Houston, We’ve Got A Problem (2001 Flushes)

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“Mulliver, the most important thing to remember about this mis—zzt—the whole she—pop—is—squawk. You got that? That’s it. Without you, folks are pretty much—fzzh. Keep that in mind. Brainthrust out.” Zzzk.
            “Sir!” Mully banged futilely on the monitor, as if the solar interference was nothing more than bad reception during a Bowl game.  “Sir, what…?” But it was no use. Outside the atmosphere, there wasn’t much you could do about wavejam.
            “Fuck it,” Mully muttered, tapping a Camel straight on the console and punching in the jerry-rigged dash lighter. As commander of the Globeshuttle IRON LUNG, he didn’t give a good goddamn about Co. directives. Just another charter where he was concerned, a slow and easy way to pay the bills. And in space, there were no bills. And no place to spend the dough. Anyway, let the dinks who’d converted his rec room into a floating speed lab worry about terrestrial needs. He’d relocated the wet bar to the front cabin, okay by him, but the Ping-Pong table was stored in a corridor adjacent to the airlock, where it rattled and rolled calamitously whenever the boosters fired, which seemed at times to occur at the shuttle’s own whim, a glitch Mully would find time to fix one of these days.
As long as he was at the helm, he decided to kick back with a Jack rocks and watch the Earth loom ever nearer in the forward viewscreen. No pressing need to pass on the Co. static to the dinks. They had their orders, what they didn’t know already they’d savvy soon enough upon their unceremonious deposit in the thick of the LA fray. This was it, the ultimate proving ground for the Pan-Utopian Gestapo. It tickled him to think of it, this bunch of pseudo-military slacker trainees being called in non sub rosa to quell an Earth-bound uprising after six muscle-atrophying months monitoring the stars for the barest hint of an unlikely intergalactic threat.
            His thought balloon was heedlessly punctured by a thundercrack, something striking, sizzling against the hull. The shuttle keeled sideways in space, shuddered, engines whining, righted itself and resumed course.  Reminiscent of old-school attack simulations, he thought. Of course, that was out of the question; more likely some stray NASA debris that the fritzed-out sensors didn’t pick up. Gulped the last of his Jack and prepared to run an external scan. Interrupted by sudden red-light buzz from the dashcom, he tapped a button, grunted a brusque monosyllable and received the stricken, quavering voice of the usually laconic Pinback down in maintenance.
            “Capt., we got a situation down here?”
            “Pinback, what are you doing on this frequency?”
            “This is definitely Priority Level 1, sir. Whatever just hit us pierced the sewage tanks.”
            “Oh, for Shephard’s sake. Just jettison the damn things.”
            “Too late for that, sir. It’s flooded engineering already.”
 
            A Global Armed Services inquest would later reveal that the cause of the minimized catastrophe was a Coca-Cola ad/sat, its scanners having apparently misread the Stars-n-Stripes decals on the shuttle hull as the similarly red-white-&-blue Pepsico logo entering its airspace, activating its weapons array, which fired a warning beam at the supposed intruder. As a result, Mulliver and the crew of the disemboweled IRON LUNG were left with no choice but to break contract and return immediately to the lunar surface, prematurely aborting the much-anticipated first employment of the Global Armed Service forces. Subsequently, all ships of US origin were compelled to drop their colors in deference to corporate stratagem.


The Orange Blossom Special

“Look a-yonder comin’
Comin’ down that railroad track
Hey, look a-yonder comin’
Comin’ down that railroad track
It’s the Orange Blossom Special
Bringin’ my baby back…”

The Orange Blossom Special by Ervin Thomas Rouse

Russia 2077: Look Into The Close Cyber Future By Evgeny Zubkov
Anthrax Ripple sat in the infamous Money$hot Lounge, dark end of the downstairs bar, waiting for nightfall.  The right moment. His special purpose. A neglected cig smoldered between his fingers, yet he didn’t sense the burn as flesh turned yellow then brown then black.  Synthskin, complex biopolymers that could be made to resemble the human epidermis down to the whorled grooves of the fingerprints—Anthrax personally had no use for such identifying marks—but contained only the most rudimentary approximation of nerve endings. The left side of Anthrax’s ravaged shell was a mass of prostheses, servomotors, semi-organic plastics, metal plating, steel rods, nuts-&-bolts, wires and dials, a clicking, buzzing humming synthesis of hi-tech cybernetics and jerry-rigged life support.  The unnatural extremities and artificial addendums were the result of a lifetime’s struggle with his dear ol’ Dad, pitting the innumerable agents of his father’s relentless vendetta against his own inexhaustible and nearly superhuman will to live, if only out of spite. 
            Well-armed, well-paid assassins tracked and attacked him wherever he went; he evaded, thwarted, and disposed of them in nearly every region, province, state or nation on the North American continent, various locations throughout the Western Hemisphere, and one particularly hi-profile incident aboard the Monolith InterSystems Orbital Waylay. If he hadn’t been under contract, and subject to the constraints of a closely scrutinized expense account, Anthrax would seriously have considered fleeing to a far corner of the planet, even off-world, though he thoroughly, and not unrealistically, anticipated that the death merchants in his father’s employ would find him out, no matter how far or wide he might travel.
            Ironic, in some respects, that an evolutionary dead end like Anthrax could so casually dispatch such a tremendous number of the world’s most highly-trained, if not highly motivated, killing machines. Anthrax acknowledged that his grafted enhancements, despicable and hideous though they were, gave him an edge which most mere mortals did not possess; he was painfully aware that he would be dead several times over without them. ‘We can rebuild you,’ They’d told him once, the first time he submitted to Their wretched scheme. ‘Make you better/stronger/faster/a real/Ubermensch/andallathat/blah/blah/blah.’ Despite the maniacal laughter, They weren’t kidding. Of course, nothing was ever said about making him happier. Once a said-and-done deal, contract signed, permission granted, it was out of his hand. They didn’t own him outright, just the parts, and if he reneged in any way, They’d send the repo men to take back what was Theirs, far more than an arm and a leg. He was Their boy, all he owned were his thoughts, and he was pretty sure those were at least monitored, if not outright controlled. They were as good as Their word, he had to admit; whenever he took damage, on the clock or off, They were on hand with the requisite compensation: replaceable parts, digit, limb, or organ, running the gamut from state-of-the-art to total wonk-sci.  He’d had so much work done, he wasn’t entirely certain where he ended and They began. Whether he oughta thank Them or go kamikaze and kill Them all. In truth, he didn’t even know exactly who They were, or where to find Them. Some unholy coalition of Nazis, Mafia, and extradimensional intelligence, more than likely, headquartered in the churning bowels of Hollow Earth. No matter, so long as They kept him running long enough for one last father/son chat.
 
