Renard Argente’: Chapter 6: Dread Wake

Pudgy was scared, the scene unfolding in front of him was similar regarding the events that occurred on the moon.  The eldritch god was starting to cross over from the prison that the hedgehog had sent him to.  The river had been relatively calm, with gentle waves.  However, his ship was being tossed on the waves, as the water on the lake was much choppier.  Because of the exposure at the south eastern end of the lake with the Gulf of Mexico, the lake had a mixture of salt water with fresh, which the locals called brackish.  The gauges on his boiler, and the one in the wheelhouse all read 550 Psi, which was high.  The throttle was set to flank, and Pudgy had to turn on the interior lights of the ship to see his controls.  The cell phone went to zero bars of signal, and the VHF radio was hissing.  Most likely whatever was occurring, was jamming all frequencies.  This meant he was cut off from the outside world and could not call for help.

The thunder boomed overhead, as the lightning flashed, striking the causeway metal support posts.   Pudgy kept a North by North West course, heading deeper into the center of the body of water.  Attaching the wheel lock, which was a couple of rubber straps, Pudgy started to check his gear.  Cobalt knowing full well what Pudgy could run into, had placed secret compartments into the ship.  The hedgehog opened the panels in the cabin and started to remove fireworks.  There were several round tubes that were mounted into the prow of the ship, which were hidden by metal flaps painted with the same lacquer used for the boat hull.  No one would have suspected that the boat was armed.  Pudgy remembered what his friend said that this was only to be used to keep him safe, and not to be used to harm.   Pudgy also had 1 torpedo, which was made from plastic and fishing weights, it had a magnetic nose cone which would allow it to attach to a metal structure.  Inside was the same chemicals used for a glow stick, which would allow him to find something at night. 

The one thing that could not be stealthier, was the flare gun.  The ship had no room for it, so a bulkhead had been disguised as a closet, and inside was one round.  Flares were to signal other ships if there was an emergency, but in this case, it would allow Pudgy to set something aflame.  Pushing the button, the critter turned on the head lamps, and cast a light in front of his ship.  As an uncomfortable time passed, and the storms raged overhead in the skies, the rain started to pour from above.  With the bilge pumps on, water spat out from the port at the stern of the ship.  Just barely visible ahead was a large metal structure.  As Pudgy continued to steam towards the structure, the lightning flashes were illuminating from behind a tower of sorts, crane, and claw swinging.  Huge black tentacles were coming out of the water’s surface and stretched into the sky above.   The hedgehog knew where he had to go and steered towards the barge. 

The barge continued to grow larger and larger, and the logo of the Army Corp of Engineers were clearly seen, with an American flag painted on the side.  The dredging barge had been moved to this spot for reasons that were unclear.  But as Pudgy started to inspect the barge at water level, there was no spot to dock, which was a huge problem.  He did not want to leave the ship, only to have it float away.  Steering carefully, he started to maneuver the ship around to the next side of the barge.  This time he was lucky and found a docking platform for a ship to moor to.  Positioning the ship, he started to pull up to the slip.  There was no way he could get out to tie the ship, though he noticed there was a metal fence that was in front, that formed a cage of sorts around the platform.  This was to keep the inspection / crew vessel safe while dredging was in operation.  Pudgy realized what he had to do, as the harpoon had a rope attached to it, and a small hand mounted crank winch on the inside.  Pudgy could fire the harpoon, and then moor that way, until he could jump out and tie the lines. 

