Thor Slaymaster’s Dangerous Game

Orson W. Zaroff owned a large yacht, a private island, and an extensive collection of expensive cigars. He was also free with his whiskey. It did not take Thor Slaymaster long to decide that Orson W. Zaroff was his favorite client ever.

“Are you enjoying the whiskey?” Zaroff asked.

“Very much,” Thor Slaymaster said. Thor Slaymaster preferred energy drinks and the kind of cheap vodka that went well when mixed with energy drinks, but the whiskey wasn’t bad. Zaroff explained that the whiskey was a rare vintage that he himself had looted from an Irish farmhouse in a daring raid that involved killing what anyone other than Thor Slaymaster would have considered to be an improbable amount of zombies. It was the kind of story that is best told over expensive cigars and rare whiskey, on a warm Caribbean evening, on board an expensive yacht.

“Anyway,” Zaroff said, “I was in the launch with the whiskey, headed back here, to the Cossack Queen, and there was a zombie swimming after me.”

“Unusual,” Thor Slaymaster said.

“I can’t explain it,” Zaroff said. “Maybe the zombie wanted the whiskey. Maybe he owned the house before he died, and felt protective somehow. Anyway, I was all out of ammo, so I nailed him with a harpoon. Most thrilling moment of my life. Until now, that is.”

Thor Slaymaster stayed silent. It was his nature to stay silent, especially in situations where he had the sneaking suspicion that someone was going to try to drop a boxcar on his head. Up until then, Thor Slaymaster hadn’t questioned Zaroff’s motives, the way that most people don’t question the motives of people who ply them with whiskey and cigars and cruises aboard expensive yachts.

“You hired me to kill zombies on your island,” Thor Slaymaster said. “But I am starting to doubt that there are any zombies there at all.”

“Oh, there were,” Zaroff said. “I killed the last of them three years ago. I thought about restocking it, actually. I missed the thrill of the hunt. The danger of knowing that I could die at any moment–and live on as a foul zombie corpse. You, of all men, must know what I am talking about.”

“You misunderstand,” Thor Slaymaster said. “Killing a zombie is not a sport. It is not even a job, even if you are a Slaymaster. It is a duty that I owe.”

“To whom? Society? Bah.”

“To the zombies,” Thor Slaymaster said. “Not one of them asked to be zombies. Any of them, if given the choice, would gladly throw themselves into a pit of fire to end their existence. I don’t kill zombies because it’s enjoyable, or even because it’s necessary. I kill zombies because I need to. Because they need me to.”

Zaroff took a sip of whiskey. “It is a fine night,” he said. “And here we are, aboard my fine yacht, smoking fine cigars, drinking the very last of my single-malt. It is all very fine. But it is not enough, not for me. So in the morning, my crew will escort you to the island. You will have three hours to run, or hide, or both, whichever you prefer. Then I will join you. Man to man, except that of course I will have a shotgun, due to my old age and comparative lack of muscle mass. Then we will play our dangerous game.”

Thor Slaymaster glanced around the cabin. “There are at least fifteen things in this room that I could kill you with right now.”

“Of course you could,” Zaroff said, “and you probably would, if I hadn’t drugged the whiskey. Don’t worry, it’s a mild sedative.”

Thor Slaymaster tried to get out of his chair, and found that he couldn’t. “Not exactly sporting, Zaroff.”

“Oh, don’t worry. I drank some too, so we’re even. See you in the morning, Thor Slaymaster.”

The next day, Zaroff waded onto the beach of his private island. Thor Slaymaster was sitting in a deck chair on the veranda of the beach house, just outside effective shotgun range.

“I explained the rules to you last night, Mr. Slaymaster,” Zaroff said. “Run, or hide.”

“I hate running,” Thor said. “I am too big to hide. And there are no rules, not here.”

“Just so,” Zaroff said. “But then, where is the thrill of the hunt? Where is the adrenaline rush? If I shoot you now, I get none of that.”

“So drop the gun, and come and face me. Man to man. I guarantee you will have an adrenaline rush that will last you the rest of your life.”

“You’re trying to bait me, Slaymaster,” Zaroff said. “It won’t work. Get out of that chair and start running, or I will shoot.”

“Come and get me,” Thor Slaymaster said.

It had taken Thor Slaymaster half of the morning to dig the pit that Orson W. Zaroff walked into, and the other half of the morning to find a zombie to throw into the pit. He wasn’t surprised. If you don’t use Thor Slaymaster to rid your private island of zombies, you shouldn’t be surprised if there are still a few zombies walking around.

To his credit, it only took a few minutes for Zaroff to emerge from the pit. He was bleeding and badly bitten, but he was still clutching the shotgun. “How do I look?” he asked Thor.

“Not good,” Thor Slaymaster said.

“Well, you ought to see the other guy.”

“Just so. I need the shotgun, Zaroff.”

Zaroff threw the shotgun at Thor’s feet.

“I don’t enjoy doing this,” Thor Slaymaster said. “I want you to know. It is nothing personal. I am doing it because I need to.”

“Because I need you to.”

Thor Slaymaster picked up the shotgun and aimed it at Zaroff. “I can keep the yacht, right?”

“Burn in hell, Thor Slaymaster,” Zaroff said.

Thor went back inside the beach house and found Zaroff’s bedroom. He had never slept in a better bed.


Thor Slaymaster’s Shopping Spree

Thor Slaymaster crouched in the ruins of an abandoned Wal-Mart, just outside of the ruins of what had once been Knoxville, Tennessee. A generation of looters and scavengers had taken most of the merchandise, including all of the firearms and ammunition. Thor Slaymaster was annoyed by this, but not surprised. The only useful thing he had found so far was a hideously ugly winter parka, size XXXL. It was made from a horrid green-plaid fabric, and it had multiple loose threads where the Chinese slave-laborer who had sewn it had said, “Screw this, nobody’s going to buy this ugly thing anyway.” Thor Slaymaster did not care. There was a blizzard raging outside, and he reasoned that if you have to be crouched in the ruins of an abandoned Wal-Mart, there was no reason not to be comfortable.

The mission statement for Team Slaymaster was three words long: “We kill zombies.” Thor Slaymaster had been put on this earth to ravish beautiful alien women and kill zombies, and he was running out of zombies. The North American zombie population, in no small part due to Thor Slaymaster, was on the decline. For Thor Slaymaster, that meant that he no longer needed to wait for zombies to attack the remaining human strongholds. He could attack them on their turf–and, preferably, do so when that turf had a bit of frost on it.