            Nick Ripple returned from his tour in ‘Nam with a bum left leg, a bleeding ulcer, a morphine habit, and a not-altogether irrational fear of his own seed. His platoon was just one of many whose collective service to God and country entailed a generous—if accidental?—dousing with the military pest repellent known as Agent Orange. Though he now existed, lingering, on the outermost periphery of the US Marine-World, he was privy to rumors, dark, absurd, inconceivable. Reproductive malfunctions, in the tactful words of a combat acquaintance. Monsters, a more emphatic warpal declared. Abominations, exclaimed another former trenchmate in impassioned vehemence.
            Mutants, freaks, evolutionary mishaps, whatever they be named, they were defective, and Nick toed a hard line when it came to the differently abled, especially where the Fruit of his own Looms were concerned. Considered them weak, pathetic, offensive to behold. Don’t piss in the gene pool, that was Nick’s stance. And though he desired heirs, he wasn’t about to let any so-called abominations swim past him.
            Nick’s double-edged fatal flaw would be his own undoing, however; weak links in his chain of resolve regarding potential progeny. Nick had an eye for the ladies, too much so to remain faithful to his predictably long-suffering wife. Worse, he found himself quite consistently drawn to strong-willed, self-preserving women, the sort who preferred to make their own decisions as to whether or not they were ready to endure the dubious bliss of motherhood; those who chose inevitably proved rather obstinate and uncooperative when it came to the subject of their precious treasures being treated as abortions after the fact. Even the previously unquestioned influence he wielded over wife Travalia was put to the test and found wanting when, the night of her return from the hospital, she discovered Nick in the kitchen preparing to suffocate and dismember their firstborn, Anthony. Though the child had exhibited no signs of abnormality, its presence in the house made Nick acutely uncomfortable, and he regretted allowing it to come to term. Val took the child and fled to her parents’ home in Connecticut. Nick found them a week later; indifferent to reconciliation, Nick came only to kill the child. In the struggle that ensued, Val’s father was killed, and Nick went to prison. He was out in five, and a month later, little Tony disappeared from the playground at his preschool; no body, or any other trace, was ever found.
            In all the years before and after his internment, Nick took no special precautions to ensure that his family tree not flower on far-flung, hard-to-reach limbs. Nor did it occur to him that a simple vasectomy would nip any such unwanted offshoots in the proverbial bud. His exposure to Agent Orange had indeed wrought havoc upon his chromosomal makeup, yet was anything but detrimental to his potency. Of the twelve children Nick would sire over the two decades following the war, eight of them would come to term, though only two would survive him. One of these was little Anthony.
 
Anthrax didn’t like it, not in any way, shape or form. Going after Pentler was one thing, a personal vendetta fully sanctioned by the corporate overlords whose bidding he did with such vicious aplomb. But this one, the intended target for which he’d received his brainfaxed orders not an hour before, was his friend, as much as he allowed himself to have any. A man he respected, whose body of work spoke for itself; a man who never judged him, never treated him with the kind of thinly veiled disgust, contempt, and fear to which he was accustomed from his other employers.  Those members of the Consortium who consistently attempted to distance themselves from the copious gore which puddled at their own feet, stained their clothes and soiled their fingers to the subdermal layers. Bob Buck was cut from a rougher cloth, reserved his considerable disdain for the pretentious elitists with whom he was forced to consort by virtue of his own ill‑gotten fortunes. The kind of man Anthrax could drink with, not just a casual cocktail in some glass-walled Babylonian tower, but an honest‑to‑God street‑level bender, dangerous inebriation, wasted mayhem, all night and all day and again until the weekend when the real partying would begin. And now he had to kill him. No question in his mind as to whether he’d do it; orders was orders. Just seemed a damn shame, that’s all. He wanted to ask why. But that wasn’t his biz. He did what They told him, and They covered his ass. Hard bargain.
 
            Buck wasn’t at the ranch house.  That would have been too obvious.  He knew they were onto him, a man who’d put out and personally pulled that many contracts had rear‑end heat sensors to pick up that shit a million miles off. Then again, Buck wasn’t one to run, more than likely to find an open field and take em all on at once, boots on in a blaze of glory.  The only way.
            Anthrax tracked him easy enough, hating it every minute as he waded through a slew of Buck’s hired guns, rendering each of them eternally inert. They died in silence, for the most part, true pros, not candy‑ass salaried security chumps and suckers, guys he knew, old Joes and dogs‑o‑war who’d pulled his out of the fire more times than once, boys he owed his life and so what, they all saw him coming and treated it like any other ugly deal, didn’t pull their punches or hold their fire, for all the good it did them, steely precision and a lifetime wasted wallowing in the mire of sponsored violence earned them no mercy in the end. Corporate casualties, every one, causeless deaths in the meaningless name of a biz they didn’t understand. And Ripple was no different, just better at it, souped‑up skills engineered to serve no other purpose but this insensate brutality. A master of death. And so what.
            Buck was waiting, sure enough. The blasted remnants of his private army smoldering in his assassin’s wake, and Buck just sat there, laughing behind his desk in DalTex Buckwagon/BEEFCO headquarters, North end of nowhere, a rusty bastion of corrugated steel and old‑fashioned barbwire.  Like he didn’t even care, neither surprised nor pissed by this betrayal.  Buck ensconced in three‑piece grey flannel, 10‑gallon Stetson, alligator shitkickers, surrounded by a miniscule sampling of his personal armory, Colt revolvers, Smith and Wesson’s, Browning automatics, Walther, Luger, Mauser, Berreta, Glock, Uzi, Russian, Arab, Israeli, Chinese, Japanese, German and good ol US cobalt, titanium, matte black and metallic grey, nickel‑plated, silvery‑blue, the full ultraviolent spectrum.  Launchers for rocket and grenade, c4, tNt, plastique, nitro, round after round after round.  In his lap, Bob cradled his beloved Winchester, the one that had hung unused above the mantle of his manse these many long years since it had served to scatter the thoughts maintained within a Democratic cranium, as unlikely a sniper’s rifle as any agent‑sinister might have devised.  Over his vested chest, crisscrossing bandoliers filled with Cuban cigars, some final irony which Anthrax could sense but not quite get. Buck rose slowly from his leather-backed chair.
            “Well, son,” was all he said, completely unwilling to plead, no sign of weakness to make this any easier.
            Anthrax felt his trigger finger jump, brain afraid that another word might be enough to make him reconsider.
 
