinning with excitement.
“No,” you say peremptorily.
“We want to come along,” Spitball Mickey says. “We can help you.”
“Nope,” you say, shaking your head. “You can’t come. We’re going fast and you wouldn’t be able to keep up.”
“We can so keep up,” Fireman says.
“Tell you what. Tomorrow we’ll get together for a game, huh?” you say. “But right now I’ve gotta go, and you can’t come. Nope, sorry, I mean it.”
The kids are disappointed, but you are firm. Leaving them behind, you follow Lips out of the front gate. The sentries lock things up after you.
It is the first time you have seen Kangaroo Island in the daylight. The country is open, a patchwork of cultivated farms and overgrown ex-farms. It’s rather pretty, in a postcardy sort of way. Then the brush closes in and the farms vanish. You don’t like being surrounded by trees. It feels like they’re watching you.
For awhile, you wonder if Lips intends to walk straight down the road to the facility—which seems like a bad idea, to say the least. But then he steps off the roadside and into the scratchy, bug-filled scrub, where you discover a narrow trail. You really don’t like the thought of being out here after dark. And the sun is already sinking behind the trees.
Lips leads you along the path for another half hour, moving quickly and quietly. Dusk falls as you push your way through face-scratching branches. Sometimes you hear ominous noises in the brush. Thinking of the ISFP Ghost’s stories about the kangaroos, you glance nervously behind you. It is almost dark now. Any number of horrible things could be hiding in the shadows, staring at you with hungry yellow eyes.
Finally even the trail is left behind, and you crawl up a dry gully on your hands and knees. As you go higher and higher, the shrubs begins to thin out and the ground grows rocky. Finally Lips motions you to halt. Your aching knees twist on unseen stones.
“We’re here,” he whispers. He points at a patch of dead shrubs. “That way.”
Cautiously you crawl in the direction indicated. Peering out of the brush, you are dazzled by light. Below is a brilliantly lit compound surrounded by a tall fence. There are armed men patrolling the perimeter.
You compare the scene below to your mental map of the research compound. As you remembered, there are two buildings, one a lab and the other a holding facility for the mutations. You decide the one on the near side must be the lab—it looks like you imagine a scientific facility should look, with smooth white walls, airy windows, and a swooshy titanium tsunami hanging mounted on the side. A neat lawn surrounds the building, and there are benches shaded by shrubberies and eucalyptus trees. It almost looks inviting. Not like the building on the far side. The holding facility is built like a fortress, with ugly cement walls, barred slit windows, and things that look like turrets on the roof. Knowing your luck, the cat is locked up in there. But didn't the ENTJ's documents say something about Boopums being in the “lab”? A cat isn't a mutation, after all.
You are just turning to Lips to ask whether any animals are kept in the lab when the sirens go off.
You freeze. “…Lips, please tell me this is some kind of drill?”
But Lips is scurrying away as fast as his hands and knees can take him. You swear.
As you watch, all the slit windows in the cement fortress go dark. Shots ring out. No, this is no drill—but the alarm seems to have nothing to do with you. Guardsmen pour into the cement fortress, shouting unintelligible commands. You huddle down in the bushes and observe.
The scene quickly turns chaotic. Personnel in uniforms and labcoats are running in every direction. Spotlights flare on along the roof of the lab. The situation is so messy that if you were down there now, you could probably walk out with Boopums under your arm without anyone noticing. Which is a thought, actually.
You're never one to miss an opportunity, and you won't get a chance like this again soon. Abruptly you make a decision. Clambering to your feet, you head down toward the facility.
“Where are you going?” the ISTP hisses.
“To get the cat, duh,” you reply.
“They’re distracted. It’s the perfect time to sneak in.”
“You don’t even know what’s going on! Or where the cat is!”
You shrug. “I’ll figure it out. Tell you what, if you think it’s too dangerous, then stay here and knit a doily or play with your paper dolls or something. I’ll take care of this. So long.”
You begin skidding down the hill. After a moment, you hear rocks sliding and curses as the ISTP follows.
Reaching the base of the hill, you emerge onto the road. The gatehouse is just ahead, but it looks dark and empty. Nonetheless, you stride up and rap loudly on the window.
A distracted guard appears from the gloom. He frowns at you.
“I came as quickly as I could, but my motorcycle broke down,” you say, producing exaggerated wheezes of exertion. “What’s going on?”
The guard is uneasy at your sudden appearance out of the night. “Who are you?”
“I’m the veterinarian from New Wallaroo,” you say. “I heard something about a cat vomiting blood? What's with all the sirens?”
“There’s an alert right now; you should come back tomorrow,” the guard says.
“Given the severity of the cat’s symptoms, I wouldn’t advise that,” you say. “And I was hoping someone could at least drive me back to town? I walked all this way in the dark.”
The guard hesitates, glancing around for help from a partner who isn’t there. And then the ISTP smashes him in the skull with the butt of his pistol. Everyone is so focused on the action inside the compound that nobody is watching for intruders climbing over the fence right by the guardhouse itself.
Another team might have exchanged a pat on the back for good teamwork. You and the ISTP glower at each other as he lets you inside. You struggle into the fallen guard’s uniform. There is a duffel bag full of someone’s off-duty clothes in the corner, and you empty it out and sling it over your shoulder. You’ll need something to carry the cat out with.
Loosening your gun in its holster, you step out of the guardhouse and head toward the lab at an urgent pace. Everybody is so busy running around like headless chickens that they don’t notice you. Easily you pass through across the lawn and through the gardens. So far so good. The front doors loom ahead.
