Lucky Tentacle Penetration Pops
These frozen treats are named after the Lucky Tentacle children’s anime, about an ice cream store whose fortunes are turned around by a magical shapeshifting squid girl. The “penetration” in question is the act of putting the pop in one’s mouth. A disastrous test marketing in Seattle circa 1991 convinced Oksuka Pharmaceuticals that the product was best left in Japan.

Cuko Cucumber Breakfast Chips
Shaved, dehydrated and cut cucumber slices in milk. In the abstract, no different from corn flakes, especially since manufacturer Cuko created them as a way to use up excess product. The #1 breakfast cereal in Hokkaido for many years due to its low cost and sponsorship of the manga Ezo Kyōwakoku No Monogatari. Cuko tried to bring the cereal to the US in 1999, but rather than pitching it to health food stores, they attempted to sell it to children. They found few takers.

OctOK Stuffed Cepho Balls
Matsumura Fishworks turned octopus bycatch into an essential menu item for pasta, topping for pizza, and ingredient in kebabs. Shredded octopus meat stuffed into octopus-skin casings in the manner of sausages, Cepho Balls drew enthusiastic reviews from westerners in Japan, but the resulting attempt to introduce them stateside was stillborn. Rather than setting up a factory in the USA, Matsumura simply froze their balls for shipment, leading to many complaints of food poisoning and destroying the already limited market for minced mollusk.

Panda Nuts
A mixed nut snack primarily notable for sweet rather than savory flavors (like custard, caramel, and French vanilla), the adorable Padi Panda mascot helped boost domestic sales of this treat. A planned release in English speaking territories was canned when executives learned that “nut” was also slang for “testacle” in vernacular English after printing 500,000 labels for “fresh-cut, fresh-roasted, sweet, roll-around-in-your mouth Panda Nuts.”

Curry Kimchi Choco Nubs
A rather standard bar chocolate, Choco Nubs prided itself on spicy flavors like Korean kinchi, Indian curry, and pad Thai. A partnership with Cadbury to import the sweets to the UK in 1985 became an expensive disaster after the English-language labels simply listed the Choco Nubs as “savoury” with their actual flavor denoted only by color. Londoners were quite put out to find that the red-packaged “savoury” Choco Nubs had a strong taste of boiled cabbage about them.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

“Okay,” said Jen. “I was able to splice together a connector and get the RB-1 to dump its raw data to my laptop. I’m running it through some things to put the machine code into a usable form.”

Yuri laughed. “It’s all gibberish to me. My skills are in the areas of keeping warm and making meals.”

“Just keeping warm and making meals?” Jen said.

Yuri opened one of his packs and removed a pistol. “Among other things,” he said, inserting a magazine and racking the slide.

“What do you need that for?” cried Jen, alarmed.

“Bears. Wolves. Humans who overestimate their importance.”

“Do you really think we’ll meet any of those?”

“Until the helicopter comes back, I don’t intend to take that chance,” Yuri said. “What do your things say about the machine code?”

Jen turned to her screen. “Two plaintext messages encoded by the RB-1’s standard software. I can’t read them though, since they’re in Russian.”

Yuri pocketed his gun and leaned over. “Pomogi nam. My idem. Oni idut.”


“Help us. We are coming. They are coming.”

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

The love of
My life
Left me for a
Serial killer

He says she
Challanges him
He says she
Loves her job

Now he wants
To carve out
My heart for
A wedding ring

When he said
Baby, I want to
Tug on your

This was not
What I had
In mind
At all

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

“Mercedes,” said Cooke. “What about ‘stay in the cabin so you won’t be shot at or taken advantage of by desperate men’ was unclear to you?”

“I heard shouting,” said Mercedes. “I thought I could help.”

“Yes, for God’s sake, help us!” cried the merchantman’s captain.

Cooke sighed, drew his flintlock, and shot the captain through the chest. Before he’d had time to crumple to the ground, he was over the gunwhales and into the sea.

“I told him if the next thing out of his mouth wasn’t a list of valuables that we’d promote his first mate,” said Cooke. “And I meant it.”

“Th-there’s a strongbox under the decks of the great cabin!” cried the mate in a panic. “There’s not much there, but it’s all we have!”

“Excellent,” said Cooke. “When you get into port, be sure to tell them how bravely you resisted us and maybe the promotion will stick.” Turning to Mercades, he added: “Was that the sort of aid you intended to offer?”

She could only mouth wordless sentiments, pale as the white shirt she was wearing.

“I warned you to stay in the cabin,” said Cooke. “And I warned you that this jolly crew wasn’t always merry. Let that be a lesson for you to take me at my word.”

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

“As our prior association has been dissolved by our late misadvetnure,” Cooke said, “We need new articles, which you can see that I’ve drawn up. The terms are one share for each man in the promised reward for returning…ma’am?”

“Maria de las Mercedes Ximénez y Nereida.”

“What she said. One share for seamen, two for mates and the navigator, three for the captain and quartermaster. This will cover any incidental claims along the way as well.” Cooke signed the paper with a flourish. “As captain and owner of the Fancy Rat, I invite you to come forward and make your mark.”

The men fell to speaking and squabbling among each other. “What do you think, boss?” said Hume. “Will we get enough of a crew to man the Rat?

