DEVIL'S WEEK

Get ready for an extra-special treat, Freezine aficionados. Because this very Halloween, the Freezine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is proud to present a brand new, never-before-published horror tale from veteran author John Shirley. So if you're ready to be taken to an extremely dark place right now, then be sure to read on for our final tale for the October season, THE SOFTEST PILLOW, by John Shirley.


Cemetery Art above by Shaun Lawton
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Detail of painting below by Shasta Lawton


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

JUNE ISSUE


Proudly Presents

THE DEVO RIOTS
by Gil James Bavel
© by gil james bavel
click pic to begin reading



AFTER HOURS IN THE AM/PM
by Sean Manseau
© by sean manseau




NOT BREATHING
by John Claude Smith
© by john claude smith





The JUNE 2010 issue features a triptych of stories brought to you by three unique voices willing to share their vision here with you, for free. The Freezine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and its readers both remain grateful for their willing participation.

A hearty shout-out goes out first to our Lead-in author, Gil James Bavel, a native of facebook sprouting from the warped, digital topography of the midwestern United States. [Kansas is The Sunflower State, which is quaint; Sunflowers will most likely leave the strongest impression on my own memory, soon.] Gil leaps onto the Freezine stage with the uncanny grace of a cat who's been there, and done that. [It appears as if the nanofleet's subterfuge has been working at optimal capacity; Gil's just more proof in the pudding.]

I myself have been a Minister of Slack in the Church of the SubGenius going on 19 years; whereas Gil here has me beat by a full 4 years. The recent revelation about his Cardinalship in that innocuous organisation has made it clearer that the nanofleet swarming in my bloodstream (and possessing me to release the Freezine) are on a far more complex and dedicated mission than I had originally suspected. Within their suprageomagnetic web, they have ensnared more than just John the Revelator from the desert of the real; they are amassing a motley force of various creative individuals who's seemingly inadvertent gathering here promises much more than a merely oblique fate.

THE DEVO RIOTS is a powerful story and comment on the evolution of camaraderie, among other things, that I found quite engaging to read and think about. Its having coincided with the release of DEVO's first album in twenty years, is yet more evidence that the microbot swarm has a master plan that I am slowly being teased into beginning to understand, myself. Gil's story made me laugh, gave me chills, and touched my heart. For that, and for having the graciousness to allow my modest forum here to present his creative work, I will remain forever grateful. Thanks, Gil.


Next up, Sean Manseau returns with his second offering for the Freezine. If you missed out on his other story RABBIT'S RUN, you should definitely scroll down to his Author Bio in the side margin, and click on the thumbnail icon which leads directly to it. Sean and I were classmates in a creative writing workshop tutored by John Shirley a few years ago. I am really glad he's returned to the Freezine, because I enjoyed his stories the most, and it is a distinct honor for me to have him board our cybership of literary misfits.

AFTER HOURS IN THE AM/PM is more than just a clever method of implementing an old literary device, the voice transcript; it is an incisive commentary on our detached youth culture and the digital age, as well as seamlessly incorporating a wry homage to one of the most influential horror authors of the 20th century. What more could one ask for in a blogzine such as this?

A short note about the illustration. The original title of my watercolor on photographic paper was CITYSCAPE V: OBLIVION. It was left on the cutting room floor during the creation of Vincent Daemon's WAITING FOR THE END. It's one of my very favorite personal watercolors. I always thought of it as inherently Lovecraftian, in the cosmic sense. Originally intended to depict the "final stage" of our civilized landscape having been literally obliterated, it now finds its rightful place as the window in between the cracks of space, revealing a vista as strange and terrifying as the implications suggested in Sean's excellent story.

Thanks for daring to return to this lonesome vessel in cyberspace, Manseau. We are all the richer for it.



Last but not least, the Freezine is quite pleased to offer its viewership the thoughtful work of John Claude Smith. A fellow dreamer and pirate of the cyberways, I met John on facebook and therefore can honestly state without fear of reproach that this social utility network has proven itself absolutely invaluable to me. Thank the nanobots and whatever force guides their weaving that I somehow hooked up with this genuine artist that must have the soul of a painter.

His short story NOT BREATHING achieved it's implication by taking my own breath away. On my first reading I knew this was a story for the Freezine, despite its surface appearance of not necessarily fitting the genre. Yet I disagree with that suggestion, as NOT BREATHING weaves a bewitching narrative which eventually snakes its way through various modes of expression, until its subtle layered meanings swallowed up within deeper meanings reveals a stark work of powerful force.

I consider it one of the best zombie stories I've read in years, and hesitate to categorize it as such, because it is far more than being limited to a mere genre story, like that. This is a fragile and complex word creation whose seperate struts and levels of architecture achieve a strong resonance with each other.

I knew there was no way I could allow this gem to be published without the proper artwork, so my wife and I happily assigned ourselves a few projects. I printed up a photograph I took of a PC screen-shot of a still-frame from a digital movie taken on my cellphone. I handed the printed page of the broken down window blinds to my wife, and asked her if she'd want to draw something on it. She seized the opportunity and what you see above the story are the results.

We are quite pleased with the outcome of this particular story and artwork. In classic Freezine style, we somehow produced a piece of art that once again, stands on its own while also complementing the story for which it was designed. A million thanks go out to my bride Shasta, and much gratefulness toward John Claude Smith. Thanks for taking a chance with this cyberpublication, not to mention for having the wherewithall to break the paradigm of traditional publishing and merely giving your beautiful art to a deserving audience.



The Freezine Returns In A Handful Of Weeks. Stay tuned. Catch up. Good night. Reach out.



freezinefantasysciencefiction@gmail.com

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Submit longer works for daily serialization.
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Sunday, June 27, 2010

NOT BREATHING

by John Claude Smith


photo and illustration by Shasta Fletcher and Shaun Lawton





When it happened, I remember not feeling anything, just disconnected from the world, or at least from being human.

I know a lot went into the process of even being able to do it—to leave the relationship as if it was the dead end situation I knew it to be. Yet, because children were involved, a certain level of guilt crested like a breaker and, eventually, after too long, the mind starts to come back, and the breaker crushes one’s soul.

But, that is not what is truly revealed—no! What is shown to those who sink under the guise of guilt is something...richer. The swirling undertow opens one to possibilities never conceived.

Why one would want to explore these possibilities is beyond me, but when the guilt has run its course and is heaving and out of breath, well, what is left afterwards?

Discarding with preconceived notions of reality, one opens one’s eyes for the first time. (And what is reality anyway? What is this mottled mirage that corrupts all of our lives, bending us under its deceptive force?)

Wallowing longer than necessary, well, that’s just pathetic. So many lost souls succumb to the ache and allow the malaise to rule the rest of their lives.

I knew what I needed, though. I just needed to feel tethered to something again; to feel human, again.

That’s where you came in. Meeting you—victim of many disintegrated relationships—we somehow connected. As odd as it sounds, it seems you have always been there for me.

Initially we slept in the back seats of broken down cars at the junk yard. We found a hub of hope within each other; warmth amidst a freezing winter.

What you gave me beyond the matching mindset (though your relationships were more transient, you felt similarly adrift), was the tether I needed to feel human again. I remember laying next to you, your naked flesh pressed against mine, and listening to you breathe; and finding within your breathing, the ability to copy it, to ride the inhaled and exhaled breath.

Through this simple practice, I acclimated myself to something I had thought I had lost, and felt in touch with being human again; to being in touch with somebody again.

Eventually we moved up to hotel rooms—a week’s stay here, a few days there—as we picked ourselves up, piecemeal work and begging on the streets and finally, a studio apartment more like a cardboard box, but it would be home for now.

But you brought something with us that ruined everything.

Because of the way we had tumbled together, I did not see the whole of you, just what was needed for me to get by. I was selfish, but my selfishness was a direct result of feeling like everything was spinning down a drain and there was nothing to grab on to, nothing to stop the descent.

There are times when one has to be selfish, to survive.

I saw the needles and your bruised arms, saw the glaze in your gaze, and knew something was amiss, but I did not take a stand because I figured, maybe, that you needed to hold on to something as well.

I just wished it was me...

We had conversations, talked about it. You knew you had to kick, I knew I had to be supportive through this.

But I allowed the gnawing guilt a place to roost in my head. I knew I had to go see my kids, to talk to them, say something, anything, desperation—the one vicious bastard that erodes true thought—forcing me to leave you on a night when I knew you really needed me.

Still, I had to go, had to try and see them, but was turned away before I made it to the door of the apartment, the ex-wife acting as if she does not even know me, seeming more scared than anything else—“I’ll call the police if you don’t leave us alone!”—me, shrugging my shoulders, skulking toward her, pleading, “But honey, I just want to see the kids,” and the worried look on her face, this time her response more firm: “I’m calling the police. You need to leave—now!” And the boy looking up at me, curiosity set in his blue eyes, me saying, “Son...” and him stepping back as his mother pushes him into the apartment, the girl in the background, playing with dolls, oblivious, but his look—his look—the bitch had obviously brainwashed him, corrupted him, done something to make him not remember his own father—my rage crested, “Let me see the kids!” and she slammed the door shut and I heard the confirmation from behind the green painted wood as the boy asked, “Who was that man, Mommy? Why does he keep bothering us?” and the ex's response: “I told you before, Tommy. There are those among us who are no longer human; they might look human, but they are not. We have to deal with them with a firm word or more. That thing has become fixated on us, ever since your father passed away, as if its soul can replace your father’s, but no...” and me feeling completely confused for more reasons than her deranged, inconceivable explanation—her lies!

Tommy? The name is not a part of my recollection.

I shudder, body buckling, vomiting in the hallway, but nothing pours out of me, whatever remains inside empty of substance.

I feel dead and know I have lost everything after the brutal verification the preceding scene has shown me, the aftermath of listless months trying to stay afloat with you; you being the only thing I really have anymore, but you having me and the addiction, and I’m not sure if I am first on that list.

The proof of where I stand is apparent when I get back to the studio apartment.

The door is unlocked and slightly ajar. The room smells bad, but I wonder if the mess is just the result of our lack of focus. I mean, most of the time we just embrace and hold each other, trying to keep breathing, when not drowning our existences in menial work and begging at the intersections and whatnot.

We are at least trying, and that is better than the pathetic par (the streets are crawling with the pathetic par), though slipping often as we try.

I strip off my clothes and snuggle next to you on the stained and torn mattress. Pulling bundled, filthy sheets over my feeble body—cockroaches scuttle away at my intrusion—I whisper “I love you” and “I’m sorry I was gone, I had to see my kids, but...”

The words die in my throat.

You don’t stir, don’t respond. I am not one to think much of it, but then I realize two powerfully blunt truths: You are cold in ways that make my skin hurt.

And you are not breathing.

My tether, my anchor to this world and the pain and fury of being human, of aching in ways that scrape out the hollow within and leave a vacancy where the soul should reside—you are not breathing!

I shake you a little, “c’mon,” but you don’t c’mon. You chill the emptiness with your barren presence.

I hold you because there is nothing else for me to do, there is nothing else for me to say—oh, a dashed off, “I’m sorry for leaving tonight”—but that is simply the punch-line to the joke that is my existence.

My eyes tear up, but it’s little more than dust. I have no tears to shed. I have nothing now, nothing forever. I have failed this relationship, too, and there is nothing left for me to do but hold you and wonder, yes wonder: why am I still breathing?

But then, the joke is completed as I realize my breath is nothing more than a memory of when I was more than a shadow...

And you turn to me and ask, “What’s up, babe?” in a voice like sandpaper and ashes and I cry out, “Why are you alive?” and you smile and I see in your stained yellow teeth something twitching and crunching and you say, “Because we have each other, to remind each other, of what it is to be human, even if you have not come around to what you are now, which is something less,” and I squeeze you with all my might and there’s nothing there, nothing of substance, just like what did not pass from my bowels in that distant hallway a few hours ago.