Pudgy flipped open the cover for the harpoon button, which opened a metal tube on the prow of the ship, “3…2…1…. FIRE!” Pudgy pushed the button, and a torrent of steam burst forth, as the tiny harpoon was launched forward, and struck the cage and pierced through the holes landing in the water on the other side.  The boiler lost 300 PSI with that blast, which killed the engine to half speed.  Frantically Pudgy inserted the crank leveler into its slot underneath the control panel and started to crank the handle.  The harpoon was pulled up, and formed a brace on the fence, and the rope went taught, starting to pull the ship towards the slip.  As the waves tossed the boat up and down, the ship maneuvered into the slip, and soon the hedgehog could not crank any further.  He kept the engine on half, and then scurried out to the deck.  Grabbing a mooring line, he jumped out of the ship onto a metal dock and found a mooring cleat.  Quickly he started to tie the ship to the dock, and once done scurried back into the ship to get to the wheelhouse.  Reaching the throttle, he put it down into what served as a neutral position, where the propeller blade would spin very slowly.  The boiler pressure was 150, and not making enough pressure for the engine to run well.  Pudgy knew that meant the fire was dying down.  He would worry about that later. 

Grabbing his captain hat, and his backpack, he started to load up his supplies, ready to do battle with the eldritch god once more.  Turning the power off, he shut down the lights.    Then nodding to himself, “Time to go.”  The hedgehog scurried out of the wheelhouse and hopped over the railing to land on the platform.    The slip was aluminum, which did not rust in the water, and   slotted so it could drain.  The waves were sloshing the foul-smelling water up through and getting Pudgy wet.  The hedgehog carefully scurried along, finding a set of metal stairs that led up to a platform, turned and went up again to the mail platform.  This meant he would need to climb, which he started to do.  The rain had stopped, which made things easier, though every surface was wet causing him to slide down if he was not quick enough.  As an unknown amount of time passed, the hedgehog was able to make it to the first landing platform. 

Looking up into the sky, there was a void above.  Darkness of the sort that nothing could describe was above the platform.  As Pudgy looked down, the water though choppy, too were black, with no visible features seen.  He knew the water was rough, as the ship was being rocked back and forth.  “Pudgy need to keep going,” he said to himself, and started to work his way up the next set of metal stairs.  As the critter continued upwards, he could see more of the platform.  There were a variety of building materials: large rocks, sand, pilings, and other things.  This was a construction vessel and was being used to build something.  The hedgehog made it to the landing of the platform and scurried tiredly onto the barge platform.  The crane towered above, and its massive claw was holding a gigantic Xanadoom crystal.  It was inert and swinging with the wind slightly.  The crystal was far bigger than anything Pudgy had ever seen.  It was easily 10 feet long, and three feet in diameter.  It was hexagonal when you would look at it from one end.  Wiping the rain from his eyes, the hedgehog scurried forward. 

Standing at the Northern edge of the construction platform was Lord Doomcock.  His golden mask was glistening from the rain, and his regal attire was oil stained and tattered.  Pudgy looked around and did not see anyone else nearby.  He started to scamper forward, and then dove behind a pile of concrete blocks, as he saw Argente the fox pad out beside the future ruler of the earth.    Pudgy peeked from around the corner of the pile of block and listened intently.  Doomcock nodded, “Yes Argente, the structure is complete. We will bring back our one true god, Cthulhu to this world once more.”  Pudgy blinked, why would Doomcock want to do that?  The fox turned, her eyes glowing blue, “Did I say you could talk? Get your sorry self to the crane and position the crystal.”   The fox had a strange looking doll with a golden helmet like Diktor’s mask, and similar clothing.  Holding the doll between her front paws, Doomcock bowed to the fox, and the started to turn walking towards the pile of block.  His gait was not right and had almost a jerky feel to it.  Pudgy could not tell what was going on and was worried. 

The hedgehog waited as the rain poured down overhead, drenching everything.  The would-be ruler of the world was being delegated to a role not befitting his position.  As The man started to approach, Pudgy peeked out from the pile of materials.  “Lord Doomcock, it’s Pudgy!”  As the critter scurried out, he tugged at the man’s pant leg, looking up at him concerned.  The lord stopped, while turning his helmet down towards the soaking wet creature.  Dull lifeless black orbs started from above, and the lord in a swift motion kicked his foot hard towards the hedgehog.  Punting him across the platform, he turned his body back to head to the crane. “Begone you pest,” Diktor muttered, and continued to shamble towards the crane’s ladder.  Upon reaching the ladder, the man began to ascend to the control platform of the crane.  Sitting into a torn leather seat, he began to turn on switches, which lit up according to their function.  The crane whined, while the hydraulic pumps began to extend the control arms and move the boom out over the water.  The crystal swung back and forth, while it was being moved into position. 

