Thor Slaymaster’s Snowbound Angel

“It’s called a polar vortex, Mr. Slaymaster.”

Thor Slaymaster grunted. Thor Slaymaster liked cold weather, the way that he liked beer and nachos and hot alien women. Zombies were easier to kill in cold weather. The shapeshifter aliens were easier to spot, as the mist from their breath tended to glow in a pale lavender color. And Thor Slaymaster’s hot alien girlfriend positively hated cold weather, and wanted to spend every cold day wrapped up in blankets with a warm body beside her.

But the snow made the roadways impassable, and the winds made the helicopter unflyable, and Thor Slaymaster was restless. Beer and nachos and sex had fulfilled his basic requirements, but he hadn’t killed anything in days and the forced inactivity wore on his nerves.

“Has everything shut down?” Thor Slaymaster asked.

Terry bit his lip and stared at his monitors. “Everything’s still quiet, Mr. Slaymaster. Air traffic is shut down. All the bad guys are stuck inside drinking hot chocolate. Only thing running is the subway.”

“Then that is where I must go.”


“Revenge,” Thor Slaymaster said.

Down in the tunnels, deep beneath the city, there lived an angel. Thor Slaymaster had seen her once, and she had defeated him. But he was still alive, and it was a good day for revenge.

Thor Slaymaster had no idea who she was or even if she was still alive. She had attacked him after he had agreed to help relocate the local mutant community to a new housing project in Baltimore. The mutants had moved willingly, and were rapidly gentrifying a bombed-out sector of the city. But the angel had not reappeared, and Thor Slaymaster had been bogged down with a zombie uprising in Miami and had not been able to track her down. He reasoned that she was likely a mutant herself, and had stayed behind in the tunnels. It was a decent place to start.

Thor Slaymaster took the subway to the end of the Green Line and went exploring down the far end of the tunnel. The area where the mutants had been looked like a beehive without the bees. There was a startling assortment of earthmovers and tunneling equipment everywhere, but all the workers were home due to the freezing weather.

Thor Slaymaster trudged through the mess left by the construction crews until he came to the place where the new station was being prepared. He saw the woman with the angel wings and the dead-white mask standing on the platform, as though she was waiting for the next train.

“Thor Slaymaster,” she said. “Predictable.”

“As predictable as me finding you here.”

“Have you come to gloat over your triumph?” the angel asked.

“You misunderstand,” Thor Slaymaster said.

Thor Slaymaster was talented, athletic, and deadly, but certain things were not part of his skillset, and leaping was one of them. He had no more chance of leaping six feet off the railbed to confront the angel standing on the platform than he did of, well, growing wings. He thought about taking a shotgun from out of his over-the-shoulder harness and just blasting the angel into the next world. But Thor didn’t know what defenses the angel had against such an attack–she could be a shapeshifter, or another kind of alien altogether with unguessable powers. And the revenge he truly wanted was to wrap the angel’s whip around her throat and squeeze.

“You have a mission,” the angel said. “So did I, once.”

“Everyone knows my origin story,” Thor Slaymaster said. “I did not come down here to listen to yours. If you want to defeat me, here I am.”

“And give up my strategic advantage? If you want your revenge, come and get it. Don’t think you can taunt me into coming down there, either.”

The only reason that Thor Slaymaster was still alive was his ability to recognize and exploit the weaknesses in the strategies of others. He searched his mind for anything that could give him an advantage. He could fetch one of the construction machines waiting down the track, but they would be slow and he would be a sitting target. He could approach the subway platform from above, but the angel would be ready for such a tactic. There were no ramps or ladders or jetpacks lying around.

“You showed wisdom in dealing with the mutants,” the angel said. “Show wisdom now, and leave this place.”

Thor Slaymaster said nothing.

“I will not harm you. I would even give you some hot chocolate if you wanted some. It is cold, even down here, and far too windy for me to fly.”

Thor Slaymaster said nothing.

“Ah, the famous Thor Slaymaster silent treatment. Let me ask you this, silent man. Why did you come down here? It wasn’t for revenge.”