With a deep breath, you walk inside. The doors slide magically open in front of you. Within, a blond receptionist is pulling on her coat. An alarm whoops overhead. On the far side of the lobby, nervous-looking scientist types are milling in front of an elevator. As you watch, a group squeezes inside. The elevator drops.
“I know this is a bad time, but the veterinarian is here for the cat,” you say, jerking your hand at the ISTP. Now that you’re a guard, you can’t be the vet anymore.
“Cat?” the receptionist echoes.
“Yes,” you say. “A white persian.”
“Oh,” the receptionist says. “The one that won’t eat unless you sprinkle the food with caviar. I think it’s down with the koalas. I would call someone to take you, but we have to go…” She makes an apologetic face, gesturing at the crowd.
“It’s alright, we can deal with the cat ourselves,” you say, smiling your most friendly smile. “Just give us the room number and we’ll find our way. She’s been vomiting blood. It’s kind of an emergency.”
The receptionist doesn’t want the blood of an innocent cat on her hands, so she dutifully looks up the information on her computer.
“Room 242,” she says, pointing. “Down that hallway, take a right, and ask for Dr. Laney—if he’s still there.”
“Thanks so much,” you say, producing another smile.
What a cakewalk! You waltz down the hallway, shouldering past the stream of departing scientists, and shortly find yourself in front of Room 242. It is locked.
You knock urgently. “Dr. Laney sent me! It’s an emergency!”
The door swings open. Standing there is the ISFP Ghost. She stares at your guard uniform. “What are you doing here?”
Shit. You grin wildly. “Heeeey! Fancy meeting you on my first day! Actually, I just got hired yesterday. How about you? You bring in a killer koala or something?”
“As a matter of fact…” she says, pulling the door all the way open to let you in.
Room 242 is a long aisle of ceiling-high cages. They all hold fat koalas lolling comfortably in the crotches of artificial trees. At the far end are a series of smaller cages—the right size for a cat. Wasting no time, you head down there.
A white ball of fur is curled up in one of the cages on the bottom row. Boopums shows every sign of being fat, happy, and comfortable. She yawns as you step closer, revealing a delicate pink tongue and tiny white teeth. One of her extended paws has an extra toe. She doesn’t seem bothered in the slightest by the alarm blaring overhead.
You unzip the duffel bag. The ISTP unlatches the cage.
“Niiiiice kitty,” he mutters, reaching in and pulling her out.
The cat doesn’t seem to mind being held, either. She lies bonelessly in his arms, purring. You smile at the sight. “Awwwww.”
“Stuff it, scumbag.”
You hold open the duffel bag; he puts her inside. Then you zip it up again before Boopums can escape. Scratching comes from within.
“What are you doing?” the ISFP asks.
“We have to evacuate the cat,” you explain. “Apparently there’s some vet in town who’s supposed to take a look at her? I don’t know, exactly. Well, nice seeing you.”
“Are you heading out through the front gate?” she asks. “Can you give me an escort?”
You rub your explosive collar uncomfortably as you think of the unconscious guard slumped on the floor in his underwear. “Uh, maybe you should join the evacuation? We have a few other places to go first…”
“They’re not evacuating, they’re just going into an underground shelter,” she says. “I hate bunkers. And I’ve been waiting here twenty minutes. I think they forgot about me.”
“O-o-okay,” you say reluctantly. You’ll just pretend to be as shocked about the guard as she is. Yeah, that’s what you’ll do. Cakewalk, cakewalk.
By now the front lobby is silent and deserted. Good, nobody to stop you. The glass doors have been sealed over by a pair of steel panels, but they open as you stride outside.
You trip over a corpse. The cat gives a frightened meow as the duffel bag tumbles to the ground. Looking down at the obstacle under your feet, you suck in a sharp breath. The man’s face is a mass of bleeding red blisters, his eyes twin pools of blood.
Screams draw your attention from the corpse. There are shadows darting about the courtyard—strange, hunched over shadows. The ISFP Ghost hisses a curse. “Roos! Hide!” She darts towards a garden topiary cut in the shape of a kangaroo. You snatch up the cat and dart for cover.
Crouched in a pile of old cigarette butts, you peer back at the corpse. “What’s going on?”
She shakes her head. “I don’t know. It looks like there’s been some kind of breakout or something. I can see at least…fifteen grey kangaroos out there.”
A shrieking guard runs by your hiding place. His clothing is torn and bloody, his face a mask of terror. As you watch, a blurred grey form slams into him. He goes down. Before you can react the kangaroo sinks its snake-like fangs into his shoulder.
The man’s skin flushes an unnatural purple. He begins to scream; his back arcs and his body writhes in convulsions. Shrinking down behind the hedge, you grit your teeth. The ISFP Ghost’s stories about venomous wallaroos didn’t tell the half of it.
Releasing its gurgling victim, the kangaroo rises on its hind legs and begins grooming itself. Its fuzzy teddy bear face is bizarrely cute.
“Another grey,” the ISFP mutters. “Only greys are loose. Thank goodness.”
“‘Thank goodness?’” you echo incredulously.
“I don’t see any reds,” she says. “If the reds were loose…”
“I guess we’d better head down to the shelter,” you say, though the thought of becoming trapped with dozens of your supposed coworkers sounds like a recipe for disaster.
“I think the door locked shut behind us,” the ISFP says grimly. “The containment protocol is supposed to keep the labs sealed off from the holding cells in case of a break out.”
“Great,” you mutter.
You turn to look at the gatehouse. The little shack is sixty, seventy feet away? Maybe you could make it if you ran—or maybe not. There is a mob of kangaroos gathered around the shack, kicking and pawing at the door. They’re obviously trying to get out of the compound, but the gatehouse seems sturdily built.