            Bob Buck stood his ground; he always had before, and he saw no reason to stop now. The first shot took him in the stomach, left a hole like a rouge‑lipped mouth hanging open in shock. He staggered back a step, from the force if not the pain, and his cigar popped out of his mouth. He shook his head, admonishing Anthrax with a cluck of the tongue, somewhat disappointed that he wasn’t dead already. The head, Anthony, c’mon, my brains on the wall, Zapruder jumpcut, I’m not some gook in black pj’s like yer daddy usedta deepfry in the rice paddies, ya kill me once so’s I stay dead, doncha know. But the poor kid had lost his nerve, useless now to the company, might as well a sold ‘em out and pledged allegiance to BEEFCO if this was how he meant to play it. BANG. Like an m80 in a tin can when Buck was a kid wranglin’ punk fun out in the boonies. Groin shot. HA. Hurt like fuck, no lie, more’n likely lethal but his skullcap was intact as he sat down hard on the cold cement floor, found his smoldering stub between his legs before his seeping blood could extinguish it, plenty of time to roll it between his fingers, even take another puff as Anthrax stood there lookin’ like he wasn’t quite sure what he’d just done or if he even wanted any part of it anymore. Buck reachin’ up to touch the lit end to the tip of a fuse that wound its way through the powderkeg backroom and yeah boy ol’ Tony Ripple’s jaw did most certainly drop  at the sight of that, suddenly  shit-scared at the prospect that Unca Bob Buck had done him just as sure as he’d just double‑plugged the ol man sittin’ gutshot on the stone cold in a puddle of his own blood. BANGBANG two aimless rounds as he backed out the door and the fuse followed him fast like some hissing sidewinder faster than he could run almost and goddam Bob Buck wasn’t even dead yet was he had to go back but no way Jose and holy shit if that sulfurous snakefinger wasn’t ahead of him three steps already gimme three steps mister which had to mean that whatever was supposed to blow was somewhere up in front gimme three steps toward the door so maybe doublin back was the way to go but WHOOSH some force aflame propelled him just enough and gimme three steps he almost caught up with the taunting fuse and BOOM you’ll never see me no more…

Margot Bogart

A lady, a suit and a whole lot of machine gun power
She moved across the muddy, frost-encrusted earth, straining against the stiffness in her leg and the metal and gauze of the splint that held it in place.  She couldn’t bend her knee without tasting pain, hot and brassy on the back of her tongue, squeezing back tears each time her foot came down and jostled the injury.
Losing Harlot was the worst of it.  The old chrome horse had been her ride since before she was readily able to remember, now little more than a lump of molten steel and plastic smoldering in a field some four miles east. Everything she owned in the world was tied down or saddlebagged to her treasured bike, and with the exception of a few salvageable essentials which were now strapped to her person—the Uzi her uncle brought her as a gift from one of his MidEast biztrips, a couple of concussion grenades, c4 and a detonator, a belt for tools and one for ammo, her bayonet, a pouch full of money, traveler’s cheques, and credit cards (all stolen)—she’d lost it all.
She held up the rearview mirror she’d retrieved about twenty skips behind the wreckage and scoped herself out.  Pretty haggard, she had to cop, but the cuts and bruises appeared to be more or less superficial; save for the parallel scars that lined her hollow Dietrich cheeks, there was no permanent damage to her smooth, well-structured face.  Thank God for reconstructive surgery, she thought, angling the mirror to admire the twin disfigurations that ran up from the corners of her sneering mouth, giving her face a somewhat skull-like appearance, an eternally grinning rictus promising pleasure unto death.  The rest of her body ached from the savage spill to a degree that would have immobilized a lesser being, but her self-diagnosis  turned up no evidence of internal injury or tissue hemorrhage.  The knee, bum since a schoolyard basketball game when she was 15, was now swollen to epic proportions.
The wind whipped her fire-red mane, held it aloft, whistling cleanly around the fresh-shaven sides of her pale scalp.  Most folks tended to disbelieve her when she told them that red was her natural color.  Except for her lovers.
She spat a glut of blood and phlegm into the mud, lit another menthol, and continued dragging her battered carcass  across the flat wet plain, doing her damnedest to ignore the chill wind that bit through torn leather to find her stinging flesh.