Pudgy had landed hard against a pile of steel beams and was whimpering.  Lord Doomcock was his friend and had never been mean towards him.  Yes, he was yelled at once, but that was due to concern when he had played with the teleporter.  This behavior was totally unlike his normal demeanor, which made the hedgehog terribly upset.  Watching the crane extend its boom arm, Pudgy watched as the long crystal was moved into position out over the water and began to glow an ethereal green hue.  The hedgehog got back to his feet, and then looked around.  The hydraulic cylinder was leaking oil badly and was gushing out as the arm extended.  Realizing what he could do, the hedgehog pulled out one bottle rocket.  He started to strike his flint and tinder, trying to make a spark to catch the fuse.    As the rains slowed, the spark began to crackle, sending a tiny light which illuminated the darkness.   The fuse then began to crackle, and spark.  Pudgy bounced and held the long stick as carefully as he could, while aiming at the pump.    Soon a torrent of spars erupted, and the rocket fired across the deck towards the oil pump. 

The rocket struck the pump, and the flames hit the oil, lighting it.  At first Pudgy thought he had missed, but soon a torrent of bright yellow flames erupted, and the oil bump exploded.  The crane rocked back and forth on the platform, with the long Xanadoom crystal dropping down onto the platform.  The pump that the hedgehog had struck was the part that controlled the extension of the boom arm.  There was a second pump, which he needed to take out, that would control the claw.   Furiously, he began to strike his flint and tinder, noticing a pair of glowing blue eyes in the darkness.  The fox was inspecting the exploded oil bump and turned her gaze towards him.  Her eyes narrowed and started to pad towards him with teeth bared.    The fuse caught fire, and started to crackle, which meant Pudgy had to move quickly.  He scurried into position and fired the second bottle rocket towards the oil pump on the claw.  Again, it struck, and in a short moment, exploded as the oil caught fire.    Pudgy would have cheered, until he was knocked down hard again, this time by the fox, who had her white furry paws on his chest. 

“Darn You,” she cried out. “You are going to ruin everything!”   Pudgy coughed, looking up at the angry female fox, “Pudgy have to stop Cthulhu, he will destroy us all.  What did you do to Doomcock?”  The fox motioned towards a shoulder mounted pouch where the doll was strapped to, and snapped at her foe, “I made him more manageable, which was easier than you think.  I learned many things while in the French quarter.  Servant, come here!”  She snarled, as Pudgy watched Diktor descend the ladder and approach.  His body still had that jerking motion when the hedgehog realized what was going on. “You’re using a voodoo doll, to control him.  Let him go!”  The fox grew a sadistic grin, and let the hedgehog go.  Looking up at Diktor, “Pick up the hedgehog, and squeeze him.”   The man reached down, with tattered oil stained gloves, and roughly grasped the hedgehog around his waist facing away from his chest.  As Pudgy was raised to chest height with arms a straight out, Diktor rose back to standing height.  His powerful hands started to close in, and then the critter began to cough.  “No, please, don’t hurt Pudgy!  Pudgy thought you friend, please!”  The would-be ruler laughed a menacing laugh, “I like how it pleads for its life.  Cthulhu will want to decide its fate.”    The man started to shamble towards where the fox was standing at the edge of the platform. 