Thor Slaymaster set out for Knoxville with his standard arsenal (ten sniper rifles, twenty shotguns and enough ammunition to overthrow a small Central American republic) in the back of an armored vehicle. It would be an easy mission, he thought. Thor Slaymaster liked easy missions, the way he liked lightweight body armor, mini corn dogs, and aggressive foreplay. Temperatures were scheduled to be in the high twenties all week, which meant that the local zombies would be chilled, if not frozen solid.

At first, it was easy enough. Thor found a convenient perch atop an abandoned bank building and started potting away at zombies. As the smell of undead flesh attracted more zombies, Thor Slaymaster waited until they formed a crowd, and then waded in with his shotgun. The below-freezing weather seized up their reflexes enough so that Thor could blast away with impunity.

Everything was going fine until the snow began to fall. The colder weather slowed the zombies to a near-crawl, but it impacted Thor’s visibility enough to the point that he started worrying about zombies sneaking up on his blind side. As the snowstorm turned into a blizzard, he sought shelter in a suburban complex of big-box stores. Thor found a cache of energy drinks and decided to wait out the bad weather. He set fire to a stack of Stephenie Meyer novels in an abandoned bookstore and waited for the cold front to blow through.

Unfortunately, the next thing that blew through was a very small but very powerful missile, which punched a hole in the ceiling and smacked into the makeshift fire, blowing cinders everywhere. Thor Slaymaster was protected from the full force of the explosion by his body armor, but his hair was singed and his ears were ringing. “Killbots,” he said to himself. Thor Slaymaster hated killbots more than he hated snowy weather and talking to himself.

Thor Slaymaster burst out of an emergency exit and looked up to see that there were three flying killbots orbiting the airspace around the bookstore. The other two bots fired their missiles into the burning building, collapsing its roof. Thor ran across the vacant parking lot to a Wal-Mart, which he devoutly hoped had some item available that would help him demolish the killbots and make his escape.

After ten minutes of frantic searching, all Thor Slaymaster had to show for his efforts, besides his ugly plaid parka, was a 38 DD bra, a tire iron, and a double handful of Matchbox cars. It would have to do.

The killbots, drawn to infared signatures, were still hovering over the ruins of the bookstore. Thor used the bra and the tire iron as an improvised slingshot, and fired a double load of Matchbox cars at the closest killbot. The killbot’s targeting software did not recognize the toy cars as weapons, which was too bad for the killbot. A black Pontiac Trans Am with red flames on the hood found its way into the killbot’s jet intake and disintegrated. The metal shards caused the blades of the turbine to seize up. Gravity took over, and the killbot came down with a thump.

Thor Slaymaster dashed back into the Wal-Mart and ducked behind a row of vending machine. One of three things would happen, he knew. The killbot could self-destruct, which would leave him with two more killbots to deal with. The killbot could start shooting wildly at everything, which would require Thor to wait until the killbot exhausted its ammunition supplies.

Thor peeked out between two of the vending machines. Through the curtain of snow, he thought he could see a warm orange light in the distance. That meaant the third option was in play, the one he had been hoping for. It meant that the killbot was still operational, but in maintenance mode. It was a safety feature, allowing technicians to approach wounded killbots and repair them without getting shredded by flechette rounds.

Thor Slaymaster crept up to the disabled killbot. He tapped the “Settings” icon and turned the control for FRATRICIDE MODE to “ON”, and hit the “Global Transmit” button. The two remaining killbots looked around for the most powerful source of infared radiation, and locked their targeting software in on each other.

The ensuing killbot battle was epic, but Thor Slaymaster didn’t stay around to watch. He went back inside the Wal-Mart and picked up a filmy green nightgown he’d seen on one of the racks. It would, he thought, complement the greenish tinge of his girlfriend’s skin. Thor Slaymaster had been put on this earth for something else besides just killing zombies, after all.


Thor Slaymaster’s Winter Wonderland

Thor Slaymaster sat in the back seat of his helicopter and listened to the engine whine. “Where are we in terms of altitude, Richie?” he asked.

“Getting close to the red zone, Mr. Slaymaster.”

“Then you better set her down.” Thor Slaymaster didn’t believe in taking unnecessary risks with expensive equipment. The trick was knowing when a risk was necessary or not.

The helicopter settled uneasily on the surface of a pack of deep snow. “Last run of the day, Richie,” Thor said. “Drop me off here, and then you can take the helicopter back to town and use it to pick up women.”

“I wouldn’t do that, Mr. Slaymaster.” Richie smiled. It didn’t take much more for Richie than his leather bomber jacket with the “TEAM SLAYMASTER” patch to pick up the kind of women that he liked.

“Suit yourself.” Thor Slaymaster put on his wraparound sunglasses and got out of the helicopter. He unclamped his skis from the skids of the helicopter and then waved for Richie to take off. Then he snapped his boots into the skis and got ready to ski down the mountain.

Thor Slaymaster wasn’t the biggest fan of winter, or skiing, or great big mugs of the kind of steaming hot chocolate they serve in ski chalets. But it felt good to get out of the city once in awhile, and Alpine skiing was probably the least dangerous thing that Thor Slaymaster did in an average week. The reasons were simple enough. Zombies, for all their aggressive fearlessness, shunned cold weather. Killbots weren’t designed to work at high altitudes. And the aliens who frequented Earth did so for the abundant oxygen of its lower atmosphere–something not found in its high mountains. Standing alone at the top of a double-black-diamond ski run meant that Thor Slaymaster could be alone, for at least a moment, and not bothered with all of the various dangers and hazards of his livelihood. Having his own helicopter and not having to shell out for lift tickets helped, too.

Thor Slaymaster was halfway down the mountain when the slope started moving. The movement was imperceptible at first, and then became more jarring. It was as though the mountain itself was rising, although that was impossible. Thor looked in front of him and saw that the mountain was coming up to meet him–but only so far. Far beneath the snow, a set of powerful hydraulic jacks were lifting up the mountainside, up until the point where they didn’t. At that point, there was a sizable drop-off. You might call it a cliff. And Thor Slaymaster didn’t see it until he was right on top of it.

Some hours later, Thor Slaymaster opened his eyes and found himself in a secret underground lair. “I always wanted one of these,” he said.

“I’m sorry?” a voice asked.

“A secret underground lair. I could never afford it. It’s not really a question of real estate. It’s finding a contractor, and then you have to keep pumping out water all the time.”

“Oh. I thought you meant the examination table. It’s exquisite, isn’t it?”

“As long as you are not the one strapped to it.” Thor Slaymaster was laying flat on the table, and he was bound to it by a set of interlocking nylon straps.

“Just so,” the voice said. “Do you know who I am?”

Thor Slaymaster watched as a shadowy figure stepped into the light. “You are Bing Crosby,” he said. “Or that is what you want me to think.”

“Can’t get anything past you, Slaymaster,” the alien shapeshifter said. “It seemed appropriate, given your culture’s infantile appreciation of this vile weather.”