She walks along a darkened roadway, staggering her step, one foot in the street, one on the curb, trying with all the worldly effort she can summon from her terribly small, frail self to appear casual and unafraid.
            I am a child, she thinks, and I am alone.
            It is far to her home, and most of the houses along this street are dark, silent. She notices that the houses where the blue light of the The Box flickers hauntingly seem more desperate and empty somehow than those that lie in complete darkness. She hates television, always has. Even as a very small child, when most her age would stare slack-jawed at the screen they’d been propped in front of, utterly absorbed by the random and meaningless images that flash so brightly, so colorfully, Margot found The Box to be boring, an annoyance, a waste of her precious time (precious, mind, not valuable; children can only have precious time, at least when they’re not off on incessant crying jags, and Margot is not much of one for tears; they too, are a waste of her time).
            There is a car behind her, very close, and she curses herself for not noticing it sooner. She plays a game with the cars usually, only it is not really a game. She plays Invisible Girl. She becomes very silent, breathing all but ceases, as soon as she spies the headlights, and she moves sideways with the grace of a dancer, going deeper into the shadows, simply becoming a part of her surroundings, and the sounds of nature become louder for her in big beautiful stereophonic sound and she can feel the night wind blow right through her, touch her soul, play with it, let her know that it’s there, and the fear disappears, is replaced by a feeling of elation that has little and much to do with being a child.
            Harmony.
            This word comes to her mind at such times. It is a nice word, a very beautiful word, the loveliest word she knows, and at those moments when she stands frozen, vanished not from Earth but into it, she knows what that word means.
            But this car has tricked her; it’s won the game before the the game has even started. This car is too quiet, she thinks; it just creeped right up on me. It caught me.
            She can almost smell the evil that clings to the car that is moving so slowly, so silently behind her, but she doesn’t even think of running. That would be giving in to her emotions, collapsing in on herself, letting the fear overtake her. And she can’t do that to herself, can’t desert herself. Who will she turn to then?
            “Hey,” rings out loud and clear like a pistol shot, and she is barely able to keep herself from jumping at the sound. “Hey, little girl. What are you doing out this late? Shouldn’t you be home in bed, hon?”
            The man in the car who is speaking—one of at least three passengers, she’s pretty sure, though she has not yet even glanced at the car—has a way of emphasizing in bed that makes her feel sick. She does not know why.
            “Do your parents know you’re out here? Are you lost? You maybe oughta get in the car, huh, sweetheart?”
            “No, thanks. I live just up around this curve. I’m almost there.”
            “Well, let us drive ya. I mean, we’re headed that way, right?”
            “S’okay, I like to walk.”
            “C’mon, kid. Just get in the car, let a nice guy do you a favor. Whattaya say?”
            Again his words sound wicked, like threats, like dark promises, promises to make her dreams come true. The bad ones.
            “Look, thanks a lot for the offering and everything, okay? But I really don’t want a ride. I don’t want one, and I don’t need one.”
            “Little girl…” He almost sings it, crooking his finger at her and wagging it. “Come here.”
            And finally she looks, looks right into the driver’s eyes, and they are flat and black and full of hate.
            “Leave me alone! I just want to walk home!”
            “Okay, fine, don’t take the fuckin’ ride! Bitch!”
            The tires squeal and the car rockets forward, and she welcomes the momentary sense of relief. It evaporates quickly when the car pulls over at the curb about twenty yards ahead. She continues to walk, but her pace slows to a crawl. A door opens and one of the men gets out of the vehicle. He stands there, waiting for her to come and catch the ride of her life.
            Breathlessly, hot tears of anger and fear stinging her eyes, she crosses the road and diligently continues her trek towards home. As she nears the car, the man moves to the middle of the street, determined to have her. The odor gets worse, and she begins to cry.
            “Little girl,” he says, the same sing-song cadence as before, coming right up to her and getting ahold of her coat sleeve. “We can’t just let you wander around by yourself like this. Something bad might happen to you. Why are you crying?”
            He reaches out as if to touch her wet, red cheek and she jerks her face away.
            “What the fuck’s the matter with you? We’re giving you a goddamn ride. You should be grateful. You should appreciate that.”
            “Fuck you!” She tries to run, but the man gets ahold of her and has his hands on her and she can feel all the other children he’s done this to in those awful hands, squirming right along with her. She wishes for every car she’s ever hid from to come screaming down the road right now, to run right over these evil fuckers, to kill them.
            He closes one hand over her face, the other is between her legs and he is lifting her up that way. She has one arm free. The knife in her pocket is not her own. It belongs to a boy named Gordon who loaned it to her just for this walk. Gordon is the reason she’s making her way home so late at night. She and Gordon had a date in a tree. Gordon and his friends have a very cool treehouse with a portable CD player and everything. Gordon, who is older—almost 12—has been teaching her to dance. She and Gordon spent nearly three hours just slow dancing to some soft music way up in the trees. David Bowie. Fleetwood Mac. Queen. Just like the big kids. It was warm and beautiful. But now even these thoughts seem unpleasant, evil. Wrong.
            She is able to get the knife in her pocket open with one hand before he has her halfway to the waiting car. She knows she must not let him get her into the car, because in the car there are more of them, and they will take her knife away, and death will be certain. Death and worse.
            The knife comes out of her pocket, arcs up, then down, and the entire three-inch blade plunges into the jeans-flesh-muscle of his thigh. His scream is hideous. She loves the sound of it. He grabs for his thigh in pain and she is able to squirm free. She fall to her knees but is up in no time and running, running blindly, just putting distance between herself and that car whose door lies open to reveal the gaping maw of an evil that wants to swallow her up, then regurgitate her spent, empty shell. All she needs is the distance, then she can disappear.
            They look for her a long time, their silent, eviel machine creeping slowly up and down the street. She can hear the agonized voice of the one she stabbed, howling in pain, cursing her. The voice intrudes on her Harmony and so she blocks it out.
            Eventually they give up and move on, taking their foul smell and the rest of her fear with them. She sneaks home stealthily, ascends to the roof of her house with the ease that comes with much practice. She strips clean and stands before the bathroom mirror, watching her shaking—almost convulsing—body curiously, trying to make herself stop. She won’t sleep this night.
            The next morning her father finds her in front of The Box staring at a test pattern, patiently waiting for something to happen on the screen.
            She never says a word about it to her parents, knowing that they would not be proud, that they would only scold her for being out so late, blame her for what happened, punish her for it all, especially the knife that saved her life.
            And punishment is a waste of her time.

