How a Bounty Hunter Saved America

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Prologue – 2022 in Earth’s Timeline.

An Inter-Galactic Wanted Poster was displayed in two Solar Systems:

Rogue Scientist, Dr. Ki, wanted for stealing secret technology from two planets. Shoot upon contact! Proof of kill needed for reward.

2099 – Earth.

“There is no beginning and there is no end. Just the here and now.”

“How’s that sound X-249? Can you help me out with this new app message? the Director asked, already knowing the answer.

X-249, his personal robot, sat down behind a computer and went to work right away. From a distance, and if you had some sight problems, X-249 looked like a human. A silver human.

“It shouldn’t take me too long to build the construct you request Director.”

The new app was an immediate hit. They always were. It worked seamlessly with people’s personal mobile communication device implants. The Director and his political staff made sure everyone had one, and that they regularly downloaded the Director’s messages.

If they didn’t, they’d be subject to a government fine resulting in five years in solitary, on the third of the sixty-two moons of Saturn.

Americans needed to be programed once a week. The Director’s apps provided them with inspirational messages while they awaited his commands. It was just one in a variety of ways he used to control the country.

There wasn’t any need for brute force since the last rebellion in 2093. That’s when the Director employed killer Cyborgs that butchered the rebel forces. Resistance faded away. The dream of justice and freedom was turned into a nightmare again.

Despite that, every decade or two, men and women gathered secretly to oppose the draconian laws imposed by the Director. The constitution was a sacred book that gave them hope. They kept their history alive by orally sharing it with each generation.

People no longer spoke aloud. Instead they used sign language to communicate. Americans had lost their voices. Talking meant they could be recorded and subjected to some obscure law resulting in punishment.

For generations baby’s were shushed and taught basic sign language. It was the one thing about the people the Director didn’t know about. He thought they were born mute, for whatever obscure reason.

A simple blinking-eye Morris Code was also taught at an early age. The fires of resistance were hardwired into their collective DNA. Everyone looked forward to the day when they would be free.

When it happened, it was anti-climatic. No one got a message from the Director one day. Then the next. A week went by and no messages, or demands! It took a month for someone to finally find the Director’s body, sans head, in his secret headquarters.

Directly above the headless Director was a shiny photo showing a gray alien holding the Director’s head in one hand, an exotic sword in the other, and a wanted poster in his third hand.

As It Stands, a bounty-hunter saving America is the kind of irony that tickles my muse.

 

Special Holiday Price: Intergalactic Space Tour

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Prologue:

Every planet in Earth’s solar system fought the scourge of space pirates for hundreds of years before the Treaty of 2137 ended the hostilities.

Earth – Intergalactic Space Port 2237

Special Holiday Tour: 

Last call for Andromeda – Departing at 16:00

Regularly Scheduled Tours:

Black Eye Galaxy – Departing 17:00

Cartwheel Galaxy – Departing 19:30

Cigar Galaxy – Departing at 20:25

On Board the Atlas 4000 Space Cruiser To Andromeda:

“I hope you’re enjoying the trip Ladies and Gentlemen. Fun fact; Andromeda is the closest big galaxy to the Milky Way! How about that?” the ship’s captain asked via intercom.

Two-hundred passengers made an affirmative buzz.

“Not so fun fact: Andromeda is expected to collide with the Milky Way about four billion years from now. They’ll merge into a single new galaxy we’re calling Milkomeda. Enjoy your trip, and thanks for flying with American Intergalactic Connections!”

1st Passenger – “This new Atlas 4000 model is a real improvement over those MF-900 Cruisers which have been the backbone of the fleet for 20 years.”

2nd Passenger – “This is my first time in space. I’m a little nervous.”

1st Passenger – “Not to worry. I’m an ex-space pilot, and I can assure you space travel is safer than driving the freeways in California.”

2nd Passenger – “I’m glad to hear that. I wonder if the stories I’ve heard about space pirates are true? Could we be attacked?” 

1st Passenger – “Again, not to worry. There hasn’t been any space pirates in over 100 years since the Treaty of 2137.”

2nd Passenger – “Funny, I never heard of that treaty. Then there were space pirates? I couldn’t find a thing about them in the World Main Frame. If it wasn’t for my best friend’s father,  I would have never heard of them. He was a pilot too.” 

1st Passenger – “Well, it’s just not the kind of information the company wants to share with potential customers. Why bring up the distant past? You’re in a state-of-the-art cruiser with every convenience, and you’re going to see things you never dreamed of.”

2nd Passenger – “You’re right. Can I order a drink for you?”

