Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer
He scanned the desolate horizon through ancient hollow eyes from beneath the brim of a very weathered top hat.
All around him was the smoldering ruin that had once been the world of man. Endless heaps of scorched garbage and piles of twisted and rotting corpses were set against the background of a burnt orange sky that was peppered here and there with wandering radioactive clouds.
His thin cruel mouth turned up in a macabre grin showing off two rows of sharp yellow stumps. His skin was old tanned leather stretched impossibly tight over its frame. A few wisps of long white hair danced in the hot breeze from beneath the old top hat.
Also flapping in the wind was his long dusty overcoat. It blew open revealing an intricately carved and well-oiled leather gun belt. The pearl handled revolvers were now back in their holsters, still searing hot but finally silent.
He laughed aloud and it sounded like a rusty tin can being torn in two. Turning and stepping over a dead rat his cracked leather boots with their jingling spurs took him to his nearby waiting steed.
The rigid framed Shovelhead leaned at a rakish angle. Its lone bullet headlight and springer front end gleamed nearly as much as its chrome spoked wheels. He threw a long leg over the carved leather saddle and grabbed the ape-hanger handlebars with his spidery fingers. Then the mighty beast roared to life with a single kick from his pointed black boot.
Flames belched from the slash cut pipes and a great rumbling noise rolled across the decimated landscape. He threw back his head and laughed again, the rusty tin can sound now augmented by a thick slimy gurgling. He turned and spat a glob of pure blackness and it hit the dead rat squarely, singing its fur.
His thin fingers pulled the clutch lever in and he kicked the bike into gear. As the big machine lurched forward and away, its blasting exhaust pipes blew debris in all directions. Then he changed gears and accelerated and the mighty rumble of the big V-Twin engine grew louder and higher yet, still there was no one there to hear it but him.
And as a fading red iron-cross shaped taillight disappeared down a bombed out highway, the only sound louder than a tricked out Shovelhead skull bound for glory, was the rusty laughter of the devil himself. His work here was finally done.
Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer
Billy-Jim Crenshaw was snoozing in his swamp shack when the explosion shook him fast awake. “What th’…?” He scrambled to his feet and, throwing the crooked door open, stumbled out onto the back porch. There, upon a small hillock that had been recently occupied by Billy-Jim’s dilapidated outhouse, sat a smoldering metallic disc.
“Gall dang it,” he said aloud to himself. “That thar flying saucer thingy done o-blit-ar-ated my gosh darn privy!” He stepped back into the shack and procured two items. Reemerging with his squirrel gun in one hand and a big jug of moonshine in the other, he watched as a strange door opened in the still-smoking disc. There was an electric hum and a staircase extended down from the saucer.
Billy-Jim took a long swig as he watched the little green man emerge. Suddenly from the woods, his hunting dog, Brutus sprang forth, teeth bare, growling like a raccoon caught in a rattrap. The rottweiler leapt at the alien. The green man calmly extended a finger and bright lighting flashed forth, instantly turning poor Brutus into a charred, unidentifiable smoking heap.
The hick slammed back another mouthful and cast the jug aside as the alien continued to advance. But before he could raise his gun, another four-legged beast again rushed growling toward the little green man. This time from the swamp came Billy-Jim’s pet alligator, Pork Chop. The six hundred pound lizard moved blindingly fast, but the alien was faster. Again the lightning flashed from its fingertip, again its would-be assailant was turned into smoldering ash.
“Poor Brutus, poor Pork Chop,” sniffled the hick. “This is fer you two!” The alien had been continuing toward him and was now halfway across the patchy back yard as Billy-Jim pulled the trigger. It quickly held out a palm and suddenly there was a muffled explosion as the barrel of the squirrel gun split open. The green man continued to advance unharmed.
Now a strange and eerie metallic voice reached Billy-Jim’s ears. “Please do not attempt to harm me again human. I am here to make peaceful contact with your race.” The alien strolled up to the porch as the confused man stood silently, his destroyed weapon hanging uselessly from his hand.
Billy-Jim finally uttered, “I…I…I won’t sir.”
The alien stopped and stood there staring at him with giant black, pupiless eyes. “Remain calm human. Please, pick up that vessel and continue to consume your fermented substance. I do not intend to make you uncomfortable in any way.”
Billy-Jim relaxed ever so slightly and picked up the jug. “Wha… what do ya want?”
“I need to contact your scientific department as I seem to have had a mishap with my ship back there. It’s quite simple really, I only need to procure a paltry ten or fifteen thousand terawatts of power to recharge my vehicle’s capacitor.”
