Strange History’s Prelude


A Delta flight comes in for a landing at Sea-Tac Airport which had record passenger growth in June. (Ellen M Banner/The Seattle Times)

The day Leon Spencer made bail, he followed the instructions of the lawyer who posted it for him and stopped off at his post office box. Sure enough, there was a cashier’s check for more money than he made in a year as a Marine Gunnery Sergeant. Those days were long gone and so, he thought, was his career until he read the email from Carson Everett. There wasn’t much that fazed him anymore, not after Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, but he could still be impressed.

“Fuckin’ eh.” The six-foot tall, African-American Marine turned merc, turned “security consultant,” stared at the check in his hand and the note that came with it, which repeated Everett’s instructions to take the first flight to Seatac.

He visited his crappy apartment for the last time to pack a few things, noticing the bales of useless papers, magazines, and other junk he’d be happy to part with. Leon took everything that still had worth to him (which wasn’t much), and beat it out to O’Hare, happy to give Chicago the middle finger.

For once, he was able to get a taxi, make it through TSA without being treated like a terrorist, and his plane even left on time. All he had was a carry on, but when he landed, his instructions still said to go to the baggage claim area.

“Vasnev Romanovich, you bastard from Hell, what are you doing here?”

The Gunney’s unlikely relationship with the former Russian Air Force Major and ex-Cosmonaut had begun the day they got into a fist fight in some armpit dive bar in Marrakesh. They both woke up the next morning in an alley with killer hangovers, thanking whatever God who watched over mercs they hadn’t been rolled and murdered, and both of them at the beginning of a life-long friendship.

“I’m taking you for a ride, Leon. My rental is waiting.” Romanovich was almost a head shorter than the Marine, but he was built like a tank, which Spencer found out the hard way in Morocco. He also had four university degrees and spoke seven languages, all perfectly, so when he heard the Russian talking in heavily-accented English, he knew it was just to mess with Americans.

“Like the old Chicago gangsters, Vasnev?” He started walking toward the doors with his friend.

“Well, you did fly in from there. It seems only fitting.” Both men were far from trusting, but in the over five years since they’d met, they could count on one hand the number of men they would die for, and they were on each other’s list.

In the car, Vasnev took I5 to 405 North heading toward Redmond.

“What does he want?”

“You won’t believe it, Leon. He says he has a job for us.”

“Again? I haven’t heard from him since the whole fiasco with Daedalus.”

“That’s the problem.”

“Daedalus? That mess on Piller Island?”

“Exactly. Everett invented the prototype for Falkon.”

“Falkon did it, didn’t he? He built a production model and turned it on. Son of a bitch.”

“You should know. You were there when he did it, and you were standing right next to me.”

“I don’t remember it that way.”


“What the hell do you mean ‘exactly?’ It didn’t happen that way. I haven’t been on Piller in five years.”

“Our esteemed employer will explain, but in short, we, along with hundreds of scientists and technicians, and thousands of dignitaries and corporate clowns, were on Piller Island three months ago when Falkon personally activated the device. It did not operate as expected, and sent out streams of phased matter and energy that changed not only our memories, but those of many others. Consider, Leon. If you concentrate, you will remember living two separate lives.”

The Marine knew he was right, but he thought he’d been going crazy. He had more psychiatric diagnoses than Trump has billions.

“Okay, let’s say I buy what you’re selling. What’s Everett want us for?”

“Not just us. There are four others besides Everett who will be on the expedition.”

“What expedition?” Traffic ahead was snarled due to a fender bender, and the car slowed to a crawl.

“We are taking a little submarine ride, my friend. The projector on Piller is still operating, but according to satellite observation, there is no one on the island, and most of the world is totally unaware of the former existence of Daedalus International or it’s President, the brilliant and eccentric inventor Theodore Falkon.”

“A submarine ride. We’re going back to Piller?”

“Yes, to shut down the experiment.”

“You said it’s out of control.”

“It is, and if we cannot stop the device, the nature of reality itself will run wild, changing everything we know about ourselves and our world forever.”

“Why us? I wouldn’t know the difference between a transistor and your sister’s ass.”

“My sister does have a nice ass, but don’t change the subject. We are going as security. You see, I said there were no reports of people on Pillar, but the wildlife is unbelievable.”

