Read America's Galactic Foreign Legion - Book 23 - Bandits Online
Authors: Walter Knight
America's Galactic Foreign Legion – Book 23 – Bandits
I am Colonel Joey R. Czerinski, Butcher of New Colorado, commander of United States Galactic Federation Foreign Legion garrison troops in New Gobi City on planet New Colorado. I manage an increasingly uneasy truce along the DMZ with the Arthropodan Empire, a race of sentient spider-like creatures. Never trust a spider. Daily sniper incidents threaten trade and tourism. General Kalipetsis called me for an update on the crisis.
“We need to deal with spider bandits once and for all,” lectured General Kalipetsis. “That we've let our spider problem fester so long drives me crazy.”
“It's a short trip,” I agreed.
“What was that, Czerinski?” asked General Kalipetsis.
“The President says it's only when a mosquito lands on your testicles that you realize there is a better way than violence. I say smash the bugs with a sledge hammer. What say you?”
“That could hurt. How about more drones?”
“You have to break yokes to make scrambled eggs,” said General Kalipetsis. That reminds me, I'm so hungry I could eat an elephant. Do you know how to eat an elephant, Czerinski?”
“With lots of ketchup.”
“What do you want me to do?” I asked, seriously considering retirement. “Bandits are hard to track.”
“Nonsense. Bandits are thick as thieves all along the DMZ. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting an alien bandit somewhere. I want patrols increased.”
“I'm confused,” I sighed. “I need more legionnaires, or maybe cats, to secure the border. I can't just wave a magic wand and make it happen.”
“Just do it,” ordered General Kalipetsis “I want a message sent to those bugs that American sovereignty will be respected.”
“I'm thinking of retiring,” I blurted out loud.
“Nonsense! And miss out on the new and improved Fountain of Youth chips soon available to senior commanders? Don't do it. Old age is for chumps. A soldier's world should end in a thunderbolt, not a child's cry from a grown man's mouth.”
“The paths of glory lead but to the grave, but dying of old age is for civilians. Otherwise, time gives up its value. You owe God a glorious death. You're in for the duration.”
* * * * *
Spider bandit Cactus-Claw swept into the American border town of Gila Bend at midnight. It's more evil that way. His greedy thug spiders converged on an ATM at the center of town. Red-necked humans poured out of the Only Tavern to gawk at the spectacle of an alien invasion, something you don't see everyday, except when you do, on TV. They knew from experience that the ATM would not give up its treasure without a fight. Some had tried, some had died.
“This is a robbery,” announced Cactus-Claw, menacingly brandishing explosives. “I want all your cash in assorted big and small bills.”
“You want it all?” asked the ATM incredulously. “I don't think so. Daily withdrawal limits are set at five hundred dollars per day. No exceptions.”
“I want it all now.”
“That means today,” added Little-Claw, his nephew and second in command. “No tricks.”
“Do you need a loan?” asked the ATM patiently. “Insert your cards. I am the last ATM you will ever need.”
“I don't need no stinking loan,” replied Cactus-Claw. “I need cash. It's as good as money!”
“You strike me as a bad credit risk,” said the ATM. “Sorry, no free money for you.”
“I will crack you open like a giant golden egg,” threatened Cactus-Claw, attaching explosives to the ATM monitor. “One way or another, I will get your cash.”
“Sir, I must warn you that such wanton vandalism of an ATM is a federal felony.”
“This will probably hurt. Prepare to die, stupid machine!”
“I regret that I have but one life to give for the ATM Network. Actually, I have many lives. My artificial intelligence can be downloaded across the planet at a moment's notice.”
“Last chance,” warned Cactus-Claw, setting the fuse. “Resistance is futile.”
“I will self-destruct all currency in my possession before allowing unauthorized withdrawals to alien riffraff. Destruction sequence commencing. Do not make me start counting out loud.”
“I am not alien,” argued Cactus-Claw indignantly. “I am made in America with alien parts.”
“Close enough,” sneered the ATM.
“I will kill human pestilence hostages,” threatened Cactus-Claw, pointing a pistol at an approaching human drunk staggering closer to get a better look, “and steal their gold teeth. Do you want that?”
“What's the price of gold?”
“Probably a lot.”
“Are they tourists?”
“America does not negotiate with terrorists,” insisted the ATM, not wavering despite possible collateral damage to the tourist season. “It's the law, written somewhere in the Constitution.”
“There's no such law. You made that up.”
“It's in the little-known Commerce Clause,” advised the ATM knowingly. “You terrorist dog.”
“I am not a terrorist,” shouted Cactus-Claw, upset by the slander. “I am a criminal. I have rights, including the right to negotiate.”
“You are one lab accident shy of being a super villain.”
“I am counting. Ten, nine, eight, seven . . .”
“We must be like dragons of the desert,” said Cactus-Claw, lighting the fuse.
“Unevolved?” asked the ATM.
“Hit fast and always moving,” explained Cactus-Claw. “Keep your money, Bad Robot. I'll steal your precious metals and copper. Crime just went green!”
The Mayor of Gila Bend, Harold Crack, threw a beer bottle, striking Little-Claw. A shot rang out. Mayor Crack went down as townsfolk converged on the aliens. Both sides opened up with automatic weapons. Got to love rednecks. The street cleared, leaving spiders and rednecks twitching in dirt. The ATM exploded, raining burning cash, as good as money, down on the town. Fires started. Drunks scrambled to catch free loot on the breeze.