What you said sounds too much like what I think, and it’s time for me to come around.

The sheets are devoid of anything but stale smells and my quaking body and the needle that still protrudes from my scarred arm.

I force myself from their tangled grasp, slouch into the bathroom. The mirror is broken but I can still see my reflection—our reflection—skin draped sickly over a hunched skeleton splashed in the middle like a shattered ripple across a restless lake; restless because I convulse in disgust, scratching scabs off of bruised arms.

Off of dead arms: the bruises indicative of decay, of death.

I move closer, staring into the void that is my pupils, my eyes; eyes I used to know so well.

The mirror disavows my presence: the fog of breath is absent.

I hit the mirror with my bony fist; it is not the first time. My reflection splints even more, pieces raining to the sink, the floor.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men...

Each piece holds a sliver of my soul, of what used to be my soul. Of what was abandoned, but has never found a home after...

What remains is the body, the rotting flesh and abysmal vestiges of what once was human.

The silence of my scream, the bloodless stump that is my ragged hand, the soot collecting on my transfixed orbs, all is grim confirmation that the monkey riding my back is a weighty gorilla intent on breaking it.

Having opened my eyes to the possibilities, it is made excruciatingly clear that my reality has been shaped by the needle, ever since my death, the death of my soul, and the bewilderment that accompanies my being, my still being here, existing somehow, a zombie but not a zombie, a dream of being human again.

But the dead souls drift through the dead flesh, corroding my thoughts with their needs, and this one, with this wife and two children, this one crowds me but cannot take over this worn out flesh, because this one is more recent, as I once was (a jolt amidst the contemplation, an epiphany: this is not even my body!), a novice to this deathstyle, and all I have are the lies I believe as true, and the hallucinations that flash as memories, but not just my memories, many memories of many other lives. It is all a part of its insidious lure.

It. The human blood in the syringe.

I want to bleed again, to be human again...

I look at the torn fist, maggots squirming in the tattered wound, as if they have been there for a long time.

The body slumps to the floor. Its reflection stares at me from different perspectives, silently wishing for a death already experienced, but not finalized in this cruel limbo world between.

I would sigh but I am unable to as this body is lacking the one thing to instigate this sick confirmation within myself.

It is not breathing.

But its veins are hungry...again.





Friday, June 25, 2010

AFTER HOURS IN THE AM/PM

by Sean Manseau







Can you explain what we're watching?

Uh, sure. Obviously it's a security video. You know, black and white, kinda grainy. Convenience store. Camera's up in the ceiling, looking down from behind the counter. On the counter there's the register, the Lotto machine, the controls for the gas pumps. Down on the floor's the milk crate you sit on when no one's in the store. Past the counter you can see a snack nut display and a cooler shaped liked a giant can of Red Bull. There's cases of Diet Coke stacked next to the entrance, on the left there.

Do you recognize this store?

It's the Florence AM/PM. Ha! Look (points to figure who has appeared from screen right, a young man in a hooded sweatshirt, oversized shorts and untied sneakers). That's me! Too bad they didn't get my good side (laughs). I'm walking over to play "House of the Dead".

For the record, will you read aloud the timestamp in the lower left corner of the screen?

Yeah, it's, uh, October 26th of last year. 1:30 in the morning.

Does that date hold any significance for you?

Huh. (Pause) I don't think so. Should it? I mean...oh. Oh, shit! That night! It's all on tape? They told me they lost the tapes! What--

There are some anomalies upon which we're hoping you can shed some light.

Some what?

Unexplained events.

You mean like when Randy Lennox summoned an Elder God and it started pulling Tommy Ogden limb from limb? That was pretty fucking unexplained! That was some serious X-Files shit, am I right?

(Tape change: camera 3, magazine rack. Tape paused at 1:31:09)

Can you identify this young man?

Well, that's Randy. You can't see his face, but you can tell it's him because of that black raincoat he always wore. His hair's all hanging down like he's Cousin It or something. Last summer gas got so friggin' dear, I used to swear when it went to five bucks a gallon I'd just wring out Randy's head when I needed to fill up. I don't think that kid washed his hair once all of high school.

Did he frequent the AM/PM?

Yeah, most nights. Honestly, you hardly even noticed he was there. He just read magazines. Now see that guy? (At 01:28:41:09, the clerk behind the counter moves into the frame) That's my buddy Brad. The AM/PM got robbed three times last year, and each time it was when the clerk was alone in the store. So I'd hang out when Brad was working. Kind of like security, you know? Anyway, Brad wasn't supposed to let anybody do that--read the magazines. The manager would give him hell if the pages got wrinkled. But I talked him into it.

Because Mr. Lennox a friend of yours, as well?

I wouldn't go that far. He lived across the street from me. We sort of grew up together. We palled around 'til maybe 9th grade.

And after that?

I don't know. Once I discovered chicks, I realized that chicks would not dig on a guy who was too friendly with someone like Randy. So we stopped hanging out.

"Someone like Randy?" Can you say more about that?

(shrugs) When we were kids, we were kind of into the same stuff. Pokemon, when we were really young. Then "Magic: The Gathering," "Sandman". We LOVED comic books. But I turned him on to real books. Horror stuff, mostly--my older brother had left all his old paperbacks when he went to Afghanistan. When he didn't come back they were mine. Stephen King, Clive Barker, T.E.D. Klein, stuff like that. Randy's favorite was H.P. Lovecraft. "In the Mountains of Madness," that was his big one. Randy just thought Lovecraft was the shit. Me, I couldn't make heads or tails of it. Too many big words.

So yeah, now that I think about it...Randy and me, we were pretty tight, I guess. At least until I told him about my cousin Stu.

What happened then?

I'm talking about Stu Cranston, the astronaut? He's my third cousin on my mom's side. Cousin Stu was one of the guys who went to the moon. He didn't get to take one giant step, though. He just stayed up in the main capsule, orbiting, waiting for his buddies to cruise around in their moon buggy and drive some golf balls and then come on back up. This was a million years ago, back in the fifties.

My Uncle Dave met him at a family reunion thing once. Said Cousin Stu didn't look so good. He was totally sauced, had bristles on one cheek, like he'd forgotten to finish shaving. And he smelled like ass. But Dave always liked outer space shit, he was always bragging about being related to a real-live astronaut, so he made sure he got Stu alone to talk. He asked him, you know, Cousin Stu, what was it like up there? Really? And Stu said, What they don't tell you is, you have to keep your eyes on something bright. The Earth, the Moon, a certain star, it doesn't matter. Because if you spend too much time looking in the space between the stars, you start to think there's something there. Looking back at you. Waiting, Cousin Stu said. Just waiting. He got this look on his face then, like he was trying to figure out what show was playing on a TV in another room. Dave said that was when he decided it was a good time to go looking for a beer.

And Mr. Lennox's reaction was...?

Randy liked that story. No, Randy fucking loved that story. He asked to hear it over and over until I got sick of telling it. He put it together with his Lovecraft obsession. "Stoney, do you think it could be real? Stoney, what if it's real? Stoney, what if there's really these Elder Gods that are so horrible you can't even look at them, and they're coming back to Earth some day? What if that's what your Cousin Stu saw?" until you were like, "Shut the fuck up, Randy! No wonder nobody likes you!"

Then all that shit about his dad started to come out. Randy's dad Mr. Lennox was the high school chemistry teacher...well, until he got caught diddling one of the girls on the JV track team. I didn't talk to Randy much after that. He stopped coming to school for about three months. And even after he did come back...one time I saw him in the corridor between classes. I'm on a basement pass, nobody else around, just me and him. He's coming toward me, head tucked into the collar of that black raincoat. I'm like, "S'up, Randy?" And he doesn't even look at me. Just scuttles on by.

So I hadn't talked to him in ages. But then early one Sunday six months later he comes to knocking at our front door. Smoking a cig, trying to look cool, but his hands were shaking. He kept licking his lips, which was pretty gross because he had this big cold sore. There was this estate sale on Birch St, see, some professor at Smith had kicked the bucket, and there was this book Randy wanted. It was something special, something he'd been looking for.

Did he tell you the title?

He did, but I don't remember. The author had a raghead name, Abdul somebody. Anyway the old lady running the sale only wanted two dollars for it. But Randy didn't have it.

"Please," he said. "Please, Stoney. There's nobody else I can ask." And he started to cry.

God, I felt bad for him. Randy's dad was in Walpole, his mom was the town bike, and if two bucks could get him a little bit of happiness, what the fuck? So I fished around in my mom's junk drawer until I came up with eight quarters. I didn't like how he looked when I handed it over--he was so eager. It was kind of sickening. He was just like, "Thank you, Kevin, thank you, thank you, thank you so much!" like I'd just arranged for him to lose his virginity or something! He shook my hand and practically ran down the street. I never asked him for the two bucks back, and he never offered. Honestly, I kind of forgot about it until that night at the AM/PM.

(Tape play resumes) Who is that approaching the counter now?

That's Oggy. Tommy Ogden. Cripes, look at the gut on him! He'd really let himself go. He's got a six-pack of Coors Light and now probably...yeah, see, Brad's reaching up to get him some Kools. Which is kind of funny, you know, 'cause mostly only coloreds smoke Kools. (Glances at Special Agent Cameron) Excuse me, I meant black African-Americans (coughs).

Were you acquainted with Tommy Ogden?

Of course, dude, everybody in Florence knew Tommy. That's his buddy with him, that fat fuck Calvin Hughes. Everybody called his Walrus. Used to be Tommy's defensive lineman, back when they were football stars.

Did Mr. Ogden have a particular antipathy for Mr. Lennox?

You mean did Oggy have it in for him? Well, you know why football didn't work out for Tommy, right? Everybody was saying he was going to make All-State quarterback, probably go to Notre Dame or Penn on scholarship, some D1 school, then go pro after that. They were practically already designing the statue of him for in front of town hall. But then he got in a fight and kicked this kid Jimmy Rickson in the head. It was Randy's dad who broke it up. The scuttblebutt was the principal wanted to sweep it under the rug, but Mr. Lennox insisted they call the cops. That's what Oggy said happened, anyway. So yeah, he had it in for Randy. Always asking Randy if his old man had diddled him when he couldn't get any underage pussy. Picked him up and stuffed him into garbage cans so he couldn't get out. Pissed on him one time. Pissed on him! His friends thought that was the funniest shit in the world. I'm sure Walrus would've joined in if he hadn't been scared to show everyone how small his pecker is. What is it with dudes like that? You hear about people falling through the cracks, the misfits, the fuck-ups, but people like Oggy and Walrus seem to think it's their job to stuff them right down there.

I gotta say, though, that night at the AM/PM, Randy kind of brought it on himself.

How so?

Rewind the tape a little. See how Tommy's banging his pack of smokes on the counter to pack them while Brad's making change? He kinda just talks over his shoulder to Randy, he goes, "How they hanging, homo?" Which for Oggy was being nice. But then Randy goes, "Ask your mother, my balls have been on her chin often enough." Louder than normal, like he wanted to make sure everyone heard him. Oggy, he does a double-take with his mouth hanging open.

How did the confrontation escalate?

Walrus started walking over, going, "What the fuck did you just say?" and Tommy just sort of shook his head and grinned a grin I really didn't like. I mean, it was like the way he looked just before he got into it with Jimmy Rickson. I called over, I said, "Hey, dudes, look, the kid's not right in the head, don't fuck with him." But of course they didn't listen. They headed for Randy, and Randy didn't flinch back at all. He had his own little shit-eating grin, like they were coming to hand him a big bunch of helium balloons and a door-sized check.

Was there a fight?