“Well, there are plenty of considerations around that fact,” said Cooke. “Not least of which is that we’re the only ship in the harbor and the only escape for anyone who might not want the Spaniards to find them here.”

“Granted. What else?”

“You’ll note the unusually low shares that I offered for officers, so the men stand to make more than they otherwise might.”

Hume grunted. “I can think of a few things to set against that.”

“Like what?” said Cooke. “You know I always appreciate your grumpiness, Hume. It’s a fine antidote to my own sunny outlook.”

“First: ladies onboard. It’s bad luck.” Hume said. “Even if I don’t believe it, half of them will.”

“It’s a good thing we have but one lady, then, and needn’t fear more,” Cooke replied.

“With a ship full of men and one woman, you might find that they multiply rather quickly,” Hume said. “Assuming any will sail with her at all.”

“It always struck me as rather curious,” replied Cooke. “Half of them were born in the New World, how to they suppose their mothers got here? On a horse?”

“Second,” Hume continued. “Pay. It’s a paltry hook to hand a crew on, the promise of Catholic gold in return for a woman who for all we know may be bluffing.”

“Crews have been hung on much less,” replied Cooke. “Literally as well as figuratively.”

“Third: the Spaniards wanted her for something. They will come looking for her, and I doubt that we will be as lucky as we were this time, without a fleet to back us up.”

“On the contrary, Hume,” said Cooke. “I think we’ll be considerably luckier without a fleet to slow us down.”

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

It was a longer and harder road than it once had been to get between the Outland Empire and the Eastern Empire. Bandits were a problem, as were the general lack of mechanics and spare parts. But perhaps worst of all for the poor souls attempting to drive from coast to coast was the near-total lack of entertainment options.

Winona Greenwood had aimed to change that for going on ten years now.

Her businesses, side by side, straddled the old road right as it emerged from the mountains. The one that people saw first was “Treasures for Lovers – Romanticals,” Winona’s combination adult bookstore, adult novelty store, and exotic dancery. If ever anyone needed a little extra push through the door, its sister shop “Treasures for Livers – Intoxicants” was there.

Quaddlebaum ran the businesses day to day for Winona. He had an accountant’s mind for detail and was the only one capable of managing the enormous amount of scrip that came through the door, everything from universal exchange e-credits to Outland Empire scrip to silver coins pounded out on some godforsaken die in Ativia. But only Winona had the showman’s eye, the nose for glitz, that such an enterprise demanded. Quaddlebaum, she often said, would have squeezed the life out of the business in one very profitable week.

When he came to her in the office she kept above Treasures for Livers (the alternative was too loud), Winona was sure it was another minor dispute to be smoothed over with a smile or a sixgun. “One of those Beral boys refusing to pay for diesel again?” she said on seeing his face. “Remind them that it’s not killing the earth if the damn thing’s already dead.”

“No, Ms. Greenwood,” said Quaddlebaum. His wispy hair, what remained of it, was in even more disarray than usual. “We have a joiner.”

“Tell them to get lost.” Many people thoughout the years had thought to work at Treasures for Lovers after stumbling out of the mountains. Compared to the hard work of crossing the continent, handing out novelties and pole dances to a paying crowd must have seemed a pretty sweet deal. Winona only hired locals, though. Until you put down roots, you had no business working for her as anythong more than a shovelboy.

“That’s just it, Ms. Greenwood,” Quaddlebaum continued. “She is…quite insistent.”

“Do I need to get Jacobs down there with his rifle?” said Winona. “You know how much good bullets cost.”

“Far from it, Ms. Greenwood,” Quaddlebaum replied. “The lady in question has taken Jacobs hostage with his own gun, and says that it’s employment for her or death for him.”

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

Good evening, and welcome to Friendly Fire. I am your host and moderator, Dr. Poe Edminster-Caar, chair of the Undead Studies department at Ravensholme University.

Tonight’s episode traces the origins of the most vicious and long-running conflict in the modern world: the Pirate-Ninja conflict. While many of our longtime viewers will recall our previous roundtables, the fear is that constant reports of violence on the nightly news has desensitized our viewership to the conflict. And on this, the most holy day of the Pirate calendar and the 50th anniversary of the extremely controversial Pirate-Ninja War of 1966, it behooves us more than ever to understand the conflict.

Along the way, we’ll hear from NBS’s own Pirate Affairs commentator William “Black Bill” Cubbins IV, pirate-in-residence at the University of Plunder Bay as well as executive director of UPB’s William Kidd Center for the Study of Pirate Culture. Naturally, the ninja viewpoint will be represented by the NBS Ninja Outreach director, Ms. Felicia Lloyd Matsumura-Tamaribuchi, an activist with the Occupy Treasure Island movement, the Sharper Blades, Sharper Minds katana outreach program, and the United Ninja College Fund.

But first, let me remind you, as I always do: pirate ships launch and sink, ninjas assassinate and are assassinated, people talk like a pirate on Talk Like a Pirate Day and remain silent like a ninja on Remain Silent Like a Ninja Day. But in the end, they will all join the ranks of the undead, and either feast upon brains or be feasted upon themselves in the coming Zombie Wars.

And now, a look at the origins of the Pirate-Ninja conflict, starting with the Sea Peoples migration in 1200 BC and the destruction of invading fleets of Chinese pirates by the Kamikaze Divine Wind in 1274 AD.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!