Maybe you could climb the fence elsewhere, then? Your gaze trails along the chain link fence, looking for an inconspicuous spot to make your ascent. Three small pale circles hovering in the darkness beyond the wire catch your attention. You focus on them and they resolve into faces pressed wide-eyed against the chain link mesh. Spider, Spitball Mickey and Fireman.
Damn. What are they doing here? They followed you, of course, the little idiots. If the kangaroos manage to escape...
But another pair of eyes has noticed the kids. As you watch, a grey kangaroo hops towards the trio.
The ISFP Ghost is saying something about sneaking through the garden to a tunnel somewhere. You grab her by the arm and point urgently at the kangaroo.
“Venom spitter. It doesn’t notice us,” she says. Turning back to the ISTP, she continues, “Anyway, I have a key card that will let us into the tunnel in back, if we can just make it to—”
But you are no longer listening. In the silence of your head, you beg the three boys to notice the approaching kangaroo, but their eyes are glued to the grim milieu playing out in the compound. The grey bounds towards them with effortless grace, its neck arching back, its mouth opening— Run you fools!
Before you can think, you leap out of hiding. With a banshee scream, you race for the venom spitter, waving your arms. The kangaroo turns its fuzzy face to look at you. You fire two rounds into its head. It goes down in a spray of blood. The kids stare at you in paralyzed horror.
“Run!” you roar. They don’t move. “Mickey! Spider! Fireman! Run!”
The sound of their names being called breaks the trio out of their stupor. As one, they take to their heels and vanish into the darkness. You are left standing alone in the middle of the compound. Every single kangaroos in the kangaroo in the compound is staring at you. You look back at the clinic’s locked steel doors. The only sound is the lone curse word that falls from your numb lips.
Your eyes dart to the holding facility. From your new angle you can see an automatic door stuck half open, its path blocked by the corpse of a dead guard. Inside are solid grey walls lit by red emergency lights. You sprint for that dark sanctuary.
Seconds later you are inside. There is no time to yank out the dead guard. You whirl around and fire blindly at the shadowy shapes pouring in through the doorway. Four bullets. Blam blam blam blam. And then your gun is empty.
Two of the kangaroos fall, and two more claw at their bloody chests. The others draw back, but do not retreat. Instead they fan out, encircling you. Even more are pouring in through the door. With a snarl of defiance, you hurl your empty gun at the leader’s face. Futile. The mob closes in.
Then all the kangaroos go rigid. You too freeze, and in the silence, a faint sound comes to your ears, a vibrating, deep-throated thrum that rises into a screech like the sound of a nail being pulled out by a claw hammer. The mob of kangaroos stands motionless, ears perked. Then, as one they turn silently and hop back out the doorway.
All your breath goes out in a trembling gasp. Somehow, miraculously, you are alive. You stumble forward and yank the dead guard out of the doorway; the automatic door slides shut with a loud snak. You are safe.
For a moment, you just stand there, gasping. There must be a saint that looks after ESTPs. But now you must decide what to do. You need more ammunition. Your first task is to go find some. You head stealthily down the corridor, gripping your pocket knife in your hand.
The fortress is as silent as a tomb. As you make your way down the red-lit hallways, looking for a gun or a shelter or anyone, really, you realize that you’re on your own now. The ISTP has the cat and the girl; you’ll be lucky if he doesn’t blow your collar as a goodbye present. They’re probably down in the underground shelter making out.
But at least now the ISTP have to believe that you didn’t make the orphans into spam. You bet he’ll feel really sorry for how he misjudged you, as he toasts his success with the ISFP Ghost at the bar tomorrow night.
You find a new gun amidst the bloody remains of a guard. Wiping the gore off, you check the chamber and find one bullet. Great. Well, it could be worse, you think. It could be zombies. Except that zombies can’t run forty miles per hour or spit venom. Oh well; at least now you're armed. Next up: safety. Suddenly an underground shelter is looking pretty good.
You wander around aimlessly until you stumble upon a room that reminds you of the koala cages back at the labs, except with wrist-thick bars and reinforced glass. The doors are hanging open, the cages empty. You step over the corpses of kangaroos and guards. This must be where the big breakout happened.
Each cell has a clipboard hanging to the right. Curious, you take one down. The emergency lights don’t provide enough light to read by, so you flick on your flashlight. The little yellow beam makes you feel eerily exposed.
The content of the clipboard is too technical for you to understand, but you gather that the kangaroo which was kept in this cage was named “Chewer,” a 180 lb female, “K-IQ 65, ENHNCD SRGTH, ENHNCD SPD - VERY DANGEROUS.” Joy.
Putting the clipboard back, you turn off your flashlight and blink to readjust your eyes. As you do so, you notice something that you hadn’t before—a stiffened kangaroo corpse lying at the far end of the hallway. Most of the marsupial bodies you have seen thus far have been riddled with bullet holes. But not this one.
You pad closer, each soft step unnervingly loud in the silence. How did the kangaroo come to have its limbs ripped from its body? None of the guards would do that. Then you realize something else. The kangaroo’s fur isn’t grey—it’s fawn red.
A new hallway of cages spreads out before you. As before, the barred doors stand open, but there is one crucial difference: each cage contains the bloody remains of a red kangaroo ripped limb from limb. Only the last cage is different. Standing at the end of row, the enclosure has a metal plaque that reads “ROJO GRANDE (SP. #3228) Warning: spray causes paralysis. Warning: bars are electrified.” Protective glass lies in shards about the floor. The twisted bars are bent outward like the legs of a metal spider.
And whatever happened to specimen #3228, anyway? You reach for the clipboard, intending to read it—but then you notice the contents of the cage. Your skin prickles and every hair stands on end. The bodies of a dozen dead guards are heaped against the back wall.