“Revenge,” Thor Slaymaster said, “is a dish best served cold.”

“That is an excuse,” the angel said. “An excuse made by incompetent or inefficient men. If vengeance works at all, it works when it is sudden and bloody and violent and unrestrained. You know this, in your heart, and yet you did not seek vengeance against me until now. Why?”

“My duties lie elsewhere,” Thor Slaymaster said.

“Then I give you a blessing,” the angel said. “And, as is traditional, a curse. Do your duty. Fight the monsters and aliens that infest this world. Protect the innocent where you can, and fight ruthlessly where you can’t. When you are done with your duties, and if you still want revenge, then meet me here. I will be waiting.”

“Back so soon?” Charlie said. She was still in bed, wrapped up against the chill. Thor Slaymaster thought he saw a small movement in her lower body, under the thick covers, that might have been her tentacles.

“Yes,” Thor Slaymaster said.

“That didn’t take long,” she said.

“Duty called,” Thor Slaymaster said.

“Zombies?” Charlie asked.

“Something more important,” Thor Slaymaster said. He flipped the covers back. He had been right about the tentacles.


Thor Slaymaster’s Breaking Point

Thor Slaymaster sat quietly in the dark room. He had been there for three days, more or less. In that time, he had determined that the floor and walls were constructed of hard, durable, seamless plastic, probably overlaid on solid concrete or stone. Temperature and humidity were controlled, which suggested some kind of ventilation port, somewhere above his reach. He had not been provided with any sort of food or water or anything that even pretended at being a toilet, and had therefore determined that the room did not have a drain built into the floor.

The good news was that there weren’t any zombies in the room. Thor Slaymaster could handle being in a dark, stinking, escape-proof cell as long as there weren’t any zombies in there making life difficult for him. So he slept when he could, and sat quietly when he couldn’t sleep, conserving as much energy as possible against the time when his situation changed enough that escape and bloody vengeance were possible.

Twenty feet above Thor Slaymaster, an eight-foot tall alien in a brown robe impassively watched a monitor showing Thor Slaymaster impassively sitting in his cell. “This one is not reacting as the others have,” he said.

A human in a filthy lab coat nodded. “He is taking longer to reach his breaking point. But he will. All men reach their breaking point, sooner or later.”

“As you have said, Dr. Slaughter. What else can you do?” the alien asked. His squirming mouth-tentacles were the only outward sign of impatience.

“I can introduce pain,” the doctor said. “This specimen is very large and very tough, and probably not very smart.”

“He could be smarter than he looks,” the alien said.

“I don’t think so. He’s probably survived much worse privation than this in the wilderness where we picked him up. It will be difficult to break him using our standard tactics.”

The alien’s mouth-tentacles spasmed and went slack. “We have discussed this, Dr. Slaughter. Our race does not believe in violence. We intend to subjugate Earth through persuasion and logic, not force. There is no need to cause this man any more pain.”

“But we must break him,” Dr. Slaughter said.

“Yes,” the alien said. “Do you remember how we broke you?”

Dr. Slaughter went pale. He repressed a violent shudder, then went to the control panel next to the monitor. He paused for a long moment, considering a large red button that read “NICKELBACK,” but thought better of it. He opened a plastic cover and pushed a smaller, black button, to be used only in emergencies. It read “LANA DEL REY.”

Thor Slaymaster heard the opening strains of “Young and Beautiful” and smiled. Up until this moment, he had only known one thing about his captors. Now he knew several things. He knew that they used some sort of power source to power the hidden speakers above his cell. He knew that they were at least conversant with some elements of human culture, even if they might not be human themselves. He knew that they were wholly irredeemable and therefore not entitled to anything even approaching mercy.

And he knew they would come for him, eventually, and try to subject him to something worse. He would be ready.

About sixteen hours into the musical torture, a bright light came down from the darkened ceiling. Thor Slaymaster was caught in its beam. He was unsurprised to find that he was immobilized, and that he was drifting upwards.

“It’s a stasis field,” Dr. Slaughter explained. “The sensation will pass in a few minutes. You’ll be taken to our recovery room for analysis.”