Past dusk and coming on full dark when she spotted the first vehicle to come along since she reached the Flyway.  Caught the high-beams slicing through the night-smog roughly a kilometer off; tempted by her own exhaustion to take up position on the shoulder, stick her thumb into the wind, and wait.  Caution kicked in and she slipped back a few meters, crouched low and scoped the approach.  Someone was bound to be searching for the truckload of missing Guardsmen, if their mangled, smoldering corpses weren’t already discovered, in which case they’d be hunting for her.
She laid out flat on the cold, mushy terrain, scarcely drawing breath as the headlights drew nearer.  Too low to the ground for a truck, damn big for a car.  Whatever, its silhouette was blacker than the starless sky, blacker than her own thoughts, and it stretched on quite a ways behind those headlights.  The first discernible detail she made out was the license plate, illumined as it was by its small bulb.
It read SLAB3.
Trip-wired synapses chain-reacted in her brain, her thoughts caught in mental crossfire. The vehicle rolled forward in motorized whisper, some kind of Stealthmobile, grill emblazoned with a matte-metallic M, two feet high an nearly as wide, and the hood ornament, revealed at a glance as the car made its pass, was a rectangular chunk of black rock, all-too-familiar logo: MONOLITH.
The limousine slid past, not just any MONOlimo, but a massive armored stretch conveying the 3rd most important member of the Cygnet Consortium, the cartel’s ultraelite Board of Director’s, and one of the six people Margot hated most in the world.
Night-chill settled over her like a bedsheet at the city morgue. She kept moving. Travelled ten more miles on adrenaline and numb hate, hate that swelled up strong and bitter as ever the moment she spied the MONOlimo.  Why they’d send a boardhead to the Belt, she couldn’t figure; neither here nor there.  Catching up to it was the imperative, stopping it the goal, destroying it her destiny.
Pain slowed her progress to a steady crawl; dragging ass by force of will.  Without something potent to deaden the agony of her twisted, throbbing knee, collapse was imminent.  She needed a painkiller.
Or a ride.
Or something.

More Will Be Revealed: The Secret files of the dept.

How Prohibition made us more reliant on the income tax - Don't ...
After two disastrous attempts at creating mind-controlled combat slaves, the DEPT. temporarily abandoned the project and turned to more theoretical, not to mention political pursuits. Laboring in self-imposed exile and under a veil of secrecy to rival that of the Masons, the DEPT. embarked on its most ambitious undertaking–some would say overtaking–yet.  They were also about to make their biggest blunder to date, one that would come dangerously close to revealing their existence and agenda to the larger world.
 
In the 1920’s, the DEPT. managed to plant an inside man in the very home of the nation’s chief executive.  Neither a cabinet minister nor an adviser, the man who would come to pull the presidential strings with all the moxie of a latter-day Rasputin was none other than Dr. Cygnus Salem, the president’s analyst.  Salem, who had studied under Freud in Vienna, came to the administration with impeccable credentials.  Not until four generations had passed would it be revealed that Cygnus Salem was in fact the reincarnate embodiment of a sorcerer who had been burned at the stake in the Massachusetts town from which he apparently took his name nearly three centuries before.
The DEPT.’s plan was diabolically clever. Using methods that had been employed in Cuba, Dr. Salem and other agents hypnotized or drugged the President and key congressional leaders and used the power of suggestion to influence their respective opinions, and votes concerning the constitutional amendment that would outlaw the sale, purchase, possession, and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Evidently, the powers that be at the DEPT. felt that major resources of man-hours and mental energy were being waylaid and usurped by the demon alcohol.  They wanted to harness and channel the suppressed psychic faculties of some 150 million suddenly sober Americans. Inevitably, the rest of the world would bear awed witness to the undoubtedly positive changes taking place in the States and follow suit.
 
But it was not to be.
 
Prohibition, while an utter boon to the Mafia and other crime syndicates, was an abysmal failure for nearly every branch, faction and aspect of the Federal Govt., not least the DEPT. T. Magnus Reid, A Top Secret History of the United States (2nd Edition)

The CIA's Appalling Human Experiments With Mind Control | HISTORY
The DEPT. had scored a major victory for the forces of good over evil, not to mention for the interests of the US.  Their fearless and unflappable savvy in the face of the unknown and the unlikely did not go unnoticed in the invisible circles that constitute the true American govt.  While their methods and beliefs were still largely held suspect by the nation’s upper echelon, their carte blanche was extended, their access to intensely regulated information and heretofore off-limits facilities increased, their tireless efforts on behalf of the undiscovered nether regions coming due in increased influence and notoriety.  Unexpectedly, and tragically, years of suppression and isolation had caused fetishes, obsessions, and resentments to fester in the souls of the DEPT. agents Allowed a glimpse of daylight, these malignancies grew and spread in several of the members, manifesting in addictions to alcohol, narcotics, and other altering substances acquired from shaman, yogi, medicine men and quack pharmacists all over the globe, not to mention subversive behavior, sexual dysfunction, social retardation, and brutal, even murderous tendencies.  Dr. REDACTED, asst, deputy sub-director of the DEPT. from 1940 until 1963, (when he was quietly dismissed for his rather public presumption about who–or more precisely, what–really pulled the trigger on JFK, and later found dead of curare poisoning in a motel room in Galveston, Texas), would later claim that the afflicted DEPT. employees were under the influence of malevolent forces seeking retribution for the defeat they had suffered at the hands of the DEPT.’s spook troop during the War.  True or not, this was the first time any DEPT. member had openly claimed–at least as much as their secretive position would allow–that nonhuman powers beyond our control and comprehension could and did willfully direct the actions of those susceptible to such forces.  It was speculated that these extradimensional invaders had long sought an expansive enough access point to provide easy and unguarded passage between their world and ours.  Ironically, the DEPT. formed the ideal nexus at which such a gate way could be established.

A collective of absolute believers, even the most cynical and jaded amongst them were thoroughly convinced, whether by evidence or conviction, of the existence of uncharted dimensions of space and time, and that these regions, which could not be located on any map, were densely populated with beings both wondrous and horrific, beings whose ultimate intent might well be the subjugation of the human species, or even its utter destruction. T. Magnus Reid, A Top Secret History of the United States (2nd Edition)
MK-Ultra - HISTORY
In the late sixties, such bastions of yellow journalism as the New York Post reported on a series of incidents in which a self-described “freelance subatomic particle fetishist” appeared unannounced in a honeymoon suite at the MGM Grand in Vegas, the living room of a retired dentist in Seattle, Washington, a Dunkin’ Donuts employee bathroom in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and in a passport photo booth at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. The man, whose accent suggested an Eastern European origin, would give his name only as Satellite, and claimed that he had traveled from his homeland-, and from point to point, not by air, sea, or superhighway, but rather via a dimensional portal of his own design.  He turned up in Washington, DC, perched on Lincoln’s lap in the Memorial, and attempted to patent his invention, of which he would disclose only the blueprints and a blurry Polaroid of what he called the Transspatial Enabler, or Doormension, as Satellite was nothing if not consumer conscious.  The photo resembled nothing more than a black square, just the right size that a medium sized man could squeeze through with some small effort, provided that it wasn’t just a shiny square of acrylic tile adhered to the wall.