Pudgy was facing forward, with the man’s hands clasping hard around his little body.  He could see the platform edge appear closer, and soon the critter could see over the edge.  The waters of the lake had been pulled back into a rough diameter of at least 30 feet, with a patch of darkness inside from which one could see nothing.  Around the circumference edge of the void, were Xanadoom crystals of a variety of sorts.  Stone pilings had been erected to serve as a temporary support structure for each of the crystals, so the waves of the lake would not cause movement.   Pudgy watched as the crystal on the platform fell out of the claw and began to roll off the edge of the barge, and into the water below landing onto a cradle, though not in the upright position as the others.  The silver fox cackled while looking up at Pudgy from Doomcock’s left foot.  “See Pudgy, there is nothing you can do to stop us.  My Lord Cthulhu, I have done as you asked!  Please come forth!”  The fox withdrew from a pouch on her opposite shoulder a blue glowing crystal, which then immediately shot a beam out to the crystal below.  One by one, each crystal along the circumference began to light up.  A strange hum could be heard, resonating throughout the metallic structure of the barge.    

The man squeezed hard again, causing Pudgy to cough up blood.  “Please Doomcock…let Pudgy go…please….it…hurts…”  The hedgehog watched as the crystals all started to shoot beams of light across each other, like a huge connecting grid, until an image began to appear.  Blood red eyes glowed from within, and the tentacles started to raise out of the void.    Cthulhu’s head began to emerge, more terrible a visage than any could ever imagine.  Soon the god’s eyes were at platform height, and the laughter began.  Not a normal comical laughter, but a deep guttural laughs from the depths of the darkness from the deepest of the void.   The eyes locked on Doomcock holding Pudgy out in front of him, “You have done well Argente.  You brought the two biggest thorns in my side to me, so I may deal with them personally.   Then after them, I can destroy this world once and for all.” 

The fox blinked, “My Lord Cthulhu, what was that?  You told me that you would free this world, and bring my mother back to me?”  The eldritch god laughed once more, as lightning flashed in the clouds overhead.  “yes, my dear sweet naïve fox, I am going to free this world.  I will bring peace by destroying every bit of it.  I believe you misheard me, or chose to ignore that part, my dear fox.  I will reunite you with your mother, in the afterlife.”  The doll that was strapped to Argente’s shoulder was pulled out of its sling and flew quickly through the air.  One of the eldritch god’s tentacles caught the small doll, and a sneer formed upon the visage of the god.  “Now, my one-time captor, Doomcock, squeeze the hedgehog till he is no more.”  Diktor grunted, “yes, my master.”   Pudgy began to wail, as the pressure was starting to overcome him.  “No! Stop it,” the hedgehog wailed and wiggled as best he could to reach the lord’s wrist.  He did not want to, but Pudgy was scared he might not come back from this.  Baring his small teeth, the critter bit hard into his flesh.  The man cried out in pain and let loose of his prey.  Pudgy fell onto the deck plating hard, wheezing.  The fox growled at Cthulhu, “you lied to me!”   The god’s laughter rumbled louder than the thunder, as long black tentacles started to approach the platform. 

Pudgy had recovered enough to move, realizing he still had his backpack on.  The critter as quick as he could muster, reached into his pack.  Locating the flint and tinder, he began to strike furiously.  There was another fuse sticking out of his back, and the spars started to light the fuse.  Scurrying as quick as he could go to the Lord’s pant leg, the hedgehog pulled it out and shoved the pack high up inside of the clothing.  The hedgehog ran fast, when soon another explosion hit, and blasted a hole in the pant leg.  The lord fell flat onto his back, with his pant leg on fire.  Pudgy was sad, he did not want to hurt Doomcock, but he was not giving him a choice.   Pulling out his small sickly crystal from his vest, Pudgy turned towards Cthulhu.  The eldritch one locked his eyes onto the hedgehog. “Your crystal is weak now, which I never told you would happen.  These crystals do not last forever, and what is assembled here represents the last that this world has to offer.”  The critter stood weakly up and pointed it at one of the crystals in the circumference, which started to fizzle, causing a beam to falter.  Pudgy spoke in a stern voice, “The voodoo museum taught Pudgy something.  There are life crystals and death crystals, and if the two are combined, we can defeat the loa of death.” 