The recovery room proved to be brightly lit and quiet, without a hint of twenty-first century torch music. The bed was nice and comfortable. The restraints were well-padded. A small medical robot crawled up Thor Slaymaster’s arm and injected an IV saline solution. A larger robot held out a bedpan.

The alien in the brown robe glided over to the foot of the bed. “Welcome,” it said. “Are you ready to accept my unquestioned authority?”

Thor Slaymaster stayed silent.

“He must have survived his ordeal only through his brute strength,” the alien said. “He does not appear to have much in the way of reasoning function.”

“It may be a lingering aftereffect of the stasis field,” Dr. Slaughter explained. “More likely, he’s just too stupid to understand.”

“Maybe a different question, one that’s easier for him to answer?”

“You can try. He’s not going anywhere.”

“Well, then. Do you have any questions of us?” the alien asked Thor Slaymaster. “Who we are? Why we’re doing this to you? What do we hope to accomplish?”

“Why do you want to die?” Thor Slaymaster asked.

“A metaphysical question,” the alien said. “See, Doctor, he is smarter than he looks. And to answer your question, what I want is to rule this planet, and end its plague of violence, and I cannot do that if I die. So your premise is invalid.”

“You misunderstand,” Thor Slaymaster said. “You kidnapped and tortured a Slaymaster, so you must want to die. If I know why, I can kill you more efficiently.”

“Clearly,” the alien said, “this one is not at his breaking point.”

Dr. Slaughter started to say something about the limits of operational conditioning, and then started to say something about the padded restraint on Thor Slaymaster’s left arm being loose, and then didn’t say anything at all because Thor Slaymaster had yanked on his cheap polyester tie and had fractured his windpipe.

“Violence,” the alien said. “Is it all you humans know?”

Thor Slaymaster grabbed hold of a medical robot that was trying to refasten his restraints. “Pretty much,” he said, as he threw the robot in the general direction of the alien’s head.

As the alien screamed in unaccustomed pain, Thor Slaymaster removed the rest of his restraints and his IV. Unfortunately, the alien recovery room did not seem to have anything in the way of usable weapons. “I have one more question for you,” Thor Slaymaster said. “Do you like your justice swift, or poetic?”

“I thought you were smarter than you looked,” the alien said.

“Poetic, then,” Thor Slaymaster said. He picked up the IV stand and whacked the alien in the midsection. The alien doubled over, and it was easy work for Thor Slaymaster to push him down into the cell below.

“Get me out of here,” the alien said. “I’ll give you whatever you want.”

Thor Slaymaster smiled. He had what he wanted. He had his freedom, a new race of aliens to fight, and fellow human beings to rescue. Thor Slaymaster had a breaking point, but it would take a lot more than nonviolent aliens, turncoat doctors, and cheesy twenty-first century popular music for anyone to get anywhere near it.


Thor Slaymaster’s Exit Strategy

“This was supposed to be a very short budget meeting,” Alvy said.

Thor Slaymaster didn’t say anything. He was trying to figure out the readings on the controls of the spacecraft. The changing green figures on the center display looked to be a proximity range of some sort. Whether the figures represented the proximity to the Alphabet ship or to the firm, flat, unyielding, deadly surface of the Earth was a matter of some current concern for Thor Slaymaster.

“You’d canceled it three times,” Alvy said. “Killbot invasion last Monday, helicopter malfunction last Thursday, and I don’t remember your last excuse.”

“Hangover,” Thor Slaymaster said.

“That’s not what you told me.”

“At the moment,” Thor Slaymaster said, “it is not that important.”

Thor Slaymaster was uncomfortable in spacecraft, the way he was uncomfortable in formal wear or chairs with armrests. Thor Slaymaster’s skillset did not encompass orbital dynamics or ballistic navigation or any of the approximately seventeen other specific knowledge bases that one would need to guide a damaged, pilotless spacecraft to either a convenient local space station or the surface of the large, blue planet below. Since neither the spaceship or the inconveniently deceased pilot was of human origin, this made Thor Slaymaster’s task of keeping himself alive unreasonably difficult.