Well, I had just hit the "One Player Start" button on "House of the Dead", so my attention was elsewhere, okay? You have to understand, me and Brad had a serious rivalry for high score. It'd been going on for months, back and forth. But I'd been doing some research on the internet and found out there was this Easter egg in the game, you killed these certain zombies with a specific number of bullets in each and it would unlock this special boss level that'd take your score into the effing stratosphere and the machine would actually send email to Sega headquarters and they'd send you a free cabinet along with three E3 booth babes. No shit, it happened to this guy in Milwaukee. So that was going to be my night, right? But can I ask you guys something?

Go ahead.

Is this off the record?

You're being recorded.

What I mean is, can I get in trouble for anything I might say here? Like, open myself up to prosecution if I make certain, uh, disclosures about my frame of mind that night?

All we care about is what you can tell us about the events on the night in question. We're not the police.

In that case, what you have to understand is that I was stoned out of my gourd! The kind of stoned you get before you go to the Pink Floyd laser show at the Planetarium. So stoned you see trails like you dropped acid, okay? I knew if I was going to set a high score, I needed to have an edge. So I'd been experimenting, and discovered if I smoked about a pound of dope and then drank a couple three of those AM/PM 32 oz. Turbo Gulps, it would just put me in the Zone. You could throw M80s at me and I wouldn't flinch. Especially with Killswitch Engage blasting through these really nice Seinheiser headphones I, uh, borrowed one time.

So what I'm saying is, past a certain point, I'm not really sure what went on between Randy and Tommy and Chris. There was some yelling, some banging. I thought I heard a lot of people shouting Tommy's nickname. "OGGY! OGGY!" But, um, don't you have it on tape?

This is as much as we have.

(tape change, camera 3)

As you can see, Mr. Ogden and Mr. Lennox appear to be exchanging words. Mr. Ogden pushes Mr. Lennox here--and then there's a tape malfunction. There are periodic tape malfunctions in all camera views from that point on. So we'd appreciate it very much if you could tell us anything you remember about subsequent events. Anything at all. Think hard.

Well, I'll try.

(tape change, camera 2)

Here we see you again, playing your game. Your friend Brad has exited--

That sneaky bitch! I totally missed that.

--the lights in the store are flashing on and off. Bolts of live current are arcing in the air above you. The store seems caught in an earthquake--there are items falling off the shelves, and at this point (time stamp: 1:35:06:12) an entire section of shelving collapses on the floor behind you, followed by a portion of the drop ceiling. You don't remember any of this?

Okay. Well. Like I said, I was pretty stoned. So flashing lights, the crunching noises, the screaming, I thought those were part of the game. When you're wasting zombies, that's kind of what you expect.

And here (time stamp: 1:35:41:00) there's a spray of dark liquid that covers the floor and the windows of the entrance doors. And you, I might add. Later analysis of your clothes revealed this to be blood belonging to Mr. Ogden and Mr. Hughes. You didn't notice this either?

Well, I did feel that. And I was going to look around, like, What the fuck, Brad, you asshole, spray me with Coke just because you know I'm going to beat your high score, bitch! But I've got really good will power. I wasn't going to let him distract me.

(Onscreen, Officer Howard Hurley enters through the AM/PM doors.)

Oh, Christ, here comes High Pockets Hurley, busting in like Dirty fucking Harry.

(Officer Hurley's gun is drawn. There is a flash as he appears to fire. At this point [time stamp: 1:36:59:59] camera 2 malfunctions. The associated videotape shows static for the next fourteen seconds. When the image clears, Officer Hurley is no longer in the frame.)

Officer Hurley hasn't been seen since the night in question. That brief glimpse is the only evidence we have that he arrived on scene. Can you shed any light on his fate?

He melted, man!

(pause) Melted?

I'm telling you, that's him (points to slowly spreading puddle on floor of AM/PM). What's left of him. He came in screaming Get down! Get down!, busted a couple caps, and that was that.

You witnessed this?

He was, like, yea far away (indicates the distance between himself and Special Agent Mitchell). I felt his hand on my arm and I was about to tell him to fuck right off when it hit him. Whatever it was he was seeing. His jaw dropped. Then it stretched real wide, like a Christmas nutcracker. First his eyes caught fire and then he started screaming and then his lips were gone and then his teeth started dropping like Chiclets as his gums receded and he just plain melted away, like a candle under a blow torch. Total "Raiders of the Lost Ark" shit!

At 1:36:01:45 Tommy Ogden appears from the lower part of the screen, crawling towards the door. Halfway there, his progress is arrested, and he is by all appearances dragged back the way he came. Did you see who grabbed him?

Uh, no. Not exactly.

What do you mean?

I mean, I saw Tommy grab the push bar on the entrance door, and hang on for dear life, and go flying back when whatever was tugging on his legs finally got him. But did I turn around to see what it was? Fuck no!

So you understood that there was a real situation occuring, that was not a game-inspired hallucination, and yet you did not flee the scene.

As far as High Pockets goes, well, I figured I'd just overdone it a little bit with the weed and the Turbos. I could always go to Cooley Dick for some Thorazine later, if I needed to. But whatever was going on back there, it seemed like nobody was going to fuck with me as long as I was minding my own business, so why mess with a good thing? I kept my focus where it belonged, on wasting zombies. I mean, that Easter egg was this close! One more boss and those E3 booth bitches were mine. So I went for it, man. I went for the gusto. That's just the kind of guy I am. I'm Stoney, right?

At this point, (time stamp: 1:36:01:45) Mr. Ogden and Mr. Hughes appear to be exhorting you to escape.

(pause) You mean the way they're waving their arms at me?

Yes.

Um, yeah. No. They're not exhorting me to anything. It was just a puppet show.

(pause) Pardon?

So gradually I was aware that someone was standing there trying to talk to me. And I'm like, fuck off, Brad, I'm gonna get the high fucking score and nothing you can do is gonna stop me! But they're still jumping up and down and even though I'm like this close to getting that Easter Egg, I think, shit, maybe there's been a terrorist attack on Northampton or something. So with one hand I keep firing and with the other I push the headphone cup off my ear. And I'm like, What, dude? What?? Dude doesn't say anything. So I give a quick look. It's Tommy. And Walrus on the other side of me. And dudes were dead. Dead dead dead. Black smoke curling from their eye sockets. Heads tipped back so that their mouths were open. And inside I thought I could see--maybe--the tips of tentacles, with little pinkish-purple suckers, okay? Like tentacles had shoved--the tentacles were wearing their bodies like finger puppets. Jerking them up and down, first one, then the other, so that they were waving their arms and flapping their jaws like they were having a fucking conversation. (Pinches fingers and thumb of one hand together like a talking mouth) "Hey Chris, this is turning into a real party, huh?" (Other hand, similar action) "Betcher ass, broheim, and the good times are just getting started! That Randy Lennox sure knows some interesting people! Hey Stoney, why don't you turn around so we can introduce you?"

At 1:37:31:07 the image distorts due to camera malfunction. There are forty-three seconds of static that follow before the tape resumes normal operation. Please go into detail about what happened during that period, if you can.

(pause) It--it touched me.

Can you say more about that?

(long pause) Do I have to?

Mr. Stone--

Okay, okay. It felt like--when my nephew De Andre was teething, you'd put a little King Cobra on your finger and let him suck on it, 'cause otherwise he'd scream and scream? That's what it felt like. I was wearing shorts, and it was like hundreds of little mouths were opening and closing on my bare leg, pulling themselves up. I just froze. I think maybe I peed myself. I was trying to remember how to say a "Hail Mary" but I was hung up on the line The lord of swiss cheese...I knew that wasn't how it went, but I couldn't think of the rest. It kept going 'til it reached my face, and then it kind of...felt me. Like a blind person can supposedly know what you look like by touching your face? Like that. It felt me like it was memorizing what I looked like. I could hardly breathe. All I could smell was raw beef rotting in milk.

Meanwhile, I've got plastic guns in both hands, blue one in my left, red one in my right, like Chow Yun Fat in The Killers, and I'm fighting the level boss! Zapping the shit out of this thing that looks like a pussy with teeth, I'm thinking, Oh my god, I bet it looks like that and then I remembered the black smoke in Oggy's eyes and that's when I started screaming, "Kevin man I loaned you two bucks! Two bucks and I never even asked for it back!"

And then--?

Then what? That was it. It was gone. I still have marks... (begins to pull up the leg of his pajama bottoms)

Here you are at 1:39:14:14. You are still playing your game as the first officers arrived on the scene.

You're fucking A right I am. Got the high score, too. Christ, I can't believe there's fucking tape of that night! How come no one told me there was a tape? Why didn't anyone tell the hospital people, man? I've been here almost six months! These assholes think I'm crazy! I wish I could've seen the looks on their faces when they found out there's a fucking tape! So when am I getting out?

Mr. Stone, there is no tape.

What are you talking about? We just watched it!

Mr. Stone, it would be in your best interest to forget whatever it was you think you saw. When the authorities recognize that you are recovering from your delusion, they will no doubt expedite the process of your release.

What the fuck, man! You have to tell them about the tape! You have to get me out of here! 'Cause I can help you, I bet. I've been thinking a lot about this. Maybe those cracks that the fuck-ups and the weirdos fall into, and the spaces between the stars that spooked the shit out of Cousin Stu, maybe they're sort of the same, in a way. Maybe Randy ended up in those places, in his head, and made some friends there. Some old, old, old friends. Maybe he learned how from that book, I don't know. Maybe other kids are learning how, right now! I bet I can help you find them. You could give me a job! I've got the experience!

Those are certainly interesting surmises, Mr. Stone. Thank you for your time.

Wait, wait! You gotta get me out of here, man! There isn't shit to do but sit around and stare at the walls. And these cinderblock walls in here are old, you know? There are cracks. A lot of cracks, and I swear to God some of them are getting wider, and--

Mr. Stone--

--the more I look at them, trying to see if they really are, the more it starts to feel like there's something in there, looking back. It remembers me, and it--

Thank you for your time, Mr. Stone.

Dude, at least get me an XBOX!

(transcript ends)



Click here to read
NOT BREATHING
by John Claude Smith
Only On The Freezine
Of Fantasy and Science Fiction


Friday, June 18, 2010

THE DEVO RIOTS

story & artwork
by Gil James Bavel




Part 1: Through Being Cool



It was about 5:00 P.M. Sunday, and in downtown Dallas they were rioting again. The factions were at it, about 150 Devo punks and 70 or so S.L.A.K. troops, and there wasn't any stopping them, not for now. Because it was Dallas—the headquarters of the World SubGenius Foundation—reinforcements for the troops wouldn't be far off, but by the time they arrived, the emergency boys would all be used up, and the Devo punks would be ready to chew through some more.

It wasn't always like this. Used to be, the Devo punks were your standard upstarts armed with street weapons, and the occasional napalm-filled fire extinguisher. Once in awhile they'd bring a vehicle armed with some massive gun too big to have come from anything but a naval vessel, just for looks. In the last couple of months, however, the Devo punks accelerated enormously in terms of the technical level of the weapons they were scavenging. Their resources had expanded of late into the state-of-the-art: cybernetics, bio-integrated hardware and plasma field generators were now part of their repertoire, and the poor S.L.A.K. troops were simply overwhelmed by the sudden jump in technology.

Of course, the S.L.A.K. troops were no guttersnipes, either--they were armed to the teeth with every brand of high-tech gizmo and doodad that the SubGenius Foundation could afford. But even they were no match for the technology on the bleeding edge of state-of-the-art that the Devo punks were somehow obtaining. The riots were becoming massacres. There was even talk that they wouldn't be televised anymore. Needless to say, the Dallas Police Department had long since learned to decline attending, and left the rioters to their own devices.

There were always riots on Sunday, usually beginning with a bunch of Devos showing up downtown, looking for trouble. They would generally hang out in front of the SubGenius building until the patrols would come out to shoo them away, and then Devos would come out from all over, swarming the S.L.A.K. troops, ambush-style. From there, the riots would go all over downtown, the Devos using guerilla tactics to force the S.L.A.K. troops away from protected areas. Today was no different.