The fox’s ears perked up, and she turned to look at the hedgehog.  Realizing what her one-time hedgehog foe meant, the fox sniffed hard and withdrew her crystal as well.  She pointed the crystal at the same crystal that Pudgy was pointing at and watched as a beam of bright blue light shot forth in a beam.  Pudgy’s crystal did the same, though was dimmer, and caused the water line crystal to explode into a fine white powder.  Argente looked at Pudgy, “I was lied to, I’m sorry Pudgy.  We have the tools, to stop Cthulhu.”  Just as she said that, the fox was pulled back by the tail.  Cthulhu sneered, holding the voodoo doll, “Diktor, get back up and stop them.  Do something useful!”  Doomcock had sat back up and was starting to claw at the fox and had grabbed her black tail with its silver tip.  The fox started to wiggle back and forth, trying to break free, “Pudgy Help!”  The hedgehog nodded at her, and scampered over and bit the lord’s wrist again, causing the hand to snap back.  The fox nodded at him, “Thank you!”  She smiled as best as she could and scampered off with Pudgy to start aiming at the various crystals one by one, causing them to explode.  The god roared in displeasure, as the crystals that had opened the gate was causing it to collapse in on itself, and he could feel himself being pulled back into the void. 

Harvey pulled out on of his clawed hands from within the void and dropped it hard as he grabbed onto the platform. “No, I will be free this time, and I will have my revenge!  Doomcock, do something useful you dolt!”  The would-be ruler sat back up, and rose to his feet, “yes … master.”  The man started to shuffle towards the fox and hedgehog.  As the two animals were being chased by the mind-controlled man, the delay in mind control allowed the two to dodge his attacks.  Pudgy or Argente would dodge the shambling man, aim their crystals out into the water, and fire blue and white beams out to the water.  It was during this frenzy of active, that the fox began to pant, noticing her crystal was shrinking.  Its bright blue glow was draining and changing to the color of Pudgy’s crystal.  The god was correct, these crystals were not meant to last forever.  That or the destruction of the larger crystals were causing changes to magnify more quickly in the critter’s smaller crystals.  In the void below, there were only two crystals left.  Unfortunately, they were at the furthest part of the watery void, with an eldritch god in between them.  His tentacles were wrapping around the barge’s pilings underneath, causing the whole area to slant downwards into the lake. 

Pudgy looked at Argente, and held his crystal up to hers, causing them to glow with a bright light.  She grinned, and the two pointed them at Cthulhu, sending a torrent of light at the god, making him roar in paint.  “No, not again!  Dark you Pudgy, darn you Argente, and darn you Doomcock!”  The god started to lower once more, as the void from which he was emerging from was shrinking and collapsing in on itself.  The god released his grasp on the platform and was pulled back into the watery void below.  The crystals started to appear, and the beams from the critter’s crystals shot overhead Cthulhu and connected with the final two crystals.  They began to glow brightly, overheat, and then explode into a bright dust.    The waters of the lake began to rush forward and fill the void.  However, the platform also was starting to fall forward.  Despite the massive clawed hand falling, the tentacles wrapped around the barge platform, and tilted it further down.  The concrete blocks, steel beams, and other building materials were all falling off and rolling down the construction area.  As they would fall, the objects soon sped around as if in orbit, and pulled into the void below.  The red eyes looked up, “I am taking you all with me!”  The hedgehog looked at the fox, and motioned with his paw, “we have to go, Pudgy have ship!”   The fox nodded, and scampered behind the hedgehog towards the crane section, where the steel stairs led to the service dock below.   

