Authors: Walter Knight
But, something was terribly wrong.
Jets failed as Hamburga got closer. Explosions filled the cabin with smoke. Out of control,
crashed into solid rock, bounced in low gravity, and came to rest in a small crater. The crew was still alive, but not for long.
lost air pressure. They donned their spacesuits, but the Grim Reaper would claim them soon.
In the cold vacuum of space, no one can hear you scream.
The sight of a large alien space ship filled the portals, settling next to the wreckage.
What the hell?
Captain Ride desperately pressed her face against a portal for a better look. She could see writing on the side of the craft,
* * * * *
Stanford University and the McDonald’s Corporation successfully lobbied Congress to bypass time-travel protocols and mount a rescue mission for
. Orders came directly from the President: Save Sally Ride.
Now I led legionnaires down the ramp of our shuttle to the wreckage.
The mission was to escort the
crew aboard, effect repairs, and send them back to Old Earth. Captain Ride was destined for greatness, not death on an asteroid.
I tapped on a portal, motioning to be allowed in.
Captain Ride pointed to the other legionnaires, alarmed by their armaments.
Oh, good grief.
“Do you want us to leave?” I radioed.
“Good point, sir.”
The main hatch popped open. I led Captain Ride to the
. Legion techs initiated repairs, duct-taping fuel lines and gaping holes.
Ha! Another use for duct tape, saving Challenger.
“My name is Colonel Joey R. Czerinski,” I
said, introducing myself. “I’m from the future. We are here to save you. Your crew is being debriefed, but you and I need to speak privately.”
“Czerinski, same as your starship?” asked Captain Ride.
“You make quite a first impression on a girl.”
’s a token of gratitude from a grateful nation,” I bragged. “I also have a boulevard named after myself on New Colorado.”
“Poland conquered the stars?”
“You will take me to New Colorado?” asked Captain Ride, brightening.
“My Polish hero and savior intends to whisk me off my feet and across the galaxy? You had me at the portal.”
“My orders are to send you back to Old Earth to do great things.
You are to make a difference for America.”
“I want to make a difference on New Colorado,” argued Captain Ride.
“There is no going back.”
“Hold out your arm,” I ordered, injecting meds with a hypo.
“It’s just an inoculation against space induced osteoporosis, cancer, solar radiation, space rot, bird flu, and some other nasties my crew carries. Damn sand mites get everywhere. As a bonus, I included a complementary micro chip that slows aging.”
“How shall I ever repay you, Colonel Czerinski?
I’m overwhelmed by your generosity.”
“How about sex?” I blurted out, giving it a shot.
“We could make history, the first humans to do it on an asteroid.”
“That would be quite a legacy, but I
’ll pass,” answered Captain Ride stiffly. “Have you no couth?”
“No, not really.
I’m in for the duration. It’s been a long time out on the frontier with just aliens.”
“Aliens?” marveled Captain Ride.
“We’re not alone?”
“You and your crew are going to learn things from my men that need to be kept top secret,” I explained patiently.
“The less you know about aliens, the better.”
“I am an explorer,” bristled Captain Ride.
“It’s not my nature to be kept in the dark. Tell me everything.”
crashed because of an O-ring seal on a rocket, freezing a line to an outside fuel tank,” I started. “It’s technical.”
’m a physicist. I live and breathe technical. Continue.”
“You crashed and broke your space ship.
Too bad, so sad. After repairs, we’re sending you back on a new mission. Congress wants to cut NASA’s budget. That must not happen. The survival of humanity depends on America’s accelerated expansion into space.”
“Because humanity is alone, surrounded and under siege by a galaxy of bug empires. We must build and prepare to defend our species against an alien invasion. I’m sending you back with downloaded information containing inventions and technological innovations. Most important, I will give you knowledge of sporting events so you can parlay insider knowledge into a multi-billion-dollar Las Vegas empire, to co-fund NASA. I wish I could join you on Old Earth to see it happen, but the powers-to-be don’t trust me with money. Me, a Hero of the Legion. Can you believe it?”
se crazy idea was this Las Vegas scheme?”
“Mine,” I answered indignantly.
“Please, we need you. It will work. I’m so proud to meet you, Sally, to see the Space Age being born again. When I joined the Foreign Legion, I never thought I could make a difference. I just wanted to survive the day one step ahead of the Grim Reaper, but they kept promoting me. We are going to propel America across the stars. No one else but America can do it.”
“Why not just give me lottery numbers?”
“It’s more fun going to Vegas, baby.”
“Do you really have sand mites?” asked Captain Ride, relenting for a moment on my earlier proposition.
“Oh, never mind.”
’re hardly noticeable.”
“How did someone as immature as you ever get promoted to Full-Bird-Colonel?” asked Captain Rider, still sizing me up.
“I saved the world eight times, and the galaxy three. I’m a Hero of the Legion. I get perks for that. You should be more appreciative. I even saved you. Twice.”
“Thank you for your service and for saving me,” replied Captain Ride, determined more than ever to give back and to do her duty for America and humanity.
“Twice? If you won’t tell me about aliens, is there anything else I should know?”
“Yes, vote Republican.
Humanity depends on it.”
“Did you know all legionnaires are injected with a tracking chip to prevent desertion?” asked Corporal Tonelli conversationally. “It’s embedded in your ass.”
“Yes,” answered Private Christ.
