The early life of Deep Cluck as childhood nerd, as told to me by Johnny Beardy, wasn’t exactly the type of story I’d spend my hard-earned money buyin at some store. Still, it’s too bad he was picked on, stomped, spat on, couldn’t get a date, etc. And all because he wasn’t one of the Full Bloods, which meant he was a mutt. Daddy was some kinda big deal businessman from Earth, but Mommy was from up here on good ole Planet 10. And as if that wasn’t bad enough all by itself, the girl was from V-5 Sector, so you know once word of that started to spread that pretty much spelled a great big KICK ME IN THE ASS sign right on Cluck’s scrawny little back. And you know the thing I still can’t figure out is how bein purebred Earthling is something to be so proud of. Wonder if they’ve had a look at that place recently…
Anyway, I know that’s no way for a kid to spend his growin up years. But hey, he survived it, right? Now he’s Deep Cluck, Mr. Nerd No More – except for those clothes – and he’s got an army of poultry behind him just waiting on some orders. I’d say that was a pretty happy ending. Cluck got in tight with the chickens right around the time when the harassment he was getting at high school was at its absolute worst. He was startin to feel like maybe it wasn’t even worth wakin up in the morning when he hears this story about these mutant chickens that were raisin all this hell in a town not too far from where he was stayin at the time. He does some more checkin around about this story and figures out these chickens are outcast mutants – just like him. All very touchin, right? But then the story starts goin left. See, once Cluck tracked down his little feathered soul mates, they strike up this bond and start to cookin up ideas in their head about things they can do to get back at everybody that ever gave them a headache. Probably started off innocent enough at first, just a little nerd kid and some disgruntled chickens mouthin off. Then it got serious.
Like I said, Chicken Revenge is a terrible thing.
Well, it wasn’t long after those plans started comin together that young Cluck and his buddy clucks started meeting regularly. They probably woulda gotten some type of revenge long before they ever got off the planet if it hadn’t been for the attitude of those chickens. Thing was, most of `em just couldn’t wait to make fools pay, so they started doin little stuff off and on whenever they thought they could get away with it. Trippin kids off their bikes. Sneakin into stores late at night and stealin all the frozen chickens. Spray-painting lewd messages on buildings tellin folks what they could do with a bird. Lettin the steam off, you know. That was all well and good until they got caught, and that was when the feathers hit the fan.
Chickens don’t get trials, not even if they’re part human. So all it took was about a week before they were all rounded up and shipped up here, where they were dumped out in the middle of the Dregs and instructed never to come into the city. Officially speakin, they didn’t exist. If Cluck’s old man hadn’t been such a big deal he woulda been sent away for at least a couple years to one of the special camps where trouble kids like him are supposed to get their head right. But seein as how the judge was a personal friend of Cluck’s dad, and Cluck’s dad was who he was, then Cluck got off light with a suspended sentence. Dad promised the judge junior wouldn’t be screwing up again, and besides, the chickens were all being sent away anyway, right? Who was Cluck gonna get into trouble with now that all his best friends were being shipped away? Right?
Thing you gotta remember in all this is that Cluck was a nerd, not a dummy. And he was determined. Took him a few years, but he eventually managed to convince his folks that Vivacious 5 Sector was the best place for a kid like him, not Earth. With all the hell he’d been gettin from the neighborhood kids and the kids at school, it was hard for them to argue. When Cluck turned 15, they set him up with some relatives, his mother’s brother Vince and his wife Victrolia, where he stayed until he was old enough to step out on his own.
Cluck already knew that the only place on Planet 10 where his long lost friends could possibly be hiding out was in the Dregs. It was the only place where nobody ever went except to pass through on their way to somewhere else, and since the chickens couldn’t exactly blend in with the critters any better than they did with the Earthlings, then the Dregs was the only place they could have been relocated where they could be left to themselves and forgotten about – by everyone except Cluck. And Cluck also knew, as somebody who was real experienced in the art of not having any friends, that once he disappeared into the Dregs, wasn’t nobody gonna miss him or come looking for him. Uncle Vince and Aunt Victrolia barely tolerated the kid just because he was family. They had never had any kids of their own and, well, you might say there was a reason for that. As for Cluck’s folks, it was becoming obvious to him the longer he stayed with his relatives that they were feeding his parents a line of bullshit a mile long about what a problem child he was becoming, when the truth was that he hardly ever left his room except to go to school, and he never made a sound. But he was a kid and he was strange, whereas the relatives were grown and they were normal, so it didn’t much matter what Cluck had to say in his own defense – not that he ever bothered to stand up in his own defense. Truth be told, Cluck didn’t care a damn what anybody else thought of him. Not any more. That feeling had gone dead inside of him long ago. All Cluck cared about was finding his chickens, the only real family he figured he had.