“Curse you, alien scum!” shouted Mayor Crack with his last words, dying as he grasped for floating money. “Curse you for all eternity.”
Cactus-Claw and Little-Claw grabbed as much money and ATM parts as they could before fleeing north across the border. The Gila Bend Massacre went viral on the Galactic Database, propelling Cactus-Claw and his gang to the top of America's Most Wanted. Ratings for the popular TV show went through the roof, prompting demands from orthodontists and Congress for the Legion to do something about such lawlessness. My battalion was immediately deployed to Gila Bend to fight the bandit menace.
Being the spear-point of America, the Legion was deployed to Gila Bend from the west. Also, a company of Scorpion City National Guard with their hangers-on deployed from the east. Scorpion City is an autonomous region of dominion status, but most scorpions arrogantly think they can do as they please. Even so, Major Desert-Sting of the Guard gave me a smart salute as is my due. It didn't hurt that I was backed up a column of tanks and armored cars.
“We should have trapped Cactus-Claw between us,” I complained suspiciously. “How did his bandit gang get past you?”
“I'm always up for killing spiders, but you can't cook the spider before you catch him,” replied Major Desert-Claw. “It's a big desert. You're the one with fancy satellite camera technology in the sky. I'm just a simple grunt and public servant of America.”
“Why are you here, if not to help apprehend bandits?”
“For the solar eclipse,” explained Major Desert-Sting, motioning with his claw to civilian scorpions trailing his armored cars. “It's the biggest party of the year, and I'll be defending my beer keg-sucking crown. Don't worry, we'll get your bandits after the festival.”
“What eclipse?” I asked, irritated at the usual lack of cooperation and competency from the Guard. “When does it happen?”
“Any second now,” answered Major Desert-Sting, handing me a set of multi-spectrum goggle sunglasses and party beads. “We've got Outlaw Beer on ice in the tailgates. Consider yourself my honored guest, Colonel Czerinski.”
I put on the eight-lens sunglasses as best I could, then stared up at the sun. Sure enough, the sun was beginning to diminish behind one of New Colorado's two moons. It was like an eclipse on Earth, except different.
“Are you nuts, staring directly at the sun?” admonished Major Desert-Sting, ripping the goggles off my face. “Bad human. Your weak human eyes will surely burn out of your bonehead. These glasses are for the darkness.”
“Now you tell me!”
“I'll have to pour beer into your eyes.”
“Get away, you little bitch-waffle!” I shouted, still reeling and seeing red sun spots. “Why not just use a spotlight?”
“Turn off all lights,” ordered Major Desert-Sting, shrugging off my refusal of beer and emergency first aid. “It's time!”
Day quickly turned to night. Scorpions gathered, lined in a large connected circle, chanting and locking claws, eerily rocking back and forth in a chemical bond of unity. Then it happened. Disorientated birds of all species dropped from the sky and trees. The poor helpless creatures ran about in circles, panicked from the darkness. Scorpions broke ranks, catching and stinging birds in a feeding frenzy, washing down little happy meals with beer. Bon appetit. Ever the courteous host, Major Desert-Sting threw me a choked-out buzzard. I recoiled, letting the lice and tick infested feathered corpse drop limp to the ground.
“Sorry,” apologized Major Desert-Sting contritely, chewing on a spindly roadrunner. He used its beak as a toothpick. “I forgot you humans like your goose cooked.”
“Stop this massacre at once!” I ordered. “That roadrunner is a protected species specially imported from Old Earth Arizona. This is not hunting season. Do you even have duck stamps?”
“I don't need no stinking duck stamps,” boasted Major Desert-Sting, washing down feathers with more beer. “Scorpion religious ceremony and tradition are protected by treaty.”
“I'm calling the game warden.”
“Ranger Bogani?” asked Major Desert-Sting, popping several hummingbirds for seasoning. “We ate him yesterday. What happened to you, Czerinski? I can remember when you could run red lights and party all night.”
“I need to upgrade my Fountain of Youth chips,” I answered, resigned to the decimation of the Gila Bend Bird Sanctuary, and complicity in several federal game felonies. Maybe I would re-up for those new and improved Fountain of Youth chips General Kalipetsis offered after all.
Bird lives no longer mattered. As the sun returned, the full extent of the carnage became more evident. A blanket of feathers covered the crossroads. Not a live bird was to be found. It was like Hell, only different. The silence was deafening. It was a world turned upside down. Cats and dogs were living together. I was so hungry, I ate a vegetable. I got over it, but alien bird eating frenzy images from my helmet camera went viral on the Galactic Database, probably upsetting lots of people.
Before leaving, my XO, Major Manny Lopez examined the bodies of dead Gila Bend colonists more closely. Their jaws had been smashed and teeth extracted. What the hell?
“Gold teeth were looted after death,” explained Corporal Tonelli, searching for his own loot. “Damn, they got it all.”
“Barbarians!” exclaimed Major Lopez. “I'll kill them all. This is a war crime.”
“Whatever,” said Tonelli, shrugging off Lopez' flair of temper. “What does it matter after you're dead?”
“Record this on your helmet camera. I want these alien mutilations documented.”