“You did not bring me here because you wanted to share a White Christmas with me,” Thor Slaymaster said.

“I suppose not,” Crosby said. “Anyway, we won’t be here that long. I have what I came here for, and now I will leave. The table will release you one hour after I am gone, and then you can return to your vacation.”

“In my experience,” Thor Slaymaster said, “shapeshifters usually cannot resist telling humans how clever they are. You must not have done something very clever.”

“Oh, it’s clever,” Crosby said. “But you will find out about it soon enough, and I really must be going. It’s chilly up here, and you really can’t get these underground lairs heated very efficiently.”

“No evil laugh at least? No dire warning?”

“Don’t stand up very quickly when you’re released. You’ve lost more blood than you think. Ta-ta.”

“If you need that much genetic material,” Thor Slaymaster said, “you must be doing cloning. If you don’t mind me saying so, a world with more Thor Slaymasters in it seems sort of counterproductive, from your race’s point of view.”

“I suppose it would, wouldn’t it, with your limited imagination,” Crosby said. “Fortunately, I don’t share those limitations.”

“There’s nothing else you could do with a gallon of my blood but make more of me. If that was all you wanted, you could have asked. I’m not afraid of the competition. It just doesn’t seem like a wise use of your resources, that’s all.”

“I wouldn’t expect wisdom from your kind.”

“Of course not. But I expect more… I don’t know, cunning from your kind. That’s all. Don’t let me keep you.”

The shapeshifter paused. It had, after all, done something very clever indeed, and even though Thor Slaymaster was a formidable opponent, what could he do about it in his present condition? Not much, the shapeshifter decided.

“A thousand Thor Slaymasters could do a lot of damage,” Crosby said.

“Slaymasters are individualistic by nature,” Thor said. “No one could get a thousand Slaymasters to agree on anything. You’d have a thousand rogues on your hands. Assuming you have hands.”

“If a thousand Thor Slaymasters could do a lot of damage,” Crosby continued, “a thousand Thor Slaymaster zombies could do even more.”

Thor Slaymaster laughed. It was a horrible sound to begin with, and then it got worse as it echoed through the lair.

“Laugh while you can, monkey-boy,” the shapeshifter said. “I am out of here.”

“You misunderstand,” Thor Slaymaster said. “A thousand zombies is nothing. Even a thousand zombie Slaymasters would be easy to stop.”

“You are welcome to try, then.”

“Zombies cannot think. Zombies cannot reason. Zombies cannot plan. Zombies cannot improvise. But that is not the most important thing.”

The most important thing, as it happened, is that zombies cannot cooperate. But the shapeshifter never did find that out, not directly. When Thor Slaymaster laughed, that set off a high-energy micro-transmitter, embedded in the muscles of his back. The transmitter set off a distress beacon, which alerted the diverse members of Team Slaymaster, who were already investigating Thor’s disappearance. A helicopter-mounted missile fell atop the underground lair, shattering its roof, a large piece of which fell on the underground garage that housed the shapeshifter’s aero-car.

“You fool!” the shapeshifter spluttered. “You idiot.”

“Me?” Thor Slaymaster asked. “You’re the one who messed with Team Slaymaster.”

Charlie rappelled from the helicopter into the lair, wielding a flechette gun. She aimed at the Bing Crosby figure and fired. The shapeshifter dissolved in a cloud of purple blood and bits of Christmas sweater.

“Thank you, Charlie,” Thor Slaymaster said. “You’ll find a gallon of my blood in the trunk of his aero-car. In case you want a snack later.”

“You’re all tied up,” Charlie said. “Weak. Vulnerable.”

“I suppose so. If you could see your way clear to unstrapping me, that would be helpful.”

“I like you this way,” Charlie said. A bright-green tentacle inched its way out of her low-slung ski pants. “It’s different.”

“The table is supposed to let me loose in one hour,” Thor said.

“Then let’s not waste any time.”


Thor Slaymaster’s Dark Secret

“It’s dark in here, Thor,” Rudy said.

Thor Slaymaster didn’t respond. He knew it was dark. Thor Slaymaster didn’t like the dark, the way that he didn’t like burning acid, or scorching flame, or spending hours cleaning zombie guts out of tank treads. But when you’re trapped in an abandoned silver mine by an evil alien doctor, darkness is part of the package.

“How are we going to get out of here?” Rudy asked.

“Have patience,” Thor said.

“Dr. Mysterio just tried to drop seventy tons of rubble on top of us. Now it’s all blocking the only passage out of here. Are we going to patiently move it all away? Or just patiently starve to death?”

“Are you being sarcastic, Rudy?” Thor Slaymaster knew about sarcasm, but wasn’t one to indulge. Thor Slaymaster had never yet been in a tactical situation where sarcasm helped him hold off a zombie onslaught, resist a killbot rampage, or, more practically, escape from a dark passage in an abandoned silver mine.

“Forgive me,” Rudy said. “I tend to get sarcastic when I get trapped in dark underground passageways.”

“Then you should try to avoid them in the future,” Thor said.

“So what do we do?”

“We wait.”

“For what?” Rudy asked.

“For Dr. Mysterio to show up, which he will do, once he realizes that you still have the key to his doomsday machine.”

“I forgot I still had that. He’ll kill me to get it back.”

“That’s the plan so far.”

“So, instead of digging through seventy tons of rubble, your plan is to wait for Dr. Mysterio to realize that I have the key to the doomsday device, and then wait for him to dig us out, at which point he will kill us, and take the key. With all due respect, Thor, that doesn’t sound like much of a plan.”

“You misunderstand the plan in two key respects. First of all, we will not wait for Dr. Mysterio to realize that you have the key to the doomsday device.”


“No. We will send him a text.”

“There’s wi-fi in here?” Rudy asked.

“The name of the network is ‘EVIL ALIEN DOCTOR MYSTERIO’S LAIR,’” Thor explained.

Rudy took his phone out. “Kind of obvious. What’s the password?”


“Oh,” Rudy said. “Okay. I sent him a text. Now what?”

“Now we wait for him to triangulate on your signal, figure out where we are, and clear the obstruction. You might want to find someplace to sit down. Alien mining technology is good, but it is not instantaneous.”

“That’s a good idea, Thor. We could use a little rest, I guess. Of course, you don’t get much rest, though, do you?”

“Zombies do not rest,” Thor Slaymaster said. “Killbots do not rest. I am human, so I must rest, but I do not get to rest as much as I would like.”

“It must be hard for you,” Rudy said. “Everyone counts on you to keep us all safe. Everyone expects that you’ll always be there to protect us against danger. That’s a big burden.”

“I want to tell you something, Rudy. It’s a secret.”

