Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer
He awoke to the cloying smell of marijuana mixed with patchouli. His eyes fell on a poster featuring a cartoon rendering of a short bald man in yellow robes and flowing white beard. One sandaled foot was outthrust. The caption below the figure admonished the viewer to “Keep on Truckin'”
A soft sigh drew his attention back to the stunning beauty beside him. Soft auburn hair framed an angelic face. Her flawless skin was creamy white. He ran his hand across her full, firm breasts and down her taut stomach. Her eyes fluttered open. She smiled at him. “I love you, Dave.” She grabbed him and squeezed gently.
“Hey,” he said laughing, “I need those.” He bent and kissed her softly on the forehead. He rose and began to dress.
“You don’t have to go. You can stay with me. What’s there that you can’t have here,” she asked.
“Nothing Sweetheart, you know that. It is better here. Much better.”
“Look, there’s this guy in California I read about. He’s got a ranch in Death Valley. We could go there.”
“You don’t want to go there. Trust me. Nothing good will come of that place. I know.”
“Yeah, you do. Won’t you stay for me? For this?” She rose displaying her shapely figure and long legs to full advantage. Her unshaven armpits did nothing to curb the lust he felt.
“I want to, Beautiful, I want to so bad. But you know I can’t stay. I have work to do.”
“Come back to me. Promise you’ll come back. Promise me.”
“I will, Carol. I promise. To this very day.”
“How will you remember this very day.” She pursed her lips in a very attractive pout.
“How could I forget, Beautiful? Besides, it’s my birthday today. Or will be. In thirty years. I still can’t believe that you believed me right away. You’re too trusting.”
“I could read it in your eyes. Besides, any day now men will be walking on the moon. Why shouldn’t I believe that in sixty years there will be time travellers.” She wrapped her arms around him and laid her head on his chest. “Please, come back to me.”
He bent and kissed her gently. “I will.”
“Dave, are you all right?” Several men ran to the crumpled form of Dr. David Jansen.
“What happened? Did I… The experiment…”
“Nothing happened,” replied Dr. Jay Snell, helping his stricken colleague to his feet. “You entered the machine, everything went fuzzy for a moment, there was a brilliant flash, then you collapsed.”
“So, it didn’t work?”
“But I remember…”
A young woman burst into the lab. “Dr. Jansen. There is someone here to see you. I explained you were busy, she insisted. She said she is… urff…”
An elderly woman pushed the young lab assistant aside and with determination strode to face Dr. Jansen. “You lied, you told me you’d come back. You promised you’d come back to me. You lied.”
“Grandma, what are you doing here? You should be at the home. I promise I’ll visit Tuesday.”
“You promised you’d come back to me sixty years ago. You lied.”
“What are you talking about? I…,” his face fell as realization sank in.
“Why didn’t you come back to me? Was it because of her?” She pointed at the lab assistant, pulling her red hair back into a ponytail. “Does she remind you of someone?”
“Grandma… Caroline? No…”
“There is the question of our daughter. Do you think we should tell her? How do you think your… mother… will take it.”
“I’m going to be sick.”
Author : Roi R. Cechvala, Staff Writer
Helmut Rose made his way down the broad avenue to his office at the Aerospace Centre. He looked up at the hundred foot long banners displaying the movie star good looks of the President’s face. Hitler’s picture was everywhere. The only resemblance to his great-grandfather was an untidy shock of black hair on the forehead and pinched moustaches.
Berlin was electrified. Overhead, Zeppelins announced “Alles Gute zum Geburtstag Führer” in brilliant colours flashing and crawling around on the dirigibles silver skin. Adolph Hitler IV’s birthday celebration was shaping up to be bigger than last year’s.
As was his habit, before heading to his office, Rose visited the engineers of the Von Braun Zentrum für Raum Studium. As he entered the spacious, brightly lit room, an enthusiastic “Heil Hitler” rang out from the assembled men jumping to their feet with an outstretched arm.
“Heil Hitler,” Rose replied, casually throwing back his right hand. The men looked harried, but bright eyed and excited. “How’s it going? Everything okay?”
Heinrich Globus, lead engineer on the Ares project, strode over and pumped Rose’s hand. “Perfect Herr Doktor, Perfect. Who could have imagined Mars’ approach would match up with the Führer’s celebration. The launch will occur on time. It’s almost as if it were a birthday gift from God himself.”
“‘Gott Ist Mitt Uns'”, eh Heinrich,” Rose laughed. “I hope not. We don’t need some Jew god interfering with the triumph of the German people.” They laughed.
“This launch is a tribute to you Herr Doktor. You must be proud.”
“I am but a humble administrator, Heinrich.”
“Don’t be modest Helmut. Everybody knows that Werner couldn’t have made it to the moon without you. And your ICBM’s? They have kept the British and their American lap dogs at bay.”
Rose felt colour rising in his cheeks. “I am just doing my small part, but thank you Heinrich. I must get up to my office. Make sure the men get a good rest after the launch. They’ve earned it.” The head of Germany’s space program strode briskly to a bank of elevators.