1st Passenger – In a low voice, “Thanks, but I can’t. I’m on duty. I’m a security guard for American Intergalactic Connections.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain. We’re going to make a temporary stop at Alphas Tendir to switch our new warp drives over in the dock. For safety reasons we’re asking you to de-board once we land, and to wait in the lounge area provided for you. It won’t take long.”

2nd Passenger – “Hey, what’s going on? There’s no scheduled layovers on the trip ticket?”

1st Passenger – “Sorry about that. You’re a nice guy. The least I can do is explain everything after we get off the ship.”

When the 200 puzzled passengers were being led to the lounge area the 1st Passenger stopped, and pulled the 2nd Passenger out of the line.

“It’s like this. We lost the war against the space pirates. That’s why every year we have to pay a tribute of 200 inhabitants from each planet as slaves. Whatever you do, don’t look them in the eyes. It really pisses them off!” 

As It Stands, throughout recorded history conquerors have demanded slaves for tribute.

Dinner At The Frankenstein’s Castle

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Daaaaling…must you wear that same drab black cape again?”

Count Dracula ignored his wife’s chatter. She was such a social butterfly that he marveled that he was still with her after all these years.

It’s going to be the first big social event for the Fall Horror season. Everyone is going to be there,” she gushed happily.

How did the Frankenstein’s manage to pull this off,” the Count asked.

“Connections deary….connections.” 

There was the usual chaos in the Zombie household as they prepared for dinner that night at the Frankenstein’s Castle.

“Doris! Tell those kids to stop biting each other!” 

You tell the little monsters! I’m preparing a gift for our hosts!”

“Darrell! Frankie! Susie! That’s enough! Go put your worst clothes on because we’re getting ready to leave.”

“Are you ready, John?” Doris asked.

“I’m always ready,” he replied with a wink from his one good eye.

Meanwhile at the Frankenstein’s Castle…

You have nothing to worry about woman. Your new hairstyle will set a trend,” Frankenstein reassured his bride.

“Boris!”

“Yes, master,” the Hunchback of Norte Dame, and the majordomo for the night, asked.

Did you order extra raw meat for the Werewolf Family? I heard their bringing some cousins.”

“Yes, master.”

Wine for the Phantom of the Opera?”

Taken care of master.”

“How about the sacred incense for the Mummy clan table?

“As you instructed, master.”

“Did you set up the separate table for the Mad Scientists? They can be such a bore at the main table.”

“Done master.”

“Did you finish that display of torture devices for the main hall?”

“I did, master.”

“How about the entertainment?”

“I was able to get Jack the Ripper to juggle knives.” 

Was that all?”

“It’s the best I could do. It’s hard finding a good act these days,” Boris apologized.

Still, Frankenstein reasoned, the guests themselves often provided the best entertainment.

As It Stands, monsters can provide the perfect forum for humor.

 

Bowling For Souls

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Boyd had a major heart attack while bowling and died. At the funeral, his family all said that at least he died doing what he loved.

The next thing Boyd saw after he dropped his bowling ball and died, was a giant bowling alley, and he realized he was standing in an empty parking lot. It was pitch black outside. The interior of the bowling alley was lit up like a lighthouse in a sea of souls.

He knew he was dead, but somehow it didn’t bother him. He’d devoted his whole life to bowling. He even won a state championship once. He didn’t have friends, and what family he did have, didn’t like him.

No wonder. He was a small selfish little man who had no empathy for others. Now, this bowling alley looked like heaven to him.

He walked up to the front doors and peered inside. The place was packed with people bowling. This was too good to be true, he idly thought. Then he was inside. The cacophony of bowling balls slamming into pins sounded like celestial music to him.

He wandered around for a while looking for a place to sign up and play. Then someone tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around and saw a middle-aged man wearing glasses too big for his face.

“You’ll be playing on Lane 13, against Stanley Benning in ten minutes,” the man told him and then blended back into the crowd. Turning back to the lanes, Boyd saw a projection above each one with different messages.

“You lose. Report below.”

Congratulations, you won this round.

“Good job. You’re one step closer to salvation.”

Boyd’s stomach started churning. Alarms were going off in his head. This wasn’t heaven. Was it hell? 

He zombie-walked over to Lane 13. A thin man with bright red hair was sitting at the scoring table. He was holding an animated conversation with himself.

“Why am I here?

Because you were a shit! 

Boyd waited until he stopped, then introduced himself.

Yeah right. I was expecting you,” the thin man with bright red hair, and whose name was Stanley Benning, replied.

“Is this hell?” Boyd asked.

“No, that’s the next stop from here, if you don’t win and make it to heaven,” Stanley said.

“Is God keeping score?”