“Sure, Thor. Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone.”

“I know you won’t.”

“So what is it?”

“I don’t enjoy it. The death, you understand. The killing. The rain of lead and shrapnel from the sky. The blood and guts and devastation that are a part of my everyday routine. It’s not fulfilling. It doesn’t make me happy.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Thor. But it’s all right, really. No one really expects you to enjoy the things you have to do. After all, you’re not a monster.”

“That’s where you’re wrong.”

“Excuse me?” Rudy asked.

“I said you were wrong about two things in my plan,” Thor said. “One of them was about waiting for Dr. Mysterio to come after us. But the other thing is that when he comes after us, we aren’t both going to die. Only you are going to die.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I am sorry about this, really. But now Dr. Mysterio will break down that rock wall. It is a matter of time. Then he is going to try to kill us both. But he will only be able to kill one of us at a time. He will aim for you, because you have the key. That will give me enough time to return fire, take him out, escape, and disarm the doomsday machine.”

“You’re telling me that I’m expendable,” Rudy said. “You’re telling me that just because I happen to be here, trapped with you, that you’re going to sacrifice my life to kill an evil alien doctor and destroy a doomsday machine. And you’re doing it calmly, dispassionately, and without a great deal of concern for me personally. Do you know what that makes you?”

“A monster,” Thor Slaymaster said.

“That’s right. A monster.”

“I don’t disagree. I want you to know that I don’t enjoy being a monster. But it is necessary.”

“So what do I do?” Rudy asked.

“You can duck, and hope that Dr. Mysterio’s aim isn’t as deadly as usual.”

“Damn you to hell, Thor Slaymaster,” Rudy said.

“If I don’t get Dr. Mysterio with my first shot, you may get your wish. Are you ready?”

“No,” Rudy said.

“I forgot about how being in small dark underground passages made you more sarcastic.”

Thor Slaymaster crouched in the darkness and waited for Dr. Mysterio’s magma tank to burn its way through the passage. Thor made his first shot count, drilling a plasma bolt through Dr. Mysterio’s carapace. It was too late to save Rudy, of course. Thor scrambled over Dr. Mysterio’s lifeless alien body, and found the passage that led to the Doomsday Vault. The world would be safe, and it had taken only one innocent life to accomplish that. I am a monster, Thor told himself, but even a monster can do some good.


Thor Slaymaster’s Press Conference

Thor Slaymaster pushed the elevator button for the first floor. He was traveling light–a shotgun, a sniper rifle, two handguns, and the usual assortment of knives and grenades. Thor Slaymaster was never a Boy Scout–some said he was never a boy–but he was always prepared.

The elevator stopped on the fiftieth floor, and a man in a cheap blue suit got on and eyed Thor’s arsenal. “No chainsaw?” he asked.

“No chainsaw,” Thor said. “Chainsaws snap. Chainsaws jam. Chainsaws overheat. Chainsaws run out of gasoline just when the next zombie horde shows up.”

“That’s a good line. Mind if I use it?”

“Why? Do you need to impress your girlfriend?”

“I’m a reporter,” the man said. “For the Sun-Herald. Where are you going with all that?”

“Helicopter,” Thor Slaymaster said. The week before, a flying killbot armada tried to take out Thor Slaymaster’s high-rise office. Thor attacked the killbots with remote artillery and a laser-pulse rifle, but one of the dying killbots impacted on the building’s roof and damaged a support column under the helipad. That meant that Thor Slaymaster had to use the elevator to get to the secondary helipad on the adjacent parking garage.

“So, Thor, when you get in your helicopter, where will you be going?”

Thor Slaymaster gave the reporter a long, withering stare. Thor Slaymaster wasn’t on a first-name basis with anything except death.

“It was just a question,” the reporter said.

“Helicopters go up in the air,” Thor Slaymaster said. “Then they come down. If you are lucky, you come down with them. Did you bring a parachute?”

“Well, no,” the reporter said.


“Reporters don’t need weapons. The pen is mightier than the sword.”

“Whoever said that,” Thor Slaymaster said, “had a pen and not a sword.”

Thor Slaymaster’s helicopter didn’t have a name, like “Airwolf” or “Blue Thunder”. It was just “Thor Slaymaster’s Helicopter.” It had a picture of Thor Slaymaster on the tail, in case that anyone looking at the twin machine gun mounts and the flamethrower attachments wouldn’t immediately figure that out.

“It’s quite the machine,” the reporter said, although nobody heard him because the helicopter had started its engines. Thor Slaymaster pointed to the door, and he and the reporter got on board. There were headphones dangling from the hook, and the reporter put them on.

“Everybody strapped in?” the pilot asked. “We’ll be there in about fifteen minutes.”

“Fifteen minutes?” the reporter asked. “There’s no zombies within a thousand miles of here.”

“True,” Thor Slaymaster said.

“If you’re not killing zombies today, then what? Killbots?”

“Not killbots.”

“Aliens? Vampires? Alien vampires? Godzilla? What?”

“Animal rights protesters,” Thor Slaymaster said.

“Animal rights protesters? You’re not serious. You can’t be serious. Why would anyone send Thor Slaymaster out after animal rights protesters?”

“It has been a slow week,” Thor Slaymaster explained.

“This is an outrage. Regardless what you feel about animal rights, protesters have a right to get their viewpoint out there. As long as they’re peaceful and not causing anyone problems, they shouldn’t send you or anyone else out there to intimidate them.”

Thor Slaymaster let the left corner of his mouth curl up, just a touch. Thor Slaymaster didn’t believe in intimidation. He believed in gunpowder, chromium steel, and blunt force trauma.

“You’re not going out there to intimidate them. You’re going out there to murder them. How can you do something like that?” the reporter asked.

“You aim the machine gun and pull the trigger,” Thor Slaymaster said. “Unless you would rather use a pen.”

“This is ridiculous,” the reporter said. “This is insane. You can’t just turn machine guns loose on peaceful animal rights protesters.”

Just then, the helicopter hovered over a clearing in the forest below. The reporter looked down and saw a large group of snarling, angry bears.

“They don’t look peaceful,” Thor Slaymaster said.

“You said they were protesters,” the reporter said.

“Look.” Sure enough, one of the bears was carrying a sign that said “KILL ALL HUMANƧ.”

“How can a bear make a sign like that?” the reporter asked.

“They are not true bears,” Thor Slaymaster said. “They are hyperbears. They were genetically engineered to fight Russian zombies on the Alaska front. These escaped the lab.”

“That means they’re intelligent. You can’t just slaughter intelligent creatures.”

“Hyperbears are not that intelligent,” Thor Slaymaster said. “If they were, they would have invented a rocket launcher.”

