Skymarine Jones and the Politburo

Jones landed with his squad at the Mikhail Gorbachev Space Port and wondered if being a spy was all it was cracked up to be.
Curiously Mikhail Gorbachev, contrary to all historical evidence, was in fact the single, greatest secret agent the CIA had ever devised, and had single handily brought down the Soviet apparatus from within the Kremlin itself. For what was the greatest act of espionage he had been honoured several centuries after his death with a third rate space port, on a fourth rate orbital on the edge of the galaxy. Jones and his men had no interest in this, and yet oddly they were there to bring down another Zoviet government, which had sprung upon one of the endless United Nations and Planets colonies.
“Men, and in your case I use that word loosely,” snapped the general, “your mission and you have no choice but to accept it. Is to kidnap the Politburo of the Zoviet orbital of Novgoromouldovograd - where do they come up with these names? Those dirty zoviets have broken away from our glorious federation of right wing totalitarian regimes and set up an independent thinking, free elections and communistic totalitarian regime all of their own. What were they thinking? Your mission is to kidnap those heathen commies with as little bloodshed or mortality as possible, or at the very least kill every last one of those commie feckers in a hail of plasma fire. Any questions?”
Jones put up his hand. “Sir, what resources do we have?”
“Do we have any spies on the orbital?”
“Nope. You are the spies.”
“Do we have any intelligence at all?”
“You’re a Skymarine, you have no use for intelligence, and for that matter the Intelligence Corps haven’t any use for intelligence as well.”
Jones scratched his head and was about to ask the obvious question when the general answered it for him.
“Don’t worry about the Zoviets having any army or security forces, just a few secret police and gendarmes,” the general smiled, “just fly in there, show your plasma weapons, arrest those damned commies and fly out again. Nothing simpler.”
“What if they hide sir? What if we can’t find them?”
“Well, just don’t tell anyone you’re Skymarines until just before you hit them,” the general grinned, “If they don’t know you’re coming, they won’t take evasive action.”
Jones looked at his platoon of men, all dressed in Hardlyaman heavily armoured spacesuits, or what was more popularly known as the we-can-kill-you-before-you-figure-out-what-we-are-wearing generation of armoured exoskeleton. They also carried the latest super powered plasma rifles, plasma grenades and plasma rockets with enough firepower to obliterate a small planetoid. His men were also all genetically altered to the point they instantly recognizable as Skymarines throughout the galaxy. Jones looked at the ceiling and breathed deeply.
“Sir, will we have a cover story?” he asked slowly.
“You will be attending a science fiction Cosplay convention called Cosfestive - as yourselves.”
Jones and his men squirmed in their exoskeletons.
“So, we are going as incredibly well costumed nerds and brainiacs?” said Jones.
“That’s right, have you ever been to one of those Cosplay conventions, those costumes are amazing!” the general became seriously enthusiastic, “I once went as an eight foot cyber-cat, won an award for best dressed furry!”
The general coughed and lost his moment of excitement.
“Anyway,” he brushed himself down, “you board the shuttle in five minutes. Fill out forms A-23 and G-32 releasing your citizenship and your organs in case of capture or death.”
“Sir,” Jones felt worried, “what happens if we are captured?”
“Form A-23 gives us deniability that we have ever met you.” The general pulled uncomfortably at his collar. “As this is to be a spy mission, it releases your citizenship and according to the Geneva Convention of Spying you can only spy for us provided you’re not one of us and we have never met you. Your copy of form A-23 is also impregnated with cyanide, so in the event of capture you are to eat form A-23. Dismissed.”
The Skymarines crammed onto the shuttle with all the enthusiasm of tuna volunteering for sushi duty. Dressed in Hardlyaman exoskeletons and equipped with plasma rifles, they were the most deadliest and best-trained troops in the galaxy. This was a moot point, as the Galactic Command of United Nations and Planets had no real enemies, no alien civilizations ever existed that used war as a means of political force, no monsters lurked unseen in the forests of conquered planets and no extra-human sentient beings had ever been known to develop weapons more dangerous than a sling-shot or sarcasm. Nevertheless, Galactic Command insisted they maintained a state of perpetual readiness by going to war with whomever they pleased at a moment’s notice, on the grounds of Jefferson’s quote: the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. This was translated into the Skymarines credo – ‘Kill the aliens, before they evolve!’
