A Gas Station at the End of Time
Summary: Boatem crew reach a dilemma while traversing the void between seasons. All hope is lost - and found by an unlikely saviour. Partially inspired by a HC by @sprucewoodmpreg! :)
~ Please reblog if you enjoy and check out Void Anomaly #2 which occurs after this! :) ~
The cabin was dead silent.
“Scar, would you care to repeat yourself?”
The voice was Grian’s, blank with horror.
Scar, leant back in his leather chair, fiddles with Jellie's ears, wearing his signature lopsided, unsure smile. “Well, I didn’t quite prepare…”
“You didn’t prepare for the eventuality that we’d need to EAT?” Screeches Mumbo in incredulity.
“Space was short, okay?!” Replies Scar, indignantly, "I needed room for us, for the animals, and the diamonds-“
“YOU PRIORITISED THE DIAMONDS?” Mumbo was running out of octaves to rise to, and Grian would've snickered had he not been equally horrified.
The three fell into the throes of hysterical argument.
Pearl had the look of one on whom the comprehension that one is trapped in a room with a madman is dawning. She fell into a chair and looked bleakly out the window of the ship, her line of sight soon swallowed by the thick, oily blackness of the void - the only alternative to this compromising situation. A conciliatory hand patted her shoulder and she looked up to see Impulse looking at her with his gentle, sympathetic smile.
“Impulse, are we going to die because Scar values diamonds over food?”
“Yep.” He replied, smiling wryly, “Do you think now is a good time to mention I’m kinda hungry?”
Pearl laughed, turning her gaze back to the steadily progressing mutiny happening a few feet from her and finding that it had quelled. Scar seemed remarkably unfazed, happily stroking Jellie’s head, the cat purring obliviously while Mumbo and Grian sulked.
“So,” Impulse prodded tentatively, “do we have any idea what we’re going to do? Because I finished my last stack of golden carrots today.”
“I thought Scar would be prepared!” Grian exploded defensively, wings tensing and feathers prickling, “I only brought what I had on me!”
Small noises of assent came from the others.
“What I’m hearing is that you guys came badly prepared,” mused Scar helpfully, earning him a murderous glance from Grian.
“What, are you saying you have food for yourself?” Inquired Mumbo with uncharacteristic irritation, leaning against the wall and crossing his arms.
Scars eyes stray innocuously in the direction of the cargo hold, where the gentle thud of a horses hooves sound.
“No,” snapped Pearl.
“What do you mean no?”
“We’re not going to eat Diamond Hooves, who I’ll remind you you were paid to save.”
Scar gasps with an air of deep offence, a hand fluttering to his heart, “How could you accuse me of thinking such a thing?”
Mumbo pinches the bridge of his nose in exasperation but mentions that it could come down to that if there’s no other solution.
Eventually, order is returned and ender chests and inventories are scoured. It is determined that their food supplies consist of:
- Half a stack of chorus fruit, determined inedible thanks to the likelihood of being teleported outside the ship and promptly suffocating, (Contributed by Pearl)
- 10 golden carrots, an unidentifiable mushroom, and a packet of expired hot cocoa mix (contributed by Scar)
- A single dead pufferfish, origin unbeknownst even to its owner, also declared inedible due to being spiky and highly poisonous (Contributed by Grian)
- 2 iDimpy bars and a handful of amethyst shards which no one is willing to eat but Impulse, (contributed by Impulse)
- a quarter-stack of (admittedly delicious-looking) potatoes, and 5 slimy spider eyes that stared blankly at their audience and induced a sensation of acute nausea among the company, (courtesy of Mumbo)
When Grian finishes reading the inventory, the five were left sitting silently around the table in the middle of the ships meeting room, all thinking roughly the same thing:
We are so fucked.
Unsurprisingly, the ‘rations’ don't last long, and in less than a week they were completely out of food; the quintet of entrepreneurs locked in a copper tomb in the void, nothing around them for miles upon miles. This was not considered an advantageous position. Lack of food teases out depression and shortens tempers, and they quickly fall to speculating about the fates of their fellow hermits, a topic they’d previously avoided.
Grian sits cross-legged on the table with little regard for cleanliness, while Mumbo reclines upside down on a chair and Scar scribbles architectural plans only he can decipher on a scrap of paper.
“Bdubs?” Prompts Mumbo to his companions.
“Something tells me he’d yell at the moon before running from it,” Scar muses.