You decide that you will explore a different part of the facility.
After you search the bodies for ammunition. (You never did know when to quit.) You gp inside and begin to pat down the belt of the nearest corpse. Success! The dead guard is wearing a bullet belt with no less than fourteen rounds in it. You reload your gun and greedily fill your pockets. You can never have enough bullets, never. You decide to search the rest of the guards too.
And then you hear a heavy thump, thump, thump. It’s coming down the hallway toward you. Your lust for ammunition vanishes abruptly.
Specimen #3228, aka Rojo Grande, is bringing another dead guard to add to his collection. His fur is red—not tawny red, but a deep brown, crusty red that flakes from his fur as he hops inside the cell. Bloodshot eyes peer out of his deerlike face. He seems surprised to see you looting his lair.
“Hi,” you say. You fire six bullets into his furry chest. He stares down at himself, then looks back at you. You can’t help but notice that he isn’t dying. In fact, the red rips in his flesh are oozing shut. More bullets. You need more bullets. Your hand darts for your pocket. Rojo Grande snarls and leaps.
The rank, coppery smell of his fur fills your nostrils as he smashes into you, knocking you back onto the pile of corpses. You give a grunt as 200 pounds of kangaroo comes down hard on your chest. It hurts. Good thing the corpses cushioned your impact, or your ribs might be jutting through your lungs right now. Rojo Grande rears back on his tail, drawing his hindquarters up for another blow. His weight is off. You twist out of the way. Just in time—his feet slam into the spot where you were lying. Rolling off the corpse mound, you scramble to your feet. Your eyes dart to the cell door. In this cell you’re trapped. You dart for the exit.
Rojo twirls, lethally graceful. His tail slams into your chest. It feels like a truck hit you; you go flying into the wall. Crack goes your skull against the concrete. Pain pulses a dizzy rhythm in your brain.
Rojo Grande's lips curl in a snarl that exposes dagger teeth. His venom sacs are swollen, ready to spit, but he doesn’t. He seems to prefer more visceral methods of killing. Growling deep in his throat, he hops closer.
You back up until you find yourself caught in a corner. Rojo Grande gives a long, serpentine hiss. He gathers himself up. You feebly put up your fists.
He leaps. Thunder roars.
Your adversary twists in mid-flight. Instead of striking you, Rojo Grande slams bonelessly into the wall beside you. You stare at him, bewildered. He lies there motionless. What happened? Did those six rounds you drilled into him do their job after all?
“Aim for the brain, scumbag,” the ISTP says.
You whirl around. Your enemy stands outside the cell, his gun trained on the fallen kangaroo.
“You!” you cry. “What are you doing here?”
His mouth twists in a sort of wry grimace. “You do have one redeeming quality.” He holsters his gun and pulls out a walky-talky. “I’ve got him. Meet you at the tunnel.”
“Hurry,” the ISFP Ghost says tersely.
The ISTP hooks the radio on his belt. “Follow me, scum.”
“I have one more redeeming quality than you’ll ever have,” you mutter, but not loudly. “Where’s the cat? And what tunnel?”
You head down a set of stairs. According to the ISTP, there is an underground tunnel that leads outside the fence. To reach it, you have to go down to the lowest level of the facility.
“Level 1 - Exotics,” you read aloud. “Wonder what that means.”
The ISTP gives an introverted grunt, which you take to mean that he doesn’t know. Apparently you’ll find out what the sign means when some new radioactively-enhanced monster charges at you with a hungry scream.
But the next mutation you encounter is nothing like you had expected.
“What are those?” you say, staring at what appear to be a flock of fat balloons floating aimlessly in the corridor. Some are the size of your head, others as large as beach balls. Each “balloon” is equipped with a thousand waving knife-tipped tendrils. The creatures begin beating their cilia in sync, and float gently in your direction. Soon a hundred little knife-tipped tendrils are all straining toward you. They are slow, but you back up a step nonetheless. You look at the ISTP. He is silent.
“Is there any other way around?” you ask.
Experimentally, you point your gun at the balloon in front and fire. It explodes with a pop. A greasy yellow wisp of gas fills the air.
“Don’t shoot them,” the ISTP says. “Poison gas.”
You had just come to the same conclusion. The air has a stinging smell that brings tears to your eyes. “Maybe we can knock them out of the way, like with a baseball bat or something.”
You retrace your steps and stumble upon a small office where you find a yardstick that looks suitable for nudging carnivorous balloons out of the way. It isn’t exactly a baseball bat, but it’ll do. You also grab a fancy pen, an expensive-looking paperweight, and a bag of jelly beans from the employee’s desk. (Yes, real jelly beans! Kangaroo Island has everything!)
The ISTP fixes you with an exasperated look as you stuff the pockets of your jacket.
“I’m not stealing, I’m looting,” you say self righteously. “Besides, I’m hungry.”
You toss a handful of jelly beans in your mouth and experience pure bliss; all the running and fighting you have been doing for the past half hour (has it really only been half an hour?) has given you a ravenous appetite. You lick your fingers, which taste of sugar, blood, sweat, and bullet casings.
The ISTP stares at the jelly beans, swallows, and turns away.
Innocently you hold out the bag to him, as Eve held out the apple to Adam. “Here, have some. The owner’s probably dead by now anyway.”
“No,” the ISTP growls.
“Okay, if you’re sure,” you say, devouring another handful. Inside you are laughing at him, though you are also annoyed that you have not been able to drag him down to your level. You chew loudly, smacking your lips.
Returning to the balloon-filled hallway, you put your idea to the test. The first balloon you poke immediately grabs the yardstick with its cilia and firmly attaches itself. When you try to shake it off, you can’t. Okay, no problem. You’ll just use the clinging balloon as a club to knock other balloons out of the way.
