I Watched the Stars

Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer

I laid back and watched the stars. Occasionally a meteor would streak across the sky momentarily lowering my night vision capabilities, but they were still beautiful in their own way. I closed my eyes…

“Shit,… INCOMING.”

The first shells to rain down were sounding shots. Ranging fire. The gooks were adjusting fire on our position. Soon all hell would break loose, and we were already in a world of hurt. One little nucleonic device had left most of the company dead or injured.

Oh sure, the zipper heads would claim in Geneva that we had detonated those devices to implicate them. I laughed grimly. It would never hold up, they were godless heathens, but my men would still be dead. That’s how the gook laughs at you.

I had to take out that mortar position. I bit my left cheek and broke in on Top’s personal link. “I can see their position from here. I can get it.”

“You’ll be killed.” It wasn’t a warning. It wasn’t a plea. It was a fact.

I low crawled the first two clicks. Have to be careful. Even with chameleon skin you still stand out on the Martian plain.

I reached the base of Mons. Five clicks from point. I saw another mortar launch. No probing this time. This was fire for affect. My company was dead as soon as I saw them go.

Fuck ‘em. They’re going down.

I kept low. Moving from rock to rock. My armour blending in with each variation in texture and colour, shadow and light, changing almost as fast as my movements. I bit my cheek twice, cutting into the company freq. Static. They were all gone.

I looked up just in time to see a dark object flying towards me. I had just enough time to hit the Tesla pack and allow the field to embrace my armour as the singularity grenade detonated ten meters to my left.

The experience was unique. As if my entire body had been shoved through a fine mesh screen. My teeth itched. How had they seen me? I looked around and saw more SGs going off. It was a sweep. Good. They hadn’t seen me.

My left arm didn’t move well. I looked down, expecting to see a vague arm shaped fuzziness. Instead I saw a gunmetal grey arm, a scattering of synthetic flesh and metal poking out where my hand used to be. My camo was gone. I was a dead man.

Slowly, cautiously, I could hear them coming down the slope. I saw the briefest of outlines of legs and weapons where their own camouflage chameleon skin hadn’t quite kept up with their surroundings. Theirs wasn’t as good as ours. Slower resolution time.

But what the fuck difference did it make now? I could barely move. My company was dead, I would follow soon. They turned off their camo. I could see their grinning faces and their slanted eyes.

One of them bent over me and his smile got even wider. I knew enough of the gooks rank to understand the insignia on his helmet. Some sort of NCO. He straightened, made a remark in that chicken cackle language of theirs, and then did something I couldn’t believe. In this unbearable cold, he unzipped his dick and pissed on me. The fuckers laughed. Then they just walked away. That’s how the gook laughs at you. They left my comm intact, and even activated my beacon. I was their message. When I am found, I will be terminated.

Until then…

I laid back and watched the stars…

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The Secret Life of Herbert Quiegman

Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer

Herbert Quigman was not a man. Well, not a man like you and I. Oh, he had all the parts. Bi-lateral symmetry of course, four major appendages, a head with a nose, mouth, ears and eyes in, more or less, the general configuration one would expect. But the ancient saltwater that comprised much of his blood came from a different ocean, not the one in which we evolved, on a planet that circled a distant star.

However, he did share much in common with men like us. Herbert was an accursed man, for you see, Herbert was married.

After a gruelling day as an insignificant junior partner at Veeblefetzer, Blorquesuong and Goldstein, Herbert liked nothing more than the thought of retiring to his basement workshop to tinker in peace.

No sooner had Herbert donned his safety goggles and fired up his torch to complete his latest invention, when, from the top of the cellar steps came, the VOICE.

“HerrrrrrBERT! What the hell are you doing down there?”

“Nothing Dear, just tinkering with a project.”

“Myeh, myeh, myeh, tinkering with a project,” she said in that mocking tone that made his flooglesang stand on end. “Why couldn’t you be like Edith Cohen’s husband Mort? He runs a successful accounting firm you know.”

Yeah, and he’s only one shaky step to suicide, Herbert thought.

“I should have married Chaim Rosenblatt like my father wanted. `Now there’s a real man,’ my father said, `nothing like that little worm Herbert’ he said, but did I listen? Nooo, I had….”

As her hateful, nasal, tirade bore on, wistful fantasies flickered through the amateur inventor’s anguished mind. Thoughts of the peace and tranquillity that slitting his throat might bring. Drowning is a peaceful way to die, Herbert had heard somewhere.

The verbal harangue continued as Herbert plodded on, intent on completing this, his greatest invention to date. “And another thing Chaim is rich, do you hear me, rich. When was the last time I had a decent dress, or went out to dinner? Why, I am ashamed to have my friends over to this dump…”

“Honeyblossom? Could you come down here for a minute,” he called over his shoulder as he finished up and replaced a spanner to its outlined space on the wall above his workbench.

He remembered when they were first married. She was so delightful and gay. He loved to take her dancing. She used to stand on his feet, like a little blork dancing with her daddy. Now as she hauled her ponderous bulk down the flight of stairs, stairs that didn’t creak so much as scream, he shuddered at the thought of her standing on his toes.

“What do you want? You know how I hate it down here. It’s so wet, and musty smelling. Did you fart? You’re a real prize you know that? Why if I…,”

“Just hold these a moment Dear,” he said as he placed a smooth metal rod in each of her hands.

“What the hell am I supposed to do with these? Shove them up your….”

“and place this on your head,” he continued, placing a gleaming metal cap atop her thinning hair.

“I went to the salon today….”

“Just a moment Snookums,” he said as he threw a switch and adjusted a dial. There was a sharp crack, and a stifled yelp from Mrs. Quigman. She glowed as if illuminated by the noonday sun. Suddenly, she was gone, leaving just the faintest scent of ozone and a fine ash as the two rods fell to the floor.

“Ahhh,” Herbert sighed, “That’s better.”

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Retroactive ZPG at the Rainforest Cafe

Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer

The young couple were blissfully unaware of the silent orange and black striped death silently stalking them. Hidden amongst potted palms and low tables, the tiger padded lightly towards the amorous pair. Honed on the savannahs of east Africa, centuries of civilization had dulled the once acute senses of the humans

With a guttural roar the big cat sprang. The beast caught the mans face between powerful jaws, crushing his thin skull as a baby’s head beneath a hobnailed boot. His wife and their bored waitress found themselves drenched in hot sticky blood.

Soundlessly the young bride screamed, inhaled, found her voice and screamed again. The waitress absently dabbed at her blood stained shirt with a linen napkin. All around them, the other diners chuckled and applauded politely.

The young woman, looking as if about to retch, launched herself from the table and dove through a group of women nodding approvingly and clapping lightly.

Mrs. J. W. Pewtersmythe, the leader of the small group spoke up. “Oh Henri,” she said to the Maître d’, “it’s wonderful what’s been done with the place.”

“Yes Madame. Each plant and beast has been expressly chosen for its beauty and lethality. And now that the retroactive ZPG laws have gone into effect we have been able to acquire such beautiful creatures as the Bengal.” He offhandedly gestured to the tiger noisily feasting on the young man’s entrails.

“Please seat us somewhere appropriate, overlooking the show, away from the kitties and the slithering slimies,” she indicated a python in the process of engulfing a pair of Armani clad feet. She slipped Henri a pair of hundred dollar bills for his efforts.

“Of course Madam,” he replied with an oily smile, “no purring death nor slithering strangulation. We shall keep you away from the hoi polloi.”

The women were seated at a small table away and above the main floor. “Isn’t this wonderful,” Mrs. Pewtersmythe gushed to her fawning companions, “I hear they even invite the homeless in on Wednesday mornings for a free breakfast.” She tittered in a most ladylike way.

“I think it’s wonderful that the lower classes should throw themselves upon the sword for the good of Britain,” remarked Mrs. Fontescue.

“Oh I don’t know,” Mrs. Nesbitt chimed in, “I’ll just be happy when this damned war is over and we can send the riff raff to the Martian Colonies, or at least to the Lunar penal enclave.”

“Hear hear,” the others said in unison, raising their drinks.

Henri himself waited on the august group of women.

“And what will be your pleasure today Mademoiselles.” He handed each woman a menu bound in blood red, crushed velvet.

The old women tittered delightedly and blushed on cue.

“What is this one here,” inquired Mrs. Pewtersmythe, stabbing her bony finger at a listing under, Aperitifs.

‘That would be araignées, Madam. Veuves noires. A rare and most delicate repast in some parts of the world. Very exclusive,” he bent closer and finished in a stage whisper, “and very expensive.” He leered knowingly.

“That’ll be us then.” She smiled winsomely.

“Pierre,” Henri said to the hovering waiter at his side, “araignées, sil vous plait.”

When the dish arrived, Henri removed the cover with a flourish, “Eh voila!” Thousands of small glistening black objects swarmed from beneath the lid and over the women.

As they covered Mrs. Pewtersmythe’s face, she saw the brilliant red hourglass on the abdomen.

“Henri,” she shrieked, “but I…,”

“Pardon, Madam did not want the fuzzy death, nor the slimy suffocation, but she said nothing about the creepy crawlies. Bon appétit.”

He smiled.

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And Seek

Author : Roi R. Czechvala: Staff Writer

The silver fluid, shot through with black filaments, seemed to move of it’s own volition within the syringe. In a sense it was. Millions of nano-meds, furiously spinning their screw like flagellum, frantically swimming nowhere.

As he wiped his forearm with an alcohol pad he thought of his students, his staff. They sounded sincere, concerned but he knew they were mocking him. Eight years later they mocked him.

“You’re so brave to come back to work Doctor.”

“After such a tragic accident, I don’t see how you can do it coming in day after day. I couldn’t live with the pain.”

“You’re an inspiration to us all.”

He knew they were laughing behind his back. His horribly twisted back. He saw, even after eight years, the look of disgust that flitted momentarily across their faces as they looked upon the ruined, melted remnants of his own.

Viciously, he rammed the plunger down forcing the viscous fluid deep into his vein. A chill ran through his body, followed by a momentary shudder. He blinked twice, peered about the room and let out a sigh. “Well, that wasn’t so… .” A primordial wail burst from his throat and echoed off the walls of the laboratory.

He fell to the floor, his body wracked with blinding pain. His skin was an undulating membrane, resembling mice scurrying under a sheet as his musculature and skeleton writhed to refashion themselves.

It stopped. He lay on the floor panting. He knew it wasn’t over. The brief episode had left him exhausted. He needed fuel. He needed food.

Slowly, painfully, he made his way to the student’s lounge where he assaulted the snack machines, tearing at the glass, cutting strips of flesh from his hands and arms as he greedily wolfed down their contents.

The pain began again with a vengeance. This time the pain itself howled out of his mouth, as the nanites did their work. Repairing the damage caused in that accident so long ago. Repairing the damage, and making improvements.

They pain finally stopped. He made his way slowly to the basement office they had relegated him to, and regarded himself in the mirror. “Not bad,” he remarked, rubbing his stubbled chin. “Not Bad.”

Shedding his now torn and tattered clothing, he pulled a duffle bag from beneath his desk, and dressed himself in the extra set he had brought. Anticipating the outcome, he donned a sweater that normally would have been two sizes large in the shoulders, but now fit quite snugly.

The once too tight jeans now required a belt but wrapped his thighs like a glove. He checked the mirror a second time. “Not bad indeed,” he leered.

Dr. Jason Kiel, walked into the Lion’s Den Irish Pub and surveyed the scene. It was a typical college bar. Swaggering, drunken kids with Greek letters adorning their shirts. The intellectuals sat alone or in twos and threes pontificating animatedly over exaggerated cups of espresso.

At the bar, sitting alone, was one of his students. A pretty little sophomore. Pert, perky, scrubbed pink in a tight sweater and jeans. The bitch.

“Call me a broken troll,” he muttered.

He pulled up a stool beside her and leaned over the bar, motioning to the bar maid, “Coors and a whiskey and whatever the lady is having.”

She turned to him and smiled broadly, taking in his chiselled features and broad shoulders. “I haven’t seen you in here before. I’m Cassie… and you are,” she asked extending her hand.

He took it and gave her a smile that never touched his eyes.

“Call me, Hyde.”

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A Stately Pleasure Dome

Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer

“… in reply, the Ambassador of the Chinese Federation to the U.N. had this to say;”

“It must be made clear to the people of the Russo-North American Coalition that these insults to the People of the Chinese Federation and her partner nations will not be tolerated. Swift measures will be taken.”

“Shortly after the statement was made, a massive build up…”

“Ray, Honey. Would you please turn that off? Let’s enjoy the evening in peace.”

“… Russian bord…,” Ray turned off the TV and sat down beside his wife at the teak deck table overlooking the Port Aransas beach front. He unfolded his pocket computer, and spread it before them.

“Okay, I’ll have the feed from the new Palomar scope in a minute. We’ll actually be able to see the shuttle dock with Xanadu”.

“I can’t believe we got your parents to go,” Caroline said, leaning back and taking a sip of her margarita. “Your mother was practically shaking. And then they decided to boost to orbit instead of taking the Konstantin Lift? That’s got to be hell on the body at their age.”

“Actually it was my idea. Don’t tell Mom. Dad’s been a space junkie since he was a little boy and saw the first launches to the moon. He’s been dreaming about something like this his entire life,” Ray replied, battling the wind as it attempted to blow his computer away. “Besides, your ninetieth wedding anniversary only comes around once.”

“You never took me to the habitats,” she pouted.

“It would be a waste of money,” he pulled her down for a kiss; “we’d never get out of our room.” He gave her a gentle pat on the ass.

“There, I’ve got it,” he said, returning his attention back to the computer. It was weighed down at the edges with a citronella candle and a margarita. The Xanadu colony superficially resembled a central pivot irrigation system. Ten spoked wheels rotated around a central axel.

“Ah ha, there it is.” He jabbed his finger at the screen, temporarily marring the image. He was pointing to a sleek delta wing craft that was approaching a docking port at the end of the axel.

“What’s that,” Caroline asked, indicating a second craft approaching the orbiting colony at high speed.

“I don’t know.” Concern was evident in his voice. “It looks like…,”

The screen flashed white.

“What the hell?”

They looked up across the water to the darkening sky. The L-5 pleasure colonies slowly, yet methodically, glowed fiercely like newly lit candles, then just as quickly, were extinguished.

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