“That’s the first thing I was warned about. It’s in the fine print of my enlistment contract. Desertion is a capital offense too. We’re all in for the duration, whatever that means.”
’t that grate on you?”
“Why should it?
I just got here. It’s all good, we volunteered. Right? I even swore an oath on the Bible.”
“But what if you could get away?” pressed Tonelli.
“Wouldn’t you take it?”
“Before I collect on the Yankees game?
No way, José.”
“If we traveled back in time, we would know all the scores in advance.
Better yet, the Legion couldn’t track us with their satellites. We’d be free to do as we pleased.”
“Czerinski would hunt us through time and space,” reasoned Christ.
“Our death would be slow and painful. It’s the law. Do you think I want to go through that again?”
“Czerinski is nothing but a low-rent thug and thief.
All he cares about is himself. I’ll take care of Czerinski. I’ve got gold. We can travel back in time to make our fortune, and Czerinski can’t stop us. Come with me. We’ll be rich.”
If you want to desert, just do it. You don’t need my blessing.”
“I know who you are, and so does everyone else in the battalion,” explained Tonelli.
“Or, at least they suspect. It’s only a matter of time before the galaxy figures out the truth and breaks down our door to find you. Already tourists are asking about you. The CIA and scientists will want to stick pins and needles into you to find out what makes you tick. Religions will claim you as their own. Aliens will try to abduct you. Do you want to risk getting probed by aliens?”
“Is that bad?”
“Very bad. Jehovah’s Witnesses will search door to door for you. Then, there’s the Illuminati. God only knows what those freaky Mason fiends might do to you if you don’t cooperate and give them a direct pipeline to Heaven. If you don’t give the secret sign, they’ll use you for a ritual sacrifice, or cut off your balls.”
“There is no direct pipeline to God.
Sometimes Dad gives everyone the silent treatment, and sometimes miracles fall from the sky like cats and dogs.”
“Dad gets jealous because I can walk on water, and He can’t.”
“I understand completely.
Well? Are you in?”
“You still did not answer my question.
Why me? What’s in it for you to drag me along?”
“My gold is heavy,” answered Tonelli, stalling.
“I need help carrying it.”
’t trust you Romans. Crucify me once, shame on you. Crucify me twice, shame on me.”
’m just covering all my bases,” confessed Tonelli, crossing himself. “I never worried about getting into Heaven before, because I figured God don’t let legionnaires in. I’m a sinner. Being Italian-American, I get tainted with that Sicilian Mafia brush all the time. There’s no such thing as the Mafia, but still, that’s two strikes against me from the start. If I left you behind to be probed by aliens or burned at the stake by Masons, it would be strike three. I’d burn for all eternity in Hell for sure.”
“I see your point.
Okay, I’m all in.”
* * * * *
Williams was Sergeant of the Guard at the time machine bunker portal when Tonelli and Christ arrived with heavy duffles loaded on push dollies. Sergeant Williams waved his friend Tonelli through the security gates. “Guido, what’s up?”
“Ever want to just get away?” asked Corporal Tonelli.
“Travel to Tennessee and Old Earth? Fire flies at night, smooth hickory wind blowing from Memphis, chiggers, fire ants, noisy cicadas, and every kind of poisonous snake, Land of Cotton, old times there are not forgotten.”
“The time machine is off limits.
Unauthorized time travel is a capital offense.”
“Everything worth doing these days is a capital offense,” scoffed Tonelli.
“What’s the harm? We’ll cover for you while you visit. When you get back, we will slip away in time, never to be seen or heard from again. Who’s to know?”
“What about Colonel Czerinski?”
“Czerinski hates us both. He’ll be glad to be rid of us, that’s for sure. The man holds a grudge forever.”
“True, but I can
’t let you through. Everything is recorded on video. Colonel Czerinski will search the four corners of the world to track us down.”
“The world is round.
He won’t find us. Think of it. You could go back and see freshman Heisman Trophy winner Adam Traidman lead Middle Tennessee State University to the NCAA Championship over USC. You would be living and breathing history, and making money to boot. These duffles are stuffed with gold bars, my life’s savings. Life on God’s green Earth is too short to not embrace a once-in-a-lifetime chance for a big score when it falls in your lap. It’s destiny that you go back to the Volunteer State to watch that game in person.”
“Go Blue Devils!” shouted Sergeant Williams, letting out a rebel yell as they leaped through the time machine portal to the
* * * * *
The Gulf Drug Cartel, supplied with Al Qaeda weapons, was ready to flex its muscles across the Rio Grande to Brownsville, Texas. Manufacturing factories in Matamoros, State of Tamaulipas, already paid regular tribute. The Mexican army ceded the prized port to the Cartel long ago. Only the American Coast Guard blockade hindered the Gulf Cartel’s drug-smuggling operations.
would pay dearly for their insult.
Roberto Mora commanded five thousand heavily armed Gulf Cartel soldiers in Matamoros.
Hell, he even had a tank and mortars left by the Mexican army. At dawn, Mora occupied the Municipal Palace. Two hours after the noon siesta, Cartel soldiers seized the General Motors car factory, holding workers hostage for ransom. Downtown, Mora’s tank and infantry staged by the Puente Nuevo Bridge over the Rio Grande. Not since the days of Poncho Villa had a Mexican patriot been so audacious as to challenge
military and their DEA. Yes, today Mora would even the score with those gringos for years of arrogance toward Mexico.