Flight of the Crimson Dawn

Author : Roi R. Czechvala: Staff Writer

The Crimson Dawn hung in geosynch above the besieged planet. Far out of reach of the meager defenses the primitive populous threw at them.

“Skipper, another salvo is being launched.”

Captain Dimitri Sardukar gave a bored sigh; “Viewer.” The bridge of the ship dissolved and the captain and crew seemed to hang in empty space. Even after years as a staff officer, the sudden switch to VR still unnerved him.

He watched as a seven missile volley rose from the planets surface. He watched as the stages of the chemical rockets fell away. He watched as the impotent atomic warheads spent their energy fruitlessly against the ships absorbing Tesla Field.

“Enough is enough. Ensign contact fleet. We are dropping. These savages need to know with whom they are dealing with.”

Klaxons blared throughout the ship. Armoured marines scrambled for the lifter ships. The captain himself took personal command of a lifter, and was the first to ground on the surface of the planet they had dubbed Circe.

The assault ships formed a perimeter around a massive stone complex. A walled palace. Stunned guards at the gates watched in awe as the huge marines emerged. The awe soon resolved itself into anger. They opened fire as the marines approached…

Dimitri joined his retinue of eleven men in raucous laughter as bullets impacted armour and fell to the ground as harmless lumps of jacketed lead.

“Open fire,” Dimitri ordered, growing tired of the futile display.

The detachment of guards was reduced to shapeless mounds of burned flesh under the searing blast of plasma fire. The men stormed unopposed into the massive building, followed by their swaggering commander.

The interior was one massive chamber carved from a single piece of a marble like stone. The walls shimmered with iridescent colours. In the centre of the hall upon a raised dais a huge throne stood. It was occupied by a diminutive figure, almost human in a vaguely elfin way. At the base of the platform a contingent of similar creatures stood unarmed.

“There will be no need for your crude weapons.” The diminutive being waved a careless hand and the marines were quickly disarmed by his personal guard. “Nor your armour,” just as quickly the men were denuded. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Viceroy Creed. Welcome to…,” he smiled disarmingly, “Circe.”

Stunned to immobility the men stood in rigid fear.

Outraged, Captain Dimitri Ulyov Sardukar turned on his minute tormentor, his face flushed with rage. “I command…”

“You command nothing,” the alien leader snapped viciously.

“I have ten ships…three thousand marines, trained killers ready….”

“There are no ships, there are no marines. Not for much longer anyway…,” he quietly informed the captain.

With a dismissive wave of his hand, Creed turned to his coterie. “Amusing aren’t they? Their worlds will make a unique addition to the Empire.”

“Make them comfortable for the time being. Tell the kitchen there will be twelve for dinner.”

He turned and faced the deflated Fleet Captain. “Remind the chef, I like mine rare.” He graced the men with a quick winsome smile. Rows of pointed teeth flashed wickedly in the waning light. The Viceroy turned and walked lightly from the room.

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In HIS Name…

Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer

Put on the armour of God…

to stand firm against

the tactics of evil.

Take the helmet of salvation

and the sword

of the spirit,

the Word of GOD.

from Ephesians 6:13-17

“In the name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.” With his prayers complete, Oberleutnant Johann Kurtz of the Papstliche Schweizergarde rose from his knees and geared up for combat.

For Terran based troops, his quarters were nothing more than a closet, but aboard the troopship, they were considered almost lavish. They contained his rack, a fold out desk and chair and combination collapsible shower and lavatory.

Above the hatch was a small crucifix, and painted on the hatch itself, just as it was painted on his reactive nylar armoured vest and the front of his HUD helmet, was a red cross limned in gold.

At the head of his rack was a framed painting of Christ praying at Gethsemane; below that, a photo of Pope Ignatius XXIV bearing his trademark avuncular smile.

Kurtz studied himself in the mirror, kissed his rosary, pocketed it and retrieved his “sword“, an H&K multi-linear plasma rifle, from his locker and stepped into the corridor.

On the parade deck, he took his place before his men as Papa company’s commander “Good Morning men,” bellowed Oberleutnant Kurtz. “This is the day we have been training for. Our objective is the settlement of New Mecca on Phobos. Alpha company will assault New Medina on Deimos simultaneously. We’ll bring those raghead bastards to their knees.”

