The chief penguin Zzyzx stood by and watched, as the construction penguins mounted a large framed portrait to the wall. Zzyzx nodded in approval, as Aohd walked by with two soft baked pretzels.
“What's with the giant picture?” Asked the hell phoenix, as he handed one of the pretzels to Zzyzx.
“We are standing in, what I hope to become the hall of saints. It will be a monument dedicated to the heroes of Pengu.”
Aohd gazed up at the portrait to see the profile of a black jaguar with gray spots and glasses. He asked: “Who is this fine specimen of a jaguar?”
“This is Jae, the Pengu saint of technology.” Replied Zzyzx as he took a bite from his pretzel.
“How did he earn that title?”
“He saved my laptop's hard drive, when it was infected with a Trojan that locked me out of it, to the point I couldn't even start it up. Otherwise we would have lost all of our files.”
“Not to mention you couldn't look at your porn.”
“Yep, also couldn't look at my porn.” Said Zzyzx as both birds nodded.
“I guess it doesn't take much to become a saint in Pengu.”
“You have to work with what you got some times. We all can't be hell bound creatures with questionable origins and interesting company.”
“Well interesting things do happen in Arizona after dark in the desert.”
“You're from Arizona state?”
Aohd shrugged as he took another bite out of his pretzel. Zzyzx shook his head as the construction penguins finished mounting the portrait.
“It looks great guys. There are donuts and coffee in the break room for you.”
The construction penguins talked among themselves, as they gathered their tools and left. Zzyzx and Aohd walked towards the research labs, as they changed their conversation topic.
“So has Ajana made any progress with the starfish thing?”
“I don't know. To be honest, I've been reluctant to go back there after the holy water incident.”
“Well, you shouldn't have shined a high power flashlight into the poor girl's eyes.”
“'Poor girl' my tail feathers! She kicked me clear across the room. It was impressive, considering.”
“I know, right?” Said Zzyzx as they entered the labs. Aohd nodded in agreement as they saw Ajana observing the creature eating a carrot stick.
“Any progress with the creature Ajana?” Asked Zzyzx, but the doe shook her head.
“All we know is, that it seems to be an omnivore, as it eats everything from vegetable sticks to beef jerky. Before you ask, yes we gave it regular food, too. It just eats everything we offer it and produces some sort slime around its body. We think it's some form of biological defense, but we have no idea what it does if anything. We've tried running test and came to the conclusion it's topical, but without a living test subject, we have nothing.”
Ajana sighed after she finished talking. She picked up her notes again, to see if she missed anything she documented earlier. Aohd leaned in close to examine the creature as a voice said: “It's a shoggoth!” Everyone in the lab looked up, to see a young fox walk in while eating funnel cake with powdered sugar and strawberry syrup.
“How the hell did you get in here, Rika?” Asked a confused Zzyzx as she swallowed her mouthful.
“Newsletter said, you guys were serving carnival treats and that we should come and try them.” She answered as she leaned in to look at the hissing star fish creature. Zzyzx processed what she said as he turned his attention to Aohd.
“From now on, you clear those newsletters with me, Aohd.”
“What did you say this thing was called again?” Asked Ajana, as she turned to a clean page on her notepad.
“A shoggoth. This is a slightly tamer version then your run of the mill shoggoth though.”
“Why is that?” Asked Ajana, as she continued writing her notes.
“Because this looks like the version they based the plush toy off of.”
The rest of the room said “What?” in unison as they didn't know what the young fox was talking about. Rika took another bite of her cake, before dusting her hands off to retrieve a book from her backpack. She took out a large role-playing book and opened it to a back page with toy advertisements. She pointed to a plush toy that looked identical the one in the cage. Everyone collectively gave a curious grunt at the revelation.
“What else can you tell us about the shoggoth?” Asked Ajana.
“Let me consult the chibi edition.”
Rika put away the first book and took out another with cute versions of monsters on the cover. Rika licked her thumb as she consulted the index to find the proper pages with the information.
“According to this, like a normal shoggoth, it can be injured and killed, but it is quite tough. You best bet is to use military grade firearms, high explosives, or contained fire.”
Aohd stared into the cage as the others listed to Rika who continued.
“Shoggoths can be linked to masters who serve the elder ones, but over time can drive their masters insane and try to consume them. The shoggoth plush is less likely to consume people but it is not without their own risk and dangers. One should never handle a plush or mini shoggoth, as its body is coated in a mucus like substance that causes insanity upon contact.”
While everyone's attention is still on Rika, a glob of slime hits Aohd in the face. The hell phoenix's pupils go wide as he walks away from the group.
“If you must handle and/or store a mini shoggoth, it is best to put it in a tank with solid walls that can catch fluids. If exposed to a shoggoth's mucus signs to watch out for are unusual behavior and out of context gestures. They will do their best to gain the trust of others and try to get them to let their guards down by any means. A common method is with the use of fresh baked goods.”
“This is very interesting. A bit silly, but interesting.” Said Ajana with a grin as she continued writing her notes down. “Do me a favor and get the large tank with the heavy mesh top.” The lab penguin she asked nodded, as a couple headed off to retrieve what she asked for. “Also get the chemical gloves and forceps!” She added before they were too far away to hear her.
“Wait, wait, wait. Hold on just a second. Rika, I know you study the occult and other oddities but that is a role playing game manual. How is that a reliable source of information?” Asked Zzyzx, as Ajana and the lab penguins carefully transferred the shoggoth, while wearing protective equipment.
“Look bird, I'm young and still play with stuffed animals, but I figured out what that thing was after one look. You need me for the occult activities you do down here. So what if I get my info from a game manual? I mean, manuals have to have some sort of base-material based in real life.”
Zzyzx sighed at Rika. He shook his head, as he thought about what he should do.
“What do you think, Ajana?”
“She does seem knowledgeable. And she makes a fair point: Even the wildest fiction has some roots in reality. Even if those roots are drug induced. Besides, I would love to learn more about the occult from her.”
“What about you Ao... Where did Aohd go?” Asked Zzyzx as he looked for his second in command. The chief penguin sighed when he couldn't find the hell phoenix. He looked at Rika and extended his flipper to here. “Welcome to the Order of Pengu.”
“Yay!” exclaimed Rika as she put her hands up before shaking Zzyzx's flipper. Aohd returned with a dazed look in his eyes.
“Hello fellow cult members. Is all well?”
“Where did you go?” asked Zzyzx
“I had to relieve myself. Sorry if I was an inconvenience to anyone.”
“No, you're good. So Rika convinced me to let her join the order.”
“That is wonderful. Welcome, new cult member Rika.” Said Aohd, as he shook her hand.
“Thanks Aohd.” Said Rika with a grin.
“Does your manual have anything on shoggoth's diet?” Asked Ajana
“No, just ways to kill and avoid them in the event of an emergency.”
“Speaking of food, is anyone hungry? I prepared a tray of fresh lemon bars if anyone would like one.” Asked Aohd as he held up a tray of the aforementioned pastries.