Satellite’s bold claims and grand entrances created a low-key buzz amongst a population hungry for light shows, parlor tricks, miracles, anything of entertainment value in the overwhelming midst of social upheaval, assassination aftermath, and the nightmare of jungle warfare.  Satellite sightings were almost as common a phenomenon as glimpses of undead superstar Elvis Presley would come to be a decade or so later.
 
Though the Enabler’s existence was neither proven true nor exposed as fraud, despite the best efforts of everyone from the DEPT. to their archnemeses, the infamous World Skeptic’s Society, Satellite ignored and refused all challenges to present hard evidence to support his boasted feats of dimensional daredevilry for public scrutiny, even when promised big bucks and endorsement possibilities.  Eventually, the public lost interest in the shamelessly self-promoting dimensional drifter and he vanished into the back pages of historical obscurity, the D.B. Cooper of quantum breaking-and-entering.
 
Top fedgov officials, agents of both the NSA and the CIA, and other lifetimers in the inner sanctum, who paid scrupulous attention to such anomalies, however absurd or even comic, speculated that Satellite might have been nabbed by the boys at the Spookhouse, as they could not help but think of it. T. Magnus Reid, A Top Secret History of the United States (2nd Edition)
Why the Story Behind the Manson Family Murders Is Suddenly ...
Meanwhile, the DEPT. had their hands full with the Manson slayings, an orgiastic rampage of West Coast psychosis that had left a seemingly endless stretch of unsolved, unclaimed, and unidentified homicides.  And in Vietnam, after 75-some-odd years of trial-and-error experimentation, the DEPT. of Paranormal Affairs had, with a certainly qualified success, succeeded in fulfilling the legacy of their founder, Dr. REDACTED REDACTED. 
Dubbed the Suture Soldier Project, the foray into reanimation science involved reassembling and reviving the corpses of soldiers whose mangled bodies were deemed too toxic to be returned for burial in home soil.  The first Suture Soldier unit, which consisted of a dozen troops stitched together from the bodies of some 32 men blown to Heaven during a VC ambush on a convoy of armored personnel carriers.  Their lieutenant was a green and fresh-faced officer school type, very much alive.  He thoroughly expected to provide a fleshly feast before his troops even encountered action.  The zombies’ supposedly insatiable thirst for human blood, however, was only ever evidenced, and perhaps sated, in swift and decisive combat maneuvers in which the emotionless and rather single-minded undead units were almost invariably the victors. Their pain centers had all been detached; bullets chewed them up a bit but did little by way of slowing them down. The lieutenant, who received a Distinguished Service Cross at the end of his third tour, and subsequently the first and only military personnel ever to be elected to the DEPT., reported that his initial fears were soon abated when he discovered that most of the soldier’s in his charge were vegetarians. Only once did he witness one of the suture soldiers eat meat.  Powdered steak. The zombie spit it out.
He was so young. They all were': 'Picturing Nam' shows America's ...
The Suture Soldiers were an over-the-wire legend in the embattled cities and sinister jungles of Southeast Asia. As one GI pondered at the time: “If they got dead guys can fight this war as good or better’n me, then what the hell am I still doin’ out here?”
Why didn't we get a future where swimming pools have pinball tables?
While a nation turned its lonely eyes to NASA and Watergate, Patty Hearst and boogie fever, the DEPT., cocky and brash after a round of supersecret successes, turned their singular minds to ever-more ambitious attempts at traversing the dimensional boundary and gaining access to the NeoAtlantean continents of limitless unmapped reality planes. Professor Boston Faraday, DEPT. director since 1963, knew that the only greenlight for his proposed experiments would have to come directly from the American people.  He wanted desperately to go public, but endowed with a more pragmatic brand of wisdom than his departed predecessor, Dr. REDACTED REDACTED knew that widespread awareness and mainstream acceptance of his organization’s existence, and its radically sidereal agenda, could be achieved only by way of a meticulously planned, surreptitiously staged media event that would result in inevitable worldwide coverage and unquestionable exposure of the DEPT. and its eccentric staff of dimension-straddling ethereal pioneers.
The Culham Laboratory Open Days. Photograph by Retro Images Archive
Dr. Lucius Blakdragon first developed the Karmometer in the late 1950’s, in an effort to establish the validity of his theory of Karmatic Physics (now known as SupraQuantum Physics).  He foresaw his machine, a crude assemblage of jerry-rigged gauges, wires, voltage meters, tickertape machines, WW2-era computers, and an authentic witches’ cauldron (acquired from the estate of none other than the legendary Cygnus Salem), as a technological breakthrough that would eventually lead to the inevitable wedding of secular science and applied metaphysics. 
Retro Science Fiction
Dr. Blakdragon, in an address to the London Guild of Apprentice Sorcerers and the Oxford Academy of Science -‘In 1957, described his machine thusly: “The Karmometer, which I have developed almost solely at the expense of myself and a small number of key private investors, performs a rather quite simple task, irrespective of its daunting size (the Karmometer took up nearly the entire space of a two-story barn on the Doctor’s New England estate).  Its sole purpose is to measure the karmic weight, volume, and density of a particular object, and to determine the level of negative or positive karmionic energy emitted from said object.  This enables the owner or prospective owner of the given item in question to determine what type of power the object holds, with regards to whatever psychic baggage has been acquired in the time since its production, and whether or not the object’s influence serves or hinders the interested party.  While the Karmometer has yet to be tested on more advanced life forms, a series of successful experiments recently conducted by myself and my anonymous colleagues on several species of insects and small rodents suggests that my machine’s potential for enhancing the quality of terrestrial existence is not only tremendous, but quite possibly limitless.”
1953 ... emergency in space! | by x-ray delta one
While Blakdragon’s proposal garnered little attention from the “serious” scientific community, the metaphysicists curiosities were predictably peaked.  While celebrated theorists from Altvgeld to Einstein derided him as a “crackpot egoist” and a “20th century snake oil huckster”, Guild members and others in the occult community plotted in secret to wrest control of the Karmometer from the playboy superscientist, to what end one can only speculate.  Whether his pet project was a shameless scam, a profound discovery, or a noble failure, the world would wait 30-some-odd years to learn the truth; Blakdragon’s research came to an abrupt halt with the disappearance of the Doctor on October 31st of that same year, a date which the significance thereof was not lost on either schooled occultists or the simply superstitious.  While investigation into Karmatic theory did continue, it did so on a much smaller scale; Blakdragon’s associates, perhaps fearful of their own fates, or possessed of disturbing information regarding the mystery, went underground, and the scientific community, obsessed with cancer research and the space program, all but forgot the spectre of Lucius Blakdragon until the emergence of quantum theory.