“Maguire,” Jones sighed heavily, “this is another suicide mission, isn’t it?”
“Yup,” said Maguire strapping himself into his seat. “How did you figure that one?”
“Because every time we are sent on a suicide mission, they neglect to send an officer or even an non-commissioned officer.”
“Brains like that they should make you an officer.”
“Brains like this, got me in the Skymarines in the first place.”
Jones grinned at his own irony, for like all the Skymarines his DNA had been manipulated with exotic retro-virals from other organisms. In the case of Mackie, the platoon sniper had the retro-virals of a golden eagle eyes and could see a glass of white lightening at a thousand yards, Svensson had the reflexes of a mongoose but was terrified of garden hoses that looked like snakes, Dorfmann had a Turing biochip stuck in his cerebellum and could write computer code in nine hundred different languages but had no idea how to pick up women.
The irony was, that of all of them, only Jones had any brains, brains in the traditional sense of being able to reason and avoid danger. He had been given the DNA rescued from Einstein’s brain, this paradoxically made him so clever he knew death before death could introduce itself and was constantly leading his platoon out of certain destruction, having developed an uncanny ability to calculate the safest route out of any fire fight.
Oddly, death itself was no guarantee for getting out of the service, as the Skymarines might always come back as the lowest of the low, the Cyborg fighting infantry, half-men half-industrial vacuum cleaners, fabricated from blown up marines and surplus robotic parts, by interns with only two weeks training and a copy of Readers Digest. These Cyborgs were as unreliable as James Watt’s steam engine and nowhere near as powerful.
Jones looked at the Operations listing.
“We rendezvous with the Star Cruiser Simone de Beauvoir,” Jones breathed in deeply, “oh feck!”
The other Skymarines grinned at Jones’ discomfort. The captain of the Star Cruiser Simone de Beauvoir was none other than Commodore Haldeman, who had sworn a personal vendetta against Jones for the time he had accidentally borrowed the Simone de Beauvoir for a joy ride to Globaxium the pleasure orbital, and then sold it to a scrap yard. It was never proved as Jones and the platoon were away on a mission fighting giant slugs on the planet Vorodoxium, at least that’s what Jones had Dorfmann rewrite into the ship’s log.
“Don’t worry Jonsey,” Maguire rolled his eyes at Jones, “he may have forgotten.”
Commodore Haldeman had not forgotten, and met their shuttle with every military police armed with sonic batons and electric whips he could muster. “In the brig!” he screamed as the door to the shuttle open, “Put all of them, in the brig! At the double! At the triple!”
“Morning sir!” Jones saluted, as a dozen burly masters-at-arms tackled him to the ground and attempted to batter him into submission. Jones felt nothing, as his Hardlyaman spacesuit was capable of withstanding a direct blast from a plasma cannon, but he went along with it all to make Haldeman think he was getting one over Jones. “Ouch! Ooh!” as he fell to the ground and disappeared beneath the scum of the fleet.
Two minutes later, the Star Cruiser Simone de Beauvoir had gone to hyperlightspeed and travelled across halfway across the galaxy to the destination and parked in orbit above the orbital Novgoromouldovograd. Hyperlightspeed was nothing if not amazingly fast.
“And don’t come back!” Haldeman screamed as his masters-at-arms picked up Jones and his men and threw all of them into the landing shuttle.
The speed of light was no longer the fastest way to send information or travel, since Hyperlightspeed was actually faster than the speed of light, paradoxes concerning information and the very existence of the Universe were routinely ignored by ships navigators who had long given up even considering the dataflow on the Hyperlightspeed spectrum, with the exception of horse racing where the bookies made a killing. Occasionally a ship would be in two places at the same time, the so called Doppelganger Event Horizons, these lead to Doppelganger parties where crews from the same ship would meet in the vicinity of a black hole and have unbelievably wild parties before vanishing in a sputtering supernova as the Universe quickly swatted down another impossible event and returned to a Newtonian sense of normality. The rarer events where the same ship would try and occupy the same space twice inevitably resulted in explosions so vast they could rip apart a nebulae, but not before they had a party so amazing it felt as if the world as exploding … and in general, it was.