As the two approached, Doomcock stood there, holding onto the crane’s beam supports.  Pudgy looking around, pointed his crystal at Diktor, “go away!” The crystal sputtered out and shattered into a fine dust.   The fox nodded, “and pointed her crystal at the man, though it too failed and blasted into a fine white mist.  Cackling, the man laughed as he started to approach menacingly, “Lord Cthulhu has commanded me to deal with you!”  The fox turned to her hedgehog compatriot, “Pudgy, Cthulhu still has the doll and is controlling him.  It is not the Doomcock you know. “Pudgy nodded at his new friend, and then the two bolted as fast as they could towards the stairs.  White the fox gracefully descended, the hedgehog rolled into a ball and bounced down the stairs like a tennis ball.  Landing hard on the middle landing, he looked up, “Ow!”  The fox giggled and watched as Doomcock started to approach haltingly.   Due to the angle of the barge platform, the stairs were not as steep as before, and the two could descend far easier to the platform with the dock.  The ship was still even with the water, though the harpoon was holding the line taught, with the prow up a bit.  Pudgy raced, and jumped into the ship, opening the fire box.  The fire had died out, but he had a plan, and started stuffing the firebox full of coal. 

Argente was on the dock platform looking up and watched Pudgy lighting the boiler.  The black smoke started to belch once more.  “Argente, please cut the mooring lines and get in the ship!” Pudgy cried out while he scurried into the wheelhouse.  The fox seeing the mooring lines, chewed through the rope to cut it free.  Then she jumped into the ship and looked up as the man continued to approach while descending the metal stairs.  The fox watched with a worried look, as the hedgehog furiously started to crank a wheel, and soon the ship was drifting backwards with the water.  Pudgy released the harpoon’s cable and lighting the two prow mounted rockets.  He had loaded the rockets in backwards by mistake earlier, though this meant that he could use them for propulsion.  Locking them into place, he watched as a torrent of flames shot forward, and the boat launched backwards quickly away from the dock.  The fox at the same time was using her paws to paddle backwards also, anything to get away.  The ship had drifted about 10 feet away, when the man reached the dock slip, and hopped into the water dropping fully underneath the foul-smelling water.  Soon though the golden helmet emerged from the water line, and was approaching the ship, which meant the lord was swimming after them.  

Pudgy hit the torpedo button, and whoosh it was sent forward.  It is magnetic tipped cone immediately struck the space between the mask’s eyes, and then burst into a bright yellow light.  Turning the ship’s wheel hard, the hedgehog spun it fast, and put the throttle to flank speed.  The fox could hear the engine fire up, and the rumbling sound as the propeller blade spun underneath the water.  The wake behind the ship was causing the water to foam behind the vessel.  As the fox turned, she saw the man was falling further behind them for a moment, though that was outlives as the waters started to rush backwards.  The barge was being sucked into the quickly filling void, and it pitched up on its side as it was pulled beneath the surface of the water.  This was causing a huge undertow to form, drawing all surrounding water back towards it, in a giant whirlpool.  Even at flank speed, the ship’s engines were not keeping up with the tide.   The fox whimpered, “Pudgy, we’re not going to make it!”   The hedgehog had one last trick and pushed the flare button.  Argente watched as the top of the wheelhouse started to splinter, and the flare cartridge fell into a docking cradle.  It looked like a wood hopper, but the cartridge slid back and locked on the stern of the ship.  The fox had to dodge and was amazed at what this ship had.   The flare fuse crackled, and soon a torrent of red flame shot out behind, propelling the ship forward like a rocket.   