But when you try this, something unexpected happens. The moment the balloon clinging to your yardstick strikes the balloon you were trying to move aside, the balloons merge together like droplets of water.
“What the hell!” you exclaim. Now there is one large balloon clinging to your yardstick.
Okay, no problem. You’ll just merge all the balloons into one enormous balloon, then move it down the hall. You begin touching the enlarged balloon to as many other balloons as you can. They are absorbed, and the central balloon grows larger and larger.
“What are you doing?” the ISTP says.
“We’ll just make all the balloons into one large balloon,” you explain. “Then we can move it down the hall and get rid of it.”
Your idea works all too well. More and more balloons merge, and soon the resulting blob takes up half the hallway. The small balloons are ignoring you now; they all head towards the growing mass. In fact, all the balloons seem to have taken up the idea of merging, even the ones you didn’t touch. Balloons all the way down the corridor are consolidating into larger and larger balls.
Finally you stop; if the yardstick balloon gets any bigger, you won’t be able to move it. Also, the balloon has begun to work its way up the yardstick, and those knife-tipped tentacles are getting dangerously close to your fingers. You head back up the hallway and toss the yardstick-and-balloon into a corner.
When you return, the ISTP is slowly backing away from a mass of flesh-and-knife-tentacles that is oozing down the hallway. The smaller balloons have all merged, and now there is nothing but a huge blob of bloated flesh that completely blocks the way. The mass is expanding towards you, all the little cilia reaching hungrily in your direction. Crap.
“Well?” the ISTP says, seeming to imply that this all is your fault.
“Well, what?” you snap. “I didn’t hear any good ideas from the introvert section.”
The ISTP turns and starts walking back down the hallway.
“Where are you going?” you ask.
“We’ll have to fight our way out through the compound,” he says grimly.
“Why don’t we just hold our breath and shoot this thing?” you say, pointing at the knife balloon.
“The gas inside it is X3 Toxin,” he says. “Inhaled, it makes the linings of your lungs dissolve. On the skin, it raises masses of blisters. In the eyes, it causes blindness.”
“Why didn’t you say so earlier?” you exclaim, blinking. Your eyes have been feeling slightly itchy ever since you popped that first balloon. You wipe them off with your shirt sleeve, which seems to make it worse.
“It was only a small exposure. Not enough to kill you.”
“So it just cripples me, that’s all?”
“Follow me, scumbag.”
“Wait,” you say. “Are you sure there’s not another way around?” It’s hard to believe that you are being so effectively thwarted by a creature that you could pop with one bullet.
“There’s only one other route, and it’s locked up.”
You pop a blue jelly bean in your mouth. “How powerful are the explosives in my collar? Could they blow through a door?”
The ISTP falls silent. You expect that the answer is yes. But of course neither of you is thinking about that. You know that he knows that the collar is the only thing keeping you from slipping a shank through his ribs. Still, at the moment you both have good reason to keep each other alive. Surely he can trust you, for now?
“You might be onto something,” the ISTP says at last. He calls the ISFP Ghost on the radio. She listens to your idea.
“Yeah, that could work,” she says. “Look for a hallway on the right. There should be one that will let you into the other section, then you’ll be able to reach the tunnel. And you’d better hurry.”
You head back down the hallway and soon find a solid looking steel door blocking off a hallway. The words “Authorized Personnel Only” are stenciled across it in yellow letters. Now for the tricky part. The ISTP pulls out the detonator controller and begins fiddling with the buttons.
Suddenly the sweaty circle of metal around your neck feels choking. “It’s been over a week. You still remember the combo to get it off, right?”
“Don’t distract me.”
That’s not exactly reassuring. You clam up. A moment later the collar releases with a click. You let out a long breath as you pull it off.
After planting the collar at the base of the door, you retreat safely down the hallway. The ISTP hits another button and there is a resounding boom. You return to the door and find it disintegrated; it is not pleasant to think that this could have been your head.
Stepping carefully through the jagged hole, you find yourself in a new corridor. To your surprise, the floor is curiously slick, as if were coated in glue.
“What’s this?” you say, lifting your foot. A strand of mucus rises up to join your shoe to the floor. Gross.
“This way,” the ISTP says. He heads down the corridor, picking his way carefully across the slippery floor.
It isn’t long before you find the source of the slime. An enormous yellow slug is oozing slowly down the hallway, leaving a trail of mucus in its wake. As you cautiously cover it with your gun, it turns to examine you. You and the slug gaze at one another. It waves its eyestalks curiously.
“Look harmless enough,” you remark.
“Never underestimate a mutation,” the ISTP says.
“What’s it gonna do, slime us to death?” Your eyes are itching again. You’re probably going blind. You raise your arm up and rub your eyes off on your sleeve. Damn balloons.
What happens next you do not see. There is a sound like a kid barfing on a roller coaster, and the next thing you know you are covered with warm liquid. With a cry, you drop your arm. You are splattered with green slime—all except your face, which was shielded by your sleeve. The source of the slime is a mouthlike orifice that has opened in the slug’s head region. You fire a round into the slug’s flesh. It hits with a wet smack.
The slug does not react.
Within the space of a single moment, you make a scientific deduction: an invertebrate with a microscopic brain and no discernible organs will likely not be affected by tiny bits of lead embedded in its nerveless, spineless body. Although the brilliance of your discovery doubtless deserves honors, you opt for bolting back behind the corner.
A moment later, you realize that the ISTP hasn't followed.