“Well, at least he didn’t try to kill us like last time,” Maguire grinned as the shuttle entered the thin atmosphere of the orbital torus.
“Self destruct sequence initiated. Detonation in one minute,” a dull robotic voice chimed at the shuttles control. “Counting down, 59, 58, 57…”
“Oh feck!” Jones shrieked, “Abandon ship!”
Each of the Skymarines grabbed a parachute and dove out the bomb door. They floated free for a moment, then a puff of white silk opened above them, and like a line of dandelion heads they floated towards the great ring of the orbital beneath them. A few moments later the shuttle exploded beneath them and showered the countryside with shattered metal and plastic.
“Remind me not to send him a birthday card,” Jones started breathing again and watched the curving great plain rising towards them, “or even a thank-you note.”
The orbital was, of course, an artificial ring of preposterous size, spinning at seven kilometres per second, its artificial gravity and atmosphere housed millions of people scattered over a vast area around the inside of the torus. The product of generations of engineers and incalculable Solaris credits, it was the very pinnacle of human achievement, but most of its inhabitants simply looked upon it as a cool place to hang out.
“I’ve got the Torus Positioning System on the comlink,” said Dorfmann, “we’re about ten kilometres from the landing zone. We could drift all the way to the LZ, not a problem.”
“Does it have the nearest pub on that thing?” Jones asked.
“There are about four hundred thousand bars listed for the torus, the nearest is directly beneath us.”
“After carefully considering the tactical situation,” Jones snickered, “I have decided to redirect the mission to point zero beneath us. This is to be a priority one command.”
Jones wasn’t really in charge, but as he was the one with the nearest to having a brain, part of Einstein’s brain in this case, the platoon generally went along with whatever he proposed. They landed directly behind the bar on top of a beer garden, to the very great surprise of its customers. The building was little more than drab socialist hypercube architecture, with a diseased shrubbery out the front, a collection of hyperbolic lines fastened together with wire and horizontal lines for windows, and the faces of its confused customers could be seen staring out, for the all the world saying ‘kill me’.
“This is a beer garden?” Jones looked about quizzically, at the painful cluster of pre-cubists lines and circles.
“Yes, comrade,” said a smarmy waiter with slicked backed hair, “drinks?”
“Now we’re talking,” Jones grinned and his men folded up their silk parachutes and poured onto the benches. “Beers - all round!”
“Yes comrade, can I see your work permits?”
“Our permits, ah,” that part of his Jones’ brain which belonged to Einstein went into overdrive, “well, you see we’re here for the Cosplay convention, comrade.”
“Cosmonauts uniforms, I see, comrade,” the waiter grinned, and jingled his pocket, “I’m sure we can accommodate our tourist friends.”
Jones frowned, as Skymarines simply didn’t carry Solaris credits in their pockets, partly because they had no pockets but mostly because they were Skymarines and took whatever they wanted with the noisy end of a plasma rifle.
“I don’t suppose you’d be interested in a dozen silk parachutes, but any chance?” he said softly.
The waiter’s eyes went wide with delight. “Why yes, comrade, I won’t be a moment,” and hurried away.
“Well, that seemed to work,” Jones smiled at the platoon. “If it keeps going on likes this, we’ll be back at Globaxium before…”
He was interrupted by the sudden appearance of the waiter, followed by a frumpy middle-aged woman carrying a tattered document, a platter of dark ale and missing most of her teeth.
“I think this will cover the silk,” said the waiter and pushed the woman towards Jones.
“What’s this?” Jones’ eyes blinked from the woman, to the beer and the paper.
“For my daughter, the inn and a lifetime supply of the finest ale in all the Torus, I’ll exchange for your silk. A deal, yes comrade?”
Jones coughed and looked alarmingly at her mouth with blackened teeth and warty tongue. “Actually, I’d just settle for the beer.”
The waiter looked at him sharply. “Is there something wrong with my daughter?”
“No, I didn’t say that,” Jones coughed again, “but we’re just here for a visit. I wasn’t planning on immigrating here. Or marrying for that matter.”
