Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer

I couldn’t bear to look at the young punks sitting at the bar. A smartass kid about 21, 22 thinks he knows how the world works, and two pretty, but brainless devotchkas hanging on his every word as if it were a golden nugget of wisdom.

They don’t know shit.

“You don’t know SHIT,” I yelled at them. They gave me a disdainful look and dismissed me as a nut job.

I’ve seen it all. Battle cruisers blasting unarmed hospital ships to pieces. The sick, lame and lazy, still in their beds spilling out of the ruptured hull to suffocate in the vacuum of space.

I was on Europa when a grief crazed sergeant sentenced a virtually unarmed colony of Asiatics to a slow death by asphyxiation when he blew their Tesla Field generator.

Nobody cares, nobody gives a damn.

Nobody noticed as Joey Preston, formerly 2nd Lt. Joseph L. Preston, 3/125th, 1st Infantry Division, took a large swig of his beer, lowered his head and fell unconscious to the grimy steel floor.

John Carsten, grimaced as he jabbed the needle into his arm and thrust the plunger home. The rictus of pain was quickly replaced by the winsome smile of euphoria as he loosed the belt on his arm and allowed the blessed fluid to burn away his nightmares.

The nightmares of the impenetrable jungles of Venus. The combat was so close it often came down to hand to hand battle. A gook impaled his thigh with a screwdriver.

He reacted immediately, slashing at the dinks body with his K-Bar. The slope fell atop him, covering him with his slimy entrails and their filthy stinking contents of raw shit. He gagged and vomited. He was on his back choking on his own ejecta, triggering a second wave of nausea.

There was nobody in the cramped, filthy apartment to remove the needle from the arm of retired Gunnery Sergeant John Carsten, nor to call the medics as he drifted into a coma from which he would never wake. Above his body, thumb tacked to the wall, was a crimson banner emblazoned with a golden Eagle, Globe and Anchor.

In a secluded wooded lot, not far from Dog River, Saskatchewan, stood a makeshift lean-to “fort”, composed of logs, branches, bits of sheet metal, and whatever detritus could be lashed together to form a hide-out for young boys.

Almost simultaneously, William Hunter ( age 12), Billy to his friends and family, and Christopher “Chip” Pike, 11, pulled the leads of their Nintendo Gameboys from the sockets behind their right ears.

“Wow,” exclaimed Billy, “I was this loser alchy dick who fought in the Lunar Colony Wars.”

“That’s nothing,” Chip interjected with unbridled enthusiasm. “I played a drug sick dope head Marine after the Venusian invasion. I got extra points every time I hit the vein first try.”

“Damn,” Billy exclaimed admiringly.

Just then there was a knock on the rusted tin door. “That’s not the secret knock,” Billy said testily.

A second knock came. “Close enough,” said Chip and pushed open the door.

Chips little brother and constant pest Charles (Chucky, 9) eagerly barged in. “Guys, guys, look what I just got. I just downloaded it from the library. It’s the latest game… it’s almost like ancient history.

He held out a small box emblazoned with the name Hanoi Hilton III: The Ganja Express.

Their eyes were aglow as they smeared saline paste on their leads, slapped them into their cranial jacks and plugged into the wonderful mind numbing game.

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows