Saturday, October 31, 2009

Gods of the Twilight

A pagan god appeared not long ago;
His beard and brows were white and full of snow.
He shrugged and stared at me with empty eye;
The occult god was not from heaven-high.

I could not look, nor could I turn away,
He said, "Asgard awaits the brave to-day!"
Into that blackness I was drawn—abyss.
I shook my head, for things, they were amiss

"By all the muses, poet!" he then cried;
"I offer thee Asgard, why cast aside?"
He stormed, my spine an icy chill became,
"With Odin, come, the sire of Baldur slain!"

"Thou cannot have my soul, and cannot take.
Go home to dead and leave, for heaven's sake."
I, having said the strongly words, then shrunk;
The god remained, and swore by World Tree's trunk.

"Into my halls, and thou shall have rewards,
The worst, if Odin leaves, it in store is.”
"The fate I wait is worse?" I gave reply,
"For none is worse than thine: thou fell from sky."

His anger rose above the clouds at least;
That god of death, the cold, capricious beast.
"Are worse than Greeks and Romans, Norse!" I cried,
"Did Homer write of toenail-ships with pride?"

"Are clever, boy! But thou can not do much;
The Fates are not so like thy God and such.
Unkind be they, but worse some still are, see:
To-morrow thou shall meet the god Loki!"

"But take what he away that thou can not?"
Then thought a moment Odin on the spot,
"And spoil the fun, the god's surprise-intact?
Content to know his choice is worse, you hack!"

"An offer worse than Odin's, this I mean,
As I wish thee a Happy Halloween.
But know thou this, I have been sickly-sweet;
The trickster god will not but trick or treat.”

The god then left me, seeing-eye nodding,
To think of Loki's dreadful cold plotting.
The trickster surely promised nothing good,
Yet could he be much worse than Odin would?

As Odin rode on Sleipnir, quickly gone,
He trampled gaily over summer's lawn,
And I, a shiver shaking frozen skin,
Would not forget the olden god—Odin.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Philosophia Scientiae

“Ahem,” the white lab coat-wearing spokesman cleared his throat. “Now,” he said, “I think it’s quite clear we have a major problem on our hands. Many of you know what I’m talking about. But, for the sake of those few who may not be aware of the dangers ahead, I’ve prepared some very specific points to clarify the matter(s).” The spokesman, who stood behind a podium with a microphone mounted upon it, shifted a little as he turned to the next page in the pile of computer paper upon said podium.

“You see,” he continued, “There is a great risk of the situation deteriorating, and rapidly. The situation I speak of, of course, is the environment of Earth’s primary satellite. Now, to understand the situation fully you would need many years training in the scientific fields—any of them would do—but since you, presumably, do not have this, you will have to take my—excuse me, ‘our,’ as in the consensus of this panel—word for it.

“To begin, there is the rather drastic condition of life upon ‘the moon,’ as it is so commonly called. For—it may shock you—we know there is life upon ‘the moon.’ Surely you have heard of the ‘colonists,’ if not I’m afraid there is little chance of persuading you…” There was laughter in the press room.

“Regardless, it is pertinent to point out that if there is some life, why is it so strange to believe there is other life?” Heads bobbed up and down in assent among the audience. “I think it is clear, at least, that there are living organisms inhabiting this planet’s primary satellite… if anyone disagrees, let him speak.” None of the reporters so much as raised a hand to question the statement.

“Moving on,” he persisted, “from that we can also conclude many things. First and foremost, of course, is the need for regulation. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves…” and here he smiled. There was light—almost guilty—laughter in the room. “Second is the question of microbes. We know there are microbes. For where there are colonists there are microbes. Let us hope they have not given any blankets to the natives…” Loud guffaws followed, and extremely guilty ones at that, with covered mouths and shifty eyes looking at neighbors for direction.

“Yes, this is a concern also,” he carried on. “But even without intent, there are innumerable threats these so-called ‘colonists’ pose to the environment of the largest orbiting body of Sol’s third satellite. For instance, while many ‘scientists,’ and I use the term lightly, for they were of former eras where even speculation and philosophy could be called such, have been hung up on threats to life, we must look beyond that. Let me explain.

"You see, an ecosystem is a complex thing. So complex in fact, that no one really understands it. But,” he added quickly, “insofar as anyone does, I can tell you there is a high probability of soil contamination upon the object orbiting one of many other, larger, objects orbiting one of other yet larger objects that in turn are orbiting the Milky Way galaxy.

“I think, then, it is obvious what must be done. But for those of you who remain skeptical, I submit to you the following: In the few years since ‘colonization’ began, the temperature of the body in question has risen—albeit only in certain areas—by over one hundred degrees! At this rate, in one hundred years the temperature—albeit in these admittedly few areas—may be hotter than the surface of the sun! If this is allowed to occur, the resultant fireball may very well crash into the Earth and destroy us all!

“Surely something must be done! But what? Well, it is not within the realm of my expertise to say, but I think it should be obvious by now,” he paused for laughter, which he received, “that the only reasonable course of action—and action must be taken—is to immediately abandon all projects for further terraforming and resource-gathering upon the imperiled spheroid. And anyone who disagrees must be shouted down. We cannot allow such things to happen to our most precious commodities.

“Although,” he added wryly, “we know the type of people these loonies are, and we’d be better if they did burn themselves all up. Unfortunately, we are all in the same boat, figuratively speaking, of course. In the past people on tiny islands thought they could remain independent, but the European Union proved this false. For their own good, and for that of us all, we must bring their self-destructive ambitions under heel!”

Loud applause rocked the press room. Afterward, outside and overhead, a frown darkened the once bright face of Luna.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Unseen World, Chapter 5: White Queen to King’s Bishop Seven

Lily walked down the long, lavish hallway with fine carpeted floors, marble walls, and elaborate chandeliers. In one hand she was carrying a manila folder, neatly filled with papers, pressed against her blue-flowered low-cut blouse, while she dangled the other arm artfully at her side, complementing the exaggerated sway of her skirt-clad hips. Turning right, then left, at the end of the hallway, Lily emerged into a well-lit rotunda. Although entirely enclosed, it was decorated like a courtyard; a circular walkway surrounded a gravel base sectioned like a pizza into four by further walkways leading straight to the center of the rotunda, where what appeared to be an old, uncovered stone well stood starkly. The walkways leading to the well corresponded with the four cardinal directions, and each was labeled accordingly.

From the entrance to the rotunda, Lily made her way a quarter turn along the circular walkway, or just past the East walkway, her high heels sounding off on the light colored paving stones as she went. She opened, with a creaking sound, one of two monumental bronze doors, labeled above the archway with the Roman numeral ‘CXIII.’ Entering, she released the door, which closed with a scraping metallic sound somewhere between a clang and a thud. Inside was a low light carpeted corridor intersected by another, forming a ‘T.’ Along the top of the T there were four Red Oak doors, two on either side of the intersection. Lily opened the door on the far right.

Inside the room, her tall, dark and handsome new boss sat at a rather Spartan desk near the far wall, scribbling away at a piece of paper. He looked up, briefly, and then pretended he wasn’t distracted by the intrusion, seemingly returning to his work. But Lily knew better. First, she looked around to see what he had done with the place. Not much, she noted disapprovingly. There was a giant vid screen set in the left wall, and an admittedly impressive-looking life-sized replica suit of Alexandrian armor, complete with sword and shield, against the wall roughly halfway between the vid screen and an unadorned single bed at the corner of the near wall. The only other furniture was a red velvet sofa parked practically right in front of the vid screen.

She made an audible ‘tsk tsk’ sound, and furtively watched his reaction. It was subtle, but blocked from light though it was by his long, thick, charcoal black hair, she could see his pale face, milky white like the rest of his skin—no longer tanned by the Mediterranean sun, and borne of near agoraphobia, it seemed—,twitch in irritation. He half looked up toward her before catching himself and returning his gaze to his paper, trying to pretend it was something else that had distracted him.

Lily whistled a couple bars of some elevator music.

“Yes?” he said finally.

It was the reaction she had been hoping for.


Alex watched as his tall, platinum blonde secretary, neatly arrayed in her trademark style—a blouse and ruffled miniskirt with floral patterns—seemingly glided over to the desk where he was working. Arching her long back, the slender but muscular fair-skinned young woman, in her early twenties by all appearances, about his age, bent over Alex’s desk, plopping a manila folder in front of him and opening it with her long, agile fingers. “You’ll probably need this,” she said with an air of command in her sweet, soft, almost lisping voice; like the foaming of the sea.

Alex looked into her expressive, aquamarine eyes, ignoring the folder. “What is it?” he asked.

“Stuff,” she replied simply. She motioned suggestively with her eyes for him to look at the material.

“No abstract?” he arched a thick, charcoal eyebrow.

She let out a light, almost playful, sigh. “There’s a lot of different things. Some mail. But most is just information you need to do your job. How’s that going, by the way?”

There was a pause, then:

“Is that a challenge?” he asked, pushing his chair away from the desk, leaning back, jutting forward his broad, black-shirted chest, stretching his long arms and cracking his knuckles above his head, yet still keeping his eyes locked on hers.

“It might be…” she replied coyly.

It was. And they both knew it.

“Very well, then. I suppose I’ll have to meet it.” He stood up.

“You aren’t one to shy from a challenge, are you?”

“That’s why you hired me, isn’t it?” he joked, but it wasn’t rhetorical, and they both knew this as well.

“That would be telling,” was all she could say.

“Yes it would,” he grinned. “But that’s alright,” he assured her, “I’ll pretend it’s a game; that’ll be more fun.”

“That sounds dangerous.”

“Is that a threat?”

Lily frowned, but perhaps noticing that he was smiling, instead of reassuring him it was no such thing she said, “You aren’t taking this seriously.”

He laughed. “You obviously didn’t read my résumé.”

“I don’t recall you submitting one.”

“True, but you know what I do. I solve riddles… I like games.”