Grian laughs, “Agreed. I bet he died stood on top of his moon-base and yelling profanities at God.” He imitates Bdubs well-known shout of outraged belligerence: "'I'LL DIE HERE! COME AT ME YOU LUNAR BASTARD!'"
The three burst into fond laughter.
“Tango?” Scar prompts next, grinning.
“Man, who knows?” Grian leans back thoughtfully, resting his palms on the cool surface of the table.
“Didn’t he literally fly to the moon?” Asks Mumbo, “I don’t think Bdubs or Keralis even saw him again. He’s probably still living out his space-cowboy dreams.”
“What about Keralis then?” Grian asks.
“Keralis …” Scar ponders, “He built a satellite, doesn't that mean he left?"
“My guess is dead,” Mumbo says bluntly, “I heard he was going to hunker with xB, which means he’s prob-“
“Stop it!” Comes a cry from Pearl, sat near the window. She’s curled up in her usual place on the window seat with Nugget, and when she looks over at them they see her eyes shining with tears.
“It’s awful,” she says angrily, swiping an impatient sleeve over her eyes. Accusatory citrine eyes glare at the trio who’ve upset his owner, and Nugget rubs his cheek on hers in comfort.
Grian finds himself particularly struck by Pearl's emotion - he knew Pearl to be coolly logical in the face of any situation, and he couldn’t recall ever seeing her cry. He hops from the table then, moving quickly to sit beside her, curling one wing around her shoulders and mumbling an apology. She nods in acceptance, then sighs wearily, as though all her energy had drained with those few tears. Armageddon weighed on their souls heavily enough without slow starvation to add to it, and each was recognising the signs of exhaustion in their friends.
In time, Grian stands with resolve and stretches, his wings fanning behind him and quivering with the effort, sore and cramped in their disuse.
“I’m going to sleep,” he announces to the world in general, mainly hoping to suggest the idea to Pearl without sounding patronising. He moves towards the ladder to the sleeping deck, smiling when he hears Pearl follow him.
It was Pearl who first spotted the phenomenon. She'd been in the cockpit with Scar, sharing concerns about feeding the three feline passengers. While he conducted cursory examinations of the dashboards, she sat in the cushioned pilots seat, spinning absently. In the void that lay outside the cockpit windows, she suddenly spotted an unusual glow - not to say there was such thing as a 'usual glow' considering the void was nothing but endless, suffocating black. She touched Scar’s shoulder to point it out, at which he looked up.
He grinned with the spark of curiosity that often possessed him. “Shall we investigate?” He asked, not waiting for an answer as he commandeered Pearl’s spot in the pilot’s chair and urged the ship forward, eager as always to meet fate at full speed.
In less than 10 minutes, they’d come within viewing range. Scar slowed the ship, staring in amazement at what they’d found.
“Is that what I think it is?” Pearl questioned, blankly.
For there, stark in the endless blackness of the void, was a gas station. It perched precariously on a plane of asphalt that seemed far too small for it, existing, in spite of improbability, where nothing existed. A small awning cast ghostly-white light on a trio of lonely gas pumps, and neon signs glowed lazily from the poster-plastered windows of the building, a larger one on a tall sign proclaiming the answer to Pearl’s question in massive, flickering letters:
BIG EYES PASS N’ GAS
Stop on in & buy!
“Well,” Scar said, disguising shock with his entrepreneurial chuckle, “I guess that’s what the glow was. Could you get the others here?”
Without a word, Pearl rushed from the cockpit and into the community room, finding it empty. She climbed the ladder to the sleeping deck to find Mumbo and Grian sitting on one of the beds, Impulse on the floor, a game of rummy spread between them.
"Pearl!" Impulse greeted her cheerfully, laying down a trio of cards, "I'm about to win; wanna join the next round?"
Mumbo was in the midst of an indignant denial when Pearl interrupted:
"Come with me!"
When the five crewmates had congregated, an atmosphere of jumbled emotions filled the cabin - horror, excitement, joy, dread - and none really knew what the proper course of action was.
Grian was wary, but it was he who eventually stated that they didn’t have a choice on whether or not to approach considering it was that or starvation. It was perhaps a good thing the group were all blessed with the adventurous spirit, as none objected volubly. Scar, humming a cheerful song, manoeuvred the ship towards the enigmatic convenience store, docking at the helpfully provided port.
There was a brief argument between the group, but none willing to be left behind, five suited figures descended from the hatch onto the surface of the asphalt. Scar headed the group as they walked to the doors of the shop. Impulse examined the faded posters taped haphazardly to the windows, exclaiming in surprise-
“An Octagon ad! And … what the heck? Here’s one for iDimpy bars- I didn't licence this ...“
Mumbo joined him in looking at the posters:
“Bdubs Perfect Redstone Service… Padllama Co… even Offworld Escapes?” he listed incredulously, eyes flicking between the advertisements in mounting unease.
