Wil Wheaton and Unikitteh Save Iceland

July 1st, 2010 by Potato

A Canada-Day special! The deadline for the unicorn-pegasus-kitten short story contest to benefit the Lupus Alliance of America was yesterday, so I’m putting up my entry, as well as Wayfare’s and Netbug’s! Enjoy, and wish us luck! Finally, Netbug’s:

It was going to be a bad day in John Scalzi’s life. Even he knew that, because it involved flying into Chicago’s O’Hare airport. No day went well that involved landing at O’Hare. What he did not know was the sheer magnitude of how bad his day was going to be.

The first plane in his route landed smoothly on the runway, right on time. That was a bad sign, and he knew it. Would probably miss his connection to Heathrow entirely now, and have to sleep in the airport. He made his way through the airport complex to the international departure lounge so he could at least begin the wait in the right spot.

He was lost in thought with the compose window on his netbook open when the disembodied voice from overhead announced that flight 745 to London Heathrow was boarding. John checked his netbook’s time, then his watch’s. Both agreed that this was approximately the time this plane should be boarding at.


Full of dread at what his highly improbable turn of good fortune at O’Hare portended, he boarded the plane. It was already half-full from its journey east from California, long-haul passengers half-asleep in their chairs already, and not terribly inclined to leave their seats to let the new passengers past to the window.

After asking for the 4th time, John finally got the brusque man in the rumpled clothes to stand up so he could move to his window seat. Once he got near enough to take a good whiff, John understood how his flight out of Chicago was going to go horribly wrong: this man smelled like a scientist that hadn’t showered for a week while being left out in the sun to bake and sweat. Which, given a flight from California back to Europe, was quite likely the case. He tried to breathe through his mouth, and wish he had packed one of those N95 masks like many travelers these days did…

He was rudely awaked from his nap by the fasten seatbelt chime. The captain started to say something when the plane suddenly dropped in the air. Someone a few rows up hit their head on the ceiling. A loud whining noise filled the air, and then a horrible silence followed by another sudden drop. John looked out the window and could see smoke from one of the engines.

“All passengers and crew fasten your seatbelts. We are going to have to make an emergency landing in Iceland.”

The man beside John held his chest tightly and looked pale. Even paler than someone in a potentially crashing plane should look. John looked out the window and tried to calm himself, hoping that he wouldn’t be called upon to try to remember his first aid skills and deal with a heart attack in an obnoxiously smelly man on a plane in the midst of crashing.

Though on that last note, looking out the window at the plumes of smoke did not help calm him. It did so little to calm him that he thought he had begun to hallucinate: the smoke seemed to fill the sky, no longer just a single plume from the damaged engine. The ground itself appeared to be on fire.

He looked straight ahead at the seatback in front of him. This was a much better place to look. “Ensure try table is stowed prior to all takeoffs and landings.” Read the sticker. Good advice that, plus it gave him something constructive to do. He checked that the little latch was in place, then pushed against it with both his hands just to be sure it wasn’t going anywhere. Better to be safe than sorry.

The man beside him seemed intent on drawing John out of his protective panic trance though. His hands were pawing at John’s face, grabbing his shirt, his arms. John tried to push him off, but as soon as he had made eye contact the man tried to draw him in close and say something to him, but then the world went black.


John awoke in hell.

Twisted, burning metal surrounded him, and he hurt all over. Well, technically he hurt all over, but his head hurt so much that it was the only pain he could focus on. The only thing at all he could focus on, really, since everything else seemed to be enveloped in a thick haze of unreality, and impenetrable curtain of “this can’t be happening to me”.

He saw the bodies of the dead and wounded, and it didn’t feel quite real. It was too much for the human mind to process.

He badly wanted to lie down and take a nap, but feared that might be a sign of brain damage. Instead, he tried to do what he could as one of the only survivors apparently able to move on his own two feet. He started to look to the other survivors, ready to help out. But as he shambled through the field of wreckage, he began to suspect he was the only survivor, until he came across the mangled remains of his companion from row 42.

“It’s… chosen you.” He coughed, drawing John in close to hear his dying words.

“What? You’re not making any sense. Can you tell me your name?” John asked, wondering how long it would take for an ambulance to arrive.

“I have precious few words to explain.” He muttered. “We were working on adapting a powerful… alien symbiate for humans. Superhumans.” John’s SF-trained mind raced at the possibilities. “It wasn’t supposed to choose a host yet. The heat from the fires… it’s bonded to you.”

John looked down at his hands. They were green. Not grass-stained green, or grimy from surviving a plane crash in Iceland, but green through and through. Superhuman, huh?

“You must finish the process soon, or you’ll both die.” This part was sounding less good. “Heat… it needs heat. Lots. Lots of heat.” He was sounding worse by the second too. John shook himself out of his daze and started checking the man’s body for shrapnel or anything that he might be able to help with. But there was no helping someone this mangled, even if he were a doctor with tools and drugs and iodine. Maybe the first aid kit had some iodine. Except for the stinging, it never hurt in situations like this.

The man, meanwhile, seemed to be losing consciousness. His eyes rolled back into his head, and his hand fell back to the ground. As John tried patting him down for protruding metal, he came to once again and pointed off to the distance. “The volcanoes… go there. The magma will… metamorphe… is…”

“You’re not making any sense! Come on, stay with me. You’ll be ok, just stay with me!” This last part, he knew, was a lie. He had flown through O’Hare that morning and both his flights were on-time. There was no way this was turning out ok for either of them.

“Lava. It’s the only thing here. Go. It’s… not far.”

“Come on mister, that’s crazy, I’m gonna stay right here with you until help arrives!”

“It’s doctor… Doctor Zugale. And it makes as much sense as surviving a plane crash without a scratch. Go.”

He then stubbornly played dead. John tried to shake him awake, but all he would do was occasionally cough blood and point at the volcano. A few minutes later, he was dead for real.

Seeing nothing in the wreckage and field of bodies worth hanging around for, he started walking for the volcano. It didn’t look all that far at all.

And he felt fantastic.


The Icelandic sky was grew dark on his walk, and then bright again with a maleficent red glow through the ash and ruin. He walked towards it, nearly there. His head still pounded, but now it seemed to keep rhythm with his steps, his marching. Somehow deep inside he was excited about the prospect of taking a swim in some nice, sulfuric lava.

He was climbing the now noticeably inclined ground at the base of the volcano when a unicorn-kitten-pegasus swatted him off his feet and flew past his head, landing a few feet away.

John was angry at the unikitteh. It wasn’t just being swatted off his feet by a creature that by all rights should not exist at all, but having it happen so close to that red-hot, inviting magma at the top of the volcano that frustrated him. Plus, his headache was that much worse when his feet weren’t moving, and he had become convinced that fire was just what the doctor ordered for that problem.

So it took him a moment in his rage to realize that astride the unikitteh was his friend Wil Wheaton.

…in a clown sweater.

“John?” Wil asked, startled. “Is that you?”

“Wil? What in the hell are you doing here?” He was captivated by the clown sweater. “And why are you wearing a clown sweater?”

“It’s a long story, John. But you can’t go up to the volcano!”

“Sounds swell, tell me about it while we walk.” Scalzi said, itching to get his body moving again.

“No, John! If you go there you’ll die, and take everyone else down with you!” Wil pleaded with his eyes.

John sat down. “I’m going to need some backstory here, Wil. All I know is I’m green and hurt all over, and it’s all because some doctor Z sat beside me on the flight to London, and he told me I had to go to the volcano and finish the metamorphosis.”

“Ok, the Coles notes version: unikitteh here is an alien who sought me out to help him with a mission here on earth…”

“He sought you out? Wil Wheaton?” Scalzi asked, incredulous.

“Yes, classic case of confusing fictional character for real person, happens every year at comicon… this just had… further-reaching consequences.”

“Ok. Space alien. Being green at the moment, I’m actually with you on that one.”

“Right, so he tells me about this incredibly dangerous organism that was taking over human hosts, and working towards the domination of our planet. The whole planet, John.”

“More than just your one planet, to be truthful.” Said unikitteh, in very passable English.

“But that doesn’t explain the clown sweater.” John said, mirth in his voice.

“He caught me on laundry day.”

“Oh. Been there, I suppose.”

“So, I’m afraid that if you do give the symbiote the heat and sulfur it’s craving, you’ll unleash a terrible menace. Those are the ingredients it needs to reproduce. It will consume your body, and start a chain reaction in the volcano. The spores of its offspring will be sent aloft in the ash cloud, to infect every continent on your quaint little planet.” Unikitteh said.

“How do I know that by standing here and not going into the flame isn’t what will kill me? Dr. Z was pretty clear about that, for a dying guy. Plus, he was human. How do I know I can trust you?”

“You can trust me, John.” Wil said, in his ridiculous clown sweater.

John looked from unikitteh to his friend Wil, and back. Then to the volcano.

He knew, somehow, deep down inside, what was calling him. The beat of his headache seemed to resonate with the explosions of the volcano. He started walking upwards.

Just then, unikitteh took flight, and swooped at John. “O’Hare, no!” Wil cried “let me try to talk to him a bit more!”

“O’Hare?” John asked. “Is that your name? O’Hare?!”

“Verily,” said the unikitteh O’Hare. John was knocked to his knees by the power of his rage. Reactions he didn’t know he had took over, and John sprang to his feet, snarling. He felt a change in his hands, and saw that nearly instantly an axe and shield had formed there, ready to fight his ancient enemy…

Note that since this is Netbug’s story, all rights are reserved, and I can’t authorize reproduction beyond BbtP.

As part of the Canada-Day special, I’ve also posted Wayfare’s and my own stories.

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