“I thought you were a detective.”

“That’s what my uncle paid me for.”

“And it’s what we’re paying you for, too. So, I’ll ask you again, have you detected anything?”

“Ouch,” he shook one hand as if he had been bitten. “Ok, I’ll give you a progress report, little Miss impatient.”

Lily looked a little guilty—bashful even, which pleased Alex, because that was the only time she didn’t intimidate him. It wasn’t her beauty so much, although that was a factor, but the way she always seemed so at place, so comfortable. Her persona was as much a natural fixture in the suspicious, corporate ambiance of Prometheus Technologies as was her visage. She was confidant; adaptable, fluid, like a chameleon, or water.

“Sorry,” she said with sincerity, “It’s just that there’ve been some setbacks, apparently.” She bit her pink lip before continuing, “...And I’m just conveying Lucien’s impatience.”

Alex smiled tightly.

As he let his smile fade, Alex looked her in the eyes, commenting as unacerbically as he could manage, “You’re just like a little reflecting pool, aren’t you?”

She looked almost hurt. He had expected that, however, and was ready with self-deprecating addendum, saying with as humble an affectation as possible, “Which is perfect for any handsome Greek, such as myself—every Narcissus needs his mirror.”


“That’s sweet,” she said, softly. Then, thinking about it some more, Lily wondered if he was really saying she was necessary for him to show interest in the external—perhaps she was even the object of fixation itself—,or just some sick, twisted device to be used for reflecting his own self-love. More likely, he was just messing with her. So, she added, “Wait. What do you mean?”

“That would be telling.”

“Been saving that?” she snapped back.

“Yes, but…” he tried to salvage the situation. She wasn’t really angry, and he probably suspected that, but she did want to know more. She figured that was something the two had in common.

“But what?” she asked pointedly.

“…But, if I recall correctly, it was not five minutes ago you were trying to get my attention.”

She thought about it a moment before responding in the affirmative.

“And if my memory is further accurate,” he continued, “As well as my understanding of subtext… that had something to do with your previous claim that I’ve been working too hard?”

She bit her lip. “I suppose,” was all she offered. He took that as a ‘yes.’

“Then why,” he asked, “Bother conveying Mr. Snow’s impatience?”

It hit her like a ton of bricks. That had been rather hypocritical of her. But you couldn’t blame a girl for holding two entirely contradictory notions in her head at the same time. And it appeared that Alex didn’t. Rather, he seemed to have more to say.

“And that just begs the question, what is my obsession?”

Lily frowned, not following him.

“I mean,” he explained, casting a penetrating stare deep into her eyes, like they contained all the mysteries of the universe, “What do you think I see in the mirror?”

Comprehension finally dawned. She pursed her lips, trying to come up with an answer to his question.

“A bit more ambiguous than you thought, I bet,” he grinned smugly.

She abandoned the train of thought, figuring it was futile for the moment, opting instead to change the subject, first by putting him on the defensive, “Been saving that, too?”

“Fair enough. You have to admit, though,” he looked far off up and to the side, as if in joyful reminiscence, “It was brilliantly executed.”

“I think you see a chessboard,” she cracked, subtly rolling her eyes. “Now why don’t you go through the folder I brought you?” She was through with games for the moment, and he seemed to take the hint.

“Well, there seems to be a letter from my uncle in here, conveniently laid on top…” Alex said as he opened the letter. She watched as he removed the letter from the envelope and unfolded it.

“What’s it say?” she asked unabashedly after a moment.


“My uncle’s offering to match what Mr. Snow’s paying me,” Alex told Lily, feeling rather surprised. He felt a brief pang of nostalgia for the Greek shipping company he had worked for until he was half-kidnapped, half-recruited just a week ago in this one hundred million strong megalopolis of London.

“So?” Lily asked, presumably wondering what his reply would be.

“Of course not,” he said rather hastily. “If he wants me to go back he would have to start by exceeding my current salary, not merely matching it.”

“And then?”

She was a pushy one, wasn’t she? Well, if he was going to stay here he would have to deal with it. “My uncle doesn’t think in as big a picture as he believes,” Alex said. “There’s more to a job than just money.”

“I do have my charms,” Lily quipped haughtily.

“There’s that…” he said offhandedly.

“Anything else in there...?” she said suggestively.

“Nope,” he put the letter away.

“No, I mean the folder.”

“Oh, well, there probably is then.”

There was an awkward pause, then, “Aren’t you going to read it?” Lily prompted him.

“With you standing over my shoulder?”

“I’m in front of you.”

Another pause.

“Would you like to see the progress I’ve made?”

“Alright,” she acquiesced. “What have you found out?”

“Not much,” he admitted, “But let me show you nonetheless.”


Lily found herself standing next to Alex, leaning over his shoulder and looking at an ancient piece of parchment protected under a thick glass tile (or possibly crystal, as it seemed to shine) set in the center of his old and otherwise unadorned Twenty-Second Century mahogany desk. The parchment consisted of a long list of names, or terms, some with rather lengthy ‘clarifications’ underneath, others with shorter clarifications, and some without any at all. She watched as Alex waved one hand over the crystal—it must be some kind of crystal she decided—and there appeared different text, or rather a different piece of parchment, in place of the old.

Lily wondered, and so asked, “Magic or science?” She hadn’t seen the new setup yet and was surprised by its elegance. Had the boy selected it himself? Probably not. Although he seemed to have good taste when he put his mind to it…

“I honestly couldn’t say,” was his reply. “But it looks like magic to me, so…”

It was good enough for her.

“Anyway,” he said, “This is the second page in the prophecy, and it seems to have most of the major actors in your little game; The Nord, The Greek, The Wanderer, The Lone Wolf... I’m sure you’re familiar with all of this so far…”

He was trying to bait her again. Prometheus Technologies was more than meets the eye; that much was obvious. Even if they had hired an idiot they couldn’t have hid that from him. Unseen machinations and all that…

Naturally, she responded with a question. “So you’ve been focusing on this page, mostly, then?”

“Almost entirely,” he admitted. “That might be the wrong way to go about it, but that’s my strategy so far. Although I have scoured the other pages for some clues—some kind of code—that’ll unlock this one, no such luck. I’ve tried all the basics already. It isn’t a cipher. It seems the text is meant to be taken literally. In fact, I would say it should be viewed literarily.”

“Like a book?”

“Not exactly. Thematically, perhaps. But many of the characters and terms seem to be, not quite archetypes, but familiar to say the least.”

“Maybe you know them?” Lily suggested.

“I suppose Mr. Snow could be the Nord,” he mused.

“Or I could be…” Lily fluttered her eyelashes.

“True, but you don’t look like you could kill anybody.”

“Could or would?” she asked.

“I’m sure you’re very capable,” he responded diplomatically.

“Darn right,” she elbowed him. “Now what about you?”

“Oh, I’m pretty tough.”

“No, silly,” she admonished him giddily. “I mean, who in the prophecy do you think you could be?”

“I hadn’t really given it any thought.”

She assumed he was lying. Regardless, she had a suggestion, “Maybe you’re ‘El Greco.’”

“Strange,” he replied, “I’ve always wanted to paint. And I’m sure the end of the world would provide some inspiring scenery.”

“Or I could braid my hair and put on my Viking helm, and you could do a portrait of me striking a mean-looking pose.”

“Actually, I only do nudes. I am a Greek classicist, after all…”

“Alexander!” she protested, stepping away, back facing him and glancing coldly over her shoulder, chin up, as she put on an exaggerated look of shock, defiance, distrust, and diffidence. Then she pretended to relent, saying, “Alright, but I still want to wear the Viking helm…”


This had been an eventful conversation. Alex had learned more about Lily in the past fifteen minutes than in the entire previous week. Plus, it almost made up for her seeing him in his boxers. Almost. Always make a good first impression. Although, come to think of it, for all he knew he had.

“I must admit, though,” he said at last, “I’m not all that sanguine about the end of the world bit,” that was an understatement; it had him terrified. He was skeptical by nature, and certainly this was way out there, but so was Prometheus Technologies. Who would have thought one of the world’s leading tech firms would be dealing in magic? Also, it was probably evil, but that was somewhat less surprising. “Do you,” Alex asked, really hoping he would get a straight answer on this, “And more importantly, does Mr. Snow, really believe this prophecy will come true?”

“Lucien believes it, and he has for a very long time.”

How long, exactly? Alex wondered. He didn’t ask, however.

“And if I help you with this, I’ll be helping you end the world. Which would make me a bad person. A very bad person.” Alex knew he sounded rather stupid stating the obvious, but he needed to say it, and really needed to hear her response. He watched her closely.

“Define ‘bad,’” she said, attempting to be humorous. It wasn’t what he was looking for at the moment.

So he said, darkly, “I suggested I draw you in the nude, and I have no artistic talent, and have never painted in my life.”

“Oh, that’s what you mean!” she responded in faux surprise, still trying to be light-hearted. “Yeah, in that case I guess ending the world would make you a bad person. But guess what?”

He was listening. He didn’t really expect her ‘guess what’ would change his perspective, but he was listening all the same. “What?” he gave the obligatory response dully.

“The prophecy,” she explained, “Doesn’t say the end of the world; it says the end of this world.”

“Oh,” he arched an eyebrow, “So no one will die?”

“Well, not ‘no one,’ but certainly not everyone.”

“So, afterwards there will be you, me, and Mr. Snow?”

“Stop being so gloomy, Alex, pretty much everyone who dies is listed in the prophecy.”

That made him feel a little better; just enough, in fact, to shove the matter to the back of his mind for the time being and switch the topic. “Ok, I’ll just keep plugging away, then,” he intended no sarcasm, and Lily didn’t seem to take it that way.

“Actually, no,” she said.

“Taking me off the case?” he gave no hint of emotion, or whether he was joking or not.

“First,” she told him, “Read the rest of what I brought you. Next, we’ll be getting out of this office for a while; you need some time to clear your head.”

Alex frowned. “Are you asking me on a date?”

“Of sorts,” she smiled. “Think of it as field work.”

He still didn’t understand her completely, although several ideas floated in his head.

“We’re going to Africa,” she announced suddenly.

That was not one of the ideas floating in his head. “’W-we?’” he stammered.

“You, me, and Mr. Snow,” she answered.

“Ok, so we aren’t the survivors after all. Gotcha.”

“That may be.”

Maybe she was taking this in stride. But Alex wanted to live. The place had never been habitable south of the Sahara (and he could only assume she wasn’t referring to the Mediterranean portion more commonly known as Greater Arabia), and in the last fifty years it had only gotten worse. No Greek trader would set foot on those shores for less than triple pay, which few employers were willing to offer for the meager wealth to be gained, and the prospect of going inland wasn’t even a consideration; there was nothing but disease, famine, and human butchery in the heart of the Dark Continent. So, naturally, “Why?” was his next question.

Lily walked up next to him again and tapped the crystal in the center of his desk with one long, manicured fingernail. He read the ‘entry’ where she tapped, just past halfway down the second page of the prophecy, which was still displayed.

“The Savage God?” he asked.

“Self-evident,” she asserted. Yes, but not all gods were created equal, it appeared. “Also,” she added, “Lucien wants to be low-key for a while.”

“That doesn’t have anything to do with what, uh, ‘happened’ to Lycus, does it?” He hadn’t liked the guy from what he had seen of him, and given the circumstances of their only meeting that was understandable, but what happened didn’t sit right with Alex.

“Hardly,” she replied. “Now, Lucien wants you to get reading that material right away; you need to be prepared for our journey.”

“I don’t know that that’s possible,” was all Alex could muster.

Lily simply smiled a smug, sideways smile and said, “Checkmate.”

Alex looked on glumly as Lily twirled around and walked away, hips swaying seductively.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

As I Die Laying

The forty-two year old baseball cap wearing party-goer made his way to the crock-pot containing cocktail wieners, taking a generous pinch of the barbecue and grape jelly-stewed little pork puree delicacies and plopping them on his plate next to the potato chips and baby carrots.

"My problem with Obama is that he's a socialist," said an overbearing--and overweight--man in a group of three standing nearby.

The first man plopped a cocktail wiener in his mouth and shook his head--such ignorance!

Meanwhile, a thinner man replied to the comment, chagrined, "That's not fair. Calling names like that..."

"But it's the truth," the first speaker interrupted, "He's spending all that money on..."

"Spending it on what?" Now it was the other man's turn to interrupt. "Something George Bush didn't spend it on?" he asked pointedly.

"Oh, not this crap again. Whenever anyone brings up anything Obama does you Libs have to cry, 'but what about George Bush!' or 'at least he isn't as bad as Bush!' I mean, really."

"Well... well, you know what I heard," the soft-spoken woman in the group tried to edge her way into the conversation while the liberal man thought of his retort. "I heard that Obama was born in Kenya and isn't even allowed to be president."

Both men were surprised.

"Well, I don't know about that..." said the conservative.

"That's just the kind of bigoted, pea-brained nonsense I'd expect from a Republican," the liberal got nasty.

"Oh, I'm a Democrat." the woman replied, hurt. "I just read about it. I voted for Obama, and I don't care if he's not American; I think he's good for this country. Being from Kenya gives him a fresh perspective."

Both men were surprised.

"Well, I don't know about that..." said the liberal.

"That's just the kind of pea-brained nonsense I'd expect from a Democrat," the conservative said with a smirk.

Finished with his cocktail wieners, and sick of the potato chips and baby carrots, the forty-two year old eavesdropper had had enough. He half marched up to the group, his tongue snapping back like a bullwhip preparing to deliver chastisement; he couldn't stand how they ignored the true threat!

"Who are you?" the conservative asked.

"Nevermind," he replied briskly, then paused briefly before continuing, "I couldn't help but overhear your conversation, and I must say, you all have it wrong! So very, very wrong."

"And I'm sure you're here to enlighten us?"

"Yes! Now listen," then he continued before anyone could interrupt, "Barrack Obama isn't socialist. He isn't a Kenyan. He's a Grzelnorpian!"

"A what?" the woman asked, who he now noticed was fairly attractive. Thin. Nice face. And dark blonde hair.

"He's a Grzelnorpian agent! Sent to brainwash us into submission," the frustration rolling off his tongue was palpable. "Soon we will all be slaves to the Grzelnorpian Empire if we don't do something!"

"Sounds like a conspiracy to me," the conservative scoffed.

"It is!" the cap-wearing theorist's eyes widened. "A conspiracy concocted by an alien empire!"

"No need to be so dramatic."

"Aren't you listening?" he looked at the other two to see if they had betrayed him too, along with the rest of humanity, and then added, "We're about to be conquered! We have to do something!"

"Like what?" the conservative asked.

The theorist was dumbfounded. "What do you mean?"

"What do you think I mean? Even if we suppose what you're saying is true, which it isn't, how can we stop the Grez Norps--"

"The Grzelnorpians."

"Right. The Greznorpians--"

"No, the Grzelnorpians."

"Fine. The Grzelnorpians. How are we gonna stop them from taking us over? With the military? Sorry, but last time I heard, the President's in charge of that, and he's a Greznor... Grelznorp--an alien."

"They aren't ready for an invasion yet--that's our advantage! You see, they plan to take us over peacefully. The Grzelnorpians don't expect us to resist, and so far..." he noted dryly, "I can see why. I mean the clues are everywhere, people!"

"Such as...?"

"Mike, stop being such a dick," the liberal man interjected. "He's entitled to his opinion."

"And I'm entitled to my opinion that his opinion is stupid."

"You won't think that when the Grzelnorpians take over!" the theorist said defiantly.

"You smarmy little dweeb," the conservative, Mike, slapped the baseball hat bill down over the theorist's face. "Why you wear that, anyway? Shouldn't that be made of tinfoil?"

The theorist's eyes darted toward the floor and he briefly shuffled his feet. He always wore the baseball cap. He had lined the inside with tinfoil to protect him from the Grzelnorpian Brainwashing Ray that was in geosynchronous orbit over his head. Also, he had a bald spot.

Suddenly he regained his courage and said, "Look, I'll prove it to you..." He pulled a piece of paper out of one pocket and unfolded it. Then he began reading. "First, Obama said he doesn't look like the other guys on the dollar bills. Of course not! He's an alien!"

"No, what he meant was..." the liberal began.

"He meant what, Jack? What did he mean?" Mike asked.

"He's black," the liberal, Jack, explained.

"Don't you mean African American?"

"Shut up."

"Anyway," the theorist continued, oblivious, "Obama also said 'If you're headed for a cliff, you have to change direction. That's what the American people called for in November, and that's what we intend to deliver.'"

"So, what's the problem with that?" Jack queried, not daring to hazard a guess.

"Who is this 'we' he keeps referring to?" the theorist asked. "He does it in so many speeches, and it seems a little suspicious, don't you think?"

"No, he is clearly referring to the American People," Jack answered.

"Or the Democratic Party, and the elitist socialists in Hollywood, New York and Washington," Mike added helpfully.

"Thank you, Mike," Jack replied sourly.

"You're welcome."

"But listen to this one," the theorist offered, "'We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.' Doesn't that sound like he's part of an alien collective?"

"Or just a euro-socialist," Mike remarked. Jack was silent.

"Ok, how about this: 'We cannot pretend somehow that because Barack Hussein Obama got elected as president, suddenly everything is going to be OK.' He's telling his superiors back home that there's still work to do."

"I don't see it," Mike replied.

"Then this: 'Over the last 15 months, we've traveled to every corner of the United States. I've now been in 57 states? I think one left to go.' Who but an alien could be so ignorant of our political geography?"

Mike started to say something, but Jack gave him a glare, so he simply shot his liberal friend a knowing smile.

"This one's gotta do it: 'People of Berlin - people of the world - this is our moment. This is our time.' I mean, who better than the Germans to understand world conquest?"

"Yeah," Jack replied, "but didn't you say they were going to take over peacefully?"

"Don't knock it just yet," Mike admitted, "The Germans are doing it pretty peacefully right now with the EU."

"Don't be ridiculous, Mike. Besides, don't the French run the EU?"

"The French couldn't run anything bigger than a wine & cheese shop."

"Okay, what about this last quote," the theorist interrupted. "'The thing about hip-hop today is it's smart, it's insightful. The way they can communicate a complex message in a very short space is remarkable.' Does that do it for you?"

"Nope," both men said in unison.

The theorist sighed, "Maybe after you see some of Obama's communications you'll understand why he said that..." He pulled out a Blackberry from the same pocket he had removed the paper with the quotes on it and said, "I started receiving these on my email about five years ago. It must have been an accident, because it led me to understand the sinister conspiracy before us. Look at this..." he held the Blackberry out so all could see.

"U.S.A. has 'A' bomb--kin care." the woman--listening to the conversation with her usual passivity until then--read off the Blackberry screen. "What does that mean?"

"I didn't know at first either," the theorist explained. "It took me over a month to realize it was a secret message from Barack Obama to his superiors on Grzelnorp IV. He sent it soon after he first landed on Earth. It is a warning to be careful with any invasion because the United States--and unbeknownst to Obama at the time, so do several other nations--has nuclear weapons. He sent this to make sure his kin--the Grzelnorpians--take care."

"What kind of evidence is that?" Mike asked, incredulous. It had been entertaining until now, but this was just pathetic. "If you, or whoever fooled you into believing this, were gonna try to fool someone, you'd at least try to write a whole paragraph, and a grammatically correct one at that!"

"Which means it must have been written by an alien!" the theorist gave Mike a 'gotcha' look.

"Why?" Mike raised his voice a little. "Why would an alien write in English to another alien?"

"Ah! But you see, that's the genius of it!" the theorist explained. "It's because he also has a devout group of human followers that he needs to keep up to date on the plan."

"What, all the stupid college students?"

"No, the Illuminati. But nevermind that. Take another look at the message he sent. Notice anything queer about it?"

Mike was tempted to crack a joke relating to the word 'queer,' but merely hazarded a second look at the phrase. "No," he answered quickly, looking away again.

"Really?" the theorist said slyly. "Not even the fact that the message is a perfect anagram of 'Barack Hussein Obama'?"

Mike--and Jack--took a second look at it. U.S.A. has A bomb--kin care.

"Well, by golly, it is!" Jack exclaimed. "You must have put quite a bit of time into it. Er. I mean, Obama sure is dedicated to the plan."

The theorist scowled.

"Yeah, pretty impressive, I'll admit," said Mike, "But one little anagram doesn't prove a thing."

"That's why there's more," the theorist scrolled down on his Blackberry and showed them more messages. "See this one? I don't have the reply from Grzelnorp IV, but obviously they didn't understand what "'A' bomb" means in the other message, so Obama had to write this one too."

It read: Is a nuke bomb. Has a car.

"Clearly," the theorist continued, "Obama also felt the need to let his superiors know we have cars. That must be important. And, as you can see, this one is also an anagram of 'Barack Hussein Obama.'"

"Impressive, again," Jack admitted. "But Obama is known for his eloquence. How do you explain why the grammar is so poor--that should read 'Have a car.'"

"Maybe when he wrote it he didn't have a teleprompter," Mike suggested.

"Here's another one," the theorist scrolled down a little more.

It read: SOS I bareback a human.

"As you can see, Obama engaged in certain activities and was worried that they would be dangerous to him. It's also an anagram of his full earth name, again. Surely you'll admit that only an alien would feel the need to specify that it was a human that he barebacked?"

"Or NAMSA, the North American Man-Sheep Love Association," Mike shook his head.

Jack ignored him, saying "Im-uh, um... impressive" again, albeit more than a little unsure of himself.

"Well, here's another one!"

It read: I kebab a man. c u Ross--ha!

"Who," the theorist asked, "Would kebab a man, other than an alien?"

"Jeffry Dahmer, for one," Mike pointed out. "And I'm sure this one is an anagram, too, but I just saw a friend who I've been meaning to talk to, it's been fun." With that he left.

"You know, I actually have some people I need to talk to, too," Jack said. "I'll be back in a couple minutes or so, I expect." With that he was off as well.

"So much for that. I don't suppose you want to hang around a while and listen to my warnings?" the theorist asked the quiet woman.

"Well, you know," she said, "I'm skeptical, I guess--but I have an open mind!" It was as she was trying to convince him. "I don't really know what to think, you know. But I'm willing to try anything once. Wait. I mean I'm willing to try to believe anything. Oh, that's not right either. But you know what I mean."

He wasn't sure he did, but he simply nodded and said, "I suppose so, Miss... I'm sorry," he put on an affectation of embarrassment, "All this talking and I didn't get your name."

She smiled. "That's alright. I'm Cathy," she extended her hand.

He took her hand, but instead of shaking it he bowed down and gave her a delicate kiss, saying, "Pleased to meet you, Cathy. I'm Art."

"Nice to meet you, too," she giggled.

"So, how do you know the host?" Art asked.

"She's my sister."

"And where is this sister of yours? And is she half as lovely as you?"

She smiled a little at first, but then asked warily, "You haven't met her? Do you work with Bob?"

"No, I crashed the party," he smiled. "Actually, I'm a neighbor, and I just met Bob earlier today, and he invited me then."

"Oh yeah, Bob does that," she laughed, "He's very friendly. Very inviting. We got that from our dad. Which house do you live in?"

It took him a second to catch up with her train of thought, but when he did Art answered, "The run-down Victorian with the spire on the corner."

"Really? It's a beautiful place, but I thought it was abandoned."

"Practically is," he smirked. "But I do live there when I'm around. I don't like to stay in one place so often, you see. The Grzelnorpian's would find me if I did... they know I'm onto them," he winked.

She laughed. "That's bad," she said.

Apparently Cathy was under the impression that he made the whole thing up as part of an elaborate plot to sound interesting and get laid. Art sought to disabuse her of that notion--he could believe it and use it to get laid at the same time, damn it! "Of course it's bad!" he said seriously, "How would you like being followed around by aliens!"

"Are they sexy aliens?" she asked, apparently she still didn't take him seriously.

"I suppose it depends on whether or not you think Obama is sexy. Personally, I'm not interested..."

"I think he's super-sexy," she replied.

"Well, to each their own, I suppose. Hey, I actually have some steamy pics of Obama on my computer at the house that I intercepted between him and his Grzelnorpian superiors... I mean, if you'd like to see them."

"Sure, that'd be fun. Maybe you can give me a tour of the house while you're at it?"

"Sure, why not? Nothing better to do my last night as a free man."

"You aren't getting married in the morning, are you?" That she was smiling convinced him she actually knew what he was talking about, so he didn't need to reply. She wasn't quite as naive, slow, and gullible as he originally thought her to be. And fortunately that didn't make it any harder. No better way to spend his last night as a free man, indeed.


Art awoke suddenly in the middle of the night. He looked around, seeing the moon peeking through the red velvet curtains, the clothes on the floor, and the slender, naked form lying next to him. All seemed well. Yet... he felt a buzzing in the air. He climbed out of bed, himself naked, to draw back the curtains just as the buzzing grew. When he drew the curtains, to his surprise he saw--even he hadn't really believed it--Grzelnorpian spacecraft landing. There were thousands, no millions, of craft; the bright-burning rocket flame supported saucers were landing as far as the eye could see. All Art could think was: first, he was right. He had been right all along. Second, he was so very right, and also, Al Gore would not be happy with Barack Obama in the morning; greenhouses gas emissions had just gone through the roof.

Alternate Ending:

Art and Cathy awoke the following morning. Art turned on the TV news, hoping he would be proven right. Although it may have been more sensible to hope he was wrong. Well, he was right... sort of. President Obama was before a crowd giving a speech, which from the looks of it was nearly over:

"Can we overcome mankind's seemingly ceaseless struggle with boredom? Yes we can!" the crowd joined in enthusiastically. "Can we restrain and redirect the mighty maelstroms of leisure that result inevitably in an emergent ennui that imperils our peaceful cohabitation and puts to rest the creative potential of mankind? Yes we can!" the crowd joined in enthusiastically again, although they probably didn't understand half of it.

"Can we bring ourselves to acknowledge our need as human beings for something higher than ourselves, something greater, that can direct our most intrinsic impulses fruitfully toward greater productivity and happiness for all? Yes we can!" the crowd joined in. "And can we accept the fact that that force is before us today, present though unseen, speaking though unheard, pressed against our breasts though unfelt, and renowned though unnamed.

"It is a force at once mighty and humble. It gives but does not ask. It is always there for us when we need it, but we need not be there for it. It is all-loving and is everything to everybody. And I ask only that we return the favor just this once, just once, and surrender to the Grzelnorpian Empire... Yes we can!" the crowd thundered its approval.

Then somebody yelled, "Wait a minute! What?"

"Surrender to the Grzelnorpian Empire," said Obama, "Yes we can!" the crowd thundered its approval again.

"But what's that mean?" someone shouted.

"Well, uh, um... you see..." Obama stammered.

Another man walked out on stage, "Don't worry, Barry I'll take it from here"

"Is that Rahm Emmanuel?" someone asked.

"My name," the man said, "Is Reggie Fils-Aime, and I'm about kicking ass, I'm about takin' names, and we're about making games."


"Let me explain," Reggie said. "You see, I work for Nintendo, and a few years ago Nintendo was in trouble. At least that's what everyone on the outside thought. But we had a plan. We always have a plan. At the same time we were designing the Wii gaming system we genetically engineered a character to life, gave him a false background and the name 'Barack Obama,' and had him run for President of the United States. Long story short, he won, in case you didn't know, and now we are getting our money's worth out of him.

"You see, the 'Rise of the Grzelnorpian Empire' (previous title) is a game we are making for the Wii, and it will be our finest game to date. We have been sending hints out on the web for several years about its existence. Some of you may have noticed...

"For those of you who are just now tuning in, so to speak, let me explain. In the game the President of the United States is an agent for an alien empire, the Grzelnorpians, and you must stop their insidious plan to take over the earth... by collecting various items, playing with your Wii, and shaking your wrist around really fast, which should give you exercise, among other things.

"But basically you play a character who has to run around, jumping on platforms, and throwing colorful items around at your enemies--the Grzelnorpian agents. Oh, and another thing, we've retitled the game 'Obama.' It's a heck of a lot of fun, good exercise, and perfect for the whole family. So buy it, play it, have fun. Can we defeat the Grzelnorpian Empire and save the earth? Yes Wii can. Obama, from Nintendo. He looks like it a bit, too, right? With those big ears and all. That's our genetic engineers at work."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Berlin Wall Shall Not Fall—Waitaminute That’s Not Right.

Icehawk was dumbfounded. "I went through all that just to feed your cats? What about my destiny?"

"Oh, that's clear enough," said the Seer, as she prodded the entrails on the altar with a grimy finger. "You must slay the princess, rescue the dragon, and—"

Icehawk found an expression beyond dumbfounded. "Excuse me?"

The Seer looked up. "What?"

"Don't you mean, 'slay the dragon, rescue the princess?'"

"If I'd meant that, I'd have said it. No, it's all right here." She turned back to the entrails. "Slay the princess, rescue the dragon, and—"

"Are you sure you're reading that right?"

"Read it yourself. Plain as day." The seer tapped the pancreas. "Slay the princess." She batted a cat away from the liver. "Rescue the dragon." She stirred the intestines with her finger. "And—" she stopped herself. “Oh dear.”

“What’s wrong?” Icehawk asked.

“Nothing wrong, my dear,” she had regained her composure. “It is good, in fact. Very very good indeed.”


“You are the Chosen One.”

“The what?”

“The chosen one,” she brushed aside some greasy hair. “The One who is chosen.”

“I get that, what does it mean?”

“Satan has chosen you—“

“Don’t you mean God has chosen me?”

“You really are a slow one,” she snorted.

“I’m not sure I want to go through with this, maybe I’ll just go back to…”

“YOU CANNOT GO BACK!” she thundered. “Your path has been scattered to the winds and to the land of your birth you may never return! You must slay the princess, rescue the dragon, and persuade the king to end the oppression of his people.”

“Oh,” Icehawk was feeling better now, “that last one doesn’t sound so bad. What kind of oppression is it?” he searched her eyes. “Can’t be the dragon, can it?” he joked nervously. “And somehow I doubt slaying his daughter is going to make him particularly interested in what I have to say.”

“On the Ides of April you shall go to the Treasury,” she intoned, “and there you will find it filled with monies from the kingdom. Yet, as you shall find one year hence, the treasury will not be emptied, and there will yet be poverty in this kingdom.”

“Yes,” Icehawk replied, “that happens every year. I guess I’m not following you.”

“This wrong must be righted! We shall enter into a new age of prosperity and debt and useless-things-nobody-wants-but-getting-rid-of-them-will-destroy-our-economy-and-we-must-spend-more—ever more!—until-there-is-nothing-left-to-spend-and-so-we-must-raise-taxes-yet-again.”

“What?” Icehawk was more confused than ever. “I didn’t quite follow you there.”

The Seer sighed. “This is going to be more difficult than I thought. Oh. Wait just one moment. I think I have a copy left around here somewhere…” She rummaged around the dank room, kicking aside cats and tossing all manner of arcane instruments to the ground, often resulting in crashing or shattering and the arising stench of sulfur. “Ah! Here it is!” she said finally. “My book.” She handed him a dusty tome.

Receiving it with trepidation, Icehawk held it to a thin beam of sunlight penetrating the rotted temple. It was difficult to read the title. “It Takes…” he began, and then dusted off the obscured portion of the cover, before continuing, “…It Takes a Village: And Other Lessens Children Teach Us.”

“I only wish I had a copy of the audio version with me,” the Seer confessed, “I won a Grammy for that.”

“So you want me to read this?” Icehawk asked, disappointed. “I don’t suppose that was in the bird guts also?”

“You don’t have to read the whole thing,” she cackled, “that would be crazy. Just enough to be able to pretend that you read it when someone asks you about it.” She then added in a whimsical whisper, “Or to pretend you wrote it for that matter…”

“Very well,” Icehawk conceded, “I shall skim the book, but I am not killing the princess and it is doubtful that I will rescue the dragon.”

“You cannot avoid your destiny! On that note, I’ll not waste any more time trying to convince you. Until we meet anon! On the internet, I mean. Where I go by ‘SecState17,’ or ‘LizardLadyLove,’ also occasionally, ‘IHateMonica.’ Now, farewell, Icehawk. Hail Satan!”

“Um, Hail Satan. Yeah, I’ll get right on that.” He gave her a fist bump somewhat unenthusiastically. Then he thought, "Hmm, I kind of like doing that..."

Friday, March 27, 2009

This isn't exactly new news, but it made me think...

The biggest reason for the gap is underreporting of income. There's a high rate of compliance when it comes to income reported by third parties, such as employers reporting workers' incomes on W-2s.

But the compliance is much lower in cases when there's no third-party reporting, such as with small business owners who do mostly cash transactions. The cash economy may account for over $100 billion of the annual tax gap, according to testimony from Nina Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate.

The IRS is already working to improve compliance.

The easiest way to "recover" that $100 billion would be to get rid of the cash economy. No more cash. Just credit. That way there would be a record of every purchase that the government had access to. Of course credit cards can be stolen so easily, and this could end up confusing the records, so it would be nice if you could attach the cards to someone in a way they couldn't be taken. Like a bar code or something. Possibly on the hand, or maybe the forehead.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Ex Nihilo Venit

The great beast arose from the dark sea. It had the hind legs of a hairless jackrabbit--tipped by talons--and its twisted torso throbbed, even beat, like a giant heart with vestigial vena cava pumping nothing. Its head was as a whale's, with hollow eyes and thousands of bone white teeth. It was also ethereal, an insubstantial will-o'-the-wisp. The great beast swam with webbed front feet, onward toward its goal.

Lieutenant Martin sat up in a cold sweat. That dream again. He rubbed his temples and got out of bed. Since it was nearly time to get up anyhow, he showered, dressed, and made his way to the mess hall.


Later that morning Lt. Martin sat down at the small, round table.

"Care if I join in?" he asked.

"Depends," said the short, stocky Sergeant Timms, "Do you have any money?"

"That's 'do you have any money, sir' to you."

"Blow me."

"This enough?" he flashed a small wad of cash.

"Sit down."

There was only one other player at the table, Petty Officer Fredericks; a tall, wiry, redheaded young man.

"Where's the Nord?" Martin asked.

"He's with Brunhilde, I hear..." Timms answered.

"That's not funny," Martin gave him the finger.

"I'm not kidding. They're both part of a group seeing the Captain right now."

"The Captain? What would they need to see him for?" Nobody liked the Captain; he creeped everyone out. One of his arms was horribly scarred and the opposite eye was milky white. She didn't like him either. Omigod, his blonde beauty, Sarah, had said after first meeting him, you can't make that stuff up. He's like a giant insect; chewing away and not saying anything, just staring at you with that empty eye. What he chewed at no one knew. The Nord had a theory that he had multiple stomachs and that it was cud. It seemed plausible. Being under his command was bad enough, but now his Sarah was meeting with the thing. At least she wasn't alone.

"Alright, pass the whiskey," Martin reached out and Fredericks handed him the bottle. He wiped the dust out of a shot glass, then filled it with the amber fluid.

"It's not even noon yet, dude," Timms said.

"I order you to go fuck yourself," Martin downed the shot and poured another.

"C'mon, it can't be that bad. What is he gonna do, spew spittle all over her?"

"I'm going to be hearing about the bastard for a month, I bet. Now are we going to play or what?"

"I'm in," came a deep, booming voice from behind him.

Martin turned around and saw the tall, broad-chested and shouldered frame of the bushy-bearded Nord. The Lieutenant took another drink.

"It's eleven in the morning," said the Nord as he sat down.

"So?" Martin said, then added, whispering, "What did that one-eyed freak want with you?" The Nord was his best friend, his only friend, really. Martin trusted him, and no one else. They had an agreement that if one of them ever got war hero cred, they would run for office together. Martin expected to be the war hero. Even if it was dangerous, it was worth it to force his way off 'guard duty' on this research ship and onto the front lines, if necessary. Carpe diem, he often told the Nord. All this would ensure his VP wouldn't assassinate him to take his place, or betray him in some other way. Sarah always said he had trust issues...

"A promotion," the Nord answered the question. He was also Martin's only competition. But it was a friendly competition.

"He wanted a promotion?" Fredericks asked.

"No, you moron," said Timms, "He promoted John. To what, though?" he asked the Nord.

"I am now Lt. Commander Amundsen. I was really hoping for Admiral though..."

"Congratulations!" Martin exclaimed, then, "Now what does the old bastard want with Sarah?"

"He proposed," the Nord said simply.

Martin recoiled. That had to have been awkward. The Captain really was that weird.

"She said 'yes,'" the Nord added.

Martin relaxed, "Very funny." the Nord always said he was too young and naive to be an officer. He wasn't sure if he was joking or not. You could never tell with the Nord. Sarah, at least, thought he was well-qualified, if a bit arrogant. She said he was handsome, too, with his dark blond hair, deep blue eyes and strong chin... perfect for politics. "Now what does he want with her?" Martin asked.

"You'll find out soon enough, you over-protective little spaz." In his attempt to 'win' the pretty little researcher, his Sarah, the Nord had been the only worthy challenger. The big man smiled infectiously, "Now give me some of that whiskey."

The game began. Fredericks was first.

"I pray to thee, Iog-Ke'tat, bring me luck..." Fredericks rolled the dice.


Lieutenant Martin stood in the middle of the semi-spherical glass-domed observatory. "So what's the news?" he asked her. After leaving her meeting with the Captain, Sarah had asked for Martin to meet her here.

"The Captain decided I could tell you," she pursed her pink lips.


"You're going to be promoted."

"I should have figured... to what?"


"Wow." It was one more step towards his life's ambition, but he couldn't get too excited; the Captain's promotees didn't have a good history. Besides, it wasn't his style to show emotion, to anyone. "And here I was railing against the psychotic bastard just about an hour ago. I don't understand why he did it, though. Or why he had you tell me; not exactly protocol."

"Maybe he thinks you're the best man for the job?" she brushed some of her straight, long blonde hair out of her face.

"Well, I am," he put on an arrogant smile, only half tongue-in-cheek, "but I never thought he'd recognize it."

"Neither did I," she laughed, "He seemed as surprised as any of us."

"What the heck's that mean?"

"Just that he looked confused."

"Weird old bastard."

"Totally," she looked out the glass dome at the stars. "It's a beautiful view."

"Not as beautiful as you."

"Stop that," she hated when he got all mushy romantic, or at least she said she did.

"You know," he said, joining her in gazing at the stars, "The inky black was always a source of wonder to me, ever since I was a small boy. Running upon the grated walkways of the wandering Wotan, I would climb to this observatory and stare at the stars in awe. The distances were so vast, the..."

"That's bad. Besides, there's a flaw in your story. The ship is only five years old."

"Yeah, but I grew up on a research ship just like it. Now let me finish."

"Fine, I'll indulge," she grinned. "It is your day, after all."

"These days, however, I'm not a little boy any more."

"So I've noticed," she interrupted.

"Shh!" he put a finger to her lips. "As I stare out today, I'm no longer awed by the vastness before me. Space is empty. Always empty. Exceedingly empty. If only there was something out there. But that's not true, there is something out there, and it's frightening."

"That's deep," she rolled her eyes. "Oh, wait. Your dreams, you mean?" she looked concerned.

"No," he lied, "I just mean that there's something out there: Nothing is out there, and that's the most frightening thing of all."

"That doesn't make any sense."

"Yes it does."

"No it doesn--Omigod!" she clasped one hand to her mouth and nearly fell over as her knees shook.


She pointed. He looked.

He saw debris scattered about in front of the Wotan; no, not debris, dead ships. A graveyard. They were floating about aimlessly in various states of disrepair. Some looked simply abandoned, while others had gaping holes in their hulls. Thousands of lives must have been lost, at the very least. But what were they all doing here, and how the heck could such a thing happen?

Martin cradled Sarah in his arms as she wept.


"I heard you were part of the search party," Commander Martin was back in the observatory.

"Yeah," the Nord replied. "Wasn't pretty."

"What happened?"

"Ran out of fuel, food, or were hit by a bunch of asteroids. If anyone asks, that's what I told you." The Nord paused and stared into the black a moment.

"And if they don't ask?"

"Ever thought about suicide?" the Nord asked.

"What? Was it that bad?"

"No. Actually, yes, but that's not what I meant. Those ships... everyone on them must've."

"Must've what?"

"Killed themselves."

A shiver ran down Martin's spine.

"How is that possible?" he swallowed hard.

"What's worse than death?" tears were in the Nord's normally cold eyes.


"Then nothing drove those folks to suicide."

"Right," Martin grimaced.

"If it comes to it, I don't want to be your VP anymore," the Nord walked away.

'Where did that come from?' Martin wondered.


The great beast arose from the dark sea. Noiselessly, it made its way toward... somewhere.

"Where are you going?" Martin called out.

No answer.

"What do you want?"

Nothing, came the reply.

Around the beast swirled countless skeletal figures covered in a thin layer of long-rotted skin, and each was as blank-eyed as the giant itself.

"What is your purpose?"

There is no purpose, only result.

"Then what is the result?"


Martin saw more creatures in the distance. They looked like men and stood in a circle, facing outward. They were pushing upon something. Pushing outward. Around them was a great circle and they were in its center. They were guardians. Now the great beast which arose from the sea descended upon them.


Sarah gasped beside him. She was shivering.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"I had a dream," she told him, "just like you, but there was more. I saw you and..." she recounted the dream.

"Alright," he said after a moment's pause, "try to get back to sleep, we'll talk about it some more in the morning if you want, ok?"

"Ok," she said weakly.


"I've been having that dream, too," the Nord said.

"Really?" Martin hadn't told anyone until it became her problem, that way he wouldn't seem like a drama queen. "So have I."

"You look like it."

"What's that mean?"

"Brooding, like me."

"I suppose I am," he gave it some more thought as the big man grabbed a folder with his meaty hands.

"I have a theory," the Nord opened the folder. He shook his head solemnly. "We took some pictures on those ships... talked to the Captain about it. Doesn't matter now," he closed the folder, "he wants to see us both. And I have a feeling he knows a lot more than either of us."

"That bald loony, he doesn't know anything."

"You're probably right, he knows nothing. But it's an order, so let's go see him now, shall we?"


"Close your eyes," the Captain ordered the two of them. They were in the observatory again.

The Captain stared out into space and fell to his knees. "Now is the time, rise!" he commanded.

"What?" Martin said, befuddled. They were already standing.

"I knew it wouldn't work," the Captain grumbled. "It can't be created, and it certainly can't be destroyed. It will just come and go, and take everything with it. Doesn't matter anyway. I don't care. I just thought it might give a little meaning just to see it. That can come out of nothing, too, I figure."

"Sorry, sir?" said the Nord.

"You can open your damn eyes now. You won't see anything though," he laughed. "Isn't that a riot? See nothing, see everything, it's all the same. Or none of it is the same. Doesn't matter."

"I don't understand," Martin said, "What are you looking for?"

"It passed by here a while ago, you can tell that by the lucky dead. It can't have gone far yet, those bodies were fresh."

The Nord jumped on the Captain in a flash and pummeled him to the ground, then began to choke him.

"John!" Martin yelled. Christ. He was attacking the Captain. But Martin didn't try to stop him. He felt sick to his stomach. He didn't understand. What was it? But he knew what it was, didn't he? Well, not the substance of what it was, but that was subjective anyway--function or purpose? Result. That's what it had said, right?

"Stop!" the Captain shouted. "It's here. I can feel it..." the bloody-faced wretch tilted his head backward in ecstasy. The Nord obeyed and rolled off him staring out into the black.

A blur appeared far out in space before shortly coming into focus. The great beast did not notice them, nor would it have cared to, but merely continued on its path as they passed near it.

"What is it?" Martin asked.

"The end," the Captain cackled.

"Of what?"

"Everything. It will travel to the center of the universe and initiate the big crunch. Destroy the universe like it never was. Gone. Everything. Nothing left. Poof. Up in smoke. Without the smoke. Even the words to describe it, abstract though they may be, gone."

"We're going to die?" Martin asked.

"Eventually. But no, not today. The Great One will take a billion years, give or take a few, to complete its journey."

That was some relief, Martin supposed.

"And that's the ultimate joke, isn't it?" the Captain said. "It will end everything and arrest the destiny of man, such as it is, but will draw it out for a billion years!" the Captain laughed until he couldn't breathe and tears streamed down his face. "It's beautiful."

"It's horrible," Martin disagreed. "You mean if we survive another billion years and build the greatest monuments to the gods, achieve everything imaginable, it won't matter?" he unconsciously ran a finger over his new rank insignia. "It will all come crashing down like it never was? No grandchildren ten million times over to benefit from it? No one to remember it? Is that what this thing is?"

"Yes!" the Captain shouted gleefully.

"Then what's the point?"

"No point."

"Will it kill us?"

"I imagine you'll kill yourselves. Just like everyone on those other ships. That's what I plan to do." True to his word the Captain already had a knife in one hand and was testing the blade with his other. "Nice and dull!" he exclaimed. "Bon Voyage!"

"Wait!" Martin pleaded. "Why did everyone on those other ships kill themselves? I mean, h-how... how did they know?"

"Dreams, my boy!" the Captain laughed some more, hysterically. "Once you've crossed its path, you dream it, and much more vividly than you already have. Yes, I know..." he winked, "...I've seen you there. You'll see the end before it happens, and then you'll see--and feel--the nothing that follows. Empty. Hollow. Ta ta," he plunged the knife deep into his chest. "It feels... cold," he gasped, then fell down in delirium, singing, "When we’re together, when we’re together, there’s no tomorrow, there’s no tomorrow! There’s no one in the world but you and me, just you and me, you and me..."

"Damn it," the Nord said, standing up. Stunned, they turned away from the beast and left the Captain lying in a pool of his own blood.

The Nord stared Commander Martin in the eyes, "Carpe diem," he said disdainfully.


The great beast arose from the dark sea. It had the hind legs of a hairless jackrabbit--tipped by talons--and its twisted torso throbbed, even beat, like a giant heart with vestigial vena cava pumping nothing. Its head was as a whale's, with hollow eyes and thousands of bone white teeth. It was also ethereal, an insubstantial will-o'-the-wisp. The great beast swam with webbed front feet, onward toward its goal.

It did not care. It did not have a purpose. Neither reason for being, nor a cause of being. It came from nothing and to nothing it would return, dragging all with it. Its mighty talons ripped into the guardians and its giant maw swallowed them whole. Its many acolytes swarmed them and bound them back to back. It dug into the fabric of space as the guardians watched helplessly, and tore. It ripped and pulled, curling the thin ether as it went; crunching it together like a paper ball. In and in it pulled and curled and crunched until the whole of space was wrapped neatly in a tiny mathematical point. There the beast joined all in nothing. Action, reaction. Cause, effect. Input, output. Beginning, middle, end. Result?

Fade to black.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Snow White and the Red Queen

Snow White emerged from her sleep and let out a big yawn. A bluebird fluttered onto her shoulder.

"Hello, little one," she said, before quickly crushing it with her fist and walking over to the cauldron where her new friends the dwarves were boiling shoe leather.

"Ah! We'll be a feastin' ta' day, laddies," said the silver-bearded and bespectacled Doc upon seeing Snow with the bird.

"Aye. And some more o' that entertainment ta' night, I spect," the stocky, swarthy-skinned Lusty replied, giving her a slap on the butt. She yelped.

"Haven't eaten this good since 'fore the queen took all the harvest!" shouted Haughty. He was the youngest of the dwarves, with a small, neatly groomed black beard. "I heard tell she burned the better half of it. Said it was good for us!"

"Wicked bitch will get hers one day, I swear it by the nine moons!" cried the red-bearded Angry.

"Shh!" Doc pleaded, "Someone might hear." He looked around nervously. There was nothing but trees and more woodland animals.

They were joined for breakfast by the other dwarves, and after the feast they went to the mines.

Snow White joined them as she had every morning since first meeting them, when they sang, "Hi, ho! Hi, ho! It's off to work we go! Sweat in the sun--Then have some fun!"

All eight of them worked hard in the mines, pounding away at the rock and dragging out precious gems for the fatherland.


"Mirror, mirror, on the door," intoned the Red Queen, "who holds positions like the Moor?

"Snow White," the Mirror replied, a gleaming white smile like that of the Cheshire Cat twisted upon its face.

"She lives?" the queen ignored his impudence.

"Of course. Would you like to see where?"

"Yes! Show me."

"Very well." The light upon the mirror's surface twisted and contorted further--until it seemed to swallow itself up with its own smile. Then an image suddenly appeared. There was a high tower with a lone window. On the grass below was a handsome man sitting upon a horse. Sound emanated off the mirror, at first a squeaking, then a vibrating hum which gradually lowered in pitch. Soon human voices were audible.

"Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!" cried the handsome man.

"I can't!" she shouted in reply.

"Why not?" he appeared perplexed.

"I cut it!" she answered.

"What? Why? What were you thinking?"

"It's the new fashion! All the rage in Frankfurt, I'm told."

"But it looks ugly!"

Suddenly the sounds and imagery vanished. The only thing still reflected in the mirror was the sharp-jawed emerald-eyed queen holding a heavy, red velvet backed chair over her head as she prepared to smash the mirror.

"My queen!" cried the mirror, "You don't need any more bad luck... and frankly, neither do I."

"Then tell me where Snow White is," the queen seethed, setting down the chair momentarily.

"Fine. But be warned... actually, there's nothing to warn you about; I've just always wanted to say that. She's working in a gem mine at 48 degrees latitude north, 37 degrees longitude east. Now pass the Windex, if you please. I think someone popped a zit on me while I was sleeping."


"Would you like an apple, dearie?" the old hag asked the plump young dwarf.

"Very much miss; please be givin' it ta' me."

"Not so fast. First you must do something for me."

"I'll do anythin' ya want, darlin'. Just ask."

"Alright, dearie, but it won't be easy..."


Gluttony the dwarf stood over the corpse of Snow White; he had strangled her to death. The other dwarves wouldn't be happy about this... but at least he would have his apple.


"Mirror, mirror, on the door," intoned the queen, "did he finally kill the whore?"

"Who?" asked the mirror.

"Snow White," the queen said angrily.

"Ah! Yes. She's dead as a doornail. Speaking of nails and doors, my back is killing me. Would you mind..."

"Mirror, mirror, on the door," intoned the queen.

"Stop that! You don't have to say a little rhyme every time, you know. Now what do you want to know?"

"Who holds positions like..."

"...the Moor. Yes, yes, it's the same every time. And every time I tell you it's not you, you get upset and threaten to break something in a temper tantrum. Usually me. Although in the end you'll just break some heads."

"And whose head shall I break?"

"The head of whomever you want."

She picked up the chair.

"...Or if you want a name..."

"I want a name."


"Who is 'Doc'?"

"A dwarf. Snow White taught him everything she knew about theory in the past few weeks. He learned very quickly... for a dwarf. Ugly little people. Disgusting." The mirror seemed lost in thought for a moment, then it said, "Listen, I've already passed the relevant information on to the head of the KB Toys, or whatever you call them, ask him for it. I've got some work to do forgetting the dance moves someone was trying in front of me earlier. Do you have any idea how many ugly people think they look good naked? Maybe it would be better if you just shattered me. Then again, there is the occasional attractive person..."


The bespectacled silver-bearded dwarf opened the cottage door and peered out at the tall old hag. "Yes?" he asked.

She did not answer at first, but merely held up a fresh piece of produce.

"Looks mighty tasty," said the dwarf. "I don't suppose I could have a bite?"

Still, she did not answer. She brought the food--a carrot--to her mouth, taking a large bite, and then as she crunched away, said, "What's up, Doc?"

Doc never saw his long-time friend, Haughty, behind him. Nor did he see the pick-axe.


Returning from killing the last dwarf, for each dwarf had taught theory to another, and she had needed to make many trips because the mirror had not informed her there was another each time until she returned. Finally she simply had all ten thousand dwarves in the region killed. No dwarf, no problem.

"Are there any other threats I should know about?" she asked the mirror, more than a little irate.

"Not really..." he paused, then added, "...well, there is one, but it will be a couple years before you have to worry about that. And of course there is the inevitable collapse of this corrupt and economically incoherent system that is wicked in the eyes of the Lord, and your inexorable descent into hell. But other than that..."

She gave him the chair.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Don't Metal With Rock Folk: Or "Usher III"

Captain Jean-Luc Picard walked across the dance floor, dodging the dancing dullards attending the damnable concert. "Disconcert" was more apt for such dissonant drivel. On his ship no less. None of it was real, of course, but it still maddened him to see it; the only sound truly produced was the constant, calculated rhythm of his footsteps on the holodeck floor. He maintained a cold, outward dispassion as he prepared to confront the stowaway.


It wasn't so long ago that Orpheus was enjoying life on the underground music scene. That was before the Suits invaded. Federation thugs had graced their hush-hush production community with a visit; they who worked the factories in the underbelly of an empire that denied their very existence. They kept the empire running on good, clean energy by toiling in the grease and muck to produce the illusion of prosperity. All they asked in return was to keep the anti-rock raids to a minimum. They were denied even this.

Orpheus, who worked in an electronics factory by day, was by night a rocker nostalgic for the earth that was--before they ruined it with a splash of Lysol and coat of paint, that is--trying to make some extra ration stamps from the crowd. He had the misfortune of being on stage when the Feds burst in. A girl yelled, "You can't stop us. We're going to rock around the--"

The Suit commander yelled, "Set phasers to kiiiill!" and his men shot her down. The crowd was unable to appreciate the irony that her father worked in a phaser production factory. As the commander turned his eyes toward the stage, Orpheus' band, perhaps realizing there was no way out, began to play music as Orpheus sang that they weren't going to take it.

After the next phaser shot the audience ran. The guitarist was sizzling on the floor and Orpheus dove backstage. Before anyone could catch him he had already slipped out the back door of the club and was on his through the narrow alley behind it on his way home. That is when he ran, literally, into the Suit commander. While his men finished the rest of the band it appears he had slipped back out the door.

Both men fell to the ground. Orpheus tried to get back up and continue running, but the commander had his shirt. "Let go!" he screamed. Then, turning around, he fought back. He kicked and hit and bit and wrestled the phaser out of the commander's hand, which went skidding across the pavement. So instead Orpheus pounded the commander's head into the wet ground until his grip finally loosened. But then he kept pounding. For what seemed several minutes, but was probably significantly less than one. When he stood up the commander was dead. And so was any hope of going home again. Ever. The DNA he had left behind; skin, sweat, and--although then he could feel no cuts--surely blood as well. He would have to keep running.


The stowaway and saboteur, Orpheus was what he called himself, had requested the interrogation in the holodeck: the very place he'd sabotaged. It was a risk to grant the request, but none of their interrogation techniques had worked thus far, and Orpheus promised to cooperate fully if he was given the proper tool to explain his grand plan. This made it a calculated risk as far as Captain Picard was concerned.

"Now," he began, "What are you doing on my ship?"

"Sabotaging it."

It was honest enough. So far he appeared to be, true to his word, coming clean. Not very useful, but honest. Picard thought he would see how long that would last.

"And why is that?" he studied carefully the captured Orpheus, bound to a holodeck-formed chair.


Again, he seemed honest. Very well. Captain Picard would put this to the ultimate test.

"And, other than this dreadful nonsense that took us hours to stop from looping on the holodeck, what kind of sabotage?"

"Ah. Now this is the fun part," the bound Orpheus began. "I may not belong in this pretty, shiny world of yours, but your world doesn't deserve to exist in my universe."

"So you're going to destroy it?" Picard was wondering if letting him into the holodeck had been a bad idea.


"Don't you think that's a tad immature?"

"At least I don't think I can create a perfect world."

"But you wish to destroy one?"

"This," Orpheus looked around the room, "is hardly perfect. It's not the end of the world, just the end of your world. I wish there was some other way, I really do. But we can't rewind, we've gone too far," he looked at the rock scene he'd looped, still playing silently off to the side. "This tape will self-destruct in five minutes, give or take. But first I want you to know why. Freedom." With that last word his hardened holographic bonds and chair dissolved.

"Clever, but I still have this," Picard pulled out his phaser.

"The ship will blow if my heart stops beating."

"There's always a way out," said Picard.

"Propaganda. You, a hero of the Federation, never did half of what you claim."

"Maybe so. But I still don't see what I've done to harm you," Picard circled cautiously toward the panel where he could rip out the holodeck wiring.

"You're no different from the Borg. All you Suits and your shiny ships want is to assimilate everyone to your way of thinking. Your way of dressing. Your way of living. Your way of being."

"I hate to let you in on a little secret," said Picard, "But the Borg don't exist; that is propaganda as well."

"And I love to let you in on a little secret; this conversation is being broadcast to the entire earth."

Picard jolted. "I don't believe you," he said finally after more inching toward the panel.

"I don't need you to, O Captain, my Captain..." Orpheus gave a crisp salute and an explosion from the holodeck burst outward, causing the entire Enterprise to spread silently out into space as so much shrapnel.

Epilogue: The Conversation on the Edge of Forever

Picard entered--no, strode into the room with such confidence. He had an imperceptible swagger about him. Like a genteel condescension, he did not deign to parade his arrogance about like the common man, but merely carried it. This only made the cold, follically-challenged bastard seem even more conceited.

"Well, well; you're back. I never thought I'd see you again."

"And you seem your old self," Orpheus replied. "Just like in the propaganda. Confident. Charming to some. Cruel to others."

"Propaganda?" Picard laughed jovially for the first time Orpheus ever saw. "I told you there is always a way out, didn't I?"

"Out?" Orpheus laughed in turn. "We're finally in."

"What do you mean?" Picard's sharp eyes pierced his own questioningly.

"Well," Orpheus explained, "This holodeck has no limitations."

"I assure you it does. Propaganda, remember." Picard seemed no longer worried that anything would be broadcast to anyone.

"Tell me..." Orpheus paused.

"Yes? What?" it was a friendly inquiry.

"Tell me something... anything... something that I might not know."

"The number of things you don't know could be written on the stars, my young friend."

"Tell me more."

"Alright. Now this one's going to sound strange to you, but..." he began to laugh. Orpheus assumed it must have been pretty funny, for Picard laughed so hard that he had tears in his eyes before he could say, "I just want you to know that video did not, in fact, kill the radio star."