The swamp dweller hadn’t a clue what the green man had said, but he again tipped back the jug and had a great long swig. Then he leaned forward and let out a mighty belch. It echoed off the trees. Then the cloud of burp-smell reached the alien. For a moment its black eyes bulged out in surprise. Then, its arms flailing, and its mouth gasping wordlessly, a paleness came over its face and it collapsed suddenly to the ground stone cold dead.
Billy-Jim spat between his few remaining teeth and said, “Serves ya right ya dang space invader! That thar was fer Brutus and Pork Chop!” He rocked back on his heels satisfied, and had another long swig of moonshine.
Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer
I’d always wanted my own planet, and now my dreams were about to come true. Sure it was my entire life savings plus everything of value I had. But what a deal! It was remote, but my very own world? With lush jungles, sandy beaches, plentiful resources, and friendly locals who would treat me like a king, who could refuse?
I put my palm to the screen, transferring the necessary funds and sealing the contract. Xanthomane smiled a smug green smile with his slobbery lips and slapped my open palm with an extremely slimy tentacle. “Congratulations Mr. Nussbaum, you are the proud owner of ‘Zephoria’ of the Signus II system,” he said in his wet bubbly broken common.
I looked over his shoulder and saw my old reliable star freighter being towed away by a lumbering industrial hauler. “You’re still going to keep up your end of the bargain and get me there right? After all, I just gave you my only transportation.”
Xanthomane gave me a slimy smile and his three left eyes winked knowingly. “Right this way Mr. Nussbaum, a transport is waiting to take you to your new planetary paradise.”
An hour later I was aboard a very cramped and smelly interstellar transport, packed in alongside a myriad of alien beings and their accompanying pets and androids. We jumped in and out of hyper drive over and over, stopping at this planet and that. Finally the conductor-bot floated down the middle of the car, “Next stop Zephoria of the Signus II system! All disembarking at Zephoria follow me.”
I was the only one who followed. We passed through another car and then into a utility area. The conductor-bot scanned my ticket and said, “Please climb into the escape pod Mr. Nussbaum.”
My mouth hung agape. “What? We’re not landing?”
The robot answered matter-of-factly. “No sir. Zephoria is much too small and remote for an express transport to land. But fear not, this pod will keep you alive until you reach the surface.” I saw little other choice so, without argument, I cautiously climbed into the tiny coffin.
No sooner had the lid sealed than there was an explosion and my little pod went hurdling away from the beat up transport. I hung on for dear life as I careened downward, passing through wispy white clouds, first a vast blue ocean then a lush green continent rushing up toward me.
I landed roughly in dense jungle, my pod tumbling over and over through the foliage. It finally came to rest and the lid unsealed, letting in cool fresh air. I was shaken up but unhurt. Excitedly I scrambled out and stood up to study my surroundings.
I was at the edge of a splendid clearing and there before me stood a tribe of blue skinned savages, spears in hand, faces painted menacingly. I wasted no time. “Greetings,” I said with a warm smile. “I’m Ronald Nussbaum, the new owner of your planet!”
The beings stood for a moment stone faced, staring at me without expression. And then they all burst out laughing.
“Not another one!”
“Bought yourself a planet did you?”
“Lemme guess, a fat amphibian named Xanthomane?”
They continued to laugh for a minute but then, seeing my look of utter disbelief and disappointment, they took heart and stopped. One of them held out a blue hand. “Come friend, there is a refugee camp set up by others who have been ‘sold’ our world in the past. You can probably squat with them.”
Wiping away a tear I began to follow the friendly aliens across the clearing.
Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer
Eddy and Rico performed the mundane task of sifting through tailings. It was standard procedure. All the valuable ore had been extracted from the captured asteroids, but the leftover rubble might still contain significant matter; so it was all to be gone through carefully.
It was easy enough to get the tons of debris and dust back down from the stations. Earth’s sixteen space elevators required endless counterweight to continuously lift people and goods into orbit. Yet it was strictly mandated that any captured matter from beyond our atmosphere must be immediately run through one of the planet’s hundreds of privately owned decontamination centers situated around the elevators.
They were both roused by an alarm buzzing on the console. “What’s that?” asked Rico. He was still pretty new.
Eddy replied nonchalantly, “We used to get lots of these false alarms in the old days. It got so irritating that we detuned the sensor arrays.” He hit a plunger, stopping the entire conveyer belt. They both looked at the screen on the console. The image there showed several pebbles amongst the debris highlighted by the computer. “Hmm, this is interesting. It says they’re all identical.”
An hour later the two had managed to sift through and procure from the rubble, thirty-seven seemingly identical oblong pebbles. The tiny items sat there on the lab counter, looking ominous, as the two discoverers passed a smoking joint back and forth.
Eddy piped up, “I think they’re seeds.”
Rico laughed, “Yeah right, we just discovered an alien life form in asteroid tailings.”
“Oh yeah?” replied Eddy. “I’ll prove it.”
Suddenly the young newbie looked concerned. “I don’t think we should…”
But it was too late. Eddy had scooped up the pebbles into his shirt and had made for the rear exit.
Rico shouted after him, “Hey, I don’t think that’s a good idea!”
But the exit door clanged shut as the other exited, so Rico jumped up, squashing the joint, and followed suit. “What are you doing you crazy bastard?” He burst through the exit door.
Eddy was crouched down there giggling as he churned the soil in the flower planter with his hands. “Come on buddy, you think we’re gonna grow some alien ganja? Live a little!” He ran off and grabbed the caretaker’s garden hose, which had been coiled up on a reel nearby; and began watering the planter.
Rico shook his head, staring at the dark soil that was now getting wetter and wetter. “Eddy, you’re nuts. We should really report those things.”
Eddy grinned and squinted at him, “For what? These guys don’t give a shit. It’s all a big….”
Suddenly there was a rumble and they both felt the ground tremble beneath their feet. Eddy froze and stared up at Rico. He released the handle of the hose nozzle and the water dribbled to a halt. Then the ground shook again, so hard that they both nearly fell over. The rich soil was suddenly seething and roiling like a thing with a life of its own. Eddy turned back to see Rico running fast for the parking lot.
Just then something massive and horrible shot forth from the planter. Eddy now knew that he had made a horrible mistake and surmised right there and then that mankind was likely to pay for his idiocy. He shut his eyes tight and prayed for the first time in years, as he was sucked up into the maw of something terrible and unknown. Mercifully, he would never realize the true mayhem he had caused.
Rico managed to live for almost another two minutes.
Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer
The captain was typical of his type, six-foot-four, square jaw and sparkling white teeth. His muscles bulged as he leaned forward in his chair. “Atmosphere is breathable Ensign, let’s bring her down so we can have a look around.”
The science officer stepped forward. This was his first mission with the pompous captain. His advice had already been shot down several times to date but this was something he simply couldn’t back down on. “Sir there are massive life form readings down there. We know nothing about this planet.”
“Did I ask you Lieutenant? There might be life form readings but there’s no technology. Who knows what kind of treasure we might relieve these primitives of? Maintain course Ensign.”
“But sir, we are dealing with alien life, I don’t see how you can’t worry.”
The captain turned toward his science officer. “You know, you’re really getting on my nerves Lieutenant.” Then he patted his sidearm, a gleaming photon hand cannon with enough punch to turn a man to dust. “I think we’ll be just fine.” Then he called out the names of the men he wanted to accompany him. His second in command was among them. The Lieutenant was not.
Although mostly relieved the science officer still had to ask, “You don’t want my biological expertise as you step onto an alien landscape sir?”
The captain sneered, “No you can stay here and change your diaper. The real men will be out there conquering.” A few others on the bridge snickered.
They cruised in low over a dense jungle. Most of the trees looked like bulbous fungi and were colored from bluish hues to rich purples. Here and there jutted up massive stalks of some fantastic skyscraper plant, each bearing a huge bobbing burgundy flower near its top.
The captain ordered the ensign to land in a purple clearing near the base of one of these giant stalks. They touched down without incident and the team made ready to depart.
The science officer tried once more. “Please gentlemen, consider your own lives. We know nothing of this place or its inhabitants. Much study needs to be done before we can venture out there in the flesh.”
Again he was met with snickering. The captain got in one final parting shot. “Make sure to change that diaper Lieutenant. I don’t want to smell baby crap when I come back here.” And with that the elevator doors closed and the away team was whisked down to the surface.
The science officer stood beside the ensign. Together they watched through the forward screens with the remaining crew as the team of seven marched out across the rough purple grass, their hand cannons at the ready, looking this way and that for potential trouble. “I can’t believe this carelessness,” said the lieutenant, but then he was cut short.
There was a rumble and the giant stalk beside the ship began to flex and ripple. The startled away team suddenly looked skyward as the huge flower hundreds of meters above began to waver back and forth. Then before anyone could do a thing there was a thunderous crack and the stalk collapsed in half.
As the toothy mouth opened in the face of the huge descending flower the seven men froze. A moment later it crashed down upon them, making even the ship jump. Then seconds later the stalk straightened and the flower whisked away toward the sky once more. There was no sign of the team.
The science officer, now in command by order of rank, said, “Get us out of here Ensign.”