As the riot got underway, a large group of Devo punks broke off from the main group, and rushed an oncoming patrol vehicle manned by S.L.A.K. troops. The troops' gunner managed to swing around and fire off a shot just as the Devos reached the vehicle. A couple of Devo punks were knocked back onto the street from the force of the shot, but were still moving as the vehicle rolled over their bodies, k-chunk, k-chunk.

The patrol vehicle was then suddenly teeming with Devo punks, grinning maniacally and smashing the troops with all manner of bludgeon weapons. A single Devo climbed up onto the driver, kicking off a few S.L.A.K. troops, and grabbed onto his helmet. The vehicle began swerving violently to the left and right, but the Devos hung on; they seemed to be enjoying the ride. The Devo punk on the driver pistol-whipped the troops that were annoying him, and then proceeded to the task of removing the driver's helmet. The driver had other ideas, as was evidenced by his frantic head-shaking and attempts to convince the bloodthirsty punk otherwise. The other Devos were ripping the remaining troops to shreds, throwing them off the vehicle, and pulping their brains out with much letting of blood and gory ceremony.

The driver decided he'd had enough and slammed on the brakes, skidding out of control. Losing his grip, the Devo who was on his back flipped over the armored hood and onto the street, immediately scrambling to his feet. The driver, now the only one left of the patrol, dove out of the vehicle to the street and just narrowly escaped the horde of crazed Devo punks who were still mauling what remained of his dead brothers-in-arms.

The driver ran like hell, straight back toward the safety of the SubGenius building, and the riot. The Devo who'd climbed on his back picked up his pistol, and with the cry, "Duty now for the future!" fired eight times in rapid succession upon the hapless SubGenius. Two bullets hit the target, ripping through the driver's reinforced plastic body armor and flakjacket like they were liverwurst. He collapsed onto the concrete, where he convulsed spasmodically until Devo punks massed around him and beat him into unconsciousness. The blood went everywhere. The Devo punks continued to beat his dead body, the blood spattering their leering faces and running down their goggles. The Devo punks were total geeks.

Back at the riot, the S.L.A.K. forces had formed a semicircle around the front doors of the building and were, for the most part, holding their own. They were, anyway, until a small contingent of Devo punks pulled up in a stolen government hovertank. The thing was massive, obviously a leftover battletank from the UN’s India-Pakistan conflict. Apparently, its weaponry was inoperative, for most of the Devos simply sat there and watched the S.L.A.K. troops' reactions; laughing hysterically and hooting like yahoos in a college football crowd. Finally, a S.L.A.K. lieutenant gave the command to fire, and fifteen plasma rifle bolts fired in unison on the Devo punks. The hovertank had a plasma screenfield up, of course, but one of the generator turbines was hit, and the tank was reduced to a wobbling, bobbing encasement of steel.

One of the Devo techies got back onto the rear of the hovertank to commence repairs, and the rest sat there hollering and taunting the S.L.A.K. troops like schoolkids on the playground. There wasn't much they could do, once they saw the screenfield up, so most of the Subs had a smoke or flipped off the Devo punks. The lieutenant got a call on the radio from Dobbs Central Command; there was a major onslaught of Devos nearby, and they were to retreat back indoors. As the S.L.A.K. troops filed inside, the Devo punks turned on the hovertank P.A. and blasted Race of Doom at ungodly decibels. The SubGenius lieutenant yelled, "Fuckin' Weirdos!" at the Devo punks, and slammed the foot-thick metal doors closed behind him.

The riot continued unabated for at least another fifteen minutes. It was out of control--what was left of the SubGenius forces was trapped outside, hunkered down in defensive positions trying to remain unseen. The Devo punks now had unrestricted reign, and they used it. They were tearing up downtown; smashing windows, rolling trucks and burning and smashing up everything in sight. Any poor SubGenii that were caught unprotected outside were stuck and prodded and burned--torture was the high point of the riots for many Devo punks. A few S.L.A.K. troops lay injured in the street, writhing in pain and bleeding profusely. For all intents and purposes, the Devos had won.

Or so they thought. Just about five-thirty, the vampires showed up. First, only a dozen or so appeared, materializing out of the smoke and ruins of combat, but before the Devo punks realized what was about, there were well over thirty PsychVams in the general vicinity of the World SubGenius Foundation building, and they were thirsting for blood, or its equivalent, anyway. The PsychVams were, as their name implied, regular SubGenii that had been highly trained and genetically transmogrified into creatures of little physical substance but impressive psychic strength. At close range they could suck the brain fluid out of a man's skull in less than ten seconds. The normal method of attack for the vampires, however, was simply to focus a psychokinetic staticgrid into the victim's cranium, shutting down his brain's electrical activity altogether and generally wreaking havoc with his nervous system.

This they did, and before long most of the Devos were running around downtown Dallas screaming and holding their heads, dying like roaches that had sucked down too much insecticide. They even kicked their legs like roaches when they died. The PsychVams floated in and out of corporeal space so quickly that none of the Devo punks were able to get in any rounds on them. They attacked from behind, above, and below the street; they swarmed the Devos and had them mostly finished by quarter 'til. A few surviving Devo punks retreated back to their secret base, limping and a few even stumbling around in the wrong direction due to brain damage. The Devo punks were routed.

Up in the SubGenius building, the top brass issued orders for men to re-enter the street and secure the area: clean up and try to recover surviving S.L.A.K. troops. Meanwhile, the dish on the roof was being adjusted to uplink to the SubGenius Command Satellite in order to provide orbital laser cover fire when the Devos regrouped for another attack. A desk jockey had called up the downtown vidangle on his monitor, and was now prepared to fire with digital accuracy upon individual targets should the need arise. The Devos would be fused into laserslag, and the hot cinders of their remains would float up into the atmosphere only to eventually land again and fertilize the ground somewhere. They'd be recycled.



Part 2: Gates Of Steel



High at the top of the SubGenius building, Ivan Stang burst into the conference room and slammed the door, obviously pissed as hell. Tossing his thin briefcase down, he leaned on the huge, mahogany conference table and scowled at Colonel Mark Mothersbaugh across it.

"Where was our fuckin' cover fire? I thought you said those greens of yours were gonna be ready!"

The colonel looked up from his tactics monitor. His boyish face and tousled gray hair gave him a placid, stoic look. "We lost the uplink. It wasn't their fault,” he said calmly.

"Hey, man, tough titty, y'know? We just lost five squads out there, we had to uncrypt the fuckin' 'Vams to deal with 'em this time! Those things are expensive!" Ivan pushed off the table and sat down in front of his briefcase, head in hands. "I had to fly in from Cleveland! Some science division!" Lowering his voice, he sighed and asked, "What exactly went wrong?"

Mothersbaugh put his light pointer down and reached for a 'Fropstick. "I told you. We had a circuit failure and the satellite went offline." He lit up with a slow drag and put the lighter down gently on the table, exhaling bluish smoke into the air.

"Well get the damn thing online! We've got a record number of your fucking groupies on the way, and if that satellite doesn't burn 'em, I think they're gonna break into the building this time!" Stang's voice was taking on a Nicholsonian quality. "Radar shows that they're bringin' serious firepower, and I just don't think the 'Vams are gonna be enough!" He was visibly irritated.

"Look, Ivan," the colonel pointed out, "First of all, they're not my groupies, they're Jerry's, you know that. Since the SchismTime, none of the Devotees even listened to me. And anyway, I'm sure the PsychVams will be more than up to the job. Between them and our new satellite, they can attack in droves and they won't get in. You need to calm down, man. Have a 'Fropstick."

Stang stood up and hit the table, the deep thud resounding off the walls of the conference room. His emergentile side showing, he yelled, "Fuck the 'Frop, Mark! Maybe if you smoked a little less 'Frop and got a little more done around here, we wouldn't be in this mess! These riots are all your fault!" Stang paced down the length of the room and nervously ran one hand over his thinning hair.

Mothersbaugh's phone beeped, lighting up the priority line. "Yes?" he answered, pushing the intercom switch. A feminine voice spoke.

"Commander Kendrick to see you sir."

He glanced at Stang, who was already returning to his seat. "Thank you, Connie. Send him in." Turning off the intercom, Mothersbaugh took another drag off of his smoke and looked down the table at Stang. "Don't you think you're projecting some of your own feelings of inadequacy onto me? You have been really stressed lately."

"Don't psychoanalyze me, Mark,” Stang shot back, glaring.

There was a knock on the door. "Come," said the colonel. It was Kendrick.

"Ivan. Mark." He nodded in greeting as he closed the door and entered the room. His uniform and insignia were kempt and neat, but showed telltale signs of battle. The odd patch of dirt, a near-miss scorch on his epaulet.

"Hi, David," offered Stang, waving.

Mothersbaugh gestured for Commander Kendrick to sit down. "We were just discussing the effectiveness of the PsychVams."

Kendrick's face lit up. "Hey, yeah, those guys were great. Shoulda brought them into the picture earlier. All we had to do was sit back and watch the horror show. Got any 'Frop?"

"Yeah, sure." The colonel tossed him the pack. Commander Kendrick and Stang took their places.

"Look, that's not the point," Ivan said as Kendrick fished out a 'stick. "Those 'Vams are on loan from Dobbstown. Malaysia. If any of them go down, we're into "Bob" for serious cash. Or souls..." he mused, "Neither of which we can spare right now."

"That's true," Kendrick said, holding up one hand for the lighter. Mothersbaugh threw it to him. "Even so, the S.L.A.K. squads don't hold a candle to those mutants, so why waste 'em?" The SubGenius League of Ass-Kickers—even with their high-intensity training and ample weaponry hadn’t made a dent. He lit up and tossed the lighter back. "Besides," he said, exhaling, "We've got the SCS back online now, so those Devos won't cause us any more trouble."

Stang's expression soured. "Yeah, great. So far that orbital laser's performed about as well as "Connie" has lately." He glowered at the colonel. "What if it goes offline again? We gonna play 'em some of your EZ listening muzak? Or maybe some Songs of the Spires?" he taunted sarcastically, turning to Commander Kendrick.

"Actually," Colonel Mothersbaugh said, calling up the statistics from the previous Sunday's riot on the monitor that sprang out of the table at his touch, "Musik for Insomniaks" caused a slight decrease in their attack efficacy last week. I was thinking if we played "Joyeaux Mutato at full --"

"--Think about this," Stang said curtly, standing up and opening his briefcase. Reaching in, he plopped a sheaf of papers in front of both men, withdrew a small model of the World SubGenius Foundation building, and set it down on the table. Mothersbaugh and Kendrick looked at one another, then at the model, and then at the papers, which appeared to be schematic diagrams. They began leafing through them.

"Gordon, 'Evidence and Waves Forest banged heads on this one and here's what they came up with," Stang started, pausing to flick a switch at the bottom of the model. "As you know, after we converted Buck Naked's Laser Project into that fucking satellite—which was a mistake—if you ask me, Waves suggested that we program it to double as an electrokinetic dissonance generator--"

Mothersbaugh stubbed out his 'Fropstick and cut in. "That operation was shitcanned. Too expensive."

"Right." agreed Stang. "But Waves recently came up with a cheap modification that we could implement on the ground, that, uh--I guess we could put together in pretty short order. Now, I'm no big-shot rocket scientist like Waves is," he said, pushing a lighted red button on the model, "But according to him, this should allow us to affect a limited enough area of Dallas, say, two square blocks, so that it wouldn't take that much energy or raw material to pull off."

As Stang spoke, a dull hum emanated from the model, and a small area of the table around it became blurry, like heat waves above a hot sidewalk. He explained further.

"By setting up an electromagnetic field around the building, and firing the laser into that field in a wide-spectrum radial dispersal beam, what we’re essentially doing is ionizing the electrons within the field. Now, as Waves describes it," Stang continued, pushing the now-rapidly blinking red button again, "Once ionized, those electrons are going to resonate at a controlled frequency that exactly matches brainwave engrams….” As he spoke, thousands of tiny bursts of light flashed within the blurry area, crackling audibly, apparently representing the frying brainpans of the enemy. "...Thus making any Devos within the charged area completely susceptible to attack by our PsychVams." Stang looked up from the notes he was obviously reading from, which were concealed in his open briefcase.

"They're already susceptible," Commander Kendrick pointed out. "They were dropping like flies out there." He took one last drag off of his own 'Fropstick and crushed it out in the UberTrayTM.

"Yeah, this time," Mothersbaugh said to Kendrick. "But the Devo punks have some real high-tech cyberpunk big cheese on their side now. Forest says the guy makes him look like a kid playing with a Tesla coil. That accounts for their hyperaccelerated technology. Once they figure out how the PsychVams work, they'll simply put together an antistatic electrogenerator to block out their attacks. Then they'll be useless." He looked at Kendrick with a finalistic expression.

Stang shut off the model. "We anticipated this from way back. We figured we could use the 'Vams once before they'd counter them. Maybe twice. After that..."

"...After that, they'd be expensive fodder, worse even than the S.L.A.K. squads." finished Kendrick, nodding slowly.

"You got it." Stang agreed. "So that's why Waves has this follow-up plan. The Electrokinetic Dissonance Generator will override any antistatic devices brought into the field. Actually, as we speak, he and Gordon are applying the finishing touches to the EDG machine. It should be ready by nightfall."

"Uh, sorry to bust your bubble, Ivan," Kendrick began, "But recon shows those Devos regrouping, and bringing in the heavy guns. They're gonna be back before nightfall, and I guess they're gonna have this antistatic generator thing put together, right?"

Mothersbaugh sighed and reached for another 'Fropstick. "Yeah, it's an incredibly easy device," he said, packing the 'stick on the table. "More likely than not, they'll all have individual electrogenerators hooked into their battle gear. It's just a battery pack and a field generator upgrade. That cyberbrain they've got workin' for 'em could probably hack together a few dozen an hour. We're just going to have to get that EDG Machine ready to go within the hour." He punctuated his statement with a light.

"Whoa, Mark. What's this Captain Kirk stuff?" Ivan exclaimed. "I dinna think wa ken havit reddy bah then, sahr," he mocked in a poor Scottish brogue. "Those guys are already working around the clock, and Waves says that Gordon's about wiped out."

Colonel Mothersbaugh smiled. "He's always wiped out. What's Gordon doing on this project, anyway? This really isn't his area of expertise, and I thought he was busy doing something with Drummond. Some new secret Overman thing."

"Well, yeah, but ever since he and Waves got together on Operation ConniLingus, they've been hanging around together a lot more." Stang explained.

"What, that interactive CyberSex 'droid?" Mothersbaugh queried. "I tried that thing. It was a complete waste of time and money. Might as well go with the 'ol hand job. Net Slack zero."

Stang shrugged. "Well, they use it a lot. I guess Overmen need a little more stimulation than we do to get them goin', y'know?"

"What about 'Evidence? What's his angle?" The colonel asked.

"He just bullied his way into the thing, saying that they needed a military advisor, tactics or something. Oh, and he helped put together the model."

Mothersbaugh snickered. "Figures. Well, tell those guys that we're gonna need hands-on right away. David, get down to your men and suit 'em up." He handed Commander Kendrick a data chip, and stood up. "Here's your orders, and we're going to Plan B on the Laser. Word has it that Alan's back with them now, so if any of your boys see him, Bob, my brothers, or especially Jerry, you tell them to shoot to kill."

Kendrick nodded. "Right. If I can't whup 'em, I'll go down!" he said, giving the SubGenius salute. "Iyiyiyiyiyiyiyiyiyi!" Stang and Mothersbaugh returned his salute, and the commander turned on his heel and left the room. As Stang turned to leave, Mothersbaugh spoke.

"Oh, by the way, Ivan, don't worry about the PsychVams. I'll talk to "Bob". He'll cut us some Slack."

"I sure hope so, Mark. Last time you talked to him, he was talking serious tribulation if anything happened to 'em. I mean, as far as he's concerned, this is all petty in-fighting. He's saving those 'Vams for The Big One."

"Yeah, I know. Ever since he got shot, he's just single-minded. Money, money, money. I almost think he's forgotten that money is just a shitty substitute for Slack."

"Gee, I hope not," Stang admitted. "The X-ists wouldn't be real happy about it."

"Well,” Colonel Mothersbaugh said as he walked Stang out, "That's "Bob's" problem."


Part 3: Smart Patrol



In the meantime, the surviving Devo punks had made it back to base--barely. Most of the ones who'd escaped the PsychVams were so fucked up that they couldn’t even communicate. They just moaned, writhed, and received some much-needed medical attention. The hovertank crew, however, had been able to get away and back to base to report. The Devo corps hierarchy was quite shaken up by the developments.

General Gerald V. Casale strode purposefully down a corridor of Devo Base 5, followed, as usual, by his hand-picked group of lieutenants. On his way to a strategy session, he had been alerted to the riot situation via cellular phone, and was deep in thought about the solution. The final solution to the SubGenius Problem.

During his youth, the whole Devo/SubGenius parallel evolution had been little more than a clever and complex joke to Casale. By and by though, certain strains and tensions had become evident. The SubGenius Foundation became big, not to mention big-headed. The band, conversely, had long since peaked, and like all rock bands, lost momentum. The cars, the groupies, and the music didn't seem to matter as much anymore; the freshness was gone. The drugs and the years had taken their toll, leaving Devo a pale shadow of their once-glorious, hit-studded past, and they quickly faded into obscurity and mediocrity.

Then, in the early 2010s, they were asked to play at the largest SubGenius Devival ever. The Church of the SubGenius had gotten so big that their rosters had swelled into the millions--and Devo performed to a sellout crowd on national television. It was huge, bigger by far than their legendary Saturday Night Live appearance. Everything was like it used to be. Fans singing along, lights, cameras--it was perfect.

Until, after the performance, Mark got into a heated argument with Gerald. Certain founding members of the Church approached, and it soon became a battle of epic proportions. Ivan, Pope Myer, Janor, Philo, and even Palmer Vreedeez sided with Mark--'cause he had the star power, and he'd always been the big SubGenius one anyway--and it became all too obvious to Gerald who his friends were. Of course, Puzzling Evidence brought a gun into it, and a fight broke out. After they'd been pulled apart, Mark asked the rest of the band to join him against Gerald, and accusations of elitism, eugenics, racism, classism and cavorting with the Con were flung between the factions like mud. David, that asshole, went with him, and thus was born the SchismTime. It was a grand feud.

But Devo would have the last laugh. Having played to a worldwide audience on television, and the resulting Internet coverage, Devo had regained their lost popularity, and then some. No one had seen the argument, or the fight. Consequently, Devo fans came out of the woodwork. Devo cut a new album, with Jerry fronting the band, and it went quintuple-platinum instantly, entering the charts at # 1 and staying there for well over a year. They had had the foresight to release it on their own infant label, Devo Records, and Warner Bros., Enigma and Capitol could all go to hell.

Devo soon became a cult to rival the Church; they were no longer a band so much as a social movement. People were finally getting the concept of society's de-evolution. The fans became gangs, and they clashed with the Church on a regular basis. Friend turned against friend, brother against brother, reverend against reverend. Devo Corps and the Church alike began training their followers in the martial arts. Squads of DevoNinjasTM ran wild, rumors were rampant: "Connie" had sided with Gerald and Devo, and was screwing them all. Church top brass had been secretly kidnapped, and replaced with cybernetic androids. Not even "Bob" himself was exempt from the gossip. Clenches everywhere were arming.

Gerald remembered it all too well as he led the way to the tactical meeting. Those events had shaped his life, changing it from the carefree, easygoing life of a rock star/producer to the existence he now knew--the hardened, jaded leader of the Devo Corps military. Now he was determined to have his revenge on the ones who had fucked everything up for him. Those SubGenius assouls would pay, with blood.

Entering the brightly-lit room, General Casale stopped, saluted, and sat down. His lieutenants marched in, were seated, and he called order. Among the RetroEvolutionist elite were Timothy Leary, William Gibson, the Bobs, and Alan Myers. Dr. X, the CyberBrain whose origins were cryptic and unknown, was also present, as were of course, Stang's precious children. Tevis and Xandy had become involved in the movement early, and, though still relatively young, were possibly Devo's greatest asset not only because of the spite factor, but because they were brilliant, conniving and genetically superior. Their third nostrils had been opened at birth in Dobbstown, they were the youngest Overmen in the world, and they were totally loyal to Devo Corps. It was irrelevant that they were initially abducted in a raid and only later did they "come around" to the Devo "attitude".

"First I'd like to thank you all for getting here on such short notice." said the General. "Our boys in the field are waiting for the decision we come up with, so we need to keep this brief." He opened up his folder and laid it out in front of him on the table. "Dr. X, would you take it from here?"

The gaunt man nodded, and rose from his seat. An odd, unwieldy gun looking like a paint sprayer or a fertilizer hose attachment rested on the table in front of him. His sharp features and pale skin were contrasted by a shock of wispy silver hair, and thick, round glasses made from carbon steel. Dressed in a smart black scientist's smock and wearing pens, various electronic devices and a BodyComTM portable computer, the overall effect was something like a nerdy, albino Judge Dredd. Placing his hands on the table, he spoke in a thin, nasal voice with a hint of a German accent.

"Thank you, Jerry. I'll get right to the point. The SubGeniuses have unleashed their secret weapon. They have somehow managed to control and accentuate select areas of the brain near the central fissure between the frontal and parietal lobes, resulting in troops that are capable of controlled psionic intrusion into the electroneurological processes of our Devotees." Dr. X paused to adjust his glasses.

"What?" Xandy asked.

"He means that they can suck the electric impulses out of your brain, and shut down your nervous system with their minds." Leary explained.

"Wow." Gibson uttered, impressed.

"Yeah," Tevis said, nudging her brother. "Haven't you ever seen Scanners?"

Dr. X resumed. "Don't ask me how they've accomplished this; when we tried it, all we ended up with was a bunch of palpitating apoplectics."

Leary offered, "That's because our process was surgical. Theirs is probably based on drugs, genetic reprogramming and biochemical agitators. Anyway, who cares? Get on with it." Ever since his secret longevity operation, Dr. Leary had become kind of an asshole.

"No, they're a bunch of "Bob's" Malaysian recruits.” General Casale said. “I think he probably pulled some strings and used Xist tech to fuck with their DNA structure or something. Those idiots don't have the brains to pull something like that off. Not even Forest could begin to understand that sort of stuff, and he's their best scientist," he admitted.

Dr. X Picked up the strange-looking device in front of him, clearing his throat. "In any case, our Devotees are being outfitted with low-frequency antistatic generators as we speak. Whatever those things are, their psionic attacks should be effectively blocked. The question facing us is this: In light of these developments, should we in turn unleash our own secret weapon, the Devolution gun?" He turned the heavy object over in his hands. "After we use it once, they'll probably catch on and counter it, much like we have theirs."

Casale nodded. "I think this would be a good time to exploit the Devolver; we're at a crucial point with these riots. We've got more Devotees than ever, and with luck we could--"

"Get off the vengeance trip, General," Leary sneered. "Everyone knows that you're just champing at the bit to take those guys down. You could jeopardize the entire operation with your impudence. I say we wait until they’re tested, then bring out the Devolvers. Play it safe."

Gibson intervened. "Hey, Tim, man, lay off Jerry. Everyone hates those Subs, that's why we're all here. So chill out, huh? Besides, he's got a point, I mean, uh, the Devotees are already out there, and they're outfitted with the blockers. We've got the element of surprise, and they're hopefully still off-balance from the last offensive. So why not?"