“What you told me was that you were taking a quick trip up to the Alphabet ship to see Charlie, and that I could ride along, and we could go over the budget figures on the way up. That doesn’t seem to be working out so far.”

Thor Slaymaster briefly considered whether a controlled experiment involving throwing Alvy out the nearest airlock to reduce the ship’s drag coefficient would be beneficial. He concluded that it might be, but that other matters took precedence and that good combat accountants did not grow on trees.

“Do you know what is wrong with the pilot?” Alvy asked. “If we could wake him up, maybe he could tell us what to do.”

“Unlikely,” Thor Slaymaster said. While Thor Slaymaster had substantial experience with the anatomy of the aliens commonly known as “Alphabets,” his knowledge was mostly confined to the female of the species. However, he had every reason to think that the crack in the rear skull carapace that the pilot had experienced was as fatal as injuries get.

“Maybe I could do CPR,” Alvy said.

“They don’t have hearts,” Thor Slaymaster explained. “You’re an accountant. Do you know what the numbers there mean?”

“I think that one that looks like a saxophone might be a twelve.”

Thor Slaymaster considered the situation. He and Alvy were trapped on a small, not to say claustrophobic, spacecraft with a damaged communication system and a dead pilot, which, depending on just how you looked at the controls, was either hurtling out of control towards the oblivion of the asteroid belt or headed straight on a collision course with what looked to be Madagascar.

Thor Slaymaster knew his limitations. No man alive could do more damage to an oncoming zombie horde. But here, in deep space, most of what he knew was working against him. He needed help, but the only member of Team Slaymaster around for several hundred cubic miles of deep vacuum was not being very helpful right at the moment.

“Alvy,” Thor Slaymaster asked, “what exactly is it that you specialize in?”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Slaymaster?”

“Well, I mean, we have you on Team Slaymaster for a reason. What are you good at? It can’t be just accounting. For both of our sakes.”

“You mean like Excel? Data mining?”

“You misunderstand. I mean like, skills that can help us get out of this spacecraft and somewhere safer.”

“You mean like an exit strategy?”

“Precisely,” Thor Slaymaster said.

“Okay,” Alvy said. “Exit strategy. What most people do is assess where they are and how they get out of it. Unfortunately, that’s counterproductive, because it focuses all your attention on where you are. What you want to do is figure out where you want to go, and work backwards from there to get to where you are.”

Thor looked out the pilot’s window at the blue mass of Earth. “How about there?”

“You’re not getting it,” Alvy said. “Your exit strategy has to be fixed on a specific goal. The Earth, for example, is a good place to go, but it is also a very big place. It’s mostly ocean, and if you land in the ocean there needs to be a ship around that can pick you up. I also think the prospect of landing a spacecraft in the uncharted ocean would frighten me just a little bit.”

“Slaymaster HQ, then.”

“Better. Now you just have to figure out how to find it after you decelerate from orbit. You know how to decelerate from orbit, right?”

“It is not my strong suit,” Thor Slaymaster said.

“If landing on Earth is not realistic, then what else do you have?”

Thor Slaymaster considered his options. “Shapeshifter mothership is a no-go. The moon is two days away, and I didn’t bring any snacks. I don’t want to go to the International Space Station if I can avoid it.”

“Why not?” Alvy asked.

“Their coffee is lousy. The Alphabet ship is probably our best option. They can probably get us back home faster than anywhere else.”

“Do you know the name of the ship, by any chance?”

“I think it’s called the EXPHARLABLIGZWOOZLEBLORGLE.” Every word in the native language of the Alphabet aliens had at least twenty-six letters.

“Because there’s a button on the left there that says that, and under that there’s another button that says WOOLERBLINGLEQUABBLEBLONGER, which I think means something like ‘autopilot’.”

Thor Slaymaster pushed the WOOLERBLINGLEQUABBLEBLONGER button, and the ship automatically fired its retro-rockets and slowed to a more survivable speed. He pushed the button for the Alphabet ship, and the spacecraft made a gentle turn until it was within the range of the ship’s tractor beams.