“Kind of the Big Eyes to allow ads from us,” commented Grian wryly. Scar wore a very smug expression, which the others could guess had to do with Swaggon Co. being advertised while the G-Train was omitted.
“Get that smile off your face!” Grian snapped and led the way through the doors, which slid obligingly open with a two-toned beep of welcome.
The interior of the building was as expected - a gas station identical to the Pass & Gas stations, but for the view of oily blackness outside the windows. Racks of colourful packets and boxes divided the store, with others devoted to magazines, drinks, and various other items of necessity. A small television at the cashier’s counter blared indistinctly, unwatched by the cashier in question, who crunched absently on something from a particularly crinkly bag.
It was the cashier who was the real shock. He leant back in his chair reading a magazine, heavy boots rested on the counter. His white hair was held back by a black bandanna, familiar heterochromatic eyes reading the magazine with a bored expression. He’d looked up when they’d entered but evidently didn’t consider the sight of his close friends who’d recently survived the end of the world worth the effort of speech.
“I- Etho?!” Mumbo spluttered, sheer shock taking words from him.
“Oh, hey Mumbo!” Etho replied cheerfully, looking up again, “What brings you guys here?”
Mumbo shared a glance with Grian, wariness creeping into their twin expressions of amazement.
“How’d you get away? And since when are you part of Big Eyes? And why is there a Pass & Gas here? And-“ the torrent of questions flooded excitedly from Impulse, who cut himself off in an effort to allow Etho to answer, to no avail. Etho only blinked, puzzled.
“Get away? From what?” He replied, folding the magazine on his lap, “I just work here - Keralis hired me.”
“Is Keralis here?” Pearl interjected, her voice excited and hopeful. Etho shook his head. “Graveyard shift.”
“Grave- Etho, it’s space. It’s always night here,” commented Impulse with a wryly confused smile.
Etho didn't seem to consider this as necessitating a reply and shrugged.
There seemed to be an invisible wall of context dividing the Boatem five and Etho, as though the cashier’s counter were a line between two realities, both able to see and hear, yet not understand the other.
A word catches Mumbo's eye, and he notices the headline of the magazine Etho had been perusing: MOON BIG, it declared magnificently. The rigidly logical redstoner in Mumbo raised its hackles - something was very misaligned.
An excited exclamation drew their attention to Scar, who it appeared had been examining the wares as the others interrogated Etho. He was holding a packet and made his way towards them.
“Look!” He held up the packet, a bright green affair with a cartoon of a cat that was unmistakably Jellie, the title proclaiming Jelly Jellies in an enthusiastic font. Grian took the packet.
“I don’t believe it …” he murmured, examining it with a dreamlike air.
“Those are good!” Etho pipes from behind them.
Scar opens the packet without a thought to the laws of capitalism, taking out a gummy cat, which he gazes at as though it’s a priceless work of art.
“Have you ever seen anything more beautiful?” He asks the world in general in an awed whisper.
His companions, however, had lost interest - Scar's discovery meant food.
The group crumbled throughout the store, examining the wares. The candy aisle most intrigued Impulse and Grian, while Mumbo scrutinised a display of biscuits.
“Unbelievable,” Grian heard Impulse murmur to himself again and again.
Grian found himself looking at a charcoal grey packet bearing the copper-green legend Octa-Gum, then made an indistinguishable sound of happiness at seeing Pesky Birds emblazoned on a parrot-printed roll of waffle biscuits shown to him by Mumbo.
Pearl wandered through another aisle, crouching to examine a sack of Beef Brand Cat Food.
“Hey, Pearl!” Grian called, and tossed a packet of sweets over to her. Catching it automatically, she discovered a chibi illustration of herself on the packet of custard-flavoured Marshmallow Moons.
As Pearl examined the packet, brows creased in confusion, Impulse gently took her arm and whispered: "This is all way too weird."
She agreed, eyeing a refrigerator cabinet stocked with rainbow of Hive-Dr8 bottles, but shrugged helplessly.
"What can we do? We'll all starve to death otherwise. I reckon we gotta stock up on food and get out."
Impulse nodded. "Let's get to Season 9 as quickly as possible, huh?"