The oberleutnant’s words were greeted with a thunderous “Corpus Christi”.

When the commotion had died down, one of the troops raised his hand.

“What is it Soldier,” barked the young officer.

“But Sir, there are Christians in New Mecca as well as Muslims, Sir.”

“Your point, Soldier?”

“Well…, what do we do about them, Sir?”

The young Oberleutnant hesitated for only a moment before calling out “Kaplan!”

The chaplain, Oberstleutnant Karl-Heinz, standing behind the formation came to quick attention, snapped his heels and marched to the front of the formation to take temporary command of the company from its leader. While ostensibly a superior officer to a mere oberleutnant and holding the titular rank of oberstleutnant, the chaplain was a servant of God first and foremost. As such, he publicly disdained his formal military rank.

The CO executed a crisp, about face, threw an equally crisp salute and relinquished command.

The Kaplan, a kindly, scholarly man smiled beneficently and asked, “What was the question again young man?”

“Well Sir…”

“Vater, bitte.”

“Well Vater, it’s just that there are Christians as well as Muslims at New Mecca, students, business people, even religious scholars such as yourself, Vater.”

“Yes, what of them,” he asked, his kind eyes twinkling behind pince-nez glasses.

“Well Sir… Vater,” he corrected, “how will we know the heathens from the chosen?”

The older man chuckled softly before answering. “Kill them all son. God will know his own.”

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Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer

I love making a drop. The rush as you plummet through the atmosphere, the scream of re-entry. The abrupt jolt when you hit 100m H over G and descend. The rush of cool air as you jump through the open doors and hit the deck.

Just like grandpa, ‘cept this ain’t a Blackhawk and I ain’t on Earth.

Aries, Mars; Greek, Roman. It all meant one thing. War.

They didn’t give us details, but they did give us atomics. Whatever it was, it sure as hell wasn’t riot control.

“Awright Marines,” it always amazed me how Lt. Kolchek made himself heard over the roar of departing drop ships, “since we are out of commo range of any civilian ears, here’s the skinny. Talks with the Chinese Federation have broken down. There’s lots of sabre rattlin’ on both sides. The shit has hit the fan gentlemen.

We are here to help fortify Vostok base. You knew this was serious when you drew your combat loads. I expect nothing less than better than your best and remember the Chinks don’t take prisoners. Do I make myself clear?”

“SIR, crystal SIR,” we responded in unison. DAMN I love the Corps.

We sat in the squad bay cleaning our weapons and waiting. Basically life in the Corps is pretty boring, drilling, PT, rifle range, combat range… routine. But that 99% boredom is completely overshadowed by that 1% of sheer terror. Of course that doesn’t hit until after the fighting is over. In a fire fight you’re on automatic. Training takes over. It’s weird that way.

“Hey Yuri, think we’ll see some action?”

“I hope so man, it seems like years since we had that trouble on Europa.” Greggori and I had been friends since boot in San Diego . “Hey, remember that waitress at Venus colony?”

“How could I forget? Who would have thought that such a sweet little devotchka would know Krav Maga? My arm was sore for weeks.”

“That’ll teach you. You’ll think twice before grabbing somebody’s ass next time,” I laughed.

“What about you? That groundhog back at Armstrong City ? I don’t recall you getting anywhere that night.”

“Hey, she’d just jumped from dirt side, it was one sixth G. She caught me off guard,” I said trying to muster some lost pride.

“It’s your story Comrade.”

I had to admit, it was pretty funny looking back on it now. I had merely paid the young lady a compliment by comparing her to a chick in adult holos. Besides, she did have nice tits.

Just then the general alarm sounded, snapping us from our reverie. “Already? Hell, we just got here.” We slapped on our boots, grabbed our rucks and weapons and beat feet for the assembly area.

When we got there, our three companies had pretty much formed up. There was a great deal of talking, lots of raised voices, lots of confused Marines. The commotion quickly died away as Major Warshawski walked onto the field.

“Gentlemen, I know you’re all wondering what’s going on. I am sorry to have to tell you this. At 1337 hours GMT, Washington, Toronto and Moscow were destroyed by Chink missiles. Several more are reported in bound at this time”

There was stunned silence.

“What are we going to do about it Sir?” somebody shouted. It wasn’t allowed in ranks, but nobody seemed to notice.

“See for yourself,” the Major said, pointing behind the formation.