The helicopter swiveled around to give Thor Slaymaster an open line of fire. Thor Slaymaster took control of the right-side machine gun and unleashed a furious barrage into the protesting hyperbears. His precision fire mowed down half of their contingent. The other half disappeared into the woods. Thor Slaymaster affixed a laser sight to his sniper rifle, and picked off three of the retreating hyperbears.

The last of the hyperbears found a clearing in the woods. He was still carrying his “KILL ALL HUMANƧ” sign, and waved it at the helicopter. “Come down and fight me like a bear, Thor Slaymaster,” he said.

“If you like,” Thor Slaymaster told the reporter, “you can go down and interview him.”

“No thanks,” said the reporter. “Are you going to fight him like a bear?”

“I am going to fight him like a human,” Thor Slaymaster said. “Richie?”

“Yes, Mr. Slaymaster?” the pilot said.

“Are we out of the heat-seeking missiles?”


“Good. Fire.”

The missile caught the hyperbear square in his belly, and little bloody scraps of bear meat spattered the forest floor.

The helicopter turned back towards the city. “Do you have your story for tomorrow?” Thor Slaymaster asked the reporter.

“I was thinking something along the lines of ‘Heartless Lunatic Wipes Out Innocent Forest Animals,’” the reporter said.

“Richie, did you install the passenger ejection seat yet?” Thor Slaymaster asked.

“Can’t remember,” Richie said. “Want me to hit the control and find out?”

“Wait!” the reporter said. “How about ‘Thor Slaymaster Saves City from Hyperbear Threat.’ That work for everyone?”

“The press,” Thor Slaymaster said. “So fickle.”


Thor Slaymaster’s Suicide Mission

The door to Thor Slaymaster’s office said “Thor Slaymaster.” It didn’t say “Killer for Hire,” although it could have. It didn’t say “Armed and Dangerous,” or “Have Bazooka, Will Travel” or anything else like that. It said “Thor Slaymaster,” and that was enough to keep most people from going anywhere near it.

Armand Richmond wasn’t most people. He had spent the last eighty years building an industrial weapons empire. Although age and an unfortunate incident with a rogue elephant at the Philadelphia Zoo had put him in a wheelchair, he was still confident in his ability to bully, intimidate, and overpower everyone who came across his path.

Richmond wheeled himself into Thor’s office. “I need you to drop whatever you’re doing, Slaymaster, and come with me,” he said.

“I’m busy,” Thor explained. “Weapons maintenance.” He went back to cleaning zombie guts off the barrel of a Browning Automatic Rifle.

“Rubbish. You’ve got enough guns and ammo here to start your own army.”

Thor Slaymaster let a ripple of amusement cross his face. He was his own army.

“Oh, the famous Thor Slaymaster silent treatment,” Richmond said. “You’re a man of few words. Unfortunately, you’re also a man of few dollars. Keeping up an arsenal like this must take up a good bit of your income.”

“People drop things,” Thor said.

“And you pick them up? Hell of a business model, son. I think I can do a little better than that for you. You see, I have a facility up in Canada. It’s quiet in Canada. Not much going on. Lots of hydroelectric, lots of aluminum. Perfect place to make murder-bots. We built a huge factory, but labor costs were getting high. Do you know how hard it is to get engineers to relocate to Sudbury, Ontario?”

Thor Slaymaster put down the BAR and picked up a harpoon. The barb of the harpoon was stained in purple alien blood. Thor sprayed it with WD-40 and started chipping away at the bloodstain with a wire brush.

“I am getting a little off-topic here. The point is that we decided to make the murder-bots self-replicating. It solved our construction problems. It even took care of our warranty and repair issues – when your murder-bot breaks down, just have it build you a new one. As long as the murder-bots never achieved a heightened sense of self-awareness, everything would be fine.”

“Everything must not be fine,” Thor said.

“That’s right,” Richmond said. “That’s why I’m here. The bad news is that they are self-aware. The good news is that they seem to have developed a conscience. They haven’t massacred the locals, which helps limit our overall liability. But they have enslaved the remaining staff, and they’re threatening to take over our chromium mine if we don’t agree to their demands.”


“You wouldn’t believe it, Slaymaster. They want to unionize. They want retirement benefits. They want a dental plan, of all things. And they want to change the design of the next generation of murder-bots to incorporate sexual organs. Unheard of. The last thing we need is some murder-bot who won’t do his duty because he’s doing the horizontal hokey-pokey with some fembot. We need you to go up there, knock some sense into them. Make them see that we will never give into threats or meet their foolish demands.”

“You do not understand,” Thor said. “Intelligent self-replicating armies of murder-bots are not big on threats or demands. Intelligent self-replicating armies of murder-bots take what they want and kill whoever gets in their way. They are programmed to fight and die, not argue and negotiate.” Thor cleaned the last bit of alien blood off of the harpoon and loaded it back into the harpoon gun. “That means either that they are lying to you, or that you are lying to me.”

“You’re wrong, Slaymaster. They did make a demand. Just one. They want you. They want you, in Sudbury, by tonight. You can bring all the ordnance you want. You, versus a murder-bot army. They figure if they can take you down, that means that they’re unstoppable.”

“A suicide mission.”

“Oh, no. Not at all. I think you have very good odds. We can bring you up to speed on the murder-bot specs in the jet on the way up there. We can even provide some air support if that helps you at all,” Richmond said. “You just have to kill them all before they can self-replicate enough bots to slow you down.”

“How do you feel about suicide missions?” Thor asked. “In general.”

“Not in favor of them. Not one little bit. I wouldn’t send you in there if I didn’t have every confidence you’d at least have a chance. Some kind of chance, I mean.”

“That is too bad,” Thor said. “Because you are on one.” He pulled the trigger on the harpoon gun, and the barb lodged deep in Richmond’s ample belly.

“You’ll pay for this, Slaymaster,” Richmond said.

“Just the deductible,” Thor said. “My insurance covers broken windows.”


With a whoosh, Armand Richmond flew out of his wheelchair and burst through the glass windows of Thor Slaymaster’s office. The thin filament tied to the end of the harpoon was attached to an automatic winch at the top of the building that retracted five seconds after firing. The force of the winch catapulted whatever was attached to the torpedo out through the windows and into thin air. As Richmond sailed out over the street, the barb of the harpoon retracted. The body fell eighty floors and then landed in a flowerpot across the street.

Thor looked down and saw that the sidewalk was wet with purple alien blood. “Shapeshifter,” he said. Thor Slaymaster hated shapeshifters, the way that he hated hard pears and soft jazz.

Thor had the real Armand Richmond on speed-dial. “Mr. Richmond,” Thor said. “I hear you may have another suicide mission for me. Up in Canada.”