The two stayed close and explored the small store, laughing and pointing out oddities. A freezer cabinet displayed chorus fruit cheesecakes (which sounded vile), alongside a few other suspicious-looking meals whose boxes bore an illustration of Zedaph grinning proudly. Shulker boxes were stacked in a corner, spare armour and tools hung on the back wall with rows of enchanted books - there was even a rack of glasses with round, red lenses, presumably Big Eyes merchandise. Impulse eventually drifted over to Etho again, intent on speaking privately.
He leant on the cashier’s counter, greeting, “Hi! I missed you, buddy!”
“I missed you too,” replied Etho, a smile reaching his eyes over the mask, “How’ve you been?”
“Oh, okay, apart from barely escaping the apocalypse with our lives. When did you come here?”
A vague wave of a gloved hand, “Oh, recently.”
Impulse tried again: “Why aren’t you wearing a helmet?”
“Don’t need one; neither do you.”
Impulse cocked his head but raised a tentative hand to the latch of his helmet. Taking it off, he found that the air was indeed breathable.
“Etho,” he said slowly, “Do you know what happened back on S8?”
Etho tipped his head slightly. “Moon big?”
“Well, yeah. But it crashed. We didn’t see you when everything went mad, so we thought ... Did Iskall come with you though?”
“I was here,” he replied, as though this was a sufficient answer.
Impulse pressed Etho for more, but every question whose answers might’ve strayed near fact seemed to be answered by some variant of “I don’t know."
Fiddling with an imagined smudge on his helmet for lack of anything else to do, Impulse laughed.
“You’re an enigma to the last.”
Eventually, shulkers were filled with food and paid for, taking a considerable bite out of Scar’s diamond pile. The five Boatem members stood near the doorway unsurely, but it was Impulse who broke the question: “Etho, do you, um … do you want to hitch a ride with us?”
Etho looked up from his magazine, “Why?”
Mumbo broke in: “We’re on the way to Season 9. You’re going to come, yeah?”
“I’m on the clock,” Etho replied, as bemused as though he was being offered a taxi to a house across the street.
Looks were exchanged between the Boatem crew, a silent decision shared. Each said their goodbyes to Etho, and Impulse lagged behind slightly on the pretence of fastening his helmet.
“See you in season 9,” He said with a grin, reaching over the counter to pat Etho's shoulder.
“See ya then!” Came the reply, and Impulse left through the sliding doors, catching up with the others.
“You think he’ll be okay?” Asked Pearl worriedly.
“It’s Etho,” answered Grian, shrugging, as though this said everything - and in a way it did.
Impulse and Pearl stood at a window of the ship as it began to pull away from the Big Eyes dock, sharing a roll of Pesky Birds they'd snagged from Grian's stash - which turned out to be as delicious as any other sugary convenience store biscuits. They kept their eyes on the building until the glow of the sign winked out of view, the only evidence that it had ever been coating their fingers in syrupy stickiness.
The Realms of the Unreal
A/N: just a snippet of writing (is this called a oneshot?) ft. Mumbo and peculiar happenings in Boatem. :)
~ reblog if ya enjoy! ~
I see you, Mumbo.
The sign taunted him, as so many others had in recent days. You’re cracking up, he thought to himself, pulling distractedly at the already hopelessly loose knot of his tie. It’d been far over a week since he’d slept. The last rest he’d had was when Doc, curiously robed and chanting incoherently, had slammed an axe through his chest, the strength of a cybernetic arm ensuring that the blade went through ribs, organs, and spine alike. Could the seconds of inexistence between death and respawn be considered ‘rest’? Doubtful. Nevertheless, it was a dark thought that death was the only sleep he’d get anytime soon.
The ink on the sign glared back at him, the harsh blackness seeming to sear itself into his brain.
“What on Earth are you on about?” He questioned the empty room, as he had before. He didn’t have the patience or energy for conversation with inanimate objects. Hallucinations, he corrected himself sternly.
Are you going mad? Inquired a sign when he turned from its predecessor.
“Not that I know of,” he sighed, wondering why he was conversing with nothing. He’d thought originally that it was Grian, but it wasn’t. Grian was gone.
It’s said that insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, commented another sign, this time on the wall to his right.
“Look,” Mumbo replied, pinching his nose bridge, “Who are you?”
I’m you, naturally, replied a sign.
No, Mumbo told himself firmly. He would not interact with hallucinations again. That’d be merely inviting it in. He leant on the windowsill of his van, observing the exquisite view of Boatem, silver in the light of the rising moon.