“In that case, comrade, I am unable to serve you refreshment.”
“Go on, Jonsey, take a bullet for the team,” said Mackie.
Jones looked circumspectly at the woman, she grinned with a mouth that wouldn’t be out of place in a field of gophers.
“I wouldn’t call this a bullet,” Jones narrowed his eyes, “more along the lines of a howitzer.”
“If comrade does not wish to transact a deal,” the waiter winked, “I would be happy to inform the secret police of your presence.”
“Our presence?” Jones gave a weak smile.
“Nobody would believe you are here for the Cosplay convention, good comrade, not in those uniforms,” the smell from his mouth made Jones wince, “not even the secret police.”
“I’ve changed my mind,” Jones leant back in his chair and let out a deep breath, “the tavern is now mine.”
“Hussar!” the waiter cried and jumped on the table, “now for the wedding!”
“Oh feck,” Jones sighed.
“What luck!” the waiter cried pointing at the parachutes, “We have silk for the wedding dress! Olga! To the sewing machine! My friend, my son, my stipend, what do I call you?”
“Absent,” Jones lied incompetently.
“Absent?” the waiter repeated.
“Old Polish name, goes back generations,” Jones grinned weakly.
“Drinks are on the house! My daughter is getting married to Absent! Finally!” the waiter yelled then turned to Jones, “by the way my son, you’ll need to pay for that.”
A party quickly erupted around Jones trestle table, as out of nowhere the town’s entire population come flooding into the tavern, dancing and singing as if they were liberated. Accordion and violin players began to contest for the right to deafen Jones by pushing and shoving each other out of the way. Small dogs and children gathered under the table to compete for scraps of bread and have yapping competitions with each other. The mayor tried to interest Jones in buying his hat or at the very least his outhouse. Everything was going to a state of general mayhem, when the door to the beer garden burst open and a tall bearded man dressed in black leather, black leather hat and carrying a large, black leather briefcase walked in and pushed his way past everyone to Jones’ side.
“Passport!” he yelled and everyone fell silent.
Jones coughed nervously.
“We’re tourists,” he offered meekly, “for the Cosplay convention.”
“I am the commissar!” the tall man yelled, “You must have passports!”
“Um,” said Jones and looked at his men with the overwhelming firepower and wondered if it was time to stop pretending to beSkymarines.
“Of course,” the commissar leant down and whispered Jones’ ear, “if the comrade has something to trade for passports, I’m sure I will not need to inform the secret police of this matter.”
“Ah,” Jones’ began to sweat, “you see…”
At that moment Olga, the bride came stomping into beer garden, dressed in what could only be described as an exploded bedspread made out of torn parachutes and baling wire. Jones took one look at her and a cunning look came over his face as he winked at the Commissar.
“Would you like a new wife and a tavern?” he whispered to the official.
The Commissar rose to his full height, gave her a careful inspection, then smiled and leant back down to Jones. “Wait here, comrade, I have an idea,” before vanishing in a cape of black leather.
“Well, that seemed to work,” Jones smiled once more at his platoon. “Lads I’ve got a feeling everything…”
He was interrupted as the door burst open and the Commissar waltzed back in, leading a cow and three tolerable women complete with headscarves, missing teeth and enough body fat to make a deranged walrus happy.
“I think this will cover the tavern and the daughter,” said the Commissar as he pushed his daughters onto Jones.
“Another wedding!” the tavern exploded into a riot of singing, shouting and backslapping. The accordion and violin players jumped up on the trestle table and began leaping and playing Mazurkas. The children and small dogs began howling with delight, as they started running around and around the table like a dog track. The mayor pulled out a giant handkerchief and began sobbing compulsively at the thought of his grand daughters finally getting married, he now suggested that Jones buy the town and develop it as a health retreat for lepers.
The Skymarines, with the exception of Jones, began to enjoy themselves immensely.
The door burst open a third time and a sudden chill swept the room. A short man appeared dressed in the sort of black that is only visible on a dark night in a coal shaft, stepped in like a shadow with a history of violence and petty crime. Small gold-rimmed glasses framed his face, and he carried a very small briefcase and a palpable odour of evil.