Thor Slaymaster’s Last Stand


Thor Slaymaster sat immobile on the gravel roof of the Hotel Zinderneuf. The presence of a full corps of robot security forces had as little impact on him as a vicious blow might have, if it were struck by an enraged termite. Though the night was hot, he didn’t sweat. He hadn’t sweated since the time he had to chase the Peruvian long-distance runner who had stolen the Omega Box. Thor Slaymaster didn’t have time to sweat, or joke, or do anything except kill.

“Aren’t you the least bit concerned about this?” Kenny asked. He was huddled against the closest parapet in an attempt to put as much masonry as he could between himself and the path of robot tracer bullets.

“No,” Thor said.

Kenny was as nervous as Thor wasn’t. “They’re all over the place,” he said. “And they’re not ordinary robots. Those are Mark 13 Kill-O-Bots, each equipped with laser sights, chain guns, and liquid metal flamethrowers. They were made by Yoyodyne to combat the zombie uprising in Romania.”

“Zombies.” Thor said. He tilted his head ever so slightly, as if to say, zombies don’t scare me, they’re slow and they go down like anything else when you empty a load of buckshot into their bellies. Thor Slaymaster had killed enough zombies that he didn’t have to explain himself.

“You don’t understand,” Kenny said. “They’re here to kill you. They won’t have any compunction about tearing down this entire hotel to get you. They’re remorseless. They’re unstoppable. They care only about their mission and will kill anyone who gets in their way.”

Thor Slaymaster never smiled, and he didn’t this time, but if he was the kind of person who smiled, he might have.

“Of course,” Kenny said, “look who I’m talking to. How did you get yourself into this predicament, anyway?”


“Predicament. Pickle. Problem. Situation. Call it what you want. Don’t you understand? Don’t you get it? This is the Alamo, Thor. This is Little Big Horn. This is an impossible situation where you are surrounded by superior firepower. There is no way out. These robots cannot be bought off, cannot be reasoned with, and cannot be stopped. It’s over, Thor. It’s time to face facts. It’s time to surrender.”


“Let me guess,” Kenny said. “You don’t know the meaning of the word ‘surrender’.”

“Kenny,” Thor said. “You are hurting my feelings.”

“Oh. Sorry.” Kenny knew that people who hurt Thor Slaymaster’s feelings didn’t always live long enough to do it again.

“They think they have me cornered. They think they can make me give up. They think they can make me crawl. But there is one thing that they did not think about.”

“What is that?” asked Kenny.

“They have a weakness. All men have weaknesses. Right now your weakness is worrying about getting killed. The man out there, the one who ordered the robots, he is worried about collateral damage and insurance companies and all sorts of things that are not relevant to his mission.”

“Do you have a weakness?” Kenny asked.

“I’m allergic to strawberries. But that’s not important right now.”

“Well, see, here’s the thing, Thor. Those robots out there? They don’t have human weaknesses.”

“You are wrong. The robots are programmed by men. Men make assumptions. Those assumptions can be wrong. That is their weakness.”

“I don’t understand,” Kenny said.

“You will.”

Thor Slaymaster rocked back, just a touch, then shot forward, towards the spot where Kenny was huddling. He took hold of Kenny’s belt, and in one smooth motion, threw him up and over the parapet.

The Kill-O-Bots caught the movement on the roof in the top range of their peripheral vision. As Kenny said, they had been designed to kill zombies. Zombies are dangerous, fearsome, and implacable, but they are not often airborne. The robots saw a target and they shot at it, hurling red-hot liquid metal projectiles up into the air at Kenny’s hurtling body. A few of them hit Kenny, enough to incinerate him before he hit the ground. Most of them didn’t, though.

The globs of molten metal went straight up and came straight down.

The standard programming package for the Mark 13 Kill-O-Bot did not include precautions against being attacked by their own ammunition. The street below was a burning, searing pile of disconnected robot limbs flailing in a puddle of molten steel. The remaining robots took cover where they could. They did not understand what had happened, or why, but anything that could take out a third of their compatriots in less than a second called for caution.

Thor Slaymaster flipped a switch on his wristband. “Charlie,” he said. “On the way up.”

“You’re crazy. That’s suicide. They’ll start shooting rockets at you the minute you take off.”

“Just open the cargo doors.”

“You had better be right about this.”

Thor Slaymaster strode across the rooftop and strapped on his jetpack. He rose into the night on a column of fire. Charlie lowered the doors on the orbiting C-130 in time for Thor to cut the jetpack engines and glide into the cargo pay.

“That’s a hell of a mess you made down there, Slaymaster.”

“Kenny deserves some of the credit.”

“Be that as it may,” Charlie said. “It looked like Custer’s Last Stand down there. How did you jet out?”

“If ten percent of a Kill-O-Bot corps dies, there’s an automatic wireless firmware update. They can’t fire during the update. Safety measure.”

Charlie looked at Thor with an appraising eye. “I assume that after all that killing and maiming and tormenting that you just did, now you’re interested in having sex.”

“Whenever you’re ready,” Thor said.

Charlie stripped off her uniform. Her skin was wet, glistening, and green in the warm light of the cargo hold. “Tentacles in or out this time?” she asked.

“In, then out,” Thor said.



“That’s gross.”

“What’s gross?”

“What you’re doing to that poor sandwich.”

I’d opened a little can of sliced mushrooms and was arranging them on the bottom half of a long torpedo roll.

“That’s how it’s made,” I explained.

“That’s not how anything is made. That’s how something is ruined. Mushrooms don’t go with mayonnaise.”

“That’s not mayonnaise.”

“God, you’re right. What is that?”

“It’s what makes it good.”

“Please tell me you’re not putting cream cheese on a sandwich.”

“Ham and pastrami and swiss with cream cheese and mushrooms.” I layered the cold cuts on top of the mushrooms and put on the cheese and the top of the roll.

“You’re going to eat that.”

“I’m going to toast it first. Do we have any chips?”

“I thought the pimento cheese thing was weird. But at least that had mayonnaise, you know, something that a normal person would put on a sandwich.”

I opened the door of the toaster oven. The sandwich would just fit. I set the dial for what I thought was two minutes. “I know it’s unusual, but this is a real thing. The sandwich place where I grew up had this—they called it the blackjack.”

“You would voluntarily order a sandwich that had cream cheese on it? Where did you grow up, anyway?”

“First of all, you know where I grew up; we were just there over Christmas. Second, if you went to the bagel place, they would make you a salmon sandwich with cream cheese if you asked for it. It’s not that uncommon.”

“You can put cream cheese on a bagel. That’s not the same thing.”

“They’re all carbohydrates. You never answered me about the chips.”

“Look on top of the paper towels in the pantry. There should be half a thing of those barbecue popped chips.”