“Well done, Alvy,” Thor Slaymaster said.

“Thank you, Mr. Slaymaster. Now, if you could just take a quick look at the third quarter ammunition spending. What we’re seeing here is a trend…”


Thor Slaymaster’s National Treasure

“No,” Thor Slaymaster said.

“It’s an important mission, Mr. Slaymaster. The President knows you’re the best person to handle it.”

Thor Slaymaster stayed silent. He knew if he did this long enough, the little man with the neatly parted hair, the horn-rimmed glasses, and the briefcase would go away, allowing Thor Slaymaster to recalibrate his air-defense system.

“Satellite imagery says the National Gallery is still intact. We know the Matisse was being stored in the sub-basement. We have the security codes. What we need now is someone to retrieve it, and you’re the best qualified person to do that.”

The State Department official was correct, but only because Washington, D.C. was the largest zombie population cluster in North America. Although the zombie outbreak had been largely confined to the Southeast, the hardiest zombie tribes had made their way to Washington and had settled there. Determined opposition had kept the zombies contained within the Beltway, but penetrating deep within Washington itself was a challenge for even the most determined zombie hunter.

“Look, Mr. Slaymaster. The President owes the French Premier a big favor after the incident with the Omega Box. Returning this painting to France is a matter of national honor. He has instructed me to give you whatever you need to accomplish this mission.”

Charlie stuck her head out from the ordnance room. “Does that include a new helicopter? Mil-spec?”

“I can have one here within the hour,” the State Department representative said.

“He’ll go,” Charlie said.

“Charlie,” Thor Slaymaster said. “This is not your decision.”

“If I have to hear you complain about your old helicopter one more time, you will have a different decision to make, one that you won’t like.”

Thor Slaymaster didn’t like being cornered by his girlfriend, the way that he didn’t like movies with subtitles or plain-cake donuts. But there are times when every man has to bow to the inevitable.

“Make sure you get them to fill up the fuel tank on the helicopter first,” Thor Slaymaster said. “You. Tell me about this painting.”

“It is called Pot of Geraniums,” the State Department representative said. “It shows a pink flower with a large green stem in, well, a pot.”

“This is a national treasure?” Thor Slaymaster asked.

“For the French.”

“Remind me never to go there.”

The stretch of open grass between the National Gallery and the Air and Space Museum would have been a perfect place to land a new, mil-spec helicopter, if it wasn’t for the teeming hordes of zombies milling around.

“What do you think?” Charlie asked.

“I think this is a suicide mission,” Thor Slaymaster said.

“You like those.”

“You misunderstand,” Thor Slaymaster said. “I do not like suicide missions. Sometimes, they are necessary. This mission is about retrieving a picture of a flower in a pot. It is not necessary.”

“So, what’s the plan?” Charlie asked. “You want to try going through the roof?”

“Cause a distraction,” Thor Slaymaster said. “Pick the ugliest building you see and blast it.”

“Is that one ugly enough?” Richie the helicopter pilot asked, pointing towards a large pile of crumbling concrete just to the north.

“That’ll do.”

Most of the zombie horde around the Gallery moved towards the smoking rubble of the nearby Hoover Building, but there were still a few stragglers. Charlie fired her chain guns into the remaining zombies, clearing enough open space for a quick landing. From there, it was a straightforward march into the Gallery, interrupted by shotgun blasts and the dying moans of zombies.

Generations of thieves and looters had taken every scrap of artwork out of the Gallery long ago. Thor dashed through the Rotunda, taking care not to step on the few remaining shards of sculpture. A few zombies lingered in the corridors, and Thor dispatched them with his shotgun. He found a stairwell that looked clear of zombies, and jammed the door behind him shut, taking a moment to reload.

To Thor’s surprise, the sub-basement was well-lit. The room where the painting was supposed to be kept opened with a touch. The Matisse was there, sitting on an easel, in plain view.

Thor Slaymaster activated his wireless headset. “It’s a trap, Charlie,” he said.

“Isn’t it usually? Who is this time?”