"Yeah, maybe," the youthful-looking Leary acquiesced. "I just can't help thinking that we ought to call them back and hold off until next time. Let them wait."

"Why, so they can regroup and dig in?" The General pointed out. "No, Bill's got a point. They're automatically entrenched in that building when you don't press the attack. I say we fill a cargo chopper with Devolvers, and get 'em out to the boys ASAP. Let's see a show of hands." Casale raised his right hand, followed by everybody but Leary. Xandy chuckled.

"C'mon, Tim, make it unanimous." Gibson pleaded.

"Oh, all right," Leary groaned, complying.

"'Atta boy." Gibson teased.

Leary rolled his eyes. "Fnord." he grumbled.

"It's settled, then. We'll arm the Devotees with Devolvers, and press the attack." The general handed out instructions from the folder to his lieutenants, and stood up to leave. "Make sure your men understand the weapon."

"Yeah, take the safety off," snickered Leary.

As the group began filing out of the room, Xandy tugged on Casale's sleeve. "Can we go, Jerry?"

"NO," the General barked, adamant. "It's way too dangerous. If anyone saw you, you'd be captured instantly and your father would have you both brainwashed. I'm afraid you'll have to stay this time."

"Awww." the siblings cried in unison.

He closed his folder and shuttled them out the door with it. "You'll just have to settle for watching the riot on the HoloMonitor."

At that, the Smiths perked up and walked happily down the corridor toward the viewing lounge. They chanted DEE-VO, DEE-VO as they went.

Gibson walked with the General as he returned to command and control. "You think we're gonna get in this time?" he asked.

"Yeah, I think so. Chances are good, anyway. And even if we don't, there are going to be a whole lot of single-celled SubGenii crawling around downtown." Casale flashed a smile. "It's going to make great video." Then, becoming serious, he added, "Plus, we'll get to see how well the antistatic generators work. They've had no field test, and they're going to be a crucial factor in our strategy."

They continued on to the command and control room in relative silence. The only sounds were their footfalls, and the video game noises coming from the Playstation5 in the lounge.


Part 4: Time Out For Fun



Waves Forest and G. Gordon Gordon were hauling the just-finished Electrokinetic Dissonance Generator down the basement stairs of the SubGenius building, huffing and puffing with the effort. Once they'd gotten it down the stairs, Gordon put his end down and began clearing some space for it in the middle of the floor. Stark Fist magazines littered the area, having been thrown in the basement for lack of space. There were four or five hundred copies of various issues lying about, and these Gordon unceremoniously kicked out of the way to make room for the EDG.

Forest set his end down carefully, and picked up a copy. "Huh," he said, opening it up. "Can't believe I missed this issue. "Connie" centerfold." Unfolding the third panel, Forest drank in "Connie's" fine nakedness. "Man, "Bob" has it made. Whatta momma."

"Yeah, she's pretty stacked." Gordon noted, leaning over to see. "But," he said, returning to his task, "They airbrushed out the scars. She's got whip and chain burns all over her body." He finished clearing away the magazines, and there was now a small space just big enough in which to place the EDG.

"You've seen her naked?" Forest asked, his eyes glued to the glossy centerfold.

"Seen her? I screwed her. Who hasn't?"

Forest seemed at once enticed, and discouraged. "Wow." He turned the Fist ninety degrees and slavered some more.

"C'mon, put that rag down and let's get this thing going. The laser's already firing."

"Hmm? Oh, yeah." Forest threw the magazine down and picked up his end again. Together, they lifted the hulking jumble of chips, wires and circuit boards, and set it down in the space Forest had cleared on the floor.

"Careful, don't want that transaxial influx capacitor to break off, it's pretty delicate." Forest reminded Gordon.

"Yeah, I hope that solder took. I don't wanna hafta go back in there again." They stepped away from the machine and looked at it. It was a rushed job, but it was complete, and they hoped, operational.

"Let's turn it on, shall we?" Forest said, leaning over and flicking the power switch. The generator hummed into life. A red indicator light blinked, and the cooling fan came on with a quiet whirr.

Forest breathed a sigh. "Well, the power receiver works." The EDG ran on broadcast power, as did the rest of the SubGenius building, thanks to Forest's dutiful free energy research and formidable knowledge of electronics. "That oughta negate any antistatic devices the Devos bring. Boy, will they be surprised."

Gordon nodded agreement. "No shit. Hey, let's go upstairs and see what it looks like outside."

"Yeah, all right." The SubGenii headed back up the stairs, leaving the generator in the basement with only back issues of the Stark Fist of Removal to keep it company.


Part 5: I'd Cry If You Died



Outside, darkness was falling on Dallas. Sunset had dragged its final pastel fingers across the horizon, and the planets and stars were coming out. It was to be the first night riot in a long time. Searchlights on the face of the building came on, and automatically began randomly sweeping the area. The S.L.A.K. lieutenant posted at the doors fidgeted nervously and finished his cigarette, crushing it out under one black combat boot. He looked out into the downtown Dallas city streets, and tried to see whether the Devo punks had shown up yet. The radar showed that the large group of blips that he had been monitoring had moved to within a mile or so of the building. The lieutenant looked to his men, shook his head, and lit another smoke. Exhaling into the cool night air, he dropped the StarliteTM visor on his helmet and waited.

The front doors opened, and out came Forest and Gordon. They were yammering gaily about something and seemed generally unconcerned. Gordon had his shirt off.

The lieutenant put an arm up to block them. "Hey, sirs, you can't be out here without body armor. The enemy are just down the street."

"It's okay, we're just out here for a second to make sure that the Electrokinetic Dissonance Generator is operational. Notice anything?" Forest inquired.

"Uh, yes sir. A couple of minutes ago, the air took on this shimmering quality—smells like ozone."

Forest nodded. "That's it. The laser's ionized the air molecules. They've all picked up an extra oxygen atom."

The troops in the lieutenant's S.L.A.K. squad shifted uneasily. They weren't used to any jargon but the military kind.

"Well, that's great, sir, but I'm afraid I can't have you sirs down here unprotected. I'm going to have to ask you to re--” The lieutenant was cut off by Gordon's nonchalant voice.

"Okay, soldier, okay. Don't get your shorts in a bunch. Get Colonel Mothersbaugh on the radio, and we'll be out of your hair."

The lieutenant frowned at the duo, but grudgingly lifted the transceiver from his belt and pressed the broadcast button. "Colonel, I've got your two science officers down here, sir. They're out of uniform and unarmored. They want to speak with you."

There was a slight pause, and then Mothersbaugh's voice crackled over the radio, thin and static. "Yes, Waves, what is it?"

Forest reached out for the transceiver, and the lieutenant handed it to him. "We've got the EDG up and running. Looks like things are ready down here."

"Fine, fine. Are your men ready, lieutenant?"

The lieutenant took the radio back from Forest and spoke into it. "Yes, sir, colonel. It looks like the Devos are within a mile or so and they're advancing on our position."

Another slight pause. Colonel Mothersbaugh's voice came over the radio again. "Okay, you have your orders. Looks like it's gonna be a party." He signed off.

"Well, sirs, you're going to have to get out of here. Any minute now, there's-"

The lieutenant was cut off by the first of the Devo punks. As if on cue, they came roaring around a corner on motorcycles, about a dozen of them. The cycles were three-wheelers armored with laser-reflectant plastic, and bristled with all manner of weaponry, and video cameras. Following the cycles were several armored personnel transport vehicles, brimming with overeager Devotees, all packing Devolution pistols. Various other vehicles, ranging from modified mopeds to salvaged choppers, carried more Devos, and the now-repaired hovertank brought up the rear. They were all equipped with loudspeakers, of course, and played “Explosions” in some surround-sound stereo at maximum volume. They were city blocks away and they were already way too loud.

"Wow, that's cool," Gordon murmured.

"Yeah." Forest agreed.

The lieutenant instantly forgot about the officers and began shouting BattleSpeak commands into his comlink. "Tech 2! Rightwingform beta!" The S.L.A.K. troops assumed their new positions, fanning out into the street inside the dissonance field created by the generator and charged by the orbital satellite. "Prepfire Alpha! Stratlock moncheck!" As the lieutenant continued issuing orders, the troops instantly responded, hunkering down in their positions and making last-minute strategic defense checks. Nearby, a chorus of safeties clicked off. Gordon just stood there, soaking it all in. Forest shoved him.

"At least close the fucking door," he ordered.

Gordon reached in and closed the door, which locked. The lieutenant turned around.

"What are you sirs still doing here?" he asked.

Gordon smiled. "Watching the fireworks. We built this puppy, we want to see it in action."

The lieutenant turned back around, shaking his head. "Hope you've got strong stomachs," he said, throwing down his cigarette. Its cinder glowed red in the blackness around, a hot white in his green night vision.

Gordon and Forest smirked. The Devo punks were entering the field now, cycle guns blazing away. The personnel transports screeched to a halt cop-show-style, and unloaded. Two hundred berserk Devos charged at the S.L.A.K. troops, who were well inside the confines of the charged electromagnetic field, and already drawing beads on them.

The noise became unbearable. The roaring of engines, gunfire, and that horrible music combined into a cacophonic symphony. The bass beat from the Devos’ subwoofers was overwhelming. The S.L.A.K. troops then began firing on isolated targets, adding to the din. Suddenly, from down the street, some kind of jet-powered one-man flying wing screamed overhead, releasing small packages into the street. They hit the ground and shattered, issuing a thick, black smoke, which quickly grew into a coalescing cloud. With that, the lieutenant spoke into his radio: "Uncrypt the 'Vams."

At once, the vampires materialized into reality, shadows in the darkness between the sweeps of the searchlights. The Devo punks started firing their Devolvers, swarming the area. Squads assumed formations, some dropping to the ground or taking up positions behind concrete barricades. The scene became a high-tech bloodbath, and no one was exempt.

The S.L.A.K. troops pinpointed some of the oncoming vehicles and were launching heavy artillery at them. The Devo punks returned fire, with interest. Particle beams and conventional firearms alike shot across the plaza into the ranks of the SubGenius S.L.A.K. squads. One of the Devo choppers was hit, and it plunged down over the riot, out of control, trailing smoke like a hellbound skywriter until finally it crashed into the SubGenius building with a glorious fuel-fed explosion. The concussive shockwave rocked the plaza.

A couple of Devos broke off from the pack and cautiously circled around to the side of the SubGenius Building. They then crept in on a key defensive position and surprised the S.L.A.K. troops that were hunkered down there. They held the troops at gunpoint, and demanded that they run out into the fray. The S.L.A.K. troops refused, so the Devos fired on one of them. The poor SubGenius screamed, dropped his weapon, and rapidly devolved through the mammalian and amphibian stages, and eventually into a colony of paramecia. What was left of his uniform crawled with monocellular life. The ordeal was evidently quite dramatic, for the remaining S.L.A.K. troops reacted by instantaneously vomiting on one another. The Devo punks then forced them out into the melee, where they were quickly and unceremoniously shot to ribbons in the crossfire. Back at Devo Corps secret base, Xandy and Tevis watched on the lounge monitors, high-fiving each other and whooping it up.

Meanwhile, the PsychVams were making proverbial mincemeat out of the Devo punks, who couldn't figure out why their antistatic generators weren't successfully blocking the vampires' attacks. Devos all over fell to the ground, screaming and clutching their swollen, hemorrhaging heads while trying to fire back at the vampires. Occasionally one would get off a lucky shot, and a PsychVam would devolve away like a bad special effect from a B movie.

The smoke from the shattered packages by then had expanded into a huge mass, covering most of the area. Forest suddenly gasped and looked to Gordon, who was guessing what Forest already knew.

"The Smoke!" Forest exclaimed. "It'll block out the laser! We're doomed!"