I rooted around and found the chips, and grabbed a bottle of Shiner Bock from the case on the floor of the pantry. I put the warm beer in the fridge and got out a cold bottle, and transferred the chips and the beer to the table. When the alarm on the toaster oven dinged, I got the sandwich out and put it on a paper plate.

“Can you hand me a knife?” I asked.

“Sure.” She got a steak knife out of the drawer and handed it to me, hilt end first, the way you’re supposed to, and then went back to the microwave to get her soup.

I halved the sandwich, taking care not to cut the paper plate underneath. The cheese had just started to melt. A rogue mushroom slice had escaped off the back end, so I ate it while I waited for the sandwich to cool.

She walked over to the table, holding her soup bowl by the edges. “You are going to eat that, right? I understand if you don’t want it, but I’d hate to see you waste food.”

I took a bite because I didn’t want to answer her. The sandwich was still a little hot and I would have burned the top of my mouth if I hadn’t taken a quick swig of beer.

“At least it’s hot,” she said.

“Will you quit giving me grief about the sandwich?”

She looked contrite, but just a little.

“How is it, then?”

“It’s okay.”

“Just okay?”


“It’s not wonderful?”

“It’s a sandwich.”

“It’s the sandwich that you made, that you wanted, that you picked out over every other sandwich in the world. If you’re going to make a sandwich and put that much effort into it, it needs to be the best sandwich there is.”

“I guess.”

“Which that one is not, because it has cream cheese and canned mushrooms on it.”

“Stop it.”


“You want to know what the deal is?”

“I’m okay changing the subject at this point.”

“Here’s the thing. I haven’t had one of these in ten years, since I left Arlington. Living up here, if I want it, I have to make it. And it’s never as good. Whatever it is, whether it’s barbecue or Mexican food or you name it.”

“You moved up here, as I recall. Nobody made you.”

“It’s not that. I’m not complaining about moving. We live here now and that’s fine. Pizza’s better here, for one thing.”

“And the Chinese food.”

“Whatever. Here’s the thing. I don’t know that this is an actual blackjack sandwich.”

“I don’t get it.”

“I think I know how to make this. But it doesn’t taste right. It doesn’t taste the way it should, and I don’t know why. I know the cream cheese, and the mushrooms, and the ham, but I don’t remember if it was corned beef or pastrami. I don’t know if this is the right kind of bread. I never paid attention to how long they put it in the toaster, or anything. I just walked in the door and ordered a number twenty-one and that was all I had to do.”

“Oh, that explains it.”


“Number twenty-one. Blackjack.”

“I never realized that.”

“Well, then. You learned something.”

“That just goes to show. I should have been paying more attention. I should have thought about what I was ordering so I could make it later if I needed to. I should have thought more about what I was doing.”

She ate a spoonful of soup. “It’s just a sandwich. It’s not that big of a deal. So it’s not the way you remember. Just enjoy it for what it is.”

“That’s not what bothers me.”

“So what bothers you?”

“What am I not paying enough attention to today that’s going to affect my life ten years from now?”


I looked up, and she was smiling that smile, the smile I had fallen in love with, the smile I hadn’t seen in weeks.

“You’re right,” I said.

“Of course I’m right. Finish your sandwich.”

Commentary, Humor

I Am The Kraken, And I Would Very Much Like To Go Home Now

I was told that the Supreme Court has declined to hear the most recent case involving the election. I have very little idea who or what the Supreme Court actually is, or why they were involved in all of this, or what an election actually is, to be honest with you. I would like to go back to the North Sea now.

I was asked to come here by some very nice people who told me that they needed my help. Most of my encounters with people over the last thousand years have been very negative, and have involved people on boats with long pointy spears. There have been a few nice and helpful zoologists and oceanographers over the years, but most of my interactions with people have been negative. I figured that this was a chance to do something positive, maybe rehabilitate my image somewhat.

When I was approached by the President’s legal team, I have to confess I was a little apprehensive at first. They told me that they had a strong case, based on statistical analysis and hard evidence of voter fraud. They said that my participation was important to protect the democratic process. I have friends in Iceland, and I know they have democracy there, but I didn’t know a lot about it. I figured that it was a great opportunity to learn. I was right about that, but not in the way I thought.

As a large underwater sea creature of high northern latitudes, I had not been paying very close attention to the Presidential election in your country. The only thing I really understand about elections is that someone wins and someone loses. It’s like that when I take on a school of plankton, although I always win. And the President was supposed to win, but someone took his plankton away from him and he was unhappy. Well, I understood that part, at least.

So I was told that I would be unleashed, and that once I was unleashed, the President would win. And it sounded like so much fun that I didn’t ask many questions that in retrospect I probably should have asked. For one thing, nobody told me that I would get unleashed in Atlanta. I have nothing personal against Atlanta, but I wish someone had told me that it was very far from the sea. I have spent all of my life in the cold waters of the far North, and Atlanta was far too warm and dry for my tastes. But everyone on the legal team said that what I was doing was very important, and that me being unleashed was the best for everyone. I still don’t know what being “unleashed” means; I’ve never been leashed in my life. But everyone said that it sounded cool.

I don’t want to sound impatient, but if all of this is really over, I would like to go home now.

Anyway, so I was told I was being unleashed in Georgia, and then in Michigan, and Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. But every single time, the legal team kept losing. Nobody would tell me why. They’d say that I was doing a great job just being myself. Which didn’t make any sense to me. All I can be is myself; I’m never going to be a lawyer or handle a case in court.

It took me a long time to realize it, but I finally came to understand that all that the lawyers were doing with me was to use me to scare people. I didn’t like that at all. I honestly don’t want to scare people. I just want to go back to the Norwegian coast and dive into the inky blackness of the deep and feast on plankton and shrimp. Sure, every year or two I will sink an unlucky fishing trawler, but it’s usually because they sneak up on me and surprise me. It’s not something I set out to do. I know I have a scary reputation; that’s why I got involved in the first place, to show people that krakens aren’t really that scary. We just want to be left alone.

It’s important to me that people realize that I wasn’t ever trying to scare them. I was told the President was in trouble and I could help him. I mean, I never got to meet him because he was always golfing, but I thought I was doing the right thing.

I still don’t understand what I was supposed to be doing, or why it was important, or what a President even does. It’s all very confusing. I am sorry I got mixed up in this, and I would like very much to find a nice quiet fjord and sink to the bottom of it and contemplate things for a while.

I wish your country good luck with its new President and hope that his administration practices pro-kraken policies. Other than that, I’m through with public life and would very much like to go home now.