Peering cautiously around the corner, you see why. He is writhing on the ground, making mmrrrrrg sounds as he claws at the slime on his face. At first you think his eyes are being eaten out by acid, but then you notice that the green vomit now looks hard and rubbery. The stuff on you has hardened too. So maybe he’s just suffocating to death. The slug is oozing slowly towards him, intent on its fallen prey.
You ponder whether or not it would be worth the bother of saving him. You'd love to watch him get eaten alive by a slug, but without his help it'll be more difficult to escape the complex. But it’s not like you have much further to go. Besides, you have no idea if you can get the slime off his face now that it’s hardened. He’s not going to be any help to you blind. And anyway, his death would give you a heckuva lot of delayed gratification.
The bastard did save you from Rojo Grande.
You drum your fingers on your leg, annoyed at him for being such an insufferable goody two shoes. The ISTP tried to get you—an innocent man—thrown into a vat of nuclear waste. In fact, it’s his fault you got sent off on this suicide mission to begin with. So why not leave him to die?
But you don’t move. You hate the ISTP—but not for what he’s done to you. No, the real reason you hate him is that he makes you feel small compared to him, even though you’re just trying to make your way in a tough world the best you know how. He wouldn’t even take a damn jelly bean from you.
But even he had to admit that you had one redeeming quality, and as much as you loathe him, that backhanded compliment gives you a perverse feeling of satisfaction. If you saved him, how many redeeming qualities would he say you had then? Two? Ha! He’d have to admit you were the better man. You want him to admit he was wrong about you, not just once, but many times, in front of witness who will chide him for being so judgmental but praise you for your generous, forgiving nature. Which he will find absolutely maddening.
Hell with it. You’ll save the bastard, and you’ll never let him forget it. Maybe your motives aren’t pure, but then again, you’re no moralist. You just do what’s best for you and the people you care about, and don’t worry too much about the mess you make on the way. Right now the strange love-hate mixture you feel toward your enemy means that you’re going to pull his introverted butt out of the fire even though you also want him dead. Covering your face with your sleeve, you step out from behind the corner.
The slug “sees” you. It turns its head towards you, its orifice opening again. You draw the bag of jelly beans from your coat pocket and hurl it at that hole as hard as you can. The bag vanishes with a slorping sound.
The slug stops dead. Its antennae wriggle thoughtfully. You don’t waste time waiting so see whether it likes pink or blue. In three quick steps, you scoop up the ISTP and throw him to your shoulder. It’s like hefting a limp human sandbag. Wheezing, you stagger around the slug’s recumbent form, skidding on slime but somehow keeping your feet. You hurry down the hallway. The slug vanishes behind you.
When you feel safe enough to stop, you set the ISTP down. You draw your pocket knife. After entertaining one last wishful thought about how you would like to use it, you resign yourself to slitting a hole in the rubbery vomit-mask so that the ISTP can breath. It’s hard to tell whether or not he’s still alive. Well, if he expects you to give him CPR, he’s going to be sorely disappointed.
Folding your knife back up, you heave him back up to your shoulder and continue onward. Might as well give him the benefit of the doubt.
At last you seen an exit sign. Finally you’re at the tunnel. There, that wasn't so hard.
Rojo Grande steps out of the shadows.
“Bleep of a bleep!” you scream, dropping the ISTP.
You snatch for your gun, but Rojo Grande is fast as a spitting cobra. Before you can draw he inflates his venom sacs and sprays. You feel warm, wet spittle covering your fingers. Then numbness. He deliberately targeted your hand.
You try to squeeze the trigger, but your paralyzed fingers do not respond. Desperate, you transfer the gun to your other hand, but it’s too late—in one hop, Rojo Grande leaps for you. You go down hard, a pair of kangaroo feet planted on your chest. There is a crack that was probably your sternum. Pinned by his body weight, you lay there, wheezing helplessly. So close! You were so close! Rojo Grande hisses in your face.
The walky-talky goes off. “Where are you?” the ISFP asks impatiently.
Rojo Grande pauses, his snakelike fangs poised inches from your neck. He jerks up, looking around for the source of the voice. You remember that the ISFP was the one who brought him in.
He hopes off you and goes over to the radio. Seizing it in his mouth, he shakes it angrily. Does he recognize the ISFP’s voice from the time she put him down?
“Hello? Hello?” the ISFP asks.
Left handed, you grab your gun and take aim at Rojo Grande’s deerlike head. Your hand is trembling, your arm is trembling, you feel woozy, and the light is poor. You fire. Startled, Rojo Grande releases the radio in mid jerk. It flies through the air and lands by your head. He turns back to you, fangs bared.
“Are you still alive over there?” the ISFP Ghost asks. Excellent, excellent question.
Rojo Grande hop-crawls toward you on all fours. You fire at his bobbing head again, and again, and again, and again, blasting off a bit of nonessential flesh each time, and now you have one bullet left. With a silent prayer, you prepare your last shot. He’s so close now you can’t possibly miss—can you? You fire.
Rojo Grande’s scalp explodes across the wall. Yes!
Except he’s not quite dead yet, exactly. He staggers backwards, clutching his fragmented skull with spasmodically twitching paws. His black eyes lock on yours with marsupial hate. There’s no way you will be able to reload in time with one hand paralyzed.
Your ribs are in agony, but you force yourself to get up. Shoving the empty gun into your belt, you grab the walky-talky and stagger back down the hall as fast you can go. You can hear him flailing and snarling, and look back over your shoulder to catch one last glimpse of him crawling after you, his motions toadlike, horrible.
You depress the talk button. “It’s Rojo Grande.”
There is a pause as the ISFP processes the information. “I’m coming.”
You run half-bent over, clutching your screaming ribs. Blood is dripping out of your nose and spattering on the floor. You think the numbness in your hand is spreading up your arm.