Orpheus gave the matter some thought. He wanted to say 'I know, but it's the principle,' but that wasn't right. Finally he understood, however, and could earnestly say, "You know a lot more about the past then you let on, Captain Beatty."

Picard smiled wanly, knowingly, and answered, "It hurt me."

"Weren't good enough?" Orpheus retorted.

"Maybe. But you know as much as I about hurting that which you love."

"I don't love you."

"You loved me once. Believed the propaganda. And now we'll spend Forever together."


"I am interesting, aren't I?"

"Perhaps," Orpheus admitted, "But this..." he glanced into the abyss--a gaping black hole swallowing the holodeck--and said, "...This is where we part."

"Goodbye," said Picard, unafraid, as he watched Orpheus exit the holodeck--that door opening and closing itself one last time. Disappointment was all the old Captain betrayed, and this only by a hollow look in his eyes that reverberated around him as he fidgeted slightly, as if trekking for a purpose. If purpose wasn't between the stars, maybe it was in them. Picard leapt into the expanding maw of the pit and hurtled down toward the blinding fire at its center.

Friday, February 6, 2009


PZZT. An Expander blast singed the left side of his blond crew cut, and nearly damaged his dark sunglasses as well. He pivoted around--BLAM!--firing off a shot into the creature's brain. The pink, many-tentacled monstrosity fell unceremoniously to the ground.

"That's one," said the red vest, blue jeans and boot-clad soldier. He had survived the crash. Which wasn't a surprise to him. It took more than a little heat to take down--

Another Expander blast. He returned fire.


The hard-bitten gun-toting warrior made his way along the spiderweb lay out of the concrete-tunneled base, walking briskly despite the weight of the ammo, several guns, and his personal luggage, which he carried over one shoulder in a small-but-hefty black bag.

The eastern corridors, at least that's the direction his map gave them, had already been demolished by the Kalmari. Their mistake. He smirked. They had cut their points of entry by a third, and if he could make it back to the center of the web...


The Kalmari had destroyed the rockets and communications equipment before he arrived, leaving him stranded. So naturally, he had salvaged the short-range communication equipment off the lagging Kalmari fighter that had welcomed him and sent out a distress signal to the nearby Kalmari fleet. It read: Help. Earth sends destroyers. Battleship. To retrieve weap-- it fizzled out. Suspecting a trap, the Kalmari proceeded with caution, and he used that time to prepare.

He hadn't expected the difficulty. It turned out that the Kalmari attack on the base had caused an--ironically--automatic reversion to manual controls. This made it impossible to open the sealed titanium doors to the base weapons' cache, because the control for the door was behind tons of rubble, and therefore he wouldn't have access to high-powered explosives. Unless, he had realized, he could get some rocket fuel. And there was no fuel left at the CHICK (Cuisine Haute Inter-Cosmic Kitchen) Base.


Mission accomplished. Kalmari fighters were equipped with personal DNA encryption, so flying away after the fleet landed was never an option. On the other hand, he knew how to siphon a tank. Waiting outside the base in hiding as the fleet landed, he managed to carry away one hundred kilograms of rocket fuel from one of their fighters on a wheelbarrow. Of course by then several dozen Kalmari troops were already inside the base and he had to fight his way toward his goal. Which is where he found himself now, with two--no, make that three--of the enemy down, and who knows how many to go. Not to mention the thousands preparing to enter the base.

"Four," he said, pausing to wipe the sweat off his brow. He opened the door to a supply closet and took one canister of fuel, about fifteen kg, and wired it to the detonator he had prepared earlier. That would lighten his load a little.

He continued along the corridor and into the next, he wired another canister in another supply closet and repeated the process again and again until all but one was gone. He dropped the wheelbarrow, and several more Kalmari, and hurriedly carried the remaining canister toward the center of the base.

At the center lie the reactor core. The Nuclear reactor core. The video monitor showed hundreds of Kalmari flooding the corridors. He clicked the red button of his detonator. The camera went dead.


Now there was only one tunnel leading to the reactor core. They would all have to come through it. Several hundred were dead already, but there were at least two thousand left. How many of those their leaders were willing to throw at him remained to be seen. He lit the corridor up with his chain gun. The rounds shredded the approaching Kalmari and little bits of pink flesh plastered the walls. Only a few dozen had died when he ran out of chain gun ammo. He pulled out his rocket propelled grenade launcher and cleared out the remaining two dozen and prepared for the second wave. By the third wave he was out of rockets and switched to his shotgun, and was throwing pipe bombs. He had run out of shotgun rounds by the fifth wave, and after taking out the sixth wave with his dual sub machine guns only had one pipe bomb and a single round left in his pistol. That round he would save for the last. For now he backed into the reactor room and shut the blast door. But first he called out the challenge, “Come and get some, you bunch of pink pussies!”

After a little while a drilling sound came from just outside the door; they knew better than to try to use explosives here. He ignored their attempts for the time being and opened the black bag containing the few personal belongings he had brought with him to the base. Inside the bag was another gun, as well as a box of cigars. He lit one up.

Looking at the door, he said, “What are you waiting for? Christmas?”

Just then an air vent above him blew off and a Kalmari marine landed right behind him, grasping his throat and arms with its many tentacles. His cigar fell to the ground. He fought back. Pulling a tentacle away from his throat so he could breathe, he said, “What are you? Some bottom-feeding, scum-sucking, algae-eater?” He brandished only his pistol and a Bowie Knife; the other gun was still in his bag. Cutting one tentacle, he plied himself free and threw the Kalmari marine into the reactor room controls.

The creature quickly regained its tentacling. He stared at him intensely with its one large eye, and said, “Surrender, human.”

“That all you got?” he barked.

“There are thousands of us and only one of you,” the Kalmari marine pointed out.

“Not in here there ain’t. It's down to you and me, you one-eyed freak!” he lunged.

The creature deftly sprung aside, but he was even quicker; he had feinted, and now he about-faced, knocking the butt of his knife into the Kalmari soldier’s giant rubbery head. The soldier fell down and he kicked it several times before quickly tying its tentacles together in knots. Then he grabbed a piece of paper off the reactor console.

“Now,” he said to his dizzied foe, “We’re going to compose a letter.”

To the office of the President of the United States:

In the unlikely event that I don’t survive, he began, dipping a pen he had found into the Kalmari marine’s ink.

“You will never survive!

He jabbed it in the eye with the butt of his knife and then continued, I want you to make sure these bastards never cause us any trouble again. Make them all fry.

Those alien bastards are gonna pay for shooting up my ride!

He folded up the note and hid it in a small heat-proof safe in the reactor room. “Time to turn up the heat,” he said, just as the blast door began to give way. A flood of Kalmari was about to descend upon him. Nevertheless, he maintained his cool. Removing the gun from his black bag—it was bulky and yellow—he then walked to the reactor console and typed a series of numbers into the control panel and an alarm went off. He fired the gun this way and that, a cool blue lightening issuing forth from its tip, until the whole room was surrounded in ice. “Freeze-ray, never leave home without it,” he remarked.

He proceeded from the walls to the floor; blanketing the room, and stepping back further and further toward the center of the room until only he and the Kalmari marine were not frozen over. “Want me to put you on ice?” he asked, pulling out his detonator. He clicked the red button, blowing the final canister of rocket fuel—the explosion could just be heard half way across the base.

“What did you just do??!!” the marine asked.

“I blew the water reservoir. It’s going to mix with the overheated reactor core and bring this whole base to a boil.”

“But we’re in the reactor core!” the marine protested.

“Again…” he ignored the marine’s fear, “…Want me to put you on ice?”

“Y-yes,” the Kalmari warrior decided it would be for the best after all. “But it won’t work! It can’t work.”

“Which part?” he said as he froze the marine. “Nevermind,” he wiped the sweat off his brow. “Damn. It’s getting hot in here.” He froze himself as well, throwing his last pipe bomb at the blast door and detonating it just as he was enveloped by the cool, blue ice. The reservoir water and hundreds of Kalmari troops flooded in and shortly began to boil.


He shattered the thin layer of ice surrounding him that hadn't melted yet when the reactor core performed the shutdown he had pre-programmed. "Told you it would work," he said to the stirring Kalmari marine. It found that he was right and also, to its horror, that its dead, boiled brothers were floating in the now knee-deep receding reservoir waters. Its tentacles were still tied together as well.

He left the room. He didn't come back for several minutes, and when he did he carried a six pack of beers and a big tub of butter in his arms. He sat down next to the marine and began to eat one of its brethren. "If only they were so tough when they were alive," he remarked. He added a generous portion of butter with his Bowie Knife. "Mmm. That's better." He looked over at the living Kalmari, "You want some of this?"

The marine quavered with a mixture of fear and disgust.

He ignored it and opened a beer. "So long before they send more men in, do you figure?"

Suppressing his desire to regurgitate with some difficulty, the marine answered, "You and your entire species will die soon."

"Not the way I figure it. They probably think I'm dead already. Won't come back in this base. On the other hand, I suspect I have enough DNA samples here to fly one of those fighters back to earth. Not to mention to keep my stomach satisfied as well." He opened another beer, belching and throwing the empty first bottle crashing against the reactor console. "Did you know the only part of your people that isn't edible is the beak?"

"Are you going to eat me too?"

"Hell no. Have plenty of cooked Kalmari already. Just thought I'd keep you around to pass the time. But you aren't much of a conversationalist. Then again, neither am I..." he chuckled and stood up. Swallowing the last of a Kalmari arm, he retrieved and lit a new cigar from the box on the other side of the room and, returning, pulled out his pistol. Cocking it, he stared the Kalmari marine in the eye, and said, "Nobody steals our CHICKs... and lives." An ink blot splattered across the still-frozen floor.

~Now for some much-deserved R&R

Dedicated to 3D Realms. Now get your asses in gear.