“Good evening,” he greeted the moon absently. He had things to do, an industrial district to get to work on, but he simply couldn’t summon the energy - even the prospect of washing had long since vanished from the realm of plausible exertion, hence his rumpled, stained clothes and greasy hair. Mumbo reached for a mug on the windowsill and drained the cold, gritty coffee inside, the sour-bitter tang of the redstone he’d liberally mixed in sharp on his tongue. Vaguely, he wondered if consuming redstone could make you hallucinate.
Below his window, in the grounds of Boatem, Mumbo watched Scar stroll across the grass, the spring in his step completely undeterred by almost a week without sleep. Jellie lounged on his shoulders as she often did, not fond of the nighttime dew on her paws. Mumbo scowled. By now, his fascination had turned to annoyance at how the man could somehow remain so put together and energetic. It seemed very wrong, yet so very Scar-like.
With a sigh of exhaustion that would’ve been considered dramatic to the highest degree in normal circumstances, Mumbo wandered to the kitchenette of the van and put the kettle on in preparation for more coffee, then descended the ladder to the grassy ground. The moon had risen fully in all its glory, the omniscient silver eye that watched over Boatem. A glint of green caught Mumbo’s gaze, and glancing towards it, he saw eyes watching him from the shadow of Impulse’s factory, two green glowing pinpricks. It couldn’t be Jellie, she was with Scar - but perhaps it was another cat. Maui and Pearl hadn’t vanished with Grian to his knowledge. The eyes blinked into unreality. When Mumbo looked back in front of him, there was a sign planted in the ground:
“Meow indeed,” Mumbo replied as a matter of course. His communicator pinged, and he withdrew it from the pocket of his trousers.
ImpulseSV: Mumbo, you around?
ImpulseSV: I want to show you something! Factory courtyard :)
He replied with a quick note of acceptance, glad for something to do, and began to cross the Boatem grounds to Impulse’s factory. The gates loomed tall and imposing in front of him, and he didn’t like the idea of going towards where he’d seen the eyes, cat or not.
Impulse had not been clear which courtyard he wanted Mumbo to meet him in, considering the labyrinthine factory had several. When he finally found Impulse, the man was standing with his back towards him, intent on a large, glass terrarium-esque structure that, presumably, was the something in question.￼￼ Mumbo called a greeting, and with an air of showmanship, Impulse whirled around in a flash of coattails, brandishing his cane in indication of the glass structure as though it were a circus act. He grinned broadly as ever, but Mumbo only noticed his eyes - green and glowing as foxfire.
“New contacts?” He postulated, blankly.
“Uh.. yeah!” Replied Impulse cheerfully. “That’s not the point though. I made a phantom sanctuary!” He gestured once more to the structure, and Mumbo finally noticed the avian shapes within, little more than shadows behind the tinted glass.
As though on cue, the cackling began. Manic laughter that echoed in his head and seemed to wind around him, circling and diving as the phantoms would themselves. He felt suddenly overwhelmed, the storm of noise making him fall to his knees in the grass, hands over his ears, mumbling a mix of several curses.
He regained his composure enough to stand and back away a good few paces, and Impulse followed, his face creased in concern. He drew close to Mumbo, putting an arm on his back as though to support him.
“Hey, you alright?” He asked gently, that caring tone of concern that was so Impulse-esque. Mumbo looked into those eyes that were not Impulse’s. At this close range, Impulse’s speech revealed glimpses of sharp fangs, bright against the deep inky-purple of the inside of his mouth.
“Mumbo?” It was Grian’s voice, issuing from Impulse’s mouth.
No, it was more phantoms, more cackling. They were laughing at him - laughing at all of them. They knew what was coming, they knew the ineluctable fate that awaited the hermits. Mumbo stumbled backwards, his tired legs tripping and toppling him. Impulse still stood above him, head cocked now, curious and unsure, though the green eyes remained impassive.
In his peripheral vision, Mumbo caught sight of another sign. He turned his head towards it to read;
That’s not Impulse, is it?
He looked away from the words, to Impul- no, Impulse was gone. He was alone, slumped in the dew-damp grass bordering the blackstone factory wall. No, he wasn’t quite alone - the whispered cackles of phantoms kept him constant company.
He flattened himself against the wall, terrified of something he couldn’t place. The sign was right; Impulse wasn’t Impulse. And Grian was gone, that last bastion of reliable comfort. He rubbed his eyes harshly, hoping to dispel the pervasive exhaustion that cloaked him like a shadow.
If that wasn’t Impulse, he’d have to dispose of the thing that’d mimicked his friend.