Torl and Earl
by Michael Priv
            “Another back-to-back mission! What happened to the Regs mandated five-minute rest, debrief, re-brief and all that good stuff? What’s up with all the other pilots? The brown nosers! Yessir, yessir! Have them fly back-to-back missions!”
          Torl took a deep breath and relaxed at the bio-controls, sipping his Spank.
          Much needed rest. Torl shut down most of his eyes tiredly, leaving just a handful of longitudinals scanning the instruments and any dangers ahead. And dangers there were, to be sure, somewhere ahead. In Quadrant ZZX, according to Torl’s in-flight briefing on the latest ill-fated scout mission to ZZX with subsequent equally disastrous recovery and rescue missions, four in total.
          He was also patched through to the battle transmissions from his fallen comrades. Something about the Snooga, naturally. Torl shuddered. He was the best Snooga Expert 1st Class of the entire 11th Zoid Division and wore the insignia with considerable pride. He glanced at the stylized image of the Snooga battle craft etched on his thorax. Yes indeed, the prestige of the rank stroked his ego most pleasantly but, to be perfectly honest, he was terrified of the Snooga.
          Nobody ever figured out the nature of Snooga. The Ancients believed them to be Gods, as witnessed by the beautiful ballads, prayers and cathedrals built for their warship. Unfortunately, the devotion of thousands of generations of Mzzits went completely unnoticed by the Snoogas who kept on murdering Mzzits en masse. According to the current prevailing party line, they were enemy battleships to be avoided or destroyed. Since nobody ever managed to destroy a Snooga craft so far, they were to be avoided.
          Torl stared at a Snooga schematical on his screen. The weirdest looking thing. A Snooga was just a perfectly flat and flexible plane with lots of holes in it. The aft of the craft was a long, slim protrusion. That’s it. The Snooga would come out of nowhere and crash bio-zoids with incredible force, squashing them flat, killing the zoids and their Mzzit pilots instantly, usually—although there were stories of second strikes to finish off the wounded Mzzits. It is the 2nd strikes that prompted Command to issue the Enemy Judgment on Snoogas. So why was Torl supposed to venture alone into a Snooga-infested quadrant, leaving wife and kids behind? Orders.
          The Target Acquisition Monitor came to life with a beep, indicating the proximity of the target quadrant. ZZX was a huge rectangular plain studded with mysterious geometrical objects and, yes, lots of organic matter. Food! Oh, will you just look at the riches of this place! The camera, though, did its own target acquisition and zoomed in on the gory remains of one of the Rescue Mission zoids with letters HAP on one of the broken zoid wings. Must be the ship of Lieutenant Zing “Happy” Zong, may he rest in peace. What incredible force would it take to flatten a zoid this way? Insane, mind-boggling force—enough force to kill a thousand Mzitts.
          The Proximity Alarm blared suddenly, auto-response instantaneously propelling zoid on evasive trajectory. Torl yanked the controls a nanosecond later, just in time to force in a lateral correction. A beautiful evasive maneuver. Wham! The Snooga missed its target, smashing the ZZX surface with an incredible bang dislodging all kinds of debris, immediately identified as organic by the main on-board computer.
          Snooga regrouped and was attacking again from the same exact position at the same exact speed. Evasive maneuver. Wham! Snooga pilot missed again. Idiot. God, how much Torl hated these evil morons! Another attack, another miss, another wham. Cretins! Wham! Wham! Wham! Wham! Wham! Wham! Then deafening silence. Snooga retreated. Probably reloading back at their base somewhere. Ha-ha! There! Screw you!
          After a victory lap around the target area, Torl landed on a chunk of organics to recharge his zoid’s batteries.
          The sudden Proximity Alarm bleep was the last sound that Torl ever experienced. Snooga came crashing down out of nowhere. Torl’s death was instantaneous.
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          “Lay off whackin’ them flies, Earl, right this minute, you hear? Get your fat ass over here! Billy’s on Skype!”
          Old Earl dropped the fly swatter, got up heavily and wobbled away from the rickety dinner table set up in the back yard next to the decaying remnants of his pappie’s old Model T Ford surrounded by decaying remnants of an assortment of other junk. Billy, their youngest, their pride, was a Navy pilot fighting them crazy Ai-rabs clear half-way across the world. Earl forgot all about whacking flies, his favorite pastime. He staggered to the computer, smiling with anticipation and scratching his sizeable stomach under the usual grungy T-shirt.
          Billy’s on Skype!

                                                                                                                                                                                    © 2011 Michael Priv. All Rights Reserved.