“Nobody moves!” he yelled, “Secret Police!”
The beer garden emptied faster than a wallet in a brothel.
“I said nobody moves!” he fumed, as he watched the townsfolk disappear, “oh never mind!”
He marched over to the Skymarines, who grinned at the idea of secret police.
“Identity papers!” he shrieked.
“Um,” said Jones who was more of a coward than he cared to admit, “We’re here for the Cosplay convention.”
The secret policeman looked them up and down and frowned. “And - are these your costumes?” he asked.
“Yes,” Jones began to sweat profusely, “we’re dressed as Skymarines of the Galactic Command of United Nations and Planets.”
“You do know we are unofficially at war with the United Nations and Planets?”
“We thought it would be ironic, you know, to do the opposite, as a form of protest against the oppression of the capitalistic swine!” Jones finished on a panicky high note.
“Yes, hmm,” the secret policeman pursed his lips, “You know, those are really very good costumes.”
“We tried really hard to make an impression,” Maguire grinned and patted his plasma rifle.
“A for effort,” the secret policeman grinned in return with enough metal teeth to construct a grandfather clock, “hmm, I shall accompany you to the convention.”
“You will?” Jones coughed compulsively.
“Yes,” the man grinned evilly and long, “I will go dressed as secret policemen. What do you think of my costume?”
“A for effort?” said Jones.
“Yes, I think so too,” the secret policeman grinned.
They left soon after, with a tearful bevy of potential wives waving handkerchiefs goodbye, and the mayor yelling at his two sons, the waiter and the Commissar, for letting another source of income escape. Then, for reasons no one could explain the cow suddenly died of typhoid.
Soon afterwards, the Skymarines and the Secret Policeman arrived at the Cosplay Convention courtesy of a black, Maria flivver that the Secret Policeman insisted they use. The flivver was, for lack of a better description, an odd hybrid of an anti-gravity car, space shuttle and fishing boat all bound together by the whimsy of the proletarian state. It crashed soon after in the landing zone of the Convention centre with all the élan of a dying muskox attempting a double back flip at the Zoviet Olympics. Jones and the rest staggered onto the general concourse, greatly relieved not only at surviving the journey, but also being able to breath fresh air unpolluted by the dental hygiene of the Secret Police.
“Why don’t we just take him down?” Maguire hissed in Jones’ ear and held up the musical end of his plasma rifle.
“Because we’re undercover,” Jones hissed back, “once we figure out where this Politburo is, then we hit him.”
“Why not just ask him?” Maguire hissed.
“What? Ask them where their leaders are? Isn’t that a bit old fashioned?”
The Secret Policeman looked at them. “Why are you hissing for?” he asked.
Jones hesitated and Maguire recovered for him. “It’s part of the costume, you know, how the Galactic Command are evil snakes, hissing and ... ah ... hissing.”
Jones looked at Maguire and raised an eyebrow in disbelief.
The spy reappraised the Skymarines, and said, “You people really know how to play the part, almost as if you were born to it.”
“Years of watching Starship Troopers reruns,” said Jones hopelessly, their Hardlyaman exoskeletons were vaguely like trooper uniforms, only they worked. “Perhaps we should go in and mingle?”
Jones watched as a group of furry cat lolitas dressed in nazi uniforms and carrying giant swords, walked by singing the Sound of Music, and shook his head in disbelief. Cosplay, or costume play, was an ancient Japanese performance art that had long ago evolved beyond simple dressing up in your preferred ‘My Favourite Martian’ character and reciting lines from long forgotten yet still loved television shows. It has become a galactic wide social event that surpassed any suggestion of rational thought. It was not unknown for people to have tails surgically grafted to their posterior, or large furry ears retro-virally grown on their heads, or most bizarrely their entire bodies covered with nylon fur that actually grew out of their skin with giant swords fused onto the hands. Most medieval re-enactment societies did so for the purpose of having a bit of fun – most Cosplayers, on the other hand, were simply stark, raving bonkers.
A couple of bouncing balloons came up to them and greeted in what could only be described as a screech owl being hit by a truck.
“Wah!” Jones said, and lifted instinctively his plasma rifle in self-defence.
“Welcome to Cosfestive, nine million and three,” the bouncing balls jumped up and down on the spot.
“Nice costumes,” Jones bit his lips, “I can’t quite decide what they are?”
“Pacman!” screamed the first.
“And Pacwoman!” screamed the second, bouncing up and down like bloated dodge-balls, Jones backed away as a giant flapping mouth threatened to engulf him. “Oooooh!” she screamed, “You’re so real! I love your weapons and your helmets!”
The Skymarines crowded together with the Secret Policeman for mutual support.
“Jonsey, do we open fire now?” asked Mackie, holding his sniper rifle to his eye and jumping from target to target with all the agility of a mongoose on amphetamines.
“I’m not sure,” Jones stared wide-eyed at the bewildering array of humans, semi-humans and possibly eight-foot cats, “I think the rules of engagement are, and I’m not really sure, we can’t obliterate ten thousand screaming teenagers unless they open fire on us first, but in a situation like this – who knows!”
Virtually all of the teenagers had some part of their anatomy surgically removed or added to, it was as if Dr. Moreau - the Dr. Moreau from the Island of Dr. Moreau fame - had woken up one morning and seriously thought about Hieronymus Bosch for a role model. It gave a whole new meaning to animal rights and unnecessary vivisection. Even under the best of circumstance, teenagers are looked upon as wild animals, but in this situation Jones was wondering if he should have brought an elephant gun.
A nine-foot lizard with glowing red eyes and a tail, walked up to them carrying a tablet computer, looked them up and down and frowned. “What category?” it asked as a blue tongue forked from its mouth.
“Category?” the secret policeman and Jones echoed.
“For the competition, your category?” unnerving its eyes blinked slowly.
“Are you alien?” Jones asked in amazement.
“Only in our souls, after all, this is Cosplay,” the lizard grinned and pulled out its tongue and then removed its head, to reveal a chubby nineteen year old with an advanced case of acne, “Are you all players?”
“Ah, yes,” Jones said slowly, “We are Skymarines.”
“Which show?” it stuck its tongue and head back on.
“Show?” Jones began to feel more comfortable.
“Manga or straight Science Fiction? Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Sailor Moon, Mobile Suit Gundam, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Fullmetal Alchemist, or Bananas in Pyjamas?” the moist blinking of its eyes resumed.
Jones twisted his brow trying to remember any television show that had High Marines in it, but drew a blank.
“Captain Video and His Video Rangers,” Mackie stepped up and answered.
Everyone stared at Mackie in amazement.
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that show,” said the lizard, it tapped something into its computer. “Gracious, that really is historic, mid-twentieth century, Nineteen Forty Nine on the DuMont Television Network. Wow, you guys really know your stuff, but shouldn’t you have thunderbolts sewn across your chests?”
“It’s the second series,” Mackie shrugged as Jones stared at him in amazement, “after invasion of Earth by the slug people.”
“Which one is Captain Video?” the lizard asked.
Everyone, including the secret policeman, pointed at Jones as he smiled glumly.
“Wonderful costumes,” the lizard nodded approvingly, “so real, I could almost imagine those plasma rifles going off.”
“Isn’t imagination a wonderful thing,” Jones fluttered his eyelids.
“Follow me,” said the lizard as it hopped along like a kangaroo, “you’re just in time for the competition.”
Jones grabbed Mackie by the shoulder and whispered in his ear. “How did you know that?”
“I grew up in rural Kentucky,” Mackie said in his habitual twang, “all we had for entertainment was a 16mm print of Captain Video and His Video Rangers. Ironic hey?”
“I think the irony is,” said Jones as he grinned, “you don’t know what is irony.”
Out of nowhere, the secret policeman hovered next to Jones, and looked at him with all the interest of desert-fox at a road kill. “I thought you watched years of re-runs Starship Troopers?” he blinked repeatedly behind gold-rimmed glasses.
Skymarines, Video Rangers,” Jones shrugged, “hey, what’s the difference?”
“Several centuries and actual wars, I would have thought,” said the spy.
“Is that the main stage?” Jones walked quickly after the lizard, as the Secret Policeman pulled out a walkie-talkie. “I’m sure that’s the main stage.”