Passing the slug, which ignores you, you head back through the exploded remains of the door. What a waste it seems now, to have used your collar on a mere door. You would give anything to have the explosives back now. Behind you comes a muted roar that ascends into a terrible shriek. Anything.
At last you come to the intersection you remember. The hallway splits. Down the left corridor are the kangaroo cages. Down the right corridor is the balloon monster. You head towards the balloon monster.
Nothing has changed since you left, except that the balloon monster has oozed closer. The tentacles sense you and stretch out, waving their tiny knives hungrily.
You depress the talk button. “I need your help. Don’t ask why, just keep talking—loudly. I need the sound of your voice over the walky-talky. I’m going to try to trick Rojo Grande.”
“Okay, but where are you?” the ISFP asks.
“Balloon monster,” you say. “Bye.” Turning the radio’s volume up as far as it will go, you walk up to the balloon monster and thrust the walky-talky into that soft flesh as deeply as you can. The little knives grab at your jacket sleeve, but you yank yourself free. The creature slowly begins absorbing the radio.
Just in time—you hear another beastly howl. It sounds like Rojo Grande is right down the corridor. You crouch down against the wall and fumble to reload your gun one handed. The cylinder refuses to come open. You curse as you frantically try to knock it free.
You are still struggling with the cylinder when a waft of air carries the stench of a slaughterhouse to your nostrils. A moment later Rojo Grande appears around the corner. His brain is doing fine now, thank you very much, and he intends to finish what he began. He sees you, and his lips draw back to expose his curving fangs.
The ISFP has obeyed your instructions to keep talking. The sound of her voice emerges muffled but clear from the balloon monster. Rojo Grande stares hard at the hidden radio, obviously interested—then he focuses on you. Ignoring the radio, he shuffles towards you. Dumb animal!
You slip the gun back in your jacket and withdraw your pocket knife. Step by step, you are forced backward until you are stopped by the balloon monster. Rojo Grande looms over you, his razor claws bared. He is a head taller than you are.
“I really wish you’d die,” you mutter. You draw in a final breath, crush your eyes shut, and pray. Then you plunge the knife into the balloon monster.
The explosion of air sends you smashing to the floor. All the breath goes out of you in an involuntary whoosh, and you remember just in time not to inhale. You hear a choking, gurgling noise from Rojo Grande’s direction.
Somehow you make yourself get to your feet. Which way is out? No time to think—you need air right now! You run in the direction you think is away from the dead balloon monster. Run, run!
Bouncing blindly off the walls, you flee down the hallway. Even with your eyes screwed shut, tears are forcing their way out of your eyelids. Your lungs ache for air. You can’t stop now, though—the rush of gas will have expanded to fill the corridor.
Finally you can stand no more. You suck in a searing breath and open your eyes. The air seems clear. But the lining of your nostrils is on fire and your eyes are squinted into burning, tearful slits. You swab desperately at your face, just wanting the pain to stop.
A hand closes on your shoulder, and you whirl around with a scream.
“Are you alright?” asks a blurry figure. It’s the ISFP Ghost.
“No,” you croak. “I’m covered with poison gas. I need water now.”
The ISFP understands instantly. Wrapping an arm around your back, she guides you down the hallway. You wash your face off in the women’s bathroom.
“I saw the ISTP back there,” she said. “What happened to him?”
“The slug got him.”
“Slug?—never mind. What about Rojo Grande?”
“I killed him.”
“Are you sure?”
“Probably. I think so. Maybe?”
“We need to get out of here. Now.”
You decide that would be a good idea. Sloshing your face one more time, you follow her toward the exit.
The slug has been mutilated beyond recognition; there is nothing but gobbets of sickly flesh scattered about. Rojo Grande’s handiwork. You pray that he is dead, but that seems like too much to hope for, so instead you pray that he just stays dead long enough for you to escape. You have prayed more in the past hour than you have for the past ten years. If this keeps up, you will have to start attending church, or possibly even join a monastery.
Your flight comes to a stop at the exit sign. The ISTP is still lying there on the floor, comatose, dead, or whatever. With a grunt, the ISFP Ghost lifts him to her shoulder. She goes up to the steel exit door and swipes it opens with her keycard.
The tunnel beyond is full of dead kangaroos. As you watch, one of them staggers to its feet and hops towards you. The ISFP draws a machete from her belt; the kangaroo abruptly reverses direction and flees.
“I thought the tunnel was safe,” you say, staring around at the marsupial corpses.
“It was less safe than I thought,” the ISFP says. “Grab the cat.”
The cat? For a moment your brain draws a blank. Then you remember the whole point of coming to the facility in the first place. Squinting blurrily, you find the duffel bag sitting against the wall. You unzip it and peer inside; the cat pokes its immaculately groomed head out and regards you with crystal blue eyes. It purrs when you scratch behind its ears, a comforting sound.
“Good kitty,” you say, zipping the bag back up again.
The ISFP leads you down the tunnel and soon you are ascending a ramp that leads to another exit sign. She swipes her keycard again, and the door slides open. You step outside.
Warm night air plays through your hair. The stars twinkle overhead, and moonlit grass sways in the wind. You grin feebly. “Cakewalk.” The ISFP looks back at you and returns a tired smile.
The smile vanishes. “Duck!” she screams.
You freeze, then drop to the ground. Six shots ring out. There is a marsupial snarl. A machete blade flashes in the moonlight. The ISFP screams an unending stream of swear words as she hacks at Rojo Grande’s regenerating flesh.
You leap to your feet, your pocket knife out in a flash. Small though your weapon is, you can use it with murderous effectiveness. The reason you’re called Dingo isn’t because you eat babies—it’s because of the vicious trick you do with your knife.