“One way to find out,” Thor Slaymaster said.

Thor Slaymaster pulled a handgun out of a shoulder holster and took careful aim at the painting. He fired, and the painting toppled off its easel. He waited a long moment for a net to fall from the ceiling, or a cloud of toxic gas to be released, or an explosion. The explosion took a few seconds longer than he expected, and came from a different direction.

“God damn it, Slaymaster,” a very loud voice shouted. “You weren’t supposed to do that!”

Thor Slaymaster turned and found a very large, angry man in the remnants of an Air Force general’s uniform screaming at him.

“I was careful,” Thor Slaymaster said. “I made a tiny hole in the corner. Easy to fix.”

“You were supposed to return that to the god-damned French Ambassador! That was a priceless work of art! A national treasure! The President will be furious!”

“I did not vote for him,” Thor Slaymaster said.

The general’s red face clashed horribly with his ragged blue uniform. “We brought you down here to recruit you. To see if you had what it took to help us reclaim this city from the zombies.”

“This is how you recruit? No wonder the military is losing people.”

“But you’re a loose cannon, Thor Slaymaster. You’re a menace to everyone and everything around you.”

“I was designed that way,” Thor Slaymaster said. “What’s your excuse?”

“You listen to me, Slaymaster,” the general said.

“Why? You haven’t said anything interesting yet.”

“You think you’re tough? I have spent my whole career crawling down the tunnels and subways of this fair city, killing every zombie I saw, just to try to keep some semblance of a national security apparatus up and running. I don’t need you to come down here and tell me jack-squat, Slaymaster.”

“There is no national security, General. There is no nation. All we are is a collection of problems. And most of those problems accumulated right here, in this city, because people refused to face up to their responsibilities.”

“Fancy talk,” the general said, “coming from someone with no real responsibilities.”

Thor Slaymaster smiled a smile fierce enough to cause even a dedicated zombie-hunter to take a step back and reconsider his lifestyle choices. “I am responsible, General. I am responsible to my team. And right now, they are waiting for me. Do you have the real painting?”

The general reached into a nearby file drawer and extracted a hard, cylindrical plastic case. “Here it is. How did you know?”

“You would not have endangered the mission by leaving the real painting in a vulnerable location.”

“Just so,” the general said. He handed the painting to Thor. “You shouldn’t keep your team waiting.”

“Thank you, General. And… good luck, with the whole national-security thing.”

“Good luck to you, Thor Slaymaster, with the whole zombie-killing thing.”

Thor Slaymaster headed back up the stairwell and fired a small rocket into the jammed door at the top of the stairs. When the echoes faded, he reactivated his wireless headset and stepped over a pile of charred zombie corpses. “Coming up, Charlie. Hot LZ. Be ready for pickup.”


Thor Slaymaster’s Dark Angel

Thor Slaymaster hated after-action reports, the way that he hated light beer and heavy body armor. But they were a necessary part of his profession. More than once, he had made it through a narrow scrape because of some piece of information that had been written down in an after-action report. So the first thing that Thor Slaymaster did after he got back to Team Slaymaster headquarters was to ask Andy to bring the recording equipment for the AAR. Then he asked Charlie to bring disinfectant and bandages.

“You’re a mess,” Charlie said. Thor Slaymaster’s alien girlfriend examined the mass of scratches and scrapes that covered Thor Slaymaster’s upper body. “And here I thought that you were out there on business. What was her name?”

“I do not know,” Thor Slaymaster said. “But I am going to find out.”

“I was teasing you, sweetheart,” Charlie said.

“You misunderstand,” Thor Slaymaster said.

The city was rebuilding the ancient subway system, which was good news for commuters but bad news for the mutants. The city had offered to relocate all mutants affected by the expansion to Baltimore, but quite a few of them refused, for the obvious reason. The city contracted Team Slaymaster to remove the remaining mutants with as little bloodshed as possible. “As little bloodshed as possible” wasn’t really in Thor Slaymaster’s wheelhouse, but it was a good opportunity to try diplomacy for a change.