Having reached a fast-enough speed, the ship raced away from the undertow, and was barreling out into the relative safety of the outer waters of the lake.   The throttle was still set to flank speed, which meant Pudgy had the ship going as fast as it could.  The fox turned back, watching the flare’s red flames start to die down and then fizzle out.  This caused the ship to slow down, back to a normal speed now.  Argente looked back at the severely tilting platform as it was continuing to sink into the waters below.  Doomcock struggled to get out of the water and swung his legs back up onto the dock slip.  Looking bewildered, he held his head, before locating the ship speeding away.  He started to wave frantically at them, “Pudgy…. Come back….” The fox narrowed her eyes at the figure, as it was most likely a trick.  She sighed and looked back towards the prow of the ship and its wheelhouse.  The hedgehog was still steering, and frantically moving around inside.  Pudgy turned and smiled a tiny bit, “are you ok Argente?”  The fox was about to speak when she noticed the critter’s eyes going wide.  As Argente turned back to face the platform, a huge beam of deep emerald green light shot up into the skies above.  The skies began to clear, and the stars came out once more.  The light moved upwards, and the faded away as the magical energies were dissipated.  The moon was charting its course along the sky, and the barge platform was no more.  

Some materials that had not been sucked down into the void floated along the surface as well.  The barge had sunk and could no longer be seen.  Nor was there any sight of Lord Doomcock, which drew quizzical looks from the two critters.  Pudgy coughed and spit up a bit of blood, which he wiped with the back of his paw, drawing a look of concern from his new friend.  The hedgehog walked slowly back to the ships’ wheel and resumed his control of the ship.  “We can go back to the pier, where the Natchez is docked.  Get some rest and recover.”   The fox nodded, while watching the river channel approach ahead of the ship.  In the distance, Pudgy could see airplanes taking off from a long strip of land that jutted out into the lake.  Looking back, he saw that his phone was regaining signal bars, so the internet functions started to work once more.  The VHF radio started to have chatter once more, as he was picking up the commercial river traffic.  Pudgy pushed the radio transmit button, “Calling Captain Jacob of the Natchez, are you there?”  The radio hissed, and soon the familiar male voice called back, “Ahh Captain Pudgy, did you find your friend?”  Pudgy started to whimper but shook his head. “Pudgy found friend, but too late.  Can Pudgy come back to pier again?  Need to repair ship, “He trailed off.  The captain’s voice grew concerned, “Repairs, how?  Yes, please come back Captain Pudgy, I will tell the crew.”

“Thank you, Captain Jacob,” Pudgy spoke, and released the transmit button.  The entrance back to the river was guarded by large metal barricades, to prevent the ships from striking the bridge support posts.  A road ran over top of the area, and the little ship sped along.  It was dark, so Pudgy had turned on the running lights and flood lights mounted to the prow of the ship.  As the little ship entered the much calmer waters, they passed a terminal for a railroad, as well as a large marina full of boats.  Several fishermen were busy on the decks, either with maintenance, or drinking from cans, but stared in amazement at the battle-damaged steam ship.    The wheelhouse was splintered, with a flare cartridge still sticking out the stern of the ship.  Large scorch marks were burned into the wood of the ship.  As the ship passed by the various boat yards, chemical plants, shipping terminals, etc., worth of astonished workers stopped what they were doing to view the sight.  The silver fox was in the back, helping to run the ship, moving pieces of coal into the firebox.    The time quickly passed, and within a couple of hours, they had reached the main course of the Mississippi river once more. 

This time however, the ship was moving slower.  On the trip to New Orleans, Pudgy was heading down stream, which allowed the ship to gain a slight speed boost.  Now that he was going against the water current, it was slowing his progress.   However, soon the flood lamps lit up the familiar white steamship with its twin smokestacks.  There were crew members on the deck, smoking, when they saw the little battle-scarred ship appear in the distance.  As the large ship started to tun on its lights one by one, Captain Jacob was standing on the main observation platform with a set of black binoculars.   The hedgehog was not looking right, and there was now a silver fox in the back, helping to load coal.    As the ship started to pass by, the human Captain could see the damage to the vessel.    Pulling around the large red paddlewheel, Pudgy maneuvered the ship back to the metal servicing dock once more.  The same concerned young man was there, along with a friend to quickly pull the steam ship into the slip.  They tied the mooring lines and looked down at the fox staring back at them.  She declined to say anything, paralyzed as it has been a long time since she was so close to humans.  Doomcock did not count, as he had been controlled by the voodoo doll, he was more like a puppet. 

As the hedgehog powered down the ship, he walked slowly out, leaving bloody paw prints behind him.  Argente looked over and smelled the blood. “Pudgy, you’re hurt!”  The two men looked down at the talking fox, then to the hedgehog, who collapsed onto the deck.  “Jake, get him inside the Natchez,” the man from before said to his new partner.  The blonde-haired man nodded and bent down to gently scoop up the hedgehog.  Standing, he turned and began to race towards the large steam vessel.  The African American gentleman who remained, looked down at the fox, “what the hell happened?”  The fox looked sad, “We won …but Pudgy’s hurt.  Can you help him?”  The man nodded, “we have a doctor on board.  Once the boiler has cooled, we can head over to the ship.”  The fox nodded her head, and sighed, looking up at the large white steam vessel that was docked on the main side of the pier.  In time, the fire died down, and out, with the smoke ceasing from the stack.  The various pressure gauges all started to fall, as the boiler cooled.  When it was safe, the man motioned to the fox to follow him.  As Argente jumped out onto the steel grated platform, she padded silently behind the man, looking around.    There was a large booth, covered in posters of the various activities that the ship was involved with.  She could not read and wondered why the one man was drinking from a long tube of sorts.    The two reached the boarding platform and crossed over to the Natchez. 

As the fox followed, she was led below the ship’s decks, to where the crew slept and ran the ship’s main systems.   Several worried looking humans were standing around a tight white painted hallway, with black stains along the walls.  She sniffed the air, and noticed it was the same smell as Pudgy’s ship, which meant they too burned coal.   The man earlier identified as Jake, turned to look towards his lead. “The doc is working on the hedgehog now.  It’s like something, or someone squeezed him.”  The fox whimpered, and ears started to fall.  She had a role to play in this, she could have stopped Doomcock.  She was so stupid, to trust the eldritch god.  The two men looked down at the fox, “you can go in.”  She looked up at them, and then snuck around their legs, and inside a tiny room.  There was enough space for a hospital metal bed, and a desk with sink.  A tall man, with round glasses, was bandaging the hedgehog.  Pudgy was out cold and lay motionless on the table.  Argente whimpered, “is Pudgy going to be ok?”  The doctor nodded and looked down at the fox with a smile.  “Yes, he will be all right.  I am ordering mandatory rest, for at least a day or two.  I will keep him here for observation overnight.  You can come tomorrow to visit and take him back to your ship.  The fox nodded, and then placed a paw on the human’s black shoe covered foot. “Th … Thank you, for helping Pudgy.”  The man smiled and resumed bandaging the hedgehog.   As she turned, and headed out to the hallway, the Captain of the ship was standing there, “Fox, you have some explaining to do.  You will come with me.”  The fox nodded and followed the man forward and up a long set of red painted stairs.  The human crew in their various strange outfits was giving her strange looks, as she followed their leader.    As the two wound their way through the ship, they reached a door that red Captain’s office.    Knocking on the door once, he pulled back a long black lever, and opened the door inwards.   Inside were two other humans, dressed in more important uniforms of white shirts and black pants.  They had firearms holstered on their hips and looked down at the fox.   “Fox, sit there.” Captain Jacobs pointed to a metal chair.  As the Captain sat down in a softer green chair, the two other men sat down on an old couch looking at the fox.  The first man with a white outfit nodded, “I am with the United States Coast Guard.  We have some questions about your activities here. First off, what is your name” The fox nodded, “I understand, my name is Argente.”    She watched as the subordinate man in the similar uniform began to take notes on a clipboard.  This was going to be a long night. 

By Cobalt

Cobalt is a normal guy that goes to work. Pudgy is his hedgehog friend who lives in a hobbit style home nearby, and goes on epic adventures. All Pudgy stories are copyrighted to Cobalt. Doomcock, Harvey Cthulhu, and Xanadoom is copyrighted to Overlord DVD.

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