Fast as a wild dog, you dart in from behind and hamstring Rojo Grande. His legs collapse under him. You leap for the kill. With one swift thrust, you plunge your blade through his skull with all your strength. His struggles stop abruptly.
Rojo Grande is “dead.”
For a few minutes you and the ISFP hack at his corpse in a kind of murderous mania.
Finally, when you are both covered in blood up to your elbows, you decide you’ve killed him enough.
The cat has gotten out of the duffel bag somehow. She walks up to Rojo Grande and sits down on his mutilated face. As you watch, she begins to bathe herself.
The ENTJ Warlord’s air conditioned office is the scene of a happy reunion between a megalomaniac and his beloved companion. After the cat has been fed, pampered, stroked, played with, and cuddled, then and only then does the ENTJ deign to turn his attention back to you, his benefactor. You sit in his plush chair, doing your impression of a living corpse. Your hands and face are covered with blisters, your cheeks are hollow, your eyes bloodshot, and you struggle to suppress a spasmodic cough. You do have a nice tan, though.
“Where’s the ISTP?” he asks immediately.
“He’s fine,” you say. “Well, okay, so he’s not fine. He stayed back in Australia to recuperate for awhile. Here, he gave me a note to prove he’s still alive.” You pull the note from your pocket and hand it to the ENTJ, who peruses it with narrowed eyes. Yeah, you’re sure the ISTP is “recuperating.” With the ISFP Ghost. You bet they’re doing a lot “recuperation” together.
When he is done reading, the ENTJ puts down the paper. His gaze is still suspicious, but he looks mollified. “Have a cigar,” he says, pushing the box towards you.
You take one of his cigars, light it clumsily with your left hand, take one breath, and suffer a hacking fit that takes several minutes to subside. The ENTJ strokes his purring cat and waits for you to recover. Gasping, you put the cigar down and suck in shallow breaths. You manage a sickly smile.
Then the ENTJ pulls out a suitcase full of pseudodollars, and your smile turns real.
Being rich is about like you expected—awesome. Needless to say, you won’t have to worry about being hunted anymore. You turn up at the orphanage in a government helicopter, dressed in a tailored suit and wearing a medal. By this time your bandages are off, and you cut a snappy figure. You go straight to find the ISFJ.
Your reunion with her gets off to a difficult start, but you are able to make things right. Rudy’s bloated lies about you actually work in your favor, because they make your true crimes seem relatively minor by comparison. And you are able to point to your sort-of-mostly attempt to go straight as evidence that you actually did try to change. You apologize, and really do mean it.
The ISFJ hesitates for a moment, searching your eyes for the truth. Evidently she finds what she was looking for. She throw her arms around you and crushes you to her heart. You stroke her hair and tell her how much you missed her. (Oh, how you missed her.) From the wetness in her eyes when she looks up, you know that it’ll be alright. There might be a bit of mist in your eyes too, but that’s just the lingering effects of the toxin. You hold her for a long time. Long enough to wonder what those stilettos you can feel tucked into her belt are for. Ah well, no matter.
Things will be different from now on. When everybody learns that you are now the personal friend of the ENTJ Warlord—you may have given that impression in the retelling of your story—they’ll see you in a whole new light. You’re filthy rich, too, and that's always good. You’ll put together a fund for the orphanage, and the little ankle-biters will never have to eat spam again. As for the rest of the reward, let’s just say it’s a good thing your fiance stopped you before you spent it all. (You’re really, really good at spending money.) So instead of using it all up, you’ll sink the funds into various business plans. You like the game of making money, even if you don’t actually need to work for a living anymore. As for Rudy, he splits town. If he knows what’s good for him, he won’t come back.
You never expected to see the ISTP again, but to your surprise, he will turn up at the fringes of your life from now on. If the ENTJ made him fabulously rich you see no sign of it; probably he refused the money just for the sheer pleasure of it. Or maybe he built a condo back in Australia. That would explain the tan.
Occasionally you drink together at the local cantina and reminisce about your night of terror. Everyone will assume you are lying when you recount the story of your fight with the mutant kangaroos, though you show them your half-paralyzed right hand as proof. To your annoyance, they will believe the ISTP when he tells the same story.
Oddly, you will find that the ENTJ’s minion doesn’t seem like such an intolerable goody two-shoes as you remember. Someday you will even call him friend. (He will continue to call you “scumbag,” though in a familiar, affectionate way. “Whatever, minion.”)
And so all’s well that ends well. Now you can live happily ever after.
Sometimes though, you have a bad dream.
It’s a stupid dream, because Rojo Grande couldn’t possibly survive the way you chopped up his brain and scattered it about like confetti. Nothing could survive that.
So then why do you keep dreaming about it?
As you make your way through the ruins of civilization, try to play to your strengths and work on overcoming your weak areas. The following tips can help you succeed:
- With your ability to focus on surviving now while disregarding ties to the past and hopes for the future, you are life's natural solution to crises. A good strategy for you is to wander around and solve other people's crises for them. No doubt you will find a way to capitalize on the solution.
- Use your talent for improvisation to deal with situations quickly and effectively as they come up. But don't neglect to plan ahead; build in a margin of error in case things turn out to be more difficult than you first expected. Bring enough food so that you won't have to turn to cannibalism.
- Your ability to handle people is one of your greatest assets. Whether you are bartering cigarettes or trying to negotiate with a better deal on an escape vehicle, use your natural charm and knack for a cutting a deal to get ahead.
- For you, work and play are much the same thing--a game with winners and corpses. Keep playing, don't end up dead or undead, and have lots of fun while you're at it. Can't go wrong.