The laser was indeed becoming progressively useless. As the smoke cloud spread, it covered a larger and larger area, blocking out the laser and reenabling the Devos' antistatic generators.

Gordon grabbed the lieutenant. "Get some fans down here!" he shouted, shaking him. "If we don't get rid of that smoke, we're done for!" But it was too late. The Devo punks were moving on the troops, and devolving them away like nobody's business. Even the vampires, now effectively powerless, were being gorily consumed into their own genetic heritage down to the last man.

Forest, seeing the Devolution guns at work, couldn't believe his eyes. "Fuck!" he said. They’ve got genetic reprogramming beams! That's incredible!"

Gordon didn't understand. "What are they?"

Forest explained as the Devo punks crept closer. "Those weapons they've got rearrange your DNA pattern on the genetic level, scrambling you back through the evolutionary scale. It's the same concept as the Overman, but backward. One hit from those guns, and you're a monkey, man!"

"But they're not monkeys!" Gordon exclaimed, in a panic. "They're just disappearing!"

Forest threw his hands up in the air. "I know! They've got them set so high that the poor guys are just devolving into fish. Into amoebae. Single-celled lifeforms."

Now some Devo punks were dragging a hapless SubGenius trooper kicking and screaming off into the street. They pointed a Devolver at him and laughed hysterically. "Where's you're precious "Bob", eh?" one taunted. "Where's your Sales God Savior now?"

The SubGenius was shaking, and raised his hands in surrender. Offering himself as a prisoner, he bleated, "A-are w-wuh-we not men?" and forced a nervous smile.

The Devotee holding the gun on him simply shook his head. "We are Devo," he answered, and pulled the trigger. A bright blue beam sizzled from the Devolver and was absorbed into the SubGenius' body, which quickly shrunk into a snail. The transmogrified SubGenius crawled away into the night to begin his new life as a slimy invertebrate.

Things only got worse from there. The S.L.A.K. troops had already fallen back twice, and effectively had nowhere to run. In short order, the Devo punks had advanced to the base of the SubGenius building and secured the area. The riot was over.

The scene was one of utter holocaust. S.L.A.K. troops in various stages of evolution crawled, shuffled, slithered and dragged themselves around the street like the denizens of a lurid H.P. Lovecraft story. The smoke from the Devo jet's drop was a formless ghost, slowly curling its dark, ethereal tentacles throughout the riot area. A Devo assault vehicle, crashed and flipped over, burned fiercely and rocked back and forth, its wheels still turning from its impact with a cement blockade. Shattered glass littered the area, occasionally catching glare from the wandering SubGenius searchlights. A distant radio called to its operator, who lay lifeless and laserburned in the street.

As the remaining S.L.A.K. troops watched, now helpless prisoners of the triumphant Devos, a noisy motorcade lurched into view out of the smoke. Heading up the procession were the Devo Corps Elite Cabal, with General Casale and Dr. X in the lead vehicle. Leary, Gibson, Myers, the Bobs and their commensurate squad of faithful retainers followed close behind, rolling along over the bits of rubble that were strewn about downtown Dallas. They drove up to the doors of the World SubGenius Foundation building and screeched to a halt, “Good Thing” blaring over their speakers. Someone executed the common sense to turn it off, although he waited for the verse to come around to do it.

One of the Devotees ran up to the car, opening the door for Casale and saluting.

"The area has been secured, general."

Casale stepped out. "So I see. Good work, men." He paused for a moment as he looked at the group.

“Well, who have we here?" he inquired sarcastically, approaching Forest and Gordon as the other cabal members disembarked.

"Uh, we have prisoners, sir." the Devotee hastily added.

"Hey, hi, Jerry," said Gordon, offering his hand.

Forest slapped it back down. "Shut up, Gordon." he said.

The cabal joined General Casale at the doors. "And some important ones, too." Casale quipped, looking over the officers. "Dr. X, I'd like you to meet Waves Forest, SubGenius scientific advisor and arrogant asshole."

Before Dr. X could respond, Forest said, "I guess we have a lot in common, eh Herr Doctor?"

Leary pushed his way forward. "That's not funny."

G. Gordon Gordon glared at Leary. "Oh shut up, retread!" he said. The two began hurling insults at one another and the Devo punks broke them up before they could actually start throwing punches.

"Look, aren't you going to invite us in?" General Casale asked. "There's been a riot out here, and it just isn't safe. Besides, we have some upper echelon SubGenii to blow away."

The S.L.A.K. lieutenant stepped between Casale and the doors. No way, Devo dickhead!" he snapped. "Only I have the code to the doors and you'll have to kill me before I give it to you."

Leary laughed maniacally. "That can be arranged. Actually, since "Kill Me" is one of the prime tenets of your pathetic church, we'd just devolve your body into primordial ooze to match your brains."

"Real mature, Tim, real mature." Gordon shot back. "Maybe that longevity operation worked a little too well--"

Myers stepped forward. "HEY! Shut the fuck up! We're engineering a coup here."

General Casale nodded. "Alan does have a point. Now, if you won't decode the doors for us, I'm afraid I'll have to have you blasted into slime." he posed to the lieutenant, who remained stalwart.

"No way, asshole. Why don't you go--"

Forest interrupted him. "Hey, guy, open the doors. They'll get in anyway. I'll see that you're awarded a medal of honor or something, okay? Very admirable."

The lieutenant was incredulous. "What? Open our stronghold to the enemy? It's our duty to "Bob" to deny them entry! My orders are to--"

"Your orders are to open the goddamn doors!" Gordon shouted. "They've got the guns, they're giving the orders! Now do it!"

The lieutenant shook his head. "Alright, sir, but I don't like it." He pulled out a magnetic card and inserted it into the slot next to the doors. "Devo Corps sucks", he muttered into a small microphone, glancing antagonistically over his shoulder at the cabal, and put his thumb against the sensor next to the slot. After a moment, a message came up on the readout: VOICE WAVEFORM ANALYSIS AND THUMBPRINT VERIFICATION COMPLETE. ADMITTANCE AFFIRMATIVe. The doors unlocked with a quiet, bassy click and opened outward. The lieutenant withdrew the card and turned around, still defiant.

"Very intelligent, for a SubGenius." the General lauded. "However," he continued, "You are one of those unbearably fanatical loyalists, and pose too much of a risk. You might try something stupid." He turned to the Devotee. "Shoot him anyway."

The Devo punk obeyed instantly, firing his Devolver at the lieutenant's head. It mutated into a huge, overgrown bald spud just slightly before the rest of his body followed suit. The Overlieutenant screamed in the agony of hyperevolution and dropped to the ground.

"Whoops, wrong way," exclaimed the Devotee, reversing the setting and firing again on the prone form convulsing at his feet. The mutant creature turned briefly back into the lieutenant before shrinking away into a walleye. The look on his face during that moment was horrible to watch. Evidently being devolved was excruciatingly painful.

Forest shook his head and sniffed, wiping away a tear. "Make that a posthumous medal of honor," he lamented.

General Casale clapped his hands together. "Well, gentlemen, shall we go? I believe the phrase is, 'Take me to your leader.'"

Forest and Gordon led the way indoors, leaving the few S.L.A.K. troops that were still alive—and human—outside, under the guard of the Devotees. Gordon whistled the Devo Corporate Anthem loudly as they went around the reception desk and down the hall, to the extreme annoyance of everybody, including Forest.

"Stop that!" Leary demanded. "You're just trying to alert your cohorts!"

"Don't be stupid," Gordon said. "Even as we speak, we're being monitored." He illustrated his point by offhandedly gesturing at a video camera mounted on the wall.

"Well, then they can see that you two are leading the way and will be the first to bite it if there's any shooting." announced General Casale. "Move it."

The party quietly shuffled down the hall and around the corner. A contingent of armed S.L.A.K. troops were stationed behind the SubGenius information display, a tall triangular map and directory that listed the locations of various offices within the building. It proclaimed, "You are here!" at the bottom of the map in a gaudy Day-Glo star.

"Hold it! Drop your weapons!" one of the troops yelled.

Casale spoke up, nudging Gordon. "Tell them to disarm and stand down, or we'll see that you're given a good home in the Dallas zoo. Or maybe a nice lake somewhere...."

Gordon nodded. "You heard 'im, boys. At ease. They're packing Devolution guns."

The troops looked confused, but complied, dropping their weapons, and a few Devotees broke off to cover them. Gibson motioned toward the elevator, and a door leading to the stairway. "Let's take the stairs," he suggested. "They could trap us in the elevator."

Gordon smiled. "No good. You want the Colonel. Top floor, express elevator only. Have to take your chances."

"He's right." Casale admitted. He withdrew a set of the building's blueprints. "The stairs don't go all the way up."

Gordon became incensed. "Where the hell did you get those?"

The general huffed an overly-dramatic sigh. "I did help put the thing together, remember?"

"Oh, yeah." Gordon said sheepishly.

"All right then, open the elevator. Let's get moving."

Gordon raised his hands in defeat. "I can't. I don't have clearance during alert. The only way it can be opened is from upstairs."

At that, Dr. X spoke up. "I think I can be of service here," he said, pushing up his heavy glasses. Stepping toward the control panel, he produced an object that looked much like a tire gauge from his pocket, and pointed it at the elevator's control panel. It made a small, high-pitched whine, and within moments the panel exploded in a brilliant pyrotechnic display of sparks. The doors opened and Dr. X stepped back.

"Very impressive, Doctor." General Casale said, entering. As he followed everyone in, Forest raised a curious eyebrow.

"Hey, d'you make that yourself?" he asked Dr. X.

"Yes, I did. Quite simple really," he said handing over the object. The doors to the elevator closed and the car began the long climb upward to the top of the building.

Forest turned the device over in his hands, examining it. "Variable wave modulator?"

The scientist nodded. "Correct. It operates on an inverted phase loop, so that any peripheral ions inherent in the electron flux are automatically discharged.”

"Yeah, good idea." Forest concurred, impressed. Gibson looked on with interest.

Leary nudged Dr. X. "You guys are supposed to be enemies, remember? You sound like a couple of students at science camp." Forest handed the gadget back.

The rest of the short jaunt was spent in uncomfortable silence. The car soon slowed and came to a gentle stop. The doors opened.

"Get out." General Casale ordered, pushing the SubGenii forward. He cautiously peered into the large, ornately decorated office and followed them in, succeeded by the cabal. As if rehearsed, Forest and Gordon abruptly dived to either side to reveal an armed and lunatic Puzzling Evidence.

"Die, Devo, Die!!" he screamed, firing his Browning 9mm automatic into the cabal. The shots rang out, echoing loudly off the walls. Gordon covered his ears while Forest scrambled feverishly to safety behind a desk. 'Evidence continued his one-man assault, laughing insidiously and pausing only to eject the spent magazine from his gun and jam in a fresh one.

Taken completely by surprise, the Devo cabal dropped to the floor and rolled to the walls. Forest was quickly performing some unseen task behind the desk. The Devotees that were not fully yet in the room took up anxious positions outside the door and drew beads on Puzzling Evidence. Casale, Leary and both Bobs were hit, and gouted blood on the nice, new shag rug that the SubGenius Foundation had just had installed the week before.

Forest popped up from behind the desk, brandishing a weighty, electronic grenade. He threw it two-handed into the room, ducked back down, and covered his head. Two more bullets shot with explosive force from Puzzling Evidence's Browning as he fired on the Devotees, just as they pulled the triggers on their devolvers. Seeing his chance, Gordon stole up and dove for cover behind a filing cabinet, but didn't quite make it. He and Puzzling Evidence were both struck by the Devolvers' electric blue beams, and instantaneously started to devolve. The grenade then detonated in a scintillating prismatic spray of temporal striation, catching Dr. X, Bob 1, Gibson and just about everybody else. Time suddenly seemed to slow down, like film, and came to an inexorable halt with a horrible screeching noise like metal bending. The revolting smell of something like burning insulation pervaded the room. All was suddenly quiet, save the grenade's operational hum.