Rising to the top floor of the towering structure he thought back to the metaphorical heights his career had taken him. As a young man on Werner Von Braun’s team, he had sent three men to walk on the lunar surface. Now a team of eight were soon headed for the red planet.
Entering the outer office, his secretary beamed at him. “Guten morgen, Herr Doktor. Are you excited? Just think of it, our Aryan astronauten on another planet.”
“Yes Greta, truly a coup for Germany, though hardly unexpected. Still it is a great accomplishment.” He retrieved the morning paper, Der Informant, from her desk and made for the inner office.
“Oh, Herr Doktor? There are two men waiting inside who wish to speak to you. Reporters I imagine. I hope that’s okay?”
“That’s fine, Greta. Danke.”
Entering his sanctum sanctorum, two men rose to greet him. They were identically dressed in black suits, black leather trench coats and black fedoras. Had they not been wearing the unofficial official uniform, he would still have recognized them for what they were.
Rose sat down behind his massive mahogany desk. “How may I help you gentlemen,” he asked, the disdain evident in his voice.
“You are Doktor Helmut Wilhelm Rose? Director of the ZRS?”
“I am. What can I do for you?
The man continued. “Herr Doktor…,” he consulted a small notebook, “… Rosenbaum? We have a few questions for you.”
The Gestapo man smiled widely. A smile that never touched his piercing blue eyes.
Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer
Three men huddled in a snow bank. Their chameleoarmour not only blended perfectly with snow that is actually deceptive and not a pure white, but circulated water heated to eighty five degrees Fahrenheit. The insulation of the armour was a testament to the technology of the men’s culture. The men were kept warm yet the snow was not heated to melting nor did it betray their heat signature.
The only exposed skin was around the eyes and nose. This small area of the body, so vulnerable to the biting cold, was covered with white paste designed to keep exposed skin warm. It didn’t.
The men were buried in a snow bank that had been ploughed into a pile beside a mountain road overlooking a small town in a valley below. A small enemy town.
Though strict radio silence was called for, the personal radios the men contained had been set to transmit a weak signal that barely reached past their five metre perimeter. The weak signal emanating past the soldiers would fade into the background radiation. Corporal Walker thought it safe to express his feelings on the situation.
“This sucks, Sarge.”
“You could be on Venus.”
“At least I’d be warm.”
“At nine hundred degrees in the shade. That’s a bit more than warm,” chimed in PFC Brickel. “My brother’s there. He says the rocks glow red at night it’s so hot.”
“Still beats the hell out of this frozen shit hole.”
“I’d rather be back in Galveston,” Sergeant Kovacks remarked wistfully, “but, you know, shit in one hand and wish in the other and what do you get?”
“A warm, steaming version of this place.” All three men chuckled.
“How can they stand living in this frozen wasteland. It’s disgusting.” Walker mused.
“They don’t know any better. This is their home. Shut up. Bitching about it isn’t going to make it any better. We’re here to observe, not write a travelogue.” Brickel became silent, lost in thought.
“Dumbshits. Why’d they have to go and attack us? Again?” Walker continued unabated. “I mean, they attacked us once and cheated us out of a victory.”
“There is no cheating in war, Son,” said Sgt. Walker. He used the diminutive, though barely sixteen months separated them in age. “We had the better leadership, but they had the men, materiel and most importantly damn good supply lines. The war was unfair, that’s for damn sure, but war is. That’s the nature of war. And you can’t cheat at war. War is war. They won we lost.”
“But we’ll show ’em this time. Won’t we, Sarge?” Brickel’s voice suddenly seemed full of life. “It’s been almost two hundred years now. We’ll show these bastards. Right?”
A smile was evident in SGT Kovacks response. “Damn right. No matter where they go, the self righteous bastards think everyone should do as they do. Well, they screwed the pooch. We’re ready for them this time. This is one dog they should have let lie…. Here they come.”
Automatically the men’s optics ratcheted up a few clicks. Four dark craft, fighter/bombers, dove into the atmosphere and began their approach. The men watched with grim satisfaction as the town erupted in a dull orange glow. The men cheered as the small town of Ford City, Pennsylvania, snugged up against the muddy banks of the Allegheny river ceased to exist.
The aircraft pulled out of the valley and thundered directly over the heads of the ensconced men. The Stars and Bars was proudly emblazoned on the belly of the aircraft.
“Damn, I hate Yankees,” Kovacks said.
Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer
Thirty seven people packed into the conference room. The table sat twenty four. The rest stood along the walls. They didn’t care. The excitement in the room was nearly palpable. Low murmurs circulated throughout the cramped space. Occasionally a nervous laugh burst forth. The air, while not festive, was hopeful.
As if darkness had suddenly fallen, the room was plunged into silence. A small rotund man entered carrying a sheaf of papers. He was immaculately dressed in a slate grey three piece suit. Not a hair was out of place on his peculiar egg shaped head and his carefully groomed mustache accented an otherwise non descript face.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began in a strong confident voice; a voice that did not match the otherwise innocuous appearance, “I suppose you know why we are all here.” A round of nervous laughter met this casual remark. “The decision has been extremely difficult. All of you are highly qualified. In fact all of you are, with very minor exceptions of course, equals in intelligence, temperament and background. Any one of you would be an excellent, nay, a perfect candidate for the job.”