“I have no idea. All I know, is that you have to win five games in a row against five different opponents to cash your ticket to heaven.”

“Do you mean,” asked Boyd, “that the good and bad souls all go here first?”

“Oh heck no! The good souls go directly to heaven. We’re somewhere between heaven and hell.”

Frame-after-frame they stay tied, until the ninth when Stanley left an open frame. Both of them bowled the game of their lives. Boyd was better that day, and won. Stanley simply disappeared.

Not sure what to do next, Boyd sat down at the scorer’s table. He watched the end of the lane intently waiting for a message. One down, four to go. He just might be able to pull this off he thought.

Then the projection on the wall read, Next Opponent…Earl Anthony!

Even though Boyd knew it meant he was going to hell, he couldn’t help but feel honored to get to play with one of the greatest PBA legends of all time.

As It Stands, I get a kick out of envisioning the hereafter!

Why The Music Must Never Stop

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The teacher told this story to his students one rainy day:

“You couldn’t call it Rock and Roll Heaven.

There were too many other types of music represented there.

It, where everyone was gathered, was somewhere between limbo and another life on a runaway asteroid.

A collection of souls that couldn’t separate themselves from their music.

From guitar devotees to tambourine fans, they followed their muse blindly. Pianos, drums, trumpets, French horns, tubas, guitars, harmonicas, accordions, violins, banjos, and harps all combined in a cacophony of sound that serenaded the stars every night.

The universal language of music attracted other life forms from solar systems across the galaxies. Celestial beings from Nimius, to the ethereal inhabitants of Anor Minor, listened to the music coming from the rogue asteroid.

The common theme among those musical souls – some referred to them as angels – was a message of peace and love.

Not far behind from where the angels dwelled, there was another asteroid. It was called hell.

It’s inhabitants were tortured souls, stuck in an eternal cycle of hate, greed, lust and vengeance. A collection of demons from every planet in three universes. Their cries haunted the cold cosmos.

Hell grew with hate, sucking it out of every living species and soul. Devouring hope and destroying planets with terrible technologies of the inhabitants own making. It was a powerful negative force that fed on fear.

Sometime in infinity hell crashed into the planet earth. Not long after that the angels appeared. Mankind, in it’s infancy, worshipped the angels and the demons. What became known as good and evil evolved among the human race.

The angels brought with them music in all its forms. The human race adopted the endless varieties of music to protect themselves from evil. As long as music was being played somewhere on the planet there was always hope.”

The teacher paused and looked at his eager young students, before saying, “That’s why the sages tell us that the music must never stop.”

As It Stands, I’ve always considered music a mystical thing with powers beyond our understanding.

The Hippie and the Hell Hound

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Listen up. I’m only going to tell this story once.

I’m a 72 year-old Hippie with pancreatic cancer, and I don’t give a damn if you believe it or not.

It was the Summer of 1967. Folks were calling it the Summer of Love afterwards.

All I know was there were 100,000 hippies, and wannabes, and a lot of crazy shit going down in the Height-Ashbury district.

The drugs flowed and everyone was talking about peace and love. Flower children were tripping on LSD, marijuana, reds, whites, shrooms, cocaine, smack, and opium.

What I’m about to tell you is true, even if you never read about it. There were a lot of deaths, hell I don’t remember the exact amount, that were written off as overdoses during that time. But the authorities knew better.

The victims were torn to shreds by some wild animal and partly eaten. The mayor made sure that fact never got out. Reports were coming in of a large dog that was attacking people.

I never saw the dog, but I know a lot of people who did. What kind of dog would hunt, kill, and eat people you’re probably thinking?

A Hell-Hound.

That’s right. You’ve heard of Werewolves right? Well, there are Hell-Hounds – a cross between a man and a Great Dane. Save your smile. You shouldn’t mock an old man you know.

I was hoping that I could tell you my full story, but I’m starting to think that might not be a good idea. Try to keep an open mind, and I’ll forgive your rudeness. How old did you say you were?

Okay. I got out of the City when that shit kept happening every night. I was truly blown away and never expected to experience something like that again.

Not too long after, I was at the Monterey Pop Festival. Wow. Still blows my mind. Can you imagine seeing Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Hugh Masekela, Otis Redding, Ravi Shankar, the Mamas & the Papas, the Who and the Jimi Hendrix Experience?

Jimi set his guitar on fire, broke it on the stage, then threw the neck of his guitar in the crowd. I was standing next to the guy that got it in the face by it!

The first night I was there a cute little Flower Child was murdered, and mutilated. I kept my ear to the ground and listened for the rumors. It only took another 24-hours before there was talk about a big dog attacking people. I wasn’t going to stay there knowing that a Hell-Hound was around.

Now I’m going to reveal my secret…

Wait a minute! That stupid grin again? I can see you aren’t going to be my biographer, the old hippie, and Hell-Hound barked before jumping!

As It Stands, wolves, hounds, why not Honey Badgers from hell too?

Escape From the Slaughterhouses of Het-Kre

sf183_ghoulTrent was one of a few lucky humans on Ridon to escape death before the warlords of Zurpt-Major obliterated it.

The attack came so quickly that the humans were overwhelmed.

If Trent and his crew of two weren’t test-flying the new ES Star Chaser in space, they would have been destroyed with the rest of humanity.

Ridon’s last three humans, Trent, Sally, and Rick, watched in horror for two days as the planet erupted into fireballs and turned into space debris. They only had one option left. Go to Xenalth.

Xenalth and Ridon had been allies for over 200 years. Travel back and forth was strictly regulated to visiting and going on tours. Xenalth had a more advanced civilization and technology, but willing became friends with the inhabitants of Ridon.

For unknown reasons the two species enjoyed each others company.

The crew of the ES Star Chaser approached Xenalth’s Intergalactic Landing Ports and waited for clearance. It only took a couple of minutes before their craft was given the okay, and directions to a parking pod.

Their first stop was Xenalth’s High Council headquarters. The Five leaders of Xenalth were waiting for them when they arrived at the council chambers. Lord Asherath, spoke for the others and said, “Are hearts are heavy for you. We monitored the attack on your planet with great alarm.”    

“We seek sanctuary great lords,” Trent said.

There was a flurry of voices among The Five. “Never happened.” “It’s against all rules.” “Where else can they go?”  

Trent and his crew listened through their translator earbuds.  Their fate was on the line. The discussion took about 30 minutes before Lord Asherath announced, “We cannot break our laws and let you live here permanently. However, we can grant you temporary asylum while you look for another planet to live on.”

Resupplied, the crew of the ES Star Chaser, went in search of another planet that could sustain them. The recently refined ship’s computer tracked other planets that could meet their basic requirements of breathable air, water, and proper gravity.

They found a possible candidate one day. It did have life forms, but that wasn’t necessarily bad. They landed at the edge of a lush jungle. There were dozens of dilapidated space ships scattered around in the open plain.

After securing the perimeter around the ship, they set out into the jungle.

It wasn’t long before they suspected they were being followed. Figures kept darting in and out of the heavy underbrush and trees alongside of them. Trent held his hand over his laser sword as he led the way.

They finally came into a large clearing with a dozen massive wooden buildings. Out front, stood a group of very short earth-like, heavily-muscled men, and women.

Their skin was a mottled gray, and they were naked, except for the sparkly charms that hung around their necks and wrists. The leader stepped up to them. He was the only one with something on his head; dull red ribbons of cured meat wrapped around his skull in a crude turban.

Sally came prepared, and pulled out a pair of translator earbuds which she handed him. She took hers out, smiled, and showed him how to put one in each ear. His eyes lit up with surprise, but he didn’t take them out.

In the ensuing conversation they discovered that the people lived in small clans, but all worshipped the same gods. They called their planet Het-Kre. There were thousands of clans who ruled the planet according to the leader, Huth.

He built a crude fire and they sat around on logs and rocks, talking for many hours. Rick was an intuitive guy. He was always able to read people by their eyes and body movements. That’s why he whispered to Trent that he didn’t trust their host.

Everyone slept outside. Rick agreed to take first watch. As the hours slowly crept by his curiosity about the buildings increased. Why not sleep in them instead of outside? He stood up and stretched.

The first building was just a few yards away. He walked up to it and peered inside. Too dark to see anything. Pulled out his utility light and shone it on the racks of…meat. But this meat had human-like faces that looked similar to Huth. And, meat from other species splayed open on drying racks.

Bodies were split open like cattle. They ran in neat rows. Troughs for blood. Drying skins hanging from the ceilings. It was a slaughterhouse. He rightly guessed that their main staple on this planet was the residents themselves, and any unlucky travelers that came their way.

He cautiously left the foul room and went back to where Tent and Sally were sleeping. “Time to go,” he whispered into their ears. Without question, they followed Rick back into the forest. After they’d gone a distance, Rick told them what he saw.

It was light when they made it back to the ES Star Chase. Back in space they talked about what to do next. “Let’s find a planet that no one else is living on and start our own civilization,” Sally said, with a coy look at them.

Both men smiled, and asked, “What shall we call it?”

As It Stands, I could see doing a novella on these three characters. What do you think?