the dept.

nazi rocketeer 3 by IOEFXPROCPP2323 on DeviantArt
It has been widely known for some time that Hitler had agents scouring the globe for legendary objects reputed to possess tremendous supernatural power, ranging from the Holy Grail to the Monolith of Io. During this period the DEPT. established a tenuous camaraderie with the covert limb of the US Armed Forces operations in the European theater. Setting out from the neutral territory of Switzerland, DEPT. agents followed the lead of the SS, seeking the same objects and power sources as the Nazis, hoping, if not to beat them to the coveted items and sacred locales, then at least to prevent their misusing these potentially terrible weapons in their heady grab for world domination.

Thanks to the expedient evolution of technology which entered full swing during the Big One, the once-sequestered unofficial records of the DEPT.’s movements and motives begins to be more consistently documented during this period.  Extensive tapes, photos, and file footage have been uncovered, revealing some extremely shocking occurrences that popular history ignored, or missed completely. Horrors so profound they could almost make the death camps seem like playgrounds…

REDACTED

Perhaps the greatest act of selflessness and heroism to which any of the DEPT.’s agents could ever lay claim occurred on August 3rd, 1944, more than half a year before Hitler’s suicide and the Germans unconditional surrender. Despite the shroud of mystery and the vows of silence that kept it from becoming even a footnote to the struggle until now, the Battle of the Hollow Earth was instrumental in deciding not only the course of the war, but quite probably the fate of humanity.  For the time being.
 
According to sources, members of the DEPT. had utilized their vaudevillian mind control techniques on a number of grunts, selecting the malcontent, the indifferent, and the agnostic to make up their ragtag platoon of supersecret footsoldiers. In late summer of 1944, this motley assemblage of soldiers scientists, and DEPT. operatives encountered one of Hitler’s occult teams at the mouth of the tunnel that led into the core of the planet. Rumor and legend had it that the hollow interior was home to a race of extraterrestrial superhominids who had become stranded on Earth sometime dating back at least as far as the Egyptian empire. The opposing factions, equally determined in their respective goals, clashed at the site, and by chance, an explosion and subsequent avalanche sealed the tunnel entrance, and the Nazis were foiled.

Corroborated testimony from the debriefings suggests quite strongly that the DEPT. had finally succeeded in engaging the services of an actual combat zombie, a prototype at the very least, which was destroyed in the conflagration.  Thus, it can be said that one of the unsung heroes of the Second World War was in fact an Undead Soldier. Yet there is no gravemarker nor plaque to commemorate the selfless, and quite likely mindless, deeds of this khaki-clad Frankenstein’s monster.

T. Magnus Reid
A Top Secret History of the United States
White space shuttle illustration, science fiction, artwork, retro ...
You have to understand, the very nature of their work, work so abstract, so intangible, so bizarre that it placed them beneath legislative consideration. Most of their funding came from private citizens, perversely wealthy eccentrics who had traveled and studied extensively yet never been able to draw their own conclusions about a blessed thing.  This caused resentment, even hostility, towards the DEPT. from under-funded federal agencies whose work, in a societal sense, was far more practical, if not important.  But the boys at the DEPT. were crafty and sly, and had methods at their disposal of which most of us can at best hope to dream.
 
T. Magnus Reid,
A Top Secret History of the United States
Higher dimensional beings -FreeBeats- - YouTube
“I don’t know what’s over there, but it’d sure be a trip to fuck one.”

Baba “Doc” Octagon
Practicing Herbal Shockhealer

Berkeley
7 Strange Cases of Interdimensional Travel (With images ...
“Wild rumors have been circulating regarding these regions. That we have encountered hostility, that we are or will be at war with these…foreigners. Such rumors should, I think, be disregarded, no more true than the outlandish and absurd claims made by less ethereal conspiracy theorists. All contact, albeit limited, has to this date been utterly peaceable, and we have no more reason, save understandable caution in the face of the unknown, to doubt their intentions than they do ours.”

Ronald “Rusty” Mudbathe
2nd Dept Undersecretary
DEPT. of Dimensional Transport
Pin auf deep dream instagram collect
“Take us to your dealer.”

Dubious missive reportedly
received by Dimensional
Communications Faxline
DDT (origin unknown)
Steampunk'D — spacetalin: American Bombers in England, WW2
“I’m really sick and fuckin tired of all these limp-wrist, soft-shoe, ball-less, gutless, namby-pamby pussyfoot mama’s prodigal college boys wasting perfectly good air time and column space for free forum bitchfests. To hear them tell it, every civil servant in this country would mortgage his Grandma’s house to pay his gambling debts. Well, sometimes these things have to be done. It’s a wild kingdom out there, and somebody’s gotta pay the zookeeper.”

Lt. Cmdr. Hunt Rheingolden
Global Armed Services

Billboard for Pepsi Cola Modern (1970's to Present)

“I hear Pepsi’s in contact with their man over there.  Apparently, these…beings…are crazy about the stuff.  Not so much as a beverage as an apparent fuel source.”

Barney Actman
American Association
of Convenience Store Operatives
Forget Mad Men | Used cubicles
“I believe the possibilities for growth and expansion in the extradimensional marketplace have yet to be fully explored.”

Farley Weege
Chairman
Global Cartels Board
File:Industrial High School, Science Class, Demonstration of an ...

  “The problem, as I see it, is that you have a number, a growing number, of  shockingly ordinary individuals, men and women quite limited in capacity when it comes to matters involving practices, rituals, involving very ancient, even sacred, arts. What more attuned, less ‘civilized’ societies have been achieving through real magic, without benefit of quantum theory or sophisticated technology, since time immemorial. The intrinsic difference being that these pre-cultures have developed tremendous respect and profound understanding of the realms of transcendence, and that access granted, whatever the limitations, is a gift from the Gods, an opportunity for acquiring knowledge, not for exploiting this rich resource, as we so-called advanced societies seem hell-bent on doing.”
 