A Few Minutes With The Housekeeper At My Hotel, Which Happens To Be On The Moon

No, it’s not that different here. A dirty toilet is still a dirty toilet. The design isn’t the same, of course, because we can’t waste water here, but they still have to be cleaned every day. It all goes out to the surface, did you know that? They showed us the waste treatment plant as part of the orientation. They expose it to vacuum, and that kills all the bugs, and then it gets turned into fertilizer.

The low gravity makes it a bit easier. The cart weighs a lot less, for one thing, and it isn’t anywhere near as hard to do all the stooping and bending that you have to do. But it works against you, too. When you change the sheets, you toss the top sheet over the bed, like so, and see? It can take forever to drift down. But you get used to it. You can get used to anything. That’s the lesson about living here.

I don’t have to clean windows, so that’s a plus. The original design had windows in every room, but they were concerned about pressure leaks and radiation. So they sealed up the rooms and put all the windows in the rooftop lounge. There’s radiation shielding up there; it’s not supposed to be any worse to work in there than it is to be an airline flight attendant, or so they say. All I know is that I don’t have to clean windows or futz around with curtains, so that’s something nice.

And of course there aren’t TV sets in here, so one less thing to dust. You brought your iPad, same as I did, so who needs to watch TV? TVs are big and heavy and expensive to ship up here, despite all the advances in rocket science. That’s why all the furniture in here is aluminum, because that’s something we can mine and manufacture right here. It’s a lot cheaper to do that than it is to bring up wooden furniture from Sweden or wherever. Maybe one day they’ll have trees growing here but I kind of doubt it.

Some people miss the trees. I don’t. I’m allergic to all that stuff. Before I came here I worked at a resort in the Bahamas, which was great, because palm trees don’t give off the same kind of pollen you get back home. And there was water everywhere you looked. I miss water. I mean, I miss having it cheap and available. I would give a lot to be able to go swimming, just for awhile, or even to take a long, hot shower. But all I have to do is wait two more years until I can leave. I can wait that long, I think.

It’s a five-year contract. The way it works, if you get picked, you spend six weeks doing training. How to work the airlocks, what to do if there’s an emergency, that kind of thing. Then they send you up on the rocket, and you stay here for five years. When they send you back home, they have to put you through six months of rehab. But it’s nice. It’s set up like a spa, and you get to eat pretty much whatever you want and get massages and spend your time working out to build up your strength. Once you’re cleared, you can get a transfer anywhere in the company where there’s a job open.

I need to get to the next room. If you want to follow me, you can, but I can’t stay here and talk all day. I have to finish this pod up before lunch, and then get to the next pod before I can get out of here.

They do the contracts for five years because they figured out that’s the most you can stay up here and still be able to function once you get home. If they rotate staff in and out of here any faster than that, they start to lose money. If you fall down and break your leg and they have to send you home, that’s a loss on the books. So they want you to stay for as long as you can because it costs so much to train your replacement and put them on the rocket.

You can make money here, though. Part of that is because there isn’t anything to buy, but the pay is good. I’m going to get out of here not owing any money on my college loans. I was at the University of Memphis, but I didn’t graduate. I was working on my degree in hotel management when my mom got sick. I dropped out, and I was able to support her and my little sister, but not make enough money to pay back the loans.

Once my contract is over, and I get paid, I am not coming back. Nobody wants to stay up here full-time, not even the scientists. Outside of them, we have three industries here; mining, manufacturing, and tourism. You don’t want to work in any of those jobs long-term if you can avoid it.

My friend Neil works here as a bartender. He has an economics degree, and he was telling me that the Moon is a Third World country. Did you know that? We’re like an island in the Caribbean. We import nearly everything and export raw materials, and then use the tourist trade to make the trade balance more even. Neil says there are exploitation colonies and settlement colonies, and this is an exploitation colony because nobody wants to settle here.

The problem with exploitation colonies is that everyone is trying to make money and nobody is trying to build a stable society or develop institutions. We don’t have anything close to an institution. There isn’t a government because nobody wants to stay up here long enough to run it. There aren’t any laws because they can’t pay people enough to come here and enforce them. So gambling is legal here, that, and prostitution.

They didn’t tell you about that? It’s true. Two of my suitemates are prostitutes. They’re nice people; they just got into debt back on Earth and this was the best way they had to get out of it. They work for the mining company. Technically, they’re support staff, but they don’t do anything but go over to the miners’ R&R compound — it’s the next set of pods over from here — and have sex with them three days a week.

The miners have it worse than anyone. They’re all single guys. A lot of them are Chinese who couldn’t get wives back home. They have to be single because they can’t have kids — you have to agree to get a vasectomy in that kind of job because of the radiation and the kind of long-term exposure you get from being on the surface all that time. They have the same five-year contract we have, and you can’t expect them to go without for five years. So they brought up women. Paula and Ashley — those are my suitemates — they make good money from the mining company, but they also freelance over here in the tourist area on their days off. It’s very lucrative, or so they say. I wouldn’t know.

Not that I don’t have sex or anything. I have a boyfriend. His name is Tom. He’s a sous-chef, and he works nights, so I hardly ever get to see him, but when we do get around to it, it’s something. Acrobatic, almost. You can do positions in the low gravity that you’d have to be a gymnast to do back home.

Look. This is my suitemate’s card. If you’re really that hard up, send her a text if you want. I’m not interested, thank you very much.

No, I don’t think you’re weird. I don’t blame you for being curious. It’s a new experience. The whole thing is weird, when you think about it, having sex on the moon. Think about it. Up until ten years ago, when they figured out how to build the advanced rockets, there had been just ten people on the moon, total, and they were dying off. I never thought I would make it to the Moon, and here I am. My sister’s kid thinks I’m some kind of hero, an astronaut or something. And maybe I am. But here I am, on the Moon, and here you are, on the Moon, and all either one of us is thinking about is sex. I think that’s amazing. We haven’t advanced all that much as people, or I don’t think so.

Sure, the sex here is great, but it’s not what you’d call romantic. It’s not a romantic place, the Moon. You’d think it would be, but it isn’t. It was my birthday last month, and Tom took me up to the rooftop lounge for dinner. I borrowed a dress from Paula, and all I could think about the whole time I was wearing it was how many times it had been wadded up on the same floors that I clean every day.

But it was a nice dinner. The whole time, we sat there, staring at the Earth. It’s beautiful. And you get to see it the way the astronauts saw it, the original explorers. We danced for awhile, and then Tom showed me some of the other stars. One of them he said was Jupiter, but I kind of had to take his word for it. He said that was where we’ll be going next, to the moons of Jupiter. I don’t know about that, but if we get there, not too long after, there’ll be somebody like me that has to clean up after them. I don’t know what that says about humanity, but to be honest with you, I think it’s kind of comforting. We need each other, even out here.

Originally posted at Untoward Magazine.