Thor Slaymaster asked the subway conductor to hold the train for him at the end of the line, and when you’re a subway conductor on a subway line populated by rebellious mutants, and Thor Slaymaster asks you to wait for him, you wait for him. Thor walked down the tracks to the largest of the mutant settlements. There, he met with the mutant leadership, and explained the (admittedly, relative) advantages of moving to Baltimore, and the disadvantages of facing Team Slaymaster in a small, enclosed space.

“We will discuss what you have said, Thor Slaymaster, and give you our answer tomorrow,” the mutant spokesman said, out of one of his three mouths. Thor Slaymaster shook the less scaly of the mutant’s hands and headed back to the subway, confident that he had done a good day’s work and had earned a big plate of General Tso’s chicken, two or three cold beers, and a deep-tissue tentacle massage from Charlie.

There was one other person on the subway, and she was waiting for Thor Slaymaster. She was tall. That’s the first thing that Thor Slaymaster noticed, because he didn’t notice it all that often. She was tall, and she was wearing a dead-white mask, high black-leather boots, and a long, black dress with huge bat wings at the back.

“How did it go?” she asked.

Thor Slaymaster didn’t answer random questions from strangers on public transportation conveyances.

“Are you going to slaughter the mutants?” she asked.

Thor Slaymaster shrugged.

“Is that supposed to be an answer?”

“Yes,” Thor Slaymaster said.

The winged woman with the white mask whipped out a whip, which wrapped around Thor Slaymaster’s chest.

“That was uncalled for,” Thor Slaymaster said.

“So is the senseless murder of innocent victims,” the woman said. “Now, tell me, what are you going to do?”

“Nothing,” Thor Slaymaster said. “They must choose. If they will live, they will live. If they will die, they will be killed. All men choose their own path.”

“What path will you choose?”

“The one that gets you to take your whip back, before I wrap it around your neck.”

“You disappoint me, Thor Slaymaster. I did not think that you were given to idle threats.”

“You will find out if it’s an idle threat,” Thor Slaymaster said.

The subway car went around an unexpected curve, which threw Thor Slaymaster’s balance off, just enough that the winged woman was able to push Thor Slaymaster back a step. “You’ve been riding high for a long time, Thor Slaymaster,” she said. “But you’ve made some powerful enemies.”

“Like who?” Thor Slaymaster asked.

She didn’t answer. Thor Slaymaster looked at her eyes, behind her mask, and saw a deep, bright well of anger, and then a flash of radiant energy which flooded the car. The force of the energy shattered the door, and pushed Thor Slaymaster back towards the edge.

“You’re no match for me, Thor Slaymaster,” she said.

“I haven’t laid a finger on you,” Thor Slaymaster said. “That can change.”

The winged woman laid a finger on Thor Slaymaster, and it felt like a hammer blow. Thor fell out of the back of the subway. He was dragged along the tracks by the whip.

“What happened next?” Andy asked.

“She let go,” Thor Slaymaster said. “A full-grown Slaymaster is a hard thing to tow. I unwrapped the whip, walked to the next station, and took a cab over here.”

“You poor baby,” Charlie said. “I think you may have a broken rib or two. What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know,” Thor Slaymaster said. “I have never been defeated before.”

“You weren’t defeated,” Charlie said. “You were caught off guard. If you had been properly armed, you would have destroyed her. It could have happened to anyone.”

“It has never happened to me before,” Thor Slaymaster said. “Up until today, the only reason I was still alive was that I had never been caught off guard. Now, the only reason I am still alive was because the dark angel did not kill me. I don’t know what to do with that knowledge.”

“Don’t you?” Charlie asked.

Thor Slaymaster thought for a long moment, and then realized that he was feeling something that he never had before, a desire, a deep-seated yearning for one thing.

“Revenge,” he said.

Charlie’s long, alien tongue darted over Thor’s naked chest, dabbling at the bright red blood that was still seeping from his wounds. “Bet your ass. Nobody does this to my boyfriend and gets away with it.”

“Andy?” Thor Slaymaster asked.

“Leaving now, Mr. Slaymaster.””


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.”