Forest got up and brushed himself off. "C'mon in, guys," he said, looking into the room's video camera. He sat down on the desk and waited for the others to join him from the conference room next door.

The door opened, and Ivan Stang and Colonel Mothersbaugh entered. "Alright, Waves!" Stang said, high-fiving Forest.

"What is that, a temporal displacement unit of some kind?" Mothersbaugh asked, curiously eyeing the grenade from a distance.

"Yeah. Careful, don't get too close to the field. Don't want you in there too when it restores normal time."

"How long d'you have it set for?" Stang queried, looking at the frozen spectacle.

Forest shrugged. "I didn't have time to set it. I think the default setting is about five minutes."

"Just enough time for a 'fropstick. Care for one?" Mothersbaugh held out the pack to Stang.

"Sure, why not." They lit up and smoked while watching the temporal displacement field and its inhabitants. General Casale's face was a visage of pain, expressing his distaste for being shot through the stomach by Puzzling Evidence's 9mm. Leary, Bob 2 and the Devotees were probably mortally wounded, but looked peaceful, almost asleep. Gordon and Puzzling Evidence were respectively a low-level crustacean of some kind, and a close relative to the wombat. The 9mm lay next to the marsupial, hovering in the air.

Forest got up and walked around the displacement field, picking up a Devolver that had been thrown from one of the Devotees when the grenade went off. He looked it over, and rejoined the others.

"As far as I can tell, we should be able to return them to normal by reversing the setting on this thing and shooting them with it again." He smiled. "Although I do kind of like them better the way they are." He adjusted the setting appropriately.

"Yeah, me too." Colonel Mothersbaugh said. "If that works, can you shoot it at the battlefield and restore the S.L.A.K. troops?"

Forest nodded. "I think so. As long as they haven't strayed too far, or discorporated into separate colonies of paramecia. We could probably hook it in to the SCS and hit 'em all at once."

The figures on the floor stirred, as the temporal displacement field slowly returned its occupants to normal time. The injured Devo cabal and Devotees resumed their bleeding and plaintive lamenting, and the two devolved SubGenii continued their way down the evolutionary ladder. The others simply looked around and tried to comprehend what had happened, and why everyone else was moving so fast. Forest reevolved Gordon, then Puzzling Evidence. Colonel Mothersbaugh unsnapped his holster and covered the cabal with his pistol. The uninjured ones assessed the situation and got up slowly, disoriented.

Shaking off the effects of the grenade, Myers said, "What happened?"

Forest explained. "I hit you with a temporal displacement grenade. It essentially created a short-term stasis field."

General Casale looked up from the floor. "Where on Earth did you get that?" he asked in disbelief, and grimaced in pain. His stomach was bleeding profusely.

"Technically, I won't get it for a while yet." Forest helped Gordon off the floor. "And if won’t be on Earth. I don't think I'll be able to get another, though. I was saving that one for a rainy day." Puzzling Evidence stood up and joined Stang, who began explaining the events to him.

Colonel Mothersbaugh pressed an intercom button on the desk. "Connie, get some security officers and medics in here, and take us off alert. We have the situation under control."

"Yes, sir." came the response.

"Now, Jerry, tell your people to get up, those who can. Including you." Mothersbaugh said, still covering him. Casale complied, and his cabal stood up, except for Leary.

Gibson leaned over and put two fingers to the outside of Leary's neck, then stood up. "He's dead."

Three security officers walked in the room and covered the Devo cabal with pistols.

"Take these men away to the detention cells, and get someone up here to clean up Dr. Leary's body." began the colonel.

"Just a moment, please." Dr. X said. He held up his arm, to which was strapped a small, watchlike device that seemed to have gone previously unnoticed. "I'm afraid I have the 'upper hand'," the mousy doctor chuckled. "One wrong move and I will detonante the tiny thermonuclear device on my wrist. We will now return to our base unimpeded or everyone gets blown to microns and your entire building with it." His tinny voice and his expression were deadpan serious.

Puzzling Evidence shook his head. "He’s bluffing."

"Want to find out, jerkoff?" Casale said weakly, holding his gut.

Gordon looked at Mothersbaugh and gestured toward the door. "I don't think we should take any chances. Let them go."

The colonel agreed. "All right. Get the hell out of here,” he said to Casale, none too happy about it. "But one question first."

The cabal began filing out, the security guards moving aside. General Casale glanced at Mothersbaugh with a pained expression. "What is it, Mark?"

"How did you know to release the smoke? You anticipated the laser?"

The general shrugged. "No, we didn't. We just released the smoke bombs to create a screen for our men. It was purely tactical. Dumb luck."

Colonel Mothersbaugh's eyes grew wide. "Great. Total FlukeSlack." he uttered. General Casale and the remainder of the Devo Cabal triumphantly left the room.

Stang looked down at the body on the floor. "What about Leary?" he called after them.

Casale laughed, entering the elevator. "He was a clone anyway." He pushed the button for the bottom floor, and the doors began to close. "See you next week, assholes!" he shouted as the doors came together, and they began the descent down to street level.





~THE END~




Stay Tuned Next Week For
After Hours in the AM/PM
by Sean Manseau

only on The Freezine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction

Archive of Stories
and Authors

Edward Morris's
MERCY STREET


Gene Stewart's
CRYPTID'S LAIR


Adam Bolivar's
SERVITORS OF THE
OUTER DARKNESS


Adam Bolivar's
THE DEVIL & SIR
FRANCIS DRAKE



Adam Bolivar's
THE TIME-EATER


Adam Bolivar is an expatriate Bostonian
who has lived in New Orleans and Berkeley,
and currently resides in Portland, Oregon
with his beloved wife and fluffy gray cat
Dahlia. Adam wears round, antique glasses
and has a fondness for hats. His greatest
inspirations include H.P. Lovecraft,
Jack tales and coffee.





David Agranoff's
A PLANET OF YOUR OWN


David Agranoff's
THE FALLEN GUARDIAN'S MANDATE


David Agranoff is the author of the
short story collection Screams From
A Dying World, just published by
Afterbirth Books. David is a hardcore
vegan and tireless environmentalist.
His contributions to the punk horror
scene and the planet in general have
already established him as a bright
new writer and activist to watch out
for. The Freezine of Fantasy and
Science Fiction welcomes him and
his defiant vision open-heartedly.

David is a busy man, usually at work
on several different novels or projects
at once. He is sure to leave his mark on
a world teetering over the edge of
ecological imbalance. David's latest
books include the Wuxia -Pan
(martial arts fantasy) horror
novel called Hunting The Moon Tribe,
already out from Afterbirth Books.;
The Vegan Revolution...with Zombies,
[Deadite Press, 2010]; and
[Deadite Press, 2014]

Daniel José Older's
GRAVEYARD WALTZ


Daniel José Older's
THE COLLECTOR


Daniel José Older's spiritually driven,
urban storytelling takes root at the
crossroads of myth and history.
With sardonic, uplifting and often
hilarious prose, Older draws from
his work as an overnight 911 paramedic,
a teaching artist & an antiracist/antisexist
organizer to weave fast-moving, emotionally
engaging plots that speak whispers and
shouts about power and privilege in
modern day New York City. His work
has appeared in the Freezine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction, The ShadowCast
the collection Sunshine/Noir, and is
featured in Sheree Renee Thomas'
Black Pot Mojo Reading Series in Harlem.

When he's not writing, teaching or
riding around in an ambulance,
Daniel can be found performing with
his Brooklyn-based soul quartet
Ghost Star. His blog about the
ridiculous and disturbing world
of EMS can be found HERE.


Johnny Strike's
AS YOU WISH


Johnny Strike's
NIGHT FLAMERS


Johnny Strike's
THE HOMELESS MUTANTS


Johnny Strike will beat you with his guitar
and leave you lying in the gutter wishing you
had never dared enter his under ground world
of fake passports, lucky amulets, rain soaked
hotels, and occult mystique. If you don't leave
nice comments under his story, he's sure to sic
his band CRIME on you. He also wrote the novel
Ports Of Hell (Headpress), recommended by
William S. Burroughs. You don't receive kudos
from William Lee himself unless you are the
epitome of cool. Besides, have you listened to
CRIME's album Exalted Masters? It was
released in 2007 on the Crime Music label,
on vinyl only, featuring a slew of their old
rare hits. Its real punk music from seasoned
veterans. Now go track yourself down a copy
before its out of print. The Freezine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction is proud to host the story
that contains the line which titles his first
From Above (Rudos and Rubes).


Paul Stuart's
SEA?TV!


Paul Stuart is the author of numerous
biographical blurbs written in the third
person. His previously published fiction
appears in The Vault of Punk Horror and
His non-fiction financial pieces can be found
in a shiny, west-coast magazine that features
pictures of expensive homes, as well as images
of women in casual poses and their accessories.
Consider writing him at paul@twilightlane.com,
if you'd like some thing from his garage. In fall
2010, look for Grade 12 Trigonometry and
Pre-Calculus -With Zombies.


Rain Grave's
MAU BAST


Rain Graves is an award winning
author of horror, science fiction and
poetry. She is best known for the 2002
Poetry Collection, The Gossamer Eye
(along with Mark McLaughlin and
David Niall Wilson). Her most
recent book, Barfodder: Poetry
Written in Dark Bars and Questionable
Cafes, has been hailed by Publisher's
Weekly as "Bukowski meets Lovecraft..."
in January of 2009. She lives and
writes in San Francisco, performing
spoken word at events around the
country. 877-DRK-POEM -



Icy Sedgwick's
THE PORCELAIN WOMAN


Icy Sedgwick is part writer and part
trainee supervillain. She lives in the UK
but dreams of the Old West. Her current
works include a ghost story about a Cavalier
and a Western tale of retribution. Find her
ebooks, free weekly fiction and other
shenanigans at Icy’s Cabinet of Curiosities.


Blag Dahlia's
armed to the teeth
with LIPSTICK



BLAG DAHLIA is a Rock Legend.
Singer, Songwriter, producer &
founder of the notorious DWARVES.
He has written two novels, ‘NINA’ and
‘ARMED to the TEETH with LIPSTICK’.


G. Alden Davis's
THE FOLD


G. Alden Davis wrote his first short story
in high school, and received a creative
writing scholarship for the effort. Soon
afterward he discovered that words were
not enough, and left for art school. He was
awarded the Emeritus Fellowship along
with his BFA from Memphis College of Art
in '94, and entered the videogame industry
as a team leader and 3D artist. He has over
25 published games to his credit. Mr. Davis
is a Burningman participant of 14 years,
and he swings a mean sword in the SCA.


Shae Sveniker's
A NEW METAPHYSICAL STUDY
REGARDING THE BEHAVIOR
OF PLANT LIFE


Shae is a poet/artist/student and former
resident of the Salt Pit, UT, currently living
in Simi Valley, CA. His short stories are on
Blogger and his poetry is hosted on Livejournal.



Nigel Strange's
PLASTIC CHILDREN


Nigel Strange lives with his wife and
daughter, cats, and tiny dog-like thing
in their home in California where he
occasionally experiments recreationally
with lucidity. PLASTIC CHILDREN
is his first publication.


J.R. Torina's
THE HOUSE IN THE PORT


J.R. Torina was DJ for Sonic Slaughter-
house ('90-'97), runs Sutekh Productions
(an industrial-ambient music label) and
Slaughterhouse Records (metal record
label), and was proprietor of The Abyss
(a metal-gothic-industrial c.d. shop in
SLC, now closed). He is the dark force
behind Scapegoat (an ambient-tribal-
noise-experimental unit). THE HOUSE
IN THE PORT is his first publication.


K.B. Updike, Jr's
THE GOLDEN THIRD EYE


K.B. Updike, Jr. is a young virgin
Virginia writer. KB's life work,
published 100% for free: