America's Galactic Foreign Legion
Book 12: The Arkby Walter Knight
Science Fiction / Political Humor
When a huge ship is found buried deep beneath a desert oasis in an unpopulated area of New Colorado’s New Gobi Desert, the race is on between the United States Galactic Federation and the Arthropodan Empire to claim its secrets. General Manny Lopez simply wants to loot the technological treasure. However, the spiders believe the ship is the mythical Ark from their tales of old.
As Caldera Lake is suddenly overrun by the Galactic Foreign Legion and spider marines setting up camp on opposite sides of the line of demarcation running through the middle of the lake, it’s soon discovered that the tranquil looking oasis does not offer a relaxing resort setting. Something’s swimming in the lake, and it’s hungry. Despite the danger, hotels and restaurants spring up to handle the influx of tourists and the curious making pilgrimages to catch a glimpse of the Ark.
The race between the two sides continues amid disagreements and skirmishes unavoidable in a clash of cultural differences. But it’s all done in a sportsmanlike manner – at least that’s what Colonel Joey R. Czerinski ‘The Toe’ and General Manny ‘The Ear’ Lopez claim.
Hungry crocs, graffiti taggers, midnight commando raids, tawdry torture, and lots of fried chicken all take a turn fueling the laughter in this twelfth tale of the seriously silly military space saga.
Contains the novella Vampire in the Outfield, first time in print!
I am Colonel Joey R. ‘The Toe’ Czerinski of the United States Galactic Federation Foreign Legion, assigned to planet New Colorado. They call me ‘The Toe’ behind my back because my big toe was bitten off during combat by an alien, earning me another Purple Heart. The truth is that the incident did not take place during combat, but rather during a compromising situation I prefer not to discuss, because I don’t remember that much about it. While I’ve sustained plenty of injuries, not all of them in combat, I’ve endangered my life enough that the Purple Heart commendation is deserved – just not for the incident of record.
After several wars, New Colorado remains divided at the Equator between humanity to the South and the spiders of the Arthropodan Empire to the North. Vast stretches of border are uninhabited, covered with desert dunes. The desert is where I find myself now...
* * * * *
I was ordered to investigate a weak alien distress beacon, of the type found on some starships. It emitted a signal from the vicinity of Caldera Lake, a long narrow oasis straddling the border a thousand miles from civilization. Caldera Lake was formed centuries ago from ancient glacial ice trapped atop a volcano buried by shifting sands. The oasis and its palms were a stark contrast to the miles of surrounding desert. Standing in the shade of a Legion shuttle for relief against the stifling heat, I gazed out at the calm waters of this odd isolated lake.
“There’s nothing here,” I complained. “This mission is a waste of time.”
“The New Gobi Desert tourist guide says Caldera Lake has fish,” advised Lieutenant Perkins, checking the database on his pad.
“Is the water drinkable?” I asked, stripping off my uniform for a swim. As always, the New Gobi Desert temperature was at least 110 degrees. “There is nothing here for us to find, unless something crashed and is hidden in that lake.”
“The water is slightly salty,” advised Lieutenant Perkins, still reading. “We need to filter the water before drinking. There may be unknown parasites.”
“Whatever,” I said, jumping in. “The water is great! It’s warm, but soothing.”
Lieutenant Perkins frowned as he continued reading. “Sir! It says something about crocs!”
At first, the word ‘crocs’ didn’t quite register in my brain. “Crocs?” I asked. “What do you mean crocs? Are you talking about those big water lizards in the tropics, with all the crooked teeth?”
“Sir! Get out of the water! Do it now!” Lieutenant Perkins began firing his assault rifle over my head into the ripples behind me. I treaded water as fast as possible, looking back but seeing nothing.
“What was that all about?” I asked upon reaching shore. “There are no crocs here.”
“False alarm,” replied Lieutenant Perkins. “I just shot up a log floating just below the surface.”
“Don’t ever do that again,” I ordered. “I can’t even get a good swim without you ruining it for me! Damn rookie butterball lieutenants!”
As I cursed Perkins, another shuttle landed on the next dune, just across the border. Spider marines poured down its ramp, smartly establishing a secure perimeter. An Arthropodan officer strode up to me like he owned the place.
“Czerinski! You and your human pestilence are trespassing!” announced the spider commander. “Leave now!”
“We are on our side of the border,” I replied, still dripping wet from my swim. “The Legion will leave when it pleases us to do so, not before!”
The spider commander pulled a small electronic device from a pouch. Holding the device over his head, he shot a red light beam along the ground, east and west for fifty yards. The beam extended across the dunes, and even across my bare feet.
“This line shows the exact location of the border!” explained the spider commander, still holding the device aloft. “You will not trespass even one inch on Imperial territory!”
I took an exaggerated step back. “Are you happy now?”
“No!” replied the spider commander. “I am never happy when you show up. What are you human pestilence doing out here? Stealing our water?”
“We’re busted,” I said. “I drank some of your precious water a few minutes ago. Do you want it back?” Already naked, I urinated across the red line. The light flickered and went out as the spider commander jumped back to avoid being doused. “This place is worthless anyway.”
“I ought to cut your hose off!” shouted the spider commander, drawing a large jagged combat knife. “Tell me the truth! What treachery is the Legion up to now?”
“I am scouting this beautiful beachfront property to determine its suitability for building a new hotel casino resort,” I confessed. “So far, I love the view, and the fine swimming. You should consider investing. There will be a substantial real estate boom. Soon, this whole beach will be lined with casinos and condos.”
“You better remember the North Shore is ours. There will be no human pestilence casinos or condos on the North Shore!”
“Of course,” I agreed. “I was just giving you a heads up because you are my friend. I intend to buy five-acre lots as soon as possible. If you snooze, you lose when it comes to real estate investments.”
“Why are you naked? You human pestilence are ugly enough with your clothes on. Without clothes, you are disgusting. Get dressed immediately. You will stay clothed at all times when visible from the Empire.”
“Did I tell you our new casino resort will be a nudist colony?” I asked. “Naked gamblers from across the galaxy will flock to this very oasis for carefree fun and frolicking.”
“For debauchery, you mean!” accused the spider commander. “There will be no frolicking in public view. You human pestilence are all a bunch of perverts! Don’t think I don’t know how you lost your toe. I saw the video on the database of you having sex with a scorpion.”
“Not another word! You slander me at your own peril! Do you want to start another war?”
“Yes!” answered the spider commander. “I’ll fight you any place, any time!”
“Now listen here,” I replied, the voice of reason. “We both have a mission, so let’s not makes things more difficult. Caldera Lake could be a cushy assignment, and we need to make the best of it. For example, I just got out of the water from a swim. The water is great! It’s so relaxing. Research indicates the high mineral content has medicinal qualities. You should try swimming. A swim might help lower your high blood pressure.”
The spider commander peered suspiciously at the calm lake water, still keeping several eyes on me. “Are there indigenous creatures inhabiting that lake?”
“The fishing is great. There are small water lizards that frequent the shallows. They’re quite friendly. Crocs are a favorite pet among children of Old Earth. The crocs like to bump against your leg while you wade. Don’t worry. If they get too aggressive, just swat them on the nose. If that doesn’t work, poke the croc in the eye with your bloody stump!”
“Your Old Earth pets have no business out in the wild. They are like their masters, an invasive nuisance species always sticking their snouts across the line where they do not belong!”
* * * * *
At midday, the temperature soared to 120 degrees. The spider commander and his new Military Intelligence officer waded cautiously deeper into the lake. With Arthropoda being a dry planet, swimming was a novel and refreshing experience. Maybe Czerinski was finally telling the truth about something. The spider commander kneaded his foot claws in the mud, contemplating the medicinal qualities of the so-called mineral water.
The spider commander spied a croc slowly drifting closer like a log. Its nose and eyes appeared just above the water’s surface, leaving a small ripple in its wake. Closer, closer. “Old Earth vermin!” shouted the spider commander, swatting the croc on its snout. The croc lunged its huge head out of the water, snatching the spider commander’s claw. The croc violently pulled the spider commander under, beginning its death roll. The spider commander was saved only when his claw snapped off, allowing his escape to shore.
* * * * *
“That monster was never a child’s pet you lying, treacherous human pestilence!” accused the spider commander, shaking his bloody shredded stump at me across the lake. “I’ll get you for that!”
“Quit whining!” I yelled back. “Your claw will grow back! You’ll be okay when the pain stops! Did you poke it in the eye?”
* * * * *
The spider Military Intelligence officer accessed ‘crocs’ on the Intergalactic Database. “The human pestilence nearly hunted crocs to extinction on Old Earth to make boots and wallets from hides. It is true that baby crocs were once sold to children at pet stores, but the crocs often were flushed down toilets as they got larger. Abandoned, the crocs survive by eating floating turds in sewers under major USGF cities.”
“That monster was never anyone’s pet!” repeated the spider commander, firing his pistol at a ripple in the water. The croc dived out of sight.
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