As one, we turned to see dozens of columns of white plumes rising behind the mountains, arcing into the morning sky.

Missiles, heading back home.

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Falling Stars

Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer

I had heard the news only a short few minutes ago. I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it.

I walked out the back door onto the deck and looked up and down the beach. Like mine, all the other houses were darkened as well. Like that would make one bit of difference with today’s tech. I barked a bitter laugh.

Michelle must have heard. Silently she slid up beside me, slipping her hand in mine. She always looked so beautiful. Her flaming red hair framing her delicate features. Just the right number of freckles across her nose and cheeks.

Now her face looked gaunt as if all the joy that only moments ago had filled it, had washed away.

“Do you think it’s true?” Her voice was a dry. The sound of autumn leaves rustling in the wind.

“It’s true. Come with me.”

I tugged her hand and led her down to the waters edge. She walked beside me as if she were lost, falling.

“Remember our honeymoon?”

“Yes,” she said. Her voice had taken on an airy, detached quality. “It was my first trip to orbit. It was so beautiful. The gardens, the trees, that quiet little beach on the lake. It was so lovely there. I wish we could go back.”

“Someday.” I said. “When this is over. Look, you can see them now.” The warm twilight was slipping away, and impenetrable night was bearing down. Above us against the distant stars, the sparkle of the L-5 habitats shone in a glistening, shimmering arc.

“Look there,” I said, pointing to one twinkling jewel in particular. “There it is. That’s Eden. Our little garden”

And we watched those precious jewels. We watched them as one by one, each glowed a little brighter, before winking out forever.

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Gifts From a Grateful Nation…

Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer

“Another fuckin’ night at the VFW,” Jerry Pesetski thought gloomily to himself. His arm hummed loudly as he raised the glass to his mouth. Halfway to his lips the movement stopped with a sharp grinding sound. “Damn government piece of shit,” he growled.

In a drunken fit of rage he tried to throw his glass at the wall. His fingers failed to release and he merely spattered the nearest barflies with beer.

He slammed his arm on the bar, shattering the glass in his stainless steel hand. “Look at thish shit,” he slurred, waving his malfunctioning right arm above his head, “iss not even a proper proshthetic. It’s from maintenance `bot.” He motioned for another beer, grabbed it in his left hand, and finished it in one go.

He swung around nearly knocking his drinking buddy, Ron Kazner, off the bar where he was perched and addressed his reluctant audience, many of whom had at least one prosthetic appliance themselves.

“Twenty-two fuckin’ years I served. The Israeli Invasion, the…the… Vatican Wars, and the Colonial Lunar Wars. Not a scratch on me. A bona fidy war hero, a chest full of fruit salad, and then some goddamn punk, fresh out of Paris Island , doesn’t know the bore from the breech, blows my fuckin’ arm off at the range.”

He tossed back another beer. “And this is what the VA gave me. A second hand arm that doesn’t even fuckin’ work.” He waved the gleaming metal limb wildly, nearly dislodging his friend a second time. “I hear the arms they give the goddamn officers are fully functional in every way. They even have Syntheskin, with full tac…tac…tactile…ya can feel titties with ‘em.. Hell, the way I heard it those arms are so good, you can switch hands while you’re jackin’ off and gain a stroke.” He barked a bitter laugh.

“Hey Jer, Why don’t you lay off the beer and give it a rest? Nobody wants to hear it,” Ron croaked. His voice held a peculiar metallic quality as it resonated through his artificial larynx.

“What the hell would you know about it? You were only in the Corps for tree years. Only in combat once. Didn‘t do a whole lot of good there anyway.” Jerry threw back another beer. “Pussy,” he added.

“Yeah Jer,” he sighed, “you’re right. What would I know? I’ve never had a limb replaced with a rebuilt arm designed for a robot garbage collector. What the hell do I know?” His voice through the tiny loud speaker took on the sound of rustling leaves. The closest thing he could get to sarcasm from his synthetic voice.

“Yer goddamn right. Don’ ya ferget it. Jes try spending a day in my shoes why don’cha,” he bellowed, slamming his arm on the bar again, splintering the wood beneath.

“Whatever, just give me another beer.”

Carefully, Jerry removed the lid from the small tank that sat on the bar and poured a beer into the nutrient rich soup that bathed Ron’s naked brain

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