“Are you sure your Cosplayers?” the little spy called after them as they walked away, and then started yelling into his walkie-talkie.
“Come on,” the lizard turned around and pointed at them, “you’re on next.”
“We are?” Jones almost shrieked and looked at the ocean of costume, surgically altered, nearly human fans jumping around before them. “What do we do?”
“Your act, of course,” said the lizard, “from Captain Video and His Video Rangers. You do have an act, don’t you?”
“An act?” Jones clenched his jaw, “yes, an act, of course we have an act. That’s what we’re here for - the acting. Mackie! You’re the choreographer, what’s the act again?”
Mackie looked as startled as a racoon stumbling into a lecture on quantum mechanics at the American Cheering Leading University. Spoke in a southern twang strung from a banjo and soaked in pure ethanol, “Ah well, in Captain Video and His Video Rangers, they generally just shot they aliens with their blasters.”
“Right,” said Jones, as that part of his brain, which really belonged to Einstein, had an idea, “don’t throw grenades, shoot in the air and avoid the whites of their eyes, presuming of course they have whites of their eyes.”
The crowd erupted in a frenzy as the platoon stumbled on stage. The Skymarines had been trained to kill with piano wire, vanish in the night, survive on nothing more than bug meat and fight hand-to-hand with the giant slugs of Vorodoxium, but nothing had prepared them for a hundred thousand screaming, dancing, surgically altered, furry teenagers waving ten foot swords and demanding a show.
Everything went silent as Jones walked up to the microphone and tapped it.
“Um,” he looked out at more alien forms than existed in the rest of the galaxy. “We here to perform Captain Video and His Video Rangers.”
The crowd went wild and dozens of girl’s panties showered Jones.
“What do we do?” Svensson asked, grabbing underwear out of the air and tucking it into his utility belt.
“Everyone – shoot in the air, and don’t miss!” Jones yelled and with this the platoon lifted a dozen plasma rifles and pointed them directly upwards. They let loose the sort of obliterating destruction normally seen at a Hell’s Angels and Bandidos annual reunion. The crowd, never having seen anything as spectacular as this at Cosplay, went completely chaotic and started chanting for encores, which Jones warming to the part was cheerful to give. Out of nowhere a flock of exploded ducks rained down on the stage with more girl’s panties. “Cease fire!” Jones yelled, as a bag of feathers and roast duck fell on his face.
The lizard master of ceremonies walked up to the microphone and announced, “Let’s hear it for Captain Video and His Video Rangers!”
Another wild eruption of fandom, during which the lizard consulted with his headset, “Everyone!” he yelled, “after consideration for costume, style and down right showmanship, the judges have decided, and quite rightly I would say, that Captain Video and His Video Rangers are this years winners!”
A final shower of teenage panties, complete with numbers and address, showered the Skymarines, who were now grinning so wide their gums were starting to bleed.
“And to the present the prizes, are our glorious leaders of the Politburo! The Politburo All Stars!” The lizard cried, as a mournful dirge, which was probably the national anthem began playing as a group of middle-aged portly men uncomfortably shuffled on stage carrying a plastic statue and a giant cheque.
Jones’ eyes fell open with delight and not believing his luck, he grabbed the microphone, fired off a warning shot and yelled: “Nobody moves! We are Skymarines of the Galactic Command of United Nations and Planets! We are arresting your Politburo for crimes against…”
He got stuck, as he had no idea what the crimes were supposed to be.
“No costumes!” a wag from the front row called out.
This was too much and the crowd went truly ballistic and started throwing each other in the air at the incredible showmanship. Jones and the Skymarines herded the Politburo off the stage at the blunderbuss ends of their plasma rifles. Once outside they commandeered a flivver and launched into space before the Politburo caught onto the fact they were being hijacked, and by the time they did they were all aboard the Star Cruiser Simone de Beauvoir and thrown into the ship’s brig.
Moments later, Commodore Haldeman tossed Jones and his men into the brig as well; under the pretext they were out of uniform.
“But sir!” Jones complained, “The Hardlyaman exoskeletons are our uniforms!”
“I’ve been to Cosplay as well!” the commodore thundered back, “and where are your tails!”

Copyright reserved by Jim O’Brien ©

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