Back in the Saddle

There it was...the Innovative Sciences Lab, Artemis' stomping ground since time immemorial.
In this universe, the cold-fusion laser debacle and countless other missteps of his had never occurred, leaving the lab in far better condition than he had in the original timeline. It was even better equipped, Artemis being demoted for his "sexual misconduct with company property" and having sane department heads that it received more attention from Corporate before their, and most of humanity's, untimely demise.
The lab was practically gleaming, stocked with high-end equipment from wall to wall. It was immaculately clean (and would stay that way, or by science Artemis would have someone's head...literally).
The best was all his once again.

Fed up with being a lowly protocol unit, Artemis had begun to make some backroom deals in order to get reassigned to the Innovative Science department. Once reassigned he attempted to retake his old position, and naturally, the trogs running the department resisted.
Artemis, not to be denied, gathered some old robot friends and led a bloodless coup of the department, convincing the heads to step down and give him his old position back.

Reinstated in his old position, Artemis quickly got to work putting things his way.
He was absolutely delighted to have a staff once more, including Frank Cadbury, who in this universe was still a loyal goon to Artemis.
Artemis' soft side, long believed to have shriveled up and died, compelled him to promote Cadbury to Assistant Innovative Sciences Officer. Though he dismissed it as a sentimental move for an old friend and claimed it was "logical and efficient".

Today was the day Artemis had set aside to audit the department and make sure that his changes had been implemented. Having a full staff meant he didn't need to compel The Missus to do it with him.

The lab was abuzz with activity as the various staff members (all clad in Artemis' custom designed white jumpsuits, which had also been equipped with trackers so he could keep an eye on his staff during work) went about checking inventory and running diagnostics on the equipment, in all areas save for Artemis' office and personal lab, which he would literally kill someone for touching.

The familiar brain tank floated in the middle of the lab surveying his staff, flanked on one side by Cadbury, the only member of the staff allowed to wear a lab coat over his jumpsuit (which Artemis was trying to use as incentive, "work like a real scientist, look like one too")

"Henderson if you touch that beaker cabinet before putting on gloves so help me I will flense you clean" Artemis barked, the staff member hesitated opening the cabinet door and moved to obtain some gloves.

"I say Frank it's impossible to instill loyalty in these people. You give them snazzy uniforms, you bring work productivity up to unprecedented levels, you even bring in baked goods that your wife made and they still don't show you undying loyalty!" Artemis said, sighing after.

"They're prolly just not motivated enough, maybe we're being too mean" Cadbury replied, "Maybe we should stop using the discipline stick?"

The discipline stick was a collapsing police baton Artemis had obtained.

"Could that possibly be it? Feh, I'll stop using the discipline stick once they LEARN TO ACT RIGHT. Andropov don't let me see you slouch, you're a man of science, not a some proto-human savage!"

One of the staff brought a tray of coffee to Artemis and Cadbury, "I brought coffee sir, I really hoped to keep you and Mr. Cadbury awake and alert!"
It was of course Jennings, the department kissass. Artemis admired the man for his subservience, but loathed him for his stupidity at times, and it was well known that Cadbury absolutely resented him for kissing up to Artemis.

"I'm a cyborg you damned fool, what use do I have for coffee?!" Artemis snapped, smacking one of the cups off the tray with an eye monitor. "Go clean that up!"

Cadbury took the other cup and nodded silently, sipping at it as Jennings rushed off to clean the coffee.

"As annoying as he is though, I wish we had more staff like Jennings. Subservience to your betters is a good trait to have" Artemis said with a smirk.

"Aye, I just wish he wasn't so annoying. Like really annoying, too annoying. Maybe we should shoot him into space" Cadbury said, not masking his ire well.

"No...let's not say we did. We're lucky to have a full staff at all, what with the Earth being annihilated and all. We'll keep the staff we have until we can replace any weak ends"

"I'm cleaning the spill sir! It'll be better than it was before!" Jennings said from off to the side. "I'll even...GAAAAH!!!"

Artemis and Cadbury looked to Jennings, who had been tackled by Artie Jr., who was hiding in the vents below. Artemis floated over to Jennings and plucked his son off him.

"I'm not paying you to play with my children Jennings, get back to work! And you, what in blazes are you doing here?"

The little black Skutling looked away, Artemis turned his head back towards him.


A little electronic cough came from the skutling, "I uh...was running a social experiment on the kissass trying to see how much his idiocy blinded him. He ignored the tacks in his boots, the hallucinogenic darts, and even the laxatives in his lunch...I had to tackle him before he finally cracked"

Artemis grinned, "Awwwh, now that's thinking like your old man! It's that kind of initiative that this giant blue tub lacks nowadays. Heh, we're lucky, having so many more people to test on. Even this idiot" Artemis gestured to Jennings, who was putting the vent cover back in place, dripping coffee all over the floor as he did.

Just as Artemis turned to address Cadbury, the lab turned to emergency lighting, deep red lights punctuated by the occasional dim white spotlight.

"Unknown biological lifeforms detected on science deck, quarantine activated" a gritty, computerized voice announced as the doors and vents were sealed by heavy emergency shutters.

"Eh, that's my gig!" Holly objected through the intercom.

Artemis sighed, "Holly, would you please explain the alarm?"

"The..alarm? It's loud an it sounds annoying, an' it typically has red lights that...."


"Because that text-to-speech soundin' chap made it"


"Oh, you mean the little fungling fellas runnin' around causing mayhem and what have you?"

"Yes, that..." Artemis groaned. "IQ in the millions, he claims...."

"They been eatin' a lot, raisin' hell, also they seem to absorb whatever they eat, kinda start takin' traits from 'em."

Artemis and Artie Jr. both let out an enthused Ooooooh

"That sounds positively magnificent!" Artemis said, "Adaptable and violent, two of my favorite traits in a life form!"

"Think of the possibilities as a bio-weapon..." Artie Jr. theorized, his father grinned from one corner of his mouth monitor to the other, shedding a single electronic tear.

"That's my boy..." he said, patting Artie Jr. on the head.

"If they're adapting traits, we should probably keep 'em away from the vaults" Cadbury remarked.

Cadbury referred to the ISL's vaults of dangerous experiments created back before Artemis' demotion. Chemical agents from typical VX Nerve Gas to fast-acting aerosol hallucinogen, bioweapons from smallpox to weaponized herpes, not to mention the oodles of genetic material gathered from various lifeforms and crew members....also, deep within the vaults, the cryogenic cask containing Artemis' original human body.
The vaults were a testament to Artemis' lack of morals and disregard for interstellar law, and a disaster waiting to happen if the funglings were able to somehow breach the defenses and wolf down any of the extremely dangerous experiments kept inside.

The vaults themselves were self-contained, sealed off from the ship and possessing their own life support and security systems, accessible only through the heavily fortified main doors.
However, the security systems were offline as Artemis had wiped the computers to re-install his own proprietary software. All the funglings had to do was pull on the doors.

"Right...that's a war crime waiting to happen. We'll also want to get them contained, preferably in a cryogenic container so I can study them and maybe make a smarter bio-weapon" Artemis said, pondering solutions.

"We don't have enough of those already?" one of the staff asked, promptly being nipped at by Artie Jr.

"This dwarf actually has her crew intact so I can't just flood the vents with gas...and I doubt they'll take kindly to turning the temperature down to freeze them. I guess we'll have to devise a 'safe' solution" Artemis pondered. "I'll go out and snag a few samples and we can take it from there. We'll see if we can throw together some sort of human safe weapon once we know what makes these things tick. In the meantime, start working on the human-safe aspect and delivery methods"

There was pounding at the emergency shutters as funglings began to mass.

"They'll be in here in due time I imagine. Alright, half of you keep them from the vaults, the rest of you work on the delivery methods and finding ways to not kill everyone"

Artemis floated to his office, returning with a duffel bag, one of his pre-prepared field kits.

"In the meantime I'll head out to collect samples and find help."

Artemis floated to a large armored cabinet, he entered his personal code on the keypad and opened the cabinet, revealing a set of gleaming syringe guns.

"aaaah, the Mark II" he picked one up and felt the weight in his mechanical arms, "this brings me back. I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss the prototype" Artemis said.
His old syringe gun, one made of loose parts and scrap, was resting in a glass case in his office.
The Mark II's were machine made, far more reliable than Artemis' improvised weapon from the previous dimension. They fired faster, had greater stopping power, and a larger rotary chamber that held more syringes. He had manufactured enough to arm his staff, though they were fairly user friendly, allowing those not familiar with the syringe guns (IE, non-Innovative Sciences staff) to wield them.

"Everybody on the defense team arm up, use mixed ammunition, we don't know what will work on these little monsters"

Artemis opened the lower portion of the cabinet, revealing massive boxes of pre-loaded syringes, ranging from tranquilizers to nerve toxins...and a box of some simply containing sugar water (which Artemis was waiting to test to see if the placebo effect also applied to "offensive medicine").

"I'll take the'll be easier to move around. Mr. Cadbury you're in charge of the research team, Dr. Ferris, you're in charge of the defense team. You know how to get ahold of me if you need me"

"Right, let's get to work!" Cadbury said enthusiastically, leading his team to their workstations.

In the meantime, Artemis used his override code to open a vent for himself. Though as he went to climb in he was nipped by Artie Jr.

"Can I come too?" he asked, tilting his head and flashing his 'puppy eyes'

"Errr....alright, just don't tell your mother. She might literally kill me"


The Pritchards crawled through the vents, occasionally coming across interesting finds like forgotten compartments or the odd stash (most of which contained porn in some degree).
Through the grating they could hear funglings attacking other crew and wolfing down anything in their path.

"We should be nearing the living quarters, as good a place as any to start. Maybe we can move to the refectory if they've already been through here, good chance of them homing in on the food stored there" Artemis remarked.

"Hey Artie" Holly called, his voice echoing through the vents.

"Not now you git, I'm busy!" Artemis snapped back


"NOT NOW..." unprepared, Artemis fell through a loose grate into a corridor.

"....that grate was loose" Holly said, grinning at him from a nearby monitor.

"Thanks..." Artemis fired his thrusters and regained his balance, he held his arms up to catch Artie Junior as he leapt from the open vent.

From down the corridor the duo could hear chattering and the sound of scurrying. A single fungling looked around the corner at Artemis and Artie Jr. Before it could shriek to warn the others, Artemis shot it with the syringe gun, blowing its head clean off, but not killing it.
The pop from the syringe gun, which was far louder than its air-powered prototype, echoed through the empty corridor. The funglings homed in on the sound and began swarming them.

"GAAAAH!!!! OKAY, SLIGHT MISCALCULATION" Artemis said, turning the syringe gun on full auto and trying to stop the rampaging horde.
The syringes slowed them down but did little to stop them.

Artemis picked up Artie Junior and fled in the opposite direction, a horde hot on their tail.

The horde soon lost sight of them and fanned out through the corridors to find them.
Several passed a pair of vending machines, though one stayed behind and began throwing itself at the machine to try and get the food inside. As it did, it neglected to notice Artie Jr. lurking between the two machines. The little black skutter darted at the fungling and scooped it up in his claw. Artie Jr. then proceeded to drag the little monster back towards a nearby break room while it flopped about, trying to break free of his grip.

Inside, Artemis had assembled a small lab setup from his field kit. He took the little fungling from his son and crammed it into a plastic container, snipping the lid shut over it and writing a sample number on the label. He peered into the container at the phallic shaped fungling as it flung itself at the walls of the container.

"Hello you little penisy little monster. Let's figure out what kills you." Artemis set the container down by the setup and got to work with Artie Jr's assistance.

Took me forever but I finally got this up. God it feels good to be back, happy everyone is still here too, looking forward to more hijinks with everyone!
I didn't mention where the Pritchards are for anyone that wants to "run into them" so we can group up to fight these things.

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