Author : Joseph Lyons
“What part of ‘only bettors can watch the Yeti fight’ do you not understand?!”, he yelled. “Either place a bet or get the hell out of here!”
I begrudgingly gave him all of the money I had on me, about two hundred, and placed it on Demonio Blanco. Damn it. Didn’t think I was going to have to do that. It’s going to take a lot of paperwork to get that reimbursed.
“Whoa! Big spender! Head on in”, he barks at me sarcastically with breath so bad it’s practically visible. I pass him and enter the makeshift arena, almost filled to capacity with a throng bloodthirsty gamblers.
I can hear the Tac-Team chattering to each other in my ear piece. About 2 more minutes and they’ll all be in position. Provided our intel is good, this will end up being the 4th successful bust this year for the newly formed Gen-Crimes Task Force. The I.B.I. was hesitant about letting me start this team, but you can’t argue with our arrest record…that and the science division gets to study all of our rescue subjects. I’m not thrilled about that, but until there’s a better alternative, I don’t have too much of a choice.
“In position, sir,” whispers Rodrigo over the com. “We’ll go on your signal.”
The crowd starts roaring when the combatants are led into the ring. I have to push my way through the mob to get a better look at them. Sure enough, there they are, being led in by their handlers; eight feet tall, white fur, fists the size of basketballs and covered in scars from previous battles. These were Yeti if I ever saw them. Two missing links stand right in front of the crowd and they’re met with cries for each other’s heads.
Now all that’s left to do is to confirm that they’re Yeti and not a couple of muscle men who modded themselves to look like Yeti. That’s always first. We learned about that the hard way in the early days. We still laugh about the Fish Boy of Bangor that we tried to rescue from that carnival in Maine, who just turned out to be a midget with an incredibly specific fetish. The lawsuit is still going on I think. The easier it becomes to get gen-modded at unlicensed clinics, the harder my job gets. Self-modding is not necessarily a crime…yet. Our job is to protect the creatures that had no choice in their modding and the beings that shouldn’t even be alive in the first place.
Well, the fact that they’re on leashes seems reassuring, but I’ve got to be sure. The scanner on my glasses is working overtime to process the data. Thankfully, the data starts reading out on my lens before the fight even starts. Definitely lab grown. Probably started with an orangutan fetus and then had polar bear and human DNA grafted into them. Exhibiting signs of low intelligence and high aggression (which means it will be a load of fun trying to get them back to HQ). These specimens are the closest anyone has ever gotten to an actual Abominable Snowman. It would be remarkable if it wasn’t so tragic.
The last thing I always check is their eyes. It’s hard to see Demonio Blanco’s through the fur, but one glimpse is all I need. I see a look that is all too familiar. It’s a hollow look of sadness and confusion. It’s all I need.
Author : Benjamin Fischer
“It’s Bronco Eight Seven. He’s down, but he’s alive. Tight canyon, known hostiles–gonna be a hell of an extraction,” said Colonel. “Any volunteers?”
Matherson raised his hand, the bandaged one from last night. Colonel looked right through him, looked at the crates and laptops at the back end of the tent. Looked at Paki sitting there.
“Sir, I got it,” Matherson insisted.
“Sergeant, sit the hell down.”
Colonel’s gray eyes traced over Paki’s squat, compact frame.
“No takers?” he said. “Fine–I’m sending the damn robot.”
Paki wasn’t reliable. That’s why he was a medic. Something jacked up about his programming. Enough autonomy to get himself into a helluva fix, but not enough guile to get himself out. But the Army never turned away a recruit, especially one bought on contract. So they painted a red cross on one side of the black lettering announcing him a PACKBOT NINE. On the other side went a red crescent, just over his serial number.
Matherson walked with him out to the Herc.
“Nothing stupid, OK?”
“Understand all, Staff Sergeant,” said Paki, rolling on shock-mounted rubber treads.
“Hell you do. Come back in one piece, so I can finally beat you in Halo.”
“Unlikely, Staff Sergeant.”
Matherson grinned and patted Paki’s fuel cells with his broken hand.
The drop was bad. Paki figured out in a hurry why the Raptor pilot had two broken legs and a concussion–the canyon walls were nearly vertical, and baseball-sized rubble covered any surface that could remotely be considered horizontal. He strained uphill, through the narrow gully, using his surgical-grade manipulator arms to haul himself hand-over-hand through the rough patches. This wasn’t work for a lone soldier–this extraction required at least a squad.
His dorsal cams picked up movement behind him, below. Hostiles. He called for close air support–the unfortunate Bronco Eight Seven’s mission. He pulled harder, his treads whining high and loud in the mountain night. His pursuers quickened their pace.
Careening up a low rise, Paki approached the pilot, his chute bunched up underneath him behind a low boulder. Blacked out–two ugly compound fractures.