The gathered applicants looked from side to side. From a field of well over five thousand prospective aspirants, they had, through exhaustive mental as well as physical trials been whittled down to the thirty seven assembled here.
“The challenge is daunting. Living in what amounts to a tin can orbiting 22,000 miles above the equator, alone, for eighteen months is certainly not for the faint of heart. Of course there are rewards.” This time the room launched into overt laughter at the barely disguised allusion to the twelve million dollar pay check awaiting at the end of the solitary sojourn.
“What it comes down to, that is, the only thing differentiating you, is a simple matter of weight. As you know it costs roughly one hundred thousand dollars to launch one pound. Thusly, out of this group the lightest and most qualified physically will be awarded the position.” A few corpulent individuals shifted nervously and stared in guilty, gluttonous sloth at their overstuffed shoes. “Not only weight, but manual dexterity have been factored in to our decision.”
A raucous “BOOYAH” erupted off to one side of the speaker. A small man dramatically ripped off his prosthetic legs and proceeded to do a handstand on the armrests of his motorized wheel chair.
“Pack it up and head home suckers, the job’s mine,” he yelled from his inverted position. Settling himself back in the chair, he continued his self congratulatory celebration. “Whooo HOOOO, don’t need no legs in space, they just get in the way. Haha. Don’t need legs for walking around. Useless in spa… oh… shit…” His face went white as his eyes fell on Herschel “Monkeyboy” Greenbaum.
Greenbaum’s father was the chief biologist at Genedyne Laboratories. He had pioneered the work in the hybridization of primates. Specifically between spider monkeys and humans.
Herschel regarded the amputee coolly as he brushed and patted his hair with his feet while casually twiddling his thumbs.
Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer
SSG Ray Mansfield raised his rifle and glassed the valley below with powerful optics. His men, stretched out behind him, were virtually invisible, their chameleon skin armour blended seamlessly with the sparse vegetation and oily, rocky soil.
He clicked his teeth and opened the teams freq. The weak signal barely reached 25 metres before it disappeared into the background radiation rendering it undetectable. “I know it will be hard, but we have to take at least one of these fuckers alive. Everybody clear?” Mansfield received five confirmations. None were enthusiastic about the idea of bringing one in still pumping air.
The men called them “Sticks”, an appellation given for their too tall, too thin appearance that was only exaggerated by their complex body armour. They made their presence known with a barrage of nuclear weapons dropped from orbit.
They attacked areas of intense population, They extinguished fighting potential. Asia had ceased to exist within minutes. Europe quickly followed. The central United States, northern Canada, the interior of South America and Australia was all that remained relatively unscathed. Despite Africa’s low population density and negligible military importance, the Dark Continent was wiped clean. Maybe the Sticks just hated elephants.
“On me. Zalar, Brunson, twenty metres left, ten forward. Winder, Fromholt, right, same. Walker, my six, ten metres.” With intense slowness, the six men moved out. Their armour lagged mere microseconds behind the changing background.
The Stick encampment was small. Only twenty observed enemy moved within the protection of a complex perimeter screen. Recent minor victories had allowed the Sticks password technology to fall into the hands of the all but vanquished humans. The men penetrated the deadly screen with impunity.
They moved into their positions with a practised ease. They had surveilled the camp over the past week and knew it’s every inch. Cpl Walker’s mission task was a simple one. Protected by fire from Mansfield, he had only to locate and “paint” an enemy soldier with an x-ray laser visible only through their helmet optics. That one would be spared for study; possibly interrogation.
Though fearsome in appearance at nearly 3 metres, the alien warriors were quite fragile despite their body armour. The armour had been designed to protect them from the blasts of energy weapons, not the crude human Heckler & Koch G3’s spitting 30 calibre death. The copper jacketed lead cores tore through the creatures, literally ripping them to pieces.
Within ninety seconds, all enemy resistance had been neutralized. Corporal Paul Walkers mission to protect a Stick from elimination had been performed beyond the pale. The young soldier received a mortal wound and died saving the intended prisoner from the withering fusillade.
The last remaining Stick, it’s four upper limbs tightly secured behind it, hurled what were undoubtedly scathing invectives in it’s incomprehensible tongue. Staff Sergeant Mansfield approached the towering creature. Gripping the muzzle of his weapon like a baseball bat, he struck the beast across it’s mouth. It did nothing to halt the verbal assault.
A loud report silenced the creature. SSG Mansfield’s face and chest were showered with viscous, ochre blood as the aliens head vaporized before his eyes.
The massive frame of the Stick slowly slumped to the ground. Behind it stood Private Winder, his weapon still raised. A thin trail of smoke issued from the barrel.
“Winder, what the fuck?” Mansfield screamed, wiping the alien goo from his mouth, “What’s the matter with you. We needed this bastard alive.”
Slowly PFC Eric Winder lowered his weapon. He stared past his squad leader. “Sorry Sarge. I couldn’t help it. Paul was my friend.”