Dr. Small Ajax
Extradimensional Research Team
Harvard University
Cold War espionage paid off—until it backfired, East German spy ...
“Of course the administration was aware of the DEPT. Everyone who was anyone in Washington’s real inner circle knew about it. They were the subject of gossip, the butt of jokes, considered crazier and more dangerous than most CIA field ops. But it wasn’t kosher to admit that you believed any such nonsense. Paranormal phenomena were outré in that realm. And the boys from the DEPT. were persona non grata, except of course for that brief, triumphant period at the end of the Second World War, when the DEPT. was instrumental in stopping the Nazis from gaining access to the Hollow Earth.”

T. Magnus Reid
A Top Secret History of the United States
gif portal light Black and White creepy MY EDIT b&w clouds tornado ...


“Ladies and gentlemen, congressmen and senators, Mr. and Mrs. President, and all the ships in orbit…everything we feared, everything we imagined, everything we disbelieved, is true. We have evidence that certain…we’ll call them… entities are entering and leaving our dimension and acquiring various goods and returning with them to…the other side. We have reason to believe that these entities have nuclear capability, that they have indeed stolen, or perhaps even purchased, nuclear weapons from this dimension. We have no idea at this time what the effects or outcome of a trans or even multi-dimensional nuclear conflict might be, so we want to be certain that we test it first.
 
We feel that there would most likely be losses, acceptable losses, mind you, though we don’t know exactly whose losses, nor to what extent. Due to our inability to as yet enter the gate between our world and the next, it is apparent that a toll may well have to be paid. A taxable toll. And that tax might well come due in human lives. In the name of the human future, we’re prepared to meet that cost.
 
I’m an extradimensional engineer for Biocorp.  I design portals, entryways, into different…ah, I’m not sure what the company’s calling them these days.  A rival research organization has already copyrighted the term Dimension. In fact, I’ll probably get sued just for saying it then.  We’ll call them territories, if you will.  Paranormal territories.  Subreal regions of as-yet-undetermined space, mass, and volume which we feel could be…I hesitate to use the word exploited.  No, I don’t, actually.  Exploited to our gain.  We feel that these dimensions are already being exploited but not by the right groups.  You see everything is available to be exploited, it merely depends on who is doing the exploiting and we know when we are doing it, the end result and ultimate goal is for the good of us all.  Not just on a national, but a global, perhaps even universal level.
 
I’m working on a portal right now that is triggered by a chant, a very primitive chant that I’ve recorded from people’s indigenous to the region that was once the Brazilian rain forest.

There are many indigenous peoples who are traveling in and out of these dimensions, I’m sorry, territories.  Illegally in my opinion. Indigenous and non-indigenous. Non-indigenous beings who have followed the indigenous footsteps, creating a transindigenous superhighway between this plane and others.  We at the facility refer to this as “The Gypsy Flyway”. And that is a licensed trademark of Biocorp, for the record
 
We’re talking about losses of billions of trillions of dollars in revenue due to this virtually unfettered intradimensional travel.  We’re talking about gypsies from another dimension, stealing our nukes, stealing our jobs, stealing our children.
  
The DEPT. of Paranormal Affairs, really, is about jobs. We’re for jobs. The more jobs we’re able to provide, extradimensional engineers, plasmonauts, inner space cadets, alternate reality clerks, subatomic regional managers, commissioners of entity affairs, the better service we do for this country and the species as a whole, and the more this DEPT. has proven its worth in the eyes of the American People.”

Prof. Arvin Schock
Address to the Senate Subcommittee on Historical Revisionism
1952
Famous Private Detectives in Novels, Movies, and TV
“I didn’t useta believe in any a this stuff.  Wolfmen, vampires, ghosts, the walkin’ dead, creatures from deep space. I thought that was all just midnight movies and funny books and tabloid hoohah.  A bonafide skeptic.  But all that changes when ya see yer partner devoured by an unnameable thing while you stand there screamin and soilin yer Bugle Boys. When ya see the people ya love still livin, but not in human form.  That tends to shift the ol’ reality plane a few centimeters to the side.  Some go insane.  That’s cost us a lot.  We lost a lotta good people to the madness. We’re often forced to institutionalize them. Then ya don’t wanna see em again cause, y’know, well, it’s embarassin. And of course it’s top secret.”
 
Damon Ross
DEPT. agent (unspecified)

Ronald Raygun by Jason Rutledge on Dribbble
“I met the Reagans in 1954, debriefing them after their first UFO encounter. I recommended their astrologer.  In fact, I did Nancy’s first star chart, and after that she was sold. Darlings of the White Wing, and New Agers to boot. Whoda thunk it?”
                                                                                                 
Batheson Greeley
Former Director
DEPT.
(1942-1963)

The Good Fight 4: Homefront Out Today!

The Good Fight 4

Happy May Day, people! In honor of the occasion, why not go and get yourself a copy of The Good Fight 4: Homefront and check out Love Vigilantes, my latest addition to the ongoing saga of Duke “HandCannon” LaRue. This one’s the wild, raucous tale of his whirlwind romance, railgun wedding, domestic disasters, and unfathomable fallout with the love of his life and one-time partner-in-crime Liza Fate. Lots of other great tales of superheroic domesticity between these covers (be they paperback or digital). If you prefer, you can always hold out for a hard copy from me, once I’ve got my order in. Thank you for your continued patronage. Both of you!

Last Dance: The Tall Tale TV Audio Edition

Chris Herron at Tall Tale TV has done an audio version of my HandCannon short story, “Last Dance.” Chris himself has a great personal story, having turned on to audiobooks when he was suffering from temporary legal blindness in 2015. He’s since recovered, but launched this project both as a way to give back to folks who can’t experience stories the traditional way, and to give authors like me a promotional boost without having to shell out for the expense of creating an audiobook on our own. I think he’s done a terrific job and his project deserves more eyeballs and earholes, so how about you give this, and other Tall Tale TV stories, a listen?