Cluck was on a mission. And once he turned 17, he figured it was about time to kick that mission up a notch to the next phase. The time had come to leave the house, which meant the time had come to leave his room. So after he’d packed his one raggedy bag full of all his belongings, which didn’t amount to much, he yanked open the door, walked down the hallway past where the relatives were sitting up in bed watching television (they never asked where he was going), out the front door, and off into the night toward the Dregs. He didn’t have the slightest idea how he was going to find his friends, but he was still young enough to believe that if he just stepped on out there then things would work themselves out some kind of way. Besides, even if he wound up lost and dead, buried beneath all that sand and darkness, so what? Way Cluck saw it, at least he would have died searching for friends and a better life, a purpose. Isn’t that what all great people sacrificed their lives for? Wasn’t that what they taught him in school? And they thought he hadn’t been listening. But Cluck always listened. Always. It’s like I said before, the thing you gotta remember about Cluck is that he was a nerd, but he wasn’t stupid. He was always working things out in that funny-shaped head of his. What else was there to do for a kid with no friends who had lived most of his life alone in a room behind closed doors?
It was more than a month before Cluck finally managed to track down his buddies, and by then he was damned near dead from starvation, dehydration, and just about everything else that can happen to a kid who’s been surviving on whatever edible trash gets tossed out from passing cars as they zip back and forth on their way to civilization. The Dregs was definitely not civilization. The Dregs was where nothingness and heartbreak went to die – but it was also where the freaks and fringe crazies called home.
Actually, it was the chickens who managed to find Cluck, by the way. Because after a month, Cluck wasn’t in any kinda shape to be tracking down anybody. And truth be told, nobody who ever goes looking for anybody ever really finds them in the Dregs. Nope. In the Dregs, you either get left for dead or you get yourself found. Eventually.
On the day that ‘eventually’ finally showed up to claim Cluck, he was laying sprawled out across the top of a big flat rock on his back, clothes torn up like somebody’d tossed ‘em in a blender, hair sticking out like a shock treatment, filthy as sin and stinkin twice as bad. His tongue was all dry and cracked, and it was puffed up so big that he couldn’t close his mouth all the way. His eyes were buggin’ out of his head like two hard boiled eggs, and if you look at Cluck’s eyes even today you can still see they ain’t quite right – kinda like the rest of him.
In short, the kid was pretty fucked up. But as fucked up as he was, and as much time had passed since the last time he’d seen his only real friends, Rasputin and Jericho still recognized Cluck right from the start and knew what had to be done – and quick. The two had been out scavenging – normally they didn’t venture out this far – when Jericho, who stood a full foot taller than Rasputin but wasn’t nearly as stocky or muscle-bound, looked over the top of Rasputin’s head and noticed the body on the rock. It was quite a ways away, but even at that distance it wasn’t hard to tell it was a body.
Once they reached it and recognized who that body belonged to, they started cryin as they lifted Cluck up real easy and then laid him down in their roller trailer, which is what they used to haul everything they found back to the compound. I don’t know why they called those things roller trailers since none of ‘em had wheels anymore. About the size of your average dining room, made outta wood and steel shipped in from Earth, all roller trailers hovered anywhere from one to three feet above the ground and were built to carry huge loads of stuff without even gettin your heart rate up. But anyway, I don’t guess that’s so important, right? Whatever. Just one of those things I tend to notice from time to time ‘cause it just doesn’t make sense. Anyway, once Rasputin and Jericho got Cluck situated between a coupla big bags so he wouldn’t roll off, they hooked the trailer up to their [transport] and took off at top speed for the compound.
Now I don’t know – or I guess I should say Beardy doesn’t really know – all of what they did to nurse Cluck back to health, so since I’m goin off of what he told me then I can’t begin to speculate on what those chickens had to do to bring the kid back to himself. All I know is that whatever it was they did obviously worked, and once Cluck was back up to full speed, and back with the ones he considered his real family, then it wasn’t long before they started laying down their plans for revenge. For them, revenge was a reason for living.