Paki touched his face gently, pressing the mask of an oxygen pack to the pilot’s lips.
“Major William Shapiro,” he said, choosing a woman’s prerecorded voice, “I am Second Armored Division automated recovery vehicle callsign ‘Paki’. I am here to extract you.”
He repeated this message until the pilot coughed, groaned.
“Yes sir, my brothers are inbound. You are safe.”
“No. The others.”
Paki telescoped his dorsal camera boom and zoomed in. The pilot was right–the hostiles were visible now, clearing the steepest leg of the ascent. Paki did some very quick calculations.
He pulled the pilot’s sidearm from his bloody left leg, checked the magazine with his delicate, precise manipulators.
“Sir, I will stop the hostiles. You are safe.”
Shapiro groaned again. The robot whirred away, bouncing off the irregular gravel.
A rifle barked, then chattered. Full auto. Booming–rocket propelled grenades. More gunfire.
The mayhem rocked the valley for minutes, the pock-pock-pock of a little handgun lost in the cacophony.
Silence, broken by a few probing rifle shots.
The whumpth of a hydrogen fire starting.
Shapiro rolled onto his side, glanced around his makeshift bunker just in time to catch the guerillas profiled against the burning wreckage.
Then the Omnivores swooped in from nowhere and added human bodies to the pyre, their antipersonnel cannon flashing like fiery swords as they crisscrossed overhead.
Author : Ari Brill
It is always a joy to bring rightness to God’s creation. The Good Doctrine’s shiny hull glimmered in the blackness of space, the eerie light of the alien sun reflected off of it and somehow purified. The 100-meter-long starship had just completed its seventh (a lucky number indeed!) mission and now orbited the alien planet, while the hyperspace coordinates for the voyage back to Earth were calculated. But surely the people inside the starship are more important than the mere material object!
Captain Joseph Daniels, son of Jeremiah, looked with satisfaction upon his sixteen assembled crewmembers. For the seventh time they had completed their – all of humanity’s – mission of helping purge sin from the galaxy, and bringing a heathen species to God. He spoke formally:
“Crew, you have done well this day. Alien species 338-I has been purified and sins no more, through your righteous work. But we do not rest! After our short voyage home, to refuel and resupply, we again shall go forth to bring the divine will to the galaxy.”
“Now, a short prayer, led by Chaplain Amos.”
All bowed their heads and mumbled piously. Several wept with joy. When the last man had lifted up his head, the Captain motioned to a crewmember. The man stood up, straightened his jacket, and spoke.
“We estimate that over 12 billion 338-Is ascended during our mission. Before, the insects knew only sin, swarming over and under the planet’s surface. Now, their souls are at peace and harmony. Approximately 300 warheads were expended during the purification process.”
Several again wept with joy, but this time mixed with a little sadness. For while all other sentient species must be freed from this impure, material world, it stayed humanity’s fate alone to remain behind and spread the light and fire of God.
Some hours later, a red light flashed on the bridge console. Crewman Uriel examined the video message – from Earth, a forty-five minute time delay. At first he didn’t quite understand the meaning of what he was seeing.
“Great and glorious God in heaven above!”
The five crewmembers on the bridge, as well as the Captain, dropped their mundane tasks. A truly spiritual message must be at hand.
On the screen, the radiant image of – it could only be! – an angel spoke from seemed to be the bridge of a starship, its echoing voice a strange fusion of thunder and the sweet bubbling of a fountain. The angel’s body superficially resembled a man’s, but it had to be the most beautiful, glorious man ever seen – to the crew’s eyes, it was the essence of perfection. Truly, it was as different from man as a man was from an insect.
“Today, humanity shall be rewarded for its holy work! As you have so rightfully done to others, you shall now receive your due. For the past eighteen scores of years, mankind has done God’s work and purified the galaxy.”
The voice of the angel grew awesome, and terrible to perceive.
“The reward of mankind is nigh!”
The message suddenly cut out. Crewman Uriel frantically pushed buttons.
“Sir! All I’m getting now is static…”
But no one was paying attention.
On the bridge, all wept with joy.
Author : Steve Davidson
Grrxynyth stripped off the artificial covering. “Man! Did you see the way he was looking at me!?”
Aaarraxanth tentacle gestured in the affirmative. “Couldn’t keep his eyes off of you. Thought he was gonna die when you started taking off the clothing.”
Grrxynyth’s body rippled with laughter. A few stress pores continued to dribble a clear fluid, an involuntary act that bespoke his waning excitement. He patted the covering’s artificial mammary glands, a few of his eyes following their Jell-O-like contortions. “I used to think there was some upper limit to how big these things could be, but not any more. He almost fainted when I started rubbing them on his sensory-organ cluster.”