“Who cares about a few monkeys and parrots? What, did Falkon import a couple of hundred komodo dragons?”

“You aren’t far off, Leon. The projector has created virtual links into different points in timespace, particularly the Cretaceous period.”

“Wait. Dinosaurs? Theodore Falkon created some sort of half-assed Jurassic Park on Piller Island?”


Novaraptor – image found at multiple sources

I have seen the photos myself, and I assure you they are quite full-assed, not unlike my sister.”

“Fuck me.”

“I hope it won’t come to that. Ah, traffic is clearing. In half and hour, we’ll meet with Dr. Everett and the others. With any luck, we’ll be in New Zealand by next week, and then my friend, the adventure will begin.”

“You have a funny idea about adventure, Vasnev.”

“Oh, the money is very good, too.”

“That’s more like it, but why does it have to be a sub?”

“You are one of the bravest men I’ve ever known, and I’ve known quite a few. Try not to be a pussy just because you don’t like being underwater.”

“Just drive the car, Vasnev. By the way, it’s good to see you again.”

“Same here, Leon. Same here. Now, let’s get to the lab and start having fun.”

I wrote this for the Saturday Mix – Double Take – 14 April 2018 writing challenge hosted at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. In today’s challenge, the idea is to take two pairs of homophones and use then in the body of a poem, short story, or other creative work.

The two pairs are:

bail – temporary release
bale – bundle of hay


fazed – stunned
phased – done in sequential parts

I’ve bolded those words in my story so they’ll be easier to pick out.

For the topic, I adapted characters and situations I introduced in a number of short stories recently, including The Kaala Experiment, which is the basis of a much larger tale I’m writing for submission to a magazine asking for stories on “military horror.” I have no idea if it will be accepted for publication, but I might as well give it a shot.

The current story tells something of the history between Leon and Vasnev and how they became part of Carson Everett’s expedition in the first place.

Let me know what you think of it.

6 thoughts on “Strange History’s Prelude

  1. For some reason that escapes me entirely, you’ve changed the verbal characteristics of these two characters to increase the crudity of their conversation. I think you need to re-tweak your holodeck’s character parameters.


    • Well, they tend to be more crude when alone with each other. Particularly Marines aren’t known for their politeness, especially those who have also been mercs and recently been bailed out of the Cook County Jail.


      • To the best of my recollection, I’ve never known any mercs, so I can’t evaluate your characterization of these two as such. But the US Marines with whom I have actually worked were rather more refined, polite, and well-disciplined in their speech and behavior, even those who were not particularly erudite. However, I must qualify that assessment with the fact that those with whom I’ve worked were Marine aviators, and aircraft maintenance and support personnel. Perhaps this selective subset of Marines tends to evidence different characteristics from others. Since Vasnov’s background was Russian aerospace operations, and maybe also some covert operations, it seemed to me that his behavior might tend to be more like the military aerospace personnel of my acquaintance.

        As for your Leon Spencer, African-American former Marine Gunnery Sergeant recently bailed out of jail, I have no analog in my own experience with which to compare him — though I suppose his like has been portrayed numerous times in other quasi-military fiction. Perhaps Vasnov had an ulterior interest in portraying himself as a social peer, even against his own nature.


      • You and I have had very different experiences with Marines.

        I will say that at David’s graduation from Boot Camp, all of the Marines I met were indeed polite and well-disciplined, but then there were a whole bunch of parents and families around. I also met a Marine officer who was extremely polite and friendly.

        However, get a bunch of “jarheads” together and yeah, they can be pretty crude. David’s told me stories about his experiences in the Corps that suggest that my dialog in this story is hardly over the top.

        However, I did email him the link and asked his opinion and I hope he’ll get around to reading the longer story soon (as a graduate of the ADHD childhood diagnosis and the Ritalin wars, he can be both very sincere and very distracted).

        I’ll let you know what he says.


    • Thanks, David. As I’ve already mentioned, this is a prelude of sorts to a much longer tale (~10,000 words) I’m planning to submit to a magazine by the end of the month. It’s an open submissions call for “military horror,” which is certainly an interesting genre. I don’t think my tale is “badass” (the magazine’s language) enough for them to accept, but it’s the way my story turned out as I wrote it. Hopefully, it will see print somewhere so I can share it with others.

      Liked by 1 person

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