Aaarraxanth continued to busy himself with stowing equipment. “Got some pretty good close-ups this time, Grrx. Really good reaction stuff – especially when you probed him. Thought his masticating organ was going to swallow up the whole frame! Look.”
Aaarraxanth’s tentacle brushed against a display, causing it to reveal a human face, eyes and mouth wide with fear. Another tentacle brush brought the image to life. The viewer’s point of view was slowly engulfed by the darkness of a mouth, the shot accompanied by a soundtrack of low moans and repetitive grunting.
Grrxynyth’s stress pores opened wider with the memory. “So what are we calling this one? ‘Stupid Indigenes Will Do Anything For Giant Lactating Glands’? ‘Involuntary Probings Volume Forty-Two’? ‘Sex With Un-Evolved Aliens’? ‘I was In Love With a Being With No Tentacles’?”
“Yeah,” snorted Aaarraxanth. “All of em. You know they don’t care what the title is; as long as it features that probe shot – ”
“-it matters not,” finished Grrxynth. “Geez. What a way to make a living.”
“You got that right,” said Aaarraxanth. “Now come on, put that toy away and help me finish packing up. We’ve still got to get set up for those food animal shots.”
“Oy. Animal snuff. I mean, I want to know but I don’t want to know, if you know what I mean. What kind of freak watches that stuff?!”
Aaarraxanth cocked a few eyes in Grrxynth’s direction. “Believe me buddy. You don’t want to know. Now stop yacking and put that quadruped costume on.”
Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
“How can I be of service?” asked Sam Dixon, Private Investigator.
“I need you to investigate a major competitor of mine,” replied Donald LeDuca, of LeDuca’s Fine Eateries. “I assume you’ve heard of Marshall’s Restaurants?”
“Ahhhh, yes,” said Dixon with an enthusiastic smile. “I love their restaurants. The Avian Veronique is to die for.”
“Yeah, well, that’s the problem,” rebutted the annoyed LeDuca. “Since his first restaurant opened five years ago, my market share has dropped to 8%. He’s putting me out of business. I need to know how he’s doing it.”
“Maybe he’s got better cooks,” offered Dixon.
“No. That can’t be it. We’ve stolen each other’s CHEFS countless times over the last few years. It has to be something else. I think he’s adding drugs to his food. I heard he was some kind of doctor before he opened his first restaurant.”
“Okay, Mr. LeDuca, I’ll take the case. Have my secretary make you an appointment for next month.”
LeDuca returned one month later. “Please tell me you’ve solved the case,” he pleaded as he entered Dixon’s office, and then quickly added, “Hell, you look like crap.”
“Yes, I suppose I do,” agreed Dixon. “I’ve been having, uh, stomach issues lately. Please, take a seat. First of all, you were half right. Marshall is a doctor, but not a medical doctor. He’s a developmental biologist. He’s done a great deal of work with emu eggs; that’s a large flightless bird from Australia. By some kind of molecular manipulation that I don’t pretend to understand, he was able to switch on certain dormant genes in emu embryos. This caused the reemergence of certain “lost” characteristics that had been buried in the bird’s DNA. After years of research, Marshall was able to produce the genetic equivalent of a living dodo bird, which had actually gone extinct in the seventeenth century. The technique made all the news reports. Perhaps you remember hearing about it? No? Well, it doesn’t matter. Anyway, while performing a laboratory experiment, Marshall accidentally killed one of his dodos. On a whim, he decided to cook it.” Dixon shook his head slightly, and then shivered. “Apparently, it was quite tasty. Tasty enough, in fact, to persuade Marshall to open a restaurant. He got a backer, and started breeding dodos on an island off the coast of Mexico.”
“You mean he’s selling dodo meat in his restaurants?”
“Initially, yes. But, that was years ago. He continued to experiment with bird embryos and made remarkable progress. He reversed engineered dozens of other animals. In fact, all of his specialty items are meat from previously extinct species. Well, I guess they’re not extinct anymore, eh. As it turns out, they all have a very unique flavor and texture that people can’t get enough of. So, once you leak this information, I think people will stop eating in his restaurants.”
“I don’t know if that’s true,” relented LeDuca. “I don’t think people will be that upset because they’re eating extinct birds. I’m sure the Europeans ate dodos before they were extinct. What’s the big deal?”
Dixon pulled out a sheet of paper from his top drawer. “This information was Top Secret. Marshall didn’t even tell his chefs what the meat was. Let’s see, the Jambalaya is made with Archaeopteryx meat, the Medallions in Dijon Mustard Sauce is cut from Raptor thigh, and the Avian Veronique is made with Pterodactyl. God! That was my favorite. I can’t believe he fed me dinosaur meat! Frankly, Mr. LeDuca, I haven’t been able to keep food down in over two weeks.”